Choker

Choker by Elizabeth Woods
Simon and Schuster, 240 pages

Sixteen-year-old Cara Lange has been a loner ever since she moved away from her best and only friend, Zoe, years ago. She eats lunch with the other girls from the track team, but they’re not really her friends. Mostly she spends her time watching Ethan Gray from a distance, wishing he would finally notice her, and avoiding the popular girls who call her “Choker” after a humiliating incident in the cafeteria.

Then one day Cara comes home to find Zoe waiting for her. Zoe’s on the run from problems at home, and Cara agrees to help her hide. With her best friend back, Cara’s life changes overnight. Zoe gives her a new look and new confidence, and next thing she knows, she’s getting invited to parties and flirting with Ethan. Best of all, she has her BFF there to confide in.

But just as quickly as Cara’s life came together, it starts to unravel. A girl goes missing in her town, and everyone is a suspect—including Ethan. Worse still, Zoe starts behaving strangely, and Cara begins to wonder what exactly her friend does all day when she’s at school. You’re supposed to trust your best friend no matter what, but what if she turns into a total stranger?

Talk about choosing a very creepy book to start my year. Choker by Elizabeth Woods is one of those books that I had no idea what it was about, but I read it because I saw good reviews from other blogging friends. Note that I said saw and not read, because I thought it wasn’t something I’d be able to get a copy of anytime soon, but thanks to Simon and Schuster’s Galley Grab, I got an ebook copy.

Choker comes from what Alexis Henning and Sydney Powers start calling Cara Lange after she chokes on a piece of carrot during lunch at their school. Quiet, almost invisible Cara was hardly noticed in school until that incident, and even being saved by her crush Ethan Gray didn’t help. What helped her to gain a bit of confidence back and make friends was when her childhood friend Zoe, shows up out of nowhere. Cara’s life improves significantly as she makes friends and catches Ethan’s attention, but weird things start to happen too and she can’t help but wonder if her best friend is somehow involved.

This book ups the creepiness by making things seem so ordinary and yet you know something…well, weird is happening in the background. I really and truly feel sorry for Cara, here. I’ve had my loner moments back in high school, but Cara doesn’t just go by unnoticed but people pick on her too! Sometimes I want to shake her and all and tell her to be more assertive, because nothing is really going to happen if she allows herself to be just that. Zoe definitely comes off as a stronger personality than Cara but you’d know right from the start when Cara and Zoe were playing in Zoe’s mom’s room with her pills (no best sleeping pills, I think) that there’s something odd about Zoe, which was proved further as the story went on.

I’ve often said before that I would rather have a love issue than a friendship issue because friendship issues hurt more. Of course, I have no experience in the love issues department, but friendship issues, I’ve had a lot. I hated it when I had fights with my close friends because it’s hard to find someone else who will sympathize with you. Choker reminded me of those reasons, and it was a breath of fresh air to read something that is not romance, even if it is very creepy.

If you think you know what will happen in the novel based on my review…well, you’re wrong. There’s a twist in the end that caught me (and other readers, for sure) by surprise, and even if it isn’t an entirely new concept, I thought it was a great (albeit creepy, again) way to turn the story around.

Choker is a solid debut from Elizabeth Woods. Don’t let the pink cover fool you. Choker is out in hardcover from Simon & Schuster. You can read an excerpt of the book here.

Rating:

My copy: e-book ARC from Simon & Schuster Galley Grab

Cover and Blurb: Goodreads

Other reviews:
Attack of the Book
The Bookologist
Presenting Lenore

Invasion (C.H.A.O.S. # 1)

Invasion (C.H.A.O.S. #1) by J.S. Lewis
Thomas Nelson, 320 pages

He didn’t ask for the job, but now all that stands between us and chaos… is Colt.

Colt McAlister was having the summer of his life. He spent his days surfing and his nights playing guitar on the beach with friends. He even met a girl and got his first car. But everything changes when his parents are killed in a freak accident.

He’s forced to leave his old life behind and move to Arizona with his grandfather. The only person he knows at the new high school is a childhood friend named Dani. And Oz, a guy he’s sure he’s never met but who is strangely familiar.

But what if his parents’ death wasn’t an accident? His mother, an investigative reporter, was going to expose a secret mind-control program run by one of the world’s largest companies. Before she could release the story, what if agents from Trident Biotech made sure she couldn’t go public?

Vowing to uncover the truth, Colt gets drawn into a secret world of aliens, shapeshifters, flying motorcycles, and invisible gateways.

The Invasion has begun.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I requested Invasion by J.S. Lewis from Booksneeze, so I had zero expectations when I started reading the book, too. Invasion is the first book in the C.H.A.O.S. series, and the first book tells the story of Colt McAlister, orphaned at 16 after his parents died in a car crash. Soon after he moved with his grandfather in Arizona, weird things start happening such as weird creatures chasing him, and random people trying to kill him for some reason. Soon Colt finds out that his mom was about to release a story about mind-controlling chips from a huge and powerful corporation, Trident Biotech. As Colt tries to uncover the mystery of his parents’ death, he runs for his life with his friends and he encounters all weird creatures and high technology, and he realizes that there may be more to this than he thought it was.

Invasion has 57 chapters, which I found a bit daunting when I started reading. These were short chapters, however, which made it for easy albeit a bit shallow reading. There is strong world building in Invasion, backed with interesting facts and information with how aliens and different creatures have been hidden among humans since the start. If you liked the setting in Men In Black, this book provides the same kind of world. Just like other books that involved conspiracies, action wasn’t lacking in this book: chase scenes, fights, random people trying to kill the heroes are a-plenty here. There’s also enough secret hideouts, mysterious people and advanced technology to excite sci-fi fans around.

However, I never felt invested in the characters. I liked Colt, Oz and Danielle, but I didn’t feel like I knew them for real. It may be because of how the story flowed or maybe even because each chapter is too short for me to glean much about who they are and what makes them tick. There also seemed to be a crowd of secondary characters all over the place, and while I get that it’s needed to build the new world that Colt is moving into, it was kind of hard to keep track of them. The overall premise was interesting, and it does make for an interesting read but I felt that I would be more interested in this if it were a movie instead of a book.

I think Invasion is still a good book, but I think it’s not for me. Perhaps it’s my age, or my lack of scifi knowledge and love. I like my aliens and wild worlds with chase scenes and explosions, but this one just failed to capture my interest. Maybe younger boys or longtime scifi fans would enjoy this more than I did.

Invasion by J.S. Lewis is already out in hardcover, published by Thomas Nelson. Thanks to Booksneeze for the review copy.

Rating:
→ I didn’t really finish the book, but I thought it had enough potential to get a 3-star rating.

My copy: ebook, review copy from Booksneeze

Cover: Booksneeze
Blurb: Goodreads

Other reviews:
Pessimistically Optimistic Meanderings
The Pumpkin Pie Patch

TwentyEleven Challenge

I apologize for the lack of posts here lately. I haven’t been too busy with work since the new year came, but I have been busy meeting up with friends and finding quiet times to read hence the silence. I’ve only read one book in 2011 so far, and ever since I decided not to set a number of books that I need to read this year, I think I have gone easy on myself.

But a reading year won’t be that fun if we don’t join any reading challenges, right? So here’s my first reading challenge for 2011, and it’s the one I’ve been thinking of joining since 2010.

One of my goals in 2011 is to explore other genres and not just stick to the ones I’ve been reading lately. I’ve learned that variety is always good in reading as it stops you from having the (dreaded?) slump, and it gives you more chances to discover things you like or don’t like in literature. Darren‘s TwentyEleven challenge seemed like one of those challenges that would help me do just that, and so it is the first challenge I’m joining for 2011. :)

There are eleven categories in the challenge, and each participant should read a minimum of 1 and a maximum of 2 books in each category, to reach the 20 books in the challenge. Each book can only be counted for one category, and it must be read from January 1, 2011 to December 31, 2011. The book read can be also counted for another challenge, so it doesn’t have to be exclusive for this challenge.

Here are the categories, and the books I know from my TBR that could possibly fit the category:

  1. To YA or not YA…
    Okay, this one works like this… Tend to read more Young Adult than Adult Fiction books then read one or two adult fiction titles, vice-versa if you don’t tend to read much Young Adult.

    • Havah: The Story of Eve by Tosca Lee
    • On the Edge by Ilona Andrews
  2. …With a Twist.
    This one focuses on sub-genres, read a lot of chick-lit, then try a paranormal romance! Fantasy? Why not give some Steampunk a go, like a bit of Space-Opera in your Sci-Fi then pick up a military Sci-fi book. Like your Contemporary Literature, give a Young Adult Contemporary a chance. Well hopefully you get the idea!

    • Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (SciFi)
    • Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières (Historical)
  3. Hot off the Presses.
    Read a book published (in your country) in 2011? Then it counts for this category.

    • Blue Angel, White Shadow by Charlson Ong
    • TBD
  4. It Wasn’t Me! (aka Bad Bloggers*)
    Books in this category, should be ones you’ve picked up purely on the recommendation of another blogger count for this category (any reviews you post should also link to the post that convinced you give the book ago).
    * Bad Bloggers: Is hosted by Chris of Stuff as Dreams are Made on.

    • Howl’s Moving Castle by Dianna Wynne Jones (recommended by Chachic)
    • Dust City by Robert Paul Weston (reviewed by Chelle)
  5. Show it Who is Boss!
    Tackle that overflowing T.B.R. pile! Books for this category must be already residents of your bookshelves as of 1/12/10.

    • The Scarlet Thread by Francine Rivers (bought in January 2007 :o)
    • The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis (bought in 2008)
  6. Bablefish.
    Read books that are translated from a language that is not your own.

    • TBD. Any suggestions? :)
  7. Will-Power? What Will-Power? (aka: The Henry Ward Beecher Memorial.)
    You know that quote I have in my blog-header… “Where is human nature so weak as in a bookstore?” Recognise yourself in it? Then this is the one for you! Bought a book NEW during 2011? Then it counts for this category. Second-hand books do not count for this one, but, for those on book-buying bans, books bought for you as gifts or won in a giveaway also count.

    • Haven’t bought anything in 2011…yet! Wait for this one. :P
    • Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (bought January 9, 2011)
    • Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta (bought January 10, 2011)
  8. Mind the Gap.
    Need just one more book to compete that duology/trilogy/series then read it for this one! (Obviously as this is for that final book you need to complete it, then you can’t read two books from the same series! And it clearly can’t be your first or penultimate read!)
    Because not everyone reads a series in order, this is for the last book you need to read, not necessarily the last book in the series…

    • The Iron Queen by Julie Kagawa
    • My Soul to Keep by Rachel Vincent
  9. Back in the Day.
    Re-read an old favourite or two for this category.

    • Will have to choose between a Sarah Dessen or a Jasper Fforde book, since I am planning to marathon their books as their new ones get released this year :)
  10. Way Back When.
    Read books that were published before you were born for this one, whether that be the day before or 100 years prior!

    • Emma by Jane Austen
    • Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Caroll
  11. Slim-Pickings
    Got a novella you want to read? Then this one is the one for you! Any books between 90-150 pages count.

    • Rage by Jackie Morse Kessler
    • Reaper by Rachel Vincent

Of course, the books listed here can still change as the year goes on. Flexibility is the key to reading challenges, I figured.

Are you joining the TwentyEleven challenge? Or are you joining other challenges? Do share them so we can cheer each other on. :)

Hello 2011!

Image from weheartit.com

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!

Well, it’s 2011 in my side of the world, and I know some of you are already there too, while others are still waiting for the clock to strike midnight. But whatever time you get to read this, I hope you are having a splendid 2011 so far.

Now that I am done with my 10 for 2010 lists (and believe me, it was very hard to make those lists – fun, but very hard!), I can rest from choosing among the many, many books I’ve read last year and now focus on…the math. I know, why am I starting my new year with math?! But this is fun math, anyway, and it doesn’t require much complicated stuff, only statistics. :)

So, presenting, my reading stats for 2010:

Total books read: 118
Total pages read: 32,973*
Total print books: 50
Total ebooks:
58
* Includes 558 pages from The Message Bible

Written by male authors: 29*
Written by female authors: 94*
* Books written by a male and a female author (Rachel Cohn & David Levithan, Ilona Andrews) count twice

Reviews written: 114

Ratings:
5 stars – 24
4 stars – 47
3 stars – 33
2 stars – 13
1 star – 1

2010 Challenges Status:
118 out of 100 books read
20 out of 20 fantasy books read (I stopped counting after 20)
3 out of 10 classic books read (6, if you count C.S. Lewis’ books — are they considered as classics already? No? Okay)

TBR Challenge: 2 out of 12
Project 20:10: 16 out of 20
YA-D2: 5 out of 5 (but not all in my initial list was read)

Okay, that is enough numbers, I think. Overall, it is a very good year in reading, despite not having finished all my challenges. I mean, 118 books is already so many books read, and I know I’m not stopping anytime soon.

I know I won’t be doing a quantity challenge again for the 2011, because I think I’ve already proven that I can read a lot. Plus in the end, it’s not really the numbers, anyway, but the quality of books read, right?

I am pretty sure I will try to top my 3 classic books this year and try to make it to 4 or 5. I will also keep on reading as many local fiction possible, not only because I’m Filipino, but because I believe in our literature, and I want to be one of the reasons why Filipinos will keep on writing. I will probably try a genre specific challenge, or at least something that will help me get out of my reading comfort zones.

Like what I said, 2010 has been a great year in reading, and I’m sure a lot of people agree. :) Here’s to a greater reading year in 2011. *cheers*

P.S. I finally moved all my blogs under one domain, so, plugging my personal blog – tinamats.com . Non-book related posts and other life stuff will be here. Do join me every now and then. :)

tinamats.comP.P.S. Anniversary giveaway is still ongoing up to January 9, so keep the comments coming. :)

10 for 2010: Most Anticipated for 2011

The best thing about being a book blogger this year is I get to find out about all the new titles coming out in the next few months and years. Before, I’d just rely on bookstore releases and sometimes I find out about them late! Thanks to the great blogging community and social networks, I find out about future releases so early! So early that sometimes the waiting time is unbearable. :P

So presenting today’s 10 for 2010: Most Anticipated Books for 2011.

What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen

1. What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen (May 2011) – If you’ve known me for a while now, you’ll know that Sarah Dessen is one of my favorite contemporary YA authors ever. Just Listen got me started on the contemporary YA genre, and I’ve devoured all her books ever since I read that. When I found out that she’s releasing a new book in 2011, I squeed. I absolutely cannot wait for this next novel — in fact, I am already planning a Dessen marathon to prepare myself for this new release. :)

2. Deadline by Mira Grant (May 2011) – Feed was one of my favorite books for this year, and the one year wait for its sequel is already long enough, don’t you think? More zombies, more politics and more blogging must be in Deadline…and maybe even a radio thing? I don’t know. But I am definitely looking forward to this one.

3. Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later by Francine Pascal (March 2011) – Two words: Sweet. Valley. Need I say more?

4. Bumped by Megan McCafferty (April 2011) – I loved the Jessica Darling series, and I like Megan McCafferty. This dystopian sounds really awesome, and I’ve seen very good reviews about this, too. :)

5. The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan (March 2011) – While there are other zombie books that I liked more than Carrie Ryan’s series, I am still in love with her writing. After I’ve read The Forest of Hands and Teeth and The Dead-Tossed Waves, I cannot miss the third one. I hope more questions will be answered by then. :)

One of Our Thursdays is Missing6. One of Our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde (March 2011) – Just like Sarah Dessen, Jasper Fforde is on my auto-buy list. Thursday Next is one of my favorite heroines, so it’s imperative I get a copy of the sixth book. And maybe refresh myself with the series, too.

7. Magic Slays by Ilona Andrews (May 2011) – I think I’ve professed my love for the Kate Daniels series enough this year? :) If not, I must say it again: I love this series. And like all the other fans I know, I cannot wait o get my hands on the next installment in the series. :)

A Monster Calls8. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (May 2011) – Okay, so I’ve only really read one book and a novella from him, but I like him already. While I wait for his new book, I will finish the two other books in the Chaos Walking series. Yes, I will.

9. Winter Town by Stephen Emond (Fall 2011) – Happyface is undoubtedly one of my most favorite books in 2010, so knowing that Stephen Emond will release a new book is just exciting. I love the premise too: “…told from two perspectives and accompanied by scrapbook entries and comics, childhood friends grow up, grow apart, and eventually fall in love.” Being the president of his fans club, it is my responsibility to get a copy of this as soon as its released. :P

10. Forbidden by Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee (Summer 2011) – This is my most anticipated collaboration for 2011. Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee, two of the big names in Christian fiction — this is going to be good, I can tell. :)

Runners Up:

  • Allison Hewitt is TrappedAllison Hewitt is Trapped by Madeleine Roux (January 2011) – I saw this book on The Book Smugglers and I loved how it started out as a blog, too. Blogging and zombies again – one of my favorite combination. Must get this one.
  • Sweetly by Jackson Pearce (August 2011) – I love the cover, and I love the Hansel and Gretel retelling idea. I enjoyed Jackson Pearce’s Sisters Red, so I am excited to get my hands on this one, too.
  • Where She Went by Gayle Forman (April 2011) – I loved If I Stay, and the idea of the sequel is just…well, awesome. I can’t wait to know what happened after Mia’s ordeal.

Check out my other 10 for 2010 posts!
10 Favorite Male Characters
10 Favorite Female Characters
10 Favorite Couples
10 Favorite Authors

I’m giving away some of my favorite books in 2010 in my Anniversary Giveaway! Know why Patrick Ness is one of my auto-buy authors now through The Knife of Never Letting Go! Every comment you leave is one entry — the more comments you leave, the more entries you get! :) Click the image for the mechanics and the list of prizes!