Monday, August 27, 2012

Zom-B - Darren Shan

I found this book in a stack in the middle of the publisher's wing at Book Expo, and I swear I lucked out majorly because when I tried to bring ZenitaD back to get one herself, they'd vanished. It was one of the first ones I read, and the first thing I noticed when I opened the front cover of this ARC was a huge letter on the first page, telling me to watch out when I reviewed because of spoilers. Zom-B is a very interesting book in that it has two very big things you can spoil--one being the ending, and one being something that you just KNOW is something you shouldn't mention as soon as you find it in the book. But the problem is that the spoiler they tell you not to spoil, despite being at the end of the book...well, it's -damn- hard not to. Because of that, I'm only going to provide you with the synopsis provided to me--I'm not sure how I'd sum this book up myself without messing up.
"When news reports start appearing of a zombie outbreak in Ireland, B Smith's racist father thinks it's a joke-- but even if it isn't, he figures, it's ok to lose a few Irish. B doesn't fully buy into Dad's racism, but figures it's easier to go along with it than to risk the fights and abuse that will surely follow sticking up for Muslims, blacks, or immigrants. But when zombies attack B's school, B is forced on a mad dash through the serpentine corridors, making allegiances with anyone with enough guts to fight off their pursuers."
Actually reviewing this book is pretty difficult. It's supposed to be the first book out of what is going to be a 12 book series--the second book is already listed on Shan's website, despite this book not even officially being out yet. When you read Zom-B, it's very obvious that it's only the beginning. The last thirty pages or so, the ending, literally seems to only set up a platform for a new book to begin. It's kind of disappointing, in that regard, because so many things about B's story aren't touched. As a reader, I don't mind series--but I tend to have a problem when there isn't any resolution whatsoever in the first book. There's a difference between book one in a series, and book one being spread out over a 'series'. If you're going to write a series, that's fine, but have the decency to finish one mini plot per book, so it doesn't feel like you just cut one big book into tiny little pieces. When I want broken stories, I read comics, not books, thanks.
That being said, it's a fantastic opening. There are a lot of real issues that are tackled in this book, so don't count it out just because it involves zombies. B's father is a huge racist, and seeing the effect that this has on B is There really are no words, and I'd probably recommend this book just for that, even ignoring the actual plot. It's a very bleak look at bigotry, and adding in that 'spoiler' I can't actually talk about...well, it's fantastic.
I can't say much more without spoiling everything, so I'll just say that I would recommend Zom-B, despite the fact that I really wish it wasn't just a beginning. I'm personally going to be getting my hands on a copy of the sequel if it kills me, because I hate cliffhangers--and let me tell you how big of a damn cliffhanger this book has. As to whom I'd recommend this book to? Well, that's a little iffy.
Fans of Darren Shan's earlier works are obviously going to want to get into this one, because it's very much his typical style, I think. I don't think I'd recommend it to fans of typical zombie books, like World War Z, because for all that it is called Zom-B and the later books look like they're going to be very heavily zombie related...well, this one kind of isn't, and I don't want to recommend this to a crowd of zombie lovers until I read the second one and actually know how the zombies play out. But like I said, I would recommend this book to anyone interested in books about the effects of bigorty and hate on children--it's a fictional account, yes, but it handles this issue spectacularly. If Zom-B sounds interesting to you, pick up a copy on September 27th, when it comes out!

(This review was originally supposed to be autoposted on 8/27/12, and is being posted now due to queue problems. Sorry, everyone~!)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Alice in Zombieland - Gena Showalter

 "I wish I could go back and do a thousand things differently.
I'd tell my sister no.
I'd never beg my mother to talk to my dad.
I'd zip my lips and swallow those hateful words.
Or, barring all of that, I'd hug my sister, my mom and my dad one last time.
I'd tell them I love them.
I wish... Yeah, I wish." (Alice In Zombieland, prologue)

Alice in Zombieland is the first book in Gena Showalter's new White Rabbit Chronicles, and I got my hands on a copy in the Harlequinn Teen Hour line at BEA on Wednesday. I'd been really wanting it since I'd seen the cover advertisement, so I was pretty excited when the exhibitors began randomly passing them out. Needless to say, I had this book open as soon as I got on my first bus home, and had it finished by the end of my four hour commute.

Like the title implies, Alice in Zombieland is the story of a girl named Alice. Orphaned after a tragedy takes her parents and sister away from her, Alice is forced to move to a new school and live with her maternal grandparents. She makes new friends, misses the ones she's lost, and generally acts how you'd expect a girl to act whose lost everything. Well, except for a few small things. Like the fact that there's this boy she can't ignore--literally can't ignore, because something she can't control forces her into visions whenever she's near him, visions of love and violence and confusion-- and there's also the fact that she might be going crazy, because she's seeing things that shouldn't exist, things that she used to think her father was crazy for talking about.

Alice in Zombieland is literally nothing I actually expected with my first impression of the book, and that's actually pretty amazing. For one thing, besides the fact that the main character's name is Alice, I really don't see a connection between Alice in Wonderland and this book. There's a few very small references, but no real big 'AHAH!' moment for me. There's always the possibility that I might just be missing references or something, but still. It doesn't actually matter, but it definitely skewed my ideas for what this book was going to be about.

Secondly, Showalter breaths new live into the zombie myths with this book. The zombies Showalter writes are still very obviously zombies: living dead, rotting, shambling, feeling no pain, etc. But they're also a bit more than that, although I really can't say much without ruining what I feel is a part of the book that you should read for yourself. Without spoiling it for you, let me just say that I like Showalter's idea of a zombie a -lot-, particularly because it somewhat makes Alice's story more applicable to real life, in the way that so many other authors manage to make vampires seem like things that could actually lurk in the night.

Like all YA books today, it seems, Showalter threw in a nice dash of romance in this novel, and surprisingly, I'm pretty okay with that. I absolutely despise how every other YA book I pick up is nothing but a romance story with some paranormal aspects, sans explicit scenes. Like, I love romance. I do. But sometimes, I'd really enjoy reading a book that has an amazing plot and doesn't get derailed for seven chapters by whiny teenage romance. That being said, Showalter really pulls it off. The romance in Alice in Zombieland is played off really well, without really allowing it to completely overshadow the story. It's woven in expertly, and I really applaud Showalter for her efforts.

Overall, I really liked Alice in Zombieland, so much so that I've already passed it on to a fellow book blogger because I want the word of this book to get out. It's a great story, has a lot of humor, and I loved it! I'd recommend it to fans of the zombie genre in general, as long as they don't mind tossing a bit of paranormal and magic into their zombie mythology. I'd also recommend it to the huge YA romance fandom, as Showalter's romance is amazing. Finally, I'd kind of like to recommend Alice in Zombieland to fans of Hack/Slash, with the understanding that Alice is a lot more children friendly and less violent. The attempted female zombie slaying kind of speaks to me in both cases, haha.

Alice in Zombieland actually comes out in September 2012, so keep an eye out around that time to get your copy on this amazing book!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Throne of Glass - Sarah J. Maas

I grabbed Throne of Glass at Book Expo, mostly because of the fantastic cover, and I'm glad I was in the right place to get a copy. Throne of Glass is a book that comes from very humble beginnings: it's background is similar to 50 Shades of Grey, in that it used to be a story published online that is now becoming a book--but unlike 50 Shades of Grey, the writing is phenomenal and the storyline is fabulous.

Throne of Glass is the story of Celaena Sardothien, once the greatest assassin known, now a prisoner in a mining work camp where the average lifespan is a month. Celaena is brought from the dreary mines to be given a choice: she can become the king's champion and work for her freedom, or she can be left to languish and die in the mines. The choice seems almost too easy, except that there is a catch: in order to become the king's champion, Celaena must come to the castle to compete against twenty three other criminals and soldiers who also seek the position--and that competition may very well be to the death. But Celaena used to be one of--if not the--great assassins of the land. She's ready for the challenge--and if she happens to find a friend, the one thing she never thought she could have again, in a foreign princess...well, that's a bonus she never imagined.
It's just a matter of winning--and surviving the great evil that lurks in the castle, slowly picking off her fellow competitors one by one.

Throne of Glass is an absolutely fantastic book. There are honestly no words for how much I loved it. Celaena is a once all powerful assassin now withered and weak from malnutrition and horrible prison conditions. She's determined to improve, reaching her old levels of strength and health--and it galls her utterly that she can't show off for fear of making herself a target, that she can't even claim her own name because of it's infamy. She's a strong heroine with the skills to back it up--without being an all powerful character who makes the book boring because of a lack of challenge. The balance between power and challenge makes this book absolutely fantastic--because no matter how good Celaena is, someone else is better.

The story is also spectacular! Celaena has to compete in various challenges and fights, struggling to win so she can work to earn her freedom. If she looses, she goes back to the mines. If she wins, she must labor under the command of the king who sentenced her to that hell to begin with. And all the while, there's a darkness, an evilness that lurks the castle, threatening Celaena as it mercilessly slaughters her competitors one by one. Add to that a hint of mystery and intrigue, and a spiteful foreign princess struggling to keep her land from being taken over by the kingdom Celaena fights to represent, and you have one hell of a fantastic story.

But whoever suggested that Throne of Glass is similar to Hunger Games, however, as the cover of this book proclaims, may need to go back and reread both books. If you're looking for a Battle Royale type book, Throne of Glass really isn't for you--the challenges are more like deadly Big Brother competitions than Hunger Games free for alls.

But if you're looking for a lovely fantasy story about magic and fighting and assassins, you need to pick up Throne of Glass. I'd recommend Throne of Glass to Tamora Pierce fans seeking something new, as well as fans of Maria Snyder, particularly the Study and Glass series. I'd also recommend Throne of Glass to anyone seeking out a great, fun book about a strong female heroine with just a hint of romance--not so much as to turn the book into nothing more than teenage trash romance, but just enough to provide another layer of story.

Throne of Glass is utterly amazing, definitely one of my new favorite books, and I'd recommend it to everyone! I especially appreciate Throne of Glass for proving that just because a story is published online first doesn't mean that it's going to be smutty trash, for that matter. Throne of Glass comes out on August 7th--this upcoming Tuesday, in fact! So find out why I love it so much and grab a copy for yourself!

You won't regret it!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Cursed - Jennifer L. Armentrout

Cursed is one of the ARCs I snagged at Book Expo. It was one of those books that I read the back of, and instantly knew that I had to read it, no matter what. In this case, the driving 'omgomgomg' factor was the main character's special talent. If there's one thing that Shatter Me and X-Men have taught me, it's that chicks who kill with a touch tend to be pretty awesome.

Cursed is the story of Ember McWilliams, a high school student who died in a car crash. Unlike most tragic stories of teenager death, however, Ember had a little secret: her sister, Olivia, was a healer. In fact, she was such a good healer that she brought Ember back from the dead. But everything comes with a catch, and after her visit to the afterlife, Ember is cursed with the inability to touch anything without it dying. No more pets, no more hugging her sister, and no chance of ever having a boyfriend or a family. To make matters worse, her mother is stuck in some kind of dark trance after the death of her husband in the same accident, so Ember has to take care of Olivia on her own. But things are okay--usually. Until the day that everything changes and Ember's worst nightmare becomes her reality.

The next thing she knows, Ember and her sister are placed in a new home in West Virginia, where she has to adjust to a new life. Here, she lives with a family of adopted 'gifted', and they promise to take care of her sister. In order for Ember to feel safe, though, she has to trust the man running the house. But when she learns that the accident that killed her and her father wasn't an accident, she can't help but feel suspicious of the man who collects super powered children like baseball cards.

In all honestly, I'm not sure if I've ever read a book by Armentrout before. The books listed on her website don't sound like I've ever read them--but do, I might add, have some incredibly sexy covers--, but I could have sworn that her name was pretty familiar when I got in her line at Book Expo. Either way, I'm pretty happy I chose the line I did, because I thought this book was fantastic.

To begin with, I loved Ember's power. That's probably a given, since I already said that I enjoyed Shatter Me and Rogue, but it still needs to be said. I just love the idea of it, and I could read a thousand books about super powers like it and still be in love with it. Honestly, I kind of love -everyone's- powers in this book. Her sister is a super healer who can bring people back to life, one of the girls is an empath, there's a telepath, and... well, one of the boys is an 'enerpath', and that's a made up term, so don't ask me entirely what that means. Something about being able to bring down houses and make garbage cans split by draining energy. Wish I knew more about it, but it seems pretty cool.

The plot of this book is pretty interesting, and I liked following Ember on her path to figure out all the mysteries that are thrown her way. It's a little predictable at times, but overall, it's a pretty good storyline, and I look forward to any potential sequels that follow up on the many topics that were brought up but never concluded.

 Character-wise, I felt that most of the characters were very real, very human and flawed in the right ways. Ember's little sister was a very good character, and definitely encompassed to me what a 6 year old is. At times I wanted to hug her and cuddle her, and other times I kind of wanted someone to just take away all her pretty toys and make her stand in a corner for a while (or worse), because she was so typically bratty. But at the same time there are slight exceptions. The main love interest, Hayden, was my least favorite character possible, because he was so...meh. He was super powerful, magically able to handle Ember's death touch, gorgeous, and honestly...kind of bland, too me. Even his big background reveal towards the end of the book, which I obviously can't spoil for you...well, it was a really big issue, but it was also the exact same kind of thing I've read in a million other stories. The love story itself is deep with angst and happiness and fluff, but I feel the male lead could have been better.

That being said, I think the book was really good overall. I'd definitely recommend it, particularly to fans of Shatter Me who want to try a book of the same flavor minus the dystopian influence. I'd also recommend it to the readers who are hungry for semi-paranormal stories that don't involve vampires, fairies, or werewolves for once. Finally, all the current YA readers who are dying for another love story without the love triangle influence, like I typically am, should definitely pick up a copy of Cursed when it comes out on September 18, 2012!