Saturday, December 28, 2013

Me on This Week's Book Week (84)

This Week's Book Week is rather similar to Stacking the Shelves hosted by Tynga's Reviews only with far more rambling and a less witty title. ;)

And now I'm back after taking a week off. Sort of. I've been rereading and spending time with family and having a birthday and seeing friends again.

I always think of doing one of those year in review posts, or one of those books I'm looking forward to in the coming year posts, but I never do it. Probably because I don't want to bore you with another list like most people seem to post around this time of year. Books I loved from 2013? The Dream Thieves, Ink, Fangirl, Scarlet, Vicious, and Asunder. Books I'm looking forward to in 2014? The next Raven Boys book, The Winner's Curse (which is sort of cheating because I've already read it), Cress (more cheating), The Inventor's Secret, Infinite, Rain, Illusive, Otherbound, Fiendish, and Isla and the Happily Ever After. :)

With the new year starting soon, I imagine I'll be getting to work on May's Canadian YA Lit Event. Any Canadian authors you'd like to see featured? Maybe some debut authors? I (currently) only know of 4: E.K. Johnston (The Story of Owen), Danielle L. Jensen (Stolen Songbird), Juliana Stone (Boys Like You), and Michelle Krys (Hexed).

I started keeping track of how many books I buy over the years. This year's number was down from last years. Possibly because I've gotten particular, or because I borrowed a lot from the library.

Do you plan out what your last read of 2013 and your first read of 2014 will be? I have. My last of 2013 will be Shadowplay by Laura Lam (because Pantomime was wonderful) and my first of 2014 will be The Inventor's Secret by Andrea Cremer (because there's a secret clockwork part of me that loves the idea of steampunk). :)

Remember how I said reviews would be coming back on the 31st? Yeah... I meant the 3rd. ;) So come back next Friday for a review of Pantomime by Laura Lam. :)
Received:
Rise by Andrea Cremer
Snakeroot by Andrea Cremer
The Melancholy of Mechagirl by Catherynne M. Valente

Borrowed from the library:
Racing Savannah by Miranda Kenneally

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Me on This Week's Book(less) Week (83)

This Week's Book(less) Week is rather similar to Stacking the Shelves hosted by Tynga's Reviews only with far more rambling and a less witty title. ;)

No books this week! It almost wasn't a bookless week, but then the comic book store was closed for lunch when I walked past it the other day.

It's almost Christmas! I like the holiday season. Not so much with the horror stories of shopping and grabbing and shoving, but the celebration part. And you don't have to celebrate in a big group. Then comes my birthday so there's more celebrating. And no turkey, if I don't want turkey for dinner. ;)

I saw some friends last weekend for our usual Christmas get-together, friends I've had since I was 12 or 13. They know me so well, as I realized when my Secret Santa present was a Chapters gift card. ;) I wish I hung out with them more apart from lunch or dinner every few months. Like, more hanging out and talking and watching movies for hours.

Because I'm all read and reviewed up right now, I'm rereading some books I haven't read in ages. I started with The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight because I like it so much, then I realized it's been 2 years since I first read it. Time sure can pass. I'll also be rereading Stephanie Perkins' Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door, Tessa Gratton's Blood Magic and The Blood Keeper, Maggie Stiefvater's The Scorpio Races, Leah Bobet's Above, Melissa Jensen's The Fine Art of Truth or Dare, and Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke & Bone and Days of Blood & Starlight. :)

No reviews next week because of Christmas! But I'm only taking the one week off so come back on New Year's Eve when a new review will go up. :)

Friday, December 20, 2013

Me on Control

Title: Control
Author: Lydia Kang
Release Date: December 26, 2013
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers (Penguin imprint)

When a crash kills their father and leaves them orphaned, Zelia knows she needs to protect her sister, Dylia. But before Zel has a plan, strangers appear with bizarre sensory weapons, and Zel finds herself in a safe house for teens who aren't like any she’s ever seen before. Teens who shouldn't even exist. Using broken-down technology, her new friends' peculiar gifts, and her own grit, Zel must find a way to get her sister back from the kidnappers who think a powerful secret is encoded in Dyl's DNA.

Control is dangerous and deceptive, a search for the truth in our genetic makeup and a mission to save family. But it's not that easy for Zel, her world soon becomes secretive, confining. Controlling. Despite being blocked at every turn, she still looks for the truth, but what is the truth? What will she do when she discovers it?

Zel is flawed and frail, the kind of girl who would surely become the unlikely hero of this book. She's a one-track mind kind of girl, thinking only of her sister and how she can save her. She's also battling (in a sense) against the residents of her hew home, trying to crack their shells and discover their secrets because she's been kept in the dark about why Dyl was taken and who they all are. But they're all tight-lipped, especially the intelligent angry guy who constantly glares at Zel whenever they're in the same room. She won't stop, though. Finding Dylia is too important.

Now, I will say first that I don't know a lot about genetics, I never studied it, but the science all sounded rather sound, plausible by science fiction's rules. I was willing to put my faith in the author's background when it came to all the talk of genetic manipulation, willing to believe that in the future, with the right knowledge and advances in technology, a lot of what Zel discovers could be possible.

Are there mistakes or accidents? Are the gifts of the teens Zel meets genetic quirks, or aren't they? If they are mistakes, what mistakes they are, and the lengths people went through to keep them hidden from the rest of the world are astounding. But if they aren't, if they were created on purpose, if there are no such thing as accidents, who created them? Why? What isn't Zel being told?

There's a moment where Zel apologizes for being selfish in her search for Dyl and I found myself not wanting her to apologize. She wants her sister back, she wants her family back, she's willing to do what it takes to get information. I don't blame her for acting the way she does, so focused and driven. After their father's death, all she has is Dylia. She craves what's familiar to her to provide comfort and support, and only Dyl can give her that. Of course, her apologizing means she's acknowledging that she's too focused on saving Dyl, means she's aware, but I would've been happy without the apology.

One of the shining moments of the book, besides Zel and her intelligence, is the science. It provides a technical feel, a serious tone, but also a bit of plausibility. Actual science is slightly tweaked, slightly twisted, by the author. It's still science fiction right now, but there's that possibility of it one day perhaps moving past fiction into fact that gives it weight. The knowledge that this is the first in a series also gives it weight, the weight of waiting for the next book.

(I was given an advance copy of this title from another book blogger.)

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (158)

Waiting on Wednesday is a bunch of weekly fun hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. :)

Title: The Geography of You and Me
Author: Jennifer E. Smith
Release Date: April 15, 2014
Publisher: Poppy (Hachette Book Group imprint)

From Goodreads:

Lucy and Owen meet somewhere between the tenth and eleventh floors of a New York City apartment building, on an elevator rendered useless by a citywide blackout. After they're rescued, they spend a single night together, wandering the darkened streets and marveling at the rare appearance of stars above Manhattan. But once the power is restored, so is reality. Lucy soon moves to Edinburgh with her parents, while Owen heads out west with his father.

Lucy and Owen's relationship plays out across the globe as they stay in touch through postcards, occasional e-mails, and -- finally -- a reunion in the city where they first met.

A carefully charted map of a long-distance relationship, Jennifer E. Smith's new novel shows that the center of the world isn't necessarily a place. It can be a person, too.

You all know me, so you know I don't read a lot of contemporary or realistic fiction, but I've come to realize this year that there's a certain kind of contemporary YA that I will read. It'll be funny, sweet, not too cutesy, will often involve international travel, and will also have some real life teen angst issues (see Anna and the French Kiss, Dash & Lily's Book of Dares, Drummer Girl, and The Fine Art of Truth or Dare). Also, once I reach the end I will want to know more. Like, who else wants to know what happened to Hadley and Oliver after The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight ended?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Me on The Nightmare Affair

Title: The Nightmare Affair
Author: Mindee Arnett
Release Date: March 5, 2013
Publisher: Tor Teen

Sixteen-year-old Dusty Everhart breaks into houses late at night, but not because she’s a criminal. No, she’s a Nightmare. Literally. Being the only Nightmare at Arkwell Academy, a boarding school for magickind, and living in the shadow of her mother’s infamy, is hard enough. But when Dusty sneaks into Eli Booker’s house, things get a whole lot more complicated. He’s hot, which means sitting on his chest and invading his dreams couldn’t get much more embarrassing. But it does. Eli is dreaming of a murder. Then Eli’s dream comes true. Now Dusty has to follow the clues, both within Eli’s dreams and out of them, to stop the killer before more people turn up dead. And before the killer learns what she’s up to and marks her as the next target.

The Nightmare Affair is dark, filled with secrets, spells, and hidden agendas. Dusty is the unlikeliest detective, searching the shadows for clues to a murder at her boarding school for magical teens, but she must be careful. Someone has plans rather sinister plans, and would hate for Dusty to ruin them.

Dusty is stuck in her mother's shadow, looked down on because of both her mother's less than savoury exploits and her own Nightmare abilities. Because she is feared, looked down on, avoided, shunned, her personality has its rough edges. She's very much her own person, there's little to no filter between her thoughts and her brain so she certainly has a way of cutting the tension in the room with a bit of snark. And she frequently denies that she's like her mother, when there certainly are some similarities between the two of them.

Her relationship, for lack of a better work, with Eli is intriguing. The connection between the two of them came about by circumstances neither of them had any control over. I liked that their relationship was often rocky, often filled with conflict, both between the two and between Dusty and her thoughts. They weren't forced to become friends, they weren't even told to become friends, and I liked that. It meant they had to work towards discovering the truth and stopping the killer while working through some apathy and animosity. It didn't feel easy, and it shouldn't have. If it wasn't difficult for them to search and solve the mystery, I would've been disappointed.

In a school like Arkwell, a boarding school for witches, wizards, and other magical beings, there are bound to be more than a few secrets circling the grounds. There was such a variety of paranormal creatures, plus there was the keeping them all in one place boarding school aspect, which meant there was a fair amount of teenage hormones and attitude roaming the halls. Having both sides, the dark murder mystery side and the teen angst side, brought on that hint of realism.

At times Dusty reminded me of a paranormal Nancy Drew with an extra trick or two up her sleeve. She was willing to search and get a bit dirty, willing to ask questions in order to get answers, but she had no idea what she'd stumbled into, how dangerous it would get. What kept me reading was Dusty, the self-acknowledged smartass, and the ways her curious and snarky personality got all mixed up and in all the secrets going around, the mystery behind the sudden murders. An entertaining start to a mysterious paranormal trilogy, I just hope the second book will be more of the same.

(I borrowed a copy of this title from the library.)

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Me on This Week's Book Week (82)

This Week's Book Week is rather similar to Stacking the Shelves hosted by Tynga's Reviews only with far more rambling and a less witty title. ;)

It's still cold. Sort of. ;) And I'm still dealing with my stolen credit card number fallout, which sucks.

So it snowed earlier in the week, but then the rain came and it all disappeared. Like usual. I'm a bit indifferent to the snow. It looks pretty, and it makes the house warm because the heat is turned up, but shoveling it and driving in it can be a huge pain.

Seeing some friends tomorrow for a Christmas get-together/gift exchange. Not sure what else we'll be doing, since it's supposed to rain off and on over the next week. I would be totally happy with seeing them, having dinner, exchanging gifts, and maybe watching a movie or two. It doesn't have to be anything fancy like walking around a park to look at Christmas lights, or wandering through a Christmas market. Since when was hanging out and catching up and watching movies not interesting?

Reviews for the coming week will feature The Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett (Tuesday) and Control by Lydia Kang (Friday). :)
Bought/borrowed/received:
Foretold edited by Carrie Ryan (anthology; e-book borrowed from the library)
My Date from Hell by Tellulah Darling (from the author)

Friday, December 13, 2013

Me on Transparent

Title: Transparent
Author: Natalie Whipple
Release Date: May 21, 2013
Publisher: HarperTeen

Plenty of teenagers feel invisible. Fiona actually is. An invisible girl is a priceless weapon. Fiona's own father has been forcing her to do his dirty work for years, everything from spying on people to stealing cars to breaking into bank vaults. After sixteen years, Fiona's had enough. She and her mother flee to a small town, and for the first time in her life, Fiona feels like a normal life is within reach. But Fiona's father isn't giving up that easily. Of course, he should know better than anyone: never underestimate an invisible girl.

Transparent is a curious mix of contemporary and paranormal, entertaining and amusing while also fast-paced and dangerous. This is Fiona's first chance at living a normal life, with high school and classmates, but she can't help but be suspicious of anything and everything. Being the invisible girl means everyone knows who you are.

Fiona's story begins in a dangerous place. She's the prize tool of her crime syndicate boss father, the infamous invisible girl who can spy and steal from anyone he wishes. But a girl will only do so much in the name of familial love. She's tired of being used by her father. He feels no love or affection towards her, he only thinks of greed, manipulation, and control. Her and her mother leaving, hiding out in a small town, raise two new problems. They run the risk of her father coming after them, forcing his will upon them even harder than before, but they also have to keep an eye on the town they end up in. Who are the new 'friends' of Fiona's? Who must she watch out for?

What is it like being invisible? Fiona wants to be recognized as a person, as a girl, as a normal girl and not as an attraction or a tool. She's still existing, living, experiencing the world and all its ups and downs. She's right there. But no one can see her face, her expressions of happiness or sadness. No one can see the real Fiona. Even in huge crowds of people, she's all alone.

When you have a world where people have unique abilities, those with criminal leanings, with manipulative or controlling personalities, are bound to want to use those abilities to their own advantage. They're the wrong kind of people to have the abilities. With the abilities, they crave power and control, and when they have it, they want more. And they will go to any lengths to have it.

What hooked me initially was the book's premise, the escape from the criminal underworld to a small town with a paranormal twist. It means double the issues for Fiona: teenage real like plus the impossible invisible girl life. These are the books I enjoy the most, the ones that weave back and forth across the line that separates real and not real, realistic and magical realism. What if, on top of high school, family, and friends, life was just that much more complicated? I'm looking forward to the sequel, I'm curious as to what else is coming after Fiona.

(I borrowed a copy of this book from the library.)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (157)

Waiting on Wednesday is a bunch of weekly fun hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. :)

Title: The Mirk and Midnight Hour
Author: Jane Nickerson
Release Date: March 11, 2014
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (Random House imprint)

From Goodreads:

A Southern girl. A wounded soldier. A chilling force deep in the forest. All collide at night’s darkest hour.

Seventeen-year-old Violet Dancey has been left at home in Mississippi with a laudanum-addicted stepmother and love-crazed stepsister while her father fights in the war—a war that has already claimed her twin brother. When she comes across a severely injured Union soldier lying in an abandoned lodge deep in the woods, things begin to change. Thomas is the enemy—one of the men who might have killed her own brother—and yet she's drawn to him. But Violet isn't Thomas's only visitor; someone has been tending to his wounds—keeping him alive—and it becomes chillingly clear that this care hasn't been out of compassion. Against the dangers of war and ominous powers of voodoo, Violet must fight to protect her home and the people she loves. From the author of Strands of Bronze and Gold comes a haunting love story and suspenseful thriller based on the ancient fairy tale of “Tam Lin.”

I was rather intrigued by the first book, Strands of Bronze and Gold, and there seems to be a growing trend where a series or connected novels are retellings or re-imaginings of classic literature and fairy tales (see Megan Shepherd's The Madman's Daughter, Diana Peterfreund's For Darkness Shows the Stars, and Marissa Meyer's Cinder). I hope this trend continues with lesser known fables, legends, and fairy tales.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Me on The Lost Sun

Title: The Lost Sun
Author: Tessa Gratton
Release Date: June 25, 2013
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers

Seventeen-year-old Soren Bearskin is trying to escape the past. His father, a famed warrior, lost himself to the battle-frenzy and killed thirteen innocent people. Soren cannot deny that berserking is in his blood--the fevers, insomnia, and occasional feelings of uncontrollable rage haunt him. So he tries to remain calm and detached from everyone at Sanctus Sigurd's Academy. But that's hard to do when a popular, beautiful girl like Astrid Glyn tells Soren she dreams of him. That's not all Astrid dreams of. The daughter of a renowned prophetess, Astrid is coming into her own inherited abilities. When Baldur, son of Odin and one of the most popular gods in the country, goes missing, Astrid sees where he is and convinces Soren to join her on a road trip that will take them to find not only a lost god, but also who they are beyond the legacy of their parents and everything they've been told they have to be.

The Lost Sun is a magical and dangerous journey across a land covered in sadness and loss, a coming of age taking place in a land both wholly different and very similar to our own. Soren and Astrid face a number of challenges on their search for Baldur and the reason for his disappearance, but the most important search happens inside themselves as they are forced to decide if they're willing to accept what fate has in store for them.

Soren is afraid of what fate may have in store for him. He's afraid of becoming his father, a berserker who lost control, killed innocent people, and was then gunned down in order to put a halt to his rage. After witnessing that as a child, Soren has spent years calming the fever inside of him, searching for a way to keep it buried where it will harm no one. When Astrid comes along with a proposition, Soren sees a chance to remove the part of himself he fears, the part he hates, but no one can escape the ties of fate for long.

Astrid can't, or won't, let her mother go. She believes her mother is still out there, somewhere. The journey with Soren is also a journey of discovering answers, but will they be the answers she seeks? Will they tell her what she wants to know or will she instead find something unexpected and unwanted? There's a fair amount of Astrid the reader doesn't see, her deepest thoughts and feelings, but that's because she's seen through Soren's eyes. The reader only gets Soren's opinions and assumptions of Astrid and her goals.

Soren and Astrid are kindred spirits, holding themselves back because of the past and fearing what the future may have in store for them. They think they're running from it, escaping it. They don't realize they're heading straight for it. What a curious and fickle creature fate is. Inescapable, fate is what binds each person in this book, especially Soren and Astrid.

The world-building is so spot on in this book, so creative. Norse mythology is rather underused in YA, what with Greek mythology being so popular, and I was pleased to read something new and different. What if the Norse gods existed? What an interesting concept. And because they exist, the history of the world is different, which means certain terms are different, like names, holidays, and days of the week. I imagine it must've been hard for Gratton to re-write so much history in order to create this world.

Tessa Gratton still astounds me. She's very much a storyteller, in my opinion, as well as an author. It's the telling of the tale that gets to me, the recounting of events and emotions, the revealing of what the reader needs to know slowly over the course of the story. This book has a different tone than her previous books, but I feel that's because the magic there was hidden, darker, more dangerous. Here it's not, it's very much out in the open for all to see, and it feels more immediate.

The journey is so important. It's rough, deadly, complicated. It can spin you around in all directions, make you dizzy, make you go backwards. But every journey has its end. Will the end be the one Soren and Astrid want? I'm very much looking forward to the next book and an entirely new journey.

(I own a finished copy of this book.)

Monday, December 9, 2013

Me on Underrated YA Books of 2013

It's that time of year again. :) I know this year's post is going up earlier in December than in previous years, but that's because I don't want anyone who'll be away for the holidays to miss it. Thanks to all the bloggers, reviewers, librarians, authors, and awesome readers who put in their suggestions for books published in the last year that they found to be underrated or under-appreciated.

Maybe you'll discover a book or two that you might want to add to your wish list. ;)

Inheritance by Malinda Lo
Coda by Emma Trevayne
Sorrow's Knot by Erin Bow
Beautiful Decay by Sylvia Lewis
Teeth by Hannah Moskowitz
The Lost Sun by Tessa Gratton
Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff
Cracked by Eliza Crewe
The Lives We Lost by Megan Crewe
17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma
The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten
The Oathbreaker's Shadow by Amy McCulloch
Freakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark
Altered by Gennifer Albin
Pantomime by Laura Lam
Antogoddess by Kendare Blake
Audacious by Gabrielle Prendergast
Absent by Katie Williams
Thornhill by Kathleen Peacock
Every Never After by Lesley Livingston
Not Your Ordinary Wolf Girl by Emily Pohl-Weary
Breath by Jackie Morse Kessler
Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg
When We Wake by Karen Healey
The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson

I've giving Marco Impossible by Hannah Moskowitz an honourable mention because it's middle grade not young adult but it's still awesome.

Ciara at Lost at Midnight Reviews17 & Gone by Nova Run Suma and Asunder by Jodi Meadows.

Ashley at Book LabyrinthWaiting for the Storm by Marie Landry, This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales, The Reece Malcolm List by Amy Spalding, The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau, Letters to Nowhere by Julie Cross, When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney, How I Lost You by Janet Gurtler, The Distance Between Us by Kasie West, and Spies & Prejudice by Talia Vance.

Christa at More Than Just Magic: Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block, A Fool's Errand by Maureen Fergus, Freakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark, Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg, Teeth by Hannah Moskowitz, Pantomime by Laura Lam, Arclight by Josin L. McQuein, The Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett, and The Cadet of Tildor by Alex Lidell.

Giselle at Booknerd CanadaDangerous Girls by Abigail Haas.

James at Book Chic Club: Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg, Man-Made Boy by Jon Skovron, Proxy by Alex London, and The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle.

E.K. Johnston: Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund.

Rick Lipman: The Savage Blue by Zoraida Córdova, Coda by Emma Trevayne, Star Cursed by Jessica Spotswood, Some Quiet Place by Kelsey Sutton, and The Cadet of Tildor by Alex Lidell.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Me on This Week's Book Week (81)

This Week's Book Week is rather similar to Stacking the Shelves hosted by Tynga's Reviews only with far more rambling and a less witty title. ;)

It's December. December makes me think of time, of how slowly it moves, how days seem to pass in the blink of an eye. It hasn't snowed here yet, but it's been cold. And windy, which makes it colder and even less fun.

I know I said a review of The Lost Sun was going to go up yesterday, but instead I posted a short review of Night of Cake & Puppets by Laini Taylor. It was so adorable. :)

The post of underrated YA of 2013 goes up on Monday. Get your picks in!

Reviews going up this coming week will feature The Lost Sun by Tessa Gratton (Tuesday) and Transparent by Natalie Whipple (Friday). :)
Bought/borrowed/received:
Night of Cake & Puppets by Laini Taylor (e-novella borrowed from the library)
Sapphire Blue by Kerstin Gier (e-book borrowed from the library)
Secret by Brigid Kemmerer (e-galley from Kensington Books throuhg NetGalley)
This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki (e-galley from First Second through NetGalley)

Friday, December 6, 2013

Me on Night of Cake & Puppets

Title: Night of Cake & Puppets
Author: Laini Taylor
Release Date: November 26, 2013
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (Hachette Book Group imprint)

Petite though she may be, Zuzana is not known for timidity. Her best friend, Karou, calls her “rabid fairy,” her “voodoo eyes” are said to freeze blood, and even her older brother fears her wrath. But when it comes to the simple matter of talking to Mik, or “Violin Boy,” her courage deserts her. Now, enough is enough. Zuzana is determined to meet him, and she has a fistful of magic and a plan. It’s a wonderfully elaborate treasure hunt of a plan that will take Mik all over Prague on a cold winter’s night before finally leading him to the treasure: herself! Violin Boy’s not going to know what hit him.

Night of Cake & Puppets is a short burst of a story, a sweet and magical tumble into love. During Karou's search in Daughter of Smoke & Bone, her best friend in the whole world, the puppet-maker Zuzana, decides to take action and claim the object of her desires, violinist Mik.

Taylor's prose is just as magical, just as lyrical and expressive and moving, as her novels. Reading her words is always a joy, they fill the pieces of my soul that crave fairy tales and monsters. But there's an added sweetness here that I feel is all Zuzana (and Mik as well, not to exclude him), all first love and falling snow and secrets lying in wait in the shadows.

This only serves to whet my appetite for Dreams of Gods & Monsters, for more Karou and Akiva, but also for more stories of Zuzana and Mik. I don't think I'll get the latter, but at least I only have to wait until April 2014 for the former.

(I borrowed a copy of this e-novella from the library.)

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (156)

Waiting on Wednesday is a bunch of weekly fun hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. :)

Title: Guy in Real Life
Author: Steve Brezenoff
Release Date: May 27, 2014
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins imprint)

From Goodreads:

Lesh and Svetlana, two teens from St. Paul, Minnesota, are adrift in a sea of social coterie, desperate for something to change. When they crash into one another in a drunken bicycle accident at two am, they don’t yet know how close they are to finding it. For now, Svetlana is simply looking for a fifth member to legitimize the Central High School Gaming Club, and Lesh is looking to escape his being grounded for said drunkenness by entering, reluctantly, the world of online role playing games.

Lesh’s gaming life takes an interesting turn as, unable to figure out how to speak to Svetlana, he “becomes” her in-game. When real life and in-game life inevitably become entwined, Lesh and Svetlana both start to realize that the lines they draw to keep their lives in order are not so easy to maintain. Especially when you no longer understand why you drew them in the first place.

I love the idea of this book, how we hide from real life in online chat rooms and games, how real life and online life never intersect, and if they do (and they were never supposed to) it sends you into a blind panic. I'm really looking forward to this book. :)

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Me on These Broken Stars

Title: These Broken Stars
Authors: Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner
Release Date: December 10, 2013
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

It's a night like any other on board the Icarus. Then, catastrophe strikes: the massive luxury spaceliner is yanked out of hyperspace and plummets into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive. And they seem to be alone. Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a young war hero who learned long ago that girls like Lilac are more trouble than they’re worth. But with only each other to rely on, Lilac and Tarver must work together, making a tortuous journey across the eerie, deserted terrain to seek help. Then, against all odds, Lilac and Tarver find a strange blessing in the tragedy that has thrown them into each other’s arms. Without the hope of a future together in their own world, they begin to wonder—would they be better off staying here forever? Everything changes when they uncover the truth behind the chilling whispers that haunt their every step. Lilac and Tarver may find a way off this planet. But they won’t be the same people who landed on it.

These Broken Stars is a mysterious love story, a harrowing journey of survival, truth, and discovery. It is a very curious twist of fate that tosses Lilac and Tarver together, these teens with very different backgrounds, and it is because of that twist of fate that they must rely on each other for their very survival. There are many secrets to be found on the planet they crash onto, but what will knowing those secrets do to them?

Lilac lives by the rules of her controlling father. She knows this very well, and so she keeps her distance from those 'beneath her.' It's not that she sees them as beneath her, as less than she is, but she does it for their own good. She sees herself as toxic, as a poison that will ruin someone's life, all because of her father. She's a more than meets the eye kind of girl. She has her secret interests and her dreams, her genuine wants and desires, but she keeps them hidden away under a thin veneer of snobbishness.

Tarver, by contrast, is a working class boy made good kind of war hero. He's not necessarily a typical 'war hero' kind of hero. He's strong and intelligent, his knowledge gained from fighting on the front lines keeps them alive, but he still has his concerns, he's still emotionally connected to the situation. He has an honest and genuine personality, and focuses on the mission at hand while paying attention to both his and Lilac's needs.

The small interlude moments between each chapter were interesting. It's rather obvious from the line of questioning that this person wants to know every single thing about the crash, every little insignificant detail from when Tarver first met Lilac, like they'd planned it. The answers the insistent voice gets are rather intriguing, truth but not the truth, lies but not lies.

Survival is key. Once Lilac and Tarver crash onto the planet, they are forced together and forced to rely on each other in order to survive. They are pushed to discover what it takes to survive when the world comes crashing down on you, when you're in a place that's foreign and alien to you, when everything around you is dead and ruined. When the dark secrets that place holds are the key to your survival, and you must rise up above your fear and face it head on.

I was so pleased at how different Lilac and Tarver's voices were. For a dual point of view book, there were clear differences in their tones, personalities, goals, and inner thoughts, and that doesn't always come across well. Also, I'm not surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. I went into it hoping for science fiction, romance, secrets, and intrigue, a sci-fi shipwreck on a deserted 'island' with two characters tossed together and forced to rely on each other in spite of their differences. And that's what I got. And the romance happened naturally, it didn't feel forced or instant. With the next book in the trilogy featuring a different couple, I'm very curious as to where Kaufman and Spooner will go next.

(I received an e-galley of this title to review from Hachette Book Group Canada through NetGalley.)

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Me on This Week's Book Week (80)

This Week's Book Week is rather similar to Stacking the Shelves hosted by Tynga's Reviews only with far more rambling and a less witty title. ;)

I won NaNoWriMo, yay! And it wasn't a total struggle this year, yay! ;) Now to get back to it on Monday and actually finish the first draft.

On Tuesday my 300th book review went up. Wow. It doesn't really feel like 300, but then it also doesn't feel like 3 years since my first post went up. I'd love to redo those first few reviews, they're probably terrible now but I thought they were good then.

I'm still compiling titles for the underrated YA of 2013 post. Feel free to leave your suggestions either in the comment box or on Twitter or through e-mail. :)

Reviews going up this week will feature These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner (Tuesday) and The Lost Sun by Tessa Gratton (Friday). :)
Bought/borrowed/received:
Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier (borrowed from the library)
Loki's Wolves by Kelley Armstrong & Melissa Marr (borrowed from the library)
Starry Nights by Daisy Whitney (borrowed from the library)
Saga #16 by Brian K. Vaughn & Fiona Staples

Friday, November 29, 2013

Me on The Madness Underneath

Title: The Madness Underneath
Author: Maureen Johnson
Release Date: February 26, 2013
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile (Penguin imprint)

After her near-fatal run-in with the Jack the Ripper copycat, Rory Deveaux has been living in Bristol under the close watch of her parents. So when her therapist suddenly suggests she return to Wexford, Rory jumps at the chance to get back to her friends. But Rory's brush with the Ripper touched her more than she thought possible: she's become a human terminus, with the power to eliminate ghosts on contact. She soon finds out that the Shades, the city's secret ghost-fighting police, are responsible for her return. The Ripper may be gone, but now there is a string of new inexplicable deaths threatening London. Rory has evidence that the deaths are no coincidence. Something much more sinister is going on, and now she must convince the squad to listen to her before it's too late.

The Madness Underneath is what I've come to expect from Maureen Johnson in a good way. There's mystery, ghosts, murders, high school, teen romance confusion, and teen angst in general, and it all comes together in the best way. This book is back to Rory attempting to juggle all the part of her life, a life that sees London's ghostly past mixed with Rory's own odd and unique way of thinking. After being attacked by a ghost masquerading as Jack the Ripper, will returning to Wexford really be that easy?

Rory is quirky, eccentric, and sometimes just plain weird, but she's also curious and rather compelling. As I read this book I was fascinated with how Rory saw events play out, with her point of view. She's an intriguing kind of heroine for a ghostly murder mystery, seeing the world from a different angle. Sometimes it's like she's looking at it from the side, and it's clear that she'll be the one to decide what she'll do next as opposed to someone else. She's back to her school and her complicated possible thing with Jerome, back to her ghostly adventures with her team of Stephen, Callum, and Boo, and she's back to helping people. I think that's the biggest or at least the most important part of her personality. For all her weird stories and eccentricities, all Rory wants to do is help people with whatever problem they have. It's just unfortunate that it leans more toward the paranormal and death-centric side of things.

But it's not just Rory or Stephen or Jerome or the rest of the characters, it's also the setting that makes this book. The haunting streets and basements of London. The book is set right in the heart of hundreds of years of history, of war and bloodshed. Taking into account all those who've died in London since it was first settled, there are bound to be more than a few ghosts wandering around, and there are bound to be some angry and resentful ones. Will this be the time for Rory to put her new ability into action?

There's a definite mix of Rory's real/school like and her new dangerous ghost life. It's so interesting, watching them twist and twine around each other, how when they finally do intersect one will complicate the other in impossible ways. Rory now has to find a way to balance these two lives of hers, but it doesn't look like it's going to be easy.

This is Rory's return to where it all began, but what's to come? What's next for her? And will she be able to cope? She's part-dealing with the aftermath of old danger and part-walking into some new danger. One of the bigger changes for Rory now is her new ability, the one that goes beyond just seeing ghosts, but is that all there is now? Just ghost searching and stopping the evil ones from hurting innocent people? Or is there something more out there, more that she realized? I knew going in that the ending would be shocking and it was, even if I'd already guessed what it could be, but that doesn't mean I wasn't left yelling at the book once I was done, wondering when the next one will be out.

(I own a finished copy of this book.)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (155)

Waiting on Wednesday is a bunch of weekly fun hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. :)

Title: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender
Author: Leslye Walton
Release Date: March 25, 2014
Publisher: Candlewick Press

From Goodreads:

Magical realism, lyrical prose, and the pain and passion of human love haunt this hypnotic generational saga.

Foolish love appears to be the Roux family birthright, an ominous forecast for its most recent progeny, Ava Lavender. Ava—in all other ways a normal girl—is born with the wings of a bird. In a quest to understand her peculiar disposition and a growing desire to fit in with her peers, sixteen-year old Ava ventures into the wider world, ill-prepared for what she might discover and naïve to the twisted motives of others. Others like the pious Nathaniel Sorrows, who mistakes Ava for an angel and whose obsession with her grows until the night of the Summer Solstice celebration. That night, the skies open up, rain and feathers fill the air, and Ava’s quest and her family’s saga build to a devastating crescendo. First-time author Leslye Walton has constructed a layered and unforgettable mythology of what it means to be born with hearts that are tragically, exquisitely human.

This sounds like a wonderfully magical book. :)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Me on Pawn

Title: Pawn
Author: Aimée Carter
Release Date: November 29, 2013
Publisher: HarlequinTeen

For Kitty Doe, it seems like an easy choice. She can either spend her life as a III in misery, looked down upon by the higher ranks and forced to leave the people she loves, or she can become a VII and join the most powerful family in the country. If she says yes, Kitty will be Masked - surgically transformed into Lila Hart, the Prime Minister's niece, who died under mysterious circumstances. As a member of the Hart family, she will be famous. She will be adored. And for the first time, she will matter. But there's a catch. There always is. Faced with threats, conspiracies and a life that's not her own, she must decide which path to choose and learn how to become more than a pawn in a twisted game she's only beginning to understand.

Pawn is a glimpse into a certain kind of future, one where an all-powerful family reigns, where secrets and conspiracies are born and die daily, where young people are tested on what their future worth to society will be and how those low scorers will never have the chance to advance. Where people are not always valued or treated like people. Except for one girl. She's been given the chance to be someone important, to actually BE someone, but the price she must pay is a dangerous one. It means being a pawn in someone's scheme, and it means her deciding if she will be that pawn or if she will rise up and speak out.

Kitty has resigned herself to a dismal future, one where she'll be barely taken care of by society because her score was so low. She's a bit street smart but she can't read very well, her learning disability impacts her test score and so she's deemed to be not worth having a semi-privileged life, meaning a warm home, a good job, and one day marrying her boyfriend. Her new life as Lila Hart sounds glamourous, but she knows there's a catch. There's always a catch. Kitty just never expected this kind of catch, never expected a life of secrets, lies, and backstabbing, a life of near-constant power battles and the lengths some will go to in order to win.

The book is set in a dystopian future where the United States thrives because of one family, a family that picked it up from ruin and saved it. It's a society that takes care of all its citizens as long as you give it everything you have, as long as you work as hard as you can. Study, train, push yourself to the limit, and only then will you get the chance to be part of the elite. If you don't give as much, if you give the bare minimum, no one will help you. This society rewards the overachievers and punishes the weak, but the system is flawed. When only one kind of intelligence is tested, when only certain skills are desired, only a certain type of person will move on. And that type isn't always the best type.

Kitty is very much a pawn throughout the book. She never makes her own decisions, except for the first one, the one that starts everything. Once she's Masked, once she becomes Lila, she does what she's told when she's told. She's the Hart family's newest puppet, but she has good reason to be. It's play the role or be killed. It's play the role or her boyfriend will be killed. It's play the role or everyone she's ever cared about will be killed. And so she plays the role, but other plots and plans are still happening around her. She will be pushed to make a choice, the choice to continue the role or to fight back and realize she's not worthless after all.

Considering the large number of dystopian YA novels and series that have been published, I found the premise of this book to be intriguing. I was impressed at what Carter was able to pull off with Kitty. There are some overall similarities to other series, but it's the characters, the world-building, and other little details that set it apart. Every misstep could mean death. Everyone could be part of a secret group trying to change the world. Everyone has a hidden agenda. I'm curious as to what will happen next, which secrets are still to be revealed, and who the next person to use Kitty will be.

(I received an e-galley of this title to review from HarlequinTeen through NetGalley.)

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Me on This Week's Book Week (79)

This Week's Book Week is rather similar to Stacking the Shelves hosted by Tynga's Reviews only with far more rambling and a less witty title. ;)

Even more writing! I'm so looking forward to December when I can get back to reading more. I'm not going to stop writing altogether, I'd like to finish a draft for the first time in years, but I'm going to balance it out more. Read one day, write the next, and so on. Not sure how the weekend writing is going to go, I've had a weird headache all Friday and it seems to want to linger.

New Doctor Who today. Yay! :) I'll be wearing my 'The Angels have the Phone Box' shirt while watching the new episode. I find it interesting that they started the show to draw in adults and kids, to make it interesting but also educational, and now it's turned into this huge thing.

Catching Fire came out but it'll be a while before I see it, maybe another week or so. My sister's been working hard in grad school and once her semester ends we'll be seeing it. :) It sounds like it's faithful to the book, so that's good. I don't know how I feel about Mockingjay being two movies, though.

The regular review schedule is back! This week will feature Pawn by Aimée Carter (Tuesday) and The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson (Friday). :)
Bought/borrowed/received:
The Inventor's Secret by Andrea Cremer (from Penguin Canada)
Landry Park by Bethany Hagen (from Penguin Canada)
Half Bad by Sally Green (from Penguin Canada) (took me until now there's a face in profile in the red)
Dangerous by Shannon Hale (from Penguin Canada)
Blues for Zoey by Robert Paul Weston (from Penguin Canada) (yay for more Canadian YA)
This Star Won't Go Out by Esther Earl sampler (from Penguin Canada) (I think I'm going to cry if I read this, and it's just a sampler.)
The Story of Owen by E.K. Johnston (from Carolrhoda Lab through NetGalley)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (154)

Waiting on Wednesday is a bunch of weekly fun hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. :)

Title: Promise of Shadows
Author: Justina Ireland
Release Date: March 11, 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

From Goodreads:

Zephyr Mourning has never been very good at being a Harpy. She’d rather watch reality TV than learn forty-seven ways to kill a man, and she pretty much sucks at wielding magic. Zephyr was ready for a future pretending to be a normal human instead of a half-god assassin. But all that changes when her sister is murdered—and she uses a forbidden dark power to save herself from the same fate.

Zephyr is on the run from a punishment worse than death when an unexpected reunion with a childhood friend (a surprisingly HOT friend) changes everything. Because it seems like Zephyr might just be the Nyx, a dark goddess made flesh that is prophesied to change the power balance. For hundreds of years the half-gods have lived in fear, and Zephyr is supposed to change that.

But how is she supposed to save everyone when she can’t even save herself?

Yay, a Greek mythology YA that isn't all Persephone or Cassandra. ;) (Seriously, there are so many weird myths and characters that should be retold, don't just focus on the same two.)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Me on Cracked

Title: Cracked
Author: Eliza Crewe
Release Date: November 5, 2013
Publisher: Strange Chemistry

Meet Meda. She eats people. Well, technically, she eats their soul. But she totally promises to only go for people who deserve it. She's special. It’s not her fault she enjoys it. She can't help being a bad guy. Besides, what else can she do? Her mother was killed and it's not like there are any other "soul-eaters" around to show her how to be different. That is, until the three men in suits show up. They can do what she can do. They're like her. Meda might finally have a chance to figure out what she is. The problem? They kind of want to kill her. Before they get the chance Meda is rescued by crusaders, members of an elite group dedicated to wiping out Meda's kind. This is her chance! Play along with the “good guys” and she’ll finally figure out what, exactly, her 'kind' is. Be careful what you wish for. Playing capture the flag with her mortal enemies, babysitting a teenage boy with a hero complex, and trying to keep one step ahead of a too-clever girl are bad enough. But the Hunger is gaining on her. The more she learns, the worse it gets. And when Meda uncovers a shocking secret about her mother, her past, and her destiny, she may finally give into it.

Cracked is smart, quick, and funny, all while being a dangerous race to discover the truth and not get found out or killed in the process. Anchored by a snarky heroine, this book is a twist on the classic good vs evil battle, it's about destiny, what we're born to do battling against what we're meant to do, because the two are not always the same.

Meda is the best part of the entire book. She's so funny. Filled with sass and attitude, her internal monologue/voice is so clever. She fills each page with lightning fast shots and jabs at everyone around her. Plus, there's the whole soul-eating part of her, a part she can't deny no matter what. It makes her slightly more villainous than heroic, but who said heroes couldn't eat souls? Villains are the heroes of their own stories, and this is Meda's story. She is rather manipulative, batting her eyelashes and lying her way into the 'good guys' camp so she can learn more about what she is and what she just happened to fall into, but it only adds to her snarky charm.

Now, Meda may eat souls, but she also has her morals and her own feelings about it, which is why she only eats the souls people people who deserve it, like murderers. She's not a typical heroine, but she's still compelling. She eats souls, but only those from evil people. She's manipulative and a liar, but because she wants to know the truth. She may not be the most sympathetic heroine, but she's flawed, she has good and bad traits, and what I want out of a heroine is someone with both good and bad traits. Paragons of virtue aren't interesting. Meda is.

This book is very much Meda's journey towards discovering the truth about what she is. She knows nothing about why she can eat souls, and neither does the reader. Both are in the dark about what she really is and what she's capable of, and both end up on the journey together, Meda an active participant and the reader more passive, waiting for the final reveal to strike and everything to be revealed. Even if what's revealed is something Meda never wanted to be exposed.

Meda, through some fault of her own, ends up in the middle of a classic 'good vs evil' kind of battle. The background battle of demons against their human hunters was intriguing. Both sides had their reasons for wanting Meda, for using Meda, for needing Meda to pick them. Of course, it was far more fun to see Meda manipulate the 'good' side and get into their complex. She doesn't necessarily respect them at the beginning, merely sees them as a way to get answers, and once she has her answers, she's perfectly fine with leaving them.

When the book started with Meda playing pretend in an insane asylum, when it started with her getting revenge and following through on her plan to only eat souls from the worst kinds of people because she has her standards, I knew it would be interesting. I knew the book would be fast-paced and rather quick. I didn't know that I would enjoy it so much.

(I received an e-galley of this title to review from Strange Chemistry through NetGalley.)

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Me on This Week's Book Week (78)

This Week's Book Week is rather similar to Stacking the Shelves hosted by Tynga's Reviews only with far more rambling and a less witty title. ;)

More rain! More writing! Some reading. ;) Taking Sunday off writing again to get some reading done.

One last day to enter the 3 Years of Me on Books giveaway! Or just a few hours. It ends soon so hurry!

New Doctor Who next week! So excited. Also, does it bug anyone else when there's a Doctor Who reference in a book and they call it 'Dr. Who?' It drives me insane. He's not Dr, Who, PhD. He's the Doctor, the show is called Doctor Who. Also, Doctor Kawaii is the best. :)

The other day I asked on Twitter what I should read first between These Broken Stars (which I've had an e-galley of for a while) and Cress (which I just got an e-galley of on Wednesday), and a few people said Cress. It's not like I was unhappy, I really like the series. Now, if you're waiting to read Cress, or if you've already read it and now kicking yourself for not waiting so the wait for Winter wouldn't be as painful, I suggesting popping over to YouTube to check out RWBY (pronounced ruby). Yes, it's anime, but it's in English (done in the US) so no subtitles for people who hate subtitles. There are a lot of interesting characters, there's some good vs. evil fighting going on, and there are really cool fight scenes with girls kicking butt. And there's some fairy tale crossover for you retelling fans. ;) (try to start with the 4 preview trailers, not the volume 1 trailer)

This week will be the last one review a week week, so check back on Tuesday for a review of Cracked by Elisa Crewe. :)
Bought/borrowed/received:
Cress by Marissa Meyer (from Macmillan through Raincoast Books)
Flame by Amy Kathleen Ryan (from Macmillan through Raincoast Books)
The Nightmare Dilemma by Mindee Arnett (from Raincoast Books)
Necromancing the Stone by Lish McBride (paperback from Raincoast Books)
Her Dark Curiosity by Megan Shepherd (from HarperCollins Canada)
Game Slaves by Gard Skinner (from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt through NetGalley)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (153)

Waiting on Wednesday is a bunch of weekly fun hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. :)

Title: Her Dark Curiosity
Author: Megan Shepherd
Release Date: January 28, 2014
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins imprint)

From Goodreads:

To defeat the darkness, she must first embrace it.

Months have passed since Juliet Moreau returned to civilization after escaping her father's island—and the secrets she left behind. Now, back in London once more, she is rebuilding the life she once knew and trying to forget Dr. Moreau’s horrific legacy—though someone, or something, hasn’t forgotten her.

As people close to Juliet fall victim one by one to a murderer who leaves a macabre calling card of three clawlike slashes, Juliet fears one of her father’s creations may have also escaped the island. She is determined to find the killer before Scotland Yard does, though it means awakening sides of herself she had thought long banished, and facing loves from her past she never expected to see again.

As Juliet strives to stop a killer while searching for a serum to cure her own worsening illness, she finds herself once more in the midst of a world of scandal and danger. Her heart torn in two, past bubbling to the surface, life threatened by an obsessive killer—Juliet will be lucky to escape alive.

With inspiration from Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, this is a tantalizing mystery about the hidden natures of those we love and how far we’ll go to save them from themselves.

I loved the first book, it was so creepy and kept with the same tone and creepiness of the original. I have to admit I'm not totally sold on the Jekyll and Hyde addition to the series, but we'll see how it goes.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Me on Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer

Title: Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer
Author: Katie Alender
Release Date: September 24, 2013
Publisher: Scholastic Press

Colette Iselin is excited to go to Paris on a class trip. She'll get to soak up the beauty and culture, and maybe even learn something about her family's French roots. But a series of gruesome murders are taking place across the city, putting everyone on edge. And as she tours museums and palaces, Colette keeps seeing a strange vision: a pale woman in a ball gown and powdered wig, who looks suspiciously like Marie Antoinette. Colette knows her popular, status-obsessed friends won’t believe her, so she seeks out the help of a charming French boy. Together, they uncover a shocking secret involving a dark, hidden history. When Colette realizes she herself may hold the key to the mystery, her own life is suddenly in danger.

Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer is an entertaining journey across Paris, shining light on its famous landmarks, giving glimpses of a possible murderous ghost wandering along the cobbled streets. Both the city and the mystery keep the book exciting, but Colette's reliance on her shallow friends and their own terrible personalities bring everything down

Colette is in Paris to sight-see, to take in the history and the culture and the sensation of being the city. And she does, but she never expects to find herself involved in a string of murders. It's certainly something that would cause caution, being told right after landing in a foreign that young people are being murdered, their heads sliced from their bodies. As scared as Colette is when she sees the ghost of what looks to be Marie Antoinette following her, she's just as serious about looking back into the past to see what secrets were covered up during the Revolution.

The best part of the book is Paris itself, the history surrounding the city, the landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and the Palace at Versailles. The city's past is so well-known, a past glittering with royalty and drenched in suffering and blood. The sights and sounds of the European city come across so well on the page.

As I read on, I wondered what purpose Colette's friends served beyond filling the 'friend' role, because they don't seem like friends. Colette's using them to remember what her life used to be like before her parents split, when they had money and weren't living in a small apartment, but they're also using Colette. She needs them to make herself look good, and so she'll go along with almost any plan of theirs to party or sneak away from the tour. I wondered if her friends were supposed to look like modern-day versions of French aristocracy, the influential figures that wasted money on clothing, jewelry, and exotic food.

The city of Paris and the dangerous ghost story kept me reading, but I was constantly annoyed by Colette's vapid and self-centered friends. I thought this would be an interesting ghost story, and it was, but it also turns into more of a chance for Colette to 'learn the lesson of friendship,' that real friends wouldn't care about your wealth or status and that they would care about you for you. It felt a little more like a middle grade book issue than a young adult book issue, but I suppose figuring out who your true friends are happens at any age.

(I received an advance copy of this title from Scholastic Canada.)

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Me on This Week's Book Week (77)

This Week's Book Week is rather similar to Stacking the Shelves hosted by Tynga's Reviews only with far more rambling and a less witty title. ;)

The 3 Years of Me on Books Giveaway is still going on until November 17! Hurry and enter for a chance to win!

More writing! Less blogging! Sad face. I'm at about 16,000 words as I write this up and still going strong. Sort of. I'll be taking Sunday off writing in order to outline it (because it's sort of half complete) and write up some reviews and read a bunch of library books that have to go back soon. I took every Saturday off NaNo last year (except the first one) and I liked it. I liked that there was a day where I didn't have to write words but I was free to outline and plot out things. And to catch up on reading and reviews. :)

Only one review again for the coming week, so come back on Tuesday if you're interested in my review of Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer by Katie Alender. :)
Borrowed from the library:
Pantomime by Laura Lam
The Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (152)

Waiting on Wednesday is a bunch of weekly fun hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. :)

Title: Dorothy Must Die
Author: Danielle Paige
Release Date: April 1, 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen

From Goodreads:

I didn't ask for any of this. I didn't ask to be some kind of hero.
But when your whole life gets swept up by a tornado—taking you with it—you have no choice but to go along, you know?

Sure, I've read the books. I've seen the movies. I know the song about the rainbow and the happy little blue birds. But I never expected Oz to look like this. To be a place where Good Witches can't be trusted, Wicked Witches may just be the good guys, and winged monkeys can be executed for acts of rebellion. There's still the yellow brick road, though—but even that's crumbling.

What happened?
Dorothy. They say she found a way to come back to Oz. They say she seized power and the power went to her head. And now no one is safe.

My name is Amy Gumm—and I'm the other girl from Kansas.
I've been recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked.
I've been trained to fight.
And I have a mission:
Remove the Tin Woodman's heart.
Steal the Scarecrow's brain.
Take the Lion's courage.
Then and only then—Dorothy must die!

This just sounds awesome. :)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Me on Curtsies & Conspiracies

Title: Curtsies & Conspiracies
Author: Gail Carriger
Release Date: November 5, 2013
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (Hachette Book Group imprint)

Sophronia's first year at Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality has certainly been rousing! For one thing, finishing school is training her to be a spy (won't Mumsy be surprised?). Furthermore, Sophronia got mixed up in an intrigue over a stolen device and had a cheese pie thrown at her in a most horrid display of poor manners. Now, as she sneaks around the dirigible school, eavesdropping on the teachers' quarters and making clandestine climbs to the ship's boiler room, she learns that there may be more to a school trip to London than is apparent at first. A conspiracy is afoot, one with dire implications for both supernaturals and humans. Sophronia must rely on her training to discover who is behind the dangerous plot-and survive the London Season with a full dance card.

Curtsies & Conspiracies is an entertaining, intelligent, adventurous hodgepodge of spies, evil geniuses, and steam-powered mechanical little dogs. There is just as much suspicion and intrigue as the first book, and with plots and schemes constantly afoot, one girl in particular must keep her eye on everything she can.

Sophronia's intelligence will get her far, as will her knack for observation and her direct approach, but she can be too direct, too blunt, and sometimes without guile when she needs to keep her cards closer to her. It's one thing for the teachers to suspect she's watching them (if most girls in the school weren't watching them, I'd be surprised, but it's quite another for her friends to know that. While it comes natural, why she sees it as keeping an eye on everything, like she's been taught as a future intelligencer, it makes her appear suspicious and unable to trust anything anyone says unless she sees it with her own eyes. It's unfortunate, really. Sophronia is the best friend to have at the school.

A return to this series is a return to creative and inventive world-building. The dirigible that pretends to be a finishing school for young ladies of good quality, the new inventions and various apparatuses that function because of advances in steam technology, the boys school of future evil geniuses, the packs of werewolves and the vampire hives. So much in the alternate England is familiar, but so much isn't, and that's part of the adventure of this series.

This series still seems to be an exploration of the class structure, of how the upper and lower classes know of each other but never mingle. There is polite society, the lords and their ladies, the young gentleman and the young misses, and then there is the working class, the tradespeople and the Sooties. As Sophronia watches everything, she is in contact with both the upper and lower class. It's not that she doesn't see the distinction, she does, she just takes every opportunity she can to gather information. She can see the true worth of some people, and sometimes intelligence doesn't come from classroom instruction.

Romance on the horizon for Sophronia? Heaven forbid, she's only fourteen, but that doesn't stop a boy or two from making an advance or two. I do hope that the romance doesn't take over the next two books. Considering how there wasn't any in the first book, I have hopes that the series will continue to be about adventure and schemes and secret codes without a lot of romance.

The series still straddles the line between serious and silly. The names of some characters and of the different tools and weapons are so foolish, but Carriger still runs with it. While the names and terms sometimes border on the outrageous, the tone of the book is rather serious. In this alternate version of England, at some point in the 1800's, everything is taken rather seriously. And so it should be, the young ladies are students at a very well-known school, looking very important and practical skills that they will, God willing, put into practice in the future, and use them successfully, but that doesn't stop me from laughing every few pages.

(I received an advance copy of this title to review from Hachette Book Group Canada.)

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Me on This Week's Book Week (76)

This Week's Book Week is rather similar to Stacking the Shelves hosted by Tynga's Reviews only with far more rambling and a less witty title. ;)

It's November, which means it's NaNoWriMo. I'm going to seriously seriously try and finish my idea this year, not just the 50,000 words but an entire crappy first draft. I've stopped at 50,000 the last 2 years and left those drafts unfinished. If only for the happiness adrenaline boost at the end, I need to finish the draft.

This also means reviews might taper off a bit and I won't be around as much. No worries, though. I have a list of books to read and hopefully I'll be able to squeeze in some reading time around writing.

Because of NaNo, reviews will be posted on Tuesdays instead of the usual Tuesday/Friday until the beginning of December. This Tuesday's review will feature Curtsies & Conspiracies by Gail Carriger. :)
Bought/borrowed/received:
Saga #15 by Bryan K. Vaughn & Fiona Staples (bought)
The Almost Girl by Amalie Howard (from Strange Chemistry through NetGalley)
Shadowplay by Laura Lam (from Strange Chemistry through NetGalley)
Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong (from Random House Canada through NetGalley)
Fates by Lanie Bross (from Random House Children's Books through NetGalley)
Delirium by Lauren Oliver (won from a HarperTeen EpicReads #teatime)

Friday, November 1, 2013

Me on The Naturals

Title: The Naturals
Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Release Date: November 5, 2013
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Seventeen-year-old Cassie is a natural at reading people. Piecing together the tiniest details, she can tell you who you are and what you want. But it's not a skill that she's ever taken seriously. That is, until the FBI come knocking: they've begun a classified program that uses exceptional teenagers to crack infamous cold cases, and they need Cassie. What Cassie doesn't realize is that there's more at risk than a few unsolved homicides, especially when she's sent to live with a group of teens whose gifts are as unusual as her own. Sarcastic, privileged Michael has a knack for reading emotions, which he uses to get inside Cassie's head, and under her skin. Brooding Dean shares Cassie's gift for profiling, but keeps her at arm's length. Soon, it becomes clear that no one in the Naturals program is what they seem. And when a new killer strikes, danger looms closer than Cassie could ever have imagined. Caught in a lethal game of cat and mouse with a killer, the Naturals are going to have to use all of their gifts just to survive.

The Naturals is a modern murder mystery, a book that pushes teens to get into the minds of killers in order to understand why they commit crimes, and so it's an intriguing and curious sort of book. As clues are uncovered and secrets are revealed, as the killer gets closer and closer to their target, the tension builds and the reader is forced to question everyone's motives constantly.

Cassie may be a natural at reading people, at profiling them, at predicting what they might or might not do, but that doesn't mean she won't get carried away when it comes to certain things. Certain very personal things. She's intelligent, and she's gifted, but there's a huge chip on her shoulder. But, after she gets picked up by the FBI, she discovers she's not the only one. Like most characters in similar books, she wants to solve the mystery and keep everyone around her safe, but keeping things to herself puts her in danger.

It feels like a different sort of murder mystery, exploring more of the psychology of profiling and crime scene examination. Looking at why the killer does for what purpose and predicting what actions will be taken next. Again, it seems like a more modern and scientific approach as opposed to following clues and talking to witnesses like in an older police drama one would find on TV in the 1990's. The modern techniques and present day setting provide a kind of realism, they add a kind of believability and relevance.

The Naturals sort of straddle the line between paranormal and incredibly intelligent and perceptive. Once I got past the outrageous idea that the FBI would willingly recruit teens for a secret project, I warmed to the five teens that could see patterns and spot social cues that other adults couldn't, that they could see crimes from different sides. They did feel a little like stock characters, the stoic brooding one and the joking but also serious one and the intelligent one and the liar and the (almost) orphan, but I enjoyed the moments when all five were together and their different personalities would clash.

The separate 'You' chapters serve to provide glimpses of the killer's actions and thoughts, but also that something is going on in the background while Cassie starts this new stage of her life in the foreground. When the book started, I figured anyone could be the killer.

It's easy to picture this as the start of a series, there's some clear definition in what the bigger overall story will include and what was mostly wrapped up in the single story of the book, but looking back I wonder how much was really revealed. We don't really learn much about the other Naturals, or about the program in its entirely (or how many secrets it really keeps), or even everything about Cassie. So much is there waiting to be revealed, explored, and even manipulated. The fast pace, while I found it fit with the immediacy of the killings, leaves no room for extra knowledge about the characters, and I want to know more about them. Hopefully, they will be explored more as the series goes on.

(I received an e-galley of this title to review from Disney Book Group through NetGalley.)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (151)

Waiting on Wednesday is a bunch of weekly fun hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. :)

Title: Hollow City
Author: Ransom Riggs
Release Date: January 14, 2014
Publisher: Quirk Books

From Goodreads:

In 1940 after the first book ends, Jacob and his new Welsh island friends flee to London, the Peculiar capital of the world. Caul, a dangerous madman, is Miss Peregrine’s brother, and can steal Peculiar abilities for himself. The Peculiars must fight for survival, again.

Okay, the description leaves a lot to be desired, but it's okay. I know that this is going to be just as creepy and different and unique and enchanting as the first book. I hope there will be as many photographs in this as there were in the first. Half of the story is in the photographs, as odd and spooky as they are.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Me on Sorrow's Knot

Title: Sorrow's Knot
Author: Erin Bow
Release Date: October 1, 2013
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine (Scholastic imprint)

At the very edge of the world live the Shadowed People. And with them live the dead. There, in the village of Westmost, Otter is born to power. She is the proud daughter of Willow, the greatest binder of the dead in generations. It will be Otter's job someday to tie the knots of the ward, the only thing that keeps the living safe. Kestrel is in training to be a ranger, one of the brave women who venture into the forest to gather whatever the Shadowed People can't live without and to fight off whatever dark threat might slip through their ward's defenses. And Cricket wants to be a storyteller. Already he shows the knack, the ear, and already he knows a few dangerous secrets. But something is very wrong at the edge of the world. Willow's power seems to be turning inside out. The ward is in danger of falling. And lurking in the shadows, hungry, is a White Hand, the most dangerous of the dead, whose very touch means madness, and worse.

Sorrow's Knot is a beautifully crafted tale, haunting and eerie, filled with suspense, curiosity, and old magic. It's the story of a small village and one girl's ability to bind those who have moved on. This is a tale of life and death, of the magic that keeps the living safe and the dead from causing harm. This is about the dead coming back in dangerous and unpredictable ways. Otter knows she has power in her blood, she always wanted to be a binder, but the events that follow happen in a way she did not expect, and so she must find a way to save everyone she cares about from the White Hand.

Otter isn't a take-charge sort of character; those kinds of actions are left to Kestrel. Otter has her strengths, she doesn't just sit there and react, but she's more of an observer. Otter watches and only takes action when she chooses, when she knows deep down in her soul that something must be done. The hidden gem of this book is the friendship she has with Kestrel. A friendship based on affection and companionship without malice or secrets. An honest friendship. My heart was happy every time Otter was with Kestrel and Cricket. The friendship between the three of them is one I wish appeared more often in YA.

I found the magic of the binding, the knots, the wards to keep the dead at bay, to be so imaginative. It sounds so simple, but when put into practice in the book it's so complicated, so intricate. And Otter's village, as well. This small town of mostly women is filled with strength, with purpose and power in the blood that flows through them. Each one of them has a purpose, to heal, to protect, to share, to bind.

As this story unfolds, secrets from the past are revealed. There was a mistake made in the past that still haunts the world. Sometimes we keep secrets from others to keep them safe, but nothing stays secret for long. Sometimes we refuse to make a difficult choice, but running won't stop it from coming after you. The times we don't want to let go because it's too painful? They will always return, and they will come back to hurt those who remain in the future. I found that a large part of this book is knowing that you have to make that choice, that you have to let go, no matter how painful or heart-breaking, and that the choices we make in order to set things right are the most painful of all.

This is such a Canadian story. The voice is so crisp and clear, and the world is so familiar yet unlike anything I know. The people who inhabit this world are a people who will push on and persevere through hardship and struggle, slowly carving out a place for themselves and their families so they can live in peace. It's rather reminiscent of the tales, myths, and customs of the First Nations people, perhaps before the Europeans came, or perhaps after, in a distant future. There is a closeness to nature here, a simplicity to their lives that would not otherwise be there if modern technology was present. It's a story of the land itself, of a community of tradition and ritual that values storytelling, and of a young girl trying to find her place, trying to understand the world, and trying to right a wrong that happened before the moons were named.

(I received a finished copy of this title to review from Scholastic Canada. For those in the US, the release date is October 29, 2013.)

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Me on This Week's Book(less) Week (75)

This Week's Book Week is rather similar to Stacking the Shelves hosted by Tynga's Reviews only with far more rambling and a less witty title. ;)

Short post this week because no books again. Sad face.

The 3 years of Me on Books giveaway is going on. Go here to enter! :)

I saw Maggie Stiefvater and Maureen Johnson during the week. Here is my recap of the event!

I saw there's only 1 YA book on the Canada Reads Top 40 list, Little Brother by Cory Doctorow. While I'm happy there's a YA book on the list, I made a face at there being only 1 out of 40 books. So I got a bit rage-y on Twitter yesterday, and then spent the day suggesting Canadian-authored YA novels with the #CanadaReads2014 hashtag. And everyone is always welcome to suggest books at Canada Reads YA. :)

NaNoWriMo starts next week. I'll be doing it, but I'm sort of behind on reading and writing up reviews so the next week might be all full of reading and review-writing so I don't miss any dates or anything. :)

Reviews for the next week will feature Sorrow's Knot by Erin Bow (Tuesday) and The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (Friday). :)

Friday, October 25, 2013

Me on Altered

Title: Altered
Author: Gennifer Albin
Release Date: October 29, 2013
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux (Macmillan imprint)

After a daring escape to Earth from Arras, Adelice thought she would finally be in control of her own destiny. She would be free to be true to herself and to her heart, to love Jost, the boy the Guild said she could not have. But Earth is not abandoned, as she'd always been taught it was. It's inhabited with survivors waging a war against Arras. The world that was supposed to offer a new beginning is still tangled up in the past. Now Adelice is being called upon to harness her phenomenal power and break Earth from the grip of the Guild. But even as she uncovers the truth about her parents and her former life, she discovers that nothing on Earth is as it seems either. Everyone has secrets, especially those she loves most. What's more, those secrets are driving Adelice and Jost away from each other, and Adelice into his brother Erik's waiting arms. Now torn between two brothers and two worlds, Adelice must decide what, and who, she's fighting for, before it's too late.

Altered is a return to an extremely unique world where different genres like fantasy, dystopia, and science fiction are woven together. It is in this world that a young girl finds herself after a thrilling escape, a girl who has a powerful gift that may make her the only one who can save Earth from Arras and the Guild. But secrets abound, both in Arras and on Earth, secrets that so many have worked so hard to keep hidden, and Adelice will have to make the most difficult decision of her young life. So far.

This is what's next for Adelice, but what will she do now in this world so unlike what she's been taught to expect? Who will she trust? What will she learn? So many questions to answer, so many secrets to uncover. But will she still take a stand against Arras once all has been revealed? All her life she was told to hide her talent, and now that she can reveal them, now that she can take down the Guild, will she?

Adelice is powerful in her own way, but Earth is different than Arras. Earth is really there, it's not the construct that Arras is. The threads are still there for her to see, to manipulate, to weave and re-work, but they feel different. Everything is different. There are more to her gifts than she knows. But not others, not those who hold the secret her parents never told her.

Perhaps I love the world-building so much because it is actual world-building. Arras is the crafted and spun world that hangs over the barren, desolate wasteland that Earth has become, but it's not just one world on top of another. It's one world taking from another, one world controlling another. I also enjoyed the contrasts between the two worlds, the advanced technology at odds with the subtle old world charm, style, fashion, and mannerisms, both in Crewel and in Altered. Everything has been so expertly crafted by the author.

When it comes to Adelice's personal life, her romantic life, she appears to be at a crossroads of sorts with Jost and with Erik. Each brother gives her different things, supports her in different ways, and each make her cautious. Cautious at what to do, what to say, how to act. She wants with Jost, but can he afford to give right now? Can she? As much as I was annoyed at the growing separation between them, and with the ways Erik grew closer to her, I had to remind myself that it had to happen. There is always a reason for separations, and in this situation, with time working against them in impossible ways, it's needed. Adelice needs to grow, needs to learn, needs to train to understand her abilities. Of course, being apart from Jost leaves her alone with Erik, who can rarely be trusted. As much as I don't like love triangles, as overused as they are, this is the best one I've come across. She needs both and she wants both, for important reasons and for different reasons. And so she's genuinely torn between the two.

How unique this book and its world are, both rich with technology and built on greed and corruption. The closer I got to the end, the more surprised I was at what I was reading and the more I knew I would dread the wait for the last book.

(I received an advance copy of this title from Raincoast Books.)