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Charm & Strange

Charm & Strange

Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn

Genre: Young-Adult, Contemporary, Mystery, Werewolves

Publication: June 11th 2013 by St. Martin’s Griffin

The Plot

When you’ve been kept caged in the dark, it’s impossible to see the forest for the trees. It’s impossible to see anything, really. Not without bars . . .

Andrew Winston Winters is at war with himself.

He’s part Win, the lonely teenager exiled to a remote Vermont boarding school in the wake of a family tragedy. The guy who shuts all his classmates out, no matter the cost.
He’s part Drew, the angry young boy with violent impulses that control him. The boy who spent a fateful, long-ago summer with his brother and teenage cousins, only to endure a secret so monstrous it led three children to do the unthinkable.

Over the course of one night, while stuck at a party deep in the New England woods, Andrew battles both the pain of his past and the isolation of his present.

Before the sun rises, he’ll either surrender his sanity to the wild darkness inside his mind or make peace with the most elemental of truths—that choosing to live can mean so much more than not dying.

My Review

Charm & Strange was utterly compelling from the first moment I entered the pages and it haunted me long after putting it down. It’s hard to fully review this book without giving everything away because there is a complexity that is intriguing and the plot whilst I could guess was truly unexpected from my first thoughts. This book is certainly not what it first appears and I applaud Kuehn for her choice of topic and clever handling of it. She chooses to do so in a rather unique fashion and this for me separates Charm & Strange from every other debut on the shelf. Kuehn strove for that originality and in my opinion, she certainly achieved it.

At first I struggled with the narrative style that switched between present and past and Win our unreliable protagonist only managed to make it seem more choppy and jolty with his odd ways and stilted manner at times. However I soon became sucked into the time switches and the prose was genuinely beautiful. I’m not usually one to be bothered by the narrative style all that much, but there was something rather haunting in Kuehn’s style that kept me entranced. I did find that the last part of the book was a little abrupt and rushed compared to the first, very large section of the book and it was rather a let down in terms of suspense. The ultimate end felt like a little bit of anti-climax, but despite this I would urge you to read the book.

From what I can tell, mortality is a word. Nothing more. There’re the things people do when others are watching and the things we do when they aren’t. I’d like to believe Anthony Burgess knew that, but then that dumb last chapter of his book went and ruined the whole thing. That made me mad, and so I think the movie version got it right: people don’t change. Their nature, that is. There are other kinds of change, of course.*

Another point that caused me great confusion to begin with was how to label this book. Is it contemporary or is it paranormal? Well, Win is a very confused and broken teenage boy and it was utterly heart-breaking to feel from his perspective and see through his eyes. I appreciated that we had the teenage boy perspective that wasn’t full of bravado and strength because not every teenage boy is that. Still, he believes he is a wolf and this is the driving force behind the novel and only adds to the unsettling chill and fear that seeps into your bones as you read. It really has an unnerving edge to be in Win’s mind, especially when he moves further and further to the edge of sanity. The journey he takes to uncover himself is one that doesn’t quite slip away from you and for that reason I urge you to read this book. To take the journey with Win and uncover the beauty of Kuehn’s writing craft.

Finally, Kuehn’s novel was absent of romance for Win and for that alone I found it different and refreshing. She focuses on the state of a teenager and the bond between family and I think this enabled me to relate into the storyline and connect with the characters. However I must warn you, the book isn’t all that happy and the rather sombre, dark colours of the new cover certainly reflect the air of despair and mystery at times that encompass this book. It’s poignant, innovative and thought-provoking so don’t miss out. I have nothing else to say, but read it now and be prepared for the unexpected!

4.5 Books / 5 Books

*Quote taken from an uncorrected e-arc copy.

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Filed under 2013 Publication, 4.5 Books, Contemporary, E-book, Mystery, St Martin's Griffin, Stephanie Kuehn, Werewolves, Young Adult

Dare You To

Dare You To

Dare You To by Katie McGarry

Series: Pushing the Limits #2

Genre: Contemporary, Young-Adult, Romance

Expected Publication: May 28th 2013 by Harlequin Teen

The Plot.

If anyone knew the truth about Beth Risk’s home life, they’d send her mother to jail and seventeen-year-old Beth who knows where. So she protects her mom at all costs. Until the day her uncle swoops in and forces Beth to choose between her mom’s freedom and her own happiness. That’s how Beth finds herself living with an aunt who doesn’t want her and going to a school that doesn’t understand her. At all. Except for the one guy who shouldn’t get her, but does….

Ryan Stone is the town golden boy, a popular baseball star jock-with secrets he can’t tell anyone. Not even the friends he shares everything with, including the constant dares to do crazy things.The craziest? Asking out the Skater girl who couldn’t be less interested in him.
But what begins as a dare becomes an intense attraction neither Ryan nor Beth expected. Suddenly, the boy with the flawless image risks his dreams-and his life-for the girl he loves, and the girl who won’t let anyone get too close is daring herself to want it all…

The Review.

Dare You To is a contemporary novel as equally engaging as McGarry’s Pushing the Limits. However, Dare You To didn’t quite push the same buttons as Pushing the Limits for me, but despite this, I loved it all the same. I found that I engaged with the characters and their story and after the introduction took a while to assimilate with because the introduction felt a little stilted, but from then on out the novel was a whirlwind and it kept me hooked from start to finish playing on my emotions and making me smile as well as cry. I think the reason that I didn’t truly connect with McGarry’s Dare You To as much as Pushing the Limits because I felt that Pushing the Limits had more layers to it with the mystery and dynamic that it didn’t seem to be entirely romance centric and whilst McGarry draws in other elements in Dare You To with deprived neighbourhoods impacting upon the characters and their ideals and how the environment can manipulate the individuals. However, Dare You To lacked the mystery that pushed me on to read and devour and the romance took a major part of the story that reminded me it was contemporary. Despite this, I think McGarry reminded us so much why we love her characters and how well she allows the words to flow together.

I know so many people expected Beth and Isaiah to be together, and whilst I did, I actually preferred this route to that which McGarry took and the justification she gave in her novel for her decision. I think the choice she made for Beth and Isaiah represents how well she understands her characters at their deepest level and the progression they need to become who they truly are. Beth and Isaiah I felt would have restricted each other and McGarry addresses this factor in the novel because they had their ups and downs, but the friendship I think they’ll sustain will hopefully be a strong enough bond. After all, Beth never felt invested for me in Isaiah in book 1 and that troubled me, so I’m actually glad McGarry took a different direction. I urge you to not let this put you off reading Dare You To because of the couple she chose because the direction doesn’t take away from the novel at all.

Beth is a character that I struggled to like. I just couldn’t wrap my head around her decisions because she was on a path of self-destruction from the start and I just wanted to shake her, but I guess part of this was her love for her family and I appreciated that McGarry didn’t allow her to give up so easily. Beth was a stubborn, tenacious character with a rather broken spirit and that needed somebody to help rebuild her to a whole rather than like Isaiah, I felt he would have allowed her to spiral further into destruction, Ryan didn’t allow this. I liked that Beth always stood up for her beliefs, but at the same time her proneness to running annoyed me because it felt like a cliché for a lot of novels and she was such a strong character that she had the ability she just chose the easy way out. Most of all, I loved Beth’s spunk and her fashion sense and self-expression that really made her the diverse character in the small town so she wasn’t conforming to the way people expected her to behave. And the fact that by the end on her own terms she managed to form bonds and friendships between the other characters made me smile because truly, her tale of isolation was heart-breaking! This quote actually broke my heart a little bit at how innocent and endearing Beth could be at times despite her crusty exterior there was a girl I just wanted to wrap up and take away from all the hurt and pain.

“With a room like this, I bet he buys rand-name cereal.”

Ryan is a male protagonist that I really liked. If you’re worried about not liking him, he’s an easy character to worming his way into your heart. At first he seems like the player, but beneath the surface and the POVs splits between him and Beth really enabled you to uncover his thoughts. I liked that McGarry continued the theme of POV switches like she did between Noah and Echo is Pushing the Limits because it created consistency and enabled us to really understand both characters. Ryan seems to be rather one dimensional to start with and this is why I struggled with the introduction, but I guess McGarry tries to incorporate the theme of mystery around his family, but I don’t think she achieved it as successfully with Dare You To it felt more of a slow unravelling of the plot rather than mystery. However his character built up as we went along and despite some of the things he did and his first intentions he was a very sweet, caring character and he’s passionate about what he loves; baseball and writing. It’s so infectious.  And with Beth’s help, he eventually stands up for what he believes in.

“Baseball isn’t just a game. It’s the smell of popcorn drifting in the air, the sight of bugs buzzing near the stadium lights, the roughness of the dirt beneath your cleats. It’s the anticipation building in your chest as the anthem plays, the adrenaline rush when your bat cracks against the ball, and the surge of blood when the umpire shouts strike after you pitch. IT’s a team full of guys backing your every move, a bleacher full of people cheering you on. It’s … life.”

Beth and Ryan worked well together as a couple and I thought they challenged and pushed each other to change and do what needed to be done rather than they felt comfortable with. She really makes their characters to be real and not unrealistic Mary Sues.  I think this is truly where McGarry shines when she depicts the true relationships of characters and not something fluffy and unrealistic that some contemporaries I feel play on, which is why I can happily award her novels more than 3 stars because they appear to have more dimensions than one.

Oooh, McGarry also manages to write despicable character who you really hate. Gwen is a character I definitely despised. From the moment I met her, McGarry clearly showed us why we shouldn’t like her and she continued to build the case uncovering sub-plots that related to Lacy, Beth’s friend which I think it would have been nice to have seen explored more.  There was just something about Gwen that really grated against me and I’d be surprised if anybody liked her. She was just so self-centered and I liked how Lacy saw straight through her and supported Beth in the right direction. My only annoyance was how Beth allowed Gwen’s poison to get to her and that was the only real element of McGarry’s novel that I found unrealistic. I just didn’t understand the irrationality of her actions, but I like to think Beth used it more as an excuse than anything.

“Gwen,” I say in return. Reaching the concession stand, she sweeps her hair over her shoulder as she refocuses her attention. I keep staring, trying to remember why we broke up.

“Drama!” Lacy purposely blocks my view of Gwen’s ass.”

– Man much, Ryan, staring at her ass?

One element of this novel that I didn’t like was the reappearance of Echo and Noah. I adored their relationship in Pushing the Limits, but I don’t think McGarry captured the dynamic the same in bringing them back for a snapshot in this novel and that disappointed me. I didn’t want to see them in Dare You To if they appeared different because they seemed tainted by their environment in the destructive environment and Pushing the Limits seemed to show a new direction and I felt like they’d taken a back-step. Maybe it was just me, but I’d have rather McGarry had eclipsed them entirely from the novel and not allow them to encroach on Beth and Ryan’s novel because Beth didn’t really get on well with either of them and I felt that the connection relied with Isaiah who wasn’t seen that much to say that they had such a close friendship. Thus, I expect to see Beth in the next book because of the dynamic Isaiah and Beth had.

For those of you wondering about Isaiah, he gets his own book, Crash Into You to make up the third book in the series and I’m very much looking forward to this one to summarise the little troupe, hopefully with happy endings because whilst McGarry delivers with an emotional rollercoaster, I don’t think she’ll leave you in despair.

Overall I really enjoyed Dare You To and fully expect most people to fall head over heels in love with it, if not more than Pushing the Limits, but for me, I think there was something special and new about the development of Pushing the Limits that didn’t quite touch Dare You To. However, I recommend the novel without reserve and I am eagerly awaiting the next because McGarry is an addiction all on her own.

*Quotes taken from an uncorrected e-copy provided through NetGalley thanks to Harlequin Teen.

~ 4 Books /  5 Books ~

Nerd Fact

So personally, I know very little about baseball except it involves bases and sounds like an English version of rounders. Therefore it being Ryan’s love, I thought I’d look up some facts about it.

It involves nine players on either side and you basically have to hit a ball and run around the four bases at the corners of a 90-foot diamond. With turns of batting and pitching, which I’m sure most, if not all of you know.

However, the early form of baseball was being played in the mid-eighteenth century in England with the first reference in A Little Pretty Pocket-Book by John Newberry and immigrants brought it to North America where they developed the modern version and by the nineteenth century it was seen as the Unite States’ national sport.

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Filed under 2013 Publication, 4 Books, Contemporary, E-book, Harlequin Teen, Katie McGarry, Romance, Young Adult

Sister Assassin

Sister Assassin

Sister Assassin by Kiersten White

Series: Mind Games #1

Genre: Fantasy, Mystery, Romance, Young-Adult

Expected Publication: February 19th 2013 by HarperTeen

The Background.

Some of you may know Sister Assassin more commonly as Mind Games, the American version of the book with an entirely different cover.

However on with the book, I felt like none of the synopsis really captured the book for me or they have away too much. Sister Assassin is undoubtedly full of mystery (and unfortunately for me it was full of confusion). I went into reading the book without really reading the synopsis and in a way I am glad, because for me it told you everything that I didn’t expect in the novel and that would have detracted from my enjoyment.

Sister Assassin focuses on the relationship between two sisters, Sofia and Annie (Annie being the older) and how they have abilities (not the only people in the world) and how these are used to help them survived. They are trapped in a vicious circle of heart-break, betrayal, pain, hurting and this is all confined within a school that is designed to “mould” the girls and ultimately use them. There’s lots of subterfuge and excitement along the way and a little bit of romance. However the novel is driven by the two sisters and their relationship and the extent in which having these powers will mean they have to go to.

The Review.

Sister Assassin unfortunately is not a novel I enjoyed, and I am sure I will be one of the rare few and it is not often that I feel that way. For me, the problem with Sister Assassin lay not with the structure of the narrative which switches between Annie and Sofia, the two protagonists and sisters and jumping from present to past. This did discombobulate me, but I learned to deal and pay close attention to the time frame, it was the characters themselves that truly grated on me. Despite this, I think Sister Assassin has an awful lot to offer as a novel and that is its true selling point, I have not read any of Kiersten White’s other novels, but this one contains, fantasy elements, mystery, romance and lots of thrills and action. My brain was constantly ticking over to try and find out what was happening and it wasn’t so overly complicated that I couldn’t figure out things.

Sofia and Annie are two sisters who supposedly love each other and care very deeply. Annie is the older sister and this took me a while to figure out, since it didn’t seem to be entirely clear for me (or I likely skipped this part for some unknown reason). Still, this confused me as to the real dynamic of their relationship as sisters for the first half of the novel because the time jumping failed to lay the foundations for their relationship and I couldn’t get a connection to the two. I thought Sofia was the older sister purely because of the way she acted and then it took me by surprise since Annie appeared to be the child. Unfortunately for me, first impressions count and it’s hard to remove them after that. I didn’t like the sisters in all honesty. I felt that they were both destructive towards each other and despite all this caring and their environment  being destructive they were not healthy for each other. There seemed to be little vindictive digs between the two and a hatred that made reading sour for me. Whether this was Kiersten’s intention to rebuild something between the two of them, I felt that it was too far gone to truly be fixed and that the girls were so damaged that it twisted my stomach.

“Why? And thanks to Keane’s rules, I can’t visit her or even call her without being spied on. How could she do this to me? To us? She used me.”

When the novel is called Sister Assassin I fear that the title is slightly misleading because it creates the idea of a duo. This is not to be seen because the title Mind Games I feel is infinitely more applicable to the novel and that the characters within the novel play mind games upon the girls because Sofia and Annie are far from being equals. They are used against each other and manipulated and this is what I didn’t like because it slowly disintegrated their relationship and left a sour feeling in my gut. I hated how the siblings who had to rely solely on one and other were dragged apart and how they both got the idea they were of lesser value to the other. I liked the initiative of White to take on this dynamic, but to use the girls to abuse one another so emotionally that they became even more frayed grated on me. I don’t think I’d have minded so much if I felt that something positive came of this, but it just felt pointless.

Even without liking the destructive relationship between the girls, I neither liked their personalities. I felt that both of them were self-absorbed and choosing to blame themselves too much for every problem. Everything was me, me, me, and they didn’t look for each other.  They failed to communicate. This may all seem to be part of the dark, twisted novel that definitely gets points for being gritty and full of hardship, I just couldn’t connect with these whiny, characters that seemed to emphasise so much about not doing it that they eventually would. Not everything fails though because they do both have redeeming moments in the fact that they eventually seem to reach a point of resolution that doesn’t fully give an ending to their relationship just represents their intelligence and bond. It didn’t leave me satisfied enough to give this book a higher rating, however I believe that a lot of people will truly appreciate the novel and its ending for its subtle cleverness.

Having said that, Sister Assassin takes on a unique, brave approach in the young-adult world and it is quick read at just over 200 pages, pushes forward an action packed and thrilling novel that will tick an awful lot of boxes for people with a desire for heroines that push themselves into the thick of things and still manage to show vulnerabilities, I just couldn’t connect with the characters or appreciate them.

The romance in Sister Assassin frustrated me beyond belief because I was rooting for all the wrong things. I think this left me disappointed and I couldn’t understand the characters and their actions. I’m not for happily ever afters in every novels because this isn’t what Sister Assassin delivers and with such a title it’s not really what I expected, but neither am I for entire paths of destruction or stupidity. I just felt like wringing the characters necks. Having said that, the love interests that we gain and note the word “interests” however this is used with the utmost care and it does not really create a love triangle, it much more becomes a pinnacle of direction of choice for Sofia who is the focus of this novel much more. Despite this, I couldn’t connect to either boy that she has in her life nor truly like them. There was always undercurrents that left me unsettled from all the characters and this book.

“I wish she were my dog and I had an alcoholic father and I was the type of girl that Adam could date and rescue and fall in love with. I wish my left arm didn’t hurt so much I wanted to die…”

The one element of Sister Assassin I wish had been focused upon much more was the school and the whole dynamic surrounding this. I feel like we’ve only just begun to scratch the surface and White eluded to so much more and she left me rather disappointed if I’m honest with her eventual unveiling in Sister Assassin and this is the sole reason to my contemplation to pick up the next novel when I didn’t truly connect with this one. However I feel like there is lots of potential on a mystery and political front that can be dragged from the school and the direction White is taking her novel in. Maybe if she’d allowed herself to continue this one I may have been able to engage more with her direction. However at the moment I feel isolated from the characters and her direction.

The other point to note is the narrative. We split between both Annie and Sofia and then from past to present and you have to pay close attention to the changing time frame. It can certainly draw you away from the novel, but eventually I managed to get into the narrative after a while and looking out for the specific changes and I think the time frame added to the subplots of the novel and the complexity to slowly unveil the events and different elements that are contained in Sister Assassin to make it so dynamic.

Overall, I don’t suggest you ignore Sister Assassin, but I suggest an air of caution. I know plenty of people who have adored this novel and I feel I will be a black sheep in not liking this, but I found it hard to change my mind by the end of the novel despite its improvement. For me, White has lots of lost potential here in Sister Assassin that I don’t think she used in the right way for her characters to work in a believable, damaged way without everything seeming to be one abuse after another between every relationship that led to a breakdown. I’ve found it hard to truly put all my feelings into Sister Assassin because I really felt rather ambivalent by the end and whilst I appreciate the ending I still couldn’t find myself to like it more. However just to show you that there are people who loved it, check out  Rebekah’s review at The Reflections of a Bookworm here and Tonya’s from The Midnight Garden’s review here, both who gave the book four stars.

*Quotes taken from an uncorrected e-arc copy provided through NetGalley thanks to HarperCollinsUK

2 books

Nerd Fact

The use of a different title and cover is largely due to the HarperCollins UK buying the publishing rights for Mind Games and choosing to take a different marketing approach to the UK market, nothing exciting really. I think whilst the Mind Gamestitle is less apt, the tagline fits perfectly to the novel. This is the American cover that some of you may be more familiar with. 

This year both Mind Games and Sister Assassin will be released to America and the UK, Australia etc on the same date, because of HaperCollins UK buying the rights, so all those UK buddies will not have to wait to get their hands on this!

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Filed under 2 Books, 2013 Publication, E-book, Fantasy, HarperCollins, Kiersten White, Mystery, Romance, Young Adult

The Mad Scientist’s Daughter

Mad Scientist's Daughter

The Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke

Genre: Science-fiction, Romance, Adult

Expected Publication: February 7th 2013 by Angry Robot

The Plot.

“Cat, this is Finn. He’s going to be your tutor.”

He looks, and acts human, though he has no desire to be. He was programmed to assist his owners, and performs his duties to perfection. A billion-dollar construct, his primary task now is to tutor Cat. As she grows into a beautiful young woman, Finn is her guardian, her constant companion… and more.

But when the government grants rights to the ever-increasing robot population, however, Finn struggles to find his place in the world.

The Review.

The Mad Scientist’s Daughter is a novel that moved me to tears. I truly did not expect to feel so emotional about a robot. I mean a robot to me has always been metal pieces controlled with complicated electronic circuits inside and sometimes, occasionally the robot may have a system that allows responses. However, Finn is a robot like no other. He was human, he felt human to me and ultimately I couldn’t displace him as not being human and this humanity that surrounded Finn made his story all the more heart-breaking because whilst our protagonist is following Cat growing up from a very young age to her later years which works surprisingly well across the novel, I felt that there was a strong focus through the novel on Finn and that viewing the world through his eyes would have really changed the workings of the novel because I would love to get into his mind and delve further because he has a complex character that is still hard to pinpoint by the end of the novel. I am frankly enamoured with Finn and this is probably why I sobbed quite a lot when reading The Mad Scientist’s Daughter.

“His eyes loomed steadily in the buzzing light of the porch. His skin was much too fair, sallow beneath the swath of black hair that flopped across his forehead.”

Don’t get me wrong, this novel is far from being faultless, but I did really enjoy the novel. The Mad Scientist’s Daughter is a gritty novel that whilst it delves into the world of science-fiction, it touches on friendship, relationships, loss, grief and a changing world. It isn’t full of flowers and happiness, Clarke shows her versatility as an author as she takes on loss of close family relations, abusive relationships and coming to terms with your feelings for others and the meanings that truly lay behind these. I think the cover perfectly encapsulates the kind of desolation that The Mad Scientist’s Daughter delves into and the moon that becomes a very vital part of the story. If you are looking for a happy novel, then The Mad Scientist’s Daughter is not it and I suggest you run far away. However if you want something that’s gritty, emotional and an all around rollercoaster, but still manages to end of a moment of hope and love then pick up The Mad Scientist’s Daughter because I don’t see how it cannot fail to wow.

Cat is the protagonist of this tale and she’s a very complex character. Her relationship with her parents is rather turbulent, but I am thankful to say they are not absent. They show concern for her and whilst they aren’t always present they genuinely care for her welfare and their actions dictate that they only endeavour to give her the best with pushing her. Despite all of this, Cat is not a happy character and she comes with her fair share of her problems. Personally, her isolation as a child with only her robot tutor, Finn, for company and then her friendship group of rather unstable, gothic junkies through high-school lead me to say that this clearly influences Cat’s rather wild behaviour. She’s not an easy character to get along with and whilst I can’t say I liked her, I could connect with her and I found her issues and feelings moving and turbulent. She clearly felt conflicted throughout the novel about Finn and what he can actually be to her, after all, he is a robot and she can’t fathom his nature. It’s rather sad their relationship and the pushing and pulling that takes place and it’s always one of my favourite aspects of a romance to see a rocky path to love and these two take a real roller-coaster. Cat through the end of it, manages to stick to her beliefs after being a very flighty and indecisive character throughout particularly when she lost herself. I did like that she seemed to have matured and found a semblance of who she truly was by the end of the novel and this allowed me to like her more by the end.

“You’re welcome.” He regarded her with his dark eyes. Cat crawled forward on her bed and reached across the chasm between them to pull the chair, with him in it, closer to her.”

The one thing that I didn’t like about The Mad Scientist’s Daughter is that we had very little background to the state of the world and what had happened. Clare seemed to skip straight  over this and I was always hoping that we get some idea of what this “destruction” was and the extremes temperatures they had which all led to the robots being brought in to rebuild the world. I felt we had a great lack of world building for the past and this was Clare just seemed to drop. Everything else about the novel excelled because it was so character driven with fantastic, primary and secondary characters, but the history of the world seemed to vanish. For me, with this, Clare’s novel would be in a whole other league, but nevertheless I still enjoyed it immensely.

Finn is a robot and that will not change no matter how much humanity you apply to him and this was an interesting concept to deal with. I can see how this may make some people uncomfortable in reading because of that, but if you look at the perspective of his behaviour and his feelings then he’s not just a hunk of metal. You need to push aside him as a robot, and look at the romance and Finn as a person because he can be moving and he raised emotions in me. He was a character I grew to respect and love and he’s the reason I kept crying. If it were not for Finn, I do not think The Mad Scientist’s Daughter would be quite the same and I’m afraid my favourite Star Wars robot, C-3PO has been replaced by a new one who’s after my heart. Clare clearly excelled with Finn’s character and I think she worked wonders on the angle of the robot. She also followed this up with protests and underground groups working to gain rights for robots and the changing environment of the world meant that robots were being accepted and I liked the political aspect of the novel and Finn’s character because he was clearly entangled with these elements.

“I can’t tell you what it means to be the only one of my kind,” he said. “I can’t… There is a lack in myself. But your thesis almost filled it in. It was… a start.”

Clare does a fantastic job of building up secondary characters and relationships outside of Finn and Cat because the novel does focus on their relationship it does not solely revolve around it. Clare builds a world up around Cat, so we can only see the world and the people that she connects with. Outside of this we are blank, but because Cat seems to run into lots of people it actually works surprisingly well because we don’t feel confined to just a few characters. The strongest characters I feel are Cat’s parents and in particular her father who plays the strongest secondary character in the novel, but this is probably important because he is the “Mad Scientist”. I didn’t think this aspect of the novel was played on strongly enough about him being the “Mad Scientist” because whilst Cat dealt with issues from other teenagers it was never truly explored. The meaning of this name is implied, but it’s never stated obviously and I think Clare could have explored it a lot further to a greater advantage of her novel.

Through The Mad Scientist’s Daughter Clare presents her versatility of an author to broach both into Young Adult fiction and Adult fiction as you may more commonly know her as the author of The Assassin’s Curse and this novel is incredibly different. I like that the two novels were very different and reflected two entirely different meanings and that she didn’t try to apply the style of The Assassin’s Curse to The Mad Scientist’s Daughter because she made them two entirely different things. If I’m honest, I enjoyed The Mad Scientist’s Daughter more because I thought it was more developed in meaning, but that The Assassin’s Curse has the stronger world foundations. Either way I recommend both novels without reserve, but suggest if you prefer young-adult that you stick to Clare’s The Assassin’s Curse.

Overall, whilst I can nit-pick at The Mad Scientist’s Daughter and I do not see it as a perfect novel, it is one that I could connect and enjoy despite my emotional outbursts and this is what makes it one of my favourite releases of the year so far. Perfection does not always equate to enjoyment in my opinion, so I think despite the few points of contention that you may have with The Mad Scientist’s Daughter or people’s queasy reaction over Finn as a robot, you shouldn’t disregard this novel because it is definitely a stunner in the making. There are lots of brilliant elements that The Mad Scientist’s Daughter manages to encapsulate with the emotion, the characterisation, the politics and the pacing that whilst this novel pushes being quite lengthy keeps it moving and kept me reading. I’ll be looking out for more works from Clare because she’s an author to watch out for.

*quotes taken from an uncorrected arc e-copy provided by Angry Robot via NetGalley.

5 books 

 

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Filed under 2013 Publication, 5 Books, Adult, Angry-Robot, Cassandra Rose Clarke, E-book, Romance, Science-Fiction

Eve and Adam

Eve and Adam

Eve and Adam by Michael Grant and Katherine Applegate

Genre: Science-fiction, Young-Adult, Romance

Expected Publication: October 2nd 2012 by Feiwel & Friends

Sixteen-year-old Evening Spiker lives an affluent life in San Francisco with her mother, Emma-ose, a successful geneticist and owner of Spiker Biotech. Sure, Evening misses her father who died mysteriously, but she’s never really questioned it. Much like how she’s never stopped to think how off it is that she’s never been sick. That is, until she’s struck by a car and is exposed to extensive injuries. Injuries that seem to be healing faster than physically possible.

While recuperating in Spiker Biotech’s lush facilities, she meets Solo Plissken, a very attractive, if off-putting boy her age who spent his life at Spiker Biotech. Like Evening, he’s never questioned anything… until now. Solo drops hints to Evening that something isn’t right, and Emma-Rose may be behind it. Evening puts this out of her mind and begins her summer internship project: To simulate the creation of the perfect boy. With the help of Solo, Evening uncovers secrets so big they could change the world completely.

My Review:

The expectations I had for this novel were high! The premise of Eve and Adam leaves one undoubtedly excited and when I got hold of this I couldn’t wait to start. However, when I started reading things just seemed to trickle down hill from there. I wouldn’t label this book as bad or rubbish, it just didn’t blow my mind like I expected it to. There were no little intricacies or details of the genetics. The explosions of action were rather sedate and expected almost. At times I even felt like the plot was a little too predictable. However, this story does manage to be well-written, enjoyable and engaging. It hooks you from the first moment to keep reading on, for whilst it may not have a accelerating, heart-wrenchingly fast speed, it does have a unique direction and one that has left me wanting to read the sequel.

Evening is the main character who predominantly narrates the story. There are interludes of Solo and then even Adam when he appears, but not nearly enough to ramp up the pace. Evening’s narration seems to follow at a more sedate pace and is far less interesting than that of her male counterparts. If only we’d witnessed more changing of perspective to Solo and Adam, I think the novel would have stood to substantially gain more excitement. For in the first part of the novel much of Evening’s narration is spent character building and learning about her. This isn’t a bad thing, I just felt like there was too much focus on this and not enough on the plot which seems to take a back seat in this story.

The character building I would say is worthwhile because the connection that Evening and Aislin—her best friend—form is one that’s easily understood and allows you to fathom much of Evening’s actions throughout the novel to aid her friend. I think it holds a strong point for the novel and it’s something I could reflect into the real world the type of friendship they have is unwavering and problematic, but a friendship nevertheless.

The cover states “Eve and Adam” which is very interesting for Eve is the first named and actual the name Evening takes on from Solo. The relationship between Eve and Solo is interesting to witness. It takes a very rocky road and was rather unpredictable. At times I was unsure in which direction Evening was going to take and it frustrated me, but at the same time, finding the romance a little unpredictable was engaging for the plot was a little more predictable at points.

“Stop projecting your feelings on me,” Solo says.

It’s a breathtakingly effective put-down.

However, the cover and the title are rather misleading because we have very little focus on Adam really in this novel. He is present, we just know very little about him and the sequel which is to be “Adam and Eve” makes things even more frustrating for the novels direction sounds very changeable.

Moving on to focus on the plot, there is very little information on the genetics of the story. I can understand the apple on the front with the jigsaw pieces and we even have Evening focus on an apple for the first part of the story, but overall, I felt there was a lack of the “science-fiction” element in this story and much more could have been done to push it into the story without overfilling the storyline with biological terms none of us understood. Things were rather just seemingly placed and happened. And whilst Evening claims to adore genetics and be smart, there seems very little evidence of this, throughout the story.

“Genetics. I like genetics, the rules, the order. My best friend, Aislin, says it’s because I’m a control freak.”

Nevertheless the plot pushes on and there are unexpected moments at the end where things move on more at the end in several different directions that I found entertaining. It would have been much better if the whole novel had contained this kind of anticipation and excitement the first half lacked.

Another point in favour of this book is that the romance doesn’t overshadow the plot and it is there enough to keep you interested and smile, but not too much that it becomes sickly or annoying. Be prepared for the fear of a love-triangle if you don’t like them because I know at moments it looks as though there may be a love triangle in this story, but really when you look closer into things, it doesn’t look quite possible. I hope the foundations of the relationships in this novel will be developed more in the sequel, which I will be looking forward to hoping it invigorates me much more than Eve and Adam.

3 books

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* Quotes are taken from and uncorrected proof copy and may change in the final draft.

Thank you to NetGalley and Macmillan Children’s Publishing for providing me with a copy of this in exchange for my honest review.

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Filed under 2012 Publication, 3 Books, E-book, Feiwel & Friends, Michael Grant and Katherine Applegate, Romance, Science-Fiction, Young Adult

Carnival of Souls

Carnival of Souls

Carnival of Souls by Melissa Marr

Genre: Young-Adult, Fantasy, Daimons

Expected Publication: September 4th 2012 by HarperCollins

In a city of daimons, rigid class lines separate the powerful from the power-hungry. And at the heart of The City is the Carnival of Souls, where both murder and pleasure are offered up for sale. Once in a generation, the carnival hosts a deadly competition that allows every daimon a chance to join the ruling elite. Without the competition, Aya and Kaleb would both face bleak futures–if for different reasons. For each of them, fighting to the death is the only way to try to live.

All Mallory knows of The City is that her father–and every other witch there–fled it for a life in exile in the human world. Instead of a typical teenage life full of friends and maybe even a little romance, Mallory scans quiet streets for threats, hides herself away, and trains to be lethal. She knows it’s only a matter of time until a daimon finds her and her father, so she readies herself for the inevitable. While Mallory possesses little knowledge of The City, every inhabitant of The City knows of her. There are plans for Mallory, and soon she, too, will be drawn into the decadence and danger that is the Carnival of Souls.

My Review:

This book was dark, devious and absolutely delicious! I may have really enjoyed this book, but I still have a few reservations. Nevertheless, I am beyond thrilled to have got my hands on an early copy of this! It was the kind of dark novel that I’ve been waiting for from the young-adult genre! And the cover just looks divine. Once again, it’s a book with a pretty cover and a phenomenal story line to boot!

From the very first moment this novel kicks off, we know we’re in for something special and dark. The prologue enlightens a world like no other and draws us into the realm of witches, daimons and other creatures alike.

“When he’d chosen her that unlucky day in the Carnival of Souls, she’d prayed that it was only pleasure, not breeding. Briefly, she glanced at her still-sleeping daughter. Now that she’d given birth, Selah could only pray that her child would live.”

Then we zoom forward 17 years to see Mallory as a grown up. Although her relationship with her father would never suggest her age to me as a 17 year old. He coddles her and she calls him “daddy” so once again we witness a parent/child dynamic where the child seems to behave much younger than they actually are. Nevertheless, it’s clear to witness there is a very caring nature to her father and Mallory’s best interests are always at the forefront of his actions, so I actually found it hard to dislike him. Even if he was controlling and his use of magic could be deemed unfair, I actually liked Adam, her father, as a character. And my opinion from first meeting him in the prologue to that by the end of the novel certainly adapted and changed.

“Yes, Daddy.” Mallory felt herself struggling not to say the words that pulled to her lips. There were questions she wanted to ask, but she couldn’t. Her hands tightened on the pitcher. “Daddy.”

Her father paused.

“This isn’t fair,” she forced out. “What you’re doing. It’s not fair.”

Mallory isn’t our only protagonist of the story though, since we witness follow through the footsteps of Kaleb and Aya too. I really enjoyed the three tales because they all interwove and the characters all crossed paths and because of the unique way Marr had their stories connecting, it really worked!

I feel like we’ve only brushed the surface with Mallory and that there will be much more strength and development to come from her. Whilst in Carnival of Souls she holds her own against Kaleb and attempts to with her father, she still seems a little overwhelmed and swamped by all these new things, which whilst being entirely understandable, I think it will be entertaining to watch her come into her own soon.

Kaleb was a character I struggled to understand. I really liked him when he wasn’t with Mallory and when he was caring for his pack-mate. His friendship with Zevie was unique and very endearing, but when he came across Mallory, his personality changed. I struggled to understand his actions and motives towards her at first, whilst his relationship with Zevie was very much clear cut and easy to understand, it was more complex with Mallory. The love on Kaleb’s side felt rather like insta-love, Mallory was much more reluctant to act and this prevented it from becoming something I wouldn’t like. Still, I felt like Kaleb was a little impulsive and desperate at times around Mallory.

“I don’t have a cell phone, but I can get one if you want me to.” He took her back into his arms. “I’m yours to command, Mallory.”

However, he did progress over the novel to be more normal, so it wasn’t too bad. And I appreciated Mallory not falling into his arms and going starry eyed.

For the third character, Aya that made up the three main characters of her story, she was very elusive and mysterious to begin, but I loved the unravelling of her tale and the twists and turns along the way. I found myself piecing together the plot and I felt Marr had lots of different plot vines to draw together. Aya seemed to be the person to bring everybody together and connect everyone. This is my first Marr novel, so I’m unsure whether this is her style or not, but I hope it continues because it was certainly effective!

I really liked the world we got off the human world and then the Carnival of Souls and the place where the daimons presided. I only wished, we’d learnt more about that and the portals that could connect the two worlds because it seems such a fabulous idea and Marr’s novel isn’t that long, so I think she definitely could have benefitted from extending the story a little more to build on the world. We got a little background history as we went along, but I feel like Marr needs to deliver a little more substance with a second novel to keep us equally as hooked as the first.

Marchosias had decreed, long before Kaleb was born, that the carnival would serve as the mercantile and service center of The City. It was the epicentre of The City itself. Spiralling out around the carnival were a tangle of narrow streets and old buildings that made up clearly stratified living sections. At the edges, the Untamed Lands encroached;”

Overall I felt like Marr set up what looks to be a brilliant series with Carnival of Souls and for me, I believe it can only get better from here, since Marr left a real stunner of an ending that means we can only demand more. I devoured this book in a day, so it’s certainly worth your time. I don’t know anything about her other novels, but certainly flock to buy this when it hits the shelves in September because I doubt you’ll be disappointed. Whilst I will be looking to read her other series!

My Rating:

4 books

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* Quotes are taken from and uncorrected proof copy and may change in the final draft.

And thanks again to The Readers Den for giving me the opportunity to win a copy of this!

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Filed under 2012 Publication, 4 Books, Daimons, Fantasy, HarperCollins, Melissa Marr, Paperback, Young Adult

The Assassin’s Curse

The Assassin's Curse

The Assassin’s Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke

Genre: Fantasy, Young-Adult

Series: The Assassin’s Curse #1

Expected Publication: October 2nd 2012 by Strange Chemistry

Ananna of the Tanarau abandons ship when her parents try to marry her off to an allying pirate clan: she wants to captain her own boat, not serve as second-in-command to her handsome yet clueless fiance. But her escape has dire consequences when she learns the scorned clan has sent an assassin after her.

And when the assassin, Naji, finally catches up with her, things get even worse. Ananna inadvertently triggers a nasty curse — with a life-altering result. Now Ananna and Naji are forced to become uneasy allies as they work together to break the curse and return their lives back to normal. Or at least as normal as the lives of a pirate and an assassin can be.

Review:

It took me a while to come to my conclusion on this story, but then I realised that I really adored the novel. This book really left my thoughts in a muddle because it was entirely unexpected. We start out seemingly simplistic with a runaway girl on a camel and then the story blossoms into one of wit, adventure, magic and most of all friendship. It’s truly stunning! Not only that, but this is a novel where the cover doesn’t deceive you about the story, it is truly beautiful and captures the essence of the tale.

My connection with the main character was instantaneous; I truly found it hard not to love her. Ananna has to be one of the best female characters I’ve read! She was independent, strong, fiery and her humour really had me giggling away. Since she took on a more dry, sarcastic tone to her humour, I found that I could really appreciate her character.

“Well, I think we should discuss the matter further.” I stood up. “This don’t just effect you, you know. I had plans. And they didn’t involve tiptoing around so some assassin wouldn’t get a headache.”

When you first meet Naji, it seems that he holds much of the power in his hands being some great assassin and having all these abilities that he’d be above Ananna. But when she talks to him, she brings him to her level and thus we watch their friendship evolve and blossom over the novel. There is an undercurrent of romance, but most of this falls on Anaana’s side, since it’s in first person perspective, it’s hard to gauge Naji’s response whilst he remains so elusive. The romance in this story takes a very back seat and even by the end of the novel we still seem to be waiting for more. Since this is part of a series, I expect future development on the romance to take a stronger tone to the future novels. However, it doesn’t take anything away from not having a strong romance and I think this shows the versatility of the young-adult genre.

Naji was a very mysterious and confined character. It seemed like getting any information from him would be like pulling teeth, so Ananna’s humour was very much needed to balance out his surely behaviour. Particularly when he became difficult.

“We’re close,” Naji said.
“Close to what?” I was hoping he’d trip and give me some kind of hint as to where we were headed.
“The canyon.”
“And what’s in the canyon?”
“A river.”
I didn’t even care that he was weaseling out of telling me anything important. “A river?” I said. “Water?”
“Water generally comprises a river, yes.”

Whilst he might have been a little bit abrasive and surely, he was cute and insecure and I really wanted to cuddle him and beat the bitch who was mean to him with a broomstick. The poor lad was besotted with the river witch and I didn’t like her one bit. Although, my view was probably ever so slightly influenced by Ananna’s hatred of her too. 

Naji thought he was a strong “hero” but didn’t overtake the story with swooping in so many times, since Ananna was equally capable of saving him. Therefore I felt Clarke really brought a balancing act to the novel between their characters.

I though the plot was fast, action packed and thrilling. The setting changes were exciting from the dessert on a camel, to the canyon on a river boat or on an island full of dangers. There wasn’t a moment where we were simply drifting in boredom. I appreciated the ever changing setting and pace of the novel from fights to magical cures and emotional trauma.

“Maybe he’s turned into a fern and I was ripping him into shreds in my fear. I dropped the fern and I stepped back, almost stepping into the fire.”

The magical aspect of this novel was strong, and Ananna’s naivety of magic and sometimes the boundaries was really amusing. However I felt like we could have delved more into the magic aspects and the spells and Naji’s assassin’s world. However, Clarke explains the secrecy, but I feel like I really need to know more about this to understand Naji as a character. For me, it would be interesting to view the world through his eyes for the second novel because I feel like then we’d uncover more of the world and the magic that surrounds it.

I may have a desire for knowledge of more about the worlds and the magical spells that Naji performs, but the writing itself was beautiful. Clarke crafts a scene that brings the smells, the streets and the sea to very life and it wraps you up and really drags you into the pages of The Assassin’s Curse.

Clarke has set up a thrilling debut here, with a lot of potential for more in the second novel. I urge you to pick up this fantasy novel when it hits the shelves because pirates, magic and adventure can be found in abundance and the novel is not corny at all.

My Rating:

4 books

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Thank you to NetGalley and Angry Robot for providing me with a copy of this in exchange for my honest review.

* Quotes are taken from and uncorrected proof copy and may change in the final draft.

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Filed under 2012 Publication, 4 Books, Angry-Robot, Cassandra Rose Clarke, E-book, Fantasy, Young Adult

Pushing the Limits

Pushing the LimitsPushing the Limits by Katie McGarry
Genre:
Contemporary, Romance, Young-Adult
Expected Publication: July 31st 2012 by Harlequin Teen

 

So wrong for each other…and yet so right. No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with “freaky” scars on her arms. Even Echo can’t remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal. But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo’s world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible. Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she’ll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.

Review:

I just couldn’t put this down! From the very first moment I began this book I was drawn in and it literally became an addiction to finish. I stayed up late into the early hours of the morning to finish this book and I can safely say it has been an awfully long time since that happened! The last book I remember doing that with was one of Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress books.

Whilst I wouldn’t call this book the perfect piece of literature (which I don’t believe there is) and it did have faults, I found that this book really evoked a response and an eager need to read in me, which I feel like I’ve been lacking in quite a few of the books I’ve read lately. So the refreshing feel this book brought me, certainly moves towards its appeal!

The models on the cover are close to how I depicted Noah and Echo in my mind, and I think it represents their relationship well.

Noah and Echo were two fantastic characters! Echo is a troubled teen girl, but I didn’t feel any of the usual rather annoying teen problems. Through Echo we tackle the issues of mental health and the view of the world. We look at the social pariah status she obtains from rumours and how popular people who were once her friends discard her for her choices. I think McGarry crafts Echo’s character to tackle issues in society in an emotional and realistic way. Not only does Echo move along a real journey over the book, I felt like I connected with her whilst reading.

We constantly split between both Echo and Noah’s perspective and this disrupted me at first, but then it began to flow really well and integrate the emotional response of both teens to get a rounded view on the plot.

Noah is a bad boy. However he has a side that is really in need of comfort. I’ve seen people point out that not everybody in foster care can end up in such a situation, but obviously his parents death had a profound effect upon his life and thus crafted his lifestyle choices. I don’t think Noah is a stereotyped foster care case, but he is a representation of a population of children that fall through the cracks in the care system. I found Noah suave and cheeky and whilst his mind might have been sex focused, he never pushed Echo passed a point she didn’t want to. He also stopped things when he recognised her inexperience which I really enjoyed seeing because it showed that teenage guys can be responsible.

They are two very endearing characters and their search for “normality” and a place to call safe and home is something that everybody wants and McGarry really brought this contemporary young-adult novel down to a level that could connect across the young to the slightly older generations! Whilst I wouldn’t recommend this book to my nan, I’d say anybody up to your thirties/forties is still likely to enjoy this!

This book is certainly emotional so be prepared for a roller coaster of a ride. You might need a tissue or two because I know I did! Also, be prepared to hate Echo’s parents. I can safely say, Ashley was the wicked step-mother in this story. She pretended to be nice and friendly, but somewhere beneath that it really felt like a facade and even by the end of the story, my feelings towards Ashley were not ones of kindness. Her father has redeemable moments and I could appreciate his character by the end, but they are certainly not loving parents that you could wish to be your own!

However, my favourite adult figure has to be the therapist Mrs. Collins who was smart and witty and always had Echo and Noah’s best interests at heart. I had to laugh at her road rage and driving skills, especially upon Noah’s many recommendations to teach her how to drive. For me Mrs. Collins was the saving of both Noah and Echo and she really was my third favourite character!

The only think I’d have to say against this book would be sometimes the pet names Noah seemed to create for Echo could be a tad overbearing. However, I think this is more McGarry trying to reflect teenage thinking because it seems the rage for you to call you girlfriend “baby” or “cutie-pie” or something else sickeningly sweet.

I can safely say I adored this one! It has to be one of my favourite young-adult novels of the year and I will be rushing out to get a copy for my shelves when it comes out. I suggest you do the same too! All I can say is, McGarry has certainly made an entrance with her debut novel.

My Rating:

5 books

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Filed under 2012 Publication, 5 Books, Contemporary, E-book, Harlequin Teen, Katie McGarry, Romance, Young Adult