Friday, June 29, 2012

Review: This Is Not A Test by Courtney Summers

Title: This Is Not a Test
Author: Courtney Summers
Publishers: St. Martin's Press
Release Date:  June 19th, 2012
Source: Purchased

My Rating: 5/5

It’s the end of the world. Six students have taken cover in Cortege High but shelter is little comfort when the dead outside won’t stop pounding on the doors. One bite is all it takes to kill a person and bring them back as a monstrous version of their former self.

To Sloane Price, that doesn’t sound so bad. Six months ago, her world collapsed and since then, she’s failed to find a reason to keep going. Now seems like the perfect time to give up. As Sloane eagerly waits for the barricades to fall, she’s forced to witness the apocalypse through the eyes of five people who actually want to live.

But as the days crawl by, the motivations for survival change in startling ways and soon the group’s fate is determined less and less by what’s happening outside and more and more by the unpredictable and violent bids for life—and death—inside.

When everything is gone, what do you hold on to?
(Summary from Goodreads)
An hour and a half bus ride and over a year of waiting and finally I had This Is Not a Test in my hands. It was worth every second of anticipation.

I have been a Courtney Summers fan since my friend Crim convinced me to read Cracked Up To Be over two years ago. Her writing style is unique, and captivating, and her stories are impossible to ignore. When I found out that This Is Not a Test would be a zombie novel, I was kind of petrified. Courtney Summers doesn’t write happy books. She writes honest, in-your-face novels that attack issues lots of people tend to shy away from. Combine that with a zombie novel (which NEVER end well) and you have an emotionally trying novel. And it was. But I loved every word, every page, and every heartbreaking second.

I knew from the first page that I was invested in this novel. Summers demands control of your emotions. She doesn’t let you just peek into the story, she pulls you in and makes you a part of it. Every decision the characters make weighs heavily on your conscience, every pound on the door reverberates inside your head, and every painful thought punctures a hole in your heart. This wasn’t just a zombie story. It was a story of family, abuse, and survival.

Sloane Price was a stunning character, in the very literal sense. I was shocked by her back-story, and utterly paralyzed by her lack of will to live. In a typical “zombie” book, all the characters are clamoring to survive, but Sloane had already convinced herself there was no point long before the apocalypse. It was hard not to get swept up and dragged down by her pain, all the while hoping she would find something to save her. It’s hard to really put into words my feelings on Sloane. I think you have to read the novel and enter her mind to understand this intricate character.

The other characters in the novel each had their own story and impact on the novel. These weren’t just cardboard characters, but instead intriguing and complex. I adored Rhys and his fierce will, Grace and her kindness and Cary and his bravery. I wanted to comfort Harrison, and although I wanted to slap Trace more than anything, his loyalty was unmatched. But, these characters weren’t perfect. They weren’t just kind and loyal and brave, they were also cruel and secretive and broken. This story truly wasn’t about zombies, but about the six people trapped in that school, trapped in their pain, and their blurred lines between life and death.   

Although the zombie element was not a very big part of the book, I was terrified by it. I was so wrapped up in the story that any bump or creek in my own house had me jumping up expecting a ravenous horde of undead at my window. My heart was racing in fear and anticipation during the whole story.

The last thing I want to mention is the cover. I think it’s absolutely perfect. I adore the coloring, the blood spatter, and the girl on the cover. It captures the atmosphere of the novel perfectly.

This Is Not a Test is going to be one of those books I read again and again. It’s a book everyone should read. Because it is honestly amazing. Simply, utterly, and completely amazing. I can go into detail about the characters, and plot, etc. but it all boils down to that. It’s amazing. This is a book no one can miss, and it is, without a doubt, my favourite book I’ve read this year. Courtney Summers has outdone herself. Her talent has reached an entirely new level.

- Ciara who is lost at midnight 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Stacking The Shelves (6)

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews in which bloggers share the books they stacked their shelves with during the week!

Only two books added to my stack this week, which is one more than I planned. I was lucky enough to pick up one of the only copies in Ontario of the amazing Courtney Summers This Is Not A Test. I have been looking forward to this book for well over a year and I absolutely loved it! The other book I bought for the upcoming Smart Chicks Kick It Tour in Montreal! Here are the books (sans camera, again, since it's semi-broken):

- This Is Not A Test by Courtney Summers
- Darkest Mercy (Wicked Lovely #5) by Melissa Marr (I have yet to read books 3-5 of the Wicked Lovely series)

What books did you stack your shelves with this week?

- Ciara who is lost at midnight

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Review: The Golden Lily by Richelle Mead

Title: The Golden Lily (Bloodlines #2)
Author: Richelle Mead
Publisher: Razorbill
Release Date: June 12th, 2012
Source: Borrowed ARC

My Rating: 5/5

Sydney Sage is an Alchemist, one of a group of humans who dabble in magic and serve to bridge the worlds of humans and vampires. They protect vampire secrets—and human lives.

Sydney would love to go to college, but instead, she’s been sent into hiding at a posh boarding school in Palm Springs, California–tasked with protecting Moroi princess Jill Dragomir from assassins who want to throw the Moroi court into civil war. Formerly in disgrace, Sydney is now praised for her loyalty and obedience, and held up as the model of an exemplary Alchemist.

But the closer she grows to Jill, Eddie, and especially Adrian, the more she finds herself questioning her age-old Alchemist beliefs, her idea of family, and the sense of what it means to truly belong. Her world becomes even more complicated when magical experiments show Sydney may hold the key to prevent becoming Strigoi—the fiercest vampires, the ones who don’t die. But it’s her fear of being just that—special, magical, powerful—that scares her more than anything. Equally daunting is her new romance with Brayden, a cute, brainy guy who seems to be her match in every way. Yet, as perfect as he seems, Sydney finds herself being drawn to someone else—someone forbidden to her.

When a shocking secret threatens to tear the vampire world apart, Sydney’s loyalties are suddenly tested more than ever before. She wonders how she’s supposed to strike a balance between the principles and dogmas she’s been taught, and what her instincts are now telling her.

Should she trust the Alchemists—or her heart?
This is one of the hardest reviews I've had to write. How can I properly describe the tug on my heart when I think about The Golden Lily? The smile that wants to form on my lips? Can I really explain why this book makes me completely giddy and happy? I certainly hope I can, but I will say this: it was everything I wanted and so much more.

I had been counting down the days until The Golden Lily was released since turning the last page of Bloodlines. It was the perfect spin-off series and I couldn't wait until I got to continue the story. Luckily, my fellow Ottawa blogger Emilie from Emilie's Book World received an ARC that she was willing to loan me. I read it obsessively!

Richelle Mead has a way with stories. All the elements from the characters to the plot to the intrigue etc., are woven together with precision and dedication. This isn't just a bunch of words thrown on a page, it's a carefully crafted world that hits no false note. Something I think Mead has perfected in The Golden Lily is character development. Every single character has their own unique and distinct personality. The major characters feel like they're your friends and the minor ones have a presence all their own. Mead makes you committed to the characters. She makes you have an emotional investment in each and every one. Even the villains!

Speaking of characters, I have loved Sydney Sage since she popped onto the page in Blood Promise. I think she's just a fantastic character, with many different layers to her. She is so witty and intelligent; a woman to look up to. The banter and charisma between her Adrian was one of the best parts of the book! And Adrian. Oh, Adrian. I have always been a hardcore Team Dimitri fan (seriously, I have a shirt that says "Belikov" on the back) but Adrian has won his own place in my heart. I loved getting to see the softer, scarred side of him that he always hides. It made me love him even more. I also was really happy to have Dimitri back in the story (*cheers really loudly*). Although he wasn't a main character, it was great to have his stoic, sweet self.

The plot itself, although easy to guess, kept my eyes glued to the page. I desperately needed to see what would happen. I feel like the over-arching plot line of the series has been introduced, which makes me really excited for the next few novels. I am really interested to see how it will all tie together.

Overall, I love love loved this book. It made my emotions soar, and kept a smile permanently glued to my face. Still whenever I think about it, my heart gives a little squeeze and all I want to do is pick it up again. This was one of my favorite Richelle Mead books, and considering she's one of my favorite authors, that's saying a lot. Read. This. Book. You will fall in love with it.

- Ciara who is lost at midnight

Find this book: Amazon | Goodreads | Richelle Mead's website

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Stacking the Shelves (5)

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews in which bloggers share the books they stacked their shelves with during the week!

So, I had gone on a mini book ban the past couple weeks, but kind of threw that out the window these last few days. In my defense, the thrift store books were at a VERY good price ($12 total for all five), and I had planned on picking up the latest Soul Screamers novel since September. But I digress. Here are the books new to my shelf this week!

Bought (Thrift Store):
- The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
- Summer Boys (Summer Boys #1) by Hailey Abbott
- Sun-Kissed (Au Pairs #3) by Melissa de la Cruz
- You Against Me by Jenny Downham
- Let it Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle

Bought (Chapters):
- Before I Wake (Soul Screamers #6) by Rachel Vincent (two weeks early! Already read and LOVE LOVE LOVED it)
- Crazy Hot (Au Pairs #4) by Melissa de la Cruz (on sale for $2!)

That's my haul this week! What did everyone else pick up?

- Ciara who is lost at midnight

Friday, June 15, 2012

Mini Blog Update + Cottage Pics!

Hi all!

So, I wanted to give you guys a bit of a heads-up about what's been going on in the past couple weeks (including my absence from the interwebz).

Basically, lots of things have been happening. As I mentioned last week, I came down with strep throat and was pretty sick most of the week. Then, as I was kind of feeling better, got hit with a 101 degree fever. Still have no clue why that happened, but it put me out of commission for a couple of days. Then, I was off to Gravenhurst, Ontario for a long awaited cottage trip.

The trip as simply amazing. I got to hang with family and friends (including one I hadn't seen in a few months!), ride on Sea-Doos, relax by the water, and many other things. It was one of the best vacations I've been on in a long time! Here are a couple pictures from the trip!
The view from the cottage!
My friend and I on the Giant Muskoka Chair
Sunset on the dock
Riding the Sea-Doos! (Best invention ever)
Half-way through the trip, I got a phone call from my mom, telling me that some family from Ireland were coming to visit, staying at our house, and were arriving...tomorrow. My grandmother had to have surgery mid-week and they wanted to come to Canada and help out. So, by the time I returned home it was a hectic week of hospital visits, spending time with my family, and hoping and praying the surgery would go well. And it did! My grandmother is one of the most impressive people I've ever met. She is seriously underweight, but underwent open-heart surgery and was awake and talking the very next day. We were so delighted!

So, after all the sickness, vacation, family time, and hospital trips, my blog has pretty neglected recently. Only my long ago scheduled Waiting On Wednesday picks was posted. Sorry about that! I'm going to try my best to get caught up this weekend, once my family returns home. Everything seems to have calmed down, some what, so I'm taking the time to both relax, and to get caught up on everything that's been put on the back-burner!

I hope everyone has had a less stressful week! And have a happy weekend!
- Ciara who is lost at midnight

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Waiting On Wednesday (14): UnWholly by Neal Shusterman

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, in which bloggers talk about the books they are most eager for!
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release Date: August 28th, 2012
Thanks to Connor, Lev, and Risa—and their high-profile revolt at Happy Jack Harvest Camp—people can no longer turn a blind eye to unwinding. Ridding society of troublesome teens while simultaneously providing much-needed tissues for transplant might be convenient, but its morality has finally been brought into question. However, unwinding has become big business, and there are powerful political and corporate interests that want to see it not only continue, but also expand to the unwinding of prisoners and the impoverished.
Cam is a product of unwinding; made entirely out of the parts of other unwinds, he is a teen who does not technically exist. A futuristic Frankenstein, Cam struggles with a search for identity and meaning and wonders if a rewound being can have a soul. And when the actions of a sadistic bounty hunter cause Cam’s fate to become inextricably bound with the fates of Connor, Risa, and Lev, he’ll have to question humanity itself.
Rife with action and suspense, this riveting companion to the perennially popular Unwind challenges assumptions about where life begins and ends—and what it means to live.

Thought-provoking is probably the best phrase to describe Unwind by Neal Shusterman. I read it about four years ago and I have never forgotten about it, or had its impact lessen. In fact, there is a scene in the novel that haunts me to this day. 

UnWholly is the highly anticipated sequel that many, myself included, have been waiting YEARS for. Although I thought Unwind could be a stand alone novel, I'm really interested to see where the story will go next. I'm sure Shusterman will deliver another heart-stopping novel, rampant with action, anguish and a tiny persistent sliver of hope.

- Ciara who is lost at midnight

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Waiting On Wednesday (13): Nevermore by James Patterson

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, in which bloggers talk about the books they are most eager for!

Publisher: Little Brown and Company
Release Date: August 6th, 2012

One last chance...
For Max, Fang, Angel, Iggy, Nudge, and Gazzy.
Before it all ends.

Are you ready for the final chapter? Are you ready for the ultimate flight? Because THIS IS IT. One last incredible, explosive adventure with an astonishing ending that no one could have seen coming. (Summary from Goodreads)

Oh, Maximum Ride. You happen to be one of my heroes.

This is one of those series that has captivated me from page one. Thrilling, heart-pounding, and happy-making, every book has made me love the series more and more. There is never a dull moment in these books, and it never takes me more than a day to read them. I just can't put them down! The characters are fantastic, the plot line is original and engaging, and the books are filled with so much heart it constantly makes me smile. I'm going to be sad to see this one end, and will miss Fang and Max like crazy! But, I don't doubt I will love every single second of Nevermore.

I just recently finished Angel the seventh Maximum Ride novel and man did it end on a cliffhanger! I was lucky and purchased the deluxe limited edition which included extras like bookmarks, a poster (currently hanging on my wall), the first few chapters of Nevermore and the top ten questions that will be answered in Nevermore. The questions literally made my jaw drop and now I am desperate to read it! I can't wait to finally find out the truth!

If you love action, admirable heroes, and mutant bird kids, pick up the Maximum Ride series. You'll be glad you did!

- Ciara who is lost at midnight   

Monday, June 4, 2012

Review: Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver

Title: Pandemonium (Delirium #2)
Author: Lauren Oliver
Publisher: Harper Teen
Release Date: February 28th, 2012
Source: Won (from Emilie's Book World)

My Rating: 4/5
I'm pushing aside the memory of my nightmare,
pushing aside thoughts of Alex,
pushing aside thoughts of Hana and my old school,
like Raven taught me to do.
The old life is dead.
But the old Lena is dead too.
I buried her.
I left her beyond a fence,
behind a wall of smoke and flame. 

*Warning: Plot spoilers for Delirium and Pandemonium*
I was pretty nervous to read this book. I absolutely, totally, and completely LOVED Delirium. The last paragraph still gives me goosebumps, and I want the quote "I love you. Remember. They cannot take it." tattooed somewhere on my body. While I had heard solely good things about the novel I also heard it was, in typical Lauren Oliver fashion, a heart-breaker. I couldn't resist the temptation long (or the frantic tweets from my friend Crim) and finally picked it up. 

There were lots of things I loved about this book. In Delirium we were exposed to life in regular society: rigid, controlled, and loveless. Lena, as part of this society, follows the rules and doesn't question them. After the events at the end of the novel, Lena is a changed woman. She is brought into The Wilds and turned into a self-reliant survivor. It was very interesting, and a part of the novel I loved, to see Lena transform from this docile young girl, to a fierce member of the resistance. Lauren Oliver switched styles beautifully, darkening the tone of the series and giving us a harsh glimpse of life outside society's walls. I really liked having an overall view of this world, something I find is often lacking in many books. And the writing! Man, Lauren Oliver is crazy fantastic. She knows how to write a powerful and engaging story with believable characters and a fantastic plot line. Her writing itself never fails to amaze me. She gives me chills!

There were a few new characters introduced Pandemonium that left me with mixed emotions. I really liked Raven but I constantly felt suspicious of her intentions, and could never completely bring myself to believe in her. The same went with many members of The Wilds. And then there was Julian. Although I thought he was a perfectly fine person, what he caused I was not a fan of. So, this is when I talk about why I couldn't give Pandemonium five stars. It's a bit spoiler-y, as I mentioned above, so read on with caution.

Julian and his relationship with Lena kind of ruined the book for me. In Delirium the idea of love conquering everything was so prominent I felt like it defined the book. I've been a bit frustrated with YA romances recently, but Delirium was different and I loved all the messages it was sending. It was strong, powerful, and consuming. It made me want to get up and preach love from the rooftops! It made me so happy to live in a world where love was cherished. But, I felt like this message of hope that was said in Delirium was undermined in Pandemonium. For Lena to very quickly and easily fall into a new love, so soon after the loss of her previous one, confused the message of "love conquering all" for me.

I was also frustrated with the ending. Lauren Oliver is a fantastic writer and the Delirium series is superb both in concept and in execution. So, was it necessary to throw in that cliffhanger? I knew it was coming, and it was frustrating to have it thrown in at the end. Readers of the Delirium series will pick up Requiem without question. I felt it unnecessary to leave us hanging that way, and lessened the impact of the novel for me. I love cliffhangers, but I was not a fan of this one.

Now, I did love Pandemonium, don't get me wrong. It was a fantastic sequel in almost every way. Yes, there were a few things that irked me, but they didn't ruin the book for me. The Delirium series is one of the best romantic dystopians out there, and I highly recommend them! I'm very, very excited for Requiem and I can't wait to see how it all ends.

- Ciara who is lost at midnight

Find this book: Amazon | Goodreads | Lauren Oliver's Website

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Stacking the Shelves (4)

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews in which bloggers share the books they stacked their shelves with during the week!
If you follow me on Twitter, you may have noticed a few angry tweets earlier in the week about coming down with strep throat. I've been feeling pretty awful because of it, and have spent lots of time this week laying on my couch watching TV (Cake Boss marathon, anyone?). So, I haven't really been feeling up to reviewing and have found myself in a bit of a slump. Hopefully that will be all resolved soon! I did pick up two books this week because my mom decided to buy me a book to make me feeling better. I ended up picking up another cause of some extra money I was owed. So, here are the book I got this week (no picture cause my camera is missing)!

- Shadow Bound by Rachel Vincent
- Fever by Lauren DeStefano (I've already read (and LOVED) this one, but I hadn't purchased it yet)

What was on your shelves this week?

- Ciara who is lost at midnight