Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Hearts at Stake by Alyxandra Harvey

This book will be available in January 2010.

Grade: B


Synopsis:

Solange Drake always knew she was destined to become a vampire queen. And as the only female vampire ever born, not made, she is surrounded by danger on all sides--from vampire suitors who want to join with her lineage to bounty hunters who are set on destroying her and her family. When she is kidnapped, it's up to her older brother Nicholas and her human best friend, Lucy, to save her. But can Lucy save herself from Nicholas, who tempts her with his every look? And what will be Solange's own fate if she surrenders her heart to the vampire hunter helping her survive the deadly intrigue at the royal court?

Rating:

Character Development: 8/10
Originality: 5/10
Overall Enjoyment: 6/10
Ending: 8/10
Voice: 7/10
Plot: 6/10
Setting: 6/10
Total Score: 47/70

Obtained: Free copy provided by publisher.

Age Appropriate? PG-13

Cussing: Quite frequently.
Alcohol, Drugs, etc: None.
Sexual Content: Suggestive comments, but no actual scenes.
Disturbing Images/Violence: A lot of supernatural violence, murder, blood, gore, etc.

Review:

Hearts at Stake surprised me. Vampire romance novels, while they seem to be the craze, are not my kind of book. And this was not my kind of book, either, but I actually found myself enjoying it. The plot was exciting and interesting, though occasionally confusing, and Alyxandra Harvey managed to incorporate the vampires without being too cliche.

Though the romance at times seemed unrealistically fast-paced (characteristic of this genre), the actual content and development was quite believable. I didn't care much for many of the characters, but their story was a good one.

The story is told through the alternating perspectives of Lucy and Solange. While their voices were strikingly (and confusingly) similar, the two characters were excellent protagonists. Most of the time I preferred reading Lucy, but toward the end Solange had the more interesting chapters.

I will probably not read the second installment in The Drake Chronicles, but I will pick up Alyxandra Harvey's next books, a Gothic Victorian series. Her writing is attractive and well-constructed, and she managed the whole superhuman-vampire thing with grace. So if you are one of those people that simply adore this genre, this would be a fantastic book for you to choose. If not, well...better luck next time.

LINKS:

Alyxandra Harvey

NOTE: There are two trailers for this book, but I chose not to include them because I think they give a bad representation of the book. And they're just annoying. But, if you really want to see them, click here.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Going Bovine by Libba Bray


Grade: A


Synopsis:
All 16-year-old Cameron wants is to get through high school—and life in general—with a minimum of effort. It’s not a lot to ask. But that’s before he’s given some bad news: he’s sick and he’s going to die. Which totally sucks. Hope arrives in the winged form of Dulcie, a loopy punk angel/possible hallucination with a bad sugar habit. She tells Cam there is a cure—if he’s willing to go in search of it. With the help of a death-obsessed, video-gaming dwarf and a yard gnome, Cam sets off on the mother of all road trips through a twisted America into the heart of what matters most.

Ratings:
Character Development: 9/10
Originality: 10/10
Overall Enjoyment: 6/10
Ending: 9/10
Voice: 6/10
Plot: 8/10
Setting: 9/10
Total Score: 57/70

Obtained: Free copy received by Delacorte Press.

Age Appropriate?
Cussing: Lots.
Drugs, Alcohol, etc.: Teen use of illegal drugs and teen drinking.
Sexual Content: Yes.
Disturbing Images/ Violence: An array of things, none too bad.

Review:
This book is a huge bundle of wackiness and hilarity. Yet the amount of randomness was just a bit too much, causing a loss of laughs and a lot of confusion. Reading this, I felt like I was swimming through water and watching a blur of scenes pass me by while I struggled to reach the surface.

Libba Bray is a good writer. There is no doubt about that. Her characters and plot are spot on. But, for me, Going Bovine was just too much craziness. Of course, I'm not much of a comedy reader, so the joke may be on me for not enjoying this book. I can see this book being turned into an uproariously funny movie though. You are probably thinking How can she enjoy a movie version, but not the book? Because this kind of humour seems meant to be said aloud.

Going Bovine is quite an epic tale... a whopping 480 pages of intense plot, randomness, and goofiness. I thought I would love this book (I am a very goofy and random person... and I adored Libba Bray's Gemma Doyle Trilogy), but it didn't hit home for me. Though it was not my pot of honey, I would not discourage you from reading it, because you may really enjoy it.

LINKS:
Interview Video

Libba Bray's Site

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Full Moon by Rachel Hawthorne

Grade: A

Synopsis:
Lindsey has always known that Connor was her destined mate, but this summer as her full moon approaches, she finds herself dreaming about darkly handsome and silent Rafe. When the others are captured by their enemies, she and Rafe must work together to save them. As they spend time together, Lindsey will come to realize that some dangers come from within as she is forced to face her true feelings for Connor and Rafe. One is a friend. The other is her true love. But listening to her heart could cost her everything.

Ratings:

Character Development: 6/10
Originality: 5/10
Overall Enjoyment: 8/10
Ending: 7/10
Voice: 6/10
Plot: 7/10
Setting: 10/10
Total Score: 49/70

Obtained: Bought at B&N.

Age Appropriate?
Cussing: Occasionally
Drugs, Alcohol, etc.: Teen drinking.
Sexual Content: None.
Disturbing Images/ Vi0lence: Murder.

Review:
Full Moon wasn't as big of a hit for me as Moonlight was. I'm not sure if it's a change in my reading opinion or that this story was lacking what the other had.

Lindsey's voice was somewhat annoying to read. The repetition of her thoughts throughout the book was tiring; not much variety. Her character fell completely flat for me, as did many of the secondary characters.

In the end, everything worked out a bit too perfectly. Which is a little obnoxious to me... in real life, is everything perfect? Is everyone happy? Not really...

But the truth is, this book is still simply a fun read. It's dramatic, romantic, and quick to read. This series is something to check out when you're in the mood for a lighthearted, enjoyable book.
LINKS:
Moonlight Review (Yeah, my views are a bit different...)

Rachel Hawthorne's Site

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

CAPTIVATE CONTEST!


Were you captivated by Carrie Jones' first novel, NEED?

Are you pining for the sequel?

ENTER TO WIN
an ARC of Carrie Jones' January 2010 release


CAPTIVATE

Synopsis:


Zara and her friends knew they hadn't solved the pixie problem for good. Far from it. The king's needs grow deeper every day he's stuck in captivity, while his control over his pixies gets weaker. So when a new, younger pixie kind shows up, war is imminent. The new kind, Astley, claims he's not evil, that his pixies can coexist peacefully with humans and weres. Zara's boyfriend, Nick, isn't buying it; no pixie could possibly be good guy. But Zara is half pixie herself, and she is just starting to think Astley could be right when Astley lets her in on another secret: he believes Zara's relationship with Nick is about to come to an end -- and that she is fated to be his queen...

CONTEST DETAILS:

Open worldwide.

Comment to enter!
(be sure to include an email address or contact information)

+1 for old and new followers!

+1 for promoting this contest elsewhere

CONTEST ENDS JANUARY 1st.
Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore

This book will be available in the US on December 22, 2009 and in the UK on January 1, 2010.

Grade: A+

Synopsis:

Nimira is a music-hall girl used to dancing for pennies. So when wealthy sorcerer Hollin Parry hires her to sing accompaniment to a mysterious piano-playing automaton, Nimira believes it will be the start of a better life. In Parry's world, long-buried secrets are about to stir. Unsettling rumors begin to swirl about ghosts, a madwoman roaming the halls, and Parry’s involvement in a group of corrupt sorcerers for whom the rules of the living and dead are meant to be broken for greater power. When Nimira discovers the spirit of a dashing fairy gentleman is trapped within the automaton, she is determined to break the curse. But even as the two fall into a love that seems hopeless, breaking the curse becomes a perilous race against time. Because it's not just the future of these star-crossed lovers that's at stake, but the fate of the entire magical world.

Ratings:

Character Development: 10/10
Originality: 10/10
Overall Enjoyment: 9/10
Ending: 8/10
Voice: 10/10
Plot: 10/10
Setting: 10/10
Total Score: 67/70

Obtained: Free ARC provided by publisher (BLOOMSBURY)

Age Appropriate?

Cussing: Some, but very little.
Alcohol, Drugs, etc: Some references to drunkenness, but very little.
Sexual Content: None.
Disturbing Images/Violence: Not much... Nothing that sticks out in my mind, anyway.

Review:

Magic Under Glass defies all of my expectations! It is an enormous reminder of all the things that make literature awesome -- magic and intrigue and adventure and true love and culture and war and sorcerers, oh my! As I read this book, I was brought back to the earlier years of fairy tales and princesses. But Magic Under Glass isn't a book for wishful middle grade readers. It is a fairy tale with bite!

Set in a world that makes me step back and say "whoa" with my mouth hanging open, this novel follows many of the same paths as Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, but it also resembles steam-punk literature and fantasy. It is a strange mixture, to be sure, but Dolamore certainly pulled it off beautifully. Her detailed world is at once easy to imagine and impossible to comprehend, yet I was never confused or bored by her narrative. Her writing is thoughtful, intelligent, and graceful. I was hooked from the start.

For all that it is a "fairy tale" (of sorts), Magic Under Glass was utterly cheese-less. Nothing was cliche, nothing had me rolling my eyes or sighing. The whole thing was as original as it gets. Forget Prince Charming! Instead have a cursed automaton! Away with damsels in distress! Here's a foreign dancer trapped in the dregs of society! Think fairies are cute and twinkly? No! They're just magical people who may or may not be completely evil!

Prepare to be blown away.

LINKS:

Jaclyn Dolamore
Dade W. Bell (to whom the book is published and creator of the trailer below--might be interesting)
Jane Eyre review

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Exodus by Julie Bertagna

Grade: A+

Synopsis:

Less than a hundred years from now, the world as we know it no longer exists. Cities have disappeared beneath the sea, technology no longer functions, and human civilization has reverted to a much more primitive state.

For the residents of Wing, an isolated northern island, time is running out. As the sea swallows precious acres and threatened to claim their very lives, they must look beyond their tiny island home for refuge.

Only fifteen-year-old Mara has the vision and the will to lead them all in search of a new beginning in this harsh, unfamiliar world. She learn of sky cities that are safe from the storms and rising water, and she is finally able to convince the islanders that finding their way to New Mungo, the closest of the New World cities, is their only chance for survival. But upon reaching the mysterious high-tech civilization, they are shut out of the city, blocked from their only chance at sanctuary. Mara must find a way past the walls to save her people, even if it means risking everything.

Ratings:

Character Development: 8/10
Originality: 9/10
Overall Enjoyment: 8/10
Ending: 9/10
Voice: 9/10
Plot: 10/10
Setting: 10/10
Total Score: 63/70

Obtained: Public Library.

Age Appropriate?

Cussing: Some, but very limited.
Drugs, Alcohol, etc: Few mentions of alcohol.
Sexual Content: None.
Disturbing Images/Violence: Plague and famine, graphic death, child slavery.

Review:

What a vivid book! Though it took me a LONG time to read for no apparent reason (it's not very long), I never lost interest in it or considered giving it up. The story was a fascinating look at our future if we continue to kill the Earth. I am impressed by Julie Bertagna's predictions and the way she contained this message in a book that isn't dry as a bone by any means, but exciting and fascinating.

The world of 2099 flooding Earth is a strange one indeed, but it makes for an epic storyline. Mara was a wonderful character that I connected with on many levels, and her journey was realistically paced yet enthralling. The many sides of this devastated world that she sees provoke thought. From the one-time haven of the island of Wing to the dark and dreary netherworld where life manages to flourish to the hypertechno New World cities in the sky, this world was created with a wise scientific eye.

Fans of The Hunger Games would love this book, I think. It has the same brilliant adventure-story feel to it and the futuristic scene is not overwhelming. I laud Bertagna for this creation! Read it.

LINKS:

Julie Bertagna

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Interview with Shannon Hale!

Shannon Hale is the author of some fantastic young adult fiction, as well as adult,
including The Books of Bayern,
Princess Acadamy,
Book of a Thousand Days,
and Austenland.
She has also collaborated with her husband to write the graphic novel, Rapunzel's Revenge.

What has been the most challenging aspect of your writing?

Just doing it every day. There are a thousand easier things to do with my time. I’d love to use a spare hour to read, or watch a show, or nap, or cook or clean up my crazy house. But ignoring all the other pestery and tempting demands and just writing is always the challenge.


Which of your books have you most enjoyed writing?

Book of a Thousand Days. Dashti was such a joy to spend time with. She’s very different than I am, but so precious to me now. And I really liked doing diary format, though that was challenging. I loved working on Rapunzel’s Revenge, too, because collaboration is so rare in the lock-myself-up world of novel writing. Getting to plot with my husband was such fun. And receiving pages from illustrator Nate Hale was like Christmas. Also, my book for adults The Actor and the Housewife was a delight to do (except that one part…).

How has writing about other characters taught you about yourself? About people in general?

Getting inside a character’s head as a writer is different than as a reader. As a reader, we can sometimes fool ourselves, make the character more like us, ignore some and create the story in our own heads. But as a writer, I’m forced inside the head of another character in a very intimate way. I have to see the world through her eyes and understand why she does what she does. I do think this has made me more tolerant, less quick to judge or condemn others. After all, if I knew their whole story, I’m sure I would understand.


What is your writing process?

Sit down and do it. And maybe eat some candy.

How do you come up with the names for your characters/places/things?

In the first draft, I write the first name that pops into my head. Then later in rewrites when I know the characters better, I question all the names and change most of them. Often I use names from a particular culture when I want to invoke that culture into my setting. Mongolian root words became the names in Book of a Thousand Days, Scandinavian names for Princess Academy, Germanic for the folks from Bayern, etc. Some I just make up.

What was your inspiration for each of your books?

Oh boy, that’s a really involved question. I’ve written ten books, and each has many sources of inspiration. I have lots of information on my website about how each of my books came to be: http://www.shannonhale.com/


What are your interests outside of the literature world?

I have two little kids, so playing with them and taking care of them makes up most of my life. I like hanging with my husband and kicking his butt at video games (or vice versa...usually vice versa).


What things could you not live life without?

Food, water, oxygen, the usual. I would prefer not to live without a bed and indoor plumbing. I wouldn’t want to live without my family. Then there’s also the matter of the ancient Egyptian amulet that extends my life beyond a mortal’s years and grants me inhuman strength, if you want to get nit-picky.

Who or what most inspired you to become a writer and when?

I always loved making up stories. In fourth grade, our teacher, Mrs. Spackman, got us writing stories and poems and I first declared that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

What is most unique about your writing?

The fact that all of the words are edible. Each one can be peeled off the page and sucked on the tongue. Not all are delicious, but many have a slightly sweet or tangy flavor, and some are downright spicy. And every once in a while, you get a word of indescribable flavor, so delicious, so filling, the essence of it lingers for hours and makes your belly feel full.


Coming January 2010 from Shannon Hale...


A sequel to the highly acclaimed Rapunzel's Revenge, team Hale has delivered an all-new, hilarious tall tale about Jack, his beanstalk…and his best-friend-with-wicked-braids, Rapunzel.

Jack likes to think of himself as a criminal mastermind…with an unfortunate amount of bad luck. A schemer, plotter, planner, trickster, swindler…maybe even thief? One fine day Jack picks a target a little more giant than the usual, and one little bean turns into a great big building-destroying beanstalk.

With help from Rapunzel (and her trusty braids), a pixie from Jack's past, and a man with inventions from the future, they just might out-swindle the evil giants and put his beloved city back in the hands of good people ….while catapulting themselves and readers into another fantastical adventure.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

NOTE: This is a classic.

Grade: A

Synopsis:

Fair and long-legged, independent and articulate, Janie Crawford sets out to be her own person-- no mean feat for a black woman in the '30s. Janie's quest for identity takes her through three marriages and into a journey back to her roots.






Rating:

Character Development: 10/10 (whoa)
Originality: 9/10
Overall Enjoyment: 7/10
Ending: 6/10
Voice: 10/10
Plot: 7/10
Setting: 10/10
Total Score: 59/70

Obtained: Bought on Amazon.com

Age Appropriate? PG-13

Cussing: Frequently throughout.
Alcohol, Drugs, etc: Some drinking and drunkenness. A limited amount of smoking.
Sexual Content: Some erotic moments and implied sexual content.
Disturbing Images/Violence: Illness, madness, domestic violence.

Review:

This is probably one of the best books I have had to read for school. Seriously, if you have the choice, read Their Eyes Were Watching God. Though it is the reason my life has been on hold for a week (hence the lack of posts...) it was completely worthwhile.

In order to enjoy this story, you really have to cage up the grammar freak within you. You have to kick the perfect-diction nerd out of your mind and let the rolling Southern tongue capture your heart and paint the perfect pictures in your head. Hurston effortlessly bleeds thoughts into narration, poetry into storytelling, and symbolism into everyday life. She tells the story of an independent woman who is caged in by those who think they know best for her. I can see why it's a classic. I mean, who can't identify with that?

Janie's story is touching and extremely enthralling. Her practical yet passionate voice easily captures the audience. The story itself may seem a little boring, but when combined with Zora Neale Hurston's masterful storytelling, a plethora of universal themes, crafty symbolism, and Janie's lovable character, a very memorable novel is born. Read it.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Heat Wave Contest

Ready for another contest?
Enter to win Heat Wave by Richard Castle

Synopsis:

A New York real estate tycoon plunges to his death on a Manhattan sidewalk. A trophy wife with a past survives a narrow escape from a brazen attack. Mobsters and moguls with no shortage of reasons to kill trot out their alibis. And then, in the suffocating grip of a record heat wave, comes another shocking murder and a sharp turn in a tense journey into the dirty little secrets of the wealthy. Secrets that prove to be fatal. Secrets that lay hidden in the dark until one NYPD detective shines a light.

Mystery sensation Richard Castle, blockbuster author of the wildly best-selling Derrick Storm novels, introduces his newest character, NYPD Homicide Detective Nikki Heat. Tough, sexy, professional, Nikki Heat carries a passion for justice as she leads one of New York City's top homicide squads. She's hit with an unexpected challenge when the commissioner assigns superstar magazine journalist Jameson Rook to ride along with her to research an article on New York's Finest. PulitzerPrize-winning Rook is as much a handful as he is handsome. His wise-cracking and meddling aren't her only problems. As she works to unravel the secrets of the murdered real estate tycoon, she must also confront the spark between them. The one called heat.


LINKS:

abc.com (preview the book here)

Amazon

CONTEST INFO:

Leave a comment with your name and email to be entered.

Winners will be determined with the Random Number Generator.

Contest ends January 2, 2010

Good luck!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Being Nikki Winner

The winner is...
Addicted Book Reader
Congratulations!

Keep posted, everyone, for new contests coming up. :)

Book Swim

"Request, Receive, Read, Return: Repeat!"
BookSwim is a new book rental program, the first online library. It's sort of like Netflix, book style.
Information:
  • No due dates, no late fees.
  • You can rent up to seven books at a time
  • Large book selection
  • Free shipping
  • If you like the book, you can purchase it
  • Billing starts at $9.95 a month

For additional information and to find out if BookSwim is something you'd be interested in, head over to the site: http://www.bookswim.com/index.html.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Radiant Darkness by Emily Whitman

Grade: A

Synopsis:

Persephone lives in the most gorgeous palace in the world. But her mother's a goddess, as overprotective as she is powerful. Paradise has become a trap. Just when Persephone feels there's no chance of escaping the life that's been planned for her, a mysterious stranger arrives. A stranger who promises something more--something dangerous and exciting--something that spurs Persephone to make a daring choice. A choice that could destroy all she's come to love, even the earth itself.

Rating:

Character Development: 7/10
Originality: 10/10
Overall Enjoyment: 7/10
Ending: 9/10
Voice: 6/10
Plot: 9/10
Setting: 10/10
Total Score: 58/70

Obtained: Bought from Recycled Books.

Age Appropriate? PG

Cussing: The (seemingly random) use of the "D" word. It was quite out of place, but oh well...
Alcohol, Drugs, etc: None.
Sexual Activity: Implied.
Disturbing Images/Violence: Child slavery.

Review:

An interesting twist on a rarely-twisted tale. This book is not what I expected. It's very Ancient Greek without being dry, very mythical without being distant or unbelievable, very accessible despite being a retelling, and surprisingly interesting. It tied in well with the original story, though at some points I felt Persephone's motivation was lacking. Or maybe that was just her being naive... It was hard to tell sometimes.

While I did genuinely like Persephone, I thought that she was a fool. The author often manipulated the character into being a spokesperson for certain themes and morals that felt incongruous and unnecessary to the plot. At times, this caused a childish "Mother Goose Effect" that occasionally made me shudder. But, aside from this small detail, the characters were very well executed, particularly Hades; his and Persephone's relationship was wrought with care, depth, and understanding. This was probably my favorite aspect of the story.

Unfortunately, I had a small issue with the writing. The narration was mostly flawless, very clean-cut and honest. It was the voice that grated on my nerves. The story would be gliding along pleasantly with the tone of a Greek storyteller and then BAM! Out of nowhere would come a random modern phrase or term that would take me out of that world altogether and leave me staring confusedly at the page.

But for those of us with a passion for Greek myth and an interest in retellings, there is no better book. Emily Whitman has created a unique version of Persephone and her story, but remains deeply respectful of the myth itself. No prior knowledge is necessary, for this book will give you a decent understanding of the Grecian way of life, an avid interest in their myths, and a love for their gods.

LINKS:

Emily Whitman
Persephone - The Original