Monday, March 20, 2017

Mini Reviews: You Don’t Know My Name by Kristen Orlando and Poison's Kiss by Breeana Shields

From Goodreads: Fighter. Faker. Student. Spy. Seventeen-year-old Reagan Elizabeth Hillis is used to changing identities overnight, lying to every friend she’s ever had, and pushing away anyone who gets too close. Trained in mortal combat and weaponry her entire life, Reagan is expected to follow in her parents’ footsteps and join the ranks of the most powerful top-secret agency in the world, the Black Angels. Falling in love with the boy next door was never part of the plan. Now Reagan must decide: Will she use her incredible talents and lead the dangerous life she was born into, or throw it all away to follow her heart and embrace the normal life she’s always wanted? And does she even have a choice? 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: An entertaining read while it lasted, You Don’t Know My Name by Kristen Orlando begins with Reagan being tired of constantly having to be undercover and feeling indecisive about her future – should she follow her parents’ footsteps and join a covert government organization or go to college and ultimately have a normal life? One of the reasons Reagan wants to be a regular girl of course is because there’s a boy … who coincidentally wants to go into the military and therefore knows how to shoot and not be a liability on a mission. Considering that Reagan is a teenager, it’s not surprising then that there are many plot holes in You Don’t Know My Name; but I chose to overlook those in favour of the action and suspense. 

You Don’t Know My Name was released in January 2017 by Swoon Reads.  .................................................................................................. 
From Goodreads: Marinda has kissed dozens of boys. They all die afterward. It's a miserable life, but being a visha kanya, a poison maiden, is what she was created to do. Marinda serves the Raja by dispatching his enemies with only her lips as a weapon. Until now, the men she was ordered to kiss have been strangers, enemies of the kingdom. Then she receives orders to kiss Deven, a boy she knows too well to be convinced he needs to die. She begins to question who she's really working for. And that is a thread that, once pulled, will unravel more than she can afford to lose. 

My Rating: 1.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: With a synopsis promising an assassin – an instant addition to my want-to-read list – capable of killing with a kiss as well as elements of Indian folklore, I was really excited to read Poison’s Kiss by Breeana Shields. It’s too bad then that the aforementioned assassin turned out to feel guilty about killing so many boys! It’s very annoying when I think I’ll be reading about a deadly assassin and instead end up reading about a person drowning in remorse! On top of that, Marinda was so na├»ve and ignorant, believing everything told to her and never bothering to ask questions! As if that wasn’t bad enough, making everything worse was the fact that there was an insta-love romance. Seriously, like after two conversations with Deven, Marinda was willing to risk her life for Deven! 

A book that definitely didn’t live up to its potential, Poison’s Kiss was released by Random House Books for Young Readers in January 2017. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Review: Caraval by Stephanie Gerber

From Goodreads: Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over. But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner. Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever. 

My Rating: 2.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Normally, when I see a lot of buzz for a book, I try to avoid reading it until the hype dies down so that I’m not as influenced by others’ feedback. As a result, I didn’t bother reading Stephanie Garber’s Caraval until recently.

The setting in Caraval was mysterious and enchanting, making it hard to figure out what was real and what was imaginary. Furthermore, the writing in Caraval was very flowery, enhancing the magical, dreamlike vibe of the book.

Where Garber lost me as a reader though was with the lack of character development. Not only did the secondary characters feel like actors at times - I now understand why - but I struggled to like Scarlett. She constantly talked about loving Tella, but it wasn’t evident how much her sister meant to her until the end when everything was revealed at once in a poorly executed dramatic moment. Instead, for the majority of the book, Scarlett seemed more fixated on lusting after two different boys.

Caraval was released by Flatiron Books in January 2017. 

Comments About the Cover: I love the colours used and how nicely they contrast against the background.

Monday, March 06, 2017

Mini Reviews: Speed of Life by Carol Weston and Wait for Me by Caroline Leech

From Goodreads: Sofia wonders if 14 might be the worst possible age to lose your mom. Talking with her dad about puberty and s-e-x is super-awkward (even though he is a gynecologist). And when she wants to talk about her mom, her friends don't know what to say and her dad gets sad. When Sofia discovers Dear Kate, an advice columnist from Fifteen magazine, she’s grateful to have someone to confide in about everything from crushes to mourning - someone who is completely, wonderfully anonymous. It feels ideal - until Sofia’s dad introduces her to his new girlfriend, Katherine Baird, a.k.a., Dear Kate ... 

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Speed of Life by Carol Weston chronicles the life of Sofia over the course of a year, several months after her mom’s sudden death from an aneurysm. As time passes and her life changes in unexpected ways, Sofia slowly grows and learns that life can go on even after a loved one dies. Weston’s background as an advice columnist is clearly evident in the voice of Dear Kate, and I also liked how realistic the book felt. At the same time, many parts of Speed of Life felt very juvenile, making it a book I would have enjoyed a lot more had I been much, much younger. 

A novel that would be a good read for its target audience of middle graders, Speed of Life will be released on April 4, 2017 by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Sourcebooks) for free via NetGalley. 
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From Goodreads: It’s 1945, and Lorna Anderson’s life on her father’s farm in Scotland consists of endless chores and rationing, knitting Red Cross scarves, and praying for an Allied victory. So when Paul Vogel, a German prisoner of war, is assigned as the new farmhand, Lorna is appalled. How can she possibly work alongside the enemy when her own brothers are risking their lives for their country? But as Lorna reluctantly spends time with Paul, she feels herself changing. The more she learns about him - from his time in the war to his life back home in Germany - the more she sees the boy behind the soldier. Soon Lorna is battling her own warring heart. Loving Paul could mean losing her family and the life she’s always known. With tensions rising all around them, Lorna must decide how much she’s willing to sacrifice before the end of the war determines their fate. 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Caroline Leech’s Wait for Me was a book that piqued my interest because it’s set during WWII. Although I rarely read straight-up romance novels, I ended up really liking Wait for Me because the progression in Lorna’s feelings for Paul felt very natural, and I liked that she had to learn to look beyond Paul’s physical appearance to fall in love with him. The setting of the book also felt very authentic. In fact, there’s even a note at the end of the book about how German POWs did work on Scottish farms and that many ended up falling in love with local girls. The one thing that this book could have done without was an unnecessary potential rape scene. Overall, however, Wait for Me was a solid YA debut. 

Wait for Me was released by HarperTeen in January 2017. 

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

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Review: Metaltown by Kristen Simmons

From Goodreads: The rules of Metaltown are simple: Work hard, keep your head down, and watch your back. You look out for number one, and no one knows that better than Ty. She’s been surviving on the factory line as long as she can remember. But now Ty has Colin. She’s no longer alone; it’s the two of them against the world. That’s something even a town this brutal can’t take away from her. Until it does. Lena’s future depends on her family’s factory, a beast that demands a ruthless master, and Lena is prepared to be as ruthless as it takes if it means finally proving herself to her father. But when a chance encounter with Colin, a dreamer despite his circumstances, exposes Lena to the consequences of her actions, she’ll risk everything to do what’s right. In Lena, Ty sees an heiress with a chip on her shoulder. Colin sees something more. In a world of disease and war, tragedy and betrayal, allies and enemies, all three of them must learn that challenging what they thought was true can change all the rules.

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Metaltown by Kristen Simmons was a book I was attracted to due to the steampunkish vibe I got from the cover. I also loved the premise, but the worldbuilding could definitely have been expanded upon. The gist is clear – a world that depends on child labour, contains a scarcity of food and clean water, and is suffering from a war – but there’s a serious lack of other details, making the setting in Metaltown hard to imagine visually.

More attention was given to the romance instead, which thankfully never turned into a love triangle since Ty’s feelings for Colin were never reciprocated. As for the characters, I wasn’t completely thrilled with either Colin or Lena because Colin seemed to ditch Ty once he met Lena and I felt like Lena only fell for Colin because he was the first guy to be nice to her. Ty was the most interesting out of the three so it was maddening to see how things ended for her after there was so much buildup with her importance.

Metaltown was released in September 2016 by Tor Teen. 

Comments About the Cover: Even though the cover seems to give off a steampunk vibe, the book itself is more of a dystopian novel.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Mini Reviews: The Imaginary by A.F. Harrold and Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller

Apologies for the extended break! I haven't done much reading over the past month as I got really busy at work and then ruined my Kindle by accidentally dropping it in water - putting it in a bag of rice sadly didn't work - so I had to buy a new one and wait for it to ship. Anyways, on to my reviews!
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From Goodreads: Rudger is Amanda’s best friend. He doesn't exist, but nobody's perfect. Only Amanda can see her imaginary friend – until the sinister Mr Bunting arrives at Amanda's door. Mr Bunting hunts imaginaries. Rumour says that he eats them. And he's sniffed out Rudger. Soon Rudger is alone, and running for his imaginary life. But can a boy who isn’t there survive without a friend to dream him up? 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: The Imaginary by A.F. Harrold is a delightfully creepy read that explores what it is like to be an imaginary friend. I loved the illustrations and the fact that the library was a safe haven for imaginaries waiting to pick a child as a friend. I also really liked that Amanda’s mom was so supportive of her daughter's imagination and did things like setting out an extra plate with food for Rudger.

A book that would be great for discussing friendship and imagination, The Imaginary was released in October 2014 by Bloomsbury Children's. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Raincoast Books) for free.  
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From Goodreads: Sent on a mission to retrieve an ancient hidden map - the key to a legendary treasure trove - seventeen-year-old pirate captain Alosa deliberately allows herself to be captured by her enemies, giving her the perfect opportunity to search their ship. More than a match for the ruthless pirate crew, Alosa has only one thing standing between her and the map: her captor, the unexpectedly clever and unfairly attractive first mate, Riden. But not to worry, for Alosa has a few tricks up her sleeve, and no lone pirate can stop the Daughter of the Pirate King. 

My Rating: 2.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Since I love stories featuring pirates and they have not become a trend in YA yet, Tricia Levenseller’s Daughter of the Pirate King was one of my most anticipated debuts of this year. Unfortunately, I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would, mainly because the romance played such a prominent role but felt very forced. Alosa also came across as extremely cocky – she reminds me of Captain Jack Sparrow, though not as likeable – and while some people might have no problems with that, I just kept wondering why her character had to be so annoyingly exaggerated.

Daughter of the Pirate King will be released on February 28, 2017 by Feiwel & Friends. 

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

Monday, January 16, 2017

Review: Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand

From Goodreads: Things Finley Hart Doesn't Want To Talk About: 1) Her parents, who are having problems. (But they pretend like they’re not.) 2) Being sent to her grandparents’ house for the summer. 3) Never having met said grandparents. 4) Her blue days - when life feels overwhelming, and it’s hard to keep her head up. (This happens a lot.) Finley’s only retreat is the Everwood, a forest kingdom that exists in the pages of her notebook. Until she discovers the endless woods behind her grandparents’ house and realizes the Everwood is real - and holds more mysteries than she'd ever imagined, including a family of pirates that she isn’t allowed to talk to, trees covered in ash, and a strange old wizard living in a house made of bones. With the help of her cousins, Finley sets out on a mission to save the dying Everwood and uncover its secrets. But as the mysteries pile up and the frightening sadness inside her grows, Finley realizes that if she wants to save the Everwood, she’ll first have to save herself. 

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Having enjoyed Claire Legrand’s previous novels for the most part, I decided to give Some Kind of Happiness a try without reading its synopsis. Therefore, I wasn’t expecting this MG novel to be so heavy, with a main character battling anxiety and depression but unable to put her feelings into words. To cope with her feelings, which worsen as her parents’ marriage falls apart and she meets her perfect, estranged extended family, Finley creates and writes about an imaginary world that the reader reads about as well.

To be honest, I’m not sure who I’d recommend Some Kind of Happiness to. The book felt quite long – the plot dragged in the middle – and there are much better novels that revolve around family or mental health. Moreover, the metaphor of the Everwood to describe Finley’s problems in real life may be lost on younger readers.

Some Kind of Happiness was released in May 2016 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

Comments About the Cover: The dark colours match the book's mood well, and the solitary person gives off a sense of loneliness, which is how Finley often feels. 

Monday, January 09, 2017

Mini Reviews: The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett by Chelsea Sedoti and The Secret of a Heart Note by Stacey Lee

From Goodreads: A teenage misfit named Hawthorn Creely inserts herself in the investigation of missing person Lizzie Lovett, who disappeared mysteriously while camping with her boyfriend. Hawthorn doesn't mean to interfere, but she has a pretty crazy theory about what happened to Lizzie. In order to prove it, she decides to immerse herself in Lizzie's life. That includes taking her job ... and her boyfriend. It's a huge risk - but it's just what Hawthorn needs to find her own place in the world. 

My Rating: 1 heart 

Thoughts on the Novel: Chelsea Sedoti’s The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett was a book that I decided to read because I was in the mood for a good mystery. It’s too bad then that this book fell far below my expectations. I found the protagonist, Hawthorn, to be really judgemental and seriously weird. Furthermore, the secondary characters lacked depth and the plotline was boring as it revolved around Hawthorn investigating the disappearance of twenty-one year old Lizzie Lovett, a girl who goes missing while on a camping trip with her boyfriend. Obsessed with Lizzie, Hawthorn finally concludes that she turned into a werewolf. Like, WTF?! I thought Hawthorn was kidding, but the high school senior legitimately believed in her ridiculous theory! On top of that, she then hooks up with Lizzie’s twenty-five year old boyfriend, who I thought was really sleazy (since he kept hooking up with girls in high school). 

The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett was released on January 3, 2017 by Sourcebooks Fire. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Sourcebooks) for free via NetGalley.
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From Goodreads: Sometimes love is right under your nose. As one of only two aromateurs left on the planet, sixteen-year-old Mimosa knows what her future holds: a lifetime of weeding, mixing love elixirs, and matchmaking - all while remaining incurably alone. For Mim, the rules are clear: falling in love would render her nose useless, taking away her one great talent. Still, Mimosa doesn’t want to spend her life elbow-deep in soil and begonias. She dreams of a normal high school experience with friends, sports practices, debate club, and even a boyfriend. But when she accidentally gives an elixir to the wrong woman and has to rely on the lovesick woman’s son, the school soccer star, to help fix the situation, Mim quickly begins to realize that falling in love isn’t always a choice you can make. 

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: The Secret of a Heart Note by Stacey Lee had several things going for it. For example, it had an interesting premise since its main character and her mom are able to smell scents that regular humans can’t detect, and then use this information to create elixirs (for free) to help love blossom. Lee also did a phenomenal job of describing various scents (e.g. that of emotions, different flowers, etc.) and the beauty of Mim’s family garden. Unfortunately, I didn’t like The Secret of a Heart Note as much as I thought I would because I didn’t buy the romance in it and got annoyed by Mim making one stupid mistake after another. 

The Secret of a Heart Note was released by Katherine Tegen Books in December 2016. 

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