Radiant / Boundless

Radiant by Cynthia HandRadiant by Cynthia Hand
Unearthly # 2.5
Publisher: HarperTeen
Number of pages: 69
My copy: ebook from Amazon Kindle Store

Clara is desperate to get away—from the memories that haunt her in Wyoming and the visions of a future she isn’t ready to face—and spending the summer in Italy with her best friend, Angela, should be the perfect escape. . . .

For as long as she can remember, Angela has been told that love is dangerous, that she must always guard her heart. But when she met Phen two years ago she was determined to be with him, no matter the costs. Now she must decide whether she can trust Clara with her secret, or if telling her the truth will risk everything she cares about.

Alternating between Angela and Clara’s perspectives, Radiant chronicles the unforgettable summer that will test the bounds of their friendship and change their lives forever.

* * *

It’s the summer before Clara and Angela goes to Stanford, and they spend it in Italy. What a summer vacation, right? But Clara was desperate to get away from everything that has happened to her and her family just recently, and Angela just wanted to discover more of their angel stuff…or so Clara thought.

I thought I didn’t have to read Radiant before I get to read Boundless, but I’m glad I had some sense to get this because I wouldn’t have understood the final book in the Unearthly series if I didn’t. Radiant alternates from Angela to Clara, and for the first time since Unearthly, we get to see Angela’s side in things. Is she evil? Is there something about her that will harm Clara and make us hate her? This novella sort of answers that, and we see Angela’s side — the little of it anyway. It makes you wonder if this book will mean something in the end, if the events here would lead to something. 

So is Angela evil? I will leave it up to you to find out. Radiant is enjoyable, but it left me a bit wary of Angela and the repercussions of her actions here. I think one can still understand the next book without really reading this, but if you’re a fan of the series, you’ll want to read this one, anyway. :)

Rating: [rating=3]
My copy: ebook, from Amazon

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Boundless by Cynthia HandBoundless by Cynthia Hand
Unearthly # 3
Publisher: HarperTeen
Number of pages: 438
My copy: paperback review copy, borrowed from Kai

The past few years have held more surprises than part-angel Clara Gardner could ever have anticipated. Yet from the dizzying highs of first love, to the agonizing low of losing someone close to her, the one thing she can no longer deny is that she was never meant to live a normal life.

Since discovering the special role she plays among the other angel-bloods, Clara has been determined to protect Tucker Avery from the evil that follows her . . . even if it means breaking both their hearts. Leaving town seems like the best option, so she’s headed back to California – and so is Christian Prescott, the irresistible boy from the vision that started her on this journey in the first place.

As Clara makes her way in a world that is frighteningly new, she discovers that the fallen angel who attacked her is watching her every move. And he’s not the only one. . . . With the battle against the Black Wings looming, Clara knows she must finally fulfill her destiny. But it won’t come without sacrifices and betrayal.

In the riveting finale of the Unearthly series, Clara must decide her fate once and for all.

* * *

Series finales are a tricky thing, I think. A finale can make or break a series, especially in the paranormal romance genre, and ones with love triangles. Not that I know a lot, except for those that I’ve already read, but there were several finales that just sucked that I wished I never read them because it ruined the entire series for me. However, I had faith in Cynthia Hand, that she would end the only angel series I liked well, and when good reviews started popping up Goodreads as the release date neared, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the book.

Spoiler warning for Unearthly and Hallowed!

Many things have happened since the end of Hallowed, including the things that happened in Radiant. Now Clara is a college student in Stanford, with no clear direction except that she wanted to protect Tucker from the dangers of her angel life, even if it means breaking both their hearts. Clara tries to make a home in Stanford, but it’s not so easy: she finds Samjeeza, the Black Wing, following her everywhere, her visions are still bleak and scary, and her dad has come to prepare her and Christian for an upcoming battle. Christian remains to be the perfect gentleman that he is and one of her closest friends, but Clara can’t help but think of Tucker even if she knew she made the right decision. With all this happening in her life, is Clara ready to face the the things she’s been seeing in her vision? And why is Angela acting so weird again?

So, Boundless. I went in this book, ready to get my heart broken for some reason, and for tears to come. Interestingly enough, I didn’t get much of those two expectations, but there were so many things in this book that I had a hard time putting it down. I liked how the story revolved a lot around Clara’s growth in Stanford — her classes, her friendship with Angela and Christian and the new people she meets in college — and not just the angel stuff. We see Clara (and Angela and Christian) grow more in this book, face their choices and follow through. I liked that they don’t always have to face their choices alone, and how they all managed to pull through for each other up to the very end. There’s also so much family in this book, both in the good and bad side, and I liked how they were weaved together (even if some of them felt a little bit too convenient in the end). I liked how they never let go of that concept and how it all tied them together.

The book felt just a little bit long somewhere in the middle, and I kept wanting to get to the action, to get to the battle and to finally find out who Clara would choose (of course, we all want to know that, right?). I was honestly a bit teary-eyed at a certain point, and then…things happened. I liked how things were handled, although I’m not quite sure until now how I feel about that last part which changed things for one character. (I am trying to be as cryptic as I can, promise!)

Overall, though, Boundless is a very satisfying ending for a fan of the series like me. I’m quite happy with the ending and this is one of those books where I am pretty happy with everything and I can close the book without needing any more answers or wishing that things were different. I’m quite happy that I decided to take a chance on Unearthly years ago, because if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have discovered one of the two (the other is Angelfall, but the second book won’t be out until late this year) angel series that I really, really like. :)

Rating: [rating=4]

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Speechless by Hannah HarringtonSpeechless by Hannah Harrington
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Number of pages: 288
My copy: ebook review copy from Netgalley

Everyone knows that Chelsea Knot can’t keep a secret

Until now. Because the last secret she shared turned her into a social outcast—and nearly got someone killed.

Now Chelsea has taken a vow of silence—to learn to keep her mouth shut, and to stop hurting anyone else. And if she thinks keeping secrets is hard, not speaking up when she’s ignored, ridiculed and even attacked is worse.

But there’s strength in silence, and in the new friends who are, shockingly, coming her way—people she never noticed before; a boy she might even fall for. If only her new friends can forgive what she’s done. If only she can forgive herself.

* * *

Chelsea Knot cannot keep a secret, and she just stumbled on the juiciest piece of gossip she has ever ran into during her best friend and resident queen bee’s party. She spills the secret, thinking that it would elevate her popularity but instead there were surprising and violent results — one that almost ended up killing someone. Guilt-ridden, Chelsea confesses what she knows and instantly became a social outcast. She takes on a vow of silence, thinking she wouldn’t cause anyone harm if she just won’t speak up, even if she gets bullied in school. Despite this silence, Chelsea meets new friends in school who accept her, and for the first time since everything happened, she wonders if she can finally move on.

I liked Hannah Harrington’s debut, Saving June, which I read earlier this year, so when I heard that her next book, Speechless, is available for request in Netgalley, I was one of the many people who requested it. I was curious with the idea of going silent on purpose — I am a very talkative person, so I’m not sure if taking on a vow of silence is something I can really do. I doubt it, actually, and that is why there is fiction! :P

I didn’t like Chelsea at first, and it was so bad that I almost gave up on the book. While I enjoyed mean girl novels such as Courtney Summers’ Some Girls Are or Lauren Oliver’s Before I Fall and Shirley Marr’s Fury, I am almost always annoyed at their sidekicks, because they’re usually the type of people who are mean on purpose because they want to be popular. Not that the popular girls aren’t mean on purpose sometimes, but in movies and books, the sidekicks are usually twice as annoying. Chelsea is exactly like that, and I really didn’t like her from the prologue and even early into the first chapters.

And then…somehow, she just grew on me. I find it really cool how Hannah Harrington made Chelsea a character who can say so much despite not having much of a dialogue in the book. The transition from an annoying mean girl sidekick to someone who’s pretty likeable is very good, and I find myself siding with Chelsea up to the end.

There were just several things that kind of niggled at me in the book: the span of time where Chelsea changed from being a selfish mean girl to someone who thinks outside of herself didn’t seem too believable, although I admit that silence can really make people think (I have tried that…several times, but not as long as Chelsea did in the book). I also wished that Chelsea chose to speak again for the first time in a different situation. I don’t know, somewhere more…monumental? I wasn’t that impressed with the scene where she finally broke her silence. Also, the supporting cast seemed a bit too traditional of the YA characters — the quirky crowd that people don’t often notice in school who just always seems cooler and would always save the day. Not that I minded them — I loved Asha and Sam and the rest of Chelsea’s new friends, and I love the diner set-up, but a part of me thinks the diner set-up has been done one too many times (that, or the diner crew in Bittersweet is still my favorite). On the upside, I think there’s a cameo of Jake and Harper in one of the scenes, so fans of Saving June would really like that. :)

But I think my favorite aspect of this book is really the romantic lead, Sam. I liked him way more than I liked Jake, but it may be because of my tendency to go for the good guys. And by “good”, I mean the guys who don’t really have too many issues in life. I liked how Chelsea started to get to know him and how she started liking him and how it didn’t really take much “speech” for the two of them to like each other. I especially liked how Chelsea said that she knew she didn’t have to say anything to keep him because she knows he understands…and it’s just…sweet. New fictional YA crush!

On a more personal note, I found that Speechless hit a few uncomfortable spots for me, mostly because I can really relate to the talkative, gossipy Chelsea. Sometimes, it just feels so fun to talk and gossip, and more often than not, I never really thought of the repercussions of it until later. So in a way, Speechless reminded me to watch what I say, and if unsure, just enter the silence and zip it.

Speechless by Hannah Harrington is definitely different from the author’s debut, but not in a bad way. It’s more of…this book is a less angsty, happier sibling of the previous novel. While I really liked Saving June, I think I liked Speechless just a tiny bit more. :) And yes, it may be just because of Sam. :P Overall, I know I will be looking forward to whatever Hannah Harrington comes up with next.

Rating: [rating=4]

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Somebody to Love

Somebody to Love by Kristan Higgins
Publisher: HQN Books
Number of pages: 384
My copy: ebook review copy from Netgalley

After her father loses the family fortune in an insider-trading scheme, single mom Parker Welles is faced with some hard decisions. First order of business: go to Gideon’s Cove, Maine, to sell the only thing she now owns—a decrepit house in need of some serious flipping. When her father’s wingman, James Cahill, asks to go with her, she’s not thrilled…even if he is fairly gorgeous and knows his way around a toolbox.

Having to fend for herself financially for the first time in her life, Parker signs on as a florist’s assistant and starts to find out who she really is. Maybe James isn’t the glib lawyer she always thought he was. And maybe the house isn’t the only thing that needs a little TLC…

* * *

When I spotted Somebody to Love in Netgalley, I immediately requested it, having enjoyed Until There Was You last year. I wasn’t really planning to read this soon, but then I started and got to know Parker (and the Holy Rollers!) and I just couldn’t stop. Somebody to Love introduces Parker Harrington Welles, a children’s book writer who relies on the trust fund she had and building her world around her one and only son. She is essentially rich, but she didn’t really live as a rich girl. Which was fortunate, because when her father got jailed for an insider-trading scheme, Parker is left penniless save for what she had now and a house left to her name by an estranged aunt. Thinking she could easily sell the house for extra money to start again, she was surprised to find that the house was more of a shack and it needs a lot of work. Enter James Cahill, one of her father’s lawyers, who was asked to help Parker with whatever she needed. Parker had always been annoyed at James not only because of a shared history, and she really wished he wasn’t there…except that he’s proven to be helpful in fixing the house. That, and he’s looking pretty…well, hot is the only word to describe it.

This is only my second Higgins book but she’s slowly becoming my go-to read for anything light and fluffy but not too light and fluffy. I loved Parker for being a writer, and for being an all-around pretty good person despite the fortune she had in her name. Here’s a girl focused on her career and her family, and it was a refreshing thing to read. I liked her wit, and I know this is weird, but I liked that she talked to herself because I do the same thing too! ‘Talking aloud, the writer’s affliction.’ So that explains it! :P

I haven’t read the other Higgins book set in Gideon’s Cove, Maine (Catch of the Day — which Angie recently reviewed) so I wasn’t introduced to this place, but reading it in Somebody to Love was a very lovely experience! The small-town charm, the diner, how everyone knows each other — I want to go there! Of course, everyone knowing each other isn’t always a good thing, but I guess I wouldn’t mind if Vin, Maggie and the others are there. My favorite scene in this book is the part where Parker first enters the diner and sees everyone in town there — for what reason? It’s for you to find out. :)

Of course, I can’t not mention the romance in this book. I’ve been getting very lucky with the romance in the books I’ve been reading — almost all the books I read lately have this slow-burn romance going for them, and Somebody to Love is no exception. While James and Parker have a history that I wasn’t really much of a fan of, the development of their relationship was such a pleasure to read that I can’t help but giggling every now and then. I liked that James wasn’t just a token hot guy, but a character with his own hang ups and history and had his own story going for him. He’s an individual completely different from Parker, and reading their conversations and watching their relationship grow was the best part of the book.

Somebody to Love is definitely a mood-lifter, and it’s a great book to read in between serious books or when you just want to be lost in a good romance in a pretty place with interesting neighbors to boot. :) After this, I am definitely getting the two other Higgins books that this was spun from – Catch of the Day and The Next Best Thing. And then I will work my way through the rest of Kristan Higgins’ back list. :)

Somebody to Love by Kristan Higgins will be out under HQN books on April 24, 2012.

Rating: [rating=4]

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Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse AndrewsMe and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

Number of pages: 304
My copy: ebook ARC from Netgalley

Up until senior year, Greg has maintained total social invisibility. He only has one friend, Earl, and together they spend their time—when not playing video games and avoiding Earl’s terrifying brothers— making movies, their own versions of Coppola and Herzog cult classics. Greg would be the first one to tell you his movies are f*@$ing terrible, but he and Earl don’t make them for other people. Until Rachel.

Rachel has leukemia, and Greg’s mom gets the genius idea that Greg should befriend her. Against his better judgment and despite his extreme awkwardness, he does. When Rachel decides to stop treatment, Greg and Earl make her a movie, and Greg must abandon invisibility and make a stand.

* * *

I admit: I requested this book on Netgalley because of the cover. Don’t you think it’s so cute? This is the kind of cover that I would want to be printed as a poster and placed on my room. Or over my desk. The colors in this cover is enough to cheer me up, and I wouldn’t mind just looking at it without really knowing what’s inside.

Oh but wait, I actually read it. I don’t know about you, but the book’s synopsis reminded me of a John Green novel — and not just because The Fault in Our Stars had a girl with cancer in it ((I haven’t read the book yet, in case you’re wondering)). Even the start of the book kind of reminded me a bit of Green, with the geeky guy and the “sidekick”, but that is really pretty much where the similarities end.

Here’s the thing about Me and Earl and the Dying Girl: this book had a guy named Greg who’s content with just skimming and being under the radar and not making any real friends so he won’t have to be ridiculed for being a part of a group. The only “friend” he had is black-guy Earl, who’s had a difficult home life and whose default expression is “pissed”. And then there’s Rachel, the dying girl who Greg used to be linked to, and is linked to again because his mother asked him to visit her and keep her company. And there are movies, too – home movies, since Greg and Earl are big time movie fans and pseudo movie makers. Secret movie makers because they never let people watch any of them, until Rachel came along anyway.

Here’s another thing: this book doesn’t really have a real and solid plot that isn’t mentioned in the title. This book really feels more like a study on high school and how a kid deals with having a friend (who he won’t admit is really a friend) who’s battling cancer. And even then, Greg didn’t even admit it. He isn’t out to win any trophies for friendship, or any of his abilities for that matter. Greg is so down on himself and what he can do that it made my heart hurt. At one point in the book, I wanted to shake him and say that he better snap out of his “Oh I’m good for nothing so I’ll just make you laugh” type of thoughts. I guess there was just too much self-deprecating quips in the book that it got me a bit turned off — it’s either I’m just too positive, or his character is really just too negative. I’m not really sure.

That being said, though, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl really is hilarious, and it’s a good book to lift you out of a bad mood with all the quips and tangents and all the movie stuff (if you don’t think of the things I mentioned in the previous paragraph and stuff). I also loved Earl — maybe even more than I liked Greg — for all his tough-guy persona with a soft heart inside. I can imagine his “pissed” and “mega-pissed” expression, although I can’t exactly think of him as an actor. I think most of my LOL time happened when Earl was present, although he also showed that he had a more difficult life compared to Greg. Personally for me, if anyone had the right to complain about his life, it was Earl. Rachel also had more rights to complain, with the cancer and all. I liked Rachel’s quiet presence in the story, her snort-laugh and how she changed (but also not really changed) Greg’s life. I thought all the scenes with her was pretty poignant, and I liked how she really tried to help Greg even if he wasn’t willing to be helped that much. Their dynamic was pretty unusual, but it worked, and it really made the book true to its title.

Overall, this book is an enjoyable read, albeit not really as much as I expected. I guess I was used to having books make me feel so many things and think so many things that I imposed these expectations on Me and Earl and the Dying Girl too, when it’s really not that kind of book. I doubt this will be one of my favorites but in the grander scheme of things ((Wow, look at me using this phrase, haha!)), this book is one I’d recommend for anyone who’s looking for a few lot of good laughs.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews will be out March 1.

Rating: [rating=3]

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Wanderlove by Kristen HubbardWanderlove by Kristen Hubbard
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Number of pages: 352
My copy: ebook review copy from Netgalley

It all begins with a stupid question:

Are you a Global Vagabond?

No, but 18-year-old Bria Sandoval wants to be. In a quest for independence, her neglected art, and no-strings-attached hookups, she signs up for a guided tour of Central America—the wrong one. Middle-aged tourists with fanny packs are hardly the key to self-rediscovery. When Bria meets Rowan, devoted backpacker and dive instructor, and his outspokenly humanitarian sister Starling, she seizes the chance to ditch her group and join them off the beaten path.

Bria’s a good girl trying to go bad. Rowan’s a bad boy trying to stay good. As they travel across a panorama of Mayan villages, remote Belizean islands, and hostels plagued with jungle beasties, they discover what they’ve got in common: both seek to leave behind the old versions of themselves. And the secret to escaping the past, Rowan’s found, is to keep moving forward.

But Bria comes to realize she can’t run forever, no matter what Rowan says. If she ever wants the courage to fall for someone worthwhile, she has to start looking back.

* * *

I love traveling. Granted, I’m not the most traveled person around, but I love being able to go to places. I love seeing new things, I love being (almost) anonymous in a sea of people who may or may not understand me. I love figuring out how a train system goes and how I can go from one place to another. The itch to travel hasn’t been that big in me until I got to go to Europe last year, and ever since then, I’ve been thinking of other places in the world that I must see in this lifetime. There’s something about being able to achieve a traveling dream that makes you want to travel again, especially while I still can. I’ve got a bucket list of places that I want to go to and while a part of me wonders how will I be ever able to afford all those trips, it does not stop me from dreaming.

I guess that’s why Wanderlove was such a hit with me. Bria Sandoval wanted to be a global vagabond, especially after her senior year in high school spun out of control and left her lost. She signs up for the Global Vagabonds tour to Central America, thinking that she would be with people her age. But the brochure she read was wrong and she ended up being with a group of tourists that followed a too-rigid schedule for her to actually find time to rediscover herself. Then she runs into a group of backpackers — real backpackers who go from one place to another with just the clothes and the bags on their backs — led by dive instructor with a bad boy aura Rowan, and his humanitarian sister Starling. Bria takes the chance and joins them. It’s the trip of a lifetime for Bria, and she hopes that somewhere along the way, against the backdrop of Mayan temples and Belizean islands, she finds exactly what she was looking for.

Again, I love traveling. But truth be told, traveling is kind of a cliche interest among people my age, at least from where I come from. Everyone wants to travel, because it’s such a good way to spend money and to see something new. But I know that only a few of those people who has put “traveling” in their interests can actually quit their jobs, sell everything and just travel.

I know I am definitely not one of those people.

The backpackers in Wanderlove? They’re the real deal.

I wasn’t really expecting to love this book so much. I was just expecting to like it, but not really like it. But I was captured from page one. I loved Bria — her doubts and uncertainties, how she pretends to be a well-seasoned traveler even if that wasn’t true. I loved how different she was from the first chapter to the last, and how her fears can translate into something universal, even if I’m not an artsy person. Bria’s need to escape is something everyone feels, and something that traveling can quickly fix, even if it’s just for a while. I feel you, Bria. I really do.

Also: the romance. This is another one of those slow burn romances that just makes my toes curl with delight. :) While the build up to the romance didn’t really span months like how it was in Flat-Out Love, it was still believable with all the time that Rowan and Bria spent together. I loved how they danced around one another, how their conversations can go from disliking each other to having a mutual understanding that led them to protect one another from people who do not understand them. There wasn’t too much drama in how their relationship was built up, and I liked how it all ended, especially where it all ended. Wanderlove at its finest. :)

Finally, the setting. I think it helps that the author is also a backpacker, so the experiences and the places that the characters visited felt very real. I have to admit that Central America was never in my bucket list. After reading this book, though, I also wanted to pack my bags and go see the places they saw. Okay fine, I don’t think I’ll go backpack like they did anytime soon, but I so want to go where they went. Someday, someday. I’ll go there. Maybe after I hit South America next year ((World Youth Day 2013 is in Rio de Janiero — wohoo!)).

If you’re ever one who’s loved traveling, or one who’s wished to travel but never got to, I recommend Wanderlove by Kristen Hubbard to you. I hope this book fills you with the same kind of love as Bria found and Rowan had, and that somehow, it also helps you find the place(s) in the world that would stick in your heart. :) You could find this book or similar titles by Kristen Hubbard with Amazon Coupons.

I leave you with this quote:

You got to find your own places. The places you get, girl, the ones that stick in your heart. And if you’re lucky, you find people to share them with.

Rating: [rating=4]

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