Tuesday, November 29, 2011

[Review] Legend by Marie Lu

Title: Legend {goodreads}
Authors: Marie Lu
Publication (dd/mm/yy): 28/11/11
Publisher: Penguin - Razorbill
RRP: AU$19.95
Source: For review (thanks to publishers!)
Age: 14+ Moderate violence and guns
Pages: 301 (proof copy)

My Rating:

The United States is gone, along with its flooded coasts. North America's two warring nations, the western Republic and the eastern Colonies, have reached a breaking point. In the midst of this broken continent and dark new world are two teenagers who will go down in history....

Born into the slums of Los Angeles, fifteen-year old Day is the country's most wanted criminal. A mysterious boy with no recorded image or fingerprints. A boy who should no longer exist. A boy who watches over his family until one evening, when the plague patrols mark his family's door with an X--the sign of plague infection. A death sentence for any family too poor to afford the antidote. Desperate, Day has no choice; he must steal it.

Born to an elite family in Los Angeles' wealthy Ruby sector, fifteen-year old June is the Republic's most promising prodigy. A superintelligent girl destined for great things in the country's highest military circles. Obedient, passionate, and committed to her country--until the day her brother Metias is murdered while on patrol during a break-in at the plague hospital.

Only one person could be responsible.


And now it's June's mission to hunt him down.

The truth they'll uncover will become legend.
My thoughts: 

With the latest development of the dystopian genre (in that, the genre is quickly trending), you'd think it would get more difficult for new books to impress and stand out in the genre. Marie Lu's debut novel LEGEND holds a steady balance between striking action and spirited characters that will surely capture the mind and heart of readers. The moment I reached the end and put the book down, I really did just throw my hands over eyes, overwhelmed by it all. If it had not been 2 am I probably would have vouched for a re-read. Yeah. It was THAT good.

My Synopsis
The general plot of this book is . . . Day is one of the Republic's biggest threats - not only does he wreak havoc wherever he goes, but his fingerprints are unidentifiable, which only serves to frustrate them more. When his family is in trouble, marked by a big red 'X' on their front door, he breaks into the hospital in a rush. Not without a casualty or two. June's brother is killed in the freak accident. Being a child prodigy, having scored a perfect score on her Trials, she takes it upon herself to hunt Day down. No matter what. But there are things the Republic isn't telling her. Things that will change everything she's ever believed in.

The Plot
LEGEND is pitched as a loose retelling of Les Miserables. I can't vouch for that comparison personally, but the general plot really drew me in. I really couldn't wait to read this book, and it really does not disappoint. At first there doesn't seem to be anything too special about the plot that would stand out among other dystopian novels, but there are so many twists that really surprised me.

Characters and relationships
I love Day and June. Day is such an endearing character, he's brashfully honest, and his story is both a mystery and draws the reader in. His family means everything to him, and although he doesn't get to see them often, not one day goes by when he doesn't miss them. He's such an enigma to the Republic, and since we get to hear his voice in the book, we get to know what kind of person he is and how he gets by. His "sidekick", Tess, is such a sweetheart. She's level-headed and despite her young age she knows how to hold her own. June, on the other hand, lives a privileged life and is highly regarded in the community for her outstanding Trials score. It took much longer for me to warm up to her, but as her circumstances change, she begins to show a softer, more human side of her. I love that side of her.

What is better than the characters themselves, is the relationship they each share with each other. Day and June, and Day and Tess, in particular. I'm not going to go into details, since it's better if you read it yourself. ;) Rest assured, their intertwined stories are sweet and help balance out the action-heavy parts of the book. I do have to say, though . . . while there is a romance between Day and June, I thought it would have been sweeter if they were just friends. I want to find more books where a boy and a girl become just really close friends, and I think this book could have benefited from that.

There are more characters in LEGEND, don't you worry! However, pretty much all other characters annoyed me. And they're meant to annoy you, or creep you out, or just disgust you. Mostly, though, this book really just magnifies how much societal ruling can completely brainwash (for lack of a better word) someone so that they will never oppose their leaders' orders, or think to validify the ethical side of their actions. Thomas is one such character in which this message very clearly resonates. He, without question, will gun down an innocent man, if his boss commands him to.

And don't even get me started on a rant about him. His repulsive behaviour doesn't even end there.

Along with great and interesting characters, Lu writes with such fluent ease in her debut novel. LEGEND is written in two person perspective, with - you guessed it - Day and June. What Lu does differently to others who attempt multi-perspective narratives - and succeeded in - is that there isn't a break in the action. The change in perspective doesn't distract the reader. The transitions are seamless. The voices are distinct and even without differential font-types or font-colours between narrative perspectives, it would be very clear who is telling the story. This device also helps to let the reader know each main character on a much more intimate level.

The following is a list of more positives for Marie Lu's debut novel:
  • The secrets and revelations! I really thought I knew exactly what was going on, but there were a few twists along the way that really took me by surprise. If you've read a couple dystopian novels, you should know that surprises and twists is what sets apart a good dystopian from a GREAT dystopian (along with a developed world - characters, emotions, writing . . . those are a given)
  • The world!! Actually pretty well developed, and we do get a sense of how the new LA operates. I kind of wish there was a map, just because I love maps in books. Ha! See, I personally don't know much about the Republics and the Colonies, and I would have personally loved a little introductory information. That might be asking too much though.
  • The covers. I love both of them. I might get both, we'll have to see. I also like the detailings of the insignia on the US cover. I really like when cover designs include something deeply specific to that given book.
  • Families are pretty big. While I never quite got to really KNOW Day's family members personally (they always felt distant), the enormity of Day's passion in protecting them rings true. And I just love that he cares so deeply for them. Same goes for June with her brother. Her strong bond with him is definitely something that had me reaching for the tissue box.
Recommended for any dystopian fan, LEGEND is a fast-paced and heart-racing adventure that critically explores the cracks in a futuristic Los Angeles society. With characters that come to life, Marie Lu's debut novel sets the bar high for future dystopian YA novels.


First lines:
 "My mother thinks I'm dead.
     Obviously I'm not dead, but it's safer for her to think so.
     At least twice a month, I see my Wanted poster flashed on the JumboTrons scattered throughout downtown Los Angeles. It looks out of place up there. Most of the pictures on the screens are of happy things: smiling children standing under a bright blue sky, tourists posing before the Golden Gate Ruins, Republic commercials in neon colors. There's also anti-Colonies propaganda. "The Colonies want our land," the ads declare. "They want what they don't have. Don't let them conquer your homes! Support the cause!"

     Then there's my criminal report. It lights up the JumboTrons in all its multicolored glory:
     FILE NO: 462178-3233   "DAY"
Favourite Quote:
""You should have taken me with you," I whisper to him. Then I lean my head against his and begin to cry. In my mind, I make a silent promise to my brother's killer.
   I will hunt you down. I will scour the streets of Los Angeles for you. Search every street in the Republic if I have to. I will trick you and deceive you, lie, cheat and steal to find you, tempt you out of your hiding place, and chase you until you have nowhere else to run. I make you this promise: your life is mine. (p. 45)


* cheapest Australian e-store price


Fishpond * | Readings | Dymocks | Angus & Robertson | Borders | The Nile


All links from Booko, because I'm too lazy to search each individual store anymore.

I have received this review copy in return for an honest review.

Challenge: 2011 Debut Author Challenge

Thursday, November 24, 2011

[Review] Amplified by Tara Kelly

Title: Amplified {goodreads}
Authors: Tara Kelly
Publication (dd/mm/yy): 25/10/11
Publisher: Henry Holt & Company
RRP: US$16.95
Source: Bought
Age: 15+ Sexual references and alcohol.
Pages: 290

My Rating:

When privileged 17-year-old Jasmine gets kicked out of her house, she takes what is left of her savings and flees to Santa Cruz to pursue her dream of becoming a musician. Jasmine finds the ideal room in an oceanfront house, but she needs to convince the three guys living there that she's the perfect roommate and lead guitarist for their band, C-Side. Too bad she has major stage fright and the cute bassist doesn't think a spoiled girl from over the hill can hack it. . .

In this fresh new novel by critically acclaimed author Tara Kelly, Jasmine finds out what happens when her life gets Amplified.
My thoughts: 

One word: Badass!

Tara Kelly strikes again! I loved this as much as I loved 'Harmonic Feedback', just in different ways. We've heard the story before: Teen gets kicked out of home because they're a disappointment to their parent/s. Teen goes off to fulfill their dream, whatever that may be. What really appealed to me though, was the musical aspects and the band and what the band brings to Jasmine, the protagonist.

'Amplified' is super atmospheric; Kelly really describes music perfectly. When I first started reading books with music in them, I was concerned that I wouldn't be able to 'hear the music', but so far I haven't had such a problem. It would be really cool if some of C-Side's tracks got recorded somehow, but that's probably wishful thinking. There are a few terms that, should you not be so musically inclined, you might need to look up. A little research on industrial rock also wouldn't hurt. I'll admit I'd never actually heard of the sub-genre before, but that's exactly what I love about reading. New stuff.

The band members of C-Side are eccentric and they each have their own distinct personalities that just magically drew me to them. I adored Felix's wicked fashion sense, Bryn's biting wit, Sean's quiet allure and Veta's spunk and sense of pride. I found myself chuckling and laughing way too much. They just have way too much fun together and their dialogue and actions with each other are so natural that I was able to believe they were real people.

What I most loved about AMPLIFIED, however, is the journey that Jasmine takes. She goes through so much development and has to endure quite a few obstacles in order to actually get where she does at the end. She suffers from intense stage fright, which is a big deal when she's going to be filling in for one of the hottest lead guitarists in the local industrial rock scene. What shines through with her is her innate ability to rock out and make things work, make them different and innovative. Like I said before, I could actually HEAR what was playing.

There is a romance, and one that I enjoyed a lot. The guy and Jasmine just get off to a really bad start, and first impressions make quite the impression. But over time they just start warming to each other and before we all know it, they're friends and leaning into something more. They had great chemistry; they're safely one of my top 5 fave couples for this year. Realistic - no insta-love going on ANYWHERE in here.

AMPLIFIED is fired-up and passionate, and is sure to catch interest of musically inclined readers. Kelly's sophomore release plays a familiar tune to her debut, but is a much lighter read - you might even chuckle a couple times. Jasmine is a great heroine whose endurance and strength of will persist time and time again.


""Are you waiting for the bathroom? 'Cause it looks open."
"I need to talk to Sean. I'm just waiting for a good time . . ."
Bryn walks past me and slammed his fist into Sean's door. "Hey!" The music inside cut off.
Sean answered, crinkling his brow at Bryn. He was already dressed for work--blue shirt with the sleeves rolled up, cargo pants, and boots. "What?"
"Jasmine said she's waiting for a good time. Does now work for you?" Bryn slapped Sean in the chest and sauntered off, chuckling his way down the stairs.
Sean's eyes widened at me, his lips parting. This was not the opening I had in mind. (pp. 118-119)


* cheapest Australian e-store price


Fishpond * | Readings | Dymocks | Angus & Robertson | Borders | The Nile


All links from Booko, because I'm too lazy to search each individual store anymore.

I have received this review copy in return for an honest review.

Challenge: ---

Sunday, November 20, 2011

In My Mailbox (51-58): Catch up time!!

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi of The Story Siren, and inspired by Alea at Pop Culture Junkie! Participants are required to tell all about what they've received in the mail--anything bookish!


In case you missed it, I had another IMM, for the review copies I'd received lately. [click here] The sequels just keep on pouring in! Now that I've finished university for the year, I can hopefully have a 3 day (at least) book turnover! Hope the holidays serve you well as well. ;)


Continue! :D

Saturday, November 19, 2011

[Review] Audition by Stasia Ward Kehoe

Title: Audition {goodreads}
Authors: Stasia Ward Kehoe
Publication (dd/mm/yy): 31/10/11
Publisher: Penguin Australia
RRP: $19.95
Source: For review (thanks Penguin!)
Age: 15+ Sexual content, but otherwise clean.
Pages: 450 [verse novel]

My Rating:

Once you've been chosen,
what step can you take...?

Seventeen-year-old Sara's dream of becoming a star ballerina is challenged when she falls for Remington, an older choreographer. Instead of success onstage, she becomes Rem's muse, which is a future she never considered--and one that threatens to break her heart.
My thoughts: 

I was so excited to read AUDITION! I jump to the chance to read any dancing YA novel. I admit, I was worried that my expectations wouldn't be met, but for the most part I was quite pleased with what I found.

This cover is also beautiful as anything, and I can definitely picture both models as Sara and Rem. The pose is intimate, and pretty dead-on. The cover could almost be a bit busy - if the quote wasn't blurred in like it is. The title & quote fonts are nice, and the title itself is simple yet speaks volumes, especially since Sara alludes to auditions a couple times throughout the novel. 

My Synopsis

AUDITION is the story of a budding ballerina [Sara] from the country who gets swept away into the world of the Jersey Ballet. Not only is she far away from home, from her best friend Bess and her family. She's living with her Spanish dancing instructor, an older man [Remington] is using her as a muse, she's stuck with younger girls in her class due to her country-bumpkin-ness. The girls at her new high school are pretentious and rich and look down at Sara's humble upbringing, and dreams of dancing in the future.

As Sara climbs up her ballet class ladder and develops from hunter green leotard to grey, Snowflake to Aurora, so too does her poisonous relationship with Remington.

I have to say, I LOVE the writing of this book! It's poetic and lyrical and just so easy to read. My favourite quotes are actually the ones that are on the front and back covers. Especially the front. I actually find it fitting that this book was written in verse, since the sequences and choice of words and rhythms and moves . . . it's like a different kind of dance. The writing is equal parts dancing, equal parts romance, equal parts anguish and inner-turmoil and self-discovery.

Sara is just your average girl. She gets pretty average grades, has a couple good friends back home, deals with trying to fit in with the rich and glamorous at Upton Academy, and catch up to the talented and esteemed prima ballerinas (especially Lisette) at the Jersey Ballet. She's always wanted to be a prima ballerina, but she has doubts. I liked that she doesn't just magically become amazing. There's a progression towards her improvement.

And then there's Remington. I have conflicted feelings about him and his behaviour through the course of the book. First off, Sara and him get intimate preeeeetty quickly. At the beginning, it's all really sweet, but slowly the cracks let out and we see Rem's true colours, and his true intentions. I actually love that their relationship seemed realistic, and I have no doubt that such a one exists somewhere. Their relationship is dysfunctional, and it's not all sunshine and rainbows. Sara needed this though, to finally realise what's important to her and why she got into ballet. She grows and begins to understand herself after being with Rem, and the revelations and in-betweens are what would push me to re-read this.

There isn't too much room to develop the secondary characters too much, considering AUDITION's format. I would have liked to have seen more of Julio, the Spanish dance instructor's son, who is pursuing music. He and Sara share an almost brother-sister-like bond, which I enjoyed. Also, her dancer girl friends kind of morphed together for me. None of them stood out particularly. To me, they were just names. Lisette is a different story, since she is the cause of much of Sara's distress. Even then, I would have liked more development, of at least one of them. Probably Lisette. They barely even talked, which was a shame.

That said, I did like the dancing descriptions. It's all so foreign to me, but I was able to imagine it - once I searched up the terminology. :P All in all, AUDITION is a satisfying debut novel that centralises the problems that can befall a budding ballerina, and her actions in trying to escape these problems. AUDITION is adorned with beautiful, romantic and illustrative writing, though lacking in secondary character development.

Recommended for people with an interest in dance, those looking for a dark relationship in the contemporary YA genre and fans of verse novels.


"'No. No. Like this, ballerina.'
His chuckling words waft through
The smoke in my ears.
I let him show me
Steps I have not seen in ordinary classes,

His expression all fire
As he shares his pas de deaux. (p. 174)
"I stand up slowly,
In the aftermath
Of Remington's words.
Knees weak.
Breath fast.


At Rem for thinking
This could all be so easy,
At Jane for her power,
At Lisette for her pirouettes,

At myself
For nodding again,
For decisions that are always off count,
For not knowing the question
I would want him to answer
If I ever had the courage to ask.
(pp. 344-345)


* cheapest Australian e-store price



All links from Booko, because I'm too lazy to search each individual store anymore.

AUDITION in a song
* links to a dance

1. "Ghost" - Ingrid Michaelson (Ingrid's newest song, and is perfect for AUDITION.)
2. "Cold As You" - Taylor Swift
3. "Dancing" - Elisa *
4. "Corner of your Heart" - Ingrid Michaelson *
5. "Gravity" - Sara Bareilles (Watching this dance always gives me the chills) *
6. "You Don't Know Me" - Ben Folds Feat. Regina Spektor
7. "Foolish Games" - Jewel
8. "You Outta Know" - Alanis Morisette (Sara's INNER thoughts to Remington, especially at one point of the book, when he's with Jane.)
9. "The Silence" - Mayday Parade
10. "Stupid" - Sarah McLachlan *

But *ahem* don't get me started with SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE. We'd probably be here a while. Please do comment with additions to this 'playlist' (and more dances, please!) for AUDITION.

I have received this review copy in return for an honest review.

Challenge: YA Debut 2011 Challenge

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The. Hunger. Games.

Source: we ♥ it

I'm sure most readers will have seen this trailer already (and probably a couple of times, if not more), but I thought I'd mention it here on the blog too.

I watched it. Though I haven't read the book yet. Since the new trailer has reminded me that the movie DOES have a release date, I've strewn this near the top of my TBR list. After I read a couple of ARCs and review copies that I've really wanted to read, I'll be moving on to my "summer pile". From then on, I'll be asking YOU to choose what I should read next, from my "summer pile". Which includes THE HUNGER GAMES. Which probably means I'll be reading that first. :P

Anyway, here's the trailer if you haven't seen it yet (or want to see it again)

It looks amazing, and though I had an idea what the book was about, now I'm a bit more clued in. Can't wait to read the book, and I'll probably be ordering CATCHING FIRE when I'm done with it.

Source: we ♥ it

Q: Which is your favourite book in the series?
  • 'The Hunger Games'
  • 'Catching Fire'
  • Mockingjay' 

Comment with your answer; I really want to know!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Finally read Tomorrow, When the War Began!

I just finished reading the book last night, and about 20 minutes afterward I re-watched the film adaptation. Just brilliance - a new kind of appreciation and love for the series and movie just spawned because of my having read the book. I was a bit too young (the first book came out the year I was born, so...) to read the books the first time around, back in its hey-day, but it's still so relevant and it doesn't feel dated at all.

This post will serve as a 'review' on the blog. I'm not sure how long it will be, but I'll just ramble on and add whatever I want to it. I'm sure you've heard of it already, so I don't feel the need to provide a review when either you've read it, want to read it, or you watched the movie or whatever.

TOMORROW, WHEN THE WAR BEGAN has got nearly everything - action, adventure, romance, comedy, drama. There's more added comedy in the movie - little things like when Homer shakes it like Beyonce, or when Chris is telling his story of events. Overall I preferred the book, but they both complement each other - fans of the books will love the movie! Not too many changes have been done, though the whole Hermit's Hut side-plot thing was completely removed, as well as the effects those revelations has on Ellie.

Ellie is a phenomenal main character - she's just such a teenager, they all are. She's just your average girl, and that's what readers will appeal to, the fact that she's not entirely special - she has flaws, she can be stubborn and a bit all over the place, especially when her emotions are involved. She's totally kickass though and just values her family and friends so much that it's admirable how far she goes at times.

The enemies are never described, because this is first-person narrated and Ellie doesn't know herself. I can't wait to read the next one and see how things progress. All I know (from the chapter preview at the end of the 1st book) is that the gang go into hiding and then decide to go and (spoilers) bust Corrie and Kevin out of the hospital. It's going to get good!!

I wish there was something this big right now, that is literary and thought-provoking and appealing to the YA age group. I mean, for what I know, this was HUGE. At least in Australia. Now, we've got paranormal creatures and such, but nothing that really speaks to you. Or at least, to me.

I don't know. I'm just procrastinating. I've got an assignment due today at midnight (in 10 hours). I can get it done in 2-3, so I should be good. I actually cleaned my room, my level of dedication for putting off my assignment. And then on Monday I have my second (and last for the year) week of clinical placement. I'm getting sick of the hospital, actually. After that, on Friday, I'll be free to study for my exams. My uni is the only one that has the clinical placement BEFORE exams and results, which is pretty annoying. It would be nice to go to the hospital and not have the impending exams at the back of mind all the time...

[Read my semi-review on Goodreads]

Fan-song ~ Beautifully written
Lyrics I cant stand, this silence my heart is beating like a drum I used to, know how it felt to be, pure and young I close my eyes to erase these bloody hands but nothing can truly take away this pain i feel God, save my soul from destruction, this nightmare we're living a war Hope, is in our hands so forgive all my sins but i can't stop now We may have the freedom, but they've taken our lives away All thats left we fight back, until our last day (pre chorus) (chorus) Hold this gun to my head (get it over) Cause these thoughts i will never forget but when the day breaks i pray that tomorrow will come (Chorus) When this war began our lives had changed, We will rise from hell and live again x2 Forgive all my sins but i cant stop now
So I want to ask all of you:
Which is your favourite in the series?
What did you think of it? Favourite scenes/moments?
When is the second film coming out? 
I implore you to go out, grab a copy of the movie somehow, or the books. See for yourself, support the film. It would be awesome if they could keep making them right up until the end.
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