Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by Should Be Reading.

The point of Teaser Tuesdays is to share teasers (not spoilers) from the book you're currently reading.

So, I'm currently reading The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell, and my teaser is:

"Stop it," Zora scolded.
"I didn't speak!"
"Your pinched little face did." Zora abandoned her punch. "You're lovely tonight, and he would be of the lowest sort to summon you without intent."

Review of You by Charles Benoit.

I found You while browsing Goodreads lists, and the cover and title immediately drew me in. I usually don't go for vague, short, one-word titles, but 'You' is intriguing and personal as a title.

This wasn't the way it was supposed to go.

You're just a typical fifteen-year-old sophomore, an average guy named Kyle Chase. This can't be happening to you. But then, how do you explain all the blood? How do you explain how you got here in the first place?
There had to have been signs, had to have been some clues it was coming. Did you miss them, or ignore them? Maybe if you can figure out where it all went wrong, you can still make it right. Or is it already too late? Think fast, Kyle. Time's running out. How did this happen?

With an opening line like "You're surprised by all the blood" how could you ever put this down? The answer: you can't, and I sure didn't.

From square one, it was clear to me that You was different. It's written in the second person - something I haven't read in since Choose Your Own Adventure book in grade 3. It also begins with the books ending - the first few and last few pages identical - and then details what led to that conclusion.

You explores how the choices you make effect your future, even and especially the ones that at the time seem inconsequential at the time. Written in past tense from a narrator who knows where he's headed, You is full of foreshadowing of these ramifications.

The use of second person narration makes you feel in the character's shoes the way first person can not. Every line feels personal. You also perfectly encapsulates the feeling of being an outsider, and further makes Kyle a relatable character.

I also found the symbol of broken glass extremely powerful. I could see You as something I'd study in school - something I'd want to study in school. After finishing You I felt like finding someone else who'd read it just so I could discuss it, all the hidden meanings and themes.

An amazing young adult debut and without a doubt my new favorite book, I rate You 6 out of 5.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

2011 Debut Author Challenge

The 2011 Debut Author Challenge is hosted by The Story Siren. The objective of this challenge is to read 12 YA books by debut authors. The official 2011 Challenge page can be found here.

Although it isn't a rule, I'm going to try and read a book that debuts in each month for the challenge. So, here's my list of books I'll be reading for the challenge, with links to the reviews as they go up (plus other debuts I may read):

January: Across The Universe by Beth Revis.
               - Other Words For Love by Lorraine Zago Rosenthal
                   - Entangled by Cat Clarke
                   - Timeless by Alexandra Monir
                   - Unearthly by Cynthia Hand
                   - The Water Wars by Cameron Stracher
                   - Choker by Elizabeth Woods

February: The Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney.
               - Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton
March: Wither by Lauren DeStefano.
               - Between Shades Of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
                    - Clarity by Kim Harrington

April: The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter
               - Through Her Eyes by Jennifer Archer
               - In The Arms Of Stone Angels by Jordan Dane
May: Divergent by Veronica Roth.
               - Putting Makeup On Dead People by Jen Violi
               - Die For Me by Amy Plum
                    - Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini
                    - I'm Not Her by Janet Gurtler 

June: Spellbound by Cara Lynn Shultz.
               - Forgotten by Cat Patrick
                    - Hourglass by Myra McEntire
                    - Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma

July: Bad Taste In Boys by Carrie Harris.
               - Wildefire by Karsten Knight
August: The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab.
               - Fury by Elizabeth Miles
                    - Hunting Lila by Sarah Alderson
                    - Anna Dressed In Blood by Kendrare Blake

September: The Unbecoming Of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin.
               - The Beginning of After by Jennifer Castle
                    - Cold Kiss by Amy Garvey
                    - The Girl Of Fire And Thorns by Rae Carson
                    - The Mephisto Covenant by Trinity Faegen

October: Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez.
                     - Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel
November: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi.
               - Saving June by Hannah Harrington
                    - Legend by Marie Lu
                    - The Sharp Time by Mary O'Connell
December: I can't even think of a December debut, let alone have I read one!


This challenge is now over, and I beat the challenge goal of 12 by reading and reviewing 41 2011 debuts!

Review of Always A Witch by Carolyn MacCullough.

Always A Witch is the sequel to Once A Witch; the sequel I wasn't aware even existed until I found it on NetGalley (who I have to thank for the opportunity to read this).

It goes without saying that this review will contain Once A Witch spoilers.

There are two main families of witches - the Greenes and the Knights. The difference between them is their morals. The Knights practiced blood magic, and the Greenes put a stop to this by created the Domani - the device which blocks the Knights from using their Talents.

And this worked - for a while. Before the Knights found the flaw in the Domani and found the way to get their power back.

So when the Greene's future-telling book reads of a time where the Greenes no longer exist, it's clear that the Knights found a way to Travel back and stop the creation of the Domani. It's clear to Tamsin then that she's the only one who can prevent the book's prophecy.

She Travels back to Victorian-era New York and disguises herself as a lady's maid within the Knight's home, wherein she'll have to find a way to save her family before it's too late.

Carolyn MacCullough writing style is suspenseful and enchanting. I read Always A Witch in one sitting. The plot twists constantly, so there's no room for your mind to wander while reading.

The characters felt realistic to me. The juxtaposition between the mannerisms of characters from the the Victorian-era setting and those who really belonged to the modern era was clear. I especially loved Tamsin, for the way she thought on her feet and was brave through all trials she faced. Her voice really showed through the writing, and her emotions left me feeling empathetic to her.

This book also, to me, really stood out from the rest of the books in its genre. The romance was refreshing - to have a love interest like Gabriel who was Tamsin's best friend growing up, and not have a love triangle. The character was also always privy to the supernatural world around her, rather than having a heroine just thrown into a new world and having to adjust.

What I also found so endearing about this book was the unpredictable and clever storyline. It reminded me of The Mortal Instruments series in the way the there were so many plot threads all tangled, if you'll excuse the bad metaphor.

Reaching the end of the book, though I enjoyed the ending that I never saw coming, I felt genuinely sad that the ride was over. Though I'm unsure whether the series is to be continued, the ending of Always A Witch makes it seem as though it's the final installment.

I rate Always A Witch 5 out of 5, and recommend it to anyone and everyone. It's due for release on the 1st of August, 2011.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Review of The Iron Queen by Julie Kagawa.

I was lucky enough to get an advanced reading copy of The Iron Queen from www.netgalley.com several days ago.
I've already read both The Iron King and The Iron Daughter, and while I found them good, I didn't find them great. I'm pleased to say that I found The Iron Queen was AMAZING.

Also, a warning: this review will contain The Iron King and The Iron Daughter spoilers.

My name is Meaghan Chase. 

I thought it was over.That my time with the fey, the impossible choices I had to make, the sacrifices of those I loved, was behind me. But a storm is approaching, an army of Iron fey that will drag me back, kicking and screaming. Drag me away from the banished prince who's sworn to stay by my side. Drag me into the core of a conflict so powerful, I'm not sure anyone can survive it. 

This time, there will be no turning back.

The Iron Daughter ends after Meaghan kills Machina, the Iron King, and is exiled back to the mortal realm for her trouble. But she's back with her family there, and she still has Ash with her. It's then her understanding that with the threat of the Iron Realm negated, she can relax. There's no one to keep targeting her family to get to her, and there's no threat of the Summer and Winter fey dying off.

But with a False King taking the throne to the Iron Kingdom, seeking out the the Iron King's power that Meaghan - as his killer - now holds, she's back in the line of fire.

Julie Kagawa has a beautiful writing style that makes me certain that I'll love anything she writes, no matter the subject. I thus had high expectations for The Iron Queen, and I wasn't let down.

In all of the books in this series,  conflict after conflict comes up. The plot is bumpy and unpredictable, and you can't put the books down. The Iron Queen takes that to the next level, with higher stakes and more suspense.

What else I loved about The Iron Queen were the characters.

Meaghan grew so much. Over the course of the series you can watch as she develops and becomes  a stronger heroine, both physically and mentally. She lost that helpless and naive quality about her that she had about her in the previous two books.

There's still light-hearted and loyal Puck, if a little more bitter this time around. And Ash, still the cool and dangerous ice prince, less impassive without his ties to the Winter court. And my favorite, Grimalkin, with his dry humor and simple "I am a cat" explanations.

And the ending. Oh, God, the ending. I won't spoil it, but I will say that it didn't go the way I thought it would, and I'm glad for that. At first, when the fourth book was announced, The Iron Knight, I was unsure of how much longer the story could be dragged out. But with that ending, it creates a whole new conflict that I'm sure will keep the next book just as action-packed as the last.

I give The Iron Queen a 5 out of 5, and recommend you pick it up come its release date: February 1, 2011.

In the comments, tell me if you've read any of The Iron Fey series, and if so, what your thoughts on it are. Also, feel free to leave recommendations on what to read and review next.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

My most anticipated 2011 YA novels.

The title is a lie. I don't just mean 2011 YA, but last-month-of-2010, too. But that doesn't make a concise title, does it? So anyway, the title is self-explanatory. So I'll just jump into a list of the books I'm most anticipating the release of:

5. Outside In by Maria V Snyder (1st of March, 2011).
Although I was happy with the way Inside Out finished - I, at first, thought it was a stand-alone novel - after I heard about a sequel, I began to think about how more conflict was sure to arise later in the story. And since, the idea of a sequel grew on me. In the past, I've absolutely adored everything I've read by Maria V Snyder, so I'm sure I'll love Outside In as well.

4. Wither by Lauren DeStefano (22nd of March, 2011).
I'm not going to lie - the main reason I plan to read Wither is because of its cover. But I also love the story's premise: due to a genetic problem, men in this dystopian world only live to 25 years of age, and women, only 20. I really do love me some dystopia, especially so original as Wither.

3. Where She Went by Gayle Forman (5th of April, 2011).
I liked how If I Stay finished, but I'm also not opposed to hearing more about what happens to Adam and Mia in the long run. Gayle Forman's writing in If I Stay was just so beautiful, as well, and just unforgettable. I often all but forget books I've read in the past, because I read so many, but If I Stay has just stayed with me, and I'm sure Where She Went will be the same.
2. Forever by Maggie Stiefvater (12th of July, 2011).
The last book in the Wolves Of Mercy Falls series, I expect Forever to be written as beautifully and heartbreaking as its two predecessors.
The ending of Linger just killed me. I couldn't think about anything else for at least a week. I wish I held off on reading it until Forever was out, so I wouldn't have to wait to find out how things end up for Sam and Grace.

1. Last Sacrifice by Richelle Mead (7th of December, 2010).
Perhaps better known as the conclusion to the Vampire Academy series, I don't just want to read this to find out what happens to Rose, but to find out about the heroine's of Richelle's other series. Her six-book series generally follow the same plot, with the third book having the major plot twist. So I'm hoping that the end of Last Sacrifice will help me predict the way her other series will end.

So, in the comments, tell me what books you can't wait to read, be them YA or not.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Judge a book by its cover?

The old adage warns us never to judge a book by its cover, though we all do, on some level. We're more likely to pick up a book with a pretty or well-designed cover than a plain one. I generally get a lot more recommendations for books with better covers.

So, here are some of my favorite books (in no particular order), and some notes on their covers.

Poison Study, by Maria V Snyder.

For those of you who've read Poison Study, you may not recognise this cover - the Australian edition. I am, in fact, Australian, so this is the cover I read the story from underneath.
The cover really is quite beautiful, and that translates into the story, as well. I read it six months or so ago, and it's one of my favorites.
The original American cover wasn't much to look at, in my opinion, however.

Nightshade, by Andrea Cremer.

A fairly recent release, it has one of the best covers I've ever seen. It's also one of the best books I've ever read. Though, if you think Nightshade is pretty, you have to see its sequel, Wolfsbane.
I wrote a review of Nightshade, if memory serves, three posts ago.

Scarlett Fever, by Maureen Johnson.

This cover is by no means bad, but it isn't spectacular either. The story, however, is amazing. It's quirky and hilarious, and with every word you can see the author's personality behind it.
Also, do yourself a favor and if you aren't already, follow Maureen on Twitter.

This isn't to say I haven't read some beautifully covered books that I didn't like.
And maybe more acclaimed novels have better covers simply because that cover attracts more readers.
Though, really, at the end of the day, most covers are irrelevant to the story. A lot of covers are designed by people who have not actually read the story.
In the comments, tell me what you think.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Review of Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

I read Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson because of how amazing I found Speak. This'll be the first time I review something by the same author twice, which you'd understand, if you've ever read anything by Laurie.

Cassie and Lia were best friends ever since Cassie moved in next door, and Wintergirls for almost as long. They were never going to be the smartest, prettiest, or most popular girls at their school, but there's something they can be: the skinniest.

So while Lia's father's on business trips and her mother's saving other peoples' lives, Lia's wasting away. Strong and empty, is her mantra.

When Cassie decides she wants out, Lia doesn't have a choice but to talk her out of it. They start to grow apart. And then Lia gets 33 calls from her on the night she dies alone in a motel.

Cassie's death to Lia just means that she won - she's the skinniest now. But that's no reason to stop now. She's 95, but why not 90? And then why not 85? In fact, why rest until there's nothing left?

Wintergirls is written in the unflinching and lyrical prose that Anderson does so well. The writing style itself is so beautiful I didn't feel I was doing it justice reading it in my head; I had to read it all out loud. My favorite passage of Wintergirls is:

We held hands when we walked down the gingerbread path into the forest, blood dripping from our fingers. We danced with witches and kissed monsters. We turned us into wintergirls, and when she tried to leave, I pulled her back into the snow because I was afraid to be alone.

Laurie Halse Anderson is by far one of my favorite authors. She tackles the biggest issues plaguing young adults realistically and heart-wrenchingly. Wintergirls explores the facts of eating disorders without pointing fingers or sugar-coating. It transcends the barrier between young adult and adult literature, and is a must-read for anyone. I rate it 6 out of 5.

In the comments, tell me what you think of Wintergirls, if you've read it. Otherwise, tell me what you'd like to see reviewed next.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Review of Going Bovine by Libba Bray.

I stumbled upon Going Bovine while looking at past Printz award winners, marking off the ones I've read and adding the ones I haven't to my to-read list.
I decided to push it to the top of my to-read list when I saw Libba's take on it on the book's Amazon page. I really love books that are concurrently quirky and insightful.

All 16-year-old Cameron wants is to get through high school—and life in general—with a minimum of effort. It’s not a lot to ask. But that’s before he’s given some bad news: he’s sick and he’s going to die. Which totally sucks. Hope arrives in the winged form of Dulcie, a loopy punk angel/possible hallucination with a bad sugar habit. She tells Cam there is a cure—if he’s willing to go in search of it. With the help of a death-obsessed, video-gaming dwarf and a yard gnome, Cam sets off on the mother of all road trips through a twisted America into the heart of what matters most - Goodreads.

Cameron's just your average teenager. He hates high school, his parents expect too much from him, and he covets the cheerleader he'll never have. So, when he starts hallucinating, he think it must just be some bad pot. But then he goes to the hospital, tests are done, and it turns out he has Creutzfeldt-Jakob's disease. Or rather, mad cow disease. He's dying, and going crazy along the way, and there's no cure.

One of his recurring hallucinations takes the form of Dulcie: an pink-haired angel clad in punk chic. She tells him one Dr. X found his way into other dimensions and through time and space, and in the process, opened a wormhole unleashed 'dark energies' on the world.

Cameron's ready to ignore this particular hallucination, until she tells him that Dr. X has the cure to his disease. He then throws caution to the wind, knowing he's going to die anyway, and sets out to find this Dr. X, with a hypochondriac dwarf and a lawn gnome possessed by a Norse God in tow.

What makes me love this book so much is just how...crazy it all is. Each obstacle on the way to Dr. X is hilarious and zany, though believable. I love the character's, too. Especially Gonzo and Balder (the aforementioned dwarf and God). 

More so than that, I love the way in amongst all the insanity and hilarity, there's still meaning to it. My favorite scene must be where Cameron and Dulcie are at the wishing tree, where everyone pins their handwritten wishes for them to come true. The way someone else's scrawled "I wish to live..." inspired Cameron to seek out the cure.

The ending is fairly love-hate, though. I've heard as many reviews loving it as I have hating it. Personally, I loved it. It fit. A spoiler, but this kind of story wasn't meant to finish happily ever after with all the loose ends all tied up neatly.

I give Going Bovine a 6 out 5.

In the comments, as always, tell me your thoughts on Going Bovine, if you've read it. If not, tell me how likely you are to consider reading it after this review. And for both categories, tell me what you'd like to see me review in the near future.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Review of Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver.

I read Before I Fall because of all the good reviews I was seeing about it and the recommendations I was getting. In hindsight, I can say that I'm glad I decided to read it.

Samantha Kingston has it all—looks, popularity, the perfect boyfriend. Friday, February 12th should be just another day in her charmed life. Instead, it’s her last. The catch: Samantha still wakes up the next morning. In fact, she re-lives the last day of her life seven times, until she realizes that by making even the slightest changes, she may hold more power than she had ever imagined. - Goodreads.com

Before I Fall starts as Sam Kingston wakes up on Friday, February the 12th. Cupid day at school, in which popularity is measured tangibly by how many roses you've been sent by friends or admirers. Other than that, it's a fairly typical day for Sam. Her friends are waiting to pick her up for school. She flirts with her calculus teacher. She skips lunch period to go for yogurt with a friend. There's a party to be at later. Same same. Except she dies in a car crash after the party.

And then everything becomes strictly not usual. She wakes up, miraculously, the next morning, to find that it's once again February the 12th. She goes about the day uneasily, as though the day before were some lucid and horrible dream. But when she wakes up again on the 12th of February, she assumes she's stuck in some sort of purgatory. She starts living like there's no tomorrow, which for her, there really isn't.

Though, when Sam finds out the girl she and her friends have been bullying for years, Juliet Sykes, killed herself on the same night as her own death, it's a kind of turning point for Sam. She begins to think about the differences between each repeated day, and about how the small things she does without thinking effect the people around her dramatically. 

It's from then on that she tries to effect people for the better, though it takes until the seventh day - the last day - to actually achieve her main aim: to stop Juliet from killing herself.

The thing I really love about Before I Fall, aside from the captivating writing style, is the character development. After the first day, I was about ready to put down the book. I could only agree with Juliet: Sam is a bitch. But then, Sam implores "is what I did really so bad?" and "is it really so much different to what you do?"

And that made me realise: it isn't. It isn't any worse than any teenager, really. But no one wants to believe that they themselves aren't any better or different than the people they look down on. That Sam accepts and notes in hindsight that she is as bad as anyone else just perfectly shows the way her character develops. As the days go by, she grows to care about more than herself, more than about how many roses she gets. 

So, Before I Fall is, in summary, about a girl who dies before her time, but in doing so, learns how to really live. It's about a girl who falls in love for the first time just a little too late.

I rate Before I Fall 4 out of 5, and I anticipate the release of Lauren Oliver's second novel: Delirium, coming out on the 1st of February, next year. 
In the comments, tell me what you think about Before I Fall, if you've read it. If you haven't, tell me if you'd consider doing so after my review.

So, goodbye, and here's to hoping I never have to write February so many times in one piece of writing ever again (it's the one word that I will never spell right the first time).

Monday, November 1, 2010

Review of Nightshade by Andrea Cremer.

Well would you CHECK OUT the cover on this baby!

Needless to say, THAT'S why I picked up this book.

That's not to say the plot didn't lure me in, just that I was at the check out before it even occurred to me to look at the blurb, which reads:

Calla Tor has always known her destiny: After graduating from the Mountain School, she'll be the mate of sexy alpha wolf Ren Laroche and fight with him, side by side, ruling their pack and guarding sacred sites for the Keepers. But when she violates her masters' laws by saving a beautiful human boy out for a hike, Calla begins to question her fate, her existence, and the very essence of the world she has known. By following her heart, she might lose everything--including her own life. Is forbidden love worth the ultimate sacrifice? - Goodreads.com

Nightshade is Andrea Cremer's first novel, and an impressive one at that.

The main character, Calla, is fated to become an alpha of a new Guardian (werewolf, essentially) pack, with Ren as the other alpha. She's content with this, with all of her instincts being to obey the Keepers, which she and her family have done for as long as they can remember.

On a routine scout of the sacred areas the Guardians protect for the Keepers, Calla finds Shay, injured and on the brink of death. This is where I think the first seed of doubt about the Keepers starts to grow in Calla's mind, as it's where she first defies them: by saving Shay.

Naturally, she runs into Shay again, and finds out that he's inexplicably favored by the Keepers, who ordinarily wouldn't spare a thought for a human. She's drawn to Shay, and likewise him to her, and slowly they begin to trust each other and explore the Keepers' intentions for Shay.

Though, what they find out about the Keepers, the Guardians' leaders for what feels like forever, throws off the entire world in which Calla lives.

What I loved, first and foremost, about Nightshade, were the characters. Namely Calla. She noticeably developed over the course of the novel. She was at first innocent in her blindly following the rules set by the Keepers, but as the trust she has in the Keepers' breaks and her feelings for Shay and desires to neglect the union to Ren grow, she becomes more independent and strong-willed in order to cope with the shifting world around her.

What else I loved about Nightshade was the love triangle. Though an overused dynamic in YA novels, Cremer managed to make it feel completely different to the clich├ęd norm.

Upon reaching the cliffhanger of an ending, I was pleased to find there would be a sequel to settle it. Wolfsbane will be released at an as-yet-undecided date next year.

I rate Nightshade 5 out of 5.

In the comments, tell me, if you've read Nightshade, whether you're on Team Ren or Team Shay (I'm traditionally on the same team as the main character, so, Team Shay for me). If you haven't read Nightshade, tell me if you'd consider it after this review. And if you're not, tell me what you'd like to see me review next.