Thursday, January 31, 2013

Review: The Hunt by Andrew Fukuda

The Hunt by Andrew Fukuda
The Hunt (The Hunt #1)
By Andrew Fukuda
Publisher:
St. Martin’s Griffin

To Sum It Up:

Most teenagers don’t have to worry about things like whitening their fake fangs or keeping their facial expressions perfectly neutral while out in public, but Gene isn’t the average teenager. He’s a human, or heper, living among vampires who would devour him in an instant if they knew what he really was. Until now, Gene has managed to pass for a vampire, dutifully attending school at night and pretending to be delighted at the sight of a plate of raw meat. But his cover is about to be threatened by the announcement of the Hunt, a momentous event in which the greatest prizes imaginable, hepers, await the strongest hunters. Gene believes his odds of being selected as a contestant are slim to none, but then the unthinkable happens. He’s chosen to compete in the Hunt, and if he isn’t careful, his fate will be the same as that of the other hepers.

Review:

The Hunt was a mixed bag for me. Although I found the premise, in which human teenager Gene struggles to hide what he is in a world ruled by voracious vampires, interesting, I had a hard time getting into the book. I felt like there was an aloofness to it that prevented me from becoming invested in it until I was about halfway through the novel. Once the action got going, The Hunt was more enjoyable, but I wish that I hadn’t had to wait so long for something riveting to happen.

The protagonist, Gene, is one of the few humans, or hepers, as they’re called in the novel, left in existence. He’s been on his own since his father was bitten by a vampire. It was Gene’s father who instilled in his son rules for surviving among the vampires. Gene has to make sure that he never gives off body odor or has facial hair; he also has to wear fake fangs and keep absolute control over his facial expressions. This means no sneezing, laughing, coughing, etc. I had some trouble believing that this kid could remain undetected by the vampires for as long as he had. That’s not to say that he doesn’t have some close calls with revealing his true nature, but for being around these keenly observant predators for hours a night at school, I would have expected him to get found out a lot sooner. I know that I would have been a tasty vampire snack within a nanosecond of setting foot in that school.

I’m still not sure what to think of Gene, either. I was mostly indifferent to him until he came into contact with the humans who were going to be the targets of the Hunt. Not only does Gene stay mum about the details of the Hunt, but he actually looks down on these poor people. He’s surprised to discover that they can hold a conversation and are literate. His attitude irked me quite a lot, and even though he somewhat redeems himself later on in the book, I couldn’t shake his first impression of his fellow humans from my mind.

Where the story became the most engaging for me was when the focus shifted to the humans. They’ve spent their entire lives in captivity and have been raised at the Heper Institute just so they can be hunted down like animals. Reading about what their lives were like and the horrible purpose that they were intended to serve packed the most emotional punch in a book that otherwise felt clinical in tone to me. Sissy, the leader of the group and the only female, is an awesome character. Her courage makes it obvious why she’s in charge, not to mention the fact that she’s lethal with a dagger. I thought that the humans’ plight was much more compelling than Gene’s attempts to blend in as a vampire, and I kept hoping that they’d find a way to escape their situation.

Around the halfway point of The Hunt, I was pretty sure that I wasn’t going to read the sequel; I wasn’t a big fan of Gene and the world-building. Second thoughts began swirling, though, when pandemonium broke out in the book, and I started turning the pages with eagerness. The thrilling way in which the actual Hunt played out left me looking for more to read. I’m still undecided about reading The Prey. On the one hand, the ending of The Hunt made me curious to know what happens next; on the other, if the pacing in The Prey is anything like that of its predecessor, I don’t think I have the patience to read 150 pages or so before the real action commences. I might continue with the series, but it’s not a priority.

All in All:

I think your success with this book hinges on how you find the world-building. I couldn’t totally wrap my head around Gene avoiding detection for so long, especially once he was taken to the Heper Institute to prep for the Hunt and for a while had no access to water, neither for drinking nor for bathing. I did, however, like getting to know the humans as more than mere game for the vampire hunters, as well as the gripping finale. The strength of these two things bumped the book up to a three star rating.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

ABC . . . What'll It Be? Organizing My Bookshelves

My brain loves organization. I am the type of person who has to have all of the paper bills in her wallet facing the same way, with the smallest denomination in the front and the largest in the back. Therefore, I take the organization of my bookshelves seriously. Very seriously.

Even as a child, I had a system, albeit a simple one: descending size order! Tallest books on the left, shortest books on the right. I suppose I was aiming for some kind of aesthetic back then, although I wasn’t aware of it. By the time I reached high school, though, I’d begun arranging my books alphabetically by the author’s last name, and I’ve pretty much stuck with this system ever since.

I say “pretty much” because there are always a few exceptions. Jane Austen’s novels and any Austen-related books, like the collection of her letters, have a shelf all to themselves. The same goes for the Harry Potter books—no one shares a shelf with them, either. I also have a shelf dedicated to the books that I’ve had since childhood. The rest of my books, which consist mostly of YA and adult fiction, follow the alphabetical-order-by-author system.

Recently, though, two things got me thinking about how I organize my shelves. I was looking through the blog’s review archive, which is also arranged alphabetically by author last name, and something caught my eye. Cassandra Clare’s City of Lost Souls, from The Mortal Instruments series, is listed before Clockwork Angel, the first book in The Infernal Devices series. Now, if I were sorting alphabetically by title, that would be the correct order. But would it be better to sort by the name of the series, in which case The Infernal Devices should appear before The Mortal Instruments? To make this scenario even more interesting, TID is a prequel to TMI. Should some kind of chronological reading order be considered here? Perhaps the two most vital questions I should ask myself are: 1) Aren’t there more constructive uses of my time than pondering things like this, and 2) Am I ever going to get around to rereading the first four TMI books so that I can review them? (The answer to both questions is yes.)

The other thing that gave me pause for thought about the arrangement of the books on my shelves was a simple one: looking at the shelves themselves. I decided to do one of my periodic clean-outs and gather the books that I wasn’t going to read again (and in a few cases, bought ages ago but was never going to read a first time) for donation to the library. I figured that I might as well rearrange the shelves while I was at it, grouping all of my YA books together; they had previously been mixed in with the adult titles. With the organization questions raised by the blog’s review archive fresh in my mind, I took a closer look at the order on my shelves. They were in ABC order by author, but in the instances where I owned multiple books by the same author, it appeared that I was going for a chronological-by-publication-date scheme. For example, the one book that I own from Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series sat in front of the books from her Bloodlines spin-off series. Jane Austen’s novels followed one after the other in order of publication date, too. I have no idea when I decided to use publication date as a secondary sorting key, but since it was consistent across the shelves, I’m sticking with it. I haven’t yet decided which approach is best for the blog’s review archive, so that’s staying as is for the time being as well.

I majored in computer science in college, and the study of sorting algorithms was an integral part of the coursework. Perhaps that, along with my lifelong obsession with organization, has led me to write this ridiculously long ramble on how much time I spend thinking about my bookshelves. I probably spend an equal amount of time staring at them, which then causes me to daydream about my favorite characters, scenes, and quotes, further keeping me from carrying out some far more important task.

Do you have a special organization system for your bookshelves? I’d love to hear about it!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Review: The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
The Name of the Star (Shades of London #1)
By Maureen Johnson
Publisher:
G. P. Putnam’s Sons

To Sum It Up:

When her law professor parents decide to take a sabbatical to teach in England, Rory Deveaux leaves her small Louisiana town for a boarding school in London. She arrives just as a series of gruesome murders, seemingly committed by a Jack the Ripper copycat, are terrorizing Londoners and baffling police. Rory never imagines becoming entangled in the case, but that’s what happens when she sees a man who just may be the culprit. The problem is, no one else can see him except Rory. Keeping her from becoming the killer’s next target is going to require the help of a secret organization that deals with things Rory never thought possible, but there’s no time for doubts if she wants to stay alive.

Review:

I’d had my eye on The Name of the Star for a while, and I was not disappointed. This is a very clever take on the story of Jack the Ripper, with a paranormal twist to boot. Part of me feverishly turned the pages to see what would happen next, while another part of me dreaded what I’d find. Reading this in the middle of the night was sometimes creepy, to say the least.

I loved how this book shifted in tone so suddenly, yet without seeming abrupt. One minute, Rory is relating anecdotes about her Uncle Bick and Cousin Diane back home in Louisiana and warming up a jar of Cheese Whiz that she had shipped from America. The next minute, a serial killer who has eluded even surveillance cameras but has been seen by Rory is threatening to take out her eyes. On the surface, this novel seems like an odd combination of humor and horror, but believe me, it completely works here. Never have I laughed so much while reading a book about a psychopathic murderer. Look, I know how weird, and even macabre, that sounds. But Rory has this fantastic sense of humor, and if you met “Call Me” Claudia, the housemistress of Rory’s dorm with the rabid field hockey obsession, you’d be chuckling, too.

Maureen Johnson did a brilliant job plotting out this story. I love that aha moment when the small details that appeared insignificant at first coalesce into a complete picture that leaves me astonished. As I read, I wasn’t sure how the title, or even the name of the series, fit into the story, but once I found out, I marveled at how both tied into the novel. This was the sort of book that I enjoyed reading because it was like assembling a jigsaw puzzle; the tension-filled story built piece by piece, and the fun was in trying to put the correct pieces together.

I liked Rory a lot, but the character who most intrigued me was Stephen Dene, the police officer who takes a special interest in the Ripper case. Actually, there’s much more to Stephen’s job description than that, but going into too much detail would give away a key part of the plot. Stephen possessed a quiet intensity that I found incredibly cool. Whatever the situation is, he’s the type of person who instinctively knows how to handle it. He’s reserved when it comes to revealing information about himself, but the part of his backstory that he opens up to Rory about is quite sad. I definitely hope to learn more about Stephen as the series goes on.

The one tiny thing about this book that I wasn’t keen on was the tepid romance. I’m not even sure that “romance” is the right word to describe Rory and her classmate Jerome locking lips then acting all awkward around each other. The whole scenario just felt awkward in an otherwise stellar novel, so that’s probably why it stuck out in my mind. Fortunately, though, it’s a minor plot point, and it’s not like it broke the book for me. Plus, I think (well, hope, more like) that future events on the romance front may take a turn that I would be very happy with.

Overall, The Name of the Star was an exciting thriller that managed to both make me laugh and send chills down my spine. I always love a good dichotomy, and this book featured one of the best I’ve encountered so far. I’m looking forward to what’s next for Rory (and Stephen!) in The Madness Underneath.

All in All:

The Name of the Star is a suspenseful, and at times heart-pounding, novel that deftly takes a true story and mixes it with the supernatural. I really enjoyed the mystery element of the book, and I usually don’t read that genre. Add to that the paranormal aspect, and this was one mesmerizing read.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Know Me Better (3)

Know Me Better is a weekly meme hosted by I Am a Reader, Not a Writer.

Top 5 songs on your playlist?
Lee: Right now, the entire Les Misérables movie soundtrack.
Ally: Same as Lee, I’ve recently become obsessed with Les Miz.

How much time do you spend reading each week?
Lee: I try to squeeze in 1-2 hours a day, usually at night.
Ally: It depends on how much spare time I have. It can range from hours to minutes.

What is the last thing you Googled?
Lee: The current pollen count. My allergies are really bad at the moment.
Ally: I actually Googled a picture of the French flag. It was for my nails; my sister Melissa was painting them Les Miz style for me!

Favorite places to travel?
Lee: I haven’t been back to my old home, New York City, in about three years and would love to see it again, but there are zero funds in the travel budget right now.
Ally: I’ve never really traveled before, but I would like to go tour Europe someday.

What is your favorite way to spend a rainy day?
Lee: Reading in front of the TV.
Ally: Reading, with a nice cup of tea and some background music.

Stacking the Shelves (25)

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews. It's an opportunity for everyone to share the new books that we've acquired.

I LOVE Cynthia Hand's Unearthly series and had to own a copy of the final book, Boundless, which was released this week. I had borrowed the first two books from the library, so it only made sense to buy those as well to have the complete series. I also borrowed one book from the library this week—so far, I've been keeping my New Year's resolution to only borrow what I have time to read.

Borrowed:

The Hunt by Andrew Fukuda

Bought:

Unearthly by Cynthia Hand
Hallowed by Cynthia Hand
Boundless by Cynthia Hand

What did you add to your shelves this week? Please link me up!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Within Anniversary Blog Tour: Review & Giveaway

I'm excited to be a part of the blog tour to celebrate the first anniversary of Clare C. Marshall's Within! I have a review of the book for you today, and there's also a giveaway in which you can win a copy of Within plus some swag from Faery Ink Press.

Within by Clare C. Marshall
Within
By Clare C. Marshall
Publisher:
Faery Ink Press
Amazon | Goodreads

* A copy was provided by the author for review.

Synopsis:

Trinity Hartell’s life changed after the accident. Left with irreversible brain damage, she becomes a burden to her mother, a cause for heartbreak for her boyfriend Zack, and a flattened obstacle for her jealous best friend, Ellie.

But then she starts writing. Perhaps it’s a coincidence that the psychotic, murderous protagonist of her novel bears a striking similarity to the charming Wiley Dalton, a mayoral candidate in the upcoming election.

Or, perhaps not . . . .

Review:

Within is an ambitious novella that presents two main challenges to the reader. First, the story is told from multiple points of view, including that of a truly vile villain. The POVs shift frequently and within chapters, so it’s not as though a single character narrates a whole chapter. Second, some of these characters are quite unlikable, and one is just beyond despicable. I thought that both of these aspects combined to give Within an edgy feel to it that at once made me nervous about what was going to happen next and anxious to read on and find out.

I really liked the way in which the multiple POVs were handled. I didn’t find them confusing to follow at all, and I think that this style worked very well for the story. My only problem was that I didn’t always like what the characters were thinking, but that’s the type of book Within is. It’s not a fluffy, sugary tale. Clare Marshall took a unique approach to telling this story, and it paid off greatly.

Even with access to their thoughts, I couldn’t understand the actions of Trinity’s mother, Stephanie, and Trinity’s best friend, Ellie. “Best” is a word that should be used loosely in Ellie’s case because she spends most of the book pining away for Trinity’s boyfriend, Zack. Even after the car accident that leaves Trinity severely brain damaged. Actually, “pining” isn’t even the right word to describe how badly Ellie wants Zack all to herself. Even after Trinity’s accident. Note to Ellie: moving in on your best friend’s boyfriend right after she’s suffered brain damage is so not cool.

Trinity’s mother, Stephanie, equally frustrated me. All this woman thinks about is her volunteer job helping mayoral candidate Wiley Dalton get elected. If there were a prize for having a one-track mind, there’d be a dead heat between Stephanie and Ellie. While the logic, or lack thereof, of these two characters made my head spin, I admit that their behavior made for intriguing reading. I got the impression that not all of the characters in Within were supposed to be likable, that their actions were meant to raise eyebrows. Interestingly, I think that this had the effect of making Zack look a little too perfect, though he is definitely not without faults. It’s just that in comparison to Ellie and Stephanie, Zack appears saintly.

I knew going into this book that it was a dark, intense read, and it was. There were some scenes of violence and a POV from a hate-spewing villain that made me shudder. Although there is a touch of the paranormal to it, Within could also easily fall under the thriller genre because at its center is a ruthless, murderous maniac who is determined to carry out his twisted plans.

Within makes the most out of its novella-sized length with both a thought-provoking plot and characters. What really stood out for me, though, was the narrative technique. Marshall skillfully uses the multiple POVs to assemble her chilling tale suspenseful piece by suspenseful piece.

All in All:

This is a dark, gritty read with characters who are not easy to warm up to. It’s also a gripping read, thanks to the way in which the story comes together through the eyes of different characters.

About Clare C. Marshall

Author Clare C. Marshall
Clare Marshall grew up in rural Nova Scotia with very little television and dial up internet, and yet, she turned out okay. She has a combined honours degree in journalism and psychology from the University of King’s College, and is a graduate from Humber College’s Creative Book Publishing Program. She founded Woulds & Shoulds Editing and Design in 2010 for self-published authors and businesses looking for quality editing and design services. She enjoys publishing books through her publishing imprint, Faery Ink Press, and released her first novella, Within in 2011. When she’s not writing, she enjoys playing the fiddle and making silly noises at cats.

You can find Clare on Facebook, Twitter, her website, and Goodreads.

** Giveaway **

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Feature & Follow Friday (21)

Feature & Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Parajunkee's View and
Alison Can Read. It's a great way to meet other book bloggers!

This week's question is:
What is the last book that kept you up late into the night just to finish it?

The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa. It's one of the best vampire/dystopian books I've read in a while. I'd keep telling myself that I'd only read one more chapter before quitting for the night, but I couldn't put it down. It was definitely worth staying up into the wee hours of the morning to read.

If you're a new follower, be sure to let me know so that I can follow you back. Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
The Fault in Our Stars
By John Green
Publisher:
Dutton Books

To Sum It Up:

Although a miracle cancer drug has extended Hazel Lancaster’s life, she knows that she still faces an uncertain future. Seeing as her constant companion is an oxygen tank and the threat of death still hangs over her, Hazel can't help feeling pessimistic. She reluctantly begins attending the meetings of a cancer support group for teenagers, and it’s there that she meets Augustus Waters. With his irrepressible wit and charm, Hazel can’t help but be drawn to Augustus, and the two quickly become inseparable. Before Augustus, Hazel wasn’t so much living as existing, but that’s all about to change.

Lee's Review:

The Fault in Our Stars is a book that I didn’t plan on reading for a couple of reasons. First, I wasn’t overly impressed with John Green’s Looking for Alaska, though I concede that the man is one talented writer. I confess to returning Paper Towns to the library unread because I just wasn’t in the mood to read two Green novels in a row. Second, I’m always extremely wary of books that deal with chronic/terminal illness. There isn’t a lot of maneuvering room when it comes to preventing these types of novels from devolving into saccharine weep-a-thons. Scenes that try too hard to tug at the reader’s heartstrings irk me. Finally, I shied away from this book because I feared that it was going to be too intense of a read and I wouldn’t be able to handle it.

So what could have possibly changed my mind about reading this book? Well, it was more like a “who” than a “what”—my dear cousin and co-blogger, Ally. She’d wanted to read The Fault in Our Stars for the longest time and had finally gotten her hands on a copy. After starting it, she kept telling me how great it was, how I needed to read it, etc. I kept telling her my reasons for not wanting to read it, but Ally refused to give up. A lot of begging and wheedling on her part ensued, and I finally agreed to read this book because she was just going to continue her campaign until I surrendered.

I have to say, I’m grateful to Ally for her relentless assault on my will. At the heart of The Fault in Our Stars lies a moving, beautifully written love story. It’s almost impossible not to fall in love with Augustus and his devastating wit. Green’s signature quirky humor and metaphor-slinging characters are present and accounted for here, but he’s very careful not to make light of the heavy subject matter. My reservations about The Fault in Our Stars being overwrought and cloying were completely unfounded. Having read one of his previous novels, I should have put more faith in Green’s ability to steer clear of treacle, but being the pessimist that I am, I had to see for myself.

I do think that this book requires a bit more suspension of disbelief than you might expect for a contemporary novel, at least in comparison to the ones I’ve read so far. I can’t really delve into specifics without giving too much of the book away, but there were times when I felt like I had to accept some of the plot at face value. That’s not exactly a criticism because the book wouldn’t have been the same if events hadn’t unfolded the way that they did. The point I’m trying to make, very ineloquently, is, if I’d stopped to think, “Well, it’s improbable that X would really happen,” I would have ruined my enjoyment of the book.

There is no doubt that The Fault in Our Stars has earned its place among the books that every reader should read during his/her lifetime. For all of the times that the book will make you laugh, though, there’s an equal chance that it will make you cry. There are some scenes of such immense heartbreak that, while I’m glad that I overcame my reluctance to read this, I definitely couldn’t make it through the book again.

All in All:

This is one of the most hyped books I can think of in recent memory. I don’t like to give credence to that type of thing and prefer to form my own opinion of a book by reading it for myself. The Fault in Our Stars is one of the rare books that deserves all of the praise that has been showered upon it.

Ally's Review:

How can one go about reviewing a book about cancer, and death, and pain, and sadness? Because that's what The Fault in Our Stars is. Arguably, it is written in the elegant and humorous style of John Green, but still. I don't like people who pretend to understand and relate to things and situations that they oh so obviously can't. I don't want to be one of those people. So I can't tell anyone that John Green hit the nail on the head with this book. All I can say is that the book felt real, that Hazel Grace and Gus seemed real enough to me.

The characters, Hazel and Augustus, were great. They clearly have gone through much adversity, but they still trudge on through life. I was rooting for those two lovebirds to get together from the start. Gus was just so forward and fun. He was good for Hazel, and Hazel was good for him. A lot of people say that Hazel and Augustus (or most of Green's characters) don't “talk their age.” Being their age, I can't help but feel a little offended. Admittedly, I don't go around contemplating every little thing I see, but I do have a few sporadic, profound musings. However, I do see the point being made; Hazel and Gus are philosophical to the verge of being unreasonable. And I like it! They make me think, and this book made me think. It gave my brain a good workout.

The storyline follows the two teenagers on their quest to get answers from an author (who's a mega-turd) who left his book with a lot of loose strings. That's interesting! Many readers, including myself, feel the need to hunt down authors who leave their books with terrible cliffhangers and endings! I can name a few now. The book within a book thing really got to me. I was with Hazel and Gus all the way; I wanted answers for myself.

The humor and snark that follows every John Green book was present and accounted for. I laughed, I teared up (I never actually cried, which is something I am quite proud of), I swooned, and oh man, I rooted; this book seriously abused and messed with my emotions. The Fault in Our Stars is easily one of the best books I've ever read.

All in All:

The Fault in Our Stars is one of those books that all readers, no matter what their preference, should read or at least try at some point in their literary lives. I'm sure you'll love it for one reason or another.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Review: The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa

The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa
The Immortal Rules (Blood of Eden #1)
By Julie Kagawa
Publisher:
Harlequin Teen

To Sum It Up:

In a world where vampires rule over humans, Allison Sekemoto struggles daily to survive. Humans are nothing more than food sources to the vampires, and Allie holds out hope that someday, her kind will rise up and reclaim their freedom from the soulless creatures. But a choice between life and death changes everything for Allie. Now that she has turned into the very thing she hates, Allie begins a new battle, one in which she fights to retain a shred of her humanity. This becomes vitally important when she encounters a group of humans who think she is one of them. As Allie finds herself growing more and more attached to these people, and one person in particular, so does her determination to keep the monster side of her true nature at bay.

Review:

The Immortal Rules was my first YA vampire read of 2013, and I couldn’t have started off the year with a better vampire novel. I feel really, really guilty for allowing this book to collect dust on my shelf since last summer, when I first bought it. Apparently, I didn’t even get around to reading the jacket blurb because I was surprised to discover that The Immortal Rules is also a dystopian novel, and it is an excellent one at that.

I like the dystopian genre a lot, but it takes just the right combination of elements to make a dystopian novel work for me. I need to know the ins and outs of how the world I’m reading about came to exist. If the explanation is sketchy, I’m probably not going to enjoy the book. On the other hand, if the details are laden with scientific jargon, I’m lost there, too. At first I was a bit nervous when I began reading The Immortal Rules because I wasn’t quite grasping the world. There was a virus and these creatures called rabids which did not sound pleasant at all, but I felt like the how and the why behind these things hadn’t been explained. I’m happy to say that all is revealed eventually, and I ended up appreciating the manner in which Julie Kagawa drew me into this world piece by piece. Her descriptions of dilapidated skyscrapers in the vampire-controlled cities and the surrounding woodlands taking over any former traces of human habitation really give you the sense of a broken, desolate civilization. Toss in the aforementioned rabids rising out of the ground at night to devour anything in their path, and this book is absolutely terrifying in places. The rabids are vampires born of scientific experimentation gone afoul, and they follow a single instinct—to satisfy their hunger. In that sense, they reminded me of zombies. The tone of The Immortal Rules is dark, bleak, and sometimes flat-out scary, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

I loved how richly drawn the characters were, with Allison and her vampire creator, Kanin, being the standouts. Allison is a fantastic heroine; from the opening pages, you get the impression that she’s a fighter. It’s her tenacity that makes her choose life, albeit the life of a vampire, over death after a rabid attacks her. As a human, Allie despises vampires and what they’ve done to humanity, but I can’t fault her for her decision to become one of them. She’s facing imminent demise, and she’s not ready to lie down and give up. I have to admire her resolve. Allie’s transition to her new immortal life isn’t easy, but she doesn’t become bogged down in self-pity. And any heroine who can take down rabids with a katana as fiercely as Allie does is all right in my book.

I was really intrigued by Kanin, the vampire who turned Allie. He acts as a mentor of sorts to her, teaching her what she needs to know to adapt to her new life. I love how unreadable this guy is; most of the time, he maintains a cool demeanor, yet there’s a part of him that seems to genuinely care about Allie’s well-being. Kanin also has quite the interesting past, which looks as though it will continue to play a major role throughout the series.

For me, the most riveting aspect of this novel was Allie’s constant struggle to retain a connection to her former human self and not turn into a savage killer. Kanin warns her that taking human lives is an inevitable part of her nature now, but Allie battles to keep her predatory instincts from consuming her. She’s tested again and again, and there are low moments when she can’t help but wonder if it wouldn’t be easier to just give in. It’s heartbreaking to watch her scorned because of what she is first by Stick, a member of the group of humans she used to scavenge with, and then by Zeke, who is part of a human traveling party in search of a city rumored to be run by humans. Zeke’s revulsion is particularly hurtful to Allie because if there was anyone who she hoped would be able to see the good in her, it was Zeke. Allie’s trials are punishing, both physically and emotionally, and I won’t forget about them any time soon.

Simply put, this book blew me away. It’s a winning combination of vampires and a dystopian world, with a kick-ass heroine whose inner conflict is one of the most haunting ones I’ve read about in a long while. When the sequel, The Eternity Cure, is released, I will definitely buy a copy. I will not, however, leave it sitting on my bookshelf for months like I foolishly did with The Immortal Rules!

All in All:

The Immortal Rules has certainly earned a place among my favorite vampire books. Dystopian enthusiasts should also take note of this one because, vampires aside, it’s an absorbing dystopian read.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Know Me Better (2)

Know Me Better is a weekly meme hosted by I Am a Reader, Not a Writer.

10 words that describe yourself?
We thought it would be fun to choose the 10 words for each other.
Ally (as described by Lee): Smart, ambitious, funny, understanding, energetic, creative, multitasking, organized, determined, perfectionist.
Lee (as described by Ally): Witty, dedicated, intelligent, honest, imaginative, tech savvy, serious, honorable, reliable.

Favorite TV shows?
Ally: Supernatural, Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, Once Upon a Time, The Vampire Diaries.
Lee: The Simpsons, Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey, Modern Family.

If you could take over the world, would you?
Ally: Of course. I feel as if I could accomplish a lot.
Lee: No. I’m really not leader material.

Who was the first boy you kissed?
We're both not the kiss-and-tell type.

How do you unwind?
Ally: I usually lie down, close my eyes, and turn on my iPod.
Lee: I'll read a book while the TV or music plays in the background.

Stacking the Shelves (24)

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews. It's an opportunity for everyone to share the new books that we've acquired.

It's just my small pile this week. So far this year, I've been good about not borrowing too many library books at a time so that I can get through my books at home. In fact, I wouldn't have had any library books this week, but my request for The Iron Knight was ready for pick-up a lot sooner than I'd expected. I also bought Anna and the French Kiss and The Name of the Star, both of which I've read but didn't own, when I spotted them while browsing the bargain books on Amazon.

For Review:

Daughter of the Earth and Sky by Kaitlin Bevis
Thanks to Kaitlin Bevis!


Lee's Books:

Borrowed:

The Iron Knight by Julie Kagawa

Bought:

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

What did you add to your shelves this week? Please link me up!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Review: Die for Me by Amy Plum

Die for Me by Amy Plum
Die for Me (Revenants #1)
By Amy Plum
Publisher:
HarperTeen

To Sum It Up:

After losing their parents in a car accident, Kate Mercier and her sister leave New York to live with their grandparents in Paris. Kate, still struggling with her grief, often spends her time in the company of only her books, but she’s about to be drawn out of her solitude and into an entirely different world once she meets the mysterious and handsome Vincent Delacroix. To be with a revenant like Vincent, though, means watching him sacrifice his life for others over and over again, and Kate is unsure if she can handle that. Being in the company of Vincent and his fellow revenants is also dangerous, because they have enemies who will stop at nothing to eliminate their foes.

Review:

Die for Me boasts a very novel premise, a gorgeous Parisian setting, and a beautiful cover. In the end, though, this felt like just another average YA paranormal book, mainly because the characters seemed all too familiar. If they hadn’t followed YA archetypes so closely, this could have been a standout read.

There were quite a few shades of Twilight in Die for Me. Human girl spots hot, enigmatic guy who later turns out to be not-so-human. Not-so-human guy follows human girl around for a bit. Eternal love ensues, but not without potential obstacles, like one character being immortal and such. Now, I confess to being a Twilight fan (though not as much as when I first read the books), but Die for Me doesn’t add anything groundbreaking to what’s become heavily traveled territory in YA.

Kate is yet another heroine who becomes entangled with the paranormal and gets all angsty about whether or not her relationship with her supernatural boyfriend can work. Vincent is another insanely good-looking, superhuman knight in shining armor with a tragic past. I had a hard time finding these two characters exciting to read about because there was nothing to distinguish them from the other Bella and Edward types I’d read about before. Kate spends quite a bit of the novel mulling over the Vincent situation, and that does not make for especially compelling reading, at least for me. There are some action scenes towards the end, but the book is more of a love story than anything. That would have been fine if I’d been able to take more than a mild interest in this couple and what happened to them.

I would have given this three stars, but there are a few things that merit an extra half star. Amy Plum brings Paris to such vivid life that I wanted to grab my passport and hop on a plane. I easily pictured Kate sitting in a sidewalk cafĂ©, lost in her book. Reading Die for Me was like getting a mini-tour of Paris, and I loved that aspect of the novel. I also liked the camaraderie between Vincent and his fellow revenants; they obviously cared for each other like family. I thought that some of these secondary characters, like Jules, showed a lot of personality, and I would have welcomed reading more about them. Finally, I found the concept of the revenants unique; they’re kind of like superheroes, in that they exist to throw themselves in the path of danger in order to save others. I would not object in the least to being rescued by one.

While Die for Me didn’t bowl me over, I feel I should give the sequel, Until I Die, a chance in the hopes of seeing some character growth for Kate and Vincent. Overall, I thought this book had potential that wasn’t realized, and it’s enough to make me willing to take a gamble on the second book. Plus, I’d love to revisit Paris.

All in All:

Have you ever finished a book and thought, “Well, that wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t amazing, either”? That’s how I feel about this one. I found the main characters lacking, which is often sufficient to sink a book for me, but in other ways, like the descriptions of the setting, Die for Me was too good to give it a lower rating.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle #1)
By Maggie Stiefvater
Publisher:
Scholastic Press

To Sum It Up:

Blue Sargent comes from a family of psychics. She isn’t one herself, but she possesses the ability to amplify clairvoyant powers. Blue and her mother have an annual tradition where they go to the churchyard, and her mother sees the spirits of those who will die in the next twelve months. This year is different, though; for the first time, Blue sees a spirit, and he speaks to her. He turns out to be Gansey, a student at the elite, all-boys school, Aglionby. Called the Raven Boys because of the raven emblem on their uniforms, Blue despises them and the old money and privilege that they represent. Whether she likes it or not, however, Blue is about to become an integral part of the lives of Gansey and his friends Ronan, Adam, and Noah, who are on a quest to find a legendary sleeping Welsh king.

Review:

Wow. What a different book this was compared to The Scorpio Races, the only other Maggie Stiefvater book I’ve read. As hard as I tried to love The Scorpio Races, I couldn’t do it. Although the setting was described with such beauty and eloquence, I felt so distant from the two narrators, Puck and Sean. I slogged through that book; it never seemed to gain any momentum plot-wise. I’d seen similar comments made about the pacing of The Raven Boys, but I decided to give it a go anyway. I liked the premise, and Stiefvater’s writing in The Scorpio Races really impressed me even though I wasn’t too keen on the novel overall. I had a hunch that there was a Maggie Stiefvater book out there that was perfect for me, and I found it with The Raven Boys.

To me, The Raven Boys read like a character study with a supernatural element to it, and I can see where the critiques of the pacing came from. Luckily for me, I found the characters utterly compelling, so I had no problem whatsoever. That’s not to say that the book is devoid of action, but if you’re expecting a heart-pounding paranormal read, The Raven Boys doesn’t fall into that category. Everything about it, from the plot to the romance, is slow-building; my enjoyment of the book came from observing the dynamic between the characters, especially the friendship between the Raven Boys, and how the addition of Blue affected it. I also became engrossed by the search for the legendary Glendower, a Welsh king who is supposed to grant a wish to whoever wakes him from his slumber. I couldn’t get enough of this storyline because I’ve always been fascinated by Arthurian legend and Holy Grail-type quests.

A sure sign that I’ve fallen head over heels in love with a book is when I can’t stop thinking about it after I’ve finished it. The characters from The Raven Boys have taken up permanent residence in my brain. I loved Blue’s independent personality and how she refused to fawn over the Raven Boys just because they were wealthy and good-looking. She has a solid head on her shoulders and uses it, unlike some other female protagonists I’ve come across in YA.

It was the Raven Boys, though, who made this book an absolute page-turner. They’re a rather motley quartet, and yet they’re friends. You have hot-headed Ronan, who welcomes trouble with a smile and is always ready with a snarky comment. Then there’s Adam, who attends Aglionby on a scholarship and struggles with feeling like he doesn’t really belong to the group. His pride won’t allow him to accept help from anyone, especially Gansey, even though it would mean escaping from his physically abusive father’s house. Noah is the quietest of the four and seems to lurk in the background, but his backstory is perhaps the most intriguing of all of the boys’ richly detailed histories.

And then there’s Gansey. Gansey (full name: Richard Campbell Gansey III), who prefers to be called by his surname and who stole the book as well as my heart. There’s nothing conventionally swoon-worthy about him; I just found him to be a kindred spirit. We share a need to avoid stinging insects and to hold the phone right up to our faces if we’re not wearing glasses or contacts. Gansey is also the nucleus of the Raven Boys; without him, they would probably be off leading separate lives. Instead, they’re a close-knit, almost family-like unit, with Gansey as the primary caretaker. Whether he’s trying to keep Ronan out of trouble or offering Adam a place to live, Gansey truly cares about his friends. While he may not always say the most tactful thing, particularly in his conversations with Blue, I don’t think that he means to offend anyone. He’s grown up in a sphere of privilege and doesn’t realize that he can sound condescending to those outside of it. What really drew me to Gansey was his heart, which is extremely generous.

In case it’s not evident by now, I loved The Raven Boys. Stiefvater’s writing is beautiful, and even wryly humorous at times. Waiting for the next installment is torture because I’m one hundred percent invested in these characters and what happens to them. At least I have the first book to think back on in the meantime, and I often do because it made such an impact on me.

All in All:

I’d love to recommend this to everybody because I loved it so much (I mean, I’ve already used “love” twice in this sentence), but I realize that it may not be to everyone’s reading tastes. If you think there’s even a tiny chance that you’ll enjoy The Raven Boys, then by all means, go ahead and read it!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Know Me Better (1)

Know Me Better is a weekly meme hosted by I Am a Reader, Not a Writer. This sounded like a really fun meme to do, with 5 new questions to answer each week.

Where is your favorite spot to read?
I have a sort of open loft space on the second floor of my house (it's a little hard to describe). My bookshelves are here, and it's where I spend most of my reading time; I love this space so much I hardly use the living room downstairs.

Are you a fast or slow reader?
I think I'm about average, but if I find a book engrossing, I'll zip through it faster than I normally would.

Fanfiction - Love it or hate it? Have your ever read/written it?
I've never tried reading or writing it because I'm not that interested in it.

Summer or Winter?
Tough question. I've always loved summer, but moving a few years ago to a fairly mild climate year-round has really made me miss traditional winters with cold temperatures and snow. I think I'll still have to go with summer, though.

Truth or Dare?
Truth. I'm not a very daring person at all.

Stacking the Shelves (23)

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews. It's an opportunity for everyone to share the new books that we've acquired.

We had to return some library books this week and managed to be really good about not borrowing a giant pile of new ones until we read the books that we've bought but haven't read yet.

For Review:

Prophecy Girl by Faith McKay
Chase Tinker and the House of Magic by Malia Ann Haberman
Thanks to Faith McKay and Malia Haberman!


Ally's Books:

Borrowed:

Eve and Adam by Michael Grant & Katherine Applegate
Foretold: 14 Tales of Prophecy and Prediction edited by Carrie Ryan
This anthology includes a short story by Richelle Mead featuring Rose and Dimitri from Vampire Academy!


Lee's Books:

Borrowed:

Kiss of the Night by Sherrilyn Kenyon

What did you add to your shelves this week? Please link us up!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Feature & Follow Friday (20)

Feature & Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Parajunkee's View and
Alison Can Read. It's a great way to meet other book bloggers!

This week's question is:
If you could choose one supernatural being/creature to really exist what would it be and why? ex. fae { submitted by @SeeingNight }

We've actually had this discussion a few times, and in the end the choices usually come down to wizards/witches (because then Hogwarts would be real and we could go) and the Shadowhunters from Cassandra Clare's books (because demon hunting sounds so cool; if given the choice, we'd prefer to run with the Victorian era group—hello Will Herondale and Jem Carstairs!)

If you're a new follower, be sure to let us know so that we can follow you back. Thanks for stopping by!

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