Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Waiting On Wednesday - Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. 

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea (Between, #1)
Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke
Series: Between #1
Expected Publication: August 15 2013
Publisher: Dial
Genres: Young Adult, Paranormal, Gothic, Horror
Pages: 368
You stop fearing the devil when you’re holding his hand… 
Nothing much exciting rolls through Violet White’s sleepy, seaside town…until River West comes along. River rents the guesthouse behind Violet’s crumbling estate, and as eerie, grim things start to happen, Violet begins to wonder about the boy living in her backyard. Is River just a crooked-smiling liar with pretty eyes and a mysterious past? Or could he be something more? Violet’s grandmother always warned her about the Devil, but she never said he could be a dark-haired boy who takes naps in the sun, who likes coffee, who kisses you in a cemetery...who makes you want to kiss back. Violet’s already so knee-deep in love, she can’t see straight. And that’s just how River likes it.

I tend to be disappointed by YA horror novels, so I’m really hoping this one will be an exception to that. I’ve seen (but haven’t read) positive and negative reviews, but I’m holding out hope. It has a really intriguing premise and come on – would you just look at that cover? That typography is BEAUTIFUL.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

TTT - Favorite Beginnings/Endings in Books

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created by The Broke and the Bookish
Each week a new topic is given and weeks topic is:

Top Ten Favorite Beginnings/Endings In Books

This is really hard for me because my memory isn’t that specific. I have a hard time picking out scenes from books and placing them in order. I only really retain the general tone and feel of a book if it isn’t one of my favourites. It took me quite a while to get all ten!

1. Feed by Mira Grant – The first scene of Feed involves a motorcycle, a stick, a throng of zombies, and an impressive feat of gravity. What is there not to like?

2. TheMiseducation of Cameron Post by Emily Danforth – “The afternoon my parents died, I was out shoplifting with Irene Klauson.” Such a lovely, simple first sentence. It certainly caught my attention.

3. HowMy Summer Went Up in Flames by Jennifer Salvato Doktorski – “I wasn’t always the kind of girl who wakes up on the first day of summer vacation to find herself on the receiving end of a temporary restraining order.” I didn’t really like this book, but it did have a very attention-grabbing opening line.

4. Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard – “The winds in Washokey make people go crazy. At least, that’s what everybody says. Our part of Wyoming is plagued by winds: hot winds, cold winds, dry winds, wildwinds. Wildwinds are the worst. Not only do they torment us from the outside, but they also seem to bluster inside us: battering around in our lungs, whistling through our capillaries. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of that wind blew into the passageways of our brains.” Isn’t that beautiful? It takes skill to make wind and Wyoming that fascinating. It’s so compelling and lyrical.

5. Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier – “Lightning has struck me all my life. Just once was it real. I shouldn’t remember it, for I was little more than a baby. But I do remember.” Don’t you want to keep reading?? I know I do! I haven’t actually read Remarkable Creatures yet, but if the opening couple of lines are any indication of what’s to come, I’m very excited to.


6. Zoe Letting Go by Nora Price – The ending of this book killed me. I don’t remember when exactly it occurred, but the revelation of what exactly happened to Elise (though not a surprise) coupled with Zoe’s reaction to it broke my heart. It was incredibly emotional.

7. Teeth by Hannah Moskowitz – The last scene made me cry in public. On the bus. In the middle of the day. I was not anticipating that ending whatsoever and it was the epitome of bittersweet.

 8. Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman – I’m not going to say what the scene is because that would ruin it for anyone who hasn’t read it, but it’s incredibly powerful.

9. Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson – It’s not the very end of the book, if I remember correctly, but the meteor shower scene and the one immediately following it make me teary eyed just thinking about them. I called my dad sobbing right after I finished the book to tell him how much I love him.

10. The Storyteller by Antonia Michaelis – “Blood. There is blood everywhere. On his hands, on her hands, on his shirt, on his face, on the tiles, on the small rounds carpet. The carpet used to be blue; it never will be blue again.” “And the snow that fell onto the roof in winter… it fell softly… softly… and it covered the house, the armchair, the books, the children’s voices. It covered Anna and Abel, covered their parallel world, and everything was, finally, very, very quiet.” The first and last paragraphs of this book aren’t as beautiful out of context, but they still evoke tons of feelings in me. I’m so impressed with this book. Not only is it a translation from German to English, it is hugely underrated. It’s one of my absolute all-time favourite YA novels. I had to take a three day break from reading just to get over this book. Just to process this book. JUST GO READ IT NOW!

Monday, 29 July 2013

Review - Days of Blood & Starlight by Laini Taylor

Days of Blood & Starlight (Daughter of Smoke & Bone #2)
Days of Blood & Starlight by Laini Taylor
Series: Daughter of Smoke & Bone #2
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 517
Rating: 5/5 stars
Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a world free of bloodshed and war.
This is not that world. 
Art student and monster's apprentice Karou finally has the answers she has always sought. She knows who she is—and what she is. But with this knowledge comes another truth she would give anything to undo: She loved the enemy and he betrayed her, and a world suffered for it. 
In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Karou must decide how far she'll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, secrets and impossible choices, Days of Blood & Starlight finds Karou and Akiva on opposing sides as an age-old war stirs back to life. 
While Karou and her allies build a monstrous army in a land of dust and starlight, Akiva wages a different sort of battle: a battle for redemption. For hope. 
But can any hope be salvaged from the ashes of their broken dream?

Laini Taylor is a master. I would go so far as to say that based on her technical writing skills alone – how beautiful and engaging the prose she writes is – she is one of the best YA authors. Ever. Even if the stories she was telling were pure shit, her writing alone is just so enjoyable that I don’t think I’d care.

But her stories aren’t shit. Days of Blood & Starlight picks up where Daughter of Smoke & Bone left off, and it took me a little while to get re-acclimated within the world that Laini has built.  I wasn’t particularly impressed with the first few chapters – it was a lot of Akiva, and no Karou. I personally never really liked Akiva all that much in Daughter of Smoke & Bone. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t dislike him, I was just much more invested in Karou and her side of the story. Akiva’s storyline was more of an irritating distraction before I could get back to Karou. It picked up around the 15% mark and didn’t slow down until the last page.

In Days of Blood & Starlight, I fell in love with Akiva. Okay, maybe that's a stretch, but I actually enjoyed the seraph storyline, at the very least. The most important thing that changed in Days of Blood & Starlight regarding Akiva was that Hazael and Liraz became characters that I actually cared about – moreso, possibly, than Akiva himself. I still preferred the narrative surrounding Karou, but I didn’t try to rush through Akiva’s chapters in a hurry to get back to her.

Speaking of Akiva, I really hate his name. I don’t even know what it is about it, but I dislike it. I love all of the other names in the book; they’re deliciously creative and I love the distinct naming patterns of the chimaera and the seraph (their names have very different sounds). I just don’t like the name Akiva. Oh well.

Ziri. Oh, Ziri, Ziri, Ziri. I thought Zuze was my favourite character in this series, but she was overthrown by my beloved Ziri. I want an entire book just about Ziri so I can revel in his marvelousness. Okay, he’s a little be pathetic sometimes – he totally moons over Karou all the time, which is just adorable. He may be a bit of a puppy dog,  but he’s also a skilled warrior, a good person, and best of all loyal. Yeah, I’m swooning.

There are some huge events in Days of Blood & Starlight, and I can’t wait to see what happens in Dreams of Gods & Monsters. I just can’t wait until April 2014! That’s SO LONG!

Friday, 26 July 2013

Review - Invisibility by Andrea Cremer & David Levithan


Invisibility by Andrea Cremer & David Levithan
Series: Standalone
Published by Philomel on May 7 2013
Genres: Young Adult, Paranormal
Pages: 358
Rating: 1.5/5 stars
Stephen has been invisible for practically his whole life — because of a curse his grandfather, a powerful cursecaster, bestowed on Stephen’s mother before Stephen was born. So when Elizabeth moves to Stephen’s NYC apartment building from Minnesota, no one is more surprised than he is that she can see him. A budding romance ensues, and when Stephen confides in Elizabeth about his predicament, the two of them decide to dive headfirst into the secret world of cursecasters and spellseekers to figure out a way to break the curse. But things don’t go as planned, especially when Stephen’s grandfather arrives in town, taking his anger out on everyone he sees. In the end, Elizabeth and Stephen must decide how big of a sacrifice they’re willing to make for Stephen to become visible — because the answer could mean the difference between life and death. At least for Elizabeth.

There were a lot of things that I should have liked about Invisibility. Unfortunately, it never grew on me like I expected it to. I realised early on that this book was going to take a turn in a direction different from what I was originally expecting (which was more along the lines of a comtemporary YA novel with a twist – being that one of the characters happens to be invisible). For some reason I found myself expecting and hoping for magical realism and what I got was paranormal YA, which isn’t bad just not what I wanted.

Once I adjusted my expectations, I found myself enjoying the idea of a small, hidden world of spellcasters, cursecasters, and spellseekers. Well, to a certain degree. I found that the worldbuilding was severely lacking – there didn’t seem to be many concrete rules when it came to the abilities of casters and seekers, and the ones that did exist struck me as too convenient.

My biggest complaint about Invisibility is its characters. Stephen and Elizabeth leave a lot to be desired. It’s a definite case of insta-love, which I actually understand on Stephen’s part. He’s never met anyone else who can see him, it makes sense for him to fall in love with her. However, I found their romance to be over the top and I quickly got sick of their inner monologues about how much they loved each other and would do anything for the other person. Self-preservation is a thing that exists, even if YA fiction maintains otherwise. Stephen had an edge on Elizabeth simply because of David Levithan’s masterful writing. He was also slightly less focused on his love life (probably because he had slightly bigger fish to fry).

The villain, Maxwell Arbus, is extremely lacking. I hate villains who have no reason behind their villainy. I get that there are people in the world who are simply evil and who enjoy making others suffer. I’m not really interested in reading about those people. In my opinion, a good villain has evil and goodness within them. There is absolutely nothing good about Arbus, and I was bored of him before he was even introduced.

The only characters I really liked were the secondary characters – namely Laurie, Elizabeth’s brother. He most realistic characters in the novel and the only one who rang true to me. I kept waiting for something awful to happen to Laurie (and it nearly does) because he is the token ‘powerless human’ in the story, but he ended up being the strongest character in the bunch. The things that Laurie has been through aren’t about magic or curses – they’re about humanity and bigotry. He strikes a balance between the ‘real’ world and the ‘fantasy’ world.

In the end, I wanted to like this a lot more than I did. I found it rather boring, and though it was a quick read, it seemed to slog on while I was reading it. I felt little attachment to the characters or the world, and was disappointed at the mediocre ending.

Review - Taken by Erin Bowman

Taken (Taken, #1)
Taken by Erin Bowman
Series: Taken #1
Published by HarperTeen on April 16 2013
Genres: Young Adult, Dystopian
Pages: 360
Rating: 1/5 stars
There are no men in Claysoot. There are boys—but every one of them vanishes at midnight on his eighteenth birthday. The ground shakes, the wind howls, a blinding light descends…and he’s gone. 
They call it the Heist. 
Gray Weathersby’s eighteenth birthday is mere months away, and he’s prepared to meet his fate–until he finds a strange note from his mother and starts to question everything he’s been raised to accept: the Council leaders and their obvious secrets. The Heist itself. And what lies beyond the Wall that surrounds Claysoot–a structure that no one can cross and survive. 
Climbing the Wall is suicide, but what comes after the Heist could be worse. Should he sit back and wait to be taken–or risk everything on the hope of the other side?

It’s hard to enjoy a book when the main character is as insufferable as Gray Weathersby. There is nothing to like about Gray because he isn’t a fully developed character – he’s a collection of traits typically belonging to ‘heroes’. He’s impulsive, suspicious, and easily angered. There is little else to say about him. Well, there is one other thing – he’s a huge hypocrite. Time and again he gets mad at people for doing things that he himself does without a moment’s hesitation. Early in the book Emma tells him that he is selfish, and I agree with her.

Oh, Emma. I wanted so badly to like her, and I feel like I sympathized with her more than any other character in Taken. That said, she’s just as underdeveloped as Gray. Her defining feature is that she’s gentle and good at stitching people up. I’m not kidding. That’s it. I actually really liked her when she was introduced; she was fiery and didn’t take Gray’s bullshit. That changed very quickly with the introduction of… drumroll please… INSTA-LOVE! Of course. I just can’t seem to escape it lately. I truly don’t understand what Emma liked about Gray. His attitude never changed, nor did his behaviour. It really felt more like Emma was trying to replace her friendship with Blaine with a relationship with Gray, despite the fact that the boys’ personalities couldn’t be more different. I’m just trying to find some reason for her to have attached herself to him so quickly, so I’m reaching here.

On the topic of girls, this book has one of the worst love triangles I have ever read. This is mostly because both girls are pretty decent people who deserve much better than whatever Gray could offer them. I was particularly upset by Gray’s decision (SPOILERS) after Emma cheated on him, thinking he was dead, to start something with Bree. I get that he was hurt, but SHE THOUGHT HE WAS DEAD. He thinks that he’s a better person than her because he didn’t act on his feelings for Bree while they were separated. However, Gray never thought that Emma was dead. It’s just not comparable.

I wish the characters had been more likeable, because the plot wasn’t that bad. It was predictable, and I found it very segmented, but I liked it. It was engaging enough for me to finish reading the book, which it gets credit for. But that’s really all there is to say about it. There were so many different elements to the plot that it felt as though Bowman was just throwing everything she could think of into this book. It wasn’t refined at all, and none of the plot twists and big reveals were very gratifying.

It just wasn’t much fun to read. I found myself bitching about it to myself and writing snippy little notes to myself making fun of it and poking plot holes (for instance, how do they explain the fact that a two year old child doesn’t look the same as a one year old, particularly a one year old who has supposedly been so ill as to disallow visitors for an entire year. Someone would have noticed that.).

Review - Feed by Mira Grant

Feed (Newsflesh Trilogy, #1)
Feed by Mira Grant
Series: Newsflesh Trilogy #1
Published by Orbit on May 1 2010
Genres: New Adult, Horror, Dystopian
Pages: 571 (906 minutes)
Rating: 4/5 stars

The year was 2014. We had cured cancer. We had beaten the common cold. But in doing so we created something new, something terrible that no one could stop. The infection spread, virus blocks taking over bodies and minds with one, unstoppable command: FEED. Now, twenty years after the Rising, bloggers Georgia and Shaun Mason are on the trail of the biggest story of their lives - the dark conspiracy behind the infected. The truth will get out, even if it kills them.
I tried to read Feed on four different occasions before finally sticking to it and seeing it to the end – apparently what I needed was a really great audiobook, narrated brilliantly by Paula Christenson and Jesse Bernstein, to truly get into it. That isn’t to say that I didn’t like it upon my other attempts. I did, I just got distracted somewhere along the way each time. This go around I listened to the fifteen hour audiobook in about two and a half days. I got into it this time, in a big way. There was nothing for me not to like – zombies, politics, and blogging all in one book? Count me in!

Despite some flaws, I really loved listening to Feed. It caught my attention and didn’t let go of it, and I quickly grew to love the characters for all of their strengths and their faults. They are what fictional characters should be – fully rounded people with all of the intricacies that are involved in being a human being.

I actually liked the weird, super-dependent relationship between Georgia and Shaun. It’s not something you see very often – it’s clear that their environment growing up led them to be distrustful of anyone who isn’t each other. I’d be pretty jaded if I had their parents, too.

Even the secondary characters were depicted as real people – I became quite attached to the likes of Steve, Rick, Buffy, and even Senator Ryman (I consider Shaun as much a main character as Georgia). The only character that I thought could have used work was Governor Tate. (SPOILER AHEAD) It was clear from the very beginning that he was the primary villain, and I would have liked a more interesting motivation that religious fanaticism. I get that it’s completely possible and even perhaps likely, but it’s nothing new – it’s a stale bit as far as zombie fiction goes.

This is the way that I like my zombies – enmeshed in the atmosphere and part of the background. They pose an element of risk and influence the events of the story, but they themselves are not the focus. It’s not about the zombies – it’s about the people. I’ve had a lot of exposure to zombie stories – I took an entire class revolving around them – and this is one of my favourites. It isn’t as misogynistic as some of its contemporaries (I’m looking at you, The Walking Dead), though it certainly isn’t without its own issues in that area – most notably the treatment of Senator Ryman’s female opponent, whose recent acquisition of a new, enlarged pair of breasts is mentioned and derided repeatedly by Georgia. It is obvious that no one takes her seriously as competition to Senator Ryman. There is also a statement that Tate makes about Georgia, though it’s different when it’s explicitly a character being malicious, not woven into the narrative.

The end of the book, as many other reviewers have stated, is absolutely heartbreaking. I’m not ashamed to admit that I cried on multiple occasions.