Review: Getting the Girl (Wolfe Brothers #3) by Markus Zusak

Brothers Cameron and Ruben Wolfe have always been loyal to each other – even when Rube goes through dating girls he has no intention of being serious with. Until Cameron meets and falls in love with Rube’s latest girlfriend, Octavia. Already struggling to not hide under Rube’s shadow, Cameron isn’t even sure if a beautiful girl like Octavia would go for a guy like him. And even if she was, would it be worth breaking the brotherly bond between him and Rube?

Personal Take: After being given an amazing spoonful of such good, emotional writing in the second installment of this series, I had high expectations for the last book, specifically when it came to Cameron’s personal growth. There was growth, but not the “awakening” kind I was expecting.

But before I go into that, I want to point out one thing I noticed was that Zusak approached this book without referencing a lot from events in the previous book Fighting Ruben Wolfe, which was weird, as it was a turning point for both brothers. In Getting the Girl, it felt like Rube was the one that found his ground, while poor Cameron had maybe a semblance of a foundation (and there were plenty!), but not enough to prop him up.

Having said that, the self-discovery and struggle Cameron goes through is still emotional and heartfelt (and sometimes quite shitty, actually), and the beautiful prose keeps blossoming as he finds his ground. For the romance though, it was eh. It was too fast, and it didn’t feel like Octavia was much of a character. I think that, along with the constant awkwardness of Cameron, were the two only downsides.

While this series doesn’t show the best of Markus Zusak’s writing, it’s still brimming with his talent of writing.

Audience: I’d stay older teens for a few choice words.

Rating:

Other recommendations: I’ve read and reviewed the first two books in this series; Underdog and Fighting Ruben Wolfe. Also read the much critically acclaimed The Book Thief, and I Am the Messenger.

Review: Underdog (Wolfe Brothers #1) by Markus Zusak

 

Cameron and his brother Ruben are hopeless. Not quite sure how to fill their time, the two get into quite a lot of trouble– needless violence, humiliating moments, and making up robbery plans that never take place. But then Cam falls for a girl, and suddenly things aren’t quite so simple. While Cameron hangs his heart on his sleeve, he isn’t too sure about how to approach her. After all, who could ever fall for an underdog like Cam?

Personal Take: This is quite a different tone from Zusak’s other books. Not quite a masterpiece like I Am The Messenger, but it still packs a little rawness. The setting Zusak paints for his characters is quite bleak, and yet, they fit so well in it. Cameron, his family and friends, the people he interacts with– it’s all so well crafted into this short story that I was still captivated by it. The format was also interesting, ending each chapter with a little of Cameron’s dream that feeds into his reality somehow. This is the first of three books, and while it doesn’t delve too deep into Cameron’s life yet, I enjoyed reading about his “beginnings”.

It’s a little rough around the edges compared to his other works, but it’s still a page-turner.

Audience: Older teens and adults.

Rating:

Recommendations: Markus Zusak is well known for two major works: The Book Thief and I Am the Messenger (which is my personal favorite). He also wrote The Wolfe Brothers trilogy.

 

Review: Landline by Rainbow Rowell

 

Georgie has her life figured out. After gruelling in the writers room, Georgie and her writing buddy Seth finally get their break for their own show. The only problem – Georgie is supposed to be on a plane with her husband, Neal, and the kids. Even though their marriage is in trouble, she hopes that Neal would understand when she tells him she can’t go, and it seems that he does. But she wonders as he drives off to the airport with the kids if she’s finally ruined her marriage. That same day, Georgie finds a way to communicate with Neal in the past. Is this her chance of fixing what went wrong between them?

Personal Take: It’s been a while since I read something modern that blew my mind. And seriously, Landline blew my mind.

It had everything that I loved– witty dialogue, perfectly flawed, real characters, and not once did it deviate from what the story is about. It was pristine and perfectly described a flawed but dreamy marriage.

For the start I was captivated with Rowell’s writing. The pace was managed so well, even when it alternated between the past and the present. It was concise and captured moments just right. So right that I was thrilled each time there was a new layer added about the characters.

And the characters. I loved Georgie. I was frustrated with her, but I cheered for her. I loved seeing her in the present and learning how she became who she was. She’s unique, honest and so human. And through her, we learned a lot about her husband Neal. There’s also her family, who are so wonderfully weird.

Everything about this book screamed Just Right to me. It held it together and delivered a hell of an emotional roller coaster with a realistic end.

Audience: Other than language, I think older teens can read this. And the adults will love it.

Rating:

5stars

Other recommendations: Rowell wrote Fangirl, Attachments and Eleanor & Park — all on my to read list. Check out what else she’ll be writing next!

Review: Impostor (Slide #2) by Jill Hathaway

 

After the horrifying events in their little town, Sylvia Bell thought she could finally put a rest to her haunting experience. With a budding romance, and possibly mending fences with her ex-best friend, Vee is hopeful. Until a prank turns pretty ugly, and Vee finds herself standing over a jock’s broken body without any idea how she got there. Someone is sliding into Vee, and she has to find out who before they hurt someone else, or worse– hurt her.

Personal Take: I was looking forward to reading this because I loved the first book so much. The idea in the first book was amazing–making the synopsis for the second not really that impressive, but I still wanted to read it.

There were a couple of disappointments in this book– the pace was different, much slower and elusive. The characters were not the same characters I read about the first time. Vee had so much depth in Slide, but I couldn’t see any of it here. In fact she felt so mundane in this instalment.

One of the plot lines also teased readers about the possible history of how Vee got her gift, which I found pretty weak, unfortunately.

The only thing I was really pleased about was the romance–it was actually the only reason I picked up this book.

But other than that, I could have easily been satisfied with the first book.

Audience: Older readers for swear words.

Rating:

threestars

 

Other recommendations: I’ve read and reviewed the first book Slide, which was awesome. I still recommend it.

Review: Slide (Slide #1) by Jill Hathaway

 

Vee Bell has narcolepsy, and she hates it. It’s not enough that she could pass out at any second without warning (even in high school), but the what no one knows is that during these episodes, Vee slips into people’s minds, and see things through their eyes. But what is already an unpleasant curse turns horrifying when she witnesses a murder– through the killer’s eyes. Suddenly, everyone’s a suspect, and Vee has to figure out who the killer is before they strike again.

Personal Take: Discovered something about myself while reading this book– that I absolutely love the thriller/mystery/suspense genre. Or at least, the way Hathaway writes it. Slide is the perfect read for Veronica Mars fans– the scandalous high school students, the secrets, the wit and intelligence of the protagonist, Vee, who’s very comfortable in her outcast status.

The book isn’t superficial, and deals with a few real issues, one of them being family. Hathaway does an amazing job building depth into Vee’s family, and depth in Vee herself.

The writing itself was AWESOME, suspenseful, faced paced, and made the book so hard to put down. I enjoyed every aspect of this book (even if it did go a little too fast towards the end), and I can’t wait to read the sequel and whatever Hathaway will write next.

Audience: This book is full of older teens being older teens, so there are swear words and adult references.

Rating:

4stars

Other recommendations: The sequel to Slide is Impostor, which I can’t wait to read.

Review: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (original idea by Siobhan Dowd)

Thirteen year old Connor is having a bit of a rough time. First of all, his mom is really, really sick. Then there’s his dad, who’s too busy with his other family, but Connor is pretty used to that right now. Then there’s his grandmother, and they both don’t get along at all. Finally, there’s a monster that visits him at midnight. The monster strikes a deal with Connor– he’ll tell him 3 true stories, and the forth story must be Connor’s. As easy as it sounds, Connor isn’t sure he’s ready to face what he’s hidden so deep within himself for so long.

Personal Take: This book was…just wow. It was perfection in every sense. The words were beautiful. Connor and the other characters were fantastic. And the events just tear at you. The book isn’t that big, but it used each word, each sentence so perfectly, I couldn’t have asked for a more wonderful story to read.
Connor is so multifaceted for a 13 year old– I don’t think I was that deep! But I loved his complexity so much, and I loved the other characters. It was so natural, how each of them acted, and there wasn’t any explanation other than they’re human.
And then there’s the monster. I can’t say anymore or I’ll gush from excitement.
What I loved most about the book was that it had a great balance between humor and the other darker emotions. Not such a stark difference, but one you recognize as part of life, and it’s just so natural.
I recommend this to anyone who wants to be wowed in one sitting. I can’t wait to read more of Patrick Ness’ work.
Audience: Everyone. I mean it. It’s clean. It’s wonderful. Pick it up. Like, right now.
Rating: 
5stars
Other recommendations: What’s amazing about this book is that the idea was from another author, but Ness made it his own somehow. So I’ll mention both Siobhan Dowd and Ness. Ness’ trilogy that I’ve seen everyone raving about is Walking Chaos. He also wrote The Crash of Hennington and The Crane Wife, which I think are for older readers. I haven’t read any of Siobhan Dowd’s books yet, but still check them out!

Blog Tour: Reviewed The Serpent’s Ring (Relics of Mysticus) by H.B Bolton

Evan and Claire Jones were going to spend a good whole day with their parents for Family Day, and it was going well until Evan sees something he wasn’t supposed to see. When he and his sister stumble across the Serpent’s Ring, they’re not only gifted with new powers, but transported to another realm. Their new powers were given for a reason though, but just as they did, the ring was stolen by Aegir, who plans to use it for his own devices. With some help, the duo have to make it to Aegir and stop him from his plans.

Personal Take: Not all middle grade books are suited for me, and this almost made it in that group. Except I was really charmed by the gods and goddesses included in this book. Bolton introduces Norse mythology, and this is the first time I’ve actually read something like that. It reminded me of a miniature, kid-friendly version of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods in that it went though a lot of creatures in Norse mythology, and not necessarily the gods, but the settings as well. I did struggle a little with the writing, but in the end, it’s a nice quick read.

GIVEAWAY

Bolton is kindly offering this swag and treasure. The offer:
– A copy of The Serpent’s Ring
– Rune Treasure Box
– Signed bookmark

This giveaway is INTERNATIONAL!

Review: The Savage Grace (The Dark Divine #3) by Bree Despain

 

Grace Divine thought that getting her brother back is the first step to victory. What she didn’t expect is her boyfriend, Daniel, stuck in wolf mode, or that her parents would face the hardest hurdle of their lives. The last thing she needed is to be in the middle of chaos, especially when a pack of rogue wolves and demons are bidding their time to take over one of the strongest pack in the area. The only chance her town has is Daniel. Grace has to find a way to bring Daniel back, even if it means facing the wolf’s anger.

Personal Take: I realize what a shotty summary that was. Honestly, I had so much hope that this series would redeem itself in the end, mostly because it ended with a promising note. But I was beyond disappointed with it.

It started off okay, and I saw a couple of things in the beginning that made me remember why I liked Grace before– her small town attitude, her normal every day life was so appealing to me. But when she became this person who is supposed to be a “badass”– it just didn’t work. It felt so out of character, and there was no set up for it. In fact, the attempt put me off for the remainder of the book, and I couldn’t take it seriously.

The werewolf myth originally introduced was so diluted at this point, and by the end there were terms used that were not introduced before nor explained properly. I did’t understand what the rules were. It was frustrating to go through. But the unsatisfying ending is what really took the cake. Never mind that the final action scene was so poorly written (in my opinion), it really didn’t resolve much either. And yet, this was the final book of the trilogy. I don’t know if it was meant to be a twist, or an anti-happy ending, but it didn’t wrap up nicely.

It really hurts me to write this, because I loved the first book- I still do. Now I can’t help but think it was better off as a standalone.

Audience: Fans of the first 2 books, and those who want to read about werewolves.

Rating: 

2stars

 

Other recommendations: I’ve read and reviewed the first two books in the trilogy: The Dark Divine and The Lost Saint. Another werewolf recommendation is Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause.

Review: Bitterblue (Graceling Realm #3) by Kristin Cashore

 

It’s been eight years since Leck’s dreadful reign ended, and Bitterblue became queen. Despite her determination that she progresses the kingdom in a way Leck never did, Bitterblue realizes that not all is as it seems outside of her castle walls. When she decides to sneak out of her castle to see her city, she finds that her people have yet to wake up from Leck’s curse, and it doesn’t help that someone is determined to bury Leck’s truth, even if it means killing her.

Personal Take: I loved the first 2 books, and I was looking forward to this one so much, because I loved 10-year old Bitterblue. But this book put a serious cramp into the world Cashore created. First let me say that Cashore has a nice writing style- descriptive mostly. It started out nicely, with Bitterblue sneaking around her city, but somehow, that little activity stopped, and I got an overly, unnecessary description of her castle. All the time.

I couldn’t connect to any of the characters, most of all Bitterblue. I didn’t feel like she grew by the end of the book, mostly because she didn’t do much throughout it (frustration overload!). Even though she had a past, we never got a look at what she was doing while she grew up, or even before that. It’s as if she just woke up at the beginning of the pages, and she was new to everything, or indifferent to it. Most of what she did was delegate tasks, and then obsesses over things that didn’t really need obsessing over. This idleness snuffed out the fantasy-aspect this book was supposed to be.

It was the same with other characters, sadly. In some parts of the book, it felt like the author was pushing a personal opinion where it didn’t need to be pushed, and seemed really irrelevant to the bigger picture.

What I found most disappointing though is that I got the feeling Cashore didn’t know where she was going with her story, and as a reader, I was lost. The one or two mysteries presented were stretched unnecessarily, and any other small subplots were so vague and unclear. And then the one (supposedly) major plot line was cut off towards the end, which made me feel like I wasted my reading time, because I wanted an emotional BANG.

In the end, it was not a bad read. Like I said, Cashore is a good writer. But this installment was pretty flat to me.

On the plus, I love the cover and the illustrations in the hardback!

Audience: I’d say fantasy fans, but lets settle for the fans of the trilogy. Oh, and older teens, so suggestive themes.

Rating: 

threestars

Other recommendations: I highly recommend the first two books, Graceling and Fire (which I complained about at first, but now I highly appreciate after this).

Review: The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

 

A week after World War II ended, Laura Chase drives herself off a bridge in her sister’s car. After her death, her sister, Iris, releases a book under Laura’s name. Fifty years later, Iris remembers Laura, their lives together, and the dwindling harmony as their lives ran out of their hands, and into cirumstances that are dark, cruel, and out of their control.

Personal Take: I’ve read this book a while back, and I remember how absorbed I was in it. It’s hard to describe what the story is about, but it’s clear that it’s about the characters and their suffering in a time when there is no justice for them. Atwood has a wonderful narrative voice, and writing style that draws you in and haunts you. The characters shine in their flaws, the setting is historically accurate.
The story is told in multiple point of views and mediums: from snippets of articles, Iris’ point of view, and chapters from Laura’s book; and it’s all woven together so nicely and beautifully, revealing the right things, and shocking you in the right places.

The only little annoyance I had was that the characters may have been too flawed, perhaps bordering the over-dramatic, which slowed down the pace a little until after the climax of the story. But that’s just me- and despite that, I still thing it’s amazing!It’s a book that leaves behind that essence of wonder and beauty. Very much recommended.

Audience: Older readers. Atwood has a beautiful writing style, but her characters are so direct and in your face with their language!

Rating: 

5stars

 

Other recommendations: I’ve only read The Handmaid’s Tale, an eye-opening read which I can only describe as a feminine version of 1984. Looking forward to read the rest of her work!