Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Book Review: Burn Bright

Author: Marianne de Pierres
Series: The Night Creatures #1
Publisher: Random House Australia
Release Date: March 1, 2011
Pages: 316
Source: Burn Bright Book Tour, hosted by Dani of Refracted Light Reviews

Tag Line: "Listen well, baby bats. Burn bright, but do not stray from the paths. Remember, when you live in a place of darkness you also live with the creatures of the dark."
Summary: In Ixion music and party are our only beliefs. Darkness is our comfort. We have few rules but they are absolute . . .

Retra doesn’t want to go to Ixion, the island of ever-night, ever-youth and never-sleep. Retra is a Seal – sealed minds, sealed community. She doesn’t crave parties and pleasure, experience and freedom.

But her brother Joel left for Ixion two years ago, and Retra is determined to find him. Braving the intense pain of her obedience strip to escape the only home she’s ever known, Retra stows away on the barge that will take her to her brother. When she can’t find Joel, Retra finds herself drawn deeper into the intoxicating world of Ixion. Come to me, whispers a voice in her head. Who are the Ripers, the mysterious guardians of Ixion? What are the Night Creatures Retra can see in the shadows? And what happens to those who grow too old for Ixion?

Retra will find that Ixion has its pleasures, but its secrets are deadly. Will friendship, and the creation of an eternal bond with a Riper, be enough to save her from the darkness?

LC's Take:

Holy. Crap. This was seriously one of the trippiest books I have ever read! I'm not even sure what genre to classify this book in-- Paranormal, yes. Dystopian, kind of? And the story itself was... unreal. It was as though you are walking through some dark and really weird dream from beginning to end, where you aren't really sure what end is up or what could possibly happen next. The writing flowed together creating the oddity that is Ixion-- a world of nighttime pleasures and hedonistic revels. It was strange, it was bizarre, and it was thoroughly addicting.

So I received Burn Bright as an incredibly lucky participant in the Burn Bright book tour, being hosted by the lovely Dani from Refracted Light Reviews. Since this book is only published in Australia, I'm not sure I would have had much of a chance to get my hands on it otherwise, so I was super excited when it arrived for me in the mail!

Retra is the main character- a girl who comes from a very conservative society called the Seals. The Seals pride themselves on discipline and being quiet and reserved, but after Retra's older brother Joel does the unthinkable by running away to Ixion, world of pleasure and desire, Retra's father brings punishment down on Retra for her brother's disobedience. A warden comes to sew an obedience strip into Retra's leg, and her family is constantly watched. By some miracle, Retra finds a way to escape, and the story takes off just as Retra climbs onto the barge that will take her and other reckless youth to Ixion-- where Retra is determined to find Joel once again.

Ixion-- how to even explain this place? It was super creepy but also really... alluring. It had the strangest juxtaposition of churches and night clubs, and everything is weirdly perverted and turned upside down. You can only stay in Ixion if you're young, and no one really knows what happens to you when you pass a certain age. In this world, Retra has to somehow find her brother but also learn to fit into a new society governed by pleasure and pain. And then, of course, there are the Night Creatures that will carry you away if you step of the well-lit paths into the dark...

So this book... yeah. I'm going to be perfectly honest and say that I did have some issues with it. In fact, based on the points I usually use to rate a book, I'm surprised I liked this one as much as I did-- the main character wasn't terribly memorable, the other character development wasn't all there, the story line got to be rather wishy-washy and confusing for me, and the writing wasn't always as descriptive as I thought it could have been. BUT for whatever reason, I was so thoroughly wrapped up in this book that its less-than-perfect aspects just didn't really bother me. And by the end, I just couldn't help but love it, flaws and all.

Also-- was it just me, or was this book like, border-line kinky? (Yes, kinky lol-- pretty sure that's the first time I've used that word in a book review!) I mean it was pretty subtle since it's YA, but there were points in the book (Umm... Retra's "Enlightenment" anyone?!) where I was just like-- are they talking about what I think they're talking about? Hmm... maybe I just have a dirty mind haha ;) Not to mention, some of the descriptions, even when they weren't overtly sexual-- well, they were still pretty damn sexual. I think that this fit in with the whole hedonistic, crazy world of Ixion which exists solely for the pleasures of its citizens, but it definitely pushed the boundaries of what I'm used to reading in YA books...

All in all, I found Burn Bright to be completely intoxicating. And this was despite the fact that the writing could have been better and there were some major flaws to the story. Heck, a lot of it didn't even completely make sense to me, but gosh darn it, there was **something** about this book that just made it such a guilty pleasure! I guess you'll just have to read it for yourselves to see what it is about Burn Bright that has me DYING to get my hands on the next in this series!

~Cover Talk~

This has got to be one of the most incredible and kick-ass book covers I have ever seen. I want a poster of it, no joke. Where to start? The artwork is insane. The image of the girl's face is stunning, and the details just make me want to stare at this cover for hours on end. Like the story, it has a dark appeal, and I think that the dripping paint and splatters that form the model's dress are totally gorgeous. Argh, I absolutely adore it! And it fits the story so well.

The cover for Burn Bright definitely earns a spot on my Top 10 YA Book Covers. Love, love, LOVE IT!!!

LC's rating:
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This book was completely addicting. Strange, bizarre, and not even logical-- but still 100% addicting. I can't even pinpoint what it was about it, but Burn Bright was freaking AWESOME. If you have a way of getting your hands on it, I highly recommend checking it out!

~Find it-- if you can!~

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Monday, July 30, 2012

Book Review: The Drowned Cities


Author: Paolo Bacigalupi
Series: Ship Breaker #2
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: May 1, 2012
Pages: 437
Summary: In a dark future America where violence, terror, and grief touch everyone, young refugees Mahlia and Mouse have managed to leave behind the war-torn lands of the Drowned Cities by escaping into the jungle outskirts. But when they discover a wounded half-man--a bioengineered war beast named Tool--who is being hunted by a vengeful band of soldiers, their fragile existence quickly collapses. One is taken prisoner by merciless soldier boys, and the other is faced with an impossible decision: Risk everything to save a friend, or flee to a place where freedom might finally be possible.

This thrilling companion to Paolo Bacigalupi's highly acclaimed Ship Breaker is a haunting and powerful story of loyalty, survival, and heart-pounding adventure.

LC's Take:

Whoa. 

Um, where do I even start with this one? The Drowned Cities was one of the most intense and brutal stories I think I've ever read. This was one of those books that pretty much grabbed hold of me from the first few pages and left me completely breathless by the end-- it was a gripping and fast-paced story set in a war-torn world of both hope and desperation, and everything about it pushed the boundaries of YA fiction. Absolutely. Insane.

The story is set in a war-torn, post-apocalyptic world where society has basically broken down into decentralized rebel groups that live to kill each other off. Neither side ever really gains an advantage, and the resulting stalemate between these war groups has led to the world of The Drowned Cities-- crumbling ruins of a once productive civilization, now the center of hatred and death. (I know, real uplifting right??) But even though this wasn't exactly a cheerful read, I definitely appreciated the story because it was clearly well-thought out and even addressed what is happening in other areas of the world today. With it's rebel troops made up of soldier boys, and names like Army of God and the United Patriot Front, I was reminded of the political turmoil going on in Africa and other Third World countries. Mahlia and Mouse, the two main characters in this book, had to live out the realities of civil war and exploitation of children-- only in the book they face these scenarios in a nightmarish future version of America. The result was pretty terrifying, but also not too difficult to imagine...

Mahlia was an awesome main female character. And she was tough as nails. I'd even say that she was possibly tougher than Katniss, no joke. Her ability to fight in a world that is literally out to rip her to shreds and not give up when the odds are impossibly stacked against her was reason enough to read this book to the end. It was a constant struggle for her to not only survive, but also to not become like the monsters she's running from-- to maintain her humanity in a completely inhuman world. Katniss of course also had similar struggles, but there was something more desperate about Mahlia's situation. She's an orphan with no family, and her only one true friend becomes lost to the enemy, so the fact that she was still willing to fight and work up the courage to try and escape to safety and freedom was just mind-boggling! Mahlia's story was heart-breaking, but it was always laced with hope, which definitely kept me reading to the end.

I do have to warn everyone-- this was one extremely gory book-- the brutality of The Drowned Cities is not even remotely censored, and there were many scenes that left me cringing with how gruesome the descriptions were. I almost had to put it away at certain parts, to be perfectly honest. However, I think that a lot of the more horrific and grisly scenes were meant to really show the breakdown in society and how it had reverted to a barbarous place where there is a fine line between remaining human and becoming no better than an animal. The world-building-- although sometimes difficult to read about-- was complete, and vividly memorable.

As much as I can appreciate The Drowned Cities for its raw and uncensored portrayal of a post-apocalyptic world and its fully-developed characters, I have to admit that I didn't like it quite as much as I did Ship Breaker. It's only my personal preference, but I just enjoyed the world-building, characters, and story more in Ship Breaker than in this second YA book by Bacigalupi. However, I am definitely glad that I read this one, because it was a very refreshing break from the typical YA genres I read, and it really took risks and stepped outside the boundaries of what we usually expect from YA books. Definitely not for the faint at heart, I would recommend this book if you're looking for something a little more serious and a lot more uncensored than your typical YA... altogether, this was an unforgettable book, and absolutely worth checking out!

~Cover Talk~

I do like this book cover-- I think it really captures the dark grittiness and just the whole oppressive and dismal world of The Drowned Cities. I also really like how you can see Mahlia's eyes, hardened and defiant, at the top. This is one of those books that I would stop to check out just because it is so different from other YA covers with swooning female models or brighter colors, and I think that after reading the story, I like it even more.

LC's Rating:

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A brutal and intense Post-Apocalyptic adventure, The Drowned Cities was filled with action, political turmoil, and memorable characters that kept me reading to the end. If you're looking for something really different (and aren't too squeamish when it comes to gory scenes) I would definitely put this one on your TBR list!

Check it out!
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Friday, July 13, 2012

Book Review: When the Sea is Rising Red


Author: Cat Hellisen
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Release Date: February 28, 2012
Pages: 296
Read it in: 1 day
Summary: In Pelimburg-- city of storm and sea and spray-- magic is power. Both are controlled by the elite class, who inhale scriven dust to enhance their natural talents.

As the only daughter of the city's founding family, Felicita has a luxurious but narrow life, one that is ruled by a list of traditionally acceptable and appropriate behaviors. When her dearest friend Ilven throws herself over the cliffs and into the sea to escape an arranged marriage, Felicita chooses freedom over privilege. She fakes her own suicide and escapes to the slums, leaving behind everything she's ever known, including the means to practice magic. Soon she's living in a squat, working as a scullery girl, and falling hard for the charismatic renegade Dash while also becoming fascinated by the strange, thrilling magic of vampire Jannik.

Then translucent corpses begin to wash up on shore. As it becomes clear that Ilven's death has called out of the sea a dangerous, wild magic that the upper class with their scriven are powerless against, Felicita must decide where her loyalties lie-- with the family she's abandoned, or with those who would harness this dark power to destroy Pelimburg's caste system, and the whole city along with it.

LC's Take:

Honestly, I thought that this book was brilliant. That would be my first reaction after reading it. And after that, I would say that it was very unique and refreshing after reading so many YA books that all seem to run together with the same kinds of characters and plots-- I really was blown away. I originally took an interest in this book after I saw Rae Carson's review for it (author of The Girl of Fire and Thorns-- another awesome book) and I ended up reading it in less than 24 hours, which is almost unheard of for me, it was just that amazing!

So what is so great about this book you ask? Well for starters, I thought that it had the most perfect mix of subtle creepiness and dark, dreamy atmosphere. It was the world of Pelimberg-- which almost seemed to take on a character itself with its atmosphere and mood-- that really drew me into the story. The plot centered around a girl named Felicita whose home is a nightmarish place of slums and magic and vampires and sea witches. When the Sea is Rising Red was very much like an Edgar Allen Poe story--the dark and dream-like quality and just the whole eerie sense of foreboding that builds the plot really pulled me in and didn't let me go. There are vampires, selkies, magic, nightmares, and an evil sea witch intent on revenge. There is a Red Death plague rising from the sea, killing off anything in its path. All of these elements combined to create one awesome story and a unique world that is hard to forget.

I also fell in love with Hellisen's writing style and thought that it was totally addicting and hypnotic. This worked perfectly with a story that is filled with hallucinogenic and dream-like states and a plot that builds up suspense slowly but with increasing urgency. Added to this, the writing seemed very Victorian in its style and character dialogue, which is always a plus for me with any book!

Felicita, Dash, Jannik, and the other characters were very intriguing, mainly because they seemed more like actual people than characters you're reading about in a book. They weren't censored or sugar-coated, and they had me totally invested in what was going on to them. Felicita proved herself to be a survivor, and even though there wasn't anything about her that made her stand out as an awesome heroine, I liked her simply because her character wasn't forced. I felt like the author didn't try too hard to make her characters likable, but more to just make them real, and I definitely appreciated that.

Be warned: This book is definitely on the darker and more mature side of YA fiction-- there is sex, swearing, suicide, and lots of drinking laced with hallucinogenics. To put it simply, this book does not censor much of anything. Honestly, it was that kind of edginess that made me like the book even more. Much of the plot centers around upper-class magical families like the one Felicita is from, where the only way they can actually do magic is by snorting a very addictive powder called "scriv." When Felicita runs away to escape an arranged marriage, she is cast into the darkest places of society, and one of her only means of escape from the cold and cruel world is through the drugs of the proletariat-- I wouldn't say that this was glorified in any way; it's just part of the world Felicita belongs to.

So overall, I really enjoyed reading this book from beginning to end. I thought it was very unique and Cat's writing style was instantly alluring. I would recommend this book to some of my more adventurous fellow readers, since there are a lot of mature themes in it. But if you're looking for something that stands out from many other YA novels and has a slightly creepy feel to it, I would definitely say check this one out!

~Cover Talk~

Totally dark and creepy to match the story, the cover for When the Sea is Rising Red captured my attention right away. I personally love this cover because it's so chilling, although I've heard other readers say they think it's deceiving because it doesn't really hint at the fact that the story has a Victorian vibe to it-- the cover looks more modern. But I really love it and think it's very eye-catching!

LC's Rating:
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Absolutely loved it! Wonderfully dark, eerie, and filled with an increasing sense of foreboding, this book had me totally addicted from the first chapter.

Check it out!
Amazon| Goodreads



Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Cover Reveal & Giveaway! The Violet Fox

Hello lovely readers of mine! Today I am really excited to be participating in the cover reveal of a new YA Fantasy book called The Violet Fox. It is written by Clare C. Marshall who is an Indie author, and this is her second book. I was really intrigued to find out more about Clare and her writing after checking out her first book, a supernatural story called Within-- which also happens to have a very lovely cover...

Amazon
Amazon Kindle
Goodreads

Summary: Trinity Hartell’s life changed after the accident. Left with irreversible brain damage, she becomes a burden to her mother, a cause for heartbreak for her boyfriend Zack, and a flattened obstacle for her best friend, Ellie.

But then she starts writing. Perhaps it’s a coincidence that the psychotic, murdering protagonist of her novel bears a striking similarity to the charming Wiley Dalton, a mayoral candidate in the upcoming election.

Or, perhaps not...

So when Clare asked if I'd like to participate in the cover reveal for her latest Fantasy book, I was totally psyched! AND to make things even better, she is also having a Giveaway for 2 e-copies of The Violet Fox, which you can check out below!! But first...

~Cover Reveal for The Violet Fox~

Author: Clare C. Marshall
Publisher: Faery Ink Press (http://www.faeryinkpress.com)
Release date: October 13, 2012
Genre: YA Fantasy
Formats: Paperback, eBook
Summary: There are two kinds of people in the land of Marlenia.

The Marlenians, who live on the surface, and the Freetors, who are forced to live underground.

The war between them ended two hundred years ago, but the Freetors still fight for the right to live under the sun. Fifteen-year-old Kiera Driscoll embodies the Freetors' hopes as the Violet Fox. In a violet cape and mask, she sneaks around Marlenia City stealing food and freeing her people from slavery.

Then the Elders task her with a secret mission: retrieve a stolen tome that contains the secrets of Freetor magic, something the Marlenians both fear and covet. Kiera must disguise herself as a noblewoman and infiltrate the Marlenian castle.

Before the Freetor-hating Advisor finds out her real identity.

Before her brother is imprisoned because of the secrets he hides.

And before she falls any more in love with the prince she's supposed to hate.

More is happening in the castle than she realizes, and Kiera is faced with a difficult choice. Will she be loyal to her people and their fight for freedom, or will she be loyal to her heart?

OK, so first of all, this story sounds flipping AWESOME! You guys know that I am a HUGE High-Fantasy fan and this definitely sounds like the kind of book that I would love to check out. And the cover is SO gorgeous-- I really love the colors and how it looks like it's on old parchment, along with the runes that surround the picture of Kiera in the center. Oh, and the title font is freaking amazing-- I am a huge fan of cool fonts haha. Altogether, it is really beautiful! What do you guys think?

Fun facts:
Here are some interesting things behind Clare's latest cover and the book...

-As always, my covers are designed by my boyfriend, Dave.
-The runes along the outside are made from scratch. There are 26 of them. One for each letter of the alphabet. They represent a secret code that the protagonist, Kiera, and her people can read.
-The working title for the book was FREETOR, a combination of “freedom” and “fighter”.
-This is the first book in a series, but it was originally intended to be a one-off book. The world and the characters kind of ran away with me. However, this book can be read as a stand alone.

~Find Out More~
Links to find out more about Clare and The Violet Fox!

The Violet Fox on Goodreads
Clare on Twitter
Faery Ink Press on Facebook


~GIVEAWAY!~

In celebration of the cover reveal for her latest book, Clare will be giving away 2 e-ARCs of THE VIOLET FOX to 2 lucky winners!! Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below :)

Starts: July 3, 2012 EST

Ends: July 31, 2012 EST

a Rafflecopter giveaway


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