Book Review #77: Stargazing for Beginners by Jenny McLachlan (Advance Reader Copy from Bloomsbury Publishing)

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“When a huge star dies, there is a massive explosion, a supernova, and later, all that’s left is a dark, dense black hole where no light can get in or out. From brilliant lightness to total darkness.”

Title: Stargazing for Beginners
Author: Jenny McLachlan
ISBN: 9781408879757
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Format: Paperback
Date Published: April 06, 2017
Publishing House: Bloomsbury Publishing
Goodreads Rating: 4.14
Personal Rating: 4/5 

Synopsis [Goodreads]

Science geek Meg is left to look after her little sister for ten days after her free-spirited mom leaves suddenly to follow up yet another of her Big Important Causes. But while Meg may understand how the universe was formed, baby Elsa is a complete mystery to her.

And Mom’s disappearance has come at the worst time: Meg is desperate to win a competition to get the chance to visit NASA headquarters, but to do this she has to beat a close rival, Ed. Can Meg pull off this double life of caring for Elsa and following her own dreams? She’ll need a miracle of cosmic proportions…

Fans fell in love with the warmth, wit, romance and fierce friendships in Flirty Dancing, Love Bomb, Sun kissed and Star Struck, and Stargazing for Beginners has all that and galaxies more. This is the best kind of real-life fiction – with big themes and irresistible characters; it goes straight to your heart.

My Personal Thoughts

Alright, so I find this book cute, nerdy and totally awesome! I received my copy from Bloomsbury Publishing Australia along with other three newly released young adult contemporary novels. Frankly, young adult contemporary is not my thing, but since different publishing companies are sending me books with this type of genre lately, I am becoming more and more inclined to it. And I actually find myself liking it. I can’t believe that simple stuff and stories like this one can still make me feel giddy and excited. The story is simple, there’s really nothing unusual in all honesty, but I find myself enjoying it as the story progresses! It is highly entertaining because of the female character, Meg Clark is a certified Science geek and a smarty-pants. I even learned a lot from her and took down some notes. She is so obsessed with the galaxy and she was able to make me reminisce some of the stuff that I’ve already forgotten since my elementary days, and God knows how long it has been since. Let’s talk about Meg’s prince charming, Ed King, I like Ed! I love the idea that despite being an athlete and a heartthrob, he also happens to be Meg’s fellow Science geek and it’s just so cute that Meg and Ed are the contenders in class ever since. I know it may sound cliché but things like this still make me swoon so badly. I can relate to Meg’s character because obviously, she is an introvert but not until the Biscuit Club was founded (you have to read it to find out more). Her mother is a selfish and self-centered woman and I just hate the idea that she left Meg and her little sister alone with just the grandfather to look after them, and apparently, their grandfather is already showing signs of irresponsibility and dementia. So, yes, for me Meg’s mother is the antagonist-ish here. But I am so impressed with how the character handled all the chaos that she was put into and how all these stuff made her a better person. Furthermore, the friendships formed here are just too beautiful; you can see the transformation of each character from being mean and selfish to selfless and loyal. I also like the author’s writing style, it was a fast-read and even though that the story is predictable I still manage to enjoy and appreciate it so much. I highly recommend this for young adult readers. I gave it a four out of five rating and I was hoping for a sequel because I can’t get enough of Ed and Meg’s story. Lastly, I want to commend the cover! It is undeniably gorgeous and elegant! It is very enticing because purple and gold are always good together. Hope I was able to help you with my insight and thanks for reading my review, until the next book talk.

~JaNnA

Book Review #72: Berlin Syndrome by Melanie Joosten (Advance Reader Copy from Scribe Publications)

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Title: Berlin Syndrome
Author: Melanie Joosten
Pages: 256
Genre: Mystery, Psychological Thriller
Format: Paperback, Film Tie-In edition
Date Published: January 12, 2017
Publishing House: Scribe Publications
Goodreads Rating: 3.42
Personal Rating: 4/5
Synopsis
2006, Berlin. The once-divided city still holds its share of secrets.

One afternoon, near the tourist trap of Checkpoint Charlie, Clare meets Andi. He’s a native Berliner and English teacher; she’s an architectural photographer who has taken leave from her job in Australia to travel through Eastern Europe. There is an instant attraction, and when Andi invites her to stay, Clare thinks she may finally have found somewhere to call home.

But as the days pass and the walls of Andi’s apartment close in, Clare begins to wonder if it’s really love that Andi is after … or something more sinister.

This closely observed and gripping psychological thriller shifts between Andi’s and Clare’s perspectives, revealing the power of obsession, the fluidity of truth, and the kaleidoscopic nature of human relationships. Berlin Syndrome is a startling debut from a talented new writer. [Goodreads]

My Personal Thoughts

WHOA! This story made me cringe a couple of times!I’ve heard and read mixed reviews about it especially from people who compared the story with the movie adaptation last February 2017. They said that the movie was boring, some said it was intense and gripping, while a majority said it was different from the book. I have no idea, honestly, I requested for a copy because of its synopsis. It is so intriguing, I remembered the time when I finished reading Stolen by Lucy Christopher. It was kind of similar to this story because both have victims slash prisoners and they both sort of fell in love with their captor although in this story the prisoner is also messed up and a little fucked up. This was so INTENSE. I must admit that there were moments of boredom but as the story progresses, the author made me like the flow even more! I thought it will just be another case of stockholm syndrome where the victim felt attached to the captor. I was wrong, the main character named Clare is also twisted and sick. She is as crazy as the antagonist and it made the story way better compared to previous novels published with the same plot twist. I admire the author for creating a masterpiece that talked about the effect when someone leaves a person during his vulnerable age  and what might happen to his interaction with other people and his way of life as well. I was in deep awe because the female character became accustomed to being trapped in an apartment far away from anyone who can hear or notice her absence. The male antagonist on the other hand is just so freaking crazy but every move and decision that he made sort of convinced me that he was doing the right thing. I can’t believe that I even felt sorry for him.  Frankly, the cover is not stunning because it is a movie tie-in edition and it looks boring. Probably I will give the movie a chance and find it out for myself how it goes.

Overall, the story is a must read for readers who enjoy dark and twisted stories. I liked it! It may be slow-paced during the first part but it definitely caught my interest! Kudos! I am giving it a four out of five for a beautiful setting (Berlin), for messy characters, for an impressive writing style, and for mind-boggling life lessons that it wants to convey to its readers. I really do appreciate novels like this one and I am definitely recommending it.

~JaNnA

Book Review #67: October is the Coldest Month by Christoffer Carlsson (Advance Reader Copy from Scribe Publications)

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Title: October is the Coldest Month
Author: Christoffer Carlsson
Pages: 192
Genre: Young Adult, Crime, Mystery
Format: Paperback (ARC)
Date Published: June 08, 2017
Publishing House: Scribe Publications
GoodReads Rating: 3.3
Personal Rating: 4/5

Synopsis

Vega Gillberg is 16 years old when the police come knocking on the door looking for her older brother, Jakob.

Vega hasn’t heard from him in days, but she has to find him before the police do. Jakob was involved in a terrible crime. What no one knows is that Vega was there, too.

In the rural Swedish community where the Gillbergs live, life is tough, the people are even tougher, and old feuds never die. As Vega sets out to find her brother, she must survive a series of threatening encounters in a deadly landscape. As if that wasn’t enough, she’s dealing with the longing she feels for a boy that she has sworn to forget, and the mixed-up feelings she has for her brother’s best friend.

During a damp, raw week in October, the door to the adult world swings open, and Vega realises that once she has crossed the threshold there is no turning back.

My Personal Thoughts

The story is short but it was able to send me the message that it wants to convey. I was cringing the whole time! It was a mixture of crime, sex, and everything in between. I love how simply it was written without omitting the meaning of the book. The setting it an old suburb where it is possible that murdered people can be shoved and forgotten in an instant. The character is young but not innocent! I feel sad for Vega because at a very young age she felt and experienced all those terrible things. The need for sex, being an accessory to a crime and falling in love with someone who treated you like shit. Everything will still go back to basic, LOVE. It was because of love that Vega followed his brother, it was love that their uncle Dan got involved with Diana, it was love that Diana did everything for her son Tom, it was love that Tom did what has to be done, and it was love that Vega was able to do stupid and wreckless things for Tom. 198 pages and yet a lot of things took place. I have nothing against that there was no solution about the crime, it just shows how realistic this book is! Not all crimes were being solved in reality and the people involved just have to live with it for the rest of their miserable lives. I like this book! It is fast-paced and a fast-read. The twist is predictable but I just love how perfect it went. The ending is not a cliff hanger although it went nowhere, it’s not amazing for some readers but I like it. It’s just one of those moments in live where there’s no closure, things happen and that’s it. Just bear with it and live with it. I dont like Vega, the character is twisted and pathetic and not a good influence for young readers. It may be a YA story but I find it suitable for mature readers. I’ll giving it a 4/5 for being realistic.

~JaNnA

 

Book Review #61: Ragdoll (Detective William Fawkes #1) by Daniel Cole

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“One body.. Six victims…”

Synopsis
A body is discovered with the dismembered parts of six victims stitched together like a puppet, nicknamed by the press as the ‘ragdoll’.
Assigned to the shocking case are Detective William ‘Wolf’ Fawkes, recently reinstated to the London Met, and his former partner Detective Emily Baxter.
The ‘Ragdoll Killer’ taunts the police by releasing a list of names to the media, and the dates on which he intends to murder them.
With six people to save, can Fawkes and Baxter catch a killer when the world is watching their every move?
My Personal Thoughts
Ragdoll is a story that will give you the feels as if you are watching the tv series CSI. It is about a detective and his journey towards unraveling a case that has been haunting him for quite a long time. It is a heinous crime where six victim’s specific body parts were stitched together to create one dead body for the police and the media to talk about. My reading experience is so fantastic that I cringed a couple of times while the characters are trying to piece together all the clues that the murderer was giving them. It was a topsy-turvy escapade because 6 victims will also be killed on designated dates and the last victim is detective Fawkes himself. The writing style is good but not that appealing, although the author caught my full and undivided attention. I was able to finish the book in 2 consecutive days. It is a decent and nice crime fiction story but I find the scenarios too TV Series-ish. All that was included in the book were also scenes that a reader can find in some tv programs nowadays so I wasn’t really that surprised with the ending. In addition to this, the Evil-ish thingie in the end is not my thing. I find it off and not too appropriate with the plot line. Overall, it is recommended for readers who enjoy crime fiction but don’t expect too much because it is a conventional type of story and writing and nothing will surprise you that much. The characters are easy to like and relate to but not that impressive when action-packed scenes are involved. The setting matches the genre, kudos to that. I am just not sure with life lessons because I don’t think it contains a lot where the readers can reflect to. I was honestly kind of disappointed, not that much but just a bit, I was so excited to read this book once it arrived because of the synopsis but once I was able to finish it, it made me think. Is it okay or not? Anyway, I am still giving it a 4/5 rating for being able to finish it that fast which means that it is gripping and a page-turner.
Thank you, Hachette Australia Books, for providing me a copy in exchange for an honest and fair review.
~JaNnA

Book Review #57: Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles #2) by Marissa Meyer

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Synopsis
Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She’s trying to break out of prison—even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive.

Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner. (www.goodreads.com)

My Personal Thoughts
Scarlet is the 2nd installment of The Lunar Chronicles written by Marissa Meyer. It is a re-telling of the famous childhood story, “The Little Red Riding Hood”. The author did a spectacular job with this piece, and I honestly like it better than Cinder because I somehow gave the 1st book a not-so-giddy kind of review when I read it last year. I left my copy of this series in the Philippines which is why I am only reading them thru my kobo e-reader, and it saddens me because beautiful books are meant to be touched and felt. Anyway, the world building in this series continuous as the story progresses and as Cinder’s crew multiply as well. From China, the setting is now in Europe where Scarlet used to live in a farm with her grandmother and where it all started between her and Wolf (Ze’ve)! OMG! I just love and ship this pair! I like the idea of liking someone at first sight. Ofcourse it’s a cliché’ but what can I do? I am a mama who still believes with butterflies in the stomach and who fantasises about fairy tales, haha! Kidding aside, Scarlet and Wolf are both good for each other because they accept the fact that they can’t be together but did everything to be together (huh?!). I know it’s hard to understand so I suggest that you go ahead and get your hands on this series so you can catch up with me. I loved every chapter and I adored every character! A Fairytale re-telling that takes a reader into a magical world but still wants us to think how it can be related to a real life scenario. Even though it’s full of cyborgs, wolves, and other creatures, you can still feel the authenticity of the character’s feelings of love, friendship, and principles. I read this in 1 day and a half and I immediately delved on to the 3rd book which is Cress (Rapunzel), the author has a brilliant and creative mind that was able to incorporate all the fairy tale princesses into one amazing world which brought us a breathtaking story to indulge on to. I just can’t move on, not yet, it’s too good and precious. Five fabulous stars for this. Highly recommended for readers of all ages. Bravo! 👌👍👏
~JaNnA

Book Review #50: The Rose Society (The Young Elites #2) by Marie Lu

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Title: The Rose Society
Author: Marie Lu
Pages: 396
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance
Format: Ebook
Date of Publication: October 13, 2015
Publishing House: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Goodreads Rating: 4.14
My Personal Rating: 3 out of 5
Synopsis
Once upon a time, a girl had a father, a prince, a society of friends. Then they betrayed her, and she destroyed them all.

Adelina Amouteru’s heart has suffered at the hands of both family and friends, turning her down the bitter path of revenge. Now known and feared as the White Wolf, she flees Kenettra with her sister to find other Young Elites in the hopes of building her own army of allies. Her goal: to strike down the Inquisition Axis, the white-cloaked soldiers who nearly killed her.

But Adelina is no heroine. Her powers, fed only by fear and hate, have started to grow beyond her control. She does not trust her newfound Elite friends. Teren Santoro, leader of the Inquisition, wants her dead. And her former friends, Raffaele and the Dagger Society, want to stop her thirst for vengeance. Adelina struggles to cling to the good within her. But how can someone be good when her very existence depends on darkness?

Bestselling author Marie Lu delivers another heart-pounding adventure in this exhilarating sequel to The Young Elites. (www.goodreads.com)

My Personal Thoughts
I know most readers out there loved and enjoyed this series. Is it just me? Or some of you out there are also hesitant to give this book a perfect rating? I don’t know why or how or what the heck happened to me. I got bored, detached, and I did not enjoy this book. I also did not like the first one. What is wrong with me? The setting is fine, it is brilliant. I like the world building in this series, it is actually one of the things that I’ll give it a perfect score. But the characters, the plot, the story, ugh! Please don’t get mad at me for not being hooked or ecstatic about the existence of this series. Don’t get me wrong, I freaking adored Marie Lu’s Legend Trilogy! It is my favorite series (one of my faves of course, lol) and  I loved each and every chapter of this! It was perfect! But for this one? I don’t find Adelina promising. I don’t like her character. She is trying so hard to be a badass chick but sorry it didn’t work out for me! I still see her as some pathetic character. Enzo, on the other hand, is my favourite character in this story. The antagonistic aura of Adelina is just so annoying. The story is slow paced and it took me a couple of weeks to finish it. Maybe it is not for me. I have nothing against those readers who enjoyed it, we all have different preferences and perspectives when it comes to fantasy themed novels. Will I read the 3rd book? Yes. Of course. I still want to give it a try. Maybe the 3rd one will work for me and maybe this time Adelina might surprise me. ~JaNnA

Book review #49: My Husband’s Son by Debborah O’Connor

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Title: My Husband’s Son
Author: Deborah O’Connor
Pages: 352
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Format: Large Paperback
Date of Publication: June 16, 2016
Publishing House: Bonnier Zaffre
Goodreads Rating: 3.61
My Personal Rating: 4 out of 5
Synopsis
Heidi and Jason aren’t like other couples.
Six years ago, Heidi’s daughter was murdered. A year later, Jason’s son Barney disappeared. Their shared loss brought them together.
By chance, Heidi meets a boy she’s certain is Barney.
But Jason is equally convinced it’s not him.
Is Heidi mad? Or is Jason hiding something? And can their fragile marriage survive Heidi’s newfound quest for the truth… (www.goodreds.com)
My Personal Thoughts
Deborah O’Connor’s debut novel is beautifully written and executed! Everything that I anticipated and hoped for in a thriller/crime/mystery story is present. It is, indeed, a gripping and mind-boggling roller coaster ride! At first, I felt somewhat frustrated and disappointed because of its slow pacing. As I flip and turn the pages, I found myself being hooked and very eager to unravel the secrets and mysteries that the characters are trying to conceal. The book’s synopsis is very intriguing and that’s the exact same reason why I personally requested for a copy of this masterpiece to read and review here on my blog.
Heidi and Jason proved that misery loves company. They are bound together by their individual loss and suffering. Heidi’s daughter was murdered a couple of years ago while Jason’s son was suspected of being kidnapped; he never gave up searching for his kid. Grief has always been a part of their relationship, they are happy together but there will always be that part of them that longs for their departed and missing loved ones. One day, Heidi bumped into a little boy whom she strongly believed is Jason’s son. She did everything she can to stalk the boy and his family. She even risked her own life just to find out the true personality of the kid. Unfortunately, Jason did not believe her. He is so firm that the boy is not his son and that his wife is just hallucinating.
The setting is fine. It is well-suited for a story like this which involves crime. It is a simple neighbourhood where people are accustomed to keeping secrets and pretending that things are normal. The characters are promising. Heidi is very admirable because of her perseverance and devotion towards Jason. The husband, on the other hand, is lousy, frustrating, and such a waste of time. I don’t want to get into too much detail because I might spoil the most important part and the twist of the story. I was mind-fucked! Yes, I expected those turn out of events but I was surprised with Heidi’s decision in the end. I am impressed! I like it because it’s not every day that I get to read books where the ending will shock you. It became fast-paced as the story went by; I think I managed to finish it in two days. It is pretty intense especially when Heidi is playing detective-ish.
What I liked most about this story is that it contains a lot of lessons. First, no matter how much you think you know someone so well; there will always be secrets between the two of you. Second, frustration and sadness can ruin a lovely and fruitful relationship among two people. And lastly, we just have to move on no matter how badly we are hurt. We have to move forward and still be the best person for those who are still here for us.
Thank you, Allen and Unwin Australia, for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.
~JaNnA