Saturday, 31 August 2013

Review: Arclight by Josin L. McQuein

Title: Arclight (Arclight #1)
Author: Josin L. McQuein
Release date: April 23rd 2013
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian
Format: ARC
Pages: 403
Source: Publisher

No one crosses the wall of light . . . except for one girl who doesn’t remember who she is, where she came from, or how she survived. A harrowing, powerful debut thriller about finding yourself and protecting your future—no matter how short and uncertain it may be.

The Arclight is the last defense. The Fade can’t get in. Outside the Arclight’s border of high-powered beams is the Dark. And between the Light and the Dark is the Grey, a narrow, barren no-man’s-land. That’s where the rescue team finds Marina, a lone teenage girl with no memory of the horrors she faced or the family she lost. Marina is the only person who has ever survived an encounter with the Fade. She’s the first hope humanity has had in generations, but she could also be the catalyst for their final destruction. Because the Fade will stop at nothing to get her back. Marina knows it. Tobin, who’s determined to take his revenge on the Fade, knows it. Anne-Marie, who just wishes it were all over, knows it.

When one of the Fade infiltrates the Arclight and Marina recognizes it, she will begin to unlock secrets she didn’t even know she had. Who will Marina become? Who can she never be again?

Arclight is one of the best sci-fi novels I've read in a while! I honestly wasn't expecting to enjoy it as much as I did, and I was sucked into it right from the beginning. This book is totally riveting, with amazing action, suspense, and epic revelations. The characters are well-developed, and so is the plot. There's a distinct direction to Arclight, which takes you on a beautiful journey.

Arclight takes self-discovery to a whole new level. Marina has no idea who she used to be - all she knows is that she's the only immigrant of the Arclight. No one has gone past the border and come back to tell the tale. Marina was found in the Grey, but she has no memory of anything. She has to figure out who she was to know who she can be. But the Fade won't let her go. She knows she has a connection to them, but has no idea what it is. And the truth she discovers turns her whole world upside down.

I really liked Marina's character - she's more realistic than most YA protagonists I've read about. She's not some kind of hero, she's just a girl trying to figure out her past. Marina isn't afraid to say what she thinks, and I liked that. She's very straightforward. But what I didn't like about her is her constant state of denial. If all the evidence points at something you know deep inside but don't want to accept, you don't just imagine there's another explanation, because there isn't. Thank goodness she finally accepts everything, though!

I had quite mixed feelings about Tobin throughout the book. He was quite hot and cold at first, and then I started to really like him, and then he made a 180 degree turn. But by the end, I definitely liked him. Tobin lost his dad when Marina was rescued, and he holds that against her. But at the same time he feels he has to protect her, to ensure that his father didn't die in vain. Tobin is really protective of Marina, and he's actually really sweet. A little narrow-minded in the beginning, but he changes. Tobin goes through a lot too, and I admire his ability to stand strong through it all.

I can't say much more, because I really don't want to give anything away. But another character I really loved is Rue. He's definitely the most intriguing, and quite enigmatic when we first meet him. But as he opened up more, I started to really like him. There are quite a lot of shockers in this book. A few are fairly obvious, which saddened me because I like unpredictability in books. But others I never saw coming, and that was awesome. In fact, I never knew which direction the book was going to go in, and this book really is like a roller-coaster.

The Fade play a much bigger part than I could have imagined, and the things we find out about them totally blew my mind. The world-building of Arclight is amazing, and this book just really makes you feel, if you get what I mean. There are bittersweet moments that just made me love this book even more. I have absolutely no idea what could happen in the sequel, but I'm already dying to get my hands on it.

*Thank you to Sarah at HarperCollins for sending me an ARC for review*

Rating: 5/5

Friday, 30 August 2013

Review: Origin by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Title: Origin (Lux #4)
Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout
Release date: August 27th 2013
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction
Format: eBook
Pages: 311

Daemon will do anything to get Katy back.

After the successful but disastrous raid on Mount Weather, he’s facing the impossible. Katy is gone. Taken. Everything becomes about finding her. Taking out anyone who stands in his way? Done. Burning down the whole world to save her? Gladly. Exposing his alien race to the world? With pleasure.

All Katy can do is survive.

Surrounded by enemies, the only way she can come out of this is to adapt. After all, there are sides of Daedalus that don’t seem entirely crazy, but the group’s goals are frightening and the truths they speak even more disturbing. Who are the real bad guys? Daedalus? Mankind? Or the Luxen?

Together, they can face anything.

But the most dangerous foe has been there all along, and when the truths are exposed and the lies come crumbling down, which side will Daemon and Katy be standing on?

And will they even be together?
"I'll burn the world down to save her."
I don't even know how to start. I was totally and utterly speechless after I finished this beauty of a book, and I'm not sure I'll ever have the right words to describe everything this book made me feel. Origin is by far one of the best books I've ever read, and that's saying something! The fact that I read this book within a few hours all in one go without any major breaks shows how drawn into this book I was. I loved every second of it. And do I regret spending my entire evening on this and not even giving my homework a glance? Definitely not!

Firstly I want to say that I now understand the change in the cover theme. At first I didn't like that it was different, but now it totally fits. The previous three books are in an entirely different league from this one. Even Opal is tame compared to Origin! If you've read Opal but not this one yet, you'll be like WHAAT. But it'll all make sense when you read this one, trust me.

So we all know where Opal left off. I mean, I'm pretty sure that moment has been ingrained in our brains forever as one of the cruelest cliffhangers in YA history! Origin starts off about a month after, and it's in dual POV. Daemon's fury knows no bounds, and we get to see the extent he'll go to, so he can save Kat. Katy, on the other hand, is with Daedalus, and she discovers so many secrets that she'd never dreamed of. And she's hurting like hell. She needs Daemon, and he needs her. But when they finally find each other, everything changes. I'm serious, Origin is a total game changer. I can't believe the amount of shocks and twists Jennifer put into this book, it's incredible!

I felt for Katy so, so much in this. She's being tortured, and I hate seeing that. The thing I love most about her is her strength and resilience, and I'm so glad that she hasn't lost that. Katy makes some big decisions in this - some thought out, some rash ones. I don't blame her for any of them, and I in fact agree whole-heartedly with most of them! Katy and Daemon's relationship clearly grows in this book, because for once they're really honest with each other. (Not completely, but they gotta keep at least some secrets, right?)

And Daemon. Oh my God. He's like a glowing embodiment of wrath itself when he's trying to find Katy. Nothing, and I mean nothing, can stand in his way. I found it so ironic how he and Katy have switched places with Dawson and Bethany. In this book, it's Dawson who's trying to stop Daemon from risking his life to go save Kat from Daedalus. But of course he can't stop Daemon. No one can. Daemon's so freaking amazing in this book, I can't even... He's just so perfect. He's fierce, protective, sweet, and oh so romantic. And of course, he hasn't lost his ginormous ego or his snark, which is awesome! But seriously, what surprised me most was how incredibly sweet he was. We get to see inside his head for half the book, and I loved everything I saw in there. Every time he tells Kat he loves her, my heart melted. He cares for Kat more than anything in the world, and his love for her brings tears to my eyes, it really does. You want proof? Chapter 24. That's all I'm going to say.

I'm so relieved that Dee is back. She's not exactly the same as before, but she's definitely back. I loved seeing her with Katy, because she's forgiven her, and they're back to being best friends. And I surprisingly liked Andrew in this one, too. Dawson's great, since he has Beth back, and seeing the two of them together is really sweet too. Beth isn't the same as she used to be, because of everything Daedalus has done to her. But I think she's getting there, and that's all that matters.

There's a new character introduced in this book, and he's already one of my favourites. Archer is fantastic! Right from the start, I knew I was going to like him, and over the course of the novel, I began to love him. He's quite an enigma, so I loved trying to figure him out. Archer's got quite a lot of talents. He's different, and you get to see the extent of that. I seriously cannot wait for more of Archer in the final book, Opposition

I will have to warn you, though. Jennifer definitely doesn't have any qualms about killing people off. Seriously. So many die in this one, and I can't say I liked that. I didn't want that many to die! I felt maybe a couple of them were unnecessary. But all of it probably has a role in the final book, so I'm looking forward to seeing that.

I really don't want to say much about the plot, because I don't want to give away even the tiniest thing about it. I'll just say that you find out what an Origin is, and there are like a gazillion plot twists in this. This is what I call a true book roller coaster! All the dynamics have changed by the end of Origin, and though the ending isn't what you'd call a cliffhanger, it's pretty damn huge. And it makes the wait for Opposition a real torture. I have absolutely no idea what to expect from the final book, because I didn't see any of this coming!

All in all, I freaking adored this book. It all changes here, all of it. Origin sets the stage for what I know will be an exceptionally climatic finale, and I can't wait to find out the endgame. Even though I'm scared for it all to end. Daemon and Katy have weaseled their way into my heart, and I desperately want them to have a happy ending. Please, Jennifer, make it happen!

Rating: 4.5/5

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Review: The Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White

Title: The Chaos of Stars
Author: Kiersten White
Release date: September 10th 2013
Publisher: HarperTeen
Genre: Young Adult Mythology
Format: eARC
Pages: 195
Source: Edelweiss

Isadora’s family is seriously screwed up.

Of course, as the human daughter of Egyptian gods, that pretty much comes with the territory. She’s also stuck with parents who barely notice her, and a house full of relatives who can’t be bothered to remember her name. After all, they are going to be around forever—and she’s a mere mortal.

Isadora’s sick of living a life where she’s only worthy of a passing glance, and when she has the chance to move to San Diego with her brother, she jumps on it. But Isadora’s quickly finding that a “normal” life comes with plenty of its own epic complications—and that there’s no such thing as a clean break when it comes to family. Much as she wants to leave her past behind, she can’t shake the ominous dreams that foretell destruction for her entire family. When it turns out there may be truth in her nightmares, Isadora has to decide whether she can abandon her divine heritage after all.

I've always loved Kiersten White's writing, and The Chaos of Stars is no exception. This book pulled me into the world of Egyptian mythology - a world I'd never been introduced to before. It was amazing to learn about all the Egyptian culture and stories. I got confused at times, but then I'm used to it since Greek mythology (which I do know quite a bit about) is equally confusing. This book is unlike anything I've read before, not only because of the Egyptian focus, but also because of the family focus. Romance takes a little bit of a backseat in The Chaos of Stars, and Isadora's relationship with her family is brought to the foreground.

Isadora isn't your average Egyptian girl. Her parents are none other than Isis and Osiris, the great Egyptian gods. They have kids every twenty years, to make sure there's always someone to remember the gods. As a result, Isadora feels unloved and unimportant. But she sees her chance at escape when her parents allow her to move to San Diego to live with her brother. However, living in San Diego, far away from her parents, makes Isadora realize that she cares about her family more than she'd ever imagined.

I couldn't bring myself to like Isadora initially - she's pessimistic and whiny in the beginning. But she does get a lot better later on, with the influence of Tyler and Ry. Tyler's a girl, by the way. Just a clarification. Isadora's really into interior design, and it was cool to see how passionate she is about it. She's also really passionate about the stars, the Orion constellation in particular. There's a nice little surprise about that which comes later, and which I found really awesome.

Ry is portrayed as this antisocial but incredibly beautiful (yes, beautiful) guy, who spends all his time writing poetry in a notebook. He's definitely enigmatic, but I liked him. And I really don't think he's that antisocial! Anyway, Ry becomes a good friend of Isadora's, and he's the reason Isadora starts to believe in love. Okay, that sounded cheesy but it's true. And trust me, it's not that cheesy in the book. But yeah, I really like Ry. There's a different side to him that we get to see, instead of the air of mystery he has around him. Ry also has a few secrets of his own, but I won't mention that even though I really really want to. No spoilers in this review, I promise.

What I thought was pretty great is that at the beginning of each chapter, Kiersten tells us a little bit of Egyptian mythology, the stories surrounding Isis, Osiris, Anubis, etc. I have to say, after reading this book, I'm very intrigued by this mythology, and I have no doubt I'll find myself looking up some of these stories pretty soon.

I don't think I've read a book with this much of a family focus before, and I didn't think I would like it this much! But seeing Isadora's relationship with her mom change and grow, it's fascinating. Also, Egyptian isn't the only mythology in this book! No, there's another, too. I won't say anything more than that. But I loved it. Mythology fans should really give this book a try, and if you're a fan of Kiersten White, this is a must-read! The Chaos of Stars is nothing like her other books, but equally awesome.

*Thank you to HarperCollins for providing an eGalley for review*

Rating: 4/5

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Cover Reveal: Four Years Later by Monica Murphy

Oh my God guys I've been waiting for this cover to come out for a while and I absolutely love it! And it's making me even more impatient for the book to come out, even though I know Three Broken Promises isn't out yet. I mean come on, Owen's story! Anyway, here you go, the cover of Four Years Later (Drew + Fable #4) by Monica Murphy!

This cover is so freaking pretty omg ❤ ❤ It's definitely my favourite cover so far.
Here's the official blurb - 

Guilt. That is all I ever feel when I think about my mom. Now she's back in my life, always wanting something. Having her around makes it so easy for me to fall into those bad habits that get me into trouble. Skipping class, smoking weed, fooling around with girls that mean nothing to me...I'm messing up. The last thing I need is my sister on my case.

So I keep my mom's return a secret. But promising I'll get my grades back up on my own isn't enough. Fable makes me see a tutor. And Chelsea is the smartest girl I've ever met. She's definitely not my type but there's something about her that I'm drawn to. She's sweet, she's shy and she seems completely immune to my usual moves.

Chelsea has her own secrets and she's not talking. Like I have any room to judge. How can I get her to open up to me? And will I ever be able to convince her that what we have could be something real?

Release date: February 2014
Publisher: Bantam
Purchase links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About the author:

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Monica Murphy is a native Californian who lives in the foothills below Yosemite. A wife and mother of three, she writes New Adult and contemporary romance for Bantam and Avon. She is the author of One Week Girlfriend and Second Chance Boyfriend.

Find Monica on:

Goodreads | Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook

Waiting on Wednesday #35: Unchained

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine, which spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

My pick for this week's WoW is...

Unchained by J. Lynn

Title: Unchained (Nephilim Rising #1)
Author: J. Lynn
Release date: September 24th 2013
Publisher: Entangled Edge
Genre: Paranormal

Between the pissed off creatures that want demon-hunter Lily Marks dead and the fallen angel who just...wants her, Lily is about ready to trade forever for a comfy job in a cubicle farm.

The fact that she and Julian are civil to one another is enough to have her thrown out of the Sanctuary, but she can't shake her not-so-angelic stalker or how he brings her dangerously close to ecstasy.

Her forbidden relationship with Julian provides the perfect fuel for suspicion when a traitor is discovered to be working within the Sanctuary. Lily quickly finds herself hunted by well, everyone.

Her only hope is to discover the real traitor before she loses everything—and she'll need Julian's help. That is, if Julian is really there to help her...and not destroy her.

Yeah, being a Nephilim isn't everything it's cracked up to be.

Unchained is the first book in J. Lynn's (Jennifer Armentrout's pen-name) adult paranormal series. This was actually my first WoW ever, but it was with the old cover. Since the new cover is way better and really badass, I had to make this my WoW again. Plus, less than a month till release day! I can't wait :D

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Review: Sworn to Raise by Terah Edun

Title: Sworn to Raise (Courtlight #1)
Author: Terah Edun
Release date: April 10th 2013
Publisher: All Night Reads
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Format: eARC
Pages: 178
Source: NetGalley

Seventeen-year-old Ciardis has grown up in poverty, a cleaner in a small vale on the outskirts of the empire. But beneath her empire’s seemingly idyllic surface lies a hidden secret. Whispers of an inept crown Prince are growing ever louder—intensified by the five year anniversary of the soulbond initiations.

Amidst scandalous whispers, Ciardis finds herself chosen to train for the Companion’s Guild. She leaves her home and sets off on a personal journey to become a Court Companion. A position she’d never thought possible for a lowly servant to obtain, she must prove that she has the skills to attract a Patron.

But she must master those skills quickly. If the legends are true, only Ciardis can harness the power to raise a Prince in an Imperial Court sworn to bring him down.

Sworn to Raise is the first book in what I think could be a great YA fantasy series. I liked the premise of this novel, and it has a lot of potential. Unfortunately, I don't feel that it lived up to it. There was so much that could have been enhanced plot-wise, details added in that would have made the novel more enjoyable and intriguing. This novel is quite short, which I guess is both good and bad. Good because I would probably have given up on it had it been longer, but bad because if the right things had been added, I would have really enjoyed reading it.

This book starts off at a slow pace, and remains like that for quite a while. In fact, I only found it getting interesting at about 40% in, which in my opinion is too long to successfully capture a reader's attention. Thankfully it picked up after that, and there were a few action scenes that I really enjoyed. I also quite liked the secrecy and royal politics embedded in the novel.

Ciardis is a poor orphan working as a washer in her hometown of Vane. But when a stranger from the Imperial Court pays a visit to Vane, Ciardis is chosen to become a Companion, and her whole life changes for the better. She discovers revelations about herself and her heritage that she never would have dreamed of, and is put to the test when she comes into her powers.

I did enjoy reading about Ciardis - I found her character likeable, and she's strong and kind-hearted. She also has a flame within herself that you wouldn't have expected. Ciardis is unpredictable and rash, but incredibly loyal and righteous. She's the kind of heroine that you can't help but root for. And I definitely did, throughout the book. There was a lot of character development in her, and I'm looking forward to see how she really comes into her powers in the next book, Sworn to Transfer.

However, Ciardis's character seems to be the only admirable one in the book. The secondary characters don't have enough of a focus on them, so they end up in the shadows, and I wasn't able to find out much about them. I really liked Ciardis's trainer, Damias, though. He was honourable and an all-round likeable character. And the Prince? Well, I'm a little confused. Prince Sebastian is a couple years younger than Ciardis, placing him at fifteen years. I'm not sure whether he's meant to be a love interest or not. In the future, maybe. But there's no romance in this book. I thought that would bother me, but it didn't really. Though if you're a romance fan, I guess this one isn't for you.

When this book picks up, it gets pretty interesting. There's this maze scene that I really liked, which reminded me of the Triwizard Tournament in Harry Potter. But I felt like the really good stuff was too rushed. The ending is definitely rushed, and everything happens too quickly. If the last quarter of the book was more spaced out and the first quarter more narrowed in, it would have been awesome. Like I said before, there's great potential in this premise. I liked the whole feel of this fantasy world, which is a little like olden times with modern elements in it.

I would recommend this book to fantasy lovers, but I warn you - if you're an impatient reader, you may not get past the initial few chapters. Though I was disappointed by this novel, it has piqued my interest, and I will definitely be picking up the sequel to find out what happens next. Hopefully I'll enjoy that one a little more!

*Thank you to All Night Reads for providing an ARC for review*

Rating: 2.5/5

Monday, 26 August 2013

Review: Chaos by Christine O'Neil

Title: Chaos (Kardia Chronicles #1)
Author: Christine O'Neil
Release date: August 19th 2013
Publisher: Entangled Teen Ember
Genre: Young Adult Mythology
Format: eARC
Pages: 340
Source: Publisher

My name is Maggie Raynard. After sixteen years being just plain me, suddenly, when I lose my temper, my fingers become weapons of mass destruction. Turns out I'm a semi-god, descended from Aphrodite. Sounds cool in theory, but when I accidentally put my ex-boyfriend in a coma, things go downhill pretty fast.

Now some new guy named Mac Finnegan has made it his mission in life to continually piss me off. I'm stuck learning how to use my new powers while also dealing with regular high school problems, and with this annoying—and super-hot—guy all up in my business, I'm about to flip out.

But it gets worse. I just learned there's this watchdog council of semis who keeps an eye out for any bad apples. They think I'm the baddest of the bunch and want to take me out before I do any more damage. My nemesis Mac might turn out to be my salvation, only he's got secrets of his own...and they may just kill us both.

When I found out that Chaos is rooted in Greek mythology, I flipped out. I love anything with Greek mythology! I really liked Christine's take on the concept. It's different and unique, and that made it all the more intriguing to me. The writing style also really appealed to me - I actually felt like Maggie was talking to me instead of narrating her story.

Maggie knows she's descended from Aphrodite, but almost nothing else about herself and her powers. She has no idea how to control them, and she's already had one pretty huge accident regarding that. When Mac, the new and infuriating guy in school, tells her he can help her, she's not sure what to think. Mac's always been a thorn in her side, and she's never known why. Now she does. Mac was sent to her by the Council, and if she can't keep her powers in check, they'll sentence her. Maggie's life is at stake, and so is Mac's, though she doesn't know it. Chaos takes us through Maggie's struggle to control her powers while simultaneously repressing her urge to suck the love out of people. Yeah, you read that right.

Maggie's character is the perfect blend of snarky and compassionate. I loved her badass-ness and her humour. Also, her concern for her grandmother really surprised me and made me feel for her more. Though I wish her grandmother had more of a role in this book, because I can imagine that she'd be very interesting to get to know. Maggie's got two best friends - Bink and Libby, who she loves more than anything. They're always there for her, and vice versa. Libby even knows her secret, which is something she's never told anyone else. But Maggie still has the urge to steal love from people. It gives her satisfaction. And so she is compelled to steal objects that have meaning to people. It can be anything - from jewelry to pictures. And she can't stop herself. Side effect of being descended from Aphrodite. But I liked how much she progressed over the course of the book. Maggie learns to deal with her power, with help from Mac, and it was cool to see her develop.

Mac, on the other hand, I couldn't seem to like. He annoyed me quite a lot in the beginning, with all the stuff he pulled on Maggie. And they got worse. Mac isn't the kind of guy you'd immediately fall for, so I didn't get Maggie's insane attraction to him and inability to get him out of her head. I mean, he's been nothing but terrible to her, except for a few moments. He's cold at best. But I did start to like him towards the end, though I'm thinking it's a little too late for that to happen. Mac does a total 180 degrees and suddenly he's all concerned and protective of Maggie. Quite a drastic change. But I'm looking forward to the sequel to see how their relationship develops now that they both have admitted to liking one another.

A side character I really loved is Bink. He's been friends with Maggie for fifteen years, so they're obviously really close. I liked that there was no hint of a love triangle there, because the best friend thing is so overdone. Kudos to Christine for not going down that lane! Bink's funny, goofy, and cares a lot about Maggie and Libby. He's like a rock hard support, and I think Maggie's really lucky to have a friend like him to depend on.

Like I said, the mythology aspect really drew me in, especially the fact that the semi gods have powers. I can't wait to meet some other semi gods and find out what their powers are! And I do hope Mac becomes more likeable in the next book. Chaos is a strong start to this series, and I did enjoy reading it. I don't know what to expect from the sequel, since there wasn't a cliffhanger (thank god!) but I'm looking forward to it.

*Thank you to Heather Riccio at Entangled Publishing for providing an ARC for review*

Rating: 3/5

Guest Post: Sarah Jamila Stevenson (Underneath)

Today I have Sarah Jamila Stevenson - author of the paranormal YA Underneath - here on City of Books for a guest post, as part of Books That Glow: YA & MG 2013!

Writing Paranormal YA: Do's and Don’ts
by Sarah Jamila Stevenson

Okay. The first thing I have to get out there before I give you a few dos and don'ts is this small caveat:

I made it all up.

There. I said it. All my advice to you: totally made up.

Because that's what we writers do, right? We are some of the lucky few who get to make stuff up for a living. Stuff that has never existed before in quite the same form or exactly the same words. That's also one of my favorite things about paranormal YA (and fantasy and sci-fi, too): I get to make up some really cool, creepy, out-of-the-ordinary stuff. Having said that, though, there ARE a few rules of thumb that restrict writers from going completely bonkers and having, say, an army of unicorn-riding zombies fight a team of mutant superheroes in the unending vacuum of space. (Although I might read that…ahem.) So here are a few of the things that I try to keep in mind when I'm writing something that strays just outside of the realm of the normal.

·            DO: make it clear from the first few pages what type of story it is. This is advice I learned as a creative writing student and it's good advice. Some even go so far as to advise that your very first page include all of the seeds of the story's ending. That may not be necessary, but it IS important that your readers get a sense that they're dealing with a world that is not quite like ours, that things like ESP, or werewolves, or ghosts, are in fact possible. You don't have to give away spoilers. It can just be a hint, a mood, a bit of foreshadowing. Or you can plunge your readers straight into the action; that works, too.

·            DON'T: focus on the cool-things-per-page count. In fact, I would say keep things simple, especially if it's your first stab at the paranormal. You want your readers to be able to accept the unusual world you've created, and part of that is by doing your best writing, not by trying to wow people with weirdness. Too many cool things can be distracting. Instead, think of it as a tantalizing trail that builds smoothly until the reader is immersed. Remember that episode of Family Guy with James Woods? You want to lure them along: "Ooh! A piece of candy!" Step. "Ooh! A piece of candy!" And then BAM! They're sucked in.

·            DO: make your characters three-dimensional. Again, good advice for ANY story, but particularly important in stories where things wander into unfamiliar territory. If your reader believes in your character, they'll be more likely to suspend their Disbelief when it comes to the stuff we don't see every day. If your best friend confided in you that she saw a ghost last Saturday, you'd want to believe her. If it was some guy you only ever saw behind the Starbucks counter, you might not care. So make your readers care.

·            DON'T: worry too much about dos and don'ts until it's time to rewrite. Seriously, guys. If we start out by saddling ourselves with the crushing weight of what we should and shouldn't do, we might never finish the *&#$^! thing. It's useful to know that you have all of these how-tos in the back of your mind to rely on when the writing and rewriting gets tough, but when you're in first draft mode? That's the time to open up and spill your guts. Let yourself go. Cross stuff out later. That's why God invented erasers and the delete key, yo.

·            DO: make sure the rules of your paranormal world are consistent. This was the one I had the most trouble with in writing Underneath. I had to go back multiple times and revise just how Sunny's thought-hearing powers worked, and WHY. Even if Sunny never works it out, as the mastermind, it's important for the writer to know. If your paranormal novel has vampires, you have to know how they operate, how they're created, what their powers and weaknesses are, inside and out. If you know this, and you know your characters well, in many cases the plot will almost unfold by itself. On the other hand, if you're a plot-driven sort, knowing what has to happen in your book may well determine how the paranormal bits have to work. Either way, though, keep it consistent and it will ring true for your readers.

So there you go. Some things I made up about making things up. (Whoaa…meta.) I'll leave you with one more "Do": DO go forth and write! And thanks to Rabiah and her compatriots for this opportunity to blab at you for Books that Glow 2013 :)

Well, that was certainly some sound advice! If I were to ever write a paranormal YA in the future, I'll definitely look back on this. Thanks so much to Sarah Jamila Stevenson for taking the time out to write up this awesome guest post :)

About Sarah Jamila Stevenson:

Sarah Jamila Stevenson is a writer, artist, graphic designer, introvert, closet geek, enthusiastic eater, struggling blogger, lapsed piano player, household-chore-ignorer and occasional world traveler. Her previous lives include spelling bee nerd, suburban Southern California teenager, Berkeley art student, underappreciated temp, and humor columnist for a video game website. Throughout said lives, she has acquired numerous skills of questionable usefulness, like intaglio printmaking and Welsh language. She lives in Northern California with her husband, who is also an artist, and two cats with astounding sleep-inducing powers.

Find Sarah on:

About Underneath:

Title: Underneath
Author: Sarah Jamila Stevenson
Release date: June 1st 2013
Publisher: Flux
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal

With New Agey parents and a Pakistani heritage, it might have been difficult for Sunny Pryce-Shah to fit in. Thankfully, she had her older, popular cousin Shiri to talk to—until now. Shiri’s shocking suicide brings heartwrenching pain and grief, and also seems to have triggered a new and disturbing ability in Sunny: hearing people’s thoughts.

It’s awful, especially when Sunny learns what her so-called friends really think of her. Feeling more comfortable with the Emo crowd, she tells them about her strange talent and uses it to help cute, troubled Cody. But when his true motives are revealed, she isn’t sure whom to trust anymore. Sunny hopes to find answers in Shiri’s journal. Was her cousin also cursed with this “gift”? Will Sunny end up like Shiri?

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Review: The 100 by Kass Morgan

Title: The 100 (The Hundred #1)
Author: Kass Morgan
Release date: September 3rd 2013
Publisher: Little, Brown
Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction/Post Apocalyptic
Format: ARC
Pages: 277
Source: ALA 2013 (Thanks to Rabiah for getting this for me!)

In the future, humans live in city-like spaceships orbiting far above Earth's toxic atmosphere. No one knows when, or even if, the long-abandoned planet will be habitable again. But faced with dwindling resources and a growing populace, government leaders know they must reclaim their homeland... before it's too late.

Now, one hundred juvenile delinquents are being sent on a high-stakes mission to recolonize Earth. After a brutal crash landing, the teens arrive on a savagely beautiful planet they've only seen from space. Confronting the dangers of this rugged new world, they struggle to form a tentative community. But they're haunted by their past and uncertain about the future. To survive, they must learn to trust - and even love - again.

I first heard of the TV show based on this book, and I thought it had an awesome premise. I decided I would watch it when it comes out. Imagine my surprise when I find out it's originally a YA book! My friend Rabiah brought me back an ARC of The 100 from ALA 2013, and I was so stoked to read it. The 100 is an amazing post-apocalyptic debut, and I can't wait to see how this series turns out.

The entire human population lives in a ship in outer space, known as the Colony, which is divided into three main parts - Phoenix, the upper-class, and Walden and Arcadia, the lower-class. The 100 is told in the perspective of four teens - Clarke, Wells, Bellamy and Glass. A hundred juvenile delinquents are sent on a mission to Earth, to find out if it's habitable. Among them are Clarke, Wells, and Bellamy. Though Wells and Bellamy have something in common - they weren't supposed to go. They chose to, in order to protect people they care about. Glass escapes the pod and manages to stay on the ship. But is the ship any safer than Earth will be?

I liked the four POVs we get, because it gave me a broader sense of what's going on. Plus, we get to see what's happening on the ship as well as on Earth. At first I thought it would be difficult to manage four POVs in my head, but all four are so distinct that I had no trouble with it. As I've already mentioned, the premise of this book is great, and there's suspense throughout the novel. What irked me a little is the romantic focus. There's a lot of romance in this book; a little too much for my liking. At some points it seemed like the novel revolved around the romance rather than the plot. But there was enough of sci-fi and build-up of action to satiate me, so that was good. Plus, I did like the tension between the characters. It's quite drama-like, but very captivating.

My favourite out of the four teens whose perspective we get is Clarke, probably because she's the most level-headed. She's an aspiring doctor, and takes charge of the wounded immediately upon landing on Earth. Clarke has a history with Wells, and as a result of that there's a lot of tension between the two. I welcomed that, since I couldn't wait to find out more about it. Wells seems a little extreme to me, especially based on what we find out later on in the novel. But I liked how much he cares for Clarke and wants to protect her.

Bellamy is a little different from the other three, because he's not exactly a teen. He's twenty, and the only reason he goes down to Earth is to make sure his little sister, Octavia, is okay. Octavia is one of the hundred, and there's definitely a good reason behind why she was Confined in the first place. Bellamy really loves her, and siblings are practically unheard of in the Colony, so they do draw a lot of attention. I'm not sure what to think of Bellamy yet, but he's loyal and I think he's pretty trustworthy. But he'll do whatever it takes to protect Octavia, and nothing will stand in his way.

Glass stays on the ship, and that's how we get to know what's going on up there. She's probably my least favourite, because she seems a little too dependent on Luke, her boyfriend. I mean yeah, they love each other, but she doesn't seem to be able to have a life without Luke in it. I really hope her character develops more in the next book.

Throughout the novel, we get flashback scenes of the characters' pasts, which is another thing I really enjoyed. We get to find out why some of the teens were Confined, as well as what their relationship with each other used to be and why it changed. The teens find a lot of surprises when they land on Earth, and some of those things really made me appreciate this planet more. They were awed by simple things like a sunset and rain, and the descriptions are so touching that you immediately sympathize with them, with what they lost.

All in all, The 100 is definitely something you guys should check out, and if you like a lot of romance in your books, this one's up your alley. The novel's well-paced and secrets are gradually revealed, so I was practically glued to the pages. There's never a dull moment. I can totally see this becoming a TV show, and I'm looking forward to seeing how the CW will portray this novel!

Rating: 4/5

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Review: The Liberator by Victoria Scott

Title: The Liberator (Dante Walker #2)
Author: Victoria Scott
Release date: August 27th 2013
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal
Format: eARC
Pages: 352
Source: Author

Bad boy, meet bad girl.

Dante has a shiny new cuff wrapped around his ankle, and he doesn't like that mess one bit. His new accessory comes straight from Big Guy himself and marks the former demon as a liberator. Despite his gritty past and bad boy ways, Dante Walker has been granted a second chance.

When Dante is given his first mission as a liberator to save the soul of seventeen-year-old Aspen, he knows he’s got this. But Aspen reminds him of the rebellious life he used to live and is making it difficult to resist sinful temptations. Though Dante is committed to living clean for his girlfriend Charlie, this dude’s been a playboy for far too long…and old demons die hard.

With Charlie becoming the girl she was never able to be pre-makeover and Aspen showing him how delicious it feels to embrace his inner beast, Dante will have to go somewhere he never thought he’d return to in order to accomplish the impossible: save the girl he’s been assigned to, and keep the girl he loves.

Dante Walker is back! The Liberator is an awesome follow-up to The Collector, one of my favourite 2013 debuts. This book takes the series in a direction I wasn't expecting, and there are quite a few surprises along the way. After finishing this one, I honestly can't wait to see what's going to happen in the epic conclusion to the trilogy.

This one started out a bit slow for me, and continued like that for the first hundred pages or so. That's the only issue I had - I wish there was more of a direction for that period of time. But the book definitely picks up later, and I was glad about that. It gets better and better as you read on, until the end, where there's a gigantic shocker.

Dante's now a Liberator, but inside he still believes he's a demon. He's finding it hard to let go of who he used to be. And his first assignment, Aspen, isn't making it any easier on him. She's exactly like who he used to be, and he finds himself wanting to go back. Charlie's changing too, and Dante doesn't know how to control anything anymore. But when he gradually finds out what Valery, a fellow Liberator, is keeping from him, he knows he has to take action to protect the girl he loves and the girl he's assigned to liberate.

Dante's definitely a lot sweeter in this book, though still badass. He's as hilarious as ever, and I found myself laughing at his epic one-liners. I love seeing how protective he is of Charlie, and how much he loves her. It's very different from who he was in The Collector! But in some ways I do miss the old Dante. Dante's really conflicted in this one, since he doesn't believe he can be good, and he can't let go of his demons. But you can tell he wants to. And I felt for him so much because of that. I love how much he's grown since the first book, even though it hasn't been that long. It just shows how much Charlie's love can change him.

Charlie's one of the most unique YA heroines I've read about, and I just love how sweet she is. Even though she's absolutely stunning now, she's still the same old Charlie who eats Skittles out of her pocket. And I loved that. But Charlie wants to change for Dante, because she thinks he wants her to be different. And we get to see a different side of her, a bad one. I quite liked that too, to be honest. But I prefer the normal Charlie! She's in a lot more danger now that everyone knows who she is and what she's destined to do. I love how kick-ass she is in this book, she's become a lot more confident and she knows what she wants. There are all these swoony scenes between Charlie and Dante that had me sighing in happiness and wanting to re-read them all over again!

Aspen has got to be one of my favourite characters ever. With her badass dress sense and her attitude, I definitely loved her immediately. She's an amazing fighter, and she's so loyal. She may have her flaws, but she's a really good person inside. So incredibly brave, and so tough. Aspen's a really important character in this series, as you'll find out when you read this book. And I'm happy, because we'll get to read more about her in the next book. She's one of the highlights of this book, and one of the reasons I loved it.

There's a lot of suspense, humour, action and romance in this book. It's got it all! And a lot of surprises that I really never saw coming. The Liberator is very different from The Collector. A lot is changing, for better or worse. In the beginning, it seems to have fallen into a bit of a middle book syndrome, but thankfully it picks up later. Oh, and another of my favourite things about this book? We get to see Hell! Yeah, you read that right. I won't say any more about it.

So overall, this is a great sequel, and it really sets up the situation for the conclusion of the trilogy. I loved getting back into Dante's world, and meeting all the old characters again, as well as some new ones. Victoria Scott writes amazingly, and I can't wait to see what she has in store for us in the next book!

*Thank you to Victoria Scott for providing an ARC for review*

Rating: 4/5

Friday, 23 August 2013

Author Interview: Kimberly Ann Miller

Help me welcome Kimberly Ann Miller, author of Triangles, to City of Books today! I haven't had the chance to read Triangles yet, but it sounds absolutely amazing and I'm dying to get my hands on it!

Interview with Kimberly Ann Miller

As Triangles is your debut, what was the road to publishing like?

Long! I don’t think people realize how much goes into a book, from thought to publication. I started querying Triangles in March 2011! I got the offer of publication from Spencer Hill Press in February, 2012, and the book comes out in June, 2013. But it has been amazing, and Spencer Hill Press is a great company to work with. I couldn’t be happier with them and what they have done with Triangles!

What was the inspiration for your book?
My love for the island of Bermuda. It’s one of the safest, cleanest, nicest islands I’ve traveled to, and I’ve been to many islands in the Caribbean. The people are amazing, the sights rock, and the weather is beautiful. Plus, they have the Bermuda Triangle! I’ve cruised to Bermuda and stayed on the island and will go back soon—maybe even this summer. Also, I wanted to write something that hadn’t been done for the YA market, and the Bermuda Triangle seemed like a great idea!

What upcoming 2013 YA releases are you waiting on?
Lots of them! Jennifer Armentrout has books coming out for both her Lux and Covenant series that I want to read. I can’t wait for Allegiant, the last book in the Divergent series. Dare You To by Katie McGarry, Faking It by Cora Carmack, and Frigid by Jennifer Armentrout also top my list of books I can’t wait to read, though some of them are NA.

I love Jennifer Armentrout! And I absolutely loved Dare You To, Faking It, and Frigid! I'm also really looking forward to Allegiant, as well as Origin (Lux #4) and Sentinel (Covenant #5).

Vanilla or Chocolate? Vanilla
TV or Movies? Movies
Series or Standalones? Series
Early Bird or Night Owl? Early bird

When you're not writing, what can you be found doing?

I love to read! I also enjoy watching movies, eating out, and hanging out around the internet.

Don't we all love those things ;) What can we anticipate from you next?

The companion novel to Triangles, Parallel Triangles, is in the works with Spencer Hill Press. I also have a young adult contemporary novel and a middle grade novel I’m querying. And once BEA is over, I plan on starting something new. Not sure what, but it will likely be YA!

Thank you so much, Kimberly, for taking the time to answer our questions :) I'm definitely looking forward to reading Triangles and Parallel Triangles!

About the author:

Kimberly Ann Miller received Bachelor's degrees from Georgian Court University and Rutgers University and a Master's degree from The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. She is an avid reader and particularly enjoys true crime and young adult novels. She grew up in New Jersey and currently resides in Monmouth County with her husband and three cats. When she’s not writing, she loves to travel to sunny islands where she snorkels by day and stargazes by night. She always takes her Nook with her.

Find Kimberly on:

About Triangles (Bermuda Triangle #1)

A cruise ship. A beautiful island. Two sexy guys. What could possibly go wrong?

In the Bermuda Triangle—a lot.

Hoping to leave behind the reminders of her crappy life--her father's death years ago, her mother's medical problems, and the loser who’s practically stalking her--seventeen-year-old Autumn Taylor hops on a ship with her sister for a little distraction. When she wakes up in the Bermuda Triangle, she fears she's gone nuts for more than one reason: that loser’s suddenly claiming they're a happy couple... a hot guy is wrapping his arms around her and saying "Happy Anniversary"... and suddenly, she’s full of bruises, losing her hair, and getting IV medication. Autumn visits the ship's doctor, hoping for a pill or a shot to make the craziness go away. Instead, she's warned that these "alternate realities" could become permanent.

She just has to ask herself one question—how the hell is she going to get out of this mess?