Friday, April 27, 2012

Review: The Princesses of Iowa by M. Molly Backes

From Goodreads: Paige Sheridan has the perfect life. She's pretty, rich, and popular, and her spot on the homecoming court is practically guaranteed. But when a night of partying ends in an it-could-have-been-so-much worse crash , everything changes. Her best friends start ignoring her, her boyfriend grows cold and distant, and her once-adoring younger sister now views her with contempt. The only bright spot is her creative writing class, led by a charismatic new teacher who encourages students to be true to themselves. But who is Paige, if not the homecoming princess everyone expects her to be? 

My Rating: 2.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: The Princesses of Iowa by M. Molly Backes was a book that left me with mixed feelings. On the one hand, the plot wasn’t exactly what I expected, and the characters were hard to like. But on the other hand, Paige’s emotions as a teenager felt realistic.

To be honest, I thought The Princesses of Iowa would deal more directly with the consequences of the drunk driving accident that Paige and her friends were involved in. Instead, Paige’s incredibly shallow mother ships her daughter off to Paris in the middle of the night to be an au pair for the summer (so that everyone can forget that Paige was involved in a car accident), and by the time Paige returns, it’s a subject that she and her friends ignore discussing. They’d much rather think about becoming the homecoming queen – a goal they and their mothers have been working towards for a very long time.

Midway through the book, The Princesses of Iowa suddenly begins to deal with gay rights. Although Backes does manage to tie it together into the overall plot, considering that the topic of drunk driving was barely addressed, I thought it was perhaps one issue too much.

Furthermore, none of the characters were overly appealing. Paige herself isn’t exactly nice, makes dumb decisions, and isn’t there for her best friend Lacey when Lacey needs her. She also becomes jealous and suspicious that her boyfriend Jake (who has been friend with Lacey for years) is cheating on her when Lacey starts relying on Jake for a sympathetic ear.

What I really liked though about The Princesses of Iowa was that Backes shows that life is complicated. Things may not always work out the way you want, rumours can spiral out of control, and best friends can grow apart. Those are situations that we all understand and can really relate to.

The Princesses of Iowa will be released by Candlewick Press on May 8, 2012.

Comments About the Cover: It’s nothing special, but it’s clear from the cover that the book is a contemporary.

Note: One particular thing that bothered me extremely was that Paige was almost raped by Jake in The Princesses of Iowa. The book however makes it seem like a trivial event used to further the plot, especially because Paige never mentions the incident and repeatedly insists that Jake is a good guy at heart.

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

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: In Honor and Second Chance Summer

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme held by Jill at Breaking the Spine to feature upcoming books that we can't wait to get our hands on. 

Title: In Honor 
Author: Jessi Kirby 
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers 
Date of Release: May 8, 2012 

Goodreads Description: Hours after her brother’s military funeral, Honor opens the last letter Finn ever sent. In her grief, she interprets his note as a final request and spontaneously decides to go to California to fulfill it. Honor gets as far as the driveway before running into Rusty, Finn’s best friend since third grade and his polar opposite. She hasn’t seen Rusty in ages, but it’s obvious he is as arrogant and stubborn as ever - not to mention drop-dead gorgeous. Despite Honor’s better judgment, the two set off together on a voyage from Texas to California. Along the way, they find small and sometimes surprising ways to ease their shared loss and honor Finn’s memory - but when shocking truths are revealed at the end of the road, will either of them be able to cope with the consequences? 

Why am I waiting? Two words: road trip! I enjoyed Kirby's debut novel, Moonglass; but the premise of In Honor is way more something I'd read just based off the synopsis.

Title: Second Chance Summer
Author: Morgan Matson
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Date of Release: May 8, 2012 

Goodreads Description: Taylor’s family might not be the closest-knit – everyone is a little too busy and overscheduled – but for the most part, they get along fine. Then they get news that changes everything: Her father has pancreatic cancer, and it’s stage four – meaning that there is basically nothing to be done. Her parents decide that the family will spend his last months together at their old summerhouse in the Pocono Mountains. Crammed into a place much smaller and more rustic than they are used to, they begin to get to know each other again. And Taylor discovers that the people she thought she had left behind haven’t actually gone anywhere. Her former summer best friend is suddenly around, as is her first boyfriend ... and he’s much cuter at seventeen than he was at twelve. As the summer progresses, the Edwards become more of a family, and closer than they’ve ever been before. But all of them very aware that they’re battling a ticking clock. Sometimes, though, there is just enough time to get a second chance – with family, with friends, and with love. 

Why am I waiting? Matson's debut novel, Amy and Roger's Epic Detour, was probably one of my favourite reads of 2010, but it didn't have much parental presence. I find that that's often the case in YA books so it's really nice that this one has a family which has decided to spend time together with each other.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Review: The Summer My Life Began by Shannon Greenland

From Goodreads: Elizabeth Margaret - better known as Em - has always known what life would contain: an internship at her father’s firm, a degree from Harvard and a career as a lawyer. The only problem is that it’s not what she wants. When she gets the opportunity to get away from it all and spend a month with the aunt she never knew, she jumps at the chance. While there, Em pursues her secret dream of being a chef, and she also learns that her family has kept some significant secrets from her, too. And then there’s Cade, the laid-back local surfer boy who seems to be everything Em isn't. Naturally, she can’t resist him, and as their romance blossoms, Em feels she is living on her own terms for the first time. 

My Rating: 2 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: When I got The Summer My Life Began by Shannon Greenland, I wanted a nice, fluffy read. I didn’t think my expectations were high – and yet I was still left disappointed.

Although the writing isn’t bad, if I could use one word to describe everything about The Summer My Life Began, it would be “blah.” Since a one word review isn’t going to cut it, here’s why The Summer My Life Began wasn’t my ideal beach read:
  • The main character barely goes through any adversity. It’s obvious that Em is going to end up happy at the end of the novel, but couldn’t she have some obstacles thrown in her way? She’s got a great life at the beginning of the book, and when she goes to her aunt’s bed-and-breakfast, it gets even more perfect because now she doesn’t have to hide her culinary skills and has a hot guy fall for her. There’s so little opportunity for her character to grow!   
  • The secondary characters are way too stereotypical and have no depth. You’ve got the prim and proper grandma, the bubbly younger sister who can get away with things, the surfer boy who looks like a loser but isn’t, etc.
  • The romance lacked chemistry.
  • There was barely any drama. Em got over the big family secret in, like, two seconds. If she can’t bother to make a big fuss about it, why the hell should I care?!
A book that could have been so much better, The Summer My Life Began will be released on May 10 by Speak.

Comments About the Cover: I think it does a good job of portraying that The Summer My Life Began is a light contemporary. 

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

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Unraveling and Sweet Evil

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme held by Jill at Breaking the Spine to feature upcoming books that we can't wait to get our hands on. 

Title: Unraveling
Author: Elizabeth Norris
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Date of Release: April 24, 2012 

Goodreads Description: Two days before the start of her junior year, seventeen-year-old Janelle Tenner is hit by a pickup truck and killed - as in blinding light, scenes of her life flashing before her, and then nothing. Except the next thing she knows, she's opening her eyes to find Ben Michaels, a loner from her high school whom Janelle has never talked to, leaning over her. And even though it isn't possible, she knows - with every fiber of her being - that Ben has somehow brought her back to life. But her revival, and Ben's possible role in it, is only the first of the puzzles that Janelle must solve. While snooping in her FBI agent father's files for clues about her accident, she uncovers a clock that seems to be counting down to something - but to what? And when someone close to Janelle is killed, she can no longer deny what's right in front of her: Everything that's happened - the accident, the murder, the countdown clock, Ben's sudden appearance in her life - points to the end of life as she knows it. And as the clock ticks down, she realizes that if she wants to put a stop to the end of the world, she's going to need to uncover Ben's secrets - and keep from falling in love with him in the process.

Why am I waiting? A clock counting down to something unknown? Tell me more, please! I've also heard from reviews that the worldbuilding is scientifically sound which is always a good thing.

Title: Sweet Evil
Author: Wendy Higgins
Publisher: HarperTeen
Date of Release: May 1, 2012 

Goodreads Description: Tenderhearted Southern girl, Anna Whitt, was born with the sixth sense to see and feel emotions of other people. She’s aware of a struggle within herself, an inexplicable pull toward danger, but it isn’t until she turns sixteen and meets the alluring Kaidan Rowe that she discovers her terrifying heritage, and her will-power is put to the test. He’s the boy your daddy warned you about. If only someone had warned Anna. A cross-country trip to meet her father forces Anna to face the reality that hope and love are not options for her kind. When she confronts her destiny, will Anna embrace her halo or her horns? 

Why am I waiting? I'm not going to lie ... there have been a lot of angel novels that have disappointed me. I'm still a sucker for them though so hopefully Sweet Evil will be one of the better ones out there.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Review: Ripper by Amy Carol Reeves

From Goodreads: In 1888, following her mother's sudden death, 17-year-old Arabella Sharp goes to live with her grandmother in a posh London neighborhood. At her grandmother's request, Abbie volunteers at Whitechapel Hospital, where she discovers a passion for helping the unfortunate women and children there. But within days, female patients begin turning up brutally murdered at the hands of Jack the Ripper. 

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Based on the summary, I thought Amy Carol Reeves’ Ripper had the potential to be a novel I’d really enjoy. Unfortunately, even though Jack the Ripper was on the loose, I never got the urge to flip pages as fast as possible to see what would happen next. Personally, I attribute this to the plot (which ends with an open ending) and the characters.

The first half of the book sets up how Abbie begins working at Whitechapel Hospital and introduces you to some of the doctors working there. Nothing really exciting happens until patients start getting murdered and their bodies are found mutilated. While the police suspect Jack the Ripper is potentially a doctor due to the precise incisions made on the bodies of the dead, Reeves adds a bit of intrigue by having Abbie experience visions of the serial killer before he murders each of his victims. The historical element of the book though seems to be replaced by supernatural elements in the second half – a change which I wasn’t fond of. The air of mystery around who Jack the Ripper could be disappeared; and I just couldn’t muster up the energy to care about how the supernatural twists affected Abbie. Here’s also where the characterization came in.

There’s isn’t anything about Abbie that particularly stands out in my mind other than that she doesn’t want to be a demure lady and is attracted to two doctors who form part of a lacklustre love triangle. In fact, sometimes Abbie acted like a TSTL character, running all over the place and sneaking out at night without a care for her safety.

Ripper was released on April 8, 2012 by Flux.   

Comments About the Cover: I really like the background because it manages to evoke a feeling of creepiness. I find the foreground a little odd though for some reason. 

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

Monday, April 09, 2012

Review: Everneath by Brodi Ashton

From Goodreads: Last spring, Nikki Beckett vanished, sucked into an underworld known as the Everneath, where immortals Feed on the emotions of despairing humans. Now she's returned - to her old life, her family, her friends - before being banished back to the underworld ... this time forever. She has six months before the Everneath comes to claim her, six months for good-byes she can't find the words for, six months to find redemption, if it exists. Nikki longs to spend these months reconnecting with her boyfriend, Jack, the one person she loves more than anything. But there's a problem: Cole, the smoldering immortal who first enticed her to the Everneath, has followed Nikki to the mortal world. And he'll do whatever it takes to bring her back - this time as his queen. As Nikki's time grows short and her relationships begin slipping from her grasp, she's forced to make the hardest decision of her life: find a way to cheat fate and remain on the Surface with Jack or return to the Everneath and become Cole's ...

My Rating: 4 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: While I was initially tempted to read Brodi Ashton’s Everneath simply because of its pretty cover, I knew I had to read it once I heard that it was a retelling of the myth of Hades and Persephone because I love Greek mythology. Everneath, however, wasn’t a strict retelling. Rather, it’s more like Ashton was inspired not only by the myth of Hades and Persephone but also by the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice; and then created her own interesting Underworld (which I feel like there’s still more left to be learned about).

The book opens with the reader being aware that Nikki willingly went with Cole to the Everneath, but the circumstances around her decision are revealed slowly throughout the book. Thus, I found it hard to connect with Nikki at the beginning, especially because she was stripped of all her emotions in the Everneath. Through flashbacks interwoven seamlessly into the main narrative though, it became easy to care about her and understand how and why she could just leave her family and friends behind. As time ticked by, I couldn’t help but hope that Nikki would somehow escape the Tunnels.

What I liked about Nikki was that she wasn’t perfect. She had insecurities and if you think about it, she’s a little selfish for coming back when she knows that she’ll disappear again in six months. (Then again, if I was in her position, I’m sure I’d want some sort of closure too.) I also really liked that Nikki was willing to face the consequences of her decision; but she wasn’t going to go down without a fight.

The romance was nicely done as well. Although there’s a love triangle in Everneath, it didn’t annoy me because it didn’t feel like one. Ashton does a good job of making both Jack and Cole equally complex and having Nikki distinguish her feelings about the two. Cole may be the antagonist in the story, but he’s not just a simple villain who you’ll hate outright.

Cole and Nikki may have a bond because of their time together in the Everneath, but she genuinely loves Jack. In fact, so did I! I’m normally a fan of fictional bad boys but Jack managed to win me over in Everneath. The relationship between Jack and Nikki was just so sweet and real; and I really liked that not only was there a shared history between the two but that they had some ups and downs as well.

A paranormal novel that manages to have a unique concept, Everneath was released in January 2012 by Balzer + Bray.

Comments About the Cover: The colours of red and black look very good together, and it does seem as if the model is coming up from underground. The whole girl in a gorgeous dress idea though doesn’t logically make sense because who runs away dressed like that?

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

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Mini Reviews: Incarnate by Jodi Meadows and The Stone in Meadow by Karleen Bradford

From Goodreads: Ana is new. For thousands of years in Range, a million souls have been reincarnated over and over, keeping their memories and experiences from previous lifetimes. When Ana was born, another soul vanished, and no one knows why. Even Ana's own mother thinks she's a nosoul, an omen of worse things to come, and has kept her away from society. To escape her seclusion and learn whether she'll be reincarnated, Ana travels to the city of Heart, but its citizens are afraid of what her presence means. When dragons and sylph attack the city, is Ana to blame? Sam believes Ana's new soul is good and worthwhile. When he stands up for her, their relationship blooms. But can he love someone who may live only once, and will Ana's enemies - human and creature alike - let them be together? Ana needs to uncover the mistake that gave her someone else's life, but will her quest threaten the peace of Heart and destroy the promise of reincarnation for all? 

My Rating: 2.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Incarnate by Jodi Meadows was a book that I thought started off well but ultimately disappointed me in the end. The novel begins with eighteen-year-old Ana finally leaving her home and abusive mother to figure out why she, a Newsoul, was born and how she fits into a world where everybody else but her has been reincarnated over and over again. The world Meadows created was initially fascinating to me, with reincarnation, dragons and sylphs. It later started to feel weak though because it didn’t really seem to have any rules behind it. Things just existed or happened that would simply leave me with more questions.

In terms of the characters, I liked how patient and gentle Sam was with Ana when her past made it hard for her to trust him. However, neither Sam nor Ana stood out in my mind; and when their romance became the focal point of the majority of the book, it distracted Ana from her quest and in my opinion, caused the worldbuilding to suffer as a result. Also, I found the romance to be a little strange because Sam has been a girl in the past and it’s kind of weird to be wearing a girl’s clothes and know that they belong to the guy you’re interested in or be jealous of that guy because he filled out those clothes better than you. 

Incarnate was released in January 2012 by Katherine Tegen Books.

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

From Back Cover: The large, black stone in the meadow in Cornwall held a strange, hypnotic fascination for Jenifer. One day she found out why. Was it just a dream? Or could the stone really transport her back in time - a hundred years ... a thousand years ...? If it were a dream, it was so vivid Jenifer knew that as long as she lived she would never forget Perran, that small boy from the past who had shared her adventure. And Fedelm - the Druid priestess who was the image of Jenifer, and who was so frightened of her. But, above all, she would remember Bron, with his blue eyes and flaming hair, who would remain forever her first love. 

My Rating: 2.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Karleen Bradford’s The Stone in the Meadow was a short book that took me a really, really long time to read because I kept putting it down to read other books in between. As was the case with Bradford’s The Other Elizabeth, I thought the amount of historical detail in the novel was great but had a difficult time caring about the characters or getting invested in the story. Furthermore, I found the depiction of Bron as being Jenifer’s first love in the synopsis to be misleading because a) Jenifer is only thirteen and b) the two speak different languages and therefore don’t understand each other. First crush, maybe; but saying he’s her first love is taking it a little too far.

The Stone in the Meadow was released by Starburst Digital Rights International Inc. in September 2011. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher.
original image from

Monday, April 02, 2012

Review: Life Is But a Dream by Brian James

From Back Cover: Sabrina has always been special. She sees swirling colors that streak across the clouds like rainbows in soapy water, and feels the win blowing through her soul like the fiery wave from an atomic blast, things she uses in her art. Before, she felt special in a good way, like she was delicate and rare. Not like now, when everyone thinks she's sick. Now, she special like something's wrong with her. That's why her parents put her in the Wellness Center. Then one day, she looks up and sees Alec. He seems like a familiar stranger - someone Sabrina recognizes from her dreams, as if they've always known each other and were meant to be together. Alec looks at her as if she were still special, but in a good way. In his mind, it's the world that's mad, locking them away because they aren't like all the other brain-dead teens shuffling through the malls. Listening to him, Sabrina becomes afraid that the doctors are going to turn her into someone else, someone she won't even recognize. Now, Alec and Sabrina have a choice: to stay and be changed into the people the doctors want them to be, or to run away and chase their dreams ... 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Life Is But a Dream by Brian James was a book that took me a while to get into because of its slow pace, especially in the first half. However, I also thought this was an advantage because it enables you to enjoy this beautifully written novel and really get into the mind of Sabrina as she slowly starts unraveling again.

When we first meet Sabrina, she’s at the Wellness Center; and her schizophrenia seems to be under control. By interspersing flashbacks throughout the novel, I thought James did a good job of showing the difference in Sabrina’s behaviour and personality in the present as opposed to them in the past.

As well, I found Sabrina’s perspective on her disorder to be pretty interesting. You can kind of understand why she doesn’t want to change and misses her old self, but at the same time, as an observer, you realize just how blurred the line between reality and imagination is for Sabrina when she’s having hallucinations or delusions. For me, reading Life Is But a Dream was sobering and scary because schizophrenia is an actual disorder that makes life very disorienting. James gives you a glimpse of that reality when Sabrina starts having hallucinations and delusions again. This makes her narrative unique, and it's jarring when her flashbacks start colliding with the present.

The romance in Life Is But a Dream wasn’t as enjoyable because it felt sort of fake. I also didn’t like the character of Alec because I thought he was a bad influence on Sabrina and didn’t understand how serious her disorder was. It’s hard for me to understand why a place like the Wellness Center would accept someone like Alec, and hope situations like that don’t occur very often in real life – or if they do, people need to be monitored more.

Life Is But a Dream was released by Feiwel and Friends in March 2012.

Comments About the Cover: I like how the girl is just lying on the ground and seems to be staring at the reader. I think it’s haunting and kind of creepy.

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Raincoast Books) for free.