Monday, February 28, 2011

February Wrap-Up

 February's coming to a close. As it turns out, February's my favorite month: it holds my birthday; during it, the weather is (usually) nice and warm here in Melbourne; and the obsessive compulsive part of me likes that it's exactly four weeks long.

But anyway, there's this month's wrap-up:



2011 Debut Author Challenge:
This month for the Debut Author Challenge, I read and reviewed The Iron Witch - Karen Mahoney's debut that was released on the 8th. You can see my review here.

100+ Challenge:
This month I read and reviewed 14 novels that go towards the challenge's goal of reading 100 books this year, bringing my running total up to 30. You can see my list of books read with links to their reviews so far here.

Aussie YA Reading Challenge:
This month I read and reviewed 5 novels that go towards the challenge's goal of reading 12 YA books by Australian authors. Their reviews are linked below, marked by asterisks.


This month I've reviewed the following books:
Claire De Lune by Christine Johnson
- Girl Saves Boy by Steph Bowe*
- On The Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta*
- Only The Good Spy Young by Ally Carter
- Mercy by Rebecca Lim*
- Hexbound by Chloe Neill
- Shine by Lauren Myracle
- You Against Me by Jenny Downham
- Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler
- Rage by Jackie Morse Kessler
- The Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney
- Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce
- Magic Or Madness by Justine Larbalestier*
- In Ecstasy by Kate McCaffrey*
- The Water Wars by Cameron Stracher

You can find a list of all the books (alphabetized) that I've ever reviewed on this blog here.

- Tera Lynn Childs' Sweet Venom cover release.

Book Of The Month:
A feature inspired by Audrey at holes In My brain, at the end of each month I'll pick the favorite book I read, and feature it as my Book Of The Month.

March's Book Of The Month is When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. Look out for my review, going up on the 3rd.

So that was February in review. How was your month?

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Review: The Water Wars by Cameron Stracher

The Water Wars by Cameron Stracher
Pages: 240

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Published: January 1st, 2011
IBSN: 978140224369

Welcome to a future where water is more precious than gold or oil - and worth killing for.

Vera and her brother, Will, live in the shadow of the Great Panic, in a country that has collapsed from environmental catastrophe. Water is hoarded by governments, rivers are dammed, and clouds are sucked from the sky. But then Vera befriends Kai, who seems to have limitless access to fresh water. When Kai suddenly disappears, Vera and Will set off on a dangerous journey in search of him-pursued by pirates, a paramilitary group, and greedy corporations. Timely and eerily familiar, acclaimed author Cameron Stracher makes a stunning YA debut that's impossible to forget. 

[Synopsis by Goodreads]

The Water Wars is a dystopia set in a futuristic world where water has almost run out. What little clean water there is left is fought over, stolen, and sold. If you can afford clean water, you're stuck with contaminated, desalinated ocean water. What makes The Water Wars so initially compelling is that the future it describes isn't unrealistic at all. It's completely possible with the way we're going. Reading it has made me nervous about how much water I use.

That said, I picked this book up because of its premise, and it was the premise that kept me reading.

I couldn't really connect with the main characters, Vera and Will. I didn't find myself caring for them. I felt like they didn't know Kai all that well to go off and save him because of their friendship. It felt more like they were trying to find him for selfish reasons. Also, their teaming up with Ulysses and Sula struck me as odd - in a world where water is power, why would they want help them and then share that power?

The plot was tense, though, which I liked. On their quest to rescue Kai, Vera and Will are confronted by water pirates and water-hoarding organisations. Their cruelty adds more depth to the premise.

Overall, though, The Water Wars was a fast, thought-provoking read. 
I give it a 3 out of 5.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Follow Friday (13)

Follow Friday is hosted by Parajunkee's View, who randomly selects a book blogger to feature each week.

This week's featured blogger is Nakesha from Totally Obsessed.

This week's question is:

Share your current fav television show! Tell us a bit about it...

The only TV shows I watch are Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars, both based on books. Gossip Girl is a drama about a bunch of Upper East Siders and the anonymous Gossip Girl who posts tips on their secrets. Pretty Little Liars is about a group of girls who's friend dies mysteriously and someone who adopts her identity and blackmails them and threatens to spill their secrets.
Thinking about it, both shows are really alike.

See Parajunkee's Follow Friday post for more info on this week's featured blogger and how to join in.

Review: In Ecstasy by Kate McCaffrey

In Ecstasy by Kate McCaffrey

Pages: 272
Publisher: Fremantle Press
Published: April 1st, 2008
IBSN: 9781921361166

A best friend sinks into a quicksand of teenage addictions.

Sophie and Mia have been best friends for most of their 15 years. Sophie is popular, so when she suggests they try ecstasy Mia figures it can't hurt her own chances with the in crowd. Mia is elated when the drug lives up to its name and amazed when Lewis, the hottest guy in school, kisses her goodnight.

Soon Lewis is Mia's boyfriend, and she and Soph are running with his fast, rich friends, until Sophie is sexually assaulted by Lewis's drug-dealing buddy. Reluctant to say what happened, Sophie grows distant, leaving Mia to conclude she's jealous of her popular boyfriend. But to keep Lewis's attention, Mia grows increasingly dependent on the confidence that only E seems to give her. When things worsen, it is the girls' strained but solid friendship that finally helps bring Mia back from the brink.

[Synopsis by Goodreads]

In Ecstasy comes from alternating perspectives of Mia and Sophie, best friends for what might as well be forever. Sophie is gorgeous and irresistible, while Mia is funny but insecure and in her friend's shadow. At a party, Lewis, Mia's crush, starts showing interest in her, and offers her an ecstasy pill. How could she possibly say no and pass up the opportunity to get closer to him?

In Ecstasy takes an honest and raw look at teen drug abuse. With the story spanning over months, you see the user's slow decline. You see the drugs affect every aspect of her life - her friendships, school, her family; even her personality completely warps. Just when something happens you think will shock her out of it, she falls deeper.

Offering both the perspective of Mia and Sophie shows the reader how Mia feels due to her drug use as opposed to how it looks from the outside.

Both Mia and Sophie were dynamic characters with a lot of depth. Their friendship was apparently perfect, until Mia's change caused them to drift apart. Even when they weren't close anymore, both characters seemed to genuinely care for the other. In Ecstasy is as much about friendship as it is about drugs.

The plot wasn't action-packed or suspenseful, but it was intense. The writing style was simple yet engaging. The book on the whole was captivating, and I could hardly put it down.

I give In Ecstasy a 4 out of 5.


I read this book for the Aussie YA Reading Challenge.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Waiting On Wednesday (13)

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly meme, hosted by Jill at Breaking The Spine, in which we highlight an upcoming book release we're eagerly awaiting.

This week I'm waiting on The Demon's Surrender by Sarah Rees Brennan, the third and final book in The Demon's Lexicon trilogy. It's due for release on the 14th of June, 2011.

Goodreads page | Amazon page

Feel free to leave a link to your own Waiting On Wednesday post in the comments, and I'll be sure to have a look.

Review: Magic Or Madness by Justine Larbalestier

Magic Or Madness by Justine Larbalestier

Series: Magic Or Madness (#1)
Pages: 288
Publisher: Razorbill
Published: March 17th, 2005
IBSN: 9781595140227

My name is Reason Cansino. I was named Reason because my mother, Sarafina, thought it was prettier than Logic or Rationality or Intellect....

Reason has lived fifteen years in the Australian outback with her mother Sarafina. They're on the run from Reason's grandmother Esmeralda, who believes in magic and practices horrifying dark rituals. But when Sarafina suffers a mental breakdown, Reason is sent to the one place she fears most—Esmeralda's home in Sydney.

Nothing about the house or Esmeralda is what Reason expected. For the first time she finds herself questioning her mother's teachings. Then, when she walks through Esmeralda's back door in Sydney and finds herself on a New York City street, Reason is forced to face a shocking truth. Magic is real. And Reason is magic. 

[Synopsis by Goodreads]

Magic Or Madness is Justine Larbalestier's first YA novel. I've read Liar by her before, and it's one of my favorites. I enjoyed reading Magic Or Madness, but I wasn't wowed by it like I was her other books.

I recognised the writing style - simple, emotive, and captivating. The plot was tense, the characters were all realistic and dynamic, and the ending was satisfying. The premise was unique, and I liked how the book explored a downside to supernatural abilities.

I liked every element of the book, yet I finished feeling kind of indifferent (thus this incredibly short review). I can say that overall I found Magic Or Madness good but not great. I recommend it anyone who likes books which have a unique take to a common supernatural element, and give it a 3 out of 5.


I read this book for the Aussie YA Reading Challenge.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Review of Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce

Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce

Series: Sisters Red (#1)
Pages: 324
Publisher: Little, Brown
Published: June 7th, 2010
IBSN:  9780316068680

Scarlett March lives to hunt the Fenris--the werewolves that took her eye when she was defending her sister Rosie from a brutal attack. Armed with a razor-sharp hatchet and blood-red cloak, Scarlett is an expert at luring and slaying the wolves. She's determined to protect other young girls from a grisly death, and her raging heart will not rest until every single wolf is dead.

Rosie March once felt her bond with her sister was unbreakable. Owing Scarlett her life, Rosie hunts ferociously alongside her. But even as more girls' bodies pile up in the city and the Fenris seem to be gaining power, Rosie dreams of a life beyond the wolves. She finds herself drawn to Silas, a young woodsman who is deadly with an ax and Scarlett's only friend--but does loving him mean betraying her sister and all that they've worked for?

[Synopsis by Goodreads]

Sisters Red is a modern retelling of Little Red Hiding Hood, in which there isn't a well-timed visit from a woodsman to save Grandma and Little Red from the wolf. Grandma dies, and Little Red and her sister dedicate their lives to hunting the werewolves - or Fenris, as they like to call them - that tore their family apart.

The characters are all well fleshed out. Scarlett and Rosie's personalities are distinct, and at odds with each other. Scarlett is the determined, ruthless hunter, and Rosie hunts alongside her because Scarlett saved her life  and she feels obligated to do so. Rosie is innocent and sweet, and her sister is hard-hearted and brutal, yet they love each other immensely, and go so far as to say they share the same heart. Their dynamic is an interesting one to read.

Both of the March sisters' voices shined through in their alternating narration, though Scarlett was, at times, hard to connect with because of her obsession with hunting. On hunting, the action scenes in Sisters red were well-written and descriptive, whilst not overbearing or gory.

The romance between Silas and Rosie was sweet and developed slowly and realistically. They had a lot of chemistry, and were childhood friends. I love when main character's fall for old friends rather than the dark, mysterious stranger.

The plot was engaging. Even though it wasn't exactly fast-paced, it never got boring. The main plot complication at first seemed trivial to me - I mean, they wanted to find what the wolves were looking for to use as bait to hunt them, when they could have just hunted them like usual. But the twist comes later, and it begins to make more sense.

I give Sisters Red a 4 out of 5.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Review of The Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney

The Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney

Series: The Iron Witch Saga (#1)
Pages: 300
Publisher: Flux
Published: January 25th, 2011
IBSN: 9781864718270

Freak. That's what her classmates call seventeen-year-old Donna Underwood. When she was seven, a horrific fey attack killed her father and drove her mother mad. Donna's own nearly fatal injuries from the assault were fixed by magic—the iron tattoos branding her hands and arms. The child of alchemists, Donna feels cursed by the magical heritage that destroyed her parents and any chance she had for a normal life. The only thing that keeps her sane and grounded is her relationship with her best friend, Navin Sharma.

When the darkest outcasts of Faerie—the vicious wood elves—abduct Navin, Donna finally has to accept her role in the centuries old war between the humans and the fey. Assisted by Xan, a gorgeous half-fey dropout with secrets of his own, Donna races to save her friend—even if it means betraying everything her parents and the alchemist community fought to the death to protect.

[Synopsis by Goodreads]

I had The Iron Witch on my to-read list ever since the (gorgeous) cover was unveiled months ago. The blurb made me think the book would have a twisty, complicated, clever plot, though I found after reading that it didn't have that. A complication was introduced - Navin's kidnapping - and it had a fairly straight-forward solution.

Overall, though, I did enjoy this book. Even though the plot wasn't as complicated as I thought it would be, it was still compelling. A lot was left open for further series installments, which I'll be sure to read in hopes of more of the suspense and drama I anticipated.

I liked Donna's character. She was strong-willed and determined, though insecure at times, which made her more relatable. Her past was tragic (though I maintain that the iron markings on her hands are cool, as well as useful) and had a realistic affect on her persona.

*mild spoiler alert*

I liked her relationship with Navin, though I kept hoping they'd end up as more-than-friends. I kept expecting a love triangle with Xan, whose romance with Donna felt rushed. Navin was friendly and funny, and Xan was much the same though with a darker side. (What does it say about me that I liked him better at the very beginning - sarcastic and kind of a jerk?).

I liked the writing style, and how that even in third person it could make me feel a connection to the characters.

The paranormal aspects of the story were creative and different, and thus, intriguing. Human alchemists trying to use science to understand the paranormal living alongside Fey - what's not to love? I hope more about the world introduced in The Iron Witch is elaborated upon in further books.

I give The Iron Witch a 4 out of 5. I would have given it a 3, but it doesn't feel fair comparing a book to what I expected it to be. I hyped it up a lot in my head before reading, but I'd still recommend this to anyone up for a paranormal romance that's heavier on the paranormal than the romance.


I read this book for the 2011 Debut Author Challenge.

Cover Reveals (3)

Cover Reveals is a semi-regular feature here (and by 'semi-regular', I mean 'whenever I get around to it') where I highlight recent book cover reveals that have caught my eye.

First up, there's So Silver Bright by Lisa Mantchev:

So Silver Bright is the third book in the Theatre Illuminata series, due for release on the 13th of September. Eyes Like Stars and Perchance To Dream totally took my breath away, so I can't wait for this one.

Next, we have Supernaturally by Kiersten White:

Supernaturally is the sequel to Paranormalcy, one of the funniest and most unique books I read last year. Supernaturally comes out of the 30th of September.

And finally, there's Jessica Rules The Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey:

Jessica Rules The Dark Side is the sequel to Jessica's Guide To Dating On The Dark Side, which I enjoyed reading for the most part, but I didn't like the ending at all. Jessica Rules The Dark Side comes out on the 9th of January next year.

So, what do you think of these new covers? And have any other recently unveiled covers caught your eye?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Follow Friday (12)

Follow Friday is hosted by Parajunkee's View, who randomly selects a book blogger to feature each week.

This week's featured blogger is Aaron from Dreaming Of Other Worlds.

This week's question is:

If you are a fan of Science Fiction what is your favorite book? If you haven't read Science Fiction before...any inkling to? Anything catch your eye?

I'm not not a fan of science fiction, but I don't read it often. When people say 'science fiction', I always think Star Wars and the like.
My favorite science fiction novels also fall into the dystopian genre: Across The Universe by Beth Revis and Unwind by Neal Shusterman.

See Parajunkee's Follow Friday post for more info on this week's featured blogger and how to join in.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Review of Rage by Jackie Morse Kessler

Rage by Jackie Morse Kessler

Series: Horsemen Of The Apocalypse (#2)
Pages: 228
Publisher: Graphia Books
Published: April 4th, 2011
IBSN: 9780547445281

Source: NetGalley

Missy didn’t mean to cut so deep. But after the party where she was humiliated in front of practically everyone in school, who could blame her for wanting some comfort? Sure, most people don’t find comfort in the touch of a razor blade, but Missy always was . . . different.

That’s why she was chosen to become one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: War. Now Missy wields a new kind of blade—a big, brutal sword that can cut down anyone and anything in her path. But it’s with this weapon in her hand that Missy learns something that could help her triumph over her own pain: control.

A unique approach to the topic of self-mutilation, Rage is the story of a young woman who discovers her own power and refuses to be defeated by the world..

[Synopsis by Goodreads]

Rage is the second book in Jackie Morse Kessler's Horsemen Of The Apocalypse series, the first book being Hunger, which I admittedly read after Rage, but since the books have different protagonists, there were no spoilers.

Initially, I couldn't really feel for Missy. I didn't see what had happened to her prior to the beginning of the novel that was so bad she would take up self-harm. Traumatic things happen during the book that cause her to resort to the blades she keeps in her closet which are almost understandable (as understandable as wanting to hurt yourself could ever be), but not before the book begins.

Her becoming the Red Rider Of Apocalypse, War, felt like a metaphor for her being at war with herself constantly about her self-mutilation and a catalyst for her to learn control. The contemporary theme of self-harm seems more important in the story than the paranormal aspects.

Furthermore, the plot is more focused on Missy's internal struggle with War and with her self-destructive tendencies than on any real action or conflict. The  book was more focused on the psychological than the physical, which I'm not sure if I liked or not. It was interesting, at least.

It was written in honest, spare prose and was straight to the point. It kept the book short and engaging.

The ending, to me, though realistic, felt kind of cheesy. Not in what happened, but more in how it was told through the epilogue. I prefer finishing a book with something left to the imagination.

I give Rage a 3 out of 5, and plan to read the next book in the series, Loss, when it comes out next year.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Waiting On Wednesday (12)

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly meme, hosted by Jill at Breaking The Spine, in which we highlight an upcoming book release we're eagerly awaiting.

This week I'm waiting on Forgotten by Cat Patrick, her debut novel. It's due for release on the 7th of June, 2011.

Each night when 16 year-old London Lane goes to sleep, her whole world disappears. In the morning, all that's left is a note telling her about a day she can't remember. The whole scenario doesn't exactly make high school or dating that hot guy whose name she can't seem to recall any easier. But when London starts experiencing disturbing visions she can't make sense of, she realizes it's time to learn a little more about the past she keeps forgetting-before it destroys her future. 

Part psychological drama, part romance, and part mystery, this thought-provoking novel will inspire readers to consider the what-if's in their own lives and recognize the power they have to control their destinies.

[Synopsis by Goodreads]

Feel free to leave a link to your own Waiting On Wednesday post in the comments, and I'll be sure to have a look.

Review of Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler

Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler

Series: Horsemen Of The Apocalypse (#1)
Pages: 180
Publisher: Graphia Books
Published: October 18th, 2010
IBSN: 9780547341248

“Thou art the Black Rider. Go thee out unto the world.”

Lisabeth Lewis has a black steed, a set of scales, and a new job: she’s been appointed Famine. How will an anorexic seventeen-year-old girl from the suburbs fare as one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse?

Traveling the world on her steed gives Lisa freedom from her troubles at home: her constant battle with hunger, and her struggle to hide it from the people who care about her. But being Famine forces her to go places where hunger is a painful part of everyday life, and to face the horrifying effects of her phenomenal power. Can Lisa find a way to harness that power — and the courage to battle her own inner demons?

[Synopsis by Goodreads]

Hunger is told through the third-person perspective of Lisabeth (Lisa for short) Lewis, a teenage girl suffering from anorexia who becomes the Black Rider of the Apocalypse: Famine. The story is about her adjustment to the role and about her stuggle with her eating disorder.

I wasn't surprised to find out the author once suffered from an eating disorder while reading the author's note at the end, because the description of Lisa's anorexia was so vivid and realistic. The 'Thin Voice' and the huge realisation it took to make her seek help made her condition feel genuine.

The paranormal aspect is what initially made me want to read this book (I named my fish after the four horsemen, after all), though I wasn't disappointed that it took a backseat to the contemporary issues. I like the way how two completely different genres met in Hunger.

The plot was intense, focusing on Lisa's mental battles rather than her physical ones - which felt like metaphors for psychological ones. The writing style was simple and raw, and the book itself was short and captivating.

I give Hunger a 4 out of 5. Look out for my review of the sequel, Rage, going up tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sweet Venom Cover Reveal!

I'm lucky enough to be participating in the cover reveal for Tera Lynn Childs' (author of Oh. My. Gods., Goddess Boot Camp, Forgive My Fins, and Fins Are Forever) upcoming book, Sweet Venom, the first in the Medusa Girls trilogy.

Sweet Venom comes out in October, 2011, and the blurb reads:

Three teenage descendants of Medusa, the once-beautiful gorgon maligned by myth, must reunite and embrace their fates in a world where monsters lurk in plain sight.
So, without further ado, the (gorgeous) cover, which you can click to enlarge:

Some of other blogs participating in the reveal are giving away some awesome Sweet Venom bookmarks:

Check out Tera's post about the reveal with links to all of the blogs participating.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Review of You Against Me by Jenny Downham

Happy Valentine's Day, blogoverse! I don't have any plans - romantic or otherwise - for today, but I thought the least I could do for the occasion was pick a romantic book off my TBR list to read. I picked You Against Me by Jenny Downham, and here's my review:

You Against Me by Jenny Downham

Pages: 416
Publisher: David Fickling Books
Published: December 2nd, 2010
IBSN: 9780385613507

If someone hurts your sister and you're any kind of man, you seek revenge, right?

 If your brother's been accused of a terrible crime and you're the main witness, then you banish all doubt and defend him. Isn't that what families do?

When Mikey's sister claims a boy assaulted her at a party, his world of work and girls begins to fall apart. When Ellie's brother is charged with the crime, but says he didn't do it, her world of revision, exams and fitting in at a new school begins to unravel. When Mikey and Ellie meet, two worlds collide. Brave and unflinching, this is a novel of extraordinary skillfulness and almost unbearable tension. It's a book about loyalty and the choices that come with it. But above all it's a book about love - for one's family and for another.

[Synopsis by Goodreads]

You Against Me comes from the perspectives of Mikey and Ellie, brother of a rape victim and sister of the rapist respectively. It doesn't seem likely that the two of them could ever like each other, let alone like like each other, but it happens. It's a twist on the classic trope of guy-using-girl-for-some-ulterior-motive-but-then-actually-falling-in-love-with-her.

Jenny Downham's writing style is fluid and beautiful, so easy to read. I haven't read Before I Die, but I definitely plan to after this one. In You Against Me, like she does in Before I Die (so I hear), Downham tackles big issues unflinchingly. She doesn't shy away from the theme of rape, and makes for a thought-provoking and emotional read.

Ellie and Mikey are both dynamic and likable characters. They both have faults  - that make them feel real - and hardships - Mikey's has the responsibility of taking care of his family singlehandedly, and Ellie has to choose whether to testify against her brother or not. I found myself genuinely caring about the characters.

Their relationship didn't feel rushed, even though they'd only known each other for around two months by the end of the book. Mikey and Ellie had a lot of chemistry, and looked forward to every scene where they were together.

I didn't find the ending entirely satisfying. It feels like I never finished reading it - there wasn't a conclusion to what I considered the main plot.

I give You Against Me a 4 out of 5.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Review of Shine by Lauren Myracle

Shine by Lauren Myracle

Pages: 376
Publisher: Amulet Books
Published: May 1st, 2011
IBSN: 9780810984172

Source: NetGalley

When her best guy friend falls victim to a vicious hate crime, sixteen-year-old Cat sets out to discover who in her small town did it. Richly atmospheric, this daring mystery mines the secrets of a tightly knit Southern community and examines the strength of will it takes to go against everyone you know in the name of justice.

Against a backdrop of poverty, clannishness, drugs, and intolerance, Myracle has crafted a harrowing coming-of-age tale couched in a deeply intelligent mystery. Smart, fearless, and compassionate, this is an unforgettable work from a beloved author.

[Synopsis by Goodreads]

Shine is captivating right from the very beginning. It opens with a news article detailing the attack on Patrick: he was bashed with a baseball bat and left bound to a gas pump, nozzle duct taped in his mouth, with the words 'suck this, faggot' written on his chest. We immediately know what happened, and we're quickly thrust into Cat's investigation.

The setting - Black Creek - was vividly described and realistic. It was as troubled as you'd expect a backwoods Southern town to be. After the paper mill closed down, a lot of the townspeople lost their jobs and resorted to either running or using meth. Poverty is widespread, and only three kids are in the next year's senior class. The characters all were created such that they felt like the belonged in the setting. They were all fleshed out with distinct personalities and backgrounds. The characters develop subtly and realistically, given their situations.

The mystery was well-plotted, and though it could have been solved faster objectively, it felt more realistic that Cat should take a while to get her head around the idea of someone she never would have expected doing such a horrible thing to her friend.

Shine is written in compelling and descriptive prose, and unflinchingly explores issues like drug use, rape and prejudice. I like Lauren Myracle's later books, which tackle darker themes in a raw tone, holding nothing back.

I give Shine a 4 out of 5.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Follow Friday (11)

Follow Friday is hosted by Parajunkee's View, who randomly selects a book blogger to feature each week.

This week's featured blogger is Ruby from Ruby Reads.

This week's question is:

What is your favorite romance hero-type? Stereotype wise. Do you like the strong silent type or the brute macho man?

I prefer the strong silent type, so long as they're not the emo/sullen kind of silent. I like my guys quiet, with a sarcastic/wry sense of humor. I think I prefer them because I'm sarcastic to a fault and kind of short-spoken myself.

See Parajunkee's Follow Friday post for more info on this week's featured blogger and how to join in.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Review of Hexbound by Chloe Neill

Hexbound by Chloe Neill

Series: The Dark Elite (#2)
Pages: 224
Publisher: Gollancz
Published: 20th January, 2011
IBSN: 9780575095434

Lily Parker is new to St. Sophia’s School for Girls, but she’s already learned that magic can be your best friend…or your worst enemy.

They say absolute power corrupts absolutely. Turns out, even a little magic can turn you to the dark side. That’s why Lily has to learn how to control her newly discovered paranormal abilities, on top of avoiding the snobs who think they run her school, nursing a crush on a cute sophomore with a big, werewolf-y secret, and fighting the good fight with her best friend Scout as they take on Chicago’s nastiest nightlife—including the tainted magic users known as Reapers. 

Then Lily’s invited to a private meeting with Sebastian. He’s hot, powerful, and offering to help her harness the magic flowing in her veins in a way no one else can. He’s also a Reaper. Lily can’t hide her suspicions. But she’ll soon find out that the line between good and evil isn’t always clear…

[Synopsis by Goodreads]

What's been happening to me lately is that when reading a sequel to book I read and liked a while ago, I'm underwhelmed because my taste in books has completely changed. I liked Firespell (the first book in The Dark Elite series), but I can't say the same about Hexbound. Though, if I reread Firespell, I probably wouldn't like it anymore either.

I'll start with the good thing about this book: its premise. Lily's recently discovered she's an Adept - a teen who has a magical talent, but a temporary one. The Adepts mainly work to keep the city safe from things that go bump in the night, but also work at keeping the Reapers at bay - Adepts who aren't content to give their powers up, and resort to evil means to keep them. The premise is unique and has the potential to be really captivating, but to me, the characters really let me down.

The characters all felt cliched to me. Our main character is the new girl; she quickly finds herself at odds with the school's 'brat pack' (a subplot that adds nothing to the story); she makes friends with a sassy, alternative schoolmate; she has an mysterious, overprotective love interest with a dark secret. All the male characters seem to be hot, and everyone drops one-liners (which irks me because not everyone in real life is funny).Their personalities didn't feel genuine, and I couldn't connect with Lily.

The plot feels rushed, with tension leading up to a quickly-resolved and anti-climactic conflict. The book was so short that there wasn't a lot of suspense, either. Like in the last book, a lot of subplots are introduced that could have had something to do with the big picture, but are left hanging for further books in the series.

I give Hexbound a 2 out of 5.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Cover Reveals (2)

Cover Reveals is a semi-regular feature, where I highlight recent book cover reveals that have caught my eye.

First, there's Bloodlines by Richelle Mead (August 23rd, 2011):

Bloodlines is the first book in the Vampire Academy spin-off series of the same name. I can't say I particularly like this cover, but I haven't loved any of Richelle Mead's covers and I still adore her books.
Bloodlines revolves around Sydney, and apparently the guy on the cover with her is a character left hanging in Last Sacrifice (My guess is Adrian, but hey, it could be Joshua. Rose never did go back for him and his cave.)

And then there's Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter (June 21st, 2011):

Uncommon Criminals is the sequel to Heist Society, one of my favorite books of last year. I mean, cat burglary, cute boys, clever titles, and suspense: what else do you want in a series?

So, what do you think of these new covers? And have any other recently unveiled covers caught your eye?

Waiting On Wednesday (11)

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly meme, hosted by Jill at Breaking The Spine, in which we highlight an upcoming book release we're eagerly awaiting.

This week I'm waiting on Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter, the sequel to Heist Society. Ally Carter's novels are always fast-paced and compelling, so I can't wait for this one. It's due for release on the 21st of June, 2011.

The cover was revealed on Thursday, and (as you can see) it's amazing and totally matches Heist Society.

Katarina Bishop has worn a lot of labels in her short life. Friend. Niece. Daughter. Thief. But for the last two months she’s simply been known as the girl who ran the crew that robbed the greatest museum in the world. That’s why Kat isn’t surprised when she’s asked to steal the infamous Cleopatra Emerald so it can be returned to its rightful owners.

There are only three problems. First, the gem hasn’t been seen in public in thirty years. Second, since the fall of the Egyptian empire and the suicide of Cleopatra, no one who holds the emerald keeps it for long, and in Kat’s world, history almost always repeats itself. But it’s the third problem that makes Kat’s crew the most nervous and that is simply… the emerald is cursed.

Kat might be in way over her head, but she’s not going down without a fight. After all she has her best friend—the gorgeous Hale—and the rest of her crew with her as they chase the Cleopatra around the globe, dodging curses, realizing that the same tricks and cons her family has used for centuries are useless this time.

Which means, this time, Katarina Bishop is making up her own rules.

[Synopsis by Goodreads]

Feel free to leave a link to your own Waiting On Wednesday post in the comments, and I'll be sure to have a look.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Review of Mercy by Rebecca Lim

Mercy by Rebecca Lim

Series: Mercy (#1)
Pages: 280
Publisher: HarperCollins
Published: October 28th, 2010
IBSN: 9780007382224

Mercy ‘wakes’ on a school bus bound for Paradise, a small town where everyone knows everyone else’s business… or thinks they do.

But Mercy has a secret life. She is an angel, doomed to return repeatedly to Earth, taking on a new ‘persona’ each time she does, in an effort to resolve a cataclysmic rift between heavenly beings.

The first of a brilliant new series sees Mercy meeting Ryan, an eighteen-year-old whose sister was kidnapped two years ago and is presumed dead. When another girl is also kidnapped, Mercy knows she has to act quickly and use extraordinary powers to rescue her, even if it means exposing her true identity.

[Synopsis by Goodreads]

I was at first hesitant to read Mercy, since I've been underwhelmed by most recent books about angels, but Mercy's premise seemed unique. The whole angel theme isn't very prominent in the book - the plot mainly revolves around the mystery disappearance of Ryan's sister. If the blurb didn't say she was an angel, I wouldn't have known. All we learn through the story is what Mercy can do, not what she is. Which makes sense, considering Mercy herself wouldn't even remember.

I liked Mercy as a character. Her personality seemed appropriate given her predicament. She's hardened, doesn't care what people think of her, and seems older and more mature than the teenagers around her. She feels genuinely sympathetic for Carmen, the host, and keeps in consideration the fact that she'll have to resume the life Mercy leaves her with. I liked how Mercy felt separate from Carmen, always talking about Carmen as a different person.

The mystery surrounding Ryan's sister's (Lauren's) disappearance was well-written, and Ryan and Mercy had to follow more than one lead before discovering who was behind it. I didn't understand Ryan's sudden trust in Mercy, allowing her so quickly to help him, but I liked the pair together.

However, some of the secondary characters felt cliched (see Carmen's jealous frenemy from choir, Tiffany), and the ending felt rushed. It cleared up the main problem - finding Lauren - but didn't address anything about Luc or the other angels.

I look forward to further books in this series, Exile and Muse, in hope that they'll focus on the more paranormal side of the series. I give Mercy a 3 out of 5.

P.S. The Australian covers for this series are gorgeous:


I read this book for the Aussie YA Reading Challenge.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Review of Only The Good Spy Young by Ally Carter

Only The Good Spy Young by Ally Carter

Series: Gallagher Girls (#4)
Pages: 265
Publisher: Hyperion Books
Published: June 19th, 2010
IBSN: 9781423128205

When Cammie Morgan enrolled at the Gallagher Academy, she knew she was preparing for the dangerous life of a spy. What she didn’t know was that the serious, real-life danger would start during her junior year of high school. But that’s exactly what happened two months ago when Cammie faced off against an ancient terrorist organization dead set on kidnapping her.

Now the danger follows her everywhere, and even Cammie “The Chameleon” can’t hide. When a terrifying encounter in London reveals that one of her most-trusted allies is actually a rogue double-agent, Cammie no longer knows if she can trust her classmates, her teachers—or even her own heart.

[Synopsis by Goodreads]

Only The Good Spy Young is the fourth book in the Gallagher Girl series. The series revolves Cammie "The Chameleon" Morgan, a spy in training at Gallagher Academy - a school for spies under the cover of a boarding school.

The books in the series seem to be getting progressively more serious, from missions for Covert Ops class to being targeted by a terrorist organisation. Only The Good Spy Young had more action and suspense than the books before it, and was as captivating as the others.

When reading a series, I usually find the characters flat, with not much development past the first book. The Gallagher Girls series is an exception to that, with Cammie and her friends becoming stronger and more independent as the story progresses. They're all likable, loyal characters, each with their own quirks.

The mysterious Zach makes more appearances in this book, and we learn more about his background. Instead of just popping up to warn Cammie, he fights beside her and her friends. Cammie and Zach's relationship is tested but still grows, and it becomes more romantic in this installment of the series.

The plot, like the other books in the series, is compelling. It's unpredictable, suspenseful, and puts in the characters in all kinds of tight places that take no small amount of work to get out of. A lot of mysteries from previous books become clearer, and loyalties are tested.

This books ends on the biggest cliffhanger of the series, and also has the biggest wait so far until the next book. I can't wait to see what happens next.

I give Only The Good Spy Young a 5 out of 5.