Thursday, April 17, 2014

Review: A Death-Struck Year by Makiia Lucier

From Back Cover: The Spanish influenza is devastating the East Coast - but Cleo Berry knows that's a world away from the safety of her home of Portland, Oregon. And then the flu moves into the Pacific Northwest. Schools, churches, and theaters are shut down. The entire city is thrust into survival mode - and into a panic. Seventeen-year-old Cleo is told to stay put in her quarantined boarding school, but when the Red Cross pleads for volunteers, she can't ignore the call. In the grueling days that follow her headstrong decision, she risks everything for near strangers. Strangers like Edmund, a handsome medical student. Strangers who could be gone tomorrow. And as the bodies pile up, Cleo can't help but wonder: When will her own luck run out? 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: A Death-Struck Year by Makiia Lucier is a historical fiction novel that examines the impact of the Spanish influenza in Portland during the months of October and November 1918. Since WWI was also occurring at this time, it would have been nice if Lucier had interwoven the effects of the war on Americans a bit more strongly into the story. That being said, I thought A Death-Struck Year was very well-researched, even if it did take me some time to get into the story.

Cleo, the main character, was very realistic. While I had my future planned out as a seventeen-year-old, unlike Cleo, I realized that I didn’t want to be a doctor or a geneticist once I went to university. This insight left me confused about what career path to pursue, and so I could relate to Cleo right from the start when she was complaining to her older brother that she didn’t know what she wanted to do with her life. I also liked that her decision to volunteer for the Red Cross wasn’t impulsive and that she got scared when confronted with her own mortality.

Additionally, Lucier did a really good job of showing how people’s reactions can vary during tough situations. Although many people volunteered for the Red Cross or helped neighbours and strangers despite the risk of infection, others abandoned their sick family members or took advantage of their neighbours’ misfortunes. I would have liked though for the deaths that occurred in A Death-Struck Year to have left more of an emotional impact on me.

Finally, I liked that the romance in A Death-Struck Year didn’t overshadow the plot. The subtleness of it was appropriate and realistic because both Cleo and Edmund, a medical student, were too busy taking care of the sick and dying to spend a ton of time together.

An informative read, A Death-Struck Year was released in March 2014 by HMH Books for Young Readers. 

Comments About the Cover: The face mask makes it pretty memorable. 

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

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: Illusive

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme held by Jill at Breaking the Spine to feature upcoming books that we can't wait to get our hands on. 

Title: Illusive
Author: Emily Lloyd-Jones
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Date of Release: July 15, 2014 

Goodreads Description: When the MK virus swept across the planet, a vaccine was created to stop the epidemic, but it came with some unexpected side effects. A small percentage of the population developed superhero-like powers. Seventeen-year-old Ciere Giba has the handy ability to change her appearance at will. She's what's known as an illusionist...She's also a thief. After a robbery goes awry, Ciere must team up with a group of fellow super-powered criminals on another job that most would consider too reckless. The formula for the vaccine that gave them their abilities was supposedly destroyed years ago. But what if it wasn't? The lines between good and bad, us and them, and freedom and entrapment are blurred as Ciere and the rest of her crew become embroiled in a deadly race against he government that could cost them their lives.

Why am I waiting? I love books where characters have superpowers. This has been marketed as "X-Men meets Ocean's Eleven" so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it lives up to its potential.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Review: The Forever Song by Julie Kagawa

From Goodreads: Allison Sekemoto once struggled with the question: human or monster? With the death of her love, Zeke, she has her answer. Allie will embrace her cold vampire side to hunt down and end Sarren, the psychopathic vampire who murdered Zeke. But the trail is bloody and long, and Sarren has left many surprises for Allie and her companions - her creator, Kanin, and her blood brother, Jackal. The trail is leading straight to the one place they must protect at any cost - the last vampire-free zone on Earth, Eden. And Sarren has one final, brutal shock in store for Allie. In a ruined world where no life is sacred and former allies can turn on you in one heartbeat, Allie will face her darkest days. And if she succeeds, triumph is short-lived in the face of surviving forever alone. 

My Rating: 4 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: The Forever Song by Julie Kagawa picks up where The Eternity Cure ends, with Allie, Kanin and Jackal determined to stop Sarren before he reaches Eden. Allie in particular desperately wants to kill Sarren for torturing Zeke.

Since The Forever Song begins with Allie and her blood family tracking Sarren, I thought it started off kind of slowly. The pacing also seemed slow because rather than allowing herself to think about Zeke, Allie closed herself off to all emotions. She does eventually emerge from her emotional stupor, much to the disappointment of Jackal who thought his blood sister was going to be swayed to the dark side and become more like him.

In The Eternity Cure, Jackal quickly became one my favourite characters from The Blood of Eden series. After reading this book though, I’d say that he’s actually my favourite character of the series because while he remains amusing and cocky, he has also developed some affection for his sister and sire, and thereby has probably grown the most as a character over the course of the trilogy.

Whereas the beginning of The Forever Song was slow, I found the ending a bit rushed. It took Allie and the others too long to catch up to Sarren, and the final battle wasn’t as drawn out or as bloody as I would have liked it to be. I did think, however, that Kagawa did a nice job of providing closure with all the characters.

The Forever Song will be released tomorrow by Harlequin Teen!

Comments About the Cover: The covers for this series don't really match, but I like this one the best because purple is my favourite colour. 

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

Friday, April 04, 2014

A Week Long Hiatus

Hey, everybody. Rather than worrying about blogging and commenting, I decided that I'd take this week off to finish up my paper and portfolio. When I get back, I'll officially be done the first year of my Master's program!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Mini Reviews: Ask Me by Kimberly Pauley and When Audrey Met Alice by Rebecca Behrens

From Goodreads: Ask Aria Morse anything, and she must answer with the truth. Yet she rarely understands the cryptic words she‘s compelled to utter. Blessed - or cursed - with the power of an Oracle who cannot decipher her own predictions, she does her best to avoid anyone and everyone. But Aria can no longer hide when Jade, one of the few girls at school who ever showed her any kindness, disappears. Any time Aria overhears a question about Jade, she inadvertently reveals something new, a clue or hint as to why Jade vanished. But like stray pieces from different puzzles, her words never present a clear picture. Then there’s Alex, damaged and dangerous, but the first person other than Jade to stand up for her. And Will, who offers a bond that seems impossible for a girl who’s always been alone. Both were involved with Jade. Aria may be the only one who can find out what happened, but the closer she gets to solving the crime, the more she becomes a target. Not everyone wants the truth to come out. 

My Rating: 4 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Ask Me by Kimberly Pauley was a thriller I enjoyed. Although a lot of people may find who the killer is to be very obvious, it took me a while to venture a guess as to who the murderer could be; and only when Aria figured out her own riddle did all the clues really fall into place for me.

Besides the good mystery, I liked Aria. I found it very easy to sympathize with her frustration of being an oracle and having to answer any question she overhears, her loneliness due to being considered a freak by her classmates, and her desire to be normal.  

Ask Me will be released by Soho Teen on April 8, 2014. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Soho Teen) for free via Edelweiss.
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From Goodreads: First Daughter Audrey Rhodes can't wait for the party she has planned for Friday night. The decorations are all set and the pizza is on its way. But the Secret Service must be out to ruin her life, because they cancel at the last minute for a "security breach," squashing Audrey's chances for making any new friends. What good is having a bowling alley if you don't have anyone to bowl with? Audrey is ready to give up and spend the next four years totally friendless - until she discovers Alice Roosevelt's hidden diary. The former first daughter's outrageous antics give Audrey a ton of ideas for having fun ... and more problems than she can handle.  

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: When Audrey Met Alice by Rebecca Behrens was a nice MG read, which imagines what life as a First Daughter is like in modern times and contrasts it with the fictional – though based upon much research – diary chronicling Alice Roosevelt’s experience as a First Daughter in 1901. I liked seeing how similarly restricted both girls felt but also discovering how much more freedom the First Daughter would have had just a century ago.

Since I don’t know much about American history (being a Canadian, duh!), I enjoyed learning about Alice Roosevelt. While I liked Audrey, she seemed very young (which isn’t surprising because she’s only thirteen) and not as interesting in comparison to the sixteen-year-old Alice.

When Audrey Met Alice was released by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky in February 2014. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Raincoast Books) for free.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Review: Stolen Songbird by Danielle L. Jensen

From Goodreads: For five centuries, a witch’s curse has bound the trolls to their city beneath the ruins of Forsaken Mountain. Time enough for their dark and nefarious magic to fade from human memory and into myth. But a prophesy has been spoken of a union with the power to set the trolls free, and when Cécile de Troyes is kidnapped and taken beneath the mountain, she learns there is far more to the myth of the trolls than she could have imagined. Cécile has only one thing on her mind after she is brought to Trollus: escape. Only the trolls are clever, fast, and inhumanly strong. She will have to bide her time, wait for the perfect opportunity. But something unexpected happens while she’s waiting – she begins to fall for the enigmatic troll prince to whom she has been bonded and married. She begins to make friends. And she begins to see that she may be the only hope for the half-bloods – part troll, part human creatures who are slaves to the full-blooded trolls. There is a rebellion brewing. And her prince, Tristan, the future king, is its secret leader. As Cécile becomes involved in the intricate political games of Trollus, she becomes more than a farmer’s daughter. She becomes a princess, the hope of a people, and a witch with magic powerful enough to change Trollus forever. 

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Since I love fantasy and haven’t read a story about trolls yet, I was really looking forward to reading Danielle L. Jensen’s Stolen Songbird. Although the book ultimately didn’t live up to my expectations, it still turned out to be a decent read.

For me to enjoy a fantasy thoroughly, it’s crucial that I don’t question the worldbuilding. In Stolen Songbird, I was content to accept a world where trolls existed, were cursed to live under a mountain, and traded with some humans who knew about them. I wasn’t so satisfied with the worldbuilding though once it became clear that the story was set on Earth because very little explanation was provided about the human world outside Trollus. We also don’t find out where Trollus is situated on Earth. Personally, if a fantasy involves creatures other than faeries, I prefer that it be set in a fictional world.

Another thing that wasn’t well explained was Tristan’s physical appearance. According to the novel, all the royal trolls are physically disfigured due to inbreeding. Yet the crown prince of the trolls is the most handsome “man” that Cecile has ever seen! I hope there’s a deeper reasoning behind the decision to not have Tristan suffering from disfiguration other than the fact that it’s easier for both Cecile and the reader to fall in love with a good-looking troll than an scary-looking one.

Speaking of Cecile, even though her situation seemed impossible, I liked that she continued trying to find ways out of Trollus … at least until she realized that she was in love with Tristan. I thought the transition from hate to love was a bit too sudden, and wasn’t very pleased that Cecile was the one who had to sacrifice everything – and was willing to do so – to live with Tristan (under a mountain!). 

Stolen Songbird will be released by Strange Chemistry on April 1, 2014. 

Comments About the Cover: I love the font, and think the cover does a good job of indicating that the novel is a fantasy. 

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

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Review: Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy

From Goodreads: When sixteen-year-old Alice is diagnosed with leukemia, her prognosis is grim. To maximize the time she does have, she vows to spend her final months righting wrongs - however she sees fit. She convinces her friend Harvey, whom she knows has always had feelings for her, to help her with a crazy bucket list that’s as much about revenge (humiliating her ex-boyfriend and getting back at her arch nemesis) as it is about hope (doing something unexpectedly kind for a stranger and reliving some childhood memories). But just when Alice’s scores are settled, she goes into remission. Now Alice is forced to face the consequences of all that she’s said and done, as well as her true feelings for Harvey. But has she done irreparable damage to the people around her, and to the one person who matters most? 

My Rating: 2 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: When I saw the synopsis for Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy, I immediately wanted to get my hands on a copy of the book because I thought it sounded like a fun read, with a girl trying to right her mistakes and falling in love with her best friend. I wasn’t even close!

Instead, Side Effects May Vary features one of the meanest, bitchiest characters I’ve ever encountered! One character in the novel accurately describes Alice as “… hollow on the inside … Rotten too. (88% on my Kindle)” At no point in the book does it say that the chance for remission isn’t high, but Alice accepts the news that she has cancer like a death sentence and takes full advantage of it to do whatever the hell she wants. This makes it hard to sympathize with her, particularly since she shows little growth throughout the novel and continues to manipulate her best friend, Harvey, even after remission.

The alternating narrations are provided by Harvey, who I pitied. He’s very aware that Alice is using him, but still helps her with her revenge schemes because he loves her. Since I loathed Alice, I needed Harvey to explain how and why he has been in love with her for years. Unfortunately, a concrete explanation never materialized. Harvey does eventually stand up to Alice, but it takes way too long for him to develop a backbone!

A novel that ended very abruptly – I would have thought there were pages missing if I wasn’t reading it on my Kindle – and left me in an angry mood, Side Effects May Vary was released by Balzer + Bray on March 18, 2014. 

Comments About the Cover: It’s simple but unique, and stands out easily. 

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