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A Reader of Fictions: August 2012

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Friday, August 31, 2012

Not Gonna Get Us - t.A.T.u.

Swipe, Book 2

Author: Evan Angler
Pages: 288
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: September 4, 2012
Source: Thomas Nelson via NetGalley

Description from Goodreads:
In a future United States under the power of a charismatic leader, everyone gets the Mark at age thirteen. The Mark lets citizen shop, go to school, and even get medical care-but without it, you are on your own. Few refuse to get the Mark. Those who do . . . disappear. 

 Logan Langly went in to get his Mark, but he backed out at the last minute. Now he’s on the run from government agents who will stop at nothing to capture him. But Logan is on a mission to find and save his sister, Lily, who disappeared five years ago on her thirteenth birthday, the day she was supposed to receive her Mark. 

Logan and his friends, a group of dissenters called the Dust, discover a vast network of the Unmarked, who help them travel safely to the capital city where Lily is imprisoned. Along the way, the Dust receives some startling information from the Markless community, opening their eyes to the message of Christianity and warning that humanity is now entering the End of Days. 

When the Dust finally arrives in the capital, it seems that all their careful planning is useless against a government that will do anything to bend its citizens to its will. Can the gentle words Logan has found in a tattered, banned Bible really stand against the most powerful military the world has ever known? Can Logan even sacrifice his own freedom, choosing to act through faith alone?

Prior Book: Swipe

First Sentence: "There was a clock in the corner that counted the seconds, an old-fashioned analog-type with long hands and a slender needle that tapped a maddening beat."

There are two basic methods by which dystopias nee utopias are formed: through force or through people agreeing to give up their rights in exchange for an easier life. Angler's Swipe series falls into this latter category, along with Anthem. There's something so entirely horrifying about people giving up rights in exchange for peace. Don't get me wrong: I like peace, but I like being able to be myself more.

Despite my worries, I read Swipe last year, and was pleasantly surprised. With actual dystopias somewhat thin on the ground as a broader definition takes over, in an effort to make the most of the genre's popularity, Swipe comes as a nice refreshing dose of old school dystopian. Also setting Swipe apart is the youth of the heroes. Though still a YA and not an MG, the main characters are but 13.

They are, however, a rather mature 13 for the most part. Most incongruously for their age is Erin's hacking skills. This is something that happens all of the time in fiction: young people who can outhack anyone. I just have a little trouble accepting that child of privelege Erin has picked up these skills. Where did she learn them? However, their youth does shine through when it comes to their romances. This one has less romance than Swipe because the kids are busy with other things, but they react so childishly to romantic things, which is about the only time they read as their age.

My favorite aspect of this series is how powerful the two main female characters, Erin and Hailey, are, particularly in comparison to the main male characters. Though Logan has become the figurehead of the Markless movement, he really is not good for much. Mostly he causes trouble and makes unwise decisions. The girls, though, have the talent and the cleverness to really accomplish the group's goals. You all know how much I love books where the female characters are not portrayed as weaker than the men or in need of saving.

My favorite character by far is Erin. I love her for her acerbic, antisocial nature and her brutal honesty most of the time. When Logan and Dane are missing at the beginning of school and everyone wants to know where they are, she's the kind of girl who will tell it like it is and say they aren't coming back, who wants to yell at everyone to stop pretending like they care Logan and Dane are gone when they didn't care about them when they were in school. Plus, I love that Erin isn't all good. She totally buys into the Mark and Cylis and everything. She's more complex for her imperfections and her darkness.

There are two really wonderful new elements in Sneak that were not in Swipe. First, there's the River. Following the same concept as the Underground Railroad, the Markless have formed the River. This is not an actual river, but a road along which assistance can be found for the Markless if you know how to read the signs. For example, a boat means that there's a person there to help guide you, a captain. There's another sign indicating that a person therein will give you food or a place to sleep. I loved the way he brought history back and thought it was totally authentic. There was, however, some seriously obvious plotting here, because there's a symbol that's a hook, which means, basically, "It's a TRAP!" As soon as I saw that, I knew the kids would miss seeing it and get hooked. They, of course, did. Chekhov rule.

Second, there's a literary reference which is unbelievably cool and mad props to Angler for this. He brings in Dante's Inferno. In Sneak, their whole goal is to get to this prison, Acheron, where Logan's sister is supposedly being incarcerated. Well, Acheron is modeled after Dante's vision of Hell, which  was just awesome. Acheron won't be less creepy if you haven't read Dante, but, if you're familiar with the Inferno, it adds another level (or 9) of awesomeness.

Lastly, I have to talk about religion. As you may or may not know, Thomas Nelson is a Christian publisher. That was what initially gave me pause, but I found little to no religious reference in Swipe. In Sneak, I can now see why a Christian publisher would have chosen this work, but the religion remains very light. I was never annoyed by it, and I'm touchy about such things. In fact, at one point someone sneezes, and the response was 'Gesundheit' and not 'Bless you,' which seems like a little thing but indicates to me that he has no intention of shoving his views down anyone's throat.

If you enjoyed Swipe, Sneak will not let you down in the slightest. If anything, I would say Sneak is actually a bit stronger than its predecessor.

Favorite Quote: 
"'Just . . . make sure to take care of her, will ya?'
   Logan laughed. 'She doesn't need taking care of, and you know it. She needs less taking care of than anyone else we know.'
   Dane smiled. 'You're probably right. In that case, I guess . . . makes sure she takes care of you.'"
"They're not gonna get us"

Remember: Every comment on a post during Dystopian August is an entry to win one of fourteen dystopian/post-apocalyptic novels IF you've filled out the form from this post.

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Dystopian August Wrap Up

Bloggy Awards:
You guys, I have been honored with a nomination for the Bloggy Awards in the category of Best Fantasy review for my review of Stormdancer. If you're so inclined, go here and vote for me. I don't think I'll win, but I am so touched just the same!

A Change:
The time has come for me to make a change to A Reader of Fictions. No, I'm not going anywhere; you can't get rid of me! However, I am removing the music element from my reviews. There are a lot of reasons for this, but I hope that m blog will be less confusing in the future. I'm thinking I'll do special posts about songs from time to time to make up for this change.

Dystopian August Comment Giveaway:
At this point, there are just a few hours left to fill out the form (US) or the Rafflecopter on this post (INT) and leave some comments. Without the form filled out, I don't have your email and can't contact you. I've decided that people can win more than once, so there could be a bunch of winners or several lucky people. I'll be tabulating the results over the weekend (though I'll be at Decatur Book Festival over the weekend too) and will begin contacting people soon. :)

Forthcoming Giveaways:
Check out the end of the post for the Book of the Month giveaway. Check back in the middle of September for my 500 follower giveaway/blogoversary/birthday giveaway.

Book Reviews Posted in August:
38 Young Adult:
Crewel (Crewel World #1) - Gennifer Albin
Glitch (Glitch #1) - Heather Anastasiu
Sneak (Swipe #2) - Evan Angler
Level 2 (The Memory Chronicles #1) - Lenore Appelhans
Above - Leah Bobet
Once (Eve #2) - Anna Carey
Dualed (Dualed #1) - Elsie Chapman
Beta (Beta #1) - Rachel Cohn
After: Nineteen Stories of Apocalypse and Dystopia - Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling, eds.
Eden's Root (Eden's Root Trilogy, #1) - Rachel Fisher
Eve & Adam (Eve & Adam, #1) - Michael Grant  & Katherine Applegate
Masque of the Red Death (Masque of the Red Death #1) - Bethany Griffin
Magisterium - Jeff Hirsch
Origin - Jessica Khoury
Stormdancer (The Lotus Wars, #1) - Jay Kristoff
False Memory (False Memory, #1) - Dan Krokos
Monument 14 (Monument 14, #1) - Emmy Laybourne
Tomorrow Land - Mari Mancusi
Velveteen (Velveteen, #1) - Daniel Marks
Yesterday - C. K. Kelly Martin
The Farm - Emily McKay
Incarnate (Newsoul, #1) - Jodi Meadows
The Glimpse - Claire Merle
Ashen Winter (Ashfall, #2) - Mike Mullin
For Darkness Shows the Stars - Diana Peterfreund
Defiance (Defiance, #1) - C. J. Redwine
A Million Suns (Across the Universe, #2) - Beth Revis
Black City (Black City #1) - Elizabeth Richards
The Testament of Jessie Lamb - Jane Rogers 
Under the Never Sky (Under the Never Sky, #1) - Veronica Rossi
Divergent (Divergent, #1) - Veronica Roth
Altered (Altered #1) - Jennifer Rush
Zom-B (Zom-B, #1) - Darren Shan
Skylark (Skylark #1) - Meagan Spooner
Article 5 (Article 5, #1) - Kristen Simmons
The Loners (Quarantine, #1) - Lex Thomas
Blood Red Road (Dust Lands #1) - Moira Young
What's Left of Me (The Hybrid Chronicles, #1) - Kat Zhang

3 Adult:
The Windup Girl - Paolo Bacigalupi
Anthem - Ayn Rand
The Age of Miracles - Karen Thompson Walker

2 Picture Books:
The Little Stormdancer - Jay Kristoff
BAAA - David Macaulay

1 Middle Grade:
Above World - Jenn Reese

Book of the Month Giveaway:
Even though I had a ton of giveaways this month, I'm still going to do my BotM giveaway. I had two five star reads this month and I already did a giveaway for Stormdancer, so this month I'm offering a copy of Blood Red Road to one reader. It will be shipped from TBD or Fishpond (for Australian folks), so international.

Blood Red Road is the first book that I've ever loved (even liked) told in dialect. If I can love it, so can you! On TBD, the cover shown on the right and the new cover are roughly the same price, so winner's choice of which cover they want.
 a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Cover Snark (21)

Y'all, it was a bit of a slower week for covers, but I've got some awesome (and horrendous) ones gathered up for your viewing pleasure. Remember, this is a judgment-filled zone, so put on your snarky hat and get ready to decide which covers have merit.

As always, the wonderful Giselle of Xpresso Reads' facebook page was a source of covers I might not have found otherwise. Also, she rocks and you should check out her blog.

Clash (Crash #2) - Nicole Williams
Thoughts: I'm actually kind of digging these. At first, I was all why does this big dude have a tutu, but now I've noticed that she's with his shoes in the first cover. That's cute. I only wish it looked like the same tutu. They also don't look too indie. Nice work.

The Rules (Project Paper Doll #1) - Stacey Kade
Thoughts: I really dont' like this. The model's not doing anything for me, nor are the two different shaded eyes. This could have been cool, but it mostly just feels like fail. The title font looks like so many other cover fonts (think Altered) only less awesome. Oh well, the book still sounds awesome.

Chantress - Amy Butler Greenfield
Thoughts: For the most part, I really like this. The title font is super cool. I never get tired of the swirlies, plus the hot pink really pops. The tag line is better than most, although I totally thought it was the title as I was scrolling down the cover. I'm not sure what's in her hand, but whatever. What I don't like is the blurred pink face on the left. Sigh.

Naturals (The Lost Souls #2) - Tiffany Truitt
Thoughts: Eesh, really? This looks like a self-pub. The first cover was gorgeous. I don't know why this happened.

Fade to Black - Francis Knight
Thoughts: COOL. I don't know anything about this book, but I want it, because that's awesome. It has sort of a comic book feel to it, which I LOVE.

Winger - Andrew Smith
Thoughts: This goes in the category 'hard to look at.' Seriously, I looked at those stitches over his eye and started feeling woozy. Something tells me this book won't be for me. If I do read it, I need a hardback so that I can take the cover off. 

 Vengeance Bound - Justina Ireland
Thoughts: Well, I'm intrigued by the building she's in, but I can't get past the GODDAMN SKINNY JEANS. I hate skinny jeans. This could have been more interesting. If it's Goddess Test meets Dexter, shouldn't she be in a pretty dress holding a blood-soaked knife? How could you miss a chance like that? 

Gabriel Stone and the Divinity of Valta - Shannon Duffy
Thoughts: Each week, it seems like I include at least one wholly awful indie cover. This one wins for this week. That's like an arashitora, only all tiger. WHAT? I'd never seen any flying tigers until a few months ago and now they're a thing. This also reminds me a lot of the cover for The Unwanteds for some reason. Can't imagine why. Also, there are 80 bajillion fonts in the world and they went for that? Really? It's like a glowing neon marquee proclaiming that the book is indie. Still having trouble getting past the white tiger with wings that's apparently about to have a nice evening snack of monkey with armband.

The Caged Graves - Dianne Salarni
 Thoughts: Yup. That grave is in a cage. Since it's historical fiction, I doubt this is to keep zombies from attacking, but that would be pretty cool. This cover is pretty, but not astoundingly so.

Cover Battle: Magic Bites (Magic Bites #1) - Ilona Andrews
 Thoughts: I know I should like the original better because this one looks whitewashed, but this one just looks so much better done! I like the color scheme better. I like her hair in a braid. I like the shiny sword. Plus, the lion looks cooler. I do wish they'd kept the same model.

Slated - Teri Terry
 UK/Aus vs. US: These are really similar, which is cool. I really like the terring effect on the UK cover. I'm going with the US cover, though, because I like getting to see the city AND because the city brings out the blue in the model's eyes. Also, I just tried to spell blue 'bloo' for some reason. What the eff is that? Am I Melvil Dui or something?

The Lost (Celestial Blues #2) - Vicki Pettersson
 Thoughts: It is probably apparent by now that, though I may not read much paranormal romance or urban fantasy, I am really entertained by the covers. Sassy chicks in pretty clothes? Heck yes! Also, can I say how much I love the style on this cover. Inspired by Mad Men much? I want her outfit. Also, the guy in the suit looks much less lame than the guy on the first book, who kind of looks like a carny. Just saying.

Ashes & Ice - Rochelle Maya Callen
Thoughts: Nice work, indie. The eyes are a bit off, but, otherwise, I really approve. I especially love the title font. :)

The Twice Lost (Lost Voices #3) - Sarah Porter
Thoughts: Well, this is my favorite cover of the bunch by far. I'm seriously digging the mermaid on the bottom. Why does the one on the top look so fake though? Like why does one look like a model and the other look computer generated. Also, who swims like that? "Look, ma, no hands!"

Gilded Wings (The Angel Chronicles #2) - Amy Lignor
Thoughts: These are pretty great for indie covers. The angel wings are lame, but they're at least they blend into the background enough to not be super irritating to me. I do wonder, though, why they thought there should be a streetlight in the background. What does this really add to my cover-viewing experience? Also, does the model have an itchy sternum?

Blood Doll (The Vampire Agápe #3) - Georgia Cates
Thoughts: The Vampire Agápe? Really? Without the accent mark, it's the Vampire Agape, as though something really surprising just happened and the vampire is standing there with their chin on the floor? Given that people will probably mostly be too lazy to use the accent, this was a bad plan. That aside, I will say that Georgia Cates definitely has some of the best indie covers out there. This one's the best of the lot, I think, though the dress looks a bit homecoming queen or child-playing-dressup to me. Oh god. Jusy noticed the butterfly on her back. Sigh. There are too many butterflies on YA book covers.

Chosen at Nightfall (Shadow Falls #5) - C. C. Hunter
Thoughts: NGL, I think these covers are pretty. The background colors are just so gorgeous, with the exception of Taken at Dusk. Is she wearing the same dress in all of these? I think she is. Interesting. Anyway, I think this one and the first one were the best covers. My main complaint is that this model never seems to DO anything. She's just standing there. There's no sense of action in any of them.

The Rebels of New Sun (Blending Time #3) - Michael Kinch
Thoughts: Oh, what a boy cover. I'm amused by how much it looks like a kid playing soldier. Part of that is due to the fact that he's wearing sandals with his camo. I mean, I LOVE my flip flops, but, were the world to end, I'm pretty sure I would pass them up for sneakers. The cover looks really fake, but I'm okay with it, since it's clearly a stylistic choice. I do really like the shiny title.

Summerset Abbey - T. J. Brown
Thoughts: Oh, those magic words: "reminiscent of Downton Abbey." This cover's kind of lame. Is that just me? I mean, she owns this huge estate and can't afford to buy a dress that fits? Her fancy gold dress is straight up dragging on the ground by INCHES.

Outstanding Cover of the Week: Fade to Black - Francis Knight


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Lullaby from Pan's Labyrinth

Skylark, Book 1

Author: Meagan Spooner
Pages: 344
Publisher: Carolrhoda Lab
Source: Meagan Spooner signing at BEA

Description from Goodreads:
Sixteen year-old Lark Ainsley has never seen the sky.

Her world ends at the edge of the vast domed barrier of energy enclosing all that’s left of humanity. For two hundred years the city has sustained this barrier by harvesting its children's innate magical energy when they reach adolescence. When it’s Lark’s turn to be harvested, she finds herself trapped in a nightmarish web of experiments and learns she is something out of legend itself: a Renewable, able to regenerate her own power after it’s been stripped.

Forced to flee the only home she knows to avoid life as a human battery, Lark must fight her way through the terrible wilderness beyond the edge of the world. With the city’s clockwork creations close on her heels and a strange wild boy stalking her in the countryside, she must move quickly if she is to have any hope of survival. She’s heard the stories that somewhere to the west are others like her, hidden in secret – but can she stay alive long enough to find them?

First Sentence: "The din of the clockwork dawn was loudest in the old sewers, a great whirring and clanking of gears as the artificial sun warmed up."

Meagan Spooner's debut novel Skylark creates a fantastical steampunk world where magic has a physical presence, and people are varying degrees of monster. While many dystopias focus on action and drama, Skylark moves along at a slower pace, a bit more contemplative. Thankfully, the personality-filled writing and gorgeous world building kept my interest level high.

Lark feels constant shame. She is the oldest person to not yet have been harvested. People years her juniors have been chosen before her. The other kids call her 'the dud,' 'the freak,' and she can't help but wonder if it's true. Nor can she find comfort at home. Her closest family member, Basil, a brother, left on a mission outside the wall and never returned, presumed dead. We never even see her parents. The only family member who seems to be around is her oldest brother Caesar, whose name is particularly apt, considering that he would do just about anything to advance his career.

Finally, though, Lark's name has been called and she is to be harvested. Excited does not even begin to describe how she feels, anticipating finally being normal and valuable. Despite having very little idea what her harvesting entails, she quickly comes to suspect that something weird may be going on. Why do they keep taking her to be harvested? Isn't that just supposed to happen once? Her answer, of course, lies in the secret room she discovered: she's a Renewable and they're going to plug her into the city until she becomes nothing but a husk.

The City, you see, runs on magic. Cool, right? In this world, magic exists in just about everything, including people. At the Harvest, they're using a machine to drain the magic (or, as they
call it, The Resource, from the children of the population. There used to be Renewables, people who could create more Resource, but there haven't been any born in a long time and the City's magic is depleting. They need Lark's Resource, but she refuses to be a pawn and escapes into the eerie woods.

What's especially neat about Skylark is how many different societies you can explore in this world. At the beginning, we're in the City with Lark, which is full of clockwork and magic. It's got a sort of industrial feel to it. Then, outside the wall, we get to see a bunch of different environments. Basically, the magic out there is all unbalanced, so some areas have to much and others none, which means that pretty much anything can happen. I just loved this world building, especially the changes that the magic bubbles wrought.

If you love reading about creepy monsters, Spooner cooked up some of those for you in her writer's cauldron too. The Dark Ones. I'm not entirely certain what happened to them, whether there was some sort of event or chemical, or if it was just a change out of necessity. Either way, they're cannibals, humans turned dark and twisted and hungry for other humans. This adds some fun spice to an otherwise fairly pleasant journey. I definitely would like to know how they came about, though!

Lark makes a great heroine. Her voice is clear and direct. Her narration kept me totally involved in the story. Despite being a complete newbie to pretty much everying, Lark tries really hard. She's not a complainer, and learns and grows from every experience. Otherwise, though, I would say characterization was probably the weakest point in the book. None of the other humans really manifested strongly to me. There are two possible love interests so far, but, thankfully, Spooner has so far resisted the urge to make this into a melodramatic love triangle.

My very favorite character, though, the one that totally stole the show in my opinion is not human. I freaking loved Nix. He's so adorable and cool and I don't even know. Basically, I want him to come hang out with me. Also, the way the scene where he learned things was just fantastic. He also raises some thought-provoking questions about sentience.

For stellar world building and some serious clockwork awesomeness, go get yourself a copy of Skylark. I really enjoyed it and will be keeping my eye out for the next book!

Favorite Quote: "'I don't want to be kept safe! I don't want to have someone constantly trying to keep me from tripping on my own incompetence. I want to live in a world where I know the rules, where people are just people. Not one where they keep trying to eat me. That's the reason I left the city in the first place. I don't want to be kept, not by anyone.'"

Remember: Every comment on a post during Dystopian August is an entry to win one of fourteen dystopian/post-apocalyptic novels IF you've filled out the form from this post.

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Waiting on Wednesday: Dystopian Sequels I'm Desperate For

We all know that dystopias are often series nowadays. Thus, I am waiting on a ton of them. Which ones are you guys really excited about? Believe it or not, this isn't every single sequel. :-p

I've only included the ones that have titles and release dates set. Some don't have covers yet.

September 2012:
Outpost (Razorland #2) - Ann Aguirre
Flesh & Bone (Benny Imura #3) - Jonathan Maberry 
Shadows (Ashes Trilogy #2) - Ilsa J. Bick
Dearly, Beloved (Gone with the Respiration #2) - Lia Habel

October 2012:
Promised (Birthmarked Trilogy #3) - Caragh M. O'Brien 
Rebel Heart (Dust Lands #2) - Moira Young
November 2012:
Middle Ground (Awaken #2) - Katie Kacvinsky
December 2012:
Enders (Starters and Enders #2) - Lissa Price
January 2013:

Through the Ever Night (Under the Never Sky #2) - Veronica Rossi
Shades of Earth (Across the Universe #3) - Beth Revis
February 2013:

Breaking Point (Article 5 #2) - Kristen Simmons
Homeland (Little Brother #2) - Cory Doctorow
The Lives We Lost (Fallen World #2) - Megan Crewe 
Fuse (Pure #2) - Julianna Baggott 
 Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles #2) Marissa Meyer
April 2013:
The Eternity Cure (Blood of Eden #2) - Julie Kagawa 
Dance of the Red Death (Masque of the Red Death #2) - Bethany Griffin
February 2014:
Divided (Dualed #2) -Elsie Chapman

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