Saturday, December 29, 2012

Stacking the Shelves (8)

Stacking The Shelves, hosted by Tynga's Reviews, is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!

Last Stacking the Shelves of 2012! Then we get into 2013, and I'll be nineteen the next time I post one. I leave January 5th to go back to college for the spring semester and I won't have time to put a post together. My birthday is on the sixth, for the curious.



Amazon Vine:

Mind Games by Kiersten White

Passed on to me by an awesome friend:

Mila 2.0 by Debra Driza

Received in a swap with a blogger:

The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd

Received from the publisher via NetGalley:

Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson 

Christmas gifts:

Anything but Ordinary by Lara Avery
Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor
Zoe Letting Go by Nora Price
Some Girls: My Life in a Harem by Jillian Lauren

And introducing...



Irisa!

Irisa (pronounced ee-REE-sah) is the Nook HD+ I got for Christmas. She was the most unexpected gift I got and I already love her. She joins Safara, my Kindle Fire. Irisa is the ereader I'll be using to read e-galleys from now on because the files are more compatible with her than with Safara.

Friday, December 28, 2012

2012: The Year Everyone Lost Their Heads

I blame the Mayans for all the author/book drama in 2012. If they hadn't said the world was going to end this year and LIED, maybe fewer people would have been asshats. For everyone who wants a record of what went on so they can go back and laugh at it, I give you a recap of 2012 in drama! Grab some popcorn because this will be a long one. This won't be a comprehensive list because there are so damn many dramas big and small, but I'll recount some of the more well-known, entertaining, or personally important ones.

Links are compiled thanks to the list of books I won't read due to the authors behaving badly, the lovely ladies at Cuddlebuggery and the occasional Scandalous Scandals/Controversy section of Buzzworthy News, my black-belt Google-fu, and scouring for links on Goodreads.

JANUARY

This month was especially bad. Oh Lord, this month was awful. The First Five Days of Goodreads recounts this well, though more than a few links are altered or dead now.

Dan Krokos

Before 2012 even started, my friend Kira posts a pre-review of Tempest by Julie Cross criticizing the portrayal of a man-hater as a feminist. Author Dan Krokos criticizes her about her criticism and in the new year, he took it to Twitter and a whole bunch of authors joined in to bash Goodreads. People who jumped in on this whether or not they KNEW what the hashtag they jumped into was about included Lauren DeStefano, Courtney Allison Moulton, Pam van Hylckama, Bill Cameron, Rachel Hawkins, and Jessica Corra. All but Hawkins and Cameron apologized. Krokos apologized too and is genuinely sorry about what he did, as he expressed in this in an interview with The Midnight Garden. Most have forgiven him.

Just about all the links are dead on that one because Kira removed Tempest from her Goodreads shelf, so the Midnight Garden interview is the only one I can provide. Sorry 'bout that, folks.

Leigh Fallon

Steph Sinclair, one of the lovely ladies behind Cuddlebuggery, got forwarded an email originall written by Leigh Fallon. In it, Fallon calls her a cow and tries to get people to downvote her review and other negative reviews of Carrier of the Mark on Amazon while upvoting the positive reviews. After some questions about whether or not Fallon wrote it, there is confirmation she really did do it. Fallon apologized, but that didn't help matters much. A lot of people (including me) still have her marked as Do Not Read.

Jamie McGuire

Sophie on Goodreads writes a negative review of Beautiful Disaster and the author decides it's a good idea to post about it and tweet saying it's attacking her readers. Hm, the itty bitty Goodeads reviewer (at the time) getting swamped by trolls who get so bad that she often deletes comments (as is her right) or the author with a legion of fans... I know who I side with!

Jane Litte of Dear Author fame and McGuire battle it out a little on Twitter and for now, that's the end of that. This won't be the last time you see McGuire in this post.

 Julie Halpern

ALL the links to what Halpern said are dead now, so I'll quote Cuddlebuggery's summation of it:
Julie Halpern writes a personal attack on Allison’s recent review of Don’t Stop Now.  The blogger world reels from the ridiculousness of it all.  Then a rash of discussion breaks out.

She posts a second blog post.  It is not an apology.  She blames the bloggers for being too sensitive and justifies her attack.

A third and final blog post is written demanding bloggers stop being so upset about her offensive posts.

The bloggers agree, forgive her and rush to buy her new book.  Then they all die from a sarcasm overload.
Quotes from Halpern in those posts include:

 I fucking hate people who write nasty reviews!

Ugh! I didn't make it up, beyotch! (addressed to reviewer)
(source)

(Fun fact: this one happened on my 18th birthday. Not the gift I wanted.)

Kiera Cass

This one is more Cass's agent Elana Roth. Roth decided it was a good idea to call Goodreads/The Midnight Garden reviewer Wendy Darling a bitch on Twitter because Wendy had the audacity to not like The Selection. Cass never objected to it, so I consider that implicit agreement. They both sent apologies that Wendy didn't think sounded too sincere.

FEBRUARY

Longtime problem author Vanity, aka Melissa Douthit, is finally banned from Goodreads, along with 27 of her sockpuppets/friends. Other than that, February was calm. Hallelujah! Unfortunately, this isn't anywhere close to the last we see of Douthit.

MARCH

Jamie McGuire

I told you Jamie McGuire was going to make a comeback! This time, she's attacking a review on Amazon for calling her book YA--despite the fact that she asked fans to vote for her novel in the YA category in the GR Choice awards a few months before. Backtracking: she needs a better bicycle for that. Dead link to the blog post where she tried to get people to vote, but I have this status update and this comment. She also fails to understand the definition of a personal attack.

Then one of McGuire's author friends, Steph Campbell, decides to pipe up. Bad idea.

ANOTHER of McGuire's friends, Jessica Park, also whines about people giving her three stars and then trying to friend her on Goodreads. Oh, the humanity!

Shannon Hale

Hale decided to tweet her opinion of three-star reviews on on Goodreads. Once again, bad idea. Would have gone better had she not failed at letting it go and smoothing things over.

Then we have a small something courtesy of Michelle Wolfson, who takes issue with the fact that some people didn't like The Selection by Kiera Cass. She's also okay with Cass's agent Elena Roth calling Wendy a bitch and calls Wendy an idiot while she's at it. Surprisingly few people cared.

APRIL

Rebecca Hamilton

There are no words for this lady. Consult Cuddlebuggery and this review for more. While talking to Kat Kennedy, she compares a bad review to rape. Just about everything you expect to see happen because of stuff like that happens.

Sue Dent

So in the comments section of a review, Sue Dent has a meltdown over someone looking at the sample pages of her book and not liking it. Her bad reaction includes wanting to run the commenter over. Black humor: not always a good idea. There are also T-shirts.

The Story Siren

This was one of the largest scandals of the year: major YA reviewer Kristi, aka The Story Siren, was found to be plagiarizing other bloggers' material. I made a post on it, so check it out if you want the full story. Basically, she took from beauty bloggers to craft four of her pages, posted a few fauxpologies, and her fans started emailing hate mail and such to the people who outed her or stood against her. It's just an ugly mess.

BUT SHE STILL GETS ARCS GALORE FROM PUBLISHERS, INCLUDING A GODDAMN NOOK FROM HARPERCOLLINS.

Just saying.

Layce Gardner

According to her, people like me who write negative reviews are "bitchy, angry people who need to get laid." Mm-hm. Same story as usual. I'd ask for them to spice things up a little, but people eventually do that and everyone wishes they didn't.

MAY

Elle Lothlorien

 This author, when a negative review of one of her books is posted, likes to respond to them, which often resulted in the reviewers being pressured into changing their reviews or ratings to suit her. Not smart.

Jessica Park

Park, a friend of famous badly behaving author Jamie McGuire, decides it's a good idea to post a screencap of a Goodreads member's shelf on her book, which was so given thanks to Park's own tag-team behavior with McGuire on Amazon. She also comments on it. Not too bright.

 M.R. Mathias

When his thread about his books got moved to the small press/self-published section of the forums, Mathias was not a happy boy. Not at all. This resulted in a meltdown with him making many, many comments on a Goodreads list dedicated to badly behaving authors (but all of his comments are deleted now, woe) and many, many stupid tweets.

Laurell K. Hamilton

This is hardly even anything because LKH has done this so often. So often that she gets a page on the Fandom Wank Wiki just like Anne Rice does. What she does this time is rather typical of her: complaining about reviewers, assuming they're complaining because her character Anita Blake is having sex with multiple people (and not because her books might be going down down down in quality or something), etc. Barely worth paying attention to. It's almost funny!

 Melissa Douthit

She returns! This time, it's because she decided to air popular reviewer Wendy Darling's alleged personal information and twist around what happened during The Selection's debacle. Cuddlebuggery and Pocketful of Books have the most comprehensive screencaps/link collection on this whole sorry mess. Wendy herself made a post responding to all this, and it becomes clear how much the problem with The Selection has affected her.

This whole fiasco scared many of Wendy's friends--and people who fought with Douthit in general--into locking down their social media presence for a while. This may be the only event this year that had a personal effect on me; a supporter of Douthit's came to play with me, which resulted in a stress-related medical condition I'd just started recovering from to start up again the night before I graduated high school.

JUNE

Steven Nedelton

Because it summarizes this quite well, I'll borrow a comment of mine from elsewhere on this: Spamming people, calling someone who takes issues with the way you advertise yourself a communist/fascist, and then saying they must be on drugs? Uh, fuck no.  

L.B. Schulman

This was more of a maybe-drama; looking back, I've got no idea what happened here. A bunch of blank accounts attacked my friend Blythe's Goodreads review of League of Strays and there were suspicions the author had something to do with it. Schulman's comment on a blog post of Maggie Stiefvater's is a sign of something to come.

Jaq D. Hawkins

 Hawkins took exception to one review of her novel Dance of the Goblins and tried to get it taken down, saying she will otherwise sue the reviewer for slander and extreme copyright violation. What ensues is pretty damn silly and also kind of awful, but entertaining nonetheless.

JULY

Oh God, July. This was probably one of the worst months.

Heather White

The author had a very bad reaction to a negative review, as seen here and here. After fighting with Kara and Melissa, she deleted her account on Goodreads.

Caroll Bryant

A lot of these links have been deleted because it happened on Goodreads for the most part and the author was deleted from the site. He also deleted most of the relevant comments. This is going off memory and what other friends have said.

One of the more wild events of the year. Bryant posted about bloggers who received copies of his book for review and said they'd review it or interview him, but they never did so for their own reasons. This massive sense of entitlement he's got going on makes him want to post a list of those bloggers. Many people advise him on Goodreads that this is an awful idea, but he goes into a downward spiral. Links got deleted, unfortunately. At some point, he admits that he was once part of Stop the Goodreads Bullies, which I'll cover next. Considering how reviled STGRB is among reviewers, this is pretty much him giving himself a death sentence, but the links are once again lost thanks to deletions.

He does eventually post the list, which consists of six blogs/bloggers: In Between Reading And Writing, YA Infatuation, The Lit Bitch,YA-Aholic, A Cupcake and a Latte, and Nightlyreading. The first blog is run by a young woman that Bryant lied about his age to, sent fake pictures of himself to, and led on when he knew she had a crush on him and it wasn't going to work. She was underage at the time and Bryant recently made a post about him and that young woman on STGRB that twists things around and lies about what happened, according to a source who doesn't want to be named/linked to.

I highly suspect Wendy of the now-defunct review blog A Cupcake and a Latte quit blogging in part due to this, as she was one of the bloggers Bryant named. She shut down shortly after it happened, but she claimed she never approached him like he claimed she did. Also, despite his claims at this time that he was no longer part of STGRB, he is now regularly featured there and given a voice there.


Stop the Goodreads Bullies/STGRB

I don't remember when they popped up or how anyone found out about them, but they exploded onto the scene in late July. Starting with four bloggers/Goodreads members (Ridley, Kat Kennedy of Cuddlebuggery, The Holy Terror, and Lucy), they posted their alleged real names, locations, where they went at certain times, and details of their lives. Every other blogger had something to say about how disgusted they were with this site. It has long been suspected that infamous BBA Melissa Douthit is behind the site due to how the attacks on this site are so similar to how Douthit attacked Wendy Darling back in May. Some people have posted compelling proof for this theory--proof that makes some people sure she had something to do with it no matter what the site claims.

After they realized how much trouble they could get in for posting personal info the way they did, they took it down and said it never happened. Of course, I know better because I have screencaps of the original posts. I'd post them here, but I want to include the entire posts and my screencaps are too damn large. No matter where I upload them, the screencaps are too large and the text becomes blurred when you zoom in.

Someone recently told me I made their sidebar of Badly Behaving Goodreaders, but STRGB can kiss my ass and learn what bullying actually is. As I said to someone at some point, this is BOOK REVIEWING, not the God damn battle of good vs. evil for the fate of the world.

L.B. Schulman

Y'all remember her, right? Suspected of having something to do with other Goodreads members attacking a reviewer? Well, whether or not she did it, a number of readers put her on their do-not-read shelf because of this tweetin which she shows support for Stop the GR Bullies. A little ironic considering her book is about bullying and how repaying bullies in kind isn't the way to go. There was also an anonymous comment on STGRB at one point that sounded like it might be her.

Cassandra Duffy

Same story, different character: she thinks "anyone who posts a scathing rant review of a book without receiving a giant paycheck as compensation are just bitter ***** who should probably find a hobby that doesn’t involve tearing down artists who actually contribute something to the world."

The word censored out? Twats.

Donna White Glaser

One of many, many authors some readers put on their do-not-read lists of various names. Why? For supporting STGRB.

Victoria Foyt

I'd known about her novel Save the Pearls for months because it showed up on NetGalley a while back, but I paid it no mind because it sounded like a racist piece of shit. Once the right people discovered it and brought attention to it, things EXPLODED. Her Huffington Post articles came under scrutiny and racist statements like "Conceivably, if the book had not reached the African-American community of readers, if such a category still exists, perhaps there might be some backlash" made some people start foaming at the mouth. No matter how many times Foyt denies being racist, her actions and her book speak a lot louder than she does.

And did I forget to mention the blackface in promo videos for the novel? I did? Damn. It's unfortunately true.

AUGUST

Emily Giffin

Another big one solely because the author involved is pretty big. Basically, the author's husband called a reviewer who gave one of his wife's books one star a psycho. Giffin posted on Facebook about it, which could be seen as encouraging her husband and fans to keep attacking the reviewer. Full story and screencaps are here on Corey Ann's blog.


I heard through the grapevine that the reviewer in question only just found out about the drama recently because their Amazon account is connected to an email account they barely use.

Simone Elkeles

A review on Goodreads anyone can tell is just good fun and a parody upset the author and she called bully. She contacted the reviewer multiple times in private messages telling her to take it down because it's misrepresenting her and... well, bullying. Cue the deletion of her comments and many people being disgusted with the author.

SEPTEMBER

Pam van Hylckama

Before anyone gets confused, Pam did NOT behave badly. Rather, someone behaved badly toward her--to the tune of attacking her for rejecting their novel. 

Full story here, but one day, someone attacked Pam in her car and started slamming her head into the steering wheel when she rolled down the window to talk to him. Her dog bit him and the man ran off. Later, the police looked through her email and found threats from an author she rejected. Using the address listed in the query letter, police went to his house and found him with a bite mark from Pam's dog on him.

Receiving such things from rejected writers is apparently par for the course as an agent and this horrifies me. When I was querying a manuscript and someone sent me back a rejection, that was it. Done. I didn't email them again saying I hoped they died or begging them to think about it or any of that. Ugh. -shivers-

OCTOBER

Nothing worth reporting. Yay!


NOVEMBER

A.E. Rought

Not bad behavior per se, but she upset a lot of people when she called the idea of having a female as the main character a trope. A trope, of course, is usually defined as a cliche or an overused idea. What, having a main character be of the female persuasion the way 51% of the world is means it's a trope?

Anna Marie Moore

Not an author, but this one was big enough and closely enough related to books that it counts. The Book Smugglers (two of my absolute favorite bloggers to ever exist) recounted their tale of how Moore, a website designer, was paid to redesign their site back in June and still had not delivered anything but excuses up until the point they posted about it in November. That was when they saw she was accepting new projects on her site when they themselves hadn't seen any work done on their project. Her estimated time to complete their work when they hired her? Two weeks. THAT was a fail.

DECEMBER

Mia Castile

Same story as usual: saw a bad review, didn't like it, proceeded to whine about it on their blog. This bad review  is apparently the one she's talking about, seeing as it's by a fellow author who has always been known for speaking her mind on the books she reads.

Tiffany Reisz

FINALLY, Reisz lets her opinions fly on Twitter.


She later apologizes for what she said. Some people accept her apology, some people don't.  The jealousy thing and saying a lot of reviewers are failed writers really gets my goat. For more screencaps, read this review's comments.






God DAMN, typing all this out hurt my fingers. I'm never doing this again. (Then again, we all know how I can turn never into possibly and get all the way to yes at some point. See Beautiful Disaster for an example.)

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Neverfall by Brodi Ashton

Title: Neverfall
Author: Brodi Ashton
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: December 26, 2012
Pages: ebook exclusive
How I Got the Book: Bought it.
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Promotional Materials and More: author website

Neverfall (Everneath, #1.5)A thrilling new novella from the author of the Everneath series!

Jack is trapped for eternity in the Tunnels while Nikki has managed to evade Cole's grasp . . . for now. But Cole is more desperate than ever to find answers about Nikki, his best chance for taking over the throne of the underworld. How did she survive the Feed? Can Cole find another Forfeit like her who can survive it too?

Cole's quest leads him to the other side of the world, to a mysterious, dangerous society known as the Delphinians, whose price for information might be higher than Cole can pay—a price that could destroy Nikki. But when Cole attempts to steal the answers instead, his mission ends in disaster. Faced with centuries in a Delphinian dungeon, Cole is confronted with questions he's been too scared to ask himself: Is he really obsessed with the throne—or is he obsessed with Nikki? And can she really give him a new beginning as the Everneath's king . . . or will she instead bring about his tragic end?


Review:


Maybe it was better not being inside Cole's head and forming my own ideas about what went on in there. Now I've been in there and I know what he's got for Nikki is classic insta-love, which does something akin to taking a wrecking ball to my wall of headcanon reserved for this series. Still, I'm more glad I read Neverfall than regretful because of how it lets readers look deeper into the Everneath. Nikki only knows so much about it compared to an millennium-old Everliving like Cole, after all.

Most of the novella is dedicated to Cole's search for answers as to how Nikki survived, but there are occasional flashbacks that give readers his point of view into pivotal pre-Feed moments like their first meeting and Cole showing up when Nikki saw Jack off to football camp. Anyone who has read Everneath knows what ensued soon after that. They're like small bonuses alongside new, interesting material. The journey he goes on for his answers take him to a group not even Nikki knew about: the Delphinians, Everlivings banned from their world by the queen who thought they might be trying to overthrow her. They were like a senate, but now they're fire-scarred Scholars and Fates who feed off a small portal to the Everneath in London. It's a shame we see so little of what could be a fascinating group.

My biggest issue with the novella is my inability to feel Cole has anything for Nikki other than an obsession without a strong base. As his point of view shows us, it just sort of happened. No real rhyme or reason. The benefit of not being in his head in Everneath was the ability to create my own rhyme and reason to his actions and feelings, but that's ruined now. Of course, I'm more upset about the lack of development than the ruination of my headcanon. The latter happens too much to get upset over it anymore.

There are also two chapters of Everbound included with this novella, and what I've read makes me want it so much more badly than I already did. I have a few snarky comments (a path Nikki says looks like a backward C looks more like a drunken C) and issues with Jack and Nikki's relationship that I don't recall having before, but that's neither here nor there for now. I'll save it for when I read Everbound in its entirety. I'm curious as to what the relic a fellow Delphinian prisoner gave Cole the location of will do. Hm...

3.5 stars!


What am I reading next?: Zoe Letting Go by Nora Price

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Delusion by Laura L. Sullivan

Title: Delusion
Author: Laura L. Sullivan
Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books
Release Date: January 8, 2013
Pages: 352 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: ARC via Amazon Vine
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: author website

DelusionWhen two beautiful teenage stage magicians in World War II England meet a pair of handsome men who can do real magic, sparks fly. But is it illusion, or delusion? Opening-night jitters are nothing new for Phil and Fee Albion, who come from a long line of stage illusionists. The girls love to dazzle London audiences, but in the aftermath of the Blitz they're bundled off to the countryside, where they're safe from bombs and Nazis--and bored to pieces. 

Phil, always the passionate one, discovers a hidden college of real magicians led by the devastatingly handsome Arden. If only Phil can persuade these unworldly magicians to help England win the war! Daredevil that she is, she'll risk anything to give her country a fighting chance, even if it means losing her heart . . . or her life.

Review:


This is one of those books it's difficult to put my feelings into words for. There's a lot to like about Delusion and the premise is certainly a grabbing one because of my love of magic, but there are so many ways in which it goes wrong too. Simple ways that could easily be fixed and also ways that would require an overhaul of the entire novel.

Phil and Fee are fantastic and not a thing about them should change. One cheeky, lively sister and a sweetheart who's too sweet for her own good make for fun reading and their relationship as sisters is fine from what little we see of it. The novel is more concentrated on the romance and the world of the magicians of the College of Drycraeft. The magical elements of the novel are well-drawn and I like how it covered the racism a lot of magic/witch/magician/whatever you want to call it stories tend to ignore. Nice parallel of the magicians' thoughts of being the master race and Hitler's master race too.

(And you can't not appreciate how deliciously dirty some scenes are when taken out of context. If I'd bookmarked them and was able to quote them, I would.)

Where the novel starts to fail is its pacing. The tension should be there because of the war, but there's so little energy for most of the book that putting it down is easy while picking it back up is a challenge. Plot events happen at the right times to keep the story moving, but the lack of feeling makes it feel like nothing is happening at all. The romance that gets the story going--the one that should feel real because of how important it is to everything--is nothing but insta-love and while Phil and Arden don't come together instantly, they aren't necessarily well-developed enough for me to believe them either.

Delusion boasts the worst narrative head-jumping I've ever seen. The worst. One book from September was the previous record-holder, but this novel soundly re-broke it and made sure no one else will ever take its crown. In the middle of a paragraph, we might jump into Fee, Arden, Headmaster Rudyard, or a random citizen's head without reason. We might finish out the chapter in that character's head or jump right back into Phil, all of which is done with a complete lack of smooth transition. There's no counting how many paragraphs have to be reread because the point of view changes with so little warning.

Also, look. I get that this is set in the 1940s and there will be slut-shaming. I can deal with it in a historical novel, especially when this one sets it up as wrong. Still, when one makes an unneeded point of view change where one character calls Phil a slut, that's too much. We never go back into that character's head either. It's that one moment. Include slut-shaming in your historical if you must for accuracy's sake, but if there is any way to avoid it, do it. Please. I beg you!

The ending was a blast and a half as the entire novel came together, but it also cemented my aforementioned hatred of Arden. The girl he loves tells him not to give her magic because she's happy as she is and doesn't want it, but he ignores what she wants and gives it to her anyway. Then the overpowered Phil unleashes her new magic and kills a buttload of people--including the good gus. NICE JOB BREAKING IT, ARDEN. When a girl says no, it means NO. It doesn't mean force it on her anyway.

Delusion was sold as part of a two-book deal. As interested as I am in where the story will go, the unstable narration makes me not want to touch it. The feeling I have that Arden's actions aren't going to be properly criticized doesn't encourage me either. If anyone wants a dose of World War II-era Britain with plenty of magic mixed in, this is their book.

2.5 stars!


What am I reading next?: Burning Emerald by Jaime Ross

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The 13th Sign by Kristin O'Donnell Tubb

Title: The 13th Sign
Author: Kristin O'Donnell Tubb
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Release Date: January 8, 2013
Pages: 272 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: ARC from the publisher via NetGalley.
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: author website

The 13th Sign What if there was a 13th zodiac sign?

You’re no longer Sagittarius, but Ophiuchus, the healer, the 13th sign.

Your personality has changed. So has your mom’s and your best friend’s.

What about the rest of the world?

What if you were the one who accidentally unlocked the 13th sign, causing this world-altering change—and infuriating the other 12 signs? 

Jalen did it, and now she must use every ounce of her strength and cunning to send the signs back where they belong. Lives, including her own, depend on it.


Review:


Admittedly, I didn't know this was a middle-grade novel until I started reading it. That didn't stop me once I got into the novel; if a book sounds like a great book, the genre doesn't matter to me. I know I'm not the only person to make that mistake with this novel and hope they'll also read it anyway. Tubb plays on my love of the twelve zodiac signs perfectly and weaves a fantastic tale.

The 13th Sign is a page-turner from beginning to end, with well-written action scenes throughout and some ingenious plotting making the novel that much more interesting. Jalen doesn't always seem like a real girl and I often forgot her name (whoops), but her problems were real enough and I felt bad for her. Her friends, unfortunately, didn't get much depth either, but this trio of kids struggling against the twelve Zodiac Keepers is easy to root for once they get going.

Most of the novel's problems were relatively small, like how supposedly everyone has had a change in horoscope/personality with the release of Ophiuchus. Not true. Anyone born on April 19, May 14-May 20, June 20, July 21 or 22, August 10-August 22, September 16-September 22, December 18-December 21, January 19, February 16-February 18, or March 12-March 20 retains their original horoscope when Ophiuchus is added to the zodiac.

With 7 billion people in the world, that averages out to 19,178,082 people sharing a birthday (though I do realize this is just an average and not how many people actually share a birthday). With 48 days on which people can be born without their horoscopes changing due to Ophiuchus, that means 920,547,936 people are unchanged. That's only about thirteen percent of the population, but it's still enough people that such a statement becomes false and it spends the entire novel bugging me.

There were also some references to the orange inside of Jalen flaring up. I know she means her anger, but referring to it as the orange is very... odd, and out of sync with the otherwise straightforward story. As far as I know, pink has no smell and Jalen does not have synesthesia, so where did someone's breath smelling pink come from? Saying their breath smelled of bubblegum would have been simpler. And if there is a kind of bubblegum that makes one's breaths turn pink, I want some. Now. I want it to be pink when I breathe out!

Still, I enjoyed The 13th Sign overall and I'd be happy to reread it in the future to get a better sense of its subtleties.

3.5 stars!


What am I reading next?: Echo by Alyson Noel

Monday, December 24, 2012

Just One Day by Gayle Forman

Title: Just One Day
Author: Gayle Forman
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Release Date: January 8, 2013
Pages: 368 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: won an ARC in a giveaway
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: author website

Just One Day (Just One Day, #1)A breathtaking journey toward self-discovery and true love, from the author of If I Stay.
 
When sheltered American good girl Allyson "LuLu" Healey first meets laid-back Dutch actor Willem De Ruiter at an underground performance of Twelfth Night in England, there’s an undeniable spark. After just one day together, that spark bursts into a flame, or so it seems to Allyson, until the following morning, when she wakes up after a whirlwind day in Paris to discover that Willem has left. Over the next year, Allyson embarks on a journey to come to terms with the narrow confines of her life, and through Shakespeare, travel, and a quest for her almost-true-love, to break free of those confines.

Just One Day is the first in a sweepingly romantic duet of novels. Willem’s story—Just One Year—is coming soon!


Review:


This is my third attempt at this review. Third. Usually, a review needs only one draft and some quick revision for me, so this is definitely not your average novel. Allyson and Willem's adventures in Paris were a blast and her first year in college do so much for her, but once she gets back to Paris to try and find Willem again, she starts to lose me. I see why Forman is respected as a masterful YA writer, but she may not be for me.

Allyson's character arc is masterfully written, and the pivotal moment she experiences in her Shakespeare Out Loud class was good enough to nearly bring me to tears. Readers may not be so entranced if they're familiar with the tight-laced-girl-loosens-up story, but Forman is Forman and she makes it work. Ninety percent of the time, it's easy to understand Allyson's reaction to losing Willem, but other times, the question of if he's worth all the pain she goes through comes up.

Speaking of Willem... Given only one day to get to know him, his characterization is a little one-sided. As Allyson uncovers more about him after their day in Paris, his playboy side becomes clear and it becomes all too easy to want to kick him. This problem will undoubtedly be fixed in Just One Year, but what I've seen of him and his character in this novel makes me not want to read on.

Just One Day is also heavily character driven. Allyson handles the weight up until she makes her triumphant return to Paris with knowledge of the French language, money to spend, and fewer rifts in the family that pressured her for so many years.  It's during the last portion of the novel and Allyson's solo tour of Paris that she loses the strength to carry everything to its proper conclusion. This is most likely just me, though.

However, characters who emphasize every other word they say, especially when that quirk is all that defines them, are irritating and often unnecessary. Just One Day has a character just like this in Kali, one of Allyson's roommates. Characters like this inspire the urge to strangle someone when they're around for too long. Punching every other word they speak (as the novel describes it) is too much no matter who you are.

(See what I mean?)

Fans of abrupt endings and readers anxiously awaiting Willem's point of view in Just One Year will love the ending, but I'm not either of those. Honestly, it's the ending that really tripped me up. Until I go to it, I knew exactly what I wanted to say. This is one of those novels that is going to render the readers speechless one way or another. That's almost certain!

3.5 stars!

What am I reading next?: Nobody But Us by Kristin Halbrook

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

Title: Under the Never Sky
Author: Veronica Rossi
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: January 3, 2012
Pages: 374 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: Bought it.
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: audiobook clip | book trailer | author website

Under the Never Sky (Under the Never Sky, #1)Since she'd been on the outside, she'd survived an Aether storm, she'd had a knife held to her throat, and she'd seen men murdered. This was worse.

Exiled from her home, the enclosed city of Reverie, Aria knows her chances of surviving in the outer wasteland - known as The Death Shop - are slim. If the cannibals don't get her, the violent, electrified energy storms will. She's been taught that the very air she breathes can kill her. Then Aria meets an Outsider named Perry. He's wild - a savage - and her only hope of staying alive.

A hunter for his tribe in a merciless landscape, Perry views Aria as sheltered and fragile - everything he would expect from a Dweller. But he needs Aria's help too; she alone holds the key to his redemption. Opposites in nearly every way, Aria and Perry must accept each other to survive. Their unlikely alliance forges a bond that will determine the fate of all who live under the never sky.


Review:

Despite it being advertised as a dystopian novel, this comes off more as a sci-fi post-apocalyptic novel. Friends warned me of this and I went into the novel a little better prepared for that, but Under the Never Sky still managed to disappoint me. Though atmospheric and absorbing for its first ten chapters or so, it quickly lost steam and I lost all interest in finishing it. That I did is pure bullheadedness on my part.

At first, Aria's world, what she went through in Ag 6, and her and Perry's initial journeys in the world outside the Pods had me hooked. The worldbuilding was incredibly sketchy, but that was okay; if a book is written enticingly enough, flawed worldbuilding is forgivable. What's Left of Me by Kat Zhang is a good example of me forgiving inadequate worldbuilding because I cared so much about Eva and Addie's stories. The writing is serviceable--not bad, but not remarkable either. Roar, however, is a lot of fun. He doesn't have much in the way of a three-dimensional personality, but he's fun.

Those opening chapters may be all that earns the novel its rating because there aren't any other good elements that come to mind. If these people spend most of their time in the virtual Realms and only the minority of people get up and work, why is there not a problem with obesity, staying in shape in general, and how everyone's muscular systems work? If they're in the Realms most of the time, they likely aren't getting up and doing much. This takes place in our future, not an alternate universe where our societies never existed, so what happened to cause the Unity? What exactly is the Unity? Just a random time when the sky became infected with Aether and the storms started happening?

These and many more questions plague the novel, and the characters aren't interesting enough to draw my mind away from all that. Aria starts out well as she adjusts to the world outside the Pods and tries to discover her mother's message to her, but Perry never really has a chance. The whole situation with one parent blaming a child for the other parent's death is something that really happens in life. I realize this. UtNS is one of the novels that makes this feel like a tired old trope. Perry's shortcut to angst, even. All the pain with none of the work.

Maybe I feel that way about Perry's backstory because so much of the story lacks tension and the ability to impact me. The unpredictable twists were well-written, but they didn't make me feel anything more than indifference. Why Perry's dad hated him? M'kay. The secret Aria's mom kept from her? Whatever. The short action scenes and all the running they did from the angry Croven people lacked tension, and finishing off the novel even when I only had fifty pages left was a struggle. Quite simply, it failed to reel me in and get me invested.

I don't think I'll be sticking around for Through the Ever Night, which comes out a little over two weeks after this review is posted. So many of my friends adore this novel, but I always seem to be the odd one out. Oh well. What happens happens.



What am I reading next?: The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Dead and Buried by Kim Harrington

Title: The Dead and Buried
Author: Kim Harrington
Publisher: Point
Release Date: January 1, 2013
Pages: 304 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: ARC from the publisher
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: author website

The Dead And BuriedA haunted house, a buried mystery, and a very angry ghost make this one unforgettable thriller.

Jade loves the house she's just moved into with her family. She doesn't even mind being the new girl at the high school: It's a fresh start, and there's that one guy with the dreamy blue eyes...


But then things begin happening. Strange, otherworldly things. 

Jade's little brother claims to see a glimmering girl in his room. Jade's jewelry gets moved around, as if by an invisible hand. Kids at school whisper behind her back like they know something she doesn't.

Soon, Jade must face an impossible fact: that her perfect house... is haunted. 


Haunted by a ghost who's seeking not just vengeance, but the truth. The ghost of a girl who ruled Jade's school — until her untimely death last year. It's up to Jade to put the pieces together before her own life is at stake. As Jade investigates the mystery, she discovers that her new friends in town have more than a few deep, dark secrets. 

But is one of them a murderer?

Review:


In my humble opinion, every day is a good day for a ghost story. Murder mysteries are fine too, but ghost stories are the best. Harrington's novel promised both of them and reeled me in like the fish who couldn't resist the bait on the hook. I was in the mood for something creepy this holiday season and Harrington delivered a slightly flawed but still very readable novel. I'd definitely read it again!

Jade's gemstone obsession, the reason behind it, and how it's a part of who she is makes her stand out as a character when other parts of her personality blend in a little more. (Besides, our shared gemstone hobby gives me a soft spot for her.) The romance she has with Donovan isn't the most well-supported-by-the-text in the world, but it's rather sweet and enjoyable.

Now that I think about it, one of the best qualities of The Dead and Buried may be how unoffensive it is. All the other female characters seem to start out as negative stereotypes, but by the end of the novel, they all get a little depth to show they aren't quite as bad as they first appear to be--even Kayla herself, who is so impossibly irredeemable that it actually hurts. Jade's stepmother Marie may have had the worst start of all, but by novel's end, we understand why she treated Jade like she did. There simply isn't much to hate the novel for. Sad thing to compliment a novel on its lack of offensiveness, huh? Such are the times and the mood recent readings put me in.

Or maybe the shades of Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier take the prize for best quality. I have never read the novel myself but the idea behind it has been a fascination of mine since the end of middle school and before I die, I'll read it. The Dead and Buried is NOT a retelling of the novel, but there are more than a few parallels between them and that lampshade is hung within the text itself through a class discussion of Rebecca. The way Harrington wove that in isn't exactly subtle and masterful, but that hardly makes it any less enjoyable.

Speaking of a lack of subtlety, there's one point in the novel where the reader will think how one character is framed is either transparent plotting or a poorly done red herring. Once it becomes clear which one the framing is, figuring out the killer is easy from there. Still, up until that point, I was a little stumped; because I've seen exactly how badly someone can plot a mystery, it was impossible to be sure whether or not Harrington was one of those writers who couldn't do it. In a way, she benefits from the failings of other writers. Maybe a little mean, but also very true.

Harrington's Clarity novels have always tempted me (mostly because the jacket copy of the second book basically screamed that it would be right up my alley), but complaints about the series from a number of friends made me unsure I wanted to read them. I like the way Harrington writes, so maybe I'll give the series a shot after all.

3.5 stars!


What am I reading next?: Delusion by Laura J. Sullivan

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Prophecy by Ellen Oh

Title: Prophecy
Author: Ellen Oh
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: January 2, 2013
Pages: 320 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: ARC via a swap with a friend.
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: book trailer | author website

Prophecy (The Dragon King Chronicles, #1)The greatest warrior in all of the Seven Kingdoms... is a girl with yellow eyes.

Kira’s the only female in the king’s army, and the prince’s bodyguard. She’s a demon slayer and an outcast, hated by nearly everyone in her home city of Hansong. And, she’s their only hope...

Murdered kings and discovered traitors point to a demon invasion, sending Kira on the run with the young prince. He may be the savior predicted in the Dragon King Prophecy, but the missing treasure of myth may be the true key. With only the guidance of the cryptic prophecy, Kira must battle demon soldiers, evil shaman, and the Demon Lord himself to find what was once lost and raise a prince into a king.

Intrigue and mystery, ancient lore and action-packed fantasy come together in this heart-stopping first book in a trilogy.


Review:


The back of my ARC pitches Prophecy as "Graceling meets Eon" and that couldn't have been more spot-on. This is not necessarily a good thing because it ends up overly derivative of them both and lacking in the pull that made the novels such smashing successes. Porphecy is yet another great idea that ended up being disappointing. Not even a cameo from a Dragonball Z character (seriously, there is an old man with narrowed eyes and a white beard named Master Roshi) could save it.

Oh's action scenes are well-written, the body count deserves some respect (seriously, this book is not afraid to kill people and there is merit to Kira's warrior reputation), and though novels that are normally all about the action bore me most of the time, this one did something different that made me like it. There was some occasional telling, especially when it came time to establish characters, but it's bearable. Irritating, but bearable.

 You can feel the work and research that went into this novel; Oh, by her own admission, based part of her world on the Three Kingdoms of ancient Korea, which controlled the Korean peninsula for hundreds of years. There isn't much history about the time that doesn't contradict itself, but the novel is based on a time period between 300 and 360 AD in this area. I enjoyed  the worldbuilding and the fresh fantasy setting, but my confusion about what a nambawi was led me to uncover a contradiction. See, it's a hat that wasn't worn until at least the 1300s in Korea. What's it doing in a book based on a time period a thousand years before then?

The only compliment I can give without a criticism entwined with it is that the romance is completely on the backburner for once and I appreciate that because it may be the one thing that makes me remember this novel now that I've finished it. From here, it's all downhill due to how derivative, cliche, and confusing the novel is.

I will never claim to be an expert on Korea, but there is a little bit I know. There is some use of Korean honorifics/titles like the occasional -shi, but they are by and large absent from the novel. Why Shin Bo Hyun was always called by his full name confused me too. He wasn't referred to by just his given name (Bo Hyun) even once. It always had to be his full name and this didn't happen to any other character. Why only him?

On the topic of Bo Hyun, antagonist characters that are like "the heroine will be my bride/lover/girlfriend!" normally tickle my fancy because it is written well (a rarity, unfortunately) or I just find it funny (or even so-bad-it's-funny), but Bo Hyun's turn in this role was so blandly written that I never cared or crackshipped him with Kira. Crackshipping the heroines of YA novels with villains who express any interest in them is my favorite bookish hobby! Why take that away from me like this?

It has all the free killing and Asian influence of Eon and all the heroine attributes of Graceling. Like Katsa, Kira is niece to the current ruler, but he doesn't like her very much; he tolerates her because her abilities make her useful. The people are afraid of her because of what she does, the rumors about her, and the eyes that set her apart from everyone else. She despises marriage and doesn't want to be someone's wife, but there is a man who would very much like to make her his wife.

Why this is bad is because Prophecy dances on the fine border of being inspired by them and ripping them off. Prophecy also shares one of the main problems of Graceling: the lack of other well-developed female characters. Other women make only quick appearances or are barely developed, and Kira looks down on them for being feminine or doing the best they can in the roles open to women in her time period. It's not like every woman is born into nobility and prophesied to be a great warrior; it's even shown that women are considered lesser. Her privilege shows in her ignorance and it never gets called out.

Worst of all, despite its Korean setting, Prophecy ends up being a cookie-cutter fantasy novel. I'm not well-versed in fantasy and its cliches, but I recognized enough of them to guess each and every one of the novel's main twists by page forty, from Shin's loyalty to the true meaning of the prophecy.

My disappointment in this novel is so great that it looks unlikely I will stick around for the next book of the trilogy, Warrior. Fans who want to give a new fantasy setting a new try should go for it, but anyone who is already overly familiar with the fantasy genre and all its cliches may not want to pick this up so quickly or else they'll get frustrated.

2 stars!


What am I reading next?: Lipstick Apology by Jennifer Jabaley

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

My Best and Worst of 2012 and Most Coveted of 2013

Whee, end-of-year recap posts! I've got a second cooked up that's about a hundred times more fun because it recounts how wild this year has been in books and bookish drama, but this is the basic, slightly less offensive one that's about the books I read.

First comes the best books I've read in 2012 (not ranked, just listed):


Stolen by Lucy Christopher
  • There's just something so powerful about this book and its portrayal of Stockholm Syndrome. It hit me in so many of the right places that I couldn't not love it. The ending even made me cry!
Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley
  • Like most of my friend insist, there must be something in the Aussie water! The romance and tour of the city Ed and Lucy take, both location-wise and artwork-wise, is one of my favorites. I always said I'd get my own copy after I read an ARC of this fantastic novel and I did a few months ago.
Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers
  • My introduction to this author and the book that made me fall in love with her. I'm totally going to marry her. Sexual orientations? Relationship statuses? Pfft, who cares about any of that? I hear wedding bells! But yeah, despite Parker being a generally terrible person, she was written so well that I kept reading about her.
This Is Not a Test by Courtney Summers
  • Got to read this one as an ARC thanks to the beautiful creature that is Amazon Vine! 
    Couldn't have come at a better time, seeing as I read it maybe a month or two after Cracked Up to Be. I ain't even into zombies, but the characters and how easily Summers tapped into their darker emotions really hit me hard. Why is her next novel so far away?!
Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers
  • This was my year of Courtney Summers, in case you didn't know. This Is Not a Test beats this one for best Summers book by a hair, but Regina's story and how she endured the bullying by her former friends hit me as hard as it did everyone else. I can't even with words for the moment. Just check out the review.
What's Left of Me by Kat Zhang
  • Dystpian novels rarely strike a chord with me, but Zhang did something right because hers did.
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
  • You've probably seen this on many end-of-year lists and it's for a very good reason.
Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard
  • Words for this = I can't even. There's something about Hubbard's books that strikes me speechless; I wasn't even able to put together a review for Wanderlove despite how much I loved it, and writing the review for Like Mandarin was a little like pulling out a tooth.
Reality Bites Back by Jennifer L. Pozner
  • Yeah, nonfiction. I know. This one gave me a lot to think about concerning both reality television and YA. Most of the points she makes can be applied to YA too, especially books like The Selection by Kiera Cass that have deep roots in reality TV. I thought about reading said novel and writing an article on it, but I lack the time and interest at the moment. Maybe one day.
The Friday Society by Adrienne Kress
  • This one was a recent read, but its whimsical feel and the girl power rocketed it up into my top ten for the year. AND THEN THERE WAS AN EXPLOSION.
~

And because I'm honest to a fault and refuse to keep anything bad I have to say to myself, here are the worst books I've read this year, narrowed down from the many stinkers I've read this year (listed, not ranked):

The Raie'Chaelia by Melissa Douthit
  • To say nothing of the author (that will come in my drama-recap post), this book was awful. Typos, lots of telling-not-showing, predictable plotting, and too many other issues I don't care to recount.
Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire
  • Slut-shaming, glorifying an abusive relationship, inconsistent characterization, and more are why this book is actually an ugly disaster. The only reason I'm not raging harder at this is because of the rainbow of ninety-one sticky notes I put in it. They make me calm.
Heaven by Alexandra Adornetto
  • Well, I can't say I expected anything different from her. She still made me mad by proclaiming through Gabriel that marriage is only between a man and a woman. That sentiment can put on some fiery red lipstick and kiss my ass.
Thoughtless by S.C. Stephens
  • Couldn't even finish it. Cheating is one of my big no-nos unless there are extenuating circumstances and Kiera does it like it's no big deal. Way too much melodramatic schmoop for me too handle.
Phantom by Laura DeLuca
  • A complete and utter desecration of The Phantom of the Opera, one of my favorite works of all time. I keep getting trolled over this book and called a book snob both to my face and behind my back, but screw it, it was bad.
Dinner with a Vampire by Abigail Gibbs
  • THE MAIN LOVE INTEREST ATTEMPTS TO RAPE HIS LOVE INTEREST BECAUSE SHE TOOK HIS CONDOMS. Nothing more really needs to be said. And he still gets the girl to fall in love with him. WHAT. THE. FUCK. Also, bundles and bundles of double standards and slut shaming. I am ashamed this was produced by someone my age.
Ditched by Robin Mellom
  • This should have been cute, but wow at all the slut-shaming. I couldn't finish it because it was borderline causing me pain to keep reading.
Eternal Starling by Angela Corbett
  • This one makes it because it really could have been good, but it chose to indulge in cliches instead of trying to be original and live up to its potential.
When You Were Mine by Rebecca Serle
  • The slut-shaming strikes again! This take on Romeo and Juliet fell flat on its face and demonized Juliet when both in the play and in this book, Romeo/Rob is the real dickbag.
Lipstick Apology by Jennifer Jabaley
  • Seriously, slut-shaming is like a one-way ticket onto this list. Six of the books on here are guilty of it. This started out as your standard dead-parents book, but the main character's attitude and all the slut-shaming just about made me toss it out the window.
~

Finally, the books I'll sell Smurfs for: my most coveted of 2013! I already did this list for a Top Ten Tuesday thing, so I'll just link you to that. Sorry to be anticlimactic, ladies and gents. My hands hurt too much to retype it all.

My Most Coveted/Anticipated of 2013

Splintered by A.G. Howard

Title: Splintered
Author: A.G. Howard
Publisher: ABRAMS
Release Date: January 1, 2013
Pages: 384 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: ARC from the publisher via NetGalley
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: book trailer | author website

SplinteredThis stunning debut captures the grotesque madness of a mystical under-land, as well as a girl’s pangs of first love and independence. Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.

When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse and the whispers grow too strong to bear, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.

Unless she fixes the things her great-great-great grandmother Alice put wrong, Wonderland will have her head.


Review:


If you liked Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo, Splintered will be your new best friend. If you are like me and did not love Shadow and Bone, Splintered will not be your book.

Howard's take on Wonderland reminds me of a toned-down version of the video game American McGee's Alice, which turned Wonderland into a terrible place full of killers, deformed monsters, and twisted creatures that turn out to be the characters of Alice's story. The novel never has enough in common with the game for me to call copycat and I love the freshness of it. I think it's silly they decided to name all the girls with Alice-esque names (i.e. Alicia, Alison, Alyssa) when the curse started with Alice, but rolling with it isn't too hard, especially with some of these description in place. Chills ran up and down my arms a few times with how some events and people were described!

The further into the novel I read, the more frustrating of an experience it became. The characterization of female within the novel is rather lacking. We have Alyssa (who never stops to think about whether or not Jeb broke up with his girlfriend before making out with him), mean girl Taelor, a sprite characterized mainly by her jealousy, a mom locked up in an asylum, one queen who can't remember anything without her ribbons, another queen whose main characterization is about how her heart was broken, and our antagonist. There are a few other female characters with too little characterization to be of mention. I'm very sensitive to issues like this in my reading.

Alyssa gets a choice between Jeb, a controlling creep who treats her like a child who decides the best way to deal with his feelings is to date someone who bullies the object of his affection, and Morpheus, a manipulative creep. Morpheus is even creepier and he doesn't try to hide it. Having him crawl in bed with her just after they meet again and make her have tingly feelings by messing with her birthmark? Too much too soon.

On that subject, Morpheus and subtlety are lost on one another. It's clear that he has nefarious plans for Alyssa from the beginning, but she doesn't get it until the very end. Reading this almost-400-page book while wanting to scream the solution at Alyssa is almost painful. It seems readers are supposed to like him and not see through him so easily, but that is one perspective I cannot open my eyes to.

Overall, the novel is well-plotted and incredibly creative, but appreciating that might be easier if the specific details didn't overshadow the overarching elements like this. Only upon looking back on my reading experience once I'd finished Splintered was I able to find details I liked and see its strong organization for what it was.

About those Shadow and Bone similarities, for curious readers: the girl with a great destiny tied with the fate of a magical world, the powers she's been hiding from the rest of the world, the childhood friend she is head-over-heels in love with, the dark, seductive being who leads her to great power but whose motives are not pure, the complex machinations he's been working on for years to get what he wants... Basically, a fantastic idea I found myself unable to enjoy largely due to its characters. Calling copycat here isn't right because the similarities are an Elisha Gray/Alexander Graham Bell situation, but that doesn't make them any less visible.

When I'm in the mood for creepy!Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, I'll stick with American McGee's Alice.

2 stars!


What am I reading next?: Give Up the Ghost by Megan Crewe

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Fearscape by Nenia Campbell

Title: Fearscape
Author: Nenia Campbell
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services
Release Date: November 30, 2012
Pages: ebook exclusive
How I Got the Book: Bought it.
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon

Fearscape (Horrorscape, #1)He followed her because he wanted to own her. She trusted him because she wanted excitement. There's a saying that curiosity can kill … but Valerian Kimble is beginning to learn that satisfaction might just be worse.

Fourteen-year-old Valerian lives in an age where antiheroes and bad boys are portrayed as the romantic ideal, and good guys are passe and boring. So when Gavin Mecozzi, the school's brilliant but twisted loner, begins to show an interest in her after a chance meeting in a pet store, Val is intrigued. He's charming and poetic and makes her feel things that she thought were only possible in books--

Fear.

Because somebody is stalking Val. Somebody who wants to hurt her. Own her. Possess her. Maybe even kill her.

As her meetings with Gavin unravel into a more complex and frightening relationship, Val can't help but wonder if the new boy in her life is her depraved and obsessive stalker.

And whether he's capable of murder.

Time is running out.


Review:


Oh wow. This is another one of those books you finish reading and you feel like you just woke up after a wild night with someone. Here's my disclaimer that Nenia is my friend, but this doesn't affect my review or rating in any way.

Val is a very subdued character throughout the novel, but she feels like any other high school freshman I might meet. How long it takes her to figure out who the stalker might be is maddening, but I get why. Super naive and all. Doesn't make it much less frustrating. Her friends are a little flat, but that's okay; the story is about Val and Gavin, and that's where the novel really succeeds. Anyone looking for a mystery will want to look elsewhere because it's obvious Gavin is the stalker--so obvious that I don't consider saying so a spoiler. They have the same phrasing and overly formal speech mannerisms, after all. The mystery is more in what he will do next than who he is.

There are multiple scenes in Fearscape that really sent shivers up my spine, especially in the early messages Gavin sends Val and the uncovering of his personal journal. The writing could use some tightening up and there are a few errors throughout, but none of that manages to take away from the tense atmosphere the novel works hard to build from the very first page. The more messages Val gets and the more she get entangled in Gavin's web, the more impossible it became to stop reading. It's short, but that only partially contributes to why I devoured this in about a day and a half.

There's also the issue of some head-jumping. Most of the book is told in Val's point of view (in third person), but for a few paragraphs in a few different places, her mother and art teacher start narrating. Those sections tell too much about Val when we already know plenty about what kind of person she is. Unnecessary, really. She was well-characterized as sweet and naive long before those sections happened and they did nothing but annoy me.

Still, anyone in the mood for a short, creepy read should check this out. Now I have to go harass Nenia about the second book and prepare for our e-wedding.

3.5 stars!


What am I reading next?: Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Book Blitz: Fang Girl by Helen Keeble (+Giveaway!)



So I signed up for an Xpresso Book Tours-hosted promo blitz for Fang Girl by Helen Keeble a few months ago. I hadn't read the book back then, but I recently did and seriously. READ THIS. I'll hit you with my glittering blogger scepter until you do!

http://images.halloweencostumes.com/queen-of-hearts-scepter-zoom-1.jpg
Obey my rod!

So here's the low-down on this hilarious novel:

https://mail-attachment.googleusercontent.com/attachment/?ui=2&ik=a837462572&view=att&th=13b66938035c183c&attid=0.1.5&disp=inline&safe=1&zw&saduie=AG9B_P-KG4JfDCljdYIYCbUDAJGe&sadet=1354986519132&sads=CwYyN29rCnQaitojsQ2Bs6a4wDMFang Girl by Helen Keeble - September 11th 2012 HarperTeen

Things That Are Destroying Jane Greene’s Undead Social Life Before It Can Even Begin:

1) A twelve-year-old brother who’s convinced she’s a zombie.
2) Parents who are begging her to turn them into vampires.
3) The pet goldfish she accidentally turns instead.
4) Weird superpowers that let her rip the heads off of every other vampire she meets.(Sounds cool, but it doesn’t win you many friends.)
5) A pyschotic vampire creator who’s using her to carry out a plan for world domination.

And finally:
6) A seriously ripped vampire hunter who either wants to stake her or make out with her. Not sure which.

Being an undead, eternally pasty fifteen-year-old isn’t quite the sexy, brooding, angst-fest Jane always imagined....

Helen Keeble’s riotous debut novel combines the humor of Vladimir Tod with Ally Carter’s spot-on teen voice. With a one-of-a-kind vampire mythology and an irresistibly relatable undead heroine, this uproarious page-turner will leave readers bloodthirsty for more.

~

About the author: Helen Keeble is not, and never has been, a vampire. She has however been a teenager. She grew up partly in America and partly in England, which has left her with an unidentifiable accent and a fondness for peanut butter crackers washed   down with a nice cup of tea. She now lives in West Sussex, England, with her husband, daughter, two cats, and a variable number of fish. To the best of her knowledge, none of the fish are undead.

Her first novel, a YA vampire comedy called FANG GIRL, is out 11th Sept 2012, from HarperTeen.

She also has another YA paranormal comedy novel (provisionally titled NO ANGEL) scheduled for Sept 2013.
 ~

 And now for an excerpt!

In which Our Heroine, Xanthe Jane Greene (unexpectedly undead vampire fangirl), is beset by vampire hunters. Fortunately, help is close at hand…

“Cease!”

We all jumped, my attackers whirling round. Someone stood poised on the roof of the parked Range Rover, silhouetted against the starry sky. In a breathtaking arc, he leaped ten feet, landing crouched in the middle of the road. He unfurled back to his full height, his velvet frock coat billowing around him, the moonlight turning his hair to pure silver. His high-cheekboned, elegant face was set in an expression of icy determination. As he faced my stunned attackers, his lips drew back in a contemptuous snarl . . . exposing jagged, sharp-edged teeth.

He was a vampire.

His pale eyes flicked to me. “Run, ma chérie,” he said. His voice was as light and golden as honey, with a rich French accent that made the simple phrase sound like an invitation to unspeakable immoral delights. He dropped into a combat crouch, empty hands spread. “I shall take care of these—”

And that was as far as he got, because as my attackers had been conveniently distracted by his appearance, I punted them fifteen feet down the road.

I hadn’t actually intended to do so. I’d only hoped to knock them off balance to give my unexpected rescuer an opening—after all, a dramatic pose was no match for two guns. So I’d kicked them, with all the strength I could muster.

Which, as it turned out, was quite a lot of strength.

“Quick!” I yelled as they skidded away, trailing shocked swear words. I dashed past the suddenly slack-jawed vampire. “Get them before they escape!” One of my attackers was already rolling to his feet—without thought, my blood roaring in my veins, I leaped for him. We crashed back to the ground, him flailing, me desperately trying to work out some way to subdue him. I grabbed for his hair, yanking upward with the vague thought of slamming his skull back down against the road—
I’d forgotten my vampiric strength again.

“AIEEEEEEEEEE!” I shrieked, reaching a high enough pitch to stun bats. I flung the severed head away with all my strength. “AIEEEEEEEEE!” I hopped from foot to foot, overcome with utter squick.

“Shh, hush, it’s all right!” The other vampire’s hands captured my flailing wrists. “Xanthe!” Lights were coming on in the nearest house; with a quick look around, he grabbed the corpse by the back of its collar. “Quick, back here.” He dragged us both into the shadow of the garage. After a few moments, the lights clicked off again, leaving us in darkness. I felt the vampire tension in the vampire’s muscles ease. “Well, that went . . . differently.”

I managed to get enough of a grip on myself to speak, though my voice came out in a Mickey Mouse squeak. “Is he dead? Is he dead?”

The vampire looked down at the headless corpse. “Yes,” he said. “He is very, very dead.” He cleared his throat. “You must be wondering who I am.”

My legs didn’t want to support me anymore. I sat down hard. “What . . . what happened to the other guy?”

“I believe that he has fled, rather understandably. Now, my name—”

“Oh God, he escaped?” Even though I didn’t need to breathe, I was starting to hyperventilate. “Is he coming back?”

“No,” the vampire said firmly, catching my hands between his own. “Because I will not let him. I’m here to protect you.”

I looked at him. I looked down at the corpse. I looked at him.

“Ah . . .” He appeared mildly embarrassed. “I can also help you dispose of bodies?”

“Okay,” I said, still feeling a bit shell-shocked. “You sound very useful. Um. Who are you, exactly?”

He let go of my hand and stood, clearing his throat again. “In life, I was the Comte Ebène Bellefleur. Now, I am simply Ebène de Sanguine.” He bowed deeply, sweeping back his long, black frock coat with perfect grace, as though this was his customary attire. “I would be pleased if you would call me Ebon. I have come to bring you home.”

The best I could muster was a heartfelt “huh?” I was lagging about two minutes behind the conversation. I kept thinking of that horrible crunch through my hands.

“I must deeply apologize from the bottom of my soul that it has taken so long for us to send one of the Blood to welcome you,” Ebon said, somehow managing to enunciate the capitalization. “I must confess that we were unprepared for your Transfiguration”—once again I could hear the capitals clanging into place—“but I can assure you that you will be a treasured jewel among us. Now, ma chérie, we must make haste.” His face turned serious, and he held out a long, white-fingered hand. “This place is not safe. As you have discovered, the hunters are closing in. I will protect you with my very life, but I cannot hold this place secure for long. You must come.”

I struggled to get my brain to concentrate. “Come . . . with you? Where?”

“To your true home,” he said—and suddenly his face was only inches from mine. I froze, transfixed by the pale blue of his eyes, as clear and cool as the light at the heart of a glacier. “Come, Xanthe,” he murmured, shaping the hated sound of my name into something beautiful and wild. “I long to teach you. To show you who you are, and the power you will become. It is time for you to learn everything.”

I stared at him, and he didn’t become any less real. There was an actual gorgeous vampire aristocrat in velvet on his knees in front of me, vowing to lay down his life in my defense. All I had to do was take his hand.

“Okay,” I whispered, my throat dry. “First let’s hide this body somewhere, and then . . .”
“And then?” he whispered back, his breath cool on my lips. His pale eyes gazed into mine, wordlessly promising to whisk me away from all my troubles.

Or, to put it another way, a very strange man with predator’s teeth wanted to get me alone.

“And then,” I said firmly, taking his hand, “you’re coming home to meet my parents.”
 
~

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