{this is me messing around}
{end of messing around}

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Review: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater


The Scorpio Races

The Scorpio Races
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Released: October 18, 2011
Genre: YA fantasy
Pages: 409 (first edition hardcover)
Publisher: Scholastic Press
"It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen."

After reading this novel, I have decided that I've seriously underestimated Maggie Stiefvater.

The Scorpio Races is not a novel; it is an experience full of emotional ups and downs. It is a visit to the breathtaking world of the deadly creatures known as capaill uisce--by far the most fascinating creatures I've read in YA in a long time.

The novel takes place on the fictional Irish island of Thisby, mysterious place known to be the home of the capaill uisce--flesh-eating horse monsters that emerge from the sea every fall. For as long as anybody remembers, the men of Thisby have captured these deadly creatures from the sea and  trained them for riding in the annual competition: the Scorpio Races.

The novel comes from two perspectives. One is the perspective of Kate Connolly, known as Puck, who is racing to win her family the prize money--and is the first female ever to compete. The other is the perspective of the well-respected Sean Kendrick, four-time champion of the races. He's independent, talented, and seemingly fearless--but only seemingly.

The thing I loved most about this story was the setting. Maggie Stiefvater's world-building really impressed me; the island of Thisby is a seemingly quiet place that in reality, breathes danger and magic.  The capaill uisce (that's CAP-ple ISH-ka) are based off the water horses of Irish legend and are by far the most unique and fascinating creatures I've read about in a YA novel in a long, long time. Vampires, werewolves, and angels? Overdone. Flesh-eating horse monsters? Yes please!

Maggie Stiefvater's imagery is absolutely gorgeous. Her writing style is fluid and vivid and entrancing, and is number two on the things that made this book so great to me. Her descriptions during action scenes are sharp and capture the book's fast-paced violence well.

The narrators Puck and Sean are both good characters, but Sean especially. As somebody who is closed-off to everybody around him, it's truly interesting to be able to see inside Sean's mind as he reveals himself to be a multi-layered character. Puck, although she doesn't quite have the engaging quality that Sean does, is certainly a strong heroine, and is definitely likable.

Now, I have a few warnings for you.

WARNING #1:
This is not a romance novel.

Gasp! 

While the novel's romance is definitely there, it's quite subtle, and instead of being a huge factor into the story, it's more of a subplot that doesn't show up until halfway through the book. Despite the subtlety, Puck and Sean have a chemistry that only makes the story that much better.

WARNING #2:

Whatever you do, please don't give up during the first 100 pages!

For me, this was the book's worst flaw: pacing. The first hundred pages were absolutely brutal for me. While I was blown away by Stiefvater's amazing writing, nothing important happened in the beginning; it was all an intro to the characters and the world of Thisby. In fact, WARNING: the actual Scorpio Races only take up around 10 pages toward the end of the book. That's right, The Scorpio Races is one of those buildup books: it's about the journey rather than the main event itself. Once you accept this fact,  you can appreciate the suspense and buildup properly, and the story becomes infinitely better.

If you are looking for something similar to Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver, this isn't it. While this book has similar pacing problems, it is not focused on romance like Shiver, is far more violent, and is far more original. So, while this book isn't for everybody, those who have the patience are in for something amazing.

My Rating:
                   
4 Brains.

Recommended if:
-you are looking for a YA novel with originality. Yes, I'm looking at you, vampire and dystopian books.
-you enjoy books that involve a lot of buildup.
-you like fantastic imagery.
-you don't mind quite a bit of violence. 

Until next time!



Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Cover Reveal: Vengeance Bound by Justina Ireland

This cover reveal is presented by the fantastic AToMR Tours

                             


"The Goddess Test meets Dexter in an edgy, compelling debut about one teen’s quest for revenge…no matter how far it takes her.

"Cory Graff is not alone in her head. Bound to a deal of desperation made when she was a child, Cory’s mind houses the Furies—the hawk and the serpent—lingering always, waiting for her to satisfy their bloodlust. After escaping the asylum where she was trapped for years, Cory knows how to keep the Furies quiet. By day, she lives a normal life, but by night, she tracks down targets the Furies send her way. And she brings down Justice upon them.


Cory’s perfected her system of survival, but when she meets a mysterious boy named Niko at her new school, she can’t figure out how she feels about him. For the first time, the Furies are quiet in her head around a guy. But does this mean that Cory’s finally found someone who she can trust, or are there greater factors at work?


As Cory’s mind becomes a battlefield, with the Furies fighting for control, Cory will have to put everything on the line to hold on to what she’s worked so hard to build."

I'm kinda blown away by this cover.

Just look at it! The title font is epic, especially the red. The cover model is pretty badass, and so is the gorgeous white background with the Greek columns. All in all, awesome. 

I'm definitely giving a huge THUMBS UP to all the Greek mythology-type YA fiction coming out recently, and judging from the synopsis, this is gonna be a good one. 

Must read!

Vengeance Bound by Justina Ireland comes out April 2, 2013. 

Be sure to find out more about Vengeance Bound here: 





And don't forget to check out Justina Ireland's blog here: http://www.justinaireland.com/

Tell me whatcha think! 

Happy reading, booknerds!








Thursday, August 23, 2012

Feature and Follow #2: Worst Cover?


Bonjour mes amis! Once again it is the stupendous, fantastical, and all-around coolest day of the week: FRIDAY! Woot woot! Time to celebrate...with a Follow Friday! The Feature & Follow Hop is a weekly event hosted by Parajunkee's View and Alison Can Read. You can click here or here to learn how to participate.Bring on the question! 

Q: Worst cover? What is the worst cover of a book that you've read and loved?


This question is quite tough, but if I had to choose, it would have to be the cover of a book I absolutely adore: Where She Went by Gayle Forman. The book is sweet and a perfect sequel to If I Stay. But the cover. Oh , the cover. The grayish-blue theme is kinda strange looking and depressing. And the girl is just so...random. Her expression is...random. I is confused. 


The worst part is that the version of If I Stay I read had such a simple and pretty cover, which looked like this:


Why, publishing company, why?!

Hope you enjoyed! Link me up to your post in the comments and I would love to check it out!





Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday #2!

Hello there, lovely readers! It is a gorgeous summer day in this here city, and a perfect day for reading, or better yet, staying indoors and blogging. (Y'all book bloggers can relate, admit it. *winks*) As many of you know, Waiting on Wednesday is a lovely meme hosted by Jill of Breaking the Spine that allows book bloggers to share an upcoming release they are jumping-off-the-walls excited for!

This week's choice, which I've been waiting on forever, is *drumroll*....

UnWholly (Unwind, #2)
Unwholly (Unwind Trilogy #2)
Author: Neal Shusterman
To Be Released: August 28, 2012
Genre: YA science fiction, dystopian

This synopsis contains very slight spoilers of Unwind, the first novel in the series. 

"Thanks to Connor, Lev, and Risa—and their high-profile revolt at Happy Jack Harvest Camp—people can no longer turn a blind eye to unwinding. Ridding society of troublesome teens while simltaneously providing much-needed tissues for transplant might be convenient, but its morality has finally been brought into question. However, unwinding has become big business, and there are powerful political and corporate interests that want to see it not only continue, but also expand to the unwinding of prisoners and the impoverished."


Cam is a product of unwinding; made entirely out of the parts of other unwinds, he is a teen who does not technically exist. A futuristic Frankenstein, Cam struggles with a search for identity and meaning and wonders if a rewound being can have a soul. And when the actions of a sadistic bounty hunter cause Cam’s fate to become inextricably bound with the fates of Connor, Risa, and Lev, he’ll have to question humanity itself.


Rife with action and suspense, this riveting companion to the perennially popular Unwind challenges assumptions about where life begins and ends—and what it means to live."


When I say I've been waiting for this book forever, I mean it. Well, actually, no, what I really mean is that I've been waiting for it for 2 years. I read Unwind by Neal Shusterman in 2010 and it completely blew my mind. Yes, it was that good. The book takes place in a future not too different from our present, but in which parents are legally allowed to "abort" their children post-birth. This process is called "unwinding", in which the child/teenager's body is taken apart and their organs are transplanted into other humans. The book is disturbing and creepy and awful andsaldkfjasldkfjas. But so good.

Unwind is a great stand-alone novel, which is why I was so surprised to hear that it would be a trilogy. Nonetheless, I'm very curious and SUPER EXCITED! 

And it comes out in less than 2 weeks! Woooooooooooooot!

                                      image
By the way, Unwind is not well-known enough in the YA world and totally underrated. Go read it and spread the word! 




Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Anna and the French Kiss

Title: Anna and the French Kiss 
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Released: December 2, 2010
Genre: YA contemporary
Pages: 372 (first edition hardcover)
Publisher: Dutton Books
"Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris - until she meets Etienne St. Clair: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he's taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home. As winter melts into spring, will a year of romantic near - misses end with the French kiss Anna - and readers - have long awaited?"


This is one of those books that makes you happy. Unbelievably happy. It's adorable and sweet,  honest and relatable, witty and hilarious, and accomplishes the incredible feat of being both realistic and enchanting at the same time. In other words, je l'adore. 

(That's "I love it" en Francais. Already knew? Okay. Just checking.)

Please, please, please do yourself a favour and don't wrinkle your nose at Anna simply because it' sounds like "shallow teen chick lit". Granted, the synopsis can induce a little eye-rolling: American girl Anna Oliphant is dreading being sent to boarding school in Paris for her senior year of high school. ("As if anyone would complain about Paris!" I hear you exclaiming. Patience, grasshopper.) Luckily, she quickly makes a few inviting friends, including the oh-so-gorgeous √Čtienne St. Clair, a British-French-American boy with a super swoon-inducing English accent. But here's the kicker: he has a girlfriend. ("Didn't see that one coming," you say sarcastically. Oh, just keep reading.) Despite this unfortunate fact, Anna can't help but fall in love with St. Clair, and she can't be sure, but he may be falling in love with her too. With a never-ending number of obstacles in their way, will the romantic city of Paris be enough to bring Anna and St. Clair together?

I can hear the skeptics scoffing now. But give up not, my friends! Anna and the French Kiss is certainly not shallow, and simply too adorable to miss out on.

The Characters:

Anna Olipihant, be my best friend, please? Stephanie Perkins has written an absolutely lovable female protagonist. Anna is a unique and interesting character, but is incredibly easy to relate to as a teenager: she's tightly-knit with her best friend, she crushes on cute boys, and she has a passion for something she loves, which in Anna's case, is film. She's intelligent and funny, but she also has flaws, making her a totally likable character. But my favourite thing about Anna is the way I could relate to her. Starting school in a  foreign country with no friends, Anna's predicament is awkward and sorta lonely. Not to mention her serious friend/family/love life problems later in the book. All in all, Anna's problems are so reminiscent of the average person's that it's simply impossible not to love her.

And oh my gosh, St. Clair. St. Clair St. Clair St. Clair. If I want Anna to be my best friend, I want to marry St. Clair. He' s everything a girl could wish for in a guy: charming, funny, intelligent. Plus the English accent. That helps too.
  
Yes, St. Clair is totally swoon-worthy.
                                                           
But the best part? He's flawed. Yes, this seemingly perfect boy has some definite problems: problems with his family, with his girlfriend, and especially with his fears. And while St. Clair is just a little bit too perfect to be real, his flaws make him a fleshed-out, relatable, and even more fantastic character.

Apart from Anna and St. Clair, all of the characters are great. The charming Parisian personalities; the quirky best friends, Meredith, Rashmi and Josh; even the despicable popular kids who we all love to hate. Every single character in this book contributes to making it so...real. 

The Paris:

And The City of Light is where the magic begins. 

I didn't think it was possible for anybody to make me want to visit Paris more, but Stephanie Perkins has done it. The way Paris is painted in this novel is absolutely magical: the cobblestone streets, the charming European cafes, the River Seine at night, reflecting the lights of the city. Throughout the book, Anna and St. Clair discover the beauty of this gorgeous city, and it was incredible to discover it with them. The Eiffel Tower. L'Arc de Triomphe. Notre Dame. The Pantheon. The movie theatres. The bookstores. The entire time, I felt like Paris was unfolding in front of me just as much as it was for Anna and St. Clair. 
v

Oui, it's truly magical.

And OH MY GOSH THE FOOD. As Anna and St. Clair discovered the magic of delicious French food, I practically died. French bread. Macarons. Gateaux. Tartes. 


Stephanie Perkins! I love her and hate her for it at the same time.

The Romance:

Of course the romance is the focus of this entire book, and in my opinion, it's done wonderfully. It begins as a friendship, which is what makes Anna and St. Clair's feelings for each other more meaningful. They don't get where they want to without problems. LOTS OF THEM. Jealous friends, jealous girlfriends, family issues, and bad communication. But that was, you guessed it, my favourite part. 

Anna and the French Kiss is completely honest about the nature of both life and love: it's not smooth and romantic all the time. Both  life and love are incredibly infuriating, awkward, and full of ups and downs. It's flawed. But it's that, the perfect imperfection, that makes Anna and St. Clair's relationship and story so real, and so much more worth it in the end.

My Rating:
5 Brains.


Recommended for:
-making you laugh.
-making you swoon.
-making you smile. 



End note:
I love ze comments! Tell me what you think.

Next time on Books Equal Brains! Reviews:

Well, that's a secret. *Flips hair*

(*cough cough* The Scorpio Races *cough cough*.)



Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Review: Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick




Title: Hush, Hush (Hush, Hush Trilogy #1)
Author: Becca Fitzpatrick
Released: October 13, 2009
Genre: YA fantasty
Pages: 391 (first edition hardcover)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers

"Romance was not part of Nora Grey's plan. She's never been particularly attracted to the boys at her school, no matter how hard her best friend, Vee, pushes them at her. Not until Patch comes along. With his easy smile and eyes that seem to see inside her, Patch draws Nora to him against her better judgment.


But after a series of terrifying encounters, Nora's not sure whom to trust. Patch seems to be everywhere she is and seems to know more about her than her closest friends. She can't decide whether she should fall into his arms or run and hide. And when she tries to seek some answers, she finds herself near a truth that is way more unsettling than anything Patch makes her feel.

For she is right in the middle of an ancient battle between the immortal and those that have fallen - and, when it comes to choosing sides, the wrong choice will cost Nora her life."


If you've read Twilight, or any other vampire/werewolf/fallen angel novel for that matter, you've read this book.

Originality is not Hush, Hush's strong point. To any regular reader of YA fantasy, the synopsis will sound painfully and annoyingly familiar: smart but modest teenage girl Nora Grey leads a regular life until she meets the dark, mysterious and handsome Patch, who, for some unidentifiable reason, she feels incredibly drawn to. But she doesn't trust him! But he's so hot! But she thinks he's following her! But he's such a flirt! But he wants to kill her! But he's a tortured soul! And of course (not really a spoiler) he later turns out to be some mythical creature in disguise, romance ensues, yada yada yada.

Can I just say that this book is so uncannily similar to Twilight that it's not even funny? As I was reading it I almost screamed out (several times, may I add), "Why is this so similar to Twilight? Blah!" There are too many things to count: the small, cold, rainy town, the high school biology class, Patch following Nora around, Patch driving Nora around in his incredibly nice car, etc. Even the entire plot structure is basically the same, down to the final fight/confrontation scene with the villain, which, by the way, is incredibly reminiscent of the ballet studio scene in Twilight. You see what I'm getting at here?

Another thing this book has in common with other YA fantasy/romance novels: the not-very-interesting-yet-makes-me-want-to-pull-out-my-hair protagonist. I have a like/hate relationship with Nora Grey. In some ways she's absolutely typical of a Bella Swan-like character: she's "smart", apparently attractive to guys but doesn't know it, modest, and dull. BUT, she definitely has some redeeming characteristics. Nora is somewhat of an overachiever in school and in life. She tracks down Patch at a shady arcade just to finish her biology homework, and later on, when life gets mysterious, travels around, interviewing strangers for answers about the suspicious Patch and the possible-murderer Elliot. This is what redeemed Nora a bit for me: she's pushy. She's an overachiever and is, unlike other Bella Swan types, driven to take action and push for answers rather than stay stationary and simply ask stupid questions in her head. Granted, I would have liked to see more of that pushiness, but some personality is better than none. For that reason, I had respect for you, Nora Grey.

And then you had to go and be all stupid.

This is the makes-me-want-to-pull-out-my-hair part. I simply do not understand Nora's attitude towards Patch. Her first reaction towards Patch is the sensible, understandable one. He's a jerk. He's dangerous. He doesn't have good intentions. But after Patch starts showing more serious romantic interest towards Nora, all of her sense goes apparently straight down the drain. She doesn't listen to her senses; she listens to her teenage girl hormones and throws herself at Patch. It doesn't matter to her if he actually seriously planned on doing her physical harm and followed her around. All that matters is that OMG HE LOVES ME AND HE'S HOT! This really annoyed me. Why does Nora have to throw away all her good sense and reasoning and THINKING ABILITY just because a boy likes her? And that was when I lost a serious amount of respect for you, Nora Grey.


Patch himself is the most intriguing character in the book. He's the typical dark, dangerous bad boy, but at the same time brings some much-needed humor to the story. I can tell why lots of readers would like him, but one thing about him bothered me:

Why the heck does he like Nora?

I am as much confused about Patch's feelings for Nora as about Nora's feelings for Patch. It seems to me that Patch never describes his feelings for Nora as more than a physical lust, yet he a) confesses his love for her, and b) will apparently give up everything for her. When did this falling in love happen?! Can you really jump from pure lust into head-over-heels love so quickly, and with hardly any meaningful interaction? As you can probably tell, the romance in this book was all over the place for me.

I've got to admit, despite all these flaws, Hush, Hush has a leg up over Twilight. Some elements of the book are actually quite good. For one thing, Becca Fitzpatrick has a nice writing style. The climax/fight/confrontation scene is actually written quite well with unexpected twists and a lot of action. I could tell that Fitzpatrick spent a lot of thought and effort making all the novel's prior events build up to it. The dialogue is at times pretty interesting, and sometimes even entertaining, especially the dialogue between Nora and Patch. Patch's quips are snappy, funny, and definitely liven up the book a little. Vee, Nora's best friend/sidekick, also kicks a little life into the story. BUT BUT BUT. One thing about Becca Fitzpatrick's writing I have a serious problem with is lines like this:


"Patch leaned against the doorjamb. His mouth was pressed tight and lacked its usual twinge of humor. His eyes held more depth than I'd ever seen before. They were sharpened by a protective edge." (381)



It's not just Becca Fitzpatrick. Countless other books describe characters' emotions only through their eyes. So many books do this, and it's just not cool. Eyes that "held more depth" and were "sharpened by a protective edge", really? We get it, you want your male lead to be shown as a sensitive, tortured soul, but there are other ways of describing emotion. Reading lines like these, instead of feeling a pang of emotion for Patch I pretty much did this:

image

So yes, I definitely did have a lot of problems with this book, but Hush, Hush did have it's strong points. The writing, Patch's humour, Vee, the final action scene, and even Nora's sane side make me not have to smack this book against the wall, even if it is all an overused cliche. Will I be reading the rest of the series? Probably, but only in the desperate hope that the worst of the cheesiness is over.


My Rating:
3 Brains out of 5


Recommended if:
-you enjoyed Twilight
-you're big on romance






Thursday, August 2, 2012

Feature & Follow Friday #1!

                                             


What's up, fellow readers? Happy Friday (Or late Thursday, rather)! This is my first shot at the weekly meme Feature & Follow Friday hosted Parajunkee's View and Alison Can Read. Click here or here to learn how to participate!


Now, on to the question: 


Q: Do your reading habits change based on your mood? Do you read a certain genre if you are feeling depressed or happy?

Hmm, good question. Now that I think of it, what I read definitely changes with my mood. Right now, for example, it's summer, which means my life is chill, cheerful and, all in all, fun! Lately I've been gravitating towards the light, funny contemporary fiction because of the chillness of my life right now. No need to get my mood dragged down by those heavy, depressing novels, eh? BUT! I'm sure that, in the depths of the Canadian winter, while I'm swamped with projects and exams and math and my life isn't so relaxed, my mood will be quite a bit more down to earth. Then, it'll be time for...drumroll...epic fantasy adventure books! I'm not quite sure why it's this way with me. It just is. 


Thanks a bunch for visiting! 
Link me to your Follow Friday and I will be ecstatic to check out your blog!









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