Thursday, April 18, 2013

Review: Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez

Title: Virtuosity
Author: Jessica Martinez
Published: October 18th 2011
Publisher: Simon Pulse
My rating: 4 stars
Now is not the time for Carmen to fall in love. And Jeremy is hands-down the wrong guy for her to fall for. He is infuriating, arrogant, and the only person who can stand in the way of Carmen getting the one thing she wants most: to win the prestigious Guarneri competition. Carmen's whole life is violin, and until she met Jeremy, her whole focus was winning. But what if Jeremy isn't just hot...what if Jeremy is better? Carmen knows that kissing Jeremy can't end well, but she just can't stay away. Nobody else understands her--and riles her up--like he does. Still, she can't trust him with her biggest secret: She is so desperate to win she takes anti-anxiety drugs to perform, and what started as an easy fix has become a hungry addiction. Carmen is sick of not feeling anything on stage and even more sick of always doing what she’s told, doing what's expected.

Sometimes, being on top just means you have a long way to fall....
I've always wanted to learn how to play a violin but never really got the chance. The closest I get on that was learning Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (I did actually have to coax and force my friend to teach me play it) which I have totally forgotten by now. Ha! But violin has always fascinates and mesmerizes me. So when I read the blurb of this book and learned that the main characters are violin prodigies I was absolutely sold! And boy was I not disappointed. Because reading Virtuosity was just as mesmerizing and captivating as listening to a violinist play.

Carmen was a character I instantly identified with. I was amazed and impressed by her accomplishments at a very young age and I truly felt the strong passion and love she had on being a musician. She was a very real and genuine character and although at first she let almost everything in her life be in control of her mother/manager who was totally overbearing and quite manipulative, she sooner realized that she has to start making decisions and choices for her own life.

Jeremy, although he started to be quite this arrogant and kind of a jerk guy I sooner found out that he was also this very soft and gentle guy who just also get nervous and insecure but covers it with his cool and proud facade. I love how he directly and indirectly contributed on making Carmen see how her life was and be an independent woman. Although he did make this mistake with Carmen I saw how he truly felt sorry about it and that his feelings for her were definitely genuine.

The romance here did happen a little too fast which in most case would have make me ran off to the other side but for some reason it worked for me here. Or more like, I actually didn't mind it because I just loved the characters. Ha! It was definitely okay though since as the story went on the development of Carmen and Jeremy's relationship and how it was explored felt really genuine and natural.

The musical aspect here was also really good. The playing was describe in such a very colorful and dramatic way and not really in technical way that might have my mind spinning in confusion. It was more on the feelings of the player and what the musical piece is trying to tell.

Overall, this was truly a great novel that centers about music, passion, love, discovery and choices. You really don't have to be a music lover to enjoy this book. It was beautifully written that I'm pretty sure it would easily make its way in your mind and heart. I recommend this.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Review: Sanctum (Guards of the Shadowlands #1) by Sarah Fine

Title: Sanctum (Guards of the Shadowlands, #1)
Author: Sarah Fine
Published: Ocotber 16th 2012
Publisher: Marshall Cavendish Children's/Amazon Children's Publishing
My rating: 4.5 stars
“My plan: Get into the city. Get Nadia. Find a way out. Simple.”

A week ago, seventeen-year-old Lela Santos’s best friend, Nadia, killed herself. Today, thanks to a farewell ritual gone awry, Lela is standing in paradise, looking upon a vast gated city in the distance—hell. No one willingly walks through the Suicide Gates, into a place smothered in darkness and infested with depraved creatures. But Lela isn’t just anyone—she’s determined to save her best friend’s soul, even if it means sacrificing her eternal afterlife.

As Lela struggles to find Nadia, she’s captured by the Guards, enormous, not-quite-human creatures that patrol the dark city’s endless streets. Their all-too-human leader, Malachi, is unlike them in every way except one: his deadly efficiency. When he meets Lela, Malachi forms his own plan: get her out of the city, even if it means she must leave Nadia behind. Malachi knows something Lela doesn’t—the dark city isn’t the worst place Lela could end up, and he will stop at nothing to keep her from that fate.
When I started this I didn't really know what to expect. I've seen a lot of my friends loving this and I just thought maybe I'd enjoy it too but nothing really extreme. So imagine when at the middle of the book I realized I was already in love with Malachi this book? This book is so much more than I have initially thought. There were so many layers in this story that you wouldn't though it would've when you read the synopsis. Don't take this as just some usual and normal paranormal book out there because this one is definitely not. It offered me a lot more than I have truly expected. Sanctum turns out to be a very very pleasant surprise for me.

The world-building is definitely a highlight I enjoyed very much about this book. I've read a lot of stories where different versions of the places where dead people go - Underworld, Hell, Sheol, Purgatory - were described. In this novel, Sarah Fine created her own version of it but exclusive for those souls who committed suicide. And I tell you what, it was one hell of a version! It was something I haven't seen before, how things work there - souls wandering around, their wants and desires so intense they made something out of it. It was sinister and unnerving but oddly very interesting in a way that you would also want to explore it.

Lela Santos, the main character, is definitely one of the most loyal and determined characters I'd ever met. Her decision to enter the Suicide Gates willingly to find her best friend and save her was very brave and...crazy. Yeah, that's what I thought at first but as the story went on we got our chance to see more reasons to Lela's actions and decisions. I was able to see how their friendship started and developed, how deeply Nadia had gone through her walls and at the same time saved her. Through that I was able to understand her and greatly connect with her. She was a very well portrayed character.

Malachi, ah, how do I start with this one? Well, he's very Aiden St. Delphi and Dimitri Belikov of a character! Ha! He was dedicated, strong and could be really dangerous at times but he was also just as gentle and caring to people he cared so much about. He was so genuine and selfless and although he has an awful haunting past I saw that he was a character that is moving on and learning from it. His character development as a hero and love-interest is striking. He was a very very lovable character.

And the ending! Did you know that I put this on hold for almost a month because I was so so afraid the ending would turn into a cliffhanger in a very awful situation? Well, yeah I wanna smack myself after I finally read it! Because it was a very very lovely one and cute too! Yet it still made me wish that the second book is already out, I just couldn't get enough of Lela and Malachi after that kind of ending. Haha! They're definitely one of my favorite couples now!

So if you haven't pick this up yet go pick this up now! I'm sure you'll get a very wonderful and fantastic reading experience with this one. I highly recommend this.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday (#28)

"Waiting on Wednesday" is a weekly event hosted by Jill from Breaking the Spine, that spotlight upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" is...

Title: Out of Play
Author: Nyrae Dawn and Jolene Perry
Expected Publication: August 6th 2013
Publisher: Entangled Teen

Pitched as Gayle Foreman's Where She Went meets Miranda Kenneally's Catching Jordan, a self-absorbed eighteen year old rock star is sent to Alaska to get himself together after a drug overdose, but the cute hockey player and her grandfather who live next door challenges him to think beyond the baggie of pills he's still sneaking.

Music and sport in one book? Hell yeah! I loved both Forman's Where She Went and Kenneally's Catching Jorday so when I saw this book is like a combination of the two I know I have to read this. Hopefully, it would be as great as those books mentioned above. I have also read books from these two authors so I'm pretty confident they'd make a good one. 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Mini Reviews: Sever (The Chemical Garden #3) by Lauren DeStefano and Chasing Brooklyn by Lisa Schroeder

Title: Sever (The Chemical Garden #3)
Author: Lauren DeStefano
Published: February 12th 2013
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Read synopsis at: Goodreads

Sever is the last and final book of the Chemical Garden trilgoy. In here I was finally able to get answers I have since the first book and learned more of the characters. Though there's a lot that I have liked about this book I think this is quite the weakest of the trilogy. 

While I can say that I was fairly satisfied with how everything turned out I still felt that some of the revelations weren't really that conclusive. Particularly, the explanation about the virus. It was like the answers just walk through me and for the most part it felt quite anticlimactic. I was actually hoping for something that is more thorough and detailed. The other part though was Rhine's feelings about Linden and Gabriel - which I have to say was very confusing and formless. I didn't get what it really was she felt about the two. Plus, it really disappointed me how undeveloped Gabriel's character was. I've been rooting for him since the first book and I was really looking forward to see more of him here yet I barely see him until the later part. Although I was happy that he still end up with Rhine I'm not really satisfied with how their relationship developed. 

I am split on a half on this one. I don't really know what are my exact feelings about the conclusion of this trilogy. I'm pretty satisfied with how things turned out but whenever I think more of it I kinda wish that there should have been something more with it. It felt like there were some things missing or that it wasn't completely delivered to us. Still, I think the majority of what had happened on this book had been very intriguing, there were twists and revelations that manage to surprise me and most of the questions were answered.

3.5 stars

Title: Chasing Brooklyn
Author: Lisa Schroeder
Published: January 5th 2010
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Read synopsis at: Goodreads

This is the second time I've read a work from this author and it still didn't fail to leave me at awe especially since this is a verse novel.

When I started this I realized that this is much more intense and emotional that the last book I've read of this author so I was a little doubtful if it would be able to connect and affect me deeply since it was written in a verse form. But lo and behold because it did! I was surprised to find myself tearing up on some parts and some making my skin filled with goose bumps. I fascinating how those short verses was able to contain such powerful emotions and feelings. It was very captivating and entrancing.

Nico and Brooklyn are characters that are so easy to like. I felt instant connection with them and felt the sadness and the struggles they've been having since the death of someone they both loved so deeply. The comfort they found through each other and how both of them had helped to let go and move on was very heartwarming and poignant. Their story was such a lovely and touching one that it made its way easily on my favorites shelf.

4 stars

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

What Had Gone Wrong (At Least for Me) On the Epilogue of Clockwork Princess.

Hi guys! So I decided to write something about the epilogue of Clockwork Princess which turned into more like a wild rant. Haha! I originally posted this in my tumblr but I thought that I might share this here too. And guys, don't get me wrong. I love this book so much but there were just some part in the epilogue that didn't quite sit well with me. I'll be explaining here why is that and I think I might as well get this all out before writing a review (I don't want to write a review oozing with some bitterness). Hehe. This contains major spoilers (obviously since I'm talking about the epilogue here) so I recommend not to read this if you haven't read the book yet. 

I know this topic has been discussed by a lot of readers and questions regarding it has even been answered and explained by Cassandra Clare, the author itself. I have read them and I have to say they did actually help. It helped lessen the bitter on the bittersweet feelings I had. My mind has been much more open and understanding yet even if I have seen and read them it feels like it wasn’t enough. Some part of me still can’t quite completely accept the explanations. And then I realized maybe I really wouldn’t. That maybe that’s just how it is. And all that I have to do is let it all go out, because they are UGLY feelings (coming only from a very small part), and if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to completely see the bigger and much better picture, That everyone got their chance to be happy. That’s why I’m writing this. I don’t mean any offence to anyone, or to bash this book, or to discourage fans in loving this book even more. I just can’t let these feelings affect my overall judgment and love for the series. I have to let this all go and then eventually learn to accept how things were and concentrate more on the good and happy parts. So here we go.

Note: Do not hate me please if on some parts I became a little too harsh and too opinionated. Remember I’m just getting this all out, a process I needed to get all the negative feelings out of my system and be able to completely love the whole book. 


First, I want to clarify that it wasn’t the whole epilogue that had bothered me so much. The whole part of Will’s death was, I have to say, a very saddening part but also a very compelling and poignant way to address the full weight of immortality. It was a hard truth that I know would eventually happen and some part of me, of course, refused to think about it. But that’s how it is, it made me cry bucket of tears but the other part of me also understands the reasons why Claire had written it.

So now we go to the part that made me cry harder not because I was touched but because it felt like I was slapped in the face, hard. It was the latter part, the part where Tessa and Jem got together. And before you guys (Team Jem especially) start sending downworlders to hunt me down, I’m going to make this clear, I HAVE NOTHING AGAINST TESSA AND JEM BEING TOGETHER! Although, of course, my too-loyal Will-fangirl did a little double take on that part, it was still, I think, a very nice part - Jem having his chance to be happy, to share a lifetime to the girl he had only loved. And Tessa had been alone for years, she had mourned Will for so long and I think it’s just natural to moved on and find someone to love again, and what better is it than to be with someone who she had loved and cared for so long too, right?

It was really okay for me for them to be together after all those years but what bothered me about it was her claim and insistence that she had loved him all those times. And just as equal as she loved Will.

“You asked me if I have loved anyone but Will,” she said. “And the answer is yes. I have loved you. I always have, and I always will.”

So maybe she did love them equally especially during the earlier times, but does that mean that it had been that constant even throughout the years she had been with Will building a family and Jem being a Silent Brother? It never changed? That she had loved Jem just as the way she had loved him from the start? In a romantic level?

What I fault about the epilogue was not about Tessa’s choice of being with Jem. It was after all a rational and reasonable action. And I believe the both of them deserved that chance. Will, I know, would definitely approve of that too. What I fault about it though and what I think most readers took offense to was when Tessa claimed that her love for Jem had been just as consistent and just as equal as she had loved Will throughout those years.

Maybe before she built a life with Will, yes, I could accept that. But I doubt that it never changed nor diminished a little when she made a vow with Will and became his wife and the mother of his children. I find it unrealistic and unbelievable.

That’s also probably why some readers thought negatively of Tessa’s yearly visits with Jem. Clare explained that Will was well aware of these visits and that it was something both Tessa and Jem needed especially since both of them were immortals. However I couldn’t also entirely fault those readers who thought how it might look like to be emotional cheating especially after what Tessa said in the epilogue. When she said that she have always loved him and just as much as she had loved Will, then, doesn’t that imply that during those visits half of her heart had been already to Jem and that she was as very much in love to him as she was to Will?

I find it impossible and very unrealistic to think that her love for both boys had been that equal for 130 years. A marriage would change that; an everyday life with a husband would change that; having a son and a daughter with the said husband would certainly change that. So can you honestly tell me that while Tessa was living a happy married life, with a loving husband and adorable children and Jem was on the Silent City, being a Silent Brother with so minimal communication, her love for them had been consistently equal? Realistically speaking, I don’t think so.

If you tell me it was more in a general way that her love and care for Jem was just as intensely as to Will –in a general form and not in a romantic way- that I could accept. Tell me it’s of equal love but of different ways and I would understand. But I don’t think it could ever be both romantic all at the same time. Being in love with another guy, just as equally in love as she was with her husband whom she had a son and a daughter? I can see how it could look and feel very insulting.

After reading Clare’s post in tumblr, I know that what she really intended to write was a balanced love-triangle. Although it was something I’m not sure I can easily wrap my mind into, I am open to that idea. If that’s what it was really should be then fine, but I have to be honest and say that she failed in writing a convincing one. In the first place, the epilogue wouldn’t have been an issue if most of us were convinced. I wouldn’t question Tessa’s ability to love both boys at the same time genuinely and truthfully. I felt it and saw it. But equally? I couldn’t say I did the same. Looking back on the previous two books and up to this one, I have to say that I found very little proof to support the claim that Tessa’s love was equal. And how she can still insist it, after one and a half century, where a lot have happened, where so many love have lost and gained, where so many things have changed, is just beyond my comprehension.

This may seem that I hate the epilogue but that wasn’t entirely the case. I actually love it that Jem and Tessa got the chance to be together in a different lifetime. I never read a triangle where both sides were a win-win and I would have still preferred a conclusion like this over that of the other series (Goodreads buddies know what I’m referring to).  The idea of each of them having their chance to be happy but in different lifetimes is a very fair conclusion. I know a part of Tessa, of course, will never stop loving Jem and the same with Will. She could love Jem in their lifetime together as equally and as intensely as she had loved Will in their own separate lifetime but I’ll never ever be convinced that she had loved them both equally and as intensely in one and same lifetime.

*On the side note, (this is purely me as a reader) I have to say that the arrangement of the epilogue didn’t help too. ‘Cause you see, I’ve just read of Will’s death in 5 pages! And unlike Tessa I didn’t have years and years to sort it all out in my heart and brain and soul! I only have minutes, short freaking minutes to fully absorbed everything before seeing Tessa declaring her love for Jem and kissing him. I know I couldn’t compare my grief as to what Tessa had felt but boy, Will is almost like a real person to me. I have seen the weakest and the strongest, the ugliest and the prettiest, the saddest and the happiest of him! I’ve seen his thoughts and been with him throughout this journey and although I know I’m merely just a reader I still need time to grieve over a character I’ve come to really really love. It would have been a little helpful if everything was taken a little slowly because my poor poor heart just couldn’t cope up. I mean, I just saw Will die and the next thing I knew Tessa was kissing Jem and was walking with him hand in hand in the sunset? That doesn’t mean though I wasn’t happy for them but making it a little slowly would’ve been greatly appreciated. *sigh*

*This post can also be seen at my tumblr.* 


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