Saturday, August 30, 2014

Review: The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

Hi all!

Something for the weekend!




Title: The Winner’s Curse
Release date: 10th of April 2014
Series: The Winner’s Trilogy #1
Reading level: FICTION – JUVENILE: Historical, Romance
Published by: Bloomsbury Children’s
Pages: 369 in Kindle e-book format
Source: Bought from Amazon.com for Kindle

Summary:

Kestrel lives the lavish lifestyle of a Valorian General’s only daughter, and such riches come at a cost for Valoria’s captives – and for her. As the Herrani face death or slavery, Kestrel’s destiny is shaped by her father. He gives her two choices: join his army or get married. Desperate to realise her own future and knowing that it will invite scandal, she pays a small fortune for a handsome Herrani blacksmith at a slave auction. Arin not only plays Kestrel’s power games, he understands what she needs and soon she is torn between loyalty to her people and her feelings for him. But Arin is not all he seems and Kestrel will learn that the price she paid for him is much higher than she ever could have imagined.

The first novel in a stunning new trilogy, The Winner’s Curse is a story of romance, rumours and rebellion, where dirty secrets and careless alliances can be deadly – and everything is at stake.

Review:

I’ve read so much praise for this book long before it was even released and since the plot sounded intriguing, I decided to give it a shot as well. But, I have to admit that due to all this, strongly put, worship for this book, I was a tad bit disappointed. I guess it’s the usual being-underwhelmed-syndrome after something is hyped to the skies. Nevertheless, this story is without a doubt very well written and plotted, but… yeah.

Let’s have the cons out of the way first. Small rant ahead regarding my impression of Kestrel – beware!:

I wasn’t too fond of her. While I could understand her reasoning and would probably react the same way, as a reader looking in from the outside (double standard? Probably, I’m not perfect), her attitude towards the Herrans trying to claim their freedom irritated me. She gave the impression that she took them being slaves quite calmly and that it was natural or something irrelevant (not to bother her pretty head over). The Herrani wanting their independence back and cease being slaves in their own land was an annoyance and they should be content to stay as they are. Valorians could conquer, kill people and that made them great and brilliant strategists and warriors, and seemed to be fine, but the Herrani killing their oppressors and fighting was something to punish and incomprehensible. It’s just the impression she gave me and be it truly her beliefs or not, she didn’t get much sympathy regarding that from me. They hadn’t been slaves for decades or hundreds of years, but something that happened something ten years ago, so how could she just assume that they wanted this to continue (when clearly remembering how things were before) and be so offended when Arin supposedly betrayed her? I also didn’t like her negative attitude for the Herrani in general, at times I felt that she saw their culture as a lot inferior whereas I got the impression that they were quite highly cultured and at times more refined than Valorians. I understand that her understanding and views were due to her nationality and people, but still. Having more sympathy for the Herrani, I of course, rooted for Arin and to me the actual “villain” (or anti-hero), if you can call it like that, is Kestrel. I guess I simply have issues with big and strong countries trampling little ones just because they can and the mentality that it creates within the victors.

The romance was slightly underwhelming as well, Arin fell too quickly and Kestrel’s behavior just confused me overall (she was quite an erratic person). Nevertheless, it didn’t bother me that much, but the romance kind of lacked an itty bit of something more.

And now for the better stuff:

The storyline is certainly unique in some ways or at least I haven’t read anything similar, but then again, I don’t really read any historical/dystopian (this story is difficult to categorize) YA to begin with so I’m not an expert. You have these ultimate star-crossed lovers in a world that seems like it could be a place somewhere in our history, but clearly isn’t. There is a taste of epicenes with the plot and scale of the world created. It definitely has wonderful world-building without being too detailed or overwhelming.

I was simply exciting to follow and see what will happen next, there were obvious conflicts looming over the characters all the time, but how they would unravel and where it would end up was thrilling. For example, the ending I didn’t expect at all and I have no ideas how things will progress from then on. It certainly won't be boring!

The constant strategy talk and the battles made the story more juicy and emotional, things were shown instead of told. The book cames across quite realistic as well, because there were casualties amongst the main characters, there were injuries, etc – it wasn’t a “magic land” where no one ever gets seriously hurt, at least among the main characters, which in itself is completely illogical, especially in this book, due to the setting (but I’ve come across this in too many times).

Regarding the characters, Arin was definitely my favorite, I like underdogs and he with his people were the ultimate underdogs in this. Of course, I would root for them and find Arin tormented and conflicted yet so brave and loyal. And despite my general unhappiness with Kestrel, she was a better and substantial heroine than the majority of Mary Sues I read about. She was actually smart, logical, perceptive and collected. I liked them dancing around each other, changing who has the upper hand with every move.

Overall:

Despite my issues with Kestrel, the story itself is great, exciting and original. I totally get the praise it gets and I think it deserves it to some degree, but personally, it didn’t impress me as much as I was expecting or hoping. Still, it’s worth four stars and that should say everything.

4 stars!

LIIS

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Review: Dragonswood by Janet Lee Carey

Hi all!

Something for this week!




Title: Dragonswood
Release date: 5th of January 2012
Series: Wade Island Chronicles #2
Reading level: FICTION – JUVENILE: Historical, Romance, Fantasy
Published by: Speak
Pages: 416 in Kindle e-book format
Source: Bought from Amazon.com for Kindle

Summary:

On Wilde Island, there is no peace between dragons, fairies, and humans.

Wilde Island is in an uproar over the recent death of its king. As the uneasy pact between dragons, fairies, and humans begins to fray, the royal witch hunter with a hidden agenda begins a vengeful quest to burn girls suspected of witchcraft before a new king is crowned..

Strong-willed Tess, a blacksmith’s daughter from a tiny hamlet, wants more for herself than a husband and a house to keep. But in times like these wanting more can be dangerous. Accused of witchery, Tess and her two friends are forced to flee the violent witch hunter. As their pursuer draws ever closer they find shelter with a huntsman in the outskirts of the forbidden Dragonswood sanctuary. But staying with the mysterious huntsman poses risks of its own: Tess does not know how to handle the attraction she feels for him—or resist the elusive call that draws her deeper onto the heart of Dragonswood. 

Review:

This book started on a very somber note. You have domestic violence, children dying, people being burned, witch hunts, people being drowned, lions and tigers and bears, oh my. Ok, no animals, but still, this was a pretty heavy beginning. Luckily, it did get easier to bear along the way, but it doesn’t negate the fact that the whole atmosphere of the book was quite dark and gloomy. Despite this, however, I really enjoyed it!

Of course, there were some cons and aspects that weren’t as fully developed or were lacking. For example, there was no real main villain. There were several characters with questionable morals and ones in the gray area, but no one was really full black or at least no one who was directly introduced and wasn’t playing behind the scenes. I was full-gear ready to hate the witch huntress, but that was messed up as well to a degree, so there wasn’t anyone to “boooo!” over.

Something that annoyed me a lot, but it wasn’t a direct con, was the fact that Tess was forced to rat out the names of her friends during her quite detailed and horrible torture in the hands of the witch hunters. It wasn’t the most “noble” thing to do, far from it, but the attitude of her friends, Garth and Tess herself left me quite frustrated. They all blamed and made her feel even worse about herself. Come one! She was tortured, I’d like to see them come down from their high horse and think on what they would have done, the same I bet. It was an unfortunate situation, but trying to shed bad light on Tess’s character based on that was lame, I admired her more for that.

While the romance was slightly weak and the ending too neatly wrapped, I didn’t really mind in the least because these minor faults were masterfully hidden by the storytelling and world-building, the latter being superb. The world created was vivid, realistic and detailed. I also loved the note it ended on, which simply felt very conclusive and happy yet with a small possibility for more if there was a need. 

I’m not really a fan of historical YA, fairy and dragon tropes, but for some reason here they worked and it was exciting to read about, I was completely sucked into the story. The topics were effortlessly interwoven and the result was a wonderful fantasy world with an exciting plot.

Characters:

I thought Tess was a great heroine, she had spine and sensitivity both. She was thrown from one bad situation to worse and despite everything still remained honest, kind and brave. I liked that she wasn’t perfect visually, it made her character shine, although it’s a shame that almost no one appreciated that or even noticed. I couldn’t help but compare her to her friend Poppy who was also nice and all, but came across naïve and vain BUT, everyone loved Poppy because she was so beautiful and special apparently.

Garth we couldn’t really know much about except for what Tess saw, heard or believed. He was a good guy in a difficult position, but I felt I didn’t really get to know him as a character. There weren’t many opportunities for that and neither he or the romance were the highlight of the book (although the romance was one of the key factors in the general plot as it turned out).

Overall:

I don’t even know why I took on this book because the theme and tropes aren’t my thing at all, but I’m really glad I did, because this is a well written book with top-notch fantasy elements and development.

4 stars!

LIIS

Friday, August 22, 2014

Review: Rain by Amanda Sun

Hi all!

I'm on a roll with reviews!




Author: Amanda Sun
Title: Rain
Release date: 24th of June 2014
Series: The Paper Gods #2
Reading level: FICTION – JUVENILE: Contemporary, Romance
Published by: Harlequin Teen
Pages: 320 in Kindle e-book format
Source: Bought from Amazon.com for Kindle

Summary:

When she first moved to Japan, American Katie Green had no idea she would get caught in a battle between the Japanese mafia and the supernatural forces that have governed Japan for most of its history. Despite the danger, Katie is determined to stay put. She's started to build a life in the city of Shizuoka, and she can't imagine leaving behind her friends, her aunt and especially Tomohiro, the guy she's fallen in love with.

But the decision to stay is not as simple as she thought. She's flunking out of Japanese school and committing cultural faux pas wherever she goes. Tomohiro is also struggling—as a Kami, his connection to the ancient gods of Japan and his power to bring drawings to life have begun to spiral out of control.

When Tomo decides to stop drawing, the ink finds other ways to seep into his life—blackouts, threatening messages and the appearance of unexplained sketches. Unsure how to help Tomo, Katie turns to an unexpected source for help—Jun, her former friend and a Kami with an agenda of his own. But is Jun really the ally he claims to be? In order to save themselves, Katie and Tomohiro must unravel the truth about Tomo's dark ancestry, as well as Katie's, and confront one of the darkest gods in Japanese legend.

Review:

The first book in this series wasn’t really as excellent or satisfactory as I was hoping and I expected quite a lot due to me really enjoying Japanese themed books and wanting something exceptional to come with that setting which has a million possibilities that haven’t yet been delved into.

My main con was simple – nothing really happened till the end, where the story picked up pace all of a sudden and there was action and revelations galore. It was basically Katie running between talking to Jun to talking to Tomo and then some bits with the annoying pest Shiori and then some with her friends and repeat. The story kept going in circles and there was no substantial progress. It wasn’t entirely tedious to follow, however, because there doesn’t always have to be a lot of action, sometimes the complicated relationships compensate for the lack of development. Still, the backstory and mythology that this story has set up is fascinating and intriguing and I would have loved to see it explored to the degree it deserves. Despite this, as soon as the ending was near, I have to admit that it got quite action-packed and I was on the edge of my seat. The revelations were with cool twists, which predict promising developments for the last book (hopefully). Overall, I really really loved the tone and place this book ended with.

Another aspect I didn’t like shouldn’t be a surprise anymore:
Why was there a need for a love triangle? Ok, I have to admit that till about 75% of the book I was fine with that, it wasn’t that bothersome, but then suddenly Katie let’s something happen that upped the triangle to the level of “aggravating.” In a way it can also be called a two-way triangle, because there was also Shiori, who wasn’t entirely happy (which is an understatement) with Tomo and Katie and acted jealous, crazy and put her nose where it didn’t belong.

Despite my whining, I actually really enjoyed the book, even though, there were a multitude of aspects I wasn’t entirely fond of. The intensity and the-expect-the-unexpected atmosphere regarding the ink was exciting and you never knew when it would manifest and cause trouble again or what it all meant anyway, was it a blessing to be tamed or a curse. The mythology aspect was very well done.

The background of everything Japanese was again top notch, bits and pieces of this different society didn’t over flood the plot, it was subtle and explained in detail only the parts that were necessary for character development or plot. School life was portrayed realistically as well, for example, the fact that Katie was urged to study kanji more diligently or face expulsion and an international school. And the fact that she actually did work hard to be better. 

Characters:

Katie was confused and just running around without any results in this, which was a pity because I did like her in this book since she didn’t run away from issues and was actively trying to solve them or at least gather information. Her too close involvement with Jun did get on my nerves in the end, but the initial reasoning for the contact was logical and fine.

The boys: I liked Tomo, I really did, and I somewhat liked Jun till one point, then I didn’t like him that much, but I, at least, understand him.

Overall:

As was with the first book, I generally liked it, but there were many faults as well. Since the theme and overall plot is definitely to my liking then there is no way I won’t take up the final book, especially with how things ended – I predict this series will have a superb conclusion (hopefully)!

3 stars!

LIIS

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Manga Review: Butterflies, Flowers by Yuki Yoshihara

Hi all!

A manga review this time, I'm behind with those :(




Author: Yuki Yoshihara
Title: Butterflies, Flowers 
Volumes: 8
Release period: 2009-2011
Publisher: VIZ Media
Reading level: FICTION – ADULT: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: around 200 pages in each volume
Availability: Should be widely available with bigger sellers

Summary:

Choko Kuze is the sensible daughter of a venerable family who went bankrupt. She joins a real estate company as an entry-level office worker, but her eccentric boss is harder on her than anyone else in the company! After hearing him inadvertently call her "milady," she realizes he was the young servant boy she knew as a child. At work he's a tyrant, but after hours he insists on treating her like a lady of the nobility. Is romance even possible for a couple locked in such a crazy role reversal? 

Review:

Josei manga, which is meant for young women, doesn’t get translated as much as shoujo that is directed more towards younger girls. This is from one side a shame, because josei romance titles are obviously quite a bit different from shoujo romance, plus they are heaps more mature and appropriate for reading to older girls who enjoy manga, but are tired of the unescapable juvenileness that shoujo provides (which isn’t a bad or a wrong thing, honestly, but after some time it starts to get irritating). From another side, while providing variety and something for older age groups, for the most part the josei I’ve come across is all quite sexual and with sexual I mean either everything revolves around talk of sex or there literally is too much sex. If that’s your thing then great, but after some time this starts to get annoying as well, not to say that there isn’t different josei out there. I guess for a book reader you can in broader terms categorize it as such: YA is shoujo and NA is josei.

Once in a while a josei title does get lucky enough to be put into English and Butterflies, Flowers is one of those rare instances. And this falls into, as mentioned above, the sex talk category, and some of the actual act as well.

There was so much that I didn’t like about this manga, so let me count the ways: virgin shaming, sexual harassment, damsel in distress, sexual discrimination, girls gets thrown around here and there from one guy to another because they simply just want her and don’t care what she thinks, harassment at work, arranged marriage, sexual assault, doing over hours (haha, ok, that usually isn’t so bad, but it’s too common and natural in this manga) and I can go on and on. But this is Japan, another world, and their idea of especially female and male relationships for example in the company hierarchy and system is something we could never fully grasp. I’m not ok with most of it, far from it, but it kind of is as it is, plus everything is grossly exaggerated in this manga obviously (or hopefully!).

A few words about the company system and the role of women in it: It’s a scary, confining, discriminating, limiting, exhausting and that not only for women. Since the plot takes place in an office setting then you get glimpses of how things are managed and the rules. Every time I see or hear about this hierarchy system anywhere (manga, TV series, anime, reality, etc), I get shudders. Oh, come on, was there any woman in this manga company that wasn’t just there to be in a simplistic secretary position and serve tea?

Let’s talk about the good stuff: This manga is so absurd, random and over-the-top that it’s hilarious. Apart from being a romance, this is a pure screwball nothing-is-holy-or-serious comical manga. Sometimes in a foot-up-your-butt kind of funny and sometimes in a genuinely witty way. The tone is light, fluffy and silly, but you do get these dark glimpses of the reality I was talking about if you actually want to notice them.

Some funny yet quite inappropriate scenes: the job interview, Domoto’s lucky pants, him being depicted as a serious “champion” when he, well, manages to be with Choko, him hanging out her underwear to dry, bringing her pads for her period, and the list goes on. Most are in relation to Domoto of course, but he truly is one of a kind and despite the icky factor in some, it really is quite funny, especially if you take it into account that he genuinely sees himself as her devoted servant and the conflicting feelings between that and being her lover and boss are interesting to follow.

The art of the mange was pleasant to the eyes as well: clean, clear, mature, characters distinct, characters looking appropriate for their age (no sparkly eyes that make 75 percent of the face), not too much stuffed in the panels, etc.

Characters:

I actually liked Choko, the heroine. I always expect a wet blanket or annoyingly opinionated whiney girl as the heroine in manga and after one or two chapters you can already determine where things are headed: the road I fear or I will be pleasantly surprised. Choko was at time too much of a sissy and other times too naggy, but she didn’t go overboard with any of those, so she showed spine where she needed to and let herself be taken care of when the situation called for as well. Things didn’t always work out for the best, but she handled everything quite nicely. Besides, you have to be wonder woman to handle Domoto, because he’s charming, but a wacko.

Domoto was a maniac, pervert, tyrant, control freak, had a split personality, was sooo serious that it’s funny and such a joke that it was again hilarious. Nevertheless, he also only wanted what’s best for Choko and due to his various roles in her life – servant, boss, lover – he had a lot of issues to overcome. 

Honorable mentions:
Choko’s brother whose failure in his college entrance exams was a reoccurring joke and whose passionate attempts to protect his sister from her forceful admirers was always brushed aside as if nothing.

The cross-dressing colleague and friend of Domoto and Choko in the office. 

Overall:

It’s a fun manga to not take seriously with a lot of wacky stuff that doesn’t make sense or even have to. If you like smut and a lot of talk about it then this is for you. If you’re a proud feminist, then don’t look this way.

3 stars!


Other covers from this manga:

   



  


LIIS

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Review: Slow Burn by Nicole Christie

Hi all!

I'm on a roll with reviews at the moment :)




Author: Nicole Christie
Title: Slow Burn
Release date: 23th of August 2013
Reading level: FICTION – ADULT: Contemporary, Romance, YA
Pages: 448 in Kindle e-book format
Source: Bought from Amazon.com for Kindle

Summary:

It's the beginning of senior year, and seventeen year old Juliet Somers has made the rash decision to transfer to her boyfriend's school in an effort to spend more time with him. Sexy bad boy Johnny Parker is a legend at Leclare Academy, and Juliet still can't believe that an average girl like her was able to tame his wild ways. She can't wait to start her new school with him by her side.

But one night, Johnny's self-destructive habits lead to a stunning betrayal--and Juliet realizes she's made a huge mistake. Now she's stuck at a school where she doesn't fit in, and all the girls seem to hate her guts. Even worse, Johnny is determined to get her back, pulling crazy stunts to win her forgiveness. Juliet is resigned to being an outcast for the rest of her senior year, with no friends, and no clue what she wants to do with her life.

Things start to look up when she gets to know some of Johnny's friends, and finds that some of them are really good guys. With the help of an unlikely ally at her side, Juliet begins to think her situation is not as bad as it seems. As the school year rolls on, she opens herself up to new experiences, makes some huge mistakes, and discovers things about herself she's not sure she likes.

Juliet resolves to stay strong against Johnny's seductive tactics, but it's becoming increasingly harder to deny she still has feelings for him. Will she risk her heart to him again--or will a hot contender manage to sweep her off her feet?

Review:

I thoroughly enjoyed the first book by this author and when I accidentally noticed that she had written a new story, I was eager to give it a try. All the aspects on why I was fond of her first book were still present and I was glad that they were even a tad better. The main ingredient being humor, and boy did this book have some hilarious scenes, not to mention the dialogue was as expected fun, fresh and had some great banter and witty lines.

The fact that the book was quite long gave the story possibilities to further explore its plotlines, characters and fit in as much as possible to flesh out the story without being overloaded with filler and irrelevant parts. Something else I really enjoyed was the development of the relationship of the main couple. I love zero-or-enemies-to-friendship-to-love romance and this book definitely delivered. The progress was believable and exciting to follow.

Other good stuff:
- A love triangle that wasn’t completely unbearable! I could hardly believe it!
- The guys of the football team. I liked that they treated Juliet nicely and genuinely cared.
- School uniforms –don’t ask, I just find them really nice looking and practical!
- The humor – because it’s quite excellent, it needs to be mentioned twice.

And now to some stuff I wasn’t crazy about:
Exhibit A: Half way through something happened that totally rubbed me the wrong way, not really the fact that it happened, but more the circumstances surrounding it, it came across completely random, sloppy and I had issues understanding the reasoning behind it when till then it was completely denied regarding another and the person, being portrayed as she was, was hard to picture in that situation. After that I also realized that the story had become too day-time soap-opera-ish, which can be both good and bad, but here it just started to bug me.

Exhibit B: Will the blackmail through provocative tape/photos ever end? I’ve noticed this trope in too many YA and NA books and my sentiments haven’t changed –it’s an annoying and a cheap move for a final conflict. Is there really nothing else to tackle for teenage couples nowadays before the grand finale?

Characters:

I generally liked Juliet, she was mildly snarky and quite witty with her observations and overall talk, but she was also incredibly indecisive that I had to really use all of my willpower not to stop reading. She couldn’t make up her mind, she made stupid decisions, she overreacted or underreacted, so on, and I guess you can defend her by the fact that she’s a teenager, but that doesn’t mean I had to accept the way she acted and on several occasions I didn’t.

I actually really liked Dean, he was calm, the silent type, introverted, considerate, kind and slightly geeky – I loved the secret info regarding his likes and character (not shown to others) Juliet had the privilege of finding out.

Johnny needed help, urgently. At worst I could really imagine him becoming abusive towards himself and/or others, at best, he learns from his flaws, changes perspective, calms down and could really become a decent guy.

Overall:

While I absolutely loved Falling for the Ghost of You and this story had so much of what made the first epic, there was just too much of what I can’t say I was happy about. Some tropes and character behavior was simply irritating. Nevertheless, the plot was engaging, the dialogue fun and the non-annoying characters quite likable.

3 stars!

LIIS

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Review: Between the Spark and the Burn by April Genevieve Tucholke

Hi all!

I'm in the mood for reading lately, so here's another review!




Title: Between the Spark and the Burn
Release date: 14th of August 2014
Series: Between #2
Reading level: FICTION – JUVENILE: Contemporary, Romance, Horror
Published by: Dial
Pages: 320 in Kindle e-book format
Source: Bought from Amazon.com for Kindle

Summary:

Freddie once told me that the Devil created all the fear in the world.

But then, the Devil once told me that it's easier to forgive someone for scaring you than for making you cry.

The problem with River West Redding was that he'd done both to me.

The crooked-smiling liar River West Redding, who drove into Violet's life one summer day and shook her world to pieces, is gone. Violet and Neely, River's other brother, are left to worry—until they catch a two a.m. radio program about strange events in a distant mountain town. They take off in search of River but are always a step behind, finding instead frenzied towns, witch hunts, and a wind-whipped island with the thrum of something strange and dangerous just under the surface. It isn't long before Violet begins to wonder if Neely, the one Redding brother she thought trustworthy, has been hiding a secret of his own . . . 

Review:

I’m no fan of horror or anything scary, far from it, but I was really fascinated by the first book in this two-book series. It managed to lure me in with gorgeous prose, a simple yet compelling plot and creepiness galore. There was no question on if I would take on the second one or not.

From the picturesque and the abandoned grandness of Citizen Kane, the characters are off on a road trip through one uncanny and mysterious town to another in search of River and the diabolical Brodie. With clues where to look for next coming from a supernatural sightings radio show, the gang stumbles on several dangerous situations and far off their rockers people. The atmosphere through the book remains haunting, eerie and foreboding, it felt as if the characters and the story was cut out completely from the modern world and thus no common rules applied. It helped in creating an unpredictable and frightening journey with spooky and I-kind-of-saw-something-similar-coming-but-not-like-THIS twists.

It’s somewhat surprising given the genre and my attitude towards horror that I’m very fond of this series. It’s exquisitely written and, even though on a basic level, the plot isn’t anything extraordinary, the story is special in its whole essence, the feeling it creates and in its tone of dreaminess, it simply feels different from other YA, in a class of its own which I can’t fully characterize.

Nevertheless, no matter how much I genuinely savored this story, I couldn’t stand the ending, AT ALL. It was simply unacceptable to me, the whole 180 degree turn it took regarding the romance was like waiting for a birthday present, knowing what you get, really really craving the thing you’re going to get and then to get a pair of socks instead. A quality, soft and cute pair of socks, but socks nevertheless. I didn’t like it and if it wasn’t for the whole atmosphere of the book distracting me with the stunning vocabulary and images I would have been raging when finishing the last page. In a sense it’s an open ending, in a sense it’s bittersweet, in a sense it’s just, logical and realistic (as much as you can be in this book), but I DIDIN’T want it to end that way. There is nothing more aggravating in YA than love triangles!

Another slight con: The story did get slightly odd at times, I don’t even know how to explain, and most of the time I felt the book took place in another era or world, because come on, no mobiles, no laptops, no modern technology of any kind? But, I have to admit the author is masterful in making me forget that such things even exist in the setting for this book.

Characters:

Violet – She slightly annoyed me in this one, her eccentricities were more explicit to me for some reason and due to that I couldn’t really understand her. Yes, I accept that you’re an old soul, a little too tightly attached to and obsessed with anything related to your dead grandma, but she felt distant and unrelatable and I don’t think it’s only due to her being eccentric. Despite this, I think she was an intriguing and not your run-off-the-mill heroine. She definitely won’t fade from my mind so easily like all the other Mary-Sues.

River – What a delightfully creepy and cuddly boy, you really never know what was going on in his deceitful, secretive and messed up head! He had his weird moments, but I loved him as a character and feel that in a sense he got the shorter end of the stick in the story, which was unfair.

Neely – Yes, he was dependable, nice, optimistic, courageous, etc, but he was just too good to be true and didn’t really fit with the other misfits of story. Definitely more of value than River, but also, less captivating.

Overall:

As I already mentioned, apart from the ending this is a wonderful YA horror book. Don’t let my complaints about the end deter you from giving it a try, because it really is a memorable story in its genre with masterful text and, honestly, having the biggest scaredy-cat get through both of them and still praise it, has got to be the best kind of recommendation.

4 stars!

LIIS

Monday, August 18, 2014

Review: Lead by Kylie Scott - 5 Star Review!

Hi all!

Another installment from an awesome series!




Author: Kylie Scott
Title: Lead
Release date: 29th of July 2014
Series: Stage Dive #3
Reading level: FICTION – ADULT: Contemporary, Romance
Published by: St. Martin’s Griffin
Pages: 256 in Kindle e-book format
Source: Bought from Amazon.com for Kindle

Summary:

As the lead singer of Stage Dive, Jimmy is used to getting whatever he wants, whenever he wants it, whether it's booze, drugs, or women. However, when a PR disaster serves as a wake-up call about his life and lands him in rehab, he finds himself with Lena, a new assistant to keep him out of trouble.

Lena's not willing to take any crap from the sexy rocker and is determined to keep their relationship completely professional, despite their sizzling chemistry. But when Jimmy pushes her too far and Lena leaves, he realizes that he may just have lost the best thing that ever happened to him.

Review:

The first two books in this rocker romance are pure awesome, one of the best series and the third has managed to do the impossible – get significantly better! I see only progress here and still managing to be distinct and different from the other two. The humor is undeniably the highlight, but there is so much more to adore.

Some key words to describe the book:

Smart and sassy – That’s our Lena! But seriously, she was the bomb with every word she decided to grace the reader (and Jimmy) with. Great comedy, she just had a way with anything verbal and was the queen of snark, one-liners and banter. Also, she’s the original woman of steel, how she could stand Jimmy for so long and keep her wits was a mystery to me.

The boss from hell – Jimmy wasn’t an easy person to be around, especially if you had to tolerate him 24/7 like Lena. Despite his grumpy, moody, jerky and meany tendencies, he was a broken guy who needed something solid and stable in his life to keep from falling down again. And, of course, in the end he proved himself worthy of the pure awesome that was Lena.

Slow burn – This is no instant romance, the journey towards actual mutual feelings is long, thorny and stuffed full of sexual and just simple plain old tension. The initial relationship had Lena in the role of a pest, later it was more like an annoying brother-sister dynamics, then uneasy friends, and only then did it resemble something similar to love, at least from Jimmy’s side.

Honesty – I loved how when Lena realized that she has developed feelings for Jimmy, she doesn’t hold it in, but confessed straight out.

Domesticity – The sweet, cozy and comfortable moments between our couple watching TV, arguing over the remote, doing the most basic homely things in each other’s presence, being silent together and basically acting like an old married couple, the happy and content one, without even being in a relationship.

Killer – Needless to say I loved the dog, plus, he was the cause for some hilarious moments and turned up at the most inconvenient instances.

First meeting – The whole donut talk had me giggling and Mal demanding that Lena promise to freak out because of him later – great introduction the story, it set the perfect tone to the rest of the book. 

Staring – And Lena didn’t even notice how much she was being a total creeper, but who could blame her. Jimmy, however, never failed to notice the eye stalking which led to loads of fun!

Tackling – Hahaha, one of the best scenes, when Lena tries to stop Jimmy from smoking – needless to say, someone just had to walk in on them.

Lending a helping hand – After having found out about Lena’s small issue, Jimmy doesn’t hesitate to help her in every way possible even if he himself is the root of all evil. Of course, he then acts like a douche – the three-person restaurant date was awkward as hell, but oh so telling. Luckily or unfortunately, that didn’t remain the only embarrassing date, poor Lena.

Overall:

If you haven’t read this one yet, then take this as a serious warning to get your butt moving and get your hands on it as soon as possible. If you haven’t even started with the first book of the series, then I’m truly sorry, but you’re missing out. Big time! Why is the fourth book so far away?

5 stars!

LIIS

Monday, August 11, 2014

Review: Relax, I'm A Ninja by Natalie Whipple

Hi all!

Happy Monday!




Title: Relax, I’m A Ninja
Release date: 29th of April 2014
Series: Relax, I'm A Ninja #1
Reading level: FICTION – JUVENILE: Contemporary, Adventure, Action, YA
Published by: Whipple House Publishing
Pages: 205 in Kindle e-book format
Source: Bought from Amazon.com for Kindle

Summary:

A Clan of ninjas in San Francisco may sound improbable—but as the son of a ninja master, Tosh Ito knows what lurks in the shadows of his city. Or at least he thought he did.

When a killer with a poisoned blade starts cutting down teens, Tosh enlists Amy Sato—newest ninja recruit and his best friend’s crush—and sets out to uncover the killer's identity. What they find is ninjutsu more evil than they could have ever imagined.

As Amy and Tosh grow closer, they discover their connection unleashes a legendary power that could stop the murders. Problem is, that power may be exactly what the killer is looking for, and wielding it could cost them both their souls.

Review:

It’s no secret that I try to take on each and every Japanese themed YA, a task, unfortunately, at where I fail miserably most of the time due to my already humongous TBR pile. Anyway, I managed to squeeze in this lovely piece of title genius: Relax, I’m a Ninja – I mean, how can you not read this? The title alone is hilarious!

The content, however, I had some issues with. The idea in general is nothing new: boy from a long line of ninjas trained by badass dad must, firstly, pretend to be weak and nerdy, and second, fight against mysterious evil ninja with the help of some kickass girls (friends?) and some guys as well. Along the way family secrets are discovered, love is found and secret identities are uncovered. Nothing overly original, but it’s the details that make it more unique.

There is a strong emphasis on love and the connection it forms, but in a soul mate kind of way. It was an interesting take and direction, because you wouldn’t really expect much on the emotional and human relationships side from a seemingly action and adventure orientated story. And I also have to admit the story was quite unpredictable regarding the romantic connection in the beginning, I couldn’t predict who the main interest was going to be. BUT, oh my god, once it was clear I got so annoyed due to excessive crazy obsessive jealousy by one of the characters. I just wanted to knock some sense into that person, it was rude, petty and clearly unhealthy behavior – I really dislike unjustified jealousy and in that case and based on that relationship, it was totally uncalled for. What a wacko!

In general, this book turned out to be more girl-orientated than I thought, which made me pleasantly surprised since I thought the target audience was more to the side of boys. I can’t complain though, I liked how it was balanced. What I was hoping for more was, however, humor – I would have liked to see a dash extra.

The pace was fast and there was constant action, yet the story still managed to find enough time for character development and relationships, almost all in connection with the hero were at some point more deeply explored. Nevertheless, the actions of some characters were somewhat unrealistic, childish and naive, including our hero’s. Certain people were made to be utterly dislikeable really easily then redeemed, conclusions were drawn too fast and as usual, if people actually sit and talk things out, most dangerous situations and misunderstandings might not happen and people wouldn’t just assume instead of knowing for certain.  

As is usually accustomed to me, I loved the Japanese aspect and mythology of it, I’ve never come across anything similar to it in YA, so the concept was fresh and exciting. Also, this didn’t take place in Japan, so this was new territory for me as well, the books with this theme usually are situated in Japan or at least are for the majority of the story.

From the characters, Courtney was definitely my favorite, she could fight, had attitude and didn’t let herself get walked over by the hero so easily. Marty was cute in a dory was as well.

Overall:

A surprisingly fun and action-packed book for both boys and girls. The characters were at times a con for me, but the plot and ongoings won’t let you get sidetracked by the faults so easily. An enjoyable adventure with lots of romance.

3 stars!

LIIS
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