Friday, November 18, 2011

My video: Books outside the YA Genre

Hi all! Sorry for the lack of updates as I had to finish a battle with my 4000-word extended essay. But all is well, because it's DONE! I'm trying a hand with making videos about beloved books. Therefore below is my first ever video. Basically, these are some of the non-YA books that I have on my shelf. I'm starting to broaden my horizon with different genres and different types of stories, and it's so much fun. So, here ya go! 

Happy reading!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

New Releases for November 2011: Young Adult

Last Breath by Rachel Caine 

With her boss preoccupied researching the Founder Houses in Morganville, student Claire Danvers is left to her own devices when she learns that three vampires have vanished without a trace. She soon discovers that the last person seen with one of the missing vampires is someone new to town—a mysterious individual named Magnus. After an uneasy encounter with Morganville’s latest resident, Claire is certain Magnus isn’t merely human. But is he a vampire—or something else entirely.
Crossed by Ally Condie 

In search of a future that may not exist and faced with the decision of who to share it with, Cassia journeys to the Outer Provinces in pursuit of Ky - taken by the Society to his certain death - only to find that he has escaped, leaving a series of clues in his wake.

Cassia's quest leads her to question much of what she holds dear, even as she finds glimmers of a different life across the border. But as Cassia nears resolve and certainty about her future with Ky, an invitation for rebellion, an unexpected betrayal, and a surprise visit from Xander - who may hold the key to the uprising and, still, to Cassia's heart - change the game once again. Nothing is as expected on the edge of Society, where crosses and double crosses make the path more twisted than ever
Inheritance (#4) by Christopher Paolini
Not so very long ago, Eragon—Shadeslayer, Dragon Rider—was nothing more than a poor farm boy, and his dragon, Saphira, only a blue stone in the forest. Now the fate of an entire civilization rests on their shoulders.

Long months of training and battle have brought victories and hope, but they have also brought heartbreaking loss. And still, the real battle lies ahead: they must confront Galbatorix. When they do, they will have to be strong enough to defeat him. And if they cannot, no one can. There will be no second chances.

The Rider and his dragon have come further than anyone dared to hope. But can they topple the evil king and restore justice to Alagaƫsia? And if so, at what cost?

This is the much-anticipated, astonishing conclusion to the worldwide bestselling Inheritance cycle
Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi 

Juliette hasn't touched anyone in exactly 264 days.

The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette's touch is fatal. As long as she doesn't hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don't fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.

The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war-- and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she's exactly what they need right now.
Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior.

In this electrifying debut, Tahereh Mafi presents a world as riveting asThe Hunger Games and a superhero story as thrilling as The X-Men. Full of pulse-pounding romance, intoxicating villainy, and high-stakes choices,Shatter Me is a fresh and original dystopian novel—with a paranormal twist—that will leave readers anxiously awaiting its sequel.

The Pledge by Kimberly Derting 

In the violent country of Ludania, the classes are strictly divided by the language they speak. The smallest transgression, like looking a member of a higher class in the eye while they are speaking their native tongue, results in immediate execution. Seventeen-year-old Charlaina has always been able to understand the languages of all classes, and she's spent her life trying to hide her secret. The only place she can really be free is the drug-fueled underground clubs where people go to shake off the oppressive rules of the world they live in. It's there that she meets a beautiful and mysterious boy named Max who speaks a language she's never heard before . . . and her secret is almost exposed. 

Charlie is intensely attracted to Max, even though she can't be sure where his real loyalties lie. As the emergency drills give way to real crisis and the violence escalates, it becomes clear that Charlie is the key to something much bigger: her country's only chance for freedom from the terrible power of a deadly regime. 

Forever by Maggie Stiefvater

Published: July 12th, 2011
Pages: Paperback, 489
Age Group: Young Adult 
Publisher: Scholastic Press
My Rating: 5/5

My personal soundtrack for this book: "Re: Stacks" by Bon Iver

The thrilling conclusion to #1 bestselling Shiver trilogy from Maggie Stievater

In Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver, Grace and Sam found each other. In Linger, they fought to be together. Now, in Forever, the stakes are even higher than before. Wolves are being hunted. Lives are being threatened. And love is harder and harder to hold on to as death comes closing in.

Amazing, amazing, amazing. I finished this book minutes ago, so I thought I'd write a review now when my emotions about it are still reasonably present. It feels so bittersweet to say goodbye to Mercy Falls and the amazing people (and wolves) in it. It really felt like I just gone through everything with them, and honestly, they'll always have a place in this heart of mine. I laughed with them, I felt their pain, I could relate to some of them, I worry about them as I read.  
Something has happened to Grace (and I think we all pretty much know what it is), and she tries to return to Sam and together with Isabel and Cole, they set off to face things that sure requires a lot of heart and head to deal with. 
The emotional depth that resides within Maggie's beautiful prose made my heart ache, and tiny tears bubbled up in my eyes. And seriously, that is something that doesn't happen quite a lot. There are more serious stuff in this final book. Wolves are being hunted, and that brings a lot to the table for these characters. Watching them turn from just simple characters in a book, to finding their true selves in the end, I cherished them even more. I so badly want to tell you what each of them found within themselves but I'm afraid you're just going to have to read on. I wanted to know what was going to happen to the characters, I think that was my basic instinct with Forever, I wanted, and wanted, and wanted. 
I saw the risks that were taken, I saw the glimmer of determination within Cole and his quest to explore the nature of shifting, I saw Isabel's wings spread as she opens herself up to the light. I saw the inner strength and vulnerability that is Sam and the courage that is Grace. I truly admire their growth as characters, and how they faced their inner battles. With a lot of things at stake within the story, I truly have nothing but praise, and in the end, I came to love all of the characters equally. And Grace and Sam's bond remains as ageless and beautiful as ever without forgetting to be realistic, and I truly admire that. So enduring, forgiving and strong. 
The ending to me was, well, I truly wouldn't want to have it another way. It will leave readers the lingering wonder of the future of these characters and sort of put their own conclusions and maybe learn a few lessons. Maggie Stiefvater has left a window open to leave the characters' future within the comfort of our imaginations. The story flowed in a comfortable pace, even though the first few 100 pages took quite a while for me to get through. All three of Maggie Stiefvater's books, what they all mean to me, I couldn't even put it into adequate words. Saying goodbye to the series feels like saying farewell to an old friend, hoping someday we could reconnect. This book made me realize that there is courage and strength, love and forgiveness just stirring and brewing inside of us and there's no need to fear them. Those are the things that we will hold on through the laughs and storms.  This book taught me to see beauty in the simplest things and see them in a different light. It taught me to be grateful

Thank you Maggie Stiefvater, thank you. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Looking For Alaska by John Green

Published: March 3rd, 2005
Pages: 221
Age Group: Young Adult Contemporary 
Publisher: Puffin
My Rating: 4.8/5

Miles Halter is fascinated by famous last words and tired of his safe life at home. He leaves for boarding school to seek what the dying poet Francois Rabelais called the "Great Perhaps." Much awaits Miles at Culver Creek, including Alaska Young. Clever, funny, screwed-up, and dead sexy, Alaska will pull Miles into her labyrinth and catapult him into the Great Perhaps.

Looking for Alaska brilliantly chronicles the indelible impact one life can have on another. A stunning debut, it marks John Green's arrival as an important new voice in contemporary fiction. 

This book is a masterpiece. My first John Green book ever, and his writingliv blew me away. The emotions that were just pouring from this book touched every nook and cranny of my heart. It's basically about Miles or Pudge as he's called by his friend, who's one awesomely awkward and smart boy, chicken-legs skinny and a budding idealist living a new life in boarding school. He is a very interesting character with an obsession with people's last words in which he believes, tells a lot about a person and he's on a journey to find the grandest "perhaps" of his life. He's basically trying to find out what life is all about, what is the best way to go about being a person, why do we have to go through suffering and how do we escape it (the Labyrinth). 

Therefore, he meets his new friends, and we have the boisterous Chip "The Colonel" Martin who's basically a walking atlas (like seriously :P), Takumi the japanese tech-whiz, Lara, and then of course, Alaska. She's someone who's completely opposite of Miles. She's an intelligent, quick-worded and sexy character with a tender spot for reading, the enigmatic leader of the gang. Quite an amount of the book were about the mischief of these characters in Culver Creek boarding school, which consisted of curfew breaking nights, smoking cigarettes, rigorous pre-calc studies, eating junkfood and maintaining a steady level of drunkenness of strawberry wine. John Green amazes me with the consistency and spontaneity of telling the story and I could see that he took a lot of time to create these characters. 

Now with Alaska, John has completely showered her with perplexing mystery that even her closest friends couldn't fully comprehend. I couldn't stop turning the pages and the relationship that developed between Miles and Alaska was completely fascinating to read about. Her and her friends have thrown Miles into a life full of real pain and pleasure, all that he had lacked before he moved to boarding school. Miles' prose was impressively philosophical, deep and meaningful that it was hard to believe sometimes that he's sixteen years old. John Green also did a very impressive job in making Alaska an enigma until the end of the story, it felt like the search for her and why she did what she did was still on, and will always continue. I love when books just leave you wondering long after you have read it. The end of the book truly made me shiver with the beautiful prose that John has engraved within the pages. 

Looking For Alaska made me realize how important friends are in our lives. I'm in my last year of highschool right now in Indonesia, and before this, I have moved around a lot that saying goodbye was easy. But now, I feel so lucky to have found something that will make it so much harder to say. Friends may come and go, but there will be certain moments, and certain people that we will keep close to our hearts. In the end, we would always be reminded of the lessons they have brought to our lives, lessons that will help us continue on that journey. 

I will forever praise this amazing book, with John Green's beautiful narrative, haunting with self-deprecating humor and heart. This book is about being vulnerable, the struggle of fitting in, finding your place under the sun to face the world with only a few decades of existence in this world. Thank you for this book, John. 

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Published date: December 2nd, 2011
Pages: Hardcover, 372 pages 
Age Group: Young Adult 
Publisher: Dutton 
My Rating: 5/5! 

Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris - until she meets Etienne St. Clair: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he's taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home.

As winter melts into spring, will a year of romantic near - misses end with the French kiss Anna - and readers - have long awaited?

I finished this book in just a day, because I practically fell in love with the story! It's basically about Anna, who has to go to Paris for boarding school, I mean what girl wouldn't squeal at that opportunity? Despite Anna's doubt about it in the first place during the beginning of the story, haha. And I knew about the crazy hype that was surrounded in this book, but I told myself to just get into the story on my own terms. Boy, I never expected this book to be the addictive one. 

Descriptions of the Paris setting were simply divine. From the eloquent architecture that surrounds her, the weather, the park, the people, the awesomeness that is School of America, and the Shakespeare & Co. bookstore in which I have been dying to go to. It took a while for Anna to get used to Paris, but eventually she warmed up to it. Characterization was also done beautifully. Anna is a very relatable 17 year old girl, along with her movie obsessions and neurotic tendencies. Her love interest in this book, Etienne St. Clair, the beautiful and yet taken Parisian boy is a perfect addition to her character. He's funny, charming, and troubled at the same time, and you can't help but feel excited to get to know him as you read. But besides him and Anna, her newfound friends are just as well-written that I really feel connected to them, I truly had a blast.  

One of the things I didn't expect, was just how honest and true St. Clair and Anna's growing relationship in this book. It wasn't the kind of romance where their relationship instantly happens. It tugged at my heart, and Stephanie was aware of circumstances in life that could happen when we're just getting to know someone. It wasn't a relationship where she falls in love with him at first sight, it was delightful and gradual. Stephanie did a beautiful job in making me squeal at Anna and St. Clair's budding relationship. Whenever the two of them are together, it's simply magic, even through the humorous tension, they have fun and meaningful conversations as they stroll through Paris and old movie theaters. Yet, besides the swoon-worthy moments, there are definitely the awkward moments, the insecurities they both face, especially Anna, scared of admitting her feelings that could ruin their bond. 

Therefore, Anna and the French Kiss was a very enjoyable and balanced book. I would read this book again if I could someday, just to relive the experience once more. It left a feeling of contentment in my heart, and that pleasant exhaustion after reading a really great book, and I could relate to Anna in some aspects. It's a great romance story for young adults without being too superficial. And this book made me realize that we should not be so afraid in opening up to others, we may just surprise ourselves. It's really amazing and fun to watch Anna transform and follow her heart in this book. I'm looking forward to reading more of Stephanie Perkins' work. Love love love. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Forsaken: The Demon Trappers by Jana Oliver

Published Date: February 7th, 2011
Pages: UK Edition, 448 pages
Age Group: Young Adult
Publisher: MacMillan Children's Books
My rating: 4.7/5

It’s the year 2018, and with human society seriously disrupted by the economic upheavals of the previous decade, Lucifer has increased the number of demons in all major cities. Atlanta is no exception. Fortunately, humans are protected by Demon Trappers, who work to keep homes and streets safe from the things that go bump in the night. Seventeen-year-old Riley, only daughter of legendary Demon Trapper Paul Blackthorne, has always dreamed of following in her father’s footsteps. When she’s not keeping up with her homework or trying to manage her growing attraction to fellow Trapper apprentice, Simon, Riley’s out saving citizens from Grade One Hellspawn. Business as usual, really, for a demon-trapping teen. When a Grade Five Geo-Fiend crashes Riley’s routine assignment at a library, jeopardizing her life and her chosen livelihood, she realizes that she’s caught in the middle of a battle between Heaven and Hell.

I'm basically just going to ramble about just how AMAZING this book is, so bear with me! :P I finished this book in just one day. I totally love the world Jana Oliver has created, and I never regretted picking this book up. It is told in dual narratives between Riley and Beck, her smart-talking and yet damaged friend who is a twenty-year-old trapper apprentice of her father's. And once again I am very impressed with the narration and the characterization of the characters. 

The demon trapping business, is a man's business in this book. And with Riley's father being the top dog in the business, she definitely wants to make a name for herself, while still respecting him. But if you think that was easy for her, it sure wasn't. There is a certain grittiness to this book, especially with all the supernatural and paranormal elements going around. Forsaken has got everything from demons (of course), vampires, ghosts, angels, necromancers and even zombies. But Jana had a way of introducing that world to us with a kick-ass subtlety. 

Riley is a strong character, it was very enjoyable to watch her develop throughout the  book, taking care of herself to make her way through the demons. She stands her ground, even against the seemingly dominant male power in the demon trapping business. And yet, Jana Oliver maintains her character because Riley is vulnerable at the same time, she isn't perfect. She is constantly tested and she makes mistakes. But I love what it took for her to fight back through her imperfections, that made her believable to me. And Beck is a truly fun and fascinating character to get to know. Through his sharp words, I could still see that he's a very loyal, funny and protective character....and, also an eventual guardian for Riley, even though she thinks he's a jerk sometimes. But THAT's what made him believable to me too. He's been through a whole lot more struggles with his time as a demon trapper, and that's what makes him who he is. Another beautifully damaged character once again. 

The relationships in this book, the dedication of introducing the paranormal elements, brought this story alive in my head. This imaginative and creative story is leaving me itching to get the next book! I can't wait to see what Jana Oliver has in store for all of us. 

Across The Universe by Beth Revis

Published Date: January 11th, 2011
Pages: Hardcover, 398 pages 
Age Group: Young Adult 
Publisher: Razorbill 
My rating: 4.1/5

Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.

Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone - one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship - tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next.

Now, Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming. 

With these words, the story of Across The Universe begins, we are taken to a whole new world, and I don’t mean this literary, I mean it in the sense of what makes a world to all of us, it being our family, friends, or the four walls keeping us safe that we call home. Across The Universe is by far one of the best sci-fi novel I have read, and in all the imaginary world, a story never felt so real, in all of the impossible, I had never seen such possibilities, and in all the secrets and lies, there had never been so much truth. I’ll start the Review:

When I got my hands on Across The Universe, I was eager to start, wondering where Beth Revis would take us, what would she show us, and whom would she allow us to meet. I’ll admit, the first 100 pages or so, where kind off slow. In this pages she introduces us to the characters and the situation, but what did kept me captivated, was the wonderful world she created, inside metal walls. The way Beth Revis describes Godspeed, was rich, enjoyable, and didn’t seemed forced at all.

In the next hundred pages (200-300) the story starts to build up, you have a more clear vision of everyone, you become suspicious, wary of everyone around you, and you start to see the truth –or at least you think you do. Believe me, you’ll never guess. And as for the last hundred pages. . . I finished in two hours, not one second, did I kept my eyes away from the pages. I was always guessing, sure I had everything solved, that I knew the truth, and every time something happened, I would look at another character with accusatory eyes and point at him as the one to blame. A few more pages, and I had another one to blame, and I would have sworn each time, that I had it right. It wasn’t until the very last pages that I saw, really saw. And Oh. My. God. I’m still speechless, my fingers fly on their own over my keyboard, searching for the appropriate words to describe it, to describe everything. I can’t. You just have to read it and see by yourselves.

The Characters: I had never sympathized with a character as much as I did with Amy and Elder. Amy was just. . . real, you know? She always saw the truth, and fought to have it, to discover it, and to share it. I’ve read a lot of books with characters like Amy, that fight for what they believe in and will do anything, at any cost to make things good, right. But they are never real. Amy was real. She was scared as hell, and still fought, she had been hurt unimaginably, and she still fought, and I really wish to one to stand in a situation like Amy, where being selfish, is easier than being good. But by doing so, you destroy the dreams of the people you most love. And Elder, future leader of the ship, who wants to do the right thing just as much as Amy, but, like any human being, quivers and doubts about his decisions. What if? He felt the temptation to quit and leave things as they were, to continue with a lifestyle he had always known, and to keep secrets, if only because its safer. But, like Amy, he discovers that the truth must be told, or at least a good part of it, no matter how hard It is, or if it means losing someone you loved. And both get into a journey where they slowly start to discover, what the truth is, and not just facts, but the meaning behind the word. Truth.

Across The Universe kept me on the edge of my seat. Wondering, heart beating, and breathless, and touched points of deep importance, that we need to keep always in our heads. Maybe I seem exaggerated, maybe a lot of you didn’t or won’t feel the same as me. But I’ll tell you this, I’d give anything, to go back just a few minutes in the past, and read the last pages again, and feel the awe I felt, and for me, that's enough.

It blew away all my expectations. A story of love, murder-mystery, unimaginable dangers, deep secrets, and breathtaking truths, Across The Universe is a must read, and must be in every bookshelf.

And the thing that rings in my head right now?. . . nothings gonna change my world. . .

Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

Published Date: July 13th 2010
Pages: 360, Paperback
Age Group: Young Adult 
Publisher: Scholastic Press
My Rating: 4.9/5

In Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver, Grace and Sam found each other.  Now, inLinger, they must fight to be together. For Grace, this means defying her parents and keeping a very dangerous secret about her own well-being. For Sam, this means grappling with his werewolf past . . . and figuring out a way to survive into the future.

At turns harrowing and euphoric, Linger is a spellbinding love story that explores both sides of love -- the light and the dark, the warm and the cold -- in a way you will never forget.

I read this in just a few days, and Maggie Stiefvater continues to amaze me with her poetic writing. This book adds another character into the beautiful narrative, and he is Cole. One of the main things I look for in a book is characterization, and Maggie nailed it with Linger! There were so many external and internal conflicts between these characters. Sam and Grace deals with the continuation of their relationship, especially under her parents' watchful eyes. Sam struggles with his identity and the responsibility of being Beck's substitute. Isabel continues to be the sassy, bossy and broken girl. And Cole, well, you'll just have to figure out this damaged and beautiful boy for yourselves. He was such a great addition to mix with Isabel's character. With the tender tones of Grace and Sam's perspectives in the book, it was somehow refreshing to get into Isabel and Cole's interactions which are more humorous and heartbreaking at the same time. (I hope that made sense :P)

Maggie added more scientific aspects in the book to explain how the human-to-wolf transitions work, and to me, that was really beneficial to the story. With the addition of Cole in the book, it helped me understand why some enjoy being a wolf and why some simply doesn't. I could understand that certain joy some people are seeking to live a better life, to start all over when their previous life just wasn't worth living any more. 

I loved the pure dedication that Maggie has put into Linger. The lyrics Sam writes in his head, the songs, the description of Mercy Falls, and many more. One fun thing I'd like to point out is that Sam loves the Austrian poet, Rainer Maria Rilke. And in amazing coincidence, I love him too! I loved how she is able to fit excerpts of his poems into Sam's narrative. Talking about narratives, I loved the way the story is structured. I sympathized with the characters, it felt like I really knew them. These characters are flawed, but the way Maggie handled the story makes them beautifully flawed to me, and that also brings an amount of believability. 

This book taught me that sometimes it's okay not to be okay, it's okay to be vulnerable. But we should always remind ourselves, it makes us even stronger. I'm currently reading the last book, Forever. And I'm just so excited to see what unfolds, I can't wait to see how these characters develop. They are truly making their way into my heart. 
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