Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (13): Fiona Paul - Venom

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

Title: Venom
Author: Fiona Paul
Series: Secrets of the Eternal Rose, #1
Publisher: Philomel
Release Date: October 30th, 2012
Summary (from Goodreads): 
Love, lust, murder, mayhem and high society converge in one thrilling debut

Cassandra Caravello has everything a girl could desire: elegant gowns, sparkling jewels, invitations to the best parties, and a handsome, wealthy fiancĂ©—yet she longs for something more. Ever since her parents’ death, Cassandra has felt trapped, alone in a city of water, where the dark and labyrinthine canals whisper of escape.

When Cass stumbles upon the body of a murdered woman—with a bloody X carved across her heart—she’s drawn into a dangerous world of secret societies, courtesans, and killers. Soon, she finds herself falling for Falco, a poor artist with a mischievous grin . . . and a habit of getting into trouble. Will Cassandra find the murderer before he finds her? And will she stay true to her fiancĂ© or succumb to her uncontrollable feelings for Falco?

Beauty, romance, and mystery weave together in a novel that’s as seductive and stunning as the city of Venice itself.
Why I Look Forward to This: I've seen the cover around before, but I finally got to reading the synopsis last night and it sounds like a fun read. I'm a sucker for books about high-class societies with a dark underbelly, and when I read this -- "she’s drawn into a dangerous world of secret societies, courtesans, and killers" -- I was immediately sold.

What are you waiting on this Wednesday?

Friday, August 24, 2012

[review] Meagan Spooner - Skylark (Skylark, #1)

Title: Skylark
Author: Meagan Spooner
Series: Skylark, #1
Publisher: Carolrhoda Lab
Format: Hardcover
Source: Giveaway win
Buy from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookdepository
Summary (via Goodreads):
Sixteen-year-old Lark Ainsley has never seen the sky.

Her world ends at the edge of the vast domed barrier of energy enclosing all that’s left of humanity. For two hundred years the city has sustained this barrier by harvesting its children's innate magical energy when they reach adolescence. When it’s Lark’s turn to be harvested, she finds herself trapped in a nightmarish web of experiments and learns she is something out of legend itself: a Renewable, able to regenerate her own power after it’s been stripped.

Forced to flee the only home she knows to avoid life as a human battery, Lark must fight her way through the terrible wilderness beyond the edge of the world. With the city’s clockwork creations close on her heels and a strange wild boy stalking her in the countryside, she must move quickly if she is to have any hope of survival. She’s heard the stories that somewhere to the west are others like her, hidden in secret—but can she stay alive long enough to find them?
Random paragraph: "But that was impossible. Unless--my heart seized--he was like me. The Renewable had said there were others like us, after all. She had said to follow the birds to find the Iron Wood, wherever that was. I hadn't seen the slightest glimpse of a feather, but this boy had spouted a torrent of birdsong like I'd never imagined." (p. 175, hardcover edition)

For me, it's difficult to read a book that's hyped. What if I don't like it as much as everyone else? What if there are valid criticisms that I never noticed?

I knew I had to read Skylark as soon as I read the summary. I've burned out on YA dystopia, for the most part, but this just sounded so darn fascinating: one part sci-fi, one part fantasy, with Philip Pullman influence EVERYWHERE. This follows the story of Lark Ainsley, a sixteen year-old who finds out that she's destined to be used as the City's power source. After a series of painful experiments, she flees the City and goes on a quest to find others like her, who supposedly live beyond the Iron Wood.

This is more of an adventure story than anything else. If you're a fan of setting and descriptive prose, then you should love this. Spooner evokes the wilderness incredibly well, and some of her magical creatures were phenomenally scary -- there's a scene where Lark encounters murderous trees that really stuck with me. There are pockets of wild magic remaining after an unnamed war, resulting in strange and twisted occurrences. Here's one example, a house replaying its last memories (pgs. 128-129):
The youngest girl, who would not have been more than eight, was gazing out the window. "Do you hear that?" she asked.

"Hang on," said the father, preoccupied.

"No, that buzzing," said the girl. Her voice suddenly jumped in pitch, to a scream. "Look, the window!"

Driven by the sudden urgency in the girl's voice, the family tuned to gaze out the window. I did the same, but I saw nothing, only vague, blurry shapes. Whatever they saw, though, electrified them. Everyone was shouting, and the mother threw herself on top of the children, barely a second before the windows all shattered inward and the room flashed brighter than the sun.

The scene flickered again and without warning the two girls were back in the kitchen.
But Lark isn't the only human in the wilderness -- she has to hide from cannibals and make a strange alliance with Oren, a wild boy dedicated to helping her. All this while on the run from the Institute, who are sending machines and clockwork insect-like creatures called "pixies" to hunt her down.

I thought this was a three-star book for a while; I enjoyed the concept well enough, but the pacing annoyed me, and I wanted more strength from Lark and more development in her relationship with Oren. But once she finally reaches the Iron Wood? Oh man. Everything's turned upside-down. There are betrayals, there are some disturbing revelations about her origin, and her alliance with Oren takes a very interesting turn. I was really impressed by the ending, and now I'm eagerly looking forward to the sequel.

Overall: Get it, and remember to keep reading. I promise that it's worth it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (12): Sarah Crossan - Breathe

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

Title: Breathe
Author: Sarah Crossan
Series: Breathe, #1
Publisher: Greenwillow
Release Date: October 2nd, 2012
Summary (from Goodreads): 
Inhale. Exhale. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe . . .

The world is dead.
The survivors live under the protection of Breathe, the corporation that found a way to manufacture oxygen-rich air.

has been stealing for a long time. She’s a little jittery, but not terrified. All she knows is that she’s never been caught before. If she’s careful, it’ll be easy. If she’s careful.

should be worried about Alina and a bit afraid for himself, too, but even though this is dangerous, it’s also the most interesting thing to happen to him in ages. It isn’t every day that the girl of your dreams asks you to rescue her.

wants to tell him that none of this is fair; they’d planned a trip together, the two of them, and she’d hoped he’d discover her out here, not another girl.

And as they walk into the Outlands with two days’ worth of oxygen in their tanks, everything they believe will be shattered. Will they be able to make it back? Will they want to?
Why I Look Forward to This: This sounds like a fabulous dystopia. A YA novel tackling life under an all-encompassing corporation sounds right up my alley. Here's hoping the world-building is good!

What are you waiting on this Wednesday?

Monday, August 20, 2012

[review] Jamie McGuire - Beautiful Disaster (Beautiful #1)

Title: Beautiful Disaster
Author: Jamie McGuire
Series: Beautiful, #1
Publisher: Atria
Format: e-ARC
Source: Netgalley
Buy from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Summary (via Goodreads):
The new Abby Abernathy is a good girl. She doesn’t drink or swear, and she has the appropriate percentage of cardigans in her wardrobe. Abby believes she has enough distance between her and the darkness of her past, but when she arrives at college with her best friend, her path to a new beginning is quickly challenged by Eastern University's Walking One-Night Stand.

Travis Maddox, lean, cut, and covered in tattoos, is exactly what Abby needs—and wants—to avoid. He spends his nights winning money in a floating fight ring, and his days as the ultimate college campus charmer. Intrigued by Abby’s resistance to his appeal, Travis tricks her into his daily life with a simple bet. If he loses, he must remain abstinent for a month. If Abby loses, she must live in Travis’s apartment for the same amount of time. Either way, Travis has no idea that he has met his match.
(This review will contain spoilers.)

Where to begin?

It's been a few days since I finished this, but I needed time to digest it. Because, gosh, this was really disturbing. I was warned; I prepared myself; I tried suspending my disbelief... and I was still horrified by what went on here.

This is another self-published success that got picked up by a major publisher, and this is being marketed as yet another Fifty Shades of Grey successor. To which I ask: why? The only similarities between the two books are that: a) they were self-published, and then bestsellers; b) the male protagonists are controlling, manipulative, and generally terrible people.

The story opens with Abby watching Travis at a fight. When he punches his opponent, blood splatters on Abby's sweater. Travis cleans her up and dubs her, "Pigeon," a nickname that persists throughout the entire story. When they meet again, Abby determines for him not to be attracted to her, and fends off his advances whenever possible. At the next fight, they place a bet: if his opponent lands a blow on him, he'll abstain from sex for an entire month. If he wins without a scratch, Abby has to live in his apartment for a month. Abby loses.

At the beginning, I was totally on board with Travis. When he was introduced as just a guy with tattoos who fights, I went "whatever"; when he offered to tutor Abby, even my heart fluttered. But then the real ugliness came out. He outright disrespects women. For example, when a girl on his lap insults Abby and her friends, he stands up, letting her fall to the floor. When he's at a bar with Abby, he's chatting with another woman and buys two drinks; when the woman takes one, he says "Uhh, not for you," and grabs it out of her hand. What's really infuriating is that, without fail, the women who aren't Abby or America are treated as stupid bimbos all vying for Travis's attention. I'm tired of this stereotype -- that men can have whoever they want, no strings attached, and get away with it, yet women are vilified for the same thing (or portrayed as weak-minded for wanting someone that much).

Then, there was his behavior towards Abby. When Abby goes back to her own dormitory after sleeping with him for the first time (which happened to be the last night of their "bet), he goes berserk and tears up his apartment, almost punching his cousin in the face. He constantly lashes out at Abby. It gets to the point where he starts beating up any guy who so much as looks at her. He goes to events that she attends, even when she's trying to get away from him. Even during periods where they're broken up, he threatens men who try to be friendly to her; at one point, he and Shepley attend a dance and drag away every man who dances with her or America. It's really horrible.

But the characters weren't my only problem with the book. I found the setting to be terribly crafted -- it was supposed to be a college environment, but it read and felt like high school. When Abby's holding hands with Travis, she's convinced that everybody's staring at them. There is a cafeteria sing-a-long. Travis disrupts classes, and there are secret "fight clubs", yet security is mysteriously absent! 

I'm trying to understand the appeal of this. I know most people like a bad boy, and there is a certain appeal to wanting two broken people to have a happy ending (which I thought Bared to You covered rather well), but by the end, what changed? Travis stopped womanizing after getting together with Abby, but his controlling behavior remained. Whenever he transgressed, Abby forgave him time and time again. Although there were times when Abby exhibited spine, there was very little compromise. The story ends with them getting married in Vegas, with Abby getting a "Mrs. Maddox" tattoo. I shudder to think of their future.

Overall: An unconvincing love story with an awful message. Is this really what publishers think women want?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (11): Michelle Paver - Gods and Warriors

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

Title: Gods and Warriors
Author: Michelle Paver
Series: Gods and Warriors, #1
Publisher: Dial
Release Date: August 28th, 2012
Summary (from Goodreads): 
In the turbulent world of the Mediterranean Bronze Age, long before the Greek myths, a boy and a girl battle for survival. With the help of three animal allies - a dolphin, a falcon and a lion cub - they defeat the forces of tyranny and withstand the elemental powers of the gods of land and sea.
Why I Look Forward to This: That summary really doesn't give much away, does it? :p Anyway, I first heard of this via Claire Legrand's #ARCAPALOOZA, and it's apparently recommended for fans of Percy Jackson -- which I am! I have a soft spot for anything that deals with mythology, and I'm interested in how the author will be dealing with the Bronze Age setting. :D This sounds like it's going to be a fun, light, adventurous read.

What are you waiting on this Wednesday?