Friday, June 29, 2012

Joint Follower Appreciation Giveaway Winner

The winner of the Joint Follower Appreciation Giveaway hosted by myself and Teenage Fiction is . . .

Christina Torres-Salas!

Christina, we'll be e-mailing you about your choice of books.  Congratulations, and many thanks to everyone who entered!

Thursday, June 28, 2012


Publisher: HarperCollins (HarperTeen)
Pages: 525

Publication Date: May 1, 2012
Type: Hardcover, bought

One choice can transform you--or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves--and herself--while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris's initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable--and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

"New York Times" bestselling author Veronica Roth's much-anticipated second book of the dystopian "Divergent" series is another intoxicating thrill ride of a story, rich with hallmark twists, heartbreaks, romance, and powerful insights about human nature.


Since I'm often that sourpuss who dislikes the well-loved novels, I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I liked this novel, despite the negative reviews.

I think your opinion of this novel and its predecessor will depend on your type of read.  If the main reason you enjoyed Divergent was the crazy action and non-stop badassery on the part of the protagonist, then Insurgent may not be for you.  But if you can enjoy a slower, more thoughtful sort of read than the whirlwind that was Divergent, I think you'll be a fan of this novel.

That's not to say there isn't action.  There is, and plenty of it. But this novel is much more introspective, and spends a fair amount of time on its characters--not only Tris, or Four, but numerous side characters.  While I enjoy a fast pace, I think I enjoyed it even more that Insurgent took the time to add a new layer of depth to the characters we came to know in Divergent.  In some dystopians, so much time is spent on developing the plot and the world that the characters sort of . . . fall to the wayside.  It was wonderful to see such a painfully realistic cast of characters, even in such an unreal setting.

I know many were irritated with Tobias's treatment of Tris, and their relationship as a whole, but personally . . . I loved it.  I really, really loved it.  I love that he was willing to call her out on being an idiot.  I love that he refuses to treat her like she's made of glass.  So many love interests nowadays seem to think it's their job to protect the heroine from the world, to shield her,  and they end up treating her like more of a valuable than a human being.  Tobias treats Tris like a person; a person with faults and mistakes and a mind of their own.

Also, despite acknowledging that Tobias was right to call Tris out on being an idiot--despite acknowledging that yes, she was acting very foolishly at times--I didn't hate her.  In fact, I wasn't even bothered by her. Not the slightest bit.  Many reviewers were sad that the kick-ass Tris of Divergent seemed to be somewhat missing, but . . . I feel like that's to be expected.  Sure, it's wonderful to have a heroine who can take care of herself, rescue those around her, save the world, etc.  But after everything she experienced in Divergent, her reaction was completely, 100% realistic.  Every bit of it.  I think that in many action- and death-heavy novels, authors fail to acknowledge the impact these events would have on the protagonist.  The protagonists just carry on.  Tris doesn't.  Tris is haunted.  Tris is reckless.  Tris is very, very lonely.  And that's exactly how I'd expect her to be.

While I absolutely adored the character development and surprising depth to this novel, I can't bring myself to give it five stars.  The plot occasionally seemed rather confusing and haphazard; certain stereotypes near the end were incredibly grating; and the ending, while certainly a shocker, verges on nonsensical.  Also, I wanted a bit more complexity to the villains of the piece. Roth does explain their motivations to a certain extent, and I appreciate that, and there are very few who are so awful it's cheesy, but some antagonists were so flatly evil that I had some difficulty really believing in them, or fearing them.

Overall, though, I was very impressed with this novel.  It was powerful and captivating and just genuinely enjoyable.  It's safe to say I'm excited for the conclusion to this trilogy.

4 stars.  Or, well, more like 4.25 stars, if we're getting very technical.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (21)

"Waiting on Wednesday"  is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. 

This week's WoW is . . .

Dualed by Elsie Chapman

Would you live through the ultimate test of survival?

The city of Kersh is a safe haven, but the price of safety is high. Everyone has a genetic Alternate—a twin raised by another family—and citizens must prove their worth by eliminating their Alts before their twentieth birthday. Survival means advanced schooling, a good job, marriage—life.

Fifteen-year-old West Grayer has trained as a fighter, preparing for the day when her assignment arrives and she will have one month to hunt down and kill her Alt. But then a tragic misstep shakes West’s confidence. Stricken with grief and guilt, she’s no longer certain that she’s the best version of herself, the version worthy of a future. If she is to have any chance of winning, she must stop running not only from her Alt, but also from love . . . though both have the power to destroy her.


I don't know about you, but I think this sounds fucking AWESOME.

Unique. Fascinating. Action-packed. Powerful. Romantic.  A million other positive adjectives.

I'm so in love with this premise that I immediately added it to my TBR list before there was a cover or even a full synopsis.  It has a crazy amount of potential, and if the book is half as fantastic as that concept, I suspect it'll be one of my favorite reads of 2013.  (Or 2012, depending on when I read it.  Okay, so that might be my wishful thinking speaking.  Your point is?)

Also, Elsie is such a sweetie that I would've wanted this even if it didn't sound so insanely cool.

Really, though, I need this book in my life.

What are you waiting on this Wednesday?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Giveaway: Cold Fury

Hey, all! So, as I mentioned in my first Stacking the Shelves post, I somehow ended up with two ARCs of Cold Fury.  Since I obviously have no need of two ARCs, I'm giving the second one away!  I read and enjoyed this novel.  You can check out my review here (insert link to review).  While this did come off as more of a middle grade than a young adult novel, it was a fast, entertaining read with an awesome protagonist, and hopefully something one of you will enjoy!

Sadly, this is US only.  I'm sorry, but I can't afford international shipping. :(  Apologies to my non-American readers!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Cold Fury

Publisher: Penguin (Putnam)
Pages: 313

Publication Date: July 24, 2012
Type: ARC, received for review

Jason Bourne meets The Sopranos in this breathtaking adventure

Sara Jane Rispoli is a normal sixteen-year-old coping with school and a budding romance--until her parents and brother are kidnapped and she discovers her family is deeply embedded in the Chicago Outfit (aka the mob).

Now on the run from a masked assassin, rogue cops and her turncoat uncle, Sara Jane is chased and attacked at every turn, fighting back with cold fury as she searches for her family. It's a quest that takes her through concealed doors and forgotten speakeasies--a city hiding in plain sight. Though armed with a .45 and 96K in cash, an old tattered notebook might be her best defense--hidden in its pages the secret to "ultimate power." It's why she's being pursued, why her family was taken, and could be the key to saving all of their lives.

Action packed, with fresh, cinematic writing, Cold Fury is a riveting and imaginative adventure readers will devour.


If I look at this objectively, I can say that I enjoyed it.

It was fun.  It was interesting.  It was fast-paced and intriguing.  I never forced myself to read on, even through the info-dumps--despite the pages-long barrage of information, it was interesting enough to hold my attention.

And I really, really liked our heroine.  She was courageous, intelligent, cunning, relatable, imperfect.  She was thoughtful and witty, and her commentary on all that had happened--as well as this whole crazy world in general--was a pleasure to read.  Also, she kicked ass.  Yes, she did tend to take the approach of brute strength over reasoning, but it was refreshing to see a heroine who could and did try to handle her own problems.

But here is the problem: despite its marketing, despite the character's ages, I spent this entire novel feeling as though I were reading a middlegrade.

I have nothing against middlegrade.  Not at all.  Some of my very favorite reads are children's books.  But I was told this was YA, and the character is 16, so I came into this expecting a more mature novel.  One where side characters were created with real depth and attention, not made to be one-dimensional stereotypes.  One where the dialogue was sharp and captivating, not impossibly cheesy and unrealistic.  One where the plot was complex and thrilling, with actual stakes and actual obstacles, not a simple, random, tension-less creation where everything always works out.  One where the sixteen-year-old characters acted like teenagers, not elementary schoolers.

Also, while I won't go too in-depth for fear of a ramble/rant, I was very troubled by the way the subjects of bullying, suicide, and depression were handled in this novel.  It seemed as though all of it were created to be a superficial sub-plot, and the author seems to think that this can all be shoved away in an instant.  That someone who was genuinely contemplating killing themself will be A-OK once they find their "purpose" or "fate" or some bullshit like that.  It was yet another thing that stressed to me the overwhelming middlegrade tones in this novel; I know in many children's novels, authors are reluctant to get into the nitty-gritty of issues such as these, for fear that children won't be able to handle it/grasp the gravity of it.  While I disagree with this, I do recognize that it's common in novels aimed at a younger audience.  Since this is a novel geared towards teenagers, I see no excuse.

Overall? It's not a bad book.  It's really not.  The concept was great, the MC was well-developed and intensely likable, and the book itself always managed to hold my interest.  It just did not meet my expectations for a novel in this genre.

2.5 stars.


Saturday, June 23, 2012

Stacking the Shelves #3

Stacking the Shelves is a meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews, in which we showcase the books we received in the past week. 

Now, I may or may not have an internet connection by the time this is posted--that remains to be seen--but I received so many insanely fantastic books this week that I couldn't not make a post.  Or, well, a vlog.

Books I've bought/received in the past week:

Of Poseidon by Anna Banks
Struck by Jennifer Bosworth
The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour
Rapture by Lauren Kate
Origin by Jessica Khoury
The Innocents by Lili Peloquin
Venom by Fiona Paul
Black City by Elizabeth Richards
Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes
Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans

Friday, June 22, 2012

Shadow and Bone Video Review

As I am composing this about a minute before I'm scheduled to leave for the airport, I think I'll simply leave this here for your viewing pleasure.  My first video review! Exciting!

Also, since this is not on my main channel, I am not allowed to embed it. Apologies.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Bikinis and Writing Camps and Extended Hiatuses

Hello, all!

So, I've got news that is both sad and exciting: I will be on a semi-hiatus from now until August 4th.  Tomorrow, I leave for Hawaii (hence the bikinis); I'll return next Sunday, and then two days later, I'll leave for a month-long writing camp.  Now, I'm crazy excited for these.  I mean--Hawaii! Sleepaway writing camps!  I don't doubt that I'll have a shitton of fun.  However, my internet time will be extremely limited.  I will most likely have a laptop in Hawaii, and I'll have access to computers on the college campus, but I won't have anywhere near the amount of time it takes to be fully active in the blogaverse.

Now, that's not to say I will completely disappear; I will still try to have several posts a week, and I will attempt to do some commenting.  But there are no guarantees.  Some days I may not be on at all.

I don't like leaving you guys (even though I won't be ENTIRELY cut off), but it can't be helped.  I will be back in full come August 4th, but until then . . . see you whenever I can!

Much love, and have a wonderful end of June/month of July.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Recent Cover Reveals

Hello all! So, recently, there've been quite a few mind-bogglingly awesome covers revealed on various websites.  While I probably COULD include all of them and make this post exceptionally long, I'm going to focus on those of Friday the Thirteeners bloggers, because . . . well, because these guys are fantastic, their covers are fantastic, and their novels most certainly sound fantastic.

Prophecy by Ellen Oh
The greatest warrior in all of the Seven Kingdoms . . . is a girl with yellow eyes.

Kira’s the only female in the king’s army, and the prince’s bodyguard. She’s a demon slayer and an outcast, hated by nearly everyone in her home city of Hansong. And, she’s their only hope. . . .

Murdered kings and discovered traitors point to a demon invasion, sending Kira on the run with the young prince. He may be the savior predicted in the Dragon King Prophecy, but the missing treasure of myth may be the true key. With only the guidance of the cryptic prophecy, Kira must battle demon soldiers, evil shaman, and the Demon Lord himself to find what was once lost and raise a prince into a king.

Intrigue and mystery, ancient lore and action-packed fantasy come together in this heart-stopping first book in a trilogy.

                                                 The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd
London, 1894. Juliet Moreau has built a life for herself—working as a maid, attending church on Sundays, and trying not to think about the scandal that ruined her life. After all, no one ever proved the rumors about her father’s gruesome experiments. But when she learns her father is alive and continuing his work on a remote tropical island, she is determined to find out if the accusations were true. 

Juliet is accompanied by the doctor’s handsome young assistant and an enigmatic castaway, who both attract Juliet for very different reasons. They travel to the island only to discover the depths of her father’s madness: he has created animals that have been vivisected to resemble, speak, and behave as humans. Worse, one of the creatures has turned violent and is killing the island’s inhabitants. Juliet knows she must end her father’s dangerous experiments and escape the island, even though her horror is mixed with her own scientific curiosity. As the island falls into chaos, she discovers the extent of her father’s genius—and madness—in her own blood.

Taken by Erin Bowman
There are no men in Claysoot. There are boys—but every one of them vanishes at midnight on his eighteenth birthday. The ground shakes, the wind howls, a blinding light descends...and he’s gone.

They call it the Heist.

Gray Weathersby’s eighteenth birthday is mere months away, and he’s prepared to meet his fate–until he finds a strange note from his mother and starts to question everything he’s been raised to accept: the Council leaders and their obvious secrets. The Heist itself. And what lies beyond the Wall that surrounds Claysoot–a structure that no one can cross and survive. 

Climbing the Wall is suicide, but what comes after the Heist could be worse. Should he sit back and wait to be taken–or risk everything on the hope of the other side?


If you can look at those covers and those summaries and say you don't want these novels more than life, I may have to question your sanity.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Fine Art of Truth or Dare

Publisher: Penguin (Speak)
Pages: 380

Publication Date: February 16, 2012
Type: Paperback, received as gift

Pretty in Pink meets Anna and the French Kiss in this charming romantic comedy

Ella is nearly invisible at the Willing School, and that's just fine by her. She's got her friends - the fabulous Frankie and their sweet cohort Sadie. She's got her art - and her idol, the unappreciated 19th-century painter Edward Willing. Still, it's hard being a nobody and having a crush on the biggest somebody in the school: Alex Bainbridge. Especially when he is your French tutor, and lessons have started becoming, well, certainly more interesting than French ever has been before. But can the invisible girl actually end up with a happily ever after with the golden boy, when no one even knows they're dating? And is Ella going to dare to be that girl?


A lot of good and a lot of bad.

This book has a fair amount going for it.  The writing is good; intelligent and cute and clear.  The premise is intriguing and adorable.  Both the concept and the execution of the Truth or Dare games were fantastic--it added a really wonderful dynamic to the trio's friendship, and to the story as a whole.  And as for the trio itself, I was very pleasantly surprised by our protagonists's best friends. When they were first introduced, I cringed quite a bit; they seemed destined to be nothing but flat, irritating stereotypes.  However, as the novel progressed, the two became shockingly three-dimensional, likable characters--more likable than the protagonist herself.  Also, I really enjoyed the strong presence of family in this novel, even if Ella's relatives occasionally bordered on stereotypical.

And, since this is a romance at heart, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the love interest himself.  I expected Alex Bainbridge to be the typical rich, hot jackass, so I was again pleasantly surprised when he turned into quite the likable character.  While at times his behavior really irritated me, he was funny and sweet and even a bit nerdy, and I grew quite fond of him.

Sadly, that's where the positives stop.  And sadly, my very first and biggest negative is the protagonist herself.

I did not like Ella. I did not connect with Ella.  I did not sympathize with Ella.  And that made this novel significantly harder to enjoy.  There were a few occasions where she acted admirably, or said something witty, and I would smile and nod and think, perhaps there is some hope!  But then she'd go back to being shy and self-deprecating and creepy, and the positive feelings would all bleed away.

Ella brings nothing new to the table, not even her disturbing obsession with a dead guy named Edward--it's all been done before!  She's quiet, awkward, self-conscious, constantly belittling herself, constantly wondering oh-why-oh-why could someone like him ever want someone like me.  And worst of all, she's obsessed with an artist that died over a century before.  When I say obsessed, I don't mean she really loves his artwork and is fascinated by his life story.  I mean she imagines that she holds conversations with him, and even thinks of him in a romantic light.

I think that was supposed to be cool and quirky, but it just creeped me the fuck out.

And that sort of leads into my other major problem with this novel: we were supposed to think she was the absolute coolest.  We were supposed to think that /quirky/ Ella and her friends are just the absolute best and all these hot, bitchy, completely one-dimensional popular kids are the worst thing to ever grace this earth.  I mean, G-d forbid you actually give the popular people . . . personality.  Or . . . complexity.  What kind of book would that be?  Clearly, popular people are only popular because of their money and sense of fashion.  Clearly, the /artsy/ and /intelligent/ and /wonderful/ people are a million times better than those who dare to care about their appearance!

Ella didn't outright think these things--because of reasons called low self-confidence! this is something I've never seen a YA novel before!--but it was the attitude of the entire novel, that we were supposed to find Ella and her friends so superior to these poorly-characterized, stereotypical popular ilk.  

My dislike for Ella and this attitude as a whole made it difficult to truly feel the romance, much as I may have liked the love interest.  It's hard to root for a couple when you hate  half of it, and since the romance was a rather large part of the plot, my failure to feel warm and tingly feelings put a bit of a damper on my reading experience.

Also, while this is a much more minor complaint, I think the use of French could've been handled far more skillfully; I wasn't too lost, considering that's the language I'm currently taking, but those less familiar with French might be left a wee bit confused.

Overall? It's not a horrible book.  It entertained me, and even made me laugh aloud.  It simply had too many distasteful aspects for me to properly enjoy it.  However, I would recommend this to those looking for a fun, mindless read.

2.5 stars.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

This is not Okay

I think most of you know what the YA Crush Tournament is.

If not, you can probably figure out by the title.

I like this tournament, and its counterpart, the YA Heroine Tourney.  They can be fun and interesting and cool, even if you know from the start who's going to win.

But I have a problem with a nomination for this YA Crush Tourney.  I have a very, very big problem with it.

Before I go on, I'd like to add that Zoey has already blogged about this, and has probably phrased things better than anything I'll be capable of.  But this is something I had to speak out about.  This is something everyone needs to see.  This is something that needs to be protested.

Sebastian, from The Mortal Instruments series, has been nominated as a YA Crush.  He has gotten 98 votes.

That is not okay.

Sebastian is an incestuous, murderous rapist.  He tried to rape his sister, Clary.  He's killed numerous people and attempted genocide.  He is a disgusting character, and has all the makings of a complex, horrifying villain; not the makings of a crush.

 Understand me.  I am not saying there's something wrong with his character.  I'm not saying it's wrong for such things to exist in a book.  I'm saying it's wrong for people to consider these romantic.  I'm saying that Sebastian may be a great antagonist and a fascinating character, but he is not, in any universe, a character to swoon over.

This is not me complaining simply because I disagree with people's choices. Do I dislike some of the other characters on that list? Certainly.  I think a fair amount of them are idiotic assholes.  But I'm not going to raise a fuss about them, because while I think they're idiotic assholes, I can see how others might adore them.

I am complaining about Sebastian because putting a rapist as a crush is not okay.

The YA Sisterhood has censored comments due to numerous people's complaints, and those that were let through and not deleted were given the same generic reply.  Contacting them will likely not help.  However, contacting Cassie Clare might.  Cassie Clare wrote a brilliant post about rape culture and the scene in her novel, and I'm fairly certain she would not condone Sebastian being romanticized.  I'm also fairly certain that, at the moment, she is not aware of his presence on this list.

Could you please, please try and contact her?  Or if not that, spread the word, make a complaint, show people that this is not okay?


Saturday, June 16, 2012

Stacking the Shelves #2

Stacking the Shelves is a meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews, in which we showcase the books we received in the past week.

So, my week in books was insanely awesome (mostly due to a rather fantastic B&N trip), so I decided to do another vlog!

Books I bought/received in the past week:

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson
Entwined by Heather Dixon
Gone, Gone, Gone by Hannah Moskowitz
Origin by Jessica Khoury (Thank you, Jessica!)

That's all for this week! Leave a link to your posts below and I will check them out.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Shadow and Bone

Publisher: Hachette (Little, Brown)
Pages: 359

Publication Date: April 3, 2012
Type: Hardcover, bought

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee. 

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling. 

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha…and the secrets of her heart.


Books like this make me realize just how biased my ratings really are.

Because, objectively, this isn't perfect.  And that's what five stars means, right? Perfect. 100%. Not a flaw to be found.

And objectively speaking there are flaws in this novel.  

There's scarcely a good female character to be found aside from our lovely heroine.

The plot contradicted itself several times.

Alina's last name should be Starkova and you can't get drunk on kvas.

Etcetera etcetera.

But the fact is, when I was reading this novel, I wasn't thinking about a lack in female representation, or a contradictory plot, or improper last names.

I was thinking about the dark, magical, fantastical world, the one that consumed me the moment I cracked open this novel.  How marvelous and horrible and utterly entrancing it was; how wonderfully imagined, every last detail.

I was thinking about the romance, how it made my heart pound like a silly teenager (oh, right! I am a silly teenager!), made my stomach clench and made me grin like I was the one being kissed senseless.  

I was thinking about the plot, the crazy, layered, chilling plot that I could never quite predict.

I was thinking about a villain so complex that while I recognized the evil of his deeds, his own inherent darkness, the fact that he would most likely always be a terribly awful, terribly dangerous person . . . I still wanted some redemption for him, some semblance of a happy ending.

I was thinking about how beautiful it was despite the horror.  How I started this at 12 and finished it at 4 in the morning.

I fell really hard for Shadow and Bone.

And whatever the objective side of me may say, the part of me that stayed up until an obscene hour of the morning just to turn the final page and share my exhausted ramble of a gush with the internet refuses to give this novel anything less than five stars.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Born Wicked

Publisher: Penguin (Putnam Juvenile)
Pages: 330

Publication Date: February 7, 2012
Type: Hardcover, bought

Everybody knows Cate Cahill and her sisters are eccentric. Too pretty, too reclusive, and far too educated for their own good. But the truth is even worse: they’re witches. And if their secret is discovered by the priests of the Brotherhood, it would mean an asylum, a prison ship—or an early grave.

Before her mother died, Cate promised to protect her sisters. But with only six months left to choose between marriage and the Sisterhood, she might not be able to keep her word... especially after she finds her mother’s diary, uncovering a secret that could spell her family’s destruction. Desperate to find alternatives to their fate, Cate starts scouring banned books and questioning rebellious new friends, all while juggling tea parties, shocking marriage proposals, and a forbidden romance with the completely unsuitable Finn Belastra.

If what her mother wrote is true, the Cahill girls aren’t safe. Not from the Brotherhood, the Sisterhood—not even from each other.


Let me start off by saying this was not what I expected.

When I saw the premise of a novel set in the late 1800s, centered around witches, I expected it to be something ala the Gemma Doyle trilogy--set in a normal historical backdrop, with a fantasy element.  That does not describe Born Wicked.  Quite frankly?  Born Wicked is a dystopian, all the way, from the conglomerate countries that have taken over various parts of the world to the oppressive regime and secret rebels.  This was a dystopian with old speak and habits.

And as a dystopian, it was lacking in several areas.  The world-building was scarce.  Most of it is summed up in a few vague sentences.  We get very little information about the rest of the world, or even about Cate's New England.  I had a very blurry understanding of the setting, and that made it difficult to really place these events or put them in some sort of context.

Also, there was a simple lack of believability.  In this novel, girls are treated like total scum.  In fact, the Brotherhood's teachings center around just how awful and wicked girls inherently are, and how they must learn to be idiotic, docile creatures.  Forget preaching about Heaven and Hell, charity, divine figures, belief in the Lord!  All they preach about, all the time, is the wickedness of females.  Girls are considered useless, foolish, and idiotic.  They must either be engaged by their 17th birthday or declare their intentions to join the Sisterhood.  They are meant to look pretty and sit around, holding teas and gossiping.  If they act in any way that could be deemed scandalous--say, doing something other than looking pretty and gossiping--they can be  convicted and sent to a mental institution or a prison ship.

And even aside from their awful treatment of the female gender, the Brotherhood restricts society as a whole; they've closed the borders, censored books, controlled the post.  

But despite all of this, not once, in the past 100+ years, has their been any previous resistance.  None.  At least not anything the author found noteworthy.  And I simply didn't find that realistic at all.  The fact that no one, in over a century, had staged a rebellion against this cruel, controlling regime?  I simply couldn't buy it.  

Also, I was disappointed in the portrayal of the Sisterhood.  In novels where there's a group trying to rise against the restrictive government, I do like when the rebellious group is portrayed as more than just the wonderful saviors.  I think it's important to remember that it's not a black-and-white portrait, that there are many, many shades of gray.  Except . . . with the Brotherhood and the Sisterhood, it came off as more of a black-and-black, with Cate and those close to her being the only white in sight.  That was a bit of a letdown, because I think a more complex group would've been more realistic, and provided more of a moral conflict.

However, despite what it may sound like, I didn't really dislike this novel.  I quite enjoyed the writing style, despite the occasional hiccup.  It seemed suited to the supposed time period, and had moments of real loveliness.

I also liked the characters, for the most part.  While I wish the antagonists of the novel had been given some more depth, for the most part, the characters were interesting, flawed, and fun to read about.  While Cate did irritate me at times, I admired her spirit and her loyalty, and while at times I wanted to fault her for her selfish choices, I couldn't; because, honestly?  In her place, I can't say I'd have done any differently.  I enjoyed reading through her perspective, and I liked that her relationships with her sisters played such a crucial role in the plot.

The plot itself . . . was slow.  Not much really happened until late in the novel, but despite that, it didn't really bore me.  It was entertaining, even if it was fairly predictable and relied on the age-old plot device of a discovered diary.  The romance was surprisingly enjoyable, despite featuring a love triangle; it really wasn't much of a triangle at all, since there's only one person Cate really has feelings for, and I quite liked him.  Finn was sweet and adorable and he reads.  That's a keeper, Cate. That's a keeper.

While I had many critiques for this novel, when it comes down to it, this was a fun read.  It kept me interested from beginning to end, and I'm curious to see where the next novels will take us.  I would recommend it to fans of the dystopian genre, or to any who just really, really adore a man who reads.

3 stars.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (20)

"Waiting on Wednesday"  is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. 

This week's WoW is . . .

The Archived by Victoria Schwab

Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books. 

Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.

Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what he once was, a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often-violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive. 

Being a Keeper isn't just dangerous—it's a constant reminder of those Mac has lost. Da's death was hard enough, but now her little brother is gone too. Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself might crumble and fall. 

In this haunting, richly imagined novel, Victoria Schwab reveals the thin lines between past and present, love and pain, trust and deceit, unbearable loss and hard-won redemption.


This novel looks ridiculously fantastic.

Gorgeous cover?  Check.  It's eerie and lovely and completely unique, a stand-out amongst rows of girls in pretty dresses.

Incredible premise? Check.  I mean . . . corpses stacked on shelves?  Constant danger, disappearing histories, restless dead?  That is my kind of novel, for sure.

Awesome author? Check.  I think you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who wouldn't agree that Victoria Schwab is just super cool.  Added bonus, no?

This just sounds so dark and haunting and completely beautiful, and that is exactly the kind of read I adore.

What are you waiting on this Wednesday?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Makings of a Favorite

I read a lot of books.

We all do.

And I like a lot of books.  I'm picky, certainly.  But I try and read those that I think I'll enjoy.  I try and find those books that'll be a genuine pleasure to read.  Oftentimes, I'm successful.

And sometimes, I even love them.

But those won't always be my favorites.

I can love a book.  I can love it to pieces.  I can say it has fantastic writing, strong characters, remarkable world-building.  I can zip through it in a day and recommend it without a moment's hesitation.

But those books that I treasure above all others, the ones I cling to long after they're done, the ones I'd read a million times over, the ones I wish the entire world would read and adore--those need more than fantastic writing, strong characters, remarkable world-building.

They need to make me think.

Make me feel.

Linger in my mind far beyond the turning of the very last page.

For me, that is what constitutes a favorite.  A book I hold close to my heart.  A book I love with everything I have.  My favorites are the ones that move me.

But that won't be the same for everyone.

Just as readers have varying tastes, so will the makings of their favorite novels.  Perhaps a reader doesn't like those heavy, thought-provoking novels; perhaps they prefer a crazy, action-filled read, or a breathtaking romance.  Perhaps their favorites will be wild mysteries, or gory thrillers.  Perhaps a deeply-researched sci fi, or a chilling dystopian.

It varies.

And I love seeing all the marvelous variations.

What makes something a favorite read of yours?

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Stacking the Shelves #1

Stacking the Shelves is a meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews, in which we showcase the books we received in the past week.

So . . . hey!  I realize I've joined in rather late, but I explain in the vlog why this is my very first Stacking the Shelves post.  I'm sure you're all aware at this point why I stopped participating in the In My Mailbox meme, so I'm simply going to state that I refuse to support that kind of behavior, and from now on, this is the meme I will be participating in.

And without further ado . . . a vlog!

Books I received/bought in the past . . . however many weeks:

Cold Fury by T. M. Goeglein
Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta (Thanks, Esther!)
Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta
I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Insurgent by Veronica Roth
Blood Song by Rhiannon Hart
The Fine Art of Truth or Dare by Melissa Jensen
Psych Major Syndrome by Alicia Thompson (Thank you, Sarah, for this and the above!)

Ones I forgot to mention in my vlog:
Spirit Bound by Richelle Mead
Last Sacrifice by Richelle Mead

What'd you receive this past week? Leave a link below and I'll be sure to check it out!

P.S. Count how many times Lexie says the word "awesome!" (Hint: the number is embarrassingly high.)

Saturday, June 9, 2012

I Hunt Killers

Publisher: Hachette (Little, Brown)
Pages: 359

Publication Date: April 3, 2012
Type: Hardcover, bought

What if the world's worst serial killer...was your dad?

Jasper (Jazz) Dent is a likable teenager. A charmer, one might say.

But he's also the son of the world's most infamous serial killer, and for Dear Old Dad, Take Your Son to Work Day was year-round. Jazz has witnessed crime scenes the way cops wish they could--from the criminal's point of view.

And now bodies are piling up in Lobo's Nod.

In an effort to clear his name, Jazz joins the police in a hunt for a new serial killer. But Jazz has a secret--could he be more like his father than anyone knows?


There are a lot of reasons to love this book.

You can love it because it's unabashedly gory, but not in a senseless manner.  It's not gore simply for the sake of gore.  It's just honest detail, a refusal to censor the horror of a serial killer's deeds.

You can love it because it presents a compelling mystery, one that was terrifying, unpredictable, and completely satisfying.  

You can love it because it's a brilliant mixture of dark and witty.  The morbid humor is a fascinating counterbalance to the brutality pervading this novel.  It switched so easily from light banter to gruesome murder and heavy contemplation, without seeming corny or forced.  Rather, the abrupt switch from light to darkness made the darkness all the more terrifying.

You can love it because the characters are complex and lovable and remarkably flawed, in that way only real people are.

Or if you're feeling shallow and easily distractable, you can love it because it's got the coolest fucking cover art in existence.

But the reason I loved this novel as much as I did was the painfully realistic portrayal of Jazz's character.  Jazz is one of the most disturbed, imperfect protagonists you could possibly find, and I felt that Barry Lyga absolutely nailed him.  Everything. Every aspect of his thoughts, his words, his actions.  If there was a boy who'd been raised by the most horrible serial killer the world had ever seen, this is precisely how he would be.

Throughout the novel, Jazz faces the dilemma of whether or not he is doomed to follow in his father's footsteps.  Whether or not him becoming a murder is a possibility or inevitability.  Whether or not he is a sociopath. Whether or not he can care.

And I can tell you from experience that Barry Lyga captured those feelings perfectly.

The following is rather personal, but it's the reason I was so very impressed by Mr. Lyga's skill in the creation of Jazz's character.  If you don't wish to read this, you can skip to the bottom.

The thing is that I have been called a sociopath several times.  At a relatively young age.  By parents.  And when a ten- or eleven-year-old is called a sociopath, it makes them seriously consider the possibility.  What if they're right? What if I am a sociopath?  What if the way I act, the way I feel, is just a show?

Do I care about others, or do I simply think I do because that's what's expected of me?

Do I care, period?

Do sociopaths worry about being sociopaths?

And this struggle is written so perfectly in the character of Jazz that I was honestly stunned.  It gave him a new depth, and a remarkable relatability, even to those who haven't been confronted with this exact question.  At the heart of this is the more general dilemma of Will I follow in my parent's footsteps?  Am I my own person, or what they made me? 

That gave the novel an unexpected thoughtfulness and poignancy to accompany the gory murder.  

Would I recommend this? Yes. Yes. Yes.  I would recommend this a million times over.  Will everyone be able to read this? No.  Definitely not.  This is not a novel for the faint of heart; it is very, very graphic, and if you can't handle that, this will not be the novel for you.

But if you can, I suspect you will love every last gruesome detail.  

5 stars.