Friday, April 29, 2011

Waiting On Wednesday (1)

So I have a wishlist that's about 2 pages long - books that I've heard about and aren't released yet; books that are out but I haven't had a chance to buy or borrow yet...you get the idea.

I thought for something a little different I'd pick one I'm dying to read and showcase it here. So today's pick is...

Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini!

Helen Hamilton has always tried to hide how different she is—no easy feat on an island as small as Nantucket, and only getting harder as she finds herself haunted by hallucinations and vivid nightmares.

It's not until she crosses paths with Lucas Delos at school that Helen's true heritage is finally revealed. Yet even as Lucas helps her awaken to her startling powers, they can never be together—not unless they can break free from the tragic destiny the Three Fates have in store.
(Summary from author's website)

With Greek Mythology at it's heart I've had this one on my list for a couple of weeks. Last night while browsing the HarperTeen website, I found an excerpt - 99 whole pages, almost the first 5 chapters! So I started reading, got completely immersed and then was rudely cut off right when some major action occurred! I'd forgotten I was only reading an excerpt. I screamed. So now, rather than only being intrigued, I'm dying to read it!

Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini will be released 31st May 2011.

Review: Where I Belong by Gwendolyn Heasley

Meet Corrinne. She's living every girl's dream in New York City - shopping sprees at Barney's, open access to the best clubs and parties, and her own horse at the country club. Her perfect life is perfectly on track. At least it was...

When Corrinne's father is laid off, her world suddenly falls apart. Instead of heading to boarding school, she's stripped of her credit cards and shipped off to the boonies of Texas to live with her grandparents. On her own in a big public school and forced to take a job shoveling manure, Corrinne is determined to get back to the life she's supposed to be living. She doesn't care who she stomps on in the process. But when Corrinne makes an unlikely friend and discovers a total hottie at work, she begins to wonder if her life B.R. - before the recession - was as perfect as it seemed.

I was really looking forward to reading Where I Belong. A contemporary romance, it was just what I was in the mood for. While certainly light and fun, I couldn't help but feel something was missing.

While I was expecting to be annoyed with Corrinne, at least to begin with, I must say that her letter to readers at the beginning, asking us to stick with her until the end, didn't bode well for me. But it's probably a good thing I had that forewarning, because Corrinne more than annoyed me. I'm really not a fan of the whole 'mean girl' attitude. It just rubs me the wrong way, and Corrinne, she had it in spades. I found myself wanting to slap the self-centred arrogance out of her many times. I actually at one point did hate her and could see no redeeming qualities. But like she asked, I pushed through - after taking a bit of a break from her and the book. And yes, in the end I was happily surprised by her changes and ended the book smiling.

However, I didn't feel her change of attitude developed quite as well as I would have liked. It was like one page she's thinking her horrible thoughts about Broken Spoke and the other characters, and then the next she was doing a complete indignant 180. I get that her best friend Waverly's visit brought certain attitudes to light (Waverly also being a 'mean girl'), but still, I can't help wishing there was more. I feel like there were just a couple of chapters missing that showed Corrinne's eventual attitude change. I would have also liked more in terms of her relationship with Bubby - they had some seriously cute moments and I just wanted more, more, more! I honestly didn't feel like there was enough Bubby to warrant her change of heart towards him.

I liked many of Heasley's characters - Grandpa, Kitsy and Tripp rank at the top for adorable and lovable characters - and they were all mostly well-developed and realistic, and they helped to really make certain moments of the book shine. I also liked the relationship between Corrinne and Waverly (more so towards the end, I admit) and was glad to see my prediction about their friendship (not providing spoilery details) was completely wrong. I became invested enough in finding out how the happily-ever-after might work out that it didn't take me long to finish this one at all. And I did love the ending, despite the feeling that there could've been more. Gotta like the endings that make you sigh!

Overall, Where I Belong is a light read that'll only take you a few hours. If you're in the mood for something nice and simple this may be the book for you. It didn't entirely hit all the buttons I was hoping it would, however.

Rating:

Publisher: HarperTeen
Published Date: 8th February 2011
Pages: 289

Challenges: 2011 Debut Author Challenge; 2011 YA Contemporary Challenge

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Review: Across the Universe by Beth Revis

A love out of time. A spaceship built of secrets and murder.

Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awake on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into a brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.

Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone—one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship—tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn’t do something soon, her parents will be next.

Now, Amy must race to unlock Godspeed’s hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there’s only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.

Across the Universe was a book I had such high expectations of. Possibly too high. It didn't turn out to be everything I expected...which isn't necessarily a bad thing. But it's not exactly a good thing, either. This here is going to be a mixed review, because even now I have seriously mixed feelings about this book!

Where to begin, where to begin...how about the beginning? Because Revis's first chapter? Stunning! Talk about grabbing a reader right from the get go! Across the Universe starts with Amy and her parents about to be cryogenically frozen, and Revis goes into amazing and fascinating detail about this process - first as Amy watches her parents go through the procedure, and then as Amy herself does. Revis's descriptions here packed a physical wallop - my fingers were clenched around my Kindle and I was holding my breath. My high expectations were certainly confirmed by this chapter.

Unfortunately, however, the grip of the first chapter? Didn't hold for long. I started out so intrigued and completely hooked, but after a bit I felt like I was reading and reading but getting nowhere. It got to the point that I simply had to put it down and try reading something else. I'd try picking it up again, only to feel the same way, so in the end it actually took me a couple of weeks to read this one. Even when some of the action picked up it still took a while before I could say I was hooked again.

The thing is though, despite my feeling as though it was dragging and my putting it down for days at a time, I was still intrigued enough that I wanted to keep reading. It never once crossed my mind that I wouldn't finish this book. Much of that has to do with Revis's creating an original world that I found both fascinating and terrifying. Imagine, a spaceship full of generations of people born and raised within it walls, all living by a routine set in place to get them and their VIP frozen cargo to a new planet. Revis's writing brought this world to scary-realistic life, and much like her first chapter, her descriptions often ensured a physical response. Amy, waking to this world, feels trapped and remembers Earth in such a way that I couldn't help but take my eyes off my Kindle in order to look out my window, and just breathe. The claustrophobia of the Godspeed certainly translated into my world!

In much the same way, Revis's characters are like her world - both fascinating and oddly terrifying. I felt for Elder's never being able to know more, and I found the people of the ship disturbing to the point that sometimes I wanted to smack them all. Eldest is a guy I never want to meet in real life, and his views and twisting of our history had me gasping out loud. I loved Harley - I'll never look at stars quite the same way! Finally, I liked Amy in an odd sort of way. Sometimes I found her seeming acceptance of her situation a little annoying and flat, but soon realised that that was the point. She's a girl caught in an impossible situation that she is completely unable to comprehend and I felt like her easy acceptance was in fact the opposite - a denial of her situation. After the revelation of the ending, I'm interested to see where Amy goes from here. I was pleased to see Elder and Amy's relationship develop slowly, and it's what I'm most looking forward to in the next book.

There is a lot to Revis's world in Across the Universe, and while interesting, it did sometimes hinder the overall pace. While I didn't find the Eldest/Elder idea confusing, it was at times frustrating and played a big part in making the plot feel as though it was dragging. It didn't help either that the plot was fairly predictable and I knew who the 'bad guy' was at their first introduction. Many of the twists and revelations weren't overly surprising, unfortunately. However, some of these moments - like the Season, for example - were still able to produce an emotional response due to Revis's descriptions and their nature, and in the end that stuck with me more. It's eerie just how closely connected this world and its characters are to our world today - and Revis has done well in pushing those similarities.

Overall, Across the Universe wasn't everything I was hoping it would be. Many times it just felt too slow, but it was different and intriguing enough that I am glad to have read it to the end. For Revis's writing alone I'll be reading the next book in the series.

For fun, check out the website for Across the Universe. The blueprints of the Godspeed are awesome and exactly how I pictured the ship!

Rating:

Publisher: Penguin/Razorbill
Published Date: 11th January 2011
Format: Kindle Edition

Challenge: 2011 Debut Author Challenge

The Hunger Games Movie News - Suzanne Collins & Gary Ross Interview

Read the interview here!

So this is a few weeks late now - if only real life and study weren't so time stealing! - but I was pretty happy to read how involved Suzanne Collins appears to be in the making of The Hunger Games movie, especially the casting!

I started reading some of the comments but decided to quit that pretty early on! I'm surprised by how even here the Twilight series seems to have an effect. It has seriously done a number on some people, yeah?

So, what do you think?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Review: The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

Meghan Chase has a secret destiny - one she could never have imagined...

Something has always felt slightly off in Meghan's life, ever since her father disappeared before her eyes when she was six. She has never quite fit in at school...or at home.

When a dark stranger begins watching her from afar, and her prankster best friend becomes strangely protective of her, Meghan senses that everything she's known is about to change.

But she could never have guessed the truth - that she is the daughter of a mythical faery king and is a pawn in a deadly war. Now Meghan will learn just how far she'll go to save someone she cares about, to stop a mysterious evil no faery creature dare face...and to find love with a young prince who might rather see her dead than let her touch his icy heart.

Julie Kagawa has created an interesting world that I can see myself becoming immersed in as the story unfolds throughout the rest of the series. The Iron King is an enjoyable read, and is everything I expected it to be.

Something that stands out to me first and foremost about this book is it's use of well-known faery mythology, as it were. A Midsummer's Night Dream is one of my favourites, and so I did enjoy having the little "mmhmmm" and giggly moments as such well known characters as Puck, Oberon and Titania were introduced. I was definitely with Meghan in those moments! Kagawa develops the story in a way that truly makes it her own however, and it was this that won me over in the end more than anything.

To begin with, I found The Iron King a little slow. Much of the dialogue felt stiff to me, and I didn't instantly like Meghan. Her crush on popular jock, Scott, had me rolling my eyes - yes, I get that we all crush on that gorgeous, unattainable guy, fine. But her utter lack of suspicion and completely ignoring Robbie's warning about the lunch incident - that is, Scott swears at her one moment, hugs her the next and invites her to lunch with him while his friends snicker and take their photo? That's where my eye rolling moments come into play. Maybe if she had have heeded her best-friend-forevers advice, just a little bit, and then still chosen to go ahead and meet Scott, I wouldn't be so exasperated. But as it stood, I truly didn't feel Robbie and Meghan's supposed long and deep friendship - she was much too blase with him, I thought. To be honest, that whole Scott bit set up exactly how the romance of this book was going to play out, which was a little disappointing.

I've said it in other reviews - I'm not a big fan of the instant love for the brooding hot guy. I want romance and actual development. So Meghan and Ash's love fell a bit short for me. While I felt that Kagawa certainly built the tension between them in certain moments - their dance, their hug, their first kiss - it all happened just that bit too quick. I mean really. Ash threatens to kill her one moment and then they're kissing and oh so in love the next. I just didn't feel it. This would be my biggest regret with this book, that I didn't have any sighing or cheering moments for their romance. I've been told however that by the time I finish the rest of the books in the series, I will be feeling it, so I guess I'll see. Certainly the revelation about Ash's relationship with Ariella (which I'm not going into detail about) helped me to at least be intrigued by Ash, a character I was feeling nothing for prior to that.

Kagawa's world building is what won me over in the end, as I said. From the moment Meghan entered the faery world the book was almost unputdownable (unfortunately the non-romance romance aspect had me taking breaks). Kagawa's descriptions completely drew me in so that I was able to see the characters and the world as if they were right in front of me. My toes curled every time a Red Cap appeared, as if afraid of being eaten! There was just so much to her world and story - the rival Courts, the goblins, the oracle, the Iron Knights, the pack rats, Meghan's non-biological father's back story! All of it came together perfectly, and the battles were breathtaking. I am definitely looking forward to reading more of Kagawa's words! I keep trying to think of how Paul will come into the story...oh, the suspense!

As for the characters, hands down I love Grimalkin. I can't help but picture the Cheshire Cat! What a sarcastic know-it-all! I don't trust him, but he intrigues me so much that I'd read the rest of the series for him alone if I wasn't already so immersed in Kagawa's world. Another character I'm looking forward to more of is Puck/Robbie. I admit to being a little disappointed by him too - not as a character, but that his relationship with Meghan wasn't more standout. The thing is however, I don't trust him. As Oberon's pawn, I feel like I can't trust him, and so I think that's why I'm only a tad upset that he wasn't more of a contender for Meghan's love. But I would've liked to see - and feel - more of their relationship. For now, it was simply too jokey, if that makes sense? Maybe if you've read the book?

Overall, The Iron King is a good start to a series. I'm not feeling many of the relationships, but Kagawa's descriptions and the intrigue of some of her characters certainly make me want to read more, at least.

Rating:

Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Published Date: 1st February 2010
Pages: 363
Series: The Iron Fey, Book 1

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Hunger Games Movie Cast

So, the actors who will be playing our beloved Katniss, Peeta and Gale of The Hunger Games have officially been announced. From what I've read, I'm one of very, very few who is mostly happy with the choices.

If you haven't heard - Jennifer Lawrence is Katniss, Josh Hutcherson is Peeta, and Liam Hemsworth is Gale.

Jennifer Lawrence being cast as Katniss is somewhat old news, and it caused a bit of a stir. See, she's blonde. And 21. But in Movie Land, that's nothing new. When I see some pictures of her, I think it's no wonder people are reacting. They don't exactly scream Katniss. For example:



But I think that's just it. That? Is Jennifer Lawrence. We haven't seen her as Katniss yet. Looks can be changed. Hair can be dyed. In the end - the acting is what matters. A friend reminded me of that, after we had this same sort of discussion. How about these pictures?




They're of Lawrence in Winter's Bone, her Oscar nominated role, which she rightly deserved. I just watched it. She plays an older sister doing whatever she has to in order to protect her family. She gets beaten down, then gets right back up again. Um?




In the same way, I'm really liking Hutcherson as Peeta. Yeah, he needs hair dye too. The thing is, Peeta is innocent and boyish, yet still tough. It's why the world fell in love with him. Hutcherson can be that. I will admit to being a little squeamish about the Hutcherson/Lawrence dynamic because I thought he was a little too young...but actually, he's only 2 years younger than her. So.



And finally, Liam Hemsworth as Gale. First - GO AUSSIE! Sorry, couldn't resist. Secondly, I don't really get the upset about this. He could be darker. Again, hair dye. Movie magic! But I think he definitely has the potential to be Gale. Protective big brother type with a whole lot of anger? Yeah, ok, Hemsworth is only known for being Miley Cyrus's boyfriend. Doesn't mean he can't do this. He hasn't had the chance yet, is all. This might be it.

So, all in all, I'm feeling pretty good about the casting for The Hunger Games. Sure, they don't look like how I imagine the characters - yet. Acting wise though, I think they've got it. I hope it works, I really, really do. I can honestly see it, at least.

Review: Zombies VS Unicorns Anthology edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier

In this anthology, edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier (unicorn and zombie, respectively), strong arguments are made for both sides in the form of short stories. Half of the stories portray the strengths –for good and evil –of unicorns and half show the good (and really, really bad-ass) side of zombies. This anthology will have everyone asking: Team Zombie or Team Unicorn? (summary from Publisher's website)

Oh boy. I don't even know where to begin. I had to have this book as soon as I heard about it. Zombies versus Unicorns. ZOMBIES. VERSUS. UNICORNS. I mean, REALLY. Could it get any better?! So not long after it was released I had it on my Kindle...and I've been reading it for months. No, seriously. MONTHS. Don't be mistaken - it's not a long book at all. I just...saved it. And savoured it. I saved it for whenever I was travelling by train (which, ok, isn't that often) or had only a short time to read. I read a story here. Then another story there. Until I finally finished it this past weekend. And continued to stare at the last page for a few minutes taking it all in.

This review isn't going to be very long. And possibly it will be a little incoherent. It is this: WOW. Just, WOW. I loved it. I highly recommend you read it if you haven't yet.

I contemplated saying something about every story, but decided to just stick to the basics. Each story is exceptional it its own way. I had moments where I drew eyes on the train because I cracked up laughing. I snickered quietly to myself like a crazy person. I screwed up my nose in disgust. I was horrified and terrified and so caught up in what I was reading that I was glad no one ever bumped me. I might have squealed. I had these moments for both the zombie AND unicorn stories. With stories by the likes of Meg Cabot, Kathleen Duey, Margo Lanagan, Garth Nix, Naomi Novik, Diana Peterfreund, Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Maureen Johnson, Carrie Ryan, and Scott Westerfeld, it's not surprising.

When I first heard about Zombies Vs Unicorns, I thought I'd be Team Unicorn for sure. I'm one of those girls who grew up loving unicorns. I had this book with actual photos of unicorns (um, horses with fake horns), so I honestly believed (possibly, still believe...) they were real. BUT. My favourite story of the anthology happens to be a Team Zombie story (Love Will Tear Us Apart by Alaya Dawn Johnson). So. I'm a fence sitter, ok? Until one or the other carts me off to possibly do things I don't want to wonder about. Really, they were most often that scary. Maybe I'm just too afraid to pick a team...

Honestly, my absolute favourite thing about this anthology was Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier's bickering at the beginning of each story. Classic. If I ever have the honour of having these two ladies in the same room, I will purposely start a Zombies Vs Unicorns debate just to hear them bicker. HILARIOUS!

I'll say it again. Whether you think you'll be Team Unicorn or Team Zombie...read this book.

Rating:

Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Date Published: September 2010
Format: Kindle Edition

Review: Little Blog on the Prairie by Cathleen Davitt Bell

Little House on the Prairie?

Great book. Horrible idea for a vacation!

Genevieve Welsh has a nice, normal, regular summer all planned out. That is, until her mom signs the family up for Camp Frontier, a theme vacation that promises its guests the “thrill” of living like 1890s pioneers. And even though she’s forced to surrender all her modern possessions, Gen manages to secretly keep in touch with her friends back home, regaling them with all the horrible day to day details of life on this “Little Hell on the Prairie.”

In truth, frontier living isn’t all bad. There’s a cute guy named Caleb who lives in the next clearing, and who knew Gen would prove to be so good at churning butter? Besides, by the time Gen’s friends turn her stories into the most popular blog on the internet, Gen’s got more important things to worry about–like finding a way to keep her family from failing the frontier competition, and trying to keep the resident “Nellie Olson” from stealing Caleb. Yet just when it seems Gen might pull through the summer in one piece, someone gets a hold of her blog–someone determined to interview the girl behind the nationwide blogging sensation–and perhaps in the process ruin the best vacation Gen has ever had.
(summary from author's website)

Bell's modern day homage to Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie is a book I just had to read! I remember watching the show when I was a kid - my Mum loves it! A teenager forced to give up all the conveniences of today and take part in a Frontier Camp? Oh, I could already imagine the mishaps!

I truly enjoyed reading this book and had many laugh out loud moments. Gen's voice is witty and real - some of the one liners she came out with were pure gold, so it's no wonder that not only did her friends decide to create a blog of them, but that it became so popular. I liked Gen, though at times I thought she came across older than fourteen. Sometimes teen characters can bother me just a little (which isn't a bad thing, but to be expected, I think), but I took an instant liking to Gen. It was interesting learning the ways of Frontier Life along with her and watching her grow without her even realising.

Bell has created a truly varied set of characters, which made both the book and the camp that much more fun. I wonder if a camp exists like this for real? I don't think I'd survive, that's for sure. Ron and Betsy (camp owners) were a tad scary in their ethusiasm, and I felt for Nora. I can't imagine living that life permanently rather than just for the summer! Caleb and Ka were a great addition to Gen's experience, and I loved that we got a little insight into their lives after camp. I would have felt bereft otherwise! Caleb and Gen's romance was slow building, which felt much more believable considering their ages. Like always though, I couldn't help but cheer for them. I'd have to say, however, that my favourite character is Gen's little brother, Gavin. He is just too cute, crusading to save Pumpkin!

Overall, a very light and fun read that was able to also be informative! Do you know how to churn butter? I do now...not that I will ever put that knowledge to use! I hope! Little Blog on the Prairie did leave me wondering what I could survive without...let's just say not much at all. Diet Coke for sure!

Rating:

Publisher: Bloomsbury
Date Published: May 2010
Pages: 288