January 26, 2014

Katie Williams: "Absent"

Title: Absent [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Katie Williams [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Afterlife
Year: 2013
Age: 12+
Stars: 3.5/5
Pros: Bittersweet story, with a peculiar setting for an afterlife novel and some refreshing (if not totally original) elements.
Cons: Conflicts get resolved too easily. One of the twists is quite obvious.
WARNING! Deals with drug abuse and suicide (not graphically though).
Will appeal to: Those who can appreciate a quiet book with a purpose-driven character.

Blurb: When seventeen-year-old Paige dies in a freak fall from the roof during Physics class, her spirit is bound to the grounds of her high school. At least she has company: her fellow ghosts Evan and Brooke, who also died there. But when Paige hears the rumor that her death wasn't an accident - that she supposedly jumped on purpose - she can't bear it. Then Paige discovers something amazing. She can possess living people when they think of her, and she can make them do almost anything. Maybe, just maybe, she can get to the most popular girl in school and stop the rumors once and for all. (Amazon)

Review: This is a fairly short book - 184 pages. And an elegant one at that, with thin, smooth pages and a cute design. I'm not usually into these things much, but I couldn't help noticing, because in such respect, Absent is kind of peculiar.
We step into the story in medias res, with Paige already dead and hanging out with Brooke (a recently deceased schoolmate, who died of an overdose) and Evan (who doesn't volunteer any informations about when and why he died, but admits he's been dead for a while). The three of them have stricken an unlikely friendship, since they are stuck in the school building where they all died. None of them can leave its boundaries - if they try to, they're snapped back to the spot where their life ended. For Paige, said spot is a portion of the school roof, where she banged her head before taking the plunge. Also, apparently, this is the only place that actually feels solid to her. Now, Paige has a problem: her classmates are convinced that she jumped on purpose. What's worse, her best friend thinks so too. What's even worse, Paige doesn't know how she died herself - the only thing she's sure of is that she didn't choose to die. Because, why would she? So Paige embarks on a mission: clearing her own name. In the process, she will discover startling and not-so-startling truths about her friends, living and dead - but ultimately, more than anything, she will grow as a person, if a dead individual can do that.
Despite its shortness, the pace of this book is quite relaxed. The characters are not particularly developed, but not to the point of feeling bidimensional. The only real problem I had with them is, they seem to accept Paige's possession too easily, as if the things she makes them do were already lurking inside them, and only waiting for her to force them out. Also, some characters seem to change too easily - their conflicts (both the interior and exterior ones) too effortlessly solved. That's what brought my rating down a bit. [...]

January 19, 2014

Mary E. Pearson: "Fox Forever"

Title: Fox Forever [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: Jenna Fox Chronicles (3rd of 3 books, but there's also a short story - read it for free here - that is chronologically book 1.5 in the series, though it only came out after book 2)
Author: Mary E. Pearson [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Sci-Fi, Dystopian
Year: 2013
Age: 12+
Stars: 3.5/5
Pros: Part adventure, part romance, part coming-of-age story - you get a bit of everything here.
Cons: You also get clich├ęs...
WARNING! Unlike the previous installments, this one displays a couple of unusual bordering-on-horror scenes.
Will appeal to: Those who think chapter 1 and 2 lacked romance. Those who want a lot more of Locke and a bit more of Jenna. Those who need closure about them. Those who don't mind going through a series of tropes in order to have all of the above...

Blurb: Locke Jenkins has some catching up to do. After spending 260 years as a disembodied mind in a little black box, he has a perfect new body. But before he can move on with his unexpected new life, he’ll have to return the Favor he accepted from the shadowy resistance group known as the Network. Locke must infiltrate the home of a government official by gaining the trust of his daughter, seventeen-year-old Raine, and he soon finds himself pulled deep into the world of the resistance - and into Raine’s life. (Amazon excerpt)

Review: This is a disclaimer, sort of...You all know I'm not fond of romance-driven stories. Or stories with too much romance in them. And unlike its precedessors, this last installment of the Jenna Fox Chronicles sports a good amount of it. I'm not going to start a tirade about insta-love, because given Locke's and Raine's respective predicaments, their rather sudden mutual attraction is understandable. I'm just stating a fact: the Jenna Fox Chronicles started off quite differently from that, and as for this turn that the story takes, I may not be the best or intended audience for it. (Well, duh. I'm not a teen, so of course I'm not the intended audience for it. But who cares about that? I love YA. Or a good portion of it...End of rant LOL). Then again, I guess most readers will be delighted, so I'll try to not let it weight on my opinion too much ;). 
But, for starters, so Locke has to infiltrate a place where there's a girl his exact age: how convenient is that? Of course, Raine is the reason why Locke was chosen in the first place, so I'll condone that. And since I knew I was about to embark on a love story, I had braced myself for that from the very first page, and was determined to enjoy my last visit to Jenna's and Locke's world. Which I did, up to a point. Because I still cared for them. Because I loved the two previous installments, with only a couple of minor reservations. Because, mind you, Pearson knows how to tell a story. So, like I said, I was enjoying it. But all of the time, the rational part of me was noting "This is a common trope. Oh, wait, there's another. Duh, this was to be expected. Oh, how convenient". And all this stuff was creeping up on me and slowly tainting my appreciation of the story
Let's start with the tropes. I counted 6 major ones:
  1. evil parent
  2. princess in a tower
  3. parent-approved rival
  4. long-lost kid
  5. unlikely ally
  6. back-stabbing supposed friend
(not to mention insta-love, which I've already dealt with before). [...]

January 14, 2014

Book Blogger New Year's Challenge Day 14: Blogging Wish List of 2014

Hi everyone...and a happy, book-filled new year!
I decided to start 2014 doing something completely new to me, blog-wise - that is, joining a challenge. This one is hosted by Parajunkee. And what I like about it is, it deals with blogging and bloggers, not with a mere list of books to read as fast as possible.
And here is her introduction to the challenge...

Hey everyone, it is that time of year again. The time when we get all excited for a NEW YEAR, plan our goals, set our resolutions and just straight-up get motivated. Guess what? I’m here to help you get a little more motivated about your blogging, with 14 writing posts for the New Year.

The Book Blogger New Year’s Challenge will begin on January 1st and run 14 days. It is going to be fun, it is going to be easy and hopefully it will get you motivated in 2014.  Each day I will post my own prompts and at the bottom I will add a linky so you can add your own posts. Here are the topics:

 

So this is it. My very first challenge is coming to an end. And I'm a little sad, because I did have fun, besides meeting new friends and learning a few tricks of, well, the trade - so to speak. You may have noticed that I only posted entries for this challenge since it began, because I couldn't have kept up with posting more. Now it's time for me to go back to reviews and regular posts...but I mean to spice up my blog with other things. (And I plan on participating in other refreshing memes and challenges, of course). I won't be able to post as often as I've done during these days, but I'll work on being consistent. Thanks to everyone who reached out to me and contributed to the discussions going on here, and I hope we will stay in touch!
Well...before I begin to sniff and blow my nose...here we go ;).

January 14 Question: Blogging wish list of 2014.

So are we allowed to dream big? I suppose so...OK then.
A bunch of active followers actually commenting on my posts because they care, and thanking me daily for introducing them to unusual, awesome books.
The authors whose books I mark as To-Read (and even as Not-Sure) on Goodreads begging me to review their ARCs.
Christopher Pike pleading for an exclusive interview.
Last but not least, Blogger introducing smilies and a more advanced comment system (yeah, right. The Pike one would be much easier), so that I don't have to switch to Commentluv or whatever...and drafts that don't act as mutant animals as soon as you try to save your posts.

So what are your crazy blogging dreams for 2014?

January 12, 2014

Book Blogger New Year's Challenge Day 12: How Do You Plan on Getting More Followers This Year?

Hi everyone...and a happy, book-filled new year!
I decided to start 2014 doing something completely new to me, blog-wise - that is, joining a challenge. This one is hosted by Parajunkee. And what I like about it is, it deals with blogging and bloggers, not with a mere list of books to read as fast as possible.
And here is her introduction to the challenge...

Hey everyone, it is that time of year again. The time when we get all excited for a NEW YEAR, plan our goals, set our resolutions and just straight-up get motivated. Guess what? I’m here to help you get a little more motivated about your blogging, with 14 writing posts for the New Year.

The Book Blogger New Year’s Challenge will begin on January 1st and run 14 days. It is going to be fun, it is going to be easy and hopefully it will get you motivated in 2014.  Each day I will post my own prompts and at the bottom I will add a linky so you can add your own posts. Here are the topics:

 

Before I start, be warned...I will not participate in tomorrow's round of the challenge. I don't have a blogger horror story to tell...yet. But I will make sure to stop by and read yours! I hope they're not too scary though ;).

January 12 Question: How do you plan on getting more followers this year?

I have to say this challenge made me aware of a couple of things - or at least, more aware. One, I've been a bit isolated to date, despite my Goodreads activity. It's not like doing follow-for-a-follows or posting a link to your latest entry on a group page is guaranteed to raise interest about your blog. Two, discussion posts are fairly more alluring and successful than reviews - especially not-so-recent-book reviews. So here comes my recipe in two points:
  1. be more social (though I don't mean to merely sell myself this way. I am enjoying the interaction this challenge provides, and the more, the better!). Participating in cross-blog activities, as long as they're not too time-consuming, because you know...work, housekeeping...
  2. do more op-ed pieces, that can also double as discussion prompts.
I will try those, and we'll see if they work...

So what's your secret recipe? ;)

January 11, 2014

Book Blogger New Year's Challenge Day 11: TBR Shelf: How Many?

Hi everyone...and a happy, book-filled new year!
I decided to start 2014 doing something completely new to me, blog-wise - that is, joining a challenge. This one is hosted by Parajunkee. And what I like about it is, it deals with blogging and bloggers, not with a mere list of books to read as fast as possible.
And here is her introduction to the challenge...

Hey everyone, it is that time of year again. The time when we get all excited for a NEW YEAR, plan our goals, set our resolutions and just straight-up get motivated. Guess what? I’m here to help you get a little more motivated about your blogging, with 14 writing posts for the New Year.

The Book Blogger New Year’s Challenge will begin on January 1st and run 14 days. It is going to be fun, it is going to be easy and hopefully it will get you motivated in 2014.  Each day I will post my own prompts and at the bottom I will add a linky so you can add your own posts. Here are the topics:

 

January 11 Question: TBR shelf: how many?

(Oops, I skipped the latest 3 days of this challenge. Did anyone miss me? I don't think so...LOL).
I have a really small TBR pile, at least compared with the ones I see around. To date, there are 64 books on it that I do mean to read, and 47 I'm not so sure about. For a grand total of 111 books (neat number, isn't it?). They range from oldies (80s' and such) to 2017 releases (did I mention I love time travel?). The genre spectrum varies a lot too - from a few contemporaries to the vast amount of weird ones (sci-fi, horror, supernatural, you name it). I even keep a list of them all - with release dates etc. - on an Office Calc document, which helps me pick the ones I am more interested in first. How nerdy.
Of course, lots of Pike books in my list (yes Kate, I'm nodding at you). But I'll have to wait for most of them to be re-released, since I don't have a credit card - which rules out Amazon and the likes. *sighs*
I very rarely erase a book from my TBR list. It did happen a couple of times though, after I perused the nth review - because I'm always refining my list that way (you know, since I have to actually buy my books). The Not-Sure list is where promising books are kept until a certain review - or a sneak-peek at the actual text - makes the scale droop one way or the other.

So how high is you TBR pile? can you see the top of it? ;)

January 07, 2014

Book Blogger New Year's Challenge Day 7: Top Ten Book Blogger Pet Peeves

Hi everyone!
I decided to start 2014 doing something completely new to me, blog-wise - that is, joining a challenge. This one is hosted by Parajunkee. And what I like about it is, it deals with blogging and bloggers, not with a mere list of books to read as fast as possible.
And here is her introduction to the challenge...

Hey everyone, it is that time of year again. The time when we get all excited for a NEW YEAR, plan our goals, set our resolutions and just straight-up get motivated. Guess what? I’m here to help you get a little more motivated about your blogging, with 14 writing posts for the New Year.

The Book Blogger New Year’s Challenge will begin on January 1st and run 14 days. It is going to be fun, it is going to be easy and hopefully it will get you motivated in 2014.  Each day I will post my own prompts and at the bottom I will add a linky so you can add your own posts. Here are the topics:

 

Before I proceed with the new topic, I want to apologize in advance for skipping Round 8, 9 and 10. I'm still too new (in a sense) for having a really great blog moment to share, and I can't attend events and such because I'm in Italy. As for new things, I might be repeating some of my blogger resolutions...But I will read your posts and live vicariously ;D.

January 7 Question: Top ten book blogger pet peeves.

Well, since Parajunkee gave us free hand, I thought I'd do a double list: the first one deals with my pet peeves about books, while in the second list I will (respectfully) point out some things about blogs I'm not particularly fond of. So here we go...

Book Pet Peeves

1) The ominous Love Triangle (or Heavy Romance)

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Now, please don't bite my head off. I'm just sayin'. But those are not for me, really. Though I can occasionally tolerate a love triangle of sorts if done smartly. E.g., All Our Yesterdays - where the girl in the present and the one from the future are virtually two separate individuals. And even if Em still cares from James (past James) while being with Finn, it's understandable.
As for romance, I prefer it to be minimal *people stares at her in horror*. It's one of the reasons why I don't read many contemporary books...unless they mainly focus on something else than pure romance.

2) Creature overflow

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Maybe it's not really about creatures so much (though me and fairies or angels don't get along very well...oh, Castiel from the Supernatural series being the necessary exception LOL. He's, well, fun. But I digress). Maybe it's more about the fact that they come two dimes a dozen these days. Don't get me wrong, if you like vampires or zombies or whatever, there's nothing wrong with it (or with you). It's just that I tend to get annoyed with any kind of stuff that's everywhere. And even if I do read a book with creatures in it, I want to read a different take on them. That's why, despite what I said, I am enjoying/have enjoyed both the Last Vampire/Thirst saga by Christopher Pike (Pike, duh. But I don't necessarily love everything he writes) and Jeri Smith-Ready's WVMP Radio series. So, should the right creatures come along...I'm taking the bait. Or bite ;P.

 3) In which the Unpopular Girl suddenly displays unusual and frightening powers, while falling for the New Boy At School who may end up being her ally in saving the world - or not (but usually yes)

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(the bubbles content is my own)

'Nuff said LOL. Again, too many of them. If I read such a synopsis, I usually split.

4) Flat writing

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No amount of awesomeness provided by a book will ever make me overlook that. Though I can occasionally tolerate - or even enjoy - simple or dry writing, if it's congenial to the story. E.g., Mike Lancaster's duology Point 4.

5) Disembodied books (i.e. reading on a screen) 

Image source

I know. I'm hopelessly old-fashioned. But I have a hard time reading books on a screen - though I did it before and I'm willing to do it again for review purposes (on my PC), since I can't reasonably expect anyone sending a printed ARC to me (at least at this point). But I don't have an eReader and I don't plan on buying one. I preferably need to sit on my bed and turn actual pages. Sorry for the forests :(.

January 04, 2014

Book Blogger New Year's Challenge Day 4: The Books of 2014 You Won't Miss

Hi everyone!
I decided to start 2014 doing something completely new to me, blog-wise - that is, joining a challenge. This one is hosted by Parajunkee. And what I like about it is, it deals with blogging and bloggers, not with a mere list of books to read as fast as possible.
And here is her introduction to the challenge...

Hey everyone, it is that time of year again. The time when we get all excited for a NEW YEAR, plan our goals, set our resolutions and just straight-up get motivated. Guess what? I’m here to help you get a little more motivated about your blogging, with 14 writing posts for the New Year.

The Book Blogger New Year’s Challenge will begin on January 1st and run 14 days. It is going to be fun, it is going to be easy and hopefully it will get you motivated in 2014.  Each day I will post my own prompts and at the bottom I will add a linky so you can add your own posts. Here are the topics:


Before I reply to today's question, I want to apologize in advance for not getting involved in the next two rounds of the challenge: Worst Book of 2013 and Best Book of 2013. I'm so far behind with the books released last year (and even before), it's not even funny. (See my previous post for them). So I won't be able to pick the best or the worst of 2013. But I very much look forward to reading what the others have to say...especially about the worst [insert evil grin here].

January 4 Question: The books of 2014 you won't miss.

I'm very picky when it comes to books. Especially when having to buy them LOL. There are a few on my radar, but right now, only 8+2 are books which I'm sure of. Let me explain...
(...and BTW, there's no way I'll be able to buy all the new releases I'm listing here this year. But this is dreamland, right? or an alternate reality...).

Cover Revelead + Date Confirmed

White Space (Dark Passages #1) by Ilsa J. Bick - This Side of Salvation by Jeri Smith-Ready - While We Run (When We Wake #2) by Karen Healey - Black Knight (Witch World #2) by Christopher Pike


Bick. First installment in a duet? duology? anyway. From what people say, it's a complex book. But this never scared me. I'm such a masochist ;P.
Smith-Ready. I liked her WVMP urban fantasy series. This one is...a bunch of things, apparently. Like contemporary, supernatural and mystery rolled into one. Gimme gimme gimme...
Healey. I still have to read the first installment, but I do plan on buying the two books together because I don't want to have to wait. Also, I wasn't able to squeeze Book 1 into my latest shopping list...Anyway, the girl here was frozen and revived 100 years later, in a dystopian world. She fought before, and now she has to run. But ultimately fight again, of course.
Pike. An old friend of mine, so to speak. He introduced me to YA in my "old" age, so if you have to blame someone for being stuck with reading this blog, blame him ;P. This book is the second installment in the Witch World series, not his finest work, but still peculiar and entertaining.

***

January 03, 2014

Book Blogger New Year's Challenge Day 3: The Books of 2013 You Are Sad You Missed

Hi everyone!
I decided to start 2014 doing something completely new to me, blog-wise - that is, joining a challenge. This one is hosted by Parajunkee. And what I like about it is, it deals with blogging and bloggers, not with a mere list of books to read as fast as possible.
And here is her introduction to the challenge...

Hey everyone, it is that time of year again. The time when we get all excited for a NEW YEAR, plan our goals, set our resolutions and just straight-up get motivated. Guess what? I’m here to help you get a little more motivated about your blogging, with 14 writing posts for the New Year.

The Book Blogger New Year’s Challenge will begin on January 1st and run 14 days. It is going to be fun, it is going to be easy and hopefully it will get you motivated in 2014.  Each day I will post my own prompts and at the bottom I will add a linky so you can add your own posts. Here are the topics:

 

January 3 Question: The books of 2013 you are sad you missed.

I didn't have the chance of shopping much for books last year. So there are many 2013-and-older releases in my TR list (not counting those in my NS one, as in Not Sure). I've been refining my TR list for ages, because I buy my books, and of course I don't like to throw away my money. Who would? Anyway, here are the books of 2013 that survived! because yes, I'm still definitely going to buy them...only later.

January to March

When We Wake (When We Wake #1) by Karen Healey - Man in the Empty Suit by Sean Ferrell - Ferryman by Claire McFall


A sort-of-afterlife/sci-fi/dystopian book with a series of politically correct messages. A time-travel adult book where the main character meets younger and older versions of himself and may be the target of one of them. A true afterlife book with both a journey and a coming-of-age angle (assuming it's possible to be coming of age after you're dead). I was devastated I had to push them to later.

***

January 02, 2014

Book Blogger New Year's Challenge Day 2: Your Pros and Cons of Blogging List

Hi everyone!
I decided to start 2014 doing something completely new to me, blog-wise - that is, joining a challenge. This one is hosted by Parajunkee. And what I like about it is, it deals with blogging and bloggers, not with a mere list of books to read as fast as possible.
And here is her introduction to the challenge...

Hey everyone, it is that time of year again. The time when we get all excited for a NEW YEAR, plan our goals, set our resolutions and just straight-up get motivated. Guess what? I’m here to help you get a little more motivated about your blogging, with 14 writing posts for the New Year.

The Book Blogger New Year’s Challenge will begin on January 1st and run 14 days. It is going to be fun, it is going to be easy and hopefully it will get you motivated in 2014.  Each day I will post my own prompts and at the bottom I will add a linky so you can add your own posts. Here are the topics:

 

January 2 Question: Your pros and cons of blogging list.

Well, who am I fooling. For me, the very best thing about blogging is being able to say what's on my mind. Even when you're not sure if anyone read what you wrote, or cared at all, there's a sublimating quality in being able to express yourself publicly. Of course, it helps if someone is really reading and caring ;).
I have to say I also enjoy designing graphics, formatting posts etc. It's another way of being creative. Now, I'm not the artistic type at all when it comes to drawing or such, but I learned a couple of things about web graphics (just a couple, but still), and I like to experiment with them. As for formatting posts, Blogspot/Blogger can be a real pain in the ass sometimes, but surprisingly enough, I have fun fighting with it outwitting it ;D.
And of course, you know, books. Dissecting them (erm. I know it sounds cruel, since I'm supposed to love them - which I do. But in this respect, I'm a bit like the kid disassembling her/his new toy in order to understand how it works...). Reconstructing them. Polish them till they shine. Trying to steer someone toward them. Or maybe not sometimes.
As for the cons - um. Since I've not really been in the swing of things to date (like I said in my 1st Day post, I tend to be on the quiet side, blog-wise), I can't say I experienced some real cons - like drama or controversies related to authors or other bloggers. Unless you count as a con when one doesn't really feel like posting, but doesn't want to be M.I.A. for too long either. Or when one posts what she/he regards as a great review or article and nobody seems interested in it. Which I guess happens more than once, especially to less established bloggers.

I'm looking forward to your answers now... :)

January 01, 2014

Book Blogger New Year's Challenge Day 1: Your Blogger Resolutions

Hi everyone...and a happy, book-filled new year!
I decided to start 2014 doing something completely new to me, blog-wise - that is, joining a challenge. I usually don't participate in them because they are time-consuming...and mostly, because they tend to focus on reading the higher number of books in the shortest span of time, or stuff like that. I don't feel comfortable with such goals, but I do love to talk books & blogging with fellow spirits :). So thank you Parajunkee for setting up this challenge - and I apologize in advance for skipping some rounds, but I wouldn't be able to productively contribute to every one of the themes, so I figure I'll let the other bloggers talk.
Are you interested in joining in? Just go to Parajunkee's site and sign up!
And here is her introduction to the challenge...

Hey everyone, it is that time of year again. The time when we get all excited for a NEW YEAR, plan our goals, set our resolutions and just straight-up get motivated. Guess what? I’m here to help you get a little more motivated about your blogging, with 14 writing posts for the New Year.

The Book Blogger New Year’s Challenge will begin on January 1st and run 14 days. It is going to be fun, it is going to be easy and hopefully it will get you motivated in 2014.  Each day I will post my own prompts and at the bottom I will add a linky so you can add your own posts. Here are the topics:

 

January 1 Question: Your blogger resolutions.

I have been blogging for a little more than a year so far, and there are reasons why I haven't accomplished any significant goal to date. First off, I decided to specialize in not-overly popular books (and even oldies sometimes). Secondly (though I guess I should consider it the primary reason), I'm in Italy, which by default means not getting ARCs, not being able to set up giveaways (because of the expenses), and not going to book conventions and such. Thirdly, I'm an adult reading YA books. This amounts to 1) being a quieter blogger and 2) having less time to spend on my blog  - because you know, adult life tends to get in the way ;).
But I do love blogging, even if within these boundaries. And I do want to do more with my blog. I want people to come here because they're interested, or curious, or because I'm able to provide something they're looking for - not only because I've commented on one of their posts. I want to spread the word about less known, but not less awesome books. I want to reach out to more fellow bloggers and really feel part of the community (and that's why I'm participating in this challenge). I want to stop being shy and begin asking for ARCs and such, even if in PDF form (because yes, I don't have an eReader. I'm an old-fashioned paper addict LOL). Basically, I want to stick with this blog and make it bigger and better. Do these count as resolutions? :)

So what are your own resolutions? and your goals?