Thursday, July 26, 2012

Book Review: Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

Under the Never Sky

Veronica Rossi

Publication Date: January 3rd 2012

Publisher: HarperCollins

Pages: 376

Genre:  Dystopia, Young Adult



Aria has lived her whole life in the protected dome of Reverie. Her entire world confined to its spaces, she's never thought to dream of what lies beyond its doors. So when her mother goes missing, Aria knows her chances of surviving in the outer wasteland long enough to find her are slim.

Then Aria meets an outsider named Perry. He's searching for someone too. He's also wild - a savage - but might be her best hope at staying alive.

If they can survive, they are each other's best hope for finding answers.

For some reason this book was a rather hard to read, and what's frustrating is that I cannot pinpoint exactly why. I know that are a few things that didn't work so much for me, but usually I'm not thrown off that much.

The story is dystopian in a rather Uglies Trilogy type of way with the outsiders, the savages and the Insiders. At the same time we can't really figure out what is wrong with the Inside (other than the fact that no one pays attention to reality) governmental wise that's all that bad.

Outside on the other hand, it is very clear it is like a post-apocalyptical world. I think maybe this was one my biggest issues, it was almost as if Rossi tried to fit two entire world buildings into one story, that of the inside and that of the outside, and as soon as she tries to get us stable on what the inside is like she throws Aria outside and that's all that matters. The worlds are so different, it's hard to keep them both in one's head. I almost wish Rossi had spent a book completely on Aria on the inside and ended it with her being thrown out, so that she can spend a second book doing what she did this book.

On the other hand I love, love, love the title and the thought of it. Because of the aether, you never see the sky anymore, they live in a world of the never sky.

I also really enjoyed the outsiders and their abilities and how that all worked.

Rereading this review, it does seem somewhat negative, but I did enjoy reading the prose in this story and I do think it was well written, it was probably just not for me. I recommend this to people who like the idea of having two completely different world in a dystopia.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Vivid Worlds

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and Bookish.

Top 10 Most Vivid Worlds/Settings in Books

To begin with, I'm going to avoid Potter as I'm sure that's on EVERYONE'S list, but other than that this tends to be one of my biggest loves in reading books (world building) so I'm excited to list them. (And in no real particular order)

1) Patricia C. Wrede's Frontier Magic Series
Thirteenth Child, Across the Great Barrier and The Far West (coming out soon) are the three books in this amazing series. The world is part American Historical and part magical awesomeness. In this version of the world, magical beasts like Swarming Weasels and Steam Dragons, and non-magical beasts such as Mammoths range out past the Mississippi (or Mammoth) River and people can go to college and focus on magical learnings. Effie, the main character, is the 7th daughter of a 7th son, twin to a 7th son of a 7th son and well, the 13th child, and her family moved out to the edges of the frontier when she was fairly young. This world is so unique, yet I can see it so clearly in my mind and know there is so much more to it left even now.

2) Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
This book is a steampunk novel, need I say more about how vivid the world is? Yes? Well among steampunk novels, I'd have to say that this book is extra-ordinary vivid. Another AU Historical, taking place around WW1, the ideas behind it are so different and awesome. The descriptions are well done, but even if they weren't, the illustrations of some of the creatures in this world are mesmerizing. When I was reading this book, I would waste five minutes just staring at some of them.

3) A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin
Like, Harry Potter, this is a pretty obvious answer, but honestly as much as I don't want to live in this world, I have to admit it is quite easy to picture in one's hand, which causes some of the issues when the show takes a slightly different approach, but considering most of the things in the HBO show are considered perfect, that is a testament to the vividness of the world building.

4) The Chronicles of Faerie by O.R. Melling
So here is probably a series that you have never heard about (sadly), it is a very vivid version of faerie mythos, specifically in the final book The Book of Dreams where Melling combines Irish mythos with Canadian mythos seemlessly, and having us travel through worlds described so perfectly it's like we're there.

5) The Dark Lord of Derkholm/Year of the Griffin by Diana Wynne Jones
There are so many Jones books with absolutely amazing and vivid world building, but for me personally The Dark Lord of Derkholm and Year of the Griffin take the cake. The world we are first thrust into is that of magic and wizards and such, however someone from OUR world has gotten their greedy hands on a portal to this world and with the help of the demon in his pocket is forcing the world to be almost like an amusement park, so that he can charge people for entrance into this world for an "adventure".

6) Ice by Sarah Beth Durst
Ice is a combination of fairytale, our world inspired mythos and life at a Arctic Scientific Station, a combination that works brilliantly. Every step of the main characters way is described vividly for us so that we can picture where she is, where she is living and then where she is journeying through.

7) Black Jewels Series by Anne Bishop
Like A Song of Ice and Fire, this is definitely not a world for kids. This series takes place in a corrupt matriarchal society with a mythology, history, social and magic system so well thought out and shown bit by bit until you could start imagining where you could be or would want to be in such a place.

8) Books of Bayern by Shannon Hale
There are so many fairytale inspired books that were able to develop vivid worlds from the fairytale they used, but of all of them The Goose Girl and its sequels stand out because the world that was built was strong enough to hold not one, but four books easily. Although, in my opinion, the books are more about character growth than world building. This is another world that I have no trouble imagining my place in and the abilities that I might have.

9) Artemis Fowl Series by Eoin Colfer
As a kid this series of books was just not my thing because I didn't connect with the world very well, personally, but even I have to admit in a second that Colfer created an amazing world that is unique and just as vivid as Harry Potter.

10) Gone Series by Michael Grant
I'm going to argue that this world is TOO vivid, considering it may be the only book I know to give me an honest to god nightmare (if you're curious it involved zekes living in one the carpets in my house, and me keeping them from devouring my cats). The things happening, the creatures, the problems are so easy to picture in your brain and to see it's horrifying. My family has seen me make noises and react to reading these books (like the disease where they cough up a lung oh god, too well described aaaaghhh)

ARC Book Review: Palace of Stone by Shannon Hale

Princess Academy: Palace of Stone

Shannon Hale

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). 

Review of Princess Academy (prequel)

Publication Date:
August 21st

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA

Pages: 336

Genre:  Fantasy, Young Adult

Coming down from the mountain to a new life in the city seems a thrill beyond imagining. When Miri and her friends from Mount Eskel set off to help the future princess Britta prepare for her royal wedding, she is happy about her chance to attend school in the capital city. There, Miri befriends students who seem so sophisticated and exciting . . . until she learns that they have some frightening plans. They think that Miri will help them, that she "should "help them. Soon Miri finds herself torn between loyalty to the princess and her new friends' ideas, between an old love and a new crush, and between her small mountain home and the bustling city. Picking up where "Princess Academy "left off, this incredible stand-alone story celebrates the joys of friendship, the delight of romance, and the fate of a beloved fairy tale kingdom. 
A few years ago I somehow decided to by a book by the name of Princess Academy. The synopsis had intrigued me, and I loved the cover, yet they did very little to prepare me for how much I would enjoy reading it. It has possibly become one of my most reread books over these last few years, with my enjoyment increasing each time.

Needless to say I bounded around the house in excitement when I learned that Hale had decided to continue Miri's story, which at the same time felt finished, yet open ended. For about two months I sat around dying to get my hands on this book, and then I realized that it was up on NetGalley and furthermore that Bloomsbury had accepted my request for a galley once before, so it's not hard to guess what happened after that.

What is funny is that Palace of Stone did the exact same thing to me that Princess Academy did; It somehow completely exceeded my expectations. We have the return of the most interesting academy girls and with the narrowing of the characters, each girl finds her place in the world, including Miri who is invited to attend the best academy that Danland has to offer.

On top of all these characters growing up, a very fine play of politics is examined throughout the book. The idea of revolution, something that Miri created in Mount Eskel, is explored and debated and us as the readers follow Miri as she finds herself having to place an opinion on the issue of ethics.

Hale's prose, as always, is magical and easy to follow. The characters are well developed, the world expanded, the plot riveting, the pacing well done, and I can wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone who loved Princess Academy.

I don't regret spending a second of my time reading this book. When it is released I plan on buying it and I'm sure it will become just as worn as my copy of Princess Academy. Palace of Stone has grown with its readers, and is more of a YA novel. I recommend it to people who love fantasy and medieval stories. I do think Princess Academy should be read first, but Palace of Stone is enough of its own story that I think it could work on its own.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Update: A few changes that pretty much have nothing to do with most of you, and a random scribble!

So guess what I realized guys? I posted up my 100th review just this week! I randomly drew my head to celebrate it (Yes, I'm weird, this is a true fact). I have been posting up reviews for about four months now and have yet to regret starting it. I will admit I'm a terrible procrastinator when it comes to mirroring my reviews in various locations, and posting on twitter when I have a new one, so I thought I'd come up with a new policy for my twitter, especially now that I'm starting to get more followers (yay). Instead of posting a link to every single review, I will post a round up on twitter of what reviews have been posted up on my blog every Monday (which is today so expect one up soon). I think that my tumblr is going to end up being disused and I'm going to try and update goodreads when I update the blog.

For most of you this really doesn't mean much since you just check out the blog, but I thought I'd let you all know.

One of my biggest goals as a reviewer is to review not only books that are coming out in the YA world, but older books that people missed out over the years, or ones that haven't had as much hype about them that I have loved. Due to these factors I end up with a lot of reviews to do, which is a bit masochistic of me, but I do want to share them.

ANYWAY! Enough rambling and I love you all to pieces (and the review archive has been updated with all 100+ reviews)

Book Review: The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman

The Grimm Legacy

Polly Shulman

Publication Date: July 8th 2010

Publisher: Putnam Juvenile

Pages: 325

Genre:  Fairytale, Urban-Fantasy, Contemporary

Elizabeth has a new job at an unusual library— a lending library of objects, not books. In a secret room in the basement lies the Grimm Collection. That's where the librarians lock away powerful items straight out of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales: seven-league boots, a table that produces a feast at the blink of an eye, Snow White's stepmother's sinister mirror that talks in riddles.

When the magical objects start to disappear, Elizabeth embarks on a dangerous quest to catch the thief before she can be accused of the crime—or captured by the thief.

Polly Shulman has created a contemporary fantasy with a fascinating setting and premise, starring an ordinary girl whose after-school job is far from ordinary— and leads to a world of excitement, romance and magical intrigue.

I love, love, love loved the idea of this book. It reminded me a lot of the Syfy Channel show "Warehouse 13" yet all fairytale related and full of interesting characters and a very interesting idea.

Elizabeth ends up with a part time job at a place that is sorta like a library, but instead of just books, it is a variety of items that one can check out and study or even borrow for a few days. At first it seems pretty ordinary but she keeps hearing about the Basement which includes the very mysterious Grimm Collection.

What if the things that happened in fairytales had been real? What if the items that had inspired them, like the tattered slippers of the Twelve Dancing Princesses, still existed? That's the idea that this book explores.

Of course such items are just so awesome they are hard to resist.

Schulman weaves an adventure tale in which the teenagers working at the Repository have to take care of the danger themselves. They don't get along, there are issues galore, but they know they must prevail. I enjoyed the style of writing a lot, it was very engaging. The characters were somewhat simple, but also enjoyable, and I did like the romance.

The Grimm Legacy is a great take on fairytales that isn't set in a fantastical kingdom or anything of that vibe. I really hope that more books are to come in this world, because it really is ripe for more adventures.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Book Review: The Wide-Awake Princess by E.D. Baker

The Wide-Awake Princess

E.D. Baker

Publication Date: May 11th 2010

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA

Pages: 261

Genre:  Fairytale, Middle-Grade

In this new stand-alone fairy tale, Princess Annie is the younger sister to Gwen, the princess destined to be Sleeping Beauty. When Gwennie pricks her finger and the whole castle falls asleep, only Annie is awake, and only Annie—blessed (or cursed?) with being impervious to magic—can venture out beyond the rose-covered hedge for help. She must find Gwen's true love to kiss her awake.

But who is her true love? The irritating Digby? The happy-go-lucky Prince Andreas, who is holding a contest to find his bride? The conniving Clarence, whose sinister motives couldn't possibly spell true love? Joined by one of her father's guards, Liam, who happened to be out of the castle when the sleeping spell struck, Annie travels through a fairy tale land populated with characters both familiar and new as she tries to fix her sister and her family . . . and perhaps even find a true love of her own.

This is my second read-through of The Wide-Awake Princess, and I enjoyed it this second time around as much as the first. The reason for my reread, however, is because I was approved for the galley of its sequel Unlocking the Spell, so it's only fair to reread it so that I can post the review of the sequel.

Baker writes a very light-hearted fantasy fairytale of the vein of Ella Enchanted. The story deals with Sleeping Beauty's sister, who isn't affected by magic, so when everyone else in the castle falls asleep she realizes she's the only one who can help them.

The tale is full of all different fairytales, taken in a rather satirical light (for example the fairy who changes her sister's curse is called Sweetness'N'Light, no joke).  There are pieces of Sleeping Beauty, Hansel and Gretel, Snow-White and Rose-Red and the Princess and the Pea, among others, and our main character works hard to overcome all odds and help her sister out.

In my opinion the story would lend really well to being read aloud to younger kids as the language lends to it.

This is a very enjoyable, light-hearted MG fairytale. If you like books that combine fairytale characters together, you will enjoy this book, or if you're looking for a book to have your younger siblings or children read, I also recommend this book.


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Stacking the Shelves [6]

Stacking The Shelves is a hosted by Tynga Reviews

E-Galleys I've Gained Access To

Changeling by Philippa Gregory [goodreads | amazon]
Mothership by Martin Leicht, Isla Neal [goodreads | amazon]
The Icarus Project by Laura Quimby [goodreads | amazon]

Books I've Won/Received

The Treachery of Beautiful Things by Ruth Frances Long [goodreads | amazon]
Railsea by China Mieville [goodreads | amazon]
Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard [goodreads | amazon]

Books I've Taken Out From Library

Took out enough last week *laughs*


Reviews That are Most Likely to be Posted This Week

The Wide-Awake Princess by E.D. Baker [goodreads | amazon]
The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman [goodreads | amazon]
Enchanted Glass by Diane Wynne Jones [goodreads | amazon]
Palace of Stone by Shannon Hale [goodreads | amazon]
Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi [goodreads | amazon]

ARC Book Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Throne of Glass

Sarah J. Maas

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). 

Publication Date: August 7th

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's

Pages: 416

Genre:  Fantasy, Young Adult

After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.

Her opponents are men—thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the kings council. If shebeats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom.

Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating. But she’s bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her... but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.

Then one of the other contestants turns up dead... quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

A story on fictionpress has to work very hard to stand out from the masses. A lot of stories get published up there every day, every hour, every minute, and there has to be something about your chapter that gets people to come back and read it every time. The stories that stand out the most are almost always the ones with unique, quirky and entertaining main characters, and Throne of Glass fits that mold perfectly, giving the professional published world the kind of main character it needs more of, in my opinion.

The prose and feeling of the series reminds me a lot of Maria V. Snyder and Kristin Cashore. The idea of the story is similar to that of Kiera Cass's The Selection, except the competition is to be the King's Champion, competitors are dying and it takes place in a fantasy kingdom. The amount of work that Maas has put into this novel shows as the entire book has a polished feel to it. The world building is intriguing and leaves things open for the sequels (which there have to be, because I will die if I can't read more). In fact the book, although being its own book, also feels like an introduction and set up for future book. It's odd to try and explain as so much happens in the book, but I can't help but feel like there is so much more to happen in the future.

One of the few issues I had, more so in the beginning than later, was the insertion of non-Celaena points of view. Even though it helps to round out what's really going on, and I do support the use of it with the "villains", I'd rather be as in the dark about the two love interest's feelings for her as Celaena is and not see the little things from their points of view. There is something about being kept in the dark that makes a love story feel more natural.

For the most part I'm very impressed and give a lot of respect for Maas getting a story published from Fictionpress and having it being promoted and be given an awesome cover. I used to be an avid Fictionpress reader and it just warms my heart.

I recommend this book for fans of Kristin Cashore and Maria V. Snyder. Celaena reminds me of Katsa from time to time, but she is also her own original self. The characters are interesting and the mystery will have you guessing. It is also a very good example of YA Fantasy.


Book Review: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Before I Fall

Lauren Oliver

Publication Date: march 2nd 2010

Publisher: HarperCollins

Pages: 470

Genre:  Contemporary, Young Adult

What if you only had one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life?

Samantha Kingston has it all: looks, popularity, the perfect boyfriend. Friday, February 12, should be just another day in her charmed life. Instead, it turns out to be her last.

The catch: Samantha still wakes up the next morning. Living the last day of her life seven times during one miraculous week, she will untangle the mystery surrounding her death—and discover the true value of everything she is in danger of losing.

Holy mackerel this story is a work of art, the structure is a work of art, the growth of the main character is a work of art. This book honestly blows any other YA Contemporary book out of the water. In fact it kind of blows Oliver's other books out of the water as well.

The book uses techniques often not applied in YA novels with the repeating of the same day to show how the character grows. From her first day to her last repeat, she takes each day slightly differently, putting what she learned in previous days to work.

Okay, honestly, what it comes down to is that this book is like someone replaying a Visual Novel (a game that is like a choose your own adventure book) over and over again to get all the information that they possibly can. Because Sam made a decision during one replay of the day that was different than another we learn so much more than we would have about different characters and how people see Sam.

Then there's the fact that you realize that Sam is mourning herself in these repeated days, she goes through all the stages, until finally she comes to acceptance and tries to help as much as she can, before she knows what has to happen.

This is a book that makes you think, makes you realize that everything isn't always how it seems, that there are pieces to people, even people you think you know completely that you don't know. How people aren't perfect and that's okay.

Read this book, read this book even if you start and you are turned off by Sam and her friends as characters, in fact if that happens I recommend you read it even more because you will enjoy it so much more when they are all enravelled as characters.