Thursday, August 27, 2015

Review: Tangled Webs by Lee Bross

From Goodreads: Lady A is the most notorious blackmailer in the city. With just a mask and a gown to disguise her, she sweeps into lavish balls and exclusive events collecting the most valuable currency in 1725 London - secrets. But leading a double life isn't easy. By day Lady A is just a sixteen-year-old girl named Arista who lives in fear of her abusive master, Bones, and passes herself off as a boy to move safely through the squalor of London's slums. When Bones attempts to dispose of his pawn forever, Arista is rescued by the last person she expects: Jonathan Wild, the infamous Thief Taker General who moves seamlessly between the city's criminal underworld and its most elite upper circles. Arista partners with Wild on her own terms in the hopes of saving enough money to buy passage out of London. Everything changes when she meets Graeden Sinclair, the son of a wealthy merchant. Grae has traveled the world, has seen the exotic lands Arista has longed to escape to her whole life, and he loves Arista for who she is - not for what she can do for him. Being with Grae gives something Arista something precious that she swore off long ago: hope. He has promised to help Arista escape the life of crime that has claimed her since she was a child. But can you ever truly escape the past?

My Rating: 2 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: When I decided to read Lee Bross’ Tangled Webs, I thought I’d be getting a story with a badass heroine. Instead, I got a protagonist who was constantly thinking about romance!

Right from the start, I had a bad feeling about Arista as a character. In chapter 1, for example, rather than being focused on her job, Arista daydreams about what it would be like to kiss her bodyguard and best friend, Nic – that is, until she meets a mysterious stranger who she instantly connects with. From here on, the story became one of insta-love with a bit of a love triangle thrown in. Unfortunately, the hardened street rat I was expecting never showed up!

In addition, although Tangled Webs’ setting was London in 1725, there was very little detail devoted to the setting. This story could have easily been set elsewhere or in another time period and still remained the same.

Tangled Webs was released by Disney Hyperion in June 2015. 

Comments About the Cover: I like how if you look closer at the cover, you can see little illustrations of things that are significant in the book. 

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

Monday, August 24, 2015

Blogoversary Giveaway

I’m back … and just in time for my blog to turn five! I never would have imagined I’d be blogging for this long to be honest, and so have to thank you, my blog readers, who have kept me going when I’ve had blogging slumps. A very big thanks also goes to all the authors and publishers who have worked with me and continue to support me.

To celebrate my blogoversary, I’m having a giveaway; and one lucky person will win one of the books below as well as a book of their choice worth up to $10 CDN.
Assassin's Heart by Sarah Ahiers
Their Fractured Light (Starbound #3) by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
Riders (Riders #1) by Veronica Rossi
Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, July 06, 2015

Summer Blogging Hiatus

Hey, everybody! I just want you to know that this blog will be pretty quiet for the next several weeks as I am traveling - my first vacation in years! - for most of the summer. I look forward to catching up on bookish news and events when I get back in mid-August. 

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Mini Reviews: Elena Vanishing by Elena Dunkle and My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor

From Back Cover: Seventeen-year-old Elena is vanishing. Every day means renewed determination, so every day means fewer calories. This is the story of a girl whose armor against anxiety becomes artillery against herself as she battles on both sides of a lose-lose war in a struggle with anorexia. Told entirely from Elena's perspective over a five-year period and co-written with her mother, award-winning author Clare B. Dunkle, Elena's memoir is a fascinating and intimate look at a deadly disease, and a must read for anyone who knows someone suffering from an eating disorder.

My Review: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: I normally don’t read memoirs – actually, this is the first memoir I’ve ever read – but since I’m fascinated with the subject of mental health, I couldn’t resist an inside look into the mind of someone with anorexia. For some reason though, I wasn’t completely captivated by Elena Dunkle’s Elena Vanishing. I think this was probably because I’m not used to reading memoirs, where there are jumps in time between chapters and people that are briefly mentioned who don’t reappear again until much later, by which time I’ve already forgotten who they are and their importance. I still thought this novel was interesting; and liked that Elena’s memoir shows how hard it is to treat anorexia and that this disorder isn’t just about extreme dieting. 

Some interesting facts about anorexia are:
  • There are two types of anorexia: 1) the restricting type and 2) the binge-eating/purging type.
    • The binge-eating/purging type is more common.
  • It has a high mortality rate (about 10%).
    • Many anorexics often die due to heart failure.
  • Medical consequences of anorexia include amenorrhea, osteoporosis, sensitivity or intolerance to the cold, cardiovascular problems, heart failure, electrolyte imbalance (if there’s a lot of bingeing and purging), edema, constipation, abdominal pain, hair loss, and brittle hair and nails.
  • One factor that may increase the risk of developing anorexia is having premorbid personality characteristics such as perfectionism or OCD tendencies.
  • Another factor that may contribute to the development of an eating disorder is feeling a lack of control in other areas of your life. So, food becomes the one thing a person with an eating disorder feels that they can control.
Elena Vanishing was released by Chronicle Books in May 2015. 
 
In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Raincoast Books) for free.
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From Goodreads: Jill Taylor was a 37-year-old Harvard-trained brain scientist when a blood vessel exploded in her brain. Through the eyes of a curious scientist, she watched her mind deteriorate whereby she could not walk, talk, read, write, or recall any of her life. Because of her understanding of the brain, her respect for the cells in her body, and an amazing mother, Jill completely recovered. In My Stroke of Insight, she shares her recommendations for recovery and the insight she gained into the unique functions of the two halves of her brain. When she lost the skills of her left brain, her consciousness shifted away from normal reality where she felt "at one with the universe." Taylor helps others not only rebuild their brains from trauma, but helps those of us with normal brains better understand how we can consciously influence the neural circuitry underlying what we think, how we feel and how we react to life's circumstances.  

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor was a book that I had in my TBR pile for years, ever since I heard about it in one of my undergraduate neuroscience courses. The premise just sounded so cool: a neuroscientist has a stroke and is able to recover and talk about her experience from a neuroscience background. Unfortunately, My Stroke of Insight wasn’t exactly what I expected, Although I liked the first few chapters where Bolte Taylor described what she experienced on the morning of the stroke, how her deterioration related to different brain structures and functions, and strategies that aided in her recovery, the latter section of the memoir focused too much on how she now feels more at one with the universe. The tone during this portion of My Stroke of Insight was just too sappy for me, and I struggled trying to finish the book.

My Stroke of Insight was released in May 2008 by Viking Adult.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Review: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

From Goodreads: Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life. Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood. The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows - everyone knows - that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her. But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

My Rating: 4.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Uprooted by Naomi Novik was a book that appeared on my radar as a read recommended for those who liked Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses (which I had put on my wishlist, but have yet to still read). I wasn’t sure what to expect from Uprooted when I began it; but after reading it, here are five reasons why I think you should definitely read it too: 
  1. The protagonist: Agnieszka is a heroine that’s easy to root for. She’s average looking, loves the outdoors, is clumsy, and can never stay tidy. Even when Agnieszka finds out that she has magic and is a pretty powerful witch, she doesn’t develop an ego. Case in point: while the other wizards have fancy nicknames, she chooses to be Agnieszka of Dvernik.  
  2. The secondary characters: I loved how well-rounded all the secondary characters in the story were. The villain, for example, still managed to earn some sympathy from me, despite having done such terrible things.  
  3. The setting: I don’t want to spoil anything so all I’m going to say about the Wood is that it’s seriously creepy! 
  4. The portrayal of friendship: I really liked how realistic the relationship between Kasia and Agnieszka was. Not only was their friendship layered, but it developed over the course of the novel as well. 
  5. The romance: Initially, the Dragon and Agnieszka have a rather unequal relationship because he’s a lot older than her and much more knowledgeable about magic. Then, there’s the fact that Agnieszka has grown up resenting him because she knows that he’s going to take Kasia when they turn seventeen. However, Agnieszka and the Dragon’s relationship becomes more equal as she learns about her own magic and spends more time with him. I loved seeing the two of them slowly start to open up to each other! 
A must-read for those who enjoy fantasy, Uprooted was released in May 2015 by Del Ray. 

Comments About the Cover: I guess because the central picture is of a girl with a rose, the cover reminds me of Beauty and the Beast. The story though isn’t a retelling of the fairy tale, in spite of some similar elements.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Review: Hello, I Love You by Katie M. Stout

From Goodreads: Grace Wilde is running - from the multi-million dollar mansion her record producer father bought, the famous older brother who’s topped the country music charts five years in a row, and the mother who blames her for her brother’s breakdown. Grace escapes to the farthest place from home she can think of, a boarding school in Korea, hoping for a fresh start. She wants nothing to do with music, but when her roommate Sophie’s twin brother Jason turns out to be the newest Korean pop music superstar, Grace is thrust back into the world of fame. She can't stand Jason, whose celebrity status is only outmatched by his oversized ego, but they form a tenuous alliance for the sake of her friendship with Sophie. As the months go by and Grace adjusts to her new life in Korea, even she can't deny the sparks flying between her and the KPOP idol. Soon, Grace realizes that her feelings for Jason threaten her promise to herself that she'll leave behind the music industry that destroyed her family. But can Grace ignore her attraction to Jason and her undeniable pull of the music she was born to write? 

My Rating: 1.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: One of the reasons I requested Hello, I Love You by Katie M. Stout was because I know very little about Korea or K-pop. I was therefore hoping that this book would help me learn a bit more about both subjects. Sadly, if you’re looking for a book about a teen that embraces a move to a foreign country, Hello, I Love You isn’t it.  

A huge reason why I failed to connect with Hello, I Love You was because of its main character, Grace, who is majorly judgmental of everything Korean. In an effort to run away from her problems, Grace decides to Google foreign boarding schools. Since the first one on her search list happens to be in Korea – really? – she decides that’s where she’ll go. Oh, to be rich! Once in Korea, Grace makes little effort to learn more about the place she has moved to; instead, she's very condescending, and comes off as an extremely spoiled American. 

The secondary characters also failed to really show off Korean culture. Jason, the romantic interest who just so happens to be a K-pop star, for instance, hates the music that he writes (and of course, Grace is all too happy to help him write “better” music). Interestingly, after reading Hello, I Love You, I still have no clue about what Jason’s band’s music sounded like or what K-pop bands Stout would recommend as all the bands that Grace and Jason loved were either UK or American ones. 

The romance between Grace and Jason was no better. Grace’s initial attraction to Jason was because he was hot. Then, once they started hanging out, she became very jealous of other girls that Jason had to spend time with – even though she wasn’t his girlfriend! – and repeatedly questioned why he wasn’t introducing her to other people in the industry and whether he was embarrassed by her. Eventually, Grace comes to a very hasty realization that she doesn’t just have a crush on Jason, but is in love with him. *rolls eyes* 

A book that I’d recommend skipping, Hello, I Love You was released on June 9, 2015 by St. Martin’s Griffin. 

Comments About the Cover: It’s a cute cover, but the male model isn’t dressed at all like Jason.  

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (St. Martin's Press) for free via NetGalley.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Mini Reviews: Out of Control by Sarah Alderson and The Fill-in Boyfriend by Kasie West

From Goodreads: When seventeen-year-old Liva came to New York City, all she wanted was to escape the painful memories of her past and finally find a fresh start. Her hopes for a new future were dashed the moment she became the sole witness to a brutal murder. When she's taken into police custody - supposedly for her own protection - she realizes something isn't right, but it's too late. Soon, bullets start flying, and Liva realizes that she is not just a witness, but the target - and she needs to escape before it's too late. With the help of a sexy car thief that she met at the station, Liva manages to get away from the massacre unharmed, but now the two of them are alone in New York, trying to outrun and outwit the two killers who will stop at nothing to find them. Liva and Jay are living on the edge, but when you're on the edge, there's a long way to fall. 

My Rating: 2 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Although I enjoyed Sarah Alderson’s Lila series, I haven’t read any of her books since. So, I had some high expectations for her newest novel, Out of Control. Unfortunately, Out of Control turned out to be a rather disappointing read for a few reasons. Firstly, its fast pacing made it hard to learn much about the characters or care about them. Secondly, I found myself getting annoyed by Liva because of her priorities, – I wouldn’t be focused on a guy if there were people trying to kidnap me, – and complaints about her looks (but really, she’s pretty). Lastly, it drove me crazy that the Hispanic characters in Out of Control were portrayed so stereotypically. 

Out of Control was released in May 2015 by Simon Pulse. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from Xpresso Book Tours.
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From Goodreads: When Gia Montgomery's boyfriend, Bradley, dumps her in the parking lot of her high school prom, she has to think fast. After all, she'd been telling her friends about him for months now. This was supposed to be the night she proved he existed. So when she sees a cute guy waiting to pick up his sister, she enlists his help. The task is simple: be her fill-in boyfriend - two hours, zero commitment, a few white lies. After that, she can win back the real Bradley. The problem is that days after prom, it's not the real Bradley she's thinking about, but the stand-in. The one whose name she doesn't even know. But tracking him down doesn't mean they're done faking a relationship. Gia owes him a favor and his sister intends to see that he collects: his ex-girlfriend's graduation party - three hours, zero commitment, a few white lies. Just when Gia begins to wonder if she could turn her fake boyfriend into a real one, Bradley comes waltzing back into her life, exposing her lie, and threatening to destroy her friendships and her new-found relationship. 

My Rating: 2.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: While I loved Kasie West’s Pivot Point series, I haven’t found her contemporary novels quite as appealing. Sadly, The Fill-in Boyfriend was no exception. I had a tough time connecting with Gia because I found her to be very shallow. As well, the way the romance started off wasn’t very convincing, and it then veered into drama territory. I think in the future, I’ll just have to pass on any Kasie West contemporaries. 

The Fill-in Boyfriend was released by HarperTeen in May 2015.