Monday, 30 July 2012

Review: Pushing The Limits by Katie McGarry

(image and summary from goodreads, eARC courtesy of NetGalley)

"I won't tell anyone, Echo. I promise." Noah tucked a curl behind my ear. It had been so long since someone touched me like he did. Why did it have to be Noah Hutchins? His dark brown eyes shifted to my covered arms. "You didn't do that-did you? It was done to you?" No one ever asked that question. They stared. They whispered. They laughed. But they never asked.

So wrong for each other...and yet so right.

No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with "freaky" scars on her arms. Even Echo can't remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal. But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo's world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible.Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she'll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.

My thoughts:
I know this book is supposed to centre around Echo's story, but somehow I ended up being more vested in Noah's. Reminiscent of Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles, we see the story through two perspectives, Echo's and Noah's. 

Echo is a shadow of her former popular self due to several reasons - she misses her brother who died in Afghanistan, she doesn't get along with her father's new wife (her former babysitter whom she used to adore) and she feels like that she's about to be replaced by her new stepbrother/sister. But more importantly, her confusion and loneliness stems from an incident that she doesn't remember at all; one that ended with her in a hospital covered in blood.

Enter Noah. With a reputation for being a bad boy who uses girls, he is the quite possibly the last thing Echo wants or needs. But it turns out that behind his attitude lies a lonely boy who lost his parents and had to endure the splitting up of his family. After being bounced from one foster family to another, he is determined that his brothers will not end up victims of a horrendous system.

Being thrown together by their school counsellor would seem like the worst possible situation, but Echo and Noah soon realise that there is more to one another, and more importantly, this 'arrangement' may just work in both their favours.

As I said, I looked forward to Noah's story more than I did Echo's, though I did understand her frustration at not being able to remember or move on. I couldn't stand some of Echo's friends who were 'using' her for their own purposes. I also wanted to shake Echo at times, for being so idiotic in her determination to be 'normal'.

While not my favourite, I do see myself reading it again at some point, just as a guilty pleasure.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Mini Review: This Is Not A Test

I sometimes find it hard to write a full-length review, and this is more often the case when a book completely blows me away. Nonetheless, I try to record my thoughts in just a few words, and hence, the Mini Review. My very first mini review is for This Is Not A Test, by Courtney Summers.

(image and summary from goodreads; eARC courtesy of NetGalley)

It’s the end of the world. Six students have taken cover in Cortege High but shelter is little comfort when the dead outside won’t stop pounding on the doors. One bite is all it takes to kill a person and bring them back as a monstrous version of their former self.

To Sloane Price, that doesn’t sound so bad. Six months ago, her world collapsed and since then, she’s failed to find a reason to keep going. Now seems like the perfect time to give up. As Sloane eagerly waits for the barricades to fall, she’s forced to witness the apocalypse through the eyes of five people who actually want to live.

But as the days crawl by, the motivations for survival change in startling ways and soon the group’s fate is determined less and less by what’s happening outside and more and more by the unpredictable and violent bids for life—and death—inside. 

When everything is gone, what do you hold on to?

My thoughts:
Man, after reading Cracked Up To Be, I should've known that Courtney Summers does not spare her readers at all! This was a constant high-paced, will-they-or-won't-they-survive story, that at times made me want to stop reading and take several deep breaths. Zombies are normally not my thing, but Ms Summers made it work. Traumatizing at times, this story is about a girl (Sloane) who has decided to end her life, and then finds herself in a situation which calls for the natural fight-or-flight response. Trapped in school with five of her schoolmates who are trying to survive against the vicious beings outside, she sees a different side of things - what one is willing to do when there is absolutely nothing to lose. Really worth the read.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Review: Dark Companion by Marta Acosta

(image and summary from Goodreads, eARC courtesy of NetGalley)

Orphaned at the age of six, Jane Williams has grown up in a series of foster homes, learning to survive in the shadows of life. Through hard work and determination, she manages to win a scholarship to the exclusive Birch Grove Academy. There, for the first time, Jane finds herself accepted by a group of friends. She even starts tutoring the headmistress’s gorgeous son, Lucien. Things seem too good to be true. They are.

The more she learns about Birch Grove’s recent past, the more Jane comes to suspect that there is something sinister going on. Why did the wife of a popular teacher kill herself? What happened to the former scholarship student, whose place Jane took? Why does Lucien’s brother, Jack, seem to dislike her so much?

As Jane begins to piece together the answers to the puzzle, she must find out why she was brought to Birch Grove—and what she would risk to stay there….

My thoughts:
It starts out as a normal story of a girl, who has grown up in a dangerous neighbourhood with foster parents who leave much to be desired, finally getting the chance to make something of her life. A scholarship to the exclusive Birch Grove Academy for girls is something our protagonist Jane could once only dream about. Now, her goal of becoming a scientist could actually be realized, thanks to the headmistress of Birch Grove, Mrs Radcliffe, who has not only offered her a prestigious education, but also room and board in a little place of her own, a house that once belonged to the groundskeeper. Jane also finds friendship among a small group of girls, who though considered privileged in her mind, treat her much like one of their own. There are also two possible love interests, the irresistible Lucky, and the elusive Jack, both of whom happen to be the sons of the headmistress.

With a great story set, what went wrong? Before I get to that, I should say that I like Marta Acosta’s style of writing. Her words when describing Jane’s surroundings do really make the birch trees come ‘alive’ and it’s easy to understand why Jane seems to think that there is more to the woods than meets the eye. I also particularly liked one of Jane’s new friends, the very likable and definitely unique Mary Violet. It was Mary Violet’s poetry in fact, that lent a very much needed sense of humour to this book. Who could possibly ignore her requiems to dead marsupials, odes to gynaecological paintings and numerous attempts to funnify Jane? I honestly feel like she should have her own spin-off as I found her on multiple occasions to be more interesting a character than Jane.

Now to the not so good parts. I felt like the author tried to cram far too much into this one book. Given all the scientific explanations, in my opinion, this book could very well have been a good contemporary romance with a touch of mysticism. The sudden veering off into the paranormal genre threw me off, and I even considered not finishing the book several times (Mary Violet saved the day as I only continued with the story to see what she would come up with next). I also thought the love aspect came out of nowhere. The first part of the story has no indication that Jane was wrestling with her feelings for both brothers. After swooning to no end after Lucky, she decides in the blink of an eye it’s Jack she’s in love with? I’m sorry, but even Bebe’s disappearance made more sense than that. 

I also took issue with the fact that Jane constantly ‘bashed’ the arts. As a girl with a science background and a great passion for the arts, I found myself personally offended by some of her statements. She reminded me of Dr Temperance Brennan on Bones during some of those scenes. Her continuous problem with her appearance also got tiring pretty fast. Granted that not having a good body image for years may have set itself in stone in her mind, but having two good looking guys lusting after her should have given her a bit of a boost. Well, at least she wasn’t vain.

A conversation towards the end of the book indicates that there might be a sequel in store, though I could be reading too much into those words. I might read it just to see if it is better than this one, or for the descriptions of Jane’s surroundings. But personally, I’d much rather read a collection of Mary Violet’s poetry.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Cover Love...#3

Since I teased you with the covers of the sequels, I thought I should compare them with the first book in each series.

That's the beautiful cover for one of my favourite dystopian reads, Under The Never Sky. This is a great book about a girl who doesn't think much of herself, but finds out just how strong she really is when put to the test.

Everneath was just so-so for me; I didn't really feel very strongly about it, though I did like the modern interpretation of the Greek myths. That dress on the other hand, is gorgeous.

I said it before and I'll say it again, I think Incarnate was the most original tale out of the three. A double hats off to 'Ana Incarnate' for being a strong female protagonist, and God knows we need more of those.

(all images are from goodreads)

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Sequel Mania...#1

Thanks to NetGalley, I had the opportunity to read several really good 'first in a series' books last year. Some of these had me hooked from the first page, others took a while to build up. Here are a few newly released covers for the sequels to those books, all of which I'm absolutely dying to read!

Through The Ever Night is the much-anticipated sequel to Under The Never Sky. I like how they have kept the covers similar, and this one gives me hope that it focuses more on Perry's story, though I did like the alternating POVs.

I know, I know, I hear're a little sick of the girls-in-dresses covers too. I'm not sure if this cover has anything to do with the story; it could very well just be a pretty girl in a very pretty dress. Nonetheless, the Pluto-Proserpine-Orpheus-Eurydice story ended on a major cliffhanger, and I'm dying to know what's in store for Nikki, Jack and Cole in Everbound.

I read all three books in quick succession last year, and I personally think that Incarnate had the most original storyline. I can't wait to find out to find out how people react to Ana now that she is no longer the 'only one'.

P.S. One of my biggest pet peeves is when publishers change the covers halfway through the series. Since these three have followed the pattern of their predecessors (and are gorgeous to boot!), here's hoping the covers stay true throughout!

(all images are from goodreads)