Wednesday, November 30, 2011

November Wrap-Up

I am now officially done with high school, on a very long break before university in March, and you'd think I'd be way ahead on the blog, reading constantly, but there is just so much inane stuff to do that I'm laziest when I have the most time. So none of my reviews this month follow my usual strict schedule, but at least there are almost as many as usual.

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


2011 Debut Author Challenge:
This month for the Debut Author Challenge, I read and reviewed Legend by Marie Lu. It was released on the 29th, and my review is linked below.

100+ Challenge: completed.
This month I read and reviewed 13 novels that go towards the challenge's goal of reading 100 books this year, bringing my running total up to 170. 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... 0 novels that goes towards the challenge's goal of reading 12 YA books by Australian authors (I'm on 32 at the moment. My new personal goal is 35). I'll make sure to remedy this next month!


     - Top 5 List: uniquely formatted books

    - Thankful for Shiver
    - Equinox Blog Tour: Interview with Lara Morgan on Australian settings

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.

December's Book Of The Month is The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. My review can be found here.

Stay tuned for a Night Circus giveaway tomorrow! (Tomorrow conveniently happens to be one minute away here!) The winner of last month's giveaway of The Daughter Of Smoke And Bone was Saundra.

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

Review: Smoulder by Brenna Yovanoff


Smoulder (The Space Between) by Brenna Yovanoff

Pages: 368
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Published: December 1st, 2011
IBSN: 9780857070784

Being the youngest daughter of the Devil has never been easy. Daphne's father has no time for her, her mother no interest, and her status in the upper echelon separates her from the working-class demons that populate Lucifer's metropolis. When her brother and only confidante goes missing, life in the restrictive city of Pandemonium becomes intolerable. Now, in an attempt to find him, Daphne sets out for Earth - and finds it larger and more chaotic than she imagined: a dazzling expanse of noise, dirt and random violence. Despite her bewilderment, she navigates the mortal world with growing fascination, gaining an ally when she saves a dying boy from her father's minions.
For Truman Flynn, the last year has been one long downward spiral, but when Daphne arrives just in time to save his life, he finds himself unexpectedly glad to have another chance. Together, Daphne and Truman go in search of her brother, braving the hazards of Las Vegas and the perils of first love, even as it becomes increasingly clear that her brother might have had a secret and compelling reason for leaving. Lucifer's agents aren't the only creatures on the prowl, and Daphne soon finds herself the target of a plan to rid the world of demons for good. Now she must evade a demon-eating monster, rescue her brother from an angelic zealot, and save the boy she loves from his greatest enemy - himself.

Daphne's never been as comfortable as her sisters with her existence as the daughter of a fallen angel and a demon, but she has a loving half-brother Obie that makes it some shade of okay. Until he tells her he's leaving for the human realm. But his plans go awry, and Daphne's mother sees a vision of him pulled away in a trail of blood. Daphne travels to the human world for the first time, enlisting the help of the self-destructive boy who saw him last, to bring him home.

The prose was ornate and lovely, in a somber mood appropriate to the protagonist's melancholia. Brenna Yovanoff's style of writing is rather spare, yet very effectively builds a vivid atmosphere. Daphne's voice -- full of a kind of naive determination -- was clear, and all of the settings were described in perfect (but not overbearing) detail. It's easy to feel as though you yourself are in them beside the characters; in the Pandemonium terminal, or in a cramped bathroom trying to resuscitate your only hope.

The base idea was unique and imaginative, and the execution lived up to it. Like in the 
Merry Sisters of Fate short stories of Yovanoff's that I've read, Smoulder features tragic and compelling mythology -- dark and gritty in the style of the originals. This mythological premise is the antidote to the straight-forward, dumbed-down versions of regular mythologies that so many YAs feature. The eerie and dark mood of the story and the initial hardship didn't promise an eventual happy ending that you mostly can assume from the cheery-toned majority, and the uncertainty made the story so much more enthralling.

Brenna's first novel,The Replacement, I found lacking only in its dispassionate nature, and so, I was very pleased with how emotionally compelling Smoulder turned out to be. The characters were fleshed out and developed and entirely sympathetic. Through their perspective, and in their head mingling with all their clearly portrayed feelings, you'll become invested in their story.

The conclusion was wonderful, with unpredictable and gasp-inducing twists. The story's resolution was satisfying, while still leaving something to the imagination and maintaining the mysterious and eerie mood. A devastating climax is followed by a slow, unwinding denouement with a certain softness to it, bringing you to the end gently.

Smoulder I recommend to fans of Maggie Stiefvater's faerie books, Holly Black's Tithe series, and Laini Taylor's latest two novels. And if you're on the fence about whether you want to try Brenna Yovanoff's books or not, you should definitely check out her Merry Sisters of Fate short stories. Smoulder was a dark and mysterious paranormal romance that broke the typical PNR mould.

Waiting On Wednesday (53)

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 Reluctant Hallelujah by Gabrielle Williams. You may have heard of Gabrielle's other novel, Beatle Meets Destiny, and you may have also read it and so can agree with me that it was fabulous. I'm very excited for this, especially for its intriguing synopsis:

  But there I go, getting ahead of myself. Skipping straight to the part where I was front-page news and they were calling me Dorothy, instead of starting at the beginning...

When Dodie's parents go missing just as final year exams are about to start, she convinces herself they're fine. But when the least likely boy in class holds the key – quite literally – to the huge secret her parents have been hiding all these years, it's up to Dodie, her sister, the guy from school, and two guys she's never met before, to take on the challenge of a lifetime. So now Dodie's driving – unlicensed –to Sydney, and being chased by bad guys, the police, and one very handsome good guy.

[Synopsis by Goodreads]

The Reluctant Hallelujah is being published by Penguin Australia on the 22nd of February, 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, November 29, 2011

Review: Bad Taste In Boys by Carrie Harris


Bad Taste In Boys by Carrie Harris

Pages: 201
Publisher: Delacorte Books
Published: July 12st, 2011
IBSN: 9780385739689

Someone's been a very bad zombie.

Kate Grable is horrified to find out that the football coach has given the team steroids. Worse yet, the steriods are having an unexpected effect, turning hot gridiron hunks into mindless flesh-eating zombies. No one is safe--not her cute crush Aaron, not her dorky brother, Jonah . . . not even Kate! She's got to find an antidote--before her entire high school ends up eating each other. So Kate, her best girlfriend, Rocky, and Aaron stage a frantic battle to save their town . . . and stay hormonally human.

Kate is outraged to find the coach of her high school football team giving the team steroids, but her anger quickly turns to fear when the drugs turn out to be contaminated. Rather than giving the footballers a boost on field, they seem to be turning them into zombies. Not only is she the only person who understands the outbreak, but also the only person with a chance of curing it before it gets out of hand.

Bad Taste In Boys, at only 201 pages, is a quick read, emphasised by the fast-paced nature of the plot. You can't put it down because a) you don't have time to, and b) because there aren't breaks in the drama that would allow you to. It jumped straight into the action, built suspense effectively, and didn't leave too much time after the denouement hanging.

Kate was an great protagonist to see the story through. She had a distinct and likable voice, even if her goofiness occasionally wandered a little too far from Endearing, and she drove the story forward with her determination, though the determination was mixed with enough nervousness and reluctance to allow us to relate. Though her ability to solve the problems she faced with such convenience and ease reminded me of Nancy Drew, and this likeness was only reinforced by the corny conclusion.

Her love interest, Aaron, fell a little flat. He was fully fleshed out, and neither was the attraction. Kate spent much of the story working solo, and Aaron's appearances were few. We had to rely on Kate's recounting of his dreamboat factors rather than seeing for ourselves, and so, it isn't completely believable. It gave the vibe of a romance implemented just to be there, to fit into a genre in which

Something in the mood of Bad Taste In Boys -- be it the characters' general flippancy about the outbreak, or the simple brand of humour -- gave the impression that it was intended for a younger audience. While I certainly enjoyed the book, some of its appeal may have been lost on me, as typically a reader of older, darker YA.

Bad Taste In Boys is a book I'd recommend specifically to fans of younger YA, or to fans of middle grade novels. But it's light and fast and silly, and readers of high-drama, high-tension novels may enjoy this one as a rest.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Review: Legend by Marie Lu


Legend by Marie Lu

Series: Legend (#1)
Pages: 298
Publisher: Razorbill
Published: November 28th, 2011
IBSN: 9780141339412

Once known as the western coast of the United States, the Republic is now a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors, the Colonies.

Born into an elite family in one of the Republic's wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a military prodigy. Obedient, passionate, and committed to her country, she is being groomed for success in the Republic's highest circles.

Born into the slums of the Republic's Lake Sector, fifteen-year-old Day is the country's most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.

From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths-until the day June's brother, Metias, is murdered, and Day becomes the prime suspect. Now, caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family's survival, while June tries desperately to avenge Metias's death.

But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths to which their country will go to keep its secrets.

June is the Republic's military prodigy, and Day is the Republic's most wanted criminal. His latest crime resulted in the death of June's brother, and June makes it her personal mission to track down the criminal that has eluded the military for years. They're from very opposite sides of the tracks, but on meeting, they'll discover that they aren't so different after all.

I'm a sucker for the 'good' criminal, the Robin Hood. Day's crimes consist of stealing from the rich and powerful and corrupted and giving to the needy in the slum sectors. His latest crime, and the focus of Legend, is breaking into a hospital to steal plague cures for the family he takes care of surreptitiously and thinks he's dead. Day was immediately refreshing and exciting to read about, though I would have preferred more selfless feats shown rather than retold.

I find that with action novels, a fast and thrilling plot can't manage to sustain my interest for very long since they mostly sacrifice character depth. Legend combined them both, though. Our protagonists June and Day developed and grew and it didn't take anything away from the action -- it added to it. Caring for the characters and developing an emotional investment in their well being made the plot more suspenseful and each obstacle faced more concerning.

Marie Lu's ability to heighten drama through the prose so simply was skillfull. The writing style implemented was perfect for the genre and the story. Only her first novel, and she's up there with my favourite action writers. I very was impressed in particular with how she layered the plots. Legend opened the major plot almost immediately (but not so soon as to not know and care about June's brother at all), and what promises to be the series arc took over later, but without forgetting about the former like I feel happens too often.

My sole complaint was that it had the basic plot structure of almost every other dystopia out there. An obedient girl meeting a boy that shows her that the system she's had faith in isn't what she's always believed it to be. I'm waiting for a new dystopia to blow me away. Legend  features a very good storyline, but from all of the hype I expected it to have well and truly broken the mould.

Legend was a dystopian thriller featuring likable characters that draw you quickly through the fast-paced plot. If not exceptionally unique in the dystopia aspect, it was very, very enjoyable to read.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern


The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Pages: 376
Publisher: Harvill Secker
Published: September 15th, 2011
IBSN: 9781846555244

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des RĂªves, and it is only open at night.
But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

The Night Circus -- entirely black and white, comprised of too many tents to visit in one night, each holding seemingly impossible acts -- appears without notice, and opens only at night. But behind the beautiful and mysterious facade of the circus is a competition with an inevitably tragic result and a fate irrevocably intertwined with that of each and everyone at the circus.

The Night Circus was a gorgeous and magical debut -- one part The Daughter Of Smoke And Bone, one part Water For Elephants, and the rest product of Morgenstern's brilliant imagination.

The perspective was from an omniscient third-person, my favourite when executed well, which this of course was. The focus slipped from character to character often, but never confusingly, and even to an entirely objective point of view. Close to the circus, it's possible to forget how extraordinary and innocuous felt to outsiders. Each part began with a section in the second-person view of a circus-goer that reminded us of the obliviousness of the general public to the dramatic and all-consuming issue the characters privy of the competition.

The characters were enigmas, the premise mysterious. Perspectives would switch after giving us the bare minimum amount of information to appease us, keeping us on the outside. The Night Circus didn't throw us into the middle of the situation as much as it showed us the story as one would see from the outside. Like circus-goers ourselves, watching curiously but rarely fully knowing. Omissions never felt awkward in attempt to develop this feel, but completely natural.

Morgenstern's writing style was elegant and lovely, and the work that went into crafting the prose was clear. Each perfectly chosen and positioned word felt laboured over, and the effort was not wasted. Stopping to reread and admire phrases was involuntary, though not a burden. The story and drama encouraged me forward, to find and take comfort in the denouement, but the writing slowed me, though I wouldn't complain about that. The Night Circus, took me several wonderful days to finish.

The imagery was beautiful, particularly the descriptions of the Reveurs (as depicted on this edition cover) in their unofficial uniform -- all black, with a stark flash of vivid red. The language evoked clear images of the events and the elegance and dreaminess of the settings of the novel.

The story has this incredible emotional pull: the defeated and almost melancholic mood of the two leads' perspectives was almost impossible not to share. The characters, all of them, even and especially the antagonists, were fleshed out even through minimal exposure, and feeling for them was an inconvenient (I can't say moping for these fictional people helped me any prepare for my exams)(though the allure of a book that makes you genuinely feel things is undeniable) inevitability.

The chemistry between Celia and Marco was so skilfully portrayed through limited glimpses at their time together. Morgenstern struck a balance between attractions heavily based on an intense, ethereal bond and a relationship that felt natural. Their romance was fast, but not in a contrived way, and it was strong enough to realistically motivate the characters without tedious and lengthy scenes together.

The Night Circus concluded with a bittersweet compromise; a very clever twist that held onto the unpredictability and promised tragedy of the plot while not having all of the characters' struggles end up being in vain. Emotions were running high by the suspenseful finish, and by the bottom of the final page, I was left in a sober sort of mood, wondering a) why I put myself through such emotional stories and do this to myself, and b) how I will possibly ever be able to go back to my usual line-up of light, young books.

The Night Circus, it was clear from the beginning, would become a favourite of mine by the end, and it did not fail me. It's a historical fantasy YA-adult crossover that everyone, regardless of your preferred genre, I'm sure would find an element to enjoy. Erin Morgenstern's debut displays a talent well worth keeping an eye on.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Review: Between The Sea And Sky by Jaclyn Dolamore


Between The Sea And Sky by Jaclyn Dolamore

Pages: 240
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Published: October 25th, 2011
IBSN: 9781599904344

For as long as Esmerine can remember, she has longed to join her older sister, Dosinia, as a siren--the highest calling a mermaid can have. When Dosinia runs away to the mainland, Esmerine is sent to retrieve her. Using magic to transform her tail into legs, she makes her way unsteadily to the capital city. There she comes upon a friend she hasn't seen since childhood--a dashing young man named Alandare, who belongs to a winged race of people. As Esmerine and Alandare band together to search for Dosinia, they rekindle a friendship . . . and ignite the emotions for a love so great, it cannot be bound by sea, land, or air.

Esmerine is excited to finally be a siren with her sister, Dosinia, protecting the seas together. But on the first day, Dosinia disappears. The two of them always shared a small fascination with the land, but Esmerine would have never guessed her sister would leave her for it. She ventures on land herself in search of her, with the help of the winged boy from her childhood that stopped visiting without warning so many years ago.

Jaclyn Dolamore writes a story reminiscent of a fairy tale, a romance with a soft plot, set in a magical world of mermaids and flying people and the space between.

Dolamore's writing style remains charming, and the tone still perfectly appropriate to the setting. The language had an ethereal, fantasy quality to it; a fairy tale-esque softness and simplicity. But beyond the fantasy aspect, the setting was also historical, and that was clear as well. The setting may have been the most appealing aspect of the story. I was completely taken with the human town that served as a buffer between the two worlds, and the interesting way their lifestyles intertwined.

The romance was sweet, in way childhood friends reuniting, but not with any striking magnitude of chemistry. There was a certain amount of distance between placed between us the characters, but their emotions were still clear, and though becoming truly invested in Esmerine's journey was difficult, she was always a pleasant enough person to read about.

Though, the book-loving theme was inconsequential and a very see-through attempt at increasing relatability. Protagonists who love reading are common, and each time I snort a little in response (I mean, great authors can make me relate to anyone, no matter our differences), but never has it felt as contrived as this time.

Between the Sea and Sky was a very light-hearted romantic fantasy, and though it certainly didn't live up to Magic Under Glass, it was enjoyable and has not taken any excitement away from the upcoming release of Magic Under Stone.

I'd recommend this specifically to fans of YA that also read MG, given the youthful tone and the very simple plot that YA readers accustomed to high-suspense stories may find boring.

Waiting On Wednesday (52)

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 Queen of the Night by Leanne Hall, the sequel to the fabulous This Is Shyness. Shyness quickly became one of my all-time favourites, with its peculiar and alluring setting in perpetual darkness. I'm especially excited for this one since I'm a huge sucker for stories of rekindling whirlwind relationships that ended as abruptly as they began. 

  The dark is dangerous. So is the past. So are your dreams.

For six months Nia—Wildgirl—has tried to forget Wolfboy, the mysterious boy she spent one night with in Shyness—the boy who said he'd call but didn't.

Then Wolfboy calls. The things he tells her pull her back to the suburb of Shyness, where the sun doesn't rise and dreams and reality are difficult to separate. There, Doctor Gregory has seemingly disappeared, the Darkness is changing and Wolfboy's friend is in trouble. And Nia decides to become Wildgirl once more.

The sequel to the 2009 Text Prize-winning This Is Shyness is about the difficulty of recreating the past—about how the Darkness no longer sets Wolfboy and Wildgirl free.

[Synopsis by Goodreads]

Queen of the Night is being published by Text Publishing on the 22nd of February, 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.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Equinox Blog Tour: Interview with Lara Morgan

I'm lucky enough to be hosting Lara Morgan, author of the Rosie Black Chronicles, here as a stop on the blog tour for the launch of the second Rosie Black book, Equinox (you can check out the tour schedule here or follow the Facebook page to stay updated on new tour posts).

I got the chance to ask her a couple of questions about the Australian settings of her books:

What made you choose Perth as the backdrop for the Rosie Black chronicles, rather than a fictional setting? What effect do you think having a dystopian version of a real city rather than a fictional one has?

      I wanted to write about the real world and especially to explore the possible changes that could come about due to climate change. And I especially wanted to set the books in Australia and a place I knew well – Perth – so I could explore what might happen locally in a post climate change world. My previous books had also been fantasy, based in a world of my own creation, so I wanted to do something completely different from what I’d done before. I’ve had some interesting comments from people living in Perth who after having read the book wanted to tell me it made them look at little differently at their own city. So I think using a real city rather than a fictional one gives a particular resonance to the story, especially for those who live in Perth now.

What, aside from simply being set in Australia, do you think gives the backdrop to the series an Australian feel?

      It’s really in the details, the descriptions of place and heat, the lack of water. I added the scents like eucalypt or the dry heat, the mention of the great spaces between towns to the north and the contrasts between Newperth and the Gondwana Nation lands.  Giving it an Australian feel was not something I overtly strove to do, but something that I wanted to come out subtly. It’s the little things that will set it in place.

Have you heard thoughts on the Rosie Black chronicles from international readers? Do you expect that the familiarity with the setting has a large effect on how the story is viewed?

      I have had people ask if it’s available overseas, but as it’s not yet published outside Australia or New Zealand I haven’t much contact with international readers. I hope eventually I will though! And I don’t think a familiarity with the setting is going to influence people’s view of the story because while the setting is important, at its heart it’s Rosie’s story. It’s about the characters and what happens to them and how they deal with what is thrown at them.

Thinking about where the world in general is headed scares me. How did you find imagining the actual city you’re from in such a decayed state? Do you view it differently now?

      I had a great time tearing down and rebuilding Perth! I love ruins and decay and had no problem at all imagining all kinds of terrible things to do to it, and then ways to create a different city in the same spot. Much of the world of Rosie Black comes from my similar fear of where our planet is going so it was actually quite satisfying to show what could happen to our familiar places if we don’t do something now. As for how I see the city now – well sometimes I do look at it, particularly the river, and picture which parts of Newperth might be where, but generally I have no problem separating the now from my imagined future.  I’m glad I live in the Perth now – in Rosie’s world you can’t find a decent coffee shop for love or money!

Thank you Lara for stopping by!

Here's some more info about Equinox:

Published by Walker Books on the 1st of November, 2011.

It’s Rosie’s seventeenth year and she’s starting her first year at Orbitcorp Academy, but it’s not going to be all parties and pilot training. Helios hasn’t forgotten her – and she certainly hasn’t forgotten them. Bent on revenge Rosie is still working in secret to try to take them down.

But a terrible miscalculation will send Rosie once more on the run, this time into the unknown lands of the north, Gondwana Nation, where word has it Helios is building something big.

There will be a new friend and a new boy – the handsome and wealthy Dalton Curtis – who will surprise Rosie with a secret she can’t begin to guess. And Pip will return, but how does he feel about Rosie, and where has he been?

Pursued again and on the run, Rosie might not have time to find out all the answers, but what she will learn is that a capacity for evil can be equalled by a capacity for good - and she will be forced to make a choice that will change her future forever.

Tomorrow you can find Lara at She Known As Jess and Little Elf Man's Random Thoughts.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Review: Drink, Slay, Love by Sarah Beth Durst


Drink, Slay, Love by Sarah Best Durst

Pages: 396
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Published: December 1st, 2011
IBSN: 9781742379166

Pearl is a sixteen-year-old vampire, fond of blood, allergic to sunlight, and mostly evil... until the night a sparkly unicorn stabs her through the heart with his horn. Oops. 

Her Family think she was attacked by a vampire hunter (because, obviously, unicorns don't exist), and they're shocked she survived. They're even more shocked when Pearl discovers she can now withstand the sun. But they quickly find a way to make use of her new talent. The Vampire King of New England has chosen Pearl's Family to host his feast. If Pearl enrolls in high school, she can make lots of human friends and lure them to the king's feast -- as the entrees.

The only problem? Pearl's starting to feel the twinges of a conscience. How can she serve up her new friends -- especially the cute guy who makes her fangs ache -- to be slaughtered? Then again, she's definitely dead if she lets down her Family. What's a sunlight-loving vamp to do?

Pearl's family is as dysfunctional as any other, though not in the same way. She comes from a prestigious line of vampires, and with her Fealty Ceremony approaching, it's almost time for her to truly become one of them. But in a visit to her regular haunt -- the neck of a boy who works at the Dairy Hut -- she's attacked by a unicorn, staked with its horn, and left with a nasty ache and burdensome case of humanity.

The major appeal of Drink, Slay, Love, I guess, was supposed to be the humour. Though what was surprising was the genuine and interesting plot. After the brush with a unicorn, Pearl finds herself with a conscious, reflection, and a cured allergy to sunlight. Her parents send her out into the real, daytime world to lure in meals, which is getting harder as she stops thinking of people as meals and starts thinking of people as people.

Though, the tone of the humour was inconsistent. The parody title; a vampire with a surname meaning blood in French; and an opening scene in which Pearl's boyfriend is making smarmy, over-the-top declarations of love and admiration and comparing her breath to industrial strength air freshener. It all hinted towards a kind of ridiculous humor, a la Beauty Queens, but it lost that mood fairly early on and attempts to bring it back felt awkward.

The typical brand of humour, however, is one I feel like I grew out of. And instead of evoking a kind of nostalgia, it was mostly exasperating. It came in stereotypes and in dialogue that smells of people trying too hard to be liked on the internet (speaking about epicness or punctuating each. word. with. a period. for emphasis or just anything Matt or Zeke said). It was kind of juvenille(?) for my taste, but I had fun with the plot at least.

Overall, Drink, Slay, Love was a pleasantly silly vampire story for fans of younger YA. I felt as though by having outgrown some of the humour I was missing out on some of what the book had to offer. But the plot was interesting, and I may try her earlier fantasy novel Ice.

I give Drink, Slay, Love a 3 out of 5.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

In My Mailbox (9)

In My Mailbox is weekly feature hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren, and if you haven't heard of it before I don't believe you the point is to highlight books we've received over the past week. So, here goes:

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith
I'm very excited to read this one! It sounds adorable. I like the ARC cover, but I think they're using the regular US cover for the final copies.

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lisa McBride
I'd heard praise for this one around, and it was ridiculously cheap at Basement Books, so what else would I do but buy it?

Matter of Magic by Patricia C. Wrede
This one also came from Basement Books. I hadn't heard much about it, but again, it was really cheap.

The Dark And Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan
And one more from Basement Books. I've already read The Dark And Hollow Places, and I loved it, and it's nice to have a copy now.

Legend by Marie Lu
A surprise from Penguin! I've begun this already (I think you can see my bookmark in the photo), and I'm enjoying it very much so far. I'm not sure whatever happened to the Australian cover, but I prefer this one anyway.

Crossed by Ally Condie
This came with Legend from Penguin. I think I'll begin it soon, but with tempered expectations, since I wasn't overly impressed with Matched. The Australian edition cover is a little different. I really like that they did away with some of the scattering shards, so at a glance, it doesn't look like Cassia's flipping off the Society anymore.


Equinox by Lara Morgan
Thanks to Walker Books for this on.! I'm hosting an interview here with Lara in a couple of days for the blog tour for the release of this one. I'm just about to leave for the library to get the book before this one, Genesis.

Between the Sea and Sky by Jaclyn Dolamore
I began reading this as soon as it arrived. I really liked Jaclyn's first book, Magic Under Glass, and I really liked Between the Sea and Sky as well. Thank you Bloomsbury!

Unleashed by Nancy Holder and Debbie Viguie
This one arrived as a surprise from Random House, in a lovely "happy paranormal christmas" package.

So what did you guys get this week?

Review: Frozen by Robin Wasserman


Frozen (Skinned) by Robin Wasserman

Series: Cold Awakening (#1)
Pages: 386
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Published: December 1st, 2011
IBSN: 9781442420380

The Download was supposed to change the world. It was supposed to mean the end of aging the end of death, the birth of a new humanity. But it wasn't supposed to happen to someone like Lia Kahn. 

And it wasn't supposed to ruin her life.

Lia knows she should be grateful she didn't die in the accident. The Download saved her--but it also changed her, forever. She can deal with being a freak. She can deal with the fear in her parents' eyes and the way her boyfriend flinches at her touch. But she can't deal with what she knows, deep down, every time she forces herself to look in the mirror: She's not the same person she used to be.

Maybe she's not even a person at all.

Lia Kahn died in a car accident. But Lia Kahn is still alive. She has to be one or the other, and after waking up, she's convinced of the latter. She's still the same Lia, albeit slightly less mortal and slightly more mechanical. But as her family and friends tiptoe around her at best, and shun her at worst, she has to consider that she isn't the same at all.

I began flicking through a little of Frozen just after it arrived, without the intention of actually starting for a while yet, but Lia's voice captured my interest immediately and her situation -- paralysed consciousness, separate from all of her senses -- tugged on my heartstrings.

Frozen was an intensely engaging science fiction novel. I can best describe it as M. T. Anderson's Feed meets The Adoration Of Jenna Fox. Frozen sets the scene for this series, introducing Lia and detailing her slow journey to accepting her new self. But Frozen, for this very character-driven introduction, is anything but dull.

Lia was the perfect one, before. Gorgeous, popular, athletic, and with a privileged family who (mostly) love her. She loses all of that when she's in a car crash and saved by the Download. She wonders after the procedure if she'd rather be dead or if she already is. Her old personality isn't the most likable, but it's so easy to sympathise with her, especially as everything that made her Perfect Lia slips away from her.

Robin Wasserman's writing style was smooth and elegant, evoking a genuine character voice. Lia's emotions and conflicts were portrayed realistically, and all of her actions were in character. I didn't have to agree with everything she did to appreciate her strong and distinct personality and invest in her story.

The ending felt incredibly clever in the way it leaves the characters in a position to make a huge turn-around. It drove home the realness, as well, with people acting terribly but realistically. Much of Frozen is about exploring humanity, and it's present in each character's prejudice and anger. In their emotions, positive or negative. These aren't charming, cheery characters you want to be friends with or just want to be -- they're who you already are. They're exactly like people really are.

Frozen was a brilliant beginning to the trilogy, focusing on creating the world and setting up Lia's situation and maturing her emotionally and, to a lesser extent, physically for promised tests of her character throughout Shattered and Torn. More touching than exhilarating, Frozen is a must-read for fans of Uglies and Feed and still strongly recommended for everyone else.

I give Frozen a 5 out of 5.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Review: Silence by Becca Fitzpatrick


Silence by Becca Fitzpatrick

Series: Hush, Hush (#3)
Pages: 448
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Published: October 4th, 2011
IBSN: 9780857072283

The noise between Patch and Nora is gone. They've overcome the secrets riddled in Patch's dark past...bridged two irreconcilable worlds...faced heart-wrenching tests of betrayal, loyalty and trust...and all for a love that will transcend the boundary between heaven and earth. Armed with nothing but their absolute faith in one another, Patch and Nora enter a desperate fight to stop a villain who holds the power to shatter everything they've worked for—and their love—forever.

Silence's blurb's beginning gave me the impression that now that Nora and Patch troubles are over they're having relationship issues, which make me snicker. "The noise between Patch and Nora is gone." Like noise being akin to the 'spark'. With the cover snicker-worthy itself, it took me a while to muster up the courage to begin this.

And then I finished it a couple of hours afterwards.

Silence felt like a large improvement on earlier books Hush, Hush and Crescendo, neither of which I'm a fan of, with the faster plot driving me from the story without stopping to pay much mind to qualms I had with the writing. I definitely found Silence to be an entertaining read, on the surface, and I tried to stay on that level and just continue to enjoy it.

That didn't always work, however. Post-reading all of the issues that I didn't spend time dwelling on while speedily flipping pages began to bother me. My major problem thus far with the series has been protagonist Nora Grey, and despite whatever kinship I may have felt with her at the beginning (given we were both thoroughly confused about her situation), I eventually got into the routine of repeatedly asking her why she thought doing that was a good idea.

In three books, I don't think she's developed at all from the naively dumb girl who followed Patch to a sketchy bar at night for a school assignment way back in the beginning. She's still takes good intentions to the extreme (a gas station is being held up by people with superhuman strength, and you want to stay to testify to the police who aren't even on their way yet?), and she's still clingy and possessive.

Nora's poor characterisation made for an unconvincing romance, following the trend of supernatural love interests portrayed as the protagonists' image of perfection falling for them inexplicably. 

So the characters and their dynamics remained exasperating, but aside from that, I was beginning to see improvements in Becca Fitzpatrick's overall style, especially in the pacing. Her writing style even seemed to be striking a tentative balance between distraction and descriptive. But the ending, unexpected and almost contrived in an effort to continue the story, put me off pursuing future books in this series just when doing so started to seem like a good idea.

Silence should appeal to -- and even perhaps, impress -- established fans, and convert readers on the fence, but while many aspects of Silence improve from Hush, Hush and Crescendo, especially action-wise, other factors held it back.

I give Silence a 2 out of 5.

Waiting On Wednesday (51)

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 Alchemy Of Forever by Avery Williams. Though admittedly it was the cover that caught my attention, the blurb was what really made me want to read this. It reminds me of a less melodramatic version of Juliet Immortal.

Seraphina’s first love made her immortal…her second might get her killed.

 After spending six hundred years on earth, Seraphina Ames has seen it all. Eternal life provides her with the world’s riches, but at a very high price: innocent lives. Centuries ago, her boyfriend, Cyrus, discovered a method of alchemy that allows them to swap bodies with other humans, jumping from one vessel to the next, taking the human’s life in the process. No longer able to bear the guilt of what she’s done, Sera escapes from Cyrus and vows to never kill again.

Then sixteen-year-old Kailey Morgan gets into a horrific car accident right in front of her, and Sera accidentally takes over her body. For the first time, Sera finds herself enjoying the life of the person she’s inhabiting—and falls for the human boy who lives next door. But Cyrus will stop at nothing until she’s his again, and every moment she stays, she’s putting herself and the people she’s grown to care for in great danger. Will Sera have to give up the one thing that’s eluded her for centuries: true love?

[Synopsis by Goodreads]

The Alchemy Of Forever is being released by Simon & Schuster on the 3rd of January, 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.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Review: Wherever You Go by Heather Davis


Wherever You Go by Heather Davis

Pages: 320
Publisher: Harcourt Children's
Published: November 14th, 2011
IBSN: 9780547501512

Seventeen-year-old Holly Mullen has felt lost and lonely ever since her boyfriend, Rob, died in a tragic accident. The fact that she has to spend most of her free time caring for her little sister and Alzheimer’s-stricken grandfather doesn’t help. But Holly has no idea that as she goes about her days, Rob’s ghost is watching over her. He isn’t happy when he sees his best friend, Jason, reach out to help Holly with her grandfather—but as a ghost, he can do nothing to stop it. Is his best friend really falling for his girlfriend?

As Holly wonders whether to open her heart to Jason, the past comes back to haunt her. Her grandfather claims to be communicating with the ghost of Rob. Could the messages he has for Holly be real? And if so, how can the loved ones Rob left behind help his tortured soul make it to the other side?

After the death of Holly's boyfriend, Rob, she's despondent. But there isn't time to mourn alone with her mother working two crappy jobs to support their crappy lifestyle leaving her to care for her younger sister and now her senile grandfather. Rob's best friend, Jacob, falls for her, and hopes they can both move on and be together.

I'd heard of Heather Davis before, from her novel Never Cry Werewolf that I read an extended excerpt of a few years ago. It was, like you'd guess from the title, a light paranormal romance, so the premise of this confused me a little. And intrigued me. Could a writer of paranormal romance pull this off?

My answer is no. I found Wherever You Go, in a word, boring. It was about grieving and moving on, with a surprisingly large portion reminiscent of The Bucket List, but without the depth of emotion that would have made it interesting. The best way I can think to describe the story is by comparing it to the plot soap opera but without extremes that give it the can't-look-away kind of badness.

Plus, I can't for the life of me figure out why Rob's perspective was necessary. The revelation about his death felt like it was there simply there for shock value, when it wasn't in the slightest characteristic and it added nothing.

Heather Davis' writing style was smooth enough, and expressive, but even with three perspectives -- one in first person, one in second, and one in third -- no distinct character voices were created, and none sympathetic. The tone would sway from its natural slight sadness to sappiness often, giving spiels about love that could has easily been implicit instead and saved the gagging. Most notable was the line 
"Holly shut the door, rattling the birdhouse wreath and his heart." And his heart.

The romance between Jacob and Holly, which I guess was the main feature, felt completely devoid of chemistry, and Jacob's advances irritated more than they wooed me. He tried much, much too hard, and his almost obsession with her apparent in his perspective was -- did he talk about anything else? Even conversations with his friends and parents all came back to her -- strange.

Overall, Wherever You Go is something I'd recommend to those much more romantic than myself. Still, the story dragged, the emotions were not well-portrayed, and the sticky smarminess of some parts had me rethinking my decision to read this.

I give Wherever You Go a 2 out of 5.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Top 5 Uniquely Structured Books

There's absolutely nothing wrong with the standard structure of a novel, narrative split by chapters and occasionally sections, but sometimes an author follows a more creative format, and you're awe-struck. Five examples, in no particular order, of this that I've encountered include:

The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan:

Written, as you'd expect from the title, in dictionary entries, The Lover's Dictionary shed light on a relationship not too extraordinary in itself, but amazing through the fresh perspective.


Feeling Sorry For Celia by Jaclyn Moriarty:

Feeling Sorry For Celia is told through letters: exchanged notes with parents stuck to the fridge, to and from anonymous pen pals, left by mysterious boys, or to herself. The story was funny and touching, and the characters were so close they appeared real.

The Perks Of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky:

The Perks Of Being A Wallflower is a series of letters from Charlie to anonymous person --  "I am writing to you because she said you listen and understand and didn't try to sleep with that person at that party even though you could have." This book is one of my all-time favourites, written so candidly to this stranger in such an endearing voice.

All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin:

Although this is subtle one, All These Things I've Done is written like a confession; very fittingly. The result was a much more personal and honest novel: not a character narrating their story, but a person telling you their story.

Confessions Of The Sullivan Sisters by Natalie Standiford:

Another you can guess from the title, Confessions Of The Sullivan Sisters is written in confessions -- get this -- from each of the Sullivan sisters. This perspective occasionally went unnoticed, but then a character would address you -- or rather, their grandmother -- directly and draw you right back in.

Do you guys have any favourite oddly-structured books? I haven't read many and I'd love recommendations!