Saturday, May 29, 2010

In My Mailbox [37]

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Sirenshowcasing what great stuff one got that week (usually goods pertaining to books). And this week I got:

~Nightshade by Andrea Cremer (for review). This one doesn't come out until October, but it's already been generating a fair bit of great buzz. Featured it for last week's Waiting on Wednesday post, actually. Sounds awesome, looking forward to it.

~What If? magazine (2 contributor's copies). I sent in some photography awhile ago, but I wasn't aware that one of my photos actually got chosen to be published in the Summer 2010 issue, so it was definitely pretty exciting to find out by seeing the copies in my mailbox, all rolled and snug.

~Harry Potter trading card. This was actually a prize from Swagbucks, and if you haven't signed up already, you should definitely go do it now. :) (Preferably from this link.)
~And I stopped by the library today, and borrowed an actual YA book, which I haven't done in ages. I actually wasn't really planning on getting anything initially, but then I spotted Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson at the last minute and got that.

Kind of a funny story actually - I've been meaning to read this for a long time now, pretty much since before its release. Which was back in March of 2009. When I first started Lucid Conspiracy, that was about when Wintergirls was getting a ton of great buzz around the blogosphere. And it took me until now to finally get on it. Wooow. Definitely doesn't feel like it's been over a year already. A very severe case of tempus fugit.

So there you have it - the contents of my mailbox (& otherwise). How about you, what was in your mailbox this week?

Friday, May 28, 2010

Shade Review

Shade - Jeri Smith-Ready
*May 4th, 2010 SimonPulse

Love ties them together. Death can''t tear them apart.

Best. Birthday. Ever. At least, it was supposed to be. With Logan''s band playing a critical gig and Aura''s plans for an intimate after-party, Aura knows it will be the most memorable night of her boyfriend''s life. She never thought it would be his last.

Logan''s sudden death leaves Aura devastated. He''s gone.

Well, sort of.

Like everyone born after the Shift, Aura can see and hear ghosts. This mysterious ability has always been annoying, and Aura had wanted nothing more than to figure out why the Shift happened so she can undo it. But not with Logan''s violet-hued spirit still hanging around. Because dead Logan is almost as real as ever. Almost.

It doesn''t help that Aura''s new friend Zachary is so understanding—and so very alive. His support means more to Aura than she cares to admit.

As Aura''s relationships with the dead and the living grow ever complicated, so do her feelings for Logan and Zachary. Each holds a piece of Aura''s heart?and clues to the secret of the Shift.

One of the key qualities that makes a book likable is charisma. Well, I'm pleased to report that Jeri Smith-Ready's Shade is chock-full of that extra zing. In my review of Birthmarked, I mentioned the section of shelf space where I keep hardcover copies of all my favourite books. Shade will be joining their ranks - and considering the meager population there, that's pretty high praise.

Basically, Shade possesses many of the integral components of a successful novel - and not only are the categories hit, they are excelled at. Let's start off with the concept. Smith-Ready really seems to be onto something new and spunky here. Nearly two decades ago, the Shift occurred, and everyone born after it can see ghosts. "Okay," you might be thinking, "so it's another ghost story." Not so! With the added concepts of Shades, violet-hues, the DMP, etc., Shade portrays not only a different breed of ghosts, but proposes a sort of alternate reality where ghosts are incorporated directly into society. And who doesn't love the inclusion of highly classified government agency conspiracies and secrets?

Smith-Ready also has quite a way with words that simply draws the audience in. There's something very readable about the diction choice. To put that into perspective - I managed to tear my way through Shade in one afternoon, despite being heavily in the midst of IB exams.

Overall, the characters were pretty well portrayed and fairly likable. It might have been nice to see a little more development between Aura and her "best friend" Megan, but hopefully that's to come in subsequent books. Although the first meeting between Aura and Zachary progressed events a little too quickly and cockily for my tastes, their subsequent interaction is undeniably cute.

With just the right balance of action, angst, intrigue, mystery and romance, Shade has a little bit of everything for everyone. The scene has been set and it'll be great to see what happens next, especially considering the cliffhanger that it left off with. I know I'm eagerly awaiting the release of Shift, the sequel. Will you be?

With great writing, interesting characters and that extra little zing, Shade is bound to be one of the top YA books of the year.

*From the front angle, the book cover does look a little bizarre with the one arm/hand sticking out. With the book jacket flipped open though, there is a body attached to it. Personally think it might've looked a little more natural if the image were shifted just a little so that slightly more was visible. What do you think of the cover?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday (14)

Grace - Elizabeth Scott
*September 16th, 2010 Dutton

A fable of a terrifying near future by critically acclaimed author Elizabeth Scott.

Grace was raised to be an Angel, a herald of death by suicide bomb. But she refuses to die for the cause, and now Grace is on the run, daring to dream of freedom. In search of a border she may never reach, she travels among malevolent soldiers on a decrepit train crawling through the desert. Accompanied by the mysterious Kerr, Grace struggles to be invisible, but the fear of discovery looms large as she recalls the history and events that delivered her uncertain fate.

Told in spare, powerful prose, this tale of a dystopian near future will haunt readers long after they've reached the final page.

I've actually been meaning to feature Grace for a while now. At first it didn't have a cover, so I figured I'd wait. And then I just didn't get around to it right away - but here we are now.

By this point, it's already clear that Elizabeth Scott has established herself as a quite a powerhouse writer, being able to hit different genres beautifully. (I've reviewed her latest release The Unwritten Rule.) It'll definitely be great to see how she tackles speculative/futuristic fiction.

The cover image is very haunting to look at, especially with those wide, staring eyes. The concept sounds different, unique, original. Basically, it'll be really interesting to see how this one turns out.

And there you have it - my pick of the week. What're you waiting on this Wednesday?

*WoW is hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine

Friday, May 21, 2010

Book Blogs =/= Homework Help

This is an issue I've been meaning to blog about for some time now. Let's face it - it's kind of cool to see what keywords people are using in search engines and such to end up at your blog.

But lately I've been noticing a very disturbing trend. For some time now, search phrases such as:

North of Beautiful Characters"
North of Beautiful themes"
Candor book themes"
What is the setting of [North of Beautiful] [Candor] [All Unquiet Things] [Bad Girls Don't Die] etc."
"What is the theme of [book title]

and those are simply a few examples of a huge slew of queries that somehow lead here. Themes, setting, literary devices, characters, you name it. A few book titles seem to pop up especially much - perhaps they're being used in schools?

And then last month I got these two comments - in quick succession, no less - by an anonymous commenter: "HELP!!! What is Carter's last name?????" and "PLEASE I NEED HELP!!!! WHAT IS CARTER'S LAST NAME????"

But two particular search terms yesterday - from different search engines - really take the cake. "summary on the novel bad girls don't die that i can turn in to my teacher for a book report" and "summary on the novel bad girls don't die that i can hand in to my teacher as a report". Really, people, really? This is kind of appalling. I mean, have you no shame? To go around and attempt to commit such plagiarism... wow.

Have you guys been finding such a trend lately as well? How do you feel about it?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday (13)

Nightshade - Andrea Cremer
*October 19th, 2010 Philomel

While other teenage girls daydream about boys, Calla Tor imagines ripping out her enemies’ throats. And she wouldn’t have it any other way. Calla was born a warrior and on her eighteenth-birthday she’ll become the alpha female of the next generation of Guardian wolves. But Calla’s predestined path veers off course the moment she saves the life of a wayward hiker, a boy her own age. This human boy’s secret will turn the young pack's world upside down and forever alter the outcome of the centuries-old Witches' War that surrounds them all.

It feels like I've been focusing pretty heavily on YA dystopian/science fiction lately, with a bit of dabbling in the paranormal. Well, it feels like time to foray a little deeper into the paranormal realm. Nightshade definitely has a very interesting-looking cover, don't you think?

What's also piqued my interest about this one is the fact that - from the synopsis - it sounds like Calla is a very strong female lead. A "warrior", an "alpha female" - well, sign me up then! Add a Witches' War to the mix and it's just brimming with allure.

And of course the fact that there's so much great buzz circulating about it already doesn't hurt. So there you have it - my pick for this week. What about you - what're you waiting on this Wednesday?

*WoW is hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine

Saturday, May 15, 2010

In My Mailbox [36]

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren showcasing what great stuff one got that week (usually goods pertaining to books).

This week I got Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready (for review), which was super-exciting. I happened to be having a pretty bad day, so it definitely cheered me up to find a package in the mailbox. And it was thicker than I'd been expecting, so I opened it up to find that it also contained White Cat by Holly Black! And there was a personalized note mentioning how [the sender] really enjoyed White Cat, and I just found it really touching that she went that extra mile. So thank you! :)

Keep an eye out for a review for Shade which will be coming soon - it was a fantastic read, I'll say that much for now. For some reason, I keep accidentally typing/thinking Black Cat. Weird, huh? Anyway, been hearing some mixed reviews about White Cat, of the two opposite extremes, so it'll be interesting to see what I think.

What're your guys' thoughts on these? What was in your mailbox this week?

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Vampire Diaries

The Vampire Diaries Season One finale was last night, and wow - what a finale.1 The whole journey of getting to watch this show develop as the season progressed has been very impressive.

It feels like not that long ago that it was the tail-end of summer and the blogosphere was all abuzz with news about LJ Smith's series from 1991 The Vampire Diaries being adapted into a television show by The CW. And intially -watching that trailer, seeing the pilot episode - I thought that it was decent, but not great. Despite the fact that it originally came much earlier, the portrayls in the pilot were quite similar to all the other vampire craze currently going on - Twilight, True Blood and Moonlight, to name a few.

But it was still an intriguing enough start that I kept watching. And kept watching. And wow! Each subsequent episode, the series just seemed to keep on improving. The music selection was applaudable, the scripting was definitely thumbs-up, and the acting was incredible.

Nina Dobrev portrays leading lady Elena Gilbert (as well as Katherine Pierce). I thought she was pretty awesome in Degrassi: The Next Generation. Yeah - she's even better here. Paul Wesley pulls off a pretty great dark, brooding Stephen Salvatore, although I'm not quite as fond of his character as Damon's.

Which brings me to Ian Somerhalder, who plays Damon Salvatore. The facial expressions - so expressive - the acting, the body language, the emotion - well, colour me impressed. He's great. :) I thought Steven R. McQueen did a great job in Everwood, so it was great to see him in The Vampire Diaries. And I just realised a few days ago that Malese Jow was in Unfabulous with Emma Roberts as well - wow, totally didn't recognize her. TVD also did great with diversity as well in terms of actors, which is always great to see.

The supporting cast are awesome too. All the intertwining subplots really add a lot to the series' depth. Sara Canning (Jenna Sommers), Katerina Graham (Bonnie), Candice Accola (Caroline Forbes), Zach Roerig (Matt Donovan), Michael Trevino (Tyler Lockwood) and all the rest really add to the story.

Doesn't this sound like a happy gush-fest? ;) It's a little sad that we've reached the season finale already, but phew - 22 episodes, a full season - quite an accomplishment. And if the whole improving-with-every-episode thing this season is any indication, next season will be phenomenal! So who's up for discussing this season's finale? Theories about next season? Chime in!

***Spoilers Alert***

That scene when Stephen goes down into the burning basement to save Damon - was it just me, or was there some blur zipping up the stairs?! Who/what?

Tyler and Mayor Lockwood being affected by the weapon - what was up with that? Are they werewolves2? And whoa about Caroline! Tyler and Matt finally begin to make up, and then this happens. Hope she's okay! The way the Sheriff looked at the end though - oh no!

And Katherine's back - and so badass3! Which changes things - does that render that kiss between "Elena" and Damon invalid then? Aww! And Elena going into the kitchen - with Katherine in there - things are going to get messy. Jeremy! Will the overdose be enough? Will he turn?

Basically, it was a stacked season finale. What did you guys think of it? What do you think will happen next?

1 I actually didn't watch the finale until just now.
2 I was looking at the Wikipedia page for The Vampire Diaries (novel series) and it mentioned something about Tyler being a werewolf. Although much as been changed in the adaptation, perhaps this hasn't.
3 Pardon my [foreign language]. ;)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

On Turning 18

Today's the day, the big one-eight.

Sounds like a big deal, right? Yet somehow, feels oh-so-anti-climatic. Just another day. Wake up, feel the same. Look in the mirror, look the same. Just one day older, just like any other day.

I feel kind of insignificant about these eighteen years. Just another one of Plato's caves, right? Perception - perspective - it's all very wonky stuff. Eighteen doesn't sound very old, but in the grand scheme of things, eighteen years - that's a fair amount of time.

Did I really accomplish anything significant during this time? Did I waste away my childhood? I don't know. I hope not. There's so much that I've thought about doing, that I've wanted to do - and ultimately didn't do - before this drastic, life-altering milestone marker.

At the same time - there's a lot of stuff that I did do. Stuff that I might not have originally conceived of doing, of being capable of doing - and found myself able. That's kind of empowering.

But again - what is age? What are numbers? Mere fabrications of the human mind, delineations and limitations created by society to exert a sort of control? Does it define a person?

There are two quotes that one of my best buddies and I have been really hanging onto lately. Nullum desiderium, and carpe diem. Both Latin, the former meaning "no regrets" and the latter "seize the day."

And every day is a new day. An open canvas, free to limitless possibilities. Bursting at the seams with potential, waiting for the magic to be drawn out. This year - I'll make it my year. Better and better, every day, day by day.

This year - I'll try harder, I'll work harder, I'll play harder. I'll find that motivation that I've lost, I'll rediscover myself who wandered astray, I'll get up off my ass and make things happen instead of lazing around in bouts of wishful thinking. This year - I will be.

And know what? I'm inviting you to join me in making this year a brilliant year. No day like today to start. So, who's going to take up the challenge? Who's with me?

Carpe diem - and nullum desiderium.

*And back we go to the abyss of IB exams.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Line Review

The Line - Teri Hall
*March 4th, 2010 Dial

An invisible, uncrossable physical barrier encloses the Unified States. The Line is the part of the border that lopped off part of the country, dooming the inhabitants to an unknown fate when the enemy used a banned weapon. It’s said that bizarre creatures and superhumans live on the other side, in Away. Nobody except tough old Ms. Moore would ever live next to the Line.

Nobody but Rachel and her mother, who went to live there after Rachel’s dad died in the last war. It’s a safe, quiet life. Until Rachel finds a mysterious recorded message that can only have come from Away. The voice is asking for help.

Who sent the message? Why is her mother so protective? And to what lengths is Rachel willing to go in order to do what she thinks is right?

Teri Hall's The Line is an intriguing introduction to a new dystopian series.

At 220 pages, The Line is a pretty fast read - I was able to read it in one sitting, actually. It has an engaging concept, and it's pretty high in entertainment value. Language-wise and content-wise, it did feel as though the novel is geared towards the younger spectrum of YA.

One of the most important aspects of successful dystopian science fiction - regardless of whether it's YA or adult - is the ability to make readers think. The Line does that - quite well, I might add. It was really interesting to see the way that the society depicted here functions, how certain aspects pertain to our society. Hall managed to intersperse the information throughout the course of the book to enhance world-building, which was great to see.

I'll admit - at the beginning, I was a little wary; the story was starting out kind of slowly, there were some events where I was like, "just did what?" and there was a fair bit of telling (as opposted to showing). But if you find yourself having those same doubts when first starting out - hang in there! The story really picks up, and the intricacies of the plot start to come to light.

It's odd though; in spite of everything, The Line just has that extra little quality, that sort of charisma, that simply makes it a likeable book. More than anything, The Line feels like it's really just setting the stage for what's to come. And considering the ending it left off with? Definitely looking forward to finding out what happens next. (Away, the follow-up, will be published in 2011).

What's also super-cool is the fact that The Line has been optioned for television! It would definitely be awesome to see how they would bring the story to the screen with live-action.

All in all, Teri Hall's The Line is an entertaining and likeable quick-read.

Teri Hall | Goodreads | IndieBound | The Line Excerpt

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday (12)

Shadow Hills - Anastasia Hopcus
*July 13th, 2010 EgmontUSA
His love captivated her... his secrets might kill her.

Since her sister’s mysterious death, Persephone “Phe” Archer has been plagued by a series of disturbing dreams. Determined to find out what happened to her sister, Phe enrolls at Devenish Prep in Shadow Hills, Massachusetts—the subject of her sister’s final diary entry.

After stepping on campus, Phe immediately realizes that there’s something different about this place—an unexplained epidemic that decimated the town in the 1700s, an ancient and creepy cemetery, and gorgeous boy Zach—and somehow she’s connected to it all.

But the more questions she asks and the deeper she digs, the more entangled Phe becomes in the haunting past of Shadow Hills. Finding what links her to this town…might cost her her life.
There's something really cool about the simplicity and color-contrast of the cover. Persephone makes me think of the mythology attached, and "Phe" is a pretty cool nickname. Not one you see over and over again in YA these days.

If you haven't already, be sure to check out Anastasia Hopcus' website -
the animation/graphics are quite well done. So far, Shadow Hills has been generating a ton of pretty positive buzz.

And there you have it - my pick for this Wednesday. What about you, what're you waiting on this Wednesday?

*WoW is hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine

Monday, May 3, 2010

Before I Fall Review

Before I Fall - Lauren Oliver
*March 2nd, 2010 HarperCollins

What if you had only one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life?

Samantha Kingston has it all—looks, popularity, the perfect boyfriend. Friday, February 12th should be just another day in her charmed life. Instead, it’s her last. The catch: Samantha still wakes up the next morning. In fact, she re-lives the last day of her life seven times, until she realizes that by making even the slightest changes, she may hold more power than she had ever imagined.

"What if?" is one of those questions - one of those concepts - that are so open-ended and so full of limitless possibility that there's no real answer. Lauren Oliver's Before I Fall is a contemplative exploration of this intriguing concept - and it explores this enigma mightily well.

Before I Fall is another one of those titles that has experienced a lot of hype, and lot of very positive early reviews. With these sorts, I'm always a little wary, because on some subconscious level, it elevates your expectations. You want to see if it lives up to its reputation, and you mostly certainly don't want to be disappointed.

One of Before I Fall's fortes is the way the character interactions play out, the way their relationships are conveyed. Sure, Sam and her friends aren't perfect people - but that's what makes them real, what makes them believable in the face of such a situation. The scenes between Sam and her little sister, Izzy, are particularly touching. And for many of us with siblings who are a fair few years younger, the bond conveyed is something we can relate to. This establishes a sense of immediacy and intimacy with the story, which is always great.

I'll admit - the book starts out a little slowly, and the first few days sort of meld into each other. Although I can see why they were necessary to set things up for the subsequent few days, it kind of still feels like the length could've been cut down a little. The first repeat especially, more suspension of disbelief was needed. Not for the situation, actually, but for Sam's behaviour. However, be sure to stick it out - because once Before I Fall gets going, it really gets going. With the combination of the engrossing plotline and Oliver's dynamic writing, Before I Fall takes on a magnetic pull, tugging the reader in just like its characters are endlessly being tugged together.

Another unique feature of Oliver's writing here is the interspersed interludes written in second person. As a reader, there is something very engaging - and simultaneously chilling - about being addressed directly by Sam. It makes you, the reader, a part of the story.

With the beginning of the novel, some of the changes from day-to-day, reliving-to-reliving, seemed to be a little bit too straight-forward, a little bit too cause-and-direct-effect. It would've been nice to see something a little more surprising, like "wow, I wouldn't have thought that such a small change could have such a big impact." Again, as the novel progressed, things got better - a lot better.The smaller details that came to light and became important, the way things were linked together, the way different aspects of characters were revealed... it was all brilliantly executed.

Kent McFuller, Juliet Sykes, Sam Kingston, her posse... the way that all the characters were intertwined and brought together was very interesting to explore. And the ending - wow! Definitely one that leaves you thinking, wondering, contemplating.

Thought-provoking and heartbreaking, Lauren Oliver has painted an exquisite portrait of a last day relived seven times, each time reflecting the rippling changes of small alterations.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

In My Mailbox [35] & Burned Goodies

This week's been pretty cool. First I got Burned by P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast, which was a complete surprise - but a nice one. So thanks for that! :) What was even cooler was that the bookjacket unfolded to become a poster, actually.

Burned was released on April 27th, 2010, and is the seventh book in the House of Night series by P.C. and Kristin Cast....

"Things have turned black at the House of Night. Zoey Redbird’s soul has
shattered. With everything she’s ever stood for falling apart, and a broken
heart making her want to stay in the Otherworld forever, Zoey’s fading fast.
It’s seeming more and more doubtful that she will be able pull herself back
together in time to rejoin her friends and set the world to rights. As the only
living person who can reach her, Stark must find a way to get to her. But how?
He will have to die to do so, the Vampire High Council stipulates. And then Zoey
will give up for sure. There are only 7 days left… "

The New York
Times-bestselling mother-daughter writing team of P.C. and Kristin Cast again
prove why they have become a major force in teen fiction. With over 3 million
copies of their books in print, a well-publicized film option, an updated
interactive website, daily-growing fan base, the Cast duo will command your
attention with every page turn.

Check out the super-duper trailer:

But wait! That's not all - there are more ways to get in on the fun:
`Read the first chapter
`Download the song
`Visit the official website

And guess what else showed up this week. A signed copy of The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott, which I won over at Free Book Friday, which is hosted by the lovely Jessica Brody. Thanks so much, ladies! Speaking of which, Jessica's book The Karma Club was just released on April 27th as well (and you can win a copy at FBF this week). To celebrate the release, she's also hosting a contest where you can win great prizes like Flip Video Cameras and awesome swag. Pop on by to check it out!

So there you have it - my week in books. What was in your mailbox this week?
& while you're here - don't forget to enter to win a SIGNED copy of Morpheus Road: The Light by D.J. MacHale!

*In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren
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