Thursday, October 16, 2014

Review: Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

From Goodreads: Before Peter Pan belonged to Wendy, he belonged to the girl with the crow feather in her hair ... Tiger Lily. When fifteen-year-old Tiger Lily meets the alluring teenage Peter Pan deep in the forbidden woods of Neverland, the two form a bond that's impossible to break, but also impossible to hold on to. As the leader of the Lost Boys, the most fearsome of Neverland's inhabitants, Peter is an unthinkable match for Tiger Lily. However, when Wendy Darling, a girl who is everything Tiger Lily is not, arrives on the island, Tiger Lily discovers how far she is willing to go to keep Peter with her, and in Neverland. Told from the perspective of tiny, fairy-sized Tinkerbell, Tiger Lily is the breathtaking story of budding romance, letting go and the pains of growing up.

My Rating: 4 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson was a book I probably wouldn’t have read if it wasn’t for the book blogging community that put it on my radar. A retelling of Peter Pan narrated from the perspective of Tinkerbell, this story focuses largely on Tiger Lily and features a less innocent Peter.

I really liked the idea of having Tinkerbell be the narrator of this book because as a fairy, she could understand the thoughtz and emotions of everybody around her. So, you got more insight into all the characters. It also led to Tinkerbell being a more rounded character herself instead of just being a fairy who’s in love with Peter Pan.

Other characters that I liked included Tiger Lily, a girl struggling to hold on to her freedom while trying to find a place for herself within her tribe, Pine Sap, the boy who accepts Tiger Lily just the way she is, and Tik Tok, Tiger Lily’s adopted father. Sadly, I didn’t find Peter’s story as captivating – he came off as clingy and manipulative instead – and didn’t really feel like I got to know Wendy very well because she entered the story so late. Poor Wendy also wasn’t portrayed in a very favourable light, which wasn’t surprising.

What I loved about Tiger Lily though was that it was grounded in reality. In Anderson’s story then, Neverland is a magical island that some Englanders like Captain Hook were able to find. As a result, you get to see how the European travellers affected the Indigenous population. For example, the native Neverlanders worry about the aging disease brought by Englanders, which is why the Sky Eaters agree, as a tribe, to let Phillip die. Meanwhile, after being nursed back to health by Tiger Lily, Phillip begins trying to get the Sky Eaters to give up their religion and traditions and start assimilating to more European ways of living.  

A very different retelling from the Disney version of Peter Pan, Tiger Lily was released by HarperTeen in July 2012. 

Comments About the Cover: I like the colours used. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Review: Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch

From Goodreads: Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. Now, the Winterians’ only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been waiting for the opportunity to steal back Winter’s magic and rebuild the kingdom ever since. Orphaned as an infant during Winter’s defeat, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee, raised by the Winterians’ general, Sir. Training to be a warrior - and desperately in love with her best friend, and future king, Mather - she would do anything to help her kingdom rise to power again. So when scouts discover the location of the ancient locket that can restore Winter’s magic, Meira decides to go after it herself. Finally, she’s scaling towers, fighting enemy soldiers, and serving her kingdom just as she’s always dreamed she would. But the mission doesn’t go as planned, and Meira soon finds herself thrust into a world of evil magic and dangerous politics - and ultimately comes to realize that her destiny is not, never has been, her own. 

My Rating: 2 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Sara Raasch's Snow Like Ashes was a debut I was really looking forward to reading because I thought it would be a good fantasy and feature a strong heroine. Unfortunately, this book just let me down.

Firstly, there was a lot of info-dumping to establish the worldbuilding (and it didn’t help that the Season kingdoms were named after the seasons or that their capital cities were named after months of the year). The world of Primoria was also confusingly set up. So, for example, each Season kingdom experiences only one season - and this is simply attributed to magic, which I hate as an explanation. This means that it only snows in Winter, yet in the neighbouring kingdom of Autumn, it’s always dry and cool (i.e. fall-like weather).

As well, Snow Like Ashes featured a very whiny protagonist. At the beginning of the novel, Meira moans about not being allowed to go on important missions to Spring, even though she knows that she needs to improve her close range fighting skills. (Personally, I think living is a better option than dying recklessly, but hey, I’m not Meira.) Of course after complaining about wanting more responsibility, Meira is given the opportunity to help out the Winterian's cause by creating an alliance with another kingdom through an arranged marriage. In response, Meira naturally grumbles about this. While I sympathized with her situation, I do think people who are responsible for hundreds of other lives sometimes need to suck it up and not be so selfish. What’s an arranged marriage to a prince, compared to knowing that you can help free others from enslavement?

Lastly, and unexpectedly, Snow Like Ashes had a love triangle. It would have been nice if the synopsis had warned me of this! Here I was all excited about a slow romance between best friends, and what I got was a story where I barely got to know either guy and didn’t really care who Meira ended up with.

Recommended for fans of Mary E. Pearson’s The Kiss of Deception, Snow Like Ashes will be released tomorrow by Balzer + Bray. If you didn’t like The Kiss of Deception, I’d suggest passing on this book.

Comments About the Cover: It’s so pretty! I like that the focus is on the snow and Meira’s weapon of choice, a chakram. 

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

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Review: A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner

From Goodreads: Sophos, under the guidance of yet another tutor, practices his swordplay and strategizes escape scenarios should his father's villa come under attack. How would he save his mother? His sisters? Himself? Could he reach the horses in time? Where would he go? But nothing prepares him for the day armed men, silent as thieves, swarm the villa courtyard ready to kill, to capture, to kidnap. Sophos, the heir to the throne of Sounis, disappears without a trace. In Attolia, Eugenides, the new and unlikely king, has never stopped wondering what happened to Sophos. Nor has the Queen of Eddis. They send spies. They pay informants. They appeal to the gods. But as time goes by, it becomes less and less certain that they will ever see their friend alive again. Across the small peninsula battles are fought, bribes are offered, and conspiracies are set in motion. Darkening the horizon, the Mede Empire threatens, always, from across the sea. And Sophos, anonymous and alone, bides his time. Sophos, drawing on his memories of Gen, Pol, the Magus and Eddis, sets out on an adventure that will change all of their lives forever. 

My Rating: 4.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Whereas the previous books in The Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner starred Eugenides, A Conspiracy of Kings is from the perspective of Sophos. This was unexpected; and meant that at least early on, I missed Eugenides.

But, I think Turner knew exactly what was necessary to broaden the scope of political intrigue in her series. Unlike Eugenides who you know would definitely have something up his sleeve, Sophos is a more vulnerable character; and so the series shifts its focus from the sly Eugenides’ ascent to power to the growing possibility of an invasion from the Mede Empire.

Since reading The Thief, I had liked the shy and scholarly Sophos. In A Conspiracy of Kings, you get to witness the suffering he endures – being kidnapped and sold into slavery – transform him from a na├»ve and idealistic character to one who is worthy of being a king. Although Sophos does his best to remain true to himself and to avoid bloodshed, he comes to realize that violence is sometimes unavoidable as a monarch. Some things are just worth fighting for!

And it’s not as if Eugenides isn’t around to help. While he can’t do anything outright because of his position, you know he’s machinating in the background with Attolia and Eddis.

The problem now is having an excruciatingly long wait for the next book in the series as there is still no date for when the fifth book is to be released. If only Turner would write faster!

A Conspiracy of Kings was released in March 2010 by Greenwillow Books. 

Comments About the Cover: I love the older look of all the covers in The Queen’s Thief series.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Review: Beware the Wild by Natalie C. Parker

From Goodreads: It's an oppressively hot and sticky morning in June when Sterling and her brother, Phin, have an argument that compels him to run into the town swamp - the one that strikes fear in all the residents of Sticks, Louisiana. Phin doesn't return. Instead, a girl named Lenora May climbs out, and now Sterling is the only person in Sticks who remembers her brother ever existed. Sterling needs to figure out what the swamp's done with her beloved brother and how Lenora May is connected to his disappearance - and loner boy Heath Durham might be the only one who can help her. 

My Rating: 4 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Just like the swamp of Sticks, Louisiana, Natalie C. Parker’s Beware the Wild lures you in and then refuses to let go. Within a few chapters, I was thoroughly captivated by the setting and its impact on the characters.

I loved the swamp! At first, I thought Sterling was exaggerating about its danger and wasn’t sure whether her brother, Phin, ever existed; but over time, the swamp’s presence subtly began to take over the book. As more and more people disappeared and their loved ones forgot about them, it became clear that not only were the townspeople of Sticks right to be deathly afraid of the swamp, but that their various superstitions were no longer keeping them safe.

In the midst of this is Sterling, a realistic character with flaws and weaknesses. At the beginning of the novel, Sterling is very dependent on Phin for protection and security – so dependent in fact that she develops an eating disorder from the stress of thinking about her brother moving away for college. However, once Phin disappears into the swamp and doesn’t return, Sterling has to muster up the courage to overcome her fears in order to find Phin since she's the only one who remembers his existence.

Sterling’s love for Phin also meant that I enjoyed the romance because she never got carried away by intense romantic feelings. Her top priority always remained finding her brother. As a result, the romance, despite being a little fast, never overwhelmed the plot. Sterling’s involvement with Heath made sense as well because they had both lost someone they loved to the swamp, and had been interested in each other in the past.

Finally, although the secondary characters in Beware the Wild remained firmly in the background, I found them to be very well-developed. For example, in spite of spending little time with characters like Phin, Lenora May, and Fisher, I was still able to learn their hopes and dreams and find out what motivated them.

A debut that’s particularly recommended for fans of Victoria Schwab's The Near Witch, Beware the Wild will be released by HarperTeen on October 21, 2014. 

Comments About the Cover: The dark cover and the blurb are perfect for the creepiness of Beware the Wild!

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

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Review: Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine

From Goodreads: There are whispers of a ghost in the slaughterhouse where sixteen-year-old Wen assists her father in his medical clinic - a ghost who grants wishes to those who need them most. When one of the Noor, men hired as cheap factory labor, humiliates Wen, she makes an impulsive wish of her own, and the Ghost grants it. Brutally. Guilt-ridden, Wen befriends the Noor, including their outspoken leader, a young man named Melik. At the same time, she is lured by the mystery of the Ghost and learns he has been watching her … for a very long time. As deadly accidents fuel tensions within the factory, Wen must confront her growing feelings for Melik, who is enraged at the sadistic factory bosses and the prejudice faced by his people at the hand of Wen’s, and her need to appease the Ghost, who is determined to protect her against any threat - real or imagined. She must decide whom she can trust, because as her heart is torn, the factory is exploding around her … and she might go down with it.

My Rating: 4 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Having seen the love for Sarah Fine’s Sanctum series and then the positive reviews for Of Metal and Wishes, I decided to give Fine’s writing a try with Of Metal and Wishes, a retelling of The Phantom of the Opera.

Of Metal and Wishes is very much a character driven book. While I liked Wen, a girl who learns to look beyond the Itanyai’s prejudices to see the Noor for who they are, and Melik, a Noor who refuses to be cowed by the Itanyai, my favourite character was the complex Ghost. Full of contradictions, I loved how the Ghost could be so kind one minute and then terrifying the next with the amount of power he wielded.

I also liked the romance. Although I thought there might be a love triangle in Of Metal and Wishes, there actually wasn’t one because Wen was only ever interested in Melik. Admittedly, they did develop feelings for each other quite quickly, but I was willing to excuse this because of the cramped and isolating conditions of the slaughterhouse.

Where Of Metal and Wishes could have been better developed, however, was the worldbuilding. Not only was little revealed about the world beyond the slaughterhouse, but there wasn’t a firm time period established either because while the conditions of the slaughterhouse had a historical feel, the machinery described in the outside world appeared to be more modern. Hopefully, the sequel will clear up some of my questions about the worldbuilding. 

Of Metal and Wishes was released in August 2014 by Margaret K. McElderry Books. 

Comments About the Cover: I love that there’s an Asian model on the cover.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Seven Deadly Sins Questionnaire

I was tagged to do the Seven Deadly Sins Questionnaire (created by BookishlyMalyza) by Aylee from Recovering Potter Addict about two weeks ago and finally managed to find the time to whip up some answers! 

1. Greed - What is your most inexpensive book? What is your most expensive book?
I’ve never really been tempted by collector’s editions of books. So, most of the books I own are pretty similar in terms of their price range. My inexpensive books though are ones that I’ve bought from used bookstores.

2. Wrath - What author do you have a love/hate relationship with?
I’d have to go with Jennifer L. Armentrout. Although her books are entertaining and I love that she writes so fast, I usually have issues with them, whether it’s insta-love in Cursed or romantic leads (like Daemon) that are jerks.

3. Gluttony - What book have you devoured over and over with no shame?
It’s been a long time since I’ve reread an entire book, but my younger self would probably say, “A Wrinkle in Time, Anne of Green Gables, or The Song of the Lioness quartet.” 
Some of my favourite books growing up! The covers could be improved though ...
4. Sloth - What book have you neglected reading due to laziness?
So many! Besides not reading classics because of my need to stay on top of all the new books being released each year, I’d like to give both Melina Marchetta’s and John Green’s books a try at some point. 

5. Pride - What book do you talk about most in order to sound like an intellectual reader?
I don’t generally read nonfiction or classics, but I’m sure I’d sound a lot smarter if I read more of those …

6. Lust - What attributes do you find attractive in male or female characters?
In terms of my male characters, I prefer them either to be quick-witted like Gen from The Queen's Thief series or George from the Song of the Lioness quartet, or strong and capable characters who are utterly supportive of their heroines’ decisions. In the latter category, Dimitri from the Vampire Academy series and Gilbert from the Anne of Gables series come to mind.

With female characters, I want a combination of loyalty (both to themselves and others), determination, and brains. Hermione from Harry Potter, for example, is one of my female heroines. 

7. Envy - What book would you most like to receive as a gift?
Hmm, I refuse to stick to one answer for this because depending on my mood and what’s being released, it’s bound to change. But, I would like to get a physical copy – I have a Kindle version – of The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls soon because looking at the illustrations on an ebook just isn’t the same. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Review: Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

From Goodreads: The capital has fallen. The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne. Now the nation's fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army. Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives. Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova's amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling's secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction - and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for. 

My Rating: Somewhere between 3.5 and 4 hearts 

*Despite trying my best to avoid overt spoilers in my review (which I've hidden), I'd suggest reading the following review with caution if you haven't read Ruin and Rising because it still alludes to things.*

Thoughts on the Novel: Though it took me a while to get around to reading Leigh Bardugo’s Ruin and Rising, it was one of my most anticipated reads of this year because I’d finally know the ultimate fates of the Darkling and Nikolai (and Alina and Mal, of course). It’s too bad then that Ruin and Rising wasn’t exactly the ending I wanted.

While the plot began nicely with Alina, Mal, and the other Grisha trying to escape from the Apparat's clutches so that they could engage in one last confrontation with the Darkling, I soon became a little bored because the story wasn’t as intense as I was expecting it to be. As well, there was a strong focus on a bunch of secondary characters, most of whom I didn’t really remember. Thankfully, one of those characters was Zoya, who I not only ended up liking, but also made up for the distinct lack of the Darkling with her witty lines.

Speaking of the Darkling, as much as I would have liked a different ending for him, I do think that the ending he got was probably the most appropriate for him. Over the course of Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm, all I wanted to do was give him a hug in spite of his villainy because Bardugo did such a fabulous job of making him so complex. Ruin and Rising finally revealed the Darkling and Baghra’s backstory, which just made me fall in love with him even more. I refuse to say goodbye to him!

Another character who didn’t escape unscathed was Nikolai. I wasn’t expecting what happened to him to occur, but I think it helps to make him an even better ruler for Ravka – not that I didn’t know that after the scene with his parents.

I wasn't too happy with the endings for Alina and Mal, however. As the series progressed, Bardugo had slowly transformed Alina into a stronger heroine; but I thought Ruin and Rising kind of ruined all that development. Perhaps it was the best fate for Alina, but as a reader, I felt like Ruin and Rising was saying that you shouldn't strive to be extraordinary.

Similarly, I had really liked the change in Mal’s personality since he became so much more supportive of Alina embracing her destiny. Although I knew there was more to him than met the eye, I was shocked by his connection to Morozova. So, I mentally prepared myself for what I thought would happen in regards with him, except that Bardugo then cheapened his sacrifice by bringing him back to life (through some lame reasoning). I just feel like if an author is going to commit to killing a character, they should do so 100%; I hate when characters are revived for the sole purpose of giving the hero(ine) their happy ending!

A book that might not please everybody but was still entertaining, Ruin and Rising was released in June 2014 by Henry Holt and Co.  

Comments About the Cover: It perfectly matches the covers of Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm!