Thursday, 31 May 2012

June Reads

I can't believe tomorrow will see the start of June already!
Anyway, here's a list of some of the books I'm hoping to read over the next month. Links will take you to that book's page on Goodreads.

'Fated' by Alyson Noel
'The Iron Daughter' by Julie Kagawa
'The Demon's Lexicon' by Sarah Rees Brennan
'A Game of Thrones' by George R. R. Martin
'The Other Life' by Susanne Winnacker
'Legend' by Marie Lu
'Shadows on the Moon' by Zoe Marriott
'Dearly, Departed' by Lia Habel

I'm excited to read 'Iron Daughter' because I really enjoyed the first book in that series, and a friend highly recommended 'Dearly, Departed'. I'm a little nervous about 'Fated' because I couldn't decide whether I liked The Immortals series or not, by the same author. I love the 'Game of Thrones' television show, so hopefully the book will live up to it! And I'm hoping 'Demon's Lexicon' will be a great start to a trilogy I've been waiting forever to read.

Let me know what you're reading at the moment!

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

The Hunt

Andrew Fukuda
8 / 10

From the blurb: Seventeen-year-old Gene struggles to survive in a society where humans have been eaten to near extinction by the general population. When Gene is chosen to participate in the government-sponsored hunt for the remaining humans, he must learn the art of the hunt but also elude his fellow hunters whose suspicions about his true human nature are growing.

I'd read a synopsis of this book in a few different places and was very eager to read it. But nothing had prepared me for the vampires. That's right, it's about vampires. They burn in the sun, itch when they find something funny, and hang off ceiling mounted footholds to sleep. And they desperately hunt Hepers - the handful of humans left on this earth.

Gene is one of those humans, and I really felt for him from the very first page. Both of his parents are gone and he is alone in this unforgiving world, but he marches through life with a grim determination that is, quite frankly, impressive. He shaves every day - his legs, his chest. He wears fake fangs. (He doesn't drink blood, thankfully. Eurgh!) He's horribly lonely, but he doesn't dwell on it. And then he's thrown into the Hunt, and everything he knows becomes useless. He has to hide his nature from vampires in close quarters and pretend to hunt those just like him - without so much as deodorant to stop them from smelling his sweat.

There's a twist about a third of the way through the book that isn't even nearly a surprise, concerning a certain young woman. But other than that, the plot is extremely well paced, throwing both Gene and the reader from action to rest and back again. Fukuda doesn't quite manage to make you forget that Gene is the main character and therefore probably won't die, (as managed in Hunger Games, where I was constantly fearing for Katniss' life) but there were a lot of very tense moments. The final arc of the story, however, whilst maintaining the writing's fluidity and confidence, seemed a little uncertain. (I know, that sounds contradictory!) Technically, the writing style was still great. But the plot felt like it lost its way a little.

However, this was a really good read, and an interesting take on vampire lore in a saturated market. I'm looking forward to the sequel. The accompanying short story can be found on facebook here (opens in a new browser window), and is fantastic! I actually preferred it to the main story. It's gripping and practically spoiler free, so if you're unsure about buring the book, try this as a taster!

You'll probably like this if you enjoyed 'Glass Houses' by Rachel Caine, 'Blood Red Road' by Moira Young, or 'Mortal Engines' by Philip Reeve.

I haven't been able to find any information about the sequel yet, but Fukuda's other book is called 'Crossing' and was published in June 2010.

The Iron King

Julie Kagawa
7 / 10

From the blurb: My name is Meghan Chase.

In less than twenty-four hours I'll be sixteen. Countless stories, songs, and poems have been written about this wonderful age, when a girl finds true love and the stars shine for her and the handsome prince carries her off into the sunset.

I don't think it will be that way for me.

Okay. I will stress this now in an attempt to get past it, so I don't bring it up later. How Meghan can be even a little attracted to Ash, I will never know. So, he's a prince of the Winter Court and therefore very pretty (oh, and he's a good dancer). But that's really the only explanation we're given for her pretty sudden (and ample) feelings for him. And to top it all off, the first time they meet he's trying to kill her. I did find myself intrigued to see where this romance would head in spite of this though, and Ash did endear himself to me more and more as the plot progressed.

The iron fey are definitely this book's high point. They're fascinating, like nothing I've ever heard of before. Born from the innovative dreams of mankind, they are the fey's worst nightmare. And now they're starting to crawl out from the shadows... The little clockwork-faery spiders had chills crawling up my spine, and the Ironhorse is more than a little unnerving!

There's also a curious dash of Shakespearean lore mixed in from 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'. Oberon and his malicious wife Tatiana are in there, but the highlight is the adorably infuriating Puck. He's up to the mischevious pranks you'd expect, but with a surprising dash of valour and chivalry. There's a whole host of other types of fey, too - phoukas and redcaps and the delightful "pack rats" - but I would have liked to see these explored more.

The plot in this book was fantastic. Meghan never forgets the threat of the Iron Kind, or the purpose of her visit (to rescue her younger brother, Ethan). Yet she manages to struggle through forest hikes and Titania's cruelties without letting her panic overwhelm her. Meghan may not be the strongest protaganist I've ever met but she is determined, making her a heroine you can invest in. The action really picks up towards the end of the book, the last few chapters of which are filled with superbly written fight scenes and peppered with self-examination. And the ending, whilst not the most dizzying of cliffhangers, is horrifying and arresting.

I may have been slow to catch on to this series, but I can't wait to read the next book.

If you liked this you might enjoy 'Wicked Lovely' by Melissa Marr, 'The Iron Witch' by Karen Mahoney, or 'Tithe' by Holly Black.

'The Iron Daughter' was released in April 2011. Julie Kagawa's newest series starts with 'Immortal Rules', published in April 2012.

The Statistical Probablity of Love at First Sight

Jennifer E. Smith
6 / 10

From the blurb: Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything?

Imagine if she hadn't forgotten the book. Or if there hadn't been traffic on the expressway. Or if she hadn't fumbled the coins for the toll. What if she'd run just that little bit faster and caught the flight she was supposed to be on. Would it have been something else - the weather over the Atlantic or a fault with the plane?

Hadley isn't sure if she believes in destiny or fate but, on what is potentially the worst day of each of their lives, it's the quirks of timing and chance events that mean Hadley meets Oliver...

Set over a 24-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver's story will make you believe that true love finds you when you're least expecting it.

This book wasn't exactly what I'd expected from its synopsis. There wasn't nearly as much romance as predicted. As a sappy romantic, I thought that was a shame. That being said, the relationship between Hadley and Oliver was truly sweet. Both of them were believable and raw, and had an openness that comes naturally with long flights and a lack of sleep.

There were a few slightly too convenient ocurrences (a conversation between two strangers about Oliver was a little too coincidental for my liking) to help the plot along, but for the most part these can be brushed aside.

The most important part of this book, though, was Hadley's relationship with her father. Watching your parents suffer through a messy yet somehow-almost-amiable divorce is never going to be easy. Hadley is stuck between fierce loyalty to her mother, fury with her father, and a desperate yearning for things to be the way they used to be. I found Hadley's plight to be very relatable, though at times she could be a little frustrating. She's far too angry with her father's fiancee, and not nearly enough with him. And she doesn't really admit to any current sadness; she says she was miserable when her parents first separated, but now seems to be just cross.

But I found myself rooting for Hadley, hoping everything would work out in her favour. She makes a few incredibly daft mistakes. However, the resolution really suits the story. This may not be a deep, meaningful read, but it is enjoyable.

You'll probably like this book if you've enjoyed 'The Summer I Turned Pretty' by Sarah Dessen or 'Love Story' by Jennifer Echols.

Girl Meets Boy

Kelly Milner Halls
Rating: 5 / 10

From the blurb: What do guys and girls really think? Twelve of the most dynamic and engaging young American authors writing today team up for this one-of-a-kind collection of he said/she said stories where he tells it from the guy's point of view, she tells it from the girl's. Stories of love and heartbreak, like the good-looking guy who falls for a dangerous girl and the flipside of the girl who never learns to be loved; a basketball star and the artistic (and shorter) boy she never knew she wanted; and a gay boy looking for love online and the girl who could help make it happen, teach us that relationships become complicated because there are two sides to every story.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed this book. It was sweet. That's the best word for it. Sweet, but forgettable. I particularly enjoyed "Want to Meet" by James Howe/ "Meeting for Real" by Ellen Whittlinger, the tale of a young man struggling with his homosexuality and Alex, who he meets online in a chat room. This was the only story with any real character development, and it's just generally a very tender tale. "Launchpad to Neptune" also stood out for me, ith its twist towards the end and choppy pacing. I'd love to read more of these two stories, maybe see them developed into full length novels.

The rest of the stories fell a little flat, however. They were all about romance overcoming a boundary of some sort - race or class or religion, even height - and while this is a great message, it was a little clear cut. Other than the one definitive obstacle there was no real conflict to be found in this book at all. Maybe I'm biased against short stories, but I found myself with a serious lack of emotional investment in the characters and their stories' outcomes.

Overall though, it was a nice enough read. It's a pleasant book to sit in the sun with if you've two or three hours to spare.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Fins are Forever

Tera Lynn Childs
This review may contain spoilers if you have not read the first book, 'Forgive my Fins', the review of which can be found here.

Rating: 7 / 10

From the blurb: When Lily's human-hating cousin Dosinia is exiled from Thalassinia and sent to land, Lily is faced with the huge task of keeping her on the straight and narrow. But what did Dosinia do to get exiled in the first place? And why is she batting her eyelashes at Brody, Lily's former crush? As if her bratty cousin weren't enough to handle, the reappearance of a merboy from Lily's past makes her question her decision to renounce her kingdom and stay on land with Quince. Can Lily stay true to her duty, her heart and her dreams, or will living on land really mean living a lie?

This book is the second in a series, and I must say that it is better than the first, 'Forgive my Fins'. It starts with an earthquake, but the real action begins when Doe shows up on Lily's doorstep with a letter insisting she stay with Lily until she learns to love humans.

Doe's actually a really sweet, gentle young girl. She's been a little lost ever since her parents were killed, and who can blame her for that? She becomes truly loveable in this book as we see flashes of emotions and she does small things to help Lily. Quince is just as reliable as ever, though he has lost his rough edges (it's a shame for anyone who loves a bad boy. For example: me.) On the other hand, Brody's become more likeable.

Lily still doesn't seem as mature as I'd expect from an eighteen year old, being one myself, but maybe that's understandable since she's lived life as a princess. She does take on even more responsibilities in this book, looking after Doe for one. But she also starts to think about colleges, jobs, exams and her kingdom. When her childhood friend Tellin shows up, she has to decide whether to put duty first, or her heart. Thankfully her father's still on hand to dole out advice. He and Lily have the sort of close relationship every girl wishes she had with her dad.

There are very few flaws in this book. It's still a little immature, as though it has no clear intended audience. It also remains pretty predictable. But it's a very enjoyable read for a lazy afternoon.

'Just for Fins' will be released in July 2012. 'Sweet Venom', a book in Tera Lynn Child's series "The Medusa Girls", was published in September 2011.

Forgive My Fins

Tera Lynn Childs

Rating: 6 / 10

From the blurb: When a mermaid has her first kiss, she 'bonds' for life with the person she kisses. For Lily, a mermaid princess living in secret on land, this means she has ended up accidentally bonded to her obnoxious neighbour, instead of to the boy of her dreams. So begins a tidal wave of relationship drama, as Lily discovers that happily-ever-after never goes as smoothly as you plan it to.

This is one of the first mermaid books I've ever read, and I really enjoyed it. There was some fascinating mer lore - especially the "finkini", bikini bottoms made of tail scales to protect one's modesty! Lily was a believable teenager, falling for a boy and believing it's true love. Not only that, but she struggles to strike a balance between duty and happiness. So when she accidentally bonds to the boy she hates most of all, it's hard for her to know what to do. Quince, her bonded neighbour, was adorably enigmatic; he's gruff but sweet and therefore impossible to read. Lily's family and friends are supportive and, thankfully, she's grateful for that. Brody Bennett, on the other hand - the object of Lily's long lasting affections - is kind of irritating, ignoring Lily until she can be of use to him. He may not be intentionally malicious, but he is a little self-centred.

At times the writing seems a little twee, and because of Lily's inability to kiss boys without a huge commitment there's no real romance, which seems a shame. Also, the storyline is a little predictable. From reading the blurb I had a pretty good idea of what would happen and, as it turned out, I was pretty much right.

I loved the setting of Thalassinia, the undersea kingdom. There was so much detail, and the way it was conveyed showed Lily's love of her home. I would have liked more information about her mother, but it is only the first book of a series so fingers crossed! The epilogue was infuriating, only because it was cut off too soon. I'm looking forward to the sequel.

If you enjoy this book, try out 'Wings' by Aprilynne Pike or 'Supernaturally' by Kiersten White. Or if you're in it for the mermaids, give 'Ripple' a go, by Mandy Hubbard.

Fins are Forever was released in April 2012.

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

Michelle Hodkin

Rating: 8 / 10

From the blurb: When Mara Dyer wakes up in hospital with no memory of how she got there, or any explanation as to why the bizarre accident that caused the deaths of her two best friends left her mysteriously unharmed, her doctors suggest she start over in a new city, at a new school, and just hope her memories come back.
But Mara's new start is anything but comforting. She sees the faces of her dead friends everywhere and now she's started to see other people's deaths before they happen. Is she going crazy? As if dealing with all this isn't enough, Noah Shaw, the most beautiful boy she's ever seen, can't seem to leave her alone. But does he have her best interests at heart, or another agenda altogether?

I have been really excited to read this book for a very long time. And it didn't disappoint. I loved Mara, her uncertainty and tenuous grasp on her own identity. She's fragile but brave. Her family is beautifully realistic; the serious younger brother, loyal older brother, working father and brittle mother combine to create the most whole portrayal of family life I've read in a long time.

The characters in 'Mara Dyer' are very well developed, for the most part. Except when it comes to secondary characters. Mara's supposed best friend is cheeky and cheery, but we know this because we're told so explicitly. Her "arch enemy" is equally flat, simply showing up to progress the plot. And one character vanishes altogether - we're told, "Just like that, he was gone", but I didn't really expect that to be the last we see of him.

The storyline really didn't head where I was expecting. A lot of the time it seems to travel in circles (not in a bad way!) but towards the end it got a little confusing. I spent maybe the last forty pages with a huge "What the heck?" frown on my face desperately waiting for the snarls to be unravelled. They weren't, unfortunately. But the cliffhanger revealed on the very last page is excrutiating, so Hodkin clearly knows how to tell a story!

And Noah. Dear, sweet Noah. As a British girl, I can't completely understand the fascination with British boys and their accents, but that's besides the point. He's at war with himself, a true gentleman in the body of a rebel keeping secrets but pretending he isn't. His past may be a little sordid, so I'm glad he's ashamed of it, but he's sweet and flirtatious and in my book that's close enough to redemption.

Teaser quote: "Fix me," I commanded him. "This thing, what I've done - there's something wrong with me, Noah. Fix it."

If you enjoy this book, try out 'Shatter Me' by Tahereh Mafi.

The Evolution of Mara Dyer is scheduled for release in October 2012.