Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Review: The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley

Title: The Blue Sword (Damar, #1) 

Author: Robin McKinley 

Rating: 3/5 Stars

I don’t get it. I just don’t. Robin McKinley’s The Blue Sword has been acclaimed as one of the most remarkable fantasy novels of our age, but I am unable to see why. I suppose the best way I can describe The Blue Sword is to tell you that it is similar to a camp-fire story – entertaining, filled with action and heroes, a rather under-developed romance, and ultimately, a story that needs to be told again and again with more and more details filled in every time. In fact, I would go so far as to say that while I loved the world-building in this story, much of it felt like a mere outline which McKinley had forgotten to go back and develop in many parts. Thus, while I most certainly liked this novel, I by no means loved it and nor do I see exactly what is so remarkable about it.

I suppose it all really comes down to the writing style and execution of this story, not to mention the characters. Harry Crewe, our enigmatic heroine, is kidnapped from her foster home and taken to the Hills where the Damarians, mysterious hill-folk that can perform magic, reside. It is a dangerous time for her nation as the Northerners, an inhuman race, plan to attack and the hill-people of Damar whose numbers have steadily dwindled for years, are in grave danger. Thus, their king, Corlath, looks to the Outlanders for aid and, when receiving none, feels a strange pull towards Harry, who seems to have an affinity for the magic of the Hills as well. It is then that Harry realizes her true destiny as the savior of these people and along with the legendary Blue Sword, sets out to meet her fate.

The Blue Sword sounds interesting enough and I suppose it is, but it took awhile to get into. I felt as if the writing style was deliberately distant and slow-moving and it took awhile to become accustomed to it. In fact, I’m still not sure if I quite am. McKinley tends to describe many aspects of Damarian life such as customs of the hill-folk, the beautiful horses they ride, and even the setting of her lands, but she fails to make the reader connect with anything much beyond that. Not only does her writing wander a bit, she also shifts between using the Damarian and Outlander names for certain things which becomes cumbersome and irritating after awhile. Yet, I found the biggest downfall to be in the characters themselves.

While I loved the strong themes of woman empowerment in this story, I never felt a connection with Harry in the least. Not only is she vastly different from other characters, she is incredibly mature – so mature that she does not question the reasons for her kidnapping as she begins to innately understand them, but nor does she question any of the other actions in this story. Furthermore, while we are told about Harry’s conflicting emotions concerning the Damarians and the Outlander heritage she has grown up with, it is hard to sympathize or feel for her due to the narration. Thus, I was quite annoyed with Harry for her utter placidness and inability to take action until the last part of the novel. Yet, while I enjoyed the battle scenes in the end, I never felt as if I could pinpoint or understand Harry’s growth – it was all very sudden and hard to truly see. Furthermore, the friendships she made were never elaborated on and became strong with a simple smile, which leads the reader to believe that there are missing pages from their copy of the book. So really, Harry was not the only under-developed character in this tale.

That being said, I still did like reading The Blue Sword. It had many technical flaws in its writing and narration and while I could not connect with the characters and don’t feel as if I know Corlath, the enigmatic Damarian king who later becomes Harry’s husband, I think the setting and political intrigue of this novel is remarkable. Yet, I firmly believe that in the hands of a different author, The Blue Sword could have been the fantastic tale other readers gush over. For all my enjoyment of this story, I don’t think I will be reading much more of Robin McKinley in the future, not matter how wonderful her storytelling is proclaimed.

Top Ten Tuesday (#7)

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish where they post a new top ten list every week and ask bloggers to share their picks as well. 

Today's Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Characters I'd Like to Switch Places With for 24 Hours 
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1. Luna Lovegood from The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
Luna is one of the most inspirational characters I've come across in literature. I love her attitude, the way she doesn't let what other people say get to her, and the fact that she's comfortable being who she is. Not only that, but she's a loyal friend, remarkable witch, and a Ravenclaw. If I switched places with Luna, not only would I be surrounded by a great cast of friends such as Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny, and Neville who I'd all love to meet, I'd get to be a unique and eccentric person for a day too! :)
2. Fire from Fire by Kristen Cashore
Fire is one of my favorite characters of all time and I'd love to switch places with her for a day. I think it would be a remarkable experience to be the last human monster and I'd loveee to be able to play the violin and shoot arrows as well as she does. Plus, I'd get to meet the wonderful cast of this novel and spend a day with Brigan - those gray eyes were my undoing! ;) Yet, more than even wanting to meet these characters who feel like my own friends, I'd love to see the unreal beautiful of the Dells - the monsters that grace its skies, the colorful cats that lounge in their households, and the gorgeous horses that ride in their plains. It truly is a spectacular fantasy realm for sure.
3. Bria from Wanderlove by Kristen Hubbard
Not only do I love the Central American setting of Hubbard's story, I also love her characters. I'd love to meet Bria herself, but by switching places with her, I'd get to meet an even better character - Rowan. Yup, I'm switching places with Bria to meet a hot guy who reads classics, backpacks, and is a reformed bad-boy. If that isn't insanely attractive, then I don't know what is! ;)
4. Costis from The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner
I think it's safe to say I would love to spend a day in Turner's world. She's one of my favorite fantasy authors and while I wouldn't mind meeting Costis, the loyal solider of the King's Guard, I'd want to meet the enigmatic Eugendies, the strict Queen of Attolia, the kind King of Sounis (I'm thinking of Sophos), and of course, the intelligent Eddis. I love the characters Turner has created and more than just wanting to spend time in her world, I'd want to spend time with the people she so vividly brings to life through her work.
5. Anna from Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
What is that you say? I wanted to switch places with Anna simply to see Etienne St. Clair? Psh, how can you accuse me of such a thing? (Well, we all know it's true, but shhh!) I've wanted to visit Paris ever since I was a little girl and if switching places with Anna (and getting to meet all her wonderful friends and YUM gorgeous boyfriend happens to come along with the package, then lucky me)! ;)
6. MacKayla Lane from The Fever Series by Karen Marie Moning
On second thought, this should probably be #1. Why? Jericho Barrons. Seriously, I would KILL to meet this guy in real life! If I spent 24 Hours with Jericho Barrons, I'd probably be the silliest babbling fool ever since I'd just be swooning the whole time, but I wouldn't regret it in the least. I mean, he's Barrons! Yeah, you have to read the books to understand the attraction, but I'd love to meet him. *swoons*
7. Jie from Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard
Ever since I finished Dennard's debut very recently, I've been dreaming about the rich historical fantasy world she created - not to mention her exciting characters! While I love Jie, I think switching spots with her would be perfect as I wouldn't have to conform to rules of society at that time, but I'd still get to battle zombies and necromancers and meet the parasol-wielding Eleanor, not to mention the dashingly handsome Daniel. I feel as if guys are my sole motivation for switching places with these characters...fear not! I am made of much more substance than that, I promise! :)
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8. Penryn from Angelfall by Susan Ee
Angelfall is my favorite angel novel and one of my favorite dystopian stories of all time, so it makes sense to say that I'd love to switch places with Penryn and be in the heart of all the action, adventure, and danger that takes place in her world. While Raffe is definitely a large component, I love the large scope of scenarios that could take place in this futuristic realm and spending a day there would be lovely, dark, and different.
9. Eragon from The Inheritance Series by Christopher Paolini
I'm kind of in love with Algaesia. I know. It's simply so beautiful, rich, and detailed in its layout, explanations, and overall design that I want to visit it so badly. Plus, I'd probably kill to ride a dragon, meet elves and dwarves, use a sword in battle and what-not. Thus, switching places with Eragon would also give me unlimited access to Saphira and is there any better use of 24 Hours rather than flying a dragon? I think not.
10. Eowyn from The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
I love Eowyn - she's strong, brave, courageous, and stands up for what she believes in. I'd love to be her for a day and living in Middle Earth, especially Rohan with all their beautiful horses, would be marvelous! I love the world Tolkien created and to stay there for a day would be a dream come true. Plus, I'd get Faramir and would have been in love with Aragorn and, admit it, who didn't have a massive crush on Aragorn?(;

What characters would you switch places with?
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Monday, July 30, 2012

Review: Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard

Title: Something Strange and Deadly 

Author: Susan Dennard 

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

You know how they say that some things that come into your life are exactly what you need and they always arrive at the exact time you need them? Well, my experience with Something Strange and Deadly was similar. I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump the past few days, reading books that I haven’t clicked with and writing steadily more and more snarky reviews for them, so when Something Strange and Deadly arrived on my doorstep, I was both overjoyed, excited, and just a tad bit skeptical. In all honesty though, I needn’t have worried. While I will admit that I am a tiny bit biased towards this novel due to its steampunk/historical fiction genre, parasol-wielding heroine, and handsome inventor-turned-romantic-interest, I think Something Strange and Deadly is a remarkably written debut novel that contains something to love for everyone, despite its flaws.

 In a re-imagined Post Civil War setting, the dead are slowly rising and their armies are populating major Union Cities. When Eleanor Fitt, the daughter of a once wealthy and now deceased businessman, goes to pick up her elder brother Elijah from the train station, she is shocked to find that he has been kidnapped by the dangerous necromancer who is raising the dead and whose army has moved from New York to her own town, Philadelphia. Thus, Eleanor does the only thing she possibly can – she seeks the help of Spirit-Hunters, a small group of people who claim to be able to destroy the supernatural forces at work. While Eleanor begins to spend more and more time with the Spirit-Hunters, including the infuriating, yet handsome, rascal-turned-inventor Daniel, she also begins to uncover the truth about her own past, her father’s death, and most importantly, herself.

I don’t think I can even begin to describe how much I enjoyed this novel. Susan Dennard wastes no time in immersing the reader into her world and while the writing was a little sloppy in the first chapter, the action most certainly wasn’t. From there on, the pace is impeccable – fast-moving, intriguing and leaves you constantly turning the pages. Furthermore, I loved how the mystery of Elijah’s disappearance and the mystery of Eleanor’s suitor, the enigmatic Clarence Wilcox who also happened to be an old family friend, came together in an extremely clever manner. In addition, the obvious research Dennard put into her story, placing her characters in real-life settings, and her take on zombie/necromancer lore was both refreshingly original and entertaining.

Nevertheless, despite these wonderful quirks, I did have a slight difficulty adjusting to the setting of this novel. It takes awhile for the reader to realize just what time period the story takes place and I still have questions such as why Eleanor’s mother deemed it fit to conduct a séance and release a dangerous spirit, which happened to follow Eleanor throughout the novel. It isn’t the spirit itself that confuses me, but why séances were considered such a popular event in society during that time. In addition to the not-so-detailed world-building, I found aspects of the plot to be rather predictable, but thankfully they weren’t overly stressed like they were in Cinder and never cast Eleanor under the light of stupidity and nor did they particularly bother me, the reader.

While these flaws do remain to scar the otherwise perfect qualities of Something Strange and Deadly, they never detracted from the overall experience of the novel. Plus, what really made this story tick were the characters themselves. Eleanor is one of my favorite steampunk heroines – I love the way she brands her parasol menacingly, I love her sharp wit and ready intelligence, and I love the clever manner in which she manages to elude high society to help the Spirit-Hunters and her brother. Not only is she courageous, brave, and filled with admirable morals, she is also flawed, sarcastic, and vastly different from other women of her time. I simply adored reading her narration and to me, Eleanor felt like a long-lost friend.

Yet, Eleanor wasn’t the only amazing character in this tale. I loved Joseph, the leader of the Spirit-Hunters who was both wise and powerful. Not only was he kind to Eleanor, but he appreciated her efforts and seemed to constantly encourage her search for her brother and restore her faith in humanity. Jie, a young Chinese girl who managed to stay under the radar by dressing like a man, also became an immediate favorite. She makes Eleanor think about the choices she has and shows her that it is possible to live a life away from the expectations of society. While I loved the diversity that both Jie and Joseph, a black man, brought to this tale, my favorite secondary character was, without a doubt, Daniel. Daniel is many things – an inventor, a fighter, a Spirit-Hunter and, a dashingly handsome and infuriating young man. I loved the witty banter between him and Eleanor and their romance was extremely subtle and beautifully written. Perhaps best of all is the fact that their ending is realistic, shockingly bittersweet, and leaves the reader aching for more.

What else can I say about Something Strange and Deadly? It is traditionally a novel about zombies, filled with your usual paranormal and steampunk elements, but it also has a large emphasis on feminism, amongst other themes. I loved the subtle manner in which Dennard managed to weave diversity, social politics, and class hierarchies into this tale and that simply made it all the more richer for me. In addition, while characters such as Clarence Wilcox and Mrs. Fitt, Eleanor’s mother, were not my favorites, I did like the role Clarence played during the novel and Mrs. Fitts’ constant lecturing to Eleanor brought forth many cultural tid-bits of the time period which I thought was a nice touch. Most importantly however, while Dennard’s debut certainly does have its faults, I was able to overlook them and have a truly wonderful time reading this tale. It has quickly become one of my favorites, not only due to its gorgeous cover, but also due to its heart-warming characters who feel like my very own friends. Something Strange and Deadly is, without a doubt, one of the more notable, creative, and original debuts of the year and I cannot wait to get my hands on its sequel to see where this lovely new series is headed. 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Showcase Sunday (#6)

Showcase Sunday is a weekly meme hosted by Vicki at Books, Biscuits and Tea. Its aim is to showcase our newest books or book related swag and to see what everyone else received for review, borrowed from libraries, bought in bookshops and downloaded onto eReaders this week.
For Review:

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I actually finished this one already, despite having only picked it up two nights ago, and I loved it! It was fantastic, so look out for my review of it soon! :)
I can't wait to see what happens in this installment! I've heard fabulous things about it and hope it lives up!
I'll admit it - I broke down and bought this book because all the raving reviews kept haunting me at night. It's true! I'm so curious about this novel, so I figured it's about time my curiosity was sated, don't you agree? ;)

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One of my very close blogging friends actually mentioned this in a comment to one of my reviews and said it was similar to another book I liked and after checking out all the fantastic reviews, I knew I had to get my hands on this one. Plus, the cover is gorgeous!
I have to be honest, I kind of picked this one up because of the cover. *sheepishly hides* But, the synopsis and reviews look very promising, so I hope I'll enjoy this one.
I think this will probably come as a surprise to most of you, but I've never read a Maggie Stiefvater book before. I know, blasphemy! You see, I was completely averse to her Wolves of Mercy Falls Series as I was told it was exactly like Twilight, except more Team Jacob, so of course the warning bells went off and I've avoided Maggie's books like the plague ever since. Until, of course, all the raving reviews of The Raven Boys began trickling in and then I saw another Stiefvater book in the library, so I figured I could still read her without succumbing to the hype of the Wolves of Mercy Fall Series. I have to admit, this one sounds fantastic, so I'm really hoping I like it! *fingers crossed*

What books did you get this week? 
While you're here, why not enter my giveaway and enter for a chance to win a pre-ordered book of your choice? 

Saturday, July 28, 2012

ARC Review: Dark Star by Bethany Frenette

Title: Dark Star 

Author: Bethany Frenette 

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Release Date: October 23rd, 2012 

I think I should start out by saying that, contrary to what you might read, Dark Star is not a superhero novel. I'll say it again: Dark Star is not a superhero novel. At least, not the usual type. When I think superheroes, I tend to think of a scene similar to The Avengers with a bunch of kick-butt people in colorful suits battling evil with their epic skills. Yeah, that scene from The Avengers? It's not there in Dark Star.  In actuality, Dark Star is a novel about a teenage girl who discovers that her world is not quite what she thinks it is. Sounds familiar? It is. Yet, there are a few plot twists in this story that manage to make it shine just a tad bit despite its formulaic-ness. 

Audrey has known she was special ever since she was the little girl. It's hard not to, really, when you're the daughter of Morning Star, the superhero vigilante who saves the city by night and saves her one-mom household by day. But, in addition to that, Audrey has always had her Knowing - abilities that enable her to Know what lies in the past and future and conduct tarot card readings with expertise. (In other words, she's a psychic...more or less.) So, when girls mysteriously begin to disappear in her small town, only to be found dead a few days later with their ankles slashed, she doesn't just know something is wrong, she Knows something is wrong. When Tink, Audrey's best friend, nearly gets kidnapped herself, Audrey takes it upon herself to find out once and for all just what is happening, why her mother isn't putting a stop to it, and just who - or what - she really is.

Yeah, not many superheroes in that synopsis, I know. I actually think I would have enjoyed this novel a lot more if I wasn't expecting it to be a Marvel-comic-book-turned-YA-adventure, so perhaps other readers can avoid the disappointment I felt when I first cracked open the spine of this novel. That being said, Dark Star still has a lot going for it. For one, it was a relatively engaging read and while I thought the world-building came in just a tad bit too late, I really enjoyed Frenette's take on demon lore and the manner in which she explained her world. Furthermore, I think the characters she created were remarkably interesting and I truly loved the lack of a missing-parent syndrome. Morning Star, Audrey's mother, was very much apart of her life and I was thrilled to see that and experience their mother-daughter relationship. In addition, I really have to give Frenette props for the unexpected plot twist at the end. It was something I definitely wasn't expecting and I loved it. 

Nevertheless, despite its many positive aspects, Dark Star had a few qualities that were good, but could have been better. For one, the romance. Leon, Morning Star's sidekick and, as we later find out, Audrey's romantic interest, is one hell of a guy. Not only is he remarkably different from most male protagonists, he is kind, intelligent, kick-butt, and his relationship with Audrey is a firm friendship filled with witty banter. While I loved it, and him, to pieces, I was surprised when their friendship quite unexpectedly turned to romance during the last couple of pages of this story. Up until that point, I had loved the fact that Dark Star had been devoid of romance - no he-stared-into-my-eyes, no he-held-onto-my-hand-for-longer-than-was-strictly-necessary, nothing. Zip, zilch, zero. It was refreshing and put a well-deserved amount of focus onto the scintillating plot, but all that changed suddenly. I was hoping that their road to a love story would be a little more well-developed, especially as I didn't sense any romantic intentions from Leon's side, so I'm holding out for an explanation in the sequel as well as more growth to both their characters. 

In addition to my qualm with the romance, I found I was a tad bit let down by the characters. I loved the cast of secondary characters that graced this novel, from Audrey's best friends Tink and Gideon to her cousins, grandparents, math teacher, and friendly-neighborhood-cop. Yet, I failed to feel a true connection with any of them. Yes, I liked seeing them interact and found them to be interesting and original as they failed to mold into stereotypical roles, but Frenette failed to make me really care, not only for her secondary characters, but for Audrey as well! While I admired Audrey's stubbornness, determination, and her nature in general, I didn't truly feel for her and by the end of this novel, I was left feeling as if I had only gotten a glimpse into her life opposed to a full-fledged novel. I am hoping that this is a simple debutante's error as I have seen more than one author develop their protagonist in later novels as they know their story is a series, but I was still a tad bit disappointed.

Overall, I would not say that Dark Star, is, by any means, a bad read. I found myself to be disappointed with it as it didn't contain the superhero awesomeness it promised and its story was relatively formulaic. However, it was still enjoyable and I'm holding out for a better sequel than debut. Dark Star is the type of novel that I know for a fact a lot of reviewers will gush over, but I'm just not one of them. It reminded me a little too much of City of Bones in some ways, except with less humor, hot guys, kick-ass characters, action, and a different take on demon lore. So, while I have to admit that I liked Clare's take on this paranormal creature much better, Dark Star was still a fascinating mystery to read and I'll be keeping my eye out for the sequel when it releases.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Review: Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally (Flashback Friday #6)

Flashback Friday was originally an idea came up with - or thought I came up with at any rate. Since I'm a new book blogger with dozens of reviews on GoodReads, I thought Flashback Friday would be a great way to feature some of my older reviews on my blog. However, it turns out that there are tons of different bloggers out there who feature a Flashback Friday of their own. So, I am taking ideas from two such bloggers - Clean Teen Fiction and Skyla11377 - and meshing them together to create my own version of Flashback Friday - a version which features some of my favorite books from the past year and provides a review for them. You don't have to be a new blogger to participate in Flashback Friday though. This is simply an opportunity to showcase novels we've read in the past and enjoyed, even if there is no written review for it, so feel free to grab my button or make your own and participate! :)

Today's Flashback Friday Pick: Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally
I picked this novel to review this week for a couple of reasons, but mostly because I've been pining after the companion novel to this story, Stealing Parker, so I figured I'd make you all pine with me! ;)

Title: Catching Jordan 

Author: Miranda Kenneally 

Rating: 4/5 Stars 

Catching Jordan was the perfect mix of just about everything! It was a cute and utterly fun read that had me rooting for Jordan and Henry the wholee way through. Yes, even before Ty came into the picture. 

Jordan is THE tom-boy. Her father is a major league football player and she herself is the captain of the football team. You'd think this would make her the ladies man; yet, despite being beautiful, she's never been kissed. The closest she's ever been with a guy is Henry, her best friend for the past ten years. When Ty, a new quarterback from Texas moves in, Jordan can't help but feel attracted to his lazy smile and Chace Crawford looks. But why can't Jordan let herself be with Ty? Why is her life, that used to be so perfect, spiraling out of control? That too just days before the biggest match of her life?

I loved Jordan. Although she was brave and strong, her break downs felt utterly relate-able and her decisions were realistic. I loved her evolving relationship with just about everyone - her parents, her team mates, other girls at school, Ty, and, of course, Henry. There was a lot of chemistry in this book - not the scientific kind, but not the romantic type either. There was chemistry with her friendships - the ease she had with her team mates, yet the difficulty she had in truly confiding to them. There was chemistry with her class mates - girls who she never really spoke to but came to trust and confide in. There was chemistry with her parents - her father who had never encouraged her to pursue football but finally found a way to express his love for her. Of course, there was also chemistry with Ty, her boyfriend, but more than that, there was chemistry with Henry, her best friend. An easy and friendly relationship that blossomed into something more without Jordan even realizing.

I think the best part of this book was the lack of a love triangle. Yes, there were two amazing guys in Jordan's life, but she chose who she wanted to be with pretty quickly. No long, drawn out drama. The difficulties came in overcoming hurdles to be with the guy she loved. That type of romance is so hard to come by in a society where YA Fiction is all about lust driven protagonists who want two guys at the same time. Not only that, but how can you not love the typical best friend romance? Kenneally writes from a fresh, realistic point of view that was fun and easy to read, yet managed to break your heart as well. Also, she managed to make me love football - a feat that half a dozen gym teachers and years of skipping the SuperBowl have failed to do(;

I devoured Catching Jordan in one sitting and I would do it again in a heartbeat. Needless to say, I'm eagerly awaiting the two companion novels to this one. If you're looking for something fun and easy to read with love-able characters and a heart-wrenching love story, Catching Jordan is the book for you!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Review: Blood Red Road by Moira Young

Title: Blood Red Road 

Author: Moira Young 

Rating: 4/5 Stars

I am easily amongst one of the last people to have read Blood Red Road and while I was worried that my expectations would not be fulfilled, Young proved that my worries were baseless. Not only were my expectations exceeded, I was also rewarded with the thought that my wait for the sequel of this fantastic debut would be far less than that of anyone else. While Blood Red Road remains to be a dystopian novel like any other with a protagonist embarking on an epic journey, its true beauty lies in its creative writing style, realistic quality, and fleshed-out characters. I have thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself in this brutal, but rich, world and am already counting down the days till the release of Rebel Heart.

In the distant future that Saba resides in, her entire life has been spent in isolation with her family. Yet, Saba has never felt deprived of company as long as she has her twin brother, Lugh, and her wearied father, who claims to read the future in the stars, by her side. But, when Saba’s father is murdered and Lugh kidnapped by four mysterious horsemen, Saba’s life is turned upside down. Now, she must embark on a journey with her younger sister, Emmi, to find and reclaim her brother before his life is in mortal danger. Yet, most surprising of all, will be the strength Saba finds within herself and more than that, a heart where she previously thought there was none.

Blood Red Road has received a lot of mixed reviews ever since its release. While there have been gushing and adoring fans, there have also, in equal part, been repulsed readers. Why? Blood Red Road is written in a dialect that takes awhile to understand, yet, it perfectly embodies the culture and state of this future civilization where books are practically non-existent and education is a thing of legend. Furthermore, Blood Red Road  lacks quotations marks but this, like the purposeful dialect, only further renders the reader into the true mindset of its protagonist, Saba.

Saba is a tough character to like – she’s rude to those who try to help her, she is never grateful for what she has, and most heart-breaking, she is impossibly mean to her younger sister. Yet, for all her feral nature, Saba loves her brother very dearly and it is this love for him that propels her onwards to some of the most difficult and dangerous tasks she will face. I loved not only getting to know Saba and getting inside her head, I also loved watching her grow. Young’s development of Saba’s character was realistic to a point where I simply have to admire her writing style. While Saba may have had one or two moments of shining kindness where the reader thought she was changing for the good, Young proved that true change took longer than that and made Saba resort to her usual snippy self and bury herself in her cloak of indifference. So, while Saba took two steps backward for every one step she took forward, I truly enjoyed reading her flawed character and her struggles to become a better person only made her perfect in my eyes.

While I liked the pacing of this one immensely, I found that it was the sibling relationships, unlikely friendships, strange compromises, and inexplicable romances that made this novel shine. Saba’s relationship with Emmi was easily my favorite as it was heart-warming while managing to be realistic. Furthermore, we were able to not only see Saba’s growth, but Emmi’s too as she grew into a strong and courageous girl. In addition, Saba’s unlikely friendship with the Free Hawks was extremely compelling. I’ll just come out and say it – the Free Hawks are every woman’s dream. I think we all aspire to be headstrong women who can support one another and be there for each other and that is exactly who these women are. While we got to know specific Free Hawks such as Epona, Ash, and Maev more personally than the group as a whole, I admire the simple idea of their group itself. Furthermore, I loved the friendships that Saba sustained with these remarkable people as well.

For all my gushing about relationships, the true one that demands to be highlighted is that between Jack, a charming traveler, and Saba. I’ll admit it – I was skeptical about these two at first. While Jack and Saba’s relationship seems to originally stem from a bout of insta-love, Young makes it work as Saba is as confused by the emergence of her feelings towards Jack as the reader is. Furthermore, despite the chemistry these two feel together, their true relationship grows through conversation, understanding, and a deep-seated mutual respect for one another. In addition, Jack isn’t afraid to point out Saba’s flaws when everyone else is. Together, they make each other better people and I was rooting for their romance (and make-out scenes) the whole way through.

Blood Red Road is simply one heck of an adventure. It barely leaves you with any room to catch your breath and its cast of secondary characters is almost better than the scintillating plotline itself. Plus, this novel contains a set of villains who are not only truly evil, but they are clever as well! While I hated these villains with a passion, I could not help but love what they brought to this story and while Blood Red Road is quite nicely wrapped up, there are still plenty of loose threads to pick up on in the sequel. So, all in all, this is one book you simply cannot miss. It’s a dystopian that demands to be read with characters you won’t want to say good-bye to. I am eagerly awaiting the sequel with bated breath and hope against hope that Moira Young will, once again, exceed my expectations of her writing and deliver a follow-up even more stunning than her debut!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Review: Hunting Lila by Sarah Alderson

Title: Hunting Lila 

Author: Sarah Alderson 

Rating: 3/5 Stars

I’ll admit it – I wound up liking Hunting Lila against my better judgment. Alderson’s novel is one filled with heart-pounding action, creativity, vibrant characters, plot twists, a thrilling pace,  and a plot that nicely holds the whole story together, yet I could not bring myself to love it. While I admired the originality behind the story and can’t wait to see what will happen in the sequel, my issues with the main character wound up trumping over most of the positives, leaving me unable to give this novel the 4 or 5 Stars it deserves for every other aspect of it.

When Lila nearly gets mugged on the streets of London and winds up using her special abilities to move objects to keep herself alive, she knows she a lot more dangerous than she thought. Thus, Lila moves to California to live with her older brother, Jack, and best friend, Alex, who she’s been massively crushing on for seventeen years. Little does Lila know though, that she may have gone from the frying pan, straight into the fire. Jack and Alex are Marines and are currently handling a dangerous case – one that has to do with the murder and death of Lila’s mother. Lila soon realizes however, just how life-threatening her brother’s job can be and the next life on the line just might be hers.

I’ll cut straight to the chase – I couldn’t stand Lila. Even from the first page of the novel, I felt like smacking her. I know. I usually don’t judge characters by my initial impressions of them and while I did grow to grudgingly have some respect for Lila, I still found that she annoyed me to no extent. Why? Alex. For a little more than the first half of the novel, the only thing on Lila’s mind is Alex, the guy she’s had a crush on since she was five years old. If we’re not getting long and detailed descriptions of his killer good looks, we’re being treated to what Lila wishes would happen between them, her insecurities over him having a girlfriend, and her jealousy crises. In fact, Lila is so obsessed with Alex that she worries about leaving California since she doesn’t think she can bear living far away from him and is constantly coming up with ways to fall into him or injure herself so that she has an excuse to touch him and vice versa. As the reader, Lila’s narration simply began to get too annoying. While she did occasionally think about more pressing issues such as the fact that her mother’s murderers were on the loose or that she had an ability she couldn’t control, her thoughts mostly revolved around Alex.

Unfortunately, I really do know girls like Lila, so I’m not saying her response isn’t unrealistic, but I think it is unrealistic for a seventeen-year-old girl who hasn’t seen her crush for nearly three years to still have such intense feelings for him. In my experience, teenage girls tend to move on within three years and even if they don’t, even if by some chance they do harbor long-lasting feelings for the same guy, I think their emotions would run a little deeper than Lila’s do.

I’m a sucker for best friend romances, but the one between Lila and Alex felt artificial at best. Alex winds up falling in love with Lila the day she gets back from London – or, in other words, three years after he last saw or was in any type of contact with her. I don’t know about you, but to me that was a huge red flag waving, “love-at-first-sight, not realistic, insta-love!” Not only that, but he’s only in love with her for a matter of days before he’s telling her brother to “deal” with their “love.” Essentially, Alex was willing to potentially jeopardize his friendship with his best friend for a girl he was only in love with for days. I’m not saying Alex shouldn’t have fought for the right to date Lila – by all means, he should. But to do that at a time when lives were in danger and when he had only recently realized his affection for Lila? I think not.

Furthermore, another issue that really grated on me was Lila’s relationship with her brother Jack. While it is evident that they aren’t very close, although Jack loves and cares for her dearly, I thought that Lila brushed aside her brother for Alex more than was strictly necessary or normal. First of all, it should be established that I think of Lila’s affections for Alex as being an obsessive school-girl crush. I don’t really think she loves Alex or vice versa and if they do, it’s the type of love teenagers tell each other is “forever” and isn’t. So, with that being said, I found it extremely odd and shocking really that Lila was always more concerned about Alex than Jack. I understand that the love between a sibling and the “love of your life” is obviously very different, but shouldn’t Lila at least be equally worried about her brother? I mean, he is risking his life for her! Hell, if Christian Bale were the love of my life and my brother’s life was in danger I’d run after my brother first and then check up on Christian Bale! Well, that and Christian Bale can take care of himself with the Batman alter-ego and what-not, but still.

In addition to that, I simply felt as if the bonds between these three were so weak. Lila, Jack, and Alex are supposed to have grown up together. Usually, this creates some kind of connection, but all I got was that Alex and Jack were best friends, Alex and Lila were supposedly in love, and Lila supposedly cared for her older brother. So, while I was told all of this in the novel, I was never really shown it. In fact, there were little to no actions that really convinced me that Alex and Lila loved each other. Cared? Yes. Loved? Give me a break. So, while I inherently knew that these three were close, I never really saw them interact much as a trio and never felt a bond or connection to any of them – not even to Lila, the narrator. I was concerned about Lila’s death, but only because if she died I wouldn’t know what happened next, so I hardly think that counts. 

All those qualms aside, I still somehow liked this book. I know – shocking! Hunting Lila is written with a strangely addictive quality in mind. It’s extremely hard to put down, fast-paced, and you constantly want to know what’s going to happen next. Furthermore, I loved the creativity of the plot idea and the multiple plot twists that were thrown into the end really sealed the deal for me on this novel. Plus, the secondary characters beyond Lila, Alex, and Jack were rather likeable and I loved the crew of characters introduced to us within the last 15-20% of this story.

Overall, Hunting Lila was a quick and original novel that I just couldn’t put down. While I had a plethora of qualms with its protagonist, the romance, and the main characters, I loved the plot, pacing, and cast of secondary characters that graced this story. I really hope Lila matures up, realizes the seriousness of some of the situations she’s in, and becomes more kick-ass in the sequel because if one thing is certain it is that I will definitely be reading it! 

Waiting on Wednesday (#6)

Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. This meme highlights some of the books whose releases bloggers are most anticipating this year.

The book whose release I am most excited for this week is...

Author: Daniel Waters
Release Date: October 16th, 2012
Living in the aftermath of the Event means that seeing the dead is now a part of life, but Veronica wishes that the ghosts would just move on. Instead, the ghosts aren’t disappearing—they’re gaining power. When Veronica and her friend, Kirk, decide to investigate why, they stumble upon a more sinister plot than they ever could have imagined. One of Veronica’s high school teachers is crippled by the fact that his dead daughter has never returned as a ghost, and he’s haunted by the possibility that she’s waiting to reappear within a fresh body. Veronica seems like the perfect host. And even if he’s wrong, what’s the harm in creating one more ghost? From critically acclaimed Generation Dead author Daniel Waters, comes a delectably creepy and suspenseful thriller. Break My Heart 1,000 Times will leave readers with the chills. Or is that a ghost reading over the page?
I'll be the first to admit that I am terrified of horror movies, but I love a deliciously well-written horror story - I know, it makes no sense, but somehow imagining horrors are a lot less scary than seeing them for some reason. Break My Heart 1,000 Times has an alluring (and terrifying) cover that is not only eye-catching due to the bold title print, but also because of the haunting tally marks that scourge the background. Its synopsis only goes to further make me shiver in my seat as this novel  not only includes ghosts, investigations, and sinister plots, but murder as well. I'm sitting on the edge of my seat just thinking about how amazing this story has the potential to be and I am already counting down the days till October 16th! :) 

Extra Mention! I thought I'd calm your quaking nerves with a fun and interesting story, also about ghosts, but on the more bright side of these paranormal creatures! While I'm not anticipating the release of this novel as much as Break My Heart 1,000 Times (which reminds me, isn't that title gorgeous? It just makes me more curious about the story!), I'm still anticipating the enjoyment that this novel is sure to bring!

Title: The Dead Girls Detective Agency 
Author: Suzy Cox 
Release Date: September 18th, 2012
When Charlotte comes to after being pushed onto the subway tracks, she is informed by a group of teenage girls that she is dead…they all are. Meet the Dead Girls Detective Agency. With the support of these dynamic girls—including fashionable Lorna, who can’t wait to find out if the devil actually wears Prada, and nerdy Nancy, who insists on staying in limbo to help out other girls—Charlotte follows leads and tracks down clues to solve her own murder. With plenty of juicy mysteries and some pretty cute guys, readers are sure to fall in love with this fun and suspenseful page-turner! Fans of Meg Cabot, Sara Shepard, and Ally Carter will delight in this exciting new paperback original.
Well, what are you waiting on this Wednesday? ;) While you're here, don't forget to stop by and enter my international giveaway for a chance to win a pre-ordered copy of a book of your choice! You can enter here. Good Luck! 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

150 Follower Giveaway!

I can't believe I've already reached 150 Followers! I remember starting out and thinking I'd be happy if just five people followed me, and now with 150 Followers I can't even express my shock and immense gratitude! :)

Thus, I am hosting a massive giveaway for you all! You can chose one of the following books to be pre-ordered for you via The Book Depository. This giveaway is international and to enter, you simply need to be a GFC Follower and fill out the Rafflecopter below. Good Luck! :)
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To Enter Giveaway: 
Fill out Rafflecopter below
Must be 13 years or older
Giveaway ends August 21, 2012 
Open Internationally
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