Monday, December 31, 2012

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

From Goodreads: Greece in the age of Heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the kingdom of Phthia. Here he is nobody, just another unwanted boy living in the shadow of King Peleus and his golden son, Achilles. Achilles, 'best of all the Greeks', is everything Patroclus is not - strong, beautiful, the child of a goddess - and by all rights their paths should never cross. Yet one day, Achilles takes the shamed prince under his wing and soon their tentative companionship gives way to a steadfast friendship. As they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something far deeper - despite the displeasure of Achilles's mother Thetis, a cruel and deathly pale sea goddess with a hatred of mortals. Fate is never far from the heels of Achilles. When word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, the men of Greece are called upon to lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows Achilles into war, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they have learned, everything they hold dear. And that, before he is ready, he will be forced to surrender his friend to the hands of Fate.

My Rating: 4 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Told from the eyes of Patroclus, Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles follows the Greek hero Achilles from his childhood in Phthia to his death while fighting in the Trojan War. In the Iliad, Patroclus doesn’t have a huge role; but, his death at the hands of the Trojan Prince Hector is vital in turning the tide of the Trojan War in favour of the Greeks since it causes Achilles to put aside his wrath in order to get revenge. Here, Miller makes Patroclus the same age as Achilles – instead of being older like in the Iliad – and explicitly makes him Achilles’ lover so that the reader can understand why Achilles goes mad with grief once Patroclus dies.

My biggest hesitancy when reading The Song of Achilles was that I was concerned about how much the focus would be on Achilles’ and Patroclus’ sexual relationship rather than on things I would find more interesting – namely, the retelling of the Trojan War. While it was slightly annoying to read about the smitten Patroclus go on about Achilles’ beauty, there was actually only one sexual scene (though there were a couple of instances where physical intimacy is alluded to).

I liked that Miller chose to make Patroclus her narrator because it really highlighted the differences between him and Achilles. While Achilles is destined for greatness even before birth, Patroclus isn’t even close to being a great warrior. But, unlike the demi-god Achilles who seems to be incapable of caring for anyone other than Patroclus, the merely ordinary Patroclus is continually concerned about the welfare of others.

I also liked how Miller incorporated foreshadowing into her novel. For those who have read the Iliad, the foreshadowing in The Song of Achilles lends an element of tragedy to the novel because while Achilles hopes that he’ll get a happy ending and Patroclus repeatedly wonders how he’ll survive after Achilles’ death, we know the fates of both Patroclus and Achilles. My favourite instance of foreshadowing though would have to be the conversation between Neoptolemus (nicknamed Pyrrhus), the arrogant son of Achilles, and Odysseus where Odysseus says that he might end up becoming more famous than Pyrrhus in the future. The crafty Odysseus of course will eventually come up with the idea of the Trojan Horse and star in his own adventure in the Odyssey whereas Pyrrhus* remains unknown to those unfamiliar with the story of the Trojan War. 

Although kind of sappy at certain moments – particularly when Patroclus is younger – and taking some time to reach the point involving Troy, The Song of Achilles is a novel that’s easy to read if you enjoy Greek mythology or want to learn more about Achilles without having to read classical works.

The Song of Achilles was released in September 2011 by Bloomsbury Publishing. 

Comments About the Cover: It’s so hard to tell what’s on the cover! I think it’s a breastplate … but I could be wrong.  

*It was prophesied that Troy wouldn’t fall until the son of Achilles came to fight against the Trojans.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Top 10 Books I'm Looking Forward to in 2013


Today, for the Top 10 of 2012 Blog Event, we're picking our top ten books we're looking forward to in 2012. I've decided to make a list of books by authors I've never heard of and a separate list for books that are part of a series.

Top Ten Books I'm Looking Forward To By Debut Authors

A fantasy with crime and political intrigue? A novel for fans of Tamora Pierce? Count me in! 

Maid of Secrets by Jennifer McGowan
 Another fantasy; I added it to my wishlist as soon as I saw "thief," "spy" and "court" in the synopsis

Premeditated by Josin L. McQuein
 I love stories involving revenge!

The Art of Wishing by Lindsay Ribar
 This one seems like a cute read, and reminds me of Jackson Pearce's As You Wish.
 
 I love the idea of being able to look into the future and then having to make choices.

The Collector by Victoria Scott
 Dante Walker sounds awesome! He better live up to the hype!
A girl who is a Nightmare? Sounds rather interesting ...
 
Parallel by Lauren Miller
 This one has a fascinating premise where a girl is subject to the reality created by her parallel self's decisions.
Twin sisters - one with the ability to relive the past and the other with the ability to go forward in time. Where the heck is my ability to time travel?!

Landry Park by Bethany Hagen 
"It is supposed to be a cross between "Gone with the Wind" and "Mansfield Park", but set into the future 200 years from now." This better be good!
  

Top Ten Books I'm Looking Forward To By Established Authors
  1. 17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma
  2. Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers
  3. Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo 
  4. Just One Day by Gayle Forman
  5. Everbound by Brodi Ashton
  6. Prodigy by Marie Lu 
  7. The Archived by Victoria Schwab
  8. The Rules by Stacey Kade
  9. Through the Ever Night by Veronica Rossi
  10. Apollyon by Jennifer Armentrout

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Mini Reviews: Covet by Melissa Darnell and Flash Point by Nancy Kress

From Goodreads: Dangerous to be together. Painful to be apart. Savannah Colbert knows she broke up with Tristan Coleman for the right reasons. Most of all, to keep from killing him with her new vampire abilities. But try telling her heart. Now, lost in a sea of hostile Clann faces, Sav tries to come to terms with what she's becoming and what that means for her future. And that someone is doing their best to bully her into making a terrible mistake. Tristan can't believe Sav won't even talk to him. If being apart is her decision, fine. Just don't expect him to honor it. But even as he prepares to fight for the girl he loves, forces beyond their control take them both in directions neither could have foreseen or prepared for. A reckoning is coming… and not everyone will survive.

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Covet by Melissa Darnell picks up where Crave leaves off and continues the romance of Tristan and Savannah as he tries to convince her to stay with him despite everybody’s objections. While I didn’t necessarily love their romance in Crave by any means, I found the story interesting enough that I decided to give the sequel a try. However, the plot of Covet wasn’t that entrancing, and I became irritated by the characters assuming that people were dating each other and feeling hurt and/or jealous about it. For the entirety of the novel, I was pretty much waiting for the story to end; but, the twist at the end has me thinking about at least skimming – if not reading – Consume to see how things wrap up.

Covet was released by Harlequin Teen in September 2012. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Harlequin Teen) for free via NetGalley.
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From Goodreads: Amy had dreams of going to college, until the Collapse destroyed the economy and her future. Now she is desperate for any job that will help support her terminally ill grandmother and rebellious younger sister. When she finds herself in the running for a slot on a new reality TV show, she signs on the dotted line, despite her misgivings. And she’s right to have them. TLN’s Who Knows People, Baby—You? has an irresistible premise: correctly predict what the teenage cast will do in a crisis and win millions. But the network has pulled strings to make it work, using everything from 24/7 hidden cameras to life-threatening technology to flat-out rigging. Worse, every time the ratings slip, TLN ups the ante. Soon Amy is fighting for her life - on and off camera. 

My Rating: 2.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Since Flash Point by Nancy Kress was available as an automatic download on NetGalley, I snagged a copy without knowing much about it or having any sort of expectations. Although I found the novel easy to get through, I also thought the worldbuilding was severely lacking – we’re never given any information as to how something akin to the Great Depression 2.0 comes about – and the challenges quite boring for reality TV. As well, the characters were ridiculously flat and the main character hard to like. All I came away with about Amy was that she loved designer labels (as evidenced by her multiple ramblings about them), had phantoms – a concept that wasn’t well-explained, fell in love way too easily, and barely got along with her sister because both were jealous of each other. 

Flash Point was released in November 2012 by Viking Juvenile. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Penguin) for free via NetGalley. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Top 10 Books I've Read in 2012


This week, Jessica from Confessions of a Bookaholic, Lisa from A Life Bound by Books, Rachel from Fiktshun, Jaime from Two Chicks on Books and Mindy from Magical Urban Fantasy Reads are hosting the Top 10 of 2012 Blog Event

Today, we're picking the top ten books we've read in 2012. Here's my list (in no particular order): 
  1. Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard [my review]
  2. Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers [my review]
  3. Black Heart by Holly Black 
  4. Angelfall by Susan Ee 
  5. Picture the Dead by Adele Griffin [my review]
  6. For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund [my review]
  7. Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi [my review]
  8. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman [my review]
  9. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo [my review]
  10. This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers [my review]
Honourable Mentions: The Survival Kit by Donna Freitas, Demons at Deadnight by A&E Kirk [my review], Everneath by Brodi Ashton [my review] and Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama [my review]

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Guest Post: Helen Keeble (and Giveaway)

Things That Are Destroying Jane Greene’s Undead Social Life Before It Can Even Begin:

1) A twelve-year-old brother who’s convinced she’s a zombie.
2) Parents who are begging her to turn them into vampires.
3) The pet goldfish she accidentally turns instead.
4) Weird superpowers that let her rip the heads off of every other vampire she meets.(Sounds cool, but it doesn’t win you many friends.)
5) A pyschotic vampire creator who’s using her to carry out a plan for world domination.

And finally:
6) A seriously ripped vampire hunter who either wants to stake her or make out with her. Not sure which.

Being an undead, eternally pasty fifteen-year-old isn’t quite the sexy, brooding, angst-fest Jane always imagined....

Helen Keeble’s riotous debut novel combines the humor of Vladimir Tod with Ally Carter’s spot-on teen voice. With a one-of-a-kind vampire mythology and an irresistibly relatable undead heroine, this uproarious page-turner will leave readers bloodthirsty for more.

Today, I'd like to welcome Helen Keeble, the author of Fang Girl to my blog. Helen is here to talk about two trends in the paranormal genre that her book tries to go against.   

Okay, so it's also about a lot of other things, like undead goldfish, vampiric retail empires, and hot boys in tight leather trousers, but mostly it's about fandom and family. Let me explain.

I started writing FANG GIRL because I was immensely irritated (I suspect irritation is the major cause of novels, actually). It was at the height of Twilight fever, and it seemed like every day there was a new article in the newspapers or blogosphere about it. You couldn't click a link or turn on the radio without finding someone either dismissing all YA paranormal romance fans as utterly stupid for liking "that trash", or alternatively getting into a moral panic that these girls were being fundamentally damaged by reading it. 

As I rather enjoy a good paranormal romance myself, this was irritating. Really irritating. So irritating I had to spend a year writing a novel to fully express my irritation.

See, personally I think that teenagers are a lot smarter and more discriminating than adults assume. I certainly read an awful lot of fantasy schlock as a teen, and enjoyed it immensely without ever thinking I was actually going to fall through a portal and meet the perfect knight-protector, so I don't believe that all teenage girls are having their relationship expectations warped for life by Robert Patterson's hair. And in my experience, teen paranormal fans can be hugely clever and creative - they dissect their favorite books like ruthless surgeons, they write their own fanfic versions, they make amazing music videos with footage from movies or tv shows it's a far cry from the stereotype of a wide-eyed, ditzy girl uncritically consuming anything packaged with a black-and-red cover.

So I decided to write a paranormal romance about a girl who's a vampire fangirl, and who is also practical, snarky, and intelligent - so when she wakes up one night and discovers she's now a vampire herself, she's got the knowledge and wits to deal with it.

But of course, vampires are rather ridiculous creatures - seriously, you're angsty because you're eternally young and beautiful? Seriously? I mean, the first thing I'd do is camp out in New York Public Library and read every book ever - so I also wanted to poke fun at some paranormal romance cliches. The much older vampire hero who inexplicably falls in love with the heroine, eternal angst-filled passion, the inevitable brooding rival, the terribly glamorous vampire lifestyle … in my book, the vampires are quite aware of all these tropes, and are willing to use them to try to influence my heroine Jane. But the vampires are - like all those columnists and bloggers - assuming that teenage vampire fangirls actually believe all this stuff … which turns out to be a big mistake.

The other trend I'd noticed in paranormal romances is that usually the heroine's family are barely present (especially not both parents). She might have endless conversations with vampires and werewolves and bears, oh my, but parents seem to stay mostly off-page. Now, I'm not saying that I never fought with my parents when I was a teen, but mostly we got along, and my family were definitely a big influence in my life. And I think that's true for a lot of teens. So I wanted my protagonist's family to be a major part of the story. And really, if you're a girl who wakes up unexpectedly dead one night, what are you going to do? Run off alone and try to survive on the contents of your pockets (most people don't get buried with credit cards, you know), or go back home where there's bed, broadband, and people who love you even if you do now seem to have fangs? No contest!

So that's FANG GIRL: one part fandom, one part family, blended together with creamy comedy goodness and baked in the oven of righteous irritation. Can I tempt you to a bite? 

Thanks for dropping by, Helen! I love that you chose to make the protagonist's family a major part of the story. Absentee parents are one of my pet peeves, for sure!

Fang Girl can be bought from: [Amazon] [Barnes and Noble] [The Book Depository] 
 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Through the Ever Night

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme held by Jill at Breaking the Spine to feature upcoming books that we can't wait to get our hands on. 

Title: Through the Ever Night
Author: Veronica Rossi
Publisher: HarperTeen
Date of Release: January 8, 2013

Goodreads Description: It's been months since Aria last saw Perry. Months since Perry was named Blood Lord of the Tides, and Aria was charged with an impossible mission. Now, finally, they are about to be reunited. But their reunion is far from perfect. The Tides don't take kindly to Aria, a former Dweller. And with the worsening Aether storms threatening the tribe's precarious existence, Aria begins to fear that leaving Perry behind might be the only way to save them both. Threatened by false friends, hidden enemies, and powerful temptations, Aria and Perry wonder, Can their love survive through the ever night?

Why am I waiting? I loved Under the Never Sky and after reading the excerpt provided on HarperTeen's website, it's not surprising that I can't wait to get my hands on it. We're apparently going to learn a lot more about the aether in this book! Oh, and early reviews have mentioned that this one definitely doesn't suffer from sequel syndrome!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Review: Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson

From Goodreads: Taylor Edwards’ family might not be the closest-knit - everyone is a little too busy and overscheduled - but for the most part, they get along just fine. Then Taylor’s dad gets devastating news, and her parents decide that the family will spend one last summer all together at their old lake house in the Pocono Mountains. Crammed into a place much smaller and more rustic than they are used to, they begin to get to know each other again. And Taylor discovers that the people she thought she had left behind haven’t actually gone anywhere. Her former best friend is still around, as is her first boyfriend ... and he’s much cuter at seventeen than he was at twelve. As the summer progresses and the Edwards become more of a family, they’re more aware than ever that they’re battling a ticking clock. Sometimes, though, there is just enough time to get a second chance - with family, with friends, and with love. 

My Rating: 4 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Having read and loved Morgan Matson’s debut novel, Amy andRoger’s Epic Detour, I was excitedly looking forward to reading her sophomore novel, Second Chance Summer. I finally got a chance to read it during my blogging hiatus … and loved it because while the book deftly tackles a terminal illness, it also manages to celebrate life.

Initially, I wasn’t a fan of Taylor’s because she had a tendency to run away from problematic situations rather than dealing with them. However, Taylor acknowledges this fault of hers and attempts to work on it. For example, flashbacks throughout the novel cause the reader to realize that something happened five summers ago that led to the breakdown of Taylor’s relationships with her best friend, Lucy, and her first boyfriend, Henry. Although the reason turned out to be very anti-climactic, I liked that Taylor sought to repair those relationships.

Taylor’s family also develops over the course of the novel. At the beginning, they’re all busy with their own activities and not very close with each other. But, as Taylor’s father’s condition worsens, her family starts to spend a lot more time together, enjoying each other’s company and supporting one another. I especially loved the scene where Taylor told her father that she loved him; it was so touching and had me wiping tears surreptitiously since I was sitting on the bus. It also made me feel a little guilty because in a way I’m a lot like Taylor in that I don’t tell the people I care about that I love them, but just assume they know I do.

A book that manages to suspend the passage of time (and make you long for summer) before reaching its poignant climax, Second Chance Summer is a novel I definitely recommend reading!

Second Chance Summer was released in May 2012 by Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing. 

Comments About the Cover: Though I like the cover, I feel like it doesn’t adequately convey the depth of emotions that Second Chance Summer managed to elicit in me.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Blogging Hiatus

Having been extremely busy for the past month or so with a new job – hence the decrease in posts and the late comments – and with little time to read in the future – I’ll be working on some applications due in the next few weeks for a couple of Master’s and Bachelor’s programs I’m interested in for next year – I’ve decided to take a break from blogging until at least mid-December. This will not only allow me to get through a few books for review and work on some posts in advance, but also hopefully read a bit for fun (which I feel like I haven’t been doing lately). Anyways, see you guys when I get back!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Mini Reviews: Conjure by Lea Nolan and Mystic City by Theo Lawrence

From Goodreads: Emma Guthrie expects this summer to be like any other in the South Carolina Lowcountry - hot and steamy with plenty of beach time alongside her best friend and secret crush, Cooper Beaumont, and Emma’s ever-present twin brother, Jack. But then a mysterious eighteenth-century message in a bottle surfaces, revealing a hidden pirate bounty. Lured by the adventure, the trio discovers the treasure and unwittingly unleashes an ancient Gullah curse that attacks Jack with the wicked flesh-eating Creep and promises to steal Cooper’s soul on his approaching sixteenth birthday. When a strange girl appears, bent on revenge; demon dogs become a threat; and Jack turns into a walking skeleton; Emma has no choice but to learn hoodoo magic to undo the hex, all before summer - and her friends - are lost forever.

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Although Conjure by Lea Nolan is a YA book, it can easily be read by older MG readers because its tone felt a bit younger, particularly since the main character, Emma, was only fourteen and repeatedly thought about how dreamy her crush was. While I liked Emma, I found her twin brother Jack to be whiny and kind of selfish. To me, the most interesting and unique thing about Conjure was the incorporation of hoodoo. I’m not going to lie: before I read the book, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you the difference between hoodoo and voodoo. Not only do I know the difference now, but I actually felt like I learned quite a bit about hoodoo from reading Conjure. It’s very clear that Nolan did a significant amount of research on the topic!

Conjure was released in October 2012 by Entangled Publishing. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Entangled Publishing) for free.
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From Goodreads: Aria Rose, youngest scion of one of Mystic City's two ruling rival families, finds herself betrothed to Thomas Foster, the son of her parents' sworn enemies. The union of the two will end the generations-long political feud - and unite all those living in the Aeries, the privileged upper reaches of the city, against the banished mystics who dwell below in the Depths. But Aria doesn't remember falling in love with Thomas; in fact, she wakes one day with huge gaps in her memory. And she can't conceive why her parents would have agreed to unite with the Fosters in the first place. Only when Aria meets Hunter, a gorgeous rebel mystic from the Depths, does she start to have glimmers of recollection - and to understand that he holds the key to unlocking her past. The choices she makes can save or doom the city - including herself. 

My Rating: Wavering between 3 and 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: With a plot that features a pair of starcrossed lovers, I was a little disappointed that the romance in Theo Lawrence’s Mystic City didn’t exactly make me swoon. Also, I found the story to be a bit predictable and thought the characters were okay – nothing special. Oh, and Aria was definitely not the smartest cookie around! But, for some reason that I can’t figure out, Mystic City left me interested enough that I know I’m probably going to read the sequel. 

Mystic City was released by Delacorte Books for Young Readers in October 2012. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Random House) for free via NetGalley.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Review: Renegade by J.A. Souders

From Goodreads: Since the age of three, sixteen-year-old Evelyn Winters has been trained to be Daughter of the People in the underwater utopia known as Elysium. Selected from hundreds of children for her ideal genes, all her life she’s thought that everything was perfect; her world. Her people. The Law. But when Gavin Hunter, a Surface Dweller, accidentally stumbles into their secluded little world, she’s forced to come to a startling realization: everything she knows is a lie. Her memories have been altered. Her mind and body aren’t under her own control. And the person she knows as Mother is a monster. Together with Gavin she plans her escape, only to learn that her own mind is a ticking time bomb ...  and Mother has one last secret that will destroy them all. 

My Rating: 1.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: If I could sum up J.A. Souders’ Renegade with one word, I’d use a word like messy because the frenetic pacing of the plot made it hard to follow what was going on. It also caused the development of the world, characters and romance to be sacrificed.

My first problem with Renegade was that the worldbuilding was sketchy at best. As a reader, I knew that Mother, her dad and their friends moved to Elysium to avoid war on land. That’s all I got though, really. I couldn’t fully comprehend the way that Elysium was set up – a map might have been nice since Gavin (who I still feel like I barely know!) and Evie were running all over the place – nor did I know what was going on on the Surface because Gavin doesn’t really speak much about the subject. I assumed at first that the people of Gavin’s community were living almost a pre-Industrial lifestyle since Gavin talks people getting married at a young age, trading and going hunting; but I later had to amend my thoughts when Gavin mentions video games.

I also couldn’t make myself care about the characters. Initially, the tone of the novel was great because although things seemed perfect for Evie, there was this underlying feeling of menace. However, over time, Evie’s repeated episodes of forgetfulness became more annoying than chilling to me, and made it hard to connect with her. When characters themselves don’t know who they are, how can you get to know them properly?! Evie’s forgetfulness also seemed as if it was just a convenient way for the author to get her characters to uncover another secret.

Lastly, I hated the romance because I thought it lacked chemistry and involved insta-love. From reading Evie’s perspective, it felt as if the reason she fell for Gavin was because he looked so different from the people of Elysium – meaning not only was he a Surface Dweller – something she’s fascinated by – but also because he had gray eyes instead of the Aryan qualities sought and cultured by Mother. As well, I was a bit weirded out by the fact that Evie could be so casual about Coupling with a guy she didn’t know anything about!

With its flimsy worldbuilding and weak characterization and romance, this dystopian, unfortunately, wasn’t for me!

Renegade will be released on November 13, 2012 by Tor Teen. 

Comments About the Cover: Unlike the book, I love the cover! It’s such a perfect-looking scene, but the dripping blood gives it a touch of danger.

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Raincoast Books) for free.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Review: Samantha Sutton and the Labyrinth of Lies by Jordan Jacobs

From Back Cover: There's nothing twelve-year-old Samantha Sutton wants more than to become an adventure-seeking archaeologist like her brilliant Uncle Jay. Samantha's big dreams are finally coming true when Jay invites her along on a summer excavation exploring an ancient temple in the Peruvian Andes. But this adventure isn't exactly what she thought it would be with her nosy older brother, Evan, and Jay's bossy colleagues monitoring her every move. On top of that, she has to deal with the local legend, El Loco, a ghostly madman who supposedly haunts the ruins. But when the project's most important finds go missing, it's up to Samantha to solve the mystery before Jay loses his job and the treasures of the temple are lost forever.

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: You know how when you’re little, people ask you what you want to be when you grow up? Well, one of my answers used to be: “Archaeologist!” As I grew up, I realized that it probably wasn’t as glamourous a job as the media made it out to be and that getting dirty wasn’t something I was fond of. And let’s not even talk about bugs! However, I thought it would be interesting to read Jordan Jacobs’ Samantha Sutton and the Labyrinth of Lies considering that Jacobs himself is an archaeologist. Here’s my list of pros and cons about the novel:

Pros: 
  • Because the locals living around Chavin de Huantar speak Spanish, I liked that Jacobs kept their sentences and questions in Spanish rather than translating them into English. I may not have understood what was being said, but the incorporation of Spanish gave the book a more authentic feel. It also enabled me to relate to Samantha’s plight of not being able to understand what’s being discussed when people are conversing in Spanish because she doesn’t know the language.
  • Similarly, I liked the incorporation of real archaeological terms.
  • I thought the relationship between Samantha and Evan was depicted pretty realistically. As siblings close in age, they argue a lot; but there are also times when they’re sort of nice to each other.
  • Overall, I felt that Jacobs did a good job of demonstrating the day-to-day life of an archaeologist.
Cons: 
  • Though I didn’t think the answer was that obvious, my hunch as to who the looters might be turned out to be correct. Nevertheless, I had no clue as to how the looters were stealing from the units.
  • The book could have used a bit more excitement. It was a little more serious in tone than the MG novels I prefer to read, and I never felt that need to find out what was going to happen next.
Samantha Sutton and the Labyrinth of Lies was released by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky on October 1, 2012.

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Raincoast Books) for free.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Review: For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund


From Goodreads: It's been several generations since a genetic experiment gone wrong caused the Reduction, decimating humanity and giving rise to a Luddite nobility who outlawed most technology. Elliot North has always known her place in this world. Four years ago Elliot refused to run away with her childhood sweetheart, the servant Kai, choosing duty to her family's estate over love. Since then the world has changed: a new class of Post-Reductionists is jumpstarting the wheel of progress, and Elliot's estate is foundering, forcing her to rent land to the mysterious Cloud Fleet, a group of shipbuilders that includes renowned explorer Captain Malakai Wentforth - an almost unrecognizable Kai. And while Elliot wonders if this could be their second chance, Kai seems determined to show Elliot exactly what she gave up when she let him go. But Elliot soon discovers her old friend carries a secret - one that could change their society ... or bring it to its knees. And again, she's faced with a choice: cling to what she's been raised to believe, or cast her lot with the only boy she's ever loved, even if she's lost him forever. 

My Rating: 4.5 hearts

Thoughts on the Novel: I’m not normally a fan of slow-paced dystopians. But, I ended up loving For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund because of its worldbuilding, characters and romance. A retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion set in a dystopian setting, I also liked For Darkness Shows the Stars because it simultaneously managed to retain the feel of a Victorian Era novel.

When reading dystopians not set in an alternative world, I usually find myself wondering how the world came to be the way the author imagines it for their story. Often, the backstory sounds rather incredulous. That wasn’t the case for For Darkness Shows the Stars because it’s not hard to imagine a group of people deciding to isolate themselves and stop using technology after seeing war break out and most of the world’s population be eradicated due to advances in technology and genetics.

Most of the characters in For Darkness Shows the Stars were well-developed as well. I especially liked Elliot who chooses duty over love, knowing that she’s the only one who can intercede with her father on behalf of the Posts’ working on her family's land. When Kai later comes back resolved to make Elliot rue the decision that broke his heart (and hers), she handles his aloofness and insults with remarkable grace. Based on her actions, she’s definitely one of the most mature YA protagonists I’ve encountered!

I also enjoyed the way Peterfreund chose to depict the romance between Kai and Elliot. Throughout the book, letters written by a young Kai and Elliot chronicle their relationship from friends to the possibility of something more. The innocence displayed in those letters was definitely a nice contrast against their current tense relationship and made it easier for me to see Kai as a complex character.

A fantastic standalone with a romance that had me invested despite the lack of a kiss, For Darkness Shows the Stars was released by Balzer + Bray in June 2012. 

Comments About the Cover: I think the cover is pretty. However, the dress looks a little fancy for a Luddite, especially for one who's responsible for managing an estate.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Prophecy

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme held by Jill at Breaking the Spine to feature upcoming books that we can't wait to get our hands on. 

Title: Prophecy
Author: Ellen Oh
Publisher: HarperTeen
Date of Release: January 2, 2012 

Goodreads Description: The greatest warrior in all of the Seven Kingdoms ... is a girl with yellow eyes. Kira’s the only female in the king’s army, and the prince’s bodyguard. She’s a demon slayer and an outcast, hated by nearly everyone in her home city of Hansong. And, she’s their only hope … Murdered kings and discovered traitors point to a demon invasion, sending Kira on the run with the young prince. He may be the savior predicted in the Dragon King Prophecy, but the missing treasure of myth may be the true key. With only the guidance of the cryptic prophecy, Kira must battle demon soldiers, evil shaman, and the Demon Lord himself to find what was once lost and raise a prince into a king.

Why am I waiting? It's a fantasy that sounds a bit like Kristin Cashore's Graceling ... but set in Ancient Korea. And, judging from what I've read from the author about how much she research she did, it sounds like her research was quite thorough. Also, Prophecy was blurbed by Marie Lu and Robin LaFevers, two authors whose novels I loved.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Review: Ironskin by Tina Connolly

From Goodreads: Jane Eliot wears an iron mask. It’s the only way to contain the fey curse that scars her cheek. The Great War is five years gone, but its scattered victims remain - the ironskin. When a carefully worded listing appears for a governess to assist with a "delicate situation" - a child born during the Great War - Jane is certain the child is fey-cursed, and that she can help. Teaching the unruly Dorie to suppress her curse is hard enough; she certainly didn’t expect to fall for the girl’s father, the enigmatic artist Edward Rochart. But her blossoming crush is stifled by her own scars, and by his parade of women. Ugly women, who enter his closed studio...and come out as beautiful as the fey. Jane knows Rochart cannot love her, just as she knows that she must wear iron for the rest of her life. But what if neither of these things is true? Step by step Jane unlocks the secrets of her new life - and discovers just how far she will go to become whole again. 

My Rating: 2 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: I’ve never read Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre; but through different retellings, I’m aware of the basic gist of the plot. As a result, I was curious about giving Tina Connolly’s Ironskin a try – especially once I found out that it involved steampunk elements and faeries. Sadly, while I loved the traditional Gothic feel of the setting, it was the fantastical elements of Ironskin that ultimately left me disappointed.

After being introduced to Jane and reading about her getting accepted as a governess at Silver Birch, I felt as if the pacing slowed to a crawl. I understand that Jane’s duties as a governess are going to be discussed, but who wants to read half a book about how hard it is for Jane to get her charge, Dorie, to obey her?! It certainly didn’t help that I couldn’t make myself care about the characters – or later, the romance (which if I wasn’t expecting it would have come as a complete surprise since Jane and Mr. Rochart hardly interact with each other before falling in love). 

After waiting for what felt like an eternity for Jane to start caring about what Mr. Rochart did for a living, the second half of Ironskin dramatically picked up the pace. Unfortunately, I found that the plot became hard to follow with the greater prominence of the fey element.

I was also left confused by the theme of beauty in the book. For the majority of Ironskin, Jane desires to be normal and keeps thinking about how her life would have turned out had she been unscarred. To me, it seemed as if the author was suggesting that females should judge themselves based on their physical looks – particularly after Jane makes Edward put a mask on her so that she too can become beautiful. However, since everybody that’s beautiful in the book has a bit of a fey in them, there’s also the sentiment that being attractive isn’t a good thing. 

Ironskin was released by Tor Books on October 2, 2012. 

Comments About the Cover: Another pretty cover that lured me in … only to disappoint me with its contents!

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Tor Books) for free via NetGalley.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Review: The Assassin's Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke

From Back Cover: Ananna of the Tanarau abandons ship when her parents try to marry her off to another pirate clan. But that only prompts the scorned clan to send an assassin after her. When Ananna faces him down one night, armed with magic she doesn't really know how to use, she accidentally activates a curse binding them together. To break the curse, Ananna and the assassin must complete three impossible tasks - all while grappling with evil wizards, floating islands, haughty manticores, runaway nobility, strange magic ... and the growing romantic tension between them. 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: When I first heard about Angry Robot’s latest imprint, Strange Chemistry, and its upcoming releases, I was most excited about Cassandra Rose Clarke’s The Assassin’s Curse because the synopsis promised pirates, assassins, curses and magic. It’s not surprising then that my expectations for this fantasy novel were high … perhaps too high.

Although I didn’t really fall in love with any of the characters, I did like the secondary character of Marjani. I also liked the main character, Ananna, because I found her to be spunky and very unladylike. She lies, steals and curses, and is clearly capable of surviving by herself. It was much harder to appreciate Naji as a romantic lead because I felt that he was quite useless as an assassin. After all, not only does he fail to kill Ananna, but he also manages to get himself bound to her through a curse! Furthermore, he refuses to tell Ananna anything important. I couldn’t understand why Ananna would find Naji appealing – he didn’t seem to find her quite so attractive – nor did I feel like there was much chemistry between the two.

Another thing that bothered me was the lack of details about certain parts within the plot. For example, I still feel like I don’t know anything about the Order or the Mists. Readers also don’t learn much about Naji’s background – or even how old he is. 

In spite of its flaws and the lack of a climax, I did enjoy The Assassin’s Curse while I was reading it because the pacing was relatively fast and didn’t give me time to dwell on the book’s faults.

The Assassin’s Curse was released by Strange Chemistry on October 2, 2012. 

Comments About the Cover: The desert setting of the novel evokes a Middle Eastern feel, which is why love the Middle Eastern-inspired artwork and font.

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Strange Chemistry) for free.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Review: Speechless by Hannah Harrington

From Goodreads: Everyone knows that Chelsea Knot can't keep a secret. Until now. Because the last secret she shared turned her into a social outcast - and nearly got someone killed. Now Chelsea has taken a vow of silence - to learn to keep her mouth shut, and to stop hurting anyone else. And if she thinks keeping secrets is hard, not speaking up when she's ignored, ridiculed and even attacked is worse. But there's strength in silence, and in the new friends who are, shockingly, coming her way - people she never noticed before; a boy she might even fall for. If only her new friends can forgive what she's done. If only she can forgive herself.

My Rating: 4 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: After seeing lots of praise for Hannah Harrington’s debut novel Saving June and then again for her newest book Speechless, I wondered what I was missing out on and figured I’d give her sophomore novel a try before my galley expired. I’m not really fond of stories revolving around selfish, mean girls so when I first started Speechless and realized Chelsea was one of those girls who ignores how awful her “best friend” is in order to stay popular, I speculated how long it would take before she blurted out the secret mentioned in the synopsis. Fortunately, not long; and by the end, Harrington’s gradual development of Chelsea’s character had me if not liking Chelsea, at least respecting her.

In my opinion, by far the best thing about Speechless was Chelsea’s voice because it was so honest and easy to relate to. Since Chelsea decides to take a vow of silence – which to me seemed a tad unrealistic because why decide to stop speaking altogether when you could just as easily make a vow not to gossip for example – a significant chunk of the book focuses on her thoughts. Through Chelsea’s perspective, you realize that, like anybody, she’s flawed and is a myriad of contradictions – brave, judgmental, determined and self-absorbed yet also vulnerable, thoughtful and perceptive.

I also liked the secondary characters. I just wish I could have gotten to see them in a more personal environment (e.g. in their homes) so that I could learn about them as characters independent of their interactions with Chelsea at school or work.

Another thing that I would have liked more time to be spent on was the relationship between Chelsea and Kristen. Since the two stop hanging out after the awful incident, we don’t really get to see Kristen as anything other than a stereotypical mean girl. At the same time though, I was okay with the way their relationship was portrayed because there was eventually some sort of resolution between the two.

Speechless was released in August 2012 by Harlequin Teen. 

Comments About the Cover: At first, I figured this was just a temporary cover because THERE’S NO PICTURE! It has actually grown on me now, and I find it unique and very creative. The author’s name still seems to be missing, however.  

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Harlequin Teen) for free via NetGalley.
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