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Review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

5 Jul

Series: No, stand-alone

Published: December 2nd 2010 by Dutton

Details: Hardcover, 372 pages

My Rating: 5/5

My Summary:

Anna is sent to boarding school in Paris, befriends a group of people, among them the hottie St.Clair. Now, on the paper it sounds fairly ordinary. But don’t let that fool you. This is an AMAZING book!! So real, it felt like I was there with Anna, walking the street in Paris and falling in love. Simply put, A MUST READ!

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A few chapters in:

This is a book that created quite a stir when it hit the shelves in December last year. I remember reading a flow of rave reviews. It’s contemparary fiction, which means no paranormal creatures in sight. More chic-lit than paranormal romance.

In other words, not my usual cup of tea, but as you know if you’ve followed my blog, from time to time I like to read a contemporary novel, in particularly if they have received amazing reviews. Because paranormal stuff or not, if it has a great love story, I want to read it.

My hopes with this one is that it’ll be as wonderful as Perfect Chemistry, which took my breath away. Let’s see if it’s up for the challenge.

Oh, and not to forget, this book surfaced as the next book to read on my “what to read next poll”. Thanks again to all who voted!

I’m now a few chapters in:

Anna’s parents, or rather her hot-shot dad, has enrolled her into a boarding school in Paris for her senior year. She’s not too happy about this, because she never had a say in his decision and she’s also scared since it’s her first time living away from everything she knows.

Well, she barely has time to unpack until a friendly face pops into her room to welcome her in. Meredith, her next-door neighbour is an arty girl who’s been in Paris for a few years already. She introduces Anna to her group of friends who include the couple Rash and Josh and the hottie Etienne St. Clair.

Anna immediately takes an interest in St. Clair, but soon learns that not only does he have a long-term girlfriend, but Meredith also has a crush on him. In other words, he is strictly off-limits.

And this is as far as I’ve got, but I’m guessing Anna and St. Clair will find a way to get together anyway. Let’s see how it goes!
 
 
 

 
 
 
After finishing the book:

I remember my book depression after reading Divergent a couple of weeks ago. I was depressed because I thought it would be some time before I read anything equally amazing.

Well, I think Anna and the French Kiss just cured that depression, because WOW what a deliciously wonderful little book.

It completely swept me away. I read it in one sitting, then went right back and started reading it again! It’s been a couple of days now since I finished it (for the second time), and I’m still thinking about it. So much that I find it hard to get into anything new.

Just WOW.

It’s hard to believe now that I was bit wary at first when I started reading it. Reviews were great of course, but it just looked so ordinary on the paper (girl goes to Paris, meets boy and falls in love), that I suspected it to be just another chic-lit. Even a couple of pages in, I was still not convinced. Anna meets St.Clair pretty much on that first day in Paris and it’s obvious that he is the one she’ll fall for. I was wondering what could possibly happen to keep me interested throughout all of the 300 or so pages?

Well, at chapter 2, I had my last coherent thought. After that, I lost it and got completely swept away as Perkins took me on a ride that felt so REAL that I could have sworn I was there wandering the streets together with Anna and St.Clair in Paris.

Real. That’s the secret right there. It felt so real!

Firstly, the story is described in such a way that you are with Anna on every step of the way, every emotion, every conversation is detailed so that you’re literally there in the same room as her, all the time. The characters are all wonderfully flawed and so spot on described that I saw them all in front of me. Not only Anna and St.Clair but also the others in their group and some of her their class mates.

Secondly, the vividly described setting of Paris. I’ve lived in Paris, and visited it many times after. And I can assure you that Perkins describes a Paris that is real. I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s lived in Paris too. What I loved the most is that she doesn’t glorify it, the way a tourist may do, but describes it with all its peculiarities as well, which had me laughing out loud a couple of times. Don’t despair though if you haven’t visited Paris. Just be prepared that you will most likely want to catch a plane to Paris in the immediate hours after having finished the book.

Lastly, the relationship between Anna and St.Clair. I can’t begin to describe how much I loved the two of them. How they were there for each other. Their obvious chemistry. They end up going through quite a few ups and downs throughout the book, but it all felt so real and believable. Not like something that was created by the author to prolong the story. Rather it felt like what happened to them could have been a real story, you know? In fact, I’m still surprised they don’t exist in real life. It sure feels that way.

I don’t want to give too much away, but let me assure you that you will experience every single emotion that Anna feels during her year in Paris. And that you will fall hopelessly in love, as much as Anna, with St.Clair.

In fact, I got the same feelings as I did when I read Twilight for the first time. You know, the heart flutters, the feeling of actually being there with them, and the whole emotional turmoil of falling in love.

I cannot recommend this book enough! Please. just. read. it.

Note: Anna and the French Kiss is Stephanie Perkins debut novel. Her second book Lola and the Boy Next Door is to be published this year in Sep. I am counting the days!

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Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

19 Jun

Series: Divergent, book #1

Published: May 3rd 2011 by Katherine Tegen Books

Details: Hardcover, 487 pages

My Rating: 5/5

My Summary:

First book in trilogy. In this dystopian world, Tris chooses a faction to live in and the tough initiation ritual begins. This amazing book includes lots of action but also great character development, a wonderful kick-ass heroine and one of the most believable romances I have ever read. In short, WOW what an amazing book! I cannot gush about it enough!! If you read one book this year, read this one!!!

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A few chapters in:

The Hunger Games did to the dystopian fiction in young adult literature what Twilight did to vampires. Namely, increased the popularity of the genre by tenfold!

Since reading Hunger Games, I’ve read a number of dystopian fictions, each time in the hopes of coming across the next book that will blow me away.

Divergent is the next much-hyped debut out there, said to be the next Hunger Games. But do I really dare to believe that’s true?

You see, I don’t want to get my hopes up too much, because I know by now from experience that a hyped-up book doesn’t always equal amazing (see my review of The Maze Runner).

Divergent has however surfaced as the next book to read in my poll (thanks to all who voted!!) and I checked the average score on goodreads (4.55), which is promising. What if it really is the next Hunger Games? Time to find out!

I’m now a few chapters in. Beatrice lives in a society which has been divided into five factions, each faction valuing one personality trait above all others. In Abnegation, where Beatrice lives, they value selflessness more than anything else. Self-indulgence in any form is prohibited, and it’s asked of you that you help everyone else before yourself.

We enter the story when Beatrice has just reached 16 years of age, and hence is about to choose which faction she is to live the rest of her life. Most people simply decide to stay where they are, as it’s known territory for them, and they get to be with their families. In fact, transferring to another faction is very unusual.

Along comes the day when Beatrice has to make that choice and she’s debating with herself. She knows that she never truly fitted into the Abnegation life style, yet is she prepared to leave her family for good?

The decision she makes surprises everyone, most of all herself. And before she knows it, she is taking part of a fierce initiation ritual, together with a few other new-comers. The thing is, if you fail the initiation tests, you end up on the streets as a faction-less, which is a fate almost as cruel as death. In other words, she has to make it, right?

And this is as far as I’ve got.

But wow, so far, I am seriously liking this. I’m only a few chapters in and am already feeling the pull..big time!
 
 
 

 
 
 
After finishing the book:

I finished this book at 3.30 am. I had to work the next day. Enough said. This was freaking amazing!!! The kind of book that had me wishing I had a grading system that allowed me to give it more than 5. Because a 5/5 just does not seem enough.

It’s also the kind of book that makes all other books pale in comparison. You know, I almost fell into a slight book depression after reading this one. Because, what now? I knew that anything I’d read in the next couple of weeks (months?) would not be half as good. How depressing is that?

Then again, THANK GOD I did read this one, because WOW what an amazing reading experience it was. I felt like I was completely and totally emerged into the world Roth had created. The book literally swallowed me whole, hence why I got 3 hours of sleep on the night I finished it.

It’s said to be the next Hunger Games. Well, yes there are definitely similarities. For one, there is the dystopian world, then there is Tris, who is a kick-ass heroine and a bit of an underdog who goes through rigorous training and tests with possibly deadly outcomes. The main similarity however was this:

No force in the universe could have made me put the book down.

Do you remember me saying that in the Hunger Games review? Well, folks, for the second time since I started this blog, I am saying it again. This is a book  that you will NOT be able to put down. Period. A word of advise, clear your schedule before starting it!

So enough with my rambling, what was it that made it so gripping?

A combination of things really.

* The Action. Most of the book deals with the initiation rituals, which included plenty of nail-biting action scenes and fascinating ways to test the new recruits, all of which had me racing through the pages.

* The world-building. I loved how complete it felt. There are so many details and characters, all vividly described that I literally felt as if I were walking around in those dungeons myself.

* The main character Tris. It has been some time (perhaps since Katniss) , since I felt so much for a heroine as I did with Tris. She is such a multifaceted character. She’s vulnerable, strong, brave, selfish but also protective, tough but also doubtful. I was with her on every step of the way!

* The secondary characters Christina, Will, Al, Peter, Uriah and Eric. They felt as real and fleshed out as the main characters, having both good and bad traits (well apart from Eric), stemming from different pasts and each with personal motives behind their actions. There is loyalty and encouragement, but also betrayal and mistrust. No one is perfect, just like in the real world.

*The romance. It doesn’t take a forefront, yet is one of the most wonderful romances I have read in some time. I loved the fact that it wasn’t a love at first sight, rather took time to develop slowly.  And I adored their dialogues together, every moment they shared gave me heart flutters. I had to skip back and read their scenes together again, once I finished. That’s how hooked I was. My favorite scene is when he shows her his most vulnerable side in the fear landscape. Let me tell you, my heart was racing along with Tris’s during that scene. Simply amazing.

Overall, I also loved the fact that it felt so unpredictable. Up until the end I had absolutely no idea of what was going to happen. And since I don’t want to destroy that unpredictability for you, I’m going to finish here, before I give anything else away.

All I’ll say is that  if you haven’t read this book yet, what are you waiting for? Go out there and get your hands on it now. You will not regret it!!!!

Review: Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

9 May

Series: Unearthly, book #1

Published: January 4th 2011 by HarperTeen

Details:  Hardcover, 435 pages

My Rating: 4.5/5

My Summary:

About Clara, an angel-blood who receives her purpose on earth, which involves a boy in her school. All though a somewhat slow plot, I loved reading this one! The well-drawn characters and witty writing won me over. The only tiny issue I had was the non-ending that left too many open threads. Sequel Hallowed to be released next year and cannot wait!

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A few chapters in:

I’m so loving my new poll where you readers can vote what book I should read next. I mean, what better way than that to get great book recommendations?

The last book that you voted for me to read was Nightshade, which earned a stunning 4.5. In other words, I loved it!

Now the time has come to pick up the next book of the poll with the most votes: Unearthly by Cynthia Hand. Thanks again to all of you who voted!!

This book created a buzz in the blogosphere when it was released a few months back. It tells the story about an angel, or a part-angel living on the earth. But that’s all I know.

So far, and for some reason, angel stories haven’t made a huge impression on me. I think it has something to do with that angel personality.You know, they’re supposed to be “perfect, flawless, divine, beautiful, all-knowingly, reassuring” and what not else. Which in my book only equals: boring! I’m hoping Unearthly will prove to be different.

Ok, so I’m now a few chapters in. Clara our 16-year old heroine is a part-angel. She lives with her mom and brother (also part angels) in California. Apart from that supernatural fact, they live fairly ordinary lives, like any other people.

Then one night Clara has a very vivid dream about a forest fire and a boy. It turns out that the dream is a message to her of what her purpose will be on this earth. As her mom explains to her, all angels have a purpose which will be revealed to them around that age. Now it’s up to Clara to fulfill her purpose. Which means, she needs to find that boy.

In the vision, she catches the license plate of the car of the boy. Not long after, her mom arranges for the whole family to move to Jackson Hole in Wyoming, as the little town of the license plate is called. All for the sake of Clara’s purpose.

Already, on the first day in her new school, Clara encounters the boy from her vision. And she reacts.. by fainting in front of him, so that he ends up carrying her to the school nurse. Here, I almost rolled my eyes, as I envisioned that whole “we saw each other and now we’re in love” – scenario unfold in the next couple of pages.

That doesn’t happen though. And thank god for that. Instead, after that incident, Clara is experiencing some problems getting his attention again. Christian, as the boy is called, has a girlfriend, and he seems pretty content with keeping it that way.

In other words, apart from Clara receiving her purpose and their big move to Wyoming, nothing much has happened. Yet, I am loving it already!

Why?

Well, the writing and the characters are exceptional, that’s why. Clara is another one of these really cool heroines, with a voice that really strikes a chord within me. She’s real, with good and bad traits, and she’s smart and witty.

The writing reminds me a bit of Richelle Mead, need I say more? Suffice to say that Hand describes everything with just the right amount of quirkiness and irony, so that it makes a really enjoyable read.

Let’s hope the rest of the book stays that way!

  

 

After finishing the book:

So I finished Unearthly , and what can I say? You’ve probably already guessed that I loved it. Yet, the ending left me feeling slightly disappointed, which is why this book doesn’t reach a stunning top grade.

But more on that later. First on what I liked:

Two things: The characters and the writing. Wow! Just wow! I could literally picture them all in front of me, that’s how well portrayed the characters were. Especially Clara who has now moved in among my greatest heroines of all times (yep I see another top 5 list emerging). She was just so real! Worrying about the right things , thoughtful but never whiny, with a healthy relationship to her family, insecure as well as strong, tough, vulnerable and with a great sense of humour. The other secondary characters followed suit,  Clara’s mom, Angela, Wendy, Tucker and Jeffrey. Christian (the guy Clara is supposed to save in her purpose), is probably the character I felt the least for, only because he is portrayed as too perfect. And you know what I feel about those ones..yawn!

Yet, that didn’t stop me from thoroughly enjoying this book. Which brings me to the next item, the writing. Wow! I loved the wittiness of the descriptions. It didn’t feel forced, as is so often the case when authors try to write witty, rather it felt natural, as if that’s how Clara would have described her story.

I need to include a few paragraphs so that you’ll understand:

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1)  The paragraph below is taken from Clara’s first time alone in a ski lift:

I decide to go for it. I get in line. When I near the front, an employee punches a hole in my ticket.
“You alone?” he asks.
“Yeah.”
“Single!” he shouts toward the back of the line. “We have a single here!”
So embarrassing. I suddenly wish I had goggles.

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2)  And this is from one of Clara’s first meetings with her goth class mate Angela:

I’ve been waiting for maybe five minutes, completely creeped out by this point, when Angela comes bursting through a side door.
“Wow, sorry,” she says. “Orchestra went late.”
“What do you play?”
“Violin.”
It’s easy to imagine her with a violin tucked under her chin, sawing away on some mournful Romanian tune.

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3)  Or this part below is taken from the first time Clara flies:

Of course, I’m not flying so much as coasting over the treetops like a hang glider or a freakishly large flying squirrel. I think the birds in the area are dying laughing watching me try not to crash.


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Do you see what I mean? The book was filled with these kind of  detailed and witty descriptions, that had me chuckling out loud. It was just such a pleasure to read!

As for the plot, I know other reviewers have complained that it was too slow-going. And I can see what they mean, because not that much happened in terms of plot. We get to follow Clara as she adjusts to her new life in Wyoming, finding friends, falling in love, and trying to find out what her purpose is. That’s really all. I suppose this is the downside when you, as Hand did in this case, develop your characters slowly and take the time to describe the setting. Consequently, the plot suffers.

Yet, because of the joy of reading all these fun bits and pieces of Clara’s life, I didn’t care too much that the build-up was rather slow. I suppose another reason why I didn’t care too much was the romance, which was just Wow! Heart-pounding! I loved their chemistry which just sizzled off the pages! And I loved the fact that it took time for them to get to know each other, before they fell in love. It made it all so much more believable. The moments they had together were just adorable! Having finished the book, I even went back and read through those pages again, because I could not get enough of the two of them. Like I said, adorable! And let me tell you, the guy Clara falls in love with is SO swoon-worthy, I was voting for him big time!

Yeah, that’s right, I was voting for this guy, because this book features another one of those love triangles. All though, like in so many others, there is really no question of who Clara will choose. At least, that’s how it seems to me.

Finally, I believe this book would have gotten a 5/5, had it not been for the ending. Because I was expecting more. No, scratch that, I was expecting something. Some explanation, some kind of wrap-up or some resolution. What we got was not so much an ending but a cessation of words. Given the long and slow build-up I was expecting something to be revealed, not only, “oh get the next book and you’ll find out”. I feel about as clueless as I was when I started reading, which doesn’t go down too well with me.

Nevertheless, like I said before, I loved the ride up until the end. And let me tell you, I have very high hopes for the sequel now. Considering the great setting provided in this first novel, my guess is that the sequel will be extraordinary. There is so much potential now! A great premise has been set, with great characters that I truly care about and intriguing clues that have me thinking that there is so much more to the story than we know now. Did I say I had high hopes?

Sequel Hallowed to be published (oh man, that’s a long wait!) sometime next year.

Review: Penitence by Jennifer Laurens

18 Nov

Series: Heavenly, book #2

Published: April 29th 2010 by Grove Creek Publishing

Details: Paperback, 322 pages

My Rating: 5/5

My Summary:

While Heavenly was great this sequel was hands-down amazing!! A must read! Not one boring moment, what with Zoe seeing both good and bad spirits and trying to choose between two equally amazing guys. Involves the first love triangle I read in a while that actually feels real! Loved it from start to finish. Be aware though of abrupt ending. Last book called Absolution.

A few chapters in:

This is the sequel to Heavenly, which ended in such a way that it is nearly impossible not to want to continue this series straight away. I enjoyed Heavenly, for the good writing and characterisation, but was a bit frustrated with all the questions hanging in the air. Hopefully, now I will get some answers!

Before writing anything else, please be aware of that if you haven’t read Heavenly this post will contain some serious spoilers!

In the last pages of Heavenly we followed Zoe in paradise as she reunited with Matthias. She felt overjoyed to finally be able to share his world, but also sad of course, for leaving her family behind. Conflicting emotions to say the least.

This is why I threw myself over Penitence, anticipating a great read about Zoe’s discovery of the world of Matthias. But I was mistaken. Right at the beginning, Zoe’s body starts claiming her back. The doctors at the hospital are attempting to revive her, and as they are succeeding, she has no choice but to return to mortality, thus leaving Matthias behind.

Hence, this book really starts off in a hospital bed. Zoe is, much to her family’s delight, slowly recovering from the terrible car accident that almost took her life. Once again, she’s torn by conflicting emotions, happy to be reunited once again with her beloved family, yet achingly sad to be separated from Matthias. Speaking of which, where is he? Ever since she left paradise he is nowhere to be seen, and she fears that she may never see him again.

Yep folks, this is as far as I’ve got, but I have to say it’s promising. I’m starting to grow really attached to Zoe’s family, what a lovely bunch of people! And I’m looking forward to see what will happen next, because at the moment, I have no clue!

After finishing the book:

I know that after reading Heavenly, I was slightly disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great read. But it lacked that extra something that makes a book amazing.

Well folks, Penitence more than well made up for that. WOW! That’s all I have to say. This is what I call AMAZING. Unputdownable! I kept reading into the wee hours of the night, always thinking – just another chapter then I’m done. Yeah right! Somehow it was magically 3 o’clock by the time I went to bed, and I had to work the next day!

So after all this preamble, why was it amazing? I’ll try to assemble my thoughts, always proving more difficult when I’ve read a WOW-book. I wonder why that is?

First, let’s start with the obvious. Laurens proved in Heavenly that she writes great effortless prose with wonderfully fleshed-out characters. What I loved in Heavenly was that like in real life, people aren’t perfect. Everyone comes with good and bad traits, and in the end it’s the choices we make that define us. This continues in Penitence, as all the characters expand into real people with backgrounds, motives and choices to make, including secondary characters such as Krissy and Chase. Consequently, I loved reading about them all!

Secondly, the unpredictability. I thought I knew where this was heading. Boy was I wrong! And boy did I like being wrong! I love it when I have no clue, and it feels as if I’m on the same rollercoaster ride of emotions as the heroine, not knowing what to expect from one minute to the next. Wonderful!!

Thirdly, the love triangle. This phenomenon seems to be implemented in every other young adult series these days, but they usually feel fabricated, as if it’s thrown in there just to create some emotional drama. We know pretty much right from the start who the heroine will pick.

Now, that was not the case here. I had no clue. After finishing it, I still have no clue. I won’t reveal who the other boy is who is viewing for Zoe’s attention in Penitence, but he is something else. Most importantly, he presents a possibility for Zoe to experience love on earth, which is precisely what Matthias can never offer her. And he’s gorgeous, a turned-around Casanova who wears his heart on his sleeve. Oh my, I melted!

Matthias is still perfectly divine and glorious. I know I complained about that perfection in Heavenly, and called for some flaws to make him interesting. Well, the love triangle solved that problem as it brought out the jealousy in him,  which strangely enough made him that much more intriguing!

Consequently, I felt as torn as Zoe was. All though, to be honest, I think I may be leaning more towards the human boy. Their growing relationship in Penitence is the core of this book. It felt grounded and real, starting very slowly as Zoe is struggling with trust issues. After all, this boy wasn’t the nicest character in Heavenly. But I believed in their chemistry and devoured every moment they had together, more so than between Zoe and Matthias in Heavenly.

The bottom line:

Finally, I loved all the subplots, the evil Albert, the black spirits, Brady and Britt, Chase and Krissy and of course Zoe’s family in the background. All of this combined made an action-packed yet emotional drama. There was not one boring moment, hence the page-turner effect!

My only minor criticism is the abrupt ending, that felt as if the writer just dropped the pen mid-page. But given the wonderful ride until that page, I cannot but give this book anything less than 5 stars. I’m now eagerly waiting to read the final book in this series, Absolution!

Review: Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

24 Sep

Series: Study, book #1

Published: March 1st 2004 by Luna

Details: Paperback, 416 pages

My Rating: 5/5

My Summary:

About Yelena, awaiting execution for a murder she comitted in miltary state Ixia. Instead of execution though, she is offered a place as the Commander’s food taster, thus her new life begins. This novel was so good on so many levels, it blew me away!!!A must read!!!! Sequel called Magic Study.

A few chapters in:

This is the highly acclaimed first book in the Study Trilogy. I have been wanting to read it for quite some time. I’m glad to finally have started, as it seems just as good as I thought it would be.

At the start of the book we find Yelena, the heroine, imprisoned and chained to a wall in a dungeon, awaiting the execution for a murder she committed a year previously. She is taken up for what she thinks is the execution, then learns that she is given the choice to instead become the new food taster of the commander. Naturally she accepts and her food taster career begins, meaning she has to learn to recognize and differentiate various poisons. Her trainer Valek is an expert, and he seems to be taking her under his wings, all though I am not yet sure of his intentions. He doesn’t seem like the most empathetic person out there. It remains to be seen.

I’m only a few chapters in, and let me tell you, I am really invested into the story already. It’s well written, it’s intriguing, it’s original. Let’s hope it continues that way!

After finishing the book:

Wow, I have one word for this book..AMAZING. I was addicted right from the start, yet managed to read the first 100 pages or so in a somewhat normal pace. After that, there was no stopping me and I read the rest in one sitting. Went to bed that night at around 4 am. Yes, this is addicting stuff.

It’s been a few days now since I finished the book, and I’m still thinking about it, so much in fact that I have a hard time getting into a new book. Did I say it was addicting?

Right, so no more rambling and let’s get on with the review.

As stated above, this is about Yelena who at the start of the book finds herself being the new food taster for the commander. The commander is the head general of Ixia, a land used to be ruled by royalty, but who’s king was overthrown by the military regimen. The new Ixia has been divided into several military districts and is controlled in a way similar to a communist military dictatorship. Everyone has equal rights (including men and women), and only your skills and achievements count, rather than you heritage or wealth. It is also very controlled. Any changes, such as location, profession etc need approval from higher authorities.

This whole world-building was an interesting back-drop to the story. It is acknowledged that the military system is not perfect, but neither was the King’s rulership. Snyder does not push you to think that way or the other – it’s just described as the way it is.

Yelena was charged for murdering her benefactor Reyad, at the child orphanage where she grew up. Little by little we get glimpses to the events that led her to murdering Reyad, and those events are truly horrible. I loved though that Yelena stands up for what she has done. She takes the consequences without excuses, and does not want pity. She did what she had to do, end of story. She wonders if she lost her soul though and she is faced with guilt – she’s only human – but I admire her strength on accepting her faith.

For most part of the story Yelena faces many dangers, the food taster’s profession being only one of them. General Brazell, whose son she murdered is bent on revenge, and consistently tries to inflict her harm. A strange woman from the neighbouring country Sitia is also after her. And there is Margg, the unfriendly house-keeper and Nix, a guard who seems to hate her.

Then there is Valek, her trainer in food poising and a Rand in the kitchen. Who can she trust? For most part of the book, I’m wondering along with Yelena who she should and should  not trust. Because if she trusts the wrong person, that may mean the end.

After several near fatal attacks, Yelena herself realizes that one way to keep herself safe is to start training and learning self-defense. She finds two friends in the guards – the wonderfully drawn secondary characters Ari and Janco – and together they teach each other tactics on the art of self-defense.

In short, the mixture of what I just described is what I loved. That is; the world-building, the developement of Yelena as she grows stronger, the constant dangers she’s under, the glimpses we get of her life before the murder, and the new friends (or enemies) she gains at the castle. There is not one boring moment in this story, hence the page-turner effect.

Of all this, what I loved the most though was Valek and his growing affection for Yelena. It is so subtle at the beginning I was wondering if I felt it right. Valek is supposed to be Yelena’s enemy. He is the one poisoning her with Butterfly’s Dust to prevent her from escaping. Yet, early on, he seems preoccupied with her welfare. After Yelena is attacked by one of general Brazell’s guards, he lets her move into his suite. He saves her life during another attack at the fire festival, and he has great faith in her abilities.

Yet, I am never sure of his intentions, whether she is a brick in the grander scheme of his plans or if there may be feelings involved. After all, Valek is a cold-blooded dangerous man. He is the commander’s right hand, the head of the regimens intelligence network and not to forget also a professional assassin. In short, not the normal romantic love interest you may find in young adult fiction.

Without saying too much, their relationship however does grow into something eventually and it is one of the most believable, genuine and sweetest things I have read in some time. Absolutely wonderful!!!

The Bottom Line:

There are two more books in the series. Magic Study is the sequel. I have heard that the series decline after Poison Study, whether that is true or not remains to be seen. I will have to read the rest, as I need to revisit this world again. Need as in addicted need!

In short, what a wonderful book. If you haven’t read it yet, do it now! You won’t regret it!!!

Review: Need by Carrie Jones

13 Aug

Series: Need, book #1

Published: December 23rd 2008 by Bloomsbury USA Children’s Books

Details: Hardcover, 306 pages

My rating: 4.5/5

My Summary:

About grief-stricken Zara who after her fathers death is sent by her mom to stay with her Granny. There she meets sweet Issy and gorgeous Nick, who help her when strange things start happening, mainly a man following her leaving traces of gold dust. This is a wonderful story, with pixies and weres and a beautiful love story. Loved it!!!!

My Review:

All I know about this book is that it is about pixies..sort of fairies I think, and that the plot is somewhat similar to Twilight. Curious to see what it is all about.

Update:

Ok, so I’m really getting into this book! It’s about grief-stricken Zara, who after her fathers death is sent away by her mom to stay with her granny in Maine.  She starts school and finds new friends, among them sweet Issy and gorgeous Nick. She has barely started her new life there and weird things are happening. Mainly, there is a strange man, who keeps appearing wherever Zara is, and he leaves gold dust after him. Could he be a pixie? Why is he following Zara? Ok, so that’s as far as I’ve got. But it’s looking good. Great heroine! Let’s see how the rest plays out..

Final thoughts:

Wow what a great book!! It’s been some time since I got this attached to a book. I loved the voice of Zara, she seemed so real somehow, scared but yet brave, with a temper..I liked that! And Nick..swoon! Loved all the secondary characters as well, and the whole myth around the weres and the pixies. Great story! And thank god there is a sequel!

Finally would I recommend Need?

Absolutely with a resounding YES! Great start to a series!

Review: Fade by Lisa McMann

5 Aug

Series: Dream Catcher, book #2

Published: February 10th 2009 by Simon Pulse

Details: Hardcover, 248 pages

My rating: 4.5/5

My Summary:

Loved reading more about Janie and Cabel, such a wonderful couple! The assignment they are on this time is creepy, and Janie learns more about her abilities. Overall, great fast-paced read that I could not put down! I only wished each book was longer. Last book is called Gone.

My Full Review:

In this sequel we continue to follow the wonderful couple Janie and Cabel, and watch as their relationship deepens.  In the prequel Wake, Janie learns (to some extent) how to control her dream catcher abilities, and realizes how she can use them to help the police solving cases. Mostly positive stuff in other words.

In Fade, the inevitable negative side of her abilities sneaks up on her, and soon it feels as if her abilities are a curse rather than a gift. Every time she gets caught in a dream, it takes an incredible toll on her body, especially on her sight. She senses all of this, but doesn’t fully realize what she’s dealing with until it’s confirmed in a notebook written by the departed Mrs Stubin.

While reading the notebook she understands that she has two choices in regards to how she wants to live her life. And one of those choices does not include Cabel. It’s heart-breaking to watch Janie realizing the consequences of her dream catcher abilities, and I really felt with her along the way.

Meanwhile, they are on a new undercover mission for the captain. This time, teachers at their school are suspected of molesting students, but proof is needed. Janie is assigned the role of the bait in order to provide proof, an assignment proving to be quite dangerous.

In fact, I was a bit surprised that the whole undercover operation seemed to rest on Janie’s small shoulders alone. Not to mention the danger that the captain put Janie in. That did not seem like a believable scenario to me, like something that could ever happen in real life, rather it felt like a convenient plot devise in order to provide suspense.

That being said, it worked. I raced through the pages to find out what was going to happen. I swooned whenever Cabel was worried – which happened a lot, and my heart ached when Janie found out the horrible truths of her dream catcher abilities/curse.

So all in all, I’m loving this series, and can’t recommend it enough- and I’ve already thrown myself over the last installment Gone!

Review: Wake by Lisa McMann

5 Aug

Series: Dream Catcher, book #1

Published: March 4th 2008 by Simon Pulse

Details: Hardcover, 210 pages

My rating: 4.5/5

My summary:

A trilogy. About a girl who involuntarily slips into other people’s dreams whenever they fall asleep in her proximity. She meets Cabel, a troubled boy in her neighbourhood and they fall in love. It’s a short book, but still amazing – I read it in one sitting. Wonderful love story! Look forward to sequel Fade.

My review:

I loved this little book. I’ve read reviewers complaining about McManns choppy writing style but I thought it was refreshing. It was a straight-to-the-point type of writing. No rambling or endless passages of descriptions, just the core of the story written down in short sentences. And to me, the story flowed beautifully that way.

Janie, the protagonist is a dream catcher. Involuntarily so. Whenever someone in her proximity dreams, she gets sucked into that dream, whether she wants it or not. She doesn’t know how to control it.

One day, while driving on a street in her neighborhood she gets sucked into a particularly bad dream, and she soon learns that the owner of that dream is Cabel, a boy in her neighborhood. Cabel is a troubled boy, who’s got a pretty bad-boy reputation at school involving drugs and alcohol.

On a bus trip with school they end up sitting together, and this is where Cabel learns about Janie’s dream catcher ability as she suffers through the trip getting sucked into everyone’s dreams as her class mates take turns falling asleep on the bus.

I won’t reveal more, as it’s best if you discover that yourself. Let me just say that all though short this was a wonderful little story, involving one of the most believable literary couple I’ve met in a while, Janie and Cabel. They are so beautiful together it is absolutely heart-breaking. Both of them have had a rough start in their lives, living with practically non-caring parents. And to top it off, Janie has this weird little ability she’s trying to learn to control so that it won’t take over her life.

Very intriguing start to a series, and I can’t wait to get my hands on the sequel Fade!

Also, if you’re like me, and really like the character Cabel, then you may be interested in reading Cabel’s point of view. Lisa McMann has written a couple of pages describing his thoughts of the first encounters with Janie, including the bus trip. Short but great read!

Check out Cabel’s side of the story

Review: Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

5 Aug

Series: Perfect Chemistry, book #1

Published: January 1st 2008 by Walker Books for Young Readers

Details: Paperback, 360 pages

My rating: 5/5

My summary:

A story about two teenagers, she rich from north side of town and he a gang member from the south side of town, who are reluctantly paired up in chemistry class, then end up falling in love. All though there are no paranormal elements here, this is a wonderful read.  I was practically glued to the pages, reading it in one sitting. The love story blew me away!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My Full Review:

Synopsis:

When Brittany Ellis walks into chemistry class on the first day of senior year, she has no clue that her carefully created “perfect” life is about to unravel before her eyes. She’s forced to be lab partners with Alex Fuentes, a gang member from the other side of town, and he is about to threaten everything she’s worked so hard for—her flawless reputation, her relationship with her boyfriend, and the secret that her home life is anything but perfect. Alex is a bad boy and he knows it. So when he makes a bet with his friends to lure Brittany into his life, he thinks nothing of it. But soon Alex realizes Brittany is a real person with real problems, and suddenly the bet he made in arrogance turns into something much more.
In a passionate story about looking beneath the surface, Simone Elkeles breaks through the stereotypes and barriers that threaten to keep Brittany and Alex apart.

My thoughts:

Simply put, amazing book. I knew from all the rave reviews that this was a WOW-sort of book, and I had high expectations. Amazingly, it still exceeded those expectations. I was blown away!

Simon Elkeles has created a wonderful story that will get under your skin and stay with you for a while. I don’t know how she did it. The story is not that original, far from actually. In fact,  when I first read the summary, it felt sort of cliché. Cheerleader gets teamed up with bad boy in chemistry class and finds out that well, they have a lot of chemistry going on. And the book cover doesn’t really help. Let me just say, it’s not the sort of book I would want to be caught reading on the subway.

So what then makes it so special?

It is essentially the writing, and the character development.  You can literally feel the two main characters falling in love as they get to know each other better. It’s so real you feel and breath with them, you feel the pain of each obstacle as if it were your own and the joy when they start understanding each other.

The book is told in alternating POV’s which is great, as you get an insight in both characters thoughts, thus realising what they are both struggling with, and the perception they have of each other, and how that changes over time. Alternating POV’s is not always great, and I often find that authors don’t distinguish the voices enough. They end up blurring into each other, making the story somewhat confusing for the reader. For instance, I felt this problem with Shiver.

In Perfect Chemistry however, the voices of Alex and Brittany are so clearly different that not once did I stop and wonder who was who. One aspect which helped, and also made the story telling more authentic, was the Spanish phrases thrown in here and there into the POV of Alex. I loved that. It made him feel even more real. Brittany felt very real as well, and I completely bought the troubles she had, despite being rich, beautiful and the most popular girl in school.

All in all, this is a great book about a great love story where you really root for the main characters, I think I dare say as much as I rooted for Bella and Edward in Twilight. There is a sequel called Rules of Attraction, which follows Alex’s little brother Carlos in quest for happiness in his life. Apparently, this includes a great love story too. Needless to say, I am very eager to get my hands on this book!

Review: The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting

5 Aug

Series: The Body Finder, book #1

Published: March 16th 2010 by HarperTeen

Details: Hardcover, 327 pages

My rating: 4/5

My summary:

About a girl who “senses” murdered bodies. This is a sweet first love story with many similarities to Bella and Edward, allthough no vampires involved. There is also a murder mystery which to me was the weaker part of the book. Still very enjoyable read.

See my full review here:

Synopsis:

A serial killer on the loose. A girl with a morbid ability. And the boy who would never let anything happen to her.

Violet Ambrose can find the dead. Or at least, those who have been murdered. She can sense the echoes they leave behind… and the imprints they leave on their killers. As if that weren’t enough to deal with during junior year, she also has a sudden, inexplicable, and consuming crush on her best friend since childhood, Jay Heaton.

Now a serial killer has begun terrorizing Violet’s small town… and she realizes she might be the only person who can stop him.

My thoughts:

I heard a lot about this book on various book blogs, usually in rave reviews.

It can be  classified as paranormal romance with suspense. The romance is not paranormal per se, as in both people are actually human. The main character Violet however has some unique paranormal abilities.

Her paranormal ability is that  she senses bodies of those who have been murdered. It is as if she has a sixth sense, capturing some kind of energy that eminates from murdered bodies, that is; bodies that are not in peace. This may sound strange but is very well described in the book, and you can practically sense it as you are reading it.

Violet lives in the small town Burke with her family. Her best friend and childhood friend is Jay. We enter the story where Violet is starting to have feelings for Jay. At about the same time girls start disappearing in and around her town, to be discovered murdered. Seeing as she can sense not only the victims of the murders but also the murderers themselves, Violet decides to try and capture the murderer herself.

It sounds like a book centered around the capturing of a murderer,  but really, most of the book is romance. The murderer is constantly  lingering as a threat in the background but the main focus of the story  is the relationship between Violet and her love interest Jay.

That doesn’t matter though  as the romance is really sweet. It’s an all-consuming first love kind of romance. And even though Jay is not a vampire, (he’s just a normal guy) he reminds me a little of Edward in terms of his personality, slightly overprotective but really sweet. Come to think of it, Violet sort of reminded me a Bella too, in how she’s constantly trying not to cause anyone trouble, hates to be the center of attention and manages to put herself in danger all the time.

The suspense was well written but had a couple of logical gaps regarding some parts of the plot. I just didn’t buy that a serial killer would behave the way he did in this book.

But as I said earlier, that doesn’t really matter as the romance is the focus of the story, and as such is one of the sweetest romances I have read in a while. So all in all, this is a page turner which is definitely worth the read.  Apparently there is a sequel coming out next year, Desires of the Dead, which I’m very happy about. I would love to read more about Jay and Violet!

Review: City of Glass by Cassandra Clare

5 Aug

Series: The Mortal Instruments, book #3

Published: March 24th 2009 by Margaret K. McElderry

Details: Hardcover 541 pages

My grade: 5/5

My Summary:

WOW!! What a great ending to a mind-blowing series! Yes, not the most original but great writing and amazing characterization! The growth of the characters is palpable – have now come to love them all, Jace, Simon, Clare, Luke, Magnus Bane..and the world of shadowhunters & downworlders. Eagerly anticipating fourth book, City of Fallen Angels, out next year.

My Full Review:

This is the third installment of the Mortal Instruments trilogy. And I’ve just warily started reading it. Warily, because I know that once I’m a few chapters in it will result in a “bye bye social life”. I’ll retreat into the house and will not get out until I’ve finished it. That’s how addicting I predict it to be. Needless to say, I’m a big fan of The Mortal Instruments series.  A fourth book in the series to be released in April next year, City of Fallen Angels. Yay!

Update:

I forced myself to read this over a week, just to savour it as long as possible, all though it was hard, really hard, especially nearing the end. Let me just say, what a great ending to a fantastic trilogy! I know I know.. another book is coming – and will get to follow these characters yet again, all though from Simon’s point of view – but it was meant as a trilogy from the beginning. And you can tell that this was the original end. Everything is wrapped up beautifully in this one.

I thought the two first books were great too, but I felt like this was the best, possibly because I’d grown so attached to characters and the story. Basically, I just I loved it, from start to finish. Yes, it may not be the most original story, but the world-building and the characters, and the witty dialogues, and the heart-pounding romance..it all makes up more than well for the lack of originality. I felt completely transported into to the land of the shadowhunters, Idris, where they travel in this book, to participate in a looming war against Valentine, and frankly, I never wanted to leave. Thank god for that fourth book, I’m just saying.

Ok, so beware of:

SPOILERS———————-SPOILERS—————————–SPOILERS

As I said before, I loved the characters in this book, and the witty dialogues..

– Magnus Bane for one is a brilliant character. I was a bit worried at first that he wouldn’t participate as much in this book as the rest, but I needn’t have to worry, as he shows up pretty soon in Idris.

– Sebastian. I may be blind but I didn’t see this coming. At first I thought it was going to develop into a love triangle between him, Jace and Clary. Then I started to realize that something was up with him, and began pondering that if he is Valentines son, how does Jace fit into all this?

– Jace. My oh my. Of all the characters he is the best. Tortured, strong, vulnerable, sarcastic, romantic, casanova, hero..I mean seriously, I have not come across such a complex character in some time. And the relationship he has with Clary is the core of the book. I just wanted more of them, all the time. Each one of their encounters was so emotional, tense, romantic and fierce that it blew me away each time. Absolutely wonderful!!

Valentine. Wonderfully drawn evil character, who believes, actually believes that he is doing the shadowhunter world a favor. He is that crazy. And I think that somehow he loved Jace, and he definitely loved Jocelyn. He wasn’t always mean. That is what makes him fascinating and more real somehow.

Even though the ending was pretty neatly tied up, there were a few loose ends left hanging. For instance, we know how the angel blood is affecting Clary making her being able to create runes. But Jace, what are his abilities? Apart from being able to move and jump faster and higher than others, we don’t know much about that. Also, Sebastian’s body was never found so expect that to continue in the fourth book. And, the fairy queen tells Clary that she does not know all the secrets of her past, implying this may somehow affect her and Jace. How? Well, I suppose that’s to find out in City of Fallen Angels as well. Can’t wait!!!

Review: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

5 Aug


Series: The Seven Kingdoms trilogy, book #1

Published: October 1st 2008 by Harcourt Children’s Books

Details: Hardcover 417 pages

My grade: 4.5/5

My summary:

Great book which is a coming-off age story about a girl Katsa and her relationship with the prince Po set in a fantasy land called the Seven Kingdoms, somewhat similar to the set of Lord of the Rings. Great read about a strong heroine with paranormal abilities and a believable love story.

See my full review here:

Synopsis:

In a world where people born with an exceptional skill, known as a Grace, are feared and exploited, Katsa carries the burden of a skill even she despises: the Grace of killing.

She lives under the command of her Uncle Randa, King of the Middluns, and is expected to carry out his dirty work, punishing and torturing anyone who displeases him. Breaking arms and cutting off fingers are her stock-in-trade. Finding life under his rule increasingly unbearable Katsa forms an underground Council, whose purpose is to combat the destructive behaviour of the seven kings – after all, the Middluns is only one of the Seven Kingdoms, each of them ruled by their own king and his personal agenda for power.

When the Council hears that the King of Liend’s father has been kidnapped Katsa investigates …and stumbles across a mystery. Who would want to kidnap him, and why? And who was the extraordinary Graced fighter who challenged her fighting skills, for the first time, as she and the Council rushed the old man to safety? Something dark and deadly is rising in the north and creeping across the continent, and behind it all lurks the shadowy figure of a one-eyed king …

My thoughts:

I hardly ever venture into fantasy land, The Lord of the Rings series being the one and only exception. And now that I come to think about it, it’s strange, because seeing as I devoured that series I wonder why it never occurred to me to seek out other books in that same genre?

Anyway, to cut it short, I am a novice when it comes to the fantasy genre, and so Graceling wouldn’t be my usual pick.  But as I stumbled across reviews of this book on various book blogs, I was intrigued, both by the tough heroine with paranormal abilities and of course the romance. (I’m a sucker for the latter)

So, as for the review, I can start by saying that Graceling was a page-turner. I think I read the book in about 2 days. It’s filled with action-packed adventure and a beautiful romance, but at its core it is a coming-of age story about Katsa.

The story is set in a land of seven kingdoms where some children are born graced with an extreme skill. A skill that can be anything you might think of, from trivial things like walking backwards, holding your breath, climbing trees to more advantageous graces like exceptional sword fighting or mind reading. Katsa is burdened by the grace of killing, and is naturally feared by most people. Ever since her grace was known (by accidently killing an annoying cousin) the king has been using her to perform his ill-willed tasks. In order to balance out the acts of evil she performs under the influence of the king, she has started a secret council, bent on doing good. It’s during one of their missions that we are introduced into the book.

At the start of the book, Katsa carries around a lot of anger. She’s angry to be burdened by her grace which is making her a “freak”,  lonely and feared by most people. She’s angry to be used by the king carrying out his dirty missions. More importantly, she is not entirely sure how to separate the evil acts  she performs for the king with herself. She is doubting her own “goodness” so to speak. As the story moves on she gradually comes to terms with who she really is and how to accept her grace as a part of herself.

One character that helps  her on her way to self-discovery is Po, a prince from one of the other kingdoms who sets off with Katsa to solve the mystery of the kidnapping (the council’s mission at the start of the book). Po is a wonderfully drawn character, and as he has that emotional maturity and security that Katsa lacks, he appears to be that perfect person to befriend the temperamental, angry and wild Katsa. I just loved watching the two of them getting to know each other!

Another great character is introduced halfway through the book when Katsa and Po cross paths with Bitterblue, a child princess from yet another kingdom. This is when  it starts getting really interesting, not only because the story itself heats up, but also because Bitterblue is such a likable character, strong, brave and mature, who immediately forms a strong bond with Katsa.

In short, I loved the plot which contained everything you might wish for; adventure, romance, fighting scenes, creepy villans and a tough cool heroine.

My only minor criticism is that I found the language a bit uneven. There were parts in the book where I got distracted from the story because certain paragraphs were constructed in such odd ways. The language just didn’t have that effortless flow, at least no constantly throughout the book.

Either way, it’s still a good novel with one of the most interesting heroines I’ve encountered in a while, not too unlike Katniss in Hunger Games.

Graceling is the first book in a trilogy. The third book in the series is  to be focusing on princess Bitterblue, once again involving Katsa and Po in the story.. and well, I know I’ll be running out to get my hands on that book as soon as it is released!

Review: The Host by Stephenie Meyer

5 Aug

Series: The Host, book #1

Published: May 6th 2008 by Little, Brown and Company

Details: Hardcover 619 pages

My grade: 4.5/5

My summary:

If you liked Twilight, you will most likely love The Host. Don’t be put off by the fact that it is the story of an alien set in a dystopian future. Meyer proved in Twilight that she writes excellent character-driven plots with great love stories and this is no exception. Just make sure to get through the first 100 pages or so which may seem a bit slow. After that you won’t be able to let the book go.

Update:

It appears as if Meyer is planning a trilogy here. Sequel to be called The Soul and the third installment has been named The Seeker. No release date is set yet, apart from sometime around 2012,  if all goes as planned. Let’s hope that it does!

See my full review below:

Synopsis:

The earth has been invaded by a species that take over the minds of their human hosts while leaving their bodies intact, and most of humanity has succumbed. But Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away. Wanderer, the invading “soul” who has been given Melanie’s body, knew about the challenges of living inside a human: the overwhelming emotions, the too vivid memories. But there was one difficulty Wanderer didn’t expect: the former tenant of her body refusing to relinquish possession of her mind.

Melanie fills Wanderer’s thoughts with visions of the man Melanie loves–Jared, a human who still lives in hiding. Unable to separate herself from her body’s desires, Wanderer yearns for a man she’s never met. As outside forces make Wanderer and Melanie unwilling allies, they set off to search for the man they both love.

My thoughts:

I have to admit I was a bit sceptical at first, towards this book. Firstly, it is written by Stephenie Meyer, the author of the much adored Twilight saga and I feared that the she might have experienced a one-hit wonder with the series, as is so often the case.  Secondly, the plot of the book didn’t seem all that appealing to me. Sci-Fi has never really been my thing, and the synopsis of some alien rooting itself into a human host hardly did much to convince me of the contrary.

But I needn’t have to worry. This book really is great! It is rather slow at first, and it takes a while to get into the details of the story, but then something happens about 100 pages in, and it takes off for real. Suffice to say that it took me about a week to complete the first 100 pages or so, then 2 days to read the rest (500+ pages).

This book isn’t so much a sci-fi story as it is a story about survival against all odds and relationships put into extreme circumstances. There is romance as well, in the form of a love triangle (or to be exact quadruple) – something I can assure you has never been seen before, but very much believable, thanks to Meyer’s writing.

To me, the best part of the book was the characters and their interactions with each other during the course of the story. This is where Meyer proves to us again, just why we fell in love with the characters in Twilight. She really knows how  to develope her characters well. Once again in Host, it is as if you know all the people (and one alien) inside and out, so well in fact, that you feel and breath with them. On finishing the book, I felt really sad having to leave the great bunch of people I’d come to known throughout the book.

All in all, this is a great book which I highly recommend.