[463]: The Coldest Girl in Cold Town by Holly Black

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

GOODREADS SUMMARY | Little, Brown for Young Readers | Hardcover, 419 pages | September 3rd, 2013 | Young Adult | Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars


We all know vampire stories are a dime a dozen in both Adult and Young Adult genres. Nowadays, you’ll be hard pressed to find one that adheres in the vein of its forefather. Every single tale is a mutation of sorts; so much so that Vlad the Impaler had morphed into another creature altogether. The Coldest Girl in Cold Town must’ve caught me on a good day. Because for all its effort to stick to the original legend (somewhat), it had worked so much better than any other vampire metamorphosis that have become vastly popular in modern fiction. That’s not to say that Holly Black didn’t give it her own twist. Conversely, the combination of both old and the new made for a time-sucking read. And that’s a good thing.

A bloody hangover.

The sundown party that Tana attended was meant to usher in the end of the school year. But when she woke up in a bloodbath surrounded by corpses, the hangover will probably not go away even if she swallowed a bottle of Advil.  The only survivor of the massacre was her ex on the cusp of a change, and a chained ferocious vampire with ruby red eyes and a revenge years in the making. Knowing what was waiting for them outside the door of the room, Tana had to find a way to leave the farm house. With Aidan, her ex on the verge of becoming a vampire himself, she needed to get him to a place where vampirism is a way of life: Cold Town.

Take two aspirins, and call me in the morning.

In Cold Town, they might have a chance at surviving. And knowing that she could be infected herself, there really was no former life to get back to. Unless, she’s willing to let the virus ran its course – which would take 88 days of excruciating pain and thirst. She’s determined not to change so she could go back to her sister, Pearl and their  father, who was already traumatized for killing their newborn mother.  Sometimes, the best laid plans could be blown to smithereens, which is exactly what happens when they find out the identity of the vampire riding shotgun in the trunk of her car.

Remedy for my malady.

Who would’ve thunk it? I’ve been in such a horrendous stretch of funk with YA lately that I didn’t think I’d see the light of day. Who would’ve guessed that this vampire novel is just what I needed to jump start my YA mojo back to pubescent exuberance again? Sometimes, simplicity is good. And this is what I found in Holly Black’s vampire novel. The world was effortlessly imaginable, with an absorbing, suspenseful plot line, an a set of characters who are not too complex that you’d need to do an individual psych evaluation to get to know.

Tana is a character who’s got her head on straight despite the mess of her so-called life. She’s fearless, selfless, and with no concept of self preservation. Her refusal to change also what makes her more admirable. Her determination to remain human stems from the history of how she lost her mother. And while her fearlessness sometimes led her to some questionable choices, it didn’t make her any less valiant.

The romance was subtle, which is also a big plus for this book. Because if you’re on the verge of becoming a monster, that should be on the forefront of your mind and not how “the cold one” makes your dying heart tick. It was realistic, and it made sense.

In conclusion, Holly Black’s take on the vampire lore may not be avant garde, but it was exactly what I needed to get out of a funk.
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P.S.A.

I would just like to apologize again for the spam mails you got from me last night.  We had a bit of trouble with the integration so we had to manually import some old posts from the old blog. You shouldn’t be getting anymore old updates from me, but just in case you are, please let me know.
xoxo

Joy

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[458]: The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters

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GOODREADS SUMMARY | Amulet Books | Hardcover, 388 pages
October 14th, 2014 | Young Adult | Historical Fiction | Paranormal
Rating: 1 out of 5 Stars


I’ve not have much patience with YA books lately. I can’t seem to find it in me to forgive them their shortcomings. And when every imperfections glare at me like the sun, I’ve taken to a perma-scowl look every time I bring one of them home. Unfortunately, The Cure for Dreaming did not escape my wrath.

The gist.

Olivia Mead’s father thought that the best way to silence his daughter’s political and social views was through hypnosis. He believes that she should accept her responsibility as a woman to bear children and mind the household for her husband. Olivia, however, is a head strong, opinionated individual who dreams of becoming someone who can change the world. Lucky for her, the hypnotist shares her views, and proceeds to hypnotize her into seeing the world for what it was. She saw the monster that her father had become; she saw the people for who they really were. A supernatural power that appears in the form of a vision, and depending on how evil a person is, Olivia sees them as monsters in disguise.

At a time when women’s suffrage was an issue that men in power saw as a threat, Olivia’s father planned to make an example of his daughter. By hypnotizing her into becoming docile and meek, he also saw this as a means to further his stature in a society that saw him as a mad, laughable creature. The more he suppressed Olivia, however, the harder she fought back (in her timorous way). Drawn into the mysterious, secretive world of the hypnotist, Olivia will found herself fearing for her life, and questioning the validity of her father’s sanity.

The bad.

I’ll cut to the chase. This is a well-intentioned book. If I ignore all the – dare I say it – foolishness of hypnotism, I say this is a book that young girls would benefit a great deal to read. Most of the time, however, this book contradicted itself. It talked about suffrage, and the rights of women to vote. The rights to speak; the right to dream, but for all its posturing, women still ended up being controlled by the men in their lives. What was the point, exactly? If anything, Olivia was not a convincing character. I did not feel her passion to change the lives of the Oregonian women. She was hypnotized to do as they say, and when they say it. I cannot find admiration in a character who lacked confidence, and who presented herself as a weakling easily swayed. Especially if you’re trying to garner empathy for the movement.

Dracula. God. What is the obsession with Dracula?

The good.

If your intention is to incite hatred towards the men in this book, well, congratulations! I was rightly pissed. I was so mad that I went off my rails for at least ten minutes. My poor husband. Oh my God. His face. No, I did not punch him. He looked at me like I’m some alien being descended from a world where men were hated. Sigh. If my husband could record my tirade about this book yesterday, it would be pure gold. And honestly, I did not spare his ears from f bombs that proceeded thereafter. All he could do was shake his head, and look at me in horror.

I love the pictures included in this book. While its intentions was to add a more sinister vibe to the story, I’m afraid it only succeeded in making this book a slightly tolerable read.

The end.

I should’ve enjoyed this book, but I didn’t. I’m all for the feminist movement and such. But this book fail in all the things that mattered. The message is lost among the cacophony of foolishness.

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[441]: I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

FullSizeRenderGOODREADS SUMMARY
Dial | Hardcover, 371 pages
Publication Date: September 16, 2014
Young Adult Fiction | LGBT | Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars


Speaking of books that are impossible to review, I’ll Give You the Sun incites the kind of frustration that only book reviewers suffering from a “reviewer’s block” can relate. I’ve sat on my desk and stared at a blinking cursor for days, and have waffled between writing a full review or leaving the rating speak for itself. Either way, I thought that it’d probably be a futile practice. Jandy Nelson has done this to me twice now. She’s the kind of writer who frustrates me; the kind who writes brilliantly but kills me ever so slowly because she doesn’t put out books too often. In fact, this is only her second novel – with four years of break in between. But. I have such high regard for authors who value quality instead of quantity. And this woman, knows quality writing. She is the type of writer whose prowess will either inspire you to write or would make you say, what the hell is the point in trying? 

 This book is kind of different in a way that it uses two perspectives in past and present timelines. Two timelines that intersect; creating a story arch so complete that the readers would hardly notice the seams. We see a couple of kids that were wholly removed and involved in each other’s stories. The effect is the kind of empathy that lets a reader see the characters with both critical and biased perspectives. It was brilliantly executed.

This is the part where I’d normally talk about the characters, or the story itself. But the truth is, I really am at a loss. But I implore you to read this book. Don’t miss out on Jandy Nelson’s achingly beautiful writing and being introduced to characters worth knowing. If there’s one thing that’s becoming increasingly evident in the author’s work, is that she’d leave you aching at the end of her books. Not just because of the heart-wrenching story you’ve just read, but because you know you’ll never get enough of the pain she’s put you through. She’ll make a masochist of you yet, because I can almost guarantee that you’d want to reread just to experience it all over again. For me, Jandy Nelson is the Melina Marchetta of North America. And that’s speaking a lot because Melina is a literary goddess in my eyes.

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Year of Mistaken Discoveries by Eileen Cook

Goodreads Summary18051087
Simon Pulse | Hardcover, 272 pages
February 25th, 2014
Young Adult | Contemporary Romance
Rating: 1 out of 5 Stars

Apathy sucks.

Have you ever read a book that you felt absolutely nothing about? It was as if I was reading a textbook, but reading a textbook would’ve been better because at least then, I was learning something as I go along. This book, unfortunately, is only good for one thing: it’s meant to boost your reading goal number for the year. It was a fast read that hardly appealed to my empathy, with a plot line that held so much promise, but sadly disappointed.

As many childhood friendships go, Avery’s and Nora’s fizzled as they grew further apart. Years later, and while Avery flitted in the spotlight of the high school social caste system, Nora remained in the periphery of her glow. Neither girls minded the widening distance; after all, they share a common bond as they were both adopted, and once upon a time also shared the dream of finding their respective biological parents. As Avery’s adopted family raise her in a relatively happy home, she lost interest in it altogether. But Nora remained in pursuit until a lead resulted in heartbreak.

Nora committed suicide.

She left Avery a notebook that held an account of how to find her mother; guilt-ridden, Avery proceeds to venture on her own quest with a purpose of honouring her death. With the help of Nora’s friend, Brody, they set out to trace the mother that gave her up for adoption. But what started out as a way to honour Nora’s memory quickly morphed into a selfish agenda of a means to get into her dream college.

There wasn’t much you can walk away from reading this book, and for a story involving suicide, the writing was emotionally ineffective. It’s really hard to like a book if the main character failed to garner the reader’s empathy, and this is the biggest fault of this book. Avery lacked any believable emotions, and if she did show any, it felt much too contrived. Nora showed more depth in the very little time she was in the novel than Avery did the entire book. And as far as romance goes, sorry, there wasn’t much of that either.

Overall, Year of Mistaken Discoveries is a book you can do without. No depth, no emotions. You’ll be better off reading your friend’s status updates on Facebook.

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The Sound of Letting Go by Stasia Ward Kehoe

The Sound of Letting Go by Stasia Ward Kehoe
Viking’s Children | Hardcover, 400 pages
February 6th, 2014
Young Adult | Contemporary
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

Verse novels are my favourite things to read, but they’re difficult to review. I never know what to say, because I feel like I can never give the sparsely written, yet more often powerful novels, their due justice.

The Sound of Letting Go, though beautiful in its own right, had me conflicted. On the one hand, I think Ward was very successful in conveying what it’s like for a family to make a difficult choice of relieving themselves of caring for a violent autistic child. And on the other, she didn’t really convince me that Daisy’s anger towards her parents is in the right place. It’s in the way she rarely interacted with her brother. Never once did I feel that she was really that close to her brother in the first place, and therefore, I didn’t think her anger and her cause for the mild rebellion could be deemed justified.

This is the story of a prodigy whose family life is on the verge of an upheaval. Having lived most their life in the shadow of fear, they knew it would only take one episode for their carefully constructed life to fall apart. They have talked about it, expected it even. But when it finally happened, they were consumed by guilt that all they could only feel was relief.

I have an 18-year-old niece with autism. She’s beautiful and quiet who likes the chatter of the radio, but never violent. She mostly sits contemplatively with a serene smile on her face. Before, when we didn’t know what would appease her, she’d burst out and cry and all we could do was look on helplessly. We didn’t know what she want…until you turn up the radio. Then she goes quiet.

Daisy’s brother is different. He doesn’t like noise. He gets violent. He hurts himself. The everyday struggle within their home is exhausting to watch. And the heartbreaking (understandably) way each of them tries to escape persisted throughout the novel.

The mild rebellion that Daisy tried to do didn’t really do much. Because her parents were so focused on her brother, they didn’t seem to care. I think the better half of the synopsis is wildly exaggerated. If you think there will be a full on rebellion with the bad boy, you’ll be sorely disappointed. In fact, Dave is a sweetie. Also, if you’re not a fan of love triangles, don’t let that summary fool you. There is no love triangle. I don’t know why the author would scare me like that.

Over all, I was mildly satisfied with this novel. And if it’s romance you’re after, you’ll get that in spades here.

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Don’t Look Back by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Don’t Look Back by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Disney Hyperion | E-ARC via Net Galley
Publication Date: April 14th, 2014
Young Adult, Suspense
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

If you’ve ever read a book where the character woke up not remembering a single thing about them, then you’d pretty much know the gist, actually, the bulk of this story.

Quick Story:

Sam disappeared for four days only to stagger back into town without a single memory of what happened. She also came back a changed person – not even a shadow of who she was. The queen bee of the school lost the chip on her shoulders and was quite disgusted by the personality of her old self. The company that she kept was also the type of clique that rules the campus. In other words, they’re the type of people that I despised in teen novels. Ugh.

My Thoughts:

The mystery of her disappearance and memory loss is the major component of the plot. Jennifer didn’t really do a very good job of hiding the culprit’s identity. It used to irked me when people would claim to know who did it by the first few chapters and now, I can definitely relate.

This book was also chockfull of clichés. I think someone else has mentioned this on their review. At this point, I’m waiting for JLA to come up with something of her own, original, if I may. She’s done a lot of taking bits and pieces of story lines from other people’s works. I’ll tell you this though, she’s probably well read. As in, she’s read a lot of YAs.

So why give this book four stars? Well, it’s simple really. I have been disillusioned with her recent works. I know she’s a popular author with a huge following to boot. But to be honest, I’m not sold. Even though this book was, yet again, a copy cat of every other books that have the same trope, the truth is, I enjoyed it.

However, I’m still waiting for the day when she can come up with plot lines of her own.

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Time After Time by Tamara Ireland Stone

Time After Time by Tamara Ireland Stone
Disney Hyperion | e-ARC via Net Galley
YA Romance, October 1st, 2013
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

So the epic ‘long distance’ relationship between Bennett and Anna ends right here. It is a sad day, to be honest. I wish someone will continue this story. I’ll even settle for a fan fiction. I didn’t read Time Between Us when it came out. In fact, I’d only read it a couple of weeks ago – and in one day at that. When I saw the sequel was up on Net Galley, I requested it right away. To my delight, I found out that this was told in Bennett’s POV.

This time-traveling book was so easy to follow; readers will not be confused as it only switches between two periods. The one source of my concern with this series was the lack of scientific explanation as to how Bennett was able to travel. Conventional wisdom dictates that there should be some sort of viable information – doesn’t have to be verifiable – but it has to at least be explained, however far-fetched it may be. The thing is, though it was a bit of a disappointment, I really didn’t mind it at all. I wholly accepted the simple justification.

This series was truly enjoyable, written with romance as the lead-in. Forget about all that time/space continuum garble. It’s all about two people that have met at the wrong time. Anna is pretty much playing catch-up to Bennett; because he was born in the future and Anna lived in the past. They’re trying to make an impossible relationship work. The more time Bennett switches between his time and Anna’s the more he realizes how difficult it is. The side effects of sliding are becoming more rampant and intense; as intense as his need to be with Anna.

In here, Bennett started to figure out that changing the past has some consequences that changes the outcome no matter what. It’s interesting to see that stopping something from happening amounts to a different ending altogether – more often for the bad. He’s learned to understand exactly what he’s supposed to do with his abilities and that the ultimate lesson of all is that it’s always about his choice and not someone else’s prodding.

Some readers would question how easily most have accepted Bennett’s abilities with uncanny ease; but for me, I’ve learned to just take everything with a grain of salt. Being a fan of this series pretty much enabled me to put my blinders on to its tiny imperfections.

The ending wasn’t enough for me; I mean it’s awesome and all but not the perfect ending I was looking for. Heck, who am I kidding? I didn’t want it to end at all. One thing’s for sure though, it had me worried there for a second.

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Shadow and Bone [The Grisha, #1] by Leigh Bardugo

A fantasy like no other; heady with Russian flavour
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Shadow and Bone [The Grisha, #1]
by Leigh Bardugo
Henry Holt | Hardcover, 356 pages
Alina is content with her station in life. Orphaned with no one but her friend Mal by her side, she’s more than happy to be a lacklustre cartographer-in-training. In a world where mystical abilities and powers abound, Alina simply had no ambition to be anything more than what she can offer to serve her country.

On the day when her regimen attempted to cross The Fold, she comes to a great power unlike anything anyone’s ever witnessed. Coveted by The Darkling himself, the Sun Summoner is almost as fabled as the source of the amplifiers needed to augment Grisha’s power. But it’s not as easy as it looks. Alina’s powers doesn’t come out as naturally as others’ does. She needed tutelage, training and a little bit of self-examination to figure out what’s holding it back. Whatever it is, Alina has to figure out fast. Time is running out, Grishas’ powers are slowly coming to an end, and The Fold is in danger of swallowing Ravka whole.

As much as you’d like to savour this book, Bardugo’s effectively straight-forward writing prevents readers from doing exactly that. This fantasy novel is not a daunting read; it’s also not a sweeping tale,wholly uncharacteristic of the usual fare we see in this genre. But it’s what makes it all the more arresting; all the more unputdownable. It’s got monsters and magic and mystical places homogenous in the genre. The author has got some pretty interesting take on the monsters in her book. She makes them more human and her human more like monsters. This is also rich in Russian flavour: words, customs, culture, names…etc. While it could be a hindrance to some, the story line is enchanting enough that others would learn to ignore that fact and follow along with little bother.

The romance it featured was something I’m usually not a fan of. I hate love triangles. Especially if the girl in the middle was supposedly, er plain. I’ve heard talks and gushes directed toward this Darkling; and it’s rare when the bad guy gets more props than the leading man. About a few chapters in, I’ve got to admit, I see the fascination. For once, I’m not so ready to discount his anti-hero status. I’m excited to see where he stands when the dust settles.

I don’t know why I’ve put off reading this book. Perhaps it’s the overwhelming 5-star reception that it had so far been getting. Perhaps I wasn’t really too keen on picking up another fantasy novel that I pre-judged to be a disappointment due to its flimsy page count. But whatever the reason, I’m glad that I finally go to read it.

My rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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The Rules for Disappearing by Ashley Elston

Surprisingly good, addicting read. 
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The Rules For Disappearing
by Ashley Elston
Disney-Hyperion | Hardback, 320 pages
On the run from the bad guys, Meg has been through several moves and identity changes. She’s lived by a set of rules that had so far saved her sanity from their last two relocations. Under the Witness Protection Program, she’s learned not to get attached, not to make friends and to make herself as invisible as possible. But when their family was yet again relocated to Louisiana, remaining incognito had become impossible. Thanks to a boy who wouldn’t leave her alone, a family on the verge of inevitable destruction, and her ever growing loneliness and impatience at the uncertainty of their future. Meg was determined to find out exactly what had happened if it was the first step to getting a semblance of their old life back. Even so far as reliving a nightmare that had plagued her nights to get to the truth that would set her family free.

Ashley Elston’s compelling debut lets the readers into the clandestined lives of those in the WPP, particularly of a family whose former life was as different as night and day from the nightmare they keep finding themselves in. Meg was a believable character who had learned to step up as their mother continued her descent into oblivion via alcohol. While their father continued to take things as they were, contented to flit from one form of life to another. Her sister, in the meantime, was talking less and less. She was angry for being kept in the dark, mollified each time she’d asked the whys. The frustration seeps from the book to the reader.

The book is broken down into a set of rules Meg has set for herself to help her get through the endless cycle of moving and switching identities. It was a disorganized, disquieting life where fear rules, accompanied by loneliness. It was not a life for a teenager, let alone an eleven year old. In a way, Ethan saved both girls from themselves. Meg has found a guy who needed to be the person who could put up with the back and forth, roller coaster of emotions that she goes through on a daily basis. Her sister, who was virtually withdrawn unto herself, had found a friend who coaxed her back into the world of the living. Ethan was the quintessential perfect book boyfriend, though a bit unbelievably perfect sometimes. I liked that he’s got Meg numbered and pegged from the get-go but I didn’t like that he was willing to put his life on the line for a girl he barely knew. But it’s part of his charm: he’s kind and gentlemanly and who couldn’t stand the thought of a world without Meg.

Wonderful characters, unrelenting suspense and a sweet romance to boot. What more could you ask for but for a sequel?

My rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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If He Had Been With Me by Laura Nowlin

A gritty debut that will leave you shattered. 
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If He Had Been With Me by Laura Nowlin
Sourcebooks Fire | Paperback, 330 pages
Whenever I pick up a novel, I dive head first hopeful that the characters will have their happily ever afters. I picture their romance in my head like an endless reel of a silent movie: their first meeting will be perfectly awkward and the relationship to happen in a slow but realistic build-up that would have me anticipating and salivating for their fruition. But when the two characters wasn’t really working so good for me, I’d also find myself wishing that they don’t get together at all. This book may fall into the latter not because the two characters were an unlikable, unlikely couple but because I wanted to spare them the debilitating heartache that was to come. 
The book spans for what seems like a lifetime: two women who’d become friends and had gotten pregnant at the same time. Their kids grew up practically like twins. They can’t seem to imagine their lives without one another. But as these stories go sometimes, people just drift apart. Or in their case, they were afraid to address how they really felt. Years go by, relationships falter and die but the one constant thing between these two kids is that big what if. Don’t fret though, they would be given the chance. Readers would be given a moment or two to savour that sweet, joyful moment when they finally get together. Like rays of sunshine breaking from a persistent dark clouds and kids singing hallelujah in divine concurrence. But just as soon as it starts, the author will yank that little joy from you. All the while ripping your heart from the cavity of your chest with her bare hands. 
It’s hard to get over something when you didn’t understand what happened to begin with. I wasn’t given the time to digest, ponder or even savour. And I can’t figure out why I’m surprised because I already knew Phineas will die from the beginning. Hours after I closed the book, I’m still shell-shocked. It’s not fair. I waited, the length of the entire novel for Finn and Autumn to get together. And then he dies. HE DIES. HE DIES. HE DIES. 
I’m so angry at this book. I wished I never read it. Which is stupid because it’s one of the best, heart breaking novel I’ve ever read. So much so that I hugged the living shit out of it afterwards. In my head, I was imagining it was Autumn, doing my part at comforting her in her grief. If I were destroyed, then I can’t even imagine the depths of her sorrow; of finally, finally being free to express the love that she’s kept an entire lifetime only to drown in an ocean of misery afterwards. I said the exact thing to my husband, to which he replied: “Honey, you do realize that this is a work of fiction, right?…and that none of those characters were real?” 

But he doesn’t understand. It’s like Autumn when she finished writing her novel and she was overcome with grief over her characters. It’s exactly how I felt. It’s like they died and there wasn’t a damn thing I can do about it. It’s like I’ve known them my whole life when they’ve only spent an entire day inside my head. It’s the hopelessness I feel and great black hole of knowing what happened was irreversible. I’m so deeply affected and I don’t even know why. 
I wish y’all would read this book. I’m breathless and achy and I want to say exactly how I’m feeling but I’m a little short on words. 
My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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