Saturday, December 31, 2011

Me on In My Mailbox (53)

In My Mailbox is a bunch of weekly fun hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren. :)

There's always so much buildup to Christmas, then once it's over it all disappears. A little sad, but that's how it always works with holidays. Christmas and my birthday was fun, like every year. A bunch of fun presents followed by turkey and gravy and making the little mountain with mashed potatoes, then an apple cakey pie dessert my sister made. Then a bunch of hockey-watching with a couple tournaments starting on the 26th. I've been doing the loyal Canadian thing: watching hockey for Christmas and New Year's. ;)

I didn't get any books until my birthday, but I did get some iTunes giftcards, some poofy socks, a calendar, some new notebooks, some clothes, and the book version of Scrabble (which can be really tricksy but also fun).

I'm not going to do a best of 2011 list. If you know me here and on Twitter, you know which books totally ruined me for other books and which were amazing. :) And which books I'm desperate to read in 2012. Thanks to everyone who contributed to the underrated books of 2011 post, either through Twitter or e-mailing. I'm thinking it'll become a yearly thing, so keep a look out during the year for underrated books and they could make next year's list. :)

There'll be a review up on Monday for The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight instead of on Tuesday, and Friday's review will be for A Million Suns. Maybe if I start telling you, you'll remember to stop by and give it a read.

Happy New Year's, people. :)

Received as presents:
Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Glimmer by Phoebe Kitanidis (I adore nice authors, especially ones I meet for all of 5 seconds before they have to rush off to take their injured husbands to the hospital, which is how I met Phoebe back in July and how I got a copy of her first book. She was sweet enough to send me an ARC of her next book that both looks and sounds awesome.)

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake
Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver (middle grade)
Dream Dark by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl (e-book)

Borrowed from the library:
Bad Taste in Boys by Carrie Harris (e-book)
All You Desire by Kirsten Miller (e-book)

To read & review: Anna Dressed in Blood, Incarnate, Born Wicked, Someone Else's Life, The Fine Art of Truth or Dare, A Touch Morbid, Immortal City, Glimmer, Gone, Gone, Gone, Glimmer, and Never Enough. :) Comment below if you'd like to see reviews of Liesl & Po, Bad Taste in Boys and Clockwork Prince, there are some gaps in my review schedule that I need to fill.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Me on Cinder

Title: Cinder
Author: Marissa Meyer
Release Date: January 3, 2012
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends (Macmillan imprint)

Cinder, while being a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. A second-class citizen with a mysterious past, she's reviled by her stepmother and blames for her stepsister's illness. But when her life suddenly becomes intertwined with Prince Kai's, she finds herself at the centre of an intergalactic struggle and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect the world's future.

A futuristic re-telling of the classic Cinderella tale, Cinder is both magical and intriguing, perhaps a little creepy in a futuristic way. There were times when it felt cold or harsh, unwilling to comfort Cinder when she needed help, but it was still like a fairy tale.

By mixing the fairy tale with such a disturbing and different time than the one we live it, it added another layer to the story. A horrific disease, medical experimentation, implanting machine parts in human beings, people living on the moon. Is this what the world will become in 100 years? Maybe 500 or 1000 years? Will we still be human then, or will we be something else?

Cinder was quite possibly my favourite part of the book. As the heroine of a YA novel, you expect her to be flawed, to be different than others, to be relatable as a girl with family problems, unsure of who she is or what she's capable of, and has a crush on an unattainable guy. Most, if not all, teenage readers will have something in common with Cinder. What I liked about her so much was that she was so strong, no pun intended concerning her cyborg parts. Consistently beaten down, she still found a way to climb back up, to keep on going even when things were at their hardest.

Finding a book that has a third person point of view is so refreshing. Yes, it can limit how in depth we can go into the character, but it also gives insight into more than just one person. The chapters that focused on Prince Kai and included Queen Levana hinted at the other sides of the story, the sides that Cinder couldn't see and was unaware of.

This was a storyline that kept shifting and changing, always surprising. It kept me reading right to the end when I wanted to demand to know what happened next. I'm gladly looking forward to the next book, the rest of the series, and anything else Marissa Meyer might write.

(I received an e-galley to review from Macmillan through NetGalley.)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Me on Underrated YA Books of 2011

I've read a lot of books this year, some I loved, some I didn't. Some of those books also had a lot of publicity, and some didn't. This is for the books that not a lot of us read, those diamonds in the rough, the lesser-knowns, the ones who didn't end up on best-seller lists but popped up in indie bookstores as staff recommendations. This is for the mid-list authors who tell amazing stories. This is for the single copies sitting alone on the shelf in the bookstore.

First is a list of books I felt were both underrated and under-read this past year, followed by other bloggers and their picks. Feel free to add more in the comments below. :)

My picks:
Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor
Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
Amplified by Tara Kelly
Invincible Summer by Hannah Moskowitz
Slice of Cherry by Dia Reeves
Possess by Gretchen McNeil
Sweet Venom by Tera Lynn Childs
Ultraviolet by R.J. Anderson
Forgotten by Cat Patrick
Ripple by Mandy Hubbard
A Need So Beautiful by Suzanne Young
Falling in Love with English Boys by Melissa Jensen (I'm cheating a little, this book came out late 2010)
Once Every Never by Lesley Livingston
Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma
Shine by Lauren Myracle
Entangled by Cat Clarke
Blood Red Road by Moira Young
Dark Inside by Jeyn Roberts

Caitlin at WhatchYAReading suggested Entwined by Heather Dixon.

Cat at Books4Hearts recommends Lena Coakley's Witchlanders.

Ashley at Book Labyrinth suggested Prized by Caragh M. O'Brien, Small Town Sinners by Melissa C. Walker, Karma by Cathy Ostlere, Warped by Maurissa Guibord, and Rival by Sara Bennett Wealer.

Jessica from Shut Up! I'm Reading offered up Pink by Lili Wilkinson.

Liz at Midnight Bloom Reads suggested Holly Schindler's Playing Hurt.

Giselle over at BookNerd was quick to recommend Hunted by Cheryl Rainfield.

2012 debut YA author Kathleen Peacock named Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard. (Also, remember to look for Kathleen's book Hemlock when it comes out in June.)

Kathy at A Glass of Wine has two choices, books I've both read and loved so much. 
Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma: "I know most people might be leery of reading this due to the subject matter, but this book really is a must read. It's raw, brutal, heart-breaking and gorgeously written. It's one of those books that rips out your insides, but leaves you aching for more. You won't forget Lochan and Maya's story but that is exactly why you should read it."

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins: "You might be saying, "but everyone talked about this book and loved it." Yes, this is true. The blogging community did talk about it and did love it. However, if I were to go to my local bookstore I might find one copy, if I am lucky. This book is so amazing that it really deserves to have a larger audience. Stephanie manages to capture the feeling of  first loves - all the butterflies, insecurity and heartache that comes along with it. Her writing is magical, and leaves you a swooning teenager by the happily ever after ending."
Kelly from KellyVision suggests a book I've never heard of, which is the whole point of this post. :)
The best YA contemporary novel I read this year was The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner. It's clever, sweet and a little sad and is about friendship and love. How could you not love a book like that?
Erica at The Book Cellar recommends the first book in a new series.
Touch of Frost by Jennifer Estep: this book was the start to an amazing series, filled with wonderful characters, a cool take on mythology and a brilliant plot. I definitely don't feel this one got the attention it deserved! It is one of my new favorite series, and I absolutely just love it!
Salom suggests a rather different sort of book:
Of the new YA I've read this year, The Isle of Blood by Rick Yancey is the book that's stayed with me the longest. I'm not super into Victoriana; I hate gore; I don't like books with sad endings. The Isle of Blood has all three elements in spades, and I thought it was fantastic -- sophisticated horror that frightens because of the choices its characters make, not because of the monsters they destroy. If you like a philosophical bent to your uneasiness, this is the book (and the series) for you. Plus, there's a cameo by Rimbaud! How many YA novels can you say have that?
Chandra, in her capacity as the person behind @IndigoTeenBlog discussing everything possible about YA books for ChaptersIndigo, the big box bookstore in Canada, has written a post on her top 10 teen books of 2011. While some of these aren't necessarily underrated, they all made Chandra connect emotionally to them, which means they're worth checking out. You can find her post here. :) One of her big suggestions is Kendare Blake's Anna Dressed in Blood.

I hope you enjoyed this, hope you've added some books to your to read list for 2012, and maybe I'll do this again next year. :)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (58)

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

Title: The Waiting Sky
Author: Lara Zielin
Release Date: August 2, 2012
Publisher: Putman Juvenille (Penguin imprint)

From Goodreads:

Seventeen-year-old Jane can’t quite face her mother’s alcoholism even though it sucks to spend all her time and energy keeping them afloat—making sure her mom gets to work, that the bills are paid when there’s money to pay them, and that no one knows her mom is so messed up. But when Jane’s mom drives drunk almost killing both them and Jane’s best friend, Jane can no longer deny her mom is spiraling out of control. Jane has only one place to turn: her older brother Ethan, who left years ago to go to college. A summer away with him and his tornado chasing buddies may just provide the time and space she needs to figure out whether her life still includes her mother.

This sounds like one of those contemporary YA novels that intrigue me for some bizarre reason. It sounds interesting, the cover looks bright and sharp and striking. Most of the reason I want this book is because of the cover. Gorgeous. If you have this, read it, then don't know what to do with it, feel free to offer it to me. :)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Me on Unraveling Isobel

Title: Unraveling Isobel
Author: Eileen Cook
Release Date: January 3, 2012
Publisher: Simon Pulse (Simon & Schuster imprint)

Isobel's life kinda sucks. Her mom just married some guy she met on the internet, and he's moving them out to his huge gothic mansion on some small island off the coast of nowhere. Goodbye best friend and life, hello icky stepfather, granola town, and off-limits good-looking step-brother. But on her first night, she's wondering if her life isn't the only thing that's unraveling, if maybe it's her sanity as well. Isobel's either losing her mind, like her father did, or she's really seeing ghosts.

Such a welcome mix of a book, mysterious and haunting but still romantic and funny. A main reason I enjoy reading Eileen Cook's novels is because of the humour, and this book is proof that you can add humour to a mystery semi-psycho-thriller of a YA novel without making it seem forced.

Isobel was perfect as an out of place girl shoved into a new environment. She knows what she wants, what she likes, where she fits in at her old school, but stick her in a new one because of her weird stepfather and the rest of the school sees her as fresh meat. And she doesn't care about being popular. If only every teenage girl felt the same way. She just wants to survive and get back to her friend when they go to university.

I loved how it took almost no time for this book to be creepy, how the haunting and the mystery started on Isobel's first night in the half-rotten mansion. No waiting for her to get settled. When was Isobel ever settled in this book? Almost never, maybe except for the moments with her gorgeous step-brother. (They're step-siblings. They just met each other (pretty much). It's not gross. This isn't Forbidden.)

What also drew me in, besides the Gothic mansion and the haunting creepiness and the cute step-brother who was one of those sweet loner guys, was the way the author created confusion with the creepy and Isobel's family history of mental instability. Knowing her father has a mental disorder, knowing she might one day suffer from the same disease, creates that unreliability that keeps the reader interested until the end. Is the mansion really haunted or is Isobel suffering from some kind of hallucination? Is she sane or is her mind turning on her?

Such a refreshing and unique mystery of a book. I was glued to the screen reading every word (I read the e-galley on my e-reader) and never wanted it to end. The world-crafting was great, the character-building was great, the plot was surprising and amazing. I was sad when the book ended. I wanted more. That should be the reaction of every reader when they read a book they loved.

(I found an e-galley of this book in the S&S Galley Grab newsletter. I plan on buying my own copy because I enjoyed it so much.)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Me on In My Mailbox (52)

In My Mailbox is a bunch of weekly fun hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren. :)

It's Christmas. Almost. :) All the Christmas and birthday present fun will go up in next week's IMM post. I figure there aren't going to be a lot of people around tomorrow, or even today, but I'm still doing this now and then again next weekend. :)

I saw the Tintin movie during the week and it was awesome. It reminded me of the cartoon I watched when I was little, so much of the movie was familiar to me (I saw the cartoon show when I was younger in English, but I've heard stories or people watching it in its original French when they were in school). I hope they do more, it was so good. :) But, like most movies, showing it in 3D was pointless.

I used to be worried that, for some reason, they were holding my mail back, because nothing ever came addressed to me. Then I got some mail and I felt better. But I think there's some mail out there for me that's lost or sent back or was never sent at all. And it was review copies, too. *sigh* I'll e-mail and ask about it in January, no one's going to be in their office next week.

Last chance to e-mail me about your pick for this year's underrated YA book of 2011. E-mail me soon, the post goes up next Thursday.

These are the few books I got during the week. Next week's post, hopefully, will be bigger. :)

Received to review:
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith (from Hachette Book Group Canada) (I want to hug the girl I e-mail at Hachette in Toronto, even though she probably had nothing to do with this being sent out early. And it's a finished copy.)

Silly Kingdom by Katie & Stephen Shanahan (Back in the summer, I helped fund a comic through IndieGoGo. They wanted to create a comic to sell to people at ComicCon and other conventions as opposed to just having pieces in big anthologies (Flight Volume 7 and Volume 8) and art prints. It was because I love their fun family (it's sort of about them and their sister) webcomic Shrub Monkeys (they did the best Anne of Green Gables comic I've ever come across) and I'm all for fun, creative Canadian people getting out there and sharing their art and writing with other people. When I found out about this, I knew I wanted in, so I donated to the cause. And now I have a fun comic with a doodle in the front.)

Borrowed from the library:
The Death Cure by James Dashner (e-book) (It's weird, I'll have read this whole series in library e-book form.)

To read & review: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, Incarnate, Born Wicked, Someone Else's Life, The Fine Art of Truth or Dare, A Touch Morbid, Immortal City, Gone, Gone, Gone, and Never Enough. :)

Friday, December 23, 2011

Me on On a Dark Wing

Title: On a Dark Wing
Author: Jordan Dane
Release Date: December 27, 2011
Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Five years ago, Abbey cheated Death. She survived a horrific car accident, but at the expense of her mother's life. After she crossed paths with death, by taking the hand of a boy made of clouds and sky, her life would never be the same. Now, on a trip with her still mourning father, she's being courted by mysterious ravens. Apparently, Death doesn't forget.

On a Dark Wing was haunting, emotional, and chilling. It cuts deep to the heart of the story, the story of a young girl and her brushes with Death, of some people around her, and of Death's unfinished business with her. I did not expect the journey this book took me on, into the depths of Abbey's raw and troubled soul, but I was glad to be there.

Abbey reminded me of a teenage girl shunned by most of her peers. She seems depressed after the accident that took her mother, she has body issues (like almost every teen girl), she hides junk food, she's been bullied and tossed aside by her classmates, and she and her friend Tanner suffered from harsh and degrading cyber-bullying. Life for Abbey is bleak, pointless except for Tanner and the crush she has on Nate. She has Death on one side and high school on the other, both of them chipping away at what little self-esteem and hope she has left. But she won't talk about it, even with Tanner. It's all bottled up inside, eating away at her like a horrible disease.

The alternating points of view gives us multiple sides of the story, not just Abbey's. There's Nate's, with his about survival and his own brush with death. There's Tanner, with his own less than perfect life but his need to help keep Abbey from the edge, his need to make things better for her. The characterization was wonderfully crafted, everyone felt so real, even Death and his fascination with both Abbey and with humans in general.

This is the story of Abbey finding herself, of Abbey pulling herself away from the edge. Death happens, and it is tragic, but we can't waste our lives waiting for it to catch us and take us. Life doesn't have to be brutal and painful, we can fill it with friends and family and happy memories after tragic events. This book doesn't sugar-coat anything. Life as a teenager often sucks just like Abbey's does, but there's always something to live for.

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

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (57)

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

Title: Struck
Author: Jennifer Bosworth
Release Date: May 8, 2012
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (Macmillan imprint)

From Goodreads:

Mia Price is a lightning addict. She’s survived countless strikes, but her craving to connect to the energy in storms endangers her life and the lives of those around her.

Los Angeles, where lightning rarely strikes, is one of the few places Mia feels safe from her addiction. But when an earthquake devastates the city, her haven is transformed into a minefield of chaos and danger. The beaches become massive tent cities. Downtown is a crumbling wasteland, where a traveling party moves to a different empty building each night, the revelers drawn to the destruction by a force they cannot deny. Two warring cults rise to power, and both see Mia as the key to their opposing doomsday prophecies. They believe she has a connection to the freak electrical storm that caused the quake, and to the far more devastating storm that is yet to come.

Mia wants to trust the enigmatic and alluring Jeremy when he promises to protect her, but she fears he isn’t who he claims to be. In the end, the passion and power that brought them together could be their downfall. When the final disaster strikes, Mia must risk unleashing the full horror of her strength to save the people she loves, or lose everything.

Another of the new trend in paranormally-tweaked dystopian novels. See Shatter Me and maybe Possession for others. It sounds compelling, which says a lot of about both the book and the person at FSG/Macmillan or whoever wrote the summary. This book sounds awesome, the cover looks awesome, and I want this book so bad.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Me on Every Other Day

Title: Every Other Day
Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Release Date: December 27, 2011
Publisher: Egmont USA

Every other day, Kali is a normal sixteen-year-old girl. She goes to high school. She attends pep rallies (even though she tries to stay invisible). She's human. But every day in between... she's something else entirely. Though she looks the same, predatory instincts take over and Kali becomes a feared demon hunter with the urge to hunt, trap, and kill zombies, hellhounds, and other creatures. She doesn't know why she's the way she is, but she gives into instinct anyways. Even though the government considers it environmental terrorism. When Kali notices a mark on a popular girl at school, she knows the girl is marked for death. She's got 24 hours to save the girl, and she has to do it as a human. With the help of a few new friends, Kali takes a risk her human body might not survive... and learns the secrets of her mysterious condition.

Intriguing and fast-paced, Jennifer Lynn Barnes presents us with Kali, a shy part-time teenager part-time demon hunter with a hero complex, needing to protect everyone and hunt monsters on her demon days and hiding as much as she can from the monsters on her human days. When her world turns upside-down, she learns the reason why she's not like other girls, and that she's not alone.

A very interesting premise. Kali is still the same person, still has the same thoughts and does the same things, but on those days when she's a demon hunter she's a little more reckless, possibly because she's invincible, and as she puts it, bulletproof.

I was surprised as how quickly the book moves along. Barnes wasted no time getting right into the story, right into Kali hunting hellhounds, right into her normal day at a pep rally, right into seeing the mark that could kill one of the popular girls. No fuss, no muss, which is awesome. No unnecessary info-dumping at the beginning and no walking in blind. Just the right mix of showing and telling, of Kali's internal perceptions of the world around her and classmates being totally not what she expected.

I'm noticing a trend of strong teen girl characters, ones who know how to fight and take a punch and carry knifes hidden in boots or clothes or even hair. Look at Tera Lynn Childs' Sweet Venom (Gretchen), Moira Young's Blood Red Road (Saba, sort of, she does know how to fight and how to survive), Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy (Rose), and my personal favourite, Lili St. Crow's Strange Angels (Dru, I have so much love for Dru). This isn't bad, we need to empower girls at a young age to make them strong, as strong as boys, possibly stronger, but demon hunting doesn't often pop up in real life.

And Kali was unique, both strong but also meek, so knowledgeable about zombies and hellhounds but needing to keep to the edge of everything, to stay unnoticed.

Fans of Jennifer Lynn Barnes' Raised by Wolves series will reach for this book with open arms and happily devour it, relishing the thought of another strong teen girl character attempting to navigate a very complex world.

(I received this book through NetGalley from EgmontUSA.)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Me on In My Mailbox (51)

In My Mailbox is a bunch of weekly fun hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren. :)

Even more of the Christmas season is upon us now. :) I'm not sure how to schedule my next IMM post, if I should do it for Sunday after Christmas, or Monday after my birthday. At the moment, I'm leaning towards posting one on Sunday for Christmas presents then another on New Year's for birthday presents and anything I get if I venture out to the mall or bookstore for a Boxing Day sale (which I don't usually do because the crowds are horrible).

I'm not sure what I want to read right now. I feel like the three ARCs I have on my bookcase that I'm saving for the DAC are taunting me. Even more so with Born Wicked because I'm borrowing it from Caitlin. I finished Cinder, I reread Dash & Lily's Book of Dares and Delirium, and now I'm re-reading Daughter of Smoke & Bone.

According to the weather people on TV out here, it's not looking good if you want a white Christmas, which is good because I don't. I hate the snow so much, hate shoveling it and driving in it and walking in it cause not enough people shovel the sidewalk and they're jerks. Honestly, if it snows at all this winter, I'm making a point of not leaving the house unless I absolutely have to.

I hope you guys liked my week of reviews. The books were all different and all interesting in their own way. :) And don't forget about suggesting a book for my underrated YA books of 2011 list. It'll go up near the end of next week.

And now I'm off to see a bunch of book bloggers for coffee. Again. :) For the longest time it felt like just me out here, then I met Caitlin in February, then Jenny and Alita and Rachel in October, now I get to meet Evie (finally), and maybe some more. :) Hopefully the Starbucks won't be so busy.

Received to review:
Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks (from First Second Books/Macmillan through NetGalley) (I'm so excited, it's my first request to review a graphic novel. I want to review more graphic novels, I love how they're a gorgeous blend of a text story and a graphic art story. And this sounds so funny and sweet, plus there's a spooky element.)
The Taming by Teresa Toten and Eric Walters (from Random House Canada through NetGalley)
Someone Else's Life by Katie Dale (from Random House Canada through NetGalley) (This book counts towards the 2012 Debut Author Challenge.)

Fever by Lauren DeStefano (Borrowed from Evie at Bookish. I'm totally cheating by adding this now because she's not letting me borrow it until this afternoon, but she said she'd let me borrow one of her copies (since the other is reserved for a massive international giveaway she's holding now for a box of at least a dozen ARCs).)

Sophomore Switch by Abby McDonald (it was on sale, I got it for less than $5.)

The Time in Between by María Dueñas (I won this book through #fridayreads, the popular book-sharing thing that crops up on Twitter every Friday. See, real people actually win books during #fridayreads. I'm not totally sure if I'm going to read it, it doesn't sound like my cup of tea, but I might give it a try before passing it onto someone else who might like it.)

To review list: The Taming, Incarnate, Born Wicked, Someone Else's Life, The Fine Art of Truth or Dare, Fever, A Touch Morbid, Friends with Boys, Immortal City, Gone, Gone, Gone, and Never Enough. :) I've got a gap in January that doesn't have any reviews scheduled, but hopefully it'll be supplemented with Christmas and birthday present books.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Me on Juliet Immortal

Title: Juliet Immortal
Author: Stacey Jay
Release Date: August 9, 2011
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers (Random House imprint)

Juliet never took her own life. She was murdered by the person she trusted most, Romeo, a sacrifice made to ensure his own immortality. What he didn't anticipate was Juliet would be granted eternity as well, to become an agent for the Ambassadors of Light. For 700 years, she's fought Romeo for the souls of true lovers, struggling to preserve romantic love and the innocent. Until she meets someone she's forbidden to love, and Romeo will do everything in his power to destroy that love.

Nothing happened that I expected to happen when I read this book. I expected a twist on Shakespeare, a modern-day retelling, something romantic and fraught with difficult decisions, and I might've found that, but not in the way I expected. I didn't expect Juliet and her strength after centuries of battling Romeo, I didn't expect her struggling to figure out what was different this time around, and I didn't expect the ending (no spoilers, but the ending was both surprising and perfect).

What was refreshing was this book wasn't necessarily a retelling of Shakespeare's play but more of a drawing from it as source material and creating a different and unique story. I enjoyed this book so much because it was so different from the original play, to me, at least. In terms of retellings/re-purposings, I want something different that doesn't constantly remind me of the original, and this didn't. I did think back to what I remembered from the play at times, but I found this different enough to keep me interested.

To me, this book was about love and hate, about moving on from someone who wronged you, about forgiveness and acceptance and looking forward instead of looking back. Juliet kept seeing Romeo as the guy who killed her, who ruined her, who ruined everything, who lied to her and practically facilitated her spending the past 700 years saving soul mates from being killed.

A book for romance fans, for readers looking for a tweak on Shakespeare and classical literature. If I was taking a Shakespeare class, I'd use this book as supporting research for a compare and contrast of romantic elements in the 17th century and the 21st century, or for an analysis of reusing Shakespeare in popular literature and culture.

(I borrowed an e-book of this from the library. Also, I've noticed that reading e-books never feels the same as reading physical books, so I don't really like reviewing them but I will if it's my only option. Or if I really enjoyed the book. And I enjoyed this book.)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Me on Ultraviolet

Title: Ultraviolet
Author: R.J. Anderson
Release Date: September 1, 2011
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books

Sixteen-year-old Alison has been sent to a mental hospital for teens after the most popular girl in school disappeared and Alison was found with blood on her hands. But the case is a mystery: there's no body, and Alison's condition is difficult to diagnose. Even she can't explain what happened: one moment she's arguing with Tori, the next Tori disintegrated. But that's impossible. Right?

This book was so unique and unexpected, the story of a girl confused by impossible memories and afraid of what people will think of how she sees the world.

I love how the author wrote Alison and her synesthesia. It's not a condition I have or have ever listened to someone talk about, but it was so interesting to read this book and gain an insight into how people move about the world when letters have colours and lies have tastes and your senses don't work the same way as others. I imagine that if you lived your life and didn't know it was a neurological condition, if you instead thought you were insane, living a "normal" life like a "normal" person would be incredibly difficult.

My heart continuously went out to Alison and her struggles in the psychiatric hospital. Her confusion and frustration and desperation to find out what happened to Tori was palpable. I wanted to reach into the book, pull her out of the hospital, and help her search for Tori.

More than once I wondered if this book gave me what The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer didn't, and in a sense it did, but not in the way that this was better because they're both great books. This book give me answers, gave me an explanation to what was happening to Alison and why she ended up in Pine Hills. It's that addition of explaining the confusion and the distress that made me less confused as I was when I read Mara Dyer. Sometimes, you can't wait.

R.J. Anderson gives readers an amazing present with this book. Something so unique and fresh and awe-inspiring should be coveted and enjoyed, held close and secreted away for a time when you feel the overwhelming need to read about a cracked and fragile but oh so strong young woman. This book will stay in my bookcase for decades to come.

(I purchased a copy of this book.)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Me on Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Title: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
Author: Ransom Riggs
Release Date: June 7, 2011
Publisher: Quirk Books

A horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob off to a remote island off the coast of Wales where he discovers the crumbling ruins of a home for orphaned children. As he explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, he learns that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on the island for a good reason. And somehow, as impossible as it sounds, they may still be alive.

This book is so haunting, so spell-binding. It feels so real and powerful and unbelievably creepy. So high is the creep factor, but in a classic and intriguing way. Jacob is searching for answers, to the truth behind his grandfather and his stories and his life, for something more, for somewhere to belong. This book is so unique a story and so powerful an idea. The author has crafted something amazing with both his prose and all the found photographs.

I will say that there's time travel, but in such a non-traditional sense. No science, forget science. Forget physics. To me, it felt like time travel in terms of power and magic and pathways and connections.

The photographs, like the one used for the cover, add an elusive element to the reading of the book: the ability to see the book and its characters, its settings, its mystery and monsters and journey.

Perhaps this book is not for the faint of heart, but I hope you are brave enough to experience the wondrous and strange and haunting story that is this book. It'll be worth the shudder down your spine.

(I own a copy of this book.)

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (56)

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

Title: Article 5
Author: Kristen Simmons
Release Date: January 31, 2012 (updated)
Publisher: Tor Teen

From Goodreads:

New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., have been abandoned.

The Bill of Rights has been revoked, and replaced with the Moral Statutes.

There are no more police—instead, there are soldiers. There are no more fines for bad behavior—instead, there are arrests, trials, and maybe worse. People who get arrested usually don't come back.

Seventeen-year-old Ember Miller is old enough to remember that things weren’t always this way. Living with her rebellious single mother, it’s hard for her to forget that people weren’t always arrested for reading the wrong books or staying out after dark. It’s hard to forget that life in the United States used to be different.

Ember has perfected the art of keeping a low profile. She knows how to get the things she needs, like food stamps and hand-me-down clothes, and how to pass the random home inspections by the military. Her life is as close to peaceful as circumstances allow.

That is, until her mother is arrested for noncompliance with Article 5 of the Moral Statutes. And one of the arresting officers is none other than Chase Jennings…the only boy Ember has ever loved.

This book intrigues me the way Legend by Marie Lu intrigued me. Dystopian outside the fairly tame ones like Delirium and Matched. I hope you understand what I mean by tame. I mean tame as in they seem like more emotional and intellectual dystopians, where as Legend had more military presence and killing. Like The Hunger Games. I want a dystopian society that's totally wrecked and crumbly and dusty and it's got grease smears across its cheek and under its fingernails and clothes but with holes in the knees and elbows. I want a dystopian that's like the TV show Dark Angel, but maybe without the genetic super-human part.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Me on Shine

Title: Shine
Author: Lauren Myracle
Release Date: May 1, 2011
Publisher: Amulet Books (Abrams imprint)

When Patrick is found near death, strung up to a gas pump, Cat emerges from a kind of self-imposed exile to avenge the hate crime committed on her former best friend. The local sheriff is ready to pin it on gay-bashing out of towners, but Cat isn't so sure. Despite warnings to leave it be, she finds the will to expose the homegrown hatred that gave rise to Patrick's attack.

Lauren Myracle breaks down readers with this book, giving them gorgeous prose mixed with a heart-breaking and compelling mystery. This sheds light on the dark side of a small town, on the hate, bigotry, and fear than runs under the God-fearing, the proper quiet, and the sweet tea. This novel is unforgettable. Its story, its characters, and its unflinching message will never leave you.

Now, I will say that I read this book after the National Book Award nomination confusion, but I wish I'd picked it up before. I wish I'd been strong enough to read it on its own merit and not because of a mistake made and only half-solved. That being said, I found this book to be so moving, so real, so frightening. I can only hope that the attention, positive or negative, will shed more light on this book in order to attract more readers.

This book is an exploration of guilt, of loss, of fear, but also about courage and survival. And love. One thing is abundantly clear: even when there is hate in the world, there is also love. And love cannot be struck down.

I was surprised at how real the setting was, how I could hear the wind, imagine the lonely streets, see Cat walking alone to Patrick's house when he's in the hospital. The realism is staggering, the town like it had been plucked from the American South and stuck into this book. And the people, the God-fearing old ladies, the drug addicts, the young girls and their lack of innocence, the recklessness of young boys but almost men. The people a small town like this creates are so powerful.

Cat's journey to discover what happened to Patrick shows such courage, even when her own personal demons still haunt her every step, her every movement towards the truth. There are so many times when anyone else would stop, when they would back down and wait for their friend to get better without learning the truth, but Cat soldiers on. She knows better than to turn her back on Patrick and the horrific hate crime committed against him.

A powerful book about fear, hatred, silence, and the unwavering strength and courage it takes to break through that wall. If you aren't moved by this story, then you are surely made out of stronger stuff than I am. Than so many other readers that welcomed this book into their lives.

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

Monday, December 12, 2011

Me on Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life

Title: Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life
Author: Bryan Lee O'Malley
Release Date: August 18, 2004
Publisher: Oni Press

Scott Pilgrim's life is pretty sweet. He's 23, he's in a rock band, he's "between jobs," and he's dating a high school girl. Everything's great, until a seriously mind-blowing rollerblading delivery girl named Ramona Flowers starts cruising through his dreams and moving past him at parties. But Scott's path to Ramona isn't covered in rose petals. Will Scott's life get turned upside-down? Will he have to battle some evil ex-boyfriends to win Ramona's heart? Yes.

This is my attempt to review more graphic novels. I don't read enough of them, I love how with them you get a story plus an artist's interpretation of the characters and the setting and all the extra details we never think about. I'm going to try and talk about both the story and the artwork.

First, the story. There's so much humour but so much honesty about life when you're in your mid-20's and you don't know what's next. Is Scott a genius? No. Is he even productive? No. He's living with his best friend (in the same bed), he doesn't have a job, and he's dating a 17-year-old girl who goes to a Catholic school. Scott's priorities include Scott, and maybe the band he's in. Love Scott, hate Scott, do whatever you want. In the end, you'll figure out who he really is.

The jokes that the author weaves into the story are so funny. So much of this book is the fact that while it feels so real, apart from the video game references and Ramona being able to travel through Scott's dreams, it's also so funny. The comedic pacing is outstanding.

And the artwork is so good. It's a bit dark, lots of black and white and shades of gray, but so amazing. The buildings and panel settings are packed with detail, and the people look like people. They don't have misshapen arms or legs or four fingers on each hand (without the thumb). Because the artwork is taken from real life, from actual places in and around Toronto, it makes the story as a whole feel more real.

Scott Pilgrim is almost every person who in their 20's were lost and searching for something to do with their lives. A must-read for fans of graphic novels, fans of video games, and fans of weird and complicated characters. Such a unique story. Scott's life may seem perfect, but having Ramona race through his dreams starts the spark that makes everyone realize that Scott's life might not be so perfect after all.

(I own a copy of this graphic novel. The 2010 movie is based on this and the other five books in the series. While I would recommend you read the six graphic novels, you can get by with watching the movie before reading the books. There are similarities, but because of how movies work and the fact that the last two books weren't out when the movie was being made, there are differences.)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Me on In My Mailbox (50)

In My Mailbox is a bunch of weekly fun hosted by Kristi over at The Story Siren. :)

I'm not sure when I'll next have an IMM post after this week. It's 2 weeks to Christmas, it's 2 weeks and a day to my birthday, I'm not buying books for myself right now (it would be tacky). If I do get books and post another IMM before Christmas, the books will be review books or library e-books or early presents. :)

Go here if you're interested in participating in a list of bloggers' picks of 2011's underrated YA books. It'll be posted on the 29th. :)

I saw on Friday that John & Hank Green have added a Vancouver stop to their tour in January. *mini-flail* So exciting. But I'm torn. The ticket's about 20 bucks and it doesn't include the book (which I sort of understand why). Now, you guys know I love it when authors come up here for book events, but $20 bucks, plus the book, plus taking the trip out to UBC to the theatre, plus the crowd, plus we do get snow here sometimes in the winter, plus it starts at 6:30pm. I need to think about it.

I hope everyone will come back every day this week because a new review is going up every day this week. :D Well, every weekday. Some are new books, some are old books, most are books I own and one I got from the library. Last time, not this time.

Dear Bully: Seventy Authors Tell Their Stories edited by Megan Kelley Hall and Carrie Jones (ARC) (from Dayna at A Tapestry of Words)

Borrowed from the library:
Juliet Immortal by Stacey Jay (e-book) (I borrowed this a little while ago, sent it back because I wasn't in an e-book mood, and have re-borrowed it because I don't really want to take out books then deal with returning them around the 25th. E-books will be easier to deal with.)
L.A. Candy by Lauren Conrad (e-book) (The only reason I'm reading this is because the tagline of Immortal City was "L.A. Candy meets the mystery and romance of Fallen." Now, Fallen I liked, the next two books not as much, but Fallen I liked. Since I'm a little wary of Immortal City and the L.A. popularity and celebrity aspect, I figured I'd read this. There probably won't be a review, unless I feel the need to rant.)

To review: Everything You Need to Survive the Apocalypse, A Million Suns, Incarnate, Born Wicked, A Touch Morbid, The Fine Art of Truth or Dare, Immortal City, Gone, Gone, Gone and Never Enough. :)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Me on Cold Kiss

Title: Cold Kiss
Author: Amy Garvey
Release Date: September 20, 2011
Publisher: HarperTeen (HarperCollins imprint)

It was a beautiful, warm summer day when Danny died. By dying, he left Wren alone and shattered. In her fury, armed with dark incantations and a secret power, she decides to bring Danny back. But what she ends up with is just a shell, icy cold without a beating heart. Wren hides him away, visiting him only at night as her world slowly unravels around her. Then Gabriel transfers to her school and Wren realizes that, somehow, he knows what she can do. And he wants to help her make it right. For Wren, that might mean breaking her heart all over again.

The premise was unique, The plot was gorgeous and chilling and intriguing. Wren was gloriously broken, her wings shredded, but she was still outrageously stubborn. She knew it wasn't going last forever, Danny staying happy hidden away above her neighbour's garage, she had to do something else, but she's in complete denial. One more day, one more night when he stays a secret. Everything will be okay. Apart from his cold touch and lack of a heartbeat.

Wren and her ability was possibly the most interesting thing of the book for me. It was nebulous and unexplainable apart from a family trait that leaned itself towards magic or witchcraft, or something else entirely. This is the kind of paranormal ability I enjoy the most, the unnamed sensation that builds up inside you like a hum or a buzz, that pokes at your fingers to be let loose, that forms static sparks in your hair, that mysteriously lights objects on fire. Not everything needs to be explained away. It reminded me of Nova Ren Suma's Imaginary Girls, or possibly Dia Reeves' Bleeding Violet (without the blood and gore).

Gabriel knowing about Wren's ability was too convenient for me. He seemed tossed in there to complete the love triangle with Wren and Danny. Perhaps if he hadn't known, if he hadn't had his own gifts, or if he wasn't new to Wren's life and instead was a background character brought to the forefront.

Cold Kiss was soft like a sweet ghost story, a bittersweet zombie romance, like a whisper, like a shiver. The lightest brush against your arm but your whole body is covered in prickles and goosebumps.

A book that left me conflicted but enchanted. Romantic, mysterious, magical, the story of a young girl and the loss of her first love, but the sudden appearance of a new boy, a boy somehow entranced by her and just as magical, felt, unfortunately, like a cliché. If he'd been normal, or not new, I might've found him more believable.

(I purchased a copy of this book.)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (55)

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

Title: Fever
Author: Lauren DeStefano
Release Date: February 21, 2012
Publisher: Simon & Schuster's Children's Publishing

From Goodreads:

Rhine and Gabriel have escaped the mansion, but danger is never far behind.

Running away brings Rhine and Gabriel right into a trap, in the form of a twisted carnival whose ringmistress keeps watch over a menagerie of girls. Just as Rhine uncovers what plans await her, her fortune turns again. With Gabriel at her side, Rhine travels through an environment as grim as the one she left a year ago - surroundings that mirror her own feelings of fear and hopelessness.

The two are determined to get to Manhattan, to relative safety with Rhine’s twin brother, Rowan. But the road there is long and perilous - and in a world where young women only live to age twenty and young men die at twenty-five, time is precious. Worse still, they can’t seem to elude Rhine’s father-in-law, Vaughn, who is determined to bring Rhine back to the any means necessary.

In the sequel to Lauren DeStefano’s harrowing Wither, Rhine must decide if freedom is worth the price - now that she has more to lose than ever.

I hadn't expected to enjoy Wither earlier this year, it was creepy in an unconventional way but it was still good. This sounds like it's going to blow it right out of the water. So much creepy and mysterious. And I will totally accept it if you send me an ARC for Christmas or my birthday. ;)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Me on Shattered Souls

Title: Shattered Souls
Author: Mary Lindsey
Release Date: December 13, 2011
Publisher: Philomel (Penguin imprint)

Lenzi hears voices, has visions of gravestones and floods. Her boyfriend Zak can't help. Everything's getting louder. Then Alden shows up and tells her she's a reincarnated Speaker, someone who helps lost souls move on. And he's also been her Protector for centuries. Now she has to choose between feeling crazy and life with Zak, and a possible reason why with Alden. But time is running out with a malevolent spirit out to destroy Lenzi.

Shattered Souls was soft and mysterious, past lives and memories mixed with a complicated love triangle. Torn between two guys while torn between two lives. I'm not sure about thrilling, but definitely intriguing.

The voices Lenzi hears makes her think she's just like her dad, destined to be schizophrenic and no longer in control, afraid of being labelled as crazy and unstable, afraid of killing herself because the voices wouldn't stop. But then comes a strange boy with grey eyes and an outrageous story about Speakers and Protectors and the dead that can't move on until past wrongs have been righted. Honestly, who would believe him, considering what just happened with her dad? She's very anti-ghosts, very anti-accepting of what Alden's proposing, but then she caves and becomes pro-Alden while still being anti-ghosts. I felt she was afraid a little longer than she needed to be before she accepted her new job and her place in the world.

A love triangle, yes, but I have my reservations. In the beginning, yes, she wanted them both, wanted the familiarity of Zak but the connection with Alden. But then it was mostly about one of them and the other was ignored and left to his own issues (almost until he's needed again for a plot point).

I feel torn. I enjoyed this book, it was interesting, it was different. For some reason it felt a little slow and I'm not sure why, like it took a more easy-going path through the first half until the evil appeared. This book reminded me of Angelfire but without the action and the demon fighting, and like The Eternal Ones with ghosts.

In the end, it was a good book. Fans of romance mixed with ghosts and reincarnation will enjoy this book, readers looking for more of a slow, soft ride with twists that feel more gentle than they are. No total 180 degree turns, but twists and suspense all the same.

(I received an advance copy to review from Penguin Canada.)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Me on In My Mailbox (49)

In My Mailbox in a bunch of weekly fun hosted by Kristi over at The Story Siren. :)

Holy freaking crap, it's December. Anyone else feeling that mix of no time has passed but so much time has passed?
In NaNo news, I found my second wind and won on Tuesday, which is nice because it means I can actually have fun with what I got myself for winning: Portal 2 (it was on sale on the Steam website so I actually had to buy it before I finished the 50,000 words). I don't usually play video games or computer games, apart from Mystery Case Files games or MySims on the Wii, but Portal 2 looked so cool and I so want to play the co-op version but I don't know anyone who plays it. Which is a bit of a problem. Still, I've got time until I finish the single player version. Also, if you're on Steam and you have Portal 2 and you want to play co-op with a book nerd, let me know. :)

I also did my live blogging experiment on Tuesday, using Paper Towns by John Green as my test subject. You can check it out here and let me know in comments if you want to see me do it again. :) And yes, I did see the humour in me live blogging a John Green book the same week my review of Maureen Johnson's The Name of the Star went up. ;)

I only got one book this week (the second was tacked on because of forgetfulness), and it might be a flimsy reason to have an IMM post, but screw it. Maybe next week if you're nice I'll vlog for my 50th IMM. :)

Also, these covers look gorgeous next to each other.

E-galley from S&S I've had for a while but never really told you about:
Gone, Gone, Gone by Hannah Moskowitz (Hannah's one of those young, evocative and honest YA writers that more people need to discover. I fully expect to be crushed when I read this.)

Found a link on Twitter for an e-galley from S&S:
Never Enough by Denise Jaden (Now, Denise Jaden lives in/near Vancouver so to me she's a local author, but I've never met her at a signing or even read her first book yet. Apparently, I missed her at the Smart Chicks tour stop in early October. *sigh* One day.)

Also, funny story. I found the link for Never Enough, downloaded it, wrote this post, then noticed the release date is July 10, 2012. Eight months from now. Anyone else totally surprised?? It'll be sitting in my computer for months before I get around to reading it.

I hope I'm not the only one that wonders if S&S has given up on the Galley Grab, considering the miss in September and November.

To review: Ultraviolet, Cinder, Unraveling Isobel, Everything You Need to Survive the Apocalypse, A Million Suns, Born Wicked, Incarnate, A Touch Morbid, The Fine Art of Truth or Dare, Immortal City, Gone, Gone, Gone, and Never Enough.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Me on A Call for 2011's Underrated Books

I used to have a bigger post here, but then I saw the S&S Galley Grab link for Denise Jensen's Never Enough and it gave me a flimsy excuse to have an IMM post this weekend. It'll be up tomorrow. For now, I have this. :)

The main reason behind this post is there are a bunch of books that I've read this year that I think a bunch of people should read. Books like Amplified or Imaginary Girls or Ripple or Lola and the Boy Next Door or Shatter Me or Daughter of Smoke & Bone or Legend or The Space Between or Blood Magic or Sweet Venom. They haven't necessarily gotten lots of publicity or lots of reviews or lots of book-gushing. I was at Chapters on Friday, where a huge wall of bookshelves is filled with YA books (which is awesome) and there was one copy of Daughter of Smoke & Bone and one paperback of Anna and the French Kiss (a book that I honestly didn't see in a Chapters until 2 or 3 months after the release date and had to order online after Christmas so it was technically a 2011 read for me; oh, Canada, sometimes you don't get mid-list books on the shelves on the release date and it makes me sad).

I want you, wonderful blog readers, to think of your favourite one or two or three books of 2011 (meaning published in 2011 and December of 2010) that you think deserves way more publicity and readers and book-gushing and write a few sentences on that book's awesomeness. Then, you e-mail it to me at leroberts.26(at)gmail[dot]com, along with your name and blog/Twitter username/Tumblr/way for people to find you online, and I will post yours and everyone else's blurb in an Underrated Books of 2011 post on December 29th.

Just in time for the new year. :)

Friday, December 2, 2011

Me on The Name of the Star

Title: The Name of the Star
Author: Maureen Johnson
Release Date: September 29, 2011
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile (Penguin imprint)

The day Rory Deveaux arrives in London is the day she starts a new life at boarding school. But it's also the day a series of brutal murders started, gruesome crimes oddly mimicking Jack the Ripper's own crimes more than a century earlier. Soon, "Rippermania" takes hold of London and the police are left with few leads and no suspects. Except one. Rory saw the man the police are looking for, their prime suspect, but she's the only one who saw him. How is that possible? And more importantly, why has he become her next target?

Filled with humour and suspense, and maybe a little romance here and there, Maureen Johnson gives us a fast-paced story of a Louisiana teen thrown right into London and its eccentricities and its unique old world charm. And its Jack the Ripper mania when a body shows up. And another. And another.

Rory was an interesting character. She has a very odd family, strange cousins and aunt and uncles, so she knows what weird is. When she sees the man she thinks is copying the Ripper murders, when she discovers she can see ghosts and that this man is dead, she not completely surprised but it is still strange to her. Who would ever say they can see ghosts?

And who is this secret ghost police that finds her when she tries to tell the actual police about the man? Rory's not alone in London, but it doesn't make her safe.

Maureen Johnson has crafted a book that looks and reminds me of London, of the history and the mystery, of cobbled streets and ancient stone churches and buildings, of a monarchy, of crimes brutal and unsolved. Mix the secrets and stone paths of London with ghosts and a plucky heroine more focused on the well-being of everyone around her instead of yourself, and what you have here is an amazing story.

(I bought this book at a book signing featuring the author.)