Book Review : Shadow Hills by Anastasia Hopcus

Shadow Hills
, 388 pages
Published August 24th 2010 by Egmont USA

After her sister Athena's tragic death, it's obvious that grief-stricken Persephone "Phe" Archer no longer belongs in Los Angeles. Hoping to make sense of her sister's sudden demise and the cryptic dreams following it, Phe abandons her bubbly LA life to attend an uptight East Coast preparatory school in Shadow Hills, MA -- a school which her sister mysteriously mentioned in her last diary entry before she died.

Once there, Phe quickly realizes that something is deeply amiss in her new town. Not only does Shadow Hills' history boast an unexplained epidemic that decimated hundreds of its citizens in the 1700s, but its modern townies also seem eerily psychic, with the bizarre ability to bend metal. Even Zach -- the gorgeous stranger Phe meets and immediately begins to lust after -- seems as if he is hiding something serious. Phe is determined to get to the bottom of it. The longer she stays there, the more she suspects that her sister's untimely death and her own destiny are intricately linked to those who reside in Shadow Hills.

When I was first introduced to the paranormal genre, almost everything I read strikes me as unique and alluring. But after a while, I started to get somewhat bored with the similarities in many books. It seemed everyone was trying to reproduce the Twilight phenomenon. However, thankfully, there aren't any mythical creatures in Shadow Hills.

Our heroine Persephone "Phe" Archer often experiences strange, inexplicable dreams which shows her a graveyard, a tombstone and a person who looks eerily like her sister. She decides to investigate her sister's death by attending a school in Shadow Hills. She meets a handsome guy who can send electricity up her fingers - I mean real electricity, not the ones opposite sexes feel when they are physically attracted to one another. He even charged up her dead iPhone. (Can you imagine how useful he is? I bet he can light up a pile of dry leaves with his super-electricity.)

One thing I liked about this book is the way the author describes things that happen. Her words often feel genuine, and her descriptive skills are undeniably good. The romance between Phe and Zach, though a little rushed, sounds believable as they have a mutual interest in each other. And thank goodness they never overstep the boundaries of a healthy relationship.

However, I couldn't particularly connect to any of the characters. Please forgive me for my ignorance, but I did not have the slightest bit of idea what Phe's favourite music / bands are, as in I have never heard them before. The pacing was too slow for my liking, and the story too long. I almost gave up halfway through, but I wanted to see what all the fuss about Athena's mysterious death / genetic mutants was about, so I kept on reading, only to find out that the mystery isn't that much of a mystery after all.

In the latter parts of the novel, Phe's teacher Mr. Carr was murdered, and she was the first person to see him dead. She noticed that there were deep red fingerprints burns on his temples (before she fainted), so she guessed that he was murdered. Her love interest, Zach speculated that he may have accidentally killed himself, since he had superpowers too. And it took them a whole lot of time to come to the conclusion that he was killed. Seriously, if you were to press your temples using your own hands, the shape of the fingerprints would have been different than when you have someone else do it. Unless the person did it from behind you. But then the angle would be totally different. That's a simple logic, isn't it?

The identities of the bad guys were too predictable. Obviously it's one of those who were portrayed as morally askew people right from the beginning of the novel. I didn't even feel surprised that they were the culprit. So much for the grand revelation.

Bottom Line: I didn't like this book, but it was not that bad. At least I enjoyed the author's impressive literary prose.

Rating: 2 out of 5
About The Author
Anastasia Hopcus wrote her first book in the 2nd grade.It was entitled Frederick the Friendly French Ferret and was seven pages long. During high school she wrote numerous short stories and started (but never finished) three screenplays, all as an alternative to doing actual school work. At the very wise age of twelve her career ambition was to drive a Mack truck, but when that didn’t pan out, she tried acting, bartending, and being a receptionist in a dojo before finally returning to writing. Anastasia loves horror movies, Joss Whedon, obsessing over music, and British accents. She lives in Austin, Texas.

In My Mailbox: February Wrap-Up

I used to do IMM's once a week, but some weeks I don't have anything to share, so I figured I'd do monthly IMM's instead. The following are what I've received in February:

For Review:
19th WifeLinkThe 19th Wife by David Ebershoff

It is 1875, and Ann Eliza Young has recently separated from her powerful husband, Brigham Young, prophet and leader of the Mormon Church. Expelled and an outcast, Ann Eliza embarks on a crusade to end polygamy in the United States. A rich account of a family’s polygamous history is revealed, including how a young woman became a plural wife.

Soon after Ann Eliza’s story begins, a second exquisite narrative unfolds–a tale of murder involving a polygamist family in present-day Utah. Jordan Scott, a young man who was thrown out of his fundamentalist sect years earlier, must reenter the world that cast him aside in order to discover the truth behind his father’s death.

Thanks to Transworld Publishers Black Swan!

I'm currently reading this book. The polygamous marriage practiced by the Latter-Day Saints intrigues me. Is it really what the Prophet deems - God's command? Or is it merely a political play to cover up his insatiable lust for beautiful young women?

Lockdown (Escape From Furnace, #1)

Furnace Penitentiary: the world's most secure prison for young offenders, buried a mile beneath the earth's surface. Convicted of a murder he didn't commit, sentenced to life without parole, Alex Sawyer knows he has two choices: find a way out, or resign himself to a death behind bars.

My deepest gratitude to Alex for sending me this book! It sure sounds great! And I totally love the kick-ass cover.

Giveaway Wins:

The Cabinet of Earths by

To protect her baby brother James, 12-year-old Maya has to take on the magical underworld of Paris, in which houses have bronze salamanders for door handles, the most beautiful people are all hooked on the sweet-smelling “anbar,” and a shimmering glass Cabinet of Earths has chosen Maya to be its next keeper.
Many thanks to Anne Nesbet for this book! I won a giveaway on her blog with a random number of 123 - actually not so random as I chose this number because my birthday falls on the 23rd of January!

Smoulder by

Daphne is the half-demon, half-fallen angel daughter of Lucifer and Lilith. Life for her is an endless expanse of time, until her brother Obie is kidnapped - and Daphne realizes she may be partially responsible. Determined to find him, Daphne travels from her home in Pandemonium to the vast streets of Earth, where everything is colder and more terrifying. With the help of the human boy she believes was the last person to see her brother alive, Daphne glimpses into his dreams, discovering clues to Obie's whereabouts. As she delves deeper into her demonic powers, she must navigate the jealousies and alliances of the violent archangels who stand in her way. But she also discovers, unexpectedly, what it means to love and be human in a world where human is the hardest thing to be.
Many thanks to Brenna for this book! You can read more about the prize pack I received here: A Surprise Package from Brenna Yovanoff

Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution

In this deft historical novel, Madame Tussaud (1761-1850) escapes the pages of trivia quizzes to become a real person far more arresting than even her waxwork sculptures. Who among us knew, for instance, that she moved freely through the royal court of Louis XVI, only to become a prisoner of the Reign of Terror? Her head was shaven for guillotining, but she escaped execution, though she was forced to make death masks for prominent victims. Novelist Michelle Moran covers this breathtaking period without losing the thread of its subject's singular story.

You can't imagine how excited I am about this book! I was supposed to review this book before its publication date, but the books Michelle sent my way never arrived. It literally broke my heart. But the good thing is, I ended up as the 7th place winner in Michelle's Heads Will Roll contest thanks to Queeny's help. Michelle was kind enough to send two copies of Madame Tussaud - one for me and one for Queeny! And fortunately this time, the books arrived safely - yay! Thank you so much, Michelle!

Alice and her best friend Cass are stuck in a cabin with Polly, the social outcast, and Rae, the moody emo-girl. Then there’s Tara – queen of mean. Powerful, beautiful and cruel, she likes nothing better than putting people down.

Cass decides it’s time to teach Tara a lesson she’ll never forget. And so begins a series of events that will change the lives of these girls forever...
Many thanks to Claire from Claire Reads for sending this book my way! Torn sounds like a winner!

Wither (The Chemical Garden, #1)
At age 16, Rhine Ellery has four years to live. Thanks to a botched effort to create a perfect race, all females live to age 20 and males live to age 25. On the cusp of her 17th birthday, Rhine attempts to flee, but what she finds is a society spiraling out of control.
I won this last year, but it only arrived now because it was a pre-ordered copy. It's amazing how I can wait 100+ days for a book to arrive. Many thanks to Simcha from SFF Chat for this book!

Random Act of Kindness (RAK):
Touch of Power (Healer, #1)
Laying hands upon the injured and dying, Avry of Kazan absorbs their wounds and diseases into herself. But rather than being honored for her skills, she is hunted. Healers like Avry are accused of spreading the plague that has decimated the Fifteen Realms, leaving the survivors in a state of chaos.

Stressed and tired from hiding, Avry is abducted by a band of rogues who, shockingly, value her gift above the golden bounty offered for her capture. Their leader, an enigmatic captor-protector with powers of his own, is unequivocal in his demands: Avry must heal a plague-stricken prince—leader of a campaign against her people. As they traverse the daunting Nine Mountains, beset by mercenaries and magical dangers, Avry must decide who is worth healing and what is worth dying for. Because the price of peace may well be her life...

Thanks to Jen at for this gift! You can read my review HERE.

Book Review : Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

Hardcover, 320 pages
Published January 12th 2010 by Penguin
Available at my Facebook Album for RM 30.00

Twelve-year-old CeeCee is in trouble. For years she’s been the caretaker of her psychotic mother, Camille— the crown-wearing, lipstick-smeared laughingstock of an entire town. Though it’s 1967 and they live in Ohio, Camille believes it’s 1951 and she’s just been crowned the Vidalia Onion Queen of Georgia.

The day CeeCee discovers Camille in the front yard wearing a tattered prom dress and tiara as she blows kisses to passing motorists, she knows her mother has completely flipped. When tragedy strikes, Tootie Caldwell, a previously unknown great-aunt comes to CeeCee’s rescue and whisks her away to Savannah. Within hours of her arrival, CeeCee is catapulted into a perfumed world of prosperity and Southern eccentricities—a world that appears to be run entirely by women.

While Tootie is busy saving Savannah’s endangered historic homes from the wrecking ball, CeeCee encounters a cast of unforgettable, eccentric characters. From the mysterious Thelma Rae Goodpepper, who bathes in an outdoor tub under the watchful eyes of a voyeuristic peacock, to Oletta Jones, the all-knowing household cook, to Violene Hobbs, the loud-mouthed widow who entertains a local police officer in her yellow see-through peignoir, the women of Gaston Street keep CeeCee entertained and enthralled for an entire summer.

But CeeCee’s view of the world is challenged in ways she could have never imagined: there are secrets to keep, injustices to face, and loyalties to uphold. Just as she begins to find her ballast and experiences a sense of belonging, her newfound joy collides with the long-held fear that her mother’s legacy has left her destined for destruction.

Laugh-out-loud funny, at times heartbreaking, and written in a pitch-perfect voice, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt is a spirited Southern tale that explores the intricate frailties and strengths of female relationships while illuminating the journey of a young girl who loses her mother but finds many others.

The synopsis pretty much sums up this book, and indeed, Saving Cee Cee Honeycutt is a heartwarming, entertaining story about a neglected little girl who found love in places and people she could never imagine.

I warmed up to the character Cecelia Rose Honeycutt from the very begging. Being merely twelve years old, she is burdened with the task of taking care of her mentally-ill mother who dreams of a glorious life which has long-passed. Her father is always running away from harsh realities of life by using his job as an excuse, and Mrs. Odell is her only refuge.

After her mother's sudden death, Cee Cee moves in to stay with her great aunt Tootie. The first person she gets to know besides her aunt is none other than Aunt Tootie's personal cook, Oletta Jones. At the beginning, Oletta is cold towards Cee Cee, but after knowing her past, she sympathizes Cee Cee's plight and offers the child her support.

Cee Cee quickly learns that the women in the neighbourhood are kind, though each of them have different personalities. Aunt Tootie is always optimistic, Oletta Jones has a warm heart beneath her cool behaviour, Miz Goodpepper is nice but somewhat quirky, and Miz Hobbs' presence always makes her uneasy.

Jam-packed with wit, humour and charm - spiced up by the presence of two quirky, eccentric, always-at-each-other's-throats neighbours - Miz Goodpepper and Miz Hobbs, Saving Cee Cee Honeycutt will definitely make its way into your heart.

Rating: 4.000

About The Author

Before beginning her writing career, Beth Hoffman was the president and co-owner of a successful interior design studio. An artist as well as an award-winning interior designer, Beth's paintings are displayed in private and corporate collections in the United States, Canada, and the UK. She lives, along with her husband and three very smart cats, in a fully restored Queen Anne home in a quiet historic district in northern KY.

Book Review : Article 5 (Article 5, #1) by Kristen Simmons

Article 5 (Article 5, #1)
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published January 31st 2012 by Tor Teen
Available on Amazon / Barnes & Noble / The Book Depository

New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., have been abandoned.

The Bill of Rights has been revoked, and replaced with the Moral Statutes.

There are no more police—instead, there are soldiers. There are no more fines for bad behavior—instead, there are arrests, trials, and maybe worse. People who get arrested usually don't come back.

Seventeen-year-old Ember Miller is old enough to remember that things weren’t always this way. Living with her rebellious single mother, it’s hard for her to forget that people weren’t always arrested for reading the wrong books or staying out after dark. It’s hard to forget that life in the United States used to be different.

Ember has perfected the art of keeping a low profile. She knows how to get the things she needs, like food stamps and hand-me-down clothes, and how to pass the random home inspections by the military. Her life is as close to peaceful as circumstances allow.

That is, until her mother is arrested for noncompliance with Article 5 of the Moral Statutes. And one of the arresting officers is none other than Chase Jennings…the only boy Ember has ever loved.

Kristen Simmons’ debut novel, Article 5, a dystopian novel set in a post-War America, chronicles Ember Miller’s journey to save her mother from a false accusation that may result in her imprisonment, or worse, death. Unfolding before our eyes is the condition of the country after the War - the government enforcing military administration, seemingly just but actually unfair Moral Statutes, streets filled with abandoned buildings, and people afraid to voice out their thoughts for fear of their lives. The government's oppressive rule have, in a way, made life almost unbearable for the citizens.

Our heroine Ember Miller has perfected the skills of keeping a low profile since she was a kid. But she can never predict the terrible fate that will tear her life apart. When her mother is accused of violating Article 5 (which states that children are considered valid citizens only when conceived by a married man and wife), she is shocked, furious then devastated. She tries fighting back but her attempts prove to be futile against the guns of the military guards and the country's iron vise law. What angers and saddens her most is the fact that her former sweetheart, Chase Jennings, is one of the guards who captures her mother.

Shortly after her mother's capture, Ember is sent to a Reformatory and Rehabilitation Centre which looks more like a jail with all the guards, huge locked gate and a heartless headmistress who starves her and cane her in public until her knuckles bleed. Ember is determined to escape, but there is no way out except the front gate, which is always guarded. At the reform school, she meets a new room mate, Rebecca Lansing. Even though Rebecca always sounds cheery, she actually despises the place. But then, who can blame her? Being as helpful as possible is probably her best way of survival.

A huge part of the novel focuses on Ember and Chase escaping the Federal Bureau of Reformation, dubbed the Moral Militia. On their journey towards safety, they encountered several problems, but luckily they managed to solve them, albeit with some difficulties. Deep in her heart, Ember still loves Chase, but she finds his betrayal hard to accept, and thus keeps on distancing herself from him and treats him coldly. Chase seems to keep secrets from Ember, and though I understand that he does this for her sake, it is still quite frustrating. Ember is not sure whether she can trust him, but under the dire circumstances, she has no other choice but to follow him.

Simmons avoids falling into stock characterization — the highly-skilled, kick-ass protagonist who overcomes great odds to achieve success — by emphasizing the distress and anguish Ember feels when she is forced to separate with her mother and is sent to the Reformatory and Rehabilitation Centre. The author also highlights how Ember grows physically and mentally into a tougher person after the various gut-wrenching incidents she endured. Ember and Chase’s success is not guaranteed. In fact, as the novel progresses, it seems quite unlikely, with the MM hot on their heels and the fact that their news is made known to the public.

Ember and Chase's romance is quite plausible under the circumstances; it is the sort of deep-heart love laced with hurt, mistrust and pain. Chase loves Ember more than he loves himself and vows to protect her at all costs. However, Ember remains doubtful of "the soldier" Chase has become. She wants to trust him but she cannot bring herself to believe him all the way. She is repelled by Chase's wanting to kill a man who threatens her life, but I know that he does that only because he is concerned of her safety. But after some time together, they find the courage to confess to each other their true feelings, and I am glad for that. No love should remain buried in our hearts.

“It was you," I say softly. "It's always you I think about."

The intensity in his gaze took my breath away. I could feel him. Every part of him. His soul was sewn to mine. His heated blood flowed through my veins. I'd thought that I had been close to my mother, and I was, but not like this. Chase and I barely touched- our hands, mouths, knees- but there was no part of me that was not his.

Ember, in Article 5

In the end, Article 5 is less about Ember's mission to save her mother. This is the story of a girl who becomes conscious of how wrong and despicable it is for the government to rule its citizens by force, and ultimately understands of the true value of freedom and justice. There finally comes a point, when even the most innocent girl realizes that this just isn't the way it should be. A paradigm shift must be done - soon.

It's them Miller. Not us. It's the FBR that should be sorry. --- Sean, in Article 5

Rating: 4.000

A Note of Thanks
I would like to extend my sincerest thanks and appreciation to Alexis S. at Tor Teen for providing me a copy of Article 5 for this review.

About The Author
Kristen Simmons
Kristen Simmons has a master’s degree in social work and is an advocate for mental health. She loves Jazzercise, her husband, and her precious greyhound, Rudy. Also chocolate. She currently lives in Tampa, Florida. For more updates on Kristen and her writing, check out her blog.

Book -Tagged


I've been book tagged by Mad Book Worm from Books With Marshmallows!

1. You must post the rules. :D
2. Answer the questions the tagger set for you in their post and then create eleven new
questions to ask the people that you have tagged.
3. Tag eleven people and link to them on your post.
4. Let them know you've tagged them!

So here are Mad Book Worm's questions for me:

1) When did you first start getting addicted to books. And how?
I have a vague recollection of my mother reading stories to me when I was a kid, and I have always been fascinated by story books ever since I was a child. I got addicted to books when I picked up one of Enid Blyton's books for children. I grew up savouring his stories in which animals could talk and pixies help people.

2) What is the book that you found yourself wanting to read it again?
I rarely re-read books. When I do, I only read some simple fairytales which probably takes 5 minutes to complete.

3) How often do you update your blog? And does the design of the blog matters to you more than the content?
I used to blog almost everyday back when I was a high school student. Now, I update my blog at least twice a week due to my long working hours at my aunt's law firm as a clerk. And blog designs do matter to me as I know pretty blog designs can attract eyeballs (literally), and readers will have a lovely time reading my blog. However, ultimately, content is king.

4) If you could live in a book, what book would that be?
Let's see... How about Dark Life by ? I would love to explore every nook and cranny of the amazing underwater world presented in the novel. And it would be even better if I eventually develop a Dark Gift. (You can read my review HERE)

5) If you could bring out something from a book, what would that be?
I would bring out Avi from the How to Ruin Series by , and he can be my boyfriend! Sorry, Amy, but I think you'll just have to be content with Nate! Oops, sorry... I didn't read the question well. It's a something, not someone. I'd bring out Harry Potter's Wand, and I'd get to perform all sorts of unexplainable magic. Maybe I'll even be the next Copperfield.

6) How do you like to read your books? Lying down in bed or sprawled on the floor?
I love reading in bed. :)

7) Do you want to be a writer? And what author would you want to choose as a mentor?
I don't think I have the qualifications to be a writer. But if I were to be a writer, I'd choose Michelle Moran and Maria V. Snyder as my mentor.

8) What is your favourite quote from a book that you read recently?
“Ember, you're the only piece of me I have left. Everything else-my family, my home, my soul- they're all gone. I don't know who the hell I am anymore. If it weren't for you... I don't know.” --- Chase Jennings from Article 5

9) What is your favourite book to movie adaption?
The Harry Potter series! And I'm sure the soon-to-be-released Hunger Games movie would be a hit!

10) Has there been any book(s) that you just can't finish reading it?
Yes. The Photograph by Penelope Lively.

11) Who is your ultimate fictional crush and why?
Avi from the How to Ruin Series by He's a hot Israeli hunk! OK, I'm kidding. I'm not that shallow. I think I like him because he exudes a sense of calm and maturity. He is strong (both physically and mentally) and caring at the same time - I think i will feel safe with a guy like him.

Now, I'm tagging you!

  1. Ex Libris
  2. Katie's Book Blog
  3. The Elliott Review
  4. Bookish
  5. The Great, The Good and The Bad
  6. Midnight Fume
  7. The Paper Planes

Here are my questions for you:

  1. What is/are your favourite book(s) and author(s)?
  2. What do you think is the most important element in a novel?
  3. If you can have a dinner with any fictional character (living or dead), who would you choose to dine with?
  4. Who is your book-boyfriend/girlfriend? Why do you like him/her?
  5. What kind of swag do you prefer?
  6. Are you a fan of book-inspired jewelry? If yes, can you share some details about your collection?
  7. Do you eat snacks while you are reading? If yes, then what type of snacks?
  8. Do you find it hard to balance between work and blogging? What are your solutions to this problem?
  9. What is the one thing that inspires you and motivates you to keep blogging?
  10. E-books or printed books?
  11. What are the books that made you whoop with joy / shed painful tears / haunt your mind for days after you've read them?

Hottest Boys in Books


In no particular order:

1. Emilio from Babe in Boyland by Jody Gehrman
Babe in Boyland
“Are you mad?" I ask.

"I was." He glances at the ceiling then back at me.

"Or confused, anyway. The whole thing threw me through for a loop. I thought I'd finally met a guy at Underwood I could relate to, and it turns out he wasn't a guy at all."

I swallow. "I can see how that would be weird."

"In a way though, I was relieved."

"Relieved?" I echo. "Why?"

He looks around embarrased. "Let's just say you had me questioning my sexual orientation.”

--- Natalie and Emilio in Babe In Boyland

2. Four from I am Number Four (Lorien Legacies, #1) by Pittacus Lore

“When you have lost hope, you have lost everything. And when you think all is lost, when all is dire and bleak, there is always hope.” --- Henri in I am Number Four

“I'm so sorry, Henri," I whisper in his ear. I close my eyes. "I love you. I wouldn't have missed a second of it, either. Not for anything," I whisper. "I'm going to take you back yet. Somehow I am going to get you back to Lorien. We always joked about it but you were my father, the best father I could have ever asked for. I'll never forget you, not for a minute for as long as I live. I love you, Henri. I always did.” --- John Smith (Four) in I am Number Four

This is what Four looks like:
See those gorgeous eyes?

3. Valek from by Poison Study (Study, #1)
“Yelena, you've driven me crazy. You've caused me considerable trouble and I've contemplated ending your life twice since I've known you." Valek's warm breath in my ear sent a shiver down my spine.

"But you’ve slipped under my skin, invaded my blood and seized my heart.”

“That sounds more like a poison than a person,” was all I could say. His confession had both shocked and thrilled me.

“Exactly,” Valek replied. “You have poisoned me.”

Dark Life (Dark Life #1) by Dark Life (Dark Life, #1)

I thrust out my hand. “I’m Ty.”

She hesitated before taking it and, of course, didn’t tug off her dive glove. Among settlers, it would’ve been an insult. But then, Topsiders rarely showed skin except from the neck up. Sometimes not even that.

“I’m Gemma.”

“Gemma.” I couldn’t help smiling. “Like gem o’ the ocean.”

She looked startled. “What’s that from?”

“It’s what we say down here when we come across something pretty.” I realized it sounded like I was saying that she was pretty, which I wasn’t — even though she was. My mouth went dry. “You know, like a shell.” I cleared my throat. “Or a sea slug.”

5. Avi from the by How to Ruin a Summer Vacation (How to Ruin, #1)
“God take care of him, because he's my past and my future”
--- Amy in How To Ruin Your Boyfriend's Reputation
Boys that Bite (Blood Coven, #1) by Mari Mancusi
Boys that Bite (Blood Coven, #1)
“I can sue you? Cool." I rummage around in my purse for a pen, wanting to write this down. "Under what? Medical malpractice? Assault with a deadly fang?" I look up. "How much you think the courts would award me for that?"

Rayne frowns. "Sunny, stop being a bitch. Can't you see poor Magnus is freaking out here?"

"I need to stop being a bitch? For Magnus's sake?" I stare at her, unbelieving. "Uh, hello? He's the guy who walked up and bit me for absolutely no reason whatsoever.”

Massive ARC Giveaway @ Live to Read!

Over at Krystal's blog, there is a Massive ARC Giveaway! Up for grabs are 5 amazing ARC's and a Swag Pack filled with bookmarks (quite a few signed), Book Postcards, etc... The best thing is, this giveaway is INTERNATIONAL!

Giveaway ends in 16 days from today.

DON'T BREATHE A WORD by Holly Cupala - YA Book Trailer

Check out this fantastic trailer for Holly Cupala's YA novel, Don't Breathe A Word!
Joy Delamere is suffocating.

From asthma, from her parents, and from her boyfriend, delectably dangerous Asher, who is smothering her from the inside out. Joy can take his words —tender words, cruel words—until the night they go too far.

Now, Joy will leave everything behind to find the one who has offered his help, a homeless boy called Creed. She will become someone else. She will learn to survive. She will breathe...if only she can get to Creed before it's too late.

Book Review : Bitter Melon by Cara Chow

Bitter Melon
Hardcover, 309 pages
Published December 28th 2010 by EgmontUSA
Frances, a Chinese-American student at an academically competitive school in San Francisco, has always had it drilled into her to be obedient to her mother and to be a straight-A student so that she can go to Med school. But is being a doctor what she wants? It has never even occurred to Frances to question her own feelings and desires until she accidentally winds up in speech class and finds herself with a hidden talent. Does she dare to challenge the mother who has sacrificed everything for her? Set in the 1980s.

Bitter Melon by Cara Chow is a book that stands out from the array of typical young adult novels. It is a book that deals with tough love, heartbreak, hopes, dreams and family abuse. It is a story about a girl whose path is mapped out for her, but her heart wishes for something else - something that stokes her inner flame and enables her to express who she really is.

I finished this book in a day, and I was truly amazed at the realistic portrayal of the characters in the book. Accompanied by my constant interest in the gripping story was the horror that a mother would treat her only child in such manner - it was quite unacceptable and to me it seemed borderline psychotic.

Frances is a top student in school. Her mother wishes her to go to UC Berkeley and study to become a doctor. Though she listens to her mother's words, Frances is unsure about her future until she accidentally stumbles into speech class and discovers a talent that she never knew she possesses. Guided by an experienced, dedicated teacher, she learns that words are actually a powerful medium that enables her to create influence on others. She then begins to participate in various speech activities behind her mother's back. Though guilt sometimes gnaws at her for lying to her mother, she is determined to win a speech contest.

I have to admit, I do admire Frances' guts. If it were me, I don't think I would be able to revolt against my mom as she did. She is willing to face the various obstacles to pursue her dreams even though she knows that once her mom finds out what she's doing, she's dead meat. However, there's one thing I didn't like about Frances, which is how she treats her presumably best friend, Theresa.

Frances is always asking Theresa to cover up for her, but she never really cared for Theresa. I have a feeling that she is merely using Theresa and not treating her as a real friend should. When Theresa gets a date at prom, Frances asks her not to call him just because she is jealous that Theresa is able to get a boy to dance with her while she herself fails to do so.

Frances' mother reminds me of Amy Chua, the Yale Professor who wrote a book called Battle Hymn of The Tiger Mother on how her Asian-style parenting worked on her kids. Like Chua, Frances' mother is very demanding of her daughter's high academic scores. In my eyes, she is merely a mother who pushes her kid too hard just so that Frances can achieve the so-called "success" defined by the Asian way of thinking - getting a high-paying job, buy a bungalow, drive a luxury car.

She pushes Frances so hard that I know how suffocating Frances must feel to live with her mom and listen to her endless complaints about how fat and ugly Frances' looks, how bad their current life is, how dastardly Frances' father is for abandoning them, and how Frances must get a good job so that both mother and daughter can live a better live. She abuses Frances emotionally, mentally and physically, and is very uncaring about her daughter's feelings.

I will not only recommend Bitter Melon to teenagers, who will surely be grateful for their loving, supportive parents and happy families after reading this book, but also to adults, who will understand that love should not be harsh and demanding, but rather caring and understanding.


Cara Chow's reply on my review:
Thank you so much for taking the time to read Bitter Melon and for writing such a thorough and thoughtful review! Not very many reviewers mention that, though Frances is a character that readers generally admire, she has one serious flaw: she can be a very selfish friend. My intention when writing this story was that Frances would draw a parallel between how she treats Theresa and how Gracie treats her. Both Frances and Gracie rationalize that they are doing what is best for their friend/daughter when in fact, they have self-serving intentions. This realization further motivates Frances to choose a different path so as not to become like her mother. I'm also glad that you alluded to Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Coincidentally, Amy Chua's book came out just shortly after mine, so many readers and reviewers have compared the two books. That has led to a lively discussion about the benefits and pitfalls of Asian culture and parenting.
Bitter Melon
Cara Chow was born in Hong Kong and grew up in the Richmond District of San Francisco, where Bitter Melon is set. Also, Cara was a PEN Emerging Voices Fellow and currently live in the Los Angeles area with her husband and son.

Book Review : Divergent (Divergent, #1) by Veronica Roth

Divergent (Divergent, #1)
Hardcover, 487 pages
Published May 3rd 2011 by Katherine Tegen Books

In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue--Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is--she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are--and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

Finally, I've read Divergent. After hearing so much about it, and even seeing bloggers comparing it to The Hunger Games, you can guess how anticipated I was. The story was interesting, and the author's writing is perfect, but I did not love it.

The Good:
  • A new, refreshing concept of various Factions, though I think it's a bit overrated. But it seems a little similar to the 13 districts in The Hunger Games, where people are grouped according to the main economic activity in the respective districts.
  • Divergent offers a hard-to-resist premise. When you see the slogan One Choice Can Transform You on the front cover and after you've read the synopsis, you're most probably going to pick up this book.
  • In some parts of the story, we observe Tris' cleverness and courage. The action is always there, but only towards the end of the novel does it reaches a crescendo. This guarantees a constant attention towards the story.

The Bad:

  • Most of the characters seems flat and one-dimensional. I couldn't really relate to Tris and Four, though I'm betting for their lives.
  • Loopholes are a big problem in this novel. The author probably never thought much about it, but logical readers will sense the mistakes at a glance. I'll not point out what are the loopholes, just in case you haven't read the book.
  • Divergent does not grip my emotions so forcefully like The Hunger Games. Sorry I'm doing this comparison again, but I just can't think of any other book that garnered so much praise as Divergent.
  • Pointless violence. Dauntless initiatives are instructed to punch each other as hard as they can to get into the top 10 rankings. These are real bloody fights, man. No compassion and all virulence. What's the point of that, seriously?
  • What looks like an attempted murder doesn't get any attention from the big bosses. When one of the initiates (the top scorer) is physically harmed by the jealous second-place scorer, no action is taken. The top scorer, who is mercilessly stabbed in the eye in the middle of the night, is evacuated to the factionless group, which, according to the story is worse than dying, and the evil second-place scorer gets moved up a notch to claim his throne. Well, that's plain ridiculous.

In A Nutshell:

Divergent is good, but not great. It is interesting, but not amazing. You might love it, like it or hate it. It's all up to you - one choice can transform you.

Rating: 3

Malaysian readers: If you're interested in buying my lightly read copy of Divergent (US Hardcover version), it is available at my Books For Sale album HERE.

Veronica Roth

Veronica Roth is only 23, so her bio will be short. She’s from a Chicago suburb. She studied creative writing at Northwestern University, and wrote DIVERGENT (Katherine Tegen Books, May 2011). The second book in The Divergent Trilogy, INSURGENT, will come out in May 2012. In the meantime she will spend endless hours browsing Wikipedia in her pajamas as she eats corn flakes. (Or some other kind of bland breakfast cereal.)

A Surprise Package from Brenna Yovanoff

I was one of the winners of the Happy New Year and Now I Want to Give You Things! Giveaway on Brenna's blog. Since I'm from Malaysia, I figured that Brenna would just send me some swag, which I would be perfectly content to have. But guess what I received?


A whole package of goodies!!!

... which includes a copy of Smoulder, one The Replacement bookmark, two stickers - one of The Replacement (henceforth referred to as TR) and one of The Space Between (henceforth referred to as TSB) and three lovely charms which include a fork, a horseshoe and a pair of pliers!

I was wondering whether Brenna has recently published a book called Smoulder, since I only know about The Replacement and The Space Between, but then Brenna explained in the book that Smoulder is the UK edition of TSB. Brenna also took the time to sign the book personally to me! I'm really touched. *sniffs*

I find the pliers to be really eye-catching, but there isn't a hole in it to fix it to a jump ring to make a charm. But its jaws can be slightly opened, which makes it a cute mini-replica of a pair of real-life pliers.

I love all the items in the package! You've really made my day, Brenna! THANK YOU!

A little about the book:
Everything is made of steel, even the flowers. How can you love anything in a place like this?

Daphne is the half-demon, half-fallen angel daughter of Lucifer and Lilith. Life for her is an endless expanse of time, until her brother Obie is kidnapped - and Daphne realizes she may be partially responsible. Determined to find him, Daphne travels from her home in Pandemonium to the vast streets of Earth, where everything is colder and more terrifying. With the help of the human boy she believes was the last person to see her brother alive, Daphne glimpses into his dreams, discovering clues to Obie's whereabouts. As she delves deeper into her demonic powers, she must navigate the jealousies and alliances of the violent archangels who stand in her way. But she also discovers, unexpectedly, what it means to love and be human in a world where human is the hardest thing to be.

The Replacement and The Space Between Smoulder is available on
The Book Depository.

Brenna Yovanoff
See this pretty girl here?

Do you know who she is?

Yes, you're right!

She's the awesome Brenna Yovanoff!

Now hop over to her blog for more awesomeness.