Ultraviolet by R.J. AndersonUltraviolet by RJ Anderson
Ultraviolet # 1
Publisher: Orchard
Number of pages: 416
My copy: ebook ARC from Netgalley

Once upon a time there was a girl who was special.

This is not her story.

Unless you count the part where I killed her.

Sixteen-year-old Alison has been sectioned in a mental institute for teens, having murdered the most perfect and popular girl at school. But the case is a mystery: no body has been found, and Alison’s condition is proving difficult to diagnose. Alison herself can’t explain what happened: one minute she was fighting with Tori — the next she disintegrated. Into nothing. But that’s impossible. Right?

* * *

Ultraviolet is far from my radar and from any of my reading plans. I’ve never read any of R.J. Anderson’s work, and I wasn’t just really that interested even if I’ve read some good reviews for them. I saw the ebook on Netgalley but just looked over it, thinking that it’s not something I would be interested in.

And then.

This book started popping up everywhere on my Goodreads feeds. One friend read it and liked it, then a few more did. All reviews refused to talk too much about what this book was about, and they were all just saying what a surprise/shocker/gender-bender this particular book was. I got curious, and thought, “Fine. If it’s still in Netgalley, I will get it and read it.

So Ultraviolet was still there, and I got it and read it. This book starts with a very curious introduction:

Once upon a time there was a girl who was special.

This is not her story.

Unless you count the part where I killed her.

I wasn’t sure what to place this in from there. We find our heroine, Alison Jeffries, waking up in a rehabilitation facility, surrounded by people in nurses uniform, with no memory of why and how she got there. Alison is sixteen, confused and worried about her current situation. As her memories start trickling in, she is moved to Pine Hills Psychiatric Treatment Center, where she grapples with the possibility that (1) she’s crazy and (2) she may have just killed her school mate and rival, Tori Beaugrand with her mind, as she can see what color a number is and taste things like lies, things that normal people could not do. Alone and treading the thin line between sanity and not, Alison finds a friend in neuropsychologist, Sebastian Faraday, giving a name for her condition and convincing Alison that she is a normal girl.

And then.

To reveal more would be spoilery, so I’ll let you find out for yourself. I was aware of a coming twist that would turn Ultraviolet around and I resisted the urge to read ahead just to find out when, where and what it was. It was easy to stick to the story though, because the author’s writing is just so good that I wouldn’t think of skipping any page. The story was tight, and I felt genuine sympathy for Alison as she struggles with her ordeal. I just really wanted to give Alison a hug and believe that she isn’t crazy, you now? At the same time, I was very interested in Alison’s condition — which apparently, is real.

And then…things changed. I was expecting it because of the reviews I read, but I wasn’t sure when it would happen. Like what other readers have said, it was done quite seamlessly that I couldn’t question how untrue it was. I’m usually skeptical about how things turned out here, this one worked. I had a hunch about what it was, and it turned out correct, but it wasn’t also 100% right. The author managed to keep the balance between what’s real and not real and make it work, while also giving us readers a way to describe something infinite. Forgive the flowery word, but that was just the only way I could describe it. Infinite.

Ah, I’m sorry I can’t reveal that much more because it would destroy the reading experience of anyone who reads this and decides to read Ultraviolet. I was pleasantly surprised by this one, and I’m glad that I gave in to the good review pressure and read it. This is definitely one of those books that will have readers discuss and laugh and share a secret smile about.

Rating: [rating=4]

Other reviews:
Chachic’s Book Nook
The Midnight Garden


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: [rating=4]

Other reviews:
Amaterasu Reads
Attack of the Book


Wither by Lauren DeStefano
Chemical Garden Trilogy # 1
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Number of pages:  345
My copy: ebook from Galley Grab

What if you knew exactly when you would die?

Thanks to modern science, every human being has become a ticking genetic time bomb—males only live to age twenty-five, and females only live to age twenty. In this bleak landscape, young girls are kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages to keep the population from dying out.

When sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery is taken by the Gatherers to become a bride, she enters a world of wealth and privilege. Despite her husband Linden’s genuine love for her, and a tenuous trust among her sister wives, Rhine has one purpose: to escape—to find her twin brother and go home.

But Rhine has more to contend with than losing her freedom. Linden’s eccentric father is bent on finding an antidote to the genetic virus that is getting closer to taking his son, even if it means collecting corpses in order to test his experiments. With the help of Gabriel, a servant Rhine is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limited time she has left.

* * *

Wither is one of those books that the book bloggers have been abuzz with ever since the cover came out. And who wouldn’t be mesmerized by such a beautiful cover? I wasn’t much of a cover person then, but I knew that I took a mental note of this book and was thrilled to see it as one of the e-galleys available in Simon & Schuster’s Galley Grab.

This is the first book in the Chemical Garden trilogy, and it tells a dystopian world sometime into a future where diseases are removed through genetic experiments, producing a first generation of almost immortal human beings who can live their lives in full health. However, as soon as this first generation started to reproduce, they found a fatal flaw: the offspring of the first generation die before they reach their thirties. Specifically, males live up to twenty five while females pass away as they reach twenty. To keep the population growing, young girls are forced into polygamous marriages and some of their offspring were tested to find an antidote to to stop their children from dying.

Rhine Ellery is 16 and was captured by the Gatherers in a fake job interview and she was bought as a wife for Linden Ashby by his father, Housemaster Vaughn. Rhine gets married and becomes an Ashby by name but swears to find a way out and be reunited with her twin brother. However, as she tries to find a way to escape, she discovers disturbing things about the Ashby household, finds herself softening towards her husband and sister-wives and falls in love.

If I were asked to choose a word to describe Wither, it’s interesting. My initial attraction to the book came from it being classified under dystopia, and we all know how I’ve grown to love that sub-genre in the past year. I liked Rhine right at the start. Her voice is strong and clear and she was tough but not without being compassionate. She knows she’s doomed to die in four years but I liked that she still seemed to have little hopes and dreams, one that helped her survive her ordeal. Reading the story in Rhine’s point of view kind of reminded me of The Hunger Games, without the thundering background music and the immediate need to survive. Rhine’s background music would fall a bit on a classical piece that starts out as calm and languid at first then builds up to a crescendo as we get to the exciting parts. Rhine isn’t a Katniss, but there were some similarities in their personalities — particularly their resiliency — that reminded me of Suzanne Collins’ beloved character. Oh and I also found it really cool that Rhine had differently colored eyes — heterochromia, as they call it. I couldn’t help but shriek, “Graceling!” when I read that part. :)

However, as far as the dystopian aspect of Wither goes, I found it a bit lacking. I’m no expert in how dystopia should be unlike some people I know, but I wasn’t very satisfied with how Rhine’s world came to be. Sure, I understand there would be mass panic when they find out the flaw in their genetic experiments, but how could there be so much destruction that all the other continents were wiped out except for North America? I understand the population woes, so why kill the girls then? Why are there so many orphans? There were so many why’s and how’s that I found the world building a bit faulty, despite it being vivid. Perhaps my questions would be answered in the next two books?

I also have a tiny beef with the ending, but it’s just me nitpicking. It’s not a cliffhanger, but I really wish there was more. I guess I was looking for more action in the ending? I kind of wanted something bigger, something more explosive to happen in the end. It may just be me and my expectations for dystopian novels. The ending for Wither felt a little too much…I don’t know, dreamy? That isn’t bad, but just kind of threw me off the loop. I was expecting  a little bit more action, and I wanted to know what happened to the other characters, too. But again, I guess that is why this is part of a trilogy. It’s kind of like how Carrie Ryan ended her zombie books — if you don’t know that there will be a next book in the series, you’d feel like you were cheated from an ending with closure.

Despite its faults and my nitpicks, Wither is still a good read, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. If dystopian novels had genders, this would definitely be a female — no battle scenes or gory deaths here, boys. :) It’s bleak and disturbing yet still romantic, emotional and somewhat hopeful. If you’re not into reading bleak and hardcore dystopian novels, then Wither may be the book for you.

Rating: [rating=3]

Other reviews:
Rex Robot Reviews


DeliriumDelirium by Lauren Oliver
Delirium # 1
Publisher: Harper Collins
Number of pages: 441
My copy: ebook review copy from Netgalley

Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didn’t understand that once love -the deliria- blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the governments demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Halloway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy.

But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: She falls in love.

* * *

I loved Lauren Oliver’s debut novel, Before I Fall, so when I found out that she was coming up with a new dystopian book, I was psyched. I saw this book first from The Book Smugglers and added it to my wish list, eagerly anticipating its release. The premise is intriguing, and as the release date got nearer, reviews are cropping up left and right. The mixed reviews kind of worried me, especially since some of my trusted reviewers were lukewarm on it, but I decided to carry on and find out for myself instead of just scrapping it because of the reviews.

Love is bad. It is a sickness that needs to be cured and you must be protected from it at all costs until you are old enough to get the cure. This is what Lena Halloway grew up with in a society that declares love as a disease – amor deliria nervosa — one that causes pain, clouds judgment and kills not only the person infected but the people around them. Lena grew up believing this and blaming the sickness for her mother’s eventual suicide and she looked forward to receiving her cure. She wanted a normal, safe, and predictable life with a person matched for her, to prove that she is not like her mother and she will not endanger anyone. As Lena counts the days to receiving her cure (a simple operation is all you need to get rid of love and you don’t need to drink anything like jack3d after), something unexpected and totally forbidden happens: she meets Alex, and she falls in love. What follows is a lot of secret meetings and stolen moments and learning about the truth that has been hidden from Lena for almost all her life.

One thing I realized while reading Delirium is that there are two ways to read this novel: the romantic side and the dystopian side. The side you’re more fond of will make or break this novel for you. I really liked the premise of the novel, and I was curious to how Oliver will make all of it work out. I’m not an expert in dystopia despite having read a lot of it (not as much as other people, though), so a world without something is already enough for me to classify it as such. I was kind of afraid there would be another love triangle in this, but figuring that this is a book where love is considered forbidden, there’s got to be some swoon-worthy and tingly romance in this book that I was willing to take on.

And I was right: the romance between Lena and Alex was surely swoon-worthy. I liked how Lena’s feelings were described as she learned of love with Alex. Oliver sure had a way with words and these were reminiscent to how she wrote Before I Fall. I related to Lena in the same sense that I’ve never been in love — never felt the rush, the sparks, the exhilaration of knowing that someone thinks you are perfect no matter how plain looking you know you are. The symptoms listed for the disease accurately describes (as much as I know, anyway) how it feels to have a crush and to fall in love if things don’t stop. It could be a symbolism of sorts in real life: the disease could be something that people who are afraid of falling in love are avoiding, and cured people are those who have decided never to love again after they have been hurt by love. Lena’s innocence about love was pure and kind of sweet, albeit tainted with fear of the deliria. But I guess that’s what love is, right? It’s scary and beautiful all at the same time, and choosing to live with or without it will kill you either way. The only difference between them is what dies in you if you choose to love or not.

But as far as the dystopia factor is concerned, I didn’t feel it. To be honest, I felt like Delirium reads better like a contemporary novel instead of dystopia. I may be biased because I really liked Before I Fall and I think the author is better at contemporary. There were just too many why’s that doesn’t make sense. Why is love considered a disease? What happened? I would understand if it’s too far off into the past that people hardly remember it, but it was only sixty-five years ago, and something that big shouldn’t be too easy to forget. What are the instances that made love the bad guy? And in their world that is controlled by the government, the big bad government didn’t feel like such a threat. They didn’t really strike much fear into me, unlike the Peacekeepers from The Hunger Games. Who led this totalitarian government? And for such a strict one, why can people get away with going to underground parties and breaking curfews. How? Delirium‘s world feels a bit hazy compared to the other dystopian books I’ve read. I guess it would be explained more in the next book, but I believe that for dystopian novels — especially books in series — to work, the world should be built solidly from the start, not in the next books because that’s what readers will be looking out for first. At least, that’s what I am looking for.

Overall, Delirium is kind of a mixed bag for me. I liked the romance, the dystopia was just kind of so-so. I liked it, but not as much as the the author’s debut. This is one of those books that people either really loved or really disliked, but I’m kind of in the middle ground. It’s just…okay. Read it and decide for yourself if you like it or not.

Oh and that ending? I have no words. :O

Rating: [rating=3]

Other reviews:
Janicu’s Book Blog
The Book Smugglers
Presenting Lenore
Bart’s Bookshelf
Forever Young Adult
Attack of the Book

Save as Draft

Save as Draft by Cavanaugh Lee
Simon and Schuster, 256 pages

A broken engagement, a broken heart, and endless drafts of unsent emails. A love triangle unfolding in the electronic age illustrates all that can go wrong (and right) by this new form of miscommunication. Told in “electro-epistolary” form, the novel unfolds entirely through emails and text messages. What do these tools of technology mean for love? What happens when age-old courtship rituals fall prey to the ever-changing sensibilities of how we share not only information, but our own hearts?

I was thrilled to see that Save as Draft was included in Simon & Schuster‘s latest galley grab as I’ve had my eye on it ever since Jill of Breaking the Spine featured this book in a Waiting on Wednesday post. I’m a big sucker for epistolary novels, and I love it even more when they use technology in the story too (case in point: Tweet Heart by Elizabeth Rudnick).

Because I enjoyed the novel so much, I thought of writing a review for it in the way the novel is written. It might get a tad personal and long (just as how I tried to review This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen), but I hope you keep on reading. :P

from: Tina <hello @ tinamats.com>
to: Achieving Friends :)
date: Mon, Jan 10, 2011 at 7:19 PM
subject: Save as Draft, and all sorts of thoughts

Hello friends!

This may be a very surprising email for you guys to get because…well, do we really communicate using emails now? There’s Facebook and Twitter, and well, there are other ways we can communicate…but indulge me for a while. Sometimes a book can make you do silly stuff. ;)

So I just finished reading this book, Save as Draft by Cavanaugh Lee. It’s this book filled with emails and text messages from this girl, Izzy (a lawyer, but I don’t think she’s the Offshore Injury one), to her friends and her guys. It starts with Izzy in 2008, where she joins an online dating website and meets Marty, a nice and sweet guy who seems to be very interesting. However, even after a great first date, Izzy tells Marty that she has decided to exclusively date her best friend, Peter and she was sorry. Then we are brought back to 2006, where Izzy first meets Peter, and how their relationship started from best friends to lovers.

I’m going to stop there so I won’t spoil you. I thought Save as Draft would be one of those typical chick lit romance novels with only a difference in format being an “electro-epistolary” novel, but I was wrong. I was very pleasantly surprised with this, and you may have seen my tweets during the weekend about this book — I was literally laughing out loud at home while I was reading this because Izzy reminded me SO much of myself. I love Izzy – her over thinking, her flirting, even her depressing moments remind me so much of the times I felt the same thing! Girls, I think we’ll all see some of ourselves in Izzy, or even her friends. The way they exchange emails and all that feels like they were actually exchanging dialogues instead of mere emails, and it’s just like how we tweet each other sometimes, haha. I think we will definitely see some of the guys we know in Peter and Marty, too.

The book is littered with so many funny exchanges that’s the stuff you can see in modern sitcoms but also things you can see in real life. Of course, I’m no judge for that with my still single since birth status, but these are the things we usually talk about, you know?

I think the biggest “lesson” I picked up with Save as Draft is how relationships are never black and white. I’ve talked to some of you about this before, and again, given my single status, I know I’m highly idealistic. That’s why I like books like this — they show a side of reality that I have not yet experienced and give me a bit of a warning, if you may. Something to remind me that things will never turn exactly the way I like it. Remember how I used to say that I wanted a guy who had no issues or hang ups in life just so things won’t be complicated? Well, if I keep on thinking like that, then I know I would never ever settle down with anyone because a guy (or a girl, for that matter) without issues or hang ups does not exist. I think the author was very good at showing that relationships can be messy. There’s no perfect relationship just as there is no perfect person. Even if the person seemed perfect at the start, you’d realize eventually that he’s a workaholic, or he has issues with fat people (this really kind of grated my nerves there) or he’s too presumptuous (haha this reminds me of someone!). It’s all gray and there is never a clear thing, and sometimes you just really have to follow your heart, you know?

And excuse me for being emo there. These are the things we usually talk about when we’re drinking.

I think this is the first time that I was confused at who I wanted the heroine to end up with. I mean, even my Best Friend vs. the Other Guy thing couldn’t decide: Izzy fell for her best friend, but there was also this other perfectly nice guy there that I liked for her…is real life really like this?!

It’s a very, very good book, and I won’t spoil you anymore because I’m going to make you guys read this! I was entertained all throughout, and I bet you guys will, too. Save as Draft is not a relationship manual, but it’s given me a little insight on what I must remember when the day comes that I enter a relationship: (1) never substitute face to face communication with emails/tweets/chats/texts/what-have-you and (2) never let anyone dim my sparkle.

Oh, and never ever do anything you’ll regret when you’re drunk. ;)

Rambling off. Can’t wait to see you guys again — this weekend?


P.S. I just thought of a perfect Valentine’s Gift. I just hope this book gets to the Philippine shores on time. :)


If you’re looking for a quick, fun yet meaningful read about relationships and how messy it can be, do get this book. Save as Draft by Cavanaugh Lee will be out in hardcover on February 1 under Simon & Schuster. Cavanaugh talks more about the book in an interview in Building My Life.

Rating: [rating=4]

My copy: ebook ARC from Simon & Schuster Galley Grab

Cover: cavanaughlee.com
Blurb: Goodreads

Other reviews: