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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Stacking the Shelves (8) and Vlog (5)

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews to showcase any books that I have received for review, bought, borrowed, or won to read.

This month has been hellishly busy and stressful for me, but I still somehow found the time to make a quick vlog to update on the books I have received these past few weeks:

For Review:
Pantomime by Laura Lam (Thanks to Strange Chemistry!)
The Holders by Julianna Scott (Thanks to Strange Chemistry!)
City of a Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster (Thanks to HarperCollins Canada!)

The Evolution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin (Thanks to Sara of Just Another Story!)

Bought Used:
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

After this weekend, I will be taking a wee break from blogging for the holidays, but will still be reachable by email, twitter, and facebook. Happy Holidays and see you in 2013!!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

2012 End of Year Book Survey

Hi! It's that time of the year again - the End of Year Book Survey hosted by Jamie at The Perpetual Page-Turner! I participated in it last year, as well, and it was a lot of fun.

1. Best book(s) you read in 2012?
The Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness, The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling, Blood Red Road by Moira Young, and Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor. I loved these books for pretty much the same reason: while they were all emotionally taxing books, the payoff was SO worth it - gorgeous writing, unforgettable characters, and truly powerful messages are present in all three.

Worst book read in 2012:
Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James - I read this book on a dare... I mean, what can I say that hasn't already been said? Never have I done so much eye-rolling while reading before. And as for the egotistical and misogynistic sadist, Christian Grey? I would rather make out with a Dementor.

2. Book You Were Excited About and Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?
I thought I was going to love Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin and Black City by Elizabeth Richards (probably based on the covers, not going to lie), but the characters annoyed the crap out of me.

3. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2012?
No one does surprise twists like Beth Revis in her Across the Universe Trilogy.

4. Book you recommended to people most in 2012?
Probably the Chaos Walking Trilogy and The Casual Vacancy.

5. Best series you discovered in 2012?
The Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy by Laini Taylor and the Dust Lands Trilogy by Moira Young. Can't believe I didn't read these sooner!

6. Favorite new authors you discovered in 2012?
Ditto: Laini Taylor and Moira Young.

7. Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?
I ventured into the world of contemporary issue books with What Happens Next by Colleen Clayton... and actually really loved it and its emotional impact. Ditto to The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay, which I am reading now.

8. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2012?
Blood Red Road by Moira Young! Did not want that book to end.

9. Book You Read In 2012 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?
I don't have any planned at the moment, but if I do I will probably reread books whose sequels are coming out next year to reacquaint myself with the story.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2012?
I'm all for gorgeous, distinctive fonts, a hint of the setting, and no characters on my covers!

11. Most memorable character in 2012?
Charlie from The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky - I just adored him, his awkwardness, his sensitivity, and his thoughtfulness.

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2012?
Same as my answer for Best Books of 2012: the Chaos Walking Trilogy, The Casual Vacancy, Blood Red Road, and Days of Blood and Starlight - That's why I loved them so!

13. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2012?
The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling. This book made me feel ALL THE FEELINGS and really made me rethink how I view certain things and people. It was an excellent social commentary. And I am still reeling from that ending.

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2012 to finally read?
Blood Red Road by Moira Young and Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor.

15. Favourite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2012?
"We accept the love we think we deserve." - The Perks of Being a Wallflower

16. Shortest and Longest Book You Read In 2012?
Shortest: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (213 Pages)
Longest: Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness (608 Pages)

17. Book That Had A Scene In It That Had You Reeling And Dying To Talk To Somebody About It? (a WTF moment, an epic revelation, a steamy kiss, etc. etc.) Be careful of spoilers!
Days of Blood and Starlight had a lot of those!

18. Favourite Relationship From A Book You Read In 2012 (be it romantic, friendship, etc)?
Well, Maddie and Verity from Code Name Verity obviously! What a beautiful poignant friendship they had. Also, the friendship between Krystal Weedon and Sukhvinder Jawanda from The Casual Vacancy comes to mind for some reason. It was such an unexpected friendship, and yet, a powerful one.

19. Favourite Book You Read in 2012 From An Author You Read Previously?
The last two books in the Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness (I read the first one in 2011) and The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling.

20. Best Book You Read That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else?
Okay, I'm starting to sound like a broken record here, but you get the idea: the Chaos Walking Trilogy, Blood Red Road, the Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy.

Looking Ahead...
1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2012 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2013?
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo and Cinder by Marissa Meyer. Also, I really need to read John Green's books and Melina Marchetta's...

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2013?
I'm definitely looking forward to some hotly anticipated sequels: Shades of Earth by Beth Revis, Requiem by Lauren Oliver, Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare, and Divergent #3 by Veronica Roth, among others.

3. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging In 2013?
Well, I hope to return to school in 2013 (I am applying to grad school to get my Master's Degree at the moment), so I have no doubt that my reading and blogging will go down in amount for the latter half of 2013 if I am accepted, but I do hope to keep up a good pace despite that. Also, I think I said this last year as well and it didn't really happen, but I would like to not get so caught up in the newest, hottest releases of 2013 and completely forget about the books I had sworn I'd read before. There are a ton of older books on my TBR that need some love, too!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Review: Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo

Publisher: Random House
Published: December 11, 2012
Pages: 256
Source: For Review from Random House
Rating: 4 Stars

Love is awkward, Amelia should know.
From the moment she sets eyes on Chris, she is a goner. Lost. Sunk. Head over heels infatuated with him. It's problematic, since Chris, 21, is a sophisticated university student, while Amelia, is 15.
Amelia isn't stupid. She knows it's not gonna happen. So she plays it cool around Chris—at least, as cool as she can. Working checkout together at the local supermarket, they strike up a friendship: swapping life stories, bantering about everything from classic books to B movies, and cataloging the many injustices of growing up. As time goes on, Amelia's crush doesn't seem so one-sided anymore. But if Chris likes her back, what then? Can two people in such different places in life really be together?

In short: Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo is an entertaining read that is refreshing in its simplicity.
Who knew I could be kept so entertained with a book in which nothing much happens? Love and Other Perishable Items is a book about the day-to-day life of 15-year-old Amelia working part-time as a cashier in a grocery store and crushing on her 21-year-old coworker, Chris. Sometimes it’s perfectly nice and refreshing to read something so normal and inconsequential – especially since I read Love and Other Perishable Items right after finishing a particularly intense and heavy book.

Laura Buzo has created a vibrant cast of fun characters in Love and Other Perishable Items. I found Amelia to be incredibly endearing and quite sensible for her age. And it was not hard to see why she falls so hard for the charming Chris, who treats her as no guy has ever treated her before – but is interested in girls who are completely different from her. I could totally relate to Amelia’s frustrations that Chris only ever seems interested in girls who either have no substance or who don’t return his interest. But despite Chris’ sometimes douchey moments and despite their age difference, I still found that I was rooting for Amelia and Chris to work out some way to be together. Laura Buzo handles the situation expertly and I thought the ending was perfect in its realism.

Love and Other Perishable Items is told through a dual narrative – a sort of he-said she-said manner of storytelling in which Amelia gets her side of the story told and then we hear the same exact events again, but told through Chris’ journal entries this time. So not only does nothing remarkable ever happen in the plot, but we get to hear these unremarkable plot points told twice – and it was somehow still entertaining! I thought that was impressive. Laura Buzo has a sort of subtle humour in her writing that is fun to read and makes Love and Other Perishable Items compulsively readable.

Overall, though there was nothing particularly profound about Love and Other Perishable Items, that’s okay because there doesn’t need to be and it was still an enjoyable read anyway.

Other Reviews:
A Girl, Books and Other Things
Midnight Bloom Reads
Xpresso Reads

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Waiting On Wednesday: Macmillan Winter 2013 Catalog

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill of Breaking The Spine in which an upcoming, eagerly anticipated release is highlighted on the blog.

This week, I've chosen to feature a few picks from the Macmillan Winter 2013 Catalog:

Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick
Imprint: Roaring Book Press
Date: February 5, 2013
Add to Goodreads

Seven stories of passion and love separated by centuries but mysteriously intertwined—this is a tale of horror and beauty, tenderness and sacrifice.
An archaeologist who unearths a mysterious artifact, an airman who finds himself far from home, a painter, a ghost, a vampire, and a Viking: the seven stories in this compelling novel all take place on the remote Scandinavian island of Blessed where a curiously powerful plant that resembles a dragon grows. What binds these stories together? What secrets lurk beneath the surface of this idyllic countryside? And what might be powerful enough to break the cycle of midwinterblood? This is a book about passion and preservation and ultimately an exploration of the bounds of love.

I absolutely love books like this one that take place over centuries, telling different stories that are somehow intertwined. Midwinterblood sounds unique and intriguing!

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Imprint: St. Martin's Press
Date: March 5, 2013
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"Bono met his wife in high school," Park says.
"So did Jerry Lee Lewis," Eleanor answers.
"I’m not kidding," he says.
"You should be," she says, "we’re sixteen."
"What about Romeo and Juliet?"
"Shallow, confused, then dead."
''I love you," Park says.
"Wherefore art thou," Eleanor answers.
"I’m not kidding," he says.
"You should be."
Set over the course of one school year in 1986, ELEANOR AND PARK is the story of two star-crossed misfits – smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love – and just how hard it pulled you under.

Okay, first off: this cover is awesome. I love how their headphones form part of the text. Second off: Rainbow is an interesting name. And third off: The dialogue in Eleanor & Park seems fun and I can't wait to read it!

The Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett
Imprint: Tor Teen
Date: March 5, 2013
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Sixteen-year-old Dusty Everhart breaks into houses late at night, but not because she’s a criminal. No, she’s a Nightmare.
Being the only Nightmare at Arkwell Academy, a boarding school for magickind, and living in the shadow of her mother’s infamy, is hard enough. But when Dusty sneaks into Eli Booker’s house, things get a whole lot more complicated. He’s hot, which means sitting on his chest and invading his dreams couldn’t get much more embarrassing. But it does. Eli is dreaming of a murder.
Then Eli's dream comes true.
Now Dusty has to follow the clues—both within Eli’s dreams and out of them—to stop the killer before more people turn up dead. And before the killer learns what she’s up to and marks her as the next target.

As if the prospect of a magical boarding school weren't enough to entice me, the fact that the protagonist is a Nightmare is really intriguing and a definite motivation for me to read The Nightmare Affair. That, and this cover is gorgeous!

Unremembered by Jessica Brody
Imprint: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux (BYR)
Date: March 5, 2013
Add to Goodreads

The only thing worse than forgetting her past... is remembering it.
When Freedom Airlines flight 121 went down over the Pacific Ocean, no one ever expected to find survivors. Which is why the sixteen-year-old girl discovered floating among the wreckage—alive—is making headlines across the globe.
Even more strange is that her body is miraculously unharmed and she has no memories of boarding the plane. She has no memories of her life before the crash. She has no memories period. No one knows how she survived. No one knows why she wasn’t on the passenger manifest. And no one can explain why her DNA and fingerprints can’t be found in a single database in the world.
Crippled by a world she doesn’t know, plagued by abilities she doesn’t understand, and haunted by a looming threat she can’t remember, Seraphina struggles to piece together her forgotten past and discover who she really is. But with every clue only comes more questions. And she’s running out of time to answer them.
Her only hope is a strangely alluring boy who claims to know her from before the crash. Who claims they were in love. But can she really trust him? And will he be able to protect her from the people who have been making her forget?

LOST is one of my favourite TV shows so of course I am curious and excited to read Unremembered, as there is an obvious similarity between the two. Moreover, I really enjoy psychological mysteries and this one sounds like a good one!

How about you? Are you waiting on any of these Macmillan Winter 2013 reads? Are there any upcoming books from the Macmillan Winter 2013 Catalog that I didn't include here that you feel I should add to my list?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Review: Days of Blood and Starlight (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #2) by Laini Taylor

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Published: November 6, 2012
Pages: 528
Source: For Review from Hachette Book Group Canada
Rating: 5 Stars

Art student and monster's apprentice Karou finally has the answers she has always sought. She knows who she is—and what she is. But with this knowledge comes another truth she would give anything to undo: She loved the enemy and he betrayed her, and a world suffered for it.
In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Karou must decide how far she'll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, secrets and impossible choices, Days of Blood & Starlight finds Karou and Akiva on opposing sides as an age-old war stirs back to life.
While Karou and her allies build a monstrous army in a land of dust and starlight, Akiva wages a different sort of battle: a battle for redemption. For hope.
But can any hope be salvaged from the ashes of their broken dream?

In short: Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor was not an easy, light read - but it was absolutely a meaningful and powerful one.
Oof. Days of Blood and Starlight was not an easy read by any means. It took me a fair bit longer to get through than a book of its size would normally take (and it's quite a thick book as is). Now that's not to say that I didn't LOVE this book because as you can see by my 5 Star rating, I absolutely did, but it was emotionally draining and HEAVY. But the good kind of emotionally draining and heavy. The kind that is meaningful and worthwhile and powerful - a lot like my favourite non-HP series, Chaos Walking, which also contained some pretty serious themes involving the side-effects of war.

So yes, while Days of Blood and Starlight is not a book that you can easily breeze through, it was SO worth it. There are several reasons why it took me a while to work my way through the text: it's partly because there are a lot of different POVs in this book to keep track of (and some of these perspectives are from previously unknown characters), partly because Laini Taylor weaves these deliciously complex sentences that you just want to read over and over again, and partly because of the aforementioned dark and heavy subject matter. But I don't want people to assume that because this book was so long, the pacing must have been slow, because I don't feel that's the case - I was never bored while reading Days of Blood and Starlight. Just as with its predecessor, I was ENTHRALLED.

And as much as I enjoyed Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I have to say that I loved Days of Blood and Starlight even more, which is something that rarely happens to me with sequels in trilogies. This is because I was not a huge fan of the romance in Daughter of Smoke and Bone, which I felt was a little superficial and not developed enough. This was not an issue with Days of Blood and Starlight, but I won't say why so as to avoid spoilers. Let's just say I was completely satisfied with Karou's new realization and attitude - she admits how rash she was in her prior decisions and that alone is enough to get me to consider going back and rerating Daughter of Smoke and Bone as 5 Stars rather than 4.

And speaking of Karou - for I have not given her nearly as much love in this review yet as she deserves - she is AWESOME. Oh Karou. Poor Karou! She has to deal with so much in this story, some real difficult situations, and for a lot of these situations, she's alone with no one on her side. And it made me sad because she is such a wonderful person and she deserves happiness! But she does not break; she hardens and endures. She does what she can for the survival of the chimaera. And thankfully she does get to see some of her friends again and it was such a relief! The inclusion of Zuzanna and Mik, especially, was a welcome one as they provided some much needed light-hearted hilarity among so much darkness.

Overall, Days of Blood and Starlight was definitely one of my favourite reads of 2012 and Laini Taylor has secured her place as one of my favourite authors. I can't get over what a talented wordsmith she is! I am in awe of her beyond beautiful writing, her ability at crafting complex plotlines and surprise twists, and her brilliantly insane creativity. Read this series!

Previously, my review of Daughter of Smoke and Bone.

Other Reviews:
For What It's Worth
Nori's Closet
Wishful Thinking

Authors Links:

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Waiting On Wednesday: Random House Winter 2013 Catalog

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill of Breaking The Spine in which an upcoming, eagerly anticipated release is highlighted on the blog.

This week, I've chosen to feature a few picks from the Random House Winter 2013 Catalog:

Pantomime by Laura Lam
Imprint: Strange Chemistry
Date: February 5, 2013
Add to Goodreads

R. H. Ragona’s Circus of Magic is the greatest circus of Ellada. Nestled among the glowing blue Penglass—remnants of a mysterious civilisation long gone—are wonders beyond the wildest imagination. It’s a place where anything seems possible, where if you close your eyes you can believe that the magic and knowledge of the vanished Chimaera is still there. It’s a place where anyone can hide.
Iphigenia Laurus, or Gene, the daughter of a noble family, is uncomfortable in corsets and crinoline, and prefers climbing trees to debutante balls. Micah Grey, a runaway living on the streets, joins the circus as an aerialist’s apprentice and soon becomes the circus’s rising star.
But Gene and Micah have balancing acts of their own to perform, and a secret in their blood that could unlock the mysteries of Ellada.

This all sounds seriously good to me: a fantasy world, a Circus of Magic, a tomboy protagonist, and mysteries to unlock. I can't wait to delve into the imaginative world of Pantomime!

Revel by Maurissa Guibord
Imprint: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Date: February 12, 2013
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There’s an island off the coast of Maine that’s not on any modern map.
Shrouded in mist and protected by a deadly reef, Trespass Island is home to a community of people who guard the island and its secrets from outsiders. Seventeen-year-old Delia grew up in Kansas, but has come here in search of her family and answers to her questions: Why didn’t her mother ever talk about Trespass Island? Why did she fear the open water? But Delia’s not welcome and soon finds herself enmeshed in a frightening and supernatural world where ancient Greek symbols adorn the buildings and secret ceremonies take place on the beach at night.
Sean Gunn, a handsome young lobsterman, befriends Delia and seems willing to risk his life to protect her. But it’s Jax, the coldly elusive young man she meets at the water’s edge, who finally makes Delia understand the real dangers of life on the island. Delia is going to have to fight to survive. Because there are monsters here. And no one ever leaves Trespass alive.

Trespass is one ominous sounding island. To say I am intrigued with the goings on of Trespass Island is putting it mildly. Revel sounds like a very interesting read!

Dualed by Elsie Chapman
Imprint: Random House Books for Young Readers
Date: February 26, 2013
Add to Goodreads

You or your Alt? Only one will survive.
The city of Kersh is a safe haven, but the price of safety is high. Everyone has a genetic Alternate—a twin raised by another family—and citizens must prove their worth by eliminating their Alts before their twentieth birthday. Survival means advanced schooling, a good job, marriage—life.
Fifteen-year-old West Grayer has trained as a fighter, preparing for the day when her assignment arrives and she will have one month to hunt down and kill her Alt. But then a tragic misstep shakes West’s confidence. Stricken with grief and guilt, she’s no longer certain that she’s the best version of herself, the version worthy of a future. If she is to have any chance of winning, she must stop running not only from her Alt, but also from love . . . though both have the power to destroy her.
Elsie Chapman's suspenseful YA debut weaves unexpected romance into a novel full of fast-paced action and thought-provoking philosophy. When the story ends, discussions will begin about this future society where every adult is a murderer and every child knows there is another out there who just might be better.

How awesome is the concept for Dualed?! I mean, in real life it would really suck to live in a world where you have to kill your Alt to prove your worth or else be killed, but as a book it should be an exciting read.

The Holders by Julianna Scott
Imprint: Strange Chemistry
Date: March 5, 2013
Add to Goodreads

17-year-old Becca spent her whole life protecting her brother from, well, everything. The abandonment of their father, the so called 'experts' who insist that voices in his head are unnatural and must be dealt with, and the constant threat of being taken away to some hospital and studied like an animal. When two representatives appear claiming to have the answers to Ryland's perceived problem, Becca doesn't buy it for one second. That is until they seem to know things about Ryland and about Becca and Ryland's family, that forces Becca to concede that there may be more to these people than meets the eye. Though still highly skeptical, Becca agrees to do what's best for Ryland.
What they find at St. Brigid's is a world beyond their imagination. Little by little they piece together the information of their family's heritage, their estranged Father, and the legend of the Holder race that decrees Ryland is the one they've been waiting for. However, they are all--especially Becca--in for a surprise that will change what they thought they knew about themselves and their kind.
She meets Alex, a Holder who is fiercely loyal to their race, and for some reason, Becca and Ryland. There's an attraction between Becca and Alex that can't be denied, but her true nature seems destined to keep them apart. However, certain destinies may not be as clear cut as everyone has always believed them to be.
Becca is lost, but found at the same time. Can she bring herself to leave Ryland now that he's settled and can clearly see his future? Will she be able to put the the feelings she has for Alex aside and head back to the US? And can Becca and Ryland ever forgive their father for what he's done?

Since its inception, Strange Chemistry has been putting out consistently great books with unique and interesting premises, and The Holders is no different. I really love that family seems to play an important role in this one. This should be good!

How about you? Are you waiting on any of these Random House Winter 2013 reads? Are there any upcoming books from the Random House Winter 2013 Catalog that I didn't include here that you feel I should add to my list?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Review: Carnival of Souls by Melissa Marr

Publisher: HarperCollins
Published: September 4, 2012
Pages: 306
Source: Traded with Stories & Sweeties
Rating: 2.5 Stars

In a city of daimons, rigid class lines separate the powerful from the power-hungry. And at the heart of The City is the Carnival of Souls, where both murder and pleasure are offered up for sale. Once in a generation, the carnival hosts a deadly competition that allows every daimon a chance to join the ruling elite. Without the competition, Aya and Kaleb would both face bleak futures--if for different reasons. For each of them, fighting to the death is the only way to try to live.
All Mallory knows of The City is that her father--and every other witch there--fled it for a life in exile in the human world. Instead of a typical teenage life full of friends and maybe even a little romance, Mallory scans quiet streets for threats, hides herself away, and trains to be lethal. She knows it's only a matter of time until a daimon finds her and her father, so she readies herself for the inevitable. While Mallory possesses little knowledge of The City, every inhabitant of The City knows of her. There are plans for Mallory, and soon she, too, will be drawn into the decadence and danger that is the Carnival of Souls.

In short: Carnival of Souls by Melissa Marr has a ton of potential, but is unfortunately bogged down with an exposition-heavy story that lacks in action and character development.
Creating dark and gritty fantasy worlds is something that Melissa Marr excels at. Her books tend to have these really sinister atmospheres that make for edgy and dangerous stories. And Carnival of Souls is no exception. Enter the world of the carnival in which cage fighting matches and masked seduction occur in equal parts. Transitioning between two different worlds - the normal human world and the parallel daimon realm - and four different characters perspectives, Carnival of Souls has a lot going on and a lot of potential.

Unfortunately, I didn't feel like the concept and premise of Carnival of Souls was used to its full potential. What should've been a dangerous and exciting read was more often slow and boring. I blame the crux of this problem on the poor world building. Melissa Marr has created a wonderfully complex world, but it is the execution of the set-up of this world that was lacking: a good majority of Carnival of Souls is exposition. The particulars of the daimon realm and the caste system are described at length and it really bogs down the story as there is very little actual action going on. The exposition-heavy story really hurts the pacing and reads more like a textbook at times as it is not integrated very well into the text.

And I can't say I particularly cared for any of the characters either. We never truly get to know any of them that well and that makes it difficult to relate to them. The romances were similarly underdeveloped and one of them was another ubiquitous case of insta-love. I spent Carnival of Souls feeling removed from the story and the superficial characters, not really caring what happens and eager to set it aside so that I could start something more engaging. And I hated the ending.

I can't help but think that most of the problems I had with Carnival of Souls could be fixed if only it was longer in page length. Very talented authors can get a lot done in very few pages, but I think even the most talented author would have had a hard time setting up such a complex world and still having time for character development and action scenes in just 300 pages. But as it is, Carnival of Souls was 300 pages of exposition - the execution of which was fairly poor and boring - and that's a shame because it really could've been a truly exciting story.

Other Reviews:
Books and Sensibility
Good Books and Good Wine
Novel Sounds

Author Links:

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Stacking the Shelves (7) and Vlog (4)

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews to showcase any books that I have received for review, bought, borrowed, or won to read.

This week, I made my fourth vlog, despite being almost thwarted by an annoyingly incessant car alarm. But the show must go on, as they say:

For Review:
Dust Lands: Rebel Heart by Moira Young (Thanks to Big Honcho Media!)
Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor (Thanks to Hachette Book Group Canada!)
Splintered by A.G. Howard (Thanks to Abrams!)
Elemental by Antony John (Thanks to Penguin!)
The Cadet of Tildor by Alex Lidell (Thanks to Penguin!)

The Mad Scientist's Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke (Thanks to Paranormal Indulgence and Strange Chemistry!)

The Assassin's Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Pretties by Scott Westerfeld
Specials by Scott Westerfeld

Thursday, November 22, 2012

2nd Blogoversary Giveaway!

Hiiii. So. I have been book blogging for 2 years now and I can hardly believe it. I'm not sure where the time went! Blogging has become such a major part of my life and one of the best parts of my life, too. I've really enjoyed this second year of blogging, especially. It's not that I didn't like my first year, but my second year has just been better in every way: I've had a ton more time to read (I surpassed my reading goal 8 months in!) and a lot more time to post regularly; I've had some great and truly appreciated opportunities to work with publishers (I didn't even request any books in my first year); and overall, there's been a LOT less stress as I've learned to treat blogging as a fun hobby and NOT a chore. And I hope to maintain this attitude and these circumstances for my third year of blogging!

I've made so many blog friends over the past two years and it means the world to me that I get to talk obsessively about books with people as I have never really had the ability to do so in real life. It is definitely my favourite part of book blogging. It's strange, I never could have imagined that I could make such good friends over the internet, but it really happened and it makes me so happy. I would list every single name here if I weren't afraid of missing somebody. But just know that if I comment on your blog regularly, then I like you!

So with this in mind, I thought it would be a good time to give back. I will be giving away:
$15 CAD to The Book Depository!

And because this is my 2nd Blogoversary, there will be TWO Winners!

Thank you and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Waiting On Wednesday: Simon & Schuster Winter 2013 Catalog

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill of Breaking The Spine in which an upcoming, eagerly anticipated release is highlighted on the blog.

This week, I've chosen to feature a few picks from the Simon & Schuster Winter 2013 Catalog:

Teeth by Hannah Moskowitz
Date: January 1, 2013
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Rudy’s life is flipped upside-down when his family moves to a remote island in a last attempt to save his sick younger brother. With nothing to do but worry, Rudy sinks deeper and deeper into loneliness and lies awake at night listening to the screams of the ocean beneath his family’s rickety house.
Then he meets Diana, who makes him wonder what he even knows about love, and Teeth, who makes him question what he knows about anything. Rudy can’t remember the last time he felt so connected to someone, but being friends with Teeth is more than a little bit complicated. He soon learns that Teeth has terrible secrets. Violent secrets. Secrets that will force Rudy to choose between his own happiness and his brother’s life.

I'm not really sure what to make of Teeth based on mixed reviews, but I am definitely intrigued with the story and I kind of want to find out what the deal is with this fishboy named Teeth. Also, I understand that Hannah Moskowitz's writing is pretty amazing.

Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans
Date: January 15, 2013
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Since her untimely death the day before her eighteenth birthday, Felicia Ward has been trapped in Level 2, a stark white afterlife located between our world and the next. Along with her fellow drones, Felicia passes the endless hours reliving memories of her time on Earth and mourning what she’s lost—family, friends, and Neil, the boy she loved.
Then a girl in a neighboring chamber is found dead, and nobody but Felicia recalls that she existed in the first place. When Julian—a dangerously charming guy Felicia knew in life—comes to offer Felicia a way out, Felicia learns the truth: If she joins the rebellion to overthrow the Morati, the angel guardians of Level 2, she can be with Neil again.
Suspended between Heaven and Earth, Felicia finds herself at the center of an age-old struggle between good and evil. As memories from her life come back to haunt her, and as the Morati hunt her down, Felicia will discover it’s not just her own redemption at stake… but the salvation of all mankind.

I'm always interested in reading books that seem like they can introduce a new and original take on the same old dystopian/fantasy stories, and Level 2 sounds like it could deliver on that promise - there are so many different elements present in the synopsis, I don't know what to think!

Let the Sky Fall by Shannon Messenger
Date: March 5, 2013
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Seventeen-year-old Vane Weston has no idea how he survived the category five tornado that killed his parents. And he has no idea if the beautiful, dark-haired girl who’s swept through his dreams every night since the storm is real. But he hopes she is.
Seventeen-year-old Audra is a sylph, an air elemental. She walks on the wind, can translate its alluring songs, and can even coax it into a weapon with a simple string of commands. She’s also a guardian—Vane’s guardian—and has sworn an oath to protect Vane at all costs. Even if it means sacrificing her own life.
When a hasty mistake reveals their location to the enemy who murdered both of their families, Audra’s forced to help Vane remember who he is. He has a power to claim—the secret language of the West Wind, which only he can understand. But unlocking his heritage will also unlock the memory Audra needs him to forget. And their greatest danger is not the warriors coming to destroy them—but the forbidden romance that’s grown between them.

I mean, I would want to read Let the Sky Fall based on that gorgeous cover alone! But also, I really love books that involve elemental type powers and I am tickled that the main character's name is Vane (like a weathervane).

Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare
Date: March 19, 2013
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Danger intensifies for the Shadowhunters as the New York Times bestselling Infernal Devices trilogy comes to a close.

If the only way to save the world was to destroy what you loved most, would you do it?

The clock is ticking. Everyone must choose.

Passion. Power. Secrets. Enchantment.

Danger closes in around the Shadowhunters in the final installment of the bestselling Infernal Devices trilogy.

So who is NOT waiting on Clockwork Princess, the third and final book in The Infernal Devices series?! I am sure it is atop many people's most anticipated books of 2013 list and I am with them - I CANNOT wait to see how it all concludes and Clare has never been known to shy away from an action-packed finale.

How about you? Are you waiting on any of these Simon & Schuster Winter 2013 reads? Are there any upcoming books from the Simon & Schuster Winter 2013 Catalog that I didn't include here that you feel I should add to my list?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Review: Black City by Elizabeth Richards

Publisher: Penguin
Published: November 13, 2012
Pages: 384
Source: From Penguin Canada
Rating: 2 Stars

In a city where humans and Darklings are now separated by a high wall and tensions between the two races still simmer after a terrible war, sixteen-year-olds Ash Fisher, a half-blood Darkling, and Natalie Buchanan, a human and the daughter of the Emissary, meet and do the unthinkable—they fall in love. Bonded by a mysterious connection that causes Ash’s long-dormant heart to beat, Ash and Natalie first deny and then struggle to fight their forbidden feelings for each other, knowing if they’re caught, they’ll be executed—but their feelings are too strong.
When Ash and Natalie then find themselves at the center of a deadly conspiracy that threatens to pull the humans and Darklings back into war, they must make hard choices that could result in both their deaths.

In short: Black City by Elizabeth Richards may cause a serious eyeroll sprain.
This is one of those situation where the book just wasn't for me and thus my criticisms will be very subjective and specific to my personal tastes and not necessarily reflective of the general opinion. So let's start with the positive: Black City has an interesting premise that, while not completely original, at least presented something intriguing to draw you into the story right away. I won't deny that Black City definitely had that addictive, easy quality to it that kept me reading right to the end. Also, that cover? Gorge.

And now for the not so positive. Black City was terribly cliched. Eyeroll inducingly cliched. In fact, I was kind of sort of impressed by how many of the overused teen book stereotypes that Elizabeth Richards was able to fit into one book. Let's see, we have not only one, but TWO instances of insta-love... within the SAME love triangle!! Ugh - I can't even. And it's not even that I've never enjoyed a love triangle before - because I have (as rare as it is) - but this one was so weak and both relationships were so underdeveloped and fast. And they were utterly lacking in any good romance squees and swoons. I had no interest in either.

And I can't say I particularly cared for any of the characters. Natalie especially - Ugh. At one point she actually uses the dreaded line - and I'm paraphrasing here - "if Day can't support my relationship with Ash then we can't be friends" and then she proceeds to dump her only friend for a boy she met and fell in love with in under a week. Natalie and Ash don't even have a good relationship - they were hot and cold with each other pretty much the entire book! I just have no tolerance for these incredibly juvenile and petty teen relationships. Can we please put an end to them?

I also wasn't impressed with the rather hamfisted allegory present in Black City - it was too literal and blunt. As for the writing, I feel like Elizabeth Richards has room for growth and I hope that she continues to improve. I would probably give her writing another try sometime, but not any sequels to this series. I want to stress that a lot of people have loved Black City and I would recommend it to hardcore paranormal romance lovers. But for those of us who have gotten tired of the same old cliches, Black City will leave you with a serious eyeroll sprain.

Other Reviews:
Alluring Reads
Avery's Book Nook
Icey Books

Authors Links:

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Waiting On Wednesday: Penguin Winter 2013 Catalog

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill of Breaking The Spine in which an upcoming, eagerly anticipated release is highlighted on the blog.

This week, I've chosen to feature a few picks from the Penguin Winter 2013 Catalog:

Just One Day by Gayle Forman
Date: January 8, 2013
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When sheltered American good girl Allyson "LuLu" Healey first meets laid-back Dutch actor Willem De Ruiter at an underground performance of Twelfth Night in England, there’s an undeniable spark. After just one day together, that spark bursts into a flame, or so it seems to Allyson, until the following morning, when she wakes up after a whirlwind day in Paris to discover that Willem has left. Over the next year, Allyson embarks on a journey to come to terms with the narrow confines of her life, and through Shakespeare, travel, and a quest for her almost-true-love, to break free of those confines.

Admittedly, I've never read any of Gayle Forman's books myself, so my anticipation of Just One Day is based purely on what I know from what other people have said about her books: that they're beautiful and emotional and real. And for that reason, I am very interested in reading Just One Day (as well as her previous books, obviously).

The Cadet of Tildor by Alex Lidell
Date: January 10, 2013
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There is a new king on the throne of Tildor. Currents of political unrest sweep the country as two warring crime families seek power, angling to exploit the young Crown's inexperience. At the Academy of Tildor, the training ground for elite soldiers, Cadet Renee de Winter struggles to keep up with her male peers. But when her mentor, a notorious commander recalled from active duty to teach at the Academy, is kidnapped to fight in illegal gladiator games, Renee and her best friend Alec find themselves thrust into a world rife with crime, sorting through a maze of political intrigue, and struggling to resolve what they want, what is legal, and what is right.

The Cadet of Tildor is touted as "Tamora Pierce meets George R.R. Martin" and if that isn't enough to get people excited about this one, then I don't know what is. I love political medieval-era high fantasies, so I'm thinking I'm really going to love The Cadet of Tildor.

Shades of Earth by Beth Revis
Date: January 15, 2013
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Amy and Elder have finally left the oppressive walls of the spaceshipGodspeed behind. They're ready to start life afresh--to build a home--on Centauri-Earth, the planet that Amy has traveled 25 trillion miles across the universe to experience.
But this new Earth isn't the paradise Amy had been hoping for. There are giant pterodactyl-like birds, purple flowers with mind-numbing toxins, and mysterious, unexplained ruins that hold more secrets than their stone walls first let on. The biggest secret of all? Godspeed's former passengers aren't alone on this planet. And if they're going to stay, they'll have to fight.
Amy and Elder must race to discover who--or what--else is out there if they are to have any hope of saving their struggling colony and building a future together. They will have to look inward to the very core of what makes them human on this, their most harrowing journey yet. Because if the colony collapses? Then everything they have sacrificed--friends, family, life on Earth--will have been for nothing.

CANNOT WAIT FOR THIS! The previous two books in the Across the Universe series have been fast-paced and intriguing as heck, and I really can't wait for any new surprises Beth Revis is going to cook up for us in the final book, Shades of Earth.

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys
Date: February 13, 2013
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It’s 1950, and as the French Quarter of New Orleans simmers with secrets, seventeen-year-old Josie Moraine is silently stirring a pot of her own. Known among locals as the daughter of a brothel prostitute, Josie wants more out of life than the Big Easy has to offer. She devises a plan get out, but a mysterious death in the Quarter leaves Josie tangled in an investigation that will challenge her allegiance to her mother, her conscience, and Willie Woodley, the brusque madam on Conti Street.
Josie is caught between the dream of an elite college and a clandestine underworld. New Orleans lures her in her quest for truth, dangling temptation at every turn, and escalating to the ultimate test.

Just as with Just One Day by Gayle Forman, I have not read Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys, but based on all the raving reviews for that one, I know that Out of the Easy is going to be a book that I need to read (again, along with Between Shades of Gray). And I love that Out of the Easy takes place in 1950's New Orleans!

How about you? Are you waiting on any of these Penguin Winter 2013 reads? Are there any upcoming books from the Penguin Winter 2013 Catalog that I didn't include here that you feel I should add to my list?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Review: Crossed (Matched #2) by Ally Condie

Publisher: Penguin
Published: November 1, 2011
Pages: 367
Source: Purchased
Rating: 3.5 Stars

In search of a future that may not exist and faced with the decision of who to share it with, Cassia journeys to the Outer Provinces in pursuit of Ky — taken by the Society to his certain death — only to find that he has escaped, leaving a series of clues in his wake.
Cassia’s quest leads her to question much of what she holds dear, even as she finds glimmers of a different life across the border. But as Cassia nears resolve and certainty about her future with Ky, an invitation for rebellion, an unexpected betrayal, and a surprise visit from Xander — who may hold the key to the uprising and, still, to Cassia’s heart — change the game once again. Nothing is as expected on the edge of Society, where crosses and double crosses make the path more twisted than ever.

In short: While Crossed by Ally Condie was distinctly lacking in action, there was just enough intrigue to keep me interested in reading Reached.
I am such a lemming. People say how great Matched is and I find a way to read it as soon as I can. People say how disappointing Crossed was and I put off reading it for a year because of that. And unfortunately - and despite how much I loved Matched - I can't help but agree with reviewers who thought Crossed was a slow and sort of monotonous read. Not a whole lot happens and it seemed more like just a set-up book for the final book in the Matched Trilogy, Reached. I mean, Matched was a slow read as well, but I found that it at least held my interest throughout with its excellent world building and beautiful writing. With Crossed, the detailed introduction to the world was supposed to be over with in book one and I wanted some of the action promised to me at the end of Matched.

I'm also very much disappointed that I don't feel like I have any particularly strong connection to the three main characters - Cassia, Ky, and Xander. Especially Cassia. She's a bit on the bland side. And again, I remember feeling the same way about her character in Matched, but I was willing to excuse it at the time because I thought maybe all the characters were supposed to be sort of bland and similar because of their restricted freedoms and limited choices. And with how Crossed was set up at the end of Matched, I thought for sure this was going to be Cassia and company's time to come into their own a bit more. But alas, this was not the case. They're not bad characters by any means - I just don't have any particular attachment to any of them.

Okay, okay, so it may seem like I didn't like Crossed at all, but that's not true! I am still a huge fan of Ally Condie's writing style. She somehow manages to incorporate poetry and symbolism flawlessly into the text and not have it be distracting or over-thought. Ally Condie's writing accounts for the bulk of my enjoyment of Crossed. And I can't deny that there was just enough intrigue in Crossed to keep me coming back for Reached. So what am I hoping for in Reached (to be released November 13, 2012)? Ideally, more character depth and I really hope Ally Condie takes this opportunity to ramp up the action to make a truly exciting read. It is the final book in the trilogy after all!

Previously, my review of Matched.

Other Reviews:
Books: A True Story
Burning Impossibly Bright
Lunar Rainbows
My Precious

Authors Links: