Monday, December 26, 2011

[Review] Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder

Title: Touch of Power {goodreads}
Authors: Maria V. Snyder
Publication (dd/mm/yyyy): 01/01/2012
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
RRP: $19.99
Source: For review (thanks to publisher!)
Precautions: PG (15+) - Violence
Pages: 394
My Rating:

Summary:
Laying hands upon the injured and dying, Avry of Kazan assumes their wounds and diseases into herself. But rather than being honored for her skills, she is hunted. Healers like Avry are accused of spreading the plague that has decimated the Territories, leaving the survivors in a state of chaos.

Stressed and tired from hiding, Avry is abducted by a band of rogue...moreLaying hands upon the injured and dying, Avry of Kazan assumes their wounds and diseases into herself. But rather than being honored for her skills, she is hunted. Healers like Avry are accused of spreading the plague that has decimated the Territories, leaving the survivors in a state of chaos.

Stressed and tired from hiding, Avry is abducted by a band of rogues who, shockingly, value her gift above the golden bounty offered for her capture. Their leader, an enigmatic captor-protector with powers of his own, is unequivocal in his demands: Avry must heal a plague-stricken prince—leader of a campaign against her people. As they traverse the daunting Nine Mountains, beset by mercenaries and magical dangers, Avry must decide who is worth healing and what is worth dying for. Because the price of peace may well be her life....
My thoughts: 

* In red and green are the "essential" stuff you can
read if you're just skimming through here. *

~ Final thoughts ~

A finely woven tale of magic and spirited adventure, TOUCH OF POWER is just one of those stories that will draw readers in and never let go. Maria V. Snyder has definitely made a fan out of me - this was my first book written by her but it will not be my last! I do not read much high fantasy, and reading this book is just a reminder that I should.

You know those books that just light up your face, the ones you could talk on and on about? The books that keep you up until the wee hours of the morning, with unforgettable characters, a setting that is built extremely well, and a plot that is surprising and heart-racing and imaginative and strong? Yeah. This is one of those books, in my opinion.

MY SYNOPSIS

TOUCH OF POWER starts off when our main character Avry - who has been on the run for three years - heals a wailing child, is found out by the parents and is arrested, and will be hung. Except, a miracle occurs - a group of rogues bust her out. Avry is a Healer, and to just about everyone everywhere Healers are bad and fearful beings who began the nasty plague that has killed off countless people. The rogues don't plan to turn Avry over to King Tohon, who has issued out a high reward for any Healer captured. This group has been looking for a Healer for two years, because the only person able to stop King Tohon's destructive conquest has caught the deadly plague. But if Avry heals this man, that means she will not live.

CHARACTERS

Avry is hands down one of my favourite heroines - bold, intelligent, stubborn but in a good way because she has her own beliefs and values and knows where her priorities lie. She's not afraid to fight and keep on fighting; she doesn't give up. She's outspoken and brash and has a wicked sense of humour that can rub people the wrong way. Her unruly circumstances - the downfall of the Healer reputation with the plague - has torn her away from the world she's known, and she's had to stay in hiding for years. She's strong, even considering she doesn't know where her family is, or even if they're still alive. None of those characteristics felt contrived or forced - it felt like such an intrinsic part of her being that I believed every action, every word she spoke, every emotion she felt.

Then there is the gang of rogues who saved her from certain death. At the very beginning I had to make a little list so I wouldn't mix people up, but really, I didn't need it because they're just so endearing and memorable! I lost count how many times I just cracked up laughing, the guys joke around and tease each other so much, and Snyder writes their dialogue with such ease that I wouldn't be surprised if she spied on groups of guys for inspiration. There are five guys - Kerrick, the leader; Belen, a heart full of gold; Vinn and Quain, the monkeys; and Flea, who is, well, Flea (see quote ii.). I'll let you fall in love with them when you read it yourself. ;)

For the majority of the book, we are following the journey of Avry along with the rogues. But, along the way we meet many great characters.

PLOT

TOUCH OF POWER reminds me of GRACELING (Kristin Cashore), in that there is a lot of time spent moving from one town to the next, where many eventful things unfold. The overall storyline, as laid out above in the synopsis, is pretty simple. What really shines through is the depth in creating the world and the characters, and just the whole backstory behind the Healers and the plague, that we get little snippets of. Like the characters, we don't have the whole picture just yet.

There were so many shocking moments that it was really hard to put this book down. I loved the plot twists. Snyder certainly knew what she was doing when she wrote every little bit of this book. There's a meaning and connection in about everything that happens, and for that matter I love the fact that it all ends on a good note, but it leaves the reader with so many questions. The beauty of fantasy and dystopian fiction should be in the world-building, above all else. They make you question the societal rules and customs, the relations between rules/laws and ethics, and how they play with our own beliefs, as readers.

Ultimately, this book ends meaningfully and also allows ample breathing room for the second book in the series, with more than enough lingering questions to draw readers in to read on.

RELATIONSHIPS

I love the closeness within the group of rogues, and their bonds only grow stronger as they venture onward.

The romance takes a backseat to all the action and adventure, family and friendship. Suits me just fine. For the first half of the book there is no sign of any impending romance, but eventually sparks do fly. It's just, don't expect an insta-love progression. Hopeless romantics will swoon, probably.

WRITING

Dialogue? Genius.
Actions? Like I was right there.
Setting? As above.

As this is Snyder's ninth book, I'm sure if you've read any of her books you have an idea whether you like or don't like her writing style. I've already gushed on about how much I loved the dialogue.

COVERS

The covers for this book are so different to each other, but they all have significance to the overall story which I like.

Now that I've read the book I think I prefer the UK cover, though I'd be happy with any.

US (left, below): Probably the "prettiest" of them all. Includes peace/death lilies, Avry is pretty, but in my opinion too pretty (the makeup) in this cover. Love the font and composition of this one, as well as the profile of Avry.

UK (right, below): I like that there is forest in the background, as well as mountain. The cloak and overall look of Avry seems fair enough, and I can't complain about the effects emanating off her fingers. I don't like the text too much, especially the size of Snyder's name, but hey.

AU (top): I love that Avry is wearing a yellow dress! And the scar and Healer tattoo. There's also forest and mountain, and this one is brighter and more colourful than the UK. One thing is that, to me, it looks a bit historical romance-y, from afar.


Quotes:

First lines
The little girl wouldn't stop crying. I didn't blame her. She was dying after all.

Favourite lines
"Avry, why did you risk your life for me? Kerrick ordered you not to heal me. You suffered for days! You shouldn't have done it."
     The room grew quiet. I spotted Kerrick near the doorway.
     "Belen, I decide who I heal. Me. Not you. Not anyone. It's my life on the line each time. It's my decision. The only one I have left." I put my hand on his cheek. "You deserved to be saved. I had no doubts." (p. 71)

Buy:

* cheapest Australian e-store price

AUSTRALIAN RESIDENTS


~ with all Harlequin Teen books I'd recommend you buy directly from them ~

Harlequin Teen *
Fishpond | Readings | Dymocks | Angus & Robertson | Borders | The Nile

INTERNATIONAL READERS


All links from Booko, because I'm too lazy to search each individual store anymore.

Extras:

On Booko I saw this cover for the Australian version, and I'm so glad it's not the final one because it doesn't look like Avry, and it comes across too dark and paranormal for my liking, rather than plain fantasy.


Chapter one sneak preview ~ here

Maria V. Snyder's got some awesome contests going on ~ here

Other TOUCH OF POWER reviews
Manda's Movements: 5 stars {link}
Nice Girls Read Books: 5 stars {link}
Saz101: 5 stars {link}
A Book Obsession: 4 stars/butterflies {link}




I have received this review copy in return for an honest review.

Challenge: ---

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Whoa, where did I go?

This has nothing to do with anything.
 
Hah! So much for the Faves of Twentyeleven shindig [I have the lists, but the internet has just been extremely slow!]. I just didn't feel like posting anything, checking email or even looking at anything book-related online.

I have been reading some AMAZING books lately; if anyone were to check my Goodreads (which I actually do keep updated--not like my 'Currently Reading' section on the sidebar XD), they'd know that not only have I completed my reading challenge at 80 books for the year ~ I've also finally read The Hunger Games! As well as The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, and only just half an hour ago did I put down Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez.

I would recommend any of them to fans of their respective genres/themes. The blog will be on a mini-hiatus for now. My review of TOUCH OF POWER will go up on the 27th--it was supposed to auto-post a couple of days ago, but Blogger has been funny on me lately (it saved as a draft).

But this does. Hello, rain books!
After the 27th, there'll be one challenges post, and then I'll meet you all over the new year jump.

:) So how have you guys been? Excited about tomorrow?

Let me know what you've been reading lately! Link to any interesting posts you want me to check out. Google Reader has hit the 1000+ mark. Again. Sorry I haven't been commenting! 

Also, thanks for all the comments. Alerts get sent to my email, but I haven't been checking my email much either. :/ Basically I've just been a completely lazy blogger.

My December Reading List
Format: Author - Title (Date finished, Rating)
  • Carol M. Tanzman - dancergirl (1st, 3.5 stars)
  • Caragh O'Brien - Prized (3rd, 5 stars)
  • Gwendolyn Heasley - Where I Belong (4th, 3.5 stars)
  • Kirsten Hubbard - Like Mandarin (5th, 4 stars)
  • Maria V. Snyder - Touch of Power (10th, 5 stars)
  • Kirsten Hubbard - Wanderlove (12th, 5 stars)
  • Sophie McKenzie - Girl, Missing (14th, 3.5 stars)
  • Guadalupe Garcia McCall - Under the Mesquite (16th, 4 stars)
  • Marissa Meyer - Cinder (19th, 4 stars)
  • Michelle Hodkin - The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer (22nd, 4-4.5 stars)
  • Suzanne Collins - The Hunger Games (23rd, 5 stars)
  • Jessica Martinez - Virtuosity (24th, 4.5 stars)
Highlight books of December


Last 3 books of 2011
~ The Dead of Night by John Marsden (#2 of the Tomorrow series) -- currently reading
~ Tempest Rising by Tracy Deebs
~ The Nature of Jade by Deb Caletti


Early (Jan-May) 2012 book releases that are sitting on the top of my wishlist
~ Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard (love <3)
~ A Million Suns by Beth Revis (OMG! + RC)
~ Harbinger by Sara Wilson Etienne (just everything about it...the promotions, the cover, the synopsis--and it's a debut!)
~ The Fine Art of Truth or Dare by Melissa Jensen
~ The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jessica Rothenburg
~ Insurgent by Veronica Roth (DOI!)
~ Struck by Jennifer Bosworth
~ The Last Princess
~ The Academie by Susanne Dunlap
~ The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith (RC?)
~ Fated by Sarah Alderson (RC?)
~ Incarnate by Jodi Meadows

~ Orchards by Holly Thompson (the PB release~I've been waiting for it!)
~ Stay by Deb Caletti (PB release)
~ We'll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han (UK PB to complete the series, which means I will finally get to read the Summer series, for summer 2012!)
~ The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (PB)
~ Moonglass by Jessi Kirby (PB)

and so on.



Merry Christmas to those who celebrate--


Happy New Year
& 
Keep
Reading!

Note: none of these images are mine. I own NOTHING!!!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Faves of Twentyeleven Book Awards: Day One ~ Books


I'm kind of sorry ~ this was really rushed and I haven't been able to include links/pictures. I'll be home later and fix it up then. I promise that Day Two will run much smoother... The internet's just really slow lately, and my mouse is acting up even more than usual (just for example, I can't drag images when editing posts).

1. Favourite book read in 2011
    ~ Divergent by Veronica Roth ~

Runners up: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys, Where She Went by Gayle Forman, Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins -- all great reads that instantly made it to my to-reread-pile.

2. Most powerful book
    ~ Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys ~

Runners up: Saving June by Hannah Harrington, Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma, Harmonic Feedback by Tara Kelly

3. Brilliantly funny
    ~ Feeling Sorry for Celia by Jaclyn Moriarty ~

Runners up: Beauty Queens by Libba Bray, Amplified by Tara Kelly, Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder

4. Best ache-y, heart-breaking, tear-jerker read
    ~ Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys ~

Runners up: Where She Went by Gayle Forman, Saving June by Hannah Harrington

5. Most beautiful story
    ~ A Need So Beautiful by Suzanne Young ~
Just every single thing about this book was BEAUTIFUL

Runners up: Rival by Sara Bennett Wealer, Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott

6. Delicious rainy day comfort read
    ~ Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard ~
Hilarious and is sure to transport you to the unruly lands of Central America.

Runners up: Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins, Beautiful Days by Anna Godbersen

7. Adrenalin-fuelled, unputdownable award
    ~ Divergent by Veronica Roth ~

Runners up: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, Hunting Lila by Sarah Alderson, Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden

8. The Beautiful prose award
    ~ Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi ~

Runners up: Graceling by Kristin Cashore, Alaska by Sue Saliba

9. Most atmospheric and vivid setting
    ~ Daughter of Xanadu by Dori Jones Yang ~

Runners up: Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott, Alaska by Sue Saliba

10. I-so-want-to-go-there award
    ~ Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard (Central America) ~

Runners up: Museum of Thieves by Lian Tanner (Fictional, "Jewel"), Saving June by Hannah Harrington (California), I ♥ NYC by Keris Stainton (New York)

11. Most original and imaginative
    ~ Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott ~

Runners up: Slice of Cherry by Dia Reeves, Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver

12. Best under-appreciated, hidden gem book
    ~ The Day Before by Lisa Schroder ~

Runners up: The Dust of 100 Dogs by A.S. King, Harmonic Feedback by Tara Kelly

13. I-had-no-idea-I-would-love-this-so award
    ~ Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder ~
A solid 5 out of me. Beautifully crafted characters and a storyline that completely captivated me.

Runners up: Haunting Violet by Alyxandra Harvey (I figured this would be just an okay book, but it's so deliciously gothic and mysterious, really grabbed me from the start.), The Day Before by Lisa Schroeder (My first Schroeder book. Verse novels are very hit-or-miss for me, I've learnt. But The Day Before was pure contemporary YA magic.), Prom & Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg (I just did not like her first book, however this classic retelling was truly enchanting)

14. Most haunting story
    ~ Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma ~
Anyone who has read this knows WHY!

Runners up: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher (Okay, this was a re-read this year, but this book HAUNTED me), IF I STAY by Gayle Forman (Also, re-read this year, just can't let go of this story!)

15. Outside my comfort zone but gosh how I loved it
    ~ The Dust of 100 Dogs by A.S. King ~
This one surprisingly got me thinking into the wee hours of the night after I'd read it.

    ~ The Dark Divine & The Lost Saint by Bree Despain ~
Paranormal YA . . . enough said.
   ~ Winter's Shadow by M.J. Hearle ~
Another paranormal YA that I really ended up enjoying.

16. Series that I'm loving
    ~ The Dark Divine trilogy (It all ends next year with The Savage Grace! *excited and anxious*)
    ~ Prophecy of the Sisters trilogy (In honesty, I've only read the first book, but that was enough to make a fan out of me.)
    ~ Divergent series (Yeah.)
    ~ Birthmarked series (These books just suck me in.)
    ~ Bright Young Things series
    ~ The Tomorrow series

17. Always recommending this award *broken down into genres*

HISTORICAL
    Daughter of Xanadu by Dori Jones Yang (I implore any historical fiction fan to read this one! Looking for something culturally different and just beautiful and intelligent?)
    Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys (Will tear you apart, piece by piece, but the strength and hope of Lena and her family will leave you feeling, well, hopeful.)

CONTEMPORARY
    If I Stay & Where She Went by Gayle Forman (One of the few books I re-read over and over again.)
    Anna & Lola by Stephanie Perkins (So I read Anna last year, but how can you mention one without the other? They're equally gorgeous.)

DYSTOPIAN
    Divergent by Veronica Roth (PLEASE. If you only read one debut this year, make it this one.)
    Birthmarked by Caragh O'Brien (This seems to be pretty hit-or-miss with readers, but I just couldn't get enough of it!)

PARANORMAL
    The Dark Divine trilogy by Bree Despain
    Hunting Lila by Sarah Alderson

FANTASY
   GRACELING by Kristin Cashore
   TOUCH OF POWER by Maria V. Snyder

18. Completely awesome premise award
    ~ Forgotten by Cat Patrick ~

Runners up: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

19. Would make the best movie
    ~ Graceling by Kristin Cashore ~

Runners up: Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott, Cinder by Marissa Meyer

20. Want to re-read already
    ~ Saving June by Hannah Harrington ~

Runners up: Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder, Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott, Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Remember to link your posts! Tomorrow we'll be discussing . . . characters!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

My prequel to the *FAVES OF TWENTYELEVEN BOOK AWARDS*


Oh hi there!

You might remember me. But really, I want you to remember Nomes (inkcrush), because if it weren't for her I would not even be holding a round-up of my favourites and most memorable moments of this book year.

We're at the crossroads, people. Can you feel it? The new year is upon us and I for one had an amazing year in 2011. Things can only go up from here! Personal life aside, I'm talking, books. You might be wondering: what's the point to this "prequel"? Well, I'm giving you a chance. One day before this notorious event, to get to making those lists! Here's where all the categories are!

I've had so much fun doing this, and have spent way too long agonising over my choices ~ as of right now I have read 80 books this year. With only two weeks left, I'll be rushing to cram some more in!


~ Additions to books/authors I've read this year ~

I've been doing a bit of backtracking, and there are so many beautiful things that authors, publishers and fans have whipped up that I am awestruck. This only includes books I've read this year, or authors whose books I read this year.

New books
  • Sequel to Daughter of Xanadu (Dori Jones Yang) has a name--Son of Venice. Okay, I don't care what you think, it's happy dance time! Source.
  • Short story of Tortured (Caragh O'Brien)--set in-between Birthmarked and Prized--is FREE to read for all.
  • Companion novel to Where I Belong (Gwendolyn Heasley), A Long Way From You will be told in Cowgirl-style Kitsy's perspective! 2012, source.

Music
  • Between Shades of Gray (Ruta Sepetys) has a hauntingly beautiful soundtrack, which I've had on repeat for ages! It really does bring me back to the book. Download it for free HERE!
  • Amplified (Tara Kelly) has its own site! Playlists and C-Side music will be available in the future. :D



~ Endings and Beginnings ~

  • My reading list in 2011: I've finally updated my list on the page, with my personal 'honourable mention' titles picked out ~ click here to view!
  • My 2011 reading challenges: A wrap-up will be posted on the 27th, along with my 2012 reading challenge intros. I've been really lazy with actually reporting back to challenge sites and linking reviews up...
  • In My Mailbox: Nothing has come through the mail in a fortnight, so I suppose my next IMM feature will be next year! I'll definitely share any book-related goodies that I get for Christmas; hope to see what you all get. :)
  • Christmas giveaway: Aussies, you'll want to get in on this one! Happy Birthday To Me by Brian Rowe + YA paranormal of your choice (in my giveaways pile) + Swag pack + Clockwork Angels poster and notebook. Enter here!

    ~~ some YA paranormals include: Hush Hush or Silence by Becca Fitzpatrick, The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting, Gravesminder by Melissa Marr--and more!

+ paranormal YA of choice + swag + poster & notebook


Friday, December 16, 2011

Book Previews (1): January 2012

Source: we♥it
I'm sure I'm not the only person who loves reading previews and short samplers of upcoming book titles. Especially for books you're really excited about. This is kind of a new meme thing...unless if I end up just dropping it. Please, comment and share your excitement! :D


Irises by Francisco Stork {Goodreads}
Release Date: January 1, 2012
Read the excerpt!

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith {Goodreads}
Release Date: January 2nd 2012

The Queen of Kentucky by Alecia Whitaker {Goodreads}
Release Date: January 2, 2012


A Million Suns (Across the Universe, #2) by Beth Revis {Goodreads}
Release Date: (US) January 2, 2012 / (AU) March 28, 2012

Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi {Goodreads}
Release Date: (US) January 3, 2012 / (UK) February 7, 2012 / (AU) December 2011
Read the excerpt!

Unraveling Isobel by Eileen Cook {Goodreads}
Release Date: January 3, 2012
Read the excerpt!


Don't Breathe A Word by Holly Cupala {Goodreads}
Release Date: January 3, 2012
Read the excerpt!

Cinder by Marissa Meyer {Goodreads}
Release Date: (US) January 3, 2012 / (AU/UK) January 5, 2012
Read the excerpt!

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green {Goodreads}
Release Date: January 10, 2012
Read the excerpt!
Listen to John read the excerpt!


Ditched: A Love Story by Robin Mellom {Goodreads}
Release Date: January 10, 2012
Read the excerpt!

Never Eighteen by Megan Bostic {Goodreads}
Release Date: January 17, 2012
Read the excerpt! | 2

Tempest by Julie Cross {Goodreads}
Release Date: (US) January 17, 2012 (AU/UK) January 1, 2012
Read the excerpt!


Fracture by Megan Miranda {Goodreads}
Release Date: (US) January 17, 2012 (AU/UK) January 5, 2012
Read the excerpt! (Like the Facebook page for access!)

The Way We Fall by Megan Crewe {Goodreads}
Release Date: January 24, 2012
Read the excerpt!

Forbidden by Syrie James & Ryan M. James {Goodreads}
Release Date: January 24, 2012
Read the excerpt!


Disclaimer: I own NOTHING. All links are just that - links, public links. These were intended for access to the general public and thereby I am in no way exploiting or breaking any infringement policies.

Q: Which January 2012 release are you most looking forward to? Which previews have you wanting more?

My answer? All of the above. ;)


Thursday, December 15, 2011

[Review + Giveaway] Happy Birthday To Me by Brian Rowe

Title: Happy Birthday To Me {goodreads}
Authors: Brian Rowe
Publication (dd/mm/yy): 25/10/11
Publisher: CreateSpace
Source: For review (thanks to the author!)
Age: 15+ Sexual references, mild swearing?
Pages: 315

My Rating:
Satisfying read

Summary:
Seventeen-year-old Cameron Martin has a huge problem: he’s aging a whole year of his life with each passing day!

High school is hard enough; imagine rapidly aging from seventeen to seventy in a matter of weeks, with no logical explanation, and with prom, graduation, and the state championship basketball game on the horizon. That’s what happens to Cameron, a mischievous pretty boy who has never had to face a day looking anything but perfect.

All Cameron wants to do is go back to normal, but no one, not even the best doctors, can diagnose his condition. When he falls for a mysterious young woman, however, he realizes that the only hope for his survival might be with the one person who started his condition in the first place...
My thoughts: 

I was initially intrigued when it was pitched to me, but I'm always just that bit more cautious with indie/self-published novels. The idea that someone could start aging a year of their life with each passing day is a fun concept, and Brian Rowe executed it well enough. An entertaining read all around, not without its moments of pure laugh-out-loud hilarity.

In Happy Birthday To Me, seventeen-year-old Cameron is the popular guy everyone wants to be or be with. He and his friends, exhilerated after a great basketball game, visit their favourite cafe/restaurant, where Cameron has a running joke: wherein everyone pretends it's his birthday and they receive birthday cake. It's just a harmless prank. Until it actually happens -- Cameron begins to age at a rapid rate, and no doctor can diagnose this hideous nightmare.
He's got the state championship basketball game, graduation and the prom! Unsatisfied with the prospect of living out the rest of his days as a research project at some lab, he takes it upon himself to finish high school, no matter what. Even if he becomes an 80 year old man on the outside and can barely walk.

I liked the outline of the book - every chapter denounces a new age that Cameron has stepped into. They really helped keep structure; it was also great to find out that something new had changed with him as he aged. That was without a doubt one of my favourite aspects of this book - imagining, for instance, a 50 year old man, creaking joints and all, playing on the high school basketball team.

Cameron himself, is, well, a pretty boy. Which equates to mean that I did not like him. Ha! He's cocky and selfish and stubborn and ignorant to everything that does not revolve around him. Tell me how that's supposed to be attractive, in any world? As he does age, we see some character progression, which was a bit cliche, but I did end up liking him more by the end of it all. He grows as a person, and sees the truth to his once-perfect life, which comes to light when he starts to age and is no longer the golden boy everyone loved.


Even worse than Cameron himself, is Charisma. His girlfriend. But then, all things considered, they're a match made in heaven then. Since the popular crowd are obviously so shallow, she ends up sneaking off with Cameron's best friend, who just doesn't get it. Everyone at the school annoyed me, and it just magnified everything I don't miss about high school (not that my grade had anyone NEARLY so shallow). The one character who had the potential to at least stay on my good side, was Liesl.

Liesl is harmless enough, and she ends up coming off okay with me. I didn't like her either, granted, but I didn't despise her and that's something. She remains such a mystery for the majority of the book, and maybe that's why I didn't dislike her. What did irk me is what she did, which I won't spoil here. Let's just say she does something really immature, which felt so out of character for her, if I ever knew her at all. Overall I thought she was a sweet character, whose emotions were sincere, true intentions.

The real standout for me is the writing. It's nowhere near polished. But. It's in the humor of it all. I enjoyed myself so much, despite the fact that I couldn't stand most of the characters. I was somehow able to dismiss that, because they did not matter to me. In the end it's about Cameron and his journey of self-discovery, and him finding out that his perfect life wasn't all that perfect.

Happy Birthday To Me happily sits with other good, fun paranormal YA novels on the market - if you're not too picky with characters, or cliche school cliques, you'll find much to like in the humorous antics, as you follow Cameron's fall from grace, day by day. Recommended for 15+ boys and fans of basketball . . . and birthdays.


Buy:

* cheapest Australian e-store price

AUSTRALIAN RESIDENTS

Fishpond * | Readings | Dymocks | Angus & Robertson | Borders | The Nile

INTERNATIONAL READERS


All links from Booko, because I'm too lazy to search each individual store anymore.



I have received this review copy in return for an honest review.

Challenge: ---


~Giveaway~

Sorry guys. Aussie only!

1x winner to receive: Paranormal pack
  • Happy Birthday To Me by Brian Rowe
  • 1 other paranormal YA book on my "giveaway" list (I'll email you the options)
  • Assorted paranormal YA swag, including Clockwork Angel notebook
  • Signed by Cassandra Clare, Clockwork Angel mini-poster
So what do you have to do to be in the draw?

Just comment and answer the question: 
WHY is Cameron aging a year with every passing day? 
Be as crazy as you want to be

You HAVE to include your email with your comment, or else your entry will not count.

Following is not required.
If you do follow, let me know under what GFC name you follow my blog for an extra entry.

Giveaway ends 31/12. Spread the word, if you want to! I won't mind. ;)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

[Early Review] Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard

Title: Wanderlove {goodreads}
Authors: Kirsten Hubbard
Publication (dd/mm/yyyy): 13/03/2012
Publisher: Random House (Delacorte Press)
RRP: $17.99
Source: Netgalley (Grab it while you can!)
Precautions: PG (15+) - Moderate swearing, mild romantic scenes, skinny dipping, drugs and drinking
Pages: 352
My Rating:

Summary:
It all begins with a stupid question:

Are you a Global Vagabond?

No, but 18-year-old Bria Sandoval wants to be. In a quest for independence, her neglected art, and no-strings-attached hookups, she signs up for a guided tour of Central America—the wrong one. Middle-aged tourists with fanny packs are hardly the key to self-rediscovery. When Bria meets Rowan, devoted backpacker and dive instructor, and his outspokenly humanitarian sister Starling, she seizes the chance to ditch her group and join them off the beaten path.

Bria's a good girl trying to go bad. Rowan's a bad boy trying to stay good. As they travel across a panorama of Mayan villages, remote Belizean islands, and hostels plagued with jungle beasties, they discover what they've got in common: both seek to leave behind the old versions of themselves. And the secret to escaping the past, Rowan’s found, is to keep moving forward.

But Bria comes to realize she can't run forever, no matter what Rowan says. If she ever wants the courage to fall for someone worthwhile, she has to start looking back.

Kirsten Hubbard lends her artistry into this ultimate backpacker novel, weaving her drawings into the text. Her career as a travel writer and her experiences as a real-life vagabond backpacking Central America are deeply seeded in this inspiring story.
My thoughts: 

For the record, I NEVER post such early reviews, but not to worry, I'll re-link to this review, along with other Wanderlove-related stuff, I'm sure, 1 month before the release date, and then as it releases and around it thereafter. Wanderlove in a word: refreshing.

My Synopsis:

WANDERLOVE starts off with ex-artgirl Bria, who is currently in her break between high school and university/college, recently broke up with her intense artsy boyfriend Toby, and now ready to be someone different. When her two best friends bail on their trip, she takes it upon herself to screw it all and go anyway. But, the travel package that drew her to Central America turns out to be a dud - her group consists of only old or dull people, which means absolutely no hookups.

Sick of the routine and lack of adventure, Bria is taken under the wings of backpackers Starling and Rowan. Wanting more than anything to fit in with the backpacker lifestyle, she loses herself along the way. Because of the theft of her handbag, along with her camera, the only way she'll be able to capture the rugged beauty of her surroundings is if she picks up her pencil and starts to draw again. Rowan and Starling take her to places far off the beaten track, and she finds herself - the art school girl she's always wanted to be - along the way, and maybe, she thinks, it's not too late to return to how she was before Toby.


Okay, guys, I just read this amazing book. It's called WANDERLOVE, and if you're into travel - heck, even if you're not into travel - this is THE 2012 YA book for you. Aside from the pure escapism that this book provides so easily, Hubbard has created characters that stick, with real problems that may not always be relatable, but will encourage the reader's empathy all the same.

It's so clear to see how much Hubbard loves to travel, and that she didn't just research Central America - she LIVED Central America. I can just imagine the sparks that flew when she wrote this book, so immersed in her love for backpacking and getting lost in a whole new world; which probably attributed to why I enjoyed this ten million times more than I did LIKE MANDARIN (Hubbard's debut). I could FEEL not only Bria, the main character, but also the author, because of the depth of detail and the drawings - oh, guys, the DRAWINGS . . . . Easily one of the most beautiful books I've read all year.
"The water looks cool and blue, like an electric-raspberry popsicle. I want in." (Bria, p. 149)

At the beginning of the book, Bria is naive and still clinging onto the past. She's a bit snappy and immature, but she's been through a lot. We just don't know much about her problems. Along the way, as she opens up, both in her thoughts and out loud, we are aware of the reasons why she has a lack of trust in people. By the end, she's a completely different person - she braves the unknown, in more ways than one! Some of her choices weren't the smartest, but I did like Bria a lot, and I could relate to her. I also LOVE that Bria is 18 - there needs to be more YA protagonists around the 18-23 bracket!

Starling and Rowan, and the other backpackers and people we meet along the way, FELT. LIKE. REAL. PEOPLE. And I bet anything that Hubbard actually did base some of these characters on people she'd met during her travels. Really though, I love when characters stop feeling like characters, and more like people who you could believe exist. It also helps that the drawings are spot on with how I imagined them in my head.
"It's built over the water, which I can hear sloshing beneath my feet." (Bria, p. 200); source
The problems that Bria faces, revolves around art - something that she loved more than anything, but was turned into something ugly because of those around her. Her future, her parents, her relationship with Toby. They were all addressed because of what happened to her art. Let me just say I adore main protagonists who actually have passions and dreams, and who aren't just living it out for their dream guy, or a better life.

There IS a relationship that sparks during Bria's journey. Really, it would've felt just as sweet if it remained a friendship, but the extra oomph that the relationship provided really kicked up the dramatic side of things. Bria deals with the confusion that comes with not knowing whether it's serious or not, and what's going to happen if she lets herself fall for the backpacker guy she ran into at the airport. At first I didn't like Rowan that much, because of his easy confidence and way of speech. He came off as a bit cocky and high-and-mighty. But we also get to know him along the way; I warmed up to him quickly. I enjoyed the gradual progression as the two move from walking around eggshells, to *groan* cracking those eggshells and dancing around.
"Or we could go to the Tikal ruins, just over the border in Guatemala. You can stay at a budget hotel in the park, then wake up before dawn and climb to the top of the highest temple to watch the sun rise over the jungle. You'll swear you can see the whole wide world." (Rowan, p. 226)

Also, the cover and title. Both meaningful and only help to escalate the sophistication and intensity that this book delivers so effortlessly.

In short...

WANDERLOVE is beautiful. WANDERLOVE is a budget vacation/adventure you will never want to forget. If you are only going to read one 2012 YA contemporary release, make it this one. Beautifully rendered and picturesque, Hubbard's writing and drawings and characters will have you turning page after page, until you're done and you'll want to read it all over again. This book feels like a splash of cold water on a blazing hot day; a warm hug when you're cold.


(Also, this was one of my favourite reviews to write - it's been ages since I've felt so comfortable just blurting it all out there, and the words just came so easily. Huh, I just broke my review writing slump.)


Quotes:


Bria, on guys:
""Some of my old sketchbooks--the ones I stashed under my bed right around the time art school acceptance letters arrived--held drawings of Bria's Dream Guy. He wore tiny black glasses and Converse shoes, with that legendary paintbrush tucked behind his ear. Then there was his archnemesis, the Bad Guy. In a series of two-dimensional encounters, Bria's Dream Guy rescued her from the Bad Guy--via surfboard, hang glider, and white stallion--paintbrush moonlighting as a sword.
    Back then, I thought Mother Nature split the good guys from the bad with a thick black line.
    But the thing is, in real life, they're often the same guy. (p. 47)

Rowan, on goodbyes:
""They're a drag. I mean, seriously--they just drag out painful moments."
    I shrug, still feeling all sorts of unpleasant. "I suppose."
    "Think about it. Think about your last big goodbye. Both people are searching for the right thing to say, and both are uncomfortable because there is no right thing to say. Best to just leave and be done with it. Shut the book as quickly as possible."
    I try not to think of how long I dragged out my breakup with Toby. Isn't that what a breakup is? A painfully protracted goodbye? At least, it was in my case. "You make it sound easy."
    "It's worked for me so far." (pp. 106-107)

Buy:

* cheapest Australian e-store price

AUSTRALIAN RESIDENTS

Fishpond * | Readings | Dymocks | Angus & Robertson | Borders | The Nile

INTERNATIONAL READERS


All links from Booko, because I'm too lazy to search each individual store anymore.

Extras:

I don't normally include an extras section, but there's just so much extra about the book!

First off, here's the full cover: CLICK HERE!

Wanderlove bookmarks
: couple your beautiful pre-order (presumptuous? me?) of this gem with a bookmark!
If you're a blogger . . .  Kirsten will send you bookmarks - no matter where you are!
If you're a reader . . .  I'll be hosting a giveaway, as soon as I receive the bookmarks and know how many I can give out. I also have Like Mandarin bookmarks, so of course it will be a Kirsten Hubbard crazy swag giveaway. It will be international. :) Also, Kirsten will be holding personal giveways in future on her blog, so keep an eye out!

Kirsten Hubbard's awesomeness ~ just a couple snippets; you can raid her blog if you want more. ;)


Other WANDERLOVE reviews
Nice Girls Read Books: 5 stars {link}
Princess Bookie: 5 stars {link}
Holes in My Brain: 4.8 stars {link}
Inkcrush: 4 stars overall {link}
Writing from the Tub: 15/20, B {link}
Phoebe North: Recommended {link}
Check out my review of Like Mandarin, Kirsten's debut novel!



I have received this review copy in return for an honest review.

Challenge: ---


* any images I didn't include the source for, were found using Google images. ;) I own none of them.

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