Friday 14 March 2014

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor (Daughter of Smoke & Bone #1)

Star-crossed lovers. Tick. Forbidden Love. Tick. Magic. Tick. Angels and demons and an age old war between species. Tick. Wierd, annoying, loyal best friend. Tick (emphasis on wierd). Sound cliche? It is. And it isn't. It has all the ingredients to be another angels and demons YA novel. Only the end result is that it's not. Firstly, due to the writing style, which I'll talk about below. Also, because the story is actually unique, different to other angel books I've read.

It goes a little like this. Karou is a blue-haired (FINALLY an MC that is NOT platinum blonde or flame-haired and sees herself as "ugly" even though she has platinum blonde or beautiful red hair). No. Karou doesn't dwell on how she thinks she's ugly. She doesn't think she is. She doesn't whine. Even when there is a hot chick around who tries to make her feel ugly. She doesn't just sook about it internally. What does she do? Well she uses magic to give her *spoiler alert* big, bushy eyebrows that grow back instantly if you try to shave them. Ha! Genius! Ahem. So anyway, Karou is ... she doesn't know what she is. She has beasts/monsters for a family who raised her. But now, she lives on her own, and disappears randomly from school, friends, whatever, when she's called on by her father figure to run errands. What are these errands you ask? She travels the world through a magic portal collecting ... teeth. Why? Well you will have to read the book to find out! Anyway, on one of her errands, she meets Akiva, the sexy sexy angel who tries to kill her. But wait. He doesn't succeed. But she lingers on his mind so he follows *stalks* her. And bam! They're in LUUURRRVVEE! Yes, this is another case of insta-love. But it 's all explained quite well, and I guess in this instance, the insta-love passes for me. I don't like it, but I get why it had to happen that way, and it makes sense.

The Writing
I want to talk about the writing because it was completely unexpected for a YA novel. I'm going to say straight up that I have mixed feelings about this book. I realise that everyone is gushing about it and I am one of the only ones not getting all 'Twi-hard' about it, but I am going to try to decipher my thoughts into words, and hopefully it makes sense.

Laini Taylor has a way with words. That cannot be argued. Her writing is lyrical. Poetic. I love her writing style, and I don't. Doesn't make sense? Well, at first I loved it. I loved the descriptions and the way the writing creates a magical feel. But then, as I went on and I got into the story, I realised the writing was getting in the way of the plot. At times, I just wanted to shout, "get on with it already!" I didn't shout it. But I wanted to. It got a little frustrating when you're in the middle of a really good part and things are about to be revealed, but then you've got paragraphs worth of poetic descriptions that, I felt, just didn't need to be there because they slowed down the story. When I think about it, not a lot actually happened in this book. Lots of things were revealed, all my questions were answered, but Karou didn't actually DO much. I feel like most of the book was filled with flowery paragraphs. In saying that, I did love Taylor's descriptions of Prague and Marakesh. I really felt like I was there. For me, she created the right atmosphere, like she knew what she was talking about. I've never been to either of those cities so even if she got it all wrong I wouldn't know, but it worked for me. I like that Taylor took me to Prague and Marakesh (and some other cities I don't remember lol).

I like her. She's a very different MC to other YA novels. She's not whiny, self-conscious, overly badass, and she's no Mary-Sue either. She carries knives. And she has hamsas on her palms. She can cripple angels with the flash of her palms. And she does. Totally badass. But Taylor doesn't overdo it by constantly reiterating to the reader through every freaking character that the MC comes in contact with that she is oh-so-effing-baddass! No. Karou's badass-ness is totally subtle. Classy. High-five Laini Taylor. No complaints about Karou from me. She's cool. And I like her sense of humour. Not to mention her sense of revenge. Oh dear, her sense of revenge is special. Please read this book. It's cute. Special note to ex showing up in Karou's art class. Another high-five to Laini Taylor. Thank you for the laugh. Now I know what I would do to anyone who got on my wrong side if I had magical abilities.

Meh. Of coures he is oh-so completely drop-dead-gorgeous. What love interest isn't? But I find him a little too broody and the I-hate-myself-oh-so-much but the world-needs-to-pay-for-my-misery crap gets old. Oh, and the stalking. Hmm. I didn't really feel his cause. I don't know. Maybe it's because the book is written in third person and perspective changes a lot, so I never really had the chance to connect. That's the other thing about the writing, Taylor spends so much time describing things that I never really felt like I could connect with anyone but Karou. Even connecting with her was tough. Despite what anyone says, I still feel that Cassandra Clare was one of the few authors who succeeded in third-person format. Anyway, I hope Akiva grows on me in the second book. Though I doubt it because as it turns out, well, you will just have to read the book. The end is ... doesn't do justice for what I think of Akiva.

Side characters
I forget her best-friend's name. I don't care. She's annoying. Her humour is a little forced. And odd. Very odd.

The ex, whats-his-name. Useless character. Wait, no. He's SO useful because of what Karou does to him. Oh he is worth being in it just for that. Other than being a character simply for Karou to exercise her cute sense of humour on, he's pretty much useless.

Karou's family
Karou's 'family', are half-beasts of all kinds, half-human. Like centaurs. Kinda. Brimstone is her father figure, and he is the one who gets her to collect teeth and pays her with magic. Have you read Khanh the destroyer of dream's reviews on Goodreads? She describes these kind of characters well in her reviews. They are the authority figure in every book (the mother, father, uncle, aunt, whatever), who knows things but shall not tell the MC for whatever reason the important things the MC needs to know so that there can be a sense of mystery. Brimstone is that person. And the other characters, the ones Karou calls family, they all support Brimstone and the whole 'we-know-things-you-need-to-know-but-we-shall-not-tell' thing, fussing about her and discouraging her from questioning Brimstone. Even though she COLLECTS TEETH for him. She just does as she's told, because Brimstone is her family, and she must-not-question because he shall-not-tell.

Last words
Although I've criticised a few things, all in all though, it's a great book because the story as it unfolds is actually quite unique and intriguing. What is revealed sets this series up for a great run, and I can't wait to read the next one. I'd give it a five, if it weren't for the poeticly descriptive language that resulted in me skimming through parts of it to get to the point, and also the flashbacks. Oh, the damn flashbacks! They killed me. I get that they needed to be there. But it doesn't mean they weren't annoying as hell. That is another thing that slowed down the story for me. If you can deal with that, then it's a good read.


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Nora xoxo

Monday 24 February 2014

Holy mother*beep* what the *beep* did I just read? - Suicide Ride: The Platinum Man (Suicide Ride #1) by E. Llewellyn

Grasping at straws, his eyes sought the fabled Art Deco marquee, that notorious neon gimmick designed to shill for a modern residential conversion called the Lofts: surely it would not disappoint. The graphic quintessence of California, it would call up everything that Hollywood was supposed to be: nights with stars, golden records, and round turntables ...
   But no. Yawning campily from the opposite corner, it, too, was a huge let-down. Like everything else he laid eyes on, it failed to live up. A vine never to be climbed, the hype out here wound on forever, like Jack's beanstalk, higher than the mortal eye could see and more Byzantine than the most Machiavellian mind could dream.

W.T.F??? Word vomit much? I HATE to belittle any book like this, but WTF? Give me a minute. I'm gobsmacked. Speechless. I think my eyeballs are bleeding. I need to forget I ever read this, my brain is hurting!

I don't know what to say, except that this author obviously LOVES the sound of her own freaking voice, and has MURDERED any chance the plot had of making this a decent read. Total savagery, I tell you. My brain had a hard time understanding what was happening, because the author kept rearing her head every opportunity she could get with her arrogant display of ... well ... what I can only describe as WORD VOMIT. HOW can ANYONE get what ANY of those jumbles of words are supposed to mean? It's a HOT MESS!

I have never written anything so negative before, and I never thought I would, but good lord does this book deserve it. And guess what, my FIRST DNF! Yup! My masochism draws a line somewhere after all! Yet not enough to stay away all together. I heard about this unfortunate book through some friends on Goodreads. There were lots of negative reviews, and then there was the author and her puppies who attacked these reviewers/readers (like, really nasty attacks), and this got my curiosity piquing. Even for great books there are negative reviews, there will always be negative reviews. But this particular author seemed to take EVERY review that was not a glowing 5 star review personally and decided to go on a rage and bully all those that didn't give it 5 stars so that they'd take down their reviews. And her and her muppets succeeded because many retract their reviews. Shame on you, Elizabeth Llewellyn.

Anyway, I heard about the first few chapters being available to read for free on Amazon, so I decided that I needed to see why the author was so aggressively defending her work, needless to say that there is an interview with her here, where she arrogantly boasts about herself and her writing like she's freaking God's gift to the reading public. That was it, I had to see what all the fuss was about. And dear lord, did I get smacked in the head or what. My head is still spinning.

What is it even about? *shrugs shoulders* How the hell should I know? I think you would have to be the author to know. Like I said, it's a hot mess. Okay wait, I got a little of it. It's about a straight guy who wants to be a famous rockstar ... or something ... and meets a gay guy who is a record producer and owns a bar and they meet and get together. The main guy, Johnny, he's like super dark and handsome and mysterious and hot, or something. And the other guy, he's drawn to Johnny because he's like super dark and handsome and mysterious and hot, or something. Whatever. I think that was the gist of it. I'm surprised I understood anything from that mumbo jumbo of words regurgitated from the thesaurus. Oh poor thesaurus. Talk about abuse of the thesaurus. This book was a prime example of that. Would authors please put the freaking thesaurus down? We don't need you to string together a bunch of fancy words that don't even make sense in the context you're using them just so you can sit back and marvel at your creation. PLEASE! It's not a masterpiece if it doesn't make sense! It's supposed to be a STORY! And if the writing protrudes from the page and distracts the reader from the flow of the plot then you are failing to engage your readers, hence, failed storyteller.

I feel if I keep going my reasonably controlled rage-rant will turn into a profanity-laden rage-rant. And when I began my blog, I swore to myself that I would not go down that path. But good God am I tempted with this one. Especially when I recall the author abusing her readers. GRRR!

Let me just torture you with some more examples of thesaurus abuse displayed in this novel.

In this place, even the lampposts wanted nailing, for worry they'd have no takers: everything here could be had, for a price.
Again, WTF? Horny lampposts? LOL. I'm on the floor. Laughing. Crying. Laughing.

At last count, of the roughly seven thousand greenbacks he had started out with, all he had left was a measly sixty-nine hundred--not an altogether mean sum, he reckoned, for a pimpled deadhead hitting the road; but for a newly unemployed twenty-nine-year-old petticoat-mechanic, with not other proper work experience, and now no old man to fall back on? --It was a pittance!
What the hell is a "petticoat-mechanic"???

Seizing a nosebleed seat in the centre of the outermost ledge of semi-circular bleachers, he held a conductor's view of the imposing amphitheater, boiling in the topographical pan of Bolton Canyon like a gutted quarter-egg. Beyond it, the rolling range of burnt-out hills spiked into the crazing blue sky like the helter-skelter EKG reading of a wildly beating heart.

At the fibrillating limit, digging deeply into the domed horizon, the seemingly immovable, iconic HOLLYWOOD sign stood its shaky ground. Disporting its wee Eiffel-Tower party hat and flashing its pearly whites for all the world to see, it lorded its bleaching crowns over the sun-stained local yokels yukking it up down in the browned-out Valley below ...
*scratches head* I think it's talking about the Hollywood sign ...

The Bowl would shelter him in utero, wrap him like a second skin. Dragging his graceless, falling, sin-grimed body inside its reverberating drum and drubbing it clean, it would spin-rinse him dry, then orbit him back out again--pure and white as the high-gloss paint on its crib-like hull, unsullied and as full of unrealized potential as a brand-spanking new baby.
Okay, you really lost me. Totally.

Tortured enough yet? Eyeballs criss-crossed? Thought so. I'm done.


Nora xoxo

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My first New Adult genre book, Out of the Ashes ... this one stays in the ashes for me - Out of the Ashes (Out of the Ashes #1) by Diana Gardin

I've been sitting on this review for a while. Like, a really long time, actually. I wrote it a few days after I had finished it, because I didn't want to give a negative review until I had time to think about it and ensure that my initial feelings were warranted. And my initial feelings were not good. And when I read over my review, I felt bad about posting it because this is self-pubbed and I did not want to contribute to its downfall, neither did I want to write a dishonest review for the sake of being nice. But now that I've had time to think it over, like two months later, I've decided to post my review because, well, I wasted my precious time reading it, so I have a right to my honest opinion. And that's what I do, I post honest reviews. So here it is. But first, let me get this clear, this is not my usual genre, I don't ever read NA contemporary, I'm more of a YA dystopian reader so that may affect my judgement. I received an arc from the author so I decided to give it a shot.

Paige has lived through a traumatic experience (a fire) and is a year delayed in starting college as she spent a considerable amount of time in hospital. It begins with Paige and her best friend Gillian, who has helped Paige through the tough time and is now supporting her decision to go to college. We learn about Paige's struggles right away, and we understand that Gillian is basically the perfect best-friend.

When Paige goes to college she meets Clay, a supposed playboy who falls in insta-love with Paige and we have a romance that progresses faster than I can say 'er'. And then we meet Hannah, a former flame of Clay's who is basically only there to serve as a villain and make life hell for our Romeo & Juliet. So basically, it's a love story, with a few obstacles thrown in here and there to make it interesting. I feel like the whole traumatic experience thing didn't really serve a purpose for the story as it was just a love story, with random obstacles. Like the fact that we had a jealous ex-girlfriend, but then there's a sprinkling of reasons for Clay to also feel insecure and jealous just to keep it interesting. I didn't really buy it. It felt too cliché and forced. Clay and Paige's relationship, felt unnatural. Like, how did they just fall in love? Where were the parts where we connect with the characters and see why/how they fall in love with each other? I felt like this was missing.
I mean, I like the characters, but I didn't LOVE them. I didn't even hate Hannah (who is a bat-shit cray cray biatch), but the fact that I didn't feel much about the situation tells me that the author didn't succeed in engaging me with the characters. There was no process of building the connection, or maybe there was a little bit but it felt unnatural, forced. I just didn't really care about the characters. I mean, Paige has been through something major, so traumatic, and I feel horrible for saying this but I didn't really care. It didn't really affect me the way it should have.

Voice. This was a real problem for me. It felt like I could hear the author's voice the entire time, and not each individual character's voice, which made it impossible to really immerse myself in their world and connect with them. The writing is at times purple prosy and overwhelms the plot, which distracts me from the story and I begin to go cross-eyed and my eyeballs feel like they will drop from their sockets because I'm reading through a jungle of words put together for the sake of sounding intelligent but really, it's just freakin' distracting. Ahem, sorry. Seriously though, just write a freakin' story people, stop trying to sound all prosy and writer-y and like you regurgitated the thesaurus onto the page, just write the damn story!

Let me explain this in simple terms. For instance, when the characters speak to each other, it sounds more like they are writing to each other rather than conversing. Also, there are way too many instances where characters each have turns at speaking whole passages to each other, it sounds like a speech. People don't speak to each other in paragraphs. We speak in short sentences in everyday conversation, we speak over each other, we make funny noises, we make expressions. It was like the author wanted to tell us rather than show us. But people communicate 70% more through body language rather than speech. Also, people don't speak in correct English to each other, we don't use the correct grammatical terms etc. Especially not 20 year old college students. I can see how the author tried at times to convey their age through slang terms, but some of those terms felt a little outdated, and other times where they were speaking looked the same as the their thoughts. People don't articulate their thoughts exactly the way they were thinking it into speech. We filter, and we don't all think and speak the same way. But sometimes it was hard to tell, especially with the dual pov, sometimes I forgot whose pov I was reading. 
About the previous thing I mentioned, that 20 year olds don't speak they way we'd write, here's a part where Clay is reassuring Paige that she's not dragging him down. 

"You could never do that. I don't think you realize what an upper you are. You're like a phoenix, rising out of the ashes. I can't even understand how you stand up every day, much less do everything you're doing. I'm humbled by you, Paige. Perfectly humbled. You're amazing."

Yeah, it's that kind of book.

Also, what 20 year old guy speaks like that? A phoenix rising out of the ashes? Unless he was a lit major and studied lots of Shakespeare type literature, but we know he's not. Even so, WHAT FREAKIN 20 YEAR OLD SPEAKS LIKE THAT? Clay is supposed to be a typical cool-guy player turned loved-up puppy, so, seriously, how did he begin speaking like he's freakin' Rumi or something? See what I mean by it all feels a little unnatural and forced?

Another thing, it seems like they are all perfect with no flaws with perfect relationships and the only reason why there's any tension is due to other people. Basically, if there's no Hannah, or obstacles like her, then Clay and Paige's group would be perfect (Mary Sue alert). They're all so nice to each other (I call it cupcake-nice), and it's annoying because it's unrealistic. Everything is too cliché. Paige has the perfect best-friend, the perfect secondary friends (all who say the perfect things to her, always complimenting her and saying nice things and supporting her), a perfect boyfriend who instantly gives up his life of love-crimes to be her perfect Romeo, and the perfect scenario where a string of potential interested parties (competition for Clay) begin to appear at the perfect times to pepper the story with intrigue. It's all too damn perfect and cup-cakey. I mean, both Clay and Paige have love-sick psycho's who will do anything for them (however twisted) is a stretch. What are they, a love God and love Goddess who once a person has had a taste, MUST have him/her at ANY cost? Or is this an America where college students have gone all Bollywood and deep passionate love even at the cost of the most extreme of acts is the norm? Nope, I don't buy it. Hannah alone as the third party who-won't-give-up was enough. But to throw in a second and maybe a third into the mix? It doesn't sit right with me.

Look, it wasn't all that bad. Maybe it was that it's not my usual genre so I'm used to characters being put in much tougher situations like the world ending etc and having to be tough and there being no room for the fluffy drama that this book entailed, but it is what it is. This is how I saw it. There was a cliffhanger at the end which has me interested to know what happens next -- wait, no, I lie, I'm not really interested in the sequel -- it didn't engage me enough to want to lock the release date of the next book in my calendar. I'm sorry, I'm really sorry because I really wanted my first NA to be a great experience so I can be interested in reading more, but this is my honest review :-/ And come to think of it, it's not that I don't like the genre, I'm still open-minded about the genre, I think it was just this one. The writing, the plot, the bad characterisation, the dialogue. Look, I'm trying to be nice but it's just not working. I'm sorry! BUT, good news is, it's not the WORST I've ever read, it's not THAT bad. Oh God, I feel like Smeagol right now.

I am hoping with my fingers and toes crossed that the sequel improves over this one. Because the backstory is okay, if not executed entirely well. I guess if you're an NA fan, you MAY like it. So if you read it I hope you like it and you tell me I'm wrong wrong, completely wrong and just didn't get it because I'm outside of my area of experience or interest. Read it and tell me it's me and not the book. Because I wish the best for this author, I see what she was trying to do, create an epic love story, one worth believing that insta-love happens, and I love love, so I hope she can translate that better in the next one.

Sorry Diana.


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Nora xoxo

Not a stunner but worth a read - Defy (Defy #1) by Sara B. Larson

This is about a girl, Alexa Hollen, whose parents die at the hands of a sorcerer, and to prevent her from being forced into the rape house -- you heard me -- rape house, where girls are taken to breed future soldiers for the king's army because their country is engaged in a war, her and her twin brother disguise her as a boy and she becomes Alex, joining the Prince's Guard as an expert swordsman/guard. If alarm bells are not ringing in your head right now, then nothing shocks you my friend.

First of all, there is a lot of mention about these rape/breeding houses, and there is one scene where Alex/Alexa and her brother are introduced to the rape house, but it's a brief part of the book and we're not told much. It feels like the only purpose of the existence of the rape houses is so the main protagonist can disguise herself as a boy (hello Mulan) and provide an opportunity for her to get close to the Prince.

I'm still scratching my head as to the reason given in the book for the rape houses -- to breed soldiers to aid in the war. WTF? Are you thinking what I'm thinking? WTF? What are they thinking? That babies pop out as ready-made soldiers? Wouldn't it take, I don't know, like at least fifteen YEARS before these babies are old enough to wield a sword in a war against the enemy? Or am I missing something here, maybe in this world babies are able to fight ... ? Hmm.

It's things like that, that make me feel like the plot is missing a lot and the author didn't entirely think it all through. It just didn't feel right. For example, there is virtually no world-building. We get that they live in a jungle area or something. We get that from all of Alex's complaining about the jungle humidity and her fear of the jungle (so much for a totally badass expert fighter). That's another thing, Alex is supposed to be a totally badass expert swordsman/fighter, so much so that she is THE BEST. She can kick anyone's ass. But for some reason, I just didn't buy it. It felt too much like the author kept telling us that for the sake of having a kick-ass heroine, but Alex wasn't really a badass in reality but more of a whiney teen girl who pants at all the hot, topless males around her, and whines about the jungle, and the humidity, and the jungle. Badass Alex just did not work. Normal teenager Alex did work however. The author should just quit trying to portray her a fighter, and listen to Alex's heart, which is a normal, teen girl who wants to pant after hot, topless males, and whine about the jungle, and the humidity, and the jungle.

Rylan. Borrrrrrrrring. I don't even want to talk about him. Because there's nothing to talk about. He's boring. Lacks depth. There's not much to say. Except that his sole purpose in the book is to be the third person in the love triangle. Stupid love triangle. I used to love love triangles. Now I only like them. But this one, meh. Stupid love triangle.

Did I mention something happens to Alexa's twin, Marcel (I'm surprised I remember his name) right in the beginning of the book that is supposed to serve as something to make Alexa even more kick-ass and want revenge and blah blah blah. But I just didn't feel her emotions the way I should have in this situation. Yawn.

Prince Damian. He is the only one, I repeat, the only character I actually liked. At the beginning he is a spoilt, annoying brat of a prince. But then he turns out to be an admirable man with a backstory that explains his behaviour and explains the situation he is in and why he is doing what he's doing and what he plans to do. His story makes sense. His story is actually interesting and believable. It's the only parts of the book I liked. Prince Damian is interesting. He has depth in character. At first, there is an air of mystery around him, and when slowly the mystery unravels, I began to like him more and more, until I really liked him and was rooting for him. I rooted for him to be with Alex, even though Alex is boring and stupid. Maybe I should have rooted for her and Rylan, because they are both boring and stupid. Hmm.

For the most part, I felt the plot needed more work. It just didn't mesh well for me. There needed to be world-building, there needed to be more characterisation, there just needed to be ... more. There was something lacking. It took me a while to read. And by a while, I mean like, over a month, I think ... ? Why did I keep reading, you ask? Because I'm one of those people that can't quit, no matter how bad the book, I need to finish it. Just like movies, to my family and friends' annoyance, when I or someone unfortunately chooses a crappy B-grade movie and it's obvious in the first 5 minutes that it will be 2 hours of our lives we'll never get back, I always insist on still watching the crappy B-grade movie till the end because we've already started it, even if it means poking my eyeballs with a needle would be more enjoyable. Yes, I am that annoying person.

In saying all that, the end changed my mind, as it was surprisingly interesting enough to make me want to read the next one. I'm not dying for the sequel, I am entirely happy to wait. But I like the last couple of chapters much more than the first half. It actually turned me from rolling my eyes constantly, to being satisfied to keep reading.

So yeah, it's worth a read, just in between other series' when you're awaiting other releases. Passes the time well. Sorry for the negative review, I'm not one for them, but I have to be honest. My opinions are my own.


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I received this book as an Advance Reader Copy. All quotes were taken from an uncorrected galley and is subject to change in the final edition

Nora xoxo

Sunday 23 February 2014

A satisfying conclusion to an extraordinary series! - Into the Still Blue (Under the Never Sky #3) by Veronica Rossi

Umm, WOW! My review may be biased because ... well ... because Veronica Rossi had me at hello and so she could not have done wrong by me even if she totally messed everything up after the first book--wait, no, that's not true, I may have had psychotic thoughts if she messed with my Aria or Perry, but alas, she did not so I am a happy chicken and saved me from a turn to the dark side :-D (big, goofy smiley).

I am depressed the series is over though. So let me hang in the world of Perry and Aria for just a little longer while I gush about the awesomeness of this book.

So this takes off almost immediately after the events of 'Through the Ever Night', when Perry and Aria save the Dwellers from the collapse of Reverie and bring them to the cave where the Outsiders are taking refuge from the Aether. Now the two groups are forced to live together while Perry figures out what to do about their survival (poor Perry, so young yet the fate of 400 people lies in his hands, *sigh*). Cinder, the kid with the power to call the Aether is held by Sable (the other Outsider town's leader) and Hess (Reverie leader), who plan to use him to escape the Aether, cross the ocean and into the Still Blue. Perry and Aria assemble a small team (that includes Roar - *happy dance*), and set off to retrieve Cinder, as well as more Hovers to accommodate the numbers in their camp to the Still Blue. But of course, their mission is riddled with complications, sadness, loss, and also some 'feels' moments (insert winking smiley face).

Perry is my favourite character, closely followed by Roar. In 'Into the Still Blue', Perry is once again faced with the huge responsibility of leading his people, and part of doing that is to get Cinder back, so that he can get back to the Tides and figure out a way to save everyone and lead them into the Still Blue. I commend Veronica on her ability to write the duel perspective of Perry and Aria, and still be able to get across the difference in character voices. There are too many authors who write duel perspectives and fail in this because both protagonists end up sounding the same. Perry has a unique voice, and his inner thoughts and struggles are communicated to the reader strongly where we are able to really understand the burden he bears as Blood Lord. Perry is the kind of character who, even if you don't like him as a person or the decisions he makes, you are at least able to respect and admire him. It has just occurred to me that Perry is my all-time favourite male character ever. He is the perfect mixture of everything you (*I*) want in a male lead. He is strong when it counts, strategic, masculine, sexy, mysterious, and all those divinely manly attributes, but also softer when needed. He is extremely empathetic, selfless, loving, caring (even when others don't appreciate it), patient and kind. I know that if I were living in a world where there was an electric storm thingy threatening the existence of humankind I would want Peregrine to be my leader. He never asks of anything of anyone that he would not himself do. You will know what I mean when you read the book -- beware of the 'feels'. It is a pleasure to read Perry's chapters. It's also a pleasure to read Aria's chapters because we get to see Perry from her point of view (I want more Perry, Veronica!).

Roar. Poor, sweet, Roar. Although there is lots of Roar in this book for Roar-lovers, obviously you won't get him the way you want him because he is dealing with the loss of Liv, his love. It gets a little annoying at times because he lashes out at Perry, but later on when we learn why it's understandable, and I guess the tension between them eventually amounts to a brotherly make-up which warms the heart. I love their relationship, the brotherly bond. It's almost as pleasing to read about as the Perry-Aria romance. I also love the brotherly-sisterly bond Roar has with Aria. He cares for her deeply, and I love that you just know that he would sacrifice his own life for her, which shows what a loyal, caring, loving friend he is. Roar is (or should be) the definition of a best friend. He is cruel like how a best friend can be (jokingly), but also kind. I really felt for Roar, and I think the way he deals with his grief, though overwhelmingly bitter at times, is realistic.

Aria. I think Aria took a back seat in this book. I think I was expecting for Aria to grow from an untrained but lovely girl in Book 1, to a bit more of a useful fighter/leader in Book 3. But we don't really see much active leadership from her as I expected in this, Perry does most of that. I guess it's okay, because not everyone has to be kickass. Most YA authors are doing the whole kickass female heroine, and it's okay with me that Veronica didn't force Aria down that path. I see Aria as sweet, empathetic, kind, nurturing, loving of the whole world, forgiving, and always concerned about the wellbeing of others. I don't entirely see the point of her accompanying Perry and the team on their mission to get Cinder back, but I'm glad she did because Roar needed her, as well as Perry (more emotionally than anything else), and perhaps also Soren, because he is a loose canon and she acted as a buffer and controlled things somewhat between him and the others. Although Aria is not my favourite character after this book, I still love her.

The rest of the supporting characters are all as awesome as they were in the previous book. Molly, Bear, Brooke, Willow, Cinder, the Six, and even Flea the dog are all back. There are a couple of scenes with Flea that are so adorable. I love that Veronica wrote those parts in, they break away from the impending threats and make you laugh out loud. I actually laughed out loud. There are some really sad and tragic things that happen, and I still can't believe happened. I was so sad. I won't say who, but I really felt for this particular character and I wanted to hug them and not let go.

Romance. The romance between Perry and Aria is existent, but not as much as the first book. It would be a bit hard to carry out a romance when you're fighting to survive and trying to lead 400 people. Perry still manages to find some time for Aria, and he makes those moments count. I love that they both know how much they love each other, but don't need to suffocate each other to express it. I also love that Aria takes a step back and gives Perry the space he needs to carry out all his responsibilities, even if she doesn't agree with his tactics and decisions, she respects him enough to trust him and let him do what he needs to do. I like that she doesn't feel the need to steal the spotlight and be her own hero, but trusts in his ability as a leader, and supports him, but is also her own person at the same time and remains true to herself. I love their relationship. There is a harmonious understanding and bond between them that is beautiful to read about.

Veronica, thank you for respecting what the fans wanted and not ruining the series with your conclusion, but instead writing a fitting end to a wonderful series. Too many authors feel like they need to create a dramatic end to make it memorable (whatever), and too many times that approach has killed the entire series for me, so much so, that when I hear the spoilers of tragic ends (through the wonderful world of social media), I lose interest in reading the conclusion because I think the end will ruin the entire series for me and I don't want to remember it that way (I'm looking at you Veronica Roth). I am pleased to say that there is none of that B.S in this series, and I was able to sleep peacefully the night I finished it (with a huge, goofily satisfied grin on my face).

Thank you, Veronica Rossi :-D


Buy your copy here!

GoodReads page

Nora xoxo

Friday 13 December 2013

Empower by Jessica Shirvington (Violet Eden Chapters #5)

*Spoiler-free review*

I can't believe this amazing series has come to an end. No more Vi, no more Linc, Pheonix, Steph, Spence, Onyx, Dapper, Griff, Salvatore, noooo.

BUT, I AM satisfied. If you were disappointed with the endings of books such as Allegiant (Veronica Roth) and Requiem (Lauren Oliver) where they leave you scratching your head or bawling your eyes out, well 'Empower' will not be one of those. Jessica Shirvington does well in tying off loose ends, and you can happily move on with your life after turning the last page. Well, you may have some Lincoln withdrawals, but still, I'm happy, content. This is the kind of series that I would read again, knowing I will be heartbroken over and over, but then I will also be rewarded for the emotional trauma I allow Jessica to put me through. Don't get me wrong, people die, and those who don't may not entirely get their happy ending, but it all makes sense. Everything ends the way it should, and we can accept it without wanting to stalk and haunt Jessica (I am still mad with you Veronica Roth).

Just like the other books, this is fast-paced, emotionally taxing, but also funny and light where it needs to be. I LOVE the secondary characters, they really are one of the best bunch of secondary characters in any YA I've read. Each and every one of them have definitive personalities that jump off the page and make you wish they were YOUR best-friends.

There are some things however, that annoy me about Violet. I know know, I started off by raving about her in the first books, but over the course of the series, she has started to annoy me. She has always been bad-ass, but in this one in particular, she becomes pretty heavy on the bad-ass. She's cold. She's bitter, she's negative, she's broken. I get that after what she has been through, it would change anyone. But the affect that this has in the book is that in what are supposed to be romantic scenes, it's a little awkward because she has no warmth to give, and it's like Lincoln has to do all the work, even though he hasn't done anything wrong, he wasn't the one to abandon her. All he ever did was protect her and love her unconditionally, and she punished him for that, and she continues to do so. I found myself screaming, "Pull your s*** together princess!" at Violet. A lot. That's not to say the romantic scenes aren't delicious, because they are. Jessica has a gift of being able to really make the emotions the characters feel come to life. Lincoln is INTENSE. Everything about him is intense. Mostly his feelings about Violet are super-duper intense. And not once does that intensity drop or wane in any of the books, this once included. He is super hot! His emotions bounce up off the page in generous amounts, and I just couldn't get enough.

I know this is starting to sound like a mixed review. I wasn't planning on it, because I was happy with it when I finished. But as I write this, I am realizing, or remembering the things that annoyed me. Like Violet's cynical attitude toward the existence of God. I mean, she freakin' meets all the angels, she IS half-angel, she rescued her mom from hell (in previous book), and there's all that talk about balance, so if there's a hell then there's obviously a heaven, yet she questions the existence of one and when she can find out for sure, she refuses to in a very snobbish and cynical manner. I mean, helloooo, ignorance at its best? Her absolute flippant and ignorant attitude on this really grates on my nerves. These are some of the things that didn't make sense, and were a little silly to be honest. There is something else, like how she is special and all that, but when you think about it, there really isn't much that's special about her, nothing that makes her deserving of all the praise and hero-worship she receives, I mean, everyone fights equally hard and make sacrifices. She's no prophet! You'll know what I mean about this when you finish the book.

I don't want to sound like I didn't enjoy it, because I was able to ignore the niggly things and appreciate it. I love this series. But mainly because of the unique nature of the intense emotions that exist between Lincoln and Violet, and even her relationship with Pheonix. That is genius, imo, that the author is able to shoot right into you with only a few words, stirring all sorts of emotions.

If you still haven't gotten onto this series, and you are into YA angel books, then get on it already ;-) Because seriously, of all the angel series' I've read, this is one of the best.

Buy your copy!

Nora xoxo

Wednesday 13 November 2013

Under The Never Sky by Veronica Rossi (Under The Never Sky #1)

*Spoiler-free review*

I know this book has had rather mixed reviews. And yeah, I get it. The whole aether thing, which is some kind of super storm cell that haunts the lives of everyone on earth, is unexplained, very science-fictiony, (although the dystopian element is certainly there too), and a little hard to grasp at first, at how things got to be the way they are. Which is how people got to be so lazy, at least, where Aria lives in Reverie anyway. They spend their days cooped up in a cocoon of a city where they live out their lives through virtual worlds. That is, until Aria gets her butt ejected into the wasteland where she has to learn to do things for real. 

Anyway, she meets a guy, Peregrine (sexy name I think, boo to those who ragged on it), who rescues her a few times, takes care of her and protects her in a 'I-hate-you-but-like-you-and-I'll-pretend-to-hate-you' moody kind of way. And here's where the feminazi's got all cranky, because our damsel in distress had to be rescued. But who are we kidding here? Perry's hot! Wouldn't you like to be rescued by a confident, sure-of-himself yet also sensitive and caring, completely attentive, super-sexy and masculine guy? I know you secretly daydream about it *wink wink*. So yes, Aria is not all typically kick-ass, I mean, come on, she basically grew up in a shell where her idea of exercise is to go for a walk in a fake, virtual park, so how kick-ass could you expect her to be? I think her character fit the life she had. But don't get me wrong, she is tough. For example, she is thrown out on her ass into a wild, storm-ravaged land and although she is scared out of her mind, she pushes herself to survive. And yeah, Perry helps her most of the way, but she is faced with some nasty situations and you know what, she doesn't complain, she soldiers on and earns my respect. I seriously grew to like her. She's cute, she's trusting (a little too trusting, but it's cute), warm-hearted, kind, optimistic, tough, selfless and brave, and she grows.

Perry. Oh my. Look, I don't know if you noticed this by now, but I LOVE the strong, masculine love-interests. If there's going to be a male heroine, then he's got to be all man otherwise I lose interest in the love story. From the get go, when Perry and Aria meet, my interest is sparked because the chemistry between these two is undeniable. Granted, at first they don't really hit it off, it's almost hostile. But that's what makes it all so interesting. The initial attraction is there, there's a fire that crackles and pops where you're dying to just see them kiss already, but then you get to see how they grow on each other in terms of friendship, respect, and appreciation. Perry is all man. He's young, but he has had to grow up quickly, and he has all the leadership qualities that earns the respect of those who give him a chance to prove himself. Earning respect and leadership is important to him (you will know what I mean when you read the book), and due to certain obstacles he has to work hard for it, so he has his own struggles he has to deal with. He feels like he has to prove himself worthy, and I like that we get to read what he is going through from his perspective also (in third person). What I also like about him, and how Rossi has depicted their story, is how it reflects on modern relationships because although Perry is attracted to Aria, he doesn't fall in love with her straight off the bat and become her puppy dog who promises to give her the world and everything in it. This is gradual, and even then, he has his reservations, along with Aria having some of her own because they both remain independent and don't stray too much from their individual goals. I think it's safe to say that the relationship between Perry and Aria is my favorite of all the YA novels I have read. Mainly because I like the way they complement each other, Perry is a dominant character, and Aria complements him perfectly, and vice versa. She is exactly what he needs, and if you could ever see a guy like him ever actually fall in love and settle down, Aria would be the one to make that happen just by being her engagingly pleasant self. I absolutely adore these two.

Now, for secondary characters. There's Talon, and there's Roar, along with Perry's brother and some of Aria's friends. There are also other characters they encounter that help them and are important to the story, but I'd say Roar, Perry's best-friend is a main one. He is AWESOME. Perry loves him, and the brotherly bond between them is perfect. Roar also becomes close to Aria, which I loved reading about because he's not only a joker, but he's also completely warm-hearted, genuine and kind. And he has his own sweet story that will make your heart melt. At first, I thought he would become a rival to Perry, but I'm so glad Rossi didn't create a love triangle out of this because the friendship each of them share with Roar gives the book a really warm feeling that is needed because the stuff that's happening in their world is kind of terrifying. Each of them need him in their own way, and he needs them too. The support they provide each other makes all the terrifying stuff worth going through because they are together.

World-building. It was not overly done. But it was enough to get the feel right. I love the world Rossi has created. I love the way she describes the aether and how horrific its aftermath can be. I can imagine what it would be like clearly, and I think her imagination is something to marvel at. It's kind of beautiful in its monstrosity. The landscapes Rossi describes are beautiful, and I loved the contrast between the world the outsiders live in and where Aria comes from. It's like a futuristic sci-fi city in an almost medieval country. It's so clever!

I couldn't put this down. I read it in two nights (forced myself to stop midway the first night when I started to hear the birds chirping outside my window). I think it's my favorite series. Mainly because of Aria and Perry, not because of the plot, which is quite bland in comparison to other dystopians out there at the moment. But I don't care, because reading about Perry and Aria made all the difference for me. I guess if Rossi's main characters weren't so great then this review would have swayed in a very different direction.