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

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Stacking the Shelves (4)

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! 

It's been a couple of weeks since my last STS, simply because I haven't been buying that many books lately and have way too many that I need to get to.

(Links go to Goodreads)


Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson - Reviewed
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas (ebook) - Reviewed

I did get a few great books though! I absolutely loved Tiger Lily and despite being disappointed by Throne of Glass still found it a quick and entertaining read. I hope this streak continues with Seraphina!

That's it for me! What did you get this week? Link me because I'd love to see.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Rating: 3.5/5 very sad owl heads
Release date: 2 Aug 2012 (UK), 8 Aug 2012 (US)
Publisher: Bloomsbury, 404 pgs

Goodreads | Amazon UK | The Book Depository

In the dark, filthy salt mines of Endovier, an eighteen-year-old girl is serving a life sentence. She is a trained assassin, the best of her kind, but she made a fatal mistake: she got caught.

Young Captain Westfall offers her a deal: her freedom in return for one huge sacrifice. Celaena must represent the prince in a to-the-death tournament—fighting the most gifted thieves and assassins in the land. Live or die, Celaena will be free. Win or lose, she is about to discover her true destiny. But will her assassin’s heart be melted?

(Summary from Goodreads)

This is a hard review to write. Let me start off by saying that Throne of Glass was one of my highly anticipated reads of 2012. I was hooked on the novellas before I even started blogging, and I made sure to make it my first Waiting on Wednesday. As you can imagine, I was positive I would love this. The last thing I expected was to have to write that, honestly? I was a bit disappointed. It's possible that over-hyping ruined the experience for me, as it has countless times, because a lot of what I loved about the novellas was here in abundance.

Celaena is such a complicated, aggravating, entertaining character. She's astoundingly arrogant in a way that comes from knowing you're the best, and being told so day after day, yet she's sensitive and girly and selfish in a way that only teenage girls can be. The love interests in ToG are worthy of such a complex character. It would have undermined Celaena's character to have her turn lovesick and obsessed, especially in the middle of what is supposed to be a cutthroat competition, and Maas clearly knew where to draw the line. She writes a romance (if you can even call it that) that is subtle and sweet. Both Chaol and Dorian are well-developed - a bit predictably, maybe, but it's there. Equally important, they represent two very different futures and relationships, presenting Celaena with exactly the kind of dilemma that I hope for in a love triangle.

And Rifthold, with its crowded streets and garish glass castle, is easy to imagine. There's a perfect balance between magic and technology; a blurring of our world and some other-world that feels completely natural. Like the glass castle itself; an architectural marvel built on a foundation of rock and stone, with magic in its roots. Like the contrast between the clock tower that sits in the courtyard and the mythical gargoyles that surround it.

I loved all these things. What I found lacking was the plot itself. The epic-sounding competition to become King's Champion was pretty underwhelming; consisting of a series of tasks that were about as thrilling as the tasks faced by Harry Potter and crew at the end of the Philosopher's Stone - except these are assassins, not 12-year-olds, and I didn't feel the suspense that I expected to feel. I began to hope the action was going to be psychological; surrounding the gruesome murders of the competitors and solving the mystery behind the killer, but this, too, wasn't as engaging as I thought it would be. A lot is solved through dreams and vague mythology, the workings of which I don't think I ever got a feel for. Even juicy court scandals and politics would have been enough to satisfy me, given that the novel takes place almost entirely in the castle, but that, too, felt weak. There was a dash of everything I wanted, but none of it felt developed enough to really hold my attention.

Throne of Glass just didn't come together for me. As I mentioned, a part of this may be because of my own over-hyping, so keep in mind that this review is very circumstantial. Because I was totally engrossed in the novellas, I got a bit caught up in the comparisons game - even the love interests took me a few chapters to warm up to because I still felt loyal to Sam from the novellas. Having said all that, I don't consider a 3.5 a bad rating at all, and I would still absolutely recommend this. I've seen what Maas is capable of, I've loved her stories, and I've already fallen in love the world she's created, so I hope you do too. Will I be reading the sequel? Absolutely. Unfortunately, the excitement I've felt and enjoyed these past few months has dimmed.

Side note: UK or US cover (below)? I seem to be in the minority in that I prefer the US one, though the UK cover is definitely more badass.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Review: Last Sacrifice by Richelle Mead + St. Vladimir's Summer School

From TheFakeSteph

It's week 6 of St. Vladimir's Summer School! The assigned reading this week is Last Sacrifice, the final book in the Vampire Academy series. 

St. Vladimir's Summer School is a Vampire Academy read-a-thon started by Steph @ The Fake Steph, Jen @ Jen Ryland/YA Romantics and Jenn @ Owl-Read-It! Be sure to check out their posts. Thanks for letting me join in, and thanks to Grad Student at YA Fiction & Whiskey Sours for bringing this to my attention.


Last Sacrifice wastes no time picking up where Spirit Bound left off, throwing the reader into the prison cell where Rose has been impatiently waiting news of her trial. After a daring and explosive (pun intended) escape initiated by Lissa and the rest of the usual suspects, they are split into two groups, both working against the clock to get answers. While Lissa and the others at court struggle to find Queen Tatiana's murderer and clear Rose's name, Rose and Dimitri chase down a rumor - a rumor of an illegitimate Dragomir child whose existence has the potential to change court life as they know it. 

Following these two plots is made easy by Rose's one-way bond with Lissa, which seemed to start off as a way to build their relationship but has become a pretty useful plot device that Mead has used throughout the series. While the suspense of finding the murderer and the Dragomir child was hampered a bit by the predictability of the plot (that the child would exist and that they would find her was obvious, though I hadn't guessed the identity), Last Sacrifice was just as engaging and easy to read as the previous novels, and I was thoroughly satisfied by its ending. 

And when I refer to 'the ending', I'm pretty much referring to the way things ended between Rose and Adrian. As you may recall, I was a little frustrated by Rose's denial of her feelings in Spirit Bound, and so it should be of no surprise that even though I knew where Rose was coming from, I LOVED seeing Adrian finally let her have it. Adrian seemed to progress as a character in those last few chapters than he did in the entire series, and for the first time I felt like I truly understood him - I understood Rose's comments about him being a 'victim', I understood what she meant by them not balancing each other out, and I understood his anger at her attitude and at himself. It felt like a real conversation between two people, especially because it was free of the excessive snark and banter that makes Rose both entertaining and annoying. 

I can confidently say that I'm glad to have jumped on the Vampire Academy bandwagon, even if I am several years late. It's been a thoroughly enjoyable ride that I feel ended at just the right time, unlike many Young Adult series that I know (Maximum Ride, I'm looking at you). I've grown to love these characters, and I'm SO glad that I've connected to Adrian just in time to start Bloodlines. :) Thanks to everyone who told me to give this a chance! 

I usually do 'lessons learned' as part of Summer School, but because this is the last book in the Vampire Academy series and I was in detention last week, I thought I would do art class instead!

My summary of the first three books (since I haven't reviewed them), in pictures:

Vampire Academy:


Shadow Kiss:

Recognize any scenes? Let me know if you do! (I seriously don't blame you if you don't.)
Though I joined late, I had so much fun doing Summer School and meeting more bloggers! Thanks for letting me join in. Be sure to check out their Summer School posts as well! 

On to Bloodlines! :)

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Review: Spirit Bound by Richelle Mead + St. Vladimir's Summer School

From TheFakeSteph

It's Week 5 of St. Vladimir's Summer School, a.k.a Spirit Bound week, and I am definitely in some serious detention because this post is very, very late! Sorry for the delay and general lack of posts; I've been traveling and internet access and reading time have been limited. I'm excited to get back on track and catch up with all the great posts and reviews I've missed!

St. Vladimir's Summer School is a Vampire Academy read-a-thon started by Steph @ The Fake Steph, Jen @ Jen Ryland/YA Romantics and Jenn @ Owl-Read-It! Be sure to check out their posts. Thanks for letting me join in, and thanks to Grad Student at YA Fiction & Whiskey Sours for bringing this to my attention.


Goodreads | Amazon

I've been vacillating between 3 and 4 stars for Spirit Bound. Strictly speaking, I enjoyed this as much as I enjoyed the others - this series is totally the book equivalent of an episode of Buffy: fast-paced, entertaining and featuring a tough, snarky heroine. 

Yet something about Spirit Bound just rubbed me the wrong way. Book 5 begins just as we expect it to - Rose is continuing her quest to free Dimitri and return him to his dhampir form - but it's her newfound relationship with Adrian that I found a bit frustrating. 

Her obsession with saving Dimitri, while understandable, is pretty awkward given the fact that she's agreed to be with Adrian, and this isn't really addressed until the final chapters of the book. While I didn't mind the dilemma itself, the way Rose handled it - or rather, didn't handle it - got a little annoying. The few times she stops to consider Adrian's feelings, she manages to convince herself that she'll somehow be able to keep their relationship alive if Dimitri were to return, when really - who is she kidding? Adrian didn't stand a chance. This wasn't a huge deal for me, and I can see how it fits with Rose's reckless, teenage side, but it did come across as the easy way out to have her be so naïve, and it made her just a tad annoying. 

Having said that, Spirit Bound was just as entertaining as the first four books in the series, and I love that Mead brings back a lot of the secondary characters from the previous books and continues to flesh them out. Rose and the gang have all graduated, and I could definitely feel Mead upping the intensity. The battles are more dangerous and wide-spread, and the petty high school pranks and rivalries of the first few books have given way to political court drama. We get a lot of insight into Moroi court life and its conventions, and get to see the sensitive political dynamics between the royal families. 

Overall, the Vampire Academy series is one of the few I've read that has been consistently entertaining while developing the world and characters, and I can't believe there's only one more book! I'm already halfway through Last Sacrifice because the Spirit Bound cliffhanger was awful, so here's hoping it's a great ending to the series! 

And because this is Summer School, I'm following Steph's lead and imparting some of the lessons I've learned (all in good fun, because I do love VA):

What I learned: Never think that a tiny face mask is enough to hide you at a masked ball, because it NEVER IS.

What I also learned: Stabbing through a cushion is about the same as stabbing through a vampire's chest.

That's it from me this week! Let me know if you have any ideas for detention, because I am unforgivably late! Will try to do something special next week to make up for it, especially since it's the last book.

What have you learned from Vampire Academy? Would love to hear!

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (6)

Waiting on Wednesday is a book meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine where we showcase some of our hotly anticipated releases!


Release date: 9 October 2012
Poppy (Little Brown Books for Young Readers), 320 pgs
How can you talk about something you can’t remember?

Before the ski trip, sixteen-year-old Cassidy “Sid” Murphy was a cheerleader (at the bottom of the pyramid, but still...), a straight-A student, and a member of a solid trio of best friends. When she ends up on a ski lift next to handsome local college boy, Dax Windsor, she’s thrilled; but Dax takes everything from Sid—including a lock of her perfect red curls—and she can’t remember any of it.

Back home and unable to relate to her old friends, Sid drops her college prep classes and takes up residence in the A/V room with only Corey “The Living Stoner” Livingston for company. But as she gets to know Corey (slacker, baker, total dreamboat), Sid finds someone who truly makes her happy. Now, if she can just shake the nightmares and those few extra pounds, everything will be perfect... or so she thinks.


Release date: 16 April 2013
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 288 pgs

Seventeen-year-old Meg Fellowes is a wry, resourceful thief forced to join an elite group of female spies in Queen Elizabeth’s Court. There she must solve a murder, save the Crown, and resist the one thing that will become her greatest freedom–and her deadliest peril. 

For Meg and her fellow spies are not alone in their pursuit of the murderer who stalks Windsor Castle.

A young, mysterious Spanish courtier, Count Rafe de Martine, appears at every turn in the dark and scandal-filled corridors of the Queen’s summer palace. And though secrets and danger are Meg’s stock-in-trade, she’s never bargained on falling in love…

I'm so excited for these two! Despite the cheesy title MAID OF SECRETS sounds like a really fun read and I love books set in court (any court, any place)! I can't wait to see the cover.

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

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Review: Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Rating: 5/5 barn owl heads
Release date: 3 July 2012
Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books
Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository

Before Peter Pan belonged to Wendy, he belonged to the girl with the crow feather in her hair. . . .

Fifteen-year-old Tiger Lily doesn't believe in love stories or happy endings. Then she meets the alluring teenage Peter Pan in the forbidden woods of Neverland and immediately falls under his spell.

Peter is unlike anyone she's ever known. Impetuous and brave, he both scares and enthralls her. As the leader of the Lost Boys, the most fearsome of Neverland's inhabitants, Peter is an unthinkable match for Tiger Lily. Soon, she is risking everything—her family, her future—to be with him. When she is faced with marriage to a terrible man in her own tribe, she must choose between the life she's always known and running away to an uncertain future with Peter.

With enemies threatening to tear them apart, the lovers seem doomed. But it's the arrival of Wendy Darling, an English girl who's everything Tiger Lily is not, that leads Tiger Lily to discover that the most dangerous enemies can live inside even the most loyal and loving heart.

From the New York Times bestselling author of Peaches comes a magical and bewitching story of the romance between a fearless heroine and the boy who wouldn't grow up.

Honestly, I was never a big 'Peter Pan' fan. I've never read the J. M. Barrie original, so note that I'm referring to the Disney animated movie when I say this. While I loved Neverland and its crazy characters, I didn't like the Darling children at all even as a kid, and found them pretty annoying. So when I heard of a new YA novel set in this world that focused on Tiger Lily, I was determined to read it. And the moment I read the excerpt on the back, I was hooked. It completely surpassed my expectations.

The Neverland that Anderson has re-imagined is dark and lush and detailed. I don't know how much sprang from her own imagination and how much was adopted from the original, but it's impossible to get enough of the world, written as it is in her gorgeous prose.

This is a book about loneliness: As the wild daughter of the eccentric village Shaman, Tiger Lily is both feared and respected, and she immediately connects with Peter, perhaps the loneliest of them all, who is charismatic and wild and serious and naive all at once and everything I could have hoped for in a Peter Pan. There is the heavy feeling of inevitability everywhere; you know, from the very first line and your own preconceptions of Peter, that something is going to happen, and it laced the book with a melancholy quality that had my heart pounding.

This is also a book about fear. Fear that can come from outside: sometimes obviously, in the form of shipwrecked Philip, an 'Englander' who disrupts the balance of Tiger Lily's village. Sometimes internally, in the form of Wendy Darling, who scares Tiger Lily in a way the jungle does not. There is the fear of vulnerability; of the tentative awkwardness of first love between two people who have lived a long time but are children at heart, at once impossibly brave and scared senseless.

I could go on forever. This is a book about everything I could wish for in a Young Adult novel. It's a book about being human. All the favorites are here, written with layers upon layers of complexity. Captain Hook and his right-hand man Smee are at times no worse than Peter himself. Wendy is foolish and naive and frustrating but more pure of heart and intent than Tiger Lily and Peter can ever hope to be. At one point Tinkerbell, who narrates the book, muses that fairies only have one love; that their hearts don't have the room for the emotion that human ones do. But I disagree. She is so fiercely loyal and passionate, so understanding of the hearts of others in a way that is only possible by watching it from above, that I despaired for her just as strongly as I did for Tiger Lily, and I don't think the book would have worked so well narrated by anyone else.

This was my first Jodi Lynn Anderson book, and it definitely won't be my last. It emotionally stunned me, and I don't think any review of mine could do it justice. In other words: Read this. It's quite introspective and maybe not for everyone, but give it a chance and you probably won't regret it. Tiger Lily is one of my favorite reads of 2012 so far, and it lingers like a bruise on your heart. And if you're wondering if it changed my perception of the Darling children, I would have to say no, it made it worse in the sense that I don't think I can ever look at Wendy again without thinking of Anderson's fierce, wild, vulnerable Tiger Lily. :)

Friday, 27 July 2012

The Ultimate Reviewers' Challenge!

Addicted 2 Novels

I'm excited to announce that I've joined the Ultimate Reviewers' Challenge

Starting from August,
Lena from Addicted 2 Novels, Tiger from Tiger's All Consuming Media and Karen from For What It's Worth are challenging bloggers to "post and link up as many reviews as possible"!

Here are the instructions (taken from For What It's Worth):

"For the month of August you can link your reviews on each of our blogs (our Ultimate Reviewer's Challenge posts will be up with a linky on August 1st) For every review you link you will be entered to win one of two prize packs. Each blog will have two different prize packs. At the end of the event, we'll each pick two winners for a total of 6 Ultimate Reviewer’s Challenge winners."

Check out the blogs to see the prize packs and sign up! I'm excited to take part because it's a great way to motivate yourself to read more, review and promote more books and clear your to-be-read shelf! Hope you all sign up, and feel free to give me a virtual nudge if you see me slacking. :)

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Review: Blood Promise by Richelle Mead + St Vladimir's Summer School

St Vladimir's Summer School
Banner from TheFakeSteph

I've decided to participate in St. Vladimir's Summer School, a Vampire Academy read-a-long started by Steph @ The Fake Steph and Jen @ Jen Ryland/YA Romantics! Jen @ Owl-Read-It is also participating. This is actually week 4; I finally got around to reading Vampire Academy last week and decided to catch up and join in! Thanks to Grad Student at YA Fiction & Whiskey Sours for bringing this to my attention and Steph and Jen for letting me join in.

I read books 2 and 3 so quickly and in such rapid succession that I haven't written up reviews yet! Am skipping straight to Blood Promise (book #4)  for the sake of the read-a-long but will post reviews for books 2 and 3 separately soon. Here's what I thought:


Rating: 4/5 owl heads
Release date: 25 August 2009
Publisher: Razorbill, 503 pages
Goodreads | Amazon

Despite the paranormal overload, this series didn't really feel that dark to me until Shadow Kiss (book #3), where I was pleasantly surprised by Mead's willingness to kill and injure loved characters. The attack on St. Vladimir's Academy is devastating. Dozens of Moroi and dhampir are dead and Dimitri has been turned into a Strigoi - a cold, vicious, bloodthirsty vampire who has lost touch with his soul. Rose drops out and heads off to Russia to track him down, intending to free him by putting a stake through his heart. She leaves behind a hurt and betrayed Lissa and an almost too understanding Adrian, who provides her with money on the promise that she will give him a chance when - if - she gets back. A more than generous trade, if you ask me.

Blood Promise feels much darker than the first three books, and I'm glad that Mead doesn't take the easy way out by ignoring minor problems. The pressure Rose feels is palpable. It would be enough that the love of her life was turned into a soulless monster and that she's in SIBERIA with no friends and too many enemies. It would be enough that she still struggles with the darkness that surrounds her and seeps into her from Lissa and that it takes tremendous mental effort to hold the ghosts at bay. It would be enough that she still struggles with her vampire bite addiction.

But it would not be realistic. And even with all that, the high school angst of St. Vlad's still manages to trickle through to her through her bond with Lissa. She is anxious about Lissa who's anxious about Rose and fighting with Christian who's jealous of Adrian who's interested in new bad girl Avery who's corrupting Lissa and making Rose, underneath her heavy burdens, feel replaced. There is teenage angst on an epic level really befitting YA, and I loved every second of it.

The ending was heartbreaking and chilling, even if it wasn't that shocking. For some reason, throughout Rose's haze-induced stay with newly-Strigoi Dimitri, I simply couldn't believe that Mead would turn him without a loophole. That there wouldn't be a way to change him back as hinted at the end, or that he would somehow turn out to still have his humanity despite turning. I think I watch too much Vampire Diaries (and yes, I know the tv show came out after). But even though the plot twist was fairly predictable, it still left me grinning, and I can't WAIT to see where Mead takes this! 

As far as Teams go, I'm actually on the fence right now. Since I'm already on book 4, I should probably make a decision soon. Probably a little more Team Dimitri at the moment, but that's because there hasn't really been that much meaningful interaction between Rose and Adrian. I'm sure things change, though! Are you Team Dimitri or Team Adrian? 

And because this is Summer School, I'm following Steph's lead and imparting some words of wisdom:

What I learned: When you're in a foreign country, never assume no one understands you because you will end up being lectured by an old Russian gypsy woman as you try to discreetly leave the house she has opened to you. It will be slightly awkward because you plan on driving a stake through her grandson's heart.

What I also learned: There is no greater love than between a boy and his cowboy books. It transcends living/undead barriers that romantic love will not.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

List Review: Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

Rating: 4/5 owl heads
Released: 16 August 2007
Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository

Summary (Goodreads):

St. Vladimir’s Academy isn’t just any boarding school—it’s a hidden place where vampires are educated in the ways of magic and half-human teens train to protect them. Rose Hathaway is a Dhampir, a bodyguard for her best friend Lissa, a Moroi Vampire Princess. They’ve been on the run, but now they’re being dragged back to St. Vladimir’s—the very place where they’re most in danger...

Rose and Lissa become enmeshed in forbidden romance, the Academy’s ruthless social scene, and unspeakable nighttime rituals. But they must be careful lest the Strigoi—the world’s fiercest and most dangerous vampires—make Lissa one of them forever.

Richelle Mead's VAMPIRE ACADEMY is a great reminder to never judge books by their cover...or their genre. I would pass by these books in the bookstore and was always put off by the cheesy title, even as the series rapidly gained in popularity. I'm so glad to say that I was dead wrong. VAMPIRE ACADEMY is a fast-paced read that is fun and creepy in equal measure, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Here are a few reasons why.

VAMPIRE LORE: I don't know how much of Mead's vampire lore is based on real folklore and how much she has created herself, but it certainly felt fresh and was a welcome change. There are Moroi, blood-drinkers who cannot go into the sun and who live under the shadow of twelve royal Moroi families. There are dhampirs, including the protagonist Rose herself, who are the offspring of vampires and humans, giving them supernatural strength and senses while being otherwise quite ordinary.

The dhampirs and Moroi have a peaceful, mutually beneficial relationship: dhampirs become guardians of the Moroi because they need Moroi to continue their species. On the fringes of society are the Strigoi, Moroi vampires who have 'turned' or been turned and must feed on Moroi blood to survive. Mead does a great job of making the reader understand the tension between the three species and how this has trickled into the high school politics of St. Vladimir's academy, where Moroi and dhampirs are trained.

I love a good mystery, and this novel had several. Rose and Lissa (her best friend and Moroi royal), are on the run before they're caught and dragged back to St. Vladimir's. Why did they run from the safety of St. Vladimir's when Strigoi are on the loose and Lissa is the last of her line? Why is Lissa being terrorized now that they're back? Mead wraps up these mysteries neatly and in a way that contributes rather than regresses the characters' development.

A SPUNKY, MULTI-LAYERED PROTAGONIST: Rose is flippant, cocky, and aggressive. She is a heroine I think would easily be labelled as 'strong' - a good fighter who is confident in her skills and her looks. But I too often find that authors make the mistake of equating 'strong' protagonists with physical strength. All the skill in the world won't make for a protagonist that lacks in complexity and humanity, and Mead really delivers. For all of Rose's recklessness, she is utterly serious about her role as Lissa's guardian and shows unwavering loyalty to her friends.

A TRULY FORBIDDEN ROMANCE: I'm a sucker for forbidden anything. And not just "you're vampire and I'm human and it can never be", because that's not good enough for me. There's an awkward age gap between Rose and her crush, Dmitri, but what works so well is the fact that they are both guardians. I won't expand any further because of spoilers, but when there is real, painful choice to be made between characters; when choosing romance conflicts with something else they want desperately or know must be done, that's when I yearn for them to be together and feel that ache. The odds must feel insurmountable, and in VAMPIRE ACADEMY, they really do.

I loved VAMPIRE ACADEMY and will definitely be continuing the series. If I were to criticize something it would be the writing, which I found awkward and unpolished at times, but it definitely didn't detract from my enjoyment of the story, and here's hoping it gets better as the series continues. If you're like me and have been holding out, give this a chance! This is the perfect summer beach read.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Liebster Blog Award!

Okay, I feel awful because I was actually awarded the Liebster Blog Award when I first started my blog by the wonderful Sydney from Words About Words, but somehow got caught up in work and completely forgot to share! Luckily, I was just tagged again by the awesome Grad Student from Young Adult Fiction & Whiskey Sours and it reminded me. Thank you both! This award is for new bloggers with less than 200 followers.

"Award winners share 11 facts about themselves, answer the 11 questions asked by the blogger who tagged them, come up with 11 of their own questions and tag 11 more bloggers with the award." (Description from YA Fiction & Whiskey Sours)

I tried finding the originator of the Liebster Blog Award to link back but it's a total dead end. I have no idea where it came from, which is actually sort of cool, so if anyone knows do let me know.

My questions, my facts and my nominees after the break!

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Stacking the Shelves (3)

Stacking The Shelves is a meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews where we share the books we've bought, borrowed, received or downloaded each week!

(Links go to Goodreads)


Artemis Fowl and The Last Guardian - Eoin Colfer (My review)


Went to the library again and got these lovely books:

A Confusion of Princes - Garth Nix

The Piper's Son - Melina Marchetta
Vampire Academy - Richelle Mead
Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone - Kat Rosenfield
Invincible Summer - Hannah Moskowitz

Have been wanting to read all of these! Haven't decided what I'll read first out of my library books but I have yet to read the Vampire Academy series and tons of people have recommended it to me, so I might start with that! Any suggestions?

Link me to your STS because I'd love to see what you got!

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