Shine - Lauren Myracle

It was hard to avoid seeing reviews of this book, with five star ratings popping up on GoodReads all over the place.  I ordered a copy of this book a while ago, and it had been sitting on my shelf ever since.  Expecting to be blown away, I started reading.

A word of caution to the squeamish reader: the first few pages are extremely graphic.  But if you can get through those, or skim through those, the rest of the book does not follow suit.  Since the book opens with such a bang, I expected the full story to be thrilling moment after thrilling moment as Cat searches for the individual(s) responsible for a brutal hate attack against her former best friend.  Instead, after the initial opening sequence, the book slows right down and really gets inside Cat's head, as we learn why she is no longer friends with Jason, the victim of the aforementioned crime, and what she's been through over the past few years.  After a traumatic event of her own, Cat distanced herself from all of her former friends and, through her investigation of Jason's attack, she forces herself to reconnect with each one while asking tough questions about things that no one really wants to talk about.

I'll be honest and say that there were several points in the book where I found the story to be lagging and I wanted to tell the writer to just hurry up and get on with the story already.  But, at the same time, I was enjoying the book so much that I realized that this isn't the kind of story that you can hurry up and just tell us who dunnit already.  It's the kind of story that is less about who did it, and more about the characters.  It's the kind of story that you have to savour and let it soak into you, word by word.  Once I realized that, the rest of the book became much more enjoyable.  Like a good bar of dark chocolate, some of the scenes in this book have to just melt in your mouth while you savour them, wipe away a few tears and then keep reading.

Reading this book also caused me to think a little about my approach to reading lately.  Once I started this blog and realized how many amazing YA literature there is out there, I started to become a little more impatient with my reading.  Even while I'm reading a book, there's always stacks of books that are yet to be read, compounded with a lengthy hold list at the library.  In some ways, I feel that I'm forgetting what it means to just read for fun, rather than working on finishing one book in order to get through to the next.  That's not to say that I'm not enjoying the book that I read, since I have read some truly amazing books this year.  But reading Shine just reminded me that part of the joy of reading can be found in savouring each word, rather than reading quickly (and I am a very fast reader -- so fast sometimes that I feel like I miss things while I'm reading).  So thank you, Ms. Myracle, for providing such an enjoyable read, a book that made me think, made me cry and reminded me all over again why I love to read so much.
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Since I'm still new to the world of blogging, it's always fun when I stumble across something that's new to me, but is obviously a favourite of seasoned bloggers.  I'm jumping into this a little late (saw this on My Pathway to Books a week or so ago, but I wasn't sure that I'd actually have the time to devote to working on this).  Tomorrow will be my blogging day and I plan to work on getting my About Me page together, as well as tidying up my sidebar.  I'd love to do a blog roll, but I'm not sure that I'll actually figure that out.  At the very least, my blog will look a little prettier tomorrow!

Big thanks to It's All About Books for hosting this event!
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Fever - Lauren Destefano

It's hard to find the words to describe this book, which is the same feeling that I had after I finished reading the first book in this trilogy, Wither.  Lauren Destefano is truly a master of both storytelling and language, and she weaves together the plot and the imagery in such a beautiful and seamless way.

The best way that I can think of to describe this book is a comment that I made to another blogger: it seemed like one big, drug-induced rave party for the first half of the book or so, and then the story really kicked into high gear.  I don't want to give anything away, but Rhine's adventure is so colourful and vivid, and filled with such an interesting group of characters, that I found it hard to tear myself away from the book until I'd savoured the last few pages.  To echo the statements of nearly every other reviewer thus far, I really can't wait to see what happens in the next book in the series!
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Top Ten Books to Play Hooky With

It's Tuesday, and I'm back at work after a wonderful, relaxing week's holidays with my hubby.  This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic (hosted, as always, by The Broke and the Bookish) is just perfect, since I wish that I could play hooky and catch up on my TBR pile.  Coincidentally, I happen to have 10 books on hold at the library at the moment, which makes this top ten a little easier (since I have over 600 books on my GoodReads TBR list!).

1. Deadly Cool - Gemma Halliday
The wonderful and talented Wendy Darling posted a review of this book on GoodReads MONTHS ago and, at the time, my library didn't have a copy.  The library has since ordered a copy, but it's been "on order" for a couple of months now.  Hurry up!

2. Everneath - Brodi Ashton
This book's been popping up on blogs all over the place and my library still has it on order.  Fortunately, I'm only second in line once it leaves processing and moves onto the shelf.

3. The Mockingbirds - Daisy Whitney
I read a review of the second book in this series on someone's blog (I thought I could remember which one, but I just searched through several of my favourites and I can't find the review!).  The premise sounded so interesting that I immediately put it on hold at the library.

4. Article 5 - Kristen Simmons
Lea raved about this book on LC's Adventures in Libraryland and, at the time, my library didn't have it.  Once the book was on order, I immediately put it on hold and it's been sitting in processing ever since.  (Seriously, sometimes I just want to drive out there and ask if they need any help so that the books can get onto the shelf a little faster!)

5. Beauty Queens - Libba Bray
This is the book that's been on hold the longest.  It's the audio version and, since I've discovered the downloadable audiobooks that are FREE, I've contemplated cancelling my hold.  But I've been waiting so long that I don't want to give up just yet.

6. Prized - Caragh O'Brien
Birthmarked was so good and I have a feeling that book two is going to be amazing.

7. Shatter Me - Tahereh Mafi
There have been SO many positive reviews of this book popping up that I can't wait for my copy to arrive at the library!  I almost went to her signing and bought a copy, but then my husband whisked me away for a birthday weekend getaway and relaxing in a hot springs was WAY better than going to a signing!

8. Fracture - Megan Miranda
This is another book that's had lots of positive reviews, so I'm waiting patiently in line.

9. Legend - Marie Lu
Both Jaime @ The Perpetual Page-Turner and Justin @ Justin's Book Blog have raved about this book; therefore, I must read it soon.

10. Anna and the French Kiss - Stephanie Perkins
Actually, this book may be the one that's been on hold at the library the longest.  The hold line-up seems to be moving really, really slowly too.
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Tempest - Julie Cross

I read so many rave reviews of this book and subsequently put it on hold at the library.  When it finally came in, I probably should have returned it after I read the blurb on the inside of the dust jacket.  But instead I read the first few pages of the book, and THEN returned it to the library.

I'll admit that this review is not based on me actually READING the book, since I couldn't get past page three.  But I talked it over with my husband, and he agreed with me (in fact, since he's the sci-fi buff in our household, it is his thoughts that shaped the basis of this review).  Although a writer has unlimited freedom with where to take a story, there are certain constraints that are always followed.  Take, for example, a story about vampires.  Although Stephenie Meyer took considerable literary license with her Twilight Saga, at their core the vampires retained the basic elements that are crucial to any vampire story: they drink blood, they are terrifying (well, Victoria and her crew were anyways) and they don't go out in the daylight.  Of course, Stephenie Meyer's vampires played a little with the essence of a vampire by making the Cullens "vegetarian" and adding the concept of the fact that they sparkle in the sunshine, so they can only go out on cloudy days.  At the heart of the story, vampires are vampires and the core of what makes them who they are doesn't change from story to story.

But this book isn't about vampires, it's about time travel.  And right on the inside of the dust jacket, it says that the main character can travel through time, but there is no time space continuum for him to tamper with.  Now, I realize that there is no SCIENCE of time travel, since it doesn't really exist, but my husband has always talked of Carl Sagan's theories of time travel, and the butterfly effect (chaos theory).  He's a very smart man, my hubby =)  And, even though I'm not a huge sci-fi reader, it just logically makes sense that if you alter something in the past, it must have ramifications in the future.  But as the story started to unfold in the early pages of the novel, the main character and his friend are testing his abilities to time travel and proving that his interactions with people in the past have no effect on the events of the present.  And that, to me, messes with the integrity of what a time travel book should be about.  Just like vampire stories, there should be certain elements to the story that must stay true.  So I gave up on the book.  A mere three pages into the story, which is a record for me.  My apologies to anyone who read and enjoyed this book (and from the GoodReads ratings, it seems that there's quite a few of you), but it just wasn't for me.
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Bunheads - Sophie Flack

Sophie Flack's debut novel, Bunheads, is the perfect example of that timeless writer's mantra: write what you know.  I'll be honest and admit that I wasn't expecting brilliance when I started reading this book.  After reading the author's bio, I was a little skeptical that a former ballet dancer would have what it took to create a captivating story.  After all, there's no doubt that she knows about dance, but I was uncertain that this knowledge of dance would transfer to a mastery of storytelling.

By ten pages in, I was impressed.  Bunheads (which I still can't say aloud without giggling), is a charming story and it held my attention from the beginning of the book right until the satisfying conclusion.  It was a little predictable at times, but in a good way.  Hannah, the narrator of the story, struggles with her desire to excel at ballet and succeed in the company, while also wondering if the world of ballet is enough for her and if she's willing to give up everything else that the world has to offer in exchange for her dream.  Hannah's charming and likeable and I found myself cheering her on as I flipped eagerly through the pages.

I read a review on GoodReads that said that Bunheads was like Black Swan, without the darkness.  I would agree with that statement to a point, but also say that Bunheads is really quite different.  At their cores, both stories are about the challenges associated with being a part of the world of ballet, but Bunheads is light-hearted and fun when it needs to be, as well as thoughtful and reflective when the storyline requires a moment of seriousness.  And Sophie Flack does know how to write, and writes very well.  I'm looking forward to seeing what she does next!
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Pandemonium - Lauren Oliver

The only thing that could possibly be worse than reading a book that you don't like, and trying to figure out how to nicely phrase why you didn't like it, would be reading a book that you loved and trying to find the words to explain where that love comes from.  This is the case with Lauren Oliver's Pandemonium, the sequel to the wildly successful Delirium.

There's just something about Lauren Oliver's writing.  It gets under my skin and affects me in a way that very few other writers can.  Of course, she's also a master storyteller and creates incredible characters, but it's her style of writing is just spectacular.  Pandemonium, of course, is on the same caliber as her other books and blew my mind in precisely the same manner.  The world that she creates is heartbreakingly beautiful and I found myself pausing between breaths in the book to wipe the tears away, gather my thoughts and dive back into a world where heartache and pain is as much a part of everyday life as breathing is.

I don't want to say too much more in case I spoil some of the magic.  I'm also not sure that I can say much more, since I still feel like I'm partly under Pandemonium's spell.  So let me leave you with just this: if you haven't already experienced the world that Lauren Oliver has created, I urge you to take a ride on the magic carpet of Oliver's writing.  She'll take you someplace that you've never been before and, when you're done, you'll be aching for more, just one more chapter.  Thankfully, there's still one more book left in this series (tentative publication date set for February 2013) and I absolutely cannot WAIT to find out what's in store between the covers of Requiem.
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Top Ten Books on my Spring TBR List

I must admit that I only read 6 of the 10 books that were on my winter TBR list (whoooooops!), and I can't believe it's spring already!  Seriously, does anyone else know where the first quarter of 2012 has disappeared to?  I swear it was New Year's just yesterday.  But it IS spring and here's hoping that the weather is ready to warm up a little.  It rains pretty much year round here on the We(s)t Coast, but the rain is easier to bear when the temps are in the double digits. 

I'm rambling again, so let's just get going with this week's Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by the folks at The Broke and the Bookish.  Here are my top ten books for spring ... hopefully I'll read them all this time!

1. Clockwork Prince - Cassandra Clare
I got this book for Christmas, but still haven't read it!  Considering how much I love Clare's books, I'm surprised that it's sat on my shelf for this long ... must put a stop to this immediately!

2. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer - Michelle Hodkin
I had this book in my IMM a few weeks ago, but still haven't read it yet.  I've heard nothing but great things about it and can't wait to dive in!

3. Fever - Lauren DeStefano
My wonderful husband gave this to me for my birthday.  I loved Wither so very, very much and I can't wait to read the next book in the series.  DeStefano is such a beautiful writer.

4. Pandemonium - Lauren Oliver
I'm already reading this one -- Lauren Oliver is a literary goddess.

5. Shine - Lauren Myracle
Another book from a past IMM -- I peeked at a review by one of my favourite book bloggers (bookshelves of doom).  If she loved it, it's almost guaranteed that I'll love it too.

6. Across the Universe - Beth Ravis
People are posting rave reviews of book 2 and I haven't read book one yet!  Another book from a past IMM.

And the last books on my list are books are from a stack of books that my friend Evie gave me ... I want to have a giveaway at some point to share the book love that she gave to me!

7. Imaginary Girls - Nova Ren Suma
Evie told me that this one was dark.  I loooooove dark books.

8. Switched - Amanda Hocking
This book has been popping up on IMMs all week -- must read soon!

9. Fury - Elizabeth Miles
The author is a friend of Lauren Oliver's.  If she writes anything like Oliver does, I will be head over heels for this book.

10. Wolfsbane - Andrea Cremer
Just finished Nightshade and looking forward to seeing if the second book is better than the first one.
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The Pledge - Kimberly Derting

I tried really, really hard to like this book.  It had so many things going for it.  The cover is beautiful, almost haunting.  Normally, I'm not a fan of covers where you can see the model's face, since I like to imagine what the main character looks like, rather than have the publisher provide a visual for me.  Her face is just hidden enough that it worked for me, plus I love the lettering on the cover.  (I imagine that the cover is probably even prettier without the library's plastic covering over top).  The premise of the book sounded extremely intriguing: a world where classes are separated by language and people have to cast their eyes downwards when someone speaks a language that is from a class above their own.  Charlie, the main character, can understand all languages and if anyone discovers her secret, it could be punishable by death.

I think where the book fell flat was in the storytelling and writing style.  The premise of the book was interesting, yet the writing didn't carry the story along at a pace that kept my interest.  I found my mind wandering to other things (like laundry or my to-do list) while I was reading this book, which is never a good sign.  The only time that the book captivated my interest was for a chapter or two in the middle and then the plot just started to meander again.

Perhaps one of the things that set me up for disappointment was reading the acknowledgements.  The author gives thanks to a woman who "shared heart-wrenching stories of her early childhood years in WWII Germany."  After reading this description, I was preparing myself for a Holocaust-type novel, and this book really didn't compare to any of the amazing Holocaust novels that I've read.  This novel takes place in a futuristic world, in a country that doesn't exist today, so it isn't intending to accurately portray a realistic event, but I just felt that if it started off thanking a WWII survivor for her stories that formed the basis of this novel, then it should have been a powerful story.  Or maybe I'm just too jaded from reading some amazing WWII stories (think Book Thief, think Between Shades of Gray) and it takes too much to impress me?
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Nightshade - Andrea Cremer

My lovely friend Evie gave me books 2 and 3 in this series and highly recommended that I start with the first book.  I found it on Library to Go (free audiobooks from the library!!) and have been listening to it on my drive to and from work for the past couple of weeks.

First of all, the narrator's voice irritated me a little.  This is one of the things that can make or break an audio book, in my opinion, and I found that this narrator's voice overemphasized things, making everything Calla said seem over dramatic and exaggerated.  This especially annoyed me whenever Ren or Shay is touching her or near her -- or are teenage hormones really that over the top?  Since I don't have the print copy, I can't find specific examples, but Calla's reaction to both boys' advances just seemed exaggerated to me.

On the positive side, the storyline is a really unique take on werewolves (although, in the book they're Guardians).  I especially liked the fact that they're human and wolf at the same time, so when they shift from human to wolf and back again, they're still wearing their clothes -- it seems logical and practical.  As with any first book in a series, the storyline is just getting going in book one, which makes it difficult to judge how the entire series is going to play out.  There were a few things that annoyed me about this book, especially Calla's character, but I'm hoping that she'll be less annoying in book two once I can imagine her voice in my head instead of hearing the narrator's voice.

And finally, the cover above is the cover for the audio version that I downloaded, but the cover below is the cover that defaulted on GoodReads.  I can't decide which one I like best, since both covers seem to perfectly complement the storyline.  Usually, I only post the cover for the version that I read, but I'm making an exception in this case, since both covers are so beautiful.

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IMM [3] - Birthday Edition!

My birthday was actually 11 days ago (the big 3-0! so exciting!) and I'd intended to do my birthday IMM last weekend; however, my wonderful hubby surprised me and whisked me away for a hot springs getaway instead, so I put it off a week.  So, this will now be a birthday IMM / what I picked up from the library this week.  In My Mailbox is hosted by The Story Siren.

First of all, birthday presents!!!

So excited to read both of these!  I am kind of annoyed that they had to make the hardcover of Pandemonium match the new paperback cover of Delirium.  I have the original hardcover and now my books kind of don't match.  A little picky, I know =P  But the story inside will be worth it, I'm sure!  I've been trying SO hard not to look at any of the reviews on GoodReads (other than noticing the occasional five stars) so I'm going to have to hurry up and read this one soon!  Also, I loved Wither so, so, so much and I'm looking forward to Fever.

And from the library this week:

The covers on all three are gorgeous and were (admittedly) one of the reasons why I had these books on hold.  Also, I can't say "bunheads" without spontaneously giggling.  Seriously, it's such an odd title!  I've started reading The Pledge (I think I'm about halfway through it), so my review will be up soon.

What did you guys get this week?  Read anything amazing?  Leave me links and I'll stop by your posts as well!
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Lone Wolf - Jodi Picoult

I love Jodi Picoult.  Love, love, love her books.  Unfortunately, I didn't love Lone Wolf.  I liked it, but I didn't love it as much as I've loved some of her other books.

The story read like a typical Picoult novel, with the narrative switching between characters, and deals with a typically Picoult-heavy issue: whether or not to remove someone from life support in order to let them die.  There are a lot of parallels between this story and some of her previous stories, but enough differences to make each book unique. 

There was something different about this book though: the unconscious, comatose character had a voice.  And it was annoying.  The father, Luke, has studied and lived with wolves for most of his life, and is passionate about the lifestyle and pack mentality of these creatures.  Intermixed with the narrative of the other people in his life, Luke has chapters of his own that speak about wolves and he paints parallels between a pack of wolves and his own family.  Since he's unconscious, I felt like his narrative sections didn't really contribute to the progression of the story, but rather like they interrupted the flow of the storyline.  There were a few sections that related to his fractured family, but on the whole they were just snippets of information about wolves.  I was finally able to find the groove in the story by skipping over Luke's sections entirely, and just reading the rest of the book.

I hope that her next book is better, since I've loved almost everything of hers that I've read.
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I've Got Your Number - Sophie Kinsella

I had a whole weekend with not much to do and there's nothing more perfect than a Sophie Kinsella novel to while away a weekend!  This one was much better than her last book (Twenties Girl -- which was allll right, in my opinion).  Kinsella is best for getting her heroine into a situation where she's so deeply embroiled in her own lies and half-truths that I always have a twisted knot in my stomach, just wondering how she's going to survive this ordeal.  Yet, at the same time, each situation is so beyond normal and packed with comedic relief that I alternate between cringing and laughing out loud.

The only thing that irked me about this book is its use of footnotes.  Yes, footnotes in a CHICK LIT book.  The narrator is trying to prove a point about her highly educated soon-to-be in-laws and their academic texts.  It was cute at first, but quickly became a little annoying.  It is possible to read through the story without reading the footnotes but I would find that I reached the bottom of the page, only to notice that there was a footnote and I'd missed the small number along the way.  So, I'd pause reading and skim back up the text, looking for the tiny number 56.  I'd reread the sentence that preceded the footnote, read the footnote itself, and then continue reading the next page.  See what I mean?  Disrupting.

On the whole though, an enjoyable read -- I do enjoy an author that can dependably provide an enjoyable mind break.  Especially after my washing machine went up in smoke -- rather than thinking about my impending repair / replacement bill, I could just escape into Poppy's world and forget my own woes.
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Top Ten Beautiful Book Covers

It's Tuesday, and time for another Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week's theme is top ten favourite covers.  I'm a sucker for a pretty cover (I know that you're not supposed to judge a book by its cover ... but sometimes, it's just so hard NOT to, you know?).

I'll let the covers speak for themselves... the funniest part is that I haven't even read all of these, some of these beautiful books are sitting on my shelves, waiting to be read!

What are you favourite covers?  Leave me a comment and/or link to your TTT post and I'll come visit!
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Wither - Lauren DeStefano

I feel like I'm at a loss for words, unable to find the words to explain exactly how this book affected me.  All I could must on Twitter was "Wow...just, wow."  It's the kind of book that will grab hold of your heart, and not let go, long after you've finished the last page.

First of all DeStefano is an unbelievable writer.  She has a way with words and interweaves such beautiful imagery (especially Rhine's dreams -- I found myself gasping aloud at some of those scenes).  The world that she created is horrifying, yet beautiful.  Part of the charm of the book comes from the fact that it's hard to not be disgusted yet fascinated by everything that Rhine experiences.  I wrestled with wanting to live in the mansion with her (slightly jealous of those hours she spent reading in the library) yet being equally horrified by the injustices of her society.  In most dystopians, the reader is usually rooting for the heroine to escape her oppressive society (I'm thinking mainly of Katniss in the Hunger Games, when we rooted for her to emerge from the Arena, victorious, or Tris in Divergent, crossing my fingers that she would escape her factioned society).  I think that most dystopians are written such that the reader immediately identifies with the heroine and hates the world that she is forced to inhabit, a world described in such terms that no one in their right mind would ever want to live there.  Even The Capitol in the Hunger Games is presented as ridiculous, and reminded me of what our own society is like with beauty and plastic surgery, not a desirable form of beauty by any means.  But the haunting beauty of Rhine's world is harder to hate.  It's not entirely loveable either, but there's just something about the world that she inhabits that made me want to crawl inside the book and live her life for myself.

Honestly, I'm really not sure what else to say about this book, other than this: if you haven't yet read it, you must.  All of the rave reviews online are not over exaggerating this book: it is one that you don't want to miss.  I want to read Fever right away, but at the same time I'm also going to let Wither settle in my mind for a few days.  I've already flipped back through the book a few times, rereading snippets of the story and feeling chills up and down my spine. 
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