Let's Talk: Your Favourite Inspirational Characters

Friday, August 30, 2013

Let's Talk is a weekly feature here at i swim for oceans. I think it's important that we all have our say, and there's something to be said for raising our voices. Simply put, here on the little old blog, I like to host some of my very own discussion posts because, well, I like to converse with you all.

And so, Let's Talk will feature questions or prompts, which I will answer, too. Love it or hate it, weigh in or don't, it's my hope that Let's Talk will at least get you thinking...and maybe even get you discussing with the rest of us!
Who are some of your favourite inspirational characters and why?

Yet again, I don't know why I do this to myself. Frankly, I could make an entire list of characters just from one series (Harry Potter, obviously), but I decided to put my big girl pants on and branch out...sort of. I have too many inspiring characters to list, but there are three that really stand out for various reasons, and that was the reason I decided to go ahead with this topic. 

1. Sirius Black from Harry Potter - When we were introduced to his character in the novels, I'd be lying if I said I didn't think he was an absolute psycho at first. Slowly but surely though, we watch as his hardened exterior forged by Azkaban and multiple betrayals begins to fade. Though he desires to be on the forefront of the action, above all else, he wants to be a parent to Harry, and he's willing to fight and die for him. His persona, his character and his selflessness is utterly inspiring.

2. Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games - Though I feel like we lost a bit of the essence of Katniss in the third book, it doesn't change the fact that it was (and is) thoroughly impressive to see a female character truly kick some ass. Though she is realistically afraid of what's to come, she inspires a nation by taking her sister's place in the games, and puts herself in a position where she will have to fight just to live. It is utterly refreshing to see that, though she doesn't need a man to survive, she can find one without losing herself, too.

3. Hazel Grace from The Fault in Our Stars - For the record, I don't think that picture is actually from the movie, but if it is, Shailene Woodley makes cancer look good. I'm going to hell. Anyhow, Hazel Grace inspires me because, though she knows she will probably die from her disease, she lives her life. She's isolated herself a lot through the course of her illness, and we learn that this strong, independent girl did so for the sake of others, rather than herself. She knows it will hurt them even more when she's gone. Plus, Hazel + Augustus simply means living life to its fullest.

What about you? Which characters do you find the most inspiring?

The 100 by Kass Morgan Review

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Title: The 100
Author: Kass Morgan (Twitter)
Publisher: Little, Brown BYR
Publish Date: September 3, 2013
Genre: YA, Dystopian, Sci-Fi
Pages: 277
Source: Publisher

In the future, humans live in city-like spaceships orbiting far above Earth's toxic atmosphere. No one knows when, or even if, the long-abandoned planet will be habitable again. But faced with dwindling resources and a growing populace, government leaders know they must reclaim their homeland... before it's too late.

Now, one hundred juvenile delinquents are being sent on a high-stakes mission to recolonize Earth. After a brutal crash landing, the teens arrive on a savagely beautiful planet they've only seen from space. Confronting the dangers of this rugged new world, they struggle to form a tentative community. But they're haunted by their past and uncertain about the future. To survive, they must learn to trust - and even love - again.
Clarke, Wells, Bellamy and Glass live in a world in which the Earth has been abandoned. To survive, humans live in vast cities in space, but it was never meant to be a permanent solution. The population is growing, and the resources are growing slim, leading the government to find a way to repopulate the Earth. 100 convicted teen felons are to be sent to Earth including Clarke, Wells and Bellamy - but Glass fights tooth and nail to stay on the ship. Which is more dangerous though? The wild, untamed Earth that's long-since been abandoned, or life aboard the ships?

For a long while now, I've been avoiding dystopian novels. It's not that I don't still love the idea of a broken world desperate to rebuild. It's simply that genres grow tired, and it takes a really strong book to break that mold. The 100 by author, Kass Morgan, seems to fit that bill in a nutshell. Combining genres, and giving us a shattered, dysfunctional future world in which we cannot even live on our own planet, The 100 explores what lengths we might go to to reclaim what was once ours...and how we might survive doing so. Dramatic, futuristic and deceptive, this is one world that you'll want to explore.

Before I begin my review, I must start out saying that I truly believe this is going to make one heck of a CW television series. It embodies teen drama, and it embraces the dystopian genre that is now thriving on both the big and small screens. The 100, however, perhaps translates better cinematically than on paper. That's not to say that I didn't enjoy this book (because I really did)...but we get a little bit different than what we've bargained for when we begin. The novel follows four points of view - Clarke, Wells, Bellamy and Glass - and the aftermath of both boarding the ship to Earth and staying behind in space. Now, it's difficult to manage two proper points of view in a great novel, so to balance four distinct characters and voices in a fairly slim novel for the genre would be quite the feat. While I felt like I got to know the gist of each of their characters, I also felt as though I never really got the essence of them either. For example, I understand Clarke's demeanor due to her wrongful conviction, but I never really got to see past her hurt, betrayed exterior. Wells was abrasive and manipulative, and I actually felt dirty reading from his perspective. Bellamy was the rare exception, as I actually really liked him, but I feel as though his character is like an onion, and we only managed to peel back maybe one or two layers. And, to be entirely honest, I didn't feel as though Glass stood out all that much. However, we're also offered characters who really stand out, but we don't get nearly enough of them. I think that my biggest issue with The 100 was that I was expecting a battle for survival once the teens got to Earth because they all had their own agendas and something to lose, plus they'd never not  lived on the spaceship. What we got though would imply otherwise. Seemingly flawlessly, the teens can hunt and survive with limited distress. There were definitive highlights to the story though, too. Ms. Morgan has given us a great setup to a broken world. Society is so irreparably damaged that execution is the solution to breaking the one-child limit. Classes are distinct and set apart from one another. It's a world that I'd really, really like to explore more, though perhaps with less points of view.

All in all, The 100 really sets the state for a fantastic TV series because, frankly, it reads like one. With a cliffhanger that, despite my reservations, had me salivating for more, I can't help but get invested in this series. I give it a 3.5 out of 5, and I recommend it to fans of YA, especially those who enjoy dystopian and science fiction.

I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.

Waiting on Wednesday: Love Letters to the Dead

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill from Breaking the Spine, and specifically spotlights upcoming novels we can't wait to read. As always, there are some amazing upcoming books, but this week I'm particularly excited for...

Publisher: FSG BYR
Publish Date: April 1, 2014
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Pages: 336

It begins as an assignment for English class: Write a letter to a dead person. Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain because she thought he’d understand since he died young just like her sister, May, did. Soon Laurel is writing letters to lots of dead people—Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse, Amelia Earhart, Heath Ledger, and more—although she never gives a single one of them to her teacher.

She writes about what it’s like going to a new school, meeting new friends, falling in love for the first time, how her family splinters apart after May dies. She even writes about the abuse she suffered—while May was supposed to be looking out for her. Only then, once Laurel has written down the truth about what happened to herself, can she truly begin to accept what happened to May, and to see her as the person she was: lovely and amazing and deeply flawed.
Remember how I said I love my contemporary books to be all dark and twisty and hauntingly real? Well, from that premise, it sure sounds like Love Letters to the Dead fits the bill exactly. I also have to say that I love the fact that the author is trained as a poet. This sort of promises us a sort of lyricism that makes reality real - but all more tangible and soulful. I have to be honest. I want this one. Really. Really. Bad. What do you think, and what are you waiting on this week?

Bookish Feature: The Official Divergent Trailer

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Today's Top Ten Tuesday post is actually one I did back in 2011 (go figure...clearly I've been blogging too long), so I decided to feature a little something else today. Guys, in case you didn't know, other things happened at Sunday's MTV VMA awards than Miley Cyrus killing the image of Hannah Montana forever.

What could possibly have topped that, you ask? Well, they released the first official Divergent trailer, of course! I, for one, have been terrified to see what Hollywood is doing with one of my favourite series, so I watched it with baited breath. If you've yet to see it, please feel free to check it out below:

But here's the thing, my friends. I really liked it. I was so, so, so skeptical of seeing Shailene Woodley in the role of Tris because, let's be honest, all I know her in is The Secret Life of the American Teenager, and that didn't really have any emotion in it at all. I'm not yet sure how I feel about the casting of Theo James as Four, but I really think there might be hope for Divergent yet.

I certainly have no expectations for this film to be better with the book because I really don't think that's possible. However, I think it's important to separate the two, to an extent. And, by thinking of the trailer as such, I have a lot of hope! 

Have you guys had some time to digest the trailer yet? What do you think about it?

Wild Cards by Simone Elkeles Review

Monday, August 26, 2013

Title: Wild Cards
Author: Simone Elkeles (Twitter)
Publisher: Walker BYR
Publish Date: October 1, 2013
Genre: YA/NA, Contemporary
Pages: 288
Source: Publisher

After getting kicked out of boarding school, bad boy Derek Fitzpatrick has no choice but to live with his ditzy stepmother while his military dad is deployed. Things quickly go from bad to worse when he finds out she plans to move them back to her childhood home in Illinois. Derek’s counting the days before he can be on his own, and the last thing he needs is to get involved with someone else’s family drama.

Ashtyn Parker knows one thing for certain--people you care about leave without a backward glance. A football scholarship would finally give her the chance to leave. So she pours everything into winning a state championship, until her boyfriend and star quarterback betrays them all by joining their rival team. Ashtyn needs a new game plan, but it requires trusting Derek—someone she barely knows, someone born to break the rules. Is she willing to put her heart on the line to try and win it all?
Derek pulled a stupid prank, and he's paying the price. Forced to move back home with his step-mother, he has to readjust to a whole new lifestyle and an entirely different crowd of people. Among them is his step-mother's extremely attractive and unavailable sister, Ashtyn. He knows he's not going to stick around if he has any say in the matter, so why not test the waters? Ashtyn, however, can take care of herself. With a clear goal and focus towards becoming a star player in a men's sport, she's thrown a curveball that make just make her vulnerable...and need Derek's help. But is there something more there than either of them are willing (or want) to admit?

If there is one author I know I can turn to for contemporary fiction, it's Simone Elkeles, so when I discovered that her next novel, Wild Cards, was on the table, you'd better believe I was all over it. With great skill and heartfelt emotion, the novel sweeps us up into the story of two utterly believable and completely relatable characters for whom we're powerless but to feel for. Often times, dramatic and peppered with dashes of wit, humour and fun, Wild Cards offers us a journey that's as believable as it is sweet - if only because we can see a little bit of ourselves in Derek and Ashtyn.

I'm no stranger to Ms. Elkeles' work. While some of her fiction works better for me than others, I don't think I can say that I've ever been disappointed, and Wild Cards is no exception to that rule. Derek and Ashtyn were clear, defined characters - both of whom I related to at times, and I felt for throughout. While Derek's tough-guy demeanor was clearly a facade, we could see the same mirrored in Ashtyn, and I appreciated the connection between the two characters that even they probably didn't know they had. It lent a sort of vulnerability to each of them, or a chink in the armour, if you will. I also liked that despite the fact that Derek was decidedly hot and attractive, there was more to him than a blanket stereotype. When we reach into his past and see his emotions for his birth mother who died of cancer, we see a real, true, tender person. Ashtyn was a bit of a kicker for me. She was sassy, judgmental, strong-willed and, frankly, obnoxious at first. But there was also a softer side to her that was just hid by her steely determination. I do think that the plot of Wild Cards took a pretty significant background role to the characters' developing relationship, and I did expect to have a bit more football - think, Friday Night Lights. Yes, there was an undercurrent of football that gently nudged the story along, but Derek and Ashtyn's interactions are what really fueled the entire plot. I think that the novel could have really bumped it up a notch by raising the game stakes, as well as fleshing out the ending a bit further because, in the scheme of things, it was quite abrupt. 

Overall, Wild Cards is another notch in Ms. Elkeles' winning YA belt. Despite a few hiccups or flaws, in my humble opinion, it's a sweet, fun, dramatic and engaging read. I give it a 4 out of 5, and I recommend it to all fans of YA and NA, especially those who enjoy contemporary fiction.

I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.

Vixen by Jillian Larkin Review

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Title: Vixen
Author: Jillian Larkin
Publisher: Delacorte BYR
Publish Date: December 14, 2010
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction
Pages: 421
Source: Personal Copy

Every girl wants what she can’t have. Seventeen-year-old Gloria Carmody wants the flapper lifestyle—and the bobbed hair, cigarettes, and music-filled nights that go with it. Now that she’s engaged to Sebastian Grey, scion of one of Chicago’s most powerful families, Gloria’s party days are over before they’ve even begun...or are they?

Clara Knowles, Gloria’s goody-two-shoes cousin, has arrived to make sure the high-society wedding comes off without a hitch—but Clara isn’t as lily-white as she appears. Seems she has some dirty little secrets of her own that she’ll do anything to keep hidden...

Lorraine Dyer, Gloria’s social-climbing best friend, is tired of living in Gloria’s shadow. When Lorraine’s envy spills over into desperate spite, no one is safe. And someone’s going to be very sorry...
Gloria is a good girl. Hailing from a newly-rich family in Chicago, Gloria doesn't stray from the rules, and she certainly doesn't deviate from the norm. That doesn't, however, mean that she doesn't want more. She dreams of the beautiful hair and dresses. She longs for the parties and the fun, but at the end of the day, she's engaged to be married, and that's certain to tame her forever. But there's a chance, just a chance, that Gloria can enjoy her hey-dey before the the big day. Is it worth it though to risk it all, and will Clara, Lorraine and Gloria's friendship survive the drama of the the roaring twenties?

Confession time...I'm a tidbit obsessed with the the 20's era. There's something about the carefree, mobster mentality of that time period; the glitz, the glam, the excessiveness and grandeur of it all that is daring, provocative and decidedly alluring. Vixen by author, Jillian Larkin, takes the heart of the 20's and spills it onto the pages, immersing you in a world that's both enticing and liberating. Rich, vivid and alive, Vixen brings you back to a time that's a party on the outside, but is teeming with an undercurrent of drama...just waiting to suck you in.

I've waited so very long to read this one, and I'll admit that it's in large part due to the size of the book. It's not the longest book I've ever read, but with an endless review queue, it just never seemed to push its way to the top. I digress. Vixen brought out a mixed bag of emotions for me because it had some tremendously strong suits, but it also had some flaws, which undermined its ultimate potential. In terms of strength though, it must be noted that the author has done her homework about the time period because this book is alive. The backdrop for the story is alive with details, and we savour each and every one because they make it all the more exciting. I felt as though I was experiencing life within a speakeasy firsthand. From the perfectly coiffed hair, to the extravagant dresses, overflowing liquor, dancing and more, the 20's are completely and utterly alive in this book. However, this strength also served to be a bit of a downfall to Vixen for me, as well. To bring such great detail to the story, we're offered almost half the book in backstory and setting the scene. For this reason, I almost feel as though the characters, Gloria, Clara and Lorraine served only as supporting characters to the backdrop. Of the three girls, I found Gloria to be the most sympathetic. She was fun and spunky, but she also hesitated to deviate from the norm because of extenuating circumstances. That said, when she lets loose, she does so in full, and it's just as liberating for us. Clara was a mess, in my opinion. I could never really get a grasp on what she wanted - whether it was to redeem her character, or simply revert to her old ways. Lorraine, too, grated my nerves. While she was, perhaps, the most plausible, this girl was also quite unstable, which made her chapters unsettling. When I did close the book, I have to say that the 20's were more alive for me than the characters, and I'm not sure how I feel about that.

All in all, I really do like the setup for Vixen. I just wanted more from these characters because if it's a series in which I'm supposed to invest my time, I feel I should know the characters' motivations. I give this book a 3 out of 5, and I recommend it to fans of YA and historical fiction.

Let's Talk: The Best & Worst Series Endings

Friday, August 23, 2013

Let's Talk is a weekly feature here at i swim for oceans. I think it's important that we all have our say, and there's something to be said for raising our voices. Simply put, here on the little old blog, I like to host some of my very own discussion posts because, well, I like to converse with you all.

And so, Let's Talk will feature questions or prompts, which I will answer, too. Love it or hate it, weigh in or don't, it's my hope that Let's Talk will at least get you thinking...and maybe even get you discussing with the rest of us!
What do you consider to be the best (and worst) series endings?

I don't know about the rest of you, but a series is defined almost entirely by its ending for me these days. Perhaps it's because I'm hyper-critical of these worlds we're asked to become invested in, or perhaps it's because they require a commitment. Whatever it is though, if a series ends well, I love it. If it ends poorly though...I tend to think lesser of the whole series, unfortunately. I managed to whittle it down to just one of each, and that's saying something. It was HARD! But seriously, I do have one clear favourite and one book that just crushed my faith in the series.

In terms of Harry Potter, the reason the series worked so well for me is because we finally got to see a sense of resolution. Throughout the series, we become invested in Harry's plight, as well as his selflessness, his relationships with his peers and mentors and the character arcs which serve to make the story all the more powerful. In the end, there's a finality of it, that sums it up nicely, but leaves no real loose ends for us to gape over. I felt as though I wanted more because I was invested in the story (and that's the mark of a great series), but I understood the end. And I loved it.

The Shade of the Moon, however, fits the opposite end of the spectrum for me, unfortunately. I really loved the first book in the series, Life as We Knew it. It was powerful, strong and it really resonated with me. However, the series started to go downhill from there (in my humble opinion, of course). I loved the series enough to progress and keep giving it a chance to redeem itself, but this final installment strayed so far from what I once loved that it was nearly the final nail in the coffin for me. I couldn't deal with the lack of hope, the lack of true character and the lack of plausibility. So, in the end, the way this book ended for me just felt as though it betrayed the beginning.

What about you? What are your favourite (and least favourite) series endings?

The Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler Review

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Title: The Book of Broken Hearts
Author: Sarah Ockler (Twitter)
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publish Date: May 21, 2013
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Pages: 352
Source: Personal Copy

Jude has learned a lot from her older sisters, but the most important thing is this: The Vargas brothers are notorious heartbreakers. She’s seen the tears and disasters that dating a Vargas boy can cause, and she swore an oath—with candles and a contract and everything—to never have anything to do with one.

Now Jude is the only sister still living at home, and she’s spending the summer helping her ailing father restore his vintage motorcycle—which means hiring a mechanic to help out. Is it Jude’s fault he happens to be cute? And surprisingly sweet? And a Vargas?

Jude tells herself it’s strictly bike business with Emilio. Her sisters will never find out, and Jude can spot those flirty little Vargas tricks a mile away—no way would she fall for them. But Jude’s defenses are crumbling, and if history is destined to repeat itself, she’s speeding toward some serious heartbreak…unless her sisters were wrong? Jude may have taken an oath, but she’s beginning to think that when it comes to love, some promises might be worth breaking.
It's Jude's final summer at home before college begins in the fall, and she's planning a summer of all the traditional fixings...but with a twist. Jude's the final of four daughters to leave the nest, which means that her summer will also be spent caring for and watching over her ailing father. As she watches her father slowly but surely begin to succumb to early-onset Alzheimer's, she finds just the ticket to bring a little spark back into their final summer together at home. Together, they'll repair her father's old motorcycle...but that means she must also interact with a Vargas boy, which means trouble. And, perhaps, just a little bit of love.

I've been on a bit of a contemporary bender as of late, but I tend to struggle with my selections, simply because I am extremely picky when it comes to the type and quality of the genre that I read. The Book of Broken Hearts was highly recommended to me by Ginger from GReads and, trusting her expertise on the genre, I decided to give it a whirl. It's not my first novel by author, Sarah Ockler, and I can wholeheartedly say it won't be my last. Where the cover might imply a sweet, simple story, we're presented with enormous challenges, pain and the desire to change. Evocative and emotional, The Book of Broken Hearts will shatter yours into a million pieces, all the while slowly but surely piecing it back together.

Before I can even start my review, I must simply state that this book is precariously close to the line of perfection, perhaps even toeing it. It embraces and embodies all the pain and challenges that come with a disease that is all-too familiar to many of us, and while we feel the deep and profound sense of loss that both Jude and her father feel, we also sense the connection that this debilitating disease is awakening. There is a delicate darkness to the subject matter of The Book of Broken Hearts because Jude's father's illness is always lurking stealthily in the background, waiting to strip away his last bit of dignity. However, through it, watching Jude build a beautiful and powerful relationship with her father was incredible. I worried a bit about the relationship aspect of the story, simply because I thought it would overpower the connection that Jude had with her father. Rather though, we see Jude's initial prejudices from years of scheming with her sisters against the Vargas brothers, and we see Emilio for far more than the girls thought he was. While her home life fought an uphill battle, Emilio was that proverbial lighthouse in the storm. He was sweet, kind, caring and patient, and we watch as his strength serves to bolster Jude's, giving her the strength she needs to survive her struggles. Emilio originally came off as cocky and, perhaps, a bit arrogant, but we see that beneath this teasing, he is a genuine, gentle guy who could melt your heart with his character, as well as his dimples. I felt as though I was utterly absorbed in the story, feeling every heartbreak, every laugh, every single bump in the road, and that, my friends, is what makes The Book of Broken Hearts work so very well.

I've always said that the books we love the most are the hardest ones to review, and I can guarantee I did not do this book justice. I do, however, hope lots of other readers will see my ramblings and give The Book of Broken Hearts a go. I give it a 5 out of 5, and I highly recommend it to fans of YA, especially those who enjoy strong contemporary fiction.

Waiting on Wednesday: The Glass Casket

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill from Breaking the Spine, and specifically spotlights upcoming novels we can't wait to read. As always, there are some amazing upcoming books, but this week I'm particularly excited for...

Title: The Glass Casket
Author: McCormick Templeman (Twitter)
Publisher: Delacorte
Publish Date: February 11, 2014
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Pages: 352

Death hasn’t visited Rowan Rose since it took her mother when Rowan was only a little girl. But that changes one bleak morning, when five horses and their riders thunder into her village and through the forest, disappearing into the hills. Days later, the riders’ bodies are found, and though no one can say for certain what happened in their final hours, their remains prove that whatever it was must have been brutal.

Rowan’s village was once a tranquil place, but now things have changed. Something has followed the path those riders made and has come down from the hills, through the forest, and into the village. Beast or man, it has brought death to Rowan’s door once again.

Only this time, its appetite is insatiable.
As someone with a penchant for eerie, slightly off-kilter reads, you'd better believe that the synopsis of The Glass Casket speaks to me. There's nothing quite like a fantasy book that meshes together a haunting fairy tale retelling with a touch of the paranormal, a hint of darkness and a whole lot of fantasy drama. Plus, it really doesn't hurt that the pop of colour on the cover of this one makes the already-impressive packaging even better. Trust me, I'll be salivating over this one until I get my hands on it! What do you think, and what are you waiting on this week?

Top Ten Tuesday: Things that Make Being a Book Blogger Easier

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. The feature was created because they are particularly fond of lists over at The Broke and the Bookish.

Each week they will post a new top ten list that one of our bloggers at The Broke and the Bookish will answer. Everyone is welcome to join. All they ask is that you link back to The Broke and the Bookish on your own Top Ten Tuesday post AND add your name to the Linky widget so that everyone can check out other bloggers lists! If you don't have a blog, just post your answers as a comment. Have fun with it! It's a great way to get to know your fellow bloggers.

Top Ten Things That Make Being a Book Blogger/Reviewer Easier

1. NetGalley - The easiest way to read and access eARCs. Plain and simply, my friends. It's fantastic.

2. eReader - I own a Barnes & Noble Nook. While I'm attached to my hard copies, this lil' device has changed reviewing books for the better. Forever.

3. SEO - It sounds silly, but my day job has made my book blogging easier. SEO lets me make my site more visible to search engines and to lovely readers like you.

4. Edelweiss - I swear this is one of the best kept secrets of book blogging. It's incredible to browse and sometimes access e-galleys from publisher catalogs.

5. Book Expo America - If you've been, you get it. Meet the publishers, meet the authors, meet your friends. It's awesome.

6. Facebook - This is a no-brainer. Connect with one of the largest social engines on the web and your site and reach will boost exponentially.

7. Book Blogger Convention - I only went the first year, but I hear it got a lot better this past year, which means it can only get better. I can't wait to see what else they have in store for us.

8. LibraryThing - Enter your library. Share it with a community of book lovers like yourself. Spread the word about great books. It's awesome.

9. Twitter - This is also a pretty obvious one. Real-time interactions between authors, book lovers and publishers, plus an easy way to get the word out about your posts? Yes, please.

10. Goodreads - This should be first on my list, and it kind of really is. I think that reviewing was made a HELL of a lot more simple with this awesome site. To date, I've posted 382 reviews there, and I have really found some of the best recommendations and libraries ever. I love it. You MUST have it.

Cold Magic by Kate Elliot Review

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Title: Cold Magic
Author: Kate Elliot (Twitter)
Publisher: Orbit
Publish Date: September 2, 2010
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Pages: 528
Source: Personal Copy

Young Cat Barahal thinks she understands the world she lives in and her place in it, but in fact she is merely poised, unaware, on the brink of shattering events. Drawn into a labyrinth of politics involving blood, betrayal and old feuds, she will be forced to make an unexpected and perilous journey in order to discover the truth, not just about her own family but about an ancient secret lying at the heart of her world.

Cat and her cousin Bee are part of this revolution. Young women at college, learning of the science that will shape their future and ignorant of the magics that rule their families. But all of that will change when the Cold Mages come for Cat. New dangers lurk around every corner and hidden threats menace her every move. If blood can't be trusted, who can you trust?
Cat's world is in constant upheaval. Living with her cousin, Bee, who is more like a sister than anything else, Cat has finally found a sort of normalcy, but the time she lives in is dangerous and unsettled. She lives in a time when cold mages hold all the power, and a mysterious lurking threat from the spirit world breathes unrest on the population. But the danger is about to come more real when a cold mage demands to marry the eldest Barahal daughter and her life is and future becomes intertwined in his. What magic will she discover on this journey, and what really lies in her bloodlines.

I'm always a bit hesitant to embark on a new fantasy series, simply because if I cannot find myself getting lost in the world, I'm not sure it could ever work for me. Luckily enough, Cold Magic is a breathtakingly put-together novel and author, Kate Elliot, has given us a world that is so clear, so defined and so very magical that it's impossible to not fully immerse yourself within it. Rich, layered and intricately detailed, Cold Magic gives us a world that is every bit as real as ours, but re-imagined, re-invigorated and heightened with a whole other layer of drama.

Cold Magic is probably one of the best fantasy novels I've read in a long time, if only for the fact that it seamlessly merges two fairly overlooked genres - steampunk and fantasy - together. The world given to us within the pages is one that's rich with history and peppered with magical and technological elements that serve to bolster this world and bring it alive, almost as if it's a character in its own right. This world-building was, however, a bit of a double-edged sword. The page count of this novel is quite hefty, as most fantasy novels are, and the beginning of the novel is heavily laden with descriptions, and the complexity of it all was, at first, rather alarming and overwhelming. We're given rich backstory, as well as a strong and definitive definition of the classes, hierarchies and the messy battle between magic and science in the society. It was easy to feel flustered by the sheer amount of information provided, but it was also clear that the author was setting the scene for what could become an extremely powerful series. Cat, as our protagonist, soared for me. She was strong and independent in a believable and un-cliche manner. She felt entirely real with her firm convictions and the steadfastness in her beliefs, plus the fact that she was never afraid to speak her mind. Andevai was a character whom I thought I'd hate after a rough introduction to him, but there is so much more to him than this condescending air which he first presents. Slowly but surely, he stole my heart through this book and really vied for the top place of my favourite character. Plus, Cold Magic steadily builds a hearty tension between Cat and Andevai, which I must say really, really intrigues me.

Overall, despite an extraordinary amount of information and details, I really enjoyed Cold Magic, and I felt it was a promising start to what could be a great new series. I'm definitely intrigued to see what happens next. I give it a 4 out of 5, and I highly recommend it to fans of fantasy and steampunk novels. 

Let's Talk: Books that Should or Shouldn't Have Sequels

Friday, August 16, 2013

Let's Talk is a weekly feature here at i swim for oceans. I think it's important that we all have our say, and there's something to be said for raising our voices. Simply put, here on the little old blog, I like to host some of my very own discussion posts because, well, I like to converse with you all.

And so, Let's Talk will feature questions or prompts, which I will answer, too. Love it or hate it, weigh in or don't, it's my hope that Let's Talk will at least get you thinking...and maybe even get you discussing with the rest of us!
What book(s) do you wish didn't have sequels (or vice versa)?

You know we've all been there. We've desperately wanted a sequel to a book that we loved so, so much. Or, on the flip side, we're desperately craving a sequel and the author is a being a tricky B and never giving us exactly what we want. (Well played, authors.) I can definitely pinpoint two books on my shelves though that stand out; one, for wishing for a sequel and the other, for wishing the sequel never happened.

A. Return to Paradise by Simone Elkeles was the much-anticipated sequel to Leaving Paradise, which is one of my favourite contemporary books of all time. And, for one who avoided contemps like the plague for the longest time, that's really saying something. So, naturally, when the second book was announced, I was decidedly gleeful. Unfortunately though, I felt that the sequel strayed from the melancholy, heartbreaking magic that made the first book soar. We lost what we loved most about Maggie and Caleb and, most sad of all, was simply the fact that every outcome I thought we might see just didn't happen. I was so, so let down. 

B. Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis was a newer read of mine that actually caught me kind of off guard...in the best possible way. I've been seriously burned off of the dystopian genre as of late, but this book really surprised me with the sparse characters, brutal honesty and a very biased viewpoint. The author makes it work though, throwing obstacles in our paths left, right and center, putting us in Lynn's shoes and making us feel her pain. While I did think the action went too fast at the end, I think it almost wrapped up what could have been a sequel. I'm both happy and sad about that because the author gave us a fitting end, but I'm left wanting more!

What about you? What books do you wish did or didn't have a sequel?

Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer by Katie Alender Review

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Title: Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer
Author: Katie Alender (Twitter)
Publisher: Scholastic
Publish Date: September 24, 2013
Genre: YA, Thriller, Mystery
Pages: 304
Source: Publisher

Colette Iselin is excited to go to Paris on a class trip. She’ll get to soak up the beauty and culture, and maybe even learn something about her family’s French roots.

But a series of gruesome murders are taking place across the city, putting everyone on edge. And as she tours museums and palaces, Colette keeps seeing a strange vision: a pale woman in a ball gown and powdered wig, who looks suspiciously like Marie Antoinette.

Colette knows her popular, status-obsessed friends won’t believe her, so she seeks out the help of a charming French boy. Together, they uncover a shocking secret involving a dark, hidden history. When Colette realizes she herself may hold the key to the mystery, her own life is suddenly in danger...
Colette really just wanted to enjoy a holiday with her best friends in the City of Lights, but she got a whole lot more than she bargained for. All she'd expected was a chance to escape her tumultuous family life at home, bask in the beauty of the city and, of course, see all the cute guys. But her trip is overshadowed as Colette continues to see an odd vision of a historical woman parading around in a ball gown and wig. She knows it's not possible, and she knows she'll be risking her own social status, but could it possibly be who she thinks it is?

First and foremost, there is nothing greater than a novel that takes the past and brings it alive through its pages. Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer offers readers a true glimpse into the bright, beautiful and dangerous history of Paris. Author, Katie Alender, offers readers a chance to absorb the magnificent culture of France, merging it beautifully with modern-day nuances, grisly details and a story worth reading. Rich, vivid and alive, Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer is sure to melt the heart of many a historical fiction lover.

I had a really difficult time formulating this review because, for the most part, I really enjoyed this book. However, it kind of left two vastly different tastes in my mouth. I'll begin with what I loved. Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer does an absolutely stellar job of bringing Paris alive through the rich imagery, spot-on descriptions and true feeling for the City of Lights. From Versailles, to the Louvre and more, the book puts you in the actual locales so that we experience the environment as though we're actually there in person. Furthermore, the book doesn't shy away from the eerie and macabre details of the victims' deaths, which makes it a hearty thriller in its own right. And, funny enough, I love a good thriller that stays true to its title. Now, I did have a few issues with the novel though. Colette was an extremely unlikable character in the beginning, and her clique of girls was cruel, snide and altogether unpleasant, which made it extremely difficult for me to feel any sort of empathy for her situation. Now, trust me, I understand why she blindly followed the mean girls. She feared losing her status, but it makes it difficult to like a character when, at first, we aren't privvied to any redeeming qualities. There was some definitive character growth in the end though, so I'll give it that. I guess my real issue with Marie Anoinette, Serial Killer lies within the title itself. The synopsis teases a mystery, which immediately piques my interest, but it didn't take long to realize that the title of the book actually reveals the meat of the mystery anyway. Perhaps it's just me, but I find that to be an incredibly risky and, unfortunately, poor move. The book did, however, have a strong highlight in the sweet love interest, Jules, and I felt that he added another dimension to the otherwise shallow characters. 

Overall, I was decidedly entertained by Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer despite its flaws. I wanted more, but perhaps that's just the picky blogger in me. I give it a 3.5 out of 5, and I recommend it to all fans of YA, especially those who enjoy historial fiction and thrillers.

I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.

Waiting on Wednesday: Witch Finder

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill from Breaking the Spine, and specifically spotlights upcoming novels we can't wait to read. As always, there are some amazing upcoming books, but this week I'm particularly excited for...

Title: Witch Finder
Publish Date: January 2, 2014
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, 
Pages: Unknown

London. 1880. In the slums of Spitalfields apprentice blacksmith Luke is facing initiation into the Malleus Maleficorum, the fearsome brotherhood dedicated to hunting and killing witches.

Luke’s final test is to pick a name at random from the Book of Witches, a name he must track down and kill within a month, or face death himself. Luke knows that tonight will change his life forever. But when he picks out sixteen-year-old Rosa Greenwood, Luke has no idea that his task will be harder than he could ever imagine.
It's been a while since I've read a good historical fiction novel. It's been even longer since a book about witches really captured my eye. In fact, I think it's been since before I started blogging 3+ years ago. Witch Finder sounds rich, layered, complex and just romantic enough to capture more than just the historical fiction crowd. Plus, when a novel like this ventures on the paranormal and gives a fabulous setting (and cover - holy crap!) to book, I'm obviously sold. What do you think, and what are you waiting on this week?

Top Ten Tuesday: Books with Amazing Settings

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. The feature was created because they are particularly fond of lists over at The Broke and the Bookish.

Each week they will post a new top ten list that one of our bloggers at The Broke and the Bookish will answer. Everyone is welcome to join. All they ask is that you link back to The Broke and the Bookish on your own Top Ten Tuesday post AND add your name to the Linky widget so that everyone can check out other bloggers lists! If you don't have a blog, just post your answers as a comment. Have fun with it! It's a great way to get to know your fellow bloggers.

The Top Ten Books with Amazing Settings

I did my own take on this prompt this week. Rather than settle for just one type of setting, I'm going with allllll of the amazing settings we're offered in the genres we read...and there are a lot. So, without further ado. Here are my favourite books with absolutely epic settings.

1. The Harry Potter Series - Let's be really, really honest here, guys. Does it get better than Hogwarts, Diagon Alley, The Burrow, the Ministry of Magic, The Forbidden Forest...yeah, the list goes on. Let me answer you. No, it doesn't get better.

2. The Raft - It takes a really, really strong novel to have a book with one main setting and one sole character on said setting to make it work so well. The raft and the island were terrifyingly realistic - and awesome - places to be.

3. The Lightning Thief - Despite my initial hesitance to become invested in this series, I couldn't help but fall in love with it. I really would give my right leg to go to Camp Half-Blood.

4. Across the Universe - There's something about a novel set in space that makes it a zillion times more awesome. That's not even an approximate. That's just a real number, my friends. Plus, the good ship Godspeed is both awesome and scary. Love.

5. The Diviners - New York City? Check. The roaring 20's? Check. Really wish I had a time machine? Yeah, check, check, check. Seriously, how awesome would it be to experience the amazing backdrop of this book in person?

6. Graceling - Well, technically, there are seven different kingdoms in this novel, which gives us a whole lot to choose from in terms of settings. I loved the Middluns though. It was very medieval, and it was totally alive.

7. Raw Blue - Who doesn't want to read about life on a beach in Australia? Carly's world is one of breaking waves, sunshine and sand, and it's our immersion in her world that brings light into her very dark and painful past.

8. 172 Hours on the Moon - But really, like I said before, guys. Space. It's vast, it's empty, and it's a whole lot of nothingness filled with incredible mystery and terror. Give me that any day, and I'm sold.

9. The Forest of Hands and Teeth - In a very character-driven novel, the Forest of Hands and Teeth actually feels like a character in its own right in this novel. It's a terrifying possibility, and the probability is even that much better.

10. Carnival of Souls - Though I wasn't the biggest fan of this book, I have to say that Melissa Marr succeeded in bringing the City of Daimons alive. Dang, that place is brutal. I don't know that I'd want to go, but it's sure awesome to explore through the pages.

The Julian Game by Adele Griffin Review

Monday, August 12, 2013

Title: The Julian Game
Author: Adele Griffin (Twitter)
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Publish Date: August 26, 2010
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Pages: 200
Source: Personal Copy

All new girl Raye Archer wants is a way into the in crowd, so when ice-queen Ella Parker picks her to get back at her ex, the gorgeous Julian Kilgarry, Raye is more than game. Even if it means creating a fake Facebook identity so she can learn enough about Julian to sabotage him. It's a fun and dangerous thrill at first, but Raye hadn't counted on falling for Julian herself-and igniting Ella's rage.

As Raye works to reconcile the temptress Elizabeth with her real-life self, Ella serves up her own revenge, creating an online smear campaign of nasty rumors and trashy photographs. Suddenly notorious, Raye has to find a way out of the web of deceit that she's helped to build, and back to the relationships that matter.
Raye doesn't fit in in her new school. While most students at the all-girls prep school are there because of their parents' wealthy status, Raye is on scholarship. And, what's more, all Raye really wants is to fit in with a few friends. On a whim, she and her friend, Natalya, create an online profile that embodies everything they're not - witty, popular, sexy and wanted. But their harmless prank goes horribly awry when Raye falls into the clutches of mean girl, Ella. But Raye realizes quickly that things on the internet never really disappear, and sometimes the scheming sorts of bullying are worse than outright treachery.

I bought this book a long time ago and, if I'm being entirely honest, I never really put two and two together to figure out that this is by Adele Griffin, also known as one of my favourite authors. The Julian Game is a cloak and dagger maze of lies, ambition, bullying and the thin, deceitful veil of the virtual world. Giving readers a taste of revenge, a hearty dose of resentment and a topping of malice and melee, this book blows the doors wide open on cyber-bullying. Offering a fast pace, steady drama and characters worth fighting for, The Julian Game plays its cards right.

I had some hesitations when it came to reviewing The Julian Game because most of the reviews I've seen for it average around three stars. Nevertheless, I've been challenging myself to read more contemporary novels, so this one definitely fit the bill. Raye was a great character to make this novel revolve around. Though she's a social outcast, she's never really self-deprecating or pathetic. Rather, she's like every other teenage girl - just trying to find the social circle in which to survive high school. The beauty of her character is that she doesn't really feel the need to stretch the bounds though. Yes, she wishes she could fit in, but she's also content with her life as it is. I did feel as though I lost her slightly when Ella's offer to bring her into the fold started to sway her, but it was believable above all else. Many a teen would do the same thing. Ella was the stereotypical mean girl that we've all heard of, but she kicks it up a notch with her scheming, backstabbing and deceit. She was willing to step on and walk all over anyone to remain at the top. While I've never really encountered an Ella in my life, I know many people who have, and her vindictive nature left an acrid taste in my mouth page after page. I do like that, at times, we feel something other than blind hatred for the girl, but I also like the fact that The Julian Game never actually makes an excuse for her actions. The plot, itself, is decidedly malicious, but it reads well for the young adult crowd. It never felt over-the-top or cloying, and the novel definitely made a case harder repercussions for cyberbullying. While spoken words sting and last for a while, eventually the wounds heal. Bullying on the internet lasts forever, and The Julian Game slyly shows us that it will never truly end once it hits the web. 

Overall, The Julian Game was a well-written, quick read about a very relevant topic in our day and age. It's a fast read, and the author's signature prose will capture you from the start, leading you into a thoughtful, articulate and engaging web of lies. I give it a 4 out of 5, and I definitely recommend it to all fans of YA, especially those who enjoy contemporary fiction.

Fall for Anything by Courtney Summers Review

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Title: Fall for Anything
Author: Courtney Summers (Twitter)
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Publish Date: December 21, 2010
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Pages: 230
Source: Personal Copy

When Eddie Reeves’s father commits suicide her life is consumed by the nagging question of why? Why when he was a legendary photographer and a brilliant teacher? Why when he seemed to find inspiration in everything he saw? And, most important, why when he had a daughter who loved him more than anyone else in the world? When she meets Culler Evans, a former student of her father’s and a photographer himself, an instant and dangerous attraction begins.

Culler seems to know more about her father than she does and could possibly hold the key to the mystery surrounding his death. But Eddie’s vulnerability has weakened her and Culler Evans is getting too close. Her need for the truth keeps her hanging on...but are some questions better left unanswered?
Eddie is devastated. The one person whom she loved above all else in life took his own life, and she's now without a father and desperate for answers. She needs some sort of meaning to the nonsensical madness of his suicide, and she'll do just about anything to find out why. As her mother spirals deeper into depression, a nosy neighbor moves in to "help" and Eddie's life gets more and more confusing, she wants answers. Culler might be able to help her piece the clues together, but does she really want to know the reason why?

In typical Courtney Summers fashion, Fall for Anything is, in a nutshell, a hard, thought-provoking and powerful novel. Never shying away from the darkness of the story itself, the book spirals into the cold, bleak darkness that we watch our main character surrounded by since her father's death. We're offered hundreds of emotions to choose from, and we're bathed in grief and loss from the start, invited on a powerful and gut-wrenching journey to understand the meaning why the man who, for all intents and purposes had it all, would kill himself in a single, desperate act. This novel will hit you fast and hard, and ask you to experience the journey to peace with Eddie.

I don't know why I put off reading Fall for Anything for so long. I've read a couple other titles by the author, and I've never been disappointed. Summers' books never shy away from the shadows and darkness of human grief and anger. Rather, they welcome it in full force, and this book was no exception. Eddie was an extremely believable main character. She's a teenage girl that's been absolutely obliterated by the loss of her father, and she's forced to endure Beth telling her how to grieve and her mother's inability to cope at all. The beauty of her character, too, is that she's not censored. She's broken, hostile, lashing out and grieving in her own way. It's tragically beautiful to see this extremely personal process laid out so very plainly on the pages. Culler plays a perfect role in the novel, too. Though his appearance in the novel made me cringe a bit at times, and I hesitated to trust his intentions, I could understand the connection between Eddie and Culler. She wanted answers and a diversion. He offered what seemed like the former and definitely the latter. In all honesty, the one thing I really wanted more of was Milo. There was a refreshing vibe from him that sparked a light in Eddie and Culler did not. Honestly though, I could lay out the plot points of Fall for Anything and tell you nothing though. The strength and power of the novel lies in the message, which subtly fuels the plot throughout. It's raw, challenging and gritty, and it never ever tries to mask the fact that grief is subjective, suicide is horrific not only for the life lost but for those left behind and it creates a void that can never be filled. Full disclaimer - shortly before I was born, my cousin took her own life, and though I never met her, I know that void was never filled in my Aunt and Uncle - or anyone for that matter. And that, my friends, is why I was able to reconcile myself with the somewhat open ending of the novel. At the end of the day, we'll never really know why unless that person explicitly informs everyone of their motives before committing the act. But, in the end, coping with a suicide isn't about finding the answers in the end. It's simply about coming to terms with the loss and learning to live with it. In that way, Fall for Anything completely and utterly succeeds.

Overall, I'm not at all surprised to say that I absolutely loved Fall for Anything (well, as much as you can love a book like this). It's not an easy read, but it's definitely an important one. I give it a 4.5 out of 5, and I highly recommend it all fans of YA, especially those who like darker contemporary fiction.

Jane by April Lindner Review

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Title: Jane
Author: April Lindner (Twitter)
Publisher: Poppy
Publish Date: October 11, 2010
Genre: NA, Contemporary
Pages: 373
Source: Personal Copy

Forced to drop out of an esteemed East Coast college after the sudden death of her parents, Jane Moore takes a nanny job at Thornfield Park, the estate of Nico Rathburn, a world-famous rock star on the brink of a huge comeback. Practical and independent, Jane reluctantly becomes entranced by her magnetic and brooding employer and finds herself in the midst of a forbidden romance.

But there's a mystery at Thornfield, and Jane's much-envied relationship with Nico is soon tested by an agonizing secret from his past. Torn between her feelings for Nico and his fateful secret, Jane must decide: Does being true to herself mean giving up on true love?
Jane Moore didn't fit in. After facing the tragic deaths of her parents and being left penniless, Jane has to make some drastic changes in her life. She drops out of college and sets to work seeking a nanny job, if only to break even for a little while. But, Jane, the girl who never felt the need or desire to throw herself into pop culture finds herself in an interesting position. Acclaimed rocker, Nico Rathburn, needs a nanny, and her desire to simply survive, rather than seek fame, makes her the perfect match. But Jane soon finds herself very at home at his estate...and she may very well have put her heart in harm's way again. 

A few weeks ago, I do believe I confessed that I'd never read Jane Eyre. Well, I rectified that situation and, despite my initial struggle and reluctance, I found it to be a pretty remarkable read. Back in 2010, Jane was on my TBR, but having not read the book upon which it was based, I never got around to reading it. Drawing upon its classic counterpart, April Lindner weaves the classic tale into a novel that modern-day generations will relate to, empathize with and grow to love. While holding fast to its roots, Jane doesn't hesitate to spin us into a world that is entirely familiar but in a whole new setting, time and place.

I've read a bunch of retellings during my time as a book blogger, and I have to be honest and say that most of them really just haven't lived up. Either they cling too heavily to the classics, or they differ to greatly, and I do admit that it's an incredibly delicate balance for an author to manage. Jane Moore was, however, the epitome of Jane Eyre, and that was my first clue that this book might just have the ability to hold up against the classic. Jane is a very plainspoken, true and honest character. She's extremely forthright in her demeanor, in large part because of her upbringing, but this novel gave us a bit of a more lasting taste of her vulnerability. She's lost a lot, and she has a lot to gain from her job as a nanny in Nico's household, but first she has to almost lower her guard a bit. I was actually also extremely surprised at how well Nico embodied the persona of Mr. Rochester. He's decidedly hot, he's a musician and, for all intents and purposes, he's well above Jane in terms of class. Despite this though, the romance between Jane and Nico is delicious, appealing and flawless, really. Like the layers of an onion, we peel back these careful walls the characters have built and watch as they bare their souls to one another in such a true and honest fashion that we can't help but become invested in their story. Furthermore, the author writes with such a steady, confident hand that it mirrors how we feel about Jane. The prose is simple and stark, but it speaks volumes and lets the plot and romance sing through. In fact, truth be told, the only flaw I could mention about this novel is the slower entrance to the story and the need to fully detach myself from Jane Eyre to be able to full enjoy Jane.

Overall, I was really, really impressed with Jane. I think it's a worth retelling and, despite seeing many poor reviews, I think this book was brilliant, and I love the author's writing style. I give it a 4.5 out of 5 and, though marketed as YA, I would actually recommend this to both YA and NA audiences, especially those who enjoy contemporary fiction and classic story retellings

Let's Talk: Most Anticipated Fall and Winter Books

Friday, August 9, 2013

Let's Talk is a weekly feature here at i swim for oceans. I think it's important that we all have our say, and there's something to be said for raising our voices. Simply put, here on the little old blog, I like to host some of my very own discussion posts because, well, I like to converse with you all.

And so, Let's Talk will feature questions or prompts, which I will answer, too. Love it or hate it, weigh in or don't, it's my hope that Let's Talk will at least get you thinking...and maybe even get you discussing with the rest of us!
What fall & winter books are you most looking forward to?

First of all, it's next to impossible to pick just a handful of books that I'm most looking forward to for the fall/winter 2013/2014 season, simply because there are so many awesome titles releasing. However, I did manage to pare it down to just four...though it was like pulling teeth just to do that...

A. Avalon by Mindee Arnett - So, I have a thing for crossover books and books that really test the bounds of the genres which they're supposedly a part of. This one sounds like the most perfect blend of dystopian fiction, which has been really hit or miss for me lately, and science fiction, which has really worked for me lately. Plus, the cover's to die for. 

B. Premeditated by Josin McQuein - There is something so very putrid and satisfying (two works that really shouldn't go together) about stories that involve revenge. If done well, books like these can bring out the most basic human emotions and stitch together a journey that's terrifying, painful and totally real. This book could seriously be a winner if it lives up to its synopsis and cover.

C. Ashes to Ashes by Melissa Walker - So, it's been almost a year and a half since I've read a really great paranormal story, and I've yet to read the perfect ghost book in my 3+ years of book blogging. There's something sad and lonely about this one, but just eerie and romantic enough, as well, to completely and totally capture my attention.

D. Fault Line by Christa Desir - I love gritty, realistic contemporary fiction, and lately we've had a lot to choose from within the YA market, which is super exciting. This one seems like it could very well be the perfect blend of romance, mystery, pain, friendship and overcoming obstacles. I really, really can't wait to see what this book holds for us.

What about you? What books are you most anticipating this fall and winter?

Blackout by Robison Wells Review

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Title: Blackout
Author: Robison Wells (Twitter)
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publish Date: October 1, 2013
Genre: YA, Sci-Fi
Pages: 432
Source: Publisher

Laura and Alec are trained terrorists. Jack and Aubrey are high school students. There was no reason for them to ever meet.

But now, a mysterious virus is spreading throughout America, infecting teenagers with impossible powers. And these four are about to find their lives intertwined in a complex web of deception, loyalty, and catastrophic danger—where one wrong choice could trigger an explosion that ends it all.
Aubrey didn't have a very exciting life before. She was barely noticeable on the best of days, and when she was noticed it was because of her father, the drunk, or her less than posh clothing. Jack didn't care though. There was always something about her that he knew was special, even if she didn't know it herself. When Aubrey starts developing the power to disappear, she has to push away the ones she holds closest and live a lie. But the lies are catching up. The government is zeroing in on Lambdas - kids with powers - and using them to fight terrorists that harbour the same virus...but who can they really trust, and just how much does this virus take over their own beings?

I've read previous works by Robison Wells, and I've been nothing but impressed, so I've been just itching to read Blackout for some time now. Capitalizing on a the buzz of the sci-fi genre, this book offers readers a little bit of everything - war games, intrigue, powers and a sweet, soaring love to keep you invested in the characters throughout. Brimming with drama, overflowing with suspense and offering fans of the genre a series of modern-day heroes in whom to believe, Blackout will give you a taste of awesome and leave you wanting more.

I had a tricky time crafting my review for Blackout because while there was a lot about this story that I absolutely loved, I did have a few issues with it, as well. First off though, I loved Aubrey's character. We're not introduced to her first, but I feel as though her story arc became the most prominent in later chapters, and I latched onto her storyline above the others. She was a perfect mix of vulnerability, opportunism and strength. She clearly didn't have the best home life, but she did the best she could, and she certainly took advantage of the power she'd been given. It was something that I believed anyone her age would actually do, so I felt like I could understand her better. Jack, too, was a great character. He had the sort of all-American vibe to him that made you simply want to root for him just because he's a darn good guy. Plus, he has this almost adoration of Aubrey that is honest, pure and heartfelt. I loved that their gentle romance didn't simply jump to love. Rather, it stayed innocent and true of a simple teenage relationship. I don't feel as though I got to know Alex or Laura enough to form true opinions on their characters, though their arcs are just as important, if not moreso. Laura, from what I could tell, was a badass for all intents and purposes, but sometimes she showed a softer side. I never really got a grasp on whether that was all for show, or if it was real. Alec, was just a villain...and by a villain, I just mean he was generally an ass. My main issue with Blackout, however, is that we're given terrorists fighting a war with their superpowers, but we never really get to know what they're fighting for. What was their agenda? What exactly did they want? Then, we see that the government wants to mobilize these teens, activate their powers and pit them against the terrorist teens. My big question that seemed to stick with me throughout was just...why? Don't get me wrong, this story has a lot of elements that are crucial for success. We have incredible powers, multi-dimensional characters, a strong premise and all the makings for a great setup. I just think we need a little more backstory behind the rift in society to better understand why the world has fallen to pieces.

Overall, Blackout is an incredibly intriguing concept, and I'm invested enough in the kids' stories to want to know more from the next installment. Perhaps that's when we'll learn the big "why." I give this story a 3.5 out of 5, and I recommend it to fans of YA, especially those who enjoy science fiction and dystopian novels.

I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.


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