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

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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 14, 2017

Review: I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo

From Goodreads: Desi Lee believes anything is possible if you have a plan. That’s how she became student body president. Varsity soccer star. And it’s how she’ll get into Stanford. But - she’s never had a boyfriend. In fact, she’s a disaster in romance, a clumsy, stammering humiliation magnet whose botched attempts at flirting have become legendary with her friends. So when the hottest human specimen to have ever lived walks into her life one day, Desi decides to tackle her flirting failures with the same zest she’s applied to everything else in her life. She finds guidance in the Korean dramas her father has been obsessively watching for years - where the hapless heroine always seems to end up in the arms of her true love by episode ten. It’s a simple formula, and Desi is a quick study. Armed with her “K Drama Steps to True Love,” Desi goes after the moody, elusive artist Luca Drakos - and boat rescues, love triangles, and staged car crashes ensue. But when the fun and games turn to true feels, Desi finds out that real love is about way more than just drama.

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: While I’m sure many people will be interested to read Maurene Goo’s I Believe in a Thing Called Love because the synopsis mentions K-dramas, I’ve never watched one. Instead, this book appealed to me because I liked that the cover had an Asian model and that it appeared to have the potential to make me laugh.

I Believe in a Thing Called Love does start off quite hilariously with poor, sick Desi coughing phlegm onto her crush’s shirt and then having her sweatpants fall off in front of the new student, Luca. However, I started sympathizing with Desi less and less over the course of the novel as she began to act more like a psycho, lying and injuring others in order to simply get a boyfriend. For example, Desi was willing to cause a car crash just so that Luca would realize how real their love was! I understand that in no way is I Believe in a Thing Called Love supposed to be realistic, but if a guy did what Desi did, I’d be running far, far away! So, I wasn’t completely thrilled by the ending, which basically rewards Desi for being a nut job. 

I Believe in a Thing Called Love was released in May 2017 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 

Comments About the Cover: What’s happening with the splashes of pink on the model's skirt?! They’re so oddly placed …

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

Monday, May 15, 2017

Review: Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

From Goodreads: The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around - and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever. What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving? The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries - including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

My Rating: 4.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Having read a few books that I rated as 3-stars or lower in a row, I decided to turn to a novel that I knew wouldn’t disappoint, Laini Taylor’s Strange the Dreamer. I was hooked right from the prologue, as a girl falls from the sky in the city of Weep and is impaled by a point on an iron gate. I love spectacularly violent deaths!

We then go back in time to be introduced to Lazlo Strange, a librarian who has dreamed of visiting the mysterious city of Weep his entire life. Penniless and unable to do so because as a foreigner he would be executed on sight, Lazlo continues to work as a librarian … until Weep’s warriors come to Zosma, seeking outsiders that can help them with a mission. There’s a shadow over Weep, and Lazlo will need to uncover the city's secrets if he wants to help its residents.

As always, Taylor’s writing is gorgeous, and the worldbuilding is fantastic. The characters were also fabulously written, with Taylor making me care about her secondary characters as much as I cared about Lazlo. Really, the only flaws of Strange the Dreamer were that the star-crossed romance was insta-love and that Taylor ended the book with such a twist that I can’t believe I’ll have to wait at least a year to read the sequel, The Muse of Nightmares.

Strange the Dreamer was released in March 2017 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. 

Comments About the Cover: It’s quite plain looking and doesn’t really do the inside of the book justice.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Review: The Traitor's Kiss by Erin Beaty

From Back Cover: With a sharp tongue and an unruly temper, Sage Fowler is not what they’d call a lady - which is perfectly fine with her. Deemed unfit for marriage, Sage is apprenticed to a matchmaker and tasked with wrangling other young ladies to be married off for political alliances. She spies on the girls - and on the soldiers escorting them. As the girls' military escort senses a political uprising, Sage is recruited by a handsome soldier to infiltrate the enemy ranks. The more she discovers as a spy, the less certain she becomes about whom to trust - and Sage becomes caught in a dangerous balancing act that will determine the fate of her kingdom. 

My Rating: 3 hearts

Thoughts on the Novel: The Traitor’s Kiss by Erin Beaty was a book I was really excited to read because I love fantasy, especially if it contains political intrigue and spying. So, I was thrilled when I got my hands on an ARC of The Traitor’s Kiss.

The story’s beginning reminded me of Mulan – and perhaps that’s why it was initially pitched as a Mulan retelling but has now been changed to “Jane Austen with an espionage twist” (which is more accurate) – with Sage, an orphan living with her uncle’s family, not wanting to be married but getting dressed up, going to a matchmaker, screwing up, and then getting told that she’s unfit to be married. After that, the plot diverges, with Sage apologizing to the matchmaker so as to not affect the marriage prospects of her younger cousins and being hired on as the matchmaker’s apprentice.

Although I enjoyed The Traitor’s Kiss overall, I had two major issues with it. First, there’s a lot of girl-on-girl hate in the book. Throughout the novel, Sage makes fun of the girls that are being matched for caring about beauty, and considers herself as better than them. Meanwhile, these girls are written as clichéd characters – they served no purpose other than to be dumb, catty, and only interested in money and marriage. I wish Beaty could have portrayed some of these girls as having both beauty and brains rather than succumbing to the stereotype that girls that care about their looks lack intelligence.

Secondly, there was a lack of worldbuilding in The Traitor’s Kiss. All I literally remember about the world is that there are two countries at war and the Kimisar have invaded Demora because they’re experiencing a famine. There was no map; and the Kimisar are simply described as being darker and having tattoos, indicating that Beaty relied on the use of another trope – that of the dark-skinned aggressor. 

The Traitor’s Kiss will be released by Imprint tomorrow!

Comments About the Cover: All I need to see is a sword on the cover to automatically put the book on my wishlist!  

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

Monday, May 01, 2017

Review: The Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi

From Back Cover: It doesn't look dangerous, exactly. When twelve-year-old Farah first lays eyes on the old-fashioned board game, she thinks it looks .. elegant. It is made of wood, etched with exquisite images - a palace with domes and turrets, latticework windows that cast eerie shadows, a large spider - and at the very center of its cover, in broad letters, is written THE GAUNTLET OF BLOOD AND SAND. The Gauntlet is more than a game, though. It is the most ancient, the most dangerous kind of magic. It holds worlds inside worlds. And it takes players as prisoners.

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: With the launch of Salaam Reads – an imprint of Simon and Schuster focused on bringing Muslim voices into publishing – and an author known for being passionate about diversity, Karuna Riazi’s The Gauntlet was a novel that I know many people were excited about. After reading The Gauntlet, I find that my thoughts on it are quite scattered, and so the best way for me to write a cohesive review was to create a pros and cons list.

Pros:
  • As a South Asian, I was really looking forward to having a protagonist whose upbringing reflected mine to some degree. More importantly, as a Muslim who wears a hijab, it was amazing to finally read a novel with a hijabi protagonist.
  • I loved the premise of being sucked into fantasy city within a board game, especially one that has clearly been inspired by Middle Eastern architecture.
Cons:
  • The plot felt very rushed, with Farah and her friends having to quickly complete challenges and run all over the city of Paheli to try and find Ahmad, her little brother.
  • I had to laugh when I found out who the Architect was. I have no clue why authors make the evil mastermind controlling everything so young. How am I supposed to find this believable at all?!  
  • Farah’s friends could have been more developed. They didn’t have much personality and felt like sidekicks rather than actual friends.  
  • I didn’t like that Ahmad’s behaviour was solely attributed to ADHD. While children with ADHD may have trouble controlling their impulses and act out, the way Ahmad behaves is more due to his environment – he appears to be spoiled and used to getting his way – than because of ADHD. 
The Gauntlet was released in March 2017 by Salaam Reads. 

Comments About the Cover: I love that there’s someone wearing a hijab on the cover, but it’s hard to see this because Farah is so small in comparison to everything around her. I wish Farah was drawn just a little bit bigger. 

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

Monday, April 24, 2017

Review: Heartless by Marissa Meyer

From Goodreads: Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland and a favorite of the unmarried King, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, she wants to open a shop and create delectable pastries. But for her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for a woman who could be a queen. At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the King’s marriage proposal, she meets handsome and mysterious Jest. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into a secret courtship. Cath is determined to choose her own destiny. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

My Rating: Somewhere between 3 and 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Having loved Marissa Meyer’s The Lunar Chronicles, I finally decided to get around to reading Heartless, which gives a backstory for the Queen of Hearts. Now, I’ve never read Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, but I grew up watching Disney’s version and always found Wonderland very bizarre. Meyer stays true to that feel by incorporating talking animals and featuring prominent characters like the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire Cat, and the Caterpillar. 

Unlike her previous heroines though, Meyer’s Catherine is a dreamer rather than a doer, which is probably why I didn’t really like her. Cath wishes to have a bakery – the descriptions of the desserts in Heartless will have you salivating! – but isn’t truly willing to go against her parents’ desires, and so just ends up moaning about not wanting to be married and deluding herself into thinking that she’ll become the finest baker in Hearts someday.

Another aspect of the story that I wasn't fond of was the insta-love romance. I found it very hard to believe that Cath and Jest loved each other after only a short amount of time spent together. As a result, although it was no surprise, I found it ridiculous that the explanation given for why the Queen of Hearts is so unfeeling is because Cath couldn’t get over Jest’s death and therefore gave away her heart.

Heartless was released November 2016 by Feiwel & Friends. 

Comments About the Cover: The black and red design, centred by a crown, is perfect for a story about the Queen of Hearts.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Review: Gilded Cage by Vic James

From Goodreads: Our world belongs to the Equals - aristocrats with magical gifts - and all commoners must serve them for ten years. But behind the gates of England's grandest estate lies a power that could break the world. Abi is a servant to England's most powerful family, but her spirit is free. So when she falls for one of the noble-born sons, Abi faces a terrible choice. Uncovering the family's secrets might win her liberty, but will her heart pay the price? Abi's brother, Luke, is enslaved in a brutal factory town. Far from his family and cruelly oppressed, he makes friends whose ideals could cost him everything. Now Luke has discovered there may be a power even greater than magic: revolution. [There] is a shadow in the glittering world of the Equals, with mysterious powers no one else understands. But will he liberate - or destroy?

My Rating: 2.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Gilded Cage by Vic James was the 2017 debut I was probably most excited about reading. The prologue did nothing to decrease my excitement either – with a slave trying to escape with her baby off an estate and then getting shot by her master (who also happens to be the baby’s father).

The premise is supposed to be simple: In an alternate Britain, the aristocrats are now people with Skill – known as Equals – and all those that lack Skill have to serve them for ten years as slaves before they can become full citizens. When you choose to serve is up to you, but you can’t own property, travel abroad or have certain jobs until you've completed your slavedays. Despite this, Luke and Abi’s parents appear to have their own house and jobs. Considering you’re pretty much allowed to do everything you want then without fulfilling your slavedays (e.g. go to university, marry, have kids, own assets, etc.), I’m not sure why everybody wouldn’t wait until they’re about to die before doing their slavedays.

Besides the confusing worldbuilding, there were quite a few POVs as well. This is something I normally avoid because I find that characters’ voices often blend together … and this was the case in Gilded Cage. It also didn’t help that the storyline kept jumping back and forth between Millmoor, a slavetown, and Kyneston, the estate of the founding family.

Finally, I never connected with the characters. Luke was basically a pawn, and I just wanted to slap Abi because for someone who was supposedly smart, she developed an instant crush on Jenner, whose family essentially owned her and her family. Moreover, Abi continued to lust after Jenner even after finding out that he witnessed her memories being tampered with and didn't tell her what happened!

A disappointing read, Gilded Cage was released by Del Ray Books in February 2017. 

Comments About the Cover: To me, the cover makes it seem like the story is set in the Victorian era, even though it isn’t.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Review: Caraval by Stephanie Gerber

From Goodreads: Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over. But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner. Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever. 

My Rating: 2.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Normally, when I see a lot of buzz for a book, I try to avoid reading it until the hype dies down so that I’m not as influenced by others’ feedback. As a result, I didn’t bother reading Stephanie Garber’s Caraval until recently.

The setting in Caraval was mysterious and enchanting, making it hard to figure out what was real and what was imaginary. Furthermore, the writing in Caraval was very flowery, enhancing the magical, dreamlike vibe of the book.

Where Garber lost me as a reader though was with the lack of character development. Not only did the secondary characters feel like actors at times - I now understand why - but I struggled to like Scarlett. She constantly talked about loving Tella, but it wasn’t evident how much her sister meant to her until the end when everything was revealed at once in a poorly executed dramatic moment. Instead, for the majority of the book, Scarlett seemed more fixated on lusting after two different boys.

Caraval was released by Flatiron Books in January 2017. 

Comments About the Cover: I love the colours used and how nicely they contrast against the background.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Review: Metaltown by Kristen Simmons

From Goodreads: The rules of Metaltown are simple: Work hard, keep your head down, and watch your back. You look out for number one, and no one knows that better than Ty. She’s been surviving on the factory line as long as she can remember. But now Ty has Colin. She’s no longer alone; it’s the two of them against the world. That’s something even a town this brutal can’t take away from her. Until it does. Lena’s future depends on her family’s factory, a beast that demands a ruthless master, and Lena is prepared to be as ruthless as it takes if it means finally proving herself to her father. But when a chance encounter with Colin, a dreamer despite his circumstances, exposes Lena to the consequences of her actions, she’ll risk everything to do what’s right. In Lena, Ty sees an heiress with a chip on her shoulder. Colin sees something more. In a world of disease and war, tragedy and betrayal, allies and enemies, all three of them must learn that challenging what they thought was true can change all the rules.

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Metaltown by Kristen Simmons was a book I was attracted to due to the steampunkish vibe I got from the cover. I also loved the premise, but the worldbuilding could definitely have been expanded upon. The gist is clear – a world that depends on child labour, contains a scarcity of food and clean water, and is suffering from a war – but there’s a serious lack of other details, making the setting in Metaltown hard to imagine visually.

More attention was given to the romance instead, which thankfully never turned into a love triangle since Ty’s feelings for Colin were never reciprocated. As for the characters, I wasn’t completely thrilled with either Colin or Lena because Colin seemed to ditch Ty once he met Lena and I felt like Lena only fell for Colin because he was the first guy to be nice to her. Ty was the most interesting out of the three so it was maddening to see how things ended for her after there was so much buildup with her importance.

Metaltown was released in September 2016 by Tor Teen. 

Comments About the Cover: Even though the cover seems to give off a steampunk vibe, the book itself is more of a dystopian novel.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Review: Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand

From Goodreads: Things Finley Hart Doesn't Want To Talk About: 1) Her parents, who are having problems. (But they pretend like they’re not.) 2) Being sent to her grandparents’ house for the summer. 3) Never having met said grandparents. 4) Her blue days - when life feels overwhelming, and it’s hard to keep her head up. (This happens a lot.) Finley’s only retreat is the Everwood, a forest kingdom that exists in the pages of her notebook. Until she discovers the endless woods behind her grandparents’ house and realizes the Everwood is real - and holds more mysteries than she'd ever imagined, including a family of pirates that she isn’t allowed to talk to, trees covered in ash, and a strange old wizard living in a house made of bones. With the help of her cousins, Finley sets out on a mission to save the dying Everwood and uncover its secrets. But as the mysteries pile up and the frightening sadness inside her grows, Finley realizes that if she wants to save the Everwood, she’ll first have to save herself. 

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Having enjoyed Claire Legrand’s previous novels for the most part, I decided to give Some Kind of Happiness a try without reading its synopsis. Therefore, I wasn’t expecting this MG novel to be so heavy, with a main character battling anxiety and depression but unable to put her feelings into words. To cope with her feelings, which worsen as her parents’ marriage falls apart and she meets her perfect, estranged extended family, Finley creates and writes about an imaginary world that the reader reads about as well.

To be honest, I’m not sure who I’d recommend Some Kind of Happiness to. The book felt quite long – the plot dragged in the middle – and there are much better novels that revolve around family or mental health. Moreover, the metaphor of the Everwood to describe Finley’s problems in real life may be lost on younger readers.

Some Kind of Happiness was released in May 2016 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

Comments About the Cover: The dark colours match the book's mood well, and the solitary person gives off a sense of loneliness, which is how Finley often feels. 

Monday, January 02, 2017

Reviews: A Good Trade and When the Rain Comes by Alma Fullerton

Thoughts on the Novels: When I was contacted by Pajama Press asking if I’d like to review any of their books, I looked through their catalogue carefully. Despite never reviewing picture books, two of Alma Fullerton’s books caught my eye because I figured that I could use them at work and because I like picture books that feature life in other countries.

Set up of Plot: In a small village in Uganda, Kato has to wake up early each morning and walk barefoot a long distance so that he can get water from the village well. This day, when he comes back home, there is an aid worker's truck in the village square, waiting to give something special - a new pair of shoes - to all the children. In exchange, Kato gives the aid worker a single, white poppy.
 
A Good Trade’s title is somewhat misleading as it implies that there’s a real trade between two people. However, in reality, Kato gives an aid worker a poppy to thank her for giving him a pair of shoes. Overall, I liked A Good Trade, and believe that it can be used to launch a discussion about gratitude and what it’s like to live in a third world country. 

Set up of Plot: In a Sri Lankan village, Malini wakes up nervous and excited about learning how to plant rice seedlings, which will provide food and income for her community. When she is asked to watch an ox carrying the seedlings so the driver can take a break, a sudden monsoon separates Malini and the ox from the driver and her family. Malini must now find the courage to try and save the ox and the cart carrying the precious rice seedlings.

I liked When the Rain Comes even more. The illustrations and text in this book work really well together to highlight Malini’s feelings and show the importance of rice to her village and the dangers of a monsoon. The back of the book tells a little bit more about Sri Lanka and how reliant the country’s population is on rice. 

In exchange for an honest review, both A Good Trade and When the Rain Comes were received from the publisher (Pajama Press) for free.  

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Review: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

From Goodreads: Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn't think they'd survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they're right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and left crippled by the kidnapping of a valuable team member, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz's cunning and test the team's fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city's dark and twisting streets - a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of magic in the Grisha world. 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: After liking Six of Crows, Leigh Bardugo’s Crooked Kingdom was a book that I was highly anticipating. Sadly, I was unable to read it right after its release because I was so busy, and have only been able to review it now.

Once again, I loved reading from the perspective of Nina. She continued to develop as an individual, and she and Matthias remained my favourite couple of the series. Surprisingly, I also ended up liking Jasper and Wylan as a couple. I didn’t understand why everyone was shipping them in Six of Crows, but I totally got it here! As for Kaz and Inej ... I just didn't believe in the chemistry between them and think that they'd be better off as friends; not everybody in this series needs to be paired up with each other.

Besides the romance, I also enjoyed the action and plot twists in Crooked Kingdom. I would have liked Kaz and his gang though to be a bit more vulnerable as I feel like they were able to get away with everything too easily. And yes, I'm aware that Matthias died! 

Crooked Kingdom was released in September 2016 by Henry Holt and Company. 

Comments About the Cover: I like the continuation with a crow on the cover.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Review: The Midnight Star by Marie Lu

From Goodreads: Adelina Amouteru is done suffering. She’s turned her back on those who have betrayed her and achieved the ultimate revenge: victory. Her reign as the White Wolf has been a triumphant one, but with each conquest her cruelty only grows. The darkness within her has begun to spiral out of control, threatening to destroy all she’s gained. When a new danger appears, Adelina’s forced to revisit old wounds, putting not only herself at risk, but every Elite. In order to preserve her empire, Adelina and her Roses must join the Daggers on a perilous quest - though this uneasy alliance may prove to be the real danger. 

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: After loving The Rose Society, I must say that Marie Lu’s The Midnight Star wasn’t as strong a conclusion as I hoped for for The Young Elites series.

Although I breezed through reading The Midnight Star, I felt quite detached from the characters while reading it. Nowhere was this more obvious than when certain characters died. I feel that a huge reason why I couldn’t make myself care about these deaths was because the characters didn’t feel like they were used to their full potential. For example, it felt like Lu didn’t know what to do with Enzo anymore so she simply killed him off again. Moreover, some characters still weren’t fleshed out enough. A case in point would be Magiano: we learn a little about him, but not enough to explain why he’s so drawn to Adelina and willing to do anything for her. Finally, the religious element was unexpected, and I remain unsure how I feel about it overall.

The Midnight Star was released in October 2016 by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers. 

Comments About the Cover: I like the cover, but I think The Young Elites’ and The Rose Society’s covers are better.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Review: The Possibility of Somewhere by Julia Day

From Goodreads: Ash Gupta has a life full of possibility. His senior year is going exactly as he’s always wanted - he's admired by his peers, enjoying his classes and getting the kind of grades that his wealthy, immigrant parents expect. There's only one obstacle in Ash's path: Eden Moore - the senior most likely to become class valedictorian. How could this unpopular, sharp-tongued girl from the wrong side of the tracks stand in his way? All Eden's ever wanted was a way out. Her perfect GPA should be enough to guarantee her a free ride to college - and an exit from her trailer-park existence for good. The last thing she needs is a bitter rivalry with Ash, who wants a prized scholarship for his own selfish reasons. Or so she thinks ... When Eden ends up working with Ash on a class project, she discovers that the two have more in common than either of them could have imagined. They’re both in pursuit of a dream - one that feels within reach thanks to their new connection. But what does the future hold for two passionate souls from totally different worlds? 

My Rating: 1.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: It’s sad to say but there’s a distinct lack of diverse love interests, which is why The Possibility of Somewhere by Julia Day caught my eye. A love interest who was Indian? Awesome!

Unfortunately, the romance in The Possibility of Somewhere was hard to believe for so many reasons, not the least of which was that Ash and Eden lacked chemistry. It was also not clear why they hated each other in the beginning, and the issue of racism that the two had to deal with from their parents was handled much too easily. Furthermore, although the synopsis makes it seem like the book would be narrated from both Ash and Eden’s perspectives, Eden actually was the only main character. As a result, Ash basically came off as a jerk who only noticed her when she wore some fitting clothes and then had all these expectations about her, whereas Eden became one of those clingy, annoying girlfriends.

The friendship between Eden and Mundy wasn’t something I liked either, and basically rubbed me the wrong way the minute it was revealed that Mundy only befriended Eden because Mundy had never hung out with anyone that lived in a trailer park. Meanwhile, Eden kept going on about how perfect Mundy was.

The only thing that saved The Possibility of Somewhere from being a complete failure was the great relationship between Eden and her stepmom. Stepparents usually seem to be a source of tension in the books I’ve read so it was nice to see this type of familial relationship depicted positively.

The Possibility of Somewhere was released in September 2016 by St. Martin’s Griffin. 

Comments About the Cover: It seems like a very generic romance cover.  

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

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Review: Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter

From Back Cover: In the enchanted kingdom of Brooklyn, the fashionable people put on cute shoes, go to parties in warehouses, drink on rooftops at sunset, and tell themselves they’ve arrived. A whole lot of Brooklyn is like that now - but not Vassa’s working-class neighborhood. In Vassa’s neighborhood, where she lives with her stepmother and bickering stepsisters, one might stumble onto magic, but stumbling out again could become an issue. Babs Yagg, the owner of the local convenience store, has a policy of beheading shoplifters - and sometimes innocent shoppers as well. So when Vassa’s stepsister sends her out for light bulbs in the middle of night, she knows it could easily become a suicide mission. But Vassa has a bit of luck hidden in her pocket, a gift from her dead mother. Erg is a tough-talking wooden doll with sticky fingers, a bottomless stomach, and a ferocious cunning. With Erg’s help, Vassa just might be able to break the witch’s curse and free her Brooklyn neighborhood. But Babs won’t be playing fair ... 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Inspired by the Russian folktale Vassilissa the Beautiful, Sarah Porter’s Vassa in the Night is a bizarre read that probably won’t appeal to everybody. If you like your books to make sense, Vassa in the Night is not that type of book. The plot, at times, took strange turns that I found downright confusing. For example, I still don’t get Vassa’s dad’s desire to be a German shepherd!

At other times though, despite the magic making no sense, I really enjoyed the book. Porter’s writing was almost dreamlike; and I loved that the story features a witch who doesn’t hesitate to behead shoplifters and has a great marketing campaign, a pair of bloodthirsty hands who delight in deception and violence, and a kleptomaniac wooden doll with an endless appetite. I also thought the setting was atmospheric and magical.

An odd book that should be given a chance, Vassa in the Night was released on September 20, 2016 by Tor Teen. 

Comments About the Cover: I like how the text stands out against the simple background.  

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

Vassa in the Night can be bought from: [Amazon] [Barnes and Noble] [Book Depository]
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As part of the blog tour for Vassa in the Night, I was lucky enough to ask Sarah a question as well. I asked her, "If you were to write a story inspired by another piece of writing, what work do you think it would be based upon and why?"

Hi Zahida! I doubt I’ll ever write another retelling, but I can think of a few more Russian fairy tales that would make great novels. “Finest the Falcon” could be particularly lovely, though I’m not sure a story that romantic would be the right fit for me. I’d love it if somebody else tackled that one, though. I’ve toyed with the idea of doing something with “Ivan, the Glowing Bird, and the Gray Wolf.” Ivan encounters the Gray Wolf when the Wolf devours his horse in the wilderness; talk about a meet-cute! But then after that violent introduction, the Wolf is passionately loyal to Ivan, even when he doesn’t deserve it. There’s something so moving and fierce about their relationship; I think it could make an amazing book. 


Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Review: Diplomatic Immunity by Brodi Ashton

From Goodreads: Piper Baird has always dreamed of becoming a journalist. So when she scores a scholarship to exclusive Chiswick Academy in Washington, DC, she knows it’s her big opportunity. Chiswick offers the country’s most competitive prize for teen journalists - the Bennington scholarship - and winning will ensure her acceptance to one of the best schools in the country. Piper isn’t at Chiswick for two days before she witnesses the intense competition in the journalism program - and the extreme privilege of the young and wealthy elite who attend her school. And Piper knows access to these untouchable students just might give her the edge she’ll need to blow the lid off life at the school in a scathing and unforgettable exposé worthy of the Bennington. The key to the whole story lies with Rafael Amador, the son of the Spanish ambassador - and the boy at the center of the most explosive secrets and scandals on Embassy Row. Rafael is big trouble - and when he drops into her bedroom window one night, asking for help, it’s Piper’s chance to get the full scoop. But as they spend time together, Piper discovers that despite his dark streak, Rafael is smart, kind, funny, and gorgeous - and she might have real feelings for him. How can she break the story of a lifetime if it could destroy the boy she just might love?

My Rating: 2 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Having enjoyed Brodi Ashton’s Everneath series, I was really looking forward to reading her newest book, Diplomatic Immunity. Sadly, Diplomatic Immunity failed to live up to my high expectations for several reasons.

First, Piper was a character I never really warmed up to. I found her to be very judgemental, and thought she could have tried a bit harder to look up some other ways to get into Columbia besides just trying to win the Bennington. As well, even though she claimed to be very serious about journalism, her feelings got all muddled up pretty quickly. 

Secondly, I thought the relationships could have been better explored. I would have liked more insight into Piper’s family’s financial situation for example, and thought it was weird how Piper’s otherwise normal mom decided it was acceptable that Piper drink on Embassy Row (because it’s international soil) and be out all night as long as she came home before the sun rose. Another relationship that felt flat was Piper’s friendship with her best friend, Charlotte, since their conversation seemed to only revolve around Piper’s life.

Finally, the romance lacked chemistry, and I didn’t understand what Rafael saw in Piper (besides the fact that they both had siblings with ASD, which seemed extremely convenient). I also couldn’t fall in love with Rafael because I thought he was very stupid for being so frank with Piper when it wasn’t a secret that she was out for a good scoop and he had already been burned by a previous girlfriend for something similar. 

Diplomatic Immunity will be released by Balzer + Bray today!

Comments About the Cover: I’m not sure why the cover shows a couple kissing since – spoiler alert – very little of that happens until the end. 

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

Monday, August 15, 2016

Review: Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay

From Goodreads: Though she looks like a mere mortal, Princess Aurora is a fairy blessed with enhanced strength, bravery, and mercy yet cursed to destroy the free will of any male who kisses her. Disguised as a boy, she enlists the help of the handsome but also cursed Prince Niklaas to fight legions of evil and free her brother from the ogre queen who stole Aurora's throne ten years ago. Will Aurora triumph over evil and reach her brother before it's too late? Can Aurora and Niklaas break the curses that will otherwise forever keep them from finding their one true love?

My Rating: 2 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Having loved Stacey Jay’s Of Beast and Beauty and in the mood to read another fairy tale retelling, I decided to read Princess of Thorns. Unfortunately, Princess of Thorns turned out to be nothing like Of Beast and Beauty!

Where I was expecting a fabulous retelling, Princess of Thorns didn’t deliver. Admittedly, this might be more my fault than the book’s because I automatically equated the name of Aurora with Sleeping Beauty and thought “fairy tale retelling.” Aurora in Princess of Thorns, however, is the daughter of Sleeping Beauty and Princess of Thorns is very much not even close to a retelling of Sleeping Beauty. I’m not sure why Jay decided to make her princess’ name Aurora instead of giving her any other name, but you can see why I’d be confused, right?

Once I got over that, I was left disappointed by the worldbuilding. The worldbuilding is pretty much nonexistent, and literally the only thing that’s clear is that in the world of Princess of Thorns, there are ogres and fairies. Also, the ogres have taken over Aurora’s throne and are trying to kill her due to some poorly explained prophecy that guarantees they’ll stay in power forever if they do so. Basically, it reduced the need for the ogres to be well-developed characters.

Similarly, the main characters were lacking in character development. Aurora was supposed to be this kickass heroine, but she just exasperated me with her attempts to pretend that she wouldn’t develop feelings for Niklaas. Niklaas was even more annoying though because he was constantly bragging about all the women he had slept with. I could never swoon over a guy like that! I didn’t buy the chemistry between him and Aurora, and thought they’d have been better off as friends.

A poorly written fantasy, Princess of Thorns was released in December 2014 by Delacorte Press. 

Comments About the Cover: Um, what’s the model supposed to be doing?

Monday, August 08, 2016

Review: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

From Goodreads: Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price - and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can't pull it off alone ...  A convict with a thirst for revenge. A sharpshooter who can't walk away from a wager. A runaway with a privileged past. A spy known as the Wraith. A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums. A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes. Kaz's crew are the only ones who might stand between the world and destruction - if they don't kill each other first. 

My Rating: Somewhere between 3.5 and 4 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo was a book that I waited so long to read because I didn’t want to get sucked in by the hype for it and because I typically avoid reading novels where there are more than two POVs. I shouldn’t have doubted Bardugo’s ability to write an entertaining story, however, since I ended up enjoying Six of Crows.

Although I wish some of the characters were older – I find it hard to believe that a cast of characters that can break into highly guarded places only consists of teenagers I did like the characters and the fact that we got all of their backstories, even though it resulted in the plot taking some time to get going. My favourite characters at this point are Nina and Inej because I love that they’re two strong girls that are just as capable as the guys they’re surrounded by. I also really like the friendship that developed between them - probably even more than all the potential romances.

Finally, I enjoyed seeing the expansion of the Grisha world. In The Grisha series, we learn about Ravka, but little about its neighbours. In Six of Crows though, we get to see how Grisha abilities are perceived in the other countries.

A great start to a new series by Bardugo, I’m looking forward to seeing what happens to Kaz and his gang in Crooked Kingdom. Six of Crows was released by Henry Holt and Company in September 2015. 

Comments About the Cover: It kind of reminds me of the covers from The Grisha series because it too features a creature and a building.

Monday, August 01, 2016

Review: Vicious by Victoria Schwab

From Goodreads: Victor and Eli started out as college roommates - brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong. Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find - aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge - but who will be left alive at the end?

My Rating: 4.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: I’ve never been into comic book superheroes or watching movies about them, but I love reading stories where characters have superpowers. I also really enjoy books that feature psychopathic characters or serial killers. So, it’s no surprise that I absolutely loved Victoria Schwab’s Vicious.

Told through a narrative that switches between the past and the present as well as between characters, Vicious explores a complex friendship between two very similar men obsessed with power. It’s got plenty of twists, and will leave you wondering if you should even root for Victor to stay alive since he’s pretty much as mentally unstable as Eli but just does a better job of hiding it. 

Vicious was released by Tor in September 2013. 

Comments About the Cover: I wish this was a little darker in style to reflect the mood of the book. 
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