Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Top 10 of 2010

2010 has been an amazing year of YA books, so what better way to celebrate '10 than by compiling a list of 10 top reads? Now, to be fair, I do have to add the disclaimer that the following list is comprised only of books published this past year that I've read. Doubtless there're numerous other great books out there (many of which I've been meaning to read, but haven't gotten around to yet) that aren't included. But anyway, without further ado, let's start the countdown:

Let's go in reverse order: the nineth and tenth spots go to Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken (March 23rd, 2010 EgmontUSA) and Epitaph Road by David Patneaude (March 23rd, 2010 EgmontUSA), respectively. Brightly Woven had some really cool concepts and drew me back into the realm of fantasy. Epitaph Road was a very interesting take on a possible dystopian future of gender power reversal. Both are definitely very well worth reading!

Seventh and eighth go to Daisy Whitney's The Mockingbirds (November 2nd, 2010 Little Brown) and Elizabeth Scott's The Unwritten Rule (March 16th, 2010 Simon Pulse), respectively. Both of these are contemporary YA novels that were well-written with realistic characters and credible plot lines.

For fifth and sixth we have Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver (March 2nd, 2010 Harper Collins) and All Unquiet Things by Anna Jarzab (January 12th, 2010 Delacorte). How could I not include these two? Both are contemporaries (although Before I Fall also has paranormal facets) that deal with mortality and the aftermath. Both are beautifully written and quite thought-provoking.

Next we have The Duff by Kody Keplinger (September 7th, 2010 Poppy/Little Brown) and Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready (May 4th, 2010 Simon Pulse). The Duff by teen author Kody is a funny and endearing contemporary novel with a very real, in-your-face attitude. Basically, it's a pretty badass read. Shade explores some very interesting concepts and creates an intriguing paranormal world very much like our own, yet quite different.

My top two picks for 2010 probably really won't come as a surprise. We have Birthmarked by Caragh O'Brien (March 30th, 2010 Roaring Brook Press) and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (August 24th, 2010 Scholastic). Mockingjay... well, it's Mockingjay. Enough said. Birthmarked - well, we all know I've been gushing about this one a ton lately. It's dystopian (love!) and it's got great characters, a strong female protag, a juicy love interest, and a fast-paced, action-packed, exciting plot line. It's also great that there's more of a science element (hence science fiction, right?) in this one than some of its colleagues. There's something more educated about the writing, which is also great. Plus it was a ton of fun to interview Caragh earlier this year as well.

And there we have it - a spotlight on some of the best YA books of the year. What made the cut for your list this year?

Monday, December 27, 2010

Sleepaway Girls Review

Sleepaway Girls - Jen Calonita
*May 1st, 2009 Little Brown

When Sam's best friend gets her first boyfriend, she's not ready to spend the summer listening to the two of them call each other "pookie." Sick of being a third wheel, Sam applies to be a counselor-in-training at Whispering Pines camp in the New York Catskills. But what she doesn't realize is that it's not going to be all Kumbaya sing-alongs and gooey s'mores. If Ashley, the alpha queen of Whispering Pines, doesn't ruin Sam's summer, then her raging crush on the surfer-blond and flirtatious Hunter just might. At least she has playful Cole, who's always teasing her, but is oh-so-comfortable to hang out with, and the singular gang of girls that become fast friends with Sam-they call themselves the Sleepaway Girls.

With Sleepaway Girls Jen Calonita has crafted a fun and entertaining read.

Sleepaway Girls is a YA contemporary with the typical cast of a bunch of girls and a couple guy love interests - so of course drama ensues. Unlike some of its Gossip Girl-esque counterparts though, the ones here are a little more real. With less focus on the materialistic (it takes place out in the boonies!), there's more room to focus in on the characters.

It's great to see each character have distinctive attributes which makes every single one unique. Sam's little quirks and imperfections make her more endearing. Her interactions with the guys are fairly adorable as well.

One small caveat though - at times the fact that this YA book was written by an adult does come through - both in terms of voice (just here and there, little spots) and in terms of message. The "moral" of the story is pounded in a little too hard at the conflict resolution, and honestly, the way it's resolved does feel a little cliche and loses a bit of credibility for the lead-up as well.

In Sleepaway Girls, Calonita has created a fun summer world with interesting characters. A great read for the beach or those cold Winter nights spent reminiscing about summer.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday (22)

The Lost Saint - Bree Despain
*December 28th, EgmontUSA
The non-stop sequel to The Dark Divine delivers an even hotter romance and more thrilling action than Bree Despain's first novel. Grace Divine made the ultimate sacrifice to cure Daniel Kalbi. She gave her soul to the wolf to save him and lost her beloved mother. When Grace receives a haunting phone call from Jude, she knows what she must do. She must become a Hound of Heaven. Desparate to find Jude, Grace befriends Talbot - a newcomer to town who promises her that he can help her be a hero. But as the two grow closer, the wolf grows in Grace, and her relationship with Daniel begins to crumble. Unaware of the dark path she is walking, Grace becomes prideful in her new abilities - not realizing that an old enemy has returned and deadly trap is about to be sprung. Readers, raveous for more Grace and Daniel, will be itching to sink their teeth into The Lost Saint.
I reviewed The Dark Divine last year (in December - has it really been a year already?!) and rather enjoyed it, so it's definitely exciting that the sequel, The Lost Saint, will be released in about a week.

The two covers complement each other very nicely. Actually, both covers are absolutely gorgeous.

So there you have it - my pick of the week. How about you, what're you waiting on this Wednesday?

*WoW is hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Nothing Like You Review

Nothing Like You - Lauren Strasnick
*October 20th, 2009

When Holly loses her virginity to Paul, a guy she barely knows, she assumes their encounter is a one-night stand. After all, Paul is too popular to even be speaking to Holly, and he happens to have a long-term girlfriend, Saskia. But ever since Holly’s mom died six months ago, Holly has been numb to the world, and she’s getting desperate to feel something, anything—so when Paul keeps pursuing her, Holly relents. Paul’s kisses are a welcome diversion, and it’s nice to feel like the kind of girl that a guy like Paul would choose.

But things aren’t so simple with Saskia around. Paul’s real girlfriend is willowy and perfect… and nothing like Holly. To make matters worse, she and Holly are becoming friends. Suddenly the consequences of Holly’s choices are all too real, and Holly stands to lose more than she ever realized she had.

Lauren Strasnick's Nothing Like You is a fast and entertaining read.

At a mere 209 pages, it really flies by in comparison to many of the other YA titles out there these days (which tend to be a fair bit more lengthy). There's something really refreshing about it - after all the hefty tomes, it's nice to have a shorter story - or, as Deb Caletti puts it, "candid".

Overall, it's an enjoyable story. Holly, Nils, Saskia, etc. are all rather interesting characters in their own right, and it was definitely fun to read about people who're quite different from [oneself]. Unfortunately, Paul (in particular) and the others to some degree as well, fell a little flat. The book could've been a bit lengthier if the added text were properly used to flesh out the characters a little more.

At times a little bit of incredulity about Holly's motivations did play an issue in regards to the credibility of the story. Strasnick does have an interesting writing style that engages the reader though.

All in all, although a little lacking in the character depth department, Nothing Like You by Lauren Strasnick is still a fun, quick and entertaining read.

Goodreads / Shelfari

Saturday, December 18, 2010

In My Mailbox [44]

*In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren

As I've mentioned a few times previously, I've been attending university out of town for the past few months. When I arrived back home a few days ago, there was mail waiting for me, yay!

Mercy by Rebecca Lim had come during my absence, which was a very pleasant surprise. I also had a couple of magazines (Flare and What If? - in which one of my photographs was published). (Hey, don't judge me, okay? I get Canadian Business magazine delivered to my dorm, so I'm not a total bimbo or anything ;)

But yep, lots to get caught up on. So what's been in your guys's mailboxes lately?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Back in Commission

Hey all, first off -

Huge apologies that I've basically been MIA from Lucid Conspiracy. First semester of college/university has been absolutely insane (but also absolutely ah-mazing). Alas, it didn't leave a lot of time for blogging. I still don't feel ready to let [the blog] go yet though. So, good news is that I'm now home for the Winter holidays, which means it'll hopefully give me a chance to get caught up on blogging (and hopefully pre-schedule numerous posts into the new year, if all goes well :)

For the pending reviews, posts, etc. really sorry about the delay and all, and keep your eyes peeled as those come up over the next few days! :)

So... what have I missed in my hiatus from the YA blogosphere?!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Crescendo Review

Crescendo - Becca Fitzpatrick
*October 19th, 2010 Simon & Schuster

Nora should have known her life was far from perfect. Despite starting a relationship with her guardian angel, Patch (who, title aside, can be described as anything but angelic), and surviving an attempt on her life, things are not looking up. Patch is starting to pull away, and Nora can't figure out if it's for her best interest or if his interest has shifted to her arch-enemy Marcie Millar. Not to mention that Nora is haunted by images of her father and she becomes obsessed with finding out what really happened to him that night he left for Portland and never came home.

The farther Nora delves into the mystery of her father's death, the more she comes to question if her Nephilim blood line has something to do with it as well as why she seems to be in danger more than the average girl. Since Patch isn't answering her questions and seems to be standing in her way, she has to start finding the answers on her own. Relying too heavily on the fact that she has a guardian angel puts Nora at risk again and again. But can she really count on Patch, or is he hiding secrets darker than she can even imagine?

Crescendo is the thrilling follow-up to Becca Fitzpatrick's New York Times Bestselling debut Hush, Hush.

Truthfully, I have rather mixed feelings about Crescendo. Back when Hush, Hush came out, there were some rather dividing opinions on it - avid supporters and avid dislikers (whose main offense came from the anti-feminist actions of Nora). Personally, I thought Hush, Hush was a pretty enjoyable read (see

On the whole, Crescendo is still an enjoyable read. Fitzpatrick's writing and the particular font of the novel create a magnetic atmosphere that draws the reader in. Personally, I found the climax of this novel better than its predecessor. The twist at the end was a brilliant touch, nicely executed and a pleasantly chilling surprise. Basically, the ending of the novel was great fun to read.

Alas, it took getting to the end of the novel to reach the good stuff. The first couple hundred pages were... shall we say, frustrating? In Hush, Hush, Nora was a little annoying, but still in an endearing way. In Crescendo, she was just annoying. The things she did, the words she said, the thoughts she thought... it was all very damsel-in-distress and irrational and basically very PMS. Those were not the words and actions of a person who has aspirations to attend one of the best colleges in the States. And what happened to the whole summer school plot line? It kind of just disappeared. In short, characterization - not just of Nora, but supporting characters as well - detracted from the credibility of the novel.

So while the climax and plot twists improved in this sophomore novel, characterization seems to have gone the opposite way, unfortunately.

Nevertheless, Crescendo has magnetic prose and can still be an enjoyable read and will no doubt find an attentive, adoring audience.

Goodreads / Becca Fitzpatrick / HushHushBooks / Fallen Archangel


The winner of Hush, Hush and Crescendo was Carrie from In the Hammock. Congratulations!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday (21)

Unearthly - Cynthia Hand
*January 4th, 2011 HarperTeen
Clara has known she was part-angel ever since she turned fourteen two years ago. But now she is finally getting visions of what her Purpose-a rite of passage for every part-angel-is to be, and it happens to involve a gorgeous guy. Of course, there is the raging forest fire surrounding them, too. When Clara's Purpose leads her family to Wyoming, Clara findsthe boy of her visions, Christian, but complicating her mission are her growing feelings for another guy, Tucker. As the day in her visions draws closer, Clara discovers that her Purpose may play into a larger struggle between angels and Black Wings-fallen angels who spread sadness and misery wherever they go. But when the fire erupts and both Christian and Tucker are in danger, who will she choose to save?
Okay, honestly there's some confusion about this one. First off, Goodreads lists the pub date as January 1st and the cover as blue monochrome, while the author's blog and Harper list the pub date as January 4th, and the cover is more commonly monochromatic purple.

Regardless of the confusion, that is definitely a very pretty cover. The fact that it's monochromatic and simplistic is rather appealing. The font kind of reminds me of the title fonts for Beautiful Creatures and Beautiful Darkness (by Margaret Stohl and Kami Garcia).

It'll be really interesting to see another take on angels (fallen angels, to be specific). Early reviews thus far seem to be pretty positive, so it'll be interesting to see if it lives up to expectations.

And there you have it - my pick for the week. So your turn now - what're you waiting on this Wednesday?

*WoW is hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Teaser Tuesday {4}

So I realized that it's basically been ages since I've done one of these. The other day, I was randomly browsing my [failed] attempt at Project 365 this year, going through some of the posts from back in January on my other blog.

And then I found something that I'd completely forgotten writing about. It was a contest entry for a teen diary entry/letter over at agent extraordinaire Nathan Bransford's blog. So I guess I'll share it here:


Henry –

Some days I wish you were a dragonfly. I wish you were a dragonfly because I want to hurt you, I want to make you feel pain, I want to utterly decimate you. I would grow my fingernails long and clutch your wings between them, digging the edges of the nails into the thin, gossamer material. Fragile. I would then slowly – slowly, to savour the satisfaction – slowly pull my hands apart like they were same poled magnets repelling each other. I would tear you from limb to limb, and prolong the excruciating agony for as long as I can. Then I would crunch your tail between my thumb and middle finger – you know why the middle finger – so that you can’t escape, and then – bam! Squish you flat with my other palm.

You don’t deserve to be called my “father” anymore – you’ve never been him, and iPhones will fall from the sky for free before you ever are him. But you know what’s the most pathetic part of all this? I wish you were him. I wish you could be him, even more than I wish for a free iPhone to just fall into my lap. And then disgust and abhorrence fills me to think that I’d even contemplated letting you back into my life.

Do you even realize how messed up my life is because of you? Sometimes I want to pretend that you don’t know, and that somewhere in that bleak, bleak heart of yours, you have a soft spot for me. The rational part of my mind knows that’s nothing but a lie though. Clearly, you don’t give a shit.

Otherwise, you wouldn’t have called Mom and me last night. The first time we’ve heard form you in about half a year now. And what was your not-so-surprising reason for calling? You got in a bar fight, you’re on the run, and you needed cash. And even though neither of us said it out loud, both Mom and I knew that you were drunk or high, or maybe even both. But by now, you probably don’t even remember doing that. And you’ll never read this letter, because you don’t deserve to know the full impact of your life on mine.

Last weekend, Mom took me to the mall and I saw some hot guys from school. And you know what I immediately did, almost subconsciously? I ran and tried to hide inconspicuously in the closest spot possible. Which happened to be a rack of old granny cardigans and gingham dresses on clearance. You know what else? I’m seventeen years old, about to graduate high school, and I’ve still never been kissed. You know why I’m such a late bloomer? Because I grew up without gender balance. Basically, I don’t know how to talk to guys. Every time I try, all I can do is gurgle incoherently.

You don’t deserve to have me care anymore.

Screw you, Henry.

Screw you, stranger.

Definitely not my father.

Work of Fiction.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

In My Mailbox [43]

So none of this stuff is actually from the past week. The Unidentified by Rae Mariz and Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry were actually both mailed to my parents' house, but my dad came to visit and dropped them off for me. Both were surprises - very pleasant ones, I might add! Definitely very excited about both. Two friends have borrowed The Unidentified thus far, one of whom is still reading it (and might be up for writing a guest review, so keep an eye out for that).

The last Pendragon book (by DJ MacHale) and the assorted swag (bookmarks, pins) were from the Word on the Street! festival that I've previously blogged about, the one where I went and heard Yann Martel speak.

So what's been in your mailbox recently?

*In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Reviews: Skinned & Crashed

Because Skinned & Crashed are consecutive books in a trilogy by Robin Wasserman and I read them one right after the other, I'm just going to review both together, as the stuff I thought about one book generally applied to the other as well, for the most part.

Skinned and Crashed - Robin Wasserman
*September 9th, 2008 & September 8th, 2009, respectively

With the Skinned trilogy, Robin Wasserman has created an engrossing, three-dimensional and thought-provoking world of a hypothetical future.

One of the best aspects of these books was the world-building. Key elements of creating a realistic potential future include being able to visualize it, being able to feel it, being able to suspend disbelief and - however fleetingly - believe it. With these two books, Wasserman has accomplished that. The mechs, as a concept, feel so real.

Another strong point of both books is the voice. It's very distinctive, and at times even metallic - machine-like. Skinned focuses more on the psychological aspect, and as such moves a little bit slower, whereas Crashed is more physical-based. At the same time, Crashed is the second book in a trilogy, and for science fiction especially, it would be nice if it read like it were written that way. Honestly, there was so much repetition of concepts and background info (mostly revealed in Skinned) that it got to the point of being annoying.

Skinned and Crashed are both also very thought-provoking; there's definitely a bit of social satire in there, and it's really cool - and a little disconcerting - to see elements of our society reflected in that. Although the concepts explored weren't mind-blowing, if one bothers to ponder into it deep enough and make the effort to actually think about the implications while reading, it's definitely got some deep stuff that'll leave you unable to stop thinking about it long after the last page's been turned.

With intricate world-building, cool concepts and a distinctive voice, Crashed and Skinned are both very fun YA sci-fi reads.

*Wired, the third book in the trilogy, was recently released on September 14th, 2010.
**The back-cover synopsis of Crashed really bothered me - it didn't exactly fit the plot. Those of you who've read it, did you find that too?

berry acrobatic.

tomorrow -
is a new day.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Upcoming CSN Review

We all know that online shopping is basically explosive in popularity these days. One amazing, super-comprehensive store is CSN Stores - they honestly have just about everything.

From gorgeous nightstands to beautiful lamps to sturdy bookshelves, CSN's series of stores has got you covered.

Those of you who've been visiting Lucid Conspiracy for awhile might remember a contest hosted in conjunction with CSN Stores back in June where a giftcard was given away. This time around, the lovely people over there have offered me the opportunity to review an article from one of their stores.

Living in a university dorm room, there's definitely a lot of stuff that would come in handy. At this point, I'm trying to decide between a desk chair, a mini fridge, or a portable space heater. Any opinions? Either way, definitely be on the lookout for a review coming soon!

In the meantime, pop by CSN Stores and check out their amazing selection of just about everything - furniture, shoes, bags, etc!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Giveaway: Hush, Hush & Crescendo

Let's start October off with a bang. September was rather hush, hush in terms of posting, but hopefully this month we'll crescendo in terms of volume! And what better way to kick it off than by having a giveaway?

And so, in conjunction with Simon & Schuster, Lucid Conspiracy is pleased to announce a giveaway for copies of both Hush, Hush and Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick for one extremely lucky winner. Be sure to check out the new book website at! First, some basic background information:

Becca Fitzpatrick
Becca Fitzpatrick's first book, Hush, Hush debuted as a New York Times bestseller. She graduated college with a degree in health, which she promptly abandoned for storytelling. When not writing, she's most likely running, prowling sale racks for shoes or watching crime dramas on TV. She lives in Colorado. Find out more at

Hush, Hush - Now available in paperback!

A sacred oath, a fallen angel, a forbidden love.

Nora Grey has had a rough year. Her father was murdered and as a result, her mother had thrown herself into work, leaving Nora alone most of the time in their secluded farmhouse. Despite this, she manages to be a very good girl, never missing school, never even driving without permission.

But when the transfer student, Patch, gets assigned as her lab partner in biology, from the moment the two are together, there's an inescapable magnetism that draws Nora deeper and deeper into his dark world. When she discovers the enormous V-shaped scars on his back, she discovers that there is a battle going on between the fallen and the immortal. And she's the object.

The magnetism she feels is now more inescapable than ever.

Crescendo - Available October 19th!

The sequel to the New York Times Best selling phenomenon, Hush, Hush!

Nora should have know her life was far from perfect. Despite starting a relationship with her guardian angel, Patch (who, title aside, can be described anything but angelic), and surviving an attempt on her life, things are not looking up. Patch is starting to pull away and Nora can't figure out if it's for her best interest or if his interest has shifted to her arch-enemy Marcie Millar. Not to mention that Nora is haunted by images of her father and she becomes obsessed with finding out what really happened to him that night he left for Portland and never came home.

The farther Nora delves into the mystery of her father's death, the more she comes to question if her Nephilim blood line has something to do with it as well as why she seems to be in danger more than the average girl. Since Patch isn't answering her questions and seems to be standing in her way, she has to start finding the answers on her own. Relying too heavily on the fact that she has a guardian angel puts Nora at risk again and again. But can she really count on Patch or is he hiding secrets darker than she can even imagine?

And now, onto the details of the giveaway. First entry is a freebie, just for name & e-mail. Additional entries are as follows:
`+1 for Twitter followers (@lucidconspiracy)
`+5 for Blog Followers
`+1 for each place you link the contest
`+1 for totaling up your entries
Contest ends October 19th, 2010. To enter, please fill out the entry form. Beyond that, good luck!

And now, I leave you off with the Crescendo book trailer:

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Author Stalking: Yann Martel

It's kind of a funny story, how I ended up getting to see Yann Martel (reknowned author of Life of Pi). More of a right-place at the right-time sort of thing.

Basically, Sunday I claimed I was going to do work. But then you know, you get caught up chilling with people in the dining hall for brunch and next thing you know, half the afternoon is gone. But I was adamant that I would get caught up on my reading!

Knowing me, after getting back to my room of course I had to procrastinate for awhile first. Then at approximately 3:46p.m. I figured I'd go to the bathroom and really get down to work. Whilst in there, I ran into a buddy who mentioned that she just got back from Word on the Street, a book festival happening, well, right-now! in Queen's Park, which is basically right-here!
So of course I ran back to my room, Googled it, realized that Yann Martel was speaking in approximately 10 minutes! WHAT? Screw work, of course I quickly grabbed a buddy and we headed over to Queen's Park and beelined for the reading.

Got there just in the nick of time. Mr. Martel was introduced, and then he read an excerpt from his new piece Beatrice and Virgil, answered some questions in a back-and-forth interview-style session, and then answered four more questions previously submitted by the general public.

All in all, it was a very impressive experience. Mr. Martel covered a wide range of topics in his answers, and it was great to hear the witticisms, the take on politics, on philosophy, and just about all else in between.

It was also super-interesting to hear more about the whole letters to Stephen Harper project (91 and counting!) and a bit about the next work (chimpanzees and automobiles and Northern Portugal!)
After the reading, we walked around a bit just to see what it was like, although time was really tight as the festival ended at 6:00pm and a lot of tents were running out of stuff/starting to pack up. However, at the Simon & Schuster tent I did manage to snag (brand new!) copies for the tenth Pendragon book The Soldiers of Halla (DJ MacHale) and a GI Joe activity book for $1. Seriously. Also got a bunch of bookmarks and pins/buttons, which is always really fun.
The Harlequin tent was very well stocked ^^

Sunday, September 26, 2010

In My Mailbox [42] + Update

So I know it's been awhile since I've been spotted around the YA blogosphere. But I have a valid reason, promise!

Basically, I've recently moved to a big city to start university. It's been a bit of an adjustment, getting used to living in a dorm room, cafe food, all the extra freedom... I've been loving it so far! But at the same time, wandering home in the wee hours of morning every night isn't exactly condusive to blogging, or homework, or even classes (which are getting steadily busier, by the way).

Nevertheless, I do miss the YA blogosphere, so I think I'm going to try and continue with it as much as possible, although it's a given that I probably won't be quite as active as I was before. It's been a few weeks now, so I'm starting to settle in and I think once I get a pattern going, things'll steady out.

So be on the lookout for posts to start up again soon, and a giveaway for copies of Hush, Hush and Crescendo shortly!

Speaking of which, that's what I got this week - Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick. My first piece of mail in res. :)


What's been in your mailbox lately?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday (20)

Delirium - Lauren Oliver
*February 1st, 2011 HarperTeen
Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didn’t understand that once love -the deliria- blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the governments demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Holway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy.

But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: She falls in love.
This sounds like something right up my alley - futuristic sci fi, taking an abstract concept and applying science to it, dystopic society... Add to that the fact that it's written by Lauren Oliver, and you've got icing on the cake. I reviewed Before I Fall, her debut novel, a few months ago and fairly enjoyed it, so it'll definitely be interesting to see whether the sophomore follow-up does it justice.

So there you have it - my pick of the week. Your turn now, what're you waiting on this Wednesday?

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Many Faces of The Hunger Games

It's always fascinating to compare international covers for books, see what persona they're taking on around the globe. Sure, there's that old saying, "don't judge a book by its cover" - but oftentimes, a book's cover can say a lot about its contents. This isn't a complete collection of all the international covers, but they're ones that I find of particular note.
These are the German covers for The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, respectively. There's no denying that both covers are very striking, very gorgeous. Beautiful colour schemes, and the covers themselves just sort of pop. I also like how only half the face is shown, and the eye just sort of stares at you. It's also kind of cool how "Panem" is the word of main focus on both covers.
These are the Taiwanese covers for The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, respectively. They both have the signature mockingjay on the cover, one in gold, one in bronze. Personally I think the cover for THG kind of looks like a movie poster. The atmosphere created is definitely chilling. Really like the colour scheme of CF, and how some of the main tribulations of the arena are depicted here.
Both of these are from the UK, and both are of The Hunger Games - but one is a girl version, and one is a boy version. I don't tihnk I've seen anything like this before, one book marketed simultaneously to different gender groups by having different covers. It's kind of a cool idea, really. The guy one has a Stephen King blurb, the gal one Stephenie Meyer. Hmm...
These are both of The Hunger Games as well, the Swedish on the left and the Danish on the right. The image on the Swedish cover is definitely very chilling, but I'm not particularly fond of the way the text was integrated. Love the title font on the Danish cover. The image itself seems to be marketed almost towards a younger audience though...
Again, both are of The Hunger Games, the Russian one is one left, and on the right is the cover from the Netherlands. For the Russian one, the characters aren't really how I would picture them. For one thing, they look older than they should. For another - and wait for the explanation before getting indignant - I would expect Katniss to be portrayed as thinner. If that's Gale in the background, likewise. If that's Peeta... well. Anyway - why? Despite being able to hunt, Katniss is from the Seam, and it's referenced throughout numerous times that food is not plentiful. Sure, she's able to get game. But it's still only enough to fill her stomach, not enough to eat in excess. That, plus the fact that she's always expending a large amount of energy, one would expect her to be a little more malnourished-looking. Walking around looking like she's getting a full three meals a day and then some would probably arouse a fair amount more suspicion than safe, considering the physical state of the other people around her. Really like the blue gradient on the Danish version of the cover.

How about you guys, any particular covers you like more than the others? What do you think of these ones?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

In My Mailbox [41]

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren showcasing the awesome books received in one's mailbox (or from other sources). Pop on by for more information on how to join the fun!
Guardian of the Gate by Michelle Zink - Currently reading this one. I reviewed its predecessor Prophecy of the Sisters last summer.

You by Charles Benoit - This was a complete surprise, but a pretty exciting one. Been hearing interesting things about this one, and I believe it's written in second person, which is definitely very unique.

Sent and Sabotaged, The Missing books 2 and 3, respectively, by Margaret Peterson Haddix - These were also surprises, but I've read a number of Haddix's past works and enjoyed them greatly, so these were great to see as well.

Things have definitely been very hectic around here recently; I'm going to be heading out of town for university in about a week's time. Back to school shopping, lots of stuff to take care of, friends to chill with before leaving, packing that needs to be done... basically a huge to-do list. To minimize the amount of books I have to bring, I'm hoping to completely clear the backlog of reviews that still need to be written before I go. Wish me luck - it's going to be quite a feat ;)

Anybody else preparing to head off to university or college? Are you planning on bringing a bunch of books with you?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Behemoth Books

So I've been noticing what seems to be turning into a trend in YA lit these days: long books.

Is it just me, or does it feel like there are more and more 400-page-plus books coming out recently? Some examples that come to mind off the top of my head would be Beautiful Creatures, Before I Fall, The Eternal Ones, Nightshade, etc. There are also a few in the 350-400 page range that are also rather hefty, such as The Dark Divine, Brightly Woven, etc.

Now, one of the general unspoken tidbits about writing is that there's no set word count - write it in as many or as few words as it takes to tell the story.

There are books that do this brilliantly. For example, The Hunger Games and Catching Fire (hehe, had to bring it up -Mockingjay tomorrow!) are decently sized books - but every page, every word feels necessary. The plot, the language, the characters - everything keeps the reader completely entranced. The Harry Potter books got pretty hefty by the end, but they're still amazing reads and hugely popular.

Unfortunately this doesn't always seem to be the case. Honestly, it feels like a recurring observation in many of my reviews now, the fact that some books are simply unncessarily long. I'm not going to into naming specific examples and calling anybody out here, but some scenes just feel like the book could've done without. Others, backstory and setting up the scene takes the first hundred pages or so. Seriously? Just get to the story already.

Has anyone else been finding this recently, books being longer than they need to be?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday (19)

Wired - Robin Wasserman
*September 14th, 2010 Simon Pulse

One year ago, Lia Kahn died.

A few days later, she woke up.

She had a new body: Mechanical, unfeeling, inhuman. She had a new family: Mechs like her, who didn't judge her for what she could no longer be. She had a new life, one that would last forever.

At least, it was supposed to.

But now everything Lia thought she knew has turned out to be a lie; everyone she thought she loved has been stolen away. And someone is trying to get rid of the mechs, once and for all. Lia will risk everything to save herself and the people she can't live without. But not before facing one final truth: She can't save everyone.
Why am I excited about this one? Well, it's the final book in a trilogy, which is always exciting. A science fiction trilogy, actually, which makes it even more so.

Recently I read Skinned and Crashed (the first two books), one right after the other, so it's still fresh. In fact, keep an eye out for reviews of these two titles to come very shortly. Also interesting to note that Scott Westerfeld has blurbed this series. There's definitely a lot of parallels and "suitable for fans of" between this series and Westerfeld's Uglies trilogy (consisting of Uglies, Pretties, Specials and Extras).

So there you have it - my pick of the week. Now, what're you waiting on this Wednesday?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

In My Mailbox [40]

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren showcasing the awesome books received in one's mailbox (or from other sources). Pop on by for more information on how to join the fun!

This week's post shows the accumulation of what was received both while I was away on vacation and what I've gotten in the two weeks since coming back. Ironically, everything that I've gotten since coming back is from the same day - Friday the 13th.

`Infinite Days by Rebecca Maizel
`The Eternal Ones by Kirsten Miller
`The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney
`The DUFF by Kody Keplinger
`Thirteen Days to Midnight by Patrick Carman

And during the month of July:

`Crashed by Robin Wasserman
`Bookmarks from the awesome Emily at Emily's Reading Room - thanks Emily!
`Edward Prize Pack from the awesome Nikki at Wicked Awesome Books - thanks Nikki!

I'm pretty excited, definitely tons of great books I'm really looking forward to reading here (so be sure to keep an eye out for reviews!) But there you have it - my mailbox for three-quarters of the summer. Your turn now - what was in your mailbox this week?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

丝丝心动/Strands of Love Review

This is the first full drama that I've watched since You're Beautiful, and the first without English subtitles in [a long time? ever?] For the most part, it's a fairly fun, humourous, watchable drama.

As far as the acting/casting goes, it's a thumbs up for this one. There's this one scene in particular where the four of them (the two couples) are sort of facing each other by the gates and the melancholic expressions and feelings conveyed by Blue especially, and Jenny too, are pretty amazing. The main pairing definitely has great on-screen chemistry.

"Nai Nai", "Three Wind", "Da Mei" & co. definitely provide numerous moments of comic relief. Rejoice shampoo is one of the major sponsors, and as such a lot of advertising is apparent throughout. A couple shots were well incorporated, but a few were a little over-dramatic and over the top.

There were scenes where Jenny's character would be continuously apologizing or expressing gratitude, and the acting in those got a little annoying, as did all the overt sighing, at times. Also, for any of you who've already watched it - what is up with Blue wearing pants that are too short all the time?!

In terms of classification, this would probably fall under the category of romantic comedy. At times it did feel a little too fluffy, a little too cliche, a little too "no-way-that-would-never-happen-in-reality" scoffs the cynical watcher. There were a couple moments of #characterizationfail.

But all in all? It's a pretty funny drama and worth checking out if you're into sweet, romantic, happy dramas.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Reviews: Radiant Shadows & Jekel Loves Hyde

Radiant Shadows - Melissa Marr
*April 20th, 2010 HarperTeen

In Radiant Shadows Melissa Marr has created an entrancing world of magic and possibility that draws the reader in and holds them as tightly as a traveler wandering lost in Faerie.

Marr has a very distinctive writing style with beautiful passages of description. The particular faery mythology used in Radiant Shadows is fresh and engaging. As far as leading ladies go, it's great to see someone like Ani, someone strong and not simply a damsel-in-distress.

On the downside, the relationships [of the romantic variety] just didn't feel all that real or credible to me. Ani and Devlin's progressed a little too fast and suddenly for my liking, and I didn't particularly like the way it was at the end of the novel either. At times the plot was a little tedious and there was rehashing of information that the reader could've easily figured out pages ago.

With beautifully flowing writing, Radiant Shadows is not just a book - it's a new world to explore, one complete with magic and mystery that'll leave the reader thinking about it long after the last page has been turned.

Jekel Loves Hyde - Beth Fantaskey
*May 3rd, 2010 Harcourt

Before reading Jekel Loves Hyde, I'd heard some great stuff about her debut novel, and some reviews that claim the sophomore follow-up (JLH) doesn't quite live up to it. Well, not having read Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side, I was approaching this one without a comparison point. Unfortunately, it was mostly a disappointment.

The main characters Jill and Tristen weren't particularly relatable to, and their relationship was a little sketch. Personally I wasn't too fond of the short, choppy chapters or the numerous ellipses trailing off sentences. There were plot holes like "what? Seriously?" And in beginning, when it appeared that science was going to play a part in explaining the experimentation and what happened to the original Jekyll and Hyde, I was kind of excited, expecting it to add to the credibility. But then the science aspect fell flat and actually had the opposite effect of detracting from it.

Fantaskey does have passages of magnetic writing though, which do exude charisma and are re-readable. On the whole, Jekel Loves Hyde is a good novel.

*This is the 3rd installment of mini reviews. Previous installments include:
If I Stay & Wintergirls
Hourglass & A Match Made In High School

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Katniss To Die In Mockingjay?

Recently, Suzanne Collins was interviewed by the School Library Journal (which can be found here, for any of you who haven't seen it yet). Before you read further, I must warn you that there are spoilers pertaining to The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Gladiator in this post.

Now, there was one particular question & answer pairing that jumped out at me, and it'd be great to hear you guys weigh in as well. Says Collins,
"But once the “Hunger Games” story takes off, I actually would say that the historical figure of Spartacus really becomes more of a model [...] for Katniss. We don’t know a lot of details about his life, but there was this guy named Spartacus who was a gladiator who broke out of the arena and led a rebellion against an oppressive government that led to what is called the Third Servile War. He caused the Romans quite a bit of trouble. And, ultimately, he died."
Could this possibly be foreshadowing for Katniss Everdeen's fate? And you know, it kind of reminds me of Gladiator, that 2000 film starring Russell Crowe. And *spoiler alert* Maximus dies at the end of the movie. I mean, from an emotion-evokation perspective, that would definitely carry heavy impact.

And considering Collins's style, I can't imagine her finishing off Mockingjay with a happy fairy-tale ending. So let's face it - there're going to be deaths. There's going to be carnage. The whole Gale-Katniss-Peeta triangle is not going to end perfectly for all.

So, what do you think? Will Katniss follow in the footsteps of Spartacus and Maximus and the like and suffer a Romantically tragic demise? Will she survive? Which of those close to her will meet untimely ends?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday (18)

XVI - Julia Karr
*January 6th, 2011 Puffin/Speak

In the year 2150, being a girl isn’t necessarily a good thing, especially when your sixteenth (read sex-teenth) birthday is fast approaching. That in itself would be enough to make anyone more than a little nuts, what with the tattoo and all – but Nina Oberon’s life has taken a definite turn for the worse. Her mother is brutally stabbed and left for dead. Before dying, she entrusts a secret book to Nina, telling her to deliver it to Nina's father. But, first Nina has to find him; since for fifteen years he's been officially dead. Complications arise when she rescues Sal, a mysterious, and ultra hot guy. He seems to like Nina, but also seems to know more about her father than he’s letting on. Then there’s that murderous ex-government agent who’s stalking her, and just happens to be her little sister’s dad."

Alas, there's still a fair while until this one comes out. But by the sounds of it, it's futuristic dystopian (love!) which immediately piqued my interest. And from the synopsis, it sounds very controversial, very edgy, very push-the-envelope (hopefully over the edge).

The cover is very cool too - a little reminiscent of the cover for Willow by Julia Hoban (look at that, both books from Penguin, both authors with a first name of Julia). I didn't even notice right away that the lines across her face actually spell out the title (XVI or "sixteen").

To be honest the whole "ultra hot guy" thing sounds a little sketch, but I guess we'll have to wait and see how that's played out. All in all, a book worth waiting on!

How about you, what're you waiting on this Wednesday?

*WoW is hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday (17)

Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins
*August 24th, 2010 Scholastic

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But now that she’s made it out of the bloody arena alive, she’s still not safe. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge. Who do they think should pay for the unrest? Katniss. And what’s worse, President Snow has made it clear that no one else is safe either. Not Katniss’s family, not her friends, not the people of District 12. Powerful and haunting, this thrilling final installment of Suzanne Collins’s groundbreaking The Hunger Games trilogy promises to be one of the most talked about books of the year.

It's Mockingjay, what can I say? A little over a month! Who's excited?!

*WoW is hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine

Sunday, July 18, 2010

What's Your Font?

I'm curious - how do you guys feel about fonts?

For me, there're specific fonts that I've simply come to associate with certain books or franchises. I'm sure the obvious ones come to mind for you guys as well - Harry Potter, the Twilight series, etc. all have very distinctive ones.

A little more subtle, the interior text of books often have unique fonts as well. Those favoured series that are often read seem to convey a certain personality through their specific respective fonts, each rounded loop, each serifed stem, each sloping line.

Unfortunately I don't know the fonts of these books off-hand (perhaps you do?), but there are a few that stick out particularly. Gail Carson Levine's fractured fairy tale books always seem to contain the same font, and I've come to have a fond spot for the innocent yet regal letters. Ann Brashares' The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series has one specific typeset throughout the novels, another one for opening chapter quotes, and then each Tibby, Bridget, Lena and Carmen have associated "handwriting"s. And correct me if I'm wrong, but I think Jaclyn Moriarty's characters (especially in The Year of Secret Assignments) have different writing as well.

Awhile ago I remember opening an MG book and literally thinking, "Oh my gosh, wow, it's Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants - font!"

How about you, do fonts play a role in your reading experience? Do you find yourself attached to a few in particular, or associate them with where you first saw them? What's your font?!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday (16)

Guardian of the Gate - Michelle Zink
*August 1st, 2010 Little, Brown

The ultimate battle between sisters is nearing, and its outcome could have catastrophic consequences. As sixteen year-old Lia Milthorpe searches for a way to end the prophecy, her twin sister Alice hones the skills she'll need to defeat Lia. Alice will stop at nothing to reclaim her sister's role in the prophecy, and that's not the only thing she wants: There's also Lia's boyfriend James.

Lia and Alice always knew the Prophecy would turn those closest to them against them. But they didn't know what betrayal could lead them to do. In the end, only one sister will be left standing.

I think it's kind of a given that this would be one worth waiting on. I read and reviewed Prophecy of the Sisters around this time last year, and it was definitely a very enjoyable read. In fact, to directly quote some of my impressions at the time in regards to a sequel:
The ending of Prophecy of the Sisters isn't really an ending, per se. It's wide and expansive, it's open and really, it's more of a beginning than anything else. It promises the start of an enchanting journey.[...] it's a resolved open ending that I've no doubt will lead beautifully into the sequel.

Prophecy of the Sisters offers a deliciously dark and fresh glimpse into a world of possibilities. Like Henry says, "only time will tell" (Zink 256). But with Zink's beautiful storytelling style and immersing plot lines, this is one series that readers will eagerly await with baited breath.
And the next installment, Guardian of the Gate, is nearly upon us! I also talked extensively about my excitement regarding this here. Beautiful writing and written by one of the kindest people out there, this is definitely a series to check out if you haven't already.

Your turn now - what're you waiting on this week?

*WoW is hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine

Monday, July 12, 2010

Reviews: A Match Made in High School & Hourglass

A Match Made in High School - Kristin Walker
*February 4th, 2010 Razorbill

Kristin Walker's A Match Made In High School is a light-hearted and enjoyable read, both fun and funny. I whipped through this in one afternoon. Walker impressed me in a number of ways with this one. First off, although the concept itself isn't entirely new, she puts a unique spin on it and writes it in a way that's credible. Secondly, I liked the references to little tidbits of information that are a little out-there, a little more literary, which kind of elevates it in a sense. It's romantic, it's dramatic, it's high school and it's humourous - done well.

And the leading lady Fiona? I had moments where I disliked her, then there were moments when she grew on me. Basically, Walker has made her a dynamic character that readers can actually give a hoot about, which is great. And I especially appreciated the fact that it didn't follow the cliche, typical high school romantic outcome.

So sure, it's not exactly deep or controversial or thought-provoking. But if you're looking for some LOL fun, this is the perfect remedy. Fast, fresh and fun, A Match Made in High School is a wonderful debut from Kristin Walker.

Hourglass - Claudia Gray
*March 9th, 2010 HarperCollins

Claudia Gray provides a different take on vampires in her New York Times Bestselling series that began with Evernight. Hourglass is the third installment in the series, and is preceded by Stargazer. I really like the font they chose for the titles of these books. As for Hourglass, I didn't actually end up finishing it.

See, I started Hourglass and I'd been pretty into it - it was action-packed, it was original, etc. I got to Chapter 15 (page 212 of about 339) and stopped for a few days, and after that basically wasn't really able to get back into it. It's been a few months now, since then. On one hand, originally I had found it a pretty enthralling read up to as far as I got. On the other, after stopping, it just didn't hold the same calling any more. (Note - if I ever end up getting back into it and finishing, I'll come back and update this.)

I did like the fact that it was a different take on vampires and vampire hunters. I also liked the fact that there was a distinct sort of vampire mythology present. I also enjoyed the fact that it was very action-packed. So if you're looking for more vampires (or hunters) or action, Claudia Gray's Hourglass is one to check out.

*This is the second installment of mini reviews. The first, featuring Gayle Forman's IF I STAY and Laurie Halse Anderson's WINTERGIRLS, can be found here.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday (15)

Infinite Days - Rebecca Maizel
*August 3rd, 2010 St. Martin's Griffin

When Lenah Beaudonte, a 500-year-old vampire queen, wakes up a human teenager at an ultra-cliquey prep school, she must choose between embracing the humanity she’s always craved and saving her new friends from her vicious coven. The first in a sizzling new YA series.

Lenah Beaudonte is, in many ways, your average teen: the new girl at Wickham Boarding School, she struggles to fit in enough to survive and stand out enough to catch the eye of the golden-boy lacrosse captain. But Lenah also just happens to be a recovering five-hundred-year-old vampire queen. After centuries of terrorizing Europe, Lenah is able to realize the dream all vampires have -- to be human again. After performing a dangerous ritual to restore her humanity, Lenah entered a century-long hibernation, leaving behind the wicked coven she ruled over and the eternal love who has helped grant her deep-seated wish.

Until, that is, Lenah draws her first natural breath in centuries at Wickham and rediscovers a human life that bears little resemblance to the one she had known. As if suddenly becoming a teenager weren’t stressful enough, each passing hour brings Lenah closer to the moment when her abandoned coven will open the crypt where she should be sleeping and find her gone. As her borrowed days slip by, Lenah resolves to live her newfound life as fully as she can. But, to do so, she must answer ominous questions: Can an ex-vampire survive in an alien time and place? What can Lenah do to protect her new friends from the bloodthirsty menace about to descend upon them? And how is she ever going to pass her biology midterm?

So far, this one seems to have gotten a ton of positive reviews, which always boosts a book's appeal. Although it does appear to be another vampire book, the synopsis seems to suggest a twist - a vampire wanting to live a human life? How very opposite of one particular brunette *cough* Bella *cough*.

And I mean, with the mention of a coven, it'll be really interesting to see a different take on the whole vampire mythology. 500 years old? Waking up centuries later? Sounds like it's brimming with potential!

So there's my pick for the week. What're you waiting on this Wednesday?

*WoW is hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine
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