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Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Buy from: Harlequin AUS website
A chance encounter sparks an unrelenting web of lies in this stunning new psychological thriller from national bestselling author Mary Kubica
She sees the teenage girl on the train platform, standing in the pouring rain, clutching an infant in her arms. She boards a train and is whisked away. But she can't get the girl out of her head…
Heidi Wood has always been a charitable woman: she works for a nonprofit, takes in stray cats. Still, her husband and daughter are horrified when Heidi returns home one day with a young woman named Willow and her four-month-old baby in tow. Disheveled and apparently homeless, this girl could be a criminal—or worse. But despite her family's objections, Heidi invites Willow and the baby to take refuge in their home.
Heidi spends the next few days helping Willow get back on her feet, but as clues into Willow's past begin to surface, Heidi is forced to decide how far she's willing to go to help a stranger. What starts as an act of kindness quickly spirals into a story far more twisted than anyone could have anticipated

An Advance Reading Copy was provided by Harlequin MIRA Australia in exchange for an honest review.

If I were to rate Pretty Baby based on the efforts alone, this would be a solid 5-stars read. No one can say Mary Kubica did not try hard enough. She did. And it showed. Hence I'm genuinely gutted that I didn't love this book more. The book is lacking on the execution and the enjoyment factor.

I'm so...unenthusiastic about this book. Which makes it so hard to write a review on. I felt like Pretty Baby tried too hard to be different and genre-bending. Unfortunately, we get a final product that is not quite. Not quite thriller. Not quite mystery. Not quite drama.

In comparison to Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl and Dark Places (comparison is inevitable because well, just look at the cover), Kubica's writing is relatively easier to stomach (haha!) but the issues dealt in this book are disturbing all the same.

I thought the beginning was very well done. Although it initially reads from two totally opposite point of views (Heidi's and Chris'), I could relate to them both which in turns questioned my own morality and choices if I were in their position. So that was really interesting. Enters Willow's point of view and it was like reading a different book altogether. No date/time stamp follows the start of each chapter so it took me awhile to orientate myself - that Willow's POV is told sometimes in the future (with of course, flashbacks thrown in as well because why not?). Contrary to most psychological thrillers which reveal early on that someone's missing/killed/dead/became amnesiac, Pretty Baby definitely takes its sweet time to tell the readers what actually had happened. So for me, the intrigue is lost and I was left hanging for so long that I contemplated DNF-ing this book so many times.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is not a good sign for a thriller book.

Did the ending redeem the whole book? Well, I definitely did not expect the ending, so that's something. I don't know...I was just content with it. I wasn't wowed by it but it satisfied me nonetheless.
3 poker faces


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Talon by Julie Kagawa
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Long ago, dragons were hunted to near extinction by the Order of St. George, a legendary society of dragon slayers. Hiding in human form and growing their numbers in secret, the dragons of Talon have become strong and cunning, and they're positioned to take over the world with humans none the wiser.
Ember and Dante Hill are the only sister and brother known to dragonkind. Trained to infiltrate society, Ember wants to live the teen experience and enjoy a summer of freedom before taking her destined place in Talon. But destiny is a matter of perspective, and a rogue dragon will soon challenge everything Ember has been taught. As Ember struggles to accept her future, she and her brother are hunted by the Order of St. George.
Soldier Garret Xavier Sebastian has a mission to seek and destroy all dragons, and Talon's newest recruits in particular. But he cannot kill unless he is certain he has found his prey: and nothing is certain about Ember Hill. Faced with Ember's bravery, confidence and all-too-human desires, Garret begins to question everything that the Order has ingrained in him: and what he might be willing to give up to find the truth about dragons.

Actual rating 1.5 stars.

THE WORST JULIE KAGAWA'S BOOK I'VE EVER READ. And I've read eight of her other books.

I wanted to believe that maybe someone kidnapped her and wrote this book using her name, but when you've read enough Julie Kagawa's, you know it's her when you read the writing...

I still can't believe a book about dragons can be bad. *sigh*

One thing I noticed about Kagawa's writing is she doesn't do contemporary setting well. I didn't enjoy reading about Meghan's and Ethan's life before they enters the fey realm. It was so boring and bland.

Unfortunately this book is pretty much a contemporary with dragons. And I didn't even get enough dragons. There were more about;

1. Siblings fights - am I supposed to care about Dante? He could be replaced with a talking wall and I still couldn't care less.

2. Teenage angst - I honestly thought Ember gets rebellious for the first half of the book for no good reasons.

3. Insta-love - I honestly thought Julie knew better.

4. Love triangle - I HONESTLY THOUGHT JULIE KNEW BETTER. Meghan, Ash and Puck love triangle is a rarity and is dynamic - how could she possibly thought of throwing another love triangle with much, much weaker characters?

5. Surfing - YES, I LIVE IN AUSTRALIA AND YES, READING THIS MUCH ABOUT SURFING WAS NOT ENTERTAINING.

I know I should've DNF-ed it but I couldn't. Because it's a Kagawa book. I read and I read. Hoping that by the end of Part 1 the story would have gone somewhere. Nope. By that point, I was way past halfway mark so I decided to just finish it anyway. And I did. Yes, the story did go somewhere but it was so predictable and formulaic, I even laughed a few times and screamed 'THIS, THIS IS FROM JULIE KAGAWA???'.

Yeah, it wasn't nice.

Two unimpressed faces

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The poverty stricken Reds are commoners, living under the rule of the Silvers, elite warriors with god-like powers.
To Mare Barrow, a 17-year-old Red girl from The Stilts, it looks like nothing will ever change.
Mare finds herself working in the Silver Palace, at the centre of
those she hates the most. She quickly discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy Silver control.
But power is a dangerous game. And in this world divided by blood, who will win?

An advance reader copy was provided by Hachette Australia Books for review.

Actual rating 3.5 stars.

Imagine the X-Men as the lords and ladies in the pseudo-medieval period set in a dystopian future.
Sounds like something you never knew you wanted to read about but now that you know, you want it more than Nutella? Yup, that was me before I received a copy of this book. Sadly, it just didn't deliver.

In this dystopian world, the society is divided into two castes, the silvers (people with superpowers) and the oppressed reds (regular people). The book centres around Mare, a red who suddenly discovers that she has a unique superpower and how she is made into a pawn in a dangerous ploy for the throne.

I think my biggest issue with the book is the characters. In a moral sense, I think none of the characters deserves any respects which makes it's hard to pick a side. Understandably, living in a dystopia society like depicted in the story means it's difficult to cling to your moral values because you got to do what you have to do to survive, right? But most of the time, the characters, especially Mare has the option that offers less damage but she chose the less wise, morally-corrupted choice nonetheless. Morally-vague characters are something that I usually enjoy in literature - time and time again I found myself rooting for the antagonists because they are so entertaining. However in Red Queen, the characters make wrong decisions due to their cowardliness and lack of purpose, hence the book felt flat and lost its appeal on me midway through. For a book with just 320 pages, it felt like it has more than 500 pages in my head.

Luckily I pulled through because that ending worth every second I sat there with my tablet, trying to pry my eyes open and keep reading for the first 80% of the book. I suspected the big twist from miles away but as a plot hole so by the time the true villain was revealed to me, I was pretty shocked nonetheless. And have I mentioned how much I loved the ending? The final showdown has the right amount of action, tension and complexity. Will sell kidneys for the sequel!

Another aspect that was done quite well was the action and the battle scene. Some of the superpowers seem weak in comparison to the others but the author managed to show that when these superpowers are handled well, they can be deadlier than the obvious strong ones. But I need MOAR! There is simply not enough action to keep this book from being a snoozefest.

Overall, a pretty solid debut by Victoria Aveyard although I couldn't see myself wanting to pre-order the physical copy of this book anytime soon. :/

Me gusta! 4-stars


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Impulse by Vanessa Garden
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Buy from: Harlequin AUS website
When Miranda Sun returns to Marin on the eve of her eighteenth birthday, this time of her own free will, she quickly learns that her worst fears have been realised. The glittering underwater city is not as she had left it, nor too is Marko, the young king who has dominated her thoughts and heart for the last twelve months since leaving Marin.
Miranda, however, has not made the journey to Marin alone, and now must contend with not only Marko’s evil brother Damir but more surprisingly her sister Lauren who has an agenda of her own. Marko’s power begins to wane and with cracks beginning to show in the domed Utopian city, and veiled danger lurking everywhere, she quickly learns that in this dazzling city full of beautiful people she can trust no-one but herself.
If Miranda wants to survive, she must decide between the hardened sensibilities in her head and the hungers of her heart. Will her decision cause more heartache or can she help to save Marko’s throne?


A copy was provided by HarlequinTEEN Australia in exchange for an honest review.

In case you haven't noticed, I heavily panned Captivate, book 1 of the Submerged Sun series. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn't go near its sequel, Impulse, for obvious reasons. However, I received Impulse together with Captivate and it has such a glorious cover (I mean, come on, look at that cover!), so I thought, why not?



Wow, I mean, wow! A sequel that is thousands times better than its intermediate predecessor? Dear Vanessa Garden, I don't know what happened between Captivate and Impulse...but deyyumm gurl, you made me rethink my entire existence. JK! You made me rethink of my 'dropping the series if the first book is no good' policy.

I think what worked so well in Impulse is the political drama-llama which usually reserved for high fantasy books. In Impulse, we have a small-scale, underwater Game of Thrones. No shit. I didn't know who to trust, who I should loathe, what's their motives etc. In Captivate, I was under the impression that Marin citizen are a bunch of boring, nice people. I didn't expect to see the darker, uglier side of Marin citizen when faced with desperation of wanting to bear children. Even the main and secondary characters whom I thought as very one-dimensional in Captivate such as Sylvia, Anne, Damir, Lily and Lauren have morphed into more complex, layered characters in Impulse. Special honourary mention: Blake - I loved this guy! He's so creepy in the right way! One thing that still bothers me is whether I should hate Lauren or not. I don't know if the author wants me to hate Lauren at first then to like her once I learned her true motive or just continue to hate her because ***spoilers ahead*** her motive is still very ambiguous up until the end of the book. ***spoiler finished***

Now, another interesting bit about this book is its undefined genre. It could be a dystopia - organised underwater civilisation but it's not set in the future. It could be a fantasy - because of the mention of a mythical creature and just the general atmosphere of the book, but the creature is yet to be verified to have existed. It could be a sci-fi - hell yeah, alien technology but this bit is also still very much wishy-washy. Honestly, it could be a romance and thriller and mystery book. Unbelievable, isn't it? I saw a lot of people shelving the books from this series under 'mermaid' tag and this confuses the hell out of me. THIS IS NOT TECHNICALLY A MERMAID BOOK. Yeah, there are some mentions of mermaid but mermaid isn't the main thing here, okay.

Okay, here's the thing that made me feel so relieved; the relationship between Miranda and Marko is properly built and developed in this book. No more outlandish, insta-love declarations, no more unnecessary pseudo love triangle. Although, in Impulse, there is a part where I actually held my breath because I felt like another love triangle is coming but this time it's for a good reason. So yeah, I felt myself warming up to Miranda and Marko although towards the end I cringed a bit when Miranda wants to take things too fast.

But Impulse still had the same problem as Captivate. The last one third of the book has once again suffered from sketchy plot and it felt like it was dragged forever but ended up at the same point. But contrary to the first book where it's just plunging to the abyss of the deepest hell-hole, this time it was still bearable and readable. I think with better editing, this last part of the book could have been much better.

So yeah, Impulse - totally worth 
Me gusta! 4-stars.

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Captivate by Vanessa Garden
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Buy from: Harlequin Aus website

In a glittering underwater world, nothing is as it seems...For the past twelve months since her parents’ death, seventeen-year-old Miranda Sun has harboured a dark secret — a secret that has strained the close relationship she once shared with her older sister, Lauren. In an effort to repair this broken bond, Miranda’s grandparents whisk the siblings away on a secluded beach holiday. Except before Miranda gets a chance to confess her life-changing secret, she’s dragged underwater by a mysterious stranger while taking a midnight swim. Awakening days later, Miranda discovers that she’s being held captive in a glittering underwater city by an arrogant young man named Marko...the King of this underwater civilisation.Nineteen-year-old Marko intends to marry Miranda in order to keep his crown from falling into the sinister clutches of his half-brother, Damir. There’s only one problem. Miranda is desperate to return home to right things with her sister and she wants nothing to do with Marko. Trying to secure her freedom, Miranda quickly forms an alliance with Robbie — Marko’s personal guard. However, she soon discovers that even underwater, people are hiding dangerous secrets...

A copy was provided by HarlequinTEEN Australia in exchange for an honest review.

BREATHTAKING UNDERWATWER COVER!!!

Should've known better, right? To be fair, it wasn't particularly bad, but it was definitely strange and cliché.

The book reminded me a lot of Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge (the 'kidnapping to be made a bride for the king' part) and Renegade by J.A. Souders (the 'underwater city surrounded by dark mysteries' part). Sadly, I did not like this book as much as I liked the two aforementioned books.

Captivate doesn't waste time getting to the action. By action, I mean the kidnapping (that sounds so wrong). So, we don't get to know the dynamics of Miranda's relationship with her sister and her grandparents very well. While I appreciate the 'hit the ground rolling' opening, it was hard for me to feel Miranda's desperation to go back home because I wasn't being shown the strength of her family bond. Granted, we were told that Miranda harbours a secret she's been intending to tell her sister, Lauren and she wants to seek her forgiveness, but I think it helps if a brief details of Miranda's relationship with Lauren before their parents died was provided so that the readers can establish an emotional connection with Miranda.

Well, I was hoping for that so, so much because honestly, I did not like Lauren at all, so if only I could learn something good about her, then I could probably empathise more with Miranda and her wish to be back home. Here's Lauren's quote that irritates me so much;

Mum always used to say I had the metabolism of a racehorse-"With the stumpy body of a Shetland pony", Lauren would add with a smirk.

WHAT KIND OF OLDER SISTER TALKS TO HER YOUNGER SISTER LIKE THAT? Uh.

***spoilers ahead***And let's face it. Their parents death was IMO Lauren's fault. I'm 100% agree that she should have never leave Miranda alone on her birthday. But playing dumb for over a year, letting Miranda feels the guilt and never tries to make amend before Miranda confesses to her is just vain.

SERIOUSLY, WHAT KIND OF OLDER SISTER TREATS HER YOUNGER SISTER LIKE THAT?***spoilers finished***

Alright, enough about Lauren.

At first, I found Miranda as easy to like. She is cautious and sceptical of everyone she meets in Marin. She doesn't only say she wants to go home, she takes actions - she tries to remember Marin's layout, she plans her next moves, she gets to the good side of people who might help her escape and praise da lord, she doesn't get attracted to ANY male beings in Marin although they are well, kinda hot.

At first.

***mild spoilers ahead***

Now, please explain me what happened from Chapter Twenty and onwards? If the book was sort of 'yeah, okay, maybe' before that, after this chapter the book just takes a sharp dive into the abyss the of the deepest hell-hole. Like, seriously. The book threw me off so badly, I was even wondering if a different author had wrote this last third of the book.

Miranda suddenly loses her ability to think straight, makes bad decisions after bad decisions. AND SHE LIES. SO.MANY.FREAKING.TIMES.

Also, she suddenly gets attracted to both Marko and to some extent, Robbie. Marko is basically the kidnapper for the first two-third of the book, and honestly, I don't think he's making any significant efforts to make Miranda likes her, so yeah, when in Chapter Twenty, they are throwing the love word all around, I was like 'whaaaaaat'?. Only after that that they are beginning to really warming up to each other. Isn't that bizarre?

Anyway, they were a few things I noticed that make this book a bit ethically questionable.

1. Stockholm Syndrome is an icky subject. And I don't think the book handles this theme really well. Captivate tries to romanticise kidnapping too much and that doesn't sit very well to me. I remember reading Stolen by Lucy Christopher which kinda romanticises kidnapping as well but in the end, it still hammers down the message that kidnapping is wrong. The fact that the whole city agrees to the kidnapping, that is just disturbing, no matter how desperate you are.

2. My inner feminism raged when Miranda was kidnapped (of course) and ***spoilers ahead*** when she was forced to be brought back home. The argument was that it's dangerous for her to stay but giving her a less than one day notice before she will be brought home and denying her plea to stay when she really wants to help is just arrogant. AND HONESTLY! THEY NEVER THINK OF THE POSSIBILITY THAT PROBABLY IT'S THE MEN THAT ARE IMPOTENT?

3. When Stephanie pleads to Miranda for Phillippe's life, Miranda says that Stephanie owes her, that just pissed me off. SAVING SOMEONE'S LIFE WHEN THEY DON'T DESERVE TO DIE DOESN'T MEAN YOU OWE THAT PERSON ANYTHING. And what's up with the 'feeding to the shark' sentence. That is uncivilised for a so called self-sustaining civilisation.***spoilers finished***

4. If it's feasible for Marin to trade everything for pearls, I don't understand why it's not feasible to just offer a girl to come WILLINGLY to Marin for diplomatic or charitable reasons. If the girl doesn't like it, then let her go and offer another girl. I'm sure they can sign an agreement or something to keep the secret. There MUST be a girl who would've enjoy living underwater (someone who hates meat and sunlight and has no family for example) instead of ripping a random girl from her family. Ugh.

5. Fertility dance. I'm not sure if this is ethically questionable. It's just bizarre.

Anyway, there are a still a few unanswered mysteries and the story could be heading towards a darker path in Book 2. So since I got a copy of Impulse as well, I will be reading the sequel soon.

Two unimpressed faces

More like I'm back from the dead!
Just kidding! It's been 18 months. 
Yup. That's bad. That's really bad. But my life was spiralling out of control since mid last year and I didn't have time to look after this blog and for that I deeply apologise.

What makes me come back?

Long story short (not trying to be dramatic or anything) but reading basically saved my life. For the past two years I felt like life was moving too fast but not fast enough AND even then, I still couldn't catch up with it. So I had fallen into depression this year and it was just...horrible. But the blessing in disguise is that it allowed me to take a break and to think of what's really important in life, life is not all about achievements, you know, all that jazz. And I remembered I used to like reading so much. Well, I did read a few books within the span of last year and the first six months of this year but time and commitment has always been the issue. 

Until mid year this year, Somehow, I've read good books after good books and I slowly feel like I'm alive again (of course, reading is not the only factor that gets me out of my depression, but it has been a major contributor).

I became active on Goodreads again for a few months now but I was not sure if I'm physically capable of reviving this bookblog. I mean, a bookblog is no joke - I don't care what people say, it's actually damn hard to maintain an active bookblog.

But even with my inactivity, I received a few invitations for ARC reviews so I thought, why not? But this time I won't be super ambitious like before until the point where it actually became stressful. So yeah, at this point of time, I will probably only post reviews on this site and a occasionally memes. I will no longer post cover reveals, blog tours and regular memes. By all means, if you think Qwerty has turned into something you would no longer like to follow, feel free to unsubscribe. I won't be offended. A little sad, maybe, but it's okay. I understand.

To the new Qwerty!
I want to be more excited but this means I need to re-acquaint myself with HMTL! *gasps*


Flight by Lindsay Leggett
Publication date: April 1st 2013
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Synopsis:
The first rule of survival in the Underground: When you’re outside, keep your eyes on the skies. Ace Harpy Hunter Piper Madden is used to danger, but the death of her brother slams the brakes on her high-torque lifestyle and leaves her broken and confused.
On the run from the dictating Elder Corporation, she’s eventually found in the quiet undergound city of Ichton and asked to work for the Corp on contract to quell a new and frightening Harpy threat.
Enter the discovery of horrifying Corporation secrets, Harpy attacks, and a new friendship with the strange Asher, and Piper’s days become anything but boring.
Then, a chance encounter leaves Piper privy to a dangerous secret, ad as she and Asher team up in an effort to unravel the truth, the secrets they uncover beneath the ancient walls of the dead city will spark their world into a grand-scale war.
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17406619-flight?ac=1

Purchase:
--Amazon: http://www.amazon.ca/Flight-ebook/dp/B00BPFHLDS/ref=tmm_kin_title_0
--Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/flight-lindsay-leggett/1114753059?ean=9781482639568&itm=1&usri=9781482639568


AUTHOR BIO
Nearly every writer struggles to put together information about themselves, perhaps because we’re so used to detailing the lives and ways of others. For the most part I am a writer, editor, photographer, and all-around artist living in the wilds north of Toronto, Ontario. I thrive on the juxtaposition of beauty and grit, enjoy urban crawls, indie everything, and time well-spent in the woods.

Author Links:
Website / Goodreads / Twitter

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