Thursday, February 28, 2013

Review: The Madman's Daughter

The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd
Release: January 29, 2013
Source: e-ARC from publisher 

In the darkest places, even love is deadly.

Sixteen-year-old Juliet Moreau has built a life for herself in London—working as a maid, attending church on Sundays, and trying not to think about the scandal that ruined her life. After all, no one ever proved the rumors about her father's gruesome experiments. But when she learns he is alive and continuing his work on a remote tropical island, she is determined to find out if the accusations are true.

Accompanied by her father's handsome young assistant, Montgomery, and an enigmatic castaway, Edward—both of whom she is deeply drawn to—Juliet travels to the island, only to discover the depths of her father's madness: He has experimented on animals so that they resemble, speak, and behave as humans. And worse, one of the creatures has turned violent and is killing the island's inhabitants. Torn between horror and scientific curiosity, Juliet knows she must end her father's dangerous experiments and escape her jungle prison before it's too late. Yet as the island falls into chaos, she discovers the extent of her father's genius—and madness—in her own blood.

Inspired by H. G. Wells's classic The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Madman's Daughter is a dark and breathless Gothic thriller about the secrets we'll do anything to know and the truths we'll go to any lengths to protect.

The Madman's Daughter was one of my most anticipated reads of 2013. I love books with historical settings, I love gothic novels, and I love books that are a little on the dark sides. This delivered on those aspects, most definitely. It's an adaptation of "The Island of Dr. Moreau", and follows the story of Juliet Moreau. Her mother has died, her father has left and been condemned as a madman. In a series of events, though, Juliet discovers her father's location and travels to the remote island where he is practicing his science. What and how he does his work is best left a mystery, but I will say that is extremely creepy. And disturbing. As Juliet uncovers the depths of her father's madness, she begins to question her own sanity and the value of life.

As far as characters go, I found Juliet to be admirable and strong-willed. She refuses to be looked down upon, even as she questions her own sanity. She is fierce, determined, and just a very well developed character. It's probably best to say that, yes, this book as a love triangle although it's rather...complicated as the story reaches the end. This romantic aspect, though, hurt the story more than it did help. Juliet falls for her lifelong friend, Montgomery, and a man they take on the ship as they're traveling to her father's remote island. His name is Edward. No Joke, there's "romance" going on like one day after they met. Not okay in my book. I can understand her attraction/sentimentality towards Montgomery. He brings up old memories and a time when life was good. But both of them have changed, and it's not believable for her to so suddenly fall for him too.

The pacing and writing were great, though. By the time I hit the halfway mark, things were definitely on a roll. One thing after another was revealed, which left my head spinning. I admire Shepherd for throwing in some twists and turns I didn't expect. Especially the ending! I really wanted to throw my kindle by the end, because it just...GAH. Can you sense my frustration?

Despite the issues I had with the romance, I was still able to read and enjoy this book. I'm hoping the following installments will help make the romance more believable, and I hope that they'll be just as twisty/thrilling as the first.


Monday, February 18, 2013

Cover Reveal: Revelations

GUYS! I am super excited to present to you this cover. I read Renegade a while back, and LOVED it! The sequel is coming out this year. Now it has a cover! YES! And it's gorgeous. It fits so well with the first, and what I imagine will happen in the second installment. Don't forget to enter the giveaway below!

Revelations Elysium Chronicles (Book 2)
J.A Souders
Release Date: November 5, 2013
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Tor Teen
Blurb to come!

About Renegade Elysium Chronicles (Book 1)

Since the age of three, sixteen-year-old Evelyn Winters has been trained to be Daughter of the People in the underwater utopia known as Elysium. Selected from hundreds of children for her ideal genes, all her life she’s thought that everything was perfect; her world. Her people. The Law.

But when Gavin Hunter, a Surface Dweller, accidentally stumbles into their secluded little world, she’s forced to come to a startling realization: everything she knows is a lie.

Her memories have been altered.

Her mind and body aren’t under her own control.

And the person she knows as Mother is a monster.

Together with Gavin she plans her escape, only to learn that her own mind is a ticking time bomb... and Mother has one last secret that will destroy them all.

About A Dark Grave: Elysium Chronicles (Book 0.5)

An Elysium Chronicles short story: the beginning.

There is only one place forbidden to the people of Gavin's village; the island just off the shore, rumored to be haunted. Cursed.

All who venture to the island disappear.

But Gavin doesn't believe in such things. He is a hunter; since his father's death, he is the only one who can provide for the family. Silly rumors of ghosts aren't going to stop him from crossing the dark waters to the island in search of fresh game...

About J.A. Souders:
J.A. Souders was born in the heartland with an overactive imagination and an overabundance of curiosity that was always getting her into trouble. She first began writing at the age of 13, when she moved to Florida and not only befriended the monsters under the bed, but created worlds for them to play together.
Because she never grew up, she decided she’d put her imaginary friends to work and started writing. She still lives in the land of sunshine and palm trees with her husband and their two children.
Where you can find J.A.

J.A is hosting a giveaway of a signed hard copy of RENEGADE, an e-copy of A DARK GRAVE (for those that don't have it, of course.) and signed copies of ARTICLE 5 and BREAKING POINT by Kristen Simmons.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Review: The Archived

The Archived by Victoria Schwab 
Release: Jan 22, 2013 
Source: ARC via tour (and also purchased)

Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books.

Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.

Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what he once was, a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often—violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive.

Being a Keeper isn’t just dangerous—it’s a constant reminder of those Mac has lost. Da’s death was hard enough, but now her little brother is gone too. Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself might crumble and fall.

In this haunting, richly imagined novel, Victoria Schwab reveals the thin lines between past and present, love and pain, trust and deceit, unbearable loss and hard-won redemption

The Archived was perhaps the most unique book to come out in January. It centers around two alternate worlds. The reality that we all live in and know, and The Archive. The Archive is a library of sorts, but it has one big different: there are no books on the shelves. Instead, there are "drawers" that house living representation of people who have died. Inside that form, lies all the memories of their life. These memories, or histories, can be read only by special Librarians. Occasionally, though, some histories escape and it's up to the main protagonist, Mackenzie, to keep them from infiltrating the tea world.  Because these are not the real people. They aren't even their souls. These histories are merely physical representations of their memories.

When a name appears of MacKenzie's slip of paper, she goes out into the Narrows (a land between our world and the Archive), finds them, and returns them through a door.

Honestly, the world building in this book rocked my world. I was confused, at first, but everything started to fall into place as I started reading. I admire Victoria Schwab for having such vivid imagination!

The plot itself is also very engaging. MacKenzie has been working as a Keeper for the Archive for a while, ever since her grandfather chose her as his replacement. Now, her grandfather and brother are dead, and MacKenzie has just moved into an old Hotel turned Apartment complex and begins experiencing a massive increase in names. More and more histories are being disturbed and are escaping. MacKenize dutifully does her job, until she begins to suspect that it's not so random. Her investigation leads to discover the Corodano's scary past. I can't express how much I enjoyed the mystery/adventure in this book.

I also appreciate the fact that she didn't bog the story down with silly romance. Yes, there ARE two guys, but it's not really a love triangle. Honest. I'll refrain from saying why because it's kind of a spoiler.

The main guy, though, is Wesley (aka guyliner). Now, normally I don't go for guys who wear eyeliner, but Wesley is super cool! I liked him almost immediately, and that's saying something. I also think that MacKenzie, while not a character that stands out, feels incredibly real. Her struggles, her doubt, and her strength all combine to make for a compelling protagonist. There's also one more character that I need to mention: Roland. He's a Librarian, and is very close to MacKenzie. He looks out for her, and truly takes on the role of father/grandfather figure. He's kind, wise, and just ultimately lovable in his red chucks.

I do have two minor gripes about the book, but it didn't really affect my overall enjoyment. First, MacKenize's parents know nothing about her being a "Keeper" and they know nothing about the Archive. Yet, her job requires her to leave for extended periods of time and her parents haven't caught on yet? This was never really adequately addressed, in my opinion. I also feel like the amount of flashbacks were a little excessive (especially in the beginning). It interrupted the flow of the story at inconvenient times. What's more, half the flashbacks didn't seem as if they added to the story's depth.

Overall, though, Victoria Schwab proves herself to be a fantastic writer. The premise was intriguing, the plot was inventive, and the characters were relatable. Her prose is descriptive, and yet never passes the point of being overly purple. I liked it a lot, and I can't wait to read more from her!


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Stacking the Shelves (24)

Stacking The Shelves is hosted by Tynga's Reviews.

Books Mentioned:

The 13th Sign by Kristen O'Donnell Tubb
The Essence by Kimberly Derting
Nobody by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
52 Reasons to Hate my Father by Jessica Brody

Shadowlands by Kate Brian
The Archived by Victoria Schwab (mentioned twice. HB signed copy and tour ARC)

The Reese Malcom List by Amy Spalding
Sanctum by Sara Fine

Everneath by Brodi Asthon (SIGNED)
Everbound by Brodi Ashton (SIGNED)
Unearthly by Cynthia Hand (SIGNED)
Hallowed by Cynthia Hand (SIGNED)
Boundless by Cynthia Hand (SIGNED)
Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi (SIGNED)
Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi (SIGNED)
Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi (SIGNED)
Through the Ever Night by Veronica Rossi (SIGNED)

Cinder by Marissa Meyer (SIGNED)
Scarlet by Marissa Meyer (SIGNED)

Like I said in the video, I've put myself on a book-buying ban (with possible, occasional exceptions). With that in mind, Stacking the Shelves will probably be done only once a month. What books are you Stacking your Shelves with?

Friday, February 8, 2013

Review: Out of the Easy

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys 
Release: Feb 12, 2013
Source: ARC provided by author for review

It’s 1950, and as the French Quarter of New Orleans simmers with secrets, seventeen-year-old Josie Moraine is silently stirring a pot of her own. Known among locals as the daughter of a brothel prostitute, Josie wants more out of life than the Big Easy has to offer. She devises a plan get out, but a mysterious death in the Quarter leaves Josie tangled in an investigation that will challenge her allegiance to her mother, her conscience, and Willie Woodley, the brusque madam on Conti Street.

Josie is caught between the dream of an elite college and a clandestine underworld. New Orleans lures her in her quest for truth, dangling temptation at every turn, and escalating to the ultimate test.

With characters as captivating as those in her internationally bestselling novel Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys skillfully creates a rich story of secrets, lies, and the haunting reminder that decisions can shape our destiny.

First off, thank you Ruta for generously providing this ARC.

And thank you for writing such a beautiful story.

Out of the Easy is vastly different than Between Shades of Grey.  Perhaps the most noticeable difference is the lack of physical violence and torture. This book did not shock me in the way Lina’s story did. Nevertheless, the main protagonist Josie Morraine deals with neglect and verbal abuse from her prostitute mother. Most think Josie won’t amount to much, but she refuses to believe that. She dreams of something more and she’s daring to reach for it.

It’s a dream, though, that will cost Josie the life she has always known. It’s a dream that forces her to make the choice to sever the ties that hold her in the Big Easy.

Above all, this is a story about finding oneself. It is a story of self discovery.  It is also a story that proves “all is not what it seems”. The murder mystery, the secrets, and the lies manage to surface and taint a time period that is often idealized. Beneath that perfection is always a deeper story.

I also must say that I admired Josie Morraine, her strength, and her love for books (although I’d pick Gilbert Blythe over Ethan Frome any day). It was so much fun picking out historical references from books and that particular time period. Ruta obviously did her research and it paid off. She managed to bring New Orleans to life in a way that’s fascinating, and yet shocking.

As mentioned, Josie’s grown up all her life being ignored, chastised, and neglected by her prostitute mother. The mother is selfish, silly, and ungrateful. In a way, it helped make Josie more resilient and she eventually chooses to live on her own.

Josie spends her time working a bookshop, and living in the apartment above.  Her closest confidant is the bookstore owner’s son, Patrick. He’s shy, and yet is one of the few people who respects Josie as an individual, and refuses to judge her because of her mother. Willie, Patrick, and Cokie become Josie’s foundation as she dreams of leaving the city and attending college. Willie is the no-nonsense Madam of her mother’s brothel. While she may seem rough, harsh, and uncaring, there’s a layer of love and sympathy underneath that surfaces from time to time. And Cokie, Willie’s quadroon driver, never fails to provide Josie with the encouragement and support in her times of need.  He loves Josie unconditionally and sees no reason to hide it.

Then there’s also the mysterious/casual acquaintance, Jesse. I won’t say too much about him, other than I wish Ruta had developed him more. I also think the romance depicted lacked spark and chemistry, but this didn’t take away from my enjoyment of reading this, because it is much more than a romance novel. Like I said, it’s  a book about dreams, idealism, and finding oneself.

The writing, the plot, the flow, the characters were all so well developed. This book will easily top my list of favorites list come the end of 2013. Again, thanks to Ruta for the ARC.