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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Review: Dark Mirror by M.J. Putney


Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Published: March 1, 2011
Pages: 304
Source: Won from Books Are A Girl's Best Friend (Thanks!)
Rating: 2 Stars


Lady Victoria Mansfield, youngest daughter of the earl and countess of Fairmount, is destined for a charmed life. Soon she will be presented during the London season, where she can choose a mate worthy of her status. 
Yet Tory has a shameful secret—a secret so powerful that, if exposed, itcould strip her of her position and disgrace her family forever. Tory’s blood is tainted . . . by magic.
When a shocking accident forces Tory to demonstrate her despised skill, the secret she’s fought so hard to hide is revealed for all to see. She is immediately exiled to Lackland Abbey, a reform school for young men and women in her position. There she will learn to suppress her deplorable talents and maybe, if she’s one of the lucky ones, be able to return to society.
But Tory’s life is about to change forever. All that she’s ever known or considered important will be challenged. What lies ahead is only the beginning of a strange and wonderful journey into a world where destiny and magic come together, where true love and friendship find her, and where courage and strength of character are the only things that determine a young girl’s worth.


In short: Unfortunately, Dark Mirror by M.J. Putney was unable to capture my interest and somehow managed to make even magic lame and boring.
Magic plus time travel. Can't go wrong, right? Unfortunately, much to my surprise and dismay, Dark Mirror by M.J. Putney didn't work for me. It was an amalgamation of things that didn't work but ultimately, I was bored. I couldn't bring myself to care about any of the characters or the plot. Nothing inspired any stirrings of interest; if I was the type to DNF books, I would've done so within the first 50 pages of Dark Mirror.

The magical abilities that Tory and her friends have weren't even interesting, which I didn't think was possible. Talk about some of the lamest magical powers ever. One guy is an expert at moving clouds around; one girl specializes in heating things; one guy is particularly good at finding things. LAME. And they seriously thought they were going to be able to take on Napoleon's army with these powers? Don't get me wrong, it's noble and all that they want to fight for England, but they were clearly delusional.

I disliked the writing as well but I'm not sure I could put into words exactly what didn't work for me. It seemed a bit amateurish, though I know that's not true because M.J. Putney is a fairly experienced author. I guess I thought the writing was too simple and bare. I'm not saying I need writing to be extremely flowery and detailed all the time, but I like to be able to experience more fully the surroundings, the plot elements, and the characters' personalities than Dark Mirror allowed me.

One thing that I was impressed by was the setting: not one, but two historical settings were involved, 1803 and WWII. M.J. Putney demonstrates a great amount of knowledge of the eras, though I would've preferred had she not stated this knowledge so matter of factly in the novel. If she had interwoven the historical information more seamlessly into the plot (something that Rick Yancey, author of The Monstrumologist Series, does very well), then I would've been truly impressed.

Think you might want to give this one a try yourself? Enter my giveaway to win Dark Mirror and Choker (Hmm? What's that? You no longer have any interest in entering my giveaway now that I've trashed the book? Well, for what it's worth, other bloggers seemed to enjoy Dark Mirror more than I did.)

Other Reviews:
Books Are A Girl's Best Friend
Small Review
Tales of Whimsy

Author Links:
Website

*Read as part of the 2011 Debut Author Challenge

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Waterfall Wednesday: Chapters 24-28

It's the final week of the Waterfall Read-Along, this week hosted by Nic from Irresistible Reads, talking about Chapters 24-28!

Also, if you haven't yet heard, Small Review is hosting a River of Time Series Giveaway! All you have to do is help promote The River of Time Series and you could win some amazing prizes!

1. After Gabi is injured, the doctor gives her a tonic. Gabi questions the doctor several times what is in it but he refuses to tell. Would you have taken the tonic in Gabi’s situation?

Hard to say. Common sense says no but mayhap if I was in as much pain as Gabi, I would’ve been desperate for anything to help.


2. Before the games Gabi asks Lia to let Lord Forabosch win in the archery event as people, especially Lord Forabosch, are becoming suspicious of them. But during the games, Lord Forabosch upsets Lia trying to throw her off her game. So Lia decides to win. Do you think she did the right thing by not letting Lord Forabosch bully her or do you think she took an unnecessary risk?

It was a risk, sure, but I was cheering her on! I’m not even a competitive person myself, but I loved the idea of Lia sticking it to Lord Forabosch.


3. Gabi is dying and she and Lia decide to return to the tombs so they can get the cure at home but they have to tell Marcello the truth. Even though Marcello thinks that it is madness that they are from the future, he believes in Gabi because he loves her. Do you think this is believable? What would you have done if you were Marcello?

I do think it is believable that Marcello would believe Gabi’s claim, only because I feel people from the medieval period were more gullible and more likely to believe in things like witchcraft and time travel. I’m not saying that people from this time period were dumb, they just weren’t as knowledgeable as people are in our time period, obviously.


4. In the end, Gabi and Lia return home. Do you think Gabi will return to Marcello? Would you go back?

Heh, well I can’t imagine what the sequels would be about if Gabi didn’t return to Marcello. But even if I wasn’t aware of the sequels, the last few lines of Waterfall indicated to me that Gabi is going to do everything she can to get back. As she should! I totally think she should go for it if she thinks Marcello is “the one”.


5. Looking back at Waterfall, what was your favourite moment?

As in all time travel novels, one of my favourite parts is when the protagonist reacts and has to deal with their new surroundings, which are completely unfamiliar to them. It’s amusing to read about Gabi having trouble putting on the dress, learning how to ride sidesaddle, and coming up with a story to explain who she is and why she is there. Also, I loved the myriad of action scenes, obviously!


Aw, I'm sad to see this Read-Along end! It was good while it lasted though. Great job to everyone who put this together; the questions each week were either challenging or fun, and always a pleasure!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Giveaway: Dark Mirror and Choker

Wotcher! I'm not celebrating any milestone or anniversary on the blog or anything... just thought I would have a giveaway. I'll be giving away Dark Mirror by M.J. Putney and Choker by Elizabeth Woods. I won both of these books in giveaways and don't plan on ever rereading them again so I thought I would give them to someone else to read and free some room on my bookshelf at the same time.



Rules
1. To enter, fill out the form below
2. Open Internationally
3. Ends October 2 at 11:59 PM EST
4. Entrants must be at least 13 years old
5. The winner will be announced on the blog and will have 48 hours to send me an email with their address.
Note: These are not new books; I have read them before. They are, however, in very good condition.
 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Waterfall Wednesday: Chapters 18-23

It's the fourth week of the Waterfall Read-Along, this week hosted by Jenny from Supernatural Snark, talking about Chapters 18-23!

Also, if you haven't yet heard, Small Review is hosting a River of Time Series Giveaway! All you have to do is help promote The River of Time Series and you could win some amazing prizes!

1. Gabi and Lia both face several life and death situations in these chapters, having to pick up weapons in defense of those they love and experiencing first hand the brutality of close combat. If you had the choice between picking up a weapon and standing on the front lines or staying behind to tend to the wounded as necessary, which would you choose?

Definitely staying behind to tend to the wounded. Like I said last week, I’m not into killing, taking the lives of people who love and have been loved.


2. Both girls get to wear extraordinary gowns to their victory celebration; what would your dream medieval gown look like?

Oh no, not answering this. This question is way too girly for me.


3. Gabi has crude stitches put in and must endure both their removal as well as the cauterization of the wound. How is your threshold for pain? Do you think you would have simply gritted your teeth as Gabi does?

I am terribly wimpy and have a very low threshold for pain. I could not, would not stand for that kind of pain. I would have made my escape back to the future, with the stitches still in, as soon as possible, no matter the risks. I like my painkillers and general anaesthesia.


4. Marcello wants to properly court Gabi after they express mutual feelings of affection, wanting to speak with her mother about his intentions. What do you think is the most romantic aspect of medieval courtship?

It is pretty sweet that people seem to be much more open, much more quickly, about their feelings for one another. They really just go for it. They would have a lot less of those frustrating moments when you are wondering how someone really feels about you and those terrifying moments when you try to express your feelings for someone else.


5. Gabi and Lia find themselves with conflicting desires toward the end with Lia wanting to return home and Gabi hoping to stay. Do you think that Gabi is being unfair to Lia for wanting to stay, or is Lia being unfair to Gabi for demanding they go? A little of both?

A little of both, but mainly I feel that Gabi was being unfair to Lia for wanting to stay. They’re living 700 years in the past and there is a gigantic hole in Gabi’s side. It sucks for Gabi to potentially lose Marcello but going back to their time would be better than Gabi dying which would result in Lia forever being stuck in the past alone.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Publisher: Penguin 
Published: December 2, 2010 
Pages: 372 
Source: Won from The Secret Life of a Bibliophile (Thanks!)
Rating: 5 Stars

Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris - until she meets Etienne St. Clair: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he's taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home. As winter melts into spring, will a year of romantic near - misses end with the French kiss Anna - and readers - have long awaited?

In short: Despite its horrid cover, it's impossible not to fall in love with the characters and the dialogue in Anna and the French Kiss, as perfectly written by Stephanie Perkins.
This is what happens when you let superficial biases keep you from reading a book right when it is published despite all the positive reviews. Superficially, everything about this book just screams bad, to me. The cover is just horrid. The title is cheesy. And the blurb is lame. It's not just the superficial elements though: it's also the fact that I'm not into contemporary, I'm not into romance, and I most certainly am not into contemporary romance. I don't do chic-lit.

Ultimately though, I am a lemming and easily become interested in reading whatever everyone else is reading and raving about (I'm feeble minded like that). I am also almost always in agreement with popular opinion so it came as no surprise to me that I did end up loving Anna and the French Kiss very, very much. It was just the initial push to start the book that was hard for me; everything after that came easily and naturally.

I am usually easily bored by the everyday events of contemporary novels. I crave fantastical or supernatural happenings, usually to break the monotony of my dreadfully normal life (not really, I like my life). So I was impressed with how easily Stephanie Perkins caught my attention and held it for the entirety of Anna and the French Kiss. I was instantly involved and interested in the plot, the characters, and the setting. It can't have been easy to capture my genre-limited attention so kudos to Stephanie Perkins!

There was a ton of dialogue in Anna and the French Kiss. Usually this would annoy me, but it was one of my favourite parts in Anna. I loved it so much that I'm prepared to say that Stephanie Perkins has written the best dialogue for a book that I've ever read. Each line of dialogue was either witty or meaningful or character building and I loved it so much I kind of want to end this review right here and go reread Anna again.

But definitely the best part of Anna and the French Kiss (and from the reviews I've read, people seem to agree) were the characters. What more can I say about my love for Anna and St. Clair and their relationship that hasn't already been said? The characters were perfect but flawed, which made them all the more perfect. I could relate wholeheartedly with Anna and I fell in love wholeheartedly with St. Clair. Perfect.

So I am officially mega excited for Lola and the Boy Next Door, to be published this month (September 2011), and Isla and the Happily Ever After, to be published 2012. I'm okay that these are more companion novels to Anna and the French Kiss instead of sequels because I'm perfectly happy with the way Anna and St. Clair's story turned out. I would also love to read companion novels based on Meredith's, Rashmi's, and Bridgitte's stories as well. Just putting it out there.

Other Reviews:
A Girl, Books and Other Things
The Secret Life of a Bibliophile
YA Book Queen

Author Links:
Website
Blog
Twitter
Goodreads

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Waterfall Wednesday: Chapters 12-17

It's the third week of the Waterfall Read-Along, this week hosted by Joy and Serena from Edgy Inspirational Romance, talking about Chapters 12-17!


1. In Siena, on her way to the ball at Palazzo Pubblico, Gabi likened her experience to being on the red carpet at the Academy Awards, the goal being "to see and be seen." If you were a peasant, watching from the crowd, what would you be thinking as this procession passed by?

I would imagine that it really would be like seeing celebrities walk down the red carpet for the peasants in Siena. There was such a huge gap in wealth between the nobility and peasants at this time that I imagine the peasants would look upon the people in this procession, wearing the utmost highest quality clothing they could never dream of affording, in awe. Just like people idolize celebrities now.



2. Though quite nervous about dancing at the ball, Gabi discovers a strange feeling of connection to the time, the people, and the society through the unified beauty of the dance. Have you ever been in a position where you felt out of your element, but, in one, pinpointed moment, became a part of or connected to something bigger than your fear?

I often feel out of my element in many social situations because I am very shy but given time, I can will myself to open up a bit and enjoy myself.



3. The kiss. Oh, the kiss. When Marcello finally kisses Gabi, he believes the experience to be proof that they are meant to be together. What did you think about his assumption? Were you surprised at Gabi's reaction to it? Have you ever experienced a kiss that seemed to be prophetic in a similar (or opposite!) way?

I was taken aback by Marcello’s assumption that he and Gabi were meant to be together, based on a kiss alone, because they’ve only known each other for a week! This is modern-day-me thinking this and I think Gabi’s reaction is also a modern day teenage girl’s reaction. I think it was more normal in Marcello’s time to choose a beloved more quickly and with less deliberation.

No prophetic kisses for me. I have experienced something similar but it was through meaningful discussion instead of physical contact.



4. Many go through their teen years with a subdued sense of immortality. Do you think Gabi has a sense of this teen feeling? And did you think Gabi's converse observation, "Sometimes death came hunting and there was no way to cut it off at the pass." was informed more by the experience of losing her father, her self-admitted closet hypochondria, or the forced maturation of being transported to a different time? How does this observation show Gabi's growth as a character?

Wow, what an intelligent and well thought out question… I only wish I could provide a worthy answer. I will try.

I do believe Gabi has a sense of immortality about her. She springs into action and jumps into danger without much thought. That is not to say that her actions are completely indications of “this teen feeling”; I also think she is very brave and her actions are reflective of that.

I would think Gabi’s observation has largely to do with her experience of losing her father. It has been something she has been dealing with for a year and she is coming to terms with in Waterfall. Her acceptance of this means a loss of innocence in Gabi’s character; she is growing up.



5. In the span of a few moments, Gabi goes from sword-wielding teen beauty to man-killing warrior. Did you think her realization of the finality of death -- and her justification for its necessity -- was realistic? And, in her slippers, could you have done the same?

I couldn’t imagine ever having to kill anyone, even in a war situation, slippers or no slippers. Being responsible for ending someone’s life, someone who loved and was loved by others, is not an experience I would ever want to have. Then again, I’ve never been in Gabi’s situation, killing to protect Marcello and Luca and terrified for her sister’s life at the hands of a mad man. So mayhap that reaction is a realistic one.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Winner!

It's time to announce the winner of the Back to the Books Giveaway of any book worth up to $15 CAD from The Book Depository! There were a total of 376 people who entered and 1256 entries. And the winner, according to random.org, is:
KristĂ­na!

Congrats! Please email me with your address and your choice of book (either an old release or a preorder) within the next 48 hours at ayleejaine(at)gmail(dot)com.

Update: Unfortunately, Kristina didn't get back to me in time which is too bad. Lookout for another giveaway soon!


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Waterfall Wednesday: Chapters 7-11

It's the second week of the Waterfall Read-Along, this week hosted by Missie from The Unread Reader, talking about Chapters 7-11!


1. Gabi's search for her sister is made increasingly difficult by the fight for territory between Castello Forelli and Castello Paratore. At this point, do you think the rivalry is warranted? Why or why not?

They sure get upset over their enemies putting one foot over the line onto their land, don’t they? I don’t feel like the rivalry is warranted because I’m from a different time, but I can understand that the people in the Medieval time period were far more territorial over land.


2. Gabi aids Fortino by having his sickroom cleaned out and using steam to loosen the phlegm inside his lungs so he could breathe better. Have you ever found yourself in a situation that required you to rely on home remedies to aid yourself or another? What are some of your favorite home remedies?

Nothing is coming to mind. This is why I will never be a nurse no matter how much my mother wants me to find employment in that field. I am not hospitable.


3. Marcello and his men don't hide their surprise when they learn that Gabi is skilled with a sword. What did you think of this development? Has your initial impression of Gabi changed? Do you have any secret skills?

I’m excited at this development because it means that Gabi will be able to partake in some action instead of just watching from the sidelines like you would expect from a lady of this time. I wouldn’t say my initial impression of Gabi has changed as I’ve always viewed her as a very capable and talented girl. She is so lucky that her parents made her learn all these skills that are turning out to be so useful.
I don’t have any secret skills, unfortunately; all of my skills are known by the people I know. I feel like I should learn some cool and useful skill in private and then whip it out at random moments to surprise and impress people.


4. "Our lips were so close, I could feel the heat of his breath on my skin." Gabi and Marcello's feelings for one another are beginning to stir. What do you think of Marcello as a romantic interest thus far? What do you think of his intended?

I like Marcello as a romantic love interest for Gabi, though he is not to my tastes personally. I love that he is not patronizing of Gabi like a lot of the other men are but is still protective of her. Lady Rossi has grown on me. Though she seemed like a mean girl from another time at first, I feel for her and the pressure she has to marry and protect her land.


5. Marcello and Luca take turns teaching Gabi the dances of Toscana. Would you have liked to attend a ball like the one Gabi was practicing for? Do you like to dance? Do you know any cool dance moves? Extra (not really) points if you YouTube yourself dancing and share the video. Come on, it will be fun! :)

I love to dance but only when I am very alone or very drunk (preferably both). I wouldn’t say I know any “cool” dance moves, no. Perhaps it might not be too bad attending a ball and dancing in public if I got to wear a really pretty dress. And hell-to-the-no I am not videotaping myself dancing for people to see!