In My Mailbox #8

May 22, 2011 at 9:35 pm (Australian, In My Mailbox, Meme) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi over at The Story Siren where bloggers showcase the books they received over the week.

I got a lot of books this week. I managed to find a Borders that was closing down, so everything was 60% off. Then, my library managed to miraculously procure heaps of books. AND THEN, I decided to buy some cheap ebooks on my Kindle.

Bought

From top to bottom:

Snow by Tracy Lynn; I love the Once Upon a Time series. And this has to be one of my favourites. It has slight traces of steam/magicpunk, and it stays rather true to the story. And, thanks to the Borders sale, it was only $4. How could I possibly resist a book so cheap? Even better, I had a very had time finding the books from this series in Australia,so, I would have gotten this book even if it weren’t on sale.
Find it on: Goodreads / Book Depository / Amazon

Ice by Sarah Beth Durst; I read this book ages ago, borrowed from the library, and loved it. (In fact, you can find my review for it here), so when I saw it on sale at Borders for $8, I had to buy it.
Find it on: Goodreads / Book Depository / Amazon

Basilisk by N.M. Browne; I remember reading this book years ago, and loving it, so I decided to get it. It was cheap, so why not?
Find it on: Goodreads / Book Depository / Amazon

–  Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zink; This book has caught my eye from the moment it arrived here in Australia, but for some reason, I’d been very hesitant in getting it. I love the cover, it has these shiny silver patterns that give it this weird feeling.
Find it on: Goodreads / Book Depository  / Amazon
(if you get it from The Book Depository now, you get to save almost 60%! It’s not even $5 in AUS currency)

Guardian of the Gate by Michelle Zink; I also got the second book in the Prophecy of the Sisters trilogy, because it was there and it was cheap.
Find it on: Goodreads / Book Depository / Amazon

Fury by Shirley Marr; I’d constantly see this book in bookstores, and was always intrigued by it, but never went ahead and bought it. It looks like a really interesting book, and I love the covers. Also, at the beginning of each chapter, there’s a small picture of a mask, and I just love the concept of that. It makes me wonder about the relevance to the story.
Find it on: Goodreads
(Because it’s an Australian book, I’ve had trouble finding it online; it doesn’t exist in Amazon, and it’s unavailable on Book Depository. So if you’re interested in getting a copy of this book, you might have to search hard, or get a friend in Australia to supply you with a copy)

The Black Swan by Mercedes Lackey; This looks awesome. The cover is amazing, and it’s a retelling, which I’m sure all of you know by now that they’re my favourite kind of story. I can’t wait to start reading this!
Find it on: Goodreads / Book Depository / Amazon

Gwenhwyfar by Mercedes Lackey; Another Mercedes Lackey book that looks awesome. I think it’s about time I read some of her stuff.
Find it on: Goodreads / Book Depository / Amazon

Masques by Patricia Briggs; This book looks cool as. Fantasy with werewolves. Can’t wait to get this book started.
Find it on: Goodreads / Book Depository / Amazon

–  Wolfsbane by Patricia Briggs; The sequel to Masques, because I get addicted to series far too easily.
Find it on: Goodreads / Book Depository / Amazon

The Saga of the Renunciates by Marion Bradley Zimmer; I love sci-fi, and apparently this has LGBT characters, which is fairly cool. Plus, it’s so big, that it kind of makes me excited. When it comes to books, size does matter. ;P
Find it on: Goodreads / Book Depository / Amazon

Heritage and Exile by Marion Bradley Zimmer; A big book for a low price. This is the kind of thing I live for. 🙂
Find it on: Goodreads / Book Depository / Amazon

Library:

Not only did I go overboard with books from Borders, I went nuts in the library.

Falling Under by Gwen Hayes; With the recent influx of Greek retellings in YA, I supposed that I should check out a few of the newcomers. The cover is absolutely gorgeous, and the premise actually sounds pretty good.
Find it on: Goodreads / Book Depository / Amazon

How NOT to Write a Novel by Sandra Newman & Howard Mittelmark; I love books about how to write, and this looks like it’d be a great, funny way to learn how not to write.
Find it on: Goodreads / Book Depository / Amazon

Thyla by Kate Gordon; This book is about a girl who’s found in the bush with no memory whatsoever. Plus, it’s set in Australia, and I’m a fan of those.
Find it on: Goodreads / Amazon (kindle edition)

Siren by Tricia Rayburn; So, I’ve been eyeing this book for months. Mermaids? Awesome as! Dark, mysterious cover? Heck yeah! I can’t wait to read this.
Find it on: Goodreads / Book Depository / Amazon

Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves; I’d heard a lot of good things about this book, and it’s finally out in Australia, so as soon as I saw this, I just had to grab it.
Find it on: Goodreads / Book Depository / Amazon

Mice Gordon Reece; Wow, this looks awesome. A thriller that features what looks like a strong relationship between a girl and her mother.
Find it on: Goodreads / Amazon

The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan; The format of this book just looks amazing. It’s all set like a real dictionary, with words that are relevant to the story. I’d like to see how it pans out.
Find it on: Goodreads / Book Depository / Amazon

Son of the Shadows by Juliet Marillier; I read the first book of this series, Daughter of the Forest, and absolutely loved it.
Find it on: Goodreads / Book Depository / Amazon

The Search for WondLa by Tony Diterlizzi; This is a Middle Grade sci-fi/fantasy book with such wonderful pictures. I really can’t wait to get into this.
Find it on: Goodreads / Book Depository / Amazon

Cold Magic by Kate Elliot; So, I’d heard a whole heap of good things about this book. Plus, it looks like it’s a steampunk, and I love those with all my heart.
Find it on: Goodreads / Book Depository / Amazon

The Devil Wears Plaid by Teresa Medeiros; I really like historical romances sometimes. And this one sounds rather exciting.
Find it on: Goodreads / Book Depository / Amazon

The Vampire Diaries: The Awakening by L.J. Smith; So, I’d recently been watching the TV series, and am really loving it. I figured I might as well read the book series.
Find it on: Goodreads / Book Depository / Amazon

Marked by P.C. & Kristin Cast; I’ve been hearing a lot about this series, so I guess I should see what the fuss is all about.
Find it on: Goodreads / Book Depository / Amazon
(You can get Marked on Book Depository with 60% off, which is a great deal)

E-Books

Gone, Gone, Gone by Hannah Moskowitz; I got this from Simon & Schuster’s Galley Grab.
Find it on:Goodreads

Blood Red Road by Moira Young; Also from S&S, I’ve heard a lot of great things about this book, so I’m excited to finally read it.
Find it on: Goodreads / Book Depository / Amazon

The Witches of Santa Anna: The Complete Set by Lauren Barnholdt & Aaron Gorvine; I got this, the first 7 books in this series off Amazon for 99cents. So, if you want seven books for a dollar, I’d recommend that you go get it now, before the offer no longer stands.
Find it on: Goodreads / Amazon (Kindle)

The Dark Wife by Sarah Diemer; I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz about this book, a retelling of The Persephone & Hades myth, but with a twist: Hades is a woman. I can’t wait to read it.
Find it on: Goodreads / Amazon

So, that’s my haul for the week. Um, a lot, eh? *laughs nervously*

What did you guys get in your mailbox during the week? Feel free to share your links in the comments. 🙂

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Review: Wolfborn

May 12, 2011 at 1:02 pm (3 stars, Australian, review) (, , , , , , , , )

Wolfborn by Sue Bursztynski

ISBN: 9781864718256

Publisher: Woolshed Press

Date Released: December 1st, 2010

Genre: YA / paranormal / werewolves

Source: library

Premise:

Break the curse or howl forever.

Etienne, son of a lord in the kingdom of Armorique, goes to train as a knight with Geraint of Lucanne. Geraint is brave and kind, a good teacher and master – but he has a secret that he has kept from his family. He is bisclavret, a born werewolf. When Geraint is betrayed, Etienne must ally with the local wise-woman and her daughter, themselves bisclavret, to save his lord. But time is running out. If Geraint’s enemies have their way, Geraint will soon be trapped in his wolf form.

And Etienne has his own secret. The decisions he makes will change his life forever . . .

Inspired by a medieval romance, this engaging novel forces us to question everything we thought we knew about werewolves. (Taken from Goodreads)

Buy it from:  Amazon (Kindle Only)

So, it turns out that this book is based on an old tale. And I’m sure all you faithful readers (what little I have) know by now how much I lve retellings. This alone bumps up the score for this book, even before reading it.

First up, the writing. There are some awkwardly phrased sentences, for example:

“An older woman named Lise ran the kitchens efficiently, as she had to in a place with so many mouths to feed.” -pg 6

“The sky was a pale gold colour, like those gold was backgrounds the Notzrian [fictional religion] priests put into their illuminated holy manuscripts.” – pg 189.

The second half of the first sentence feels awkward and unnecessary. The second sentence made me go”what?” several times. I mean, it’s not like I actually know what colour they mean since I can hardly compare it. The entire book is filled with similar awkward lines like that, that may have needed another pair of eyes to read over.
I can’t say that I’m a fan of the writing. Awkward phrasing aside, the writing seems to lack any unique voice and sounds rather plain. Though, despite that, it was easy to read and didn’t drag on like I expected it to.

Another issue with the writing was that there were a lot of exclamation points. Far too many to have been allowed.

There was a lot of mention of these fictional countries, but it was hard to keep track of them without a map. They ended up feeling like random words that had little meaning. It made for a disappointing read.

Now, whilst the writing wasn’t Bursztynski’s strongest point, the story triumphed with the magnificent world-building and lore. I love love LOVED the werewolf lore that Bursztynski crafter, where a wolf can only return to human form with his own clothes, and that by removing their clothes, they remove their humanness and are able to transform. It was so unique, and I found it to be amazing.

The story is the strongest thing about this book, and it is  actually quite fantastic. The story is unlike anything I’ve ever read before. It has fairies, werewolves and magic, romance and political plots. Everything about the story was gripping, and I was up all night trying to finish the book. I literally couldn’t put it down because I just wanted to keep myself immersed within such a fantastical world.

Sadly, I can’t say the same about the characters. I felt very little voice and connection towards the narrator, Etienne, and his relationships witht the characters fell short. The romance between him and Jeanne did nothing for me, and it seemed fairly non-existant.

Oftentimes, Etienne would tell us something along the lines of “If I had known what would happen, I would have done this to prevent it.” For example, he says:

“If I had known then what would happen, I’d have lit a fire and cremated him!” – pg 117

Not only is it sloppy, it distracts the reader. I can understand that it’s a way to keep the reader hooked, sort of like a cliff-hanger, but it feels like a cheap shot. Readers should be hooked because of the story, characters or writing, not because of cliffhangers in the middle of each chapters.

If you want a good story, with a well-developed background and lore, then this is for you.

Cover Art: 4
Plot: 4
Characters: 2
Writing: 2
Level of Interest: 4

Total Rating: 3/5 stars

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Review: Impossible

April 11, 2011 at 4:37 am (2 stars, review, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , )

Impossible by Nancy Werlin

Pages: 288, paperback

ISBN: 9780141330303

Publisher: Puffin Books

Date Released: March 4th, 2010 (first published September 18th, 2008)

Genre: YA / romance / fantasy / mythology

Source: library

Premise:

When seventeen-year-old Lucy discovers her family is under an ancient curse by an evil Elfin Knight, she realizes to break the curse she must perform three impossible tasks before her daughter is born in order to save them both. (Taken from Goodreads)

Buy it now from The Book Depository

First things first: LOOK AT THAT COVER! It’s beautiful, isn’t it? Now, onto the meat of the book:

As I read the first few sentences, I notices that there are a lot of pointless sentences. Things that don’t even contribute to the story, in desperate need of editing. The writing style sounds contrived, sloppy and unimpressive. From the start, it left me stumbling through the book, struggling to finish. It felt even more awkward with the various “uh”s and “oh”s and whatnot. In third person, this just sounds completely amateurish, unless in dialogue. Even in first person, if done right. And you all know from my review of Fallen how much I hate that sort of stuff in third person narratives. THEY DO NOT BELONG. *angry face*

Lucy seems so boring in the way she talked, acted and described. She just ended up being this two-dimensional character that I barely cared for. Her character changes every few pages, from athletic to girly to tomboyish. The inconsistency in character was confusing and hard to keep track of. Honestly, there were times where I wondered if there would be a massive twist near the end where she turns out to have multiple personality disorder.

The chapters were short, about 3 pages each, which was really annoying, I thought. They were so short that I just couldn’t get into the story quickly enough until the next break. They just weren’t long enough for me to keep an interest in.

The point of view, whilst in third person, focuses on various people and the constant change gets distracting and frustrating. At the time I was reading this, I was editing my first story, and it was suffering from the same POV inconsistencies as Impossible. Now that this problem has come to my attention, I find multiple POVs to be the most annoying thing ever, and amateurish.

I loved the basic idea of the story, being a retelling of a poem called The Scarborough Fair. The fantasy elements were subtle, yet strong, which made for a nice, original fairy story. It shows the elf in a negative way, which I found delightful, as I’m sick of everyone and their grandmother romanticising every paranormal and fantasy creature they come across. It features a human/human romance, which I was relieved about.

This book deals with rape, and the outcomes of it. I thought it was poorly demonstrated. That Lucy’s rapist was unaware of his actions seemed to be this really weird message that it’s not the rapist’s fault, that they can’t control themselves. Now, I’m sure that wasn’t Werlin’s intentions at all, but it still felt like that.
Also, after Lucy was raped, it sort of seemed like it was no big deal to her, that she was passive about the whole incident and not really shaken up about it. I would have loved to see a rape survivor actually surviving instead of forgetting it ever actually happened.

There was something odd that bothered me, a really massive contradiction that I picked up. On page 104 of my copy, it says:

“If her friend Sarah Herbert were pregnant and came to Lucy for advice, Lucy would certainly think of abortion. Perhaps, she’d even urge it.”

Then some 40 pages later, Lucy is telling her friend, Zach, that she could never ever abort her child:

“We can’t just ‘deal’ with this. I can’t have an abortion. Miranda [her mother] didn’t abort me, did she? I have to have the baby. I just–I can’t explain; it’s just how I feel. I have to go ahead. And it’s my decision. That’s what you’ve always said–it’s a woman’s decision and her right to choose.”

And yet, Lucy would have urged her best friend to abort it if she were ever pregnant. So much for the right of choosing and deciding. I don’t know, it’s that sort of stuff that makes me uneasy, because this is a very delicate topic in books, and the way I see it, it wasn’t done properly here.

I was glad that Lucy’s parents were heavily involved for the most part, unlike most YAs these days. And that they were so supportive of their daughter and her decisions was sweet. It’s unusual for a parent to be so close to the main character in a YA, so this was a sort of breath of fresh air, and made for an interesting story.

This book focused on a romance that I thought was tacky and bland and had no real depth to it. Chapter 32 was one and a half pages on how Zach had confessed his undying love for Lucy, how he would kill for her, die for her, yadda yadda yadda. That’s great and all, but he never mentions what it is about her that he loves. And when he tries, he contradicts himself horribly, making his love seem forced. I was left very unimpressed with that. And then when Lucy confesses her love for him, I was thinking ‘where did that come from?’ Just a few chapters ago, she was thinking about how hot he is, but not how she actually liked him in any way other than his OMG supah hawt body!!~. Ugh, so shallow. It annoyed me.

And one last thing: after they get married, they stop trying to break the curse and instead have hot wild sex?  Wow, what a way to end the book.

Cover Art: 4
Plot: 3
Characters: 1
Writing: 1
Level of Interest: 1

Total Rating: 2/5 stars

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Review: Beastly by Alex Flinn

February 6, 2011 at 2:20 pm (4 stars, review) (, , , , )

Beastly by Alex Flinn

Pages: 304, hardcover

ISBN: 9780060874162

Publisher: HarperTeen

Date Released: October 1st, 2007

Genre: Fantasy/Young Adult / Romance

Where I got it from: library

Premise:

I am a beast.

A beast!

Not quite wolf or bear, gorilla or dog but a horrible new creature who walks upright. I am a monster.You think I’m talking fairy tales? No way. The place is New York City. The time is now. It’s no deformity, no disease. And I’ll,stay this way forever—ruined—unless I can break the spell.

Yes, the spell, the one the witch in my English class cast on me. Why did she turn me into a beast who hides by day and prowls by night? I’ll tell you. I’ll tell you how I used to be Kyle Kingsbury, the guy you wished you were, with money, perfect looks, and the perfect life. And then, I’ll tell you how I became perfectly . . . beastly.

I was eager to begin reading this book, as it is a Beauty and the Beast retelling, and one of my WIPs is also a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Basically, I picked up this book mainly for research. Also, I maybe love fairytale retellings way too much.

I had recently read A Kiss in Time, also by Alex Flinn, and really enjoyed it, and guess what: I wasn’t disappointed with this one.

Firstly, the cover, because despite the saying telling us not to judge a book by its cover, I’m pretty sure most everyone does. I know I do. The cover was simplistic, yet it worked. I love covers like that, it isn’t overcrowded, and random stuff isn’t overflowing; it directs us straight to the centre, allowing us to immediately take in the information before us. The rose and the thorns–or, the main imagery featured in the book–allows the reader what to expect. I, for instance, automatically assumed that it was a retelling of Beauty and the Beast for that very reason, so I knew what to expect.

As for the plot, I think that it progressed nicely. It was an interesting take on the classical fairytale, featuring two teenagers stuck in present-day New York, both finding themselves abandoned by the world. It seemed almost believable, and that was what was so magical about it.
Unlike most other books, I found that the plot didn’t falter, that it flowed well, and each minute detail presented coincided with the story, that were from the original stories, from the roses, to the magic mirror.
I overlooked their youngness (I tend to find love at the age of 16 or so to be quite unbelievable), and found myself sighing at the advances in Lindy and Kyle/Adrian’s relationship, thinking that it was the most loveliest, sweetest thing in the world. In fact, I even ended up asking myself where my own ‘Beast’ was.
What bugged me the most was the irrelevance of the chat room (well, I found it irrelevant). There were times where I was more interested in the other fairytale creatures that were featured, and I kept asking myself: Why were they in that position? What were they up to, and what were they doing to reach their happy ending? I don’t know, it seemed to hinder the pacing of the story.

The characters were loveable, my definite favourite being Will. He was just awesome because he was blind, yet despite this hindrance, guided Kyle/Adrian to change, to become a true hero.
What I usually find to be important in a novel is the change a character goes through, how they evolved, how they’ve grown. Their journey towards this change makes the novel, I believe, and this story fully incorporates Kyle/Adrian’s change, to the point where it is a major theme.

The writing was as one would expect from a YA writer, nothing flashy. Though, I was impressed, yet annoyed at the use of the chat room language. I liked it because it kept the characters in check, and showed their individual personalities, and was an interesting concept (despite not being necessary to the story). But I disliked it because I just generally hate that sort of writing in books (in fact, I HATE Melissa Marr’s Ink Exchange simply because on page 110, the word WTF is used. And I think OMG or something similar is used in Wicked Lovely. I would have loved the books a whole lot more if it weren’t for that, but more on that at a later date).

Overall, I think that if you want a simple, sweet retelling of Beauty and the Beast, set in modern times, check out this novel. It’s a quick read, and easy to get through, and was a really fun experience.

Cover Art: 3
Plot: 4
Characters: 3
Writing: 3
Level of Interest: 4

Total Rating: 4/5 stars.

**On another note, there is a film coming out based on this book starring Vanessa Hudgens and Alex Pettyfer. (And Neil Patrick Harris, I believe, which will be the main reason I want to see it! :P)

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