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.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by Victoria Schwab

From Goodreads: Kell is one of the last Travelers - rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit. Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once there was Black London - but no one speaks of that now. Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see. This dangerous hobby sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to another world for her 'proper adventure'. But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive - trickier than they hoped.

My Rating: 4 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: After reading a bunch of less than stellar books, I was more than looking forward to reading Victoria Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic with Christina from Christina Reads YA because the reviews that I had seen for A Darker Shade of Magic had all been positive. Moreover, I had really enjoyed Schwab’s debut novel, The Near Witch, when I read it a few years ago.

Like with The Near Witch, I really loved the worldbuilding in A Darker Shade of Magic. Originally, I was worried that I would get confused by all the different Londons Kell kept talking about, but Schwab did an exemplary job of showing how they differ from each other in the present and explaining how they diverged in their history with regards to magic.

Although the character development wasn’t as strong, I really liked the characters. Kell is one of only two Antari, magicians able travel between the Londons. A Red Londonder and an adopted member of the royal family, Kell is also a smuggler. Meanwhile, Lila is a Gray Londoner who has learned to survive on the streets by being great at pickpocketing. You just know that when Kell and Lila meet, they’re going to get more than they bargained for!

I didn’t get hooked by A Darker Shade of Magic until about a third of the way in; but after that, there was so much action and adventure that I had to keep turning the pages. Since I have a copy of the sequel, I’m hoping to read it soon!

A Darker Shade of Magic was released by Tor Books in February 2015. 

Comments About the Cover: I don’t particularly like or hate it. 

Monday, March 14, 2016

Mini Reviews: The Leaving Season by Cat Jordan and The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson

From Goodreads: Middie Daniels calls it the Leaving Season - the time of year when everyone graduates high school, packs up their brand-new suitcases, and leaves home for the first time. It happens every late August, but this year Middie’s boyfriend, Nate, is the one leaving. Nate, who’s so perfect that she can barely believe it. Nate, who makes her better than she is on her own. Nate, who’s promised to come back once he’s finished his gap year volunteering in Central America. And when he does, it’ll be time for Middie to leave, too. With him. But when tragedy strikes, Middie’s whole world is set spinning. No one seems to understand just how lost she is … except for Nate’s best friend Lee. Middie and Lee have never gotten along. She’s always known that she was destined for great things, and Lee acts like he’s never cared about anything a day in his life. But with the ground ripped out from under her, Middie is finding that up is down - and that Lee Ryan might be just what she needs to find her footing once more.

My Rating: 2.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Cat Jordan’s The Leaving Season was a book I decided to read because I was in the mood for something predictable. And it was ... until an unexpected plot twist, which kind of ruined the rest of the story for me because it created unnecessary tension. (To be honest, even then there was hardly any drama since Nate is supposed to be a great guy.) I knew going into The Leaving Season that it would be cheesy, but I wish there was more to the plot than Meredith missing Nate and discovering that she’s wrong about Lee’s reputation. I didn’t feel like I got to really connect with the characters, and felt that Meredith’s relationship with Lee was more of a rebound situation than her actually falling in love with him.

The Leaving Season was released by HarperTeen on March 1, 2016.  

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

From Goodreads: David Piper has always been an outsider. His parents think he's gay. The school bully thinks he's a freak. Only his two best friends know the real truth: David wants to be a girl.On the first day at his new school Leo Denton has one goal: to be invisible. Attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in his class is definitely not part of that plan. When Leo stands up for David in a fight, an unlikely friendship forms. But things are about to get messy. Because at Eden Park School secrets have a funny habit of not staying secret for long, and soon everyone knows that Leo used to be a girl. As David prepares to come out to his family and transition into life as a girl and Leo wrestles with figuring out how to deal with people who try to define him through his history, they find in each other the friendship and support they need to navigate life as transgender teens as well as the courage to decide for themselves what normal really means.

My Rating: 2.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson was a book that I wanted more from. For example, although it addresses the fact that transgendered teens are often bullied and are more likely to have mental health issues, I would have liked this to have been done more through showing than telling. As well, despite the book beginning with David wishing that he was a girl, David didn’t end up being as interesting a character as Leo, who appears to have a huge secret for at least half the book. Unfortunately, I knew what this secret was because of the summary on Goodreads so I was frustrated by how long the secret took to be revealed. Finally, I thought that some parts of the story were rushed (e.g. I personally didn’t feel that Leo and David were that close when the two decided to open up to each other) whereas other parts weren’t explored enough (e.g. we never find out Leo’s mother’s side of the story with regards to his dad and how her opening up to Leo then changes Leo’s relationship with her). 

The Art of Being Normal will be released on May 31, 2016 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 

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

Monday, February 29, 2016

Review: Bookishly Ever After by Isabel Bandeira

From Goodreads: In a perfect world, sixteen-year-old Phoebe Martins’ life would be a book. Preferably a YA novel with magic and a hot paranormal love interest. Unfortunately, her life probably wouldn’t even qualify for a quiet contemporary. But when Phoebe finds out that Dev, the hottest guy in the clarinet section, might actually have a crush on her, she turns to her favorite books for advice. Phoebe overhauls her personality to become as awesome as her favorite heroines and win Dev’s heart. But if her plan fails, can she go back to her happy world of fictional boys after falling for the real thing?

My Rating: 2 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Bookishly Ever After by Isabel Bandeira was a novel I put on my wishlist as soon as I heard about it because it promised a bookworm as its protagonist. Sadly, this debut ended up being a disappointing read. I wasn’t a fan of its plot, and thought Bandeira tried too hard to appeal to bookish people.

As mentioned, a huge reason I was compelled to read Bookishly Ever After was because I thought I would instantly connect with the main character. Unfortunately, I ended up finding Phoebe more annoying than charming because she came across as a stereotype. Yes, we bibliophiles love to read and discuss fictional worlds and characters, but our lives don’t only revolve around them!

I also wasn’t expecting the plot to be so driven by the romance. Nothing really happens in the book other than Phoebe doing her best to impress Dev using her favourite heroines’ lines. (There are excerpts from Phoebe’s favourite novels included in Bookishly Ever After, which I felt was unnecessary because it didn’t add anything to the plot.) Moreover, the purpose of the secondary characters only seemed to be to drive the plot along (so it wasn’t surprising that they lacked depth). For example, Phoebe’s best friend is extremely pushy and convinces Phoebe that Dev is right for her, Phoebe’s sister conveniently comes back home from college once in a while to make Phoebe outfits from her favourite books, and to prove that a diverse romantic interest – Dev is Indian – can be handsome, he must be cast into a Bollywood movie.

Bookishly Ever After was released by Spencer Hill Contemporary in January 2016. 

Comments About the Cover: Huh, I just noticed the cover says, “Ever After Book One.” I didn’t realize this was going to be a series because Bookishly Ever After reads like a standalone.