Monday, 31 January 2011

Review: Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Series: Trilogy
Genre: Dystopian
Age Group:Young Adult
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Release Date: February 1, 2011
Format: Paperback, 448 pages
ISBN-13: 9780340980927
RRP: $27.99 AUD


Cover love? Love how the girl is metaphorically "trapped" behind the letters, as if they were prison bars. The overall image is very unique and iconic.
<--Aussie & UK cover, by the way (has birds, no ornate lettering).



Synopsis
There was a time when love was the most important thing in the world. People would go to the end of the earth to find it. They would tell lies for it. Even kill for it.
Then, at last, they found the cure.
Now, everything is different. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the government demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Haloway has always looked forward to the day when she ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy.
But then, with only ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable...


Review
The minute I got this, I had to start reading it. There’s been so much buzz surrounding Delirium, and I loved The Declaration and Matched, which are two similar books. To my surprise, I realised that I haven’t read Before I Fall, Lauren Oliver’s debut, yet, so I began Delirium without knowing what really lay ahead.

In my opinion, a dystopian novel is only ever as good as its futuristic society and the form of oppression it chooses to enforce. In Delirium’s Portland of the future, love is a disease individuals are cured of when they turn 18. This notion is brought to reality through it’s “scientific name”, amor deliria nervosa. (Clever! I love these extra touches.) The “cured” walk about with a film over their eyes, heartless and cold, void of emotions, because with their capability to love stripped away, they’re nothing more than robots programmed to do everything the society bids of them. Oliver has painted a stark future that gives food for thought.

Lauren Oliver is obviously well-read and clever, because each chapter shows a quote from a poem, play, or piece of classical literature that pertains to that chapter. Lauren Oliver has also written some of her own poetry, book excerpts and children’s play songs from the futuristic world of Delirium that are very clever and contain hidden messages. The writing in this book, oh my god. It’s so beautiful and descriptive, almost poetic. Lauren Oliver uses the sounds and assonance of words together perfectly, and her language is beautiful.

Here’s a non-spoiler excerpt:
“I close my eyes and listen. The feeling I had before of being surrounded by warmth swells and crests inside of me like a wave. Poetry isn’t like any writing I’ve heard before. I don’t understand all of it, just bits of images, sentences that appear half-finished, all fluttering together like brightly coloured ribbons in the wind.”

Beautiful, right? The bolded lines are so evocative – what a way to describe poetry through Lena’s eyes.

Lena is a great protagonist in this book and to me, she is an unlikely one, which is great. I could have imagined the entire story being told with Lena’s best friend, Hana, as the protagonist: beautiful, daring, wild, rich but not understood.  But I think that with a shy, quiet and obedient character, readers will really understand and marvel at the power of love to change a person. Alex, the mysterious boy that Lena meets is exactly what I expected, but I was still amazed and warmed by his goodness.

Lauren Oliver has admirably captured the powerful emotion of love in stunningly beautiful words. Her gorgeous second novel, Delirium, is a captivating dystopian with a heart-wrenching love story that I recommend to lovers of all genres.


Rating:



Links:
Delirium at Hachette AU | Lauren Oliver's Website | Lauren Oliver's Blog | Delirium at Goodreads

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Review: Zelah Green by Vanessa Curtis

Zelah Green by Vanessa Curtis

Series: Zelah Green series
Genre: Contemporary
Age Group:Young Adult
Publisher: Hardie Grant Egmont
Release Date: 4th Jan 2011
Format: Paperback
ISBN-13: 9781405255059
RRP: $16.95 AUD
Source: Thank you to the publisher, who provided this book for an honest review,all opinions expressed are my own.
Cover love? Stark and streamlined, but meaningful. The pink labels it as YA. (NB. See what I did? I made some text in this review the exact same colour!)


Synopsis
My Name is Zelah Green and I'm a cleanaholic. I spend most of my life running away from germs, dirt, and people. And I'm just about doing ok and then my stepmother packs me off to some kind of hospital to live with a load of strangers. It's stuck in the middle of nowhere. Great. There's Alice who's anorexic. Caro who cuts herself. Silent Sol who has the cutest smile. And then there's me.


Review

Throughout Zelah Green, Vanessa Curtis thoughtfully paints a story focusing on the effects of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in teenagers. My only knowledge of OCD stems from reading Xenocide and Speaker for the Dead (#3 and #4 in the Ender Saga) by Orson Scott Card, and was not surprised to find that the symptoms were similar, and that OCD is a serious ailment that severely affects the victim’s lifestyle. Zelah Green describes herself as a “cleanaholic” who is always on “dirt alert” and “germ alert”; she performs daily cleaning rituals that often cause her hands to become red and raw.

I admire the research and accuracy with which Vanessa Curtis tells this story. The way Zelah avoids the scientific term for her problem, the backstory that explains how Zelah developed her condition, and the warm depiction of Zelah’s emotions and reactions.The gradual unveiling of Zelah’s life to the reader also makes it a journey of sorts, as we begin to understand what Zelah’s family situation is like.

Vanessa Curtis must also be commended for her excellent creation of characters. Each character is unique, and I can list the dozen or so of them off by heart, even weeks after reading it.
I’m not giving this novel five stars because it’s not as impacting as it could have been. It’s more lighthearted than serious, and I prefer serious, adventurous reads that bring out emotion, because that’s when I know a story has really connected with me. The story is not extraordinary, but it’s not evocative either, hence my rating.

I loved watching the growth in Zelah throughout this short read, as she changes from an unwilling patient at the rehabilitation centre, to a girl ready to charge of her own life and make a change for the better. It’s not a depressing, self-help novel, rather a light, funny and warm novel about a girl courageously facing up to her condition, and learning to do the right thing. It’s a perfect read for all teenagers.

Rating:


Links:
Zelah Green at Hardie Grant | Vanessa Cutis' Website | Goodreads

Friday, 28 January 2011

Author Interview with Beth Revis


 Tina: Hi Beth! Thank you for taking the time to answer questions for BookCouture.com. I loved Across the Universe and am flipping out that you’re here. I worship your genius, and have tried to think up of some questions that you may not have answered yet. So I’ve only got five questions here:

Beth: Aw! THANK YOU!

Tina: The pleasure is all mine. Firstly, your vision of the evolution of the human population aboard Godspeed is very intriguing – the idea of an ethnically ambiguous race of people. (And their developments in physique, language, formation of slang…etc). How did you manage to come up with that? Was it through noticing patterns in human development across the centuries, or just through reasoning and perception? 

Beth: The language was something that I consciously worked on—I am fascinated with linguistics, but never took it much past a couple of college classes. I figured that slang and curse words are the first things to change in language, so that’s what I changed. Some people think I was afraid to use “regular” curse words in the story, but actually, I was trying to show that language shift with the new words.

The rest of it developed organically. I was trying to show how different things would become, giving enough time in an enclosed area. Some things are little—for example, I make a point to show that Amy’s the shortest person on the ship, in part because people do tend to evolve taller as time progresses.

Tina: I thought that was what made the book a lot more believable. Another interesting concept that I presume would have become available through improved science & technology is the ability to modify the genes that code for intelligence in the characters of your novel. I gathered from reading Across the Universe that there are several different types of intelligence and that each generation is required to produce geniuses in order to survive. Of course, we don’t have this sort of technology, so what factors do you think determine intelligence (genetics, the environment), and why has intelligence on the ship become so rare (through inbreeding?) that injections must be given to “create” geniuses? 

Beth: One of the key things I was trying to present in my novel is the concept of “nature vs. nurture.” I hope readers question this: is Elder a good leader because he was made that way through genetics, or because of he way in which he was raised? Personally, I think it’s a combination of the two—that we are, to a certain extent, the way we are because of the way we’re born, but whether or not we use what we’re born with, and in what way we use it, is determined in part by how we are raised.
Also, I don’t think intelligence IS rare on the ship—I think Eldest is so obsessed with creating a perfect society with the perfect number of people who do the perfect things that he’s afraid to let his world grow organically and instead forces things, such as certain intelligences, on people.

Tina:  Oh, thanks for clearing that up for me!In my review of Across the Universe, I couldn’t help but compare Across the Universe to the Ender Saga by Orson Scott Card, as both are very similar in many aspects, but tell very different stories. I understand that you have read his books, and was wondering if you could comment on the similarities and differences between your novels? How much influence did Ender’s Game have upon your writing, and what other books influenced you? 

Beth: The biggest influence I got from the Ender saga was the idea that it was okay to write sci fi in a certain way. I think a lot of adult sci fi books focus more on the setting and the science than on the plot and the characters, and I worried that it was a trope of the genre that couldn’t be broken. Ender’s Game and the sequels proved to me that the style of character-driven plots was possible in sci fi, and that there definitely was a market for YA sci fi, even if there’s not that much out there right now.

Tina: I’m also curious as to your decision to make Across the Universe a young adult book, rather than an adult book, and also, the reasons behind including a romance story in a science fiction, where romance is uncommon in this genre? Did you want to have two characters from different times provide a contrast in the novel, did you believe that romance was vital to the story, or perhaps because it would appeal to the target audience? 

Beth: I have always written YA novels instead of adult ones, and personally, I prefer to read YA novels instead of adult ones. I believe that the difference between the two isn’t so much a matter of age suggestions as it is one of style. YA lit tends to be more focused on faster-paced plots and interesting characters (in my opinion).

As for romance: it’s something that came about naturally in the story. I think Elder’s desperately lonely, and when he meets Amy, he becomes obsessively attached to her rather quickly. Amy, on the other hand, isn’t look for love or romance, and she responds to Elder much more warily.

Tina: Finally, is there any recent news concerning the next book in the trilogy or perhaps (*crosses fingers*) a film adaptation? Seeing as the people on Godspeed are multiethnic, what actors do you have in mind for a movie version of Across the Universe

Beth: I wish! I seriously have all my fingers and toes crossed on that one, and I hope that it happens!! As for actors—I honestly don’t know who would play most of the ship’s crew because it would require actors who are multi-ethnic, but I’ve always pictured Molly Quinn in the role of Amy.
Molly Quinn as Amy?
Tina: OMG, yes! She would be perfect for Amy.
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, Beth! Your answers are just as insightful and intelligent as your amazing book. I can’t wait until book two comes out in 2012!

Check out Beth’s website at: http://bethrevis.com
The Official (and super awesome) Website for Across the Universe: http://acrosstheuniversebook.com

Check out an interview with Beth Revis on BTL.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Review: Pictures of Lily by Paige Toon

Pictures of Lily by Paige Toon

Series: Standalone
Genre: Contemporary
Age Group:Young Adult --> Adult
Publisher: Simon & Schuster AUS
Release Date: 4th January 2011 (AUS)
Format: Paperback, 432 pages
ISBN-13: 9781847393913
RRP: $22.99 AUD
Source: Thank you to the publisher, who provided this book for an honest review.
Cover love? It's very cute and dazzly, but screams chick-lit rom-com. The book is more mature than the cover suggests.



Synopsis
'Will you marry me?'
I think of you, then. I think of you every day. But usually in the quietest part of the morning, or the darkest part of the night. Not when my boyfriend of two years has just proposed. I look up at Richard with his hopeful eyes.
'Lily?' he prompts. It's been ten years, but it feels like only yesterday that you left. How can I say yes to Richard with all my heart when most of it has always belonged to you? I take a deep breath and will myself to speak...

Ten years ago when Lily was just sixteen, she fell in love with someone she really shouldn't have fallen in love with. Now, living in Sydney and engaged to another man, she can't forget the one that got away. Then her past comes back to haunt her, and she has to make a decision that will break her heart - and the heart of at least one of the men who love her.


Review

The book begins with a prologue, which you’ve just read above, and then cuts to a twelve-chapter long flashback of Lily’s life at 16, when her mother moves her from the UK to South Australia for her mother’s newest man. And in Australia, Lily falls in love with “someone she really shouldn't have fallen in love with”. When we cut back to the modern day, Lily is being asked the big question. But can she find it in her heart to forget her one true love?

I quickly got absorbed into Lily’s world, and through Paige Toon’s writing, I felt Lily the changes that Lily went through as she began to fall in love. My heart broke when things didn’t work out between them, and their bittersweet tale is one to remember. Despite the guy being wrong for her, what they had between them was real, and I thoroughly enjoyed the first half of the novel.

There were only a few main characters in this novel, because at it's heart, it is about Lily's decision. That being said, I loved the way Paige Toon used dialogue to bring the peripheral characters to life, because her descriptions were very realistic. I thought that the setting of the book, which is in Australia, is very well done and highly believable, considering that her previous books were mainly set in America. Lily is also authentically English.

In ten years, Lily weaves herself a very tangled web. Richard is successful, sweet, and a loving boyfriend…but Lily can’t forget the man she loved first.  This is a bittersweet tale about a girl who gave up on her dreams and her instincts about love, begging the question: is it ever too late? Emotional, heartbreaking and utterly honest, Pictures of Lily is a clean but mature novel for those looking for a good romantic contemporary read.


Rating:



Links:
Pictures of Lily at Simon & Schuster | Paige Toon's Website | Goodreads

Monday, 24 January 2011

YA Aussie Challenge 2011

Finally, I've taken the time to join this awesome challenge hosted by Nic @ Irrisistable Reads. There's also an awesome list of Aussie titles on Goodreads.

The Challenge:
Australian participants - Read at least 12 young adult books by Australian authors from 1st January, 2011 to 31st December, 2011.






The Aussie books I want to read: (in no particular order)
  1. Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta
  2. Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden
  3. Finnikin of the Rock  by Melina Marchetta
  4. Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley
  5. Good Oil by Laura Buzo - Owned
  6. Does my head look big in this? by Randa Abdel-Fattah
  7. Raw Blue by Kirsty Eagar
  8. Six Impossible Things by Fiona Wood
  9. Everything Beautiful by Simmone Howell
  10. Little Paradise by Gabrielle Wang
  11. Girl Saves Boy by Steph Bowe
  12. Loving Richard Feynman by Penny Tangey

At first, I was thinking, awesome, twelve Aussie books will be easy! But I can see how this will be a challenge now, considering the fact that I only own one of them. There's the public library and school library, of course, but it's going to be hard to get my hands on most of them. Any Aussies out there willing to do a trade with me?

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Review: Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard

Pretty Little Liars #1 by Sara Shepard

Series: Pretty Little Liars series
Genre: Contemporary
Age Group:Young Adult
Publisher: Hachette AU
Release Date: January 2011
Format: Paperback, 272 pages
ISBN-13: 9781907410871
RRP: $18.99 AUD
Source: Thank you to the publisher, who provided this book for an honest review, all opinions expressed are my own.
 
Cover love? This has the TV show cast on it, which is awesome, but the mud-makeup is a little extreme, I think. 


Synopsis
Aria, Emily, Spencer, Hanna and Alison have been best friends since the third grade. They go everywhere together, thinking no-one can come between them. If anyone is the ringleader of the group it is Alison, and the other girls cannot help but confide all their secrets to her.

One night, during a sleepover, Alison goes missing. Her body is never found. The girls mourn her death but move apart after time, assuming their secrets have disappeared with Alison too.

Three years later and Aria is having an affair with her teacher; Emily is questioning her sexuality; Hanna is a thief; and Spencer is flirting with her sister's fiance. They all think their secrets are safe, until they starting receiving messages from the mysterious A - who knows exactly what they are all up to, and is threatening to spill the beans . . .



Review

The minute I found and opened this in the mail, I began reading it and didn’t stop until I had finished it. There’s just something so enticing and juicy about this book that makes one hungry for more. In fact, Pretty Little Liars has been adapted into a highly popular TV show in 2010, and is still in it’s first season as of January 2011. I’ve been obsessively following the TV show on Go! On Mondays, 8:30pm in Australia ever since. Awesome show.

The novel begins with Ali’s disappearance and within a couple of pages, Sara Shepard’s cleverly  shows us the group’s dynamics, setting apart each character (despite there being five main ones) and distinguishing them for their individual traits. I love that throughout Pretty Little Liars, readers can easily get a sense of who is who. They are each complex, and have their own dirty little secrets.

This book wasn’t long either, but a lot happened, and it is only to Sara Shepard’s credit that events weren’t confusing, although the murder mystery is. Although the girls’ actions certainly are not showing their best sides and, like all good television, is not role-model behaviour – that’s what makes it such a fun read. “A” is a deadly opponent, not to mention a creepy stalker with an agenda for these girls. 

Pretty Little Liars is Gossip Girl with a better plot a dangerous villain and a murder mystery. Perfect for anyone looking for a saucy, suspenseful read. There’s twists and turns in every scene, and I cannot wait to see the angle Sara Shepard takes with Flawless, book 2 in the series.


Rating:



Links:
Pretty Little Liars Official Website | Pretty Little Liars at Hachette AUS | Goodreads

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Review: Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Across the Universe by Beth Revis
Series: Trilogy
Genre: Science Fiction
Age Group:Young Adult
Publisher: Penguin AU
Release Date: Jan 2011
Format: Paperback, 408 pages
ISBN-13: 9780141333663
RRP: $19.95 AUD
Source: Thank you to the publisher, who provided this book for an honest review,all opinions expressed are my own.
Cover love? Love this cover! It takes my breath away, especially with the significance of the positions of the silhouettes (now that I’ve read the book), and the metaphor that Elder and Amy are separated by a galaxy.  It’s gorgeous and captivating…reflective of the book. Although the AUS cover lacks the pretty galaxy background the US cover has.

Synopsis
Amy has left the life she loves for a world 300 years away
Trapped in space and frozen in time, Amy is bound for a new planet. But fifty years before she's due to arrive, she is violently woken, the victim of an attempted murder. Now Amy's lost on board and nothing makes sense - she's never felt so alone.
Yet someone is waiting for her. He wants to protect her; and more if she'll let him
But who can she trust amidst the secrets and lies? 
A killer is out there – and Amy has nowhere to hide . . .


Review

As an avid reader and huge fan of sci-fi, I felt mixed emotions about picking up Across the Universe. I hadn’t read a proper science fiction in ages, and I feared that I would be disappointed by comparisons to Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, my favourite book of all time. The two books were very different though, and I found myself amazed that such a different yet similar story could be told. 

What I admire about futuristic novels is how the author presents their own vision of the future, interpreted from our modern world. Beth Revis’ future race aboard the starship Godspeed are ethnically ambiguous (due to inbreeding), taller, and have a darker skin tone, which stands to reason. Their speech has also evolved, with an accent that is hard for Amy to distinguish. I like that Beth Revis has illustrated these tiny but consequential changes in the human population of Godspeed, because it imbues the book with a sense of authenticity.

She also explores the concepts of a dictatorial rule in an enclosed environment: censorship, deception, a strong ruler, freedom, and rebellion.  It’s an intelligent and mature topic for the Young Adult fiction genre, but is very appropriate in a time when young adults like myself are becoming increasingly aware of the politics of our time. Beth Revis presents her ideas in an intelligent way, and despite having read the Ender Saga (which features star ships abundantly and therefore raises similar ideas), I can’t help but imagine that this is most likely outcome from a less advance society’s attempt to colonise a planet in another star system. Beth Revis also raises many moral and ethical issues in the book, which I am hesitant to spoil, but was completely blown away by. Across the Universe is very, very clever.

Characters. For me, I couldn’t help but compare Elder to Ender (c’mon, just one letter different). I read somewhere that Beth Revis has read Ender’s Game, so I think my comparisons are legit. Elder is similar to Ender in many ways – they are both young boys chosen for a particular, pivotal role that they are unaware of, and forced into leadership positions. They are both intelligent (although Ender is superior in that sense) and have natural abilities that render them the prime candidates, yet they are continually deceived by adults. However, Elder is portrayed as an adolescent, whilst Ender was a child, and as such, Elder is much more heavily influenced by his attraction to Amy and has this character flaw (which isn’t really a flaw). The point that I’m driving at is that my reading of Across the Universe was influenced heavily by Ender’s Game, and therefore I thought Elder was a similar but inferior character to Ender, because Elder lacked Ender’s intuition, intelligence, character development and the scope of his perceptions. These elements directly influence the narration and therefore, the story that I experience. Yes, I’m long winded and biased, all of a sudden. It must be the holidays. Als

Amy and Elder’s romance wasn’t really as captivating as the romances in other young adult fiction, but it was the prime aspect that categorised Across the Universe as a YA novel, because really, what is a YA novel without a little bit of love? What I really feel is that the novel didn’t need the romance, and could have been great without it. But maybe that’s just my Ender’s-Game-fangirl side speaking. What’s your opinion – does a YA novel have to have romance?

What I love about Across the Universe was the plot! Reminiscent of science fiction films such as Moon and other horror murder mysteries, the storyline was very creepy and gives you goosebumps and chills down your spine when you find out who the murderer is. I thought it could have been scarier though…the big reveal could have been accompanied by a “Muahahahaha” by the perpetrator and a creepy, “Twenty long years I have waited to get revenge”, with really epic music in the background? But then again, this is YA, so the big reveal was downplayed and less dramatic than it could have been, and therefore less shocking. I was suspecting something along the lines of the truth though.

This review may have sounded a little harsh, but really, I was comparing it with Ender’s Game the whole time (which is in its own league entirely). I actually LOVED Across the Universe. Beth Revis employs an alternating first person perspective to bring to life a story that transcends time, space, and most YA: a starship romance plagued by the chilling threat of a murderer among the passengers, this is a book that no one should pass up. 

Thanks for reading this long winded review if you have – and if you haven’t, I don’t blame you, but I’d like to hear all your thoughts on this question:

Is romance a defining factor of YA? If so, why, and if not, why is it so prevalent?

Rating:



Links:
Across the Universe Official Website | Across the Universe at Penguin AUS |

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Review: Personal Demons by Lisa Desrochers

Personal Demons by Lisa Desrochers


Series: Personal Demons series
Genre: Paranormal > Heaven Vs Hell
Age Group:Young Adult
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia
Release Date: October 2010
Format: Paperback, 384 pages
ISBN-13:9780330404013
RRP: $18.99 AUD
Source: Thank you to the publisher, who provided this book for an honest review,all opinions expressed are my own.
 
Cover love? I’m not a huge fan of the cover because it looks too adult for me and overtly categorises the book as a paranormal romance, but I like that it gives us an image of the three main characters, and that the cover designers have stayed true to the author’s description.


Synopsis
Frannie Cavanaugh is a good Catholic girl with a bit of a wicked streak. She has spent years keeping everyone at a distance - even her closest friends - and it seems like her senior year is going to be more of the same... Until Luc Cain enrolls in her class. No one knows where he came from, but Frannie can't seem to stay away from him. 

What she doesn't know is that Luc is on a mission. He's been sent from Hell itself to claim Frannie's soul. It should be easy - all he has to do is get her to sin, and Luc is as tempting as they come. Frannie doesn't stand a chance. But he has to work fast, because if the infernals are after her, the celestials can't be far behind. And sure enough, it's not long before the angel Gabriel shows up, willing to do anything to keep Luc from getting what he came for.

But if Luc fails, there will be Hell to pay... for all of them.

Review

Mary Francis “Frannie” Cavanaugh is an ordinary girl with a secret that haunts her every day. When the dangerous, mysterious, gorgeous Luc, (short for “Lucifer” and pronounced “Luke”) comes to Haden High, Frannie finds herself an unexpected object of attention. But unbeknownst to her, Luc is a demon sent to tag Frannie’s soul for Hell. Soon enough, Heaven sends its own messenger, Gabriel, an angel – literally. Both boys fight for Frannie’s soul, because of a special talent she owns, but their relationship soon develops into a complex love triangle.

At first, I admit that I wasn’t too impressed by this book. The synopsis set off the this-is-clichéd warning bells for me, and as I first read through the writing, I raised an eyebrow at the excessive use of “whatevers”, “ ‘Cause”, swearing and sexual observations. But as I read on, I grew closer to the characters and was stunned by the thematic matter in this book. And the writing visibly improved.

Frannie attracts both hotties with her good looks, snarky remarks and…I don’t know, out of necessity because they’ve both been sent to acquire her soul?  I couldn’t find anything (aside from her supposed good looks and superpower) that made Frannie an admirable person…she’s more like the slightly upgraded version two of Bella from Twilight. 
Luc, I loved. He shared the narrative, and I could really feel his subtle changes throughout the novel as he discovers a less demonic side to himself. The smells Luc used to describe mortal feelings was very interesting, a clever device to portray feelings, but left poor Frannie like an open book. There were a lot of spicy odours coming outta that girl. Gabe didn’t have such a big role (maybe in book 2?), but I liked that he was still willing to help his enemies. 
But…Frannie’s best friend Taylor was two-faced and lacked depth of character, really getting on my nerves. Another thing that agonises me is the way that Frannie is hot for the two studs within a week of meeting them both, and ends up flitting between the two so easily. They’re both over 5000 years old as well. Scandal.

 But, Lisa Desrochers brings a lot of unexpected maturity to this book. Sure, there’s some risqué, dubious scenes here and there, but she puts a lot of religious questions into perspective, especially redemption. Can a person be forgiven, no matter what they did, and achieve redemption?

I can’t wait to find that out in the second book, Original Sin, because despite my criticisms, I really enjoyed it. This book grows on you. Lisa Desrochers adds a gripping novel to the Heaven vs Hell paranormal subgenre that will get you caught up in the whirlwind of romance, action, and raw teenage emotions.

Rating:


Links:
Personal Demons at Pan Macmillan | Lisa Desrochers' Blog | Goodreads

Pretty excited... here's the cover for Original Sin (click to enlarge), which is book two and comes out July 5, 2011!

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

My Blogging Questions. Help?

Reading Vs Studying?
I've been blogging for about half a year now (wow!), and there's been a lot of things that I have simultaneously learnt and noticed, but am confused about. So I'd like to appeal to all of you for some advice and opinions, because many of you are a lot more experienced than I am.

  1. I 've been getting a lot of emails from online companies asking me to advertise their non-book-related products, offering to send me non-book items to review, or offering to give my readers a discount. I started this blog to talk about books, to review books because I genuinely love reading. I didn't start it to make any money from it, and it takes up way too much of my time for any money to be a compensation anyway.
    But I've been wanting to create a web domain for a while now, and I also want to host contests and giveaways...but my parents are strict about me spending my money. Buying books is already a huge concession, and it's not like I work yet, so I can't buy my own things. So I'd pretty much be using their money for my blog, and I feel guilty about that. I'd love to be able to get some money from my blog for my blog, but I don't want to be seen as cheap or sold out. But then again, I don't really mind ads, as long as they're not too intrusive.
    What are your opinions on putting ads on blogs?
  2. I'm going back to school in about two weeks, and this means that I have to cut down on my time blogging. Again, my parents are strict about this, and they are adamant about the fact that I prioritise schoolwork over reviewing books, and I agree. But I really do love blogging, and I'm kinda behind on reviewing the books that I've read, mainly because my reviews take me hours to write. I like to write longer reviews because I have a lot of things to say about books, but the problem with that is it means I don't have enough time to review all the books that I read.
    So my questions are:
    How many books do you review per week?
    How long are your reviews?
    Do you mind reading short reviews?
    Should I write shorter reviews for more books, or longer review for less books?

  3. Quality posts.
    I'm hesistant about this topic, but I find that most posts that I enjoy reading from other bloggers are reviews, and rant posts, or posts focusing on issues associated with blogging, like LitLife's recent online vs bookstore series and people's top ten lists. I'd like to post more quality posts other than reviews and memes. So this is kind of a survey question:
    What non-review posts do you enjoy reading? (tutorials, lists, debates...etc)
That's all that I can think of for now. I'd really love any opinions anyone might have, because your opinions are very important to me.

Many thanks,
A Very Confused Tina

Manga Review: Stepping on Roses (1&2) by Rinko Ueda

Stepping on Roses Vol. 01 & 02 by Rinko Ueda

Series: Stepping on Roses Volumes 1 & 2 [Manga]
Genre: Historical Romance
Age Group:Young Adult +
Publisher: Madman
Release Date: 10/05/2010
Format: Manga, 200 pages
ISBN-13: 9781421531823
RRP: $14.95 AUD
 
Cover love? I swoon at this cover, because the art is absolutely GORGEOUS. So delicate and beautiful.


Synopsis
From Rags to Riches
Poor Sumi Kitamura. Her irresponsible older brother Eisuke keeps bringing home orphans for her to take care of even though they can barely afford their own basic needs! Just when Sumi's financial problems become dire, wealthy Soichiro Ashida enters her life with a bizarre proposition: he'll provide her with the money she so desperately needs if she agrees to marry him. But can Sumi fool high society into thinking she's a proper lady? Moreover, is it worth giving up everything for this sham of a marriage?


Review

This is my first manga review on the blog, and I hope it will be the first of many to come. I’ve loved manga ever since I was introduced to it five years ago. Sometimes silly, and sometimes serious, but always enjoyable, manga is a form of Japanese art that is appreciated by comic lovers all over the world. 

Manga is usually found in black-and-white volumes, with beautiful art that depicts captivating stories read right to left. I’ll share a secret: I love the fresh smell of new manga volumes, and the feel of the jacket art, the special paper. It brings back fond memories of my early manga-reading days, which have unfortunately become sparser as I’ve grown older.

Stepping on Roses is a historical manga, with the traditional characteristics of an Asian drama: Sumi is a beautiful but poor 15 year old girl who takes care of young orphans that her wayward brother brings home. In a moment of desperation, drawn through poverty and her brother’s affinity for gambling, she consents to selling herself to a rich young man, Soichiro. But Soichiro has different plans for her. He forces her to marry him in order to come into the inheritance of his dying grandfather’s wealth. Sumi is forbidden to love her husband, but she begins to fall for her husband’s friend, Nozomu, who is the handsome young man who helped her once before. Meanwhile, Soichiro is secretly trying to set Sumi up with Nozomu to tarnish Nozomu’s name, but finds himself starting to fall for her. Sumi soon finds herself in a whirlwind love triangle….

Rinko Ueda’s artwork is beautiful. Stunning. Gorgeous. S-e-x-y, in some parts (as with most manga). I admire the way Rinko Ueda brings her 2D characters to life, with elegant costumes that evoke the Meiji Era setting. Sumi, of course, is innocently perfect in every way, the typical Japanese heroine, and the two boys are drawn very very well. Soichiro is tall, dark and handsome, with good looks that contrast Nozomu’s blond pretty boy features. Here’s a look at the two awesome volumes I read:
Sumi and Soichiro (husband)
Sumi & Nozomu (NOT husband)
The colouring has changed for Sumi's hair and eyes, and I don't like that she looks like Nozomu's sister, but how pretty are the cast? Anyway...

The storyline is a little cliché, with a plotline typical of many Asian dramas I’ve watched in the past. If you’ve watched any Taiwanese/Korean/Japanese/Chinese drama, you’ll know what I mean. Poor, sweet girl marries rich, cold guy for his inheritance, a third guy is thrown into the picture, and both being to fight for the girl. Although a little predictable, I found myself chuckling my way through the manga volumes, because some of the heroine-hero interactions are so awkward (for the characters) and some of the lines were lost in translation. A lot of blushing, awkward accidental touches and meaningful eye lockage is scattered throughout the two volumes that I read, along with the roses, sparkles and hair ribbons.

Albeit very stereotypical (in the way that makes you go face-palm, head-desk, OMG-must-keep-on-reading), Stepping on Roses is addictive. If you’re looking for a shojo, period romance, manga filled with gorgeous leads, Stepping on Roses is perfect, and highly recommended! Swoon...I really really need the next two volumes!


Rating:



Links:
Stepping on Roses Vol. 01 at Madman

Friday, 14 January 2011

Review: Last Sacrifice by Richelle Mead

Last Sacrifice by Richelle Mead

Series: Vampire Academy #6
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Age Group:Young Adult
Publisher: Penguin AU -Razorbill
Release Date: December 7, 2010
Format: Paperback, 608 pages
ISBN-13: 9781921518904
RRP: $19.95 AUD







Synopsis
IT ALL COMES DOWN TO NOW.
Murder. Love. Jealousy. And the ultimate sacrifice.
Rose Hathaway has always played by her own rules.  She broke the law when she ran away from St. Vladimir's Academy with her best friend and last surviving Dragomir princess, Lissa.  She broke the law when she fell in love with her gorgeous, off-limits instructor, Dimitri.  And she dared to defy Queen Tatiana, leader of the Moroi world, risking her life and reputation to protect generations of dhampir guardian to come.

Now the law has finally caught up with Rose – for a crime she didn't even commit.  She's in prison for the highest offense imaginable: the assassination of a monarch.  She'll need help from both Dimitri and Adrian to find the one living person who can stall her execution and force the Moroi elite to acknowledge a shocking new candidate for the royal throne: Vasilisa Dragomir.

But the clock on Rose's life is running out.  Rose knows in her heart the world of the dead wants her back . . . and this she is truly out of second chances.  The big question is, when your whole life is about saving others, who will save you?

Join Rose, Dimitri, Adrian, and Lissa in Last Sacrifice, the epic, unforgettable finale to Richelle Mead's international # 1 bestselling Vampire Academy series
Love and Loyalty Run Deeper Than Blood



Review

I realise that this review is very very late, but a late review is better than no review, right? (Edit: I also realise that this is very, very long.) But Last Sacrifice is definitely deserving of a review. Thank you heaps to Romy from Lost in Stories for giving me her extra copy of Last Sacrifice! She’s lovely, please go visit her and follow/comment, if you haven’t already.

Last Sacrifice chronicles Rose’s journey from a suspect for regicide to the final showdown, where Queen Tatiana’s murderer is finally revealed. And like all good murder mysteries, Richelle Mead keeps us guessing until the big reveal, with suspect after suspect cast aside in our vampires’ quest for the truth. Woven into the suspense is a beautiful love story, with both guardian Dimitri and royal Adrian vying for Rose’s affections. It is obvious (and has been from very early on in the series) who Rose ultimately chooses, and while I’m thrilled at the choice, I thought Last Sacrifice was disappointingly void of any heartwrenchingly romantic moments. And no, I don’t mean love scenes, but sweet moments that give you that warm fuzzy feeling, as like the other books.

What Last Sacrifice lacks in romantic buildup, though, is made up for in the character development. Richelle Mead’s characters come to life in the series, and I always feel a genuine connection with them. I admire Rose’s courage and perseverance (not to mention her awesome guardian skills), I am amazed by Lissa’s leadership qualities, I’m astounded by Christian’s devotion to Lissa and his determination to defy the status quo, I am warmed by Adrian’s loyalty, and I absolutely adore everything about Dimitri. Even his martyred chastity. You know that Richelle Mead’s is brilliant at writing characters when her readers are able to identify the speaker of teaser quotes, because they know the characters so well that they can tell that such and such is exactly what he or she would say. For example, this quote, “I would do anything for you. The stupider the better.” is so Adrian.
One clever device that Richelle Mead has used in the entire series is the bond between Rose and Lissa. It allows for an interesting mix of narration, because the perspective alternates between Rose’s present tense first person narration of her trials, and a present tense third person narration by Rose, of Lissa’s predicaments. We get a full scope of events, along with Rose’s immediate reaction, and allows for an interesting storyline to unfold.

There is no question that Vampire Academy is one of my all-time favourite series. But why is this so, and similarly, what does it take for a series to become one of my favourites? Well, aside from the sizzling love triangle between Rose, Dimitri and Adrian, with some scenes that made me swoon, there was the whole vampire world that Richelle Mead created. The vampiric aspect wasn’t what made me fall in love with this series, but the flawless immersion of this fabled and fictious world into modern day was a part of it. I also adored Richelle Mead’s unique twists, including her spotlight on the guardians that protect the vampires, the group in which our awesome Rose belongs. Rose’s personality is on the level of unique that I love. She’s strong, fierce, determined, loyal, a kick-ass heroine and impulsive too, but loved by those closest to her, and admired by readers worldwide.

Everyone knows already that Richelle Mead is a brilliant writer as well. She conveys so much with her words, bringing her characters to life, and a fantastical plotline into being for a fandom of hundreds of thousands. Every twist in the story stuns me, and I love love love that I can slip into her world so seamlessly and be enthralled by it all. Maybe someday I’ll have the words to competently express her awesomeness as well.

Finally, what are my thoughts on the ending that I’ve spent months anticipating? Well, I wasn’t certain, but I was sure that Richelle Mead would pull out a gobsmacker. I was disappointed that I wasn’t completely taken aback by the killer, and there wasn’t a horrified “wow” like the first book, but I hadn’t suspected the killer either. I was thrilled at Lissa’s news, although I thought she reached that stage too easily, and Lissa’s sibling was pretty obvious through hints in the previous books. 

There were some threads hanging at the end of the Last Sacrifice, but this makes me yearn for the first in the spin-off series, Bloodlines, all the more. Richelle Mead says:

"Bloodlines is the spin-off series to Vampire Academy (it's the name of the first book and of the series). It's set in the VA world but will be about different characters: Sydney (our narrator), Jill, Eddie, and one of the love interests from VA. I'm not saying who that last guy is, but it's mostly to protect those who haven't read Last Sacrifice. If you have read it, then it should be pretty obvious who the other character is." - Richelle's Blog

Bloodlines is set to come out "at the end of August [2011]" - Richelle Mead

Interview with Preger Entertainment (about film adaptation): Shadowkissed.com

Rating:



Links:
Vampire Academy Official Website | Last Sacrifice at Penguin | Richelle Mead's Website | Richelle Mead's Blog | VA Wallpapers |

Follow Friday

Book Blogger Hop

Follow Friday is hosted by Parajunkee, where bloggers spread the love by following each other. Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Jennifer at Crazy-For-Books, where book bloggers can "connect with other book lovers, make new friends, support each other, and generally just share our love of books!"

Question: What makes up your non-human family?
Haha, I don't actually have any dogs/cats. I do have a lot of goldfish though, and they swim around and look pretty in our fishtanks.

Question: Why do you read the genre that you do? What draws you to it?
I read Young Adult novels because, well, I am a young adult. I'm past the stage of reading Children's books and MG novels, but I'm not at the adult stage yet (too much violence and romance, in my opinion), but I am partial to Meg Cabot,  and Orson Scott Card's Ender Saga.


In terms of YA genres, I like reading all sorts. I suppose that I'm drawn to the immersive experience of reading; that through words and imagination, I can be transported to many different worlds.



Recently on Book Couture:
Leave a comment below so I can check out your blog and follow, and please take the time to check out some of my recent posts.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Teaser Tuesday: Pretty Little Liars

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by the lovely MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • Be careful not to include spoilers
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other participants can add the book to their "to-be-read" lists if they like your teasers!
So my current read is Pretty Little Liars. [goodreads]


  

Synopsis:

Three years ago, Alison disappeared after a slumber party, not to be seen since. Her friends at the elite Pennsylvania school mourned her, but they also breathed secret sighs of relief. Each of them guarded a secret that only Alison had known. Now they have other dirty little secrets, secrets that could sink them in their gossip-hungry world. 

When each of them begins receiving anonymous emails and text messages, panic, sets in. Are they being betrayed by some one in their circle? Worse yet: Is Alison back?




Teaser:
●▬▬▬▬▬▬๑۩  ۩๑▬▬▬▬▬▬●
" Standing in front of the classroom was Ezra from the bar...her Ezra...at the blackboard and writing Mr Fitz, AP English.
He stared at her, his face draining of colour. 'Holy shit.' "

- pg 55, Pretty Little Liars 1 by Sara Shepard
●▬▬▬▬▬▬๑۩  ۩๑▬▬▬▬▬▬●

It was hard to find the juciest two-lined quote, because there were so many! I had to join together some quotes, but as you can gather, this 'pretty little liar' just realised that her latest hook-up is her AP English teacher!

So, leave the link to your teaser below, or post a comment with two non-spoilery sentences from a book you're reading, and I'll be sure to check it!

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Review: The Iron King by Julie Kagawa + rant on characters

The Iron Queen by Julie Kagawa

Series: The Iron Fey Trilogy (1- The Iron King, 2- The Iron Daughter, 3- The Iron Queen)
Genre: Fantasy
Age Group:Young Adult
Publisher: Harlequin E
Release Date: March 2010
Format: Paperback
ISBN-13: 9780373210084
RRP: $19.99 AUD
Source: Many thanks to the awesome people at Harlequin E, who provided this book in exchange for an honest review. 
Cover love? Gorgeous cover, I love the face and the ornate borders, along with the typography.


Synopsis


Meghan Chase has a secret destiny—one she could never have imagined…

Something has always felt slightly off in Meghan's life, ever since her father disappeared before her eyes when she was six. She has never quite fit in at school…or at home.

When a dark stranger begins watching her from afar, and her prankster best friend becomes strangely protective of her, Meghan senses that everything she's known is about to change.

But she could never have guessed the truth—that she is the daughter of a mythical faery king and is a pawn in a deadly war. Now Meghan will learn just how far she'll go to save someone she cares about, to stop a mysterious evil no faery creature dare face…and to find love with a young prince who might rather see her dead than let her touch his icy heart.

Review

Julie Kagawa has painted a beautiful world that comes to life with each turn of the page. I picked this book up because of the beautiful cover and the enchanting synopsis, and found myself pleasantly surprised about the story that entailed.

The book starts off like your typical YA novel: a female protagonist who is unpopular and fed up with her boring and troubled life. Then strange things start happening to her, and she discovers that her best friend is not who she thinks he is. This paves the way for the adventure that ensues: Meghan is the daughter of faerie King Oberon of the Summer Court, ruler of the Summer fey.

I loved all the aspects of the Fey world that Julile Kagawa meticulously researched and weaved into Meghan's story: the Fey, the aversion to iron, the Shakespearean characters (from A Midsummer Night's Dream), the Summer and Winter Courts, and how children's imagination fuels this alternate universe. She slowly builds up a portrait of this world, without overwhelming us with information all at once.

There was never a dull moment in this book, scarcely a single meaningless passage. Sometimes I found my eyes would skip on to a new passage (as I carelessly tend to do while reading), and I would inevitably be confused, because it felt as if every sentence is crucial to the entire story. If I even blinked, I would miss some action. Similarly, this book is very fast-paced, thoroughly an adventure novel that spans across two worlds and finds the heroes in situations reminiscent to fantasy stories such as J R R Tolkein's The Hobbit.

The characters are average, without any characteristics that separate them from the mass of YA characters within these genres. The loving, relatable, brave-when-needed heroine who falls in love? Check. The funny, loyal, male best friend with a crush? Check. The mysterious, gorgeous boy with kickass fighting skills? Check!

Sure, these are standard, formulaic characters that work, but have quickly become so commonplace within YA that they're inducing eyerolls from me. I realise now that a major part of most of my favourite novels come with unique characters are admirable, but ultimately have very human traits, such as the cohort from The Hunger Games, and Harry Potter. The character descriptions for the trio above (who just so happens to be involved in a love triangle- so totally didn't see that one coming) could be easily applied to Twilight, The Mortal Instruments and Vampire Academy. (Which are three standout series that immediately come to mind, although I cringe to associate the calibre of characters from the latter two with those from Twilight.) On the plus side, there was a witty, devious talking cat who helps Meghan out of a couple of tight spots.

Despite my little rant on characters, I like this series very much. The plot is adventurous, laced with an aroma of romance, and I adore the world that Julie Kagawa incorporates. It's a complex web of fairytales and legends, this Fey world, and I'm looking forward to being similarly entranced with the final installation in this series: The Iron Queen, coming out February 1st, 2011 (which is next month!)

Rating:




Links:
The Iron Fey Official Website | Winter's Passage (Exclusive Novella) Download | The Iron King at Harlequin E | Goodreads | The Iron King Excerpt |

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Review: Gone by Michael Grant


Gone by Michael Grant
Series: 1st in the Gone Series: Gone (2008), Hunger (2009), Lies (2010), Plague (April 4 2011), Fear (TBR), Light (TBR)
Genre: Apocalyptic
Age Group:Young Adult
Publisher: Hardie Grant Egmont
Release Date: April 6th 2008
Format: Paperback, 558 pages
ISBN-13:  9781405246347
RRP: $19.95 AUD
Source: Book provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review, and all opinions expressed are my own. 
Cover love? I love the continuity between the covers (see them at the bottom of the page), because they are simple, but eye catching. The spooky green also makes a great statement.


Synopsis
In the blink of an eye. Everyone disappears. GONE. Except for the young. Teens. Middle schoolers. Toddlers. But not one single adult. No teachers, no cops, no doctors, no parents. Just as suddenly, there are no phones, no internet, no television. No way to get help. And no way to figure out what's happened.
Hunger threatens. Bullies rule. A sinister creature lurks. Animals are mutating. And the teens themselves are changing, developing new talents—unimaginable, dangerous, deadly powers—that grow stronger by the day.

It's a terrifying new world. Sides are being chosen, a fight is shaping up. Townies against rich kids. Bullies against the weak. Powerful against powerless. And time is running out: On your birthday, you disappear just like everyone else...


Review


In Michael Grant's own words,  Gone will "creep you out...make you stay up all night reading, then roll into school tired the next day so that you totally blow the big test and end up dropping out of school." Well, not to the extent that you drop out of school, but Gone will definitely leave your heart pounding in the dark long after you read it, with your mind racing on to imagine how you would fare in Michael Grant's highly realistic world, where every day in the FAYZ is a highly tense game of survival.

Imagine that one day, everyone over the age of 15 suddenly disappears. Gone. What would the remaining kids do them? This premise of Gone utterly intrigued me. I've read Lord of the Flies for school, and was haunted by the concept of the degradation of civilisation to a primitive state, in the hands of children cut off from an adult world, and Michael Grant explores this with intelligence and skill in his saga.

The difference is that the children in the Lord of the Flies (LotF) must make do for themselves, suffering from the lack of food, clothing and shelter, while the children in Gone already are equipped with everything they need to stay alive for several months. While the death toll is greater in Gone than LotF, the percentage of deaths is higher in LotF, making a statement about the ease with which murder can be committed in the 20th century. 

Michael Grant also explores the extent to which humans are prepared to harm others in favour of their own survival. Readers of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins will also be familiar with this theme - the survival of the fittest, and the truth that many people have the capability to kill when they need to. I think it's a very twisted but interesting topic to discuss. Would you kill someone else to save yourself (in self defence)? What if a loved one's life was at stake? I'd love to see your answers. I'm not sure whether or not I could do it - I've never so much as punched someone else with the intent to incapacitate them (I definitely have kicked annoying people playfully). Placed in a hypothetical situation though, I believe an innate sense of self-preservation would kick in and everyone would, to  some extent, do what they have to to survive. 


Back onto the book, Michael Grant has a captivating writing style that does more than carry his intriguing plot line. It paints a believable alternate universe, with characters that are admirable but generic. The main character, Sam, is your typical adventure hero: he's a normal kid, but when the time comes, he has the courage to be a hero. He also has a good heart, and is a natural leader, quipped with fantastical powers and good looks that he is unaware of. The other characters are cliched - the beautiful girlfriend, the best friend who is forever in Sam's shadows, and the evil antagonists that try to take over. Despite their typicality, the characters work well together, and are strongly built.


Gone is a haunting mix of survival themes from Lord of the Flies, imaginative science fiction phenomena at its best, and a thrilling sense of adventure from The Hunger Games. It's a book you'll definitely want to devour.

Rating:



Links:
Gone Official Website | Gone at Egmont | Read an excerpt  | Michael Grant's Website | Goodreads

News:
Plague comes out on the 5th of April, 2011. Read an excerpt of Plague and check out the haunting cover below: It has a plague of locusts rather than a male figure in the text like the previous covers...perhaps to symbolise a change? Suspenseful...!