Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, Jennifer E. Smith

Title: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight
Author: Jennifer E. Smith (author website)
Release Date: January 5th 2012 by Headline
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary
My Rating:1 star2 star3 star4 star

I loved The Statistical Probability of Love At First Sight... at first sight. Sweet, fun, funny, and heartbreaking, the intensity of emotion Hadley’s story provoked took me by surprise. I expected to fall in love. I didn’t expect to rant and rave* and scream and cry.

From Goodreads:
Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything?

Imagine if she hadn't forgotten the book. Or if there hadn't been traffic on the expressway. Or if she hadn't fumbled the coins for the toll. What if she'd run just that little bit faster and caught the flight she was supposed to be on. Would it have been something else - the weather over the Atlantic or a fault with the plane?

Hadley isn't sure if she believes in destiny or fate but, on what is potentially the worst day of each of their lives, it's the quirks of timing and chance events that mean Hadley meets Oliver...

Set over a 24-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver's story will make you believe that true love finds you when you're least expecting it.


Hadley has just missed her flight. Missed it by only four minutes. Maybe it’s fate trying to give her a way out, because the last thing she wants to do is get on a plane to London where she’ll be forced to watch her Dad marry the woman he tore their family apart for. Seriously. Not. Cool.

So now Hadley’s waiting in the terminal to catch the next flight, pondering the mechanics of fate, how very, very small the massive international airport is, and how very alone she feels, when she’s quite suddenly not alone anymore. Meet Oliver. British, charming**, cryptic and beautiful, he’s flying home for his own rather reluctant duty. Think four minutes can change a life? What about a seven hour flight with the guy who may just prove the existence of love at first sight...

This is more than a simple love story, or a tale of heartbreak and a broken family. The Statistical Probability of Love At First Sight is told over a 24 hour period, which you wouldn’t think would allow much time for people to fall in love, overcome their past hurts and grow. Yet in Jennifer E. Smith’s hands, constraints fade away, time stretches out, folds back in on itself, and we’re left with a magic little journey.

Hadley:

At the heart of TSPOLAFS (love that acronym!) is—well, rather obviously I suppose—a fabulous protagonist: Hadley. After her parents very sudden divorce, Hadley’s happy world has come crashing down around her, and while she’s picking up the pieces, her Dad’s betrayal is not something she’s willing to forgive or forget. Her grief, her hurt, her anger and sorrow have became real, living things in this book, and as I sat with her in the airport terminal and on her plane, stood with her in the church, and ran across London, I shared her emotions with painful intensity.

Hadley makes a journey in this book, and it’s not just to another country. She’s sad, she’s tired, and she’s a hurting girl, but she’s brave, whether she knows it or not, and she’s smart. As she nears the event that will finalise the end of her old family, and create an inescapable new one, she looks inwardly and starts a journey towards forgiveness. I wanted to deny this. I wanted Hadley to stay angry. I thought her father deserved it... Well, Hadley’s a bigger person than I am. I loved her for this

Please, Sir. Can I Have Some More Oliver?

As far as strangers met in airports go, Hadley could do a lot worse. And, well, not really much better. Hadley and Oliver share an instant connection they both recognise, and destiny really does seem rather bent on driving the pair together. I believe I’ve mentioned ‘British’, and ‘Charming’, but I suppose you want more? Fine. Oliver’s sparkling wit and humour have him leaping off the page, and this poor, lovely boy has his own heartbreaks to deal with. Despite the timeframe in which Oliver and Hadley meet—and, well, the name of the book—their connection doesn’t feel like ‘instalove’. It feels like the beginning of something beautiful. A promise of a tomorrow, and a tomorrow after that.

Daddy, Dearest:

The real villain in the piece is Hadley’s dad... a character I’m still deeply conflicted over. After tearing his family apart in ways so thoughtlessly cruel and selfish I can barely even begin to comprehend, it’s obvious he’s trying to patch things up with his daughter. He still wants to be in her life, even though she’s pushed him away.

The man infuriated me. While on one hand, I felt he didn’t try hard enough to right his wrongs, on another he loves his daughter deeply, and he’s broken something and doesn’t know how to fix it. Ultimately, I felt much the same way about him as Hadley did: I loved and hated him. Deeply flawed, layered and nuanced, Smith has created a character who—despite being a despicable ass—is difficult to write off. Like Hadley, I didn’t want to forgive him... and I didn’t; instead I came to understand him, and to hope he and his daughter have a happier future.

The Verdict:

An emotional rollercoaster, The Statistical Probability of Love At First Sight left me feeling raw and happy and ultimately, hopeful. The themes of fate and chance recur throughout the book, and I loved the idea of the impact just a few minutes can make on your life. Think about it. A seemingly simple concept, in Smith’s hands, becomes something magic, layered, and complex, and Hadley’s journey towards finding the beginnings of forgiveness was a beautiful thing to witness. When hurt runs this deep, forgiveness isn’t a thing you do once, and move on from. It’s a choice you have to keep making every day. Though never preachy, I feel as though I’ve learned a lesson from TSPOLAFS. Some things are more important than being right, or being wronged. Sometimes people hurt you... but they’re people. If we love them, we find it in the strength we all carry within to move on.

So let’s talk about love. I loved this book. I loved the characters, I loved the sweet beginnings of something big and bold and beautiful between Oliver and Hadley... and along with Hadley, I loved learning forgiveness is something you have to find within yourself. I’ve a feeling this one is going to stay with me for a long time.

Please, Sir, Can I Have Some More?


* Oh my word, Celine, thank you for listening to me rant about Hadley’s Dad. You’re a goddess xx
** thank you Brodie, for the word ;D

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Blogspiration (3): Reading Saved My Life


Blogspiration is a Brand Spankin' New weekly meme hosted by both GrowingUp YA and Saz101. The meme was created to help spark inspiration among bloggers, readers and writers alike. An inspirational quote/picture/video is posted weekly, on the day of the author's choosing, so that it may inspire creativity, conversation and just a little SOMETHING.

"There are many reasons why people enjoy reading. For me, reading is more than enjoyment and recreation. It is more than study and academics. For me reading is as essential as breathing. There is no doubt in my mind that without the company of good books, I would be in prison today, or perhaps much worse... Books saved my life. There is no way I would be alive today without them."

Full story at Divine Caroline

I stumbled across this one and had to share. Books have such an impact on our lives. A simple idea can change us, and the freedom to escape our situations and forget just for a moment is invaluable. They give us tools, give us the power to change. They inspire us. They change us. I LOVE this. Linky below the jump!

In My Mailbox (9)


In My Mailbox: What is it?
In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren.It's an opportunity to share the books we've bought or received in the last week!



I'm so pleased with my Mailbox this week! I was SO excited to win The Goddess Test from HarlequinTEEN Australia in conjunction with a young Aussie filmmaker  (we had to vote on a fabulous video, so it wasn't hard :D). In any case, I LOVE myth-based stories, so I'm really excited to get to this one. PLUS, I REALLY love this cover. SO pretty. AND the spine. Actually, I just have a crush on HarlequinTEEN's covers. Full stop. Period. That little dot at the end of a sentence. '.'. Yep, that one.

I've heard so many amazing things about Hunting Lila, I want to drop everything I'm doing to read it NOW. I loved Sarah Alderson's Fated, so I know this one's going to be good.

And Tempest? Well, uh, TIME TRAVEL, FOLKS. Seriously. I read 'Time Travel'? I'm there. 'Nuff said ;)

From top to bottom:

  1. The Goddess Test, Aimee Carter (won)
  2. Hunting Lila, Sarah Alderson
  3. Tempest, Julie Cross

So you guys, what'd you bag this week? Share!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

New Girl, Paige Harbison

I'm IN LOVE with this cover! Gorgeous!
Title: New Girl
Author: Paige Harbison (author website)
Release Date: January 31st 2012 by HarlequinTeen
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Mystery
My Rating:1 star2 star5 star

I was ambivalent about New Girl for a while. Like its main character’s love interest, I ran hot and cold—for a good third of the book. Then it sucked me in, and I was drawn into Manderley’s imposing stone walls, mysteries and social cliques. Not so much a scary tale or mystery, New Girl is a tale of social isolation, manipulation, and identity. So bring your flashlight, because New Girl is a dark little story.

From Goodreads:
They call me 'New Girl'...

Ever since I arrived at exclusive, prestigious Manderly Academy, that’s who I am. New girl. Unknown. But not unnoticed—because of her.

Becca Normandy—that’s the name on everyone’s lips. The girl whose picture I see everywhere. The girl I can’t compare to. I mean, her going missing is the only reason a spot opened up for me a...moreThey call me 'New Girl'...

Ever since I arrived at exclusive, prestigious Manderly Academy, that’s who I am. New girl. Unknown. But not unnoticed—because of her.

Becca Normandy—that’s the name on everyone’s lips. The girl whose picture I see everywhere. The girl I can’t compare to. I mean, her going missing is the only reason a spot opened up for me at the academy. And everyone stares at me like it’s my fault.

Except for Max Holloway—the boy whose name shouldn’t be spoken. At least, not by me. Everyone thinks of him as Becca’s boyfriend but she’s gone, and here I am, replacing her. I wish it were that easy. Sometimes, when I think of Max, I can imagine how Becca’s life was so much better than mine could ever be.

And maybe she’s still out there, waiting to take it back.

New Girl

New Girl book is told from split point of views: The titular ‘New Girl’s first person and Becca Normandy’s third. Two very different characters, starting out in two very similar places.

The new girl I mentioned? That’s all you’re getting for a name. Throughout the story her name remains a mystery, and this little riddle is woven into the book so well, I barely noticed. It’s strips away another of her layers, because that’s what this book is about: Identity. Who you are, who you’re perceived as, who you try to be, or even try not to be.

The book starts out with New Girl (who I’ll refer to as NG from now on, to avoid confusion :D) being shipped off to an exclusive boarding school for her final year at school, and as it progresses, NG seems to lose herself even more in the shadow of the last new girl at the school: Becca Normandy. Pretty, popular, and missing. While she’s not being openly bullied so much, she’s subjected to painful psychological torment. NG starts out seeming slightly whiny, though outwardly stoic, but as the story moves forward, she starts asserting herself. But more than asserting herself througout the novel, she grows to be OK within herself, without lashing out, or telling people how it is. She develops a quiet core of strength that is stable regardless of the cruelty she's subjected to, and I loved watching this side of her grow. She grows to understand that she's worth knowing, she's a good person, and she has the confidence and composure to understand that it doesn't matter what other people think, but what she does.

Becca

NG is great, but oh my, she's not half as compelling as the infamous Rebecca Normandy.
Becca starts at Manderley one year prior to NG, and we’re given the story of the year preceding NG’s in alternating chapters. Now Becca is interesting. Likable? No. But interesting? Oh yes. While it’s never implicitly stated, the fact that Becca Normandy is a textbook psychopath has all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. Becca manipulates, lies and cheats, but she hides it behind a mask of the perfect popular-girl. She seems friendly and kind, but it’s hiding a deliciously cold, calculating core. As the story of Becca’s year progresses in tandem with NG’s, her web of lies and manipulation unravel. The mystery of her disappearance, as well as the reasons for her classmate’s cruel behaviour towards NG, is slowly revealed, and Harbison handles this artfully. Becca's story and twisted mind was one of my favourite parts of New Girl. Bring on the crazy!

Prince Un-Charming

While New Girl has a lot going for it, it’s certainly not perfect. One of the major plot points in the book is NG and Becca’s shared love interest, Max Holloway. While NG genuinely likes him, Becca sees him as a tool and a pawn. One she’s not afraid to use. Max has obviously been burned, but he sets himself up to be used by Becca by using her, and his behaviour towards NG is on/off, hot/cold, and his capriciousness irritated me. Prince Charming one minute, cold and aloof the next, I found him difficult to like.

Sex, Drugs, and...

New Girl is dark. It’s brimming with teen sex and alcohol and drug use. They’re certainly not glorified, but constantly present. Becca sees these as tools for her manipulations, but NG finds herself caught up in the Manderley student body’s reckless behavior... not that she’s so very unwilling. New Girl is certainly not meant for young teens. The characters in this book are reckless. The sex? Unprotected. The drinking? Out of control. Like I said, not glorified: This is a plot point, and the repercussions are shown.

The Verdict

New Girl is gorgeously written, with lines of prose so beautifully crafted they verge on poetry. It’s a tale of finding one’s identity, and losing it. It’s an unexpectedly dark story, with interesting, though not necessarily likable characters, and while its mystery didn’t quite deliver the tension and menace I’d hoped for, I liked it. New Girl is a dark, psychological story, beautifully written, for older teen readers.

Thank you thank you thank you to HarlequinTEEN Australia for providing a review copy of New Girl!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Waiting On Wednesday (12): Dead To You, Lisa McMann

What is it?
Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking The Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

Dead To You
by Lisa McMann (author website)
Pub Date: Feb. 7th 2012 by Simon Pulse Australia

From Goodreads:
Ethan was abducted from his front yard when he was just seven years old. Now, at sixteen, he has returned to his family. It's a miracle... at first. Then the tensions start to build. His reintroduction to his old life isn't going smoothly, and his family is tearing apart all over again. If only Ethan could remember something, anything, about his life before, he'd be able to put the pieces back together. But there's something that's keeping his memory blocked. Something unspeakable...

I am a massive Lisa McMann fan. From the first page of her first novel I was hooked. I loved Wake, I loved Fade, I loved Gone. Love doesn't quite sum up how I feel about Cryer's Cross. It was extraordinary. Well, the magnificent Ms McMann has a new book coming out!  Lisa's writing is beautiful and unique, though perhaps an acquired taste, but she also has this incredible knack for delivering chillis and thrills, heartbreak and heartachingly sweet romance in a very unique, completely wonderful way that is entirely her own. Excited? Err... that's a word for it, I suppose.

So you guys, are you a McMann fan? Just curious.
And what are YOU waiting on this week?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Pure, Julianna Baggot

Title: Pure
Author: Julianna Baggot (author website)
Release Date: Feb. 8th 2012 by Grand Central Publishing
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Dystopian
My Rating:1 star2 star

Pure deserves the praise it’s garnered. It’s beautifully written, frightening, intensely emotive, very well thought out and researched. It’s so many amazing things, bundled into what should be an amazing book—but I didn’t enjoy reading it.

From Goodreads:
We know you are here, our brothers and sisters...
Pressia barely remembers the Detonations or much about life during the Before. In her sleeping cabinet behind the rubble of an old barbershop where she lives with her grandfather, she thinks about what is lost-how the world went from amusement parks, movie theaters, birthday parties, fathers and mothers... to ash and dust, scars, permanent burns, and fused, damaged bodies. And now, at an age when everyone is required to turn themselves over to the militia to either be trained as a soldier or, if they are too damaged and weak, to be used as live targets, Pressia can no longer pretend to be small. Pressia is on the run.

Burn a Pure and Breathe the Ash...
There are those who escaped the apocalypse unmarked. Pures. They are tucked safely inside the Dome that protects their healthy, superior bodies. Yet Partridge, whose father is one of the most influential men in the Dome, feels isolated and lonely. Different. He thinks about loss-maybe just because his family is broken; his father is emotionally distant; his brother killed himself; and his mother never made it inside their shelter. Or maybe it
s his claustrophobia: his feeling that this Dome has become a swaddling of intensely rigid order. So when a slipped phrase suggests his mother might still be alive, Partridge risks his life to leave the Dome to find her.

When Pressia meets Partridge, their worlds shatter all over again.

Ten years ago, atomic bombs destroyed the world, leaving two groups of survivors: those maimed, burned, and horrifically deformed by the fire and radiation; and ‘Pures’—a lucky and select group who escaped the explosions unharmed, safely tucked away in a massive glass bubble called The Dome.

Pressia survived the explosions outside. Life is hard, food is scarce, and Pressia is nearing her sixteenth birthday—the time when she will be drafted for military service with OSR. She’ll be forced to kill, or be used as target practice.

Partridge escaped the Detonations unscathed, safely tucked away in the Dome, which is more or less ruled by his cold and distant father. His mother and brother dead, Partridge doesn’t quite fit in with the other boys and people of the Dome. He has an independent streak that is dangerous in such a controlled community, and when a slip of the tongue from his father suggests his mother may still be alive—outside—Partridge decides to escape.

As a series of coincidences drive Pressia and Partridge together, they must fight together to survive... but who are they fighting? Who’s the enemy? The pieces start to come together into a much, much bigger picture, as the two discover their lives are more closely intertwined than they could have imagined.

P1 & P2:

Pure is told (mainly) through the shifting POV of Pressia and Partridge. They’ve both suffered, and both of their lives were long ago stripped down to one defining purpose: survival. But they both seemed very naive, and very young.

When Partridge escapes the Dome, we see through his eyes, and it gives the reader a lens of relatability. And I tell you what, I needed that lens, as Pressia, for me, felt  detached, cold and aloof. She needs to be to survive—but it made her hard to relate to. In this, she reminded me a lot of an early-era Obernewtyn Elspeth. And this book started moving at about the same pace. Read: glacial. Which brings me to:

I love the cold, but this is ridiculous:

Pure gets off to a VERY slow start. While Baggot had me enthralled with her achingly beautiful prose and vividly imagined world, it seemed as though very little actually happened. So much of the book was spent setting up the world, the politics, the characters; but not a lot happened with them. I suspect that book two will feature more action, but the gorgeous prose quickly lost its appeal to became flowery, and left me agitated and impatient for the book to get on with it.

Squick!

I struggled with the descriptions of the bizarre physical deformities of the Detonation survivors. They’ve become fused with objects, other people or animals, and it left me squirming. While the healthy and whole people running the Dome are deliberately subjecting their children to procedures designed to genetically alter them for strength, intelligence or obeisance, the survivors outside struggle with mutations that will eventually kill them. It’s creepy and sinister. This isn’t a criticism of Pure, rather, it’s praise: Baggot is uncompromising in presenting the uncomfortable truth of survival in this world, but it’s hard to read.

Seriously?

Pure is peppered with implausible coincidences, yet the plot wouldn’t make sense without them. The whole storyline is held together by a thread so thin it constantly threatened to break. This is meant to be set in a large city, right? Yet Pressia, Partridge and co keep stumbling across people, places, clues or objects from the past to help them on their way, and I kept thinking ‘yeah, right.’ Finding familiar places or people from ‘the before’ over a place that size, in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, with so many people dead is hugely unlikely.

The Verdict:

Julianna Baggot creates a disturbing world in Pure, too close and familiar to our own to be comfortable. It’s an uncompromising picture of what humanity is capable of, and I hated it, because I could actually believe it—but I didn’t want to. Yet, while Pure is packed with fights, flight and conspiracy, lengthy descriptions and sparse, sometimes stiff, dialogue made it feel very slow.

Pure deserves the praise it’s garnered. It’s beautifully written, frightening, intensely emotive, and well thought out and researched. It’s so many amazing things, bundled into what should be an amazing book—but I didn’t enjoy reading it. I struggled through all bar sixty-odd pages of it, and it had a rather open, unstatisfying ending. Turning the final page I was left feeling, sad, emotionally drained, but mainly just relieved it was over. Nevertheless, Pure will appeal to lovers of dystopian fiction—especially fans of Isobelle Carmody’s Obernewtyn. At the end of the day, it just wasn't for me.

To be fair: if I was to rate this book completely objectively, based on writing, world building, imagination and execution alone, it would deserve 4 stars. I’ve decided to rate based on my enjoyment of it... and I struggled with this book. So, forgive me, but: 2 stars.

Don't Take My Word For It:


Pure was kindly provided by Grand Central Publishing via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. Thanks you guys!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Blogspiration (2): How Books Work


I couldn't say this any better myself. Exactly how they work. From demotivation.us.

What's Blogspiration? Find out below the jump!

In My Mailbox (8)


In My Mailbox: What is it?
In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren.It's an opportunity to share the books we've bought or received in the last week!



I don't know about you, but books arriving in the mail is one of the single most exciting things to happen to me any given week. Bad day? Well, if there's a book in the mail, it's forgotten. Maybe that's sad, but it's true. I don't think you can get much better that Divergent and The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight arriving in one week, and then it was topped off with Hallowed! That noise you hear? Oh yeah, that's just me squeeing and doing the happy dance. Please ignore ;)

From top to bottom:

  1. Hallowed, Cynthia Hand (won) *
  2. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, Jennifer E. Smith
  3. Divergent, Veronica Roth
A huge THANK YOU Erin at Tales of the Inner Book Fanatic and HarperCollins Australia for the copy of Hallowed! SO excited to read this. If for some reason you don't know Erin, go check out her blog. She writes some of my FAVOURITE reviews.

So you guys, what'd you bag this week? Share!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Firelight (Darkest London #1), Kristen Callihan

Title: Firelight
Author: Kristen Callihan (author website)
Release Date: Feb. 1st 2012 by Grand Central Publishing
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Paranormal/Romance/Historical
My Rating:1 star2 star3 star4 star

I’ve been excited about Kristen Callihan’s genre-bending Firelight for months, ever since reading about its sale on literary agent Kristen Nelson’s blog. It didn’t disappoint. Firelight is, like Gail Carriger’s Soulless, hard to define. A delicious mix of paranormal, gaslight and historical-romance, it defies classification. A mysterious, sexually-charged and suspense-filled tale, I couldn’t put this book down. Callihan owes me a good night’s sleep.

From Goodreads:
London, 1881
Once the flames are ignited...
Miranda Ellis is a woman tormented. Plagued since birth by a strange and powerful gift, she has spent her entire life struggling to control her exceptional abilities. Yet one innocent but irreversible mistake has left her family's fortune decimated and forced her to wed London's most nefarious nobleman.

They will burn for eternity...
Lord Benjamin Archer is no ordinary man. Doomed to hide his disfigured face behind masks, Archer knows it's selfish to take Miranda as his bride. Yet he can't help being drawn to the flame-haired beauty whose touch sparks a passion he hasn't felt in a lifetime. When Archer is accused of a series of gruesome murders, he gives in to the beastly nature he has fought so hard to hide from the world. But the curse that haunts him cannot be denied. Now, to save his soul, Miranda will enter a world of dark magic and darker intrigue. For only she can see the man hiding behind the mask.

Set it in gas lamp-era Victorian London, we meet one half of our dynamic duo slipping through the night, on route to commit murder. He’s distracted when he shadows a young boy, making sure he makes it safely home. Well, as it turns out, the young boy Lord Benjamin Archer encounters is anything but—and hardly defenseless. Miranda ‘Pan’ Ellis is many things—including the daughter of the man Archer was on his way to kill. As the two spar in the foggy night, they share an instant attraction, and quickly part ways...

Three years later, the dread-Lord Archer returns to England to claim Miranda as his bride. Little does she know the masked, brute of a man she’s to marry is the mysterious stranger she encountered in the London’s dark alleyways years before, and never quite forgot. The two are quickly married, and against all odds, fall in love. But both are keeping deep, dark secrets… the least of which is what’s hiding behind Archer’s mask.

I was excited to read Firelight from the get-go. I expected something similar to the aforementioned Soulless, but while the two share a number of commonalities, they’re very different creatures. While Soulless is an unashamedly absurdist tale, Firelight forgoes the slapstick and is a far darker, edgier story.

Miranda is a seriously fabulous heroine. Brave, quick-witted and intelligent, the girl is fierce. Forced into thievery to keep her and her once-wealthy father off the streets, she holds an enormous capacity for love and kindness, despite the abuses she’s suffered in her short 20-odd years. She’s neither a damsel-in-distress nor a totally invincible tomboy. She’s a balanced mix of both... she can defend herself in any situation. She holds a very dark secret; one that will keep her safe in any situation, but using it costs her a great deal. While strong and defiant, she has a certain emotional fragility at times that makes her relatable. I loved this girl.

Archer is tall, dark, huge and handsome... and an utter enigma. The truth of his curse, and the reason for his mask, is revealed in tiny pieces throughout the story, and despite a riveting mystery driving the plot of the book, it was the question of his identity that kept me utterly rapt. The sexual tension between Miranda and Archer is palpable, and it’s backed up with a growing love between the two that felt so profound and genuine it made my insides ache.

The Verdict

I was taken aback by just how utterly compelling Firelight was. Combining fairytale-like qualities with a melting-hot romance, it’s the characters in this book, and their developing relationship, that kept me turning pages into the wee hours of the morning. This is a romance novel at its smoking-hot best, combined with a riveting mystery, to make a delightful, page-turner of a read.

Books in This Series:

  1. Firelight (Feb. 1st 2012)
  2. Moonglow (August 1st 2012)
  3. Winterblaze (March 2013)
An enormous thank you to Grand Central via Net Galley for providing a review copy of Firelight!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Fated, Sarah Alderson

Can I steal her eyes?
Jeepers Creepers style?
Title: Fated
Author: Sarah Alderson (author website)
Release Date: Feb. 2012 by Simon & Schuster Australia
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Paranormal
My Rating:1 star2 star3 star4 star

Excitement! Action! Gorgeous boys and obscure prophesies! Add to that a kickass heroine, and Sarah Alderson’s Fated has it all.

From Goodreads:
What happens when you discover you aren't who you thought you were? And that the person you love is the person who will betray you? If your fate is already determined, can you fight it?

When Evie Tremain discovers that she’s the last in a long line of Demon slayers and that she’s being hunted by an elite band of assassins –Shapeshifters, Vampires and Mixen demons amongst them – she knows she can’t run. They’ll find her wherever she goes. Instead she must learn to stand and fight.

But when the half-human, half-Shadow Warrior Lucas Gray - is sent to spy on Evie and then ordered to kill her before she can fulfil a dangerous prophecy, their fates become inextricably linked. The war that has raged for one thousand years between humans and demons is about to reach a devastating and inevitable conclusion. Either one or both of them will die before this war ends.

If your life becomes bound to another’s, what will it take to sever it?

Seventeen year old Evie Tremain is a waitress in a backwater diner, and she’s just trying to make it through the day... so she can make it through the week, the month, the end of school, and get the hell out of the town she grew up in. The town that has grown way, way too small. Meanwhile, Lucas—half human, half Unhuman Shadow Warrior—knows nothing but revenge. Hunters killed his family... and Evie Tremain is his next target.

Evie doesn’t know she’s a Hunter, the last in the line of hundreds of generations of demon slayers. She doesn’t know the life she wants to escape from could never last, even if she wanted it to. But when she’s attacked in the alley behind the diner by a girl with green skin and a boy with a tail, Evie’s plunged into a world she never knew existed and embroiled in a millennia-old war... the outcome of which rests firmly on her shoulders. Now Evie’s training to kill Unhumans—beings from another dimension... and she has to deal with the new boarder at her house... a beautiful boy named Lucas.

Evie! Evie! Evie Let’s Her Hair Down... After Losing An EAR:

Training to be a kickass hunter is tough.

After her father’s death, a year ago, Evie became numb, an icy, crystalline shell enveloping her heart. She didn’t think anything could hurt her anymore. Months later, her best friend is killed. The pain and the betrayals stack up and now she’s just angry. It’s this anger, coupled with the fact that she’s so jaded, that makes Evie so fun to read. She’s never without a smartass retort, and her anger drives her. She takes nothing lying down, and she’s tough. Watching her come into her own, and discover her own strength—both the physical and inner kinds—is a joy. One of the things I loved most about Evie—and Lucas—is that they ask questions: Of themselves, of each other, of the people around them. And they ask the right questions. I love smart heroes.

I don’t know if anyone’s a Buffy fan, but I got serious Buffy vibes from Fated. Which I LOVED. From Evie’s cheerleading history and smart-mouthed sass, to her reluctant acceptance of a destiny thrust upon her and a world filled with monsters she has to fight, I loved this side of Fated. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a new Chosen One. Meet Evie Tremain. She even has a stake.

Fated is an emotionally intense journey for Evie, and I felt her pain throughout it. When the icy numbness she’d shed begins to creep back in, I felt her emptiness. She has to make tough choices, but when she finally makes her own choices I was so damn proud of her.

Romeo:

Fated is told in dual narrative: Evie’s and Lucas’s. While we definitely see more of Evie (who I loved), I loved being in Lucas’ head. Equally as broken and tortured as Evie, Lucas turns up to assassinate Evie... but finds he can’t. He’s drawn to her instantly, and finds himself torn between his oath to The Brotherhood—the Hunter-killing organisation he belongs to—vengeance for his parent’s deaths, and protecting this strange, fierce girl. There’s a Romeo & Juliet vibe going on with this pair, which I loved. The two are drawn to one another by forces almost outside of their control. And Lucas? *sighs* Another swoon-worthy male lead. Fierce, gorgeous, tortured... we watch him grow into himself, choose his own path and discover something worth living—really living—and dying for again.

Cloaks and Daggers... and Tails:

I love the world Alderson’s created in Fated. The history of conflict, the six other realms, the acid-skinned Mixen demons and razor-tailed Scorpios. The whole history of the Hunters. While we get only sketchy details—the conflict is mainly centred on Evie and Lucas in the here and now—we get teasing glimpses into a far larger world. There’s a large cast of secondary characters for a 300-page book, but they’re fascinating. They add layers and depth to the world, and repeatedly surprised me by revealing sides and agendas I didn’t know were there. Not everyone is what they seem.

The Verdict:

Smart, fast-paced and relentlessly entertaining, Fated delivered everything I want from a book and more. From the sharp, witty dialogue and kickass action, to the bone-melting romance and long awaited kiss, Fated never failed to keep me enthralled. I fell in love along with Evie and Lucas, and, while there’s nothing certain at this point in time, I’m hoping for a sequel. Sarah Alderson provides a satisfying conclusion to Fated, but with a prophecy to fulfil, destinies to claim, and foes left undefeated, Fated holds all the pieces to a fantastic series.

An enormous thank you to Simon & Schuster Australia for providing a review copy of Fated!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Blogspiration (1): Magic Bookstore



By now, you may have seen this INCREDIBLE video. Hey, BFF has already posted it on her blog. But sometimes, when something's THIS GOOD, it has to be shared. Only problem? Now I want to live in a magic bookstore... and I don't think husbandman will agree to the move.

What's Blogspiration? Find out below the jump!




Blogspiration is a Brand Spankin' New weekly meme hosted by both GrowingUp YA and Saz101. The meme was created to help spark inspiration among bloggers, readers and writers alike. An inspirational quote/picture/video is posted weekly, on the day of the author's choosing, so that it may inspire creativity, conversation and just a little SOMETHING.



Le Rules:

  • Blogspiration posts will go live on Sunday. While you don't have to post on Sunday, you have one week to drop by and share your links.
  • Go check out the participating blogs! Feel free to comment/follow
  • Most importantly, HAVE FUN with it!!
So, what are you waiting for? Grab a button and spread some BLOGSPIRATION!!



PLEASE NOTE: Saz101 and I will use the SAME Linky, so please enter your Blogspiration links on one blog.

Buttonses!

Linky!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

In My Mailbox (7)


In My Mailbox: What is it?
In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren.It's an opportunity to share the books we've bought or received in the last week!



WHAT A WEEK! First, we get our long-awaited threaded comments in Blogger, then, THESE BABIES ARRIVE! I squealed like a thirteen year old girl at a Bieber concert when I opened my letterbox and found these within. I can't even explain. Across The Universe was one of my top 3 books of 2011, and I've been so excited for A Million Suns! Not to mention Mara Dyer. I read this immediately and Oh. My. Word. SO! without further ado:

From top to bottom:

  1. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, Michelle Hodkin *
  2. Fated, Sarah Alderson *
  3. Everneath, Brodi Ashton *
  4. A Million Suns, Beth Revis
A huge THANK YOU to Simon & Schuster Australia for review copies of The Unbecoming  of Mara Dyer, Fated and Everneath.

So you guys, what'd you bag this week? Share!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, Michelle Hodkin

Title: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer
Author: Michelle Hodkin (author website)
Release Date: Feb. 1st Release by Simon & Schuster Australia
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Not telling ;) Let's say Mystery
My Rating:1 star2 star3 star4 starhalf star

I’m in shock. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer has nearly left me with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Is Post Unbreafreakinglievable Book Disorder a thing? Well. Mara Dyer is a rare beastie indeed. Twisty, dark and haunting, Michelle Hodkin’s remarkable debut left me guessing from the very beginning, to the very end, and long, long past that.

From Goodreads:
Mara Dyer doesn't think life can get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there.

It can.

She believes there must be more to the accident she can't remember that killed her friends and left her mysteriously unharmed.

There is.

She doesn't believe that after everything she's been through, she can fall in love.

She's wrong.

I’m not joking about the state Mara Dyer left me in. Shock is the only word for it. Or perhaps a quivering ball of nerves. I wish you could have seen my face as I read the final chapter of the book. A tap-dancing tortoise bursting into my living room to the tune of Hey Ya! could not have elicited as strong a response. Hauntingly reminiscent of a teenage Shutter Island, Mara Dyer has garnered a lot of gushing reviews. It deserves them all.

Mara

We join Mara as she wakes in a hospital room. She doesn’t know where, how or why, and so, from the very beginning, we’re thrown in the deep end along with her. Mara’s friends are dead in an accident she doesn’t remember, but miraculously survived. Her world’s turned upside down, and she’s now suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). To pre-empt her psychologist mother having her put in a residential care program, Mara herself suggests they move. A fresh start. Move from the memories and shocking events. And so, before we know it, we find ourselves in Florida along with Mara.

Mara is... sick. Truly. Suffering the effects of her PTSD, she experiences waking dreams and hallucinations. She’s haunted by the memories—or perhaps ghosts—of her dead friends. As the book blurs from dreams to reality and back again, the narrative flows so smoothly, you’re given the sense of hallucinating right along with her. Mara is unravelling, and struggling, and there’s this eerie feeling of menace—of being watched—hanging over her throughout the book. My oh my is she a splendid protagonist though. Intelligent and wry, the book sparkles with Mara’s wit and humour, despite it’s incredibly heavy subject and increasingly dark tone. Despite Mara’s emotional and psychological fragility, she’s brave, stoic, and desperately trying to play with the cards she’s been dealt. She’s compelling, and her, well, unbecoming is fascinating and frightening.

Nearest and Dearest

As you’d hope with a book named after her, Mara is extraordinary. Layered, nuanced, unpredictable, but always believable. I loved this. But one of the brightest lights in the story are Mara’s friends and family. From Mara’s lone new friend at high school, Jamie, to her mother, amazing older brother (I WANT Daniel as my older brother!) and adorable and hilarious younger brother, Joseph, there is a cast of supportive, well rounded characters in this book. And they ground it. Whether endearing or contemptible school bullies, I was engaged, I cared.

Noah. Effing. Shaw.

You’ve no doubt heard about Noah Shaw at this point. Perhaps even warned.
Mara was, and it didn’t help. It didn’t work for me, either.

Gorgeous. British. Badboy.The chemistry between Noah and Mara is electric, and the teasing and banter between the two is delicious. But this is not the dreaded insta-love. There is an instant flirtation, yes, but that’s it. As Noah carefully insinuates himself in to Mara’s life, and the two get to know each other, we watch another part of Mara unravel... but in a good way. Oh Noah was a delight. Layered, cheeky, reckless, beautiful, and just as broken as Mara in his own way, Noah has secrets of his own—just as big as Mara’s. And that’s... pretty huge.

A Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery Inside an Enigma

Oh my word Mara Dyer kept me guessing to the last page. Every time I thought I’d figured a mystery out or gathered a clue, it blew up or slipped away. Masterfully crafted and impossible to pin down, the mystery is far larger than one book, or, it would seem, one broken girl. As Hodkin carefully offers ephemeral clues and small scraps of information, she deliberately muddies the waters. For every question answered, she creates several more bigger, trickier, even more terrifying. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is clearly the first in a series, and I’m unbelievably excited and terrified to see where this goes. There is a bigger game being played in Mara Dyer... and I still have no idea what it is.

The Verdict:

Gathering my scattered thoughts enough to create a meaningful sentence renders this the hardest review I’ve ever had to write. It left me speechless. Guys, that doesn’t happen often. Getting better and better as it goes along, it’s a slow build from strange to stranger to ‘OH MY GOD WHAT’S GOING AND HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO LIVE OR BREATH OR FUNCTION WITHOUT MOREMOREMORE RIGHT NOW.’ The mystery within its pages had me guessing and grasping at straws, and the ending—well, the entirety—has left me in shock. I raced through its pages with my heart racing, and its haunting me now it’s over. Confusing, disturbing, dark and twisted, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is extraordinary. It should come with a warning: This book will mess with your mind.

Books in This Series

  1. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer (February 2012)
  2. The Evolution of Mara Dyer (slated for 2012/2013 release)

Want More of Mara? Read These Reviews:

  1. Eleusinian Mysteries of Reading
  2. Forget Me Not
  3. Dazzling Reads
  4. Tales of The Inner Book Fanatic
An enormous thank you to Simon & Schuster Australia for sending me a review copy of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Feature and Follow Friday (9)

'Follow My Blog' Friday is a meme hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read. The idea is to meet other book bloggers, and get to know one another. What a fun idea, and opportunity! 

Featured blogs: Badass Book Reviews & Musings of a Booklover

Q: Many readers/bloggers are also big music fans. Tell us about a few of your favorite bands/singers that we should listen to in 2012.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Waiting On Wednesday (11): Fallen In Love, Lauren Kate

What is it? 
Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking The Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

The Golden Lily
by Lauren Kate (author website)
Pub Date: Jan 25th 2012 by Random House Australia

From Goodreads:
What makes your heart race a little faster? Just in time for Valentine's Day, it's FALLEN IN LOVE, four wholly original new stories collected in a new novel set in the Middle Ages by Lauren Kate. FALLEN IN LOVE gives fans the much-talked about but never-revealed stories of FALLEN characters as they intertwine with the epic love story of Luce and Daniel.

The stories include: Love Where You Least Expect It: The Valentine of Shelby and Miles , Love Lessons: The Valentine of Roland; Burning Love: The Valentine of Arriane; and Endless Love: The Valentine of Daniel and Lucinda.

This one is so SO close now, and I'm really excited. One of the most interesting aspects of the Fallen series is its secondary characters (Cam! Cam! TEAM CAM!), so I'm really anticipating a chance to get to know them better. For obvious reasons, they've taken second place to Daniel and Luce in the past, and I'm relishing a chance to learn their histories :)

The February Valentines Event being run by the fabulous Australian bloggers Lisa and (the diabolical) Brodie have put this series back on my radar in a massive way, because a certain fallen angel and badass demon just might be showing in a love-triangle debate I am SERIOUSLY excited for. Wait... you're not signed up to defend your fave book boyfriend yet? AND ADRIAN AND DIMKA ARE STILL WAITING FOR A DEFENDER? What, precisely, are you waiting for? Go! Go!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Frostbite (Vampire Academy #2), Richelle Mead

Title: Vampire Academy
Author: Richelle Mead (author website)
Release Date: August 16th 2007 by Razorbill
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Paranormal
My Rating:1 star2 star3 star4 star

Oh. My. Goodness. Rose Hathaway is back, and she’s the reason we have the word BADASS. Frostbite, the second instalment in the Vampire Academy series, is rather obvious evidence that there is a real reason this series is so colossally popular.

From Goodreads:
Rose loves Dimitri, Dimitri might love Tasha, and Mason would die to be with Rose…

It's winter break at St. Vladimir's, but Rose is feeling anything but festive. A massive Strigoi attack has put the school on high alert, and now the Academy's crawling with Guardians—including Rose's hard-hitting mother, Janine Hathaway. And if hand-to-hand combat with her mom wasn't bad enough, Rose's tutor Dimitri has his eye on someone else, her friend Mason's got a huge crush on her, and Rose keeps getting stuck in Lissa's head while she's making out with her boyfriend, Christian! The Strigoi are closing in, and the Academy's not taking any risks… This year, St. Vlad's annual holiday ski trip is mandatory.

But the glittering winter landscape and the posh Idaho resort only create the illusion of safety. When three friends run away in an offensive move against the deadly Strigoi, Rose must join forces with Christian to rescue them. But heroism rarely comes without a price…


I honestly don’t know why it took me so damn long to read Vampire Academy... and then waited months before reading Frostbite. After (finally) reading it, I’m sold... but where do I start? The amazing BFF relationship? Unique, fascinating mythology? The swoon-worthy-doesn’t-even-cut-it Dimitri? Hmmm... how about kickass, smart-mouthed, VAMPIRE SLAYER, Rose.

A Rose By Any Other Name...

ROSE. She’s tough, gutsy, and fiercely loyal. I love the relationship she shares with her best friend, Lissa. She cares and she believes in her convictions. She’s smoking-hot-drop-dead-gorgeous—and knows it—and an outrageous flirt, which is enormously fun, but I think what I love most is her impulsivity and recklessness. She acts first, thinks later. She’s gotten better than she was in Vampire Academy—she’s grown and developed—but, rather than this making her a bit ‘too stupid to live’, it makes her unpredictable, and fun to follow.

Politics Come Out To Play

Frostbite really ups the political game, and I get the impression it will continue in this direction even more as the series progresses. The question of the sustainability of a society (and, well, species) completely reliant on minority group they treat as inferior, while allowing themselves to become more and more physically weak and defenceless is raised, and there are some really ugly questions asked about just how far the wealthy and privileged will go to maintain their lifestyle and feel safe. It really seems like the privileged Moroi Royals look down on their Dhampir Guardians as being sub-human, and I mean, guys, come on, how long do you think they’ll let that go on for? Who actually holds the power here?

If I’m Honest, The Real Reason I’m Reading...

Dimitri... My heart melted when Dimitri called Rose, Roza. *Happy sighs...*
The tension between Rose and Dimitri in Frostbite is palpable. My chest ached every time the two shared a page... but something else showed up in Frostbite that caught my attention. Something interesting. SOMEONE. The infamous Adrian Ivashkov. 

Things get messy in Frostbite. Trying to force herself to get over Dimitri, Rose is getting closer to Mason... then Adrian shows up. Who she doesn't like, but does. My heart broke for Mason, who it's very clear Rose likes a lot... just not the right way. Eevery time she convinces herself she could make this work, Dimitri walks round a corner, and her reaction to him is almost physical. And then my heart breaks for them.

Um, so, in the past, I’ve complained—heartily, loudly, and... well, at times, constantly—about love triangles (dirty words! dirty words!). And I can see where this is going... but I like Adrian. And I like Dimitri. This would be the first book I’ve ever read where I like both potential suitors, and it’s not an obvious choice... I mean, other than Dimitri.

The Verdict

Frostbite left me with a tonne of unanswered questions. While Vampire Academy (being a first book) worked as a standalone, Frostbite feels a lot more like a series instalment, but this is not a criticism. It gave me a fabulous sense of more fabulous—and terrifying—things to come. Progress has been made, new dangers and questions have arisen, and some unresolved issues from VA have been poked and prodded, and danced around. Mead ends it on a note artfully balanced between leaving me rabidly demanding resolution and a sense of satisfaction at the story’s conclusion. Evil, evil, EVIL WOMAN.

Frosbite is exciting, gripping, fun, and heartbreaking. Vampire Academy took me by surprise, and Richelle Mead has upped the game again. A fantastic follow-up and addition to the series!

Books in This Series:

  1. Vampire Academy
  2. Frostbite
  3. Shadow Kiss
  4. Blood Promise
  5. Spirit Bound
  6. Last Sacrifice

Sunday, January 8, 2012

J'aime √Čtienne St. Clair


Just sayin' ;)

In My Mailbox (6)


In My Mailbox: What is it?
In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren.It's an opportunity to share the books we've bought or received in the last week!


I was so excited about this week's mailbox. I'd been waiting for these books to arrive for what feels like EVER (read: two weeks), and checking my letterbox 5 times a day on weekends. When they finally got here? I squealed like a loon. These are really more Christmas presents. I was very lucky to get some monies for Christmas, so of course I ordered books ;)

From top to bottom:

  1. Touch of Power,
    Maria V. Snyder
  2. Lola and the Boy Next Door,
    Stephanie Perkins
  3. Anna and the French Kiss,
    Stephanie Perkins
  4. Across the Universe,
    Beth Revis

So you guys, what'd you bag this week? Share!

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