Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Waiting On Wednesday #4

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine,
which spotlights upcoming releases that fellow book bloggers are eagerly anticipating!

Title: End Of Days (Peryn & The End Of Days #3)
Author: Susan Ee
Genre: YA Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
Published by: Skyscape
Expected publication date: May 12th 2015 

Penryn is trying to survive. Because after the angels came to destroy the modern world there are no rules. Streets are ruled by gangs and angels are hunting for humans. When her sister is kidnapped Penryn will do everything she can to find her even if it means working with the enemy. Everything could happen in this new dangerous world.

I have been waiting for this one for awhile, just so I could marathon the whole series as I am not a fan of reading books of incompleted series (the "waiting for a whole year then forgetting what the previous book was about" thing.. just NOPE) The only other book about angels I've ever read is Hush Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick, which I did not like at all. But ANGELS YO. Books with angels as their premise will have so much potential for epicness. They are the most majestic ancient beings, mythical or not. And wings! And halos!

So YES, definitely waiting for End Of Days, which is the third and final conclusion of this series. I will only include the synopsis for the first book, Angelfall, so I don't spoil this for anyone (or myself too) and risk a mob at my doorstep. And fyi, Angelfall has a 4.22 star rating on Goodreads, which is rather high for me honestly.

Anyone else anticipating this book? :)

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Book Talk #2: Don't Call Me Asian a.k.a. The Asian Stereotype in Books & Other Things.

     The year 2015 marks new beginnings, but some things (like how *cough* gender equality is still *cough* an issue) still remain the same. And one of the things that I would like address is the inexplicable wrongful use of the word "Asian" in way too many books. I am aware that I am not the first person to have brought this up, but this act of generalising the whole population of the continent of Asia IS DRIVING ME CRAZY is so ignorant that I can ignore it no longer.

Exhibit A
These are the pictures that came up when I googled the term "asian girl":

 

I am side-eyeing the heck out of you right now Google.


Exhibit B
These are the books that came up when I searched for books with Asian characters on Goodreads:


If you do not see any problem with any of these, I ask you to be patient and stick with me. Just stick  with me a little more while I unleash the rainbow explosion that is going to happen right before your eyes. Kindly view more wonderful pictures below:

Gorgeous, aren't they? And believe it or not, these people are ALL ASIANS (yea, including the Asian dude beside the Asian girl. "Which Asian girl?" you ask? NOW YOU SEE THE PROBLEM?)

      I am personally from Asia, but telling you just that would rob you of so much more of the details of my cultural background. I would give you a better (and more interesting) insight, if I were to let you know that I am Chinese Malaysian. Malaysia is just one of the 50 COUNTRIES that are in the continent of Asia. Asia is the biggest continent in the world, so you gotta have to expect to have more than a few countries tucked somewhere in there. And did you know that in Malaysia there are more than 30 ethnic groups, all of which are actual Malaysian citizens? Growing up, I never had the tendency to only think about people with dark hair, yellowish fair skin and almond eyes whenever "Asians" were mentioned. I think of different people with different skin colours and facial features. So you could put me down as confused that all "Asians" were portrayed as these identical people with the aforementioned identical characteristics when browsing Western media. We are just, not!

      Another error that is still being made repeatedly in Western media or modern society is the usage of the "Asian" term on Americans (or other nationalities of other countries) of Asian descent. If you haven't already know this, I have an obligation to inform you that when a person is a Chinese/Korean/Japanese etc that is born and bred in a country outside of Asia, eg. the US, and is a citizen there, said person is NOT ASIAN. He/she is AMERICAN. This rule applies to every other country that is not located in the Asia continent. Why? Because "Asian" is a GEOGRAPHICAL TERM and it should be used as just that. Please do not call yourself an Asian if you are a US citizen born in the US even if your ancestors may have come from Asia, simply because you are not FROM Asia. I just see so many good books making this mistake and it just baffles me that authors that write crazily awesome are unaware or ignorant of these issues.

     So folks, I'm technically Asian, but I don't really want to be called Asian right off the bat, because it is too generalised and does not tell people anything about my identity. Kind of like calling an Ipad Mini with retina display a computer, but we are dealing with real people here. I don't really want my favourite books doing the same thing to its characters as well. I really hope this clears things up and have in some way shed light to this topic. I shall stop here to not risk confusing my dear kindly readers any further. Feel free to ask me any questions (stupid ones, even, because it's a time to learn!) and talk about this if you were intrigued in any way :)

Love,
Jocelyn



Disclaimer: I do not own any of the images used in this post. There were taken from various sources to help explain the topic better. If you wish for me to credit or take down these picture, feel free to let me know!


Monday, 13 April 2015

Burn for Burn Trilogy by Jenny Han & Siobhan Vivian - Review


Title: Burn For Burn Trilogy
Author: Jenny Han & Siobhan Vivian
Genre: YA Contemporary/Paranormal
Published by: Simon & Schuster Books
Published in: 16th September 2014
Content warning: Bullying, suicide, deaths, drug use
Format: E-book
Source: Bought 
My Overall Rating:
Postcard-perfect Jar Island is the kind of place where nobody locks their doors at night, where parents can sleep easy, knowing their daughters are tucked away safe and sound in their beds.

But bad things can happen, even to good girls, and sometimes the only way to make things right is do something wrong.

Lillia used to trust boys, but not anymore. Not after what happened this summer. And she'll be damned if she lets the same thing happen to her little sister.

Kat is through with being called a freak. She's over the rumors, the insults, the cruel jokes made at her expense. It all goes back to one person - her ex-best friend - and Kat's ready to make her pay.

Four years ago, Mary left Jar Island because of a boy. But she's not the same girl anymore. Now that she's back, he's gonna be in trouble . . . 'cause she's coming for him.

Three very different girls who want the same thing: sweet revenge. And they won't stop until they've each had a taste.
 
     I've never done a series review before, so this one will be the first! I'm not really into multiple POVs in a book. I would get confused of at which point of the plot was I at upon the POV switching. Also, I might get biased, only wanting to read about certain characters. Which is why I wiped the sweat off my forehead when starting the first book, because I did not get the irk I was expecting to get because of its three different POVs, so yes, PHEW. I marathoned these three and finished them within two days (bad, I know, but it was during the weekend!) and felt like I've been stuffed into one of those human bubble balls and pushed down a hill. A slow descending hill of DOOM.

My howl for this trilogy:
IT WAS LIKE GOING INTO THIS ENCHANTED FOREST, BEING ALLOWED TO BECOME MESMERISED AND ALL, THEN SOMEONE TELLS YOU IT'S ALL MADE OF FOAM AND BURNS IT BEFORE KICKING YOU OUT.

Burn For Burn (Burn For Burn #1)
     Burn For Burn is a typical high school revenge story. The three POVs belongs to three girls: Mary, Kat and Lillia, who are completely different and are facing different issues. Somehow the causes for their issues all come from the same group of friends, whom are all high up on the status quo. By fate, the three of them meet and become the unstoppable trio plotting the demise of their high school foes.

     This book was so good. All three characters had a strong introduction and very distinct voices. They had their own strengths and weaknesses, burned with the desire to break free of social chains that bind them, and tie it on the people who antagonised and hurt them. The side characters were also wonderfully written and each of them had a unique dish to bring to the table. The authors did a great job of shaping the revenge targets in a way that made me think they deserve whatever that was going to be done to them, even though revenge is never a good thing. There was definitely foreshadowing of their actions coming back to bite them in their butts as they go deeper and more cruel into their schemes, and like a smack in the face it did. One aspect that was a smack in MY face was a paranormal one that came out of nowhere. It peeked out a couple of times in the book but it went berserk during the ending. Do expect a cliffhanger you'd never dare expect in this book.

Fire With Fire (Burn For Burn #2)
     Honestly, with the atrocity that is the third book, whatever impression I had on Fire With Fire became unimportant and just melted away. Fire With Fire started off right after the events in book one, so I wasn't left hanging too badly as I just dove into it right away. Even though it stuck to its revenge theme, I was left mildly disappointed with the slower pacing and the increased dosage of romance. You would think that this (seemingly) contemporary would contain sugary sweet romance but all I tasted was sour cliche. I just KNEW from book one that one of our main girls would have her lovey-dovey moment with one of their targets and I was hoping I would be hooked from its forbidden feel but NEAH. The couple did not sit right with me and the whole thing was built up solely from uncontrollable teen hormones really.

     I was also distracted by the paranormal element that seems to be a thing now in the book. It kind of helped to stir the suspense a little and I slowly started to empathise more with one of our main protagonists that was tied to this premise but it just did not fit with the theme of the story due to the lack of explanation and background. However, the book did end with a boom with its explosive cliffhanger so hats off to the authors for keeping me interested.

Ashes To Ashes (Burn For Burn #3)
     BIG. UGH. Whatever potential this series had and whatever love I had stopped with this book. (see also: above gif).  Ashes To Ashes took a devastatingly different turn, by unbelievably changing into a paranormal and horror/thriller. The paranormal aspect was mediocre at best and the attempts at putting the plot into gear 5 by a plot twist failed miserably. I really wished the plot twist was not included at all. It ruined everything, making the rest of the book really weird and awkward.

     In the previous two books, Mary, Kat and Lillia shared equal amounts of screentime. The individual situations they were placed in were realistic and their actions while morally ambiguous, were very relatable. Ashes To Ashes turned completely biased on me instead by revolving mostly around Lillia. The favourites-playing the authors did was SO obvious in that she got to keep everything and did not need to suffer through most of the consequences of her actions. On the other hand, our two other main leads were cast away, with Kat being reduced to a plot device and Mary turning batshit crazy. I find myself skipping many of its 500+ pages because EVERYTHING JUST DID NOT MAKE SENSE!!! The book spent about 95% building up to its climax that ended up being absolutely disappointing and offered no closure to so many of the events that happened in the book. The epilogue after that did not redeem the horrible cut-off ANTICLIMAX and instead only provided us with surprise surprise, superstar Lillia's POV again for the upteenth time that tried to teach the readers about some "eye-opening" lesson which proves that her character did not experience any meaningful development at all. UGHH.

I give the Burn For Burn Trilogy 3/5 stars. I mourn for the potential lost and for the first two books that had to be paired with its horrible sequel. Even though the first book is great, I really would not recommend the whole series to anyone. (Don't let the pretty covers fool you people!!)

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Waiting on Wednesday #3 - The Stars Never Rise (Untitled Series #1) by Rachel Vincent

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine,
which spotlights upcoming releases that fellow book bloggers are eagerly anticipating!

Title: The Stars Never Rise
Author: Rachel Vincent
Genre: YA Paranormal
Published by:Delacorte Press
Expected publication date: June 9th 2015

Sixteen-year-old Nina Kane should be worrying about her immortal soul, but she's too busy trying to actually survive. Her town's population has been decimated by soul-consuming demons, and souls are in short supply. Watching over her younger sister, Mellie, and scraping together food and money are all that matters. The two of them are a family. They gave up on their deadbeat mom a long time ago.

When Nina discovers that Mellie is keeping a secret that threatens their very existence, she'll do anything to protect her. Because in New Temperance, sins are prosecuted as crimes by the brutal Church and its army of black-robed exorcists. And Mellie's sin has put her in serious trouble.

To keep them both alive, Nina will need to trust Finn, a fugitive with deep green eyes who has already saved her life once and who might just be an exorcist. But what kind of exorcist wears a hoodie?

Wanted by the Church and hunted by dark forces, Nina knows she can't survive on her own. She needs Finn and his group of rogue friends just as much as they need her.
I am actually a fan of CW's Supernatural (though mostly because of Castiel now) and I've been really interested in demon and exorcism lores so this one definitely caught my eye. The cover is really pretty as well having the rainbow typography for the title which helps even more because I do tend to start books based on how pretty their covers are *guilty as charged*.

Though there was this one phrase from the synopsis that made me side-eye the heck out of which is this: "Finn, a fugitive with deep green eyes who has already saved her life once..." like, wow, so completely RELEVANT. I swear it was the randomest thing heh.


Has anyone been anticipating this book? Or was lucky enough to get an ARC of it? Let me know! :)

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

They All Fall Down by Roxanne St Claire - Review

Title: They All Fall Down
Author: Roxanne St Claire
Genre: YA Mystery/Thriller
Published by: Delacorte Press
Published in: 14th October 2014
Content warning: Deaths
Format: E-book
Source: Bought
My Rating:  
Pretty Little Liars meets Final Destination in this YA psychological thriller that will have readers' hearts racing right till the very end!                                                                        
Every year, the lives of ten girls at Vienna High are transformed.

All because of the list.

Kenzie Summerall can't imagine how she's been voted onto a list of the hottest girls in school, but when she lands at number five, her average life becomes dazzling. Doors open to the best parties, new friends surround her, the cutest jock in school is after her.

This is the power of the list. If you're on it, your life changes.

If you're on it this year? Your life ends.

The girls on the list have started to die, one by one. Is it a coincidence? A curse? Or is the list in the hands of a killer?

Time is running out for Kenzie, but she’s determined to uncover the deadly secret of the list...before her number’s up.

        It has been a month or so since I have started blogging and I have to say, it has been so rewarding! I'm sure a lot of you have felt the same way because the book-blogging/book-tubing community is so fantastical and mystical that they are just a WORLD on their own :) I am still learning various bookish blog things and trying to settle down into a routine and blogging style that suits me so those who have been reading my blog (yea you! My precious few! haha!), thank you so much for your patience!

Now on to my howl for this book:

MORE PRETTY LITTLE LIARS THAN FINAL DESTINATION REALLY.
 (also, second love interest with the name Levi in about ten books I've read. I mean, I already have my very own Levi-named fictional boyfriend so if I read about another guy named Levi, everything about him in my head would be...)

        They All Fall Down is tells its story from the POV of Mackenzie Summerall, who is a latin geek. She is a pretty average high school student who just wants to get a scholarship to her dream college in order to get away from her mother's obsession of keeping Kenzie safe and her mundane high school life. The mundanity gets thrown out of the window when one day Kenzie finds out that she has been placed FIFTH on the high schools very own "Hottie List", in which the guys in her high school vote for the top 10 hottest girls in school to be on the list. However, the supposedly glamorous benefits of being of on the list quickly turns into a prerequisite to get you killed as the girls on the list start dying one by one, and it might be Kenzie turn soon.

        I absolutely loved the suspense of this book. The author really threw me off into different directions when it came to having me guess the culprit behind the deaths of the girls. There was an "Urban Legend" vibe to the story, as there was speculation among previous members of the list and those who were involved in it that there was a curse revolving around said list, that the deaths may even have supernatural causes. The book also became thrilling towards the climax, when the pacing was at its max and there was a lot of action going on. It allowed me to race through it super fast and to turn each page without hesitation. 

        Kenzie played her main female protagonist role great. She did not really care for popularity in high school and after the initial surprise of finding out that she was fifth on the "Hottie List", her opinion on popularity did not change. Everyone in her school was freaking out over that list, and how if you were a part of it, gateways to elite parties and a membership to the in crowd opens, and that it is a seriously BIG, BIG THING. It was so overhyped in the book that it made me question whether the author wrote it sarcastically, to mirror how superficial popularity actually is. Coming back to Kenzie, she is the only one worth remembering really. She is the most sensible and level-headed one, being aware of how degrading the list is to girls, and freaking out over the thing others should be freaking out on a.k.a. the seemingly coincidental deaths of the girls ON the list and taking actual precautions and actions to investigate the truth. It was also nice to see her being human and taking pleasure of the fact that her long-time crush was now noticing her, but it was still not an excuse to let a boy dictate her (or her name).

I give They All Fall Down 4/5 stars, as there was never a boring moment in the book for me. There were definitely plot holes and suspension of disbelief was required during certain disconnected and far-fetched parts but I was too entertained to meticulously pick on them. The light romance did not made me roll my eyes so that was a plus too! The author wrote her book genre really well and deserves a thumbs up for maintaining a slight level of light-heartedness of this young adult mystery and thriller. Would recommend to YA book lovers who don't like their mysteries/thrillers being overly dismal, dark and gritty.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin (The Mara Dyer Series #1) - Review

Title: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer
Author: Michelle Hodkim
Genre: YA Paranormal/Thriller
Published by: Simon & Schuster Books
Published in: 27th September 2011
Content warning: Mild gore, mental illness, deaths
Format: E-book
Source: Bought
My Rating:  
Mara Dyer believes life can't get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there.
It can.

She believes there must be more to the accident she can't remember that killed her friends and left her strangely unharmed.
There is.

She doesn't believe that after everything she's been through, she can fall in love.
She's wrong.
     Wanted to squeeze in one more review before officially starting my MoI series marathon. Felt like I need the practice and experimenting more with different posting formats. I did not expect to start this book so soon, as it was on my radar just last month. Also, I'm not a huge dark paranormal fan, so I tend to put these kind of books off for a long time. Anyway, I managed to start and even finish it, so am quite glad about the change in my usual reading pattern :)

My howl:
DEATHS. SO MANY DEATHS. BLOODCURLDING DEATHS EVERYWHERE.

     The first thing I like about The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is definitely the synopsis: Vague but with its level of intrigue maintained. (Except that little mentioning of romance, which just TELLS YOU that it is going to be a big thing in the story). This is my favourite type of synopsis. It gives away about 1% of the premise of the book, or about the character that does not ruin anything about the plot and you just have to go into it knowing nothing else (unless if you have spoilt it for yourself of course but WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT D:).

     Mara Dyer, our main protagonist, suffers from the trauma of a tragic accident that killed all of her friends involved, leaving her as the sole survivor. She came out of the hospital still mentally unstable, unable to recall the details of the accident and constantly experiencing hallucinations and nightmares. Even after uprooting and moving to a whole new place together with her family, her condition does not seem to get better.

     The first quarter/half-ish of the book was rather dark and psychological. Mara's hallucinations were creepy and skin-crawling, and it happened so frequently it made me question whether they were indeed just mere hallucinations. It was definitely implied that there was something supernatural going on, or there were unknown forces working around Mara, but it was hard to guess whether these paranormal incidents stemmed from her mind or were they actually happening. Mara's internal monologue was brilliantly haunting and her struggles with her sanity were raw and gritty. She was halso quite willing to get professional help for her seemingly aggravating mental condition, or rather, she was more accepting of it compared to other brooding teenagers whose pituitary glands were made of rebellion and drama. The whole time I was anxiously waiting for the mystery around Mara to unravel, and when it finally did,  I was mouthing "No way's" and "For realsies'" a few times at least.

     After the first one hundred pages, the paranormal storyline gets taken over by the romance. I did not care for it, seeing that it has been done in other books so many times. All teen/ya authors need ban the use of "moving-to-a-new-school-and-hooking-up-with-the-popular-boy-after" trope already. There is only so much of a good thing being used over and over again I can handle, like that Frozen song with a name I refuse to type out. I felt like it did not serve any purpose other than as fillers for the plot and the pacing slowed down drastically because of it. AND THE FUNNIEST AND MOST RANDOM THING OF ALL IS, that the love interest has an all posh and supposedly sexy BRITISH ACCENT. Okay, I understood where the author was coming from. She wanted him to be someone absolutely no one could resist. But he didn't even SOUND British. His English origins were never clearly explained. The whole time I was reading his lines imagining the accent but I couldn't go three words without doubling over with laughter. JUST THE RANDOMNESS OF IT OMG.

     I give The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer 3/5 stars. My initial rating of the book was 4 stars but honestly, I know there are better-written paranormal books with romance subplots out there that deserve it more. The thriller/paranormal aspects had a lot of potential that was unfortunately overlooked and overshadowed by the romance. However, I am still interested in continuing the series because the last section of the book diverged back into the main storyline and salvaged itself with a nice cliff-hanger ending.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

The Mortal Instruments Series EPIC READ-A-THON

As mentioned above, I am going to MARATHON ALL 6 BOOKS OF THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS SERIES! (oh yeahh *fist pumps myself in the corner of my room* )

This series has been on my TBR list since FOREVER and I've always wanted to get to it. Until the movie came out. Which wasn't very good. Enthusiasm completely wiped off. 

Seeing as that was a long time ago, and the author has written THREE MORE BOOKS which all set in the same universe (which looks really good, unlike said movie), I've decided to get this over and done with. I also blame the immense hype surrounding this series and the TV show that is being made or something so I am praying it's insanely good, or at least I will like it.

I've given myself two months time to finish all six books,April and May, and according to my schedule, I'm supposed to start TOMORROW! (honestly don't know what to feel about this so I'ma just go with excitement because 6 BOOKS PEOPLE).

That's all for my random announcement. 
Feel free to share your thoughts on this series, whether I will able to complete this marathon and even if you would like to join me in this weird adventure (???).


Jocelyn
the Book howler

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Book Talk #1: My Heart & Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga

Title: My Heart and Other Black Holes
Author: Jasmine Warga
Genre: YA Contemporary
Published by: Harper Collins
Published in: 10th February 2015
Content warning: Depression, suicide
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought
Sixteen-year-old physics nerd Aysel is obsessed with plotting her own death. With a mother who can barely look at her without wincing, classmates who whisper behind her back, and a father whose violent crime rocked her small town, Aysel is ready to turn her potential energy into nothingness.

There’s only one problem: she’s not sure she has the courage to do it alone. But once she discovers a website with a section called Suicide Partners, Aysel’s convinced she’s found her solution: a teen boy with the username FrozenRobot (aka Roman) who’s haunted by a family tragedy is looking for a partner.

Even though Aysel and Roman have nothing in common, they slowly start to fill in each other’s broken lives. But as their suicide pact becomes more concrete, Aysel begins to question whether she really wants to go through with it. Ultimately, she must choose between wanting to die or trying to convince Roman to live so they can discover the potential of their energy together. Except that Roman may not be so easy to convince.
          Wanted to do something a little different than my usual reviewing because this is truly a different kind of book compared to what I usually read. I've never read books with suicide as their theme so it felt very foreign and I never know what to expect. Also I get affected by sad things too easily and that is why I avoid these kinds of books LIKE THE PLAGUE. As you can tell now, this book meddled with my emotions like how a kid meddles with play dough and I am way to EMOTIONALLY BIASED to review this book. So I'm just gonna talk about it.

          Before I move on, I would like to get this out of the way and admit that I am clinically depressed. I've been diagnosed with the illness 2 years ago, and am now in the process of recovering. It has been a challenging journey, and I can never predict how the chemicals in my brain would react everyday, but I try to take on each day one moment at a time. Please note that I am not confessing this to seek any sympathy or attention. I just wanted to talk about this book from my perspective as someone with depression. More importantly, if any of you out there reading this are in fact depressed, do not be ashamed of it. People fall ill sometimes, albeit physically or mentally, and that's the way life is. I never understood why it is such a stigma in every society and I probably never will.

          In case you did not know what this book is about and you did not read the synopsis: My Heart & Other Black Holes is about Aysel (rhymes with "gazelle"), a depressed teenager who has been thinking about committing suicide for some time. She frequents this website called "Smooth Passages", which has a section that allows users to search for a suicide partner to end their life together. She meets Roman who is also searching for a partner. Turns out Roman is her age and they live in the same town. So they make a pact to die on April 7th as requested by Roman, and the book depicts their lives and its moments counting down towards that day.

          Let me warn you that if you are struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts, this book has triggers all over the place. It will inevitably affect you and how you are feeling. Even if you are not struggling with any mental illness, it will still affect you in some way. I was alright before starting this book and at certain points I had to stop reading for abit because I could not take the wave of gloom and indisposition to push harder at life just crashing all over in my head. It indeed brought me down to a black hole and I thought "how fitting" because you know, THE TITLE HAS THAT. And I credit the author for bringing me to emotioal shambles. Her writing is superb. It was eloquent and free-flowing, with the occasional awkward pit-stops that fits the mood of the whole plot, which is being unsure of the decisions one makes. Her description of being in that state of bearing the illness with your brittle shoulders was accurate 70% of the time and that is not easy to achieve if you are not a good writer.

           Aysel and Roman. OMG they were my BABIES OKAY. They were already teenagers with hormones and futures to figure out, now with the addition of their tragedy-stricken state of life... I have no words. It was completely heart-wrenching to read about the events made them the way they are, how the decisions and actions of others in the past are adversely impacting their lives, stripping away any hope of a bright and happy NEAR future. Both Aysel and Roman's depression was triggered by  particular tragic occurences. While they had no fault in those occurences, they carried it together with them, all TEN THOUSAND POUNDS OF IT, and it is crushing them, depleting them of the will to live.

          I actually felt for Roman more. His goal of ending his own life was such a constant throughout the book. Can you imagine how scary and overwhelming the thought of suicide can be? And to bear it with you every single day till the day you are supposed to put it into action? His determination was so set in stone it just made my skin crawl. This boy was wrestling with his tragedy and losing badly. Not to undermine Aysel's situation. Hers was just different. She was more prone to character development. As she befriends Roman and peels back those complicated layers, she matures and starts to question her decision to die. She became less focused and trapped in her own darkness and began to notice what life still has to offer. That did not happen to Roman. He thought that there was no chance to redeem himself and no way to escape this torment, and unfortunately, that is what many people have to live with in real life.

          Paramount has actually secured movie rights to My Heart & Other Black Holes, so there might be a possible chance this would be turned into a film. I just hope that it doesn't romanticise and commercialise depression and suicide or take away the spotlight from these themes. I would not want a movie about Aysel and Roman growing infatuated with each other despite wanting to kill themselves. I want a movie about these two kids (I say that like I'm so old heh) dealing with depression and facing the countdown to their double suicide day in a completely realistic and straight-forward way. Although I find that Aysel and Roman meeting each other, who happened to be the same age with each other and lived within 15 minutes with each other is a little far from realistic but that's not the point. I WANT REPRESENTATION PEOPLE.

           I was glad I got to finish the book. I think anyone who started this one definitely needs to finish it in order to achieve some form of closure. It would not be good to DNF this book halfway, while you are stuck in the gloom fog, because I promise that if you continue, that fog will not stay long. I know that in real life, it probably does not go away as easily or in such a short amount of time, and sometimes it might even grow thicker,but one thing I'm sure is that the gloom fog will certainly not stay.

Have you read this book and if you have, what are your thoughts about it? :)


Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Waiting on Wednesday #2

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine,
which spotlights upcoming releases that fellow book bloggers are eagerly anticipating!
 
Title: The Fill-in Boyfriend
Author: Kasie West
Genre: YA Contemporary Romance
Published by: HarperTeen
Expected publication date: May 5th 2015
 
When Gia Montgomery's boyfriend, Bradley, dumps her in the parking lot of her high school prom, she has to think fast. After all, she'd been telling her friends about him for months now. This was supposed to be the night she proved he existed. So when she sees a cute guy waiting to pick up his sister, she enlists his help. The task is simple: be her fill-in boyfriend— two hours, zero commitment, a few white lies. After that, she can win back the real Bradley.

The problem is that days after prom, it's not the real Bradley she's thinking about, but the stand-in. The one whose name she doesn't even know. But tracking him down doesn't mean they're done faking a relationship. Gia owes him a favor and his sister intends to see that he collects: his ex-girlfriend's graduation party — three hours, zero commitment, a few white lies.

Just when Gia begins to wonder if she could turn her fake boyfriend into a real one, Bradley comes waltzing back into her life, exposing her lie, and threatening to destroy her friendships and her new-found relationship.
 
Been looking for YA contemporary romances that would rock my world. Hope this is it. So far every book I've read that are of the same genre were a hit-and-miss so I am still continuing my search for the select fews to add to my TBR list. This is one of them, hope it doesn't disappoint! 
 
Have you been anticipating this book as well? What are your thoughts? :) 

Monday, 23 March 2015

To All The Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han - Review

Title: To All The Boys I've Loved Before
Author: Jenny Han
Genre: YA Contemporary
Published by: Simon & Schuster Books
Published in: 15th April 2014
Content warning: Mentions of family member's death
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought
My Rating: 1/2
 To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed. But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister's ex-boyfriend, Josh. As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all.

I am way behind on writing reviews so I'm just gonna go ahead and howl:

POC CHARACTER. BO SSAM. KIMCHI. CHRISTMAS COOKIES. THIS IS MAKING ME HUNGRY.

          Lara Jean is our half-Korean protagonist who has an interesting habit: Whenever she gets over her feelings for a boy, she writes letters addressed to each of them, pouring out all her pent-up infatuation and fixations on their beauty, before saying goodbye to liking them. She then keeps the letters and never mails them out. Until one day one of the boys that she wrote said letter to confronts her about it and she finds that all the letters she kept at home were gone, and somehow mailed to each respective addressee.

          This book was a light read. I breezed through it at crazy speed and ended up enjoying it somehow. The plot was not magnificent nor were there aspects of the story that blew my mind but I really liked it. I giggled at the romance and gushed at the adorable interaction between sisters. Let me tell you that I was pleasantly surprised about that because this book was cliched as heck. It contained those overused tropes that you would find in any young adult contemporary romance novels eg being in love with your sister's ex-boyfriend, establishment of fake contract and relationship to make someone jealous, love triangle etc. 

          Despite containing these ingredients to brew a huge pot of drama, To All the Boys I've Loved Before lured me in with its heart-warming family scenarios. Lara Jean loves her family fiercely. Hers is a single-parent family since the death of her mother when she was younger, and Lara Jean tries her best to fill the shoes of her elder sister Margot when she left for college in Scotland, who was the dependable one in the household. Eager to ease both her father's and her sister's worries, she steps up to the plate and takes over the roles that were supposed to be her mom's, that fell onto her sister and now passed onto her. The great thing about this family dynamic though, is that they are happy to share her responsibilities. Her dad and younger sister actually chip in on house chores in order to remove some of the burdens off her shoulders. There were funny moments where both father and younger sister were so ecstatic when Lara Jean had a guy (other than their family friend, Josh) regularly coming over to their house, they welcomed him with open arms and just accepted him as her boyfriend right off the bat, no judgments made. Ugh, just love family members who are so open and loving.

          The romance was okay. It was pretty cute most of the time, with Lara Jean being the awkward, hopeless romantic who was constantly like a deer in headlights whenever the love interest does something sweet, though I wished there were more depth and backstory to both of the love interests (like always), and also a thorough confirmation of the nature of their relationship. I wasn't convinced of their true feelings for Lara Jean. There was a lot of flirting and electric eye-contact but everything was a bunch of mixed messages in my opinion.

          I give To All The Boys I've Loved Before 3.5/5 stars, because the author managed to make the cliched storylines entertaining. Although I do not have any negative feelings toward it, the story was rather forgettable. This book definitely did not leave a lasting impression on me. With that being said, I will be casually anticipating the next book, and just glad that it did not completely end with that cliffhanger we got on the final page. To all who are picking up this book and contemplating its possible goodness, do not expect to find anything 100% original from the plot or to receive some epiphany about romance from this book and you are good to go. Just sit back and enjoy it like it is.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs - Review

Title: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
Author: Ransom Riggs
Genre: YA fiction, dark fantasy
Published by: Quirk Books
Published in: 7th January 2011
Content warning: Language, mental illness, mild gore
Format: Hardback
Source: Borrowed from the library
My Rating:
A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of curious photographs.

A horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography.

          I have to admit that I am not completely sure I know how to review this one. I rarely read horror/thriller books because I am chicken when it comes to scary material being put into words. Movies I can handle but get me far away from the books. And yet here I am, about to express my opinions about this book with a cover that screams "CREEPY. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK." you must wonder why did I read this in the first place. Yes, I would never have read this book if not for Jessethereader on YouTube. I've liked his selections and turns out this particular book is his favourite so I don't need any other convincing. Simple, really. *apologises for the anti-climatic moment*

Here goes the obligatory howl:

VINTAGE PICTURES PEOPLE. REAL VINTAGE PICTURES. SO DON'T EVER READ THIS AT NIGHT. OR DO. WHATEVER. I'M NOT YOUR MOTHER.

          Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is about 16-year-old Jacob, who grew up listening to his grandfather's mystical and fascinating stories about his childhood and teenager years while taking refuge on a Welsh island during WWII. What was so fascinating about these stories is that the home he lived in was filled with children who possessed supernatural powers. Grandpa also convinces Jacob that these stories were in fact real and shows Jacob many old pictures taken of the children as proof (we also get to see these pictures!). However as Jacob grows up he becomes more skeptical about his grandfather's stories and at last dismisses the stories as pure imagination and the pictures as manipulated mediums. When an unexpected tragedy strikes, Jacob's life is turned upside down. As he slowly recedes into the darkness of his mind, and the people around him start to question his sanity. Jacob realises that his only way to find escape and closure is to visit the island that his grandfather's beloved memories stemmed from and discover if there were any truths behind his (last) words.

          The story started out strong. It is told from Jacob's POV. The author writes fluidly about the normal but not-so-average life of Jacob as a privileged kid of a wealthy family. He constantly tries to get himself fired from his family's company and has a friend who is his complete opposite. Then the plot heads deeper from the surface and describes his grandfather's tales of adventure and wonder that Jacob used to love to hear about and believed were true since young. It was all sunny with dashes of the occasional skin crawl reading about the children who his grandfather befriended as a young teen. All his descriptions of them were accompanied with grayscale pictures of different kids from another era that reminded me of a toned-down version of vintage freak shows. Then Jacob's grandfather was mysteriously and brutally murdered and this is the point where everything goes downhill and outright creepy.

          Jacob's visit to Cairnholm Island and the now rundown children's home were the highlights of my read. I love the depictions of the unique Welsh culture and locals, and the thrill I got from reading about Jacob's exploration of the house. It was so creepy and I was constantly on guard for fear of reading about something jumping out and attacking Jacob. Expect the overused (but still not cool) horror gimmick from this book. If you succeed in getting through those, the part where Jacob finally unravels the truth about everything was definitely my favourite, and I will not spoil it for any of you. IT'S SO GOOD.

          Then after a slow-paced middle section, the plot completely shifts into a completely different genre of fantasy, action and adventure. I personally did not expect that coming as I did not read the synopsis and what type of genre it was. It caught me off guard when everything seemed to happen in one go and I was instantly swept away by the events taking place one after another at full speed. Despite the heavy suspense and the fingernail-biting live-or-die moments, there were hillarious scenes that made me giggle like a maniac late in the night that added colour to the one-way adventure direction the characters seem to be heading to.

          This book definitely ended with a boom *clap the sound of my heart the beat goes on and on..* (sorry) and dissolved into a serene atmosphere that promised a resolve to fight back the forces of evil that plagued Jacob and the other characters in the next book.

          A couple of things I did not like about this book were Jacob's characterisations and the unused potential of the pictures. Jacob was supposed to be sixteen and yet the whole book gave me the impression that he is more like a 13-year-old boy that still has difficulty balancing being childish and mature. I wished Jacob could have been more down to earth and empathetic towards people other than his grandfather and that he would have a narrative that is more fitting to the genre this book is supposed to be categorised in. I definitely loved the inclusion of the pictures with the plot but in some moments I felt like the author depended too much on them to tell his story and therefore lacked in consistency. Some of the pictures don't match the same person and certain ones did not play any role in the story. The descriptions could be written in a more mysterious and hauting manner to help readers connect with how Jacob felt when he looked at them instead of the straightfoward explanations I got, only to experience the creepiness after seeing the pictures.

          I give Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children 4/5 stars. It is not as well-written as I would've preferred, but somehow I find myself satisfied with the book. It was adventurous and unique, and somehow I was grateful that it did not turn out to be as horrifying as I thought it was going to be. It certainly did not end tragically or with my mind screwed up with a horrible plot-twist kinda thing like the film "The Others" and "Shutter Island", and I am delighted about that.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins - Review

Title: Rebel Belle
Author: Rachel Hawkins
Genre: Teen/YA Fantasy
Published by: Putnam Juvenile
Published in: 8th April 2014 
Content warning: Mild violence, mentions of a family 
                            member's death
Format: Hardback
Source: Borrowed from friend.
My Rating: ★★1/2
 
Harper Price, peerless Southern belle, was born ready for a Homecoming tiara. But after a strange run-in at the dance imbues her with incredible abilities, Harper's destiny takes a turn for the seriously weird. She becomes a Paladin, one of an ancient line of guardians with agility, super strength and lethal fighting instincts.

Just when life can't get any more disastrously crazy, Harper finds out who she's charged to protect: David Stark, school reporter, subject of a mysterious prophecy and possibly Harper's least favorite person. But things get complicated when Harper starts falling for him—and discovers that David's own fate could very well be to destroy Earth.

With snappy banter, cotillion dresses, non-stop action and a touch of magic, this new young adult series from bestseller Rachel Hawkins is going to make y'all beg for more.

           I am finally done with Rebel Belle! I found it incredibly challenging to read this book till the end because I did not really like it. I am aware that it's a well-loved book and I've heard so many great things about it so I was honestly surprised that it wasn't to my liking :(

So what's my howl for this book?

A LET DOWN. UNFORTUNATELY. (LOVERS OF THIS BOOK PLS DON'T HATE ME)

          Rebel Belle is about Harper Price, a wealthy Southern Belle who has got everything going for her. SGA President, head cheerleader, possible valedictorian, Homecoming queen, girlfriend of the most popular boy in school yadda yadda. She is that perfect girl that everyone wants to be/befriend (and whose dead sister we don't talk about). Until one day right before being crowned queen during prom she encounters a bloodied janitor who passes on mysterious powers to her before breathing his last. She is then thrown into a world where magic spells, badass ninja-fighting and having visions of the future exists. Turns out, she is to become a Paladin, a protector of the Oracle, the "chosen one" that has the ability to see the future, who happens to be David, her nemesis from birth.

Things that were wrong with this book:
  1. The so-called "destiny" of the Paladin. First of all, the only reason Harper received Paladin powers was because she forgot to bring her lipgloss. That's it. No backstory of prophecies or generations of daughters in her family meant to become Paladins. It all stemmed from a coincidence. I could not accept it because it means anyone can become a Paladin without any restrictions. As long as you are present right before your predecessor's death and they kiss it into you. So completely no qualms in involving INNOCENT CIVILIANS WHO HAVE LIVES OF THEIR OWN. No qualms in endangering their lives and the lives of their loved ones, expecting them to abandon everything to protect a stranger. And this sort of absurdity happened twice, when Ryan was dragged into it too.
  2. The fact that it was harder to kill Harper than it was to kill Christopher, who actually went through official training to become a Paladin. It took one high heel to kill Mr. DuPont. Only one. Darn it, Christopher should have thought about adding some ladies' footwear into his non-existant armory. And the fact that Christopher had to be "fake fat, fake bald and kind of good-looking" to explain away the revulsion the readers would get when Harper was forcibly "kissed".
  3. The fact that boys make bad Oracles. Okay, I can accept it. But at least tell me why?
  4. The chemistry between Harper and David. There was none.The story just says they've been fighting ever since they were young. Maybe David was the one that had feelings for her and was pulling her pigtails. But COME ON DAVID. GROW UP. Technically he did have character development to an extent but he was such a jerk to Harper in the beginning, writing scandalous gossips about her on the school paper, while self-proclaiming to be a legit writer who is committed to the art. Harper and how she came to fall for David just made me internally scream "REALLY GIRL???". She already has a boyfriend of two years (who is the sweetest and most matured of them all imo) and suddenly after receiving her powers she somehow feels connected to David romantically. It came out of NOWHERE. David wasn't even those mysterious bad boy types. He was an immature bully who wore jeans that were a size too small. EW.
  5. The breakup between Harper and Ryan. Still not over how that was written. Just NOPE.
  6. The redundancy of Leigh Anne's tragedy. I really wished there was more to it. She is like Harper, the perfect golden girl. And one day she just dies from a freak accident because she drove while she was drunk. Why was she drunk during one of her most important nights? If she was Miss Goody Two-shoes why was she doing something so reckless? Also, I couldn't believe Harper would use her dead sister as an excuse for getting out of her friends questions about her whereabouts during one of her Paladin adventures. It was so out of character. 
  7. The fact that they completely forgot about Bee just after she was kidnapped. Harper and David were SO CHILL at the end, still talking about whether their relationship would work out bla bla when Harper's BEST FRIEND is out there somewhere with a crazy MAGE with unlimited powers. SNAP OUT OF IT YOU TWO. And shame on both of you. Harper JUST broke up with Ryan.
          I give Rebel Belle 2.5/5 stars. The points above alone made it hard for me to finish this book. I'm sure there were more minor irk-ish moments but these were the main ones. Nevertheless I read it till the end as I liked the action scenes, and because it involved an unconventional female main protagonist. But I would not be interested in reading the next book in the series.


Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Waiting on Wednesday #1

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine,
which spotlights upcoming releases that fellow book bloggers are eagerly anticipating!

Title: Rogue (Talon #2)
Author: Julie Kagawa
Genre: Teen Fantasy
Published by: Harlequin Teen
Expected publication date: April 28th 2015
Ember Hill left the dragon organization Talon to take her chances with rebel dragon Cobalt and his crew of rogues. But Ember can't forget the sacrifice made for her by the human boy who could have killed her—Garret Xavier Sebastian, a soldier of the dragonslaying Order of St. George, the boy who saved her from a Talon assassin, knowing that by doing so, he'd signed his own death warrant.

Determined to save Garret from execution, Ember must convince Cobalt to help her break into the Order's headquarters. With assassins after them and Ember's own brother helping Talon with the hunt, the rogues find an unexpected ally in Garret and a new perspective on the underground battle between Talon and St. George.

A reckoning is brewing and the secrets hidden by both sides are shocking and deadly. Soon Ember must decide: Should she retreat to fight another day…or start an all-out war?

So excited to be doing my first book blog meme! (And as you can see, I chose WoW because it was the easiest one *naughty grin*) I have not read Talon, which is the first book of the series, because I'm waiting for Rogue to come out so I can marathon them. Not waiting for the full series because I'll be an old maid when they all come out. 

Don't you think that the cover is as stunning as the first? I'm the sort of reader who does judge a book's cover and I am dying to get my hands on the physical copy. Also, DRAGONS. What other reasons do I need to start the Talon series besides that?

Are you anticipating this book too? :) 

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard - Review

Title: Red Queen
Author: Victoria Aveyard
Genre: YA Fantasy
Published by: Harper Collins (in 2015)
Content warning: Violence, mild language
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought
My Rating:  ★★★★
The poverty stricken Reds are commoners, living under the rule of the Silvers, elite warriors with god-like powers.

To Mare Barrow, a 17-year-old Red girl from The Stilts, it looks like nothing will ever change.

Mare finds herself working in the Silver Palace, at the centre of those she hates the most. She quickly discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy Silver control.

But power is a dangerous game. And in this world divided by blood, who will win?

I initially didn't want to post this review up so early but my reading of Rebel Belle has been way slower than expected so here it is! (I really want to like Rebel Belle, but the first person POV is ticking me off a little gahhh. More on that next time)  Red Queen was released just last month on Feb 10th. Assuming that there are a lot more humans who have yet to read this book (hard for me to imagine why not because the of the HYPE), this review will be ~SPOILER-FREE~ right after my howl *evil chuckle*.

This is what I howled to the wind:

PLOT TWIST. SERIOUS THRONE OF GLASS FEELS. PLOT TWIST!!!
(oh yea I went there)

          Red Queen centers around 17-year-old Mare Barrow who lives in a dystopian society where the differentiation of status is based on a person's blood color. There are two blood races: The Silvers, who have silver blood running through their veins and the Reds, who have red blood. The Silvers are the superior race. They are wealthy, physically stronger, powerful, basically those who belong to the privileged upper class in the society. As if there wasn't enough to prove that point, each of them also possess distinct SUPERNATURAL POWERS which gives them the ability to control various elements. (I know a lot of people have compared this to X-men but I kept thinking about AVATAR). The Reds are the normal humans, the weaker race that were not born with any of the abilities the Silvers have, and are thus subjected to exploitation and servitude for the whole of their lives, unable to fight back due to their inferiority. 

          Mare is a Red, and she despises the status quo and how it is leeching her family's happiness one family member at a time. Being forced to become a thief in order to support her family and facing conscription very soon, Mare is the last person you would expect to be a beacon of change for her oppressed people. Until one day a power like no other was accidentally awakened from within her, and revealed for the Royal family and just about every noble Silver there is to see. She is now faced with difficult decisions and her role as the Red with a Silver's abilities are much bigger than anything she has ever imagined.

         While not completely original, the concept of the society in Red Queen is just marvelous and absolutely attractive. It has so much potential to become a cinematographically stunning film (if that ever happened) with its action-packed fantasy plot, the medieval, steampunk-ish setting, the different colors representing different noble houses (ARISTOCRATIC COSTUMES FTW!!!), and SILVER BLOOD. How beautiful would that look being poured out of a Silver!!! (sorry, got a bit gory there) I fell in love with the world that Victoria Aveyard painted with her excellent writing style and the fact that there are other settings besides the ones in the first book that has yet to be explored and elaborated makes me wish the next book would come out TOMORROW. 

         I actually read this book in one sitting so I thought that the suspense was well-distributed throughout the plot. There were some parts that were a bit too far-fetched but I easily accepted it because it is a YA fantasy so these things tend to appear often. Overall, the characters were likeable, with Mare being my favourite as there are many sides to her. (Passive one-dimensional protagonists are my ultimate pet-peeve). I liked that she is level-headed most of the time, and is not easily swept away by the detriment of various events that happened. Usually we get heroines that throw themselves into the fire of their enemies without proper strategy or COMMON SENSE, but I never got that from Mare. The other characters were a little weak, and there were several who were redundant nearing the end. Fortunately, the plot was still able to move along with full speed pass those issues towards an ending that promised epicness in the next book.

         I give Red Queen 4/5 stars for its impressive writing and brilliant concept. Victoria Aveyard has raised the bar for debut novels of the same genre I'll be reading in the future.

p/s: I would like to comment on the COVER. Don't you agree when I say that it's GORGEOUS? The gradient silvery background. The bloody crown turned upside down. This simple image foreshadows so much of the story's conflict. Oooh I got goosebumps the first time I saw the physical book in real life... *flails*