Sunday, July 31, 2011

In my mailbox (20)

IMM is a weekly meme hosted by the lovely Kristi from The Story Siren. In this meme, we highlight books we received, bought or took out from the library.

Haven't done one in ages, so I've built up quite a backlog of reads that I've recently received. Here are the most recently received (and bought) reads that I'm really looking forward to reading next.




Tiger's Curse by Colleen Houck

I've heard some incredible things about this book and first fell in love with the book when I stumbled across the trailer. The premise sounds so incredibly different and I love the cover. Can't wait to start reading this one.


 



Tiger's Quest by Colleen Houck

This is the second book in the series. Again, looks awesome, has an awesome cover and the world sounds like a world worth diving into. I think I'm pretty sure that I'll be starting these books next.

 



 
Forgotten by Cat Patrick
Have had my eye on this book ever since I first saw it on goodreads. Love the premise and the rave reviews this one has been receiving has only further convinced me that I need to read this ASAP.

 


 
 Nightshade by Andrea Cremer
Ah yes, I'm probably one of the last remaining few that hasn't read Nightshade yet, but must admit that I'm kind of glad I waited this long. With Wolfsbane out, it means I don't have to wait for the next instalment in the Nightshade saga.




 

 Low Red Moon by Ivy Devlin

Another book that I've been dying to read for quite some time. Bought it not too long ago, but have yet to start reading it.
 
I must confess that I haven't read all that many werewolf books, so this was a major motivating factor when I decided to get myself a copy of this book.

 

I Heart You, You Haunt me

I'm very excited about reading this one. I haven't read a novel in verse form yet (yes, which means I've yet to read all of Ellen Hopkins's books) and have heard some great things about Lisa Schroeder.  

Also, I saw the trailer a couple of years back and fell in love with it (along with the title) back then, but kept on stalling for some or other reason.

Glad I got a copy now though as I took a sneak peak and what I've read so far, well, you can call it instant book love. Definitely looking forward to reading the rest.

What's in your IMM this week. Feel free to share your links below.

Author interview: Alyson Noel

I'm so excited for today's post. It's not every day one gets to interview a best-selling author of one of the most popular YA book series out there to date.

I'm sure many of you must have been following the recent blog tour stops that Alyson has been featuring on, but for those of you who haven't - well, I've been fortunate enough to get the opportunity to interview her.

Also, for those of you who are huge fans - watch out for a special giveaway which will be hosted by the lovely Kelly & Tarryn from It's a book thing blog. Kelly's been wonderful enough to send me some Immortals swag (2 t-shirts, bookmarks and Evermore book samples), so please make sure you head on over to her blog and look out for that giveaway (Don't worry, I'll be sure to post about the giveaway as soon as it's gone up on their blog).

In the meantime, here's the interview as promised:

Hi Alyson

Thanks for joining me and for taking the time out to answer some of my questions.
1. Everlasting is the sixth and final instalment in the Immortal series.

What were the most predominant thoughts and feelings that went through your mind when you wrote the very last word?


Writing the final scene in Everlasting was emotional in a way I didn’t expect.

I’d spent so much time with these characters over the last few years that they became very real to me, so the realization that our time together had come to an end was very bittersweet.

Though I’ve enjoyed watching Ever grow from a grief-stricken, insecure young girl into a confident young woman ready to embrace the destiny she was born for.

2. Did you know from the onset that there would be six books in the series?

When I was writing Evermore, I was so immersed in that particular story that I didn’t see it as the start of a series.

It was only when I’d reached the end that I realized it was really just the beginning, and I was about a third of the way through Blue Moon when I knew exactly how the series would end.

3. How did the writing experience differ for each book and which storyline did you find, was the most challenging to write?

Each book presented it’s own set of challenges, but Everlasting was probably the most challenging of all. Every event in the previous five books happened for a reason, nothing was random, it was all leading to the finale, and so the challenge was to make sure that all those events were addressed.

And though I’d kept notes along the way, I still did a quick read of the prior books just to make sure I got everything. That said, Everlasting was also the most fun to write, as I finally got to give Ever the ending she’d earned.

4. Ever and Damen have been on an emotionally and physically intense journey throughout the entire series. Can you give readers a little insight into what we can expect in Everlasting?

In an attempt to avoid spoilers, I’ll just say that in Everlasting, Ever not only learns the true origins of her relationship with Damen, but she also faces her biggest challenge yet—one that will put everything she knows and loves—including her future with Damen—at risk…

5. How do you feel now that Ever and Damen's story has come to an end?

I miss the characters, I miss their world—especially Summerland!—but I feel really good about the way it all came together in the end.

6. I've always thought that Ever is such an unusual name for a character.  Is there a story behind why and how you chose her name?

I love unusual names and I’ve been collecting them for years in a file called: The Unusual Names File, which is neither unusual nor original!

So each time I start a new book, I flip through the file in search of ones that will fit my new cast of characters, and while I don’t remember where I first heard the name Ever, I do know that it had been in the file for a while and I was thrilled to finally have the chance to use it.

7. For me, Damen is certainly one of fiction's most swoon-worthy crushes. Can you share some of your book character crushes with us?

Oh, I have a lot of old school literary crushes, namely Darcy from Pride and Prejudice, Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights, and Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre!

8. I was very excited to hear that The Immortal series has been optioned for film. If you could cast any roles for the characters of Ever and Damen, who would it be and why?

I’m just terrible at this question—I have no idea who I’d cast! I guess because I can see the characters so clearly in my head it makes it difficult for me to replace them with real people.

Though, if they need me to sit in on the casting call for Damen, Roman, and Jude, I would definitely clear my schedule to be there!

9. Over the last few weeks there has been raging debate about YA fiction becoming too dark. Foxnews.com has even condemned some YA fiction for romanticizing domestic violence. What are your thoughts on this?

I think the books we read tend to mirror the times that we’re in, and there’s no doubt that we’re living in some very dark times of war, financial crises, and increasing violence.

As one who went through a very difficult adolescence, I can honestly say that these so called “dark books” were a beacon of light for me.

Not only did they make me feel less alone in my struggles, they also provided me with the hope that things would one day get better. Banning books that deal with heavier subject matter only serves to keep them from the kids who need them the most.

10. There have been some great YA fiction that have been emerging throughout the years. What are some of your favourite books that you've read over the last couple of years?

I have so many favorites—it’s a great time to be a reader of YA!—a few I read this year were: Cryer’s Cross by Lisa McMann, Forgive my Fins by Tera Lynn Childs, and The Hunt by Andrew Fukuda, which will be out this fall.

11. What can readers expect from you in 2012? Are you working on any new books at the moment?

The Riley Bloom series—a spin-off of The Immortals series—will continue with Radiance, Shimmer, Dreamland, Whisper, and more.

And I’m currently working on a new paranormal YA series, Soul Seekers, set for a simultaneous debut in the US and UK in spring/summer 2012!

You can follow Alyson on Twitter: here
Visit her website: here
Follow her blog: here

Everlasting is available now. You can click here to buy your copy.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: Daughter of Smoke and Bone

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 choice is Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor.

Let me start off by saying that I'm so incredibly jealous of everyone who has early reading copies of this book.  I've heard some pretty awesome things about this book and about Laini's gorgeous writing, and definitely want to read this.

The premise sounds fantastic, the description was enough to reel me in completely and I'm loving the cover as well.

Here's a brief description from Goodreads: 

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.
And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly war.

Meet Karou.

She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages—not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color.

Who is she?
 
That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.

When one of the strangers—beautiful, haunted Akiva—fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

That's it from me for this week. What's on your WoW list this week? Feel free to share below.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Book talk: My favourite book quotes

Part of the reason I love reading so much (besides the fabulous characters, wonderful book worlds and intricate plots), is simply for the beautiful thoughts contained in the book through the author's beautiful writing. 

Let's face it, writers aren't just writers because they can write - they're writers because they interweave, intertwine and thread new ideas and thoughts into their writing in ways that leave readers breathless with wonder

Naturally, over the past couple of years, there have been some fabulous passages from books that have stayed with me and still have me going back to rehash, relive and re-experience them in all of its beautifully phrased splendour.

Here are a few of my favourite book quotes: 

1.  "Life's a freaking mess. In fact, I'm going to tell Sarah we need to start a new philosophical movement: messessentialism instead of existentialism: For those who revel in the essential mess that is life.

"Because Gram's right, there's not one truth ever, just a bunch of stories, all going on at once, in our heads, in our hearts, all getting in the way of each other.

"It's all a beautiful calamitous mess.

"It's like the day Mr. James took us into the woods and cried triumphantly, "That's it! That's it!" to the dizzying cacophony of soloing instruments trying to make music together. That is it."  — Jandy Nelson (The Sky Is Everywhere)

You can read my review here. 

2. "Each of us is born with a box of matches inside us but we can't strike them all by ourselves; just as in the experiment, we need oxygen and a candle to help. 

"In this case, the oxygen, for example, would come from the breath of the person you love; the candle could be any kind of food, music, caress, word, or sound that engenders the explosion that lights one of the matches." — Laura Esquivel (Like Water for Chocolate)

I've reviewed this on the blog too.
You can check it out here.

3. "I keep thinking about this river somewhere, with the water moving really fast. And these two people in the water, trying to hold onto each other, holding on as hard as they can, but in the end it's just too much.

"The current's too strong. They've got to let go, drift apart.

"That's how it is with us. It's a shame, Kath, because we've loved each other all our lives. But in the end, we can't stay together forever."— Kazuo Ishiguro (Never Let Me Go)

Review can be found here. 
 
4.  "Write to me Emmi. Writing is like kissing, but without lips. Writing is Kissing with the mind".  ."— Daniel Glattauer (Love Virtually)

Check out my review here.

5.  "You know not, yet, the sort of love that strikes like a lightning bolt; that clutches hold of you by the heart, as irrevocably as death; that becomes the lodestar by which you steer the rest of your life.

"I would not wish such a love on anyone, man or woman, for it can make your life a paradise, or it can destroy you utterly." — Juliet Marillier (Daughter of the Forest)

Yep, I've reviewed this gorgeous, magical fantasy tale over here too.

6. "My name is Eva, which means 'life,' according to a book of names my mother consulted.

"I was born in the back room of a shadowy house, and grew up amidst ancient furniture, books in Latin, and human mummies, but none of those things made me melancholy, because I came into the world with a breath of the jungle in my memory." — Isabel Allende (Eva Luna)

I read this book years ago, but am planning to read it again and will probably review it at some stage. I've always been a huge fan of Isabel Allende and Eva Luna is certainly one of my favourite reads.  

7. "Live each day as if it's your last', that was the conventional advice, but really, who had the energy for that?

"What if it rained or you felt a bit glandy? It just wasn't practical. Better by far to simply try and be good and courageous 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." — David Nicholls (One Day)
 
Another one of my favourites, I reviewed this one quite some time back. Definitely looking forward to watching the movie, which is coming out this August  (I think) and stars Anne Hathaway.

8. "Allure goes beyond appearances to the way they grace the world. Some women propel themselves by means of an internal gyroscope.

"Others glide through life as if on ice skates. Some women convey their tortured lives through their eyes; others encircle you in the music of their laughter."  — Keith Donohue (The Stolen Child)

Another one of my favourites which I'm planning on re-reading and reviewing.

9.  "Although you may not stumble across a Martian in the garden, you might stumble across yourself. The day that happens, you'll probably also scream a little. And that'll be perfectly all right, because it's not every day you realize you're a living planet dweller on a little island in the universe." — Jostein Gaarder (The Solitaire Mystery)

Jostein Gaarder is one of my favourite authors. His writing is beautiful, philosophical and never fails to make me think. The Solitaire Mystery? It's one of my favourite reads of all time.

10. "We believe in ordinary acts of bravery, in the courage that drives one person to stand up for another." — Veronica Roth (Divergent)

One of my recent favourite reads, Divergent is one of those books that I can't even begin to stop praising.

I've reviewed the book not too long ago, but I don't think that my review is worthy of capturing just how spectacular this book is.

 Anyway, that's it from me.

Have any favourite quotes to share? I'd love to hear them - after all, what better way to discover a new, intriguing book through a wonderful passage that captured your imagination....

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Book review: The Chosen One

The Chosen One
What do you do when you're forced to make the one decision that could cost you everything that you've ever known and loved?

The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams (St. Martin's Griffin)
Kyra is a 13-year old teen living in an isolated and polygamous community. 

In all the time that she's been living in the enclosed district, she's never thought much about the fact that her father has three wives, or that she has twenty brothers and sisters.

She's grown up adhering to every rule that the Prophet (the leader of the community) has imposed on them and has learnt never to ask any questions or challenge the community about the iron-fisted manner with which it is governed.

... at least not until she discovers the wonderful world of books that are forbidden to her community.

And when she starts developing feelings for boy within the community, a boy she meets in secret and hopes to choose for her own by own free will one day, Kyra knows that it's only a matter of time before her luck runs out and both secrets are discovered.

When the Prophet pays her family a visit and decrees that Kyra has been selected to become the seventh wife of her cruel, sixty-year old uncle, suddenly her secrets don't seem half as important as the decision that she may be forced to make - a decision that could mean her freedom, but could also mean losing everything she's always held dear. 

Review:
I'm not entirely sure where to begin with a novel that I've put off reviewing for so long. For one, the content of the book is rather harrowing, and the fact that the protagonist of this book is merely 13-years old, certainly got to me more than I expected it would.

The subject of polygamy; polygamy cults exploiting women and children in particular, is something that certainly doesn't make for easy or very light reading.

As someone who doesn't necessarily consider herself to be an ardent feminist, having to read about how Kyra and the women in this community were treated, definitely brought out varying degrees of emotions that ranged from blistering rage and heartbreak, to complete and utter despair.

I think if I had to start somewhere, the best place I would start, is by saying that this book is an acquired read.

I, for one, certainly had trouble connecting with the story at first. The writing is stark, simplistic and accurately reflects the bleak settings described in the novel.

It's also writing that won't necessary appeal to fans of lyrical prose, which is why it took some time for me to get used to it.

I first thought Kyra's voice sounded rather stilted and had trouble connecting to her character and plight.

After reading so many YA novels with characters that are much older than Kyra - it took me a while to realise that, actually, Carol actually does a fantastic job capturing the voice of a 13-year old without it coming off as being pretentious. Kyra is an incredibly brave heroine.

Trapped in an environment not of her choosing, we bare witness as she comes to the realisation that living in such a stifling community, despite the fact that she's with her family, is not all that it's being made out to be. 

Her voice is young, curious and strong - and watching her come unto her own, developing her own voice in spite of all her fears, and being brave enough to try and pursue what she wants, knowing what she could lose - endeared her to me on a very deep level.

We as readers get to witness her falling in love for the first time and have to suffer through the pains she has to endure trying to hide her blossoming feelings for Joshua, the boy in the community she lives within.

The religious leaders in the community don't make this any easier for her, and even though her loving family do all they can to help, at the end of the day, the Prophet's word is law. 

This aspect of the novel is another aspect that I found disturbing and drives home the fact that there are so many people out there who use religion as a tool to justify their own perverted and twisted reasoning behind doing what they do.

The leaders are cruel, especially Kyra's Uncle, who firmly believes in beating women into submission and there is one scene in particular which left me reeling with the utter cruelty of the action.

Reading books like these are not very easy, and even though it's only 213 pages long, this novel has so many layers to it, that trying to highlight one is a difficult feat because each new point, brings up another. 

What I can say though, is that this is not only a book that will take you out of your comfort zone and leave you reeling with the sheer force of all that unfolds in the novel, but it's also a novel that is hopeful in the midst of the darkness that Kyra is forced to endure.

It's a novel about not only overcoming fear but about being brave enough to take the risk in making a decision that could lead you to unknown paths, even if it means leaving behind everything you've ever known.

Most of all, it's a novel that will stay with you for a good couple of days after you've read it.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: Darker Still and Arcadia Awakens

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.

First up is:
Darker Still by Leanna Renee Hieber

Why the book lust?

The blurb describes it as The Picture of Dorian Gray meets Pride and Prejudice. Um, yes please. I've always been a fascinated with the concept of The Picture of Dorian Gray and reading the book description has definitely piqued my interest. I'd be interested to see how this novel pans out.  Plus, have you seen the magnificent book cover?

Am definitely in cover and book love.

More about the book

Summary:
New York City, 1880. Seventeen-year-old Natalie Stewart's latest obsession is a painting of the handsome British Lord Denbury.

Something in his striking blue eyes calls to her.

As his incredibly life-like gaze seems to follow her, Natalie gets the uneasy feeling that details of the painting keep changing...

Jonathan Denbury's soul is trapped in the gilded painting by dark magic while his possessed body commits unspeakable crimes in the city slums. 

He must lure Natalie into the painting, for only together can they reverse the curse and free his damaged soul.

Publishing date: November 1, 2011 by Sourcebooks Fire  (I know, still a long wait for this one)

My next pick is:
Arcadia Awakens by Kai Meyer

Why the book lust?
Actually, the summary and the exotic cover speaks for itself, so I'm just going to shut up and let the book do the talking, even though it must be said that I really, really can't wait to read this - it sounds so intriguingly different, don't you think?

More about the book

Summary:
To Rosa Alcantara, the exotic world of Sicily, with its network of Mafia families and its reputation for murder and intrigue, is just that—exotic and wholly unknown.

But when her life in Brooklyn begins to fall apart, she must travel there, to her family’s ancestral home, where centuries of family secrets await her.

Once there, Rosa falls head over heels for Alessandro Carnevare, the son of a Sicilian Mafia family, whose handsome looks and savage grace both fascinate and unsettle her.

But their families are sworn enemies, and her aunt and sister believe Alessandro is only using Rosa to infiltrate the Alcantara clan.

And when Rosa encounters a tiger one night—a tiger with very familiar eyes—she can no longer deny that neither the Carnevares nor the Alcantaras are what they seem.

Hidden caves, dangerous beasts roaming the hills, and a history of familial bloodlust mean that Rosa can’t trust anyone.

Torn between loyalty to her family and love for their mortal enemy, Rosa must make the hardest decision of her life: stay in Sicily with her new love…or run as far and as fast as she can.

Publishing date: Apparently this book was first published back in November 2009, but is set to be released in February, 14 2012 by Balzer + Bray.

That's me for this week. What books are you looking forward to? Feel free to share below.


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Book review: Divergent

Divergent
A nail-biting,  (well-deserved) best-selling dystopian fiction novel that will leave you teetering on the edge of your sanity; leaving you breathless with the sheer force of wonderful character development, fantastic world-building and its intense and highly original storyline.

Note: A shortened version of this review appears on women24.com,  the link of which appears here.

Divergent by Veronica Roth (HarperCollins)

In the aftermath of war, the dystopian world that Beatrice Prior lives in has been divided into 5 different factions;  each faction  created with the sole purpose to promote and cultivate a harmonious society in a world previously ravaged by war.

The factions have been divided into the following groups:
- Candor - for those who value honesty
- Abnegation - for those that dedicate themselves to living selfless lives

- Dauntless - the brave and unflinching
- Amity - the peaceful
- Erudite - those in constant pursuit of knowledge

Every year, all 16-year olds members must undergo aptitude tests and select the faction which they'll join and dedicate the rest of the lives to. For 16-year old Abnegation member, Beatrice, the decision is a hard one. 

Born into Abnegation, she'll have to decide whether staying with her family is what she wants or whether she wants to stay true to herself by choosing the group that most reflects the person that she is.

Unfortunately she ultimately cannot have both - and makes a choice that astonishes everyone, including herself. But, making the choice, although a hard one, is only the beginning, because what follows next is an intensive, brutal and highly competitive initiation rite, and not everyone who goes through the gruelling tests will necessarily make it.

Changing her name from Beatrice to Tris, she, along with her fellow initiates have to undergo extreme tests of physical endurance, psychological simulations and learn to harness her newfound skills in the most trying of circumstances.

As the initiation shapes and changes her and those around her's lives, Tris has to decide who she can trust and whether or not she can trust those with the dangerous secret that she's harbouring.

Between life and death situations, a burgeoning romance with an enigmatic boy and the growing discovery that all is not well in the perfectly created faction-based world, she'll have to rely on all her wits and the very dangerous secret that may just be what is needed to save them all.

Let me start off by saying that this book is, hands-down, the best book I've read this year and the best dystopian fiction novel I've read to date.

It's currently  sitting on the New York Bestselling Times list and deserves every accolade that it has been receiving so far (And to think the Veronica Roth, author of Divergent is only 22 years old).

The concept is sheer genius and the world that Roth has created is utterly captivating for all (and in all) of its bleak, grey and desolate exterior. The direct contrast between the dystopian settings and the lively, intense, engaging and unapologetically alive characters will bring you to your knees with the sheer force of the entire book in all of its divergent splendour.

The characters are blisteringly superb and Tris, as a protagonist, is just absolutely phenomenal.

I've read a good amount of books where I've seen some fantastic character development, but never on the level that I've experienced with Tris. It's an absolute joy watching her grow from being the selfless, timid and reserved girl to the strong girl with an inner core of strength that not even she knew she had.

Her character development is realistic, real, compelling to watch and utterly believable and being witness to her ever-changing interactions with the secondary characters, including the antagonists, will keep you glued to the pages.

Speaking of which, if you think that Tris is a phenomenal character, then you'll be in for a fantastic surprise when you discover just how well-developed and engaging the rest of the cast in Divergent are.

Veronica has created an interesting dynamic between the characters who come from different factions and who clash over their different belief systems. It's a dynamic that accurately reflects the real disparity between people who come from different backgrounds in our world today, and because of this, makes the book even more relatable for the reader.

And of course, this review wouldn't be complete if I didn't mention the romance factor. I think I may just have a new fiction crush. The romance between Tris and Four ( I can't say more about his important role) is absorbing, thrilling and has a sizzle factor of about a hundred.

Four is incredibly intriguing and such a contrast unto himself. He's ruthless, but kind. Unapologetic but fiercely protective and above all else, flawed but alluring. I loved that the relationship between Tris and Four unravelled gradually and experiencing the build-up of romantic tension between them certainly made for a page-turning and crackling read.

The book is also filled with a labyrinth of unexpected twists and turns and will force you to sit up, drop every other book you're reading just so that you can finish this. I don't want to reveal any more for fear of spoiling it for you, but if there's one book you should read this year, make sure it's this one.

This book has the perfect combination of excellent storytelling, character development and sizzling romance.

It's about being brave and learning to jump without any predefined knowledge of what may happen when you do, or knowing that there is a safety net to catch you. Mostly, it's about the choices you make and how it transforms you, regardless of whether the choice was the right or wrong one.

 Even if you're not a fan of dystopian fiction, you will love this book. It's one of my favourite reads of 2011 so far. I highly, highly, highly recommend it.