Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Vlog 2: Our Favourite sci-fi/dystopian novels

So... you may have wondered where the posts have gone, this past week or so. Good question. We don't know. But to make it up to you... we give you: vlog!

The Hunger Games & Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (The Hunger Games Review and CF review 1, CF review 2)
The Host by Stephanie Meyer
The Maze Runner by James Dashner
The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
The Giver by Lois Lowry
1984, Brave New World, The Handmaid's Tale
Candor by Pam Bachorz (Review 1 and review 2)

Hope you enjoy! :D Also, if you have any suggestions for upcoming vlogs, please do comment! We'd love to hear from you.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday (25)

Raised By Wolves by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Date of release: June 8th 2010
Publisher: Egmont USA


At the age of four, Bryn watched a rabid werewolf brutally murder her parents. Alone in the world, she was rescued and taken in by Callum, the alpha of his pack. Now fifteen, Bryn's been raised as a human among werewolves, adhering to pack rule (mostly). Little fazes her.

But the pack's been keeping a secret, and when Bryn goes exploring against Callum's orders, she finds Chase, a newly turned teen Were locked in a cage. Terrifying memories of the attack on her mom and dad come flooding back. Bryn needs answers, and she needs Chase to get them. Suddenly, all allegiances to the pack no longer matter. It's Bryn and Chase against the werewolf world, whatever the consequences.

An exciting new paranormal adventure, with a heroine who rivals Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Raised By Wolves will leave you howling for more.

I've read Tattoo and Fate, both by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, and really liked both of them. And Raised By Wolves sounds so interesting! Yes, it's another paranormal novel-wolves- but it has a unique sounding premise and the potential to be really great. Bryn seems like she is a strong heroine, which is right up my league, along with many others, I'm sure. Growing up human with a pack of werewolves sounds like it could really make you tough.

- Alex

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tech Tuesday - Leviathan

Hey guys, this is your lame edition of Tech Tuesday!

I have nooo time right now - I have to leave in five minutes for work so I can't exactly pull something miraculous out for you guys, but I've got (another) book trailer. I'm reading Leviathan right now by Scott Westerfield, so here's a trailer for it - it's pretty good so far.

Let me know what you thought of the book if you've read it, or just what your thoughts in general are! Until next week :)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Vlog: Our Favorite Fantasy Novels

Hey everyone! With the creation of our brand new YouTube account, aflightofminds, Alex & I have decided to start an installment of vlogs in which we discuss some of our favorite novels from variety of genres, starting with our all-time favorite - fantasy.

Fire (review 1 and review 2) by Kristin Cashore
Finnikin of the Rock (review 1 and review 2) by Melina Marchetta
The Hunger Games (review) by Suzanne Collins
Catching Fire (review 1 and review 2) by Suzanne Collins
Tamora Pierce's novels
Eragon series by Christopher Paolini

Let us know what you think of the fantasy genre! What are your favorite fantasy novels?

Also, how do you pronounce all these names?


Next installment? A vlog on the sci-fi genre. (Us, nerds? What are you talking about...)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday (24)

Princess of Glass by Jessica Day George

Date of release: May 25, 2010
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's Books
Goodreads Amazon
The engrossing companion novel to Princess of the Midnight Ball, with a wicked twist on Cinderella.

Hoping to escape the troubles in her kingdom, Princess Poppy reluctantly agrees to take part in a royal exchange program, whereby young princes and princesses travel to each other’s countries in the name of better political alliances—and potential marriages. It’s got the makings of a fairy tale—until a hapless servant named Eleanor is tricked by a vengeful fairy godmother into competing with Poppy for the eligible prince. Ballgowns, cinders, and enchanted glass slippers fly in this romantic and action-packed happily-ever-after quest from an author with a flair for embroidering tales in her own delightful way.

Most of you probably don't remember, but I did a post on Princess at the Midnight Ball a while back (here), and this is the companion novel to it. I really enjoyed Princess at the Midnight Ball, mostly because I'm a sucker for fairy tales, so I'm really looking forward to Princess of Glass! I think Poppy may have been the second eldest sister of the 12 princesses in the first book, so that's where the companionship comes in. Cinderella is a fairy tale that's been done, and redone, over and over again, but I think Princess of Glass sounds really promising to be different.

I can't say I'm a huge fan of the cover, but the description sounds cute enough that I want to read it. And it comes out soon too!

- Alex

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tech Tuesday - Maggie Stiefvater Edition

Hey guys! Today's Tech Tuesday is going to be featuring one of my favorite authors, Maggie Stiefvater. She's the author of Shiver, Ballad, Lament and the upcoming Linger. What I love about her trailers & videos is that she does it all herself! All the music, artistic stuff etc, and I love that she's such a diverse author with not just one focus :)

So here are a couple of her book trailers along with another really cute promo thing for Shiver using Play-Doh.

I'm going to be honest here - the song she wrote for her Ballad trailer is actual the most played song on my ipod right now :p Oh! That's right - she has all of her written music up for free downloading on her site, which you can find right here. Yeah, I really like Irish music... :)

See you guys next week!

Oh, and I'm super sorry if the reviews slow down in the near future - I've started reading Anna Karenina as a little personal challenge, and it's taking a while :p

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Review by Alex- The Dead Tossed Waves

The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan

Gabry lives a quiet life. As safe a life as is possible in a town trapped between a forest and the ocean, in a world teeming with the dead, who constantly hunger for those still living.

She’s content on her side of the Barrier, happy to let her friends dream of the Dark City up the coast while she watches from the top of her lighthouse.

But there are threats the Barrier cannot hold back. Threats like the secrets Gabry’s mother thought she left behind when she escaped from the Sisterhood and the Forest of Hands and Teeth.

Like the cult of religious zealots who worship the dead.

Like the stranger from the forest who seems to know Gabry.

And suddenly, everything is changing.

One reckless moment, and half of Gabry’s generation is dead, the other half imprisoned. Now Gabry only knows one thing: she must face the forest of her mother’s past in order to save herself and the one she loves.

First Impression: The Forest of Hands and Teeth didn't really impress me, but I figured I'd try The Dead-Tossed Waves since I'd heard from Lauren it was better, and I needed something to read.

The Dead-Tossed Waves was quite a bit better than The Forest of Hands and Teeth, but it still wasn't really for me. The writing's a lot better in this one. It's quite lyrical and descriptive- but it's also not all that captivating.

I did like the characters from this novel a lot better than it's companion. Gabry is quite likeable, as confused and scared as she is. Elias and Catcher are good as the two main love potentials, though perhaps both of them could have used a little more background information. But the interactions between all the characters was a lot more enjoyable in The Dead-Tossed Waves in general.

A high point in the novel is the plot. It's hard to make zombies dull. There are some good plot twists and details, along with exciting moments and a climax that is interesting, even if some parts fall short.

Final Impressions: Overall, The Dead-Tossed Waves is pretty good. But it's not really for me- it didn't keep my interest very well, and so that's why it took longer to read; because I could easily put it down and not think about it for a while. It's interesting, but it's not entrancing and impressionable.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Review by Lauren - Classy

Classy by Derek Blasberg

If you’ve ever wondered how to climb the social ladder with grace, how to feel confident in every situation, or even how to make a lasting impression (but not the kind that lands you on the latest “Worst Dressed List”)—Derek Blasberg is here, with quotes and secrets from all the socialites so girls everywhere can learn how to have class.

This hilarious handbook will provide everything you need to know about fashion, socializing, dating, and etiquette. With tons of practical tips and tools for learning to flaunt what you’ve got, dozens of specific how-tos, common no-nos, and huge blunders that even smart girls make, this tongue-in-cheek book will train you to be a lady, and not a tramp!

First Impressions: Well the very first thing I noticed was the clour of the cover - none of the images I've found online seemt o do it justice. This book is bright, bright aquamarine. It's gorgeous. As I flipped through a couple pages, I knew I had to buy it.

Classy, if you hadn't realised, is a guide to class. Basically, it takes you through almost every make-or-break situation and shows you the do's and dont's. How to not make a fool of yourself, how to gain respect, and most of all, how to not look like a tramp. There are hilarious diagrams including Lady vs. Tramp at the Airport, it's a great little guide to society. I found it really helpful and it really did point out things that we do that sometimes we don't realise are trashy.

The book in no way discourages individuality nor does it promote conforming in any way, it's just a bit of an eye-opener on how the world is going to perceive you and the kind of message your appearance can give off. It also includes dinner party etiquette, how to host a party and dealing with internet... issues... So if you're interested, I definitely recommend checking it out - even if you just flip through a couple pages at the book store.

Final Impressions: Great light reading, humourous and entertaining. I feel classier already :)

Review by Lauren - Genesis

Genesis by Bernard Beckett

‘Explain to us why you wish to enter The Academy.’ Anaximander, a young Academy candidate, is put through a gruelling exam. Her special subject: the life of Adam Forde, her long-dead hero.

It’s late in the 21st century and the island Republic has emerged from a ruined, plague-ridden world, its citizens safe, but not free, and living in complete isolation from outside contact. Approaching planes are gunned down, refugees shot on sight. Until a man named Adam Forde rescued a girl from the sea.

“Anaximander, we have asked you to consider why it is you would like to join the Academy. Is your answer ready?” To answer that question, Anaximander must struggle with everything she has ever known about herself and her beloved Republic’s history, the nature of being human, of being conscious, and even what it means to have a soul. And when everything has been laid bare, she must confront the Republic’s last great secret, her own surprising link to Adam Forde, and the horrifying truth about her world.

First Impressions: Both my boss and Alex (whose review from our first blogging days can be found here) recommended this book to me. Its pretty small in size - only 185 pages - and I knew it was dystopian so it seemed like a pretty good read.

I finished Genesis about an hour ago and I'm still trying to wrap my head around it. There is so much compacted into those 185 pages, it's ridiculous. As short as the book was, I would not say it's a light read... There are two plots to the story - Anax's four hour retelling of Adam Forde's story - and the information is really the main focus of the novel. It's a pretty philosophical book, full of messages and rethinking what makes us human basically. Really interesting, and definitely not overdone - the length was perfect.

So don't expect to fall in love with these characters - there are basically 3 in the entire novel - but there is definitely an experience to be had while reading Genesis. It was incredibly powerful and gripping with a couple unexpected twists to it.

Final Impressions: It's a fast read, but not a light one. I definitely feel like I've achieved a new outlook on things after finishing it, but I wouldn't actually buy the book. It's more of a one-time read.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Tech Tuesday - Twilight Edition

Hey guys! Since there appears to be no WoW today (which is Alex's department considering the only thing I can come up with when asked what I'm waiting for is the next Harry Potter movie and Mockingjay), I am bringing you a video... only it's a day late. Yeah, remember back when there used to be Tech Tuesdays? No? Me neither.

The other day, one of my friends sent me this:

Now admittedly, as much as I hate the Twilight franchise, I can't help but secretly love it. I used to love those books! But this made me laugh so much. Out of context, Twilight is pretty ridiculous sounding... especially when you try to explain the plot of Breaking Dawn to someone. So I hope you guys get a bit of a giggle, if not just for the accent!

Review by Lauren - Finnikin of the Rock

Finnikin of the Rock - Melina Marchetta

At the age on nine, Finnkin is warned by the gods that he must sacrifice a pound of flesh to save his kingdom. He stands on the the rock of the three wonders with his friend Prince Balthazar and Balthazar's cousin, Lucian, and together they mix their blood to safeguard Lumatere.

But all safety is shattered uring the five days of the unspeakable, when the kings and queen an their children are brutally murdered in the palace. An impostor seizes the throne, a curse binds all who remain inside Lumatere's walls, and those who escape are left to roam the land as exiles, dying by the thousands in fever camps.

Ten years later, Finnikin is summoned to another rock - to meet Evanjalin, a young novice with a startling claim: Balthazar, heir to the throne of Lumatere, is alive. This arrogant young woman claims she'll lead Finnikin and his mentor, Sir Topher, to the prince. Instead, her leadership points them perilously toward home. Does Finnikin dare believe that Lumatere might one day rise united? Evanjalin is not what she seems, and the startling truth will test Finnikin's faith not only in her but in all he knows to be true about himself and his destiny.

First Impressions: As some of you may be aware, Alex did post a review of this book 2 days ago and I swear I haven't read it - all I did was look at the rating. Hopefully this will give you two completely objective perspectives on the book. But yes, the fact that she gave it 6/6 shelves was enough to send me right off the buy the book. I loved Jellicoe Road and the fact that this was fantasy was even more exciting. I was a little apprehensive, I will admit, considering Marchetta hadn't written a fantasy novel before.

Finnikin has everything you could want from a fantasy novel - and if you've been avoiding fantasy all this time, I strongly suggest you take a stab at it because honestly, there is nothing I love more than fantasy novels. There is something incredible about an entire world and culture being created by someone's creativity. And after only a couple pages, my apprehensiveness disappeared. I loved this book. So much. There is so much passion and dimension to it - you feel such a connection to the characters and the world. It takes you on a journey and I am ridiculously sad to be finished - I want it to go on :(

Similar Tamora Pierce and Kristin Cashore, Melina Marchetta has also incorporated a strong female character into her story. Although a secondary character, Evanjalin never falls behind Finnikin for a moment. She amazed me throughout the novel - of course Finnikin is amazing too, but that's a guarantee :p

Final Impressions: Oh my goodness this book is just too good not to be read. Go pick it up, whether you enjoy fantasy or not. Melina Marchetta is a genius.

Add to Shelf? I've already bought it :) And I definitely do not regret the decision.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Review by Alex- Finnikin of the Rock

Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta
At the age of nine, Finnikin is warned by the gods that he must sacrifice a pound of flesh in order to save the royal house of his homeland, Lumatere.

And so he stands on the rock of three wonders with his childhood friend Prince Balthazar and the prince's cousin, Lucian, and together they mix their blood. And Lumatere is safe.

Until the 'five days of the unspeakable', when the King and Queen and their children are slaughtered in the palace. And an imposter king takes the throne.
And a curse is put on Lumatere, which traps those caught inside and forces thousands of others to roam the land as exiles, dying of fever and persecution in foreign camps.

But ten years later Finnikin is led to another rock to meet the young novice, Evanjalin. A girl plagued by dark dreams, who holds the key to their return to the Land of light.

First Impressions: Having read Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, I knew I was in for a treat with Finnikin of the Rock. I'm quite the fan of epic fantasies set in a political world, and Finnikin of the Rock fits that bill perfectly, promising quite a bit.

Finnikin's world is set in a wonderful fantasy place, where swords are the mode of fighting, and political feuds and unbalance abound. You know, typical fantasy world, but entrancing nonetheless. 10 years after Finnikin's homeland was taken by an imposter king, when many of his people died, many others trapped by a curse inside a broken Lumatere, Finnikin is still trying to help his country and people by going to other lands with him mentor, trying to find a place for his people to live on, instead of in desperate camps where people die, or even worse, lose their Lumatere selves.

Finnikin is incredibly strong, for losing so much and he's highly intelligent, cocky enough to be swoon-worthy, and reckless enough to be cool. Evangalin is well matched in that way; she does what she thinks she should. Her past is a dark thing, as we lean as the story unfolds. All the characters of Finnikin of the Rock are incredibly likeable and dynamic, though I do wish some of the secondary characters would have more of their history explained.

The writing's beautiful and fitting for this type of novel, and the plot is never slow, though sometimes it's a little thick to get through. But I was never bored, and honestly never wanted to put the book down.

Final Impressions: Melina Marchetta is a genius. (I also read Saving Francesca soon after Finnikin, and woah. Different genre, but Melina Marchetta cements herself as one of my favourite authors) Finnikin of the Rock has it all, and for fans of Tamora Pierce, Kristin Cashore, or Cinda Williams Chima, this novel is the next must-read.

Favourite Character: Finnikin. I mean, come on, his name alone is awesome! Finnikin! Which reminds me of Finnick from Catching Fire, actually.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Review by Lauren - Guardian of the Dead

Guardian of the Dead - Karen Healey

"You're Ellie Spencer."

I opened my mouth, just as he added, "And your eyes are opening."

Seventeen-year-old Ellie Spencer is just like any other teenager at her boarding school. She hangs out with her best friend Kevin, she obsesses over Mark, a cute and mysterious bad boy, and her biggest worry is her paper deadline.

But then everything changes. The news headlines are all abuzz about a local string of serial killings that all share the same morbid trademark: the victims were discovered with their eyes missing. Then a beautiful yet eerie woman enters Ellie's circle of friends and develops an unhealthy fascination with Kevin, and a crazed old man grabs Ellie in a public square and shoves a tattered Bible into her hands, exclaiming, "You need it. It will save your soul." Soon, Ellie finds herself plunged into a haunting world of vengeful fairies, Maori mythology, romance, betrayal, and an epic battle for immortality.

First Impressions: Alright. I'm going to be honest here. I picked the book up because it reminded me so much of V for Vendetta and Phantom of the Opera. To my disappontment, the book had no connections to either of the two beyond the fact that there is a mask involved...

Guardian of the Dead started off a little slow for me, but was all around an enjoyable book. It took me several nights to figure out just where the book was going, but I definitely enjoyed the second half. I found Ellie to be a great character and not at all annoying. It's probably one of my biggest peeves to have frustrating main characters, one's that you can't relate to. Besides Ellie, I really did like the other characters. Overall, pretty multi-dimensional :)

Another thing I really like about Guardian of the Dead was the tie-in to all the local mythology and folklore of New Zealand. It's not something you hear too much of in our culture, and the book had a really good combination of supernatural and regular plot. Karen Healey really managed to mix the two together in a credible manner.

Final Impressions: I'm not in love with this book, but I definitely enjoyed it! Great writing style, interesting characters and plot - I have no complaints, but I'm not raving either. So 5/6 shelves :)

Friday, April 2, 2010

Review by Alex- Before I Fall

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
What if you had only one day to live?
What would you do?
Who would you kiss?
And how far would you go to save your own life?

Samantha Kingston has it all: the world's most crush-worthy boyfriend, three amazing best friends, and first pick of everything at Thomas Jefferson High—from the best table in the cafeteria to the choicest parking spot. Friday, February 12, should be just another day in her charmed life.

Instead, it turns out to be her last.

Then she gets a second chance. Seven chances, in fact. Reliving her last day during one miraculous week, she will untangle the mystery surrounding her death—and discover the true value of everything she is in danger of losing.

First Impressions: When I first heard of Before I Fall, oh ages ago, back in 2009, I was really intruiged. Fantastic sounding premise, beautiful cover... what more could you ask for?

Before I Fall starts with Sam dying, and is just a rollercoaster from that very moment. The story never gets dull, despite the fact that it's the same day seven times. But Sam's actions change, her opinions, her emotions, and that's what makes the story. She grows, and evolves, and transitions through high and lows, until the very end.

The main characters are fleshed out well, Sam and Lindsay especially. Lindsay, Sam's wild and crazy friend, the leader of the group, is quite the fascinating girl. Since we go through the same day seven times, the pieces start to click with Lindsay and why she is who she is. It's beautifully done. It's too bad that some of the secondary characters weren't as involved and described as much, like the love interest either.

My minimal problem with the novel, would probably be that I didn't really like the characters too much. Or, maybe not didn't like them, but didn't like them as much as one would think I would. Before I Fall's a novel to get invested in, to tear apart in one go, and for me, it wasn't quite like that. It took a little bit of warming up, because I didn't like Sam or Lindsay at first. Warmed up to Sam quickly enough, but Lindsay I still didn't feel much sympathy for at the end. But fret not, because I'm sure others will.

The novel's a bit of an enigma, and some things are not fully explained, which only leaves the mind to try to guess and fill in the gaps, which is both beautiful and aggravating. Before I Fall has pretty much everything one would want in a novel- fully realised characters with depth, redemption, love, a touch of magic, a high school setting, and an honest voice.

It's heartbreaking at times, funny at others, but true and poignant all throughout.

Final Impressions: Before I Fall is definitely one of the best teen novels I've read in a while, and is surely worthy of being on your to-read list, if it isn't already. (But I'm sure almost everyone has heard the praise for Before I Fall.)

Favourite Character: Probably Sam, because one of ones we get to know best, being the main character. Or Juliet, maybe?

Add to shelf: For sure. I bought it, and that's saying quite a bit. It's worth it to buy as a hardcover and keep on your shelf.

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