Wednesday 31 October 2012

Breathe by Sarah Crossan

Publisher: Bloomsbury
Published: 11th October 2012
Pages: 384
When oxygen levels plunge in a treeless world, a state lottery decides which lucky few will live inside the Pod. Everyone else will slowly suffocate. Years after the Switch, life inside the Pod has moved on. A poor Auxiliary class cannot afford the oxygen tax which supplies extra air for running, dancing and sports. The rich Premiums, by contrast, are healthy and strong. Anyone who opposes the regime is labelled a terrorist and ejected from the Pod to die. Sixteen-year-old Alina is part of the secret resistance, but when a mission goes wrong she is forced to escape from the Pod. With only two days of oxygen in her tank, she too faces the terrifying prospect of death by suffocation. Her only hope is to find the mythical Grove, a small enclave of trees protected by a hardcore band of rebels. Does it even exist, and if so, what or who are they protecting the trees from?

This world has lost its air, trees have completely died out and life worth living is safely in the Pod. The only thing is, freedom is the ultimate cost to having someone else control your oxygen. Although dystopian novels seem to be all over the place at the moment, this first in the series manages to be fresh and incredibly thought-provoking as good novels should be.

I read this without expecting too much but quickly fell in love with pretty much everything about this book. Alina is fiery and strong-willed, Bea is adorable and sweet on Quinn, and Quinn is a little bit thick but basically a good guy, at least he definitely gets better! The chemistry between them is incredible but not enough that you want someone to end up with someone wrong, just enough to really like their interactions.

With a few primary characters, all with different motivations and stories, Crossan blends them together by using multiple point of view chapters, allowing each character an equal say and also letting the reader see what the others can't. I loved this, as you really get to understand each character and fall for them, especially Quinn and Bea, whose worlds are turned upside down when they find out the truth about their Pod Minister.

Having said that, this book is very plot-driven; the importance is placed on the Resistance, their aim to re-plant the world, let people breathe for themselves. It's a very noble cause, and I'll admit I immediately rooted for the Resistance. But having a story driven by the lack of oxygen makes you suddenly very conscious of your own! Just... be wary of that.

Wednesday 24 October 2012

Between The Lines by Jodi Picoult

Publisher: Hodder andStoughton
Published: 5th July 2012
Pages: 384
Delilah is a bit of a loner who prefers spending her time in the school library with her head in a book—one book in particular. Between the Lines may be a fairy tale, but it feels real. Prince Oliver is brave, adventurous, and loving. He really speaks to Delilah.

And then one day Oliver actually speaks to her. Turns out, Oliver is more than a one-dimensional storybook prince. He’s a restless teen who feels trapped by his literary existence and hates that his entire life is predetermined. He’s sure there’s more for him out there in the real world, and Delilah might just be his key to freedom.

Delilah and Oliver work together to attempt to get Oliver out of his book, a challenging task that forces them to examine their perceptions of fate, the world, and their places in it. And as their attraction to each other grows along the way, a romance blossoms that is anything but a fairy tale.

I was hesitant to start this; I thought it might be a bit young for me, just a little too fairy tale-ish that I thought it would annoy me. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that, even though it didn't have much substance to it, it was really cute!

I loved the idea of fictional characters having separate lives when the book is closed - it was actually very well explained in the book as thinking your stuffed animals came alive when you leave the room, much like Toy Story now that I think about it! Another thing was the fantastic illustrations, even though some were a bit weird, but as the book Oliver is stuck in is illustrated, I understood the need. Some were fantastic, little figures hanging off the end of the letter and such, it really supported the whole notion of characters being stuck in a book.

I immediately identified with Delilah - what book nerd hasn't wished to meet their favourite fictional character, or topple head first into a book? She was the typical nerd, only had one true friend that didn't quite understand her predicament, hung out with the school librarian and all that. Little stereotypical, but at least Delilah did come into her own person, mostly with Oliver's perspective of her above the book - little things that you could tell he loved about her, liking biting her lip and pacing while thinking. And Oliver was not your typical hero - said it enough times! He wasn't brave but was very clever and logical; they are reasons for that, which I thought were nicely complicated.

I loved the different perspectives. It wasn't just between Oliver and Delilah, it also had random sections from the book Oliver was stuck in, what the characters would have to act out when the book was opened. It made the real story that more interesting, seeing what Oliver and the rest had to put up with.

The ending - well. I liked it, it was the fairy tale happy ending a book like this needed. On the other hand, it was a bit weird. But original, so I can't judge too harshly.

All in all, a fun little read that reminded me of a time when all I wanted was a friend from my favourite book.

Saturday 20 October 2012

On My Bookshelf (9)

Based on IMM, a sometimes weekly update on the books I have to read.

Gifted for my birthday:
Adorkable by Sarra Manning
Jeane Smith's a blogger, a dreamer, a jumble sale queen, CEO of her own lifestyle brand, and has half a million followers on Twitter. Michael Lee's a star of school, stage, and playing field. A golden boy in a Jack Wills hoodie. They have nothing in common but a pair of cheating exes. So why can't they stop making out? This novel is about an unlikely relationship, but it's also about roller derby, dogs on skateboards, dogs on surfboards, dogs doing any form of extreme sport, old skool hip hop, riding your bike downhill really fast, riot grrrl, those boys you want to kiss but punch in the face at the same time, dyeing your hair ridiculous colors just because you can, stitch 'n' bitch, the songs that make you dance, the songs that make you cry, being a bad ass, cake, love, death, and everything in between.

Love it, just really want to read this, Sophie cannot stop raving about Sarra Manning!

All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin 
In 2083, chocolate and coffee are illegal, paper is hard to find, water is carefully rationed, and New York City is rife with crime and poverty. And yet, for Anya Balanchine, the sixteen-year-old daughter of the city's most notorious (and dead) crime boss, life is fairly routine. It consists of going to school, taking care of her siblings and her dying grandmother, trying to avoid falling in love with the new assistant D.A.'s son, and avoiding her loser ex-boyfriend. That is until her ex is accidently poisoned by the chocolate her family manufactures and the police think she's to blame. Suddenly, Anya finds herself thrust unwillingly into the spotlight--at school, in the news, and most importantly, within her mafia family.

I'm going to be honest, I asked for this not just because it looks awesome but because the heroine has my name. 

Dodger by Terry Pratchett
A storm. Rain-lashed city streets. A flash of lightning. A scruffy lad sees a girl leap desperately from a horse-drawn carriage, in a vain attempt to escape her captors. Can the lad stand by and let her be caught again? Of course not, because he's... Dodger!

Yay, I love Terry Pratchett! I'm sure my boyfriend will be borrowing this when I've finished!

From Electric Monkey:
Eve and Adam by Michael Grant and Katherine Applegate
Sixteen-year-old Evening Spiker lives an affluent life in San Francisco with her mother, Emma Rose, a successful geneticist and owner of Spiker Biotech. Sure, Evening misses her father who died mysteriously, but she’s never really questioned it. Much like how she’s never stopped to think how off it is that she’s never been sick. That is, until she’s struck by a car and is exposed to extensive injuries. Injuries that seem to be healing faster than physically possible.

While recuperating in Spiker Biotech’s lush facilities, she meets Solo Plissken, a very attractive, if off-putting boy her age who spent his life at Spiker Biotech. Like Evening, he’s never questioned anything... until now. Solo drops hints to Evening that something isn’t right, and Emma-Rose may be behind it. Evening puts this out of her mind and begins her summer internship project: To simulate the creation of the perfect boy. With the help of Solo, Evening uncovers secrets so big they could change the world completely.

This looks incredible, thanks Electric Monkey for sending me a copy!

Wednesday 17 October 2012

The Immortal Rules by Julia Kagawa

Publisher: MiraInk
Published: 4th May 2012
Pages: 485
"In a future world, vampires reign. Humans are blood cattle. And one girl will search for the key to save humanity."Allison Sekemoto survives in the Fringe, the outermost circle of a vampire city. By day, she and her crew scavenge for food. By night, any one of them could be eaten. Some days, all that drives Allie is her hatred of "them." The vampires who keep humans as blood cattle. Until the night Allie herself is attacked--and given the ultimate choice. Die...or become one of the monsters.

Faced with her own mortality, Allie becomes what she despises most. To survive, she must learn the rules of being immortal, including the most important: go long enough without human blood, and you will go mad.

I don't even know how to start reviewing this book, it had so much depth and action in it, plus it was incredible!

I guess first off we'll discuss the whole vampire society that Julie has created; it is a very interesting and obviously fresh idea to add to the already diverse vampire legend. The plague that wipes out humans and vampire alike, forcing them to co-exist in heavily controlled cities is a story completely new and completely fascinating. All lose seams pulled together to create a world of vampires and rabids that made it seem possible, which is scary.

I simply loved Allie. She was a truly amazing heroine: strong and brave, willing to do anything, even turn into the thing she hates most, to survive. She was kick-ass, stubborn, a little bit stupid but most importantly, naive to think she could hold on to her humanity, no matter what Kanin said otherwise. I knew something bad would happen to shake her faith but luckily, something also happened to bring it back.

Kanin was the typical bad-ass vampire master which should have felt clichéd but just made it seem more natural: of course we expect vampires to act like cold-hearted demons that cannot form facial expressions! Another thing was the band of humans, Zeke in particular, looking for a safe haven and instead came across a vampire with identity issues. I loved Zeke and his and Allie's love story was one that I rooted for right at the beginning.

Things didn't happen the way I thought they would, for which I am glad. I loved the twists Julie created, the role reversal with Allie saving the guys and falling for a human. Practically everything that I love in a book was included in The Immortal Rules and even its length could not be considered daunting! 

Wednesday 10 October 2012

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Publisher: Picador
Published: 26th September 2006
Pages: 307
A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don’t know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food—and each other.

First off, this review is going to be short, as I have to write about this for a university assignment and apparently, it would be self-plagiarism if I wrote the same stuff!

It took me a while to get into this - the writing style is interesting to say the least! Minimal punctuation and sometimes complex description makes for a seemingly long read! Well, I say complex; what I really mean is the random word that I had to look up in a dictionary and still, McCarthy not giving anything away about location or names or anything!

The relationship between unnamed father and son was both tender and tense - the little boy is so naive and that annoys his father but he still does his best to look after the little one. Yet their love is obvious: it drives them both forward, having to look after the other against the bad guys and towards survival.

Finally, the ending was heart-wrenching. Surprising as I did not empathise with this characters - by that, I mean I felt for them but I didn't identity with them. Yet I did get a little choked up with the sad ending of their journey.

Saturday 6 October 2012

On My Bookshelf (8)

You know the deal by now, based on IMM, probably mine etc. But this time, I actually did get books from publishers! So excited! This stash looks incredible!

From MiraInk:
Dash and Lily's Book of Dares
 I've left some clues for you.
If you want them, turn the page.
If you dont, put the book back on the shelf, please. 

Lily has left a red notebook full of challenges on a favourite bookstore shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept its dares. But is Dash that right guy? Or are Dash and Lily only destined to trade dares, dreams, and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations across New York? Could their in-person selves possibly connect as well as their notebook versions? Or will they be a comic mismatch of disastrous proportions? Rachel Cohn and David Levithan have written a love story that will have readers perusing bookstore shelves, looking and longing for a love (and a red notebook) of their own.

Devil's Bargain by Rachel Caine
What's the price of a deal with the devil? Playing by the psychic underworld's rules has cost. Jazz Callender's whole life just got turned upside down. Her friend Ben's been convicted of a crime he didn't commit, and Jazz is determined to clear his name, even if it means enlisting the help of dark forces. Enter James, a stranger with a mysterious offer. If Jazz pledges to work for The Cross Society, a shadowy secret organisation, he'll help her save Ben. But as she's thrust into a world of psychic powers and dangerous magic, Jazz isn't just bargain for her friend's freedom. She's bargaining for her soul too. And how high a price is she willing to pay?

From Sophie:
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
In the dark, filthy salt mines of Endovier, an eighteen-year-old girl is serving a life sentence. She is a trained assassin, the best of her kind, but she made a fatal mistake: she got caught.

Young Captain Westfall offers her a deal: her freedom in return for one huge sacrifice. Celaena must represent the prince in a to-the-death tournament—fighting the most gifted thieves and assassins in the land. Live or die, Celaena will be free. Win or lose, she is about to discover her true destiny. But will her assassin’s heart be melted?

Carnival of Souls by Melissa Marr
In a city of daimons, rigid class lines separate the powerful from the power-hungry. And at the heart of The City is the Carnival of Souls, where both murder and pleasure are offered up for sale. Once in a generation, the carnival hosts a deadly competition that allows every daimon a chance to join the ruling elite. Without the competition, Aya and Kaleb would both face bleak futures--if for different reasons. For each of them, fighting to the death is the only way to try to live.

All Mallory knows of The City is that her father--and every other witch there--fled it for a life in exile in the human world. Instead of a typical teenage life full of friends and maybe even a little romance, Mallory scans quiet streets for threats, hides herself away, and trains to be lethal. She knows it's only a matter of time until a daimon finds her and her father, so she readies herself for the inevitable. While Mallory possesses little knowledge of The City, every inhabitant of The City knows of her. There are plans for Mallory, and soon she, too, will be drawn into the decadence and danger that is the Carnival of Souls.

Heart-Shaped Bruise by Tanya Byrne
They say I'm evil. The police. The newspapers. The girls from school who shake their heads on the six o’clock news and say they always knew there was something not quite right about me. And everyone believes it. Including you. But you don't know. You don't know who I used to be. 

Who I could have been.

Awaiting trial at Archway Young Offenders Institution, Emily Koll is going to tell her side of the story for the first time. 

From Lily:
Breathe by Sarah Crossan
When oxygen levels plunge in a treeless world, a state lottery decides which lucky few will live inside the Pod. Everyone else will slowly suffocate. Years after the Switch, life inside the Pod has moved on. A poor Auxiliary class cannot afford the oxygen tax which supplies extra air for running, dancing and sports. The rich Premiums, by contrast, are healthy and strong. Anyone who opposes the regime is labelled a terrorist and ejected from the Pod to die. Sixteen-year-old Alina is part of the secret resistance, but when a mission goes wrong she is forced to escape from the Pod. With only two days of oxygen in her tank, she too faces the terrifying prospect of death by suffocation. Her only hope is to find the mythical Grove, a small enclave of trees protected by a hardcore band of rebels. Does it even exist, and if so, what or who are they protecting the trees from? A dystopian thriller about courage and freedom, with a love story at its heart.

My Love Lies Bleeding by Alyxandra Harvey
The Drakes are rather different to your usual neighbours. They are vampires and some of the members of the family date back to the twelfth century. One of the children, Solange, is the only born female vampire known and, as such, she poses a direct threat to the vampire queen. Her best friend Lucy is human, and when Solange is kidnapped Lucy and Solange's brother, Nicholas, set out to save her. Lucy soon discovers that she would like to be more than just friends with Nicholas. But how does one go about dating a vampire? Meanwhile, Solange finds an unlikely ally in Kieran, a vampire slayer on the hunt for his father's killer.

Friday 5 October 2012

Burning by J.M Gregoire

Format: ebook
Published: 2nd October 2012
Pages: 13 (prequel)
Lucas was a typical playboy - lots of alcohol and a different girl every night. One woman brought his emotional walls and the beliefs he used to build them crumbling to the ground. Now, an unexpected visitor is going to change both their worlds forever. 

Burning is the short story lead-in to the upcoming Demon Legacy series by J.M. Gregoire.

It was a bit of a rough start but the detailed descriptions give in to a world that is captivating. And while getting a story started can be difficult, once in the swing of it, it was an impressive supernatural world, with vampires and witches and demons. A very good start to a urban fantasy series!

Although the prose is well written, full of powerful language and easy to read, romance is apparently not her style! And I've got to ask, what was with the random question marks? Building up the romance might not have worked as well as it could have but god, she can write suspense and action! Lucas is a bit of a cliché character, a womanising vampire, and even though his love story with Natalia is short, you believe it. You want Lucas to find out what happened to her, you want to find out more about her coven and his powers to see auras.

All in all, a very good start to what I'm sure will be a powerful fantasy series!

Wednesday 3 October 2012

Emma Hearts LA by Keris Stainton

Publisher: Orchard
Published: 7th June 2012
Pages: 256
Emma's not sure that LA's for her, but when she accompanies her sister Jane to an audition, a chance meeting with a teen TV star starts to change her new sunshine lifestyle for the better... But what about Oscar, so far her only friend in LA, who's turning out NOT to be the idiot she thought he was?

Soon Emma begins to find herself torn between two boys and reconsidering her entire future.

Maybe LA's not that bad after all.

I could not get enough of this book - literally whizzed through it! It left me with a big soppy grin on my face!

First off, Emma was a brilliant heroine - she was cool and artistic and funny and not too confident because hey, she's a teenage girl! I also really liked how she wasn't entirely sure of herself, especially after her parents divorce; made her feel more real and relatable. Oscar, of course, was adorable and incredible and awesomely nerdy! I fell for him almost instantly, especially with his love for Doctor Who t-shirts!

Alex wasn't in the book as much as I thought he would be - he wasn't much of a distraction or threat to Oscar that I was led to believe. Not that it's a bad thing, just not what I expected. Bex and her mum were also pretty damn awesome. I loved how driven Bex was towards her dream of acting and impressed with how strong their mother was, faced with a divorce and moving across the country.

I also liked the popular culture references - sometimes they can really bog down the book but these references to Big Bang Theory and Tumblr felt natural in Emma's language. Props to the good taste in TV! 

Although the focus is on Emma and Oscar, Keris brings up issues of ambition with Bex's acting and Emma's drawing, the always sensitive topic of divorce and the changes in parent-child relationships that brings. Emma distancing herself from her father unintentionally but after talks with her mother, and Oscar, she finally gets the courage to mend the gap. Approaching these issues with subtly allows the reader to come to terms with them along side Emma.

All in all, a very fun read with a lovely happy ending that every teenage girl wants.