17565845Panic by Lauren Oliver
Published: March 4th 2014 by HarperCollins
Pages: 408

Panic began as so many things do in Carp, a dead-end town of 12,000 people in the middle of nowhere: because it was summer, and there was nothing else to do.

Heather never thought she would compete in Panic, a legendary game played by graduating seniors, where the stakes are high and the payoff is even higher. She’d never thought of herself as fearless, the kind of person who would fight to stand out. But when she finds something, and someone, to fight for, she will discover that she is braver than she ever thought.

Dodge has never been afraid of Panic. His secret will fuel him, and get him all the way through the game, he’s sure of it. But what he doesn't know is that he’s not the only one with a secret. Everyone has something to play for.

For Heather and Dodge, the game will bring new alliances, unexpected revelations, and the possibility of first love for each of them—and the knowledge that sometimes the very things we fear are those we need the most.
"How do I know I can trust you?", she said finally.
"That's the thing about trust." He crunched an ice cube between his teeth. "You don't know." 
Actual rating: 2.5

I didn't know what to expect, yet Panic isn't what I thought it would be, and not in the best way. I wonder how Lauren Oliver, best-selling author of the Delirium series which I loved, could publish this very novel. What happened?

The fact that I rated Panic two and a half stars has everything to do with the following issue: how the supposed plot got put in the background. I find this to be so disappointing because the game was amazing. However it reminded everyone of Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games, I loved the idea of something like that in realistic circumstances. All the challenges were very well done and I really enjoyed reading every one of them. This plot had potential to be something good, repeating had. This book was full of unnecessary romance and other contemporary drama I didn't sign up for.

To start with the romance, in my opinion it was all over the place. One moment we're focused on this couple and then a break-up and a new romance and another break-up and drama... It was just way too much. I don't understand why Lauren Oliver did this because it didn't bring much to the book as a whole. It was more like filling the pages with the best thing she could come up with. Instead of filling it up with romance, I would have preferred it a lot more if she stretched the duration of each challenge. They were over before you knew it and then you had to wait a rather long time before getting to the next one. Furthermore, I didn't like who ended up with who despite the problems they had in their past. Call me stupid, but I didn't find any hints pointing in the direction of them getting together.

Moving on the characters. As I didn't support any romances, you can guess I didn't like many characters either. Natalie was a disgusting, self-centered hellcat who should have died in the game and Lily reminded me way too much of Prim than I should have. Others were rather flat and unlikeable. The only characters who stood out a little were Heather, Dodge and Dayna because of their backstories. I like when certain characters come from poor social environments, especially when they're not whiny or give up way too easily. It shows that they're strong and won't go down without a fight. I recognized this in both the narrators and really appreciated that.

To sum up the last good and bad things, I'd like to start with the good. The plot twists, or twist. I hadn't seen that one coming. I was surprised and excited with this new addition to the game. This also explained why I finished Panic in a jiffy. The challenges kept me going, even though the other dramas were boring and extended for chapters that didn't seem to stop. The climax was the best thing out of the entire novel. Together with the writing, I smiled when I read that last sentence. It ended beautifully, and I wouldn't have wanted it to end any other way. TColour me surprised when I discovered the epilogue. What the duck was that. It seemed like it was taken from a whole other book and was also just completely unnecessary. If I had the physical copy I would have likely ripped out those last pages because they didn't fit the story and, again, unnecessary. I don't know what its importance is, because it seems like there is none.

With an enjoyable pace and challenges that keep you sitting on the edge of your seat, Panic had so much potential to be a great successor to the Delirium series. It was only then when I discovered the messy plot, meh characters and cheesy epilogue. It's not like it was awful, but overall quite the disappointment.

17926775Stolen Songbird (Malediction Trilogy, #1) by Danielle L. Jensen
Published: April 1st 2013 by Strange Chemistry
Pages: 469

For five centuries, a witch's curse has bound the trolls to their city beneath the ruins of Forsaken Mountain. Time enough for their dark and nefarious magic to fade from human memory and into myth. But a prophesy has been spoken of a union with the power to set the trolls free, and when Cécile de Troyes is kidnapped and taken beneath the mountain, she learns there is far more to the myth of the trolls than she could have imagined.

Cécile has only one thing on her mind after she is brought to Trollus: escape. Only the trolls are clever, fast, and inhumanly strong. She will have to bide her time, wait for the perfect opportunity.

But something unexpected happens while she's waiting - she begins to fall for the enigmatic troll prince to whom she has been bonded and married. She begins to make friends. And she begins to see that she may be the only hope for the half-bloods - part troll, part human creatures who are slaves to the full-blooded trolls. There is a rebellion brewing. And her prince, Tristan, the future king, is its secret leader.

As Cécile becomes involved in the intricate political games of Trollus, she becomes more than a farmer's daughter. She becomes a princess, the hope of a people, and a witch with magic powerful enough to change Trollus forever.

"She foretold that when a prince of night bonded a daughter of the sun, the curse would be broken." 
- Danielle L. Jensen

Thank you Netgalley and Strange Chemistry for providing me with a copy of this book!

Actual rating: 3.5 stars

Stolen Songbird is a novel I was dying to get into. Whether it was the cover or the premise of something original, something caught my attention and eventually got me to finally read it. Even though there's little voice in my head telling me it's a disappointment, I'm not going to review it as one. It's good, and I really got to enjoyed it despite my issues.

Starting off, I'd like to get straight into the issues. Without a doubt, Jensen has a writing style of her own. It's sometimes poetic and very easy to find a good quote. Maybe a bit too easy? What I'm trying to say, is that I think it's written in a way, that it was a struggle for me for a big part of the book. I wondered while reading if the main character talked like this even before she was kidnapped. If so, I really wonder how one could possibly talk like that all the time. It has this formality to it that makes both the dialogues and the characters in general feel not so realistic. I do realise that the author may have made this choice since the world has a royal feel to it. Yet, I'm still not happy with the way it was written. It certainly took a while for me to get used to, and by then I was already seventy percent in. The point of view was a smart choice, if only it hadn't been for little point of views we got from Tristan. They felt unnecessary and confusing, especially since I've been in Cécile's head for such a long time that I automatically read Tristan's point of view as if I were still reading Cécile's.

Moving on to the pace of the novel, I have to say that I really felt how long the book was. As with most of the books which lack a good pace, I was just kind of waiting around for the action to start and the book to get interesting. However when the world and pace did get interesting, I didn't feel the need to keep reading. It was only at the very end when the book turned into a fast-paced page turner.

The formal writing held me back from caring about many characters in this book. Almost none of them felt special or made their way into my heart. Furthermore, there were these characters who only seemed to be introduced as additional world-building because we didn't get to see much of them after they made their first appearance. Yet despite my little negativity on the characters of Stolen Songbird, the good things can't be ignored. The depth with each character is palpable. They are portrayed as individuals with a backstory, something I really liked.

The protagonist, Cécile, is a girl who's been a mess in the beginning because it's logical. She wasn't a badass who does everything in her power to get away from there. She's like the majority of us. If I got kidnapped to marry a mean troll, I will have a breakdown and cry when I want too. She's smart and waited until the time seemed right. She's not reckless or a Mary Sue, even though she has her talents. She's not special. She's normal, and I just loved that. Comparing her to the male lead, I don't have much good to say about him. Even though he was also a character with a backstory and a character you need to feel sympathy for, you don't. Or, I didn't. This made it hard for me when coming to the romance aspect of the book. There was already so much tension between the two from the beginning that I was so relieved when I got to see the start of their romance. Only, it developed in a way I didn't enjoy. There should have been a moment when one of the two says that their relationship is moving way too fast. None did. It seemed like Célice had a special case of the Stockholm syndrome and Tristan finally got off his period.

To me, the plot always seems to be connected to the pace. And since the pace wasn't that great, it already tells a lot about the plot itself. Some scenes were really predictable and unnecessary. At one point all we learn are the politics of Trollus. It's not something most readers look forward to, I think. Other than this, Stolen Songbird does have potential and a really original concept.  It's not like I have ever read a book about trolls. Together with the ancient curse and the world, the author combined known elements in the YA world in a way that still creates something unique. It could have been done just a little better with the take on trolls. What I expected were those little, stereotypical "monsters" we know. What I got were humans with a little exception here and there. Further than this, I think that once the bonding happened, the plot started to drift off and went nowhere. Everything that happened didn't seem connected or happened for a certain reason.

The world has to be the best thing about this book. It grabbed me from the first moment Cécile walked in and described it all. A kingdom beneath the mountain. Seems like a huge rip-off from Erebor. Trust me; it's not. The entire time Cécile has been there, the world just has its royal feel. I just really appreciated this, since I don't get a lot to read about kings and queens. What matched this perfectly, was the discrimination of the half-bloods and the troll's opinions on humans. It's believable, I loved it. The Greek take on the novel may have been a bit random, but some of you know how much I love the tale of the labyrinth. Instead of a minotaur, we get a giant slug. This only works with the half-bloods being thrown in there, because it makes you realise how hard their lives are. The world pulled me in, and I really hope to see more of this in the sequel.

When I said that the world was the best thing, I had yet to discuss the ending. Without giving away any spoilers, it was intense and the last few chapters were real page-turners. I absolutely loved it. It makes me want to read the sequel, just because if the ending was so good, who knows, perhaps the sequel will be even better?

Stolen Songbird was an interesting novel, with a let-downs here and there. I'm currently crossing my fingers for a fantastic sequel. It has potential, the world is fantastic which I'd love to read more about, and would be a shame if it won't turn out to be a great trilogy.

3092057The Butterfly Lion by Michael Morpurgo
Published May 1st 1997 by HarperCollins Children's Books
Pages: 128

After Bertie rescues an orphaned lion cub from the African veld, they are inseparable until Bertie is sent to boarding school far away in England and the lion is sold to a circus. Bertie swears that one day they will see another again, but it is the butterfly lion that ensures that their friendship will never be forgotten.

All my life I'll think of you,
I promise I will.
I won't ever forget you.
- Michael Morpurgo

Actual rating: 4.5

I started this book wondering why we had to read another book for school for nine and up. I didn't want to read a silly children's book. I wanted to read a real classic. After going back to what I was thinking before I started The Butterfly Lion, I now realise how dumb and judgmental I was. A book of which I didn't think I'd enjoy at all, is now one of my favourite children's stories.

The plot is simple and very easy to follow. You have to get used to the change of the points of view, but that's about it. Speaking of, can I say how much I loved how the story was put together? It all starts with a young boy listening to an old lady telling him a story of love and friendship, and in the end it's so much more than that. The change of the points of view are there for a reason, and I just love how it all connected.

Since The Butterfly Lion is a short book which I read on a sunny afternoon, I had no trouble with the pace. It went nice along with the story. It didn't have a big role after all, because the plot was just so lovely you can't put it down. You want to know everything there is to know, and you're trying to put certain pieces together. In the end, those pieces created an excellent novel. However, when I'm talking about the very end of this book, I have to say that I'm really sad about this. Not because the ending was sad with the memorial of the White Prince, but because it left me confused. I don't know what to make out of the end. Was the lady a ghost, or has the protagonist imagined everything? If so, I think none of the two would make actual sense. I would have  preferred it a lot more if it ended with the old lady having finished her story. Those last scentences she said were warm and gave me a happy feeling. I could say the ending ruined the entire book, yet I won't because before this I enjoyed it so much and I absolutely loved it.

With a perfect twist I'd have never seen coming, wonderful illustrations and a heartwarming plot, The Butterfly Lion is a book I'll remember.

Control (Control, #1) by Lydia Kang
Published December 26th 2013 by Dial Books for Young Readers
Pages: 393

When a crash kills their father and leaves them orphaned, Zel knows she needs to protect her sister, Dyl. But before Zel has a plan, Dyl is taken by strangers using bizarre sensory weapons, and Zel finds herself in a safe house for teens who aren't like any she's ever seen before - teens who shouldn't even exist. Using broken-down technology, her new friends peculiar gifts, and her own grit, Zel must find a way to get her sister back from the kidnappers who think a powerful secret is encoded in Dyl's DNA.

A spiraling, intense, romantic story set in 2150 - in a world of automatic cars, nightclubs with auditory ecstasy drugs, and guys with four arms - this is about the human genetic "mistakes" that society wants to forget, and the way that outcasts can turn out to be heroes.

"Trust no one, I scold myself. Even if they smell good."
- Lydia Kang, Control

Control is definitely one of the most difficult books for me to review. I had thought a long while about the rating, and then I came to the conclusion that I still had to write a review. Before you start panicking about why I didn't like this book, it's not that I didn't like it. I'd like to call it somwhere between a dissapointment and an interesting novel.

To start with the interesting aspect of the novel, Control is set in a dystopian world where there's a lot of focus on science and technology. As soon as I started reading, I got bombed with all sort of new inventions. Very cool, unless they're suddenly everywhere in the context without having an idea what they are. It was only after a couple of chapters I got to figure out what each thing was. Because of this I was kind of confused thoughout the beginning and it made me less caring for everything else. Further into the book, it were the two houses that grabbed my attention. The rivalry bewteen the two is special and a nice bonus to the overall world. The other elements of Lydia Kang's world however, didn't manage to grab me. It was hard to get into mainly because of the few explanations I got. I would like to see more details in the sequel, especially since it felt like the author rushed over these and went straight into the action and the actual plot.

The world usually says a lot about how the plot is going to be. As I mentioned that I liked the tentions between the two houses, I also really enjoyed the refreshing take on science. It's something not many YA books do. Thinking about it, it's actually not impossible for our society to head that way. The writing was at its best with the action scenes. I just flew throuh those. Despite all this, I also have to mention the little things that made it hard for me to finish. A big part of this book felt like a not so original novel with a rather predictable plot. From the moment we start getting hints on a specific topic, it's really not that hard to figure out the rest of the story. The only surprising twist was the romance. I didn't think there was going to be any until I actually got it 60 % in. Furthermore, I hope I'm not the only one who was annoyed by the slow pacing, despite the entertaining scenes and suspense. At times it was way too easy for me to put down, when I actually shouldn't have.

I can see a trilogy with potential with the characters introduced in Control. Reading about teens with a dark environment, you're sometimes in the need for a lighter scene and they're there to make you smile. They're entertaining and there conversations always kept me interested. When looking at every character, I can be honest and say that I didn't really care for a lot of them in the beginning of the book. I was still processing everything else (the world), and my love for them has come a tad later. This had a lot to do with the obvious lack of character development. Having finished the book, I still have this feeling that I don't know them very well. My love for Zelia wasn't really there in the beginning, and hasn't come when I read the last page. She, like every other character, came across as superficial. I did like her surprising relationship with a certain guy. Don't mind me, I was okay with the sweet moments and romantic talk. They're that couple I'll possibly add to my shipping list in the future.

The ending was expected, and yet the author managed to throw in multiple plot twists I could have never seen coming. In a way, they made sense when looking at everything as a whole. I do think the ending was good because we get what we want to happen throughout Control. With a certain plot twist there's a whole new storyline to continue in the sequels of the book. If only I hadn't lost interest when getting to the last page. For some reason I was relieved to having almost finished it that I  may rushed over the ending. However, I can't say the ending wasn't good because it leaves me wanting more.

Control is a book which felt like a let-down a lot of times while reading. I was expecting more, and I'm sad that I'm not statisfied. It turned out to be a story with surprising twists in both a positive and a negative way. The characters were the thing I enjoyed most, and I'm curious to see how they'll develop in the sequel. Talking about it, I have no idea if I'll eventually pick it up. I probably will because of the ending and most of all: peer pressure. Damn you, peer pressure.

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