Monday, March 02, 2015

Review: A Wicked Thing by Rhiannon Thomas

From Goodreads: One hundred years after falling asleep, Princess Aurora wakes up to the kiss of a handsome prince and a broken kingdom that has been dreaming of her return. All the books say that she should be living happily ever after. But as Aurora understands all too well, the truth is nothing like the fairy tale. Her family is long dead. Her "true love" is a kind stranger. And her whole life has been planned out by political foes while she slept. As Aurora struggles to make sense of her new world, she begins to fear that the curse has left its mark on her, a fiery and dangerous thing that might be as wicked as the witch who once ensnared her. With her wedding day drawing near, Aurora must make the ultimate decision on how to save her kingdom: marry the prince or run.

My Rating: Somewhere between 2.5 and 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: As a fairy tale, the story of Sleeping Beauty was never one that I felt the need to reread or re-watch. But, since I love seeing what an author is capable of doing with a retelling, I decided to give Rhiannon Thomas’ A Wicked Thing a try.

A Wicked Thing is very much a character-driven story. After being woken up with a kiss and finding out that all the people she’s ever known are dead, Aurora is a girl who’s thoroughly confused about what to do and believe. This isn’t surprising given that she was locked in a tower while growing up so that she would remain safe. Now, she’s expected to marry a person who a book claims is her true love, and be the saviour for her suffering kingdom. Aurora, however, just wants to be free from the constant expectations placed upon her.

Although I liked the characterization of Aurora, it took a long time for her to decide to not simply be a pawn for other people to manipulate. As a result, I eventually got bored of the story – so much so that I considered DNF’ing it at several points. In addition to the slow pacing, there was also no romance. However, I would say that there are three potential love interests for the sequel.

A Wicked Thing was released in February 2015 by HarperTeen. 

Comments About the Cover: That pose looks like an uncomfortable position to fall asleep in for a century. 

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

Monday, February 23, 2015

Review: Uninvited by Sophie Jordan

From Goodreads: When Davy Hamilton's tests come back positive for Homicidal Tendency Syndrome (HTS) - aka the kill gene - she loses everything. Her boyfriend ditches her, her parents are scared of her, and she can forget about her bright future at Juilliard. Davy doesn't feel any different, but genes don't lie. One day she will kill someone. Only Sean, a fellow HTS carrier, can relate to her new life. Davy wants to trust him; maybe he's not as dangerous as he seems. Or maybe Davy is just as deadly.

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Uninvited by Sophie Jordan was a book I hesitated to read because I hadn’t really liked the first book, Firelight, in Jordan’s previous series. But, I decided to give her writing another chance because I thought the premise of Uninvited sounded interesting.

One of the aspects of Uninvited that I enjoyed was the growth in Davy’s character. At the beginning of the novel, she had the perfect life – she was rich, popular, smart, musical, dating a hot jock, and had a loving family. Once Davy tested positive for HTS, however, her friends dropped her and her parents began to avoid interacting with her. Yet even as her life changed; Davy continued to believe herself to be superior than other HTS carriers. Over time though, Davy learned to look beyond people’s superficial features, and became less of a damsel in distress.

The same depth of characterization, unfortunately, wasn't given to Sean. Not only would I have liked to learn more about him, but he just seemed to serve the purpose of conveniently showing up whenever Davy needed help. As well, even though the romance wasn’t insta-love, it sure seemed like it because I had no clue why Sean fell for Davy. What made her so unique from the other girls that he interacted with? 

Another reason I had to lower my rating of Uninvited was because of the weak worldbuilding and premise. For example, even though the novel was set in 2021, there wasn’t much of a difference in the technology. In addition, I learned very little about the Wainwright Agency or how HTS was discovered.

Furthermore, from a scientific perspective, the premise of Uninvited is illogical. Since, HTS affected more males than females in the book, this suggests that it's a case of X-linked recessive inheritance. For Davy to be a carrier and her brother to not be one, it implies that her HTS allele is on the X chromosome provided by her father. This would mean that Davy's father should also have the HTS allele and therefore test positive, which he doesn’t!

Ignoring my issue with the genetics of the premise though, – I spent way too much time thinking about that, – I liked that Uninvited makes readers think about whether we’re a product of nature or nurture. Although the governmental authorities in Uninvited seem to side towards nature, the book does a good job of demonstrating instances where people committed violence as a result of their environment.

Uninvited was released in January 2014 by HarperTeen. 

Comments About the Cover: Why is the model positioned like that?!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Review: The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand

From Goodreads: The last time Lex was happy, it was before. When she had a family that was whole. A boyfriend she loved. Friends who didn't look at her like she might break down at any moment. Now she's just the girl whose brother killed himself. And it feels like that's all she'll ever be. As Lex starts to put her life back together, she tries to block out what happened the night Tyler died. But there's a secret she hasn't told anyone-a text Tyler sent, that could have changed everything. Lex's brother is gone. But Lex is about to discover that a ghost doesn't have to be real to keep you from moving on.

My Rating: 4 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Although I’ve read numerous books where the main plot involves a character dealing with the death of a loved one, I’ve yet to read a book where the loved one is a teen that died by committing suicide. The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand helps to fill that void in the YA genre.

While I would liked Lex regardless, due to her love for math and science and the fact that she embraced her nerdiness, Hand also made Lex easy to sympathize with. What really struck me though while reading The Last Time We Say Goodbye was how incredibly real Lex’s emotions felt - from feeling guilty about not having responded to her brother’s text the night he committed suicide, to being angry at her brother for leaving her family even more broken than it originally was, to distancing herself from her friends in order to avoid feeling any type of emotion - and how evident it was that she loved her brother.*

Given how common suicide is as a cause of death, I would have liked the back of The Last Time We Say Goodbye to have contained a list of resources for teens thinking about committing suicide or trying to deal with the death of someone who has committed suicide. As well, since Alexis was beginning to look forward to moving away for college and starting over somewhere where she wouldn’t be known for the tragedy her family experienced, it would have been nice to have an epilogue to see how she was doing after some time had passed.

A moving novel that explores the what-ifs that can never be answered when a loved one commits suicide and the accompanying guilt and grief that comes with their death, The Last Time We Say Goodbye was released by HarperTeen on February 10, 2015. 

Comments About the Cover: I like how the title is written on a Post-it and stuck on a mirror because that was how Tyler left his suicide note.  

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

*Hand mentions at the end that her own brother committed suicide when he was a junior in high school, and I think the emotions that she personally must have experienced in the aftermath of her brother’s death were conveyed extremely well into the pages of her novel.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Review: Fairest by Marissa Meyer

From Goodreads: Fans of the Lunar Chronicles know Queen Levana as a ruler who uses her “glamour” to gain power. But long before she crossed paths with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, Levana lived a very different story – a story that has never been told ... until now. 

My Rating: 4 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: When I first found out that the release of the final book in Marissa Meyer’s The Lunar Chronicles, Winter, would be delayed by almost a year, I groaned and wondered why I was being tortured. Thankfully, to ease the wait for Winter, Meyer wrote Fairest. 

A novel that tells the backstory of Queen Levana, Fairest enables the reader to see Meyer’s villain in a new light. No longer do you just see Levana as some power hungry ruler trying to conquer Earth through biological warfare, but as a more complex character who started with good intentions of wanting to ensure that her home and people prosper. However, years of neglect by her parents, psychological abuse from her sister Channary, and unrequited love eventually cause Levana to resort to any method possible to gain affection. It’s impossible to not pity her by the end of the novel!

A highly recommended read if you’re a fan of The Lunar Chronicles, Fairest was released in January 2015 by Feiwel & Friends. 

Comments About the Cover: The cover does a great job of making you wonder what Levana’s face looks like under her veil.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Review: Monstrous by MarcyKate Connolly

From Goodreads: The city of Bryre suffers under the magic of an evil wizard. Because of his curse, girls sicken and disappear without a trace, and Bryre’s inhabitants live in fear. No one is allowed outside after dark. Yet night is the only time that Kymera can enter this dangerous city, for she must not be seen by humans. Her father says they would not understand her wings, the bolts in her neck, or her spiky tail - they would kill her. They would not understand that she was created for a purpose: to rescue the girls of Bryre. Despite her caution, a boy named Ren sees Kym and begins to leave a perfect red rose for her every evening. As they become friends, Kym learns that Ren knows about the missing girls, the wizard, and the evil magic that haunts Bryre. And what he knows will change Kym’s life.  

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Although I found Monstrous by MarcyKate Connolly to be a solid read, I do think this book will appeal more to its target audience of middle-graders. As an older reader looking for a great MG read, I found the plot lagging at times, and wasn’t at all surprised by the twists that were revealed. (The lone exception would have to be the ending – but that was only because it was so random).

To younger readers, especially young girls, however, I’d recommend that they give Monstrous a try. Firstly, it has a female protagonist who isn’t a damsel in distress. In fact, I really liked that Kymera repeatedly rescues her friend, Ren, rather than it being the other way around. Secondly, I appreciated that the one of the messages of Monstrous was to not judge people based on their physical appearance.

Monstrous will be released by HarperCollins Children's Books on February 10, 2015. 

Comments About the Cover: I love the illustrated look of the cover! 

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

Monday, January 26, 2015

Review: My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga

From Goodreads: Sixteen-year-old physics nerd Aysel is obsessed with plotting her own death. With a mother who can barely look at her without wincing, classmates who whisper behind her back, and a father whose violent crime rocked her small town, Aysel is ready to turn her potential energy into nothingness. There’s only one problem: she’s not sure she has the courage to do it alone. But once she discovers a website with a section called Suicide Partners, Aysel’s convinced she’s found her solution: a teen boy with the username FrozenRobot (aka Roman) who’s haunted by a family tragedy is looking for a partner. Even though Aysel and Roman have nothing in common, they slowly start to fill in each other’s broken lives. But as their suicide pact becomes more concrete, Aysel begins to question whether she really wants to go through with it. Ultimately, she must choose between wanting to die or trying to convince Roman to live so they can discover the potential of their energy together. Except that Roman may not be so easy to convince.

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: With the increasing number of books devoted to the topic of mental illness, Jasmine Warga’s My Heart and Other Black Holes distinguishes itself by not just having its main character contemplate suicide, but looking to do so with a partner. While I found My Heart and Other Black Holes to be pretty solidly written, there were some issues that I had with it. So, I figured I’d do a pros and cons list for this book. 

Pros:
  • Based on the subject, I thought My Heart and Other Black Holes would be a darker read. Instead, it had a quite hopeful tone.
  • I like that Warga didn’t glamourize depression and that she shows how important it is to talk to someone and seek help if you, or someone you know, is suffering from depression.
  • By having Roman be depressed, I really liked that My Heart and Other Black Holes showed that depression can affect anybody; there isn’t a certain type of person that’s more prone to depression than someone else.
  • Both Aysel (pronounced Uh-zell) and Roman came across as layered, realistic characters.
Cons:
  • To me, it seemed like Aysel got better because she started falling for Roman. I think there should have been a stronger and clearer emphasis on the fact that love isn’t a cure for depression.
  • I also didn’t think that having two suicidal teenagers fall in love was the best recipe for a romance. Despite their chemistry, I would have liked it better if Aysel and Roman had simply stayed as friends.
  • Early in My Heart and Other Black Holes, it’s implied that part of the reason Aysel is currently so depressed is because of something her dad did. While Warga makes it seem like a huge mystery, it turns out that there isn’t some crazy twist behind what he did. He murdered someone, plain and simple, although it sounds like he did so while experiencing a delusion. 
My Heart and Other Black Holes will be released on February 10, 2015 by Balzer + Bray. 

Comments About the Cover: It’s interesting and different. 

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

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Review: Defy by Sara B. Larson

From Goodreads: Alexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king's army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince's guard. But when a powerful sorcerer sneaks into the palace in the dead of night, even Alex, who is virtually unbeatable, can't prevent him from abducting her, her fellow guard and friend Rylan, and Prince Damian, taking them through the treacherous wilds of the jungle and deep into enemy territory. The longer Alex is held captive with both Rylan and the prince, the more she realizes that she is not the only one who has been keeping dangerous secrets. And suddenly, after her own secret is revealed, Alex finds herself confronted with two men vying for her heart: the safe and steady Rylan, who has always cared for her, and the dark, intriguing Damian. With hidden foes lurking around every corner, is Alex strong enough to save herself and the kingdom she's sworn to protect?

My Rating: 1.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Defy by Sara B. Larson was a book that began quite promisingly with a premise that reminded me of one of my favourite childhood series, Tamora Pierce’s The Song of the Lioness quartet. Once Alexa’s twin brother, Marcel, died however, my enjoyment of the story deteriorated because the romantic subplot took over.

This basically resulted in Alexa transforming from a seemingly competent soldier – the best of Prince Damian’s guards, actually – to one who simply couldn’t help but ogle male chests, swoon over guys’ eyes, blush, cry, and/or run away. Forget surviving, this girl clearly had her priorities straight by being more concerned about whether she was in love with Damian or Rylan, a fellow soldier, and how she could tell the other guy so without hurting their feelings.

Not only was it annoying having to read over and over again about heat rushing to Alexa’s cheeks and other places, but there was barely any worldbuilding. My knowledge of the fantasy world Larson created was literally this: a) there are three countries and their royal houses seem to be related, b) two of those countries are at war, c) there’s magic (and no explanation for why some people have it), and d) there’s a jungle. Oh, and to ensure that the reader realizes how vile the king is, there are breeding houses. (Since it takes time for babies to grow, I personally am not sure why the king thinks breeding houses are the best option for creating future soldiers; to me, conscription and training women to become soldiers would be more reasonable options).

Suffice it to say, other than its beginning, Defy didn’t resemble The Song of the Lioness quartet in the least.

Defy was released in January 2014 by Scholastic Press. 

Comments About the Cover: If there’s a sword on the cover, chances are I’m probably picking up the book.