Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Blog Tour : The Otherworld Series by Skylar Dorset

Inspiration for the Otherworld

Part of the fun in writing a fantasy novel is that you get to decide the rules that the world needs to live by. So when it came time for me to think about what sort of world I wanted to be my supernatural faerie world in the Otherworld novels, I spent a little bit of time thinking about what would be fun. I was creating a world from scratch, of course I wanted to have some fun! If I wanted to have a talking rat show up, I could! And if I wanted that rat to be one of my characters’ father, well, I could do that, too!

Ben is a traveler, making it easy for him to jump between worlds and also between places within a world, which gave me some opportunity to fool around a little bit more with how vast the Otherworld really is. Ben’s home isn’t near the Seelie Court, so they could be very different places. Likewise, when the Seelies find Ben and Selkie in Boston and Ben is trying to run away from them, he jumps them through a variety of places very quickly, all with different types of weather. It would be fun to try to imagine larger stories about all of those places! It’s something I didn’t get a chance to do just because of the direction of the plot of the story I was telling.

When it came time to imagine what the Seelie Court would be like, I was inspired a lot by faerie lore that I read up on, which I then spun out one step farther. Part of faerie lore was that faeries don’t like broken mirrors. I took that and turned it into the fact that the Seelie Court lacked glass. The island of Avalon, which plays a role in THE BOY WITH THE HIDDEN NAME, is associated with the name “Isle of Glass” in Welsh culture, so I liked the lack of glass even better then, since I enjoyed playing around with the fact that faeries name things the opposite of what they actually mean. This is why I made Mag Mell, traditionally translated to mean “plain of joy,” a canyon instead. And a canyon leading to an evil, terrifying prison, to boot!

It seemed natural to me that the Seelie Court should be a labyrinthine maze, populated by lots of strange guard animals. I liked the idea that the Seelies themselves would be these really lazy, decadent creatures, because I found something more terrifying about the fact that they were so blasé about killing other creatues. And I decided early on to give them an affinity for really bright sunlight, partly because I wanted the frequent cloudy days in Boston to feel ogre-like in comparison, and partly because I knew I was going to journey to the Unseelie Court in THE BOY WITH THE HIDDEN NAME, and I wanted to set up a contrast.

So I’ve already teased two places you get to see in THE BOY WITH THE HIDDEN NAME: the Unseelie Court and Avalon. The other major place I introduce in THE BOY WITH THE HIDDEN NAME is Goblinopolis, which is the underground city where the goblins live. But that’s not in the Otherworld at all. That’s right in the middle of Boston’s subway system!

About The Author : Skylar’s first story was a tale of romantic intrigue involving two feuding factions of squirrels. Think “Romeo & Juliet” but with bushy tails and added espionage. She was seven.

Since that time, Skylar’s head has been filled with lots of characters and lots of drama. She is delighted to be able to share some of it with all of you now, because, honestly, it was getting pretty loud and crowded in there.

Skylar is a born-and-bred New Englander, which is why Boston was a natural setting for her debut novel, THE GIRL WHO NEVER WAS. Skylar shares her home with a cardboard cutout of the Tenth Doctor, lots of Mardi Gras beads from the time she spent living in New Orleans, and a harp she’s supposed to be teaching herself to play. She’d like to get a dog.

Her Website
You can also stalk her on twitter SkylarDorset

SOURCEBOOKS was kind to offer a copy of The Boy with the Hidden Name the second installment of The Otherworld Series The giveaway is opened to US and Canada only.

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Wednesday, 8 October 2014

The Young Elites by Marie Lu

Book Summary : I am tired of being used, hurt, and cast aside.

Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever. A decade ago, the deadly illness swept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto, an abomination, ruining their family’s good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever’s survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars—they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites.

Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it’s Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all.

Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen.

Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn’t belong in this world. A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her.

It is my turn to use. My turn to hurt

My Rating : 4 of 5 stars

My Thoughts : The Young Elites, a fine attempt of high fantasy by author Marie Lu, was successful in equal measure in doling out proper execution and satisfaction. Prior to The Young Elites, I have only read the author’s Legend, a dystopian, and was genuinely thrilled about this one.

The Young Elites is sort of book, so dark, that will liquefy your innards and make you wither inside. Told from the perspective of four characters, every one of whom played unique and equally important role in the story, the book delivered an unusual a poignant tale of trust, anger, envy and love.

The main character, Adelina Amouteru, lives in a world hell ravaged by blood plague. Decades ago, the illness caused deaths of many, and the infected children who survived were left with markings and some possessed strange power. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her eyelashes went pale, and a jagged scar marked where her left eye once was. Abused by her cruel father, who believes her to be a malfetto, Adelina accidentally killed him, and was sentenced to be burned on stakes. Rescued by the mysterious leader of Dagger Society—a group of malfettos like her—Adelina was now hell bent on revenge, and destroy all those who wronged her. Adelina was a intimidating creature to behold. Despite all her darkness, bitterness and anger, it was easy for me to relate to Adelina’s character.

Enzo was the former crown prince to the throne, believed to be dead and now a malfetto keeping his identity secret behind his silver mask. He played a vital role in shaping Adelina’s power and future. And, as did Teren Santoro, another dark character with his own secrets, and the leader of the Inquisition Axis. He’s twisted and manipulative, even darker than Adelina herself. His hatred towards malfettos was palpable. He believed them to be abomination, his purpose to destroy them all. He was my favorite character of all. Ah, how can I deny my attraction to damaged souls?

The beginning was a bit slow, but quickly sped up, and I found myself I was instantly swept into the story. I finished the book in exactly two sittings, and can say the writing has improved a great deal from the author's previous series; the prose, the gritty description, the setting, all were expertly done. Not to mention the ending was EVIL, but in a good way. It left my skin crawling with anticipation, and stomach growling for more. I can’t wait until the next in the series is available.

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Friday, 26 September 2014

The Jewel by Amy Ewing

Book Summary : "Today is my last day as Violet Lasting. Tomorrow I become Lot 197."

The Jewel is a shocking and compelling new YA series from debut author, Amy Ewing.

Sold for six million diamantes, Violet is now Surrogate of the House of the Lake in the centre of the Lone City, the Jewel. Her sole purpose is to produce a healthy heir for the Duchess – a woman Violet fears and despises.

Violet is trapped in a living death, her name and body no longer her own. She fights to hold on to her own identity and sanity, uncertain of the fate of her friends, isolated and at the mercy of the Duchess.

The Handmaid's Tale meets The Other Boleyn Girl in a world where beauty and brutality collide.

My Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

My Thoughts : My thoughts are conflicted for The Jewels.

The book started off really well, and no doubt, resembled a few other dystopians I have recently read. The story itself is brilliantly crafted…or would have been if it weren't for the insta-love running all the fun.

The protagonist,Violet Lasting is special breed of girl, raised and groomed to be a surrogate, to bear the offspring for rich women in the heart of the city—the Jewel, who are incapable of giving birth. In her world, girls like Violet are defined by the very same number they score in Augury Test. At the auction, Violet is purchased by the Duchess of the Lake, and thrown into a lavish world of balls and dresses and wealth. She soon discovers the truth that lurked beneath the glittering facade of The Jewel, where surrogates like her are treated like dogs, cradled with gifts if they comply, punished if they disobey.

The world building is more like a cocktail of high fantasy punched with dystopian. The city is divided into rings (which reminds me of The Midnight Thief). The outer most is the Farm (Obviously, the farmlands), next to it was Marsh (where our MC hails from), then the Smoke (the factories), the Bank (business district) and innermost in the Jewel (where the nobles live). There are facilities for training the surrogates. Each of surrogates possess unique Auguries—a kind of magic that wasn't explained well—such as growing a bud into a flower, changing colors etc etc.

I must say the politics was done well—one reason that kept me at the edge of my seat. The backstabbing, the cruelty, how a royal could stoop low to even have a surrogate killed.

Violet Lasting, is not a bad protagonist either, but in places her narration was flat—monotonous. She is mostly compliant and given her situation—being groomed for years to be submissive—I understand that, played her part of a damsel in distress. However, she undergoes a character development, but not until very late in the book.

What ruined this book for me, as I've said before, is the insta-love. The love interest, Ash, appears in the second half of the book, and the moment he enters, Violet falls in love at first sight, thinks about kissing him later the same night, which quickly escalated into confessions on true love and kissing in their third meeting.

All that aside, this book has potential and a likable read. The story ended with an evil cliffhanger, left me with wanting more and I’ll continue the series as to how events will turn in the next installment.

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Friday, 19 September 2014

The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

Book Summary : Winning what you want may cost you everything you love.

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions. One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction.

Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin. But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.

Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

My Rating : 5 of 5 stars

My Thoughts : It was probably the most beautifully written book I've read in this year. Lyrical. Poetic. A sweeping, original story set in a high fantasy world inspired by Greco-Roman world, and without any unnecessary interference of magic.

Kestrel, the only daughter of Valorian general, impulsively buys a slave up for auction, and pays an intrinsic value. But Arin has his own plans. Kestrel soon learns that the price she paid for a slave is much steeper than she ever could have imagined.

Arin was defying for a slave. He didn't even behave like one, and his proximity to Kestrel could be unbelievable and bothersome to many, but it was something impressing as well. He was devoted to his cause, but without hurting Kestrel, adding so much depth and understanding to his character. His strength wasn't only physical, but in his determination to persevere for his enslaved country and for his love as well. Arin’s character was meant to be bold, blatant by how he spoke, but at the same time, it wasn't hard for me to see what Kestrel saw in him.

And for Kestrel, her character development was fantastic. I was impressed to see how selfish, and flawed she were, yet how selflessly she made decisions when time came. She was strong, but the strength wasn't necessarily physical. It was her intelligence. And this is the type of heroine that is much more interesting to read than sword-wielding ones.

I immediately was rooting for Kestrel and Arin as a couple. Their relationship wasn't your typical romance, it was a slow-burning complex love that thrived on power play, both manipulation and trust. I didn't found then swooning over each other, but I certainly felt a strange passion igniting between them, a bond that gradually grew stronger with each encounter.

The world building was artfully captured in words--the Valorian culture, the banquets and balls, the society that lived on gossip, where fascinating costumes were complemented with jeweled daggers.

For fans who like romance as a sub-plot in a fantasy-lite, this is you your perfect read. It will squeeze you heart and poke your lungs with intimate pleasure of reading until you will feel the desperate need for air.

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Thursday, 11 September 2014

Winterkill by Kate A. Boorman

Book Summary : Where Emmeline lives, you cannot love and you cannot leave...

The Council's rules are strict, but they're for the good of the settlement in which Emmeline lives. Everyone knows there is nothing but danger the other side of the Wall, and the community must prepare for the freezing winterkill that comes every year.

But Emmeline struggles to be obedient under the Council's suffocating embrace - especially when she discovers that a Council leader intends to snatch her hand in marriage.

Then Emmeline begins to hear the call of the trees beyond the Wall...

My Rating : 3 of 5 stars

My Thoughts : "They are isolated....but not alone..."

Winterkill is basically a rip-off of the movie “The Village.”

Let me tell you the resemblances.

Both, the book and the movie, were set in a walled village/town in middle of nowhere, surrounded by deep forest where mysterious creature roams; the beings are called here “malmaci” and in The Village they were called "Those We Don't Speak Of."

Aside from the similarities with the movie, the Setting is vague. A very little history behind how the village came to existence is given. Two types of groups were told to survive from the old-world; the people who speak French and those who speak English, which led me to question, what happened to other democracies? How the Old World Kingdom (world as we know it now), met its end?

Sadly no explanation.

Speaking of the Characters, Emmeline, our protagonist is a Strained who bears the shame of her grandmother’s insubordination. She is also a cripple, pushed on an axe at a very young age by the villagers and broke her leg. Although, given her situation, I found her frail traits quite believable, but at times her reticence to speak up and wussy nature annoyed me. I liked her eagerness for knowledge and curiosity to discover the mystery outside village walls. Which ultimately led to her family history and secrets she never thought could exist.

Adding further to the list of similarities with The Village, a triangle between the MC, Kane—the boy she had a crush on and the village leader is introduced in the book.

However, the Romance between Em and Kane were sweet and well-developed. Kane was understanding and gorgeous and despite he lied to Em, given the reason behind it, he was easily forgivable. Gabriel, the mysterious young village most women swoon over, suddenly began showing interest in Em for no apparent reason. I have to admit I was misled by his sincerity and his impression of love. That loving someone doesn't mean the person you love will love you back. I liked the way Gabriel’s character was crafted, layer by layer, complex and psychotic.

For the Writing, had it been any other story I would've called the writing choppy (though not as choppy as Half Bad), but considering the MC is illiterate, and so are most of the people in the town, her voice felt absolutely suitable for her persona, somehow reminded me of Willo from After the Snow.

As final verdict, I’d say: Readers, give this book a chance. If not anything, I found it engaging. Though I already guessed the big reveal from a half book away, I kept reading and honestly one or two twist near the end I didn't see coming. Trust me, despite its flaws and holes, Winterkill is truly not a terrible book by any means.

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