Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday: Drought

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill from Breaking the Spine. The idea behind this meme is to highlight up and coming releases that we just can't wait to read.

This week's WoW pick is Drought by Pam Bachorz

It's again one of those kind of books that I wouldn't normally read (I've been reading a lot of books I wouldn't normally read lately), but the synopsis of the book just really sucked me in. I am very curious about the world within this book and adore the cover.

The book is being published by EgmontUSA and is set for release on the 11th January 2011.
Here's a quick summary from Goodreads
Drought by Pam Bachorz
Ruby Prosser dreams of escaping the Congregation and the early-nineteenth century lifestyle that’s been practiced since the community was first enslaved.

She plots to escape the vicious Darwin West, his cruel Overseers, and the daily struggle to gather the life-prolonging Water that keeps the Congregants alive and gives Darwin his wealth and power.

But if Ruby leaves, the Congregation will die without the secret ingredient that makes the Water special: her blood.
So she stays.

But when Ruby meets Ford, the new Overseer who seems barely older than herself, her desire for freedom is too strong.

He’s sympathetic, irresistible, forbidden—and her only access to the modern world. Escape with Ford would be so simple, but can Ruby risk the terrible price, dooming the only world she’s ever known?

Sounds fabulous, doesn't it?

What's on your WoW list this week?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Book review: Forbidden

Forbidden   
The unconventional and incestuous relationship between a brother and sister who really had no choice but to fall in love.

Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma (Definitions)

17-year old Lochan and 16-year old Maya Whitely have never had the chance to have a normal childhood.

Between dealing with the emotional impact of a father who has abandoned them and a frequently absent and alcoholic for a mother, the two are forced to care for their 3 younger siblings, while at the same time dealing with every day things like school, homework and tests.

The world and the reality in which they live is a hard and uncompromising one but between supporting each other and trying to keep up the semblance of a normal family (in order to avoid coming under the radar of the social workers), the two siblings somehow manage to gradually fall in love.

It's a love that is not only forbidden, but one that has very little chance of surviving in a world where incest is not only viewed with revulsion, but where it's also illegal.

And no matter how right the wrong feels, the consequences of their love inevitably unleashes a devastating chain of events that no one could have foreseen.

I recently read a book called One Day and thought that it was the best book I've read this year. I was wrong.

This one is.

In all of my life, I don't think I've ever read a book that has led me on such an emotional rollercoaster ride in much the same way that this one has. 

Someone once said, and I'm paraphrasing here, that the books that are most worth reading are the kind of books that challenge our convictions and belief systems - and, as a self-proclaimed bibliophile, nothing challenges me more than reading a book that takes me completely out of my comfort zone. 

Which is what this book did and then some more.

Incest? 

It's definitely a highly controversial and taboo subject that has most people recoiling in horror. Consensual incest? Would probably illicit a response that's even worse.

Yet for all of the subject matter, this has probably got to be one of the most exquisitely heartbreaking and hardest novels that I've ever read this year so far. 

I believe that the power of this novel lies in the fact that the author manages to create such a desolate home environment, that the relationship between Lochan and Maya not only seems inevitable, but also incredibly believable. In some instances, I dare to say, even justifiable. 

And that is what I found so incredibly unnerving. 

On the one hand, I couldn't help but hope against hope that they wouldn't go down what surely is a self-destructive path for them and a very uncomfortable one for us, the readers; but on the other hand, I was rooting for them to carve out a little world for themselves and just to escape from every single thing that holds them back to find that little happiness that they so rightly deserve.

Did it bother me that I felt this way? Oh yes.

As someone who definitely does not condone incest in any form or manner, I found myself rooting for them, even when at the back of my mind the entire idea of the brother and sister as a couple left me shaken to the core .

But, here's the thing. The fact that I felt this way is for me, a testimony of just how well the subject was handled and the intention with which it was done. 

I don't think that this book was written with the intention to shock or sensationalise a controversial topic (even though shock it does), but I believe that the author's intention was simply to tell a story about two fragile teenagers who were forced to grow up too soon in an insular world where the only thing they had to rely on and cling to, were each other.

The book alternates between both Lochan and Maya's point of view, where we are given glimpses into characters that are incredibly well-developed, tortured and written with such empathy, it makes your soul bleed.

I especially felt for Lochan.

On top of dealing with cooking, shopping for groceries, paying the bills, making sure that Kit, Tiffin and Willa (the younger siblings) are washed, dressed and done with the school work, Lochan also has a severe and debilitating social anxiety problem.

My heart just about broke every time I read about his intense struggle to talk to anyone else besides his family.  

The oldest, yet by far more fragile than Maya, he seemed to me the most broken out of the lot, and throughout the novel you can't help but have this sense that he will never, ever have a happy place in the world. It made my heart ache just to experience his torment.

As far as female protagonists go, Maya was instantly likeable. She's the kind of character you would trust to look after your kids and has a source of strength within her that is incredibly compelling.

Yet, she's no more immune to feelings of torment and guilt than Lochan is, and the knowledge that these characters know that the love they have for each other is taboo on so many levels, afflict them with an incredible amount of guilt and shame.

A word of warning to everyone who will be reading this: the mother in this book is probably one of the most despicable book characters that I've ever come across.

The blatant parental neglect and her sloppy, drunken binges that she subjects her children to disturbed me to no end and only made this book even harder to read than it already was.  I wanted to strangle her throughout the novel.

I have to admit that this is not the kind of book I would recommend to just anyone. It's aimed at young adults, but I do think mature readers would be more suitable due to the fact that the book does contain a fair amount of descriptive scenes of a sexual nature. 

What I will say though is that this book is one of the most emotionally intense books I've ever read.

Reading this feels a bit like someone stabbing you with a knife and stitching you up, only to have the process repeated when you turn the next page.

The writing is beautiful, brave, completely absorbing and will stay with you long after you've turned the last page. And yes, it will make you cry. More than you'll expect and harder than you'd imagine.

I applaud Tabitha Suzman for writing this book.  And give this a well-deserved 5 stars!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Book trailers and musical soundtracks

It's been a while since I've featured any trailers that have caught my eye lately, because I've been so busy lately. I have however, missed doing this, so decided, come hell or high water, I'll be doing a quick post on trailers that have recently caught my eye.

First up is Torment. Oh man, the 28th September seems like a lifetime away. I can't wait for this book.


Book: Torment by Lauren Kate
Teaser synopsis: How many lives do you need to live before you find someone worth dying for? In the aftermath of what happened at Sword & Cross, Luce has been hidden away by her cursed angelic boyfriend, Daniel, in a new school filled with Nephilim, the offspring of fallen angels and humans. Daniel promises she will be safe here, protected from those who would kill her....

Next up is The Crescent by Jordan Deen. Haven't heard much about this author, so when I stumbled upon this trailer, I was instantly smitten. Talk about finding a gem.


Book: The Crescent by Jordan Deen
Teaser synopsis: Becoming a werewolf is not an option for seventeen-year-old Lacey Quinn, but death can be a strong motivator.   Lacey is so focused on her future that everyday life has passed her by.

Counting down the days to her eighteenth birthday, Lacey is almost home free. But when she falls for the mysterious Alex Morris, she lands in the middle of an ancient war between two enemy wolf packs.

And then, trailer number 3: Angelfire.

For some reason, I've been ignoring this book. I've seen it on YA 2011 lists, but was never really interested in it. And then I decided to watch the trailer. And now definitely want to read this book. Watch it and you'll see what I mean.


Book: Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton
Teaser synopsis:When seventeen-year-old Ellie starts seeing reapers - monstrous creatures who devour humans and send their souls to Hell - she finds herself on the front lines of a supernatural war between archangels and the Fallen and faced with the possible destruction of her soul.

A mysterious boy named Will reveals she is the reincarnation of an ancient warrior, the only one capable of wielding swords of angelfire to fight the reapers, and he is an immortal sworn to protect her in battle.


And then... if books had a musical soundtrack... this is the song I'd choose for Tabitha Suzman's Forbidden...

Because this book is breaking my heart. And because I get the feeling that there will be no happy ending. And because maybe it will get to me pick up the book and read the last few pages even though I'm scared to do so. And because I've never wanted book characters to have their happy ending as much I do with this one.



Because all I sense for Lochan and Maya are tragedy. And it scares me how much I'm scared to read the last few chapters of this book. Anyway, enough rambling from me. Hope you enjoy these trailers.

Will be reviewing City of Bones next. And then, maybe Forbidden. And then, hopefully after this, I'll pick up something light and fluffy - because I've been reading so many emotional reads lately, it would be nice to see a book character get her happy ever after for a change.

Ok, I'll shut up now. I'm rambling. Happy reading everyone!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Book review: Beautiful Malice

Beautiful Malice
There's a very good reason why the name Alice rhymes with malice...

Beautiful Malice by Rebecca James (Faber and Faber)
Katherine Patterson moves to a new city and looks forward to living a quiet life without any prying eyes. Following a tragedy that leaves her family devastated, all Katherine wants to do is live a life without attracting the kind of attention that she and her family were once recipients of.

Enter Alice Parrie. Beautiful, charming, engaging party-animal Alice.
 
When Alice starts paying an extraordinary amount of attention to Katherine, it's hard for Katherine not to be flattered.  And why shouldn't she be? After all, Alice is one of the most popular girls at school and her irrepressible charm and wit are potently irresistible to most who know her.

Much to Katherine's surprise, the two soon become firm friends and Katherine finally begins to feel as if she can start living a little again.

Of course, it doesn't take long to realise that being friends with Alice is a lot more complex than she thought it would be and the more she gets to know her, the more she discovers that Alice is not a very nice girl.  In fact, Alice is sometimes mean. And selfish. And occasionally very, very cruel.

Soon, one thing becomes apparent: that the more she tries to pull away, the more she discovers that if there is one thing Alice dislikes more than anything in the world, it's being cast off.

Because no one rejects Alice.

Especially if she knows more about you than you think she does.

My thoughts?

I've had this book in my shelf for quite some time now, but have to admit that I was initially very hesitant to read this.

For one, the orange cover reminded me too much of a trashy Jackie Collins novel which immediately made me think that this was going to be just another book that disappears in the chick-lit maelstrom; and secondly, the cover also didn't really give me any kind of clue as to just what kind of atmosphere I could be expecting.

On the other hand, diving into a book without knowing all that much about it can also be an exercise in adventurous fun and is something that I've been finding myself do more than just a little often lately, so after my hesitance, I eventually just decided to stop wavering and to get on with the reading.

 Never in my entire life have I been more surprised (and intrigued) with a novel's contents. 

This book was and is incredibly transfixing, well-written and unbelievably absorbing. And I absolutely loved it.

The wonderful thing about this novel is that you are literally kept on the edge of your seat throughout the entire book. I don't give out 5 stars to a novel very easily, but when I do, there are very good reasons for me doing so.

And this book?  It's worth all its 5 stars and then some more.

And I'll tell you why.

Firstly, and I've mentioned it before, but I'll mention it again: The writing keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout the entire novel.

You can't help but read this book with a strong sense of impending doom.  Every time I turned a page, I was never sure whether something was going to happen or not. And because of that, I often found myself forced to go on because I just had to see what would happen next (Rebecca James is very, very good at taunting her readers that way).

From the moment you meet Alice, warning bells immediately go off.  True, she is thoroughly engaging, gregarious and friendly, but there is an inexplicable something off about her that tells you that you just can't trust her and often has you wishing that you could just shake Katherine and tell her to RUN, RUN, RUN and to do so as fast she can. 

To be perfectly honest, Alice really made my skin crawl, which is something that I haven't experienced with all that many book characters before - and it's herein that the brilliance of the novel shines through.

Rebecca James has managed to give an eerie and subtle maliciousness to her character that makes her far more sinister in character than your average and obvious villainous characters.
 
Oh, don't get me wrong. Alice is mean, alright.

But her meanness is characterised in such an insidiously sly manner that it at once makes you doubt whether or not she's malicious, while at the same time making you wish you could lock her up and remove her from Katherine.

She's an exhausting, draining and mentally unhinged character whose clinical coldness chilled me to the bone.  What's worse is that sometimes you almost don't know she's going to be mean until she strikes. 

I believe that it takes some serious skill conveying a character like that and it was one of the main reasons that I found this book so gripping.

As for Katherine, I couldn't help but be drawn to her. She's flawed, has secrets she'd rather not the world want to know and her grief about past events are incredibly palpable. Unfortunately for her, she may have just chosen the wrong school to attend, because as she quickly learns, the past has a nasty way of catching up with her.

What I also enjoyed was how the author flashes between past and present and the more I got to know the reasons behind why Katherine became the quiet and withdrawn girl she was, the more I found myself feeling so much empathy towards her, even though it was ultimately the bad decision that she made that acted as an added catalyst for the events that took place.

I found it very easy to guess what Alice's secret was halfway through the book and her ultimate revenge (at least what I considered her ultimate revenge) was the most shocking part of the novel for me. I wish I could say more, but I really don't want to spoil it for you.

What I also found very interesting in this novel is that at certain parts (and I can't reveal which parts), Rebecca actually switches to second person point of view.

Now I am no fan of second person point of view, but I almost got the feeling that she deliberately used this point of view to sort of "separate" the events that were taking place from Katherine. For me it felt like it was being used to convey an out of body experience and I found that it actually worked very well.

I could go on about the romance elements in the novel, but I don't even think I need to talk about Mick, Robbie and Philippa (who quickly become friends with Katherine) in order to make you want to read this novel. I believe I've already said it all.

But just in case you haven't heard me the first time: Go out and read it. It's one of the best I've read this year.

My rating: 5/ 5 stars

P.S. Am skipping out on today's WoW because I have so much review catching up to do! Will still be visiting and making my rounds though!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

In my mailbox (11)

In my mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren. Here are the books I received this week.

Didn't get much in terms of books, but the two books I received (from the lovely Carly from Writing from the Tub and Emma  from Asamum Booktopia) are books that I've been dying to read for the longest time - Thanks ladies!)


The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams (Sent to me by Emma)
Thirteen-year-old Kyra has grown up in an isolated polygamous community without questioning her father’s three wives and her twenty brothers and sisters.

Or at least without questioning them much—if you don’t count her secret visits to the Mobile Library on Wheels to read forbidden books, or her meetings with the boy she hopes to choose for herself instead of having a man chosen for her.

But when the Prophet decrees that Kyra must marry her 60-year-old uncle—who already has six wives—

Kyra must make a desperate choice in the face of violence and her own fears of losing her family.


The Eternal Ones by Kirsten Miller (Sent to me by Carly)
Haven Moore can’t control her visions of a past with a boy called Ethan, and a life in New York that ended in fiery tragedy.

In our present, she designs beautiful dresses for her classmates with her best friend Beau.


Dressmaking keeps her sane, since she lives with her widowed and heartbroken mother in her tyrannical grandmother’s house in Snope City, a tiny town in Tennessee.

Then an impossible group of coincidences conspire to force her to flee to New York, to discover who she is, and who she was.


In New York, Haven meets Iain Morrow and is swept into an epic love affair that feels both deeply fated and terribly dangerous. Iain is suspected of murdering a rock star and Haven wonders, could he have murdered her in a past life?

She visits the Ouroboros Society and discovers a murky world of reincarnation that stretches across millennia.
 

Haven must discover the secrets hidden in her past lives, and loves¸ before all is lost and the cycle begins again.

That's it from me for this week? What did you get in your mailbox this week?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Book review: Masquerade

Masquerade
Secrets, masked balls and hidden agendas are all some of the exciting things that can be expected in the dirty-sexy glamorous world of the Blue Bloods vamps.

Masquerade by Melissa de la Cruz (Atom books)

Book 2 in the Blue Bloods series
A lot has happened since Schuyler Van Alen first found out that she's a Blue Blood vamp.

Between learning to be comfortable with her newfound vampire powers, losing her stern grandmother to attacks that the elite Blue Blood Committee members turn a blind eye to, and pining after a boy who burns both hot and cold for her, Schuyler certainly has her hands full.

For the vamps, coming into their cycle and learning about their true heritage couldn't have come at a worse or a more vulnerable time in their lives.

Something is out there attacking and preying on Young Blue Bloods and Schuyler is convinced that she knows what it is.

Unfortunately for her, The Committee, who she suspects knows more than they let on, refuse to acknowledge (for the sake of deceiving everyone and themselves) that what she has to say holds any merit.

With the help of Oliver, her human friend and constant companion, Schuyler takes matters into her own hands and fulfils a promise she made to Cordelia (her gran) by journeying to Venice in search of her grandfather, Lawrence Van Alen (whom she's convinced holds the answers to just what has been attacking the vamps).

In the meantime, the Committee are preparing for the ball of century and no one is looking more forward to the event than the cunning and devious Mimi Force - whose selective and extremely exclusive after party plans include hosting a Masquerade ball like no one has ever seen before. 

My thoughts?


Let me start off by saying that I thought I was tired of the vampire genre (Yes, even us vamp fanatics do get tired of this genre every once in a while). 

But then I started reading Blue Bloods and fell in love with the genre all over again. Melissa de la Cruz brings such a refreshing twist to the genre that I couldn't help but find myself wanting more. 

And it's no different with the second installment in this series.

It's a surprisingly easy, quick and fast-paced read and I often found myself deliberately putting the book down because I wanted to prolong the book for as long as I could.

A lot of people have complained that at times Melissa seems to skim through background details, but I have to admit that I haven't really noticed this - and it's probably because I was so intrigued with the characters and was more interested in finding out what they'll be doing next that paying attention to the minor details didn't really seem all that important to me.

Usually, it would bother me, but Melissa writes in such a way, that any form of skimming doesn't actually impact on the quality of the novel.

I have to admit though that as much as I love reading and getting to hear the different voices of Schuyler, Bliss and Mimi - the voice which interests me the most is that of Schuyler. She's so incredibly gutsy and likeable that I really can't help but root for her.

The fact that I like her so much does make me wish that more time could be spent on Schuyler's voice in the novel, but that's not to say I didn't enjoy reading about Bliss's development throughout the novel.

I have the sense that something weird is going on with Bliss (which I may just find out in the next book), and really like the fact that she's becoming more of her own person instead of just another Mimi shadow. 
 
The addition of a new, hot male character, Kingsley (who I don't trust at all by the way), definitely serves to make her life more interesting.

As for Mimi? Gosh, what an utter pestilence. If there is one character that I really wish could just die - it would be her.

This brat really thinks that the world needs to hand everything to her (including Jack) on a gold-encrusted tray. So much so, that she doesn't hesitate in plotting to destroy anyone who gets in her way.  I get the feeling I'll be liking her even less in the upcoming instalments.

One other thing that does both me though is that even though the relationship between Mimi and Jack is explained, I am firmly Team Jack and Schuyler and would love nothing more than to see him defy the laws which he is bound to in order to go after the girl he really should be with. Much as I like Oliver, I just can't picture Schuyler with him.

That aside, I'm definitely looking forward to seeing what will be happening in the next instalment. For anyone who hasn't read this yet and for those of you tired of the vampire genre - read this, you may just be surprised at what a refreshingly fun take this is!

My rating:
4/5 stars

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday: Like Mandarin

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill from Breaking the Spine. The idea behind this meme is to highlight up and coming releases that we just can't wait to read.

This week's WoW pick is Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard.

It's not normally the type of book I would read, but the teaser snippet in the synopsis easily swayed me and as much as I tried to ignore this, I just kept on coming back to it. And that pretty much says a lot to me. Any book that keeps me coming back to it (and refuses to be ignored) is a book that is probably going to be worth the read.

Release date is set for March 2011.
Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard
Summary:

"I want to be beautiful like you, I thought, as if Mandarin were listening.

I want apricot skin and Pocahontas hair and eyes the color of tea. I want to be confident and detached and effortlessly sensual, and if promiscuity is part of the package, I will gladly follow your lead. All I know is I'm so tired of being inside my body.

I would give anything to be like Mandarin."

~
It's hard finding beauty in the badlands of Washokey, Wyoming, but 14-year-old Grace Carpenter knows it's not her mother's pageant obsessions, or the cowboy dances adored by her small-town classmates.

True beauty is wild-girl Mandarin Ramey: 17, shameless and utterly carefree. Grace would give anything to be like Mandarin.

When they're united for a project, they form an unlikely, explosive friendship, packed with nights spent skinny-dipping in the canal, liberating the town's animal-head trophies, and searching for someplace magic.

Grace plays along when Mandarin suggests they run away together. Blame it on the crazy-making wildwinds plaguing their badlands town.

Because all too soon, Grace discovers Mandarin's unique beauty hides a girl who's troubled, broken, and even dangerous. And no matter how hard Grace fights to keep the magic, no friendship can withstand betrayal.

How beautiful is the writing? I want more of it.What's on your WoW list for the week?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

In my mailbox (10)

In my mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren. Here are the books I received this week.

Got some great reads this week - all of these books were on my TBR pile for quite some time now. Only thing I may have trouble with this week is choosing which one to read first!
If I Stay by Gayle Forman
What if you had everything:

A gorgeous boyfriend who was madly in love with you?

Quirky hip parents who totally got you?  A musical talent that could take you anywhere?  What if your biggest problem in life was choosing which path to take?

Follow your first love--music-- to New York City?  Or stay with your boyfriend, friends, and family?

What if one day, you went out for a drive... And in an instant everything changed?  What if suddenly all the other choices were gone? Except for one--the only one that truly mattered?

What would you do?

A sophisticated, layered, and heart achingly beautiful story about the power of family and friends, the choices we all make—and the ultimate choice Mia commands.

The Splendour Falls by Rosemary Clement-Moore
Can love last beyond the grave?

Sylvie Davis is a ballerina who can’t dance. A broken leg ended her career, but Sylvie’s pain runs deeper.

What broke her heart was her father’s death, and what’s breaking her spirit is her mother’s remarriage—a union that’s only driven an even deeper wedge into their already tenuous relationship.


Uprooting her from her Manhattan apartment and shipping her to Alabama is her mother’s solution for Sylvie’s unhappiness.
 
Her father’s cousin is restoring a family home in a town rich with her family’s history. And that’s where things start to get shady. As it turns out, her family has a lot more history than Sylvie ever knew.

More unnerving, though, are the two guys that she can’t stop thinking about. Shawn Maddox, the resident golden boy, seems to be perfect in every way. But Rhys—a handsome, mysterious foreign guest of her cousin’s—has a hold on her that she doesn’t quite understand.


Then she starts seeing things. Sylvie’s lost nearly everything—is she starting to lose her mind as well?
Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma
Sixteen-year-old Maya and seventeen-year-old Lochan have never had the chance to be 'normal' teenagers.

Having pulled together for years to take care of their younger siblings while their wayward, drunken mother leaves them to fend alone, they have become much more than brother and sister.

And now, they have fallen in love.

But this is a love that can never be allowed, a love that will have devastating consequences ...


How can something so wrong feel so right?


Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
St. Vladimir’s Academy isn’t just any boarding school—it’s a hidden place where vampires are educated in the ways of magic and half-human teens train to protect them. 

Rose Hathaway is a Dhampir, a bodyguard for her best friend Lissa, a Moroi Vampire Princess. 

They’ve been on the run, but now they’re being dragged back to St. Vladimir’s—the very place where they’re most in danger. . . .


Rose and Lissa become enmeshed in forbidden romance, the Academy’s ruthless social scene, and unspeakable nighttime rituals.

But they must be careful lest the Strigoi—the world’s fiercest and most dangerous vampires—make Lissa one of them forever.

What's in your mailbox this week?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Book review: The Poison Diaries

The Poison Diaries
Foxglove,Oleander, Moonseed and Belladonna… in the right dose these plants could either be a cure or a poison, but at the end of the day, no poison proves greater than that of human greed.

The Poison Diaries by Maryrose Wood (HarperCollins)

16-year old Jessamine Luxton lives with Thomas, her apothecary father in a gothic and dilapidated cottage near Alnwick Castle. Isolated from the village (and pretty much everyone else), Jess lives a very lonely life.

Yet, in spite of her rather lonely existence, the one thing that brings her joy is being able to tend to tend to her father's gardens which are filled with all sorts of wonderful and curious botanical life. 

She has access to almost every part of their household with the exception of Thomas's locked garden which is filled with dangerously poisonous plants - and which Jess is strictly forbidden to enter.  


When a local visitor from the surrounding village brings a scared, withdrawn and deeply mistrusting boy to their house, he claims that the boy has special gifts and talents that Thomas might find very useful and very valuable.

For her part, Jess finds herself increasingly interested in and drawn to the strange boy, whose name happens to be Weed.

As their friendship deepens, and his initial mistrust of her slowly disappears, new feelings between the two are discovered and explored. Yet, Jess can't help but notice that Weed has some rather peculiar habits and reacts to certain things rather differently than most normal human beings would. Naturally she becomes suspicious and soon begins to suspect that he is hiding something from her.

When he finally confesses that he is able to communicate with plants, and that the plants behind the locked gate are luring and calling to him, it unleashes events and consequences that will be dangerous for everyone involved, but particularly for Jessamine.

My thoughts:

I have wanted to read this book for the longest time now.

When I first read the synopsis, I immediately thought that the concept of a poison garden sounded unbelievably interesting because it was something I haven't really heard of done in YA fiction before and because I was curious to see what the author would do with the subject matter.

Let's face it - most young people (myself included) have this stereotypical notion of gardening being nothing but a boring pastime best left to the older generation. 

And as someone who loves to have her preconceived notions challenged, I wanted to see just what Maryrose Wood would do in order to garner my interest in the subject. Of course, the fact that there was a love story woven into the story also helped to seal the deal for me.


When I received the book (this cover came without an expanded synopsis), I actually dived right into it without refreshing my memory as to just what The Poison Diaries was about - which is something I never do because I like to know what the book is about.

Yet, for all that, I found myself quickly very wrapped up in the story.

For those who don't know (and I was one of them), The Poison Diaries is actually based on a concept by The Duchess of Northumbarland, who happens to be responsible for creating The Poison Garden at the Alnwick Gardens which is situated adjacent to Alnwick Castle.

I wasn't sure what to think of this book at first, because I haven't read all that many historical young adult fiction novels and the formal writing and tone, at first, felt rather stiff and affected to me. It didn't take long before I changed my mind though.

Written loosely in a diary format, Maryrose's writing actually works quite well in this format. There is such a simplistic and subtle beauty to her writing that you can't help but feel as if she herself took a trip back in time in order to authenticate the world that she writes about in The Poison Dairies.

As an ardent fan of atmospherically gothic novels, Maryrose just has this wonderful ability to say more with so much less (and in doing so, conveying  the sense of a world shrouded in secrecy), which is why I came to love the formal language structure of this novel. The novel is not what I would consider overly dark, but there are enough nuances to suggest a sort of sinister, wicked beautiful atmosphere that is atmospherically dreamy and forbidding at the same time.

What I also adored about this novel, is the description of the plants. Moonseed. Belladonna. Foxglove and Oleander - beautiful names are they not? I never actually thought that plants could be alluring and sinisterly seductive until I read this.

The plants really come alive under the hands of Maryrose and I often found myself getting sucked in and wishing I could enter the forbidden gate to experience the enticing call of the plants myself -  even if it meant that I would have to forfeit my life in the process.

Character wise, I thought Jess and Weed are incredibly likeable characters, but I have to admit that I felt as if I wasn’t given enough time to get to know them properly. But, I'll explain why when I get to the criticism of this novel. 

As for Thomas, Jessamine's father, I found him to be stern and unyielding and developed an instant dislike for him.  Turns out that there is a very good reason why, but I can't really add anything further without spoiling it for you. The story also has a supernatural element to it that really caught me off guard, but which I found incredibly intriguing and that I really hope to learn more about.

As much as I loved this book, I did find that Jessamine accepted Weed's gift almost too quickly. I suspect that the fact that she has lived without anyone else but her father's company for so long, could probably be a reason for this, but I would have like to have seen her struggle a little more with the knowledge. To go back on my previous criticism, I also felt that this book was a rather short read.

It's not a bad thing per say, but for me it felt like the action was just beginning to really take hold, when the story came to the cliffhanger ending that it did.

Luckily, I found out that this is the first instalment in a trilogy, so I'm looking forward to seeing how the characters develop and learning more about that supernatural element that intrigued me so. Of course, I'm also very curious as to just what happens with Jess and Weed, so I'll be on the lookout for any news about the next instalment in this book!

Other than that, I really loved this book and will be looking out for more of Maryrose's work in future!
 
My final rating: 4/5 stars.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday: Clarity

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill from Breaking the Spine. The idea behind this meme is to highlight up and coming releases that we just can't wait to read.

This week's can't wait for book is Clarity by Kim Harrington.
Release Date: 1 March 2011 (Yes, I know - I always seem to pick books which seem to have a long waiting time span for them huh? Still, I"m sure it will be worth it!)

Clarity by Kim Harrington

Summary (from Goodreads):
Clarity "Clare" Fern sees things. Things no one else can see. Things like stolen kisses and long-buried secrets. All she has to do is touch an object and the visions come to her. It's a gift.

And a curse.

When a teenage girl is found murdered, Clare's ex-boyfriend wants her to help solve the case, but Clare is still furious at the cheating jerk.

Then Clare's brother - who has supernatural gifts of his own - becomes the prime suspect, and Clare can no longer look away.

Teaming up with Gabriel, the smoldering son of the new detective, Clare must venture into the depths of fear, revenge, and lust in order to track the killer. But will her sight fail her just when she needs it most?

I'm looking forward to this one! What's on your WoW list this week? And how gorgeous is the cover for this book?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Giveaway contest: Winners

Yikes, I'm so behind on things lately, that I'm only getting around to doing the winner announcements now! Between writing my latest book club newsletter  - which I still seem to be battling with this month, arranging new book contests (still to come) and trying to get reading and reviewing done, I unfortunately couldn't get around to this until now.

Anyway, without further ado, here are the winners:

The first winner I chose based on how the sexiest character was sold to me (I did mention that I would be reading the next book based on the winner's choice and I am now currently reading City of Bones as we speak), and the rest of the winners I chose using Random.org

1st Prize: Winner of a book of her choice to the value of $20 is:

Stephany from Read-a-Holic who had me sold with the line: Trust me, I fangirl every time his name appears on a page. :) (Recommendation: Jace from The Mortal Instruments series)

2nd Prize: Blue Bloods copy:

Syll_ble from syllableinthecity

3rd and 4th Prize: E-book version of My Love Lies Bleeding:
First E-book goes to:  Lu from Lu's Bloody Big Book Blog
Second E-book goes to: Shy from The Bibliophile's Journal

I realise that this was probably a very random and spontaneous contest. It wasn't a way for me to get new followers (although that is always nice). My next contest is going to be a far larger contest with more books to be given away and with a simple, but proper form.

To everyone, thanks for entering the giveaway and sorry I couldn't add more prizes this time around. To the winners, I'll be contacting you in the next 24 hours!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Book review: One Day


One Day
Twenty years, two people… One Day. A Brilliant series of post card snapshots of two people's lives whose thoughts, actions and personalities could so easily mirror our own.

One Day by David Nicholls (Hodder & Stoughton)
After reading this book, I've come to the conclusion that it is so much harder to write a review for a book that you genuinely love as opposed to reviewing a book that just didn't have as much of an impact on you.

And with this book, there are just so many good things about it that it's going to be very hard to prevent myself from writing an actual short story about why this 2010 Exclusive Books Boeke Prize (The South African version of the Man Booker Prize award) nominee is such a fantastic read. 

Because fantastic this book certainly is. Wait. Let me try and explain.

The thing about fiction is that often the characters you come across in most books often seem just a little unrealistic. Which, to be honest, is perfectly fine because it is fiction and as we all know, fiction is almost every book lover's favourite escapism drug.

Therefore, in my mind, it is sometimes ok when some characters (although they have flaws) seem to be a little too good to be true. And it's ok when they have supernatural abilities that make them seem more godlike than human. Because, let's face it - most of us, me included, revel in the fantastical (I wouldn't be a fan of the paranormal genre otherwise).

Yet, every now and then, one comes across characters who feel almost as if they've been modeled from real life.

One Day is one such book.

In fact, the characters in One Day are so real, it feels almost like David Nicholls gathered the world in a room, spent a day with each and every single person and shaped his characters using fragments of every single person's thoughts and characteristic traits on this earth, all in order to come up with Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew.

The story revolves around 2 people, namely the above-mentioned characters. They meet on the night of the 15th July - a day before graduating from college and inadvertently become good friends.

Emma is a wannabe writer (with 2 degrees) who errs on the side of self-deprecation and has very little confidence in herself. She's bright, surprisingly witty, has altruistic notions (she wants to save the world), but tends to be very preachy and judgemental of others who have more than her. For the first part of the novel, she also comes across as lacking any real drive to do anything about her future; something I suppose could be contributed to the lack of belief in herself.

Dexter, on the other hand is everything most girls want and hate at the same time. He's arrogant, wealthy, ridiculously good looking and incredibly charming and charismatic.

At the same time, although not bright as Emma, he is a go-getter in comparison to Emma's timidity - something which Emma seems to recognise and  automatically causes her to become even more judgemental of his lifestyle.


We bear witness to how they develop over the years and can't help but cringe at the bad choices and appalling mistakes both make - though Dexter's crash is far more significant given his arrogance and quest for fame. We as the reader are also given one day per year (The One Day is very, very significant) to find out what's been happening to them and to basically fill in the blanks and draw our own conclusion as to what has happened in between.

For many, this could be very jarring, but David Nicholls just makes it work.

Reading this book is actually a lot like watching a film reel while tripping on acid, except that you suffer no lasting damage besides experiencing the heady emotions and snapshots of the bohemian and exotic locations that seem to jump out of this book, crackling with a hedonistic sort of energy you wish you could bottle  and sell.

What gives this book its strength, is that in spite of how annoying these characters probably sound (and at times come across), Nicholls manages to make you feel as if you're not only able to relate to them, but also manages to make you love them.

Watching the characters grow and learn is such a pleasure because it really feels as if it's you who is on the journey and not just the characters.

It's no HEA, but this beautiful, tragic comedy leaves you with the feeling that it's ok to stumble, fall and even hit rock bottom and remember that life is about being human and not a well-oiled machine.  It also leaves you with the belief that you can change the world on your own terms.

It's a story about losing and finding yourself. It's about love and loss and finding hope in the dourest of circumstances. Mostly, it's a story that tells you (without moralising or preaching) that no matter what happens, that as long as you get up and try, things will somehow work out - even if you don't believe it right at that point in time.

To sum it up, here is a quote from the book, which I think captures the novel's very essence:

“Better by far to simply try and be good and outrageous and bold and to make a difference. Not change the world exactly, but the bit around you. Go out there with your passion and your electric typewriter and work hard at...something. Change lives through art maybe. Cherish your friends, stay true to your principles, live passionately and fully and well. Experience new things. Love and be loved, if you ever get the chance.”

…When the book ends, you somehow just know that you will desperately miss these characters who have unwittingly become your friends.

I've just recently finished it, yet I miss these characters already. Go out and read it - It's one of the best novels I've come across this year and a it's a book I'll read over and over again.


My final rating: 5/5 stars

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday: Ripple

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill from Breaking the Spine. The idea behind this meme is to highlight up and coming releases that we just can't wait to read.

This week's can't wait for read is Ripple by Mandy Hubbard.

Let me start off by saying that it's a good thing I read the synopsis, because that is what drew me in. The cover? (Which I hope isn't the final one)

Definitely not one of my favourites.

The book is set to be published 21st July 2011 - so it's quite a long wait. Still, I'm definitely adding this to my list because I love a good mermaid/siren story and this one looks like it's going to be a fabulous one!
Ripple by Mandy Hubbard
Summary:
Eighteen year old Lexi Wentworth is cursed. For as long as she can remember, she’s spent every night swimming. If she doesn’t, she’ll regret it—simply walking will be agony, as if she’s stepping on shattered glass.

Her body craves the water, demands the water, until she can’t say no.

But it's not the swimming that troubles Lexi. It’s the singing that goes with it.When she turned sixteen, her siren song killed the only boy she's ever loved.

Now, she avoids the popular shores of the Pacific in favor of a long forgotten lake up in the mountains, where she can swim and sing in peace, far from the population of her oceanside home.

Until, that is, Cole Mills discovers her lake. He’s new to Lincoln City High, and he doesn’t know about Lexi’s reputation as an ice queen—a reputation she’s carefully cultivated to keep everyone around her safe. He pushes her, talks to her, forces her to dream of what life could be like if she weren’t a siren.

Lexi can’t stop herself from warming to him, from falling for him. Soon, he’s demanding answers, following her to the lake, unknowingly risking his life. How can she keep him safe when the one thing she wants most--to hold him close - will endanger his life?

How awesome does that sound?

What's on your WoW list this week?