Monday, December 27, 2010

Elixir by Hilary Duff

Clea Raymond lives an extraordinary life. The daughter of renowned surgeon and a prominent Washington DC figure, she has been in the spotlight her entire life. Followed by the paparazzi, she resents the attention that is lavished on her for her looks alone because she has so much more to offer.

Clea Raymond has a unique gift. A proficient photographer, in all her pictures, there is little something extra, and it's not just a result of her talented eye. There is always an extra photo that she didn't take. And, as she discovered at a young age, those photos always lead to a place where some tragedy is about to occur that Clea can prevent.

Two years ago, her father disappeared while on a humanitarian mission and is presumed dead, but that doesn't stop Clea and her mother from continuing to do good throughout the world. On one such trip to Columbia, she meets Race, the guide for the trip. She feels a connection to him but cannot explain why. Was it something in their past or possibly in their past lives? Whatever has brought them together is threatening to tear them apart forever. As the mystery of her father's disappearance unravels, Clea discover that she has powers that are bigger than anything she could have anticipated .

"I see you", he answered as if it were obvious. "It's not lke I see a place, or a time, or a name: just you. Youre essence. Your soul..." - Sage

I have to first start out by pointing out that the synopsis of this novel was a bit off in my opinion. I don’t know whether it was due to bad editing or writing for that matter, but the synopsis (which serves as a hook for readers) really felt jumbled up with too much information. I didn’t really figure out what the book was about until I was actually further along in my reading. With that said, one of the things that really attracted me to this book was not the plot synopsis, but rather the beautiful cover. I know it’s wrong to judge a book by its cover, but in my experience, some good covers serve as a prelude to pretty amazing books. This time, unfortunately, I wasn’t so sure that was the case.

It wasn’t so much that Elixir was a bad novel, but rather that it wasn’t as amazing or captivating as other books I’ve read as of late. Sadly enough, it fell into this horrid in between were I really wanted to get into what was happening with the storyline and the characters, but there was always something holding me back. It was as though anytime anything something scary, or exciting happened, I couldn’t find it in myself to get excited or scared.

Elixir by Hilary Duff was a fairly easy read and all in all, it did not take me more than a day or so to finish. I know there are a lot of skeptics out there (my best friend included) who are reluctant to read this book simply because of whom the author is. Yet, I’ve always had a soft spot for Hilary Duff (seeing as though I was a Lizzie McGuire fan) and I quickly decided she could do no worse than some other authors in the young adult circuit. I was surprised, to say the least, at how organized and fairly well-written Elixir was. I know she collaborated with Elise Allen in writing this book, and maybe that’s why the writing was so good, but even so, I was pleasantly shocked with that development.

The idea behind the story was also pretty amazing, but it wasn’t executed to its maximum capacity. To me the authors focused so much on the build up that they fell flat on the resolution. The thought of a mysterious guy popping up in only some photos the protagonist takes was really interesting, but rather than pursuing just that, the element of reincarnation, tragic love, searching for the lost father and the elixir of life were woven into that and there was just a lot going on. For one thing, the explanation behind the picture thing felt a little bit cliché and even the characters seemed to have a hard time believing it. Also, the main character, Clea Raymond, has dreams about her past lives with the mysterious guy, Sage, but rather than asking him about it (as I believe most logical people in an illogical situation would do) she seems to conveniently forget to. The story behind some of her past lives was interesting, but when they’re finally explained, it felt incredibly rushed. And though the author tried to tie in all the themes I mentioned earlier, I could never quite understand how could Clea’s father knew so much about Sage and his tragic circle with Clea’s past lives.

To me, what helped this novel shine through the somewhat hazy storyline were the actual characters, especially the secondary ones. To me Rayna, Clea’s best friend, was a ball of sunshine and fun. Though I expected her to be jealous of Clea’s fame, and maybe even act a little catty, she was the total opposite. She lit up the page with her exaggerated and over the top personality and it was sweet to see how loyal and protecting she was of Clea. Clea’s mom was also refreshing. For one thing, she wasn’t one of those overbearing and totally clueless mom’s most Y.A. authors write about, but rather she was a cool mom. She had her issues concerning Clea’s dad supposed death, but she was supportive of her daughter’s decisions and her love for Clea was evident.

The main characters were also nice. I like that Clea acted so maturely and the fact that she travelled throughout the globe as a photojournalist was pretty cool but she kind lost me when it came to dealing with Sage . She was incredibly quick to judge him (thinking him to be a serial killer) and just as rapid to change her opinion and fall in love with him. How she pined for him after only a couple of kisses border-lined on pathetic, but then again, she was in love with him in her former lives, so I could chalk it up to that, but still...weird. Sage had some swoon worthy moments but he was kept too much of an enigma throughout the book. Even when the “truth” came out, I still would have liked to learn more about Sage, as opposed to he was madly in love with Clea and her former selves. Finally Ben, Clea’s other best friend, was a good addition to the book. He was a funny contradiction (a scholar who believes in incubus and the Elixir of Life) but he was also sweet and charming, and I found myself rooting for him more than a couple of times throughout the novel.

A second novel is all ready in the works and I hope this one will focus more on all the doubts and question concerning: Sage and Clea’s tragic circle, the Elixir of Life, and Clea’s dad’s disappearance, that Elixir left me with.

Consensus: All in all, Hilary Duff’s Elixir was a good Y.A. novel; it wasn’t great but it wasn’t awful either. If you’re looking for a quick read with some good characters and a fairly interesting storyline, then Elixir’s the novel for you.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Iron Queen by Julie Kagawa

My name is Meghan Chase.

I thought it was over. I thought my time with teh fey, the impossible choices I had to make, the sacrifices for those I loved, was behind me. But a storm was approaching, one that would test those choices like never before. And this time, there would be no turning back.

Coming February 1st, 2011!

If I'd known, I might've done things differently. But beyond that moment of regret, I felt calm, certain, filled with a resolve that pushed back all fear or doubt. I was ready there was no other way. -Meghan

Upon getting the ARC for Iron Queen from Netgalley, I took the plunge, stopped reading everything else, and solely focused myself on Julie Kagawa's Iron Fey Series. One week later all I have to say is...what a ride! I always found myself staring at the Iron King novel whenever I visited my local bookstore but never actually going through with the purchase. Now, I don't understand how I never picked up this gem, except for maybe I wouldn't have been able to wait for the next one, so it was better that I postponed reading them until I had all the three books in my hands or Kindle ;) . So, onto the review!

Well after having read the first two books, I honestly thought the series couldn't get any better, but Julie Kagawa has a knack for proving the reader wrong with every turn of the page. The book got better and better until it coudn't take anymore and even then, it was still great. As others have pointed out, this book, more than the other two before it, was epic! It had everything that makes up a good Y.A. book: romance, action, paranormal, strong characters, etc, but it strayed away from crossing the much too familiar grounds of the typical storylines we've been experiencing in most contemporary teen novels.

Meghan Chase thought everything would settle down after she and her Ice Prince, Ash, were exiled from the Faery World, but then what fun would that be. No sooner does she arrives at her parent's home than she is attacked by a group of Iron Fey. From there the novel quickly picks up. Following the storyline from the previous book (The Iron Daughter), there is now a new, false, Iron King who's not only out to defeat the Oldbloods (meaning the Summer and Winter Kingdom) but kill Meghan as well so can access her iron glamour.

The thing that most attracted me from this novel was Meghan's transformation. It's not to say she was a weak main character in the previous books, on the contrary, she was always a rather strong lead but I felt she grew the most here. As I've said before in a previous review, Meghan was the right cross between level-headed strong female lead and a typical teenager with insecurities and fears, but I felt those insecurites were holding her back. Unlike the first book, where Meghan had to save her little brother, Ethan, from the Iron King, here the stakes were higher. Everything Meghan knew or held dear was faced with the possibility of extinction and when duty called, Meghan answered gracefully. Throught the novel, with all the problems she faced, whether it was in her relationship with Ash and Puck, the situation with her father, or the problem at hand with the false Iron King; Meghan Chase held her head high and wasn't afraid to talk back to people (wicked queens included) or do things her way. Besides, it was nice seeing her kick some faery butt, instead of cowering in a corner.

On the romance front, I was glad at how the author handled the Puck-Meghan-Ash situation. For one thing, I'm not a fan of love triangles, and I was glad that Kagawa didn't seem to be much of a fan either. She didn't complicate things and there was a clear distinction of where Meghan's affections laid (Hint: It wasn't Puck!). Which then leads me to Ash. Ash, lovely, lovely Ash, trust me, if you weren't in love with him yet, you're about to fall head over heels. In this book, he is much less guarded and not only do we get to experience more of Ash's personality, but I loved seeing how open he was with his feelings towards Meghan. If you're not convinced, here's a little taste:

"I won't lose another." His forehead bumbed soflty against mine, his brilliant silver gaze searing into me. "I plan to keep you, from everyone, for as long as I'm alive. That includes Puck, the false king and anyone else who would take you away." On corner of his mouth quirked, as I struggled to catch my breath under his powerful scrutiny. "I guess I should've warned you that I have a slight possessive streak."

Not only was Ash great but so were all the other recurring and new characters. It was good to see Puck and Grimalkin back and even a little funny to see them agreeing on so many things. The war element was also a nice touch and Meghan's second foray into the Iron Realm was very a different experience than that of the first novel. I was also glad to see Kagawa continue her world-building even amidst all the events that were going on. Whether it was the Summer or Winter Kingdoms, the Iron Realm or Leanansidhe inbetween, Kagawa made it all come together into a wild, chilling reality where loyalty and favors could only get you so far. Be warned, Kagawa's faeries aren't the loving, good-giving creatures Disney likes to portray but rather blood hungry creatures who are as calculating as they are charming.

Be prepared to bawl, get frustrated, scream, have your heart stop more than a couple of times, fall in love and be swept of your feet, kick some butt and utimately feel relieved/conflicted/speechless when it's all over.

Consensus: If faeries pike your interest but you're unsure what to read, Julie Kagawa's Iron Fey series is just the thing for you. Her fey are charming, calculating and blood-thirsty but that only adds to their allure as characters. In The Iron Queen, not only will you enjoy the utterly great plot but you'll laugh with Puck, swoon with Ash and whoop for joy evertime Meghan confronts the fey.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Here Lies Bridget by Paige Harbison

Heroine, Bridget Duke, rules her high school, but when she crashes her car and ends up in limbo, she must confront the people she has wronged, all of whom want her to go to hell. The outcome of these meetings will decide her final destination.

Coming February 1, 2011!

"I want you to undersant how people see you, and how your actions matter...You must learn that your place in the world is important. You've been given the power to affect people, just as we all have, and it's important-no,vital-that you do the right thing with it" - Anna Judge

I recently received an advanced readers copy of this novel from Netgalley and was surprised at how much I enjoyed the book. Still, had I written this review half-way through my reading, trust me when I say, the review would have been as insufferable to write as was it's main character. As it is, I’m glad to say that wasn’t the case. If ever a character has been redeemed throughout a two-hundred something page novel, Bridget Duke has been that girl.

Bridget Duke, as the synopsis points out, is the ruler-high supreme of her very exclusive, private high school, Winchester Prep. Her dad, a well-known TV sports broadcaster, is not only a local celebrity but a big boost to Bridget’s popularity. I have to admit, it’s not the same to read about the totally bitchy/mean girl who wrecks the lives of others in third person, as opposed to reading about her in first person, with all her thoughts, emotions and yeah, totally bitchiness at the for-front. And that’s exactly the case with this book. I don’t know whether or not that was Paige Harbison’s intention, but she presents us with a character that’s not very hard to immediately dislike. She creates a seemingly superficial, shallow rich girl, who without being cliché, grows in leaps and bounds throughout the novel.

Bridget Duke has always been the “center of attention” of everyone around her, though probably not for the reasons she believes. As a person she’s selfish, envious, mean, catty, manipulating and whatever more horrid adjective you can attribute to someone who simply put, is unbearable. Many times I found myself wanting to rip her a new one for all the things she said to her supposed best friends, the way she lied to the headmaster, or how she treated her not so wicked stepmother. With that said, the book was impossible to put down. Watching Bridget treat others was like watching an oncoming train wreck, you want to close your eyes, but you simply can’t. The funny part was, Bridget honestly believed she was doing the right thing; that it was her, in any case, who had been wronged when things didn’t go her way.

Which is probably why, I couldn’t find it in myself to completely hate her. In fact, by the end of the novel, I had not only cried for her, but I was incredibly proud of her! As the story progresses and you learn more about her past, especially what happened with her mother, you kind of start understanding where all the attitude is coming from. The only part that was off-putting to me was the prologue. We start out with Bridget in a supposed limbo, not quite dead but not alive either, and then we go back to the events preceding the death. I thought this part would be quick, and there would be more emphasis and the actual judgement part, but the actual retrospect takes about half the novel. It isn’t until I got into the second part of the novel that I understood why so much of the novel had been dedicated to the seemingly inconsequential stuff.

I have to admit, for a debut novel, Paige Harbison did a spectacular job! Not only did she do a superb job with Bridget’s character, but the characters of Meridith, Michelle and Liam were surprisingly real in their struggles. Liam especially! He was sweet and cute, and not only did I like how things between him and Bridget progressed, but how he was the only one who never gave up on her. The ending was also great. It had a bit of the happy without losing the credibility aspect of the novel. It’s true Bridget redeemed herself, but the consequences of her actions still took place. I must warn you though, there’s a bit of a Christmas Carol element to the novel, but instead of ghosts, you have shoes! I'll leave that one for the readers to figure out!

Consensus: Paige Harbison’s debut novel was not only refreshing in its approach to the subject but construed a great read as well! If you’re looking for something different in a young adult novel, look no further because Bridget Duke will touch a lot more than a few of your heartstrings.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Dark Divine by Bree Despain

A Prodigal Son

A Dangerous Love

A Deadly Secret

Grace Divine—daughter of the local pastor—always knew something terrible happened the night Daniel Kalbi disappeared and her brother Jude came home covered in his own blood.
Now that Daniel's returned, Grace must choose between her growing attraction to him and her loyalty to her brother. As Grace gets closer to Daniel, she learns the truth about that mysterious night and how to save the ones she loves, but it might cost her the one thing she cherishes most: her soul.

"The problem with promises is that once you've made one, it's bound to be broken"

I recently had the in all of yesterday, to sit down and read (more like devour) the novel The Dark Divine by Bree Despain. It was more or less by accident that I found this gem among a list on Goodreads that caught my eye-The Color Purple-though I assure you, this novel held no purple prose. Instead, it had the ability to captivate you from the very first.

Grace Divine is a junior at her local high school and if her name wasn't much off a tip off, she is the daughter of a pastor. Grace is the girl with all the answers: which includes knowing what's right and what's wrong. That is, until Daniel Kalbi comes crashing back into her life. Daniel is no longer the little kid whom Grace remembers. His light hair has long ago been dyed to black, and the mystery of his return remains as secret as the reason why he left.

As many people have pointed out in other reviews, the supernatural element in this book wasn't much of a surprise. Many more than obvious hints were given throughout the novel, but in Grace's defense, what normal person expects their boyfriend to turn furry? What was surprising, and probably what kept me ripping through the pages, was figuring out the mystery behind Jude's anger towards Daniel. As the book summary points out, there's a play off the Prodigal Son story, but I found it to be refreshing instead of repetitive.

The love story on the other hand was very nice. Unlike other Y.A. novels on the market, the author abstained from utilizing some of the more cliche story lines, and though the build up to the romance was slow, I found it very much rewarding at the end. Daniel is the typical bad boy turned reformed, but I felt the author gave the character a lot a depth as the reader learned more about Daniel's history and lineage. He was very much swoon worthy and I enjoyed every time Daniel appeared on the page. Grace, on the other hand, was a relatively strong female lead. She was very much assured of herself and her attraction towards Daniel was sweet, without bordering on obssesive. The only time Grace truly frustrated me was when, after realizing Daniel's secret, she then choose to be loyal to the promise she made her brother.

Jude played a major role in the development of Daniel and Grace's budding romance. He was Daniel's childhood best friend and appeared to be very much more "saint-like" than Grace herself. Rather than being threatened by Grace's other romantic interest (Pete Bradshaw) it was really Jude who put the budding relationship in jeopardy. Though it was sweet that Grace wanted to honor her brother's wishes and stay away from Daniel, it was honestly a moot point. The attraction between Daniel and Grace was very much strong, and Grace choosing to follow that promise only when she felt confused about Daniel's intention was immature and very unfair to Daniel. Still, it was hard not to care about Jude's character as the novel reached its end.

I'm exhilarated to have read this so close to the sequels release, The Lost Saint. I'm excited to see Daniel and Grace's relationship continued and see exactly what happened to Jude. December 28 cannot be here any sooner, but until then, I will have to contend myself with re-reading some of my favorite passages from the novel.

Consensus: The novel was sweet and addicting without being overly cliche. I recommend it to any young or older teen looking for a riveting read they can't not finish before going to sleep.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Purpose of this Blog

I wanted to give everyone a heads up as to what this blog will sirve as. This summer in particular is long one for me and as always they'll be much a book to read, disect, criticize, love or down right hate. This year, instead of calling a friend who'll begrudginly listen to my gushing (or fumming) outakes on the book, I plan on sharing my thoughts here. Having read young adult books since I was practically 13, I consider myself an expert on the subject (as if!). Yet, that's not the point. Know that as the title suggests, this blog will only feature book reviews on YOUNG ADULT NOVELS and any which way genre one might find there. I hope you enjoy my honest reviews and if you want to see any particular one reviewed, just ask!

Next on the reading list: Impossible by Nancy Werlin

Listening to: Remembering Sunday - All Time Low

Friday, May 28, 2010

Legacy of Lies & Don't Tell (Dark Secrets, #1-2)

Two girls haunted by the past...and destined to relive it

In Legacy of Lies, Megan has to stay with the uptight grandmother she wants nothing to do with. She's determined to get through the visit without any drama, but when she falls into a twisted love triangle with potentially fatal consequences, Megan may be caught up in her family's legacy in more ways than she realizes.

In Don't Tell, Lauren knows that by returning to the town where her mother drowned seven years ago, she'll be reliving one of her most haunting memories. When she arrives, she is propelled into a series of mysterious events that mimic the days leading up to her mother's death. Maybe her mother's drowning wasn't an accident after all...and maybe Lauren is next.

Seasoned writer Elizabeth Chandler published a series of five books in the early 2000 called Dark Secrets. Simon and Pulse publishing company has taken it upon themselves to republish these novels in a series of three more books. Now on to the review!

After going through a recent dry spell with my reading,where nothing seemed to catch my interest, I was thirsty for a good long book. Something I knew I wouldn't be able to finish in just a couple of hours. So it was only natural, that on my next excursion to Borders, I would be attracted to the largest book on the shelf. Ironically it was a compilation of two novels.

Dark Secrets was a great read, and has quickly wormed its way in to my list of top books. It left me wanting for more, and angry with the fact I would have to wait so many months for the next installment. Neverthless, I was happy with each plot line and somewhat satisfied with the endings. The stories revolve around a fictional town on the Eastern Shore of Maryland named Wisteria and all of them contain some type of supernatural element.

Legacy of Lies was by far my favorite story in the installment. Megan, who is adopted, has not sustained the best relationship with her mother's family. Which is why, she begrudgingly accepts her welthy grandmothers request to come spend the summer at the Scarborough House. Having to contend with her indifferent cousin and a less than hostile grandmother are the least of worries for Megan. Apparently, a ghost inhibits the house. This and other strange events are leading Megan father and farther into her families' past. What she doesn't realize, though, is that her own past will soon catch up with her. I don't want to spoil the mystery for you, but all I will say is that I was glad with the outcome and the fact it wasn't that easy to solve. Instead, it kept me on the edge of my seat all the way till the end. The romance was a very sweet addition to this novel. Though it took a backseat to the stories main plot, I still felt it was developed nicely and I thoroughly enjoyed it towards the ending.

Don't Tell, the second story in the book, was also good. Seven years before, Lauren mother drowned. Now, after years of therapy, Lauren is finally able to face that fact and return to the small town that claimed her mother. The problem is, things around her are slowly starting to unravel, and events from the nights leading up to her mother's death are beginning to repeat theselves. Unlike the story before, the romance is less noticeable, and some of the events are more predictable. Also I was more than a bit with confused with how the author developed the supernatural aspect in this story. Even so, I was happy to see how the small town aspect added to the characterization. It complemented the story and helped give it more depth.

Consensus: Elizabeth Chandler is a great writer. The writing was simple and concise, and the novels were incredibly hard to put down. Though Dark Secrets is not the most in depth or heartfelt novel I've read, it was still a nice read. With endearing romances and some scary moments along the way, Legacy of Lies and Don't Tell will be the stories you miss once all has been said and done.

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