Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: The Burning Sky

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: The Burning Sky 
Author: Sherry Thomas 
Publisher: Balzer + Bray 
Date of Release: September 17, 2013 

Goodreads Description: Iolanthe Seabourne is the greatest elemental mage of her generation - or so she's being told. The one prophesied for years to be the savior of The Realm. It is her duty and destiny to face and defeat the Bane, the greatest mage tyrant the world has ever known. A suicide task for anyone let alone a sixteen-year-old girl with no training, facing a prophecy that foretells a fiery clash to the death. Prince Titus of Elberon has sworn to protect Iolanthe at all costs but he's also a powerful mage committed to obliterating the Bane to revenge the death of his family - even if he must sacrifice both Iolanthe and himself to achieve his goal. But Titus makes the terrifying mistake of falling in love with the girl who should have been only a means to an end. Now, with the servants of the Bane closing in, he must choose between his mission and her life.

Why am I waiting? I love fantasy and magic, and so put The Burning Sky on my wishlist as soon as I heard about it. This is also the YA debut of a romance author, which I'm hoping means that the romance is going to be slow-burning and full of chemistry.  

Monday, July 29, 2013

Review: My Life Undecided by Jessica Brody

From Inside Jacket: Please read this! My life depends on it! Okay, maybe that was a bit melodramatic, but I’m sorry, I’m feeling a bit melodramatic at the moment. Here’s the deal. My name is Brooklyn Pierce, I’m fifteen years old, and I am decisionally challenged. Seriously, I can’t remember the last good decision I made. I can remember plenty of crappy ones though. Including that party I threw when my parents were out of town that accidentally burned down a model home. Yeah, not my finest moment, for sure. But see, that’s why I started a blog. To enlist readers to make my decisions for me. That’s right. I gave up. Threw in the towel. I let someone else be the one to decide which book I read for English. Or whether or not I accepted an invitation to join the debate team from that cute-in-a-dorky-sort-of-way guy who gave me the Heimlich Maneuver in the cafeteria. (Note to self: Chew the melon before swallowing it.) I even let them decide who I dated! Well, it turns out there are some things in life you simply can’t choose or have chosen for you - like who you fall in love with. And now everything’s more screwed up than ever. But don’t take my word for it, read the book and decide for yourself. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll scream in frustration. Or maybe that’s just me. After all, it’s my life.

My Rating: 2.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Recently, I've been trying to read some of the older books on my shelf. After liking Jessica Brody's The Karma Club, I figured I'd give another novel of hers a try. I therefore chose My Life Undecided because I remembered that it had something to do with a blogger. 

While reading My Life Undecided though, I found out that it really doesn't give an adequate depiction of how much work goes into running a blog. If I didn't know anything about blogging, I would assume from My Life Undecided that you can quickly set up a blog, write some posts without preparation, and get followers and comments almost instantaneously. There's certainly no need to connect with fellow bloggers via social media or by leaving comments!

In terms of characterization, I thought the secondary characters were pretty clich├ęd. For example, you have the frenemy, the hot guy everyone wants to date, the sweet nerd, the perfect older sister, etc. As for Brooklyn, I didn’t particularly hate or love her. Also, aside from her one bad decision at the beginning of the book, I felt that that the unrealistic situations she found herself in were more of a case of bad luck than stupidity. There was no reason for Brooklyn to overreact and have other people start making choices for her through a blog. 

My Life Undecided was released by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in June 2011. 

Comments About the Cover: I like its simplicity, and think the model’s pose matches the book’s title nicely.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Review: Everbound by Brodi Ashton

From Goodreads: Nikki Beckett could only watch as her boyfriend, Jack, sacrificed himself to save her, taking her place in the Tunnels of the Everneath for eternity - a debt that should’ve been hers. She’s living a borrowed life, and she doesn’t know what to do with the guilt. And every night Jack appears in her dreams, lost and confused and wasting away. Desperate for answers, Nikki turns to Cole, the immortal bad boy who wants to make her his queen - and the one person least likely to help. But his heart has been touched by everything about Nikki, and he agrees to assist her in the only way he can: by taking her to the Everneath himself. Nikki and Cole descend into the Everneath, only to discover that their journey will be more difficult than they’d anticipated - and more deadly. But Nikki vows to stop at nothing to save Jack - even if it means making an incredible sacrifice of her own. 

My Rating: 4 hearts (although I'm tempted to add half a heart for the twist at the end) 

Thoughts on the Novel: One of the books I loved last year was Everneath by Brodi Ashton. I kind of forgot all about the sequel, Everbound, though until I saw it on my Kindle one day and decided I should probably go ahead and read it.

While Everneath delved into the relationship of Jack and Nikki, Everbound explores the relationship between Cole and Nikki. There is also more of a focus on Cole in general as a character, which allows the reader to learn his backstory and how he became an Everliving.

Although Jack is hardly present in Everbound, he does appear in flashbacks and in Nikki’s dreams throughout the novel. I was a bit surprised and disappointed that Ashton chose to use the same memories involving Jack that appeared in Everneath. I still think Jack and Nikki make a cute couple, but wish that Ashton could have come up with some new stories about the two.

Overall, Everbound is a great follow-up to Everneath. It recaps the events of Everneath nicely, continues using mythology and integrating flashbacks well, has plenty of action, and ends with a shocking twist that will have you wanting Evertrue right away. I can’t wait to see how Ashton will conclude this trilogy!

Everbound was released in January 2013 by Balzer + Bray. 

Comments About the Cover: I love the dress the model is wearing; but logically, it makes no sense for Nikki to be wearing a dress when going to the Everneath.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Starglass: Excerpt, Trailer and Giveaway

Terra has never known anything but life aboard the Asherah, a city-within-a-spaceship that left Earth five hundred years ago in search of refuge. At sixteen, working a job that doesn't interest her, and living with a grieving father who only notices her when he's yelling, Terra is sure that there has to be more to life than what she's got.

But when she inadvertently witnesses the captain's guard murdering an innocent man, Terra is suddenly thrust into the dark world beneath her ship's idyllic surface. As she's drawn into a secret rebellion determined to restore power to the people, Terra discovers that her choices may determine life or death for the people she cares most about. With mere months to go before landing on the long-promised planet, Terra has to make the decision of a lifetime - one that will determine the fate of her people.

As part of the blog tour for Starglass, I have an excerpt from the book as well as the trailer:

I crouched low, steadying my back against the trunk. That's when something in the gnarled bark caught my eye. 

Words. Words carved in deep and then healed over. That alone wasn't unusual -  what tree in the atrium didn't bear the initials of some young couple who had declared their love hundreds of years before? But these words were different. There wasn't any heart looping around them. No arrow sliced through, either. They were a little hard to make out in the fading daylight, but I ran my fingers over the rough bark, reading them with my fingertips. 

Liberty on Earth. Liberty on Zehava.

Starglass can be bought from: [Amazon] [Barnes and Noble] [The Book Depository] 
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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: Premeditated

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: Premeditated
Author: Josin L. McQuein
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Date of Release: October 8, 2013

Goodreads Description: A week ago, Dinah’s cousin Claire cut her wrists. Five days ago, Dinah found Claire’s diary and discovered why. Three days ago, Dinah stopped crying and came up with a plan. Two days ago, she ditched her piercings and bleached the black dye from her hair. Yesterday, knee socks and uniform plaid became a predator’s camouflage. Today, she’ll find the boy who broke Claire. By tomorrow, he’ll wish he were dead.

Why am I waiting? I love reading stories involving revenge, and this one sounds like it has the potential to be really awesome. Dinah totally sounds like someone you wouldn't want to cross!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Review: Truly, Madly, Deadly by Hannah Jayne

From Goodreads: Sawyer Dodd has it all. She's a star track athlete, choir soloist, and A-student. And her boyfriend is the handsome all-star Kevin Anderson. But behind the medals, prom pictures, and perfect smiles, Sawyer finds herself trapped in a controlling, abusive relationship with Kevin. When he dies in a drunk-driving accident, Sawyer is secretly relieved. She's free. Until she opens her locker and finds a mysterious letter signed by "an admirer" and printed with two simple words: "You're welcome."

My Rating: 2 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: While the synopsis of Hannah Jayne’s Truly, Madly, Deadly suggested that this thriller would keep me turning the pages as fast as possible, I, unfortunately, found that the story didn’t live up to its potential. I thought this was mainly because of poor execution and a lack of connection with the characters.

Although Sawyer having to deal with a mysterious stalker is the central focus of the book, Truly, Madly, Deadly also touches on the topic of physical abuse. Since the abuse is never really depicted however, it appeared to be more of a plot device that’s used to elicit sympathy for Sawyer and to provide the stalker with a reason for killing Kevin.

Sawyer herself wasn’t someone I really cared about because I found her to be kind of blah. As well, she gets involved with Cooper when she isn’t over Kevin’s death and then yo-yos back and forth between desire and guilt when spending time with Cooper. It was annoying, and I could have easily done without the romance.

Truly, Madly, Deadly was released by Sourcebooks Fire on July 2, 2013.

Comments About the Cover: I feel like the cover’s trying to be creepy and mysterious. But, it’s just not working. 

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

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Review: Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst

From Goodreads: Liyana has trained her entire life to be the vessel of a goddess. She will dance and summon her tribe's deity, who will inhabit Liyana's body and use magic to bring rain to the desert. But when the dance ends, Liyana is still there. Her tribe is furious--and sure that it is Liyana's fault. Abandoned by her tribe, Liyana expects to die in the desert. Until a boy walks out of the dust in search of her. Korbyn is a god inside his vessel, and a trickster god at that. He tells Liyana that five other gods are missing, and they set off across the desert in search of the other vessels. The desert tribes cannot survive without the magic of their gods. But the journey is dangerous, even with a god’s help. And not everyone is willing to believe the trickster god’s tale. The closer she grows to Korbyn, the less Liyana wants to disappear to make way for her goddess. But she has no choice - she must die for her tribe to live. Unless a trickster god can help her to trick fate - or a human girl can muster some magic of her own.

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst is a slow fantasy that explores themes like sacrifice, destiny, faith and independence using an interesting premise. In Vessel, the people of the desert have a dreamwalk where their destiny is revealed to them. Those who are to become vessels have their lives irrevocably changed as their bodies no longer belong to them but to the deity associated with their nomad tribe. While their family and friends have normal responsibilities, vessels instead prepare for a day when their souls will be released from their body in a ritual that allows their deity to be summoned from the dreaming and inhabit the vessel’s body. The vessel’s sacrifice ensures their tribe’s survival for the next century as the god or goddess in a physical form can perform magic capable of bringing rain to the desert and increasing the tribe’s herds.

What I loved most about Vessel was the worldbuilding because Durst made it really easy to imagine the desert. Through Liyana’s eyes, the reader can see both the beauty of the desert as well as its dangers, real (e.g. scarcity of water, snakes, etc.) and fictional (e.g. sand wolves and salt worms). I also liked Durst’s incorporation of fables and creation myths since it added an extra layer to the story and solidified the worldbuilding.

Another thing that I liked was how the different vessels perceived their fate. At first, Liyana is accepting of her fate, but when Bayla doesn’t come and Liyana realizes that she can have a life, she becomes more hesitant at the thought of giving up her body. At the same time, Liyana knows that without her sacrifice, her tribe won’t survive. It was nice to see that struggle between individualism and altruism and contrast Liyana’s reactions with that of Pia, a blind singer completely dedicated to her deity, and Raan, who questions why she should have to die for her goddess. 

Vessel is by no means a flawless read, however. My main complaint about the novel is that the journey of Liyana and Korbyn as they go from tribe to tribe to collect the other vessels soon feels repetitive because it makes up quite a huge portion of the book. Also, I found the romance to be very weak – fortunately, it’s not a major component of the novel – and thought that the character of the emperor was a bit underdeveloped.

Vessel was released in 2012 by Margaret K. McElderry Books. 

Comments About the Cover: I think the cover is gorgeous and eye-catching. I also love that there’s no whitewashing.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Mini Reviews: My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick and Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

From Goodreads: The Garretts are everything the Reeds are not. Loud, messy, affectionate. And every day from her rooftop perch, Samantha Reed wishes she was one of them ... until one summer evening, Jase Garrett climbs up next to her and changes everything. As the two fall fiercely for each other, stumbling through the awkwardness and awesomeness of first love, Jase's family embraces Samantha - even as she keeps him a secret from her own. Then something unthinkable happens, and the bottom drops out of Samantha's world. She's suddenly faced with an impossible decision. Which perfect family will save her? Or is it time she saved herself?

My Rating: 4 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Although the ending felt a bit rushed, I found Huntley Fitzpatrick's My Life Next Door to be a fun read featuring a very cute romance and a family that's easy to fall in love with. The YA novels I read tend to have dysfunctional families or absent parents so it was really nice to see how close-knit the Garretts were. There were eight Garrett children, and Fitzpatrick made each one of them seem like individuals. Jace may be the one I was supposed to swoon over (and I did), but George and Patsy quickly became my favourite Garretts.

My Life Next Door was released by Dial Books For Young Readers in 2012. 
From Goodreads: Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky. In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grown dangerously low. And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war. Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out. When one of the strangers - beautiful, haunted Akiva - fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself? 

My Rating: 4.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: After seeing so much praise for Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone series, I finally decided to give it a try. Despite a tiny bit of predictability and a romance that had a touch of insta-love, I ended up loving Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I can’t believe I waited so long to read it! The story was absorbing and beautifully written, and the description of Prague and all the places Karou traveled to were incredibly vivid. Taylor’s own fantasy world of Eretz seemed as real a place as her earthly settings because of how well developed it was. I also loved how Taylor managed to make each character important in their own right since none of the secondary characters felt like they were there simply for convenience.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone was released by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers in 2011.