Sunday, July 29, 2012

Showcase Sunday (5)

Showcase Sunday is a meme hosted by Books, Biscuits, and Tea that lets bloggers highlight any books or book-related swag they received this week, whether they're from bookstores, libraries, received for review, etc.

I haven't done this in a while because I haven't been accumulating too many books, so this'll be a review of things I got in the last few weeks. Yay!

I got this lovely in the mail via a contest -- thanks, Meljean!

Title: The Iron Duke
Author: Meljean Brook
Series: The Iron Seas, #1
Publisher: Berkley UK
Summary (via Goodreads):
Steampunk adventure and seductive danger abound in the gritty world of the Iron Seas.

After the Iron Duke freed England from Horde control he instantly became a national hero. Now Rhys Trahaearn has built a merchant empire on the power - and fear - of his name. And when a dead body is dropped from an airship on to his doorstep, bringing Detective Inspector Mina Wentworth into his dangerous world, he intends to make her his next possession.

Mina can't afford his interest, however, Horde blood runs through her veins, and becoming Rhys's lover would destroy both her career and her family, yet the investigation prevents her from avoiding him . . .

But when Mina uncovers the victim's identity, she stumbles upon a conspiracy that threatens the lives of everyone in England. To save them, Mina and Rhys must race across zombie-infested wastelands and perilous oceans - and Mina discovers the danger is not only to her countrymen, as she finds herself tempted to give up everything to the Iron Duke.
Then, I ventured out into the world of e-ARCs! I received this via Angry Robot's Robot Army program, and it is positively grotesque so far. Reminds me somewhat of Joe Abercrombie:

Title: The Corpse-Rat King
Author: Lee Battersby
Publisher: Angry Robot
Release date: August 28th, 2012 (US/CAN)
Summary (via Goodreads):  
Marius dos Hellespont and his apprentice, Gerd, are professional looters of battlefields. When they stumble upon the corpse of the King of Scorby and Gerd is killed, Marius is mistaken for the monarch by one of the dead soldiers, is transported down to the Kingdom of the Dead. The dead need a King--the King is God's representative, and someone needs to remind God where they are.

Marius is banished to the surface with one message: if he wants to recover his life he must find the dead a King. Which he fully intends to do. Just as soon as he stops running.

And since this was "Read Now," I got this on NetGalley. Yes... the highly controversial...

Title: Beautiful Disaster
Author: Jamie McGuire
Series: Beautiful, #1
Publisher: Atria
Release date: August 14th, 2012
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.
 Thoughts? What's new on your shelves/readers this week? :)

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Saturday Bites (1): Susanna Kearsley - The Rose Garden

Welcome to the first edition of Saturday Bites! This'll be a feature where I cover a) some of the books I read recently that I cannot provide a full review of, for whatever reason, or b) books I read before starting the blog that I want to talk about.

This week, I'm going to talk about The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley.

The Rose Garden is a historical fiction-time travel romance by Susanna Kearsley. It's not my usual genre, which is why I'm not giving it a full review, but I have to say that I really loved this. The main character, Eva, travels to Cornwall, England, to scatter her sister's ashes after her death. However, strange things begin to happen in her family's homestead; she finds herself slipping back in time to 1715, falling in with smugglers and inadvertently getting caught up in treason.

There's an element of nostalgia that pervades the entire book -- Eva re-bonds with old friends and family. Her family reaches out to her, and she returns the favor, helping them install a tea room for tourists in order to prevent the house from going under. The setting is vivid, and I could perfectly imagine myself on a rocky beach on the seaside, listening to gulls. And while I was skeptical at first, the romance was my favorite aspect of the book. Eva's relationship with Daniel Butler blooms slowly, with no declarations until at least halfway through the book.

I've seen it described as Outlander meets The Time Traveler's Wife, and while I can see similarities to both books, I enjoyed this more than either of those. Kearsley's prose, characters, and atmosphere totally enraptured me, and I can't wait to read more by her.

Memorable Quotes: "The tide was out. Along the closer edges of the harbor all the smaller boats lay drunkenly tipped over on their hulls in the wet mud, still at their moorings while they waited for the sea's return."

"'You are glad that you came,' he said. 'You, who have seen and done things I can scarcely imagine; you, who have freedoms in your time the women of mine cannot contemplate. Doubtless you thought that this voyage would be an adventure, and yet you have spent this day shut in a cabin alone and in fear for your life, and you say you are glad that you came. You'll forgive me,' he said, 'if I do not believe you.'"

Verdict: 4 stars. Recommended for those who want a comfort read, even if they're not usually fans of this particular genre. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

[review] Leigh Bardugo - Shadow and Bone (Grisha Trilogy, #1)

Title: Shadow and Bone
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Series: Grisha Trilogy, #1
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company
Format: Hardcover
Source: Local library
Buy from: AmazonBarnes & NobleBookdepository
Summary (via Goodreads):
Alina Starkov doesn’t expect much from life. Orphaned by the Border Wars, the one thing she could rely on was her best friend and fellow refugee, Mal. And lately not even that seems certain. Drafted into the army of their war-torn homeland, they’re sent on a dangerous mission into the Fold, a swath of unnatural darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh.

When their convoy is attacked, all seems lost until Alina reveals a dormant power that not even she knew existed. Ripped from everything she knows, she is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling. He believes she is the answer the people have been waiting for: the one person with the power to destroy the Fold.

Swept up in a world of luxury and illusion, envied as the Darkling’s favorite, Alina struggles to fit into her new life without Mal by her side. But as the threat to the kingdom mounts, Alina uncovers a secret that sets her on a collision course with the most powerful forces in the kingdom. Now only her past can save her . . . and only she can save the future.
Random paragraph: "I thought he might have a point. The Materialki workshops buzzed morning and night with orders from the palace for cloth and gems and fireworks. The Summoners spent hours at the stone pavilions honing their 'demonstrations.' Given that Ravka was at war and had been for over a hundred years, it all seemed a little frivolous. Still, I hadn't been to many parties, and it was hard not to get caught up in the talk of silks and dances and flowers." (pgs. 199-200, hardcover edition)

I'm always a bit skeptical whenever a book has an immense amount of hype, but I'm pleased to say that I wound up enjoying this. 

First things first: there are very valid criticisms of the way Russian culture and language is handled here. Basic terminology and naming conventions are incorrect, some words had their definitions deliberately changed... by the end, I wasn't sure if it was necessary, since I feel like the book would've worked just as well without it. For more on this, read this Amazon reviewthis post by Rose Lemberg (which is a fascinating read on linguistics in world-building in general), and Tatiana's review on Goodreads. (It also reminds me of a running joke between my boyfriend and I -- take basic Swedish words and insert them into a fantasy novel. "UNLEASH THE KROG." "They feasted on surstr√∂mming, the rarest delicacy in the land." Etc. Except we're always joking, and here it, erm, actually happened.)

With that in mind: this book hooked its claws into me and didn't let me go.

I came to this book after reading something that I really, truly hated (more on that later!), and it was leaking into my enjoyment of other books. I read the first chapter of this and set it aside, but after I cooled off, came back later... and then got to the Shadow Fold, the Unsea, and the volcra. The Fold is a swath of pure darkness separating east west Ravka. Let me tell you, Internets: I'm not usually afraid of things in books, but the volcra scared the pants off me.
"Alexei!" I yelled, leaning over the side of the railing. "Alexei!"

The answer came in a gust of wings as another volcra swooped down on me. I careened backward, barely avoiding its grasp, my knife held out before me with trembling hands. The volcra lunged forward, the firelight glinting off its milky, sightless eyes, its gaping mouth crowded with rows of sharp, crooked, black teeth. I saw a flash of powder from the corner of my eye, heard a rifle shot, and the volcra stumbled, yowling in rage and pain.
In the Fold, Alina finds out that she has something very, very special. When the Darkling, a powerful youth who's able to manipulate shadows, finds out, he takes a keen interest in her. He brings her to the palace of Os Alta for training. He tells her: You are special. You are going to be the one to make the Fold disappear, and you will unify Ravka. It takes her a while to adjust to court life, but she soon enjoys it, writing letters to her best friend Mal all the while.

And then... BAM. Plot Twist of Death. It filled me with glee, because after being disappointed by the last few hyped books I've read, I was wondering if YA had become predictable.

I LOVED Alina. If I had to make a comparison, I'd say that she strongly reminded me of Lyra from His Dark Materials. She tried casting off her "specialness," yes, but it never felt annoying to me -- here, it felt genuine. She's very dry at times about being suddenly thrust into the spotlight, and I loved her for it.

By the end, I was totally in love with this book. Morally gray characters! Emotion everywhere! And the ending was totally kickass -- here we have a heroine making morally questionable decisions while realizing that they're questionable! After being annoyed at protagonists doing terrible things while being 100% sure that they were in the right, this was incredibly refreshing.

It should also be noted that content aside, the book itself is beautiful. I'm not usually one for maps, but this was just so cool and well-done. The chapter headings and page number designs are elegant and made the book into a wonderful package.

I'm so glad that I read this. If you're looking for some good YA fantasy, I heartily recommend this.

Overall: If you're willing to tune out the linguistic issues (which will probably be difficult for those with knowledge of Slavic languages), this is a solid YA fantasy that's a fabulous example of the genre.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (8): Malinda Lo - Adaptation

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

Title: Adaptation
Author: Malinda Lo
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: September 18th, 2012
Summary (from Goodreads): 
Reese and David don’t remember what happened to them after a bird flew into their headlights on the Extraterrestrial Highway--not the resulting car accident and certainly not a bit of the 21 days of care at the military hospital in Nevada. It’s a good thing, the doctors and colonels tell them, that they crashed on a military base, but they won’t tell Reese and David what the extent of their injuries were, or how they were healed. They do tell them they’re not going home, though, until they sign a confidentiality agreement.

When they get home, Reese can’t help but find everything a little weird. Worldwide bird strikes resulting in plane crashes have grounded air travel, David won’t talk to her, and she could swear she’s seen her military doctors around the neighborhood. It’s only when she meets Amber Grey that things in her life begin to really fall apart, and the mysteries of the bird strikes, the military, and her own treatment come together. Reese realizes that she must find out what they did to her in that hospital, but her search for the truth threatens to expose a vast global conspiracy that the government has worked for decades to keep secret.

What if we aren’t alone in the universe? What if the alien is inside us?

Why I Look Forward to This: Isn't that cover freaky? This sounds like a fantastically weird sci-fi novel -- I think I read somewhere that this was written as a tribute to the X-Files. I haven't read Malinda Lo's other works yet, but Ash and Huntress have been in my TBR list for ages, and I'm really pleased with her inclusion of LGBT characters. All in all, this sounds like a great read.

What are you waiting on this Wednesday?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

[review] Sarah Diemer - The Dark Wife

Title: The Dark Wife
Author: Sarah Diemer
Source: Personal collection
Format read: Ebook
Buy from: Amazon | Smashwords
(Note: Also available for download on the author's website, with a suggestion of a donation afterward if you enjoyed the book.)
Summary (via Goodreads):  
Three thousand years ago, a god told a lie. Now, only a goddess can tell the truth.

Persephone has everything a daughter of Zeus could want--except for freedom. She lives on the green earth with her mother, Demeter, growing up beneath the ever-watchful eyes of the gods and goddesses on Mount Olympus. But when Persephone meets the enigmatic Hades, she experiences something new: choice.

Zeus calls Hades "lord" of the dead as a joke. In truth, Hades is the goddess of the underworld, and no friend of Zeus. She offers Persephone sanctuary in her land of the dead, so the young goddess may escape her Olympian destiny.

But Persephone finds more than freedom in the underworld. She finds love, and herself.

The Dark Wife is a YA novel, a lesbian revisionist retelling of the Persephone and Hades myth.
Random paragraph: "'You know, you're very pretty when you pout.' He was floating above the ground, winged sandals fluttering, and he bent forward to brush a kiss on my cheek. 'You must enter the Underworld alone, Persephone. A symbolic journey, if you will.'"

This is a wonderful love story.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (7): Meljean Brook - Riveted

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

Title: Riveted
Author: Meljean Brook
Series: Iron Seas, #3
Publisher: Berkley Trade
Release Date: September 4th, 2012
Summary (from Goodreads): 
A century after a devastating volcanic eruption forced Iceland’s inhabitants to abandon its shores, the island has become enshrouded in legend. But the truth behind the legends is mechanical, not magical—and the mystery of the island a matter of life and death for a community of women who once spilled noble blood to secure their freedom.

Five years ago, Annika unwittingly endangered that secret, but her sister K√§lla took the blame and was exiled. Now Annika serves on an airship, searching for her sister and longing to return home. But that home is threatened when scientific expedition leader David Kentewess comes aboard, looking to expose Annika’s secrets. Then disaster strikes, leaving David and Annika stranded on a glacier and pursued by a madman, with their very survival depending on keeping the heat rising between them—and generating lots of steam

Why I Look Forward to This: LET'S SEE.

a) Iceland.
b) A mysterious, powerful sisterhood.
c) The love interest is a vulcanologist.

I need this in my hands, like, yesterday. I haven't read anything by Meljean Brook -- people seem to either love or hate the hero in The Iron Duke -- but that's going to change VERY soon. And even if I'm not fond of that one, she's said that this works as a stand-alone. Very excited for this!

If you're curious, there's an excerpt at Meljean's website. :)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

[review] Rachel Hawkins - Hex Hall (Hex Hall, #1)

Title: Hex Hall
Author: Rachel Hawkins
Series: Hex Hall, #1
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Source: Local library
Format read: Hardcover
Buy from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookdepository 
Summary (via Goodreads):
Three years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. It's gotten her into a few scrapes. Her non-gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie's estranged father--an elusive European warlock--only when necessary. But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it's her dad who decides her punishment: exile to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters.

By the end of her first day among fellow freak-teens, Sophie has quite a scorecard: three powerful enemies who look like supermodels, a futile crush on a gorgeous warlock, a creepy tagalong ghost, and a new roommate who happens to be the most hated person and only vampire student on campus. Worse, Sophie soon learns that a mysterious predator has been attacking students, and her only friend is the number-one suspect.

As a series of blood-curdling mysteries starts to converge, Sophie prepares for the biggest threat of all: an ancient secret society determined to destroy all Prodigium, especially her.
Random paragraph: "Elodie just snorted out loud at that. 'Please, Anna. Big boobs are not enough to compensate for being short and plain. And that hair!' Even though I couldn't see her, I imagined Elodie gave a shudder at that. I, meanwhile, was starting to feel vaguely nauseated. I knew I should walk away, but I couldn't stop listening. I wonder why it is that we always want to hear people talk about us, even if it's horrible stuff. And, you know, it's not like Elodie was saying anything I didn't know. I was short and plain and I did have crazy hair. I'd said these things about myself lots of times. So why were hot tears stinging my eyes?" (p. 207, hardcover edition)

The following review can be summed up in one sentence: "That awkward moment when everybody loves a book but you."

Monday, July 9, 2012

[review] Maggie Stiefvater - Ballad: A Gathering of Faerie (Books of Faerie, #2)

Title: Ballad: A Gathering of Faerie
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Series: Books of Faerie, #2
Publisher: Flux
Source: Local library
Format read: Paperback
Buy from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookdepository 
Summary (via Goodreads):
In this mesmerizing sequel to Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception , music prodigy James Morgan and his best friend, Deirdre, join a private conservatory for musicians. James' musical talent attracts Nuala, a soul-snatching faerie muse who fosters and feeds on the creative energies of exceptional humans until they die. Composing beautiful music together unexpectedly leads to mutual admiration and love. Haunted by fiery visions of death, James realizes that Deirdre and Nuala are being hunted by the Fey and plunges into a soul-scorching battle with the Queen of the Fey to save their lives.
Random paragraph: "She was looking at me really intensely then, in the sort of way I had always wanted Dee to look at me. I kind of thought she was going to kiss me, for some reason, because she was looking at my mouth. I had a horrible idea that she would, and then I would think of Dee while she was, and then she would kill me in a long, slow, painful process that would be hard to explain to insurance people." (p. 142, paperback edition)

I think I wanted to shake everybody in this book at least once. Hopefully, I was supposed to feel that way.

[review] N. K. Jemisin - The Killing Moon (Dreamblood, #1)

Title: The Killing Moon
Author: N. K. Jemisin
Series: Dreamblood, #1
Publisher: Orbit
Source: Local library
Format read: Paperback
Buy from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookdepository 
Summary (via Goodreads):
The city burned beneath the Dreaming Moon.

In the ancient city-state of Gujaareh, peace is the only law. Upon its rooftops and amongst the shadows of its cobbled streets wait the Gatherers - the keepers of this peace. Priests of the dream-goddess, their duty is to harvest the magic of the sleeping mind and use it to heal, soothe . . . and kill those judged corrupt.

But when a conspiracy blooms within Gujaareh's great temple, Ehiru - the most famous of the city's Gatherers - must question everything he knows. Someone, or something, is murdering dreamers in the goddess' name, stalking its prey both in Gujaareh's alleys and the realm of dreams. Ehiru must now protect the woman he was sent to kill - or watch the city be devoured by war and forbidden magic.
Random paragraph: "He ran after the soldier, silent, intent. Something moved across his vision and blocked his path, a different soldier brandishing a sword, words about surrender. He batted the sword aside and took hold of the arm that held it, ramming the heel of his free hand into the elbow. The wet pop of the breaking joint sounded like the head of the dancer, who might have been sentenced to an eternity in the shadowlands by a soldier's carelessness. 'I shall avenge you,' he whispered to the dancer's soul, yanking the screaming, broken-armed soldier off the horse. The soldier kept screaming, writhing on the ground and holding the flopping ruin of his arm. Ehiru contemplated him for a moment, then remembered that this was not the soldier he wanted. He stepped around the riderless horse and continued after his prey." (pg. 274, paperback edition)

One word: amazing.