Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Review: The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross

From Goodreads: In 1897 England, sixteen-year-old Finley Jayne has no one … except the "thing" inside her. When a young lord tries to take advantage of Finley, she fights back. And wins. But no normal Victorian girl has a darker side that makes her capable of knocking out a full-grown man with one punch …. Only Griffin King sees the magical darkness inside her that says she's special, says she's one of them. The orphaned duke takes her in from the gaslit streets against the wishes of his band of misfits: Emily, who has her own special abilities and an unrequited love for Sam, who is part robot; and Jasper, an American cowboy with a shadowy secret. Griffin's investigating a criminal called The Machinist, the mastermind behind several recent crimes by automatons. Finley thinks she can help - and finally be a part of something, finally fit in. But The Machinist wants to tear Griff's little company of strays apart, and it isn't long before trust is tested on all sides. At least Finley knows whose side she's on - even if it seems no one believes her. 

My Rating: 4.5 hearts

Thoughts on the Novel: The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross is the first book I’ve read that falls within the steampunk genre. I’ve always thought steampunk sounded fascinating, but The Girl in the Steel Corset confirmed this with its incorporation of modern day technology into a Victorian era in a way that seemed very realistic.

Right from the start, Cross managed to suck me into her story and kept me hooked. The Girl in the Steel Corset is told from the point-of-view of three characters: the Duke of Greythorne (aka Griffin), his best friend Sam (who I didn’t care for as much because he spent a large part of the story feeling betrayed by his friends and complaining to a stranger – there’s always a catch when strangers don’t seem to get bored of your whining, people!) and Finley (who I loved because she was independent and feisty). As a result, you get to know each of these characters’ stories and how they feel about each other and the others they’re living with.

There wasn’t a huge amount of romance in The Girl in the Steel Corset but there are already two love triangles in place. The first is the mini one between Sam, Emily – I love that Cross chose to make the most brilliant person in the book a girl who’s feminine and yet tinkers with machines – and Jasper.

The second love triangle is between Griffin, Finley and Jack. Though, sweet Griffin has the interesting ability to tap into the Aether, I normally tend to like the bad boys and this isn’t the exception in The Girl in the Steel Corset. Jack may not be as wealthy as Griffin or have mystical powers, but he is mysterious and does have a large influence among people. I loved the Cockney accent he adopts to pretend that he’s unrefined and poses no trouble even if others might find it annoying. What I really liked about both Griffin and Jack though was that they’re letting Finley choose who she wants to be with at a time when women had limited rights and freedom. Unfortunately, that just meant I was left craving a kiss or two. Hopefully, I’ll get that in the sequel.

A superb start to a brand new series I’m looking forward to, The Girl in the Steel Corset is released today by Harlequin Teen!
Comments About the Cover: I love the gorgeous cover! The dress is simply amazing and I love how the model – who I think looks a little old – seems like she’s going to climb the wall and show off her super-fast reflexes. The font and the background with faint gears also goes well with the foreground and reflects the genre. 

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

Monday, May 30, 2011

Review: Happy Birthday to Me by Brian Rowe

From Goodreads: Seventeen-year-old Cameron Martin has a huge problem: he’s aging a whole year of his life with each passing day! High school is hard enough; imagine rapidly aging from seventeen to seventy in a matter of weeks, with no logical explanation, and with prom, graduation, and the state championship basketball game all on the horizon. That’s what happens to Cameron, a popular pretty boy who's never had to face a day looking anything but perfect. All Cameron wants to do is go back to normal, but no one, not even the best doctors, can diagnose his condition. When he finds love with a mysterious young woman, however, he realizes his only hope for survival might be with the one person who started his condition in the first place ...

My Rating: 3 hearts

***Warning: There may be a few spoilers in my review.***

Thoughts on the Novel: Reading Brian Rowe’s Happy Birthday to Me reminded me of Alex Flinn’s Beastly, a novel I read several years ago. Both books have handsome boys as their protagonists who are then put under a spell to lose their beauty so that they can learn to treat others with respect and become less self-absorbed.

I don’t remember now how I felt about Kyle from Beastly, but I do know that I grew to like Cameron as a character. His change was believable, and he had a great voice in spite of a tendency to be a bit too descriptive with things.

I also liked learning that there is an actual medical condition where symptoms of aging appear at an early age. I’d never heard of Progeria syndrome so it was really interesting to read a bit about it.

What I didn’t like so much about Happy Birthday to Me was its rushed ending. Throughout most of the book, Cameron seems to think that he has some kind of a disease without a cure whereas I found it quite obvious that someone had cast a spell on him and knew exactly who that person was. Then, almost out of nowhere, this person admits what they did and tries to reverse the spell. It just made no sense to me nor was it explained why only this one seemingly ordinary person has magical powers.

Happy Birthday to Me was released in April 2011 by CreateSpace.  

Comments About the Cover: The cover is cute but I feel like it’s a bit too cheery considering the premise of the novel. 

This ebook was received from the author in exchange for an honest review.  

Friday, May 27, 2011

Review: Between Here and Forever by Elizabeth Scott

From Goodreads: Abby accepted that she can’t measure up to her beautiful, magnetic sister Tess a long time ago, and knows exactly what she is: Second best. Invisible. Until the accident. Now Tess is in a coma, and Abby’s life is on hold. It may have been hard living with Tess, but it's nothing compared to living without her. She's got a plan to bring Tess back though, involving the gorgeous and mysterious Eli, but then Abby learns something about Tess, something that was always there, but that she’d never seen. Abby is about to find out that truth isn't always what you think it is, and that life holds more than she ever thought it could ...

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: One of my favourite YA contemporary authors is Elizabeth Scott. So when I heard that her new novel Between Here and Forever was available on Galley Grab, I knew I had to read it. Unfortunately, Between Here and Forever didn’t captivate me as much as some of Scott’s other books like Stealing Heaven or Perfect You because I didn’t really like the main character of Abby.

Scott made Abby a girl with self-esteem issues – a problem that anybody can relate to. But, Abby got annoying after awhile since a large portion of the book is spent reading about her bemoan how much she’s a nobody or hates her sister, Tess, for being so perfect. On top of that, Abby kept misinterpreting compliments; and when it’s blatantly obvious that Eli likes her, Abby repeatedly tells him to wait until Tess wakes up because then he’ll fall in love with her like everyone else.

Despite getting fed up of Abby, I found Between Here and Forever to be a fast read that tackled themes like appearance vs. reality, sexuality and racism very well. Scott’s portrayal of OCD as a disorder was also very realistic because it lets the reader grasp just how much severe OCD can affect daily living.   

Between Here and Forever was released on May 24, 2011 by Simon Pulse.
Comments About the Cover: It’s cute. The flower reminds me of the cover of Scott’s Bloom, which is great because two characters from Bloom appear in Between Here and Forever. 

In exchange for an honest review, this ARC was received from the publisher (Simon and Schuster) for free via Galley Grab.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

In My Mailbox (17)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme held by The Story Siren.
I've been too lazy to do an IMM for the past couple of weeks so here's what I've gotten during that time.
For Review (via NetGalley): 
The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross (thanks to Harlequin Teen)
Spellbound by Cara Lynn Shultz (thanks to Harlequin Teen)

Divergent by Veronica Roth
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
Delirium by Lauren Oliver
The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong (thanks to Lena from Addicted 2 Novels)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Lauren Oliver and Veronica Roth on the Dystopian Tour in Toronto (and a Giveaway)

On Tuesday evening, I decided to skip my first day of the summer course I’m taking and go see Lauren Oliver and Veronica Roth at Indigo Yorkdale instead. Naturally, the TTC decided to be as slow as usual when I have something important and made me late by fifteen minutes to the event. (And here I could do a mini post about the suckiness of the TTC, how it always screws me over especially during exam time, and the irony of it being nicknamed the Rocket. But I won’t.)

Pic courtesy of Liz who snagged a seat right at the front.
So, when I finally got to Chapters Yorkdale, all the seats were already taken obviously and Lauren and Veronica were in mid-conversation with Ajay Fry, the host of InnerSPACE. Since there was a large group of people standing at the back however, I squeezed past them – the perk of being short – so I could see.

After Ajay finished asking Lauren and Veronica questions, it was the audience’s turn. Someone asked them how they felt about ebooks, and both agreed that they were cool with it as long as stories continued to be told somehow. Like me though, Veronica prefers books because she enjoys the experience of turning pages. Lauren on the other hand tends to buy ebooks and if she really likes what she reads, then she goes out and buys an actual copy.
Pic of Lauren and Veronica signing books while I was waiting in line. I found out today that the girl on the left is Mel from He Followed Me Home.
Afterwards, it was time to get our books signed. I was the last person (and second last later on) in line and while waiting, I jumped into a conversation with the person ahead of me. She had been flown in from a Chapters in Nova Scotia for being so good at her job and introduced me and Liz from Midnight Bloom Reads to Charidy from HarperCollins’s marketing department.

Speaking of Liz, I recognized her from pictures and while she was trying to get her mom, I kind of surprised her with a “Liz!” I’m sure I scared her for a couple of seconds since she had no idea how I looked (though we had decided to meet up). Liz and her mom were really nice and we chatted for a bit before she left.

What Lauren signed in my copy of Delirium.
Eventually, I made it to the front to meet Lauren and Veronica. Lauren messed up spelling my name (which totally wasn’t her fault because the sticky with my name was spelled wrong) so I got another copy of Before I Fall and Delirium to get signed. Note to self: Be more observant because that incident resulted in two copies not being able to be bought by someone. Lauren was super sweet about it and told me not to feel guilty.

Anyway, a big thanks to Lauren and Veronica (who are as terrific as they seem) for making three stops in Ontario and to HarperCollins for bringing these awesome ladies here. Thanks also to Indigo Yorkdale for hosting such a great event.


For my blog followers, I also managed to get a copy of Delirium signed to give away.   

So, read the rules below, and then fill out this FORM:
  1. This giveaway is US/Canada only. International entries are welcome if you are willing to cover shipping costs.  
  2. You must be a follower to enter.
  3. You must be over the age of 13.
  4. This giveaway will end on June 19, 2011 at 11:59 PM.
  5. Make sure your entries are tallied correctly.

Review: Mercy by Rebecca Lim

From Goodreads: There's something very wrong with me. I can't remember who I am or how old I am, or even how I got here. All I know is that when I wake up, I could be any one. It is always this way. There's nothing I can keep with me that will stay. It's made me adaptable. I must always re-establish ties. I must tread carefully or give myself away. I must survive. 
Mercy doesn't realize it yet, but as she journeys into the darkest places of the human soul, she discovers that she is one of the celestial host exiled with fallen angel, Lucifer. Now she must atone for taking his side. To find her own way back to heaven, Mercy must help a series of humans in crisis and keep the unwary from getting caught up in the games that angels play. Ultimately she must choose between her immortal companion, Lucifer, and a human boy who risks everything for her love.

My Rating: 3 hearts

Thoughts on the Novel: I know I normally write formal reviews but writing a review for Rebecca Lim's Mercy was proving to be a challenge because my thoughts about it were just so scattered. So, I figured I'd just jot down what I thought were the pros and cons of the novel.

  • The writing was engaging.
  • I love reading about angels and Mercy offers something new: an angel inhabiting people’s bodies.
  • When Mercy inhabits the body of Carmen, the people she is boarding with are still trying to deal with the kidnapping of their daughter from her bedroom two years ago. Everyone, including Mr. and Mrs. Daley, believe Lauren is dead. Her brother, Ryan, however believes she is still alive and is determined to find where Lauren has been hidden. The mystery of the kidnapping was interesting and I really had no idea who the kidnapper was.
  • The synopsis tells too much, and everything important that I’ve gleaned comes from it. For example, it mentions that Mercy is an angel but this was never explicitly stated in the novel.
  • I didn’t connect emotionally to the character of Mercy.
  • Although the synopsis hints at a love triangle, there was hardly any romance in the book.
  • The most frustrating aspect about Mercy was that there were still so many questions left unanswered by the end of the book. For example:
    • Who is Luc (I’m assuming it’s short for Lucifer) and why does he only appear to Mercy in her dreams?
    • Who are the Eight that are trying to kill Mercy?
    • Why does Mercy have to inhabit people’s bodies and is she the only angel doing so?

Mercy was released by Hyperion Book CH on May 17, 2011.
Comments about the Cover: The girl is way too pretty to be Carmen but I like how the angel wings are see-through since it's one way to signify that Carmen is just a host body for Mercy.

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

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Review: Raw Blue by Kirsty Eagar

From Back Cover: Carly has dropped out of uni to spend her days surfing and her nights working as a cook in a Manly cafe. Surfing is the one thing she loves doing ... and the only thing that helps her stop thinking about what happened two years ago at schoolies week. But when Carly meets Ryan, a local at the break, she has to decide. Will she let the past bury her? Or can she let go of her anger and shame, and find the courage to be happy?

My Rating: 5 hearts

Thoughts on the Novel: Raw Blue by Kirsty Eagar is an emotional and powerful novel that explores what happens to the victim in the aftermath of rape. Carly is a girl who is furious at the world and has isolated herself from others. She is haunted and ashamed by what happened to her, and her only solace is surfing. At first, it was slightly hard to connect with Carly because you didn’t know what exactly happened to her (since Eagar purposely kept it vague) and because it felt as if she had managed to create a bubble for herself from the reader too. Nonetheless, it becomes impossible not to fall in love with Carly over time and want to protect her from anything bad ever happening.

I also loved Eagar’s secondary characters because they weren’t just some stock characters. They felt real, had their own interesting pasts and were dealing with their own problems. At twenty-six, Ryan is a few years older than Carly and has been to jail. He may not be the prototypical YA love interest, but he was perfect in my eyes. Ryan acknowledges that everyone has issues and was willing to build a relationship slowly with Carly on her own terms – being understanding with her mood changes, telling her when he isn't going to be in town and giving her space when she needs it. Who needs a Prince Charming when you can have a guy like Ryan?! Hannah and Danny were awesome characters as well, and I loved how they managed to integrate themselves unexpectedly into Carly’s life.

Eagar’s writing was a joy to read. It was simple and yet so touching. The addition of Aussie and surfing slang really gave the book an Australian feel, and the passages describing the ocean and its waves allows the reader to understand Carly’s love affair with the ocean and the allure of surfing.

A novel I’m going to recommend to anybody and everybody, Raw Blue will leave readers with a lasting impression and the indelible gift of hope.

Raw Blue was released by Penguin Books Australia in June 2009.

Comments About the Cover: I’m not sure if I’d pick up Raw Blue just from the cover because it looks a little too emo-ish for me. After having read the book though, I think it goes very well since the ocean and a surfer are present in the background and a girl with long hair covering her face and shielding herself from anyone’s gaze is in the foreground.

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from Linds at bibliophile brouhaha. 

Monday, May 16, 2011

Author Interview: Darby Karchut

Today, I'd like to welcome Darby Karchut, the author of Griffin Rising to my blog.

A bit about Darby (as quoted from Goodreads): All her life, the archetypal hero and his journey have enthralled Darby Karchut. A native of New Mexico, Darby grew up in a family that venerated books and she spent her childhood devouring one fantasy novel after another. Fascinated by mythologies from around the world, she attended the University of New Mexico, graduating with a degree in anthropology. After moving to Colorado, she then earned a Master’s in education and became a social studies teacher. Drawing from her extensive knowledge of world cultures, she blends ancient myths with modern urban life to write stories that relate to young teens today. Griffin Rising is her first novel. She is currently working on the sequel, Griffin's Fire. 

How did you come up with the idea for Griffin Rising?
One day, in the summer of 2009, I was browsing in my favorite bookstore and discovered a book about legends from the Middle Ages. Obsessed with all things medieval, I thumbed through it and came across a short paragraph that described a lowly caste of guardian angels that were said to control the ancient elements of Earth, Fire, Wind and Water. Not being particularly interested in angels, I put the book back and forgot all about it.
A few days later, while running the trails in the foothills near my home, the idea of writing a story about clandestine warrior-angels, who live among us while training their young apprentices, just roared up behind me and slammed into my head. Like an avalanche, you might say. And thus Griffin, Basil, and all the other Terrae Angeli were born. One book blogger referred to my book as Jedi Apprentice meets Touched by an Angel. I couldn’t have said it better myself. 

What was the journey to publication like for you and how did you celebrate when you found out that Griffin Rising was going to be published? 
Okay, this is the weird part. I never wanted to be a writer. I have never really written anything until I wrote Griffin Rising. But I read all the time. In all genres, but especially young adult. 
But Griffin kept nagging me to write his story, so on July 17, 2009, I jotted some notes down in a spiral notebook (which I still have). A few days later, I started writing. I wrote and re-wrote and re-wrote it for months. By November of that year, I was finished with the first draft. Then I spent a few more months polishing it. Revising is my favorite part of the whole process – I live to tweak! In February of 2010, I started submitting it. After about 70 rejections, I changed the title, improved my query letter, and then submitted it about 30 more times. 
At that point, requests for full manuscripts really started popping up. (I’m convinced it was the title change). In April, Twilight Times Books pulled it from the slush pile, and then in June, offered me a contract.
So from first sentence to signed contract: eleven months. My head is still spinning. But along the way, I spent hours each day studying not only how to write, but how the publishing industry works. Authors need to know both sides of that coin.
On the day I sold my book, I celebrated in typical Karchut fashion: I high-fived my husband, opened up my laptop, and started working on book two.  

The Kellsfarne manuscript mentions the four different ranks of Terrae Angeli: Sage, Guardian, Mentor and Tiro. What differs between each rank and how do you move up? 
Oh, I’m glad you asked about the Kellsfarne Manuscript. It is one of my favorite aspects of the book’s historical background!
I created the Kellsfarne so that the Terrae Angeli will have a hierarchy similar to the celestial angels, but with their own unique names and duties.
Tiros are apprentices – like a squire to a knight. (Tiro is Latin for young soldier or recruit). Mentors are the Knights. They not only train their apprentices, they are also the most active in saving and guarding the mortals around them. Guardians are mentors who no longer train apprentices. They are more powerful than Mentors and act as liaisons between Flight Command as well as advisors for the Mentor/Tiro teams out in the field. Sages are very highest level of the Terrae Angeli. I’m going to keep their nature and powers under wraps for now.
To emphasize the antiquity of the Terrae Angeli, the Kellsfarne Manuscript’s title is a blend of the Book of Kells and the early Irish monastery of Lindisfarne. 
As for moving up in rank, it is based on choice first and then ability. Many Mentors want to become Guardians, but some, like Basil, choose to remain Mentors because they would rather be actively training Tiros as well as being out in the field. It is similar to the military in a lot of ways. 

Do the Terrae Angeli and the celestial angels ever come into contact with each other?
Rarely, but it does happen.

Besides angels, what other paranormal creatures do you like reading about? 
I enjoy all of them, but right now I am fascinated by the Tuatha De Danaan who are mythical Irish warriors. They are the legend behind what we know as the Fey. 

I know you're busy working on Griffin's Fire, the sequel for Griffin Rising. Can you give us a summary/hints about what to expect? 
* SPOILER ALERT *Griffin’s Fire will be a bit darker and a bit more intense. Here’s a blurb about it: Struggling to adjust to life as a teen mortal, ex-angel Griffin enrolls in high school, which quickly proves to be a battleground. And to make matters worse, his Mentor, Basil, has been ordered to take on a new apprentice, the gifted and egotistical seventeen-year-old Sergei, who is determined to make Griffin’s life a nightmare. But secrets, even kept for the best of reasons, can break hearts and Griffin is forced to make a choice that could cost him Basil’s trust and Katie's love
A big thanks to Darby for taking the time to answer my questions!

Darby can be found on: [her website] [Goodreads]
Griffin Rising can be bought from: [Amazon] [Barnes and Noble]

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Review: Griffin Rising by Darby Karchut

From Back Cover: Armed with the power to control the ancient elements of Earth and Fire, sixteen-year-old Griffin is determined to complete his apprenticeship and rise to the rank of Terrae Angeli. But first, he must overcome a brutal past if he is to survive in this world. Will the perseverance of his mentor and the love of a mortal girl give Griffin the courage he needs to face the monster still haunting him?

My Rating: 4 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Griffin Rising by Darby Karchut has its own unique take on the mythology surrounding angels, and introduces readers to the Terrae Angeli, a race of angels with free will that live on earth, control the elements and guard humans. Despite the fact that the story involves angels, the ability of the Terrae Angeli to have agency allows their actions to be similar to those of humans and thus, the novel becomes one of a boy learning to gain self-confidence, healing from an abusive past and falling in love.

What I particularly loved about Griffin Rising was the strong characterization and prominent presence of parental figures. Too often, YA novels lack parents or feature dysfunctional families, but that isn’t the case in Griffin Rising. Through flashbacks and journal entries, the reader can see how Basil helps Griffin transform from a boy terrified of his Mentor to one who is spunky and easily cracks jokes. Karchut does a great job developing the bond between Basil and Griffin from Mentor-Tiro to that resembling father-son, and it is this relationship that is the best part of the story. Karchut though also makes Mr. and Mrs. Heflin, the parents of Griffin’s girlfriend Katie, secondary characters, and so readers get to see them act like average parents and be protective of Katie, set a curfew for her and make her do chores.

A solid debut, I’m looking forward to learning more about Basil’s past and seeing what happens next to Griffin in Griffin’s Fire, the sequel to Griffin Rising.     

Griffin Rising will be released by Twilight Time Books on June 28, 2011.

Comments About the Cover: I like the simplicity and the use of the colours brown and orange in the cover because Griffin is an angel who controls the elements of earth and fire. Even though I think it looks interesting, I’m not sure what the symbol – I know the creature is a gryphon – is supposed to mean however.  

This ARC was received from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Review: Die For Me by Amy Plum

From Goodreads: My life had always been blissfully, wonderfully normal. But it only took one moment to change everything. Suddenly, my sister, Georgia, and I were orphans. We put our lives into storage and moved to Paris to live with my grandparents. And I knew my shattered heart, my shattered life, would never feel normal again. Then I met Vincent. Mysterious, sexy, and unnervingly charming, Vincent Delacroix appeared out of nowhere and swept me off my feet. Just like that, I was in danger of losing my heart all over again. But I was ready to let it happen.Of course, nothing is ever that easy. Because Vincent is no normal human. He has a terrifying destiny, one that puts his life at risk every day. He also has enemies . . . immortal, murderous enemies who are determined to destroy him and all of his kind. While I'm fighting to piece together the remnants of my life, can I risk putting my heart- as well as my life and my family's - in jeopardy for a chance at love?

My Rating: 5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Amy Plum’s enthralling debut novel, Die For Me, begins the start of a new series that introduces readers to undead beings that don’t seem to have been covered by the paranormal genre yet. The mythology Plum constructs around the revenants is woven carefully throughout the book, allowing readers to learn more about the revenants while still being engaged by the overall storyline. 

The romance between Kate and Vincent is believable and completely swoonworthy. What I loved about Die For Me was that although Kate finds Vincent attractive, she doesn’t automatically fall in love with him. They have coffee and go out for dates in order to get to know each other better, which is why readers will eagerly be anticipating that first kiss (and it’s so worth it). 

I also found Kate to be a highly relatable protagonist. Kate freaks out like a normal person when she sees Vincent in his dormant state, and when Kate feels like having a supernatural boyfriend is too much to handle, Plum lets Kate protect her heart and break up with Vincent. 

The secondary characters are well-developed as well. I especially loved reading about the interactions of the revenants with each other and Kate. Their easy bantering and camaraderie really did feel as if they had known each other for decades. 

In addition, Plum does a wonderful job with the setting in Die For Me. Most people are familiar with the major tourist attractions of Paris, but for those of us who have never been there, Plum makes it really easy to picture in your mind’s eye the atmosphere of Paris and all the places that Kate visits. 

A refreshing addition to the paranormal genre, Die For Me is released by HarperTeen today! 

Comments About the Cover: The cover is gorgeous! I love the girl’s red dress, and I like that she’s facing away from the reader to stare at Paris. The sepia colour of the city gives it an old world feel and the red background is not only the symbolic colour of love, but makes the white font stand out.   

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

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Review: Girl Wonder by Alexa Martin

From Goodreads: As if transferring senior year weren't hard enough, Charlotte Locke has been bumped to lower level classes at her new school. With no friends, a terrible math SAT score, and looming college application deadlines, the future is starting to seem like an oncoming train for which she has no ticket. Then Amanda enters her orbit like a hot-pink meteor, offering Charlotte a ticket to something else: popularity. Amanda is fearless, beautiful, brilliant, and rich. As her new side kick, Charlotte is brought into the elite clique of the debate team - and closer to Neal, Amanda's equally brilliant friend and the most perfect boy Charlotte has ever seen. But just when senior year is looking up, Charlotte’s life starts to crumble. The more things heat up between Charlotte and Neal, the more Neal wants to hide their relationship. Is he ashamed? Meanwhile, Amanda is starting to act strangely competitive, and she's keeping a secret Charlotte doesn't want to know. Talented newcomer Alexa Martin delivers a poignant story of first love, jealousy and friendship, where the ups and downs of senior year have never been so complicated. What else can Charlotte do but throw her hands up and ride?

My Rating: 3.5 hearts

Thoughts on the Novel: Girl Wonder by Alexa Martin is a fast-paced debut exploring themes like friendship, family, sex and drugs through the eyes of a girl trying to figure out who she is and her place in the world. With a father who is a famous author, a mother that is a professor and a genius younger brother, Charlotte feels like a misfit because she has dyscalculia. When her family moves and Charlotte is forced to go to public school because of her learning disability, Charlotte meets Amanda and is thrilled when the popular Amanda begins to take an interest in her. Unfortunately, the rise to popularity can often require a steep price to be paid.   

While I may not have liked Charlotte as a character initially because of her shallowness (e.g. she chooses not to be friends with a girl she considers to be a nobody), Martin’s portrayal of Charlotte as a teen was very realistic. It can be incredibly hard to resist peer pressure and not make stupid decisions if you desperately want to fit in and aren’t self-confident. Though I found the ending to be underdeveloped, I liked that by the end of the story, Charlotte acknowledges that many of her problems stemmed from the fact that she preferred beauty over substance, and learns from her mistakes to become a stronger character. 

Girl Wonder was released by Hyperion Book CH on May 3, 2011. 

Comments About the Cover: The cover is actually what caught my eye because although the girl is facing away from you, she seems self-assured based on her pose and bright pink hair. It makes you want to know more about her, and that’s exactly the vibe that Amanda conveys.  

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

Monday, May 02, 2011

Review: My Sparkling Misfortune by Laura Lond

From Goodreads: Lord Arkus of Blackriver Castle readily admits that he is a villain and sees no reason why it should stop him from being the protagonist of this book. After all, Prince Kellemar, an aspiring hero, has defeated him in a rather questionable way. Bent on revenge, Arkus attempts to capture a powerful evil spirit who would make him nearly invincible, but a last-minute mistake leaves him with a sparkling instead - a goody-goody spirit that helps heroes, watches over little children, and messes up villains' plans. Bound to Lord Arkus for five years of service and sworn to act in his best interests, the sparkling is not easy to get rid of, and of course his understanding of best interests is quite different from what Lord Arkus has in mind.

My Rating: 5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: My Sparkling Misfortune is a humorous middle grade novel written by Laura Lond that will appeal to anyone looking for a lively fantasy read. The story is narrated by Lord Arkus, a villain, who at the beginning of the book is being haunted by a monster and has been betrayed by Prince Kellemar, a man who wants to become a hero. Determined to get revenge on the prince, Arkus decides to try and catch a gormack (an evil spirit). Unfortunately, he manages to capture a sparkling (a good spirit) named Tulip instead. With no use for a sparkling, Arkus releases Tulip from his servitude, but when Tulip proves his usefulness, Arkus changes his mind and chooses to keep Tulip (whom he calls Jarvi because no servant of Arkus would have a name like Tulip).

Jarvi is so mischievous and made me want my own sparkling! I loved the way he would trick Arkus into doing heroic things or send Arkus into bursts of anger that made Arkus throw things at him.

Even though Arkus proclaims he’s a villain, it’s impossible not to fall in love with him. One can’t help but chuckle as Arkus keeps trying to convince himself, Jarvi and the reader that he really is a villain and not a hero.

In spite of its lighthearted tone, My Sparkling Misfortune does manage to convey an important lesson about how easy it can be to categorize people and expect them to act a certain way without knowing them very well. Just like the world isn’t divided into “good” and “bad” people, sometimes a hero may do something non-heroic or a villain may turn out to have some scruples. 

My Sparkling Misfortune was released by Dream Books LLC in April 2010.

Comments About the Cover: By depicting Arkus, Jarvi, a white tower and the monster haunting Arkus, the cover does a great job reflecting the fact that My Sparkling Misfortune is a fantasy novel aimed at an MG audience.   

This ebook was received from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

In My Mailbox (16)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme held by The Story Siren.
I'm back! I've finally finished my exams and can start blogging again :) I've also been slacking off on leaving comments I'll have more time to do that too. Anyway, I haven't done an IMM for a few weeks so here's what I've gotten during that time.
For Review: 
Happy Birthday to Me by Brian Rowe (thanks to Brian Rowe)
Wild Child by Mike Wells (thanks to Mike Wells)
Between by Cyndi Tefft (thanks to Cyndi Tefft)
Codename: Dancer by Amanda Brice (thanks to Amanda Brice)
Raw Blue by Kirsty Eagar (thanks to Linds from bibliophile brouhaha)

Wake Unto Me by Lisa Cach
ARC of Afterlife by Claudia Gray (thanks to Liz from Midnight Bloom Reads)