Beneath the Glitter by Elle & Blair Fowler

Title: Beneath the Glitter
Author: Elle & Blair Fowler
Genre: Young Adult/ Chick-lit
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published September 4th 2012 by St. Martin’s Griffin

I’ve seen these sisters makeup videos pop up on YouTube very often and if you’ve ever searched for a review of a beauty product on YouTube, one of their reviews will most probably be recommended. I’ve watched a few, especially Elle’s Glitterature videos and they are pretty descent. So when I saw this book in the library I was instantly curious. My first reaction however was ‘Anyone now a days can write a book‘ considering being good at makeup doesn’t make you good at writing. But since I was in a reading slump already I thought I might just stop being a book snob and see what the book was like.

So let’s get on to my thoughts on this book. If you don’t like chick-lits or Young Adult, stay miles away from this book. It is what it is – a fluffy and light read. It actually does read like a feel good chick flick. 2 sisters Ava and Sophia become popular because of their makeup beauty videos and move to LA to climb the career ladder. In LA, they get to mix with the rich and famous and attend lavish parties. Eventually the lifestyle and misunderstandings between the 2 sisters almost ruin their career.

 The book tries to capitalize on the big bad image of LA and how being rich and famous will make you a shallow person. Only thing is it doesn’t quite ring true in this case. It feels too much on the surface. The story too is very breezy and superficial and drives on clichés. But it is entertaining. It’s a very quick read and doesn’t want you to make use of your brain cells too much, which could be a good thing once in a while.
Another good thing about the book is the bond between the 2 sisters – Ava and Sophia. I have 2 sisters and I could well understand their bond and it was very heartwarming and sweet at times. That is the perhaps the only section of the book which seemed effortless to me.
The worst Part? The book starts with the sisters getting arrested for a murder. It ends with ‘to be continued in the next book’ which annoys me to no extend. Again, I said this before, I don’t mind sequels but I prefer the subplot to end in the same book. If you want to write a sequel come up with another subplot.  Anyway, this book might not be for everybody. It seems like something targeting teenagers and younger crowd. But if you don’t mind a breezy, no-brainer once in a while, this does fit the bill.
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Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

Title: Anna Dressed in Blood
Author: Kendare Blake
Genre: Young Adult
Book in the series: #1
Awards: Cybils Award Nominee for Fantasy & Science Fiction (Young Adult) (2011), YALSA Awards for Best Fiction for Young Adults (2012), YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Readers (2012), Kirkus Reviews Best Teen Books of the Year (2011), NPR’s Top Five Teen (2011)
Endeavor Award Finalist (2012)

My thoughts:
First off, I don’t watch horror movies nor do I read many horror books. The last ghost movie I saw was Grunge and that too in the theater so it was pretty long back. But who can resist a cover like that? Also, since it was Young Adult, I assumed it wouldn’t be super scary. Well, I was partly right. It wasn’t as scary but considering how easily I get spooked I refused to read this at night.

Either way, I think it was a very good book and however scared I might be it was worth it. Cas Lowood is not your typical teenager. He kills ghosts that haunt. He inherited this unique vocation from his dad who was a professional Ghost killer. Cas and his mom move to a new neighborhood as usual in pursuit of a new Ghost – Anna. Anna is said to be living in an old house and has killed many people. She was brutally murdered a few decades back but that doesn’t explain the amount of strength she has. Cas, as always, is there to kill her. But circumstances are such that alter his life forever.

I thought this would be a typical fantasy novel somewhere along the lines of Twilight or Hush. But the story and the setting is very unique and so is Anna. The first encounter with Anna is very scary and I almost stopped reading. But I had to continue as I couldn’t resist knowing what happened next. Dont take Anna’s ghost as all fluff. There is violence, there is gore and there is no glossing over her deeds. The romance although weird Is believable and doesn’t feel forced. I want to read more about it and hopefully there will be more in the next book.

The characters could have been fleshed out more and the story could have had more details. But other than that I have no complaints. This is the first book in the series but its complete in itself which is very rare these days in YA.

Note: I just googled this book and it seems very popular. There are many art works dedicated to Anna. 

Stephanie Meyer is producing a movie based on this book. It will be exciting to see how it turns out.

The Raising by Laura Kasischke

Title: The Raising
Author:
Paperback: 496 pages
Publisher: Harper Perennial (March 15, 2011)
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

The Raising is about a perfect blond teenager who died in an accident and comes back to the campus to haunt. Whats not to like? A lot apparently. My foremost complaint about the book was that it jumped a lot between the past and present and in-between the characters as well. The moment I found myself immersed in a certain storyline the narration jumped to something else. Not only did I find this very distracting but it also made it very difficult for me to follow the story.

The characters for most part were also very unlikable, be it Nicole, the girl who died, her boyfriend or Josie – her roommate. The only character I liked was Perry who was Clark’s friend.  But half way through the book I started to dislike Perry as well. The storyline was also very bizarre, I found it very difficult to accept.

But the book is not without its plus points. That I found the story weird could also be a plus point for someone who likes a unique storyline. The one thing I loved about the book was the classes on Death that Professor Mira taught. I was genuinely interested in the subject and this book provided me enough material to learn something new and start researching more on a certain topic if I wanted to.

All said and done, although I was very excited about reading this book, it didn’t leave a lasting impression on me.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

bookTitle: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
Author: Ransom Riggs
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Quirk Books; Book Club edition (June 7, 2011)

My thoughts:
Here is a completely different take on a very popular topic. Mr. Riggs has taken the plotline that many fantasy novels have today and turned it into something completely different…in a good way.

Jacob Portman is a normal teenager who leads a boring and uneventful life (according to him). He is fascinated and intrigued by the stories his grandfather used to tell him about his past life – about growing up in an orphanage on an island and about the peculiar children who lived there. He described children who could levitate, who could pick heavy objects and of the one who was invisible. As Jacob grew up he knew these stories were just made up.

But when his grandfather dies in mysterious circumstances, he decides to find some answers by journeying to his grandfathers orphanage somewhere close to Wales. What he finds there is completely unexpected, fascinating and overwhelming.

I loved loved loved the plot. I thought it was innovative and very mysterious. I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next. The author created a beautiful atmosphere with the Island and the mysteries that surrounded it. I wished I was on the Island with Jacob. There is a lot more to the story than what I just told you but I wont disclose more because I want to keep it spoiler free.

Now the bad – yes, it’s not perfect. There were a lot of loopholes or if you see it from a different perspective, I didn’t understand some of the story. The ending was rushed and there is a sequel. I’m kind of bored with the whole sequel obsession in YA. Why can’t people write a book that is complete in itself? Also I found Jacob to be very decent considering the fact that he is a teenager and a boy.

I still really enjoyed reading the book and would love to read the next one. The pictures in the book helped with the story and made it more fascinating. Initially, before reading the book, just looking at the pictures, I thought this would be a horror novel – but it isn’t. I know some people get turned off by horror novels, so don’t be.

I think you would enjoy this book even if you don’t read YA.

Some of the pictures from the book

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Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

Title: Lola and the Boy Next Door
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Source: Library
Set in: San Francisco (U.S)
Genre: Young Adult
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

My thoughts:
I think I was probably the last ones to read Anna and the French kiss. I read it a couple of months back and although I didn’t love it, I did like it a lot. There were a couple of things I didn’t like about the book. Firstly I think Stephanie Perkins relied too much on the Paris setting and Paris does not do much for me. I mean I’m sure it’s a great city and all but I haven’t seen it and whatever I’ve seen on TV doesn’t impress me much. The second thing was Anna. I thought she was very irritating, I can’t pinpoint why but it’s very difficult to love a book when you don’t like the central character.

But I liked Stephanie Perkins writing so when I saw Lola and the Boy Next Door on the library shelf, I grabbed it because new books don’t tend to stay on the shelf for long. And I loved this book. It was a very fun book to read with a few serious issues covered as well. I loved Lola, I think she was a very colorful and fun character. I liked the way she dressed and loved that she was artistic and loved to design or mix and match her costumes. She was a very fun character to read about and she would be a fun person to be friends with as well.

The Boy Next Door, Cricket, was well, perfect. It works only because it’s a romance novel. There are many other things I loved about the book as well. I loved the authors writing. She reminds me of Sarah Dessen and although I love Sarah Dessen more I think Stephanie Perkins is fast becoming one of my favorite authors.

The second thing I liked was Lola has gay parents and I love that Stephanie Perkins had the courage to portray something like this. She showed that gay parents can bring up a perfectly normal child. The characters were great as well-Cricket’s sister, Lola’s friend Lindsey, her parents. Oh and if you loved Anna and the French Kiss, you’ll love this book more, because here we get to see what happened to Anna and St. Clair after Paris. And they don’t take over the story, they kind of blend in and Lola and Cricket are still the central characters.

Another thing I loved was the San Francisco setting. Stephanie Perkins describes a city really well and she makes me want to visit San Francisco sometime. Also, I love that Lola and Cricket have lives outside of their love story.
So, in conclusion, I would say I really loved this one. And if you haven’t read these books yet, I would suggest you start with Anna and the French Kiss first.

And….here is the video for the same if you are interested. It’s not that good but I promise I will improve 🙂

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Title: The Graveyard Book
Author: Neil Gaiman
Source: personal shelf
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins; First Edition edition (September 30, 2008)
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

My Thoughts:
What can I say about this book that hasn’t been said before? So I’ll keep it short. I was introduced to Neil Gaiman by Hugh when he mentioned Stardust a long time back. After that I kept reading about what a great author he was on other book blogs. I bought Fragile things and tried to read it. I loved the few stories that I read even though I found them a little weird. But my attention span for short stories is very limited and I left the book half read. After that I kept searching for The Graveyard Book after reading rave reviews but in library it was always checked out and those in book stores are expensive. To cut the long story short, I finally gave in and bought this book; and I LOVED it.

Neil Gaiman is everything that everyone has said and more. For me The Graveyard Book was mostly a coming of age story than a fantasy. For those who haven’t read it, it’s a story of a boy called Nobody Owens. His entire family is killed one night and he, as a toddler, wanders into the graveyard and is saved by a ghost couple Mr and Mrs Owens. Silas, who is neither dead nor alive and who lives in a crypt in the graveyard agrees to be his guardian and bring him all the necessities.

I loved the world Neil Gaiman has created in this book – all the ghosts in the graveyard, the atmosphere, the blue tattoo man and the ghouls gateways. Everything was so fascinating even if it was in a story. Most of all I loved Bod, loved seeing him grow up and eager to explore and know more about his surroundings. I also loved his adventurous and fearless spirit, although you probably think that’s not much considering he grew up in a graveyard.

There is something magical about Neil Gaiman’s writing, it’s as simple as it can get but it also has great depth. I wonder whats next for Nobody Owens, hopefully Mr. Neil Gaiman will let us know in a sequel?

I am eager to experience more of Gaiman’s writing. What should I read next?

Atomic Weight of Secrets by Eden Unger Bowditch

Title: Atomic Weight of Secrets or The Arrival of the Mysterious Men in Black (The Young Inventors Guild)
Author: Eden Unger Bowditch
Source: Review Copy
Genre: Young Adult
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Bancroft Press (March 15, 2011)
Rating: 4 out of 5

My Thoughts:
Wow, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, even more than I was expecting to. Being a Young Adult mystery novel about 5 young scientists I was sure it had some merits but what I loved the most about the book were the characters. In Atomic Weight of Secrets we have 5 smart, intelligent yet sweet and vulnerable kids from different parts of the world. They have all been mysteriously abandoned by their scientist parents and have been taken to a farm in Dayton, Ohio by some weird and funny looking men dressed in black.

We have Lucy and Jasper, a brother and sister duo; Lucy is the most charming and lovable of the lot. She is only 6 years old, naive and cute but also wise in her own way. Jasper is the caring older brother who takes care of Lucy and comforts her from time to time. Faye is an Indian who is very rich and spoilt. Wallace and Noah are also kids who are from well to-do families but have problems of their own. As they get to know each other, a bond is created between them as they realize each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

Although the story gets bizarre at time, it will still keep you entertained. I was on the edge of my seat towards the end. I cannot wait to read what happens in the next book. It has something for everyone, kids will love reading about the adventure and the mysterious but over the top men in black, adults will also enjoy reading about young but intelligent kids.
Give it to your kids or read it yourself, either way its a treat.

The Black Book of Secrets by F.E.Higgins

Title: The Black Book of Secrets
Author: F.E. Higgins
Genre: Fiction
Set in: England
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends (October 2, 2007)
Source: Personal Library
Rating: 4/5

My thoughts:
I honestly did not expect much from this book. It was just something I found in a sale at dirt cheap price. But I was pleasantly surprised. The Black Book of Secrets is a very unusual book. Ludlow Fitch, a 16-year-old boy, runs away from his cruel parents and by chance reaches a village called Pagus Parvus in the dead of the night. There he meets a man called Joe Zabbidou who has come out of nowhere to live in the village and has a secret. He is a pawnbroker by day and a trader of secrets by night. Ludlow becomes his assistant.

The bad guy in the village is Jeremiah Ratchet who has half the village under his debt and is a very cruel man. The villagers start to trust Joe and come to trade their secrets with him in the night. Most of them have to do with Jeremiah’s cruelty. Joe is unable to do anything in spite of knowing how cruel Jeremiah is.

I don’t want to reveal much so I wont tell you what happens. But I loved the end as much as I loved the book. I loved reading all the secrets and wondering how everything tied together. The Black Book of Secrets is supposed to be a children’s book but I think it’s very dark to be read by children. It could be more of a YA novel.

The back of the book says the author found Ludlow’s memoirs concealed within the hollow of a wooden leg. She pieced together the memoirs and filled in the gaps with her imagination. I don’t know how true it is but the result is a very entertaining book.

Definitely recommended.

Candor by Pam Bachorz

Title: Candor
Author: Pam Bachorz
Source: Library
Genre: Young Adult (dystopian)
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: EgmontUSA (September 22, 2009)
Rating: 4 out of 5

My thoughts:

Candor is a dystopian novel that reminded me of The Stepford Wives, but thankfully the author has a unique take on it. Candor is a town in Florida which is supposedly a heaven for parents. It’s a town where children don’t disobey, they don’t drink or smoke or do drugs, they do their homework and they maintain a respectable distance from girls. Only this heaven is creating by messing with the kids brains, by feeding messages to their unsuspecting minds. The founder of Candor thinks everything is going well but there is one person who knows about it and is doing everything to save himself from it. And it’s none other than his son, Oscar.

Oscar protects himself by creating his own messages and feeding them to himself so he does not turn into the Condor robot kids. He also helps rich kids realize they are being manipulated and help them escape for a huge fee. All his plans start falling apart when a rebellious girl Nia comes to town. He is completely smitten by her and her uniqueness and he wants to keep it that way. He does not want Nia to change.

The story was pretty slow up to this point. I was reading and wondering what is about this book that people are raving about so much. I honestly didn’t get it for the longest time. But the last 100 pages more or less made up for it. It was awesome and mind-blowing if only for that part. But it was worth it.

I liked Oscar and loved that he was not perfect. He wasn’t a caricature, he did what he could to stay sane. He also learned to profit from it. For me that was refreshing. Nia was forgettable, I couldn’t really get her appeal but it could be that she was still an original among so many robots. Did I tell you the end was amazing? Pam Bachorz’s second book Drought has just released but it’s not a sequel to Candor. But there has to be a sequel to this and it has to release soon.

Sea by Heidi R. Kling

Title: Sea
Author: Heidi R. Kling
Genre: Young Adult
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile (June 10, 2010)
Source: library
Set in: Indonesia
Rating: 3 out of 5

My thoughts:
Sea is about a 15-year-old girl Sienna who lives with her father and grandmother in U.S.A. She lost her mother in a plane crash a few years back. She has serious emotional issues which were the result of her mother’s death. Then she accompanies her father to Indonesia to work with the Tsunami orphans, she is instantly attracted to an Orphan boy Deni who is playing the drums for their welcome ceremony. I found the instant attraction weird. There is nothing that really makes him stand out other than his strong muscles under his tight shirt. I do understand his appeal later on since he seems to be the leader of the other boys and keeps passing deep, dark looks to Sienna. She’s a teenager after all, she’s bound to fall for that.

Anyway, as Sienna gets to know more about the orphan kids and the things they lost, her own sorrow seems very small to her. She works on her father’s team with the kids suffering from Post Traumatic stress disorder. This is the really sad part of the story-reading about children having to watch their entire families swept away. It’s heart breaking.

As a novel, what worked for me in Sea was the setting. I don’t think there are many YA novels that are set internationally. It feels like the author has actually been to Indonesia in the way she describes the landscape, the people and the customs. What didn’t work for me was believing that a boy from a village could speak English so fluently. We have been to Indonesia twice and we’ve had a really tough time communicating with the locals since very few know how to speak English.

If I decide to overlook that I still have a couple of things I didn’t like. Sienna-I didn’t like her and I didn’t understand her. She was stupid and irresponsible and there are only so many things you can excuse for being a teenager. If I was her father I would have grounded her for life. Another thing I didn’t like was the ending. It kind of negated the entire romance between Sienna and Deni for me. I can’t really tell you why without spoiling the end..

But, Sea has its appeal. Even though I didn’t love it, I know there are readers who might love this book.

This book counts for the East and SouthEast Asia Challenge