Sunday, September 30, 2012

Showcase Sunday (#15)

Showcase Sunday is a weekly meme hosted by Vicki at Books, Biscuits and Tea. Its aim is to showcase our newest books or book related swag and to see what everyone else received for review, borrowed from libraries, bought in bookshops and downloaded onto eReaders this week.


I was lucky enough to snag all three of these for just $5 at a garage sale across the road from my house, so I can't wait to start them, especially as they are all such largely acclaimed novels ! I hope the hype lives up! ;)

I doubt it'll come as a surprise to any of you that I bought this this week - who didn't? I started it and I, unfortunately, don't think this book is for me. Yet, while it's on hold indefinitely at the moment, I fully intend to get back to it when I'm in the mood for a more gritty, character-driven and very adult plot-line.
As a self-proclaiming Lord of the Rings fan, it's downright blasphemy that I haven't read this one yet. I've read everything else Tolkien has written - yes, everything else - except this novel and I figured with the movie releasing soon, I better get started with this one. I. Can't. Wait. I swear, there's nothing quite like Middle Earth! :)
I'd never heard of Rachl Neumeier before I read Heidi's review of this novel on her blog, Bunbury in the Stacks, and from her description itself, I knew I had to buy this one as soon as possible. It sounds fantastic and I simply cannot wait to start it! :)

Well, that's all I got this week! I'm actually incredibly grateful that I didn't receive any ARCs this week as I feel as if I'm already neck-deep in them and have so much catching-up to do. My reading time has also shortened considerably due to school work and most of the time, I'm too exhausted when I come home to do anything but sleep, only to wake up and finish my homework in the wee hours of the morning and sleep again. It's brutal. *sigh* Still, I'm hoping to get some more reading done once I get through all my ARCs for this month, not to mention that Quintana of Charyn is on its way to ME! So! Excited! Anyway, you can finally expect my review of The Raven Boys this week along with my ARC Review of Sanctum which I just finished up and loved. I'm still debating over whether to post up some adult mini-reviews or my review of Brigid Kemmerer's Spark, so if you have a preference, let me know!(: 

OH, and link me up, please! I'd love to see what new goodies you all received this week! :D

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

ARC Review: What Happens Next by Colleen Clayton

Title: What Happens Next 

Author: Colleen Clayton 

Rating: 3.75 Stars (Nearly 4 Stars!) 

Release Date: October 9th, 2012 

What Happens Next is one of those novels that, quite honestly, you feel guilty for saying anything bad about. It’s powerful, it’s moving, it’s thought-provoking…but it also has its flaws. While this wasn’t my favorite novel that tackled on the tough topic of rape – that honor is reserved for Kirsty Eagar’s Raw Blue, - it was a story which surprised me by its unique expression of this scarring event. If anything, I am left in gaping awe of Colleen Clayton’s talent for capturing the human soul with its wrought emotions, trauma, and vulnerability so perfectly in a novel that is only her debut. I’ll be the first to admit it: What Happens Next isn’t perfect. It has its moments of weakness, its cluttered scenes, and plot threads that could have been cut out to make this novel much stronger overall, but that doesn’t detract from the provocative – and truly life-changing – story underneath.

Can one harmless school skiing trip snatch everything you loved away from you? Cassidy “Sid” Murphy didn’t think so, but when she meets the handsome Dax Windsor at a ski resort and wakes up the next morning in a strange bed, she realizes that it can. Sid has no memory of the previous night except to know that she had snuck out to meet Dax, an enigmatic guy who lavished attention upon Sid when no other guy ever would. Thus, with yawning holes in her memory and denial over what really happened to her, Sid slowly begins to spiral away from those who love – and could possibly help – her. But, as Sid will soon learn, your problems won’t go away by running away from them; you have to face them head-on.

“…the awful truth about that night, about the horrible thing that happened to me last winter, about the rape I can’t remember, and at the same time, can’t forget.”  ~ What Happens Next ARC (Page 298)

What Happens Next is one of those books which start out with a bang, the writing sucking you in from page one. Clayton takes you on the same journey Sid has been on, letting you experience her insecurities, her happiness at being noticed by a handsome guy, and eventually the horror of what really happened to her. Thus, even from the start, it is obvious that What Happens Next is both an emotional and extremely dark read. Sid, as our protagonist, is someone who is startlingly easy to understand and the drastic changes that occur with her psychological mindset after her rape are jarring. You see, Sid has a voluptuous figure that she’s always been self-conscious about, but after her rape, she begins to fear the manner in which men view her. Now, this is where the plot of this story begins to become more…complicated. Clayton introduces a variety of multiple plot threads, from Sid’s new obsession with running to her on-again-off-again eating disorder and to her conflicts at school with her best friends. While I was initially confused – and rather disappointed – by these multiple plot threads which seemed to be irrelevant, they all do come together by the end of the novel to form a bigger picture of Sid’s grief and trauma.

Nevertheless, that being said, I do believe this novel may have been stronger without, for instance, Sid’s eating disorder. It never felt fully fleshed-out to me and detracted from some of the overall message this novel gave out, but ultimately, I was glad to see some different side-effects of rape. Each rape and each victim is different and so is each rape novel and for Sid, I think this managed to work itself out. Yet, what really makes What Happens Next shine and stand out as such a compelling debut is our inside look into Sid herself. In everything she does, Sid continually sees Dax and what he took away from her. Not only did he forcefully strip her of her innocence, peace of mind, or virginity, he cut off a lock of her hair and she can’t help but constantly think of him even when she doesn’t want to. To me, this type of reaction felt so real and like a kick in the gut. We, as the reader, keep hoping Sid can be happy and find a way to move on in life despite her tragedy, but there are always small, insignificant things that make Sid go back to that terrible night. It is in these moments that we are able to experience some of the horror of this event for ourselves and Clayton’s talent as a writer shines in these areas.

“’Were you safe? Did you use protection?’ he asks, looking at me dead-on this time.                                                                                           No. I was not safe. No. I was not protected.                                    But that’s not what I say. What I say is the lie.”                                     ~ What Happens Next ARC (Page 254)

In addition to Sid, I was pleasantly surprised and moved by the rest of the cast of What Happens Next. Sid’s single-mother and her half-brother are an important part of her life and it was nice to see the lack of Missing Parent Syndrome in this story. Furthermore, Sid’s best friends were like her pillars of reason, of logic, and of love. I admired the easy manner in which Clayton managed to make them such an integral aspect of Sid’s life as well and their friendship was one that was extremely beneficial to Sid. Corey, however, was hands-down my favorite character of all. Not only was their love story slow and extremely unique, it was absolutely adorable. I loved the way in which Corey and Sid brought out the best in each other and Clayton managed to portray an extremely normal high school relationship. Contrary to what the synopsis of this book may detail, Corey wasn’t the only factor in allowing Sid to move on – so much of that came from herself which I just loved. Strong protagonists are ones I absolutely adore and Sid’s strength and independence, despite her healthy relationship with Corey, was one I truly appreciated.

In conclusion, What Happens Next is another phenomenal debut of 2012. While the ending of this book tied together everything quite nicely, I would have still liked to see more of Sid’s healing process opposed to a novel based solely on her reaction to her rape. Still, it goes without saying that What Happens Next is a novel that will make you shake with horror, laugh with joy, and sob with grief. It is beautifully written, startlingly moving, and has only made me want to further explore the effects of rape and in particular, date rape drugs. If you’re looking for a strong contemporary read that is provocative and slowly romantic, look no farther: What Happens Next is the book for you. 

*All quotes were taken from an uncorrected ARC of this novel and are subject to change in the final draft. 

I was given a copy of this book from the author, Colleen Clayton, on behalf of the DAC ARC Tours in exchange for an honest review. Thank You! 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Mini Reviews: Shatter Me and Defiance

Well, I'm back with some more mini-reviews! I only have two this time, so they're slightly longer than usual (at least Defiance is), but I hope you'll bear with me. Someday, I will master the true art of writing actual mini-reviews!
Author: Tahereh Mafi 
Rating: 2 Stars/DNF
Juliette hasn’t touched anyone in exactly 264 days. The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette’s touch is fatal. As long as she doesn’t hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don’t fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color. The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war– and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she’s exactly what they need right now. Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior.
I think this book will work out for a lot of people - I really do. I even understand what the author was trying to accomplish with this - a novel that has a character-driven plot with a protagonist who is coming to terms with herself, her power, and her love. I get it, I really do, but I just can't bring myself to care.  

First and foremost, reading books like this is hell. So is reading books written like this. 
If that wasn't enough to throw you off, I wasn't a fan of the writing style/narration in general. It was extravagently flowery, with poetic language and metaphors that didn't seem to make much sense either. I enjoyed the overly descriptive language in novels such as Daughter of Smoke and Bone, The Scorpio Races, and even Stormdancer, but it somehow didn't work for me in this one. Plus, just like how Throne of Glass was a romance novel parading around as a kick-ass assassin story, Shatter Me is a romance novel parading around as a kick-ass dystopian story. I wasn't impressed with the insta-love/lust in this, I wasn't impressed with the MC, I wasn't impressed with the lack of world-building, and I wasn't a big fan of the plot either. If anything, this book just reminded me of Article 5, a novel that I would, very much, like to forget.  

I guess this novel just wasn't for me. I read a lot of reviews before picking it up and from what other reviewers have told me since I began, I think I'm better off spending my time on something else. Yet, I do sincerely believe that plenty of other readers will fall in love with this series, so I'd encourage you to check out some other reviews, read a couple of chapters, and give it a try yourself. So much of this novel is based purely on personal preferences and opinions, so if you're a romance fan, this is definitely one for you.  
Author: C.J. Redwine 
Rating: 2.5 Stars 
Within the walls of Baalboden, beneath the shadow of the city’s brutal leader, Rachel Adams has a secret. While other girls sew dresses, host dinner parties, and obey their male Protectors, Rachel knows how to survive in the wilderness and deftly wield a sword. When her father, Jared, fails to return from a courier mission and is declared dead, the Commander assigns Rachel a new Protector, her father’s apprentice, Logan—the same boy Rachel declared her love for two years ago, and the same boy who handed her heart right back to her. Left with nothing but fierce belief in her father’s survival, Rachel decides to escape and find him herself. But treason against the Commander carries a heavy price, and what awaits her in the Wasteland could destroy her. At nineteen, Logan McEntire is many things. Orphan. Outcast. Inventor. As apprentice to the city’s top courier, Logan is focused on learning his trade so he can escape the tyranny of Baalboden. But his plan never included being responsible for his mentor’s impulsive daughter. Logan is determined to protect her, but when his escape plan goes wrong and Rachel pays the price, he realizes he has more at stake than disappointing Jared. As Rachel and Logan battle their way through the Wasteland, stalked by a monster that can’t be killed and an army of assassins out for blood, they discover romance, heartbreak, and a truth that will incite a war decades in the making.
If I had to describe  Defiance in one word, it would be ‘forgettable.’ Like so many books before it, Defiance has all the right ingredients to be an incredible novel, from its heart-stopping cover to its kick-ass heroine to its intriguing plot, but somehow, it just didn't work for me. I went into this novel with low expectations, simply because so many trusted reviewers had given this a low rating, and I absolutely have to agree with them.  Defiance, far from being a defiant cry about the re-emerging fantasy genre in YA Fiction, has only made me extremely wary of it. 

For those of you who know me well, you’ll know that two things make-or-break my opinion of a novel – its characters and the world-building. Rachel and Logan, while proving to be intriguing characters from the surface, are truly quite flat. First and foremost, it should be known that their dual narration was very poorly written and if it were not for their names appearing before every chapter, I would not be able to tell them apart. Both of them lacked any true ‘voice’ which was quite disappointing. Over and above that though, Rachel came across as petulant and whiny more than kick-ass and Logan, for all his romantic moments, was also controlling and seemed to look down upon Rachel from time-to-time. Yet, what really sealed the deal was the fact that I simply wasn’t able to care for these two. In this novel, both Rachel and Logan go through dire circumstances, experience piercing grief, and come out stronger for it and while I read about all this happening to their character, I didn’t really feel any of it and was strangely withdrawn from this novel the entire time I read it. Even the romance, which I loved because of its slow build-up and interesting twists, was something I didn’t care for because it was the love story of Rachel and Logan. If you had inserted two different characters into this equation, I guarantee you that I would have been completely invested in it, especially as the story arc for it was so well-done.

Yet, even beyond the characters, what defines Defiance is its genre: fantasy. There is one thing, and one thing alone, which defines a novel as fantasy and that is world-building. Strangely enough though, I still know nothing about the world of Defiance! I read in another review that this was a futuristic realm where man had dug down so deep that they had awoken a beast, The Cursed One, who terrorized the people in this story, but this book could just as easily have been set in a fantasy realm or on another planet for all I know! It was simply very confusing and to add to that, the plot didn’t engage me in the least. It was fast-paced, but I found myself skimming through multiple chapters and I couldn’t feel the desperation of these people at all. It’s a horrible situation for sure, but the villain just made me feel like laughing with his clichéd plans and I really couldn’t summon up much feeling for this story even though I truly wanted to.
Overall, this story just lacked a lot. It lacked world-building, it lacked feeling, it lacked character depth and it now also lacks my stamp of approval. Defiance is a novel I know a lot of people will love and it’s honestly not that bad, but if you’re someone like me who has read fantasy novels on the levels of Melina Marchetta, Meghan Whalen Turner, Kristin Cashore, and Juliet Marillier, I’m afraid that this is going to be one giant bowl of disappointment.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Cover Reveal: Just For Now by Abbi Glines

Title: Just for Now (Sea Breeze, #4)

Age Group/Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance 

Expected Release: October 23, 2012 

Cover Design: Mooney Designs 

Book Trailer Created By: Hellion Works 

Cover Reveal Organized By: AToMR Tours

The day Preston Drake figured out that wealthy women paid well for a set of tight abs and a pretty face his life turned around.  
The run down rat-infested trailer he had shared with his alcoholic mother and three younger siblings was now only a place he visited to pay the bills and stock the pantry with food.  
He no longer worried about his family starving or living without electricity. The money he made entertaining rich older women more than covered his family’s needs and his own. He had it all figured out. Except… 
There was this girl.  
She was as innocent as he was tainted. 
Amanda Hardy wished her knees didn’t get weak when Preston walked into a room. She hated the fact her heart raced when he flashed his smile in her direction. He had a different girl in his bed every night. He was the kind of boy a smart girl ran from. So, why was she coming up with ways to get close to him? Even when it was obvious he wanted to keep her at a distance.  
Maybe her heart knew something the world didn’t. Maybe Preston Drake was more than just a pretty face.

Is it just me or does Abbi Glines always get some of the hottest cover models? *fans self*
Book Trailer: 

  Is anyone else dying to go to the beach right now? Or was anyone else rocking out to that background music? I know I totally was! ;)

Bio: Abbi Glines can be found hanging out with rockstars, taking out her yacht on weekends for a party cruise, sky diving, or surfing in Maui. Okay maybe she needs to keep her imagination focused on her writing only. In the real world, Abbi can be found hauling kids (several who seem to show up that don’t belong to her) to all their social events, hiding under the covers with her MacBook in hopes her husband won’t catch her watching Buffy on Netflix again, and sneaking off to Barnes and Noble to spend hours lost in the yummy goodness of books. If you want to find her then check Twitter first because she has a severe addiction to tweeting @abbiglines. Facebook is also somewhere she visits a little too often. She blogs regularly but rarely about anything life changing. She also really enjoys talking about herself in third person.  

Abbi Glines| Facebook| Twitter  

Well...what do you think? I'm not a huge fan of Abbi Glines, but I love the covers of her novels and she really does know how to write captivating and addictive romance novels. I know a LOT of my friends are huge fans of this series and just looking at that gorgeous cover, scintillating synopsis, and beautiful book trailer makes me want to pick this book up as well! :) If you're interested in being part of the blog tour for this book, check out AToMR Tours. Their book blog tour is scheduled for Nov. 26-Dec.1 and tour sign-up information will be available after the cover reveal, so sign-up if you're interested! :)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Showcase Sunday (#14)

Showcase Sunday is a weekly meme hosted by Vicki at Books, Biscuits and Tea. Its aim is to showcase our newest books or book related swag and to see what everyone else received for review, borrowed from libraries, bought in bookshops and downloaded onto eReaders this week.

For Review:
Sanctum, believe it or not, if my very first print ARC. Needless to say, I was squealing with excitement upon seeing it on my front door as any other print ARCs I had read were either for blog tours, borrowed, or won from giveaways and this was solely mine. A HUGE thank you to Amazon Children's Publishing for sending me this one! :D
I received After Dark this week for a blog tour and I am so excited to read it! It's not only about vampires or werewolves, but about faeries, dragons, pixies, and just about every other paranormal creature you can think of which sounds incredible. I can't wait to start this one soon, so thank you to J.Taylor Publishing for sending me an ebook of this one! :)


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I've been raving and ranting and impatiently waiting for The Raven Boys ever since I finished Stiefvater's The Scorpio Races last month and while Maggie's new novel was nowhere close to the perfection that The Scorpio Races, it was a compelling mystery of its own. I hope to have my review for this one up later this week! 
AAHHH! I can't wait to start this one! I love Libba Bray and have seen nothing but gushing reviews for this one, so I'm 100% sure I'll love it. Plus, it's set in the Roaring 20s! What could go wrong with the setting of The Great Gatsby? ;)
FINALLY! Seriously, it feels as if I've been waiting for this book for decades! I loved The Girl of Fire and Thorns and I am sure that Crown of Embers will be just as - if not more - rewarding.

Wendy, over at The Midnight Garden, held a Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic Giveaway on her blog a few weeks back and...well, I won! I took a picture of all the lovely new books and bookmarks that I won, as well as the postcard Wendy sent me and the extended preview of Laini Taylor's Days of Blood and Starlight that she provided, so thank you so much Wendy! If you haven't already checked out The Midnight Garden, then you should head over there at once! Wendy and K's reviews are some of the best out there and they host tons of giveaways, so really, you're missing out! :)

Well, that's my haul for this week! I feel as if my room is overflowing with books and time is ticking away faster and faster, so I hope I get the chance to read all these incredible new novels. I am so excited about all of them, which is rare since I usually prefer some books to others, but this time, I genuinely can't decide what to start! I'd love to see what the rest of you picked up this week, so link me up! :)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Review: False Memory by Dan Krokos

Title: False Memory (False Memory, #1) 

Author: Dan Krokos 

Rating: 4 Stars 

This past year has seen a re-emergence, not only in the fantasy genre, but also in the science-fiction genre concerning YA. While I'd need about a dozen hands to count all the new fantasy and sci-fi books published this year, I only need one to count all the good ones. False Memory, I am glad to say, joins the ranks of good fiction and just may be the only sci-fi novel I ever fall in love with this year. This is the book I wanted Origin and Eve and Adam to be - an fast-paced novel filled with action, plot twists, world-building and just the right amount of romance - not the romance-heavy and dull storyline I actually found within the pages of those two novels. Thus, it is with great excitement and truly bated breath that I recommend highly recommend False Memory.

When Miranda North wakes up in a mall, she has no idea who she is. Yet, when she unknowingly spreads waves of panic and destruction throughout the building, she is forced to turn to Peter, a teenager who not only claims he's her friend, but who also claims he can help her. In reality, Miranda - and Peter too - are products of genetic experimentation and as such, their bodies are quicker, lighter, and stronger than those of the average human. Furthermore, they can use their minds to spread fear and inflict pain on others. The catch behind these supernatural abilities? Memory loss. Unless the Roses, people like Miranda who are called such because of the rose-scent they emit when they put their powers to use, don't take daily shots, they'll begin to lose their memory. So now, the only question is who tampered with Miranda's memories - and why?

Even from the first page, False Memory is a fast-paced adventure that simply sucks you in. Miranda, for all her memory loss, is a kick-ass protagonist who we begin to understand just as she begins to re-learn herself. Krokos takes advantage of Miranda's loss of memory, not only to develop her into a three-dimensional character, but also to explore some of the more subtle nuances of memory and its inner workings. It is evident that he has done his research as False Memory goes into the necessary details behind the genetic mutations that Miranda possesses and explains it all in a concise and easy-to-understand method. Furthermore, the plot of this novel goes beyond Miranda's memory loss to tackle on scientific/corporate politics in an absolutely brilliant manner. It's a story that will keep you frantically flipping the pages until you've reached the end and even then, you won't want to stop.

In addition to Miranda, Peter was an incredible character, not to mention a sweet romantic interest. While we do have a hint of a love triangle in this novel as Miranda struggles between her mixed memories of ex-boyfriend Noah and current attraction towards Peter, it wasn't something that bothered me at all as it took a backseat to the more action-filled plot, which was quite refreshing. Furthermore, more than just the romance, I found that the friendships between Miranda, Peter, Noah, and Olive, four Roses who had grown up together, to be heart-warming. It was easy to feel both the strong bonds of friendship and the pangs of loneliness as Miranda battled to fit in once again with a group of people she couldn't recall but who already knew - and shared memories with - her. 

Yet, what really made this novel amazing was a huge plot twist at the end of this book which just about blew my mind! It's worth reading this book just for that incredible revelation and I was beyond impressed by the subtle hints and nuanced writing style that graced this story. While False Memory isn't a perfect novel and lacks some more of the connection I felt needed to be present with some of the secondary characters, it is a remarkable novel overall. I am eagerly waiting for the sequel and cannot wait to see what Krokos has in store for readers next. Believe me, this is one author you want to watch out for.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Review and Virtual Tour of The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna

Title: The Lost Girl 

Author: Sangu Mandanna 

Rating: 5 Stars 

If I were ever to write a book, this is the book I would want to see my name on. The Lost Girl was not a novel I originally went into expecting to love, but surely enough, it has made its place in my heart and even now, days after putting it down, it hasn't left. Yet, more than that, I don't want it to. With her debut, Sangu Mandanna has created a piece of fiction that transcends all boundaries and explores, not only an unique futuristic society, but also the bonds of friendship, the ties of family, the depth of grief and most of all, what it means to be human. 

In all honesty, I can not explain the utter beauty that this book is. The Lost Girl is truly, in every sense of the word, a heart-wrenching tale that will keep you both reaching for the tissue boxes and stunned in horror. Mandanna’s futuristic world is one that is richly developed and filled with cut-throat politics. You see, echoes, or clones, are regarded as monsters in society and many of them are illegal in certain countries, including India. Yet, this doesn’t stop parents from requesting a carbon-copy of their children in the hopes that their grief will be alleviated through the presence of one who looks exactly like their deceased child. Thus, Weavers, enigmatic scientists who reside in England, create these echoes and while society shuns them, they live their life in perpetual fear of Hunters, people who dedicate their lives to wiping off all the echoes from the face of this planet. In The Lost Girl, however, we see life through the lens of Eva, an echo herself, and we see that she is just another teenage girl. Eva’s narration is filled with poignancy, an inner sorrow, and deep-rooted hope for her future. Throughout the novel, we only become closer and closer to Eva until her feelings are ours and it is impossible to tell where we, as readers, end and she, as a character, begins.

The Lost Girl is truly a character-driven novel, but that does not make it a novel without a brilliant plot-line of its own. Eva has grown up in isolation, studying the life and memories of Amarra, the girl whose face she shares. Thus, when Amarra unexpectedly dies in a car crash, Eva is forced to leave behind the only life – and family – she has ever known and travel to India, forgoing her true nature and becoming Amarra once and for all. Yet, Eva and Amarra are completely different people and it is Eva’s struggle to remain true to herself and her personality in a world which demands she become someone else that is so moving. Mandanna writes with a skill that is unparalleled and she develops Eva’s character in a subtle, and utterly compelling, manner. We, as the reader, are with Eva every step of the way and cannot help but root for her to eventually find a solution to her dilemma and return home – to her home – England and finally be together with her family and not Amarra’s.

The Lost Girl is split, roughly, into three sections, each of which detail a different part of Eva’s journey, but within the first section itself we are so invested in Eva’s life. We see Eva’s bond with Mina Ma, the mother figure of her life, and are exposed to the beautiful friendship which is just waiting to blossom into something more with her Guardian, Sean, and just as we have given our hearts out to Eva and her little world of happiness, it is snatched away from us. Eva’s life in the second section focuses on her journey in India as she assimilates with Amarra’s family, builds friendships with her siblings, makes friends of her own, and most confusing of all, battles with her emotions concerning Amarra’s boyfriend. Yet, there is no love triangle in this novel as Eva’s heart belongs solely with Sean. Nevertheless, there is a gentle exchange and slow build-up of beautiful friendships and for someone like Eva who has never been seen as a human, who has never attended a school and had friends, her self-realization and growth is astounding.

Eva aside, Sean is one of my favorite aspects of this book. I loved the romance in this story and while it broke my heart, it made me swoon in equal part too. One of the things I admire the most about Mandanna’s writing is that each and every character she introduces us to has their own depth, their own perspective, and she enables us to see that about them. In terms of Sean and Eva, they are perfect and just click. In terms of other characters and their relationships to Eva, we are somehow able to understand them too, despite their convoluted-ness at times. Furthermore, their responses to Amarra’s death and the exploration of grief which Mandanna brings out through them are all written flawlessly. It is difficult to explain, but just know that her writing brought tears to my eyes and there were sections of this novel where I had to constantly dab my eyes just to read the words on the page.

It pains me to admit, but my review for this novel is terrible. I loved this novel with a passion I have shown for very few books such as The Book Thief or anything written by Melina Marchetta, but it is difficult for me to put into words the beauty that this book has. It is written beautifully, it is character-driven, its cast contains depth, and its messages are provocative and sure to stick with you for days – if not years – to come. It is, hands down, the best debut I have had the pleasure of reading this year and is a novel I will, without a doubt, be reading again and again and again. I don’t know if there will be a sequel for this, especially as I am quite content with the open ending of this novel as it is, but if there is one, you can bet I’ll be groveling at Mandanna’s feet to receive an ARC. I really, really loved The Lost Girl. It takes a lot for a book to make me cry and even during The Book Thief or a Marchetta novel, I only cry once or twice. The Lost Girl? I was crying after Part I, during the beginning of Part II, after Part II, and on-and-off again during Part III. It was that type of novel. It is a story that truly makes you feel and it is so rare to read a novel like that these days. Truly, The Lost Girl is a gem in a genre of fiction I had nearly given up on, but just like Eva, Sangu Mandanna gives me hope for a glorious future. 

Virtual Tour! 

When I usually read books, I'm always that solitary reader who never knows what London or Dublin or San Francisco looks like, so I have to rely on my imagination to paint a picture of the scenery for me. Surprisingly, that was not the case with The Lost Girl. While much of this book is spent in England, an equal part is spent in the Bangalore, a city in South India where I've spent my summers for the past nine years at least, if not more. 

While Mandanna's descriptions of each and every place were spot-on and incredibly authentic, I thought I'd give you all a quick virtual tour of some of my favorite places that Eva visited in Bangalore, so I hope you enjoy this quick virtual tour of India! :) 

Inside View of the Garuda Mall
The Garuda Mall is a huge mall in Bangalore and it, if I am not mistaken, has five floors. I absolutely love this place as it's huge, sprawling, and is filled with every shop you could ever want, not to mention spas, massage centers, and a theater/cinema on the top floor which has all the latest movies along with an incredibly diverse food court. While they do have Indian movies, they also show American Films, so I always go there to catch up on any big movie releases I miss while spending my summer in India. Eva comes here quite often during her stay in Bangalore, so I'm sure you can see the appeal now! ;)

MG Road
In The Lost Girl, Eva also visits two roads quite often - MG Road and Church Street. While I believe Church Street is mentioned more often, I am more familiar with MG Road as it's one of the busiest roads in the city. It is filled with shops and restaurants though, so it's wonderful to spend a day just roaming through the stores there as well!

Cafe Coffee Day Logo
Cafe Coffee Day Interior
In addition to spending time in malls and streets with her friends, Eva visits Coffee Day very often. I guess Coffee Day is the equivalent of a Starbucks in India and it's a wonderful cafe to just sit and drink coffee with your friends. I actually go there quite often in the evenings sometimes, simply because I have a morning routine of drinking coffee with my grandparents on our balcony, but it's a wonderful coffee shop for sure! Indian Coffee, believe it or not, is very different from American Coffee and I actually prefer it in some ways, so I just adore this place!

Crossword Bookstore
I saved the best for the last, so my favorite place that Eva visits in Bangalore, and my favorite place anywhere, is, of course, A BOOK STORE! Crossword is a huge bookstore and while they don't always have the same books available in the US, since many UK/International release dates are later than the ones in the US, I think they're one of the best bookstores in India and always have the latest releases, which is rare in some other stores in different cities throughout the country. Eva visits Crossword in this novel, so I knew you would all appreciate this fantastic store just as much - if not more - than she did! :D

Crossword Bookstore
Well, that's my virtual tour of The Lost Girl, for you all! I was thrilled to have visited every place mentioned in this novel (while Eva was in India), so I couldn't resist sharing some of my knowledge of this city with you all. I hope you enjoyed my virtual tour (and review of course) and that you all pick up The Lost Girl soon. It's one of my favorite reads of the year and I simply cannot recommend it enough! :)

Monday, September 17, 2012

Review: Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan

Title: Unspoken (The Lynburn Legacy, #1) 

Author: Sarah Rees Brennan 

Rating: 4 Stars 

Unspoken is a novel that now, looking back, I can see had a huge margin for error. In fact, in the hands of a less-experienced author, I am confident that this story would have fallen apart, but Sarah Rees Brennan manages to pull it off. I am always awe-struck by the innovative ideas she thinks of and even more in awe of her flawless method of execution. Yet, despite the precarious line that this story balanced on and my incredibly high expectations, Unspoken managed to be every bit as breathtaking, hilarious, and heart-warming as I had imagined.

Kami Glass has grown up in her small town, Sorry-in-the-Vale, hearing a voice in her head her whole life. While most people seem to think Kami has an imaginary friend, she knows better. Jared, the boy whose thoughts, emotions, and memories she shares, has been her constant companion throughout her childhood, but when Jared moves into Kami’s small town, the situation may just be too bizarre for the two to handle. After all, who ever expects to meet the person who knows their every thought, dream, feeling, and secret? In the midst of this new complication though, animals are being slaughtered in the woods behind Kami’s house and the Lynburns, the aristocratic family of Sorry-in-the-Vale who inspired fear amongst the town’s citizens, have returned. Suddenly, Kami’s life is beginning to become a lot more interesting…and dangerous!

I feel as if I could write an entire post about Sarah Rees Brennan and still not gush enough about her. While I admired her writing style in The Demon’s Lexicon, complete with her signature wit, complex character relationships, and hilarious situations, nothing prepared me for the utter beauty of the writing in this novel. Unspoken flows in a way few books do these days and if the characters of this story hadn’t already stolen my heart, the writing surely would have. Furthermore, while the plot of this novel takes awhile to unfold, it is never boring and has you frantically flipping the pages, uncovering clue-after-clue of the mystery within these pages. Its many plot twists took me completely by surprise and while I feel as if I should have been able to predict what happened, the fact that I wasn’t able to is just another mark of Brennan’s writing prowess and talent over subtlety.  

Yet, what really made this novel as wonderful as it was were its characters. Kami is one of the most lovable protagonists I've come across and it seems impossible to me that anyone could resist her intelligence and charm. While she can come across as juvenile at times, her narration seeming to be younger than her actual age, her curiosity and thirst for answers is a journey you cannot help but be caught up in. Furthermore, she is utterly kick-ass with her unparalleled wit, independent nature, stubborn streak, and ability to hold her own. If that isn’t enough to want you to make Kami your best friend, she’s unerringly loyal, intelligent to a degree of insanity, and so strong that I can only admire her. In other words, Kami Glass is a heroine that comes alive on the page and it is her, more than anything else in this novel, which keeps this story shining.

While Kami was the central, and really one of the strongest, points of this book, Jared won me over as well. Jared seems to be like any bad boy from the surface, but as we get to know him better, we begin to see the chinks in his armor - his inner insecurities, his dependability upon Kami, and his immense capacity for love and kindness. Jared is a character who grows on you, stealthily making his way into your heart and staying there, despite the mistakes he's known to make. Brennan makes it so easy for us to understand Jared, even from Kami's perspective, that we sympathize with and love him as our tragic hero with all our heart.
Yet, with all these wonderful characters,  Unspoken shines because of the connection between Jared and Kami. None of us (I think!) know what it's like to have a voice in our head or even meet that disembodied voice in reality, but through Kami's eyes, I can picture the situation perfectly. It's one wrought with emotion, misunderstandings, and a delicate balance which Brennan treads with a fine and experienced line. While the romance between these two is extremely subtle (Seriously, Brennan gives subtle a whole new meaning with the love story in this!) and the friendship between Kami and Jared is overwhelmingly tender, it was a union that I fell for at once. It seems obvious that anyone who knows each other as well as these two should be able to see the inner beauty of another person, but the complicated (and blurred!) lines between friendship and romance between Kami and Jared were remarkably well-written. Theirs is a friendship that makes you think and question and ponder and ultimately yearn for that childhood easiness all over again. I can't do enough justice to it, but just know that it is beautiful.

If you haven't already caught the gist of this review, it's basically this: read Unspoken. It contains some of the most well-developed characters I've come across in YA Lit, some of the most complex character relationships, some of the wittiest lines and hilarious moments, some of the best page-turning tendencies, and a mystery that will utterly surprise you with its simplicity and brilliance all at once. Furthermore, Kami's best friends, Angela and Holly, and her family all play a huge role in this story making it all the more realistic and endearing.  Unspoken is another must-read of 2012 and Brennan has, yet again, managed to take me utterly by surprise. Trust me; this is one author that simply does not disappoint. Okay, maybe I was disappointed by that evil cliffhanger ending because WHO ENDS A BOOK LIKE THAT and WHY IS THE SEQUEL NOT AVAILABLE YET but otherwise, this was awesome. ;)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Showcase Sunday (#13)

Showcase Sunday is a weekly meme hosted by Vicki at Books, Biscuits and Tea. Its aim is to showcase our newest books or book related swag and to see what everyone else received for review, borrowed from libraries, bought in bookshops and downloaded onto eReaders this week.

For Review: 
What Happens Next by Colleen Clayton 
I was so excited to receive this one in the mail this week, especially as it's for my very first blog tour! I love the sound of this dark and compelling contemporary debut, so I hope it lives up to all my expectations for it!
Swell by Julie Rieman Duck
I actually received Swell a few weeks ago and completely forgot to add it to my Showcase Sunday post as my review for this is only going up in November. I plan on reading it soon though, so I'm curious to see how the issue of alcoholism is tackled in this fascinating new romance!

Unspoken (The Lynburn Legacy, #1) by Sarah Rees Brennan 
I love Sarah Rees Brennan. Not only is she an author who writes well and has some of the most original ideas I've seen, but her execution of them is surprisingly hilarious and her books, more than being wonderful and fantastic, are just so much fun to read! Needless to say, I was squealing like the fangirl that I am when I received this in the mail and I wound up staying up till 2 AM to finish this one, despite my drooping eyelids and it was so worth it! I'm posting my review of this one tomorrow, but if you can't wait to read it, you can check it out on GoodReads along with my pre-review of the sequel! :)

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Carnival of Souls by Melissa Marr 
I haven't made my excitement for this book too much of a secret, so I was thrilled to be the first one in my town to find it and snatch it from its snug library shelves. Unfortunately, I don't see myself having the time to start this anytime soon, but I can't wait to begin it eventually! It seems to be a fantastic read and Marr rarely disappoints!
On Dublin Street by Samantha Young 
I don't read a lot of adult novels, let alone adult romance, but this one was so compelling that I just had to pick it up. I read it in between my classes and stayed up late during school nights to finish this one because it was simply un-put-down-able and I loved it! It was a lot deeper and more character driven than I expected a romance to be and I was so pleasantly surprised by this as the synopsis for this story really is quite misleading. Still, if you're looking for a steamy romance with lots of character development, this one is for you! ;)
The City's Son (The Skyscraper Throne, #1) by Tom Pollock
I've heard a LOT about this book lately and I just want to dive into it and read. It sounds exactly like the type of novel I would love, especially as it's urban fantasy, so I hope I get the time to start this one sometime this week!

I didn't pick up too many books this week, although I wanted to snag more books from my library, but I just don't have the time to read them all. In all honesty, my priority is actually reading The Raven Boys the moment it releases as I am DYING to get my hands on it. I'm also excited for a lot of other releases this week, but as long as I can get The Raven Boys, it's all good! ;) It's unfortunate that my reading time has been so drastically cut down with school, but I am enjoying my classes, however difficult they may be, and finding time to read too!(: Anyway, what new novels did you pick up this week? Link me up! :D