24 June 2011

Bookaholics Giveaway!

Bookaholics is giving away jewelry by Hebelmet inspired by Cassie Claire's Mortal Instruments books! Enter here:


13 June 2011

Wither by Lauren DeStefano

Wither Bookplate

Obviously, something went terribly wrong. Genetic mutations have festered, reducing human longevity to twenty-five, even less for most women. To prevent extinction, young girls are kidnapped, mated in polygamous marriages with men eager to procreate. Sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery, a recent victim of this breeding farm mentality, has vowed to break loose from its fetters; but finding allies and a safe way out is a challenge she can only hope she will survive. A dystopian fantasy series starter with wings. Editor's recommendation.

Although it was called a modern, YA version of "The Handmaid's Tale", I didn't really identify with this book like I did with Margaret Atwood's Sci-Fi classic. Although the plots have a lot of parallels, Atwood's book is steeped in the religious right of the United States, while Wither is concerned with genetic manipulation gone wrong. The two don't really corrolate, at least not for me, and I was rather confused over the result. The society that is created is strange. Why are girls commodities? If everyone dies at a young age why are there marriages with multiple wives instead of farms where eggs and sperm are harvested and forcibly carried to term in order to perpetuate the species and provide for research? There were many questions that made the world of this book seem rather copied and not well thought out. However, once the world was made up DeStefano worked well within the framework. I loved the character of Rhine and her reactions to the situations she was placed in. She maintained a strong character and drive throughout her situations, and she drew you in to the story when the world failed. The plot was rather unremarkable, containing yet another YA love triangle complicated by the multiple marriage, but Rhine's voice and the characterization of the other players served to keep it fresher than it probably should have been. I'm not sure if I'm completely invested in the story enough to buy a sequel, but I don't regret reading this book as a one-off.

09 June 2011

Ash by Malinda Lo

In the wake of her father's death, Ash is left at the mercy of her cruel stepmother. Consumed with grief, her only joy comes by the light of the dying hearth fire, rereading the fairy tales her mother once told her. In her dreams, someday the fairies will steal her away, as they are said to do. When she meets the dark and dangerous fairy Sidhean, she believes that her wish may be granted.

The day that Ash meets Kaisa, the King's Huntress, her heart begins to change. Instead of chasing fairies, Ash learns to hunt with Kaisa. Though their friendship is as delicate as a new bloom, it reawakens Ash's capacity for love-and her desire to live. But Sidhean has already claimed Ash for his own, and she must make a choice between fairy tale dreams and true love.

Entrancing, empowering, and romantic, Ash is about the connection between life and love, and solitude and death, where transformation can come from even the deepest grief.

Ash is a great retelling of the Cinderella story. Unlike the traditional story, though, Ash has a lot of plot packed into it. Not only is there the main plot line of Ash's romance with the Prince of the land, but there is the side plot of Ash's wicked stepmother, another on her friendship with Kaisa, and a third on her encounters with Sidhean. Lo weaves all the plots together with great skill, always abandoning one right before you get tired of it and making you really want more. She also has a gift of suprising you with every twist, something that is very fresh in a fairy tale retelling where you think you know where the story is going. All the characters fit well, both in their world and with eachother, and they are well made to be likeable and realistic. Well, all of them except Sidhean, who maintains his aloof exterior and you are never quite sure where he stands and whether he is a good guy or a bad guy. All the parts of this book work very well together, and I was enthralled from the beginning to the end.

**Spoilers Ahead**

Really, though, it's hard to talk about this book without talking about the big spoiler. At the end of the book Ash decides that as admirable as the Prince is, and as bad-boy-hot as Sidhean is, she is really attracted to Kaisa. Honestly, I don't know how I avoided this spoiler before reading the book, but I did, so the "twist" came as a total surprise. I'm very glad it did, too. My experience with LGBT novels is very limited, and the few I've read have seemed very in-your-face and preachy, so I probably would have avoided this book had I known. I'm glad I didn't because I would have missed out on a great read. Lo has a great flow and the relationship evolves very naturally, so instead of preachy it comes off as how things really should be. Since I didn't have a warning it also really challenged my preconceived notions and made me think about romance tropes in YA in a very good way.

06 June 2011

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent Bookplate

In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

Debut author Veronica Roth bursts onto the literary scene with the first book in the Divergent series—dystopian thrillers filled with electrifying decisions, heartbreaking betrayals, stunning consequences, and unexpected romance.

Divergent was a good book, but I didn't feel it was as great as its hype. Don't get me wrong, it was a great start. I loved how Tris was set up as a character, and the world created was interesting and realistic, and I could see the roots of the society in the issues of modern society. I did feel, however, that in the "moralistic" structure of the society the author was rather preachy and overt in her judgement of the values of each segment of society, especially in her placement of religion in the abnegation sector and making the Erudite the bad guys. Tris was well-written, and I liked how she followed her heart and was encouraged by her mother even though her father tried to abandon her for thinking independently. Dauntless society and training was the best part of the book. It was a great mix of military training gone bad with middle school politics and competitiveness mixed in. I liked how I could see the roots of team-building exercises and how they were perverted by the competitive hierarchy. All of the student characters in this part were great, and I liked how each one dealt with the harshness of Dauntless differently and how not all were able to cope sufficiently. Four was a great teacher, if a little young, and he seemed to be concerned with his students and making them fit in to Dauntless as well as giving the community the best soldiers that could be made out of each person. Four and Tris was one of the rare times when I really didn't mind a relationship between a teacher and a student, perhaps because they were so close in age, or perhaps because it was handled in a discreet, balanced way that didn't seem to interfere with either Tris's school or Four's job.

The plotting throughout the training was strong, and I liked the subtle foreshadowing to the climax. However, the climax was my major issue with this book. The previous parts of the book were so well written, but it seems as if the writer ran out of ideas, or space, or doesn't understand how war happens because the ending was very glossy and off-hand. People died, but Tris (and through her, us as the reader) didn't really feel anything about it, a style that came off as not caring rather than urgently callous. Even her father's redemption and sacrifice didn't have the impact I feel it should have. I suspect a final chapter where Tris dealt with her feelings of seeing so many people she cared for killed would have helped a lot, but I think what it really needed was a better internal dialogue for Tris so we could see her being torn over people dying rather than not caring. I don't think this was a complete detraction from the quality of the rest of the book, though, just a middling flaw. If this book gets a sequel I will be delighted to get it, because I think Roth is a good writer working her way to being great and I am confident that her plotting issues can be overcome with a little more practice.

04 June 2011

Blood Magic by Tessa Gratton

This page-turning debut novel will entice fans who like their paranormal romances dark and disturbing. It's a natural next-read for fans of Stephanie Meyer, Carrie Jones, and Becca Fitzpatrick. But instead of mythical creatures, blood magic has everything to do with primal human desires like power, wealth, and immortality. Everywhere Silla Kennicott turns she sees blood. She can't stop thinking about her parents alleged murder-suicide. She is consumed by a book filled with spells that arrives mysteriously in the mail. The spells share one common ingredient: blood, and Silla is more than willing to cast a few. What's a little spilled blood if she can uncover the truth? And then there's Nick—the new guy at school who makes her pulse race. He has a few secrets of his own and is all too familiar with the lure of blood magic. Drawn together by a combination of fate and chemistry, Silla and Nick must find out who else in their small Missouri town knows their secret and will do anything to take the book and magic from Silla.

From the start I loved Blood Magic. The first (full) chapter is riveting, and things just get better from there. Silla is a great character, and I like how you can feel her confusion and pain without it turning you off her as a character. She has a hidden strength that shines through her situations and empowers her instead of letting things paralyze her. I also like how it is very evident even before she meets Nick, which helps to underscore that she enjoys his company but she doesn't need him and can act independently and make her own decisions. Nick and Reese are also great examples, treating Silla like an equal who can make independent decisions instead of working to protect her from her situations or from herself. Although it is pretty evident from the beginning that there is a disguised baddie I like how there are just enough people acting crosswise to Silla that you're never quite sure who is going to turn out to be the opponent until it is revealed, and even then you're not sure if there are other crossways villains hiding in the shadows. The major plot twist at the climax is a great surprise without being ridiculously out of left field (although I don't want to say more for fear of spoiling it!). If I had to be picky I would say that I felt a bit of the school life was not realistic for as small of a school as Yaleylah had (having experienced a 400 person school some things seemed to be adapted from life in a larger school, but that could have been the strangeness of my school) and I'm really disappointed that the story behind the not-a-baddie was not really resolved in the end of the book, but those are really minor problems that didn't detract from the reading. In all this was an excellent book, one of the best I have read in a while, and I'll be anxiously awaiting the companion book next year.

01 June 2011

Human.4 by Mike A. Lancaster

Kyle Straker volunteered to be hypnotized at the annual community talent show, expecting the same old lame amateur acts. But when he wakes up, his world will never be the same. Televisions and computers no longer work, but a strange language streams across their screens. Everyone’s behaving oddly. It’s as if Kyle doesn’t exit.

Is this nightmare a result of the hypnosis? Will Kyle wake up with a snap of fingers to roars of laughter? Or is this something much more sinister?

Narrated on a set of found cassette tapes at an unspecified point in the future, Human.4 is an absolutely chilling look at technology gone too far.

This book was very interesting. Kyle misses out on a vital reboot of the human brain and has to deal with the people who also missed the next brain OS while running away from the people out to get him. The plot is a great idea, and the execution is pretty good, leaving some great suspenseful moments that fit in well without feeling over-foreshadowed. Where the book falls short, however, is in characterization. Although the plot sparkles there doesn't feel like there is as much invested as their could be because the characters don't draw you in to their situations and make you feel for them. I was not really invested in Kyle's relationship with Lilly for the same reason. There was tension coming from the plot that kept me reading, but it was more to find out what the next twist was rather than how the characters would get out of their current situation. The book was also rather short (231 pages) and I really feel that it could have benefited from another 50 or so pages of character development pre-fair to make the characters as strong as the plotting.