Friday, January 31, 2014

Me on Alienated

Title: Alienated
Author: Melissa Landers
Release Date: February 4, 2014
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Two years ago, the aliens made contact. Now Cara Sweeney is going to be sharing a bathroom with one of them. Handpicked to host the first-ever L'eihr exchange student, Cara thinks her future is set. Not only does she get a free ride to her dream college, she’ll have inside information about the mysterious L'eihrs that every journalist would kill for. Cara's blog following is about to skyrocket. Still, Cara isn't sure what to think when she meets Aelyx. Humans and L'eihrs have nearly identical DNA, but cold, infuriatingly brilliant Aelyx couldn't seem more alien. She’s certain about one thing, though: no human boy is this good-looking. But when Cara's classmates get swept up by anti-L'eihr paranoia, school suddenly isn't safe anymore. Cara finds support in the last person she expected. She realizes that Aelyx isn't just her only friend; she's fallen hard for him. But Aelyx has been hiding the truth about the purpose of his exchange, and its potentially deadly consequences. Soon Cara will be in for the fight of her life, not just for herself and the boy she loves, but for the future of her planet.

Alienated is entertaining, fun, and a quick read. As exciting as this book is, I also found it to be a curious look at fear hatred, love, and the other. Aliens are coming to Earth, to learn and to live, and not everyone is pleased at the news, but some learn to accept them and will have to stand up for them when others try to stop them.

Cara is intelligent, opinionated, and passionate, and she's a bit unsure about the exchange program. She sees the pros and cons, how it means she could essentially pick any college she wanted to attend, but she's not sure about having a stranger in her house, an alien from another planet with no emotions. But Cara's one of the most open-minded characters. After a rocky start she genuinely wants to know more about the L'eihrs and their planet, their customs. She doesn't understand why the hatred that's slowly grown in parts of the human population exist.

Aelyx is extremely intelligent and extremely distant. He's reserved, rather emotionless, but he's an alien. His world is not Earth, it's muted in terms of colour and emotion. He doesn't really want to be on Earth, neither do any of his friends, his fellow L'eihr exchange students, and so they have a plan to leave as quickly as possible. But when he sees Cara's circle of friends dwindle to nothing he's there to support her, even if it feels strange to him. And he's been keeping some secrets from her that could destroy their growing relationship.

This book seems to have two sides, the exchange student Cara and Aelyx side and the fear of the other side. There's a slowly growing group in this book that are vehemently against the L'eihr and anything to do with them. They fear them, hate them, because they are different, because they assume the L'eihr are going to take over Earth and make it their own. This group assumes the worst and responds the same way, with hatred, abuse, bullying, and violence. Those moments left a bitter taste in my mouth.

I found this to be a fun, quick, entertaining read, science fiction with some real world contemporary issues. At times it reminded me of Adaptation by Malinda Lo. As fun as it was there's a darker side, a dangerous side, that can't be overlooked. It adds weight to the book, makes it so it's not just a simple exchange student romance kind of story. I hope the second book doesn't have what I don't like that appears in most second books, because I really like this first book.

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

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (163)

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

Title: In the Shadows
Author: Kiersten White
Illustrator: Jim Di Bartolo
Release Date: April 29, 2014
Publisher: Scholastic

From Goodreads:

From the remarkable imagination of acclaimed artist Jim Di Bartolo and the exquisite pen of bestselling author Kiersten White comes a spellbinding story of love, mystery, and dark conspiracy, told in an alternating narrative of words and pictures.

Cora and Minnie are sisters living in a small, stifling town where strange and mysterious things occur. Their mother runs the local boarding house. Their father is gone. The woman up the hill may or may not be a witch.

Thomas and Charles are brothers who've been exiled to the boarding house so Thomas can tame his ways and Charles can fight an illness that is killing him with increasing speed. Their family history is one of sorrow and guilt. They think they can escape from it . . . but they can't.

Arthur is also new to the boarding house. His fate is tied to that of Cora, Minnie, Thomas, and Charles. He knows what darkness circles them, but can't say why, and doesn't even know if they can be saved.

Sinister forces are working in the shadows, manipulating fates and crafting conspiracies. The closer Cora, Minnie, Arthur, Thomas, and Charles get to the truth, the closer they get to harm. But the threat is much bigger than they can see. It is strangling the world.

Until one of the boys decides he wants to save it.

Told in an astonishing mix of art and words, IN THE SHADOWS collides past against future, love against evil, and hope against fear. The result is both a mystery and a masterpiece.

I love books that mix prose and illustrations, like The Year of the Beast and Lips Touch. This sounds like it could be really interesting. :)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Me on Cress

Title: Cress
Author: Marissa Meyer
Release Date: February 4, 2013
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends (Macmillan imprint)

After escaping prison and discovering some new allies in France, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army. Their best hope lies with Cress, who has been trapped on a satellite since childhood with only her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker. Unfortunately, she's just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice. When a daring rescue goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing stop her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only ones who can.

Cress is entertaining and thrilling, a brilliant continuation to this series of fairy tale retellings set in a distant future. New characters are introduced as familiar ones return to face new dangers and carry out new missions as they all share one goal: to protect the Earth from the Queen. But it won't be easy, it never is easy, it's dangerous and painful, secrets will be revealed as truth, but it must be done.

Cress is trapped on all fronts. Trapped up in space in a satellite, trapped between following her Mistress's orders and helping Cinder, trapped between doing what she must to survive and doing what's right. And then all hell breaks loose and she's not as trapped as she used to be. But that doesn't mean she's out of danger.

Cinder and her rag-tag team return and their mission continues, but all she really has are questions. How will she stop the Queen? What will her plan of attack be? And what will she do now, with her team in pieces? Cinder is constantly pushed, to be their leader, to come up with their next plan, to take control, but how can she take charge when she's so unsure? When she's afraid of being caught?

Making difficult decisions is hard. Each character has to do it, and each decision they make will impact more than just themselves. They're inching closer and closer to a war, a war where their odds of winning aren't so good, but it has to be fought. For freedom from oppressors. For the chance to one day live a better life, a life no longer on the run or filled with pain, suffering, and even death.

The overall journey of the series has been filled with twists and turns, trust and betrayal, revelations, rescues and failures, wins and losses. It's been thrilling and fast-paced, the stakes are the highest they could ever be now. Knowing there's only one book left, one book remaining to bring it all together, is exciting, but the wait for it will be painful.

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

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Me on This Week's Book Week (88)

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

Things are weird. It's feeling vaguely like spring. I heard there's a cherry blossom tree in Vancouver with cherry blossoms on it. Like already blooming. And it's only the end of January! Geez, our winter sure was mild and not terrible.

On Friday I got some book mail, a finished copy of Hollow City and the sampler of Ignite Me. It wasn't until I'd taken a picture for this post that I realized how appropriate it was that both came on the same day. Oh, Tahereh and Ransom. You're the most adorable author couple ever.

Oh, ALA Midwinter. You were so cool last year. And I miss that I'm not at you this year and probably won't be until you're in Seattle again. In 2019. I'm trying to curb my jealousy at those who are in Philly this weekend. Maybe I should just avoid Twitter all weekend.

Reviews for the coming week will feature Cress by Marissa Meyer (Tuesday) and Alienated by Melissa Landers (Friday). :)
Hollow City by Ransom Riggs (won from Indigo Teen Blog on Twitter) (plus a tote bag)
Ignite Me by Tahereh Mafi chapter sampler (won from HCC Frenzy on Twitter)
Avalon by Mindee Arnett (e-book borrowed from the library)
Don't Even Think About It by Sarah Mlynowski (e-galley from Random House through NetGalley)

Friday, January 24, 2014

Me on Secret

Title: Secret
Author: Brigid Kemmerer
Release Date: January 28, 2014
Publisher: Kensington Teen

Nick Merrick is stretched to the breaking point. Keep his grades sky-high or he’ll never escape his hometown. Keep his brother’s business going or the Merricks will be out on the street. Keep the secret of where he’s going in the evenings from his own twin, or he'll lose his family. Keep his mind off the hot, self-assured dancer who's supposed to be his "girlfriend's" partner. Of course there's also the homicidal freak Quinn has taken to hanging around, and the Elemental Guide counting the hours until he can try again to kill the Merrick brothers. There’s a storm coming. From all sides. And then some.

Secret is tense and powerful, masking secrets. The pressure behind what so many characters are hiding is slowly building, but with too much pressure often comes an explosion that will change so many things.

Nick is under pressure. He's always been under pressure. School, family, now a girlfriend. What about what he wants? What if he doesn't want to apply to every college under the sun and work so hard to get good grades? What if he's tired of being the dependable one who always says yes when someone needs help? What if he doesn't want to date Quinn, or any girl? What if he wants to date Adam?

Quinn has her own issues. Her home life sucks, which has lead to some abandonment issues. She wants someone to care about her because they really care, not because they're obligated to, not because she asked them. Not because they've got a deal worked out. She craves love and affection, no questions asked. Someone who loves her for being her. And she's getting desperate and angry. She's starting to feel worthless.

This book lives on secrets, it thrives on it and bleeds it from every page. The things we hide in fear, in shame, in hope. The things we keep hidden from everyone, including ourselves. The things we don't want to admit to ourselves because they have the power to change everything.

I liked that this book was so much more about the personal side of the series, the actual characters, and no so much about the Elemental side. It made the book very character driven and reminds the reader that the Merrick brothers all have lives beyond their abilities. It's not just about Elementals, about Guides, about family feuds. It's also about them as human beings with hopes and dreams and fears of the future, like college and dating and family and careers. They're still human, and that's what made this book so captivating.

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

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (162)

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

Title: Otherbound
Author: Corinne Duyvis
Release Date: June 17, 2014
Publisher: Amulet Books

From Goodreads:

Everyone has a theory about what’s wrong with Nolan. He has hallucinations. He has seizures. He has an overactive imagination. Or is what Nolan sees whenever he closes his eyes impossibly, fantastically real? 

Nolan longs for a life uninterrupted. Every single time he blinks, he’s transported into the mind of Amara, a girl in another world. As a mute servant who’s tasked with protecting a renegade princess, Amara lives a life of magic and danger and pain; she’s completely unaware that Nolan can see through her eyes. 

Until he becomes more than an observer. Until he learns to control her—and the two of them communicate for the first time. Amara is terrified. Then furious. She’s already spent a lifetime as property and punching bag. The last thing she needs is another force controlling her. 

All Amara and Nolan want is to be free of each other. But Nolan’s breakthrough has dangerous consequences. Now, they’ll have to work together to survive . . . and discover the truth about their connection.

This book is high on my 2014 debuts to read list. It does and doesn't sound like something I'd read, maybe that's why I want to read it so much. And it sounds like it has everything, according to Corinne. Part other-world fantasy, PoC main characters, physically disabled main characters, dual points of view, queer, and a standalone. I'm really looking forward to this. And I like the cover. It gets the point across that they're from different worlds but somehow connected.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Me on Her Dark Curiosity

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

Months have passed since Juliet Moreau returned to civilization after escaping her father's island, and the secrets she left behind. Now, back in London once more, she is rebuilding the life she once knew and trying to forget Dr. Moreau's horrific legacy, though someone, or something, hasn't forgotten her. As people close to Juliet fall victim one by one to a murderer who leaves a macabre calling card of three claw-like slashes, Juliet fears one of her father's creations may have also escaped the island. She is determined to find the killer before Scotland Yard does, though it means awakening sides of herself she had thought long banished, and facing loves from her past she never expected to see again. As Juliet strives to stop a killer while searching for a serum to cure her own worsening illness, she finds herself once more in the midst of a world of scandal and danger. Her heart torn in two, past bubbling to the surface, life threatened by an obsessive killer, Juliet will be lucky to escape alive.

Her Dark Curiosity is haunting, mysterious, and deadly, gothic horror that leaves you suspicious of what could lurk in the darkness. There are mysteries and secrets in London's shadows, and Juliet fears the worst when she discovers her past, a past she thought she'd left behind on an island far away, has appeared in her present.

Juliet is searching for so many things. A new life in London. A cure for her condition. A way to forget what, and who, she abandoned on her father's island. Now she must search for a murderer, a dark monster from her past she never thought she'd see again. Faces from her past appear in her life once again and she must fight against the darkness through all of her struggles, for she fears it will overtake her and turn her into someone dangerous. Someone like her father.

What darkness hides inside our bodies, our minds, our souls? Where does it come from? Has there always a darker part of us hidden, tucked away, waiting for the chance to break free? Are we all capable of becoming monsters? And what of Juliet, human with the organs of a deer inside of her. Human she may be but she knows the darkness is inside of her, put there by a man trying so desperately to keep his child alive he would break the laws of nature. What is her darkness? What is lurking inside of her? How far will she go to hide it from those she cares about?

More and more YA books are appearing that call themselves retellings or re-imaginings of works of classic literature. Just about every book, in some way, could be considered a retelling. With The Madman's Daughter, it felt very much like a retelling of Wells' classic novel about a dangerous doctor named Moreau and his island of experimentation. Here, Shepherd's new story continues and goes beyond the source material, drawing this time from Stevenson. This is not a true retelling of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but I can see where Shepherd was inspired by it, the moments of Juliet hiding the most dangerous parts of her world from those she cares about. The moments of darkness and fear over what hides inside ourselves.

When I first saw the names Jekyll and Hyde in relation to this book, I was concerned, I worried about how it would come across, but I wasn't surprised. Looking at the first book, the monsters, the experiments, I figured I knew where the author would be going. An exploration into the darker side of Juliet and her experiences. But even with my assumptions I was held captive, turning page after page as quickly as I could, helpless to do nothing but satisfy my curiosity. The ending makes it rather clear which piece of classical literature has inspired the last book, and again I am skeptical, but I'm still very much looking forward to the conclusion of this dark tale.

(I received an advance copy of this title to review from HarperCollins Canada.)

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Me on This Week's Book Week (87)

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

So. This year's been ok so far. Not terrific but not terrible. As I type this up it's rather foggy outside. It makes the whole day a bit spooky.

I had an awesome reading burst this week when I got through a book a day and wrote up the review for it. It was awesome. Now I'm all caught up on reviews for the rest of the month, there'll be 2 next week and 3 the week after (1 of those 3 will be about Cress, which was awesome). And then some more regular 2 a week weeks. Do you like the current schedule I have set up, reviews on Tuesdays and Fridays? I've considered moving Tuesday reviews to Monday and taking part in Top Ten Tuesdays more often.

I finished Call the Midwife this week. So good. BBC dramas might be the reason why I don't watch American or Canadian primetime shows, or TV at all. The only things I watch on TV seem to be sports (hockey or tennis or curling right now), the news at lunch, and Doctor Who (when it comes back in the late summer?). Sometimes other shows, like Bitten or Masterpiece Mystery on PBS, but that's it. TV is losing me as a viewer.

Reviews for the coming week will feature Her Dark Curiosity by Megan Shepherd (Tuesday) and Secret by Brigid Kemmerer (Friday). :)
Elusion by Claudia Gabel and Cheryl Klam (from HarperCollins Canada)
Replica by Jenna Black (borrowed from the library) (now I won't be lost when I read my ARC of Resistance in March)

Friday, January 17, 2014

Me on Flame

Title: Flame
Author: Amy Kathleen Ryan
Release Date: January 7, 2014
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin (Macmillan imprint)

Waverly and the other members of the Empyrean have scattered, and their home ship has been destroyed. Their mission to rescue their parents didn't go as planned, and now they're at an even greater disadvantage: trapped with their enemies on the New Horizon, trying to find a way to survive. Kieran has been pulled under Anne Mather’s wing, but is she really trying to make peace, or just using Kieran to build her own power? Meanwhile, Waverly is taken in by a mysterious old man who wants to help her bring Anne Mather down, but the more Waverly cooperates with him, the more dangerous her position is, and the more at odds with Kieran she becomes. Seth's situation is even worse. After setting out from the Empyrean on his own, with only a vague strategy to guide him, he is a fugitive aboard the New Horizon. He's doing what he can to challenge the power of Anne Mather, but he's badly hurt, and getting sicker. Will Seth ever see Waverly again? Will his health hold out long enough to help her topple their enemies? And will Waverly find a way to unite with her friends before they all fall? Nothing is sure and every moment is a risk

Flame is a tense and dangerous conclusion to a series about survival, faith, power and hope. It's a cautionary tale about a future that could be, given the right circumstances and technological advances, a future bleak and harsh where the prize at the end is gained through struggle and personal sacrifice.

Waverly, Kieran, and Seth are all still alive, and they're still fighting back against Anne Mather and her followers who first kidnapped the young girls from the Empyrean then crippled the ship, leaving those on-board to die. Now, on board the New Horizon, they're all fighting back in their own ways. All three have their own problems, their own goals, their own obstacles. They're forced to fight alone, relying on liars and murderers in order to survive, and at any moment things could go the wrong way for them.

I discovered I'd reached a limit with the self-righteousness of Anne Mather, and I thought I'd reached a limit after the first book. In my own opinion, this woman has lost her mind. She's let power go to her head, she's used scripture to her advantage to manipulate the crew of her own ship. She needs to be in control, everyone has to do things her way, all in the name of survival. But she's taken it beyond survival, she's caused too much pain and suffering for me to believe she ever had anything close to good intentions.

I found this series to be tense, dangerous, and rather painful for almost all the characters but especially for Waverly, Seth, and Kieran. Around the halfway mark I found myself wanting the book to end sooner than it did. Just about anything that could happen did happen to these three, they were constantly pushed to their limits, thrown to the ground and dragged along. I was tired of them not being happy or safe, tired of the strain and the pressure of saving the others weighting down on their shoulders. For a third book in a trilogy, it certainly did it's job. The tension was always high, as in the previous books. The stakes were high, no one still knew who they could trust, and the suspense stuck around right until the end. I found it to be a good ending, a proper ending, and hopefully fans of the series will be satisfied at the en of this journey.

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

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (161)

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

Title: Meridian
Author: Josin L. McQuein
Release Date: April 22, 2014
Publisher: Greenwillow Books (HarperCollins imprint)

From Goodreads:

Marina thought that she had solved all of the Arclight’s mysteries. She had found her own history—that she was one of the Fade, that she never should have been human. She knows that the Fade who surround the Arclight don’t want to be the humans' enemies at all. She knows that the leader of those inside the Arc, Honoria Whit, never told the whole truth. But there is so much more that Marina is just discovering. There are more survivors out there. Only Marina—and her friends, all of whom have connections to the Fade they'd never known about—can lead her people to them. But there are also darker dangers, things that even the Fade fear. And Marina slowly realizes she may never have been “cured,” after all. The sequel to Arclight, Meridian is an intense, action-packed page-turner about the lines we draw between right and wrong, light and dark . . . and the way nothing is ever that black and white.

I'm rather torn when it comes to this book. I read Arclight last year and found it interesting, fast-paced, and a door into a curious and dangerous future. It read very much like a standalone. But I still want to read this because I'm curious as to what else is out there. And I like the cover, how it contrasts with the darkness of Arclight's. :)

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Me on The Almost Girl

Title: The Almost Girl
Author: Amalie Howard
Release Date: January 7, 2014
Publisher: Strange Chemistry (Angry Robot imprint)

Seventeen-year-old Riven is as tough as they come. But coming from a world ravaged by a devastating android war, she has to be. There’s no room for softness, no room for emotion, no room for mistakes. In Neospes, she has everything: rank, responsibility and respect. But when Prince Cale sends her away to find his long-lost brother, Caden, who has been spirited to modern day Earth, Riven finds herself in uncharted territory. She isn't prepared for the beauty of a world that is unlike her own in so many ways. Nor is she prepared to feel something more than indifference for the very target she seeks. Caden is nothing like Cale, but he makes something in her come alive, igniting a spark deep down that goes against every cell in her body. Faced with hideous reanimated Vector soldiers from her own world with agendas of their own, as well as an unexpected reunion with a sister who despises her, it is a race against time to bring Caden back to Neospes. But things aren't always as they seem, and Riven will have to search for truth.

The Almost Girl is a fast-paced science-fiction tale with many layers, layers of motives, missions, and truths. A soldier from another world is on a dangerous mission, one she can't fail, one she won't let herself fail. One that will reveal what she never thought could be true.

Riven has one purpose, one job. She must find Caden somewhere on Earth and take him back to Neospes. Cale needs him, and Riven will do anything for Cale. She's a soldier, harsh, unyielding, strong, skilled. She will not fail. But certain people appear, some from her past, some with questions and answers, and Riven begins to question what she knows. Is what she knows to be true still true? Is Caden just a mission? Is she just a soldier?

She's pulled in multiple directions at every turn. Her mission for Cale, her best friend. The similarities and connection she appears to have for Caden when she knows he's just a job. The reappearance of her sister, how they both trust and hate each other. She has doubts about almost everything and everyone right up until the end, until she learns something rather specific about herself. Until she then doubts herself.

I found the story to be interesting, but I found something missing that I think stems more from my own reading experience (reading this on an e-reader as opposed to reading a physical book). I think that's why this book didn't grab my attention as much as I thought it would. I still found the pacing to be good, it kept up with the action. Going into this book, I didn't know it was the first in a duology. The ending was left open for the second book, but I was hoping this would be a standalone. Still, I'd like to know what happens to Riven in the next book.

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

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Me on This Week's Book(less) Week (86)

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

No books this week. :( I don't even really have much rambling this week. Weird. Maybe something's wrong with me. Maybe it's the rain.

I really need to work out a better balance with physical books and e-books. I just read about 3 or 4 e-books in a row and halfway through the last I was ready to give up. Too much screen reading and too much not connecting enough with the book. I'm too traditional to completely give in to e-books.

I was bored the other night and found myself on Netflix doing what I usually do: browse then never watch anything. But this time I made myself watch something and I started watching Call the Midwife, the BBC based on real life series about midwives in the East End of London in the 1950's. By the end of the first episode I was all teary-eyed. :) I suppose my enjoyment of it is one more piece of evidence towards my varying tastes in all manner of things, from books to film to music to TV. It's rather honest, there are happy moments and sad moments and heart-breaking moments, but with something like this, honesty is best.

I'm going to spend the weekend reading a book I got for my birthday last month, The Melancholy of Mechagirl by Catherynne M. Valente (she also wrote The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making and Deathless). It's a small book of short stories and poems, but it looks like the kind of book that I should spend time reading, soaking up every word. And the cover is so interesting. :)
Reviews for the coming week will feature The Almost Girl by Amalie Howard (Tuesday) and Flame by Amy Kathleen Ryan, the last in her Sky Chasers trilogy (Friday). :)

Friday, January 10, 2014

Me on Independent Study

Title: Independent Study
Author: Joelle Charbonneau
Release Date: January 7, 2014
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers

Seventeen-year-old Cia Vale survived The Testing, as has Tomas, the boy she loves, and they have both gained admission to the University. She has a promising future as a leader of the United Commonwealth and no memory of her bloody testing experience, thanks to a government-sanctioned memory wipe. Cia should be happy but is plagued by doubts about the past and future. Determined to find the truth, she embarks on a path of study forbidden by the government delving into the Commonwealth's darkest secrets. What she finds is the brutal reality lurking behind the friendly faces of her classmates and the unbearable realization that leaders chosen to protect us can be our greatest enemy.

Independent Study is a continuing struggle, struggle for survival, for knowledge, for truth. Cia survived the Testing but has no idea what it entailed, apart from a secret and a flash of a forgotten memory. She has a promising future as a leader, but she is plagued by doubt. There are some dark secrets circling the University and the capital, and it's up to her to find the truth.

Cia, like in the first book, is intelligent and strong mentally, but her compassion makes her a liability. It fuels her beliefs, her thoughts, her actions, and puts a rather large target on her back. An underdog, yes, but one for the other students to keep an eye on. One to suspect, one to push out of the way. One to tower over. But she knows that she has to fight back, to keep on pushing through her day even when it's packed full of instruction and subtle sabotage.

School is where you learn. Learn how the world works, how to improve the world, how to understand people. It's where you acquire skills, are tested on those skills, trust in those skills, and graduate with a better understanding of the world around you. But what if the truth is kept hidden from you? What if the instructors say one thing but mean another? What if there is no trust to speak of? What are you supposed to learn then?

Like with The Testing, I couldn't escape the similarities to The Hunger Games. The emphasis is on learning, on strategy, on observation, on truth and answers, not killing. But it's still one girl trying to survive, one girl being relied on, one girl being threatened by those in charge because they see her as a future leader that could turn everything around. One girl who might very well have to sacrifice everything in order to reveal the truth to the rest of society.

This is a continuation of Cia's life, nothing has changed from the first book. This is about what it takes to be a future leader of a futuristic society, where wrong answers are paid for with your life. The tension is high, the stakes are high, but again I felt something was missing. Perhaps this feeling has less to do with something missing and more to do with the similarities I mentioned before.

(I received an e-galley of this title to review from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt through Edelweiss.)

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (160)

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

Title: The Falconer
Author: Elizabeth May
Release Date: May 6, 2014
Publisher: Chronicle Books

From Goodreads:

Heiress. Debutant. Murderer. A new generation of heroines has arrived.

Edinburgh, Scotland, 1844

Lady Aileana Kameron, the only daughter of the Marquess of Douglas, was destined for a life carefully planned around Edinburgh’s social events – right up until a faery killed her mother.

Now it’s the 1844 winter season and Aileana slaughters faeries in secret, in between the endless round of parties, tea and balls. Armed with modified percussion pistols and explosives, she sheds her aristocratic facade every night to go hunting. She’s determined to track down the faery who murdered her mother, and to destroy any who prey on humans in the city’s many dark alleyways.

But the balance between high society and her private war is a delicate one, and as the fae infiltrate the ballroom and Aileana’s father returns home, she has decisions to make. How much is she willing to lose – and just how far will Aileana go for revenge?

Ever find it weird when two of your interests connect and the world feels just that much smaller? Some years ago I was on deviantART and loved this one photographer's prints so much I bought one. And that photographer is Elizabeth May. I find it so interesting that I knew who she was before I started reading and reviewing YA. And I love how I'm intrigued by this book.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Me on Shadowplay

Title: Shadowplay
Author: Laura Lam
Release Date: January 7, 2014
Publisher: Strange Chemistry (Angry Robot imprint)

The circus lies behind Micah Grey in dust and ashes. He and the white clown, Drystan, take refuge with the once-great magician, Jasper Maske. When Maske agrees to teach them his trade, his embittered rival challenges them to a duel which could decide all of their fates. People also hunt both Micah and the person he was before the circus, the runaway daughter of a noble family. And Micah discovers there is magic and power in the world, far beyond the card tricks and illusions he's perfecting.

Shadowplay is a mysterious and haunting continuation of a series cloaked in magic and secrets. Hiding once again, Micah discovers there's more to his situation than he thought, more secrets to uncover and visions to see, more magic. Perhaps it's not as fast-paced and dangerous as its predecessor, but this book is just as enchanting and enthralling.

Micah is on the run again but this time he's running from a far more dangerous situation. He's still afraid of being caught, of returning to the family from his past, of being trapped once again. But he's not alone this time, he has Drystan with him. He has someone who supports him, who cares about him. It makes Micah feel less alone, as less alone as possible when Micah's differences are always there. There's always the sense of loneliness, of difference, even when someone new appears. Because of the visions Micah is shown, because of the task he's been given.

This book continues the exploration of self. Living as the person you want to be, not the person other people want you to be. But it's never that easy. It requires strength, courage, and change. It means accepting that you can never go back. It means there could be a different future waiting for you, one you never imagined possible stemming from a past long lost, faded and crumbling.

I found this book a welcome return to the world first introduced in Pantomime, a world both old and new, the faint blue light of the moon shining down, the shimmer of Penglass. The world created by Lam is rich with magical and fantastical things but also secrets and hidden dangers. Magic and secrets go hand in hand in this world, it seems. And I'm desperate for the next installment and the continuation of Micah's story.

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

Monday, January 6, 2014

Me on My 20 Most Anticipated Canadian YA of 2014

With the 2014 Canadian YA Lit Event only 4 months away, and with the National Post's Books Editor Mark Medley revealing his list of the 25 Canadian books he's most looking forward to in 2014, I thought I could make my own list.

And make it all YA. :)

It's alphabetical, and some don't yet have titles, but they're all on Goodreads. And, to make it clear, this is what I'm looking forward to. I'm sure there are more upcoming titles than what I have listed below, but we all have our own reading tastes.

Winterkill by Kate Boorman. The only thing that will save her family's reputation in their puritan, medieval-style world is Emmaline's marriage to the settlement leader, but her dreams are pulling her away and into the forest. Kate's debut YA will be out something this fall.

Real Mermaids Don't Sell Seashells by Hélène Boudreau. The fourth in Hélène's entertaining and fun series about Jade, a 14-year-old girl/mermaid trying to battle both high school and complicated underwater issues, comes out in February.

Tin Star by Cecil Castellucci. A new book by the Los Angeles Review of Books' YA editor, Tula and her family are on their way through space to a new home when they make a stop on a remote space station. This comes out late February.

Divided by Elsie Chapman. The sequel to the duology that started with Divided. West thought her time to kill was over, but the Board are sending her back out for one more, a face from her past. Look for this near the end of May.

Year of Mistaken Discoveries by Eileen Cook. Avery and Nora used to be best friends but have drifted apart. Now, in high school and after Nora's unfortunate overdose, Avery goes on a quest to honour her memory. This comes out late February.

The Worlds We Make by Megan Crewe. The last in the Fallen Worlds trilogy finds Kaelyn and her friends on the run from Toronto and the Wardens to Atlanta and the CDC with a vaccine to the virus and comes out in February (Megan's new series, starting with Earth & Sky, comes out sometime this fall).

16 Things I Thought Were True by Janet Gurtler. When Morgan's mother gets sick, it's hard not to panic, but then she discovers the dad who walked out when she was a baby is just a road trip away. Check this out in March.

Stolen Songbird by Danielle L. Jensen. In this fantasy, farmer's daughter Cécile is kidnapped, taken beneath a mountain by trolls, and becomes part of a prophecy and a rebellion. This debut comes out in April.

The Story of Owen by E.K. Johnston. Described by Chandra Rooney of @IndigoTeenBlog as "CanLit in its sensibilities and its humour and its completely illustrated view of what it's like to grow up in rural Canada. Also it has dragons, and swordplay, and a cast of characters you will love." Coming out early March. (quote taken from Chandra's review on Goodreads)

Hexed by Michelle Krys. Indigo is a cheerleader dating a football star, but then a guy drops dead in front of her and her mother's family Bible is stolen and she ends up in a centuries-old war between witches and sorcerors. Because she's a witch, too. Comes out in June.

Now and for Never by Lesley Livingston. Clare and Allie's time travel shenanigans continue in the third book all about ancient Britons, Romans, Druids, an annoyed evil guy, pop culture references, and an awesome friendship. Look for this near the end of May (as well as the third book in Lesley's Starling series this fall).

The Shadow's Curse by Amy McCulloch. Raim is no closer to figuring out the meaning of the broken vow that marked him as an oathbreaker, but with his former best friend now a tryannical king holding the girl he loves hostage, he finds it hard to care. This comes out in July.

Don't Even Think About It by Sarah Mlynowski. Taken from Goodreads: "What happens when a group of Tribeca high school kids go in for flu shots . . . and end up being able to read each others' minds?" This book comes out in March.

Untitled (Hemlock #3) by Kathleen Peacock. The final book in Kathleen's trilogy, a trilogy about werewolves, fear, the other, change, discovery, and romance starring a plucky heroine, her dead best friend, and a love interest or two, comes out in November.

Capricious by Gabrielle Prendergast. The sequel to Gabrielle's Audacious finds Ella deciding whether or not she could handle juggling two boyfriends and deciding whether or not to still be audacious in the face of school rules. This prose novel comes out in April.

The Bodies We Wear by Jeyn Roberts. Faye was eleven when some dealers forced her and her best friend to take drugs, killing her friend and ruining her life. Now she's ready to take revenge. This thriller comes out in September.

Push by Eve Silver. Miki is in charge of the team now in the Game, in charge of keeping them alive while they fight aliens in a video game-style scenario, but she's struggling to do so because things are changing. The rules are changing. And someone is watching her. The sequel to Rush comes out in June.

Boys Like You by Juliana Stone. While in Louisiana, trying to fill the hole in her heart after a terrible mistake, Monroe meets Nathan, a young man with regrets, his best friend trapped in a coma, and a court-appointed job and a B&B. This contemporary debut comes out in May.

Rain by Amanda Sun. The second in Amanda's Paper Gods series finds Katie staying in Japan, no matter how dangerous it is for her to stay, and Tomohiro, a kami with the ability to bring ink drawings to life, fighting against the ink's call. Look for this book in June.

Blues for Zoey by Robert Paul Weston. Every penny Kaz saves is to send his mother to an expensive clinic for her sleep disorder, but then pink-haired Zoey walks past his workplace and his life soon spirals out of control. This book comes out late January.

There are others coming out, of course, like a new Kelley Armstrong series, a new graphic novel by cousins Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki, and the final book in Moira Young's Dust Lands trilogy. What are you looking forward to and what would you suggest to those who might want to give Canadian YA lit a try?

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Me on This Week's Book Week (85)

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

It's a new year. :) Which means new books to look forward to, and new reviews to write, and new authors to talk to when their debut comes out.

I'm slowly planning for this year's Canadian YA Lit Event. Yay! :) Which means it's time for you to list authors you'd like to see Q&A's with or guest posts from. Or reviews you'd like to see.

Because it's a new year, I've made a list of YA debuts I'll be keeping an eye out for this year (because I can't tell if anyone's hosting the Debut Author Challenge this year). At the moment, I only know of 5 YA debuts written by Canadians: The Story of Owen by E.K. Johnston, Stolen Songbird by Danielle L. Jensen, Boys Like You by Juliana Stone, Hexed by Michelle Krys, and Winterkill by Kate Boorman. Hopefully, I'll discover more over the next few months.

Reviews for the coming week will feature Shadowplay by Laura Lam (Tuesday) and Independent Study by Joelle Charbonneau (Friday). :)
Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor (finally purchased because I didn't have a copy and wanted the hardcover to match my hardcover of Days of Blood & Starlight)
Going Dark by Robison Wells (e-novella borrowed from the library)
Glitter & Doom Bethany Griffin  (e-novella borrowed from the library)
Valkyrie Symptoms by Ingrid Paulson  (e-novella borrowed from the library)
One Day More by Aprilynne Pike  (e-novella borrowed from the library)

Friday, January 3, 2014

Me on Pantomime

Title: Pantomime
Author: Laura Lam
Release Date: February 5, 2013
Publisher: Strange Chemistry

R. H. Ragona's Circus of Magic is the greatest circus of Ellada. Nestled among the glowing blue Penglass, remnants of a mysterious civilization long gone, are wonders beyond the wildest imagination. It's a place where anything seems possible, where if you close your eyes you can believe that the magic and knowledge of the vanished Chimaera is still there. It's a place where anyone can hide. Iphigenia Laurus, or Gene, the daughter of a noble family, is uncomfortable in corsets and crinoline, and prefers climbing trees to debutante balls. Micah Grey, a runaway living on the streets, joins the circus as an aerialist’s apprentice and soon becomes the circus's rising star. But Gene and Micah have balancing acts of their own to perform, and a secret in their blood that could unlock the mysteries of Ellada.

Pantomime is a mysterious and secretive journey, draped in shadows and moments. Magic, joy, despair, fear, hope. This book is an exploration of self, an exploration of who we are and who we want to be, who we want to show to the world, but the world is full of hidden things that don't want to stay hidden any longer.

Gene craves a place to be herself. She wants to be herself, she wants to shed the debutante dress her mother forces her to wear, the ribbons and laces that polite society tries to weave around her. She has her own wishes and hopes for her future but time is running out. She has an important, and possibly dangerous, decision to make before she's trapped in society's clutches for the rest of her life.

Micah is a runaway now breathing the fresh air of freedom. This is his chance at a new life, a life in the circus, a time for him to be himself. But there are secrets in his past, secrets that linger as in his new life he gains a new strength and sense of bravery.

There are times when both Gene and Micah feel different, so different from those around them it frightens them. Those feelings haunt them in the darkness, follow them down hallways and streets. They must draw on the power and strength inside them if they are to break free, if they are to be who they want to be. But what are they? Who are they?

The city is full of possibilities, as is the circus, but there's a worn away and battered feel to the circus. An extra cobweb or two in the corner of the cart. A new tear in the tent fabric. As rich with magic as the circus is, it also feels old and full of things tucked away in drawers and chests.

This is a wonderfully imaginative, unique, curious thing of a book. The exotic and mystical world of the circus is brought to life here, a place where the impossible can exist, a place to be one's true self, a place to live freely and without scorn or ridicule. But what about fate? What if she decides to appear, play a card or two from her hand?

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

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (159)

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

Title: Hexed
Author: Michelle Krys
Release Date: June 10, 2014
Publisher: Doubleday Canada (Random House Canada imprint)

From Goodreads:

If high school is all about social status, Indigo Blackwood has it made. Sure, her quirky mom owns an occult shop, and a nerd just won’t stop trying to be her friend, but Indie is a popular cheerleader with a football-star boyfriend and a social circle powerful enough to ruin everyone at school. Who wouldn’t want to be her?

Then a guy dies right before her eyes. And the dusty old family Bible her mom is freakishly possessive of is stolen. But it’s when a frustratingly sexy stranger named Bishop enters Indie’s world that she learns her destiny involves a lot more than pom-poms and parties. If she doesn’t get the Bible back, every witch on the planet will die. And that’s seriously bad news for Indie, because according to Bishop, she’s a witch too.

Suddenly forced into a centuries-old war between witches and sorcerers, Indie’s about to uncover the many dark truths about her life—and a future unlike any she ever imagined on top of the cheer pyramid.

I remember reading more than a few books about witches years ago because I was really interested in books about witches, but then they sort of disappeared in my reading habits. But now this book will be coming out in the summer and I'm really looking forward to it. :)