Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Summer Giveaway Hop!

Welcome to the Midsummer’s Eve Giveaway Hop hosted by I Am A Reader Not A Writer and Bookhounds. This hop runs from August 1-7.

For this hop, I’m giving away an ARC of Otherkin by Nina Berry. Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below and good luck!

Book Review: Seraphina

seraphinaTitle: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
Release Date: July 10, 2012
Publisher: Random House Children’s Books
Pages: 467 pages
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Publisher in exchange for an honest review

Goodreads Summary: Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty's anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen's Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.

I have to start this review by talking about how original this book is. I’ve read other fantasy stories where the dragons are able to take on human appearance but none have ever been set in a world quite like this.

Seraphina Dombegh is a half dragon, half human girl born into a world where dragons and humans coexist only because of a very fragile peace treaty. The two races distrust each other intensely. Seraphina’s very existence is considered an abomination and must be kept secret and so her life is an intricate web of lies. Seraphina’s human father would gladly keep her hidden but Seraphina, a smart girl of enormous musical talent, is determined to live as full a life as she can despite believing herself to be a monster.

Hartman’s world building is fantastic! It’s easy to become lost in the history, the politics and the life in Goredd. This story involves several social issues including discrimination (both on the basis of race and sexual orientation), religion and bullying. Hartman does not skimp on the details that completely bring this book to life: the music, the clothes, the importance of saints in their religion, the fantastical characters – it’s all there. Her plot is well developed and the story is well written.

So with all this awesome world building and good writing, what’s my issue with Seraphina? The book starts off really well but the middle drags and drags. This is a long book and it took me quite awhile to get through it. I found myself waiting for something exciting to happen as the story slowly developed but I found myself bored and tempted to abandon the book altogether.

Additionally, I didn’t have any strong feelings of like or dislike towards Seraphina. She is likable enough character but I didn’t really connect with her. There is also my issue with Seraphina’s love interest being engaged to someone else. Granted, Princess Glisselda and Prince Lucian Kiggs are first cousins (gross, I know), but they are still engaged and Glisselda and Seraphina are friends, making the romance even more distasteful. 

While Seraphina may have been too slow for me, I’m in the minority as most other reviews I have seen rave about the book. If you love high fantasy and don’t mind a slow moving plot, Seraphina may be the book for you. The action does pick up in the end and while there is no cliffhanger, Seraphina does not appear to be a standalone novel, but the first in a series.

Content: Kissing, discrimination, bullying and violence.

My Rating: Just Fine

Friday, July 27, 2012

Book Review: Timepiece

timepieceTitle: Timepiece by Myra McEntire
Release Date: June 12, 2012
Publisher: EgmontUSA
Pages: 336 pages
Genre: Paranormal, Science Fiction

Goodreads Summary: A threat from the past could destroy the future. And the clock is ticking...

Kaleb Ballard's relentless flirting is interrupted when Jack Landers, the man who tried to murder his father, timeslips in and attacks before disappearing just as quickly. But Kaleb has never before been able to see time travelers, unlike many of his friends associated with the mysterious Hourglass organization. Are Kaleb's powers expanding, or is something very wrong?

Then the Hourglass is issued an ultimatum. Either they find Jack and the research he's stolen on the time gene, or time will be altered with devastating results.
Now Kaleb, Emerson, Michael, and the other Hourglass recruits have no choice but to use their unusual powers to find Jack. But where do they even start? And when? And even if they succeed, it may not be enough...

I really liked Hourglass, the first book in this series. I don’t often read YA books on time travel and Hourglass was very cool with a plot that featured both paranormal and science fiction elements. When I saw that my library got the sequel, Timepiece, I made sure to reserve my copy so I could read it right away.

The science/time travel aspects of the plot in Hourglass were intricate and I understood them while I was reading that first book but since that was a year ago, I can’t remember what they were. I spent most of this book trying to remember how and why the whole thing worked and the confusion took away from the plot for me. However, McEntire’s descriptions of the time rips are great and the characters’ different paranormal powers are very cool.

Unlike the first book which was told from Emerson’s perspective, Timepiece is told from Kaleb’s which didn’t bother me. I did not like Kaleb in the first book. He was a cocky, self-destructive bad boy and I disliked the love triangle that was developing with him, Emerson and Michael. I’m happy that McEntire gave Kaleb his own love interest and that the reader got inside his head to see why he behaved the way he did. I finished Timepiece liking Kaleb a lot more than I did before. Interestingly enough, Emerson annoyed me in this book with her constant need to be assured and canoodled by Michael.

Timepiece is an OK book which would have been much better for me if I had read it back to back with Hourglass. The book does not end with a cliffhanger (yay!) but there are enough loose ends left to warrant another book in the series.

Content: Kissing, sexual situations and violence.

My Rating: Just Fine

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Broken

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine and spotlights upcoming novels we can't wait to read. This week’s choice is:

BrokenTitle: Broken by A.E. Rought
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Publish Date: Jan. 8, 2013
Genre: Horror

Goodreads Summary: Imagine a modern spin on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein where a young couple's undying love and the grief of a father pushed beyond sanity could spell the destruction of them all.

A string of suspicious deaths near a small Michigan town ends with a fall that claims the life of Emma Gentry's boyfriend, Daniel. Emma is broken, a hollow shell mechanically moving through her days. She and Daniel had been made for each other, complete only when they were together. Now she restlessly wanders the town in the late Fall gloom, haunting the cemetery and its white-marbled tombs, feeling Daniel everywhere, his spectre in the moonlight and the fog.

When she encounters newcomer Alex Franks, only son of a renowned widowed surgeon, she's intrigued despite herself. He's an enigma, melting into shadows, preferring to keep to himself. But he is as drawn to her as she is to him. He is strangely... familiar. From the way he knows how to open her locker when it sticks, to the nickname she shared only with Daniel, even his hazel eyes with brown flecks are just like Daniel's.

The closer they become, though, the more something inside her screams there's something very wrong with Alex Franks. And when Emma stumbles across a grotesque and terrifying menagerie of mangled but living animals within the walls of the Franks' estate, creatures she surely knows must have died from their injuries, she knows.

Why am I waiting on Broken? I don’t think I have read a retelling of Frankenstein and this looks and sounds like it will be a really good one. I’m also a huge fan of the cover: the colors, the composition, the beautiful eeriness of it and how the title is in the scroll work of the cemetery gates! What books are you waiting on?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Girl Name Trends in YA

Funny-Baby-NamesI’m not a writer but I’ve guessed that authors name their main characters similarly to how parents name their children: you give them names that you like and that embody the personality traits that you want your kids to have. There are girl names that are now burned into our subconscious such as Bella, Katniss and Hermione, but what other names have you noticed beyond these?

Since the hubs and I are expecting baby #3 in December, we are currently discussing possible names for our little bean. All this name searching has got me thinking about the names of characters in young adult novels and I’ve been noticing some trends in character names. Not surprisingly, the same naming trends that I notice in real life reflect the ones I see in YA and I thought I would share them with you. I’ll start with the girl names today and do a post on boy names next week. I’m not including odd names from high fantasy/sci-fi books because I expect those to be unusual.

Classic names: This is probably my favorite category! I love classics and I‘ve noticed that a lot of authors do too. Classic names that I’ve been seeing include Anna, Violet, Grace, Charlotte, Emma, Faye, Kate, Nora, Amelia, Claire and Lily. I’ve always thought these names are so pretty and feminine!

Trendy names: By far, trendy names are the most popular in YA these days. I’ve noticed names like America, Aries, Becca, Blue, Daire, Emerson, Mackenzie, Sydney, Kylie, Skye, Nikki, Trinity, Ember, and Summer. Not surprisingly, trendy names are very popular in the real world as well.

Boy names for girls: I’ve noticed this trend on several baby naming boards and with celebrities as well. In books, I can only guess that boyish names gives female characters a tougher edge? I will admit that the names have thrown me off on a couple occasions where I read a book summary and thought the book was LGBT novel because both characters have boy names (I then saw the word ‘she’ thrown in and realized one of the characters was a girl). Some boy names for girls I’ve noticed in recent YA books include Aidan, Cole, Ryan, Pierce, Hudson, Rory, Shane and Harley.

Made-up names: This is my least favorite category. If you have a made-up name or you like them, I hope I don’t offend you but they are just not my thing. Stephenie Meyer probably came up with the most notorious made-up name ever, Renesmee, but there are many other others in YA books. Ones I have come across include: Graylee, Deznee, Breyona, Mianna and Bradalynn. I found all of these names in paranormal books, most of them self published or from boutique publishing houses. Maybe mainstream publishers are are less tolerant to unconventional names (obviously not in Meyer’s case)?

Greek names: I’m sneaking this category in. While these are technically classic names, I wanted to do a special category for Greek names because I love them and adore seeing them in YA books! Recent names I have come across include Helen, Ariadne, Persephone, Phoebe and Athena. I have a couple Greek names on my list. We shall see if one of them sticks around until December.

What naming trends have you noticed? Which trends do you like or dislike? Any girl names you see pop up in YA over and over again that I left off my list? Let me know in the comments!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Audiobook Review: Pandemonium

pandemoniumTitle: Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver
Narrator: Sarah Drew
Release Date: Feb. 28, 2012
Publisher: Harper Audio
Duration: 10 hours, 34 mins
Genre: Dystopia
Goodreads Summary:
I'm pushing aside the memory of my nightmare,
pushing aside thoughts of Alex,
pushing aside thoughts of Hana and my old school,
like Raven taught me to do.
The old life is dead.
But the old Lena is dead too.
I buried her.
I left her beyond a fence,
behind a wall of smoke and flame.

Lauren Oliver delivers an electrifying follow-up to her acclaimed New York Times bestseller, Delirium. This riveting, brilliant novel crackles with the fire of fierce defiance, forbidden romance, and the sparks of a revolution about to ignite.
I have yet to read a book by Lauren Oliver that I did not like. Oliver’s writing is gorgeous and the only thing more beautiful than her prose in the Pandemonium audiobook is Sarah Drew’s narration. I loved Delirium (read my review here) and Pandemonium is a solid follow-up and a really good book. Pandemonium has is all: action, suspense, lots of emotion and of course, romance.

When we met the main character, Lena, in Delirium, we found a timid girl leading a lackluster life, believing in the government’s propaganda and waiting on the ‘cure’ to set her free. The Lena in Pandemonium is anything but timid. She is adapting to a hard life in the wilds, fiercely working with the resistance and most of all, she is very angry and with good cause. The Lenas in both books are vastly different and I love how Oliver shows the character’s growth in such a measured but brilliant way.

The plot in Pandemonium is very well executed and while a love triangle of sorts does develop, it’s well done. I am really excited about Requiem, the last book in the series, because I know Oliver will up the stakes, the action and the emotion to a whole new level. Be aware that like Delirium, Pandemonium ends with a heck of a cliffhanger.

Even if you are not a fan of dystopias, this series is really good and I highly recommend it. It is also a fantastic audiobook! I hope that Sarah Drew will narrate Requiem AND that I be able to listen to the third book instead of reading it. While I’m relatively new to audiobooks, its books like Pandemonium that make me so excited to listen to more. I’m definitely an audio fan for good!

Content: Kissing, profanity and violence.

My Rating: Really Good!



Congrats to Lori, the winner of the Freedom to Read Giveaway Hop and Laurie, the winner of Transcendence for the Multicultural Book Challenge for June. The winners were chosen by Random.org and have been contacted. I have more giveaways going on right now so make sure you enter. Thank you to everyone who participated!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Scarlet

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine and spotlights upcoming novels we can't wait to read. This week’s choice is:

scarlet2Title: Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles #2) by Marissa Meyer
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Publish Date: Feb. 5, 2013
Genre: Science Fiction

Goodreads Summary: This book will feature Cinder and Little Red Riding Hood and will take place in France.

Cinder returns in the second thrilling installment of the New York Times-bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She’s trying to break out of prison—even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive.

Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn’t know about her grandmother and the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she has no choice but to trust him, though he clearly has a few dark secrets of his own.

As Scarlet and Wolf work to unravel one mystery, they find another when they cross paths with Cinder. Together, they must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen who will do anything to make Prince Kai her husband, her king, her prisoner.

Why am I waiting on Scarlet? Cinder, the first book in the Lunar Chronicles series, is a must read for anyone who likes fairytale retellings (especially ones with a sci-fi twist!). I loved it and cannot wait to read Meyer’s take on Little Red Riding Hood. What books are you waiting on?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Book Review: Taken by Storm

takenbystormTitle: Taken by Storm by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Release Date: May 22, 2012
Publisher: Egmont
Pages: 314 pages
Genre: Paranormal

Goodreads Summary: Bryn knows first-hand that being the alpha of a werewolf pack means making hard decisions, and that being human makes things a thousand times worse. She's prepared to give up her humanity, but the wolf who promised to Change her is waiting - though for what, Bryn doesn't know. Still human, she must take her place in the werewolf Senate, the precarious democracy that rules the North American packs. Standing side by side with werewolves who were ancient long before she was ever born is enough of a challenge, but Bryn soon learns that the Senate has been called to deal with a problem: the kind of problem that involves human bodies, a Rabid werewolf, and memories that Bryn, Chase, and the rest of their pack would rather forget. With bodies stacking up and political pressure closing in from all sides, Bryn and her pack are going to have to turn to old enemies and even older friends for help - especially when it starts to look like this time, the monster might be one of their own.

When I read Raised by Wolves a few years ago, I had some issues with it (read my review here) but I absolutely loved the sequel, Trial by Fire as it easily the best book in the series (read my review here). I was not sure what to expect from the last book, Taken by Storm and while it was better than the first book, it was not as good as the second.

Taken by Storm starts out fast and the pace never slows down. So many plot points surfaced and were quickly resolved, a bit too quickly in some cases. While I’m never a fan of an author making a book longer than it needs to be, at 314 pages, a lot happens in Taken by Storm. The book could have been a little longer and more developed and still been fine.

Bryn’s character has matured a lot since the first book. Instead of being the defiant 15-year-old in Raised by Wolves, she is much more responsible and level headed at 17. One of the things I loved the most about this series is that the romance between Bryn and Chase is never all consuming and is not the focus of any of the books in the series. Bryn is a girl who puts her responsibilities before the boy and Chase knows it and never gives her grief about it. Kudos to Jennifer Lynn Barnes for writing a story where the girl does not fall apart and lose her mind if the boy is not with her all the time!

Barnes is also great at writing well developed and complicated secondary characters. I hated Callum (Bryn’s father figure and leader of her old pack) in the first book. While I’m still not a fan of how he manipulates situations based on his precognition (and I don’t agree with his ‘the end justifies the means’ mentality), he is always looking out for Bryn’s best interest so I guess that makes him a good guy. There are also some new paranormal characters that are introduced and the plot of this book is much richer because of them.

Overall, the Raised by Wolves trilogy is one of my favorite werewolf series. The books are heavy on action, political drama and shows how a girl can get out of impossible situations using mostly brains and sometimes brawn. Taken by Storm threw some plot twists that I did not see coming and ends the series on a bittersweet note. Some readers may not be content with how Barnes ended everything but I was very satisfied with how things were wrapped up. If you like werewolf books, this series is definitely for you.

Content: Kissing, teenage pregnancy and violence.

My Rating: Really Good!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Audiobook Review: Enclave

enclaveTitle: Enclave by Ann Aguirre
Narrator: Emily Bauer
Release Date: April 11, 2011
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Duration: 7 hours, 53 mins
Genre: Post Apocalyptic, Zombies

Goodreads Summary: WELCOME TO THE APOCALYPSE. In Deuce’s world, people earn the right to a name only if they survive their first fifteen years. By that point, each unnamed ‘brat’ has trained into one of three groups–Breeders, Builders, or Hunters, identifiable by the number of scars they bear on their arms. Deuce has wanted to be a Huntress for as long as she can remember.

As a Huntress, her purpose is clear—to brave the dangerous tunnels outside the enclave and bring back meat to feed the group while evading ferocious monsters known as Freaks. She’s worked toward this goal her whole life, and nothing’s going to stop her, not even a beautiful, brooding Hunter named Fade. When the mysterious boy becomes her partner, Deuce’s troubles are just beginning.

Down below, deviation from the rules is punished swiftly and harshly, and Fade doesn’t like following orders. At first Deuce thinks he’s crazy, but as death stalks their sanctuary, and it becomes clear the elders don’t always know best, Deuce wonders if Fade might be telling the truth. Her partner confuses her; she’s never known a boy like him before, as prone to touching her gently as using his knives with feral grace.

As Deuce’s perception shifts, so does the balance in the constant battle for survival. The mindless Freaks, once considered a threat only due to their sheer numbers, show signs of cunning and strategy… but the elders refuse to heed any warnings. Despite imminent disaster, the enclave puts their faith in strictures and sacrifice instead. No matter how she tries, Deuce cannot stem the dark tide that carries her far from the only world she’s ever known.

It seems that a trend in 2011 was post apocalyptic YA books with zombies, similar to how 2012 seems to be the year for post apocalyptic YA books with vampires. Since I have become a little less squeamish about reading zombie novels, I decided to try listening to Enclave, a popular book that I missed last year.

Enclave starts out well enough. Deuce is smart and strong, a formidable fighter who is extremely proud of her new status as a Huntress. She is at first wary of her new partner, Fade, but soon learns that he is very different than anybody she as ever met before. I liked Deuce during the first part of the novel, it’s in the second part that things get a little tricky.

(Spoiler Alert! Highlight if you want to read.) Secondary characters are introduced in the story: Pearl, an old friend of Fade, Stalker, the leader of a gang and Tegan, a girl that was kidnapped years before by Stalker’s gang. The thing that bothered me most about the book was Deuce’s lack of empathy about towards the situation they got Pearl into and about Tegan in general. We are told that Stalker gave his gang members permission to repeatedly rape Tegan, resulting in her giving birth to two stillborn children and at one point, Deuce blames Tegan for not fighting her rapists to her death before allowing herself to be raped. Additionally, Stalker who has undoubtedly raped girls himself and would have raped Deuce if she had not escaped from him, becomes a love interest for Deuce, effectively creating a love triangle.

These situations left a bad taste in my mouth and not even Emily Bauer’s wonderful narration could get rid of it. To be fair, Deuce’s character does mature but by that point, the author had already lost me and there was no getting me back.

Enclave has lots of action and I know a lot of people loved this book, but it was not for me. There are also some unanswered questions about the world building which I’m assuming will be answered in the sequel that comes out this year, but I probably won’t be picking it up.

Content: Kissing, references to rape and gory violence.

My Rating: Disappointing

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Clockwork Princess

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine and spotlights upcoming novels we can't wait to read. This week’s choice is:

clockworkprincessTitle: Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publish Date: March 2013
Genre: Steampunk

Goodreads Summary: In Clockwork Princess, Tessa and her companions travel all over the world as they race to stop the clockwork army before it’s too late. As Jem’s health worsens alarmingly and his friends search desperately for a cure, can Tessa choose between the two boys she loves—even if it means never seeing the other one again?

Why am I waiting on Clockwork Princess? I just started reading Clockwork Angel, book one of the Infernal Devices series, and normally I would have read books one and two before I wait on book three but guys, this cover! It’s so gorgeous, it may just be one of my favorite covers of 2012. Also, I am now discovering what my bloggy friends have been telling me and what all of you may already know: this series is fantastic! What books are you waiting on?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Book Review: Bound

boundTitle: Bound by Erica O’Rourke
Release Date: June 26, 2012
Publisher: Kensington
Pages: 350 pages
Genre: Paranormal
Source: Publisher in exchange for an honest review

Goodreads Summary: Mo Fitzgerald has made her choice: A life in Chicago. A future with Colin. To leave behind the enigmatic Luc and the world of the Arcs. But the more she struggles to keep her magic and mortal lives separate, the deadlier the consequences. In the end, Mo must risk everything--her life, her heart, her future--or lose it all.

I love it when a trilogy ends and everything gets tied up in a satisfying way. It’s not that everything ends perfectly and happily ever after, but even with the bitter sweetness of it all, everything ends as it should be. Bound does that for the Torn trilogy and is easily the best book in the series.

I love the plot in Bound. There are lots of twists and betrayals worthy of any book involving both magic and the mob. As both sides of Mo’s crazy world start to bleed together, the stakes get so much higher and more exciting.

As always, Mo is the most interesting character and she definitely comes into her own in Bound. While the two groups (the mobsters and the magical Arcs) in her life don’t think much of her and try to use her to further their agendas, Mo proves that they underestimated her in big ways. I love the way she navigates both worlds and finally makes a place for herself.

While I loved the plot in Bound, I’m not a big fan of the romance and love triangle in the book. Mo declares her commitment to one boy and begs him to take her virginity and a little later on, she makes the same commitment to another boy and begs him to do the same. Honestly, her feelings of commitment did not feel real to me. It just seemed the Mo wanted to have sex and would stay with the guy who would sleep with her.

Bound has an awesome, exciting plot, tons of action and twisty surprises that I did not see coming. My issues with the romance aside, this is the most exciting book in the series. If you are looking for something different in YA books, this unique trilogy may be it.

Content: Kissing, sex, profanity and violence. More appropriate for older/more mature teens.

My Rating: Really Good!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Audiobook Review: Bloodlines

bloodlinesTitle: Bloodlines by Richelle Mead
Narrator: Emily Shaffer
Release Date: Aug. 23, 2012
Publisher: Razorbill
Duration: 12 hours, 50 mins
Genre: Paranormal, Vampires

Goodreads Summary: When alchemist Sydney is ordered into hiding to protect the life of Moroi princess Jill Dragomir, the last place she expects to be sent is a human private school in Palm Springs, California. But at their new school, the drama is only just beginning.

Populated with new faces as well as familiar ones, Bloodlines explores all the friendship, romance, battles and betrayals that made the #1 New York Times bestselling Vampire Academy series so addictive - this time in a part-vampire, part-human setting where the stakes are even higher and everyone's out for blood.

Last week, I wrote about how after several unsuccessful attempts at listening to audiobooks, I was trying them again. Well, I’m happy to say that I finished my first audiobook and it was so good! I’m officially a fan of audiobooks and will now be incorporating them into my routine.

I know that Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series is incredibly popular but I never got around to reading the books (I’m a lazy reader and sooo reluctant to start any series that already has more than four books in print), but when I heard she started a new series based in the same world, I was eager to check it out. Even though I was not familiar with the original VA storyline, I had no problems figuring out what happened in the previous books and acquainting myself with the characters in Bloodlines.

I’m really fascinated by the world that Mead built. She puts a different spin on vampires – offering us both the good, mortal Moroi and the evil, undead and immortal Stragoi. The lore and magic associated with the different vampire races is also very cool to learn about, but as great as the world building is, the characters are the book’s real entertainment.

Main character Sydney Sage is a brainy but slightly socially inept girl. She is also is also an alchemist, humans who help protect humans from vampires. I liked Sydney’s geekyness and her ability to solve problems. She seems like a doormat to people like her father and her partner, but she is far from it. Sydney fights her battles in a quiet, crafty way that I loved and that no one sees her coming. While I usually don’t like bad boys, Adrian Ivashkov is going to be my exception. This guy has some issues but he is snarky and hilarious. I loved Sydney’s interaction with him and while there is no big romance in the book, there are hints of it to come in upcoming books in the series.

Emily Shaffer’s narration is awesome! She really brought the book and characters alive for me. I’m actually kind of bummed that my library only has the printed copy of the next book in the series, The Golden Lily, and so I’m going to have to read the book instead of listening to Shaffer’s wonderful storytelling. Bloodlines is a really good audiobook and lays the groundwork for a series I am looking forward to. If you are looking for a vampire book with great world building, a twisty and well written plot and well developed characters, this is the one for you.

Have you read the Vampire Academy series or Bloodlines? How did you think of the books? Let me know in the comments, I would love to hear from you!

Content: Kissing, profanity, drinking and violence.

My Rating: Really Good!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Book Review: Dark Frost

darkfrostTitle: Dark Frost by Jennifer Estep
Release Date: May 29, 2012
Publisher: Kensington
Pages: 336 pages
Genre: Mythology
Source: Publisher in exchange for an honest review

Goodreads Summary: I’ve seen so many freaky things since I started attending Mythos Academy last fall. I know I’m supposed to be a fearless warrior, but most of the time, I feel like I’m just waiting for the next Bad, Bad Thing to happen. Like someone trying to kill me—again.

Everyone at Mythos Academy knows me as Gwen Frost, the Gypsy girl who uses her psychometry magic to find lost objects—and who just may be dating Logan Quinn, the hottest guy in school. But I’m also the girl the Reapers of Chaos want dead in the worst way. The Reapers are the baddest of the bad, the people who murdered my mom. So why do they have it in for me?

It turns out my mom hid a powerful artifact called the Helheim Dagger before she died. Now, the Reapers will do anything to get it back. They think I know where the dagger is hidden, but this is one thing I can’t use my magic to find. All I do know is that the Reapers are coming for me—and I’m in for the fight of my life.

Dark Frost is a satisfying sequel to Kiss of Frost and an awesome third book in this series. Jennifer Estep does a great job of expanding the mythology and advancing Gwen and Logan’s relationship so this book is a total win for me.

I love Greek mythology and Estep gives the reader even more of it in Dark Frost. Like the title suggests, this book is darker than the first two in the series but considering the obstacles that Gwen is up against, it’s only natural for the story to go in this direction. As far as plot goes, Dark Frost may have my favorite in the series so far and that is saying a lot because I really enjoyed the plots in the first two books.

Gwen remains a very likable and strong main character. She has matured a lot since the first book in the series and its fun to see her powers growing into so much more than simple touch magic. The other character that’s grown a lot is Logan. I’m so happy he is no longer the man whore from book one but the strong, swoony male lead that’s a perfect complement to Gwen.

Dark Frost has tons of action, sweet romance and lots of cool Greek myth. If you have not started this series yet, you should. It’s one of those rare YA series that ALL the books have been really good! I can’t wait to read the fourth book in the series, Crimson Frost, in December.

Content: Kissing, profanity and violence.

My Rating: Really Good!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Furious

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine and spotlights upcoming novels we can't wait to read. This week’s choice is:

Publisher: Henry Holt & Co. BYR
Publish Date: April 2013
Genre: Mythology
Edelweiss Summary: Three high school girls become the avenging Furies of Greek legend.

We were only three angry girls, to begin with. Alix, the hot-tempered surfer chick; Stephanie, the tree-hugging activist; and me, Meg, the quiet foster kid, the one who never quite fit in. We hardly knew each other, but each of us nurtured a burning anger: at the jerks in our class, at our disappointing parents, at the whole flawed, unjust world.

We were only three angry girls, simmering uselessly in our ocean-side California town, until one day a mysterious, beautiful classmate named Ambrosia taught us what else we could be: Powerful. Deadly. Furious.

Why am I waiting on Furious? I can’t resist books with Greek mythology and have not read a book where the furies were the main characters. I’m also surprised that the girls on the cover look like real high school girls instead of overly madeup, highly airbrushed super models. What books are you waiting on?

Monday, July 2, 2012

Interview + Giveaway with Zoë Marriott, Author of Shadows on the Moon


zoemarriott I am thrilled to welcome Zoë Marriott, author of several YA novels including the wonderful Shadows on the Moon, one of my favorite books of the year! You can read my review here. Welcome Zoë!

Me: Tell us about Shadows on the Moon.

ZM: Firstly, thank you so much for inviting me to take part in the MCBC! I'm very excited about it!

Shadows on the Moon is a retelling - or maybe it's more accurate to say reimagining - of the classic fairytale Cinderella, set in my version of a fairytale Japan. It's mostly based on the answers I came up with when I asked myself how anyone human *could* be as passive, sweet, patient and apparently without ambition or anger as Cinderella is supposed to be, after everything the character is put through. And I decided that no one human could, which made me wonder just what was going on under that sweet, passive facade. The book deals with revenge, and betrayal, and love, and most of all illusions, both the ones other people have about us, and the ones we have about ourselves. Shadows is also a sort of love letter from me to Japanese culture.

Me: Shadows on the Moon is such a wonderfully written and beautiful story. Where did you get the idea for it?

ZM: Thank you! I'm so glad you liked it. The idea for Shadows on the Moon came to me in three parts, actually. That's the way most story ideas work for me - they're made up of a bunch of different inspirations that come together to form something greater than the sum of the parts.

The first was a result of doing creative workshops in schools with young people. My first book, The Swan Kingdom, is based primarily on the Hans Christian Anderson story The Wild Swans, and so one of the exercises I did with the kids was to show them how to 'retell' fairytales themselves by deconstructing and digging down to find the interesting, hidden parts. I'd ask for suggestions as to which fairytale I should use as an example, and when the hands shot up the first one was always Cinderella. It drove me slightly mad, because I've long thought of Cinderella as a wimp - and what's more, a heroine who is rewarded for her passivity and wimpiness. So for my own satisfaction I'd turn the story on its head for my young writers, saying 'what if Cinderella isn't a romance story? What if it's about Cinderella using the Prince? Maybe there's something else she wants from him?'

This idea stuck in my head and eventually I began to wonder if what Cinderella wanted might not be revenge, because after all, the story starts with the death of her father. And that made me think about the Count of Monte Cristo and all the transformations the character has to undergo for his revenge, and the toll they take on him. This seemed a perfect sort of story for Cinderella, which is after all a fairytale about transformations and illusions, and the way people see each other.

All this was rolling around my head when one Sunday I was re-watching one of my favourite films, 'Memoirs of Geisha' and everything came together in my head with a bit of a thunderclap of inspiration. Just as Cinderella and revenge felt like a natural match, so Cinderella and historical Japanese culture, with its deep reverence for beauty and the proper way of doing things, and its quite rigid social structure, seemed to slot together as if they'd always been meant to be.

Me: I’m a character driven reader so I always ask authors about characters in their books. Where did you get the inspiration for the characters? Which character from Shadows on the Moon is your favorite?

ZM: Suzume grew up very naturally from the sorts of questions I was asking myself about the original fairytale. If all the things about Cinderella that we traditionally know - her sweet, uncomplaining nature, inability to act on her own behalf, patience and lack of anger - were fake, then that meant my character had to be bitter and full of regret, highly active, naturally impatient and raging. Traditional Cinderella skims over the surface of emotion and only really gets upset when she's denied the chance to wear a pretty dress and dance with the Prince. My Cinderella would be full of dark and vulnerable emotions that she was forced to hide, and wouldn't care less about prettiness or dancing for their own sake. Traditional Cinderella shines with natural beauty that is unmarked by the abuse heaped on her others. My Cinderella would be scarred and broken, and her beauty a carefully constructed illusion. She really couldn't be any other way, in order for the story to have emotional truth.

Then, because I wanted my Cinderella to find - and reject - love, I had to ask myself, what sort of person would value and come to care for a girl like this? What sort of person would she be forced to value and care for in return? And the answer, of course, was someone who was in many ways her opposite. A sweet natured and patient person, full of natural happiness and with a unique beauty of their own that only the heroine would see - a person unafraid of scars because he wore his own proudly and openly. Otieno formed in my mind as Suzume's perfect match. Someone outside her own culture, who would have the vision to perceive her as she really was without misconceptions, and change her perception of herself in the process.

I must confess though, that my absolute favourite character in the book is Akira. She appeared in the story on cue and just took over, one of those characters who warp every scene around themselves with the strength of their personality. Believe it or not, she was originally supposed to have a fairly small role - as a bitter, cold, emotionally unavailable woman who would serve to the heroine as a warning about living in the past. Her humour, warmth and vitality took me completely by surprise, and I fell in love with her!

Me: Shadows on the Moon is set in a fantasy version of ancient Japan and I see that your new series, The Katana Trilogy, will feature characters from ancient Japan as well. Why do you feel drawn to this culture and time period? How familiar were you with this culture and time period before writing the books? Was a lot of research required?

ZM: I've been fascinated with Japan since I was quite a young child, and I happened to see Hayao Miyazaki's 'Laputa: Castle in the Sky' on TV one rainy Sunday afternoon. I should say that I love Japanese culture in general, not just ancient Japan - but being a fantasy writer means that I tend to draw on myth and folklore from Japan, and things and people from history, because they fit so easily within my genre.

Shadows on the Moon did take a huge amount of research. Soon after I realised that I just had to set my story in a fantasy version of Japan I began to realise that being a manga and anime addict and reading books or watching films made by Japanese writers and directors wasn't really the same thing as actually being Japanese (bummer, right?) and I was likely to make some truly offensive mistakes if I didn't knuckle down and do the work. I applied to the Society of Authors here in the UK for a work-in-progress grant to help with buying reference books, and I was incredibly lucky to be selected to receive the Sasakawa Prize, which meant I could afford to do crazy things like import an authentic Kimono and paraphernalia and learn to dress as a traditional Japanese woman might have, walk and move as she might have. I bought a Japanese tea set and ingredients online - I bought Japanese music - I built up a small but extremely expensive reference library. It was wonderful, and gave me the opportunity to make the book much better, much more real, than it could otherwise have been.

With Katana, the inspiration for the story came from a poem called The Bedpost by Robert Graves. But I decided straight away that instead of being trapped in a bedpost (not exactly glamorous or active!) my hero should be trapped in a sword; and what kind of sword is more magical than a Katana, a Japanese longsword? Urban fantasy and paranormal stories have had an explosion in popularity in recent years and we've seen every variation on Western mythology that there is - everything from Greek Gods to angels and demons to werewolves to fairies and pixies to vampires. I think there's been sense lately that it's all been done, that no one wants to see another vampire or another angel (although people still come up with new takes now and again that can surprise us). But one of the most wonderful things about Japan is that, because their culture was so isolated from the Western world for so long, there's this amazing wealth of truly unique, unknown stuff to discover. Stories and archetypes and myths and monsters which just have no equivalent in the stories we all know so well - but still have that amazing sense of depth and history. Researching Japanese monsters, myths, fairytales and Gods for this series was pure fun and still is!

Me: Why do you think it’s important to write young adult novels featuring multi-cultural and multi-ethnic characters?

ZM: Because young people are multi-cultural and multi-ethnic. They live in a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, diverse world. That's just the reality. And that is a wonderful thing! Yet mainstream mass media presents it as some kind of a problem, a dirty secret that needs to be whitewashed away by sterile casts of skinny, homogeneous white characters - who are nearly all always straight, able-boded and cisgendered too - in books, films, advertising campaigns. That sad, colourless version of 'reality' has nothing to do with reality at all. It not only excludes the vast majority of young people, but it deprives even the ones who fit that into that vision of the chance to see people as the beautiful, difficult, flawed, complex and above all unique creatures they are. It tells young people: 'Conform. Fit in. Be what we want you to be - or be written out of history'. How devastating for young adults to look at the world and see that they have already been judged and found unworthy due to ethnicity, gender-identification, religion, sexuality or physical status! How sickening to realise that you will be silently but irrevocably IGNORED, probably all your life. I hate it. If any one of my books can make even one young person feel less alone, more included, or one young person think 'Maybe being different is cool...' then I will die a happy author.

Me: Do you read the same genre as you write? What are you currently reading?

ZM: Oh yes! Ravenously! I love YA - it's daring and colourful and vibrant in a way that few other publishing categories are, and fantasy is my favourite thing of all. At the moment I've got an eARC of Tessa Gratton's The Blood Keeper (sequel to Blood Magic) and I'm dying to start that. I've also got Unravelling by Elizabeth Norris which I've just started and am loving, and I've also stared Bryony Pearce's Angel's Fury, which is great - I'm switching backward and forward between those when they get too intense. These are all on my eReader. The physical book on my nightstand right now is The Sharing Knife: Horizon, an adult fantasy by Lois McMaster Bujold, one of my all-time favourite writers. I'm trying to make it last because it is ssssoooo good.

Me: What other projects are you working on at this time?

ZM: Well, I'm about halfway through the second book in the Katana Trilogy right now. The Katana Trilogy will be launched in 2013 with the first book The Night Itself. It's about Mio Yamato, an average British-Japanese teenager who decides to steal her family's priceless katana from the attic of her parent's house to spice up her costume for a Christmas party. Not a great decision in the first place - but unknown to her, the katana is far more than just an antique sword. She only figures this out when monsters from her grandfather's bedtime stories about Japan begin turning up and trying to take it from her, and the point is underscored when a mysterious warrior boy appears just in time to save her. The sword's mysterious powers begin to change her almost at once, and her family and friends all get sucked into her quest to discover just what the katana is and how to save London from the consequences of her reckless actions.

The next project I'll be looking at after this will also have a Japanese twist. I intend to revisit the setting of Shadows on the Moon - Tsuki no Hikari no Kuni - in order to retell another fairystory; Beauty and the Beast this time. Once again I'm doing a pretty radical reimagining, sending a tough young peasant girl hunting the legendary Beast through the deep dark forests of her mountain home. Hopefully that will be out some time in 2015. You can see inspiration boards for all my current and future projects here on Pinterest.

Me: Thank you, Zoë!

ZM: Phew! Thanks again for inviting me to be part of this, Novia :)

About the book:

shadowsonthemoon Title: Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott
Release Date: April 24, 2012
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Pages: 464 pages
Genre: Fantasy
Buy: Amazon, B&N, The Book Depository
Contact the author: Website - Twitter - Pinterest

Goodreads Summary: A powerful tale of magic, love, and revenge set in fairy-tale Japan.

Trained in the magical art of shadow-weaving, sixteen-year-old Suzume is able to re-create herself in any form - a fabulous gift for a girl desperate to escape her past. But who is she really? Is she a girl of noble birth living under the tyranny of her mother's new husband, Lord Terayama? Or a lowly drudge scraping a living in the ashes of Terayama's kitchens? Or is she Yue, the most beautiful courtesan in the Moonlit Lands? Whatever her true identity, Suzume is destined to use her skills to steal the heart of a prince in a revenge plot to destroy Terayama. And nothing will stop her, not even the one true aspect of her life- her love for a fellow shadow-weaver.

And now for the giveaway. As a part of the 2012 Muti-Cultural Book Challenge, Candlewick was wonderful enough to offer a finished copy of Shadows on the Moon for giveaway. If you take part in the challenge, you will have more entries in the giveaway. You can sign up for the challenge here. Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


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