ARC Review: The Vampire Diaries Vol. 1

The Vampire Diaries Vol. 1
The Vampire Diaries Vol. 1 by Colleen Doran
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Release date: November 25, 2014

Elena, Stefan and Damon make their comics debut in a new series based on the hit CW television show! This anthology graphic novel will bring some of comics’ greatest talents to Mystic Falls and set them loose to bring the characters to life. Or death. They are vampires, you know.

I am not really a consistent fan of the show (in fact, I still have to watch from season 4 onwards, but keep up with the storyline through my peeps on Tumblr) but The Vampire Diaries has been quite a good TV series. Having read the books beforehand didn’t make much of a difference, other than finding that the TV series has much better plot and character development. So, this graphic novel is basically a fan fiction anthology using the show’s canon, similar to the Stefan’s Diaries series. The artwork is not consistent throughout, but for the most part, it is visually appealing. It is quite a change from manga or regular graphic novel art, but it is good enough. The stories, though – all of them are pretty interesting. A few of them had a little plot inconsistencies, such as when Katherine almost led Damon away from his duty, or the camp one, but most of the stories – really good. I was drawn in and compelled (pun intended) to keep reading, one story after another. The timelines are all over the place, so knowing the show’s storyline is a must, but otherwise, you can keep up, mostly. It also has a few spoilers, so if you aren’t current with the fifth season and don’t love being spoiled, my advice is to keep this off until you catch up. Otherwise, it is a good media tie-in graphic novel.

Received an ARC from DC Comics via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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ARC Review: On the Edge

On the Edge
On the Edge by Allison van Diepen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Release date: November 25, 2014

Maddie Diaz never should have taken that shortcut through the park. If she hadn’t, she wouldn’t have seen two members of the Reyes gang attacking a homeless man. Now, as the only witness, she knows there’s a target on her back.

But when the Reyes jump her on the street, Maddie is protected by a second gang and their secretive leader, Lobo, who is determined to take down the Reyes himself. Lobo is mysterious and passionate, and Maddie begins to fall for him. But when they live this close to the edge, can their love survive?

A mob setting was a first for me, since I don’t really like to read about gang violence. But On the Edge was quite interesting in spite of this. Maddie Diaz gets involved in gang wars when she becomes the key witness for a gang-perpetuated crime. She is brave and has a proper moral compass, no naturally even when she is attacked and beaten up (and rescued by a rival gang), she perseveres in standing for the truth. She is also attracted to the head of the rival gang, Lobo, who is kind and gentle despite his profession. While she goes on delving deeper into a potential love, she falls more into the mob situation, and finally her moment comes when she saves someone.

Now, the story – very interesting, well-paced and good ending. It doesn’t shy away from the grittiness that would be expected from a adult novel of the same genre. The writing, though good, wouldn’t win any awards. It comes across at awkward at some times and cliched at others – some dialogues made me cringe. Romance is hot, really hot, without being explicit. The characterization, well, I wasn’t wholly satisfied with it. There are some cookie cutter characters like Iz, who is the manic obnoxious boy-crazy best-friend, which I honestly am tired of seeing in every damn YA novel (even though I have one of my own in real life). Ortiz comes across as a vigilante superhero – he has that I’ll-save-the-world routine down pat, right until the end of the book, which honestly gave me whiplash. I also felt I was missing something with Julia and Eric, but later on found out they have a book of their own (Snitch), so will be checking that out later. I must say, van Diepen certainly has piqued my interest in this genre.

Received an ARC from HarperCollins via Edelweiss, which in no way affects my opinions or reviews

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ARC Review: Anomaly

Anomaly
Anomaly by Tonya Kuper
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Release date: November 25, 2014

Worst. Birthday. Ever.

My first boyfriend dumped me—happy birthday, Josie!—my dad is who knows where, I have some weird virus that makes me want to hurl, and now my ex is licking another girl’s tonsils. Oh, and I’m officially the same age as my brother was when he died. Yeah, today is about as fun-filled as the swamps of Dagobah. But then weird things start happening…

Like I make something materialize just by thinking about it.

When hottily-hot badass Reid Wentworth shows up on a motorcycle, everything changes. Like, everything. Who I am. My family. What really happened to my brother. Existence. I am Oculi, and I have the ability to change reality with my thoughts. Now Reid, in all his hotness, is charged with guiding and protecting me as I begin learning how to bend reality. And he’s the only thing standing between me and the secret organization that wants me dead…

Blurb-wise, I was excited because it sounded close to Haruhi Suzumiya series by Tanigawa-sensei. When I started reading, I was excited because the story is action-filled, like, right from start to finish. The writing, though, was regularly putting a dampener on the fun – with cliched lines and over-use of geek references, which feels like the book is trying too hard. Josie is vivacious and fierce, but isn’t rendered really well. There was a lot of ambiguity as to how her character was presented – with distinction in the first and second half. The romance element, well, it did not endear me either. Reid is, ugh, boring and honestly, Santos would have made a better match, even with whatever happened at the end.

The world-building was good, and the almost-magic like ability was also well-explained as canon. I just had one doubt – during a fight, why don’t they just Push a blindfold onto their opponent’s eyes? If the ability works on observation, should making the person temporarily blind halt their abilities? The ending was okay, but mostly the entire book was action-packed and that was the highlight. The fight sequences were well-written, almost able to render it realistically in the mind. A good sci-fi read, but the sequel better be better.

Received an ARC from Entangled Teen via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: the wicked and the divine: The Faust Act

the wicked and the divine: The Faust Act
the wicked and the divine: The Faust Act by Kieron Gillen
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Every ninety years, twelve gods incarnate as humans. They are loved. They are hated. In two years, they are dead. The team behind critical tongue-attractors like Young Avengers and PHONOGRAM reunite to create a world where gods are the ultimate pop stars and pop stars are the ultimate gods. But remember: just because you’re immortal, doesn’t mean you’re going to live forever.

The only things I liked about the book – the concept and the art. Really, it was for these two reasons that I even completed the book. From the start itself, the story is confusing, and it felt like I had some intermediate sequel or something (this is an omnibus of the first five books) and while I was attracted by the art, it could not distract me from the fact that essential world-building is left unattended. Where do the Gods come from, where do they go in the meanwhile, why can’t they do more than parlour tricks, and honestly, why do they want to be pop idols? The story is going nowhere even for the characters, and the protagonist is boring. Honestly, one of the worst graphic novels I’ve read.

Received an ARC from Image Comics via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

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Review: The Halcyon Bird

The Halcyon Bird
The Halcyon Bird by Kat Beyer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mia has settled into her life with the Della Torres — Milan’s premier demon-catching family, accompanying them to exorcisms and even learning some way to be useful in the family trade. Then Bernardo comes into her life, handsome, well-mannered, someone who makes her forget her impossible crush on Emilio, her cousin. But always lurking in the background is the demon who possessed Mia once before, and who has not given up on possessing her again–this time for good.

At the end of The Demon Catchers of Milan, Mia had decided to enter the family business of demon-catching. While she does miss her home, she is settling well into life in Milan and since she has her talisman, she no longer needs to be on house arrest or accompanied by a member of her family. She is now actively hunting down her demon, while also being intrigued by the fact that the demon bothered to cross an ocean to possess her. While delving into her family secrets and preparing herself for life as a demon hunter, she also wants to live the life of a young girl, and having love in spite of the sword hanging over her head. The story, like before, is quite different in it’s style, seeming going nowhere until towards the end, where things make sense. In terms of plot development, there is no reaching to an endgame; the whole story has different revelations that make sense in different ways. I quite liked how Beyer paints a splendid and detailed picture of living in Milan, even though she admits having never actually lived there (in the acknowledgements of the previous book). How the history and politics have been rendered is also quite impressive.

I did feel, though, that it did not fully live up to the potential of the earlier book and had a few plot points reused. The twist at the end was quite interesting and made me like this book a bit more, since it was realistic in how the characters were presented. Characters other than Mia, though, still – not much depth to them, I feel, so that was a disappointment. Overall, a good book – 3.5 stars.

Received ARC from Egmont USA via Netgalley and Edelweiss, which does not affect my review or opinions in any way.

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Review: The Demon Catchers of Milan

The Demon Catchers of Milan
The Demon Catchers of Milan by Kat Beyer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mia’s ordinary life is disrupted for good in the most horrifying way possible when she is possessed by a hungry and powerful demon—and saved only by the arrival of relatives from Italy, the country her grandfather fled many decades ago. Now her cousins, the charming and gorgeous Emilio and stern, elderly Giuliano, say the only way to keep Mia safe is for her to come back with them to Milan, to live, to learn Italian, to fall in and out of love, and to master the family trade: fighting all demons with the ancient lore of bell, book, and candle. Milan is not what Mia expected, but it will change her forever.

Firstly, demon-hunters? Just the word is enough to get me interested in the book. Demon-hunter family in which a long-lost descendant is possessed – color me intrigued. I was quite into the book right from the description of Mia being possessed and I already knew I was in love with the writing at that point. Beyer spins a lovely tale of a girl recovering from a possession and learning to live with it and finding it as a goal in life to protect others from her fate. Learning a new language, the history of a new country, and a different culture. The canon history of the series is also quite interesting, with more focus on a demon or a spirit’s reason for coming to the living plane. She learns about the family history and has to figure out family secrets by herself, while also navigating settling into a different kind of life. Each exorcism teaches her something new, and she learns a little more about the culture and history. I found a lack of proper characterization, though, with less focus on characters other than the protagonist, and more on the flow of the story. The story, in itself, is quite good and I loved it’s uniqueness. The pace was quite slow, though, and the story flows in no determinate direction for most of the book, and there is no endgame specifically, so it was a bit different to read. It was a good read, though, and I loved it for it’s freshness.

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Lessons I Never Learned at Meadowbrook Academy: Blog Tour + Giveaway

LINLAMA_banner

Welcome to my stop on the Lessons I never learned at Meadowbrook Academy Blog Tour!

Today, Liz will be talking about who her inspirations are in the genre of Young Adult. But first, a little about the book:

Lessons I Never Learned at Meadowbrook Academy (Small)The most important lessons aren’t learned in the classroom.

It’s the first day of sophomore year for Roberta Romano, but instead of the comfort of her local high school, she’s been thrust into the elitist embrace of the affluent Meadowbrook Academy.
 
Surrounded by wealth, Roberta battles her own insecurities to prove her worth and maybe land the boy of her dreams. With the help of two unlikely allies—and an inflatable toy raft—Roberta embarks upon a journey of dark secrets and self-discovery to learn the true meaning of friendship and acceptance. 
 
“Roberta will charm and delight you with a voice that’s candid, hilarious, and hopeful, as she narrates her first day at a new high school, reminding us of the epic nature of each hour in our adolescent lives. Lessons I Never Learned at Meadowbrook Academy will make you laugh, cringe, cry, and cheer for the power of friendships that can change us in a single day.” —Ava Dellaira, author of Love Letters to the Dead

“Liz Maccie’s debut novel is as tough, optimistic, and beautiful as her heroine, Roberta Romano. Roberta’s voice is heartfelt and funny. Her story is exceptionally moving and honest. I love this book and the hope it has for young women everywhere.” —Stephen Chbosky, New York Times bestselling author of The Perks of Being a Wallflower

“You wish your first day of prep school was this epic! Every single page of Lessons I Never Learned sparkles with heart and humor. Like a teenage Bridget Jones, Roberta Romano will make you laugh, cry, and cringe as she tries to navigate her first day at Meadowbrook Academy. She finds friends and enemies, earns detentions and serious respect, and makes memories that will last her a lifetime.” —Siobhan Vivian, author of The List

AUTHOR BIO

Author photo

Liz Maccie was born and raised in New Jersey and attended Bucknell University.  After college, she moved out to Los Angeles to pursue a career in film and television writing.  She has had two movies produced, “The Thirst” and “Black and Blue.”  She went on to work at The Disney Channel until she found a home at the breakout ABC Family show, “Make it or Break it.”  She is currently adapting the wildly popular YA book, “The List” for MTV as a television show.  “Lessons” is Liz’s debut novel.

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GUEST POST

100% Stephen Chbosky who wrote, “Perks of Being a Wallflower,” was hands down my biggest influence.  My old roommate from college was from Chbosky’s hometown and her mom had sent her a copy of the book.  She then had passed it onto me and ever since then it became a bible to me.  That book made me want to be a writer.  I felt that it was so real and honest and I one day wanted to write my own version of something real and honest.

There are times in your life that you are ready to be changed.  That you are ready to be influenced by something bigger.  I believe that “Perks” was cosmically brought to me when I was at a very dark time in my life.  I felt very alone.  And misunderstood.  Most of the people in my life knew a very different version of me.  To them I was happy and go-lucky.  But I was really suffering inside.  “Perks” became a friend to me.  It became a companion to my feelings.  It honored my pain.  And it never disappointed me.  Charlie, Sam, and Patrick were always there for me and they really helped me heal.  In so many ways books can be extremely cathartic.  They somehow give us the permission to have compassion towards our own lives.  I’m sure anyone reading this right now probably has a book that means as much to them as “Perks” meant to me. 

And of course there are also such other WONDERFUL YA authors.  I love Laurie Halse Anderson’s, “Speak.”  “Looking for Alaska,” by John Green is another favorite.  And I simply devoured, “The List,” by Siobhan Vivian.  Another fairly new book, “Love Letters to the Dead,” by Ava Dellaira has become a fast favorite.  I found Anthony Breznican’s, “Brutal Youth,” to be immensely powerful and truly captivating, just a phenomenal book.  And of course, Jay Asher’s, “13 Reasons Why,” is stunning.  I simply love the YA genre and think it houses some of the absolute best books out there.

GIVEAWAY

 Enter your details at this link to win one of three e-copies (you’ll get a redemption code) of The Lessons I never learned at Meadowbrook Academy. International! Contest runs till Nov 14.

Review: Reimei no Arcana 13

Reimei no Arcana 13
Reimei no Arcana 13 by Rei Tōma
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Man, Loki is such a complex character – he is the tortured hero till the end. At first, I was outraged at this betrayal of Caesar’s and Nakaba’s friendship, but by the end I was sobbing terribly. The reasons for which he did all this, and his feelings about it, never mind the fact that he would be the bad guy until the end really hit hard. I was a bit surprised about his past, but his strong feelings did indicate attachment to the cause and to Nakaba. Ultimately, he did what was best for the whole kingdom than for just Nakaba, and honestly that makes him a bigger hero. Nakaba and Caesar (too!) loved him so much – you can see it in how hurt they get when he asks for Senan, and later on when the news of his death reaches them. All I can say is, the mangaka has given such a hard-hitting ending to such a serious manga, and that somewhat completes it. A happy ending couldn’t be full of sunshine for this one, truly. On a side note, the fact that she is coming up with a fun new manga really perks me up. Looking forward to Rei-sensei’s next work!

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Review: A Thousand Pieces of You

A Thousand Pieces of You
A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Marguerite Caine’s physicist parents are known for their radical scientific achievements. Their most astonishing invention: the Firebird, which allows users to jump into parallel universes, some vastly altered from our own. But when Marguerite’s father is murdered, the killer—her parent’s handsome and enigmatic assistant Paul—escapes into another dimension before the law can touch him.

Marguerite can’t let the man who destroyed her family go free, and she races after Paul through different universes, where their lives entangle in increasingly familiar ways. With each encounter she begins to question Paul’s guilt—and her own heart. Soon she discovers the truth behind her father’s death is more sinister than she ever could have imagined.

A Thousand Pieces of You explores a reality where we witness the countless other lives we might lead in an amazingly intricate multiverse, and ask whether, amid infinite possibilities, one love can endure.

I must admit, the concept of dimensional travel was the sole reason I picked up this book. I had read a manga ‘Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle’ (go read it!) a few years back, and in that people are able to cross time and space and meet alternate versions of themselves. The thing that remained in common, among all the versions? The soul/essence of the person. A Thousand Pieces of You, is also built around that same premise, but instead of complete dimensional hopping, the person’s consciousness can travel to another dimension – a layer of what-if created in the multiverse. It brings forth the idea that maybe certain people are bound to have certain paths, or meet certain people.

Through Marguerite’s eyes, we see the different dimensions she hops to – all in order to chase down her father’s alleged murderer, Paul – a person who she and her family had trusted. Meeting the different versions of Paul, however, makes her question her thoughts about his crime. She also learns what it means to be of one soul – when she embodies her different versions and sees that they are so similar to her. In each version, too, she is pulled towards Paul, and while that is not really the main focus, it drives the plot to a great extent. It was beautiful their way was developed in the storyline and expressed – and I didn’t even mind Theo butting in for a love triangle. The characters are quite fleshed out, and Gray goes into such exquisite detail on body language that entire scenes are an immersive experience.

Another thing I loved was the multiverses themselves – since it is only through space and not time, the multiverses are on the same timeline, but have diverged considerably in how they are. There is a hyperfuturistic London, a century-old Russia, a Triadverse (it will make sense when you read) and finally Salacia. I loved each of those worlds, and the amount of detail and building Gray put into each of them really makes me want to applaud for her. I am partial to Russia, though, since that is where most of the romance develops but Triadverse gives all the reveals, so that is an interesting dimension too. A highlight of the romance was how Meg questions what you really fall in love with – and what makes a person different across dimensions.

At this point, I just want more – since though the ending seemed complete, it is far from over. I am particularly interested in how they are going to counteract the efforts of the Triad, who are more advanced than them. Meg and Paul also have to overcome the ghost of Russian-Paul, and Theo – well I want to see how this all will play out. Just ready for the sequel, right now!

Received an ARC from HarperTeen via Edelweiss. Receiving it does not, in any way, affect my opinions or review

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Review: Waterfall

Waterfall
Waterfall by Lauren Kate
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Eureka’s tears have flooded the earth and now Atlantis is rising, along with its evil king, Atlas. Eureka is the only one who can stop him – but first she must learn how to fight.

She travels across the ocean with Ander to try and make sense of the dark world her sorrow has created. But dark secrets are hidden in the depths – will she be strong enough to defeat Atlas, or is her broken heart just what he needs to power his rising kingdom?

Eureka has the chance to save the world. But she’ll have to give up on everything – even love . . .

As much as I loved the Fallen series by Lauren Kate, this series has been an utter disappointment. I can’t love the characters, I find the pace a tad slow, the plot line has a lot of unexplained occurrences and none of these can be fully redeemed by the author’s writing. She writes beautifully, I agree, but the angst levels in this book and it’s earlier one has been a major turn-off for me. First we had two guys after her, now we have three. Eureka mostly comes across as self-absorbed, and doesn’t care much of other characters. Excessive self-pity (though it works for the story-line in ways I didn’t imagine) would sort of be her defining trait, the other being her naivete.

When we enter Waterfall, the entire world is in an apocalypse situation because Eureka’s tears have drowned the Waking World, and the Sleeping World is to be woken within the next full moon for Atlantis to rise. The first half of the book is devoted to exposition and pointless plot developments like the addition of quirks (the origin of which isn’t explained until way in the end of the book) and additional characters that don’t contribute much. Second half is Eureka discovering her real past (I had my suspicions about the Tearline) and then embracing it and plotting against Atlas. The story was good, perhaps different would be more appropriate, but not nearly captivating enough. I did not have the drive to finish this book because it just couldn’t get me invested in the characters. The ending – it could have gone a hundred different ways and yet it ended so. I normally don’t mind character death as long as it is necessary to the plot, but there was quite a death toll in both books.

The redeeming points – Atlantis finally rose! I loved how Atlantis was described as a place of splendor in innovation rather than just old palaces and stuff. An old world that was more advanced than ours? Brilliant idea. Too bad we barely got a glimpse of it. Also, what happened to it at the end? Did Atlantis remain in the Waking World? That wasn’t explained (though the Gossipwitch mountain survived)

In conclusion, while the story and premise are quite different and innovative, I wasn’t satisfied with it. It could work for some, but surely didn’t work for me.

Received an ARC from Random House Children’s Publishers UK via NetGalley. Receiving this ARC does not, in any way, affect my opinions or review.

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