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 (???).

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:


          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:


          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?


          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:

(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*

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell - Review

Title: Fangirl
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Genre: YA Contemporary
Published by: St. Martin's Press (in 2013)
Content Warning: Estranged parent
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought
My Rating:  ★★★★★

A coming-of-age tale of fan fiction, family and first love.

Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan...

But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words... And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?

Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

          All my contemporary buttons are being smacked lately and I am on a roll! I've managed to find Fangirl on sale, I've ordered Popular by Maya van Wagenen online, and pretty soon I'll be reading
To All The Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han which is in my possession at this moment! *does
excited girly clap*

          I know my past (three wahwahwah...) reviews contained spoilers as I tend to go into detail when blabbing about the events that happened in the book. But not this time. NOT FANGIRL. I am determined to leave this review of the book SPOILER-FREE, because I enjoyed reading it SO MUCH that I want everyone (well, selective everyones) to experience reading it for the first time, feel the warm light that glows from every page as you turn it, and set free the curious baby bunnies that are ready to burst out of your heart hallucinations may vary with different readers. However be warned that I have about 85% of self-control in me so I might drop little tidbits. Don't worry, I will hide them.

          I feel like Fangirl has a specifically targeted audience and so will my howl for this post. To all the never been kissed, never had a serious boyfriend college/uni students, and all the girls who find that the very magical world of fiction appeals to you more than the real world:


          Fangirl is about Cather Avery and her experience of muddling though college as a bewildered freshman. She is introverted with a dash of social anxiety, geeky, conservative an avid fangirl of the Simon Snow series, which is a book series with massive hype and fan-follwing equivalent to the Harry Potter series in our universe and a SHIPPER of its two main male characters. (Highlight for spoiler: though at one bizzare point, Harry Potter was actually referenced so I'm guessing Cath's universe and ours is the same??? It was SO WEIRD because Simon Snow IS supposed to be the equivalent of Harry Potter, so if her universe has Harry Potter is Harry Potter a less popular series or what??? gahhhhhhh *brain officially wrinkled*) She has a twin named Wren, who is her complete opposite, and both Cath and Wren attend the same college. Cath's college experience truly starts when Wren, whom she has been super tight with since young, decides that they should live separately rather than room together, and Cath is left to fend for herself in the wild abyss that is the college dorm, unravel the mysteries of its rules and order, and forced to make social contact with actual new people.

          All the characters in Fangirl were written really well. The author was meticulous in giving equal attention into shaping them as individuals. Each character had their quirks, habits and way of doing things, and best of all, each of them had their signature epic lines and even negative attributes. Not a single one of them was perfect and had life figured out, but not everyone was messed up to the point of no return either. They all had a certain level of attractiveness that made you want to read more about, and even meet in real life. When strung together, these characters create this clever and extremely amusing cloud of awesomeness.

          The book was also balanced in its themes. There was fanfiction-writing, romance, family relationships, friendships and the college experience. Most of them were dealt with fantastically, particularly the family relationships between Cath, Wren, and their dad. It was bittersweet, heart-melting, and many times my mouth would curve into a smile because of how much they cherished each other. Another highlight was the romance. Ahhhh the romance. When I was a few chapters into the book I did not expect Cath to end up liking who she ended up with. Like her, I wasn't even aware that he had feelings for her! But even before they got together he had so much good vibes just radiating off of him that I could almost smell how rainbows smelled like. Even if you aren't into the fanfiction and Simon Snow excerpts, read Fangirl for his ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND SMILES❤
The one aspect I was a little disappointed with was the fandom part. With the book title being Fangirl, I expected that there would be cons, cosplay, Q&A with the author at panels and TUMBLR. However, most of what Cath does as a Simon Snow fan is writing fan-fiction, which Cath does really well, and wear Simon Snow-themed T-shirts. I enjoyed them, but I wanted more representation.

         I give Fangirl 5/5 stars, because this book ticked all the boxes in what I liked in a contemporary read. Most importantly, I feel that Cath's experiences were frighteningly similiar to mine. The awkwardness of getting to know your roommate, weighing the option of whether to eat in your room or face the dining hall full of people, and the HARRY POTTER FEELS. If you're a Harry Potter fan when the books were still coming out YOU WOULD GET IT when you read the Simon Snow parts. So yes people, don't wait. Go read Fangirl and bathe yourself in rainbow M&Ms and macaroons.

Other books mentioned in this post:

Monday, 9 March 2015

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas - Review

Title: Throne of Glass
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Genre: YA Fantasy, Romance
Content warning: Violence
Format: Hardcover
Source: Borrowed from friend
My Rating: ★★★

After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin. Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king's council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she'll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom.

Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilarating. But she's bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her... but it's the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.

Then one of the other contestants turns up dead... quickly followed by another.

Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

I've been wanting to write up this one earlier, but I got hit with the flu bug, so writing anything for leisure with a body temperature of 38 degrees just doesn't feel... leisurely. But THIS BOOK. So much I want to SAY.

My howl for this book is:


          This book had a lot of hype, and people introducing the book mentioned "female assassin", so nothing was going to stop the strong female protagonist lover in me from reading it, and I went in without so much as glancing over the synopsis. When I read the synopsis right before posting this, I snorted a little because it sounded way cooler than how the actual story was like. Probably should not have snorted though, because I actually did not have a hard time finishing the book, so it must have brewed suspense well somewhere. Unfortunately, it was lacking in terms of characters, especially the most important character of the book and for me, it was a huge problem. *shakes head and sighs*

          Throne of Glass is about Celaena Sardothien, 18, (supposedly the best assassin in all of Erilea) who was temporarily released from her enslavement in the Endovier salt mines and brought to Rifthold (the capital) to compete with other killing specialists for the title of the King's Champion, in other words, the king's personal assassin, so it's totally "official". The Crown Prince of Adarlan (the country) made her this offer: win the competition and be a free person after four years of service, or get thrown back into the harsh environments of the salt mines, awaiting death. Of course she chose the former, and thus started this journey to train and win the competition. If only it were that simple of our heroine. Not long after, the competitors start turning up dead, mauled to shreds by someone or SOMETHING, then there are the mysteries that lurk beneath the castle's walls...(ooohhhhhh)

          If my "ooohhhhh" seemed sarcastic, that's because it was. From the very beginning of the book, Celaena has been described as "the most notorious assassin", and that hearing her name would actually petrify people. All in all, she was THE BEST. And I got that impression, when she boasted about killing her overseer and twenty-three other sentries back in the mines with just a pickax. BUT IT ENDS THERE.  Although she kept talking about how she would murder some of the characters in extreme detail during her internal monologues, she doesn't assassinate anyone else AT ALL. You can argue that she only does it on a hiring basis, but what's the point of giving us an assassin as a main character when we don't even get to read about her doing what she does BEST? I thought that I'd get some showcase of badass female assassinating skills in the trials before the actual competition but guess what the trials were?? Humdrum tasks that every assassin were unquestionably expected to already be good at like poison identification, one-on-one sparring, archery, wall scaling and parkour-like race... like "oh, these were the deadly trials to select the King's Champion? Sorry I thought I just read about AN AMATEUR CONTEST FOR JUNIOR ASSASSIN-WANNABE STUDENTS." Okay, maybe the trials weren't meant to be. But why not AT LEAST get one of those nobles in the court to hire her for their own hidden political agendas? I would read the heck out of that.

           Fine. Let's say we give this book the benefit of doubt. Maybe Celaena will assassinate someone in the NEXT book, as she is distracted with competing at the moment. But honestly speaking, there were so many instances that made me question her competence as an assassin. For one thing, she is able to sleep through a whole lot without even being on guard and perform that classic "sneaking up on any intruders with a knife" assassin move. Someone was able to enter her room, draw Wyrdmarks (magical sigil thingys) UNDER HER BED UNNOTICED and still, most mornings she had to be woken up by Chaol her babysitter, then complains about how she needs more sleep because "she stayed up till four in the morning". Doing what you might ask? READING. Passionately READING the books that the Crown Prince sent her after writing a rather flirtatious letter to him asking for them. *smacks forehead* The most laughable incident was when someone left a huge bag of candy on her bed (again she slept through it and did not notice) and the first instance she saw what it was, she went "oh how I love candy!" and proceeded to gobble up half the bag no questions asked, forgetting that a KILLING MAN/BEAST WAS ON THE LOOSE in the castle targeting competitors LIKE HER, and that those lovable candies might be POISONED. Seriously girl, there is a time and place for everything. You don't even need to be an assassin extraordinaire to know that.

           And the ROMANCE (if you can even call it that) was just as subtle as a brick. It takes up about more than half the book, with the constant flirting and lame banters that came across as forced and led to nowhere. It kinda felt like reading Twilight again, as it got me reminiscing about the love triangle plot from hell. So much of the book's potential gems like the magical lore and murder mystery got overshadowed by these hormone-infested manchildren obssessing over a criminal who just happened to be an attractive woman.

          Did I like anything about the book at all? Well if I had to turn a blind eye... I generally favored Chaol Westfall, our Captain of the Royal Guard, who seemed to be the only one who is most aware of his priorities, until of course, his role as love interest had to be played. At least he played the less annoying one, actually trying to fulfill his responsibility as her supervisor or tutor, building some form of friendship with Celaena first before going googly eyes all over her, despite knowing her for the killer she was because he is just so good-natured that way. (I just can't understand why he has to be the one to wake her up in the morning though, like doesn't Celaena have a personal maid??? And how is he allowed to walk into her private rooms anytime he pleases? Did the court not set any rules or boundaries??? GAHHH). I also kind of liked Nehemia, the Eyllwean princess as our character of color, but only when she hung out with Celaena, and together they somehow led this book to pass the Bechdel test. I guess I liked reading about her because it was only when the two women converse that Celaena wasn't gushing over Prince Dorian or how pretty she herself looked in court dresses, most of the time anyway. But Nehemia, as a princess, seemed clueless about diplomacy and political strategizing, hence the "kind of liked".

           I give Throne of Glass 3/5 stars, because if I look pass the ridiculous writing of the characters, I could sense an inkling of interest in me to know about that never-before-seen Wyrdmark on Celaena's forehead,  and how is she connected to the Fae King and Queen, and the identity of her dead parents because THERE MIGHT BE SOMETHING THERE. I HOPE. WE'LL SEE IN THE SECOND BOOK. At least I still want to continue reading so I'll give that credit to the author.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick (Review)

Title: The Silver Linings Playbook
Author: Matthew Quick
Genre: Family, Romance
Content Warning: Mental illness, language, spoilers of   
                            several classic novels
Published by: Picador (in 2012)
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought
My Rating: ★★★★
Pat Peoples knows that life doesn't always go according to plan, but he's determined to get his back on track. After a stint in a psychiatric hospital, Pat is staying with his parents and trying to live according to his new philosophy: get fit, be nice and always look for the silver lining. Most importantly, Pat is determined to be reconciled with his wife Nikki.
Pat's parents just want to protect him so he can get back on his feet, but when Pat befriends the mysterious Tiffany, the secrets they've been keeping from him threaten to come out . . .

          Hurrah to my second post! And for finishing this never-before-read book that's been growing mushrooms in my shelf for months. *not proud* It was a short read, and relatively easy to breeze through, and I was pleased to find myself enjoying it as I'm not really into books that are centered around everyday life and it's challenges ("nichijou", as the Japanese would say) as opposed to books that throw you into an emotional rollercoaster ride with it's fast-paced writing and plot twists and side-splittingness and life or death situations and so on. Not to say that absolutely nothing happened in the book, but it is completely down to earth. So before I go on writing my review (that I was really excited to do), my statement to make is:


The Plot
         This novel is told from the POV a 34-ish mentally ill man named Pat, who has just been released from the psychiatric hospital, and is obssessed with bettering himself as a man in order to reconcile with his estranged wife which he believes is his silver lining and ultimate goal of his life. When I say mentally ill, I do not mean that he is psychotic or "crazy", as how people usually associate mental illness with, but that Pat's mind has fallen ill, due to stress from the things he has been through and THESE THINGS HAPPEN IN LIFE. Despite being ill, coming out of the psychiatric hospital symbolises a second chance to redeem and improve himself to be a good man (but mainly for his ex-wife Nikki). He tells us about living with his parents, in the basement of their house, about meeting his new therapist and their sessions, how hanging out with his brother, best friends and their own family is like, being an Eagles fan, and eccentric and slightly mysterious Tiffany whom he feels deeply connected to. AND NIKKI NIKKI NIKKI NIKKI NIKKI. It's definitely different from the film, where the 2nd-half of the film heads to a more romantic direction, where Tiffany has a bigger part in, while the book has more familial elements as its main theme.
Parts I liked
          Pat Peoples was my absolute favorite. I really root for people who know that they are far from perfect, but always strive to be better in spite of that. He is so emotionally vulnerable (he cries a lot in the book), and it's rare for men to be written like that, so it was refreshing to watch him struggle with his illness and his erratic emotions LIKE A NORMAL GUY. The way Matthew Quick wrote Pat's POV allowed my reactions to connect and sync with what Pat was feeling at different moments of SLP. When Pat is happy, I find myself smiling, and when Pat is in pain, I find my eyebrows closing on each other. The great thing about this fact though, is that it never completely sends me to both ends of the mood scale. I did not whoop around in my room with estatic joy, or bawl buckets of tears reading this and I appreciate that. His POV is straightfoward enough, but not so simple that I feel like I'm reading a 9 year old teenager's diary.
          Pat's mom (Mrs Peoples) is a complete saint of a wife, mother and WOMAN. She is filled with so much love and all this love she just gives and gives to her husband (who 80% of the time really does not deserve it) and her two sons. And when you give your love to people, you are bound to get hurt, and she cries as many times as Pat does in the book, if not more. While it's obvious that Pat's occasional violent outbursts and unstable behaviour bothered her alot, she tries so hard to shower him with tlc and not blame him for his actions because she knows Pat doesn't really have anyone who would take care of him like she does. I won't write about her anymore because if I do it will span 10,000 words but what I would end with is that she is one of the pivotal characters that kept Pat on the path of recovery, (she was the one who got Pat out of the hospital and kickstarted this whole novel's plot in the place!) and she does this without complaint in the background (AND TAKES NO CRAP FROM HER HUSBAND)
          Therapists can make or break you, and Dr Cliff Patel, who is Pat's therapist, is from the "make" category. Like Pat's mom, he is non-judgemental, and a hillariously cool character. I mean come one, how else can you describe an Indian, who is a serious Eagles fan, and goes to season football games (I hope I said it right. Malaysians know zilch about American football) with his fifty other Indian Eagles fan friends in their bus called "The Asian Invasion"?

Parts I Did Not Like
          Basically I liked every character in the book, but I wasn't into how some characters were written. The first character is Tiffany. Tiffany is unbullshitable (yea it's totally a word), bluntly honest and a generally awesome character, but she has such little screentime in the book. I wanted to read about her so much more but most of her interactions with Pat were outside of the plot, so it was hard for me to believe their relationship development. Don't get me wrong, the author tied any loose ends there were with Tiffany but I thought that her and Pat should have more moments together to justify how important her character is to Pat and make it believable. Instead, what I read were a huge dump of confessions, daily runs without any conversation, and a dance, which wasn't as emotional as I hoped it would be.
          Pat's dad, Patrick Peoples, was another character that I hoped had more screentime, but only at the end, because I felt that he was pretty much non-existant there. He is a complete football fanatic and his obsession with football bleeds over onto his family members. His whole mood depends on whether the Eagles win the game or not and if they don't, he launches into this crazy sulky fit and bullies his wife and ignores his children. He is like that in almost the whole book and I was hoping maybe there would be a character development moment or epiphany to change (BECAUSE HE NEEDS IT) but in the end he just kind of melts into nothingness and I assume, remains the same. Definitely no loose ends tied there.

My Rating
       I give The Silver Linings Playbook 4/5 stars, because the characters were really well written, and I applaud the ability of Matthew Quick to express so much with really simple, layman words. I also think that people who aren't well-informed on mental illness will receive a perspective that is accurate and allows them to easily understand the general idea of how being mentally ill is like for an adult.


Monday, 2 March 2015

Love Lessons by Jacqueline Wilson - Review (First post woohoo!)

Title: Love Lessons
Author: Jacqueline Wilson 
Illustrated by: Nick Sharatt
Genre: Teen Romance
Published by: Doubleday (in 2005)
Format: Hardback
My Rating: ★★★★
Fourteen-year-old Prue and her sister Grace have been educated at home by their controlling, super-strict father all their lives. Forced to wear Mum's odd hand-made garments and forbidden from reading teenage magazines, they know they're very different to 'normal' girls - but when Dad has a stroke and ends up in hospital, unable to move or speak, Prue suddenly discovers what it's like to have a little freedom. Sent to a real school for the first time, Prue struggles to fit in. The only person she can talk to is her kindly, young - and handsome - art teacher, Rax. They quickly bond, and Prue feels more and more drawn to him. As her feelings grow stronger, she begins to realise that he might feel the same way about her. But nothing could ever happen between them - could it?

I read this book way back in 2008 when I first bought it. I was in the mood for books that have really girly, high school crush settings and the cover instantly caught my eye. I re-read this not long ago and have a review I'd like to write down.

Love Lessons is basically about a girl in her early teens named Prue being thrown into the "normal" school system after being homeschooled the whole of her life after her slightly (more like totally by my standards) dysfunctional dad experieces a severe stroke. But before I move on I would like to say this:


Her family first of all, is definitely not average at all. They live these stagnant lives that rejects technology, buying clothes from actual stores, and sending your kids to school. The reason for this way of living is heavily influenced by Prue's father (which is a pretty interesting character himself), while her mother plays a very passive role, allowing her father's dysfunctional influence. Prue, being a teenager at the cusp of rebellion regularly questions her father's ridiculour rules, and together with her younger sister,Grace, fantasize and yearn about how it would be like to have privileges that other normal girls have.

And sometimes fantasies do become reality and her dad was sent to the hospital due to stroke after a hillarious falling out  [Highlight for spoilers: with Prue started by a sexy underwear purchased by Prue with tuition money] and the three remaining female members of the family are left to face and figure out the "Real World", even more so when it became mandatory for Prue and Grace to attend school. And the whole school experience is definitely an adventure. [Highlight for spoilers: Prue wears said sexy underwear to school and being discovered by everyone, gets arranged into a class of underdog misfits and gets bullied, caught the attention of the "popular guy", meets a handsome art teacher, falls for art teacher and fantasizes about him, ART TEACHER RECIPROCATES and so much more.] So, if you are into the controversial romance thing, there's something of sort in this book for you, but because this books seems to target a rather young audience, you would need to look back and think about WHY IT'S CONTROVERSIAL and read on with caution if you are around Prue's age or younger. And if you are looking for a light-hearted, exaggeratedly unconventional story that involves family, finding an unexpected friend in trouble times and includes [Highlight for spoilers: AN OPEN HAPPY ENDING], you might like this as well.

I give it 4/5 stars, because despite the weird plot, it was really fun to read because you just can't take the book seriously and sort of relatable, if you're a homeschooled kid with no access to the internet or brand new clothes.