Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Top 15 books I'm looking forward to in 2011 - Part 2

So in between being on holiday, getting major sun burn and having issues with my laptop (and me resorting to using my sister’s pc to blog), things have certainly been interesting on my side.  Anyway, I hope everyone’s had a fantastic Christmas and that you’ve been reading up a storm over this festive break.

Before I continue my list of books I’m looking forward to, I’ve decided to make a change. I won’t be doing that spontaneous contest as mentioned on part 1, but have decided to make it a proper contest with more goodies, so be sure to look out for more info as soon as I’ve completed this series.

In the mean time, here is part 2 of the books I’m most looking forward to reading in 2011.


10. The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell
Teaser synopsis: It’s the summer of 1889, and Amelia van den Broek is new to Baltimore and eager to take in all the pleasures the city has to offer. 

But her gaiety is interrupted by disturbing, dreamlike visions she has only at sunset—visions that offer glimpses of the future. Soon, friends and strangers alike call on Amelia to hear her prophecies.

However, a forbidden romance with Nathaniel, an artist, threatens the new life Amelia is building in Baltimore. This enigmatic young man is keeping secrets of his own—still, Amelia finds herself irrepressibly drawn to him.


Publishing date: March 7 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's
Why I'm looking forward to it: Ah, art, romance, paranormal and visions at sunset. This historical paranormal fic has had me excited for the longest time now.

Based on the synopsis, it sounds like it’s going to be one lyrically and descriptively compelling read filled with secrets, mysteries and romantic intrigue. I can’t wait for this one.  

9. Wrapped by Jennifer Bradbury
Teaser synopsis: Agnes Wilkins dreams of adventures that reach beyond the garden walls, but reality for a seventeen-year-old debutante in 1815 London does not allow for camels—or dust, even.

No, Agnes can only see a mummy when she is wearing a new silk gown and standing on the verdant lawns of Lord Showalter’s estate, with chaperones fussing about and strolling sitar players straining to create an exotic “atmosphere” for the first party of the season. An unwrapping.

This is the start of it all, Agnes’s debut season, the pretty girl parade that offers only ever-shrinking options: home, husband, and high society.

It’s also the start of something else, because the mummy Agnes unwraps isn’t just a mummy. It’s a host for a secret that could unravel a new destiny—unleashing mystery, an international intrigue, and possibly a curse in the bargain.


Publishing date: May 24th by Atheneum
Why I'm looking forward to it:  Ok, if The Vespertine didn’t give you a clue that I love historical fiction, then Wrapped by Jennifer Bradbury oughta do it.

Aside from Greek mythology, I’ve also got a passion and huge interest in Egyptian history and mythology so this paired with mentions of a curse, antiques, and debutante balls (with an added dash of romance I’m sure), is one of the novels I can’t wait to read. Also, isn’t that cover simply gorgeous? Love, love, love.

8. Possession by Elana Johnson
Teaser synopsis: Vi knows the Rule: Girls don’t walk with boys, and they never even think about kissing them. But no one makes Vi want to break the Rules more than Zenn…and since the Thinkers have chosen him as Vi’s future match, how much trouble can one kiss cause?

The Thinkers may have brainwashed the rest of the population, but Vi is determined to think for herself.


But the Thinkers are unusually persuasive, and they’re set on convincing Vi to become one of them….starting by brainwashed Zenn.

Vi can’t leave Zenn in the Thinkers’ hands, but she’s wary of joining the rebellion, especially since that means teaming up with Jag.

Jag is egotistical, charismatic, and dangerous: everything Zenn’s not. Vi can’t quite trust Jag and can’t quite resist him, but she also can’t give up on Zenn.

This is a game of control or be controlled. And Vi has no choice but to play.


Publishing date: June 7th by Simon Pulse
Why I'm looking forward to it: Another one of those books with beautiful covers (I really get the feeling that 2011 is going to be a year filled with plenty of gorgeous covers to boot). Cover aside, this dystopian novel sounds like it definitely has all the right ingredients for a must-read: rebellion, egotistical hot boys, romance and did I mention rule-breaking? Really? I don’t need to tell you to add this to your TBR pile do I?
 
7. Burn Bright by  Marianne de Pierres
Teaser synopsis: Into a world of wild secrets and deadly pleasures comes a girl whose innocence may be her greatest strength.

In Ixion music and party are our only beliefs. Darkness is our comfort. We have few rules but they are absolute . . .

Retra doesn’t want to go to Ixion, the island of ever-night, ever-youth and never-sleep. Retra is a Seal – sealed minds, sealed community. She doesn’t crave parties and pleasure, experience and freedom.

But her brother Joel left for Ixion two years ago, and Retra is determined to find him. Braving the intense pain of her obedience strip to escape the only home she’s ever known, Retra stows away on the barge that will take her to her brother.

When she can’t find Joel, Retra finds herself drawn deeper into the intoxicating world of Ixion. Come to me, whispers a voice in her head. Who are the Ripers, the mysterious guardians of Ixion? What are the Night Creatures Retra can see in the shadows? And what happens to those who grow too old for Ixion?

Retra will find that Ixion has its pleasures, but its secrets are deadly. Will friendship, and the creation of an eternal bond with a Riper, be enough to save her from the darkness?
Publishing date: March 1st 2011 by Random House Australia
Why I'm looking forward to it:  How dark, deliciously creepy and romantic does this one sound?

I’m simply dying to know who and what the Ripers are and can’t wait to read about Ixion. Music, party and ever-youth? It all sounds like an intriguing, mysterious and romantic mix all blended into what I’m sure will be one fantastic novel. Best of all? It’s the first book in a trilogy.  

6. Timeless by Alexandra Monir
Teaser synopsis:  When tragedy strikes Michele Windsor’s world, she is forced to uproot her life and move across the country to New York City, to live with the wealthy, aristocratic grandparents she’s never met.

In their old Fifth Avenue mansion filled with a century’s worth of family secrets, Michele discovers a diary that hurtles her back in time to the year 1910.

There, in the midst of the glamorous Gilded Age, Michele meets the young man with striking blue eyes who has haunted her dreams all her life – a man she always wished was real, but never imagined could actually exist.

And she finds herself falling for him, into an otherworldly, time-crossed romance.

Michele is soon leading a double life, struggling to balance her contemporary high school world with her escapes into the past. But when she stumbles upon a terrible discovery, she is propelled on a race through history to save the boy she loves – a quest that will determine the fate of both of their lives.


Publishing date: January 11th by Delacorte
Why I'm looking forward to it: Historical time-crossed romance? Oh yes please. I love the idea of the main character veering back and forth between her contemporary world and the past life that she finds herself immersed in. 

And the blue-eyed hottie in this book? Well not much is mentioned about him, but I for one, can’t wait to meet him.

That’s it from me for part 2. I’ll post the final instalment to this later this week, followed by new contest details and finally some reviews (so behind on those).

Friday, December 24, 2010

Festive greetings


So, it being Christmas Eve and although far from finished with the wrapping of my gifts, I decided to quickly take a moment to wish all of you a wonderfully blessed and happy Christmas and fantastic New Year.

I'll be on a bit of a break from blogging for a few days, but will be online soon again.

In the mean time, I hope there are tons of books under your Christmas trees and that you all will find plenty of time in the midst of the festive family madness and mayhem to read all of your new books or to re-read some of your old favourites.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Thanks for reading my blog - I appreciate every single one of you, even though I don't get around to visiting every single one of you as often as I would like to.

xoxo

Tammy

Guest post: Mean Girls in YA fiction by Jessica Park

Today I have Jessica Park guest posting on my blog. I recently read her book, Relatively Famous and found myself very surprised that there were no mean girls in her novel.  Of course, besides this being something relatively unheard of and refreshing to me, I asked Jessica if she'd do a post about Mean Girls in YA fiction.

The thing is, many of us dislike mean girls because so many of us (including myself) have bullied by them and reading about them does not always make for the most pleasant kind of material. While I applaud many authors for writing about them (because I do feel that it is important, especially when it comes to highlighting the vicious effects of bullying), what I wanted to know from Jessica was the following:

Do you think that some mean girls in novels are an accurate portrayal of the mean girls in today's society? 


Or, do you think that artistic license plays a role in exaggerating these mean girls and their actions, thereby perhaps perpetuating the idea that a fiction novel cannot be written without having a mean girl cast in a novel?

And finally, at what point does a mean girl's character veer into over-the-top, unrealistic territory? 

Here's what Jessica had to say.

As a general rule, I am no longer a fan of the mean girl story line in YA books. Or television, or movies. It’s just… well, boring. It’s been done to death.

And once something has been done to death, what you see happen is storywriters trying to top whatever has come before in an attempt to put a unique spin on it.

Now look, we can’t say that every story must have a totally unique them or plot, because we all know that there are thousands of phenomenal and engaging boy-meets-girl stories out there. Certain themes are timeless. It’s the little twist that you give yours that makes something special.

The problem comes in when that little twist becomes a gigantic, wretched, annoying, massive spin. You’ve taken a good, solid theme and wrecked it because you’re trying to outdo what’s been done before. If you ask me, that attempt shows a lack of talent. 

Here’s a example: The original BH 90210 vs. the new version. Stop laughing, I’m serious.

Granted, it’s impossible not to watch reruns of the original and not groan because they seem so silly, but the reason that show did so well during its early years was because it relied on the relationships between the characters.

By the end of that series, things had just gotten ridiculous. People were hard core drug users, getting shot and raped, killing their pedophile fathers, and debating about whether or not to medicate their schizophrenic wives. See? They kept trying to top themselves and fell apart.

And the new 90210 just jumped right into idiocy in the first five minutes of the first episode. Do we really need to see a guy getting a…. Well, I’m not going to say it here, but we all know what that girl was doing to him in the front seat of his luxury SUV. That tells me that no one had a good story to tell.

Supposed shock value only gets you so far. And mean girls are all about shock value.

Good writing and good storylines do not have to be completely zany and extreme. If you do it right, a classic story can be retold a thousand times over and still blow you away.

I made a definitive decision not to include mean girls in RELATIVELY FAMOUS. It was too obvious.

What I wanted to do instead was to take a moderately common story idea (Midwestern girl goes to Hollywood to meet her actor father and hangs with local rich crowd) and tell that story differently.

Yes, I include some glitz and glamour, but it was important to me to give readers a story that delivered the unexpected: heart and emotion. To write about complex, meaningful relationships in the context of a superficial background. My heroine, Dani, could easily have run into ridiculous drama while hanging out with her new L.A. friends.

There could have been resentment directed at the new girl for being forced into this tight knit clan. Dani might have been picked on for her interest in one of the guys, taunted for her awkward fashion skills, or shunned because of her father’s reputation. But what’s the point?

Do girls have to be nasty to each other?

Is it a given that friendship circles are so tight that no newcomer would be treated with anything but backstabbing and sabotage? Really. It’s just not interesting to me. And it’s not always the case. I had an amazing group of friends in high school, friends that I still have. Warm, supportive, loving, incredible girls that grew up to become remarkable women, who I still adore.

Now, that being said, this is a really challenging time to be thinking about the mean girls phenomenon, because the news has been riddled with horror stories about bullying and suicide. So, yes, without question, people can treat others monstrously.

Girls can be particularly brutal and cruel to each other. 

How many times do we all want to hear about some narcissistic, bitchy, spoiled girl turning her rival’s hair green, or stealing her boyfriend, or humiliating her in front of the school? I’m all set with that. But if you choose to include that angle in a story, do it well. People are not stupid (well, lots of the time) and do not need to be hit over the head to understand the point.

That’s the angle I took in writing RELATIVELY FAMOUS. The book is really about the relationships that Dani struggles to understand. It’s one of the reasons I include so much from her father Mark’s viewpoint.

We need to see the character’s internal dialogue and witness their smaller actions to really appreciate their growth. We’ve all heard that “actions speak louder than words,” and it’s true. But “actions” do not necessarily mean explosive, spectacular scenes on every other page.

That’s a shtick that doesn’t impress me. Subtlety can go a long way. A slow build-up with deeper character development makes a character’s lines and behavior more powerful.  It’s harder to do, but it’s significantly more rewarding than mean girls/easy-way-out approach.

Thanks so much Jessica for taking the time out to share your thoughts on this topic with us.

Jessica (and I) would obviously love to hear your thoughts on mean girls in YA fiction, so feel free to start the debate below. :)

Additional info:

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Top 15 books I'm looking forward to in 2011 - Part 1 (and a contest of sorts)

So with the end of year just around the corner, I figured it would be appropriate to round of this year by doing a couple of top 5/10 features. To start off with, I've decided to do a top 15 YA books I'm most looking forward to reading in 2011. Might do a Adult fiction top 10 too, but we'll see if time allows for that.

In the meantime, here's my list of top 15 - they're in no particular order, with the exception of my number 1. I've decided to split this up into 3 parts as it's quite a lengthy post. Full synopsis of books can all be found on Goodreads.

15. Entangled by Cat Clarke
Teaser synopsis: 17-year-old Grace wakes up in a white room, with a table, pens and paper - and no clue how she got here.

As Grace pours her tangled life onto the page, she is forced to remember everything she's tried to forget. There's falling hopelessly in love with the gorgeous Nat, and the unravelling of her relationship with her best friend Sal.

But there's something missing. As hard as she's trying to remember, is there something she just can't see?


Publishing date: January 6th by Quercus

Why I'm looking forward to it: I first fell in love with the cover and was drawn to the book by its actual title, but reading the synopsis really had me intrigued.

Imagine waking up somewhere strange and having no clue how you got there? I want to unravel her mystery and find out more about Ethan and the role he plays in how Grace got to where she finds herself.


14. Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini
Teaser synopsis: Set on the island of Nantucket, STARCROSSED tells the tale of Helen Hamilton, a young woman whose destiny is forever altered when she meets Lucas Delos and tries to kill him in front of her entire high school.

Which is terribly inconvenient, not only because Lucas is the most beautiful boy on the island, but also because Helen is so achingly shy she suffers physical pain whenever she is given too much attention.


Making matters worse, Helen is beginning to suspect she’s going crazy.

Whenever she’s near Lucas or any member of his family she sees the ghostly apparitions of three women weeping bloody tears, and suffers the burden of an intense and irrational hate.

She soon learns that she and Lucas are destined to play the leading roles in a Greek tragedy that the Three Fates insist on repeating over and over again throughout history.

Publishing date: May 31st by Harper Teen

Why I'm looking forward to it: You mean besides the gorgeous, gorgeous cover? Well, I've got an obsession with Greek mythology and Greek history, so the fact that this has Greek tragedy written all over it definitely nabbed my attention.

After all, her namesake is Helen of Troy. And as most of you know - Helen of Troy was the face that launched a thousand battle ships. So excited for this one.


13. Tempest Rising by Tracy Deebs
Teaser synopsis: Tempest Maguire wants nothing more than to surf the killer waves near her California home; continue her steady relationship with her boyfriend, Mark; and take care of her brothers and surfer dad.

But Tempest is half mermaid, and as her seventeenth birthday approaches, she will have to decide whether to remain on land or give herself to the ocean like her mother.


The pull of the water becomes as insistent as her attraction to Kai, a gorgeous surfer whose uncanny abilities hint at an otherworldly identity as well.

And when Tempest does finally give in to the water's temptation and enters a fantastical underwater world, she finds that a larger destiny awaits her
.

Publishing date: May 10, 2011 by Walker Books

Why I'm looking forward to it: Mermaids for the win. I really can't wait for this because I adore mermaids and think that even though there are a few mermaid books out there, there really, really should be more. Besides, underwater worlds are always magical, aren't they? Pair that with some romance and fins, and you've probably got yourself a winner. Yay for more mermaid stories.

12. Belladonna by Mary Finn
Teaser synopsis: When Thomas Rose first spots the girl hidden by the roadside, she looks as drab as a lark, with only her red kerchief giving her away.

But French Hélène, who goes by "Ling," is no ordinary bird. Tiny Ling enchants Thomas with her wild spirit and tales of a circus where she danced atop her beloved horse, Belladonna.


But the horse has been sold, and Ling must fetch her back. Now Thomas’s life as a clever but unschooled wheelwright’s son is about to change.

Their search leads to painter George Stubbs, who euthanizes ailing animals in order to study their anatomy.



Stubbs draws eerie horses that stride as if they could move out of the paper world into the real one - but he assures his young friends that their horse is safe at a nearby estate.

As Ling and Thomas devise a risky plan to recover Belladonna, Stubbs hires Thomas as an apprentice, teaching him to read and write as well.


Publishing date: June 14th by Candlewick Press
Why I'm looking forward to it: I know this might seem like a weird reason, but before I read the synopsis, I actually fell in love with the title of the book because it bears the same name as one of the most poisonous and deadly flowers out in the world of botany.

I developed a fascination with this flower after reading The Poison Diaries and because I think the name is very pretty.

Of course, this novel has got nothing to do with the flowers, but I do love the premise of the novel and fell in love the moment circus and dancing horse was mentioned. Also,  I love the fact that the MC is of Asian descent, which is very rare in YA fiction - or maybe I just haven't come across any until now. Either way, I'm looking forward to this one! 


11. Die for Me by Amy Plum
Teaser synopsis: Die for me is the first of three books about Kate, a sixteen-year-old American who moves to Paris after the death of her parents.
 

She finds herself falling for Vincent, who she discovers is not the typical French teenager he appears: he is something else entirely.

Publishing date: May 10th by Harper Teen

Why I'm looking forward to it: I'm a big believer in less is more, and this book is a perfect example of not giving any information besides the necessary away.

I suppose there will be a more detailed synopsis at a later stage, but the supernatural element has me incredibly intrigued.

I'm dying to find out what Vince is, aren't you? And also, is that cover not one of the most beautiful covers you've ever seen?


Anyway, that's it for part 1.

Will be doing part 2 and 3 soon , but in the meantime, share your list of can't wait for reads in the comment box below and take a guess at what my number 1 choice is as well as a means of contacting you. I've got 5 signed Like Mandarin bookmarks to giveaway (I'll take a photo and post it up later), so who knows - you may just be one of those who wins.

Hint: The answer doesn't lie in the prize that I'm giving away. That would be making it way too easy.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Book review: Relatively Famous

Relatively Famous
When an ordinary small-town girl meets her famous father for the first time, a whole new and exciting world is about to unlock its doors for her. The question is, at what cost?

Relatively Famous by Jessica Park

Dani McKinley is a typical teen who lives a perfectly normal, uncomplicated and relatively simple life in Michigan. With a fabulous mom, said mom's chef boyfriend and her best friend Samantha, Dani couldn't ask for anything more.

The problem with normal, however, is that it never stays the same and Dani is quick to find this out when her life abruptly comes to a crashing halt and she suddenly finds herself subject to intense scrutiny and unwelcome attention from the clamouring and swarming papparazi (who corner her while on her way to school one morning).

When they start making bizarre claims about her being the daughter of world-famous actor, Mark Ocean, her head goes into a complete tailspin. Being the level-headed girl she is, she naturally refuses to believe the ridiculous notion, and although freaked out, runs back home to confront her mother. 

... only to have a rather guilty and shame-faced Leila (her mother )confess that Dani is, in actual fact, the Hollywood icon's daughter.

Thus begins a new and marked change in her life when the actor invites Dani to spend the summer in California in order to get to know Mark. 

Soon, immersed in a world of endless wealth, club memberships and a whole new wardrobe to boot, Dani quickly learns that all the wealth in the world couldn't make up for the fact that what Mark has in money, he sorely lacks in the parenting skills department.  And what she doesn't know is that Mark has his own nefarious reasons for wanting her in his life.
 
As the summer progresses, Dani makes new friends, lives the glam life and gains the attention of a gorgeous young personal trainer as well a sweet surfer boy. But in a world where glitz and glamour reign, will Dani still be able to hold onto her sense of identity without compromising her sense of self or will she succumb to the allure of the superficial life?
My thoughts:

It's been a while since I've read a contemporary YA fiction novel, so when I first stumbled across Jessica Park on her twitter account and saw that she was offering PDF versions of Relatively Famous to YA book bloggers, I took a chance and decided to ask if she'd be willing to send me a copy of this book.

Luckily for me, she was more than happy to send me a copy, which is how I came to eventually read Relatively Famous.  My opinion is that it's one of those books that is highly underrated, which is why I suppose I was so surprised at just how much I ended up enjoying this novel.

It's a fast, breezy and balmy read that immediately brings to mind hot summer days on the beach, mixed with the cosmopolitan but shallow life of typical Hollywood glamour.

 It would certainly be easy to mistake this for a rather superficial read, but throughout the novel, Jessica Park threads in wonderful themes of friendship and family dynamics that gives this book a wonderful and substantial amount of substance.

I was hooked from the start and the wonderful characters only served to add to that feeling.

Dani? 

She's an awesome character.

It's hard not to like a girl who is sweet, accommodating and so easy to relate to like Dani. What I especially loved is that you could see obvious character growing pains and experience both her growth, and her Hollywood bratty behaviour - and her learning to own up to her actions and faults was definitely one of the things that really made this book such wonderful read.

There's nothing more that I love than characters that are flawed but willingly admit to making mistakes and taking steps to go about fixing them. She's a character who will make you smile, she'll make you want to hug her, and even though she'll cause you moments of frustration, you'll still find yourself rooting for her wholeheartedly.

Another thing that I adored about this book, is that many of the chapters showcase Mark's point of view. I have to congratulate Jessica for including Mark's point of view, because without it, I don't think I would have had much sympathy for him, or liked him for that matter.

As it is, despite his initial motives for wanting Dani to spend the summer with him (It's all about the image baby!), I loved that despite himself, he couldn't help but fall for the charmer of a girl.

I loved how the relationship between Dani and Mark progressed and thought that it was handled with such a tender, breezy and obviously affectionate tone and manner (never in a manner that was rushed or unbelievable), that it seemed all the more real for it. 

From overwhelming Dani with all the things that his money manages to buy, to later relenting and allowing Dani to intervene in his love life, the two manage to find a new common ground and companionship with one another that neither were expecting.

Want to know what else is fabulous?

There's actually no real mean girl in this novel. Hooray for that!  Sure the friends she makes in LA are spoilt and get everything they want, but the girls aren't really mean - which for me, was incredibly refreshing (Can you tell I'm sick and tired of the whole mean girl angle in YA fiction?).

Of course, there's also the romance in this novel. Caught between two boys, Dani naturally at first gravitates towards the hot-stud of a trainer.  But once the lights fade and the glitter falls off, is it really him that she wants to be with?

I'm not going to say anything more on this really - except that I thought the romance, while not the overall focus of the novel, formed a nice backdrop which only added to an already strong story.

I did feel as if the ending was a little rushed and as if there were an issue or two that was still unresolved, but other than that, I can honestly say that I adored this cute, highly entertaining and very, very sweet read.

It's definitely the perfect YA beach read and gets a well-deserved 4 star rating from me!

Source: Sent to me by the author in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affects my opinion of the book in any way whatsoever.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

In my mailbox (17)

IMM is a weekly meme hosted by the lovely Kristi from The Story Siren. Been a rather quiet week on my front, but the 2 books I received, were books I've been dying to read for a good while now.

Here's what I got:

Tempest Rising by Nicole Peeler
Living in small town Rockabill, Maine, Jane True always knew she didn't quite fit in with so-called normal society.

During her nightly, clandestine swim in the freezing winter ocean, a grisly find leads Jane to startling revelations about her heritage: she is only half-human.


Now, Jane must enter a world filled with supernatural creatures alternatively terrifying, beautiful, and deadly- all of which perfectly describe her new "friend," Ryu, a gorgeous and powerful vampire.

It is a world where nothing can be taken for granted: a dog can heal with a lick; spirits bag your groceries; and whatever you do, never-ever rub the genie's lamp.


Tracking the Tempest by Nicole Peeler
Valentine's Day is fast approaching, and Ryu - Jane's bloodsucking boyfriend - can't let a major holiday go by without getting all gratuitous.

An overwhelming dose of boyfriend interference and a last-minute ticket to Boston later, and Jane's life is thrown off course.


Ryu's well-intentioned plans create mayhem, and Jane winds up embroiled in an investigation involving a spree of gruesome killings.
 

All the evidence points towards another Halfling, much to Jane's surprise...

Why I'm dying to read this:
Selkies, Vampires and all sorts of delicious supernatural creatures.

Also, it's part of a series so it's sure to be a fun and interesting read. That's it from me this week though. What did you get in your IMM this week?

P.S. Sorry for being a little scarce on the blog front lately - blah for last minute work deadlines that's been taking up all of my time before I go on leave. Will be sure to do some serious catching up during the course of this week!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday: Wildefire

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill from Breaking the Spine. The idea behind this meme is to highlight up and coming releases that we just can't wait to read.

This week's choice is Wildefire by Karsten Knight. I can't remember how I stumble upon this one, but I do know the moment I saw the words volcano goddess, I was absolutely sold. I've had this one on my list for a while now and am really looking forward to reading this one when it comes out.

It sounds like it's going to be an intriguing read with a good dose of humour injected between the pages of this one!

It's set to be published in 2011, so we'll be waiting for quite some time for this one. In the meantime, here's some more info about the book. 

Wildefire by Karsten Knight
Ashline Wilde never received an instruction manual on how to be a 16-year-old Polynesian volcano goddess. If she had, it might have contained helpful warnings such as:

• Dreaming about your (thankfully) mortal boyfriend may cause your bed to spontaneously combust

• Oven mitts should be worn at all times during heavy make-out sessions

Instead, Ash has to learn these life lessons the hard way as her dormant powers erupt at the most awkward times.

In the wake of a hometown tragedy, Ash transfers to Blackwood Academy, a boarding school nestled in California’s redwoods, where a group of fellow gods-on-earth have mysteriously convened.

As if sophomore year couldn’t get any worse, her storm goddess older sister, the wild and unpredictable Eve, resurfaces to haunt Ashline.

With a war between the gods looming over Blackwood, Ash must master the fire smoldering within her before she clashes with her sister one final time, which leads us to life-lesson #3:

• When warm and cold fronts collide, there’s guaranteed to be a storm.

What's on your WoW list this week? Feel free to share below.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Guest post & giveaway: Ghosts of Christmas past by Anastasia Hopcus

Hey everyone

As part of the December Shadow Hills blog tour, I'm very excited to be featuring Anastasia Hopcus on my blog today. In today's post, she'll be giving us a little more insight into Toy's (one of my favourite characters in the book) crush on Graham.
 
About the book:
After her sister Athena's tragic death, it's obvious that grief-stricken Persephone "Phe" Archer no longer belongs in Los Angeles.

Hoping to make sense of her sister's sudden demise and the cryptic dreams following it, Phe abandons her bubbly LA life to attend an uptight East Coast preparatory school in Shadow Hills, MA -- a school which her sister mysteriously mentioned in her last diary entry before she died.


Once there, Phe quickly realizes that something is deeply amiss in her new town.

Not only does Shadow Hills' history boast an unexplained epidemic that decimated hundreds of its citizens in the 1700s, but its modern townies also seem eerily psychic, with the bizarre ability to bend metal.


Even Zach -- the gorgeous stranger Phe meets and immediately begins to lust after -- seems as if he is hiding something serious. Phe is determined to get to the bottom of it. The longer she stays there, the more she suspects that her sister's untimely death and her own destiny are intricately linked to those who reside in Shadow Hills.

You can find my review of the book here

______________________________________________________________

Without further ado, here's Ghosts of Christmas Past by Anastasia Hopcus.  With special thanks to Anastasia and the wonderful team from The Teen Book Scene for allowing me to host Anastasia on my blog today.


                                                     Ghosts of Christmas Past
                                                 Christmas, Sophomore Year (2009)

“Hey! Toy!” My brother was the first one to spot me as I stepped into our family’s apartment, wheeling my bag behind me. He gave me a quick hug, then mussed my short pixie cut. “I see you're still wearing your hair like me.”

He struck a faux model stance while artfully arranging his mess of black hair---that I had to admit did look similar to my own. I’d always wanted to be just like my brother when I was younger, but now I wondered if that was part of the reason Graham only saw me as a buddy.

“Shut up.” Maybe I did look too much like him. I elbowed him in the side a tiny bit harder than I usually would have and instantly felt bad. It wasn’t my brother’s fault that my crush had a girlfriend and was not remotely interested in me.


“Oww!” He retaliated with a noogie.


“White flag! White flag!” I gave the old signal that I’d had enough rough housing. My brother gave me a playful shove and then headed into the kitchen as I rubbed the now sore spot on top of my head.


“Not even back for a minute and already beating on each other.” My dad stepped into the kitchen doorway, holding a dish towel, and opened his arms. "Welcome home!"


I slipped off my backpack and went to hug him.  I stepped back and looked pointedly at Dad's ‘Kiss Me I’m Irish’ apron. “Nice. Early Christmas present from mom?”


“Are you kidding me?” My mom called from the kitchen. “I was begging him not to get it, but then the saleswoman chimed in with how much he needed it and, well, you know your father.”


“Yep.” I followed him into the kitchen and made a beeline for the oven. “And since I know him so well, I’m guessing that amazing smell is his famous Christmas candy.”


“Stay out.” My dad swatted at me with the towel. “They’re for the party at the Gallery tomorrow night and they haven’t set yet.”

 “Hi sweetie.” My mom gave me a kiss on the top of my head. She had to stretch onto her tiptoes to reach as she was petite even for the Korean side of my family. “I’m so glad you’re home.”

“Yeah, me too.” I smiled. I was glad to see my family and smell the wonderful Christmas cooking my dad took so much pride in, but it had been painful leaving Graham at the train station in Boston. Not that it was painful for him---soon he’d be in San Francisco and until then he was going to be hanging out in Boston with his girlfriend.  I wasn’t even sure he realized I was a girl.


My mom wrinkled her brow as she looked at me intently. “Let’s go have a little girl talk in the living room. Cooking is a guy thing anyway.” She nodded toward my dad and brother.


“Fine.” I followed her back the way I’d come in. “But I have my heart set on candy.”


“Don't worry. Your dad has it all planned.  First we're going skating and then we'll come back and pig out on his candy.  Plus, he's already put some in the freezer for you to take back to school.” She winked as she pulled me down on the sofa beside her.


"Sounds great."


She tilted her head, looking at me. “So what’s going on? Is your first year not going so well?”


“No. Of course not.” I reassured her. “Devenish is great. It’s just…”


My mom knew Graham was my friend but I hadn’t told her about my crush on him yet. Not because I thought that she’d have an issue with it. My grandma had been hard on her for years about marrying my dad instead of a nice Korean boy, and she’d never do the same thing to me. In fact, my mom had been telling me to follow my heart since I was in elementary school.


 I hadn't told her because I was embarrassed.  I'd never been the kind of girl that got a crush on every guy she met.  I was friends with plenty of guys---not that surprising for someone who's into computers and video games and horror flicks---but that's all they were.  Friends.  I hadn't ever had those talks where I told my mom all about my latest crush.  My latest crush was my first.


The other thing was that I felt guilty.  Last night I'd sat around wishing that Graham and I would get snowed in at the dorms and have to spend Christmas together. That seemed so harsh---like I didn’t even care about my family, when in reality I cherished every memory of us falling on our butts ice-skating at Rockefeller center.  It was just…


"There's this guy,"  I blurted out, surprising myself a little.  "Graham."


"The boy from California?"  My mother smiled, and there was this knowing look in her eyes.  "So you do like him."


"That's just irritating." I frowned.  "How did you know that?  I never said anything special about him."


"It was the way you said nothing special about him."  She laughed and took my hand.  "Okay.  Now tell me all about him.  Everything.  I've been waiting years for this."


 "Well, he has blonde hair and it's all kind of tousled and messy, and one of his front teeth has got this adorable little chip in it, and…"


Before I knew it, I was telling my mother all about it, from the time I first saw Graham at orientation to our casual parting at the train station in Boston this morning.  And then she was telling me how lucky Graham was that he had a girl like me interested in him and that one day he would wake up and see how special I was and if he didn't, well, he was the one who had lost out, not me.

I laughed and snuggled up against her, leaning my head on her shoulder like I had when I was a little girl.  "You have to say that because you're my mom."


"Well, yes, but that doesn't mean it isn't true."  I couldn't see her face, but I could hear the smile in her voice.


I sat there, my mother's arm warm against my cheek, the familiar scent of her perfume mingling with the delicious odor of chocolate stealing in from the kitchen.  I heard the rumble of my dad's voice and my brother's laugh in response, and I smiled. 

Suddenly, I realized, I didn't feel stupid or guilty or embarrassed anymore.  I didn't wish I had been snowed in at Devenish, even with Graham.  It was Christmas, and I was right where I wanted to be.  At home.


 I squeezed my mother's hand and stood up, calling out toward the kitchen.  "Hey!  I thought we were going ice skating!"
__________________________________________________________________

And now, time for a giveaway. You can win yourself a signed Shadow Hills Poster.  To enter the giveaway, simply click here and provide me with all your relevant details.

Rules:
- Open to US residents only. (Sorry fabulous international blog friends)
- Giveaway runs until December the 14th.
- You don't have to be a follower to enter, just simply submit your full name and address as well as a means of contacting you.

And finally, be sure to check out all of Anastasia's blog stops over here.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Giveaway winners: Torment and Paranormalcy

I finally have time to get around to choosing the winner of my Torment and Paranormacly giveaway - and because I've kept you waiting so long, I'll keep my rambling to a minimum.

Winners were selected via Random.org.


Without further ado, the winner of Paranormalcy is: Lucy from Lucy's Bookshelves and the winner of Torment is: Chrizette from All the days of blogspot.


Congratulations! I'll be contacting you first thing in the morning to confirm your details. To everyone else, thanks for entering the giveaway - rest assured, that it's the first of many that will be coming. In fact, my birthday is coming up soon, so be sure to be on the look out for a giveaway later this month :)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Book review: Shadow Hills

Shadow Hills
Magic, mystery, mythology and science combine to form one explosive romantic and gothic mystery novel. 

Shadow Hills by Anastasia Hopcus (EgmontUSA)
Ever since her sister Athena's tragic demise, grief-stricken Persephone Archer has been plagued with a series of unsettling and cryptic dreams.

Hoping to make sense of her sister's death, Phe decides to leave Los Angeles in order to enrol and register at Devenish Prep, a boarding school in Shadow Hills, Massachusetts.

Once there, the bright and highly perceptive Phe is quick to notice that something is very, very different about her new town.

She's quick to find out that the town's history boasts an unexplained epidemic that wiped out hundreds of its citizens during the 1700s and yet perplexingly enough,the modern townies that she's currently surrounded by, seem to have highly developed IQs, keen psychic senses and other bizarre abilities - something which definitely seems to be at odds with a town that has a history of such a wide-spread epidemic.

When she bumps into the Zach, the gorgeous stranger who seems to have shown up straight out of her dreams (and who has secrets of his own), Phe somehow knows that there is something more about the town that connects her to it.

The longer she stays there, the more she begins to feel that her destiny is somehow inexorably linked to those who reside in Shadow Hills. But looking for answers comes with its own set of risks and Phe is about to find out just how much is at stake in her quest to discover the truth.

My thoughts:
Have you ever read a book that impressed you so much that you feel as if no amount of wordy descriptiveness or gushing on your part will do the book justice?

Shadow Hills was that book for me. 

Considering the fact that there is such a host of YA paranormal fiction that has been done to death, I'll be the first to admit that I was rather intrigued when I stumbled across Shadow Hills.

The synopsis of the book promised something a little different and when I read a few reviews mentioning that Anastasia Hopcus delves a bit into some Greek Mythology (I have a huge, huge interest and passion for mythology - especially Greek mythology), my level of interest and intrigue heightened to a fever pitch.

For me, Shadow Hills is one of those books whose synopsis simply doesn't do it justice. There's mystery, there's romance, there's a combination of mythology and a generous incorporation of science.

I read this book with the expectation of it being a fantastic gothic mystery, but never anticipated that I would be getting so much more out of this book (don't you just love books like that?).

Anastasia's writing had me hooked from the start.  She's written a fantastic story with very strong and incredibly likeable characters. 

We meet Persephone at the point where it's been a good couple of months since her sister has died and where she's making her way to Devenish Prep.

From the start you get the sense that she's one tough-cookie. She's likeable, easy to relate to and although she displays a softer and more vulnerable side when it comes to dealing with her sister's death, she also showcases a daredevil streak that you can't help but admire (even though at the same time you find yourself cringing because her impulsiveness leaves very little room for any form of self-preservation). 

How she manages to get herself out of tight spots is nothing but a combination a miracle and sheer inventiveness from her part.

She's an endlessly curious risk taker and has an unquenchable thirst for uncovering the history behind the history of Shadow Hills as well as trying to decipher the meaning behind the cryptic dreams she's been having. Her development throughout the novel was fabulously balanced and influenced by the new friends she made as well as Zach, her major love interest.

I was definitely thrown for a complete loop regarding the paranormal aspect of this novel. 

The scientific reasoning behind some of the paranormal aspects in this novel is astounding, unique and is written in such a way that it will appeal to you even if you're not interested in anything science related (Trust me, I'm no science boffin, but I loved this aspect of the novel).

With such a strong combination of elements, I have to take my hat off to Anastasia for creating a steady balance between the amount of science and mythology that was revealed in the book. 

Both subjects are heavily intensive and it was really great to see Anastasia revealing bits and pieces of information at a time instead of just overwhelming the reader with too much information at once.

The mythological aspect of the novel is also something that I really enjoyed reading about. Without giving anything away, I get the feeling that there is so much more to Phe's story and destiny in regards to this and would really love to see Anastasia delve a little more deeply into this in future.

And then, of course, there was the romance. My review wouldn't be much of a review if I didn't mention the sizzling chemistry between Phe and Zach.

Their romance was incredible and I really loved the fact that while the attraction was almost instantaneous, the build-up to both of them acknowledging their feelings was what really made the romance between them so explosive.

Another great thing about Phe is that she doesn't let her budding relationship interfere with her relationships with her new found friends - which is a very refreshing change from characters who usually ditch their friends for the hot boy. 

Speaking of friends, the additional cast of characters were simply fantastic and I really loved how unique the various different character names were. Graham, Toy, Brody and Adriana added a fantastic dimension to the story and I loved how each of their personalities really injected an added dynamic and sparkle to an already fantastic story.

I know that I gush about a lot of books I've read and reviewed this year, but if there is really one book that  I'd highly recommend you read before this year is over, then it's this one. It's one of my favourite 2010 debut novels of the year.  And definitely worth its 5 star rating.

As part of the Shadow Hills blog tour, I'll be featuring Anastasia on Tuesday, 7th December. Be sure to stop on by - as I'll also be hosting a giveaway where you can win a Shadow Hills poster!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday: The Vampire Stalker

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill from Breaking the Spine. The idea behind this meme is to highlight up and coming releases that we just can't wait to read.

This week's choice is The Vampire Stalker by Allison van Diepen. Not entirely sure how I feel about the cover yet, but I do love the premise behind this one. 

Quite a long wait for this one as it is only set to be released June 2011, but in the meantime, here's a brief synopsis about the book.



The Vampire Stalker by Allison van Diepen
What if the characters in a vampire novel left their world--and came into yours?

Amy is in love with someone who doesn't exist: Alexander Banks, the dashing hero in a popular series of vampire novels.

Then one night, Amy meets a boy who bears an eerie resemblance to Alexander.

In fact, he IS Alexander, who has escaped from the pages of the book and is in hot pursuit of a wicked vampire named Vigo.


Together, Amy and Alexander set out to track Vigo and learn how and why Alexander crossed over.

But when she and Alexander begin to fall for each other, Amy wonders if she even wants him to ever return to the realm of fiction.


What's on your WoW list this week? Feel free to share below.

Monday, November 29, 2010

My top 10 fiction heroines

Brave, tough, young and old…. we all love fiction characters for different reasons. I've decided to share 10 of my favourites.

Seeing as I enjoy all types of genre's, this list is a mix of YA and non-YA fiction heroines. I will however be doing one with strictly a YA focus in a future post.

1. Sorcha - Daughter of the Forest
After reading Daughter of the Forest, Juliet Marillier has quickly managed to become one of my new favourite authors.

Blending Celtic mythology, fantasy and beautiful prose, the worlds she manages to create are nothing short of magical.

Now add to that a strong heroine who survives what life throws her way against all odds, then you'll have the basic idea just what forms the backbone of Sorcha's (the protagonist of the novel) character. 

I loved her for the sacrifices she willingly and not-so willing had to make and for giving up almost everything she had in order to save her brothers.

I don't think any description can really do this character justice, but I can tell you that if she's number 1 on my list, then there is a very, very good reason for it.

2. Elizabeth - Pride and Prejudice
Ah, what would this list be without Elizabeth?

I have yet to come across someone who hasn't read and fell in love with the brave, forthright and courageous woman who lived in a time when money, social status and high society were considered far more important than love and happiness (actually, THAT pretty much sounds like today's society, but that's another column for another day).

Oh, she's not without her flaws, but one has to admire her strength and resolve as well as her steadfast refusal to wed someone that she just doesn't love and risk being shunned by all and sundry. She's a timeless heroine so many of us love and wish we could be. Plus, she gets Mr Darcy doesn't she? You don't need any more reasons than that.
3. Sophie - Sophie's world
Sophie's World is quite the gem of a novel. The heroine, Sophie? Even more of a gem in her own right. 

Pairing up a 14-year old girl and philosophical teachings seem like such a bizarre combination, but Jostein Gaarder (one of my favourite authors) manages to make this combination work explosively well.

Sophie is precocious, inquisitive and refreshingly interested in knowing how the world she lives in works. I found it very easy to engage with her simply because she's so willing to be taught and to broaden her horizons and eagerly laps up anything that is thrown her way. Possibly naïve, but still.

I like and admire her for wanting to pursue knowledge instead of going after life's little quick fix little pleasures. I'm also possibly quite biased towards her because I have soft little spot for philosophical topics.

4. Hermione - The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
I'd give a brief little introduction about the book series, but I'm pretty sure that most of you must have read or at least heard about the Harry Potter series (If you haven't then where have you been?). 

What's not to love about Hermione? She's book smart, magic-smart, witty, incredibly intelligent, brave, courageous and hooks up with the very loveable, shaggy  and mop-haired Ron (that's how I picture him). Totally defying conventional stereotyping, which is why she is such a winner in my books.

I'm pretty convinced that I wouldn't have enjoyed reading the Harry Potter series if it wasn't for Hermione.

5. Tita - Like Water for Chocolate
Tita is the heroine in Like Water for Chocolate, a story about magic, cooking, family tradition and forbidden love.

Gifted with an exquisite talent for cooking, Tita is the youngest of 3 girls who is forbidden the right to marry and is forced to stay behind to tend to her cruel and overbearing mother.

When she falls in love with Pedro, she's forced to watch as her mother hands her eldest daughter to him. For the next 22 years Tita's pain is woven into every meal she cooks, effusing and affecting everyone else's emotions in the process.

Tita is one of my favourites simply because she endures and survives 22 years of hell and deals with her life, losses, longing and love all through the one outlet that helps her to get through it all - cooking.

6. Clara - The House of Spirits
Isabel Allende has always been one of my favourite authors - and it's not just because of the lyrical prose or the presence of mystical and magic realism elements that are so prevalent throughout her novels, but because the heroines in her novels radiant such a strong sense of self-worth and confidence (even in the midgst of trial and tribulation) that reading their stories are such a joy.

As the matriarch in Allende's generational story about four women whose lives are inexorably intertwined and linked with one, Clara is the elusive and mysterious clairvoyant, who foretells family tragedy and shapes the fortunes of the house of the Truebas.

Although the story is told from alternative viewpoints, the voice which really stood out the most for me was Clara's. Her strength and undeniable love for her family helps her to keep her  family household together despite and in spite of the variable amount of forces try to drive their order apart. I loved this even more than Daughter of Fortune.

7. Jane  - Charlotte Brontë
Jane Eyre is another one of those stories that simply don't need an introduction.  Most of us adore the handsome (ok, I am tremendously biased towards him) and brooding Mr Rochester, but so many of us look past the highly spirited Jane whose strength of character, back bone and acute sense of right and wrong shines throughout the novel.

One simply has to admire a character who has often been trampled upon, but whose fighting spirit and sense of integrity makes her one of those characters whose true beauty really radiates from within.

8. Maya - Forbidden
Anyone who has read my review of Forbidden, will know that I've been raving about this book to no end. Without going into too much detail, the book tackles a rather controversial topic (consensual sibling incest), but does so in an incredibly touching, non-sensationalistic and graceful manner, that you'll just warm to the characters and their story instantly.

As far as female protagonists go, Maya (the sister in the story) was instantly likeable. She's the kind of character you would trust to look after your kids and has a source of strength within her that is incredibly compelling.  

The ending of the story (and this is really what makes the novel) is what really made my heart break  for her,  and I really, really applaud and admire her for the choice that she made, because I know I wouldn't be able to do what she did at the end of it all.

9. Clary - The Mortal Instruments series
I adore Clary. She's ballsy, brave, gutsy and incredibly smart. Not only that, but she is an amazingly well-developed and mature character for someone who is so young.

I loved the fact that she was so fearless even though more often that not, that fearlessness often put her in harm's way. And that she didn't think twice about risking her life for the sake of those she loved. She's every thing that I wished I could have been when I was her age.

10. Chiyo/Sayuri -  Memoirs of a Geisha
It's been a good while since I've read this book, but for all the time that has passed since I've read this book, Sayuri's character has been a character that has stayed with me up until today.  As a young girl, Chiyo (who becomes Sayuri later on), is adopted and sold into a life of servitude where she will eventually be trained to become a geisha. 

Seperated from her sister, she has to endure a whole spate of roadblocks, obstacles and misery before she can even begin to remotely get somewhere in life.  

She's not an easy character to love, but for me character growth and development is incredibly important and watching and experiencing her grow up, encountering setbacks and becoming a victim to cruelty, jealousy was at once riveting and heartbreaking.

Most importantly? Getting to share in the elation of overcoming all that to carve a future for herself in an environment where women aren't altogether truly valued.

That's my mash-up list of fabulous female fiction characters I love. Who is your favourite? I'd love to know.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Book review: Darke Academy

Darke Academy
An exotic and elite academy with dark secrets, a scholarship girl waiting to unravel them, and a brooding boy who may prove to be the most dangerous distraction of all.

Darke Academy  by Gabriella Poole (Hodder Children's Books)
Cassandra Bell never thought she'd be attending Darke Academy. For a scholarship girl like her, the school is everything she could have dreamed of and everything that she's not. Intimidating, beautiful and elite.

Just like the rich, preppy brats who all inhabit its hall rooms.

Yet, for an established and ostentatiously lavish boarding school, Darke Academy, true to its very name, is bound to have its share of dark secrets.

For example, who are the Few?  What are the secrets they guard so jealously?  And what happened the previous year when a scholarship girl like herself died in mysterious circumstances?

One thing is certain... Cassie, hell bent on finding out just what the Few have to hide, will need to have her wits about her if she wants to make it out alive without being irreparably damaged - or killed - in the process.

Review:
There are many books where the cover often misleads you into thinking that the contents of the book are harrowingly awful. Now, I usually have a love hate relationship with books like these because I know that my judgements of covers always tend to lead me into ignoring books that end up surpassing my expectations.

It was no different with this book.

It's not that I dislike the cover per say (I have seen far worse), it's just that the thing is with this cover, is that it's so easy to overlook this book amidst all the much better book covers out there (which ironically enough, sometimes tend to end up being awful reads). 

And because I considered this book to be so incredibly forgettable, I left it on my shelf for a good couple of months.

I can't say what it is that motivated me into picking this up, but I'm happy to say that I am glad that I eventually got around to it. After all, there's nothing better than having a book prove you wrong when your expectations of it weren't all that high to begin with.

Anyway, on to the actual contents of the book.

I'd be the first one to admit that the premise of the novel is not a unique one, but there is something so infinitely readable and accessible about this book, that you can't help but forgive (and forget) the fact the concept is one that has been done before.

The vampire genre may be overcrowded, but Poole's Darke Academy: Secret Lives (Book 1 in the series) provides a rather unique and fresh spin on the genre that quickly makes you sit up and take notice.

The interesting thing about Darke Academy is that it is a school that moves around the continent and is never based in one location for a long period of time. I love the idea behind this because it complements Gabriella's exotic, descriptive and very lush writing perfectly.

It also means that in the next instalments of this series, we can definitely expect to experience the fabulous worlds of different cities in each book. This makes my travel-loving heart very happy.

 In Secret Lives, the vivid and resplendent culture and backdrop of France comes to life.

There's a pulsing beauty and an undeniable air of arrogance of those that only know how to live the charmed and glamorous life.  For scholar Cassie, it's a lustrous place which oozes with mean girls and academy snobs, but at least offers some form of comfort and welcome in the forms of Isabella and Jake.

I loved the fact that these characters were not your typical run-of-the-mill blond-haired, blue-eyed Americans (no offense intended to anyone out there), but rather a wealth of mixed cultures.

There's Cassie, an English girl, Isabella a fiery-tempered Latina, Jake, the all-American boy and amidst the rest of the vibrantly different cultural backgrounds, is the main brooding love interest, Ranjit Singh - the delicious boy of Indian descent.

For me, this eclectic mix of characters adds a wonderful dimension to what I think might have ended up being a potentially very bland novel. 

Character wise, I really, really liked Cassie. She's a grounded scholarship girl who knows where she comes from and knows exactly how she got into the elitist Darke Academy, yet doesn't allow the snobby and popular girls to get to her.

In fact, the gutsy girl talks back to them. (Hooray for a character who actually has a backbone - and a strong one at that too). Also, I loved the fact that while she was instantly attracted to Ranjit, she was actually almost borderline rude to him (Again, very refreshing).

My one complaint would have to be how the relationship between them developed. I don't think there was enough time or room for them to actually get a real feel for each other besides the obvious attraction-antagonism feelers between the two.

I suppose we could attribute this to the fact that the author is leaving room for relationship growth in the next novel, but I still feel as if there could have been more interaction between the two of them in order for a possible relationship to seem more plausible.

Then, of course, there is the supernatural element to this novel. I really wish I could say more without giving it away, but I can only tell you that you shouldn't expect any of the typical vampire lore you come across in most books.

Here is absolutely none of that in this book.

In fact, I'd hazard a guess and say that the things I've learnt in the first installment of this novel, is just a taste of what is still to come.

Initiation rituals, strange and dark rites, gloomy catacombs and a sinister method of feeding... this is just the beginning of the journey for Cassie and her friends.

It's the start of a fantastic book series, and despite the minor hiccups I had with this novel, the gothic and atmospherically descriptive writing, combined with the rather unique spin on vampire lore, makes this novel an alluring and transfixing read.

I can't wait to read Darke Academy: Blood Ties - which is the second book in this series.

Rating: 4/5 stars
 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

In my mailbox (16)

IMM is a weekly meme hosted by the lovely Kristi from The Story Siren.

I haven't done an IMM post for a while now, but figured I'd better get around to doing one today before my book stash builds up to the point where I just cannot keep track of the amount of books I've been buying or receiving.

A special thanks to the lovely Leanna from Daisy Chain Book Reviews who sent me a copies of The Poisoned House, The Dead of Winter and Finding Sky. I'm so excited to read them all. In fact, I'm just about to start Finding Sky. :)

Anyway, I've had a fantastic few book weeks and have received a lot of books that are on my TBR pile. Yay! Here's my stash for this week.


Never Let Me Go
by Kazuo Ishiguro
Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick
The Poisoned House by Michael Ford
Jane of the Damned by Jane Mullany
Black Swan Rising
by Lee Carroll
The Dead of Winter by Chris Priestly (ARC copy)
Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
Finding Sky by Joss Stirling

I can't tell you how excited I am for all of these books. I hardly know where to start. What's in your IMM this week?  Feel free to share in the comment box below.

P.S. (Random whine)
Sorry about the lousy blog formatting. I'm looking for a new fairy layout but so far have had no luck :( I'm becoming so fed up with this layout.