Book Review: Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen


Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen
Genres: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction
Short reaction: Great lesson about family, acceptance and opening doors to others
Rating: 4 out of 5
Buy book on Amazon: Paperback / Kindle

Synopsis

Ruby, where is your mother?

Ruby knows that the game is up. For the past few months, she’s been on her own in the yellow house, managing somehow, knowing that her mother will probably never return.

That’s how she comes to live with Cora, the sister she hasn’t seen in ten years, and Cora’s husband Jamie, whose down-to-earth demeanor makes it hard for Ruby to believe he founded the most popular networking Web site around. A luxurious house, fancy private school, a new wardrobe, the promise of college and a future; it’s a dream come true. So why is Ruby such a reluctant Cinderella, wary and defensive? And why is Nate, the genial boy next door with some secrets of his own, unable to accept the help that Ruby is just learning to give?

Best-selling author Sarah Dessen explores the heart of a gutsy, complex girl dealing with unforeseen circumstances and learning to trust again.

My Review

Also seen on Goodreads.

I never felt so bored at majority of the chapters; good thing it got better at 80%. This is the second book that I read from Ms. Dessen’s work and despite the boredom, I liked how she created realistic stories and life lessons:

Lock and Key‘s pacing was slow especially on the parts where it revolved around Ruby Cooper (the daughter Ruby) and coping with her new life. Chapters felt so long and wordy. I might have given it 2 stars at worst if I didn’t pursue it. My conscience however told me I should continue because there’s something Ms. Dessen is going to show me. And it did show me something. A beautiful lesson.

What made me give it 4 stars?

It’s realistic. Ruby, our protagonist faces the biggest struggle of surviving alone since her mom left her in her junior year along with her sister’s disappearance years prior to that. No sane seventeen year old and yet attractive girl can stay like that forever while dealing with school, work, making up with bills, maintaining the household, keeping the relationship with boyfriend, etc. Ruby thought she can make it but even drugs and alcohol won’t fix a thing especially her emotions. Having a boyfriend didn’t make it better otherwise. But as she was sent under the custody of her sister Cora whom she didn’t see in years and now married, she’s gone through a lot of changes – living a wealthy lifestyle, changing herself for the better and trying to understand people around her especially her sister. Her learning to forgive herself, her mother and her sister made her somehow whole again to open her doors and trust again.

It’s about family. I have a weakness when it comes to reading about family e.g. keeping it whole and strong, treasuring every moment of it. Ruby’s family is already broken yet as the story develops, Ms. Dessen showed us how to appreciate life and family with others – new friends, a pet, a brother-in-law or a neighbor. I liked Jamie’s character (Cora’s husband) – how he makes people appreciate life by teaching them how to be happy and special to someone else, how to go through life with learning and acceptance, how to hope and make someone hopeful. He portrayed the best character! He touched my heart by how he cared for Ruby despite her attitude. He understood where Ruby and Cora came from and he’s willing to give them the life they wanted to have not only with his wealth but with his love and value for family. Another characters I loved were Nate’s and his little prodigy brother Gervais’. They’ve been a big help to make Ruby whole again by accompanying her to school, helping her and letting her feel appreciated even if they also have their own struggles. In fact, the unexpected romance was a nice breather!

I’m so glad I finished it. 🙂 I know I got bored a couple of times but the ending was worth it.

Really, we should let our locks be opened by giving those people who care our keys to our happiness then in the end, it’s all win-win because we might also make them whole and happy.

Book Review: The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting


The Body Finder (The Body Finder #1) by Kimberly Derting
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Mystery
Short reaction: There’s mystery, there’s suspense and there’s a strange talent. A package!
Rating: 4 out of 5
Buy book on Amazon: Paperback / Kindle

Synopsis

Violet Ambrose is grappling with two major issues: Jay Heaton and her morbid secret ability. While the sixteen-year-old is confused by her new feelings for her best friend since childhood, she is more disturbed by her “power” to sense dead bodies—or at least those that have been murdered. Since she was a little girl, she has felt the echoes that the dead leave behind in the world… and the imprints that attach to their killers.

Violet has never considered her strange talent to be a gift; it mostly just led her to find the dead birds her cat had tired of playing with. But now that a serial killer has begun terrorizing her small town, and the echoes of the local girls he’s claimed haunt her daily, she realizes she might be the only person who can stop him.

Despite his fierce protectiveness over her, Jay reluctantly agrees to help Violet on her quest to find the murderer—and Violet is unnerved to find herself hoping that Jay’s intentions are much more than friendly. But even as she’s falling intensely in love, Violet is getting closer and closer to discovering a killer… and becoming his prey herself.

My Review

Also seen on Goodreads.

Imagine reading 4 books with a “lost souls” theme in a row – I just felt WOW that was eery! I may have suffered a lot of hangover plus exhaustion but good thing I’ve only chosen a few of the best in this genre. After reading The Archived, I went ahead and read The Body Finder to finally finish my challenge and tell you what, I’ve enjoyed although not perfect as I felt with The Archived but it was a great experience:

The Characters. Violet Ambrose, our heroine is love and hate for me. Love – because of how she manages her talent and control it, how brave she is alone yet how also normal she is when she’s with Jay, her best friend and lover. Hate – because while she’s brave enough, she just can’t do it all alone safely. She trips a lot and she’s always near accidents. Jay, on the other hand, there’s nothing to hate from him! This character is not the aloof, arrogant, bad-boy type that I’ve always craved for because he’s more like of a boy-next-door-football-star-player type who always cares for his best friend yet he’s still a hell hot to love. His character is so nice he can even pass for a guardian angel. Vi’s friends Chelsea, Jules and Claire are hilarious – same old high school gossips here and there and pointing at each other jokingly. Vi’s got a cool circle of their own without having to be eyed popular. Last but not the least, the mystery antagonist has done a good job for me to hate him and his calmness.

Pacing. Majority gets nice and smooth yet just right for the suspense; but sometimes it gets dragging especially with Vi’s part swooning over Jay, fighting over her feelings and examining the echoes. I like how the antagonist’s POV’s are written though – not much mind-talk, straight to the point.

Ending. Cliffhanger ending (as expected). I’ll see how it goes in the next book but still, it made me hate Vi for being so stupid.

So yeah, I’m willing to continue with the series and I’m hoping the next ones will not make me hate Vi more. 😛

Book Review: The Archived by Victoria Schwab

The Archived (The Archived, #1) by Victoria Schwab
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Ghosts
Short reaction: Great unique concept about ghosts and ghost hunters and reading the past!
Rating: 5 out of 5
Buy book on Amazon: Hardback / Kindle

Synopsis

Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books.

Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.

Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what he once was, a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often—violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive.

Being a Keeper isn’t just dangerous—it’s a constant reminder of those Mac has lost. Da’s death was hard enough, but now her little brother is gone too. Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself might crumble and fall.

In this haunting, richly imagined novel, Victoria Schwab reveals the thin lines between past and present, love and pain, trust and deceit, unbearable loss and hard-won redemption.

My Review

Also seen on Goodreads.

Wow. It actually took a bit of time for me to finish this since I’m revamping the blog and at the same time have lots of other buddy reads going on. However, it’s finishing the Lost Souls challenge that made me pursue this and I’m glad I did! Even though again it’s about lingering souls, Mac’s ability to read the past to hunt Histories and go through doors of another world are fascinating. The concept is breathtakingly fresh for me! Here’s the reason for my 5 stars:

The Archived brought me various emotions while reading every chapter. For instance, the flashbacks continually developed the story from the start until the end breaking one mystery after another while the present world with the protagonist showed clear descriptions of both suspense and action as I unlocked the doors to the living and the dead. The hunts, conversations between Histories and seeing their past life brought images on my mind so clear I felt I’m putting myself in the protagonist’s shoes.

Characters. Characters are strong and showed their dominance throughout the events. The most dominant of course is our 15-year-old heroine, Mackenzie Bishop who became a Keeper when she’s 12 after her grandfather Da passed on the talent to her before he died. Mac is undeniably strong-willed and smart since training because she showed unusual strength by being able to hunt the Histories since then. Her willingness to find justice for her little brother’s death and Da’s legacy as a keeper was impressive because that made her go through doors and face the strongest Histories without flinching while having to face and fight with them weaponless.

Keepers are the ones who hunt Histories (or in normal world, we call it ghosts/souls) that when people die, leave patterns and these patterns are then stored and archived thus making a copy of the dead in a place called The Archive. This serves as the dead’s chamber of protection so when they slip and wake from their shelves, they have to be hunted and returned.

Roland – a Librarian, (2 notches higher than a Keeper), shows a likable character because he’s strict yet he has sympathy to understand what’s fair and not. He follows orders from the other higher ranks yet he has a heart to balance things from right and wrong.

Patrick – another Librarian but newer and younger than Roland, I hate him for always doubting Mac’s skills and trying to report her to the higher ranks.

Wesley – fun to be with and a gentleman then turned protective when he felt an unexpected attraction with Mac. He’s young yet Ms. Schwab created this character to be seen as mature enough to accompany the protagonist and be with her throughout the journeys.

Hunting Histories. I can’t help but think of Anna Dressed In Blood and how Cas Lowood hunted the dead to stop them from killing the living and send them to where they should be (outside of the living world). With Mac’s case, it’s not about fixing the murders the dead has done but returning the Histories for their peace and protection.

Overall, it’s hands-down a great book! Thanks also to Katy for recommending this over Youtube and for my Lost Souls challenge. Looking forward to Unbound!

 

Book Review: Slammed by Colleen Hoover

Slammed (Slammed, #1) by Colleen Hoover
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary Romance, Drama
Short reaction: It will slam you with love, life, death, grief and happiness. I never thought I created a poem for this after reading it, it’s that effective!
Rating: 5 out of 5

Synopsis

Following the unexpected death of her father, 18-year-old Layken is forced to be the rock for both her mother and younger brother. Outwardly, she appears resilient and tenacious, but inwardly, she’s losing hope.

Enter Will Cooper: The attractive, 21-year-old new neighbor with an intriguing passion for slam poetry and a unique sense of humor. Within days of their introduction, Will and Layken form an intense emotional connection, leaving Layken with a renewed sense of hope.

Not long after an intense, heart-stopping first date, they are slammed to the core when a shocking revelation forces their new relationship to a sudden halt. Daily interactions become impossibly painful as they struggle to find a balance between the feelings that pull them together, and the secret that keeps them apart.

My Review

Also seen on Goodreads.

Since my younger years, I’ve always been into short stories and poetry – reading and writing them. However it’s only after I read this good book that I’ve written my own poem again with such passion and emotions! Wow. See how Slammed did it to me:

Slammed, a performance by myself and written by myself, 19 April 2013

Here I am with my puffy eyes
Typing as I let all the memories dig in
As this one only book has slammed me in my face
To balance between heart and mind, life and death, grief and happiness

Here I am with my puffy eyes
Never thought I’d review a book through a poem I create
I never even knew about Poetry Slam until I read this one only book
That has slammed me in my face
To balance between heart and mind, life and death, grief and happiness

Here I am
Glad that my tears has now stopped from welling and dripping
Glad that I live life with my complete family of Mom, Dad, a brother, a sister and four family dogs
Glad that even if I’ve done a few things wrong and I hurt them, they’re still here for me loving me all along
Glad that I have them in good, comfortable life and health I’m always thanking God for

Here I am
Now wants to forget that I regret a lot of things that I did in the past
Things that I thought were all wrong because I broke the rules
Life has no rules, like Poetry Slam that has slammed me in the face
To balance between heart and mind, life and death, grief and happiness

Here I am
Wants to give honor to Avett Brothers for giving me such wisdom about 5 stages of loneliness
I never thought that I could learn from a band of great philosophers
And I swear, they just got me as a fan

Here I am
Thanking Ms. Colleen Hoover for doing such fantastic job
Of writing a book that will Slam everyone of us in the face
Whether or not we wanted romance or we’re a fan of poetry

This book has taught me so many things I can’t list
This book has slammed me in the face
To give emphasis to life and never forget to laugh everyday

Love of Characters

Layken – she’s strong and so easy to love. She trusts easily but she also hurts easily because of the grief she’s faced since her father died. I can’t deny how much I cried when she flash backed on her conversation with her Dad and the magic hair clip. This taught me that even a single simple thing can make a difference and that we shouldn’t ignore this magic along the way.

Will – love, love him! I consider him my first ever book boyfriend (drools)! The character he portrayed is somewhat similar to Lake because he also faced a lot of loss in life. And falling in love with Lake has given him more challenge to make it work so I cannot put all the as$ he acted against him because I understood his situation.

Layken and Will – I love their romance! Period. They might have been conditional with a lot of things to make their priorities work but it’s still good that they ended up so well like a fairy tale.

Kel – oh my God, this kid is so intelligent! This young character is unbelievably a teacher of small things straight to the point to go with life and even go backwards to reminisce the happy moments and laugh again. Such a great sibling.

Caulden – just like Kel, that’s why they became best friends. I love these kids’ characters!

Eddie – another strong personality we got here from a girl. She’s a foster child but she’s gone through life like it’s always the easy route. Great friend and a great slammer (poet).

Eddie and Gavin – need I say more? They’re also my favorite couple because they love unconditionally! 😀

Julia (Lake’s mom) – she made me cry a lot but those were tears of joy and acceptance. This character is so strong as well despite the challenges she also has within herself. Such a great parent.

So whew, that’s quite a mouthful but I can’t really make my fingers stop from tapping the keyboard LOL. I enjoyed this so much despite the puffy eyes!

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Book Review: Play With Me by Piper Shelly

Play With Me (Grover Beach Team, #1) by Piper Shelly
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary Romance, Sports
Short reaction: Short and sweet novel but will give you giggles all over!
Rating: 5 out of 5

Synopsis

Ryan Hunter’s parties are legend. And tonight she’s going to be there.

Liza Matthews anticipates the return of her best friend and only love since kindergarten from soccer camp. But when Tony finally shows up, his mind is more focused on another girl. And worse, she’s a soccer player. Fighting for the attention Liza craves, she’s just a hairbreadth away from making a very stupid decision. But when extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures, she’s prepared to play ball to get her man.

The tryouts are hell, the first match ends bloody, and the morning after the selection party she wakes up in the worst place possible—in the arms of the captain of the soccer team. The hottest guy in school. Ryan Hunter.

My Review

Also seen on Goodreads.

Have you ever felt something giggly and like crazy to hug someone after reading a short book? That’s how I felt when I read this one! Not too cheesy, not too young yet not too bold. This just have the right type of sweetness and romance and a hint of a love triangle. Check this out: Oh my good Lord! It’s indeed short and sweet!

But even though it’s short, it didn’t give me the what-the-heck expression but the pacing just got so smooth I still devoured every moment of Liza Matthews with her gorgeous M&M pair and best friend Tony Mitchell or with the hot soccer team captain Ryan Hunter.

Liz is so lucky she has them both but the thought of falling for a best friend just – sucks sometimes (sigh). Too much torture on girls’ hearts! Yet I’m still thankful for Ms. Piper Shelly for coming up with this beautiful novel no doubt I can repeat over and over. Love love it! 🙂

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Book Review: The Lying Game by Sara Shepard

The Lying Game (The Lying Game, #1) by Sara Shepard
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery, Suspense
Short reaction: Full of lies and mysteries and miss popularity!
Rating: 4 out of 5

Synopsis

I had a life anyone would kill for.

Then someone did.

The worst part of being dead is that there’snothing left to live for. No more kisses. Nomore secrets. No more gossip. It’s enoughto kill a girl all over again. But I’m about toget something no one else does–an encoreperformance, thanks to Emma, the long-losttwin sister I never even got to meet.

Now Emma’s desperate to know whathappened to me. And the only way to figureit out is to be me–to slip into my old lifeand piece it all together. But can she laughat inside jokes with my best friends? Convincemy boyfriend she’s the girl he fell inlove with? Pretend to be a happy, carefreedaughter when she hugs my parents goodnight? And can she keep up the charade, even after she realizes my murderer iswatching her every move?

From Sara Shepard, the #1 New York Timesbestselling author of the Pretty Little Liars books, comes a riveting new series about secrets, lies, andkiller consequences.

Let the lying game begin.

My Review

Also seen on Goodreads.

I’ve been a fan of Pretty Little Liars TV series after Season 1 ended but I’ve never read its series yet. And then I’ve joined this challenge called Lost Souls in Never Too Old For YA Books and discovered The Lying Game. There are many rants that PLL is better than this series but I just don’t care and so I picked this one out! Here’s my say:

The First Lie
A secret boyfriend…
A stolen boyfriend…
A missing friend…
A silver locket…
A sisters’ quarrel…
A long-lost twin…
Someone’s death.

To lie and be lied (and bullied) is never fun so in short, this whole lying game where Sutton, Charlotte and Madeline is, is what makes them popular but hated and backstabbed in gossips all along wherever they go. Almost all the too weird, too beautiful, too handsome, too confident, too geeky, too sexy, too naughty, too quiet, too shy people have been pranked already and these girls won’t get tired of it because according to their L rules, each of them gains a point whenever they call a prank better than the other and that is of course, a prank should always be fun and fabulous. But then we meet Emma, Sutton’s long-lost identical twin who suddenly play Sutton’s role to break the mystery going on while Sutton’s gone.

“Sutton’s dead,” says the note and Emma has to play her role or else she’ll be dead too but you know what, I love Emma more than Sutton because she’s wiser and she knows how to play the right way. It’s been tough for her to be passed from one foster home to another after being left by her biological mother Becky but she’s got both soft and tough heart to let her fight back despite always imagining about her Mom Star, Dad Star, Emma Star and Boyfriend Star to come and meet her. 😥 It’s an advantage on the other hand to Emma because she’s stronger to face this challenge to try to find her twin and the murderer.

Love of Characters

Sutton – I feel sorry for her (I always do LOL). She’s popular but she’s also always the target for people to give her lesson. In this writing, Sutton is narrating the story while she watches Emma connect the dots. Everything is in Sutton’s POV and Emma’s been described in third person which is good. She’s practically a lost soul here and I find it funny when she tries to remember everything that happened when she’s still alive. I pity Sutton that in the past, she can’t leave her L group because she’s adopted and she has no friends but them since Laurel hated her for getting Thayer. If only she used her brain to decide to change and apologize to all the people they’ve pranked but it’s too late.

Ethan – I actually like this mysterious guy better than Garrett. He seems weird that he doesn’t talk much to people and mostly does things alone but maybe I really have a thing for mysterious guys because I love discovering what they’re into and in saying that, Ethan’s always been nice to Sutton even if he knows her stuff. He’s deep!

Garrett – This guy’s sweet and loving but if Thayer’s here, he’ll be the last one I’ll pick. However, Sutton loved him so much because she knew he’s kinda damaged from his past love life and I appreciate that. Good thing Emma didn’t surrender herself to him!

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Book Review: The Selection by Kiera Cass


The Selection (The Selection, #1) by Kiera Cass
Genres: Young Adult, Fairy Tales, Dystopia
Short reaction: Nice prince/princess tale in a monarchical dystopian setting
Rating: 5 out of 5

Synopsis

For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon.

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn’t want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.

Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she’s made for herself–and realizes that the life she’s always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.

My Review

Also seen on Goodreads.

Fairy tale in a dystopian setting? Here’s my reaction:

First off, thinking that this has a mix of fairy tale and dystopia is also what made the whole story interesting. Fairy tale that it gave me what I felt for most fairy tales finding their beloved princess or princess-to-be, marrying a handsome prince like Prince Maxon then ruling a kingdom this lady never thought she’ll ever be – and dystopia for living in a futuristic world of wars against the Northern and Southern rebels mostly from the lower castes who are hungry for wealth and survival. The dystopian world however hasn’t been explored much aside from the warring of the rebels in the palace since it’s focused on The Selection itself.

The Selection, as the title says, is about the grandest event in the kingdom of Illea (the new USA after the world wars) where the prince will choose among the 35 Selected his soon-to-be-wife-and-princess of Illea. These ladies go through stages of etiquette and historical classes with co-Selected ladies, public appearances and sweetest bonding with Prince Maxon to get to know him and prove to him that one of them is going to be a worthy princess to win his heart and support him in ruling the country.

Then as one of the Selected, we meet America Singer, our lady protagonist who’s a Five (next to average caste Four; Fives belong to people who work to entertain through music and art) is the Selected’s crowd favorite despite her stubbornness, mood swings and temper which made her way to the top and to Prince’s heart.

It’s great that I’ve also read The Prince before this that I’ve come to know Prince Maxon’s POV about The Selection, The Selected and how he felt about them especially America. It made me like him more when he stood by his decision as a man to accept her request despite the circumstances. In saying this, I knew The Selection won’t just be a simple choosing and survival of the most educated and beautiful but an almost real life heartwarming experience. 🙂

Love of Characters

Hot is the love triangle between Aspen (America’s ex boyfriend), Prince Maxon and America OF COURSE!

Aspen – the way he tucks America in to hug her tight, touch and kiss her makes me melt everytime he sneaks in their tree house. But the moment he neglected her by his pride as a Six turned me down. I know I should feel for him when he should be able to provide more for America than she did but still, I can’t stand how he hurt her when The Selection is only one sleep away.

America – I actually love her for having a free mind and speech and being herself all the time even if she could be careless. Women who actually do this reverse-psychology thing with guys when testing them are those more clever and entertaining (ahem, and because I do). From experience, it works majority of the time to know how true is a guy but of course, we won’t miss to be majorly nice. No doubt, it also made America one of the strongest links to stay longer in the palace.

Prince Maxon – I’m team Maxon all the way and it may already have sounded obvious right from the start but yes even if I know Aspen has got more leverage for knowing and loving America first (and I appreciate their love so much), Prince Maxon just upped my expectations by the way he patiently waits, the way he understands America, the way he cares. He may have limited experience on the real life outside, and how lower castes feel than Aspen but I just love the way he’s willing to learn things unselfishly and openly.

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