Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Book Review: Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

Bitterblue (Graceling Realms #3)

Kristin Cashore

Review of Graceling (Graceling Realms #1)

Publication Date: May 1st 2012

Publisher: Dial

Pages: 563

Genre: Fantasy, Young Ault

Eight years after Graceling, Bitterblue is now queen of Monsea. But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisors, who have run things since Leck died, believe in a forward-thinking plan: Pardon all who committed terrible acts under Leck’s reign, and forget anything bad ever happened. But when Bitterblue begins sneaking outside the castle—disguised and alone—to walk the streets of her own city, she starts realizing that the kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year spell of a madman, and the only way to move forward is to revisit the past.

Two thieves, who only steal what has already been stolen, change her life forever. They hold a key to the truth of Leck’s reign. And one of them, with an extreme skill called a Grace that he hasn’t yet identified, holds a key to her heart.

I have been waiting to read Bitterblue for so long that when it was released, I could hardly believe I could actually read it. Then I realized that Kristin Cashore was coming to my alma mater's town and I wasn't there to see her and I became rather upset (I believe I tweeted about it), soon after a close friend of mine from college came to my rescue and vowed to go to the book signing for me and get me Bitterblue, so I waited until I could head up to Chicago and get it from her.

My personalized signed copy of Bitterblue may now be one of the greatest treasures that I own.

Back to the actual book, however, it is just as good as Graceling and Fire, perhaps even better. It takes about eight/nine years after Graceling and possibly around twenty five plus after Fire, and the tie is King Leck, though he is now dead, his legacy continues to affect the land of Monsea. It is a beautiful tale of how much damage Leck had done to Monsea and how damage like that isn't easily fixed.

Queen Bitterblue marks another strong female character Cashore has brought us, but what I like is that she is strong in a different way. She has no Grace or special ability, she is not especially strong or good with a weapon, but instead she uses her mind and loves her people, wanting to help them, but feeling trapped. Her characterization raises my respect for Cashore as she truly felt like a person, rather than a character in a book. She had her own faults, her own little habits, and though she tried her hardest she didn't always win.

The illustrations in Bitterblue are also a fantastic addition to the book. They fit perfectly with the feel of the story, on top of having many new beautiful maps to look at. I also really liked how the book was split up into parts (I am finding this structure more and more in YA books and I have to admit I really like how it ends up working). It helped me to keep track of the timeline in the novel, while separating each focus in the book in a nice way.

I recommend this book to everyone! Okay, maybe not everyone, but it has actually pushed out and above Graceling in my top ten favourite books to read. I'll probably reread it to death like I did Graceling, although I will work hard to keep it in good quality. It is a very well written book, and one of the best "clean up" books I've read in YA (Other "clean up" books include Outside In by Maria V. Snyder, and both Hunger and Lies by Michael Grant).


Waiting On Wednesday: The Diviners

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine and spotlights upcoming novels we can't wait to read. This week’s choice is:

The Diviners
Libba Bray

Expected Publication Date: September 18th 2012

Evie O'Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City--and she is pos-i-toot-ly thrilled. New York is the city of speakeasies, shopping, and movie palaces! Soon enough, Evie is running with glamorous Ziegfield girls and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is Evie has to live with her Uncle Will, curator of The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult--also known as "The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies."
When a rash of occult-based murders comes to light, Evie and her uncle are right in the thick of the investigation. And through it all, Evie has a secret: a mysterious power that could help catch the killer--if he doesn't catch her first.

I am super intrigued by the plot and setting of this book and I like Libba Bray as an author, so I have to admit I am very interested in catching this book when it comes out. Also creepy museums are always an awesome idea *biased*.

P.S. 100th post!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Book Review: Firelight by Sophie Jordan

Firelight (Firelight #1)

Sophie Jordan

Publication Date: September 7th 2010

Publisher: HarperTeen

Pages: 323

Genre: Paranormal Romance, Young Adult

A hidden truth.
Mortal enemies.
Doomed love.
Marked as special at an early age, Jacinda knows her every move is watched. But she longs for freedom to make her own choices. When she breaks the most sacred tenet among her kind, she nearly pays with her life. Until a beautiful stranger saves her. A stranger who was sent to hunt those like her. For Jacinda is a draki—a descendant of dragons whose greatest defense is her secret ability to shift into human form.
Forced to flee into the mortal world with her family, Jacinda struggles to adapt to her new surroundings. The only bright light is Will. Gorgeous, elusive Will who stirs her inner draki to life. Although she is irresistibly drawn to him, Jacinda knows Will's dark secret: He and his family are hunters. She should avoid him at all costs. But her inner draki is slowly slipping away—if it dies she will be left as a human forever. She'll do anything to prevent that. Even if it means getting closer to her most dangerous enemy.
Mythical powers and breathtaking romance ignite in this story of a girl who defies all expectations and whose love crosses an ancient divide.
Oh man, this book! I enjoyed this book a lot, but I will be the first to admit that it is so clichéd. It follows the Paranormal  Romance formula to a T, yet the whole idea and world building in this book are so original.

The idea is that there are a race of people who are able to transform into dragons once they reach a certain age. The world building is very neatly explained to us, careful not to either overload us or leave us floundering because we have no idea what's going on (unless Jacinda herself is confused about something of course).

It's actually slightly disappointing to see such an amazing idea and paranormal/fantasy world that is only fleshed out with a basic insta-love Romeo and Juliet plot. It's sort of the opposite issue that I had with Wither in which I loved the plot but was annoyed at the sloppy world building. For the most part, however, clichéd storylines don't bother me too much, but they also can take the book down a notch for me, and this is the case with Firelight. The main storyline aside, the relationship between Jacinda and her family and clan are very interesting and I really liked seeing that play out.

Complaints aside, I want to confirm that I really did enjoy reading this book. The clichéd bits amused me more than annoyed me and I really recommend this to anyone who likes that Paranormal Romance formula, but wants a taste of a world building job done incredibly well.


Monday, May 28, 2012

Book Review: Lies by Michael Grant

Lies (Gone #3)

Michael Grant

Review of Hunger (Gone #2)

Publication Date: May 4th 2010

Publisher: HarperTeen

Pages: 447

Genre: SciFi, Young Adult, Dystopia

It's been seven months since all the adults disappeared. Gone.
It happens in one night. A girl who died now walks among the living; Zil and the Human Crew set fire to Perdido Beach; and amid the flames and smoke, Sam sees the figure of the boy he fears the most: Drake. But Drake is dead. Sam and Caine defeated him along with the Darkness--or so they thought.
As Perdido Beach burns, battles rage: Astrid against the Town Council; the Human Crew versus the mutants; and Sam against Drake, who is back from the dead and ready to finish where he and Sam left off. And all the while deadly rumors are raging like the fire itself, spread by the prophetess Orsay and her companion, Nerezza. They say that death is a way to escape the FAYZ. Conditions are worse than ever and kids are desperate to get out. But are they desperate enough to believe that death will set them free?
Lies marks book number three in the Gone Series and I swear it just keeps getting more and more intriguing. Once again aptly named, Lies deals with the fact that you can't just expect a perfect political system to appear overnight, especially considering they are just kids, the Human Crew is making problems, and hints that the Gaiaphage may not be as dead as they all think it is.

For the most part, this book was almost like a boundary book between the last book and the next. There was a ton of foreshadowing for the next book considering it's called Plague, there is an introduction of more characters, which I'll be interested in seeing how they meld in with the society being put together in Perdido Beach.

One of my favourite parts of this series, that came out prominently in this book was the puzzle piece feeling to the writing. From each perspective we learn different things and slowly we see them coming together and realizing things that other characters aren't able to realize till much later. This is something that features in Robert J. Sawyer's WWW series as well, and I love how it makes your brain work without making it overwork. The feeling of things clicking is pretty awesome.

I really want to see this series as a TV series, though I guess it would be hard to cast considering the lack of adult actors and the need for A LOT of child actors. If it could be pulled off though, I feel like it would be beautiful in a visual medium. This one starts out a bit slower than the others, but as things start losing control it goes so fast, and as soon as you realize what the countdown's for you're hooked in my opinion. I recommend this series to book lovers in general, go pick up Gone and read on, there's a reason that these books are talked so much about.


Sunday, May 27, 2012

Book Review: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Graceling (Graceling Realm #1)

Kristin Cashore

Publication Date: October 1st 2008

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Pages: 472

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight—she’s a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king’s thug.     When she first meets Prince Po, Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change. She never expects to become Po’s friend. She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace—or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away . . . a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone

     With elegant, evocative prose and a cast of unforgettable characters, debut author Kristin Cashore creates a mesmerizing world, a death-defying adventure, and a heart-racing romance that will consume you, hold you captive, and leave you wanting more.

During college I had a default birthday/Christmas present, and that was a Barnes and Nobles or Amazon gift card. Graceling was a purchase from one of those gift cards. I read the synopsis on some review site and it captured my imagination. I needed to read it, so I did, multiple times.

Graceling happens to be one of the books in my top ten favourites. I have read it so many times that it has become warped and I know have to wait a time between this last reading and the next one, because I have it memorized by heart which tends to not make good reading.

Graceling happens to have one of the most interesting world building and characters that I have ever read. The character of Katsa, and the way relationships are approached in Cashore's books are revolutionary. It is obvious that Cashore is more forward thinking in her way of doing love stories as they are not so clean cut, and don't always end traditionally.

Katsa as a character goes through so much growth, while still being so strong to begin with. She is a character that I look up to and would love for my children to read as a good example of representing a woman. She is living in a restrictive medieval society, yet is still shown to be strong.

What I also enjoy is Po, the "love interest" so to say is a supporting role, rather then a manly take over and save the day role. In fact Katsa kicks his butt several times a day it seems (I adore their relationship).

The pacing and prose matched the story and character well in my opinion and it made it very hard to put the book down, despite its length. And somehow, although the pacing is fast, the plot takes its time and explores around the situation. There is an overall goal to the plot, yet where we end up is not where we expect and everything ends up being so much more dire than originally thought.

All fantasy readers, read this book, it is an excellent piece of literature, there is a reason it has been so well received as a book. It features a strong female character filled with a lot of depth and many other characters with their own personalities, issues and secrets.


Book Review: Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan

Glow (Sky Chasers #1)

Amy Kathleen Ryan

Excerpt from Audio book:

Publication Date: September 13th 2011

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Pages: 307

Genre: Science Fiction, Young Adult

What if you were bound for a new world, about to pledge your life to someone you'd been promised to since birth, and one unexpected violent attack made survival—not love—the issue?

Out in the murky nebula lurks an unseen enemy: the New Horizon. On its way to populate a distant planet in the wake of Earth's collapse, the ship's crew has been unable to conceive a generation to continue its mission. They need young girls desperately, or their zealous leader's efforts will fail. Onboard their sister ship, the Empyrean, the unsuspecting families don't know an attack is being mounted that could claim the most important among them...

Fifteen-year-old Waverly is part of the first generation to be successfully conceived in deep space; she was born on the Empyrean, and the large farming vessel is all she knows. Her concerns are those of any teenager—until Kieran Alden proposes to her. The handsome captain-to-be has everything Waverly could ever want in a husband, and with the pressure to start having children, everyone is sure he's the best choice. Except for Waverly, who wants more from life than marriage—and is secretly intrigued by the shy, darkly brilliant Seth.

But when the Empyrean faces sudden attack by their assumed allies, they quickly find out that the enemies aren't all from the outside.

Glow is toted as a Young Adult book, but it reads slightly more mature than most YA books out there nowadays (not to mention the font is quite small on the page). The pace was moderate and the world detailed and I loved every second of it. I'd always open it planning to just read a couple of chapters, and reading so many more accidently.

The book reminds me of both Michael Grant's Gone Series and Maria V. Snyder's Insider Series. Through two different points of views we see two groups of kids cope under incredibly troubling circumstances on both sides. There are elements of politics and what could possibly be right and who one can trust. The characters are very well done and this book is definitely about them. It is about how they figure out the situation and how they try and figure out what they believe.

The story entrances you as you as the reader  become embroiled in the mystery, of figuring out where the truth lies and then further on, the correct way to act as a leader, and as the ending shows, that issue is far from over and will be continued in the next book.

Glow succeeds at being a fantastic Young Adult novel, reminiscent of the way YA was written when I was younger (more mature with more troubles than just which boy to love and how to hide your secret). It is also a really interesting traditional space scifi novel, thus I think people who love either type of book would enjoy reading Glow.


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Book Review: The Princess and the Hound by Mette Ivie Harrison

The Princess and the Hound (Hound Saga #1)

Mette Ivie Harrison

Publication Date: May 1st 2007

Publisher: Eos

Pages: 410

Genre: Fairytale, Fantasy, Young Adult

He is a prince, heir to a kingdom threatened on all sides, possessor of the animal magic, which is forbidden by death in the land he'll rule.
She is a princess from a rival kingdom, the daughter her father never wanted, isolated from true human friendship but inseparable from her hound.
Though they think they have little in common, each possesses a secret that must be hidden at all costs. Proud, stubborn, bound to marry for the good of their kingdoms, this prince and princess will steal your heart, but will they fall in love?

Have I mentioned that I have this strange, stupid aversion to male points of views in books that I read? I'm not exactly sure why and I am quite ashamed of it, but it is the reason why when I first read The Princess and the Hound I put it down after the first few chapters. I have to say now that that was a huge mistake, because when I started reading this book a second time (at first wondering why it seemed so familiar). I realized what an well written, enjoyable book it was.

This book is a fairytale in its structure, it is however a completely original fairytale of the author's own imagination. It introduces its own kind of magic called animal magic, with a history and many myths to it. The main character is a boy who hides himself from everyone he knows, trying to fulfill his duty as a prince first and foremost. Because of this, however, he finds himself incredibly lonely and not the happiest guy in the world. Enter the strange Princess Beatrice and her hound, both of whom George feels companionship very quickly.

It is a story of revenge, forgiveness, taking a stand and righting past wrongs. There is so much in the book that its surprising.

The two biggest strength have to be the characters which were all unique and carried depth and the world building which in a scifi or fantasy novel is a very important element of the story. The prose is also very well done, for me very much in the style of fairytale retellings.

I recommend this book to lovers of fairytales who want to try something in the same vein, but completely original. If you are like me and have a weird aversion to male perspectives, push past it, because it honestly is the best perspective for this book in my opinion.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Feature and Follow Friday: Dream Cast

Adding a couple new Book Blog Memes to be a part of for a while as I feel like being a bit more active, and I've always enjoyed this one, so here we go from  now on :D

Q: Who would you dream cast in the book you are currently reading?

I am currently reading Numbers by Rachel Ward (which I cannot wait to review for everyone) and the two main characters are Jem and Spider.

For Jem I'd have to say:

Natalie Portman when she had her short hair is all I can think of when I read her, both are small and Portman can do broody very well, not to mention Jem shears off her hair near the beginning of the book.

Spider was much harder to cast, I wanted someone big and gangly, which is apparently hard to find in an actor, so the best I could come up with was Will Smith from his Fresh Prince days.

Not to mention he is the perfect amount of goofy.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

ARC Book Review: Glitch by Heather Anastasiu

Glitch (Glitch #1)


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 2012

Publisher: St. Martin's Press

Pages: 320

Genre: Dystopia, Scifi, Young Adult

In the Community, there is no more pain or war. Implanted computer chips have wiped humanity clean of destructive emotions, and thoughts are replaced by a feed from the Link network. When Zoe starts to malfunction (or "glitch"), she suddenly begins having her own thoughts, feelings, and identity. Any anomalies must be immediately reported and repaired, but Zoe has a secret so dark it will mean certain deactivation if she is caught: her glitches have given her uncontrollable telekinetic powers. As Zoe struggles to control her abilities and stay hidden, she meets other glitchers including Max, who can disguise his appearance, and Adrien, who has visions of the future. Together, this growing band of glitchers must find a way to free themselves from the controlling hands of the Community before they’re caught and deactivated, or worse. In this action-packed debut, Glitch begins an exciting new young adult trilogy.

(I love Netgalley, don't you guys?)

Where oh where to start with my review of Glitch? This is a book that screams originality. The idea behind the book is part The Giver, part "Matrix" and part I can't compare it to anything else that it's so unique. The plot is far from farfetched for a dystopia as this is the kind of thing that I personally could see happening, it is also something that I've even thought about and feared about for the future.

The plot isn't the only originality to the story, what I also felt was original was the structure of the storyline. Parts of me felt it was brilliant, while other parts didn't know if it was entirely necessary. Its set up was two parts, with the main character forgetting the entire first part when the second part came around. As I said, part of me liked this, but a bigger part of me kind of wished that the book had started midway through with her getting flashbacks that she and we cannot understand (sorta like others in the story).

I also wasn't quite sure if the adding of "special mutant abilities" to the glitching was really necessary, though I guess it is used to push the story and is very important in the case of Max.

One thing I did adore about the book, however, is the introduction of emotions to Zoe and even Max. I thought that the author pulled that off brilliantly. Another thing is the world building done in the book, I love the whole idea of the V-chips and how they work and how they were implemented.

I recommend this to any and all Dystopia lovers. It has excellent world building and the writing is well done in my opinion. I'm still two ways about the structure, but I am also biased towards less linear storytelling. I also recommend this to people who want to read something different and a dystopian book that is more similar to The Giver, as I feel like there are very few of that type around anymore.


Update: Reading Challenges

Now that Readathon and my Blog Tour for On Demon Wings is done, I have become somewhat blog bored. So I decided to run around and search for some challenges to take part in, because I'm reading a bunch of books anyway (my personal goal is to have read a book for every day in this year).

So if you look in the tabs you will now see a Challenges link, YAY.

What I am participating in so far are: The YA/MG Debut Author Challenge and then My Overstuffed Bookshelf's 150+ Book Challenge. On this post I am going to keep a running count of the latter. (And fyi, as a further challenge to myself, I am only allowing myself to post up books that I have reviewed on this list).

P.S. If anyone has any Book Challenge suggestions based on what I usually read I am all for taking them!

Waiting On Wednesday: The Unquiet

First of all I wanted to thank everyone for the comments last week, I was actually without my computer for that day, so when I came home to see all the page views and comments I was ecstatic!

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine and spotlights upcoming novels we can't wait to read. This week’s choice is:

The Unquiet
Jeannine Garsee

Expected Publication Date: July 17th 2012

Sixteen-year-old Rinn Jacobs has secrets: One, she’s bipolar. Two, she killed her grandmother. 

After a suicide attempt, and now her parents' separation, Rinn and her mom move from California to the rural Ohio town where her mother grew up. Back on her medications and hoping to stay well, Rinn settles into her new home, undaunted by the fact that the previous owner hanged herself in Rinn's bedroom. At school, her classmates believe the school pool is haunted by Annaliese, a girl who drowned there. But when a reckless séance goes awry, and terrible things start happening to her new friends—yet not to her—Rinn is determined to find out why she can’t be "touched" by Annaliese...or if Annaliese even exists. 

With the help of Nate Brenner, the hunky “farmer boy” she’s rapidly falling for, Rinn devises a dangerous plan to uncover the truth. Soon reality and fantasy meld into one, till Rinn finds it nearly impossible to tell the difference. When a malevolent force threatens the lives of everyone she cares about--not to mention her own--she can't help wondering: who should she really be afraid of?

Okay I admit, I've had a chance to read this book already (although I can't post up the review yet), but I truly am waiting to buy a finished copy of this book to have and to hold and to love to pieces. This is a piece of YA Horror which I feel we have very little of as of now, so I will promote this book in and out. Cannot wait to buy!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Book Review: WWW: Watch by Robert J. Sawyer

WWW: Watch (WWW #2)

Robert J. Sawyer

Review of WWW: Wake (WWW #1)

Publication Date:
June 26th 2012

Publisher: Ace Hardcover

Pages: 368

Genre: Science-Fiction, Young Adult

Webmind is an emerging consciousness that has befriended Caitlin Decter and grown eager to learn about her world. But Webmind has also come to the attention of WATCH-the secret government agency that monitors the Internet for any threat to the United States-and they're fully aware of Caitlin's involvement in its awakening.

WATCH is convinced that Webmind represents a risk to national security and wants it purged from cyberspace. But Caitlin believes in Webmind's capacity for compassion-and she will do anything and everything necessary to protect her friend.

If I had thought WWW: Wake was an absolutely amazing book, WWW: Watch is a masterpiece. Once again Sawyer inspires me to want to read more Science Fiction. Once again I am in awe over the amount of research and thought that went into creating this novel. The idea of an emergent AI is so fascinating, so much so that I was trying to have a conversation with my dad about it. I love all the media references that make the entire premise feel so real.

This time around we mostly just follow the story of Webmind and Caitlin, with some interruptions from time to time from Hobo's storyline. The main issue being that Webmind has been detected and the American government is pretty much scared and feeling threatened. Because as a reader we have become very invested in Webmind, having read every moment since his birth, the pace feels ten times faster than the first book. I felt like I just had to know what was going on, I had to make sure that Webmind would survive. It also helped the pace that the same storyline is focused upon in this book and you know exactly what the connections are.

Webmind and Caitlin grow so much in tandem in the book as well. I enjoyed reading Caitlin being a teenaged girl and growing up, while Webmind begins to understand emotion and morality.

I'm incredibly excited to pick up the next book.

The WWW series is a fantastic YA Scifi series, and also a book I would immediately recommend to anyone wanting to step out and start reading Science Fiction books. If you have read the first book, it is 100% worth it to read this one as well.