November 26, 2009

Booking Through Thursdays (1)


What books and authors are you particularly thankful for this year?


Fairy Tale by Cyn Balog - There are very few books that can make me cry, and this one wrenched tears out of me. I know, that sounds completely cheesy. Haha. The ending of this book was just heartbreaking yet fitting at the same time.

Waiting to Exhale by Terry McMillan - This book tells the story of four single black women in the 90s, and I enjoyed reading every page. All the characters were so real, and you couldn't help but relate to one of the women at one time or another.

“The ones that are good for us, we find dull and boring, and then we pick the assholes, the ones who won’t cooperate, the ones who offer us the most challenge and get our blood flowing and shit. Those are the m********kers we fall in love with.”
- Waiting to Exhale, pg 324.

When It Happens by Susane Colasanti - This YA book just reached out to me. It's told from the points-of-view of two different characters (male and female), and I simply connected to both of them. This is the first YA novel without fantasy elements that I thoroughly enjoyed.

White Oleander by Janet Fitch - This novel (which was also made into a movie) was simply beautiful. The prose is a lot like poetry and it conjures up beautiful images in the mind of the reader. The characters are also gripping and real. This is one book I'll read over and over.

"In a perverse way, I was glad for the stitches, glad it would show, that there would be scars. What was the point in just being hurt on the inside? It should bloody well show."
— Janet Fitch (White Oleander)

What books are you thankful for this year? :)
November 25, 2009

Waiting on Wednesday: Linger by Maggie Stiefvater


Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine.

Linger by Maggie Stiefvater
Release Date: July 2010
Continues the story of the wolves of Mercy Falls. . .

It's about after. What happens after you discover there are werewolves in the wood, after you've fallen in love for the first time, after you've lost what you think you can't live without, after you've become someone you can't live with.

I'm currently reading Shiver, and I absolutely love it. I know I shouldn't read the summary for Linger because it'll spoil the ending for Shiver, but I couldn't help myself. LOL. I can't wait to read the sequel. I hope it won't disappoint. :)
November 24, 2009

2010 Young Adult Reading Challenge


Ack! I'm joining my first ever reading challenge which is hosted by J. Kaye. I decided to go with The Mini YA Reading Challenge (12 YA novels), since this is the first time I'm doing something like this.

If you're interested, here are the guidelines:
1. Audio, eBooks, paper all count.
2. No need to list your books in advance. You may select books as you go. Even if you list them now, you can change the list if needed.
3. Challenge begins January 1st thru December, 2010.


There are so many interesting YA books out. I'm sure picking out twelve books to read won't be difficult. :)
November 22, 2009

Review: Swoon by Nina Malkin

Swoon by Nina Malkin
Release Date: 2009
Summary:
Sin is coming... Prepare to Swoon.

Torn from her native New York City and dumped in the land of cookie-cutter preps, Candice is resigned to accept her posh, dull fate. Nothing ever happens in Swoon, Connecticut...until Dice's perfect, privileged cousin Penelope nearly dies in a fall from an old tree, and her spirit intertwines with that of a ghost. His name? Sinclair Youngblood Powers. His mission? Revenge. And while Pen is oblivious to the possession, Dice is all too aware of Sin. She's intensely drawn to him—but not at all crazy about the havoc he's wreaking. Determined to exorcise the demon, Dice accidentally sets Sin loose, gives him flesh, makes him formidable. Now she must destroy an even more potent—and irresistible—adversary, before the whole town succumbs to Sin's will. Only trouble is, she's in love with him. What do you do when the boy of your dreams is too bad to be true?

Review:
I started reading Swoon thinking that I was going to be entertained. I was completely wrong. Not only did it entertain me, it completely blew me away. My first reaction was: OMG! Is this still YA?!?!?! I mean, I've never read anything remotely like it before.

The characters all deviate from the standard YA molds they're supposed to fit into. First of all, Sin, the male protagonist, defines bad. Imagine a delicious-looking teenage boy driving a sleepy town mad with lust. That's how charismatic (I don't think that's the right word) he is. I mean, I've read about characters who are supposed to be bad before. Basically, they were just the Backstreet Boys with eyeliner and dark clothes, but Sin is different.

Dice, the protagonist, is also quite different from other YA heroines. She knows she's different and she embraces it. I've seen the I'm-different-so-I-want-to-fit-in act so many times that Dice was like a breath of fresh air.

The other characters were quite well-developed. There wasn't a character that was just plopped in. Every single character helped move the plot forward, and that's why I like Swoon so much. The plot was also unpredictable. Every time you think you know what's going to happen next, the author swoops down and totally surprises you.

Basically, Swoon is different from all the other YA novels I've read, but in a totally good way. From the plot to the writer's voice, it was just so fresh and different.

However, I don't think Swoon should be read by younger readers, since Swoon is more sensual than the typical YA novel. Also, I did like the writing voice but it got a little confusing at times. I know the author tried to convey how typical teens talk, but it didn't make sense in some scenes.

Rating: 8 out of 10.
November 19, 2009

Review: When It Happens by Susane Colasanti


When It Happens by Susane Colasanti
Release Date: 2008
Summary:
At the start of senior year, Sara wants two things: to get into her first-choice college and to find true love. Tobey also wants two things: to win Battle of the Bands and to make Sara fall in love with him.

Dave, the boy Sara was hoping would realize she exists, moves in on Sara first. But Tobey is impossible for Sara to ignore. He gets the little things that matter to her and, most importantly, he feels like something real. Can a slacker rock star wannabe win the heart of a pretty class brain like Sara?

Hilariously and movingly told through Tobey's and Sara's authentic voices, Susane Colasanti's debut novel sizzles in its portrayal of two teens searching for the one.

Reviews:
From page one, this novel just felt real to me. Yes, the story is far from original, but Susane Colasanti managed to make something old into something completely unique. Also, I thought the characters were stereotyped--like the hot nerd, the ignorant jock, or the diamond-in-the-rough slacker--but Colasanti managed to breathe life into them. By the first chapter, I felt like I was reading about real people my age, and I liked it.

When It Happens is told from the two different point-of-views of the main characters, Sara and Tobey. Sara is your typical nerd who just wants to fit in, but there are little details about her that set her apart from the rest of the nerdy pack in YA novels.

And Tobey? How do I even begin to describe him? Well, let me start off by saying I want my own Tobey. On the surface, he's a slacker who dreams of being a rock star. Yes, I know it sounds completely clich├ęd but Colasanti's writing made him real for me. He's just like any other teenage boy who thinks about sex 99.5 % of the time, but he's also looking for something real, something that's going to last.

The only thing I didn't like about this novel was that Tobey and Sara both kept going on and on about their special "connection" and how they just clicked. They said it so many times it almost got stuck in my head. They didn't have to do that, though. Readers can see their connection. The author didn't have to remind us every five minutes or so. Doing that made their so-called connection seem fake.

And the ending? I love where the author left the characters. It felt like all the pieces of the puzzle were about to fall into the right place.


Rating: 9 out of 10
November 18, 2009

Review: Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
Release Date: 2009
For Nora Grey, romance was not part of the plan. She's never been particularly attracted to the boys at her school, no matter how much her best friend, Vee, pushes them at her. Not until Patch came along. With his easy smile and eyes that seem to see inside her, Nora is drawn to him against her better judgment.

But after a series of terrifying encounters, Nora's not sure who to trust. Patch seems to be everywhere she is, and to know more about her than her closest friends. She can't decide whether she should fall into his arms or run and hide. And when she tries to seek some answers, she finds herself near a truth that is way more unsettling than anything Patch makes her feel.

For Nora is right in the middle of an ancient battle between the immortal and those that have fallen - and, when it comes to choosing sides, the wrong choice will cost her life.

Review:
I can only think of one word to describe Hush, Hush: Sizzle.

It sizzled with mystery, romance, and, last but not the least, Patch. I think it's safe to assume he's the fallen angel on the spectacular cover. Also, it's quite safe to state that he's ten times sexier than Edward Cullen.

Okay, I have to stop gushing about Patch and get to the review. This book gripped me as soon as I started reading. When you finish the prologue, you already have a ton of questions in your head. It also has everything I look for in a novel. A super-hot hero? Check! A mystery that sucks you in? Check! An ending that answers most questions yet leaves you wanting more? Check!

And the heroine? I'm not so sure about Nora Grey yet. She's supposed to be this brilliant straight-A student, but some of her choices seemed rather, well, stupid. But I guess that's the whole point of being a damsel in distress. If you're not in trouble, then the hot fallen angel won't be able to rescue you.

Speaking of the hot fallen angel, I like how the relationship between Patch and Nora developed. We really see how they begin to like each other. It didn't feel forced or rushed.

As much as I liked Hush, Hush, there was one thing that irked me about it until I wanted to hurl it against the wall, namely Nora's best friend Vee Sky. How do I even begin to describe her? She pissed me off practically every time she showed up. She's self-centered and cares more about hot guys than her best friend. There's a scene in the book where Nora gets harassed by a guy, and it feels like Vee takes the guy's side. I wanted to slap her. I mean, if somebody harassed me, my best friend would go ape on his ass in a minimum of five seconds.

Also, I don't think the blurb on the back cover really captured the essence of the book. Hush, Hush is a great book, but the back cover sets the readers up for different expectations. It makes you think that the book is about a battle between immortals and the fallen when the focus is really on Patch and Nora.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Extra Thoughts:
Is it just me or does Hush, Hush need to be made into a movie? I swear, some Hollywood producer needs to snag the movie rights soon.
November 17, 2009

Review: Fairy Tale by Cyn Balog

Fairy Tale by Cyn Balog
Release Date: 2009
Summary:
Morgan Sparks has always known that she and her boyfriend, Cam, are made for each other. But when Cam’s cousin Pip comes to stay with the family, Cam seems depressed. Finally Cam confesses to Morgan what’s going on: Cam is a fairy. The night he was born, fairies came down and switched him with a healthy human boy. Nobody expected Cam to live, and nobody expected his biological brother, heir to the fairy throne, to die. But both things happened, and now the fairies want Cam back to take his rightful place as Fairy King.

Even as Cam physically changes, becoming more miserable each day, he and Morgan pledge to fool the fairies and stay together forever. But by the time Cam has to decide once and for all what to do, Morgan’s no longer sure what’s best for everyone, or whether her and Cam’s love can weather an uncertain future.

Review:
I know I'm probably going to get pelted with tomatoes for what I'm about to say (or type?), but I have to be honest. I wasn't sucked in the first time I read the premise of Fairy Tale. Yes, it's very unique and fresh and all that other jazz, but only one thought formed in my mind.

I thought the premise was very, very gay. I mean, come on, a football player who discovers he's a fairy prince. Uh-huh. Originally, I thought, "This Cam kid is so going to get beaten up once his friends find out."

But I was wrong. Fairy Tale managed to change my mind by page 2. The book was like a breath of fresh air. The writing is snappy and there's nary a dull moment in the entire book. Even with all its fantasy elements, teenage readers, I for one, couldn't help but relate to it. The book reminds us what a roller coaster ride being a teenager can be, and that we can never tell what the future has in store for us.

Let me start by saying that Morgan, the protagonist, isn't another Bella Swan. Imagine expecting to spend the rest of your life with that person you consider your soul mate, and finding out that he's about to leave you forever. Yes, I know, heart-wrenchingly sad, right? Morgan manages to cope with all this, and doesn't only think about herself. She can still see, cheesy as it may sound, the light at the end of the tunnel.

I wasn't that impressed with the supporting characters though. They all fit into tiny molds, and lack the details that make them real for readers. Cam is the perfect boyfriend while Pip, the boy from the fairy world called Otherworld, is the freaky nerd.

There were also moments in the book, especially near the end, where the events felt rushed and a little out of place. Also, there are time when the characters' actions seem a little implausible.

And the ending?

I still haven't figured out whether I like it or not, but it does seem appropriate. When you close the book, you feel satisfied with how the author left the characters.

Overall, I give this book an 8.5.

Quote from the Book:
"We've been together since forever. He might be able to go on without me," I sob, "but I know I can't do it. I can't be without him. He says I'm brave, but the truth is, I'm not. Without him, I'm not."
- Morgan from Fairy Tale

Again, I'm probably going to get pelted with tomatoes for choosing this quote. It makes Morgan look weak, but this quote just tugged at my heartstrings. If you're a girl and you've lost someone you loved so much, then you might get my point.
November 16, 2009

In My Mailbox (1)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren, and this is the first time my blog is participating in something like this. Yay, so excited. So, let's get started.

Borrowed:
The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks
When U.S. Marine Logan Thibault finds a photograph of a smiling young woman half-buried in the dirt during his third tour of duty in Iraq, his first instinct is to toss it aside. Instead, he brings it back to the base for someone to claim, but when no one does, he finds himself always carrying the photo in his pocket. Soon Thibault experiences a sudden streak of luck—winning poker games and even surviving deadly combat that kills two of his closest buddies. Only his best friend, Victor, seems to have an explanation for his good fortune: the photograph—his lucky charm.

Back home in Colorado, Thibault can’t seem to get the photo—and the woman in it—out of his mind. Believing that she somehow holds the key to his destiny, he sets out on a journey across the country to find her, never expecting the strong but vulnerable woman he encounters in Hampton, North Carolina—Elizabeth, a divorced mother with a young son—to be the girl he’s been waiting his whole life to meet. Caught off guard by the attraction he feels, Thibault keeps the story of the photo, and his luck, a secret. As he and Elizabeth embark upon a passionate and all-consuming love affair, the secret he is keeping will soon threaten to tear them apart—destroying not only their love, but also their lives.

Bought:
Rampant by Diana Peterfreund
Forget everything you ever knew about unicorns . . .

Real unicorns are venomous, man-eating monsters with huge fangs and razor-sharp horns. Fortunately, they've been extinct for a hundred and fifty years.

Or not.

Astrid had always scoffed at her eccentric mother's stories about killer unicorns. But when one of the monsters attacks her boyfriend—thereby ruining any chance of him taking her to the prom—Astrid finds herself headed to Rome to train as a unicorn hunter at the ancient cloisters the hunters have used for centuries.

However, at the cloisters all is not what it seems. Outside, the unicorns wait to attack. And within, Astrid faces other, unexpected threats: from the crumbling, bone-covered walls that vibrate with a terrible power to the hidden agendas of her fellow hunters to—perhaps most dangerously of all—her growing attraction to a handsome art student . . . an attraction that could jeopardize everything.

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
In 1937, Shanghai is the Paris of Asia, full of great wealth and glamour, home to millionaires and beggars, gangsters and gamblers, patriots and revolutionaries, artists and warlords. Twenty-one-year-old Pearl Chin and her younger sister May are having the time of their lives, thanks to the financial security and material comforts provided by their father’s prosperous rickshaw business. Though both wave off authority and traditions, they couldn’t be more different. Pearl is a Dragon sign, strong and stubborn, while May is a true Sheep, adorable and placid. Both are beautiful, modern, and living the carefree life ... until the day their father tells them that he has gambled away their wealth, and that in order to repay his debts he must sell the girls as wives to suitors who have traveled from Los Angeles to find Chinese brides.

As Japanese bombs fall on their beloved city, Pearl and May set out on the journey of a lifetime, one that will take them through the villages of south China, in and out of the clutch of brutal soldiers, and across the Pacific to the foreign shores of America. In Los Angeles, they begin a fresh chapter, trying to find love with their stranger husbands, brushing against the seduction of Hollywood, and striving to embrace American life, even as they fight against discrimination, brave Communist witch hunts, and find themselves hemmed in by Chinatown’s old ways and rules.

At its heart, Shanghai Girls is a story of sisters: Pearl and May are inseparable best friends, who share hopes, dreams, and a deep connection. But like sisters everywhere, they also harbor petty jealousies and rivalries. They love each other but they also know exactly where to drive the knife to hurt the other sister the most. Along the way there are terrible sacrifices, impossible choices and one devastating, life-changing secret, but through it all the two heroines of this astounding new novel by Lisa See hold fast to who they are – Shanghai girls.

Splendor: A Luxe Novel by Anna Godbersen
A spring turns into summer, Elizabeth relishes her new role as a young wife, while her sister, Diana, searches for adventure abroad. But when a surprising clue about their father's death comes to light, the Holland girls wonder at what cost a life of splendor comes.

Carolina Broad, society's newest darling, fans a flame from her past, oblivious to how it might burn her future. Penelope Schoonmaker is finally Manhattan royalty—but when a real prince visits the city, she covets a title that comes with a crown. Her husband, Henry, bravely went to war, only to discover that his father's rule extends well beyond New York's shores and that fighting for love may prove a losing battle.

In the dramatic conclusion to the bestselling Luxe series, New York's most dazzling socialites chase dreams, cling to promises, and tempt fate. As society watches what will become of the city's oldest families and newest fortunes, one question remains: Will its stars fade away or will they shine ever brighter?

I can't wait to start reading them (right after I finish Fairy Tale by Cyn Balog and The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman). What did you get?
November 15, 2009

Review: Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs

Release Date: 2002
Summary:
RUNNING WITH SCISSORS is the true story of a boy whose mother (a poet with delusions of Anne Sexton) gave him away to be raised by her psychiatrist, a dead-ringer for Santa and a lunatic in the bargain. Suddenly, at age twelve, Augusten Burroughs found himself living in a dilapidated Victorian in perfect squalor. The doctor's bizarre family, a few patients, and a pedophile living in the backyard shed completed the tableau. Here, there were no rules, there was no school. The Christmas tree stayed up until summer, and Valium was eaten like Pez. And when things got dull, there was always the vintage electroshock therapy machine under the stairs... RUNNING WITH SCISSORS is at turns foul and harrowing, compelling and maniacally funny. But above all, it chronicles an ordinary boy's survival under the most extraordinary circumstances.


Review:

If you have anything against homosexuals, oral sex, smokers, drugs, and shrinks, then this book clearly isn't for you.

Okay, now that we've got that out of the way, let me start by saying this book was totally hilarious. I don't mean hilarious in the I-giggled-mildly-sense but in the I-was-chortling-so-loud-by-myself-people-started-to-think-I-was-insane way.

First of all, Augusten Burrough's personality just shines through the pages. You can see his transformation from a boy who loves all things shiny into a I-want-to-be-a-professional-cosmetologist teenager. You can't help but feel sorry for him due to all the horrible things he's going through. First of all, his father doesn't want him, his mother is gradually going insane, and she gave him away to her shrink (who might be crazier than his mother). However, you sort of want to stick around and read about his hilarious adventures.

We can also see his growing relationships with the members of the Finch family, Dr. Finch (who told him to OD so he could get out of school), Hope (who killed her own cat), and Natalie (the person who introduced him to the shock therapy machine). They all sort of blend together to form a family that defines dysfunctional.

Although the book is pretty funny throughout, it can get pretty depressing at times. There's a darkness somewhere underneath all that humor. It tells us that life can be really hard, and that a person can only take so much. The book also asks the ultimate question: Is blood really thicker than water? Also, the book features one of literature's oldest themes: What doesn't kill you can only make you stronger.

Augusten Burroughs has also developed a writing style that is truly his. For some reason, his writing style reminds me of peanut butter, the thick rich kind without peanut bits.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, but I don't think it's for the faint of heart. If you want to read something that makes you feel all fuzzy inside, then Running With Scissors isn't for you.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Review: Can You Keep a Secret? by Sophie Kinsella

Release Date: 2005
Summary:
Meet Emma Corrigan, a young woman with a huge heart, an irrepressible spirit, and a few little secrets:

Secrets from her mother:
I lost my virginity in the spare bedroom with Danny Nussbaum while Mum and Dad were downstairs watching Ben-Hur.
Sammy the goldfish in my parents’ kitchen is not the same goldfish that Mum gave me to look after when she and Dad were in Egypt.

Secrets from her boyfriend:
I weigh one hundred and twenty-eight pounds. Not one eighteen, like Connor thinks.
I’ve always thought Connor looks a bit like Ken. As in Barbie and Ken.

From her colleagues:
When Artemis really annoys me, I feed her plant orange juice. (Which is pretty much every day.) It was me who jammed the copier that time. In fact, all the times.

Secrets she wouldn’t share with anyone in the world:
My G-string is hurting me.
I have no idea what NATO stands for. Or even what it is.

Until she spills them all to a handsome stranger on a plane. At least, she thought he was a stranger.

But come Monday morning, Emma’s office is abuzz about the arrival of Jack Harper, the company’s elusive CEO. Suddenly Emma is face-to-face with the stranger from
the plane, a man who knows every single humiliating detail about her. Things couldn’t possibly get worse—Until they do.

Review:
First of all, I was really excited to get my hands on this book. Sophie Kinsella is like chick lit royalty, and the premise reminded me of Meg Cabot's Queen of Babble (I adore Meg Cabot), and it sounded really interesting. Single twenty-something girl blabs all her secrets to this guy on a plane who turns out to be her boss. Of course, I expect them to fall in love somewhere along the way. Also, I previously read Kinsella's other book Remember Me? (which I completely enjoyed). So, I guess I was setting myself up for disappointment (I really have to stop using parentheses).

Anyway, the book turned out to be pretty fast-paced at the beginning. It just jumps right in the middle of a particularly important event in the life of Emma Corrigan, the heroine. She's representing the company in a deal that could possibly land her a promotion. I won't tell you what happens during the meeting, but let's just say she meets Mr. Deliciously Mysterious Stranger on the plane soon after. That was the part I was looking forward to.

Sophie Kinsella always manages to create these amazing heroes that never fail to make readers swoon. Jack, the hero, is always slightly disheveled, a multimillionaire, and he GETS i.e. understands Emma (well, most of the time anyway).

Okay, I got a little sidetracked. Back to Emma. As a fictional character, Emma is pretty fleshed out. There are a ton of details about her that make her completely human, and the readers' hearts go out to her. However, I can't say the same for the other characters, except Jack maybe although he seems a little to similar to Jon (the hero from Kinsella's Remember Me?). Emma's friends, flatmates, colleagues, and family members didn't come across as real people to me. They were basically paper-thin stereotypes, and they pale in comparison to Emma's details and quirks.

Somehow, I think the book should have ended sooner than it did. It got a little draggy in the end. A lot of things that weren't supposed to happen happened, and I felt like they were just plopped in to make the book a little longer. There were also moments in the book that I think were supposed to make me feel all fuzzy inside, but fell flat.

Overall, I give this book a 7 out of 10. I got a couple of laughs out of it, and I couldn't help but feel for Emma. But that was it. The other characters were fun but they weren't that believable. If you want a light and funny read, then this could be one of your options.