Thursday, August 30, 2012

Me on (You) Set Me on Fire

Title: (You) Set Me on Fire
Author: Mariko Tamaki
Release Date: September 4, 2012
Publisher: Razorbill Canada (Penguin Canada imprint)

Allison Lee is seventeen and off to college in the fall. So far, she's been in love once (a total catastrophe) and on fire twice (also pretty bad). Both have left their scars on her. Looking more like burnt chicken than a radiant and reborn phoenix, Allison heads off to live in residence at St. Joseph's College, where she discovers the true gift of being a freshman: the gift of reinventing yourself. Miles away from home and high school, the all-girls dorm is a strange new world to her, a place of new social circles and challenges. She still feels like the odd man out, until Shar appears. Shar quickly becomes the centre of Allison's world, drawing her in with her dangerous allure. Will Allison get burned again? And if she does, what scars will she earn this time?

(You) Set Me on Fire is a rather honest and blunt look at a girl's first year at college and all she comes across, be they class subject matter, social situations, parties, drinking, family, or romance. It's very much a coming-of-age story for Allison, her first foray into the world, or that sub-adult world that occurs between high school and after college. It's also an intriguing comparison between love and fire, how they leave scars on our bodies, how they impact our lives, how they change us for better or for worse. It certainly leans towards the darker side of college, the drinking and the possibly dangerous situations, but at the end it is all about Allison, about her journey to figure out what kind of person she is, scars and all.

At the beginning, Allison is really damaged, apart from the scars. She's ready to leave high school behind, all the people she knew and cared about and didn't care about, and she's ready to find new social circles to be a part of. But one of Allison's big flaws is how anti-social she is, and once she's alone at college she's pulled into a world that contains a lot of making friends and partying. Is that what college really is about? There are times when she goes to her classes, times when she does homework and exams, but not as much as I expected.

Of course, everything takes a back seat when she meets Shar. It's such a spectacularly complicated relationship, Allison and Shar. She appears like a flash, quickly becomes the centre of everything, and takes over. It's messy, it's harsh, it's a semi-pseudo-romance, it's impossible to define, and it leaves Allison struggling to figure it all out.

College does give you the change to reinvent yourself, especially if you move away and live in a dorm. Odds are, no one will know anything from your past, none of the bad sides and the rumours. It's a chance for Allison to start over, which, given her hangups and social issues.

Love and fire and college, all three have their similarities. They can be harsh, painful, dangerous. They can be cleansing, a new experience. They can scar you for life and wipe away the past so you can focus on the future. Life-changing events happen. You just have to be able to come out on the other side, no matter if you've gained a new scar or two. Allison's story is an honest one, a very honest one, and hopefully readers will appreciate that.

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

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (93)

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

Title: Marco Impossible
Author: Hannah Moskowitz
Release Date: March 13, 2013
Publisher: Roaring Book Press

From Goodreads:

Thirteen-year-old best friends Stephen and Marco attempt a go-for-broke heist to break into the high school prom and get Marco onstage to confess his love for (and hopefully steal the heart of) Benji, the adorable exchange student and bass player of the prom band. Of course, things don't always go according to plan, and every heist comes with its fair share of hijinks.

I'm on a big Hannah kick right now, which is hard when I only have a copy of one of her books, Invincible Summer. I'm hoping to get a copy of my favourite Hannah book soon, Gone, Gone, Gone.

This book sounds all kinds of adorable. I think it skirts the age line between middle grade and young adult, but I don't really care. It's a book by Hannah. And the cover is gorgeous. :) It reminds me a little of Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick, but without the dead bodies and the shooting and the international espionage.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Me on Blackwood

Title: Blackwood
Author: Gwenda Bond
Release Date: September 4, 2012
Publisher: Strange Chemistry (Angry Robot imprint)

On Roanoke Island, the legend of 114 people who mysteriously vanished hundreds of years ago is just an outdoor drama for the tourists. But when the island faces the sudden disappearance of 114 of its residents, an unlikely pair may be the only hope of bringing them back. Miranda is a misfit daughter of the island's most infamous family, while Phillips is the exiled teenage criminal who hears the voices of the dead. Together, they have to dodge everyone, from cops to federal agents to long-dead alchemists, as they work to uncover the secrets of the new Lost Colony.

Blackwood is a paranormal mystery mixed with the author drawing on a real-life event in history, a unique premise that leaves the story feeling isolated and dangerous. I haven't come across a novel that uses the Roanoke story and its missing villagers since the Blue Bloods series, which isn't necessarily surprising because it seems to me to be a lesser known moment in American history. Still, the way the author used the story, twisted it into something dark and mysterious and pulled it into the present day was interesting. As a whole, the novel is a weird novel, and I think that it being weird will help it stand out.

Miranda certainly is a teenage girl loaded with the standard teenage angst and feelings directed at everything around her. She comes across as rather negative, but she's trapped by circumstance after her mother's death and her father's continuing alcoholism. Phillips isn't as much of a downer but he's just as trapped, trapped by his sheriff father, trapped by the voices of the dead that he can hear. Both of them haven't lead perfect lives, far from it, and because of that their relationship is rocky and complicated at best. It's not instant love, which often doesn't come across as realistic, but instead is more like instant thrown together because of circumstances and quirks of fate and therefore stuck together. Both of their voices were great, the two of them sounding like witty, jaded teenagers who'd been beaten down and were still trying, Miranda slightly more than Phillips (his seemingly normal family makes his life slightly easier).

The included back story on Roanoke, the twist on the legends, the alchemists, those are what made the book interesting, but I did hope for some more back story beyond the preface.

And something else was missing from the novel, whether it be more explanations and realizations, or if there needed to be some more tension. Even with the quick pace, there were times when I was bored. Perhaps it was the prose, the author's writing, since the first few pages read more like a summary of the book than the book itself.

Even though I wanted more, wanted the author to dig a little deeper, the paranormal twists and Miranda and Phillips are what kept me reading until the end. I wanted to know how it ended, so in that was I was invested in the book. Without those three things, it's possible I wouldn't have finished it, but without those three things it wouldn't have been the same book.

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

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Me on This Week's Book Week (17)

This Week's Book Week is like Staking the Shelves hosted by Tynga's Reviews but not as cleverly named. ;)

Exactly one week until New York. *BIG SPAZ FLAIL* Yeah, so, that's happening. I need to sit my mom down so we can plan out what we're doing each day, apart from US Open tennis Tuesday, taking it easy Wednesday and getting up at 4am to catch our flight home Saturday. I've been checking the weather forecast like a dork, for New York and for Denver because of our connection. But hey, I can say I've been to Colorado. :)

This also means that my last post before I go away will happen on Thursday. Then, because my review schedule is so full and I'm an idiot for requesting so many books on NetGalley with September/early October release dates, a review will go up the day before I get back. So, hopefully you'll keep an eye out on the 7th, if you're interested in Sarah Rees Brennan's Unspoken. :) It was my first Sarah book and I rather enjoyed it.

There's a book blogger coffee meet-up thing tomorrow. I'm borrowing some books from Caitlin, so I'll add those to the list below. I'm also giving Audrey her copy of Cinder that I picked up months and months ago. Finally. ;)

So, I read Adaptation by Malinda Lo this week and really enjoyed it. Malinda also wrote Ash, a book referred to as a lesbian retelling of Cinderella, and Huntress, the prequel that was published after. I knew going in that the main character was going to be in a love triangle with a guy and a girl, and I knew it was going to be sci-fi in a present day setting, but I'm curious what other people have heard. I don't remember if I knew what the sci-fi part was going in or if I just guessed right. If you've heard of the book, do you know what the sci-fi element is?
Received to review:
Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor (e-galley from Hachette Book Group Canada)
The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski (from Macmillan through NetGalley) (I'm a bit wary after someone I know who's read this said she had issues with the relationship, but we'll see how it goes.)
The Friday Society by Adrienne Kress (from Caitlin)
Origin by Jessica Khoury (from Caitlin)
A Want So Wicked by Suzanna Young (from Caitlin, and she said I could keep it)

Friday, August 24, 2012

Me on The Demon Catchers of Milan

Title: The Demon Catchers of Milan
Author: Kat Beyer
Release Date: August 28, 2012
Publisher: Egmont

Mia's ordinary life is disrupted in the worst way possible when she's suddenly possessed by a powerful and dangerous demon, only to be saved by distant relatives from Italy. Now her cousins say the only way to keep her safe is to take her back to Milan, to live and to learn Italian, and to master the family trade: fighting all kinds of demons with bells, books, and candles. Milan is not what Mia expected to find, but it will change her forever, her ancestral home the only place she can find salvation.

The Demon Catchers of Milan is mysterious and feels old world, the cultured setting of Milan adding depth to the atmosphere. It features a different take on demons, ones who possess innocent people and are exorcised through tradition passed down through generations, and while it was well-paced with good tense moments, there wasn't a lot of action.

The beginning was interesting enough, a glimpse into Mia's life in Milan, but then it went back in time to her possession in her home in the US, back before she ended up in Milan. My hopes that it was just a brief flashback sunk when it continued. While it did provide backstory and set up Mia's character, as well as those around her, I wasn't that interested, and I was never sure when that initial moment in Milan actually occurred.

It is a unique twist on demons and possessions, on spirits and exorcisms. Not necessarily heavy on religion but more on tradition, more on history and ability, the ability to free the sufferers and trap the demons, to see the messengers and go where they are needed. The demons mixed with Milan's historical setting and the rich Italian history made the book fresh and interesting in that sense.

Unfortunately, there were moments when Mia wasn't working out as the main character for me. Even though she understands why she has to go to Milan, understands (in some way) why the Della Torre family do what they do, she whined too much at times for my liking. She didn't know how to speak Italian, didn't know how to read it, didn't know any history, didn't know how to defend herself after the possession, but when she was told what she had to do, she complained about all the studying. I do understand that it's part of the teenage mentality, rejecting massive amounts of dry and boring texts that have been pushed on you to study, but still, she was a bit of a whiner until she figured some things out. And it wasn't all her fault, the family purposely kept her in the dark, waiting until she figured it out on her own, and kept her in the house.

It wasn't until the ending that I realized that this book is clearly the beginning of a series. Once I got to the ending, everything before felt a little like a set up, like Mia first had to come to terms with her possession, with being in Milan, with being a demon catcher and all it entailed.

This book reminded me very much of Flirting in Italian, both with the Italian setting and culture and the way the story flowed into a semi-ending kind of ending, an internal resolution ending that's set the reader up for the next book. That being said, I did enjoy this book for its setting and its twists on demons and possession. Maybe not Mia, but perhaps it was just how I saw her that I had issues with. Perhaps, if there is a second book, Mia will be much stronger and take a stand instead of complaining a bit too much.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (92)

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

Title: Paper Valentine
Author: Brenna Yovanoff
Release Date: January 8, 2013
Publisher: Razorbill (Penguin imprint)

From Goodreads:

The city of Ludlow is gripped by the hottest July on record.  The asphalt is melting, the birds are dying, petty crime is on the rise, and someone in Hannah Wagnor’s peaceful suburban community is killing girls.

For Hannah, the summer is a complicated one.  Her best friend Lillian died six months ago, and Hannah just wants her life to go back to normal. But how can things be normal when Lillian’s ghost is haunting her bedroom, pushing her to investigate the mysterious string of murders?  Hannah’s just trying to understand why her friend self-destructed, and where she fits now that Lillian isn’t there to save her a place among the social elite. And she must stop thinking about Finny Boone, the big, enigmatic delinquent whose main hobbies seem to include petty larceny and surprising acts of kindness.

With the entire city in a panic, Hannah soon finds herself drawn into a world of ghost girls and horrifying secrets.  She realizes that only by confronting the Valentine Killer will she be able move on with her life—and it’s up to her to put together the pieces before he strikes again.

Paper Valentine is a hauntingly poetic tale of love and death by the New York Times bestselling author of The Replacement and The Space Between.

I adore Brenna's novels, The Replacement was dark and mysterious and creepy, like a dangerous carnival ride, and The Space Between had a way of ripping me open until every nerve ending felt raw and exposed. This new book sounds so dark and deadly, so eerie and so much like a mystery/thriller/horror movie. I want to read it so bad. :)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Me on The Blood Keeper

Title: The Blood Keeper
Author: Tessa Gratton
Release Date: August 28, 2012
Publisher: Random House Children's Books

For Mab Prowd, practicing blood magic is as natural as breathing. Growing up on an isolated farm with others that practice is all she's ever known, but it's given her a sense of purpose, a connection to the land around her, and she's protective of the magic. Plus, she's able to practice openly with the crows as her companions, to keep the magic alive while guarding its secrets. But then a spell goes wrong one morning and she meets Will Sanger, a local, and very normal, boy with some personal demons he wants to get rid of. His brief encounter with Mab's magic leaves his mind scrambling to understand it, and he's all too eager to end their chance meeting. But secrets, those kept from Mab and past users of blood magic, have a way of resurfacing, and soon she and Will are drawn together again by something looking to break from from the earth and take back its power.

The Blood Keeper is a return to a world first introduced in Blood Magic, a return to a place rich with secrets and magic, a place where the blood coursing through your veins holds untold power, and letting it loose can either help or hurt those around you. Part sequel and part companion novel, this is a story about dealing with the present while battling the past, told in alternating viewpoints and gorgeously crafted prose.

Five years later and in a different state, the reader meets Mab and Will instead of returning to Silla and Nick. Also, the tone of this differs greatly from the first, not so dark, not so heavy, not so dangerously all-consuming. Instead, The Blood Keeper felt oddly sweeter but by no means any safer or any less magical. Among the wide-open fields, the trees with trinkets and crows filling their branches, the roses, there is evil, the evilness that people do to each other out of spite and jealousy and hatred.

The sweetness comes from Mab, her world filled with blood magic and spells, with happiness and love and affection with those who practice, with connections to the land around her gained through blood and ritual. She has such compassion, such a gentle nature, and it plays well against Will's skepticism. For once, there is a main character who knows nothing about the blood magic, about the world that Mab (as well as Silla and Nick) grew up in, a character who was, for all intents and purposes, completely normal. Not counting his nightmares.

But there's something else lurking in the story, hidden away in Gratton's prose, hidden from Mab and everyone else at the Pink House, hidden in the letters of a young girl, and when the secret comes to life, the world as Mab knows it changes and leaves her and Will scrambling.

I was surprised when I noticed this dark and dangerous thing, this shadow, creeping up and into the pages, then was surprised again when I realized  it was always there, waiting, waiting for the right moment. It's proof of Gratton's wonderful storytelling and weaving together of characters and plot and surprises that it took me so long to figure it out, and that when I did I wasn't angry at myself for not realizing it. I was more in awe of how everything fit together so perfectly.

There is magic in blood, magic and power, but there are also connections. There's magic in the earth, in animals, in people, in the simple things in life, and when evil comes to take a piece, it will be beaten down by any means necessary. Those who were fascinated by Gratton's debut will be just as thrilled with this offering, and I can only hope there will be more of this world in the future.

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

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Me on This Week's Book Week (16)

Hello again, people, and hello to the new people who have come from the big list in the Stacking the Shelves post at Tynga's Reviews. :) This is mostly the same thing, except without a witty title. The title will change in September after I'm back from a trip.

Two weeks until I'm in New York. *spaz-flail face* What am I forgetting to do? I need to go to a bunch of places before, print out a bunch of addresses and flight info, get my passport out. I figure we'll take a taxi to and from the airports and either walk or take the subway for the rest of it.

Wooooo, book camp. *flops over* Book camp can be lots of fun but there can be some panic moments in there, too. And some exhaustion. I was so tired the last couple of days. The fun thing is I was a nerd and made buttons of book covers. :) Well, I was a neurotic nerd and made 3 buttons with The Raven Boys cover because I had picture size and placement issues. *sigh* I'm such a nerd. Still, they're all pretty. :)

You know that face you make when you tell someone how good a book was? That mouth open in a small circle semi-pout gush face? I totally made that face in front of Eileen Cook when I said how good The Raven Boys was. I'm such a nerd. How do you put up with me?

I am very afraid that all the e-galleys I have to read will give me horrible screen vision and my eyes will go all broken and stuff. *sigh*

So, how was your week? :)
Unraveling Isobel by Eileen Cook (Eileen was one of the workshop leaders at the book camp this past week and was awesome (at least for the morning my group was with her). Since I've read Unraveling Isobel but don't have a copy, I bought this and got Eileen to sign it at book camp.)

Adaptation by Malinda Lo (from Hachette Book Group Canada through NetGalley)
The Diviners by Libba Bray (from Hachette Book Group Canada through NetGalley)
Spookygirl: Paranormal Investigator by Jill Baguchinsky (from Penguin Canada)
Drummer Girl by Karen Bass (from book camp)

Borrowed from the library:
Rift by Andrea Cremer

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (91)

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

Title: Teeth
Author: Hannah Moskowitz
Release Date: January 1, 2013
Publisher: Simon Pulse (S&S imprint)

From Goodreads:

A gritty, romantic modern fairy tale from the author of Break and Gone, Gone, Gone.

Be careful what you believe in.

Rudy’s life is flipped upside-down when his family moves to a remote island in a last attempt to save his sick younger brother. With nothing to do but worry, Rudy sinks deeper and deeper into loneliness and lies awake at night listening to the screams of the ocean beneath his family’s rickety house.

Then he meets Diana, who makes him wonder what he even knows about love, and Teeth, who makes him question what he knows about anything. Rudy can’t remember the last time he felt so connected to someone, but being friends with Teeth is more than a little bit complicated. He soon learns that Teeth has terrible secrets. Violent secrets. Secrets that will force Rudy to choose between his own happiness and his brother’s life.

I love the cover so much. It has the look of an iconic cover, the simple silver/grey colour of the scales and the simple heart in the middle made of fish hooks. And I have so much love for Hannah's books, I really enjoyed her last YA, Gone, Gone, Gone. This book just sounds like it's all kinds of complicated and confusing and weird and hard and wonderful. :)

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Me on This Week's Book Week (15)

Hello new and old people who read my ramblings. :) It's sort of like a Stacking the Shelves post like what Tynga has only not as cleverly named. I might change the name soon to avoid confusion. :)

3 weeks until I'm off in New York. It's starting to feel weird and pressure-y. I need to do a bunch of stuff before we go. And read so many e-galleys.

Last weekend was so brutally hot. Like warm, thick, heavy air hot. This meant the Lower Mainland complained all weekend about the abnormal temperature. It happens once a year, maybe every year. It's not like this is Toronto where it's humid and gross for weeks and thunderstorms only make it worse. I found it funny when people here were complaining about those few days, then stopped Monday when it cooled off. Geez. Then there was an awesome lightning storm Tuesday night, like the longest thunderstorm in a while. There was one time a few years ago when the sky went all dark and purple and rumbly, that was pretty cool. The sky wasn't as dark this time, but there was lots of lightning. :)

Book camp starts on Monday, which means I'll be downtown all week at the happiest... the nerdiest place in Vancouver. ;) Odds are there will be tweets about the library, pictures of the library (it's famous, it's been in TV shows like Fringe and movies like ones I can't think of), and pictures of all the buttons I'm going to make with the button-maker. :) It's so cool, I'll make buttons of book covers and look like a total nerd while doing it. Achievement unlocked. ;)

*sigh* I'm such a nerd.

Oh, Crewel is up on NetGalley, if anyone's interested. It's a really interesting book, all complicated and suspicious and glamourous and complicated and secretive. I really need to re-read it once I get my ARC back.

No new reviews next week. There also won't be reviews while I'm in New York, which sucks because it's looking like I'll need to post 3 reviews per week for the 3 weeks after I'm back. Stupid e-galleys with release dates of late September and early October. *big sigh* But I'm off to another baseball game tonight, complete with fireworks this time.
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater (borrowed from Jess, it finally showed up)

The Mephisto Kiss by Trinity Faegan (from Egmont through NetGalley)
(You) Set Me on Fire by Mariko Tamaki (from Penguin Canada as part of a blog tour)

Friday, August 10, 2012

Me on Touched

Title: Touched
Author: Cyn Balog
Release Date: August 14, 2012
Publisher: Delacorte Press (Random House imprint)

Nick has always listened to the voices in his head. If he doesn't, things can go really wrong. Like the day he went off script to save a girl from being run over and let another girl drown. Changing the future doesn't work. But the summer is ready to show Nick something he never could have predicted, not when Taryn moves to town and shows him the Book of Touch. Now the path he was on is shifting, and there's no way to stop things from changing. Maybe. In a life with no surprises, nothing has prepared Nick for what's coming, or the choice he'll have to make.

Touched starts with an interesting premise, leading the reader through a mysterious and very complicated situation before coming to an ending I never expected to find. Nick lives a very complicated life, knowing what his future holds and needing to decide whether or not he wants to follow the "script" in his mind. The reader is swept along with Nick, forced to follow as he makes choices and mourns the life he was given.

The characters and the mood help the book stay away from the clichéd idea of "a weird thing happened to turn a family into the weird family that everyone in a small town avoids like they have the plague." It's such an overused idea that the author has to make the characters stand out and make readers feel like they're reading a book with a brand new idea.

Balog's previous books have had female narrators, but here she gives us a good confused and annoyed teenage guy voice with Nick. Nick is clearly bitter over his ability to see his future, to have pounding headaches when he goes off script, to have people look at him like he's a freak and call him "Crazy Cross." He's annoyed and in pain and pissed off, and then everything changes when Taryn shows up and tells him he's been Touched.

As interesting as Taryn is with how little she tells Nick about her past even though he somehow knows everything about her, she's the love interest that appears after the book starts who knows more than she lets on while it's up to Nick to both fall for her and learn her secrets. Of course, learning those secrets leads to something more dangerous, could lead to their deaths, but he has to learn them.

The story was interesting enough, the book is all about Nick dealing with being Touched, dealing with knowing what will happen and the consequences of not following through. The idea of fate is one often confronted in young adult novels, whether we can change it or whether we're stuck following a script that's already written for us. The unexpected ending was very much a shock, but I'm curious as to what readers will think of it, whether they'll find it too easy or whether it'll take them by surprise.

(I received and e-galley to review from Random House through NetGalley.)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (90)

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

Title: Prodigy
Author: Marie Lu
Release Date: January 29, 2013
Publisher: Putnam Juvenille (Penguin imprint)

From Goodreads:

Jan. 4. 1932 Hours.

Ocean Standard Time

Thirty-Five Days After Metias’s Death

June and Day arrive in Vegas just as the unthinkable happens: the Elector Primo dies, and his son Anden takes his place. With the Republic edging closer to chaos, the two join a group of Patriot rebels eager to help Day rescue his brother and offer passage to the Colonies. They have only one request—June and Day must assassinate the new Elector.

It’s their chance to change the nation, to give voice to a people silenced for too long.

But as June realizes this Elector is nothing like his father, she’s haunted by the choice ahead. What if Anden is a new beginning? What if revolution must be more than loss and vengence, anger and blood—what if the Patriots are wrong?

I read Legend about a year ago, and picking the second book for this week's WoW post only makes me want to re-read it. It was just so interesting, so fast-paced and intelligent and well-written. This one sounds like the stakes will be cranked up so much higher than they were in the first book, and so I'm really looking forward to January when this comes out. :)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Me on Innocent Darkness

Title: Innocent Darkness
Author: Suzanne Lazear
Release Date: August 8, 2012
Publisher: Flux

When Noli and her best friend V take a flying car out for a joyride, neither expects Noli to be sent off to a reform school to mend her hoyden ways. While there, she wishes she could be anywhere else but that place, and on Midsummer's Eve, she ends up summoning Kevighn, a mysterious and dangerous  man who whisks her off to the Realm of Faerie. At first, Noli thinks she was rescued, but the reasons behind Kevighn's appearance start to turn sinister and dangerous. Noli hopes to find a way back home, but when V shows up, with some secrets of his own, they have to navigate the Otherworld before they can go back. If they're successful, Noli will live, but the Otherworld might die in the process.

Innocent Darkness felt rather unique to me, an alternate look at the turn of the 20th century that features hoverboards, airships, and the Otherworld full of faeries and magic. The author's San Francisco felt very old world, just as the Otherworld felt so lush and magical, but oh so dangerous. It's an intriguing mix of early 19th century California, steampunk, and fantasy, with it leaning more towards fantasy.

Different view points, written in first or third person, are hit or miss. Here, with different view points in third person, it all worked for me. I was given everything I needed to see, all of Noli's confusion at the reform school and then the Otherworld and then Kevighn and V and the faeries, all of V's conflicts and troubles and huge secrets that were slowly revealed over time, all of Kevighn's tricks and lies and debauchery and attempts to make things right. He is very much the stereotypical trickster with a silver tongue who makes this book lean more towards the adult side of a young adult audience.

Noli. Noli is very much the classic unconventional (for the time period she's living in) female, the kind of girl who doesn't necessarily want to be special but desires some freedoms like studying botany and fixing old machines. She felt a bit tame for a while child, a few rebellious traits here and there but not enough to drive her to run off and leave home. Her getting sent to the reform school felts like they were trying to cut her off at the pass, catch her early before she becomes a completely reckless hoyden. And I liked her with V more than Kevighn. I do think that one of the better parts of the book was her relationship with V, how it went from them being close friends to his worrying about her at the reform school to him hunting after her in the Otherworld. And he had secrets beyond the standard 'has had a crush on the cute neighbour girl for years' secret.

I was drawn in by the world-building, by the magic and the aether, everything was bright and lush in the Otherworld, but I still wanted more steampunk. The beginning with the flying car was great, Noli was wearing goggles, and then there was a gradual shift towards the fantasy side of the story.

For me, the cover seems a bit misleading. Yes, there's airships and clockwork and at the beginning Noli is wearing a pair of goggles, but then it shifts and turns to the Otherworld and Noli gets wrapped up in loads of royal double-speak and trickster faeries.

If you're looking for something that's straight steampunk, I wouldn't suggest this, but if you're okay with magic and faeries messing with your alternative history, then feel free to give this a try. It reminds me a little of Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely, if it was set in the early 20th century.

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

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Me on This Week's Book Week (14)

Hello, internet people (and possible some people I've met in real life). :)

I headed into downtown Vancouver on Wednesday for the prep night for the Writing & Book Camp. It's a day camp for kids & teens where they have workshops with authors and write their own one page story that gets published in an anthology. It's always lots of fun seeing kids talking about writing and what books they like reading (a bunch of kids in my group last year were big fans of the Uglies series).

I'm about ready to flip a table or something over this book I'm borrowing from someone that hasn't arrived yet. I'm here, she's in Oregon, it shouldn't take two weeks for it to get here. Unless it's lost (I really hope not), Customs is being outrageously pokey, or it's on it's way back home to Jess. And Caitlin has this book so I could've borrowed it from her instead of making Jess mail it to me. So much head-desking is going on right now. So, MailWatch July/August 2012 will continue on Tuesday (I realized Monday's a holiday as I was typing this up).

I've been reading a lot of e-galleys lately. It's because they make up most of my reading list. *blinking away the screen vision* At least they've redeemed themselves by being by authors I really enjoy reading, like The Blood Keeper by Tessa Gratton, or books with interesting premises, like Beautiful Music for Ugly Children ("the lives and loves of a teenage transboy music geek") or Touched (knows his future, whether or not to stay on or go off "script").
Borrowed from the library:
The Year of the Beasts by Cecil Castellucci and Nate Powell (I meant to borrow more when I was downtown, but as I left I started talking with other people at the prep night and left with them. Oh, well. Not like I won't be going back to the library soon.) (And I've already reviewed it.)

Friday, August 3, 2012

Me on Girl of Nightmares

Title: Girl of Nightmares
Author: Kendare Blake
Release Date: August 7, 2012
Publisher: TorTeen

It's been months since the ghost of Anna Korlov opened a door to Hell and disappeared into it, but Cas, a ghost hunter, can't seem to move on. Both his friends constantly remind him that Anna sacrificed herself so Cas could live instead of dwell on the past. He knows they're right, but he can't move past the dead girl he fell in love with. Now, he's seeing her everywhere, awake and in dreams. Or nightmares. But something is wrong. Anna appears tortured, torn apart in new ways every time he sees her. Cas doesn't know what happened to Anna after she ended up in Hell, but he knows she doesn't deserve the torture she's being put through.

Girl of Nightmares takes readers right back to the eerie and haunted world that Anna Dressed in Blood first introduced them to. Cas is back with his wariness of the world, his sense of right and wrong, and his lifelong mission to send the ghosts who hurt and harm the living straight to Hell. This time around, he's more tortured emotionally, more distant from his friends and his mother, from his life, and is willing to throw everything away, even his life, to save Anna from the Hell she's in.

For most of the book the horror is more subtle, as compared to the obvious blood and terror of the first book. There's also less Anna, of course, but she's still there because Cas is always thinking about her, thinking about the hell she ended up in, what could be happening to her, if she'll come back. But then she appears, battered and tortured, haunting Cas in a new fashion until he's obsessed with bringing her back.

Even with the decrease in horror for most of the book, the atmosphere was far darker and sinister than expected. It shouldn't have been a surprise, the whole premise of the book is instead of haunting her former home Anna is now trapped in Hell. But everything felt darker. Perhaps it was because Cas is willing to risk anything and everything to save her, to save a ghost that did murder but also helped keep people alive. Cas believes that Anna deserves redemption, and so this book is his journey to find it for her, no matter where it leads or if it kills him.

This book is more of a journey for Cas than the first, both literally and emotionally. So much more traveling, so much more learning and discovering, of stubbornness taking over and not giving up until it, quite literally, kills you. There is still no sugar-coating in this series, it's dark and deadly and spattered with blood, but there's nothing quite like a character foolish enough to willingly want to battle anyone and anything to get his girlfriend out of Hell.

(I received an e-galley of this title to review from Macmillan through Raincoast Books.)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (89)

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

Title: Stealing Parker
Author: Miranda Kenneally
Release Date: October 1, 2012
Publisher: Sourcebooks

From Goodreads:

Parker Shelton pretty much has the perfect life. She’s on her way to becoming valedictorian at Hundred Oaks High, she’s made the all-star softball team, and she has plenty of friends. Then her mother’s scandal rocks their small town and suddenly no one will talk to her.

Now Parker wants a new life.

So she quits softball. Drops twenty pounds. And she figures why kiss one guy when she can kiss three? Or four. Why limit herself to high school boys when the majorly cute new baseball coach seems especially flirty?

But how far is too far before she loses herself completely?

I have this thing with contemporary YA that I haven't actually explained... ever... at all... which is that I don't usually read it because I don't want to read the hard-hitting gritty stuff that'll inevitably make me sad and weepy. I know this isn't, that this is more of a romantic comedy sort of contemporary YA, but still. So, that's the reason why I don't read a lot of contemporary YA unless it's the funny kind.

Like this. I read Catching Parker last week and really liked it. I know a book is good when it makes me laugh out loud and not just in my head. And I like the cover, even if it took me a while to realize that the beige-orange part at the bottom is the dirt of a baseball diamond's infield. *head-desk* And I really like baseball, too.