Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Review: Everneath

by Brodi Ashton
Series: Everneath #1
Hardcover, 370 pages
Published January 24th 2012 by Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins)
Age Recommendation: Young Adult

Summary (from Goodreads):
Last spring, Nikki Beckett vanished, sucked into an underworld known as the Everneath, where immortals Feed on the emotions of despairing humans. Now she's returned- to her old life, her family, her friends- before being banished back to the underworld... this time forever.

She has six months before the Everneath comes to claim her, six months for good-byes she can't find the words for, six months to find redemption, if it exists.

Nikki longs to spend these months reconnecting with her boyfriend, Jack, the one person she loves more than anything. But there's a problem: Cole, the smoldering immortal who first enticed her to the Everneath, has followed Nikki to the mortal world. And he'll do whatever it takes to bring her back- this time as his queen.

As Nikki's time grows short and her relationships begin slipping from her grasp, she's forced to make the hardest decision of her life: find a way to cheat fate and remain on the Surface with Jack or return to the Everneath and become Cole's...

Everneath was really well written and interesting, but it wasn't the right book at the right time for me. I'd just finished All These Things I've Done, which has a romance that makes me want to throw the book across the room,  so what I needed from Everneath was a nice non-romance. Which, as I should have realized, is not what Everneath delivers.

Even though I wasn't really in the mood for a romance, I could easily see that Everneath was a great book. The characters were full and relatable, and the story was intriguing and kept me turning pages.

I really liked the characters because I understood all of them. In some books, the author presents a motivation for the character, but the reader doesn't really get into the character's head. In Everneath, every character had so much depth, and the reader gets glimpses of that depth throughout the book.

I'm also a huge mythology fan. I am very familiar with both the Hades and Persephone myth and the story of Orpheus and Eurydice, so I loved that they were woven into Nikki's story. Everneath wasn't a retelling of either myth, but they played a large part in the story. I liked how, unlike The Goddess Test, Nikki knew about the myths and used them to figure out what was going on.

The pace is fast but not rushed. As the reader, I was astonished how quickly six months went, mirroring Nikki's own feelings that six months is far too short. I liked how Brodi Ashton used flashbacks both to give the reader more information as the story continued and to contrast Nikki's life before and after the feed. It gives the reader much more insight into how much her life has changed because of her decision.

Overall Thoughts:
Everneath was an excellently written book that I wish I could have enjoyed more. Brodi Ashton is quite a talented writer, and I'm eagerly awaiting the sequel, Everbound.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Cover Reveal for Everbound

On Wednesday, Brodi Ashton revealed the cover for her upcoming book, Everbound, sequel to Everneath. Although I don't like this cover quite as much as Everneath's I really like the similarities between the two and I am certainly excited to pick up this next volume!

Here is the summary:

Two months ago, the Tunnels of the underworld came for Nikki Beckett. That night, Nikki's boyfriend, Jack, made the ultimate sacrifice. All Nikki wants is to save Jack before it's too late. All Cole wants is to find his queen - and he thinks Nikki is the one. Both determined, both desperate, Nikki and Cole form a tense alliance, leading them on a dangerous journey to The Heart of The Everneath.

Be on the lookout for my review of Everneath on Wednesday.

Are you looking forward to Everbound?
Let me know what you think!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Review: The Selection

by Kiera Cass
Series: The Selection #1
Hardcover, 327 pages
Published April 24th 2012 by HarperTeen
Age Recommendation: Young Adult

Summary (from Goodreads):
For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in the palace and compete for the heart of the gorgeous Prince Maxon.

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn't want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.

Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she's made for herself- and realizes that the life she's always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.

Before The Selection came out, it seemed like the entire blogosphere was excited over this new book. Not only did it have an absolutely gorgeous cover, the summary seemed to pique everyone's interest. It popped up wherever I went. After I bought the book, however, I looked at its Goodreads page and found overwhelmingly negative reviews. People complained that the characters were shallow, the world-building was nearly non-existent, the writing was mediocre... but most of these reviewers seemed to be expecting a serious dystopian. Several times I've heard the Selection described as "The Hunger Games, but with princesses." First of all, that statement is totally inaccurate, but more importantly, this should clue any reader in that they're probably not going to get a serious dystopian.

This book was more accurately semi-dystopian fluff. Granted, it was highly enjoyable fluff, but not a serious anything. If I'd gone in expecting something like Legend or Shatter Me, I would have joined the ranks of the other Goodreaders who complained about the lack of substance. But going in, as I did, with the expectation that it would be nothing too amazing, all fun and romance and pretty dresses, I enjoyed it quite a lot.

For a book that didn't have all that much plot to begin with, Kiera Cass did a good job keeping the pace up. The plot didn't drag in the least, and overall The Selection was a pretty quick read. I also really liked how she incorporated history and background information for the reader in the form of lessons for the girls competing. I liked learning about what was going on beyond the smaller story of America and Maxon.

The names were... unusual, to say the least. They might bother some readers, especially the name America, which stood out the most to me. I did my best to ignore the strangeness of the names and just go with it. Some of the characters had familiar names used in our time, and some were very odd, possibly to reinforce the idea that the story takes place in the future, once our society has crumbled. The main characters tended to have more unusual names (America, Maxon, Aspen) and the secondary characters had the more "normal" names (May, Marlee, Celeste, Jenna, Lucy, Anne, Mary). And then the tertiary characters' names were very strange (Tiny, Bariel, Kota). Basically, it wasn't very consistent, but it wasn't much of an issue for me personally.

Overall Thoughts
Sure, there's a lot to complain about if I wanted to complain about The Selection, but taking it for what it is, it was a great break from all the more serious fare out there.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Cover Crazy: The Mark of Athena

Cover Crazy is a weekly meme hosted by The Book Worms on Mondays. The idea is to showcase a beautiful book cover each week.

This week, I'm crazy about...
The Mark of Athena, by Rick Riordan
Click for giant version.
All covers in this Cover Crazy are giant files courtesy of Rick Riordan's blog.

In terms of the story within the covers, I actually don't like the Heroes of Olympus that much (see my review of The Lost Hero) but the covers for these books are awesome. I am more impressed with every one. If the covers weren't so incredible, it's far less likely I'd want to keep picking up the next book. And the cover for The Mark of Athena is the most epic of the bunch.

I don't even know where to start with all the things I like about this cover. The purpley color in the background is very eye-catching and offsets the other colors in the cover really well, particularly the stripe of gold across the top.

As for the content of the cover, The Mark of Athena is awesome at first glance, and even more so at a closer look. The attention to detail, as always, is excellent. I'm super excited that Percy and Jason are facing off on lightning and water horses. All we need here is Nico with an undead horse from the underworld. Athena's symbolic owl eyes in the background are just the right element to complete the image.

Although I could be more excited about the release of The Mark of Athena (even though Annabeth as the main character sounds pretty darn cool), I am very happy with the cover, and will proudly add it to my shelf.

Want to know more about The Mark of Athena?
Summary (from Goodreads):
Annabeth is terrified. Just when she’s about to be reunited with Percy—after six months of being apart, thanks to Hera—it looks like Camp Jupiter is preparing for war. As Annabeth and her friends Jason, Piper, and Leo fly in on the Argo II, she can’t blame the Roman demigods for thinking the ship is a Greek weapon. With its steaming bronze dragon masthead, Leo’s fantastical creation doesn’t appear friendly. Annabeth hopes that the sight of their praetor Jason on deck will reassure the Romans that the visitors from Camp Half-Blood are coming in peace.

And that’s only one of her worries. In her pocket Annabeth carries a gift from her mother that came with an unnerving demand: Follow the Mark of Athena. Avenge me. Annabeth already feels weighed down by the prophecy that will send seven demigods on a quest to find—and close— the Doors of Death. What more does Athena want from her?

Annabeth’s biggest fear, though, is that Percy might have changed. What if he’s now attached to Roman ways? Does he still need his old friends? As the daughter of the goddess of war and wisdom, Annabeth knows she was born to be a leader, but never again does she want to be without Seaweed Brain by her side.

Narrated by four different demigods, The Mark of Athena is an unforgettable journey across land and sea to Rome, where important discoveries, surprising sacrifices, and unspeakable horrors await. Climb aboard the Argo II, if you dare. . . .

What do you think of the cover for The Mark of Athena?
Leave your thoughts in the comments!

What are you crazy about this week?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Mini-Review: Dragonhaven

Slogging through the archives, I found this review from October of 2011 that I had written but never published. I polished it up a bit, and here it is now. I tried to keep as much of the original review as possible, which is why the review still has last year's formatting for the book information and signature.

by Robin McKinley
Start Date: 23 September 2011
End Date: 28 September 2011
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published September 20th 2007 by Putnam Juvenile

Summary (from Goodreads):
Jake Mendoza lives at the Makepeace Institute of Integrated Dragon Studies in Smokehill National Park. Smokehill is home to about two hundred of the few remaining draco australiensis, which is extinct in the wild. Keeping a preserve for dragons is controversial: detractors say dragons are extremely dangerous and unjustifiably expensive to keep and should be destroyed. Environmentalists and friends say there are no records of them eating humans and they are a unique example of specialist evolution and must be protected. But they are up to eighty feet long and breathe fire.

On his first overnight solo trek, Jake finds a dragon—a dragon dying next to the human she killed. Jake realizes this news could destroy Smokehill— even though the dead man is clearly a poacher who had attacked the dragon first, that fact will be lost in the outcry against dragons.

But then Jake is struck by something more urgent; —he sees that the dragon has just given birth, and one of the babies is still alive. What he decides to do will determine not only their futures, but the future of Smokehill itself.

In Dragonhaven, the strongest point for me was the voice of the main character, Jake. The writing doesn't sound like an adult trying to write in a teen's voice; it sounds exactly as a teen like Jake would sound in his circumstances. Because the reader was able to get inside Jake's head in this way, I found it very easy to connect with him. However, he is not an inherently likable character, and if I hadn't connected with Jake, I can see how it would be difficult to find redeeming value in the book.

The main turn-off for those who might already be frustrated with Jake is the pace. The story moves along at a very leisurely pace (although not nearly as slowly as McKinley's most recent book, Pegasus) and the chapters are quite long, so it's difficult to find a good stopping place.

By the end, I was ready to wrap up the story; after 200+ pages even I was getting a little bored of it, but, somehow, it just didn't end. The epilogue went on for nearly 50 pages! Once I actually finished the epilogue I could see why McKinley chose to end it where she did, but the ending, along with much of the book, could benefit quite a bit from some major cutting.

Overall Thoughts
Even through the slow bits, however, I never considered putting the book down. The story drew me in, and I was stuck with it until the end. I did ultimately enjoy the book, but I hope McKinley's future books are a little leaner. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Review: Bitterblue

by Kristin Cashore
Series: The Graceling Realm #3
Hardcover, 563 pages
Published May 1st 2012 by Dial
Age Recommendation: Young Adult

Summary (from Goodreads): Eight years after Graceling, Bitterblue is now queen of Monsea. But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisors, who have run things since Leck died, believe in a forward-thinking plan: Pardon all who committed terrible acts under Leck’s reign, and forget anything bad ever happened. But when Bitterblue begins sneaking outside the castle—disguised and alone—to walk the streets of her own city, she starts realizing that the kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year spell of a madman, and the only way to move forward is to revisit the past. Two thieves, who only steal what has already been stolen, change her life forever. They hold a key to the truth of Leck’s reign. And one of them, with an extreme skill called a Grace that he hasn’t yet identified, holds a key to her heart.

My Review
Bitterblue was very different from Graceling and Fire, and although both Graceling and Fire are favorites of mine, I fell in love with Bitterblue. There were so many layers of the story that Cashore seamlessly weaves together.

It took Kristin Cashore three years to write Bitterblue, and it shows in the careful craft and weave of the story. This is not a book that could have been written quickly. It is complex and layered, and has clearly created by a master's hand.

The cast of characters is quite extensive, and at first it's easy to mix up some of them (the advisors especially take a while to gain their own personalities) but after the story is completed, it's hard to imagine each one without such distinctive traits. There's also a list of characters in the back, but it gives away some spoilers, so it's better to let the story define each character slowly.

I love Bitterblue the character. She's so different from Katsa and Fire, and most relatable of the three for  me. There are no great journeys, and she doesn't have any special powers to deal with, but at the same time she has so much power that she can't necessarily control. No one in the story is completely truthful, and every step is a journey. Bitterblue has to find herself in order to find how to save Monsea.

Other than Bitterblue herself, my favorite character was the unsociable and sullen librarian, Death (pronounced to rhyme with "teeth"), graced with reading inhumanly fast and remembering every word he's ever read (I want!). At first even the reader is not supposed to like him, but he goes though such a transformation that I couldn't help but cheer up every time he was mentioned. Not to mention he is the one of the products of Kristin Cashore's subtle humor, which is of just the right type for me.

The first question most people ask when hearing about Bitterblue is, "Are Katsa and Po in it?" Happily, yes, Katsa and Po are in it, and they have some wonderful scenes together along with plenty of their usual banter, but the book really isn't about them.

Although the story does not follow a formal mystery plot, there is an element of mystery to the story. Or rather, several elements of mystery. No matter the situation, every character is keeping secrets, and its up to Bitterblue to discover the answers.

The pace is a bit slower than Cashore's usual fare, but it was just perfect for Bitterblue. Rather than dragging, it was immersive, and I loved every moment.

Overall Thoughts:
Bitterblue is a book I can't stop thinking about. When I finished, I immediately wanted to begin reading it again. I didn't want to leave the wonderfully real and beautiful story Cashore has created. I will certainly be reading it again, and it has earned itself a place with my favorites of 2012.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Cover Crazy: Days of Blood and Starlight

Cover Crazy is a weekly meme hosted by The Book Worms on Mondays. The idea is to showcase a beautiful book cover each week.

This week, I'm crazy about...
Days of Blood and Starlight, by Laini Taylor

I was so happy to see this cover revealed. I like the cover for Daughter of Smoke and Bone, but I love the cover for Days of Blood and Starlight, and the covers look really great together. The Blood and Starlight cover is "prettier" than for Smoke and Bone, but it still fits the mood of the story. I love the way that the covers are so similar while at the same time so unique.

On the cover for Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Karou's face is hidden by feathers, a metaphor that plays directly to the story. In Days of Blood and Starlight, I'm hoping the cover will once again metaphoically relate to the story. In the Blood and Starlight cover, Karou seems both more threatening and more confident. She seems almost confrontational. Throughout Smoke and Bone, Karou grows tremendously to become more the person on the Blood and Starlight cover. I'm hoping in Blood and Starlight that growth will continue, and the cover seems to suggest that.

Finally, the word "blood" in the title, combined with red as the pervading color on the cover, creates a slightly ominous image. I suspect that this second book will be a little bit darker than the first. Regardless, the cover for Days of Blood and Starlight certainly makes me want to pick up the book as soon as possible.

Want to know more about Days of Blood and Starlight?
Summary (from Goodreads):
In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed "Daughter of Smoke and Bone," Karou must come to terms with who and what she is, and how far she'll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, mysteries and secrets, new characters and old favorites, Days of Blood and Starlight brings the richness, color and intensity of the first book to a brand new canvas.

What do you think of the cover for Days of Blood and Starlight?
Leave your thoughts in the comments!

What are you crazy about this week?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Review: Under the Never Sky

by Veronica Rossi
Series: Under the Never Sky #1
Hardcover, US, 376 pages
Published January 3rd 2012 by HarperCollins
Age Recommendation: Young Adult

Summary (from Goodreads):
Since she'd been on the outside, she'd survived an Aether storm, she'd had a knife held to her throat, and she'd seen men murdered. This was worse. Exiled from her home, the enclosed city of Reverie, Aria knows her chances of surviving in the outer wasteland - known as The Death Shop - are slim. If the cannibals don't get her, the violent, electrified energy storms will. She's been taught that the very air she breathes can kill her. Then Aria meets an Outsider named Perry. He's wild - a savage - and her only hope of staying alive. A hunter for his tribe in a merciless landscape, Perry views Aria as sheltered and fragile - everything he would expect from a Dweller. But he needs Aria's help too; she alone holds the key to his redemption. Opposites in nearly every way, Aria and Perry must accept each other to survive. Their unlikely alliance forges a bond that will determine the fate of all who live under the never sky.

When I started Under the Never Sky, it was a struggle merely to continue reading. I was easily bored and uninvolved in the story. As the book progressed, however, I began to see what made the book so special: the development of both of the main characters.

Before I read Under the Never Sky, I had conflicting expectations. On the one hand, I had read very good reviews of it, (an especially memorable review was by Enna at Squeaky Books); on the other hand, the summary didn't seem especially original or intriguing. Well, my expectations were false on both counts.

Throughout the book, the plot was not what captured my attention. The characters were obviously invested in the tension and conflict of the situations, and sometimes even running for their lives, but I as a reader felt detached from the imminent danger that seemed to hang over much of the book.

However, as the story went on, and I forced myself to keep picking it back up every day, I slowly began to admire the character creation - their interactions, development, realism - was fantastic. It kind of crept up on me, liking these characters and liking this story. By the end, I still didn't care much about what was happening in terms of plot (yes, it was interesting, but I could take it or leave it) but I was fully invested in the characters. The two-POV narration really worked for this story, and it was never difficult to distinguish the narrators.

Another aspect I found lacking was the explanation of the world Aria and Perry lived in. The descriptions were great when they were describing a scene or landscape, but I had little to no idea how the society worked, how they got to that point, what daily life was like both inside and outside the domes – I understood the characters, but not the world around them.

Yet the thing is, I didn't even notice the lack in world-building, or even my lack of interest in the plot, until after I'd finished. While I was reading, I was fully engrossed in these characters. The reader gets to see these characters shed their outer shallowness and become fully realized.

And the love story - my gosh. This is the very opposite of insta-love. It takes around 300 pages for Aria and Perry to fall in love, but every page of waiting is worth it. The reader gets to see the slow unfolding and realness to the characters relationship - not only in a falling-in-love way, but through their alliance, their friendship, and eventually, their bond.

Overall Thoughts: Some elements of Under the Never Sky bothered me, but ultimately the excellent character creation and development led me to really enjoy the story. I look forward to seeing where Veronica Rossi takes it next.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Cover Reveal for The Archived

On Sunday, the cover for Victoria Schwab's upcoming novel, The Archived was revealed. I loved The Near Witch and I am super excited for this newest work.

Here is the summary:

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

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

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

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


Are you looking forward to The Archived?
Let me know what you think!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Cover Crazy: The Far West

Cover Crazy is a weekly meme hosted by The Book Worms on Mondays. The idea is to showcase a beautiful book cover each week.

This week, I'm crazy about...
The Far West, by Patricia C. Wrede

I'm very excited to finally see the cover for the final book in Patricia C. Wrede's Frontier Magic trilogy. There's a lot I really like about it, but there are also a few aspects I'm not quite as crazy about.

I really like how the cover designer decided to keep the cover for The Far West in the same style as the cover for Across the Great Barrier. I wish the publisher would create a new cover for Thirteenth Child to match. The covers for the second two books in the trilogy capture the feel of the trilogy more than the cover for first book (although the  cover for Thirteenth Child does show a different aspect of the story's style). I love the cover for Across the Great Barrier and I think it works really well together with the cover for The Far West.

The one issue I have with the cover for The Far West is the girl on the cover. I can't tell whether the publisher used the same model for the Far West cover and for the Across the Great Barrier cover. If the covers were meant to show different people of course they'd be different models, but I'm fairly certain both covers show Eff. And even if the same person was on both covers, I don't really like the expression of the girl on the cover for The Far West.

On the other hand, there are a lot of elements on this cover that make me very happy. I'm particularly intrigued by the dragon-like creatures in the upper right. I'm pretty sure Wrede's alternate America doesn't have dragons, but it does have quite a variety of other creatures. I really like the placement of the bare trees in the foreground and the mountain range in the back. I love that Eff is holding what looks like a book (is it a magic book??), and my eyes keep going back to the excellently chosen title font and design.

Want to know more about The Far West?
Summary (from Goodreads):
Eff is an unlucky thirteenth child...but also the seventh daughter in her family. Her twin brother, Lan, is a powerful double seventh son. Her life at the edge of the Great Barrier Spell is different from anyone else's that she knows. When the government forms an expedition to map the Far West, Eff has the opportunity to travel farther than anyone in the world. With Lan, William, Professor Torgeson, Wash, and Professor Ochiba, Eff finds that nothing on the wild frontier is as they expected. There are strange findings in their research, a long prarie winter spent in too-close quarters, and more new species, magical and otherwise, dangerous and benign, than they ever expected to find. And then spring comes, and the explorers realize how tenuous life near the Great Barrier Spell may be if they don't find a way to stop a magical flood in a hurry. Eff's unique way of viewing magic has saved the settlers time and again, but this time all of Columbia is at stake if she should fail.

Also, click here to read my reviews of Thirteenth Child and Across the Great Barrier

What do you think of the cover for The Far West?
Leave your thoughts in the comments!

What are you crazy about this week?


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