Sunday, 31 August 2014

Review || The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black ★★★★☆
Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown’s gates, you can never leave.

One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.

This is going to be a difficult review to write. I always seem to struggle with the books that I enjoyed.

While I liked Black's White Cat well enough when I read it last year, Coldtown is heads and shoulders above that. I really enjoyed this book. It was dark, twisted and full of compelling characters and mythology.

The set up here, for those of you who somehow don't know what this book is about already, is vampires. A fairly standard vampire mythos is accompanied by some really interesting world history. Vampires are publicly recognized--albeit as monsters. But also, in some cases, as a very twisted form of celebrity. It's not too unbelievable, given our modern penchant for reality TV.

Combine that with some really complex and diverse characters, and you have Coldtown in a very simplified nutshell.

I am very much a character person when it comes to books. Give me depth and complexity. The characters here are so beautifully flawed. They are fully of shades of grey. They have their own complicated histories. It was really fantastic. I really loved Tana as a narrator, for no reason that I can eloquently express. I just clicked with her as a character, despite us being very different.

One of the things I've seen this book praised for is its inclusion of a transgender character. Which, truthfully, brought it higher up my reading priority list than it had been before. I'm going to quibble a bit, since said character was a secondary character and did not feature as much as I would've liked. She still got a really cute side love story, which made me really happy.

Still, despite all my praise, this was not a 5 star book for me. I can't really pin down what it was about this book that made it 4 instead of 5 stars. I just never really got that "5 star" feeling, if you know what I mean. Never had that smack my hand against the cover slash want to throw the book across the room it was so good feeling.

Regardless. Highly enjoyable and definitely recommended--especially if you're looking for something new to try in the vampire realm.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Waiting On Wednesday || Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper

Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper
September 23, 2014
Sixteen-year-old Avery Roe wants only to take her rightful place as the witch of Prince Island, making the charms that keep the island's whalers safe at sea, but her mother has forced her into a magic-free world of proper manners and respectability. When Avery dreams she's to be murdered, she knows time is running out to unlock her magic and save herself.

Avery finds an unexpected ally in a tattooed harpoon boy named Tane--a sailor with magic of his own, who moves Avery in ways she never expected. Becoming a witch might stop her murder and save her island from ruin, but Avery discovers her magic requires a sacrifice she never prepared for.

Two witch books in a row... I promise that was unintentionally.

I really love magical tales, especially ones that skirt the edges of our reality. And clairvoyance is also definitely a thing I am super into. Plus, the whole embracing your inheritance thing is also a win.

And let's take a moment to appreciate that cover. Oh my.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Monday Mix || Trailer Heart: Marvel Edition

I'm just going to leave this one here without much explanation.

Except: I love instrumental movie scores. And I love Marvel movies. (Who doesn't?)

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Review || Timeless by Alexandra Monir

Timeless (Timeless #1) by Alexandra Monir ★☆☆☆☆
When tragedy strikes Michele Windsor’s world, she is forced to uproot her life and move across the country to New York City, to live with the wealthy, aristocratic grandparents she’s never met. In their old Fifth Avenue mansion filled with a century’s worth of family secrets, Michele discovers a diary that hurtles her back in time to the year 1910. There, in the midst of the glamorous Gilded Age, Michele meets the young man with striking blue eyes who has haunted her dreams all her life – a man she always wished was real, but never imagined could actually exist. And she finds herself falling for him, into an otherworldly, time-crossed romance.

Michele is soon leading a double life, struggling to balance her contemporary high school world with her escapes into the past. But when she stumbles upon a terrible discovery, she is propelled on a race through history to save the boy she loves – a quest that will determine the fate of both of their lives.

In my mind, there's a distinction between "bad" and "not good".

This book was not "bad" by any means. But it certainly was "not good".

Despite a promising premise, this book suffers from a very mediocre execution. The writing style is very simplistic and overly descriptive--not in a good way, but in a "telling, not showing" kind of way.

The plot is virtually non-existent, unless you want to count "impulsive teenagers make heart eyes at each other" as the plot. In which case, there you have it. Except the teenagers are separated across 100 years.

And though I appreciate cyclical time travel as a plot device, the rest of the mechanics are sort of hand-waved away. What I'm sure are supposed to be shocking twists can be seen from miles away--which doesn't necessarily detract from my enjoyment, but it just wasn't particularly original.

Everything else sort of falls under the melodrama category. The characters have very little depth and with this clocking in at under 300 pages, you don't really have enough time to see growth.

If you're looking to kill about 2 hours on something completely mindless, you could pick this up. Otherwise, I wouldn't bother.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Waiting On Wednesday || Trial By Fire by Josephine Angelini

Trial By Fire (The Worldwalker Trilogy #1) by Josephine Angelini
September 2, 2014
This world is trying to kill Lily Proctor. Her life-threatening allergies keep her from enjoying many of the experiences that other teenagers take for granted...which is why she is determined to enjoy her first (and perhaps only) high-school party. But Lily's life never goes according to plan, and after a humiliating incident in front of half her graduating class Lily wishes she could just disappear.

Suddenly Lily is in a different Salem - one overrun with horrifying creatures and ruled by powerful women called Crucibles. Strongest and cruellest of all the Crucibles is Lillian... Lily's identical other self in this alternate universe. This new version of her world is terrifyingly sensual, and Lily is soon overwhelmed by new experiences.

Lily realizes that what makes her weak at home is exactly what makes her extraordinary in New Salem. It also puts her life in danger. Thrown into a world she doesn't understand, Lily is torn between responsibilities she can't hope to shoulder alone, and a love she never expected.

But how can Lily be the saviour of this world when she is literally her own worst enemy?

Alternate universes! Witches! Evil selves!

This book has basically everything I'm into. I can't wait to see how this is all going to play out. Also, come on, Salem and witches... this is obviously going to end badly.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Monday Mix || Fight the Future

The soundtrack for the dystopian future.

When I saw that description, I knew I had to listen to this mix. And even better, it turns out that the creator was inspired to make the mix after reading a number of YA dystopian novels. 

Though the tracks are instrumental, there's still a story told in the music.

According to the creator: 
At first, everything is dark and there is no hope. Then, a hero/heroine emerges to be the symbol of the rebellion. The cruel war begins, but in the end the truth will win.
You can definitely hear the storyline as the tracks move along. And clocking in at just under 2 hours, it certainly is an epic mix.


Sunday, 17 August 2014

Review || Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

Steelheart (Reckoners #1) by Brandon Sanderson ★★★★☆
Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics. But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his wills.

Nobody fights the Epics...nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them.

And David wants in. He wants Steelheart - the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David's father. For years, like the Reckoners, David's been studying, and planning - and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience.

He's seen Steelheart bleed. And he wants revenge.

Sanderson knocks it out of the park again for me. Though very different from The Rithmatist this book has a lot going for it.

Some people will find this book more accessible, because even though Sanderson still builds his world, it's much subtler. The book is fast paced and full of pulse pounding action. In fact, I ended up finishing it by accident. I had only intended to read the next section, but got caught up in everything.

This twist on "superheroes" reminded me a lot of Vicious in places. Yes, the Epics are evil, but the Reckoners aren't exactly good either. David is obsessed with revenge. Some of the team has questionable morality. At least two of them are hiding massive secrets...

Steelheart ends up being more of a mystery book than you'd expect. The central plot is trying to take Steelheart down. But in order to do that, the Reckoners must find his weakness--every Epic has them, and they're often bizarre. As the plot unspools, you start to construct your own theories about what's going on and how Steelheart might finally be defeated. And I have to admit, I guessed wrong!

Still, being wrong didn't detract from the enjoyment of that final epic showdown at the end of the book. There were several plot twists that were incredibly shocking. I didn't see them coming at all!

That said, not a perfect book for me. This is very plot driven instead of character driven. Which is fine, since the plot is awesome, but David in particular didn't really do anything for me. I mean, I certainly understood him as a character, but I never connected with him. And his ridiculous insta-crush on one of the female Reckoners was obnoxious.

But the same goes for most of the main Reckoners cast. They all definitely had implied Pasts, capital P necessary, but they were all still relatively two-dimensional.

I like to have some investment in my cast of characters. I want to feel like I know them. There was a major character death near the end of the book that didn't make me tear up even a little bit. I felt fairly detached from everyone.

Still. This was a great book. I'm fast becoming a Sanderson fan. And if you're looking to jump into his work but are intimidated by the thought of his complex worldbuilding, I'd start here. (I love complex worldbuilding myself, so I feel like if I had to rank them, I liked The Rithmatist better than Steelheart, but I'm definitely in for book 2.)

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Waiting On Wednesday || Girl of Fire and Thorns Stories by Rae Carson

Girl of Fire and Thorns Stories (Fire and Thorns #0.5-0.7) by Rae Carson
July 22, 2014
The Shadow Cats is told from the perspective of Elisa’s older sister. Discover how their sibling rivalry looks from Alodia’s viewpoint, and find out why Alodia agrees to marry her sister off to King Alejandro of Joya de Vega.

The Shattered Mountain revolves around Elisa’s best friend and handmaiden, Mara. Before she meets Elisa at the rebel camp in The Girl of Fire and Thorns, she suffers her own tragedy. Her village is destroyed and she must lead the few young survivors to safety.

The King’s Guard centers on Hector, Commander of the Royal Guard and Elisa’s true love. Set years before The Girl of Fire and Thorns, it shows us fifteen-year-old Hector as a new recruit. He must prove himself—and he discovers a secret he must keep forever.


I don't know how I'm going to talk about this without flailing all over myself.

I read the Fire and Thorns trilogy in its entirety earlier this year and just loved it. Like. You don't even understand. It's probably one of my favourite trilogies of all time.

I knew these prequel stories were out in ebook form when I was reading the trilogy, but I didn't really have any desire to seek them out. I'm not super huge into ebooks right now. And plus, I saw that this collection was being published in paperback form soon.

So soon!

I absolutely cannot wait to be back in this world. I'm excited to see what Alodia has to say for herself in the first story. And I really want to know more about Mara. And ughhhhhh, Hector. I just. Can you say book boyfriend? I am so ready for this.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Monday Mix || stay eighteen forever

We're going to continue the sort of nostalgia theme this week with this next mix. Because this is another mix that I just adore.

All the songs are circa the early 00s and just make me remember what it felt like to be 18 (and a little older) and listening to these songs. They transport me back to the halls of high school and through my early days of university.

As the mix says:
the pop-punk soundtrack to an adolescence full of converse shoes, band t-shirts, and black eyeliner.
This music was such a huge part of my life in the early 00s. I went to a lot of concerts while I was at university. I took the 2 hour Greyhound ride up to the nearest major centre and got bruised in the mosh pit. I slept on friend's couches and in the back seat of their car. I got back into town past 2am and still got up the next morning to go to class. I wiped mud off my shoes from Warped Tour and screamed along to the lyrics despite them threatening to end the set early due to a tornado warning.

This was the formative soundtrack of my early adulthood. It makes me super nostalgic.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Review || Slated by Teri Terry

Slated (Slated #1) by Teri Terry ★★★★☆
Kyla’s memory has been erased,
her personality wiped blank,
her memories lost for ever.

She’s been Slated.

The government claims she was a terrorist and that they are giving her a second chance - as long as she plays by their rules. But echoes of the past whisper in Kyla’s mind. Someone is lying to her, and nothing is as it seems. Who can she trust in her search for the truth?

Everything The Program should've been, but better.

When you use memory loss as a plot device in books, you have two choices: show the before so the reader knows what's going on even if the main character doesn't OR let the reader figure things out with the main character.

Now, either method has things going for it. I, for one, am a huge fan of the first situation as a plot device. But when The Program did it, it fell really flat for me. Slated goes with option two and it is so much stronger as a novel because of it.

With Kyla, you slowly start to see how this world is different from ours. At the beginning, things seem to be fairly in keeping with what you'd expect. Aside from the Slating procedure itself, it looks and feels very much like our world.

But as Kyla starts to notice things, so do you. And everything is not as it seems.

Slated paints an intriguing and not unrealistic portrait of a tight fisted government rule. And man, I love me some government crackdown in my dystopias. Through the course of this book, you (along with Kyla) start to understand how we got here and what the norm is now.

The pieces of the puzzle are arranged carefully by Terry, enough so that you tend to figure things out just before Kyla. Which was refreshing in two ways. Firstly, because sometimes I feel like there aren't enough breadcrumbs in books that are trying to be mysterious. A sudden plot twist or deus ex machina hits you out of nowhere and it's jarring. That is decidedly not the case with Slated. The other refreshing bit is that Kyla is smart. Sure, you can put things together a few pages before she does, but it's not as if you're waiting chapters upon chapters for her to finally figure things out. It was a nice change from some decidedly dense protagonists I've dealt with in the past.

That said, the ending of this book got a little wonky for me. There was a major shift in one of the characters and suddenly things were spiralling out of control really fast. And then they were ended just as abruptly. If there's one flaw to this book, it's that it definitely does not stand on its own. There is so much left unfinished, so many new questions and problems raised in the last handful of pages.

Like with Proxy, though, that just made me want to go out and get my hands on the sequel. Which isn't a bad thing. There are a few recent developments that have me a little wary, but I'm more interested to see how it all gets tied in.

Definitely recommended!

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Waiting On Wednesday || Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine

Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine
August 5, 2014
There are whispers of a ghost in the slaughterhouse where sixteen-year-old Wen assists her father in his medical clinic—a ghost who grants wishes to those who need them most. When one of the Noor, men hired as cheap factory labor, humiliates Wen, she makes an impulsive wish of her own, and the Ghost grants it. Brutally.

Guilt-ridden, Wen befriends the Noor, including their outspoken leader, a young man named Melik. At the same time, she is lured by the mystery of the Ghost and learns he has been watching her... for a very long time.

As deadly accidents fuel tensions within the factory, Wen must confront her growing feelings for Melik, who is enraged at the sadistic factory bosses and the prejudice faced by his people at the hand of Wen’s, and her need to appease the Ghost, who is determined to protect her against any threat—real or imagined. She must decide whom she can trust, because as her heart is torn, the factory is exploding around her... and she might go down with it.

I wasn't really too fussed about this book originally. I mean, that cover is gorgeous, but I just kept passing over this one.

And then I read somewhere that this is a Phantom of the Opera reimagining/retelling. And just like that, I'm in. I can't wait to see how this all plays out now. (And yes, I realize technically this came out yesterday, but shush.)

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Top 10 Tuesday || YA Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Top 10 Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, featuring a new category every week!

This week's topic is top 10 books you'd give to someone who's never read X. (And you can solve for X however you wish!)

And so, of course, I chose YA science fiction/fantasy! So let's get started!

Urban Fantasy

The Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy by Laini Taylor
Once upon a time, an angel and a demon fell in love. It did not end well.
A superb trilogy with fantastic writing, a compelling mystery and characters that will make you feel all the things.

The Raven Cycle quartet by Maggie Stiefvater
"There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark's Eve," Neeve said. "Either you're his true love... or you killed him."
With book 3 to be published this fall, this is the perfect time to jump into this series. There is a complexity to the mythology here that makes it unlike anything else I've read. And I love the ensemble cast.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black
"You are more dangerous than daybreak."
A fresh and gruesome take on vampires, this standalone delivers with intriguing characters and some pointed commentary on our obsession with stardom.


The Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy by Rae Carson
Prophecy is a tricky thing, I have learned, full of edges and secret meanings and mischief. 
A trilogy that only gets better as the books go on. Full of epic quests, court politics and huge character growth. And at the heart of it, an unlikely queen who becomes the hero of her nation.

The Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo
"I've been waiting for you for a long time, Alina," he said. "You and I are going to change the world."
Another trilogy that gets better as it goes (though, I admit, I haven't read book 3 yet!). There is magic and betrayal, secrets and unlikely partnerships. It's a great and original world.

The Leviathan trilogy by Scott Westerfeld
Maybe this was how you stayed sane in wartime: a handful of noble deeds amid the chaos.
This isn't fantasy so much as it is steampunk. And even then, it's alternate reality. It's World War I told from a very different universe. With incredible creatures, both biological and mechanical, thrown in with the international politics.

Science Fiction

The Unwind dystology by Neal Shusterman
Unwinds didn't go out with a bang--they didn't even go out with a whimper. They went out with the silence of a candle flame pinched between two fingers.
A horrifying look at the not-so-distant future. I've only read book 1 of the 4, but it certainly left an impression. I've been told that book 2 is even better.

The 5th Wave trilogy by Rick Yancey
How do you rid the Earth of humans? Rid the humans of their humanity.
A recent read, it's fast become a favourite (and book 2 isn't even out yet!). A gripping look at the human race struggling to survive amidst an alien invasion. Full of strong, likeable characters and whip-lash inducing plot twists!

The Lunar Chronicles quartet by Marissa Meyer
She was a cyborg, and she would never go to the ball.
Don't let this series fool you, if you think you know where this story's going just because you're familiar with the fairytales that inspired them--you are wrong! The tales have been brilliantly twisted and interwoven with such skill. Featuring another great ensemble cast!

The Darkest Minds trilogy by Alexandra Bracken
They were never scared of the kids who might die, or the empty spaces they would leave behind. They were afraid of us--the ones who lived.
Teenage superpowers meets dystopia, these books are an action-packed thrill ride full of innumerable ups and downs. Book 3 is one of my most anticipated books of the year!

And there you have it! My top 10! Phew... that was a lot more work than I thought, but I had a lot of fun putting it together!

What do you think? Have you read any of these? Any other recommendations? Link me to your TTT as well!

Monday, 4 August 2014

Monday Mix || the oteep

This is probably the cheesiest mix ever, but I love it so dearly. As the mix says so well:
all of the terrible awful classic cheesy cliché otp songs. you know the ones. you've cried over all of them at least once don't ACT LIKE YOU HAVEN'T
And oh my gosh, it is not joking when it says this. This is the mix for any and every OTP you've ever had. From the time you were twelve until now. It's the power ballads and the lyrics about struggling to hold on to love.

It's ridiculous.

And I love it.

(I hope you do too!)

by brella

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Review || Proxy by Alex London

Proxy (Proxy #1) by Alex London ★★★★☆
Knox was born into one of the City’s wealthiest families. A Patron, he has everything a boy could possibly want—the latest tech, the coolest clothes, and a Proxy to take all his punishments. When Knox breaks a vase, Syd is beaten. When Knox plays a practical joke, Syd is forced to haul rocks. And when Knox crashes a car, killing one of his friends, Syd is branded and sentenced to death.

Syd is a Proxy. His life is not his own.

Then again, neither is Knox’s. Knox and Syd have more in common than either would guess. So when Knox and Syd realize that the only way to beat the system is to save each other, they flee. Yet Knox’s father is no ordinary Patron, and Syd is no ordinary Proxy. The ensuing cross-country chase will uncover a secret society of rebels, test both boys’ resolve, and shine a blinding light onto a world of those who owe and those who pay. Some debts, it turns out, cannot be repaid. him? Can she trust him?

Despite a disappointing cover change, Proxy exceeded my expectations. While I'd probably only give it a 3.5 stars at the end of the day, it was still a great read.

There's a whole world here waiting to be discovered, but London doesn't seem to believe in waiting around, because once this book gets rolling it doesn't stop. There are hints dropped along the way--the naming conventions and slang, for example, just get dropped into casual conversation and you have to figure it out as you go. Which I do enjoy when it's done well. And it's not that it was done poorly in this book, but it was more that I felt like I was left wanting a little bit. I wanted to know more, I wanted more depth.

But I didn't get it, because this was a thrill ride from top to bottom. The pacing is fast and super fun. Once you get into the meat of the story, you're going to have a hard time putting it down.

That said, the pace left a few things to be desired. Some of the major changes that happened in the characters were a little abrupt. Some of it was a limitation of the POV, I think, but there was definitely part of it that was because no one really had time to catch their breaths.

The story itself was very reactionary as well. I felt like our main characters weren't driving the story, but being driven by the plot. Which, as an action book, is something that I can understand. But I would've liked to see more agency with all of them.

One other place that I think could've been stronger in this book was the diversity. London casually includes racially and sexually diverse characters into this world, without making their main story arc hinge on that diversity. Which is really really awesome. But it still felt a little bit like it was being dangled just out of reach.

Let me explain. Syd is our main character. He's gay. There's no love interest for him in this--which, okay, there doesn't have to be. But if Syd had been a girl (or hell, straight for that matter) you can almost guarantee there would've been something.

And throughout the whole story there's this sort of kiss-baiting thing that's going on. For plot reasons, Syd and Knox lock lips more than once. But it's played off as this big "no homo" thing, from Knox's end at least. Knox also constantly reminds us how totally straight he is. And Marie, who could've been so much more, ends up largely as the eye-candy to remind us of Knox's heterosexuality.

I, for one, don't believe it for a second. I need Knox to be queer so desperately. I just. Have a lot of feelings about this. Although, there was definitely a few moments in there where I was really sure the three of them would all hook up. And I am so down with that as well.

All in all, while the book never really delivered on the shocking twists it promised (there were twists, they just weren't that shocking) and the pacing was frenzied, the biggest problem I had here was the ending. The climax hit so suddenly and then there was no denouement. At all. It was just over.

Until the sequel.

And yeah, okay, it made me want to rush out and acquire book 2, so well done there. But I still think it could've been handled differently. Or, at least, tied up temporarily differently.

Still, a worthwhile read and one I definitely enjoyed. I will be on the hunt for the sequel. (I've already sent in a request to my library to get their hands on a copy!) If you like your dystopia with a healthy dose of action, check it out.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

July Wrap Up & August TBR

This was a weird reading month for me. I felt like I didn't accomplish a lot, but somehow I managed to read 11 books. Granted, three of them were graphic novels, but whatever. I hit a fairly bad reading slump towards BookTubeAThon time and haven't really clawed my way back out yet. We'll see.


Timeless (Timeless #1) by Alexandra Monir  
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black 
It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini 
Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin 
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster 
Fables (Volume 1) by Bill Willingham 
Locke & Key (Volume 1) by Joe Hill 
Amulet (Volume 1) by Kazu Kibuishi 
Fractured (Slated #2) by Teri Terry 
The 5th Wave (The 5th Wave #1) by Rick Yancey 
Falling Kingdoms (Falling Kingdoms #1) by Morgan Rhodes 

GOODREADS: 65/75 [+11]
ALPHABET: 20/26 [+1]
SERIES: 8 complete [+0]; 7 ongoing [+2]


Surprising no one, I only sort of followed my July TBR. Oh well. I still have a ton of books to read from my school library before the year starts up again, so that's probably priority one.

But with school looming, new classes to plan AND my big move coming up this month, I'm not sure how much I'm actually going to get around to. We'll see!

Rebel Spring by Morgan Rhodes
More Than This by Patrick Ness

Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas

How did your month go? What are your August plans? Read any of these books? Let's chat in the comments!