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Review: Half Bad by Sally Green

Thursday, April 24, 2014
Summary from Goodreads:
You can't read, can't write, but you heal fast, even for a witch.

You get sick if you stay indoors after dark.

You hate White Witches but love Annalise, who is one.

You've been kept in a cage since you were fourteen.

All you've got to do is escape and find Mercury, the Black Witch who eats boys. And do that before your seventeenth birthday.

This book had a dark and disturbing tone. Half Bad follows Nathan between the ages of 14 and 17. Nathan is the son of a White witch and a Black Witch, a half-code. Black Witches are the bad kind, the kind who murders and are dangerous. The Council monitors Nathan his whole life because his father is the most evil Black Witch in history. They attempt to use Nathan against his father. The world built was mildly interesting. The focus was mainly placed on the unclear divide between 'good' and 'bad'.

Nathan is subject to verbal, physical and psychological abuse throughout the book. It was painful to read about his life in this prejudiced society. We read about Nathan enduring gruesome pain and passing out every now and then. The plot was largely draggy. Nathan is on the run and finds himself hiding each day.

I didn't care about the characters we met along the way. The love-interest Annalise is the daughter of a White Witch who holds a high position in the Council. Their love was doomed but the lack of development between them failed to make me care. Many other characters were one-dimensional and weird (especially Rose who kept blushing and giggling for no reason).

I anticipated something shocking when Nathan's seventeenth birthday would come around because the book was leading up to this day. What happened was an exchanging of words in a span of 9 pages and Nathan being back on the run. Needless to say, I was very very disappointed!

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

Saturday, April 19, 2014
Summary from Goodreads:

What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them... all at once?

Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren't love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she's written. One for every boy she's ever loved - five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean's love life goes from imaginary to out of control.
This book was beyond cute, tugged at my heartstrings and made me squeal countless times! I liked the focus on family and the Song sisters and father being tight knit. The eldest sister Margot goes to Scotland to study and Lara Jean is left with more responsibility, taking care of her younger sister and the household while their father is busy with work. One day, Lara Jean's secret love letters (which she have kept hidden in a box) are sent out to the boys she's crushed on! One letter is addressed to her sister's ex-boyfriend, boy-next-door Josh. Embarrassing but amusing events ensue. Lara Jean attempts to cover her lingering feelings for Josh by faking a relationship (complete with a paper contract!) with Peter Kavinsky. After drifting apart from him years ago, she is reacquainted and discovers there is more to him than his egotistical lacrosse player facade.

Jenny Han is so expert at writing sweet scenes, heart-wrenching scenes and make-me-feel-warm-and-fuzzy scenes! Lara Jean was extremely likable and with her fun voice it was hard to put the book down. I'm glad there's a sequel because the ending was really open-ended (hopeful but not completely satisfying!). I can see myself revisting this book/series in the future along with the Summer I Turned Pretty series because they are just soooo good!

Review: What Happens Next by Colleen Clayton

Summary from Goodreads:
How can you talk about something you can’t remember?

Before the ski trip, sixteen-year-old Cassidy “Sid” Murphy was a cheerleader (at the bottom of the pyramid, but still...), a straight-A student, and a member of a solid trio of best friends. When she ends up on a ski lift next to handsome local college boy, Dax Windsor, she’s thrilled; but Dax takes everything from Sid — including a lock of her perfect red curls — and she can’t remember any of it.

Back home and unable to relate to her old friends, Sid drops her college prep classes and takes up residence in the A/V room with only Corey “The Living Stoner” Livingston for company. But as she gets to know Corey (slacker, baker, total dreamboat), Sid finds someone who truly makes her happy. Now, if she can just shake the nightmares and those few extra pounds, everything will be perfect... or so she thinks.
Sid Murphy and her classmates head on a ski trip excursion, where she's beyond happy that an older guy takes interest in her and makes her feel special. She is invited to see him again at a party but everything goes wrong when she turns up inside his residence and he's alone. The next thing she knows, she wakes up in the stranger's bed with no memory of what transpired the previous night.

Back at school, Sid's grades drop, her friends drift away and classmates give her strange attention when they find out she snuck out of the ski lodge during the excursion in the middle of the night to meet a guy. Sid drops a class to get away from it all and signs up for an open position at the audiovisual department. She meets Corey Livingstone also known as the Living Stoner, who has recently been let out of Juvie for growing and dealing drugs.

I loved the message that you can't trust rumours and reputation and paint a whole picture of a person that way. Hell, Sid was going through so much emotional turmoil but on the surface no one was able to tell. Initially, Sid painted Corey in a bad light and decides not to get too close. As Sid spends time with Corey she sees past his reputation and discovers a sweet and funny guy. Oh god, I loved Corey to bits. His personality was amazing. He was comfortable for Sid to be around and was unassuming. The other characters - her best friends (for the most part) and family - were supportive and mindful of Sid even though they didn't know what she was going through alone. I was touched by their unconditional love for Sid.

What Happens Next was a moving story. I can't even begin to imagine what it would be like in Sid's shoes (living on after rape and having an eating disorder) but the writing conveyed Sid's emotions and her thought process and my heart ached for her. I was expecting to drown in a sad story for the most part but there are many bright periods including dialogue which made me laugh and many sweet moments between Sid and Corey.

Review: Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly

Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Summary from Goodreads:
Deep in the ocean, in a world not so different from our own, live the merpeople. Their communities are spread throughout the oceans, seas, and freshwaters all over the globe.

When Serafina, a mermaid of the Mediterranean Sea, awakens on the morning of her betrothal, her biggest worry should be winning the love of handsome Prince Mahdi. And yet Sera finds herself haunted by strange dreams that foretell the return of an ancient evil. Her dark premonitions are confirmed when an assassin's arrow poisons Sera's mother. Now, Serafina must embark on a quest to find the assassin's master and prevent a war between the Mer nations. Led only by her shadowy dreams, Sera searches for five other mermaid heroines who are scattered across the six seas. Together, they will form an unbreakable bond of sisterhood and uncover a conspiracy that threatens their world's very existence.
Deep Blue was an interesting take on mermaids. The story begins as Serafina, daughter of the ruler of the mermaid realm of Miromara, prepares to undergo a ceremony in which she is declared a true heir and betrothed to a prince. Her peaceful world is turned on its side when her city is thrown into chaos on her big day. She is forced to leave and seek answers to her dreams that warn of dark times ahead.

At the beginning, I felt quite overwhelmed with the info-dumping and terms used by the characters to build the Waterfire Saga world. I could tell explanations/translations were added within a character's speech for the reader's benefit but the dialogue between the characters felt stilted and awkward. This however eased as the book went on.

Creative and imaginative concepts about the way of life, food, cosmetics and fashion made me chuckle throughout the book. Common sayings were twisted to incorporate the mermaid's point of view, such as 'from all swims of life' and 'you stick out like sore fins'. Some of the ideas were a bit cartoonish and silly which made me confused whether the overall tone of the book was meant to be more serious/epic or light-hearted. The scale was frequently tipped from one side to the other.

In terms of characters, only the surface of each were tapped into since there were so many introduced within the 300 odd pages. The destinies of the main characters shaped them rather than their traits or back-story, hence I was sitting on the sidelines observing rather than being invested in them.

The incorporation of Atlantis city provided a cool foundation for the world's history. The politics in the story was rich, though sometimes boring and hard to follow with all the exotic names and titles. Overall, Deep Blue did a good job of setting up the series.

Note: I received an advanced reader's copy from Hachette Children's Books via NetGalley to review. This review is my honest opinion.

Review: The Shadow Prince by Bree Despain

Wednesday, April 9, 2014
Summary from Goodreads:
Haden Lord, the disgraced prince of the Underrealm, has been sent to the mortal world to entice a girl into returning with him to the land of the dead. Posing as a student at Olympus Hills High - a haven for children of the rich and famous - Haden must single out the one girl rumored to be able to restore immortality to his race.

Daphne Raines has dreams much bigger than her tiny southern Utah town, so when her rock star dad suddenly reappears, offering her full tuition to Olympus Hills High’s prestigious music program, she sees an opportunity to catch the break she needs to make it as a singer. But upon moving into her estranged father’s mansion in California, and attending her glamorous new school, Daphne soon realizes she isn’t the only student in Olympus who doesn’t quite belong.

Haden and Daphne - destined for each other - know nothing of the true stakes their fated courtship entails. As war between the gods brews, the teenagers’ lives collide. But Daphne won’t be wooed easily and when it seems their prophesied link could happen, Haden realizes something he never intended - he’s fallen in love. Now to save themselves, Haden and Daphne must rewrite their destinies. But as their destinies change, so do the fates of both their worlds.
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Wow, this book gave a totally different atmosphere from the author's previous series The Dark Divine. It just goes to show what a great storyteller Bree Despain is! The first time I read the synopsis I knew I just had to read it. I wasn't disappointed!

I liked the development of the relationship between Haden and Daphne. It was funny how when Daphne first meets Haden that instead of being attracted to Haden's mysterious look and his stalkerish tendencies, Daphne finds him creepy. There's no lengthy description or jazz about his godly appearance (Thank Hades!). There was not much romance in this lengthy book but I can see the sequels cooking a generous serving up. Looking forward to that! Another thing I liked about this book was the speech used by the Underlords: What in the Hades?, Herculeanly screwed up, I'm going to be in deep kopros, Well I'll be harpied.. It was fitting and funny!

I had a minor problem with the character Daphne. Daphne is able to hear tones and sounds that people and the world around her give off but she doesn't seem to find this weird? Wouldn't she have felt like an outcast/freak? But instead she embraces it and doesn't hesitate to tell people about it. Despite being 'special', Daphne was quite a dull character.

The storyline was very intricate and the mythology and mythological twists were great. I found it incredulous how every character was linked to each other in some way though.

The book ended in a somewhat unexciting way. It was predictable in the last 30 pages that nothing much would happen and the author was setting up the scene for the next installment. Nevertheless there were many questions unanswered and I'm interested to uncover the answers in the sequel.