Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Of Mermaids and Sirens

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill from Breaking the Spine. The idea behind this meme is to highlight up and coming releases that we just can't wait to read.

I seem to have jumped on the Mermaid and Siren bandwagon of late; always being on the lookout for any book that has anything to do with these fantastical creatures and making sure to add it to my TBR pile. 

In today's WoW post, I'm highlighting two books which not only have awesome covers, but sound like they could really be fantastic reads.

First up is:

Waking Storms by Sarah Porter
Publication date: July 3rd 2012 by Harcourt Children's Books

After parting ways with her troubled mermaid tribe, Luce just wants to live peacefully on her own.

But her tranquility doesn’t last long: she receives news that the tribe is on the verge of collapse and desperately needs her leadership.
The tribe’s cruel queen wants Luce dead. Dorian, the boy Luce broke mermaid law to save, is determined to make her pay for her part in the murder of his family. 

And while the mermaids cling to the idea that humans never suspect their existence, there are suddenly ominous signs to the contrary.

But when Luce and Dorian meet, they start to wonder if love can overpower the hatred they know they should feel for each other. Can Luce fulfill her rightful role as queen of the mermaids without sacrificing her forbidden romance with Dorian?

Waking Storms is actually the second book in the Lost Voices trilogy, the first book entitled Lost Voices. Looks like an intriguing read. Can't wait to see how this one pans out.

The second book on my WoW list is: 

Wake by Amanda Hocking
Publication date: August 7th 2012 by St. Martin's Press

Beautiful. Fearless. Dangerous. They're the kind of girls you envy; the kind of girls you want to hate. 

Strangers in town for the summer, Penn, Thea, and Lexi have caught everyone's attention, including the eye of practical Harper.

But it's her sister, Gemma, they've chosen to be part of their group.

Sixteen-year-old Gemma seems to have it all - carefree, pretty, and falling in love with the boy next door. But her greatest passion has always been the water.

She craves late night swims under the stars, where she can be alone yet belong to the sea. Lately she's had company. Penn, Thea, and Lexi spend their nights dancing, singing, and partying on the cove--and one night Gemma joins them. 

When she wakes up groggy on the beach the next morning, she knows something has changed.

Suddenly Gemma is stronger, faster, and more beautiful than ever. As she uncovers the truth about her new mythical powers, Gemma is forced to choose between staying with those she loves or entering a dark world brimming with unimaginable secrets

How fabulous is the cover? I'm really looking forward to this one, especially as I've just recently finished and loved Switched, the first book in the Trylle trilogy.

That's it from me for this week. What's on your Wow list? Feel free to share your list of links below.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Book review: Switched

Step into a world where fairytale and fantasy collide and where one girl learns that she's part of a world that she's always been destined to return to. 

Switched by Amanda Hocking (Tor)

I know what you're thinking. Who on earth would want to read a book about a race of fey creatures that have for the most part, been much maligned as being:

a) A race of hideous-looking beings that err on the side of short and;

b) Evil little monsters who won't let you cross a bridge without paying some sort of fee.

I know this because that was my first thought when I first heard of Amanda Hocking's Trylle trilogy and it's what has kept me back from reading it back when I first heard of her series during her self-publishing days.

Having said that, my love of fantasy reads, especially those with a focus on anything fairytale and changeling related, prevailed over my misgivings about the book and had me picking this read up in spite of myself.

And am I'm glad I did, because Amanda takes everything we know about trolls, gives it a complete overhaul and provides us with a book that dismisses any preconceived notions that we've ever had about trolls.

Switched tells the story of 17-year old Wendy Everly.

With one of Wendy's earliest memories being that of her mother accusing her of not being her child and trying to kill her in the process, Wendy has always known that she hasn't quite fit in; that there is something that sets her apart from everyone else in the small town that she's been living in.

With her ability to manipulate and influence people's decisions, it isn't until the brooding newcomer, Finn shows up and reveals that she's a changeling and is part of a race of Trylles (trolls), that she finally begins to understand just how different she really is. 

Add to that the fact that she's next-in-line to inherit the throne in the world she's really from, and Wendy's life takes a whole new and dangerous turn.

For while this new world (a place called Förening) is a place of wonder and enchantment, the dangers inside the community are no less greater than the ones outside of it.

With the help of Finn, who Wendy can't help but be attracted to, she'll have to traverse through a maze of twists and turns and learn to harness her power if she wants to save the ones that she loves.

Switched is definitely a book that surprised me. It's a quick-paced and beautifully written fantasy novel that has a lot of crossover appeal. 

The world Amanda's created is a unique one filled with both beauty and treachery and the characters you meet are characters you're not always sure you can trust - something which speaks very clearly of the fickle nature of fairytale creatures.

Wendy is someone you can't help but relate to. What person hasn't at one time feel as if they didn't belong?

You can't help but sympathise with her - especially given the fact that her "mother" would go through such extreme lengths to try and harm her. 

What makes this such an intriguing read is that the additional characters you meet each have their own, unique background stories.

These stories, or hints at them rather, are set up in such a way that you get the sense that there will be some explosive secrets that will be revealed in the books to come.  And clearly, not everything is at it seems.

The romantic element wasn't a very straightforward one. That there is an attraction between Finn and Wendy is obvious, but there are a few big factors that come in to play and prevent Finn from acting on his feelings. 

Finn himself, is such a contradiction. On the one hand, he is completely aloof towards her. Assigned as some sort of bodyguard, he often puts his duty first, which leaves Wendy feeling hurt and confused.

However, underneath that cool veneer, he cares much more than he lets on; and when he does let his guard down, well, it makes for some of the most swoon-worthy moments in the book.

One of the reasons I love books about anything fairytale related is that often the very nature of the book, settings and the characters are contradictory.

This why I love Switched so much.

On the surface, the book seems to be a light fantasy read, but Amanda is great at setting the kind of tone that speaks of the wispy, whimsy and ever changing nature of the world that she's created.

And at its very heart, is Wendy, who has to adjust and change according to the circumstances surrounding her. It's a book about metamorphosis and it's a book about growing into your skin and becoming comfortable with who you are.

I've had a sneak peak at the next instalment in the trilogy and have to say, I'm very eager to see just where she'll take this series next, especially with the introduction of a character that may either prove to be an enemy or an ally.

Do yourself a favour and pick this book up. It's worth the hype it's been generating.

Disclaimer: An edited version of this review also appears on the Women24 website, a South African Lifestyle website where I work as an online lifestyle journalist and manage our site's Books, Bridal and Community hubs.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Book review: Ashes

The zombies are coming for you... and those who haven't changed will kill to survive. Just who can be trusted in a world where everything changes in a split second?

Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick (Quercus)
It happens when Alex is hiking through the forest: an electromagnetic pulse flashes and destroys every electronic and computerised device in an instant.

People are dead and the landscape changes in that brief second the EMP hits the earth.

It doesn't take Alex long to realise that those who have survived, may probably have been better off if they had been struck down; because out of those that still are alive, the population can now be divided into two different categories.

The first group consists of those who have been altered in such a way that they've developed superhuman sense as a result of the pulse, while the second group are those who have suddenly developed an eerie and unnatural taste for human flesh.

When Alex meets Tom, a young army veteran on the run, and Ellie, a young girl who lost her grandfather to the shattering electromagnetic force, they can't help but notice that:

a) Most of the kids Alex and Tom's age have undergone the change from human to zombie/cannibal;

b) The older generation seem to have been spared, but some are now hunting those that are Alex and Tom's age  because of the threat they pose - even though a select few of them seem to have been spared and,

c) Surviving in the wilderness is not going to be all fun and games. At all.

Between trying to stick together, scrounging for food, battling to make the best out of a situation with their own lives at stake, Alex, Tom and Ellie will live together, fight together and be torn apart. 

And when that happens, Alex will need to face the possibility that sometimes finding solace and protection often harbours the most dangerous secrets of all.


There is an overabundance of  dystopian fiction in the world of literature lately, and I, for one, am quite happy about this.

It took some time for me to get into this genre, but after reading books like Never Let Me Go, Divergent and Wither, well, colour me addicted.

When Ashes arrived on my desk, my curiosity was immediately piqued. At first glance, it sounded like just another one of those run-of-the-mill zombie reads. The moment I started reading it, my opinion quickly changed.

The first thing that stood out for me is that Ilsa J. Bick is a phenomenal writer. Her writing is stark and beautiful against a world reduced to ashes and dust. The world she's built is vividly frightening and leaves one with a sense of desolation.

You're struck with a feeling of hopelessness and are completely caught up in Alex's world as she struggles to make it on a day-to-day basis, while not only fending for herself, but helping Tom to look after Ellie, who, no doubt due to losing her grandfather, often behaves like a petulant brat.

The next thing that became apparent to me is that Ilse made sure that this dystopian fiction world she's created is a hostile playground for humans and animals alike - and that surviving would not be very easy for the trio.

Just when they've fought their way through a zombie attack, humans who haven't undergone the change, fight them off for their supplies.

It's a never-ending cycle of "just when will they get a break?" and it left me, as the reader, feeling both exhilarated and exhausted by it. It's also, I think, I fantastic (if rather obvious) way to keep the reader glued to the pages, especially if you make sure that almost each chapter ends with a bit of a cliffhanger.

The emotions evoked in the characters are strong, emphatic and incredibly real. Alex is a fantastic heroine. She's been taught how to survive and has some incredible fighting skills to boot. And with the supersense she's developed - she's also become gold for others who've been spared.

Along the way, she also finds herself caught between her growing feelings two boys, each of them as different as night as day, and each of them with their own strengths. Honestly, both boys are so likeable that I think Alex is in for a tough time when it comes to making a decision.

I wish I could review this novel in its entirety as there are so many complex layers that make this such a compelling read, but I'd be giving it all away.

What you can look forward to though is a deeply intricate novel where rules can either make or break you, where cult leaders may take advantage of situations and where one girl, who may just lose her heart to two very different boys, is forced to use every single survival skill she's harnassed, to make it out alive.

Oh and that epic cliffhanger at the end? It will have you begging for the next book in the trilogy. I so didn't see that one coming.

Pick it up. You'll want to read this.

Disclaimer: This review also appears on the Women24 website, a South African Lifestyle website where I work as an online lifestyle journalist and manage our site's Books, Bridal and Community hubs.