Wednesday, 29 December 2010

"Waiting On" Wednesday #8

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly even hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

Raising Demons (Hex Hall #2) by Rachel Hawkins
April 1st 2011
(UK cover, title and release date)

*Note: Summary contains spoilers for the first book
Sophie Mercer thought she was a witch.

That was the whole reason she was sent to Hex Hall, a reform school for delinquent Prodigium (aka witches, shapeshifters, and fairies). But that was before she discovered the family secret, and that her hot crush, Archer Cross, is an agent for The Eye, a group bent on wiping Prodigium off the face of the earth.

Turns out, Sophie’s a demon, one of only two in the world—the other being her father. What’s worse, she has powers that threaten the lives of everyone she loves. Which is precisely why Sophie decides she must go to London for the Removal, a dangerous procedure that will destroy her powers.

But once Sophie arrives she makes a shocking discovery. Her new friends? They’re demons too. Meaning someone is raising them in secret with creepy plans to use their powers, and probably not for good. Meanwhile, The Eye is set on hunting Sophie down, and they’re using Archer to do it. But it’s not like she has feelings for him anymore. Does she? (from Goodreads)

Abandon by Meg Cabot
April 26th 2011

New from #1 New York Times bestselling author Meg Cabot, a dark, fantastical story about this world . . . and the underworld.

When Pierce first sees him, she thinks he is a murderer. She's right about one thing -- he does take lives. But not in the way she ever imagined. Pierce is drawn to the dark stranger even as she tries to uncover the mystery surrounding the tragic death of someone close to her. As she gets closer to the truth -- and the stranger -- unexpected secrets are revealed, even in her own heart.
(from Goodreads)

*Note: "Raising Demons" is the UK title for "Demonglass", the second novel in the Hex Hall series by Rachel Hawkins.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

I got a pocket, got a pocket full of sunshine...

So, as another way to avoid revision (it's getting ridiculous now, I really ought to start) and forget about work in general, I borrowed the movie "Easy A" from my friend and spent an hour and half curled up on the sofa with chocolate (German chocolate - no idea why I have this but it was really good) and other unhealthy snacks, watching it. I absolutely LOVED it. I haven't seen a teen movie in such a long time, but this was awesome. Funny, sarcastic and just great to watch. Loosely based on "The Scarlet Letter" (which, coincidentally, is the book everyone is studying in English class), Easy A focuses on Olive, a nobody-turned-harlot after several (false) rumours about her spread around her high school. Olive decides to use these rumours to her advantage - and I'm gonna stop there to avoid spoilers ;). But I really loved Olive - she's hilarious and you can tell that under all the sarcasm she is just a nice, normal girl trying to adjust to this strange new situation. And Emma Stone, who played her, is a new favourite actress of mine.

I know this a completely random post (though it IS book-related - "The Scarlet Letter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne, yeah? Okay, so technically I haven't actually read it, but that's beside the point...), but I just wanted to express my new appreciation for this film. For anyone who's seen it - what did you think? Too contrived? Too unrealistic? Or did you love it like I did? And for anyone who hasn't seen it - I definitely recommend it. And now, I leave you with this:

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Review: The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han

*A review for Chicklish, which can also be viewed here.

The Summer I Turned Pretty (Summer #1) by Jenny Han
Publisher: Puffin
Released: June 3rd 2010 (first published May 5th 2009 by Simon & Schuster Children's)
My Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Some summers are just destined to be pretty.

Belly measures her life in summers. Everything good, everything magical happens between the months of June and August. Winters are simply a time to count the weeks until the next summer, a place away from the beach house, away from Susannah, and most importantly, away from Jeremiah and Conrad. They are the boys that Belly has known since her very first summer -- they have been her brother figures, her crushes, and everything in between. But one summer, one wonderful and terrible summer, the more everything changes, the more it all ends up just the way it should have been all along
. (from Goodreads)

The Summer I Turned Pretty begins with Belly's arrival at Cousins. Belly lives for the summers. Every year she longs for summertime, longs to return to the beach house, to see Susannah and her sons Conrad and Jeremiah again. And now she's back, she's there, but everything is different. Conrad is still her crush and Jeremiah is still her best friend, but the boys are acting differently. Something has changed between them, and Belly knows that this year will be the summer she will never forget.

The Summer I Turned Pretty is exactly what it appears to be; a great summer read. But it's also so much more. It was so engaging that I couldn't put it down, and I felt as if I were part of this book, as if I knew the characters exactly as Belly did. The book is broken into chapters of past and present, and I have to say I loved the flashbacks. I thought they really helped build up the characters and helped explain why Belly loved the summers so much - we could really see into her mind and understand her thoughts and feelings.

As for the characters themselves, I have never been so torn before. Usually when there's a love triangle (or square in this case), I know from almost the beginning the person I favour and the person I want the main character to end up with. Not the case with this book. I liked all the characters, every single one, but it was so difficult to choose which boy I liked best. I found myself being pulled into whatever direction Belly was going at the time; I felt what she felt and I experienced her confusion and hurt about each of the boys. Conrad is the dark and mysterious one; he's quiet and moody, but we know from Belly's flashbacks that he can be nice and caring too. Jeremiah is the cute and funny one, always trying to make Belly laugh and always the kindest to her; he's the only one who's ever really paid her any attention. Even Cam; he's the new guy and Belly hasn't known him very long, but he's sweet and understanding, and I grew really attached to him too. I felt bad for the way Belly treated him, actually, towards the end, but I guess I could understand why.

My favourite character of all was probably Susannah. She was ill, but tried to be strong and happy for the sake of her family, and I thought it took a lot of courage and personal strength for her to do that. I liked the way she seemed to understand what Belly was going through, and I also loved the friendship between her and Belly's mum. I felt Belly sometimes treated her mum unfairly, and so I liked it when Belly discovered something surprising about her during a discussion with Susannah, and I hope that the relationship between Belly and her mother is something is explored more in the sequel.

In conclusion, The Summer I Turned Pretty is a great summer read full of love, laughter and sadness, and I enjoyed every part of it. The ending was left open so I look forward to the reading the next book in the series – I can’t wait to see what happens between Belly and the boys and Susannah. I'd recommend this book to fans of Sarah Dessen or Sara Manning, or to anyone looking for a quick and thoughtful read.

In My Mailbox #7

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi @ The Story Siren.

I haven't done this in a very long time, but I thought I'd show the books I got over Christmas. I hope everyone enjoyed the holidays and had time to relax a bit! 

Gifts from various friends/family members:
Drive Me Crazy by Erin Downing
Betrayals by Lili St Crow
Jealousy by Lili St Crow
The Legacy by Gemma Malley
You Wish by Mandy Hubbard
Personal Demons by Lisa Desrochers
Pink leather-look notebook (the paper inside is like parchment - makes me feel very Harry Potter-y)
Absolution by Jennifer Laurens
White Cat by Holly Black
The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan (soooo excited about this - I loved Percy Jackson)

Can't wait to get started ;). I was supposed to get Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins as well, but there was a problem with the delivery (probably the eight inches of snow we got) and it got cancelled :/. Still, this lot should keep me occupied for a while! 

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Review: Vegan Virgin Valentine by Carolyn Mackler

Vegan Virgin Valentine by Carolyn Mackler
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Released: March 14th 2004
My Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Mara Valentine is in control. She's a straight-A senior, a vegan, and her parents' pride and joy. She's neck-and-neck with her womanizing ex-boyfriend for number-one class ranking and plans to kick his salutatorian butt on her way out the door to Yale. Mara has her remaining months in Brockport all planned out, but the plan does not include having V, her slutty, pot-smoking, sixteen-year-old niece — yes, niece — come to live with her family. Nor does it involve lusting after her boss or dreaming about grilled cheese sandwiches every night. What does a control freak like Mara do when things start spinning wildly out of control? With insight, authenticity, and a healthy dose of humor, Carolyn Mackler creates an evolving Type A heroine that every reader will recognize — and root for. (from Goodreads)

Mara is a strict vegan. She's taking college classes, she has early acceptance to Yale and she's a virgin. Mara thinks her life is going just fine, until her niece V, who is only a year younger than her, moves in and everything changes. V is Mara's total opposite. She's loud, she's rude and having a good time is number one on her priority list. Mara doesn't know how to handle her, and lately she's having trouble concentrating on anything at all. She keeps dreaming about grilled cheese sandwiches, and other things that are off limits. But with the fight to become Valedictorian and to achieve the highest GPA in the school, Mara doesn't have time to sort out her problems. What's a girl to do?

I started reading Vegan Virgin Valentine knowing nothing about it at all. I didn't read any reviews for it, so I had no idea what to expect. I ended up liking it quite a lot. Mara was a character I could relate to; it was easy to understand why she was so stressed out, and I could see that she was struggling to juggle all her classes and extra-curricular activities, as well as the difficulties she was experiencing to stay vegan. I liked how Mara wasn't perfect; she broke out in spots occassionally and said stupid things sometimes, just like other teenagers, and all of this made it feel more realistic and believeable to me. I liked the way she was so determined, and how this was both one of her strengths and weaknesses - her determination meant that she felt she always needed to be in control, something that she found progressively harder with each day.

I liked the way V and Mara's friendship developed; they started off as almost-enemies and ended up actually caring about each other. I thought V balanced Mara out a bit, and they were both quite funny characters with their own quirks and flaws. V seemed quite tough on the outside, but was really actually quite understanding underneath.

Though I liked James' character, I wanted to know more about him. He was very sweet and charming, but I felt like I didn't know much about his character except he was twenty-two and owned a coffee shop. I also felt the same way with his relationship with Mara; I wanted to know why they both liked each other and what made them want to be together. I also thought that Claudia's character could have been explored a little more, though I did like her and thought she was pretty fun.

Another thing I enjoyed was the relationship between Mara and her parents, and how Mara started off not minding all the phone calls and check-ups and ended up bursting out a bunch of secrets she'd been keeping. Mara felt like her parents only had her to make up for her older sister's failures, so I thought it was funny when Mara's mother had a chat with her about this, because it was something Mara really didn't expect. I thought that perhaps her parents would have been a little more shocked by her outburst, but I'm glad that everything worked out in the end. As for Aimee, V's mother and Mara's sister, I definitely understood why V sometimes resented her, and I was pleased that V got to do something she enjoyed for a change.

In conclusion, Vegan Virgin Valentine was a quick (could've been longer in my opinion - I wanted to know more!) and entertaining read and I'm very happy I read it. Recommended.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Review: Glimmer by Stacey Wallace Benefiel

Glimmer (Zellie Wells #2) by Stacey Wallace Benefiel
Publisher: Self-published
Released: November 1st 2010
My Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Zellie Wells' life is changing. Her relationship with Avery is growing stronger every day, but their parents are still giving them ultimatums and trying to keep them apart. Her newly discovered powers have all but disappeared. Benjamin, another young Retroact, is back and has brought with him a painful shared vision and a troubled past. While working together to figure out what the vision means, Zellie discovers that Benjamin is a worthy friend and mentor. If only he could keep his hands off of her-if only she wanted him to... (from Goodreads)

Zellie has recently discovered she’s a Retroact, and it’s not long before she discovers the identity of the boy who hijacked her rewind. Ben: a male Retroact, rare and unique and in full control of his powers. Zellie doesn’t appreciate having to listen to this guy tell her what to do, but desperate times call for desperate measures and soon enough everyone is in danger, and time for complaining is over. Zellie has to protect the people she loves, before it's too late.

Glimmer is an exciting follow-up to Glimpse, which further explores the world of Retroacts. Zellie learns more about her powers in this one, and we also learn a lot more about the male Retroact, Ben. Ben, I have to say, was just awesome. I mean, as much as I love Avery, and Avery and Zellie together, Ben just made me laugh so much. And he had this secretive side too which made me even more curious about him – plus I absolutely loved the way he teased Zellie. I think Zellie and Ben made quite an interesting pair, and I think Ben’s influence made Zellie even more determined than she was before. He was a more experienced Retroact in some ways and I think Zellie’s jealousy about that was realistic and well portrayed; she wasn’t whiny but you could tell Ben's control over his powers annoyed her. And Zellie isn’t the only jealous one – needless to say that Avery isn’t too happy about the situation either. I think Zellie has been through so much already, but wow, Glimmer just puts her through so much more. She has to deal with devastating loss, she’s forced to stay away from Avery (it was so awful! Poor Avery, I think I missed him just as much as Zellie did), she’s got to learn new powers – there’s just so much to do in such a short space of time. And the revelation towards the end – I was really not expecting that.

One thing I really enjoyed reading about was the relationship between Zellie’s mum and Avery’s (dead) dad. Their situation was strange to say the least, especially with the baby on the way, and I’m not too fond of either one of them, but they just seemed so happy together, despite all the obstacles between them, and it kind of gave me hope that Zellie and Avery would be able make it, against all odds. Zellie’s dad, however, seemed intent on keeping the two apart (though who can blame him really, after what happened? I have to admit I did laugh a bit at his reaction to finding Avery and Zellie alone together). Of course, Zellie wouldn’t stand for this and found a way of communicating with Avery despite the restrictions her dad had set out. I really liked reading the notes they wrote each other and thought the teen voice came across really clearly.

In conclusion, Glimmer was a great sequel to Glimpse and I really enjoyed finding out more about the world of Retroacts (especially concerning what happened to the male ones). I’d recommend the Zellie Wells series to anyone who enjoys a mixture of paranormal, comedy and romance and I look forward to reading the next book in the series!

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Review: Penitence by Jennifer Laurens

Penitence (Heavenly #2) by Jennifer Laurens
Publisher: Grove Creek Publishing
Released: April 29th 2010
My Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Seeing good and evil spirits is a gift Zoe guards with her life. Despite her guardian angel's disappearance, Zoe forces herself to accept that she still has a purpose-but how does she carry the weight of her brother's drug abuse, the hardship of living with an autistic sister, and a best friend who's obsessed with a guy who only wants Zoe? She's never felt more alone. When a mysterious spirit appears, Zoe thinks she has a new guardian angel. Instead, her brother's addiction worsens, her parents are on the brink of separation, and her best friend tries to kill her. The spirit she thinks is her new guardian isn't there to protect her: he's out to destroy her family and seize Zoe's soul. . . for Hell. Will Matthias' return mean that he is Zoe's guardian angel again? Or is their love the reason the jaws of Hell now gape open? (from Goodreads)

Penitence begins with Zoe waking up in hospital. She's been torn away from Matthias and Paradise, and finds herself in a hospital bed surrounded by her family. She’s survived the accident, but things aren’t the same. Matthias is gone, but he’s been replaced by someone else – someone Zoe doesn’t know she can trust. Just when Zoe thinks things can only get better, she’s proven wrong. Temptation isn’t the only sin, after all.

I absolutely adored Heavenly, but I can safely say that Penitence exceeded all my expectations. It was just everything you could hope for in a book; suspense, action, romance and then some. We’re introduced to a new(ish) character, Albert, and I think even though I knew there was something odd about him, he definitely intrigued me. There were tons of questions I wanted Zoe to ask him, but he’s a sly one and managed to avoid answering most things directly. And this just made me want to know even more! Especially after Matthias’ reaction to finding out Albert had spoken with Zoe. And speaking of Matthias, I think I loved him even more in this book than I did in the previous one. And that is saying something. His old-fashioned expressions just made me laugh and the way he was with Abria – ahh.

One character that I was wary about though was Weston. After the events of the first book, I started this one not liking the guy at all. And no matter how many times he apologised and despite the evil spirits that were influencing him then, I just couldn’t forgive him. But as the book went on, I actually find myself kind of feeling sorry for him. There was just something about his desperation to be forgiven that made me feel so bad. I could understand why Zoe had decided to give him another chance, and even though I was trying really, really hard not to, I found myself quite liking him. Which just shows how amazing the writing is; you can’t fight against it! However, there was definitely an issue with Weston, and that was Britt. Britt was never my favourite character to begin with but she is way, way down at the bottom of my list of favourites now. I think I sort of suspected Britt would fall out with Zoe but I never imagined it would be to this scale. Britt, to me, is almost as villainous as Albert, because she used to be a friend and it’s always harder to stand up to friends than it is to enemies (little Dumbledore quote there :P). I have no idea what’s going to happen next between them but it’s definitely going to be interesting.

As for Wes and Zoe’s relationship – well all I have to say is poor Matthias. As much as I enjoyed getting to know Wes more I couldn’t help but think of Matthias the whole time and how he must have been feeling. Zoe’s going to have to decide what she wants soon enough and I have a feeling the choice isn’t going be very easy.

Last, but most certainly not least, there’s Chase. I think I may be a minority here but I really love Chase. His crush on Zoe, though unrequited, is so adorable, but the thing I like most about him is his inquisitive mind; he’s always asking questions, trying to learn more and delve into unknown areas. He can be a bit tactless at times, but I don’t know, there’s something sweet about him.

I feel like I haven’t portrayed its awesomeness enough, but in conclusion, Penitence was amazing. I recommend the Heavenly series to anyone and everyone, and I can’t wait to get started on Absolution!