Thursday, December 31, 2015

Review:The Last Ever After (The School for Good and Evil #3) by Soman Chainani


SUMMARY FROM GOODREADS:
In the epic conclusion to Soman Chainani’s New York Times bestselling series, The School for Good and Evil, everything old is new again as Sophie and Agatha fight the past as well as the present to find the perfect end to their story.
As A World Without Princes closed, the end was written and former best friends Sophie and Agatha went their separate ways. Agatha was whisked back to Gavaldon with Tedros and Sophie stayed behind with the beautiful young School Master.
But as they settle into their new lives, their story begs to be re-written, and this time, theirs isn’t the only one. With the girls apart, Evil has taken over and the villains of the past have come back to change their tales and turn the world of Good and Evil upside down.
Readers around the world are eagerly awaiting the third book in The School for Good and Evil series, The Last Ever After. This extraordinary conclusion delivers more action, adventure, laughter, romance and fairy tale twists and turns than you could ever dream of!

MY TAKE:
It's kinda funny because even though the main characters irritated me throughout the book, I still enjoyed the story.

In The Last Ever After, Agatha and Tedros realize that for their Ever After to come true, they need Sophie with them. However, when they return to the world they left behind, they learn that their choices had dire consequences and all this is leading to a final showdown that cannot end well for everyone.

This was a really good ending to the trilogy. The plot twists, some predictable and others unexpected, brought a satisfying end to Agatha and Sophie's story. I actually thought that maybe there would be a do-over of some sort and the ending would be as if nothing had ever happened. As dark as the story was, I think the actual ending was better. It would have been a disservice to all the wonderful characters if there had been a corny, magical solution to the story.

I loved the secondary characters in this trilogy. Well, the young ones and Merlin, at least. I wish I could say the same about Agatha, Sophia and Tedros. I understand that their flaws are there to show their complexity and character development, but because of it, I spent almost the entire book irritated at one or all of them. Tedros was immature and pompous at the start, but thankfully he stepped up. Agatha annoyed me at times. She showed that she actually was smart, like when she faced the barrier, but then she'd revert to being whiny, naive and insecure, and it just rubbed me the wrong way. Sophie, however, was the worst for me throughout most of the book. She was just horrible. That part wherein she tried to steal Tedros again? It angered me. I have no patience for people who try to ruin other people's relationships and/or try to steal one of them for him/herself. I was convinced that nothing Sophie did after that would redeem her in my eyes, but amazingly enough, I actually liked her in the end.

THE GOOD:

  1. There are brilliant plot twists.
  2. There are likable secondary characters.
  3. It's the perfect ending to the series.

THE BAD:

  1. The main characters can be irritating sometimes.

READ IT IF:

  1. You liked the other books in the series.
  2. You like complex characters.
  3. You like villains that are able to redeem themselves.

RATING:
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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Review: Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult


SUMMARY FROM GOODREADS:
Jodi Picoult, bestselling author of My Sister's Keeper and The Tenth Circle, pens her most riveting book yet, with a startling and poignant story about the devastating aftermath of a small-town tragedy.
Sterling is an ordinary New Hampshire town where nothing ever happens--until the day its complacency is shattered by an act of violence. Josie Cormier, the daughter of the judge sitting on the case, should be the state's best witness, but she can't remember what happened before her very own eyes--or can she? As the trial progresses, fault lines between the high school and the adult community begin to show--destroying the closest of friendships and families.
Nineteen Minutes asks what it means to be different in our society, who has the right to judge someone else, and whether anyone is ever really who they seem to be.

MY TAKE:
I wasn't sure at first what to rate this book.

In Nineteen Minutes, the people of Sterling, New Hampshire must pick up the pieces after a school shooting. The biggest question on their minds is why, but not everyone is going to like the answer.

Coming from a country where very few people own guns, and there has never been, to my knowledge, a school shooting spree, this was a fascinating read to me. Given my background, I am obviously anti-gun. However, I was able to appreciate that at least Peter's father taught him how to respect guns.

Peter was bullied almost his entire life, which is the biggest reason for doing what he did. I appreciated how different sides of the characters were shown. For example, the bullies were truly despicable people, but they did occasionally have their kind moments. Also, it's hard not to tear up when their parents speak on their behalf.

I thought Peter was definitely mentally ill in some way. Yes, I felt bad when he was being bullied. However, what he did was terrible and his reaction to it seemed so disturbing to me. Jordan, Peter's lawyer, was a good lawyer, but in that slimy, sneaky way that made him unsympathetic to me.

Josie, the other main character, was one of the reasons I had a hard time rating this book. It was so painful to watch a girl who was so intent on being popular and liked that she didn't know who she was outside of that.

The ending was a complete surprise to me, though, so that and the way the characters were written is why I ultimately decided to give this book four stars.

THE GOOD:

  1. It's a thought-provoking book.
  2. It does a good job tackling a sensitive issue, although I still wouldn't recommend it to people who have been in shootings.
  3. The characters feel realistic. 

THE BAD:

  1. Some people may not appreciate how the whole thing played out. 

FAVORITE QUOTE/S:
“A mathematical formula for happiness:Reality divided by Expectations.There were two ways to be happy:improve your reality or lower your expectations.” 
READ IT IF:

  1. You like realistic characters.
  2. You have a child.
  3. You like thought-provoking books. 

RATING:
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Monday, December 28, 2015

Review: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children #1) by Ransom Riggs


SUMMARY FROM GOODREADS:
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.

MY TAKE:
I put off reading this book because I thought it would be terrifying.

In Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, Jacob's grandfather used to tell him stories of his childhood and the scary creatures he fought against. Jacob and his parents didn't really believe him until things happen that suggest that maybe his grandfather was right. Jacob decides to journey to a place that meant a lot to his grandfather in the hopes that he might find something there that can shed light on his grandfather's stories.

While the pictures were as creepy as I thought they would be, the story itself wasn't as scary as I anticipated. I was expecting ghosts or something, but the truth behind Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is more cool than frightening.

The kids that Jacob meets are actually quite interesting, and while there are some that are a little nuts, for the most part, they're actually more human than you'd expect.

The enemies in the story are definitely dangerous, but again, I wasn't really scared. Mostly, when I read the description, I kept imagining the villain from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.

I really liked the premise of the book. The use of existing creepy photographs made me think of writing prompts, which I thought was nice and I kinda wish I'd thought of it. As for the existence of the Home for Peculiar Children and how it all works, the basic concepts and basis of the whole story was pretty solid. It just got a little odd and sort of forced when the villain was explaining their motives.

THE GOOD:

  1. The pictures are creepy.
  2. The mystery behind the Home for Peculiar Children is a good one.
  3. The children and their powers are cool, in a freak show kind of way. 

THE BAD:

  1. Things got a little complicated at one point. 

FAVORITE QUOTE/S:
I didn’t know what to call it, what was happening between us, but I liked it. It felt silly and fragile and good. 
READ IT IF:

  1. You find old photos fascinating.
  2. You like stories that are a little creepy, but not too creepy.
  3. You like time travel stories. 

RATING:
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Saturday, December 26, 2015

Review: The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen


SUMMARY FROM GOODREADS:
Luke is the perfect boyfriend: handsome, kind, fun. He and Emaline have been together all through high school in Colby, the beach town where they both grew up. But now, in the summer before college, Emaline wonders if perfect is good enough.
Enter Theo, a super-ambitious outsider, a New Yorker assisting on a documentary film about a reclusive local artist. Theo's sophisticated, exciting, and, best of all, he thinks Emaline is much too smart for Colby.
Emaline's mostly-absentee father, too, thinks Emaline should have a bigger life, and he's convinced that an Ivy League education is the only route to realizing her potential. Emaline is attracted to the bright future that Theo and her father promise. But she also clings to the deep roots of her loving mother, stepfather, and sisters. Can she ignore the pull of the happily familiar world of Colby?
Emaline wants the moon and more, but how can she balance where she comes from with where she's going?
Sarah Dessen's devoted fans will welcome this story of romance, yearning, and, finally, empowerment. It could only happen in the summer.

MY TAKE:
I've been meaning to read this book for a while now, but didn't get around to it until recently.

In The Moon and More, it's Emaline's last summer at Colby before college starts. At first, her plans were already set, with her and her boyfriend Luke both going to East U. However, the summer's only starting and it still hold a lot of possibilities.

I'd rate this book as somewhere in the middle of the Sarah Dessen books pack. It doesn't have the magic and raw emotions of Just Listen and The Truth About Forever, but it certainly entertained me more than Dreamland and That Summer. The Moon and More does have the usual mix of interesting secondary characters, more than half of which I'd like to know personally. It also has some very poignant observations by the lead character, which is something I've really come to like about Sarah Dessen's books.

During the first half or 3/4th of this book, my thoughts about the love triangle were more along the lines of "What is this?!" and "Emaline should really consider staying single." Luke came across as sweet but vain and proud. Theo, on the other hand, was geeky, enthusiastic to the point of being annoying, and pretentious. I was all set to give this book three stars if it weren't for the ending which I found satisfying, in its own way, and Emaline's relationship with her half-brother.

As for Emaline, she is in the bottom half of my Sarah Dessen girls list. She's more memorable to me than some of the other girls, but not as memorable as Annabel and Macy. She was kind of immature at times, and she has a tendency not to say what's really on her mind. I did like her bond with her half-brother, though. It's sweet and nice, and it added more depth to the story.

THE GOOD:

  1. It ends on a hopeful note.
  2. It shows what it's like from a local's point-of-view when out-of-towners come into their place.
  3. The romances might not turn out like you expected. 

THE BAD:

  1.  This isn't as amazing as Sarah Dessen's books Just Listen and The Truth About Forever.

FAVORITE QUOTE/S:
The truth was, there was no way everything could be the Best. Sometimes, when it came to events and people, it had to be okay to just be. 
READ IT IF:

  1. You live in a small town.
  2. You have big dreams.
  3. You hate feeling like people are trying to control you and that they know better than you. 

RATING:
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Friday, December 25, 2015

Review: Strangers on a Train (Nancy Drew Diaries #2) by Carolyn Keene


SUMMARY FROM GOODREADS:
Nancy and her friends take their detective skills on an Alaskan adventure in this second book of the Nancy Drew Diaries, a fresh approach to a classic series.Nancy’s Alaskan adventure continues as she, Bess, and George disembark the mystery-plagued Arctic Star cruise ship and explore the grand sites of the forty-ninth state: Skagway; the Yukon territory, and Denali National Park. It’s spectacular scenery, but things start to go wrong almost immediately, leading Nancy to believe that whoever was behind the unsolved mayhem aboard the ship has followed them onto dry land. The girl detectives had better watch their steps—they’re on uncharted and unknown territory!
MY TAKE:
While I didn't love this book as much as other Nancy Drew books I've read, it was still fun to read.

In Strangers on a Train, Nancy is still on a cruise thanks to her mystery from the previous book. The mystery has been solved but there are still some loose ends that Nancy hasn't answered yet. Are they something she should be worried about?

I was curious to see how the leftover mysteries from the first book would be explained. I thought it would be just one explanation, but as it turns out, there's more than one. The one that was more related to Nancy's purpose on the ship was realistic, but strangely, it felt like it came out of left field for me.

As for the other mystery, I had a small suspicion about it in the last book and that suspicion only grew stronger as I read this one. Obviously, I wasn't surprised when I was proven correct, although since I didn't bother to think too much about the motive, I was surprised by that.

Overall, it was an okay read. I think this is best suited to young readers who are new to Nancy Drew or are just getting interested in mysteries.

THE GOOD:

  1. It feels like you're right there with them.
  2. There are a few interesting characters.
  3. It's a fun, quick read.

THE BAD:

  1. It's not as interesting as other Nancy Drew books I've read.  

READ IT IF:

  1. You are a Nancy Drew fan.
  2. You want to introduce your child to Nancy Drew.
  3. Your child likes mystery books. 

RATING:
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Thursday, December 24, 2015

Review: A World Without Princes (The School for Good and Evil #2) by Soman Chainani


SUMMARY FROM GOODREADS:
In the epic sequel to the New York Times bestselling novel, The School for Good and Evil, Sophie and Agatha are home, living out their Ever After. But life isn’t quite the fairy tale they expected.
When Agatha secretly wishes she’d chosen a different happy ending, she reopens the gates to the School for Good and Evil. But the world she and Sophie once knew has changed.
Witches and princesses, warlocks and princes are no longer enemies. New bonds are forming; old bonds are being shattered. But underneath this uneasy arrangement, a war is brewing and a dangerous enemy rises. As Agatha and Sophie battle to restore peace, an unexpected threat could destroy everything, and everyone, they love—and this time, it comes from within.
Soman Chainani has created a spectacular world that Newbery Medal-winning author Ann M. Martin calls, “a fairy tale like no other, complete with romance, magic, and humor that will keep you turning pages until the end.”

MY TAKE:
While I didn't enjoy this as much as the first book, it wasn't bad at all.

In A World Without Princes, Agatha wishes to be with Tedros and suddenly she and Sophie are sucked back into the world they thought they had left behind. However, the world is significantly different than when they left it, and finding their new happy ending may be harder than they thought.

Unlike with the first book, there were no significant surprises for me here. There were new mysteries that cropped up, and not all of their answers were revealed, but I already have some predictions for what the answers are. I'm just not sure how they'll fit into the last book in the trilogy.

The whole boys-vs-girls theme was unexpected for me, but I actually liked it. The whole vibe at the girls' school reminded me a little bit of an all-girls' school I attended. The courses and the books seemed like fun, but I wasn't a fan of the manhating going on. It seemed a little extreme to me at times.

Sadly, I had a love-hate relationship with both Agatha and Sophie in this book. Agatha would do something nice, and then she'd show her naivete to the point of ignorance. With Sophie, she'd do something nice and then she'd do something selfish and despicable. Strangely, though, I still want to learn how their story ends.

THE GOOD:

  1. There are new mysteries to solve.
  2. The secondary characters are interesting.
  3. The love triangle isn't your usual one. 

THE BAD:

  1. Sophie and Agatha can be exasperating sometimes. 

READ IT IF:

  1. You loved the first book.
  2. You think princesses shouldn't have to wait for princes to rescue them.
  3. You've been torn between a boy and your best friend.

RATING:
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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Review: This Raging Light by Estelle Laure


SUMMARY FROM NETGALLEY.COM:
"A funny, poetic, big-hearted reminder that life can—and will—take us all by surprise.”—Jennifer E. Smith, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight 
Can the best thing happen at the worst time? Her dad went crazy. Her mom left town. She has bills to pay and a little sister to look after. Now is not the time for level-headed seventeen-year-old Lucille to fall in love. But love—messy, inconvenient love—is what she's about to experience when she falls for Digby Jones, her best friend's brother. With blazing longing that builds to a fever pitch, Estelle Laure's soulful debut will keep readers hooked and hoping until the very last page.
MY TAKE:
I read an excerpt of this book on  Buzz Books and I thought it might be interesting.

In This Raging Light, Lucille is left to take care of her sister Wren after their father had a breakdown and their mother bails on them. In the midst of trying to cope with suddenly being the sole provider, she finds herself getting closer and closer with her best friend's brother.

The story of Lucille and Wren was both sad and beautiful to me. Siblings raising siblings isn't something new, but you don't see a lot of YA books that deal with this kind of thing. This book was able to paint a picture that, while heartbreaking, was also hopeful. Both sisters are doing what they can to make things work, and Lucille picked up the slack without crying about how unfair it was for her to be taking on this role. Her parents are self-centered and immature, and I thought it would be left at that, but at least their dad did try to redeem himself somewhat. I was more pleased with the people who helped the girls along the way. Everyone needs people who will look out for them, and Lucille and Wren had them in abundance.

I liked most of the characters here, except for Lucille and Wren's mom and Digby, surprisingly, but only during the second half of the book. Lucille and Wren's mom was just selfish. There is no excuse for leaving your kids like that without making arrangements for their care. Making your eldest child take on that kind of responsibility (getting a job, running the household, taking care of her sister, etc.) because you need to do I don't even know what anymore, and not even bothering to call and make sure everything was okay or trying to get someone to look in on them? Wow.

As for the romance, well, sometimes, the whole guy-has-a-girlfriend-but-leaves-her-for-the-MC thing works for me, and sometimes it doesn't. This is one of those times that it didn't. I think it was because Digby couldn't seem to decide what he wanted, so he cheated, which is a big NO-NO in my book. Also, Lucille. Now, outside of the romance stuff, I liked Lucille. However, I didn't like her attitude to the whole thing with Digby. She knew he had a girlfriend, and yet, except for one scene, I didn't get the sense that she felt bad that she was stealing away this guy. To her, whatever was going on was between her and Digby. There was also that scene between Elaine and Lucille that left me a bit cold. There's something Filipinos tend to say when we read/hear about stories similar to this scene. "Kung sino pa yung kabit, siya pa yung matapang." Roughly translated, it means, "Funny how the mistress is the one who acts fiercer or like she's the one who's in the right." This scene kinda made me wish that the whole romance between Digby and Lucille hadn't gone beyond flirtation until after Digby decides to break up with Elaine.

Thanks to NetGalley and HMH Books for Young Readers for the e-ARC,

THE GOOD:

  1. Lucille and Wren have a realistic relationship.
  2. Lucille and Wren's situation is something that happens in real life but doesn't get a lot of representation in YA.
  3. The secondary characters are interesting characters in their own right.

THE BAD:

  1.  That scene between Elaine and Lucille left me feeling angry at Lucille.

READ IT IF:

  1. You like YA books that deal with heavier issues.
  2. You like strong characters.
  3. You like stories that feel realistic. 

RATING:
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Monday, December 21, 2015

Review: The School for Good and Evil (The School for Good and Evil #1) by Soman Chainani


SUMMARY FROM GOODREADS:
The first kidnappings happened two hundred years before. Some years it was two boys taken, some years two girls, sometimes one of each. But if at first the choices seemed random, soon the pattern became clear. One was always beautiful and good, the child every parent wanted as their own. The other was homely and odd, an outcast from birth. An opposing pair, plucked from youth and spirited away.
This year, best friends Sophie and Agatha are about to discover where all the lost children go: the fabled School for Good & Evil, where ordinary boys and girls are trained to be fairy tale heroes and villains. As the most beautiful girl in Gavaldon, Sophie has dreamed of being kidnapped into an enchanted world her whole life. With her pink dresses, glass slippers, and devotion to good deeds, she knows she’ll earn top marks at the School for Good and graduate a storybook princess. Meanwhile Agatha, with her shapeless black frocks, wicked pet cat, and dislike of nearly everyone, seems a natural fit for the School for Evil.
But when the two girls are swept into the Endless Woods, they find their fortunes reversed—Sophie’s dumped in the School for Evil to take Uglification, Death Curses, and Henchmen Training, while Agatha finds herself in the School For Good, thrust amongst handsome princes and fair maidens for classes in Princess Etiquette and Animal Communication.. But what if the mistake is actually the first clue to discovering who Sophie and Agatha really are…?
The School for Good & Evil is an epic journey into a dazzling new world, where the only way out of a fairy tale is to live through one.

MY TAKE:
It's always wonderful to find a book that has both a beautiful cover art and an awesome story.

In The School for Good and Evil, Sophie dreams of being one of the chosen children from her village so that she can live an extraordinary life as a fairy tale princess. She gets part of her wish granted when she and her friend Agatha are taken to The School for Good and Evil. However, she is classified as Evil, while the not-so-pretty Agatha is classified as Good. The two set out to prove that they have been placed in the wrong schools, but what happens if they're incorrect?

The start of this book had a fairy tale-ish quality about it, which is fitting, given the plot. The school made me think of Hogwarts, in a way, and the teachers' and students' antics during class made me laugh. I thought this was going to be another nice but rather predictable book. While there were a couple or so major plot points that I managed to predict accurately, I didn't expect Sophie's brilliant plan at the end at all. It was truly evil and I was so impressed by it.

As for the characters, Sophie comes across as self-centered, selfish, and vain. I didn't hate her, exactly, but I certainly wasn't a fan either. I did start liking her a bit more, though, as she started to embrace who she was. I liked Agatha more than Sophie, for sure, although I wasn't too impressed with some of the more princess-y things she started doing when she embraced being Good.

Overall, this was an amazing story. I'm excited to learn what happens next in the series.

THE GOOD:

  1. There are brilliant plot twists.
  2. The world-building is excellent.
  3. The characters are mostly likable. 

THE BAD:

  1. The princesses seem weak and too dependent on the princes. 

READ IT IF:

  1. You want something that has a similar feel to Harry Potter.
  2. You tend to love villains.
  3. You've wondered about the nature of good and evil.

RATING:
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Saturday, December 19, 2015

Review: The Isle of the Lost by Melissa de la Cruz


SUMMARY FROM GOODREADS:
Twenty years ago, all the evil villains were banished from the kingdom of Auradon and made to live in virtual imprisonment on the Isle of the Lost. The island is surrounded by a magical force field that keeps the villains and their descendants safely locked up and away from the mainland. Life on the island is dark and dreary. It is a dirty, decrepit place that's been left to rot and forgotten by the world.
But hidden in the mysterious Forbidden Fortress is a dragon's eye: the key to true darkness and the villains' only hope of escape. Only the cleverest, evilest, nastiest little villain can find it...who will it be?
Maleficent, Mistress of the Dark: As the self-proclaimed ruler of the isle, Maleficent has no tolerance for anything less than pure evil. She has little time for her subjects, who have still not mastered life without magic. Her only concern is getting off the Isle of the Lost.
Mal: At sixteen, Maleficent's daughter is the most talented student at Dragon Hall, best known for her evil schemes. And when she hears about the dragon's eye, Mal thinks this could be her chance to prove herself as the cruelest of them all.
Evie: Having been castle-schooled for years, Evil Queen's daughter, Evie, doesn't know the ins and outs of Dragon Hall. But she's a quick study, especially after she falls for one too many of Mal's little tricks.
Jay: As the son of Jafar, Jay is a boy of many talents: stealing and lying to name a few. Jay and Mal have been frenemies forever and he's not about to miss out on the hunt for the dragon's eye.
Carlos: Cruella de Vil's son may not be bravest, but he's certainly clever. Carlos's inventions may be the missing piece in locating the dragon's eye and ending the banishment for good.
Mal soon learns from her mother that the dragon's eye is cursed and whoever retrieves it will be knocked into a deep sleep for a thousand years. But Mal has a plan to capture it. She'll just need a little help from her "friends." In their quest for the dragon's eye, these kids begin to realize that just because you come from an evil family tree, being good ain't so bad.

MY TAKE:
I was pleasantly surprised by this book.

In The Isle of the Lost, the villains, their minions and their offspring were banished to the Isle of the Lost, which is covered by a dome and wherein magic doesn't exist. There, Mal, the daughter of Maleficent rules the school. After a series of events, however, she is presented with the opportunity to retrieve her mother's most precious possession. Together with Jay, Evie and Carlos, can she succeed and make her mother proud?

I was on the fence about this at first, because while there are some villains I like, it was a little disconcerting to see the main characters actually try to be evil and do bad things and enjoy themselves while doing it. I think that's partly why though I liked Jay and Mal based on the movie trailer, I found myself liking Evie and Carlos more here. Thanks to her upbringing, Evie is very well-versed in all things beauty-related, which I couldn't relate to at all. However, I found her endearing and I felt protective towards her. As for Carlos, I loved that he was a nerd. He seems a little weak and beaten down at first, thanks to his mother, but I liked him, especially as the story progressed and he became more confident.

This was actually a nice story for me. I can see why there was a movie made around these characters. I understand that this is supposed to be a prequel to the movie. I certainly hope that this becomes the beginning of a series. If only so that we can see more of the Disney characters and villains that only got brief mentions in the book.

THE GOOD:

  1. The characters are interesting.
  2. You get to see some of your favorite Disney characters and villains again.
  3. It could be a promising series. 

THE BAD:

  1. There's not much action until near the end of the book. 

READ IT IF:

  1. You like Maleficent, the Evil Queen, Cruella de Vil or Jafar.
  2. You wondered what ever happened to your favorite Disney characters.
  3. You tend to like villains more than heroes.  

RATING:
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Friday, December 18, 2015

Review: Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff


SUMMARY FROM GOODREADS:
This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do.
This afternoon, her planet was invaded.
The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.
But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet's AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it's clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she'd never speak to again.
Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

MY TAKE:
I've been waiting for this book since I first read an excerpt from a book on NetGalley.

In Illuminae, Kady, Ezra and a few thousand other people from their planet escaped an attack. However, they are not out of danger yet as they and the fleet that saved them are still being chased down. Also, there's a deadly plague loose in one of the ships, courtesy of the invading corporation's bio attack, which threatens to leave no one alive, one way or another.

I love books that use files, documents, diagrams, etc. to tell the story. It feels a bit like being a spy or getting the story through research. It's tough to write a cohesive story this way. Thankfully, the authors were able to do it successfully.

This particular story was quite fascinating. It's hard to place into just one category, but I'd say this was mostly a war-zombie story, with a little romance, set in space. I love war movies and books but I usually hate zombie books and movies. I'm still not a fan of zombie stuff, but I didn't mind it as much as I thought I would.

I loved the clever and unexpected plot twists here. It made me care about characters that I didn't really like or fear those whom I sort of did like. As for Kady and Ezra, at first, I liked Kady, then I didn't, and then I kinda liked her again. With Ezra, I was on the fence about him, then I liked him, then I realized I didn't really know him as well as I thought I did.

Technically, this book was a 4.75-star for me, so obviously, it becomes a 5-star on my blog's rating system. It's not perfect, but it's definitely worth a read, even if you don't like zombie books that much. I look forward to reading the next book in the series.

THE GOOD:

  1. It's able to tell a compelling story without using traditional prose.
  2. The storytelling methods are creative.
  3. You come to care about the characters. 

THE BAD:

  1. Kady can be annoying sometimes. 

READ IT IF:

  1. You like war movies and books.
  2. You like zombie book and movies.
  3. You like books that use e-mails, files, etc. to add something to the story.

RATING:
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Thursday, December 17, 2015

Review: Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan


SUMMARY FROM GOODREADS:
This is the story of Paul, a sophomore at a high school like no other: The cheerleaders ride Harleys, the homecoming queen used to be a guy named Daryl (she now prefers Infinite Darlene and is also the star quarterback), and the gay-straight alliance was formed to help the straight kids learn how to dance.
When Paul meets Noah, he thinks he’s found the one his heart is made for. Until he blows it. The school bookie says the odds are 12-to-1 against him getting Noah back, but Paul’s not giving up without playing his love really loud. His best friend Joni might be drifting away, his other best friend Tony might be dealing with ultra-religious parents, and his ex-boyfriend Kyle might not be going away anytime soon, but sometimes everything needs to fall apart before it can really fit together right.
This is a happy-meaningful romantic comedy about finding love, losing love, and doing what it takes to get love back in a crazy-wonderful world.

MY TAKE:
This book was just okay for me.

In Boy Meets Boy, Paul meets and falls in love with Noah. However, Paul does something stupid and now he must win him back. Will he succeed?

This book, especially near the end, reminded me of a John Hughes movie. It sounds like a good thing, and it is, for the most part. It's a sweet coming-of-age book with cute grand gestures of love. There are also some interesting characters here, particularly Infinite Darlene. I was actually amazed at how progressive and accepting their town is as a whole when it comes to LGBTs. I wonder if there are towns like this one in real life.

I think the reason why I was meh about the book was because of Paul. He was okay at first, but as the book went on, his self-centeredness irked me. Perhaps it's just because he was young, but I thought it was naive of him to think that it was okay to do what he did with Kyle and that Noah wouldn't get hurt.

THE GOOD:

  1. There are some really good lines here.
  2. Infinite Darlene is cool.
  3. Their town is progressive and accepting. 

THE BAD:

  1. Paul can be self-centered sometimes.

FAVORITE QUOTE/S:
“We pencil-sketch our previous life so we can contrast it to the technicolor of the moment. ” 
READ IT IF:

  1. You like grand gestures.
  2. You like romances about second chances.
  3. You like coming-of-age stories. 

RATING:
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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Review: The One That I Want by Jennifer Echols


SUMMARY FROM GOODREADS:
Matchmaking gets mixed up in this all-original eBook addition to The Romantic Comedies series!
Gemma can't believe her luck when the star football player starts flirting with her. Max is totally swoon-worthy, and even gets her quirky sense of humor. So when he asks out her so-called best friend Addison, Gemma's heartbroken.
Then Addison pressures Gemma to join the date with one of Max's friends. But the more time they all spend together, the harder Gemma falls for Max. She can't help thinking that Max likes her back; it's just too bad he's already dating Addison. How can Gemma get the guy she wants without going after her best friend's boyfriend?

MY TAKE:
This isn't as poignant as, say, the better Sarah Dessen novels, but if you're looking for a light, summer read, this might just be the book for you.

In The One That I Want, Gemma sees Max across the field and thinks he might be into her. However, her friend Addison decides she wants Max for herself and stakes her claim. To complicate matters, Max's friend Carter becomes Gemma's date even though he really likes Addison.

From the blurb, I thought this would be a heart-wrenching story. Normally, I would be against anyone stealing anyone's significant other. However, in this story, that term doesn't really apply. Also, if Gemma had grown a backbone earlier, this would have been a much, much shorter story.

Addison is Gemma's best friend in name only. In reality, she's a self-serving, attention-craving, toxic person. She is Regina George, minus the Mean Girls happy ending. This made it so very easy for me to not want her to be with Max.

As for the other characters, I liked Gemma and Max. Max seemed like a cool guy, and I think had he been real, we would have been friends. Gemma was a fun girl too. She still has low self-esteem, though, which can be tough to watch, especially when Addison was being terrible to her.

I got some Sarah Dessen's Keeping the Moon vibes from this book, mainly because of Gemma's weight loss, her hair color, and her complicated relationship with her mother. Some of Gemma's thoughts also seemed like something Colie would think. However, this isn't a derivative work. This is more of a romance book, with the personal transformation being a secondary focus. If you liked Keeping the Moon, though, you might enjoy this one too.

THE GOOD:

  1. Max seems like a cool guy.
  2. You'll learn a lot about majorettes and football.
  3. It emphasizes how even your close friends can be bullies and you shouldn't keep them around if treat you like that. 

THE BAD:

  1. I don't think it was a particularly memorable book.

READ IT IF:

  1. You are or dream of becoming a majorette.
  2. You have lost a significant amount of weight but still have low self-esteem.
  3. You have a toxic friend. 

RATING:
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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

The thing I realize is, that it's not what you take, it's what you leave.          

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Monday, December 14, 2015

Review: Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen


SUMMARY FROM GOODREADS:
Peyton, Sydney's charismatic older brother, has always been the star of the family, receiving the lion's share of their parents' attention and—lately—concern. When Peyton's increasingly reckless behavior culminates in an accident, a drunk driving conviction, and a jail sentence, Sydney is cast adrift, searching for her place in the family and the world. When everyone else is so worried about Peyton, is she the only one concerned about the victim of the accident?
Enter the Chathams, a warm, chaotic family who run a pizza parlor, play bluegrass on weekends, and pitch in to care for their mother, who has multiple sclerosis. Here Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance. And here she meets Mac, gentle, watchful, and protective, who makes Sydney feel seen, really seen, for the first time.
The uber-popular Sarah Dessen explores her signature themes of family, self-discovery, and change in her twelfth novel, sure to delight her legions of fans.

MY TAKE:
I had absolutely nothing in common with Sydney, but I still enjoyed reading this book.

In Saint Anything, Sydney has always lived in her brother's shadow, until something terrible happens. Fortunately, she eventually finds a refuge with the Chatham family, as well as a few old and new friends. However, things are just about to come to a head. Can Sydney handle it all?

I love Sarah Dessen's books, but I don't think anything will ever top Just Listen for me. That book was beautiful and I read at the perfect time. My second favorite book is The Truth About Forever, which is another classic that probably won't be dislodged from its place on my list either.

That said, this was still a nice read. Sydney had my sympathy from the start, but even more so, once I read more about her mother and that seriously creepy guy. The story itself wasn't as heavy as I thought it would be, but it didn't take the heavy topics it dealt with lightly either.

There are at least two Sarah Dessen-novel signatures present here that I loved and which made me happy. One is the little shout-outs/Easter eggs related to her previous novels. It makes me want to read the old books again just to see if I missed any other Easter egg. Second one are the supporting characters. This is one of the things that Sarah Dessen excels at: creating believable and likable (often quirky) secondary characters. I wouldn't mind being part of their group of friends.

As for Sydney, I genuinely liked her. As with most of Sarah Dessen's heroines, I think she and I could have been friends in real life. Mac was also a nice enough guy, but in terms of Sarah Dessen love interests, he's probably in the middle of the pack for me.

I definitely recommend reading this book, but if you do, you should consider having pizza and french fries on hand. I didn't and until now I am craving for pizza and french fries. Yum.

THE GOOD:

  1. It's easy to sympathize and like Sydney, even if you don't have anything in common with her.
  2. The story is touching.
  3. The secondary characters are awesome. 

THE BAD:

  1. Some may argue that it's a bit formulaic. 

READ IT IF:

  1. You are a Sarah Dessen fan.
  2. You've felt like you were living in a sibling's shadow.
  3. You like relationships that develop gradually. 

RATING:
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Saturday, December 12, 2015

Review: Knocked Out by My Nunga-Nungas (Confessions of Georgia Nicolson #3) by Louise Rennison


SUMMARY FROM GOODREADS:
As I was going out of my bedroom door I remembered my nungas. Perhaps I should take some precautions to keep them under strict control. Maybe bits of Sellotape on the ends of them to keep them from doing anything alarming? I'd like to trust them, but they are very unreliable.
The irrepressible heroine of the Michael L. Printz Honor Book Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging is back, and funnier than ever! Georgia has finally landed Robbie the Sex God, but he's never around, and Georgia's ex, Dave the Laugh, is starting to look quite dreamy. Strangely, so does just about every other guy Georgia meets, even the new French teacher.
In this third installment of Georgia's hilarious confessions, Georgia's "red bottomosity" is out of control! Whatever will happen next?

MY TAKE:
I rarely reread books, but since the last book I read was quite emotionally heavy, I felt like I needed a good laugh.

In  Knocked Out by My Nunga-Nungas, Georgia shares what her life with her crazy family and friends, as well as her relationship with the SG.

It's nice to see that even after all these years, I still find Georgia funny. She's quite frank and a bit self-absorbed, but in an entertaining way.

Her brand of humor can feel a little mean sometimes, but her remarks and observations are still funny for the most part. She's the type of person who will say out loud what everyone else is thinking, although thankfully, most of the time, she just keeps it to herself.

If that's your sort of thing, you should definitely check this series out.

THE GOOD:

  1. Georgia is funny.
  2. She seems like she could easily be your friend.
  3. The other characters are interesting.

THE BAD:

  1. Georgia can be mean sometimes.

READ IT IF:

  1. You are looking for a good laugh.
  2. You have ever liked two guys at the same time.
  3. You like people who tell it like it is. 

RATING:
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Friday, December 11, 2015

Review: Rites of Passage by Joy N. Hensley


SUMMARY FROM GOODREADS:
Sam McKenna’s never turned down a dare. And she's not going to start with the last one her brother gave her before he died.
So Sam joins the first-ever class of girls at the prestigious Denmark Military Academy. She’s expecting push-ups and long runs, rope climbing and mud-crawling. As a military brat, she can handle an obstacle course just as well as the boys. She's even expecting the hostility she gets from some of the cadets who don’t think girls belong there. What she’s not expecting is her fiery attraction to her drill sergeant. But dating is strictly forbidden and Sam won't risk her future, or the dare, on something so petty... no matter how much she wants him.
As Sam struggles to prove herself, she discovers that some of the boys don’t just want her gone—they will stop at nothing to drive her out. When their petty threats turn to brutal hazing, bleeding into every corner of her life, she realizes they are not acting alone. A decades-old secret society is alive and active… and determined to force her out.
At any cost.
Now time's running short. Sam must decide who she can trust... and choosing the wrong person could have deadly consequences.

MY TAKE:
This book was the first book in a very long time which had me feeling strong emotions (mostly anger and sadness) through almost every page.

In Rites of Passage, Sam joins the Denmark Military Academy to complete a dare given to her by her brother. She and a few other girls are to be the first female cadets at the academy, if they succeed. However, there are many people who don't want them to succeed, and will do literally anything to stop them.

Before I started reading, I thought that this would be like Cadet Kelly (the movie starring Hillary Duff and Shawn Ashmore), but less happy and more adult. I wasn't prepared for the violent things that the Society did to Sam, though, and that's where most of my anger comes from.

I don't think there was a book before this one that made me want to swear so much. The disrespect towards women and belittling them even when they've proven they can take it? I wanted to scream and rant.

I didn't think it was possible for me to hate anyone as much as I hated Dolores Umbridge, but Matthews proved me wrong. I was absolutely livid at him. He's so evil that he puts many television and movie villains to shame.

I loved Sam. She was tough and strong, emotionally and physically, but not to the point that she didn't let herself be vulnerable around people who cared and wanted to help. I loved her romance with Drill. At first, I was unsure about it, but as they got closer, I started getting into it. There were several scenes between them that had me grinning like an idiot. I wasn't too happy with the ending, though. It felt unfinished. I certainly hope that there will be a sequel eventually, because I want to see what happens next for everyone.

THE GOOD:

  1. Sam is tough.
  2. It will make you FEEL.
  3. It's an interesting look at life in a military academy. 

THE BAD:

  1. The ending may not satisfy everyone. 

READ IT IF:

  1. You like strong heroines.
  2. You hate it when women are put down and treated like they are worthless.
  3. You like forbidden romance. 

RATING:
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Thursday, December 10, 2015

Review: Delirium (Delirium #1) by Lauren Oliver


SUMMARY FROM GOODREADS:
Ninety-five days, and then I'll be safe. I wonder whether the procedure will hurt. I want to get it over with. It's hard to be patient. It's hard not to be afraid while I'm still uncured, though so far the deliria hasn't touched me yet. Still, I worry. They say that in the old days, love drove people to madness. The deadliest of all deadly things: It kills you both when you have it and when you don't.
MY TAKE:
I think I would have liked this book more if I had read it when it first came out.

In Delirium, Lena is looking forward to have the procedure done and have her whole life already worked out. However, after meeting Alex and discovering what the dreaded delirium is really like, she realizes that maybe she's making a huge mistake.

I have read lots of dystopian books over the years, which was probably why I didn't enjoy this as much as I could have. Well, that and I wasn't that big a fan of Lena either.

I don't think there were really any big moments that I hadn't anticipated in some way. There are certain elements that I have come to expect when it comes to YA dystopian novels and there were plenty of those here. As such, the book was predictable for me. However, it wasn't terrible at all, because there were plenty of beautiful and heart-wrenching lines here that made reading this book worth it.

The love story was like that for me, as well. Predictable, but still beautiful to see, and I was definitely rooting for them.

As for the characters, to be honest, I liked Hana more than Lena. Lena was anxious for a great deal of the book, and I felt it in my core. It made for good atmosphere during action sequences, but for the rest, it made me feel uneasy and made me want to skip ahead.

THE GOOD:

  1. There are plenty of beautiful lines.
  2. There are well-written action sequences.
  3. There are quite a few interesting characters. 

THE BAD:

  1. If you've read a lot of dystopian novels before, you may find this book predictable. 

FAVORITE QUOTE/S:
The most dangerous sicknesses are those that make us believe we are well. 
READ IT IF:

  1. You love forbidden romance stories.
  2. You are just starting to get interested in dystopian novels.
  3. You've had your heart broken.

RATING:
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