Tuesday, 30 September 2014

On My Radar: Upcoming October Releases

   Ahh, October. The month of pumpkin spice lattes, school semestral breaks, and Halloween. And apparently, the month of amazing book releases! Once again, I've abstained from including sequels and have limited my list to the Top 10. But this is the month of The Blood of Olympus from Rick Riordan AND Alexandra Bracken's final The Darkest Minds novel, In The Afterlight! Cuckoo Confession, though: I, erm, haven't actually finished House of Hades yet. Errp. Anyway, enough digressing. Behold, the October 2014 releases!

The Young Elites by Marie Lu (October 7)
   For those of you familiar with Marie Lu's work, you'll know why this book is the one I am most excited for. For those who don't know her, here are three words to describe her Legend trilogy: Dystopian. Les. Misérables. The Young Elites is also a dystopian novel, and, just like Legend, concerns a deadly disease. Survivors of this disease seem to gain powers of a sort, and like in ancient Egypt, the king wants them all hunted down and killed. I love the fact that Adelina, the heroine, is missing an eye. That sounds so crude, but let's face it: we need more diversity in YA, especially in the protagonists. Enough pretty girls, give me a Mad-Eye Moody-esque heroine kicking ass. One thing that worries me is the hint of a love triangle, but if there's one thing Marie Lu has proven, it's that she can tell a love story that doesn't distract from her epic ones.

Queen of Someday by Sherry D. Ficklin (October 7)
   Finally, a YA book about Catherine the Great! I've read Robert K. Massie's biography on her, and have long wondered why Cat isn't given more attention. The cover of the book is gorgeous...but...who would wear something like that in freezing cold Russia? Plus, the tagline reads "One girl will bring an empire to is knees". Yep, that little lady wearing next to nothing while caressing herself looks like a real badass. Still, don't judge a book by its cover, yeah? Side note: I really wish people would stop perpetuating the myth that Catherine the Great had sex with a horse. Ucchh. It's degrading and completely false.

Stray by Elissa Sussman (October 7)
   There's not much in the Goodreads summary about this book, except that the heroine is your sheltered princess type. It does say that it's "a cross between The Handmaid's Tale and Wicked, with a dash of Grimm and Disney thrown in." That's all I need to hear. Still think they could've done a better job with the cover though. Shudder.

The Fall by Bethany Griffin (October 7)
   A retelling of Edgar Allan Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher, which I'm ashamed to say, I've yet to read. I've got one of those Poe anthologies on my bookshelf but have yet to read it. But this totally caught my eye: that eerie cover (is she facing front or back? Spooooky), a family curse, a sentient house? Okay, that last part kind of eeps me out a bit, so maybe I'll save this book for a warm, sunny day.

Sweet Unrest by Lisa Maxwell (October 8)
   It's set in New Orleans, which is all I really need to know. Plus points for the cover being a shot of the infamous Oak Alley Plantation. Okay, lemme nerd out for a bit and give you two fun facts: Nancy Drew's nightmare-inducing Ghost of Thornton Hall also based its setting off this plantation, and technically, it's not even in New Orleans. The Oak Alley Plantation is in Vacherie, which is like an hour away from Nawwlins (thanks Google Maps). But maybe it's a hint that the main characters go on a little road trip? ~*Foreshadowing*~ Plus the summary says it's got something to do with "a century-old vendetta" and voodoo. I'm down for that.

They All Fall Down by Roxanne St. Claire (October 14)
   Is it just me or are YA covers nowadays getting better and better? Look at this one for They All Fall Down. Okay, so the summary is pretty vague, but from what I can tell, there's a Hot-or-Not list going on at a high school, but someone is killing off those who placed. It's also labelled "Pretty Little Liars meets Final Destination". This could either be a deliciously creepy novel, or a majorly cliché-filled flop. Only time will tell.

Stitching Snow by R.C. Lewis (October 14)
   Ahhh, a sci-fi fairytale retelling. The previous ones I've read have been absolutely perfect: Of Beast and Beauty, The Lunar Chronicles...I really hope that Stitching Snow will live up to its genre's predecessors.

Even In Paradise by Chelsey Philpot (October 14)
   Even In Paradise feels a little Gatsby-like in its premise: "Charlotte certainly never expects she’ll be Julia’s friend. But almost immediately, she is drawn into the larger than-life-new girl’s world—a world of midnight rendezvous, dazzling parties, palatial vacation homes, and fizzy champagne cocktails...Charlotte soon realizes that Julia is still suffering from a tragedy. A tragedy that the Buchanan family has kept hidden … until now." Right now, I'm betting that the "tragedy" is probably along the lines of Julia accidentally killing a family member. Or that she's got some psychopathic issues to work out. Or that she got pregnant out of wedlock. Gasp. Or MAYBE, she's not even a Buchanan, but a changeling child. We'll seeeee. That ugly generic cover, though. 

Beware The Wild by Natalie C. Parker (October 21)
  A girl emerges out of a swamp. That's all I needed to read to get hooked. A GIRL. WALKS. OUT. OF. A. FREAKING. SWAMP. Is that so deliciously creepy?

Compulsion by Martina Boone (October 28)
   That title promises exactly the kind of Gothic flavor I love in books. Compulsion: The Heirs of Watson Island. It's got old family feuds, a Southern setting, and starcrossed lovers. Perfect. There is one thing though: the love interest's name is "Eight Beaufort". Which kinda sucks.

So that's it for my October list! Enjoy this wonderful month, my beautiful bookworms!

all credits go to Goodreads and Google Images!

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Cuckoo Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

   This Cuckoo Review has been a long time coming, so I promised myself that I wouldn't get to start Crown of Midnight (and therefore, finish it in time to get Heir of Fire!!) until I wrote this post.

   I was totally blown away by the Throne of Glass prequel, The Assassin's Blade (you can read every word of my fangirling here) and immediately picked up ToG after finishing it. It takes place about a year after the events of The Assassin's Blade. Celaena Sardothien has been granted a reprieve from the Endovier labor camp to compete for the position of King's Champion. What follows is The Hunger Games of Thrones (I'm actually quite proud of my ability to make that up, so don't roll your eyes).

   Because of my obvious love for this series, I'll just get my cons out of the way so we can resume the fangirling. Despite the King's Champion competition being marketed on the book flap and cover, there's actually little coverage of it. Sometimes Sarah J. Maas will just write "They had the second round yesterday and Celaena came in so-and-so place." I'm not complaining, because let's face it, who doubted that she would win in the end? It was just very bait-and-switchy. Instead, the book focuses on Celaena's allies and enemies within the palace. Crown Prince Dorian, ally (and...possible lover?). Nehemiah, the visiting princess from Eyllwe, ally. Chaol the Captain of the Guard, ally. Kaltain, your garden-variety gold-digger, enemy. Duke Perrington the Pervert, enemy. A slew of convicts and thieves all competing against her? More enemies.

   Second boohoo was SO. MANY. NAMES. THAT. START. WITH. A. C. Celaena. Chaol. Cain.There was a fight scene toward the end concerning all the C's, and I had to go back several times because I mistook one for the other: "Wait, I thought C was on C's side, why is C fighting C, and why is C helping C?" TOO MUCH.

   Last boohoo was the cliché nature of the villain. Cain was your typical Big Bad, and right from the off, Celaena hates him for no other reason than he looks big and bad. Obviously that escalates into something more complex, but still so expected. I would've loved a twist, particularly because the author would lead you to suspect other characters. It's one of those times where the guy you think did it would've been a better villain than the guy who really did it.

   To segue into the pros, there was one element of the story that fell in between pro and con. What I loved the most about the prequel was that it was firmly grounded in reality. Fictional reality, but in the world it moved in, it was reality. It didn't take you on flights of fancy about magical elves or a legendary stones that healed. It was a gritty story of a female assassin trying to earn her freedom. Throne of Glass continued that story, yes, but then midway through dumped a pot of magical glitter on the whole thing. Now, there were ghosts of queens past guiding her, a pendant that protects her, and evil creatures that were summoned from the netherworld. Again, it's not something I hold against the book, because it does make for a good story. But it's just not the story I fell in love with. I would've loved it more if Celaena wasn't a chosen one, but just a girl fighting for what she wants.

   For the many pros of this tale, let's start off with the Captain of the Guard, Chaol Westfall. While I'm not a fan of the name (Is it Kay-all? Chay-ol? Kowl?), the little bugger grows on you, much like he did on Celaena. His relationship with Celaena reminds me of the one between Sydney and Vaughn on Alias (one of my OTPs). It went from "This girl is getting too big for her britches, that's enough sass from you" to "Whoa, she just kicked that guy's ass, let me look on with adoring eyes" to "I'm her handler, as MC Hammer put it, I can't touch this" to "Screw it, I LOVE YOU (but not out loud)". While at the end of Throne of Glass, Chaol's romantic notions toward Celaena may be unclear, it is clear that he cares for her deeply. In one of the final battle scenes, *MID-LEVEL SPOILERS THIS WAY* Celaena gets beaten to a pulp and while Chaol can't rush to her side, he meets her eyes and tells her to get up. I think that part totally won me over, because he didn't treat her like a damsel who needed to be rescued. He didn't play the part of the white knight rushing to save her. No, he tells her that he knows she's stronger than she thinks, and that she can get up all on her own. Four for you, Chaol Westfall, you go, Chaol Westfall.

   Another great thing about Sarah J. Maas' series is the intricate worldbuilding. One thing I can't stand is if an author tries to do high fantasy, but does a half-assed job with building his or her world. Thankfully, Maas is not one of those authors. I've gone into this quite a bit with The Assassin's Blade, but I do just want to reiterate her talent at worldbuilding. I feel like Sarah J. Maas is kind of like a baby Tamora Pierce, and trust me when I say there is no greater compliment I can give than that.

   I love that we hate the King of Adarlan. I love that he has no redeeming qualities. In a time where villains are given a tragic backstory and made the victims (Don't get me started on this year's Maleficent film), it's nice to have a villain who is one just because he's a major douche. His relationship with his son, Dorian, is full-on abusive--verbally and physically. There's also a hint that Dorian's younger brother, who is away at school, has inherited their father's penchant for Joffreying about. I hope that we see him in later installments.

  Finally, the best part of the book, Celaena. She doesn't take any BS from anyone. She was the only female in the competition and kicked all the whiny boys' butts. She likes fancy clothes. She likes shopping. She loves her baths. She loves to read. She's sexy and she knows it. She's my Woman Crush Wednesday. This girl is just amazing. Almost as amazing as Celaena is her BFF, Nehemiah, aka, We All Know Zoe Saldana Would Be Cast As Her.

Things I would love to see in the next books:
-more on Cel's backstory
- the return of Kaltain, hell-bent on revenge
- a face-off between Celaena and Arobynn Hamel
- #TeamChaol


My rating: 9/10

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Cuckoo Review: Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke

Welcome back to another Cuckoo Review, my beautiful bookworms! This time, I'm taking on the lovely gothic romance, Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea.

   Let me just say, wow. What a title. I don't see how anyone could read it and not be intrigued. It's taken from Cab Calloway's song of the same name, which I am Googling as I type, and lemme tell, it does not sound anything like I thought it would (listen here). The story starts off Twilightesque: girl meets handsome boy in a small town, and is inexplicably drawn to him. Only in TDATDBS, there's more to it than aforementioned girl merely having the hots for Hot Stranger. You know that term, "The Devil made me do it?" This book revolves around that, and I gotta say, I like the way Tucholke spun her tale. We see right from the off that the way Violet is falling for River is not normal, and quite out of her control. Soon, strange events occur in town that makes you question, "I wonder why they would do such a thing?" The answer is plain and simple: The devil, quite literally, made them do it.

   I loved the characters, although I think the book could've done with more females. I counted two main females who appeared in more than a couple of scenes. That's it. The rest of the book was woefully testosterone-fuelled. I loved the appearance of *SPOILERS START* River's brother, and later on, his--gasp!!--half brother. This half brother made the ending for me. Brodie was, in every sense of the word, a psychopath. His character oozed crazed sadism, and it was interesting to see such a character in the YA realm. *SPOILERS END* One thing that amused, if not annoyed me were all the characters' names: Violet White. River West. Sunshine Black. John Leap. I couldn't take them as seriously as I could've, not with those names! I also felt that there was some distance between the reader and the protagonist. It's not something I can describe, but I didn't feel as much empathy for her than I did with other heroines.

   This novel was touted as a gothic story on the book flap, and I do love my gothic stories. If a book has any of the following:

1. Tangled, twisted family trees

2. Twins

3. Feral children

4. Mental illness

5. Old towns with long histories

...I will most likely pick them up. TDATDBS had numbers 1, 3, and 5. I loved the parts of the book when Violet went looking into her grandmother's past and connected it to the town's. That made for some delicious reading.

   While the book wasn't as amazeballs as I expected it to be, it was still, nonetheless, a very good book. As I was reading it, I was going back and forth on whether I would purchase the sequel, and in the end decided against it. That ending, though. It totally cinched it for me, and while I won't be rushing out to get the second book right away, it's good enough that, were I to get caught on a rainy day inside a bookshop, it'd probably be the first book I would get.

My review: 6.5/10

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Cuckoo Review: Tsarina by J.Nelle Patrick

   First off, I just want to say that I'm a Romanov buff. From my childhood watching the Anastasia animated film, to my tween years reading fictional diaries of Anastasia, to making the leap to nonfiction. Two of my favorite biographies are Julia P. Gelardi's accounts of the Romanov women. I also wrote my sophomore research paper (Hi Ms. de Guzman, if you're reading this!) on the Romanov dynasty, all 300 years of it. With all of that, I like to think I'm somewhat qualified enough to judge whether Tsarina was a good piece of historical fiction.

It was not.

   Right from the off, I had my qualms about this book. I love historical fiction, and usually don't mind when the author adds a little magic or sparkle to change up history. The summary of Tsarina, though, had me fidgeting. Not only was the protagonist a fictional character who never actually existed, but the plot revolved around a Faberge egg that supposedly had powers that kept the Romanov family safe. Umm.

   So many things were wrong with the book. Let's start with the factual information. First off, Alexei was thirteen when he died, but in the book, it is assumed that he has long been carrying on a flirtation with Natalya, the protagonist. Who, by the way, is seventeen. I'm pretty sure that's a statutory crime nowadays. The book never truly went into detail on why Natalya was chosen to be Alexei's intended. Although this might be nitpicking, I just want to add that in reality, Nicholas & Alexandra (Alexei's parents) married for love, and extended the same courtesy to all five of their children. They probably would never have arranged a marriage for Alexei, and certainly not at the tender age of thirteen. 

   Second, all throughout Tsarina, Natalya refers to the Russian city as St. Petersburg. The book is supposedly set around 1917-1918, but in 1914 St. Petersburg was renamed Petrograd because of anti-German sentiment during World War I. Like, couldn't the author be bothered to check this fact? Again, this could come off as nitpicky, but it just seems like sloppy work.

   J.Nelle Patrick also writes the book as if 20th century Russian history is common knowledge. What if the readers weren't too aware on what went down during the Russian revolution? What if they didn't know who Rasputin was? What if they didn't even really know who the Romanov family was? Who in the golly heck is Lenin? I think that with 300+ pages, she could've at least set down some exposition. She could've delved deeper into the Romanov background, and perhaps why the Russian people so badly wanted to revolt.

   What makes me even more ticked off is at the end of the book, the author's note says she did a lot of research for the book. Really. Really now. Somehow I, the most gullible person on earth, have a hard time believing that.

   Side note: I then also found out that J.Nelle Patrick was none other than Jackson Pearce, who is a popular YA fairytale reteller. I must say that had I known that before, I never would've picked this book up. That may sound catty, but we all have authors that we love and would read the scribbles off their coffee napkin, right? But then there are authors that we wouldn't touch with a ten-foot stick. Each to her own.

   What Jackson/J.Nelle did do right was creating a tough heroine. Natalya Kutepova was someone who had been pampered her whole life, yet she had a deep sense of patriotism and was willing to go to any means to save her country. I also loved that while she spent the whole novel with a hot man whose beliefs were everything she was against, she never wavered. She stuck to her guns. One of my favorite parts of the novel was Natalya and Leo’s conversation about the rich and poor:

Runner-up for best quote: "If I had things my way, I'd be delightfully fat. Fat and full of cakes and in Paris." A quote from the novel that I could easily imagine being reblogged thousands of times on Tumblr.

Yet, as much as I loved Natalya for her tenacity, there was one scene at the end of the novel that completely put me off. *SPOILERS* At the big showdown between Nat and Rasputin's daughter, Nat uses the Constellation Egg to freeze Maria Rasputin and all the other mystics to death. And afterward, she blatantly states that she feels no regret. Umm. You just murdered dozens of people in cold blood (ahem, excuse the pun), and yet you feel no remorse? What kind of goshdarn heroine are you?

One last little iff I had with this novel was the false advertising it gave on the book jacket. "As they brave a war-battered landscape of snow and magic" seems to promise the adventure of a lifetime. In reality, "braving the landscape" was the main characters fighting off hunger and the cold on a train from St. Petersburg--ahem, Petrograd--to Moscow. Truly the heart-pounding action I was expecting.

In the end, I felt like this book was a wake-up call. I've been cruising by on good books recently, (as you may have noticed by the crazily positive reviews I've been writing), and this book served to remind me that there are some disappointing books out there. Note to self: next time, stick to rewatching Anastasia for the thousandth time.


My rating: 2/10--the only things that saved it from the bottom of the heap were the quotable quotes.