Thursday, July 31, 2014

Review: Evil Fairies Love Hair by Mary G. Thompson

Read (July 29 - 30, 2014)
Book: Evil Fairies Love Hair by Mary G. Thompson
Publication Date: August 5, 2014
Publisher: Clarion Books
Pages: 320
Genre/s: Middle Grade, Urban Fantasy
Source: ARC provided by publisher via Netgalley

Ali and her middle school classmates are raising flocks of fairies to make their wishes come true. But growing a flock is harder than it sounds: the fairies eat only human hair, and the rules for dealing with them are confusing, misleading, and subject to change. As Ali and her friends struggle to earn their wishes, mistakes are made, spells go awry, and soon Ali is up against hundreds of two-inch-tall imps who have very big plans. Comedy and fantasy intertwine in this lively tale of intrigue, magic, and the power of hair. - (source)

I learned 5 things while reading Evil Fairies Love Hair:
  1. Hair is delicious.
  2. You can never trust magical creatures especially evil faeries masquerading as imps.
  3. Evil faeries hate their jobs especially doling out rewards to good children.
  4. Evil faeries don't play fair and are really awful at giving instructions.
  5. Hair is delicious. This needs reiterating.
I always said that I will never outgrow reading Middle Grade novels. I crave for stories that keep me young at heart and mind, and I'm confident in saying that some of the titles in this genre can be considered gems not only by children but also by adults. However, taking the plunge is not without risks. Sometimes it pays off, sometimes it doesn't. I fear that Evil Fairies Love Hair is leaning towards the latter result.

Certainly, this book has its merits. It's fun, light, and has wonderful illustrations that will surely catch its readers' eyes. Moreover, Ali is a protagonist anyone can relate to. She's insecure and feels inferior to her fabulous sister. The best thing about her is even though her physical size wasn't as stable as she wanted it to be throughout the novel, she had grown to be a clever girl despite not having received her wish. It doesn't need telling that she's not the only kid who wanted a wish. That's why growing a flock of faeries became so widespread that before long kids their age began shaving or wearing their hair in a bun, so they can comply with the rules. 

While the story is adorable and original, it can get convoluted at times. It has a frantic quality to it that actually encouraged me to put the book down on several occasions. I couldn't get into the story no matter how hard I tried, and it makes me sad to say that this book failed to capture the wonder in me.

Thompson newest novel is quite eccentric and wild in a way that it will lure a certain kind of reader. This Middle Grade novel will mostly appeal to young readers who love their plot slightly frenzied and their characters' naughty and full of mischief. 

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

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday(18): Trial by Fire

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

Book: Trial by Fire (The Worldwalker Trilogy #1) by Josephine Angelini
Publication Date: September 2, 2014
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Love burns. Worlds collide. Magic reigns.

This world is trying to kill Lily Proctor. Her life-threatening allergies keep her from enjoying many of the experiences that other teenagers take for granted...which is why she is determined to enjoy her first (and perhaps only) high-school party. But Lily's life never goes according to plan, and after a humiliating incident in front of half her graduating class Lily wishes she could just disappear.

Suddenly Lily is in a different Salem - one overrun with horrifying creatures and ruled by powerful women called Crucibles. Strongest and cruellest of all the Crucibles is Lillian . . . Lily's identical other self in this alternate universe. This new version of her world is terrifyingly sensual, and Lily is soon overwhelmed by new experiences.

Lily realizes that what makes her weak at home is exactly what makes her extraordinary in New Salem. It also puts her life in danger. Thrown into a world she doesn't understand, Lily is torn between responsibilities she can't hope to shoulder alone, and a love she never expected.

But how can Lily be the saviour of this world when she is literally her own worst enemy?
- (source)

Alternative universes usually don't appeal to me because my brain generally can't comprehend its magnitude in terms of its foundations and principles. Nevertheless, I am intrigued by this "terrifying sensual" world and having a superior alternate self, so I'm definitely looking forward to reading this title.

So what books are you waiting on?

Monday, July 28, 2014

Review: Quintana of Charyn by Melina Marchetta

Read from June 11 - 12, 2014
Book: Quintana of Charyn (Lumatere Chronicles #3) by Melina Marchetta
Publication Date: September 26, 2012
Publisher: Viking Australia
Number of Pages: 516
Genre/s: Young Adult, Medieval Fantasy
Source: Bought

There's a babe in my belly that whispers the valley, Froi. I follow the whispers and come to the road . . .

Separated from the girl he loves and has sworn to protect, Froi must travel through Charyn to search for Quintana, the mother of Charyn's unborn king, and protect her against those who will do anything to gain power. But what happens when loyalty to family and country conflict?

When the forces marshalled in Charyn's war gather and threaten to involve the whole of the land, including Lumatere, only Froi can set things right, with the help of those he loves. - (source)

This review does not contain any spoilers for this book and the rest of the series. Hurrah!

Melina Marchetta never fails to break my heart into smithereens. Reading the Lumatere Chronicles has been a tremendous experience. She made everything seemed tangible to me. The anguish coming from Froi was also the same anguish coming from me, the trust between Phaedra and Lucian, the love between Isaboe and Finnikin, the protectiveness Quintana has for her King baby, they were gushing out from me too. She made my heart swell past its size that I became stretched too thin and wrung out from all these feelings coursing through me. It was emotionally exhausting, but it was worth it. Seeing everything fall into place felt like a satisfying compensation for all the pains the characters have to endure.
As always with a Marchetta novel, you know you're going to get a good story. For me though, it will be the characters that would initially entice me in and would refuse to let go. This power is much more potent here because we've been with these people since Book 1. We shared their tragedies, torments, and losses as well as their camaraderie, love, and triumphs. They have burrowed themselves into my heart like real people and my affection for them is just all-consuming. I am heartbroken to have reached the story's end but I am also glad to know that they are in a better place now.

It's admirable how Marchetta has the command not only of her readers' attentions, but also their hearts. Marchetta might have broken my heart countless of times but she constantly put the pieces back together again despite making it more fragile than ever before. She's a masterful storyteller and a genius creator of this world and its characters. 

And I'll never forget them, Melina Marchetta. Never.

Cupid's Verdict:
4 1/2 Cupids

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Let's Talk About Anime

To celebrate my upcoming birthday tomorrow, I would like to share what I do in my spare time besides reading. But really, I just wanted to have an excuse to make this short list. *winks*

I'm a total book nerd but I'm a huge anime nut job too. Although I don't watch a lot of anime like I used to, I have a few favorites that I find myself rewatching every now and then. Without further ado, here they are, in no particular order: 

1. Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titan)

This anime just came out last year, rocking and blazing with its addictive OST, and that might seem not too long ago but fans have been waiting for the second season since forever. This includes yours truly and as we all know there's no fun in waiting. Plus, this just increases the chances of being spoiled (right, Meg?) by all those who read the manga. *shakes fist*

Struggling to survive inside the wall against man-eating Titans, Shingeki no Kyojin depicts humanity at its weakest and most vulnerable state. It is chock-full of action, twists and deaths that once you start watching, you'll end up gobbling up everything in one-sitting. This happened to me and it's bound to happen again. You have been warned.

2. Death Note 

Many will say that Death Note should have quit while its ahead, but it is definitely one of a kind and deserves more episodesno matter how convoluted the story became.

This anime is so sick and twisted that the evil in me was extremely delighted in watching the antihero deemed himself god and savior of humanity. He's cleansing out the world by killing all those who are evil using the notebook provided by a bored Shinigami, and the scary thing is, I don't see anything wrong with what Light Yagami/Kira is doing except perhaps trampling on the justice system. It's exciting to watch everyone try to capture this elusive and lethal Kira and it became even more nerve-wracking when L entered the picture. I'm quite ashamed to admit that I kept switching alliances between the two brilliant leads.

Controversial and engaging, this anime is a must watch for those who love dark, suspenseful anime.

3. Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Magical girl anime are meant to be light, so I started watching this expecting a Sailor Moon-esque fun, only to find out I was in for some deep, bleak shite. I definitely meant that as a compliment on account that I was pleasantly surprised and I loved every second of it. 

Deconstructing the magical girl genre, possessing stunning visuals, pyschological and heavier in theme, Madoka Magica intends to enthrall neophytes and lovers of the genre.

And out of all the anime listed here, I would definitely egg you on with Madoka Magica because you'll be more inclined to check this out since it only has 11 episodes. I repeat, it only has 11 episodes. Yeah!

4. Cowboy Bebop

So if you're one of those persnickety people who value lists above all and check them for recommendations, you'd see this on top anywhere, and it's not without valid and satisfying reasons. This is a mature anime that showcases odd yet compelling characters and relevant, weighty episodes. 

Since it was episodic in nature, I didn't immediately fell head over heels in love with Cowboy Bebop. In time though, I was pretty sucked in and once I read some fantastic analyses (yes, I read them just because) regarding each episodes, I realized Cowboy Bebop is more than what meets the eye and I loved it even more. Heartbreaking and jaunty, Cowboy Bebop would definitely appeal to young and old anime lovers alike.

5. Bleach

You won't see this on any Top Anime Series of All Lime list and I know many hardcore anime fans would dismiss this as mainstream anime with no substance. But you know what? I don't care. We're all entitled to love what we like and vice versa. I love this so much that I started reading the manga because I simply cannot wait for the anime, and I terribly miss Ichigo Kurosaki and the gang. Being a Shinigami or Death god is the name of the game and Ichigo Kurosaki became one despite being a human.

I understand and acknowledge that there are glaring flaws in the series but my unconditional love would still be undeterred. I've watched this series since 2007 and I've seen the characters grow not only in strength but also as individuals, and I'll be in the Bleach bandwagon for the long haul. Even the critics have to admit that Bleach started really strong and it boasts a wonderful OST. Like, Will of the Heart and Never Meant to Belong, which I'm listening to right now for added inspiration and feels. 

I know watching 366 episodes might seem daunting but trust me, you'll fly through it. I suggest skipping the filler episodes and you'll wait with me in no time for the hopeful return of the anime.

So these are some of my favorite anime. Do you watch anime? 
What are some of your favorites? I'm open to any recommendations.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Review: Something Strange and Deadly 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 to the next installment.

Cupid's Verdict:
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 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:
 photo 45cupidsa_zps90ce9337.png
4.5 Cupids
A copy was provided by the publisher at no cost via Netgalley
in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (16): Mosquitoland

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

Book: Mosquitoland by David Arnold
Publication Date: March 3, 2015
Publisher: Viking Children's

"I am a collection of oddities, a circus of neurons and electrons: my heart is the ringmaster, my soul is the trapeze artist, and the world is my audience. It sounds strange because it is, and it is, because I am strange." 

After the sudden collapse of her family, Mim Malone is dragged from her home in northern Ohio to the "wastelands" of Mississippi, where she lives in a medicated milieu with her dad and new stepmom. Before the dust has a chance to settle, she learns her mother is sick back in Cleveland. 

So she ditches her new life and hops aboard a northbound Greyhound bus to her real home and her real mother, meeting a quirky cast of fellow travelers along the way. But when her thousand-mile journey takes a few turns she could never see coming, Mim must confront her own demons, redefining her notions of love, loyalty, and what it means to be sane. 

Told in an unforgettable, kaleidoscopic voice, "Mosquitoland" is a modern American odyssey, as hilarious as it is heartbreaking.
- From Goodreads

Have you read the synopsis? If you haven't, go it. I'll wait. Are you done? Doesn't it sound amazing? It radiates feels already and I haven't even read the book. Not to be a downer though, but it's not set to be released until 2015. I think the wait is going to be the death of me.

So what books are you waiting on?

Monday, July 14, 2014

Review: Breathe, Annie, Breathe by Miranda Kenneally

Read from July 10 to July 13, 2014
Book: Breathe, Annie, Breathe (Hundred Oaks #5) by Miranda Kenneally
Publication Date: July 15, 2014
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Number of Pages: 306
Genre/s: Young Adult, Contemporary
Source: ARC provided by publisher via Netgalley

Annie hates running. No matter how far she jogs, she can’t escape the guilt that if she hadn’t broken up with Kyle, he might still be alive. So to honor his memory, she starts preparing for the marathon he intended to race.

But the training is even more grueling than Annie could have imagined. Despite her coaching, she’s at war with her body, her mind—and her heart. With every mile that athletic Jeremiah cheers her on, she grows more conflicted. She wants to run into his arms…and sprint in the opposite direction. For Annie, opening up to love again may be even more of a challenge than crossing the finish line.

"Breathe, Annie, Breathe is an emotional, heartfelt, and beautiful story about finding yourself after loss and learning to love. It gave me so many feels. Her best book yet." — Jennifer Armentrout, New York Times bestselling author of Wait for You
- (source)

A Contemporary novel can either be a hit or a miss for me. I find that I do have a different level of expectation when reading one. I don't know if this is because I assume that I will mostly end up not liking the book or if it is because I'm reading something so close to ordinary life that it's not as mindblowing or exciting as, say, a dystopian or a fantasy world. Either way, managing my expectations prior to reading, works almost perfectly well in influencing how I would feel about a Contemporary novel.

The problem comes in when a book doesn't do hit or miss. When the book just wants to plop right there in the middle grey area, waving its freak flag while saying, "YOU CAN'T CATEGORIZE ME WOMAN!" Breathe, Annie, Breathe is the perfect example of this kind of books.

As always, characters are a huge deal for me. The pacing could be dreadful, the world-building lacking, the writing lackluster, but as long as the characters can carry the story, you can still get me. And the thing is I felt so much conflicting emotions with Annie, our main protagonist. Sometimes I like her guts, sometimes she makes me want to kiss my feet—I'm not flexible so you should know how painful this is. She might have made some of her decisions due to grief and guilt, but it doesn't mean I have to like it. She just couldn't make up her damn mind all the freaking time, and I believe it would bug even the most patient readers.

And then she met gorgeous Jeremiah, the epitome of hotness, with yummy shoulders and holy ab muscles and piercing blue eyes, and... What? I'm just using Annie's description here. Can you feel the sarcasm radiating? Because let's be honest, I don't get it. I don't get it why they hooked up that time they were alone together even when they barely knew each other. I don't get it why they are attracted to each other except by their obvious inherent hotness (duh!). I don't get it why she needed Jeremiah so she could finish the race. I don't get it why it must be a boy, in the first place, that makes her feel alive again. Jeremiah doesn't make me swoon. He is a male protagonist I've read about before. A caricature of a great guy who would complement Annie. I even have to look up his name because I forgot it already.

But when I scratch all of those that I don't get and throw it out of my mind trash bin, I'm good. Breath, Annie, Breathe is a decent read. It's undemanding and accessible. It was almost heartwarming. I felt a slight tug in my heart in the end, although I'm not sure if it's because Annie finished the race, or because she finally got her HEA with Jeremiah. I admit I was more invested with Annie finishing her race than with her relationship with Jeremiah.

Of course, I have to recognized that I appreciated the overall theme of this book, which is finding yourself. Annie had let her deceased boyfriend Kyle and their relationship define who she is. Since all she needed was Kyle, when she had a falling out with her best friend, she just let it happened. She didn't realize she depended on him so much that's why when he unexpectedly died, she found herself lost and alone for the first time. 

That's why I love this line from Annie's mom so much: a guy should fit into your life, Annie not become it.

Isn't that the truth? That before everything else you should be your own person. There were also times, in the latter part of the book, that Annie surprised me. Like when she finally realized having a balance in life is important so she started hanging out with other people. Or when she accepted that she wasn't really the one to blame for Kyle's passing and turning him down was not a bad thing because it doesn't mean she didn't love him, but it's because she had a dream for herself. Seeing her like that is glorious, my friends.

Breathe, Annie, Breathe is my first Miranda Keneally novel. I'm kind of apprehensive because I didn't think I'd rip this book as much as I did. There were some good points, but ultimately my gripe with the characters got the better part of my reading experience, hence the rating. However, I am sure that many Contemporary fans would gobble this up and even love it, it's just wasn't able to grab me.

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

Saturday, July 12, 2014

When I met Stephanie Perkins...and Jarrod!

Warning: Long and sappy post ahead.

On Sunday, the 6th of July, we had the incredible opportunity to meet the bestselling author of international bestselling books Anna and the French Kiss, Lola and the Boy Next Door, and the upcoming Isla and the Happily Ever After. This event was hosted and organized by National Bookstore.

I was so thrilled when I heard about Stephanie Perkins' upcoming visit to my country.  This would only be my second author event and I was beyond excited to meet one of my favorite authors in person. My friend, Joy, was a first-timer and she came to her first book signing because of me. She has not read Stephanie Perkins' books yet and I'm so jealous that she's going to experience reading the books for the first time.

On the day of the signing, we were up so early so we wouldn't get caught up in traffic and we could score a reasonable place before the event. It was extra early for an insomniac like me, and it didn't obviously help that I was still awake at an ungodly hour the night before because I was too keyed up to sleep. I don't even know how we managed to get to the venue at such an early time, but we did, and we're so surprised to see a queue already! I just knew right then and there that we would have a very long day ahead.

We're already on the 250's. Crazy line!
The event registration was not until 10 AM so we had a couple of hours to kill...sitting...on the pavement. My friend and I entertained ourselves by listening to the buzz all around us. There were some pretty lively discussions happening behind us and we were so entertained by this person we named as "OMG Lady". They talked about books and I badly wanted to join the conversation, but I'm painfully shy so I just listened and took some book selfies with my friend. 

You can only take too many selfies before you get bored, but then Stephanie came riding in a black car, smiling and waving at us. I was so stunned that it took me a few seconds to realize it was her, and she had already rode past by our spot before I even managed to wave back.

These couches were really comfy.

I see lines everywhere. Not people.
By the time the registration started, we were pretty hungry and quite impatient to get our sign passes so we could already eat. We decided to eat out and this was the most boneheaded decision we made that day. All we could think about was food so we didn't realize that by leaving the venue, we would be losing our place near the stage/platform. Now, I could attest that hungry people really make stupid life choices.

Even this ice cream couldn't assuage my annoyance towards my pathetic decision-making skills.
This parfait makes me want to cry.
At around 1 pm, we went back to the venue only to find out our stupidity there's no breathing space on the first floor already, so we had to settle in a place where we could still see everything. We decided to sit on the second floor and obviously, this too would become a very bad idea.

I spotted this lovely lady while waiting and she's kind enough to let me take a picture of this cute bracelet she had planned on giving to Stephanie.

Ruby knows her fashion.
Anna-Lola-Isla bracelet!
We're too far up!

At 2 pm, the small, compact space came alive with this electric energy that could light up..I dunno..New York? Paris? Then Stephanie came in, and the crowd broke into cheers and screams...and it was awesome. We couldn't really see Stephanie from up above because of that blasted ceiling, but we were joining the lucky ones below with our own shrieking and fangirling. I have no decent pictures, but the worst thing was we couldn't really hear the interview. *sniffs* Since we couldn't really hear anything, I just stared at Stephanie until the interview was over.

Then some people were called on stage to be recognized. Those people happened to have lined up the day before, and Stephanie dropped in around midnight to meet them. Talk about dedication! But I really lost my cool when ARCs of Isla and tote bags were given out. I almost melted into a puddle of want.
The dedicated people with the coveted Isla ARCs. Photo courtesy of National Bookstore.

But there's still the signing and surprisingly Jarrod would be signing, too. We practically flew down the escalator so we can get in line to have our books signed by the man whom Stephanie's books were dedicated to. Jarrod was so nice, and warm, and cute, and adorable, and..wait, sorry I got carried away. He signed my books and even wrote DFTBA. He then looked up waiting for my reaction. I smiled my best polite (clueless) smile and thanked him.

Being this calm is not as easy as it looks.
Awkward smile. Still puzzled by what DFTBA meant.

I immediately went to my friend to ask what DFTBA meant. She didn't have any idea, either. Thankfully, a cool teenager told us that DFTBA meant Don't Forget to be Awesome and I almost went back to Jarrod to say I will and to return the sentiment. Gawd, the day I feared finally came. I can no longer understand teen lingo and I only lost the -teen in my age last year. *shifty eyes*

Then my moment with Stephanie finally arrived. As I got closer and closer, I had to keep wringing my hands to expel some nerves. Good thing, the OMG lady was behind me and she did all the freaking out and fangirling for both of us, to which I will forever be grateful, because I got to keep a calm facade.
All smiles. Look at that gorgeous lady on my right.

We got home at past 10 pm that day. Our feet were ready to walk home by themselves, our legs were carrying us by sheer mental power, and we braved the train. I could barely keep my eyes open as I crashed in bed, unmoving, and I oddly felt empty and full at the same time. And I know someday, I will tell my kids that I hugged Gayle Forman and Stephanie Perkins in one year. That's one awesome record, don't you think?

July 6, 2014 is a day to remember. Before the event happened, I'd always referred to it as the Stephanie freaking Perkins' Day. But I think this demands changing to: Stephanie and Jarrod freaking Perkins' Day.

Swoon. Photo Courtesy of National Bookstore
Stephanie and Jarrod freaking Perkins' Day is the day everybody witnessed how adorable a pair Stephanie and Jarrod are. The day everybody (especially me and my hopeless romantic friend) learned to hope and believe that something called true love can happen in real life and could touch orif we are as blessed as themstay in our lives. The day when Stephanie and Jarrod's bright smiles and enthusiasm for us (all 700+ of us), made all the exhaustionthe early commute and the late travel after, long lines, sore feet, and the humid weatherbearable and worth it.

Needless to say, Stephanie and Jarrod freaking Perkins' Day will always be remembered.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (15): The Infinite Sea

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

Book: The Infinite Sea (The 5th Wave #2) by Rick Yancey
Publication Date: September 16, 2014
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile

The riveting follow-up to the New York Times bestselling The 5th Wave, hailed by Justin Cronin as “wildly entertaining.”

How do you rid the Earth of seven billion humans? Rid the humans of their humanity.

Surviving the first four waves was nearly impossible. Now Cassie Sullivan finds herself in a new world, a world in which the fundamental trust that binds us together is gone. As the 5th Wave rolls across the landscape, Cassie, Ben, and Ringer are forced to confront the Others’ ultimate goal: the extermination of the human race.

Cassie and her friends haven’t seen the depths to which the Others will sink, nor have the Others seen the heights to which humanity will rise, in the ultimate battle between life and death, hope and despair, love and hate.
- From Goodreads

I tremendously enjoyed The 5th Wave and I simply cannot wait to read the next installment in this series. I wonder what would happen next? Will there be more Waves? Will someone die? Oh, I do hope not.

So what books are you waiting on?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Review: Welcome to the Dark House by Laurie Faria Stolarz

Read from July 2 to July 3, 2014
Book: Welcome to the Dark House by Laurie Faria Stolarz
Publication Date: July 22, 2014
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Number of Pages: 368
Genre/s: Young Adult, Horror, Mystery/Thriller
Source: ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley

What’s your worst nightmare?

For Ivy Jensen, it’s the eyes of a killer that haunt her nights. For Parker Bradley, it’s bloodthirsty sea serpents that slither in his dreams.

And for seven essay contestants, it’s their worst nightmares that win them an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at director Justin Blake’s latest, confidential project. Ivy doesn’t even like scary movies, but she’s ready to face her real-world fears. Parker’s sympathetic words and perfect smile help keep her spirits up. . . at least for now.

Not everyone is so charming, though. Horror-film fanatic Garth Vader wants to stir up trouble. It’s bad enough he has to stay in the middle of nowhere with this group—the girl who locks herself in her room; the know-it-all roommate; “Mister Sensitive”; and the one who’s too cheery for her own good. Someone has to make things interesting.

Except, things are already a little weird. The hostess is a serial-killer look-alike, the dream-stealing Nightmare Elf is lurking about, and the seventh member of the group is missing.

By the time Ivy and Parker realize what’s really at stake, it’s too late to wake up and run.
- (source)

The moment I started reading Welcome to the Dark House, I just knew I was going to like it. I could say that this novel has the strongest beginning chapter among all the books I've read this year. The only question in my mind was: Can Welcome to the Dark House sustain this promising start? 

The answer is it did, for the most part. We have multiple POVs that might seem seriously daunting if not properly handled, but it worked surprisingly well and it kept things interesting. I admire that Stolarz was able to create several characters with distinct personalities and voices. The only thing I find challenging at the start was remembering the characters' names.

Personally, what I loved most about Welcome to the Dark House were the characters' backstories. All of them are coping from their horrifying pasts, and for some of them, entering and winning the contest is an opportunity of a lifetime and a way to move forward with their lives. Although sometimes it feels that there's not enough time to get into a character's head or that it seems quite a short novel for such a diverse cast, I feel that these backstories were substantial enough so the readers could connect to them in some way.

Even though I enjoyed reading Welcome to the Dark House, this novel is not without flaws. At times, I was slightly annoyed because the narrative give the impression that we're supposed to take things at face value. For instance, I find it hard to believe that a contest this big could be kept under wraps and that they wouldn't bother to at least confirm if it's legit or not, before entering. Plot-wise, I think Stolarz could have raised the stakes higher to make the situation more unsettling and frightening. Also, not much horror happens until the latter part of the book. But I mostly didn't mind this, considering that I'm horrified as it is with the characters' backgrounds.

I believe there's a good chance that there'd be a sequel for this novel, and I'm excited to find out what will happen next. I'd definitely recommend Welcome to the Dark House for fans of light horror and R.L. Stine's Goosebumps series.

Cupid's Verdict:
3.5 Cupids

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

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Review: Dream Boy by Madelyn Rosenberg and Mary Crockett

 photo dreamboy_zpsfdd76d88.jpg
Read July 1 - 2, 2014
Book: Dream Boy by Madelyn Rosenberg and Mary Crockett
Publication Date: July 1, 2014
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Number of Pages: 336
Genre/s: Young Adult, Paranormal
Source: ARC provided by publisher via Netgalley

Annabelle Manning feels like she’s doing time at her high school in Chilton, Virginia. She has her friends at her lunchtime table of nobodies. What she doesn’t have are possibilities. Or a date for Homecoming. Things get more interesting at night, when she spends time with the boy of her dreams. But the blue-eyed boy with the fairytale smile is just that—a dream. Until the Friday afternoon he walks into her chemistry class.

One of her friends suspects he’s an alien. Another is pretty sure it’s all one big case of deja vu. While Annabelle doesn’t know what to think, she’s willing to believe that the charming Martin Zirkle may just be her dream come true. But as Annabelle discovers the truth behind dreams—where they come from and what they mean—she is forced to face a dark reality she had not expected. More than just Martin has arrived in Chilton. As Annabelle learns, if dreams can come true, so can nightmares. - (source)

“I've always been a dreamer. Daydreams. Night dreams. Dreams of grandeur and dreams of escape. If I were an onion and you pulled back the papery outside, you'd find layer after layer of eye-watering dreams. And in the center, where there's that little curlicue of onion heart? There'd be a puff of smoke from the dreams that burned away.” - taken from an uncorrected ARC 
What if what you dream about becomes a reality? Annabelle found out she has this unique power in the form of one, gorgeous boy. Clearly having a dream so powerful, it can bring a being into life, only happens in a SciFi show and easily makes for an interesting read. But alas, in Dream Boy, this is where the interest starts and ends. Because after the novelty of having your dream boy become a reality faded, the only thing this novel inspired me to do, is to take a nap myself. Twice. I can't even begin to tell you how a total snoozefest this book was.

I have no qualms in being this harsh because I tried so hard to like this book. However, Dream Boy made this too difficult, and it wasn't long until I gave up. The characters are abysmally dull, and the pacing is just dreadful. As I turn page after page, all I could think about was: I'm one page closer to the end of the book. I wanted to be done with it, so I can finally move on with my life. I've yet to not finish a book, but this one came so close.

Annabelle, our main protagonist, is so boring. I definitely get it why she has to dream people up so her life could become interesting. I believe there were so many opportunities for her to become likeable and engaging. For instance, if we had explored more about her Dad, or her drawings, or her friendship with Talon and Selena, then I might've grown to like her. Martin Zirkle, the dream boy, does not have any redeeming qualities, either. He's as flat as a cardboard. He's cluelessness is not endearing in anyway, much more his stalkerish, possessive behavior. This could be explained by his lack of social understanding, since Annabelle literally just dreamed him to life, but I won't make that excuse for him.

"I mean," Martin said, "how do you know Annabelle?"
"If you were close you wouldn't have to ask that question."
Martin grabbed my hand and pulled me onto his lap. "Close enough?"
Okay, forget the western. It was more like that thing where dogs pee on their property as a message to other dogs.
— Um, just no. *facepalm*

I'm trying to think of something positive to say about Dream Boy, but all I can come up with circles back to its captivating concept: Dreams and Nightmares—the reason I picked up this book in the first place. Annabelle did choose the right guy for her in the end, so I have to give credit where credit is due. Will can also be included in this very short list because he's the only character I cared about. He almost made me feel something at the end of the book. Almost.

I had high hopes about Dream Boy. I'm deeply disappointed because if you have this intriguing premise in your arsenal, you basically have a sure tool  in crafting a fantastic novel. A slight focus on the world-building in the dream world and having more fleshed-out, dynamic characters might have made this book better. The meaning behind Annabelle's dreaming powers was never adequately explained, too. The explanation was sloppy and prohibitive, and the readers are just left to swallow it up and pretend it all made sense. Also, let's be honest, if you write a story about a special girl, a chosen one, who has to battle an evil entity to save all those she holds dear, it needs to be a girl we can sympathize and root for. Unfortunately, Annabelle doesn't fit the bill.

Dream Boy failed to live up to its potential. Drab and lackluster, even Will is not enough to change how I feel about this novel. Now excuse me, while I dream away the bitter taste this book left in my mouth.

Cupid's Verdict:
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2 Cupids

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