Friday, January 21, 2011

Review: Across the Universe

Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Synopsis (From Goodreads): A love out of time. A spaceship built of secrets and murder. 
  Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.

Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone-one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship-tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next.

Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.

After making one of the most challenging decisions of her life, Amy says goodbye to her friends and everything she has known on earth to be frozen for 300 years and travel across the universe to another planet. Elder, a boy from another generation, is destined to be the ruler of the ship, Godspeed.  When Amy is accidentally unfrozen, she doesn't know who to trust. Everything about the society on the ship is different and she feels alone. When Elder and Amy realise that someone is unplugging the frozen civilisation, and killing them, on purpose, they have to distinguish between the truths and the lies that have been created on the ship, and work out who the murderer is before more victims are defrosted.

In an amazing debut, Beth Revis has created an intriguing murder-mystery that has plenty of twists and turns to keep you guessing until the end. Even though everyone is trapped aboard the ship, there's still plenty of deceit and lies to uncover to set up an intricate mystery.

I loved Amy. Amy is shown to be a very active and healthy teenage girl who cannot sit still and loves to be in open spaces. By giving her the hobby of long distance running was a great way to show how really trapped she is in the floating artificial world. Her journey is very realistic as she comes to realise that, when in space, there is nowhere to run.

By showing both the perspectives of Amy and Elder, it was easy to see the ship through the eyes of an insider as well as a foreigner. This made the plot more interesting since Elder was the one uncovering the lies, while Amy was left with a feeling that something wasn't right on the ship.

I don't usually read sci-fi, but the characters created were all realistic and honest, and it was easy to picture the world aboard Godspeed. Once I started I didn't want to stop.

Cover: I loved this cover. It doesn't lie, it shows the reader that they are in for a sci-fi set amongst the stars, and that honesty is what makes it great. It's also beautiful, and the two characters in shadow shows an eerily romantic scene.

Plot: 5/5 stars
Ending: 5/5 stars
Cover: 5/5 stars
Overall: 5/5 stars
Recommend: Academy 7 by Anne Osterlund
2011 Debut Author Challenge: #3 of 20
2011 YA Reading Challenge: #6 of 50

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What you can learn from Reality TV

I've recently gotten into watching reality TV (I blame my sister for getting me hooked on Australia/America's Next Top Model), but my excuse is that it's a great help with my writing... I swear it does.

So, what can you learn from reality TV:
  1. Petty arguments can arise from the smallest incidents.
    Someone forgetting to wash a bowl, or even looking at another the wrong way, can often lead to arguments and feuds within the house. It seems like there's always something going on that brings the inhabitants to war against each other.
  2. Some character quirks are very interesting
    I've never imagined some of the quirks that some contestants possess. Everyone has flaws, that's just how humans are, and the more interesting that persons quirks, the more unique and memorable that person becomes... the weird sometimes gets more attention than the normal.
  3. Everybody loves a sob story
    No matter what show, the majority of candidates at auditions seems to have a sob story prepared to share for the cameras. Having an elaborate story is a great way to get sympathy from the audience. Everybody loves to root for the underdog.
  4. The lengths that people will go to win
    They may seem chummy in the house, but watch the video diaries and things aren't as sweet. Even the small mannerisms (silent treatment, causing arguments, pretending to listen while driving confirming that persons fears and making them lose focus) that some display towards others are covertly unhinging other contestants so that they will no longer pose a big threat to the main prize. 
  5. Conflict gets more viewers
    No one would want to watch the show if everyone got along. There has to be fights (and the bigger the better), whether it is between contestants or the judges. Even with the main goal (the prize) at the end, it's the problems that the contestants face along the way that makes the show more interesting.
In my defence, there is a lot of things that writers can learn from watching reality TV. I swear I'm not addicted, I can stop at any time... maybe after the next season of Idol though...

So, do any of you watch reality TV? What shows do you love? And, do you just watch them for the inevitable cat fights you know will break out?

Review: Trickster's Girl

Trickster's Girl by Hilari Bell

Synopsis (From Goodreads): In the year 2098 America isn't so different from the USA of today. But, in a post-9/11 security-obssessed world, "secured" doesn't just refer to borders between countries, it also refer to borders between states. Teenagers still think they know everything, but there is no cure for cancer, as Kelsa knows first-hand from watching her father die.
The night Kelsa buries her father, a boy appears. He claims magic is responsible for the health of Earth, but  human damage disrupts its flow. The planet is dying.

Kelsa has the power to reverse the damage, but first she must accept that magic exists and see beyond her own pain in order to heal the planet.

Incorporating a blend of sci-fi and magic, Kelsa Phillips is just trying to cope after watching her father die from cancer when a strange boy shows up and tells her that the tree plague is actually caused by magic. The boy is actually Raven, a shapeshifting spirit also known as the Trickster. He urges Kelsa to come on a quest with him to move along the ley lines and heal the nexus points all the way to Alaska.

Hilari Bell has created an interesting tale based on Native American mythology. The beginning was a bit slow, but once the quest got underway, so did the excitement and action. Bell threw in plenty of twists and turns to keep me guessing where the story would go next. With so many people wanting Kelsa to fail the quest, she didn't know who to trust, or even if she could count on Raven telling her the truth.

While I did like the relationship that built between Kelsa and Raven, sometimes it felt as if Kelsa didn't make any decisions, and was relying too heavily on Raven to lead them. This was where I wasn't able to relate to Kelsa. Sometimes she just obediently followed him without any questions.

I also felt the ending was too abrupt. The quest was building up to a high-tension finale, bit it felt a bit rushed and nothing was concluded like I would expect from an adventure story.

That being said, I enjoyed the world Bell created, especially with the blends of magic which wasn't expected in a sci-fi novel.

Cover: The cover was interesting. I love the dual colours and the darker raven against the pale girl. A perfect illustration of the story.

Plot: 3.5/5 stars
Ending: 3/5 stars
Cover: 4/5 stars
Overall: 3.5/5 stars
Recommend: The Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
Arc received from Net Galley
2011 YA Reading Challenge: #5 of 50

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Where did the time go?

I started work tonight after practically one month off, and I'm already trying to find time to fulfil all my obligations. I like to keep busy, but maybe I'm taking on too many commitments. I also don't want to give up anything (well, maybe work... but I don't think the bills would like that very much). And, I still need to find time for reading (of course).

Here's my commitments:
  1. Work
  2. Uni
  3. Writing
  4. Blogging
  5. Music (need to practice for guitar lessons)
  6. Reading

So, a good way to organise all your commitments is to keep a work diary and schedule a timeslot to work on a particular item, and a deadline for it. The only problem with the diary is that I get a tad obsessive when working on a particular task (especially when I get into my writing) and forget all about the time.

I've also recently been giving myself at least an hour before bed to read. This will allow me time to keep up with everything (hopefully).

So, how do you find the time to do everything you've committed yourself to? Do you put time aside for reading? Or, how do you find the time?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Book Blogger Hop

Book Blogger Hop

Book Blogger hop is a weekly meme hosted by Crazy for Books. I found this while browsing blogs and thought this was a great way to meet bloggers that love books as much as I do.

This week's question: Why do you read the genres that you do? What draws you to it?

For me, I love to read anything Young Adult, from paranormal to contemporary. I've even started to read some sci-fi's as well. I love the immediacy that is present within the stories. I also love the characters, experiencing their firsts, or learning from their mistakes. They don't have all the answers and experience that many adults would, so their journey is new to both them and me.

So, what genres do you like to read? And what do you like about them?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Review: Spirit Bound

Spirit Bound by Richelle Mead

Synopsis (From Goodreads): After a long and heartbreaking journey to Dimitri’s birthplace in Siberia, Rose Hathaway has finally returned to St. Vladimir’s—and to her best friend, Lissa Dragomir. It's graduation, and the girls can’t wait for their real lives outside of the Academy’s cold iron gates to finally begin. But even with the intrigue and excitement of court life looming, Rose’s heart still aches for Dimitri. He's out there, somewhere.

She failed to kill him when she had the chance, and now her worst fears are about to come true. Dimitri has tasted her blood, and she knows in her heart that he is hunting her. And if Rose won't join him, he won't rest until he's silenced her...forever.

But Rose can't forget what she learned on her journey—whispers of a magic too impossible and terrifying to comprehend. A magic inextricably tied to Lissa that could hold the answer to all of Rose's prayers, but not without devastating consequences. Now Rose will have to decide what—and who—matters most to her. In the end, is true love really worth the price?

After leaving St Vladimirs to hunt Dimitri, Rose has returned and has promised to continue her schooling so she will Graduate and maybe stand a chance of being Lissa's guardian. But, she has left unfinished business. Dimitri has survived and now he's the one hunting her and she knows that this time he will kill her if he catches her.

Rose knows that it's either Dimitri's life or her own, only she can't forget the rumours that there might be a way of saving Dimitri. Will Rose be able to find the answers to this magic or will she be able to sacrifice her love to save the one's that matters most when the time comes?

The fifth installment of Vampire Academy sees the characters graduating from St Vladimirs. I have grown to love these characters. Rose is very loyal but very headstrong who won't put up with any bull. She does have a weakness and that is in her love for Dimitri, and this weakness might end up getting her and everyone around her killed.

The one character I felt really sorry for was Adrian. He would do anything for Rose, but she's still infatuated with Dimitri. Parts of the story made him feel like a doormat for Rose rather than the guy she was currently involved with.

While the story, at the mid-way point tended to drag a little as Mead focused a lot on the political aspects of her society, it built up to a perfect cliff hanger to lead into the final book of the series, Last Sacrifice.

I look forward to seeing how this series ends.

Cover: I absolutely love this cover. The close up faces of the characters shows so much emotion. If I didn't know what the story was about I would definitely pick it up based on the story.

Plot: 4/5 stars
Ending: 5/5 stars
Cover: 5/5 stars
Overall: 4.5/5 stars
2011 YA Reading Challenge: #3 of 50

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

5 Things Writers Don't Want to Hear From Readers

As writers and readers, are there just some things that you really don't want to hear/see in stories? They could include some things like:

  1. 5 pages in and I wanted the character to kill himself

    Don't you know those irritating characters you hope won't survive much longer... but alas, they are the main character so you kind of figure they will be around much, much longer.

  2. Oh, that was a bad guy?

    I love sympathetic bad guys, but when the reader gets confused as to who's the good guys and who's the bad guys, then there's a problem.

  3. Ok, where did he get that unicycle?

    Ok, where did this new item come from? A character finds a tool that will come in handy, but where did they get it from? Now, that's the mystery.

  4. It's interesting and all, but why is there a detailed recount of the 1906 stockmarket?

    Yawn, endless information that only proves that the person is knowledgeable, but doesn't have any relevance in the story.

  5. As I thought, the Butler did it... wait, when did the butler enter the story?

    Coincidental villains. The ones that aren't really in the story, but only come along because they need someone to be the villain.
So, is there anything that you're afraid of hearing when other people read your manuscript? What sort of things don't you like seeing in the stories you read?

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011

    Review: Here Lies Bridget

    Here Lies Bridget by Paige Harbison

    Synopsis (From Goodreads): Heroine, Bridget Duke, rules her high school, but when she crashes her car and ends up in limbo, she must confront the people she has wronged, all of whom want her to go to hell. The outcome of these meetings will decide her final destination.
    Mean girl of the school, Bridget, has no problem getting what she wants. She's no stranger to twisting the truth and intimidation, even her friends are scared to tell Bridget the truth.

    When new girl, Anna, arrives and is instantly more popular and perfect than Bridget, Bridget starts to feel threatened. Feeling like her whole world is crashing down around her and everyone at school aren't putting up with her attitude anymore she races home in a frantic pace, losing control of her car.

    Instead of dying, Bridget wakes up in limbo where she's going to be shown how her actions have affected all the people around her. But, at the end of this experience will Bridget be alive to fix the major mistakes she has made?

    Bridget is the perfect mean girl that it's hard to sympathise with her. Throughout the story she cannot understand why people seem to dislike her, she doesn't think that what she says can be taken as an offence. Sometimes it was too hard to understand her when I felt sorry for everyone around her.

    That being said, the story was interesting. Each of the characters surrounding Bridget each held their own secrets, which helped drive the plot. And, by the end of the story I did feel some remorse for Bridget. With a feel of Mean Girls meets A Christmas Carol, Paige Harbison has created a fun read with a unique spin on learning about one's mistakes.

    Cover: I absolutely love this cover. There's a bit of a morbid feel among the peaceful scenery. It definitely paints a good image of what this story is about.

    Plot: 3/5 stars
    Ending: 4/5 stars
    Cover: 5/5 stars
    Overall: 3.5/5 stars
    Recommend: The Duff by Kody Keplinger
    Arc received from Net Galley
    Release Date: 1st February 2011
    2011 Debut Author Challenge: #2 of 20
    2011 YA Reading Challenge: #4 of 50

    Monday, January 10, 2011

    Stylish Blogger Award

    Many thanks to SimplyMe for awarding me with the Stylish Blogger Award. Check out her awesome blog.

    Here are the rules if you are awarded:

    1. Thank and link back to the person who awarded you this award.
    2. Share 7 things about yourself.
    3. Award 15 recently discovered great bloggers.
    4. Contact these bloggers and tell them about the award.
    So, here goes:
    1. Thanked and linked back to blog... Done
    2. 7 things about myself:
      1. My favourite food is sushi
      2.  If I could go anywhere for a holiday, I would love to go to Japan
      3.  I'm working toward my 3rd degree at uni... hopefully my last
      4.  I auditioned for Australian Idol and got told I sucked (which I then chose to ignore them)
      5.  My bookshelves hold over 100 books, a lot of those I haven't gotten around to reading
      6.  I play the guitar
      7.  I once tried acting and appeared as an extra in a couple of movies/tv shows
    3. 15 Great bloggers to pass this onto:
      1. Katie's Amazing Book Review
      2. Unputdownable Books
      3. YA Book Nuts
      4. Just Another Book Addict
      5. Just Another Story
      6. Not Your Faerytale
      7. Teen Book Fiend
      8. The Night Reader
      9. The Paperback Princess
      10. This Purple Crayon
      11. Rabid Reads
      12. Feel of Something New
      13. A Book Dork
      14. Amber's Teen Reads
      15. At Home Between the Pages
    4.  Contacted bloggers to inform them of award... Done

    Thursday, January 6, 2011

    Review: Unearthly

    Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

    Synopsis (From Goodreads): In the beginning, there's a boy standing in the trees . . . . 

    Clara Gardner has recently learned that she's part angel. Having angel blood run through her veins not only makes her smarter, stronger, and faster than humans (a word, she realizes, that no longer applies to her), but it means she has a purpose, something she was put on this earth to do. Figuring out what that is, though, isn't easy. 

    Her visions of a raging forest fire and an alluring stranger lead her to a new school in a new town. When she meets Christian, who turns out to be the boy of her dreams (literally), everything seems to fall into place—and out of place at the same time. Because there's another guy, Tucker, who appeals to Clara's less angelic side. 

    As Clara tries to find her way in a world she no longer understands, she encounters unseen dangers and choices she never thought she'd have to make—between honesty and deceit, love and duty, good and evil. When the fire from her vision finally ignites, will Clara be ready to face her destiny? 

    Unearthly is a moving tale of love and fate, and the struggle between following the rules and following your heart

    Clara knows what she is, and ever since she found out that she's an angel-blood she has been waiting until her purpose is made clear, then she starts having visions of a boy surrounded by a forest fire. After finding the location of the forest from her vision, her mother moves her brother and her to the small community of Jackson Hole where Clara meets Christian, the boy from her vision.

    Besides being the new girl and struggling to fit in at school, she also has her purpose to work out. If that's not bad enough, there's also a second boy, Tucker, who Clara can't get out of her mind. Clara has to make the choice between following her heart or completing her destiny.

    I didn't know what to expect when I picked up Unearthly, and I was pleasantly surprised. Cynthia Hand has created a unique spin on the Angel story. I was happy that Clara knew she was part-angel and that she had a mother who was there to help her daughter, even if that mother didn't want to tell her daughter any information on the angels until Clara had figured it out for herself or was ready.

    The relationships between Clara, Christian and Tucker were built on and were more believable than most stories that have love triangles. This story really showed Clara losing her heart to the guy and being torn up with decision that she had to make.

    The plot was fast with plenty of twists and turns to keep me reading. I look forward to when the next one comes out.

    Cover: This is a beautiful cover. Australia got the red cover which looks exactly like how the vision plays out. Even without knowing what it was about, I'm sure I would have picked it up based on that cover.

    Plot: 5/5 stars
    Ending: 5/5 stars
    Cover: 5/5 stars
    Overall: 5/5 stars
    Recommend: Personal Demons by Lisa Desrochers
    2011 Debut Author Challenge: #1 of 20
    2011 YA Reading Challenge: #2 of 50

    Wednesday, January 5, 2011

    Feeling Ecclectic

    I have a motto of "to experience life is to be open minded". I love trying new things. If I don't give something a chance then I feel like I'm missing out on something huge.

    This way of mind also stretches to my tastes of music, movies and books. I have a real hard time when someone asks me what's my favourite type of music or movie. Usually on my iPhone I've got a playlist that includes genres from soft rock to heavy metal, even J-Pop (that's Japanese Pop). As for movie's, I tend to like genres which suits my mood and is anything from Disney to Action to Arthouse and Horror.

    I'm now starting to see this ecclectic taste in my writing. All the ideas that are swimming around in my head are all of different ya genres, although when I try to create a contemporary story it turns into a horror (don't ask me how). Now I just have to figure which story idea I'm going to delve into first.

    So, do you have certain tastes when it comes to music and movies, or do you like to be open minded and give any genre a try? If so, do you see yourself writing in multiple genres or sticking to the one?

    Tuesday, January 4, 2011

    Another Resolution Post

    I know, I know, I know. You're all thinking, not another post about resolutions, but I feel that if I write them down somewhere where I can be reminded of them, then I'm more likely going to be able to achieve these goals.

    I'm really bad when it comes to making resolutions... by the time I get to February I usually forget what I've promised to do and I'm too bogged down with life to be bothered to either think back to what I could have promised myself I would do or create some new ones.

    But, this year I feel different, because by the end of the year everthing's going to change when I graduate with a bachelor of education and become registered to teach in High School (oh, now that's a scary thought).

    So, here are some things I'm aiming for this year:
    1. Do not leave uni work till the last minute, I need to get good marks... and I definitely need to pass since I've been offered a schollarship which has the conditions that I graduate at the end of the year to be able to take up full time work in 2012.
    2. Read 50+ novels... just for fun, but I really need to read more (especially of Aussie YA stories)
    3. Start querying Haven (which will be getting a name change as well before then).
    4. Start a new project and have at least first draft done.
    5. Keep my commitments to my critique group.
    6. Try to fit in "have a life" among all of my other commitments.
    I don't think that's a lot to aim for this year.

    So, here's a question: do you make resolutions at the start of the year. If you do, do you usually keep them and what are some of yours this year.

    Monday, January 3, 2011

    Review: Blood Promise

    Blood Promise by Richelle Mead

    Synopsis (From Goodreads):After the massacre at Vampire Academy, Rose Hathaway faces the most task of her life and she knows that she must do it alone. With Mason departed for the other world, Rose must hunt down and kill Dimitri Belikov, the man she most loves. The fourth nail-biting episode of Richelle Mead's popular vampire series dramatically shows the fatal power of a promise.

    Rose, after making the hardest decision of all - which is to leave St Vladimirs and Lissa behind - she heads to Russia in order to save Dimitri's soul by killing the monster he has become.

    In the first three books the readers have seen Rose grow while undertaking her schooling at St Vladimirs, now she has gone against everyone and left the school, and even though she's on her own it doesn't mean she's forgotten about Lissa. Through the Shadow kiss bond the reader still gets to see the story that is progressing at the school.

    Even though the beginning is slow paced, mainly because the reader has to be introduced to several new characters, both at St Vladimirs and at Russia, as well as introduced to the Alchemists, there is enough action and mystery to keep the reader interested and wanting to turn the next page, or if the reader's like me they're purely anxious to see if Rose will kill Dimitri.

    Although not as action-packed as the previous stories, it will not disappoint the fans of the series and leave them wanting to read the next.

    Cover: I love these covers. The close up of the face shows real emotion and there's a real surreal beauty to it. Even if I didn't know about this series, I would still pick up the book based on the cover.

    Plot: 4/5 stars
    Ending: 5/5 stars
    Cover: 5/5 stars
    Overall: 4.5/5 stars
    Recommend: Hunger Games, House of Night Series
    2011 YA Reading Challenge: #1 of 50

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