Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Blurb: Mara Dyer believes life can't get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there.
It can. 

She believes there must be more to the accident she can't remember that killed her friends and left her strangely unharmed. 
There is.

She doesn't believe that after everything she's been through, she can fall in love. 
She's wrong.

My Review: Okay so I'm still a bit unsure on how I feel about this book.
On one hand, I really like the mystery and the drama revolving around the protagonist and on the other hand, I just couldn't get myself to fully enjoy the story, mainly because of the whole romance thing going on between Noah and Mara.
After reading so many books with a story about a dark, handsome, broody and *of course* filthy rich guy and the confused, troubled and oh yeah, full of secrets girl who doesn't give a craaapppp about the fact that the guy is loaded, these kind of stories just don't do it for me. I mean, COME ON. You can only take so much of the same kind of romance, right?
Anyway, leaving the whole Noah-Mara angle behind, the mystery bit was interesting. On the first page, Mara says that her name ISN'T Mara which kind of keeps you wondering throughout the rest of the story if/when the truth about her name will be revealed. Since I hadn't check the genre of this book when I picked it up, I had NO IDEA that it was going to be a paranormal fiction, so when she ends up seeing ghosts, I was even more intrigued because up until then, this was just a mystery novel to me.

When it comes to Mara's character, I'm not sure I'm going to be fan-girling about her anytime soon because even though I understood her reasons for being so out of sorts with everything, I just couldn't sympathize because instead of dealing with it, she just...let go and refused to accept the signs that something wrong was actually happening. Even if it wasn't, instead of taking help or accepting that maybe she was a little crazy, she just lies to others and herself. Now, I know a lot of authors do this to their female protagonists to show the slow transition if the protagonist from a weak, normal, mundane girl to some fierce, ready-to-take-on-the-world, strong chick, but I'm simply not a fan of these kind of transitions. There are a lot of other, better ways you can show the character metamorphosis WITHOUT making them plain dumb and stupid in the beginning. Basing the rest of your story by relying on the main characters' dumb-ness and refusal to accept what is happening is very frustrating to read. It's not even relatable because I know that if suddenly people started dropping dead just the way I imagined them to die a few hours before they actually boinked, I'd either accept that I'm the Goddess of Death or seek professional help. ASAP.

Coming to Noah, well I have one word for him. Cliche. I'm not even kidding, he's such a cliched character that he checks ALL the boxes required to be a cliched male character in a book with a female protagonist.

1.) Mindbogglingly HAWTTTT with a bad boy attitude (CHECK)
2.) Is a recluse (CHECK)
3.) Shows that he doesn't give a crap about the world (CHECK)
4.) Has B with Itches fawning and swooning all over him (CHECK)
5.) Is a genius without trying (CHECK)
6.) Instantly gets drawn towards the new girl in school (CHECK)
7.) Charms her panties out effortlessly (CHECK)
8.) Richer than Bill Gates...well, almost. (CHECK)
9.) Has the self-confidence and self-esteem of a God. (CHECK)

Honestly, it was fun to read about guys like him before, but now I just lose interest as soon as a character like this comes into the picture.
The one good thing about him, which I really liked, was the way he stayed calm and stuck by Mara's side even though everything was going haywire around her. Somehow, the sweet, caring side of the male characters just never gets old for me. I loved how he helped Mara out with her brother and everything else, no questions asked. Even when she became annoying, he soothed her and showed her the path of reason and sense (which she deviated from, in the end, because obviously.)

Despite the loopholes and the issues I had with Mara and Noah, I still finished it because admittedly, I did want to know what was going to happen next. I was curious as well as intrigued which is the only reason why I want to give this book 3 stars. I'm definitely going to read the next book in the trilogy just to find out WHY THE HELL DID SHE SAY HER NAME ISN'T MARA.
If you don't mind the characters being...the way they are and actually prefer them that way, this book is definitely for you as the rest of the story is not that bad and the supernatural as well as mystery elements are quite interesting to read.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Review: The Summer of Skinny Dipping by Amanda Howells

Blurb: There Are Some Summers You'll Always Remember

Sometimes I wake up shivering in the early hours of the morning, drowning in dreams of being out there in the ocean that summer, of looking up at the moon and feeling as invisible and free as a fish. But I'm jumping ahead, and to tell the story right I have to go back to the beginning. To a place called Indigo Beach. To a boy with pale skin that glowed against the dark waves. To the start of something neither of us could have predicted, and which would mark us forever, making everything that came after and before seem like it belonged to another life.

My name is Mia Gordon: I was sixteen years old, and I remember everything

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

My Review: 
As the rating says, The Summer of Skinny Dipping to me was...okay. I kept turning the pages and expecting it to turn better, more exciting, to no avail. I'd read such great reviews about this novel that I was absolutely sure that this would be my favourite summer read for this year so imagine my disappointment when I found myself no wanting to return to the story once I left it because it was just sooooooo sloooooowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww.

Don't get me wrong. The story was really sweet and nice but somehow, I didn't feel connected to it even ONCE. It took me SIX FREAKING DAYS to finish it because I just wasn't interested in getting back to the story.

Mia was a sweet protagonist. There were some instances where I could relate with her but the initial few chapters were simply boring. I remember thinking at one point that Mia's severe case of inferiority complex requires professional help. Urgently.
However, the pace did pick up once Simon was introduced in the story....only to fall back again.
Simon was an interesting character, full of life and very self-assured. Their romance was a sweet (I realize I'm using this adjective for the third time but really, sweet is all I can use to describe most of the stuff in this book, so bear with me) one which bloomed with time but the problem is that the time it took was a bit too slow for me.
To keep my interest, the story should have a STRONG female protagonist who doesn't need a guy to boost her self-esteem like Mia, or if that's not the case, then it should be funny or exciting or give me a rush or make me want to just vanish into the story and that world. NONE of these happened and I'm genuinely disappointed.

At the end, I didn't feel emotional or sad. I just felt relieved that it was over and I can move on to more interesting novels now which is a sad thing in itself. I hate feeling like this about any book because each story is a product of immense hard-work by an author but unfortunately, this one just wasn't for me.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Review: The Jewel by Amy Ewing

Blurb: The Jewel means wealth. The Jewel means beauty. The Jewel means royalty. But for girls like Violet, the Jewel means servitude. Not just any kind of servitude. Violet, born and raised in the Marsh, has been trained as a surrogate for the royalty—because in the Jewel the only thing more important than opulence is offspring.

Purchased at the surrogacy auction by the Duchess of the Lake and greeted with a slap to the face, Violet (now known only as #197) quickly learns of the brutal truths that lie beneath the Jewel’s glittering facade: the cruelty, backstabbing, and hidden violence that have become the royal way of life.

Violet must accept the ugly realities of her existence... and try to stay alive. But then a forbidden romance erupts between Violet and a handsome gentleman hired as a companion to the Duchess’s petulant niece. Though his presence makes life in the Jewel a bit brighter, the consequences of their illicit relationship will cost them both more than they bargained for.

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

My Review:

I WANT to give it 1.5 stars but I'm going to be lenient and stick with 2.
Sigh. I had high expectations from this book simply because many people compared it with The Selection. Okay, now I'm well aware of the fact that The Selection was disliked by many, but to be honest, I absolutely loved that series. I think the execution was perfect and the story was beautifully put. HOWEVER, The Jewel was just...bland.

Violet Lasting is among the weakest protagonists I've come across so far. While Ms. Ewing tried hard to make her strong and willful and powerful, she was anything BUT THAT. I mean, COME ONNNNNNNNNNNNNNN, YOU HAVE BEEN GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY TO DESTROY THE HORRIBLE RULE OF THE JEWEL AND FREE YOURSELF ALONG WITH ALL THE GIRLS WHO ARE GOING TO BE USED LIKE COWS AND THEN THROWN AWAY LIKE TRASH AND WHAT DO YOU DO?!?!

My frail resolve wavers. I think about what sort of person I want to be. I owe Lucien my life, and I will be loyal to him until the end. But Ash has nothing to do with that. Ash is separate, a part of my life that is just mine. There are things that are bigger than us, it’s true. Saving the surrogates. Destroying the royalty. Is loving Ash worth the risk?

Ummm excuse me, but you don't just go all, "I'll be loyal to him until the end" and then disregard the dude who gave you this opportunity and start frolicking with a guy YOU'VE JUST MET A FEW DAYS BACK, thinking that you LOVE him. I mean, Lucien is putting his life at risk JUST so that he can save millions of surrogates like you, and despite being TOLD VERY CLEARLY that you're IMPERATIVE for the plan to work (God knows why He'd give such powers to a foolish weakling who can clearly not control her horny teenage hormones), you still think it's perfectly fine to risk everything so that you can be with Lover Boy, Ash. Are you an idiot, or what?

I would've been fine with the fact that she instantly gets attracted to Ash because she feels a certain connection to him but the thing is, the way the story was executed, it just felt like she would've "fallen in love" with ANY boy her age had he been good-looking and willing to talk to her which nobody does apparently because she's a lowly surrogate. The way she reacts to Garnet in the initial chapters clearly proves that.

"I saw the Duchess's son." A blush creeps up the back of my neck at the memory of the handsome boy and his disheveled appearance. "He doesn't seem anything like his mother."

Pretty sure if he bothered to speak to her, she would've "fallen in love" with him first. But then before that could happen, Ash enters. He looks at her like she's a normal human being and not an animal and POOF! She's instantly crazy about him.
They have sex a couple of weeks later and in spite of a Doctor CONSTANTLY checking up on her to see if she's ready for surrogacy, he doesn't figure out that she's recently had sexual intercourse with someone (which happens to be a serious offense that could get her executed). Nope, the so-called Doctor notices nothing. Lucky girl.

I also figured out the biggest suspense in the whole story pretty early (view spoiler) so when it was revealed like a cliff-hanger at the end, I felt no excitement or surprise.

I feel like the story had some potential but Ms. Ewing was unable to bring forth the pain and the anguish of the surrogates and everyone else under the rule of The Jewel. My only reaction was, "Bleh." for scenes which should have made me gasp in outrage about the unfairness of it all.

I barely felt anything throughout the book and mostly my thoughts were, "OMG don't do this, you're a strong protagonist!" "OMG don't do this, you were supposed to be a strong protagonist!" "OMG don't do this, you're so foolish!" "OM...oh, forget it, she's an idiot."

Overall, this book was a disappointment. I couldn't relate to Violet or any character in the novel, and I just felt that she was purposely made to do all the stupid things so the story could continue. I absolutely hate it when the story can only move forward on the basis of the weak character of the protagonist. I have a feeling that the second book will be better because this usually happens with books like these but I'm not sure if I want to read it or not.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Review: To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

Blurb: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed. But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister's ex-boyfriend, Josh. As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My review: 
Oh my. This was SUCH a good book to read!
I remember that The Summer I Turned Pretty was among the first YA books I read when I initially started phasing out from my horror books obsession and honestly, despite the fact that I wasn't really fond of Belly in that story, I still finished the whole trilogy just because there's something about Jenny Hans' writing style. It coaxes you to read just one more chapter...and then another till you read to the point where you end up intrigued about the ending because you can figure that it's not gonna be the way you initially thought it might.

The exact same thing happened to me again with TABILB. The starting was incredibly slow and I couldn't enjoy the story because I kept getting distracted. However, things picked up as soon as Lara Jean's letters got delivered not-so-mysteriously (I mean come on, it was pretty obvious who did it)
Up until then, I was thinking her character to be kind of...bland. Man, was I wrong. As the story progressed, more and more I found myself actually relating to her. It's annoying but I cry just as much and just as easily as she did in the story. It was also the way she'd clam up and do something insanely stupid or crazy in front of her crush (like making up a pretend-boyfriend to save face)...yeah been there, done that.

So basically, even though she's fictional, I was kind of delighted upon reading about her antics so similar to mine even though, unlike me, Lara Jean lived with her heart on her sleeve which was part of the reason she got into all that mess in the first place.

The story caught on a pretty stable and enjoyable pace from there. Initially, I liked Josh but later on he just seemed like a huge wimp to me. Peter, on the other hand, stole my heart from the minute he graced the pages of this novel. There's just something about these confident guys, you know?
I was rooting for him but the best part was that till the end I wasn't sure who Lara Jean might choose. Her conflicting emotions were portrayed so well that it almost seemed normal. Oh yeah, she likes Josh, but of course she realizes later that it’s actually Peter who she loves but then Peter’s out of her league so now she’s interested in John and so on… It seems pretty crazy put like this but the story was so in flow that I actually enjoyed myself while all this mess was happening.

Overall, the story was nicely executed, I believe. All the characters were fun and interesting and the relationship Lara Jean shared with her family was endearing. Although in the story, Margot, her elder sister, was put forward as the selfless one, to me it seemed that Lara Jean was the one who always considered her sisters’ wishes and put them before her own. I found her younger sister to be a quite annoying, frankly so thank God I don’t have siblings like that. However, the love which Lara Jean showered on everyone close to her was really sweet. I’m pretty sure I’m gonna start with P.S. I Still Love You ASAP because I can’t wait to know what happens next.
If you’re looking for a short, sweet summer read, I’d say go for this! However, I do think that people who aren't that fond of love triangles and/or a na├»ve, innocent female protagonist, won’t exactly enjoy this book as much as I did!