Wednesday, January 29, 2014

How Mood Reading is Both the Best and Worst Thing


I'm a huge mood reader. I like to think of it as having Reading Muses. You know how people who write or draw or paint like to wait until the Muses inspire them? When they're filled with that urge to create and the words and pictures just flow right out of them? I live for that as a reader. My Reading Muses (Ruses? Sure, why not) are very much in control of me, which is why I usually start about five books at a time and then go with the one that grabs me. (I know, I'm kind of insane, but I'm an excellent multitasker.)

This can lead to absolutely wonderful experiences, like the reading journey I've been on for the last week. If you follow me on Twitter or Goodreads, you might have noticed that my entire life and brain and thoughts and TBR list has been decimated by a certain reading bomb called the Percy Jackson series. I bought the boxed set on a whim and because they were cheap and because a bunch of my friends love them (and a couple of them are utterly obsessed). I expected to like them. January and February are very busy for me, blog-wise, so I didn't really have the time to read them all. I thought I'd take a peek at The Lightning Thief and see what all the fuss is about. After all, Tumblr is pretty fond of these books for a reason, right? There might be something to them.



OH HELLO, READING MUSES, HOW KIND OF YOU TO SHOW UP!

Boom. Totally obsessed. Totally absorbed. I couldn't put the books down. I read with the speed of the sun. All my waking thoughts were absorbed by this series. It is my favorite feeling in the world, where you're just hurtling through a fictional world at breakneck speed, and you'll die if you have to stop, you just have to get to the end. You just have to consume all the words. I will bite the face off whoever interrupts me from this book.

 

I read tons of books. It's kind of the nature of the job. I dislike a lot of them, because covers and blurbs are lying liars who lie.  I enjoy a lot of them, because I'm good at finding books that suit my tastes. I love some of them, because books can be great. But it's a rare book that gives you that addicted, fully immersed feeling. Ever since the days of Harry Potter, I've been addicted to that feeling. Do you remember the glory of receiving a brand new Harry Potter in the mail and just knowing the whole day was gone, because Harry and Company were waiting for you? God, I loved that feeling. Every time I find it, I go with it, because that's why I read.

The problem? I'm a book blogger. I have commitments and deadlines and review copies. Sadly, blazing through all 1700 pages of the first five Percy Jackson books completely destroyed my reading schedule, and I'm struggling to recover (while also reading The Lost Hero. Shhh, don't tell anyone). It's actually completely irresponsible of me to have taken such a huge reading detour right now when I'm already stretched pretty thin. I could have read and reviewed so many ARCs in that time.

At the same time, though, ignore my Reading Muses would have been nearly physically painful. That's such a rare feeling, and I can hardly remember the last time I had it. Sometimes, reading review books can be a real effort. Reading out of obligation can be painful, especially if it's a book that, had I not agreed to read it, I would have put down by now. I'm so impressed with the bloggers I know who maintain their rigorous reading schedule, reading review books in order of release date and always on time. I try to do that, but I just can't. Maybe I don't have the discipline. (No 'maybe' about it. I definitely don't have the discipline.)

Being gripped by the Reading Muses so fiercely reminded me that I read because I like it. And yes, I love reading review books, because oftentimes, I get to read books that would normally pass me by. But I was so stressed about them, and then the Muses got me, and I remembered why it is I do this-- because reading is the funnest thing in the world for me. And thankfully, those fickle Muses sometimes lead me towards the books I'm supposed to read. And every now and then, I rustle up the strength to corral them and force them to get on board with my current ARC. Sometimes, I make those Muses my bitches, and sometimes... well, I let them take the reins.



What about you? Are you a mood reader? When was the last time the Reading Muses ruined your life took over?

Monday, January 27, 2014

Top Ten Worlds I'd Never Want To Live In


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Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish


1. Panem from The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins


Something might be seriously wrong with you if you want to live in Panem. 

2. Westeros from the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin

The life expectancy there is, like, four. No thanks.

3. The world of Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

I would be the deadest dead person to ever die out there. Aether would strike me the moment I stepped foot outside. I'd get eaten by cannibals. I wouldn't be able to find food. I would very much not want to live there. It's like Australia. Everything there can kill you.



4. The world of Delirium by Lauren Oliver

I'm pretty fond of love, so I wouldn't particularly want to live in a world where it's considered a disease and they cut it out of your brain.

5. Wonderland from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Yes, I know. It's whimsical and fabulous and adorable and it would scare the sanity right out of me. I like my sanity (or what little of it I possess).

6. The world of Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff

Everybody dies in these books. Everybody. Do you have any idea how many things could kill you? There's choking pollution, so the land is dying, the sky is red, and the sea is black. There are evil dudes in charge with evil dudes under their command who are succeeded by more evil dudes. There are monsters and demons and rebellions, oh my!

 

7.  The world of Tumble & Fall by Alexandra Coutts

Well, not only would the world be ending, but everything would be super boring.

8. The world of Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard

I am not as awesome as Daniel and the Spirit Hunters. Ergo, I would be eaten by zombies. Almost immediately.

9. The world of Defiance by C.J. Redwine

Women cannot go unchaperoned? They are auctioned for marriage? There is a giant tunnel dragon who breathes fire? The commander is the evillest evil to ever evil? Women cannot go unchaperoned?!

10. The world of Divergent by Veronica Roth


I am too lazy and bad at math for Erudite, too mean for Amity, too wimpy for Dauntless, too selfish for Abnegation, and too dishonest for Candor. Which means I'd be Factionless, which means no, get me the heck out of this stupid place.

11. The world of Shatter Me by Taherah Mafi

The world is in shreds and birds don't fly anymore and I'd totally be one of the unlucky ones without any powers. Or my power would be extremely lame, like... being able to shoot bees at criminals. Or be nice. (Lame.)

12. The world of Defy by Sara B. Larson

One word: rape houses.
NO.

Review: Unhinged by A.G. Howard


Review: Unhinged by A.G. Howard
Goodreads 
Release date: January 7th, 2014
Publisher: Amulet (Abrams)
Series: Yes, #2 in the Splintered series
Source: Print ARC borrowed from Lili
Rating: While the language remains lush and the worldbuilding inventive, I had issues with both the plot and the characters this time around.

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Alyssa Gardner has been down the rabbit hole and faced the bandersnatch. She saved the life of Jeb, the guy she loves, and escaped the machinations of the disturbingly seductive Morpheus and the vindictive Queen Red. Now all she has to do is graduate high school and make it through prom so she can attend the prestigious art school in London she's always dreamed of.

That would be easier without her mother, freshly released from an asylum, acting overly protective and suspicious. And it would be much simpler if the mysterious Morpheus didn’t show up for school one day to tempt her with another dangerous quest in the dark, challenging Wonderland—where she (partly) belongs.

As prom and graduation creep closer, Alyssa juggles Morpheus’s unsettling presence in her real world with trying to tell Jeb the truth about a past he’s forgotten. Glimpses of Wonderland start to bleed through her art and into her world in very disturbing ways, and Morpheus warns that Queen Red won’t be far behind.

If Alyssa stays in the human realm, she could endanger Jeb, her parents, and everyone she loves. But if she steps through the rabbit hole again, she'll face a deadly battle that could cost more than just her head.



My thoughts are a bit all over the place with this one. On the one hand, I read it nearly straight through, and I found myself amazed by a lot of the prose and a lot of Howard's twists on Wonderland lore. On the other hand, I wanted to throttle the vast majority of the major characters, and that's never good, is it?



One of the first aspects that threw me off was the relationship between Jeb and Alyssa. They've been together for a year, but for most of that time they've been separated--he in London, being an artist, she at home, going to school. I didn't really feel them anymore, which is a shame, because Alyssa's love for Jeb is a lot of the driving force of her character. It's pretty much all of Jeb's personality, besides artistic ambition. 

What I did love very much was the way Howard brought the sinister aspects of Wonderland to life, and the way she made them invade the real world in a way that feels totally wrong but deliciously right. Alyssa's Netherling, Queen-of-Wonderland side is beginning to take over her human side. Shenanigans are going on back in Wonderland, and it's starting to affect the human world. Which is why Morpheus, aka the only character I gave a toss about this time around (surprisingly, as he's still quite horrible at times). Oh, no. I also liked Alyssa's father, for the most part, and Alyssa's mother by the end. Alyssa's mom is free from the asylum and living at home, and there will be some reveals about her that will piss you off mightily, but in the end she became a fuller character.

My issues were with Jeb and Alyssa. It's hard for me to say exactly why I couldn't warm to them any longer. Maybe because they kept saying they loved each other but didn't seem to demonstrate it very effectively in the day to day? Maybe because that big, adorable Morpheus reveal made me go "Awwwwww"? But even before that, Alyssa began rubbing me the wrong way. Don't get me wrong--I like characters with moral ambiguity, who aren't perfect, who make mistakes and can be accidentally cruel. But I don't think jealous, occasionally petty Alyssa knew that she was kind of awful at times, and nor, I think, did the author. It became a bit unpleasant being in her head, but I still can't put my finger on precisely why. She grated on me, she cried, and she made decisions I couldn't track.



Another drawback is the fact that we don't actually get to go back to Wonderland, cutting back on one of Howard's strengths. The Wonderland madness, inventiveness, and visualness is why I came, and while the parts that do show up are wonderfully realized, I still missed it. There was too much contemporary blah blah for me. Then again, the denizens of Wonderland suddenly beng in the human world led to great hilarity. I LOVE the White Rabid, and seeing Morpheus try to "acclimate" was also fun. Jenara, Jeb's sister and Alyssa's supposed best friend, is an entirely superfluous character.

As always, Howard is a master at revealing twists and new information that completely flip everything you thought was true on its head. Think you understand Morpheus? Alyssa's mother? Alyssa's father? Guess again. Nothing is at it seems. We're all mad here.

As for the final climax... well, my problem is that it was hard to see. I couldn't picture it, and it didn't make much sense as a battle. I didn't enjoy the after-effects, though I adore the set-up for the next book. I finished this book with a shrug. Did I enjoy parts of it? Most definitely. Will I read the third? Yes, for Morpheus and my curiosity. Am I salivating for it? No, no really.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Book Haul, or the One With My New Obsession


I had planned on filming a vlog this week, I honestly did. But then, of course, fate decided to mess with me and tossed a delightful bit of stomach flu my way this week. The silver lining of that unfortunate situation is that I got a lot of reading done this week. Oh, and that I have discovered the new thing I'm going to be insanely, unhealthily obsessed with.

Purchased:

 
 

The paperback boxed set of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series

Helloooo, new obsession. I'd never read a word of these books before Wednesday--in fact, a secret evil part of my very evil and very snobby brain sort of always thought they were probably a bit of a Harry Potter knockoff--but now I kind of feel like punching myself in the face. I read the first book in about two days and I'm in love. Thank goodness I had the foresight to buy this GORGEOUS boxed set, because I've already begun The Sea of Monsters. I'm in deep, folks.

For review from Harper:

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Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern

Apparently this is not about chairs in love. What a shame. Still, this looks like it could be equal parts heartbreaking and cute, so I'm excited. Though the blurb does bill it as The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor & Park. The concept is aping the first, and the cover is aping the latter. So, we'll see.

Ginger hopes you snuggle up and stay warm this weekend.



"Excuse me, ma'am, do yo know how fast your books were going?

Friday, January 24, 2014

Review: A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller


Review: A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller
Goodreads 
Release date: January 21st, 2014
Publisher: Viking Juvenile (Penguin)
Series: No
Source: Print ARC from the publisher
Rating: A delightful and romantic historical novel. A must-read!

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Welcome to the world of the fabulously wealthy in London, 1909, where dresses and houses are overwhelmingly opulent, social class means everything, and women are taught to be nothing more than wives and mothers. Into this world comes seventeen-year-old Victoria Darling, who wants only to be an artist—a nearly impossible dream for a girl.
           
After Vicky poses nude for her illicit art class, she is expelled from her French finishing school. Shamed and scandalized, her parents try to marry her off to the wealthy Edmund Carrick-Humphrey. But Vicky has other things on her mind: her clandestine application to the Royal College of Art; her participation in the suffragette movement; and her growing attraction to a working-class boy who may be her muse—or may be the love of her life. As the world of debutante balls, corsets, and high society obligations closes in around her, Vicky must figure out: just how much is she willing to sacrifice to pursue her dreams?



This book! Oh, I adored this book. It's everything I want in a historical novel. It focuses on characters and plot and never bogs you down with historical information. The information just seeps into your brain as you read, and you're never bored for a minute. I read most of this book on a plane, and I'll say it kept me quite entertained, and that I think I scared my seatmate a bit with all the squealing and clamping of the book to my heart.

We first meet Vicky, our plucky, artistic heroine in boarding school in France. She's got a lot of artistic talent, and what's more, she's got drive, determined not to let limitations imposed upon her gender inhibit her (that's my girl). So of course, she volunteers to pose nude for the all-male art class she's not supposed to be a part of, and of course there is une scandale magnifique, and Vicky is sent home to London in disgrace. It's all great fun, and the best part about it is that Vicky really is very honey badgerish about it. She don't give a shit. She just wants to draw, okay? She's a bit reckless and extremely stubborn, but she's also funny and brave and my God, I love this girl. She's not afraid to speak her mind, and she makes a hilarious accidental drunk. And I love that she's determined to take charge of her own life.

Her wealthy (and misogynistic) parents are determined to make a lady of her and have arranged to marry her off, but Vicky's set on getting into art college. As she tries to achieve her dreams in a world in which women are not meant to dream, she crosses paths with the suffragettes, aka the female protestors endeavoring to win the right to vote. That's right. Any time you watch a gorgeous period drama and get taken in my the lavish costumes and the courtesy and what not, and think you'd like to live in that time, read this book and realize that, if you're female, you'd basically be an object that gets passed around from man to man and has no say in... well, anything.

I loved the suffragists. Loved, loved, loved. There was so much fun and swoon (more on the swoon later), but this book also touched on serious issues affecting women in 1909. While British History is my most beloved nerd-topic, I'll admit to not knowing too much about Emmaline Pankhurst and her brethren besides the fact that they're Mrs. Banks' sisters.



Vicky becomes more and more drawn into their cause, and I fell more and more in love with her. Vicky, my GIRL. Also, the art bits. As someone who's also done art her entire life, I could relate completely to her artistic drive and the way she'd become absorbed in her sketches. Her desire to conquer paint, a medium, she's not yet comfortable with. The desire to be taught. The desire to draw certain subjects (she gets an overwhelming urge to draw the suffragettes, which starts this whole thing off). Vicky's artistic talent was incorporated very naturally and wonderfully into the plot and really helped round out her character.

Okay. Swoony swoons. All the swoony swoons. Vicky is engaged to be married to a wealthy young man, Edmund, and though she realizes he's not as wretched as he could be, she crosses paths with a handsome, working-class police constable named Will, who... well, I think I need a moment.



I really don't want to tell too much, because the wonder of this story is watching Vicky discover herself and find independence in a world that's determined not to let her. But you should know there is also a very cute boy who supports her dreams, and there's nothing more romantic to me than that. If you're anything like me (and you shouldn't be, I'm a bit insane when it comes to ships. You might have noticed), you will squeak and squeal and grin like a mad person basically whenever they make eye contact.

Obviously, I loved this book. Get thee to a bookstore, fool! You need this book in your life.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

LGBT YA in 2014


I'm always pleased when, while peeking through publisher catalogues and people's Goodreads TBRs, I see titles involving LGBT themes. They're becoming more and more prevalent, and I couldn't be happier about it. 2014 includes more than any other year before it, it seems, and what's even better is that a lot of them seem to be super cute and happy rom-com types. Not that I don't love the super heartbreaking ones that probe deep issues, but varietyis always excellent.

Here are just a sampling of the LGBT YA fiction I've got my eye on in the coming year:

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The Summer I Wasn't Me by Jessica Verdi
When it's releasing: April 1
Who's publishing it: Sourcebooks Fire
Why you want it: I've read this one, and confession: it's wrenching. A teen girl gets sent to a de-gayification camp to please her mother, but it's there that she discovers herself, finds love, and makes a totally awesome best friend.

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One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva
When it's releasing: May 27th
Who's publishing it: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (Macmillan)
Why you want it: Hellooo, adorable illustrated cover. A nerdy Armenian boy maybe falls in love with cool, hipster skateboarder dude. It sounds like the cutest.

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Otherbound by Corinne Duyvis
When it's releasing: June 17th
Who's publishing it: Amulet (Abrams)
Why you want it: LGBT FANTASY. LGBT fantasy. LGBT FANTASY!!!!

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Fan Art by Sarah Tregay
When it's releasing: June 17
Who's publishing it: Katherine Tegen (HarperCollins)
Why you want it: It's about an artist boy who falls in love with his best friend. Art! Cute cover! Friendship to (maybe) romance!

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Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith
When it's releasing: February 11th
Who's publishing it: Dutton Juvenile (Penguin)
Why you want it: Despite its poisonously green cover (seriously, I have a copy of this thing, and it could blind you), this book is supposed to be completely on crack in the best way. It's about the end of the world? Or giant grasshoppers? Or something? I don't even know, but I'm excited.

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Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour
When it's releasing: May 15th
Who's publishing it: Dutton Juvenile (Penguin)
Why you want it: Because I want to frame this cover and hang it on my wall, that's why. And it's about a film buff/wunderkind set designer obsessed with Old Hollywood. Yes, please.

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Dark Metropolis by Jaclyn Dolamore
When it's releasing: June 17
Who's publishing it: Disney Hyperion
Why you want it: There isn't any LGBT-ness in the synopses, but I hear this is LGBT-related and the worldbuilding just sounds completely gorgeous and unique. I must have it.

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My Best Friend, Maybe by Caela Carter
When it's releasing: June 3rd
Who's publishing it: Bloomsbury
Why you want it: It's a summery book set in the Greek Isles about a pair of best friends who stopped being friends... but it seems to me that they just might end up being more.

Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley (coverless)
When it's releasing: October
Who's publishing it: HarlequinTeen
Why you want it: Lesbian desegregtion romance. It's set in a newly integrated high school in 1959 Virginia in which a black girl and a white girl fall in love, and I'm sorry, my brain just exploded in anticipation.

A few others to look out for: Far From You by Tess Sharpe, Lies My Girlfriend Told Me by Julie Anne Peters, Guardian by Alex London.

I left off a bunch more, including some that weren't too clear about LGBT-ness in their synopses or were too far out for me to have any real information on them. But like I said, I'm so happy that publishers seems to be producing more and more LGBT fiction, and the ones above all sound pretty amazing. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Review: Evertrue by Brodi Ashton


Review: Evertrue by Brodi Ashton
Goodreads 
Release date: January 21st, 2014
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins)
Series: #3 in the Everneath series
Source: ARC borrowed from Lili
Rating: While satisfying in some aspects, this series finale left me mostly underwhelmed and disappointed.

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Now that Nikki has rescued Jack, all she wants is to be with him and graduate high school. But Cole tricked Nikki into feeding off him, and she’s begun the process of turning into an Everliving herself... which means she must feed on a Forfeit soon — or die.

Terrified for her survival, Nikki and Jack begin a desperate attempt to reverse the process using any means possible. Even Cole, who they expected to fight them at every turn, has become an unlikely ally — but how long can it last? Nikki needs to feed on Cole to survive, Cole needs Nikki to gain the throne in the Everneath, Jack needs Nikki because she is everything to him — and together, they must travel back to the Underworld to undo Nikki’s fate and make her mortal once more. But Cole isn’t the only one with plans for Nikki: the Queen has not forgotten Nikki’s treachery, and she wants her destroyed for good. Will Nikki be forced to spend eternity in the Underworld, or does she have what it takes to bring down the Everneath once and for all?

In this stunning conclusion to the Everneath trilogy, Brodi Ashton evokes the resiliency of the human spirit and the indomitable power of true love.


My review of Everneath | My review of Everbound

Oh, Evertrue. I was so looking forward to you. Everbound was one of my favorite sequels ever, and it ended on such a bang. I always have such high expectations for series enders, and sadly this one fell short.

I still have a lot of love for this series, and there are some excellent things going on in Evertrue. The good news is, many people will love this book, and I know several who did. I'll start with the positives first. I've always been enormously invested in the fates of these characters, and that's no different in Evertrue. I really love following along with them. I love the romance, and I especially love Cole and the way he and Nikki play off each other. What's more, this book is funny. Like, people actually make jokes and there are pop culture references. Xanadu! Jack references Xanadu! Jack, marry me.

Nikki has grown a lot, and I'm still touched by her relationship with Jack and the fact that's it's healthy and shippable. She's become a heroine I care for, and has lot a lot of her moodiness. In fact, I loved her in this book (especially when she makes jokes. No, seriously, all a character has to do to make me love them is make me laugh). Though Cole and Nikki's interactions continue to be the best--not to mention Cole's Coleness being all Coley--Jack and Nikki are in fine form in this installment. Also especially Cole. i just really love Cole, okay? I love the way he makes fun of Jack and Nikki all the time for being schmoopy, which they are.



Also, I read this in one evening, so clearly the book had no trouble grabbing onto me. Like I said, I was very invested, and despite a few pacing problems, I couldn't put the book down.

Now, sadly, we must go on to the cons. For me, series enders are always hugely emotional affairs. There's the joy of resolution mixed with the pain of finality. You heave a happy sigh and blink back tears as you close the book at the end. I so wanted that from this, but one or two things--especially one HUGE thing--prevented me from achieving that happy-hurt feeling.

I had an issue with the queen of the Everneath. She is so incredibly creepy at times, particularly in Everbound. I wanted her to be a bigger adversary. I want Nikki's showdown with her to be bigger, more epic, more difficult. Which was another huge problem I had with Evertrue: how easy things seemed to be. Jack and Nikki decide to destroy the Everneath, and while that is presented as an undoable task, it doesn't really play out like one. There is a lot of narrative convenience (happening to remember relevant information at just the right time, just so happening to find the correct artifact right when you need it, etc). This is a huge no-no for me, as struggling through insurmountable obstacles is the cornerstone of drama.



This pacing is also quite off. Everbound was such a rollicking ride and ended with such a bang that I was thristing to dig right into Evertrue, but the beginning is quite slow. That's also where all the best Cole stuff, and all the best Nikki and Jack stuff, is, so I'm not complaining too much, but the plot took a bit to get going. We get a bit lost there in the middle, particularly with a story choice I... did not particularly care for, which I'll elaborate on next. Things start to pick up, and suddenly we are zooming along and there's action everywhere and I'm totally into it and POOF! Over. The last forty or so pages so most of the heavy-lifting, and it's not enough. This book needed to be both longer and shorter, if that makes any sense. (It does. Go with it.)

Okay. So The Thing. The Plotberg, as Meg would call it. The choice that sank the Titanic, aka the story. I can't tell you what it is, as it is ENORMOUSLY spoilery, but I am very, very unhappy. Basically, the choice took Cole, my favorite character and the most interesting of the bunch, and erased all the things we liked about him. I didn't get it. It felt a bit like Ashton didn't know how to get Cole to do the things the plot required, and so she made this choice. Granted, it led to some very, very amusing exchanges, but I was really hoping it would turn out differently. Removing that element from the story removed most of my enjoyment of it, sadly. It made me very Grumpy Cat.



I still have no idea why Nikki's little brother existed, and her relationship with her father feels very... I don't know, secondary. It's odd, and the story hardly ever focuses on it. Don't even get me started on the fact that he keeps trying to send her to rehab without any evidence (physical or drug-test-wise) that she has ever done drugs. There are other reasons teenagers disappear. (Granted, it is not usually because they are trying to bring an end to the Underworld, but you know what I mean.)

I still love this series, and I will always, always love Everbound in particular. There is some fabulous Everneath worldbuilding in this book, and like I said, it's still an intensely fun read, and the end totally choked me up. I just sincerely wish Ashton had made a few different choices in constructing her plots and had stayed more true to some of her characters.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Sequel Mini Reviews: Everbound and Burn Bright


Review: Burn Bright by Bethany Frenette
Goodreads 
Release date: February 25th, 2014
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Series: #2 in the  Dark Star series
Source: ARC borrowed from Lili
Rating: A solid sequel in a series more people should be reading.

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Audrey Whitticomb saved her entire city.

Well, kind of. The superhero Morning Star (who just happens to be Audrey's mom) might have played a small part, and her sidekick, Leon—Audrey's sort-of boyfriend, who is gorgeous... and frustrating—maybe helped, too.

But after two peaceful months, there is a vicious new threat in Minneapolis. Her name is Susannah, and she's a Harrower, a demon hell-bent on destroying people like Morning Star, Leon, and Audrey—the Kin. Like others before her, she seeks the Remnant, a Kin girl who has the power to unleash the inhabitants of the Beneath. But to what end?

Audrey already has a ton on her plate: dealing with her best friend Tink's boy drama, helping her other best friend Gideon figure out his nightmares, and exploring the highs and lows of "dating" Leon. But when she develops a powerful new ability, Audrey seizes on the chance to fight, despite her mother's protests and Leon's pleas.

As Audrey gets closer to figuring out Susannah's motives and tracking down the Remnant, she'll uncover more than she bargained for. The terrible truth is staring Audrey in the face. But knowing the truth and accepting it are very different things.


My review of Dark Star, book one

More people should be reading this delightful superhero/urban fantasy series. It's funny, charming and full of twists and turns. The relationships are strong, and the heroine is wonderful. Like the first, this book got off to a bit of a slow start, but once it hits its stride, I couldn't put it down. We get more worldbuilding, more info, a super creepy bad girl demon who honestly will haunt your nightmares. We get more Leon and Audrey (SWOON. Those kiss scenes? ALL THE SWOON).

I also love the secondary relationships in this book, namely the ones between Audrey and her mother, the superhero Morning Star, and Audrey and her best friend, Gideon (I still would like a bit more resolution in her friendship with Tink, though at least they're not a girl-hate friendship thing). Oh, and Audrey's dad, too! That was so heartbreaking. This book made me feel.

There were two big twists in this book, one I completely saw coming, the other which KNOCKED MY LEGS OUT FROM UNDER ME. Bravo, Ms. Frenette. The Gideon reveal was CARAAAZY.

Seriously, this series is pretty great. There are demons, people with superpowers, a psychic heroine, and an adorable love interest who BAKES. What more do you need in life, right?


Review: Everbound by Brodi Ashton
Goodreads 
Release date: January 22nd, 2013
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins)
Series: #2 in the Everneath series
Source: Purchased
Rating: The best in the series.

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Two months ago, the Tunnels of the underworld came for Nikki Beckett. That night, Nikki's boyfriend, Jack, made the ultimate sacrifice. All Nikki wants is to save Jack before it's too late. All Cole wants is to find his queen - and he thinks Nikki is the one. Both determined, both desperate, Nikki and Cole form a tense alliance, leading them on a dangerous journey to The Heart of The Everneath.

My review of Everneath, book one

EVERBOUND. HOLY CRAP. I sincerely enjoyed Everneath, but Everbound took me to realms of LOVE. We get to see so much of the Everneath itself, and there's some truly excellent worldbuilding. The pace is quick, the stakes are high, and there's so much of Cole, aka the most interesting characters of the bunch. I LOVE Cole. The Jack-Nikki flashbacks are sweet and heartbreaking as ever, and I continue to consider them a lovely, healthy couple who truly ought to be together.

And then the end. THAT ENDING. AHHHHHH. MY EMOTIONS MY FEELINGS MY SOUL MY HEART. I said on Goodreads that I felt like a wrung-out towel after this book, and I DID.

Seriously, I love endings that leave your jaw gaping, that make you howl, "NOOOOOO!" and slam the book down. And this did. Everbound, you are the complete opposite of Second Book Syndrome to me, in that you're the best of your series by far.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Vitro Blog Tour: Jessica Khoury Talks Setting



Welcome to the Vitro blog tour! Jessica Khoury, the talented author of Origin, is back with a death-defying tropical adventure. Follow along over the next two weeks as Jessica takes readers behind the scenes of her latest novel. Today, Jessica's here to talk about the setting of Vitro, which I can tell you (you know, having read and most thoroughly enjoyed it), is one of the shining aspects of the book.

Skin Island Unveiled

Skin Island is the primary setting for Vitro. It was once home to a resort called Halcyon Cove, but when the resort closed, the island came under Corpus control. Some of the old buildings were renovated into state-of-the-art laboratories, and Corpus scientists and employees took up residence in the abandoned villas overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Much of the resort was left untouched, however, and has been overgrown by jungle.

(source)

Skin Island is part of the archipelago known as the Marianas. The closest airport to the island is A.B. Won Pat International Airport on Guam, where the story opens with Sophie having just flown in from the States. Immediately she runs into a roadblock when she is unable to find a pilot willing to fly her to Skin Island, which is wreathed in rumors of disappearances, strange experiments, and hostile guards.


To bring Skin Island to life, I had to learn everything I could about the Marianas. This meant reading up on Guam, the Chamorro people, the flora and fauna of the South Pacific, the weather patterns, the tidal charts, and even the flight regulations for small aircraft in the area. In order to get a feel for the island atmosphere, I spent time in the Caribbean while writing (yes, we writers really suffer for our craft, I know, I know...). It's details like these that make a setting believable, and I hope readers will feel as if they are truly sitting beneath the palm trees, toes buried in the sand and ears filled with the rush and roar of the surf as they read Vitro.

(source)

Gillian again! Thanks for all the awesome info, Jessica. Doesn't that place look amazing? Aren't you all thinking, "I want to go to there?" Well, you might want to rethink that wanderlust after you read the synopsis for Vitro by Jessica Khoury:

When Sophie is summoned by her long-absent mother, a scientist who works in a classified lab, Sophie throws caution to the wind and heads to the South Pacific. She sweet-talks her way onto a tiny supply plane piloted by Jim Julien, who lives on Guam with his alcoholic father. Jim is captivated by Sophie and against his better judgement agrees to take Sophie to the secretive and tropical Skin Island where her mom has been working for so many years.

There Sophie and Jim are met not by her mother but instead by Nicholas, a handsome, brilliant boy who leads them to Lux--a girl who looks exactly like Sophie. Lux is Sophie's genetic twin and was bred using in vitro fertilization. But why? And just what have the scientists created Lux to be capable of?

With lyrical writing and ever-increasing tension, Jessica Khoury draws out the explosive answers in her much-anticipated followup to 
Origin.


About Jessica Khoury:

 

 Jessica Khoury is 23 years old. She has red hair. She was homeschooled. She's an avid soccer player and was a three-time All-American striker. She is of Syrian and Scottish descent. She went to college in the same tiny Georgia town in which she was born and raised. And she's a prodigiously talented writer with a huge following.

Jessica Khoury lives in Toccoa, GA with her husband, Benjamin. You can visit her online at www.jessicakhoury.com.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Book Haul, or the One In Which I Display Uncharacteristic Restraint


Yep. That's right. Very few books this week. I deserve a medal, I do.

How weird is it that all the books have faces that are looking at me this week? Stop looking at me, books!

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Asunder by Jodi Meadows
I really liked Incarnate, so it only made sense I'd eventually get around to its sequel. I purchased this for Alexa's Incarnate series Readathon, which you should totally all join!

Faking Normal  by Courtney C. Stevens
I am not too sure this is going to be my cup of tea (it seems vaaaaguely like a Speak knockoff), but I'm willing to give it the benefit of the doubt.

Fortune's Pawn by Rachel Bach
I forgot to mention this one the other week, but it was on sale and Christina, Jessie, Wendy, and many others were all raving about it and yelling at me to read it. So I got it! HAPPY, WORLD?


Ginger hopes you have a very pleasant and bookish weekend.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Review: Into the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi


Review: Into the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi
Goodreads 
Release date: January 28th, 2014
Publisher: HarperCollins
Series: #3 in the Under the Never Sky trilogy
Source: E-ARC
Rating: A satisfying, intense series ender!

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The earth-shattering conclusion to Veronica Rossi's "masterpiece" Under the Never Sky trilogy and sequel to the New York Times bestselling Through the Ever Night (Examiner.com).

Their love and their leadership have been tested. Now it's time for Perry and Aria to unite the Dwellers and the Outsiders in one last desperate attempt to bring balance to their world.

The race to the Still Blue has reached a stalemate. Aria and Perry are determined to find this last safe-haven from the Aether storms before Sable and Hess do-and they are just as determined to stay together.

Meanwhile, time is running out to rescue Cinder, who was abducted by Hess and Sable for his unique abilities. And when Roar returns to camp, he is so furious with Perry that he won't even look at him, and Perry begins to feel like they have already lost.

Out of options, Perry and Aria assemble a team to mount an impossible rescue mission-because Cinder isn't just the key to unlocking the Still Blue and their only hope for survival, he's also their friend. And in a dying world, the bonds between people are what matter most.

In this final book in her stunning Under the Never Sky trilogy, Veronica Rossi raises the stakes to their absolute limit and brings her epic love story to an unforgettable close.


This review contains spoilers for Under the Never Sky and Through the Ever Night.

Series enders are a strange mix of exciting and scary. You go into them so ready, so in love with the characters, so invested in the plot. You're ready for them to break your heart. You want SO MUCH for your characters to end up happy, but you also don't want it to end at all.

My experience with the Under the Never Sky was unique, considering I binge-read the entire thing (novellas included) in about three days. Honestly, I couldn't recommend going about it like that more, but I can understand that most people haven't got that kind of reading stamina or the time (seriously, that was intense and exhausting and amazing, but I was destroyed afterwards). But reading them close together was amazing.

UtNS posed a lot of questions, TtEN answered them while setting up a whole bunch of tense situations, and then ItSB delivered on every front. I got to watch the characters develop closely, and I never lost my investment or forgot worldbuilding details. And coming fresh off the disasters at the end of TtEN--Reverie destroyed, the Tides seeking refuge from the ever-worsening Aether storms in the caves--makes the stakes in ItSB feel very high.

Things are not great for our heroes. Cinder has been captured by the combined forces of Hess and Sable (the evillest evil to ever evil), Aria is badly wounded, the rescued Dwellers are sick, Roar is still lost in grief, and Perry is stressing over how to save the Tides. Their cave sanctuary is only temporary. To survive, they need to find the Still Blue, aka the area of the world beyond the sea that is free of Aether storms. For that they need hovers, and they need Cinder. So they decide to go and get both things.

What I loved about ItSB was the action. There's heaps of it. The book moves along, gaining in intensity (always managing to find time for swoony scenes though, thank goodness). I love series enders where people  die (no, I'm not psychotic. I just like drama), and people do die. There is heartbreak, betrayal, torture, loss, victory, pain, grief. This book is such an emotional experience, and yet it felt so satisfying at the end. Like, I just lay down on my bed and held my kindle and sort of moaned in pain and happiness and mostly pain. BECAUSE OVER, you know? Whyyyyyy?

 

I love how much this book focused on love and friendship. Aria and Roar, my favoritest relationship in all the world, is still magnificent to behold. Roar and Perry, however, have some patching up to do, and ow my feels owwwwww. ROAR. MY POOR GRIEVING BABY. Then there's Perry's love for Roar, Brooke finally coming into her own

We also get more focus on Soren, who surprisingly became my new favorite character--who knew, right?--on Hess, and on Cinder. And Sable, may he choke on his own vomit and die. What a fabulous, horrific villain he is. I mean, he cemented himself as, like I said, the evillest evil to ever evil in the last book, but he's really a fearsome adversary in this one. He wants the Still Blue, and he does not want anybody else to get it. He's not afraid to strike down anyone in his way. This made me a little bit stressed and a lot a bit terrified for my babies.

My inner monologue while reading was basically, "Don't hurt Roar, don't hurt Roar, OH MY GOD IF YOU HURT ARIA, don't hurt Roar, PERRY!!!!!, NO SERIOUSLY DON'T HURT ROAR."

 

 I don't really want to talk plot specifics, because this book is best if you're going along with all the madness totally unprepared. Rossi does an amazing job of balancing forward motion with relationship development. Aria and Perry are such a strong, loving, healthy couple. A few of their scenes are just gorgeous, and they'll completely break your heart. 

(While explaining why he hasn't given Aria a silly nickname)
"What I was trying to say,” (Perry) whispered, “is that I see you in everything. There isn’t a word for you that means enough, because you’re everything to me.”



Swoooooooon.

If I could leverage any one tiny complaint about the series, it was that I wanted to know the Dwellers (besides Soren, who we got to know quite well) better. Caleb was a bit of a nonentity to me, despite the fact that Aria kept mentioning how important he was to her. Also, though the book surprised me in places, it did follow the general arc I was expecting, but it was so enjoyable and felt so right that I didn't really have a problem with it. I like that Aria and Perry's plans succeed and fail realistically (there's a lot of failure that creates a lot of complications and I LOVE IT because that's drama).

One fun quote to tease Aria's awesomeness:

Aria rammed her elbow into (spoiler's) throat.

She spun away, grabbin (spoiler's) arm and twisting it behind her. She forced (spoiler) down with an arm lock, sending her face smashing into the dirt. Snatching the pistol from the ground, Aria slammed the butt into the back of (spoiler's) head. (Spoiler) went limp, knocked unconscious.

Aria jumped to her feet and ran over. "I hate that girl."

Oh, man. I don't want this series to be over! No! What am i supposed to do with my life? How am I supposed to go on? Can I have a Roar series, maybe? Maybe I can go all Eternal Sunshine, erase my reading experience from my memory banks, and then read the whole series anew once more? Because I... I feel... directionless. How can there not be moooooorrrre?? I am so sad and so satisfied all at the same time. I feel exactly the way you should feel upon finishing a beloved series.