Saturday, April 28, 2012
Tricked by Kevin Hearne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Hm. This wasn’t what I expected at all. I was tempted to give Tricked only three stars, but then I decided against it because Hearne’s writing and research deserve some reward after all. That said, me counting pages to the end is never a good sign, and I caught myself doing it more than once.
I didn’t mind the extensive worldbuilding and the occasional mythology lessons in the first two books, quite the contrary. I got a little tired of it in book three, but I was tempted to skip entire passages in book four. And yet I didn’t because I was determined to carefully read every single word so that I can be sure the problem is him, not my lack of attention. And guess what? It’s him. There was simply not enough to connect the huge infodumps in this book, especially in the first part. While I’m always up for a challenge and I’m more likely to enjoy a book that actually teaches me something new, it still bothers me when parts of it read more like a textbook than like an actual novel.
With a group of Norse gods hot on his heels, everyone’s favorite Druid Atticus Sullivan must come up with a solution that will keep him, his hound Oberon and his apprentice Granuaile safe. Fortunately for them all, he’s made some friends along the way too. With a little help from the Morrigan and Coyote, he succeeds in throwing them off his trail by faking his own death. But making a deal with a trickster god, however benign it may seem, is never a good idea! Pretty soon, Atticus has to face an even worse enemy – one he’s learned very little about in his two thousand years of existence.
Coyote is a common enough character in urban fantasy. I liked him in Patricia Briggs’ River Marked, really loved him in Allyson James’ Stormwalker series, but I think Hearne came closest to what I imagine a trickster god would be like. Both Briggs and James portrayed him as mischievous, but ultimately benevolent; however, Hearne clouded his intentions a little bit, made him even more unpredictable, and quite a bit dangerous.
This is the first time that I really felt the tiredness and the emotional depth I would expect from someone with two thousand years of experience. Atticus has millennia of losses on his shoulders and I loved that Hearne explored that part of him a little bit. I understand why he can’t dwell on his emotions too often, I do, but it’s unavoidable sometimes even for him. It was a nice change.
Usually I try to suppress any emotions that savor of regret, because they are invariably aperitifs to a main course of depression, and for the long-lived, that’s a recipe for suicide. But that doesn’t mean they can’t sneak up on me sometimes.
And, like, gang-tackle me.
As for the romance, in the interview he gave the lovely Missie at The Unread Reader, Hearne promised us a love interest for Atticus in Tricked, and he certainly didn’t lie. But if you’re expecting some big romance, you might end up disappointed. There are just subtle hints of one, more reluctant attraction than anything else, and it doesn’t affect the plot in any way. I, for one, appreciate this about the series. If I want romance, I read PNR. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t be happy if Atticus and the person he’s interested in get their HEA, I would. I just don’t think it needs to be a priority for Hearne.
I had pre-ordered this book about three months before the release date, just to be on the safe side (my paranoia knows no limits – what if ALL the copies were sold before I managed to get one?), and I will pre-order the next one. Hearne can easily be forgiven for this weak link in the series, he has more than earned it with the first three books.
Friday, April 27, 2012
the Nocturnal Library is honored and happy to be able to host Shirley Marr's Preloved Blog Tour LAST stop today! The book has being going 'round and 'round for the past ten days now and if you want to check out the other stops (each and every one amazing in their own, original way), just take a look HERE.
Her debut book, Fury, was one of my favorite reads of 2011 (I bitched and fussed so much to get my hands on that one... Fishpond, I'm looking at you and I am getting my sushi knives ready, remember *insert evil laugh here*), so I was thrilled when our little blog got a chance to be part of the Preloved Blog Tour. I am actually starting to read my own copy tonight so stick around for my review during the course of the next week!
Without further ado, let's leave the spotlight to the author herself and let's hear what she has to say about...
Shirley's Top and Bottom 5 of the Awesome 80s
(Warning, May Contain Traces of Blue Eyeshadow)
Guest Post by Shirley Marr
Hey Cool Dudes! Welcome to Maja and Lisa's Rad Blog. This is my very last stop on the Preloved tour (sad), but we will go out with a fun bang (and a fun giveaway!). As 80s David Bowie would say, put on your red shoes (and maybe your purple taffeta dress) and join me on an irrelevant stroll through the 80s. Mind the shoulder pads (it might take your eye out).
Worst: shoulder pads. I've never understood them. I can understand why women would want more shapely curves or a larger bust - but bigger shoulders? Why? Is it an intimidation tactic like when cats do the whole puffed-up tail thing? I've seen the "mini" shoulder pad make a resurgence of late and maybe that is filling a need for people that have Shoulder Envy, but let's leave the major shoulder pads back in the 80s. Do I have least one shoulder pad joke in Preloved. I better!
Best: I know most would disagree, but I think that the evening and prom dresses of the 80s are beautiful! Amongst those tafetta fashion disasters, there were genuinely really wonderful dresses, like this dress modelled by Princess Di. Velvet and fishtail are two things to emerge from the 80s which I think resonate positively today. As an experiment I went looking at genuine 80s dresses and I found this aquamarine lace number which I think is quite lovely** (what do you think?). Despite it all, the 80s was a wonderful time of experimentation, frivolousness and fun! I wish fashion would take itself less seriously these days and just let its hair down so I put this idea in Preloved.
Best: I know everyone instantly thinks of awful 80s synths and lyrics (like "when will I/ will I be famous/I can't answer/ I can't answer that" C'mon Bros, seriously?), but there was some great experimental music coming out that was doing electronica pop right. My top 3 albums of the decade would be Hounds of Love by Kate Bush (1985); Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) by David Bowie (1980) and Icehouse by Flowers (1980). Plus who doesn't love 80s power ballads such as Eternal Flame by The Bangles, True by Spandau Ballet and Eyes Without a Face by Billy Idol? Well, I'm pretty sure my hairbrush and Karaoke machine love them anyway! If Preloved had a mixed tape I am sure these songs would make it in there.
Worst: I think there must be hundreds of terrible 80s songs with terrible video clips. My nomination for worst 80s song would be We Built This City by Starship. There's so much hair in that clip I think it suffocated me. I hope this song is on nobody's mixed tape.
Best: The Princess Bride. Based on the book by William Goldman. I think this movie has everything - a wonderful fairytale story, script and beautiful cinematography. It's funny, romantic, dark and probably has some of the most quotable lines ever! Plus it's got Many Patinkin. I have to admit this movie has a deep childhood connection with me. I wish that they made kid's movies like they did back in the 80s like Labyrinth, Dark Crystal, E.T and cheesy teen movies like The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink… but maybe today's audience are too savvy for that sort of thing. I'll stop reminiscing like an old person now. I think one or two of these movies ended up in the novel.
Worst: Grease 2, Xanadu and BMX Bandits. Sorry Livvy and Nic!
Worst: Logan Bruno from The Babysitter's Club. Yes, I named one of my characters after what I consider the worst character from an 80s book. I guess I just roll like that? Logan is like Peter from The Secret Seven, but with hormones, football and a Southern accent. Logan is an asshat. I think Ann M. Martin wrote him in as wish fulfilment cos why would a jock also be a sensitive boy sitter and also date Mary Anne Spiers who has a personality equivalent to Bella Swann's? I guess I chose the name because Logan Bruno is too good to be true as a real boy:)
Best: Penny Pollard by Robin Klein. Oh gosh I loved her so much! Does anyone remember Penny or is it just me reminiscing over my childhood glory years? She appeared in a series of books that were set out like a real diary, scrapbook etc and included photos, clippings and doodlings. This is me speaking fondly in hindsight. I might read the books again and cringe… but I remember her being a feisty, loveable and hilarious character with very frank observations and questions about life, school and boys. Like a young Kylie Mole! Okay, I feel so nostalgic. I'm going to have to find the books now. This one is going to turn into a Goodreads challenger for sure.
Worst: Cabbage Patch Dolls. I am so sorry if you had one as a child and loved it, but admit it, they're kinda creepy. Actually, not that long ago I was talking with a friend and they mentioned something about Cabbage Patch Dolls being Satanic and/or possessed and like all good Urban Legends it might have been true. Or fake. Or true and made to appear fake, but actually was fake. And there was also a story about these dolls eating children's hair?? I am too scared to Google this myself. if you know, please let me know. There are no Cabbage Patch Dolls mentioned in Preloved. I didn't want it to be that scary.
Best: Practically anything that isn't a Cabbage Patch Doll, actually! Does anyone remember Pound Puppies? They were like Cabbage Patch Dolls and you adopted them, but they were actually really cute and had this awesome pro-animal and pro-shelter message. Then there are of course Care Bears, My Little Ponies, Strawberry Shortcake. Anyone who remembers Wuzzles gets a cookie. I had a Rubix cube which I never figured out (I cheated by removing all the stickers and rearranging them) and I am sure I came close to breaking my neck on a pogo ball. Some of these things rate a mention in Preloved!
Thanks for reading my guest post and thanks to Maja and Lisa for having me stop by. As a parting gift I'm giving away a $50 voucher to my favourite vintage-inspired online store - Modcloth - so you too can help build up a preloved-look wardrobe. All you have to do is answer the question:
"What would be your most loved or hated thing from the 80s?"
See below for details and also how you can win a copy of Preloved!
**Credits: 80s aquamarine lace cocktail dress ($25) worn by Shirley is from Retro Vinnies in Northbridge, Perth. Thanks to the cute Emo manager who helped me pick this dress.
What an awesome post!
Thanks to Shirley Marr for bringing her witty, sassy self to The Nocturnal Library and taking us back in time. Gosh, those shoulder pads... ouch. I used to wear them too. With t-shirts. Stuck under bra straps. *off to burn all pictures from that time*
So here comes the time for the prizes.
To enter the book giveaway: use the Rafflecopter below! The rules are always the same, it's open internationally (everywhere, since I'll be sending). Once the winner is announced, he/she will receive an email and will have 72 hours to get back to us. Failure to do so will result in us picking another winner.
To enter the voucher giveaway: answer Shirley's question in the comments. The funniest answer will be picked by Shirley herself at the end of the giveaway!
Good luck to all!
Lisa & Maja
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. It spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.
For my first WoW, I've chosen the first installment in a new Urban Fantasy series:
Expected publication: May 22nd 2012
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Paperback, 352 pages
From debut author Cassie Alexander comes a spectacular new urban fantasy series where working the night shift can be a real nightmare.
Nursing school prepared Edie Spence for a lot of things. Burn victims? No problem. Severed limbs? Piece of cake. Vampires? No way in hell. But as the newest nurse on Y4, the secret ward hidden in the bowels of County Hospital, Edie has her hands full with every paranormal patient you can imagine—from vamps and were-things to zombies and beyond…
Edie’s just trying to learn the ropes so she can get through her latest shift unscathed. But when a vampire servant turns to dust under her watch, all hell breaks loose. Now she’s haunted by the man’s dying words—Save Anna—and before she knows it, she’s on a mission to rescue some poor girl from the undead. Which involves crashing a vampire den, falling for a zombie, and fighting for her soul. Grey’s Anatomy was never like this…
I'm always so excited about new urban fantasy series! It is my genre of choice after all, and I'm afraid there aren't that many good ones left for me to read. Luckily, there was Discount Armageddon last month, the first installment in a new series by Seanan McGuire called InCriptyd, that lived up to my very high expectations, and now there's Nightshifted. I discovered this book accidentally, on The Book Depository, and pre-ordered it right away. I hope it doesn't disappoint. What do you guys think?
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Make Me by Parker Blue
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Part demon, part human, we are secretly born.
Persecuted, violated, forsaken, forlorn.
For freedom, for privacy, we have all made a pact.
Three to serve: one to lead, one to protect, one to act.
It would seem that my favorite half succubus just can’t catch a break. Val Shapiro has been hunting bad vampires for as long as she can remember, but lately her life has been a bit harder than usual. Ever since she lost her Slayer powers along with her V card, she only has her succubus half, Lola, to rely on in fights. Speed and strength of a regular human aren’t nearly enough when you spend your days fighting vampires, not even with some training in martial arts.
Val’s new boss, leader of the ‘good’ vampires, has to go to Austin to take care of business and insists on bringing Val along. That would normally be fine, but her boyfriend Shade is complicating matters by being jealous of the vampire lieutenant Austin and wanting to come along. Besides, things aren’t running smoothly in the Demon Underground either. A none-too-small fraction of the Underground has turned against Micah, their incubus leader and Val’s cousin. They want things to go back to the old ways, when protecting half demons was far more important than blending in, but Micah wants to lead the organization the way his father did before him. Val isn’t quite sure what to think of the matter and would like to stay out of it if at all possible, but the new fraction is convinced that she would make a much better leader than Micah, so avoiding the problem isn’t really an option.
All these things, however, pale in comparison to the challenge of keeping the Encyclopedia Magicka safe. Torn between her job and her duty towards her own kind, Val is forced to use any means necessary, including her succubus half Lola and the rather unpredictable book, to save everyone and everything she loves.
Maybe six months ago, after a recommendation by a trusted friend, I picked up the first three books of the Demon Underground series and read them all in two days. They were incredibly entertaining, with great worldbuilding, likable characters, and interesting plots and I became an instant fan. Needless to say, my expectations for this book were sky high, and I’m sorry to say it didn’t quite live up to them. (A love triangle? Really, Parker Blue? Why would you do such a thing to a perfectly good series? *cries*)
Shade was my biggest disappointment by far. He was almost unrecognizable in Make Me. Without any warning, he and Val went from being a sweet new couple to having trust issues, balance issues, issues with unfounded jealousy and lack of communication. When exactly did their relationship become a power struggle? They were perfectly happy at the end of book three.
Val was also a bit too whiny for my taste. She had a right to be, all things considered, but I still didn’t appreciate the pity party. Even Fang, her loyal hellhound, wasn’t as funny as he usually is.
I’ll probably still read book five when it comes out, but my expectations will be a lot lower.
Sunday, April 22, 2012
Hello, honorary librarians!
In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by the lovely Kristy at The Story Siren. Here's what my poor mailman had to carry around this week:
Blood of the Demon by Diana Rowland
Hounded by Kevin Hearne
First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones
Second GRave on the Left by Darynda Jones
Third Grave Dead Ahead by Darynda Jones
The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff
These are all book I either owned in e-format, or already owned but gave away. In any case, I loved them all so much that I just had to order physical copies/replace them. Now I can look at them on my shelf and reread them a trillion times if I want to. (I also hug them occasionally, psssst.)
I also bought:
Don't you just love the new paperback edition of Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys? That is one of the most amazing books I've ever read, so powerful and touching, and although it has many covers, this one is my favorite. I preordered Gone, Gone, Gone by Hannah Moskowitz the second I finished reading the arc. I know I'll want to reread it many times in the future. I'm also incredibly excited about The Book of Blood and Shadow. This is one of those times when I simply had to have the paperback because the cover is so much prettier. I'll be reading/reviewing it sometime next week.
Here's some of what I received for review:
A Brighter Fear by Kerry Drewery
Immortal City by Scott Speer
Struck by Jennifer Bosworth (I accidentally received an extra copy of Struck so I'll probably give it away sometime next week.)
Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard
Echoes of the Past by Tim Marquitz
Clarity by Kim Harrington
Thank you to HarperCollins UK, Scholastic UK, Macmillan, HarperTeen and Tim Marquitz.
I apologize for the messy formatting. Blogger has a mind of its own today.
What did you get this week?
Saturday, April 21, 2012
Echoes of the Past by Tim Marquitz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Every time I get my hands on a new Demon Squad book, it feels a lot like Christmas. Admittedly, it’s a dirty Christmas, full of drunken groping and inappropriate comments, but it’s Christmas nevertheless. It is not often that urban fantasy is written and delivered with such boldness and abandon – Tim Marquitz does not only overstep the lines of good taste, he completely ignores them and then he laughs in your shocked face. And I love it.
Where is God now? I guess we’ve all asked ourselves that question at some point in our lives, some of us every day even, but when Frank asks, he actually hopes to get an answer. God has been missing, or rather, he left us to fend for ourselves, and to make matters more interesting, Lucifer has done the same. Two armies with no one strong enough to lead them are a sure recipe for disaster, but with a few more hostile universes in the mix, the Earth has very little hope of survival.
Enter Frank Trigg, Lucifer’s reckless nephew. After a long period of silence, his uncle sent him a message warning him about God’s old creations, all bigger and more powerful than us. Trigg is supposed to gather his allies and come up with strategies to defend Earth. But what makes him so special? Why should he carry this weight on his shoulders? To answer that, he’ll have to take a long, hard look into his past and maybe even kill an angel or two in the process.
This time around, Frank gave a whole new meaning to the word underdog. Nobody wanted him around for too long and there were far too many people (I use the term loosely here) trying to kill him. When you add to that a few shocking revelations about his family’s history, it’s no wonder I had the urge to hug him and comfort him just a teeny tiny bit (although he’d probably grab my butt or something, dirty bastard that he is, and then I’d have to shoot him with his own gun… not that he ever gets to keep it for long anyway).
The beginning of Echoes of the Past was a little bit rough for me. I was just getting comfortable in the Demon Squad universe, and suddenly there were more universes to consider, more powers, more creatures, more everything. It was all too much too fast and it took me a while to adjust, but the second half more than made up for it. In it, Marquitz showed that he’s not afraid to add layers to his main character. The emotional depth he showed, the seriousness with which he approached certain subjects while keeping Frank true to himself stunned me. It made me forget about the first half. It even made me less grumpy about the cliffhanger. I’ll always put character development first and that part was done perfectly.
It’s too early to start thinking about book 5, but I can’t help it, not after that cliffhanger, and I’m excited and terrified in equal amounts. I don’t know what’s coming next for poor Frank, but I’m sure it won’t be pretty.
Friday, April 20, 2012
Until I Die by Amy Plum
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Nothing makes me quite so happy as spending time with characters I love. I fully expected Until I Die to suffer from the middle book syndrome but, despite a few symptoms that were obviously present, Amy Plum managed to make the most of it. Of course it wasn’t as eventful as Die for Me, and I’m sure If I Should Die, the last book of the trilogy, will be much more exciting, but Until I Die was a satisfying read in every way.
The fact that I recognized the villain(s) right away and that I was able to see right through their schemes didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book. I don’t read this for the mystery, I read it for the setting and the fabulous characters I’ve come to see as friends. I’m not just talking about Kate and Vincent here, the entire group of revenants is very dear and familiar to me, I feel like I’ve known them all for ages. I missed Charlotte a lot in this book, she was always one of my favorites, but I understand why she had to leave and I had Jules to distract me (and make me laugh) with his womanizing ways.
I hate it when a huge part of the plot is built on lack of communication between partners. Most of the problems Kate and Vincent found themselves in could have been easily avoided. All Vincent needed to do was tell the truth instead of constantly asking Kate to trust him and let him handle things. Even though he was just trying to spare her feelings and avoid shocking her further with grim facts of his existence, I thought it was condescending and just a touch stupid, especially because she handled everything he threw at her so well before.
On the other hand, a part of me is glad that Vincent has a flaw I can rant about. Everything else about him is just so perfect and he and Kate are one of the sweetest couples in YA literature, at least to me. I love that they never doubt each other and that they always consider each other’s feelings, even when it requires sacrifice. Their relationship is very mature and healthy, and the big moment they had in this book was handled elegantly.
The fact that I pointed out a few negatives doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the book. In fact, I remain a huge fan of this trilogy and I truly don’t know how I’ll wait a whole year to find out what happens to Kate and my poor Vincent. (Did I just write ‘MY poor Vincent’?! Hah, yes, I suppose I did. Shut up, brain!) Hurry up, Amy Plum! I will be OLD by May 2013.
A copy of this book was kindly provided by the publisher for review purposes.
Thursday, April 19, 2012
Clarity by Kim Harrington
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In Eastport, a tourist town on Cape Cod, lives a family of freaks. My family. I’m a psychic. My brother’s a medium. My mother’s a telepath. Tourists love us. Townies scorn us. My name is Clarity “Clare” Fern and my brother is Periwinkle “Perry” Fern. What were our parents thinking?
Clarity ‘Clare’ Fern is a psychic. Her father is long gone and the family earns a living by using their respective talents to entertain tourists. Even though their customers think it’s just harmless fun, the locals know that their talents are real. When a young girl ends up dead in a hotel room right in the middle of a political campaign, Clare is asked to secretly work with the mayor’s son – her cheating ex boyfriend, and Gabriel, the new boy in town. It is the mayor’s hope that she will be able to use psychometry to identify the killer as quickly as possible, which would help him save face and eventually win the election.
Clarity was a big surprise for me. I always approach paranormal YA with a certain amount of weariness, but I needn’t have worried this time. I finished it all in one sitting, in less than three hours, and found it very refreshing.
I could have done without the love triangle, but I didn’t mind as much as I thought I would. Torn between an almost perfect ex-boyfriend who cheated on her once while heavily drunk, and the mysterious new boy in town who harbors conflicted feelings towards her, Clare didn’t know which way to turn, and neither did I. That’s probably why I didn’t hate the whole situation as much as I normally would – I have no idea who Clare will end up with and I kind of like it that way, for now. I do have a favorite, though.
That said, I’m a bit tired of the new-bad-boy-in-town trope. Gabriel fits it perfectly. He likes Clare the second he sees her, but there’s something in his past (no spoilers, I promise) that makes him hate, or rather despise all psychics, Clare included, so he tries to keep his distance, and the whole love-hate thing that happens after that is just a little tiresome, in my opinion. However, the shortness of the book and the pretty fast pacing didn’t leave much time for Gabriel’s internal struggles.
Clare found her place high up on my list of favorite heroines. She felt like an actual person to me and I enjoyed her intelligence and her loyalty. In fact, I thought all the characters were fully fleshed out, except maybe Clare’s mother, but I have a feeling something’s coming there too. You can only expect so much in 250 pages, and I was really satisfied with how much Harrington was able to include. I have high hopes for all these characters in the sequel. After reading the blurb for book two, I’m absolutely convinced that I already know the identity of Clare’s stalker. I can’t wait to find out if I’m right.
A copy of this book was kindly provided by the publisher, Scholastic UK, for review purposes.
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Hello, honorary librarians.
One of my biggest, most important discoveries in 2012 so far has been Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris. I like everything about this book: the idea, the characters, the plot twists and the pacing. I asked Liz to write a guest post for The Nocturnal Library simply because I loved her book so much and I really wanted to do what I can to make sure the rest of you will give it a chance too. She graciously agreed and here's what she wrote:
I’ve always loved writing. Years before Unraveling existed, I scribbled in notebooks, stayed up late writing into the wee hours of the morning, and even brainstormed ideas into a tape recorder on long drives.
But it’s also a hard process. You have to find the time to work, which means ignoring those friends and family who want you to come out of your cave and do something other than write. You have to sometimes force yourself to work through a tough scene or disregard the fact that you think the words you’re putting down are terrible. And you’re never done. You’re always tweaking, rewriting, adding, cutting, and trying to make those revision notes work.
With Unraveling, I discovered that’s the least of it. Because the road to publication is a new beast altogether. It’s an emotional journey. It’s hard, wonderful, terrible, and beautiful all at the same time. There are highs and lows--moments when I wanted to hug random people in the street and moments when I wanted to just curl up on my couch and resume watching bad television.
It’s not like anything I’ve been through before and despite the rollercoaster aspect of it, it’s not something I would ever want to change. Because the high points make everything worth it.
Here are my top five highs on the road to having my debut novel published:
5. Reading Reviews. This is something I didn’t expect. Before Unraveling I was always one of those people who never wanted to share my writing with anyone. Not even my family. And I didn’t want to talk to anyone about it. But now that reviews are out, I’ve found it’s wonderful and inspiring to read the reviews. Hearing that people love the book and just really *get* what I was trying to write is the best feeling. I wrote words that made people feel something. That’s an incredible thing.
4. Finishing Revisions. I discovered I’m not as good at revising as I expected. I revise a lot as I go, and I thought that would prepare me. But it didn’t. When I was editing Unraveling, I added about 18k words and then cut about 8k words from other places in the book. I had to examine my motivations for character decisions and plot elements. I couple times I had to justify why I didn’t want to do a particular revision. I also did a lot of staring at my computer screen wondering how I was going to accomplish the task before me. But when I was done, when Unraveling was accepted and went into production, it was a wonderful freeing moment.
3. The Call. I got the call on March 4th when I was at Cafeteria eating macaroni spring rolls (these are to die for) with three friends. My agent called. She asked me to come to her office. When I got there, I was nervous. It seemed too soon for good news, but she said, “We have an offer. It’s a pre-empt so we have to get back to them today.” I couldn’t process it right away. I had barely come to terms with the fact that the manuscript was on submission or that there were people like my agent who thought it was good enough to be published. I actually just started to cry.
2. Getting First Pass Pages. I spent a lot of time between the call and publication in some kind of state of disbelief. There’s so much waiting between an offer and the book’s release date, that I relegated a lot to do with Unraveling to the back of my mind and continued to go through my daily routine. When my first pass pages came in the mail, it was impossible to do that. Here were the words I wrote laid out like an actual book.
1. Finishing the First Draft. First and foremost I write for me. I write because I love it, because I’m driven to, and because sometimes an idea latches onto me and I can’t stop thinking about it. And I write things that I want to read. Not everything is good. In fact most of it will never get past a folder on my desktop. A lot of it will be just random scenes or discarded set ups to different novels. But then there are the few ideas that are special. The ones where the characters come to life, the plot lays itself out like a map that’s easy to follow, and I’ll spend weekends lost in a different world. And there is no greater feeling for me than finishing the first draft of one of those ideas, and knowing that no matter what happens, I’ve just written a novel.
Thank you so much, Elizabeth! Luckily for us, the end result is simply amazing. Unraveling is already high up on my list of all-time favorites. I'm actually ready to reread it already.
To celebrate the US release of Unraveling, we have decided to give away one copy internationally. The rules are always the same: just enter the rafflecopter below, keep your fingers crossed, and even if you don't win, make sure to get a copy some other way because this is not a book you'll want to miss.
Thanks again to Elizabet and as always, thank you, guys, for reading.
(Click on 'Read more' for the Rafflecopter)
(Click on 'Read more' for the Rafflecopter)
Monday, April 16, 2012
The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Sometimes you read a book, you moderately enjoy it, but when you finish it, you have very little to say about it. This is one of those times. The Immortal Rules was a pretty entertaining read, but it simply failed to impress me. I suppose I expected more originality, but instead I got the same old story hidden behind a few interesting details. That’s not to say I didn’t have fun reading it – I did, for the most part, and I’ll definitely pick up the sequel.
Allison Sekemoto grew up in the Fringe, outside the walls of a big vampire city. She has never set foot inside those walls – as an unclaimed and unprotected human, she is easy prey for any vampire she might run into. One day, while hunting for food, Allison’s crew gets attacked by rabids. After seeing her friends die and being savagely beaten herself, she is saved by a Master vampire Kanin and offered a choice: she can either die or be turned into the very thing she hates the most.
I really enjoyed the worldbuilding at the beginning. I was hoping Allison would somehow explore these vampire cities, spend some time discovering New Covington and the life inside the walls. I wanted to know more about how they function, about the vampires and the humans that chose to live among them. I was vastly disappointed when Kagawa decided to lead her heroine out of there and have her wander around through wilderness where nothing was even remotely interesting. I realize that she’ll probably go back in the second book, but I wanted to know more now, and that feeling of disappointment when Alison ran out of the city and when I realized she won’t be going back soon stayed with me throughout the book. The second she left the city and started walking on her own, my interest in the book dropped by about 25%. It didn’t help that the middle part bored me almost to death: the time Allison spent alone and all that wandering around when she joined Zeke’s group didn’t work for me at all. In fact, I think this entire book would have been much better if it were a hundred pages shorter.
Julie Kagawa is undoubtedly a talented writer and I could tell she put much thought into her worldbuilding (especially the first part), but it’s the little things that make a book and in my opinion, she failed in polishing those details, which ruined the story for me to some extent. It bothered me that certain things didn’t make sense, for example, when Allison joined Zeke’s group, they gave her an old tent to sleep in, but she still had to cut a hole in the bottom and bury herself in the ground every night to avoid being accidentally exposed to sunlight. I don’t know how dirty they all were, but it is impossible that no one would notice she was covered in dirt every evening. You sleep in the ground, you come out covered with it no matter what, and nothing short of a long bath and a complete change of clothes could possibly fix it.
Another thing that didn’t work well for me was the romance. I didn’t really understand where the attraction between Allison and Zeke was coming from at all, and to be honest, I didn’t really like Zeke all that much. I like my love interests with just a little bit more fire than he had to offer – he was too vanilla for my taste. I would have loved to see a relationship between Allison and Kanin, the vampire who turned her, instead. It’s the first time I’m actually hoping for a love triangle in the future.
Huh. I guess I had a lot to say after all. I realize that my opinion won’t be very popular in this case, but I had to share it anyway. The majority of my friends really enjoyed this book. After all the gushing reviews I’ve read in the last month, I’m pretty sure my lack of enthusiasm won’t do any damage at all.
Saturday, April 14, 2012
All Fall Down by Sally Nicholls
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
People often have entire lists of things they fear, but one of those fears usually stands out, stronger than all the others. For me, that’s fear of germs and infectious diseases. Deciding to read All Fall Down was a way for me to face my worst fear, and although it took me a while to get through it, in the end, I’m very glad I did.
Between 1348 and 1350, the Black Death killed anywhere from one third to half of European population, after wiping out tens of millions of people in Asia. In the small village Ingleforn, Isabelle is living peacefully with her father, stepmother and her siblings when the rumors of plague start trickling in. In a matter of months, England is consumed by this horrible disease and no one seems to know what causes it or how to defend from it. Isabelle’s brother Geoffrey is living in the monastery where he is most exposed and she worries about him daily, but there’s nothing to be done to ensure his safety. It doesn’t take long for the Black Death to find its way to Ingleforn, and as it spreads, death becomes everyday occurrence and all anyone can hope for is to get their last rites in time.
Sally Nicholls did an excellent job in creating the atmosphere of uncertainty and fear, that, combined with ignorance, produced both anger and malice. Gossip is spread faster than the illness, and people are targeted by fortune tellers and salesmen, selling everything from incense to fake bones of saints that are supposed to protect from the disease. Prayer is the answer to everything and those who fall ill must have been cohorting with the devil. In this world, women are outraged when they get permission to hear confessions from the ill, because if women are allowed to do what priests can, the world is surely coming to an end.
How do you keep yourself safe? That’s the next question, the one everyone wants an answer to. Surely there are medicaments and spells, surely someone, somewhere has found a way? The preachers hiss. “By loving God and begging His forgiveness. By turning from the devil and all his works.”
This isn’t a story of a noble young heroine who is fearless and brave in the face of this horrible disease. Isabelle is just as lost, scared and sometimes even selfish as anybody else would be under those circumstances. Sally Nicholls did not try to make a saint out of her, but a normal little girl, a middle child at that, in no way special or outstanding, at times terrified and at times completely numb.
Even though All Fall Down didn’t teach me anything new since we’d covered this period extensively back in high school, I’m still more aware of it now, this darkest time in human history. It’s much easier to understand tragedy through names and faces than through numbers, even if those names and faces are fictional. Millions of girls like Isabelle died and lost their families, but I’ll always think of her and her generous stepmother when someone mentions the Black Death.
A copy of this book was kindly provided by the publisher, Scholastic UK, for review purposes.
Friday, April 13, 2012
Amplified by Tara Kelly
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
So I guess I might have a thing for books with music in them.
Might it be because I can actually hear it like a soundtrack, just like in a movie and it makes it more vivid? Maybe. Might it be because musician are always irrevocably hot? Yeah, that's probably more like it.
Come on, who wasn't mesmerized at some point in their life by the guy playing the guitar in front of a bonfire during a hot summer night? Only me? Ok, FINE. Moving on.
My expectations for Amplified were middle to low. The past two YA contemporary books I read were pretty disappointing and I was sort of expecting this one to follow the lead. So what a pleasant surprise it turned out to be, I'm so glad I was proven wrong.
The beginning, to be honest, wasn't really promising.
We meet Jasmine being kicked out of the house by her father with her car broken down in front of an auto shop. Her father is one of those quite oppressive types and Jasmine wants to defer her enrollment in Stanford. Because she wants to play the guitar. Of course he doesn't agree, hence the kicking out. She's left with no car, no job, no place to stay, very little money, two guitars and one kick-ass amplifier.
Anyway, at the beginning, she was coming out as a bit of a spoiled brat and I could smell clichés from a mile away.
When she gets the chance to become part of an industrial rock group which incidentally includes also the chance to rent a room in a shared house, she jumps at the occasion even if she has to fake it; they ask for someone with stage experience and she has none.
Between the hysterical/weird/grumpy guys populating the house, the job at a psychic shop, her father not talking to her, rehearsals and her first live performance looming, Jasmine's life becomes hectic to say the least. Will she be able to fake it until she makes it or disaster is just around the corner?
Oh, how I wish all my vanillas were along the lines of this one. I haven't quite understood yet what it is that makes me despise some contemporary YA books and love other ones... I mean, the formula is pretty much always the same, right? Girl with problems/estranged from her parents meets cute boy who is taken/oblivious, enter mean girl, coming of age, bla bla bla...
So what is it? Well-developed characters? Yes. Witty, clever dialogue? Duh. Hot guys and sexual tension? Preferably. A morale, a message? Yes!
But what else?
I guess I need to feel something, that's all. Sentiment. The X factor that makes me long to be in the story, be part of it, be friends with the characters. If it's people I'd like to be friends with, then I'll probably like the book.
Amplified made me feel connected to Jasmine in such a way. Not only it's an extremely fun book - snarky, witty, clever exactly up to right level - but I really felt for Jasmine in her endeavor to chase her dreams and do something she really wanted to do. I kept on thinking, you go girl!
It's really hard out there for young people at the moment, especially in my country. Today I was listening to the radio in the car while taking the kids to school and they were interviewing some kids in a program. This girl, 17 I think, who was asked: "what are your dreams for the future?" replied: "None for the moment".
I almost swerved. How can you not have ANY dreams at 17, for crying out loud? This shocks me and makes me extremely sad. If our kids have no dreams, what kind of hope do we have for the future?
I think we need more books with kids who strive to do something with their lives. But I digress.
The romance in the story was also very much to my taste. It develops slowly and it ends in a very believable and logic way, and kudos to Tara Kelly for managing it that way, I totally bought it.
The only reason why I took away half a star to this incredibly worthy book is Amy. While the other characters were really cool - especially Veta and Bryn - Amy is way too cliché, too mean girl. She might as well have grown some horns, got a pitchfork and the portrait would have been complete.
I also might add that some readers - me - might find the music parts a tad too technical. What the heck is a wah?!
Anyway, for all my friends who like "vanillas", I think you need to check this out because it's a keeper.
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
This is Shyness by Leanne Hall
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Can this review be more of a warning? I'm not sure This Is Shyness is for everybody.
To be honest, I don't think I've read anything like This Is Shyness before and it's pretty difficult to give it a label. I'm going to play safe and tell you that, maybe, the only sure label is YA?
But let me give you a brief synopsis to give you an idea.
In an alternate or future - I'm not sure - world similar to ours, a strange dark area has descended on the city (or neighborhood, still not sure) of Panwood. It's called Shyness and, there, the sun never rises. Just in that area.
It's a place that's been abandoned by regular people and is now populated by weird individuals, renegades, people of the night.
Meet Wildgirl during a night out in a bar in Shyness, called "The Diabetic". She's there with some friends from work to have a few drinks, but it's just an excuse. In reality, she's looking for trouble, or a distraction. Something bad has happened to her at school and she's trying to either forget it ever happened or find a way to run away from everything and never come back. That's where she meets Wolfboy, a guy with "thick air on his arms". The guy actually howls. Their meeting is a sort of epiphany - for both of them - and they decide to leave the bar together, to go bar-hopping in Shyness, to explore.
What happens next, I can assure you, is a trip into a grotesque world. There's a lost/stolen credit card involved, a ukulele, some gang kids who get high on sugar (literally) and a suicide mission to rescue a lighter, for crying out loud. All peppered with a budding romance between Wildgirl and Wolfboy.
If you're looking for something completely OUT OF THE NORM this is your book.
Incredibly, I was slightly bored at the beginning. Not only was I baffled by the odd encounters W/W were making but the pacing was kinda slow. I got dumped into this world without a compass and I felt a bit overwhelmed by the lack of information.
What is Shyness, really? What is Wildgirl's big secret, the one she's running from? (and let me tell you, when I found out, if that is the reason, I had a major eye-rolling moment) What is Wolfboy's secret?
The writing is undeniably awesome and I am awed by the author's imagination and ability to pull together a weird, abnormal, incredible story. The characters are alive and real - as well as complete weirdos.
BUT, it was a tad too much for me. I really wanted to read something different but maybe... not THIS different.
Fortunately, the second part of the book caught my attention much more.
Again, like with Wildgirl's reasons for running away, I found the purpose of the rescue mission in Orphanville, the place where the gang kids lived, really futile. Wildgirl wasn't making much sense in her stubborness, I really couldn't get why she was so adamant about putting herself into trouble.
Nevertheless, now that I finished the book, I am left with a thousand questions that still need to be answered.
I need to see more of Wildgirl and Wolfboy together. Their story was well developed and absolutely believable (maybe the only believable thing?).
Unfortunately, who knows when I will be able to get my hands on a copy of Queen of the Night?
Pick this up if you're bored out of your mind with paranormal YA today.