Monday, December 15, 2014

Review: Don't Touch by Rachel M. Wilson

From Goodreads: Step on a crack, break your mother's back, Touch another person's skin, and Dad's gone for good ... Caddie has a history of magical thinking - of playing games in her head to cope with her surroundings - but it's never been this bad before. When her parents split up, "Don't touch" becomes Caddie's mantra. Maybe if she keeps from touching another person's skin, Dad will come home. She knows it doesn't make sense, but her games have never been logical. Soon, despite Alabama's humidity, she's covering every inch of her skin and wearing evening gloves to school. And that's where things get tricky. Even though Caddie's the new girl, it's hard to pass off her compulsions as artistic quirks. Friends notice things. Her drama class is all about interacting with her scene partners, especially Peter, who's auditioning for the role of Hamlet. Caddie desperately wants to play Ophelia, but if she does, she'll have to touch Peter ... and kiss him. Part of Caddie would love nothing more than to kiss Peter - but the other part isn't sure she's brave enough to let herself fall.

My Rating: 2.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Since I enjoy reading books that deal with mental issues, Don’t Touch by Rachel M. Wilson was a book that I was looking forward to reading because its main character, Caddie, has obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Unfortunately, it took me a lot longer to finish Don’t Touch than I expected due to my difficulty in connecting with Caddie. I suspect part of the reason why is because of how much she kept talking about her similarity to Ophelia – something I honestly couldn’t care about.

I wasn’t a fan of the romance either. Considering that Caddie was always acting weirdly and/oe freaking out around Peter, I didn’t find it very believable that he would be attracted to her. I also find it very surprising that people took so long to notice Caddie’s aversion to touch, and just accepted her wearing gloves and constantly being covered at all times as a quirky habit.

What I did like, for the most part, was the depiction of OCD in Don’t Touch. For example, Caddie is quite aware that the thoughts and deals that she makes with herself are illogical, yet she still can’t help engaging in the compulsions that she has. I also liked that Wilson addresses the fact that OCD often runs in families and that its symptoms can wax and wane.

However, I wasn’t too happy with Wilson’s portrayal of the way that Caddie’s OCD is treated. The book makes it seem like OCD is easily cured by a few conversations with a therapist and making the choice to resist one's compulsions (as witnessed by Caddie’s miraculous ability to suddenly make out with Peter); whereas in real life, OCD is typically treated with a combination of medication and cognitive behavioural therapy. As well, those who suffer from this mental disorder are never completely cured as stress often re-triggers the obsessions and compulsions. 

Don’t Touch was released in September 2014 by HarperTeen. 

Comments About the Cover: I like the monochromatic look and its simplicity.  

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

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Best of 2014 Giveaway Hop

The Best of 2014 Giveaway Hop is being hosted by Mary at Bookhounds and Kathy at I Am A Reader.

For the hop, I'll be giving away a paperback copy of any one of some of my favourite books that I read in 2014. This giveaway is open internationally as long as The Book Depository ships to your country.
Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson
Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson
I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga 
In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters 

To enter, just fill out the Rafflecopter form. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Oh, and don't forget to check out the other blogs that are also participating!
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Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Review: Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers

From Inside Jacket: Annith has watched her gifted sisters at the convent come and go, carrying out their dark dealings in the name of St. Mortain, patiently awaiting her own turn to serve Death. But her worst fears are realized when she discovers she is being groomed by the abbess as a Seeress, to be forever sequestered in the rock and stone womb of the convent. Feeling sorely betrayed, Annith decides to strike out on her own. But across Brittany, the tides of war are drawing ever nearer, with France pressuring the beleaguered duchess from all sides. Annith's search for answers threatens to rip open an intricate web of lies and deceit that sits at the center of the convent she serves. Yet to expose them threatens the very fabric of her existence and an unforeseen chance at love that she can no longer deny. Annith must carefully pick a path and, gods willing, effect a miracle that will see her country - and her heart - to safety.  

My Rating: 4 hearts for the first 3/4 of the book; 3 hearts for the last 1/4 

Thoughts on the Novel: Though I loved both Grave Mercy and Dark Triumph, I was still hesitant to begin reading Robin LaFevers’ Mortal Heart because I knew that it was Annith’s story. While Sybella intrigued me in Grave Mercy, I couldn’t say the same about Annith in either Grave Mercy or Dark Triumph. So, I wasn’t sure how captivated I’d be with her story.

Surprisingly, despite growing up at the convent, Annith turned out to have a quite interesting backstory. Furthermore, LaFevers made me grow to like and admire Annith over the course of the novel because of her determination to serve Mortain and become the best novitiate possible in spite of not being blessed with any gifts. But, I have to say, I still like Ismae and Sybella much better.

I also enjoyed the girls’ romances (in their respective books) more than I liked Annith’s. Unlike Ismae/Duval and Sybella/Beast (who all make appearances), Annith’s romance was very much a case of instant love. Moreover, she was amazingly bold when declaring her attraction; I would have expected someone who grew up in a convent and wasn’t used to interacting with men to be a lot shyer and more nervous around the opposite sex.

A bigger issue that I had with Mortal Heart though was the incredibly disappointing ending. Spoiler alert: The idea of averting a potential war between Brittany and France by hitting Charles VIII with Arduinna’s arrow so that he would fall in love with Anne was just so laughable! In addition, I didn’t get the whole concept of the Nine turning into mortals; it was weird, and not very well-explained – not just philosophically, but also in terms of the plot because LaFevers didn’t address what happened to the hellequin who weren’t killed protecting Annith and Balthazar. 

Mortal Heart was released in November 2014 by HMH Books for Young Readers. 

Comments About the Cover: Since Annith’s weapon of choice is a bow, I really like that the model is holding one.  

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Thomas Allen & Son) for free.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Review: The Caller by Juliet Marillier

From Goodreads: Just one year ago, Neryn had nothing but a canny skill she barely understood and a faint dream that the legendary rebel base of Shadowfell might be real. Now she is the rebels’ secret weapon, and their greatest hope for survival, in the fast-approaching ambush of King Keldec at Summerfort. The fate of Alban itself is in her hands. But to be ready for the bloody battle that lies ahead, Neryn must first seek out two more fey Guardians to receive their tutelage. Meanwhile, her beloved, Flint, has been pushed to his breaking point as a spy in the king’s court - and is arousing suspicion in all the wrong quarters. At stake lies freedom for the people of Alban, a life free from hiding for the Good Folk - and a chance for Flint and Neryn to finally be together.

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Although I personally wouldn’t consider Juliet Marillier’s Shadowfell series to be very memorable, I have continued reading it because it’s a solid trilogy, especially if you enjoy slow, traditional fantasy.

The Caller begins with Flint having reached his breaking point after witnessing the events at the end of Raven Flight, and no longer willing to work as an Enforcer for Keldec. Meanwhile, in order to fulfil her quest of becoming the most capable Caller that she can be, Neryn sets off to meet the two Guardians that she hasn’t trained with, the White Lady and the Master of Shadows. On her way to seek the Master of Shadows though, Neryn finds out that Keldec has found a Caller of his own and has started using his Caller to amass an army of fey to fight for him. The task of overthrowing Keldec just became that much harder for the rebels!

In comparison to the previous two novels in the series, The Caller had a much faster pace, which I liked. I also thought Marillier did a good job of making Neryn realize that Keldec’s men and servants aren’t all evil and that many of them don’t approve of his tyrannical ruling. It would have been nice though if the conflict between Keldec and the rebels hadn’t been resolved as quickly or easily; it wasn’t very realistic, and the finale could have been so much more epic in my opinion!

The Caller was released by Knopf Books for Young Readers in September 2014. 

Comments About the Cover: I like the background as it makes it pretty clear that the novel is a fantasy. I have mixed reactions about the model’s pose though; it makes sense because Neryn is a Caller, but it drives me insane that I have no idea what she’s Calling.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Review: This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

From Goodreads: Jubilee Chase and Flynn Cormac should never have met. Lee is captain of the forces sent to Avon to crush the terraformed planet's rebellious colonists, but she has her own reasons for hating the insurgents. Rebellion is in Flynn's blood. Terraforming corporations make their fortune by recruiting colonists to make the inhospitable planets livable, with the promise of a better life for their children. But they never fulfilled their promise on Avon, and decades later, Flynn is leading the rebellion. Desperate for any advantage in a bloody and unrelentingly war, Flynn does the only thing that makes sense when he and Lee cross paths: he returns to base with her as prisoner. But as his fellow rebels prepare to execute this tough-talking girl with nerves of steel, Flynn makes another choice that will change him forever. He and Lee escape the rebel base together, caught between two sides of a senseless war.

My Rating: 4.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: After unexpectedly falling in love with Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner’s These Broken Stars last year, I had high hopes for its companion novel, This Shattered World. Fortunately, This Shattered World lived up to my expectations. In fact, I actually liked it even more than These Broken Stars!

A huge reason why would be because of the characterization of Jubilee and Flynn as individuals. While it took me some time to like Tarver in These Broken Stars, I liked both Jubilee and Flynn right from the start because Jubilee was this tough soldier with a surprising amount of vulnerability whereas Flynn was a charming rebel who wanted to create change through peaceful means (unlike his fellow rebels).

Though they’re on opposite sides of a war, Jubilee and Flynn learn to trust each other over time, and become allies. There was so much chemistry between them, and I loved the romance because it was slow and believable (although the attraction was there from the beginning). Authors, this is how you write a romance!

In terms of the plot, we get to see LaRoux Industries’ effects on another planet, which eventually causes Lilac and Tarver to be dragged into the conflict on Avon. So, we get to see what they’re up to as well :) 

A fantastic companion novel, This Shattered World will be released on December 23, 2014 by Disney-Hyperion. I can’t wait to travel to Corinth in the next book and see Roderick LaRoux get what he deserves! 

Comments About the Cover: It's similar to the cover of These Broken Stars, but I like that one better. 

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

Monday, November 17, 2014

Review: The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters

From Goodreads: Olivia Mead is a headstrong, independent girl - a suffragist - in an age that prefers its girls to be docile. It’s 1900 in Oregon, and Olivia’s father, concerned that she’s headed for trouble, convinces a stage mesmerist to try to hypnotize the rebellion out of her. But the hypnotist, an intriguing young man named Henri Reverie, gives her a terrible gift instead: she’s able to see people’s true natures, manifesting as visions of darkness and goodness, while also unable to speak her true thoughts out loud. These supernatural challenges only make Olivia more determined to speak her mind, and so she’s drawn into a dangerous relationship with the hypnotist and his mysterious motives, all while secretly fighting for the rights of women. Winters breathes new life into history once again with an atmospheric, vividly real story, including archival photos and art from the period throughout.

My Rating: 4 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Much like her debut, In the Shadow of Blackbirds, Cat Winters’ sophomore novel, The Cure for Dreaming, is a great blend of paranormal and historical fiction that’s written in such a way that you’re transported to the time period of its setting.

The year is 1900 and change is in the air in Portland, Oregon as women fight for their right to vote alongside men. One of these suffragists is our narrator, Olivia, whose father is very much against the idea of women entering the domain of politics. As a result, he hires a hypnotist to cure Olivia of her dreams of becoming an equal to a man in any way. Thankfully, Henri Reverie, does not share the same opinions as Mr. Mead, and rather than letting Olivia see the world the way it should be, he lets her see it the way it is. Although I’m sceptical about hypnotism, I did find the public and private sessions of hypnotism fascinating, and would have like more factual information about it at the end of The Cure for Dreaming.

I also liked Winters’ ability to make me care for or hate her characters. For example, I loathed Olivia’s father for his extremely controlling nature, and am very grateful that dentistry is no longer the way it used to be because having Mr. Mead as your dentist … *shudders*. On the other hand, I fully supported the romance between Henri and Olivia because Olivia finds a true partner in Henri.  

A book that reminds you not to take your rights for granted, The Cure for Dreaming was released in October 2014 by Amulet Books.  

Comments About the Cover: It’s intriguing because of how the girl is positioned. I’d definitely want to learn more about the book if I saw this cover in a bookstore. 

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

Monday, November 10, 2014

Review: Talon by Julie Kagawa

From Goodreads: Long ago, dragons were hunted to near extinction by the Order of St. George, a legendary society of dragon slayers. Hiding in human form and growing their numbers in secret, the dragons of Talon have become strong and cunning, and they're positioned to take over the world with humans none the wiser. Ember and Dante Hill are the only sister and brother known to dragonkind. Trained to infiltrate society, Ember wants to live the teen experience and enjoy a summer of freedom before taking her destined place in Talon. But destiny is a matter of perspective, and a rogue dragon will soon challenge everything Ember has been taught. As Ember struggles to accept her future, she and her brother are hunted by the Order of St. George. Soldier Garret Xavier Sebastian has a mission to seek and destroy all dragons, and Talon's newest recruits in particular. But he cannot kill unless he is certain he has found his prey: and nothing is certain about Ember Hill. Faced with Ember's bravery, confidence and all-too-human desires, Garret begins to question everything that the Order has ingrained in him: and what he might be willing to give up to find the truth about dragons.

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Not having had much time to read lately and feeling stressed from the massive pile of assignments I have due over the course of this month, I decided to read Julie Kagawa's Talon because it promised dragons and a forbidden romance. Unfortunately, Talon didn’t turn out as I expected because the dragons in the story were generally masquerading as humans. 

Although I originally had no problems with Ember and her brother, Dante, pretending to be humans in order to learn how to blend in, I eventually got bored of reading about Ember surfing, making friends, checking out guys at the beach, and drinking smoothies. You’d barely know Ember was a dragon if it wasn’t for her occasional whiny thought about not being able to fly or her freedom being restricted by Talon.

Speaking of Talon, Kagawa hardly tells you anything about it as an organization other than that it’s bad. The conflict with the Order of St. George is also overly simplified because you’re only told that Talon and the Order have been fighting each other for generations because humans hate dragons. There was just so little worldbuilding in this novel!

The romance was problematic too because there was a love triangle, with Ember being attracted to both Garret, a member of the Order of St. George, and Riley, a rogue dragon. While I don’t particularly care who Ember ends up with, I thought it should have been very obvious to her that Garret wasn’t just an average guy spending his summer on the beach. I also thought that Garret fell quite quickly for Ember, especially considering that he always suspected that she was most likely a dragon.

Talon was released by Harlequin Teen in October 2014. 

Comments About the Cover: It’s simple, but so visually appealing!