Thursday, December 29, 2011

Cover Re-creation: Help Me? Round II

Okay, so this comes in quick succession, but I need your help again. To help me pick a cover. For the cover recreation contest at Confessions of a Bookaholic.

So, yesterday I posted 6 covers I re-made for Holly Cupala's new book Don't Breathe A Word. And I asked for your opinions regarding which you thought would make the best entry (for the contest, ie). If you have no idea what I'm talking about, refer here. Well, THANK YOU for your suggestions! I really appreciated it :)

Anyway, based on what you said, I narrowed it down to the top three. I reworked one, tweaked another and let one just be. And now I need you to tell me which ONE you think should be my contest entry, okay?
So, here's the actual book cover:

In Holly's own words, these are visual ideas from the book:

Streets, darkness, light (I love the bokeh lights in the final official cover!). Asher, the abusive boyfriend, is obsessed with crows, and Joy feels like she is trapped like one. He gives her a Tiffany I.D. bracelet with a crow dangling from the edge. At the beginning of the novel, Joy cuts off her long, dark hair and bleaches it to disguise herself on the streets. There is a romance, too, with Creed—a talented musician who is on the streets for reasons of his own. 

Taken from here.

And here are the ones that I made:


Cover #2

Cover #3

Please choose just ONE cover. It would make my job easier AND I will love you forever. For reals.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Help Me Pick A Cover?

So, Confessions of a Bookaholic is hosting a re-cover contest for Holly Cupala's upcoming 2012 release, Don't Breathe A Word. Which obviously means, that it's the fun fight over recreating the cover of Don't Breathe A Word. Recreating THIS cover.

I really like this cover. There's a certain subtle fierceness to the way the girl's hair is whipping about her face. And I love the font used. Overall, I think it really captures the mood of the book, from what I get out of the summary. For those not in the know, this is what it's about:
Joy Delamere is suffocating... 
From asthma, which has nearly claimed her life. From her parents, who will do anything to keep that from happening. From delectably dangerous Asher, who is smothering her from the inside out. 
Joy can take his words - tender words, cruel words - until the night they go too far. 
Now, Joy will leave everything behind to find the one who has offered his help, a homeless boy called Creed. She will become someone else. She will learn to survive. She will breathe... if only she can get to Creed before it’s too late. 
Set against the gritty backdrop of Seattle’s streets and a cast of characters with secrets of their own, Holly Cupala’s powerful new novel explores the subtleties of abuse, the meaning of love, and how far a girl will go to discover her own strength.
So, as you must have guessed by now (unless you're skimming through this - which I can't really blame you for. I ramble a lot), the Queen Procrastinator in me took over (as it does, most of the time) and *I* decided to participate. Of course there's the added perk of winning a signed copy of Don't Breathe A Word. I mean, who wouldn't want that? I really, really liked Holly Cupala's debut novel, Tell Me A Secret, so of course, I'd read every book she comes up with.  And, DUDE, this one's a *signed* copy!
This happens to be the first time ever that I'm recreating a cover. Any cover, at all. It's just that, I always knew I wanted to read this book, but there's the matter of *when*. I need to be not-broke, like I perpetually am, so I can pre-order/buy it. And ever since I read an excerpt from the novel I was a goner. It was THAT good. Which brings me to this contest. With the recreation, I actually ended up creating several different covers for Don't Breathe A Word. I'm obsessive like that. Sadly, it's only one cover per person, so I need to choose. Which I can't. So I need you. To choose for me. Can you do that? Please? I've told you what the book is about and I've showed you the original cover - well, my covers are waaay different from that, I think, but I need you to tell me which you think works best for the book. Okay?
Here goes.

Cover #1

Cover #2

Cover #3

Cover #4

The next two aren't in book cover size only because it's distorting the photograph. But don't chuck them out because of that! :)
Cover #5

Cover #6

So, there.
Tell me which one you like best. Choose one to make it easier for me ;)
Tell me if you like something but think it could be better. I appreciate suggestions.
Tell me if you hate them all. Then I'll think about reworking them.
Sound off in the comments!

See how much I want that book?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Christmas Post

Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childhood days, recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth, and transport the traveler back to his own fireside and quiet home  ~ Charles Dickens

It's Christmas eve in my part of the world.
Which means I'm full of that giddy joy that accompanies the 24th of Dec. Which also means that I'm so bubbling with, well, feelings, that I don't quite have the words, for a proper post.

So I'm gonna let other things do the talking.
Like Safe & Sound - the Taylor Swift ft The Civil Wars song from the official The Hunger Games soundtrack. WHO KNEW? I mean, I'd never associate Taylor with HG (c'mon, she's so sweet and fairy tale-ish, while HG is..well, HG) but..GAH, THIS IS PERFECT.

I can imagine so many instances for this song to be featured. Like, when Katniss tries to console a crying Prim before leaving for the Hunger Games - I don't remember if there's such a scene in the book, but if there's one in the book, and this song is played in the background, it would be so fitting. Or after Rue dies and Katniss sings her a lullaby, this could be the background score - it has such a lullaby-like quality to it. Also, I just know it's going to rip my heart to shreds. In fact, this song can even fit in when Katniss and Peeta are alone together and Peeta's certain that he would die. I just this song would be compelling anywhere.
I only, really, hope they actually use the song in the movie. Unlike what was done with Christina Perri's A Thousand Years from Breaking Dawn (it was part of the official soundtrack but didn't feature anywhere in the movie).

It's crazy, but this song just made Christmas a little more perfect :) And if for some reason you are down and sad and lonely, I hope these photos make you smile. Because photos kinda do that.

Don't tell me that last one didn't crack you up ;)

My comfort read for this Christmas is Trisha Ashley's The Magic of Christmas.

In the pretty Lancashire village of Middlemoss, Lizzy is on the verge of leaving her cheating husband, Tom, when tragedy strikes. Luckily she has welcome distraction in the Christmas Pudding Circle, a group of friends swapping seasonal recipes – as well as a rivalry with local cookery writer Nick over who will win Best Mince Pie at the village show… 

Meanwhile, the whole village is gearing up for the annual Boxing Day Mystery Play. But who will play Adam to Lizzy’s Eve? Could it be the handsome and charismatic soap actor Ritch, or could someone closer to home win her heart? Whatever happens, it promises to be a Christmas to remember! 

(And that cover? It's got sparkly bits all over it!)

Have a great Christmas, blogstars! And make sure you're under the mistletoe when there's a smexy boy/girl (whichever you prefer) around ;)

(All photos taken from here)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


He’s saved her. He’s loved her. He’s killed for her. 

Eighteen-year-old Archer couldn’t protect his best friend, Vivian, from what happened when they were kids, so he’s never stopped trying to protect her from everything else. It doesn’t matter that Vivian only uses him when hopping from one toxic relationship to another—Archer is always there, waiting to be noticed. 

Then along comes Evan, the only person who’s ever cared about Archer without a single string attached. The harder he falls for Evan, the more Archer sees Vivian for the manipulative hot-mess she really is. 

But Viv has her hooks in deep, and when she finds out about the murders Archer’s committed and his relationship with Evan, she threatens to turn him in if she doesn’t get what she wants… And what she wants is Evan’s death, and for Archer to forfeit his last chance at redemption.

This book? MIND. BLOWN.

It was this crazy, crazy ride through the lives of psychotic teenagers with very, very dark secrets that are so disturbing, they'll leave you breathless. Keep an inhaler handy.

So, what we get from the book description is that Archer's a sort of teenage Dexter who is killing people (actually killing the people who've hurt his friend Vivian), thinking it's the right thing to do.
It's twisted.
It's creepy.
And it heightens your curiosity quotient. Because any thinking person will want to know 'why' Archer is so crazy twisted. And what is his deal with Vivian, that he would go this far for her. And what on earth had happened to Vivian.
What? Why? How?
Hushed quickly raises numerous questions, and while you flip through the pages at phenomenal speed, it spinballs into a black hole of anticipation that might just give you a mini heart attack. And then, it'll hit you back with answers. Answers that will make you squirm and bite your lips till they bleed.

Hushed made me go through a range of emotions. Dark emotions, mostly, but dark has its range - rage, jealousy, despair. There's a lot going on there.

And oh man, Kelley York writes killer characters (no, the pun wasn't intended). She turns convention on its head and gives you brainsick teens in parasitic relationships, trapped in the role-plays they have created for themselves. Goes without saying, they are not your usual guys-and-girls-next-door. No.

Archer - Going into the book I had no idea what to think about Archer. Except for the fact that I'd be scared around him. Come on, the guy kills! (even if he's doing it for the benefit of his friend). And the book opens with a rather graphic-of-sorts scene of Archer murdering someone. But, you know, as with skillful storytelling, this man-killing-antisocial grows into somebody who deserves your sympathy. Archer is amazingly written. There's no black-and-whiteness about him. Archer walks in smoky grey haze, wanting so desperately to be loved by Vivian and doing all the wrong things to make things right that he sometimes makes your heart bleed a little.

Vivian - WHERE DID THIS GIRL COME FROM? I don't remember having detested any contemporary character (besides the mother in Tabitha Suzuma's Forbidden) as much as I detested her. She's so manipulative, so unstable, so emotionally abusive and misguided, most of the time I wanted to slap her left, right and centre. But as with Archer, I could tell where she was coming from. I never liked her, but I didn't hate her as much as I started out doing. And that's where Kelley York scores. Because Vivian wasn't meant to be a character to be liked (at least I don't think so) but not understanding where her motivations and insecurities arose from would have totally defeated the purpose of her presence. It's no surprise, perhaps, that she felt like the most REAL among the three main characters. She breathed right out of the pages.

Evan - Good heavens, I LOVED this guy! And his family. And the things he did. And the things he said. He is the reason his pair-up with Archer has moved into my list of Favourite Contemporary Couples (right next to Tessa and Adam from Before I Die and Lennie and Joe from The Sky Is Everywhere and Anna and St. Clair from Anna And The French Kiss). I loved how their relationship progressed. Not love at first sight, but gradually, unwinding layers and layers of each other, sometimes accidentally, sometimes with that intent. And, OH DEAR LORD, there is a Shower Scene which is probably the hottest thing I've read in ages. (Read, I tell you, READ!)

What. Can. I. Say.
I've never finished another book on netgalley as quickly as I did this. Characters that creep you out but make you remember them, taut writing that keeps you flipping and flipping pages, Hushed is a stellar YA Contemporary Thriller. READ.

Be warned: this ain't your bedtime fare. It'll keep you up ALL night. I speak from experience.

Also, Kelley York put up an amazing cast for Hushed, on her blog --> Check. It. Out.

What's the best YA Thriller you've read?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

DARKER STILL: Magic Most Foul #1

The Picture of Dorian Gray meets Pride and Prejudice, with a dash of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
New York City, 1882. Seventeen-year-old Natalie Stewart's latest obsession is a painting of the handsome British Lord Denbury. Something in his striking blue eyes calls to her. As his incredibly life-like gaze seems to follow her, Natalie gets the uneasy feeling that details of the painting keep changing...
Jonathan Denbury's soul is trapped in the gilded painting by dark magic while his possessed body commits unspeakable crimes in the city slums. He must lure Natalie into the painting, for only together can they reverse the curse and free his damaged soul.

I was on the cheering squad for this book even before I'd read it, when only the title, the cover and the summary had been released. I felt a kinship with it. Because -
  • Dorian Gray! That's the first thing that crossed my mind. And I'm so fascinated with anything and everything to do with/related to Dorian Gray, I HAD to read this. And this clearly had the Dorian Gray concept going for it. Suffice to say, Oscar Wilde (that man I LOVE!) is right on top of the author, Leanna Renne Hieber's acknowledgment list.
  • I have a thing for the Gothic. So naturally, Gothic romance appeals to me greatly. See that summary above? Perfect Gothic romance fodder for me.
  • Magic Most Foul. That's the tagline for this new series. What's not to love? Magic (um, ghosts, too) is the thing I love above all fantastical or paranormal elements. It has my heart. So this book had it, too.
  • Dude, cover love!
I have to say, right from the beginning, I've thought this book has a very clever concept. And Leanna Renne Hieber works on that well. The book starts off as very, very intriguing. It's in epistolary format, and while the majority of it is written as part of Natalie's diary entries, there are a few excerpts from the New York City Police Record Case Files and letters exchanged between the characters.

A mysterious - and delicious - new portrait of a handsome young Lord moves into town (actually, into the Art Association on Twenty Third street, New York) and catches the fascination of many, including Natalie, thus triggering off a series of unexpected happenings involving magic most foul.

I like Natalie. A trauma at a young age took away her speech, rendering her mute. She is gutsy (remember this is the 19th century we are talking about, so gutsy now is different from gutsy then, but gutsy nevertheless), thoughtful and a heroine to commend.

And Lord Denbury? (I prefer calling him that than by his first name) He is delicious. For some reason, I kept picturing him as Ben Barnes. I'm guessing its the Dorian Gray effect.

Except for the fact, you know, Denbury lives in a portrait. I wasn't really crushing on him (as much as I was on my fantasy Barnes) but I think the author does a good job of putting across to the reader why Natalie was so taken by him. Fact is Denbury is delicious in his own way.

Darker Still is well-written and the author does a good job of capturing the 19th century suitably. And the added magic bit to it does wonders.

However, while the book got off to an exciting start, it was, well, kinda bland in the middle. Not to say there weren't things going on. There were. Secrets were being discovered and all that jazz, but for some reason, it left me feeling a little underwhelmed. I'm thinking that while the diary format is an interesting addition, the book could have done with being written in the present tense. It could have added an immediacy to the action. Thing is, the middle made me stall. It almost made me give up reading (although I blame that on the fact that this was on netgalley and I HATE e-reading). 

Fortunately, I didn't. Because hells yeah, the last quarter's a romping ride of excitement. I really liked how Darker Still ended. It didn't leave me with a cliffhanger but it left me with the possibility of a lot more exciting and magical stuff to come.

Although it has its ups and downs, Darker Still is intriguing with a magical mystery at its core that will keep you on its pages. I'd say you give this book a chance. It's the new Dorian Gray on the block. And a pretty cool homage-of-sorts to Wilde.

I'm already looking forward to the next installment :)

What classic story would you like to see given a new twist?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I LOVE DARK YA Blogfest: The Next Generation

Today brings the curtains down on the I Love Dark YA blogfest hosted by the team of smart and amazing writers and bloggers over at YAtopia, all throughout the month of November.

And today, I get to talk about the dark YA book I'm most looking forward to reading.

Well, you know, there's this treasure-house of YA books out there that are brilliantly thought-provoking, atmospherically evocative and totally punch-in-the-gut worthy. There are. YAs are full of them, cos this genre is awesome.

And there's a Next-Generation of such books queuing up, and queuing up fast. Brimming with kickassery.

But can you guess which book runs away with the I'll Give Up Dinner If I Can Have This Book Right NOW Award? Can you?

THIS one.

What Goodreads says: He’s saved her. He’s loved her. He’s killed for her. 
Eighteen-year-old Archer couldn’t protect his best friend, Vivian, from what happened when they were kids, so he’s never stopped trying to protect her from everything else. It doesn’t matter that Vivian only uses him when hopping from one toxic relationship to another—Archer is always there, waiting to be noticed. 
Then along comes Evan, the only person who’s ever cared about Archer without a single string attached. The harder he falls for Evan, the more Archer sees Vivian for the manipulative hot-mess she really is. 
But Viv has her hooks in deep, and when she finds out about the murders Archer’s committed and his relationship with Evan, she threatens to turn him in if she doesn’t get what she wants… And what she wants is Evan’s death, and for Archer to forfeit his last chance at redemption.

Goodreads also says that it is expected to be published on the 6th of Dec, 2011.

Doesn't that creeptastic summary make YOU want to give up dinner just to have this book right now as well? Do. Not. Lie.
And you also have to give it to the publisher for not keeping you hanging there with a faaaar-off release date. See, they understand my enthusiasm.

Oh, and you know what's totally amazing? Kelley York's one of the contributors at YAtopia. That is testimonial to how awesome YAtopia is. It's the hub of awesome :)
A huge THANK YOU to them for hosting such a great tribute to Dark YA!

And to all those who played along for your lovely company.

And now. You. Which book would you give the I'd Give Up Dinner For You Award? (Can be something you've already read/looking forward to, non-YA/YA, dark/not) Just to settle my curiosity.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I LOVE DARK YA Blogfest: Casting Up Thirteen Reasons Why!

So this week's I Love Dark YA topic kinda makes me stop and feel a little squeamish about going ahead with it, because it's about choosing a Dark YA book and posting your own movie cast for it or soundtrack. And most authors already have soundtracks for their books somewhere around their websites. And they even have movie casts made-up in their heads, even if they aren't officially posted. So putting up my own soundtrack and movie-cast kinda feels like intruding upon the author's territory.

Also, it's hard.

Most of the times, when I read, the characters take shape in my head as figments of my imagination, on the basis of the author's descriptions. I don't necessarily think in terms of, you know, movie stars.

And where music is concerned, I kinda have this staple dark music (comprising a lot of Evanescence, Within Temptation, Death Cab For Cutie, Broken Social Scene, Nirvana, Nightwish etc) which work for almost all dark YA books, so I kinda suck at putting together something for a specific book.

Considering how I have to do this and also considering I missed this last week cos of a busy school schedule, I'm going with a movie cast. One for Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why.
I know Selena Gomez has been cast as Hannah Baker and Logan Lerman is rumoured to have been cast as Clay Jenson, but here's who *I* consider the perfect and the almost-perfect Hannah and Clay.

HANNAH BAKER - Kaya Scodelario

Every time I think of Hannah Baker she is the one who BAMS! into my mind. And it helps that my favourite Thirteen Reasons Why fan-made trailer has her in the lead:

And my CLAY JENSEN would be --> Steven R. McQueen

Plus, these two can act. Can play suffering characters so well.
There are a lot more characters in this book, most of whom appear via Hannah's tapes and then again, sometimes in Clay's world. But if the main characters fall into place, the rest of the cast work fine for me. Mostly.

Who would YOU cast as Hannah and Clay?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Because in spite of my previous reservations about the cast, this is perfect. And I still have goosebumps.


Friday, November 11, 2011

Spotlight on STRING BRIDGE! + Michelle Gives Away 50 (!)

So remember my last post about Jessica Bell's debut novel, STRING BRIDGE?
And remember the little fact where I mentioned that Jessica's also a musician? And that the song used in the book trailer was sung by her? And that she has an ENTIRE album compiled for String Bridge?

Yeah that.

Well, guess what?

If you help STRING BRIDGE get to the amazon bestseller list (by purchasing a copy, of course), you get to receive the all-original soundtrack, (aptly titled) Melody Hill: On The Other Side, written and performed by Jessica (naturally) for free. Did you get that? For FREE.

And all YOU have to do is purchase a copy of STRING BRIDGE (paperback or ebook) today. Yes, TODAY, ie, November 11th. And then email the receipt to jessica.carmen.bell(at)gmail(dot)com 
You will then be emailed the link to download the album at no extra cost! How cool is that!

You can purchase the book on Amazon.

And you can listen to samples of the songs on iTunes

And just so you remember what book and what music I'm talking about, have a look at the trailer, which combines the best of both.

Personally, I think having a soundtrack (that too the soundtrack of the MC herself) to listen to before/while/after reading a book makes for a particularly, um, wholesome experience. So I REALLY REALLY think you'd want to check it out. And, also, you know, generosity goes a long way. So help STRING BRIDGE and Jessica :)

Jessica Bell   String Bridge   Goodreads   Jessica's Blog   Jessica's Twitter   Jessica's Facebook
Also, if you like you can check out reader reviews of String Bridge and mine, too.

And because you guys are all very generous and kind and listen to my rants so patiently, I will direct you to some really squeal-worthy awesomeness. Ready?
A good blogger friend of mine, Michelle from Windowpane Memoirs is holding a contest where she is giving away 50 books. YES, 50.

Do you realise how totally amazing she is?

And do you know what you have to do to, you know, win? All you have to do is follow her. Yes, that is all. Just follow her. And if you're nice enough to comment on her posts as well, she will be giving away ARCs all throughout November.

Some of the stash :)

Excited enough?
Go give her some love, and she'll give you some too.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The STRING BRIDGE Blog Tour is here!

The book: String Bridge
The author: Jessica Bell
The publisher: Lucky Press, LLC
The genre: Women's Contemporary Fiction/ Literary Fiction

Jessica Bell's debut novel, String Bridge released on the 1st of Nov and is now on sale!

So basically, from the 1st to the 20th of Nov it'll be one helluva of a blog tour party, where you can hop from one blog to another and check out what everyone's saying about String Bridge and what everyone's saying about Jessica.

(Mark your calenders!)

Are you surprised with the 'music' part of it? Well, maybe I should first explain a bit about Jessica to make it easier for you.

Taken from her bio:

Jessica Bell is a literary women's fiction author, poet and singer/songwriter who grew up in Melbourne, Australia, to two gothic rock musicians who had successful independent careers during the '80s and early '90s.
She spent much of her childhood travelling to and from Australia to Europe, experiencing two entirely different worlds, yet feeling equally at home in both environments. She currently lives in Athens, Greece and works as a freelance writer/editor for English Language Teaching publishers worldwide.
Jessica has published a book of poetry called Twisted Velvet Chainsand a novel String Bridge, with Lucky Press, LLC. A full list of poems and short stories published in various anthologies and literary magazines can be found under Published Works & Awards.

She is a singer AND a songwriter AND a poet AND a novelist. How wickedly talented is that?

And String Bridge being a book that deals a lot with music (the main character being a musician), Jessica Bell has an entire soundtrack to the book which she wrote and sang and recorded herself. Details here.

Not quite believing? Check out the String Bridge trailer, that features the song 'Famous' sung by the author herself.

So what exactly is String Bridge about?

Greek cuisine, smog and domestic drudgery was not the life Australian musician, Melody, was expecting when she married a Greek music promoter and settled in Athens, Greece. Keen to play in her new shoes, though, Melody trades her guitar for a 'proper' career and her music for motherhood. That is, until she can bear it no longer and plots a return to the stage--and the person she used to be. However, the obstacles she faces along the way are nothing compared to the tragedy that awaits, and she realizes she's been seeking fulfilment in the wrong place.

And what do I think of it?

Dare you call this chicklit. And as much as I adore chicklit, this is not the tale of a single girl, lost in the city, romping about to find HER MAN. String Bridge goes beyond that. This is after the girl has found her man, her family and is pushed over as she is made to face the hard realities of life. You could call this the after-the-fairy-tale part of life.

Familial love, marital drudgery, long suppressed dreams - Jessica Bell brings it all in and questions it all. What really is more important? 

The writing is awe-inspiring. It's easy to see that she's a poet. Don't get me wrong. There's no floweriness. Bell's writing hits hard and yet there's an underlying musical cadence to it.

I was so surprised with this book. I'm a YA book whore. So much so that other genres often get neglected. But reading this reminded me how much I love a good women's fiction. And this wasn't just good. It was effing brilliant.

Bell picks at the nuances of life. The little things magnified. She isn't afraid to mention things that often go unmentioned. Like, sometimes getting irritated with the demands of the daughter you love so much that you'd wish she'd shut up. Or feeling jealous when you see her smiling with her father. Or wanting to throw utensils at your husband like a stark raving lunatic even though he's not really the villain you think of him to be. Or make him out to be. Emotions run high here, so high they spiral into cracks in the main character, Melody's life and her relationships with the people around her.

The author deftly paints relationships like she is really exhibiting the pages out of the tormented mind of a woman trying to find an identity for herself beyond being a mother and a wife. Melody's relationships with each and every character that appears in the book is explored in such depth, it is as real as it gets. The strains with her mother. The annoyance with her husband, Alex. The love for Tessa. The need for music. The fluttering feelings for a certain 'button boy'. Bipolarity, anxiety, depression. It's raw but dealt with a sensitivity, much like the one used to deal with the oddity of love.

And if you think you have it all figured out, think again. Because String Bridge veers off the path of predictability and throws you off your seat in such a way it makes you gasp for breath. 

String Bridge is evocative of music that comes from a sad place then rises above the din and makes you appreciate the beauty of the world we live in and the time we have here. 

I highly recommend this.

And HUGEST CONGRATULATIONS to Jessica for debuting with such a remarkable novel.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

I LOVE DARK YA Blogfest: The Books I Love

Today heralds the beginning of the I LOVE DARK YA Blogfest hosted by YAtopia. Be sure to check them out!

My love for Dark YA is no secret. While what is dark is often debatable, for me they are those books that punch me in the guts and make me teeter on the edge of psychological cliffs. They are on a perpetual quest for the truth and when they do find it they make me weep for the human condition, for the teenagers trapped in them. And sometimes in those quiet moments they make me stop to listen to everyone breathe. For me, they have always been cathartic, sometimes finding beauty in ugliness and pain in prettiness. Here are a few of my favourites:

Ballads of Suburbia - Stephanie Kuehnert

This book officially made Stephanie Kuehnert my hero. What an achingly beautiful, heartcrushing, roller coaster ride of a journey through the shattered lives of a motley group of Chicago teens having to resort to self-injury and substance abuse to get  through each day. And they record it all in their book of ballads - the stories of their fucked up lives singing out of the pages.
This is what author Melissa Marr had to say on Goodreads - "No sugarcoating. No BS. She writes beautiful terrible truths." Enough said.

Before I Die - Jenny Downham

Possibly the bravest book I've ever read. And my most favourite ever! About what it means to live and what it means to die. And also asks that question that doesn't get asked often - how far would you go to experience it all?
I cannot express what I felt reading Before I Die. Anguish, despair, hope, loss, love. And over it all hangs the inevitable curtain of death. Damn, death. This was a celebration of Tessa's life amidst the darkness of running out of time. And the way the book moves towards the ultimatum...a wowzer of a read.

Forbidden - Tabitha Suzuma

If a book has ever made me feel claustrophobic, this was it.
Forbidden isn't just a sibling incest story. It deals at length with depression, paranoia, alcoholism and the author is so visual in her depiction, the whole time I felt like the walls were closing in on me and had to put it down to take deep breaths. 
Reactions to this book have mostly swung to the extremes and I fall into the lot who consider it a powerhouse of a book. This is as dark as it gets.

Ink Exchange - Melissa Marr

The only urban fantasy in this list, every time I think of this book it makes me ache. It's one of those few ones that take you to those dark places that aren't only literal.Leslie is a rape victim, living with a mostly-absent father and a brother who pushes her to 'make sweet' with his friends. To escape, she is drawn to beautiful tattoos and in turn, to the captivating world of fay, where she becomes a pawn in the dealings of the courts. And her soul is fed on, her body is fed on. Gah, this book is unforgettable. Melissa Marr doesn't reveal it all in one go. She holds back some, whispers into your ear some more, keeps you on the edge.

The Hunger Games trilogy - Suzanne Collins

This is reality tv of the future. At a time when the world is a deadly, dark place. Where the threat of death hangs at every corner. Where life is really a game that you play or die. And children and teens are pawns at the centre of it.
This is a masterstroke of a series where almost every sentence felt like a cliff-hanger. A heart-stopping tale of angst and suffering and hard fought victory of the human spirit.

You Are Not Here - Samantha Schutz

There are so many books written on grief. And I've read a lot of them. I have a lot of favourites among them, but none depicted grief and ALL it's stages as convincingly and painfully as this did. On a personal level, I was in exactly the same dark place as the main character when I read it and I was stunned with how exact it seemed. What it's like to lose someone who wasn't really yours to begin with. And no one really knows how much you're hurting. This verse novel was heartbreaking, and so very cathartic.

Her And Me And You - Lauren Strasnick

I cannot pin-point what it is about this book that makes me think about it at very odd hours. When I first read it, I really liked it, but it fell short of being loved. Now though, I keep going back to it, reading short scenes from it and thinking. 
It's very ambiguous, this book. The fragments of sentences leave the reader to fill in the blanks.An alcoholic mother in tow, town newbie develops a strange attraction to brother/sister twins Adina and Freddie. There are hints of twincest but the nature of the relationship between the twins is never fully explained. Neither is the main character, Alex's sexuality spoken about out loud. The atmosphere of the book is exactly like how the cover depicts it to be - quietly dark, the rain hitting you a little harder as you go along.

What are your favourite dark YAs?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sisters Red

Scarlett March lives to hunt the Fenris--the werewolves that took her eye when she was defending her sister Rosie from a brutal attack. Armed with a razor-sharp hatchet and blood-red cloak, Scarlett is an expert at luring and slaying the wolves. She's determined to protect other young girls from a grisly death, and her raging heart will not rest until every single wolf is dead.
Rosie March once felt her bond with her sister was unbreakable. Owing Scarlett her life, Rosie hunts ferociously alongside her. But even as more girls' bodies pile up in the city and the Fenris seem to be gaining power, Rosie dreams of a life beyond the wolves. She finds herself drawn to Silas, a young woodsman who is deadly with an ax and Scarlett's only friend--but does loving him mean betraying her sister and all that they've worked for?
I do love the idea of fairy tale re-tellings.  There's this element of nostalgia attached to them + the anticipation of finding something new and exciting in an old, oft-heard tale.
Sisters Red is, you guessed it, Red Riding Hood retold. With kickass heroines and a lot of originality.
      “I am confident, I am capable, and I will not wait to be rescued by a woodsman or a hunter.” 

The Sisters. Scarlett and Rosie's gruesome ordeal with a werewolf in their childhood shaped their futures. Hardened by their past, they thrive on killing werewolves, eliminating their evil from the world. They fight alongside and find comfort in it. In that, they share one heart. But Jackson Pearce tells their story in dual PoVs. And with that she lays down two individuals, so similar, yet so utterly different from each other. Scarlett, 18, scarred and so tough, who won't rest until the world is rid of every single Fenris. Rosie, 16, who adores her sister and would follow her till the end of the world, but secretly wishes for a life beyond the continuous hunts. Pearce skillfully digs into the nuances of this sibling bond, while exploring their very different personalities and the underlying insecurities beyond the tough exterior. Oh, the sisters  March are characters to be loved and remembered. I liked reading from both their perspectives. While Scarlett's held most of the action sequences, Rosie's were interspersed with romantic musings about their woodcutter friend who is all hot-and-hunky now, of seeing more of life. I loved the juxtaposition of these two perspectives. I think it provided the perfect blend.

The Woodcutter. Silas. Their childhood friend and fellow Fenris fighter. Who had disappeared from the scene to live a different life for two years, and then arrives suddenly, setting off all kinds of thoughts in Rosie (and me). Silas is swoonworthy. Not the body-baring, brawn-flexing, sexual-innuendo-quipping kinda swoonworthy. Silas is hot, yes, but he's also so very sweet. And grounded. And real. And a woodcutter. Which means he can do things with his hands. All kinds of things. Add to the fact, that he is also able to hold intelligent conversations with his love interest. Yes, swoonworthy.

The Werewolves. They are called Fenris. And they are EVIL. Very, very evil. And yes, some of them are perfectly angelic looking, but the girls don't go oh-i-don't-care-how-bad-you-are-you-are-hot-i-love-you. Nah, they aren't that easily deceived. They have common sense enough to know that behind the face-and-the-flex lie the fangs and the lust and the desire to kill. So they kick ass. And they kick so hard they could give Buffy a run for her money. 

The Magic. I may be tired of the regular paranormal romance, but I love myself a good urban fantasy. I love magic. I love stories with magic. And for me, the paranormal element here, didn't feel very paranormal-ish. It felt magical. Now, magic can be the good, the bad, the ugly, or perhaps, the gray. Scarlett and Rosie's world, prowling with Fenris felt somewhat like a magical world, one that is deeply rooted in ours. And it is exactly that what makes this so worthy of being called a 'fairy tale retelling', because fairy tales above all, are magical.

The Epilogue. Wow. That is one of the classiest epilogues I've ever read. Just the right punch of bittersweet.

When you look at it, it really is a classic good vs evil story - dirty bad guys vs swashbuckling heroines. But what also sets Sisters Red apart is Jackson Pearce's willingness to create heroines that break the stereotypical mold. Scarlett is scarred and has only one eye. Which is possibly an anomaly in YA fiction scattered with shy-heroines-not-aware-of-their-extraordinary-beauty-till-a-boy-tells-them. But it's an anomaly that's required. Because it tests how much readers can accept a main character who is physically repulsive. And Rosie? Yeah, pretty girl she is and one tough chica, too. That quote way up there? That's hers.

I absolutely ADORED this book. It suited my mood perfectly. Kickass, fun, and like I said, magical. I have read Jackson Pearce's As You Wish, and while I liked it, I didn't particularly love it. But with Sister Red, you can put a stamp across me as a Jackson Pearce Fan. I'm sold. I cannot wait to read her other Fairy Tale Retellings. She has what it takes to write one with punch.

What's a fairy tale you want to see retold?
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