Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Review: Possession by Elana Johnson

Book Description via Goodreads:

E-ARC, 416 pages
June 7, 2011, Simon & Schuster

Vi knows the Rule: Girls don't walk with boys, and they never even think about kissing them. But no one makes Vi want to break the Rules more than Zenn...and since the Thinkers have chosen him as Vi's future match, how much trouble can one kiss cause? The Thinkers may have brainwashed the rest of the population, but Vi is determined to think for herself.

But the Thinkers are unusually persuasive, and they're set on convincing Vi to become one of them...starting by brainwashing Zenn. Vi can't leave Zenn in the Thinkers' hands, but she's wary of joining the rebellion, especially since that means teaming up with Jag. Jag is egotistical, charismatic, and dangerous--everything Zenn's not. Vi can't quite trust Jag and can't quite resist him, but she also can't give up on Zenn.

This is a game of control or be controlled. And Vi has no choice but to play.

Source: S&S Galley Grab (Thank you!)

My Thoughts:

Vi was incredibly talented, naturally funny, loyal but short-tempered with a tendency to be violent. After losing her father and her sister, she was convinced that the Thinkers got rid of them. She started breaking the rules, rebelling in her own way until one day she was arrested and imprisoned with a stranger.

Vi was involved in a love triangle with a Goodie and a Baddie. Zenn was Vi’s best friend and match. He has always been there for her, listening to her and protecting her. He was her comfort, her joy and her future. Jag was the Baddie that she met in prison. Mischievous, funny and alluring, he captured Vi’s attention and curiosity. He was not as 'bad' as she thought he would be. Jag was just different and he filled her with things she had never known and feelings that she has never felt before. It was like a heart tug-of-war for Vi as she fought to remind herself of Zenn and her future with him and as she started to fall in love with Jag. I favored Jag over Zenn. I thought that even though Vi has only known him for a few weeks, he has changed her and her life in ways that Zenn could never do.

In a world where control was highly valued, Vi needed to decide whether she wanted to control or to be controlled. She needed to figure out who she was and who she would believe in. But what if being good and being bad meant different things in different places, according to different people? To be controlled meant to bow down to the Thinkers and to be tied to their words. Vi wanted freedom. But to be free would mean to be bad. Could she really turn back from everything she has known? I loved how Johnson highlighted freedom, beliefs and resistance in this novel. From the perspective of a curious and rebellious teen, her black and white society was dissected, explored until the gray in between these two sides bled and showed itself. The advanced technology was one of the things that I liked in Possession. Everything was made easy for them, a hundred times easier than it is for us. The ‘tech’ that I loved most was a square tube that could produce any food that you desire.

The unpredictability, fast pace and Vi’s fun narrative made Possession a quick, enjoyable dystopian read that might appeal to readers of Inside Out and Outside In. It has parts that romance readers and paranormal readers will also like. I have read not-so-good reviews on this novel, particularly about the novel being confusing. The thing is, I think that in this novel the author gives us the stimuli and the freedom to think. I guess that we should fill those little in between spaces with our own thoughts.


If you want to read Possession, you can win it here (for International readers) and here as a part of the S&S Dystopian Prize Pack (for US readers.)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Review: Betrayal by Mayandree Michel

BookDescription via Goodreads:

Paperback, 662 pages
March 26, 2011, Mayandree Michel

Where there is love and power, there is always... betrayal.

At seventeen, Cordelia is an ordinary teen with an extraordinary and frightening secret. A secret that induces vivid dreams which she not only experiences true love, but crippling fear while barely escaping with her life each night.

After a life altering event, Cordelia has an unexpected encounter with Evan, the mysterious boy from her dreams, who reveals who and what she is – a descendant of the Greek gods. At that moment everything she knows of her world is a lie, and she must leave the present and go into the past to assume the role she was put on this earth for – safeguarding her ancient empire amidst evil forces that toil hastily to destroy it.

In a race against time, Cordelia must decide if she is truly a part of this dangerous world, or risk defying the gods, and ultimately lose the boy who has put a claim on her heart.

Source: Mayandree Michel (Thank you!) For Betrayal Blog Tour

My Thoughts: 

Betrayal started out like most paranormal romance novels: a teenage girl wanted nothing but to get away from her boring birthplace – Nickel City. The following events surprised me. These twists and turns spiced up the novel and were one of the things that I liked about the novel.

Cordelia found out that she was one of the direct descendants of the Greek gods and that she was betrothed to the gorgeous Evan – the mysterious boy from her dreams. The only problem was that she did not remember her life as a descendant. She experienced a troubling and crucial stage in her life. A great responsibility was placed on her shoulders that no one else can ever carry. What was worse was that they expected her to have her memory back an hour after she returned to the place where she supposedly belonged. Cordelia was faced with a surreal reality that was very difficult for her to accept. Without her memory, she had no powers. Vulnerable, she depended on Evan and the people, whom she was forced to accept as family, from Viktor and his minions and the Apolluon vampires. The only thing that I did not like about her was some redundancy of her thoughts.

The empire of the Ischeros was composed of several families. Each family possessed inherited gifts from their direct Olympian ancestor. There was a hierarchy in the empire and a marriage system. The children were matched with each other depending on their family rank. Cordelia’s match was Evan. Even without her memory, she felt a strong attraction to him and even a little sense of familiarity. Evan was protective, sweet, thoughtful and gentle. But in the trying time that they were in, this wonderful side was overshadowed by his brooding side. Cordelia was overwhelmed with his love for her – something she could not reciprocate. But Evan was not the only one who received her love in the past. His rival was Gerald, a human. He was amazingly and patiently in love with Cordelia. He was the kind of person who does not give up easily. I was torn. Gerald seemed too good and too sweet to give up. He was fragile and normal and he had the ability to make her feel as if no danger and no worries existed in the world. But Evan was her soulmate, the one who shared her worries, protected her and adored her. He was her partner-to-be in running the empire.

I enjoyed Cordelia’s lovelife, her curious adventures, the constant threat of Viktor and the vampires, the betrayal, the untold secrets and the unexpected twists. Two characters really stood out for me: Viktor and Winston. Although half the time I wanted Viktor to be banished or to be dead. I found his words haunting. He was blinded by his rage and his greed for power. Winston was Gerald’s dead older brother. He was privy to important information. He would become one of the persons to help Cordelia. The ending was awesome. Michel had me smiling and aching at the same time. Every drama, every doubt, every suspicion and every ounce of power and emotion led to this dilemma-charged ending.

The writing was quite flowery and beautiful. Although there were editing mistakes, this book had potential. This would be better if the writing would be polished. Despite the fact that the story was long, it had a certain appeal that made me read on. Betrayal is an enjoyable paranormal romance with fresh concepts. The originality and the promising love triangle (the said love triangle is one of the reasons why I WANT the sequel) will entertain readers and seekers of unpredictable reads. I recommend this to paranormal romance readers who are patient since the book is quite long.


Saturday, May 28, 2011

Addition to Dystopian Domination: Solstice by PJ Hoover

Hi everyone! So…you all know about Dystopian Domination, right? Well, Kai and I added another author and a new release novel to our line-up. You’ve probably heard about this novel and have seen it around the blogosphere - Solstice by PJ Hoover

Two of the things I like most in YA come together in this novel: mythology and dystopia. I’m incredibly curious to know how! In the meantime, you can check all the Dystopian Domination posts here.

Where Mythology and Dystopia meet...
Piper’s world is dying. Global warming kills every living thing on Earth, and each day brings hotter temperatures and heat bubbles which threaten to destroy humanity. Amid this Global Heating Crisis, Piper lives with her mother who suffocates her more than the chaotic climate. When her mother is called away to meet the father Piper has been running from her entire life, Piper seizes an opportunity for freedom.

But when Piper discovers a world of mythology she never knew existed, she realizes her world is not the only one in crisis. While Gods battle for control of the Underworld, Piper's life spirals into turmoil, and she struggles to find answers to secrets kept from her since birth. And though she’s drawn to her classmate Shayne, he may be more than he claims. Piper has to choose whom she can trust and how she can save the people she loves even if it means the end of everything she’s ever known.

Spotted: CK Kelly Martin + YA Contemporary Giveaway!

Hi everyone! So…it’s been a while since I featured a contemporary author. Today, C. K. Kelly Martin and I have something special in store for you! After reading her novel, The Lighter Side of Life and Death and loving it, I have asked her a few questions. I hope you stick around for a huge giveaway after the interview.

As a female author, how were you able to build Mason's voice?

I’m not someone who sees gender as a binary thing, although we’re overwhelmingly socialized that way. Society loves to box people in! There was an article in the Toronto Star recently about a couple (http://www.parentcentral.ca/parent/babiespregnancy/babies/article/995112--parents-keep-child-s-gender-secret) who are trying to raise their baby in a genderless way, refusing to tell other people whether it’s a boy or a girl. I found it inspiring. In an email the baby’s mother had written on the subject she said, “In fact, in not telling the gender of my precious baby, I am saying to the world, ‘Please can you just let Storm discover for him/herself what s (he) wants to be?!.” Their eldest son, now 5, has also been encouraged by his parents to be who he is without feeling constrained by gender. In a handmade book full of his drawings and poems there was a page where he’d written (in purple and pink lettering), “Help girls do boy things. Help boys do girl things. Let your kid be whoever they are!”

There are definitely very different social rules and expectations assigned to people depending on their gender (and race, age, religion, class, etc.). It’s more socially acceptable for males to be aggressive and angry than it is for them to be sad, for example, whereas females are often regarded as bitchy and overbearing if they act in the exact same way and are expected to be more sensitive and nurturing. Individuals react to the rules placed upon them in various ways depending on their personality.

So mainly I was aware of the different social rules placed on Mason than say, placed on me, and how those would have shaped him, being the person he is, over the years. Other than that his voice, of course, comes from his individual character – that he’s a very easy-going, friendly sixteen-year-old with a passion for acting.

What kind of research did you do for Mason's life as a teenage guy?

I do a lot of sociological reading about teenagers on an ongoing basis and I do things like haunt sex ed sites (to see the types of questions young people are asking) and eavesdrop on real-life conversations whenever I can. But in a way every guy (and not just the guys because like I said, I don’t think people are their gender) I’ve ever hung out with is research. I’m also a big theatre fan (in my case just watching rather than acting) so I felt like I could really connect with Mason’s excitement for the theatre. 

Your book is quite scandalous in the romance department! (But I loved it.) How did you write these scenes? Were you hesitant in some parts? or did it come out naturally?

I’m so glad you liked it! I try to write about sex in an open but not overly graphic way. I don’t want to sensationalize but neither do I want to skip the scenes entirely because it's an important subject that teens are dealing with and thinking about in their own lives. Basically I just aim to be honest. It’s the same way that I’ve written about sex in all my young adult books. It does come pretty naturally but not long ago I wrote a book with a twenty-year-old main character and I noticed that with that book I felt free to go a bit further with the sex scenes so obviously some part of my brain is aware of who the readership for a novel will be.

In writing this contemporary novel, did you base some of the parts on real-life experiences (whether it is yours or other people's experiences)

None of the scenes come directly from life but I think there are always some indirect overlaps, like when I was in university I used to sometimes run into this guy I’d gone to high school with on the bus. He was nineteen and was going out with someone who was twenty-seven and at the time that seemed like a notable age difference to me (though I didn’t consciously think about that when I started writing Lighter Side).

There’s a scene in Lighter Side where Miracle doesn’t want to meet an actor she and Mason just watched in a play because her admiration for him is so strong that it’s freaking her out and I can definitely get like that. When I hero worship someone being in their presence makes me so nervous that I either don’t know what to say or I can’t stop talking. Years and years ago I once waited outside a theatre for Canadian stage actor Brent Carver and thank God he was supremely nice and listened to me rave about great he was in, like, the ten plays I’d seen him in.    

As for Mason and Kat getting together after a party in Chapter One, I think we all either know people who have done things they regret after drinking too much or have been those people ourselves. And I think the worry about crossing a friendship line – that it could either potentially mean a terrific evolution of your relationship or that it could break your friendship entirely – is a pretty common one that I’ve certainly had myself in the past.

What do you want your readers to pick up from your novel?

I think one big thing is that it’s best to be honest about your emotions because Mason and Kat initially aren’t (Mason doesn’t even tell her that it’s his first time!) and later Mason’s expectations of his relationship with Colette are also markedly different than hers are. A lot of things get messed up when people refuse to be truthful.

In my opinion tricky topics are the ones which need talking about the most, dragging out into the light, so although some people will be uncomfortable about the age difference between Mason (sixteen) and Colette (twenty-four by the end of the book) maybe reading this book will show them how a relationship like that can come to happen, whether they agree with it or not. There are a ton of gray areas in life and I would hope my books generally would encourage people not to be judgmental of others because they, or someone they know, might act a similar way in a similar situation.

Thanks very much for the interview, Precious! It’s been fun chatting with you. 

*CLOSED* YA Contemporary Giveaway! *CLOSED*

C.K. was so generous and so awesome to offer her books to two lucky winners! One main winner and one runner up. The best part is that this is open internationally!

Runner up prize pack consists of:

Signed paperback copies of C. K.’s summer books – One Lonely Degree and The Lighter Side of Life and Death

Main prize pack consists of:
  • Signed paperback copy of One Lonely Degree 
  • Signed paperback copy of The Lighter Side of Life and Death 
  • The winner’s choice of an Amazon.com, Amazon.ca or Amazon.co.uk gift certificate for $25 or the equivalent in British pounds (£15) 
  • A copy of her upcoming book, My Beating Teenage Heart (C. K. will forward this to the winner when it’s released at the end of September)

Be a follower.
Leave your email address (so I can contact you if you win)
Open internationally!
Ends on July 1, 2011!

Extra entries (not required):

+1 Tell me which one of C.K.’s books are you most looking forward to reading!
+2 Spread the word: tweet, sidebar, facebook, tumblr, etc! (Leave link)
+5 Blog about this (Leave link)

Review: The Lighter Side of Life and Death by C. K. Kelly Martin

Book Description via Goodreads:

Paperback, 240 pages
May 26, 2010, Random House Children’s Books

Acclaimed YA author C. K. Kelly Martin offers a sexy, soulful story of one confused boy, two girls, and all the complications that ensue in this romantic feel-good love story that celebrates friendship, first love, first lust, and second chances.

Sixteen-year-old Mason Rice is having the night of his life. He's just delivered an incredible performance in the school play, basked in celebratory afterglow vibes at the party of the year, and lost his virginity to one of his best friends—the gorgeous but previously unobtainable Kat Medina. His dreams are coming true, and the future looks golden.

Unfortunately, Kat sees things very differently. Crossing the friendship line was a big mistake, and all she wants is to forget it and move on, even if that means forgetting Mason altogether. What's a guy to do? Well, if you're Mason, you hang your hopes on the first attractive twenty-three-year-old you cross paths with. At first Mason wonders if he's imagining the chemistry . . . until Colette invites him over to her apartment. Suddenly Mason's living in a whole new world.

Source: C. K. Martin (Thank you!)

My Thoughts:

In the YA world that’s dominated by heroines, Mason’s narrative was a breath of fresh air. I found his confused state, as well as everything he felt, very realistic and natural for a teenage guy. After living the best day of his life – delivering a great performance, enjoying the best party of the year, and losing his virginity to his best friend and crush, Kat – lady luck seemed to grow tired of him and waltzed out of his life.

What I loved most about The Lighter Side of Life and Death was the emotional chaos that ensued. It was one wild tangle of love, attraction, lust, yearning, jealousy and confusion. It reminded me of how my classmates acted when I was in high school. The fact that this novel reminded me of those years was a success in the part of the author. She delivered the right feelings through Mason. Mason’s family was an imperfect one with a great amount of conflicts and friction. I found their interaction very strained, barely okay. But it reflected the difficulty of adjusting to other people and accepting them as part of the family.

To be honest, I was annoyed at Kat and yet I could not blame her for how she reacted. She has been best friends with Mason and Jamie for years. Both of the guys have been crushing on her for a while. Jamie was angry at Mason and had been evading him. Each conversation and interaction with Kat became more and more strained.

After meeting the sexy 23-year-old Colette, who also happened to be his stepmom’s sister’s best friend, he was undeniably drawn. I loved every bit of their forbidden love. Without being graphic, Martin still delivered the hot and steamy quality of the scenes. But it was a relationship without commitments – just sex and good times. To some extent, it made me sad for Mason. To have something that would never last and to know that he was not as important to her as she was to him must be hurtful.

The Lighter Side of Life and Death is a realistic take on the life of a teenager. It bared the flaws, the inexperienced and confused stage of a teen, as well as the strong desires that came with it. The amazing writing coupled with the easy-to-read narrative got me reading on until morning. Martin’s concept was an ordinary one. But I loved how she made this extraordinary by giving life to the characters and sewing heartfelt emotions in it.