Sunday, August 24, 2014

ARC Book Review: Fueds by Avery Hastings


Avery Hastings

ARC Disclaimer: I was not paid in any way by the publishers to review this book favourably. The review is my own honest opinion (Whether or not it is agreed with).

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Pages: 272

Genre:  Dystopia, Romance, Young Adult

Dress-up turns deadly. . .

For Davis Morrow, perfection is a daily reality. Like all Priors, Davis has spent her whole life primed to be smarter, stronger, and more graceful than the lowly Imperfects, or “Imps.” A fiercely ambitious ballerina, Davis is only a few weeks away from qualifying for the Olympiads and finally living up to her mother’s legacy when she meets Cole, a mysterious boy who leaves her with more questions each time he disappears.

Davis has no idea that Cole has his own agenda, or that he’s a rising star in the FEUDS, an underground fighting ring where Priors gamble on Imps. Cole has every reason to hate Davis—her father’s campaign hinges on the total segregation of the Imps and Priors—but despite his best efforts, Cole finds himself as drawn to Davis as she is to him.

Then Narxis, a deadly virus, takes its hold--and Davis’s friends start dying. When the Priors refuse to acknowledge the epidemic, Davis has no one to turn to but Cole. Falling in love was never part of their plan, but their love may be the only thing that can save her Avery Hastings's Feuds.
There are two types of people living in the futuristic city of Columbus. There are the Priors and there are the Imps. Priors are genetically enhanced, while Imps are "Imperfect" nothing enhanced about them. It doesn't take much to guess which group is in political power and how the group in power treats the other.

As a romance novel, you can see where this is probably going. Davis, our main female character is a Prior and Cole, the male half, is an Imp. This is a plot that has been done since the dawn of storytelling. It could have easily gone to many clichĂ© places and a couple of times it did, but what saves this book is the amount of layering in the world building and the mysterious disease that haunts the pages.

Hastings held my attention with that mystery. It had me biting my nails as I saw the inevitable coming along. I found myself wondering which characters in power knew and which didn't. The world also, though a play on a common theme, is set up nicely and I feel like there is more to explore about it.

There isn't anything extra-ordinary about the characters themselves for me, but they weren't lacking either. The pacing felt slow from time-to-time, but it continued to keep my attention.

The thing the book has going for it the most, however, is that it is strong enough to carry as a series (and from the cliffhanger ended it most certainly will at least have a sequel). Extra layers were added at the end and the world has enough mysteries while still feeling like the exact story of the first book is at a stopping point.

I recommend this to people who love star-crossed lovers stories. I doubly recommend it if you also like Dystopias and stories about people versus government corruption. It was a satisfying Young Adult read.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Book Review: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

Cruel Beauty

Rosamund Hodge

 Published Date: January 28th 2014

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Pages: 342

Genre:  Fairy tale, Mythology, Fantasy-esqe, Romance, Young Adult
Based on the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Cruel Beauty is a dazzling love story about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny.

Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.

With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she's ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.

But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle-a shifting maze of magical rooms-enthralls her.

As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex's secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love.
I love the setting and world building of this book. Hodge is absolutely brilliant. It’s part fantasy, part historical fiction, part mythological retelling and part fairytale retelling. In the story, Arcadia is an island off of Greece, sharing in their mythology after the mainland had come to influence and conquer, yet also keeping their own hedge gods. It was a prosperous place until something, no one knows exactly what, happened at the castle, the sky went from blue to parchment, demons came to torture the minds of those the caught and the Gentle Lord came to bargain and rule.

Nyx is around because of one of those bargains, and her fate is sealed because of it as well. She must go off to the castle and marry the Gentle Lord, the one in charge of the demons. She is sent so that her sister can live happily and coddled and so that she can attempt to bring back the blue skies by defeating the house or the Gentle Lord himself.

As a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, it is certainly one of the best and is my favourite. I like it for many of the same reasons why I like The Lunar Chronicles, it’s not a straightforward retelling and instead is very imaginative and clever.

The fairy tale and amazing world aside, however, it’s our main characters, Nyx and Ignifex, the Gentle Lord, who are really the stars of the show. There is a realness and complexity to these characters. They are far from perfect, they are even downright nasty sometimes, but they are learning to accept that in themselves and in each other. They were a joy to read in their growth as separate characters and as a couple.

If you like Beauty and the Beast, read this book, but even if you’re not into fairytales, if you enjoy fantasy mixed with mythology, or just great characters and a great couple, I highly recommend this book. It’s world is amazing and unique and it’s characters layered and real.


Saturday, August 9, 2014

Book Review: Taken by David Massey


David Massey

ARC Disclaimer: I was not paid in any way by the publishers to review this book favourably. The review is my own honest opinion (Whether or not it is agreed with).

Publisher: Chicken House

Published Date: March 6th 2014

Genre:  Adventure, Suspense

A young crew of five are toughing it out together, sailing around the world on a gruelling charity challenge. They are used to being pushed to the limit, but nothing could have prepared them for being kidnapped.

When they are taken hostage by a notorious warlord and his band of child soldiers, the trip of a lifetime turns into a one-way journey into the heart of the African jungle.

When hope is all you have, survival is all you can fight for...
Taken is most certainly a plot driven book. A group of young ex-soldiers whose service was cut short by debilitating injuries decide to show their new disabilities do not hinder them by taking a sailing trip around the world for charity. Rio, our main character, is hired as support crew as she is a sailing champion and they are required to have a certain number of able bodied members aboard or no sponsors.

As that stands there is of course a little tension as Rio is an outsider to this close knit group. Of course, when a group of child soldiers led by a terrorist attacks their ship and takes them captive every thing soon changes.

Taken is a pretty unique book among New Adult. I feel as if most NA and YA books are heavily character (or romance) driven as opposed to plot. Of course, due to the focus the main group of characters feels underdeveloped compared to what I am used to. Many of them are a bit one note, which didn't ring well with me. The most developed and layered character however, is the Empty Child. She soon becomes the mystery that I am most interested in and her story does not disappoint.

Along those lines for much of the book I was confused as to the age of our main characters. Rio seems to be sixteen or seventeen, but the others were all in military and trained. I don't know the age for military service in Great Britain and the book didn’t specifically say what their ages were. This may not bother most people, but I spent half the book wondering about it.

On the plus side, the environment and situations in this book is very well done. A couple of scenes had my heart dropping. Others filled me with grisly anticipation.

There also was an obvious amount of research done which I appreciated as a reader. I loved the inclusion of the runner blades for Ash as those are one of the cooler innovations I’ve come across. And all of their issues were different as was how they dealt with them. On top of that we have the horrifying description of child soldiers, fear and brainwashing and the wild animals the group comes across.

I think if you enjoy survival and adventure stories you will enjoy Taken. If you find plot more important to you than character development than I also recommend this book to you.


Update: I'm back~!

I have officially climbed Mount Fuji as of now and can get back to my regularly scheduled book reviewing updates!

If anyone's wondering about the climb, I did it all in one go with a friend. We started the hike at ~8:15 and ended at 7:15, so all together it took around 11 hours. 

One of the coolest moments of my life.

I already want to do it again.

I'm also done moving (though I am living a no-fridge life at the moment). And have a temporary internet set up, so my updating schedule should return to normal.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Blog Tour & Giveaway(INT): Fractured by Erin Hayes


Erin Hayes

Goodreads | Amazon | Tour 

Publication Date: July 8th 2014

Genre:  Horror, Adult
Blinded by a mysterious seizure when she was three years old, Bash Martin has managed to carve out a normal life for herself as an adult. Yet she still yearns for a deeper connection with her twin sister Lily, who has always been jealous of the attention their parents bestowed upon Bash due to her disability.

A dream vacation seems like the perfect chance to heal their relationship, but Bash soon realizes there is something terribly wrong with Lily and that her sister is hiding a dark secret. And when a supernatural fire engulfs their hotel and corpses come back to life, the sisters are plunged into a nightmarish world that threatens not only their lives, but their very souls.

The best way I can describe Fractured by Erin Hayes is as a Horror Movie in print.

We follow several characters, focusing in on a pair of twins and the man that both of them love. Of course, something has been "haunting" the twins for a while and that something is absolutely terrifying and dangerous.

The twins are set up well as characters. They have two very distinct personalities and we can see how they both got to that point. I found myself easily being able to compare them to people I knew in real life.

The darkness of the book is set up well as well. Things are littered throughout the beginning that become important later. We are given enough things, that if we're paying close enough attention, we can guess and figure things out.

The fact that this is pretty much a Horror Movie in print is a double edged sword. On one hand everything is very visual in the book. I can see everything playing out in my mind perfectly. I can even imagine up the music playing in the background at certain moments and the fear in the characters voices. The imagery is very, very scary.

On the other hand it would have come across much scarier as a movie due to the fact that in a book you can't just introduce characters for a second and expect them to make impacts on us. Fractured has three sets of characters. The three main ones, the secondary characters (their group of friends) and the background characters. I feel like if this last group had been set up far in advanced, things later would have had a greater impact on us readers.

That aside, however, I greatly enjoyed the mythology and main characters that the book did present.

If you like Horror Movies, you will like Fractured. It's not quite at Stephen King level, but the imagery is top-notch and it is quite scary.


||*|| Giveaway ||*||

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Blog Tour & Giveaway(INT): The Lost Kingdom by Stephanie Beerden

The Lost Kingdom (The Elements #1)

Stephanie Beerden

Goodreads | Amazon | Tour 

Publication Date: April 28th 2014

Genre:  Fantasy
A Prophecy made long ago, announced the arrival of the new Ladies of Elements.

And now almost a millennia later, it finally came true …

All her life Arima thought she knew who and what she was. That is until the day of her sixteenth birthday came and her world is turned upside down, when she’s told she’s not a White Witch but Lady Spirit. And that she is the one that has been foretold, will unite the Five Ladies of Elements once again and save Ilendia and the Other Lands from Ahriman, the Demon King.

At first Arima refuses to accept her new fate, but when Shanums come and destroy her village and kill her loved ones, she has no choice but to flee and fall right into the destiny she never wanted.

As she grudgingly starts her journey into the unknown, she is accompanied by her unicorn familiar Sirrim, Blythe, a Vampire with a dark past and Myrddin, a mysterious Ljosalfar.

And the longer her journey lasts, the more Arima begins to realise that she can’t escape her own destiny and she must learn to control her powers and learn to be a Lady for the sake of the Sisters she doesn’t know and the people of Ilendia and the Other Lands.

However, things get more complicated when Arima comes into the possession of a key. Her instincts compel her to go towards danger when she discovers that the key she holds, can unlock the legendary kingdom of Eléssima, the home of the Ladies of Elements.

She will have to make the choice to follow her instincts …

…or stay on the path that has been laid out for her.
The Lost Kingdom has so many characters that are only around for a short time, so I tried to focus on the characters that are a constant throughout the book, sans Ahriman (only because I keep imagining him as a living suit of armor for some reason... no idea why).

While reading the book, I kept thinking of the Fanning sisters when I read Arima, personality-wise, Dakota fits better, however. Of course the last film I saw with Fanning was a while ago and she played a young girl with attitude and rebelliousness which I feel fits Arima well. Also, I feel like Arima's eyes are an interesting part of her looks, so Fanning's huge and gorgeous eyes would be a great way to highlight that feature.

As for Blythe, in my brain I both as both rugged in a "I've been through a lot" kind of way and dashing. I also wanted to pick someone who looking exasperated constantly would sit well on.

I had a hard time with Bryeia. I didn't want to find a stereotypical older woman actress. She is introduced to us as being pretty crotchety and then we are shown the other side with Arima. Thompson's pretty versatile in that way.

Also she always looks so fantastic aged up.

I'm not 100% on this though, as I said I had a hard time, but since she's important, I wanted to cast her.

Crimson was first character that I casted almost immediately while reading. For some reason I kept seeing her as Eva Green in Dark Shadows (except with red hair) and that terrifying smile end up sticking in my head every time she popped into the story.

Beautiful, Enchanting and fantastic at going from sweet to vengeful and cruel at the turn of a dime

||*|| Giveaway & Excerpt ||*||

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Update: Mt. Fuji Hiatus for a few days and then back to Normal

Okay, maybe my full hiatus isn't going to be truly long enough to garner anyone's attention, but it's so I can go climb Mt. Fuji and I'm so excited about that I have to share it EVERYWHERE.

In other new however, I also have borrowed the internet (mobile internet for the win) from a friend until I'm able to get some installed in my new place (or buy a mobile internet for my own, haven't decided yet, need to price quote it). This means that as soon as I get back from Fuji (on Thursday), I will be 100% back to my normal posting schedule.

So excited~~!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Feature & Follow: Closest City

Question of the Week: What is the biggest city you live near (or interesting landmark)? Show us a postcard picture.

Since I'm on half-hiatus, I wasn't going to be participating in any weekly posts until I get my normal computer up and running, but how can I resist this week's theme?

The biggest city I live near is the one that I'm officially in... Osaka, Japan.

Yep, I live in good old Osaka, one of the most colorful cities in Japan, where the people challenge Japanese stereotypes an all the greatest comedians hail and greatest food hails from.

We got Osaka Castle Park, which is a huge park in the middle of the city (and of course home to Osaka Castle).

And we have one of the bigger shopping/touristy areas, the street Dotonbori (in Namba/Shinsaibashi area).

Monday, July 28, 2014

Book Review: Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2)

Sarah J. Maas

Review of Throne of Glass

Published Date: August 27th 2013

Publisher: Bloomsbury Childrens

Pages: 420

Genre:  Fantasy, Young Adult

From the throne of glass rules a king with a fist of iron and a soul black as pitch. Assassin Celaena Sardothien won a brutal contest to become his Champion. Yet Celaena is far from loyal to the crown. She hides her secret vigilantly; she knows that the man she serves is bent on evil.

Keeping up the deadly charade becomes increasingly difficult when Celaena realizes she is not the only one seeking justice. As she tries to untangle the mysteries buried deep within the glass castle, her closest relationships suffer. It seems no one is above questioning her allegiances—not the Crown Prince Dorian; not Chaol, the Captain of the Guard; not even her best friend, Nehemia, a foreign princess with a rebel heart.

Then one terrible night, the secrets they have all been keeping lead to an unspeakable tragedy. As Celaena's world shatters, she will be forced to give up the very thing most precious to her and decide once and for all where her true loyalties lie...and whom she is ultimately willing to fight for.
Wow, what a journey this read was. Celaena returns and now that she’s been made the champion. This means she has to start killing for the King. Her work towards freedom is far from finished.

Crown of Midnight deals with the aftermath and the deepening of the mystery surrounding Elana and the current King. So much happens, I don’t even know where to begin.

The romance is less fluff and more serious this time around. It developed by obviously and naturally. It became quite intense, but it was the perfect amount of intensity for me and it had a solid foundation.

There are so many things happening in this castle, there is so much mystery and so much intrigue. We answer some questions, but then many more are revealed.

The ending did feel a bit over-stretched due to the climax happening a bit sooner in Crown of Midnight than in most books, but the characters and plot are well-thought out and I can’t help but love it all.

My favourite thing about this series is how each character has their own plot and their own problems and goals to deal with. They don’t just exist to help the main character, but instead work and think independently of her.

I feel what started out as something simple has shown to be so much deeper. I cannot wait to pick up the next book and then I already know that when the series is finished I want to reread it from the beginning. I have a feeling that this is well-planned out and I’d love to read it while knowing the hidden truth.

I feel as if straight out fantasy like this has become rarer and rarer in YA of recent. There’s a lot of paranormal, supernatural and light fairytale fantasy, but less high fantasy. This is definitely one of my favourites I have read, so if you enjoy YA fantasy and haven’t tried picking up this series yet, I recommend it.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Book Review: The Possession by J.D. Spikes

The Possession (Secret Journals #1)

J.D. Spikes

ARC Disclaimer: I was not paid in any way by the publishers to review this book favourably. The review is my own honest opinion (Whether or not it is agreed with).

Publisher: Lachesis Publishing

Pages: 212

Genre:  Paranormal, Romance, Horro, Young Adult

Daphne Wentworth is almost seventeen, definitely a red head, and most likely the tallest girl in her class, which is awkward to say the least when it comes to dating boys in her school. But she doesn’t have to worry about school for the next two months since she’s spending the summer at her aunt Dwill’s lighthouse in Maine. What she does have to worry about is seeing ghosts in the lighthouse cemetery, having strange dreams, and hearing the voices of star-crossed lovers who lived two-hundred years ago. And then there’s a local boy named Zach Philbrook who works for her aunt. He’s too gorgeous for his own good. He’s also very tall, with midnight black hair, and the most beautiful indigo blue eyes Daphne has ever seen. Zach is treated like an outcast by the local teens in town. He’s Micmac and therefore not “one of the gang”. Daphne can’t help being drawn to his strength, especially considering that he’s had to live his entire life dealing with ignorance. But the local teens aren’t the only trouble-makers in town. As Zach and Daphne get closer, the lighthouse ghost lovers begin haunting them. When Daphne and Zach try to figure out how to fight them, the spirits get bolder and more dangerous. So how do you protect yourself from something that isn’t really there?
The Possession is a book about curses, ghosts and prejudices. It is set in a small town and lighthouse where the main character, Daphne is helping her aunt out. She meets the Native American, Zach while helping to clean the lighthouse’s graveyard and then everything starts to go crazy.

My main issue with The Possession is the suddenness of the romance. There is absolutely no build-up or courting it is just BAM they meet for the first time (despite her having visited this area for years) BAM they are in love and act as if they are girlfriend and boyfriend. Excepting that, they did have a rather good portrayal of relationship that is going from new to serious, so if Spikes hadn’t just skipped to there it would have been done quite well.

Lack of build-up was also at fault with the mystery as well. It felt like we went straight from nothing to everything. I did enjoy the mystery, however. I loved reading about the ghostly couple and the troubles they went through trying to have a bi-racial bi-cultural relationship in that time period. I also enjoyed how the “curse” caused this relationship to repeat itself generation after generation.

I also loved the setting of the old lighthouse. It was something different and highly interesting.

Do you like ghostly mysteries? Do you like lighthouses? Do you like fated romances at are bi-racial, bi-culture? Then it doesn't hurt to pick up this book and give it a try