Saturday 6 October 2012

Stacking the Shelves (5)

Image from Tynga's Reviews

Stacking The Shelves is a book haul meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews where we share the books we've acquired each week!

Since my last Stacking the Shelves, I've bought/received:

Yes, I go to Waterstones way too often


The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
The Diviners by Libba Bray
Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan (ebook)


The Glimpse by Claire Merle, which I won in a giveaway back in July from Daisy Chain Book Reviews! Thank you!

I've read The Raven Boys, Unspoken and Rebel Heart so far (kind of reading The Casual Vacancy and The Diviners at the same time now) and they were all amazing! So many exciting books came out this month that I have yet to read (Stormdancer, What's Left of Me, etc.). Any suggestions on what to buy next? 

What did you get this week? Link me because I'd love to see!

Friday 5 October 2012

Review: Blood Red Road by Moira Young

Rating: 5/5 crow heads
Release date: 7 June 2011
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 459 pgs
Goodreads | Amazon UK | The Book Depository

Saba has spent her whole life in Silverlake, a dried-up wasteland ravaged by constant sandstorms. The Wrecker civilization has long been destroyed, leaving only landfills for Saba and her family to scavenge from. That's fine by her, as long as her beloved twin brother Lugh is around. But when a monster sandstorm arrives, along with four cloaked horsemen, Saba's world is shattered. Lugh is captured, and Saba embarks on an epic quest to get him back.
Suddenly thrown into the lawless, ugly reality of the world outside of desolate Silverlake, Saba is lost without Lugh to guide her. So perhaps the most surprising thing of all is what Saba learns about herself: she's a fierce fighter, an unbeatable survivor, and a cunning opponent. And she has the power to take down a corrupt society from the inside. Teamed up with a handsome daredevil named Jack and a gang of girl revolutionaries called the Free Hawks, Saba stages a showdown that will change the course of her own civilization.

I don't know why it took me so long to read Blood Red Road. It's been sitting on my shelf for over a year, collecting dust. But now that I have, all I can say, really, is pick this one up now. Blood Red Road stands out amidst the spate of dystopians and post-apocalyptic novels that have come out in the wake of The Hunger Games, and is thoroughly deserving of the praise it's received.

Why? The writing, for one. The novel is narrated in a thick, heavily colloquial dialect that made me think of outlaws and deserts and rednecks - which is exactly the kind of world Saba lives in. The minimalist style is definitely a defining and divisive aspect of the book, and while I can understand how some may find it gimmicky or annoying, I couldn't imagine the book working so well without it. Saba's world, the characters she meets...they all live and breathe by the same slow, languid rhythm. Some people will find this harder to get used to than others. Is it worth the potential frustration? I think so!

And it's worth it because for me, how 'good' I find a book usually comes down to how enjoyable or entertaining I found the characters and/or story, and Saba's journey had me grinning throughout. This book is fun, plain and simple, and I seriously never wanted it to end. Her journey is epic, taking her across mountains and deserts and crooked, corrupt shanty towns. It's a classic coming-of-age adventure that gave me that rare feeling of reading a story that wasn't written or plotted or worked over, but exists somewhere in an alternate universe, fully formed.

Now, I've tried to keep this review spoiler-free, but if you take something away from this review, I hope it's that there's really something for everyone here. For those looking for a light, fun adventure, all the elements are there, and they're well done. For those seeking something that makes Blood Red Road stand out from your average YA novel, there are enough surprises - Saba's surprisingly dark and brutally honest thoughts toward her younger sister, for example-  to make this one stand out. Read it now!

Wednesday 12 September 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (8)

Waiting on Wednesday is a book meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine where we showcase books we're highly anticipating.

Yes, this is a post!

So... you may or may not have noticed that I've been kind of absent from the blogging community for the past few weeks. Things have been crazy lately but they're finally starting to die down, so I'll try my best to catch up with all the stuff I've missed! I also have a lot of reviews to post, so keep an eye out. :)

This week I'm waiting on...

Release date: 28 August 2013
Coming from: Medallion Press (363 pgs)

If she stays quiet, it will destroy her. If she speaks out, it will destroy everyone.

Kate Franklin’s life changes for the better when her dad lands a job at Beacon Prep, an elite private school with one of the best basketball teams in the state. She begins to date a player on the team and quickly gets caught up in a world of idolatry and entitlement, learning that there are perks to being an athlete. 

But those perks also come with a price. Another player takes his power too far and Kate is assaulted at a party. She knows she should speak out, but her dad tries to silence her in order to protect the team. The world that Kate was once welcomed into is now her worst enemy, and she must decide whether to stay silent or expose the corruption, destroying her father’s career and bringing down a town’s heroes.

Similar to Jandy Nelson’s The Sky is Elsewhere, Canary is told in a mix of prose and verse.

Release date: 2013, from Disney Hyperion 

Marina has everything. She’s got money, popularity, and a bright future. Plus, she’s best friends with the boy next door, who happens to be a gorgeous prodigy from one of America’s most famous families.

Em has nothing. Imprisoned in a small white cell in the heart of a secret military base, all she has is the voice of the boy in the cell next door and the list of instructions she finds taped inside the drain.

But Marina and Em have one big thing in common: they’re the same person.

Now Em must travel back four years in time in order to avert the terrible future from which she’s fled, and there’s only one way to do it. She must kill the person who invented the time machine in the first place: someone from her past. A person she loved.

But Marina won’t let them go without a fight.

Canary is one of those books that just seems like a classic before it's even been published, if that makes any sense. I thought some of the poetry in The Sky is Everywhere was beautiful, so I'm excited about the comparison! And that cover art is amazing.

Now, there's a lot going on in All Our Yesterdays' summary. I mean, it's presumably told from two different PoVs, set in different time periods? Okay. But wait - it's the same girl... and she's dealing with two different love interests from different time periods... while fighting herself?? Ahhhh. This is either going to be the most epic book EVER, or kind of a mess. I have high hopes, though, because it sounds amazing!

What are you waiting on this week? Link me because I'd love to see!

Tuesday 28 August 2012

Mini Review: Origin by Jessica Khoury

Rating: 5/5 jaguar heads
Release date: 4 September 2012
Publisher: Razorbill (Penguin)
Goodreads | Amazon UK | The Book Depository

Pia has grown up in a secret laboratory hidden deep in the Amazon rain forest. She was raised by a team of scientists who have created her to be the start of a new immortal race. But on the night of her seventeenth birthday, Pia discovers a hole in the electric fence that surrounds her sterile home—and sneaks outside the compound for the first time in her life.

Free in the jungle, Pia meets Eio, a boy from a nearby village. Together, they embark on a race against time to discover the truth about Pia’s origin—a truth with deadly consequences that will change their lives forever.

Origin is a beautifully told, shocking new way to look at an age-old desire: to live forever, no matter the cost. This is a supremely compelling debut novel that blends the awakening romance of Matched with the mystery and jungle conspiracy of Lost.

The two books I read before this were thrilling YA romances - entertaining, but quickly forgotten - and I was sort of expecting more of the same. Origin completely exceeded my expectations, and I was surprised by the level of depth it achieved - at least for me. 

Origin deals with some pretty heavy themes, and because of this I think it'll be a love/hate kind of book. Some will find the approach heavy-handed or uncomfortable in its depiction of the 'natives' and scientists, but it worked for me (or I at least was able to forgive this) because I really connected with Pia on an emotional level. Some of the religious/spiritual issues explored are ones I've dealt with a lot growing up, and I've been wanting to read a book like this for a while. For me, at least, it was very thought-provoking and amazingly relevant to my life, and books like these are exactly why I love YA no matter how controversial: it's amazing to be able to read a book that captures, explores, and makes entertaining the challenges and angst of growing up.

Was this book perfect? Of course not, and many other reviewers have already pointed out some of its flaws. But as Khoury addresses in Origin, both in the book's opening line and repeatedly throughout, perfect is in the eye of the beholder, and Origin, at this point in my life, was absolutely perfect for me. I loved it, and unlike some of the other YA books I've read recently, I found myself still thinking about it a day later.

Check out the Origin book trailer:

Side note: This is not the most informative review, but these were my thoughts immediately after reading Origin last month and I didn't feel the need to expand! Also, I'm aware that postings/general blog interactions have been scarce for the past few weeks, so apologies for that, but I should be back on track starting next week. Happy reading!

Saturday 18 August 2012

Review: The Innocents by Lili Peloquin

Rating: 3/5 pigeon heads
Release date: 16 October 2012
Publisher: Penguin (Razorbill), 288 pgs
Goodreads | The Book Depository

Goodreads summary: 

Nothing ever came between sisters Alice and Charlie.
Friends didn't.
Boys couldn't.
Their family falling apart never would.
Until they got to Serenity Point. 
"The Innocents" is the first in a new series of young adult novels that weave a saga of nail-biting drama, breathless romance, and gothic mystery.

My brief summary: Alice and Charlie follow their mother and new step-father, Richard, to begin a new life in elite community Serenity Point, where the mystery behind Richard's daughter's recent death and its impact on their new friends begins to put a strain on their relationship.

I'm giving this 3 stars, which might be a little generous. At the very least it makes me acutely aware that I recently gave Sarah J. Maas' Throne of Glass a 3.5 when The Innocents is far from being in the same league. But it's a 3 stars for what it is (and I think we all know what kind of book this is): a pure guilty pleasure.

What would have made it stand out? This may be controversial, and probably says more about me than it does anything else, but if I'm going to read a fun, trashy novel, I hope for drama of epic proportions. I tend to expect tears, bloodshed, pregnancies, cat fights...the works. And yes, I tend to be hypocritical and complain about the very same thing. It's a bit unfair, seeing as The Innocents never explicitly sells itself as such, but I honestly hoped it would be a bit more dramatic; that the characters would be nastier, the rich kids meaner, the mystery just a bit more sinister. At times it feels like Peloquin is trying to hold back and build emotional complexity within the story, and while these things aren't mutually exclusive and it pains me to say it, she probably would have been more successful had she focused on sheer entertainment factor alone.

I know that's an awful thing to encourage, but really, kudos to Lili Peloquin for trying to balance depth with drama, because she succeeds in some areas. I love books about sisters, and I actually felt that Alice and Charlie were well-developed. I had a clear sense of their characters and felt like I really understood them, though the unravelling of their bond and the tensions that Serenity Point places on their relationship could have been highlighted more. Unfortunately, I can't say the same about their love interests or their community, which was all one big cliché. As for the mystery surrounding Richard, their new step-father, and Camilla, his recently deceased daughter, it was entertaining enough to keep me reading. There's a big twist at the end that's predictable, but overall I liked how Peloquin tied the ending back to the prologue.

I really don't consider a guilty pleasure a bad thing. I enjoy a trashy read every once in a while. This was maybe not trashy enough for me to justify the label, and if it had focused solely on the bond between the two sisters or the suspense and mystery behind Camilla's death, it might have avoided the label altogether. Instead, it kind of awkwardly treads a fine line between being a guilty pleasure and being, to be blunt, not very good. The writing is awkward at times, and the first few chapters were distractingly unedited, but I'm confident that with only two months till its release these errors have been fixed.

All in all, this was definitely a quick read - I think I read it in about two and a half hours - and I was entertained, just not as much as I hoped. If you're a fan of books in the vein of Pretty Little Liars and/or Gossip Girl, you might enjoy this one. The Innocents combines the pervading sense of mystery of the former with the scandal and extravagance of the latter, resulting in a quick read that, while entertaining, never does quite reach the same level of addictiveness.

Wednesday 15 August 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (7)

Waiting on Wednesday is a book meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine where we showcase books we're highly anticipating.

I missed Waiting on Wednesday last week, so I've chosen three books that I'm waiting on today! Titles go to Goodreads, names go to the author's website. 

Release date: 9 October 2012
Coming from: Hyperion Book CH (384 pgs)


Is it written in the stars from the moment we are born?

Or is it a bendable thing that we can shape with our own hands?

Jepp of Astraveld needs to know.

He left his countryside home on the empty promise of a stranger, only to become a captive in a strange and luxurious prison: Coudenberg Palace, the royal court of the Spanish Infanta. Nobody warned Jepp that as a court dwarf, daily injustices would become his seemingly unshakeable fate. If the humiliations were his alone, perhaps he could endure them, but it breaks Jepp’s heart to see his friend Lia suffer.

After Jepp and Lia perform a daring escape from the palace, Jepp is imprisoned again, alone in a cage. Now, spirited across Europe by a kidnapper in a horse-drawn carriage, Jepp is unsure where his unfortunate stars may lead him.

Before Jepp can become the master of his own destiny, he will need to prove himself to a brilliant and eccentric new master—a man devoted to uncovering the secrets of the stars—earn the love of a girl brave and true, and unearth the long-buried secrets of his parentage. And he will find that beneath the breathtaking cruelty of the world is something else: the persistence of human kindness.

Release date: 2013, from Delacorte Press

RED is set in a small town where the redness of your hair is directly tied to your social standing, until the coolest and reddest girl in school is blackmailed on the eve of the Miss Scarlet pageant.

Release date: 2013, from Dial 

... pitched as “Gone with the Nuclear Wind". It is supposed to be a cross between "Gone with the Wind" and "Mansfield Park", but set into the future 200 years from now. According to the author's blog the "crux of the plot centers around nuclear technology".

... is set in a world ruled by the lavish Gentry, who force a people called the Rootless to handle the nuclear material that powers their large estates. When a Gentry girl is attacked, sixteen-year-old Madeline Landry can't escape the rumors of revolution and retribution circulating through the ballrooms--and the city's new golden boy David is at the middle of them. Soon, she finds herself forced to choose between her duty and her desires, her ancestral destiny and her conscience.

Jepp, Who Defied the Stars sounds like it's going to be so fun and different! I've also never read a book from the perspective of a dwarf (I guess hobbits don't count?), and I really can't wait.

Red has me hooked from that sentence alone! I'm anxiously stalking this one! I have such high hopes for the cover, and I LOVE that the author's last name is Cherry. So much potential for awesomeness here!

While not the official summary (it was taken from Goodreads, as were the others), Landry Park's description has me really excited. It kind of reminds me of Diana Peterfreund's For Darkness Show the Stars, which I loved, so I'll definitely be on the lookout for more information!

What are you waiting on this Wednesday? Link me because I'd love to see!

Tuesday 14 August 2012

Review: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Rating: 4/5 dragon heads
Release date: 10 July 2012
Publisher: Random House, 467 pgs
Goodreads | The Book Depository
Amazon UK | Amazon US

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

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

A quick preliminary scan of Seraphina revealed words like quigutl and pygegyria and houppelande, words just intimidating enough to make me want to put off my reading and seek something lighter. And I did put it off. It admittedly took me a few tries to really get into this book, but once I plowed through the first few chapters, Seraphina's story unfolded as naturally and effortlessly as a saar taking flight.

Of course, no book is without its imperfections. For me, Seraphina is a book of contradictions. Take the writing. It's beautiful and surprisingly introspective, and has an addictive quality to it that made me stop to re-read and savor the words. Yet this also made the plot feel a tad slow, and left scenes which were supposed to be suspenseful and action-packed feeling a bit flat.

I felt the same about the world-building. So much detail is given regarding Goredd and dragon (saar) culture, all of which I found fascinating and, quite frankly, impressive. Everything from saar history and politics to daily scale maintenance is touched upon. And it all made sense. The world Hartman has created is the perfect blend of reality and fantasy; drawing on so many cultures and time periods that I couldn't pin it on just one time or place. They meshed together to create a world totally unique and just the slightest bit off-kilter (in the best way).

Yet for all the amazing world-building, some of the important plotlines suffered from under-development. Seraphina's confusion and self-loathing as a half-breed is a huge part of the book. She connects mentally with others like her, all of whom exhibit supernatural gifts, through her mental 'garden'. Why half-breeds have these gifts, when there's no mention of dragons or humans possessing them, is barely touched upon, which was strange but easily forgiven given the sequel.

I realize I've focused on the negative in this review, but at this stage I'm really just nitpicking. Seraphina was a unique, refreshing, well-written read. If you're a fantasy lover, you owe it to yourself to experience the amazing world of dragons and humans and quigutl. I would add, though, that a part of me isn't sure whether I really liked this book in the sense that I was entertained or fell in love with the characters. A part of me feels that most of my good impression has more to do with being impressed or objectively appreciative of its artistic merit. I think a lack of true connection with the book prevents me from giving it a final star, but a re-reading might change that.

Pick this one up! The gorgeous cover alone should tempt you.

All in Ard,

The Headless Owl

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