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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Back To The Books Giveaway!

Hop! Welcome to the Back to the Books Giveaway Hop hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and Buried in Books and running from September 1-7.

For this blog hop, I'll be giving away:
Any Book worth up to $15 CDN from The Book Depository!

1. To enter, fill out the form below
2. Open Internationally as long as The Book Depository ships to you
3. Ends September 7 at 11:59 PM EST
5. Entrants must be at least 13 years old
6. The winner will be announced on the blog and will have 48 hours to send me an email with their address.

Good luck!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Waterfall Wednesday: Chapters 1-6

It's the first week of the Waterfall Read-Along, this week hosted by Tina from Tina's Book Reviews, talking about Chapters 1-6!

1. Waterfall opens with the introduction of Gabi, she's depressed, a little angry and is dealing with feelings of loneliness. Are you connecting with her this soon in the novel? Do you see things you like or dislike?

I was a bit annoyed that she was complaining about getting to spend the summer in the Italian countryside on an archaeological dig because that sounds way awesome to me. What teenager gets to do that? Perhaps I was just never a typical teenager though, like Gabi, who would prefer to spend all summer doing typical teenage things. Though while I wouldn't say I really connected with her right away, I wouldn't say I disliked her either.

2. Gabi gets to time travel back to 14th Century Italy- The Dark Ages in its prime. Is there anytime in history that fascinates you and would you travel back if you could?

I feel like this is the cliched answer that everyone chooses, but I would have to go with the Victorian Era. It may be because I am heavily influenced by some great historical fiction novels I've read recently, The Monstrumologist Series and Clockwork Angel, which are set in Victorian times. I am probably most interested in the intense sexual repression of the time and the ramifications of that (I loved The Importance of Being Earnest).

3. Most of the men, including Marcello have a very set opinion about a woman's place. Gabi gets manhandled a bit in these first few chapters, and even gets asked if shes a witch. The men are shocked when Gabi rides a horse like a man and shimmies down the castle walls. What do you think of men's mentality back then? Gentlemanly, chauvinistic, simple-minded?

I would have actually expected the men of this time to be even more disrespectful. Granted, I am really no expert in this time period, but I was surprised that Gabi gets away with being so outspoken and strong-willed and the men just go along with it, albeit grudgingly. Then again, she is claiming to be a Lady so mayhap that is the difference and they wouldn't be as kind to a simple peasantwoman. I think the men's mentality back then was just a product of the day and age.

4. When Gabi becomes a part of this era, the people are immediately intrigued but suspicious of her. Many judge her by her difference. Do you think this is fair? Have you ever been in a situation where you felt like an outsider or that others were misjudging you?

Well, no. But that's maybe easy for me to say because, as a reader, I have an insight into her background and where she is coming from. But for the people from the era that are set in their ways and don't know time travel exists, she must come across as exceedingly strange. Not that that makes it fair for them to judge her, but I think they're too ignorant to know any better. Have I ever felt like an outsider? Yes, all the time.

5. What do think the coolest thing would be about living in the Dark Ages? What would be the worst?

Coolest: Dinnertime! Is it just me, or would it be fun to eat all your food without utensils (except knives)? Does this out me as a slob? I swear I would do my best to be neat even without utensils. I hate wine though so that would be a problem if that was the only beverage available.
Worst: Sidesaddles come to mind. I am a somewhat experienced horseback rider but even I cringed when they made Gabi use a sidesaddle. I would not feel safe on one of those going fast either!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Muggle Monday (17): J.K. Rowling's Visionary Genius

It's time for Muggle Monday, in which I post a quote, a video, or a significant piece of news from the Harry Potter franchise. This is somewhat inspired by the Mundane Monday posts by The Mundie Moms.

But let's be real as to why I made up this meme: I just want the opportunity to post something about Harry Potter.

This week, I wanted to talk about the visionary genius of J.K. Rowling. How so? Well, recently there have been a few news articles talking about some new inventions in the works... and they sound an awful lot like well known Harry Potter magical artifacts, Omnioculars and the Invisibility Cloak:

"Vinoculars" from Sony:

Designers at Sony have invented binoculars that allow users to pause, rewind and play back whatever they are viewing... But all this technology doesn’t come cheap. When the Vinoculars go on sale in November prices are expected to start at £1,800. (Source)

Breakthrough in the creation of a functional Invisibility Cloak:

Major breakthrough comes from an undergraduate student at the University of St Andrews who figured out how to get around the fundamental problem of light taking too long to travel around the hidden object... make a large bubble of space where the speed of light is slower than normal, so you don't look out of place. By slowing down the speed of light over a larger area, it's possible to match the speed around the cloak with comparative ease. (Source)

To see these two inventions coming to life in reality after first being made popular by a fantasy fiction writer is so cool! And it really proves how visionary and forward thinking Jo was in making up her imaginative and sometimes whimsical magical inventions. I would love to own both of these (if I was a rich woman). I would also want to own an actual working broomstick so inventors need to get on that, please.

Are there any of J.K. Rowling's fantastical inventions that you would like to see come to life? I would love to know what you think in the comments!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Review: Ashes (Ashes Trilogy #1) by Ilsa J. Bick

Publisher: Egmont
Published: September 6, 2011
Pages: 480
Source: Goodreads First Reads
Rating: 3 Stars - I Liked It

It could happen tomorrow... 
A cataclysmic event. An army of "The Changed." 
Can one teen really survive on her own? 
An electromagnetic pulse sweeps through the sky, destroying every electronic device and killing billions. For those spared, it's a question of who can be trusted and who is no longer human... 
Desperate to find out what happened and to avoid the Changed, Alex meets up with Tom---a young army veteran---and Ellie, a young girl whose grandfather was killed by the electromagnetic pulse. 
This improvised family will have to use every ounce of courage they have just to survive.

In short: Though I disliked the last third of Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick, the first two thirds provided an intense, action-packed post-apoc/zombie thriller with great characterization.
Ashes is the latest post-apocalyptic/zombie book, this time featuring an electromagnetic pulse that kills some people, spares some people, and changes others into zombies. Alex, an orphan with a brain tumor, is one of the spared. With that background, she is already one tough girl and her nature aids her greatly in the new post-apocalyptic world. She joins eight year old survivor, Ellie, and love interest, Tom, as they start up a new family and try to survive in a world overrun by brutal zombies.

I loved the first two thirds of Ashes, which were intensely action packed and frighteningly haunting, if perhaps a bit derivative of many other post-apoc/zombie reads. Ilsa J. Bick has a real talent for setting up and describing extensive, heart-thumping action and fight scenes. The pacing was incredibly fast-paced. Another thing that Ilsa J. Bick excelled at were her characters and character relationships. I loved reading about Alex, Ellie, Tom, and their little makeshift family together. The characters all had well developed histories and genuine characters. All in all, I would give the first two thirds of Ashes a strong 4 Stars.

It's the last third of Ashes where things go wrong. There is a development that happens that, while interesting, slowed the pacing considerably. While the first two thirds were nonstop action, the last third introduces a completely new environment, new information, and a new love interest. It felt like a completely different book. It was just odd, anti-climatic, and frustrating. The last third seemed better suited to be the beginning of the sequel to Ashes. It's a shame because I felt Ashes had such a good thing going with the first two thirds.

Overall, while I wouldn't say the last third of Ashes ruined the book for me, I wasn't pleased with the halt in the pace. If the plot development in the last third had taken place earlier in Ashes or at the beginning of the sequel, I would have welcomed it as an interesting and original idea.

Word of warning: If you are someone who dislikes brutal animal violence (there is a very graphic scene involving a zombie murdering a dog), love triangles (the second love interest is introduced very late in the book), or cliffhanger endings (this one had absolutely no resolution), then I would be wary of Ashes.

Other Reviews:
All of Everything
Tracy's Happy Bookshelf

Author Links:

*The Letter A is the A-Z Reading Challenge

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Waiting On Wednesday (13): Angels

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill of Breaking The Spine in which an upcoming, eagerly anticipated release is highlighted on the blog.

This week, I'm waiting on books with Angels:

Title: Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Author: Laini Taylor
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Date: September 27, 2011

Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky. In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.
And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly war.
Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages—not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.
When one of the strangers—beautiful, haunted Akiva—fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

Title: Silence (Hush, Hush #3)
Author: Becca Fitzpatrick
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Date: October 4, 2011

The noise between Patch and Nora is gone. They've overcome the secrets riddled in Patch's dark past...bridged two irreconcilable worlds...faced heart-wrenching tests of betrayal, loyalty and trust...and all for a love that will transcend the boundary between heaven and earth. Armed with nothing but their absolute faith in one another, Patch and Nora enter a desperate fight to stop a villain who holds the power to shatter everything they've worked for—and their love—forever.

Title: Hallowed (Unearthly #2)
Author: Cynthia Hand
Publisher: HarperTeen
Date: January 24, 2012

For months part-angel Clara Gardner trained to face the raging forest fire from her visions and rescue the alluring and mysterious Christian Prescott from the blaze. But nothing could prepare her for the fateful decisions she would be forced to make that day, or the startling revelation that her purpose—the task she was put on earth to accomplish—is not as straightforward as she thought. Now, torn between her increasingly complicated feelings for Christian and her love for her boyfriend, Tucker, Clara struggles to make sense of what she was supposed to do the day of the fire. And, as she is drawn further into the world of part angels and the growing conflict between White Wings and Black Wings, Clara learns of the terrifying new reality that she must face: Someone close to her will die in a matter of months. With her future uncertain, the only thing Clara knows for sure is that the fire was just the beginning.

Title: A Temptation of Angels
Author: Michelle Zink
Publisher: Penguin
Date: March 20, 2012

When her parents are murdered before her eyes, sixteen year-old Helen Cartwright finds herself launched into an underground London where a mysterious organization called the Dictata controls the balance of good and evil. Helen learns that she is one of three remaining angelic descendants charged with protecting the world’s past, present, and future. Unbeknownst to her, she has been trained her whole life to accept this responsibility. Now, as she finds herself torn between the angelic brothers protecting her and the devastatingly handsome childhood friend who wants to destroy her, she must prepare to be brave, to be hunted, and above all to be strong because temptation will be hard to resist, even for an angel. 

I don't have a great history with books with angels. I find that they are more often miss than hit. That said, I'm hoping these upcoming reads can change my mind about angels. Out of all of these, I'm most looking forward to reading Daughter of Smoke and Bone, mainly because of all the positive reviews I've read for it so far. I didn't love Hush, Hush, but I'm interested in seeing how the trilogy is going to conclude in Silence. I have heard amazing things about Unearthly but haven't read it yet so I'll have to get to it before Hallowed is released. As for A Temptation of Angels, I'm interested in the combination of the paranormal genre plus historical fiction, which isn't common.

How about you? Are you waiting on any of these books with Angels? Are there any upcoming books featuring Angels that aren't included here that you feel I should know about?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Muggle Monday (16): The Night Circus - The Next Harry Potter?

It's time for Muggle Monday, in which I post a quote, a video, or a significant piece of news from the Harry Potter franchise. This is somewhat inspired by the Mundane Mondayposts by The Mundie Moms.

But let's be real as to why I made up this meme: I just want the opportunity to post something about Harry Potter.

Ms. Morgenstern's novel, set at the turn of the 19th century, tells the story of two young, love-struck magicians who compete in a magical circus. Doubleday won the novel with a high-six-figure advance. Rights have sold to 30 foreign publishers; some countries paid six figures, a sum typically reserved for established blockbuster authorsHollywood studios, eager to anoint the next fantasy blockbuster following the end of the $7 billion Harry Potter movie franchise, began circling immediately after the book sold. Summit Entertainment, the production company behind the "Twilight" films, snapped up film rights in January and has been pitching the novel to "Twilight" fans in hopes of shoring up a fan base. The producer of the Harry Potter movies, David Heyman, is in negotiations to produce the adaptation.

Is it just me, or has "The Next Harry Potter" title been placed alongside many, many books now? And though there have been MG/YA series since the end of Harry Potter that have gained great popularity, none of them have quite reached the height and extent of it. Don't get me wrong, I'm definitely excited to read The Night Circus and I'm sure I'll love it but I'm doubtful it will inspire the same intense love and popularity among all ages and genders that Harry Potter did, nor will any other series that they give this moniker (Is this my extreme bias showing? Very likely).

What do you think? Are you looking forward to reading The Night Circus? Do you think it will be the next Harry Potter? Do you think any MG/YA book series has the potential to reach Harry Potter-level popularity? I would love to know what you think in the comments!