Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Recommended Books

This week's Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by the lovely ladies at The Broke and the Bookish, is all about the books I love recommending to people, and trust me, I love recommending books. Most of my friends don't read very much and I read as much as possible, so I'm always trying to get them into the same books as me. Mostly because I want someone to flail with, but also because I've read some pretty incredible books. So here's my list:

1. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: Though I'm sure most people have read this series by now, it's still the first book I recommend to people. I especially try to get anyone who enjoyed the movie to read it because we all know just how much better it is when you've read the book!

2. Soul Screamers by Rachel Vincent: Such an underrated, fantastic series. The concept is unique, the characters are memorable, and each book stands well on its own as well as a whole. Seriously though, go read this series!

3. The Fault in our Stars by John Green: I recommend all of Green's books, but this one will definitely hit you the hardest. You'll cry (I'm sorry) but you'll want to pick the book right back up and read it all over again.

4. Divergent by Veronica Roth: I save this for people who have read The Hunger Games and are looking for something similar. Though Divergent is usually associated with THG, it is completely different and stands on its own. A series worth reading.

5. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: Because if you haven't read this yet, you need to. 'Nough said.

6. Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan: Fans of Harry Potter will love this series (maybe even more) because Percy is the best protagonist there ever was.

7. Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella: Another great series that probably didn't get hyped about until the movie came out. Kinsella writes hilarious heroines that go through real life struggles in away that makes you laugh. Plus, Becky and I have a lot in common.

8. This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers: Names I've mentioned before show up on these lists a lot for a reason. These authors are incredible. Summers has a way of making you root for characters who aren't even rooting for themselves. Half the time you hate them, but somehow you want them to have their happy ending anyway. Seriously, I don't think I could ever write a character like she does.

9. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver: Oliver's debut novel is completely different from Delirium and I enjoyed it a lot more. A character looking for redemption after she's dead and a plot that really makes you think about your actions. The perfect teen book.

10. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien: Because this series is amazing.

So go read these books right now! I mean, please, if you have time, maybe, ya?

Monday, March 25, 2013

Review: Born Wicked

Born Wicked
Author: Jessica Spotswood
Published: February 7, 2012
330 pages
5 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

Everybody knows Cate Cahill and her sisters are eccentric. Too pretty, too reclusive, and far too educated for their own good. But the truth is even worse: they’re witches. And if their secret is discovered by the priests of the Brotherhood, it would mean an asylum, a prison ship—or an early grave.

Before her mother died, Cate promised to protect her sisters. But with only six months left to choose between marriage and the Sisterhood, she might not be able to keep her word... especially after she finds her mother’s diary, uncovering a secret that could spell her family’s destruction. Desperate to find alternatives to their fate, Cate starts scouring banned books and questioning rebellious new friends, all while juggling tea parties, shocking marriage proposals, and a forbidden romance with the completely unsuitable Finn Belastra.

If what her mother wrote is true, the Cahill girls aren’t safe. Not from the Brotherhood, the Sisterhood—not even from each other.

I'll be honest, I haven't read too many books about witches. Not that I'm not interested in them, as I throughly enjoyed Hex Hall and I've always had a fascination with them, but to me, there isn't much you can do when witches are involed. People constantly try to revamp the vampire, but nothing will be as good as Interview with the Vampire. Thing is, I haven't found that perfect witch book yet, that is, until I read Born Wicked.

Spotswood captured the essence of witchery the way it should be. 1800s, witches are found and punished and no one is safe. She's taken the real past, a horrible time where witches were burned at the stake in Salem, and made it her own. She's taken the facts but gave the world an alternate history. The witches actually used to be in charge until the church, or the Brotherhood, intervened and got rid of them all. Now the Brotherhood makes the rules and if they accuse someone of witchery, either way they disappear. Cate Cahill and her sisters are hiding their true nature, all three of them witches, while trying to come out in society like proper girls. Cate has reached the age where she either needs to marry or devote herself to the Sisterhood and pledge allegiance to the Brotherhood. Thankfully, her childhood friend is interested in her, but she may have her eyes set on Finn, the gardener, a lower class boy whose family is frowned upon by the Brotherhood. 

I immediately fell in love with Cate and her sisters. All three of them are fierce, powerful, and eager to make their own choices. With their mother dead, there is no one to teach them about their magic so Cate makes sure they all keep it under wraps. Cate has many decisions to make in a short amount of time and she keeps it together perfectly. If I were her, I'd be ripping at the seams. To make matters worse, she finds her mother's old diary and it tells of a prophecy that could put her and her sisters in terrible danger. While trying to balance her family life, coming out, tea parties, and her future, she finds her drawn towards everything she's forbidden herself to have.

The tension between Finn and Cate is perfect. The moment he enters the book, I know she'll fall in love with him, and the anticipation of them getting together is overwhelming. The fantastic thing about this book is that is isn't your typical love story. Yes there are two men, but there is no obviously love triangle, and there is a lot more at stake than which boy she chooses to be with. Cate cares more about keeping her family safe than anything else and that's a great trait to have in a protagonist. And all her choices are perfect, even if they kill me to watch.

The language is key for this period piece. Everything is old fashioned and the fashion itself is epic! I love Spotswood's descriptions of the dresses and manners. It creates a scene straight out of the 1800s and kept me there the entire time. I closed this book wishing I could be wearing a corset and drinking tea in a pretty dress. A girl can dream right? 

There's no doubt that I loved this book and I can't wait to pick up Star Cursed when it comes out in June. After the ending, I need to know what will happen next!

“No matter how safe and beautiful it is, a cage is still a cage."

“From my vantage point I can see the back of his neck flush pink beneath his collar. He's got freckles there, too. I wonder how many more freckle's he's got. Are they all over, or just where the sun's touched?
Good Lord, why am I thinking of Finn Belastra without his clothes on?”

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Review: The Lives We Lost

The Lives We Lost
Author: Megan Crewe
Published: February 12, 2013
288 Pages
5 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

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?

Megan Crewe's second volume in the Fallen World trilogy is an action-packed journey that explores the resilience of friendship, the ache of lost love, and Kaelyn’s enduring hope in the face of the sacrifices she must make to stay alive.

It's not often I'm this impressed with the middle book of a series. Especially since the format has changed (the first book was written in diary form) and so much has already happened in the first book. The Way We Fall  introduced Kaelyn and her small island off the coast of Nova Scotia. One day everything is fine, the next there is a virus going around called the Friendly Flu that causes people to first get sick, become itchy, then move into a phase where they can't control what they say out loud and ends with violent hallucinations before death takes its toll. Kaelyn struggles to survive as most everyone on her island gets sick, including her family and friends. Each word shows her struggle and with every page, you're not sure what to expect. I finished it quickly because there was no stopping. 

The sequel begins with Kaelyn finding a vaccine her father created before he died and she knows she must find a way to get it to the people that can duplicate it and help the world. She thought the virus was contained to the island, but the whole world is infected and she knows it's up to her to get to Ottawa and give the government the vaccine. Suddenly Kaelyn is living on a deadly planet, holding the vaccine close and trying to survive every day. With her small group of friends, they start across the country, risking their lives to save others. This is one of the most realistic apocalypse books I've erad. Everything our group encounters feels so real. Whenever they ran into someone on the street I was scared for what would happen next. People act crazy when it comes down to only one surviving. It's not just about getting to Ottawa, it's about staying alive. 

Kaelyn is one of the bravest protagonists I've seen in awhile. No one is forcing her to take this vaccine anywhere. She could keep it for herself and live on her small island with her boyfriend, Gav, and her other friends. But she risks everything to do something about it and not a lot of people would do that. There are times when she thinks about giving up, like she did in the first book, but she finds the strength to keep going, and it's amazing. I don't know if I would be able to hold up as long as she does, especially with the group following her when she knows she can give in and just do as they want. Everything she does feels so believable. Her actions, her reactions and how she deals with what comes her way. She's smart and never puts herself above others. She's the perfect role model for the teenagers reading this series. 

Crewe's writing stands out in a subtle way. She doesn't go out of her way to write pretty prose or extreme scenes. She writes so real that it's hard to imagine that the friendly flu isn't a real virus. Her sentences blend together perfectly and softly, lingering after you've read the words and leaving you craving more. The pacing is perfection. The end of every chapter made me read the next and so on until I just had to keep going until I was finished the book. Her characters jump off the page and stay with you even when you've closed the book. I can't get over the intensity I felt reading this, an intensity I haven't felt in awhile. After certain events happened, I had no idea where she would end this book, how far she'd go before giving us a break from the madness, so of course she ends it too soon as usual, and I'm stuck waiting a year for the final chapter, The Worlds We Make, and needing to know what happens to Kaelyn and her vaccine. 

The real world is scary, with or without a virus spreading and Crewe has captured the brutality of the human race exquistly. I can only hope I've done this book justice with this review and that I too can create a world within a world as well as she has. 

In the lives we'd lost, we would both have been hanging out in cafeterias with friends and arguing with parents who were still alive and not worrying about whether we might die tomorrow. But this was what we had.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Review: Requiem

Author: Lauren Oliver
Published: March 5, 2013
391 pages
5 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

Now an active member of the resistance, Lena has been transformed. The nascent rebellion that was under way in Pandemonium has ignited into an all-out revolution in Requiem, and Lena is at the center of the fight.

After rescuing Julian from a death sentence, Lena and her friends fled to the Wilds. But the Wilds are no longer a safe haven—pockets of rebellion have opened throughout the country, and the government cannot deny the existence of Invalids. Regulators now infiltrate the borderlands to stamp out the rebels, and as Lena navigates the increasingly dangerous terrain, her best friend, Hana, lives a safe, loveless life in Portland as the fiancĂ©e of the young mayor.

There was no preparing myself for this book. The ending of Pandemonium left me screaming, kicking, and throwing my book on the floor. What was I supposed to do? Alex was thought to be dead and I was falling for Julian because he's just as adorable and loves Lena so much. Then all of sudden, there he is, and I just know he's going to cause some problems. Enter Requiem, with Alex changed from living in the crypts and Lena not sure of her feelings for both boys now that there are two, all tension is charged and each word causes more pain for someone in the story.

What I loved most about this instalment is that Hana has a leading role. After reading her short story, Hana, I understood where she was coming from. I think we've all been jealous of our friends at some point in time and Hana just handled it the wrong way. Seeing her afterwards and how it's affected her, shows me that she regrets everything she's done. Now she's about to become the mayor's wife and she is gradually finding out things about him that make her want to run. Her story is intriguing and suspenseful and I found myself wanting to be reading her point of view more so than Lena's.

Lena's story started off kind of dull. The tension between her and Alex made me want to cry, but their journey through the Wilds seemed too slow. I think I just wanted her to find her mom as I felt it was lacking emotion. There weren't any cute love scenes between her and Julian, which makes sense since she started to second guess her feelings for him, but I think that's what's kept this series going. Love is forbidden and they are running and trying to regain their freedom, but when love is no longer in the forefront, than what's the point? I do understand why Oliver did everything she did and in the end it all made sense and the freedom that they've been fighting for took centre stage, but something was missing from the middle.

Seeing what was happening both inside and outside the walls made for an emotional journey. I knew that when the stories came together, something would go wrong, and the intensity just grew. Maybe people have complained about the ending as it is not wrapped up in a nice package, but once again I think that made this book better. There is a huge world full of cured people, there is no way for Lena and the Resistance to completely stop this. That would be highly unlikely and seem fake. So I think the ending made sense for this series and I hope it satisfied most people, like myself. If we want to revisit these characters, we can simply close our eyes and imagine how their lives will turn out after the final page is over. Oliver has written some great short stories to go along with this series that give more in depth views into some of the lesser known characters. This book is about freedom of choice and I think it captures that theme perfectly.

“This is the strange way of the world, that people who simply want to love are instead forced to become warriors.” 

“But maybe happiness isn't in the choosing. Maybe it's in the fiction, in the pretending: that wherever we have ended up is where we intended to be all along.”

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Contest: The Midnight Garden March Giveaway

The ladies over at The Midnight Garden are having a reader's choice contest. There are ten fantastic books up for grabs that make this contest so worth it!

Jane Austen Goes to Hollywood by Abby McDonald
Unremembered by Jessica Brody 
Bruised by Sarah Skilton 
Spellcaster by Claudia Gray 
Legacy of the Clockwork Key by Kristin Bailey
Firebrand by Gillian Philip
Splintered by A.G. Howard
The Murmurings by Carly Anne West
The Assassin's Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke
Pivot Point by Kacie West

The giveaway is open Internationally and there will be four winners. So hurry on over and enter! 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Review: Cinder

Author: Marissa Meyer
Published: January 3, 2012
387 pages
5 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . . 

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

So this is the first third person book I've read in awhile, so it took some time to get into the flow of things, but even after the first chapter, I knew Id love this book. A revamped and epic twist on the classic fairy tale, Cinderella, Cinder uses the same emotions and basic plot lines yet creates a completely different tale. Cinder is a cyborg living in a futuristic Earth where cyborgs are lower class. She is lucky enough to live in a good apartment, but her step mother hates her. Throw in a deadly plague and going to the ball isn't the only thing Cinder has to worry about. 

Adding the futuristic, sci-fi elements really sets this story apart from other fairy tale retellings. The fact that Cinder is Cinderella is only secondary to everything else that takes place in this book. Not only is she trying to hide the fact that she's a cyborg from everyone, including Prince Kai who has taken an interest in her, but there is also a colony on the moon whose queen is threatening war on Earth. The fantastic part is that going to the ball is not Cinder's biggest mission in this book. Instead, she's trying to get away from everything and could care less about going to the ball. It's the perfect ideal for teens to read. The prince is not the only thing that matters to her, saving those she loves and making a name for herself are more important.

One of my favourite parts is that this is a series. With an open ending, and promise of other fairy tale heroines to join the ranks, I know I'll enjoy the others as well. The Lunar queen becomes the largest enemy and she's sure to be a large part of the other tales. The next in the series, Scarlet, which is out now, focuses on Little Red Riding Hood and connects with Cinder's tale. The other two, Cress and Winter tell the tales of Rapunzel and Snow White, and the idea of this makes me so happy. I can't wait to find out how each girl connects to the other (although there are some hints in Cinder) and see how Meyer creates a bigger picture while still having each girl play out her fairy tale. 

Fairy tale retellings are forever popular and for good reason. I've read many of them, including Alex Flinn and Jessica Day George's revamped versions. What I like about the retellings is that not one is alike even though they all have the same basic plot. It takes a lot of skill to reconstruct something so well known into your own device and Meyer has wired the words perfectly to create an entirely new series like nothing else before. Cinder is a character that everyone will be able to relate to and you'll find yourself devouring this story and routing for her the entire way through. A joy to read and I can't wait to pick up the next instalment of The Lunar Chronicles.

“Even in the Future the Story Begins with Once Upon a Time.”

“I'm sure I'll feel much more grateful when I find a guy who thinks complex wiring in a girl is a turn-on.” 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Review: Sever

Author: Lauren DeStefano
Published: February 12, 2013
371 pages
5 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

With the clock ticking until the virus takes its toll, Rhine is desperate for answers. After enduring Vaughn’s worst, Rhine finds an unlikely ally in his brother, an eccentric inventor named Reed. She takes refuge in his dilapidated house, though the people she left behind refuse to stay in the past. While Gabriel haunts Rhine’s memories, Cecily is determined to be at Rhine’s side, even if Linden’s feelings are still caught between them.

Meanwhile, Rowan’s growing involvement in an underground resistance compels Rhine to reach him before he does something that cannot be undone. But what she discovers along the way has alarming implications for her future—and about the past her parents never had the chance to explain.

I keep my hopes high when it comes to the third book in a trilogy. I expect twists and turns that make me rethink everything I've read so far. It must also wrap up everything and leave no unanswered questions. Some have let me down a little, but I'm glad Sever isn't one of them. DeStefano knows exactly how to take a world that we think we know and turn it into something completely different. Small clues hidden everywhere that suddenly make sense at the end and an explosive ending that will leave you breathless.

Just when Rhine thought she'd finally escaped Vaughan and the mansion, she ends up back in his care with nowhere else to turn. With the help of Linden and Cecily, she stays with Vaughan's brother, Reed, until she has the strength to leave on her own to find her brother and Gabriel. Linden and Cecily are once again a huge part of this book. They were mostly absent in Fever, and you can see how much they've changed since Wither. Both have matured but they still want Rhine in their lives even if she doesn't want to be in theirs. Something keeps her there though, maybe it's fear or loneliness, but she spends most of her time with Cecily and begins to feel whole again. When news of her brother comes forward though, she knows she must leave to find him. 

Every character has grown a lot. Cecily is no longer the little girl she used to be. She now sees the world for what it really is and Vaughan for what he's capable of doing. Linden sees this too, everything he's ever known suddenly null and void. It's a sad truth in a sad world and for the first half of the book, it's mostly character development, mostly Rhine trying to come to terms with everything that's happened to her. It's brilliantly written, DeStefano's prose and metaphors hitting like bricks and keeping us plastered in the world she's created. Scared for Rhine, Cecily - everyone. Fear of a cure never being found kept me going, wanting to know if there was any way for Rhine to get her happy ending. What happens will leave you with fear and hope and a completely different perspective of this series than when first read. Everything changes in the most perfect way and only DeStefano could create the feelings felt throughout this book. It is not just a conclusion, it holds its own against every other book in this series, especially Wither. It makes up for the lacking of Fever and left me wanting more of this world and her writing. 

I'm especially pleased that she never made a real love triangle. I will never be a fan of triangles that seem to be added in just to get attention. Rhine loves Linden, but it's never been a romantic love. To her, it's always been Gabriel and I think that's important in youth books. There doesn't always have to be boys you love, there can just be the one and it's important for teenagers to see love that way. When you know you love someone, just go and love them. Give them your all and do whatever you can to be with them. Rhine does have two loves in this series, but one is her brother, the twin she's been searching for since they were seperated. I love their relationship and how different they've become from each other. My brother is my favourite person in the world and I too am separated from him, but I know the kind of love that never wavers, and DeStefano portrayed it perfectly. 

Seriously though, there is nothing I didn't love about this book. I can't wait for her next series, The Internment Chronicles just so I can get more of her. 

“You have a way of looking at things. You make it seem as though everything's going to be okay. I can't imagine a more dangerous thing to have than hope like yours.” 

“I never wanted to live forever," she says. "I just wanted enough time.” 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Series I Want To Start

This week's Top Ten Tuesday, a wonderful meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is all about series that we want to start. Mine will mostly be series that I own but haven't gotten around to reading yet! So here goes:

Top Ten Series I'd Like To Start But Haven't Yet:

1. Shifters by Rachel Vincent: This is the top series I need to start! It took me so long to find all six of these books, yet they are still low on my TBR list. I think I need to move them higher!

2. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld: The first book in this series is undoubtedly sitting on my book shelf. One day I'll get to it! 

3. Need by Carrie Jones: I picked up the first two at Value Village and then found the third one for $5.99 at Chapters. So I practically own the whole series yet haven't read any of them. I hope they're good.

4. Healer by Maria V. Snyder: I read her Insider series and loved it, so I'm sure I'll enjoy this series as well, just haven't gotten to it yet!

5. Darkness Rising by Kelley Armstrong: Another series I've started by owning the first book. Yet again, this needs to be higher on my list!

6. The Cahill Witch Chronicles by Jessica Spotswood: This may actually be the next book I read, so it really should be further up on this list, but oh well. It's been on my bookshelf the least amount of time, I'm a strange one I know.

7. The Call of the Forgotten by Julie Kagawa: I loved The Iron Fey series, but I have yet to pick up this book. I know I'll read it eventually though!

8. Blood of Eden by Julie Kagawa: Yes, this will be read eventually too, it's just not on my shelf yet.

9. The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare: I own Clockwork Angel, but I haven't finished The Mortal Instruments yet so I haven't started this next series. I like the books, but I'm not a huge fan of them so it may take a while to get around to this one.

10. Recommend a tenth one to me?

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