BOOK REVIEW: The Wrath & The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

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Star Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Short Reaction: Gorgeous prose, addictive romance and captivating world-building…need I say more? 
Published on/by: May 12th 2015 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Format: Paperback
Page Count: 416 pages
Synopsis provided by Goodreads: Every dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi’s wit and will, indeed, get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch . . . she’s falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend.

She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. Shazi is determined to uncover the reason for the murders and to break the cycle once and for all.

 

REVIEW

Before I start this review, I have to preface with a huge revelation. My reading game has been very poor this past few months, and I can say it’s because of school…but come on. The hours I spend on social media could’ve been better used reading about hot aliens or dark lords taking over the world. And I have to say, it’s not that I didn’t try. I’ve started quite a number of books but none held my attention for long. I’m actually a hundred or so pages from finishing ‘Throne of Glass’ by Sarah J Maas but, I don’t know, I just didn’t have the mood or enough care to give for Little Miss Mary Sue. And then I realised I’ve been feeling this way about many books for months because I’ve been busy with my SOCIAL life. Busy with people of the opposite gender. My friend nailed it on the head when she told me last night that the reason why I couldn’t emotionally attach myself to books in recent months was because I was already emotionally invested in something else in my real life and I didn’t have enough to give to a book.

 

Starting “The Wrath & the Dawn” was a little difficult. There was no flaw, don’t get me wrong. The flaw was me and my fickled heart. But as the story progressed, my interest piqued. Soon, I was completely enamoured with the world. Inspired by “One Thousand and One Nights” the story was captivating and vivid as we’re introduced to such beautiful world-building. I gotta say, I was so, very pleased with the world (but I mean, c’mon! It’s inspired by ‘One Thousand and One Nights’!) but above all, I was chuffed on how familiar it was. Being of Middle Eastern descent, it felt a little like home…as you can tell by the picture I took above featuring my home decor. I actually had a huge lamp but it didn’t make the cut, unfortunately.

The most excellent part of this book has got to be Ahdieh’s writing skills. She weaved beautiful descriptions of the palace and such enjoyable characters and interactions with such ease. Never did I feel like the prose was too flowery or chunky, but just a joy to read. In just under a couple of hours, two hundred pages had passed.

The characters were incredibly enjoyable. From Shahrzad’s (what a beautiful name, omg) sass and bravery to Jalal’s dependable humour, I felt that most of the characters were used to their full potential. My favourite characters, after Shazi, have got to be Despina and Jalal. Both brought such light and joy to the story as well as companionship to the two main characters and ughhhhh SPOILER! Seriously, I can’t wait to see their relationship blossom in the second instalment! END OF SPOILER!

THE ROMANCE. Oh, my god. This is a romance to melt any icy heart. Trust me on this. In any other book written by any other author, my eyes would have bled by the words Khalid said to Shazi. But Ahdieh? She does it right, and she does it good. I MELT for Khalid. Can we start a hashtag trend? #Melt4Khalid. This boy-king has my heart, dat boi he do! We’re introduced to him in the eyes of Shazi and like her, we have preconceived ideas of this ruler. Heartless. Monster. Blood-thirsty. And of course, us YA readers know that we’ll be proven wrong. This is a common trope in Young Adult. But Ahdieh writes this character in a way that it doesn’t feel like a cheap trick at all. Also, many would say their relationship falls under insta-love, but honestly, it didn’t feel that way to me. I fell in love with him at the same pace Shazi did and if he were in my world I SWEAR I would’ve fallen for him quicker than an ant were to be swallowed by quick sand. Now, let me just confirm that YES, there is a love triangle BUT WAIT. It’s not a cheap one. I mean, yeah. There is a clear winner. From the synopsis alone, you know which couple is endgame, but it’s a love triangle that makes sense. Tariq, Shazi’s first love and childhood sweetheart is not only just her childhood sweetheart, but a friend and son, a leader in his own right and that’s what I loved about the romance in this book. The characters were more than just a device to push the “love triangle” trope.

The element of magic was present in this book, and although it wasn’t fully explored, you can bet that in the second instalment, “The Rose and The Dagger”, we’ll find out more about this dormant magic she possesses and what trouble her father has gotten himself into. The only flaw I can think of this book was how little Irsa, Shazi’s younger sister, appeared. She will probably have a bigger role in the second book but I found myself wondering when I’d see more of this character as she was only introduced in the beginning.

All in all, this was a solid first book of the duology. Actually, it was more than solid. It was absolutely lively and enjoyable. Rich in prose and characters, Ahdieh has managed to create a world that I’m so impatient to jump right back into. And hello? That cliffhanger? No. Simply will not do. 2016, come faster!!!

 

 

 

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BOOK REVIEW: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

 

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Eleanor and Park

Star Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Short Reaction: Um…okay. Not what I was hoping for. 
Published on/by: February 1st 2013 by Orion (first published April 12th 2012)
Format: Paperback
Page Count: 328 pages
Synopsis provided by Goodreads: Eleanor is the new girl in town, and with her chaotic family life, her mismatched clothes and unruly red hair, she couldn’t stick out more if she tried.

Park is the boy at the back of the bus. Black T-shirts, headphones, head in a book – he thinks he’s made himself invisible. But not to Eleanor… never to Eleanor.

Slowly, steadily, through late-night conversations and an ever-growing stack of mix tapes, Eleanor and Park fall for each other. They fall in love the way you do the first time, when you’re young, and you feel as if you have nothing and everything to lose.

REVIEW

Oh no. I’ve put off reviewing this book for a month now because honestly…I’m still unsure of what to rate this book. My initial rating was 4 stars, because I was too afraid to rate it less than 4 stars. Rainbow Rowell is an acclaimed author, and having bought both Eleanor & Park and Fangirl a year ago in anticipation to join the bandwagon, I guess my expectations were a little too unrealistic.

I expected to love, love, love this book. You have two misfits in high school falling in love? In the 80s? Sign me up. That is my JAM. Everyone knows and loves Rainbow Rowell, everyone has read and loved a Rainbow Rowell book and I think that triggered something in my brain to make me feel like I have no other choice but to love it too, you know? And I know, this is entirely on my own doing. Nobody forced me to impulsively rate it 4 stars at all! It’s just that I felt that I should have liked it more than I really did?

And with that said, I am officially rating this 3 stars. If I’m adhering to the goodreads scale description, I’m definitely on the “it was okay”–which is 2 stars, because that’s how I felt. I did not love/like it very much nor did I hate it. I think I’m just very indifferent towards it. However, 2 stars, for me is a little too low so my final consensus is that this book, for me, is a 3 star read– it was ok.

Wow, I spent so much time explaining my rating that I haven’t even started to defend myself yet! So here goes nothing…

This book was like a cake with icing, without the cake. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a sweet tooth. Love icing. But it’s nothing without the cake, and unfortunately I felt like this book didn’t have the depth that I hoped to see and feel. Despite the lack of ‘feels’, I really enjoyed the pacing of the book. The writing is easy to follow (sometimes a little too easy, lol), but it wasn’t slow in the slightest and I quite enjoyed that it was told in third person. So many YA’s are told in first person nowadays, in an attempt for readers to relate better to the protagonist, that I think the skill of being able to make such a relatable character through third person so much more special. However, because it was told in third person, I thought the alternating ‘views’ were quite unnecessary, and in result it was slightly choppy and messy.

Another aspect of the book that I liked was the contrast between Eleanor and Park’s home life. I was able to fully see the dysfunctional and abusive environment Eleanor’s home life was and I think that was the strongest point of the book; seeing the dynamics of her household. It was heartbreaking and frustrating to watch and I felt for Eleanor, I really did.

Now, on the aspects that lacked for me…

The time period was almost unnecessary. I don’t think it was fully explored and it sucks because Rowell could have pushed this book to its full potential. The subject of race could have been delved into much further and I honestly felt like showcasing all these races were just tools for ‘Ooh, lookey here! Diversity!’ It just wasn’t enough for me, especially since the book was set in the 1980s. I also thought the book played on a lot of stereotypes regarding Park’s mother and Eleanor’s two African American friends. For a book that avoided exploring the depths of racism and equality of the 80s, in an attempt to make Park just like any other boy, they sure did make Park’s mom and Eleanor’s friends sound like cookie cutter typical Asians and African Americans. Seriously. I liked that Park’s mom’s background was explored but there was almost zero development on Eleanor’s so-called friends. I felt like they were just there, and nothing else.

And that brings me to the biggest issue I had with this book–the romance. I can say with full conviction that the relationship between Eleanor and Park could have worked better as a friendship. Well, in my opinion. I just didn’t get it. I didn’t get why they liked or thought they loved each other. Seriously. This was insta-love in full effect. I think Rowell tried to avoid the label of insta-love by making them hate each other’s guts in the beginning (also for no good reason) but she pretty much failed because just one day after, they suddenly want to bite each other’s faces off and hold hands and undress each other and whatnot. It was just so sudden and at first, I thought it was really cute. I mean, lust. Who hasn’t experienced lust? But soon, I just thought it was really, really annoying. Especially after Park was convinced he was in love. What followed were wrinkles. Lots of them. From the cringing. The reasons why they liked each other was just so vague and unexplored and I felt like the book served the romance on a plate and was like, “Eat this. We have nothing else on the menu, so you best be eating or you’re gonna starve!”. SERIOUSLY. I know it’s a weird analogy but as soon as the romance kicked in, I felt like this is all the book had to offer. I know it’s a story of first love and coming-of-age experiences and whatnot, but it just felt like the romance was trying so hard and there was no where else that I could escape to find any other redeeming aspects…well apart from Eleanor’s home life BUT IT’S SO GODDAMN DEPRESSING! To sum it up, I know that their feelings for each other was supposed to provide an escape for Eleanor but I just felt that it was contrived and overdone and slightly unrealistic.

So yeah. That was my review/ramble and I am probably going to put off Fangirl till the disappointment wears off.

SUMMER LOVIN’: Books I’ve Devoured!

Summer Lovin Collection

With Fall approaching (I’m not even sure if it’s already here!), I’ve decided to compile a short list of the books that I feel were stand-out to me in the season of Summer! I’ve read more than three books, mind you, and while I did like a lot of them, I feel like these three were simply engrossing and they are the books I still think about, weeks after reading them. I’ve done a proper review for only one of these so naturally, I won’t yap on and on about that particular book but for the other two, I have yet to write reviews so I’m going to treat this post like a collection of mini FIVE-STARRED reviews 😉

1. Insurgent by Veronica Roth

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Blurb provided by GoodreadsOne choice can transform you—or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris’s initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable—and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

MINI REVIEW

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Fun, fun, fun. This book was an absolute blast, and I cannot for the life of me understand why it’s the least favourite of so many people?! This was the best instalment in the trilogy, in my opinion. It had so many conspiracies, new characters and twists and turns and it was just so enjoyable to see Tris transform into someone I never thought she would. Granted, her actions and mentality were a little annoying because of what happened in Divergent but I thought they were warranted for and it created a more vulnerable side to Tris.

Another reason why I thought this book was infinitely better than the first and third was the constant appearances of Uriah. Yes, Uriah. I. Love. Uriah. I think I even love him more than Four? Described as the devilishly handsome jokester, he lightens the scene with his easy humour and grin. How could you not love Uriah, right? To sum it up, this was definitely a blast to read as it kept me up late at night and was definitely the strongest in the only trilogy I read this summer! 🙂

2. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

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Blurb provided by Goodreads: Taylor is leader of the boarders at the Jellicoe School. She has to keep the upper hand in the territory wars and deal with Jonah Griggs – the enigmatic leader of the cadets, and someone she thought she would never see again.

And now Hannah, the person Taylor had come to rely on, has disappeared. Taylor’s only clue is a manuscript about five kids who lived in Jellicoe eighteen years ago. She needs to find out more, but this means confronting her own story, making sense of her strange, recurring dream, and finding her mother – who abandoned her on the Jellicoe Road.

MINI REVIEW

I’ve been saving this book for years. And when I say ‘saving’, I mean I bought it several years ago and kept it on my shelf, hoping for that one special day where I felt ready to crack it open. I know, I’m making reading sound like some kind of invigorating religious experience BUT I KID YOU NOT, this book was a very big deal to me because 1) I have never read a single bad review of this book and 2) I loved loved loved Melina Marchetta’s previous book, ‘Saving Francesca’.

To get straight to the point: I loved this book. This was grief, loss, love and friendship done right. It was realistic, heartbreaking and raw. A story within a story; I was so, so, so engrossed with the tale of Taylor Markham and her Jellicoe school friends and their intriguing “turf war” games with the Cadets and Townies, intertwined with the mystery and history of the five friends twenty years ago who shaped the dynamics between these friends and Taylor’s broken family life.

This book touched me to the point where 30% in, I promised myself I would re-read it again before the year ended because even though I flew through this masterpiece, I know there is more to absorb and savour. Having re-read ‘Saving Francesca’ a couple of times, I know I won’t have trouble re-reading Jellicoe Road as Marchetta writes beautiful prose. This book definitely made my Top 5 favourite books of all time.

3. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

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Blurb provided by GoodreadsLou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.

What Lou doesn’t know is she’s about to lose her job or that knowing what’s coming is what keeps her sane.

Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he’s going to put a stop to that.

What Will doesn’t know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they’re going to change the other for all time.

MINI REVIEW

I’m going to try and write this mini-review/gushy commentary without crying. This was the last book I finished and I swear to God, I spent so many hours upon finishing it, just thinking about everything that had happened. I was a Jojo Moyes virgin, and now I am not. And my God, reading her book was a magical experience. This was my first chick-lit in a while and I’ve only ever been exposed to Sophie Kinsella and the odd Cecelia Ahern. I didn’t realise how much I missed reading from a perspective of an adult since starting this book.

It’s about a 26 year old girl, Lou Clark, who is pretty much going nowhere. Sounds harsh, no? But she’s pretty content with what she has–the semi-detached seven year relationship with her boyfriend Patrick and her job in a cafe. Until said cafe closes down and Lou is out of a job and in a scramble to help out with her family. So, she takes a job as a carer to a 35 year old quadriplegic, Will. Will, who is so incredible infuriating, and thoughtful and intriguing. I have to say, Will Traynor is one of the most interesting characters I have ever read in my entire life. In this book we explore the beliefs and attitudes of people, people who were comfortable with what they had until what they had was gone. Will has only been a C5/C6 quadriplegic for two years. Before that, he was a rich attorney living in London, with a gorgeous supermodel-like girlfriend and a love for travelling and extreme sports until they day of his accident… Everything changes, obviously. Not only in his environment but something in himself changes and he can’t seem to shake it off.

I’ll just say that I started this book with the knowledge of what was going to happen in the end, but it didn’t stop me from crying and loving everything Jojo Moyes had done. This book is not a conventional romantic love story, heck, I don’t even think it should be described as one! This book is a story about choices and how we see ourselves and how we have the power to choose what defines us. This book will remain with me for a very, very long time.

 

And so, that was a cluster of mini reviews on the books that I’ve enjoyed the most this summer! I’m not sure if this will be a seasonal thing, seeing as it’s summer all year round where I live but, hey! Who knows right? School has just started and I’m trying to get back into the swing of things–studying, reading, reviewing and more 😉

BOOK REVIEW: Divergent (#1) by Veronica Roth

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Star Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Short Reaction: Um, WHAT WAS I WAITING FOR??
Published on/by: February 2nd 2012 by HarperCollins Children’s Books (first published January 1st 2011)
Format: Paperback
Page Count: 489 pages
Synopsis provided by Goodreads: In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue–Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is–she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are–and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, Tris also learns that her secret might help her save the ones she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

STORY TIME ON THE EVENTS LEADING UP TO ME READING THIS:

Yes, why the HECK am I reviewing this book? Everyone and their grandmother have had the pleasure of diving into this roller coaster of a book…so why am I so late to the party?

Yeah, let me explain…

I bought Divergent (the UK cover was only available to South East Asia at the time) in 2012 because even back then, it was all the book blogosphere could talk about. Flash forward to two years later where it still sat on my shelf, bound by its plastic wrapping. Yes. I deserve to go to book prison. There should be a book prison. Heinous crimes like these do not deserve to go unpunished.

Now, what actually pushed me to finally read Divergent? Firstly, it was my best friend. She, like me, had put off this trilogy for as long as she could remember. However, she had a school holiday (we go to different schools) and she decided to finally marathon the series. She slept at 6 am for three nights finishing this series. Secondly, it was the movie. My best friend still had ‘Allegiant’ to go and she was not excited for the movie adaptation at all. Please see why here: Vampire Academy movie. By the end of the movie, I was sold. My BFF, however, was not. (She’s hard to please). Sure, it was a little ‘lol, yeah right’ in soooo many parts, but I found that if you just shut up and nod and take what they give you, you will have no choice but to enjoy the story as it is: a huge roller-coaster (ferris wheel, wink wink) of fun!

Now, let’s ignore the part where I took another four months to pick up ‘Divergent’. I just wasn’t in the mood to commit, okay?!

AND FINALLY, MY NON-SPOILERY BOOK REVIEW:

This book was GREAT. It was just so, so much fun. I loved the world, I loved the characters, but most of all, I loved that I was able (eventually) to separate the actors of the movie with the book. Soon, I was able to form a hotter and younger Four (very important) in my head and also, take things into perspective a little bit. Upon tackling this book (and movie), I had to remind myself of what a fellow reviewer said on Goodreads, which is that the Divergent world is ultimately a game compromising of rules that seemed to be made up by 11 year olds. If you start to question them, things will get loud. But if you just play the game as it is, you will be rewarded. And the reward? Just a plain ol’ fun bucket of fun! Cos that’s what Divergent really is! A huge big sack of action and fun.

I instantly liked Book Tris better than Movie Tris, and well…I also instantly developed the fangirliest crush on Book Four. Granted, I knew the events that would unfold, but the story told in this medium, for me, was ultimately better. I understood interactions clearly this time round (even though I watched the movie twice– the second time put me to sleep, I DON’T KNOW WHY, DON’T ASK ME TO EXPLAIN!) as well as developed a better feel and appreciation for the romance.

Even though the faction system was silly, in my opinion, this whole process of transferring and adapting in new communities and environments was really fascinating to read about. I especially loved Tris’s newfound friends like Christina, Will and Uriah and how different they all were in their mindsets. The initiation process was the best part of the book (apart from Four’s godly presence) as it was incredibly fun to read about. The pacing was on par and the atmosphere created put me on the edge of my seat.

Now, to explain why I did NOT give this a full five stars. You would think it’s because I read this after watching the movie, thus eliminating the factor of surprise, but that is definitely not the case as I was able to read ‘The Help’ by Kathryn Stockett after watching the movie (oh, about 8 times) with fervour, giving it a well-deserved 5 stars. The reason for a 0.5 deduction is because even though I’m trying hard not to make noise over the silliness of the faction world, it’s still a little weak, if I were to nit-pick critically. This whole ‘Divergent’ aspect was interesting, but again, I was super confused (even after watching the movie twice). I had way too many questions when I reached the end of the book that I believe should have been addressed in the first book of a trilogy.

All in all, I have little complaints because this world gave me the beauty that is Four. That is all.

BOOK REVIEW: On the Fence by Kasie West

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On The Fence Book Cover

Star Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Short Reaction: THIS IS TOO CUTE!
Published on/by: 1st July 2014 by HarperTeen
Format: eBook
Page Count: 304 pages
Synopsis provided by Goodreads: For sixteen-year-old Charlotte Reynolds, aka Charlie, being raised by a single dad and three older brothers has its perks. She can out-run, out-score, and outwit every boy she knows–including her long-time neighbor, and honorary fourth brother, Braden.

But when it comes to being a girl, Charlie doesn’t know the first thing about anything. So when she starts working at a chi-chi boutique to pay off a speeding ticket, she finds herself in a strange new world of makeup, lacy skirts, and bedazzlers. Even stranger, she’s spending time with a boy who has never seen her tear it up in a pick-up game.

To cope with the stress of faking her way through this new reality, Charlie seeks late night refuge in her backyard, talking out her problems with Braden by the fence that separates them. But their Fence Chats can’t solve Charlie’s biggest problem: she’s falling for Braden. Hard. She knows what it means to go for the win, but if spilling her secret means losing him for good, the stakes just got too high.

 

NON-SPOILERY REVIEW:

Having loved Kasie West’s previous contemporary book, “The Distance Between Us”, I expected nothing but an aww-inducing romance and a sweet and likeable protagonist. And boy, did I get it! Starting this book, I was a little wary because I couldn’t exactly relate to Charlie as I’m pretty much the complete opposite of her. Where she goes on 5 mile runs everyday, I prefer to IMAGINE myself exercising while eating potato chips, watching re-runs of Project Runway.

Charlie is a fire-cracker. She is so much fun to read about, mostly because she is the opposite of me. It was so fun to be in her head, and yes she can be slightly insensitive and hard-headed but she’s a character that grows and develops and learns more about herself. Having been raised without a mother, Charlie has many doubts and insecurities about appearances and the way she interacts with people, which made me appreciate where Charlie was coming from. I especially loved Charlie’s relationship with her family–a house of four boys! It was so fun to read about, especially since all off them had distinct personalities. The romance was especially sweet, and even though there was a love triangle–a half-hearted one at that, it was a really sweet tale of first love and being comfortable with who you are and what you want.

Now, although I did really enjoy this book for the most part, I couldn’t give it 5 stars, mostly because I thought some of the characters were stereotypical and there were more tropes than I would’ve liked. Although I really appreciated the steady unravelling of what really happened with her mother throughout the novel, which provided a much needed deeper backstory, this story was not so memorable for me. However, it is definitely the perfect kind of book for a day to the beach or just a perfect Summer cutesy love story in general!

BOOK REVIEW: Breathe (#1) by Sarah Crossan

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Star Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
Short Reaction: Eh, indifferent about this…
Published on/by: 11th Octobe2012 by Bloomsbury Publishing (First published 2nd October 2012)
Format: Paperback
Page Count: 371 pages
Blurb provided by Goodreads: When oxygen levels plunge in a treeless world, a state lottery decides which lucky few will live inside the Pod. Everyone else will slowly suffocate. Years after the Switch, life inside the Pod has moved on. A poor Auxiliary class cannot afford the oxygen tax which supplies extra air for running, dancing and sports. The rich Premiums, by contrast, are healthy and strong. Anyone who opposes the regime is labelled a terrorist and ejected from the Pod to die. Sixteen-year-old Alina is part of the secret resistance, but when a mission goes wrong she is forced to escape from the Pod. With only two days of oxygen in her tank, she too faces the terrifying prospect of death by suffocation. Her only hope is to find the mythical Grove, a small enclave of trees protected by a hardcore band of rebels. Does it even exist, and if so, what or who are they protecting the trees from? A dystopian thriller about courage and freedom, with a love story at its heart.

NON-SPOILERY REVIEW:

Wow, aren’t I late on publishing this one! Having finished this in June and being swamped with term papers and exam revision, I had put off reviewing this book until after I was free. And good news! I’m FREE NOW! Wahoo! Enough excuses…let’s talk Breathe. 😉

So, I met up with one of my closest friends who lives in a neighbouring country and duh, we went book shopping. She bought the fifth book of the Vampire Academy series (Spirit Bound–which is my favourite VA instalment) and she recommended a book she enjoyed…Breathe. With deep breaths, I purchased this beautiful book (I mean, look at the cover!) and prayed to God that this would be the sci-fi book that would change my life.

If I wasn’t clear, I typically do not read/enjoy sci-fi. I don’t know why, but the past sci-fi books I’ve read (apart from the Glow trilogy of which I’ve read the first book and half of the second!) have been quite a let down for me! I don’t know if it’s because I really don’t like science (c’mon!) or if it’s just that the books I’ve picked have been less than exciting but the sci-fi genre and I have never gelled well together. Well, except for the odd book here and there.

So going into this book, I was wary. But I realised I didn’t have to be. The pacing is great and I was so grateful for that. More often than not, I DNF sci-fi books as they tend to lag in pace and usually, I don’t mind pacing of a snail but in a genre that I’m already having trouble with reading? Yeah. I was enthralled.

I immediately loved the character Alina, the passionate and beautiful rebel who was unmistakably tough and imperfect. I really enjoyed the premise of the book as well– Earth with no oxygen? Well, minimal oxygen? This concept was intriguing, and to a science failure like me, seemed plausible. Now, I’m not saying that the logistics of this premise is questionable…I’m just saying that even if it was slightly iffy, I’d still eat it all up. This book had a love triangle, which you know I like if there is a clear winner (so that my heart won’t suffer that badly) and this book DID have a clear winner. However, I found myself not really interested in it, mainly because I thought it was very half-hearted and almost unnecessary. Not to be a spoiler (THE FOLLOWING CLAUSE MIGHT BE SPOILERY–I LIED!), but I was glad with the pairing in the end because they were characters I cared less about.

I liked this book as a whole, don’t get me wrong. It has good qualities that I need in a book but I still felt very indifferent towards it. It wasn’t riveting, addictive and I had to force myself to finish it because I just felt really meh about the plot. It seemed generic–political mumbo jumbo/rebel groups and while I didn’t mind this trope, I found aspects of it laughable. The leader of the rebels, Petra (love the name btw), was incredibly one dimensional and unrealistic. I found myself thinking…this is the so-called leader of a large rebel group?! What?! The Pod Minister…the so-called villain, was also laughable. I found myself incredibly annoyed with his repeated “Ha!” responses. I’m not kidding. This annoyed me to the extreme, and again…completely one dimensional. There was no depth to the secondary characters and while there were some complexity in the three main characters, I felt that it wasn’t enough.

Overall, I’m still interested in reading the next and final instalment, “Resist” because I do want to know what happens next and also…I’m slightly intrigued with a new character being introduced…cough, Ronan, cough! I just hope that I become more invested in the story…

And my adventure into the sci-fi genre continues!

BOOK REVIEW: Love Letters To The Dead by Ava Dellaira

Love Letters to the Dead Cover

Star Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Short Reaction: Yikes, mixed feelings.
Published on/by: April 1st 2014 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Format: eBook
Page Count: 336 pages
Blurb provided by Goodreads: It begins as an assignment for English class: Write a letter to a dead person. Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain because her sister, May, loved him. And he died young, just like May did. Soon, Laurel has a notebook full of letters to people like Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse, Amelia Earhart, Heath Ledger, and more; though she never gives a single one of them to her teacher. She writes about starting high school, navigating new friendships, falling in love for the first time, learning to live with her splintering family. And, finally, about the abuse she suffered while May was supposed to be looking out for her. Only then, once Laurel has written down the truth about what happened to herself, can she truly begin to accept what happened to May. And only when Laurel has begun to see her sister as the person she was; lovely and amazing and deeply flawed; can she begin to discover her own path.

 

NON-SPOILERY REVIEW:

I read this book alongside a book-lover friend, Emily (you can follow her on Instagram! http://instagram.com/book.addiction) from June 2nd to June 5th as part of a (hopefully) monthly read-along! To be honest, I didn’t go into this book with high expectations, especially seeing less than stellar reviews from my Goodreads friends. I was prepared for it though, and set my expectations really low…so you can expect my surprise to find that I kind of liked this book. Kind of. I say ‘kind of’, because I realised that I found more things to dislike in this book even though the book wasn’t bad! For starters, the pacing was very easy to get into and it’s a book that you can finish in one sitting. Another thing I liked about this book was the ‘mystery’. We are told that her sister, May, died but we are not informed of the circumstance and was pleased by how it unfolded. The last thing I liked about this book was the cover. Yup, that about sums it up.

The biggest problem I had with this book was how passive and devastatingly annoying the main character, Laurel, was. I was okay with her for the first few letters…but soon I wanted to reach into the book and clock her a few times. She had no personality whatsoever–well, if you count pretending to be someone she’s not…then, that’s Laurel for you. After all the things she learned about her sister, she still wanted to be her, wearing her clothes and her make up and listening to the same music her sister loved. She had no identity whatsoever, and she pretty much ate up every single little thing her sister fed her. She was annoyingly naive and I had hoped for an amazing character development, seeing as the character begged for it, but I was let down. Another character I truly disliked was May herself. She is the very definition of a manic pixie dream girl and in my honest opinion, why Laurel thought she was such a great sister is beyond me. Other than that, I also had a problem with the tone of the book. I mean, who was I kidding? Dear Kurt Cobain was the first line in the book.

Liking the main character, or empathising with her at the very least is incredibly important to me in order to enjoy a book. And although I pretty much disliked the two main characters of this book, I enjoyed the book as a whole. The story was eventful and interesting, there was no lull in the pacing and the supporting characters like Hannah and Natalie were very intriguing. Laurel failed as a protagonist, for me, which pretty much plummeted the ratings.

 

SPOILERY DISCUSSION:

This is just going to be word vomit from here on out. May was a crappy sister, end of discussion. She repeatedly used Laurel to go see her senior citizen of a boyfriend and she left her thirteen year old sister with his FRIEND whom she barely knew? Are you freaking kidding me? May was selfish and unhinged, clearly. I get that she was hurting over her parent’s divorce but she needed to get a grip. Do not bring your little sister along to your little rendezvous and leave her with a twenty something year old guy to take care of her. Because more often than not, they’re creeps. Creeps who molest your younger sister and steal her innocence. She was so caught up in her hurt that she didn’t really care about Laurel, not really, because if she did she wouldn’t have freaking brought Laurel over. Incredibly selfish, if you ask me.

However, Laurel also infuriated me. She said nothing. This is what I meant by Laurel being incredibly passive. She was entirely clueless and all she thought about was how much she loved May and how much she didn’t want to let go of May and how much she wanted to be in May’s world, that she didn’t even protest or didn’t even tell May about what was happening. She just went with it. And when she decided to tell May? May was shocked for like three seconds before Laurel changed the subject and May decided to pretend to be a fairy again. And to make things worse, history repeats herself when Laurel gets molested again by Blake’s roommate. She didn’t protest, again. It wasn’t clear at all what brought her to be silent and passive in this moment, which infuriated me. Did she feel like she deserved it or something? When I reached the end of the book and learned of the circumstance of May’s death, I saw the parallels. I think that was what Dellaira intended, right? But still, that particular scene was kind of glazed over.

And then another time at the party where guys gave her a pill and told her it was a caffeine pill. Laurel’s stupidity is inexplainable (but of course, not as horrendous as the boy’s actions). I have no words, seriously. NO. WORDS. She took the pill. And then someone else sexually assaulted her again. The part where her boyfriend, Sky, broke up with her? My favourite part of the book. It could’ve been a good pushing point for her to re-evaluate what she was doing with her life because Sky really hit the nail on Laurel’s crazy obsession with trying to be her sister, but she continued down this wannabe manic pixie dream girl path.

I wish I liked this book more, I really do. Sigh.