Unearthly

Unearthly by Cynthia HandUnearthly by Cynthia Hand
Unearthly # 1
Publisher: HarperTeen
Number of pages: 435
My copy: ebook review copy from Netgalley

In the beginning, there’s a boy standing in the trees . . . .

Clara Gardner has recently learned that she’s part angel. Having angel blood run through her veins not only makes her smarter, stronger, and faster than humans (a word, she realizes, that no longer applies to her), but it means she has a purpose, something she was put on this earth to do. Figuring out what that is, though, isn’t easy.

Her visions of a raging forest fire and an alluring stranger lead her to a new school in a new town. When she meets Christian, who turns out to be the boy of her dreams (literally), everything seems to fall into place—and out of place at the same time. Because there’s another guy, Tucker, who appeals to Clara’s less angelic side.

As Clara tries to find her way in a world she no longer understands, she encounters unseen dangers and choices she never thought she’d have to make—between honesty and deceit, love and duty, good and evil. When the fire from her vision finally ignites, will Clara be ready to face her destiny?

Unearthly is a moving tale of love and fate, and the struggle between following the rules and following your heart.

* * *

I can’t remember the last time I willingly read a paranormal romance novel. I really can’t anymore. I am not denying that I used to like the genre, but after finding out that there seemed to be nothing new there, I just wandered off to other genres. So when rave reviews of Unearthly by Cynthia Hand popped up among book bloggers, I didn’t pay attention. To me, it’s just another angel novel that I will probably wonder why I even bothered after I finish.

And then even people who I know don’t really read much paranormal started giving it glowing reviews. This got my attention. I only pay attention to some people when it comes to paranormal romances, so when they give a good review on a book that I normally wouldn’t read and I know they normally wouldn’t read either, I know I’d have to keep an eye on it. After reading one contemporary novel after the other last month, I gave myself a break from real life stuff and finally picked up Unearthly, wondering if I will like it as much as the others did.

Clara Gardner has angel blood — she’s 3/4 human, 1/4 angel, but that 1/4 makes all the difference in her world. She’s different, and she has a purpose in this world. This purpose makes her and her family move to a new town after a series of visions. There she meets Christian Prescott, the boy in her visions that she somehow has to save. Clara and Christian had an instant connection and Clara wonders if it’s not just her angel side that’s attracted. But there’s a catch: Christian has a girlfriend. And there’s another catch: Clara also seems to be attracted to her best friend’s twin, Tucker. Torn between her angel side and her human side, Clara has to make a choice between what she wants and her destiny as an angel.

Unearthly AU cover – pretty, right?

It sounds like your everyday paranormal romance novel, right? I thought so too. But friends, believe me when I tell you this: it is so much more. I was very surprised with how good Unearthly is. Normally, I hate instant connections, I dislike love triangles, and I don’t like supernatural creatures falling in love with humans, but this one is different. Clara is a believable heroine despite her powers. She’s angel, all right, but even if she’s angelic, she’s also very human (I’m betting she doesn’t need to look for best blackhead remover, though) . I liked that there was a balance between her human and angel side and she’s *gasp!* not a Mary Sue! She’s awkward, she gets shy, she rebels from her mom and even if she’s an angel, she has no idea what to do with her life. She’s a refreshing heroine from all that I can remember of the paranormal romance genre, and I liked it.

The boys? Well, there’s really no question who I’m rooting for, right? :) I found Christian a little too perfect, but it was actually in all good reason once you get to the end. Tucker, oh Tucker. I loved him. :) I loved how his character developed, I loved how he got into Clara’s life. I liked that he wasn’t perfect, and I liked that he’s just…well, human. The description in the blurb says he appeals to Clara’s non-angelic side, and it’s easy to think that he’s, well, evil, but he’s not. The more accurate description should be, he appeals to Clara’s human side, and that made him very adorable for me. The romance in Unearthly is *another gasp!* quite healthy, too. Lots of banter, conversations and time spent together — none of those “I saw him and fell in love” thing. Yes, even the instant connection with Christian was toned down with conversations and whatnot. And it was definitely refreshing.

The angel mythology was probably my favorite of all in this book — very well done, not too religious and not blasphemous, too. I liked how it seemed respectful of how angels are known, and it seemed very well-researched. I loved the idea of Glory, or the wing color, and how angels were given a purpose. This played very well within the story, and it also opened up a very, very surprising twist in the end that really shocked me. And that ending? OMG THAT ENDING! It’s not really a big cliffhanger but it would definitely leave you wanting for more. More, I tell you. WANT! But the next book, Hallowed, isn’t coming out until 2012. Long wait is long! :(

So, if it isn’t obvious, I really liked Unearthly. Definitely one of those books that I am glad I picked up, and one of those books that I am considering getting in print form since my copy is an e-galley (it helps that the cover is very pretty, too) just so I can go back to it again when the next book is out. If you’re planning to pick up a paranormal romance novel soon, or if you want something to surprise you, then definitely get this book. Take it from someone who’s given up on paranormal romance — this is one of the good ones. ;)

Rating:

Other reviews:
inkcrush
Amaterasu Reads
Attack of the Book

Second Helpings

Second Helpings by Megan McCaffertySecond Helpings by Megan McCafferty
(Jessica Darling # 2)
Three Rivers Press, 368 pages

Jessica Darling is up in arms again in this much-anticipated, hilarious sequel to Sloppy Firsts. This time, the hyperobservant, angst-ridden teenager is going through the social and emotional ordeal of her senior year at Pineville High. Not only does the mysterious and oh-so-compelling Marcus Flutie continue to distract Jessica, but her best friend, Hope, still lives in another state, and she can’t seem to escape the clutches of the Clueless Crew, her annoying so-called friends. To top it off, Jessica’s parents won’t get off her butt about choosing a college, and her sister Bethany’s pregnancy is causing a big stir in the Darling household.

With keen intelligence, sardonic wit, and ingenious comedic timing, Megan McCafferty again re-creates the tumultuous world of today’s fast-moving and sophisticated teens. Fans of Sloppy Firsts will be reunited with their favorite characters and also introduced to the fresh new faces that have entered Jess’s life, including the hot creative writing teacher at her summer college prep program and her feisty, tell-it-like-it-is grandmother Gladdie. But most of all, readers will finally have the answers to all of their burgeoning questions, and then some: Will Jessica crack under the pressure of senioritis? Will her unresolved feelings for Marcus wreak havoc on her love life? Will Hope ever come back to Pineville? Fall in love with saucy, irreverent Jessica all over again in this wonderful sequel to a book that critics and readers alike hailed as the best high school novel in years.

When I reread Sloppy Firsts a few months ago, I was surprised at how much I didn’t really like it. I call it a case of growing up and getting over the teenage angst that I probably never had. I enjoyed Jessica’s wit, but I wasn’t a fan of her angst anymore now that I (sort of) know better. That’s why I took my time rereading the next book in the series, Second Helpings. I loved this book back in college — it was one that I remember rereading more than twice and loving it just as much as I used to the first time. I was kind of afraid that I wouldn’t find this one as entertaining as it used to.

Spoiler warning for the first book up ahead! Second Helpings starts shortly after the first book ended, where we find Jessica is back, but not exactly better than ever. Recovering from the events in the first book, Jessica is determined to make some changes in her life, starting with removing all traces of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named aka Marcus Flutie from her life. This is obviously harder than it looks once she starts school, and it’s not the only thing Jessica has to deal with. There’s college, the Clueless Crew (2/3 of it, anyway), the release of poseur Hyacinth Anastasia Wallace’s book based on Pineville, family antics including her wacky grandmother, who also just happens to be friends with Marcus Flutie. I think if Jessica could have bumped her head on her desk repeatedly, she would’ve done so. What’s a girl like her to do?

Like I said, I was kind of scared that Second Helpings would lose its magic on me after a reread now that I kind of know better, but I’m very glad to say that it didn’t. I liked this book as much as I did the first time. Jessica loses some of her angst here, and I found her more engaging this time. Maybe it’s because she’s decided to open up slightly, make choices for herself rather than let other people make choices for her. I found myself laughing a little more here, cheering on Jessica as she steps outside of the box she had created for herself before. It was almost like I was watching someone I know grow out of her shell, you know? :)

But the best part of Second Helpings — and I think most readers would agree! — is He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named Marcus Flutie. Oh wow, wow. I remember developing a huge fictional crush on him right after I finished reading this! Marcus Flutie is not the perfect guy that every girl would want, but he sure knows how to make a girl want him. Hee. He was coy and clever and a player in Sloppy Firsts but he was different in the sequel. Oh, he was still coy at times, and his jokes can definitely make a girl blush, but he knows how to get into a girl’s heart, especially Jessica’s. The prom scene was swoon-worthy, and I can’t believe I actually forgot the YOU. YES. YOU. scene. I’m not really a fan of sex outside of marriage, but the build up in this novel was just…sigh. I will echo the question I and a handful of other friends who’ve read this book have asked back then: Where is my Marcus Flutie?!

So yeah, I liked Second Helpings a lot on the second read. :) Really liked it a lot. Now I can finally move on and read Charmed Thirds. Yay!

Rating:

2011 Challenge Status:
8 of 20 for TwentyEleven Challenge (Back in the Day)

My copy: ebook from Complete Jessica Darling set from Amazon Kindle store

Cover & blurb: Goodreads

Other Reviews:
GReads!

30 YA Reads for the Summer at Female Network

Summer, summer. It’s so hot here right now that sometimes I just want to stay at home and have the fan point straight at me. Or, I want to stay at work because the office is has air conditioning and it’s more comfortable there even if I’m missing the bed.

Anyway, summer is still the perfect time to catch up on good reading, even if summer vacation is really nonexistent for me ever since I started working. I’m over at the Female Network today sharing a list of 30 YA reads for the summer. :)

Click the picture to go to the list!

Don’t you just love that title? I wasn’t the one who chose that, but I really like it! LOL. I haven’t read all of them, honestly. Some of them are old favorites, while others are recommended reads from friends whose book tastes I trust. :) Do hop over there and check it out, and maybe leave a comment with what you’ve already read from the list, or other books you can suggest for summer reading! :)

Losing Faith

Losing Faith by Denise JadenLosing Faith by Denise Jaden
Simon Pulse, 377 pages

A terrible secret. A terrible fate.

When Brie’s sister, Faith, dies suddenly, Brie’s world falls apart. As she goes through the bizarre and devastating process of mourning the sister she never understood and barely even liked, everything in her life seems to spiral farther and farther off course. Her parents are a mess, her friends don’t know how to treat her, and her perfect boyfriend suddenly seems anything but.

As Brie settles into her new normal, she encounters more questions than closure: Certain facts about the way Faith died just don’t line up. Brie soon uncovers a dark and twisted secret about Faith’s final night…a secret that puts her own life in danger.

My first impression on Losing Faith before I read the book’s summary is it’s a paranormal romance novel. Which, based on my current reading preferences, is something I kind of avoid. It wasn’t until I was going through the YA Contemps releases for 2010 that I found out it was not paranormal romance. When I found out it was a NaNoWriMo novel, it kind of cinched the deal for me and I got a copy of the book.

Losing Faith is a word play on the inciting incident in the book, when Brie’s older sister Faith dies from a freak accident. Her good, church-going sister is just gone and Brie struggles to deal with her grief and to adjust to the abrupt change while her parents cope on their own — her mom hides in her room while his dad focuses more on his sales jobs than in consoling and holding their family together. Until Brie finds out something strange about her sister’s death — some things don’t add up, and she starts wondering if Faith’s accident is more than what it seems. Together with her new friends, Brie investigates, and finds out something dark about her sister that she never knew she could be involved in.

The thing that really stands out in Losing Faith is the introduction of a really creepy cult, something quite new in contemporary YA. Growing up as a church kid, I was easily immersed in Brie’s world, and the familiar terms like worship, youth group and all that were things I could easily understand. I think it may have made the cult factor scarier for me too, because even if I don’t really know some religious fanatics, I know how easy it is for one to box themselves inside church and judge even the other people around them. I remember having to close this book when it came to the parts when Brie was snooping around because it got just a bit too creepy for me. I think Denise Jaden did a good job with that without being disrespectful or putting church-goers in a bad light. I also liked how she wrapped it up in the end, with how Brie and her friends chose to deal with the aftermath of their discoveries.

What didn’t really shine for me in this book is its tone. I don’t know, maybe I was expecting something like Sara Zarr’s Once Was Lost, which was also about church and was haunting and emotional. I didn’t really feel any connection with Brie. I know nothing about losing a sibling, but I felt that her grief wasn’t portrayed as much as it should, except maybe when they were having the service for Faith. I wasn’t a fan of how Brie’s plans were labeled in headers at different parts of the book, which kind of felt like awkward chapter starts or scene changes. I realize now that it gave the book a NaNoWriMo feel, which isn’t necessarily bad. I guess I was just expecting it to have a different tone.

Losing Faith was just okay. I liked the overall storyline, but it didn’t really rock my worlds as I thought it would. Nevertheless, I still liked it, and I think it was able to address religion and cults in a very good way. I think I’m going to put Denise Jaden’s future works in my radar. I’m curious to see what she comes up with next. :)

Rating:

2011 Challenge Status:
Required Reading – April

My copy: paperback bought from Fully Booked

Cover & blurb: Goodreads

Other reviews:
Good Books and Good Wine
Lauren’s Crammed Bookshelf
Hobbitsies
YA Addict

What to read next?

It’s summer here in the Philippines and as expected, it’s scorching hot again. My blogger friend Chachic put up a post yesterday about summer reads, and her question got me thinking of something else, something that I’m sure readers with mountains of books waiting to be read always face: how do you choose what to read next?

I know some people choose their next books on a whim. Some follow a schedule, or let reading challenges guide them. For those who have to go through review copies, they have to follow a schedule based on release dates. I want to know — how do you pick your next read?

I tend to go through the following:

  • I usually pick what I read next based on the genre of what I just finished reading. For example, right now, I’m readingtwo fantasy books (On the Edge by Ilona Andrews and Unearthly by Cynthia Hand) because I realized that I’ve finished reading 4 contemporary YA novels almost one after the other. I needed a dose of magic, quick! I don’t always switch genres like that — it really depends on the mood. I try not to read too many of one genre one after the other, though, because variety is good.
  • If it’s a series, I try to hold off on it, unless I really, really want to know what happens next. Perfect example: Kate Daniels series. I just had to read one after the other. Another example of holding off on reading the next books after reading one or two: Chaos Walking series. I have yet to read the second and third book.
  • I don’t receive much ARCs except for e-galleys and that’s where I’m kind of crummy with scheduling. I try to read all the galleys I acquire but sometimes I just forget. That’s why I don’t get too many galleys nowadays because I forget, and I feel bad for not posting it on time of publication/release.
  • Challenges also can dictate what I read next. I tend to space them out through the year, although that often fails for the classics challenge since it takes me longer to read them, and sometimes when I try to pick one up, it’s a little too late in the year. Well, at least I’m trying. Required Reading mini-challenge helps A LOT in making me pick the next book to read, and it helps me pay attention to the older books in the TBR pile.
  • Again on moods — I pick up a book based on moods sometimes. Best example is when I reread This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen right after my brother’s wedding. I had to drop the dystopia reads for a while then because of the love in the air. ;) Valentine’s Day also did that too me. :p
  • Book discussions also tell me what to read next, although I haven’t really participated in that many.
  • Finally, peer pressure. :P It works. Sometimes.

Now that I’ve rambled there…what about you? How do you pick which book to read next?