Thursday, 29 March 2012

Cover Reveal: Iced by Karen Marie Moning

Cover Reveal: Iced by Karen Marie Moning!!!
   Ms. Moning released this this morning on her Facebook page and I just thought I'd share it here! I'm a huge fan of her Fever Series - which I will probably get to re-reading again.

   I love how we're looking through a fractured ice window into the ruins of Dublin, Ireland. With Dani standing there in a long coat it's kind of reminiscent of a shot from a western. The Iced font is a little corny, but for the most part it works.

   Iced is told from the view of Dani O'Malley, Christian Mackeltar, Ryodan and whoever this mysterious Dancer is and is a continuation after the events of Fever. If you haven't read the Fever Series yet get on it if you like paranormal romance/urban fantasy/fey/bad ass girls and guys. 
   I'm super excited to see what happens to Christian, and what Ryodan's whole role in this story will be... but to be honest I really didn't like Dani in the Fever Series. She was a bit too successful in her role as the young, annoying "little sister" role to Mac. But if anyone can make me like a story with an annoying character it's Ms. Moning. Plus she always has guest appearances of characters from her other stories so I'll definitely read it for a glimpse of Barrons (sigh) and Mac. 

   Iced is the first in a trilogy and will be released Oct. 30 2012 !! 

   On a side note, Karen Marie Moning has a bunch of other releases this year too: the short highlander novella Into the Dreaming will be re-released April 24, 2012 and the new Fever Storyline Graphic novel entitled Fever Moon will be released July 10, 2012. Super excited!! 

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Author: Veronica Roth
Publication Date: May 3, 2011
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books an imprint of Harper Collins
Pages: 487
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian
Source: Bought it

Book Description from Publisher: In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue — Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brace), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is— she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.
During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are — and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves … or it might destroy her.

I bought this one on recommendation from an Indigo employee during my post Hunger Games book search. I didn’t buy it immediately, and it took several trips back to Indigo before I actually bought it, and then it proceeded to sit on my shelf - I wasn’t ready to move on from the afterglow of The Hunger games yet. So when I took it as my plane read on my trip to New York - I still didn’t read it, until I was stuck on planes/airports for 16 hours on the way home. In those 16 hours, I fervently read it cover to cover, only stopping because I had to get off a plane and rush to the next one. My biggest regret is leaving this book unread for so long!

The bold flame designs really pop on the cover given the cooler neutral colouring and the mixed skyline and wilds design, it’s definitely eye catching- even if it reminds me of Sauron’s eye from Lord of the Rings.

The world that Divergent is set in is a very bleak, steel/concrete and structured one. The sites of habitation and the set uniform styles/colours are meant to be used to equalize and signify your role in society. But it isn’t really these mundane sets that you’ll pay attention to, it’s the death defying world of the Dauntless that Tris jumps into that snares a reader’s attention.

The story is told from Tris’ (aka Beatrice) point of view, and we get to experience the self sacrificing and painfully bland life of the Abnegation that Tris was originally born into. She doesn’t fit in there, and she struggles to be selfless. When she makes her choice to join the Dauntless, she still retains her timid nature at first- but she realizes that she has to put that behind her and embrace her decision in order to survive. This is where I really start loving Tris, she keeps her morals but harnesses her fears and pushes herself to try all the new things associated with the Dauntless. Her whole experience is like an initiation into a viking inspired biker gang where if you don’t participate in the extreme stuff that you’re expected to do, you aren’t getting in or worse you may not get out alive.

There are some seriously gritty situations that Tris gets thrown into and I sat there white knuckled until she got through it! These situations are coupled with exhilarating moments of insane stunting that Roth does an amazing job describing. These scenes made me remember what it was like to jump off the side of a mountain attached to a cable upside down (zip lines are seriously fun go try it!) and the rush of adrenaline and the feeling of freedom that accompanied it.

When Tris first gets to Dauntless training camp, she's completely alone and has to carefully pick and choose her allies. Roth does a great job presenting these characters. I could never tell who I could trust or who to root for, so I just sat there and lived vicariously through Tris, hoping she'd make the right decision and holding onto dear life when she didn't.

Then we meet the mysterious Four, teacher and semi-love interest for Tris. He’s another one of those characters where when you first meet him you’re conflicted in trying to decide if he’s going to help or hinder, and it keeps you guessing throughout the book which made him such a thrilling character to follow. He’s absolutely my favourite character even if there are times where you want to smack him upside the head. His whole back story and the origin of his name was by far one of the best character builds I’ve ever read. More importantly, his role in Tris’ evolution into a Dauntless has him involved in some very pivotal and haunting scenes that follow the reader well after the book is over.

I loved that Roth leaves little clues throughout the book that I initially brushed off as unimportant and then it comes back explosively in the reveals. The ending to Divergent is action packed, the culmination of secrets and plots reach their apex and blow the doors wide open for the sequel Insurgent due out May 1, 2012, that I just CANNOT wait for! 

Rating: 5/5 Steaming HOT Cups of Tea!
If you're looking to fill the post-Hunger Games void, Divergent is definitely a great place to start! 

Monday, 26 March 2012

The Hunger Games Movie!

The Hunger Games Movie Review

Released: March 23, 2012 by Lionsgate
Director: Gary Ross
Writers: Gary Ross, Suzanne Collins and Billy Ray
Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen
Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark
Liam Hemsworth as Gale Hawthorne
Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman
Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket
Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy
Donald Sutherland as President Snow
Wes Bentley as Game Master Seneca Crane
Lenny Kravitz as Cinna

Full Cast Here

Synopsis from IMDB: 
     In a not-too-distant future, North America has collapsed, weakened by drought, fire, famine, and war to be replaced by Panem, a country divided into the Capitol and 12 districts. Each year two young representatives from each district are selected by lottery to participate in The Hunger Games. Part entertainment, part brutal intimidation of the subjugated districts, the televised games are broadcast throughout Panem. The 24 participants are forced to eliminate their competitors, literally, with all citizens required to watch. When 16-year-old Katniss' young sister, Prim, is selected as the mining district's female representative, Katniss volunteers to take her place. She and her male counterpart Peeta, will be pitted against bigger, stronger representatives who have trained for this their whole lives.

     I'll try and keep this as spoiler free as possible, but you've really got to read the books, or you will want to read them as soon as you're done watching this movie! 

   I convinced by boyfriend to go with me - yes it took convincing, he hadn't read the books nor did he have any interest in reading them. This is partly my fault, I traumatized him the last time we went to a movie based on a book by taking him to the first Twilight movie - even I regret that decision now. So he was hesitant when I described the movie as project runway, meets survivor, meets the deadliest game - all the best elements of reality TV with a cast of teenagers fighting it out to be the sole victor in a battle royale. 

   Most people who have read the books go into this with a version that they've played out in their heads, and for some it'll never meet their expectations (I've seen the insane hordes of hate tweets and reviews). I've come to accept that there will be parts I might not enjoy as much, but I try and enjoy the movie as is. With the hype before the movie I was super excited and my hopes were way up there. Overall I was NOT disappointed in the movie at all! It's turned out far better than any other adaptations I've seen before.
   I was really grateful that the director/writer Gary Ross (responsible for the award winning movies Seabiscuit and Pleasantville) had stuck fairly close to the book. Everyone always worries that the movie production will end up ripping the soul out of the book and glamorizing it to fit into the mold of Hollywood, but any changes Mr. Ross did were pretty minor in the grand scheme of things (except the how she gets the mockingjay pin that one still irks me) but he makes up for it with allowing the audience to go a bit behind the scenes of the games.

   Jennifer Lawrence is great as Katniss (comments aside about how she was a bit too well fed for a character that was purportedly starving to death). She really delivered as a versatile actress in portraying the strong daughter, caring older sister, expert marksman, the fear that accompanied being chosen, to the focus she puts into winning this while maintaining some semblance of humanity. 

    Josh Hutcherson pretty much rocked as being Peeta, he captures the shy boyishness with incredible strength, with some seriously impressive artistic talents and smarts to boot! I really didn't like Peeta's character all that much in the books, I found him pretty irritating and preferred Gale to him but Josh Hutcherson's portrayal changes everything! 

    I can't say much about Liam Helmsworth and his portrayal of Gale, we see him for a total of maybe 15 minutes? But he's sure got the mouth agape, eyebrow brooding down flat. In the subsequent books/movies he plays a bigger part so he'll really be put to the test then. 

    Stanely Tucci was the freaking embodiment of Caesar Flickerman! The charisma, the voice and the crazy Capitol fashion! He's pretty much replaced any previous imagination versions of a Caesar Flickerman that I had.

    Elizabeth Banks was unrecognizable under all that Capitol glamour. Seriously: 
Banks could really hit that high Effie voice with a perfect aristocratic accent while rocking haute couture threads. Who am I kidding all the Capitol costumes were amazing! Completely impractical for real life wear, but when you're rich you don't need to do anything - just sit there and look pretty. 

   Cinna is among my favorite characters in the books, even as such a small secondary character I feel Lenny Kravitz nailed it perfectly! 

   For me the best part of this whole book to movie adaptation is that while the main story is told from Katniss' point of view, in the movie we get to see some things that are happening outside of Katniss' scope. Such as behind the scenes of how the games are run (Seneca Crane is seriously a diabolical Game Master), a bit more insight into President Snow and how the districts are reacting to the events in the games. 

   To me this was a pretty successful adaptation all in all, I mean I cried, I laughed and even got a good scare in! My boyfriend, for the most part picked up the plot quickly and really enjoyed the movie. Then afterwards he wouldn't stop asking questions about the series (at which point I just told him to read the series). I'd definitely watch it again and will be eagerly anticipating the sequel Catching Fire. Which, it looks like director Gary Ross will be participating in and is already getting some ideas: Hunger Games Sequel: Catching Fire 

Also: Congrats to:Sharmaine C. the winner of Shift by M.R. Merrick!!

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Review: Wither (The Chemical Garden #1) by Lauren DeStefano

The Chemical Garden Trilogy #1: Wither by Lauren DeStefano

Author: Lauren DeStefano
Publication Date: Original: March 22, 2011 (I have the
Paperback version dated December, 2011)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pages: 368
Genre: Young adult, Dystopian, Science Fiction
Source: Bought it

Book Description from Publisher: In the not-too-distant future, genetic engineering has turned every newborn into a ticking time bomb: Males die at age twenty-five, and females die at age twenty. While Scientists seek a miracle antidote, young girls are routinely kidnapped and sold as polygamous brides to bear more children. When sixteen-year-old Rhine is taken, she enters a world of wealth and privilege that both entices and terrifies her. She has everything she ever wanted— except freedom.
Soon it becomes clear that not everyone at her new husband’s home is how they appear. With the help of Gabriel, a servant Rhine is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to escape… before her time runs out.
In anticipation for book two, entitled Fever, I picked this one up to see what it was all about. I’m a sucker for pretty covers, and Wither’s cover composition is amazing! The model, dress and bird all make for a striking cover on its own, but it’s the subtle circles that link the head, wedding band clad hand (say that fast 5 times) and caged bird that pull together the theme of forced and trapped marriage.
The story immediately starts with a bang, it throws you into a claustrophobic panic as we are introduced to Rhine who has been kidnapped along with a group of other girls to be sold off as brides to be baby making factories for the rich in order to try and save the dying human race. It’s a tense situation as selections are made, and the fates of the girls are decided.
After the initial bustle of being kidnapped and sorted, we are introduced to Housemaster Vaughn - a scientist working on the cure for the virus and father to Linden Ashby who is the husband to be for Rhine, along with her impending “sister wives” Cecily and Jenna. After the marriage, the plot slows down and takes it’s time to explain the back story of Rhine and how she is coping with her new life, her interactions with the other wives, and what her plan is to get out before she spends the rest of her short life in a lavish mansion. Point is - the plot tends to linger here for awhile. Although this really reflects how little there was in the way of entertainment and freedoms for these girls in this marriage. We as the reader’s don’t get to see much outside of the gates of the estate, but the scenic areas we are exposed to are very poignant places.
It does pick up after awhile and for the last leg of the story - once all the pieces have a solid foundation to work from, I couldn’t stop reading until I found out what happened next.
Rhine is resourceful and very tact which serves her extremely well in the mansion in order to survive.
I have to say I love how complex the character Linden is, on one hand he’s a creep for participating in these marriages (especially the consummating parts… read it, you’ll see what I mean), but the way he acts toward Rhine is completely different and they seem to be building a really meaningful relationship where he isn’t a villain at all. In fact at some points I was rooting for him.
The dynamic nature of the wives kept things interesting in the household, each one had their own persona and purpose that fit into a specific role in the polygamous relationship.
Housemaster Vaughn is an intriguing character, he’s that guy that immediately gives you the heebie-geevies (literally my skin crawled during every scene with him) because you just know there’s something off about him.
My only real complaint is with the servant Gabriel who Rhine gets close to, and is supposed to be a love interest. There’s something there, but Gabriel just seemed like such a wooden character (likely due to his role as a servant) that their relationship doesn’t quite get to form.
Overall, I enjoyed this book and I think most people will. I’m really looking forward Fever and seeing where Rhine’s story goes. 

Rating: 4/5 Hot Cups of Tea!
It's a pretty quick read and there's definitely some ethical food for thought in this book!

Friday, 16 March 2012

Review: Shift by M.R. Merrick

Shift (The Protector Book 2) by M.R. Merrick

Author: M.R. Merrick
Publication Date: January 29, 2012
Publisher: M.R. Merrick
Edition: Kindle eBook
Genre: YA, Contemporary Fantasy
Source: Bought it 

Book Description from Amazon:
Devastated by a terrible loss, Chase is trying to balance the life he’s been left with, a family he’s still getting to know, and power he never thought he’d have. He doesn’t understand why the Goddess has named him the Protector and granted him two gifts: the Mark, a tattoo that now covers his back, and the ring. But between getting interrogated by the Circle and psychic attacks from Riley, the Mark is the least of his concern. There’s a demon inside Rayna that’s fighting to be released, and it’s not her inner witch. It’s something else- a monster threatening to tear her apart.
As chase struggles to control his magic, his enemies are closing in. Everyone has staked a claim on his ring, and destroying it may be his only chance to stop Riley. But Chase must decide if stopping him is worth risking the lives of everyone he cares about or if protecting the ring will be enough to save his world.

Almost immediately after finishing the first book Exiled (my review HERE ) I picked up the second book Shift. There were so many questions for the reader at the end of Exiled that I wanted to find out the answers as soon as possible!

The covers for these books are always so gorgeous and have such an amazing layout. Each item on the cover is purposefully placed and give a subtle hint as to what’s to come.

After the events of Exiled, Chase is now fuelled by rare powers with a serious vendetta targeted at Riley— his on the lam father who’s focused on promoting himself to a god-like state through a “not-Circle-approved” plan. Since Riley’s betrayal, the various factions of the Underworld (vampires, shifter groups) and the Circle that’s supposed to keep them in check is crumbling, paranoia abounds and each one of them has to decide whose side they’re on.

Merrick has a knack for snaring a reader’s attention in the first chapter by plunging them into the middle of a tense and bloody fight for survival, only this time around it’s Rayna that’s fighting her own internal shifter demon that’s literally ripping her apart from the inside out.

In Shift Rayna and Chase are both coming into some new and surprising abilities. It was really awe-inspiring to see these two trust each other so much and help each other through such difficult transitions. With all the life or death experiences they’ve had together it’s no wonder that some romantic aspect developed- FINALLY! Merrick does it in a very classy way though, the stolen moments together enhances the story and don’t detract from the visceral action; although with the introduction of a particular werecat shifter I think we might be seeing some relationship drama on the horizon (possible cat fight?).

Chase has some serious anger management issues and with all that magic brewing in him, he’s a walking natural disaster. Despite his shakiness at all these powers and everyone trying to get at him, Chase unexpectedly takes on a more serious role that results in him thinking through plans a little bit better, he knows what he’s willing to sacrifice and what he’s going to fight for. He’s grown so much over the course of the book and it just brings proud tears to my eyes.

We have some characters that carry over from Exiled such as Tiki, Willy, Marcus and Vincent. Tiki is hilarious in his attempts to assimilate into the human world, I especially love the scene where he explains his hate of human clothing due to it’s…restrictive properties. Marcus is still the intimidating muscle man, Vincent is definitely up to no good, but it’s the storyline that Merrick puts Willy through that takes the cake. I was on the edge of my seat with Willy - over the course of Exile Willy - to me - was this lovable stuttering demon that needed protection, but Merrick puts him through his paces and he changes into a completely unexpected bad ass that I love even more!

The villains of this story are so diabolical. Riley and the Dark Brothers are playing dirty and doing some very ‘Inception’-esque mind assaults on Chase. These sequences were written in such a way that there were times where reality and dream blurred, which created a deliciously tense atmosphere knowing that Chase wasn’t really safe anywhere. One of my favorite parts is when Merrick introduces new demons in a new dimension, I was completely baffled by the dialogue and it kept me glued to the pages to figure out what was going on.

An interesting aspect to include was Chase’s flashbacks of Riley, it showed a completely different side to Riley and makes me wonder what pushed him into doing all of this in the first place. Merrick definitely did it again with Shift, it’s an action packed thrill ride with some out-of-left-field, game changing secret reveals that leaves the reader wondering where this rag tag team will go next! 
Rating: 5/5 Steaming HOT cups of Tea!
It was a great sequel and it just leaves me bouncing on my seat waiting for the third installment! 

So Valerie over at Stuck In Books just finished reading the first book Exiled by M.R. Merrick and she loved it so much she's giving away a copy of Exiled to her blog readers here: Stuck In Books: Exiled by M.R. Merrick + Giveaway

So I figured I'd give Shift away to complement it! Especially if you've read Exiled already and you have Shift on your To-Read list- it needs to move up your list, fast! So here's your chance to win it! Just fill out the Rafflecopter form, and if you haven't read either one, visit Valerie at her awesome blog and maybe you'll get lucky and get both!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, 12 March 2012

Review: Matched by Ally Condie

Matched by Ally Condie

Author: Ally Condie
Publication Date: November 30, 2010
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Pages: 366
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Dystopian
Source: Bought it

Book Description from Publisher: In the Society, Officials decide. Who you love. Where you work. When you die.
Cassia has always trusted their choices. It’s hardly any price to pay for a long life, the perfect job, the ideal mate. So when her best friend appears on the Matching screen, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is the one… until she sees another face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black. Now Cassia is faced with impossible choices: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she’s known and a path no one else has ever dared follow — between perfection and passion.
I was drawn to this book by the gorgeous cover. The sheen of the dress and being trapped in a bubble creates a simple image, but because it’s placed in such a sparse background it really makes it pop. I read the synopsis and it was toted as a romance in a dystopian world and since I was still on my dystopian binge reading phase I decided to pick it up.
The story really draws you in with the first few chapters that describes the Matching ceremony- which really acts like a rite of passage prom for these Society controlled teenagers. You get the extravagant dress, meal, and your date will be provided courtesy of match makers that will pair you with your perfect - for the purposes of breeding and lifetime pairing - match. That is unless you’re Cassia whose perfect match happens to be at the same Matching ceremony and happens to be her best friend Xander - so their courtship isn’t what would be considered normal from hereon.
In the Society everything and everyone is carefully controlled and regulated. Honestly, they don’t eat, sleep or void their bowels, without the Society having a hand in it. They even require everyone to carry this nifty box of pills that are reminiscent of The Matrix’s red and blue pill, with an added green pill, which if you’ve seen The Matrix, you know these can’t be a good sign of what’s to come.
The setting is pretty limited, and most of Cassia’s non working time is spent in a theatre or games hall in polite structured interactions with Xander. But it’s the forbidden moments in the forest with love interest number two: Ky, that really picks up the pace of the story. However, this supposed love triangle seemed to be pointed in a very specific direction.
The romance is tepid at most, there’s nothing too intense or particularly passionate about it. It’s primarily about Cassia and Ky discovering each other’s interests (since Cassia and Xander know the other so well) which happens to involve a lot of forbidden poetry- so on the bright side it’s not insta-love.
Cassia’s character is torn between doing what she’s been taught to do by society, and what she wants to do. She’s rigid in her performance in front of officials, but I really like her when she has a spark of rebellion in her eye.
Xander is ultimately the good boy, the boy your parents would be proud to have you Matched to. He’ll care for you and provide for you, he’s polite in every which way but what I really love about him is that he’s fiercely loyal and will do anything to protect Cassia.
Ky on the other hand is of course the bad boy, the seducer, the Society lets him live a marginal life, but he has a secret and this secret is what keeps him in line. He’s probably the most intriguing character because he’s shrouded in so much mystery and you keep reading because you want to know his story! The reveals involving Ky toward the end were perfect at bringing some closure to the big questions in the story but then it just fuels the question of, where do they go from here?
As the story progresses the cracks in the Society are revealed until at the tip of the ice berg critical decisions are made that causes the Societies Officials to step in, which creates the most heart stopping parts of the story when Cassia’s entire world crumbles. Really for me what was worth the read was all the reveals and what was going on outside of the Society’s control that was far more interesting than the romances that we were supposed to be focusing on.
All in all it was a quick read, and had some enjoyable moments if you don’t delve too deeply into thinking about it; there’s certain elements to how the society is run that really irks me for instance the whole they’re allowed to read but not write thing. It’s sequel Crossed is sitting on my to-be read pile, the ending of Matched really left the door wide open so I am curious as to how this will play out. 
Rating: 3/5 Drinkable Cups of Tea
It's a simple pleasure read.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Review: Exiled by M.R. Merrick

Exiled (The Protector Book 1) by M.R. Merrick
Author: M.R. Merrick
Publication Date: June 28, 2011
Publisher: M.R. Merrick
Edition: Kindle eBook
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy
Source: Got it when it was free for a day!
Book Description from Amazon:
Chase Williams is a demon hunter in the Circle, or at least he was supposed to be. On his fifteenth birthday, Chase stepped up to the alter to claim his elemental power, but it never came. Elemental magic is passed down to a hunter through the bloodline, but on Chase’s birthday, the bloodline stopped.
Exiled without the Circle’s protection, Chase has spent two years trying to survive a world riddled with half-demons and magic. When he has a run in with a frightened, and seemingly innocent demon, he learns the Circle’s agenda has changed: the Circle plans to unlock a portal and unleash pure-blood demons into the world. Vowing to stop them, and knowing he can’t do it alone, Chase forms a reluctant alliance with Rayna - a sexy witch with an attitude and a secret. In their attempt to stop them, Chase and Rayna find themselves in the middle of the Circle’s plan, leaving one of them to decide what their friendship is worth, and the other’s life depending on it.
     During the impending release for Shift - the second book in the Protector series, my Twitter feed was abuzz with high praise for it. I got curious, and went back to see what Exiled was all about. The premise seemed interesting enough and I marked the book as a to-read, as in, one day I’ll get to it. Then came a fateful day when Exiled was put up for free on Amazon, so I figured why not? I downloaded it and started it immediately and boy do I ever regret not reading it sooner…
     The cover is intriging, but I didn’t really fully LOOK at it until I finished the book, it’s then that the cover fully makes sense. The opposing elements and the haunting bare tree make a great composition together!
     Merrick has no mercy for easing you into the plot of the story, he takes you and gives you a bum’s rush, head first into Chase’s world where you’re met with a burly demon that shows you how bad they make life for Chase William’s since his and his mother’s exile from the Circle. It’s definitely a sure fire way to get you hooked on the action of this book.
The writing is rich and detailed, especially when he creates the intricate worlds. The reader can distinctly tell what location the characters are in, be it Chase’s dismal slum apartment to the grandeur of Rayna’s abode, to a very alternate location with very special water. This book has a lot of action, it reads like the play by play script of an intense action movie. There’s weapons flying, bones snapping and blood flowing in every which way, but the action scenes were so well executed that I never had “multi-arm” syndrome, where suddenly the fighters are battling with 4 arms and legs each; Merrick knew where each body part was going to place a crushing blow.
     I haven’t had the chance to really read many books through a young male’s perspective, but Chase proved to be an excellent choice to start with. He’s brave and loyal, but has the usual male tendency to run into the scene with a decapitate first- ask questions later attitude, but it’s forgivable because Rayna thinks things through a little better and helps him to grow out of his demon ignorance shell. They make an excellent fluid fighting team and their dialogue scenes are hilariously full of sharp wit! These two have so much hidden potential that it’ll be exciting to see what comes out of it, and how they tackle it together.
     The other characters in the books are written so that they each have something that identifies them specifically. Be it a stutter for the demon Willy or the way a character’s dialogue is structured to sound more regal, or the words chosen for effect. It was amazing to have such noticeable ways to separate each character- it gave real voices to them and in turn made it easier to formulate images of them.
     In the background there was a lot of political intrigue involving the Circle’s hunters and their new found goal, but we don’t find out the whole of the plan quite yet, we get hints but this mostly acted as a way to push Chase into growing up, and expanding his horizons, so hopefully in Shift we get to find out a little more of the Circle’s grand plan. With how much action was going on in this book, I didn’t really expect the ending and really didn’t expect that I’d start any water works, but it was such a touching moment, Merrick can really tug at the heart strings too- apparently.
Now, to read the next book Shift, because I think I’m addicted to Merrick’s stories. 

Rating: 5/5 Steaming HOT cups of Tea! 
Seriously, go read it.

Monday, 5 March 2012

In Honor of its impending movie debut: Review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Author: Suzanne Collins
Publication Date: October 1, 2008
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Pages: 374
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Dystopian
Source: Borrowed then bought

Book Description from Publisher: In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.
Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister Primrose, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister’s place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before —and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that will weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

     I first received this book from my book addict twin Nicole with rants and raves about it, after she picked it up in an airport on her way home from Peru (I’m jealous that she goes on so many adventures) and finished it on her flight home. I let it sit on my shelf for awhile, until one day I went on a family fishing trip and since I never catch anything anyways, I figured I’d bring a book. After setting up my chair, baiting and casting the line I started reading.
     I stumbled through the mundane first few chapters, and was about to give up because honestly not much was happening. When I look back on it now, I realize it was to set up the skills and back story that would be vital to Katniss later on. By the time we came to the ceremony where the tributes are chosen, I was hooked. There was no stopping me now that the ball was rolling, there was political intrigue, action, suspense and a cast of colourful and diverse characters.
     I spent the next few hours completely enveloped in the book ( I lost track of time, didn’t reapply sunscreen and got some pretty bad sunburn), and it was completely worth it to keep reading! It wasn't just a physical battle that went on here, there was so much political intrigue and survival strategies too.
     The cover is pretty nondescript, plain and with me being a sucker for pretty things, I likely walked past it several times in a book store and didn’t stop to look at it. The symbolism on it doesn’t even become iconic until you get into the later parts of the story, but now with the impending release of the movie, the mockingjay pin and what it signifies has exploded into the mainstream as a very identifiable figure.
Collins did a great job building each set that the story takes place in, I didn’t have a difficult time envisioning the soot covered village of district 12, or the dangerous expanses of forest to the metallic glamour of the Capitol.
     The character of Katniss is loyal, fierce and willing to do whatever it takes - even killing, if it means her loved ones survive. She’s a great strong character, and since she’s from one of the worst off districts, it’s great to see her rise up and be the underdog that no one expects.
     I have to say out of the two main boys, Gale and Peeta, I definitely root for Gale, to me he was the more likable character. Gale is the confident, skillful childhood friend of Katniss who understands how much work it takes just to make sure their families have some food on the table at night. Whereas Peeta - although from the same district as Katniss and Gale, he tended to live a much more sheltered life and I honestly didn’t think he’d hold it together for very long, but he definitely had some surprising tricks up his sleeve, and what he lacks in brute strength he makes up for in cunning.
     The other characters such as Haymitch, Effie and Cinna each had a unique and easily distinguishable persona’s. They were looser characters that were a great dynamic to Katniss’ more serious focused persona. I especially love Cinna, he’s a fashion designing genius!
     Once the reader is pulled into the preparations for the Hunger Games the action and drama are so well balanced that it can definitely keep the attention of boys and girls alike. There are romantic elements, but they’re kept to a minimum and don’t really detract from the intensity of the storyline. There is quite a bit of graphic violence - but with the whole premise of the story being last one standing wins, it’s pretty compulsory to have some kind of death and mayhem. Really it’s no worse than your average action packed movie these days. After finishing this one, I immediately ran out and bought the box set because I HAD to know what happened next. 

Rating: 5/5 Steaming HOT cups of Tea!
I can't wait to see the movie!

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Tea Review: Rooibos: Crème Brûlée - Organic


Rooibos Tea: Crème Brûlée - Organic


   Ingredients: Organic Green and Red Rooibos, Safflowers, Calendula Marigold, Natural and    Artificial Flavourings

   I’d never had Rooibos tea before this, and I figured I’d start with the Crème Brûlée Rooibos tea. Considering that this was named after a dessert, I thought it best to have it after dinner. When I started brewing it, it gave off a noticeable sweet aroma. When I drank it plain I found that it had a rich sweetness to it like caramel, and I was surprised to find that it was very smooth and creamy, it tasted exactly like your basic Crème Brûlée. My boyfriend usually takes sips of the tea’s I’m trying, and he was amazed that tea by itself could be so creamy. Sugar content-wise it was perfect by itself, but to me it just didn’t feel complete until I added some milk.
   Since this is considered an herbal tea, there is no caffeine in it which makes it great for curling up with a mug and a book to relax before bed.

Overall: 4/5 Hot Cups of Tea. 
To me it’s a sometimes tea, I’d probably keep a small amount on hand and drink it when I’m really craving something sweet and calming. 
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