Showing posts with label mini review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mini review. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Mini Reviews: Devils Unto Dust by Emma Berquist and American Panda by Gloria Chau

To those of you still following this blog, hello! I finally managed to post something after months of no activity! 
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From Goodreads: Ten years ago, a horrifying disease began spreading across the West Texas desert. Infected people - shakes - attacked the living and created havoc and destruction. No one has ever survived the infection. Daisy Wilcox, known as Willie, has been protecting her siblings within the relatively safe walls of Glory, Texas. When Willie’s good-for-nothing father steals a fortune from one of the most dangerous shake-hunters in town, she finds herself on the hook for his debt. With two hunters, including the gruff and handsome Ben, to accompany her, she sets out across the desert in search of her father. But the desert is not kind to travelers, and not everyone will pass through alive. 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: During a time when I’m struggling to find the motivation to read and blog, Emma Berquist’s standalone novel Devils Unto Dust managed to somehow hold my attention thanks to its short chapters. I also thought the harsh desert setting was great since it featured all kinds of perils (e.g. shakes, hunters, sandstorms, etc.), and liked the tough heroine of the book because she would do anything for her family and refused to be cowed by the hunters around her.

Devils Unto Dust was released on April 10, 2018 by Greenwillow Books. 

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

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From Back Cover: At seventeen, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents' master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies. With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can't bring herself to tell them the truth - that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese. But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels? 

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: American Panda by Gloria Chau was a book that seemed to have a lot of hype as a diverse read. I, however, found that it featured quite a few stereotypes and wished that it was less predictable. For example, Mei’s parents are extremely overprotective and believe medicine to be the only acceptable profession for their children. While American Panda wasn’t a bad read per se, nothing about it really stood out for me and I’ve already forgotten large parts of it. I do remember not being a fan of the insta-love romance though. 

American Panda was released by Simon Pulse in February 2018.

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

Monday, October 30, 2017

Mini Reviews: Now is Everything by Amy Giles and The Glass Spare by Lauren DeStefano

From Goodreads: The McCauleys look perfect on the outside. But nothing is ever as it seems, and this family is hiding a dark secret. Hadley McCauley will do anything to keep her sister safe from their father. But when Hadley’s forbidden relationship with Charlie Simmons deepens, the violence at home escalates, culminating in an explosive accident that will leave everyone changed. When Hadley attempts to take her own life at the hospital post-accident, her friends, doctors, family, and the investigator on the case want to know why. Only Hadley knows what really happened that day, and she’s not talking.

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Now is Everything by Amy Giles was a fast-paced, engaging read. Alternating between the present where Hadley is the sole survivor of a plane crash and flashbacks that show Hadley’s life in the months leading up to the crash, Giles had me wondering if the plane crash was really accidental. While the plot was interesting, I found the romance somewhat unbelievable. I can never buy into the premise that a player suddenly becomes faithful to one girl because “she’s different from all the other girls before her!” 

Now is Everything will be released on November 7, 2017 by HarperTeen! 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (HarperCollins) for free via Edelweiss.
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From Goodreads: Wil Heidle, the only daughter of the king of the world’s wealthiest nation, has grown up in the shadows. Kept hidden from the world in order to serve as a spy for her father - whose obsession with building his empire is causing a war - Wil wants nothing more than to explore the world beyond her kingdom, if only her father would give her the chance. Until one night Wil is attacked, and she discovers a dangerous secret. Her touch turns people into gemstone. At first Wil is horrified - but as she tests its limits, she’s drawn more and more to the strange and volatile ability. When it leads to tragedy, Wil is forced to face the destructive power within her and finally leave her home to seek the truth and a cure. But finding the key to her redemption puts her in the path of a cursed prince who has his own ideas for what to do with her power. With a world on the brink of war and a power of ultimate destruction, can Wil find a way to help the kingdom that’s turned its back on her, or will she betray her past and her family forever?

My Rating: 2 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Lauren DeStefano’s The Glass Spare was a book I was really looking forward to reading because it features a princess who turns people into gemstones when in a state of adrenalin. For some reason however, the beginning of the book failed to captivate me, despite Wil killing someone she loved and being banished by her father from her kingdom. When Loom was then introduced as a character, I knew The Glass Spare was a lost cause because Loom pretty much fell for Wil after meeting her, without knowing anything about her. The final strike against this book was a cliffhanger ending that left me feeling bored and gave me no reason to continue on with this series. 

The Glass Spare was released by Balzer + Bray on October 24, 2017.  

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

Monday, September 18, 2017

Mini Reviews: How to Disappear by Sharon Huss Roat and These Things I've Done by Rebecca Phillips

From Goodreads: Vicky Decker has perfected the art of hiding in plain sight, quietly navigating the halls of her high school undetected except by her best (and only) friend, Jenna. But when Jenna moves away, Vicky’s isolation becomes unbearable. So she decides to invent a social life by Photoshopping herself into other people’s pictures, posting them on Instagram under the screen name Vicurious. Instantly, she begins to get followers, so she adds herself to more photos from all over the world with all types of people. And as Vicurious’s online followers multiply, Vicky realizes she can make a whole life for herself without ever leaving her bedroom. But the more followers she finds online, the clearer it becomes that there are a lot of people out there who feel like her - #alone and #ignored in real life. To help them, and herself, Vicky must find the courage to face her fear of being “seen,” because only then can she stop living vicariously and truly bring the magic of Vicurious to life. 

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: If you prefer plot-driven novels, Sharon Huss Roat’s How to Disappear is probably not the book for you since it involves Vicki just spending a lot of time online – either Photoshopping herself into different backgrounds, posting her pictures on Instagram and seeing what kind of feedback she gets, or checking out other people’s Instagram feeds. Yet even though nothing major happens over the course of How to Disappear, I didn’t think it was a bad read because it serves as a reminder of how powerful social media can be in connecting people. 

How to Disappear was released in August 2017 by HarperTeen. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (HarperCollins) for free via Edelweiss.
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From Goodreads: Before: Dara and Aubrey have been inseparable since they became best friends in sixth grade. However, as they begin their sophomore year of high school, cracks in their friendship begin to form, testing the bond they always thought was unbreakable. After: It's been fifteen months since the accident that killed Aubrey, and not a day goes by that Dara isn't racked with guilt over her role in her best friend's death. Dara thought nothing could be worse than confronting the memories of Aubrey that relentlessly haunt her, but she soon realizes it isn't half as difficult as seeing Ethan, Aubrey's brother, every day. Not just because he's a walking reminder of what she did, but because the more her feelings for him change, the more she knows she's betraying her best friend one final time. 

My Rating: 2.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Alternating chapters between Dara’s sophomore and senior years, These Things I’ve Done by Rebecca Phillips shows the difference in Dara’s attitude and personality before and after Aubrey’s death. When reading a novel chronicling someone’s life after the death of a loved one, I need to connect with the characters; and unfortunately, Dara was someone I struggled to connect with because she keeps trying not to move on, despite knowing that Aubrey’s death was accidental. I also thought some of the secondary characters could have been better fleshed out. For example, there was no reason for Travis to think of Dara as a murderer and yet he does, even though Aubrey’s brother, Ethan, quickly befriends Dara again, making it clear he holds no ill will towards her. If you’re looking for a book where grief is a major theme, I’d recommend reading Cynthia Hand’s The Last Time We Say Goodbye or Emery Lord’s The Start of Me and You instead.

These Things I’ve Done was released by HarperTeen in August 2017.

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

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.
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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.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Mini Reviews: Literally by Lucy Keating and The Freemason's Daughter by Shelley Sacker

From Goodreads: Annabelle’s life has always been Perfect with a capital P. Then bestselling young adult author Lucy Keating announces that she’s writing a new novel - and Annabelle is the heroine. It turns out, Annabelle is a character that Lucy Keating created. And Lucy has a plan for her. But Annabelle doesn’t want to live a life where everything she does is already plotted out. Will she find a way to write her own story - or will Lucy Keating have the last word? 

My Rating: 2 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Literally by Lucy Keating had the potential to be really interesting. Instead, it turned out to be a rather unoriginal contemporary with a love triangle where there was no doubt about who the protagonist would choose. The idea of Keating incorporating herself into the story was very meta, but I quickly got tired of Annabelle referencing the author Keating’s books, movies, and writing style. I think I would have liked Literally much more had Annabelle realized that she was a fictional character later in the story or Will been written to be less perfect.  

Literally was released on April 11, 2017 by HarperTeen. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (HarperCollins) for free via Edelweiss.  
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From Goodreads: Saying good-bye to Scotland is the hardest thing that Jenna MacDuff has had to do - until she meets Lord Pembroke. Jenna’s small clan has risked their lives traveling the countryside as masons, secretly drumming up support and arms for the exiled King James Stuart to retake the British throne. But their next job brings them into enemy territory: England. Jenna’s father repeatedly warns her to trust no one, but when the Duke of Keswick hires the clan to build a garrison on his estate, it seems she cannot hide her capable mind from the duke’s inquisitive son, Lord Alex Pembroke - nor mask her growing attraction to him. But there’s a covert plan behind the building of the garrison, and soon Jenna must struggle not only to keep her newfound friendship with Alex from her father, but also to keep her father’s treason from Alex. Will Jenna decide to keep her family’s mutinous secrets and assist her clan’s cause, or protect the life of the young noble she’s falling for? 

My Rating: 2.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: I love historical fiction, especially if the setting is in Europe; so Shelley Sacker’s The Freemason’s Daughter was a book that I had to request. Unfortunately, most of the characters could have been better developed, and I thought Jenna was silly for trusting Alex so easily with her and her clan’s secrets. The plot also took a very long time to get going, which meant both the romance and the ending felt quite rushed.

The Freemason’s Daughter was released by HarperTeen on April 11, 2017. 

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

Monday, March 20, 2017

Mini Reviews: You Don’t Know My Name by Kristen Orlando and Poison's Kiss by Breeana Shields

From Goodreads: Fighter. Faker. Student. Spy. Seventeen-year-old Reagan Elizabeth Hillis is used to changing identities overnight, lying to every friend she’s ever had, and pushing away anyone who gets too close. Trained in mortal combat and weaponry her entire life, Reagan is expected to follow in her parents’ footsteps and join the ranks of the most powerful top-secret agency in the world, the Black Angels. Falling in love with the boy next door was never part of the plan. Now Reagan must decide: Will she use her incredible talents and lead the dangerous life she was born into, or throw it all away to follow her heart and embrace the normal life she’s always wanted? And does she even have a choice? 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: An entertaining read while it lasted, You Don’t Know My Name by Kristen Orlando begins with Reagan being tired of constantly having to be undercover and feeling indecisive about her future – should she follow her parents’ footsteps and join a covert government organization or go to college and ultimately have a normal life? One of the reasons Reagan wants to be a regular girl of course is because there’s a boy … who coincidentally wants to go into the military and therefore knows how to shoot and not be a liability on a mission. Considering that Reagan is a teenager, it’s not surprising then that there are many plot holes in You Don’t Know My Name; but I chose to overlook those in favour of the action and suspense. 

You Don’t Know My Name was released in January 2017 by Swoon Reads.  .................................................................................................. 
From Goodreads: Marinda has kissed dozens of boys. They all die afterward. It's a miserable life, but being a visha kanya, a poison maiden, is what she was created to do. Marinda serves the Raja by dispatching his enemies with only her lips as a weapon. Until now, the men she was ordered to kiss have been strangers, enemies of the kingdom. Then she receives orders to kiss Deven, a boy she knows too well to be convinced he needs to die. She begins to question who she's really working for. And that is a thread that, once pulled, will unravel more than she can afford to lose. 

My Rating: 1.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: With a synopsis promising an assassin – an instant addition to my want-to-read list – capable of killing with a kiss as well as elements of Indian folklore, I was really excited to read Poison’s Kiss by Breeana Shields. It’s too bad then that the aforementioned assassin turned out to feel guilty about killing so many boys! It’s very annoying when I think I’ll be reading about a deadly assassin and instead end up reading about a person drowning in remorse! On top of that, Marinda was so na?ve and ignorant, believing everything told to her and never bothering to ask questions! As if that wasn’t bad enough, making everything worse was the fact that there was an insta-love romance. Seriously, like after two conversations with Deven, Marinda was willing to risk her life for Deven! 

A book that definitely didn’t live up to its potential, Poison’s Kiss was released by Random House Books for Young Readers in January 2017. 

Monday, March 06, 2017

Mini Reviews: Speed of Life by Carol Weston and Wait for Me by Caroline Leech

From Goodreads: Sofia wonders if 14 might be the worst possible age to lose your mom. Talking with her dad about puberty and s-e-x is super-awkward (even though he is a gynecologist). And when she wants to talk about her mom, her friends don't know what to say and her dad gets sad. When Sofia discovers Dear Kate, an advice columnist from Fifteen magazine, she’s grateful to have someone to confide in about everything from crushes to mourning - someone who is completely, wonderfully anonymous. It feels ideal - until Sofia’s dad introduces her to his new girlfriend, Katherine Baird, a.k.a., Dear Kate ... 

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Speed of Life by Carol Weston chronicles the life of Sofia over the course of a year, several months after her mom’s sudden death from an aneurysm. As time passes and her life changes in unexpected ways, Sofia slowly grows and learns that life can go on even after a loved one dies. Weston’s background as an advice columnist is clearly evident in the voice of Dear Kate, and I also liked how realistic the book felt. At the same time, many parts of Speed of Life felt very juvenile, making it a book I would have enjoyed a lot more had I been much, much younger. 

A novel that would be a good read for its target audience of middle graders, Speed of Life will be released on April 4, 2017 by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Sourcebooks) for free via NetGalley. 
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From Goodreads: It’s 1945, and Lorna Anderson’s life on her father’s farm in Scotland consists of endless chores and rationing, knitting Red Cross scarves, and praying for an Allied victory. So when Paul Vogel, a German prisoner of war, is assigned as the new farmhand, Lorna is appalled. How can she possibly work alongside the enemy when her own brothers are risking their lives for their country? But as Lorna reluctantly spends time with Paul, she feels herself changing. The more she learns about him - from his time in the war to his life back home in Germany - the more she sees the boy behind the soldier. Soon Lorna is battling her own warring heart. Loving Paul could mean losing her family and the life she’s always known. With tensions rising all around them, Lorna must decide how much she’s willing to sacrifice before the end of the war determines their fate. 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Caroline Leech’s Wait for Me was a book that piqued my interest because it’s set during WWII. Although I rarely read straight-up romance novels, I ended up really liking Wait for Me because the progression in Lorna’s feelings for Paul felt very natural, and I liked that she had to learn to look beyond Paul’s physical appearance to fall in love with him. The setting of the book also felt very authentic. In fact, there’s even a note at the end of the book about how German POWs did work on Scottish farms and that many ended up falling in love with local girls. The one thing that this book could have done without was an unnecessary potential rape scene. Overall, however, Wait for Me was a solid YA debut. 

Wait for Me was released by HarperTeen in January 2017. 

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

Monday, February 13, 2017

Mini Reviews: The Imaginary by A.F. Harrold and Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller

Apologies for the extended break! I haven't done much reading over the past month as I got really busy at work and then ruined my Kindle by accidentally dropping it in water - putting it in a bag of rice sadly didn't work - so I had to buy a new one and wait for it to ship. Anyways, on to my reviews!
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From Goodreads: Rudger is Amanda’s best friend. He doesn't exist, but nobody's perfect. Only Amanda can see her imaginary friend – until the sinister Mr Bunting arrives at Amanda's door. Mr Bunting hunts imaginaries. Rumour says that he eats them. And he's sniffed out Rudger. Soon Rudger is alone, and running for his imaginary life. But can a boy who isn’t there survive without a friend to dream him up? 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: The Imaginary by A.F. Harrold is a delightfully creepy read that explores what it is like to be an imaginary friend. I loved the illustrations and the fact that the library was a safe haven for imaginaries waiting to pick a child as a friend. I also really liked that Amanda’s mom was so supportive of her daughter's imagination and did things like setting out an extra plate with food for Rudger.

A book that would be great for discussing friendship and imagination, The Imaginary was released in October 2014 by Bloomsbury Children's. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Raincoast Books) for free.  
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From Goodreads: Sent on a mission to retrieve an ancient hidden map - the key to a legendary treasure trove - seventeen-year-old pirate captain Alosa deliberately allows herself to be captured by her enemies, giving her the perfect opportunity to search their ship. More than a match for the ruthless pirate crew, Alosa has only one thing standing between her and the map: her captor, the unexpectedly clever and unfairly attractive first mate, Riden. But not to worry, for Alosa has a few tricks up her sleeve, and no lone pirate can stop the Daughter of the Pirate King. 

My Rating: 2.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Since I love stories featuring pirates and they have not become a trend in YA yet, Tricia Levenseller’s Daughter of the Pirate King was one of my most anticipated debuts of this year. Unfortunately, I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would, mainly because the romance played such a prominent role but felt very forced. Alosa also came across as extremely cocky – she reminds me of Captain Jack Sparrow, though not as likeable – and while some people might have no problems with that, I just kept wondering why her character had to be so annoyingly exaggerated.

Daughter of the Pirate King will be released on February 28, 2017 by Feiwel & Friends. 

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

Monday, January 09, 2017

Mini Reviews: The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett by Chelsea Sedoti and The Secret of a Heart Note by Stacey Lee

From Goodreads: A teenage misfit named Hawthorn Creely inserts herself in the investigation of missing person Lizzie Lovett, who disappeared mysteriously while camping with her boyfriend. Hawthorn doesn't mean to interfere, but she has a pretty crazy theory about what happened to Lizzie. In order to prove it, she decides to immerse herself in Lizzie's life. That includes taking her job ... and her boyfriend. It's a huge risk - but it's just what Hawthorn needs to find her own place in the world. 

My Rating: 1 heart 

Thoughts on the Novel: Chelsea Sedoti’s The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett was a book that I decided to read because I was in the mood for a good mystery. It’s too bad then that this book fell far below my expectations. I found the protagonist, Hawthorn, to be really judgemental and seriously weird. Furthermore, the secondary characters lacked depth and the plotline was boring as it revolved around Hawthorn investigating the disappearance of twenty-one year old Lizzie Lovett, a girl who goes missing while on a camping trip with her boyfriend. Obsessed with Lizzie, Hawthorn finally concludes that she turned into a werewolf. Like, WTF?! I thought Hawthorn was kidding, but the high school senior legitimately believed in her ridiculous theory! On top of that, she then hooks up with Lizzie’s twenty-five year old boyfriend, who I thought was really sleazy (since he kept hooking up with girls in high school). 

The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett was released on January 3, 2017 by Sourcebooks Fire. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Sourcebooks) for free via NetGalley.
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From Goodreads: Sometimes love is right under your nose. As one of only two aromateurs left on the planet, sixteen-year-old Mimosa knows what her future holds: a lifetime of weeding, mixing love elixirs, and matchmaking - all while remaining incurably alone. For Mim, the rules are clear: falling in love would render her nose useless, taking away her one great talent. Still, Mimosa doesn’t want to spend her life elbow-deep in soil and begonias. She dreams of a normal high school experience with friends, sports practices, debate club, and even a boyfriend. But when she accidentally gives an elixir to the wrong woman and has to rely on the lovesick woman’s son, the school soccer star, to help fix the situation, Mim quickly begins to realize that falling in love isn’t always a choice you can make. 

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: The Secret of a Heart Note by Stacey Lee had several things going for it. For example, it had an interesting premise since its main character and her mom are able to smell scents that regular humans can’t detect, and then use this information to create elixirs (for free) to help love blossom. Lee also did a phenomenal job of describing various scents (e.g. that of emotions, different flowers, etc.) and the beauty of Mim’s family garden. Unfortunately, I didn’t like The Secret of a Heart Note as much as I thought I would because I didn’t buy the romance in it and got annoyed by Mim making one stupid mistake after another. 

The Secret of a Heart Note was released by Katherine Tegen Books in December 2016. 

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

Monday, December 12, 2016

Mini Reviews: The Friendship Experiment by Erin Teagan and Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

From Back Cover: Everything has been going wrong for aspiring scientist Madeline Little, and she's dreading the start of sixth grade. Now that her best friend has moved to private school, Maddie has no one to hang out with except a bunch of middle-school misfits. And if you add Maddie's blood disorder, which causes public humiliation at the very worst times, it's all a formula for disaster. At least she can rely on her standard operating procedures, the observations and step-by-step instructions she writes down in her top-secret lab notebook. Procedures for how to escape a conversation with your mother, how to avoid the weirdos at school - it's all in there. Fortunately, no one will ever read it. But does science have all the answers? 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: The Friendship Experiment by Erin Teagan is a solid MG read about discovering the unpredictability of life. I really liked that Madeline loved science so much, and found it refreshing to have a narrator who wrote Standard Operating Procedures and grew bacterial cultures instead of worrying about popularity and boys.

The Friendship Experiment was released in November 2016 by HMH Books for Young Readers. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Raincoast Books) for free.
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From Goodreads: Every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions. But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose ... it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins. The last queen standing gets the crown. If only it was that simple. Katharine is unable to tolerate the weakest poison, and Arsinoe, no matter how hard she tries, can’t make even a weed grow. The two queens have been shamefully faking their powers, taking care to keep each other, the island, and their powerful sister Mirabella none the wiser. But with alliances being formed, betrayals taking shape, and ruthless revenge haunting the queens’ every move, one thing is certain: the last queen standing might not be the strongest ... but she may be the darkest.  

My Rating: 2 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Kendare Blake’s Three Dark Crowns was a book that I was looking forward to reading because of its dark premise. Unfortunately, while the beginning part of the novel whetted my appetite with Katherine having to ingest poisoned food, for example, the majority of the book was quite dull. There was little plot to be honest, and I’m still confused as to why Katherine, Arsinoe and Mirabella must kill each other. Furthermore, none of the queens made me want to root for them or their insta-love romances.

A huge disappointment, Three Dark Crowns was released by HarperTeen in September 2016.  

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

Monday, December 05, 2016

Mini Reviews: A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz and Gertie's Leap to Greatness by Kate Beasley

From Back Cover: Follow Hansel and Gretel as they run away from their own story and into eight other scary fairy tales. They'll encounter witches and warlocks, hunters with deadly aim, and bakers with ovens that are just right for baking children ... It may be frightening, but unlike those other fairy tales you know, these are true. 

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Having loved Adam Gidwitz’s In a Glass Grimmly, I thought it was time to give its companion novel, A Tale Dark and Grimm, a try. Despite having some of the same elements as In a Glass Grimmly (e.g. a few gory parts here and there, an interjecting narrator that's funny, etc.) however, I didn’t enjoy A Tale Dark and Grimm as much – perhaps because the main characters were Hansel and Gretel, who I don’t care for as Grimm characters either.

A Tale Dark and Grimm was released in October 2010 by Dutton Books for Young Readers. 
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From Inside Jacket: Gertie Reece Foy is 100% Not-From-Concentrate awesome. Which is why she's dumbfounded by her mother's plan to move away from their coastal Alabama town, leaving Gertie with her father and Great-Aunt Rae. Most kids would be upset about this. But Gertie is absolutely not upset, because she has a plan. More than a plan. She has a mission. Gertie is going to become the greatest fifth grader in the universe! All she needs to do is: write the best summer speech (after she finds Zombie frog), become the smartest student in her class (if her best friend, Jean the Jean-ius, doesn't mind), and win the lead part in the play (so long as a Swiss-chocolate meltdown doesn't mess things up). There's just one problem: Seat-stealing new girl Mary Sue Spivey wants to be the best fifth grader, too. And there is simply not enough room at the top for the two of them.

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Gertie’s Leap to Greatness by Kate Beasley was a book that I generally liked because of the realistic way it handled a theme like parental abandonment and because it featured a non-traditional family structure – Gertie is raised by her great-aunt and her dad (who is often away due to his job). At times though, Gertie could be perceived as selfish due to her me-first attitude and inability to listen to others. 

Gertie’s Leap to Greatness was released in October 2016 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR). 

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

Monday, November 14, 2016

Mini Reviews: Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters by Meredith Zeitlin and Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman

From Goodreads: Kelsey Finkelstein is fourteen and FRUSTRATED. Every time she tries to live up to her awesome potential, her plans are foiled - by her impossible parents, her annoying little sister, and life in general. But with her first day of high school coming up, Kelsey is positive that things are going to change. Enlisting the help of her three best friends - sweet and quiet Em, theatrical Cass, and wild JoJo - Kelsey gets ready to rebrand herself and make the kind of mark she knows is her destiny. Things start out great - her arch-nemesis has moved across the country, giving Kelsey the perfect opportunity to stand out on the soccer team and finally catch the eye of her long-time crush. But soon enough, an evil junior’s thirst for revenge, a mysterious photographer, and a series of other catastrophes make it clear that just because KELSEY has a plan for greatness ... it doesn’t mean the rest of the world is in on it. 

My Rating: 4 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Meredith Zeitlin’s Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters was the perfect novel to lighten my mood when I was really stressed and get me out of my reading slump. A quick read filled with hilarious moments, this book features a narrator that’s incredibly easy to connect with as we’ve all been through what Kelsey has – trying to figure out our identity and how to leave a mark, having friendships change, falling in love, etc. I definitely encourage you to give Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters a try, and dare you to read it without giggling!

Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters was released in March 2012 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons.
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From Goodreads: Twelve-year-old Emily is on the move again. Her family is relocating to San Francisco, home of her literary idol: Garrison Griswold, creator of the online sensation Book Scavenger, a game where books are hidden all over the country and clues to find them are revealed through puzzles. But Emily soon learns that Griswold has been attacked and is in a coma, and no one knows anything about the epic new game he had been poised to launch. Then Emily and her new friend James discover an odd book, which they come to believe is from Griswold and leads to a valuable prize. But there are others on the hunt for this book, and Emily and James must race to solve the puzzles Griswold left behind before Griswold's attackers make them their next target.

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman was a book that I decided to read because I loved its premise – hunting for and getting to keep books by having to solve puzzles! However, unlike some MG books which have crossover appeal, it was obvious that the target audience for this book were Middle Graders for two reasons: 1) Emily’s friend James names his cowlick and almost treats it like an imaginary friend, which was annoying to read about as an older reader, and 2) the villain of the story was quite predictable and you knew that the characters were never in any danger from him. 

Book Scavenger was released in June 2015 by Henry Holt and Co. 

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.
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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, September 19, 2016

Mini Reviews: Write This Down by Claudia Mills and Foxheart by Claire Legrand

From Back Cover: Twelve-year-old Autumn loves to write, and she can't wait to grow up to be a published author. She finds inspiration all around her, especially in Cameron, the dreamy boy in her journalism class who she has a major crush on. But when her older brother, Hunter - who used to watch out for her but has grown distant since he started high school - discovers one of her most personal pieces of writing and makes fun of it, she is devastated. Determined to show her brother how wrong he is about her talent, Autumn decides that she is going to become a published author - now! She writes an essay about her changing relationship with her brother and enters it in a contest that puts her dream of publication finally within reach. But if her essay is published, everyone will know her family's secrets. Is being published worth hurting those you love? 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts

Thoughts on the Novel: Personally, it was impossible to read Write This Down by Claudia Mills without being reminded of a time when I thought anything was possible but didn’t understand how difficult it can be to achieve your dreams. Mills’ protagonist Autumn dreams of being a famous writer like her idol Emily Dickinson – a choice that perhaps middle graders might find hard to connect to – but when her older brother makes fun of her poem about her crush, Autumn sets out to prove to her brother that her writing is good. As an adult, it’s easy to see that Autumn is a little na?ve in thinking that she could have a piece of writing published so easily, but I also liked that Write This Down focuses on trying to achieve your dreams – and doing so in a way that leaves you without regrets. 

Write This Down will be released by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) on September 27, 2016.

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Raincoast Books) for free.
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From Goodreads: Orphan. Thief. Witch. Twelve-year-old Quicksilver dreams of becoming the greatest thief in the Star Lands. With her faithful dog and partner-in-crime Fox, she’s well on her way - even if that constantly lands them both in trouble. It’s a lonesome life, sleeping on rooftops and stealing food for dinner, but Quicksilver doesn’t mind. When you’re alone, no one can hurt you. Or abandon you. But the seemingly peaceful Star Lands are full of danger. Witches still exist - although the powerful Wolf King and his seven wolves have been hunting them for years. Thankfully, his bloody work is almost complete. Soon the Star Lands will be safe, free of the witches and their dark magic. Then one day a strange old woman and her scruffy dog arrive in Quicksilver’s town and perform extraordinary magic. Real magic - forbidden and dangerous. Magic Quicksilver is desperate to learn. With magic like that, she could steal anything her heart desires. She could even find her parents. But the old woman is not what she seems, and soon Quicksilver has to decide - will she stay at home and remain a thief? Or will she embark upon the adventure of a lifetime and become a legend? 

My Rating: 3 hearts

Thoughts on the Novel: Having liked Claire Legrand’s previous MG novels, I was looking forward to reading Foxheart, especially since I love books that involve thieves and magic. However, I wasn’t expecting Foxheart to incorporate time travel, a tricky subject to explain in my opinion, and made even more so in Foxheart because Quicksilver’s mentor is her older self. It was a concept I struggled with, and when combined with the fact that the worldbuilding wasn’t fleshed out enough for me, it negated the book’s enjoyable beginning. 

Foxheart will be released on October 4, 2016 by Greenwillow Books.

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