Top Ten Tuesday: 2014 Releases I’m Dying to Read!

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.

Each week they will post a new Top Ten list that one of their bloggers over at The Broke and the Bookish will answer. Everyone is welcome to join.

The topic for this week is: Top Ten 2014 Releases I’m Dying to Read! 

For this week’s list I’ve tried to list books that aren’t in the series I’ve talked about on the blog before – because otherwise my list would just be a repeat of sequels I can’t wait to read (and yes – I’m still oh-so excited for Cress, Dreams of Gods and Monsters, Secret, The One, Silver Shadows and The Forever Song).

Here are some books that I can’t wait to be released that I’ve not talked about before.

Debut Authors:

Tape by Steven Camden – Two people, twenty years apart, connected by a story on a tape. One recorded it, one is listening to it and this novel is their story. I think it sounds interesting and lets face it – cassette tapes are so very cool…. I might be biased because I have one in my car and no CD player but it appeals to me regardless. The author is a spoken word poet and you can find him talking about tape: here  (January 30th, 2014)

The Break Up Artist by Phillip Siegel – Becca isn’t a matchmaker. In fact she’s the opposite. For a fee she’ll do whatever it takes to break up a couple – and she does it all anonymously. I have a bit of a soft spot for matchmaking stories and the idea of someone trying to break couples up on purpose really appeals to me. It’s one of those stories that you know is going to get pretty dirty for the break up artist in question. (April 29, 2014)

Wish You Were Italian by Kristen Rae – I adore contemporary novels set in Italy and this one sounds adorable. The Italian sun, gorgeous ruins and some romantic drama to cap it all off.  (May 6th, 2014)

Sekret by Lindsay Smith – Psychic spies, the KGB and powerful mind erasers working for the CIA: need I say more? This book looks dramatic and suspenseful! (April 1st, 2014)

The Fire Wish by Amber Lought – I adore genies and djinn and jinni. Whatever you want to call them I have loved them since I was 7 and watched Disney’s Aladdin for the first time and recently wrote my own novel about them (although my story is only really fit for the recycling bin). I’m always glad to see new stories about the wish granters and Amber Lought’s debut looks delightful. Unwilling brides, Eastern princes and not one but two magic lamps? This book is definitely on my wish list. (July 22nd, 2014)

Tape The Break-Up Artist Wish You Were Italian Sekret (Sekret, #1)

Authors I love with New Series / Standalones

The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E Smith – I love this author as she writes lovely and fun contemporary novels which aren’t just fluff. There’s substance and more to them than you might expect. Two strangers being stuck in an elevator is one of those concepts that I love to read and I’m sure this novel will live up to my expectations! (April 15th, 2014)

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han – Books about letters are another one of those things that I really enjoy reading about. Having a box of letters written to exes but never intending for them to read them but having them sent out? Sounds like some great contemporary drama to be had! (April 22nd, 2014)

Panic by Lauren Oliver – Panic is a game played among graduating seniors with prize money that could set you up perfectly for college. Only catch it the game is illegal and it’s not unheard of that people get seriously hurt or even die. How great is this idea? I may not have finished Lauren Oliver’s Delirium series but Panic sounds like my kind of story. (March 4th, 2014)

Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong – I’m an autobuyer of anything Kelley Armstrong writes and I’m interested in this upcoming series. Sisters tasked with keeping the souls of the damned quiet. It sounds a little more high fantasy than her other books and I’m looking forward to reading this one. (April 8th, 2014)

After the End by Amy Plum – I was a huge fan of the Reverants series and because of that, I’m interested to see what Amy Plum’s next series will deliver. Post World War III and its set in Alaska, my favourite of the US states! After the End looks like a great new dystopian novel! (May 6th, 2014)

The Geography of You and Me To All the Boys I've Loved Before Panic Sea of Shadows (Age of Legends, #1) After the End (After the End, #1)

These are all books I’m very excited for. I was growing a little sad the other day when I realized just how close we are to the end of the year but with this many books to look forward to, 2014 is looking bright. Which books are you excited for? Any I should add to my to-read list? Feel free to leave me a comment – I love reading them! 🙂

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Book Review: Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith

Wild Awake

Title: Wild Awake
Author: Hilary T. Smith
Genre: Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Young Adult, Music, Romance, 
Publisher: Hardie Grant Egmont
Publication Date: October 1st, 2013
Pages: 375
Rating: 4.5 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
Things you earnestly believe will happen while your parents are away:

1. You will remember to water the azaleas.
2. You will take detailed, accurate messages.
3. You will call your older brother, Denny, if even the slightest thing goes wrong.
4. You and your best friend/bandmate Lukas will win Battle of the Bands.
5. Amid the thrill of victory, Lukas will finally realize you are the girl of his dreams.

Things that actually happen:

1. A stranger calls who says he knew your sister.
2. He says he has her stuff.
3. What stuff? Her stuff.
4. You tell him your parents won’t be able to—
5. Sukey died five years ago; can’t he—
6. You pick up a pen.
7. You scribble down the address.
8. You get on your bike and go.
9. Things . . . get a little crazy after that.*
*also, you fall in love, but not with Lukas.

Both exhilarating and wrenching, Hilary T. Smith’s debut novel captures the messy glory of being alive, as seventeen-year-old Kiri Byrd discovers love, loss, chaos, and murder woven into a summer of music, madness, piercing heartbreak, and intoxicating joy

My Review:

Kiri Byrd is the daughter parents can depend on. To water plants, to practice her piano and not to get into any trouble. And Kiri is fine playing the role because she’s convinced that her perfection is the only way to keep her family together after her older sister, Sukey, died in an accident a few years ago. But a strange phone call one night when her parents are away on a cruise leads to Kiri questioning everything she believes to be true.

“It’s amazing how quickly the things you thought would make you happy seem small once you stumble on something true.” 

This book is both beautiful and bizarre. Kiri is in the midst of discovering things about Sukey, her parents and herself that she never even considered. It’s an emotional story with Kiri falling apart. Her sister may not have been the role model Kiri had on a pedestal and her parents dismissal of all thing Sukey may not have been the most healthy thing to do. Kiri is locked in a world where she lives in denial. Watering the azaleas and perfecting complicated piano pieces is the way she is holding things together. But when she finds out there’s more to Sukey’s death than she ever considered, Kiri is thrown – especially considering her brother and parents knew the truth all along. Kiri tries to hold on to the perfect life she’s living whilst at the same time starts to resent it. She’s beautiful in her confusion and reading her was a pleasure. Her awkwardness regarding love and sex was endearing to read and her passion – albeit slightly fanatical – for music was a joy.

And then there’s Skunk. Have you ever heard a more attractive name for the hero of a story? Probably not. Skunk is one of those characters that I adored from the first time Kiri met him.
“He’s huge. Hagridesque. A bulldozer crossed with a  gorilla.”

Romantic, right? His relationship with Kiri is one based on friendship first and contrasts perfectly with the relationship Kiri has with bandmate Lukas. Both boys couldn’t be more different and they do a great job of representing Kiri’s perfect past and confused present.

I loved the writing in this novel. If I were to underline my favourite lines most of the book would be marked. Kiri’s spiral downwards was oddly wonderful to read – one of those things that feel like they should be entirely uncomfortable were written in a way that made me want to read more and anticipate how Kiri would react to the next bombshell in her life. Her relationships with everyone are declining and it’s awkward yet enticing.

The ending wasn’t quite what I was expecting but I felt it was perfectly fitting for both the plot and the characters. I wasn’t expecting to like this book as much as I did – the recreational drug use on page 1 nearly turned me off but this is so much more than a teenage stoner story. It’s an emotional and lovely debut novel with amazingly flawed characters and some beautiful prose. I adored this book and will definitely be looking out for more books by Hilary T. Smith.

Favourite Quotes:

“His smile is a jar full of fireflies”

“The wired feeling that started when I left my house has grown into a thrumming, crackling, electrical field. I want to kiss Lukas. I want to dance down the street. There’s a reason people get drunk after funerals, and I suddenly know what it is: the flip side of sadness is a dark, devouring joy, a life that demands to be fed.”

“I want to kiss you,” I say, “but I seem to be holding this cat.”
Skunk lifts his hand and touches it to the side of my face. His fingers are warm from carrying the hot skillet to the table. He regards me very seriously, and for a moment I wonder if he’s about to tell me we should Focus on Bicycle Repair. Instead he just looks at me for a very long time.
“You’re beautiful,” says Skunk, “and completely batshit.” 

Thanks to Hardie Grant Egmont for the review copy.

Purchase the novel from:

Amazon | Booktopia | Book Depository | Book World

Book Review: The Elites by Natasha Ngan

The Elites

Title: The Elites
Author: Natasha Ngan
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Adventure, Young Adult
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Publication Date: September 2013
Pages: 368
Rating: 3 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
‘There is a rumour that the Elites don’t bleed.’

Hundreds of years into the future, wars, riots, resource crises and rising sea-levels have destroyed the old civilisations. Only one city has survived: Neo-Babel, a city full of cultures – and racial tension.

Fifteen-year-old Silver is an Elite, a citizen of Neo-Babel chosen to guard the city due to her superior DNA. She’d never dream of leaving – but then she fails to prevent the assassination of Neo Babel’s president, setting off a chain of events more shocking and devastating than she could ever have imagined. Forced to flee the city with her best friend Butterfly (a boy with genetically-enhanced wings), Silver will have to fight to find her family, uncover the truth about Neo-Babel and come to terms with her complicated feelings for Butterfly.

My Review:

In the city of Neo-Babel there are citizens with superior DNA who guard the people. They are called the Elite. Silver has been in training with the Elite for a few years and is dying for a chance to prove herself to others. To those who thought her Red blood is inferior and those – like her student mentor, Ember- who think Silver is incapable of being one of the Elite. On her very first assignment to help protect the president during a rally, Silver is the one whose lack of punctuality among other things get the president assassinated.

Things start getting weirder with people going missing and an uprising on the horizon. Silver, along with her best friend Butterfly, are on a quest to try to save her family and unravel the secrets that the Elite seem to thrive on.

This is a debut novel with a lot going on. There are plots and sub-plots with a lot of different characters and organizations each with their own agendas. I adored the concept of this book. I can’t get enough of kick-arse heroines who have their own vulnerabilities but ultimately see the bigger picture. Silver is one of these. She’s a little naive but trying to be the best warrior she can be. I thought it was interesting how the topic of racism is addressed right throughout the novel. Silver is a Red, a person of Chinese descent, and as such viewed as a lesser person than others even within the Elite structure.

I enjoyed the other students at the Elite academy – in particular, Butterfly. His name may be pretty and delicate but he’s strong in his own right and a force to be reckoned with. His relationship with Silver is one of strong friendship with their romance being more subtle and whilst enjoyable, it lacked the sparks and pizzazz that I like between fictional characters. Ember, Cobe, Allum and Taiyo are great supporting character who all add something a little different to the story. I thought the names were especially clever. People like Butterfly and the organization, the Pigeons, are so seemingly weak and childish and yet they hold a lot of power within them.

Brilliant world building and some great characters, The Elite is an interesting urban fantasy novel. The plot is a little slow to warm up but once things get going there’s a lot of surprises and action going on. I was surprised to see that it’s a standalone because there’s so much more about this universe which this book exists to be explored.

 

Thanks to Hot Key Books for the review copy.

Purchase the novel from:

Amazon | Booktopia | Book Depository | BookWorld

Book Review: The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

The Bone Season

Title: The Bone Season (The Bone Season #1)
Author: Samantha Shannon
Genre: Fantasy, Dystopia, Science Fiction
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publication Date: August 2013
Pages: 466
Rating: 3.5 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
The year is 2059. Nineteen-year-old Paige Mahoney is working in the criminal underworld of Scion London, based at Seven Dials, employed by a man named Jaxon Hall. Her job: to scout for information by breaking into people’s minds. For Paige is a dreamwalker, a clairvoyant and, in the world of Scion, she commits treason simply by breathing.

It is raining the day her life changes for ever. Attacked, drugged and kidnapped, Paige is transported to Oxford – a city kept secret for two hundred years, controlled by a powerful, otherworldly race. Paige is assigned to Warden, a Rephaite with mysterious motives. He is her master. Her trainer. Her natural enemy. But if Paige wants to regain her freedom she must allow herself to be nurtured in this prison where she is meant to die.

My Review:

I’m always nervous to read books that have a lot of hype surrounding them. I don’t want to feel let down and so it was with some trepidation that I started to read The Bone SeasonThe first in a seven part series, this debut novel by twenty-one-year-old Samantha Shannon is an adventure into a world similar but so very different from our own. The story begins in 2059, London with Paige Mahoney, a nineteen-year-old clairvoyant dream walker. Clairvoyants (or ‘voyants’ as they are also known as) are forced into the criminal underground or risk being caught and locked up by the Scion – the current ruling body of the continent.

Whilst she may be on the other side of the law, Paige has a nice set up. Working for Jaxon (Jax) Hall and breaking into other people’s minds from a distance for their secrets and information, Paige is safe from the reach of the Scion. That is until an incident causes everything to change. Paige gets captured and taken to the Tower. And things are just getting started.

There’s so much that goes on in this novel. The blurb doesn’t even begin to touch on Paige’s troubles. There’s an alien race known as the Rephaite who ‘feed’ on the voyants and need them to keep alive. Their way of life and their parasitical nature is simultaneously obscene and compelling. I loved how this book began. Paige is one of the good guys – despite working for an underworld lord like Jax and some of the things she has to do to keep alive throughout the novel. She’s intelligent and resourceful and well-intentioned. But she’s not a pushover and she does have her flaws. There were times when I felt like some of the circumstances around Paige were a little too fortuitous and convenient (like the length of stay in the Tower compared to others) but I understand that these things were essential for the overall big picture.

The other characters are just as interesting and three-dimensional as Paige. Jax – who isn’t seen very much in this first book but has so much potential – fascinated me. And then there’s Warden. He’s mysterious and it’s unclear as to what his endgame is just yet but you just know that it’s going to be worthwhile continuing reading to find out. There are a whole cast of other characters I could go on forever about. What I like most about them is that every character – human or Rephaite – has their own agenda. Be it world domination or just being alive to see the sunset tomorrow – Shannon has done an amazing job of bringing them all together in a way that feels right for each individual character.

As should be expected in the first novel of a long series is some world building – and there is a fair amount of it in The Bone Season. Whilst essential to help build the plot and understand the race who inhabit the universe that’s been created, there were times when I did start to feel a little overwhelmed with just how much was going on. That said – the Seven Orders of Clairvoyance, the mysterious Rephaite colony in Oxford and criminal syndicate in which Paige worked – are all beautifully created with a lot of depth and detail.

This is a long novel and I was impressed with the level of research that you could tell went into the story. I’ve heard people call this book a young adult novel but that’s not how I’d describe it. I think it’s an adult book which many teenagers would enjoy. It gets quite dark sometimes with Shannon treating the characters she created quite badly at times but there is still an element of hope. I can’t wait for the second book which Shannon is currently writing to be released and have high hopes of what is to come next in this series!

Purchase the novel from:

Amazon | Booktopia | Book Depository | BookWorld

Last night I had the pleasure of being apart of a panel that The Reading Room put together in order to conduct an online interview with Samantha Shannon. She was absolutely lovely, taking the time to answer all of our questions. I’ve posted the video below in case you want to check it out!

Book Review: Advantage Erin by Kris Kreisman

Title: Advantage Erin
Author: Kris Kreisman
Genre: Contemporary, Sports, Time Travel
Publisher: self-published
Publication Date: 22 August 2012
Pages: 140
Rating: 2.5 stars

Click here to read the first chapter of Advantage Erin.

Synopsis (from goodreads):
Erin’s mom is driving her crazy. Especially about tennis. Erin is good and enjoys the game. But it’s not her fault she’s not the megastar her mom claims to have been when she was Erin’s age. If only there was some way to get Mom to understand…

Spring break arrives, which means a visit to Grandma and Mom’s old hometown. Grandma is eccentric, but she’s also cool and understands Erin’s frustrations. And she can help. By taking Erin on a visit to Mom’s old high school. Not Mom’s school today. But Mom’s school as it was in 1970.

Erin experiences the trip of her lifetime. Back in time, where she struggles to fit in with a bunch of kids who never heard of the Internet or laptops or cell phones. Where she meets some very cool kids. And one not so cool kid named Catherine. Now known as Mom.

Talk turns to tennis, and inevitably the challenge is made and accepted. And they play the tennis match of the century. Erin had repeatedly heard how Mom was undefeated. Now was her time to do something about it. They battle hard until, in unexpected fashion, it’s over. But when she returns to the present Erin learns the truth about her Mom. And Mom learns some lessons as well.

Enjoy Erin’s thrill ride, her fun, her excitement, her anxiety. And discover how her trip to the past changed her present.

My Review:

More and more lately I’ve been thinking about what life must have been like for my parents back when they were my age. Through a magical computer and a crafty grandmother, Erin gets to go back to the sixties and meet the teenage version of her mother. Before children, before her tennis dreams were crushed and before life got complicated and “grown up”, Erin’s mother Catherine is like a different person. Erin realizes that maybe there’s more to her mother than she ever realized.

Conceptually I thought this book was great. Time travel, tennis and sixties fashion – I loved it all. However I had some problems with the pacing. Everything happens too quickly (Erin’s entire time travelling adventure occurs within an 10 hour or so window). I also thought that in terms of emotion and drama, Erin managed to deal with all that was happening without any trouble. I’m not sure I’d have been able to handle being dragged back in time five decades anywhere near as well as she did.

There were some surprises and fun quirks along the way that kept me reading up until the last page. Advantage Erin is a fun and quick novel about mothers, daughters and how sometimes the time and distance between them isn’t as large as you might first think.

Thank you to author Kris Kreisman for providing me with a review copy.

Purchase the novel from:

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Apple iBookstore
Smashwords