Friday, 27 September 2013

REVIEW: Death of a Nightingale (Nina Borg #3)

From the Nordic noir duo who brought you The New York Times bestseller The Boy in the Suitcase comes a chilling new thriller with a mystery seventy-years in the making.

Nina. Natasha. Olga. Three women united by one terrifying secret. But only one of them has killed to keep it.

Natasha Doroshenko, a Ukrainian woman who has been convicted of the attempted murder of her Danish fiancé, escapes police custody on her way to an interrogation in Copenhagen's police headquarters. That night, the frozen, tortured body of Michael, the ex-fiancé, is found in a car, and the manhunt for Natasha escalates. It isn't the first time the young Ukrainian woman has lost a partner to violent ends: her first husband was also murdered, three years earlier in Kiev, and in the same manner: tortured to death in a car.
 
Danish Red Cross nurse Nina Borg has been following Natasha's case for several years now, since Natasha first took refuge at a crisis center where Nina works. Nina, who had tried to help Natasha leave her abusive fiancé more than once, just can't see the young Ukrainian mother as a vicious killer. But in her effort to protect Natasha's daughter and discover the truth, Nina realizes there is much she didn't know about this woman and her past. The mystery has long and bloody roots, going back to a terrible famine that devastated Stalinist Ukraine in 1934, when a ten-year-old girl with the voice of a nightingale sang her family into shallow graves.



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Thank you to netgalley for allowing me to review this :D

Recently, I've really gotten into crime thrillers - and I discovered the Nina Borg series by Kaaberøl and Friis and Death of a Nightingale is the third book in these series. I actually read the past two previously a few months back, but since I was allowed to read this book as an arc, so I feel obliged to review it - not only to show gratitude to the authors for giving these arcs out, but because I truly did enjoy these books.

As I said previously, this book is the third book in the Nina Borg series. Set in Denmark, the Nina Borg series, follow the story of Nina Borg, a kind-hearted nurse who works with illegal immigrants and refugees and has a bad habit of being too emotionally involved/allowing her work to overlap with her personal life. The first book of these series involved a young Lithuanian boy being kidnapped in a suitcase, with the intention of using him as an organ donor while the second book explored the story of Roma boys who attracted the wrong kind of attention from the authorities. The second book of the Nina Borg series, Invisible Murder, was probably my favourite of the Nina Borg series but that's not to say that this book is not good. Quite the opposite, it is very, very good and I thoroughly enjoyed it. 

Death of a Nightingale opens with an  elderly woman who tells her son and grandchild a blood-curdling fable of a princess who pays a horrible price by trying to be better than her sister.  Like the other two books, Death of a Nightingale, has many perspectives. Natasha Doroshenko, a young Ukrainian mother, who was the sheltered and cosseted wife of a journalist, and it becomes evident that her husband was involved in a number of dodgy dealings which involved accepting money to hide or reveal other people's secrets. After her husband is found brutally murdered due to his involvement in blackmail, Natasha makes the conscious choice to flee Ukraine to Denmark, but her bad luck continues. She gets involved with a Danish man named Michael Vestegaard, who brutally abuses her but she is reluctant to speak out; believing that it was better to remain in Denmark than to be deported back to Ukraine. She is later sent to prison for attacking Michael, who is revealed to have pedophiliac leanings; she escapes from police custody, knowing that she'll be deported, and desperately tries to find her daughter before it is too late.

As the nurse of Katerina/Rina (Natasha's daughter), Nina is caught up in the investigation of Natasha Doroshenko who is not only wanted by the Danish authorities but by the Ukrainian authorities, who believe she is involved in the murder of her husband back home in Kiev. 

There are flashbacks to famine-stricken Ukraine during the 1930's under Stalin's rule, following the story of two sisters who become increasingly important to the story's plot. I didn't see the relevance in the story of the two sisters, until the very end - I actually so did not expect that twist but it ties everything up nicely, haha. We also see Nina's friend, Søren Kirkegaard (he makes his first appearance in the second book), who helps in the investigation of Natasha and her past in Ukraine, before she escaped to Denmark. The book isn't heavy on action, but I enjoyed it anyway - there is a lot of depth in the investigation and proceedings, which is worth more than dodging bullets, to me anyway.

I must admit, I found the story of Natasha and the two Ukrainian sisters more interesting than Nina's, but that is most likely because the authors are playing out Nina's story over a longer period of time. Personally, I thought Natasha was an interesting character, not likeable, but very intriguing, and it was thrilling watching her grow from an ignorant, sheltered seventeen-year-old bride from Donetsk (which is hardly the epicentre of glamour and sophistication) into a fierce, hardened survivor who is willing to go to any length to protect her daughter, Katerina. - and I hope Natasha appears in future books, she was interesting to read about.

The writing in this book is solid, which I enjoyed and considering it was translated from Danish to English - I must commend the translators for doing a superb job, nothing sounded clunky or out of place. I enjoyed learning about the two countries shown in this book; Ukraine and Denmark, as they weren't countries I really knew a lot about. Actually, the Nina Borg series tends to focus on two countries, Denmark and an Eastern European country, the first book was focused on Lithuania and the second was about Hungary, and I love how the authors integrate and weave the background content of these countries into the plot line, it adds depth to the story, and it allows me to learn more about these countries which is cool.

I don't know when the authors are planning on releasing a fourth book, but I eagerly anticipate it. 

RATING: 4/5 stars



Saturday, 13 July 2013

REVIEW: The Truth About Letting Go


Ashley Lockett has always followed the rules. She's always done the right thing and played it safe until her ideal life is shattered when her dad dies suddenly.

Fueled by anger and grief, she vows to do everything opposite of how she lived before. Then she meets Jordan. He has big dreams, he's had a crush on Ashley for years, and he's a great kisser. But he's also safe. 

Enter Colt. He is not safe, and he's more than willing to help Ashley fulfill her vow.








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Thank you to netgalley for letting me review this book :D


The Truth about Letting Go follows the story of Ashley, a high school senior living in small town USA, who is suffering from the tragic loss of her father. She has a shitty home life; her brother is absent, her mother is emotionally distant - and she chooses to deal with the loss of her beloved father by abandoning her faith in the Lord.

Ashley's suffering is evident and you can really feel how deeply it affected her; she's angry, confused so she turns to the "dark" side. She finds herself in the middle of two guys: Jordan and Colt. Jordan is dreamy, idealistic and embodies everything that is good. In other words, he's safe and the type of guy that your mother would adore. Enter Colt. Colt is everything Jordan is not, and he acts as a reprieve for Ashley to flee away from everything she's once had, and Colt promises her danger and havoc after everything has occurred.

I loved Jordan, personally. He's the type of guy that rarely ends up being a winner in Young Adult novels; he's the type of guy who sticks to his guns, no matter what, always does the right thing and wishes to save himself until marriage and I liked how the writer painted this favourably. Colt on the other hand, was a douchebag and treated Ashley in a horrible manner - some of the intimate scenes with Colt/Ashley were a little uncomfortable to read - but Ashley's time with Colt gave her the opportunity to figure out and decide what she really wanted, which was Jordan. I'm glad this story wasn't one of those cliche stories where the girl dumps the nice guy for being too nice and ends up with the douchey bad boy. I did have a gripe though, because I think the twist at the end was to make us sympathise with Colt or something which I found unnecessary because in reality, most "bad boys" don't have some tragic sob story or whatever, they're just... not nice.

I didn't like Ashley. After her father's death, it seems like she's hellbent on treating everybody like crap. Her friends and especially Jordan. Especially Jordan, I really didn't like how she kept trying to force Jordan to have sex despite his wishes to remain a virgin until marriage, but luckily we were able to see some character growth by the end. 

I thought the story was fine, it wasn't a groundbreaking new story in the YA premise but it was an easy enough and accessible read that is easy to get into, though I do think the author's writing style was a little bland for my tastes. The story was slow-building with a plot that moves smoothly which I commend. This book actually has quite heavy religious content which I was unaware of (surprisingly I didn't really mind it, despite not being religious) but I liked the seemingly subtle symbolism, and everything is handled very tastefully - I like how the religion aspect wasn't shoved in your face, and it lends an extra realistic edge to this story, especially since this is small town America we're talking about, and religion does play quite a big role in a lot of people's lives.

But yeah, to sum it up; I thought this story was fine. Just fine, not extremely good but not bad either, it did not particularly stand out and like I said, it was an enjoyable enough read. It covers a lot of topics; religion, grief, suffering - but it is just mostly about a broken girl (I personally did think she was unlikeable though) trying to discover who she is and putting herself back together. 

RATING: 3/5 stars

Thursday, 20 June 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Girl in Translation



Introducing a fresh, exciting Chinese-American voice, an inspiring debut about an immigrant girl forced to choose between two worlds and two futures.

When Kimberly Chang and her mother emigrate from Hong Kong to Brooklyn squalor, she quickly begins a secret double life: exceptional schoolgirl during the day, Chinatown sweatshop worker in the evenings. Disguising the more difficult truths of her life like the staggering degree of her poverty, the weight of her family’s future resting on her shoulders, or her secret love for a factory boy who shares none of her talent or ambition. Kimberly learns to constantly translate not just her language but herself back and forth between the worlds she straddles.

Through Kimberly’s story, author Jean Kwok, who also emigrated from Hong Kong as a young girl, brings to the page the lives of countless immigrants who are caught between the pressure to succeed in America, their duty to their family, and their own personal desires, exposing a world that we rarely hear about. 

Written in an indelible voice that dramatizes the tensions of an immigrant girl growing up between two cultures, surrounded by a language and world only half understood, Girl in Translation is an unforgettable and classic novel of an American immigrant-a moving tale of hardship and triumph, heartbreak and love, and all that gets lost in translation.

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You know, I actually read this book a few months ago but I've never thought about writing a review until now - this book is just too good to just simply read and not write a review about, in my opinion. In ways more than one, this book really resonated with me. It's not just that she's a good writer, it's just these experiences felt so close to me. I'm not Asian-American (I'm Asian-Australian) and I've never been to New York City, but it seemed like these experiences mirrored my own. Petty relatives, snobbery from more well-off classmates, parents working long hours in menial jobs, the idea that education triumphs over everything, being too embarrassed to have friends come over to your house... yep, I can relate to all that.

Girl in Translation follows the story of a Chinese immigrant, Kimberley Chang, who moves from a comfortable life in Hong Kong, to Brooklyn squalor in the United States with her mother. They're exploited by Kimberley's petty and jealous Aunt Paula, and they find themselves living in an illegal apartment in Brooklyn - a dirty, unhygienic apartment with broken heating and is infested with rats. Kimberley initially struggles with life in America; she struggles with the English language, which is not helped by a very unsympathetic teacher to her plight. Speaking of the narrator's struggles with English, I love how Jean Kwok integrated Cantonese conversations into English and made the English that Kimberley hears in a unique way - we see how English seems strange and foreign to Kimberley's ears. 

After Kimberley's initial struggles with English, she realises that the only way how to escape poverty is through education. Her mother is working fourteen hour days at a sweatshop in Chinatown, and Kimberley is forced to work with her mother after school at the factory. Kimberley is a hard worker; she eventually picks up English, she studied hard to get into an exclusive private school (and even then, she still meets obstacles in the form of bitchy, snobby classmates), forms strong friendships with people at school, gains admission into an Ivy League school and most importantly of all, finds love with a fellow worker at the factory.

I found the ending extremely unsatisfying but I can understand it. In my ideal world, Kimberley would have it all: the man, a good job, a beautiful child, nice house blah blah. Unfortunately life does not work that way, and I can understand her reasonings for why it had to be that way - despite being in the US for a long period of time, Kimberley is still very much Chinese and believes in the concept of sacrifice for one's child, and some of it is still heavily ingrained in her. It reminded me a lot of how my own mother sacrificed a lot for me, so I could have a good future, and it was just something that really resonated with me.

Kwok really brings the reader into the gritty realities of many Chinese immigrants. In the scenes with Aunt Paula, we see the notion of saving face and wanting to appear better than your relatives concealed behind the elaborate courtesies of Chinese etiquette, occasional cracks in the facade revealing just enough to communicate the true meaning of practiced, polite assurances. Kimberley is the epitome of a stereotypical Asian; hard-working, resilient and education is a high priority. We see how her and her mother believe that education is the only ticket to escaping the trap of poverty, and how success in education is a validation of their choice to leave behind the safe and familiar, in more ways than one.

This was a wonderfully written classic Asian-American tale. We feel empathy and sympathy for Kimberley throughout her struggles. We feel pride when we see her overcome her struggles and becomes a strong, successful woman. In short, this book was awesome, I highly recommend it and does a great job of communicating cultural differences, and it is one of the very few Asian-American literature to do so, without focusing on extreme cliches. I was left with a feeling of hollow sadness by the time I was done with it, though I can't quite pinpoint why. Yet I don't mind. This story was worth it.

RATING: 4.5/5 stars 



Saturday, 11 May 2013

REVIEW: Fire with Fire (Burn for Burn, #2)


When sweet revenge turns sour… Book two of a trilogy from New York Times, bestselling author Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian.


Lillia, Kat, and Mary had the perfect plan. Work together in secret to take down the people who wronged them. But things didn’t exactly go the way they’d hoped at the Homecoming Dance.

Not even close.

For now, it looks like they got away with it. All they have to do is move on and pick up the pieces, forget there ever was a pact. But it’s not easy, not when Reeve is still a total jerk and Rennie’s meaner than she ever was before.

And then there’s sweet little Mary…she knows there’s something seriously wrong with her. If she can’t control her anger, she’s sure that someone will get hurt even worse than Reeve was. Mary understands now that it’s not just that Reeve bullied her—it’s that he made her love him.

Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, burn for a burn. A broken heart for a broken heart. The girls are up to the task. They’ll make Reeve fall in love with Lillia and then they will crush him. It’s the only way he’ll learn.

It seems once a fire is lit, the only thing you can do is let it burn...



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THANK YOU SO MUCH TO EDELWEISS AND SIMON & SCHUSTER FOR PROVIDING ME WITH AN ARC. <3

You don't know how happy I was to land this ARC. I finished Burn for Burn a few weeks ago, and I was in AGONY when I finished reading it. The cliffhanger nearly freaking killed me; I was all like, "Omfg, is Reeve gonna die?" "What the hell is wrong with Mary?" "Are Lillia and Alex a thing now?"To answer your questions; no, Reeve isn't dead. You'll see what is wrong with Mary later. No, Lillia and Alex aren't a thing.

Fire with Fire picks up shortly after the disaster at the Homecoming dance, and Reeve is not dead but injured. This is more but somehow less than what the girls wanted; they never wanted Reeve to get injured, but they're still slightly unhappy because he's not kicked off the football team. The girls got away with what they did to him, but there's a lot of guilt going around. There's poor, slightly crazy Mary who was fucked by Reeve majorly, and now she knows there's something wrong with her and she's trying not to let it show. But she's still in love with Reeve, and that upsets her more than anything; that he was a total jerk to her, and she still loves him even after all this time. The girls concoct a plan to make Reeve fall in love with Lillia, with her possibly breaking his heart later on... an eye for an eye, and all that jazz. But things don't always quite go to plan...

Lillia is undoubtedly my favourite character in this book. I like the fact that she's Asian like me (and she doesn't fall into the stereotypical Asian category, and she's not just on the sidelines either so kudos!), she reminds me a lot of myself besides the whole Asian thing, and probably because she's in the midst of the action. She's the princess of Jar Island, yet she's also an outcast. Her friends, especially Rennie, are being bitches to her, she's confused about her feelings and she's haunted by her experience with the UMass boys. Kat is bold and as brassy as ever, but I love the fact that she's loyal to the people who are loyal to her. I can't say I like Mary very much to be honest; she comes across as a clingy, scared and weak little girl who needs protection and I feel like shaking her and telling her to loosen up - but then again, she undoubtedly had the worst experience of all of the three girls. But I love how the girls have their own distinct voices, that's not usually the case with co-authors and I devoured the story eagerly. Fire with Fire was fairly lengthy but I devoured it in one day, that's how good it was, I found it virtually impossible to put down.

This book is contemporary for the most part, until the very end where there's some weird shit going on from Mary. And maybe her Aunt Bette, she's obviously not quite all there. The thing with Mary was a bit confusing and I was all like, "WTF?!" but I have no doubt that my confusion would be all cleared up later in Ashes to Ashes (which comes out in 2014... omfg, that's ages away. TOO DAMN LONG...). Confusion aside, the ending was major. MAJOR, I TELL YOU. And it ended with a cliffhanger, again. Ugh, do you want me to die or something? I just want to see how things pan out, especially major gossip was supposed to go down before ahem.. that thing happened. But I loveeee how Lillia's story ended in this book, I am totally shipping her with that one boy she shouldn't have feelings for. I am so curious to know how the truth is gonna come out, and how certain people are gonna react to it... it's gotta come out soon, karma's slowly biting them on the ass.

These books are amazing; they're an easy read and they're fast and super enjoyable. I loved Fire with Fire, and it's gonna kill me waiting for the next one.

RATING: 4.5/5

REVIEW: Emancipating Andie



Ever since the one time Andie Weber threw caution to the wind - and paid the price for it - she’s learned that it’s safer and smarter to live life playing by the rules. Now she’s got a great apartment, a steady job, and a wonderful boyfriend in Colin; he’s sweet, stable, and essentially perfect – except maybe for the fact that his best friend is Chase.

Chase McGuire lives his carefree, unstructured life strictly for himself. Dripping sarcasm and oozing wit, he refuses to censor his feelings or opinions for anyone, making no apologies for either and wearing his abrasiveness like a badge of honor. No one has ever gotten under Andie’s skin the way Chase does – and vice versa.

So when Andie and Chase find themselves forced to take a two-day road trip together, they are already dreading an inevitable all-out war. But as the trip progresses, and the undeniable friction that has always defined their relationship slowly begins to wear away their preconceived notions of each other, Andie and Chase discover they both have a lot to learn about life, courage, happiness, and the age-old battle between logic and love.

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Love with your head and you’ll be safe. You love with anything else, you’ll find yourself in big trouble.

I read Priscilla Glenn's debut novel Back to You last year and I loved it. Freaking loved it. There was romance, angst (but not too angsty that I got annoyed) and forgiveness. I was super absorbed into Michael and Lauren's story so you could imagine my delight knowing that Priscilla Glenn had released a new book.

Emancipating Andie is very different from Back to You. Andie is an upright, inflexible and rather rigid girl who lives her life according to the rules. She had a perfect boyfriend, albeit a little boring but he was safe. And that is what mattered. It was actually unnerving to see how much Andie reminded me of myself; she plays it safe, we're content with boring, victims of anal-retentive behaviour and we're both petrified of germs. She meets Chase at a party, and he's everything that her boyfriend Colin is not. Scruffy, impulsive, spontaneous and lives his life YOLO style. After the party finishes, Andie is quite happy to never ever see Chase again.

But when they're forced to take an impromptu road trip down to Florida, everything changes. It is Chase's differences that makes Andie's skin itch, and she gives him a piece of her mind more than once. They have a lot of misconceptions about one another, and Chase enjoys getting under her skin. He is witty, sarcastic and makes no apologies for anyone or anything but funny enough, after the next few days - they realise that there is more to each other than what they initially thought. A shaky friendship forms, and they learn and feed off one another. They learn lessons about love, happiness and doing things for one's self and nobody else. 


“Are you going to put your shirt back on?” she blurted out.

Chase froze, looking over his shoulder at her with the most maddening smile. “Why? Is this bothering you?”


“I just… I mean, what if we get pulled over or something?”


“If we get pulled over, this could only work in your favor,” he said, running his hand over his chest.


Andie tried to stifle a laugh. “My God, you're insufferable.” 

I freaking loved the banter that went on between Chase and Andie. It was hilarious watching Andie act all offended whenever Chase made a comment that was less than polite, and her hatred for swear words haha. But they discussed the most awesome and random things; hitchhikers, chocolate-covered bacon and the appropriateness of names.I personally thought Chase was freaking sexy and arrogant yet oddly insightful and intelligent - and oh my, it is his imperfects that make him an utterly perfect book boyfriend. The chemistry between them two was just off the charts and my thoughts for most of the book was just, "OH MY GOD, JUST MAKE OUT ALREADY."

I would just like to clarify that even though Andie has a boyfriend for most of the book, there is no cheating. I'm glad about that because I'm not a fan of cheating, no matter how well suited the people are for each other. It is rather a clean book (with a few steamy scenes, nothing too graphic though!) and there wasn't any doubt who Mr. Right for Andie was. It was just a question of Andie coming to her senses, realising that there was more to life than what she had always been taught to believe and broadening her horizons. 

I'm not going to lie though; as much as I enjoyed Priscilla Glenn's new book, I didn't quite enjoy it as much as her first one. I was quite ambivalent after I finished reading it, and it didn't make me think for a long time afterwards like Back to You did - in short, it didn't quite have that OMG WOW factor. But this book was still great with a happy ending with a sweet, clean romance with an ending that ties things together nicely.

RATING: 4/5 stars


Sunday, 20 January 2013

REVIEW: Embracing Me, Embracing You


The 90s - home of boy bands, individualism, teenage angst, ultra skinny models, and "Whatever!"...


In a decade when image matters, when the so-called Generation X is swelling with 'future perfect' hopes and pride, 16-year-old Roshell McRady dances her way through High School, never quite admitting that she's ashamed of her trailer park family home. Meanwhile she listens to Madonna while conjuring creative Top Ramen recipes to feed her younger cousins; she empties enough hairspray until her bangs are feathered and vertical like a lethal weapon; and she agonises over how to convince Gabriel Harrison, the new Mystery Guy in town, to invite her to the prom - a night which threatens to turn into a disaster.



But then life takes a dramatic turn for Roshell, and her life changes forever.



A love story emerges from the anguish of Roshell's life, and when she leaves school and finds work at a casino, things don't get any less complicated for her - until one night a powerful dream marks out the exact path that she must take.

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Thank you to Fingerpress and NetGalley for letting me review this book :3

I have a confession to make. I'm not a 90's kid. I was born in the year of 1995 but I grew up in the early 2000's and was a teen in the late 2000's therefore this book doesn't bring any nostalgia of the 90's. However, I do remember sitting in front of the TV every Saturday morning watching MTV with my siblings  as they sang along to Backstreet Boy songs and watched Pokemon. So therefore, I was interested in reading this book, purely because it was set in the 90's and what I could remember of the 90's, it seemed like an interesting decade. 

Embracing You, Embracing Me is about the story of Roshell McRady, a sixteen year old girl growing up in the 90's, who dreams of escaping from her trailer park home in rural Oregon. She has big dreams and escaping her small, unambitious town while having to deal with high school and all the insecurities that teenagers face. Roshell was a strong character but her voice didn't quite ring true for me, Michelle Bellon's  choice of wording and phrasing was quite awkward at times - sometimes it seemed like she was an older person trying to sound like a teenager. It just didn't sound right, especially coming from a character like Roshell, who is bright, young and carefree. 

Roshell has no male influence in her life whatsoever and finds it hard to establish relationships with boys her own age. Until she meets Gabriel. She loves him more than words can say but she can't bring it in herself to explain to him so she moves away. There is a massive time jump then and the audience is taken on a wild ride from one year to the next without much explanation at all for the things that happen in between up until Roshell is in her twenties, so her teen years (which are crucial) are glossed over quite quickly.

I gotta admit, the summary made the book sound more interesting than it really was. We see excerpts and snippets of the other character's dealings with Roshell but I didn't care for them at all. It was too distracting to make any impact on the story and I didn't want to know what they are thinking, this is Roshell's story and I want to know her story.

This story had such potential - I always enjoy stories about the small-town teenager who has big dreams - but there was too much holes to be enjoyable.

RATING: 2/5



Friday, 18 January 2013

REVIEW: The S-Word


First it was SLUT scribbled all over Lizzie Hart’s locker.

But one week after Lizzie kills herself, SUICIDE SLUT replaces it—in Lizzie's looping scrawl.

Lizzie’s reputation is destroyed when she's caught in bed with her best friend’s boyfriend on prom night. With the whole school turned against her, and Angie not speaking to her, Lizzie takes her own life. But someone isn’t letting her go quietly. As graffiti and photocopies of Lizzie’s diary plaster the school, Angie begins a relentless investigation into who, exactly, made Lizzie feel she didn’t deserve to keep living. And while she claims she simply wants to punish Lizzie’s tormentors, Angie's own anguish over abandoning her best friend will drive her deep into the dark, twisted side of Verity High—and she might not be able to pull herself back out.

Debut author Chelsea Pitcher daringly depicts the harsh reality of modern high schools, where one bad decision can ruin a reputation, and one cruel word can ruin a life. Angie’s quest for the truth behind Lizzie’s suicide is addictive and thrilling, and her razor-sharp wit and fierce sleuthing skills makes her impossible not to root for—even when it becomes clear that both avenging Lizzie and avoiding self-destruction might not be possible.


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Thank you to NetGalley and Gallery Books for presenting me with the opportunity to receive an ARC of this book - it is very much appreciated. Thank you again :D

So, The S-Word was a major let down. The blurb sounded promising and the idea was good - it really had the potential to be a great story. It was full of awkward wording, forced dialogue and it was just something I couldn't enjoy and I struggled to get through the book - and I'm a fast reader. The idea had such great potential and it was one of the books I was most looking forward to receiving when I requested it on NetGalley but alas, it was a severe disappointment.

I didn't like this book at all because of how it was written. Nothing to do with the plot at all, I thought it was really interesting but it was ruined with the sloppy writing. The sentences felt awkward, forced and poorly constructed - it didn't quite have that flow. The narrator's voice (Angie) didn't feel right - her best friend snatched her man in front of her, and she actually seemed rather nonchalant about it when explaining to the audience about what happened. I don't know about you but if I found out that my boyfriend had been doing the dirty with my best friend, I would be pretty damn pissed. Angie seemed far too detached and it just seemed rather fake and not right for the situation. Lizzie's diary entries didn't match the voice of an older teenager either - it sounded like a pre-teen trying to sound older and far more sophisticated than they truly are. 

I got what Pitcher was trying to say about the double standards for boys and girls but it didn't quite have an impact - she told us, rather than showed us and overall, didn't quite touch on it enough for the message to sink in. But yeah, good message. Well received blah blah. Angie's investigation into the factors that caused Lizzie to drive herself to suicide was frankly, quite ridiculous, for a lack of a better word - it just seemed all rather amateurish/childlike. She came across like a five year old reading a spy book for the very first time and decided it'll be super fun to just go out there and solve a mystery. BAM. Yeah, that's what it felt like. 

There were also too many issues going on all at once, y'know? Okay, there's slut shaming going on. Yeah, that's bad. There's also a suicide. Yeah, that's bad too. There's bullying. Okay, that's bad as well. Toss that in with cross-dressing, homosexuality/bisexuality, sexual abuse, rape and it's just a huge WTF. They're all important issues on their own individually but the author just grabbed them all and tossed them in a soup pot all at once and it just becomes one confusing hot mess. There was just too much going in a super awkward, very confusing and disjointed plot to feel any actual feels, other than confusion.

I was looking forward to a thought-provoking book on bullying and reading a nice mystery novel that would keep me second-guessing and leaving me on tenterhooks long afterward I've finished it but nope, the conclusion was very obvious to me and so out of there, it was quite funny. If you want to be super confused and disappointed, this is the book for you.

RATING: 1/5

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

REVIEW: Dare You To (Pushing the Limits #2)



"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....

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Before I start this review, I just want to say HUGE thank you to Harlequin UK for giving me an arc of this book through netgalley, I totally wasn't expecting to get it so thank you again. You guys are very generous and I squealed upon seeing my request getting approved :) So without further ado, let the review begin.

“This overwhelming, encompassing feeling is love. It's not perfect and it's messy as hell. And it's exactly what I need.” 

EEP. SO MANY FEELS. Katie McGarry has done it yet again. Damn lady, you're quickly becoming one of my favourite authors of all time. She's gone ahead and created yet another emotional, unforgettable and gut-wrenching story between who utterly messed up yet absolutely perfect characters. 

We see Beth Risk a.k.a Skater Girl who is whisked away from her troubled world in Louisville and is sent to live in a small rural town with her uncle Scott, a former baseball player who played for the New York Yankees. Beth is dark. Spiky. Rude. Snappy. Bitchy. Condescending. Think of a small angry goth girl with tattoos, dyed black hair and a nose piercing. Yep, that's her. Ugh, I just loved Beth. She is brutally honest, to the point of where someone's feelings are hurt, swears a shit load and protective of her mother, despite her mother letting her down over and over again. Beth is a deeply misunderstood character who is quickly judged by most people in the small town of Groveton (think of Stepford wives, Sunday dinners, church committee meetings... yep, that's Groveton down pat) and quickly puts her defences up when it comes to meeting new people, not willing to risk getting hurt again due to an incident that happened when she was just a vulnerable fifteen year old.  She was frustrating at times with all the patronising remarks she made about Echo and how she was quick to judge Allison (admittedly Allison DID judge her as well), the fact that all of her decisions seemed to revolve around her deadbeat, heroin-addicted mother who isn't a healthy influence on her at all and how she's so unwilling of accepting trust for what it is. But she's damaged and all she needs is someone to take care of her, to be free of responsibility.

Enter the Taco Bell Boy, Ryan Stone. Ryan is your quintessential all-American boy jock who's destined to have a great baseball career and then settle in his McMansion with his pretty blonde wife and their 2.5 children frolicking in their yard with their pet dog. His parents are respected members of the community and his dad seems to be a dead cert for mayor of the town. All of this is a facade. His parents fight. His dad demands too much of him. His brother is the black (well, gay) sheep of the family and is no longer living with them. The author did a great job of demonstrating the inner turmoil in his life and I really appreciated that, he was my favourite character. Let me just say, I pretty much liked Ryan right from the start when we got that excerpt at the end of Pushing the Limits - he seemed like your average, flirty jock with a great sense of humour. My suspicions were right; he is conceited to a point and is your typical jock but he is a contrast of all sorts. He is also sweet, caring and has a great love for creative writing which was a breath of fresh air amongst all the one-dimensional jocks in Young Adult fiction. He knew what he wanted in his life, who he wanted in his life; there was no naffing about on his part and I liked that. Ryan helps Beth grow and develop as a person and helps her see the meaning of trust again and I found that incredibly sweet, how he was so willing to accept her, prickly demeanour and all.

“There are times when you stand on the cusp of moments so huge, you know you'll remember them forever. This is that moment for me and for Ryan.” 

I also loved Beth's uncle Scott. Scott is fairly young for an adult (he was twelve when Beth was born), grew up in a trailer park and messed around with trailer park girls before making it to the pros with the New York Yankees and ended up marrying a woman who was the exact opposite of the girls he used to hook up with. Despite Beth rebelling against him and him also ranting back at her in return, he was that tough yet loving authority figure that Beth had always needed and craved for and provides her with the kind of caring, familial love that she had always yearned for.

Damn, I gotta say I feel sorry for Isaiah. Dude was friendzoned majorly. Although I was rooting for Beth and Ryan the whole way right from the start, my heart went out for him when Beth rejected him. He deserves a girl that is in love with him and not just on a friendship level - but I didn't feel too badly seeing that there was a sequel about him called Crash into You. CANNOT WAIT. I'm sure he'd get his happy ending then. But I've got a long wait, seeing as this book isn't technically out yet. Damn.

Dare You To is a fantastic read with a badass chick who doesn't stand for bullshit and is chockfull of sexual tension and scenes that are sure to make you swoon. What more could you want?

RATING: 4.5/5 stars



Tuesday, 15 January 2013

REVIEW: Pushing the Limits (Pushing the Limits #1)

No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with "freaky" scars on her arms. Even Echo can't remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal.But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo's world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible.

Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she'll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.



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Thank you to Harlequin UK for being kind enough for letting me review this when I requested it on netgalley. :D

Pushing the Limits tells the story of Echo Emerson (I'm sorry but I absolutely despise the name Echo, I always think of thirteen year old scene girls whenever I see that name. ANYWAY...), a formerly popular cheerleader who suddenly vanished off the face of the earth at the end of her sophomore. She returns for her junior year and rumours are flying around the school about her disappearance. Echo quickly goes from the girl with the jock boyfriend who makes honour roll on a regular basis to that freaky loner with weird scars on her arms and repressed memories about what happened on that particular night.

Noah Hutchins is a foster kid with a toughened and hardened shell who is a girl-using, one-night-stand having, underachieving stoner and is branded so by practically everyone he meets, even Echo initially. Nobody bothers to know Noah for who he is though, preferring to ignore the depths of his pain and the tragic events that shape the way he is.

This novel is told in both Echo and Noah's point of view which serves to highlight the different worlds they come from. Both characters have depth and it's always awesome when you see people overcome their inner demons together and rediscover themselves again. I liked that this book highlighted one of the key aspects in one's life: Family. We see Echo's struggles with her overbearing, controlling businessman father and her mentally ill mother, her young babysitter-turned-stepmother and we see her grief over her dead brother. We also see how Noah struggles to cope with the death of his parents in an accident a few years earlier and his feelings towards his brothers putting put in the foster system and the obstacles he faces to reunite his family once again.

I docked a star off this book because I felt as if Echo and Noah's romance was based on physical sex appeal rather than an actual emotional connection. Yes, there were scenes where they connected on an emotional level but overall, I felt like as if they were only into each other because she had a great rack and that he looked nice in a leather jacket. I also felt like it was repetitive in some areas when Noah kept describing Echo as being a 'nymph' (who the hell describes their girlfriend as a nymph?) or a 'goddess' and kept alluding to the fact that she smelled like cinnamon. Yes, she resembles a donut and she's hot. We get it. 

Despite the corniness and cheesiness in certain parts, I liked this book. A Lot. I loved Echo and Noah's witty banter and the fact that there was no insta-love; they were both emotionally damaged people who had serious problems to work out than just obsess over each other and I liked their sessions with the school counsellor and how she slowly helped them rebuild their lives on their journey of discovering themselves again, even though they hated seeing her at first. 

I really wish I could talk about the content of the book in a more eloquent manner about Echo's 'friendship' with Grace and Noah's friends Isaiah and Beth but I can't seem to quite put into words. But this has everything; romance, sadness, sweetness and a hopeful end.

I can't wait for Katie McGarry's next book Dare You To which is basically a sequel of this book but about Beth, Noah's friend, instead. CANNOT WAIT. June seems so far away!

RATING: 4/5 stars

Monday, 14 January 2013

REVIEW: Just One Day (Just One Day #1)

A breathtaking journey toward self-discovery and true love, from the author of If I Stay
When sheltered American good girl Allyson "LuLu" Healey first meets laid-back Dutch actor Willem De Ruiter at an underground performance of Twelfth Night in England, there’s an undeniable spark. After just one day together, that spark bursts into a flame, or so it seems to Allyson, until the following morning, when she wakes up after a whirlwind day in Paris to discover that Willem has left. Over the next year, Allyson embarks on a journey to come to terms with the narrow confines of her life, and through Shakespeare, travel, and a quest for her almost-true-love, to break free of those confines.

Just One Day is the first in a sweepingly romantic duet of novels. Willem’s story—Just One Year—is coming soon!
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Lemme just start off this review by saying that I love Gayle Forman. I really do. Well, I don't know her in real life so she'll probably find me really creepy if she was to read this but uh yeah, I love her books usually. Admittedly, there only has been two other books of hers that I've read: If I Stay and Where She Went. But I loved them. This book? Eh, it was okay. Not terrible, not good. 

"We are born in one day. We die in one day. We can change in one day. And we can fall in love in one day. Anything can happen in just one day."

So, when I was reading the blurb, I was like, "YAY, EUROPE!" (I have a severe case of Europhilia, okay?!) and was counting down the days for this book's release. When I got it though, I was like, "Oh shizzles... this is depressing." I don't always like uplifting books but c'mon, a tour around Europe is sure to be fun and not depressing right? Or maybe it's just the teenage girl in me that's just giddy and wide-eyed at the thought of going to Europe one day. Anyway, yes. This book was depressing and I don't think having such a  passive narrator such as Allyson helped matters and my resentful feelings towards Allyson just grew the further I delved into the novel.

After finishing high school, Allyson embarks on a tour of Europe with her best friend, Melanie. She struggles to find any excitement or fun out of her trip until she meets handsome Dutch actor, Willem. Allyson is intrigued by Willem upon their very first meeting and in a few short hours, she decides to ditch her friend and travels alone on a train with Willem, who is a complete stranger. Gurl, I would be worried about whether he wanted to drag me into a dark alley and rape me before stealing whatever money I had, no matter how handsome or charming he was. From this point onwards, this pretty much killed off any excitement I had about the book as it was so far-fetched and unrealistic - the blurb did say she was a good girl, after all. 

Allyson was quite a confusing narrator. She is initially portrayed as the good girl who plays it safe and is adored by authority figures yet she sheds all that in just one nanosecond and embarks to Paris with a total stranger and gets  all creepy, jealous and possessive feelings when said stranger talks to other girls. She and Willem spend the whole entire day in Paris that is rather uneventful (they fall asleep in a park and don't see the Eiffel Tower) except for one shocking experience near the end of the day. Her experiences with Willem were supposed to be so profoundly moving that it altered her perceptions on life forever, but I wasn't quite feeling it. It all seemed rather forced and contrived and that one whole day in Paris had a great effect on her, which I didn't really understand why. 

As for Willem as a character, he was definitely mysterious but seemed rather bland - I know, I know, weird combination. We don't know much about him, other than what he looks like. The audience didn't know about him much at all which made me pretty indifferent towards him, which in turn probably made me less empathetic towards Allyson than I should have been. I wasn't feeling their romance, even after they did the deed.

After that one day in Paris, Willem disappears and Allyson spends the entire year moping about it and every decision she makes onwards seems to be just because of him, but I suppose that was the whole point of it, he helped her discover her inner spirit or whatever blah blah. Allyson forms new friendships only for them to disintegrate, abandons her old plans for life, and begins to struggle in school which is a reflection of her time with Willem, that sometimes what you planned in life isn't the right path for you and I get that. I actually liked this sentiment and I can actually empathise with it. But this story was supposed to be one of self-discovery but there wasn't enough of self-discovery and too much of Willem. Maybe it's just because I'm a naive teenager who reads and watches too much happily-ever-after books and movies but I can't get the concept of having a one night stand with a guy you barely know affecting your life so much just doesn't ring with me. 

There wasn't enough of Allyson learning to enjoy life for herself and choosing her own pathways because she wants to, but because she was affected by Willem on so many levels. I dislike the idea of someone being the cause of your happiness, motivation and sadness; basically he was the centre of her universe. It was just all too Bella Swan-ish for my liking and I have a deep hatred of Twilight.

There are some things that I liked about this book (I'm not all misery, gloom and doom) and that was it's portrayal of Europe, Paris especially. There are countless of books set in Europe and it tends to be all fun and romance-y and lovey-dovey and I love the fact that Forman didn't shy away from the grittier and grimier parts. She does a marvellous job of transporting her readers to the location of where her book is set and this book was no different. We see Allyson's struggle with the French language, mentions of macarons and crepes and the dirtier side of Paris.

While I didn't particularly enjoy this book, I would definitely be keeping an eye out for the sequel of Just One Day which is from Willem's view. I can pretty much guess how it'll go, he's not a douche, he had an excuse for leaving blah blah. I don't particularly care for it but I'm just hoping a story from his point of view would make his character more interesting (Forman does wonderfully with guy characters, as seen with Adam from Where She Went) and give us more of an insight into his personality. 

Just One Day is about re-discovering yourself and redefining who you are as a person and while it wasn't my taste, no doubt it would appeal to many other people and probably older readers.

RATING: 2.5/5 stars