Monday, May 25, 2015

Review: Rogue by Julie Kagawa

From Goodreads: Ember Hill left the dragon organization Talon to take her chances with rebel dragon Cobalt and his crew of rogues. But Ember can't forget the sacrifice made for her by the human boy who could have killed her - Garret Xavier Sebastian, a soldier of the dragonslaying Order of St. George, the boy who saved her from a Talon assassin, knowing that by doing so, he'd signed his own death warrant. Determined to save Garret from execution, Ember must convince Cobalt to help her break into the Order's headquarters. With assassins after them and Ember's own brother helping Talon with the hunt, the rogues find an unexpected ally in Garret and a new perspective on the underground battle between Talon and St. George. A reckoning is brewing and the secrets hidden by both sides are shocking and deadly. Soon Ember must decide: Should she retreat to fight another day ... or start an all-out war?

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: More action-packed and less-focused on romance, Julie Kagawa’s Rogue is a much stronger novel than its predecessor, Talon. What I really liked about Rogue though was that I no longer had to suffer through Ember exploring what it means to be a human.

While Garret was pretty much relegated to the background and Ember remained as impulsive as ever, I came to like Riley in Rogue because we’re given his backstory and get to see him be a bit more vulnerable. I also liked having Dante’s perspective in Rogue because we can contrast his view of Talon with Ember’s, and get a better picture of what’s going on than either twin.

With Rogue’s cliffhanger ending, I’m looking forward to reading Soldier and seeing what Talon’s plans are for the future. 

Rogue was released in April 2015 by Harlequin Teen. 

Comments About the Cover: I like its simplicity, but I don’t think that it’s as pretty as Talon’s cover. 

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

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Review: Anyone But Ivy Pocket by Caleb Krisp

From Goodreads: Ivy Pocket is a twelve-year-old maid of no importance, with a very lofty opinion of herself. Dumped in Paris by the Countess Carbunkle, who would rather run away to South America than continue in Ivy's companionship, our young heroine (of sorts) finds herself with no money and no home to go to ... until she is summoned to the bedside of the dying Duchess of Trinity. For the princely sum of £500 (enough to buy a carriage, and possibly a monkey), Ivy agrees to courier the Duchess's most precious possession – the Clock Diamond – to England, and to put it around the neck of the revolting Matilda Butterfield on her twelfth birthday. It's not long before Ivy finds herself at the heart of a conspiracy involving mischief, mayhem and murder.

My Rating: Somewhere between 3 and 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Anyone But Ivy Pocket by Caleb Krisp is one of those books where I alternated between liking it and being annoyed by it. On the one hand, Ivy was so ridiculous and made me laugh; and on the other, had she been someone real, I probably would have strangled her. 

As a character, Ivy kind of reminded me of Amelia Bedelia. For those of you unfamiliar with Amelia Bedelia, she’s a housekeeper who gets into all kinds of shenanigans because she’s constantly misinterpreting things, yet you can’t help but love her because she has the best intentions at heart. Well, that’s Ivy – except her personality is insufferable, and so you don’t love her like you do Amelia Bedelia.

Put it simply, Ivy has a massive ego and absolutely no manners. I get that she’s a compulsive liar with a flair for the dramatic because she’s an orphan who’s trying to forget how lonely she is, but not being tactful tends to make people dislike you. I also kept forgetting that she was only twelve years old because the way she talked (e.g. she called everyone, “dear”) and acted was like someone much older – that is, until she would reveal how na├»ve she actually was.

Ultimately, I’d have to say that Ivy’s character was probably both the greatest strength and weakness of Anyone But Ivy Pocket. In any case, Ivy Pocket is a protagonist that’s hard to forget!

Anyone But Ivy Pocket was released in April 2015 by Greenwillow Books. 

Comments About the Cover: I love the gothic illustrations on the cover and within the book. 

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

Monday, May 18, 2015

Review: Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge

From Goodreads: When Rachelle was fifteen, she was good - apprenticed to her aunt and in training to protect her village from dark magic. But she was also reckless - straying from the forest path in search of a way to free her world from the threat of eternal darkness. After an illicit meeting goes dreadfully wrong, Rachelle is forced to make a terrible choice that binds her to the very evil she had hoped to defeat. Three years later, Rachelle has given her life to serving the realm, fighting deadly creatures in an effort to atone. When the king orders her to guard his son Armand - the man she hates most - Rachelle forces Armand to help her find the legendary sword that might save their world. As the two become unexpected allies, they uncover far-reaching conspiracies, hidden magic, and a love that may be their undoing. In a palace built on unbelievable wealth and dangerous secrets, can Rachelle discover the truth and stop the fall of endless night?

My Rating: Wavering between 2.5 and 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: After enjoying Rosamund Hodge’s debut novel, Cruel Beauty, last year, I was looking forward to seeing what she would do with a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. Unfortunately, I was disappointed with Hodge’s sophomore novel because the issues that I had with Cruel Beauty were present in Crimson Bound as well. 

Like Cruel Beauty, Crimson Bound, for example, contained both instant love and a love triangle, neither of which I usually find appealing or necessary. Similarly, although Crimson Bound had some very interesting mythology and worldbuilding, it was confusing as hell to understand it. For instance, I’m still trying to figure out whether the Devourer is supposed to be a god, the devil, or something else altogether. Due to the worldbuilding and the way things were resolved, I also found the ending quite unsatisfying.

On top of all that, I didn’t really like Rachelle since all she seemed to do was have a pity party for herself about how she wanted to save the world and not be a murderer. Meanwhile, I just wanted to tell her, “It was your choice to take off your charms in the presence of a forestborn; if you’re going to be stupid, please don’t expect me to sympathize!”

If you plan on reading a novel by Hodge, I’d recommend Cruel Beauty over Crimson Bound. 

Crimson Bound was released by Balzer + Bray on May 5, 2015. 

Comments About the Cover: Although it’s nice that it looks similar to Cruel Beauty’s, I think it can make people mistakenly assume that the books are sequels – or at least, companion novels. 

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

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Mini Reviews: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli and Halfway Perfect by Julie Cross and Mark Perini

From Goodreads: Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised. With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out - without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

My Rating: 4 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Becky Albertalli's Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is one of those books that I wouldn’t have read if it wasn’t for the blogosphere. I kept hearing how adorable the story was … and after reading it, I’d have to agree. I loved trying to figure out who Blue was! More importantly, this book deals with issues like identity, acceptance, and questioning what's normal - and does so using characters that feel real. Considering this is Albertalli’s debut, I’m looking forward to seeing what she writes next! 

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda was released by Balzer + Bray in April 2015.
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From Goodreads: Eve's time as a fashion model nearly destroyed her-now she's determined to build a career behind the camera lens. But landing a coveted photography internship brings her face to face with her dark past-and her ex. While Eve is snapping pictures, up-and-coming male model Alex is launching his career-which, for him, involves maintaining a fake relationship with his (secretly) underage co-star, Elana. But Alex is falling for Eve, and Eve won't let herself get hurt again. If Alex can pull off a fake love with Elana, can he convince Eve to risk a secret affair with him? 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: I normally avoid reading New Adult books because I find that the plot usually involves a lot of drama and/or is sacrificed in favour of romance – or sex scenes. Imagine my surprise then when Halfway Perfect by Julie Cross and Mark Perini, a book I requested for review, turned out to be a NA novel.

Thankfully, Halfway Perfect doesn’t have too much drama because Eve and Alex were pretty open with each other and knew right from the start that if they decided to have a relationship, it would have to be a secret so that Alex’s modeling career wouldn’t be jeopardized. I also really liked that the romance didn’t overshadow the plot, which shows the not-so glamorous aspects of being a model.

Halfway Perfect was released on May 5, 2015 by Sourcebooks Fire.

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

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Review: Made You Up by Francesca Zappia

From Goodreads: Alex fights a daily battle to figure out the difference between reality and delusion. Armed with a take-no-prisoners attitude, her camera, a Magic 8-Ball, and her only ally (her little sister), Alex wages a war against her schizophrenia, determined to stay sane long enough to get into college. She’s pretty optimistic about her chances until classes begin, and she runs into Miles. Didn't she imagine him? Before she knows it, Alex is making friends, going to parties, falling in love, and experiencing all the usual rites of passage for teenagers. But Alex is used to being crazy. She’s not prepared for normal. 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Francesca Zappia’s Made You Up is probably one of the most interestingly written stories I’ve ever read. It begins with Alex, the protagonist, describing freeing some lobsters from their tank at a store with the help of a blue-eyed boy she meets … only to find out that this event is a hallucination. Years after being diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic though, Alex once again meets this boy. Thus begins the reader’s dilemma: How much of what Alex narrates can we believe?

I really liked Alex’s voice. Despite constantly trying to discern what’s real and what’s not, Alex still remained upbeat and did her best to move forward to live a normal life. She was just fantastically written!

The romance also didn’t seem like your typical romance. Miles was often unlikeable – it sounds like he’s on the autism spectrum – but he and Alex worked as friends, and later, as a couple. I liked seeing them struggle to overcome the symptoms of their individual disorders so that they could care for someone, and then really appreciated that falling in love didn’t cure them of their problems.

I think my only issue with Made You Up was that it ended up having a small paranormal element because what I thought was a hallucination turned out to be something real - or at least, otherworldly. Otherwise, I loved how this book blurred the line between imagination and reality. 

Made You Up will be released on May 19, 2015 by Greenwillow Books. 

Comments About the Cover: The cover is a little weird, but I also think it’s very unique and eye-catching.

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

Monday, April 27, 2015

Review: A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall

From Goodreads: The creative writing teacher, the delivery guy, the local Starbucks baristas, his best friend, her roommate, and the squirrel in the park all have one thing in common - they believe that Gabe and Lea should get together. Lea and Gabe are in the same creative writing class. They get the same pop culture references, order the same Chinese food, and hang out in the same places. Unfortunately, Lea is reserved, Gabe has issues, and despite their initial mutual crush, it looks like they are never going to work things out. But somehow even when nothing is going on, something is happening between them, and everyone can see it. Their creative writing teacher pushes them together. The baristas at Starbucks watch their relationship like a TV show. Their bus driver tells his wife about them. The waitress at the diner automatically seats them together. Even the squirrel who lives on the college green believes in their relationship. Surely Gabe and Lea will figure out that they are meant to be together ...

My Rating: 1 heart 

Thoughts on the Novel: Have you ever looked at a book, and despite the great reviews for it, known instinctively that it wasn’t for you; but you read it anyway because so many other people liked it … and you end up wishing you hadn’t? Well, that was my experience with A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall.

One of the reasons I was so resistant to reading A Little Something Different was because I thought the concept sounded gimmicky. And I was right! The book just had too many unnecessary narrators. For example, I could have done without the POVs of the bench that thought Gabe’s derriere was perfect and could tell what he was doing or how he was feeling based on the way he was sitting, or the squirrel that claimed to not understand human but could still somehow recap exactly what Gabe and Lea were saying. As well, I found it hard to care about any of the narrators, and thought some of the guys sounded a bit like they were written by a female trying to get into the mindset of a guy.

The romance – it took Gabe and Lea almost a whole school year to get together! (Seriously, grow a pair, and stop wasting my time!) – also got annoying after a while because it involved so much telling. I really have no idea why all these characters kept talking about how much chemistry Gabe and Lea had when in reality, the two were barely even talking to each other and were pretty much strangers. Here’s what I wanted to say to some of them:
  • Inga (Gabe and Lea’s professor) – Just because you think Gabe and Lea belong together in your head, it is not okay to belittle another female student (Hillary, who is portrayed as a ditz) for having a conversation with Gabe. Please act like a professional! (Inga is not the only female character in the book to call Hillary names.)
  • Frank (a Chinese delivery guy) – You deliver to college students living in dorms. Why is it such a big deal for you if two people living in the same building have the same order? How could this not have happened to you numerous times before?
  • Bob (a bus driver) – Yawn, moving on!
  • Charlotte and Victor (a Starbucks barista and a classmate) – I liked you guys until you had a personality transplant (and started shipping Gabe and Lea). (Also, I worked for a year in a coffee shop during high school, and never stood around making up stories or wondering about the people that I served.) 
I considered DNF’ing A Little Something Different before reaching its midpoint, but then kept on reading it because I wanted to know why Gabe was – as Lea says – so weird. Once I found out, I figured I might as well finish the book because there was only a little more left to read. 

A Little Something Different was released in August 2014 by Swoon Reads. 

Comments About the Cover: It’s cute, and all the red can be associated with love.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Review: We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen

From Goodreads: Thirteen-year-old Stewart is academically brilliant but socially clueless. Fourteen-year-old Ashley is the undisputed “It” girl in her class, but her grades stink. Their worlds are about to collide when Stewart and his dad move in with Ashley and her mom. Stewart is trying to be 89.9 percent happy about it, but Ashley is 110 percent horrified. She already has to hide the real reason her dad moved out; “Spewart” could further threaten her position at the top of the social ladder. They are complete opposites. And yet, they have one thing in common: they - like everyone else - are made of molecules.

My Rating: 2.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Using the themes of death and divorce, Susin Nielsen’s We Are All Made of Molecules explores how families can change and adapt. Unfortunately, my enjoyment of the book was tempered by: 1) the character of Ashley and 2) the use of rape as a plot device.

Told from the alternating points of Stewart and Ashley, We Are All Made of Molecules chronicles what happens when two families decide to merge. Although I thought both Stewart and Ashley seemed very stereotypical, Stewart was at least a pretty decent character. Ashley, on the other hand, was not only mean and constantly putting others down, but Nielsen chose to highlight that Ashley wasn’t as smart as Stewart by having Ashley continually mix up words (e.g. using unconstipated instead of emancipated, etc.). This drove me crazy!

Another issue that I had with We Are All Made of Molecules was that Ashley wasn’t almost raped once but twice in the book - just so that she could experience some character growth! Also, nobody experienced any major consequences in the aftermath of either situation. It’s just too bad that a topic like rape was used as a plot device, and wasn’t handled more sensitively.

We Are All Made of Molecules will be released by Tundra Books on May 12, 2015. 

Comments About the Cover: Though I like its colourfulness, I don’t think it really matches the title of the novel.  

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Random House of Canada Limited) for free via NetGalley.