Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Under the Never Sky

Title: Under the Never Sky
Author: Veronica Rossi
Genre: Dystopia
Rating: 5/5
Cover: 10/10

Frankly, I have no idea what took me so long to pick this book up. I really don't. The cover is lovely, the title is intriguing... And while I am now glad that it took me longer to read it, because I have to wait less for the next one, it is also sad that I went on for all that time, not knowing what an awesome book it was.

*ahem* Yes. Under the Never Sky is the story of Aria. In Aria's post-apocalyptic world, society was forced into pods to escape the Aether storms - imagine super-frying lighting storms - which almost decimated the population years ago. Inside the pods, everyone lives through a computer mechanism, the Smarteye, which simulates being in different places, while your real body isn't actually doing any of those things. When Aria's mom, who is working in another pod, stops contacting her for a week, Aria gets desperate. She misjudges people's agenda... She gets kicked out of the pod.
Left to starve, die of dehydration, to be eaten by a wild animal, or worse of all, to be killed in an Aether storm, Aria is sure she won't survive to see her next day rise.

Can I just take a moment here to appreciate how amazingly this story was written? It's in two different POVs, so you get a very, very profound understanding of both Perry's - the outsider, tough, and somewhat mean guy who will fight till his last breath for those he loves - and Aria's - the insider, scared and sometimes whiny (though admittedly, she has her reasons) girl who finds herself alone in a place which, according to everything she's been told all her life, means certain death for her - backgrounds.
And it is true beauty to see both of them get over their prejudices, and their previous concepts of each other's worlds.
Plus, Under the Never Sky has it all. You want to see something heartbreaking? Check. You want to read action scenes? Check. You want romance? Check. Sexual tension? Double check. Character development? Triple check. Plot twists? Check again. Paranormal side? Check. Family intrigue? Check that one ten times, and then some. Whatever you're looking for in a book, Under the Never Sky has it, plus a few things you didn't even know you were looking for, but that complement the story flawlessly.

If you haven't yet, go read it. I promise you, it will not disappoint.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Touch of Power

Title: Touch of Power (Healer #1)
Author: Maria V. Snyder
Genre: YA
Rating: 5/5
Cover: 10/10

Avry of Kazan lives in a world where some people have magic. There are eleven different kinds of mages in the 15 Realms, and she is a Healer. When she was fifteen, her powers manifested and she was sent off to be an apprentice to another Healer. While away from her family, there was an outbreak of a plague; a plague that no Healer could cure without dying themselves.
Shunned by the population, and accused of having started the plague, the Healers were hunted throughout the Realms, and hefty bounties were offered to anyone who handed over a Healer. After three years on the run, Avry makes a mistake and is discovered and sentenced to death.
Having accepted her fate, she is surprised when a group of travellers breaks her out of prison, and asks her to heal a friend of theirs of the plague. As she travels with this band of misfits, Avry re-discovers the power of friendship, love and loyalty. But will she heal their friend?

Touch of Power was, to put it quite bluntly, awesome. There really is no other word for it. And the amazing thing is you can't really pinpoint what makes the book so good, because everything is just so well-written, well-paced and the world is so well-built, there's just no way of saying 'oh this was good, but that wasn't so much'. And writing a review for a book like this is extremely hard. But I'll try.
There is not a moment of sleepiness in Touch of Power, and from page one, Avry draws you in with her witty thoughts, dry humour and jaded perspective of the world. She is hunted, and she is tired of it. But once she has five men helping her survive, and they all know what she is so she doesn't have to hide her real self anymore, she really comes into herself again, and you get to see an entirely different woman - albeit still hilarious, fascinating and compelling - from the Avry you met at the beginning of the book.
And the secondary characters are equally interesting. There is no lack of depth in this book's characters, which of course makes the entire experience a roller-coaster ride of crazy emotions flying all over the place as you alternatively grieve, cry, laugh, hurt, scare, love, hate and become stubborn with them.

A fascinating read; can't wait for the next one! Touch of Power has a winner ending, that will leave you aching for more.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Book Review: Underworld

Title: Underworld (Abandon #2)
Author: Meg Cabot
Genre: YA, supernatural
Rating: 4/5
Cover: 7/10

In the sequel to Abandon, we continue following Pierce Oliviera's struggle to accept the truth about the nature of the boy she loves.

I'll be honest: Abandon didn't impress me all too much. In fact, the one scene in Abandon that I did enjoy, and felt it was more in tone with the theme of the book, was so close to the end, I'd almost given up hope of finding it by then. But Underworld surprised me nicely; not only did John, the present-day personification of Hades, act more like what I'd expect from a Death Deity, but there was hardly one slow moment in the entire book, and that always makes for a gripping read.
All that said, I've read every single book Meg Cabot has eve written, including the ones that are all but impossible to find these days (my school library was too good for words), and I just know she can write better than this. Which is why Underworld got a 4/5.

Underworld has a light feeling to it, that might not be the best image for a book that is, in its' core, a retelling of Persephone's myth, but while Pierce is in love with Death, she isn't Death; in fact, she's somewhat his opposite, caring so much for any living being, and doing everything in her power to help those who need it. Of course, opposites attract, but they also clash. A lot. Which makes for an interesting relationship, that's for sure.
But I saw a great deal of much-needed character development in Underworld. John was acting more like Death, but at the same time, as a man very much in love; it's a delicate balance to tread, but Meg pulled it off pretty well. As for Pierce, she really came into her own strength in this this book. It's like someone reached down into the book and slapped her a good one for her to wake up. I really enjoyed seeing her and John butt heads, two stubborn mules that they are.
And I loved meeting John's shipmates. I adored little Henry, and wanted to hug him every time he showed up.
All in all, a fun read, but nothing too desperate. And beware: it does end in a cliffhanger.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Book Review: City of Lost Souls

Title: City of Lost Souls (The Mortal Instruments #5)
Author: Cassandra Clare
Genre: YA, paranormal
Rating: 5/5
Cover: 9.5/10

I understand I'd be killed if any spoilers left my fingers right now since so many people are still reading it, so rest assured this is a non-spoilery review.

First of all, I want to say that, out of Cassie Clare's books, my favourite series of hers isn't The Mortal Instruments, but Infernal Devices. I still rushed out to buy City of Lost Souls though, and was done with in under six hours. That has many reasons - and yes, one of them is because the story is great - and the main one is... William Herondale.
Don't look at me like that. I'm not crazy just yet. I know that Will, my dear, beloved Will, belongs to Infernal Devices. But you'll notice Jace is a Herondale, and so the legacy lives on. But that's off the point; the reason I devoured City of Lost Souls so fast was that is was absolutely FASCINATING to see so many parallels between Infernal Devices and The Mortal Instruments. It just makes me want to read all the other The Mortal Instruments books again to see what other little tidbits of Infernal Devices characters I can find, and that, when I first read them, meant nothing to me.

There is a particular scene that had me shaking and sobbing like a baby. Suffice it to say that Herondale perfection is perfect. And I wish people would call Jace by his real surname. It's just that, while I get and appreciate the sentiment of calling him a Lightwood, it's not who he really is. And knowing the legacy that comes with the name Herondale, I'd really love to see it in print as often as at all possible.
Another reason I enjoyed City of Lost Souls was the character development. Or rather, Clary's character development, I mean. The others were way behind on that aspect, but it was beautiful to see the little girl we met in City of Bones turn into the fierce woman she is in City of Lost Souls. And, wrong as it, perverted, maniac, demonic, hurtful, bizarre, scary and just plain evil as Sebastian (Jonathan ?) is, I can't help but love his character. He's a very complex half-demon, and I really enjoyed getting to know and see more of him.
Alec and Izzy are just great. I can't bring myself to care overmuch about their personal affairs of the heart, but I love them to bits. I was extremely surprised (nicely so) by Brother Zacharias, lost count of the number of times I threatened to kill Jocelyn if she kept on blowing holes in my Jace/Clary ship, and spent each and every page in the expectation of catching another glimpse of Tessa. Not telling you if I did, either.
Long story short: read it. And if you've read Infernal Devices, keep a lookout for all the little things you'll recognise from there; I swear it's half the fun! ;)

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Book Tour: Pretty Amy by Lisa Burstein

I have been lucky enough to take part in the Blog Book Tour for Lisa Burstein's Pretty Amy, with Entangled Publishing. Check out the blurb for the book, and an interview with the author, and be warned: Pretty Amy goes much deeper than just that beautiful cover; it's beautiful through and through.

"Sometimes date is a four-letter word

Amy is fine living in the shadows of beautiful Lila and uber-cool Cassie, because at least she’s somewhat beautiful and uber-cool by association. But when their dates stand them up for prom, and the girls take matters into their own hands—earning them a night in jail outfitted in satin, stilettos, and Spanx—Amy discovers even a prom spent in handcuffs might be better than the humiliating “rehabilitation techniques” now filling up her summer. Worse, with Lila and Cassie parentally banned, Amy feels like she has nothing—like she is nothing.
Navigating unlikely alliances with her new coworker, two very different boys, and possibly even her parents, Amy struggles to decide if it’s worth being a best friend when it makes you a public enemy. Bringing readers along on an often hilarious and heartwarming journey, Amy finds that maybe getting a life only happens once you think your life is over."

BW (Book Worm): As a debut author, was there any particular author who inspired you to write? 
LB (Lisa Burstein): I write YA because I felt like I still had all these things to say from when I was a teenager that I never got a chance to say. I also feel like teens need books in a way adults don't. At least I know I did, I looked to books to help me make sense of what I was feeling. I guess I hope teens will use PRETTY AMY in the same way. In terms of a book that influenced in the writing of PRETTY AMY, I would have to say Catcher in the Rye. Not that I would even compare PRETTY AMY to the masterpiece that is Catcher in the Rye, but I wanted to write a book about a girl that *might* be a modern, funnier Holden Caufield. Writers I read today are: Courtney Summers, Sara Zarr, John Green and Deb Caletti, any author who is willing to be raw and real.
BW: How does your writing process work? Some authors like to listen to music while writing – does that work for you? 
LB: No way! I need total silence. Also I write with my laptop on my lap.
BW: How does it feel to have a blog tour for your book? When you started Pretty Amy, did you ever think you’d be in this place someday? 
LB: It is surreal and I am so thankful. I hoped I'd be here some day, but I had no idea I really would.
BW: I noticed something called Project Amy on your website – how does that work? 
LB: Basically I wanted to provide a safe place where teens who had read PRETTY AMY could share their feelings about the book and how they feel it relates to their lives and their experiences. I am asking them to tell me how they've felt like Amy. How they got over it. How they are getting over it. How they are embracing it. I am inviting them to tell anything they've been too afraid to tell before. I will be creating a blog to showcase the stories, teens can decide whether they want to be anonymous and or have their names listed. I am hoping it will let teen girls know they are not alone. That a lot of people feel what they feel: the desire to belong, to fit in, to have people who understand them. I was a lot like Amy. Just like her I had such adesire to belong, to fit in, to have people who understood me. I wanted that so badly and I guess I never felt like adults understood that. It was most of the reason I wrote PRETTY AMY. If I'd had it when I was in high school I feel like I would have been able to understand my feelings better. I wouldn't have felt so alone. That feeling was something I never admitted to anyone, not even my friends and I wanted to let teens know it's okay to feel lonely even surrounded by friends and family.
BW: We’re just a little under a week of the (original) official publication date for Pretty Amy. How are you feeling? 
LB: Excited, stressed, excited. :)

Thank you, Lisa, for taking the time to answer my questions, and all of you -- don't forget to buy yourself a copy of Pretty Amy!
And if any of you want to check out Lisa's next blog stops, or the ones that came before me, she has the entire list up on her website.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Book Review: Shine

Title: Shine (Shade #3)
Author: Jerri Smith-Ready
Genre: YA paranormal
Rating: 5/5
Cover 8/10

Shine... The end to one of the best love triangles I've read in a long time. Mind you, in all honesty, the triangle ended in Shift, I guess. But that's beside the point. 
Shine starts exactly where Shift left off: Aura is in the cemetery, by Logan's grave, waiting for Zachary's flight - the one that will take him back to Scotland, and away from her - to take off. When news that the flight exploded mid-air a half hour after it left the US, Aura gets lost in a spiral of despair, until a text message from Zach tells her that he is alive... but for how much longer? 
With the DMP and the MI-X breathing down her neck, and Zach kept in custody for suspected involvement in the bombing, everything goes to hell when a fan of Logan's who was on the plane comes back as a ghost, and reports having seen Zachary and Logan talking, right before the flight was supposed to take off. Zach, a pre-Shifter, who shouldn't be able to see ghosts. With ghostly involvement suspected behind the planting of the bomb, US police release Zach... and hand him over to the DMP. Now desperate, Aura will do anything to make sure her new boyfriend doesn't end up like her ex: dead.
But what will be the price to save Zach? Is she willing to spy on her own country to save his sanity, and most likely, his life?

I have to comment on this one scene of the book, and I warn you now: there are spoilers you probably don't want to know below this, so if you haven't read the book, go take a breather, grab something to eat and finish (or start, I guess) Shine. You've been warned.
If I ever meet Ms. Smith-Ready, I'd like to give her a huge congratulations and maybe even some cookies. Like I stated up at the top, this book is YA. Like we all know, young adults have sex. Heavy make-out sessions are common in YA; we even expect it most of the time. But I just loved the way Ms. Smith-Ready wrote down the actual sex. In most YA books, you have the generic movie setting: making out, heading towards the bed, then only return after the deed. Not here. Oh, but it was so skilfully done. You have none of the details you'd get in an adult book, but enough to make sure you know what's happening, and enough to show the enormous bond between the two. If she'd just skipped over the sex, it probably would feel like something was missing in the book. This way, she managed to put it in there, subtly, but there enough that none of the emotions were missed, and subtle enough to make sure that the book never, not even for one second, veered from the YA range. I honestly hope more YA authors take this example; maybe we'll see more heartwarming moments without all the explicitness of an adult book. Virtual cookies to Ms. Smith-Ready for that one.

Book Review: Insurgent

Title: Insurgent (Divergent #2)
Author: Veronica Roth
Genre: YA, Dystopia
Rating: 4.5/5
Cover: 10/10

It took me a day to write this review, and I'm still not entirely sure how I feel about this book.
Insurgent starts off exactly where Divergent ended, with Tris, Four (sorry, I refuse to call him Tobias; he'll always be Four to me), Caleb, Peter and Marcus escaping the attacks, and if, like what happened with me, it's been a while since you last read Divergent, you might get a little confused about what's going on, but you'll get back on track pretty fast. The five head to the Amity compound, where the secrets and lies start to bubble to the surface.
Once Tris and Four leave, chased out by Dauntless-Erudite men, the book does not stop. If you want an easy book, with lots of laughter, look somewhere else. What follows is a harrowing tale of two adolescents battling to stay alive within a society that ostracises them because they don't belong in any of the factions. As the hunt for Divergents gets more and more intense, Tris and Four must try to discover who they can trust, who is telling the truth, and who just wants them dead - all while trying to fight the grief. Secrets are revealed, alliances are made, trust is broken, and one family is forever torn apart. The Erudite faction is determined to end all Divergent people, and with half of Tris and Four's adopted faction siding with Erudite, even friends and family may not seem to be who they say they are.

What I really loved about this book, was how Roth portrayed Tris. The girl is 16, saw both of her parents get killed for a "greater good" no one is willing to talk to her about, and had to kill one of her best friends to save her own life. No one in their right mind could blame the girl for being shaken. What I see happen so many times in books, and that makes me a little skeptical, though I've come to accept it, as it happens 99.9% of the time, is that the main character will go through terrible things - lose their entire family, have your best friend killed, be tortured, or anything else in plots, and then they cry for one night, and wake up ready to kick ass again. I'm sorry, but that is just not realistic. When you lose so many people, or even just one person, that's close to you, you do not just rebound that easy. I messes you up. And so yes, I understand Tris's trust issues, I get her apparent desire for suicide. I get it. And I loved that Roth put it in there. It made Tris more than Divergent; it made her human.
That doesn't mean I liked other things. Mostly, I'm giving Insurgent 4.5/5 because I felt that, while the level of depth with Tris was noteworthy, a few other characters were a little lacking, like Caleb and Susan.
And that ending. Holy cow, that ending! It's one thing to talk about cliffhangers. It's another to end a book with one of the biggest plot twists I've ever seen. If nothing else, read Insurgent only to marvel at the amazing skill that is that last plot twist of Insurgent.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Book Review: Kiss of Snow

Title: Kiss of Snow (Psy-Changeling #10)
Author: Nalini Singh
Genre: Adult, Paranormal
Rating: 4.5/5
Cover: 3/10 - I'm sorry, but no. I'm guessing the cover is supposed to be Hawke. He is a husky-like wolf, not black, and the ripped guy image just misleads as to the content. I mean, sure, there's sex, but not as much, and not as detailed as that cover suggests.

I'm a little unsure about how to rate this book. Sienna and Hawke had me hooked from page one, but all the side stories were a bit tiring, to be quite honest - though I'd definitely have found them more interesting, if I hadn't been so curious to know what was happening with Sienna and Hawke.
Granted, this could very well be my own fault for having started the "series" (it's more, so far as I could gather, like stand-alones, with the same characters, but with different MCs in each book) by book 10. Maybe, if I'd started back with book 1, as I should have, I'd be more interested in the secondary characters here.
Also, there were some parts in the book where I was extremely confused, and had to keep going back to check if I'd missed some part of dialogue, since the scene seemed to jump randomly. I hadn't, and I still can't figure out if I was just too slow, or what.
Regardless, I'm giving Kiss of Snow (and fair warning: you only get to truly understand the title in the last sentence of the book. It made me giggle.) a solid 4.5/5 simply because I adored Sienna. And her being the MC, that is a very important detail :P her strength, independence, passion and desire to love, even after everything she'd been through, made me wish I were more like her, while her silly stunts and stubbornness reminded me that, no matter how mature what she was forced her to be, she was still only 19. Also, her fights with Hawke were the best, and always had me smiling like a dork.
I recommend the book to anyone needing a good paranormal adult read, but I also recommend them to start with book 1. It's probably for the best ;)

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Reading Tip: Free Four

Title: Free Four: Tobias Tells the Story (Divergent #1.1)
Author: Veronica Roth
Genre: YA, dystopian
Rating: 4/5

A never-before-seen piece from #1 New York Times bestselling author Veronica Roth: a pivotal scene from DIVERGENT told from Four’s point of view.

Today is the release of Insurgent, which is already sitting patiently next to me, pleading me to start reading it with its' beautiful cover, but I told it to wait for a bit so I could blog.
Veronica Roth put this free short story out once she reached her 35,000 pre-orders of Insurgent goal (very impressive, Ms. Roth!), and in it, we get to see the knife-throwing scene through Four's eyes.
I won't lie: I love it when authors put out little tidbits from the male's (or female's, as the case may be) POV, so we can get to know and understand them a little bit more. Four's head was fascinating to delve into; he just got a 4/5, because, compared to Divergent, I felt the story a to be little lacking, honestly.
Also, and this is my own fault, since it's been a while since I read Divergent, I'd forgotten that Four's real name was actually Tobias. I don't know. Four just suits him better, I think. When I first read the full title, I remember thinking "who the hell is Tobias?". Took me some time to figure it out, too.
Still, if you're waiting impatiently for your Insurgent copy to arrive in the mail, or still haven't been able to go out and buy it, download Four's story. I guarantee you it is worth it. Plus, as the title itself says, it's free.