[Review] Between the Lives by Jessica Shirvington

Between the Lives
Author: Jessica Shirvington
Expected Publication: August 7th, 2014 by Orchard Books
Page count: 336
Genre: YA – Contemporary, Paranormal
Goodreads

The perfect life or the perfect love. You choose.
For as long as she can remember, Sabine has lived two lives. Every 24 hours she shifts to her ‘other’ life – a life where she is exactly the same, but absolutely everything else is different: different family, different friends, different social expectations. In one life she has a sister, in the other she does not. In one life she’s a straight-A student with the perfect boyfriend, in the other she’s considered a reckless delinquent. Nothing about her situation has ever changed, until the day when she discovers a glitch: the arm she breaks in one life is perfectly fine in the other.
With this new knowledge, Sabine begins a series of increasingly risky experiments that bring her dangerously close to the life she’s always wanted. But if she can only have one life, which is the one she’ll choose?
A compelling psychological thriller about a girl who lives two parallel lives – this is Sliding Doors for the YA audience.
Thank you Hachette Children’s Books for the review copy. This does not affect my review or opinions at all.

 

Review

I was immediately intrigued by the premise upon reading the blurb. I love stories about parallel universe and so I felt like I had to read it at some point. Between the Lines was far from being the perfect book but it obviously left me feeling good.

“I am two people. Neither better than the other, no superpowers, no mystical destinies, no two-places-in-one-time mechanism – but two people.”

First of all, let’s talk about the main character, Sabine. To be honest, I didn’t always love her throughout the book. She isn’t annoying by any chance, it’s just that her character isn’t fleshed out enough to make me root for her. I wish that her emotions and desperation had been conveyed much more realistically. She has gotten used to living literally two lives but one incident changes her view and tests her knowledge of her strange existence. In order to find out more, Sabine conducts a series of experiment that might as well be a little disturbing for me, such as hurting herself. Other than that, I thought she was an okay protagonist.

I also liked Sabine’s relationships with her siblings. In Roxbury, she has an adorable little sister that looks up to her and it really shows that they both care for each other. In her other life (Wellesley), she has two older brothers she isn’t close to but I really enjoyed reading the development of their relationship.

The plot was enjoyable. Although the book switches between two lives, I could easily follow the story without getting confused. It was actually nice to read about how Sabine can maintain such different personalities in both lives. However, the thing that definitely got a frown for me is the paranormal element. I’m not sure that the “Shift” had been explained thoroughly and I remember feeling baffled many times.

There is also what could be one of the most-cliched twist ever regarding the romance but luckily, Jessica Shirvington managed to stir my emotions with how well the scenes are written and if it hadn’t been for that emotional feelings I got in the last 100 pages, then this book would have definitely had a lower rating.

I thought the ending was much too convenient and a lot of my questions about Sabine is still unanswered but overall, Between the Lives is a really great book. I read it in one sitting and I would recommend to for people who are looking for a quick, meaningful read.

 

[Review] Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

Vampire Academy
(Vampire Academy #1)
Author: Richelle Mead
Publication: August 16th, 2007 by Razorbill
Page count: 332 (Paperback)
Genre: YA – Paranormal, Romance
Goodreads

St. Vladimir’s Academy isn’t just any boarding school—it’s a hidden place where vampires are educated in the ways of magic and half-human teens train to protect them. Rose Hathaway is a Dhampir, a bodyguard for her best friend Lissa, a Moroi Vampire Princess. They’ve been on the run, but now they’re being dragged back to St. Vladimir’s—the very place where they’re most in danger…
Rose and Lissa become enmeshed in forbidden romance, the Academy’s ruthless social scene, and unspeakable nighttime rituals. But they must be careful lest the Strigoi—the world’s fiercest and most dangerous vampires—make Lissa one of them forever.

Review

This is one of the series my classmate has been pushing me to read (other than 50 Shades of Gray, which I’m so avoiding, by the way, considering that I’m underage) and to be honest, I’m not expecting much from a vampire book.

Turns out, Vampire Academy was surprisingly enjoyable. Right from the start, I knew that Rose and I were going to get along just fine. I love her voice – she is a snarky heroine who isn’t afraid to give assholes a punch when they deserve it. Not only is she a greatly loyal friend, she is also dedicated to her job as Lissa’s guard. On the quite opposite, however, Lissa’s character didn’t particularly stand out for me. She seems to be too dependent, but there are a few moments that made me appreciate her more. The friendship between these two characters is something I definitely loved reading about.

Usually, in YA books, the main character is someone insecure about her appearance, someone who has trouble talking with boys, but she is actually a special person, the only hope blah blah blah. Unfortunately she’s not strong enough yet so she has to be protected blah blah blah – you get the point. I liked that the story is told from Rose’s POV instead of Lissa’s. I’m not saying that Lissa is the typical YA protagonist – which she is not – but it’s just fresh to see a story from a different perspective, if you know what I mean.

To my annoyance, the story seems to contain more high school vampire academy drama. There are people who will do anything to get to the top of popularity ladder, the fake gossip, back-stabbing, etc. I didn’t expect this book to blow my mind, but I also didn’t expect that there would be THIS much of drama. The pacing drags in the middle of the book, but thankfully there’s Rose to keep me interested with her sarcasms and humors. And Christian. Because he’s funny and awesome like this:

Literally.

Goddammit. Not gonna lie, but I liked him better than boring Dimitri. There I said it. To be frank, I found the romance between Dimitri and Rose to be…a little disturbing due to their seven years age gap. I mean, yeah sure “age doesn’t matter” – we all know this phrase but I STILL thought it was pretty creepy… On the contrary, Lissa and Christian are just so cute together <3

I’m sure almost everyone here has read this series. I just wanna say that I hope in the next installment there would be more plot development because that’s what the first book is seriously lacking on.

Note the absence of quotes in this review because (1) I read it in Indonesian translation my friend lent me and (2) I couldn’t find a single good quote. Even when I browsed on Goodreads.

 

[Review] Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Daughter of Smoke and Bone
(Daughter of Smoke and Bone #1)
Author: Laini Taylor
Publication: September 27th, 2011 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Page count: 418 (Paperback)
Genre: YA – Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance
Goodreads

Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.
In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.
And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.
Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”; she speaks many languages–not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.
When one of the strangers–beautiful, haunted Akiva–fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

Review

Before starting this series, I’d been highly recommended by a lot of bloggers that this book was amazeballs and the writing was so beautiful it was totally unbelievable how such gorgeousness could exist. To be honest, I was underwhelmed because it took me so long to be fully engrossed in the story.

“She had been innocent once, a little girl playing with feathers on the floor of a devil’s lair. She wasn’t innocent now, but she didn’t know what to do about it. This was her life: magic and shame and secrets and teeth and a deep, nagging hollow at the center of herself where something was most certainly missing.” 

Karou is a great heroine – she is eccentric with her blue hair, tough, independent and definitely not a damsel in distress. She has initiatives and needs no man to save her. However, I’m not gonna lie that I felt completely detached from her most of the time, which made me rather uninterested in the beginning. I didn’t feel like I was her, in her mind, breathing the same Prague air. Instead, I felt like I was only an outsider, watching her from the distant like there was a giant screen in front of me. Moreover, the forbidden romance between Karou and Akiva seems to happen too fast. This, of course, saddened me since I had a huge expectation to begin with.

“Have you ever asked yourself, do monsters make war, or does war make monsters?” 

There isn’t much happening in the first half either. It’s basically an introduction to the world Laini Taylor has created (which I greatly appreciated, by the way). We are kept in the dark, with only bits and bits of clues scattered on the pages. But once everything is unveiled, wow… I mean, WOW… the chimaera world and its exotic creatures were extremely mesmerizing I wanted to cry. The writing is a little tedious during the first half, but the descriptions of the other world are reasonably detailed so it wasn’t hard for me to get lost in it. 

My last complain was the romance. It started too fast, became much more engaging, but near the end it was a tad too dramatic and predictable for my taste. I suppose romance is pretty dominant in this book and it doesn’t take over the WHOLE plot, thank goodness. But I was hoping for more action and badassary so it was a let-down.

I cannot overlook the fact that I was disappointed in a few ways. However, Daughter of Smoke and Bone becomes more and more beautiful the closer we get to the last page. I would recommend this book to people who love beautiful writing and exquisite worldbuilding.

[Review] The Selection by Kiera Cass

The Selection
(The Selection #1)
Author: Kiera Cass
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: April 24th, 2012
Pages: 327 (Paperback)
Genre: YA – Dystopia, Romance

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 the palace and compete for the heart of the 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.
BEFORE READING: Omg I’m gonna hate it for sure. BUT I’M CURIOUSSSSS ;_;

AFTER READING: Okay that was fun. Surprisingly >w<

Despite the negative feedback I’ve been hearing, The Selection turned out to be an enjoyable read with its own flaws.

I can see why some people hate this book and I couldn’t help but to agree on some points. The main character annoyed me sometimes because she seems too perfect. There is no actual plot in the middle part of the book. Weak world-building and it is quite info-dumpy when the characters are explaining rules or something like that.

Nevertheless, I (surprisingly) was able to ignore some issues while reading. The Selection is just light and very entertaining despite the lack of things happening in the book – I was really enjoying it. I guess it was fun to read and made me laugh on certain parts.

I love Maxon!! He’s awkward and stiff and basically unlike any other love interests with their bad boy and love-expert persona. I liked the way his and America (still can’t get over how ridiculous her first name is :/) starts out as friendship and later blooms into something more. It was admittedly predictable though. May, the maids and some of the girls are pretty likable too.

However, there are also characters that got on my nerves like Aspen (seriously this guy pissed me off), Celeste (pure evil) and America herself (she’s mostly tolerable for me but other time she’s downright irritating). I mean, once she calls Maxon on a specific purpose but when he’s already there she is like “you’re busy just go back to work” *facepalms*

The thing that also irked me is the ridiculous names. I mean, some are normal but wtf there are names like America, Tiny, Tuesday?? Aren’t there gazillion of names that makes more sense than THESE? *headdesk*

Overall, I didn’t hate The Selection as much as I initially thought. The ending felt rushed, but it was very entertaining and fluffy. If you’re looking for a mindless past-time read, then this is the book. But if you feel like the issues I mentioned above will bug you endlessly, then I wouldn’t recommend it to you.

[ARC: In Bullet Points] The Almost Girl by Amalie Howard

The Almost Girl
Author: Amalie Howard
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Publication Date: January 7th, 2014
Pages: 416 (Paperback)
Genre: YA – Science Fiction, Dystopia

Seventeen-year-old Riven is as tough as they come. But coming from a world ravaged by a devastating android war, she has to be. There’s no room for softness, no room for emotion, no room for mistakes. A Legion General, she is the right hand of the young Prince of Neospes, a parallel universe to Earth. In Neospes, she has everything: rank, responsibility and respect. But when Prince Cale sends her away to find his long-lost brother, Caden, who has been spirited back to modern day Earth, Riven finds herself in uncharted territory.
Thrown out of her comfort zone but with the mindset of a soldier, Riven has to learn how to be a girl in a realm that is the opposite of what she knows. Riven isn’t prepared for the beauty of a world that is unlike her own in so many ways. Nor is she prepared to feel something more than indifference for the very target she seeks. Caden is nothing like Cale, but he makes something in her come alive, igniting a spark deep down that goes against every cell in her body. For the first time in her life, Riven isn’t sure about her purpose, about her calling. Torn between duty and desire, she must decide whether Caden is simply a target or whether he is something more.
Faced with hideous reanimated Vector soldiers from her own world with agendas of their own, as well as an unexpected reunion with a sister who despises her, it is a race against time to bring Caden back to Neospes. But things aren’t always as they seem, and Riven will have to search for truth. Family betrayals and royal coups are only the tip of the iceberg. Will Riven be able to find the strength to defy her very nature? Or will she become the monstrous soldier she was designed to be?
Thank you Strange Chemistry and Netgalley for the review copy! This doesn’t affect my opinions or review at all.

 

In bullet points…

What I liked:

  • The main character. Being an ex-general, Riven is a very cold and brutal character. She doesn’t let her walls down most of the time. What I’d like to appreciate is the consistency of her character. When you have this tough kind of protagonist, usually she will transform right away into the typical kind of teenage girl. However, Riven still shows a considerable effort to focus on the task at hands instead of melting to goo every time the love interest appears. She does eventually give in to hormones, but luckily the couple isn’t too lovey-dovey.
  • The plot isn’t as predictable as Howard’s other work called Waterfell. Although the beginning didn’t immediately grab my attention, I managed to gradually enjoy it.
  • I think the ending emphasizes how responsible Riven is compared to the other female protagonists once they have got together with their love interests. (For those who have read it will understand what I’m talking about lol.)
  • I really liked how tense and action-packed the book was. There were plenty of gory and excited battle scenes plus some unexpected twists.

What I didn’t like:

  • I found the romance pops out of the blue at first because the two barely interact with each other yet the guy seems to be in love with her after only meeting her for a few times.
  • The love interest is pretty bland and it seems like he’s too perfect.
  • There is a very confusing explanation near the ending and I failed to understand that even though I read it for a few times.
  • Please do not make out when you’re in a dangerous place and need to escape quickly. Duh.

Conclusion:
Despite having some flaws I couldn’t ignore, The Almost Girl was better than Waterfell in many areas. Overall, I thought the book was decent and enjoyable, but I would still recommend it to anyone who’s looking for a tense and action-packed science fiction.