25 September 2013

Review: All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill

Release Date: September 3rd, 2013
368 pages
Disney Hyperion

"You have to kill him." Imprisoned in the heart of a secret military base, Em has nothing except the voice of the boy in the cell next door and the list of instructions she finds taped inside the drain.

Only Em can complete the final instruction. She’s tried everything to prevent the creation of a time machine that will tear the world apart. She holds the proof: a list she has never seen before, written in her own hand. Each failed attempt in the past has led her to the same terrible present—imprisoned and tortured by a sadistic man called the doctor while war rages outside. 

Marina has loved her best friend James since the day he moved next door when they were children. A gorgeous, introverted science prodigy from one of America’s most famous families, James finally seems to be seeing Marina in a new way, too. But on one disastrous night, James’s life crumbles apart, and with it, Marina’s hopes for their future. Now someone is trying to kill him. Marina will protect James, no matter what. Even if it means opening her eyes to a truth so terrible that she may not survive it. At least not as the girl she once was. 

All Our Yesterdays is a wrenching, brilliantly plotted story of fierce love, unthinkable sacrifice, and the infinite implications of our every choice.

Like any other time travel novel, All Our Yesterday has those moments in which you have to stop and think about what you've read to make sense of it all (they are not so many, fear not!). However what distinguishes All Our Yesterday from other time travel novels, is that:
- The plot is mindblowing;
- The characters are realistic and ever changing; you can easily differentiate the past Em from her future self;
- There are many twists and turns and guess what, they weren't always that easy to predict
- The ending was bittersweet but fitting

So you see, there is close to nothing for me to criticize in this novel. Maybe I can say that the author wrote a novel so perfect (I could imagine Cristin Terrill sitting and writing this novel especially for me...) that I would leave it that. Therefore I was a bit surprised when I found out that there is to be a sequel! All Our Yesterdays could be the perfect standalone, leaving readers to fantasize about the future of the characters, however I'm equally intrigued and excited to see what the author is planning on doing next!  

I was pulled into this novel from the first chapter and I couldn't put it down, for even a second. I loved that we got to read both Em's past and future points of view leading to the mindblowing ending. Furthermore the characters were easy to discern. Past Em sucked, Future Em was awesome; to better understand why the characters change so much, the author gives the story away slowly (the past and the future chapters intercalate and we understand better what not only led the characters to the decision to go back to that exact moment in their past, but also why that moment changed Finn, Em and James so much). 

The romance was also a bit surprising. I was expecting one thing and then, something else happened in that department. The romance was so bittersweet but really lovely. There are so many life and love lessons in this novel. Sometimes we have a crush on someone who doesn't deserve it; sometimes there is someone who likes us and we don't open our eyes enough to see it; sometimes love is something that comes after experiencing something and holding on together...but not only that, but if you could go back to the past, what would you say to yourself? Could you hurt someone for the sake of the whole future? I honestly wouldn't know what I would do in Em's and Finn's shoes.

All Our Yesterdays was a surprisingly un-freaking-believably good read! I wasn't expecting to like it THIS much. It has certainly made into my "best of 2013" list. As said, I'm a bit afraid of the sequel, since I enjoyed this one so much and don't want it to be one of those superfluous sequels, nevertheless I'm getting my hands on it! I loved the characters, I loved the story, I loved the setting...yes, I'm completely blown away by it and I'm certain you will be too!

21 September 2013

ARC Review: Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis

Release Date: September 24th, 2013
320 pages
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

Regret was for people with nothing to defend, people who had no water. 

Lynn knows every threat to her pond: drought, a snowless winter, coyotes, and, most importantly, people looking for a drink. She makes sure anyone who comes near the pond leaves thirsty, or doesn't leave at all.
Confident in her own abilities, Lynn has no use for the world beyond the nearby fields and forest. Having a life means dedicating it to survival, and the constant work of gathering wood and water. Having a pond requires the fortitude to protect it, something Mother taught her well during their quiet hours on the rooftop, rifles in hand.
But wisps of smoke on the horizon mean one thing: strangers. The mysterious footprints by the pond, nighttime threats, and gunshots make it all too clear Lynn has exactly what they want, and they won’t stop until they get it….
With evocative, spare language and incredible drama, danger, and romance, debut author Mindy McGinnis depicts one girl’s journey in a barren world not so different than our own.

I was so thrilled to receive a copy of this highly anticipated novel. While I was definitely not disappointed by it, I can't really say it lived up to the whole hype revolving around it. What bothered me most was the pace, however I can understand the slow pace of the novel, since the theme of this novel is rather serious. With an interesting concept, McGinnis shows us a possible (and maybe even probable) future if we don't start treasuring one of the things that we can't live without: water. 

If you don't like slow beginnings,  Not a Drop to Drink may be a bad choice for you (and me). Yet I was glad I persisted because towards the end, I had difficulty putting this one down. I was surprised by the author's realistic way of writing. She certainly doesn't go easy on us and her characters! But that was the thing that I enjoyed the most. That not everything is flowers and sunshine, that the world is harsh and because of it there are difficult decisions to be made that not always end well. This world is certainly terrifying...and I hope we never have to live in it.

Lynn is in the beginning a rather protected and distant character emotionally wise, by the end of the novel she is like a different person.  It was so great to see how her character develops throughout the novel, even more after the addition of Eli in her life (a character who is her complete opposite). Unfortunately I didn't feel any kind of connection with the characters. Sometimes I felt like the author could have gone deeper, not only in the characters' personalities, but also in the world-building. I would have liked to know more about the city life, about Stebbs and even more about Eli. 

There were many things to like and to hate about Not a Drop to Drink. The writing, the realism, the attention to detail and character development were certainly good aspects of the novel. Some things were maybe superfluous (like the romance) or even completely left out (why mention the city if we don't get to read more about it?). Nevertheless I can't say I didn't enjoy it. Even though it is a rather sad dystopian novel, if you are into this genre, I think you may like this novel!

Thanks to Katherine Tegen Books for providing me with a copy of the novel for review!

09 September 2013

ARC Review: The Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White

Release Date: September 10th, 2013
288 pages
Publisher: HarperTeen

Isadora’s family is seriously screwed up.

Of course, as the human daughter of Egyptian gods, that pretty much comes with the territory. She’s also stuck with parents who barely notice her, and a house full of relatives who can’t be bothered to remember her name. After all, they are going to be around forever—and she’s a mere mortal.

Isadora’s sick of living a life where she’s only worthy of a passing glance, and when she has the chance to move to San Diego with her brother, she jumps on it. But Isadora’s quickly finding that a “normal” life comes with plenty of its own epic complications—and that there’s no such thing as a clean break when it comes to family. Much as she wants to leave her past behind, she can’t shake the ominous dreams that foretell destruction for her entire family. When it turns out there may be truth in her nightmares, Isadora has to decide whether she can abandon her divine heritage after all.

Mythology is something that always gets my attention in the young adult genre, so this one was a must-read for me, and I was even happier when I got my hands on an ARC. The Chaos of Stars was an interesting read, because even though I loved the author's idea, in my opinion the plot could have been better executed. Nevertheless I would certainly buy a copy of it if I saw it in a bookstore; the cover is stunning!

To understand why the plot was the main attraction and yet also a disappointment, I have to give away a minor spoiler...(so I advise you to skip this part if you'd rather not know it!) Not only do we get to read about Egyptian mythology, some Greek gods show up as well! However I was expecting more interaction between both cultures and see how that played out. Unfortunately I felt like this addition of the Greek mythology was just a minor detail. Nonetheless I was impressed with the idea and also very entertained throughout the novel (despite the rather slow beginning).

Isadora was a bit annoying, to be completely honest. I understand her reasons for hating love (ok, maybe I don't! Who doesn't like to love and be loved? Anyway..) but she goes too far with it. Ry is just the perfect guy and she kept turning him down with not enough reason to do so. I probably liked the side characters more than the main character herself. Ry was a dreamy love interest and totally not the badboy type. If you are into guys that like their poetry, Ry is the YA boy for you!

I love Kiersten White's writing and I'm certainly picking up anything this author writes next. I really enjoyed this novel, don't get me wrong, I just think that it didn't reach its full potential. It does make a great reading, though. So pick up this novel tomorrow in the nearest bookstore! If you are a mythology freak like me, I'm certain you will enjoy it!

Huge thanks to HarperTeen and Edelweiss for providing me with a copy in exchange of an honest review!

07 September 2013

Review: The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

Release Date: May 14th, 2013
Hardcover: 488 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins

“The first kidnappings happened two hundred years before. Some years it was two boys taken, some years two girls, sometimes one of each. But if at first the choices seemed random, soon the pattern became clear. One was always beautiful and good, the child every parent wanted as their own. The other was homely and odd, an outcast from birth. An opposing pair, plucked from youth and spirited away.”

This year, best friends Sophie and Agatha are about to discover where all the lost children go: the fabled School for Good & Evil, where ordinary boys and girls are trained to be fairy tale heroes and villains. As the most beautiful girl in Gavaldon, Sophie has dreamed of being kidnapped into an enchanted world her whole life. With her pink dresses, glass slippers, and devotion to good deeds, she knows she’ll earn top marks at the School for Good and graduate a storybook princess. Meanwhile Agatha, with her shapeless black frocks, wicked pet cat, and dislike of nearly everyone, seems a natural fit for the School for Evil.

But when the two girls are swept into the Endless Woods, they find their fortunes reversed—Sophie’s dumped in the School for Evil to take Uglification, Death Curses, and Henchmen Training, while Agatha finds herself in the School For Good, thrust amongst handsome princes and fair maidens for classes in Princess Etiquette and Animal Communication.. But what if the mistake is actually the first clue to discovering who Sophie and Agatha really are…?

I love fairy tales, and that's certainly doesn't come as a surprise for readers of my blog. I've certainly read and reviewed many books in this genre. But what makes School of Good and Evil special? In Chainani's novel, we get to see the makings of a fairy tale story. How does one become a princess or a prince or even a villain? And who chooses the perfect princess for a certain story? Such questions are answered when two very different girls end up at the School of Good and Evil and show that not everything in a fairy tale is completely black and white.

What I loved most about this novel was that everything was upside down. Sophie was princess material on the outside, yet Agatha was regardless of her looks a princess through and through. Agatha is an easy-to-love character; she is forgiving and faithful to her friend Sophie, even though Sophie ends up being the villain, no one expected her to become in the beginning. However not everything is black and white, Agatha also has some evil moments and Sophie tries to become a better person, not with much success. Furthermore, the character development (foremost in Sophie's case) was off-the-charts. They struggle with the roles they were given and it was interesting to see how things turned out.

The story is original and has a nice pace to it. I think, the romance was handled really well. In the beginning we only see the prince as a hottie that Sophie has obviously fallen for, regardless of his personality. But as the book unfolds, we learn to like his character and see that he is not completely Good, as well. The Prince is a jerk sometimes and doesn't trust his heart when it involves Agatha but in the end, I was a completely fan of their romance! And I really enjoyed the addition of the Storyteller's storyline and the answer to why Good has been winning against Evil for so long. 

Chainani's novel was one of the first fairy tale novels that got me to question: what is Good and what is Evil? Agatha may not look like a princess but she acts like one while Sophie tries to be good in the beginning but for the wrong reasons, and ends up being a complete villain. It's an interesting theme to think about and the author also successfully convenes the message that looks really are not everything and that actions show a lot more about one's personally. I can't wait to read the next installment and even watch the movie for this novel, since the rights for it have been bought! 

Huge thanks to Harper Collins UK for providing me with a copy for review!