Thursday, June 30, 2011

Review: Spellbound by Cara Lynn Shultz

From Goodreads: Life hasn't been easy on sixteen-year-old Emma Conner, so a new start in New York may be just the change she needs. But the posh Upper East Side prep school she has to attend? Not so much. Friendly faces are few and far between, except for one that she's irresistibly drawn to - Brendan Salinger, the guy with the rock-star good looks and the richest kid in school, who might just be her very own white knight. But even when Brendan inexplicably turns cold, Emma can't stop staring. Ever since she laid eyes on him, strange things have been happening. Streetlamps go out wherever she walks, and Emma's been having the oddest dreams: visions of herself in past lives - visions that warn her to stay away from Brendan. Or else.

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: I requested Cara Lynn Shultz’s Spellbound on a whim, not knowing anything about it but captivated by its unique cover. While reading the book, I thought at first that I wouldn’t like it because Spellbound contains a bunch of clich├ęs such as the gay best friend, the great looking guy, the mean girl threatened by the presence of a new girl, etc. So, it was a little unexpected that I actually ended up enjoying the novel.

Emma was a great protagonist and it was easy to root for her. Despite having a difficult life, she’s not moping about it. Rather, she manages to be strong and continues to fight for what she wants, even standing up to bullies in the process.

I also liked Emma’s relationship with hot, rich and adorable Brendan (where can I get a guy like this?). Normally, I’m not a fan of instant love but the romance in this case worked because even though the two are soulmates, Shultz still took the time to develop Emma and Brendan’s relationship at a reasonable pace. I felt however that in the latter half of Spellbound, the focus on the romance sort of overshadowed the paranormal aspects of the book like reincarnation and magic.  

A book that starts off slowly but ends up having a heart pounding climax, Spellbound was released by Harlequin Teen on June 28, 2011.

Comments About the Cover: I love that a scene from the book was captured in such an enchanting way. The girl running, the bridge extending into the background and the shards of glass that seem to fly out at you all stand out against the black background and beg the reader to pick the up book.  

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

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Canada Day Blog Hop


The Canada Day Blog Hop is being hosted by Aislynn from Knit, Purl, Stitch...Read and Cook and Chrystal from Snowdrop Dreams of Books.

For the hop, I'll be giving away a copy of either:
  

OR
 

Rules:
  1. This giveaway is open internationally as long as The Book Depository ships to your country. Click here to see the list of countries to which shipping is available. 
  2. You must be over the age of 13.  
  3. You have to be a follower to enter.
  4. This giveaway will end on July 2 at 11:59 PM EST.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Review: Legacy by Cayla Kluver

From Goodreads: The first boy disappeared on the day of his birth, on a night when the pale yellow moon of the nighttime sky turned red and bathed the heavens in the ghastly color of blood, on the same night the Kingdom of Cokyri abruptly ceased its merciless attack. Across the land of Hytanica, under the shadow of the crimson moon, infant boys continued to vanish. Not until the blood had faded from the sky did the disappearances stop and the bodies of the murdered infants were found outside the gates of the city, a final word from the greatest enemy Hytanica had ever known. For the next sixteen years, peace reigned, but one mystery remained unsolved. The Cokyrians had abducted forty-nine newborns, but returned only forty-eight bodies.Now, as seventeen-year-old Princess Alera of Hytanica is besieged from all sides by suitors vying for the Throne, a teenage Cokyrian boy, Narian, is encountered within the walls of her Kingdom, a boy who will show Alera a world where women serve a purpose and not just a husband. As Narian helps Alera find her voice, she struggles against an arranged marriage that will shatter the life she has scarcely begun to live. And when Narian's shocking past is uncovered, and war with Cokyri looms once more, he must fight to defy a fate ordained at his birth. 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts

Thoughts on the Novel: I have a weakness for princess stories and with a gorgeous cover like that on Cayla Kluver’s Legacy; I knew I had to read the book. The writing was nicely paced and with elements of action, duty, betrayal, love and family, the story kept me engaged until the end.

One of the things I noted though was that there is a lot of description about the food, setting, clothes, etc. As someone who is bad at visualization, this made it easier for me to imagine stuff, but at times even I found all the descriptive passages bothersome.

In terms of the characters, I felt like I only knew them in a superficial way. Alera, as crown princess, wishes that she could have more input but is hindered by her patriarchal society. She spends little time with her mother so readers don’t really get to know the queen, and although Alera and her sister Miranna are close, Miranna seemed friendly but kind of shallow to me. As for Alera’s dad, I disliked him because he was putting immense pressure on his daughter to marry Steldor just because he wants to abdicate.

While Alera doesn’t like Steldor as a person, she thinks he is handsome and so in a way there is a love triangle. Her romance with Narian – he and Alera’s bodyguard London were the two people I thought were really interesting – is sweet and I liked that they got to know each other a little bit before hooking up. I’m interested to see what’s going to happen with Alera’s (romantic) life considering the ending.

Legacy is a little unpolished but it’s obvious that Kluver is talented. With some editing, I think the Legacy series has the potential to become great.

Legacy is released by Harlequin Teen today! 

Comments About the Cover: The cover reminds me of The Luxe series, which also had amazing covers. I love the colour scheme, the choice of the font, the pose and am a big fan of extravagant dresses being worn by the cover model.

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

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Review: Bumped by Megan McCafferty

From Back Cover: When a virus makes everyone over the age of eighteen infertile, would-be parents pay teen girls to conceive and give birth to their children, making teens the most prized members of society. Sixteen year-old identical twins Melody and Harmony were separated at birth and have never met until the day Harmony shows up on Melody’s doorstep. Until now, the twins have followed completely opposite paths. Melody has scored an enviable conception contract with a couple called the Jaydens. While they are searching for the perfect partner for Melody to bump with, she is fighting her attraction to her best friend, Zen, who is way too short for the job. Harmony has spent her whole life in Goodside, a religious community, preparing to be a wife and mother. She believes her calling is to convince Melody that pregging for profit is a sin. But Harmony has secrets of her own that she is running from. When Melody is finally matched with the world-famous, genetically flawless Jondoe, both girls’ lives are changed forever. A case of mistaken identity takes them on a journey neither could have ever imagined, one that makes Melody and Harmony realize they have so much more than just DNA in common.  

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Having taken an anthropology class dealing with global health and issues like IVF and surrogacy, I knew I would find the subject matter covered by Megan McCafferty’s Bumped to be personally relevant. I’d also been expecting from previous reviews I’ve read that it would be hard to get into Bumped because of the terminology it uses. Those reviews were right. Even as I got more comfortable with the vocabulary, I could never get fully immersed into the story because words to which I didn’t know the meaning of would crop up, disrupting the flow of the story. Oh, and what was up with the use of the word ‘rilly’ instead of ‘really?’ It was rilly annoying to read.

The other thing that bothered me about Bumped was the character of Harmony. I have no problems with characters being religious, but Harmony was just so preachy! Any sympathy I could dredge up for her as I began to see that she was struggling to actually believe in and follow the Church’s ideals would vanish with her repeated insistence to save Melody’s soul and actions I didn’t support.

Luckily, every alternating chapter in Bumped is told from Melody’s point-of-view and so I only had to tolerate Harmony’s narrations for half the book. Adopted by economics professors, Melody appears to be living the perfect life except that she’s a Surrogette who is still not pregnant and has doubts about getting bumped after serving as a peer birthcoach for her best friend and watching her breakdown.

Despite my gripes with Bumped, I thought McCafferty wrote a very thought provoking novel with an original plot. While Bumped examines the issue of teenage pregnancy, it does so in a context where the Human Progressive Sterility Virus (HPSV) has left those above the age of eighteen infertile, making teens the most important members of the planet. Reproduction is commercialized and teens are expected to have sex for breeding rather than love. In exchange for giving up their babies, amateurs (i.e. those who choose their sexual partner and bump) hope to make an adequate amount of money. Reproductive Professionals (better known as RePros) on the other hand sign a contract with a RePro Rep, are matched with a family who then pick a sperm donor – here the issue of eugenics arises – and the two reproaestheticals bump. In Melody case, a pregnancy will result in her college tuition being fully covered along with her getting a car, tummy trim and a huge sum of money. On top of that, pregnancies create new members for society, making bumping kind of a patriotic duty. In Bumped then, McCafferty constructs a society that has exploited its teenage population by making bumping difficult to resist while exploring how hard it can be to go against the norm and make your own choices.

Bumped was released in April 2011 by Balzer + Bray.

Comments About the Cover: I think the cover is super cute. Most covers tend to have bright colours or feature people so the big egg and the monochromatic look make Bumped stand out and hard to forget. 

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

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Review: The Liar Society by Lisa & Laura Roecker

From Goodreads: Kate Lowry didn't think dead best friends could send e-mails. But when she gets an e-mail from Grace, she’s not so sure.

To: KateLowry@pemberlybrown.edu
Sent: Sun 9/14 11:59 PM
From: GraceLee@pemberlybrown.edu
Subject: (no subject)

Kate, I'm here ... sort of. Find Cameron. He knows. I shouldn't be writing. Don't tell. They'll hurt you.

Now Kate has no choice but to prove once and for all that Grace’s death was more than just a tragic accident. But secrets haunt the halls of her elite private school. Secrets people will do anything to protect. Even if it means getting rid of the girl trying to solve a murder ...

My Rating: 4 hearts

Thoughts on the Novel: It’s been a long time – probably a decade at least – since I read a mystery because the last ones I seem to remember reading are those from the Nancy Drew series. So, it’s a good thing that sisters Lisa and Laura Roecker’s debut, The Liar Society, reminded me how entertaining sleuthing with a fictional character can be rather than turning out to be a disappointment.

The Roeckers’ writing was so much fun to read even when events in The Liar Society took a darker turn. Much like Kate, I didn’t trust anybody and was as confused as her by the mystery behind Grace’s death. The Roeckers even had me wondering if Grace’s ghost would suddenly show up! Luckily, there is a reasonable explanation for Grace’s emails and the book never delved into the paranormal realm.

Kate was a wonderful main character who was spunky and smart. She knew when she needed backup and wasn't above accepting help. Seth, Kate’s neighbour, however was my favourite character because of his conspiracy theories, huge crush on Kate, and general nerdiness. In real life, I’d probably find Seth annoying; but in The Liar Society, I just wanted him to be Kate’s shadow so I could laugh at their interactions.

For those looking for a break from reading paranormal/dystopian/whatever your preferred genre, The Liar Society is a good choice as a book to pick up. Be warned though, while the mystery of how Grace died is wrapped up, the ending opens up a new can of worms that will leave you wanting the sequel.

The Liar Society was released by Sourcebooks Fire in March 2011. 

Comments About the Cover: Readers got to vote on the cover of The Liar Society and I voted for this one. The pink hair, pearls and pose just make the model look so sassy!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Review: Dark Mirror by M.J. Putney

From Back Cover: As the youngest daughter of the Earl and Countess of Fairmount, Lady Victoria "Tory" Mansfield is destined for a charmed life of status and wealth. The envy of many young girls, Tory knows she is lucky which is why she goes to great lengths to hide her special talent ... magic. If her powers were exposed, it could strip her of her position and disgrace her family forever. Which is exactly what happens when a shocking accident forces Tory to reveal her magic, and she is immediately exiled to Lackland Abbey, a reform school for other young men and women in her unique position. What lies ahead is a strange and wonderful world where Tory will learn that it is not her social standing or her family's wealth, but destiny and magic, true love and friendship, and courage and strength that determine her real worth as a young woman. 

My Rating: 3 hearts

Thoughts on the Novel: With elements of time travel and magic, Dark Mirror, the YA debut of M. J. Putney, is a novel with an interesting plot but one that fell short of its potential because of a lack of character development and a rushed romance.

In the late 17th century, the aristocracy decides to ban magic in the nobility so that those with magic in future generations are treated as social outcasts. Unsurprisingly, when Tory discovers that she has magical abilities, she is horrified and realizes that she must keep this part of herself hidden. However, when Tory is the only one who can save her nephew, she decides to do so at the risk of exposing herself as a mage. As a result, Tory is sent to Lackland Abbey, a reform school meant to cure young aristocrats of magic.

At Lackland, Tory meets not only students who want to be cured so that they can go home but also those who embrace their magic in spite of what society says. It is at Lackland that Tory must choose whether she wants to be cured like the majority of students or join a group known as the Irregulars who hone their skills underground so that they can defend England one day against Napoleon in case of an invasion.

While I thought Tory was pretty courageous and admired her resolve, I never felt like I connected with her as a character. The same can be said for all the secondary characters as well. In addition, Putney built up the romance a little too quickly for me. Tory is attracted to Allarde after spotting him through a hole in a wall, and it just so happens that both feel a connection between themselves the first time they actually meet. For me, it just felt like another case of love at first sight.

Dark Mirror was released in March 2011 by St. Martin’s Griffin.

Comments About the Cover: The cover is pretty and I like the use of darker colours to give it a mysterious feel. Also, the clothing reflects both time periods – 1803 and 1940 (which is the future that Tory travels to) – well. 

This book was received for free through Goodreads First Reads.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

In My Mailbox (18)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme held by The Story Siren. 
For Review: 
Legacy by Cayla Kluver (thanks to Harlequin Teen via NetGalley)
Bumped by Megan McCafferty (thanks to HarperCollinsCanada)
Graveminder by Melissa Marr (thanks to HarperCollinsCanada)
Supernaturally by Kiersten White (thanks to HarperCollinsCanada) 

Bought:
Illegal by Bettina Restrepo
The Sweetest Thing by Christina Mandelski

A huge thanks to Shannon from HarperCollinsCA for sending me ARCs of Bumped, Graveminder and Supernaturally.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Review: Wild Child by Mike Wells

From Goodreads: Briana Fox is the wildest girl in school. She and Kyle have been close for a long time...almost lovers. Kyle is afraid that if he pushes her, he'll have his heart broken and lose his best friend. When Briana discovers a mysterious "power drug" in a cave, two government agents are desperate to find the source and turn Briana into a human experiment. Will Kyle risk everything to protect his love? 

My Rating: 3 hearts  

Thoughts on the Novel: Wild Child by Mike Wells is a short – it’s only about 50 pages – but well-written and suspenseful story told from the perspective of Kyle. After a boating accident that should have somehow left his best friend Briana dead, Briana tells Kyle that she is only alive thanks to some mysterious green water that she managed to drink. Briana then takes Kyle to the cave where she found the water and Kyle takes a sample of it to give to his dad, a chemical engineer. Unfortunately, the water’s effects begin to wear off the next day and Briana and Kyle have to head back to the cave so that Briana can drink more of the water. Soon, the government finds out about their discovery, and Kyle must make a decision about what’s best for everybody involved. For such a short story, Wells does a good job showing off the personalities of both Kyle and Briana and creating a completely unpredictable – albeit abrupt – ending.   

Wild Child was published in March 2011. 

Comments About the Cover: Briana’s expression freaks me out even though it goes very well with the story. The mysterious green water is almost like a drug and makes her capable of doing strange things.  

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

Monday, June 06, 2011

Review: Hereafter by Tara Hudson

From Goodreads: Can there truly be love after death? Drifting in the dark waters of a mysterious river, the only thing Amelia knows for sure is that she's dead. With no recollection of her past life - or her actual death - she's trapped alone in a nightmarish existence. All of this changes when she tries to rescue a boy, Joshua, from drowning in her river. As a ghost, she can do nothing but will him to live. Yet in an unforgettable moment of connection, she helps him survive. Amelia and Joshua grow ever closer as they begin to uncover the strange circumstances of her death and the secrets of the dark river that held her captive for so long. But even while they struggle to keep their bond hidden from the living world, a frightening spirit named Eli is doing everything in his power to destroy their newfound happiness and drag Amelia back into the ghost world ... forever.

My Rating: 3 hearts

Thoughts on the Novel: I’ve been vacillating back and forth between how I feel about Hereafter, the debut novel of Tara Hudson, and I still can’t seem to make up my mind. So, I figured it was time to do another pros and cons list rather than a formal review.

Pros:
  • The first chapter manages to ensnare the reader into the story and convey just how terrifying Amelia’s “nightmares” are.
  • The writing flows nicely and I enjoyed reading Hereafter.
  • The secondary characters are or seem pretty interesting.
  • I could feel the chemistry between Amelia and Joshua.
  • Amelia is a likeable protagonist, and even though I feel like I don’t know much about Joshua, he was a decent romantic lead.
Cons:
  • While I liked reading Hereafter, I almost feel like there was more of an emphasis on the romance between Amelia and Joshua and less on the mystery around Amelia's death. I think that’s why I’ve forgotten most of the novel even though I read it only two days ago.
  • In terms of the major secondary characters, although Eli seems to be well-developed, I feel like I barely know Ruth and Jillian.  
  • Joshua adjusts way too easily to things. Soon after almost dying, he’s looking for Amelia, accepts that she’s a ghost and falls in love with her. Yes, once again, there’s a case of love at first sight.
  • Some of Amelia’s powers could have been better explained by Hudson. For example, how does a ghost start crying real tears?
Hereafter will be released by HarperTeen on June 7, 2011.

Comments About the Cover: The cover is pretty and makes it easy for the reader to know that the main character is a ghost. I like that the background incorporates water since it is important to the story and that the scene kind of looks bleak because Amelia is stuck in limbo. 

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

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

From Inside Jacket: In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself. During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves ... or it might destroy her. 

My Rating: 5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: I haven’t read many dystopians since I’m not a huge fan of the genre, but the ones I’ve chosen to read all have one thing in common besides being good: they’re full of action. Veronica Roth’s debut, Divergent, is no different. Set in a world where people have split into five factions based on personality, Divergent had me eagerly flipping through pages and reading as fast as possible to see what would happen next to Tris, the main character.

The world Roth has created is an interesting one. At first glance, it doesn’t sound too bad because people are trying to cultivate desirable qualities and eradicate those like selfishness, ignorance and cowardice. More importantly, unlike in many dystopians where freedom of choice is limited, adolescents in Divergent choose what faction they’ll join. Roth though does a really good job showing how the concentrated pursuit of traits we value can become problematic.

Tris is a well-developed character who you can’t help but support even if you don’t agree with all of her actions or think that she’s too harsh in some cases. When readers first meet her, she seems meek; but over time, you come to discover that beneath her small frame there is a will of steel. I loved watching her grow throughout Divergent and learn to accept all of herself rather than just trying to be Tris the insert adjective.

Although some of the secondary characters aren’t fleshed out as well, Four – you’ll have to read Divergent to find out why that’s his name – was a complex character. He appears tough and can be a jerk at times but also has a sweet and vulnerable side. Four’s relationship with Tris is a key element of the book and their romance actually progresses realistically (more of this please, YA authors!) rather than simply being one of love at first sight.

At almost 500 pages, Divergent is by no means a small book. However, it feels like one because it is so engrossing!

Divergent was released by HarperTeen in May 2011.       

Comments About the Cover: I think the cover looks okay. The flame surrounded by a fiery ring (i.e. the symbol of Dauntless) is eye-catching and will leave people wondering what it’s supposed to mean so that they’ll pick up the book.