Sunday, February 17, 2013

BR: Perfect Scoundrels

by Ally Carter
Heist Society series; book III

KAT! HALE! THEY'RE BACK! I'm so excited! WHEEE!

Summary (goodreads)

Katarina Bishop and W.W. Hale the fifth were born to lead completely different lives: Kat comes from a long, proud line of loveable criminal masterminds, while Hale is the scion of one of the most seemingly perfect dynasties in the world. If their families have one thing in common, it's that they both know how to stay under the radar while getting--or stealing--whatever they want. No matter the risk, the Bishops can always be counted on, but in Hale's family, all bets are off when money is on the line. When Hale unexpectedly inherits his grandmother's billion dollar corporation, he quickly learns that there's no place for Kat and their old heists in his new role. But Kat won't let him go that easily, especially after she gets tipped off that his grandmother's will might have been altered in an elaborate con to steal the company's fortune. So instead of being the heir--this time, Hale might be the mark. Forced to keep a level head as she and her crew fight for one of their own, Kat comes up with an ambitious and far-reaching plan that only the Bishop family would dare attempt. To pull it off, Kat is prepared to do the impossible, but first, she has to decide if she's willing to save her boyfriend's company if it means losing the boy
**

My Thoughts

Hale? HALE! This is a HALE book, much to my excitement. There is plenty of Hale, and not just the one you're thinking (have I mentioned Hale's name enough? Because really, what more of an excuse do you need? One more time? HALE!)

...

Right.

The Heist Society series is honestly just pure escapism and fun times for me, and that's why I adore it so much. Teens planning and executing cons could not possibly be more entertaining, especially with such a kick-butt protagonist and a loveable supporting cast. It's the type of book where I don't give a crap that there's one too many tropes, I'm gonna enjoy the hell out of it anyway.

My only issue with this book (because as usual, I love the delightful characters and smooth writing) is that I felt the plot lost the "it" factor towards the end. I ended up questioning the author's decision to "trick" the reader for a page or two, and the shift (BEING VERY VERY VAGUE HERE) between the 'bridge' and the 'train' was really.. confusing? The transition felt very clunky, so my suspension of disbelief shattered a wee bit.

There were also parts of the plot that I wasn't a huge fan of (we know the antagonist's plan too early on), or that the heist was underwhelming (it was sneaky, but not... heist-y enough for me, or imaginative enough). I have a selfish wish that there could have been more Kat and Hale  moments, despite a lovely sum of them already... and more Bagshaws and Simon and Gabrielle. They were all so happiness-inducing.

Essentially: fun book, escapism, heists, HALE, okay-villain, Scooter!, maybe could have been a better heist, but overall entertaining.

8.5/10 - because although there were some parts I wasn't the most pleased with, I still had and wonderful time reading it and escaping into Kat's world. I thought Carter dealt with so many heartfelt themes in an impacting way (I really adored the way she wrote about Kat stealing Hale), the themes of family and friendship really stood out and I greatly enjoyed it.

And I went to her signing and here's a picture of the very sweet and lovely author Ally Carter and myself :)










source: bought
author twitter / website

my reviews of Heist Society and Uncommon Criminals

Thursday, February 14, 2013

BR: Just One Day

by Gayle Forman
Just One Day duology; book I

Oh boy, it feels like it's been a long road for this book. The amount of hype*, the amount of Audrey-annoyed-ness... but it's Gayle Forman so I had to read it.

This is also another review that I snagged off my "initial thoughts" ramblings on Goodreads. So it's less polished but.. eh. *shrugs*

Summary (goodreads)

When sheltered American good girl Allyson "LuLu" Healey** first meets laid-back Dutch actor Willem De Ruiter at an underground performance of Twelfth Night in England, there’s an undeniable spark. After just one day together, that spark bursts into a flame, or so it seems to Allyson, until the following morning, when she wakes up after a whirlwind day in Paris to discover that Willem has left. Over the next year, Allyson embarks on a journey to come to terms with the narrow confines of her life, and through Shakespeare, travel, and a quest for her almost-true-love, to break free of those confines.
**

My Thoughts

Awww this one made me smile. Mostly.

Let's start with the goods, shall we? The writing and voice were engaging, and I feel Gayle Forman always does well when writing about universal feelings in a connected type of way. I liked that she made the protagonist older, and the way Allyson dealt with her parents and her independence was interesting. Allyson's personal journey was depicted excellently in general; I liked the way Forman focused a lot on self-discovery, and allowing the timeline to make it realistic.

I also adored the small quirky things that made the novel more rich, things like the French lessons, the macarons, Babs, and the part with the watch :)

I had a few issues with the middle chunk of the book: the college experience-- while the feelings I thought were authentic, it skimmed over some academic things (is no one stressed for exams or is it just me?). Apart from Dee, pretty much every other character fell flat and/or were predictable (the "simpering girls" in class part could not possibly be more condescending. I'm judging you as hard as you are judging them, methinks.) The roommate situation felt stale, but more in the "I know what the author is trying to do, but it's not...quite there" type of way.

Who was that best friend again? I forget her name, but she's up there on the "sucky best friends" list.

The last chunk felt rushed and too coincidental, and instead of lifting me inside some type of fairytale adventure, I was kind of bogged down by it.

And lastly, it felt...methodical. Maybe a bit too planned, I don't know why such an aspect is sticking out for me (I know, it's called a plot, things are planned, Audrey you're being ridiculous) but I didn't feel the rush during the "just one day" part, nor did I fall in love with Willem the way I think most readers did.

Nevertheless, despite some of my reservations, I'd highly recommend it. I'll be among the masses of people looking forward to the second part, and I'm definitely looking forward to knowing Willem better :)

Rating in HP Terms: Acceptable
Recommended for: contemporary fans, fans of Gayle Forman and Stephanie Perkins
Acknowedgements: great! 4.5/5

8.3/10 - because while some parts irked me, I did generally enjoy it. I realize now that my review touched more on the negatives than the positives, but trust me, there was a lot of neat things going on that Forman executed wonderfully.








*Penguin is my absolute least favourite publisher in terms of marketing strategies. There. I said it.
**This is a personal opinion, but I really disliked this part in the jacket flap/summary. It made me think as if in everyday life, she went by "Lulu" as a short for "Allyson" and all I could think was "that's the worst nickname ever." (this is not the case, by the way)

source: library
author twitter / website / tumblr 

on finding Passions.

disclaimer: not books related.


So I'm 19. And I'm in my second year of university, and sometimes I'm.. floundering. I have my day to day things, I have my tests, assignments, social things, things like that. But I'm doing a bit too much stereotypical soul-searching and more often than not, I'm coming up blank. And it's like I'm stuck in this hole in which everyone has this silly little thing called "direction" in their lives, and I don't, because I'm unsure of what I want to do and what I love to do. How is that possible? How do I, ME, not even know what I like

So I backtrack, and I think, what was the last thing I was truly passionate about? 

Lo and behold: YA books and blogging.

I was equal parts passionate and obsessed. Maybe more passionate than obsessed, because it filled my mind. It was an interest that I thought about constantly, and on the upside, it kept my mind going and it's quite a beneficial interest-- Reading is cool and expands the mind. I'm so much better about having opinions on books. It's not as if I started smoking, I mean, I was obsessed with reading.

So what happened?

It's funny, because I think a part of myself purposely let that part of me go. I purposely cut the metaphorical rope that connected me to this blogosphere when I entered uni, and while that certainly gave me perspective (sadly, I'm much more cynical now about the the YA lit-osphere) it was also like "shutting down" my passion. True, I was also really busy, but I didn't try very hard to hang on. I let it go.

And I think I did it for the wrong reasons: I think I did it because I kept telling myself I needed to "move on" and "grow up". I couldn't sit around reading teen books anymore because society and the world requires me to "act like an adult" (guys, don't listen to my bullshit. If you're over 20 and reading YA, good on you, because I'm gonna be doing it as well). I guess I believed that I'd suddenly find myself immersed and in love with biology or something (heh, trust me, didn't happen) or my other subjects... but I didn't. 

I just cut a part of me off and nothing came in and filled that space, so now I'm sitting here in my oh-too-common "what should I do with my life" state of mind and I thought I'd write something down. 

And to tell you that really, if you're truly passionate about something, don't let go of it. 

I've always had things I was obsessed with, so right now, I think I watch too much TV (trust me, it's too much). And I adore movies. Except again, I have that stupid voice in my head telling me that those things are shallow and artificial and why can't I be interested in cool things like taxidermy?

I'm scared of being "lost", of never figuring out what I want. I'm scared of making the same mistakes and not realizing it until it's too late, because it didn't really feel like a mistake at the time. I wish I could change too many things, and I wish I wasn't so young to be already having regrets. 

So here I am, and I'm just going to keep on navigating this 20th year of my life (too many of my friends are turning 20, now that's scary) and I'm going to try new things and hopefully read some scholarly articles (ha) and some more good books (yay). 

I got some advice recently. 

"You will find your passion; it creeps up on you like an itch and you don’t realize what it is until it’s turned into a full-blown fever.  I swear it’s not as painful as I just made it sound, but what I’m saying is that you will realize it when the time is right.  The important thing to do is never stop doing stuff."

I hope that's true. 

.

So I'm curious, of those 10 who might read this. What other passions do you have? 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

BR: Out of the Easy

by Ruta Sepetys

Thank you to Penguin Canada for inviting me to be a part of the Out of the Easy blog tour :)


Summary (goodreads)

It’s 1950, and as the French Quarter of New Orleans simmers with secrets, seventeen-year-old Josie Moraine is silently stirring a pot of her own. Known among locals as the daughter of a brothel prostitute, Josie wants more out of life than the Big Easy has to offer. She devises a plan get out, but a mysterious death in the Quarter leaves Josie tangled in an investigation that will challenge her allegiance to her mother, her conscience, and Willie Woodley, the brusque madam on Conti Street.

Josie is caught between the dream of an elite college and a clandestine underworld. New Orleans lures her in her quest for truth, dangling temptation at every turn, and escalating to the ultimate test.


**
My Expectations: Guys, I don't think I can express my love for the author's first YA books, Between Shades of Gray. Seriously high expectations for this one.
Delivery: Didn't really meet my expectations, but the high points were high.
Put-down-ability: 3.5/10
**

My Thoughts

First and foremost: I love Josie. There are a very limited number of characters I absolutely adore, I mean even some characters from my favourite books I just think are wonderfully written but I don’t love them. I loved Josie. She’s the perfect blend of smart, experienced, desperate, capable, and sympathetic, and a few chapters in I had to know what would happen to her. I was hooked on reading because I wanted to make sure she’d make it through okay. (Think the equally kick-ass Elliot North from For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund).

Secondly, Ruta Sepetys writes absolutely beautifully. Her words weave a gorgeous, realistic world on the page and in my mind, I love her description of New Orleans in the 1950’s, everything from The Big Easy to the bookshop to Cokie’s car just came alive. Her dialogue was fantastic as well.

However, it pains me to say, that I had more than a few issues with this book—especially because I wanted desperately to love it after Between Shades of Gray. I feel the first two-thirds of the novel were especially strong, keeping me psyched for a grand finale but it was as if the carefully plotted, intricately detailed house of cards Sepetys created just…collapsed.  What happened? I’m still shaking my head over it; after a beautiful, delicious mystery was set up, it just, like, deflated. Random “emergencies” were pulled out of thin air, character deaths seemed to be used solely as a plot point, a romance I’m very unimpressed with… it was a mess. The mystery was resolved in an unsatisfyingly manner and loose ends were tied up hastily.

That all sounds quite harsh, but it might be because I’m still reeling from disappointment; Out of the Easy could have been so much better. Does anyone remember A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly? The stories are kind of similar, except that ending felt earned. This one did not.

The rest of the characters were hit-or-miss, I found the lack of redeeming qualities in Josie’s mother made her too one-dimensional, the love interests (damn you, love triangle) both lacked depth. On the other hand, I somehow ended up loving all the ladies of The Big Easy; Willie’s mix of evil stepmother/fairly godmother, Dora’s fascination with green, Sweety, Sadie, and well, maybe not that witch Evangeline. Also, Cokie was the best.

Ultimately, if Out of the Easy were a game of Texas Hold’em, you’ve got suited connectors in the hole, and the flop and turn have you drawing towards a straight flush. You’ve committed a ton of chips into the pot and well… the river kills ya. Nada.

Rating in HP Terms: Acceptable
Recommended for: fans of the author, historical fiction fans
Acknowledgements: 4/5

8/10 – because the qualities of the book that I loved are unbelievably well done—mainly the writing and Josie. Sepetys creates a setting that comes alive and writes a memorable, lovable heroine for readers to get behind. It starts of slow but delectable, builds up, but unfortunately, fails to deliver as I found the plot to ultimately be kind of a mess. I wish I had felt another way about this book; however, I’ll still be heavily recommending this read because I don’t think anyone should miss out on this novel. There are plenty of literary references and bookstore appreaciation that book lovers will adore :)


Out of the Easy will be released February 12, 2013!!








source: publisher sent a copy for review
author website
check out the RazOrbill website for more news and fun stuff!

Friday, February 1, 2013

BR: Prodigy

by Marie Lu
Legend series; book II

Eep! Check out that cover! Thanks so much to RazOrbill for letting me be a part of the Prodigy book tour :)

Summary (goodreads)

June and Day arrive in Vegas just as the unthinkable happens: the Elector Primo dies, and his son Anden takes his place. With the Republic edging closer to chaos, the two join a group of Patriot rebels eager to help Day rescue his brother and offer passage to the Colonies. They have only one request—June and Day must assassinate the new Elector.

It’s their chance to change the nation, to give voice to a people silenced for too long.

But as June realizes this Elector is nothing like his father, she’s haunted by the choice ahead. What if Anden is a new beginning? What if revolution must be more than loss and vengeance, anger and blood—what if the Patriots are wrong?

 **
My Expectations: kind of in the middle, I was worried about sequel-syndrome, plus I haven't read any reviews of it.
Delivery: very, very satisfying :) Definitely crushing on this one!
Put-down-ability: I am a college student. I had homework. I couldn't stop reading this. 2/10
**

My Thoughts

I entered Prodigy with a mix of skepticism and anticipation because quite honestly, I really didn’t remember how Legend ended or exactly how much I liked it* :/ (I had to read my review later, and I apparently loved it; that’s nice!). However, I remember enjoying Legend, so I was eager to get some more of Day and June.

Damn, Marie Lu, you stepped up your game.

Prodigy brings back two of the most likeable characters, and I stress how likeable they are. I found that even as their characters developed and flaws became more pronounced, I only liked them more for their mistakes coupled with their hearts of gold. I thought June really stood her own against the slightly more charismatic and smooth Day, and it was honestly just fun to read about them.

I mentioned the fantastic pacing in the first novel, and of course, I was concerned about this novel falling to “sequel syndrome” with too much talk and not enough walk. But Lu really impressed me with her blend of world-building (serious kudos!), character development, action sequences. While it’s not a non-stop adrenaline rush, I’ll definitely commend Lu for getting my heart (and fist) pumping with some very exciting scenes. The world building, which was something I took issue to in book one, was much better as Lu took the time to expose her dystopic world to her readers, I liked the inclusion of natural disasters, rebellions, and government, and I was especially delighted to see her mention how the “rest of the world” was coping with America’s little…problem. Yes, there is a world outside ‘Murica.

I had to mentally piece things together regarding the conclusion of Legend seeing most of it was hazy, so some references probably took some time for me to grasp, but overall, the storyline of Prodigy was decent. I found the situation regarding the Elector unoriginal, as with the direction she took several of the characters (Tess and Kaede in particular), but I was definitely won over by some other subplots (for some reason I really loved the Elector-June dynamic, and of course, the tumultuous but sweet relationship of Day and June made my heart mostly warm and fuzzy). I like the tension Lu introduced into their relationship (too much, might I add. Off-kilter relationships are the best.) While the overall story arc wasn’t as strong as I would wish, I think Lu handles the details with finesse and careful writing that really brings the novel to another level.

The dual POV is always enjoyable, and I thought the way June narrated some of the more intense scenes was very realistic, seeing she was the analytic one and Day was the emotional one. This is kind of a selfish wish, but I wish they were like, older. Like 17 or 18. Fifteen just seems awfully young... or I'm getting old... The writing was hugely enjoyable to read and definitely sucked me into the story with its capability to brighten characters and whisk the plot along at a brisk pace.

Prodigy is a exhilarating, highly enjoyable sequel that has broad appeal and super-likeable characters. Think Percy Jackson, but two of them!

Rating in HP Terms: Exceeds Expectations
Recommended for: fans of The Hunger Games, Divergent, dystopian, fun action-filled YA
Acknowledgements: 4/5

8.9/10 – because although there’s something that stopped me from falling head over heels for this fabulous novel, I can sit here all day and sing it praises. I adored the characters, the writing and plot were both compelling, and it was a fascinating look into a dystopian world. With plenty of exciting action, romance, political intrigue, and sticky situations, Prodigy is a sequel I’m infinitely glad to say didn’t disappoint!








*this seems to be a common thing according to the reviews I'm skimming right now on Goodreads

source: publisher

author website / twitter
Legend series website