Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Beginnings and Endings

Top Ten Tuesday is an original meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Each week there is a new topic to write a list about. Me being a fan of lists, I try to do this as much as possible!

This week's topic is Top Ten Beginnings/Endings of books. I've decided to do 5 opening lines and 5 closing lines. Let's hope I can remember all of my favourites!

Back to the start

"They say that before you die your whole life flashes before your eyes, but that's not how it happened for me." - Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

"Ok. Don't panic. Don't panic. It's only a VISA bill. It's a piece of paper, a few numbers. I mean, just how scary can a few numbers be?" - Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella

"Everyone thinks it's because of the snow. And it a way, I suppose that's true." - If I Stay by Gayle Forman

"Four years, two suicides, one death, one rape, two pregnancies (one abortion), three overdoses, countless drunken antics, pantings, spilled food, theft, fights, broken limbs, turf wars - every day, a turf war - six months until graduation and no one gets a medal when they get out. But everything you do here counts. High school." - Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers

"The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.” - The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

 This is the end

 (warning! some spoilers ahead!)

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

"Thomas Edison's last words were: 'It's very beautiful over there.' I don't know where there is, but I believe it's somewhere, and I hope it's beautiful." - Looking for Alaska by John Green

"Because no matter how I looked then, broken and wild on the floor, for the first time since that night in the asylum, my biggest problem wasn't that I was losing my mind. Or even that I was a murderer. It was that Jude was still alive." - The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

"But there are much worse games to play." - Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

"Marks think they can get something for nothing. Marks think they can get what they don't deserve, and could never deserve. Marks are stupid, and pathetic, and sad. Marks think they're going to go home one night and have the girl the loved since they were a kid suddenly love them back. Marks forget that whenever something's too good to be true, that's because it's a con." - White Cat by Holly Black

Giveaway: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

The Reader's Den is having a very awesome giveaway. Holly Black's The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is one of my mot anticipated reads for 2013. Black's Curse Workers series blew me away and I can't wait to see what she can do with vampires.

Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown’s gates, you can never leave.

One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a wholly original story of rage and revenge, of guilt and horror, and of love and loathing from bestselling and acclaimed author Holly Black.

Head over to The Reader's Den to win your copy! The giveaway is international.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Review: Reunited

Author: Hilary Weisman Graham
Published: June 12, 2012
Paperback, 336 pages
5 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

1 concert. 2,000 miles. 3 ex-best friends. Can a road trip restore harmony?

Alice, Summer, and Tiernan used to be best friends—as well as the self-proclaimed biggest fans of the band Level3. But when the band broke up, so did their friendship.

Now, four years later, they’ve just graduated from high school. When Level3 announces a one-time reunion show in Texas, Alice impulsively buys tickets and invites her two former friends along for the trip. Reluctant at first, both girls agree to go, each with her own ulterior motive. But old resentments and other roadblocks—from unintended detours to lost concert tickets—keep getting in the girls’ way. Will their friendship get an encore, or is the show really over?

High school's rough, especially for friends who lose touch yet still go to school together. Now in totally different crowds, ex-best friends Alice, Summer and Tiernan graduate without a thought of the others, until Alice finds out that the band they used to love together, Level3, is reuniting for one night only in Texas. On a whim, Alice buys tickets, hoping the others will be willing to go with her. So off they go on a road trip that may or may not restore old friendships. 

I love road trip stories. The hijinks are always fun with cars breaking down and things not going as planned. This trip certainly didn't disappoint. The fact that the girls don't really get along made it even better, the tension palpable and the memories of when they used to be friends slicing through it every once and awhile. The girls have so much history behind them and the Pea Pod, the green Volkswagen van they're driving, that it's hard to ignore how much they know about each other. It was great seeing how they try to stay civil and how some parts of their old friendship is still there. With Level3 music keeping them together, it was a joy ride to watch how they slowly began to be the girls they used to be.

Music played a huge part in this story. Each chapter started with Level3 lyrics (which were awesome) to set the pace for the chapter ahead. Level3 was the band these girls fangirled over in middle school and listening to the music brings back the good times they had together. It certainly keeps them going when they aren't sure they should continue their journey.

Each character has such a unique voice, that it was 
lovely to see the development in each one of them. Alice, a planner and straight A student, finds herself wait listed for college and suddenly to do things she never thought she'd do. Summer, the popular girl, realizes that being popular does not make you happy. And Tiernan, the rebel with dyed hair and combat boots, finds out that talking to her mom was all she really needed to do to be heard. I loved seeing their individual journeys while they were having a big one, and the ending just made me smile and laugh. This book was heartwarming, fun, and full of spirit. Certainly the best sort of thing to read in the heart of summer. And it definitely makes me want to go on a road trip with my girls and go see an awesome band!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Review: Juliet Immortal

Juliet Immortal
Author: Stacey Jay
Published: August 9, 2011
Hardcover, 306 pages
3 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

The most tragic love story in history . . .

Juliet Capulet didn't take her own life. She was murdered by the person she trusted most, her new husband, Romeo Montague, a sacrifice made to ensure his own immortality. But what Romeo didn't anticipate was that Juliet would be granted eternity, as well, and would become an agent for the Ambassadors of Light. For 700 years, she's fought Romeo for the souls of true lovers, struggling to preserve romantic love and the lives of the innocent. Until the day she meets someone she's forbidden to love, and Romeo, oh Romeo, will do everything in his power to destroy that love.

Juliet Immortal is not your ordinary Romeo and Juliet love story. Romeo and Juliet did not kill themselves for love. Romeo, a Mercenary, killed Juliet in order to become immortal. Betrayed and forsaken, Juliet becomes an Ambassador of Light, immortal on her own and now the arch nemesis of Romeo. Juliet's job is to keep soul mates together and out of the hands of the Mercenaries. Every century or so, she is sent into the mortal world in someone else's body in order to protect true love. Juliet believes love has failed her, Romeo now her worst enemy, and hates the idea of bringing soul mates together. When she meets Ben she experiences the same feelings she felt with Romeo, even though she knows it's forbidden for her to fall in love. When Romeo shows up in a body right next to her, she knows this mission will be unlike any other, and Romeo won't leave until he knows he can have Juliet as his own for eternity.

Romeo and Juliet is one of my favourite Shakespeare plays and I'm always interested in retellings. The problem is, I have yet to find a retelling that I love as much as the original. I love the idea of having the forbidden romance in modern times, but that has yet to be what any of the retellings I've read have been about. I was interested in this one because it seemed completely different. Romeo and Juliet, now enemies, but with this history of the crazy magical love they once felt for each other. Juliet is smarter, knowing that what she felt for Romeo was probably not real. She's much more mature in this novel, having been alive for over 700 years. The plot was good and I enjoyed the challenges that Juliet faced throughout the novel, but the writing fell short for me. I wasn't in love with the characters and I found myself just wanting the book to be done. 

Juliet inhabits a new body whenever she comes back to Earth. The body she's in this time, Ariel, has been in an accident and she has burn scars all over her face. This is an important element to her character, but it's not explored as much as I would have liked. In no way did I want Juliet and Romeo to get back together, his character not at all charming like Ben was. He made a good villain, knowing everything about Juliet that she wished he didn't. As she tried to get her soul mates together while also trying to avoid her feelings for Ben, Romeo was always there, always showing her that he had her first. I had no idea how their story would play out in the end. And I was quite surprised and happy with the ending, which is the reason I gave this more than 2 stars.

The subtle additions for the original play kept my interest. Juliet's nurse became her mentor, the Friar Romeo's boss. The forbidden love between Juliet and Ben had the tellings for a real love story. Juliet learns throughout the novel that it's best that her and Romeo did not survive back then as there would have been no way for them to live without any money. The novel had its strong points, the plot moved quickly and the ending was dramatic, but there was something missing that made me not love it. I'm still eager to find a retelling that will give me the same feelings the original play did, hoping that tragic love can still be beautiful in modern times. 

“Real love has little to do with falling. It's a climb up the rocky face of a mountain, hard work, and most people are too selfish or too scared to bother. Very few reach the critical point in their relationship that summons the attention of the light and the dark, that place where they will make a commitment to love no matter what obstacles-or temptations- appear in their path.” 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Review: Scarlet

Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles #2)
Author: Marissa Meyer
Published: February 5, 2013
Hardcover, 452 pages
5 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She's trying to break out of prison—even though if she succeeds, she'll be the Commonwealth's most wanted fugitive.

Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit's grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn't know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother's whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.

The Lunar Chronicles continue in this second instalment, following a new fairy tale character, Scarlet, as she searches for her grandmother. It starts with a bang and never silences. Early in the book, Scarlet meets Wolf, a mysterious street fighter who's willing to help her look for her grandmother. But the longer she looks, the more information she realizes her grandma was hiding from her, and the closer she gets to Wolf, the more dangerous he becomes. While Scarlet is on her own search, Cinder has escaped from prison and is on her own mission, eager to stop the war that is destined to happen all because of her. The chapters coordinate so flawlessly, it's hard to believe this book follows so many different story lines. 

It's hard to tell that these two books focus on two totally different fairy tales. Meyer blends them together so seamlessly, that it's like she's created everything about these characters and stories herself. Adding in the futuristic universe, plague, and a whole other planet, creates a completely new fairy tale that stands on its own. I liked finding the small references to Little Red Riding Hood throughout the novel, from Scarlet's red hoodie to a wolf impersonating her grandmother. There were more twists in this book than in Cinder, leaving me wondering more than a few times about how it would end. Meyer added Scarlet as a main character perfectly, making it seem like she's been in the story all along and having her encounter Cinder in the best way possible. I can't wait to see how she'll add the other two girls, Cress and Winter, into the tale.

I knew I would love Scarlet the minute I met her. She has the same fierceness that Cinder embodies, both girls ready to fight for what they love. Scarlet is fiery and carries a gun. She's not afraid of what she amy encounter along her journey, except maybe her feelings for Wolf. These two have fire between them. I loved Cinder and Prince Kai, but what they were missing Scarlet and Wolf make up for threefold. Fans who read The Queen's Army will recognize Wolf, which just adds to the tension. I found myself way more interested in Scarlet's story than Cinder's, but I was very happy when they came together. Cinder's new partner, Captain Thorne, was hilarious and charming and I liked what he added to the story. 

Fairytale re-tellings always grab my attention. I like that authors can take well known stories and turn them into something completely different. Meyer has done a great job so far keeping the fairytale practically separate from her writing. It's wonderful that she's created a whole new world but the meaning behind the fairytales is still there and prominent. This is hard thing to do and she has managed to do it perfectly. The ending has left me eager for more and her writing has let me wanting to improve mine. Normally I'm not a fan of third person, but these books just wouldn't be the same if they weren't written that way. Beautiful modern fairytales for a modern world. Because princesses kick ass now, didn't you know that?

“Little Red was a tender young morsel, and the wolf knew she would be even tastier than the old woman.” 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: Perfect Ruin, Lauren DeStefano

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking The Spine to spotlight upcoming book releases that we're excited about.

This week's pick:

Perfect Ruin (The Internment Chronicles #1)
Release Date: October 1, 2013
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Format: Hardcover, 368 pages

Description from Goodreads:

On Internment, the floating island in the clouds where 16-year-old Morgan Stockhour lives, getting too close to the edge can lead to madness. Even though Morgan's older brother, Lex, was a Jumper, Morgan vows never to end up like him. She tries her best not to mind that her life is orderly and boring, and if she ever wonders about the ground, and why it is forbidden, she takes solace in best friend Pen and her betrothed, Basil.

Then a murder, the first in a generation, rocks the city. With whispers swirling and fear on the wind, Morgan can no longer stop herself from investigating, especially when she meets Judas. He is the boy being blamed for the murder — betrothed to the victim — but Morgan is convinced of his innocence. Secrets lay at the heart of Internment, but nothing can prepare Morgan for what she will find — or who she will lose.

DeStefano blew me away with her Chemical Garden trilogy. Her writing is beautiful and it's so easy to get lost in the worlds she makes. So I can't wait to see what new world she'll show us in this new series, set on a floating city far from any land. I'm sure it with just as breathtaking as her last.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Review: The Summer Series

These books deserve their own reviews, trust me, but I read them so fast that I didn't have time to to that justice. So I'm going to review the series as a whole, because each book blew me away and there's no doubt they're all getting 5 stars

The Summer Series
Author: Jenny Han
5 Gold Stars

The Summer I Turned Pretty
Belly measures her life in summers. Everything good, everything magical happens between the months of June and August. Winters are simply a time to count the weeks until the next summer, a place away from the beach house, away from Susannah, and most importantly, away from Jeremiah and Conrad. They are the boys that Belly has known since her very first summer--they have been her brother figures, her crushes, and everything in between. But one summer, one terrible and wonderful summer, the more everything changes, the more it all ends up just the way it should have been all along.

Belly longs for summer all year. Her family spends it with the Fishers at Cousins Beach. Her whole life, Belly's felt like part of the family, but only to a certain extent. Her heart belongs to Conrad Fisher and this summer she plans to tell him how she feels. But other family issues are happening and there is a new guy in Belly's life. This summer will not be like the last.

Belly is constantly trying to prove that she's not a little girl anymore. She is turning sixteen and ready to be part of the grown ups. She can be stubborn and needy, but it's just because she desperately wants to be noticed by the boys. Throughout the novel, we get flashbacks from old summers, summers when she was younger and trying to fit in. We see how the boys leave her, we see how she yearns to be noticed by Conrad. It shows every part of Belly, every person that she's been and who she wants to become. The tension between her and Conrad flames off the pages, especially when she starts dating Cam. From the first page, I knew Conrad would be hard to forget. Every character stood out to me, especially Susannah. I fell head first into this book and I'm still there.

“I love Conrad and I probably always would. I would spend my whole life loving him one way or another. Maybe I would get married, maybe I would have a family, but it wouldn’t matter, because a piece of my heart, the piece where summer lived, would always be Conrad’s” 

It's Not Summer Without You
Can summer be truly summer without Cousins Beach?It used to be that Belly counted the days until summer, until she was back at Cousins Beach with Conrad and Jeremiah. But not this year. Not after Susannah got sick again and Conrad stopped caring. Everything that was right and good has fallen apart, leaving Belly wishing summer would never come. But when Jeremiah calls saying Conrad has disappeared, Belly knows what she must do to make things right again. And it can only happen back at the beach house, the three of them together, the way things used to be. If this summer really and truly is the last summer, it should end the way it started--at Cousins Beach.

After a short, whirlwind romance, Belly and Conrad aren't talking anymore. For the first time in her life, Belly isn't looking forward to summer. Everything has changed and she isn't sure the summer house will feel the same. But when Belly gets a call from Jeremiah saying Conrad has disappeared, she drops all her new summer plans and follows him to the last place she thought she'd go this year - Cousins Beach. But Conrad doesn't want to leave and what should have been a one night deal turns into a weekend Belly will never forget.

With chapters announcing the date and flashbacks to better times between Belly and Conrad, the pace is just as fast and fluid as the first novel. Throw in some chapters from Jeremiah's point of view and suddenly Conrad isn't the only Fisher brother to watch out for. Normally I know who's going to win the girl at the end of a series, but there was no way to really know who Belly would end up with. We see a new side to everyone in this novel. The tragedy that befell the Fisher family affects them all differently and Han captures that brilliantly. Belly is suffering in her own way, yet trying to reconnect what she's lost from the summer house. This novel was heartbreaking in more ways than one. The lost love between Conrad and Belly seems to finally get buried, leaving room for Belly to move on. Throughout the novel, Belly grows closer to Jeremiah, the boy she never really took much notice to when Conrad was around. As soon as I closed this book, I picked up the last in the series, desperately needing to know how Belly's story would end.

“How do you regret one of the best nights of your entire life? You don't. You remember every word, every look. Even when it hurts, you still remember.” 

We'll Always Have Summer
It's been two years since Conrad told Belly to go with Jeremiah. She and Jeremiah have been inseparable ever since, even attending the same college-- only, their relationship hasn't exactly been the happily ever after Belly had hoped it would be. And when Jeremiah makes the worst mistake a boy can make, Belly is forced to question what she thought was true love. Does she really have a future with Jeremiah? Has she ever gotten over Conrad? It's time for Belly to decide, once and for all, who has her heart forever.

From the first page to the last, this book held my heart and wouldn't let go. Not often am I rooting for both boys to win the girl, but the Fisher brothers both love Belly equally and they would both take care of her if they could. This final book skips ahead two years. Belly is now going by Isabel and she's in college with Jeremiah. Everything going perfectly until she finds out that while they were on a break, he slept with another girl. It takes her a while to forgive him, but when she does, he asks her to marry him. Suddenly they are planning a teenage wedding that her mother doesn't approve of. So Belly heads off to Cousins to get away from everything for a little while and finds Conrad there. Memories that she's buried rise back to the surface the minute she sees him and soon she's back to the girl she used to be while trying to plan a wedding for her and his brother.

As soon as Conrad's first chapter arrived, I knew I was done for. Even after everything he's done to Belly, I still died when he came back into the picture. It was hard, knowing that Jeremiah would take good care of Belly all their lives, but I kept rooting for Conrad. The passion between them never went away, even when they were separated for two years. They fight like a married couple and every time they did, I just wanted them to make out. This book kept me guessing until the last second. By the time the last chapter came around, I was so scared about who she would choose and I cried when I read the last page. 

Han created a series that will stick with me forever. It reminds me of summer nights and summer boys and being a teenager. First love and first heartbreak rings too true in this series, capturing the essence of teenage life. I would recommend this series to everyone looking for some summer love and some happily ever afters. 

“Maybe that was how it was with all first loves. They own a little piece of your heart, always.” 

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