Tuesday, 21 June 2011

On Vacay!

Due to academic and work demands, I have to take a vacay, but I'll see you again next week!

Friday, 17 June 2011

Review: Pretties by Scott Westerfeld

Pretties (The Uglies)

Author: Scott Westerfeld
Series: #2 of The Uglies
Genre: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy, Dystopian,
Age restriction? Teens, 12+
Published:11 November 2008

Very promising beginning, but fell flat at the middle and just got worse and worse.

Description: Gorgeous. Popular. Perfect. Perfectly wrong.

Tally has finally become pretty. Now her looks are beyond perfect, her clothes are awesome, her boyfriend is totally hot, and she's completely popular. It's everything she's ever wanted.

But beneath all the fun -- the nonstop parties, the high-tech luxury, the total freedom -- is a nagging sense that something's wrong. Something important. 

REVIEW: When I started reading this book, I was like "YES! This is what I wanted Uglies to be! Thanks Scott!" Tally's unease in her new life, her nagging feeling that there's something more, something other than partying and being pretty all the time. Suddenly, Tally's shallow self-involved cowardice and dullness which so irritated me in the first book fit perfectly here, and together with the nebulous but unshakable knowledge that there's something more, that being "pretty" isn't everything, isn't all it's cracked up to be but her inability to put her finger on exactly what, serves to make her sympathetic to the max - with the understanding, of course, that she'll learn and grown and grow out of these things.


Sigh. Sadly not, it turns out.

For a long time I strongly felt that the beginning of this novel should have started the series. You actually care about the viewpoint character, you are shown the disconnect between what she knows subconsciously and what she is told to believe, you get sucked into her life and root for her all the time. Even her love for Zane would have made a great triangle once she got back with David.

However, I am very sorry to say, that is exactly where the problem came in. Suddenly, now that she's all prettied up, now she loves Zane more because, according to Tally, they had 'shared so much'. Sure, they did, and I like Zane a lot too, but David and Tally went through so much more and shared such a special connection that I came to the same conclusion that David did - she was sticking with Zane because he was pretty and he wasn't.

Further, the unconvincing use of anorexia to escape the City, the gratuitous physical mutilation and danger to achieve and maintain a sense of "realness" and release and the overall shallowness - it was all just a little too casual, just a bit too flip. The emotions, consequences and reality of these elements were just nowhere to be found, for me. Further further, the of the point of view character. Oh good grief. She never grows up, never learns anything other than how to make everything work out nicely for herself, never willingly sacrifices anything. No, with her it's all "what's in it for me?" and it frustrated the crap out of me.

I will not be reading the third book, as I'm sure I'll just be further frustrated. I was so hopeful when starting this book that it feels like an extra-large letdown that Tally remained the same shallow, heartless, power-hungry conformist that she always was.

I'll be reading the next book just to see if the flicker of character Tally finally showed in the last chapter will be realized, but I don't have much hope.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Review: Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Uglies (The Uglies 1)

Title: Uglies
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Series: #1 of The Uglies
Genre: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy, Dystopian,
Age restriction? Teens, 12+
Published: 10 May 2006

 While this is a serious and thought provoking book, I just didn't enjoy the character or the story at all.

Description: Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can't wait. Not for her license -- for turning pretty. In Tally's world, your sixteenth birthday brings an operation that turns you from a repellent ugly into a stunningly attractive pretty and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to have a really great time. In just a few weeks Tally will be there.  ...more
REVIEW: I wanted to enjoy this book. I mean, a critical look at and deconstruction of our appearance obsessed culture and a dystopian glance at the extremes to which it can be taken - YES PLEASE. As the mother of two very young daughters, my heart withers daily as I see the glorification of impossible beauty standards and the ridicule of those not conforming them, always knowing that this excessive obsession with appearance will damage them, the question is just how much.
However, I'm very sorry to say that I just couldn't get into this book. First off, I found Tally to be completely unsympathetic. While I understand that she is the product of her culture and society (aren't we all?) and I enjoyed her adventurous side, I found her cowardly, untrustworthy and just dull. Maybe if she was just a bit more like her friend, Shay, in the beginning at least asking questions or wondering about the status quo and how it's all supposed to make sense - because it doesn't, not really, how can a society like that function? - before being thrown into a situation where she's shown how it doesn't make sense, I would have felt differently? I can't honestly say.

I also found the plot desperately predictable and unsurprising and the writing mostly uninspiring. While I did enjoy the other characters Tally met during her stay at Smoke (Yay, Croy!) and the conversations with David about appearance, it was all very predictable and formulaic. Even the "shocker" cliffhanger-ish end was something I saw coming from miles away. 

I feel bad for giving it only two, but I really just did not enjoy the book at all.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Incredible Giveaway by Evie at Bookish!

Evie has reached more than 700 followers in the time she's been blogging, which is incredibly amazing. To celebrate her appreciation, she's holding a major International giveaway with 5 winners and 9 incredible books! You simply HAVE to check it out and if you aren't already following Evie, where have you been?

Waiting on Wednesday #4

"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, I'm waiting on a book that's LONG in coming. On the other hand, we're already in June, and it felt like just yesterday when we opened Christmas packages, so here's to hoping the time will pass quickly!

Damage by Anya Parrish

There was a time when I prayed for Rachel to be real. Until the night I learned she'd always planned to kill me. 

When Dani was eight, she fell from a building. No one believed her claim that she was pushed by Rachel . . . her imaginary friend. It took years of therapy to convince Dani that Rachel wasn't real.
Now fifteen, Dani wants to make it as a dancer. But a deadly freak accident sends Dani a terrifying message: Rachel is back, she's real, and she'll stop at nothing to kill Dani.

Complicating matters is Jesse, the school bad boy who's being stalked by his own invisible childhood nemesis. Dani and Jesse join forces to learn why their astral tormenters are back. Their investigation leads to a horrifying discovery—and the terrible experiment that binds them to each other.

I'm not crazy about the cover, and I hope they change it before the release, but how awesome does this story sound? I'm all excited about it, September can't come fast enough!

What are YOU waiting on?

Monday, 13 June 2011

Review: Strange Angels by Lili St Crow

Strange Angels (Strange Angels, Book 1)

Title: Strange Angels
Author: Lili St. Crow
Series: #1 of Strange Angels
Genre: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy,
Age restriction? Older teens, 15+
Published: 14 May 2009

 A kick-ass book that was completely engrossing and entertaining.

Description (from Goodreads): Dru Anderson has what her grandmother called “the touch.” (Comes in handy when you’re traveling from town to town with your dad, hunting ghosts, suckers, wulfen, and the occasional zombie.)

Then her dad turns up dead—but still walking—and Dru knows she’s next. Even worse, she’s got two guys hungry for her affections, and they’re not about to let the fiercely independent Dru go it alone. Will Dru discover just how special she really is before coming face-to-fang with whatever—or whoever— is hunting her?

REVIEW: I enjoyed this book so, so much. Dru's character is just the right mix of vulnerable and warrior to make her believable as a teen who has been trained in combat and action from a young age but always worked with her dad as a safety net.

The characters were fully drawn and completely believable, and although some reviewers thought that Dru was too whiny (what? Did we read the same book? My whininess meter read at 0, btw.), I actually wondered for a while if she was showing enough emotion. I mean, here we have a teen whose last living family member, a fully trained and highly successful hunter of creepy things, has just been killed and turned into a zombie by something that's coming for her and she had to shoot her dad dead

That's a pretty good excuse for some angst, yo. And yet, the angst level is really, really low, in my opinion at least. I also greatly enjoyed the character of Graves, and although the plot moved fast and with impeccable pacing, we are still left with ample time to spend with the characters, some of whom are not even really in the story (like Dru's dad, her grandmother, etc.) The world was so fully developed that it simply slipped a new layer over our own, familiar world and there was not a single time in this book that I was left unconvinced or doubting.  

There were some minor flaws (pretty predictable plot, uhm, I think that's it), but this book was so much fun to read, so gripping and enjoyable that I read well into the night and also while I should have been doing other things (*cough* blogging, spawnwrangling, working *cough*). I was left drooling for more (but no cliffhanger ending, YAY) and highly satisfied.

Who would like this book? I would highly recommend this book to anyone who likes paranormal fiction, Urban Fantasy, and/or a ton of heart-racing action.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Weekend Writing Write-Up - 11 June 2011

Weekend Writing Write-up is a weekendly meme hosted by Scribal Goddess to tell others how your writing for the week had gone.

So this week was atrocious in terms of blogging, in case you hadn't noticed - Blogger kept refusing to load the new post thingie, and I got too impatient too quickly. The fact that I was reading the Strange Angel books had nothing at all to do with my blogging laziness. Nothing.

As for the WIP, I'm almost done with it! It's so exciting - first ever draft I've come even close to finishing! I'm hoping to finish it over the weekend or early next week, and then I must have the next project all plotted out. Uhm, I don't think that's going to happen, though. 

I don't even have links today. Once again, the Strange Angel books were not at all involved in my time management disasters of this week. Really.

So how did your writing week go?

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Review: Demonglass

Demonglass (Hex Hall #2)

 Title: Demonglass
Author: Rachel Hawkins
Series: #2 of Hex Hall
Genre: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy.
Age restriction? Teens, 13+
Published: 1 March 2011

Fun and feisty, a wondrfully enjoyable sequel to Hex Hall.

Description: Sophie Mercer thought she was a witch.

That was the whole reason she was sent to Hex Hall, a reform school for delinquent Prodigium (aka witches, shapeshifters, and fairies). But that was before she discovered the family secret, and that her hot crush, Archer Cross, is an agent for The Eye, a group bent on wiping Prodigium off the face of the earth. ...more

REVIEW:  When I finished reading Hex Hall, I couln't wait to start with Demonglass, although I was a little worried that it wouldn't be as good as Hex Hall.

That worry was completely unfounded, I'm happy to report. In Demonglass, the story started in Hex Hall is taken to breathtaking new heights with more of the characters you've come to enjoy and grow fond of. The developing love triangle between Sophie, Archer and Cal is believable and I thoroughly enjoyed the lesbian relationship between Victoria and Jenna. MOAR LGBT RELATIONSHIPS IN YA PLOX.

All in all a highly satisfying sequel adhhering closely to the "the same but different" rule. Hey, there's a reason why this rule is there: it works!

Who would like this? If you liked Hex Hall, it's difficult to see how you wouldn't like Demonglass.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Weekend Writing Write-Up - 4 June 2011

Weekend Writing Write-up is a weekendly meme hosted by Scribal Goddess to tell others how your writing for the week had gone.

So, this week was a disaster in terms of writing output! My WIP had two nights where I didn't even write one single word (bad, bad!) and two others where I didn't hit 1,000 words because of hectic shtuff in my life, and if I hadn't scheduled the meme and review posts, the poor blog would have been desolate this week.
Still, WIP progressed to 57,666, I managed to come up with some solid ideas for future projects and I started plotting my next project. I want to try outlining/plotting down to scene level before I start writing, just to see if it works out, so if you know of any plotting articles and such, please link me up!

Speaking of articles, the ones I read this week mainly focused on plotting, but I found a few great ones. I'm currently working through Karen Weiser's First Draft in 30 Days, while trying to keep in mind the 5 Transformational Story Elements. Also, if you haven't checked out Writing Excuses yet, you simply must do so now! So funny and so informative.

So go ahead, add your linky and tell us all about how your writing week had gone.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Follow Friday #1 with Bonus Spotlighting Highlighting Feature!

Presenting, for the first time:

Follow My Book Blog Friday is hosted by Rachel at Parajunkee's View. The point is to follow as many book blog as you can and make new friends! As part of the adventure, she gives a weekly question. 

Here is this week's question:

Q. What are you doing to prepare for an upcoming zombie apocalypse and/or the return of Mel Gibson to the silver screen? (Both of which could be terrifying.)

Well, as for Mr. Gibson... I'm sad to say that his antics in his personal life has greatly affected my willingness to watch him on the screen, so I'll probably just try to avoid. The Melpocalypse is, FYI, definitely the more terrifying one of the two.

 To prepare for the Zombiepocalypse, I'm stockpiling stationary and books - because even if the world dies in a flood of flesh eating monsters I will be writer, damn it! So obviously I'd also need a lot of friends.

Speaking of which:

Feature Blog!

 Katja from Coffeemugged has really brightened up my week. We had some fun chats on Twitter, and her blog is amazing, focusing on indie authors and writing. She was also the one who clued me in to the Bookluvr Weekend Review Club, which looks like it's going to be a blast. Check her out, you won't be sorry!

Squee, a book club!

So, Bookluvr Mindy over at Magical Urban Fantasy Reads asked the following question which immediately filled me with glee and joy:

Wanna join my book club?

The idea, as I understand it, is to get people to read and comment on each others reviews. So each weekend, you pick 5 of the participating blogs/reviewers and read a review by them. Leave an honest and thoughtful comment containing your thoughts on the review. That, as I understand it, is basically it!

For the more nitty-gritties, check out Mindy's (absolutely gorgeous ZOMG!!!) blog and join us!

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Review: Ultraviolet

Ultraviolet by R.J. Anderson

 Title: Ultraviolet
Author: R.J. Anderson
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, elements of paranormal and Sci Fi.
Age restriction? Teens, 13+
Published: 2 June 2011 (?)

  Incredibly well written and thought-provoking, Ultraviolet is one of the best YAs I've ever had the pleasure of reading. BUY NOW!


Once upon a time there was a girl who was special.

This is not her story.

Unless you count the part where I killed her.

Sixteen-year-old Alison has been sectioned in a mental institute for teens, having murdered the most perfect and popular girl at school. But the case is a mystery: no body has been found, and Alison's condition is proving difficult to diagnose. Alison herself can't explain what happened: one minute she was fighting with Tori -- the next she disintegrated. Into nothing. But that's impossible. Right?
(from Goodreads)

REVIEW: Wow, a second top-rated book in less than a month! I hadn't thought I'd encounter another one of those for at least another year! I must have won the "great reads for you" lottery, because this book completely blew me away.

Using superb writing and astonishing characters, Rachel Anderson has crafted a Young Adult novel which is intelligent, consuming and enthralling. I couldn't put this book down and read through the night to finish it with tears in my eyes and a song in my heart. Honestly, I don't know how I'll find the words to do this book justice, but I will try.

Alison experiences the word differently from everyone else she had ever met. She sees the shapes of sounds, she hears the light of the stars, she physically feels sounds. Since her early childhood, she believed that this meant that she was crazy and she had been working very, very hard to hide not only how different she is but how she reacts to events - which serves to make her seem even more psychotic to the psychiatrists who have to evaluate her when she lands up in a mental institution, which is where the book starts.

The thin line between psychosis and the supernatural/paranormal is one which I had always found fascinating and almost hypnotic, and Alison's rigid control over her emotions and reactions  as well as her constant questioning of her sanity and whether she could trust her own thoughts and feelings was something I may even have over-related to, which may have coloured my entire view of the book. Fair warning!
Anderson's writing skill is simply astounding. Her use of language to explain Alison's perceptions is incredibly well done and I would not hesitate to rank her as one of the best stylistic writers I have ever read. The writing was just that good, so even if the plot or character hold no interest for you (which I find hard to imagine!), Ultraviolet would be well worth the read for the exceptional writing alone.

That said, I found everything else about the book to be admirable. I have seldomly identified so strongly with a character as I did with Alison, despite the fact that I do not experience the world as she does. Her character is amazingly sympathetic and fully developed. The secondary characters are also vibrant and authentic although the reader's perceptions of them are heavily reliant on Alison's first-person narrative.

The plot is absolutely astounding. It hooks you from the first page and takes you on a rollercoaster-ride through Alison's mind and life at a mental hospital. The final piece of the puzzle was totally unexpected even though it was clearly foreshadowed, once you knew what to look for - even this veteran of mysteries was fooled!

Ultraviolet is, in one word, fantastic, and I can't recommend it strong enough.

Who would like this book? To be honest, it's hard for me to imagine who wouldn't! It's just so well done! That said, this is a YA book with elements of sci-fi, the paranormal and an exploration into the nature of mental illness. There is also a sexual assault, which may upset and/or trigger. The ending may not fall into everyone's comfort zone, either.

Disclosure: I received a pre-release electronic copy from Netgalley with no obligation to rate the book or even review it, so everything in the review is my own, personal and honest opinion.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Waiting on Wednesday #3

"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 one I've had my eye on for a while now, and I can't wait to share it with you! It's only to be released in October (so far away!) but it looks like it'll be a stunner!

The Glass Man by Jocelyn Adams 

Description: Lila Gray is just a human—at least that’s her mantra when she accidentally topples a building or bends a paranoid local's gun into modern art. That she can sense and control the minds around her doesn’t prove anything, either. Unwilling to put others at risk, she hides in the wilderness from the beautiful creature who hunts her, one who sees her as his ultimate prize.

Alone, the egocentric Glass Man can kill with a thought. Mated with Lila, he's a supernatural weapon prepared to annihilate the humans he loathes.

Caught in the Glass Man’s latest scheme, Lila is plunged into a hidden fae realm, faced with a secret birthright and a forbidden romance.

With the Glass Man threatening everyone she loves, can Lila accept who she is in time to end his bloody reign? Or will she succumb to his dark power and become the vehicle of destruction for the human race? (from Goodreads)

So much cover love, and the description sounds riveting. 

So what are you anxiously waiting for?