Monday, January 31, 2011

"XVI" by Julia Karr (Debut Author)

Dystopian lovers rejoice: Julia Karr's XVI marks the start of a wave of 2011 releases in the genre. Her debut novel is reminiscent of the classic novels 1984 by George Orwell and The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. XVI features a strong feminist viewpoint and a look at where our society could be headed.

The novel takes place in Chicago during the year 2150. On their sixteenth birthday when they become "legal," (Get it? "XVI?"), the government requires girls to get a special tattoo on their wrists. Sadly, women's rights are no longer protected and once they have their tattoo, many fall victim to the whims of men. The media advocates sexuality and teaches young girls how to appeal to men, making them want to turn "sex-teen" as soon as possible.

Nina, the protagonist of the novel, was raised by her mother Ginnie, an outspoken woman who dislikes the rules enforced by government officials. After she's murdered, Nina and her younger sister, Dee, move in with their grandparents and begin attending a new school. Nina makes friends with Wei and Sal, who conveniently both have parents who were friends with her own mother and father before they passed away. Nina is dreading her sixteenth birthday: Unlike her childhood best friend Sandy, who wants nothing more than to be a sex-teen, she dreads the fact that a man may decide to take advantage of her once she's legal. She feels no need to have a guy in her life, especially after seeing the way her mother's boyfriend Ed abused her over the years. When she realizes she's attracted to Sal, she fights her feelings and becomes conflicted.

Upon Ginnie's deathbed, Nina discovers that her mother believes her father to be alive despite the fact that he died several years ago. Digging into her past, she discovers that he may be a leader for NonCon, a group of people against the government and media. As she learns more about the secrets the government is hiding from society, she finds herself in increasing danger and must learn all she can before it's too late.

At times, it's clear that this is Karr's first published novel. She falls into some writing traps such as "telling" over "showing." The first portion of the novel suffers from this. The characters talk to one another about all the "modern-day" jargon being thrown around that 2011 readers have no concept of. At times, it felt overwhelming. Sometimes, I wished I could just physically see what a trannie car looked like. There were also a couple of times when Karr didn't explain the lingo until further into the novel, so I was lost and had to infer what the characters might be talking about. I also wish Nina was a little more emotional after her mother's violent death, though I do realize she was trying to be strong for her little sister. I would have at least liked to see a bit more reflection internally. From time to time, situations felt a little too convenient, though such crutches are necessary in order for Nina to discover all that she does on her own.

That being said, the second half of the novel really picks up speed and I became invested in Nina's plight. I wanted her to figure things out and succeed. Characters that were previously one-dimensional were fleshed out more and I found myself caring about what happened to them. XVI has moments that are tragically sad, full of frantic adrenaline, and laced with mystery. Whenever Nina was with Sal, it felt very real: These were truly two teenagers exploring their first real relationship together, with all its ups and downs.

Despite the fact that there will be at least one sequel and a companion novel, XVI didn't end on a cliffhanger. It was such a relief after all the books I've been reading that make you need to know what happens next right now. There are a lot of loose strings and questions to be answered, though. Karr is currently working on the sequel, tentatively titled The Sisterhood. There will also be a companion novel entitled Cinderella Girl, a type of female mentioned in XVI. On her website, the author states, “No fairy tale ending here.” I think the companion novel will be quite sad, since it seems Cinderella Girls lead a miserable existence. They are usually born out of wedlock, and their fathers are often already married. Some men will take the girls into their households to work as maids, etc.

While XVI wasn't my all-time favorite Dystopian novel, I enjoyed reading it and had trouble putting the book down. I'm definitely looking forward to the sequel and feel that Karr will only grown as an author. I think the sequel will address all of the pitfalls the author experienced during the first novel and be all the better for it.

[This entry is part of The Story Siren's Debut Author Challenge of 2011. See how I've done so far here.]

[This entry is part of Bookish Ardour's Reading Challenges' Dystopian Challenge of 2011. See how I've done so far here.]

Dystopia Challenge 2011

I meant to sign up for this earlier this month, but totally forgot until I was about to start reviewing XVI by Julia Karr tonight. So, without further adieu:

This year, I've signed up for Bookish Ardour's Reading Challenges' Dystopia Challenge (2011 Edition). As a few of you know, I've gotten a little obsessed with the genre lately. There are so many amazing books coming out this year that I want to read!

To participate in the challenge, bloggers can decide how many Dystopian novels they wish to read in 2011 and sign up for the appropriate challenge level. The levels are as follows:

1. Asocial – Choose 5 books to read
2. Contagion – Choose 15 books to read
3. Soldier – Choose 30 books to read
4. Drone – Choose 50 books to read
5. Conditioned – Choose 75 books to read

1. For extra hard challenges:

2. Brainwashed – Choose 76-125 books to read
Totalitarian – Choose 126-200 books to read

At first, I was going to try for Level 2: Contagion, but after looking at my book list of what I hope to read this year, I'm pretty sure I can reach Level 3: Soldier, so that's what I signed up for.

Here's a tentative list of what I'm hoping to read this year. I'm not quite at thirty yet, but I'm close. I figure that if I add in "older" series I've been trying to get around to (since titles don't need to be 2011 debuts) such as The Maze Runner by James Dashner, Skinned by Robin Wasserman, Everlost (Skinjacker Trilogy) by Neal Shusterman, etc, not to mention new titles I'm not even aware of yet, I'll meet the requirement. I don't think I'll read 50 Dystopians this year, though!

[As of August 9th: The titles in red are ones I've read already, though they might not have been reviewed yet! Blue books are ones I have but have yet to get to. Others will be out later this year!]

01. All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin
02. Ashes by Ilsa Bick
03. Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky
04.Bumped by Megan McCafferty
05. Crossed by Ally Condie (2nd in Matched trilogy)
06. Dark Parties by Sara Grant
07. Delirium by Lauren Oliver
08. Divergent by Veronica Roth

09.Enclave by Ann Aguirre
10. For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund
11.Human.4 by Mike Lancaster
12.Memento Nora by Angie Smibert
13. Outside In (Sequel to Inside Out) by Maria V. Snyder
14. Plague (4th in Gone series) by Michael Grant
15. Relic Masters #1: The Dark City by Catherine Fisher (UK series title is The Book of the Crow and 1st book is titled The Relic Master)
16. Relic Masters #2: The Lost Heiress by Catherine Fisher (UK series title is The Book of the Crow and 2nd book is titled The Interrex)
17. Relic Masters #3: The Hidden Coronet by Catherine Fisher (UK series title is The Book of the Crow and 3rd book is titled Flain's Coronet)
18. Relic Masters #4: The Margrave by Catherine Fisher (UK series title is The Book of the Crow and 4th book is titled The Margrave)
19. Incarceron by Catherine Fisher
20. Sapphique (sequel toIncarceron) by Catherine Fisher
21. Trickster’s Girl by Hilari Bell
22. The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann
23. The Water Wars by Cameron Stracher
24. Wither by Lauren DeStefano
24. XVI by Julia Karr

I'm going to use this entry to keep track of the books I read by 2011 debut authors. Feel free to check back and see how I'm doing!

J a n u a r y :

01) XVI by Julia Karr

F e b r u a r y :

02) Delirium by Lauren Oliver

M a r c h :

03) Trickster's Girl by Hilari Bell

04) Wither by Lauren DeStefano

J u l y :

05) SOLSTICE by P.J. Hoover

A u g u s t :

06) A LONG, LONG SLEEP by Anna Sheehan

(I'm pretty sure I've read and reviewed more since then...I know there are some books I still have to review as well! For example, DIVERGENT, POSSESSION, BLOOD RED ROAD....)

A u g u s t :

07) THE ELEVENTH PLAGUE by Jeff Hirsch

Friday, January 28, 2011

"The False Princess" by Eilis O'Neal (Debut Author)

Princess Nalia had it all...until the day she discovered she wasn't really a princess, but a commoner named Sinda. She had spent the first sixteen years of her life as a decoy princess because there was a prophecy that the true heir to the throne might die before her sixteenth birthday. Feeling betrayed, Sinda heads for the country to live with the aunt she never knew she had, leaving behind the family and only home she'd ever known. Once in the countryside, however, Sinda discovers that she has the gift of magic. If she doesn't learn to control it, the dangerous power coursing through her veins could kill her. Knowing this, she returns to the palace city and begins to study magic. She reunites with Keirnan, the mischievous Earl of Rithia's son and her best friend. They soon uncover a dangerous plot that could destroy everything Sinda holds dear.

The False Princess is so hard to talk about without divulging spoilers. The plot is so intricate and complex. There are times you think you have a grasp on the story and where it's headed, but O'Neal throws in a plot twist and you're no longer sure how the book will end. There's danger, mystery, and intrigue lurking on every page. While the novel gets off to a slow start, it isn't long before readers will find themselves immersed in Sinda's plight. While she starts off as a weak character, by the end, she's become a strong heroine who has come into herself. I love books with strong female role-models. It's one reason Tamora Pierce has always been one of my favorite YA authors. O'Neal's writing style reminds me of Shannon Hale. In fact, one of Hale's novels, The Goose Girl, is very much a tale similar to this one, except in reverse: It is the princess' lady-in-waiting who usurps the role of princess and fools everyone.

This book has something for everyone. It falls into both the historical fiction and fantasy categories. On top of that, it reads like a fairytale, despite the fact that it's an original work. There's plenty of romantic tension between Sinda and Keirnan to keep a reader's interest, not to mention an overlying mystery woven throughout the novel.

I really like this book's dust jacket, too. I love the shades of purple, from the deep, royal color making up the wallpaper/curtain/(whatever it is) in the background to the more-subtle hues used for the cover model's make-up. I also love the story being told on the cover: Consider the fact that you can't see the model's face, but you CAN see the face of the girl on her locket. In my mind, the locket contains a portrait of the "true" princess while Sinda has once again disappeared in her shadow. It's a cover you won't think twice about until you've read the book.

Overall, I enjoyed The False Princess and thought it was a strong debut novel. My copy will sit proudly next to my other "fairytale-inspired" novels, including those by Hale.

[This entry is part of The Story Siren's Debut Author Challenge of 2011. See how I've done so far here.]

Thursday, January 27, 2011

In Support of L.K. Madigan

Some of you may have heard the heartbreaking news by now. A couple of weeks ago on her blog, author L.K. Madigan revealed the fact that she's been diagnosed with Stage IV Pancreatic Cancer.

Now, The Book Pixie is running a contest in support of the author. Details can be found on her blog. If you purchase either of Madigan's novels, be it her debut, William C. Morris award-winning Flash Burnout, or last year's The Mermaid's Mirror, you'll be entered in the contest. Plus, buying Madigan's books lets her know that we're all thinking about her and praying for the best.

I bought The Mermaid's Mirror last year, but haven't gotten around to reading it yet. I need to do so soon. I also have to add Flash Burnout to my list!

Please show your support!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

"East of the Sun, West of the Moon"

Does the weather/season ever put you in a certain mood or frame of mind? Today, I woke up to a winter wonderland and hurried outside to play in my own personal snowglobe. I love being outside as the snow is falling. Granted, I don't love snow nearly as much when I'm shoveling it or stepping through slush. When it's still new, however, we share a mutual love for one another.

Today's snowfall makes me want to curl up beneath the covers with a winter fairytale, in this case, the Norwegian classic East of the Sun, West of the Moon. You can read the original tale for free on Project Gutenberg, which offers several downloading options, so you can view the title on your computer or your e-reader. Within the last decade, three YA authors have put their own spin on the story: East by Edith Pattou, Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George, and Ice by Sarah Beth Durst (which I reviewed last year).

I enjoy all three renditions of the tale, though I have to say that Ice is my favorite of the lot. I like that Durst put her own twist on the story and added an extra layer to it. Plus, her description is so good, you physically feel cold while reading the book because you're right there with Cassie.

Another beautiful version of the fairytale is the children's book illustrated by P.J. Lynch with the original English translation of East of the Sun, West of the Moon by Sir George Webbe Dasent:

The illustrations are absolutely gorgeous. I love P.J. Lynch. Apparently, so do Sarah Beth Durst and Jessica Day George. Both authors referred to this version of the fairytale as the one that inspired them to write their own retellings when they interviewed one another in 2009 (Durst's interview of George and George's interview of Durst).

If you aren't convinced that this is a beautiful fairytale full of romance, sneak a peek at some of Lynch's illustrations:

Gorgeous, right? You can preview larger versions of these images as well as scans from his other illustrated books on his website. He also posts his work on his blog, but I'll warn you that he does post nude art there as well. Sadly, this picture book is out of print, but you might be lucky enough to find a used copy at a local store or through an online shop such as AbeBooks...or even Amazon.

Finally, what day is complete without a little music? If you want to continue the cold weather theme, why not turn on some Snow Patrol?

This is one of my favorite groups to listen to. LOVE THEM. Even if you've never heard of the group, you probably HAVE and just don't know it. They've had a lot of their music used in commercials, on TV shows, etc. "Chasing Cars" is perhaps the most-often used song. According to Wikipedia, here are a few places you may have heard their tunes:

The album's third track, "Chasing Cars", was featured on the second season finale of the ABC prime time hit drama Grey's Anatomy on 15 May 2006. A Grey's Anatomy-themed video of the song can be seen at the ABC website. The seventh track, "Make This Go on Forever", was later used in the third season of Grey's Anatomy, at the end of the episode entitled "Walk on Water". The album's tenth track, entitled "Open Your Eyes," was used in the season 4 finale of CBS's Cold Case and in the season 12 finale of ER, also appeared in an episode of The Black Donnellys and also in the second episode of the third season of Grey's Anatomy. The sixth track, "You Could Be Happy", was used at the beginning the episode "Promise" of Smallville's sixth season, as well as in advertisements for Australian soap Neighbours. The single was also used in Doctor Who: Top 5 Christmas Moments and the Season 1 finale of BBC sitcom Gavin & Stacey. The first track, "You're All I Have" appears on the soundtrack of the teen film "The Invisible". "Open Your Eyes" was used as The Best Bits song for Celebrity Big Brother 2007 during the final watched by over 7m viewers, the year of the Race Row.

Nothing beats curling up in a warm, cozy bed with a mug of hot cocoa and immersing yourself in a good page-turner, right? (Haha, do you see what I did there? That's totally the tagline that I use for this blog... And yes, I know I'm a geek. ^.~) So what's stopping you? Bring on the Snow Patrol and Norwegian fairytales!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Teaser Tuesdays (3) [Double Dose]

I finished one book on my lunch break and moved on to the next one, so you spoiled bookworms get a double dose today!

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.

To participate:
*Grab your current read
*Open to a random page
*Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
*BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

W h a t I ' m R e a d i n g :

Human Blend by Lori Pescatore

M y T e a s e r s :

"She vowed to be more careful this time. She would not seek anyone's help. Lesson learned. Laney fought back the tears that threatened to fall as she remembered what happened to the last person who tried to help her. She would not make the same mistake. She was on her own, at least until they found her again."

(~pg. 1 [Opening Paragraph])

I don't read a lot of paranormal authors, but figured I'd give this one a try because 1) It was written by a local author in my County, 2) A couple of bloggers I follow enjoyed it recently, and 3) Who can beat a $2.99 pricetag on an e-book?

The False Princess by Eilis O'Neal (2011 Debut Author)

M y T e a s e r s :

"He stopped short, his eyes fixed on mine. When he spoke again, he sounded tired, like a man at the end of a long journey. 'We hid the princess away so that she would be safe until after her sixteenth birthday. And we replaced her with another baby, a false princess. You.'"

(~pg. 34 [e-book edition/nook sample chapter...because I'm too impatient to wait for my copy to come in the mail next week alongside my Delirium pre-order])

Yay, a new original novel that has a "fairytale" feel to it. I've been waiting to dive into this one!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

"Warped" by Maurissa Guibord (Debut Author)

1. The set of yarns placed in a loom that forms the lengthwise threads of a woven fabric.
2. A hypothetical eccentricity or discontinuity in the space-time continuum.

Webster’s Dictionary [And reproduced at the beginning of Warped by Maurissa Guibord

It's hard to believe that Warped is Maurissa Guibord's debut novel. The story is so intricate and well-put-together that it pulls on your emotions. Action, adventure, romance, heartbreak, intrigue, suspense: It's all here, bookworms. This is the strongest teen fantasy debut I've seen since Kristin Cashore broke into the market with Graceling in 2008. (Amazing book. Read it if you haven't. NOW.) Also like Graceling, Warped is a stand-alone novel, though there's potential for companion titles. I love Cashore's sophomore release, Fire, a sort-of prequel to Graceling, and look forward to the upcoming release of Bitterblue, which will take place six years after the first book. I look forward to any other books Guibord may write in this world--or others. Publisher's Marketplace recently announced the sale of the author's next publication, a two-book series starting with Revel, "about a girl who becomes a pawn in a dangerous and paranormal love triangle." Guibord remarked on the sale recently on her blog. Sign me up already!

If you're a fan of teen fantasy authors such as Kristin Cashore and Tamora Pierce, you'll definitely want to check out Warped. It's not quite the same genre (it takes place in "our" world, for one thing), but the writing has the same texture/flavor to it. I read the novel in one sitting and forced myself to stay awake and finish because I had to know what happened. The story was that good! It was one of those books where I couldn't read anything else for a few days after I finished it because the characters were still with me and I knew nothing I picked up would be half as unique or interesting.

Warped begins with a girl named Tess, who is attending an auction with her father. They buy a bunch of old books for their used bookshop and receive a mysterious addition to their lot--a crate containing an ancient-looking book and a dusty tapestry that Tess feels drawn to. She loves the intricately-woven unicorn, who looks so life-like, it's almost scary. She hangs it in her room, where the tapestry feels warm to the touch, as though it truly is alive. She starts having strange dreams at night about a girl living during the 1500s and an Earl's son who is bewitched and transformed into a unicorn. One day, she pulls at a loose thread in the tapestry and the unicorn unravels as a strange young man appears in her room. He claims to be William de Chaucy, son of the Earl of Umbric, and she realizes that her dreams are grounded in truth. A witch named Gray Lily transformed Will into a unicorn, then wove the mythical beast into her tapestry in order to gain immortality and eternal youth. On top of a haughty Earl's son flummoxed with the 21st Century, Tess now has to deal with an irate witch who wants to regain her unicorn--and her youth, as well as the Norn (the Three Fates), who think she's the one who stole seven threads from their Wyrd 500 years ago and want them back--and are willing to destroy everything Tess holds dear if she won't return them...

If a thread of mythology, a touch of time-travel, a dash of romance rolled into an intriguing plotline in a way that feels realistic (hey, it could happen!) is your thing, then Warped is absolutely the book for you. My only complaint? I wish it had been twice as long!

[This entry is part of The Story Siren's Debut Author Challenge of 2011. See how I've done so far here.]

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Teaser Tuesdays (2)

Technically, I finished reading this book last night, but I haven't started anything new yet, so here we go!

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.

To participate:
*Grab your current read
*Open to a random page
*Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
*BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

W h a t I ' m R e a d i n g :

Warped by Maurissa Guibord (2011 Debut Author)

M y T e a s e r s :

"You've had past lives, dearie. You think a thread is cut and that's the end? No. They [the Fates/Norn] weave you again. Twist you. Do whatever they wish with you. Again and again.'"

(~pg. 254)

I can't wait to review this book for you guys today or tomorrow. Possibly tonight since my copy of LittleBigPlanet2 didn't come in the mail today. I'll probably be in Sackboy Land tomorrow after work! I will say this: Warped was really good. Guibord reminds me of Kristin Cashore at times, only...also not.

New Kane Chronicles Revealed!

Last week, Rick Riordan announced the title of the second Kane Chronicles book on his blog and revealed the front cover.

. . . Are you ready? . . .

Are you excited? Yeah, me too! :-)

Sorry I didn't mention this sooner. I had been checking Riordan's blog every day for the announcement, but we didn't have internet for part of last week because we re-wired the router wrong after re-arranging furniture, etc. I'm excited, though! You know what's even more exciting? You can read the first chapter right now, right here.

Any guesses about the book's content?

I still don't get why it took so long to announce the title of the book coming out May 3rd--3.5 months away--when we already know the title of the book coming out in OCTOBER--8.5 months away--but, you know... As long as we know now, right? One reason I took so long in posting O n e s T o W a t c h 2 0 1 1 was because I was waiting for this announcement. Guess I'd better go update the list!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

"Nothing" by Janne Teller

Nothing just won a 2011 Printz Honor Award and will receive a silver seal on its book jacket from now on.. The winner of this year's Michael L. Printz Award was Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi. The Printz Award is given to the year's best YA novel by the American Library Association's Young Adult Library Services Association, one of the most prestigious awards for YA literature.

Nothing is both Danish author Janne Teller's first YA novel and her U.S. debut. It has won worldwide acclaim and several major awards since its release.

What, to you, is meaningful? What deems it so in your eyes? Would anyone else find the same meaning as you? Nothing is a book that explores meaning. It's dark and gritty, with an experiment taking place that quickly becomes very Lord of the Flies. The novel starts off with a seventh-grade boy deciding there is no meaning in life. He spends the day sitting in a tree instead of the classroom. This behavior becomes consistent, with the boy never attending class and his classmates growing more frustrated with him as he berates them from his tree each day. Why the teachers remain oblivious to this truancy, I don't know, but the children get sick of their classmate's behavior and decide to take action.

The class decides to find things that are meaningful and force their classmate to eat his words. First, they go door to door and collect meaningful items from various neighbors, but a lot of it is junk and doesn't have true mean. The kids then decide to part with what is most meaningful to them. It starts off innocently enough. The classmate whose point of view we're following if forced to give up her brand-new green sandals that she begged for all summer and finally got on sale. In a way, it's hard to pity her later on in the novel when she continues to think back on her sandals because some of her classmates are forced to give up things that are so much more meaningful and harder to part with. I won't spoil things for you, but some of these items and the way the child is forced to give them up will make you sick to your stomach as you read. Their quest quickly spirals out of control, with students turning against one another and banding together to physically make sure that everyone gives up something "meaningful."

This novel is very hard-hitting. It won't be for everyone. Nothing is something you can read with your book group and have an in-depth conversation over. It will make you think and question what is truly meaningful.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Teaser Tuesdays (1)

Welcome to the introduction of another new blog feature. Hopefully more is in store for the new year!

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.

To participate:
*Grab your current read
*Open to a random page
*Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
*BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

W h a t I ' m R e a d i n g :

The Mermaid's Madness by Jim C. Hines (second in series)

M y T e a s e r s :

"'What is it with your family and shoes?' Talia asked, coming over to join them. 'First Armand runs around half the kingdom carrying that slipper, and now your son decides to devour the things.'"

(~pg. 95; Talia (aka Sleeping Beauty) is talking to Cinderella in this passage.)

"Across the Universe" by Beth Revis (Debut Author)

Good YA Sci-Fi novels are few and far between. Author Beth Revis is hoping to change this with the release of her debut novel Across the Universe, the first in a new trilogy. The industry is already speculating that this novel might do for sci-fi what Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games Trilogy did for the Dystopian novels and Stephenie Meyer's Twilight Saga did for the paranormal genre. If this takes off, expect to see more space-based books on the way.

One of the nicest things about this novel is the fact that one of the two POVs features a female character. Think of all the most famous sci-fi books available for younger readers. Middle-grade series Pendragon by D.J. MacHale features a male protagonist, as does the teen edition of Orson Scott Card's famous Ender books. Sure, A Wrinkle in Time (one of my childhood favorites) has a female lead, but so many schools require the text that many younger readers turn up their noises at it (a true shame). Across the Universe is hoping to speak to a whole new generation of readers--teens no longer interested in middle-grade novels, but not quite ready for adult sci-fi. On top of that, the book is being marketed for readers who don't typically read the genre. I'll admit, sci-fi has never been my first choice of genre. Sometimes, it's hard to wrap my brain around certain concepts. The ideas introduced make my brain want to explode. Not Across the Universe, though. It isn't over-the-top with scientific elements.

The novel starts off with a girl named Amy and her parents as they are cryogenically-frozen and put onto a spaceship. An exploration team has been put together after probes find another life-sustaining planet 300 years away. The government freezes a group of people well-suited for exploring the new planet, and Amy is allowed to be frozen alongside her parents. However, something goes awry and Amy wakes up from her frozen sleep fifty years before the ship is scheduled to land on the new planet.

She meets a boy named Elder who is training to take over the ship's leadership once Eldest passes away. Elder is the 13th (14th? I forget...) generation born onboard the ship. Everyone's features have begun to blend together and look similar, so Amy looks exotic with her pale-skin and vibrant red-hair, a dangerous combination. Amy finds out that someone has been unplugging the frozens, essentially commiting murder. She seeks Elder's help to figure out what's going on before her parents are the next victims. discovers Together, they uncover a sinister plot that will carry over into the next novel. Incorportating a murder mystery with sci-fi elements felt refreshing, leaving the rest of the trilogy full of promise. It will be interesting to see what topic Revis tackles next.

There are things I both like and dislike about the cover. I LOVE the fact that it flips inside out to form a completely different dust jacket. Take a look:

What you see when you walk into a bookstore (sorry about the bad lighting...):

BUT THEN if you turn the cover inside out, you get this amazing jacket:

It's Elder's map of the spaceship! What a unique concept. Very innovative! While the original cover is eye-catching, it's also misleading. Looking at the jacket, many readers will assume Across the Universe is a love story. It's not. Maybe in subsequent books, since there is an intense attraction between the two, but not yet. One of my sci-fi-loving male co-workers thought the novel sounded interesting, but decided he didn't want to read it after seeing the cover despite my reassurance that it wasn't a romance. He'll probably read it when I turn the cover inside out, though. (That's how we'll get the guys to read this one...trick them! I mean, look at that inside cover. They'll never know the difference!)

Overall, Across the Universe promises to be an interesting start to a fresh new series, one poised to open up an influx of teen sci-fi novels to a new generation of readers.

[Review based on ARC edition]
[ARC won from Library Thing...Thank you!]

Monday, January 10, 2011

Fairytales: The Next Big Thing?

I'm really hoping "the next big wave" consists of fairytales. There's so much out there right now...and even more on the way.

By now, everyone knows about recent mash-up bestsellers such as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Romeo and Juliet and Vampires, and Android Karenina, right? Well, get ready for the next wave, bookworms. In April, author Maureen McGowan is launching two new books, Cinderella: Ninja Warrior and Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer, the first in her Twisted Tales series. I kid you not. I recently received ARCs of both, so it will be interesting to see how the novels are handled. There are also Choose-Your-Own-Adventure-esque elements to each novel, allowing the reader to decide which way the story goes. At the very least, it's an intriguing concept. We'll see what happens!

Just last week on Yahoo, I saw a news article about casting news for a movie version of Hansel and Gretel that features bounty hunters. Plus, there's going to be a new version of Red Hiding Hood in theaters soon as well as the movie version of Alex Flinn's novel Beastly, based on Beauty and the Beast. Plus, last year, SyFy (Sci-Fi Channel) was airing a lot of fairytale movies (my favorite of the bunch was Alice. A hot Hatter helped!) A lot of darker twists are on their way, readers!

About a week ago, I purchased three books by Jim C. Hines: The Stepsister Scheme, The Mermaid's Madness, and Red Hood's Revenge. In fact, I just finished reading The Stepsister Scheme earlier tonight. I'm debating reviewing it on its own or waiting until I finish the next two books and giving you one lump review. Look forward to it! Hines was brought to my attention by author Sarah Beth Durst (Ice, Enchanted Ivy). She rated The Stepsister Scheme recently on Goodreads. The funny thing is that when I looked the author up on, I realized that The Mermaid's Madness was on my Wishlist. Last summer, it was a recommended book when I bought some other mermaid-related book and I added it to my list to look into when I went to the store. (...Oops?) Better late than never! What I like about Hines is the way he turns fairytales on their heads. He looks beyond the versions we all know and love and finds renditions even older than the Grimms Brothers. For example, in one telling of Cinderella, one of the stepsisters plotted to assassinate Cinderella. Hines uses this event to start off The Stepsister Scheme with a team of princesses (Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White) that kick some serious butt! The other books will continue the same trio while looking at tales such as The Little Mermaid and Little Red Riding Hood. In July, Hines will publish The Snow Queen's Shadow (featuring The Snow Queen, of course). Just looking at the book jackets, you already know this series is like nothing else you've encountered!

Finally, keep your eyes out on 2012! Debut author Marissa Meyer will be releasing the first book in her Lunar Chronicles quartet, entitled Cinder. Here's the release from Publishers Marketplace:

Debut author Marissa Meyer's four-book YA futuristic, fairy-tale inspired series, starting with CINDER, Cinderella is re-envisioned through teen heroine Cinder, part girl and part machine, who must piece together her mysterious past before she can fulfill her destiny and save the kingdom -- and the rest of planet Earth -- from an otherworldly enemy; as Cinder's quest continues through the series, she finds allies loosely based Little Red Riding Hood (SCARLET), Rapunzel (CRESS), and Snow White (WINTER) -- as they join forces to conquer evil and find their happily-ever-afters, to Jean Feiwel of Feiwel and Friends, in a major deal, for high six-figures, at auction, by Jill Grinberg at Jill Grinberg Literary Management (NA).

Doesn't that make you want to sit up and drool? Jill Grinberg is the agent for other notable Teen authors such as Scott Westerfeld and Garth Nix, and Feiwel and Friends has published books reviewed on this blog such as Halo and The Girl Who Could Fly. On top of that, Marissa Meyer is an awesome person. She's blogging about every step of the publishing process over on her blog, so if you're curious, be sure to check her out!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

"Unearthly" by Cynthia Hand (Debut Author)

Cynthia Hand's debut novel, Unearthly, is full of unexpected surprises and delights. I'll be honest: It took me a while to pick up my ARC. First, the book was about angels, which isn't my genre du jour. Second, the cover wasn't anything inspirational--even online "finalized" copies. When I finally started reading this book, I was in for the shock of my life because I LOVED it. Seriously. I picked the book up the other night after work and didn't finish until almost two in the morning. I couldn't put it down!

The book was as surprising as physically seeing the cover. For example:

The first image is what you'll find if you go to order the book online from sites such as Amazon and B&N. The white was all filled in with silver. I tried scanning a picture of the actual book jacket for you guys (yes, I liked the book so much that I went out and bought a physical copy yesterday), and got the middle image. Very silvery and pretty, but still missing the way the book looks when you physically see it. So I tried a third time, this time using a camera. You've got some glare spots and some darkness where there shouldn't be, but you can really get a taste of how gorgeous the cover is. This is the same image as the one I use at the beginning of this post (I usually use final publisher images, but even publisher Harper Collins and author Cynthia Hand don't have a full-color rendering of this lovely cover).

I never expected to love this book so much, but I'm so glad I got a chance to read it. This is why I love ARCs: they allow me to read books I otherwise wouldn't. (Another case-in-point: Last year's Firelight by Sophie Jordan, which I also ended up loving.)

The best thing about Unearthly is the character description. I felt like I knew everyone by the end of the book. The main character, Clara, is trying to balance life as a teenager with the fact that she's 1/4th angel and slowly coming into her powers. Unlike other supernatural reads where the MC is perfect and powerful, Clara struggles with life in a way we can all relate to. She klutzes out, gets red-faced in front of the boy she likes, has to learn how to be good at something like flying, and is faced with tough, life-altering decisions. Her characterization is so well-done that readers will be consumed with reading about what happens next and make sure everything winds up okay. Even minor characters such as her mother, brother, and best friend Angela are well fleshed-out. I really hope Hand goes into more detail with these characters in the next two books. Then, you have the love triangle. At first, it was very typical: Girl falls for the unattainable high school superstar and is oblivious to the cute, adorable guy who really likes her. But it changes. Oh, how it changes. I can't even tell you more without spoiling this, but the rest of the trilogy will be very unpredictable. Who will Clara ultimately choose? I can absolutely see fans breaking into camps over which love interest she'll wind up with for this series. At the moment, I'm obsessed with Tucker, the brother of one of Clara's friends that she doesn't think twice about. He's such an amazing character. I seriously want a Tucker in my life. As for the unattainable boy, Christian, at first I was very ambivalent, but now he's captured me: What will happen next!?

Hand's writing style is gorgeous and draws readers right in. The book opens with gorgeous description. There are scenes so delicate and fragile and perfectly written that I needed to go back and re-read them...and will do so again. I also like the fact that the novel isn't all about angels. If it was, I don't think I'd like it nearly as much because I'm so over the paranormal romance thing. Hand has new ideas that she incorporates into the novel; there's a lot of intrigue, mystery, and unanswered questions that will carry over into the new book. You learn about angels right alongside Clara, but more importantly, you follow her struggle as a teenager who doesn't quite fit in at her new school. Who can't relate to that?

Fellow bookworms, this book is wonderful. I hope all my gushing makes you want to run out and grab a copy of this amazing book. It's the first in a trilogy, and this is one of those times where I'm already impatiently awaiting the rest of the series. The characters are unforgettable, and I really can't wait to see what happens to them next.

[Review based on ARC edition]

[This entry is part of The Story Siren's Debut Author Challenge of 2011. See how I've done so far here.]

Debut Author Challenge 2011

For the first time, this blog will be participating in The Story Siren's Debut Author Challenge (2011 Edition). For those who don't know The Story Siren, she has a fantastic book review blog. In fact, her blog just won the 2010 Reader's Choice Award.

To participate in the challenge, bloggers must read at least twelve YA/middle-grade novels from 2011. These books all must be from debut authors publishing in the genre for the first time (so Bumped by Megan McCafferty in April will still count despite the author having other books because it's her first YA novel).

I figured I'd give it a try. There are so many debuts I want to read (at least five this month alone)!

Anyone want to try it with me? :)

I'm going to use this entry to keep track of the books I read by 2011 debut authors. Feel free to check back and see how I'm doing!

J a n u a r y :

01. UNEARTHLY by Cynthia Hand
02. WARPED by Maurissa Guibord
03. THE FALSE PRINCESS by Eilis O'Neal
04. XVI by Julia Karr

F e b r u a r y :

05. RIVAL by Sara Bennett Wealer

M a r c h :

06. WITHER by Lauren DeStefano

A p r i l :

07. ENTWINED by Heather Dixon

M a y :

08. STARCROSSED by Josephine Angelini
09. THE GODDESS TEST by Aimee Carter
10. BETRAYAL by Mayandree Michel
11. FORBIDDEN by Tabitha Suzuma

J u n e :

12. JUNIPER BERRY by M.P. Kozlowsky
13. CINDER AND ELLA by Melissa Lemon
14. LOST VOICES by Sarah Porter

A u g u s t :

15. THE NEAR WITCH by Victoria Schwab
16. A LONG, LONG SLEEP by Anna Sheehan
17. SIRENZ by Charlotte Bennardo & Natalie Zaman

S e p t e m b e r :

18. WATERFALL by Lisa T. Bergren
19. THE PRINCESS CURSE by Merrie Haskell

O c t o b e r :

20. HALF-BLOOD by Jennifer L. Armentrout
21. THE UNBECOMING OF MARA DYER by Michelle Hodkin

N o v e m b e r :


D e c e m b e r :

24. CATCHING JORDAN by Miranda Kenneally
25. THE ELEVENTH PLAGUE by Jeff Hirsch

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Ones to Watch: 2011 Special Edition

There are so many amazing books coming out in the next year. Series I'm waiting for the next installment of, new books and authors to love, etc. Some will be duds, others will be the next big thing. I've been keeping a list in Word of everything I might want to read and felt like sharing it with all of you. These are all first editions, as published in the USA. The same author may have previously published the book in other countries. Also, I'm not listing books that are coming out in paperback but were previously published in tradecloth.

For now, I’ll only highlight certain titles and link to the review/cover on Goodreads. This will keep the post shorter and help me get it up to you faster. I’ll go into more detail with each book on the list during the prospective launch month. This isn’t by any means a complete list; I’m sure there will be more books to love later on, especially in the second half of the year. I can mostly find titles for the first half right now. I’m only just starting to read Publishers Weekly and follow blogs/lists/etc who look further into the future.) The vast majority of titles are YA, but there are some "adult" titles scattered throughout.

I’ll put three stars (***) at the end of titles I’m highly anticipating at this time as well as highlight a few of the lovely covers to come.

Disclaimer:: Dates subject to change. (This is one reason I didn't put exact dates on any title)

Without further ado:

o n e s t o w a t c h ( 2 0 1 1 )

J a n u a r y :

See this post here.

(One new addition:
Jan. 25: The Fates Will Find Their Way by Hannah Pittard)

F e b r u a r y :

Delirium by Lauren Oliver***
Outside in by Maria Snyder (sequel to Dystopian novel Inside Out)
Words by Ginny Yttrup
The Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse
Angel by James Patterson (7th in Maximum Ride series)
Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton
The Omen Machine by Terry Goodkind (12th in The Sword of Truth series)
Tortall and Other Lands: A Collection of Tales by Tamora Pierce (new Tortall book)

M a r c h

Dark Mirror by M. J. Putney
Clarity by Kim Harrington
Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult
May by Kathryn Lasky (2nd in Daughters of the Sea series)
Human.4 by Mike A. Lancaster***
Wither by Lauren DeStefano***

A p r i l

The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen
Memento Nora by Angie Smibert***
Dark Parties by Sara Grant***
Friendship Bread by Darien Gee
Plague by Michael Grant (4th in Gone series)
Red Glove by Holly Black (sequel to White Cat)
Eona by Alison Goodman (sequel to Eon)
Carmen by Walter Dean Myers
Abandon by Meg Cabot
Bumped by Megan McCafferty***
Rage by Jackie Morse Kessler (2nd in Horsemen of the Apocalypse series)
Cinderella: Ninja Warrior by Maureen McGowan (1st in Twisted Tales series)
Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer by Maureen McGowan (2nd in Twisted Tales series)
Enclave by Ann Aguirre (originally titled Razorland with an AMAZING cover, seen on author's blog here. Reason for the change here.)***

M a y

Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini***
The Midnight Palace by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan (2nd in Kane Chronicles series)
Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky***
Divergent by Veronica Roth***
Everfound by Neal Shusterman (3rd in Skinjacker Trilogy)
The Dark City by Catherine Fisher (1st in Relic Master Series ; UK series title is The Book of the Crow and 1st book is titled The Relic Master)

J u n e

Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares (But this blog has more info) (5th in Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, though labeled as Adult Fiction instead of Teen due to the girls now being in their late 20s)
The Girl in the Garden by Kamala Nair
The Lost Heiress by Catherine Fisher (2nd in Relic Master Series ; UK series title is The Book of the Crow and 2nd book is titled The Interrex )

J u l y

Lost Voices by Sarah Porter***
The Snow Queen's Shadow by Jim C. Hines (4th in Princess series)
My Favorite Band Does Not Exist by Robert T. Jeschonek
The Hidden Coronet by Catherine Fisher (3rd in Relic Master Series ; UK series title is The Book of the Crow and 3rd book is titled Flain's Coronet )

A u g u s t

The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab (And I love her blog, too...check out this debut author now before the world knows her!)
The Margrave by Catherine Fisher (No Goodreads link yet, only pre-order option on Amazon)(4th in Relic Master Series ; UK series title is The Book of the Crow and 4th book is titled The Margrave)

S e p t e m b e r

All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin***
Ashes by Ilsa Bick
The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann

O c t o b e r

Look, I Made a Hat: Volume Two by Stephen Sondheim (No link yet, but mentioned over at Barclay Agency) (Part II of Sondheim's self-penned memoir; Part I was entitled, Finishing the Hat (Date a guess based on 2010 release date and the fact that this is scheduled for Fall 2011)
The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan (2nd in Heroes of Olympus series [sequel series to Percy Jackson and the Olympians])***

N o v e m b e r

Mastiff by Tamora Pierce (3rd book in Beka Cooper trilogy)
Crossed by Ally Condie (2nd in Matched trilogy)***

D e c e m b e r

(To come)

A l r e a d y - s t r o n g 2 0 1 2 D e b u t s :

(I know, 2011 has barely started yet, but I already have a small handful of (for the most part) debut authors in 2012 that are MUST-READS. Next year can't come soon enough! Obviously, since they're so far off, they're not up on Goodreads yet, so I'll post wherever I find a summary for you. I've mostly heard about these through Publisher's Weekly or Word of Mouth.)

Cinder by Marissa Meyer (Follow her blog here. Marissa is the loveliest person you'll ever meet and her quartet is going to be the next big thing in Teen Fiction.)
Dark Mercy by R. L. LaFevers
For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund
The Shadows Cast by Stars by Cat Knutsson
The Way We Fall by Megan Crewe
The Selection by Kiera Cass
Eye of the Storm by Kate Messner (scroll to end of interview for blurb)
Revel by Maurissa Guibord
Cybernetic by Laura Riken

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New Year’s Blogging Resolutions

*Blog more frequently! (Hopefully at least twice per week)
*Not sitting on reviewing a book for a month or two after reading it (Because the details fade and, imo, the review suffers because I’m no longer intimately acquainted with the title)
*Write ARC reviews early and save them to the hard drive in the interim between when I read them and when the book launches (I don’t want to give you a review months early so that you’ll forget by the time the book comes out or die of agony waiting for it)
*And, of course, read more books. I’ve read way more than what I’ve posted on here in the last year. Some of the books I simply didn’t like enough to review (and I won’t review something I don’t like because that’s not fair to the author or the readers who WILL like that book but may choose to not read it based on *my* opinion), others fell to the wayside because I didn’t have time to review or were so old (more than a year or so) that I figured there were enough reviews in the world out there already. I still feel like I’ve read less than in recent years...

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Ones to Watch: January 2011

At the beginning of each month, I like to point out upcoming titles that seem worthy of being read. Granted, this is just my opinion on books that I personally want to read. This month is chock-full of new releases. It's like the industry is making up for a lackluster December by slamming us with books in November and January. Where will I find all the time to read everything? I've been dying for some of these books, too!

DISCLAIMER: I'm all over the place when it comes to genre, so there will most likely be books that don't appeal to you. There might also be something you're looking forward to not on the list. We're sure to have some titles in common, though! (There's also a good chance I won't get to every book I want to read, so if doesn't show up as a review here, it doesn't mean I didn't care for it! Plus, there are some books that I may want to look at due to a summary or cover image but may decide not to read because it's not *my* personal type of book, and that's okay, too. Still pointing them out early!)

S P O T L I G H T O N : W A R P E D B Y M A U R I S S A G U I B O R D

It was hard to choose just ONE book to spotlight this month. There are so many that I'm dying to read...and some Dystopian novels, no less! I chose Warped because it sounds so different from everything else I've been reading lately. For one thing, there are UNICORNS. It's about a girl who finds an old tapestry and time travels, where she uncovers dangerous secrets and falls for a man whose fate rests with hers. It sounds intriguing. Plus, I can't wait to see that cover up close!

o n e s t o w a t c h ( J a n . 2 0 1 1 )

J a n . 1 - 6 :
(because titles are scattered throughout the week for some reason)

*The Water Wars by Cameron Stracher: This book has already arrived at my local B&N. The cover is gorgeous up close. The water looks like the cover model's eyelash. This is one of my most-anticipated books of the month because it's a new entry in the Dystopian genre. Justin Cronin, who received critical acclaim with his 2010 novel, The Passage, has a blurb on the front comparing the novel to The Hunger Games. That right there will help sell the book. The synopsis for The Water Wars is reminiscent of a musical I love, Urinetown. Both stories deal with a Dystopian world where water is scarce. I almost put a spotlight on this book. I really want to read it!

*Trickster's Girl by Hilari Bell: Another Dystopian, this one featuring the raven trickster god (The title brings memories of Tamora Pierce's Trickster books to mind). It seems humans and their waste are destroying the planet, which can only be restored to health if they stop interfering. The raven deity teams up with a teenage girl to try to make amends.

*The Lost Gate by Orson Scott Card: It's Orson Scott Card. 'Nuff said. According to the publisher's note in my ARC, Card has been working on this one for 33 years, which means it will be awesome and well-developed (or so I hope). It's a fantasy novel with Norse mythology, which makes it an instant MUST in my book.

*Over the Moon by Jake van Leer, Jodi Picoult , Ellen Wilber: Jodi Picoult helped with this one. Need I say more? Actually, this is an experimental new direction for her because to the best of my knowledge, this is the book of a musical. I'd love to see the show if a production is mounted; it sounds cute! It's a mash-up of fairytales and Shakespeare. What more could you want? The cover reminds me of a poster for the musical Crazy for You, but in a way, that makes it seem more "classic" than so much of what's currently playing.

*Left Neglected by Lisa Genova: Realistic fiction at its finest. Genova focuses on one of the modern day problems in our society: People who talk/text on the phone while driving. In an instant, a woman is involved in a traumatic accident that renders the left side of her world obsolete. The novel deals with her and her family's ability to recoup and bounce back.

*XVI by Julia Karr: Another book that lost the fight for the Spotlight crown AND another new Dystopian by a debut author. On their 16th birthday (Get it? XVI?), girls receive a special tattoo. These tattoos let men know they are "ready" for sex...even if they're truly not. This book sounds like it will be dark, gritty, and brutal...but I can't wait to read it!

J a n . 1 1 :

*Across the Universe by Beth Revis: I already got to read an ARC of this debut novel and can't wait to tell you all about it. Sometimes I have trouble wrapping my brain around sci-fi novels, but this one kept me intrigued until the very last page. In short, people from Earth are frozen and sent to a planet similar to ours that's 300 years away. A teenage girl winds up waking up from her frozen sleep 50 years before the ship is due to land on the new planet and finds herself involved in a murder mystery. She works with a teenage boy destined to be the next ship leader in order to figure out who is pulling the plug before it's too late. One of the coolest things about this book is going to be its jacket; it turns completely inside out and becomes a completely different cover!

*Warped by Maurissa Guibord: Featured above!

J a n 2 5 :

*The False Princess by Eilis O'Neal: Yay, a new fairytale to whet my appetite! This one is about a girl who grew up believing she was a princess only to discover she was a stand-in to keep the real princess safe. Forced out on her own, she realizes there's a dangerous form of magic resting within her veins, one that could change everything. Talk about turning a cliché on its head! Definitely not your traditional fairytale. *salivates*

*Subject Seven by James A. Moore: This novel reminds me a bit of James Patterson's Maximum Ride series because they both deal with a genetically altered human being designed to be a weapon. Moore's debut follows a teenage boy who escapes from the lab in order to locate others like himself so that they can band together and take down their creators.

*The Book of Tomorrow by Cecelia Ahern: A teenager finds a diary written in her own hand that reveals the future and must unravel the mystery behind its existence before dangerous secrets are unleashed.

Man, what a busy month!! I'm still reading books from November. How will I handle the latest onslaught? The publishing industry REALLY wants my money...

So, which books are you looking forward to this month, Bookworms? Any of the above? Something I totally missed? I'm glad last month's book drought is over, aren't you?