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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

My Top 5 Tuesday: Books of 2013 (Mid-Year)

You know that book that just welcomes you with wide arms and gives you one of the best hugs you've ever had, so wonderful that it sends chills down your spine? Well, so far these books reached that limit—maybe even broke the scale! These are the books you can devour again and again, because you just can't get enough of everything it presents to you.

  1. The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey - Action-packed, fast-paced, dynamic characters, twist on Sci-Fi Dystopian. Rick Yancey creates a world full of "mysterious beings" (taken from synopsis) that take over Earth and what's left of humanity. The weak are devoured, the young stragglers are recruited against the Others, and the strong are the survivors. Phenomenal writing and characters bring this book to what it is now. Yancey can use multiple POVs with extraordinary different personalities with just a change of writing style. If you're into Sci-Fi or Dystopian, The 5th Wave is definitely for you.
  2. Hopeless by Colleen Hoover - An emotional thrill-ride. Hopeless has the right dosage of humor, romance, and is mixed with intense, heartfelt emotion. When one strong secret is hidden and a lie takes the place of it, many others arise beyond it, creating a life of broken trust and a mind set on finding out the truth. Colleen Hoover captures her readers with lovable characters and unbreakable friendships that help Sky through her lost times. Add that with delicious romance and this book becomes life-changing-ly sweet. Contemporary readers, I present to you... Hopeless.
  3. Let The Sky Fall by Shannon Messenger - I've yet to read a book like the one Messenger delivers her readers. And the cover is absolutely gorgeous, I should mention. Let The Sky Fall holds an otherworldly atmosphere that makes you want to join the winds with Vane Weston—a stubborn boy whose past is lost until he sees the mysteriously familiar girl who he doesn't yet know is his guardian of his past, present, and future—and Audra, the striking sylph (air elemental), who helps control the wind with songs and has the ability to make it a weapon, a girl who leads Vane to his secret and truth to protect their kingdom from the warriors... with great risk. Let The Sky Fall is something that everyone must try out.
  4. Splintered by A.G. Howard - Picture Alice in Wonderland, now add dark twists and you get Splintered. It is difficult to explain the premise of this book, but A.G. Howard created her own wonderland, the hidden form of it, and made Splintered a captivating and eerie world. This book is told with so much detail and plot twists that it would be hard to tell which is the true story of Wonderland: the original, or this? Curiouser and curiouser...
  5. Mila 2.0 by Debra Driza - Androids are becoming the in nowadays. Mila 2.0 is a Sci-Fi novel about a girl who thought she had a normal human life until the truth is tragically revealed to her. Mila is, in fact, an android that was operated by the government to become a weapon. This operation caused Mila to have real human emotions and know too much about the government's secret. Now she must hide before they capture her and use her superior technology, then shut her down for good. Mila 2.0 is what every android fan should read. The characters are incredibly dynamic and the setting is perfection.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Blog Tour Review: Blind Sight Through The Eyes of Leocardo Reyes by Ermisenda Alvarez

Publication Date: February 2012
Publisher: Ermilia, LLC
A blind girl drawing is abnormal even on the magical island of Edaion where leaves brush themselves into piles in the middle of the night. As an immigrant, Leocardo is not biased by accepted rules of magic and determines that Odette’s drawings are premonitions. Aniela grew up with magic and knows premonitions are impossible. She determines Odette is a medium channeling voiceless spirits.

In this volume: Snatched out of their life in Spain, Leocardo and his blind sister Odette find themselves on an island with no recollection of the trip. After foiled attempts to escape, Odette’s strange behavior gets worse. Even after learning the island has bestowed magic upon them both, Leocardo faces the possibility his sister is having a mental break down. Just as he thinks he is settled in, job and romantic life stable, Odette disappears.
WARNING. My goal is not to bash, condemn, or offend anyone, but to show my honest opinion and let others into my state of mind while reading the book. This will be difficult to review, as I have no strong like or dislike towards this book. Add that to the fact that I went in with high expectations? It just makes me feel all the more unsatisfied after reading the final page.

Blind Sight Through The Eyes of Leocardo has great potential and successfully sticks to the plot, and the concept is pretty awesome. However, the writing [and characters] cause this book to fall as flat as the characters. I can't recall ever reading a book with a stoic expression through and through. I could have been captivated. I could have endorsed Blind Sight. Along with the writing, every character reminded me of a line graph that ascends rather quickly until it reaches the point where it becomes constant, and ends at that. Apparently, I appear to be the black sheep in thinking so. I'll try my best to explain why.

In the prologue, Leocardo finds his blind sister Odette drawing furiously. As he tries pry her arm from doing so, it only becomes impossible with each tug. Finally, Odette stops but grows weak from her sudden trance. After sleeping it off, she doesn't remember anything and believes she only had a headache, followed by a sudden dizziness. When they begin watching TV, Leocardo becomes mesmerized by the news mentioning a place called "Edaion." Sooner than later, a film starts to wrap around Leocardo and Odette, along with their dog Cielo, and they appear in Edaion perplexed. Now, the story begins.

When I read this prologue, God knows I was so eager to get my hands on this and my eyes into the pages. But at the same time, I was a bit hesitant for 2 reasons:
  1. The writing seemed a bit off for an adult [urban fantasy] novel. I felt as if I was reading a pre-teen's novel with the occasional "big words" and thought, okay. Maybe this is just the prologue and how it starts.
  2. Too many questions were being asked in the narrative.
While the writing is slow-paced and should be satisfying for most readers, I wasn't. When I say the writing reminded me of a pre-teen's novel, I'm not exaggerating. I even forgot that Blind Sight was an adult novel. I pictured Leocardo to be about 15 and Odette to be around 12 years old until I read "he was going in for an interview to be a bartender at Green's Tavern." I thought, PAUSE. How is a fifteen-year-old going to be a bartender? and remembered this was an adult novel. Imagine my reaction.

I tried to go around my shock and calm myself with positive thoughts, thinking the writing will improve. *long, exaggerated sigh* I was wrong. All throughout Blind Sight the writing didn't change and I grew more intolerant. And it's not just the writing that bothered me, it was the constant questioning I mentioned earlier. On almost every single page the narrative literally held a good 2-3 (sometimes more) questions that were either unnecessary but answered later on in the book, or both unnecessary and unanswered.
He hung up defeated, and decided to try again later. His head sunk into his trembling hands. What was happening? Why were they not answering? When had they changed their message? Then, for no apparent reason, his panic attack subsided and he felt drugged once more."Imagine that throughout the book?

So this particular Blind Sight is told through the eyes of Leocardo Reyes. Others may think Leocardo is a fast-paced, alright guy, but he came off as a bit bothersome to me. I love how he cares about Odette, and he's a really nice guy, but there were so many moments where I wanted to drop this book and leave it at that because he over-exaggerates everything. Popping up on an island that you can't escape will grind my gears, but he was so set on leaving when he obviously couldn't get away. I admire that he was ambitious, but his reactions just didn't take the cake. Leocardo would ask people what's going on and so much more, but they wouldn't give him a direct answer, so he would stop asking that particular person. However, Leocardo would still think about it and ask other people. I couldn't believe it would go on for weeks. Another thing that bothered me about Leocardo was his change of... choices. He would pursue Claudia, but when she only thought of him as a friend, he moved on to Aniela too quick.

I felt detached from every character in Blind Sight; they weren't as dynamic as I hoped them to be. This doesn't bother me as much as the writing, though. Still, I felt the characters could use more action and emotion, I should say. It's as if they were all one emotion:

Leocardo, lost and always distressed.
Aniela, soft.
Odette, pretty much your average, spoiled teenager.
Nate, the lady's man.
Leila, bored of everyone and everything.
Cielo, only cares about Odette all of sudden. (Only kidding)

Therefore, I have come to the conclusion that I'm a fastidious reader (not really). Although Alvarez excels in setting and character description, her writing was too amateur for me. Others absolutely love it, but I can't find myself in that category. Blind Sight's concept is fascinating in many ways: mysterious island with a mesmerizing pull, and each individual with their own gift/magic. But the concept wasn't fulfilling and needs a greater structure; the resolution was too small for all of the troubles to be that great. After reading it I thought, all of that, for this?

I want to like Blind Sight, but with the resolution, I am left wanting more than what was given. The plot and concept? Perfection. Unfortunately, the rest of the framework falls in the category of "could-be-better."


Sadly, I couldn't finish Blind Sight Through The Eyes of Aniela. Reason (taken from mini-review):
"It takes a lot of concentration and tolerance to finish this. Unfortunately, I held neither; I could merely finish Leocardo's POV because of the writing style and low level of...excitement. And having to read a different POV with the exact same feeling of the previous book? It was just impossible."

Two copies were provided by the authors for review and participation in their upcoming blog tour for Blind Sight.

This post is part of the Blind Sight Blog Tour. Blind Sight is an urban fantasy novel written in two volumes, each telling the story through a different character's perspective.

preview on Barnes and Noble
preview on Amazon

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Review: Taken by Erin Bowman

Publication Date: April 16th, 2013
Publisher: HarperTeen
There are no men in Claysoot. There are boys—but every one of them vanishes at midnight on his eighteenth birthday. The ground shakes, the wind howls, a blinding light descends…and he’s gone.

They call it the Heist.

Gray Weathersby’s eighteenth birthday is mere months away, and he’s prepared to meet his fate–until he finds a strange note from his mother and starts to question everything he’s been raised to accept: the Council leaders and their obvious secrets. The Heist itself. And what lies beyond the Wall that surrounds Claysoot–a structure that no one can cross and survive.

Climbing the Wall is suicide, but what comes after the Heist could be worse. Should he sit back and wait to be taken–or risk everything on the hope of the other side?
Spoilers ahead

This is the most confusing book to review. I probably won't even make sense, but I just have to try.
There were so many things wrong with Taken, and I blame Gray's character development for the most part. The plot is nothing new (but it's still okay) and the overall concept didn't feel dystopian whatsoever.

dystopia - An imagined place or state in which everything is unpleasant or bad, typically a totalitarian or environmentally degraded one.

Taken may meets this standard, but it fails so horribly at giving that feeling. I can't really explain it, but think of Divergent and The Hunger Games. Pretty awesome, right? But no. Taken is set in the modern time with a pansy leader who isolate five groups to experiment on and then start grabbing the most powerful of genders in each one depending on their age. At first it did feel dystopian, but after they got into the car, it just totally strayed away from the genre. Here's where I just started crying because there were NO. FLYING. CARS. and I was mislead by Bowman's word choice:
"'Let's go,' I say. I slide into the car and she follows my lead. Marco says something to his partner, but a clear panel divides the front seats from the rear and his words are muffled and flat. I can hear the car, though, rumbling beneath us. Emma leans into my shoulder, and suddenly we are flying."

Next chapter,
"We rattle ahead, the car lurching over uneven ground."

Maybe I'm just overreacting, but I still had high expectations for Taken. You're probably wondering why I have so many problems with Taken, but still rated it 2.5 stars. Well, Bree (my one and only love) and a couple of minor plot twist along with a bit of action kept me reading. If a book ever makes me want to rush to the end, then it deserves a good 2 stars or lower. However, I was entertained. I'll get to that after I explain what I hate. What I hate about Taken: Gray, the MC. It's true, he is annoying most of the time. In the beginning, he has anger issues that he gets from his father. I came up with an excuse as to why he's such an asshat because I wanted to like him, but as I progressed through the book, I thought NO MORE. You can't blame his genes, and you can't blame his teenage hormones. He's just a stubborn idiot. Not only that, but after he found out God's grace (that's what I'm calling it to hide spoilers), he continues to be an asshole to Bree:
Bree: "'You come in wearing that horrible Order uniform, and we spares, nurse you back to health. We take unnecessary risks for you because you're *God's grace*. And instead of seeing what's happenings around you, you focus on how we've treated you unfairly?'
I roll my eyes, uninterested in arguing with her. 'Maybe you should have shot me then, Bree...Maybe that would have made things easier for you.'"

Um, you just witnessed Heaven yet you're being a sassy pansy, Gray? There are so many things going on right now but you're focused on the fact that they had to test you to see if you're really who you say you are. Here's a tip: IT'S CALLED TAKING PRECAUTIONS. There is so much stupidity radiating off of Gray that it's unbelievable at times. But it's just one idiot, who cares, right? No. Emma comes along in the end being a slattern (had to look up a nice way to say that) and Gray sees, but she's like, "No. It's not like that. I was lost and heartbroken. Given me a second chance." I'm just sitting here thinking, girl, you are telling him this while you're still naked under the covers.

Moving onward.

  The supposed "plot twists." All except three plot twists were easily predictable from the moment I read them, and these were the significant ones. Honestly. I like to engage in my reads and try not to predict the outcome, but just reading one sentence blew everything. While Bowman approached the outcome with suspense, my heart didn't race and I didn't grip the book. I didn't gnaw my nails off and my eyes didn't widen. You know what I did? Nothing except read on to it because I already knew, not guessed, it.

The setting. Dystopian? Oooo, I can't wait to see some awesome machinery and advanced technology with badass rebels. *reads about regular cities, a ridiculous leader gathering an army for what I do not know, intercoms, bow and arrows, ugly vans* What?

The hot-ass-mess love-triangle. It's obvious who Gray should choose. But after reading this, Gray doesn't deserve Bree. Gray wants revenge on Emma by using Bree without her knowing, and the only thing that I made out of it was Gray being a

My expectations. There it is, flying away unlike the car that didn't actually fly. After Part 1, I expected Part 2 to be pretty good. Wrong. After Part 2, that's when my expectations went berserk. The next half of Taken seemed like a promise to fulfill a piece of my soul that was taken away. Wrong again. It improved only slightly because of the introduce characters, but other than that, blah.

What I actually liked about Taken:
Bree. Bree reminds me of Ringer from The 5th Wave: totally badass, stoic, and skillful. She's not some wannabe who will cry for Gray and run after him naked.
"'I guess that depends on how you feel. I've made myself clear. You're the one who has to make up his mind.'"
Emma, how is a sixteen-year-old girl going to be wicked and not yourself?

Harvey. Am I the only one that just fell head-over-heels in love with this adorable, grown man? I love how he is willing to do whatever it takes to protect the Rebels and will risk his own blood to do it. It's not as if he does it out of reluctance, he is literally happy to do whatever.

The fast-paced action. Taken is undeniably fast-paced and balanced with action. I wouldn't say there is a lot of combat in Taken, but the events laid out throughout the book was enough to keep my attention drawn here instead of elsewhere.

Gray improved just a teensy-weensy bit. Just a bit. (He stopped hitting girls! Yay!) And he actually felt bad for his moronic choices and not caring about the events around him. However, that doesn't mean he's going to change completely in the next book. Usually I never read the sequel to a book I didn't like so much, but I am just going to read for Bree.

All in all, don't get your hopes up with this book. In fact, here is a life-long lesson so you won't be disappointed with future comings (not just about books):

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Review: This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith

Publication Date: April 2nd, 2013
Publisher: Poppy
If fate sent you an email, would you answer?

When teenage movie star Graham Larkin accidentally sends small town girl Ellie O'Neill an email about his pet pig, the two seventeen-year-olds strike up a witty and unforgettable correspondence, discussing everything under the sun, except for their names or backgrounds.

Then Graham finds out that Ellie's Maine hometown is the perfect location for his latest film, and he decides to take their relationship from online to in-person. But can a star as famous as Graham really start a relationship with an ordinary girl like Ellie? And why does Ellie want to avoid the media's spotlight at all costs?

I was starting to slip away from this near the middle to near-end, and was rooting towards 2-2.5 stars, but I picked up this book reluctantly and am delighted to say I enjoyed reading the rest.

Refreshing, satisfying, and absolutely adorable. I didn't plan on this being one of my favorites of 2013, but This Is What Happy Looks Like saved me from the books I've been reading lately. Seriously. Imagine reading 1-2 stars books one after another, and feeling like you should just stop reading books all together (yeah, not gonna happen). Right when start giving up, you pick up a book that you forsaken because it hit the "boring" meter. You just started to read it with no plan to give it above 2 stars anyway, but magically, you actually enjoyed the rest of the book. Does that not sound like a savior to you? I feel like I was just pulled out of a deep sleep full of nightmares. Thank you, Jennifer E. Smith.

To start off, there's no real chemistry between you and the characters, but it's not a bad thing. I don't think Smith aimed towards a strong bonding with the characters. However, the characters' personalities are realistic and you can understand where each of them come from–Graham, Ellie, even Quinn. This Is What Happy Looks Like is one of those books where you won't scream at any of the characters for being so dunce or soulless, at least that's what I think.

Graham Larkin is a teenage actor that becomes distant with his parents due to his sudden change of paths in life. Graham handles it pretty well, actually. I was expecting some guy with high standards, but he is both humble and confident, sprinkled evenly with humor. It's a really nice combination.

Ellie O'Neil is likeable. There was a moment when I was thinking, stop bring so modest, but I wasn't thinking about her past and what she's going through now. I'm actually surprised I was being so selfish for a moment because I should have felt her on a personal level. There was one thing that just irritated me, and it is not related with her personality. It's the [physical] character development of Ellie. Am I the only person who is getting annoyed with protagonists with red hair and freckles? It's getting too cliché nowadays. When I first picked up a book with a girl with red hair, I couldn't believe it. I was getting sick of reading about flawless girls with deep blue eyes and a waterfall of shining, blonde hair. Anyway, Ellie is a great character. She isn't sarcastic (good), but she isn't uptight. Ellie can take humor and throw in a bit herself. Her character is unbelievably realistic.

Quinn. I pretty much liked her, even though she had very few scenes and they weren't particularly appealing. But I understand why she did, what she did. It would be overwhelming for me too, but at the end of the day, she should have been with Ellie through thick and thin.

This Is What Happy Looks Like begins with a dose of cuteness, and continues that way for the first 150 pages or so, and then.... I was hit with a rush of boredom. I dropped this book for a good week, the worst week of my life. That's the main problem—the slow-paced writing. However, it wasn't completely slow because the characters aren't flat. The ending has no solution, and it may be thought to be a mini cliffhanger (what happens afterwards?), but it's easy to guess what Ellie and Graham resolve to do.

I am satisfied.

Review: The Rules for Disappearing by Ashley Elston

The Rules for Disappearing by Ashley Elston
Publication Date: May 14th, 2013
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
She’s been six different people in six different places: Madeline in Ohio, Isabelle in Missouri, Olivia in Kentucky . . . But now that she’s been transplanted to rural Louisiana, she has decided that this fake identity will be her last.

Witness Protection has taken nearly everything from her. But for now, they’ve given her a new name, Megan Rose Jones, and a horrible hair color. For the past eight months, Meg has begged her father to answer one question: What on earth did he do – or see – that landed them in this god-awful mess? Meg has just about had it with all the Suits’ rules — and her dad’s silence. If he won’t help, it’s time she got some answers for herself.

But Meg isn’t counting on Ethan Landry, an adorable Louisiana farm boy who’s too smart for his own good. He knows Meg is hiding something big. And it just might get both of them killed. As they embark on a perilous journey to free her family once and for all, Meg discovers that there’s only one rule that really matters — survival.

Hm.. This review will most likely contain spoilers.

2 stars seems like too much for me. I really liked the first 3/4 of this, but the ending just went downhill. I don't have The Rules For Disappearing next to me, so I can't really extract examples from the book that I disliked (I will once the weekend comes).

The Rules for Disappearing has nice characters, and there were some funny moments. However, I felt detached from the characters. Meg is just confusing and hard to connect with. I understand what Meg is going through, and her character is greatly dynamic, but there were some situations that she could have handle well without overreacting. (ergggh! It's so hard to review without glancing at the book as I write!) The romantic moments were dull...because of Meg. While Meg and Ethan were together, I couldn't feel the moment because you have Ethan being the romantic, and then you have Meg like, I want him so bad. I want him to kiss me. But then you have her thinking, I can't do this. I can't risk my leaving him if I have to. It's not confusing, just extremely irritating. Either you give yourself to him or you don't. You're only making [adorable] Ethan look like a stray puppy following you around everywhere. Goodness! Meg could at least tell him something while she's still clueless (about everything) instead of running away at every single chance Ethan gets.

The ending. Oh! the ending. tsk tsk. This is probably the second or third book I've read with the ending being blown out of proportion. You have the exposition and climax going well, and you expect the ending to be good, but this was just extreme. It reminds me of Beautiful Disaster's resolution with her dad being in trouble with the mafia and Travis beating the Big Guy's (my personal name for him) guard to pieces and then participating in the fighting match to replace Big Guy's man and *takes a breath* absolute mess. The Rules For Disappearing's ending was nothing about BD's ending, but it was damn near it. These kinds of things actually happen, I know. But I don't think it's something you should just throw in for a "good" ending if there was no hint or some type of base for it. It only becomes overwhelming. After the "chaos" that happened, Meg is still like, Who could have done this? when it's quite obvious. Really obvious. Too obvious. Dammit, it's so obvious that I laughed out of frustration.

Overall, I enjoyed the first 3/4 of The Rules for Disappearing. So you know what I'm going to do? I'm rating the first 3/4 as 3.5 stars and the ending as 1 star. This is the first and last time I am ever doing this.