Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Mini Reviews: Riders by Veronica Rossi and Ruined by Amy Tintera

From Goodreads: Nothing but death can keep eighteen-year-old Gideon Blake from achieving his goal of becoming a U.S. Army Ranger. As it turns out, it does. While recovering from the accident that most definitely killed him, Gideon finds himself with strange new powers and a bizarre cuff he can’t remove. His death has brought to life his real destiny. He has become War, one of the legendary four horsemen of the apocalypse. Over the coming weeks, he and the other horsemen - Conquest, Famine, and Death - are brought together by a beautiful but frustratingly secretive girl to help save humanity from an ancient evil on the emergence. They fail. Now - bound, bloodied, and drugged - Gideon is interrogated by the authorities about his role in a battle that has become an international incident. If he stands any chance of saving his friends and the girl he’s fallen for - not to mention all of humankind - he needs to convince the skeptical government officials the world is in imminent danger. But will anyone believe him?

My Rating: 2.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Having loved Veronica Rossi’s Under the Never Sky trilogy, I was really excited to read, Riders, the start of her newest series. Riders began promisingly with the main character, Gideon, being interrogated. Unfortunately, I wasn’t expecting that more than 80% of the book would consist of alternating chapters of Gideon’s interrogator asking him questions and Gideon telling his interrogator (and thereby, the reader) how he became War and learned to control his powers and horse. Another thing that I struggled with in Riders was the lack of information with regards to the worldbuilding. Only one character had the answers, and she revealed them slowly. Even that wasn’t enough, however, because many of my questions remain unanswered. Finally, knowing that Rossi is capable of writing a well-developed slow burning romance, I was disappointed to see that Gideon and Daryn developed feelings for each other almost instantly.

Riders was released in February 2016 by Tor Teen.
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From Goodreads: Emelina Flores has nothing. Her home in Ruina has been ravaged by war. She lacks the powers of her fellow Ruined. Worst of all, she witnessed her parents’ brutal murders and watched helplessly as her sister, Olivia, was kidnapped. But because Em has nothing, she has nothing to lose. Driven by a blind desire for revenge, Em sets off on a dangerous journey to the enemy kingdom of Lera. Somewhere within Lera’s borders, Em hopes to find Olivia. But in order to find her, Em must infiltrate the royal family. In a brilliant, elaborate plan of deception and murder, Em marries Prince Casimir, next in line to take Lera’s throne. If anyone in Lera discovers Em is not Casimir’s true betrothed, Em will be executed on the spot. But it’s the only way to salvage Em’s kingdom and what is left of her family. Em is determined to succeed, but the closer she gets to the prince, the more she questions her mission. Em’s rage-filled heart begins to soften. But with her life - and her family - on the line, love could be Em’s deadliest mistake. 

My Rating: 1.5 hearts

Thoughts on the Novel: Ruined by Amy Tintera was another book I was really looking forward to reading because I had enjoyed Tintera’s Reboot duology. With insta-love and extremely weak worldbuilding though, Ruined turned out to be an even bigger disappointment than Riders. Moreover, the characters in Ruined were underdeveloped, and the plot focused too much on the unrealistic romance. For example, it made me laugh that even after Cas’ father died due to Em, Cas' biggest concern was whether Em was only pretending to have feelings for him. Ultimately, while I have no idea why the Ruined have powers but their neighbours don’t or why everyone wants to exterminate the Ruined, I can tell you that I hate fantasy books where a girl out for revenge promptly falls in love and abandons her quest.

Ruined was released by HarperTeen on May 3, 2016.

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

Monday, May 09, 2016

Review: When We Collided by Emery Lord

From Goodreads: Jonah never thought a girl like Vivi would come along. Vivi didn’t know Jonah would light up her world. Neither of them expected a summer like this ... a summer that would rewrite their futures.  

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Having disliked Emery Lord’s Open Road Summer and then loving The Start of Me and You, I was curious to see what my reaction to When We Collided would be. After reading When We Collided though, I can say that I have very mixed feelings about it; and the best way for me to review it is with a pros and cons list.

Pros:
  • I loved reading about Jonah’s family! I can’t imagine growing up with so many siblings – two were enough for me, thank you very much – so if I want to experience life in a big family without having to deal with the lack of personal space, I can only do it through reading. Sadly, the only other book I’ve read where there's a big family is Huntley Fitzpatrick’s My Life Next Door.
  • A huge reason why I wanted to read When We Collided was because I knew it explored mental illness, which I think we need more of in YA. I know there are several books that explore depression, OCD and anxiety, but I had yet to read a book where the main character has bipolar disorder. Although Lord tackles the subject respectfully, I personally would have liked more facts to be presented about bipolar disorder (e.g. the different subtypes are mentioned, but we never learn about what makes them different from each other).
Cons:
  • The romance was the biggest aspect I disliked about When We Collided. I just didn’t believe in it because Jonah and Vivi get together so fast and then barely talk about anything important. I also didn’t feel that it was very healthy because: a) it was full of drama and b) Vivi often manipulated Jonah’s emotions.
  • As much as I liked Jonah as a character, I would have preferred this book to have just been from Vivi’s perspective. Since Vivi’s point-of-view was so flowery and exaggerated, Jonah’s perspective didn’t seem as interesting, unfortunately.
When We Collided was released in April 2016 by Bloomsbury Children’s. 

Comments About the Cover: The colourful splatters are prefect for representing both Vivi’s personality and her love for art.

Monday, May 02, 2016

Review: What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler

From Goodreads: Kate Weston can piece together most of the bash at John Doone’s house: shots with Stacey Stallard, Ben Cody taking her keys and getting her home early - the feeling that maybe he’s becoming more than just the guy she’s known since they were kids. But when a picture of Stacey passed out over Deacon Mills’s shoulder appears online the next morning, Kate suspects she doesn’t have all the details. When Stacey levels charges against four of Kate’s classmates, the whole town erupts into controversy. Facts that can’t be ignored begin to surface, and every answer Kate finds leads back to the same question: Where was Ben when a terrible crime was committed?

My Rating: 4.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Inspired by the Steubenville High School Rape Case, Aaron Hartzler’s What We Saw deftly handles topics like consent, slut shaming, teen drinking, and social media. I think this book would be perfect for a book club or novel study because it’s bound to generate discussion.

In What We Saw, the main character, Kate, is driven home by a friend after getting intoxicated at a party. Another girl at the same party, however, isn’t so lucky – and suddenly, there are allegations that she was raped by a few members of the school’s beloved basketball team, while unconscious. Despite the fact that it appears there were tons of witnesses and a video of the rape is briefly posted online, nobody comes forward to support the allegations. Kate wonders who to believe – a lone girl considered a slut or the rest of the student body?

I really liked Kate as a character because even though she was confused about where her loyalties should lie and was repeatedly told to not get involved by adults and peers alike, she still decided to seek the truth. Then, when she does find out what happened, she’s courageous enough to make some tough choices. It amazes and disgusts me that people can see terrible stuff like this happening and not do anything to stop the situation or speak up about it!

An absolute must read for teens, What We Saw was released in September 2015 by HarperTeen. 

Comments About the Cover: I like the cover, but not the font.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Review: Suffer Love by Ashley Herring Blake (and Giveaway)

From Goodreads: Hadley St. Clair's life changed the day she came home to a front door covered in slips of paper, each of them revealing the ugly truth about her father. Now as her family falls apart in the wake of his year-long affair, Hadley wants everyone-her dad most of all-to leave her alone. Then she meets Sam Bennett, a cute new boy who inexplicably "feels like home" to Hadley. Hadley and Sam's connection is undeniable, but Sam has a secret about his family that could ruin everything. 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Going in, I knew that romance would be a prominent feature in Ashley Herring Blake’s Suffer Love due to the cover. What I wasn’t expecting from it was to explore how an extramarital affair can affect not just a spouse, but the children as well.

Early on in Suffer Love, it’s revealed that Sam’s mother and Hadley’s father had a year-long affair with each other. Months later, both families are still reeling from the news. Feeling betrayed by her father, Hadley no longer believes in love, and seeks meaningless comfort from guys. Meanwhile, Sam’s father has moved away, and his mother spends little time with him. Both Hadley and Sam’s emotions felt realistic, as did the connection between them.

Though it's obvious that Sam and Hadley will eventually fall for each other, I wanted to know whether their relationship would survive, given the awkward circumstances. Unfortunately, I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the answer since it acknowledged, but didn't really address the problem.

Suffer Love will be released on May 3, 2016 by HMH Books for Young Readers. 

Comments About the Cover: I’m glad I had an e-ARC because I wouldn’t be caught on the bus with a cover like that :) 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher for free via The Fantastic Flying Book Club. 

Suffer Love can be bought from: [Amazon] [Barnes and Noble] [Book Depository] [Kobo]

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

Monday, April 18, 2016

Review: The Crown's Game by Evelyn Skye

From Goodreads: Vika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters - the only two in Russia - and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the Tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side. And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill - the greatest test an enchanter will ever know. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the Tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death. Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter - even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has? For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with - beautiful, whip smart, imaginative - and he can’t stop thinking about her. And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love ... or be killed himself. As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear ... the Crown’s Game is not one to lose. 

My Rating: 2.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye was a book that I was really looking forward to reading because I thought it would involve two enchanters using magic to outduel, and possibly kill, each other. Unfortunately, my high expectations for this book were dashed as the plot mainly focused on romance, which involved both insta-love and a love triangle. Oh, and that magic … it’s pretty much only used to redecorate parts of Saint Petersburg. 

The characters were also not the best developed because I would frequently question their motivations and actions. Nikolai, for example, is an orphan who has had to fight to get whatever he wants. Why would he suddenly fall for a girl when the stakes involve death?!

Despite all that, I managed to be entertained by The Crown’s Game until close to the end, where it appears that the losing enchanter hasn’t actually died. Perhaps it’s just me, but I seriously don’t get why authors take the easy way out and not kill a main character if they’re supposed to die! 

The Crown’s Game will be released by Balzer + Bray on May 17, 2016.  

Comments About the Cover: It’s so stunning! I love that your eye is immediately captured by the Church of Our Savior on the Spilled Blood (which is in the shape of a crown), and that you can see Vika running on water in the corner. 

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

Monday, April 04, 2016

Review: Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin

From Goodreads: Rose Howard has Asperger’s syndrome, and an obsession with homonyms (even her name is a homonym). She gave her dog Rain a name with two homonyms (Reign, Rein), which, according to Rose’s rules of homonyms, is very special. Rain was a lost dog Rose’s father brought home. Rose and Rain are practically inseparable. And they are often home alone, as Rose’s father spends most evenings at a bar, and doesn’t have much patience for his special-needs daughter. Just as a storm hits town, Rain goes missing. Rose’s father shouldn’t have let Rain out. Now Rose has to find her dog, even if it means leaving her routines and safe places to search. Rose will find Rain, but so will Rain’s original owners.

My Rating: 4 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Way back in elementary school, I loved reading Ann M. Martin’s The Babysitter’s Club and Babysitters Little Sister series. So, when I saw her name on Rain Reign, I didn’t even bother reading the summary to see what Rain Reign was about.

When I began Rain Reign, I was a little worried that it might be too simplistic for me because it’s told from the perspective of a girl in Grade 5 who has Asperger’s syndrome and narrates her story using the rules she’s been taught about narrative writing. Rain Reign, however, did end up dealing with more mature themes. Rose, for example, has a mother who left her and an alcoholic father who doesn’t understand her. She has no friends at school due to impairments in social interaction (e.g. she constantly talks about prime numbers and homonyms, she needs everyone to follow the rules, etc.), and has been held back a year because her school isn’t equipped to deal with her needs. The only good things in Rose’s life appear to be her uncle and her dog, Rain.

Martin makes it really easy for the reader to root for Rose throughout the story. While I enjoyed Rain Reign, I know my younger self would have loved this book. I highly recommend it for kids in elementary and middle school!

Rain Reign was released by Feiwel and Friends in October 2014. 

Comments About the Cover: I like that the cover depicts the relationship between Rose and Rain.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Review: The Year We Fell Apart by Emily Martin

From Goodreads: Few things come as naturally to Harper as epic mistakes. In the past year she was kicked off the swim team, earned a reputation as Carson High’s easiest hook-up, and officially became the black sheep of her family. But her worst mistake was destroying her relationship with her best friend, Declan. Now, after two semesters of silence, Declan is home from boarding school for the summer. Everything about him is different - he’s taller, stronger ... more handsome. Harper has changed, too, especially in the wake of her mom’s cancer diagnosis. While Declan wants nothing to do with Harper, he’s still Declan, her Declan, and the only person she wants to talk to about what’s really going on. But he’s also the one person she’s lost the right to seek comfort from. As their mutual friends and shared histories draw them together again, Harper and Declan must decide which parts of their past are still salvageable, and which parts they’ll have to let go of once and for all. 

My Rating: 1.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Emily Martin’s The Year We Fell Apart was a book I picked up without looking at its rating on Goodreads. Big mistake! Had I done so, I would have realized that this book and I wouldn’t get along.

First of all, I found the main character, Harper, extremely annoying. She made the same mistakes over and over again – getting drunk, hooking up, regretting what happened – and justified her bad decisions to herself so that she wouldn’t have to own up to her choices. The issue of Harper using alcohol as a coping mechanism didn't seem to get resolved, and she experienced very little growth over the course of the novel.

I didn’t really like the plot either. Although I love stories revolving around a second chance, I felt too old while reading The Year We Fell Apart because it was just so filled with juvenile drama. To me, the aspect of Harper’s mom getting cancer wasn’t explored enough, and the whole Declan situation was just lame. Declan and Harper don’t talk about their issues so it’s not a surprise then that Declan is angry – rightfully so, I might add – when he finds out the reason why he and Harper actually broke up.

The Year We Fell Apart was released in January 2016 by Simon Pulse. 

Comments About the Cover: The cover doesn’t match the angsty tone of the novel.