Showing posts with label Canadian author. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Canadian author. Show all posts

Monday, October 16, 2017

Review: Kat and Meg Conquer the World by Anna Priemaza

Helloooo ... anybody still here? With teaching, tutoring and taking a course, I feel like there's barely any time to read, let alone blog; and as a result, I've kind of neglected this space in the past month or so. I'm hoping to slowly get back into the swing of things, but I make no promises. I did recently read Anna Priemaza's Kat and Meg Conquer the World however, so here's my review of it. 

From Goodreads: Kat and Meg couldn’t be more different. Kat’s anxiety makes it hard for her to talk to people. Meg hates being alone, but her ADHD keeps pushing people away. But when the two girls are thrown together for a year-long science project, they discover they do have one thing in common: They’re both obsessed with the same online gaming star and his hilarious videos. It might be the beginning of a beautiful friendship - if they don’t kill each other first. 

My Rating: Somewhere between 4 and 4.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: You know how sometimes you read a book with no expectations and it completely surprises you? Well, Kat and Meg Conquer the World by Anna Priemaza was that book for me. I read it simply because the author was a Canadian, without caring much for the cover or skimming the synopsis like I usually do.

Since Kat and Meg Conquer the World chronicles Meg and Kat’s daily lives, it’s important that you connect with the characters … and Priemaza does a fantastic job of making you care about them. Even rarer, this is a YA book that focuses on a realistic, positive female friendship. I loved how Meg encouraged Kat to deal with her anxiety and how Kat helped Meg become more focused. What I couldn’t relate to as much unfortunately was how obsessed the two girls were over a gamer on YouTube. I know many gamers are very popular on YouTube – Pewdiepie is just one example – but I just don’t get why. Thankfully, Kat and Meg Conquer the World is written well enough that it will appeal to readers even if they don’t love online gaming and fictional YouTube gamers.

Kat and Meg Conquer the World will be released on November 7, 2017 by HarperTeen. 

Comments About the Cover: Staring at that background too long gives me a headache! 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (HarperCollins) for free via Edelweiss.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Review: Even the Darkest Stars by Heather Fawcett (and Giveaway)

From Goodreads: Kamzin has always dreamed of becoming one of the Emperor’s royal explorers, the elite climbers tasked with mapping the wintry, mountainous Empire and spying on its enemies. She knows she could be the best in the world, if only someone would give her a chance. But everything changes when the mysterious and eccentric River Shara, the greatest explorer ever known, arrives in her village and demands to hire Kamzin - not her older sister Lusha, as everyone had expected - for his next expedition. This is Kamzin’s chance to prove herself - even though River’s mission to retrieve a rare talisman for the emperor means climbing Raksha, the tallest and deadliest mountain in the Aryas. Then Lusha sets off on her own mission to Raksha with a rival explorer who is determined to best River, and Kamzin must decide what’s most important to her: protecting her sister from the countless perils of the climb or beating her to the summit. The challenges of climbing Raksha are unlike anything Kamzin expected - or prepared for - with avalanches, ice chasms, ghosts, and even worse at every turn. And as dark secrets are revealed, Kamzin must unravel the truth of their mission and of her companions - while surviving the deadliest climb she has ever faced. 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Even the Darkest Stars by Heather Fawcett was a fun read that started and ended strongly but lagged a little in the middle. By far the best aspect of this novel though was its worldbuilding since the setting seems to be inspired by the Himalayas. While reading Even the Darkest Stars, I really felt how perilous it must be to climb to the summit of a mountain like Mount Raksha, the book’s equivalent of Mount Everest. Add in fantastical elements like witches and ghosts and I fully expected at least one person to die! (Sadly, there were some animal deaths as well in Even the Darkest Stars that were completely unnecessary.)

The cast of characters was decent, if somewhat forgettable; and I liked that the romance remained in the background and that a love triangle didn’t develop, considering Kamzin became infatuated with River Shara quite early on and was joined on her journey to Mount Raksha by her best friend and ex, Tem. With all the plot twists towards the end of the book, I’m looking forward to reading a stronger sequel!

Even the Darkest Stars was released on September 5, 2017 by Balzer + Bray. 

Comments About the Cover: It’s so, so pretty!

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher for free via The Fantastic Flying Book Club. 
 Even the Darkest Stars can be bought from: [Amazon] [Barnes and Noble] [Book Depository]


If you're interested in getting a necklace and signed book plate for Even the Darkest Stars and live in the US, you can enter to win by filling out the form below.

You can follow the rest of the tour by clicking on this link. Also, visit Heather Fawcett's website to find out more about her and follow her on Twitter at @heathermfawcett

Monday, August 21, 2017

Mini Reviews: Wesley James Ruined My Life by Jennifer Honeybourn and Our Broken Pieces by Sarah White

From Goodreads: Sixteen-year-old Quinn Hardwick’s having a rough summer. Her beloved grandmother has been put into a home, her dad’s gambling addiction has flared back up and now her worst enemy is back in town: Wesley James, former childhood friend - until he ruined her life, that is. So when Wesley is hired to work with her at Tudor Tymes, a medieval England themed restaurant, the last thing Quinn’s going to do is forgive and forget. She’s determined to remove him from her life and even the score all at once - by getting him fired. But getting rid of Wesley isn’t as easy as she’d hoped. When Quinn finds herself falling for him, she has to decide what she wants more: to get even, or to just get over it.

My Rating: 2.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: With a far-fetched premise – five years after her parents’ divorce, sixteen-year-old Quinn still believes Wesley James is responsible for her parents breaking up – and a rather rushed transformation of feelings from hate-to-love, it’s no surprise that Jennifer Honeybourn’s Wesley James Ruined My Life failed to captivate me overall. However, I did enjoy reading the parts involving Tudor Tymes, the restaurant Quinn works at, because the concept of the restaurant was so well-developed and unique. If something like Tudor Tymes actually existed, I know I’d be interested in popping into it to take a peek. (The food unfortunately, as described by Quinn, didn’t sound very appetizing, lol.)

Wesley James Ruined My Life was released by Swoon Reads in July 2017.

From Goodreads: The only thing worse than having your boyfriend dump you is having him dump you for your best friend. For Everly Morgan the betrayal came out of nowhere. One moment she had what seemed like the perfect high school relationship, and the next, she wanted to avoid the two most important people in her life. Every time she sees them kiss in the hallways her heart breaks a little more. The last thing on Everly’s mind is getting into another relationship, but when she meets Gabe in her therapist’s waiting room she can’t deny their immediate connection. Somehow he seems to understand Everly in a way that no one else in her life does, and maybe it’s because Gabe also has experience grappling with issues outside of his control. Just because they share so many of the same interests and there is an undeniable spark between them doesn’t mean Everly wants anything more than friendship. After all, when you only barely survived your last breakup, is it really worth risking your heart again?  

My Rating: 1 heart 

Thoughts on the Novel: Our Broken Pieces by Sarah White was a book that annoyed me to no ends! Perhaps I’m too old for books like this now, but every time Everly considered how different her senior year was turning out to be due to Brady’s betrayal, I just wanted to be like, “Move on, already!” In my opinion, if somebody cheats on you, they don’t deserve you so why waste your time thinking about what could have been? It also drove me crazy that Everly seemed to be more upset by losing Brady than the loss of her friendship with Elle. Lastly, sometimes the interactions between Gabe (who occasionally didn’t sound like a guy but a female thinking about what the perfect guy would say) and Everly were so cheesy that they made me cringe.

Our Broken Pieces was released on August 8, 2017 by HarperTeen.

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (HarperCollins) for free via Edelweiss.

*Just an aside, the sex in Our Broken Pieces is surprisingly descriptive for a YA novel.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Mini Reviews: Finding Perfect by Elly Swartz and Speed of Life by J.M. Kelly

From Back Cover: To Molly Nathans, perfect is: the number four, the tip of a newly sharpened number two pencil, a crisp, white pad of paper, her neatly aligned glass animal figurines. What’s not perfect is Molly’s mother leaving the family to take a faraway job with the promise to return in one year. Molly knows that promises are often broken, so she hatches a plan to bring her mother home: Win the Lakeville Middle School Slam Poetry Contest. The winner is honored at a fancy banquet with table cloths. Molly’s sure her mother would never miss that. Right? But as time goes on, writing and reciting slam poetry become harder. Actually, everything becomes harder as new habits appear, and counting, cleaning, and organizing are not enough to keep Molly’s world from spinning out of control.

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Elly Swartz’s Finding Perfect is another book that one can add to their list of books focusing on mental health. Geared for middle graders, this book features a likeable protagonist in Molly, whose need for control slowly escalates as she places greater internal pressure on herself to succeed and deals with a complicated home life. The depiction of OCD is realistic, and Swartz does a great job capturing Molly’s confusion and anxiety over her symptoms.

Finding Perfect was released in October 2016 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Raincoast Books) for free.

From Inside Jacket: Twins Crystal and Amber have a plan: Be the first in their family to graduate from high school, get full-time jobs, and move out of the hovel they've called home for eighteen years. When one of them gets pregnant junior year, they promise to raise the baby together. It’s not easy, but between Amber's job washing dishes and Crystal working at a gas station, they’re just scraping by. Car-buff Crystal’s grades catch the attention of the new guidance counselor, who tells her about a college that offers a degree in automotive restoration. When she secretly applies - and gets in - new opportunities threaten their once-certain plans, and Crystal must make a choice: follow her dreams or stay behind and honor the promise she made to her sister. 

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: If you're not a fan of contemporary novels due to their slower pacing, Speed of Life by J.M. Kelly probably isn't for you since it has a plot where very little happens. There are also instances of slut shaming in Speed of Life, and it features a narrator that comes across as selfish. However, it also has a plot twist that I didn’t see coming, and shows a strong relationship between twin sisters that evolves over the course of a year. In addition, I liked that Crystal chooses to pursue a non-traditional career.

Speed of Life was released by HMH Books for Young Readers in October 2016. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Raincoast Books) for free.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Review: Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman

From Goodreads: The kingdom of Goredd: a world where humans and dragons share life with an uneasy balance, and those few who are both human and dragon must hide the truth. Seraphina is one of these, part girl, part dragon, who is reluctantly drawn into the politics of her world. When war breaks out between the dragons and humans, she must travel the lands to find those like herself - for she has an inexplicable connection to all of them, and together they will be able to fight the dragons in powerful, magical ways. As Seraphina gathers this motley crew, she is pursued by humans who want to stop her. But the most terrifying is another half dragon, who can creep into people’s minds and take them over. Until now, Seraphina has kept her mind safe from intruders, but that also means she’s held back her own gift. It is time to make a choice: Cling to the safety of her old life, or embrace a powerful new destiny?

My Rating: Somewhere between 3 and 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Having loved Rachel Hartman’s Seraphina, I had extremely high expectations for its sequel, Shadow Scale. Sadly, while I did like Shadow Scale, it just wasn’t as good as Seraphina.

Shadow Scale begins nicely with a prologue that recaps what happened in Seraphina. I found this quite helpful because almost three years after having read Seraphina, I couldn’t really recall what had happened in the novel. The plot of Shadow Scale then expands on the detailed worldbuilding of Seraphina by allowing the reader to now learn about the cultures of Goredd’s neighbours, the Ninysh, the Samsamese, and the Porphyrians, and see how they have interacted with the saarantrai and the ityasaari. 

Another thing that I enjoyed about Shadow Scale was that we get to meet the half-dragons from Seraphina’s garden of grotesques and find out their backstories. When Seraphina leaves Goredd, she’s quite excited by her task of trying to gather the ityasaari because she thinks that she’s going to find a group of people that she can automatically connect with. Over the course of her journey however, Seraphina comes to realize that just because the ityasaari have all been procreated from a dragon and a human, it doesn’t mean that she can assume that they’ve had experiences similar to hers.

Where Shadow Scale could have been improved was the relationship between Seraphina and previously introduced characters such as Kiggs, Glisselda, and Orma. The romance, for example, needed more closure. As well, since Seraphina hardly gets much page time with Kiggs, Glisselda, or Orma in Shadow Scale, I felt a distinct lack of emotional connection with these characters this time.

The plot of Shadow Scale also began to feel repetitive after awhile as it involved Seraphina finding a half-dragon, only to realize that Jannoula, the villain of the story, was mentally connected to them. Since Seraphina didn’t know how to fight Jannoula, she appeared to have little agency throughout the novel. This reached a climax with the deus ex machina ending. 

Shadow Scale was released on March 10, 2015 by Random House Children's Books. 

Comments About the Cover: I like it, but I prefer Seraphina’s cover. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Random House) for free via NetGalley.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Mini Reviews: The Hunt by Stacey Kade and Boys Like You by Juliana Stone

From Goodreads: Ariane Tucker has finally escaped GTX, the research facility that created her. While on the run, Zane Bradshaw is the only person she can trust. He knows who-and what-she is and still wants to be part of her life. But accepting Zane's help means putting him in danger. Dr. Jacobs, head of GTX, is not the only one hunting for Ariane. Two rival corporations have their sights set on taking down their competition. Permanently. To protect Zane and herself, Ariane needs allies. She needs the other hybrids. The hybrids who are way more alien and a lot less human. Can Ariane win them over before they turn on her? Or will she be forced to choose sides, to decide who lives and who dies? 

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: The Hunt by Stacey Kade is a sequel that really relies on readers remembering what happened in the previous book because it doesn’t provide much recap of the events that occurred in The Rules. Much more action-oriented than The Rules, I liked that The Hunt expanded the scope of the plot to show what GTX’s competitors are up to and how their hybrids differ from Ariane. The drawback to Ariane and Zane being on the run, however, was that the arguments they kept having became sort of repetitive after a while. But, overall, I found The Hunt to be a solid sequel; and its cliffhanger ending pretty much ensures that I’ll be reading the next book in the series.

The Hunt was released in April 2014 by Disney Hyperion. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Disney Book Group) for free via NetGalley. 
From Back Cover: For Monroe Blackwell, one small mistake has torn her family apart – leaving her empty and broken. There’s a hole in her heart that nothing can fill. That no one can fill. And a summer in Louisiana with her Grandma isn’t going to change that … Nathan Everets knows heartache first-hand when a car accident leaves his best friend in a coma. And it’s his fault. He should be the one lying in the hospital. The one who will never play guitar again. He doesn’t deserve forgiveness, and a court-appointed job at the Blackwell B&B isn’t going to change that … Captivating and hopeful, this achingly poignant novel brings together two lost souls struggling with grief and guilt – looking for acceptance, so they can find forgiveness. 

My Rating: 2.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Considering that it features two broken characters, I was expecting Boys Like You by Juliana Stone to be a bit more emotionally intense. Instead, I feel like Stone sacrificed a more drawn out healing process in favour of romance. It's not that the characters didn't learn to deal with their issues and understand that life goes on, but they seemed to come to this conclusion in a very simplistic manner and relied a bit too heavily on each other. Also, the romance was very insta-love, and it annoyed me how Monroe and Nathan kept mentioning how hot the other person looked or repeatedly felt that the other person was worth getting to know simply because they could tell they were broken too by gazing into their eyes.

Boys Like You was released by Sourcebooks Fire on May 6, 2014. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Raincoast Books) for free.
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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Review: Stolen Songbird by Danielle L. Jensen

From Goodreads: For five centuries, a witch’s curse has bound the trolls to their city beneath the ruins of Forsaken Mountain. Time enough for their dark and nefarious magic to fade from human memory and into myth. But a prophesy has been spoken of a union with the power to set the trolls free, and when Cécile de Troyes is kidnapped and taken beneath the mountain, she learns there is far more to the myth of the trolls than she could have imagined. Cécile has only one thing on her mind after she is brought to Trollus: escape. Only the trolls are clever, fast, and inhumanly strong. She will have to bide her time, wait for the perfect opportunity. But something unexpected happens while she’s waiting – she begins to fall for the enigmatic troll prince to whom she has been bonded and married. She begins to make friends. And she begins to see that she may be the only hope for the half-bloods – part troll, part human creatures who are slaves to the full-blooded trolls. There is a rebellion brewing. And her prince, Tristan, the future king, is its secret leader. As Cécile becomes involved in the intricate political games of Trollus, she becomes more than a farmer’s daughter. She becomes a princess, the hope of a people, and a witch with magic powerful enough to change Trollus forever. 

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Since I love fantasy and haven’t read a story about trolls yet, I was really looking forward to reading Danielle L. Jensen’s Stolen Songbird. Although the book ultimately didn’t live up to my expectations, it still turned out to be a decent read.

For me to enjoy a fantasy thoroughly, it’s crucial that I don’t question the worldbuilding. In Stolen Songbird, I was content to accept a world where trolls existed, were cursed to live under a mountain, and traded with some humans who knew about them. I wasn’t so satisfied with the worldbuilding though once it became clear that the story was set on Earth because very little explanation was provided about the human world outside Trollus. We also don’t find out where Trollus is situated on Earth. Personally, if a fantasy involves creatures other than faeries, I prefer that it be set in a fictional world.

Another thing that wasn’t well explained was Tristan’s physical appearance. According to the novel, all the royal trolls are physically disfigured due to inbreeding. Yet the crown prince of the trolls is the most handsome “man” that Cecile has ever seen! I hope there’s a deeper reasoning behind the decision to not have Tristan suffering from disfiguration other than the fact that it’s easier for both Cecile and the reader to fall in love with a good-looking troll than an scary-looking one.

Speaking of Cecile, even though her situation seemed impossible, I liked that she continued trying to find ways out of Trollus … at least until she realized that she was in love with Tristan. I thought the transition from hate to love was a bit too sudden, and wasn’t very pleased that Cecile was the one who had to sacrifice everything – and was willing to do so – to live with Tristan (under a mountain!). 

Stolen Songbird will be released by Strange Chemistry on April 1, 2014. 

Comments About the Cover: I love the font, and think the cover does a good job of indicating that the novel is a fantasy. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Strange Chemistry) for free via NetGalley.
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Monday, March 10, 2014

Review: Year of Mistaken Discoveries by Eileen Cook

From Back Cover: Avery and Nora bonded back in first grade when a school assignment revealed that the girls had something in common - they were both adopted. Years later, the two friends have drifted apart. Avery is at the top of the social ladder at school and Nora ... Nora's not even on the map.. Avery knows that Nora has problems, but she's got her own. She's trying to get into the Ivy League, and her long-term boyfriend wants to take "a break." Then Avery learns the devastating news that Nora's overdosed. Searching for her own birth mom might be a way to honour Nora and get into the college of her dreams all at the same time. Avery enlists the help of Nora's friend, Brody, and together the two embark on a quest to find her past. She hopes it will help her hang on to the world she's built, but it may result in losing everything. Avery just might discover that what she really needs goes deeper than genetics ... 

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: In comparison to Eileen Cook’s previous books, I’d have to say that her latest novel, Year of Mistaken Discoveries, is probably the most serious in tone. The subdued humour wasn’t what I was expecting, but I appreciated that Cook decided to try something new.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t get fully invested into the story because it involved more telling than showing. We also don’t get to know Nora very intimately, and so her death had little impact on me.

Furthermore, I couldn’t connect with Avery or Brody. In the case of Avery, I think this can partly be attributed to the fact that she herself doesn’t know who she is. Brody, on the other hand, seemed like a guy that I would easily like since he was sweet and honest … but, something just seemed to be missing to make him come alive off the pages.

I really liked the last few chapters of the novel however. Although Avery’s search for her birth mother progressed easily and in an unrealistic manner, the result of her search was unexpected and made her – and the reader – reflect on the definition of family.

Year of Mistaken Discoveries was released in February 2014 by Simon Pulse. 

Comments About the Cover: I don’t like that the cover emphasizes the romance between Avery and Brody because their romance actually doesn’t play a huge role in the book. Instead, the main themes in Year of Mistaken Discoveries are family and self-discovery. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Simon and Schuster Canada) for free.
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Thursday, October 03, 2013

Review: My Ex From Hell by Tellulah Darling (and Giveaway)

From Goodreads: Sixteen-year-old Sophie Bloom wishes she’d been taught the following: a) Bad boy’s presence (TrOuBlE) + teen girl’s brain (DraMa) = TrAuMa (Highly unstable and very volatile.) b) The Genus Greekulum Godissimus is notable for three traits: 1) awesome abilities, 2) grudges, and 3) hook-ups, break-ups, and in-fighting that puts cable to shame. Prior to the Halloween dance, Sophie figures her worst problems involve adolescent theatrics, bitchy teen yoga girls, and being on probation at her boarding school for mouthy behaviour. Then she meets bad boy Kai and gets the kiss that rocks her world. Literally. This breath stealing lip lock reawakens Sophie’s true identity: Persephone, Goddess of Spring. She’s key to saving humanity in the war between the Underworld and Olympus, target numero uno of Hades and Zeus, and totally screwed. Plus there’s also the little issue that Sophie’s last memory as Persephone was just before someone tried to murder her. Big picture: master her powers, get her memories back, defeat Persephone’s would be assassin, and save the world. Also, sneak into the Underworld to retrieve stolen property, battle the minions of Hades and Zeus, outwit psycho nymphs, slay a dragon, rescue a classmate, keep from getting her butt expelled from the one place designed to keep her safe … and stop kissing Kai, Prince of the Underworld. 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: My Ex From Hell by Tellulah Darling was a humorous blend of contemporary and Greek mythology. Even better, the characters were likeable and there was a strong display of friendship throughout the novel.

I think Darling did a good job of creating strong female characters. I found Sophie to be snarky and amusing, and liked that Hannah was a proud geek. Although I don’t understand why there was such a focus on Hannah’s beauty (since it wasn’t really important to the story), it’s nice that Darling made an attempt to show that beauty and brains aren’t mutually exclusive.

Another thing I liked was how obvious it was that Sophie and Hannah cared about each other. They had their very own rituals as best friends, and didn’t keep secrets from the other person. For example, when Sophie found out that she was a goddess stuck in a mortal body, she told Hannah right away. At no point was Hannah kept in the dark simply for being a human. In fact, Sophie even urges Hannah to accompany her when she goes to kill Delphyne, the dragon appointed to guard the oracle of Delphi, because she knew it would be a once in a lifetime opportunity for Hannah to see a dragon.

Though it could have been a tad more serious at certain points, My Ex From Hell was a fun read overall. 

My Ex From Hell was released in April 2013 by Te Da Media. 

Comments About the Cover: It’s a bit too plain looking for me. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the author for free via Xpresso Book Tours.  

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My Ex From Hell can be bought from: [Amazon] [Barnes and Noble] [Book Depository] 

If you're interested in reading My Ex From Hell, you can enter to win an e-copy by filling out the form below.

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Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Review: Dualed by Elsie Chapman

From Goodreads: The city of Kersh is a safe haven, but the price of safety is high. Everyone has a genetic Alternate - a twin raised by another family - and citizens must prove their worth by eliminating their Alts before their twentieth birthday. Survival means advanced schooling, a good job, marriage - life. Fifteen-year-old West Grayer has trained as a fighter, preparing for the day when her assignment arrives and she will have one month to hunt down and kill her Alt. But then a tragic misstep shakes West’s confidence. Stricken with grief and guilt, she’s no longer certain that she’s the best version of herself, the version worthy of a future. If she is to have any chance of winning, she must stop running not only from her Alt, but also from love ... though both have the power to destroy her. 

My Rating: 2 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: I love finding out about new Canadian authors. So, when I discovered that Elsie Chapman’s Dualed was available on NetGalley, I requested it. The synopsis sounded fantastic, and I thought that West and her Alt would become BFFs and try to bring down Kersh’s government together (or something like that). Yeah … not so much! What I got was a story with ridiculous worldbuilding, a protagonist that was hard to like, and a plot with very little substance.

In Dualed, the gated city of Kersh attempts to protect its citizens from the violence of the world outside by isolating them and making itself self-sufficient. In case the Surround does decide to attack Kersh though, the Board – which we get very little information about – ensures that every adult living in the city is capable of becoming a soldier since they’ve all been trained to kill (and have killed at least their Alt with what appears to be little remorse). Basically, that’s one of the purposes of having Alts; the other is that due to the problem of infertility, the Board wants that only the best version of two couples’ genes survives.

Though there seems to be some discontent with the Board’s system, I personally find it preposterous that most of Kersh’s citizens could be so complacent about having Alts. It’s sickening to imagine that people could be okay with the thought of ten-year-olds possibly killing each other! Also, for a city deemed to be a safe haven, the price of living in it seems awfully high what with all the violence (e.g. Alts killing Alts, Alts hiring strikers, civilians getting caught in the crossfire and becoming Peripheral Kills, etc.) occurring on a daily basis.

Then we have West herself. At the beginning of the book, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for West because she had lost her parents and siblings to violence. However, once West became an active (i.e. she has to kill her own Alt or risk being killed), it became really hard for me to understand her decisions. She freezes up when she’s initially activated (yet had earlier forced her brother’s best friend, Chord, to hunt down his Alt ASAP), pushes Chord away rather than letting him help her, and continues to work as a striker (West figured it would be a good way to get some more training) despite having a target on her back.

The only reason I finished Dualed was because Chapman’s ability to write a thriller was good enough to keep me curious about the ending. I kept waiting to see when West would run into her Alt, but eventually, all that chasing started to feel incredibly pointless. It took far too long to get to the predictable ending!

I’m not sure where the sequel will go since Dualed could have easily been a standalone, but I know I won’t be reading it. I really wanted to love Dualed, but it just ended up being a major disappointment.  

Dualed was released in February 2013 by Random House Books for Young Readers.

Comments About the Cover: I really like the thriller feel to it.

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Random House) for free via NetGalley.
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Monday, February 18, 2013

Review: Greta and the Goblin King by Chloe Jacobs

From Goodreads: While trying to save her brother from a witch’s fire four years ago, Greta was thrown in herself, falling through a portal to Mylena, a dangerous world where humans are the enemy and every ogre, ghoul, and goblin has a dark side that comes out with the eclipse. To survive, Greta has hidden her humanity and taken the job of bounty hunter - and she’s good at what she does. So good, she’s caught the attention of Mylena’s young goblin king, the darkly enticing Isaac, who invades her dreams and undermines her will to escape. But Greta’s not the only one looking to get out of Mylena. An ancient evil knows she’s the key to opening the portal, and with the next eclipse mere days away, every bloodthirsty creature in the realm is after her - including Isaac. If Greta fails, she and the lost boys of Mylena will die. If she succeeds, no world will be safe from what follows her back ... 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Greta and the Goblin King by Chloe Jacobs was a book that started off great, but could have used a little more clarity towards the end. Here’s what I liked and disliked about the novel: 

  • One of two female bounty hunters in the story, Greta is a likeable protagonist who’s quite capable of taking care of herself due to her career choice. However, she also displays moments of physical and emotional vulnerability. For example, having been stuck in Mylena for the past four years, she desperately wants to return home yet also wonders how she’ll fit in once she gets back.
  • There’s plenty of action in Greta and the Goblin King.
  • Mylena has tons of fantastic creatures.
  • I liked the allusions to Hansel and Gretel.
  • I didn’t really enjoy the romance between Greta and Isaac. At the beginning of the novel, Greta is angry at Isaac for manipulating her; but midway through the book, she suddenly starts feeling differently and begins making out with him. The change in heart was way too fast for me!
  • The attraction between Greta and Isaac stems from their first meeting – a meeting that Greta keeps referring to. However, we’re never given a proper flashback of it, and so I couldn’t really understand why Greta found Isaac so appealing.
  • There’s a love triangle. Unfortunately, Greta comes to care about Wyatt pretty quickly too.
  • I felt the ending was slightly rushed and so was left a little confused by the time story wrapped up.                               
Greta and the Goblin King was released in December 2012 by Entangled Teen.

Comments About the Cover: I love the cover since it indicates that the novel is most likely a fantasy, features a heroine who can wield weapons, and probably has a hot guy who may or may not be a villain. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Entangled Teen) for free.
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Monday, January 07, 2013

Mini Reviews: The Almost Truth and Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood by Eileen Cook

From Back Cover: Sadie can’t wait to get away from her backwards small town, her delusional mom, her jailbird dad, and the tiny trailer where she was raised. She knows she can have a better life, and she has been working steadily toward it, one con at a time. But when Sadie’s mother wipes out Sadie’s savings, her escape plan is suddenly gone. She needs to come up with a lot of cash - and fast - or she’ll be stuck in this town forever. Then Sadie sees an age-enhanced photo of a missing girl who looks like her. With her best friend's help, she devises a plan - the ultimate con - to get the money. But the more Sadie learns about the missing girl, the more she starts falling for her own hoax ... and for the wrong boy. Sadie wanted to change her life, but she wasn't prepared to have it flipped upside down by her own con. Suddenly it seems like she has a lot more to lose ... 

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Having read a couple of Eileen Cook’s previous books, I knew that The Almost Truth would be an amusing novel that I’d finish in one sitting. However, I couldn’t help but be disappointed that when the potential arose for a little bit of seriousness to be added to the story, the book ended abruptly. As well, I never really connected with Sadie since she and her best friend, Brendan, were pros at conning people whereas I don’t really approve of lying. Overall, although I had fun reading The Almost Truth, it’s probably my least favourite of Cook’s novels. 

The Almost Truth was released in December 2012 by Simon Pulse. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Simon and Schuster Canada) for free.
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From Goodreads: In the final weeks of eighth grade, Lauren Wood made a choice. She betrayed her best friend, Helen, in a manner so publicly humiliating that Helen had to move to a new town just to save face. Ditching Helen was worth it, though, because Lauren started high school as one of the It Girls - and now, at the start of her senior year, she's the cheerleading captain, the quarterback's girlfriend, and the undisputed queen bee. Lauren has everything she's ever wanted, and she has forgotten all about her ex-best friend.
But Helen could never forget Lauren. After three years of obsessing, she's moving back to her old town. She has a new name and a new look, but she hasn’t dropped her old grudges. She has a detailed plan to bring down her former BFF by taking away everything that's ever been important to Lauren - starting with her boyfriend.Watch out, Lauren Wood. Things are about to get bitchy.

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: I found Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood, an older Eileen Cook novel, to be a bit more enjoyable. Although I couldn’t understand why Helen would still hold a grudge against Lauren years after having moved away, I’m always game for a story involving revenge. Unfortunately, Helen’s revenge tactics turned out to be pretty petty.

I did like Helen’s voice though and the fact that Cook showed that getting revenge may not actually make you happier. Sometimes it’s better to concentrate your energy on yourself rather than on others. I just wish the story could have concluded differently because you never find out what type of consequences – other than the fact that her friends sure got over being used quite fast – Helen faced due to her actions. This was one novel where I could have used an epilogue!

Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood was released by Simon Pulse in January 2010.
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Thursday, September 06, 2012

Mini Reviews: Emily For Real by Sylvia Gunnery and Confessions of an Angry Girl by Louise Rozett

From Goodreads: Seventeen-year-old Emily’s world crumbles when her boy friend dumps her, and when she thinks her life can’t possibly get any worse, a series of secrets are revealed that threaten to tear her beloved family apart. Emily’s heart has been broken into a hundred pieces and she feels like there is no one to turn to, until an unexpected friendship blossoms with a troubled classmate named Leo. Sometimes moody but always supportive, Leo is Emily’s rock in an ocean of confusion and disbelief. But Leo doesn’t have an easy life either. He struggles to be both mother and father to his little sister while his mom battles her alcohol addiction. His deadbeat dad darts in and out of the picture, and Leo would rather he stay away, permanently. The two friends lean on each other, and in the end discover the inner strength to face whatever life throws at them.

My Rating: 2 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: My biggest problem with Sylvia Gunnery’s Emily For Real was that it squished a variety of topics like a breakup, family secrets, alcoholism, etc. into a short book. As a result, none of these subjects were covered in depth. However, there were other problems as well: namely, that Emily was kind of immature, that what was supposed to be a meaningful friendship between Emily and Leo felt superficial at best, and that because I felt emotionally disconnected from Emily, I just didn’t find her family drama that engaging. 

Emily For Real was released by Pajama Press in April 2012.

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Pajama Press) for free. 
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From Goodreads: Rose Zarelli, self-proclaimed word geek and angry girl, has some confessions to make: 1) I'm livid all the time. Why? My dad died. My mom barely talks. My brother abandoned us. I think I'm allowed to be irate, don't you? 2) I make people furious regularly. Want an example? I kissed Jamie Forta, a badass guy who might be dating a cheerleader. She is now enraged and out for blood. Mine. 3) High school might as well be Mars. My best friend has been replaced by an alien, and I see red all the time. (Mars is red and "seeing red" means being angry - get it?) Here are some other vocab words that describe my life: Inadequate. Insufferable. Intolerable. (Don't know what they mean? Look them up yourself.) (Sorry. That was rude.)
My Rating: 2.5 hearts 
Thoughts on the Novel: Confessions of an Angry Girl by Louise Rozett is about one girl trying to get through her first year of high school. While the writing was okay, I wasn’t pleased that the book ended so abruptly, particularly since I thought the plot and the characters – none of whom I really liked – weren’t memorable enough. I also didn’t care about the romance because I couldn’t see what Rose saw in Jamie or figure out why he, a senior, would fall for a lowly freshman. Moreover, I thought it was very hypocritical of Rose for judging her best friend for staying with a cheating boyfriend when she herself makes out with Jamie, a guy who has a girlfriend. 

Confessions of an Angry Girl was released by Harlequin Teen in August 2012.

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Harlequin Teen) for free via NetGalley.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Review: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

From Goodreads: Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty's anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high. Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered - in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen's Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life. 

My Rating: 4.5 hearts

Thoughts on the Novel: I seem to be having difficulty writing reviews lately – watching the Olympics nonstop may have something to do with it – so I’ve decided to instead state five reasons why you should read Rachel Hartman’s Seraphina. Here we go:
  1. The worldbuilding: Besides the appeal of dragons, the world that Hartman created was incredible in and of itself. It literally felt like Hartman thought of everything down to the minutest detail – characters were even discussing the works of her made-up philosophers!
  2. The coming-of-age aspect: Although Seraphina is marketed as a fantasy, I think it can be enjoyed by anybody because it’s very much also a book about a young girl growing up, trying to figure out her place in the world, and learning to accept herself.
  3. The main character: Seraphina was just so fantastically complex. At times, she comes off as fragile and you just want to give her a hug; and then at other times, you realize that she’s actually pretty brave and tough. All in all, Seraphina was a protagonist I could easily relate to and root for.
  4. The secondary characters: I felt like all the secondary characters had something important to contribute to the story. Best of all, nobody seemed like a stereotyped character since even the minor characters were really well-developed.
  5. A romance that doesn’t overpower the plot: Although Seraphina’s realization that she loves Kiggs seemingly came out of nowhere (or maybe I was just oblivious to the signs), the romance never felt like an instant love situation (possibly because the two had interacted with each other a few times before Seraphina’s sudden insight into her feelings). I also liked that the love triangle that develops in the end isn’t like your typical love triangle because a) there are two girls and one guy and b) it wasn’t created to add more drama for the sequel or because a character is irresistibly attractive, but because there ends up being a conflict between duty and love. I was so thrilled to see Hartman stay true to her characters’ natures and acknowledge (through her characters) that it’s not an easy choice.
If you can get past the slow beginning and stick with Seraphina, I assure you that you’ll find a beautifully written story with multiple fully-rounded characters!

Seraphina was released by Random House Children’s Books in July 2012.

Comments About the Cover: I love the monochromatic look because it gives the cover this olden day feel, which I think is perfect since the world of Seraphina is very much medieval.  

In exchange for an honest review, this ARC was received from the publisher (Random House) for free via NetGalley.  
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