Monday, February 01, 2016

Review: These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas (and Giveaway)

From Goodreads: England, 1882. Evelyn is bored with society and its expectations. So when her beloved sister, Rose, mysteriously vanishes, she ignores her parents and travels to London to find her, accompanied by the dashing Mr. Kent. But they’re not the only ones looking for Rose. The reclusive, young gentleman Sebastian Braddock is also searching for her, claiming that both sisters have special healing powers. Evelyn is convinced that Sebastian must be mad, until she discovers that his strange tales of extraordinary people are true - and that her sister is in graver danger than she feared. 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: I first heard about Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas' These Vicious Masks when I attended Raincoast’s Winter + Spring 2016 TeensRead Preview. Pitched as “Jane Austen meets X-Men,” I was immediately interested in it because I love books set in Victorian England and novels where the characters have superpowers. 

The worldbuilding in These Vicious Masks was well-done, and I liked how the paranormal element was introduced and incorporated slowly. I thought the premise was quite believable because of the time period since people were starting to make scientific advances, and it was nice that attempts were made in the book to explain why some people developed superpowers. 

I also really liked Evelyn. She was so sassy, and I loved that she refused to follow the rules of society when her sister was kidnapped. Rather than staying home and pretending her sister was simply vacationing at her aunt’s house in order to preserve her family’s reputation, Evelyn decided to take matters into her own hands and investigate her sister’s disappearance. I did, however, think that Evelyn sometimes took unnecessary risks when she could have had backup in the form of either Mr. Braddock or Mr. Kent. 

Speaking of Mr. Braddock and Mr. Kent, it seems that there may be a love triangle in the future because both men appear to have feelings for Evelyn. I personally think the brooding Mr. Braddock is a better choice, but Mr. Kent did manage to surprise me a few times.

These Vicious Masks will be released by Swoon Reads on February 9, 2016. 

Comments About the Cover: Masks always promise intrigue!

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher for free via Xpresso Book Tours. 

These Vicious Masks can be bought from: [Amazon] [Barnes and Noble]
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Monday, January 25, 2016

Review: This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

From Goodreads: 10:00 a.m. The principal of Opportunity, Alabama's high school finishes her speech, welcoming the entire student body to a new semester and encouraging them to excel and achieve. 10:02 a.m. The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class. 10:03. The auditorium doors won't open. 10:05. Someone starts shooting. Told over the span of 54 harrowing minutes from four different perspectives, terror reigns as one student's calculated revenge turns into the ultimate game of survival.

My Rating: 2.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: With the rise in gun violence and the issue of gun control in the media, it’s not surprising that Marieke Nijkamp’s This is Where it Ends ended up on my radar. Then, I found out that Nijkamp is an advocate of diversity in YA, and I knew I had to read her book.

Unfortunately, although This is Where it Ends features PoC and gay characters, the characters lacked depth. Also, with the story being narrated from four different viewpoints, it was hard to connect with any of the characters, especially when some of their voices sounded kind of similar. Furthermore, I didn’t like that the main characters were so obviously portrayed to be victims; each had their own sob story, and it was apparent that I was supposed to sympathize with them. I wish Nijkamp could have written This is Where it Ends in such a way that I would have cared about her characters even if they had trivial problems.

In addition to the four viewpoints, there were tweets, texts, and blog posts from students in between chapters, which were unnecessary to the story. The voice, however, that was clearly missing from the story was that of the shooter. Those involved in school shootings often have suffered from years of abuse or have mental health issues – and that appears to be the case with Tyler – but there seems to be some vital information missing in This is Where it Ends. What makes Tyer decide violence is the best solution to his problems? How does a loving brother and boyfriend become capable of so much cruelty in such a short amount of time?

Although I felt that This is Where it Ends wasn’t suspenseful enough and – as cold-hearted as it sounds – didn’t really care about most of the people that died, I did like the ending. There’s a sense of hope that the town of Opportunity will recover from the senseless violence with time.

This is Where it Ends was released on January 5, 2016 by Sourcebooks Fire. 

Comments About the Cover: Its simplicity makes it eye-catching.  

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

Monday, January 18, 2016

Review: Their Fractured Light by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

From Goodreads: A year ago, Flynn Cormac and Jubilee Chase made the now infamous Avon Broadcast, calling on the galaxy to witness for their planet, and protect them from destruction. Some say Flynn’s a madman, others whisper about conspiracies. Nobody knows the truth. A year before that, Tarver Merendsen and Lilac LaRoux were rescued from a terrible shipwreck - now, they live a public life in front of the cameras, and a secret life away from the world’s gaze. Now, in the center of the universe on the planet of Corinth, all four are about to collide with two new players, who will bring the fight against LaRoux Industries to a head. Gideon Marchant is an eighteen-year-old computer hacker - a whiz kid and an urban warrior. He’ll climb, abseil and worm his way past the best security measures to pull off onsite hacks that others don’t dare touch. Sofia Quinn has a killer smile, and by the time you’re done noticing it, she’s got you offering up your wallet, your car, and anything else she desires. She holds LaRoux Industries responsible for the mysterious death of her father and is out for revenge at any cost. When a LaRoux Industries security breach interrupts Gideon and Sofia’s separate attempts to infiltrate their headquarters, they’re forced to work together to escape. Each of them has their own reason for wanting to take down LaRoux Industries, and neither trusts the other. But working together might be the best chance they have to expose the secrets LRI is so desperate to hide.

My Rating: 4 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: While reading This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner, I thought the Knave of Hearts sounded like a pretty interesting character. So, I was thrilled when I found out that he would be one of the main characters in Their Fractured Light. Imagine how surprised I was then to find out how personal his motives really were for wanting to screw Roderick LaRoux!

Although I liked learning more about Gideon and Sofia and seeing them work as tentative allies, Their Fractured Light became way more enjoyable when Lilac, Tarver, Flynn, and Jubilee entered the scene because it greatly increased the tension. What I really loved about Their Fractured Light, however, was how all the little details that I’d forgotten about from the previous books in the series came back to play a part in this book. So, if you haven’t started the Starbound series, it’s good to do so now that all the books are out; and if you have, it might be worthwhile to reread the previous books before reading Their Fractured Light to fully appreciate how much planning Kaufman and Spooner must have done before writing this series.

A splendid conclusion to an amazing series, Their Fractured Light was released by Disney-Hyperion in December 2015. 

Comments About the Cover: This is my favourite cover of the series because it has a lot of purple, my favourite colour.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Mini Reviews: Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin and Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn

From Goodreads: Riley Cavanaugh is many things: Punk rock. Snarky. Rebellious. And gender fluid. Some days Riley identifies as a boy, and others as a girl. The thing is ... Riley isn’t exactly out yet. And between starting a new school and having a congressman father running for reelection in uber-conservative Orange County, the pressure - media and otherwise - is building up in Riley’s so-called “normal” life. On the advice of a therapist, Riley starts an anonymous blog to vent those pent-up feelings and tell the truth of what it’s REALLY like to be a gender-fluid teenager. But just as Riley’s starting to settle in at school - even developing feelings for a mysterious outcast - the blog goes viral, and an unnamed commenter discovers Riley’s real identity, threatening exposure. Riley must make a choice: walk away from what the blog has created - a lifeline, new friends, a cause to believe in - or stand up, come out, and risk everything.

My Rating: Somewhere between 3 and 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Jeff Garvin’s Symptoms of Being Human hooked me right away with its beginning line of “The first thing you’re going to want to know about me is: Am I a boy, or am I a girl?”. It’s a question I’ve never really given much thought to, but it’s an important issue for trans and genderqueer teens. That’s why, even though I wasn’t blown away by the story, I liked Symptoms of Being Human. It shows the challenges of coming out, but also addresses the importance of speaking up – and does so with a narrator whose biological sex we never find out, which I thought was pretty cool. 

Symptoms of Being Human will be released on February 2, 2016 by Balzer + Bray. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Harpercollins) via Edelweiss.
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From Goodreads: Seventeen-year-old Mercedes Ayres has an open-door policy when it comes to her bedroom, but only if the guy fulfills a specific criteria: he has to be a virgin. Mercedes lets the boys get their awkward, fumbling first times over with, and all she asks in return is that they give their girlfriends the perfect first time- the kind Mercedes never had herself. Keeping what goes on in her bedroom a secret has been easy - so far. Her absentee mother isn’t home nearly enough to know about Mercedes’ extracurricular activities, and her uber-religious best friend, Angela, won’t even say the word “sex” until she gets married. But Mercedes doesn’t bank on Angela’s boyfriend finding out about her services and wanting a turn- or on Zach, who likes her for who she is instead of what she can do in bed. When Mercedes’ perfect system falls apart, she has to find a way to salvage her reputation and figure out where her heart really belongs in the process.

My Rating: 1.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn isn’t a book I’d normally read because I tend to avoid books where there’s cheating. However, I decided to give it a try for two reasons: 1) Flynn is a Canadian and 2) there aren’t too many YA books that deal directly with sex. Unfortunately, while there are some good quotes in Firsts about sex, I just couldn’t connect with its main character, who’s basically a spoiled girl that tries to justify the fact that she has sex with guys in committed relationships to cover up her own issues.

Firsts was released by St. Martin’s Griffin on January 5, 2016. 

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

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Review: The Treachery of Beautiful Things by Ruth Frances Long

From Goodreads: The trees swallowed her brother whole, and Jenny was there to see it. Now seventeen, she revisits the woods where Tom was taken, resolving to say good-bye at last. Instead, she's lured into the trees, where she finds strange and dangerous creatures who seem to consider her the threat. Among them is Jack, mercurial and magnetic, with secrets of his own. Determined to find her brother, with or without Jack's help, Jenny struggles to navigate a faerie world where stunning beauty masks some of the most treacherous evils, and she's faced with a choice between salvation or sacrifice - and not just her own.

My Rating: 2.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: The Treachery of Beautiful Things by Ruth Frances Long was a book that captivated me immediately because its beginning reminded me of Natalie C. Parker’s Beware the Wild. I had no idea that this was a faerie book though, which I typically avoid. But, Long’s writing was lovely, and I was soon drawn into the story.

Over the course of the novel, however, I became annoyed by Jenny’s decisions. For example, she chooses to trust Jack for no apparent reason (and then develops feelings for him quite suddenly too), runs off by herself whenever her feelings get hurt, and decides to rescue a baby fairy because it's a baby. Uh no, a baby fairy is still a fairy!

As well, the ending was really confusing. I didn’t really understand what was going on, and I still have no idea how it became possible for Jenny to get her happy ending.

The Treachery of Beautiful Things was released by Dial Books in August 2012. 

Comments About the Cover: It’s a pretty cover, but the main character didn't go into the woods in a dress.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Mini Reviews: Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed and The Book of Lost Things by Cynthia Voigt

From Goodreads: Naila’s conservative immigrant parents have always said the same thing: She may choose what to study, how to wear her hair, and what to be when she grows up - but they will choose her husband. Following their cultural tradition, they will plan an arranged marriage for her. And until then, dating - even friendship with a boy - is forbidden. When Naila breaks their rule by falling in love with Saif, her parents are livid. Convinced she has forgotten who she truly is, they travel to Pakistan to visit relatives and explore their roots. But Naila’s vacation turns into a nightmare when she learns that plans have changed - her parents have found her a husband and they want her to marry him, now! Despite her greatest efforts, Naila is aghast to find herself cut off from everything and everyone she once knew. Her only hope of escape is Saif . . . if he can find her before it’s too late. 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Since most YA books don’t have PoC main characters, I was curious to give Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed a try. While I liked the book overall, I didn’t feel very connected to the story because each chapter was so short that I ended up reading Written in the Stars quickly, without feeling much emotion. I also would have liked Naila to demonstrate better judgement – how could you not expect your parents to find out you have a boyfriend when you go with him to prom?! – and to not be so passive.

Written in the Stars was released by Nancy Paulsen Books in March 2015.
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From Goodreads: Max Starling's theatrical father likes to say that at twelve a boy is independent. He also likes to boast (about his acting skills, his wife's acting skills, a fortune only his family knows is metaphorical), but more than anything he likes to have adventures. Max Starling's equally theatrical mother is not a boaster but she enjoys a good adventure as much as her husband. When these two disappear, what can sort-of-theatrical Max and his not-at-all theatrical grandmother do? They have to wait to find out something, anything, and to worry, and, in Max's case, to figure out how to earn a living at the same time as he maintains his independence. This is the first of three books, all featuring the mysterious Mister Max. 

My Rating: 1.5 hearts (the additional half heart is only because I liked the pictures) 

Thoughts on the Novel: The Book of Lost Things was a book that I requested two years ago because its author was Cynthia Voigt. Although I had never read any of Voigt’s novels, The Book of Lost Things was her latest release at the time, and so I thought it would be appropriate to start with it. For some reason though, I never got around to reading The Book of Lost Things … and honestly, I wish that still remained the case. I know I’m not the target audience for The Book of Lost Things, but I was just so bored reading this! The mysteries were way too simple for me, and I have no idea how Max – a twelve-year-old boy – managed to fool so many people into thinking that he was an adult.

The Book of Lost Things was released in September 2013 by Knopf Books for Young Readers.  

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

Monday, December 28, 2015

Mini Reviews: Pretending to be Erica by Michelle Painchaud and Ruthless by Carolyn Lee Adams

From Goodreads: Seventeen-year-old Violet’s entire life has revolved around one thing: becoming Erica Silverman, an heiress kidnapped at age five and never seen again. Violet’s father, the best con man in Las Vegas, has a plan, chilling in its very specific precision. Violet shares a blood type with Erica; soon, thanks to surgery and blackmail, she has the same face, body, and DNA. She knows every detail of the Silvermans’ lives, as well as the PTSD she will have to fake around them. And then, when the time is right, she “reappears” - Erica Silverman, brought home by some kind of miracle. But she is also Violet, and she has a job: Stay long enough to steal the Silverman Painting, an Old Master legendary in the Vegas crime world. Walking a razor’s edge, calculating every decision, not sure sometimes who she is or what she is doing it for, Violet is an unforgettable heroine, and Pretending to be Erica is a killer debut.

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Michelle Painchaud’s Pretending to be Erica captured my interest because I love stories involving cons. Sadly, while I enjoyed reading the book, I do have to say there was nothing particularly memorable about it. You don’t have to be a genius to predict that the main character, Violet, will end up feeling conflicted about her situation and who she will ultimately side with.

Pretending to be Erica was released in July 2015 by Viking Books for Young Readers.
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From Back Cover: When she wakes up with a concussion in the bed of a moving pickup truck, she realizes she has been entered into a contest she can’t afford to lose. At a remote, rotting cabin deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Ruth’s blindfold comes off and she comes face-to-face with her captor. A man who believes his mission is to punish bad girls like Ruth. A man who has done this six times before. The other girls were never heard from again, but Ruth won’t go down easy. She escapes into the wilderness, but her hunter is close at her heels. That’s when the real battle begins. That’s when Ruth must decides just how far she’ll go in order to survive. Back home, they called her Ruthless. They had no idea just how right they were. 

My Rating: 2.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Ruthless by Carolyn Lee Adams started off great as the main character, Ruth, woke up concussed and bound in a truck, unsure of what had happened to her. The tension increases once she realizes that she has been abducted by a serial killer. However, the further I delved into Ruthless, the more bored I became with it due to its repetitive plot. The bad guy finds Ruth, she escapes, rinse and repeat. Neither the bad guy nor Ruth seemed very competent in their roles, although I did like Ruth’s determination to survive.

Ruthless was released by Simon Pulse in July 2015.

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Simon & Schuster Canada).