Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday *42*

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by  Breaking the Spine which spotlights upcoming book releases that we're especially looking forward to!

Here's my pick this week:

The Year of Shadows  by Claire Legrand
Release Date: August 7th, 2013

Olivia Stellatella is having a rough year.

Her mother left, her neglectful father -- the maestro of a failing orchestra -- has moved her and her grandmother into his dark, broken-down concert hall to save money, and her only friend is Igor, an ornery stray cat.

Just when she thinks life couldn’t get any weirder, she meets four ghosts who haunt the hall. They need Olivia’s help -- if the hall is torn down, they’ll be stuck as ghosts forever, never able to move on.

Olivia has to do the impossible for her shadowy new friends: Save the concert hall. But helping the dead has powerful consequences for the living . . . and soon it’s not just the concert hall that needs saving.
I love ghost stories, especially when they are of the middle-grade variety and less likely to scare the pants off me.  The Year of Shadows takes place in an old, dark and therefore impossibly gothic concert hall with not one but four ghosts inhabiting it's premises. The MC is a dark-haired and decidedly grumpy (read: adorable) young girl who's only friend is a black cat?! ♥ - I'm dying here, I mean this book is like Christmas morning to me - or maybe that should be Halloween night ;-)  Either way, I can not wait to check this one out!

Link me up to your WoW posts so I can hop over!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Review: The Beautiful & the Cursed

The Beautiful & the Cursed by Page Morgan
The Dispossessed #1
Published May 14th 2013 by Delacorte Books

After a bizarre accident, Ingrid Waverly is forced to leave London with her mother and younger sister, Gabby, trading a world full of fancy dresses and society events for the unfamiliar city of Paris.

In Paris there are no grand balls or glittering parties, and, disturbingly, the house Ingrid’s twin brother, Grayson, found for them isn’t a house at all. It’s an abandoned abbey, its roof lined with stone gargoyles that could almost be mistaken for living, breathing creatures.

And Grayson has gone missing.

No one seems to know of his whereabouts but Luc, a devastatingly handsome servant at their new home.

Ingrid is sure her twin isn’t dead—she can feel it deep in her soul—but she knows he’s in grave danger. It will be up to her and Gabby to navigate the twisted path to Grayson, a path that will lead Ingrid on a discovery of dark secrets and otherworldly truths. And she’ll learn that once they are uncovered, they can never again be buried.
**An ARC was provided by Delacorte Books in exchange for an honest review**

The Beautiful and the Cursed has a gorgeous setting, a fresh twist on paranormal creatures and as the title promises: beautiful people.  I enjoyed the Parisian backdrop, the creeptastic gargoyle-lore and the mystery but overall, it still reminded me a bit too much of the typical YA paranormal-romance package which seems to have become the standard now.

The Beautiful and the Cursed mostly follows Ingrid Waverly, after an embarrassing social faux-pas that results in her making the move from London to Paris, along with her younger sister Gabby and their mother. The story is told in 4 alternating POV's, with Ingrid getting the most story time, her sister Gabby, the 'devastatingly handsome servant' Luc also get their turns and we are also treated, on occasion, to chapters or passages told from Ingrid & Gabby's missing brother Grayson's POV.  While multiple point of views don't always work for me, I could see the purpose this time around and it allowed the story to be told more fully.  The different voices were easy to distinguish and I enjoyed getting to know Gabby and Luc on a more personal level.  The addition of Grayson's perspective was definitely useful to give the tone a darker and more ominous feel right from the word go.

The mystery surrounding the plot was definitely a highlight and easily kept my interest throughout.  I also felt like the Parisian backdrop and gothic abbey setting really fit the tone and provided a stellar ambiance throughout.  It was the perfect tone to introduce a fresh breed of paranormal creature: ages-old gargoyles.  How often do you get to read about a creature you've never read about before?!  Needless to say the gargoyle-lore had me riveted and left me wanting more.  I thought it was neat how the author incorporated other, even scarier paranormal beings to the mix, like demons and hell-hounds.  Hell-hounds are beyond creepy guys and these ones did not disappoint.  The added element of the gory murders taking place intermittently through the book gave everything an even darker and twisted vibe - it's nothing over-the-top by any means but it has the desired effect. We may be in a lovely Parisian setting in 1899, but with all these dark creatures running about the streets after dark, Paris is far from safe.

Given time period that The Beautiful and the Cursed is set in - 1899, I suppose that it's understandable that both of the Waverly sisters were a tad more on the helpless side that I would have liked.  They are from a privileged family so maybe that added to their whole helpless personas because they've clearly been waited on hand and foot since birth. Nevertheless, I found myself wishing that both Ingrid and Gabby had shown more independent-thinking or even  resourcefulness. Since both girls seemed so lost without boys to explain things or lead them, I had a bit of a harder time connecting with them.  They were both compelling in their own right, I just expected even more I guess...

As far as the romantic aspect goes, although I did like the main potential romantic pairing, I felt the addition of the love-triangle element(s) to be unnecessary.  The main love-triangle didn't really work for me and then there was an extra one added in, which made it all feel ever more redundant - not everyone in life is part of/or wants to be a part of  love-triangle!  I certainly don't so sometimes I just fail to see the appeal >.<  The inclusion of this annoying triangular plot device just made the entire book feel an awful lot like déjà-vu to me.  If the romance had been as fresh as the rest of the plot was, I'd have been a happy camper. Don't get me wrong though, the romantic aspects don't take over the book by any means and it may not bother others as much, but with my recent romantic flops in YA fiction, I've been getting a bit tired of the whole thing.

The plot was on the slower side too which was surprising,  especially with the kind of scenario and creatures we're dealing with here. Despite some gruesome murders happening at regular intervals, it took until well over half of the book for things to start moving along. Some bits did manage to surprise me along the way, as they were revealed but nothing really blew me away.

All things considered, The Beautiful and the Cursed was enjoyable but it also was a fairly middle-of-the-road read for me.  While the unique premise and setting were refreshing, I still felt like I'd read some variation of this story many times before.  I will be checking out the sequel though to see how the story will develop from here - it has tons of potential for the plot to build and develop in later books and I feel like we really only started brushing the surface of these characters.

My Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Stacking the Shelves *27*

Stacking the Shelves

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly feature hosted by Tynga's Reviews showcasing new books we've gotten a hold of (bought/given/gifted/trade/for review).

I haven't done that many StS posts in the last little while - I am still under a self-imposed book-buying ban...but I do believe it will be coming to an end sooner rather than later. I've been shockingly good so I plan on rewarding myself soon!  I've also been holding off on requesting review copies since I have so many August/September/October releases that I still need to get to but that didn't stop me from adding a few review copies to the pile:

Magic Marks the Spot by Caroline Carlson, Nomad by JL Bryan, Pygmalia by Stephanie Constante

I requested Magic Marks the Spot after I tried, and failed to snag a copy at BEA - they ran out seconds before I got there. D'oh!  Anyways, I ended up getting approved on EW!  How could anyone pass up a MG read with pirates?  I certainly couldn't.  I've also been wanting to get my hands on Nomad since I found out it was a futuristic time-travel adventure. Needless to say I jumped at the chance to be a part of the book blitz for it hosted by Xpresso Book Tours. (you can still enter to win your own copy of Nomad! Click here)  Then, being the good little book fairy-godmother that she is, Giselle & author JL Bryan generously offered up review copies for everyone participating in the blitz! Win.  I also was lucky enough to get a lovely finished copy of Pygmalia from author Stephanie Constante - writer of the Draconi Series, which I read & loved! She even signed it and everything cause she's just that awesome.  Pygmalia tells the story of a girl who discovers a secret cyborg/soldier prototype while staying with her father one Summer, which I think sounds wicked cool!
Alight, this is me reigning it in (kind of) and moving on to the rest of my haul:

Full-Blooded has been on my reading list for a while now, so when I spotted it up for grabs on NG, I couldn't resist.  A paranormal with shape-shifters & demons sounds like just what the Doctor ordered.  And speaking of the Doctor (see what I did there?!), that minimalist TARDIS cover was certainly enough to get my attention but when I saw that Winter's Dawn, Season's End was a story about the Tenth Doctor?! Well, my David Tennant senses started tingling (♥♥!!) and that was that.  It seems like my geek-flag was flying high this week because I also got Razor's Edge - Empire and Rebellion which features Princess Leia, Han Solo & Luke Skywalker. It's set just after the destruction of the Death Star in Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope.  The best part?  This book has space pirates! O.O

So for a final bit of Doctor Who gushing (I swear), Miss Stephanie Constante - who rocks my face by the way,  also sent me some swag, tucked away in my copy of Pygmalia... which got me squealing straight away!  She's a fellow Whovian too so she knows what's up.
It's a Doctor Who postcard - TARDIS included ;)
Star Wars, Time-Travel, Time Lords, Pirates, Shifters & Cyborgs. 
I love my life so hard right now! XD
I can't wait to see everyone else's haul this week so link me up :)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Harry Potter MotW #2

Harry Potter Moment of the Week 

Harry Potter Moment of the Week is a meme hosted over at Uncorked Thoughts. The idea is to share a favorite moment, magical item, character, spell, quote, object from the books, films or J.K.Rowling herself! Upcoming topics & how to join here.

Favorite Creature from the Series

SO MANY awesome creatures to choose from! Gah!  It's next to impossible to narrow it down to just one.  I do however have a soft spot for Fawkes, Dumbledore's Phoenix and I was a big fan of the way JKR chose to portray the phoenix in the series:

Being a Phoenix, Fawkes is immortal: he dies in flames to be reborn from the ashes.  The phoenix is known to have incredible strength & is able to carry very heavy loads. Phoenix have the ability to teleport - even from within Hogwarts & their tears have healing powers!  If that isn't already way beyond cool, the phoenix is known to have a very powerful, soul-altering song that has the ability to both calm others + give them courage.  I think a Phoenix added even more to Dumbledore's mystique, I loved the bond that the two of them shared.  Of course, Fawkes himself was also particularly loyal to Harry which was a big plus, it definitely came in handy in the Chamber of Secrets!

Honorable mentions go out to: Thestrals & Hippogriffs - can't forget Buckbeack ;)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday *41*

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by  Breaking the Spine which spotlights upcoming book releases that we're especially looking forward to!

Here's my pick this week:

The Burning Sky  by Sherry Thomas
Release Date: September 17th, 2013

It all began with a ruined elixir and an accidental bolt of lightning…

Iolan the Seabourne is the greatest elemental mage of her generation—or so she's being told. The one prophesied for years to be the savior of The Realm. It is her duty and destiny to face and defeat the Bane, the greatest mage tyrant the world has ever known. A suicide task for anyone let alone a sixteen-year-old girl with no training, facing a prophecy that foretells a fiery clash to the death.

Prince Titus of Elberon has sworn to protect Iolanthe at all costs but he's also a powerful mage committed to obliterating the Bane to revenge the death of his family—even if he must sacrifice both Iolanthe and himself to achieve his goal.

But Titus makes the terrifying mistake of falling in love with the girl who should have been only a means to an end. Now, with the servants of the Bane closing in, he must choose between his mission and her life.
Elemental magic you say?  I'm in.  Ladies and gentleman that's pretty much all it took to get me to crave this book like the book junkie that I am.  I love elementals (because they are SO cool) and I feel like I don't read nearly enough stories about them.  Add that in to a high-fantasy premise and I am nearly salivating to crack open the copy they let me run away with at BEA.  This is one of those books that I had to control myself not to read right when I got home - but I was a good girl and I am still waiting till closer to the release date to dive into this one. *eyes book* Soon.

What do you guys think of The Burning Sky?
Don't forget to link me up to your WoW posts! 

While you're here, feel free to check out my guest post + giveaway :) 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Nomad Book Blitz + Giveaway

Happy Monday guys & dolls!  I'm beyond pumped to be a part of Xpresso Book Tours' Book Blitz for Nomad by JL Bryan!  Ever since the cover for this bad boy was revealed  and I found out it was a sci-fi involving time-travel, I have been pretty much going crazy wanting to read this one.  Today, I have a seriously fun guest post for you by author JL Bryan himself where he shares a handy guide to dystopian reads -and- I have a giveaway for one (1) ebook copy of Nomad!  But first, here's the 4-1-1 on Nomad for those who might not have heard of it before:

Release Date: July 26th 2013
Genre: Sci-Fi, Time-Travel, Dystopia

They took everything: her family, her home, her childhood.

By the age of nineteen, Raven has spent most of her life in the sprawling slums of America, fighting as a rebel against the dictatorship. When the rebellion steals an experimental time-travel device, she travels back five decades to the year 2013. Her plan: assassinate the future dictator when he is still young and vulnerable, long before he comes to power. She must move fast to reshape history, because agents from her own time are on her trail, ready to execute her on sight.

A new dystopian novel from the author of Jenny Pox - coming July 26.


Diagnose Your Dystopia!
Guest post by Author J.L. Bryan

Something’s not right with the world.  You know it, you can feel it, and you’re probably going to die because of it.  Congratulations, you’ve just discovered that you live in a nightmarish dystopian future!

The next question: what kind of dystopia?  If you’re going to live, you’ll need to know this stuff.  Fortunately, we’ve assembled a handy checklist to help you diagnose your dystopia.

Total Surveillance State: If they’re watching your every move, including your facial expressions and body language so they can read your thoughts, and eavesdropping on all your conversations...hey, you’re not paranoid, you just live in an Orwellian total surveillance state! Odds are, they’re trying to control all media and information, including changing past records to suit their ever-changing lies. There may be no escape, so your best bet is try and hook up with that hottie from work before the oppressors destroy your mind and soul.  Good luck!

Game Show-ocracy: If you find yourself cast into a game-show-to-the-death with a name like “The Running Man” or “The Hunger Games,” then you’ve entered a world where game shows keep the public complacent.  If you play the game right, you might just topple the evil rulers of your society, but you’ll have to break a few rules to succeed.  If you’re trapped in a game show-ocracy, my best advice is to contact Alex Trebek from Jeopardy!  That guy has all the answers.

Happy Dystopia: Hey, maybe things aren’t so bad.  Maybe in this Brave New World society, the rulers encourage sex, drugs, and other completely harmless entertainments to keep the population busy and content.  You can try to whip up a rebellion if you want, right after you take your happy pills, eat your chocolate, get a pedicure and a massage...maybe have a this really a dystopia?

The State of Weird Ideas:  Is everyone forced to wear pink bunny hats at all times?  Or perhaps the letter “Q” is forbidden by law?  Sounds like you live in a world where a completely loopy-fruits dictator has come to power!  Your best bet is to play along while it lasts, but if you really want to shake things up, try being even weirder than the law requires.

We hope that this short pamphlet has somewhat enhanced your chances of surviving through this unfortunate dystopian period, and living onto into the even more miserable dark age to come! 

In the comments below, you could tell us what kind of dystopia you would prefer, or which kind you would most want to avoid.


J.L. Bryan studied English literature at the University of Georgia and at Oxford, with a focus on English Renaissance and Romantic literature. He also studied screenwriting at UCLA. He lives in the metro Atlanta sprawl with his wife Christina, where he spends most of his day serving the toddler and animal community inside his house.  He is the author of the Paranormals series and the Songs of Magic series.  
 J.L. Bryan’s links: Website, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon

Giveaway is for one (1) EBOOK copy (mobi or epub) of Nomad by JL Bryan.
 Open Internationally.
Use the Rafflecopter below to enter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Entrants must be 13 years or older.
Winner will be chosen randomly after the contest has closed & will be notified via e-mail.
Winner will have 48 hours to reply to e-mail or another winner will be chosen.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Review: The Bell Between Worlds

The Bell Between Worlds by Ian Johnstone
The Mirror Chronicles #1
Publication Date: June 6th 2013 by Harper Collins Children's

Sylas Tate leads a lonely existence since his mother died. But then the tolling of a giant bell draws him into another world known as the Other, where he discovers not only that he has an inborn talent for magic, but also that his mother might just have come from this strange parallel place. Meanwhile, evil forces are stirring, and an astounding revelation awaits Sylas: that the Other is a mirror of our world, and every person here has their counterpart there, known as a Glimmer. As violence looms and the stakes get higher, Sylas must seek out his Glimmer, and unite the two halves of his soul – otherwise the entire universe may fall...

A glorious epic fantasy in the grand tradition of C.S. Lewis and Philip Pullman, and a major publishing event, The Mirror Chronicles will take you into another world, and on the adventure of your lifetime…
*An ARC was provided by Harper Collins UK Children's in exchange for an honest review.*

When a book gets compared to big name works and titles that have come before it, it can really be a double-edged sword.  On the one hand, it gives the reader an idea what kind of story to expect and it can get people's attention where they might not have gravitated towards a certain book otherwise. On the other hand though, comparisons set the bar pretty high - sometimes, impossibly so.  When I stumbled upon The Bell Between Worlds, I was intrigued right away.  Just by the cover, you can tell that it's children or middle-grade high fantasy - which we all know I love.  Then, reading the blurb as you probably did just now, I became simultaneously giddy & terrified.  C.S. Lewis & Philip Pullman are both beyond epic in their own rights as the authors of the Narnia Series & His Dark Materials respectively.  Could The Mirror Chronicles really hold it's own among such heavy-weights?  After reading The Bell Between Worlds I can easily say that it did for me - and then some!

The Bell Between Worlds is the first installment in The Mirror Chronicles and it introduces us to a world so richly imagined & so completely fresh that it was hard to believe that this was author Ian Johnstone's first book.  In The Bell Between Worlds, we're introduced to Sylas Tate - a very lonely young boy in the care of his uncle since his mother passed away some years before.  Sylas's life hasn't been easy but he's managed to make the most of it thanks to his inane imagination & creativity.  Then, on a day like any other, Sylas discovers a strange new little shop selling a variety of oddities and  'things'; little treasures that stir the imagination and seem almost magical.  And the wizened shopkeeper, Mr.Zhi seems to know an awful lot about Sylas...he even hints that he believes Sylas will embark on an adventure of his own soon.  Before long, something seriously magical does happen; through a truly incredible and kind of scary set of circumstances, Sylas travels to an 'other' world.  A world that is very similar to our own but also strikingly different because in this world, real magic exists.  It is in this 'other' world that Sylas will embark the quest of a lifetime!

There are a few things I look for in children's/middle-grade fantasy.  World building is probably one of the biggest determining factors in fantasy reads of all ages to be honest so let's start there.  In children's/m-g fantasy, I like the descriptions of a magical new world to be rich and vivid without weighing the story down - simple but effective.  This may sound pretty do-able but in reality, it's not an easy task to achieve. To me, The Bell Between Worlds accomplished it wonderfully.  The way this 'other' world is introduced is equal parts inventive, awe-inspiring and exciting.  I was literally sitting on the edge of my seat as it all unfolded before my eyes with a huge smile on my face!  The end result is wholly unique and from that point on, I was hooked.

Once Sylas had crossed over into 'the Other', I continued to be impressed by the beautiful descriptions and the magical world as it unfolded before my eyes. I felt that the magical system itself was really original and chock-full of potential. The characters were diverse and likeable - it was easy to feel for them and understand Sylas' desire to not only get to know them all but also to help them out. And that's the kind of protagonist Sylas is.  Beyond his imagination and wit, he's also inclined to want to listen others, to understand and to try and help in any way he can.  It's hard for someone like me not to connect an MC who's best trait is his imagination but Sylas is much more than that - and the more I got to know him, the more I wanted to spend time with him!  His choice in friends once he crossed into 'the Other' only sweetened the deal; they ranged from funny, mysterious and even conflicted but they all had one thing in common: a perfect mix of bravery and hope.

The dark side of this magical world was pretty creeptastic right from the word go. Sylas is being hunted but he soon finds out that this whole world is pretty much under a reign of terror brought on by some sort of age-old and horribly powerful being and his army of hellish hound creatures.  Throughout the book, you're always reminded that nowhere is safe, those hounds can smell out anything and anyone and they.are.everywhere.  The best part of it was that it seemed like we got a lot of information on the villains but since this is the first book, I can only expect that we'll be learning a lot more.  I love it when authors take time to fully develop both sides of the spectrum, only because it makes the story feel more balanced to me.  And I'm big on balance >.<

The Bell Between Worlds was a surprising, promising and exciting debut from author Ian Johnstone and I am already eager to get my hands on the sequel. There were a few details I'd hope would have been fleshed out a bit more before the end but it seemed obvious to me that they will be addressed in the next book(s).  The ending was a bit abrupt too but when I read the final words I already knew I would be tagging along for however many more adventures Sylas needs to go on.  I think the best part for me was that despite the fact that it is indeed in the same vein as stories like Narnia & His Dark Materials, The Bell Between Worlds didn't have any preachy underlying religious themes.  There were solid life lessons and good morals instilled in here but it was done with a light touch and in very good taste.  The Mirror Chronicles promises to be an addictive and compelling series for the young and young at heart!

My Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Harry Potter MotW #1

Harry Potter Moment of the Week 

Harry Potter Moment of the Week is a meme hosted over at Uncorked Thoughts. The idea is to share a favorite moment, magical item, character, spell, quote, object from the books, films or J.K.Rowling herself! Upcoming topics & how to join here.

Hi fellow Potter-Addicts! This is my first week participating in what is sure to become a weekly feature here at the blog - I mean how could it not?! My love for the series and the author behind it knows no bounds, and chatting with other like-minded people is sure to be a treat ♥   Coincidentally, it also just so happens to be a free week, meaning we get to choose what topic to feature. Since I've missed some great topics before I discovered this meme, I decided to do a double shot of the 'favorite book moments' I've missed so far, cause otherwise my OCD would kick in the week where we cover book 3... >.<  so here goes:

Favorite Moment from Book 1 - There are soooo many good moment to chose from our first glimpse into Harry's world: Harry finding out he's a wizard, going to Diagon Alley with Hagrid for school supplies, flying his first broom...but two specific scenes comes to mind as being absolute favorites of mine: 1. When Harry & Ron first get together on the train to Hogwarts. Ron's all fascinated about meeting 'The Boy Who Lived' and Harry being just as captivated by Ron and his story.  -♥-  2. Harry's eventually traditional end-of-the-year chat with Professor Dumbledore after having defeated Tom Riddle! Not bad for a first year...

Favorite Moment from Book 2 - A standout moment for me is when Harry sets foot in the Burrow for the first time after being saved by the younger Weasley boys.  His first glimpse at a truly magical household and way of life he never had a chance to know.  Ron's nervous because he knows his family isn't rich but Harry can see it for what it is: a happy, loving & magical place!  Aaaand considering my answer for book 1, it should come as no surprise that another favorite moment in CoS is Harry & Dumbledore's chat at the end there, where they almost discuss an important clue about a key plot element in further books...

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday *40*

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly 'hump-day' feature hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine where book bloggers get together & spotlight an upcoming release we're especially looking forward to!

Here's my pick for this week:

Allegiant (Divergent # 3) by Veronica Roth

Release Date: October 22nd, 2013

One choice will define you.

What if your whole world was a lie?
What if a single revelation—like a single choice—changed everything?
What if love and loyalty made you do things you never expected?

The explosive conclusion to Veronica Roth’s #1 New York Times bestselling Divergent trilogy reveals the secrets of the dystopian world that has captivated millions of readers in Divergent and Insurgent

Well I was hoping for an actual full synopsis by the time I got to featuring this one as my WoW but anyways....we have a cover and we have a release date so that's good enough for me!  Alligiant is the hotly anticipated third & final book in the Divergent Trilogy and honestly with the way Insurgent ended, I'm surprised we've all survived this long O.O  October can not come fast enough!!

Fans of the series - who's with me?
Don't forget to link me up to your WoW posts too!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Review: Ink

Ink (Paper Gods #1) by Amanda Sun
Published June 25th, 2013 by Harlequin Teen

On the heels of a family tragedy, the last thing Katie Greene wants to do is move halfway across the world. Stuck with her aunt in Shizuoka, Japan, Katie feels lost. Alone. She doesn’t know the language, she can barely hold a pair of chopsticks, and she can’t seem to get the hang of taking her shoes off whenever she enters a building.

Then there’s gorgeous but aloof Tomohiro, star of the school’s kendo team. How did he really get the scar on his arm? Katie isn’t prepared for the answer. But when she sees the things he draws start moving, there’s no denying the truth: Tomo has a connection to the ancient gods of Japan, and being near Katie is causing his abilities to spiral out of control. If the wrong people notice, they'll both be targets.

Katie never wanted to move to Japan—now she may not make it out of the country alive.
*An ARC was provided by Harlequin Teen in exchange for an honest review*

Ink was a book I really wanted to like.  The creative premise & Japanese setting were both reason enough for me to want to check it out but the promise of a fresh new fantasy twist involving ink - drawings coming to life?  Well I just had to get me some of that!  Unfortunately, this was one of those instances where the proposed 'love-story' was given top-billing and it was a little too obsessive and insta-lovey for my liking.

 Ink tells the story of Katie, following the death of her mother. Since Katie has never known her father, she was supposed to be moving in with her grand-parents in Canada but since her grand-father is ill, she gets sent off to live with her aunt in Japan.  As she is thrown into a completely different world, she is forced to adapt: she must learn the language and adopt the culture and customs of her new home, especially if she wants to survive high school. Before long, Katie develops an intense attraction to the resident bad-boy, Tomohiro - against her own better judgement.  There are a lot of weird rumors about Tomohiro; most of them just make him seem like a jerk but others are downright creepy.  As Katie spends more time with Tomo, it becomes clear that there his more to him than meets the eye - namely, the fact that he is somehow connected to the Kami, ancient mythical Japanese beings that had power over ink: the ability to make drawings come to life.  What's worse is that being around Katie makes Tomo's gift even harder to control and it soon becomes clear that they are both flirting with disaster, in more ways than one.

I'm going to start off by listing the aspects of Ink that I enjoyed, because honestly these are the things that kept me reading until the very end.  The setting was probably the biggest plus for me here, I think Japanese culture is beautiful and I was delighted by the lovely descriptions of scenery that author Amanda Sun wove into the story - the cherry blossoms in bloom especially stick out as vivid in my mind and I almost felt like I was walking around in the pink, fragrant gardens myself.  Amanda Sun spent time in Japan personally and it shows in how she describes everything from the people, to the places... even the food.  I felt fully emerged in the experience right along with the MC Katie.

Ink also gets points for featuring a truly unique mythology and magical powers.  The idea of certain people being gifted with the ability to make drawings move of their own accord and quite literally come alive after being created is really brilliant.  I mean, it's a concept I've never read about before, certainly not in this kind of context and I was impressed by how both the mythology and the setting seemed to mesh together so well, I could almost believe that there are forces like this at work in Japan right now, and they're just keeping it a secret from the rest of us... *dun, dun, DUN*

Sadly though, that's where my enjoyment ended. Ink's main focus lays on the romance and it is of the 'insta-love' variety.  Well, no that's not entirely true.  What Katie feels for Tomohiro is more like 'insta-obsession' of the stalker-ish variety.  After one horrible encounter which involves her seeing him in the worst possible light imaginable, Katie instantly becomes fixated on Tomo.  She tries to convince herself it's because she knows he's hiding something, but it's abundantly clear she's got the hots for him.  She stop at nothing to get his attention and that usually results in cringe-worthy situations that had me either squirming or rolling my eyes.  And the more she spends time with him the worse it gets: she sees him on a bike and then begs her aunt to get her a bike!  She sees him playing kendo for the school team so she immediately joins the team herself!  And it didn't stop there, as the story progresses she continues to make silly, impulsive decisions with no regard for anything or anyone but Tomo.  Their 'love' is constantly front and center and I found myself wishing this was one of those times where the romance should have been skipped altogether because it just didn't work for me the way it was obviously intended to.

Ink also randomly reminded me of Twilight quite a few times throughout - like certain big romantic moments in familiar settings that seemed overly familiar to me.  Also, the sort of dynamic between Tomo and Katie, him being the dangerous boy who wants the girl but knows he's dangerous, so for her safety he tries to push her away by saying stuff like: ''you should stay away from me'' or ''I'm a monster''...which of course, makes her want him even more.  But where Twilight (specifically the book) made me swoon & gave me the butterflies, Ink did not - it just annoyed me and left me cold.  I was never invested in them as a couple.  I was more interested in Tomo's side of the story simply because he had a story to tell but he never really made me swoon.  It's not that he didn't sound attractive or desirable, it's just that him being with Katie turned me off.  Katie, for her part, spent the entirety of her time thinking about Tomo so it was impossible for me to connect with her.  She just didn't seem to develop as a character because hardly learn anything about her before she goes 100% Tomo, all. of. the. time.

The bottom line is, I think Ink would have worked a lot better for me if the love-story had taken a back-seat to the Japanese culture and the mythology of the Kami which were both very compelling.  It would have also given Katie a chance to develop more as a character and maybe I would have connected with her more.  As it stands, the romance was the main attraction here and that was the one part I had issues with, so it ended up overshadowing any of the things I actually was enjoying.  I'd still recommend Ink to big fans of Japanese culture who are also fans of romances and who don't mind when their love-stories are on the obsessive side.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday *39*

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly 'hump-day' feature hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine where book bloggers get together & spotlight an upcoming release we're especially looking forward to!

Here's my pick for this week:

The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two (Fairyland #3)

Release Date: October 8th, 2013

Author: Catherynne M. Valente

“One of the most extraordinary works of fantasy, for adults or children, published so far this century.—TIME Magazine, on the Fairyland series

September misses Fairyland and her friends Ell, the Wyverary, and the boy Saturday. She longs to leave the routines of home, and embark on a new adventure. Little does she know that this time, she will be spirited away to the moon, reunited with her friends, and find herself faced with saving Fairyland from a moon-Yeti with great and mysterious powers.

Here is another rich, beautifully told, wisely humorous, and passionately layered book from New York Times-bestselling author, Catherynne M. Valente.
Though I still need to play catch up & read book #2 before I dive into this one, I'm still over the moon that book # 3 is coming out this Fall!  I've heard that there will be a total of 5 books in this series and every time a new title or cover comes out, I feel almost giddy! I can't wait to read about the new whimsical adventures September is sure to have in Fairyland - especially since this one seems to involve the moon in some way ♥... but more than anything, I long for more of author Catherynne M. Valente's  enchanted & captivating prose.

Have any of you read the first books in this series?  
If not, is it on your TBR shelf yet? ;)
Don't forget to link me up to your WoW posts!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Review: Gameboard of the Gods

Gameboard of the Gods by Richelle Mead
Age of X # 1
Published June 4th 2013

In a futuristic world nearly destroyed by religious extremists, Justin March lives in exile after failing in his job as an investigator of religious groups and supernatural claims. But Justin is given a second chance when Mae Koskinen comes to bring him back to the Republic of United North America (RUNA). Raised in an aristocratic caste, Mae is now a member of the military’s most elite and terrifying tier, a soldier with enhanced reflexes and skills.

When Justin and Mae are assigned to work together to solve a string of ritualistic murders, they soon realize that their discoveries have exposed them to terrible danger. As their investigation races forward, unknown enemies and powers greater than they can imagine are gathering in the shadows, ready to reclaim the world in which humans are merely game pieces on their board.
*An ARC was provided by Dutton Adult in exchange for an honest review*

Gameboard of the Gods is a book I was very eager to get into.  Mythology is impossible enough to resist but paired with a dystopian setting? Sounds amazing to me!  Plus Richelle Mead is an author I'd promised myself I'd finally read this year (and about time too), so this really was a win/win scenario!  Unfortunately, Gameboard of the Gods didn't really fit into what I came to expect from reading the blurb, and while there were some elements of the book that I enjoyed quite a bit, other things really left me wanting and others just fell flat for me altogether.

In Gameboard of the Gods, we're introduced to a futuristic world following what the blurb tells us is: ''a near destruction of the world by religious extremists''.  It's never made clear when this near-destruction occurred or even how, but since then, the world has begun to return to something not so different from our own current way of life.  Technology, information & the military have re-emerged stronger than ever - at least in what we know as North-America anyway, and the governing bodies work hard to control and restrict most re-emerging religions in an attempt to avoid whatever happened to bring on the 'Descent' in the first place. 

The two main characters, Justin & Mae have vastly different jobs and realities at the start of the novel.  Justin is an exiled ex-investigator with unique gifts and the mind of a genius, living in the poverty stricken Panama (more or less South-America).  Left to his own devices and broken by the reality of his situation, Justin is free to wallow in his addictions - drugs, gambling & women.  Mae on the other hand is a praetorian - a genetically enhanced super-soldier that lost her cool for a moment  and got into a fight with another soldier. Because of the momentary lapse, she gets Justin.  That's because the RUNA (Republic of United North America), a.k.a. Justin's home before his exile suddenly want to give him his old job back. It seems there have been a series of seemingly ritualistic murders or 'sacrifices' recently and they believe Justin may be able to solve the case.  As both characters adjust to their new circumstances, and to each other, it becomes clear that there is a lot more going on here than meets the eye..  Soon both Justin & Mae are wrapped up in a mystery that even they might not be able to handle!

This was one of those cases where the blurb on the book jacket doubles as an introduction for the actual book's plot.  What's mentioned inside the cover flap never gets fully explained...and that's what I was most curious about: how was the world was almost destroyed?  What caused it to evolve into the future Richelle Mead has imagined for us?  Another question I had: Where are the Gods?!  These have to be the most elusive and mysterious bunch I've ever read about.  If it wasn't right there in the title, I wonder if I would have guessed what was going on here until the very end.  I was expecting full on Mythology, at least more than a whisper here and there for the better part of the book.

As I mentioned, any set-up or explanations to this futuristic world was limited, but the actual world-building itself was kept to a minimum too.  There was the RUNA (by the way those letters only get explained after like 80 pages!) the technological and controlled ''jewel of the world'' and then there was the rest of the planet.  Outside of the RUNA, people lived in poverty and the societal structure resembled something out of the distant past instead of the future. A lot of other terms like praetorians, castes, plebians and Gemman take a while to be defined and some of them never felt fully fleshed out in a satisfying way.  And since we're talking words, I might as well vent at what I thought was an overused word: grimace.  Being French, it's a word I'm used to, but I've never really liked using it in English - it just sounds off to me >.<  and within the first 100 pages 'grimace' or 'grimaced' appeared 10 times!  I would have killed for a synonym.  (Not really but you catch my drift.) I know it's a personal thing, but I had to get it out. *sigh*

Now I know I'm coming off mostly negative in this review, but Gameboard of the Gods did have it's fair share of positives too.  The action scenes and intrigue were especially well crafted.  Many of the scenes read like I was watching a movie unfold in my mind.  It had the right balance of words to keep the pace high and I had no problem imagining it all unfold right before my eyes. The mystery worked really well too especially for the first 3/4 of the book, it kept me reading compulsively - I wanted to discover more clues and put them together.  I love a good mystery though and my obsessive need to know might have played a role in that. Beyond that though, I honestly liked getting to know the characters, despite their heavy flaws. I found that their distinct personalities & quirks worked well with this world as well as the story at hand.  This was also one of the cases where the alternating POV style was done absolutely flawlessly, it seemed to switch at the perfect moment every time, only overlapping when both perspectives were integral to the plot - which is exceedingly rare in my experience.

Looking at the book as a whole, Gameboard of the Gods is one I'm glad I've read.  It mostly only fizzled for me by the end because of two reasons: 1- for such a BIG book, the ending hardly offered any resolution.  And 2- I just wanted more explanations on this world, on what made it the way it is and on the GODS!  At 450 pages and an open ending, I would have liked more concrete answers along the way.  I'll be reading the sequel but as an introduction to a series, book 1 should have offered more groundwork so the series could take of from there.  Hopefully, book 2 will have more actual gods too!

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday *38*

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly 'hump-day' feature hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine where book bloggers get together & spotlight an upcoming release we're especially looking forward to!

Here's my pick for this week:

Love in the Time of Global Warming 

Release Date: August 27th, 2013

Author: Francesca Lia Block

Seventeen-year-old Penelope (Pen) has lost everything—her home, her parents, and her ten-year-old brother. Like a female Odysseus in search of home, she navigates a dark world full of strange creatures, gathers companions and loses them, finds love and loses it, and faces her mortal enemy.

In her signature style, Francesca Lia Block has created a world that is beautiful in its destruction and as frightening as it is lovely. At the helm is Pen, a strong heroine who holds hope and love in her hands and refuses to be defeated.

That brief little write-up there has already brought on the feels.  And I love a story where and MC sets off traveling, with no destination and ends up having an life-changing adventure!  Love in the Time of Global Warming sounds like an offbeat, thrilling and emotional ride, though I'm honestly not sure what to expect beyond that.  I'm particularly curious about those 'strange creatures' the blurb mentions...especially since this book's tag words include: magical-realism, sci-fi, fantasy & dystopia. Yeah, this is me --> :D

Thoughts? Let me know
& link me up to your WoW!