Saturday, 24 December 2011

"Shiver" by Maggie Stiefvater

The cold.
Grace has spent years watching the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf - her wolf - watches back. He feels deeply familiar to her, but she doesn't know why.

The heat.

Sam has lived two lives. As a wolf, he keeps the silent company of the girl he loves. And then, for a short time each year, he is human, never daring to talk to Grace... until now.

The shiver.
For Grace and Sam, love has always been kept at a distance. But once it's spoken, it cannot be denied. Sam must fight to stay human - and Grace must fight to keep him - even if it means taking on the scars of the past, the fragility of the present, and the impossibility of the future.

I was in one of the many Borders' branches in Las Vegas last summer when a sales assistant stacking shelves asked me what books I liked. Then she recommended me this one. I read it in about a day, and I enjoyed it so much. Grace's voice really struck me - as did Sam's. They were both lovely characters and I immediately searched the west coast of America to find the sequel, Linger. Maggie Stiefvater writes amazing books, but this series is by far my favourite. It's a great mix of fantasy, mystery and romance that kept me turning the pages to see what would happen next. I recommended it to all my friends and quite a few of them have read it, which is wonderful. The secondary characters weren't as involved as they could have been, however, and I found Grace's parents really annoying and self-centered, but maybe I was supposed to feel that about them. Overall, a breathtaking and outstanding read by Maggie Stiefvater, and I loved the artwork inside the cover.

Rating: A

"Forgotten" by Cat Patrick

Here's the thing about me: I can see the future in flashes, like memories. But my past is a blank.
I remember what I'll wear tomorrow, and an argument that won't happen until this afternoon. But I don't know what I ate for dinner last night. I get by with the help of notes, my mom and my best friend Jamie, and the system works...

Until now. Everything's falling apart. Jamie's going off the rails. My mom is lying to me. And I can't see the boy I adore in my future. But today, I love him. And I never want to forget how much...

This novel was a great, interesting mix of thriller, romance and contemporary fiction. It was slow to start, but I did find that once it got going, the plot pulled me in. However, I found some of the aspects of the plot confusing and some parts didn't add up. I liked the characters of London and Luke, and I thought their romance was fantastic; the best I've read in a long time. I do also think, however, that London's character could have been given more depth, and her "memories" of the future (I found this easy at first to grasp, but as the plot became more complicated it totally confused me) could have been explained more fully, as I was left in the dark about much of the future events. Overall, a wonderful book that I would definitely read again, (and I'll go see the film) but to improve it, I recommend that Cat Patrick needs to work on characterization and plot calculations, to make sure that it all makes sense to the reader.

Rating: A- 

"Across The Universe" by Beth Revis

Amy has left the life she loves for a world 300 years away.
Trapped in space and frozen in time, Amy is bound for a new planet. But fifty years before she's due to arrive, she is violently woken, the victim of an attempted murder. Now Amy's lost on board and nothing makes sense - she's never felt so alone.

Yet someone is waiting for her. He wants to protect her - and more if she'll let him. But who can she trust amidst the secrets and lies? A killer is out there - and Amy has nowhere to hide...

I love Sci-Fi and dystopia, so this book was perfect for me. I was gripped almost instantly, and I really liked the dual narrative between Amy and Elder, the main characters. Both were complex, but they were likable and had strong, independent views on what they each believed was right or wrong. The romance, despite being highly publicized on the front cover, was rather disappointing, unfortunately. I felt that the Jason and Amy storyline was good to start with, but then his 'bad' traits were discovered too quickly to make her available to have feelings for Elder. However, I'm glad that Across The Universe will be a trilogy. Also, I thought that although the plot was fantastic, it moved painfully slow and I was always waiting, suspenseful, for something momentous to happen, which it rarely did. The secondary characters were great, especially Harley and Steela, and they brought a lot of emotion to the story. Beth Revis is certainly an author to watch, and I will definitely buying A Million Suns. Overall, a magical book with just the right amount of mystery, sinister and suspense!

Rating: A-

Saturday, 17 December 2011

"Some Girls Are" by Courtney Summers

Sometimes it's better to keep your mouth shut.

Climbing to the top of the social ladder is hard - falling from it is even harder. Regina Afton used to be a member of the Fearsome Fivesome, an all-girl clique both feared and revered by the students at Hallowell High... that is until vicious rumors about her and her best friend's boyfriend start going around. Now Regina's been "frozen-out" and her ex-best friends are out for revenge. If Regina was guilty, it would be one thing, but the rumors are far from the terrifying truth and the bullying is getting more intense by the day. She takes solace in the company of Michael Hayden, a misfit with a tragic past who she herself used to bully. Friendship doesn't come easily for these onetime enemies, and as Regina works hard to make amends for her past, she realizes that Michael could be more than just a friend... if threats from the Fearsome Foursome don't break them both first. Tensions grow and the abuse worsens as the final days of senior year march towards an explosive conclusion in this dark new tale from the author of "Cracked Up To Be".

One word: WOW. This was my first Courtney Summers read and I was very impressed. The writing was sharp, blunt and somewhat haunting. I couldn't put it down!  
Regina was a difficult character - one minute I really liked her and the next I hated her guts. She navigated strange relationships with her many former friends and boyfriend, all of whom were awful, in my opinion. Anna was a nasty piece of work who I wanted to give a good slap, as was mega-bitch Kara. Josh was a total jerk, but probably realistic, and even though I was supposed to like Liz, I thought she was cold and uptight. I know that Regina was horrible to her, and to Michael, but I couldn't help wanting something good to happen to her, despite her meanness. The Michael and Regina storyline was excellent, difficult to write, but expertly written. I could sense Michael's early hatred, uneasiness, and gradual feelings for Regina as they came at me from the pages. The plot was brilliant - beyond anything I've ever read before or since. I was in tears at the end, it made me feel that much! I love Courtney Summers' work and want to read it all!

Rating: A+ 

"The Summer of Skinny Dipping" by Amanda Howells

There are some summers you'll always remember.

Sometimes I still wake up shivering in the early hours of the morning, drowning in dreams of being out there in the ocean that summer, of looking up at the moon and feeling as invisible and free as a fish. But I'm jumping ahead, and to tell the story right I have to go back to the very beginning. To a place called Indigo Beach. To a boy with pale skin that glowed against the dark waves. To the start of something neither of us could have predicted, and which would mark us forever, making everything that came after and before seem like it belonged to another life.

My name is Mia Gordon: I was sixteen years old, and I remember everything.

A different kind of summer vocation novel, Amanda Howells's debut novel was an emotional, beautiful, thought-provoking read. Mia was a realistic and relatable character, even when she constantly compared herself to her perfect, 'flawless' cousins with seemingly enviable lives. This book really captured how it feels to be a teenage girl - not a perfect, happy-with-yourself, boys falling over to be with you teenage girl, the kind we often read about in YA fiction - a normal girl with dreams, ambitions, flaws, and a lot of insecurities. I loved how Mia's perspective gradually changed when she met Simon - he was amazing! He was so different (in a good way) to guys I usually read about in books, which was greatly refreshing. The ending was so unexpected, but bittersweet to a wonderful novel that I will be thinking about for a long time. It was also great to see how much Mia's loss still affected her in the Epilogue - and how she described Simon as "the love of her life". This was such a heart-breaking moment.

Rating: A+

"Cracked Up To Be" by Courtney Summers

What's the worst thing you've ever done?

When "Perfect" Parker Fadley starts drinking at school and failing her classes, all of St. Peter's High goes on alert. How has the cheerleading captain, girlfriend of the most popular guy in school, consummate teacher's pet, and future valedictorian fallen so far from grace? Parker doesn't want to talk about it. She'd just like to be left alone, to disappear, to be ignored. But her parents have placed her on suicide watch and her counselors are demanding the truth. Worse, there's a nice guy falling in love with her and he's making her feel things again when she'd really rather not be feeling anything at all. Nobody would've guessed she'd turn out like this. But nobody knows the truth. Something horrible has happened, and it just might be her fault.

Even though this book is only 214 pages, it took me over a week to read it. I wanted to take everything in and not make things blur together, as this was hard to get hold of. However, I still haven't stopped thinking about it. It was just that good. 

Parker Fadley is sarcastic, bitchy and direct with little subtlety, yet somehow still sort of likable. I understood her constant drive for perfection and her disillusionment. I felt what she felt: her weird feelings for Jake, her hatred of Becky and Chris's new relationship, and her uneasiness around Evan. It was all there. 

But, I didn't like Parker's attitude towards the death of her dog, Bailey, and her odd relationship with Jake, a really good guy who she unfairly didn't give a real chance, and she totally messed him around, although she was totally messed up herself. Why do troubled girls always get the guy?

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. The characters were scarily realistic, the language and situation believable, and the plot kept me turning the pages in suspense. 

Rating: A-