Saturday, June 29, 2013

16

Review: Angelfall by Susan Ee

Release Date: 23/05/13
Author Info: Website | Twitter | Facebook
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Format: Paperback
Source: Goodreads First Reads
Buy the Book: Amazon | The Book Depository
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Angelfall by Susan Ee
Description from Goodreads:
It's been six weeks since angels of the apocalypse descended to demolish the modern world. Street gangs rule the day while fear and superstition rule the night. When warrior angels fly away with a helpless little girl, her seventeen-year-old sister Penryn will do anything to get her back.

Anything, including making a deal with an enemy angel.

Raffe is a warrior who lies broken and wingless on the street. After eons of fighting his own battles, he finds himself being rescued from a desperate situation by a half-starved teenage girl.

Traveling through a dark and twisted Northern California, they have only each other to rely on for survival. Together, they journey toward the angels' stronghold in San Francisco where she'll risk everything to rescue her sister and he'll put himself at the mercy of his greatest enemies for the chance to be made whole again.

Angelfall completely blew away all my expectations (although admittedly they were quite low in the first place). YA paranormal books about angels have easily been a huge disappointment for me in recent years, with prominent offenders including Fallen, Hush Hush and Halo (however Daughter of Smoke and Bone is an exception, along with Unearthly which I haven't read yet but have heard good things about). The point is, I was very sceptical prior to reading Angelfall due to its cliché sounding title and blurb and I honestly thought that it was just another one of those "angel books" that were all the same anyway. However it was due to the plethora of 4 and 5 star reviews from my Goodreads friends that made me pick this up. Clearly I was completely wrong as now I am forever in their debt for introducing me to this amazing piece of work!

Angelfall is a thrilling, fast paced post-apocalyptic story where angels have taken over the earth within the span of just six weeks. Set in the chaotic aftermath of the attack, humanity has sunk to a new low as gangs scrounge the streets and compete for survival. In the midst of it all, sixteen year old girl Penryn has to deal with her sister Paige being taken away from by angels for reasons unknown. She will do anything to get her back, even if it means allying with one of the enemy. I still can't believe that this book was formerly self-published. The quality of the plot and characters is exceptional and really puts certain traditionally published books mentioned above to shame. The first few pages immediately sucked me in and I was hopelessly hooked in no time.

I admit that the setup was nothing special at first, especially with the whole 'girl-looking-for-missing-sibling' trope that seems to be popular with many other similar YA novels. Her writing style is simple but easy and quick to read which is useful during intense action scenes (think The Hunger Games). Angelfall isn't a deep, mind-blowing book that will leave you contemplating the meaning of life or the nature of the human condition. It's pure, unadulterated fun and adrenaline that will leave readers both satisfied and ravenous for the sequel. I literally could not put this down and I was eventually forced to question the necessity of sleep. However a warning to any students out there; Angelfall is the worst book to read during exams as it has a dangerous capacity to seriously extend your procrastination levels. Fortunately I found it to be a quick read and I was able to devour it within a day.

I loved Penryn as the main character. She was a strong, engaging and likeable person and it was a pleasure reading from her perspective. I found her vulnerable moments to be realistic as she screws up and makes mistakes just like any normal person. There were a number of times in the book where she had made plans that SEEMED great at that time but of course things don't always work out which makes the story all the more interesting. Otherwise, I liked how she was smart and resourceful, if not overly harsh at times although I'll let that slide due to her extremely dire situation. It was also refreshing to read about a YA heroine who was not a Mary Sue or Too Stupid To Live and not once did I want strangle her throughout the entire book. Success!

The other characters in this book were also well developed and fleshed out. It was interesting to read about Penryn's mother who had paranoid schizophrenia and strangely enough, I quite liked her erratic antics and unpredictability. However at some moments, there were certain things she did that I felt were a little TOO convenient for the plot, but nevertheless she was an intriguing character that I can't wait to read more about. And finally there's... Raffe. I refuse to say anything more about him as it is something you should experience for yourself. All I can say is that he is NOT your typical YA 'hero' (if you even call it at that) and frankly he was quite an arrogant, self-aggrandising jerk at times. However I can guarantee you that there is no insta-love or a love triangle in this book. All I can say about their relationship is that it was realistic given the post-apocalyptic angel invasion situation.

The only slight flaw in this book (as many others have pointed out) is the lack of background information behind the angel attacks. Ee could have even afforded to add a little info-dump here and there as the plot was very fast paced and she barely gave me any downtime to stop and catch my breath. For those who prefer a book with very detailed and solid world building, you may be slightly disappointed although I still believe Angelfall has enough redeeming qualities to win almost every reader. The plot twist at the climax was very disturbing and shocking as I was anxiously sitting at the edge of my seat throughout the whole time. Ultimately I thought that the ending was perfect and while there was a lot of things left unsaid, and there was certainly enough resolution to bring the book to a satisfying close. Thank god for no cheap cliff-hangers here.

Overall, Angelfall is an addictive action-packed novel with a refreshing take on angels. I absolutely fell in love with this new series and I can't wait to read the next book World After (which is fortunately coming out near the end of this year!) For those who are still reading this long, convoluted review, what are you waiting for?! Just read it. End of story.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

9

Review: Dare You To by Katie McGarry

Release Date: 28/05/13
Author Info: Website | Twitter | Facebook
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher via Netgalley
Buy the Book: Amazon | The Book Depository
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Dare You To by Katie McGarry
Description from Goodreads:
Ryan lowers his lips to my ear. "Dance with me, Beth."

"No." I whisper the reply. I hate him and I hate myself for wanting him to touch me again....

"I dare you..."


If anyone knew the truth about Beth Risk's home life, they'd send her mother to jail and seventeen-year-old Beth who knows where. So she protects her mom at all costs. Until the day her uncle swoops in and forces Beth to choose between her mom's freedom and her own happiness. That's how Beth finds herself living with an aunt who doesn't want her and going to a school that doesn't understand her. At all. Except for the one guy who shouldn't get her, but does....

Ryan Stone is the town golden boy, a popular baseball star jock-with secrets he can't tell anyone. Not even the friends he shares everything with, including the constant dares to do crazy things. The craziest? Asking out the Skater girl who couldn't be less interested in him. But what begins as a dare becomes an intense attraction neither Ryan nor Beth expected. Suddenly, the boy with the flawless image risks his dreams-and his life-for the girl he loves, and the girl who won't let anyone get too close is daring herself to want it all....

I had mixed feelings about the first book Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry. I felt nothing for Echo and Noah’s relationships during the first half of the story however they eventually grew on me as the plot progressed. I admit that some of the moments between them were absolutely heart-wrenching and it was overall a pleasant read with a satisfying ending.

In a way, I also had a similar experience with the sequel. Dare You To follows Beth’s story after the events in Pushing the Limits as she moves to a new town with her estranged uncle, a baseball player who is regarded as a local celebrity and hero. There were a lot of “small town” vibes throughout the book unlike the more urban city setting in PTL. Forget about any semblance of anonymity or privacy as everyone knows each other here. I swear any gossip travels at light speed whether it’d be from the baseball coach, parents, teachers or town council members. Every single one of them seems to be always kept in the loop. It’s probably just me, but I felt that it was quite suffocating at times, however the setting was interesting and quite refreshingly different from what I’m used to.

At first I disliked Ryan and the constant references to dares in the beginning. I was frustrated with his desperation and obsession to fulfil useless dares purely for the sake of stroking his ego and proving a point to his friends. Furthermore it was hypocritical that he used girls for such superficial games yet he insisted not long afterwards that “girls will be treated with respect” and “won’t tolerate anyone disrespecting [Beth]” (e-ARC copy). Also, I found Beth to be really annoying to read in PTL and I was unsure of what to make of her perspective prior to reading Dare You To.

Needless to say, if there is anything that McGarry is impeccable at, it is the wonderful character development that makes her books well worth reading. It was easy to be emotionally invested into their relationship as well as its ups and downs. There were a few sweet moments that were absolutely heart-warming to read. To be honest, I couldn’t imagine Beth and Ryan together at first however I should have given McGarry more credit. Even though Beth wasn’t the most appealing person to walk on earth (her attitude towards Echo was unnecessarily harsh and unfounded), she still had a strong voice and it was easy to be sympathetic to her actions.

I also found Ryan’s reactions to his family situation to be believable. His goals and desires were relatable and it was satisfying to watch him grow from being a jerk in the beginning. However a warning to any reader who isn’t familiar with baseball or lives outside of the US, there were a LOT of baseball references in this book especially with the numerous scenes describing the games. I was often confused by the terminology and jargon however it didn’t significantly disrupt the story flow. The plot and pacing was improved from PTL and so there were no complaints there.

The only major quibble I had with the book really was with the misunderstandings and high school drama towards the end which was frustrating and annoying to read. After all the tribulations that Beth and Ryan had gone through most of the book, I thought that they were better than to be affected by such cliché plot devices. However I guess it realistically portrayed their insecurities due to their young age anyway.

Overall, Dare You To was an enjoyable and emotionally gripping story that would leave readers satisfied. I would recommend it to fans of Pushing the Limits or of anything YA contemporary. I definitely can’t wait for Isaiah’s story in the third book Crash Into You.


An electronic advance reading copy was provided by the publisher. This did not influence my opinion in any way.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

2

Review: Imposter by Susanne Winnacker

Release Date: 28/05/13
Author Info: Website | Twitter | Facebook
Publisher: Razorbill
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Buy the Book: Amazon | The Book Depository
My Rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars
Imposter by Susanne Winnacker
Description from Goodreads:
"Tessa is a Variant, able to absorb the DNA of anyone she touches and mimic their appearance. Shunned by her family, she’s spent the last two years training with the Forces with Extraordinary Abilities, a secret branch of the FBI. When a serial killer rocks a small town in Oregon, Tessa is given a mission: she must impersonate Madison, a local teen, to find the killer before he strikes again.

Tessa hates everything about being an impostor—the stress, the danger, the deceit—but loves playing the role of a normal girl. As Madison, she finds friends, romance, and the kind of loving family she’d do anything to keep. Amid action, suspense, and a ticking clock, this super-human comes to a very human conclusion: even a girl who can look like anyone struggles the most with being herself."

Imposter by Susanne Winnacker was very underwhelming and disappointing for me. I was initially drawn to the cover and blurb and I was highly anticipated for its release. At first glance it seemed that Imposter could do not wrong. Awesome abilities? Check. A murder mystery? Check. Action and suspense? Check. I really wanted to like this book. It started off on very strong foot and I was engrossed during the first chapter. In the first scene we immediately find the main character Tessa in a dire situation struggling for life:

“The straitjacket corseted my body so tightly my arms tingled and my fingers turned numb. I sank beneath the water’s surface, the weights on the jacket dragging me down. I gasped, and a spurt of liquid spilled into my mouth. Chlorine burned my eyes as I watched the distance between me and the surface growing. Blurry shapes moved above. They were watching me.”

Tessa had an ability or a “Variation” that allowed her to shape-shift into any human at will, provided that she touched them beforehand to assume their DNA. Housed with other teenagers with Variations into a secret government facility called the FEA, it was quite reminiscent of “X-Men”. Even though the first chapter was decent, I felt that I was reading a different book afterwards.

Pros:
Besides the wonderful setup and beginning I really don't know what else to say here, except that I managed to read the whole thing and narrowly avoided a DNF. The book at least still kept me interested to find out the identity of the killer (although I found it to be very underwhelming from all that build up). The plot had so much potential. I loved the idea of a character assuming the identity of a victim to catch the killer and I was looking forward to a spine-chilling, suspenseful read. Sadly I was let down by the characters.

Cons:
After that awesome beginning, I eventually disliked and even hated Tessa. A main character doesn't have to be likable of course, but I couldn’t engage or connect with her at all. She kept on swooning over Alec so often and I was sick of her endless thoughts about him. It was also convenient that his girlfriend Kate had to act like a bitch and ended up being a caricature that I couldn't take seriously. After receiving the mission Tessa was worried about how dangerous the mission was (fair enough) and that she might die before having her first kiss (wait, what?!).

Furthermore, she even impersonated Alec’s girlfriend just to try to get him to kiss her. I felt that part was unnecessary and absolutely cringe-worthy. I understood that she was only 16 years old but for heaven’s sake, would it kill to have slightly better priorities? As a reader who is only one year older and technically part of the intended target audience for YA fiction, I was constantly frustrated how Tessa's continual obsession - I mean romance - with Alec took up a lot of space in an already short novel. Their relationship felt very tacked on and undeveloped, even though they were meant to be friends since childhood. I didn't like how the descriptions of his physical appearance took precedence over almost everything else about him. I found Alec’s personality to be very one-dimensional and unappealing as he assumed the over-protective role over the heroine and kept demanding to be with her everywhere at all times.

Also, there was part when she had to train with Alec in self-defence after receiving the mission and I thought, really? You have to wait until a killer is loose before learning how to defend yourself? Weren't you meant to be trained for most of your life in a top secret government facility for these kind of dangerous missions? That section just felt contrived as if it was purely there for the sake for their relationship without furthering the plot. Also, the writing was very simplistic and while that’s not necessarily a bad thing on its own, it certainly didn’t help with the dull characters and plot. Ultimately I felt indifferent to the twist at the end and it left a bad taste in my mouth.

Overall, Imposter didn't live up to my expectations because it wasn't executed very well. Perhaps it’s just me being very cranky during exams as many other reviewers have had far more positive experiences. Perhaps I may try Winnacker's other books in the future as she does seem to have a knack of coming up with great ideas.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

8

Stacking The Shelves #1

Stacking the Shelves
Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga's Reviews - it's a way for us to chat about the books we bought, borrowed, received during the month.*

My first book meme! I know this is only my second official blog post, but 3 other book reviews are still in drafts and I can't bring myself to press the publish button yet...

Book Haul

(In order)

Library
Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning
First Rider's Call by Kristen Britain

School  Reading
The Justice Game by Geoffrey Robertson

Bought
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
Wool by Hugh Howey
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

*I will only do this monthly instead of weekly
 

Header Graphic by Inside the Kaleidoscope