Thursday, April 21, 2011

Review: The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter

From Goodreads: It's always been just Kate and her mom - and her mother is dying. Her last wish? To move back to her childhood home. So Kate's going to start at a new school with no friends, no other family and the fear her mother won't live past the fall. Then she meets Henry. Dark. Tortured. And mesmerizing. He claims to be Hades, god of the Underworld - and if she accepts his bargain, he'll keep her mother alive while Kate tries to pass seven tests. Kate is sure he's crazy - until she sees him bring a girl back from the dead. Now saving her mother seems crazily possible. If she succeeds, she'll become Henry's future bride, and a goddess.

My Rating: 3 hearts

Thoughts on the Novel: As a big fan of Greek mythology, I was really excited to hear that Aimee Carter’s debut novel, The Goddess Test, is a retelling of the myth of Hades and Persephone. Reading the book though was very disappointing because it didn’t justify my expectations. Although Carter made the myth unique, there were some flaws to the story.

In the original myth of Persephone and Hades, the god of the Underworld kidnaps his niece to make her his bride. In The Goddess Test, Kate makes a bargain with Henry (Hades) to keep her dying mother alive until she’s ready to say goodbye. In exchange, Kate will live in Eden (Henry’s domain) for six months and experience seven tests that if she passes, will make her an immortal, the co-ruler of the Underworld, and if she wants, Henry’s wife. As if living in captivity and having to face seven tests isn’t enough, Kate must also ensure that she survives because someone keeps killing the girls that the gods are picking to become Henry’s future bride. I thought this was a great twist to the story and actually figured out who the villain was only a few pages before Kate did because Carter did an excellent job of keeping the identity of the villain a secret.    

In The Goddess Test, Carter has created a likable protagonist with Kate. She’s kind, loyal, mature and willing to fight for what she wants. Henry, on the other hand, does not resemble Hades at all! I expected my Hades to be a major bad boy, but instead we’re stuck with a romantic lead who is so depressed about his first love (Persephone) leaving him for a mortal that he just wants to fade away. I couldn’t care for Henry, which is why I don’t understand what Kate saw in him.

Carter also made the other characters in the novel Greek gods disguised as ordinary humans. Unfortunately, I still can’t figure out which of the Greek gods are represented by some of the characters.

Aside from that, the tests Kate experienced are based on the seven sins. I have no idea why the Greek gods would choose to test Kate on this since based on all the myths I’ve read about them, they would have failed big time. As a reader, I also had no idea when Kate was being tested, which was annoying. Once I found out what the actual tests were though, I was extremely surprised. I never knew that immortality could be based on whether you chose to share clothes with your friends! 

The Goddess Test will be released by Harlequin Teen on April 26, 2011.

Comments About the Cover: I love the cover. It’s very pretty and the outfit of the girl kind of reminds me of Greek clothing while remaining modern. The font is also appropriate and since Persephone was a vegetation goddess, it makes a lot of sense to have flourishing plants in the background.    

In exchange for an honest review, this ARC was received from the publisher (Harlequin Teen) for free via NetGalley.

Memento Nora ARC Winner

The winner of an ARC of Memento Nora is #19 - Marg. I'll be sending you an email shortly, and you'll have 48 hours to respond back or a new winner will be picked.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Review: Dreamwalk by Sarah MacManus

From Goodreads: Dreamwalk is a romantic mixed beat of time travel and mythology for both teens and adults. After the death of her mother, Chloe Hawthorn is haunted by terrifying nighttime hallucinations. Determined to take control of her dreams, she uses them to find Shane Anderson, a charming and troubled musician whose online videos have been holding her in thrall. She finds him in the Dreamtime, sweating out heroin detox in a run-down rehab center. Chloe sets out to find Shane in the waking world and discovers her dreams have been taking her into the past. Horrified, Chloe realizes Shane doesn't survive his addictions. In order to save him, Chloe must master her Australian mother's legacy - the secret of walking the Dreaming through time. But what price will Chloe pay for this Dreamwalk and will she save Shane only to lose him forever?

My Rating: 2.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Dreamwalk by Sarah MacManus is a novel that starts of with a bang as demonstrated by the quote, “I had enough time to hope that I wouldn't hit anyone on the sidewalk below.” Unfortunately, my disapproval of the main character’s actions meant that I didn’t enjoy this novel in spite of its interesting premise and writing.

The protagonist of the story is Chloe, a girl whose mom died two years ago from cancer. Still emotionally fragile, Chloe suffers from nightmares which have gotten worse ever since her dad moved the two of them to New York. When her father, a psychiatrist, suggests sleeping pills to help Chloe sleep better at night, Chloe refuses, remembering how her mother got addicted to painkillers when she was battling cancer. However, after Chloe’s best friend, Trish, sends her a video of a boy named Shane playing a guitar, Chloe becomes obsessed with him. She not only starts looking at all of the videos Shane keeps posting up but also dreaming about him. It gets to the point that Chloe even starts taking sleeping pills just so she can dream about Shane!

I found it super strange that after seeing four videos of Shane, a boy she doesn’t actually know in real life, Chloe’s dreams involve making out with him. Then, Chloe wakes up furious from her third dream involving Shane because she couldn’t make herself have sex with him. A few dreams later however, Chloe is no longer a virgin. Looking at the romance, I just found it bizarre even though Shane and Chloe do talk about things in her dreams.

Since the story is narrated from Chloe’s point of view but there are journal entries of Shane interspersed through the novel, MacManus allows you to perceive things through both characters’ eyes. In Chloe’s dreams, Shane is in rehab, and his journal entries indicate that he thinks Chloe is a figment of his imagination produced by his methadone. Chloe on the other hand thinks that she’s just dreaming about Shane. In an interesting twist, what happens to the body in the Dreamtime can show up in real life, which is how Shane figures out that Chloe actually exists and Chloe realizes that she’s actually visiting Shane.  
Also, I liked the style that Dreamwalk was written in. Though it was confusing the first time how Chloe went from sitting in her room to ending up in Shane’s place of rehab, the abrupt transitions between scenes actually made the book seem kind of dreamlike.   

As well, even though I know absolutely nothing about Australian Aboriginal mythology, it’s easy to see that MacManus did quite a bit of research on it because she did a great job in explaining Australian Aboriginal beliefs about the Dreamtime. I found the idea of the Dreamtime – a place where past, present and future all merge in time so that there’s no time between any events – really fascinating.

Dreamwalk was released by YoungRebel Publications in March 2011.

Comments About the Cover: The cover of Dreamwalk probably wouldn’t make me pick up the book because it’s way too simplistic and abstract for me.

This ebook was received from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

In My Mailbox (15)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme held by The Story Siren.
I've been a bit too busy to do an IMM for the past couple of weeks, but here's what I've managed to get in that time.
For Review: 
My Sparkling Misfortune by Laura Lond (thanks to Laura Lond)
The Unfinished Song: Initiate by Tara Maya (thanks to Tara Maya)

Haven by Kristi Cook
Knightley Academy by Violet Haberdasher

Oh, and a big thanks to Kiki Hamilton, author of The Faerie Ring, for sending me some signed swag :)

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Review: XVI by Julia Karr

From Back Cover: Some girls can't wait to be sixteen, to be legal. Nina is not one of them. Even though she has no choice in the matter, she knows that so long as her life continues as normal, everything will be okay. Then, with one brutal strike, Nina's normal is shattered; and she discovers that nothing that she believed about her life is true. But there's one boy who can help - and he just may hold the key to her past. But with the line between attraction and danger as thin as a whisper, one thing is for sure ... for Nina, turning sixteen promises to be anything but sweet. 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: In the future Chicago in XVI, the novel by Julia Karr, the government forges people’s thoughts using media, and monitors its citizens closely through the use of things like GPS and tattoos which indicate that it’s legal for girls to have sex. The choices for a girl from a low tier are limited if she’s not smart or artistic enough to get a scholarship: stay in the same tier you’ve grown up in or move up by marrying someone rich or becoming a female liaison specialist (FeLS), a girl trained for diplomatic service for the government. However, what most citizens don’t know is that FeLS is actually a cover for another government operation, one that’s much darker.   

As a novel, I found XVI pretty thought provoking. Karr really makes you think about how the media can affect society’s perceptions. For example, Sandy, the best friend of Nina (the protagonist), loves browsing through XVI Ways and following its suggestions. So, she isn’t actually very different from a lot of teenage girls who flip through magazines, getting advice about life, love and fashion.

XVI also makes you think about how one’s class and wealth governs what options are available to an individual in life. Today, those who grow up in poverty, especially girls, are often constrained in the ways that they can improve their socioeconomic status.

Despite the interesting world, I didn’t love XVI for two reasons: 1) the characters and 2) the slang and terminology. I found it hard to connect with Nina even though I liked that she was protective of her family and wants to wait to have sex, unlike a lot of female characters that I’ve read about. As well, I found the character of Sandy very annoying because she seemed to only be interested in guys and having sex, dressing provocatively and getting into FeLS. In general, she was just completely clueless about the actual reality of the world. Had Sandy been my best friend, I’m sorry to say I would have ditched her a long time ago.

The other reason I didn’t love XVI was because of its slang and terminology. For some reason, it bothered me when a word like advertisement was shortened to the word vert (rather than something like ad). It took me a few seconds to grasp that that’s what a vert was.

Also, sometimes it took a while for certain terminology to be explained. For example, Nina talked about FeLS a couple of times before it was finally explained on page 25 what FeLS was and what it stood for. This kind of slowed down the pacing of the novel because I kept thinking, “What the heck is FeLS, and is it some abbreviation that I should know but can’t remember?” The pace though did pick up later as I became more familiar and comfortable with Karr’s writing style and the story became more interesting.

XVI was released in January 2011 by Speak.         
Comments About the Cover: Since I usually go for books with pretty covers, this isn’t a book that I’d typically pick up if I was just judging based on the cover. Also, even though I like the way the title is huge and easy to read, I think it’s a little too subtle if you don’t know the novel’s title is XVI. The XVI could definitely be dismissed as just being part of the cover design, leaving the reader to wonder what the title is. 

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Guest Post: Elana Johnson

As part of the A Cornucopia of Dystopia event held by Casey from The Bookish Type and Danya from A Tapestry of Words, Elana Johnson, the author of Possession, is here today to do answer some of my questions.

A bit about Elana (as quoted from her website): She wishes she could experience her first kiss again, tell the mean girl where to shove it, and have cool superpowers like reading minds and controlling fire. To fulfill her desires, she writes young adult science fiction and fantasy. Elana is the author of From the Query to the Call, an ebook that every writer needs to read before they query. Her debut novel, POSSESSION, will be published by Simon & Schuster on June 7, 2011.

Why do you think dystopians are becoming popular again?
Ahh, dystopian. Why is it so popular, especially among the YA crowd? I think it’s because it puts the reader in a position of power to do something in a society they think is wrong/bad/falling apart. We basically live in a society like that, where there are people who are dissatisfied with the way things are. I think dystopian has huge crossover potential for that reason. Young adults - who are generally not in a position of power - and adults who maybe feel powerless in how their government is run can find heroes and heroines in dystopian novels. We can examine what we believe is right/wrong, good/bad, and then watch someone DO something about it.  

What are some of your favourite dystopian fiction books and why?
I’ve been reading a lot of dystopian lately. I loved Birthmaked by Caragh M. O’Brien. The vocabulary and use of language in that book is beautiful. And it’s different from others I’ve read.
I enjoyed Ship Breaker by Pablo Bacigalupi as well. Lots of violence, but in a world where it was necessary for survival. I’m down with bad things, as long as there’s a reason. And in this novel, there was.
I loved the emotional power in Matched by Ally Condie. The depth of what happens there is not in the plot, but in the character. And I liked that.
Across the Universe by Beth Revis is also on my radar for amazing dystopian reads. I like the dual point-of-view characters, and I like that it’s in space. Both those things make it truly unique.
I’ve just started Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky and I’m enjoying it so far. 
Most anticipated? Divergent by Veronica Roth. Can’t wait to get my hands on that one!

Why did you choose to write a dystopian and what makes Possession different from other dystopians that are on the YA market right now?
I read Uglies by Scott Westerfeld, and thought, “I want to write a book like that.” So I did. That was the first dystopian novel I’d read (gasps, I know), and as my first introduction into the “What if?” futuristic scenario, I just ran with it. Of course, I’m biased about Possession, but I think the reason it’s different from other dystopians on the market right now are two-fold. One: I believe it has a really strong, sarcastic, changing, competent main character. Her voice is really strong, and I think that’ll make it stand out from the crowd. Two: I also think it has more than dystopian. Possession is a mix of dystopian world-building, science fiction gadgets, and paranormal abilities. It combines all three, and I think that will help differentiate it from the others on the market as well. 

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, Elana!

Review: Possession by Elana Johnson

Goodreads Summary: Vi knows the Rule: Girls don't walk with boys, and they never even think about kissing them. But no one makes Vi want to break the Rules more than Zenn ... and since the Thinkers have chosen him as Vi's future match, how much trouble can one kiss cause? The Thinkers may have brainwashed the rest of the population, but Vi is determined to think for herself. But the Thinkers are unusually persuasive, and they're set on convincing Vi to become one of them ... starting by brainwashing Zenn. Vi can't leave Zenn in the Thinkers' hands, but she's wary of joining the rebellion, especially since that means teaming up with Jag. Jag is egotistical, charismatic, and dangerous - everything Zenn's not. Vi can't quite trust Jag and can't quite resist him, but she also can't give up on Zenn. This is a game of control or be controlled. And Vi has no choice but to play.

My Rating: 4 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Set in a vivid and well-developed dystopian world, Elana Johnson’s Possession is a great debut with a huge dose of action along with romance and some paranormal elements, involving a satisfying cast of characters.

The protagonist is Violet (aka Vi), a smart and snarky character who you can’t help but fall in love with. She continually questions things and refuses to be told what to do. Vi’s love for breaking rules has led her to being convicted several times – seven, to be exact. When Vi is arrested for being out with Zenn, her match, and meets Jag, the bad boy with wicked hair, in prison, you just know there’s going to be a love triangle. It’s hard to pick a side for this love triangle though because Johnson has made both Jag and Zenn complex characters. They each have their secrets and just when you start rooting for one, you find out something that will change your mind and have you cheering for the other.

Despite liking the romance between Jag and Vi, I found that it developed a little too quickly; especially considering how much Vi cared for Zenn. However, Jag and Vi were sharing the same prison cell so I suppose living in close quarters is a reasonable explanation for the swift romance.

I also found that the plot was a little too fast-paced. In Possession, Jag and Vi always seemed to be on the run and in danger of being captured, leaving little time for the reader to process what was happening with them and to figure out which of the people they meet they should trust.

The ending though was incredible and made up for the frenetic pace of the novel. There’s no blatant cliffhanger but it does leave things open-ended, which means I’m crossing my fingers for a sequel.  

Possession will be released by Simon and Schuster on June 7, 2011.
Comments About the Cover: I love the pretty cover, and the blue butterfly really stands out against the white background. The butterfly trapped in ice also symbolizes the world that Johnson has created because people are unable to become free and exert their own will.

In exchange for an honest review, this ARC was received from the publisher (Simon and Schuster) for free via Galley Grab.