Official Blog Tour: The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco

My blog is the pit stop for The Girl from the Well Official Blog Tour on September 29th!

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The Girl from The Well  ●  Author: Rin Chupeco

Sourcebooks Fire ● August 5, 2014 ● ISBN: 9781402292187

Hardcover/$16.99 U.S. ● Ages 14+

Okiku has wandered the world for hundreds of years, setting free the spirits of murdered children. Wherever there’s a monster hurting a child, her spirit is there to deliver punishment. Such is her existence, until the day she discovers a troubled American teenager named Tark and the dangerous demon that writhes beneath his skin, trapped by a series of intricate tattoos. Tark needs to be freed, but there is one problem—if the demon dies, so does its host.

With the vigilante spirit Okiku as his guide, Tark is drawn deep into a dark world of sinister doll rituals and Shinto exorcisms that will take him far from American suburbia to the remote valleys and shrines of Japan. Can Okiku protect him from the demon within or will her presence bring more harm? The answer lies in the depths of a long-forgotten well.

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Praise for The Girl From the Well:

“[A] Stephen King–like horror story…A chilling, bloody ghost story that resonates.” –Kirkus Reviews

“Chupeco makes a powerful debut with this unsettling ghost story…told in a marvelously disjointed fashion from Okiku’s numbers-obsessed point of view, this story unfolds with creepy imagery and an intimate appreciation for Japanese horror, myth, and legend.” –Publishers WeeklySTARRED

“The Girl from the Well is part The Ring, part The Grudge and part The Exorcist…A fantastically creepy story sure to keep readers up at night… Okiku is one of the most interesting YA characters to date.” RT Book Reviews,4 ½ STARS-TOP PICK!

“A dark novel that will appeal to horror fans, lovers of Elizabeth Scott’s ‘Living Dead Girl.’” –School Library Journal

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About the Author:

rinDespite uncanny resemblances to Japanese revenants, Rin Chupeco has always maintained her sense of humor. Raised in Manila, Philippines, she keeps four pets: a dog, two birds, and a husband. She’s been a technical writer and travel blogger, but now makes things up for a living.The Girl from the Well is her debut novel. Connect with Rin at www.rinchupeco.com.

maria

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Book Review: Horde by Ann Aguirre

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Young Adult > Science Fiction | Post Apocalyptic

(Razorland #3)

The horde is coming.

Salvation is surrounded, monsters at the gates, and this time, they’re not going away. When Deuce, Fade, Stalker and Tegan set out, the odds are against them. But the odds have been stacked against Deuce from the moment she was born. She might not be a Huntress anymore, but she doesn’t run. With her knives in hand and her companions at her side, she will not falter, whether fighting for her life or Fade’s love.

Ahead, the battle of a lifetime awaits. Freaks are everywhere, attacking settlements, setting up scouts, perimeters, and patrols. There hasn’t been a war like this in centuries, and humans have forgotten how to stand and fight. Unless Deuce can lead them.

This time, however, more than the fate of a single enclave or outpost hangs in the balance. This time, Deuce carries the banner for the survival of all humanity.

Book 1: Enclave review       Book 2: Outpost review

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Awesome finale, you guys!

*whispers* Thank you, Ann Aguirre. Thank you.

I couldn’t resist pushing, just a little. “So it won’t bother you if I find someone else?”

His jaw clenched, and I saw the muscle move before he got it under control. “I thought you said you’d fight for me.”

“And you said it’s too late.” I offered him a faint smile along with his watch. “So it’s a good thing I don’t intend to listen to you.”

Out all the 2013 final book releases that I’ve read (Reached, Boundless, Champion, Requiem, Allegiant), Horde can actually stake a claim as the best and most amazing finale! It can sing loud and clear: Shine bright like a diamond. This is how a series should be wrapped up, people! The inevitable war (that actually happened!), the bloodshed (of characters I love and hate), and the love that survives (even if one was broken). It is truly an outstanding final book from one of my favorite authors, Ann Aguirre. Woot!

I was hesitant when Deuce was tagged as humanity’s best hope agains the Freaks. I mean, she’s just a teenage girl, a Huntress yes, but still in her teens. But Ann Aguirre laid out the development of her character solidly, that I began to hope. Gone was the Huntress who had nothing but her skills to kill. Now, she is a Huntress who will fight to the death (because of Fade and her new family), and if she was to die, she will take as many Freaks as possible with her. 😉 Deuce was so badass!

Fade is a complicated one, but coming from Outpost, I have to accommodate his insecurities. And here lies Deuce’s strength – for no matter how hard, or how cruel Fade was in pushing her away, she shoves back, with her unrelenting love, unbent faithfulness for him. So many swoon with these two!!! I love how their relationship was built, and forged to withstand the despair of their world. *fist pump*

The war was awful, gory, and with casualties (everything I savor in battles!). My emotions were running high during that part, for fear that Ann Aguirre will break, break my heart. But I approve, Ann Aguirre. What a fantastic way to end Razorland series!

Destruction and desolation, that has always been the theme of Deuce’s world. But amidst the chaos and fear, she learned how to be a friend, a family, a partner. Most of all, she learned to hope.

Deuce and Fade FTW… always. 😀

I get it. You’d rather have him, broken, than me whole. If that didn’t clarify my chances with you, nothing would.

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HORDE by Ann Aguirre

Ebook, 432 pages

Published October 29th 2013 by Feiwel & Friends
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5/5 stars

Book Review: Rebel by Amy Tintera

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Young Adult > Science Fiction | Dystopia

(Reboot #2)

After coming back from death as Reboots and being trained by HARC as soldiers, Wren and Callum have finally escaped north, where they hope to find a life of freedom. But when they arrive at the Reboot Reservation, it isn’t what they expected. Under the rule of a bloodthirsty leader, Micah, the Reboots are about to wage an all-out war on the humans. Although Wren’s instincts are telling her to set off into the wilderness on their own and leave the battle far behind, Callum is unwilling to let his human family be murdered. When Micah commits the ultimate betrayal, the choice is made for them. But Micah has also made a fatal mistake . . . he’s underestimated Wren and Callum.

The explosive finale to the Reboot duology is full of riveting action and steamy love scenes as Wren and Callum become rebels against their own kind.

Book 1: Reboot review

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It was better than I expected! And that “off-with-his-head” moment was so awesome. 😀

I thought Rebel was better than Reboot. It could be that reading Callum‘s POV lessened my irritation towards him, because he’s an okay guy. Minimum sappiness? Check. Thank goodness!

Wren is still as badass as her number implies: One Seventy Eight. Showdowns between her and Micha were priceless :)) Her mentor Riley made his appearance in this sequel. This was the reboot who shot at her multiple times during training just so she can get over her fear of guns. He’s the reason why Wren survived HARC’s training. But Wren was confused, because now, he’s joking around her, hugging her, even! I liked him. He’s amused about Wren leaving HARC over a boy, a reboot under Sixty, no less! But in the end, he broke my heart. =(

I also like Gabe and Callum’s brother, David. These are only kids compared to the human rebels, and yet they understand more the need for humans and reboots to unite in order to bring down HARC.

Rebel is not lacking in action. Amy Tintera was not afraid to spray some blood, and break some bones. Having said that, I think Reboot series is a worthwhile read. I am glad that I gave romantic Callum another chance. Ha.

Oh, and this is a duology so, score!

Thank you Edelweiss and HarperCollins/HarperTeen for granting my galley request.

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REBEL by Amy Tintera

Kindle Edition, 352 pages

Published May 14th 2014 by HarperTeen
4/5 stars

Book Review: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

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Young Adult > Post-Apocalyptic > Science Fiction

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother—or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

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From The Monstrumologist to this — Rick Yancey, make me a hard-core fanatic, why don’t you?

If you don’t kill all of us all at once, those who remain will not be weak. You are remaking us.
We are the clay, you are Michaelangelo. And we will be your masterpiece.


I cannot contain my happiness with The 5th Wave. It was a stellar alien book from no less than Rick Yancey!

Cassie is a very magnetic heroine, I cannot help but root for her. The determination and indomitable spirit was such a surprise. (But now that I thought about it, one of Yancey’s strengths as an author is the ability to develop engaging and worship-worthy characters.) The stark contrast of Cassie’s character to the hopeless world she lives in, it makes me want to cheer for her, that she will make it to the end. *fingers crossed*

So the moment that certified I was hooked? Zombie‘s character. When his POV was introduced, I didn’t know who he was. Imagine my ecstasy when his true identity was revealed on his first chapter, I was giddy with excitement! Leave it to Yancey to stir things up in a major way. 😀 Smooth talker, this one – and the inappropriateness of it in a post-apocalyptic world was very funny. Heh.

Evan Walker. Even without his link to Cassie, his character would still shine. The shift between morality and mortality, as Cassie perceived him, was so addictive. Every scene that Evan’s in was sweet, heartbreaking, I just want to capture each moment. *sigh*

Needless to say, the alien plot was gripping, the villain was hateful, the edge-of-your-seat element was electrifying. Woot!

With obvious strength in characters and decisive story flow, The 5th Wave deserves two thumbs up from an existing Rick Yancey fan like me. More alien conspiracy, please!

P.S. Me thinks this book will still be awesome even without the romance angle.

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THE 5TH WAVE by Rick Yancey

Hardcover, 480 pages

Published May 7th 2013 by Putnam Juvenile

5/5 stars

Book Review: The Fall of Five by Pittacus Lore

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Young Adult > Science Fiction > Fantasy

(Lorien Legacies #4)

The Garde are finally reunited, but do they have what it takes to win the war against the Mogadorians?

John Smith—Number Four—thought that things would change once the Garde found each other. They would stop running. They would fight the Mogadorians. And they would win.

But he was wrong. After facing off with the Mogadorian ruler and almost being annihilated, the Garde know they are drastically unprepared and hopelessly outgunned. Now they’re hiding out in Nine’s Chicago penthouse, trying to figure out their next move.

The six of them are powerful, but they’re not strong enough yet to take on an entire army—even with the return of an old ally. To defeat their enemy, the Garde must master their Legacies and learn to work together as a team. More importantly, they’ll have to discover the truth about the Elders and their plan for the Loric survivors.

And when the Garde receive a sign from Number Five—a crop circle in the shape of a Loric symbol—they know they are so close to being reunited. But could it be a trap? Time is running out, and the only thing they know for certain is that they have to get to Five before it’s too late.

The Garde may have lost battles, but they will not lose this war.

Lorien will rise again.

Book 1: I Am Number Four review

Book 2: The Power of Six review

Book 3: The Rise of Nine review

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Poor Marina. Now, I am interested on her POV in the next book.

This series is very easy to read. But now I realized that it can be contained in just 3 books. The Fall of Five‘s good stuff started on Chapter 31 (it has 37 in total). Instead of training to death in preparation for the war against the Mogadorians, Four is cuddling with Sarah (why the heck would I be interested in that?!), Four is awkward towards Six, Four just do not know what to do.

Spare me the drama, Pittacus Lore. Who cares about teenage alien/human flirtation? I need some action, so give me a battle of a lifetime between Loric and Mogs!

Good thing that besides Four’s POV, there is also Sam‘s and Marina‘s. And Adam‘s character is kind of intriguing.

One measly training session. One (almost) entertaining Capture the Flag game. The rest is just flirting, bantering, bickering. When the ultimate unexpected happened, the Garde are just about as screwed as they were in The Rise of Nine. (If only they trained on how to work together, their powers complimenting each other, then they would have never fell for that trap. They would’ve defeated that pudgy enemy in a flash. Duh.)

Is The Revenge of Seven the final book? I hope so. Because I’m starting to wonder why I am still reading this series. It’s beginning to look like I am wasting my time.

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THE FALL OF FIVE by Pittacus Lore

Ebook, 268 pages

Published August 27th 2013 by HarperCollins

3/5 stars

Book Review: Origin by Jennifer L. Armentrout

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Young Adult > Science Fiction > Urban Fantasy

(Lux #4)

Daemon will do anything to get Katy back.

After the successful but disastrous raid on Mount Weather, he’s facing the impossible. Katy is gone. Taken. Everything becomes about finding her. Taking out anyone who stands in his way? Done. Burning down the whole world to save her? Gladly. Exposing his alien race to the world? With pleasure.

All Katy can do is survive.

Surrounded by enemies, the only way she can come out of this is to adapt. After all, there are sides of Daedalus that don’t seem entirely crazy, but the group’s goals are frightening and the truths they speak even more disturbing. Who are the real bad guys? Daedalus? Mankind? Or the Luxen?

Together, they can face anything.

But the most dangerous foe has been there all along, and when the truths are exposed and the lies come crumbling down, which side will Daemon and Katy be standing on?

And will they even be together?

Book 1: Obsidian review     Book 2: Onyx review       Book 3: Opal review

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Ah, Daemon. Such sweet, good vibes you have here. (Hi, Archer. *blushes*)

Admittedly, Origin is just a 4-star-rating, but that unexpected cliffhanger was a welcome reprieve screaming for a 5. And to think that Jennifer L. Armentrout is hugely selling this Lux series to me because of the sizzling romance between Katy and Daemon, I would never thought that she would take that path to awesomeness! 🙂

Daemon‘s POV is so strong. This is the alien who will move the universe for me, err, for Katy. Heh. A softer side from one who is often a jerk, Daemon proved that what he have with Katy is not a fling with some human. And the decisions he made were so unlike him! He was unpredictable but in a good way. I liked how he turned out in Origin.

Katy‘s having a bad day. No, the worst week ever. She doesn’t cower to anyone anymore (thanks to Daemon), so it appears that Katy is stronger, and smarter. Those sweet moments with Daemon were, as always, to-die-for. =) I think their relationship gets better after every book, and that’s the point of it all, right? That these characters grow up, and be better people, especially when they are together. But it’s not that simple for them, far from it, so there enters the complications being an alien hybrid.

Archer!!! ’nuff said. I hope to see more of this guy soon. Yay!

The nature of origins is interesting. But are they friends or foes?

A lot of action, swoon, and surprising twists, that will have you begging for the next installment the moment you finish Origin. I, for one, could not wait for Opposition. This is gonna be one hell of a war. *smiles wickedly*

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ORIGIN by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Ebook, 400 pages

Published August 27th 2013 by Entangled Teen

5/5 stars

Book Review: Into The Still Blue by Veronica Rossi

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Young Adult > Dystopia

(Under the Never Sky #3)

Their love and their leadership have been tested. Now it’s time for Perry and Aria to unite the Dwellers and the Outsiders in one last desperate attempt to bring balance to their world.

The race to the Still Blue has reached a stalemate. Aria and Perry are determined to find this last safe-haven from the Aether storms before Sable and Hess do-and they are just as determined to stay together.

Meanwhile, time is running out to rescue Cinder, who was abducted by Hess and Sable for his unique abilities. And when Roar returns to camp, he is so furious with Perry that he won’t even look at him, and Perry begins to feel like they have already lost.

Out of options, Perry and Aria assemble a team to mount an impossible rescue mission-because Cinder isn’t just the key to unlocking the Still Blue and their only hope for survival, he’s also their friend. And in a dying world, the bonds between people are what matter most.

Book 1: Under the Never Sky review       Book 2: Through the Ever Night review

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Through the Ever Night is much better IMO. Still, better ending than I thought possible for this series. 🙂

Perry! ❤

Into the Still Blue was not spectacular, to tell you the truth. Although compared to Reached, it’s more quick paced; and compared to Champion, it has more swoon moments.

The best thing about this finale is that Aria and Perry did not waste time. They took what was needed (from each other), and they did what what needs to be done (for each other). Aria is a grown woman now, stronger and more matured than when she was still a Dweller. Perry is more outspoken, and more confident as the Tides blood lord, and Aria’s partner.

But. But.

Roar‘s character was a sore thumb. I understood his grief, but he did not understood Perry’s (and how different his friend mourns for their loss). Roar went from hero to zero for me. And that’s a shame!

Cinder was a loose, loose end. that’s it for Cinder?!!! It was a very abrupt exit for Cinder, this boy who supposedly will be their savior, the one that will usher Aether’s survivors into the Still Blue. It was pretty disappointing that his character was handled carelessly, like that.

The parts that I was so pissed about are these:

(1) Aria’s business with Kirra was not settled properly. I mean, c’mon on! I was eager for a cat fight!!! What a letdown.

(2) Perry’s inevitable showdown with Sable was anticlimactic. Lame combat, anyone? Since I first met Sable in Through the Ever Night with Roar and Liv, I wildly anticipated his meeting with Perry. But I was in for a boring battle of the blood lords. 😦

I super loved Under the Never Sky series. But the finale was sort of bland, dampened down to maybe make sure that it has a neat ending. And it was, but I will not call it phenomenal.

Thank you Edelweiss and HarperCollins for granting my galley request.

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INTO THE STILL BLUE by Veronica Rossi

Kindle Edition, 400 pages

Published January 28th 2014 by HarperCollins

4/5 stars

 

Mini Book Reviews: Brooke, Destroy Me

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Young Adult > Dystopia

(Under the Never Sky #2.5)

The only fight she can’t win is the one for Perry’s heart. Following the stunning climax in Through the Ever Night, the Tides have been forced to seek shelter from the Aether storms in a dismal, secluded cave. But Brooke’s memories of the cave go back much further, to when she and Perry used to come here together. That was before Perry fell in love with Aria and before Vale’s dealings with the Dwellers altered the course of the Tides forever.

Now, with her sister back from a haunting year in captivity and Aria lying unconscious in the sick bay, Brooke struggles to put the pieces of her life back together. Without Perry, who is she? And what is her role in this frightening new world? As these questions swirl about her, an old threat to the Tides resurfaces, and Brooke is forced to put the lives of her people before her own. But in taking this step outside of herself, Brooke may finally discover what she truly wants.

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Brooke has this brotherhood going on :/
(*whispers* serial kisser! hmph.)

Brooke sets the mood for Into the Still Blue. While I liked that a minor threat was eliminated here, Brooke’s actions toward certain individuals struck me as inappropriate. Good thing that she’s no match for Aria when it comes to Perry. Yay!

Veronica Rossi gave focus on the ragtag crew that Perry met in Through the Ever Night. These characters are explored, so I’m thinking they will have bigger roles in the final book.

This is a mere glimpse of what is to come to Perry’s people – cowering in fear of the worsening Aether storms, sheltered by a dreary cave.

Forget Brooke. Just get ready for Into the Still Blue!

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BROOKE by Veronica Rossi

Ebook, 82 pages

Published November 26th 2013 by HaperCollins

3/5 stars

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Young Adult > Dystopia

(Shatter Me #2.5)

As Omega Point prepares to launch an all-out assault on The Reestablishment soldiers stationed in Sector 45, Adam’s focus couldn’t be further from the upcoming battle. He’s reeling from his breakup with Juliette, scared for his best friend’s life, and as concerned as ever for his brother James’s safety. And just as Adam begins to wonder if this life is really for him, the alarms sound. It’s time for war.

On the battlefield, it seems like the odds are in their favor—but taking down Warner, Adam’s newly discovered half brother, won’t be that easy. The Reestablishment can’t tolerate a rebellion, and they’ll do anything to crush the resistance . . . including killing everyone Adam has ever cared about.

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This is not necessary. Why even bother to write an e-novella when it has no bearing whatsoever on Adam‘s character, and the story’s plot?

Crap.

(Being on Team Warner is not even that exciting anymore.)

It pains me to say that Fracture Me is now a turning point for readers (like me?) if they will like Shatter Me series or not. Let’s not even talk about Team Adam or Team Warner anymore. The fact is, the writing is so unbalanced that if you like Adam, you will be disappointed. But if you didn’t like him, you will be relieved (that you did not root for him).

Like I said, Why even bother to write Adam’s POV?!!!!

Ignite Me – such a spoiler. Do I even care anymore who Juliet ends up with?

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FRACTURE ME by Tahereh Mafi

Ebook , 68 pages

Published December 16th 2013 by HarperCollins

2/5 stars

Book Review: The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd

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Young Adult > Horror  | Science Fiction

(The Madman’s Daughter #1)

In the darkest places, even love is deadly.

Sixteen-year-old Juliet Moreau has built a life for herself in London—working as a maid, attending church on Sundays, and trying not to think about the scandal that ruined her life. After all, no one ever proved the rumors about her father’s gruesome experiments. But when she learns he is alive and continuing his work on a remote tropical island, she is determined to find out if the accusations are true.

Accompanied by her father’s handsome young assistant, Montgomery, and an enigmatic castaway, Edward—both of whom she is deeply drawn to—Juliet travels to the island, only to discover the depths of her father’s madness: He has experimented on animals so that they resemble, speak, and behave as humans. And worse, one of the creatures has turned violent and is killing the island’s inhabitants. Torn between horror and scientific curiosity, Juliet knows she must end her father’s dangerous experiments and escape her jungle prison before it’s too late. Yet as the island falls into chaos, she discovers the extent of her father’s genius—and madness—in her own blood.

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1st half? horrifying yet interesting.
2nd half? f*cking love triangles.

Suffice it to say that the horror part of The Madman’s Daughter is intriguing enough to have me looped in Juliet’s crazy life. It was pretty intense at the start, with Juliet’s desperation and hopelessness, to her unexpected visit to the island, to see if her father is indeed alive. But when the love triangle emerged, the book was a chore to finish.

His father’s genius was viewed as madness, but I reveled in his insanity. Who’s to say he’s really crazy? He might be deluded, true, but he was fluidly intellectual with his work at the island. And how bloody it was! How… mad. I liked that. =)

Juliet did not know who to believe, who to trust in her father’s island. Montgomery? Edward? Her father? Can she believe him when he says that he was only protecting her since the day he left her to fend on her own, the way only a good father will do? I tell you, Juliet is going bonkers herself out there. 😀

The twist was somehow predictable, but still bewitching when I saw it unfold.

The Madman’s Daughter can still be good, I think. So less on the dramatic love triangle, please. It takes the sweet out of the horror, and I want my horror to be … sugary. In blood. Wee!

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THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER by Megan Shepherd

Ebook, 432 pages

Published January 29th 2013 by Balzer + Bray

3/5 stars

Book Review: The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna

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Young Adult > Science Fiction

Eva’s life is not her own. She is a creation, an abomination—an echo. She was made by the Weavers as a copy of someone else, expected to replace a girl named Amarra, her “other,” if she ever died. Eva spends every day studying that girl from far away, learning what Amarra does, what she eats, what it’s like to kiss her boyfriend, Ray. So when Amarra is killed in a car crash, Eva should be ready.

But sixteen years of studying never prepared her for this.

Now she must abandon everything and everyone she’s ever known—the guardians who raised her, the boy she’s forbidden to love—to move to India and convince the world that Amarra is still alive.

What Eva finds is a grief-stricken family; parents unsure how to handle this echo they thought they wanted; and Ray, who knew every detail, every contour of Amarra. And when Eva is unexpectedly dealt a fatal blow that will change her existence forever, she is forced to choose: Stay and live out her years as a copy or leave and risk it all for the freedom to be an original. To be Eva.

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Ray, you motherf*cker. *shakes fist*

What did you think of that ending? Abrupt? Less than what the Eva deserves? Sigh. That woeful ending broke my heart a bunch of times. This is one of those rare moments that I really, really wanted a sequel. *sniffs*

Early on, I noticed that Sangu Mandanna writes with emotional fervour. It was just so beautiful, reading about Eva’s dreams, hesitations, conflicts, and convictions. This was a good hurt, I should say. That no matter how haunting or how bleak Eva’s story was, it is worth a reread.

It occurred to Eva that while the few people around her deeply cares for her, people outside who are opposed of echoes will find her an abomination. And that pained her. She did not choose to be Amarra. She was made from her likeness. But she also thought, am I killing Amarra (and her family) just by existing?

The Lost Girl was never about the science behind the Echoes (although the Weaver’s history was fascinating). This story is about a girl who longs for a life outside an isolated home, a life that will speak freely of who she is (and not Amarra), a life with Sean. =( How can my heart be breaking still as I wrote this?

I curse you, Sangu Mandanna for being so talented with words.

And Sean. I ache for this boy. (Gah, that ending, Pffft.)

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THE LOST GIRL by Sangu Mandanna

Ebook, 432 pages

Published August 28th 2012 by Balzer + Bray

4/5 stars