Friday, September 30, 2011

September Wrap-Up

September went by super fast! Especially after some great books pulled me out of the reading slump I didn't realise I was in under I wasn't anymore. 

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


2011 Debut Author Challenge:
This month for the Debut Author Challenge, I read and reviewed The Beginning Of After by Jennifer Castle. It was released on the 6th, and my review is linked below.

100+ Challenge: completed.
This month I read and reviewed 16 novels that go towards the challenge's goal of reading 100 books this year, bringing my running total up to 141. You can see my completed list of the 100 books I read for this challenge here.

Aussie YA Reading Challenge: completed.
This month I read and reviewed just one novel that goes towards the challenge's goal of reading 12 YA books by Australian authors (I'm on 29 at the moment, and my new personal goal is 35). The review is linked below, marked by an asterisk.


     - Fans Of Twilight Will Love This Post! -- about the dreaded "Twilight fans will love this!" blurb
    - Cold Kiss tour: Teenage Garage Sale with Amy Garvey
    - The Mephisto Covenant tour: This and That with Trinity Faegen
    - Top 5 list: Animal companions

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

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 (next) Month.

October's Book Of The Month is Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma. My review can be found here.

Also, *new thing*! I'm going to giveaway a copy of my Book Of The Month each month! Stay tuned for a Imaginary Girls giveaway tomorrow! (Tomorrow being one minute away...)

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

The Mephisto Covenant Tour: Character post

Today, I'm pleased to host Trinity Faegen for the release of her wonderful debut, The Mephisto Covenant. You can check out my review here, and you can see what's happening at the rest of the tour here.

At this stop of the tour, we have the main character of The Mephisto Covenant, Sasha, answering This Or That questions:

Morning or evening person? 
Morning – I’m usually up early.

Cheese or chocolate? Cheese! I love cheese!

Summer or winter? It’s always kind of the same in San Francisco, but now that I’m in Colorado, I’d pick winter. Snow is beautiful!

Spiderman or Batman? Batman – he’s mysterious and sexy.

Indoors or outdoors? Outdoors, especially in Colorado.

Movies or music? Music, hands down.

Coffee or tea? Hmm, neither, really. I like Snapple.

Cats or dogs? Dogs. I love dogs!

Twitter or Facebook? Facebook.

Bookstore or library? Bookstore when I can afford it; library when I can’t. Usually, I can’t.

Hardcover or paperback? Hardcover, but I’ll read in any format if it’s something I’m dying to read.

Thanks so much for having me here, Skye!

Have some more information about The Mephisto Covenant:

Sasha is desperate to find out who murdered her father. When getting the answer means pledging her soul to Eryx, she unlocks a secret that puts her in grave danger—she is an Anabo, a daughter of Eve, and Eryx’s biggest threat.

A son of Hell, immortal, and bound to Earth forever, Jax looks for redemption in the Mephisto Covenant—God’s promise he will find peace in the love of an Anabo. After a thousand years, he’s finally found the girl he’s been searching for: Sasha.

With the threat of Eryx always looming, Jax knows he has to keep Sasha safe and win her over.  But can he? Will Sasha love him and give up her mortal life?

Review: Sweetly by Jackson Pearce


 by Jackson Pearce

Series: Sisters Red (#2)
Pages: 336
Publisher: Hachette Children's
Published: October 1st, 2011
IBSN: 9781444900590

As a child, Gretchen's twin sister was taken by a witch-like monster in the woods. Ever since, Gretchen and her brother, Ansel, have felt the long branches of the witch's forest threatening to make them disappear, too.  When their stepmother casts Gretchen and Ansel out as teens, they stumble upon a sleepy Southern town and are invited to stay with Sophia Kelly at her sweet shop. Sophia molds candied magic: coveted treats that create confidence, bravery, and passion.

Life seems idyllic and Gretchen and Ansel finally start to forget their haunted past - until Gretchen meets handsome local outcast Samuel, who gives Gretchen a reason to fear Sophia: girls have been vanishing at Sophia's annual chocolate festival, taken by the insatiable 'witch' of Gretchen's nightmares. Can Gretchen save herself, the girls of Live Oak, and Sophia?

Of one thing, Gretchen is certain: a monster is coming, and it will never go away hungry.

Gretchen's spent most of her life mourning her twin sister, taken by a witch no one else believes existed. Most of all she wonders why she got to survive. Then she finds herself in Live Oak, where her questions find fuel. Are the witches here? Are they behind the disappearances? Or is it Sophia, the suspicious but charming girl she's staying with?

Sweetly is a companion to Sister's Red, with the stories sharing a setting. Sweetly is easily read without the prior knowledge of its predecessor, but Sisters Red presented a much broader world and explained things that are left vague in this companion.

It was a loose interpretation of Hansel & Gretel, with connections to the tale if you were looking for them. It wasn't, however, a retelling. The plot of Sweetly is unique and unpredictable even with knowledge of the original fairy tale.

Pearce's writing style is smooth and finds the balance between description and action. The combination lends to Gretchen's voice being evoked clearly and vividly. It was easy almost immediately to feel close to her.

Sweetly was concluded in a superb fashion. It was free of loose ends but without the cheesy happily-ever-after fairy tale feel. The parting image of Gretchen determined and sure at odds with her initially confused character summed up the journey she underwent. Sweetly ends with a reminder of how hard our characters worked for their relative peace, and that though it may get easier, the work will never be done.

Sweetly should appeal to fans of Jackson Pearce's Sisters Red and to readers of darker paranormal YA.

I give Sweetly a 4 out of 5.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Review: If I Tell by Janet Gurtler


If I Tell
by Janet Gurtler

Pages: 256
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Published: October 1st, 2011
IBSN: 9781402261039

Jasmine Evans knows one thing for sure... people make mistakes. After all, she is one. Jaz is the result of a onenight stand between a black football player and a blonde princess. Having a young mother who didn't raise her, a father who wants nothing to do with her and living in a small-minded town where she's never fit in hasn't been easy. But she's been surviving. Until she sees her mom's new boyfriend making out with her own best friend. When do you forgive people for being human or give up on them forever? 

Jasmine catches mother's boyfriend making out with her best friend just after finding out about her mother's pregnancy. With her own issues with being abandoned by her father, she's caught between exposing her dirtbag almost-step-dad and keeping it from her already stressed-out mother.

It's not as much of a daytime TV drama as the blurb makes it out to be. Now that's out of the way...

Jas has a lot on her plate, certainly, but sympathising with her isn't easy. I couldn't become emotionally attached to her -- or any other character. The narrative voice felt...bland. Jas is reserved, and the voice dedicates itself to portraying that trait without combining it with a compelling or interesting tone.

Jas's issues with her race didn't seem realistic. The only people who bullied her did it such unnatural dialogue ("Who says that? WHO?") that I didn't take their taunts seriously. The setting, a supposedly close-minded town, didn't come across how it was intended. We were told several times that the place was typically close-minded, but we weren't shown it in any depth. But then again, I live in a very mixed-races town and no one really cares what you are here, so I don't know anything much about this. I just wasn't convinced.

For me with contemporary novels, connection to the characters is one of the biggest aspects. They aren't typically plot-driven, but character-driven. I didn't feel anything for the characters of If I Tell, so I didn't feel much for the book overall.

The plot couldn't redeem it for me, with so many chaotic sub-plots I couldn't see what the characters' goals were. This book attempted to tackle many issues, but it just created this tangled plotline.

I'd recommend If I Tell to fans of Janet Gurtler's first book, I'm Not Her, but not to any devout contemporary fans.

I give If I Tell a 2 out of 5.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Waiting On Wednesday (44)

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 Waking Storms by Sarah Porter, the sequel to Lost Voices. I loved Lost Voices, with its eerie atmosphere and chilling premise, and I can't wait for Waking Storms. And gorgeous covers* are always a plus!

After parting ways with her troubled mermaid tribe, Luce just wants to live peacefully on her own. But her tranquility doesn't last long: she receives news that the tribe is on the verge of collapse and desperately needs her leadership. Anais, their cruel queen, wants Luce dead. Dorian, the boy Luce broke mermaid law to save, is determined to make her pay for her part in the murder of his family. And while the mermaids cling to the idea that humans never suspect their existence, there are suddenly ominous signs to the contrary.

But when Luce and Dorian meet, they start to wonder if love can overpower the hatred they know they should feel for each other. Luce's new friendship with an ancient renegade mermaid gives her hope that her kind might someday change their murderous ways. But how can Luce fulfill her rightful role as queen of the mermaids without sacrificing her forbidden romance with Dorian?

Full of miraculous reunions and heart-pounding rescues, this haunting second installment in the Lost Voices Trilogy finds Luce eager to attempt reconciliation with humans—as long as war doesn't break out first.

[Synopsis by Goodreads]

Waking Storms will be released by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in July of 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.

* Even when I can't find versions of it in higher resolution.

Review: I'm Not Her by Janet Gurtler

I'm Not Her by Janet Gurtler

Pages: 320
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Published: May 1st, 2011
IBSN: 9781402256363

Tess is the exact opposite of her beautiful, athletic sister. And that’s okay. Kristina is the sporty one, Tess is the smart one, and they each have their place. Until Kristina is diagnosed with cancer. Suddenly Tess is the center of the popular crowd, everyone eager for updates. There are senior boys flirting with her. Yet the smiles of her picture-perfect family are cracking and her sister could be dying. Now Tess has to fill a new role: the strong one. Because if she doesn’t hold it together, who will?

Tess pales in comparison to her popular, athletic, perfect sister. You know the type -- it's a common trope. But her sister, Kristina, is diagnosed with cancer, and suddenly Tess has to adopt a new role in her family as her mother grows more useless each day and her father grows less present each day.

It's not exactly an original premise, no. You've already read the story about the outshadowed sister coming into her own. I'm not going to try to convince you that I'm Not Her is a refreshing take on it, but I will submit that several themes and plot turns were unexpected, but not enough to make the story stand out.

The characters fell kind of flat, and in the end, I didn't care for them. Some were at unnaturally extreme ends of stereotypes, but I didn't dislike any of them per se. I just didn't become emotionally attached to any of them. While they were going through struggles, I was wondering which book I should read next.

The writing style was smooth and adequately detailed the events and Tess's feelings, but it doesn't lend to a compelling character voice.

I'm Not Her doesn't break any new ground in the genre. It's for fans of contemporary novels who don't mind a plot reminiscent of much else out there.

I give I'm Not Her a 2 out of 5.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Review: The Mephisto Covenant by Trinity Faegen

The Mephisto Covenant by Trinity Faegen

Series: The Mephisto Covenant (#1)
Pages: 439
Publisher: Egmont USA
Published: September 27th, 2011
IBSN: 9781606841709

Sasha is desperate to find out who murdered her father. When getting the answer means pledging her soul to Eryx, she unlocks a secret that puts her in grave danger—she is an Anabo, a daughter of Eve, and Eryx’s biggest threat.
A son of Hell, immortal, and bound to Earth forever, Jax looks for redemption in the Mephisto Covenant—God’s promise he will find peace in the love of an Anabo. After a thousand years, he’s finally found the girl he’s been searching for: Sasha.

With the threat of Eryx always looming, Jax knows he has to keep Sasha safe and win her over. But can he? Will Sasha love him and give up her mortal life?

Jax and his brothers work tirelessly to undo the evil of their oldest sibling, Eryx. They were given God's blessing so that despite being sons of Hell, their good won't all be in vain. He offers them redemption in the form of The Mephisto Covenant -- a promise that the selfless love of an Anabo will redeem their souls. Sasha, one of only two Anabo they've ever known, may just be Jax's way to Heaven.

The Mephisto Covenant seemed to get off to rocky start, with an opening chapter that I couldn't suspend disbelief enough to get behind, but the following pages put it into perspective and I began to appreciate the inclusion of it. The introduction gave us a glimpse into the trials the characters would face later, keeping the pacing smooth and the story engaging from the very beginning.

The mythology was imaginative and compelling, complete with themes of tragedy and hope. Something about stories of redemption and inevitability have always  Mythology-based stories are an increasing trend, but I don't think I've read one before so fleshed out and original.

The revelation of information about the back-story and context was well-paced, as was the plot. It was a smooth ride, without any lapses in action or drama.

Sasha's personality was appropriate to her being Anabo, a daughter of heaven, but her goodness wasn't self-righteous and in-your-face. It manifested in an unconditional kindness that made her endearing, if a little unremarkable in a sea of other nice YA PNR heroines. She was caught in a pretty horrible situation, but didn't stop to complain. It was easy to sympathise with a character so relatable.

The romance between her and Jax proved to be a large component of the story, but that didn't prove to be a problem. A lot of chemistry between them was apparent through their dialogue, actions, voices. Their hesitancy was understandable and gave a realistic feel to a relationship with more root in the paranormal than realism.

Overall, The Mephisto Covenant was a thoroughly enjoyable read, one of the better PNRs out there, but not without a few bumps.

I give The Mephisto Covenant a 4 out of 5.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Review: Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan

Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan

Series: Sky Chasers (#1)
Pages: 320
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Published: October 1st, 2011
IBSN: 9781742610320

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.

Two ships are headed to New Earth to start afresh. They're the Empryean and the New Horizon, and though the New Horizon is supposed to be light years ahead, they'll make an unexpected rendezvous that will have our protagonists Waverly and Kieran separated for the first time, fighting for their lives.

The dystopian nature of the setting didn't require much suspension of disbelief. An Earth decayed to the point where it is no longer inhabitable isn't so hard to imagine, after all. I'm sure I would have appreciated the outer space aspect more, however, if it didn't remind me so much of Across The Universe. I spent much of the read trying to stop myself from comparing the two.

The third person perspective kept as a distance from our characters, as though we're watching from the outside rather than being inside their heads. In a novel where so many life-changing things are happening, it's hard to really fathom how serious everything is when the you aren't sharing the characters' emotions.

The plot was interesting, with a few developments raising an eyebrow here and there, and I came to enjoy the chaotic nature of two stories running side by side. Though, whenever I began to feel invested in a certain characters' story, the perspective changed. With arbitrarily-lengthed (usually fairly long) 'Parts', switches in narrator felt abrupt and awkward at times.

Kieran and Waverly's relationship dynamic was a realistic one, with both perspectives showing the different ways they view the romance. Separated, they both constantly think of the other, but when reunited, their issues remained. Having their relationship expected of them didn't prove to be as worrisome as I expected -- Waverly's hesitance about this made me like her further.

The ending proved to be the highlight of the novel, making slogging through the beginning seem worth the effort. The next book in the Sky Chasers trilogy is one I'll definitely anticipate.

I give Glow a 3 out of 5.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Top 5 Animal Companions

I asked for Top 5 list themes on Twitter, and this month's awesome one, best animal companions, came from Saskia of Tea Mouse's suggestion. You guys should all check out her blog, you'll love it!

Tazza the Tasmanian Devil from the Leviathan Trilogy by Scott Westerfeld

Extinct, Australian animal! I don't think there's much more that needs to be said about how awesome Tazza is.


Maruman the cat from the Obernewytn Chronicles

Or rather, just all of the animals from the Obernewytn chronicles. They were written like normal characters, with personalities and distinct voices, and with intensely loveable traits. They play huge roles in the plot of the series (the series that I'm admittedly only a couple of books into).


Griffin the eagle from Blood Song by Rhiannon Hart

This book convinced me that I need an eagle as a pet. That everyone needs an eagle as a pet. No one's life is complete unless they have a super cool eagle following them everywhere, doing their bidding.


The swan from Flyaway by Lucy Christopher

The story of Isla rescuing the swan was touching, even for non-animal lover like myself. I'm using the descriptor "animal companion" loosely here, but I really loved the relationship between Isla and the swan.


The dog from Only Ever Always by Penni Russon

Only Ever Always was an amazing and complex story, and the relationship between the dog and Claire and Clara was one of the best parts of it. He was one of the key things connecting them, and I liked especially how they weren't always partial to each other.

So what about you guys? Are there any animal companions from books that you fell in love with? And do you have any suggestions for future top 5 list themes?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Review: The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong

The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong

Series: Darkness Rising (#1)
Pages: 359
Publisher: Atom Books
Published: April 12th, 2011
IBSN: 9781907410178

Maya lives in a small medical-research town on Vancouver Island. How small? You can’t find it on the map. It has less than two-hundred people, and her school has only sixty-eight students—for every grade from kindergarten to twelve.

Now, strange things are happening in this claustrophobic town, and Maya's determined to get to the bottom of them. First, the captain of the swim team drowns mysteriously in the middle of a calm lake. A year later, mountain lions start appearing around Maya's home, and they won’t go away. Her best friend, Daniel, starts getting negative vibes from certain people and things. It doesn't help that the new bad boy in town, Rafe, has a dangerous secret—and he's interested in one special part of Maya's anatomy: Her paw-print birthmark.

The Gathering is the first in Kelley Armstrong's new YA series, Darkness Rising, set in the same world as her previous one. The links between them are apparent to readers of the first, though not confusing for new readers. I would even say this book is better read without any prior knowledge, because understanding what's going on when the main characters don't takes away from the suspense.

The new cast of characters consists of Maya, our adopted main character with an affinity to animals she never thought strange until recently; Daniel, her protective best friend; and Rafe, the mysterious new boy who understands parts of her that even she doesn't.

They were all likable, and their roles not nearly as cliched as they feel in summary. The dynamics between characters were intriguing, given the setting of a small, isolated and vaguely eerie town. Maya especially was a great character, a strong and caring protagonist with an engaging voice.

The plot was slow in the beginning, though I can't say I was at all bored there. For the first hundred or so pages, it read like a contemporary novel, and once the paranormal themes took root, they didn't feel awkward or misplaced because they were completely expected.

Written in Kelley Armstrong's typically engaging and intense style, even as the events were not-so-intense. The words had a distinct flow that gave way to fast reading and a smooth ride.

This new series promises to explore a side to the world that the Darkest Powers books only brushed over, with the focus on Weres and characters less aware of their power and with less guidance. It has a lot of potential, but not much of that translated into this beginning.

The Gathering was slow introduction to the series, where much of the novel read like an extended prologue or excerpt. By the end, however, the pace picks up significantly, and the ending leaves us in a good place to rest between installments.

I give The Gathering a 3 out of 5.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Waiting On Wednesday (43)

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 Life Is But A Dream by Brian James. The title is amazing, the cover is gorgeous, and the premise sounds unique and compelling.

Alec and Sabrina are crazy in love. Problem is: Sabrina’s really crazy.

Sabrina, an artist, is diagnosed with schizophrenia, and her parents check her into the Wellness Center. There she meets Alec, who is convinced it's the world that's crazy, not the two of them. They are meant to be together; they are special. But when Alec starts to convince Sabrina that her treatment will wipe out everything that makes her creative, she worries that she'll lose hold of her dreams and herself. Should she listen to her doctor? Her decision may have fatal consequences.

[Synopsis by Goodreads]

Life Is But A Dream will be released by Feiwel & Friends on the 27th of March, 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.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Review: Cold Kiss by Amy Garvey

Cold Kiss by Amy Garvey

Pages: 336
Publisher: HarperTeen
Published: September 20th, 2011
IBSN: 9780061996221

When her boyfriend, Danny, is killed in a car accident, Wren can’t imagine living without him. Wild with grief, she uses the untamed powers she’s inherited to bring him back. But the Danny who returns is just a shell of the boy she once loved.

Wren has spent four months keeping Danny hidden, while her life slowly unravels around her. Then Gabriel DeMarnes transfers to her school and somehow, inexplicably, he can sense her secret. Wren finds herself drawn to Gabriel, who is so much more alive than the ghost of the boy she loved. But Wren can’t turn her back on Danny or the choice she made for him—and she realizes she must find a way to make things right, even if it means breaking her own heart. 

After Wren's boyfriend, Danny, dies in a tragic car accident, she's devastated. Driven by grief, in ignorance of the consequences, she uses the strange powers she inherited to bring him back, but he's only a shell of himself. He's cold and dead and only reflects the old Danny in fleeting moments. He can only think of her and becomes possessive and needs to be hidden from the world. And hiding him seems to work, until Gabriel arrives.

Cold Kiss was surprisingly raw and emotional. Wren is as devastated by Danny's death as you'd expect, and though she knows bringing him back was a mistake, saying goodbye for a second time seems unbearable. Her grief over the boy that is still technically with her and the conflict between what she needs to do and what she wants to do is heartrendingly real.

Wren had a distinct and unique voice, realistic and well-portrayed emotions, and a very likeable quality to her despite her standoffish cover. The way she developed was realistic, especially considering she needed a trigger -- in the form of Gabriel -- to do so.

Gabriel motivation for helping Wren out was plausible. He understood what was going on, he knew it was wrong, and he wanted to help fix it. Plus, he kind of liked her. He didn't try to just swoop in and get overprotective of her; he just offered assistance where it was needed. I love these kinds of relationships explored in YA: where the romance is actually beneficial to the development of the main character. Gabriel helped Wren overcome something that she couldn't have on her own, and their connection proved to be stronger than those of YA characters built simply on good looks.

All of this amazing character building was portrayed through an easy, flowing writing style. A quietly sad and slightly hypnotic tone was established quickly and maintained, inducing a strange prickly feeling at the story's climax. I'm interested in more books from Amy Garvey in the future based on her incredible writing skill.

Overall, a compelling and emotional read; heavy on the character development and light on the supernatural. A refreshing read for paranormal and contemporary fans alike.

I give Cold Kiss a 4 out of 5.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Review: The Girl Of Fire And Thorns by Rae Carson

The Girl Of Fire And Thorns by Rae Carson

Series: Fire And Thorns (#1)
Pages: 432
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Published: September 20th, 2011
IBSN: 9780062026484

Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness.

Elisa is the chosen one.

But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can’t see how she ever will.

Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs the chosen one, not a failure of a princess.

And he’s not the only one who needs her. Savage enemies seething with dark magic are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people’s savior. And he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.

Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young.

Most of the chosen do.

Once a century, someone is gifted with the Godstone and destined to complete  some heroic act. Elisa is that someone; an unlikely hero, never living up to her sister and having a larger-than-usual penchant for food. But thrust into a role she isn't ready for, she'll discover a brave part of herself she never knew before.

I was pleasantly surprised by The Girl Of Fire And Thorns. I hadn't read any reviews before beginning, and I'm always wary of epic fantasies (even though I usually love them). But Rae Carson's debut was completely engaging and entirely enjoyable. It's one of the great books I've read recently that pulled me from a reading slump.

Her writing style was smooth, with a distinct and easy flow to it. The language was appropriate to the setting, complete with a few of the cumbersome names typical of epic fantasies.

Elisa was an easily likable main character, with natural flaws and insecurities. She developed a lot as a result of her circumstances, from relatable to admirable. She didn't have a choice, but made the best of her situation and did all she could to save the village. She was compassionate and level-headed and I loved her for it.

Elisa isn't the only noteworthy character, however. Secondary characters were remarkably well fleshed out, and I was always unsuspectingly developing emotional attachments to them. Carson does an excellent job of gradually changing your opinion about a character -- as enemies become friends and friends commit betrayals -- and portraying them in a new light.

The plot was fast-paced, and the twists frequent and unpredictable. Carson didn't shy away from creating dire and intense situations and she wasn't afraid to put her characters under the huge pressures the premise required. Everything turning out in favour of the main character isn't realistic, and this story reflected that. The stakes were constantly high and I was on the edge of my seat the entire way.

The Girl Of Fire And Thorns was an exciting story, perfect as a standalone novel, so I've got mixed feelings about making it into a series. Still, this book is one I'd definitely recommend to fans of fantasy novels like Mistwood, Graceling, and Blood Song.

I give The Girl Of Fire And Thorns a 5 out of 5.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Cold Kiss Tour: Teenage Garage Sale

Welcome to the fourth stop on the book tour for Amy Garvey's amazing debut, Cold Kiss (stick around for my review, going up on the 20th!). Make sure you don't miss any of the posts: click here for the tour schedule.

Here, I'm delighted to host Amy for her Teenage Garage Sale, where she'll share with us some of her beloved possessions as a teenager.

Oh, my teen years. Keep in mind, they’re possibly a bit farther back than you expected…

My Timberland construction boots. These were absolutely de rigueur for us, the more broken in and scuffed the better. We wore them with … well, pretty much everything, but generally jeans and flannel shirts. Think Freaks and Geeks. In the shape mine were in, I’ll let them go for $5.

My LeSportsac. I can’t remember how many of these I had – many! My last one was brown and pretty big and very well-loved. $3.

Feather earrings, many sizes and colors! I think these are actually back in now, right? Almost a dozen for a mere $3!

Baseball jersey style concert shirts, a little worse for the (constant) wear, featuring The Police and The Kinks. Please tell me you know who they are. $1 apiece.

About a million unused writing journals, since I apparently used to buy them in bulk for the pretty covers and wind up journaling in the back of my school notebooks. Oops. $1 each!

My collection of mix tapes, complete with Sony Walkman! Everything from Thompson Twins to X to Joni Mitchell to Pink Floyd and Depeche Mode made their way onto those. The whole lot for a low, low $5!

A few unused bottles of Sun-In, since I discovered pretty early it made my hair a really unfortunate tangerine. Free, actually. No one should use these.

My VHS tape of the Live Aid concert in Philly from July 13, 1985. You know you want this. As long as you still have a VCR, that is. Tom Petty, Madonna, the Stones, Duran Duran, Bob Dylan! $3 only!

An original Atari console! You haven’t played video games till you’ve played  Pong, believe me. ::shifty-eyed:: Just $4!

Here's some more info about the haunting and lovely Cold Kiss:

When her boyfriend, Danny, is killed in a car accident, Wren can’t imagine living without him. Wild with grief, she uses the untamed powers she’s inherited to bring him back. But the Danny who returns is just a shell of the boy she once loved.

Wren has spent four months keeping Danny hidden, while her life slowly unravels around her. Then Gabriel DeMarnes transfers to her school and somehow, inexplicably, he can sense her secret. Wren finds herself drawn to Gabriel, who is so much more alive than the ghost of the boy she loved. But Wren can’t turn her back on Danny or the choice she made for him—and she realizes she must find a way to make things right, even if it means breaking her own heart.

Amy Garvey’s transcendent teen debut is perfect for fans of Shiver and Beautiful Creatures. Wren’s unforgettable voice and story will stay with readers long after the last page is turned.

Look out for it in stores on the 20th of September, 2011!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Review: Six Impossible Things by Fiona Wood

Six Impossible Things by Fiona Wood

Pages: 244
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Published: August 1st, 2010

Fourteen year old nerd-boy Dan Cereill is not quite coping with a reversal of family fortune, moving house, new school hell, a mother with a failing wedding cake business, a just-out gay dad, and an impossible crush on Estelle, the girl next door. His life is a mess, but for now he's narrowed it down to just six impossible things...

I'm disappointed that I read this books after my post about what makes Aussie YA Aussie YA, because Six Impossible Things demonstrated exactly what I meant about it being 'comfortable'. Everything about it felt familiar, and not in the "this story is hackneyed" kind of way. Six Impossible Things was like a story your friends recount to you.

The awkwardly funny tone of the story was reminiscent of teen movies that make you cringe in the good sense. The situations Dan found himself in were often embarrassing, but he responds to it all in such a down-to-earth and relatable way that we want to stifle our laughter and help him to his feet.

Dan's voice was so distinct and real, and his problems were all relatable: unrequited love, money issues, newly divorced parents, trying to not look like an idiot. I just wanted to give him a hug.

Six Impossible Things was a cute and heart-warming coming-of-age story that any teen, or anyone who was ever a teen, could relate to.

I give Six Impossible Things a 4 out of 5.

I recommend it for fans of: Beatle Meets Destiny, Good Oil, A Straight Line To My Heart.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Waiting On Wednesday (42)

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 Touch Of Power by Maria V Snyder, the first book in her new Healers series. I'm a huge fan of her other books, and this one has such a gripping premise.

Laying hands upon the injured and dying, Avry of Kazan assumes their wounds and diseases into herself. But rather than being honored for her skills, she is hunted. Healers like Avry are accused of spreading the plague that has decimated the Territories, leaving the survivors in a state of chaos.

Stressed and tired from hiding, Avry is abducted by a band of rogues who, shockingly, value her gift above the golden bounty offered for her capture. Their leader, an enigmatic captor-protector with powers of his own, is unequivocal in his demands: Avry must heal a plague-stricken prince—leader of a campaign against her people. As they traverse the daunting Nine Mountains, beset by mercenaries and magical dangers, Avry must decide who is worth healing and what is worth dying for. Because the price of peace may well be her life...

[Synopsis by Goodreads]

Touch Of Power will be released by MIRA books (Harlequin) on the 20th of December.

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: Hourglass by Myra McEntire

Hourglass by Myra McEntire

Series: Hourglass (#1)
Pages: 397
Publisher: Egmont USA
Published: June 14th, 2011
IBSN: 9781606841440

One hour to rewrite the past . . .

For seventeen-year-old Emerson Cole, life is about seeing what isn’t there: swooning Southern Belles; soldiers long forgotten; a haunting jazz trio that vanishes in an instant. Plagued by phantoms since her parents’ death, she just wants the apparitions to stop so she can be normal. She’s tried everything, but the visions keep coming back.

So when her well-meaning brother brings in a consultant from a secretive organization called the Hourglass, Emerson’s willing to try one last cure. But meeting Michael Weaver may not only change her future, it may change her past.

Who is this dark, mysterious, sympathetic guy, barely older than Emerson herself, who seems to believe every crazy word she says? Why does an electric charge seem to run through the room whenever he’s around? And why is he so insistent that he needs her help to prevent a death that never should have happened?

Hourglass is Myra McEntire's debut novel, a contemporary timeslip romance that felt aptly reminiscent of the past.

Emerson's been seeing strange nostalgic apparitions, of southern belles and jazz bands and the like. She's tried everything to stop seeing these things that aren't there, but nothing seems to work, until she meets the mysterious Michael, who sees them all too.

Emerson was a relatable as a protagonist -- feisty as front against all she's endured, but caring and kind beneath it. Though she could get annoyingly in-your-face at times, it was easy to understand where she was coming from. The ordeals she suffered through, revealed in parts, disposed us to feel sympathetic for her, and especially after the ending twist.

The beginning was slow, but it eventually gained momentum and reached a fast-paced climax. The time-travelling component to this story was cleverly done, and most of the strict rules and guidelines to using their talents the characters made were understandable. Some of the characters' concerns about manipulating time were things I never would have thought of -- they were remarkably level-headed about the situation.

Though, some of their self-imposed rules were frustrating -- like the boundaries Michael put on his and Emerson's relationship, seemingly without reason. Their romance was great, and their chemistry strong, and I was rooting for them the whole way, but I couldn't see what was stopping them.

The ending came with a twist awkwardly revealed but intriguing none-the-less. The conclusion achieved the right balance between problems solved and problems left to be addressed for a first book in a series. It leaves us anxious for the next book without employing a cheap cliffhanger.

Overall, Hourglass was an engaging and unique paranormal romance, though frustrating at moments. I do look forward to the rest of the series.

I give Hourglass a 3 out of 5.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Fans of Twilight will love this post!*

Quotes and praise on the covers of books are undoubtedly important to getting the attention of potential readers. I picked up Lili Wilkinson's Pink at my library one day, and was about to put it down when I saw a blurb by John Green on the back and borrowed it. Lauren Oliver's praise for Fury is what made me want to read it. But there's always a deal-breaker quote: "Fans of Twilight will love this book!", and not because I'm not a Twilight fan.

The only thing you can assume about someone for being a fan of Something is that they like that Something. You can't take a fan of a book and tell them that they definitely will like this other thing, because you can't know that. Recommend it for fans, but don't tell them what they will and won't like.

I find this particularly annoying when it's about Twilight. I definitely appreciate what Twilight did for YA (I might not have even gotten into reading without it), but it isn't the reference for everything that comes after it. We don't need to look for 'The Next Twilight', we need to find new books that are noteworthy in their own right.

P.S. While I'm on the topic of cover quotes, does it seem to anyone else that Lauren Kate has one on every second book...?

*Or not. There's no way I really tell that.