Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Trial by Fire by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Note: This book is the sequel to Raised by Wolves, so if you haven't read that...well, go do that instead of reading this review, it's awesome.

Trial by Fire
by Jennifer Lynn Barnes


Summary: Bryn is now leader of the Cedar Ridge pack of werewolves and she's convinced that her pack is different - it's democratic and fair. Then Bryn finds a battered teenage Were, Connor, bleeding on her front porch. He begs Bryn to protect him from an abusive leader; Bryn takes him into her pack.

But Bryn's Were partner Chase doesn't trust the new boy, and the more time she spends helping Connor, the more aggressive Chase becomes. Bryn is not sure if it's jealousy, or Were possessiveness but for the first time she starts to feel suffocated by the bond she and Chase share.

Filled with action, unlikely allies, and deadly conspiracies, Trial by Fire will change Bryn forever. She is soon to realise that to lead a pack of werewolves, she must give in to her animal instincts and become a little less human. And as hard as it's going to be, Bryn is going to have to do it alone.

There can only be one alpha.
I can't pin point exactly what it is about this series, but I absolutely love it. It's my favourite werewolf series/book and definitely one of my favourite book series.

The characters are just awesome and when Jennifer is writing about the connection between them, you really feel it as you're reading and I love that. That's probably the most interesting thing about this series -- the whole pack thing, the bond they share...that connection and it's like, more than love, it goes deeper than that and reading about it is addictive and made me wish werewolves existed like they do in the story and that I was one of them just so I could feel that intensity and sense of belonging.

I really adore the characters, all of them. Lake, Callum, Devon and Chase are my favourites and Bryn is a great protagonist -- she's not perfect; she's strong and she's weak, just the right balance. Even the bad guys are just awesomely bad and I find myself wanting to punch them in the face for being so...well, for lack of a better word: evil (but, alas, you cannot punch fiction in the face because it doesn't have a face -- damn).

I love the fact that there's romance in the book, but it doesn't really feel like romance. It's a subplot, but it doesn't even feel like that -- it's just something that is naturally there, so it's a big deal but at the same time it isn't and it's far from being the focus. The book gives me my romance fiction fix without being a romance book and that's one of my favourite types because then the plot flows more naturally -- in romance books, because the whole plot revolves around that relationship, certain things in the plot sometimes feel forced, like they're just there to create drama.

But back to the point of that: Bryn and Chase...their relationship is pretty much just "Awww!" to the max and makes me all melty inside to the point where I just want to go hug someone (I settle for clutching the pillow a little tighter while I read *facepalm*).

Moving on...the plot of these books are addictive. I have a love/hate relationship with that because when each book finished, I was left desperately wanting to read the sequel right away (especially with this book) and then I'm all gutted about the fact I need to wait another year to find out what happens next.

Sorry this review has been kind of vague and not very good -- the better the book is, the harder I find it is to talk about because explaining just what it was about the book that clicked with me is difficult (and I was trying to avoid spoilers). But I loved the book and I really recommend it/Raised by Wolves -- it's got me craving more werewolf books but I'm not sure I'll be able to find one any time soon that can compete with the awesomeness of this series.

Later.

Monday, 30 May 2011

Through Her Eyes by Jennifer Archer

Through Her Eyes
Jennifer Archer
HarperTeen
[April 5, 2011]

Every ghost has a story to tell.

The last place Tansy Piper wants to be is stuck in Cedar Canyon, Texas, in the middle of nowhere, with a bunch of small-town kids. But when her mother decides to move to the desolate West Texas town, Tansy has no choice but to go along. Once there, Tansy is immediately drawn to the turret of their rickety old house, a place she soon learns has a disturbing history. But it's the strange artifacts she finds in the cellar—a pocket watch, a journal of poetry, and a tiny crystal—that have the most chilling impact on her.

Tansy soon finds that through the lens of her camera, she can become part of a surreal black-and-white world where her life is intertwined with that of mysterious, troubled Henry, who lived in the same house and died decades earlier. It seems their lives are linked by fate and the artifacts she found, but as Tansy begins spending more and more time in the past, her present world starts to fade away. Tansy must untangle herself from Henry's dangerous reality—before she loses touch with her own life forever.

This story was...interesting.
Tansy as a character wasn't my favorite. From what I remember (I read this about two months ago...yeah, I know), she was kind of stereotypical. It wasn't an over the top stereotype, but I still was kind of bored with it. I wanted her to be more unique and original and developed than she was.

The story itself was more eerie than I expected. Creepy and almost scary at moments. I had been expecting more of a romance, so it really through me off. It was different and unique but nothing like what I thought it would be.

I hate that I don't remember more, but I guess that helps me summarize this. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't my kind of story and didn't really capture me. It took me longer than it should have to read and it wasn't bad by any means, it just wasn't the right fit for me.

--Julie

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Discussion: Romance in YA

PSA: Slight spoiler for City of Bones be here. BUT the spoiler is written in white text, so you won't see it unless you highlight it.

So, for lack of anything else to post today, we thought we’d do a discussion and we’ve decided to discuss romance in books. Specifically, in YA books, seeing as we both read them and love them and all that.


(While we're on the subject of *romance*, here, have some gif's of Rachel McAdam's and Ryan Gosling accepting their award for Best Kiss for The Notebook)




...Yes. Done swooning now. Enough of that. Moving on. Discussion:

Romance in YA Books


Is it necessary?

Lanna: I don’t think it’s necessary to be a focus in the stories, it can be a subplot…but I do think it’s rare to find a YA book that is good enough to work without it entirely (even Harry Potter had romance in it when the characters were old enough).  Even books that don't actually have romance do have hints of it, they have those characters who flirt and you just know that even if they don't get together in the book, they will eventually.

Love, lust,  crushes, heartbreak -- it’s all a part of life and growing up and I think it is necessary for that to be reflected in books. It’s something that people can relate to and if they can’t, then it’s still enjoyable to read about -- getting to live and love vicariously through the characters is fun.

Julie: I agree with Lanna. It's not necessary, but I appreciate it. It's all a part of growing up and it's a part that I'm missing out in my own life. So why not just try and experience it through the characters? I also love how the romance is portrayed in teen books. In adult books, it's all about commitment and/or sex. In young adult books, it's usually a light, fun experience for the characters. The flirting, the butterflies, the way the characters can act totally different. It's pretty damn adorable. But far from necessary.


Thoughts on love triangles?


Julie: Depends on the love triangle. Not many love triangles are really done well. The whole point is that there's a legitimate debate over which guy would be better for the character. There should be inner turmoil over this decision. Not like The Mortal Instruments or anything where we're all rooting for incest because we KNOW who Clary should be with.

Right now, I can think of two love triangles done right. Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready did it SO FREAKING WELL. I read that book a year ago and I still cannot tell you who I'd want Aura to be with. The Personal Demons series by Lisa DesRochers is another good one. We know who Frannie prefers most of the time...but there's still an element of uncertainty and the other guy IS a good guy, but you're still kind of against him but you're kind of against the other guy and it's just very confusing.

The thing about the love triangle for me is that I need to like both guys, preferably equally but there might be a bit of a preference for one guy, but both guys also need flaws. And the main character should be genuinely conflicted, even if one guy is picked. There should always be that opening for the other guy until the very end.


Lanna: They’re fun to read about. But I’ve found that in the majority of books I read with love triangles, they barely even count as love triangles because it’s always blatantly obvious from the start who the protagonist is going to end up with. It’s always obvious which one they love more…and they tend to follow the same formula of having the main character settle for the one they love less for a portion of the story just to create conflict. It’s rare to see a love triangle where the main character genuinely loves two people almost equally and choosing between them is a real struggle.

Basically, I think love triangles are fun to read, but most of the ones in YA shouldn’t even be counted as “love” triangles because to me, a true love triangle is one person being in love with two people…not being in love with one person and being in lust/like with another. Most of the love triangles in books tend not to be "I'm in love with these two guys" -- it's usually spun in a different way, more "this is the guy I love, but this one is probably the healthier option." but we all know the one that wins.

Something else I just want to add: anyone else noticed how in love triangles, the one who doesn’t get chosen is always the nice guy? It’s the one who could be your best friend, the one who would treat you right and always show up on time and take you out on dates and all that…the genuinely good guy. And the one who wins is often a bad boy, the one who maybe isn’t the best choice -- but there’s a spark there, there’s passion and so the main character always chooses that in the end. I get why, but I wish the underdog, the good guy, would be given a bit more credit in stories instead of so obviously being the second choice.

Romance pet peeves:

Lanna: Love at first sight is probably one of my biggest pet peeves in books. It can work if it’s executed well or explained in some way (example: the characters were in love in their past lives or the world is one where magic exists and soul mates happen, so they’re not actually in love at first sight and they’re just feeling that connection and knowing they’re meant for each other and that it will be love).

But in general, it bugs me. You can’t love someone until you really know them, if you claim that you do then you’re talking out of your ass -- it’s lust and maybe you’re in love with the idea of that person. Sometimes when you get to know a person, they will meet or exceed your expectations, they will live up to the fantasy you had of them and the love will become real…but that doesn’t mean it was real from the start and I hate it when it’s written as if it was in fiction.

Good example of a badly executed romance: Twilight. Bella had a girl boner for Edward because he was attractive and seemed to hate her, he wasn’t nice to her like everyone else was and so she wanted him because people have a tendency to crave the unattainable. But she was saying she loved him and would die without him when she barely knew him -- when they had only had a handful of conversations.

Romeo and Juliet is another example, except that one only counts if you consider it a love story. To me, it’s a tragedy.  The story is about the tragedy, it’s not about love…they were in lust and in love with the idea of being in love with each other and it consumed them.

Julie: To all of the above


Insta-love kills me. I just...I can't even explain it. It can ruin a book for me. I can only think of one book where it didn't annoy me greatly.


I'm not saying it's impossible, but it's not exactly LIKELY. There is lust at first sight and all, but love? That's a little more complex for a first meeting. At most, a strong attraction.

Then I need at least SOME kind of reasoning for the love. There has to be a connection, some actual interaction. It can't just be "He's pretty and mysterious. I WILL LURVE HIM FOREVA." Give me a reason for them to be in love.


Also, Romeo and Juliet pisses me off like no other. So let's just not talk about that any more.


Romance guilty pleasures/clichés we love:

Lanna: I have a lot of these and I’m kind of a sucker for taboo romances. Brother/sister, or step siblings, for example. The incest one, it’s because it’s the ultimate forbidden romance -- there is literally no way to overcome what is forbidden about those relationships because it’s not an outside factor that is making it forbidden, it’s not something that can change, it’s in their very blood. (If the subject matter makes you go, "Ewwww!" - read Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma, it may change your perspective.)

I love the bad boy/good girl cliché. The teacher/student one (but only really male teacher/female student -- for some reason it bothers me when the woman is older, it’s just…gross to me that way, but that’s probably just a projection of the fact I wouldn’t be likely to date someone much younger). I like the popular girl/nerdy guy and the goth/preppy cliché. I love, love, love the Romeo and Juliet cliché - the forbidden aspect of it. And hate turning to love.

Basically, forbidden romances are probably my favourites. Something about how the love is such a struggle and yet it’s shown to be worth it…and how love can conquer all, even if it’s only in fiction.

Julie: I am a fan of the forbidden, but not the taboo kind of forbidden. The kind of forbidden where it's social classes, which you can really only find in historical romance and occasionally high fantasy. Or the kind where, you know, one of them has to die...especially when it involves killing the other person. And, I'll admit, I've read a book about a teacher/student relationship...alright there's SOME taboo, but really that book was the only one I'd read and my friend read others and those just seemed awkward.

But at the same time, I like the easy romances, they just fall into. Ones where it's an accidental love or a love that evolved unexpectedly. The ones where they LOATHE each other, learn a bit about the other, and slowly fall in love. Be in Pride and Prejudice or Lizzie McGuire, the accidental romances sing to my soul. I'm always on the prowl for more Pride and Prejudice ones.


What about you guys? What are your answers to those questions? Agree with us? Disagree? Let us know in the comments. To recap, discussion questions:

1. Is romance necessary in YA books?
2. Your thoughts on love triangles in books?
3. Romance pet peeves?
4. Favourite cliches/guilty pleasures in romance?
Also, credit for the topic goes to And Anything Bookish, who said she wanted us to discuss love triangles, which we do - we've just gone a bit further and did romance in general).

Later.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

The Trial by Fire First Chapter Trail!

Trial by Fire by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (sequel to Raised by Wolves, which I absolutely adored: review here), is being released tomorrow and to celebrate the UK release, you can read the first chapter online now.

A chapter trail has been set up for you to follow, the chapter has been split up into four parts and posted on four different blogs. You'll find the next and final part on the Quercus Blog once you've read this one.

Trial by Fire: Chapter 1 Part Three:


That night, I was the first one to arrive at the clearing. We hadn’t had a fresh snowfall since the second week in November, but this time of year, the layer of white on the ground never fully melted away, and I breathed in the smell of cedar and snow. I was wearing wool mittens and my second-heaviest winter coat, and for a moment, I closed my eyes and imagined, as I always did just before the Shift, what it would be like to shed my clothes, my skin, and my ability to think as a human.  

There had been a time in my life when the last thing I wanted was the collective werewolf psyche taking up even a tiny corner of my brain, but a lot had changed since then.  

Different pack. 

Different forest.   

Different me.   

Without opening my eyes, my hands found their way to the bottom of my puffy jacket, and I pulled it upward, exposing the T-shirt I wore underneath. My fingers tugged at the end of the shirt, and my bare skin stung under the onslaught of winter-cold air.   

Opening my eyes, I traced the pattern rising over the band of my jeans: three parallel marks, scars I would carry for the rest of my life. For most of my childhood, the Mark had been a visible symbol to the pack that had raised me that I was one of their own, that anyone who messed with me messed with the werewolf who’d dug his fingers into my flesh hard enough to leave scars. Callum 

He was the alpha of alphas, the Were who’d saved my life when I was four years old and spent the next decade plus grooming me for a future I’d never even imagined. No matter how many months passed, every time my pack assembled, every time I lost myself and ran as one of them, I thought of the first time, of Callum and his wolves and knowing that for once in my life, I belonged.   

Every time I heard the word alpha beckoning to me from my pack’s minds, I thought of the man who’d once been mineand then I thought of the other alphas, none of whom would have been particularly distraught if I went to sleep one night and never woke up.   

Ah, werewolf politics. My favorite.   

Bryn.   

The moment I heard Chase’s voice, soft and unassuming, in my mind, every other thought vanished. It was always this way with the two of us, and the anticipation of seeing him, touching him, taking in his scent was almost as powerful as the feeling that washed over my body the moment he emerged from the forest, clothed in shorts and a T-shirt that didn’t quite fit 

Chase had been a werewolf for less than a year. Ironically, that made him seem far less human than Weres who’d been born that way or the members of our pack who’d been Changed as kids. The difference was visible in the way he moved, the tilt of his head. For as long as I’d known him, he’d been in flux, defined by the wolf inside as much as the boy he’d been before the attack.   

Now, slowly, things I’d felt in his memories and dreams, quirks he’d shown only in flashes seemed to be fighting their way back to the surface. Each time he came home from patrolling our territory as my eyes and ears, I saw a little bit more of his human side.   

Each time, he was a little more Chase 

“Hey, you.” Chase smiled, more with one side of his mouth than the other.   

“Hey,” I echoed, a smile tugging at my own lips. “How’s tricks?”   

I took those words leaving my mouth as a sign that I’d been hanging around Devon for way, way too long, but Chase didn’t so much as blink.   

“Same old, same old.” He was quiet, this boy I was getting to know piece by piecethoughtful, observant, and restrained, even as the power in his stride betrayed the wolf inside. “How’s school going?”   

“Same old, same old.”   

“There’s no such thing as ‘same old, same old’ with you,” Chase said wryly. “You’re Bryn.”  

Given my track record, he kind of had a point there, but I wasn’t about to admit it out loud.   

With that same half smile, he leaned toward me, hesitant, but inhumanly graceful. I answered the question in his eyes, reached for the back of his head, brought his lips down to mine.   

Soon. Soon. Soon.   

I could feel his heart beating, feel his mind and thoughts blending with my own as the two of us stood there, bathed in moonlight and feeling its effects like a drug.   

Whoever Chase was, he was mine.  

Awesome, isn't it? The Chase/Bryn relationship just makes me melt with its adorableness. I haven't finished reading the book yet, but I'm loving it so far (I'll have a review up for it when I'm done). Don't forget to check out the rest of chapter one on the other blogs. :)
Later.

Forgotten by Cat Patrick

Forgotten
Cat Patrick
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
[June 7, 2011]
Each night when 16 year-old London Lane goes to sleep, her whole world disappears. In the morning, all that's left is a note telling her about a day she can't remember. The whole scenario doesn't exactly make high school or dating that hot guy whose name she can't seem to recall any easier. But when London starts experiencing disturbing visions she can't make sense of, she realizes it's time to learn a little more about the past she keeps forgetting-before it destroys her future.

Part psychological drama, part romance, and part mystery, this thought-provoking novel will inspire readers to consider the what-if's in their own lives and recognize the power they have to control their destinies.

I liked this book a lot more than I expected too.

London was a fabulous character. Seems like a weird thing to say for someone who had to re-do her life everyday, but she had this whole system and every day she was a little different, but still the same person. I also really liked her mom. Super supportive and kind throughout the whole thing. I can't even imagine how hard it must've been on her, though.

I'm writing this quite a time after reading it, but even now the romance stood out to me. London and her boy were just...so adorable. He was sweet and patient and caring. Just...their whole love story was amazing. It was the whole reason I liked the book so much.

I wish I could give this a better review. I can say it was somewhat predictable, but not in a bad way. The characters and the romance was fantastic, and I just really like the whole concept of it. It was way better than I expected. I definitely recommend this one!

--Julie

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff


How I Live Now
by Meg Rosoff


Summary: Fifteen-year-old Daisy is sent from Manhattan to England to visit her aunt and cousins she’s never met: three boys near her age, and their little sister. Her aunt goes away on business soon after Daisy arrives. The next day bombs go off as London is attacked and occupied by an unnamed enemy.

As power fails, and systems fail, the farm becomes more isolated. Despite the war, it’s a kind of Eden, with no adults in charge and no rules, a place where Daisy’s uncanny bond with her cousins grows into something rare and extraordinary. But the war is everywhere, and Daisy and her cousins must lead each other into a world that is unknown in the scariest, most elemental way.
This is maybe one of the oddest books I've ever read and I think I kind of loved it.

I was totally hooked when reading it, and when I finished it, I just lay there (because it was about 6am) and tried to figure out if I loved it or not. The fact that I'm still thinking about the story (in a positive way) hours later made me reach the verdict that; yes, I think I loved the book.

It was really unique and I can't pinpoint exactly why that was, because I've read stories with similar subject matter before but something about this one was just...different. It was more character driven than plot driven, which is unusual in a book with a war/dystopian type edge to it and even more unusual considering how it was written.

The writing was really weird, I'm not sure if I loved it or if I hated it - maybe it was a mix of both. The way it was written, at least in part one (which was about 3/4 of the book) was very tell instead of show. It was like a journal and it didn't really have any dialogue, it was just "she said this and he said that" like someone retelling the story in their diary...which I guess was the point, but I'm not sure how I felt about that. It could be a little bit rambling at times, too, because of that.

On one hand, I'm not sure if the story would have worked or been so unique if it was written more traditionally, but on the negative side of things,we missed so much stuff that could've made the book even more amazing. Like development of relationships -- it was all told in hindsight like a journal would be and we didn't really get to see scenes that showed the connections forming between characters.

The relationship between Daisy and Edmund in particular would've been so much better if we got to really see their relationship unfolding on the pages instead of Daisy just being like, "we kissed, he said this, we did that and I love him and we can't get enough of each other" (okay, so not exactly like that, it was written way better but it's like being told a story by someone and then you don't quite appreciate it the same way they do and they say "you had to be there." at the end of it only the reader didn't get to *be there* they only got to see the relationship through Daisy's recollections).

Her relationship with her little cousin, Piper, was the only one that really got a chance to properly shine in the story because she was more...present, than Edmund or the others. I adored Piper and her relationship with Daisy, it was one of my favourite parts of the book.

So yeah, I did like the writing but at the same time, I didn't. Maybe the writing was what had me hooked, I don't know -- it was unique and very distinct and had a lot of personality poured into the words...it just took some getting used to and I can't help but wonder if maybe the book would've been better if the entire story, instead of just part two (final quarter of book) was told in more of a story format than a diary and then maybe made a little longer.

Another thing that bothered me and I'm still not sure if it was a bad thing or a good thing, was the implication that Edmund and Isaac had kind of...powers, that they were special in some way. It was subtle, more magical realism, but it was never really -- explained or properly acknowledged or talked about, it was more of a casual thing that was just accepted and so it didn't become a big deal to the reader either. But I do sort of wish it had been mentioned more or left out entirely.

I adored the characters so much, but because of the odd way it was written, we don't get to see enough of some of them and because of that...it's like, we like and care about the characters but aside from Daisy and Piper, it's hard to really get the connection between the characters.

This book is hard to review, because it is one of those strange ones that got under my skin but a lot of it was just so odd that I can't even figure out myself if it was in a good way or a bad. I just know that I really enjoyed reading it and the fact that I'm still thinking about the story...well, I love it for that.

Later.

p.s. sorry, just realised how much I rambled in the review. *facepalm*

Monday, 23 May 2011

Discussion: The Sky is Everywhere

So this was quite literally a discussion that Julie and I had on MSN, unedited, and we haven’t done a discussion post in a while, but we wanted you all to give us your thoughts on the topic too, so please jump in in the comments.

Spoiler warning: This discussion is about a specific part of The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson, so if you haven’t read the book then don’t read this post (unless you don’t mind spoilers then it’s entirely up to you).



Topic of discussion: Toby vs. Joe 
(or really, Toby and Lennie: How Did They Really Feel)

Lanna says: About The Sky is Everywhere *reading your review* - I didn't even realise there was a Toby vs. Joe thing. Toby was never really an option because what they had was never really about romance or attraction, it was about grief, they both missed her sister so much that they kind of gravitated towards each other and tried to turn the pain into something else for a little while, but those two never would've gotten together. It was always Joe.

Julie says: There was a potential for Toby to get in there. Not likely, but possible.

Lanna says: I never even saw it as possible, they'd never work. She'd always be in Bailey's shadow in that relationship if they tried and she'd always be Bailey's little sister and they'd feel like they were betraying her memory. They may have had some lust as a result of all the kissing, but not actual romantic feelings.

Julie says: Those things can change. And it did seem more serious for Toby. I don't think anybody WOULD be Team Toby but it could happen.

Lanna says: We must've just interpreted it differently. With Toby - I didn't think he was into her, I just thought that he didn't want to lose that connection to Bailey and unlike Lennie who had a reason to stop with their...unusual coping mechanism, he didn't really have a reason so he would've continued it. But I think he was just protective of her, maybe saw her in more of a little sister way but it all got confused.

It's like when your guy friend starts dating someone and you feel a little jealous and it's confusing, but then you realise you're not jealous because you want to be with him, it's just you don't want to lose him and maybe you’re jealous of what he has.

Julie says: I think most of the time, it was about that connection to Bailey, but later in the book, it did seem like he really cared about her. He seemed more...gentle I guess. He wanted her to be happy. He got jealous, yeah, but then her happiness became more important.

Lanna says: Mhmm, I totally think he cared, I just don't think it was a romantic kind of caring. I think it was because they'd both gone through something together and she was Bailey's sister and in a way he probably felt a little guilty for even going there with her and helping things get more messed up than they already were. I didn't see the jealousy as "I want her to be with me, not you" type jealousy either.

Julie says: His jealousy was more "He's playing with a toy and so I want it" mixed with a "I miss that kind of romance" but the way he cared for her and tried to fix things at the end...it seemed like he did like her to some degree, but that guilt would've made real happiness impossible.

Discussion questions:

1. Do you think Toby and Lennie could’ve had an actual relationship?
2. How do you think Lennie really felt for Toby, if Joe wasn’t on the scene, do you think her feelings would’ve been different?
3. How do you think Toby felt for Lennie? Platonic feelings, with grief induced lust? Actual romantic feelings? Brotherly?
4. Do you like discussions like this, where it’s specifically about a certain book or do you prefer more general discussion?

As you can see, Julie and I have different opinions on the subject (dorky fact: I love this about books. How people can read them, but read them in totally different ways and interpret the story differently), so what do you guys think? Agree with one of us? Or both of us? Or neither of us and have your own interpretation?


Later.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

In My Mailbox (70)

In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren and inspired by Alea at Pop Culture Junkie.

Julie:

Slow week, which really is a good thing. *stares at precarious TBR piles* But I'm really happy about both. Ordinary Beauty looks fantastic (I just loaned it out to my friend for the weekend, but it will soon be mine) and Startled by His Furry Shorts is the seventh Georgia Nicholson series. So now I have the 1, 2, 7, and 9 book. I've only read the first, but I'll read them all some day.

For Review:
Ordinary Beauty by Laura Wiess

Bought:
Startled by His Furry Shorts by Louise Rennison

No vlog this week 'cause I look like crap and I only have one of the books anyway so, why bother?

Thoughts on these books? What's in your mailbox?

--Julie

Lanna:

This week has been pretty awesome. I haven't bought any books in a while (well, "a while" compared to how often I usually do), but I got a bunch this week. I wanted to get some different stuff to what I usually read (although, I did get some YA stuff too).



For review:

Trial by Fire by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Mad Love by Suzanne Selfors

Mad Love sounds cute (but the US cover is so much prettier than the UK one) and I almost squealed in delight when I got Trial by Fire, I absolutely adored the first book (Raised by Wolves).

Bought:

Guitar Highway Rose by Brigid Lowry
The Book of Happy Endings by Elise Valmorbida
Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair by Pablo Neruda
Atonement by Ian McEwan
The Book of Tomorrow by Cecelia Ahem
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott
The Ghost and the Goth by Stacey Kade

Any of you read any of those? Like them? Hate them?

Later.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta


Jellicoe Road
Melina Marchetta
HarperCollins
[September 1, 2006]

In this lyrical, absorbing, award-winning novel, nothing is as it seems, and every clue leads to more questions.
At age eleven, Taylor Markham was abandoned by her mother. At fourteen, she ran away from boarding school, only to be tracked down and brought back by a mysterious stranger. Now seventeen, Taylor's the reluctant leader of her school's underground community, whose annual territory war with the Townies and visiting Cadets has just begun. This year, though, the Cadets are led by Jonah Griggs, and Taylor can't avoid his intense gaze for long. To make matters worse, Hannah, the one adult Taylor trusts, has disappeared. But if Taylor can piece together the clues Hannah left behind, the truth she uncovers might not just settle her past, but also change her future.

Everything about this book is different.
The writing is refreshing and just overall different. It was sad yet happy and a wonderful blend of past and present. It was addicting, as well. The story itself would drag a bit, but I'd still want to keep reading.

Taylor and Griggs were so adorable and funny together. They were like those little kids who pull each others hair and put a finger next to their face and scream "I'M NOT TOUCHING YOU," but they have crushes on each other. Except Taylor and Griggs are older. I loved every minute of it with them. As individual people? Taylor was kind of a bitch and had her flaws, though I never hated her. Griggs didn't work too well without Taylor, either.

The story itself was unique, not something we see often in YA. It wasn't a romance or a dystopian or a paranormal or even the traditional contemporary. It's a different book with different characters and I loved it.

There's not much else I can say. I'm already paranoid I was super spoilery. Overall, this book is just fantastic. Another one to pick up ASAP.

--Julie

If I Stay by Gayle Forman



If I Stay
by Gayle Forman


Summary: In a single moment, everything changes. Seventeenyear- old Mia has no memory of the accident; she can only recall riding along the snow-wet Oregon road with her family. Then, in a blink, she finds herself watching as her own damaged body is taken from the wreck...

A sophisticated, layered, and heartachingly beautiful story about the power of family and friends, the choices we all make—and the ultimate choice Mia commands.

So…I didn’t hate it. But I didn’t love it. The book left me a bit -- underwhelmed.

It was the shortest book out of the challenge Julie and I had, but it took me the longest to read -- it just dragged on and on and on and I had no trouble at all with putting it down and not picking it up again for a day, which isn’t a good sign.

I did like the book, it wasn’t bad…it just wasn’t my cup of tea. It didn’t live up to the hype for me and I seem to be in the minority in thinking that, because so many people have gushed about it saying how awesome it is.

Things I did like were the writing and the characters. It was well written and the characters were likeable -- although, the side characters were given way more personality than Mia even though she’s the one narrating the book. That could have been because the narration felt kind of…detached/distant to me, I didn’t connect with her (I guess that could’ve been intentional given where she is in the story) and the problem with that was I didn’t care enough for the book to have an impact on me.

The book didn’t make me cry. The story was sad as hell, it should’ve been one that tugged at my heart strings and had me bawling like a baby but I didn’t shed a single tear over the story (even on the day where I was in a crying mood anyway) -- there were one or two moments where I was close to feeling that sadness, but then I would be pulled out of the moment by the story switching from the sad scene to a flashback and that was so frustrating.

I actually think that was the biggest problem for me: the flashbacks. I genuinely wanted to throw the book across the room most of the time when it jumped to a flashback…most of them were so boring to me and I genuinely did not give a damn about that part of the story. There were a few slightly interesting ones, but the best parts of them were just glossed over or summarized.

So yeah, I did not like the flashbacks. I get why they were necessary, but anytime I was getting into the story a flashback scene would drag me out of it -- it was the present that interested me, not the past. And even the present story wasn’t too original to me, it was predictable, it was always obvious what was going to happen and it’s been done before in movies and TV shows (not sure if it has been done in books before, but I bet it has at some point).

I’ll stop trying to explain why the book didn’t really do it for me now. Basically, I liked it but just…not enough. I don’t want to read the sequel and when I finished the book, I just put it on my shelf without a second thought (the good books get under my skin and the story lingers in my mind for hours or days or weeks after reading and I hesitate putting them back on my shelf because I like rereading parts and having the book beside me).

I would still recommend reading it though, if you haven’t, because other people seem to absolutely love it (my co-blogger included) and I really do seem to be in the minority in not connecting with the story.

Later.

p.s. silly random thing that made me cringe throughout the story: Adams band being called “Shooting Star” -- fun fact, when  I was younger, me and a few of my friends had a band (not a good band, just a cheesy band who only wrote like two songs and didn’t play any instruments - it was very 90’s girl/boy band) and that band was called “Shooting Stars” but we were all under the age of 10 and still stuck in our Spice Girls/S Club 7 phase, so that almost excuses the cheesy name…Adam is supposed to be like 18/19 and the story isn’t set in the 90’s and they're meant to be a punk/rock band. So yeah, band name epic fail.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson


The Sky is Everywhere
Jandy Nelson
Walker Books/Dial
[June 7, 2010/March 9, 2010]

Seventeen-year-old Lennie Walker, bookworm and band geek, plays second clarinet and spends her time tucked safely and happily in the shadow of her fiery older sister, Bailey. But when Bailey
dies abruptly, Lennie is catapulted to center stage of her own life—and, despite her nonexistent history with boys, suddenly finds herself struggling to balance two. Toby was Bailey’s boyfriend; his grief mirrors Lennie’s own. Joe is the new boy in
town, a transplant from Paris whose nearly magical grin is matched only by his musical talent. For Lennie, they’re the sun and the moon; one boy takes her out of her sorrow, the other comforts her in it. But just like their celestial counterparts, they can’t collide without the whole wide world exploding.

This remarkable debut is perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen, Deb Caletti, and Francesca Lia Block. Just as much a celebration of love as it is a portrait of loss, Lennie’s struggle to sort her own melody out of the noise around her is always honest, often hilarious, and ultimately unforgettable.

Please note: The UK publisher/publish date is the first listed, US is second. UK cover is blue, other covers are US. But they are all gorgeous so you must SEE THEM ALL.

 ANYWAY. This book...so incredible.


Lennie was this amazing character. She was confused and heartbroken and wonderful. I felt all of her confusion and her pain and I could feel how unsure of everything she was. It was almost like she was in denial of how grief-stricken she was and it was something I could sympathize with and understand. She did some horrible things but...I didn't hate her for it. I pitied her. I wanted to hug her. I want this girl to be my friend so I can help her through things.


Joe and Toby...oh those too. I was Team Joe from the beginning. But I didn't hate Toby or anything...I wanted him to be happy, just not by using Lennie. I wanted Lennie and Joe FOREVA. Because Lennie wasn't just Lennie with Joe...she was John Lennon. You just have to read to understand and to feel why I love Joe and to get as frustrated as I did at times.


The writing was so gorgeous. I knew all the characters, even Lennie's dead sister and her best friend, who was hardly in the novel. I was utterly addicted to the book and the writing. Totally wrapped up in the story and the characters. It's the kind of book you don't experience often. Raw and painful and lovely and honest.


I just...I can't write more. Read this damn book. End of story.


--Julie

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey



Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side
by Beth Fantaskey


Summary: The undead can really screw up your senior year ...

Marrying a vampire definitely doesn’t fit into Jessica Packwood’s senior year “get-a-life” plan. But then a bizarre (and incredibly hot) new exchange student named Lucius Vladescu shows up, claiming that Jessica is a Romanian vampire princess by birth—and he’s her long-lost fiancé.

Armed with newfound confidence and a copy of Growing Up Undead: A Teen Vampire’s Guide to Dating, Health, and Emotions, Jessica makes a dramatic transition from average American teenager to glam European vampire princess. But when a devious cheerleader sets her sights on Lucius, Jess finds herself fighting to win back her wayward prince, stop a global vampire war—and save Lucius’s soul from eternal destruction.
Hmm.


So this book was not what I was expecting. And I absolutely freaking adored it.

I don't know if it was the cover (did not like) or the title (meh) or the summary ("sounds so cliche, the vampire thing is so overdone right now" *headdesk*), but I just wasn't in a rush to read it. The only reason I even bought the book was because so many people gushed about how awesome it was, but I still put off reading it for ages -- I only read it because of the challenge Julie and I had and I'm so glad that I did, the book is awesome.

It took me a little while to get into it (the writing bugged me in the beginning), but once I did, I was completely hooked.

I can't really explain the reasons I liked it properly, it's hard to put into words. I know I loved the characters, Lucius was amazing...I have a weakness for brooding bad boys who are good guys at heart and the fact he is Romanian makes me swoon like a pathetic fangirl (Romania is somewhere that I desperately want to visit) and I liked Jessica and the fact that she was realistically skeptical about the whole vampire thing for so long and that she was stubborn and didn't pull a Bella Swan the minute she met a pretty boy. I liked her best friend, parents and uncle, too.

I really liked how the vampire thing was handled. As far as mythical creatures go, vampires are probably the most overused over the past few years and I thought I was all burned out on vampire stories but I loved this one and it didn't feel cliche and overdone. It reminded me why I loved vampires in the first place. I read Dracula when I was about 12, loved vampire movies -- the more Twilight-ish books are a pathetically watered down form of vamp-lit but Jessica's Guide kind of got back to the roots of the kind of stories that I love.

I'll stop with the rambling now, but I really loved the book and if you were like me; put off by the title/cover/summary/vampires, then maybe give it a chance anyway. I can't wait to read the sequel and get more of these characters.

Later.

p.s. one thing I hated about the book was her original name: Antanasia. It irritated me so much, every time I read it, I forced myself to substitute a different name in its place like I did when I read the name "Wanda" in The Host. =P

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Entangled by Cat Clarke

Books My Co-Blogger Forced Me to Read Book Two

Entangled
Cat Clarke
Quercus Publishing
[January 6, 2011]

The same questions whirl round and round in my head:
What does he want from me?
How could I have let this happen?
AM I GOING TO DIE?

17-year-old Grace wakes up in a white room, with a table, pens and paper - and no clue how she got here.

As Grace pours her tangled life onto the page, she is forced to remember everything she's tried to forget. There's falling hopelessly in love with the gorgeous Nat, and the unravelling of her relationship with her best friend Sal. But there's something missing. As hard as she's trying to remember, is there something she just can't see?

Grace must face the most important question of all. Why is she here?

A story of dark secrets, intense friendship and electrifying attraction.

What the synopsis also doesn't tell you is that it's so much more than it seems, your mind will be blown, and you might want to throw the book at the end.

I loved Grace. She was kind of stupid and immature and blind to what seemed so obvious to me, but there was still something about her. She's sarcastic and intelligent and I just...I guess I related to her in some way. I just really loved her character.

Everyone else pissed me off like woah. But I can't really talk about that.

The way it was written was really addicting, too. The writing was wonderful and really drew me in and made me want to keep reading. The alternating between present and past was fantastic. The way it was written combined with Grace's voice...amazing.

This was just a fantastic novel and I loved it, though the ending made me mad and confused and I kind of wanted to throw it, like I said before. I can haz sequel, Cat Clarke? Plz?

--Julie

Monday, 16 May 2011

Jane by April Lindner


by April Lindner


Summary: Forced to drop out of an esteemed East Coast college after the sudden death of her parents, Jane Moore takes a nanny job at Thornfield Park, the estate of Nico Rathburn, an iconic rock star on the brink of a huge comeback.

Practical and independent, Jane reluctantly becomes entranced by her magnetic and brooding employer, and finds herself in the midst of a forbidden romance. But there's a mystery at Thornfield, and Jane's much-envied relationship with Nico is tested by a torturous secret from his past.

Okay, so basically....djdsbliedhleuhrfrofiiotnOMGWTFBBQYAY!









 /Gif interpretation. I was struggling with coherency when I tried to turn my thoughts on the book into words.

I really, really loved this book and I'm not quite sure why I loved it as much as I did...it was just an awesome brooding romance with a main character that I genuinely liked and a love interest who made me swoon; he was the perfect mix of bad boy and loveliness. I'd like to keep him but, alas, he is fictional -- damn.

But yeah, I absolutely loved it. Seriously. Absolutely. Totally. I loved the book so much that as soon as I was finished, I put it straight into the pile of books that I'm going to force Batman to read (Batman as in my best friend who is nicknamed Batman, not the fictional character). I only force books on her that I think she may love.

Jane -- she really stands out amongst the other protagonists in books I read. She was awkward and actually was different and not just one of those characters that we're supposed to believe is a unique little snowflake without it ever being shown. Her character really grows in the book too, her character development is really well done and I love that, when a character changes throughout the book but it doesn't feel like a forced change.

I haven't read Jane Eyre yet, but I own it and this book made me want to read it so I'm going to do that when I have time. Another sign of a good retelling = if it makes me want to read the original. I'd still recommend the book even to people who don't like the original, the retelling might push your buttons in a way Jane Eyre didn't (Batman didn't like the original and I still forced this book on her and she's a tough judge when it comes to books).

Anyway, this review has been scattered and not very good, sorry. But I'm so glad that Julie and I did the whole books my co-blogger forced me to read challenge, because if we hadn't then I probably would've put off reading this book for even longer and I would've been missing out on the awesomeness.

Fun/silly fact: when I finished reading, I attempted to make fan art for it (because I like to properly visualize the characters using actual people), but I couldn't get any good pictures to work with. I pictured Ian Somerhalder as Nico (and he'll be 33 this year, so he could be old enough). Failed attempt:


Later.

Books My Co-Blogger Forced Me To Read: The Conclusion

Okay, so last week, we put up a post announcing that we would be doing a “Books My Co-Blogger Forced Me To Read” challenge (here is the post, in case you forgot), the general idea was this:



And the challenge is over now.



We cut it down to three books instead of four because we both have review books to get to (books that got cut were Iron King for me and Nevermore for Julie). We will try and maybe finish the last two books and get the reviews up next week, but no promises.

Aside from that, the challenge was a success. Success meaning that we both found some new book loves out of the challenge that we had been putting off reading for a stupid amount of time.

We’ll both be posting our reviews of the books we read for the rest of this week, so you'll need to wait and see what we thought of the books (although, if you follow Julie on twitter, you probably got a clue).

Later.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

In My Mailbox (69)

In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren and inspired by Alea at Pop Culture Junkie.

Julie:

A slower week, but really excited about The Near Witch! 



For Review:
Everfound by Neal Shusterman
The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab

Bought:
Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift

Thanks to Bernadette at S&S and Hallie at Disney-Hyperion!

Thoughts on the books? What's in your mailbox?

--Julie

Saturday, 14 May 2011

The Lucky Kind by Alyssa Sheinmel (Blog Tour)


 

The Lucky Kind
Alyssa Sheinmel
Knopf Books for Young Readers
[May 10, 2011]

High school junior Nick Brandt is intent on getting a girlfriend, and Eden Reiss is the one that he wants. He has exactly four semesters to get the girl, but when the phone rings on an otherwise ordinary Tuesday night, life for Nick and his parents will never be the same. What had been a seemingly idyllic home life has become something else entirely. But with this shake-up comes a newfound confidence for Nick; he's become a bolder version of himself, no longer afraid to question his parents, and no longer afraid to talk to Eden.

Alyssa B. Sheinmel has written a powerfully gripping story about family secrets, falling in love, and finding luck in unexpected--and sometimes unwelcome—circumstances.

 Alyssa Sheinmel proves her writing genius yet again.

This book was beautifully written and captivating. I ended up reading half of it in one sitting. Then the other half I read in the car on our outings last week. It was a bit of a fight to get me out of the car a few times. And having a male narrator just improved it. The style in this story wasn't like someone wrote it down and let me read it. It's like Alyssa and I are sitting face to face and she's telling me this story about Nick. Or maybe Nick's sitting in front of me, telling me this story.

Now Nick as a character. For most of the book I was like "Ok, cool, normal teenage boy, whatever." When THE THING happens, his reactions were a tad annoying, but understandable. But there was a portion of the book where I was like "WHAT THE EFF NICK? STOP BEING STUPID. STOP IT." He listened to me, but it took a while. And it's probably a good sign that I got this angry with him. If I didn't, it'd probably mean I didn't care about him.

The romance was really interesting. It was a typical teenage romance, but with just enough of a twist that I was intrigued to see where it'd go. Eden was a fantastic love interest and character and I would love a book about Eden.

It's a short, quick read and it kept me invested. I don't think it needed to be shorter or longer or anything. It was a perfect balance for the story.

Beyond all that, I really, really liked this book. I'm not sure I LOVED it the way I did The Beautiful Between, but it's still another fantastic read that I highly recommend for anyone that likes contemporary and romance and characters that just make sense. Also, Stevie wins.

--Julie

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Die for Me by Amy Plum


Die for Me 
by Amy Plum


Summary: My life had always been blissfully, wonderfully normal. But it only took one moment to change everything.

Suddenly, my sister, Georgia, and I were orphans. We put our lives into storage and moved to Paris to live with my grandparents. And I knew my shattered heart, my shattered life, would never feel normal again. Then I met Vincent.

Mysterious, sexy, and unnervingly charming, Vincent Delacroix appeared out of nowhere and swept me off my feet. Just like that, I was in danger of losing my heart all over again. But I was ready to let it happen.

Of course, nothing is ever that easy. Because Vincent is no normal human. He has a terrifying destiny, one that puts his life at risk every day. He also has enemies . . . immortal, murderous enemies who are determined to destroy him and all of his kind.

While I'm fighting to piece together the remnants of my life, can I risk putting my heart—as well as my life and my family's—in jeopardy for a chance at love?

Well then. This book...



Yeah, so I really liked this book a lot. This review will probably be pretty short because explaining exactly what I liked about it is not something I can do in detail...seriously, I tried -- I just stared at the blank page for a stupid amount of time then scrolled aimlessly through tumblr.

The book has the main character dealing with the death of her parents, and that's a touchy subject for me, but Amy Plum managed to write it without making it depressing to read while still showing how a tragedy like that isn't just completely devastating, but it totally changes your whole life and has this impact on the person that you are and who you'll become.

I liked the characters a lot. Kate annoyed me sometimes, but it was in a good way...like, I'd be rooting for something to happen and she would be realistically stubborn about it and so I'd get annoyed but still appreciate the fact that Amy Plum didn't have Kate suffer from Bella Swan Syndrome, where she's all "ooh, I love this guy I barely know and I want to die for him and spend forever with him in all of our Mary Sue/Gary Stu glory." - I liked Kate overall, she was a good protagonist. And I liked Vincent - cute French boy characacter totally brought the awesome.

My favourite characters were the side characters though. They kind of stole the show for me - I loved Kate and Vincent, but his friends and her family had great personality that really shone through during their scenes.

Hmm. What else?

Oh, the plot. I loved it. I loved that we got something original with this book. I mean, it still had those cliche elements that have been flooding the YA supernatural/fantasy bookshelves for years, but they were quite well executed and the supernatural element of the book was original and something I haven't read before (okay, so it was original to me, if there is other books out there like it, I just haven't found them).

This book is also another one added to the list of books that have made me want to move to Paris, or visit Paris at the very least. Books with Paris as a setting, when they're written well, manage to make the city itself seem like a character and I end up caring about it and loving it and the awesome thing is, unlike the fictional characters, Paris is real and I can go there. I will go there, someday.

That's all I can think to say, except:

You. Yes, you, Amy Plum. Hi. Um...
Kthnxbai!

Later.

p.s. gorgeous cover is gorgeous, agreed?

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