Sunday, January 30, 2011

In my mailbox (20)

 IMM is a weekly meme hosted by the lovely Kristi from The Story Siren.

I’ve had another fantastic book week this week  as I not only won a book on the blogs, but also received some lovely books that I was not expecting at all (both of which I'm really looking forward to reading). Finally, I also bought 2 new books  (actually bought four but still waiting on 2 to arrived), which I'm just as trigger-happy excited about.

Here's this week's IMM.
Amber Frost by Suzi Davis
Special thanks to ireadiwrite publishers for sending me a copy of Amber Frost to review. This one is an e-book, which I'll be reading this week.

I'll also be interviewing Suzi Davis, the author of Amber Frost once I've read the book, so be sure to check that out when you have a moment. Sounds like a really interesting paranormal fantasy romance so I'm really looking forward to this one.   

Belladonna by Mary Finn (ARC Copy)
Won this one from Jan at Eating YA Books. I'm sure you must have seen me raving about this one in previous posts before, so I don't need to mention how happy I am to have received this.

Love the name, love the idea of enchanting tales of circus life and of course I love the gorgeous cover that goes with this.  

Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini
This is one of those books that I haven’t been expecting. I recently attended Pan Macmillan's 2011 Children's book Presentation where we had all the UK  representatives from the various publishers presenting their catalogue of books that we can look forward to for this year (Yup, the lovely folks flew all the way to South Africa to speak at the Pan MacMillan (The South African offices) presentation.
 
We each received a goodie bag filled and Starcrossed was one of the many fabulous surprises that we received. *excited squeal* Starcrossed romance and Greek tragedy all rolled into one?  Yay!

Vampire Kisses by Ellen Schreiber

Bought this via the Book Depository. I've heard that her latest book has been getting a lot of flack, but apparently her vampire series is awesome.

Besides, I've wanted to read this one for quite some time now, so I went ahead and bought a bind up of the first three books all in one. 
Nevermore by Kelly Creagh
I have wanted this book for ages upon ages now. Edgar Allen Poe? Dark seductive worlds? Gothic boy? Romance? I really don't think I need to tell you how excited I am about finally having this book.

Besides, every review I've seen for this book has been nothing short of glowing, so who am I not to get myself a copy of this book. Planning on reading this before the end of February, so should have a review up sometime in mid-Feb! Can't wait.

And finally, the cherry on top of the ice-cream....

Entangled by Cat Clarke 
Again, another book from my books I'm looking forward t o in 2011 that I've received. This one has also been receiving a lot of raving reviews, so I'm hoping that it really does live up to its hype.

I adore the cover and am very intrigued by Grace - who happens to be the main character that wakes up in a white room with no clue as to how she got there. I instantly want to know the how, what, why's and when of this book, so will also make this one a high priority read.

That's it from me for this week though.  What’s in your IMM this week? Feel free to share in the comment box below.

P.S. Wil be announcing the winner of the So Shelly giveaway by tomorrow, so stay tuned to find out if you're a winner.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Book review: Finding Sky

Finding Sky
Can one girl find the strength to battle the demons of her past in order to embrace the future with her soulfinder?

Finding Sky by Joss Stirling (Oxford University Press)

When Sky Bright catches a glimpse of moody bad boy Zed, she can't help but instinctively feel drawn to him.

Beyond his good looks, there just seems to be something that is uncannily different about him - something that she is observant enough to pick up on.

Zed, for his part, discovers that he is able to communicate telepathically with Sky, thereby making her far different to any other girl he has ever known. 

He also reveals that she is a Savant and is gifted with the special powers and abilities (examples including telepathy and being able to see into the future).

Beyond that, Zed also tells Sky that she is his soulfinder - his other half whose gifts are the other half of his. Unfortunately for Zed, things aren't that simple or easy for Sky.

She's a mystery unto herself and is haunted by the nightmares of a disturbing past she has little to no recollection of. Trusting Zed would mean giving more of herself than she wants to and will prove to be the ultimate test when danger lurks nearby.

Will she be able to embrace her still waking power and be brave enough to conquer the demons of her past in time to save those that she loves? 

It's up  to both Zed and Sky to work together to figure out just what happened in her past if she wants to have a new future.

Review:

I recently read and reviewed a book called Never Let Me Go.  In my review, I mentioned that one of the biggest things that hurts the book (it's a wonderful read by the way), is the fact that it's been misrepresented and made out to be a science fiction novel, which it is not.

This misrepresentation gave me pause for thought and made me reflect on just how many outside factors could hurt a book in terms of drawing readers in.

In the case of Finding Sky, the problem I had is that the synopsis of the book sounds like it's a Twilight rip off.

Now I've read Twilight back in the day and would probably not have been too bothered about this, but I know that there are a lot of people out there who loathe the series and would steer clear of this book because, at first glance, it does seem to come across as being a Twilight-inspired novel. 

This is really a pity because the book is anything but a carbon copy of Twilight. In fact Finding Sky is a tantalizing and refreshingly different offering in an, dare I say it, overly done and often clichéd genre that paranormal romance seems to have become.

And I for one, enjoyed it. Far more than I thought I would actually.

It usually takes me a couple of chapters to really get into a book, but with Finding Sky, I found myself gripped from the first page.

The first chapter starts off with Sky having a flashback to her being abandoned at a gas station with no recollection of the people who ditched her there or how she managed to find herself there.

My curiosity flared from the first page and just blossomed into a full sense of urgency to read this book. And things certainly only become more intriguing throughout the book.

Following the flashback, we next meet Sky where she and her dotty, distracted and artistic parents are just about settling in their new home in Colorado and where Sky is set to start a new year at a new school. Feeling decidedly like a lost English school girl, Sky is not sure what to expect.

Surprisingly enough, she settles in quickly, makes a new friend or two and adapts well to the small, snowy town of Colorado.

Then she meets Zed Benedict.

Smoulderingly gorgeous he may be, but her first few encounters with him leaves her with nothing but a bad taste in her mouth. At first glance he comes across as being an insolent, aggressive rebel and makes no bones about leaving Sky with this impression.

The great thing about Sky as a character is that she doesn't instantly fall for Zed. Sure she finds him attractive, but when he gives her attitude, Sky shows that she actually takes exception to it and doesn't take it lying down.

For me this is such a refreshing and much needed change from the girl meets boy and ends up instantly smitten without having spoken two words to said boy scenario.

A not so instant love connection for me shows that there is a lot of character development that has been thought out and put down to paper and it just so happens to be the case with Joss Stirling's Finding Sky. 

The relationship between Sky and Zed develops at a realistic pace, which makes the romance between them seem all the more real and sweeter for it.

Another thing that I also loved about this book is Sky's reaction to when Zed tells her that she's a savant.

It irritates me so when female characters accept the out-of-the-ordinary and the supernatural so easily and without a fight, especially when the story is set in a world where it's not the norm for it to occur.

Sky blatantly refuses to accept anything savant related for an appropriately long-enough time for her to actually really come to terms with it. And when she does come to terms with it, she still does so with a strong reluctance that almost does the exact opposite of what the too-accepting characters do (which, perversely enough, is also a little annoying).

Finding Sky not only focuses on romance, but the paranormal aspect ensures that the book is locked, loaded and jam-packed with action.

In fact, and this is one of the problems I had with the novel, there was almost too much action in one go, which at times, made the post action scenes seem a little too angst-filled.

Joss's introduction into the world and gifts of Savants are certainly very interesting.

The idea behind being a Savant and having these enhanced gifts, is not so much focused on having physical strength, but draws more from psyche and what your mind is capable of when you have gifts like telepathy, and clairvoyance amongst others.

She doesn't give much away, but leaves enough room and opening for a continuation of the series.

The writing, for the most part, is quite beautiful. It's not as blatantly lyrical as most YA novels are, but then, perhaps it wasn't meant to be.

All in all,  I found Finding Sky to be a great read and think it's a great set up for what I hope is the start of a great new book series.

Rating: A solid 3.5/5 

Special thanks to the lovely Leanna from Daisy Chain Book Reviews for sending the book my way. :)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: Sweetly and Drink, Slay, Love

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.

Because I haven't done one in quite a while, I'm featuring not one, but 2 books that I'm really looking forward to.

First up is: Jackson Pearce's Sweetly.

I'm a huge fan of fairytale adaptations and having read her previous novel, Sisters Red (a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood), I was very happy to discover that she's taking on another classic fairy tale. Sweetly is not really a sequel to Sisters Red, but rather a companion novel to Sisters Red and is a modern adaptation of Hansel and Gretel.


Also, I adore the wicked and creepy cover. It's all sorts of pretty if you ask me. Here's a brief synopsis: 
Sweetly by Jackson Pearce
Publishing date: August 23, 2011 (Yes, I know, it's a hell of a long wait. *sulks*)

Twelve years ago, Gretchen, her twin sister, and her brother went looking for a witch in the forest.

They found something. Maybe it was a witch, maybe a monster, they aren’t sure—they were running too fast to tell. Either way, Gretchen’s twin sister was never seen again.


Years later, after being thrown out of their house, Gretchen and Ansel find themselves in Live Oak, South Carolina, a place on the verge of becoming a ghost town.

They move in with Sophia Kelly, a young and beautiful chocolatier owner who opens not only her home, but her heart to Gretchen and Ansel.


Yet the witch isn’t gone—it’s here, lurking in the forests of Live Oak, preying on Live Oak girls every year after Sophia Kelly’s infamous chocolate festival. But Gretchen is determined to stop running from witches in the forest, and start fighting back.

Alongside Samuel Reynolds, a boy as quick with a gun as he is a sarcastic remark, Gretchen digs deeper into the mystery of not only what the witch is, but how it chooses its victims.

Yet the further she investigates, the more she finds herself wondering who the real monster is, and if love can be as deadly as it is beautiful.


My second pick is Drink, Slay, Love by Sarah Beth Durst.

There are 2 reasons I chose this book. Reason 1. Look at the fabulous, fabulous cover. I don't think I need to say much more do I?

Reason 2. I've read her previous book, Ice (another retelling of a fairytale) and while I did not like the way she executed the novel, I thought her writing was just beautiful.

And I'm never one for writing off an author just because I didn't like one of the author's novels.


That said, here's a very, very brief (there wasn't much info about this one that I could find) summary about the book.

Drink, Slay, Love by Sarah Beth Durst
Publishing date: September 13, 2011 (Yes, again, another long wait)

What happens when a vampire is stabbed through the heart by a were-unicorn? She suddenly develops a very inconvenient conscience. Oops.

And that's my picks for this week. What's on your WoW list this week? Let me know - I'm always curious about new reads.


P.S. Sorry that I haven't gotten around to doing any blog visits lately. Drowning in work deadlines, but will try to do some catch ups later  today or tonight.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Top 10 books I’m looking forward to in 2011 - Part 3

Yikes. I know. I know. This is a post that I probably should have done long time ago, but because I had very little time, have now decided to do a final round up. 

There are obviously so many books out there that I’m looking forward to reading this year, but if I had to do any more of these, then I’d probably ONLY be filling up my blog with these lists. Besides, those are what the WoW meme is for right?

Anyway, here are my last 5 that I’m highlighting. I’ve tried to make it so that the choices aren’t all that obvious, so if you don’t see books like Forever by Maggie Stiefvater or City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare on here – it does not mean that they’re not up here with this list.

Because they are.

I just wanted to highlight some books that I think people aren’t expecting me to.

You can click here for part 1 and here for part 2. 

5. Between the Sea and the Sky by Jaclyn Dolamore
Teaser synopsis: For as long as Esmerine can remember, she has longed to join her older sister, Dosinia, as a siren--the highest calling a mermaid can have. Then Dosinia runs away to the mainland, and Esmerine is sent to retrieve her.

Using magic to transform her tail into legs, she makes her way unsteadily to the capital city. There she comes upon a friend she hasn't seen since childhood--a dashing young man named Alandare, who belongs to a winged race of people.


As Esmerine and Alandare band together to search for Dosinia, they rekindle a friendship . . . and ignite the emotions for a love so great it cannot be bound by sea, land, or air.


Publishing date:
June 7th 2011 by Bloomsbury

Why I'm looking forward to it:
I fell in love with this book before I even saw the cover (which, I have to say, is absolutely gorgeous). I’ve made a promise to myself to read mermaid/siren fiction this year as I haven’t had much of a chance to do so last year.  Which is why this one is so very high up on my list.

Well that and the fact that I really love the premise of this novel and the mermaid and winged race combo, which I don’t think I’ve come across in any other novels thus far. I’ve also heard that Jaclyn is a fantastic storyteller  - but first, I’m going to try and get my hands on a copy of her previous novel, Magic Under Glass.
4. Through her eyes by Jennifer Archer
Teaser synopsis:  Sixteen-year-old Tansy Piper moves with her grandfather and her mother, a horror writer, to the setting of her mother's next book--a secluded house outside of a tiny, desolate West Texas town.

Lonely and upset over the move, Tansy escapes into her photography and the dark, seductive poems she finds hidden in the cellar, both of which lure her into the mind and world of a mysterious, troubled young man who died sixty years earlier.


Publishing date:
April 5th 2011 by HarperTeen

Why I'm looking forward to it:
This one has been on my TBR pile for ages now. I really want to read this because it appeals to my inner (albeit amature) photography geek and because the synopsis alludes to darkly, seductive poetry.

Really... what literature lover could resist that? Also, the mysterious and troubled young man? Has definitely piqued my curiosity in more ways than one. Am dying to see how this novel plays itself out.
3. Abandon by Meg Cabot
Teaser synopsis:
When Pierce first sees him, she thinks he is a murderer. She's right about one thing - he does take lives.

But not in the way she ever imagined.

Pierce is drawn to the dark stranger even as she tries to uncover the mystery surrounding the tragic death of someone close to her.

As she gets closer to the truth -- and the stranger -- unexpected secrets are revealed, even in her own heart.


Publishing date:
April 26th 2011 by Scholastic Inc.

Why I'm looking forward to it:
 By now, I think I’ve made it clear just how much I adore Greek mythology – and this one is a darkly, seductive retelling of Persephone’s story. Swoon.

Why do I get the feeling that 2011 is going to be a year for mythological retellings?

 In which case, it would make me one very, very happy book blogger.  Anyway, I can’t wait for this one and it definitely doesn’t hurt that the book has such an awesome cover to go along with it too. 
2. Clarity by Kim Harrington
Teaser synopsis:
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 a certain 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 smouldering 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?

Publishing date:
March 1st 2011 by Scholastic Point

Why I'm looking forward to it:
Ok, ok – I have yet to see anyone who is not looking forward to this book.  Aside from the luminescent cover, I admit to completely being swayed by the synopsis of the book.

I have to confess to not having read a book where the character had an ability to be able to see things that no one else can, so I’m really looking forward to stepping into unchartered territory. Luckily the wait for this one isn’t too long – which definitely makes me happy. Can’t wait to purchase a copy when it’s finally released.

....And drum roll... time for number 1, which without further ado, is:
1. Falling Under by Gwen Hayes
Teaser synopsis: Theia Alderson has always led a sheltered life in the small California town of Serendipity Falls.

But when a devastatingly handsome boy appears in the halls of her school, Theia knows she's seen Haden before- not around town, but in her dreams.

As the Haden of both the night and the day beckons her closer one moment and pushes her away the next, the only thing Theia knows for sure is that the incredible pull she feels towards him is stronger than her fear.


And when she discovers what Haden truly is, Theia's not sure if she wants to resist him, even if the cost is her soul.


Publishing date:
March 1st 2011 by New American Library

Why I'm looking forward to it:
Another book that has been on my radar for a very long time now. In fact, it was one of the very first picks for the weekly WoW meme and even though it was a couple of months back, my lust for this book still remains as strong as ever. I admit that I was once again sucked in by the beautiful cover. (*sarcasm starts* Well, aren’t I just a big bundle of unpredictability to you all? :-) *sarcasm ends*)

Not only that though, I am really curious about Haden and just what it is about him that is so alluring to Theia.

I get the feeling this is not an ordinary paranormal romance and that there will be plenty of refreshing surprises in this novel. Definitely doesn’t sound like your run-of-the-mill vamp story.

And that’s a wrap on these posts.  It took me a while, but hey, I eventually got it done, which is what counts. :)

So, anything on this list that you're looking forward to? Or any other reads I may have missed out on? I'd love to read about books you're looking forward to.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Book review: Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me Go
What would you do if you had no choice but to die after completing the purpose that you’ve been created for?

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (Faber and Faber)
When she was a young girl, Kathy, along with close friends Tommy and Ruth spent most of their childhood years at Hailsham, a private, idyllic English school, where she and all the other children living there were sheltered and isolated from the outside world.

Brought up to believe that the world inside Hailsham was the only world that mattered, they are quick to find out that their well-being is not only of the utmost importance to the guardians of Hailsham, but also  to the world they have to enter once they leave Hailsham.

Fast forward a decade and a half, and Kathy is a 31-year old carer who hasn’t seen her closest Hailsham friends in years. When Tommy and Ruth both enter her life again, all the memories rush to the surface and suddenly Kathy is taken back into time as she recalls all the starkly vivid memories of their years at Hailsham.

As she recounts her tale, she reflects on the sheltered environment that most of the kids were strangely unperturbed about, but at the same time, alludes to hidden and dark secrets that lurk behind the walls of the outwardly safe and protected haven that once was Hailsham.

Now faced with a tragic reality that awaits them, Kathy, Tommy and Ruth have to find what little strength they have to come to terms with the past and the truth about their childhood - in order to accept the heartbreaking events that will rob them of everything they have ever known.

Review:

Kazuo Ishiguro's book as been categorized and described as being many things; one of them being that it's a science fiction novel.

Allow me to immediately dispel this notion and misconception. In my opinion, Never Let Me Go is the furthest from a science fiction book that you can get.

Sure, the book employs science as a backdrop to the novel, but if I had to more accurately describe this novel, I would say that Never Let Me Go is a speculative and dystopian work of fiction that deals with themes of love, loss, life and the importance of having a choice in the world we live in.

Of course, the themes mentioned sound like they are pretty trite things, but the added dystopian factor is what gives this novel its packing punch (and its well-deserved accolades). 

I believe that the common misconception about Never Let Me Go is something that takes the enjoyment away from the novel because many people are disappointed that the novel isn't the kind of science fiction novel they were hoping for.

I won’t lie.

I’ve also seen a lot of one star ratings for this book because not only have people complained about being misled into thinking it’s a sci-fi novel, but many people have also taken issue with the fact that the book’s writing is too simplistic and far too slow of a read.

Here’s my take on it though.

I admit that this is an acquired read, but Never Let Me Go, for all of its simplicity is a beautifully written work of literary fiction that lulls you into thinking that it’s an ordinary novel, and yet, with a few choice words and single events scattered throughout the novel, the book forces you to constantly re-evaluate your opinion as you read.

I think the slow-paced narrative is what makes this such a powerful, moving and altogether heartbreaking novel. The rambling narrative is written in such a way that it feels as if Kathy (who is the narrator of the novel), is directly conversing with you as the reader.

It’s a very effective structure as the deliberate slowness creates a lazy but sinister atmosphere that seduces you into thinking that the world they are living in is idyllic and very safe, and yet, at the same time it leaves you with the lingering sensation that there is something very eerie about the environment that the kids of Hailsham are living in.

I don’t know many authors that have the ability to leave you feeling both complacent and on-edge at the same time, but Kazuo Ishiguro more than manages to do so in Never Let Me Go.

I wish I could go into more detail with the actual plot points of this novel, but to do so would be to spoil the book for you and would mean that I’d be taking away the gut-wrenching and emotional impact that this book will have on you.

What I can say is that Kathy, Ruth and Tommy may have been living in an environment that provided them with safety, shelter and comfort, but the very reasons they are there are sharply contrasted with the very inhumane reality that awaits them.

Between the three of them, Kathy and Tommy are the ones that start questioning how things at Hailsham are being run. There is a curiosity in them that are absent in others, and this, in a sense, gives them a subtle advantage (as far as an advantage in this novel can go) above everyone else.

Ruth tends to be more of an abrasive, brash, bossy and selfishly impulsive character who many will find, is not easy to always like. Yet for all that, her character suits the novel.

What shocked me most about this novel is that when they find out just what they are there for, there is no outrage, shock or devastation. Just a placid acceptance of being born into a world that already has been set out for them.

The stark and almost unemotional tone of this novel reflects their acceptance and makes this all the more of a heart-wrenching read. What also comes across strongly is that they accept this because they don’t know anything else.

Can you imagine living in a world like that?

Never Let Me Go raises a lot of ethical questions about science and the role humans play in trying to master a domain in a field that is perhaps best left undeveloped.

Not only that, it is also a novel that will remind you of your own mortality and once again enforce the idea that the life we live is but finite and that we should take the time to enjoy every single moment that we have.

It’s a powerful novel that has certainly haunted me for weeks and will probably stay with me for years to come. Go out and get it. It’s not for everyone, but it’s a book that is really worth reading and will make you think long after you’ve turned the last page.

This book has also been adapted to film. You can find the link to the trailer here. It’s achingly beautiful, but rather spoilery (which is why I didn't embed it here), so I’d suggest you watch it at your own discretion.

Rating: A perfect 5/5 from me.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

In my mailbox (19)

In my Mailbox

IMM is a weekly meme hosted by the lovely Kristi from The Story Siren.

I’ve had a pretty great book week this week seeing as I received books from some fabulous blog friends as well as books that I were absolutely not expecting to get – love those kind of surprises, don’t you?

Here’s what I received


Fade to Black
by Alex Flinn

Thanks to Emma from Asamum who so kindly sent me her copy of this book. I reckon this one sounds like it’s going to be a tough, but very interesting read considering that it deals with Aids as a subject focus. Haven’t read anything like this before, so I really am looking forward to this one. Thanks Em!

The Body Finder
by Kimberly Derting

Squee! A huge shout out to Michelle from Fluttering Blutterflies who took much pity on my wailing about me probably being the only person who hasn’t read this book yet, and offered to send me a copy!

I am really, really excited about this one, especially considering the fact that Leanna from Daisy Chain books can’t stop melting at the very mere mention of Jay’s name. I’ve just got to meet him.  :) Also, I’ve heard there are some POV’s from the killer – so that intrigues me to no end! Thanks for this copy Michelle!



Eternal: More Love Stories with Bite
edited by P.C. Cast

This is one of those books that I haven’t been expecting. I have the previous anthology of short stories, which is also edited by P.C. Cast, but have yet to read that one. Still, I do love a good vamp story, so I’m definitely looking forward to reading both anthologies.


You Against Me
by Jenny Downham

I’ve heard some great things about her previous novel, Before I die, and have heard a lot of awesome things about You Against Me, so I was really happy when this one arrived yesterday. Also, I really love the cover for this one – it conveys such an intensity about the book, that it really makes me want to sink my teeth into this novel.


Bloody Valentine
– A Blue Bloods novella by Melissa de la Cru
z
I’ve read the first two books in the Blue Bloods series and I can’t tell you just how addicted I am two these books. Completely enthralled with the cover for this one and am hoping to read this sometime early February – as there will be a planned giveaway for this one and the 3 books below. 

Last Sacrifice
– Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead
Ok, I don’t even have all of the books in this series yet and have set out time to finally start the VA series, but I am glad that I’ve got this one as it means that by the time I’m done with the previous books in the series, I won’t have to wait until I get around to the shops, I can just jump into this one immediately. 

Goddess of the Rose
by P.C. Cast
Believe it or not, I have not read any of the House of Night series yet, so I pretty much don’t know what to expect from this author. Goddess of the Rose (I also received Goddess of Legend below) is, I think, P.C. Cast’s more adult type of fiction, but I have to say that I sound very intrigued with the idea behind them, especially Goddess of the Rose. 


Goddess of Legend
by P.C. Cast
This one also looks really interesting and takes us back into time to King Arthur’s court. I have to admit that I have always been looking for a book that goes back to the days of knights and Camelot, so hopefully this one will be worth the read.

And that’s it from me for this week’s IMM box. What’s in your IMM this week? Feel free to share in the comment box below. 

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Something old, but something new: a personal post

So I was reading a post by Michelle from Fluttering Blutterflies who mentioned that she sometimes wishes that book bloggers could sometimes step away from blogging solely about books to interject and share something a little more personal about themselves in order to get to know bloggers a little better.

I have to say that as much as I love blogging about books, I found myself agreeing with her, because at the back of my mind, it was always something that I wanted to do. I currently have 3 blogs, 2 of which are personal and one of which is book related.

Frankly, it is hard to manage them all and I have to admit that I’ve neglected my personal blogs. I’ve put off from sharing anything personal because I wasn’t sure if it would be well-received or not.

But, I realised that this is my blog and I know that not all will be interested in these get-to-know-me personal posts, but I’ve made a choice and decided that I’m going to post something personal once a week, anyway.

You of course aren’t obliged to read it, but I’d love it if you did. And don’t worry, I’m not going to neglect my book blog posts at all – they’ll still be as active as ever, if not more, now that I’m balancing it out with something personal every now and then.

So without further ado, here’s a little something that I’ve posted about one of my favourite interests outside of books. I’ve posted it a while back on my personal blog, but have always wanted to share this with readers.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Something old, but something new

The nomadic lifestyle of the gypsy has always fascinated me.

Perhaps I romanticize the notion of the gypsy life, but there is an untouched and untamed beauty in the lifestyle of wanderlust-filled souls that often makes me long to walk the paths they walk and travel the off-the-beaten track journeys that they do.

That they can take up the courage to travel like that and not worry about what tomorrow will bring (like so many of us do), simply because they're living in the now of the moment, speaks of an unshakeable faith in something that is far larger than the earthly soil that they walk on.

What we label as sheer recklessness, they label as unbridled faith in living every day, one step at a time.

Of course, I'm not blind to the fact that living the lifestyle of a gypsy doesn't come without its perils or without its impracticalities, but I can't help but be charmed by their quaint way of living and travelling.

Over the past few months, I've found that I have fallen prey to that restless feeling that gypsies so often lay claim to.

I've been longing to try something new and to move on to something different. And I've been yearning to leave a physical mark somewhere beyond the borders of the big blue seas. I've been searching for a place under the yellow-hearted sun where my voice could be silent, and yet be heard.

And it's here where the something new comes in. (In reference to my subject title)

You see, I'm quite aware that I'm not within the financial means to get up, walk on out and travel the world (I'll still get there someday) to explore new sights and taste the flavours of a thousand cultures on my tongue.

But - I have always had the makings of a gypsy soul and have decided if I can't physically go where I want go, I'll bring where I want to go right to my doorsteps. (This is after all, a stepping stone toward the right direction, right?)

And all this in the form of a lost, beautiful art that so many people have neglected simply because the world of technology has taken over and started governing our lives.

That lost art is the hand-written letter.

And what better way to get in touch with a world of other cultures and reacquaint myself with the long-lost art of hand-written letters than to join a penpal website.

It's a decision I haven't regretted at all.

It's the meeting of a world of people from countries I've never even heard of and getting that chance to go back to basics of the good old-fashioned snail-mail writing that has brought me back my joy again.

It's the tingling excitement of coming home to discover a package in the post waiting for me, and opening it to unleash the wealth of words from beneath the folds of that envelope…

Most importantly, it's knowing that someone out there, from a different culture and a different background has taken the time out to put their thoughts on paper (and not just a quick hi, how are you email) and is willing to send it across the ocean to share them with me.

Over the last couple of months since I've joined, I've made wonderful new friendships from across the world. Currently I have penpals from the US (Arizona), Austria, Hungary, Holland, 2 from Germany and 1 from South Korea.

 Hearing about the history, culture and everyday lives from friends all over the world has, for me, become a way of travelling the world, through someone else's eyes.

And if I can't travel right now, then travelling through the world as seen through my pen pals' eyes is something I'm more than happy with right now. After all, I've made some pretty great friendships… ones that I certainly hope will last a lifetime.

P.S. Didn’t have time to take photos of my desk or my letters, but I’ll do a post on the interesting things that I’ve received from my penpals and take some photos  then :)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Guest post: So Shelly author Ty Roth + giveaway

It’s a huge honour to have Ty Roth, author of the up and coming YA novel, So Shelly, guest posting on my blog today. For those who haven’t heard of the book, I’ve asked Ty to tell us about the book, the significance of the title, the importance that poetry plays in his novel and of course, a brief introduction to the characters.

So Shelly. So Shocking! 
About the book:
So Shelly is the story of three friends, all modern-day high school students, whose lives and personalities are based upon those of the second generation of English Romantic poets:

George Gordon (Lord Byron); Percy Bysshe Shelley; and John Keats.

After Shelly dies in what’s ruled a “sailing accident,” the other two steal the urn containing her ashes from her wake and attempt to fulfill her final wish to have them scattered on the very beach where her body washed ashore.

In the process of completing their quest, Keats, as narrator, reveals the story of the trinity’s pasts, together and apart.

The inspiration behind the title:
The title for the novel emerged over years of discussing the life and poetry of Percy Bysshe Shelley in my senior English classes, where I often found myself referring to his romantic philosophies and naïve, Pollyanna-like endeavors as being “So Shelley” – as in “It’s so Shelley to think that he could change the world through poetry.”

From there, the idea of a tragic novel about a similar-minded, modern-day, teenage romantic was spawned. I then incorporated the two most famous members of Percy Shelley’s literary circle, Lord Byron and John Keats, as additional characters, and the novel was born.

Romanticism is, in general, a world view for young people; therefore, the subject matter was a natural fit for a young adult novel. Wanting a female protagonist, I converted the title character to a girl and changed the spelling to “Shelly.”

To be honest, I half-expected the publisher to change the title, but I think they recognized something unique and attention-getting about it that effectively complements the story.

The characters:
Although the Percy Bysshe Shelley character is named in the title, as happened in real life, she is largely overshadowed by the scandalous exploits of and the force of personality that is the Lord Byron character (named Gordon Byron in the novel).

John Keats, as narrator, often sinks into the background of the story from where he is better positioned to observe and report. A challenge for readers of So Shelly is the essentially flawed nature of each of the main characters.

To a large extent, modern readers expect to fall in love with at least the protagonists in the novels they read.

In my novel, however, (largely due to my attempt to adhere as much as possible to the actual personalities of the prototypical characters), Shelly, Byron, and Keats can be more-than-a-little off-putting.

Byron is narcissistic, Shelly can be abrasive, and Keats is typically aloof; therefore, they can be difficult to “warm up to.”

The poetry:
Divided into three sections, each of which begins with a poem or an excerpt from a poem from one of the three Romantics, So Shelly attempts to do for high school literary magazines what Glee has done for high school glee clubs.

Shelly, Gordon, and Keats each are members of Trinity High School’s literary magazine’s staff, and each contributes pieces for publication.

However, largely due to poetry’s sadly underappreciated status in contemporary society, I chose to utilize the narrative aspect of some of the actual poets’ work, especially concerning Byron and Shelley, and have them primarily produce pieces of prose fiction.

If nothing else, So Shelly, forges out a unique space in today’s world of YA literature. Called “lurid yet literary” by Kirkus Reviews, it pushes the edges of typical young adult fare with its inclusion of a number of unsettling realities drawn from the poets’ lives, its frank treatment of a variety of adult themes, its use of challenging vocabulary and figurative language, and its many layers of interpretive meaning.

The giveaway:

One lucky winner stands the chance to win a pre-ordered copy of So  Shelly. The book is set to be published in February this year, so the wait won’t really be all that long.

All you need to do is to simply enter your details here and tell me why you are looking forward to reading So Shelly!

Rules:
- You must be older than 13 in order to enter this giveaway
- Giveaway is open to any country that the Book Depository ships to.
- Being a follower of this blog is NOT required.
 
Special thanks to Ty for taking time out of his busy schedule to do this guest post. I don’t know about you, but I am certainly looking forward to reading So Shelly!

To find out more about the author, you can visit his website here and follow him on twitter here.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Book review: Shadows

Shadows
Dark, twisted and creepy, Shadows will take you out of your comfort zone and keep you glued to the pages of the book, regardless of whether or not you want to.

Shadows by Joan De La Haye
After losing her father to suicide, Sarah finds herself on the brink of losing her sanity. Haunted by the ghosts of her family's pasts, she finds herself in a new kind of hell when she starts experiencing a series of graphic, violent and bloody hallucinations.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, the hallucinations also bring about a new form of torment in the form of a demon that refuses to leave her side.
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When seeking help from her psychiatrist friend Michael Brink doesn't quite work out and invariably leads her to stabbing her cheating rat of a boyfriend, a catatonic Sarah is institutionalised and forced to confront and deal with the horrible truth about her father's death.

Of course, Jack, the demon responsible for both her father's suicide and her bloody hallucinations uses this to his advantage as he continues to make it his business to torment the living daylights out of her.

Unfortunately for him, he doesn't count on the fact that, unlike her father, Sarah simply refuses to kill herself.

Still, finding her way out of the darkness is no easy feat - and in her struggle to hold on to both her life and her sanity, Sarah makes a few startling discoveries that alters her life completely.

My thoughts:
Ok, before I start with this review I’m going to come out and straight up admit the following: I am not a big fan of horror.

Blood and violence is not something that necessarily frightens me, but add the gore and creep factor and this book wimp runs to the opposite end of the genre spectrum.

Nevertheless, when I posted a tweet about looking for books that would take me out of my comfort zone, Joan de La Haye, author of Shadows, offered to send me a copy of her book. No one was more surprised than me when I actually said yes.

And no one was also more surprised than me when I actually ended up actually really enjoying this book.

For me, the mark of a really good read (regardless of genre) is when you find yourself continuing a story even though the characters don’t endear themselves to you.

The characters that Joan creates are probably amongst the most disturbed characters I’ve ever been introduced to.  They range between being clingy and needy to being downright warped, ruthless and vengeful.

And I’m not even talking about the demon (oh, we’ll get to him later, don’t you worry). 

We meet Sarah when she’s at her most fragile. She’s just lost her father and is in desperate need of any kind of distraction that will help lessen the pain. Naturally she turns to her boyfriend Kevin, who as she soon discovers, is far from being someone who is worth her time or attention.

What’s interesting about this is that his story forms another interesting part of the novel which introduces his sister Carol and his lover Denise (who also happens to be involved with Carol).

These characters are broken, twisted and damaged characters who are haunted by shadows of their pasts, misguided grievances and are poisoned by hate.

These are also characters that are altogether unlikeable.

As the story progresses, a shocking and incestuous plot unfolds that quickly spirals out of control and leads to events that no one could have predicted.

The presence of the demon Jack, was definitely the focus and highlight of the story for me. He is the character born out of the deepest and darkest nightmare realm and the one you wouldn’t wish upon your family, friends or your enemies.

The book cover, although not a favourite with me, is certainly an accurate portrayal of the dark, demented, cruel and taunting demon who haunts Sarah day and night, and the things he does is nothing short of bloody, violent and horrific.

Yet, for all of this, at some point, in spite of what he does, you as a reader can’t help but warm to his character.

I know. I know.

Is it even possible to change your mind about an evil creature who has done nothing but inflicted physical and psychological damage on an already fragile person’s mind?  

It is with this book.

For all the stark, crispness of her writing, Joan de la Haye manages to make you believe that the demon in some ways has more redemptive qualities than the humans in this story.

The development in Jack’s character is definitely something unexpected and leaves you questioning who the real villains are in this story.

Joan has created a character who is definitely no hero, but who makes you see beyond black and white and reflect on just how cruel humans can be to one another. To sum it up in a quote, here’s what Jack has to say:

“What?” he asked. “Demons have feelings too, you know. Besides, I didn’t do that to her.  You humans cause each other far more pain than I, or any of my kind, could ever hope to. It makes you all the more interesting and so easily corruptible.”

And this is what made the novel worth the read for me. This book wasn’t simply just a darkly, entertaining horror read.

It was more than that. It was a story written with substance and profound insight into the darker nature of the human psyche.

The ending of the book? Will no doubt leave you satisfied, and will surely make you shudder at just how badly we as humans often treat each other. If Joan keeps writing these kind of books, well, then it would be safe to say that she has just convinced me to branch out a little more into this genre.

If you’re a fan of horror with substance, then I’d definitely recommend Shadows. It has the creep and gore factor, twisted characters and is fully immersed in darkness. All the right kind of ingredients for a horror read if you ask me. 

Plus, you have to meet Jack. You’ll like him. I promise.

It’s not an easy read, nor do I think it is meant to be, which is why the book is all the more worth reading. And did I mention that you get to meet Jack?

Made you curious, didn’t I?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

In my mailbox (18)

IMM is a weekly meme hosted by the lovely Kristi from The Story Siren.

So this is my first IMM of the year and it starts off with quite a bang. The books I bought and received are not necessarily new ones, but they are books that I’ve wanted for a while now.

Here’s what I received


Warm Bodies
by Isaac Marion

I'm not too big on Zombie stories, but I have heard some seriously awesome things about this book and the premise of the novel sounds incredibly intriguing. I get the feeling that this is one of those books that is going to end up surprising me - in the best way possible.

 

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

 I know, I know. I'm sure almost everyone has read this book by now already, yet somehow I'm only getting around to this now. I think this is one of the most beaufifully packaged books I've ever come across to date. I love the bound journal format and also love the fact that the font is blue. Can't wait to sink my teeth into this one.
 
Linger by Maggie Stiefvater
Yes, I caved and decided to buy this book. Have heard and read mixed reviews about the book, but already read Shiver so would really love to see what happens next. Besides, I loved Shiver so I can't not give  this a chance. It would be a different matter had I hated the first book from the word go!
Frostbite by Richelle Mead
 Yes, I am probably one of the last remaining people who has only jumped on the Vampire Academy bandwagon now – oh well, rather too late than never is my motto. I have yet to start Vampire Academy, but decided to by the second one in the series too so that I can jump straight into this one as soon as I'm done with VA.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

This one is not a YA fic, but I’ve been itching to read this one because I simply love the idea behind this novel. Also, there's going to be a movie adaptation of this book, so I really want to read this before the movie comes out. Also, the title of the book really grabbed me from the start. I've got high hopes for this one!  

Wings by Aprilynne Pike
I know, I know... for someone who proclaims to be an ardent lover of fairies, it sure took me some time to get around to this one, didn’t it? 



The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Again, another book I finally managed to get around to buying. Mind you, I’m kind of glad I waited for this one because I don’t have to suffer through an agonising wait for the next books like many of you probably had to. *is not being smug at all, promise... ok, maybe just a little bit :)*

And that’s it from me for this week’s IMM box. What’s in your IMM this week? I’d love to know.