It’s Top Ten Tuesday! (TTT #2)

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Wow, sorry for publishing this way late, but I had to. As you all know, TTT is a weekly book meme event hosted @ The Broke and the Bookish. Last week’s topic (which this one is for) is about our Top Ten Most Favorite Secondary Characters. So yes, without further ado, here’s the list that I’ve come up with, and boy let me tell you that it was damn hard to pick from all the many lovely secondary characters I’ve come across in my reading life. But yep, here you go, in no particular order:

  1. Neville Longbottom (Harry Potter Series) – If you don’t have him on your list, I am judging you. Enough said.
  2. Primrose Everdeen (The Hunger Games) – Brave little Prim and her ducktail. When she died in the third book, I cried so hard I woke up the neighbors. Not. Even. Kidding.
  3. Margaery Tyrell (A Song of Ice and Fire) – I like the book version of her as well as HBO’s TV version. Margaery is a very strong female character in ASOIAF and I believe that she will only grow more so as the story progresses. I want to think that George RR Martin has grand plans for her in The Winds of Winter, that she will be essential somehow to Sansa or in King’s Landing, maybe to Daenerys and Aerys too. I really, really love her character and all it represents.
  4. Eowyn, Lady of Rohan (The Lord of The Rings) – She killed a nazgul, ohmygod. If that isn’t badass then I don’t know what is.
  5. Reyna (Heroes of Olympus) – I want to be Reyna, at the same time I don’t want to be Reyna. She’s the kind of person I envy because she is able to separate her feelings from her duty. She has a strong sense of self preservation as was proven when Jason returned with Piper in tow, and yet Reyna never begged him to come back to her or anything equally desperate. But  just imagine how lonely she must be deep down with no one to talk to, no one to confide in because of her position in the Roman demigod ranks. I don’t think I can handle that much emotional isolation even if it’s for the greater good. But Reyna can, and that’s A+ for you, Reyna.
  6. Uriah (Divergent Trilogy) – Eek! URIAAAAAH. I love Uriah probably more than I love four. He’s smart, funny, and a gentleman. He remained being a good friend to Tris despite everything that happened, and most of all I love his relationship with his brother, Zeke.
  7. Adrian Ivashkov (Vampire Academy) – At the end of this series I ended up caring more about what happened to Adrian the sexy drunkard spirit user than to anyone else in the book, including Rose. Imagine how happy I was when they announced his comeback in Bloodlines.
  8. Newt (The Maze Runner Trilogy) – I love Newt more than I love anyone from this trilogy with the exception of Teresa. He was the first person to treat Thomas like an actual human being and he’s always making the hard decisions when Alby was incapable of them. And when he got the flare… I died a little. No, scratch that. I died a lot. I hate James Dashner for doing that to Newt. Like, dude no. WHY. WHY must you put me through this much suffering?!?! And now it’s being made into a movie and the world isn’t big enough to contain my excitement.
  9. Angela (The Lynburn Legacy) – Beautiful, moody, Angela, who balances the Kami equation. Angela as a character perfectly compliments Kami and added more spunk into the plot of Unspoken.
  10. Sarah Hart (The Lorien Legacy) – She isn’t even a member of the Garde and yet she is just a bad-ass as Six when it comes to facing down Mogadorians. I hated how she was falsely accused in the earlier books, only for us to learn how badly she was treated by the Mogs during The Rise of Nine. Like, how can you not love Sarah Hart after everything she went through for John?

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That’s my list! What’s on yours? Drop me links and comments and let’s talk. x

Happy reading! ♥

Book Review: Sins & Needles (The Artist Trilogy #1) by Karina Halle

16029994Title: Sins & Needles
Author: Karina Halle
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Adult Fiction
How I got it: I bought it.

SYNOPSIS:
Ellie Watt is used to starting over. The daughter of a grifting team, Ellie spent her childhood being used as a pawn in her parents’ latest scam. Now she’s much older, wiser and ready to give her con artist life a rest. But returning to the dry desert town of Palm Valley, California means one more temptation than she bargained for – Camden McQueen.

Once known as the high school weirdo, Camden is bigger and badder than the boy he used to be and a talented tattoo artist with his own thriving business. Ellie’s counting on Camden still being in love with her but what she’s not counting on is how easily unrequited love can turn into obsession over time. When Camden discovers Ellie’s plan to con him, he makes her a deal she doesn’t dare refuse, but her freedom comes with a price and it’s one that takes both Ellie and Camden down a dangerous road.


REVIEW:
Before I say anything else I would just like to point out that this book is an indie-published contemporary romance. Not exactly the usual qualities I’m looking for in a book; in fact, just the opposite, and yet there was no mistaking the high ratings and positive feedbacks that Sins & Needles have been receiving from book bloggers and casual reviewers alike in and out of Goodreads. I wanted to know what this was all about. What’s so special about this book by Karina Halle that makes it stand out among other contemporary romance novels out there that’s gained over the top popularity even with its mediocre plot and clichéd characters? And I know you know which ones I’m talking about, so I guess you can’t fault me for being careful.

But hey, I’m just very glad to say that this book does not belong on the list of those infamously bad contemporary romances. I would even go as far as saying that Sins & Needles might just be the saving grace of the aforementioned notoriously avoided genre. It’s different, it’s well-written, it’s deliciously sexy, and the characters in it are devastatingly hot, not to mention multi-dimensional. Karina Halle has succeeded in luring me into a world of grifting and revenge, of love and hate and pain. Of cons and marks and pasts that catch up with you, no matter where you go or what name you take. More importantly, Karina Halle has proved to me that contemporary romance can work without having to make your male character an abusive, control-freak, pretty-faced psycho.

Camden and Ellie are our main characters. They are not perfect and they know it. They are bad people, and they know that, too. For the first time since I can remember, I am able to read about characters that are on equal footing on the negative side of the moral scale. Most of the time we see a bad boy and a good girl and the bad boy trying to make the good girl bad, or the good girl trying to make the bad boy good. It’s refreshing to see Halle change the trends a bit by giving us bad boy and bad girl and telling us their story. Almost no one has the guts to go against the standard and overused tropes anymore, but Miss Halle is gutsy enough to give us something new, something different, and what’s more impressive is how she managed to make it work.

Ellie is a character not everyone will like, but I’m happy to say that I did. She’s fierce and strong-willed and she puts survival first before anything, thus she is willing to screw anyone over if that means it’ll buy her one more day. ‘Spiteful’ is the adjective that both her current and past lover had described her as. Not the ideal role model, yes, but intriguing all the same. Camden, at first glance, would probably look like your ideal hottie: he’s insanely gorgeous, he seems to be doing well with his life, and he’s got ink. But don’t mistake this fraudulent façade for the real picture. Camden is a tortured soul, a brimming reservoir of hatred and vengeance and regret. There is a darkness inside him, probably a shade or two richer than the darkness inside Ellie, and it’s fascinating to watch it all unravel, to see how who he is is affected by who he was. All in all, he is the perfect bad boy – and not in the way that Christian Grey of Fifty Shades fame or Travis Maddox of Beautiful Disaster was – but in a better, more believable way that’s entirely his own. I guess what I’m trying to say is that he’s angy, scarily so at times, but he doesn’t use his issues to justify manipulative, controlling, or psychotic behaviour.

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I say that Karina Halle deserves a round of applause.
(source: tumblr)

I also liked that Camden and Ellie has a foundation, a back story that binds them together, something that validates his anger and explains her frustrations. We see first class character and relationship development, courtesy of the author’s meticulous writing style. We see vivid imagery, clearly described settings, thoroughly expressed emotions, and maybe I’m praising this book a bit too much but I can’t help it. I loved it a lot and really, there’s just something about the way Karina Halle paints her pictures with her thousand words that astounds me so. She gives her characters flaws, dimensions, motivations and appropriate reactions; exceptionally enough that they jump out on you from the very pages and make you remember them. And oh, before I forget to tell you (like I’m actually capable of forgetting), sexual tension is this book’s middle name. It’s everywhere and I honestly cannot complain. The series of events that eventually lead to the actual sex scenes are almost as good as the sex itself. Almost. And the sex is satisfyingly glorious and those are the only words I have to describe it.

I love this book and I can’t wait to see what the sequel has in store for me. I want more of the anger, the spite, and the desperation to keep the past at bay and run towards the promise of escape. I need more of Camden, who despite his rage and his desire for vendetta, has never controlled, manipulated, forced, or abused Ellie. And I can’t wait to know more about our heroine, Ellie, who was able to make decisions that stood because she is capable and because Camden respected her enough not to underestimate her. We need more books like this; we need more contemporary romances that uplift the genre instead of painting it the bland, ugly color of stereotype (no thanks to you, E.L. James and Jamie Maguire).

I’m giving this book 4.5 coconuts because it ended on such a relevant note and I’m pretty upset that I don’t have the sequel yet and have no way of knowing what happens next. But needless to say, I am one happy camper because of Sins & Needles, and I cannot wait to get my hands on Shooting Scars which is book 2, and the short prequel entitled On Ever Street. And you, too, should be excited! I would highly recommend this book to those who are in for a good and healthy mix of angst, drama, action, and romance, and if you plan on picking this up after you read this review, I suggest you brace yourself for a fun, sexy, dark, and thrilling ride into Ellie and Camden’s world, where we get to see the bad people in action and witness their story as the layers of deceit fall off and we are left with nothing but their truths for us to judge.

4andhalf-coconut

Happy reading! x ♥

My first Audio Book: Cracked Up To Be by Courtney Summers

I. am. so. excited.

Totally gushing right now. I have never. ever. ever. listened to an audio book before (yeah, I suck) but that’s about to change because I just got *drumroll*… an audio book of Cracked Up To Be by Courtney Summers!!!

Lots of people have been raving about this book including two of my most trusted book reviewers on Goodreads which is basically why I ordered it in the first place. I am so stoked to begin listening to it on my mp3 player tomorrow on my way to school. Like, how cool is that? I can just zone out of boredom and into the magical land of fiction by putting on my ear plugs.

This is just perfect!

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Me about this whole audio book thing.
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But before I go on full spazz mode (I seem to do it a lot lately), here is a bit of a teaser for all of you nerds who haven’t read or who doesn’t know what Cracked Up To Be is all about. Be sure to add it on your To-Read lists or read it NOW (or listen to it!!!), so you can fangirl with me!!!

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Cracked Up To Be by Courtney Summers

When “Perfect” Parker Fadley starts drinking at school and failing her classes, all of St. Peter’s High goes on alert. How has the cheerleading captain, girlfriend of the most popular guy in school, consummate teacher’s pet, and future valedictorian fallen so far from grace?

Parker doesn’t want to talk about it. She’d just like to be left alone, to disappear, to be ignored. But her parents have placed her on suicide watch and her conselors are demanding the truth. Worse, there’s a nice guy falling in love with her and he’s making her feel things again when she’d really rather not be feeling anything at all.

Nobody would have guessed she’d turn out like this. But nobody knows the truth.

Something horrible has happened, and it just might be her fault.

A bad girl for a change! Doesn’t that just intrigue you? And it helps that this book is also a winner of the 2009 Cybil Award Winner for YA Fiction. That said, I cannot think of a better title to initiate me into this whole audio book business. I’ll be sure to keep you guys posted on my progress with this book. And expect a review early next week!

You can also check out Cracked Up To Be’s video trailer:

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But hey! What about you? What are you currently reading or listening to? I would love to know! Leave your thoughts on the comments section!

and Happy Reading! x ♥

Stacking The Shelves – The Crazy Bookworm joins the fun (#1)

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Stacking the Shelves is a way for us book enthusiasts to share the books we’ve recently added to our shelves and/or digital libraries. This means that any book format is welcome to be included in our lists – may it be paperback, hardbound, epub, pdf, mobi – physical or digital copies, purchased, given, or barrowed from the library, we can all count it in.

If you’re like me, who is a self-confessed book hoarder, you know how hard it is to contain the excitement brought about by getting your hands on a new book. Stacking the Shelves is a good outlet to express your enthusiasm and devotion over new titles you are excited about. This wonderful book meme is originally hosted by the lovely people at Tynga’s Review, so thanks to them for giving me something to do on my otherwise boring Sunday afternoon.

Just this week I made an account on Netgalley and I already have 2 approved requests. These are the books that I acquired through generous publishers who agreed to a free book/ honest review exchange.

(Nota Bene: Clicking on the book covers will lead you to their Goodreads page.)

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I am very excited about these titles. The Pentrals is from Apalogue Entertainment and Inhuman is from Scholastic. Just looking at Inhuman makes my toes curl in appreciation. The cover looks like it’s a The Hunger Games x Divergent love child. The Pentrals also has this intriguing cover art that I can’t help but wonder about. Hopefully, I get to start reading these books soon.

Recent haul from Amazon and Ebay:

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I cannot even begin to tell how stoked I am. Look at those gorgeous covers! Bunheads was suggested to me by my friend Kathryn while All of Our Yesterdays was something I was dying to get my hands on because of all the rave reviews it got from my favorite bloggers. Code Name: Verity is on my To-Read list for ages now but I only remembered to buy it last Friday. Hopefully I get to read it soon  because a lot of people seem to like it  a lot. Also, if you guys are familiar with The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, you might recognize Jennifer E. Smith who wrote it, and now I can’t wait to start her other book, This is What Happy Looks Like. As for Slated, that cover is just so stunningly pretty that I can’t stop staring at it!!! I’ve also heard lots of good things about Chosen Ones and it’s synopsis is one of the most interesting that I’ve ever read, so I hope it doesn’t disappoint.

Aaaaand that’s it! This week’s book haul looks very promising, don’t you think? But what about you? What are your latest book finds? Leave me with your links in the comments section so I can check them out. =)

Happy reading! x ♥

Book Review: The Nightmare Affair (Arkwell Academy #1) by Mindee Arnett

12411635Title: The Nightmare Affair
Author: Mindee Arnett
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Mystery
How I got it: Borrowed from a friend!

SYNOPSIS:
Sixteen-year-old Dusty Everhart breaks into houses late at night, but not because she’s a criminal. No, she’s a Nightmare.

Literally.

Being the only Nightmare at Arkwell Academy, a boarding school for magickind, and living in the shadow of her mother’s infamy, is hard enough. But when Dusty sneaks into Eli Booker’s house, things get a whole lot more complicated. He’s hot, which means sitting on his chest and invading his dreams couldn’t get much more embarrassing. But it does. Eli is dreaming of a murder.

Then Eli’s dream comes true.

Now Dusty has to follow the clues—both within Eli’s dreams and out of them—to stop the killer before more people turn up dead. And before the killer learns what she’s up to and marks her as the next target.


REVIEW:
I am a true-blue sucker for boarding school stories, which is perhaps the very reason why I picked up The Nightmare Affair. That, and the cover, which reminded me so much of Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan. Before cracking this book open, I was actually  expecting some sort of dark, gothic, paranormal mystery, but what I got instead was a fun and entertaining read.

Sure, it isn’t high literature or anything and the plot was a little predictable, but I honestly could not put it down while I was reading it. Whatever magic Mindy Arnett put on the pages of this book, it sure worked on me. But that doesn’t mean I failed to notice the many deficiencies of the story. Although I liked The Nightmare Affair a lot, I must admit that the plot felt like a Jenga tower that’s very close to toppling down on itself. There were parts in the book where the author would pepper us with facts about magickind history and the mechanics of this or that, but crammed in a chapter and in succeeding paragraphs, they ended up perplexing the heck out of me. There were also some very confusing concepts, which I understood in the end, but the point is, the telling wasn’t flawless, and understanding didn’t come naturally as I was reading it (or maybe it was just my brain, tired from lack of sleep).

Dusty was very likable as a main character. She’s plucky and witty and capable, though a little bit slow on the uptake. Eli was likable as well, but I can’t help noticing the lack of a back story, which could have served as a foundation for his character development. This is also true with secondary characters such as Paul, Selene, and Moira – Dusty’s mom, who I kinda liked a lot. Sad to say, her relationship with Dusty was reduced to an inconsequential part of the plot. Characters-wise, the book felt brimming with them, so much that some managed to spill on the side. There were just TOO MANY types of magickind all at once, and this turned out to be a disadvantage, mainly because the author failed to make distinctions as sharp as they should have been.

In terms of the romance, I’m actually surprised to find myself liking it. There was a bit of a love triangle, which I know is a common premise in YA, but I have to argue that the Paul-Dusty-Eli triangle is a bit more reasonable than others. First, because none of the guys acted particularly douchenuggetty. Second, because Dusty’s feelings were valid – an attraction for the good-looking guy she had to sit on during their dream-feeding sessions, and the magnetic pull of someone who makes it clear that he wants to be with her.  Third, even during the end of our story, Dusty was still smart about her feelings. There wasn’t an instant jump from one guy to the next, which I greatly appreciated. Plus, there were no illicit kisses shared and other stupid love-triangle related stuff.

But let’s go back to the plot. As I have mentioned earlier, it was a bit predictable. It didn’t take that much brain power to know who the nefarious people were and I saw the ending coming long before it’s opening scene. It also has uncanny similarities with other novels such as Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins and even Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, especially during the second half of the novel. I should also point out that the events leading to the climax fell short of riveting and ended up quite lax, odd because this is the part where everything should be coming together for the ultimate build-up.

Still, this book has a significant entertainment value, otherwise it wouldn’t get a 3 out of 5. I was vastly entertained by it and for the most part, I couldn’t put it down. I guess it’s because I’ve been reading a ton of serious stuff lately and this kind of book was just what I needed to lighten up a little. Low-ish ratings aside, I would still recommend The Nightmare Affair for those who are looking for something fun to read just to pass the time. I don’t know if I’m actually looking forward to the next installment, but I’m not pushing the idea of reading it away either. All in all, a very fun book. Not the best of its kind, but definitely far from the worst as well.

3-cocnut

Book Review: A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire #1) by George R.R. Martin

13496Title: A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire #1)
Author: George R.R. Martin
Genre
: Fantasy, Adventure
How I got it: I bought it

SYNOPSIS:
Summers span decades. Winter can last a lifetime. And the struggle for the Iron Throne has begun.

As Warden of the north, Lord Eddard Stark counts it a curse when King Robert bestows on him the office of the Hand. His honour weighs him down at court where a true man does what he will, not what he must … and a dead enemy is a thing of beauty.

The old gods have no power in the south, Stark’s family is split and there is treachery at court. Worse, the vengeance-mad heir of the deposed Dragon King has grown to maturity in exile in the Free Cities. He claims the Iron Throne.


Review:
I honestly did not expect to be hooked by this series. The moment I saw the first book, I face-palmed myself because it was so. thick. How am I supposed to finish it? Why did I even buy it?

But I was a HUGE fan of the TV series. It started out as a guilty pleasure which turned into an obsession. And after shrieking, squealing, and sobbing my way into and out of season 1, I knew that I just have to know what would happen next to my favorite characters, even if it meant plodding through thick-ass books that are oceans away from my normally preferred genres.

I can’t say I regret it, because damn, it was a fabulous experience. George R.R. Martin is one of those rare authors who could wow you and repulse you at the same time. It was almost like an out-of-body experience because it left me wondering and thinking like, wow, what kind of fuckery is this? How evil are these people? But then I’d be like, ohmygod this is SO AWESOME.

But okay, before I go into full-spaz mode, I should probably tell you as coherently as I can why I fell in-love with this book. Reasons, reasons. Let’s start with the characters. Whether you read YA or other genres of fiction, you and I both know how tired we are of perfect characters and/or Mary Sues. I assure you, you will not find a single perfect character in this book. They all have flaws, errors in judgments, major psychotic tendencies, and even the noblest of them all made me want to punch a wall. It’s this lovely thing called diversity that GRRM employs in his characterization in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, in which this book is installment #1. I honestly couldn’t ask for more, because although the author is writing about a different time and world, his characters reflect the darkest, cruelest, normally hidden side of human nature, as well as it’s lighter side. No character is made up of pure dark or light, everyone is a mixture of both in varying degrees and sometimes, the only thing that makes them different are their motivations in doing what they’re doing.

Another reason why I like this book is the intriguing plotline. So many twists and turns, so many characters that you just couldn’t categorize in neat columns. Is whatshisname evil or not? Don’t trust him! Oh wait, trust him! Ohmygod why did you trust him!??! Jezus. Yeah, you get the picture. You can never guess what will happen next, or maybe you can, but not the way it plays out. So many secrets, so many lies! And not one character that you can just disregard as irrelevant, because even those who seem weakest can surprise you.

This book also has an interesting brand of folklore. Is folklore even the word for it? Hey, whatever. Anyway, what I mean are the beautifully described, sometimes creepy, sometimes endearing creatures that are interspersed inside the whole plot. Dragons, The Others, Direwolves, etc etc. So vividly described that they come alive in your imagination. And don’t even get me started on the wordplay! George R.R. Martin is flawless when it comes to dishing out metaphors, symbolisms, and foreshadowing. Even the vulgar language doesn’t hinder the plot to it’s destined greatness. In fact, in my opinion, it was just right to help it get there.

With its richly textured characters and multi-layered plot, A Game of Thrones totally satisfied my thirst for a good great story. If you feel like this could be your thing, you should stop what you’re doing right now and get your own copy of this epic book. I gave this the rarely seen 5 out of 5 coconuts because it’s nothing like I’ve ever read before. The number of pages was a forgivable oversight because the pace of the novel was intense and fast moving. Before I even knew it, I was turning over the last page and being harassed by an uncontainable frenzy of conflicting emotions. In the end it left me wanting just one simple thing.

It’s called MORE.

5coconuts