Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Pledge by Kimberly Derting

Release Date: 15th November, 2011

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry

Pages: 323pgs

The Story

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.

The Review

The author has done it yet again! THE PLEDGE has an ingenious combination of some of the best elements in the dystopian genre - including a very unique and captivating but strict government-like society - and it's also the type of novel that's a little different and it's rather hard to compare it to with other dystopian book in young adult fiction. But that's a good thing to possess in a book like this one considering it's one of the best books I've read from last year in 2011. Clearly because, one, I love the author's writing as seen in her other novels, and, two, because of the way she keeps coming up with such cool ideas and surprising me each and every time.

Just like in her Body Finder series, a YA series that I've been a big fan of for quite some time, Kimberly Derting continues to impress her readers with writing the smallest amount of moments and recreating them into something magnificent and aspiring. Kind of like pulling a white rabbit out of magician's hat. Whether it's the internal human emotions, the physical strengths and struggles, or even the dangerous situations she continues placing her characters into, it's always unique and entertaining in its own rights. This of course can be seen alone through the eyes of Charlaina aka "Charlie", the main protagonist, whom can be both strong and vulnerable as a main character can get and I love her for it. Especially how she can understand all of the languages inside this society of hers named Ludania . . . she was perfect despite her flaws.

But what's even more interesting, is that the book contains three character perspectives that are switched throughout the novel between Charlie herself, her love interest Max (love him so much just so you know because he's handsome and alluring and all that goodness), and the strange-but-evil-but-sometimes-intriguing Queen Sabara who is the wicked one of all of them. All three main characters were absolutely fantastic ones to read about - even the supporting cast were splendid - and while I was unsure at first with a book sharing three people's perspectives, but in the end it turned out for the best.

Without spoiling the book for you guys - it's hard not to - readers can expect an incredibly blended fantasy/dystopian YA book, and one filled with such loveable characters and with just enough intensity to keep you reading until you reach the final pages. Even with some slow scenes, once you delve into Charlie's new world and enter the dangers she now faces, THE PLEDGE will have you begging for more. On a side note, initially THE PLEDGE was a standalone book but recently the publishers bought the rights to two more books from Derting, so I'm already counting down the days til book 2 arrives on our shelves!

The Rating

4/5 stars

Monday, January 30, 2012

A Beautiful Dark by Jocelyn Davies

Release Date: 27th September, 2011

Publisher: HarperTeen

Pages: 320pgs

The Story

On the night of Skye's seventeenthb birthday, she meets two enigmatic strangers. Complete opposites - like fire and ice - Asher is dark and wild, while Devin is fair and aloof. Their sudden appearance sends Skye's life into a tailspin. She has no idea what they want, or why they seem to follow her every move - only that their presence coincides with a flurry of strange events. Soon she begins to doubt not just the identity of the two boys, but also the truth of her own past.

In the dead of a bitingly cold Colorado winter, Skye finds herself coming to terms with the impossible secret that threatens to shatter her world. Torn between Asher, who can't help falling for her, and Devin, who she can't stay away from, the consequences of Skye's choices will reach further than the three of them could ever imagine.

The Review

A BEAUTIFUL DARK came in a beautiful package - it had angels, a promised love triangle, a shrouded mystery and a haunting standout-ish cover that just made you want to buy it. To be honest with you here, I didn't have a lot of high expectations for this book because I'm no longer a fan of love triangles unless it's absolutely necessary for the storyline and unless it's built strongly, and also because it was about the whole dark vs light angel world, which tends to be unoriginal nowadays in young adult literature. Personally for me, I found this book had a great idea and it was entertaining to a certain point, but a lot of elements of the book could've been developed and/or improved on more.

On a whole I liked Skye as the main female heroine. I thought her relationship with her family and friends was written well and she seemed like the kind of girl who was sweet, innocent, easy to get along with and as a reader I could see how genuine she was without being too annoying. However, the major problem for this book was the guys, which will be a killer for 'us' fangirls wanting to pine for another fictional boy. So in this first installment of a trilogy, we have two guys vying for Skye's affections - the Ice King (best nickname I could come up with at this present time) Devin and the Fiery rebel-without-a-cause, Asher. Both guys certainly had their moments where I really liked them, but most of the time I just couldn't like like them. More so with Devin - I mean, REALLY? What was the point of you being there to disappoint us in the end? I think what contributed to me not liking them so much as potential love interests was for three reasons and three reasons only: 1) they disappeared all the time and I hate that horrible Houdini act, 2) they supposedly 'cared' about Skye but contradicted themselves with confusing actions that they'd undertaken, and 3) both guys really didn't know what they're doing and I think they need to get a proper job before they consider looking after a teenage girl whom is younger than they are. Anyway, that's all I'll say on the matter except that readers will find Asher far more appealing than Devin could ever be.

So as I raced through the book and putting aside my comments on the hottie guys, while the plot may have been predictable and too "let's go here - oh wait, let's go here" if you get my meaning, I still found the book a nice read to have on your book shelf. There was interesting mythology and while I've seen it occuring a lot in books . . . but Davies added her own personal touch to it that you'll love. And for readers who are concerned about the way I feel about the boys, you will still find Skye a great character and if I was in her situation (being bamboozled into thinking she has some destiny-hidden-power and being constantly surrounded by two hot guys who continue to mix up her feelings for God knows why) I too would be confused on how I feel.

Look, on a whole I would call A BEAUTIFUL DARK the 'Yo-Yo Factor Book' because you have your ups-and-down moments and it's up to reader to decide if it's their kind of book or not. Whether I like this one or not, I'm still on the fence. This, of course, isn't necessarily a bad thing because a series has enough time to step-up on its game and improve, which I hope will happen in the sequel considering the cliffhanger we were left on. A killer mind you.

Overall, I thought Jocelyn Davies presented an easy to follow script that picked up the pace soon after the halfway mark of the book. So I recommend A BEAUTIFUL DARK to readers who loved Unearthly, Hush Hush and Fallen. If you loved those titles, than you'll definitely love this one too!

The Rating

3 1/2 / 5 stars

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Mephisto Covenant by Trinity Faegen

Release Date: 27th September, 2011

Publisher: Egmont USA

Pages: 439pgs

The Story

Sasha is desperate to find out who murdered her father. When getting the answer means pledging her soul to Eryx, she unlocks a secret that puts her in grave danger - she is an Anabo, a daughter of Eve, and Eryx's biggest threat.

A son of Hell, immortal and bound to Earth forever, Jax looks for redemption in the Mephisto Covenant - God's promise he will find peace in the love of an Anabo. After a thousand years, he's finally found the girl he's been searching for: Sasha.

With the threat of Eryx always looming, Jax knows he has to keep Sasha safe and win her over. But can he? Will Sasha love him and give up her mortal life?

The Review

Judging by the raving reviews I've come across lately, I found that most readers loved this book. For me it was all about the cover and it was the initial reason why I'd picked up this book in the first place, along with the interesting storyline it presented to me. While the premise of THE MEPHISTO COVENANT was original and intriguing in its own right, but sadly I struggled with many parts of the novel. However, this doesn't necessarily mean you won't enjoy it either.

The main problem wasn't exactly 'the storyline' itself, it was more about the characters than anything else. There was a lot to keep track of - with some characters having their own little stories which can be a good and bad thing for a book - and even the main ones were hard to find likeable qualities in them. Sasha for example, the main heroine, was falling on hard times and I understand that and what she's going through, but she was . . . it's hard to describe. She was someone different and let's just leave it at that. Jax on the other hand was a strange guy and you have a love and hate feeling about his character. For one, he was a creeper in my mind. Two, he was pretty possessive over Sasha and I wanted him on leash or at least something to restrain him and his certain 'thoughts'. And thirdly, he was just well . . . again damn right creepy at times. But he cared about Sasha, I can give him that. Some girls may swoon over this guy but . . . hmmm. I don't know about him except that he reminds me of that awkward situation where a creepy guy watches you from afar and you tend to stare at that creepy guy with widened eyes sending the clear and obvious signal of, "I will kill you if you stare at me one more time!" Yeah you know . . . those moments.

With interesting mythology, I would have to say that was the only reason why I kept reading this book and mainly because I wanted to see what would happen to the characters who'd found themselves in very difficult and stressful situations. But despite these new and interesting myths, what really surprised me - something that I was really taken back by - was the sexual content in this novel. There are many well-respected and presented arguments against sexual content in young adult books but in THE MEPHISTO COVENANT I was very shocked at a certain sex scene in the novel. It was pretty graphic and for a second I thought I was reading one of my paranormal adult books. I mean, not even Twilight's Breaking Dawn sex scene was this graphic. At least as far as I remember. Anyway, it wasn't a long scene (thankfully) but I thought it was inappropriate for YA novel and while I don't mind a sex scene when they're needed, but I don't know . . . this one would make all those arguments about sex content all wrong and silly. So, clearly this is meant for older teens.

Overall I finished the book and enjoyed its moments. If you love the books containing interesting mythology with new twists, unique characters with their own sets of stories, and some insta-love that may or may not creep you out, or if you're looking for something along the lines of Twilight, then you're going to enjoy this book for sure!

The Rating
2 1/2 / 5 stars

Friday, January 27, 2012

Sarah Alderson's Fated Blog Tour - Fated Top Trumps & Fated Cast Battle Off

Hi everyone! Welcome to the fourth stop of the Fated blog tour, the amazing second novel written by an amazing author named Sarah Alderson, which will be out in Australia February 1st! If you haven't already, be sure to check out my two book reviews of Alderson's debut novel Hunting Lila (here) and Fated (here).

For this fourth pitstop, I've been asked to hold a Fated Cast Battle Off between a few of my favourite characters from the Fated book. But before we get our heroines, heroes, and villains all equipped with their weapons, super abilities and getting their heads into the game, here are all of the ten Fated character contenders: Evie, Lucas, Caleb, Grace, Neena, Joshua, Risper, Shula, Tristan, and Victor. Unfortunately I cannot force all of these fine characters of ours to battle to the death or make each and every character fight another after another because 1) we would be here forever, 2) the cast of characters are very deadly in their own way and 3) I don't want too much blood left on my blog by the time this blog battle has ended. So instead, I have four very special battles for your eyes only.

Here's the deal - I name the two characters, I place the selected characters into a very deadly and dangerous situation, and then YOU as a reader get to decide who wins based on the character stats by commenting below. I will also voice my own opinions that may help sway you in choosing the winner and loser. Sound good? Okay then let's go . . . PREPARE THE TROOPS!





The situation: Imagine Caleb attacking another human being (for fun) and in defence, while thinking it's another human beating another, Evie fends Caleb off and ends up chasing after him. However, in a form of a battle tactic, Caleb decides to lure Evie into an abandoned warehouse nearby and wants to lead her into a trap. By the time Evie arrives inside the warehouse, a dark one mind you, she is locked in and forced to fight with Caleb with hand-to-hand combat. Only she doesn't quite know he's a demon and she doesn't know how to fight as she has little skills. But with Caleb now advancing on her, running forward and out of nowhere knocks her to the ground with his tail, do you believe Evie has a chance of beating this dude? Even a blind one?

My opinion on the battle: Judging by the stats, Caleb has an advantage here. He has more fighting experience than Evie does - with badassness, special powers of a fast-whipping tail, fighting skills, and is far more mature in age. As you can see Evie has a very little chance. In this particular situation, Caleb lured our Evie into a pitch-black warehouse and considering he's blind, Evie is blind too which takes her into Caleb's personal territory. Another advantage as he's used to using his hearing and being blind etc. However, Evie still has a chance. She's younger, quicker, and has the upper hand in verbal assassination. Who says a smart-mouth can't help win you a battle? My money is on Evie. The underdog can always surprise you.

So who do you think would win? Evie or Caleb?





The situation: Let's just say, in a hunter rage, Victor targets a lone Lucas and wants to kill him. Despite an age difference, both guys are very close in their battle stats and would put up a good fight. As Victor lunges for Lucas with a blade in hand, Lucas disappears into the shadows which leaves his opponent alone in an alleyway and completely vulnerable. Furious by this, Victor closes his eyes and carefully listens by using his 'hunter senses'. When Lucas reappears with his own blade and sneaks up behind him, Victor strikes back and cuts Lucas but Lucas himself remains strong. How do you see this turning out? Can Lucas beat Victor?

My opinion on the battle: This is a tough battle here! First off, Victor has experience on top of Lucas's and he has killed a Shadow Warrior like Lucas before, so he would know what it takes to kill another of his kind. And Victor has great instincts. But Lucas is strong-willed and holds a grudge on Victor and others like him for killing his family so . . . revenge of madness could possibly help Lucas in this case. My money would be on Lucas since his hotness and youth could beat out old Victor, even though he's still young at heart.

So who do you think would win? Lucas or Victor?





The situation: Both of these girls get into a heated argument after a long battle, and Shula has had just about enough with Grace's excuses of not protecting her (by using her psych powers). Circling Grace in order to downsize her as the hunter meets prey, Shula lunges forward in hopes of touching Grace with her bare hands and using her power of her literal acid-coated hot body (it can wound people obviously). However, before even Shula can land a single finger on her, Grace in a fluid motion moves out of her way and continues predicting every single move Shula makes. But the question is, what with Grace's graceful and avoiding moves, is it enough to help her win this battle? Or will Shula's rage and vicious nature be just her luck?

My opinion on the battle: Shula is a tough opponent to beat but her mood get's in the way of a clear fighting mind. You need a clear mind for a fight - just saying. Anyway, my money is definitely on Grace's character. She's a psychic after all. She can predict every move Shula makes - everyone's for that matter - and despite Grace not liking to fight, you can never beat a psychic. They will always win no matter what you do.

So who do you think would win? Shula or Grace?





The situation: Tristan and Neena are in a training room. As the trainer, Tristan quickly grabs his shadow blade off from the table and blends into the nearby shadows. Neena, unsure of what to do, prepares herself for his next move by checking her surroundings. As her eyes circle the room, Tristan reappears and makes an upward strike with his blade in hopes of a surprise attack. Neena, however, clenches her hand into a fist, and tries to punch him in the stomach (to her advantage). But Tristan is experienced and avoids her punch by reaching out and twisting her arm around her back, with his blade now in line with her throat. But his arm is weak from an old battle injury. Neena has two choices, she can either use what strength she has left by weakening her opponent's injured arm or use her special ability by changing her form. Human or animal form. But the question is: Does Neena have a chance of winning or will Tristan beat her without too much effort involved?

My opinion on the battle: Tristan may have experience on his side (after all he's badass and clearly his battle techniques and stats are much more favourable than Neena's) however considering Neena is small and can transform into animals and/or people, she could easily win too. She can use her small-size body to duck under Tristan's arm swings (even do further harm to his injured battle arm which earns her a point) or she could even transform into her preferred sparrow form and fly the hell outta there if something worse happened to her. My money is definitely on Neena. The small people can and will surprise you. No matter the age differences and no matter the size/weight of a person.

So who do you think would win? Tristan or Neena?

While we leave our winners and losers to rest (you know who you are), I would like to thank all of the participants of these epic battles. Even the two other opponents, Risper the human hunter and Joshua the Thirster, whom were left out for today's battle and I'm sure they're not too happy with me right now because they were so eager to fight today. But hey, it's the best of the best. Anyway readers, be sure to comment below about who you think would win in each of the four battles. Would love to hear your thoughts on this!

Here's the rest of the blog tour ~

24th January: Words on Paper - First chapter hosting

25th January: Novels on the Run - If you could control your Fate themed interview

26th January: Shiirley's Bookshelf - Video review

27th January: Tales of the Inner Book Fanatic - Fated Top Trumps & Fated Cast Battle Off

28th January: She Known as Jess - Grazia-esque magazine interview with the Fated cast

29th January: Read Me, Bookmark Me, Love Me - Giveaway - 5 copies of Lila and Fated with posters!

30th January: Book Probe Reviews - Host video message to Aussie fans from Sarah

31st January: Sarah Alderson live facebook chat on Read Me, Bookmark Me, Love Me

1st February: Eleusinian Mysteries - Evie and Lucas Q&A

2nd February: The Rest is Still Unwritten - Wise words interview from Sarah

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Shadow Heir by Richelle Mead

Release Date: 27th December, 2011

Publisher: Zebra

Pages: 390pgs

The Story

#1 New York Times bestselling author Richelle Mead returns to the Otherworld, a mystic land inextricably linked to our own - and balanced precariously on one woman's desperate courage . . .

Shaman-for-hire Eugenie Markham strives to keep the mortal realm safe from trespassing entities. But as the Thorn Land's prophecy-haunted queen, there's no refuge for her and her soon-to-be-born-children when a mysterous blight begins to devastate the Otherworld . . .

The spell-driven source of the blight isn't the only challenge to Eugenie's instincts. Fairy king Dorian is sacrificing everything to help, but Eugenie can't trust the synergy drawing them back together. The uneasy truce between her and her shape shifter ex-lover Kiyo is endangered by secrets he can't - or won't - reveal. And as a formidable force rises to also threaten the human world, Eugenie must use her own cursed fate as a weapon - and risk the ultimate sarcrifice.

The Review

SHADOW HEIR is the fourth and final installment of Richelle Mead's Dark Swan series, and if you haven't read this fantastic adult urban fantasy series, then I highly recommend it.

SHADOW HEIR picks up a few months after Iron Crowned (book 3 of the series and you can read my book review of it here). Our girl Eugenie has always been the heroine to be one step ahead of her enemies and manages to protect everyone she loves and cares about, with the generous help of Dorian of course, the Fairy King, because he's just awesome that way. As she's the Queen of two different lands of the Otherworld, it's hard to balance a magical life and still retain a normal one as well. But a so-called normal life is being thrown completely out of the window when a new enemy arises, leading Eugenie and Dorian to reunite with the most unlikely enemies for both the sake of humanity and of their kindgoms in order to survive on harsh times. With very surprising plot twists, tough decision making and even delightful characters to add to this wonderful story, this book will not disappointed you. Well, not so much.

To my surprise I found SHADOW HEIR to be - by far - my favourite book in this saga and for once in their very complicated 'little' lives, I felt Eugenie and Dorian had finally gotten back to their roots, deciding to be even more real and honest with one another. Finally! Regarding Eugenie's character, you have a few love and hate issues with her. You love her strength and admire her responsibility to protect people as a shaman, but on the other hand you also hate her rushed decision making and making stupid decisions for the wrong reasons. But you love her anyway despite her mistakes. In this fourth book, Eugenie has grown up a lot and I rarely found her annoying when it came to her final decisions for the greater good. She's learned from her mistakes. The same goes with Dorian's character too, whom I've loved from the very beginning. Unlike Eugenie, Dorian hasn't made stupid decisions except for when it came to his and Eugenie's relationship. And, for once, he finally laid everything down on to the table and became honest about how he feels about Eugenie. How I love you Dorian! You're the only man who IS a man. Just saying . . .

Now this leads me to the other leading man in the love triangle equation - that being Kiyo. He is the suppose 'father' of Eugenie's unborn children, twins in fact, and that just peeved me off because after a week or so after she had sex with Kiyo (yes how could she do that to my Dorian!!!!), she then slept with Dorian (yes thank god she did that!!!!), and as you can see Eugenie doesn't have a good head on her shoulders when it comes to her lovers. But whatever. Kiyo is pretty much the same Kiyo you've seen from book one to book three. He's the same egoist jerk who deeply believes in the prophecy of coming true in regards to the son Eugenie is currently carrying. Please note you'll have to read the other books in order to understand this one. Anyway, Kiyo just peeved me off and I wanted Dorian to do anyway with him. But again whatever. Just be aware Kiyo will be on your nerves and that Dorian will help you feel less stressful about Kiyo still being alive. Go Dorian!!!!

While I thoroughly enjoyed this book and while it's my favourite of the Dark Swan series, but the reason why I'm giving this book 4 1/2 stars instead of its well-deserved 5 stars is because of the damn ending! Sure, it ended in a way that made me jump for joy and left a partial smile on my face, but there's something that happened in the book - some rash decision Eugenie makes - that I could NOT support one bit. It didn't make sense to me. I understand why she made this certain 'decision' if that's what you would call it, but I don't know . . . it was sure disappointing. And so sad too. Anyway readers, if you do happen to read this book you'll need to prepare yourself for a not-so-smooth ending and probably find it the worst way to end a book while also feeling melancholy. Despite that, I still loved the rest of the ending. It's a half-love and half-hate thing going on here.

To wrap up this book review, do yourself a huge HUGE favour and pick up this series! With most of the storyline closed up nicely, SHADOW HEIR is another lovely addition to Richelle Mead's books and it's one of my favourites of 2011! So be sure to check it out when you can! Dorian people! Do it for MY Dorian!

The Rating

4 1/2 / 5 stars

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Legacy by Cayla Kluver

Release Date: 18th August, 2011

Publisher: AmazonEncore

Pages: 462pgs

The Story

Duty-bound to wed her father's choice in sucessor to the throne, Princess Alera of Hytanica believes that she is being forced into hte worst of all possible fates' a marriage to the arrogrant and hot-tempered suitor, Steldor. When a mysterious boy from enemy Cokyri appears bearing secrets and an entirely different view of what's appropriate behavior for a young lady, Alera learns that her private desires threaten to destroy the kingdom. When Narian's shocking past comes to light, Alera finds herself in a shadowy world of palace intrigue and ancient blood feuds, facing an uncertain future with dwindling options - and must learn to decide between right and wrong all alone.

The Review

In Princess Alera's world, duty is everything to her father's kingdom, one that will soon become her own as she is the true heir to the throne. But because she is a woman - someone who cannot rule alone without marrying - she is forced into a betrothal with a young man her father believes will become a great king and whom every girl in the country would give anything to be with, especially someone so handsome and so charming as Steldor is. Unfortunately for Alera, she despises him and his huge ego, along with his attitude towards life that she can never seem to get past. But as she buys some time for herself, in hopes of finding another suitor that her father will approve of (though there aren't many to choose from), she then meets the mysterious and alluring stranger, Narian. And as as Alera's attraction to him grows each and every day, there comes with plenty of deep and dark secrets that could - and will - change everything.

When I first heard about this book, I wasn't sure what to think of it except that a sixteen-year-old Cayla Kluver wrote it (yes she wrote this whole thing at that age) and to me that is an amazing achievement to have under your writing belt. But when I kept putting this book off and off, and coming across so many raving reviews, I knew I had to read it and boy did I LOVE every moment of it! Whether it's the characters, the setting, the storyline, or even the length of the book (which could've been shorten), I just loved it and I could see why so many readers fell in love with this first installment of a trilogy.

There's one thing I loved about this book and that was Alera, the main heroine. She had the essense of a Jane Austen character - someone who with strong beliefs and opinions, someone who understood what was expected of her, and someone who wanted to make everyone else happy despite her own unhappiness to be the end result. For her to remind me of thes likes of Elizabeth Bennett from Pride & Prejudice, it was a great way to suck me into a book and I think a lot of readers will love that aspect too. After all, Alera is constantly surrounded by bodyguards, she lives by strict rules and dress codes, and it was so very interesting to read about her, her society, and her kingdom.

As for Narian's character, I'm sooooooo in love. I was a little unsure when I first met him because he concealed himself so very well. It made him even more mysterious than he already was. However, once you get to know his character and see him opening up a little bit, it was a great change to witness and well . . . he's hot after all. I mean, he's a thief, he's sometimes disrespectful but in a good way type of thief, and he might be really shady at times, but who the hell cares when he cares so much about our Alera and respects her for who she is rather than saying, "She's a woman. We don't talk to women or care what they have to say because she's a woman." He truly cared about her. And as for Steldor, the man Alera is supposed to marry or rather being forced to marry, he was the character I wanted killed as soon as possible. Another blogger had said he reminded them of Gaston from Beauty and the Beast and that was exactly what I was thinking!? He has the looks to guide him through a man-ruling society, he's someone every girl wants, but he's also a character with so many flaws and he's oblivious to everything around him - especially when it comes to Alera. He was an idiot and I wanted Narian or at least someone with a weapon to kill him. But unfortunately for us . . . none of that happened. This saddens me.

On a whole, there's so many great things to say about LEGACY and so little blog space to write every bit of detail about it. If you're a fan of high fantasy, kingdoms, fairytales with a little bit of twist and a little bit of betrayal along the way, then LEGACY will be your right kind of book. With essences of Jane Austen and Kristin Cashore, LEGACY will leave you hanging for more and anxiously waiting for its sequel Allegiance, which is due to be released sometime this year. And I for one, cannot wait for the sequel! Talk about an ending!!!

The Rating

4 1/2 / 5 stars

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Shift by Jeri Smith-Ready

Release Date: 1st June, 2011

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Books

Pages: 367pgs

The Story

Aura's life is anything but easy. Her boyfriend, Logan, died, and his slides between ghost and shade have left her reeling. Aura knows he needs her now more than ever. She loves Logan, but she can't deny her connection with her totally supportive, totally gorgeous Zachary. And she's not sure that she wants to.

Logan and Zachary will fight to be the one by her side, but Aura needs them both to uncover the mystery of her past - the mystery of the Shift.

As Aura's search uncovers the truths, she must decide whom to trust with her secrets . . . and her heart.

The Review

After reading Jeri Smith-Ready's Shade book, I really wanted to read its sequel. These type of books are perfect reads for anyone who is looking to start a new young adult series and while I may have enjoyed reading the first installment of this series, however I found the sequel to be rather . . . different. For some reason there was something missing in the storyline.

The thing is, I didn't like the characters in this book. At least not as much as I liked them in the first. The real problem was Aura's character. She's a lovely girl (I can see that) and all of her emotions are written well to a certain extent, but in SHIFT all she seems to think about is sex, sex and sex. Boys mostly. While it's quite normal for a teenager to feel these hormones running through them, but it could have been toned down a little bit. With Aura being so undecided on things - including the boys Logan and Zachary, and even a third boy who I don't care to mention - I unfortunately couldn't understand Aura's character nor did I like her in this sequel. Same goes with another favourite character of mine. You see, I used to love Logan's character too but then I switched sides and immediately became a fan of Zachary. But . . . as it turns out even he had his own complications and faults that I couldn't admire . . . so let's just say the boys irritated me so much to a point of no return.

Other than my dislike of Aura and brushing aside some personal issues of mine, I still enjoyed the book. But it just disappointed me. Sure, it was fast-paced most of the time, kept my interest and had plenty of enjoyable drama to read about, but probably the only good thing about it was that we get some answers from questions we had in the first book Shade. So fans of the first book, I recommend you this sequel because I've read a lot of reviews where people actually enjoyed this much more than me, so you might be lucky. However, my advice to you is to not expect too much from this book but for those who've read SHIFT, then I can definitely say that I'm still looking forward to reading the third book of this trilogy. I admit, the ending was not how I imagined it to be, but it still made me pumped for the final installment.

The Rating
3/5 stars

Monday, January 23, 2012

Sweetly by Jackson Pearce

Release Date: 1st October, 2011

Publisher: Hachette Children's Books

Pages: 336pgs

The Story

As a child, Gretchen's twin sister was taken by a witch-like monster in the woods. Ever since, Gretchen and her brother, Ansel, have felt the long branches of the witch's forest threatening to make them disappear, too.

When their stepmother casts Gretchen and Ansel out as teens, they stumble upon a sleepy Southern town and are invited to stay with Sophia Kelly at her sweet shop. Sophia molds candied magic: coveted treats that create confidence, bravery, and passion.

Life seems idyllic and Gretchen and Ansel finally start to forget their haunted past - until Gretchen meets handsome local outcast Samuel, who gives Gretchen a reason to fear Sophia: girls have been vanishing at Sophia's annual chocolate festival, taken by the insatiable 'witch' of Gretchen's nightmares. Can Gretchen save herself, the girls of Live Oak, and Sophia?

Of one thing, Gretchen is certain: a monster is coming, and it will never go away hungry.

The Review

Once upon a time, there was a boy named Hansel and a girl named Gretel. Or at least . . . that's what we thought. For fans (including myself) of Jackson Pearce's Sisters Red novel, they will straight away want to devour Pearce's new companion novel SWEETLY and it proves to be one of the sweetest and one of the most deliciously-delightful modern retelling's of Hansel & Gretel that I've ever read so far. How does the author do it? Who knows . . . but she has talent!

SWEETLY tells the tale of a brother and sister named Ansel and Gretchen, whom have always been traumatized by the mysterious disappearance of Gretchen's twin sister, who'd supposedly been captured by the 'witch' while they were being chased through the woods as younger children. Several years later, this brother and sister duo have been kicked out of their own home by their wicked stepmother - mostly due to their father's sudden death - and now must fend for themselves and ultimately fight for their lives as they arrive in a town full of strangers, and begin to live with Sophia Kelly at her chocolatier home. But with so little people to trust in a small town and with several girls disappearances, it's up to Gretchen to investigate and learn for the first time what really happened to her twin sister.

Written much like Sisters Red, Pearce manages to pull off yet another fantastic cast of strong-willed, fiercely independant and lovable-but-kickass main characters, and weave together a modern classic fairytale retelling that can be original in its own way . . . and it totally rocked! I really loved the direction the author took her plot towards despite the many critics who disliked having wolves being apart of the storyline, when clearly the original tale did not have them. But who the hell cares when you have Jackson Pearce!

The bond between the siblings, Ansel and Gretchen, was the strongest point of the book. It was wonderfully written and realistic too. With Ansel doing most of the protecting before driving to the small town of Live Oak, it was sure a nice change to see the protective role being switched around and Gretchen did a mighty fine job at it! While Ansel himself was frustrating at times, but Gretchen was the thing I loved most about SWEETLY and I could definitely see us being friends if she were a real person. She used to be 'the twin sister of the missing sister' but she truly came into her own as the story progressed and I admired her so very deeply. And then, of course, we have the lush and ever-so-mysterious boy, Samuel Reynolds.

I honestly loved Samuel to boot! For those who've read Sisters Red, you will know he has a relation to another boy character in that book and it was great to see that relation in this companion novel, and talk about a hottie in the woods! Samuel was my second favourite thing about the book and he was a damn fine love interest. Despite his mysterious ways and moody attitude, he was still a pleasure to read about and I loved witnessing his chemistry with Gretchen - I mean, he made gun shooting look HELLA sexy! Like I said . . . I loved him!

Even though earlier in the novel I 'kind of' guessed one of the characters played a major role to the town girl's disappearances, but Pearce surely knows how to add and write great twists to her storyline! I admit, I was very surprised by the events that occured and even though readers know wolves have nothing to do with the original tale of Hansel and Gretchel, but that in no way distracted me from this modern retelling and I honestly think it made it even better than the original. I was totally engrossed with it and I desperately wanted to know more . . . so way to go Jackson Pearce! You did the book justice!

Overall, there's nothing bad to say about this novel - not one bit - except that it ended and I'm left deprived with no other Pearce novel to hold in my hand! While Sisters Red remains my favourite novel but SWEETLY holds its own, making Jackson Pearce the Queen of all modern fairytale retellings! Seriously . . . she's awesome. Dark, scary, witty, sexy, gripping - this has definitely become one of my favourite books and I know I'll be impatiently waiting for Pearce's third companion novel Fathomless (a retelling of my favourite fairytale 'The Little Mermaid') which is coming out sometime this year! Now thanks to SWEETLY, I have the sudden craving for chocolate . . . great.

The Rating

5/5 stars

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Vampire Academy: The Ultimate Guide by Michelle Rowen with Richelle Mead

Release Date: 22nd December, 2011

Publisher: Razorbill

Pages: 272pgs

The Story

Discover the history of St. Vladimir's Academy, explore the dark psychology behind Rose and Lissa's spirit bond, and find out even more illicit secrets about Moroi society. This ultimate guide will feature everything readers want and need to go even deeper into the world of Vampire Academy, Frostbite, Shadow Kiss, Blood Promise, Spirit Bound, and Last Sacrifice . . . every heartache, every betrayl, every sacrifice, and so much more!

The Review

If you're a fan of Richelle Mead's bestselling young adult series Vampire Academy, then this ultimate guide is a must-have!

Like you didn't already know, I'm a huge Vampire Academy fan. The series alone is written with pretty much everything you love, and within each and every book the plot unfolds with just the right amount of adventure, deceit, danger, and romance that sends all of Mead's fans into a wild frenzy. When I first heard about this book, I was pretty excited to get my hands on this ultimate guide considering it's written by Michelle Rowen, whom I've read a few books of hers, and it seemed like a sweet deal since little "secrets" of the VA world were to be released. I mean, it's another VA book! Unfortunately, it was a major disappointment to me.

The majority of the guide has about 75% or so of pointless recaps of each Vampire Academy book and most of the information I'd already known about. Kind of a bummer there you guys. Since remembering the books so very well, I didn't necessarily see why this book was needed. But I still bought it anyway and I'm still adding it to my VA collection. Despite the recaps, I did enjoy the character biographies featured in the guide, along with Richelle Mead's personal views on the whole Rose, Dimitri and Adrian relationships, and a couple of pages entirely devoted to the Guardian tattoo marks and elemental magics. That was a cool aspect to the guide.

For fans who love VA as much as I do, you will definitely enjoy this book. It may have been a disappointment to me - being a huge fan of the series and all - but since I own every single Richelle Mead book, it's a must to have sitting on your bookshelf!

The Rating

3/5 stars

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Shift by Em Bailey

Release Date: 1st September, 2011

Publisher: Hardie Grant Egmont

Pages: 320pgs

The Story

Olive Corbett is definitely NOT crazy.

Not anymore. These days she takes her meds like a good girl, hangs out with her best friend Ami, and stays the hell away from the toxic girls she used to be friends with.

She doesn't need a boyfriend. Especially not a life-saver-type with a nice smile. And she doesn't need the drama of that creepy new girl, Miranda, who has somehow latched on to Oliver's ex-best friend.

Yet from a distance, Olive can see there's something sinister about the new friendship. Something almost . . . parasitic. Maybe the wild rumours ARE true. Maybe Miranda is a killer.

But who would believe Olive? She does have a habit of letting her imagination run away with her . . .

The Review

One word. Whoa. SHIFT was such a hard-kicking debut novel for the author Em Bailey and I admit, this book took me by surprise and not to mention threw me off balance most of the time while reading it. With little set expectations, this title is one of those few books that you see on the shelf for a while and you're not entirely sure what to make of it, let alone know whether to pick it up or not. But most importantly it's the kind of novel that you wished you picked up sooner and I would recommend this one to EVERYONE I know because it's amazing in all aspects of young adult fiction. Whether you have a love of twists and turns or a simple love for something new and exciting . . . this book will appeal and adjust to all readers taste.

The thing is - I loved the plot. It was edgy, original and it had a dark side. Already being a fan of psychological thrillers, I thought this book nailed the genre perfectly and it was fantastic since it hooked you within the very first chapter. It's rare to do that. Our main heroine, Olive Corbett, is beautiful, witty, sarcastic and has her own set of problems. Ever since her father left, she has never been her 'normal' self. She's somehow convinced that she was the reason her father left and she's the one to blame. But things go haywire when the new girl enters the scene - Miranda.

Now Miranda isn't your normal new girl. Since she arrived and with rumours flying around about her supposedly being responsible for 'killing' her parents, for some odd reason Olive is intrigued. But when Miranda starts hanging around Olive's ex-best friend and begins to act too much like her (in a creepy-crazy-stalker kind of way), Olive starts her own investigation. And one word comes up: Shape-Shifter. A person-like organism that can stick onto its host and drain the life source out of them. Now with little is known about Miranda's past and whether she's a shifter or not, there's one thing Olive knows for sure . . . she needs to find out before time runs out for her and the people around her.

While I loved the problematic Olive, but damn Miranda's character was nailed to the very core of her evil existence. Trust me she was evil and very good at it too. Sure, we knew Miranda was a social climber of the typical high school life but I never knew what to expect from her. One moment she's super friendly and the next she's completely done the turnaorund - turning into something not-so-human and scary. It was wonderfully written in Miranda's case. On the other hand, Em Bailey wrote a great and quick romance with a boy named Lachlan. He was a great character! He was handsome, didn't have any interest in the popular and hot girls that most guys were into, and he was very sensitive and not to mention sincere towards Olive. Gotta hand it to him. He won my heart. Just when Olive's sanity is questioned and eventually plummets into the unknown, Lachlan was right there to support her and I loved him to bits.

Overall Em Bailey's writing is one of the great hightlights from the book. It's both engrossing and thrilling. It reads between the fine line of reality and the paranormal. And most importantly, it leaves us readers to shout out high praises on this new definition to young adult thriller books. I was hanging onto every word of this book. With SHIFT wonderfully written, exciting, dark, mysterious, and suspenseful, it's no wonder why so many people thought this book was a remarkable debut novel and I'm looking forward to seeing what Em Bailey writes next!

The Rating

4 1/2 / 5 stars

Friday, January 20, 2012

Follow Friday

Today's Follow Friday is hosted by Butterfly-O-Meter at Alison Can Read

This week's question: What's the craziest thing you've ever done to get your hands on a particular book?

My answer: I don't believe I've done anything THAT crazy to get a book. Most of the time I preorder book online or at a bookstore, so there's always a copy of a particular book waiting for me without going through all those crowds.

However, as a kid, when the Harry Potter series was releasing new books, I remember attending the book launches with several others and watching in awe when the store people opening the fresh boxes of HP books. There was heaps of kids running around the place, plenty of tag-along parents who were probably just as excited as their children, and then there was just me. It was a lot of fun watching those boxes, smelling the newness. One time I dressed up as Hermione and - since looking back on those days - I've totally realized I was too old for this fangal thing. Seriously . . . it was embarrassing to see little children dressing up and there was myself being one of them. Regrets people! Regrets . . .

Have a great weekend you guys!

Katana by Cole Gibsen

Release Date: 8th March, 2011

Publisher: Flux

Pages: 384pgs

The Story

Kill Bill meets Buffy in this supernatural samurai tale.

Rileigh Martin would love to believe that adrenaline gave her the uncanny courage and strength to fend off three muggers. But it doesn't explain her dreams of fifteenth century Japan, the incredible fighting skills she suddenly possesses, or the strange voice giving her battle tips and danger warnings. While worrying that she's going crazy (always a reputation ruiner)m Rileigh gets a visit from Kim, a handsome martial arts instructor, who tells Rileigh she's harboring the spirit of a five-hundred-year-old samurai warrior.

Relentlessly attacked by ninjas, Rileigh has no choice but to master the katana - a deadly Japanese sword that's also the key to her past. As the spirit grows stronger and her feelings for Kim intensify, Rileigh is torn between continuing as the girl she's always been and embracing the warrior inside her.

The Review

A big thanks to Flux on netGalley for accepting my request in reading this book early!

There's no hidden secret when I say I'm OBSESSED with Japan, katana swords (always wanted to buy one for myself even though my family don't trust me with any sort of sharp objects) and the overall culture of it all . . . especially the history of the Samurai. That is what I love to bits. When the news came around to me about this book featuring everything I'm dying and looking for in a book - what with a nice mash up of Buffy and Kill Bill - I was ready for something to blow my mind and entertain on different levels. Despite the kickass summary and its awesome title, unfortunately the book was a bit of a disappointment. Sadly.

The storyline was entertaining - don't get me wrong here - and it had a lot of potential for readers seeking some hardcore action. But my biggest struggle was the heroine herself, Rileigh Martin, whom was your usual teenage girl. Being an aspiring writer myself, I know it's extremely hard to write a likeable main character and project a realistic voice that you hope one day everyone will come to like and respect. But for Rileigh, her character didn't seem to strike me as very likable at all and she didn't necessarily seem realistic in any sense I'm afraid.

Rileigh had her good moments of comedy (I'll give her that) and some light-hearted moments shared between her and the supporting characters, but I couldn't quite connect with her. Perhaps it was because she was always in denial throughout the novel. I have the same feelings with Rileigh's 'stereotypical' gay best friend, a boy named Quentin, whom is displayed as more like a girl than anything else. I've known people who are gay and only one boy I've come across acted somewhat like a girl . . . only with less irritation and squealing. Maybe I'm wrong about this but Quentin's inner girl - after all, he thinks he was a Marilyn Monroe in his past life - should be toned down a bit since the gay people I'm friendly with aren't like this one bit. The only real character I didn't mind was Kim, the love interest of KATANA. He was the Asian Yoda and I loved his wiseness.

Like where most young adult romances go, the romantic relationship between Rileigh and Kim are what you come expect in a book like this one. Cliche but readable. I love asian guys (again no secret there) since they have plenty of surprises in bust-a-moves and Kim's kickass side was perfect. He's a martial arts instructor after all - you have to love that about him! While he's the only asian among the group and while I understand reincarnation is involved and responsible for this 'change', but I kind of wished for more asians considering it's an asian-based book but you can't get everything you want in a book. Back to Kim - he was awesome most of the time. He was serious - a little too serious - and blabbed repetitively about being the 'Chosen One' and la de da, but Kim was a character with a purpose and had far more drive than the main character did herself. Not to mention the only time I was really entertained was the flashback scenes of ancient Japan . . . THEY WERE AWESOME! Wanted more of them though.

Overall, despite my disappointments and already knowing the predictable events that would occur within the book before they even happened, I can definitely see a lot teenagers enjoying this book. With a nicely-paced storyline, with the right amount of snark, along with some great action sequences and nicely-written historical knowledge, I can guarantee if you're a fan of Japan, reincarnation or martial arts itself, then you'll love this book. It was a pity that I didn't enjoy it as much as I wanted to but it just wasn't the right book for me.

The Rating 2/5 stars

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Everneath by Brodi Ashton

Release Date: 2nd February, 2012

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Books

Pages: 370pgs

The Story

Last spring, Nikki Beckett vanished, sucked into an underworld known as the Everneath, where immortals Feed on the emotions of despairing humans. Now she's returned - to her old life, her family, her friends - before being banished back to the underworld . . . this time forever.

She has six months before the Everneath comes to claim her, six months for good-byes she can't find the words for, six months to find redemption, if it exists.

Nikki longs to spend these months reconnecting with her boyfriend, Jack, the one person she loves more than anything. But there's a problem: Cole, the smoldering immortal who first enticed her to the Everneath, has followed Nikki to the mortal world. And he'll do whatever it takes to bring her back - this time as his queen.

As Nikki's time grows short and her relationships begin slipping from her grasp, she's forced to make the hardest decision of her life: find a way to cheat fate and remain on the Surface with Jack or return to the Everneath and become Cole's . . .

The Review

A big thanks to Simon & Schuster Australia for sending me a review copy of this book!

I wouldn't be the only one to admit I was first drawn to this book only because of it's beauty - the uber-amazing-red-dressy-smoke-surrounding cover that is. I mean, would you look at it! It's really pretty on the computer screen but it's also even more captivating when seeing and touching the cover in person (yes I touched the cover which was super soft and again very pretty). While most young adult novels with beautiful covers aren't exactly the way to go when looking for and/or buying a book, since most can become disappointments to readers, but for this book in particular that theory alone doesn't count one little bit. For once, the eye-catching cover model actually paid off BIG TIME! And boy did I love it even more!

Instead of taking my time with this book, I flew right through it in one sitting! It's rare for a book to do that to me and in this case I'm glad. From the very first page I was enthralled with Nikki's journey of grief, sorrow, pain, and happiness. It was . . . WOW. Impressive. Just when you're thrown in one direction, you're immediately thrown into the another and contining to question what's going to happen to these characters and to Nikki herself. Some readers may say the storyline sounded cliche but it's far from it. It's unique. It's edgy. It's dark. It's light. It's everything you could possibly want in a young adult paranormal book - one with brilliant mythology set behind this story and one with awesome characters.

Plot-wise EVERNEATH's plotting was fantastic. The pacing itself was perfect in every way. The mythology - the strongest point I found - was very interesting and it never went to the overload stage . . . thankfully. Even the scenes were written extremely well and there was not a single scene that I was bored with because I wanted more and more of them. It was that good readers and that discovery of mine came as a big surprise considering there are mixed reviews for this book title. Of course, at first, I was a bit hesitant in reading EVERNEATH especially when it came around to the constant change of time periods - from the present times to Nikki's sometimes-confusing-but-completely-necessary past flashbacks - but Brodi Ashton handled them so well in a way which ended up making the book both enjoyable and whole. But with a fantastic plot you need fantastic characters.

There's no other way to say this but I loved every single character inside this book. I had no issues with them whatsoever despite their faults. Nikki, the main protagonist for example, was such a great character and I had a fun time reading about her times in the Feed, on the Surface, and hell, even with the boys. She was perfect. Honestly there's not enough praise for this girl of ours - she's stronger than most heroines, she's compassionate despite her own doom-and-gloom, and what I loved most about her was the way she handled her time left on the Surface . . . before well . . . you know. And as for the boys, they were just as good. Seriously.

Jack, Nikki's 'sort of' boyfriend, was such a shining star in this novel. I love him so much with a million love hearts! He's what every girl wants in a boyfriend. Not only is he super supportive and understanding, but he's courgeous, he isn't a jerk, and he truly loves and respects his girlfriend. Not even her rejection gets in his way. That's what we need more of in our young adult literature! He's so . . . wonderful. *bows a few times* As for the second boy toy Cole, the devious dude who was the cause of this Underworld catastrophe and of Nikki's fate, was such a delight to read about as well. He's . . . what's the word . . . spunky. Cole is the town's new resident bad boy who wants Nikki as his Underworld Queen and I'm sure a lot of ladies too will be tempted by him and it's certainly a love/hate relationship. But while Cole is swoon-worthy but my heart still lies forever with Jack!

As the plot unfolds and where both secrets and lies are revealed, all I can say is I had a very hard time putting this book down. While that's good and all, but talk about a frustrating and breathless cliffhanger! I, of course, saw it coming a few chapters beforehand, but the ending was so, so sad and I couldn't believe my predictions cam true! Not cool Brodi Ashtion. Not cool at all. I'm still crying over here and wishing the book wasn't over! My emotions are over the place right now readers and I can't believe I have to wait yet another year for its sequel. Much like Nikki's character, I just want the pain to go away and never come back. Oh . . . the ending!

Overall, EVERNEATH was a fantastic debut novel that lived up to the much hype it has been receiving lately and by god it was brilliant. With plenty of mythology, action, romance, and of course that damn heartbreak of super intense emotions (trust me here there's a lot of heartbreak in this book), I'm sure this 2012 debut will help kick start the year of amazing books and it's one of my favourites so far! I'm still blown away by its amazeness!

The Rating 5/5 stars

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood

Release Date: 25th January, 2012

Publisher: Razorbill

Pages: 304pgs

The Story

A Great and Terrible Beauty meets Cassandra Clare in this spellbinding fantasy.

Everybody knows Cate Cahill and her sisters are eccentric. Too pretty, too reclusive, and far too educated for their own good. But the truth is even worse: they're witches. And if their secret is discovered by the priests of the Brotherhood, it would mean an asylum, a prison ship - or an early grave.

Before her mother died, Cate promised to protect her sisters. But with only six months left to choose between marriage and the Sisterhood, she might not be able to keep her word . . . especially after she finds her mother's diary, uncovering a secret that could spell her family's destruction. Desperate to find alternatives to their fate, Cate starts scouring banned books and questioning rebellious new friends, all while juggling tea parties, shocking marriage proposals, and a forbidden romance with the completely unsuitable Finn Belastra.

If what her mother wrote is true, the Cahill girls aren't safe. Not from the Brotherhood, the Sisterhood - not even from each other.

The Review

A big thanks to Penguin Australia for sending me a review copy of this book!

If you've read my past book reviews, you guys would know straight away how much I love historical novels especially ones set in the Victorian/Edwarian times. Considering this book is a debut novel, the author, Jessica Spotswood, totally knocks it out of the park with her debut BORN WICKED. Combining my love of historical fiction, secretive witches, strict communities and societies, and adding a hint of the power of love and how it alone can change your destiny, I knew this book would be a great start to a wonderful series!

As far as historical times go, we know BORN WICKED takes place in a world where petticoats, governesses, and the prim and proper gentleman are the get-go. But it's also a time period that reminds me of the dystopian kind too, only it's far more magical. And I love that element. Within this newly well-crafted society, a group whom call themselves The Brotherhood have now taken control of this Victorian era America with an iron fist. Once upon a time witches were once in power and they were considered special, educated, and powerful. But since The Brotherhood are the complete opposite - oppressing women's values of education and freedom of speech - they now take charge of deciding a new rule: if anyone is suspected of witchery they will be sent either to prison or to a mental institution.

Cate Cahill and her sisters are considered eccentric because they don't involve themselves in their society as it's expected and are considered outcasts, but what the townspeople don't know is that the sisters are descendants of powerful witches, and since Cate is of age and must decide whether to enter a marriage or join The Sisterhood - this trio of sisters must do everything within their power to save their family for the sake of their unknown secret.

So what did I think? Well, the storyline was fantastic. The pacing may have started out slow - I admit that - but it soon picked up the pace when you learn more about the society the characters live in and boy was it great. While the storyline met with my very high expectations, but what impressed me further was the characters and the core depths you get to see in them. They were all so brilliant in their own way. Take for example Cate Cahill. She is the eldest of her sisters and all the responsibility lays upon her. Since her mother died, leaving her father a widow with three daughters to care for, Cate promised her mother on her deathbed that she would take care of her family and she did a mighty fine job through my eyes. Sure, she might've not been willing to allow her sisters to explore their magics just for fun or be more accepting of them, but she did it to protect her family - to not be discovered by the Brotherhood. Cate was the perfect heroine put in the perfect time period. She was almost lady-like and she had a heart of gold. I loved her to pieces. She might not make perfect decisions at certain times in certain difficult situations, but everything she did . . . she did was for sisters and such dedication is easy to admire.

This now leads me to the love interests of the story. Or rather a love interest, since one is more the lover than the other. You have a boy from Cate's childhood, Paul McLeod, whom has recently returned from his adventures of London and whom intends to marry Cate when her coming-of-age ceremony comes around. I found he was a nice and necessary character to have in a story like this one and I liked him a lot. But then there's the Cahill's new gardener, Finn Belastra, who is more the love interest and what a great love interest at that. Finn is another hottie to add to my I-wish-he-was-my-boyfriend list. Apart from Cate, Finn was my absolute favourite character in the book and being a gardener (not a very good one since Cate seemed to be doing more of the work hehe) and being the son of a bookshop owner, honestly what's not to love about him? Described as being tall, handsome, freckled, and someone who always has a book in hand, I can see many fangals will be soon swooning over this young fellow! You'll love Finn - from his sweetness to his fearlessness. He's perfect!

As for the supporting cast, Cate's two other sisters, Maura and Tess, were the perfect combination to add to this Cahill witchy sister trio. Tess, the youngest sister, I loved in particular. She was sweet and acted so much older than she appears to be, almost as if she was the older sister and not Cate herself. But then there's the sweetly-sour middle child Maura, whom I hated to the very bone. I couldn't believe how selfish she was throughout the book and I wanted her to snap out of it. At times, I understood her actions and what she was going through, especially when it came to Cate not approving magic because all Maura wanted was to explore her birthright legacy. However, what I couldn't accept was her jealousy over her sister Cate. She thought Cate was trying to outsmart her by learning new magic, proving that she alone was the strongest witch of all three . . . when really all Cate has ever thought of was protecting Maura and Tessa. Other than Maura's slight irritration, I loved the supporting characters including Finn's mother who was just as sweet as him, and hell, I even liked the almost-evil-manipulating Elena, the new governess of the sisters, who you will love to hate. They were all so perfect.

Without revealing any spoilers, overall I thought this was a splendid debut novel and I'm looking forward to the sequel now. The cliffhanger alone had me in tears! Literally. Just when I found happiness and excitement coursing through me, the cliffhanger soon came and destroyed my heart with a hammer. It was so very cruel and I'm still recovering. If you enjoy something unique with the right amount of strict societies, historical aspects, captivating magic, and of course forbidden love, then be sure to look out for BORN WICKED when it hits our shelves because it's deliciously divine and will forever put a spell on you!

The Rating

4 1/2 / 5 stars

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Shut Out by Kody Keplinger

Release Date: 5th September, 2011

Publisher: Poppy

Pages: 273pgs

The Story

Most high school sports teams have rivalries with other schools. At Hamilton High, it's a cival war: the football team versus the soccer team. And for her part, Lissa is sick of it. Her quarterback boyfriend, Randy, is always ditching her to go pick a fight with the soccer team or to prank their locker room. And on three separate occasions Randy's car has been egged while he and Lissa were inside, making out. She is done competing with a bunch of sweaty boys for her own boyfriend's attention.

Then Lissa decides to end the rivalry once and for all: She and the other players' girlfriends go on a hookup strike. The boys won't get any action from them until the football and soccer teams make peace. What they don't count on is a new sort of rivalry: an impossible girls-against-boys showdown that hinges on who will cave to their libidos first. But what Lissa never sees coming is her own sexual tension with the leader of the boys, Cash Sterling . . .

The Review

Writing for young teens comes easily to Kody Keplinger - what with her being a young author herself. While I found some themes displayed in the novel a little out there than most young adult novels explore, but she still does a fantastic job in portraying the teenagers of today and the reality of what they experience in their everyday lives. Not to mention there are plenty of lessons to be learned from this book. But what I love most about Keplinger's two novels - this one and her debut novel The Duff - is how she writes in her down-to-earth and hilarious banter that is real and honest.

Loosely based on Lysistrata by Aristophanes, Kody Keplinger manages to pull her own twist to the story, modernize it and in the end make it her own tale. A twisty, sarcastic, high school battle of the sexes tale. What begins as a silly game of pranks to stop the rivalry between the football and soccer teams then turns into something completely out of the teenager's control . . . which then reflects towards the girls who want to put a stop to their boyfriends once and for all. In order to stop their boyfriends and the other teams from going too far, the girlfriends of the boys decide to go on a sex strike and you can imagine the boy's reactions when 'no-sex' is involved. *insert horror face here* I don't particularly want to compare this novel to Keplinger's debut, The Duff, but I can clearly see some similarities between the two novels as sex is the stronger theme in the novel. But with that said, SHUT OUT stands on its own and I enjoyed the majority of the novel.

There are several things that stood out to me in SHUT OUT. For one, it's the feminine power the girls have on their side and I'm all for it. Being a total feminist to the bone, I admire the way the girls handled things however withholding sex isn't exactly the way to go, considering most of their boyfriends were jerks to begin with and weren't exactly great boyfriends either. However, like I said before, I'm a full supporter of girl power. On the other hand, another element I enjoyed was how well-written the sex issue was explored. Most young adults completely shy away from this path of teenage sexuality and sometimes that's a good thing. We, after all, don't want too much raw details. In the novel SHUT OUT, sex was handled nicely however at times I didn't like how open the girls were about their sex lives but perhaps in American society they are less inclined to silence than what I've experienced with 'girl-talk' back here in Australia. We're different I guess. But on a whole, Keplinger handled it with enough grace and integrity to allow me to enjoy it.

When it comes to the cast, I don't mind admitting that I didn't particularly connect to the main character, Lissa. I did and then I didn't. If she were a real character, I know we wouldn't be friends . . . probably because of how she let's her boyfriend, Randy, treat her. If it were me and I had a boyfriend like that disrespectful jerk, he would've been ditched long ago. With her being a little blind-sided by Randy's ways and with her character also having a few negative parts about her, but Lissa was still a decent character and in this case my frustration with her was needed to understand the story better and her for that matter. You'll get what I mean when you eventually come to read this book yourself. With the other supporting cast, I didn't mind Lissa's friends and the jock's girlfriends. Much like Lissa, I wouldn't be friends with these crowds of girls but they were enjoyable to say the least. But let's talk about Cash - the boy everyone is going to love no matter what. Seeing the romance coming from a mile away, there's no denying how freaking hot Cash is. He has a cool name, he has some charm, he's funny, and unlike most jerk boys in the novel, he actually respects Lissa as a person. Thank the Lord. *bows to invisible people* I loved Cash completely and the romance between him and Lissa was really super sweet which readers will fall for immediately.

Overall, I highly recommend SHUT OUT to readers of Kody Keplinger's first novel or any readers who love a good old sometimes-funny and sometimes-sexy contemporary YA novel. While it didn't win my heart as much as Keplinger's The Duff novel, but it follows close behind and it will entertain you on many levels as you reach the final page. I'm definitely looking forward to see what Kody Keplinger comes up with next with her third novel, A Midsummer's Nightmare, which is due sometime this year!

The Rating

4/5 stars

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Duff by Kody Keplinger

Release Date: 7th September, 2010

Publisher: Little Brown/Poppy

Pages: 280pgs

The Story

Seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper is cynical and loyal, and she doesn't think she's the prettiest of her friends by a long shot. She's also way too smart to fall for the charms of man-slut and slimy school hottie Wesley Rush. In fact, Bianca hates him. And when he nicknames her "the Duff", she throws a Coke in his face.

But things aren't so great at home right now, and Bianca is desperate for a distraction. She ends up kissing Wesley. Worse, she likes it. Eager for escape, Bianca throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with him.

Until it all goes horribly wrong. It turns out Wesley isn't such a bad listener, and his life is pretty screwed up, too. Suddenly Bianca realizes with absolute horror that she's falling for the guy she thought she hated more than anyone.

The Review

Bianca Piper is quite content with her everyday life. Being pretty smart, unafraid to speak her mind, having two best friends that she cares a lot about and having an innocent long-time crush on a boy who doesn't know she exists, that being Toby Tucker, there's no reason to change anything in her life right now. But that's until Wesley comes into the picture. Already feeling overshadowed by her two good-looking best friends, Casey and Jessica, Bianca is disgusted when man-whore (pardon my term but it is true because the terms relates to the character so well) Wesley comes along and calls her 'the Duff' - the designated ugly fat friend. And as much as Bianca wants to hate him and tear him into tiny little pieces - by ignoring and continuing to hate him - she's also drawn to him but for all the wrong reasons. And, as it turns out, Wesley isn't as bad as he seems and not all that he appears to be which complicates Bianca's life much, much more.

When I first read reviews on THE DUFF and read many mixed opinions concerning the novel, I wasn't entirely sure whether to have a crack at it or not. For one, some people had said it wasn't enjoyable as they hoped, and two, some said they couldn't connect to any of the character. But I'm so glad that I changed my mind and bought this novel. While I understand readers concerns, I didn't see anything super wrong with this novel. Personally for me, the major appeal of this novel is that it's written by a very young author, someone close to my age, and that alone held great inspiration to me since I too want to become an author. With that being said, I actually loved this book and I loved Kody Keplinger's writing style - its simplicity and rawness in details. THE DUFF examines insecurities in teenage girls (including the whole deal of body image issues), dealing with boys, and not to mention the heavily explored issue of teen sexuality. Sex is the main element of this book and the way Keplinger writes it . . . she sure doesn't shy away from it. Which I admire also. Reading about Bianca and Wesley's sexscapades - while it being a little unrealistic at times, but I appreicated the way it was written and it was pretty dawn sexy.

Okay let's talk about the characters. Bianca Piper was great character. With her heart being broken in the past, it has turned her into a very smart, cynical and sarcastic young lady. I couldn't exactly say I 'related' to Bianca on a personal level, but I did see why she did what she did. A lot of teenagers in dire family situations want to escape from their lives and nowadays kids do pretty crazy things. Sex . . . drugs . . . you name it. Bianca's life isn't exactly a happy picnic and I totally understand why she thought Wesley Rush was the solution to all her problems. But let's just say, Wesley himself would be the last person I would want to deal with but I loved him anyway.

Wesley Rush get's a lot of love and praise from me. I admit, I wasn't sure what to expect from him nor understand why so many people loved him. Or hated him. When you first met this character, readers will know straight off that Wesley is a complete jerk, because he likes to sleep around no matter the girl he's with and clearly he's not a nice guy at the beginning by the way he treats Bianca and calling her the famous words of 'the Duff'. But once the many layers are removed from Wesley, you finally get to see why he acts the way he does and why Bianca fell in love with him. He's dealing with issues much like her's - trying to find some way of coping with his everyday life. His relationship - if that's what you would call it - with Bianca was very intense and sometimes irritating, but I loved the way this relationship reminded me so much of Gossip Girl's Blair and Chuck relationship. There's outwitting of each other. Steamy kisses and love scenes. And like most YA novels, there's plenty of teen angst to go around. However, despite my love for these two teens, the only flaw I had with this book was how Wesley changed his ways. Some people can change others bad ways, but in Wesley's case I found it a little bit unbelievable and for me it happened rather too quickly. Other than that, Wes and Bianca were fantastic characters to have.

Overall, by the time you finish this novel and learn from the characters common mistakes, readers will come to the realisation that everyone can be a 'Duff'. It could be your gorgeous best friend or just plain old you. And whether you're a Duff or not, it doesn't matter because you should love yourself for who you are no matter the ugly sides of us. We all have them. On a whole, THE DUFF is brilliant debut novel for Kody Keplinger and she's captured the beautiful essence of teenage experiences: peer pressure, problematic families and friendships themselves. If you love something a little gritty for a YA novel, then be sure to pick this book up! It's one of the angsty novels you're ever going to read and one of the best at that!

The Rating

4 1/2 / 5 stars
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