Monday, December 31, 2012

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

From Goodreads: Greece in the age of Heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the kingdom of Phthia. Here he is nobody, just another unwanted boy living in the shadow of King Peleus and his golden son, Achilles. Achilles, 'best of all the Greeks', is everything Patroclus is not - strong, beautiful, the child of a goddess - and by all rights their paths should never cross. Yet one day, Achilles takes the shamed prince under his wing and soon their tentative companionship gives way to a steadfast friendship. As they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something far deeper - despite the displeasure of Achilles's mother Thetis, a cruel and deathly pale sea goddess with a hatred of mortals. Fate is never far from the heels of Achilles. When word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, the men of Greece are called upon to lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows Achilles into war, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they have learned, everything they hold dear. And that, before he is ready, he will be forced to surrender his friend to the hands of Fate.

My Rating: 4 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Told from the eyes of Patroclus, Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles follows the Greek hero Achilles from his childhood in Phthia to his death while fighting in the Trojan War. In the Iliad, Patroclus doesn’t have a huge role; but, his death at the hands of the Trojan Prince Hector is vital in turning the tide of the Trojan War in favour of the Greeks since it causes Achilles to put aside his wrath in order to get revenge. Here, Miller makes Patroclus the same age as Achilles – instead of being older like in the Iliad – and explicitly makes him Achilles’ lover so that the reader can understand why Achilles goes mad with grief once Patroclus dies.

My biggest hesitancy when reading The Song of Achilles was that I was concerned about how much the focus would be on Achilles’ and Patroclus’ sexual relationship rather than on things I would find more interesting – namely, the retelling of the Trojan War. While it was slightly annoying to read about the smitten Patroclus go on about Achilles’ beauty, there was actually only one sexual scene (though there were a couple of instances where physical intimacy is alluded to).

I liked that Miller chose to make Patroclus her narrator because it really highlighted the differences between him and Achilles. While Achilles is destined for greatness even before birth, Patroclus isn’t even close to being a great warrior. But, unlike the demi-god Achilles who seems to be incapable of caring for anyone other than Patroclus, the merely ordinary Patroclus is continually concerned about the welfare of others.

I also liked how Miller incorporated foreshadowing into her novel. For those who have read the Iliad, the foreshadowing in The Song of Achilles lends an element of tragedy to the novel because while Achilles hopes that he’ll get a happy ending and Patroclus repeatedly wonders how he’ll survive after Achilles’ death, we know the fates of both Patroclus and Achilles. My favourite instance of foreshadowing though would have to be the conversation between Neoptolemus (nicknamed Pyrrhus), the arrogant son of Achilles, and Odysseus where Odysseus says that he might end up becoming more famous than Pyrrhus in the future. The crafty Odysseus of course will eventually come up with the idea of the Trojan Horse and star in his own adventure in the Odyssey whereas Pyrrhus* remains unknown to those unfamiliar with the story of the Trojan War. 

Although kind of sappy at certain moments – particularly when Patroclus is younger – and taking some time to reach the point involving Troy, The Song of Achilles is a novel that’s easy to read if you enjoy Greek mythology or want to learn more about Achilles without having to read classical works.

The Song of Achilles was released in September 2011 by Bloomsbury Publishing. 

Comments About the Cover: It’s so hard to tell what’s on the cover! I think it’s a breastplate … but I could be wrong.  

*It was prophesied that Troy wouldn’t fall until the son of Achilles came to fight against the Trojans.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Top 10 Books I'm Looking Forward to in 2013

Today, for the Top 10 of 2012 Blog Event, we're picking our top ten books we're looking forward to in 2012. I've decided to make a list of books by authors I've never heard of and a separate list for books that are part of a series.

Top Ten Books I'm Looking Forward To By Debut Authors

A fantasy with crime and political intrigue? A novel for fans of Tamora Pierce? Count me in! 

Maid of Secrets by Jennifer McGowan
 Another fantasy; I added it to my wishlist as soon as I saw "thief," "spy" and "court" in the synopsis

Premeditated by Josin L. McQuein
 I love stories involving revenge!

The Art of Wishing by Lindsay Ribar
 This one seems like a cute read, and reminds me of Jackson Pearce's As You Wish.
 I love the idea of being able to look into the future and then having to make choices.

The Collector by Victoria Scott
 Dante Walker sounds awesome! He better live up to the hype!
A girl who is a Nightmare? Sounds rather interesting ...
Parallel by Lauren Miller
 This one has a fascinating premise where a girl is subject to the reality created by her parallel self's decisions.
Twin sisters - one with the ability to relive the past and the other with the ability to go forward in time. Where the heck is my ability to time travel?!

Landry Park by Bethany Hagen 
"It is supposed to be a cross between "Gone with the Wind" and "Mansfield Park", but set into the future 200 years from now." This better be good!

Top Ten Books I'm Looking Forward To By Established Authors
  1. 17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma
  2. Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers
  3. Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo 
  4. Just One Day by Gayle Forman
  5. Everbound by Brodi Ashton
  6. Prodigy by Marie Lu 
  7. The Archived by Victoria Schwab
  8. The Rules by Stacey Kade
  9. Through the Ever Night by Veronica Rossi
  10. Apollyon by Jennifer Armentrout

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Mini Reviews: Covet by Melissa Darnell and Flash Point by Nancy Kress

From Goodreads: Dangerous to be together. Painful to be apart. Savannah Colbert knows she broke up with Tristan Coleman for the right reasons. Most of all, to keep from killing him with her new vampire abilities. But try telling her heart. Now, lost in a sea of hostile Clann faces, Sav tries to come to terms with what she's becoming and what that means for her future. And that someone is doing their best to bully her into making a terrible mistake. Tristan can't believe Sav won't even talk to him. If being apart is her decision, fine. Just don't expect him to honor it. But even as he prepares to fight for the girl he loves, forces beyond their control take them both in directions neither could have foreseen or prepared for. A reckoning is coming… and not everyone will survive.

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Covet by Melissa Darnell picks up where Crave leaves off and continues the romance of Tristan and Savannah as he tries to convince her to stay with him despite everybody’s objections. While I didn’t necessarily love their romance in Crave by any means, I found the story interesting enough that I decided to give the sequel a try. However, the plot of Covet wasn’t that entrancing, and I became irritated by the characters assuming that people were dating each other and feeling hurt and/or jealous about it. For the entirety of the novel, I was pretty much waiting for the story to end; but, the twist at the end has me thinking about at least skimming – if not reading – Consume to see how things wrap up.

Covet was released by Harlequin Teen in September 2012. 

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

From Goodreads: Amy had dreams of going to college, until the Collapse destroyed the economy and her future. Now she is desperate for any job that will help support her terminally ill grandmother and rebellious younger sister. When she finds herself in the running for a slot on a new reality TV show, she signs on the dotted line, despite her misgivings. And she’s right to have them. TLN’s Who Knows People, Baby—You? has an irresistible premise: correctly predict what the teenage cast will do in a crisis and win millions. But the network has pulled strings to make it work, using everything from 24/7 hidden cameras to life-threatening technology to flat-out rigging. Worse, every time the ratings slip, TLN ups the ante. Soon Amy is fighting for her life - on and off camera. 

My Rating: 2.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Since Flash Point by Nancy Kress was available as an automatic download on NetGalley, I snagged a copy without knowing much about it or having any sort of expectations. Although I found the novel easy to get through, I also thought the worldbuilding was severely lacking – we’re never given any information as to how something akin to the Great Depression 2.0 comes about – and the challenges quite boring for reality TV. As well, the characters were ridiculously flat and the main character hard to like. All I came away with about Amy was that she loved designer labels (as evidenced by her multiple ramblings about them), had phantoms – a concept that wasn’t well-explained, fell in love way too easily, and barely got along with her sister because both were jealous of each other. 

Flash Point was released in November 2012 by Viking Juvenile. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Penguin) for free via NetGalley. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Top 10 Books I've Read in 2012

This week, Jessica from Confessions of a Bookaholic, Lisa from A Life Bound by Books, Rachel from Fiktshun, Jaime from Two Chicks on Books and Mindy from Magical Urban Fantasy Reads are hosting the Top 10 of 2012 Blog Event

Today, we're picking the top ten books we've read in 2012. Here's my list (in no particular order): 
  1. Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard [my review]
  2. Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers [my review]
  3. Black Heart by Holly Black 
  4. Angelfall by Susan Ee 
  5. Picture the Dead by Adele Griffin [my review]
  6. For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund [my review]
  7. Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi [my review]
  8. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman [my review]
  9. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo [my review]
  10. This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers [my review]
Honourable Mentions: The Survival Kit by Donna Freitas, Demons at Deadnight by A&E Kirk [my review], Everneath by Brodi Ashton [my review] and Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama [my review]

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Guest Post: Helen Keeble (and Giveaway)

Things That Are Destroying Jane Greene’s Undead Social Life Before It Can Even Begin:

1) A twelve-year-old brother who’s convinced she’s a zombie.
2) Parents who are begging her to turn them into vampires.
3) The pet goldfish she accidentally turns instead.
4) Weird superpowers that let her rip the heads off of every other vampire she meets.(Sounds cool, but it doesn’t win you many friends.)
5) A pyschotic vampire creator who’s using her to carry out a plan for world domination.

And finally:
6) A seriously ripped vampire hunter who either wants to stake her or make out with her. Not sure which.

Being an undead, eternally pasty fifteen-year-old isn’t quite the sexy, brooding, angst-fest Jane always imagined....

Helen Keeble’s riotous debut novel combines the humor of Vladimir Tod with Ally Carter’s spot-on teen voice. With a one-of-a-kind vampire mythology and an irresistibly relatable undead heroine, this uproarious page-turner will leave readers bloodthirsty for more.

Today, I'd like to welcome Helen Keeble, the author of Fang Girl to my blog. Helen is here to talk about two trends in the paranormal genre that her book tries to go against.   

Okay, so it's also about a lot of other things, like undead goldfish, vampiric retail empires, and hot boys in tight leather trousers, but mostly it's about fandom and family. Let me explain.

I started writing FANG GIRL because I was immensely irritated (I suspect irritation is the major cause of novels, actually). It was at the height of Twilight fever, and it seemed like every day there was a new article in the newspapers or blogosphere about it. You couldn't click a link or turn on the radio without finding someone either dismissing all YA paranormal romance fans as utterly stupid for liking "that trash", or alternatively getting into a moral panic that these girls were being fundamentally damaged by reading it. 

As I rather enjoy a good paranormal romance myself, this was irritating. Really irritating. So irritating I had to spend a year writing a novel to fully express my irritation.

See, personally I think that teenagers are a lot smarter and more discriminating than adults assume. I certainly read an awful lot of fantasy schlock as a teen, and enjoyed it immensely without ever thinking I was actually going to fall through a portal and meet the perfect knight-protector, so I don't believe that all teenage girls are having their relationship expectations warped for life by Robert Patterson's hair. And in my experience, teen paranormal fans can be hugely clever and creative - they dissect their favorite books like ruthless surgeons, they write their own fanfic versions, they make amazing music videos with footage from movies or tv shows it's a far cry from the stereotype of a wide-eyed, ditzy girl uncritically consuming anything packaged with a black-and-red cover.

So I decided to write a paranormal romance about a girl who's a vampire fangirl, and who is also practical, snarky, and intelligent - so when she wakes up one night and discovers she's now a vampire herself, she's got the knowledge and wits to deal with it.

But of course, vampires are rather ridiculous creatures - seriously, you're angsty because you're eternally young and beautiful? Seriously? I mean, the first thing I'd do is camp out in New York Public Library and read every book ever - so I also wanted to poke fun at some paranormal romance cliches. The much older vampire hero who inexplicably falls in love with the heroine, eternal angst-filled passion, the inevitable brooding rival, the terribly glamorous vampire lifestyle … in my book, the vampires are quite aware of all these tropes, and are willing to use them to try to influence my heroine Jane. But the vampires are - like all those columnists and bloggers - assuming that teenage vampire fangirls actually believe all this stuff … which turns out to be a big mistake.

The other trend I'd noticed in paranormal romances is that usually the heroine's family are barely present (especially not both parents). She might have endless conversations with vampires and werewolves and bears, oh my, but parents seem to stay mostly off-page. Now, I'm not saying that I never fought with my parents when I was a teen, but mostly we got along, and my family were definitely a big influence in my life. And I think that's true for a lot of teens. So I wanted my protagonist's family to be a major part of the story. And really, if you're a girl who wakes up unexpectedly dead one night, what are you going to do? Run off alone and try to survive on the contents of your pockets (most people don't get buried with credit cards, you know), or go back home where there's bed, broadband, and people who love you even if you do now seem to have fangs? No contest!

So that's FANG GIRL: one part fandom, one part family, blended together with creamy comedy goodness and baked in the oven of righteous irritation. Can I tempt you to a bite? 

Thanks for dropping by, Helen! I love that you chose to make the protagonist's family a major part of the story. Absentee parents are one of my pet peeves, for sure!

Fang Girl can be bought from: [Amazon] [Barnes and Noble] [The Book Depository] 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Through the Ever Night

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme held by Jill at Breaking the Spine to feature upcoming books that we can't wait to get our hands on. 

Title: Through the Ever Night
Author: Veronica Rossi
Publisher: HarperTeen
Date of Release: January 8, 2013

Goodreads Description: It's been months since Aria last saw Perry. Months since Perry was named Blood Lord of the Tides, and Aria was charged with an impossible mission. Now, finally, they are about to be reunited. But their reunion is far from perfect. The Tides don't take kindly to Aria, a former Dweller. And with the worsening Aether storms threatening the tribe's precarious existence, Aria begins to fear that leaving Perry behind might be the only way to save them both. Threatened by false friends, hidden enemies, and powerful temptations, Aria and Perry wonder, Can their love survive through the ever night?

Why am I waiting? I loved Under the Never Sky and after reading the excerpt provided on HarperTeen's website, it's not surprising that I can't wait to get my hands on it. We're apparently going to learn a lot more about the aether in this book! Oh, and early reviews have mentioned that this one definitely doesn't suffer from sequel syndrome!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Review: Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson

From Goodreads: Taylor Edwards’ family might not be the closest-knit - everyone is a little too busy and overscheduled - but for the most part, they get along just fine. Then Taylor’s dad gets devastating news, and her parents decide that the family will spend one last summer all together at their old lake house in the Pocono Mountains. Crammed into a place much smaller and more rustic than they are used to, they begin to get to know each other again. And Taylor discovers that the people she thought she had left behind haven’t actually gone anywhere. Her former best friend is still around, as is her first boyfriend ... and he’s much cuter at seventeen than he was at twelve. As the summer progresses and the Edwards become more of a family, they’re more aware than ever that they’re battling a ticking clock. Sometimes, though, there is just enough time to get a second chance - with family, with friends, and with love. 

My Rating: 4 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Having read and loved Morgan Matson’s debut novel, Amy andRoger’s Epic Detour, I was excitedly looking forward to reading her sophomore novel, Second Chance Summer. I finally got a chance to read it during my blogging hiatus … and loved it because while the book deftly tackles a terminal illness, it also manages to celebrate life.

Initially, I wasn’t a fan of Taylor’s because she had a tendency to run away from problematic situations rather than dealing with them. However, Taylor acknowledges this fault of hers and attempts to work on it. For example, flashbacks throughout the novel cause the reader to realize that something happened five summers ago that led to the breakdown of Taylor’s relationships with her best friend, Lucy, and her first boyfriend, Henry. Although the reason turned out to be very anti-climactic, I liked that Taylor sought to repair those relationships.

Taylor’s family also develops over the course of the novel. At the beginning, they’re all busy with their own activities and not very close with each other. But, as Taylor’s father’s condition worsens, her family starts to spend a lot more time together, enjoying each other’s company and supporting one another. I especially loved the scene where Taylor told her father that she loved him; it was so touching and had me wiping tears surreptitiously since I was sitting on the bus. It also made me feel a little guilty because in a way I’m a lot like Taylor in that I don’t tell the people I care about that I love them, but just assume they know I do.

A book that manages to suspend the passage of time (and make you long for summer) before reaching its poignant climax, Second Chance Summer is a novel I definitely recommend reading!

Second Chance Summer was released in May 2012 by Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing. 

Comments About the Cover: Though I like the cover, I feel like it doesn’t adequately convey the depth of emotions that Second Chance Summer managed to elicit in me.