Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Best Series of 2012

In continuing with my year end round up, following my Best Stand Alones of 2012, it's time for my list of favourite series of 2012. These include both new and already begun series that I just couldn't get enough of. In fact, this list could be longer since I loved most of the books I read this year, but I'll keep it to five for now. 

Before I Wake by Rachel Vincent: Kaylee Cavanaugh is my favourite heroine. Her journey has been long and she's been to hell and back, but she still has so much strength in her and I know the final book in this series will be epic. If you're unfamiliar with Vincent's work, then what are you waiting for? The Soul Screamers series is definitely the most underrated best series there is.

Legend by Marie Lu: This series is sure to be a great addition to the dystopian craze. Understated and well-written, Legend tells a story from both sides, leaving us wondering which one is really the bad one. I can't wait to see where this series will go next after such an incredible debut.

Insurgent by Veronica Roth: What is there to say about Divergent? Roth is an incredible author and this series keeps you on the edge of your seat wondering where this world is going. Insurgent is certainly not a filler second book and makes you crave the last installment. Can we just get the name of it pretty please all ready?

Starters by Lissa Price: Another interesting take on dystopian and sci-fi fiction, Starters is like a Cinderella story for the end of the world. I hope there will be more information about the Spore wars in the sequel, Enders, and I can't wait to see where Callie's journey goes.

Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver: In a world where love is a disease, finding it can be the death of you. After Lena escapes into the wild, her life changes drastically and we get to see the before and after of it. Another non filler, I know Requiem, the finale, will be well worth the wait.

I've read a lot of series this year and I plan on reading a lot more. I'm always up for suggestions!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Review: The Evolution of Mara Dyer

The Evolution of Mara Dyer
Author: Michelle Hodkin
Published: October 23, 2012
544 pages
4 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

Mara Dyer once believed she could run from her past.

She can’t.

She used to think her problems were all in her head.

They aren’t.

She couldn’t imagine that after everything she’s been through, the boy she loves would still be keeping secrets.

She’s wrong.

In this gripping sequel to The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, the truth evolves and choices prove deadly. What will become of Mara Dyer next?

There is something about Mara Dyer that just makes you want more. Maybe it's the fact that we don't know her real name or why she can do what she does. Maybe it's her fascination with the lovely Noah Shaw, or maybe it's because were not sure if she's actually crazy or not. Having an unreliable narrator always makes for an interesting story and with the sequel to The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, we certainly get more interesting.

After seeing her dead ex-boyfriend, Jude, in the police station, Mara finds herself in an institution due to an outburst she had. She barely remembers (as this seems to happen to her every day) and she is convinced that he is alive and decides she needs to prove it to everyone else. Things get worse when dead animals start showing up on her doorstep and things are moved in her room. She knows Jude is out there and he's watching her. She knows he wants to get revenge for his sister and he thinks that Mara has the answers to his questions. Add that to flashbacks, sleepwalking, and spending days in the asylum, and Mara's life just keeps getting more complicated.

What gripped me with the first novel still rings true throughout this sequel. Noah is still a beautiful jack ass that we still seem to fall head over heels for, and Mara is still experiencing things she has no control over. Throwing us right back in to where we left off. Mara spends most of the novel surrounded by crazy people and you can see how it affects her. When she finally gets to spend time at home and sneaking visits to Noah, she still doesn't feel safe. The only problem I found was that this book felt really long and it could have been cut down. There was a lot of scare tactics that could have been slimmed down and we still would have gotten the point. And a lot of the institute scenes felt boring and drawn out. Noah actually kind of pissed me off in this book. I know he's supposed to be a pretentious bastard, but his jokes just seemed mean and not at all funny. Hodkin kept describing him as lovely and beautiful, so I guess it's a good thing he's hot or else I don't know what Mara would see him in. But there is something about him that makes me want to love him to ruins, so I guess I'll have to give Mara the benefit of the doubt.

With twists and turns around every corner and enough suspense to keep you reading, this book will give you some more insight into Mara's character and a bit of a back story about her abilities. There are still many unanswered questions and many new ones to be asked. I'm sure The Retribution of Mara Dyer, the final book in the series, will be thrilling and amazing and I can't wait to find out how it all plays out. 

“If I were to live a thousand years, I would belong to you for all of them. If we were to live a thousand lives, I would want to make you mine in each one.” 

“We are far too screwed up for a goddamned love triangle.”

“You’re stronger than you believe. Don’t let your fear own you. Own yourself.”

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Best Stand Alones of 2012

This year is quickly coming to an end. This means some great things: the holidays are upon us and life is filled with joy and family an we get to snuggle up together by the fire to keep warm. I'm sure we all can't wait to countdown to midnight on December 31st and ring in 2013.

This also means that our Pledges of almost over. Hopefully most of us have reached or will reach our goals before the year is through so that we can start all over again on January 1st!

Closer to the end of the year, I'm going to do the hardest thing ever: pick my top ten books of 2012. But for now, I'm going to list my favourite stand alones that I read this year. Stand alones seem like fish out of water these days. Most every book I pick up is the beginning of a series. Don't get me wrong, I love series. They give you a chance to really connect with the characters, but stand alones are a nice change. You don't have to wonder what will happen next, you get to make that up all on your own in your head. So here's my list for 2012:

This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers

By far my favourite zombie book. Sloane is suicidal while zombies roam free and she must decide if she's ready to end her life or ready to fight for hers and others around her. Summers has rapidly become one of my favourite authors and I can't wait to see what else she has in store.

Speechless by Hannah Harrington

In a world where rumours rule, it's nice to see a book that captures it perfectly. After letting out a brutal secret, Chelsea decides to take a vow of silence so she won't hurt anyone again. She learns a lot more than planned. I plan on reading Saving June soon because Harrington really impressed me with this novel.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Do I really have to say anything about this book? It hit every mark. It made me laugh, cry and want to throw it across the room. Green is an incredible author and his characters are so real it hurts way too much when bad things happen to them. This book will live on forever, just like Hazel and Augustus.

The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess Rothenberg

This book had one of the most interesting takes on death that I've seen. Each chapter was titled after a song and we watched as Brie tries to move on from her tragic death. Captured perfectly, it is definitely a book worth reading.

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

This was the most hilarious book I read all year. Beauty queens stranded on a desert island - too funny. Each character had such a unique voice that I couldn't help falling in love with all of them. Especially Taylor though, because she was just too ridiculous words and everything she went through really showed her strength.

I know there are a lot of other stand alones that came out, but it seems I didn't read too many. any suggestions?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: School Spirits

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine. It highlights the books that we are most anxiously awaiting!

My Waiting on Wednesday this week is School Spirits by Rachel Hawkins. In this spin off to the fantastic Hex Hall series, we get to see what's going on in Izzy Brannick's mind as she ventures through her new haunted school. Here's the description from Goodreads:

Fifteen-year-old Izzy Brannick was trained to fight monsters. For centuries, her family has hunted magical creatures. But when Izzy’s older sister vanishes without a trace while on a job, Izzy's mom decides they need to take a break.

Izzy and her mom move to a new town, but they soon discover it’s not as normal as it appears. A series of hauntings has been plaguing the local high school, and Izzy is determined to prove her worth and investigate. But assuming the guise of an average teenager is easier said than done. For a tough girl who's always been on her own, it’s strange to suddenly make friends and maybe even have a crush.

Can Izzy trust her new friends to help find the secret behind the hauntings before more people get hurt?

Rachel Hawkins' delightful spin-off brings the same wit and charm as the New York Times best-selling Hex Hall series. Get ready for more magic, mystery and romance!

I'm sure all us fans of Hex Hall are eager to read the next chapter in the wonderful world of magic, witches and demons. School Spirits is set to hit shelves May 14, 2013. I know I'll be there buying it right away!

What books are you eager to get your hands on?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Contest: The Lives We Lost ARC Giveaway

I was so pleased when I stumbled upon The Way We Fall at Shopper's Drug Mart one day. Not only did the plot sound enticing and frightening, but the author, Megan Crewe, is Canadian and I love finding new Canadian authors to love. And I was not disappointed. The Way We Fall has everything: horror, disease, a loss of hope and above all a love story that makes you want to read about it over and over again. We all know I'm a sucker for love stories. I read and reviewed in back in April and have been waiting (im)patiently for the sequel, The Lives We Lost, where we will learn more about the disease and the vaccine that Kaelyn discovered before leaving the island.

Here's the official description from Goodreads:

First, the virus took Kaelyn’s friends. Then, her family. Now it’s taken away her home.

But she can't look back—the life she once had is gone forever.

A deadly virus has destroyed Kaelyn’s small island community and spread beyond the quarantine. No one is safe. But when Kaelyn finds samples of a vaccine in her father's abandoned lab, she knows there must be someone, somewhere, who can replicate it. As Kaelyn and her friends head to the mainland, they encounter a world beyond recognition. It’s not only the “friendly flu” that’s a killer—there are people who will stop at nothing to get their hands on the vaccine. How much will Kaelyn risk for an unproven cure, when the search could either destroy those she loves or save the human race?

Ya, there's no doubt this book will hold as much strength as the first. It's not told in the same journal format, but as long as Kaelyn's voice is still strong, I know I'll love it.

So Megan Crewe, the amazing author of this series, is holding a contest on her blog for one lucky winner to take home an ARC of The Lives We Lost, and it should even get to you by Christmas! So I suggest you go over there and enter because this series is not to be missed. 

Enter the contest here and stay tuned for the review that's sure to come when I get the book ;)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Review: Burn For Burn

Burn For Burn
Authors: Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian
Published: September 18, 2012
368 pages
4 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

Lillia has never had any problems dealing with boys who like her. Not until this summer, when one went too far. No way will she let the same thing happen to her little sister.

Kat is tired of the rumours, the insults, the cruel jokes. It all goes back to one person– her ex-best friend– and she's ready to make her pay.

Four years ago, Mary left Jar Island because of a boy. But she's not the same girl anymore. And she's ready to prove it to him.

Three very different girls who want the same thing: sweet, sweet revenge. And they won't stop until they each had a taste.

Stories about revenge are always sweet. Throw in an island, some popular kids and a little bit of drugs and you've got yourself a party. Each of these girls had a good reason to get back at those who scorned them. Kat used to be popular and was best friends with Lillia and Rennie until suddenly she wasn't. Now she's been outlawed at school and it's time to make Rennie pay for everything she's done. Lillia went to a party in the summer and can't stand to think about what happened there. Now she's worried her younger sister is slipping into the same mistake, but she won't let that happen. This boy needs to pay. Mary just moved back to the island, finally ready to face the reason she left. Ready to get her revenge.

The minute we step onto the island with Mary, I was stuck. I never wanted to leave. With every passing chapter, I grew more curious about why these girls were looking for revenge and how they were going to get it. Han and Vivian write flawlessly together. There is no part of the story that seems out of place. There is no way of knowing when the next author takes over. Each girl has her own distinct voice and the story telling just kept me wanting more. Told from each girl's viewpoint, we gradually discover what happened to make them want revenge. Each story will break your heart and make you want to seek revenge along with them. Kat is badass and doesn't take anything from anyone. She could car less about being popular. Lillia has popularity thrown at her and she uses it to her advantage, but she's not a bitch. In fact, the way she talks to Kat even though they aren't friends anymore is inspiring. Mary doesn't know anyone but as soon as Kat and Lillia take her secretly under their wing, she has hope for new friendships. She is one of the strongest characters in the book and rarely shows fear. Every supporting character has their own personality as well. Each of the popular kids has a flaw that is shown perfectly and plays to the girls' advantage. All the characters feel like real people.

The revenge scenarios are what you'd expect during the first half of the book. They are pity, but I had to remember that they are just teenagers and to them, and those they are doing these things too, mean a lot. High school life is so completely different than one small thing can ruin anyone. Especially those kids in the popular crowd. The last revenge scheme is well planned and could possibly ruin the lives of those they plan to ruin. Of course, revenge has its consequences for both teams.

What surprised me was the slight supernatural element that Han and Vivian gradually created throughout the novel. I won't mention anything about it, but I'm still trying to figure out how it fits in with the story. I hope the second book in the series, Fire With Fire, will explain it better. Though I do hope it doesn't become the main element in the book because this novel can hold its own in the contemporary world without having to add gimmicks. I certainly hope it's not a gimmick. 

Though I haven't read any of Han or Vivian's other books, I thought their writing was amazing and I fell in love with their styles and characters. I might have to pick up a few of their books so I can get more of a taste of who they are as separate authors. 

Mary  nods first, then Lillia. I smile, because, hot damn, we're really doing this.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Review: Undeadly

Undeadly (The Reaper Diaries #1)
Author: Michele Vail
Published: November 20, 2012
272 pages
3 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

The day I turned 16, my boyfriend-to-be died. I brought him back to life. Then things got a little weird...

Molly Bartolucci wants to blend in, date hottie Rick and keep her zombie-raising abilities on the down-low. Then the god Anubis chooses her to become a reaper—and she accidentally undoes the work of another reaper, Rath. Within days, she's shipped off to the Nekyia Academy, an elite boarding school that trains the best necromancers in the world. And her personal reaping tutor? Rath. 

Life at Nekyia has its plusses. Molly has her own personal ghoul, for one. Rick follows her there out of the blue, for another...except, there's something a little off about him. When students at the academy start to die and Rath disappears, Molly starts to wonder if anything is as it seems. Only one thing is certain—-Molly's got an undeadly knack for finding trouble...

I had really high hopes for this novel. I thought it would have a Soul Screamers feel, one of my favourite series. This book was easy to read and I devoured it in three days, but it was lacking a lot of things that make me love books.

We are thrown into this world as if it's the most normal thing, but most of it is not explained throughout the story. Many people have necromancer powers and zombies and ghosts are common occurances. Molly is a ka heka, a necromancer with the power to turn the dead into zombies. If you think this is weird, on her sixteenth birthday Molly has a dream involving Annubis, the god of Death, selecting her to be a reaper. Supposedly this is common enough that there is a school revolved around training necromancers and reapers. But before Molly can even enjoy her birthday, kiss her first boyfriend, and open her presents, Rick slips, falls, and dies in her house. Despite to save him, and with her new reaper powers, she steals his soul and puts it back into his body before it can go to the afterlife. Rath, the reaper sent to actually reap his soul, witnesses this and warns her that what she's done will have consequences. Before the weekend is through, Molly is told that she has great powers and that she needs to go to Nekyia Academy to train to be Annubis' champion. Ya, everything seems thrown together in the book too. 

Nekyia is your usual boarding school. Cliques, snotty popular girls and mysterious societies make for what could be an interesting part of the book, but Vail doesn't put much into what goes on at the school. This book seems like it should be 100 page longer just so we can have more information about this world she's created. As Molly tries to figure out who she really is and what she can do, she is trained by Rath, while slowly falling for him, stalked by Rick, who seems to have something very off about him, and starts having strange dreams about students dying. 

Molly is a good character, but Vail writes her in that a way that seems too realistic. I understand you want to show that she's sixteen, but the language gets annoying after the first few chapters. She spells things wrong, says the word 'Gah' at least once a chapter, and using a little bit too much slang. It doesn't add much to Molly's character and I think it would have been stronger without all of it. There is a lot of potential in these pages. If the world was described a little better, and it wasn't all so packed into 300 pages, than I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more. Having the Egyptian gods being a main part of the story gave it a nice, unique twist. This is the first time I've seen this done and I enjoyed the history lesson. I've always been intrigued by the Ancient Egyptians and it was nice to see that depicted in teen fiction. I like that there was a little blurb at the beginning of each chapter, excepts from necromancer books, poetry, etc, that added a lot to the story. I think this helped me try to figure out everything happening in the world. I hope the sequel shows us more of this world, teaches me more about what's happening and how everything works, because I am interested in reading the next chapter to see where this all goes. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I wouldn't Mind Santa Bringing Me

It's Tuesday again, which means it's time for my favourite feature, Top Ten Tuesday! brought to you by the lovely ladies at The Broke and the Bookish. This week's Top Ten is all about Christmas (which I love) and what books I'd like under the tree (yes please), so here's my list of Top Ten Books I Wouldn't Mind Santa Bringing Me!

1. Send Me A Sign by Tiffany Schmidt: I've been looking for this book since it came out but haven't found it in any of my book stores and I'm too lazy to order online. The author is a sweetheart and even though I know the book is going to be sad, I can't wait to read it!

2. Reunited by Hilary Weisman Graham: Another book I've been looking for but haven't found. It's been on my to-read list for so long! I love road trip books.

3. The Lost Prince by Julie Kagawa: I'm a fan of The Iron Fey series, but there are so many other books I own that I need to read so I haven't picked this one up yet. It would be nice if someone did it for me.

4. Bewitching by Alex Flinn: Yet another author I love, but for some reason I haven't picked this book up yet. But it's for sure worth reading!

5. Girl Of Nightmares by Kendare Blake: I can't wait to see what Anna's up to next!

6. Supernaturally by Kiersten White: I'll probably own this before Christmas anyway, but I can't wait to read the sequel to Paranormalcy. I absolutely love Evie!

7. Endlessly by Kiersten White: What I said up there ^^

8. Lullaby by Amanda Hockling: I was actually going to buy a signed copy of this, but when I went back to the store the next day, they were all gone. I think it's because it was a week before it was supposed to be released, but either way, I don't have it yet.

9. Easy by Tammara Webber: Another contemporary that sounds enthralling. Just haven't picked it up yet.

10. Princess of the Silver Woods by Jessica Day George: I absolutely loved her other fairytale books and I'm so glad there's finally another one coming out! I may not be able to wait until Christmas for this one...

So, is anyone else going to be asking Santa for piles of books?

Review: My Life In Black And White

My Life In Black And White
Author: Natasha Friend
Published: June 28, 2012
294 pages
4 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

What if you lost the thing that made you who you are?

Lexi has always been stunning. Her butter-colored hair and perfect features have helped her attract friends, a boyfriend, and the attention of a modeling scout. But everything changes the night Lexi's face goes through a windshield. Now she's not sure what's worse: the scars she'll have to live with forever, or what she saw going on between her best friend and her boyfriend right before the accident. With the help of her trombone-playing, defiantly uncool older sister and a guy at school recovering from his own recent trauma, Lexi learns she's much more than just a pretty face.

The concept of this book pulled me in. A girl who has grown up being cherished for her looks, being told she's beautiful, and than losing the one thing she though defined her. Yes, it may be hard to relate to Lexi, since she seems to have it all: beauty, popularity and a hot boyfriend. But even before she goes through the windshield of a car, we get a glimpse into a life that isn't as perfect as it seems. She learns that both her best friend and her boyfriend have betrayed her so she makes the mistake of getting into a car with a guy who just wants to hook up with her. Even if you aren't the girl with the pretty face, you'll be able to relate to Lexi with the feelings and thoughts that run through her after the accident.

For the first time in Lexi's life, people look at her differently. She looks at herself differently. She doesn't want to leave the house, she doesn't want anyone to see her new face, and she certainly doesn't want to see the people who put the whole thing into effect. So she throws herself a little pity party, and you certainly can't blame the kid. Ruth, her older sister, will have none of it and she is the voice that gets Lexi out of her rut. This book is about finding out who you are when what used to define you is gone. Lexi thinks all her friends have betrayed her, but most people just don't know how to act around her anymore. While trying to avoid everyone she used to know, she finds peace with Theo, a senior who looks past her face and sees who she really is. But it seems everyone can look past her face but Lexi, and as the novel progresses, we see how she finally comes to terms with the way she now looks.

The writing in this book is perfect. Lexi's voice is young and naive, but not in a sense that makes you cringe. Friend does not use slang very often, but we never forget that a fifteen year old is talking. The way she deals with things are childish and she has a lot to learn. This makes Lexi a believable and loveable character. Most of the secondary characters don't have much depth, but Ruth is there to make up for it. She is Lexi's polar opposite but she's the only one who ends up getting though to her. Lexi and Theo's relationship doesn't seem forced or rushed, though Friend does spring some things into it that don't really add much to the story. I wish I had seen more interaction between Lexi and Ryan, as Lexi claimed she was in love with him, but they never really showed why. 

I think Friend captured trauma perfectly. Each stage of grief is there, but it's not point out directly. We see Lexi evolve throughout the story, progressing as she becomes the girl she needs to be in order to keep going. I devoured these pages and wanted more when I finished the last one. Emotions run high in this one, and they don't stop until the very last sentence. 

“Well, you're not [fat]. You have, like, the ideal balance of fat and muscle. ...If I were a cannibal, I'd eat you.” 

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