Thursday, July 24, 2014

Review: Rebel by Amy Tintera

From Goodreads: After coming back from death as Reboots and being trained by HARC as soldiers, Wren and Callum have finally escaped north, where they hope to find a life of freedom. But when they arrive at the Reboot Reservation, it isn't what they expected. Under the rule of a bloodthirsty leader, Micah, the Reboots are about to wage an all-out war on the humans. Although Wren's instincts are telling her to set off into the wilderness on their own and leave the battle far behind, Callum is unwilling to let his human family be murdered. When Micah commits the ultimate betrayal, the choice is made for them. But Micah has also made a fatal mistake ... he's underestimated Wren and Callum. 

My Rating: 4 stars 

Thoughts on the Novel: Picking up right after the events of Reboot, Amy Tintera’s Rebel remains packed with action, but was also a more contemplative read that enabled its characters to develop further.

Narrated by both Wren’s and Callum’s distinct voices, Rebel allows the reader to see just how different these two characters are in thought and action. For example, while Callum morally opposes killing, Wren has no qualms about doing so. At the same time, despite their contrasting views, they remained a solid couple. In fact, I think they became more similar to each other in Rebel because Callum comes to realize that perhaps violence may be a necessary means in some situations whereas Wren learns that there are limits to when she will kill. I also really liked the addition of Micah as a contrasting figure for Wren to determine the type of leader that she wants to be. 

My favourite characters in Rebel though turned out to be the snarky Addie and Riley. As Wren’s trainer at HARC, I expected Riley to be this emotionless soldier, but instead, he continually teased Wren like an older brother so that she would lighten up.  

An excellent sequel, Rebel was released by HarperTeen in May 2014. 

Comments About the Cover: I like how it matches with Reboot’s cover and continues to highlight the number 178. 

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

Monday, July 21, 2014

Review: The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls by Claire Legrand

From Goodreads: Victoria hates nonsense. There is no need for it when your life is perfect. The only smudge on her pristine life is her best friend Lawrence. He is a disaster - lazy and dreamy, shirt always untucked, obsessed with his silly piano. Victoria often wonders why she ever bothered being his friend. (Lawrence does too.) But then Lawrence goes missing. And he’s not the only one. Victoria soon discovers that The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls is not what it appears to be. Kids go in but come out … different. Or they don’t come out at all. If anyone can sort this out, it’s Victoria - even if it means getting a little messy. 

My Rating: 4.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls by Claire Legrand was a delightfully creepy read (with great illustrations) that’s sure to appeal to MG and older readers alike!

Beginning innocently enough by introducing the reader to its protagonist, Victoria, a girl who strives for order and perfection, the plot takes a turn for the worse when Victoria’s friend – or as she would say, project – Lawrence disappears. Though his parents claim that Lawrence is at his grandmother’s house, Victoria believes differently and begins to seek answers. Her investigation leads her to Nine Silldie Place (aka The Cavendish Home) where ordinary things like a house and candies just aren’t what they seem, and the extraordinary appears to be all too possible.

As a villain, I loved Mrs. Cavendish! Her black and white thinking about what’s appropriate can easily be contrasted with Victoria’s; but unlike Victoria, she’s willing to go to extreme lengths to ensure that everybody conforms to her ideals. Her coaching methods are actually kind of reminiscent of Dolores Umbridge’s.

I also loved Victoria because she knows exactly who she is and dares you to try and mould her to be different. Her no-nonsense attitude, stubbornness, and lack of apology about her personality made her the perfect match for Mrs. Cavendish.

A story that’s perfectly paced to maximize tension and keep readers guessing about all the secrets harboured at The Cavendish Home, The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls was released in August 2012 by Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers. 

Comments About the Cover: It’s a bit misleading because Victoria only gets curious about The Cavendish Home once Lawrence disappears. Lawrence – at least I’m assuming that it’s him – should therefore not really be on the cover.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Review: Premeditated by Josin L. McQuein

From Goodreads: A week ago, Dinah’s cousin Claire cut her wrists. Five days ago, Dinah found Claire’s diary and discovered why. Three days ago, Dinah stopped crying and came up with a plan. Two days ago, she ditched her piercings and bleached the black dye from her hair. Yesterday, knee socks and uniform plaid became a predator’s camouflage. Today, she’ll find the boy who broke Claire. By tomorrow, he’ll wish he were dead. 

My Rating: Somewhere between 3 and 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: With an emphasis on revenge, Premeditated by Josin L. McQuein promised to be an entertaining read, an aspect it delivered upon. However, it would have gotten a higher rating from me had I been able to support the protagonist’s actions.

Although I admired Dinah’s loyalty and commitment to exact revenge, she was just so oblivious to reality and made little effort to see past her assumptions! I saw the twist coming from a mile away, and so rather than wanting Brooks to get what he deserved, I spent most of the book feeling sorry for him.

The synopsis also makes it seem like Dinah has a brilliant scheme in mind, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Instead, she pretty much plays dress up and tries not to develop a connection with Brooks while her best friends – one of whom is conveniently an amazing hacker – come up with devious ways to ruin Brooks’ life.

Despite all the focus on getting revenge for Dinah's younger cousin, Claire, I didn’t think I got to know Claire very well because the way that Dinah portrays her is very idealized. It would have been nice to get a more layered depiction of Claire, perhaps through some flashbacks.

Another change that I would have liked would have been for the ending to be more realistic. There’s just no way that a parent would offer a lawyer for someone who deliberately set out to destroy their child’s life or for a person to fall for someone that had done their best to make them wish they were dead!

Premeditated was released in October 2013 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers. 

Comments About the Cover: I love how the glass has cracked but not shattered, letting you only glimpse some of the girl’s features so that you’re not exactly sure who’s coming for you or when she’ll put the final nail in the coffin.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Review: The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare by M.G. Buehrlen

From Goodreads: For as long as 17-year-old Alex Wayfare can remember, she has had visions of the past. Visions that make her feel like she’s really on a ship bound for America, living in Jamestown during the Starving Time, or riding the original Ferris wheel at the World’s Fair. But these brushes with history pull her from her daily life without warning, sometimes leaving her with strange lasting effects and wounds she can’t explain. Trying to excuse away the aftereffects has booked her more time in the principal’s office than in any of her classes and a permanent place at the bottom of the social hierarchy. Alex is desperate to find out what her visions mean and get rid of them. It isn’t until she meets Porter, a stranger who knows more than should be possible about her, that she learns the truth: Her visions aren’t really visions. Alex is a Descender – capable of traveling back in time by accessing Limbo, the space between Life and Afterlife. Alex is one soul with fifty-six past lives, fifty-six histories. Fifty-six lifetimes to explore: the prospect is irresistible to Alex, especially when the same mysterious boy with soulful blue eyes keeps showing up in each of them. But the more she descends, the more it becomes apparent that someone doesn’t want Alex to travel again. Ever. And will stop at nothing to make this life her last. 

My Rating: 2 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare by M.G. Buehrlen was a book that began with a compelling first chapter. However, as I further delved into the novel, the main character began to annoy me and the premise that the book was built upon became confusing.

Despite the mean pranks that Alex pulls, I initially liked Alex because her confusion about her visions and desire to be normal felt very realistic. Over time though, it became clear that Alex is very much ruled by her emotions, which makes her prone to not making wise choices. For example, during one of her visions, she goes against her mentor’s wishes – which she does constantly – to come back to her Base Life in order to spend more time with a guy. It drove me crazy to see how attached she becomes to a guy after knowing him for less than a day!

Another issue I had with Alex was that she made generalizations about all girls based on her experience with just one girl. This quote, for example, really irritated me: “Jensen, if you haven't figured out by now that most girls are shallow, shallow creatures, then there's no hope for you” (97% in my Kindle).

Furthermore, the meandering plot relied very much on Alex being kept in the dark. As such, when explanations were provided, they were given in info dumps and made little sense in the grand scheme of things. In spite of all the terminology thrown around, I’m still very fuzzy on how time travel works in this book and remain clueless as to how Porter, Alex’s mentor, knew in which body Alex would be reincarnated in in Base Life. 

The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare was released by Strange Chemistry in March 2014. 

Comments About the Cover: I think it looks mysterious. 

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

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Mini Reviews: Dark Metropolis by Jaclyn Dolamore and On the Fence by Kasie West

From Goodreads: Sixteen-year-old Thea Holder's mother is cursed with a spell that's driving her mad, and whenever they touch, Thea is chilled by the magic, too. With no one else to contribute, Thea must make a living for both of them in a sinister city, where danger lurks and greed rules. Thea spends her nights waitressing at the decadent Telephone Club attending to the glitzy clientele. But when her best friend, Nan, vanishes, Thea is compelled to find her. She meets Freddy, a young, magnetic patron at the club, and he agrees to help her uncover the city's secrets-even while he hides secrets of his own. Together, they find a whole new side of the city. Unrest is brewing behind closed doors as whispers of a gruesome magic spread. And if they're not careful, the heartless masterminds behind the growing disappearances will be after them, too. 

My Rating: 2 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Although I haven’t read any of Cassandra Clare’s novels, the fact that Jaclyn Dolamore’s Dark Metropolis was compared to her books meant that I had pretty high expectations for it. For a multitude of reasons however, I ended up being disappointed by Dark Metropolis. Firstly, while reading the book, it was hard for me to get into a rhythm because it kept switching perspectives between different characters, all of whom I found rather dull. On top of that, Dark Metropolis then featured two bland romances, – one heterosexual, one homosexual, – both of which were insta-loves. Finally, I found the worldbuilding to be pretty vague as many things were either explained only briefly or alluded to.

Dark Metropolis was released by Disney-Hyperion in June 2014. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Disney Book Group) for free via NetGalley. 
From Goodreads: She's a tomboy. He's the boy next door … Charlie Reynolds can outrun, outscore, and outwit every boy she knows. But when it comes to being a girl, Charlie doesn't know the first thing about anything. So when she starts working at a chichi boutique to pay off a speeding ticket, she finds herself in a strange new world. To cope with the stress of her new reality, Charlie takes to spending nights chatting with her neighbor Braden through the fence between their yards. As she grows to depend on their nightly Fence Chats, she realizes she's got a bigger problem than speeding tickets - she's falling for Braden. She knows what it means to go for the win, but if spilling her secret means losing him for good, the stakes just got too high. 

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Although a cute read, I think I was expecting Kasie West's On the Fence to be a bit more emotionally involving. For example, even though the way that Charlie's mom dies is a mystery, I didn't find this aspect of the book to be particularly intriguing. The romance also wasn’t quite as adorable as I hoped because I found Charlie’s realization that she loved Braden to be very sudden and unexpected. The focus on family, however, was what I found appealing about On the Fence.

On The Fence was released on July 1, 2014 by HarperTeen.  

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

Monday, June 30, 2014

Review: Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake

From Goodreads: It's been months since the ghost of Anna Korlov opened a door to Hell in her basement and disappeared into it, but ghost-hunter Cas Lowood can't move on. His friends remind him that Anna sacrificed herself so that Cas could live - not walk around half dead. He knows they're right, but in Cas's eyes, no living girl he meets can compare to the dead girl he fell in love with. Now he's seeing Anna everywhere: sometimes when he's asleep and sometimes in waking nightmares. But something is very wrong ... these aren't just daydreams. Anna seems tortured, torn apart in new and ever more gruesome ways every time she appears. Cas doesn't know what happened to Anna when she disappeared into Hell, but he knows she doesn't deserve whatever is happening to her now. Anna saved Cas more than once, and it's time for him to return the favor.

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Basically, if Kendare Blake's Girl of Nightmares had featured more of Cas hunting ghosts and less of him obsessing over Anna, I'd have given it a higher rating. While a still a solid sequel though, it just lacked the creepiness of Anna Dressed in Blood.

Since I wasn’t keen on the romance between Cas and Anna to begin with, Cas’ constant moping about Anna made me annoyed with him, especially because it affected his ability to kill ghosts. Thank goodness for Thomas’ optimism and Carmel’s levelheadedness! In fact, I really liked Carmel’s characterization in Girl of Nightmares because she wasn’t afraid to take a step back and stop hanging out with Cas and Thomas when she found the situation becoming a bit too much for her to handle. Unlike Cas and Thomas, who are used to not living a normal life, I thought it was a really smart decision on Carmel’s part to try and figure out what she actually wanted.

I also liked the expansion of the world from Anna Dressed in Blood as Girl of Nightmares explores Cas’ father’s past as a ghost hunter and the athame’s connection to The Order of Biodag Dubh, which eventually leads Cas and his friends to visiting London and Scotland. Besides the awesome and scary scene in the Suicide Forest, I enjoyed meeting Jestine, who almost seemed like a female Cas to me. 

Girl of Nightmares was released by Tor Teen in August 2012. 

Comments About the Cover: I love the colours used, that you can see the dead faintly, and how Anna looks like she’s beckoning you to come join her. It’s brilliant!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Review: Midnight Thief by Livia Blackburne

From Goodreads: Growing up on Forge’s streets has taught Kyra how to stretch a coin. And when that’s not enough, her uncanny ability to scale walls and bypass guards helps her take what she needs. But when the leader of the Assassins Guild offers Kyra a lucrative job, she hesitates. She knows how to get by on her own, and she’s not sure she wants to play by his rules. But he’s persistent - and darkly attractive - and Kyra can’t quite resist his pull. Tristam of Brancel is a young Palace knight on a mission. After his best friend is brutally murdered by Demon Riders, a clan of vicious warriors who ride bloodthirsty wildcats, Tristam vows to take them down. But as his investigation deepens, he finds his efforts thwarted by a talented thief, one who sneaks past Palace defenses with uncanny ease. When a fateful raid throws Kyra and Tristam together, the two enemies realize that their best chance at survival - and vengeance - might be to join forces. And as their loyalties are tested to the breaking point, they learn a startling secret about Kyra’s past that threatens to reshape both their lives. 

My Rating: 2.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: With its promise of thieves and assassins and the author mentioning on Goodreads that one of her inspirations is Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness quartet, Midnight Thief by Livia Blackburne was a novel that I couldn’t wait to get my hands on. Sadly, the writing was simplistic and the characters left little impression.

To me, it felt like there was a lot of telling rather than showing going on in Midnight Thief. As well, more description would definitely have helped to make the setting and characters more vivid. That being said, Midnight Thief was a breezy read, and I can easily see it appeal to older MG readers.

Like the setting, the characters were also pretty flat. The story is narrated through both Kyra and Tristam’s points of view, but I never found the switches in narration to be seamless. In fact, Tristam’s narration was very unexpected and abrupt at the beginning because for the first five chapters, everything was told from Kyra’s perspective. However, I liked Tristam better than Kyra, who joins the Assassins Guild yet objects to killing (uh, so why join the Assassins Guild at all?!), but only by a slight margin because both characters were similar in that they didn’t think too much about the possible consequences of their actions. Since I couldn’t have cared less about the fate of the characters, I also ended up not caring if they would get together or not.

Midnight Thief will be released on July 8, 2014 by Disney-Hyperion. 

Comments About the Cover: I love it! The cat looks fierce, and is just daring you to find out what it’s hiding! 

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