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Review: The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Friday, February 28, 2014
Summary from Goodreads:
Cassie Hobbes is not like most teenagers. Most teenagers don't lose their mother in a bloody, unsolved kidnapping. Most teenagers can't tell who you are, where you're from and how you're likely to behave within moments of meeting you. And most teenagers don't get chosen to join The Naturals.

Identified by the FBI as uniquely gifted, Cassie is recruited to an elite school where a small number of teens are trained to hone their exceptional abilities.

For Cassie, trying to make friends with the girls, and to figure out the two very different, very hot boys, is challenging enough. But when a serial killer begins recreating the details of her mother's horrific crime scene, she realises just how dangerous life in The Naturals could be...
Holy smokes! There was a lot to like about this book. Cassie is a Natural, she has the ability to read people, paint a picture of them, profile them. She's contacted by the FBI and discovers there's a program for kids like her who are Naturals. We're introduced to Michael the emotion reader, Sloane the information bank, Lia the human lie detector and Dean, another profiler.

The best thing about this book was no doubt the mystery and suspense. We are constantly reminded through Cassie's nightmares and flashbacks of the time she found her mother missing and her mother's blood covering the floor and walls of her dressing room. There has been no progress with the case but a string of recent murders seem to be related to her mother's case. It was really interesting when Cassie started off with exercises to sharpen her Natural abilities; spying on people at the mall and creating their profiles and grouping crime-scene photos of victims by identifying the 'signature' of the killers. Cassie finds herself in danger when she delves into an ongoing case of a murderer who has been killing victims resembling her mother or killing victims and making them resemble her mother.

The writing and the choice words to mislead us from the culprit was excellent. I frequently suspected someone only to trust them again and point my finger at someone else. For the last fifth of the book, I had to cover the words so my eyes didn't skip ahead and spoil things. I was constantly on the edge of my seat and hit with spine-chilling revelation after revelation. There were some good lighter-hearted moments and romance throughout the book, which was a good break from all the seriousness. I really enjoyed this book!

Review: Alienated by Melissa Landers

Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Summary from Goodreads:
Two years ago, the aliens made contact. Now Cara Sweeney is going to be sharing a bathroom with one of them. Handpicked to host the first-ever L'eihr exchange student, Cara thinks her future is set. Not only does she get a free ride to her dream college, she'll have inside information about the mysterious L'eihrs that every journalist would kill for. Cara's blog following is about to skyrocket.

Still, Cara isn't sure what to think when she meets Aelyx. Humans and L'eihrs have nearly identical DNA, but cold, infuriatingly brilliant Aelyx couldn't seem more alien. She's certain about one thing though: no human boy is this good-looking. But when Cara's classmates get swept up by anti-L'eihr paranoia, Midtown High School suddenly isn't safe anymore. Threatening notes appear in Cara's locker, and a police officer has to escort her and Aelyx to class.

Cara finds support in the last person she expected. She realizes that Aelyx isn't just her only friend; she's fallen hard for him. But Aelyx has been hiding the truth about the purpose of his exchange, and its potentially deadly consequences. Soon Cara will be in for the fight of her life--not just for herself and the boy she loves, but for the future of her planet.
Alienated was an entertaining read. I thought the the 'Alienated - May the source be with you' blog posts were clever but they barely scratched the surface about the way of L'eihrs. I think this book could have worked better in first person with switching POVs because much of it was centered around the friendship and budding romance between Human Cara and L'eihr-ian Aelyx. Third person would have allowed us to get a deeper understanding of Aelyx's behaviour and thinking. Anyway, the interactions between Cara and Aelyx were quite cheezy at times but in a particular scene I definitely had to fan myself because holy smokes it was hot.

We're only given a closer look at the L'eihr and the way things are run there at the very start and at the very end of the book. The rest of the book was focused on Aelyx assimilating into high school and the drama that arises which was quite disappointing. The alliance rested too heavily on high school students making it possible, so I couldn't take this part of the story too seriously.

Review: Airhead by Meg Cabot

Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Summary from Goodreads:

Emerson Watts didn’t even want to go to the new SoHo Stark Megastore grand opening. But someone needed to look out for her sister, Frida, whose crush, British heartthrob Gabriel Luna, would be singing and signing autographs there—along with the newly appointed Face of Stark, teen supermodel sensation Nikki Howard.

How was Em to know that disaster would strike, changing her—and life as she’d known it—forever? One bizarre accident later, and Em Watts, always the tomboy, never the party princess, is no longer herself. Literally.
Emerson Watts is a tomboy who has no interest in fashion or celebrities and prefers playing games (especially Journeyquest) and watching surgical shows with her best friend Christopher. One day she is asked by her mother to accompany her sister Frida to the Stark Superstore grand opening where celebrities are attending. She gets into a serious accident and the next thing she knows, she wakes up in supermodel Nikki Howard's body! Apparently, only her family knows what really happened to Emerson. The rest of the world thinks she's dead. What's worse is no one must know about the procedure sponsored by Stark Industries which Emerson underwent, else her parents will incur a huge debt. This means Emerson can't tell Christopher, who she harbors feelings for and wonders whether he likes her back.

Emerson is thrown into a supermodel/celebrity's life with no idea but that's okay, since everyone thinks Nikki Howard's got amnesia. There is plenty of drama in this book with celebs Brandon Stark, Justin Bay and Gabriel Luna vying for Nikki's attention.

I particularly enjoyed the school scenes where Emerson (in Nikki's body) returns to school and experiences the difference in how people treat her (including Christopher who doesn't seem to fall for Nikki's appearance). Although it was quite stereotypical the way cheerleaders in the school acted (sucking up for attention and being all round mean girls) it was kind of hilarious reading about it in this situation. A minor annoyance was that seeing as Emerson was portrayed as smart since she attends AP classes and has a scholarship, sometimes she acted really clueless.

Overall, a cute and light read!

Review: Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

Saturday, February 15, 2014
Summary from Goodreads:
Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics. But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his wills.

Nobody fights the Epics...nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them.

And David wants in. He wants Steelheart - the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David's father. For years, like the Reckoners, David's been studying, and planning - and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience.

He's seen Steelheart bleed. And he wants revenge.
In the first 6 pages, I was already gasping out loud at what was happening. The book begins with our main character, David, witnessing the horrifying acts of Epics - people gifted/cursed with abilities after a burst in the sky (Calamity) - while at the bank with his father. The prologue was an amazing set up for the book. I loved how it was tied back to the middle (not the end like most prologues are!).

David was an interesting main character who had internal battles with metaphors. It was quite funny reading his struggles in coming up with good metaphors and his jealousy at how other characters came out with amazing ones! He had been collecting years and years of information and profiling various Epics in hopes of joining the Reckoners and taking down Steelheart, it was nice to see he still possessed a sense of humor and wasn't wallowing in sadness. I didn't really connect with any of other characters considering they didn't reveal any back story (since sharing their life story could have put their loved ones in danger).

During action scenes it got real annoying when every single character used the words 'Sparks!' and 'Calamity!'. I took it to replace swear words but it felt a bit like the characters were immature and refrained themselves from full out raging and using real swear words. I wanted to mentally kick them and force real swear words out of them!

Speaking of action scenes, the book was fast paced and there was not a dull moment in sight. It would be cool to see a TV series or movie based on this book!

Review: Spirit by Brigid Kemmerer (Elemental, #4)

Monday, February 10, 2014
Summary from Goodreads:
Hunter Garrity just wants to be left alone. He's learned the hard way that his unusual abilities come at a price. And he can't seem to afford any allies. He's up to his neck in hostiles. His grandfather, spoiling for a fight. The Merrick brothers, who think he ratted them out. Calla, the scheming psycho who wants to use him as bait. Then there's Kate Sullivan, the new girl at school. She's not hostile. She's bold. Funny. Hot. But she's got an agenda, too.

With supposedly secret powers rippling to the surface everywhere around him, Hunter knows something ugly is about to go down. But finding out what means he'll have to find someone he can trust. . .
In this book we revisit a main character from the first book, Hunter Garrity. I didn't expect Hunter to have so much anger and trust issues bottled up inside of him. I'm glad this book gave us an insight into his life but I couldn't help but feel that his character wasn't the same one I first met in Storm. Did he always swear this much? Because I had this perception that he was calm and collected.

That aside, the plot thickens with an introduction of Silver and Kate who are Guides with the power of the fifth. Kate goes undercover as a high school student where she gathers information about the Merrick Brothers. I have mixed feelings towards Kate. She was definitely a unique character; very confident and sure of herself. I never knew Hunter had a funny side to him, which could be seen through the notes and text messages he exchanged with Kate in their first few meetings. Their relationship was quite physical and I felt that they were moving too fast (aka insta-love) given that they only knew each other for a week. This book was more violent than the previous two installments which I found jarring.

On a happier note, I couldn't get enough of the Merrick brothers. The frequent appearance of Hannah and Michael were sweet as. I'm really excited to find out more about their story. I didn't really like Michael prior to reading this book but now I find him really likeable. I liked seeing that Becca still cared for Hunter and I liked the chats Hunter had with Nick. Most importantly, I loved Gabriel and Hunter's camaraderie!

Review: The Elite by Kiera Cass (The Selection, #2)

Saturday, February 8, 2014
Summary from Goodreads:
Thirty-five girls came to the palace to compete in the Selection. All but six have been sent home. And only one will get to marry Prince Maxon and be crowned princess of Illea.

America still isn’t sure where her heart lies. When she’s with Maxon, she’s swept up in their new and breathless romance, and can’t dream of being with anyone else. But whenever she sees Aspen standing guard around the palace, and is overcome with memories of the life they planned to share. With the group narrowed down to the Elite, the other girls are even more determined to win Maxon over—and time is running out for America to decide.

Just when America is sure she’s made her choice, a devastating loss makes her question everything again. And while she’s struggling to imagine her future, the violent rebels that are determined to overthrow the monarchy are growing stronger and their plans could destroy her chance at any kind of happy ending.
America Singer is one of the Elite, the last few who are in the running to become the next queen of Illea. As the narrator, it was really frustrating seeing her go back and forth between her first love Aspen and Prince Maxon in The Elite. Prince Maxon is ever so sweet and understanding that he just keeps and keeps on giving her time to sort out her feelings. It is clear that he holds a very special place in his heart for America but she is blinded by her jealousy and her wanting not to lose Aspen. America is quite a hypocrite, being jealous Maxon is not exclusive with her and spending time with other girls, when she has been messing around with Aspen in the shadows.

In this love triangle I think it is clear which couple will come out. Aspen was not explored as a character. We know he still loves America and clings on to hope she will still marry him. On the other hand, many facets of Prince Maxon's character came to light.

There wasn't much progress on the plot regarding the rebellions. Once again, the royals and the Elite are forced into hiding whenever the Northerners and Southerners attack and casualties are suffered when they come out of hiding. The message on the walls 'We are coming' wasn't cryptic and so it did not elicit any surprise or dreaded anticipation of what would be coming.

I liked that The Elite drew itself away from being a mere cat fighting contest and required the Queen candidates not only to look pretty but to carry out duties such as event preparations and showcasing their ideas.

I'm interested in reading the last book to see what hardships the current King of Illea will throw in America's path.

Review: Eight Keys by Suzanne LaFleur

Sunday, February 2, 2014
Summary from Goodreads:
Elise and Franklin have always been best friends. Elise has always lived in the big house with her loving Uncle and Aunt, because Elise's parents died when she was too young to remember them. There's always been a barn behind the house with eight locked doors on the second floor.

When Elise and Franklin start middle school, things feel all wrong. Bullying. Not fitting in. Franklin suddenly seems babyish. Then, soon after her 12th birthday, Elise receives a mysterious key left for her by her father. A key that unlocks one of the eight doors upstairs in the barn...
Eight Keys is a great story about self-discovery. There were so many things about this novel that reminded me of primary school, so the author did a really good job of portraying that period in time of a child's life when it felt like doing homework, being cool and liked and fitting in were a big deal.

I didn't like Elise much. She was easy to relate to but not very likeable. I felt Franklin was underdeveloped because it was hard to imagine that he was unaware of what people thought of him or how he didn't care or have any of the insecurities Elise felt.

The supporting characters of Elise's aunt and uncle and her father's best friend were a great bunch. I loved how they were always there to provide support and guidance. It was heartwarming to read the scenes where Elise spends time with them.

I expected a huge mystery surrounding the 'eight keys' but the actual way in which Elise comes in possession of the keys and opens the doors was more realistic. Turns out I liked how the story didn't focus so much on the keys and doors but on Elise's growth as a person.