October 29, 2011

REVIEW: All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin

Title: All These Things I've Done (Birthright #1)
Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Published: 6 September 2011
Edition: 1st; Hardcover: 354 pages

In 2083, chocolate and coffee are illegal, paper is hard to find, water is carefully rationed, and New York City is rife with crime and poverty. And yet, for Anya Balanchine, the sixteen-year-old daughter of the city's most notorious (and dead) crime boss, life is fairly routine. It consists of going to school, taking care of her siblings and her dying grandmother, trying to avoid falling in love with the new assistant D.A.'s son, and avoiding her loser ex-boyfriend. That is until her ex is accidently poisoned by the chocolate her family manufactures and the police think she's to blame. Suddenly, Anya finds herself thrust unwillingly into the spotlight--at school, in the news, and most importantly, within her mafia family.
Engrossing and suspenseful, All These Things I've Done is an utterly unique, unputdownable read that blends both the familiar and the fantastic.

My Review:

In this book, we meet 16 year old Anya Balanchine, or better known as Annie by her family and friends. We see her years after the deaths of her mother then criminal boss father. She literally tells us her story. She must protect her immediate family: Leo her older brother, damaged and a little sensitive from a childhood accident and her sweet younger sister Natty from her mafia family. She also tries to deal with the fact that her grandmother and legal guardian is at death's door. She tells us her everyday life and the constant struggle she has to go through. She tells us how she has to juggle school all the while keeping her family under the radar of the government and child protective services and the scrutiny of being a daughter of a notorious criminal. She tries to keep her jerk of an ex-boyfriend away from her and she tries not to fall for a wonderful boy, but son of a DA named Win.

I really enjoyed this book. It was an easy read. It wasn't complex and I had no trouble diving into Anya Balanchine's world. It saddens me that I'm practically dead during this time in Anya's life, but what I loved most about this book is the setting of it all. Some dystopian books (although this read more like a contemporary dystopian novel), give me trouble seeing and imagining the world. Some books I just can't seem to picture it. This book, I can imagine where Anya lives and goes to school at Holy Trinity and the underground speakeasies. I can imagine New York in the state that it is during 2083: kids running around wanting chocolate an coffee, trying to mug other people, drinking and going to bars. It's not a place I would like to live in, but I can visualize it so clearly that I thought I was living there.

I also loved the concept of chocolate and coffee being illegal and how simple things like candles and ice cream need to be bought not with money, but with vouchers. And water is so limited Anya can only take a 10 minute shower. These concepts seem real. I can imagine our country becoming this way. I like the realism this books gives.

I've read some mixed reviews about this book, mainly about Anya. I loved Anya. She's honest, brave, and strong. She cares deeply for her siblings. She lets no one step on her and she's tough. Sometimes Anya can be a bit rude and sometimes downright mean, but she has charm and I love her. While she tells us her story, I feel as if I've known her. As if we are friends. That's how this book makes you feel. It's as if your sitting with Anya in her little room where she lives and she's telling you her story. It's as if she's there with you, for real. I have never read about a character as real as Anya. That's why her imperfections make her real. They make her likable, because she's just an ordinary 16 year old trying to get by. I can't relate to her directly because our lives are different, but I was 16 once. Anya just wants to be a normal 16 year old, but how can she with the world she lives in? I don't care what anyone says. Anya is great and I love her spunk.

I highly recommend everyone to give this book a chance. It really is good.

My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

*Thanks to Sarah @ Inklings Read for this book that I won through a giveaway and for the publisher for sending it. 

This review was in no way influenced by Inklings Read or the publisher. My opinion is my own.

October 13, 2011

REVIEW: Sweet Venom by Tera Lynn Childs

Title: Sweet Venom (Medusa Girls #1)
Author: Tera Lynn Childs
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Published: 6 September 2011
Edition: 1st; Hardcover: 352 pages
Grace just moved to San Francisco and is excited to start over at a new school. The change is full of fresh possibilities, but it’s also a tiny bit scary. It gets scarier when a minotaur walks in the door. And even more shocking when a girl who looks just like her shows up to fight the monster. 
Gretchen is tired of monsters pulling her out into the wee hours, especially on a school night, but what can she do? Sending the minotaur back to his bleak home is just another notch on her combat belt. She never expected to run into this girl who could be her double, though. 
Greer has her life pretty well put together, thank you very much. But that all tilts sideways when two girls who look eerily like her appear on her doorstep and claim they're triplets, supernatural descendants of some hideous creature from Greek myth, destined to spend their lives hunting monsters. 
These three teenage descendants of Medusa, the once-beautiful gorgon maligned by myth, must reunite and embrace their fates in this unique paranormal world where monsters lurk in plain sight

My Review:

I'm a complete sucker for Greek mythology. If there is a book with some variation of Greek mythology I go on and grab it. I don't read the first page or whatever. I just go and get it. I know I'm bound to love it. And I have to say that I loved Sweet Venom. So lets start by mentioning the things I loved about this book.

1. The Mythology
Like I said, I love Greek mythology and although this has a twist to it, I still loved it. Decedents of Medusa? I mean, come on? It can't get any kick ass than that. All I ever hear about Medusa is that she's an evil snake headed lady who seduces men to turn them into stone all because Athena was angry at Medusa for seducing Poseidon. So, in Sweet Venom, Medusa is the good girl. She's not the evil monster everyone thought she was and I found that very refreshing. It was something different. And I love different. Also, you encounter plenty of creatures in this book and although I have no clue what some of them are it is very reminiscent of my time reading Percy Jackson. This is basically the girl version of the Percy Jackson series! :]

2. The Sisters
Ah, Gretchen, Grace and Greer. Can I just say that I love these three. I think these three being triplets is the second thing that got me to pick up this book. I always here twins being separated and birth and blah blah. That's boring. This is awesome! Triplets separated at birth and adopted into three different families. Two of the sisters find out their huntresses?! That's exciting in of itself. Also, my favorite of the three is Grace. She really comes full circle in this book. We see her as this girl who's smart and pretty, but a push-over. I have to admit there were times I wanted to yell at her for sticking up for herself. But in the end her confidence boosts up and she has this courage that has always been there. Grace is strong, she just never knew it. Oh and Gretchen. I loved her too. Not as much as Grace though. There were times when I wanted to smack Gretchen for trying to always appear strong. But in a way I understand. I get what she's going through. Now for Greer. Oh gosh. I thought I would hate her. Like Gretchen said, she's a SNOB. But she'll surprise you in the end and maybe, just maybe she'll change your mind.

3. The 3 Perspectives/ Character Development
This is another book that was successful in differentiating the perspectives of the main characters. I didn't have to look at the chapter title to know that I'm reading a chapter told by Grace or Gretchen or Greer. I just knew. Each character has a different personality. They were so well developed that I had no problem recognizing whose head I was in. I loved how I could dive right into the chapter and feel as if I'm with the character, seeing what they see. Feeling what they feel. Grinning and feeling giddy as they do.

4. The Boys/ Romance
The boys of this book are very swoon-worthy. I have to say my favorite of the 4 would have to be Nick. He's funny and cute. He gets on your nerves, but somehow you still want him around. Milo, oh gosh. He's a sweetheart. The golden boy that lives next door. He's the type you want to bring home to Mother. Now there is Kyle. I have to say he is my least favorite. I just didn't like him. He was pretty much forgettable and he doesn't seem bf material for the main characters anyway. And then there is Thane. *sigh* Don't get me started on him. I have my own opinions about who I want him to end up with. Anyway, the romance in this book is very downplayed. It's not the center of the story and I like that. Not all books need a lot of romance and this one is like that. The main focus is on the three sisters, not on these boys. I just love how we see them time to time in the book. I love how Tera didn't just add the romance for the heck of it. It fits well into the story. It's there not because it's essential to the story, but essential to Grace, Gretchen and Greer's life. Love comes around when you're 16. And I love how it seemed realistic and none of this "Insta-Love" that happens often in some books. It's normal and rational and cute.

5. The Writing/ Flow/ Pacing
This book was so easy to read. It was very enjoyable and I found myself grinning like a complete idiot in public places. Everything flowed, from the writing to the storyline to the end. I couldn't get enough. If school wasn't wreaking havoc into my life, I could have finished this book in one sitting. That's how good it was. That's how easy it was to read. I didn't have to go back to some pages and be like: what? when did she say that? And so on. I had no problems with grammar or spelling or anything of the sort. The book just flows. The pacing is not too fast nor too slow. It was just right. You got a chance to ease into the story without feeling overwhelmed and you end up knowing the characters really well. Also, it wasn't predictable. I didn't know what was going to happen next. I didn't know when the next monster was going to strike.

I want/need more of and my thoughts on the ending!

1. More Mythology please!
I want more. I need more. I want to know more about this world.

2. More Thane.
Ok. I love Thane. Maybe I should have made him my favorite, but well he's not really an option. I need to know what's going on with him. Also, I want more of him! More please! We don't really get to know him much when I would really love to. So I hope Book 2 he'll be back and I'll be satisfied.

3. More background story on Greer
She was my least favorite of the three sisters. Greer is Greer. I can understand how she feels! I just want to know more! I mean, she did turn around at some point but she's not as prominent in the book compared to Gretchen and Grace.

4. The Ending.
I want MORE! lol. I don't even know if I can define that ending as a cliffhanger or just a big complete tease! So Book 2 better come out in the quickness because I need to know what happens next. The ending is good. Real good. But it's the type of ending where you want to rip your hair out because you have to wait a freaking year or so to find out what the hell happens next!

So basically this book was love love love. I couldn't ask for a better book that has to deal with Greek mythology and long lost triplets and kick ass huntresses. I'll be on the lookout for Book 2!

My Rating: 4.5 out 5 stars

October 2, 2011

REVIEW: The Shattering by Karen Healey

Title: The Shattering
Author: Karen Healey
Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Published: 5 September 2011
Edition: 1st; Hardcover: 305 pages
Seventeen-year-old Keri likes to plan for every possibility. She knows what to do if you break an arm, or get caught in an earthquake or fire. But she wasn't prepared for her brother's suicide, and his death has left her shattered with grief. When her childhood friend Janna tells her it was murder, not suicide, Keri wants to believe her. After all, Janna's brother died under similar circumstances years ago, and Janna insists a visiting tourist, Sione, who also lost a brother to apparent suicide that year, has helped her find some answers.

As the three dig deeper, disturbing facts begin to pile up: one boy killed every year; all older brothers; all had spent New Year's Eve in the idyllic town of Summerton. But when their search for the serial killer takes an unexpected turn, suspicion is cast on those they trust the most.
As secrets shatter around them, can they save the next victim? Or will they become victims themselves?

My Review:

I don't usually like mystery books since every one I've read, besides The Weight of Silence, was unappealing and down right boring. I don't really remember what made me want to read this book in the first place. It could have been the cover of the book or maybe even the title. Somehow I was able to get past the "don't judge a book by its cover" expression and read the Goodreads synopsis.

What I liked about the book:
1. The Summary.
You can't get anymore interesting than that. Brother commits suicide then you find out there are more brother's committing suicides. Then you realize there is a murderer on the loose in your very beautiful town of Summerton? It just completely drew me in. I love shows like Criminal Minds and CSI: Miami. I just don't know why other mysterious books fail for me. But this one, I liked it. I love the whole, "lets find the killer" thing. It's cool. It's scary and it's exciting. Especially in a very small town like Summerton, things can go bad real fast sine secrets don't stay secrets for very long.

2. The Friendship & Voice of Characters 
I love the three musketeers dynamic that Keri, Janna and Sione have. This book is split into their three perspectives, where it's first person for Keri and third person for both Janna and Sione. I love how at first they all seemed dubious of each other. But as the story went on, they were all brought closer for one common goal: to find the killer and completely destroy him/her. I loved their banter and little jokes and sarcastic comments. It felt like a real friendship trio. Each voice of the character was unique. I didn't have to go back and remember who was the main perspective. Some books I've read with split perspectives falter in this.

Keri was strong and tough. Very independent and I liked that. She has this "don't mess with me" vibe. She basically rocked. And Janna was funny, quirky and a little wild. I love how she and Keri were totally different, but they still got along. They were still able to reconnect after their lost touch. Sione. *sigh* He's not your typical goregeous, head-over-heels, all muscle sinewy boy. He's awkward, and clumsy, weird and out of place, but he's handsome in his own way. He's self conscious and never sure of himself. But he's so darn sweet and kind and thoughtful. I really did love him. He seemed real, not some made up boy who can never ever exist.

3. The Concept/Plot/Story 
I really liked how different this book was. It's not paranormal. No sparkly vampires, no muscular shape-shifting werewolves, no zombies, and no fallen-angels. I wish I could say what this book is really centered on, but I feel like that's too spoilery. So, just know that it's different. It's unique in its own way. Some parts were predictable, but others just made me go "REALLY?!" It was great. I love when that happens.

4. The Pacing 
I love the pacing to this book. It went straight into what was going on. It was quick and easy to read. Fast paced where it just went straight into everything. No hesitation, lets find the killer! lol. I love that. It wasn't slow at all. At least for me.

What I didn't like:
1. The Setting and Language. 
I have never been to New Zealand. That is where the book takes place. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure New Zealand is a beautiful place, but I never saw it in this book. When I read Anna and the French Kiss and Die for Me I could see Paris. I could imagine I was really there even when I have never been nor seen Paris. This is where this book fell flat. I didn't know what New Zealand was like and I thought the author never really took me there. Sometimes the setting is not really that important in the book, but I felt like it should have been described better since the plot is centered on the town. Also, this book has a mini glossary in the back because the characters sometimes use phrases that are not English. Those were the parts that I found it hard to read because I had to go back and read the glossary and try my hardest to think. I had to figure out what the hell she means. It's was difficult, but it still made the book enjoyable.

2. The Romance. 
Ok. I don't want to spoil it by saying if there is or isn't any romance in this book since this book is centered mostly on friendship. However, it wasn't the romance that was in this book or not that made me dislike it a little. It was a certain part with two certain characters that threw me off. I don't know if anyone who has read this knows what I'm talking about, but it totally made me angry! Not at the author, because I know she means well. But only because I was invested and I hate that. lol.

3. The End.
Like I've said above, I don't want to spoil it. However, I do have to say it's not the actual ending that I didn't like per say. When I read the first chapter, I had a gut feeling about a certain 'something' and I was right. And what saddened me was that I wanted to know WHY? I know I sound weird because if I mention it, then you'd know how it ended. I'm not questioning the ending. I'm questioning something about the ending for a certain character. It's just those types of books where something isn't resolved and you want to know why even though you know that it's not supposed to tell you why because that's just how it is. It was a little frustrating, but I got over it.

4. The Lack of WOW!
Yes, I enjoyed this book. I liked it. However, I didn't love it. It was missing something, some kind of WOW factor. The book didn't blow me away. Some books just take my breath away until the very last page. This book didn't. It was fun and exciting and very enjoyable. But some books just don't have that extra punch to make it taste better and this was one of them. I'm still glad I picked it up though. No regrets. I never leave a book unfinished. No matter how bad it seems. I push through, unless the book is just that bad. This book was not the case. I read the last half of the book in one sitting. I just wish that it didn't take me so long to get there. Stupid school! lol.

Overall, I liked this book. I'm not sure if there will be a sequel, but it seemed like a stand alone to me. I'm also not sure if I would ever reread this book, but there is still a possibility. Nothing is ever set in stone.

However, I do recommend giving it a try. You never really know if you'll like something until you try it, yes? So go ahead and read this book. It didn't disappoint me and there's always room for improvement, but the book was still good.

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars