29 June 2012

Spirit’s Princess by Esther Friesner



Himiko the beloved daughter of a chieftain in third century Japan has always been special. The day she was born there was a devastating earthquake, and the tribe's shamaness had an amazing vision revealing the young girl's future—one day this privileged child will be the spiritual and tribal leader over all of the tribes. Book One revolves around the events of Himiko's early teen years—her shaman lessons, friendships, contact with other tribes, and journey to save her family after a series of tragic events. Once again, Esther Friesner masterfully weaves together history, myth, and mysticism in a tale of a princess whose path is far from traditional.


I have loved Esther Friesner’s series on historical figures (Cleopatra and Helen of Troy) and I was very excited when I heard she was doing Japanese history next. However, after having read the books I’m not exactly sure I’d put Spirit’s Princess alongside Nobody’s Princess or Sphinx Princess. Not that it’s bad. On the contrary, Spirit’s Princess is excellent. It’s just not similar. Where Sphinx and Nobody were about girls being repressed by being forcibly married and having romance, Spirit’s Princess is about a girl learning to live in her family and her repressive culture. Spirit’s Princess also covers a much broader set of time (by my guesstimate it’s about a decade?) so there’s much more character growth and adaption.

 I loved watching Himiko learn to work with and around the rules her father and society create for her rather than fighting against them all the time. Himiko’s relationship with her mother and her father’s other wives was interesting, and I like how even-handed Friesner was with the traditional relationship and not judgmental over something that was done and made to work in the past. Instead we are shown the ups and downs of living in a family that has more than one wife and many children. I also very much liked Himiko’s relationship with her brother, Aki, but I wasn’t too happy with the portrayal of the other village girls as only jealous, conniving waifs with no interest in anything other than marriage and family. It does give the book an air of classism, as if only the ruling elite are able to broaden their minds beyond their daily life. However, this is a small complaint, and I was able to overlook it in the grander narration. I loved diving into Himiko’s life, and I can’t wait for the next book in the series!

A copy of this book was provided to me through NetGalley for free in exchange for an unbiased review.

28 June 2012

Thumped by Megan McCafferty



THE CONCLUSION TO ONE OF THE MOST TALKED-ABOUT NOVELS OF LAST YEAR

It’s been thirty-five weeks since twin sisters Harmony and Melody went their separate ways. And now their story has become irresistible: twins separated at birth, each due to deliver twins…on the same day!

Married to Ram and living in Goodside, Harmony spends her time trying to fit back into the community she once believed in. But she can’t forget about Jondoe, the guy she fell for under the strangest of circumstances.

To her adoring fans, Melody has achieved everything: a major contract and a coupling with the hottest bump prospect around. But this image is costing her the one guy she really wants.

The girls’ every move is analyzed by millions of fans eagerly counting down to “Double Double Due Date.” They’re two of the most powerful teen girls on the planet, and they could do only one thing to make them even more famous:

Tell the truth.


I think if I had to describe this book in one word it would be “convenient”. A lot of the the things in this book seem convenient when they happen. From Jondoe and Melody’s rise to fame to Harmony’s escape from Goodside things seem to flow just a little too easily. Convenient is not exactly the same as contrived, however. Things seem to flow a bit better than they do with contrived books, and there is a basis laid for all the choices characters make. And this book really is about character and choices. Characters only have the barest of plot twists to get through, leaving them lots of time for introspections and character development. Compared to “Bumped” this is where the book really shines: characters have time to grow and react to things around them rather than relying only on the plot to drive things along. Although the end wraps things up in a bow that’s a little too tidy for my liking I still enjoyed this book more than I did “Bumped” and I would recommend the series to people who like satire of America today.

27 June 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: The Last Guardian by Eoin Colfer



 
 
This is Breaking the Spine's Waiting for Wednesday, where bloggers post about a book they just can't wait to get their hands on! 
 
 










  The Last Guardian by Eoin Colfer

July 10th 2012



Seemingly nothing in this world daunts the young criminal mastermind Artemis Fowl. In the fairy world, however, there is a small thing that has gotten under his skin on more than one occasion: Opal Koboi. In The Last Guardian, the evil pixie is wreaking havoc yet again. This time his arch rival has somehow reanimated dead fairy warriors who were buried in the grounds of Fowl Manor. Their spirits have possessed Artemis’s little brothers, making his siblings even more annoying than usual. The warriors don’t seem to realize that the battle they were fighting when they died—a battle against Artemis—is long over. Artemis has until sunrise to get the spirits to vacate his brothers and go back into the earth where they belong. Can he count on a certain LEPrecon fairy to join him in what could well be his last stand?

New York Times best-selling author and comic genius Eoin Colfer will leave Artemis Fowl fans gasping up to the very end of this thrilling finale to the blockbuster series.


I'm so excited that there's going to be another Artemis Fowl book, even if it is the last!

25 June 2012

This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers



It’s the end of the world. Six students have taken cover in Cortege High but shelter is little comfort when the dead outside won’t stop pounding on the doors. One bite is all it takes to kill a person and bring them back as a monstrous version of their former self.

To Sloane Price, that doesn’t sound so bad. Six months ago, her world collapsed and since then, she’s failed to find a reason to keep going. Now seems like the perfect time to give up. As Sloane eagerly waits for the barricades to fall, she’s forced to witness the apocalypse through the eyes of five people who actually want to live.

But as the days crawl by, the motivations for survival change in startling ways and soon the group’s fate is determined less and less by what’s happening outside and more and more by the unpredictable and violent bids for life—and death—inside.

When everything is gone, what do you hold on to?


I have a lot of mixed feelings about this book. In a lot of ways this book reminded me of “Life as We Knew It” by Susan Beth Pfeffer. The end of the world and bleak outlook certainly helped. That’s not really a bonus for me, though, because I really can’t get books like “Life as We Knew It”. I have difficulty with books where I can’t see the characters having an out, where I know that after the book their life will only get more difficult until they die. That made this book a rather hard read for me.

In other ways, though, there was a lot to like about this book. Sloane is a good narrator. I had a hard time putting myself in her place because of her experiences with abuse and her sister, but it did allow me to empathize a lot with her and her position. The way the book is written, with a lot of introspection and inner monologue, makes it easy to feel for Sloane. I even understand and feel for her when she decides to commit suicide. The language in the book is very poetic and beautiful, and there is little action to break up the pace, which actually seems like a good thing in this book. Add in that Summers is not careful with her characters, they can get dirty and say things people won’t like and get hurt and die and you get a pretty good character-driven story. Was it enough for me to get over my dislike of grim outlook books? Honestly, I’m still not sure. You can find out for yourself, though. Here’s a free excerpt of the book:

http://courtneysummers.ca/this-is-not-a-test-excerpt/

A copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher for free in exchange for an unbiased review.

22 June 2012

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund



It's been several generations since a genetic experiment gone wrong caused the Reduction, decimating humanity and giving rise to a Luddite nobility who outlawed most technology.

Elliot North has always known her place in this world. Four years ago Elliot refused to run away with her childhood sweetheart, the servant Kai, choosing duty to her family's estate over love. Since then the world has changed: a new class of Post-Reductionists is jumpstarting the wheel of progress, and Elliot's estate is foundering, forcing her to rent land to the mysterious Cloud Fleet, a group of shipbuilders that includes renowned explorer Captain Malakai Wentforth--an almost unrecognizable Kai. And while Elliot wonders if this could be their second chance, Kai seems determined to show Elliot exactly what she gave up when she let him go.

But Elliot soon discovers her old friend carries a secret--one that could change their society . . . or bring it to its knees. And again, she's faced with a choice: cling to what she's been raised to believe, or cast her lot with the only boy she's ever loved, even if she's lost him forever.

Inspired by Jane Austen's persuasion, "For Darkness Shows the Stars" is a breathtaking romance about opening your mind to the future and your heart to the one person you know can break it.

Reading this book was a complete joy.  I loved it from the first minute to the very last page.  It was a great modern update on the Austen classic, making it understandable and relatable.  Elliot was less passionate a narrator than Kai, but more steady and reliable.  Kai was less mature and more volatile, and I liked the differences between them and how they complimented each other nicely.  It was great to see this grow and develop not only in the narration but also in the past letters.  The letters fit nicely into the world Peterfreund built for us.

And what a world it is.  I loved the backstory of genetic manipulation and uncertainty about the world.  It fit well into making a futuristic world that had science and yet didn't choose to use it, something that many authors try to create and fail at.  Rather than use dry paragraphs telling about the new world Peterfreund expertly used characters to show what the world was, from Reductionist Ro and her amazing abilities for her kind to the Luddite Baron North and his disdain for the Reductionists and "CoR"s on his farm.  In fact, if I had to find something wrong with this story it's that the worldbuilding is so amazing I'm disappointed to know that there's nothing more coming from it.  Peterfreund has said that this is definitely a one-off, and yet I really want to know what is beyond the islands and what is found on the long voyage.

I will caution readers that there's no deep meaning to the story.  It seems as if it could be a treatise on the dangers of science and genetics, or how we need to take caution with our experiments, or how science can fix what it hurts, or even where the line should be drawn between religion and science in lawmaking; but in the end Elliot seems to flip back and forth between beliefs before she seems to throw her hands up in the air and ignore the whole issue.  I don't know if this is good or bad, I was left wanting a bit more but it is a hard subject to have a definite "side" to fall on.

21 June 2012

Among the Nameless Stars by Diana Peterfreund


Before Kai joined the Cloud Fleet, he wandered… AMONG THE NAMELESS STARS

Four years before the events of FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS, the servant Kai left the North Estate, the only home he’d ever known, and Elliot North, the only girl he ever loved, in search of a better life. But the journey was not an easy one.

Featuring narrow escapes, thrilling boat races and at least one deadly volcanic wasteland.


This was a great introduction to “For Darkness Shows the Stars”. Kai is a compelling narrator, and he shows the worldbuilding and setting without making it seem heavy-handed. His experiences make the reader really feel for him, admiring his passion and tenacity and feeling heartache for his failures. I think the only downpoint for me was Kai’s age. I was very surprised to learn that Kai was only 14. He felt like a much more mature narrator than that, and his feeling of connection and his harshness towards Elliott both felt like they had a dated bitterness and a maturity to them. Perhaps making Kai 14 was the only way to make the timeline work for the longer book, but I feel that Kai should have been a bit more age-appropriate.


**note 1** - this review was written before I read “For Darkness Shows the Stars”.

**note 2** - you can download and read this story here.

20 June 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Son by Lois Lowry




 
 
This is Breaking the Spine's Waiting for Wednesday, where bloggers post about a book they just can't wait to get their hands on! 
 
 





   Son by Lois Lowry


October 2nd 2012



Told in three separate story lines, Lois Lowry’s Son combines elements from the first three novels in her Giver Quartet — The Giver (1994 Newbery Medal winner), Gathering Blue, and Messenger — into a breathtaking, thought-provoking narrative that wrestles with ideas of human freedom. Thrust again into the dark, claustrophobic world of The Giver, readers will meet an intriguing new heroine, fourteen-year-old Claire. Jonas from The Giver is here too, and Kira, the heroine of Gathering Blue. In a final clash between good and evil, a new hero emerges.

I don't usually make my Waiting on Wednesday posts for a book so far out from its release date, but I really think everyone should pre-order this book now!

19 June 2012

Books and Nails


My latest read and my latest nail polish color!

18 June 2012

Timepiece by Myra McEntire


A threat from the past could destroy the future. And the clock is ticking...

Kaleb Ballard's relentless flirting is interrupted when Jack Landers, the man who tried to murder his father, timeslips in and attacks before disappearing just as quickly. But Kaleb has never before been able to see time travelers, unlike many of his friends associated with the mysterious Hourglass organization. Are Kaleb's powers expanding, or is something very wrong?

Then the Hourglass is issued an ultimatum. Either they find Jack and the research he's stolen on the time gene, or time will be altered with devastating results.

Now Kaleb, Emerson, Michael, and the other Hourglass recruits have no choice but to use their unusual powers to find Jack. But where do they even start? And when? And even if they succeed, it may not be enough...

The follow-up to Hourglass, Timepiece blends the paranormal, science fiction, mystery, and suspense genres into a nonstop thrill ride where every second counts.


Review of Hourglass, Book 1 in the series.


The first thing you’ll notice is that Timepiece switches to Kaleb’s point of view. McEntire is just as natural writing a male pov as a female, and I loved getting to know the inner workings of another character in the series. Kaleb’s specialty as an empath gives his character a boost in some situations, but McEntire is good about limiting those powers logically and showing how they can be stumbling blocks just as much as stepping stones. In fact, Kaleb suffers more than benefits from his empathic ability, and a lot of his character growth centers around his learning to deal with the pain and suffering he can sense in other people. The people around him are great as well, helping him to learn to deal as well as learning about him in the process. We also get a good view of Emerson and Michael’s relationship development, which I like because Kaleb’s third person view rather mimics Emerson’s view of her brother Thomas’ relationship with Dru. I did feel that Kaleb’s relationship with Lily felt a bit contrived, like the author was pairing up the last available characters because everyone needs a couple, but the relationship felt realistic enough that I excused the “we all need someone to complete us” vibe I was getting from it.

Although the book is heavy on character development there is a great plot going on as well. I won’t say much about it so you’re not spoiled, but we do learn more about Hourglass and Jack’s history as well as motivation for what Jack and Chronos do and why they’re scared now and want to bring down the Hourglass. The plot moves quickly, leaving little time to notice the few small flaws it may have. In all I thought this was a good second book, not suffering at all from second book syndrome, and other than the small irritation of relationship contrivance I loved reading it.



A copy of this book was provided to me through NetGalley for free in exchange for an unbiased review.

16 June 2012

Forgiven by Jana Oliver

For Father's Day I review the latest book in my favorite father-daughter relationship series.



Jana Oliver's third spellbinding Demon Trappers novel - following The Demon Trapper's Daughter and Soul Thief - brings all new thrills, as Riley Blackthorne takes on demons, love... and the future of the human race.

The days are growing darker for 17-year-old demon trapper Riley Blackthorne. With her father’s reanimated body back safely, Beck barely speaking to her because of a certain hunky Fallen angel, and a freshly-made deal with Lucifer, she has enough on her hands to last a normal teenage lifetime. Though she bargained with Heaven to save his life, her ex-boyfriend Simon has told the Vatican’s Demon Hunters that she’s working with Hell. So now she’s in hiding, at the top of everyone’s most-wanted list.

But it’s becoming clear that this is bigger than Riley, and rapidly getting out of control: something sinister is happening in Atlanta… or someone. The demons are working together for the first time ever and refusing to die, putting civilians in harm’s way. Riley thinks she might know who’s behind it all, but who’s going to believe her? Caught between her bargain with Heaven and her promise to Lucifer, Riley fears the final war is coming – and it may be closer than anyone thinks…


Oh, Riley! Break my heart again why don’t you!?! When I said that book 1 was a love story, not of romance but of the love between a father and a daughter, I didn’t know that it would rip my heart out and stomp on it a bit after. This book really had me feeling for Riley and her grief over losing her father. Riley has a great character arc and follows a realistic grieving process while still dealing with other plot points, and her friends are supportive without being crutches or pure plot devices. Riley’s relationship with Beck is nice, solid and grounded in something other than lust, but also realistic and only as perfect as the two people in it (which is to say: not very). Throughout everything Riley and Beck have to deal with a doozy of a plot. Things in this book go at breakneck pace, which makes the character development even more remarkable because it uses so few introspective lulls. I like how the plot ties up things from previous books and yet opens even more questions for the future. It always seemed natural and yet unexpected which is very hard to do. I burned through this book very quickly due to the pace, and now I can’t wait for book 4!

Birthday Giveaway Winner!





I've chosen a winner for my birthday giveaway!  Who's the lucky person?

Natasha!


Your email is on its way Natasha!

15 June 2012

Birthday Giveaway

Today's my Birthday!  I live by the mantra that "it's better to give than to receive."  That means for one day only I'm gonna give away some presents! 

What can you win?


An ARC of Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini!

Enter now, contest ends at midnight EST!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

14 June 2012

The Selection by Kiera Cass


For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in the palace and compete for the heart of the gorgeous Prince Maxon.

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn't want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.

Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she's made for herself- and realizes that the life she's always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.


Although this story was a bit predictable (and not in a “this is a fairytale retelling” kinda way) I still liked it. The love triangle is underdeveloped, and I don’t think Maxon or Aspen are fully developed (and America’s relationship with Aspen seems to have little motivation or history that explains it, so it seems rather tenuous), but even though this story is about the love triangle I really enjoyed the plot of America discovering herself and trying to figure out what she wants and who she is while still protecting her family and friends. The worldbuilding seems solid, at least what we see of it. I’m not sure where IllĂ©a is located, or if it consists of all of current day US, but what details we do get are dealt out in a manner that seems neither heavy-handed nor authoritarian. I felt we had just enough information to get the story without having long and boring exposition sections (the only part that even comes close is the “history lesson”). The dystopian aspects are a bit shrouded in mystery, both from the reader and from America, but it isn’t developed far enough to feel like a real plot line so I can’t comment much on that. I was a bit upset at the abrupt ending to the book, it felt less like a well-crafted cliffhanger and more like the editor just chopped a longer book in half, but there was enough excitement in the book and I fell in love with America so I can’t wait to see where the second book takes her!

13 June 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Dust Girl by Sarah Zettel





 
 
This is Breaking the Spine's Waiting for Wednesday, where bloggers post about a book they just can't wait to get their hands on! 
 
 









  Dust Girl by Sarah Zettel

June 26th 2012



Callie LeRoux lives in Slow Run, Kansas, helping her mother run their small hotel and trying not to think about the father she’s never met. Lately all of her energy is spent battling the constant storms plaguing the Dust Bowl and their effects on her health. Callie is left alone, when her mother goes missing in a dust storm. Her only hope comes from a mysterious man offering a few clues about her destiny and the path she must take to find her parents in "the golden hills of the west" (California).

Along the way she meets Jack a young hobo boy who is happy to keep her company—there are dangerous, desperate people at every turn. And there’s also an otherworldly threat to Callie. Warring fae factions, attached to the creative communities of American society, are very aware of the role this half-mortal, half-fae teenage girl plays in their fate.

Fantasy set in my home state of Kansas?!?  I'm in!

12 June 2012

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater



It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.


This book worked for me on so many levels. It was a great fantasy story about horses, it was a strong story about a girl who has the drive and determination to be the first girl to join an all-male sport, and it’s a touching love story. The world developed around the capaill uisce is believable and the mythology is interesting and enriches the story.  Stiefvater makes the characters so vivid you feel as if you know them and want to know more about them. The entire book seemed flawless, and I feel as if the words were song they were so poetic. I felt as if I was reading an epic like Beowulf or the story behind some ancient Celtic song. I had no problems with the switching points of view, and it was nice to see the emotions and inner thoughts of both characters. It made the build of the romance that much nicer and more realistic as well as solidifying the characters of both Sean and Puck. Though the romance was quieter, less hearts-on-fire than most YA romances I felt it was very realistic and a lot closer to adult relationships (or at least my relationship). Puck and Sean were both well developed, and I really liked how Sean was a helper and supporter of Puck, not a doormat or a dominator. I hope this book will stand as an example of a strong relationship for other books to strive for.

11 June 2012

Dark Frost by Jennifer Estep



I’ve seen so many freaky things since I started attending Mythos Academy last fall. I know I’m supposed to be a fearless warrior, but most of the time, I feel like I’m just waiting for the next Bad, Bad Thing to happen. Like someone trying to kill me—again.

Everyone at Mythos Academy knows me as Gwen Frost, the Gypsy girl who uses her psychometry magic to find lost objects—and who just may be dating Logan Quinn, the hottest guy in school. But I’m also the girl the Reapers of Chaos want dead in the worst way. The Reapers are the baddest of the bad, the people who murdered my mom. So why do they have it in for me?

It turns out my mom hid a powerful artifact called the Helheim Dagger before she died. Now, the Reapers will do anything to get it back. They think I know where the dagger is hidden, but this is one thing I can’t use my magic to find. All I do know is that the Reapers are coming for me—and I’m in for the fight of my life.


Yet another great book in the Frost series!  I am really loving where these books are going, both in the meta-plot and in the character development.  Speaking of the meta-plot, I don't know if this book is a little more transparent than the others or I am just getting better at figuring out the twists but I did guess who the villain was far ahead of the book's reveal.  I didn't care as much, though, because the book has some great pacing and I was enjoying the ride as much as the destination.   Gwen really develops as a character during this book.  The unexpected turn her magic takes is a great twist, and I really like how she grew as she dealt with it and its aftermath.  It also led to some interesting developments between her and Logan, and I will say (even though it's a bit spoilery) that I was glad to see the shoe on the other foot for a bit.  The final battle was not too long but still climactic, and the (again, spoilers) new champions were long foreshadowed but still very welcome.  I'll be looking to see more of them in Crimson Frost!


A copy of this book was provided to me free from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

08 June 2012

Kiss of Frost by Jennifer Estep



I’m Gwen Frost, a second-year warrior-in-training at Mythos Acad­emy, and I have no idea how I’m going to sur­vive the rest of the semes­ter. One day, I’m get­ting schooled in sword­play by the guy who broke my heart—the drop-dead gor­geous Logan who slays me every time. Then, an invis­i­ble archer in the Library of Antiq­ui­ties decides to use me for tar­get prac­tice. And now, I find out that some­one at the acad­emy is really a Reaper bad guy who wants me dead. I’m afraid if I don’t learn how to live by the sword—with Logan’s help—I just might die by the sword...


Spoilerific:



I love that Gwen doesn’t automatically get super-fighter powers when she becomes Nike’s champion.  It’s even greater that her enemies seem to be gunning for her immediately, as if they are logically smart and know that she’ll never be as vulnerable as she is now.  I wasn’t too big on the love triangle that’s going on, especially since it seemed so obvious that Gwen was hung up on Logan.  The villain in the series is much more interesting, and kept me guessing until the very end (and I was even right sometimes!).  Estep’s characters are great, wonderfully developed and complex, and they are really what drives my love of the series.  What I really didn’t like was the rehashing of previous events.  It seemed like the plot of the first book was retold so many times even the most thick reader would have gotten bored with it.  I hope Estep leaves off the heavy hand in the next book because despite the problems in Kiss of Frost I can’t wait to see what happens next!

06 June 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Entasy by Brynn Myers



 
 
This is Breaking the Spine's Waiting for Wednesday, where bloggers post about a book they just can't wait to get their hands on! 
 
 




 


  Entasy by Brynn Myers

June 19th 2012



Kylah is the granddaughter of two Celtic goddesses but due to a tragedy Kylah's memories were taken to protect her. She has no idea who she really is but soon she will find out...soon she will have to confront her past in order to save her future.

This sounds like the Greek/Roman gods trend has hit celtic mythology!  I think it sounds very exciting, and I can't wait to get my hands on it.