Friday, January 20, 2012

Review: Incarnate by Jodi Meadows


Incarnate by Jodi Meadows

Series: Newsoul (#1)
Pages: 384
Publisher: HarperCollins
Published: January 31st, 2012
IBSN: 9780062060754


Ana is new. For thousands of years in Range, a million souls have been reincarnated over and over, keeping their memories and experiences from previous lifetimes. When Ana was born, another soul vanished, and no one knows why.

Even Ana’s own mother thinks she’s a nosoul, an omen of worse things to come, and has kept her away from society. To escape her seclusion and learn whether she’ll be reincarnated, Ana travels to the city of Heart, but its citizens are suspicious and afraid of what her presence means. When dragons and sylph attack the city, is Ana to blame?

Sam believes Ana’s new soul is good and worthwhile. When he stands up for her, their relationship blooms. But can he love someone who may live only once, and will Ana’s enemies—human and creature alike—let them be together? Ana needs to uncover the mistake that gave her someone else’s life, but will her quest threaten the peace of Heart and destroy the promise of reincarnation for all?

In Heart, the same souls are reincarnated over and over again, keeping their memories and personalities. And then Ana is born -- a newsoul, a stranger -- and an old soul vanishes. She's treated apprehensively, allegedly having no soul at all, but decides to find out the truth about herself, with the help of Sam, the only person who's ever treated her like a person.

Incarnate was a pretty idea -- of a new girl in a world of people who've been together for hundreds of years, of the promise of reincarnation, of safety from a mystical world behind city walls -- but it felt too often like that was as far as it went. Like whenever you asked the guide if the show was starting soon, they'd distract you by pointing somewhere else like "have you seen this yet? This is interesting!".

Ana travels to Heart with the intention to figuring herself out -- both in search of the answers to her questions about her mystery soul, and to try to find who she is without the influence of her abusive mother treating her like less than a person. But post-arrival, her mission is only at the forefront of her mind when she isn't with Sam, which -- as his guest and with most citizens wary of her -- isn't often. I'm finding that the stories with the most potential are doing themselves a disservice by focusing majorly on the token romance (The Unbecoming Of Mara Dyer, anyone?). Sweet as Ana and Sam were, their burgeoning relationship would have served better as a complement to the plot rather than a stand-in for it.

Though, to the author's credit, she manages to make Ana learning to play the piano or talking to Sam mostly compelling, only later noticing there was something missing once you find that piece near the end.

This very readable quality can be accredited to Meadow's writing style, subtly otherworldly and setting appropriate without being alienating, and though with its few inconsistencies (occasionally poorly articulated, and occasionally beautifully descriptive) it was mostly pleasant and smooth and didn't stray too far into inconsequential details.

Overall, Incarnate was a unique idea that felt like it succumbed too much to the existing YA market -- it focused more on an intriguing premise than an intriguing plot, and the romance dominated. The plot was squeezed and condensed so late that it was almost an afterthought, but it what of it was unexpected and twisting and had so much potential. I won't set my hopes so high come book two, but I'll most definitely continue this series.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Review: Everneath by Brodi Ashton


Everneath by Brodi Ashton

Series: Everneath (#1)
Pages: 384
Publisher: January 24th, 2012
Published: Balzer & Bray
IBSN: 9780062071132

Last spring, Nikki Beckett vanished, sucked into an underworld known as the Everneath, where immortals Feed on the emotions of despairing humans. Now she's returned- to her old life, her family, her friends- before being banished back to the underworld... this time forever.

She has six months before the Everneath comes to claim her, six months for good-byes she can't find the words for, six months to find redemption, if it exists.

Nikki longs to spend these months reconnecting with her boyfriend, Jack, the one person she loves more than anything. But there's a problem: Cole, the smoldering immortal who first enticed her to the Everneath, has followed Nikki to the mortal world. And he'll do whatever it takes to bring her back- this time as his queen.

As Nikki's time grows short and her relationships begin slipping from her grasp, she's forced to make the hardest decision of her life: find a way to cheat fate and remain on the Surface with Jack or return to the Everneath and become Cole's...

After being tempted into the Everneath, an underworld where immortals feed on human emotion, in a moment of weakness, Nikki Returns. She gets just six months before she's pulled back. Six months to explain, to apologise, to say goodbye again. Or six months to figure out how to cheat fate.

So Everneath was intriguing in the way it focused less on the paranormal lore -- which was well-realised and well-implemented itself -- and more on the contemporary themes of letting go and accepting consequences. I'm sure fans of both PNR and contemporary novels will find this compelling.

Nikki returns to give a proper send-off to her family, but hardly mentions them. So much transition scene is skipped over that she probably does spend a lot of time with them, but it's hardly referenced. Ditto Jules. What could have been so touching was pushed aside to make room for romantic relationships, when more platonic relationships are still vital to fleshing out a character.

But apart from the occasionally twinge of annoyance when her neglected loved ones were mentioned, I liked this book much more than I expected to.

Nikki's narration was very readable, with a voice that was quiet but not passive. She was constantly growing from all of her trials. Between the her that we see past tense snippets of and the present her, she's matured so much. She took the easy way out almost a year ago, and now she understands that was the absolute wrong way to approach her situation, but doesn't dwell on it. She's learned to accept her mistakes, but is also determined to avoid them now. 

And although a romance featuring as the main plot has always rubbed me the wrong way, that of Everneath wasn't just designed to add a swoon factor. Cole and Jack were the difference between her staying easily complacent with herself and her trying to grow into the version of herself she'd like to be. Their dynamics were realistic and reflected these roles they played. It was never about who she loved more (barf) but who she wanted to be.

The pacing was smooth and fast, skilfully portraying how quickly time passes with a frightening deadline looming. The plot twisted, and the denouement really was the best part of the story. The ending was impressive, foreshadowed but not expected, and left the story open to continuation but still with a sense of resolution.

Everneath is a novel I'd recommend to most fans of the Unearthly series -- it's a paranormal story with more weight on the realistic. Ashton created dynamic characters you could become invested in and a story well worth the time you spend reading it. Don't dismiss it like I almost did based on the cover that in no way reflects the contents.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

In My Mailbox (11)

In My Mailbox is a feature of Kristi at The Story Siren's creation, where we essentially just highlight the books we received over the past week. So:

Only Ever Always I read from the library a few months ago and adored, and just bought.
All I Ever Wanted I also read from the library. I really enjoyed it, so I was lucky to win a signed copy from the wonderful author.
The Unbecoming Of Mara Dyer came from the publisher for the Australian February release. I've already read it, though, and I kind of hated it.
The Book Of Blood And Shadow I bought, and cannot wait to read! I haven't been this excited for a new release in a very long time.
Heaven I received for review, and I fully expect to love it. It sounds amazing.
Other Words For Love I bought, since it just came out in paperback. I read it back when it first came out and loved it.
Invincible Summer I picked after winning a book-of-choice giveaway. I've already read it, and absolutely adored it.
Everneath I received for review. I've read it via NetGalley already, and I liked it more than I expected to.
Born Wicked also came for review, and I've just started it. I can't tell what I think of it from the first three pages, though.

My warmest thanks go to Vikki Wakefield, Simon & Schuster Australia, Hachette Children's, and Penguin Australia for some of these!

Too long, didn't read: I'm 90% certain Heaven and The Book Of Blood And Shadow will be fantastic,and I just got copies of Only Ever Always, All I Ever Wanted, Other Words For Love, and Invincible Summer that I've already read and loved and am very happy to own.

Did we get any of the same books?
Have you already read some the few I haven't yet? How do you feel about them?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Review: Eve by Anna Carey


Eve by Anna Carey

Series: Eve (#1)
Pages: 318
Publisher: HarperTeen
Published: October 4th, 2011
IBSN: 9780062048509

Where do you go when nowhere is safe?

Sixteen years after a deadly virus wiped out most of Earth’s population, the world is a perilous place. Eighteen-year-old Eve has never been beyond the heavily guarded perimeter of her school, where she and two hundred other orphaned girls have been promised a future as the teachers and artists of the New America. But the night before graduation, Eve learns the shocking truth about her school’s real purpose—and the horrifying fate that awaits her.

Fleeing the only home she’s ever known, Eve sets off on a long, treacherous journey, searching for a place she can survive. Along the way she encounters Arden, her former rival from school, and Caleb, a rough, rebellious boy living in the wild. Separated from men her whole life, Eve has been taught to fear them, but Caleb slowly wins her trust . . . and her heart. He promises to protect her, but when soldiers begin hunting them, Eve must choose between true love and her life.

Orphaned like so many others after a virus wiped out most of the world, Eve has spent most of her life in an isolated all-girl boarding school. Before graduation, she finds that her future isn't the one she's been convinced of -- there's no trade to learn, no life in the city. So she escapes into the wild, valedictorian Eve who knows nothing of the world besides the propaganda she's been fed, and soon finds out that survival is going to be harder than she could have imagined.

My main motivation for reading Eve was that I wanted to figure out its gimmick. It sounded like any other dystopia in the blurb, with the token future world post dramatic population decrease rather shallow in execution. But there's always a catch. And so it is that in Carey's dystopian world, women and men are illogically segregated.

So the world is apparently approximately 98% decimated, which still leaves the population of a large country, and rather than banding together into average-sized cities and trying to live as normally as possibly they can, the solution is 
(I don't feel like I'm spoiling anything you find out just a few dozen pages in) to put women in battery farms and try to get our seven billion back as soon as possible. It made no sense to try to rebuild civilization on this instilled apprehensiveness of the opposite gender and on drastic means to boost a population still too large to make extinction a serious risk.

Still going with the illogical, a romance is formed, with complete disregard for the setting's ridiculous customs. Eve spent her whole life learning the dangers of men, without having ever met a single one personally. Even in realising so much of her school's teaching was at least somewhat false, there is no way -- absolutely none -- that she could learn to trust a man in such a short amount of time. Even without the psychological implausibility, her relationship with Caleb was rushed and without chemistry and his attraction to her was founded on what, that she was the only girl he'd ever met?

And for a namesake novel, it's expected that Eve be somehow notable or memorable, but she doesn't have a strong voice or anything particularly unique about her. She has the scared, determined, unrealistically selfless personality of dozens of Harper heroines before her, the kind that I'd have to scroll up to the blurb to remember if it weren't made so obvious.

Eve is a book best left to the kind of person who generally exclusively reads the popular hyped new releases. I'd call my problems with it a failure to suspend disbelief, but it was more than the idea at the center of Eve is so implausible it was silly, and it couldn't at least compensate for in the way others like Delirium did.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Review: This Gorgeous Game by Donna Freitas


This Gorgeous Game by Donna Freitas

Pages: 240
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia
Published: January, 2012
IBSN: 9780312674403

Seventeen-year-old Olivia Peters is absolutely over the moon when her literary idol, the celebrated novelist and much-adored local priest Mark D. Brendan, selects her from hundreds of other applicants as the winner of his writing contest. Not only is she invited to take his class at the local university; she also gets one-on-one sessions with him to polish her story and prepare it for publication. But the writing sessions escalate into emails, and texts, and IMs, and gifts, and social events. What was once a delightful opportunity has become a dreadful burden. What kind of game is Father Mark playing? And how on earth can she get out of it?

Olivia wins a writing competition and the chance of a lifetime to not only meet her literary idol, but to have him as a mentor as she prepares her story for publication. His faith in her talent is encouraging and his attention is flattering, until it isn't anymore. There appears to be no escaping him when he calls and texts and emails and IMs and shows up around every corner.

This Gorgeous Game is a unique and personal look at an issue not commonly explored in YA, in which Freitas realistically develops and captures the natural feelings of isolation and anxiety associated with stalking.

Olivia is written with such an endearing normal voice. In fact, all of the characters and their dynamics and their situations were so, so normal. Olivia has an older, engaged sister; nice, supportive friends; a caring mother; a burgeoning romantic relationship. All of this carefully contrasts with her life post-normal, post-competition, and it becomes clear how in the foreign post-competition that she could miss where the line should have been drawn.

For all of the normality, though, it isn't plain or boring. The psychological premise isn't the whole plot, with the focus often on forming the kind of strong friendships that save. But for these character-building respites from the more disturbing themes, it actually serves to make them all the more frightening. The way obsessiveness like Father Mark's can worm its way slowly into lives mostly unnoticed -- into any normal life, from the most unexpected of places.

This Gorgeous Game is a story frightening in its portrayal of how easy it is to miss warnings of the most sinister things, but simultaneously uplifting in the promise of a friend's help. Well-written and engaging, it's not to be missed by fans of grittier contemporaries and not to be dismissed by people squeamish about subject matter like this.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Waiting On Wednesday (59)

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 Age Of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker. I know the blurb has to play up the speculative element to, you know, sell, but I feel like (at least, from the title) it'll slip into the background as a way to parallel the contemporary story arc. Plus the cover is my favourite kind, and gives the impression of a warming story.

“It still amazes me how little we really knew. . . . Maybe everything that happened to me and my family had nothing at all to do with the slowing. It’s possible, I guess. But I doubt it. I doubt it very much.”

On a seemingly ordinary Saturday in a California suburb, Julia and her family awake to discover, along with the rest of the world, that the rotation of the earth has suddenly begun to slow. The days and nights grow longer and longer, gravity is affected, the environment is thrown into disarray. Yet as she struggles to navigate an ever-shifting landscape, Julia is also coping with the normal disasters of everyday life—the fissures in her parents’ marriage, the loss of old friends, the hopeful anguish of first love, the bizarre behavior of her grandfather who, convinced of a government conspiracy, spends his days obsessively cataloging his possessions. As Julia adjusts to the new normal, the slowing inexorably continues.

[Synopsis by Goodreads]

The Ages Of Miracles will be released by Random House on the 26th of June, 2012.

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.