October 30, 2011

In My Mailbox (34)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren. It is designed to put new books on people's radars, and encourage blogger interaction.

Here's what I received during the past week:


Technically I really shouldn't be buying books, but I couldn't resist this set when I saw it at Costco for $22.99



Free from YA Trick-or-Treat:

For Review:

**All book links lead to Goodreads

October 29, 2011

The Pledge by Kimberly Derting

Release Date: November 15, 2011
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry
Pages: 320
Series: The Pledge
Review Source: Galleygrab

Synopsis: (from Goodreads)
In the violent country of Ludania, the classes are strictly divided by the language they speak. The smallest transgression, like looking a member of a higher class in the eye while they are speaking their native tongue, results in immediate execution. Seventeen-year-old Charlaina has always been able to understand the languages of all classes, and she's spent her life trying to hide her secret. The only place she can really be free is the drug-fueled underground clubs where people go to shake off the oppressive rules of the world they live in. It's there that she meets a beautiful and mysterious boy named Max who speaks a language she's never heard before . . . and her secret is almost exposed.

Charlie is intensely attracted to Max, even though she can't be sure where his real loyalties lie. As the emergency drills give way to real crisis and the violence escalates, it becomes clear that Charlie is the key to something much bigger: her country's only chance for freedom from the terrible power of a deadly regime.

My Thoughts:
'The Pledge' is a fantasy dystopian novel which has an extremely interesting premise. To stratify a society by language is ingenious, and I really enjoyed that aspect of the book. As usual Kimberly Derting is a great writer, especially with showing multiple POVs, but I think everything that happened in this book was a little too much. What I mean is that the story itself was great, but it was almost too ambitious for one volume, or at least it could have been longer. Things happen at a breakneck pace, which is exciting, but it leaves little room for the smaller details that make you fall in love with characters. As a result I didn’t feel like I knew Charlie, the main character, that well. Nor do we get to understand the love interest, Max, or his motivations for protecting Charlie.

Normally I can devour a book within 1 - 2 days, but I kept putting this one off. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy it overall, but it just didn’t draw me in enough to bother finding out what happened. I actually picked up another book and read it in between finishing ‘The Pledge’, which I pretty much never do. I adore Kimberly Derting’s ‘Body Finder’ books, but I think that they’re much stronger because of the connections the reader gets with the characters. ‘The Pledge’ has so much promise, but it failed to captivate me the way Derting’s writing usually does. In the end I definitely think this one is worth reading, and I’m sure others will love it much more than I did. I just wish the characters were more developed and that smaller details could have come through and made the story come alive for me.

The Cover:
Not really feeling it, but I bet it's nicer in person.


Find The Pledge by Kimberly Derting on Goodreads, Book Depository, & Amazon.

October 27, 2011

Prized by Caragh M. O’Brien

Release Date: November 8, 2011
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Pages: 368
Series: Birthmarked #2
Review Source: Netgalley

Synopsis: (from Goodreads)
Striking out into the wasteland with nothing but her baby sister, a handful of supplies, and a rumor to guide her, sixteen-year-old midwife Gaia Stone survives only to be captured by the people of Sylum, a dystopian society where women rule the men who drastically outnumber them, and a kiss is a crime. In order to see her sister again, Gaia must submit to their strict social code, but how can she deny her sense of justice, her curiosity, and everything in her heart that makes her whole?

My Thoughts:
The first notes I wrote about this book are as follows: “Some of the things in this book drove me crazy, but overall I liked it even better than 'Birthmarked'. Seriously good!” And really that describes my feelings pretty well.

What’s interesting about this book is that it takes place in an entirely different community than the one in ‘Birthmarked.’ Gaia finds herself stuck in a place that is eerily insular and has a completely different power structure than the one in Enclave. It’s also interesting because there’s nothing inherently evil about how things are run in Sylum, this new community, yet as readers we see the balance of power and the strict rules as wrong for their excessive nature and their strictness.

I love how strong Gaia becomes in this book in a lot of ways, but I also thought her romantic and personal decisions left a lot to be desired. For some reason there are three guys (including two brothers) who are vying for Gaia’s attention in this volume, and it got to be a little much. I guess I can understand the males of Sylum being attracted to Gaia because she’s so different from the rest of the community, but what bothered me the most is that Gaia acted pretty enamoured with all her male choices. It seemed a little forced that she acted as if she liked all of them, since to me it was pretty clear who she had true feelings for.

For the most part, though, this is a great read. The best part about ‘Prized’ is that it could almost be a standalone book. Even though Gaia’s story continues on from the first book and it comes back around to the Enclave in a roundabout way, ‘Prized’ tells its own individual story. It doesn’t suffer from 2nd book syndrome where nothing happens and the story is dragged out in order for the trilogy to be complete. If anything, ‘Prized’ is even more exciting and dynamic than ‘Birthmarked’. This is a series that definitely deserves more attention for its quiet dystopian nature where the structure of society must be changed through internal forces rather than outside rebellion.

The Cover:
Really pretty, I like it.


Find Prized by Caragh M. O’Brien on Goodreads, Book Depository, & Amazon.

October 24, 2011

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Release Date: May 3, 2011
Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books
Pages: 489
Series: Divergent #1
Review Source: Won

Synopsis: (from Goodreads)
Beatrice "Tris" Prior has reached the fateful age of sixteen, the stage at which teenagers in Veronica Roth's dystopian Chicago must select which of five factions to join for life. Each faction represents a virtue: Candor, Abnegation, Dauntless, Amity, and Erudite. To the surprise of herself and her selfless Abnegation family, she chooses Dauntless, the path of courage. Her choice exposes her to the demanding, violent initiation rites of this group, but it also threatens to expose a personal secret that could place in mortal danger. Veronica Roth's young adult Divergent trilogy launches with a captivating adventure about love and loyalty playing out under most extreme circumstances.

My Thoughts:
I've been a big fan of this book ever since it released, but I never posted my review here because of the huge amounts of reviews that were flooding in during May and June. But now I figured it was about time for me to squee about 'Divergent':

When I finished this book I literally said “Holy crap.” It was just so GOOD. What the book contains isn’t necessarily all unique, but it sure is amazingly executed. Veronica Roth’s writing is so powerful. It’s a pretty simple story, but with enough descriptions to keep things interesting.

I love the different factions and how they’re divided by personality. I love how action-packed the book is: all the Dauntless training exercises were incredibly interesting.

The main character of this book, Tris, is fabulous. She is so brave and selfless. She is strong because of her ability to be brave. Four is such a lovely character as well. His “mystery” background was pretty easy to figure out, but it was still interesting to see it play out. Plus his nickname becomes way less lame once you figure out what it stands for.

This book has scenes that will keep you on the edge of your seat, a slow-building romance, friendship, and cruelty. There is so much of everything, yet never enough. ‘Divergent’ is a decent length, but it will keep you reading and reading and wanting more. Definitely one of the best books I’ve read this year!

The Cover:
Love it!


Find Divergent by Veronica Roth on Goodreads, Book Depository, & Amazon.

October 23, 2011

In My Mailbox (33) -- Epic Edition

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren. It is designed to put new books on people's radars, and encourage blogger interaction.

Here's what I received during the past week:

Bought at Library Book Sale:
All of these cost me $5 in total!! Love the yearly sale they host.

Won from Open Book Toronto:
Holy crap, right?! This was an incredibly fun box to open. Open Book Toronto held a contest to do with Word on the Street and I ended up winning all of these great books by Canadian authors.



For Review:

**All book links lead to Goodreads

Soooo yah, I don't even know what to say. So many books!! I did title this the "epic edition" for a reason. ;)

October 21, 2011

The Gray Wolf Throne by Cinda Williams Chima

Release Date: August 30, 2011
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Pages: 528
Series: Seven Realms #3
Review Source: For review from Hachette Book Group Canada (@HBGCanada)

Synopsis: (from Goodreads)
Han Alister thought he had already lost everyone he loved. But when he finds his friend Rebecca Morley near death in the Spirit Mountains, Han knows that nothing matters more than saving her. The costs of his efforts are steep, but nothing can prepare him for what he soon discovers: the beautiful, mysterious girl he knew as Rebecca is none other than Raisa ana’Marianna, heir to the Queendom of the Fells. Han is hurt and betrayed. He knows he has no future with a blueblood. And, as far as he’s concerned, the princess’s family killed his own mother and sister. But if Han is to fulfill his end of an old bargain, he must do everything in his power to see Raisa crowned queen.

Meanwhile, some people will stop at nothing to prevent Raisa from ascending. With each attempt on her life, she wonders how long it will be before her enemies succeed. Her heart tells her that the thief-turned-wizard Han Alister can be trusted. She wants to believe it—he’s saved her life more than once. But with danger coming at her from every direction, Raisa can only rely on her wits and her iron-hard will to survive—and even that might not be enough.

The Gray Wolf Throne is an epic tale of fierce loyalty, unbearable sacrifice, and the heartless hand of fate.

My Thoughts:
It’s hard to write anything that will do these books justice, but let me start off by saying that the ‘Seven Realms’ series is now one of my favourites. I really enjoyed the first book, loved the second book, and I totally adored this third book as well. The only negative thing I can think to say is that I’m disappointed I’ll have to wait for the fourth book! I honestly feel like I was on a journey with these characters and I’m sad the book is over because I can’t continue on with them. Thankfully there’s no big cliffhanger, but these books will make you fall in love with the characters and the storyline.

If you enjoyed the first two ‘Seven Realms’ books then no doubt you will love ‘The Gray Wolf Throne’. If you haven’t yet read the series but are a fan of ‘Graceling’, ‘Poison Study’, ‘StarCrossed’ (Elizabeth C. Bunce), ‘The Girl of Fire and Thorns’, or similar books then you are likely to enjoy them. The books contain such a fabulous balance of adventure, action, politics, magic, and even romance. All the characters come alive, and Han and Raisa easily make my “book boyfriends” and “favourite heroines” shelves on Goodreads. Silly as those honours are, I don’t give them away lightly, so that shows you how great the characters are.

Besides the great characters, these books also contain a richly imagined and vividly described world. The geography, the culture, the politics... all of it is wonderfully laid out. Political intrigue comes up in this book even more than in the past two, and it was incredibly interesting to read about. Besides Raisa’s small group of allies it’s hard to know who to trust. Even amongst these allies there are specific agendas, and dealing with these becomes a main focus. I love how the best fantasy books bring up issues that are important for us today, and I saw that in this book. The wizards, clan, and valefolk cannot see eye to eye, which leads to so many different problems, and most of it is based on prejudice because of race and/or class.

I really cannot describe how great these books are. As I mentioned, they’re some of my new favourites, and I can see why fans of the books have been recommending them so much. If you’re at all a fantasy fan then I suggest you make this series your next endeavour.

The Cover:
So gorgeous!


Find The Gray Wolf Throne by Cinda Williams Chima on Goodreads, Book Depository, & Amazon.

October 19, 2011

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

Release Date: September 27, 2011
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Pages: 420
Series: Daughter of Smoke & Bone #1
Review Source: For review from Hachette Book Group Canada (@HBGCanada)

Synopsis: (from Goodreads)
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 otherwordly 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?

My Thoughts:
It’s almost nerve wracking to start a book that everyone in the blogging world seems to adore. It’s tough for books to measure up to the hype that’s been building for months, so perhaps some of those expectations coloured my reading of ‘Daughter of Smoke & Bone’. I think I can understand why people fell in love with this book, but it didn’t quite grip me like it seemed to grip everyone else.

There were definitely parts I did enjoy, though. I absolutely adored Karou. She’s funny and artistic and I identified with her feelings of loneliness and wanting to find a place to belong. Everything about her life and her background were completely fascinating, and I loved the way Laini Taylor wrote about Karou’s double life. Brimstone and all the characters from “Elsewhere” were intriguing, as was Karou’s life in Prague and arts school. I really enjoyed the first part of ‘Daughter...’ and I couldn’t wait to see where things went.

Unfortunately I found the way things went to be a bit cliche. Everything about this book was so imaginative in the beginning that it disappointed me when I basically predicted where the plot line was going. There were still some very creative aspects, but the larger plot began to bore me, especially the very lengthy flashback chapters that occurred toward the end. However, Laini Taylor certainly knows how to spin a beautiful phrase, and her lush, descriptive writing alone makes this one worth picking up. Those who usually enjoy paranormal tales of angels and demons will likely enjoy this one, as will fans of stories involving starcrossed lovers.

The Cover:
Pretty & memorable, but I love the UK version even more.


Find Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor on Goodreads, Book Depository, & Amazon.

October 18, 2011

Dark Inside by Jeyn Roberts

Release Date: November 1, 2011
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Pages: 352
Series: Dark Inside #1
Review Source: ARC for review from S&S Canada

Synopsis: (from Goodreads)
Since mankind began, civilizations have always fallen: the Romans, the Greeks, the Aztecs…Now it’s our turn. Huge earthquakes rock the world. Cities are destroyed. But something even more awful is happening. An ancient evil has been unleashed, turning everday people into hunters, killers, crazies.

Mason's mother is dying after a terrible car accident. As he endures a last vigil at her hospital bed, his school is bombed and razed to the ground, and everyone he knows is killed. Aries survives an earthquake aftershock on a bus, and thinks the worst is over when a mysterious stranger pulls her out of the wreckage, but she’s about to discover a world changed forever. Clementine, the only survivor of an emergency town hall meeting that descends into murderous chaos, is on the run from savage strangers who used to be her friends and neighbors. And Michael witnesses a brutal road rage incident that is made much worse by the arrival of the police--who gun down the guilty party and then turn on the bystanding crowd.

Where do you go for justice when even the lawmakers have turned bad? These four teens are on the same road in a world gone mad. Struggling to survive, clinging on to love and meaning wherever it can be found, this is a journey into the heart of darkness – but also a journey to find each other and a place of safety.

My Thoughts:
If you’re looking for a happy read, I suggest you look elsewhere. But if you’re looking for a gritty, intriguing book which examines the intricacies of good versus evil, then look no further. ‘Dark Inside’ questions what lies at the heart of humanity and the potential for evil in society. When disasters occur around the world and ordinary people go crazy, killing everyone around them, how can you survive? What do you do? Where do you go? These are the questions that four teens (Mason, Aries, Clementine, and Michael) ask themselves.

This book is told from the perspectives of these four main characters, which may bother some people who like a clean, straight forward narrative. Occasionally it takes a while to get back to a specific character and their story, but thankfully the book is written in third person so you don’t have to work to distinguish between voices. There were very few instances where I couldn’t remember where a character had left off and had to think about it for a second, so I think the perspectives were well done. There’s also a mystery perspective called ‘Nothing’ whose words are both terrifying and intriguing. You never really know who exactly is saying these words, making them all the more chilling.

All four main characters in this book have suffered tremendous loss: they’re floundering as they try and survive. Occasionally there are questions if they even want to keep going. It’s hard to say why I enjoyed this book so much, because I don’t usually like darker stories with so much suffering. Parts of this book were absolutely heartbreaking and hard to read about, I admit, but there was also the want for survival and hope. The bravery that some of the characters show is amazing, and yet there are also portrayals of cowardice. There is heroism alongside characters who feel sorry for themselves, making the situations seem all the more realistic. It was easy to put myself in the position of the characters, and I can honestly say I don’t know what I would do in those situations.

This is very clearly the first book in a series: it’s a journeying book with the four characters starting out separate and ending up together. You can tell as the book goes on that this is what will occur, but as you keep flipping the pages you will wonder how and when. Some people might feel frustrated that there is no real resolution to the larger plotline, but if you enjoy a good “road” or “journey” book then this one might appeal to you. Once I started reading ‘Dark Inside’ I didn’t want to put it down. This book and its characters will draw you in. It’s horrifying, it’s enthralling, and it’s a fabulous ride.

The Cover:
Deliciously creepy & atmospheric; I love the UK cover as well.

[Strong 4/5]

Find Dark Inside by Jeyn Roberts on Goodreads, Book Depository, & Amazon.


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