Archive for August, 2011

Waterfall Wednesday (1)

18 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: Events, Read-alongs, Waterfall Wednesdays

Hosted by Tina at Tina’s Book Reviews, Missie at The Unread Reader, Joy & Serena at Edgy Inspirational Romance, Nic at Irresistible Reads and Jenny from Supernatural Snark, each week we’ll be reading and discussing a set of chapters from the book. There will be prizes for participants, so click the button for more information and to sign up!

Discussion Questions for 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 had a hard time connecting with Gabi at first. She’s really frustrated, which makes her frustrating to read. I also found her impulsive actions a bit selfish – though I think that’s part of who she is as we come to see in the rest of the trilogy. I had a hard time accepting that this daughter of famous archaeologists would be so careless with the tomb, and dragging her sister along for the ride. Let’s just say I was glad the time travel happened so early on before I started to really dislike Gabi.

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

I’ve always been obsessed with 17th century France – Louis XIV, the Sun King; Versailles palace; Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. In fact, even going into 18th century France, I’m still intrigued. The tearing down of the Bastille, the French Revolution, Napoleon – I love it all. French history fascinates me, and the culture is so proud, artistic, and democratic that I can’t help but love it. Visiting Versailles will go down as one of the best moments in my life, and I’ve never felt more at home than in a country that prides itself on the values of its beloved Tricoloreliberté, egalité, fraternité. In fact, my husband and I are in the midst of planning another visit in March!

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 she’s 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?

One of the things that I love about Marcello is that despite his shock at Gabi’s conduct, he doesn’t try to change her too much. Yes, he wants to protect her, and I admire that about him, but he doesn’t try to lock her in her room to keep her out of harm’s way. His behavior is very similar to another man-from-another-time, Mr. Jamie Fraser, so I didn’t mind Marcello’s actions at all. It’s a different time, better or worse, and I like that Gabi can remain respectful but independent, and that the men may find her bizarre or forward without taking complete advantage of her or dismissing her as a crazy person.

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, I always feel like an outsider, but that’s due to my innate and intense shyness. It’s hard being the new person in any situation, and I think that’s what makes Gabi stand out. Back then, people didn’t travel far unless they had to, so to see this strange girl all alone, many miles from home, is an oddity. Of course they’re curious about her! Plus she has a funny accent and limited Italian, so she does stick out quite a bit. I think it’s natural for the people to be skeptical and judgmental of her, since she is an outsider in every sense of the word.

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

I think spending time in castles would be pretty awesome. I’ve always wondered what it felt like to be in a castle full of tapestries and fires. Is it comfortable? Is comfort relative? I also think riding around on horses everywhere would be fun. You know, until the saddle sores caught up to me.

To me, the absolute worst would be a lack of plumbing. I like my flushing toilets and running water far too much to want to live without them forever. Oh, and a lack of medicine. Yikes.

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Review: Legend by Marie Lu

9 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: 4 stars, Dystopian

Book: Legend
Author: Marie Lu
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Release date: November 29, 2011
Source: ARC for review from Books with Bite Book Tours

Summary: (from Goodreads) What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic’s wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic’s highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country’s most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.

From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths – until the day June’s brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family’s survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias’s death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.

Full of nonstop action, suspense, and romance, this novel is sure to move readers as much as it thrills.

First impressions: Is it enough to say that I knew I’d like this just because it’s a dystopian? From the first few sentences that set up a militaristic, controlling, dystopic future, I was on board with this one.

Lasting impressions: Very few books bring on a full cry from me, but this was one of them. The ending was so full of tension and sacrifice that I couldn’t help but sob, right there at work during my lunch break.

Conflicting impressions: I intended to give this 5 stars after finishing it, but when I sat down to try and write a review, I couldn’t remember what happened or why it made me cry without a bit of a refresher. Considering it’s not as unforgettable a tale as some of my other die-hard 5 star favorites, I knocked it down a peg.

Overall impressions: This is a story about starcrossed lovers. June and Day are two 15 year olds who come from very different backgrounds, but are thrown together by circumstance, only to find themselves falling in love instead of destroying each other. Um, yes please!

June is the smartest kid, with the brightest future, in all of the Republic. She scored a perfect score – twice, since they didn’t believe it the first time around – on her required exams. This landed her on the fast track to a promising military career, following in the footsteps of her older brother, Metias.

Day, on the other hand, failed out of his exams and was sent to the labor camps – or so the Republic would have the people believe. He escaped his terrible fate, and now acts as a Robin Hood of the poor districts where he was raised. He cheats and steals his way into money, giving some back to his destitute family when he can, though all except one of his brothers believes him to be dead. Day is known to wreak havoc on the Republic, making him the most wanted criminal in the country.

When a plague (one of many constantly striking the poor districts) rolls through his family’s neighborhood, Day sets out to find a cure to save his youngest brother, who has been infected. After a dangerous break-in and an incident that leaves Metias dead, June is set on the trail of Day to find and kill him in revenge for the loss of her brother.

If only things were that easy.

Day is a charmer – bold, flirtatious, charismatic – and even June cannot resist being drawn to him. He challenges every preconceived notion the Republic would have her believe about him, and she struggles with how to keep hating him, even as the doubts set in about Metias’s murder. June is likewise intriguing to Day. She is strong, smart, and ruthless, though also gentle of heart. She is quiet, thoughtful, and listens to Day, just when he thought no one was left to care about what he had to say. I loved these two together, and the tension that came from them not truly trusting each other.

The story moves quickly, and it’s very hard to put this one down. None of the mysteries unraveling throughout are big surprises, and I wish the book was a bit longer, if only to get some more background. The Republic (Los Angeles) is at war with the rest of the continent, but I found it unclear why or how it started. I wasn’t sure the exact history of this world or who the real villains were, so it was difficult to get invested in the political allegiances. For this book, June and Day were enough, but in the future I hope we get more information on the conflict that’s brewing around them.

This is a must-read for all dystopian fans, and I think it’s a good jumping in point for anyone looking to try out the genre for the first time. It has an intriguing setting, enjoyable characters, and a lot of heart. I very highly recommend it!

Rating: 4/5 stars

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Review: Ultraviolet by R. J. Anderson

8 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: 3 stars

Book: Ultraviolet
Author: R. J. Anderson
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books
Release date: September 1, 2011
Source: ARC for review from NetGalley

Summary: (from Goodreads) Once upon a time there was a girl who was special.

This is not her story.

Unless you count the part where I killed her.

Sixteen-year-old Alison has been sectioned in a mental institute for teens, having murdered the most perfect and popular girl at school. But the case is a mystery: no body has been found, and Alison’s condition is proving difficult to diagnose. Alison herself can’t explain what happened: one minute she was fighting with Tori — the next she disintegrated. Into nothing. But that’s impossible. Right?

First impressions: Alison has the rare condition of synesthesia. She perceives the world differently than most – tasting emotions, seeing letters in certain colors, and seeing visual representations of sound. Because of this affliction (for lack of a better word), the descriptions from Alison’s point of view are incredibly beautiful. Though she suffers lots of negative consequences from the overstimulation, I still found myself kind of jealous that I don’t see the world the way she does.

Lasting impressions: I was really into this one until the strange new direction the book takes in the last third of the story. I won’t call it a twist, because there were so many unsubtle clues that I could see it coming a mile away, but it definitely was a game-changer for Alison. It didn’t really work for me, and my overall impression of the book suffered as a result.

Conflicting impressions: I wish that Alison’s relationships with her fellow psych ward patients had been developed further. Instead, they get the backseat to the impending drama and so some of the events involving them – roommate changes, some misguided sexual harrassment, and witnessing other breakdowns – seemed misplaced in this story. Either have the story be about the mental ward and give us deeper characterizations for her fellow patients, or don’t develop them at all and leave the focus on Dr. Faraday and the Tori mystery.

Overall impressions: I so wanted to love this book. As it turns out, I did like it, but the ending didn’t gel for me so I ended up with more mixed feelings than anything. Sigh.

Here’s the deal. Alison’s a cool girl. She has a deliciously complicated relationship with her parents. There’s something freaky going on with her classmate, Tori, that is unraveling her life in such a way that when the story opens she’s in a psych ward, uncertain as to whether her memories of killing Tori are correct. The problem is that she remembers disintegrating Tori, which couldn’t be possible. So what really happened?

If this had been the entire focus of the book (which I guess in a way, it is, but not in the way I expected), I would have been happy. We do get resolution as to what happened to Tori and the role Alison played in it, but man did that explanation come out of left field.

As I mentioned above, the explanation isn’t entirely unexpected given the enormous planet-sized hints R. J. Anderson drops throughout the text. I did find myself hoping, however, that the explanation would turn out to be the opposite of my assumptions – with no luck. This made the ending something of a disappointment for me, and because it was so strikingly different in tone and content from the first two-thirds of the book it plummeted my enjoyment of the story.

Alison’s synesthesia is engrossing, and as she starts working with the mysterious researcher Dr. Faraday, we find out more information on how her brain functions. The former psych major in me was completely hooked on the barrage of tests Alison undergoes, and her relationship with Faraday gives her some needed warmth in the midst of the cold and sterile hospital setting.

If you are looking for an unusual paranormal story with a definitely non-formulaic plot, I recommend picking this one up. It’s a worthwhile read, particularly for fans of psychology, or anyone looking for a story a little bit “out there.”

Rating: 3/5 stars

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A lover of words and sparkly things.

A fan of historical, dystopian, urban fantasy, paranormal romance, mystery, steampunk, and young adult fiction, as well as any book that thinks smartly and imaginatively.

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