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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Review: Something Strange and Deadly (Something Strange and Deadly #1) by Susan Dennard

Read from March 27 - 29, 2014
Book: Something Strange and Deadly (Something Strange and Deadly #1) by Susan Dennard
Publication Date: July 24, 2012
Publisher: Harper Teen
Number of Pages: 388
Genre/s: Young Adult, Steampunk, Horror
Source: Bought

There's something strange and deadly loose in Philadelphia...

Eleanor Fitt has a lot to worry about. Her brother has gone missing, her family as fallen on hard times, and her mother is determined to marry her off to any rich young man who walkers by. But this is nothing compared to what she's just read in the newspaper—

The Dead are rising in Philadelphia.

And then, in a frightening attack, a zombie delivers a letter to Eleanor... from her brother.

Whoever is controlling the Dead army has taken her brother as well. If Eleanor is going to find him, she'll have to venture into the lab of the notorious Spirit-Hunters, who protect the city from supernatural forces. But as Eleanor spends more time with the Spirit-Hunters, including the maddeningly stubborn yet handsome Daniel, the situation becomes dire. An now, not only is her reputation on the line, but her very life may hang in the balance.
- (source)

I almost didn't finish this book. With a cover like that and an intriguing premise, I thought Something Strange and Deadly was a book right up my alley. But all I could think about while reading was: this is not going very well.

I'm not certain why I found it hard to immersed in Dennard's world. There are a lot of possible factors I think. It could be the almost nonexistent world-building, the slow pace, the predictability, or my love/hate relationship with Eleanor, the heroine.

Eleanor for the most part is a heroine I actually admire. She's smart, sassy and brave. She's strong-minded and she has a distinct personality. But she's quite hammy for my liking. Case in point, this scene: 
"My breath shot out. I swayed back, but Daniel lunged forward and caught me before I could fall. For a moment he held me, his arm looped around my waist and his eyes gazing hard into mine."
This happened at least thrice in the book. It's a minor thing, a nitpick on my part, and naturally something that might've irked only me, but I don't like my heroine melodramatic.

Now about the story. The Dead are rising everywhere, an ominous spirit was released caused by a séance gone horribly wrong, and on top of it all, Eleanor's brother still has yet to come home. On the brink of bankruptcy and worried for his brother's safety, Eleanor must find out where his brother is and to do this she would need the help of the Spirit-Hunters.

I have to be honest. I've figured everything out even before halfway through the book so definitely there's nothing left to go on but see how Dennard would execute the events leading up to the reveal and the reveal itself. I'm not particularly impressed but I was thrilled the pace picked up once the story's ready to go in that direction.

What turned up as a surprise for me was the romance. This took a back seat and I loved how Dennard played it. I think it was one of the main strengths of the book. I found myself smiling and the subtlety of it all excites me because even in the slightest of nudge, the chemistry of Eleanor and Daniel was undeniably remarkable.

And I have to say I was so pleased at how the story concluded and this ultimately saved the book for me. Battling the Dead with a lunatic Necromancer at large was, of course, without consequences and I appreciated how Dennard handled this. Eleanor ruined her reputation, yes, but she also lost someone and something tangible. It's permanent and I think this would be one of the few times where I would see my heroine damaged, a tad unwhole, but unquestionably stronger.

I was prepared to give this book less than 3 stars but it did pick up its pace and I loved how the story endednot with a cliffhanger but with a promise of something more. I'm glad I didn't give up on this and I surely am looking forward for the next installment.

Cupid's Verdict:
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3 Cupids

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday(17): Gates of Thread and Stone

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating. 

Book: Gates of Thread and Stone by Lori M. Lee
Publication Date: August 5, 2014
Publisher: Skyscape

In the Labyrinth, we had a saying: keep silent, keep still, keep safe.

In a city of walls and secrets, where only one man is supposed to possess magic, seventeen-year-old Kai struggles to keep hidden her own secret—she can manipulate the threads of time. When Kai was eight, she was found by Reev on the riverbank, and her “brother” has taken care of her ever since. Kai doesn’t know where her ability comes from—or where she came from. All that matters is that she and Reev stay together, and maybe one day move out of the freight container they call home, away from the metal walls of the Labyrinth. Kai’s only friend is Avan, the shopkeeper’s son with the scandalous reputation that both frightens and intrigues her.

Then Reev disappears. When keeping silent and safe means losing him forever, Kai vows to do whatever it takes to find him. She will leave the only home she’s ever known and risk getting caught up in a revolution centuries in the making. But to save Reev, Kai must unravel the threads of her past and face shocking truths about her brother, her friendship with Avan, and her unique power.
- From Goodreads

This book promises time sorcery and I'm so up for it. Unravel the threads of your past Kai and I'll be right there with you, pinky swear!

So what books are you waiting on?

Monday, July 21, 2014

Review: Prep School Confidential (PSC #1) by Kara Taylor

August 2 - 3, 2013
Book: Prep School Confidential (Prep School Confidential #1) by Kara Taylor
Publication Date: July 30, 2013
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Number of Pages: 310
Genre/s: Young Adult, Mystery
Source: ARC provided by publisher 

In this breathtaking debut that reads like Gossip Girl crossed with Twin Peaks, a Queen Bee at a blue-blooded New England prep school stumbles into a murder mystery.

Anne Dowling practically runs her exclusive academy on New York’s Upper East Side—that is, until she accidentally burns part of it down and gets sent to a prestigious boarding school outside of Boston. Determined to make it back to New York, Anne couldn't care less about making friends at the preppy Wheatley School. That is, until her roommate Isabella’s body is found in the woods behind the school.

When everyone else is oddly silent, Anne becomes determined to uncover the truth no matter how many rules she has to break to do it. With the help of Isabella’s twin brother Anthony, and a cute classmate named Brent, Anne discovers that Isabella wasn’t quite the innocent nerdy girl she pretended to be. But someone will do anything to stop Anne’s snooping in this fast-paced, unputdownable read—even if it means framing her for Isabella’s murder
. - (source)

I would've been ecstatic to learn that I'd be sent to a boarding school, as my only punishment for becoming an accidental arsonist, but Anne Dowling was less than thrilled.

I go into this type of book with little to no expectation. There's just so much that could go wrong about a boarding-school-mystery-thriller story, it's not fair to even expect to have the time of your life while reading one. Clichés are almost inevitable and will possibly happen, if the author suddenly run out of creative juices, and just decided to end the story with a cop-out move.

I am pleased to say that Prep School Confidential while not void of clichés, definitely came through and splendidly worked all of it and more in its favor.

Anne Dowling, our protagonist, is a likeable character. She's a rich Queen Bee who got expelled by accidentally setting her old school on fire. In a nutshell, I know I wouldn't like her character, but Anne proved to be smart, charming and caring. I liked her voice and I found myself wanting to know every move she will make, which made this read quite unputdownable.

The mystery aspect of the novel was as absorbing as its main protagonist, and I felt myself being transported to my Nancy Drew reading days. As the plot thickened, I really hoped Prep School Confidential would be a series of books and I'm glad that it is. It's been a long time since I read a mystery series that I can see myself investing in.

One minor problem I had with the book was the romance. I really do believe a book can survive without it, and I don't want to read about a half-baked one. I also hate love triangle with a passion. I would like to clarify that this didn't ruin the story, I just think the book would be better without it or if it was, at least, a slow-burning romance that would slowly progressed over the course of the series, then sign me up.

Despite my minor qualm, I definitely enjoyed Taylor's debut novel. Prep School Confidential is perfect for fans of Carolyn Keene and Ally Carter, and if Taylor continues this kind of quality in her future Anne Dowling's books, I might have just found my permanent replacement fix for my never been satisfied Nancy Drew cravings.

Cupid's Verdict:
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4 Cupids
A copy was provided by the publisher at no cost via Netgalley 
in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Typhoon Glenda + Weekly Recap

Some of you might have noticed that I was nonexistent for the past few days. Aside from the scheduled posts, I wasn't really able to respond to comments and return them back. Our country has once again been the gracious host to another typhoon with a mean streak, and if you would check this #GlendaPH hashtag you'd know how a darling she was at being a typhoon.

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Yep. This is pretty much Typhoon Glenda.

So on Wednesday, it felt like the clouds were on a wide scale pissing contest only when it wasn't enough, they decided to empty out their water baggage on us. The rain along with the wind sounded like waves and it felt like being trapped in an ocean vortex. It was chaotic and wet, and the air enjoyed it too much that it whistled its delight. I can't even freaking whistle but the air did, and it did it wonderfully and effectively (and by effectively, I mean we were pretty scared shitless). It wasn't long before the power outage happened and I was really grateful for the small victories I could consider that day: I had a fully charged phone and I wasn't in Manila so I survived the flooding.

Power outage for 3 straight days brought us back unwillingly in the medieval era and I seriously didn't know what to do with myself. There was no internet, phone lines aren't working, network signals are hard to come by, and to top it all of, there's no water. We're pretty much cut-off from everything and it's a nice change of pace but I would have gone ballistic, if it lasted for more than a week. I even wrote a draft of this post in a notebook, old-school style. This unexpected plunge into the darkness only meant two things, I need to seriously consider buying an ereader (what would you recommend?) and I'd get to read all my dust-collector books on the shelves (yay!).

I managed to finish Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs and started on Allegiant by Veronica Roth, which kind of murdered my eyes. But I'd still say reading by candlelight is pretty romantic.
You can never have too many Chupa Chups.

This week recap on Smitten over Books: 

  • I reviewed Breathe, Annie, Breathe, a new Contemporary novel by Miranda Kenneally and it failed to impress me. 
  • I waited on Mosquitoland by David Arnold. 
  • I reviewed Some Fine Day by Kat Ross. This fantastic debut is a must-read dystopian novel by dystopian lovers and action-junkie alike.
There goes the recap. So have you ever experienced a nature diss/tantrum that led to a prolonged medieval period stint? How did you manage?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Review: Some Fine Day by Kat Ross

Read from July 5 to July 10, 2014
Book: Some Fine Day by Kat Ross
Publication Date: July 1, 2014
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Number of Pages: 384
Genre/s: Young Adult, Dystopia
Source: ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley

Sixteen-year-old Jansin Nordqvist is on the verge of graduating from the black ops factory known as the Academy. She's smart and deadly, and knows three things with absolute certainty:

1. When the world flooded and civilization retreated deep underground, there was no one left on the surface.
2. The only species to thrive there are the toads, a primate/amphibian hybrid with a serious mean streak.
3. There's no place on Earth where you can hide from the hypercanes, continent-sized storms that have raged for decades.
 

Jansin has been lied to. On all counts.- (source)

In this dystopian world, a deadly heat wave followed by devastating superstorms called hypercanes, and flooding forced humanity to live underground to survive. Not all was given the opportunity to evacuate and many were left to die on the surface. The surface of the Earth became a hostile place where hypercanes can ravaged at any moment and toadslethal, human-like amphibiansare a threat. No one should have survived. But they were proven wrong when a trip outside the surface went wrong. Jansin Nordqvist, our protagonist, was left stranded and captured by a clan. Not only was she to withstand the harshness of nature, but she also needs to survive living with people on the surface.

Dystopian novels are sprouting like mushrooms these days and while some barely clings to existence by their genre alone, Some Fine Day is a stand-outwildly kicking, and boasting a story that will enthrall even the most jaded dystopian reader.

I could tell that a lot of research has gone into creating this dystopian world, and I tip my hats off to Ross for handling deftly the story's plot. As a picky reader, I appreciated all the minute details that went into making this world as believable as possible. As mentioned, the plot has a lot going for it. It's so deliciously jam-packed and while I was reading, it was exciting to think about all the different possibilities Some Fine Day could explore. 

But without doubt, Some Fine Day brought to life some of the best characters I've ever read in the dystopian genre. I felt such a strong bond with Jansin. She's strong, brave, resourceful and intelligent. She also proved time and again that she can kick-ass and I have witness this so many times. Will is this character that I thought I could disregard but he grew on me like every other character we met on the surface. I'm tempted to describe him as Jansin's love interest, but that would do him a great disservice because he's clearly more than that. Jansin and Will together makes my heart sing. And as enemies became friends, it just fills me with so much affection for every people on the surface. I was so heartbroken to know what had happened to some of them and I'm scared to know what might have happened to the others.

The one thing that threw me off was the ending. I really wish it didn't end that way, so I could at least hope that Jansin and Will are in a better place for a while, as I wait to (hopefully) get my hands on the (still non-existing) next installment. It leaves the reader in a cliffhangerish ending, but I think it could also pass as a stand-alone ending. I am not sure what it is. I felt slightly cheated. I am so lost right now. 

Some Fine Day is a remarkable debut. It has all I want from a dystopian novel: substantial world-building, compelling characters, a pacing with a good build-up that leads into a thrilling, nonstop action. I implore you to read this outstanding novel as soon as you can. Some Fine Day deserves to be read, loved and devoured.

Cupid's Verdict:
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4.5 Cupids

A copy was provided by the publisher at no cost via Netgalley
in exchange for an honest review.
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