Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Michelle Recommends: 5 Underappreciated Books/Series

Happy Wednesday everyone! Today I thought I would do something simple and fun. The following are 5 books I believe are under-appreciated in the YA genre. If you haven't read these yet, I urge you to do so.

If you have read any of these books, I would love to hear what you thought of them? What other books/series do you think are under-appreciated?

Lockdown by Alexander Gordon Smith (Escape from Furnace #1)

You don't have friends in here, you'll soon come to understand that. You get attached to someone, then you'll just lose them. They'll get shanked or they'll jump or they'll be taken one night.

Synopsis:

Furnace Penitentiary: the world’s most secure prison for young offenders, buried a mile beneath the earth’s surface. Convicted of a murder he didn't commit, sentenced to life without parole, “new fish” Alex Sawyer knows he has two choices: find a way out, or resign himself to a death behind bars, in the darkness at the bottom of the world. Except in Furnace, death is the least of his worries. Soon Alex discovers that the prison is a place of pure evil, where inhuman creatures in gas masks stalk the corridors at night, where giants in black suits drag screaming inmates into the shadows, where deformed beasts can be heard howling from the blood-drenched tunnels below. And behind everything is the mysterious, all-powerful warden, a man as cruel and dangerous as the devil himself, whose unthinkable acts have consequences that stretch far beyond the walls of the prison.

Together with a bunch of inmates—some innocent kids who have been framed, others cold-blooded killers—Alex plans an escape. But as he starts to uncover the truth about Furnace’s deeper, darker purpose, Alex’s actions grow ever more dangerous, and he must risk everything to expose this nightmare that’s hidden from the eyes of the world.

Check it out on Goodreads!
 
Witch Eyes by Scott Tracey (Witch Eyes #1)

"Days could have passed, and I wouldn't have known. I tried to focus on something, anything other than the pulsing, but the pain was merciless and wouldn't let me forget."

Synopsis:

Braden was born with witch eyes: the ability to see the world as it truly is: a blinding explosion of memories, darkness, and magic. The power enables Braden to see through spells and lies, but at the cost of horrible pain.

After a terrifying vision reveals imminent danger for the uncle who raised and instructed him, Braden retreats to Belle Dam, an old city divided by two feuding witch dynasties. As rival family heads Catherine Lansing and Jason Thorpe desperately try to use Braden's powers to unlock Belle Dam's secrets, Braden vows never to become their sacrificial pawn. But everything changes when Braden learns that Jason is his father--and Trey, the enigmatic guy he's falling for, is Catherine's son.

To stop an insidious dark magic from consuming the town, Braden must master his gift—and risk losing the one he loves.



The Pledge by Kimberly Derting (The Pledge #1)

"I loved voices, I always had. Words held meaning, but voices held emotion."

Synopsis: 

In the violent country of Ludania, the classes are strictly divided by the language they speak. The smallest transgression, like looking a member of a higher class in the eye while they are speaking their native tongue, results in immediate execution. Seventeen-year-old Charlaina has always been able to understand the languages of all classes, and she's spent her life trying to hide her secret. The only place she can really be free is the drug-fueled underground clubs where people go to shake off the oppressive rules of the world they live in. It's there that she meets a beautiful and mysterious boy named Max who speaks a language she's never heard before . . . and her secret is almost exposed.
Charlie is intensely attracted to Max, even though she can't be sure where his real loyalties lie. As the emergency drills give way to real crisis and the violence escalates, it becomes clear that Charlie is the key to something much bigger: her country's only chance for freedom from the terrible power of a deadly regime.


When We Wake by Karen Healey (When We Wake #1)

No one can take your soul from you. You have to give it away. Here's my soul. I'm giving it to you. I hope you're listening.
Synopsis:

Sixteen-year-old Tegan is just like every other girl living in 2027—she's happiest when playing the guitar, she's falling in love for the first time, and she's joining her friends to protest the wrongs of the world: environmental collapse, social discrimination, and political injustice.

But on what should have been the best day of Tegan's life, she dies—and wakes up a hundred years later, locked in a government facility with no idea what happened.

The future isn't all she had hoped it would be, and when appalling secrets come to light, Tegan must make a choice: Does she keep her head down and survive, or fight for a better world?

Check it out on Goodreads!

The Prophecy by Erin Rhew (The Fulfillment Series #1)

"Beware of gray skies; they can be an omen."

Synopsis:

Growing up on a small farm in the kingdom of Vanguard, seventeen-year-old Layla Givens lives a deceptively tranquil existence. But her carefully constructed life quickly falls apart when she’s abducted by a religious zealot who proclaims her The Fulfillment of an ancient peace prophecy and whisks her away to marry her greatest enemy.

Wilhelm, Prince of the Ethereals, is reluctant to meet his new bride. He's grown up believing Vanguards are evil, an enemy to fight and fear...not love. Can he set aside his prejudices and work alongside Layla to bring lasting peace after centuries of war?

Nash, a loner who has never fit in, carries a huge secret, one big enough to destroy both kingdoms. When he accidently meets Layla, he’s no longer content to live in the shadows, but he must resist his growing attraction—for her safety and for the longevity of the two kingdoms.

When Nash's secret is revealed, a firestorm sweeps through both realms, with Layla at the center. Now she must choose between duty and desire while the fate of two nations hangs in the balance.
Check it out on Goodreads!

Monday, 27 April 2015

Review: Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling

Synopsis:

As the Dark Lord’s sinister forces amass, a spirit of gloom and fear is sweeping the land. Harry Potter waits nervously in his bedroom at the Dursleys' for Professor Dumbledore to arrive. One of the last times he saw the Headmaster was in a fierce duel with Voldemort at the Ministry of Magic. Why is the Professor coming to visit him now? What is it that cannot wait until Harry returns to Hogwarts? In his sixth year, Harry will discover the secret behind the Half-Blood Prince, as Professor Dumbledore prepares him to face his destiny.

My Initial Expectations: 

After having such a difficult time reading the last Harry Potter book, I wasn't that excited to pick this one up. Nevertheless, I was already more than half way done with the series and I knew I couldn't just stop without all my questions having been answered. 

In addition, the film adaptation for this one was the only Harry Potter movie I had seen prior to starting the series. I knew the big event that happened at the ending. I even laughed so hard during the ending that me and my friends almost got kicked out of the theater. (Before you hate my guts, please know that I wasn't laughing because of what happened. I was laughing because of a sarcastic comment one of my friend's made regarding it. No, I can't remember what she said. The me from back then was clearly an ignorant twat that is nothing like the me from today.)

My Thoughts: 

This is the first Harry Potter that a thoroughly enjoyed. Of course I loved the last two; but this one was the first to truly fit in with the image of the Harry Potter series that I had built up in mind over the past several years. 

For the first time, Harry was not only tolerable, but admirable. I was so glad that he stopped screaming at everyone every five pages. Even when he did go on a bit of a screaming rampage, it was justified and the people he screamed at definitely deserved it. Harry was finally being the leader people told me he would be. The only disappointment was that it took six books for him to grow from his mistakes. His maturity made me take both him and the plot much more seriously than before, because up until this book I wasn't as invested as I wanted to be. 

Another big thing that I loved about this book was the insight we finally got into the lives and minds of some of the bad guys. Up until this book, the Death Eaters were made out to be pure evil. I saw them as barely human-their lives basically worthless. But after getting just a few minor glimpses at their lives and their relationship with others, I find myself pitying them. No matter what they've done, they are all human at the end of the day. They have family that they love and want to protect just as much as the good side. 
In the end I don't blame Draco for the way he acted. He had no other choice-or at least that was what he was raised to believe. 

On a lighter note, I was also relieved to get some legit romance. One romance I obviously saw coming from a hundred miles away; the other I was surprised at how much it made sense. I knew that both couples were going to get together eventually, but the latter involving Harry was something that I just never understood until now. 

Overall, this book finally got me hooked. I felt more connected to the characters, good or bad, than I'd ever imagined I would be. When I finally got to the event at the end, the event that I had once laughed at uncontrollably, I cried so hard it took me quite a few hours to compose myself (and an ungodly amount of ice cream sandwiches.) 

Favorite Chapters:
Chapter 5, An Excess of Phlegm 
Chapter 7, The Slug Club
Chapter 14, Felix Felicis 
Chapter 16, A Very Frosty Christmas
Chapter 18, Birthday Surprises
Chapter 24, Sectumsempra
Chapter 30, The White Tomb

Reading Progress:


I gave this book 5/5 stars on Goodreads!
Would I recommend it? Hell yeah! 
Would I re-read it? Of course! A thousand times over.

What did you guys think? Did your feelings about the Malfoys change after reading this? Did you cry as much as I did at the end?

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Review: Unbreakable by Kami Garcia

Synopsis:

When Kennedy Waters finds her mother dead, her world begins to unravel. She doesn’t know that paranormal forces in a much darker world are the ones pulling the strings. Not until identical twins Jared and Lukas Lockhart break into Kennedy’s room and destroy a dangerous spirit sent to kill her. The brothers reveal that her mother was part of an ancient secret society responsible for protecting the world from a vengeful demon — a society whose five members were all murdered on the same night.

Now Kennedy has to take her mother’s place in the Legion if she wants to uncover the truth and stay alive. Along with new Legion members Priest and Alara, the teens race to find the only weapon that might be able to destroy the demon — battling the deadly spirits he controls every step of the way.


My Initial Expectations:

When I picked this up I had already read the first Beautiful Creatures book. Though I didn't love the plot of that series and decided to abandon it, I did enjoy the writing style. Therefore, when I found out Kami Garcia had gone out on her own to write a new series, I thought I would try it out. Since I read this book a while after it was released I read through a ton of reviews by other readers. Almost every review I came across talked about it being a copy cat of the hit television show Supernatural. For those that don't know me, I am a huge fan of Supernatural. Dean Winchester is basically my spirit animal. That being so, I was both excited and wary to read this. I never like obvious copy cats, but I was hoping there would be a unique twist to this book that would make up for its unoriginality. 

My thoughts: 

My main problem with this book was that I was never once scarred. This is saying a lot since I am one of the easiest people to scare. I get that it's a YA book and so it can't be too gory or intense, but it could've at least made me a bit jumpy. The only time I was really on the edge of my seat was when my favorite character was in trouble. 

Speaking of the characters...I think the two brothers that are close but not close at the same time was a bit too close to Supernatural's Sam and Dean Winchester for me to be comfortable with them. Because it was obvious who these characters were based off of, everything they did was so predictable. 
As for Kennedy, our underdog protagonist, I surprisingly enjoyed her. This was mostly because she was one of the most realistic YA characters I've come across in a very long time. She didn't just jump onto the paranormal bandwagon the second two hot guys came across her path. She was skeptical and she made sure to ask questions. 

While this book may be filled with countless cliches (love triangle, instant romance, resident bitch that eventual accepts the new girl, etc) and more than a few obvious parallels to one of my favorite television shows, I was an entertaining and fast-paced read (the chapters were never more than 5 pages). 

I gave this book 3.5/5 stars on Goodreads!

Would I recommend it? Sure. Maybe to someone who's just getting into the paranormal genre. 

Would I re-read it? Nah. There's nothing really worth looking over twice. 

What did you guys think? Do you think the parallels to Supernatural are as obvious as I think they are? Does that make you like it/want to read it more or less? If you were a member of the Legion, what would your specialty be? 

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Review: Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

Unpopular opinion time! 
(Also, I'm changing up the structure of my reviews for a bit, just because.)

Synopsis: 

Harry Potter is furious that he is stuck at the Dursleys’ house for the summer, when he suspects that Voldemort is gathering an army, and the wizarding authorities seem unwilling to do anything. Harry’s so-called friends are trying to keep him in the dark. But he knows that Voldemort’s forces can find him wherever he is; he could be attacked at any moment. Harry is finally rescued from Privet Drive by members of the Order of the Phoenix – a secret society first formed years ago to fight Voldemort – and discovers that maybe he is not alone in this battle after all.

My thoughts:

I'm pretty sure that this is the longest book I've ever read. Well, at least it's the longest YA book I've ever read. (I've read War & Peace and that's over 1000 pages) Surprisingly though, it felt as if this book just flew by. 

Let me start by saying that I loved this book. I loved the plot, I loved the setting, I loved every single character–every character except Harry. From the very beginning of this series I have had a lot of problems with the main character. As far as I've seen, he's been rude and selfish 70% of time to not just teachers, but to his friends as well. Up until this book I let it all slide though. 

It was with utter disgust that I pushed myself through the first the few chapters of this book. On almost every page of the first three or so chapters Harry was not so subtly complaining about how he wasn't getting as much attention as he thought he would get from his actions in the previous book. To make things worse, the second he actually started getting more attention, he complained. I don't think I've met a more hypocritical main character. I hoped that when he was finally reunited with his friends in the wizarding world they would be able knock some sense into him. I was wrong. 

It is so frustrating that it took the death the of a beloved character to finally knock some sense into him.

How did this boy become my generation's idol? Maybe he gets better in the next few books, maybe he doesn't. Still, Harry's escalating immaturity almost wrecked this book for me. It took a lot of will power to keep reading through until the end. 

Aside from Harry, I had no issues with the rest of this book. It was fantastic. I was kept on the edge of my seat all the time–a seemingly impossible feat for 800 pages. 

It was nice to see Harry and his friends facing an enemy unrelated to Voldemort and his Death Eaters. Praise to Rowling for changing up the scene for once. Umbridge's character was a perfect example of how evil doesn't always come dressed in black. Evil can come from anywhere, even from the organizations you are supposed to trust. 

Finally, I once again had problems dealing with death in this series. The last time a character died, which was in a previous book, it seemed so quick that I never really had time to grieve. It may have been a somewhat minor character, but I still loved them. I thought it would change when a more influential character passed on, but that was not the case. Usually, when I character I love dies I get emotional. With this death I once again felt nothing. I wanted to feel sad, but for some reason I just couldn't bring myself to cry. I guess that's what happens when all it takes is one spell to take a life. There's no blood, no guts, no gore, no heart-wrenching goodbye. And I'm the biggest sucker for heart-wrenching goodbyes. 

I gave this book 4/5 stars on Goodreads!

Would I recommend it? Yes. This series, no matter how many problems I have with the main character, is absolutely amazing.

Would I reread it? Sure. I plan on re-reading this whole series at least once every 5 years. 

What did you guys think? Do you agree with me on Harry, or do you disagree? I'd love to hear your opinions. 



Sunday, 19 April 2015

Hey everyone! Sorry that I haven't been able to post anything in a while. I've been really busy with mid-terms and job hunting. I pinky promise that I will have at least two new reviews up by Tuesday. Again, super sorry.

Monday, 13 April 2015

Most Anticipated Books: Spring 2015

Hey everyone! Sorry, this is a little bit late. I only recently just realized that I had accidentally scheduled this to post 3 months later than what I intended.

Anyways, the following is a list of my top most anticipated books being released between March 20th (the first day of spring) and June 21st (the first day of summer).

What are your most anticipated books coming out this spring? Why?


The Wicked Will Rise by Danielle Paige (Dorothy Must Die #2)
Synopsis:
To make Oz a free land again, Amy Gumm was given a mission: remove the Tin Woodman’s heart, steal the Scarecrow’s brain, take the Lion’s courage, and then Dorothy must die.
But Dorothy still lives. Now the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked has vanished, and mysterious Princess Ozma might be Amy’s only ally. As Amy learns the truth about her mission, she realizes that she’s only just scratched the surface of Oz’s past—and that Kansas, the home she couldn't wait to leave behind, may also be in danger. In a place where the line between good and evil shifts with just a strong gust of wind, who can Amy trust—and who is really Wicked?




An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
Synopsis:
Laia is a Scholar living under the iron-fisted rule of the Martial Empire. When her brother is arrested for treason, Laia goes undercover as a slave at the empire’s greatest military academy in exchange for assistance from rebel Scholars who claim that they will help to save her brother from execution.
Elias is the academy’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias is considering deserting the military, but before he can, he’s ordered to participate in a ruthless contest to choose the next Martial emperor.
When Laia and Elias’s paths cross at the academy, they find that their destinies are more intertwined than either could have imagined and that their choices will change the future of the empire itself.



The Replaced by Kimberly Derting (The Taking #2)
Synopsis: 
Kyra hasn't been the same since she returned from her mysterious five-year disappearance. Now, on the run from the NSA, Kyra is forced to hide out with others who, like her, have been Returned. Yet she is determined to find Tyler, the boy she loves who was also abducted—all because of her. When her group intercepts a message that Tyler might still be alive but is in the hands of a shadowy government organization that experiments on the Returned, Kyra knows it's a risk to go after him. What if it's a trap? And worse, what if the returned Tyler isn't the same boy she lost?






The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey (The Girl at Midnight #1)

Synopsis: 
Beneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins. Age-old enchantments keep them hidden from humans. All but one. Echo is a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market, and the Avicen are the only family she's ever known.
Echo is clever and daring, and at times she can be brash, but above all else she's fiercely loyal. So when a centuries-old war crests on the borders of her home, she decides it's time to act.
Legend has it that there is a way to end the conflict once and for all: find the Firebird, a mythical entity believed to possess power the likes of which the world has never seen. It will be no easy task, but if life as a thief has taught Echo anything, it's how to hunt down what she wants . . . and how to take it.



A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas (A Court of Thorns and Roses #1)

Synopsis:
When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.
As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she's been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.



Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge 

Synopsis:
When Rachelle was fifteen she was good—apprenticed to her aunt and in training to protect her village from dark magic. But she was also reckless— straying from the forest path in search of a way to free her world from the threat of eternal darkness. After an illicit meeting goes dreadfully wrong, Rachelle is forced to make a terrible choice that binds her to the very evil she had hoped to defeat. Three years later, Rachelle has given her life to serving the realm, fighting deadly creatures in an effort to atone. When the king orders her to guard his son Armand—the man she hates most—Rachelle forces Armand to help her find the legendary sword that might save their world. As the two become unexpected allies, they uncover far-reaching conspiracies, hidden magic, and a love that may be their undoing. In a palace built on unbelievable wealth and dangerous secrets, can Rachelle discover the truth and stop the fall of endless night?


The Novice by Taran Matharu (Summoner #1)

Synopsis:
When blacksmith apprentice Fletcher discovers that he has the ability to summon demons from another world, he travels to Adept Military Academy. There the gifted are trained in the art of summoning. Fletcher is put through grueling training as a battlemage to fight in the Hominum Empire’s war against orcs. He must tread carefully while training alongside children of powerful nobles. The power hungry, those seeking alliances, and the fear of betrayal surround him. Fletcher finds himself caught in the middle of powerful forces, with only his demon Ignatius for help.
As the pieces on the board maneuver for supremacy, Fletcher must decide where his loyalties lie. The fate of an empire is in his hands. The Novice is the first in a trilogy about Fletcher, his demon Ignatius, and the war against the Orcs.


The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker (The Witch Hunter #1)

Synopsis:
Elizabeth Grey is one of the king's best witch hunters, devoted to rooting out witchcraft and doling out justice. But when she's accused of being a witch herself, Elizabeth is arrested and sentenced to burn at the stake.
Salvation comes from a man she thought was her enemy. Nicholas Perevil, the most powerful and dangerous wizard in the kingdom, offers her a deal: he will save her from execution if she can break the deadly curse that's been laid upon him.
But Nicholas and his followers know nothing of Elizabeth's witch hunting past--if they find out, the stake will be the least of her worries. And as she's thrust into the magical world of witches, ghosts, pirates, and one all-too-handsome healer, Elizabeth is forced to redefine her ideas of right and wrong, of friends and enemies, and of love and hate.



Monday, 6 April 2015

Review: The Eighth Guardian by Meredith McCardle

What the book is about...

Amanda Obermann. Code name Iris.
It’s Testing Day. The day that comes without warning, the day when all juniors and seniors at The Peel Academy undergo a series of intense physical and psychological tests to see if they’re ready to graduate and become government operatives. Amanda and her boyfriend Abe are top students, and they’ve just endured thirty-six hours of testing. But they’re juniors and don’t expect to graduate. That’ll happen next year, when they plan to join the CIA—together.
But when the graduates are announced, the results are shocking. Amanda has been chosen—the first junior in decades. And she receives the opportunity of a lifetime: to join a secret government organization called the Annum Guard and travel through time to change the course of history. But in order to become the Eighth Guardian in this exclusive group, Amanda must say good-bye to everything—her name, her family, and even Abe—forever.
Who is really behind the Annum Guard? And can she trust them with her life?

My initial expectations...

I love history. Probably more than YA, to be absolutely honest. So when I came across a book on Goodreads about teenagers and time-travel, I couldn't pass it up. The pretty rainbow cover was definitely an awesome bonus. Besides that though, I'd never really read any books on time-travel or secret government stuff (at least, not that I remember). Because of this, I didn't really know what to expect. 

What I liked about this book...

Now that I actually think about it, there isn't anything in particular that I enjoy about this book. If anything, I can sort of relate to Amanda and the trouble she has with her mom and her mom's mental illness. But that's basically it. 

What I didn't like about this book...

The writing was quite simplistic. Not descriptive enough to fulfill my expectations. Therefore, I never truly felt that they had gone back in time. The author/narrator failed to make me feel as if I had switched from one era to the next, which was quite disappointing.
The characters were flat and underdeveloped. The plot was full of cliches. At the end of the day, everything seemed to come down to one boy or another, which continuously distracted from the plot.
Finally, though it may seem insignificant to most, I was really frustrated by McCardle's choice of code names. Iris and Indigo are nice and unique, but Yellow and Orange? I would honestly kill anyone who insisted on calling me that day after day. 

My overall views...

Though I had a lot of problems with this book, it was tolerable. I read through it in less than a day and so it didn't waste too much of my time. I wish I had read something similar prior so I could compare the two.

I give this book 2.5/3 stars on Goodreads!

Would I recommend it to anyone? Yes. However, I think this book may be more suitable for younger readers. Maybe around 12 to 14 years old.

Would I read it again? No. Just not my cup of tea.

Favourite quotes...

I have no favourite quotes from this book. There was nothing significantly inspiring or captivating in the thoughts and dialogue of any of the characters.

What did you guys think? How does this compare to other books you may have read with time-travel in them? Were you as annoyed with the code names as I was? If you could pick your own code name, what would it be? If you could time-travel to any date and place, when and where would it be? What would you do there?

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Review: Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

What this book is about... 

Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics. But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his wills.
Nobody fights the Epics...nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them.
And David wants in. He wants Steelheart - the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David's father. For years, like the Reckoners, David's been studying, and planning - and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience.
He's seen Steelheart bleed. And he wants revenge.

My initial expectations...

Just over a year ago, around Christmas, I picked up this book at my local bookstore on a whim. I hadn't even bothered to read the synopsis on the back. Honestly, I bought it because the cover was just way to shiny to pass up and (for the first time in forever) I had money to spare. On New Year's Eve I picked this one off my shelf only after realizing I was one book short of my yearly reading goal.

What I liked about this book...

I was not prepared for all the craziness this book threw at me. And by craziness, I mean awesomeness. Have any of you ever come across a book that you don't really expect much from, but then, all of the sudden you find yourself completely obsessed? Well, that was my experience with this book. 
The idea of supervillains taking over America (and possibly other areas of the world) was definitely unexpected. It's something you think would only work as a graphic novel or as a film. Surprisingly though, Sanderson executed this concept almost perfectly through the YA genre. 
While it was serious and action-packed all throughout, I really enjoyed how there was also a fair amount of humor that came about not only through the dialogue, but also through the protagonist's inner thoughts. Good on David for not totally succumbing a moody personality that usually comes with a protagonist seeking revenge. 
The characters weren't the only thing I loved about this book. The plot was mind-blowing, especially near the end. While I'm not going to give any specific details, the big reveal at the end had me physically shaking with shock and excitement. 

What I didn't like about this book...

Though I enjoyed the pace, I consistently got confused at one point or another while reading the intense action scenes. I kept on needing to go back a page or two to figure out where the character was or what he was doing because everything was just happening so fast and they were moving all over the place. I would turn a page and realize that they had changed locations entirely, and have little to no idea how they got there. 
Additionally, David's inability to use proper and/or logical metaphors went from cute and funny to annoying really quick. Half the time I imagined that whenever Sanderson wanted to add a 'metaphor' he just stuck his hand into a bowl of random things, pulled out two and purposely failed to relate them to one another. Same goes for the Epics (the supervillains) and their powers/weaknesses. 
(Thankfully, Sanderson explains the logic behind the Epics' weaknesses in book two much better). 

My overall views...

While there was a few things here and there that annoyed and or confused me, this book had me captured from the very beginning. David was both brave and inspiring throughout the book. His determination to go out of his way to help people made me fall head over heels for him (which is something that definitely doesn't happen often). I really respect Sanderson for trying something so risky and unique. 

I give this book 5/5 stars on Goodreads!

Would I recommend it to anyone? Yes! I've basically recommended this book to everyone already.

Would I re-read this book? Maybe. Because I already knew the big reveal at the end, I feel that it may not be as exciting a second time around. 

Favourite quotes...

“Never throw the first punch. If you have to throw the second, try to make sure they don't get up for a third.”

“We were like deaf people trying to dance to a beat we couldn't hear, long after the music actually stopped.” 

“I have a smoke grenade in my room," I said.
"What?" Megan asked. "How?"
"I grew up working at a munitions plant," I said. "We mostly made rifles and handguns, but we worked with other factories. I got to pick up the occasional goody from the QC reject pile."
"A smoke grenade is a goody?" Cody asked.
I frowned. What did he mean? Of course it was. Who wouldn't want a smoke grenade when offered one?”

“Where there are villains, there will be heroes. Just wait. They will come.”

What did you guys think? Have you read anything similar? Would you rather be an Epic or a Reckoner? If you were a Reckoner, what would your position on the team be? If you were an Epic, what would your ability be? 


Saturday, 4 April 2015

Review: Stolen Songbird by Danielle L Jensen

What the book is about...

For five centuries, a witch’s curse has bound the trolls to their city beneath the ruins of Forsaken Mountain. Time enough for their dark and nefarious magic to fade from human memory and into myth. But a prophesy has been spoken of a union with the power to set the trolls free, and when Cécile de Troyes is kidnapped and taken beneath the mountain, she learns there is far more to the myth of the trolls than she could have imagined.
Cécile has only one thing on her mind after she is brought to Trollus: escape. Only the trolls are clever, fast, and inhumanly strong. She will have to bide her time, wait for the perfect opportunity.
But something unexpected happens while she’s waiting – she begins to fall for the enigmatic troll prince to whom she has been bonded and married. She begins to make friends. And she begins to see that she may be the only hope for the half-bloods – part troll, part human creatures who are slaves to the full-blooded trolls. There is a rebellion brewing. And her prince, Tristan, the future king, is its secret leader.
As Cécile becomes involved in the intricate political games of Trollus, she becomes more than a farmer’s daughter. She becomes a princess, the hope of a people, and a witch with magic powerful enough to change Trollus forever.

My initial expectations...

To be honest, I had little to no hopes for this book when I first picked it up to read. The biggest turn off in my opinion was the trolls. All I could picture in my head at first were those short and chubby little pencil toppers that I used to collect as a kid and it was hard to even fathom a relationship between a beautiful girl and something so ghastly. 

What I liked about this book...

Have you ever picked up a book and from the very first page you knew you were going to love it? Well, that my basically my first impression of Danielle L. Jensen’s debut novel. The words flow perfectly and so does the dialogue. In short, the characters are witty, passionate, and the developments individually and amongst one another are beautiful and heart-wrenching. At first, I was a bit confused about how Prince Tristan, who was exceptionally rude from the start, could catch the heart of Cecil, such a caring and innocent young girl. But as the plot played out and the characters were more and more open towards one another, I admired how believable the author had been able to make the Prince’s outside demeanor seem, even to her readers. 

What I didn't like about this book...

If I could give one downfall to this amazing novel it would be the overall vagueness of the setting and its history. There were many places in which the author could have given the readers a more detailed account of the history of the trolls and the outside world. Throughout the plot the readers are presented with only bits and pieces of information about the trolls and their history and it was ultimately very frustrating trying to connect them all. Hopefully Jensen will elaborate in the sequel, Hidden Huntress.

My overall views...

It’s a very long book with very long chapters, which is usually something I just cannot tolerate. This book is definitely an exception. There’s never a dull moment, with so many twists and turns that leave me begging for more. While the ending was somewhat predictable, I believe it was a necessary display of the developments the characters had made and had been building upon throughout the book.

I give this book 4.5/5 stars on Goodreads!

Would I recommend it to anyone? Yes. I’d recommend this book to both fantasy and romance lovers. Though many stray away from fantasy books because they seem so complex at a glance, this book is very comprehensive overall.

Would I read it again? Yes. Not anytime soon, but eventually.

Favourite quotes...

“I think it is our nature to believe evil always has an ugly face,” he said, ignoring my question. “Beauty is supposed to be good and kind, and to discover it otherwise is like a betrayal of trust. A violation of the nature of things.”

“I cannot stop the world from moving. All I can do is be prepared for when it does.”

“Dying was and easy thing to accomplish, effortless in its agony. It was living that was hard, requiring endless toil and labor, and for all one's efforts, it could be stolen in an instant.”

“They aren't ugly." I bit my lip, trying to find the right words. "more like beautiful things that have had the misfortune of being broken.”

“You looked ridiculous walking around the city carrying an empty wineglass. I don't care to be associated with a drunk. Particularly one who damages glassware.”
What did you guys think? Did you like the romance? Did you like the ending? Have you ever read any books that didn't sound so appealing at first, but then they turned out to be amazing?

Review: The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong

What the book is about...

Chloe Saunders' life will never be the same again.
All she wanted was to make friends, meet boys, and keep on being ordinary. She doesn't even know what that means anymore. It all started on the day that she saw her first ghost - and the ghost her me.
Now there are ghosts everywhere and they won't leave her alone. To top it all off, Chloe's somehow got herself locked up in Lyle House, a "special home" for troubled teens. Yet the home isn't what it seems. Chloe thinks there might be more to her housemates than meets the eye. The question is, whose side are they on? It's up to her to figure out the dangerous secrets behind Lyle House...before its skeletons come back to haunt her.

My initial expectations...

I had already finished the Darkest Rising trilogy by the time I picked this up. I had only just found out that the Darkest Rising was a sort of spin off of the Darkest Powers trilogy. Since I absolutely loved the Darkest Rising trilogy, I was excited to read its predecessors.  

What I liked about this book...

I've always enjoyed the way Armstrong writes. Her style is neither too complex nor too simple, which makes it a fast-paced and comprehensive read.
Not that I enjoy hearing about things like puberty and periods and acne, but I appreciate the fact that Armstrong mentions these things throughout her book. These teens are realistic, not overly-polished dolls and or models which have a habit of appearing in almost every other urban YA book. 

What I didn't like about this book...

My biggest issue with this book wasn't the characters or the plot, but the use of the word 'Schizo'. I get that this book is fictional, but I don't think its appropriate to go throwing around that word like its a joke or an insult. Mental illness is a serious and very real issue that should not be taken lightly. The moment Chloe first called herself that without a second thought, she lost my respect and my interest.
Besides that there were a bit too many cliches. Love triangle. Bleh. Love triangle between two brothers. Double bleh. The one queen bee bitch who also has a thing for one of the love interests. Too many blehs to count. The eventual romance between two of the main characters was a bit too obvious to be enjoyable. Though it thankfully wasn't too fast paced. 

My overall views...

As the book progressed, I cared less and less about the characters and whether or not they were safe. To make things worse, Armstrong got rid of the only character I really liked within the first few chapters. This book had so much potential. With a little tweaks here and there it could have been enjoyable.

I give this book 3/5 stars on Goodreads!

Would I recommend it to anyone? Maybe.

Would I read it again? No. 

What did you guys think? Which series do you like better: The Darkest Powers or The Darkest Rising? Did you see that romance coming, or was it just me?

Review: The Taking by Kimberly Derting

What the book is about...

When sixteen-year-old Kyra Agnew wakes up behind a Dumpster at the Gas ’n’ Sip, she has no memory of how she got there. With a terrible headache and a major case of déjà vu, she heads home only to discover that five years have passed, yet she hasn’t aged a day.
Everything else about Kyra’s old life is different. Her parents are divorced, her boyfriend, Austin, is in college and dating her best friend, and her dad has changed from an uptight neat-freak to a drunken conspiracy theorist who blames her five-year disappearance on little green men.
Confused and lost, Kyra isn’t sure how to move forward unless she uncovers the truth. With Austin gone, she turns to Tyler, Austin’s annoying kid brother, who is now seventeen and who she has a sudden undeniable attraction to. As Tyler and Kyra retrace her steps from the fateful night of her disappearance, they discover strange phenomena that no one can explain, and they begin to wonder if Kyra’s father is not as crazy as he seems. There are others like her who have been taken .and returned. Kyra races to find an explanation and reclaim the life she once had, but what if the life she wants back is not her own?

My initial expectations...

I've loved Kimberly Derting ever since I picked up The Pledge a few years back. However, while I love Derting and her writing style, I'm not the biggest fan of anything extraterrestrial-related. Personally, I prefer to enjoy aliens on the silver screen exclusively. I'm a big X-Files fan, but that's pretty much it.

What I liked about this book...

My favourite scenes were always the ones where Kyra met up with one of the people she had been close with before she was taken. They were awkward, uncomfortable and emotional. With each one I grew more and more sympathetic for Kyra and started to feel what she felt.
I also really liked seeing how much the characters had changed over the years. I don't know exactly why, it was just enjoyable.
Though it slowed down a bit in the middle, the character and plot development was well paced. It was a relief not having the author shove the protagonist's superhuman abilities or the romance in my face before I was able to absorb everything else. It was suspenseful, but not to the point where I felt rushed. 

What I didn't like about this book...

The romance, while not too fast or too ooey gooey, just didn't appeal to me. Near the end I was a bit more into than I was before, but not to the point where I actually cared. In fact, I almost felt like it was just a filler to let the author space key plot points out.



My overall views...

Surprisingly, I enjoyed this book. Not necessarily for the characters or the romance, but for the plot and the theme, the one thing I had been worried about liking. Throughout, Derting kept me wanting more and more and more until the point where I was so I love with this book I couldn't stop thinking about it, even once I'd moved on to other books. 

I give this book 4/5 stars on Goodreads!

Would I recommend it to anyone? Yes! Too anyone who loves aliens and suspense.

Would I read it again? Nah. But I'm definitely excited for the sequel!

Favourite quotes...

“Love required sacrifice and making hard choices and doing things that were bigger than just you. It wasn't something you asked for, or could control or change. It was something you accepted. Love was a force of nature.”

What did you guys think? Did you like or dislike the romance? Why or why not? Please feel free to recommend to me any other alien or suspense YA novels you think I or others might like?

Review: The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

What this book is about...

The Seven Stages War left much of the planet a charred wasteland. The future belongs to the next generation’s chosen few who must rebuild it. But to enter this elite group, candidates must first pass The Testing—their one chance at a college education and a rewarding career.
Cia Vale is honored to be chosen as a Testing candidate; eager to prove her worthiness as a University student and future leader of the United Commonwealth. But on the eve of her departure, her father’s advice hints at a darker side to her upcoming studies--trust no one.
But surely she can trust Tomas, her handsome childhood friend who offers an alliance? Tomas, who seems to care more about her with the passing of every grueling (and deadly) day of the Testing. To survive, Cia must choose: love without truth or life without trust.

What initial expectations...

Like every other person who has picked up this book, I was under the impression that it would be just another Hunger Games. For those that don't know me, I have a very...um, unique...view on the Hunger Games series. I don't like it. (I might explain to you all one day, but today is not that day) Consequently, this book wasn't necessarily something I wanted to devote my time and energy to. However, since it was a gift from a close friend of mine, I pushed myself to at least try and get through this. 

What I liked about this book...

While it is true that this book shares a lot with the Hunger Games, it is original in its own way (at least from my perspective). 
Very few of the books I've read and/or heard of feature a protagonist whose main strengths are mental instead of physical. I really admired Cia's ability to be innovative in times of danger, trying her best to avoid harm to others at all cost. She's basically the Macgyver of the new generation. Even when danger and violence was unavoidable, she always found the strength to continue on until the very end. At least once I was brought to tears over how determined and inspiring she could be.
Unlike with Katniss, I could easily relate to Cia. I guess its mostly because we both love learning and challenges, even if they make us super nervous sometimes. 
Out of all the YA books I've read recently, this one has the least number of cliches. Most importantly, there was no love triangle. Thankfully, the romance was well-paced and it didn't overwhelm me like most YA romances do. Respect to Cia for not letting a boy get in the way of success. 
In addition to that, I was relieved to find that Cia wasn't a brat like many of the female protagonists I've encountered lately. She didn't waste her time complaining about simple things like boys and appearances, which made her 100x more likable. 
Finally, my favourite aspect to this book was the mystery surrounding The Testing and what happened to the contestants after they left the competition. That's what pushed me to keep on reading. 

What I didn't like about this book...

That ending. I still can't decide whether I love it or hate it. I was so frustrated with the author for doing what she did, but at the same time it made me want to go and read the next book even more. I don't know whether you can call it a cliffhanger though. 

My overall views...

This book was surprisingly enjoyable. It restored my hope in the dystopian genre that I had lost after reading the Hunger Games. So what if it isn't that original? Most books aren't. Charbonneau took a concept I hated and made it her own. I loved it for its plot, its protagonist, and even for its romance. 

I give this book 4.5/5 stars on Goodreads!

Would I recommend it to anyone? Yes! If you love dystopian, I urge you to pick this one up!

Would I read it again? Maybe. I've already read it twice. Once when it first came out and once just recently to refresh my memory. 

Favourite quotes...

“Leaders are forced to kill all the time. Then they have to learn to live with the decisions they make. Just like I'm going to learn to live with mine.”

“...the biggest failures typically come before the biggest breakthroughs. That no matter what, I should never get discouraged. Learn from my mistakes and all will be well.”

“Things don't always work out the way we hope. You just have to pick yourself up and find a new direction to go in.”

What did you guys think? Was it too much like the Hunger Games? Were you as frustrated with the ending as I was? Who was your favourite character? Who was your least favourite character?