Friday, July 27, 2012

Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

From Goodreads: After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin. Her opponents are men - thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the kings council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom. Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Chaol Westfall, challenging and exhilarating. But she’s bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her ... but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best. Then one of the other contestants turns up dead ... quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

My Rating: 2 hearts
Thoughts on the Novel: One of the books I’ve been most excited about reading this year was Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas. Each time I saw another four or five star review for it, my excitement level ratcheted up. So, when I finally got approved to read it on NetGalley, I eagerly downloaded a copy to my Kindle and made myself comfy, expecting a novel that would suck me in.

After finishing Throne of Glass however, I can’t help but be severely disappointed! Here’s why:
  • I realized I’d have trouble liking Celaena right from the start. How could I warm up to a girl whose first thoughts after meeting the prince whose father was responsible for sending her to Endovier be how attractive he is and how she looks like utter crap?! Thinking that perhaps I was being a bit hasty in judging Celaena, I tried to be more open-minded. Unfortunately, my opinion of Celaena didn’t improve. Not only did I continue to think that she was kind of shallow, but by the end, I also thought she was an incompetent assassin for three reasons:
    1. She boasts about how she can kill people in various ways … and yet never kills anybody. I did not read 400+ pages about an assassin for no reason!
    2. She finds a possible escape route … and never uses it to run away.
    3. She manages to become attached to Dorian and Chaol awfully quickly. If I were an assassin, the last thing I’d be doing is forming attachments to people in positions of power (because you never know when they might need to be eliminated)! 
  • It’s not just Celaena who displays ridiculous lapses in judgement though. Dorian, for example, decides that it’s okay to visit Adarlan’s greatest assassin in her bedroom without bringing any guards! Oh, and not only does Celaena have a bunch of rooms to herself, but she also gets to wear pretty dresses and seems to be able walk around in the castle with minimal guards. I had no idea that this was a successful method for dealing with notorious criminals and assassins!
  • I found the romance to be rather lacklustre since it seemed like Celaena was only attracted to Dorian because he was good-looking.
  • The Tests – one of which Celaena cheats in – that were discussed in Throne of Glass were covered with little fanfare; and in between, competitors I barely got to know were brutally murdered by the blatantly obvious villain. It just seemed as if a significant chunk of the book involved Celaena admiring her clothes, thinking how attractive both Dorian or Chaol were, and being petulant about not getting invited to fun gatherings like a feast or a masked ball.
  • The world building was weak since anything that couldn't advance the storyline was either only hinted at or mentioned in passing. In fact, even Celaena’s relatively little backstory was hard to figure out and had to be pieced together.
Throne of Glass wasn’t all bad though. I liked Chaol and the Eyllwe princess Nehemia; and despite guessing who the suspected killer was, I managed to remain interested in the mystery and read the book in one sitting.

Although I can see the potential in Throne of Glass; ultimately, it didn’t live up to my expectations. If you’re in the mood for a novel featuring a female assassin, I’d recommend reading Robin LaFevers’ Grave Mercy instead.  

Throne of Glass will be released by Bloomsbury UK on August 2, 2012.

Comments About the Cover: I like how badass the model looks (even if her outfit looks kind of modern). It’s too bad she doesn’t fit the image of Celaena in my head.

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

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Review: Don't You Wish by Roxanne St. Claire

From Goodreads: When plain and unpopular Annie Nutter gets zapped by one of her dad's whacked-out inventions, she lands in a parallel universe where her life becomes picture-perfect. Now she's Ayla Monroe, daughter of the same mother but a different father - and she's the gorgeous, rich queen bee of her high school. In this universe, Ayla lives in glitzy Miami instead of dreary Pittsburgh and has beaucoup bucks, courtesy of her billionaire - if usually absent - father. Her friends hit the clubs, party backstage at concerts, and take risks that are exhilarating ... and illegal. Here she's got a date to lose her V-card with the hottest guy she's ever seen. But on the inside, Ayla is still Annie. So when she's offered the chance to leave the dream life and head home to Pittsburgh, will she take it? The choice isn't as simple as you think.

My Rating: 4 hearts

Thoughts on the Novel: At some point, every one of us has imagined what our life would be like if we were richer, smarter, more popular, etc. or where we’d be today if we had made a life-altering decision differently. This is the idea behind Roxanne St. Claire’s novel Don’t You Wish.

Partly because of its premise and partly because of Annie’s personality, I found it incredibly easy to relate to her. She’s your average teen with frizzy hair and a mouth full of braces, crushing on an unattainable guy and still growing into herself. After getting humiliated by her crush and finding out that her mom could have married a man who became filthy rich, it’s no wonder that Annie dreams what it would have been like to grow up being rich, beautiful and popular.

Having forgotten what Don’t You Wish was supposed to be about before reading it, I figured that Annie was just dreaming that her wish came true and she was Ayla Monroe. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised – which wouldn't have happened if I had only read the synopsis – to find that the premise of Don’t You Wish was based on theories about parallel universes. I’m no quantum physicist – in fact, I sucked at physics in high school – so I have no idea how credible Charlie’s argument is, but the explanation made sense to me.

Of course when Annie wakes up and finds herself in Ayla’s body, she’s thrilled. (I’d be too!) But what will Annie do when she realizes that she’s stuck as Ayla, and that Ayla’s seemingly perfect life isn’t so perfect? And after settling into Ayla’s life; when given the choice, will Annie choose to stay on as Ayla or go back to her old ordinary life?

Filled with implicit lessons that people sometimes preach as advice (e.g. be careful what you wish for, money doesn’t buy happiness, etc.), Don’t You Wish was a fun read with a neat and happy ending that will leave you with a smile.

Don’t You Wish was released by Delacorte Books for Young Readers on July 10, 2012.

Comments About the Cover: It’s easy to figure out that it’s the cover of a contemporary. With the title and the way the model is dressed, it’s almost as if the model is saying, “Don’t you wish you had a fabulous life too and could look as glamourous as me?”  

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

Friday, July 20, 2012

Review: Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard

From Goodreads: Eleanor Fitt has a lot to worry about. Her brother has gone missing, her family has fallen on hard times, and her mother is determined to marry her off to any rich young man who walks by. But this is nothing compared to what she’s just read in the newspaper - The Dead are rising in Philadelphia. And then, in a frightening attack, a zombie delivers a letter to Eleanor ... from her brother. Whoever is controlling the Dead army has taken her brother as well. If Eleanor is going to find him, she’ll have to venture into the lab of the notorious Spirit-Hunters, who protect the city from supernatural forces. But as Eleanor spends more time with the Spirit-Hunters, including their maddeningly stubborn yet handsome inventor, Daniel, the situation becomes dire. And now, not only is her reputation on the line, but her very life may hang in the balance. 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard was a fun zombie novel set against the vivid backdrop of nineteenth century Philadelphia. Since I don’t like gory zombie novels, it was great that for the most part, the zombies in Something Strange and Deadly were corpses under the control of a mysterious necromancer. However, because the book does involve zombies, I really liked that at least one important character didn’t escape in one piece after being chomped on by a rabid zombie. Usually, characters in the zombie novels I’ve read either manage to survive with minimal damage or are killed outright.

My favourite thing about Something Strange and Deadly was its protagonist, Eleanor. It was easy to like her because she was spunky, sensible, and determined to find her brother regardless of the social expectations placed upon her. Moreover, although Eleanor took some risks, she never appeared as stupid or reckless.

I also liked the subtle romance between Eleanor and Daniel. Their chemistry never felt forced to me, and it was refreshing to have a paranormal story where there was no outright declaration of love.

An entertaining read (if a little predictable), Something Strange and Deadly will be released by HarperTeen on July 24, 2012.

Comments About the Cover: Even without realizing that there were gears in the background, I thought it was gorgeous! The colours used complement each other, and I love the model’s gown and gloves. 

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

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

From Goodreads: Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee. Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life - a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling. Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha ... and the secrets of her heart.

My Rating: 4.5 hearts

Thoughts on the Novel: After reading all the positive reviews for Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone, I was a little hesitant to start it because I didn’t want to risk being disappointed by it. I can safely say after reading Shadow and Bone though that it was totally worth the hype (even if the plot was a tiny bit predictable)!

Bardugo’s writing sucked me in right from the start and kept me hooked until the end. I loved the way she was able to create such a detailed world that was unveiled slowly, allowing me time to understand all the terms used. I may not want to live in the fictional world of Ravka with its volcras and terrifying Shadow Fold that expands over time, but I was definitely enchanted with it.

I also thought the character of Alina was very well-developed. She really did seem like an ordinary girl who realized she happened to be extraordinary which is why I could relate to her insecurities and feeling out of place at the Little Palace. It was even nicer that rather than becoming a pro right away after some Grisha training, it took Alina time to master her gift.

As well, I liked that Alina stayed true to her heart. Too often, I read books where the main character is torn between two guys and can’t make up her mind as to who to choose, thereby appearing wishy-washy. (Seriously, how often does this happen in real life?) Alina, however, continues to love her best friend, Mal (who I’m looking forward to seeing more of in the sequel), despite being tempted by the Darkling. This suited me just fine because not only did I find the romance between Mal and Alina sweet, but it left hope for me and the Darkling :) (Okay, so maybe he’s evil with a capital E, but I can pretend that he’ll redeem himself with me at his side ;) As you can see, I’ve been reading a little too much paranormal lately.)

The start of another fabulous fantasy series, Shadow and Bone was released by Henry Holt and Co. in June 2012.

Comments About the Cover: The cover suggests that the story will be a fantasy full of intrigue. I love its simplicity and the colours used since I think it captures the tone of the novel perfectly! 

In exchange for an honest review, this ARC was received from the publisher (Macmillan Children's Publishing Group) for free via NetGalley. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Starling

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: Starling
Author: Lesley Livingston
Publisher: HarperTeen
Date of Release: August 28, 2012 

Goodreads Description: Mason Starling is a champion fencer for Gosforth Academy, but she’s never had to fight for her life. Until now. When a ferocious storm rips through Manhattan and unleashes terrifying creatures onto Gosforth’s campus, Mason barely escapes alive. Without help from the mysterious stranger who appeared in the midst of the storm, she might not have made it at all. But now, in the aftermath, Mason’s life begins to spin dramatically, mystically out of control, and the only one who seems able to help her is the stranger who can remember nothing but his name: Fennrys Wolf. As Mason and Fenn uncover more about Fenn’s past and the strange events that surround them, they realize that Mason’s family - and its dark allegiance to the ancient Norse gods - is at the center of everything. A predetermined fate seems to be closing in on Mason, but is it possible to change one’s destiny?

Why am I waiting? I'm not as familiar with Norse mythology as I am with Greek mythology so I'm looking forward to learning something new. Also, I loved the Fennrys Wolf in Livingston's Wondrous Strange trilogy - I'm assuming he's the same one - which is why I'm excited to see more of him in Starling. Lastly, considering Livingston's - a fellow Canadian (and an author I've been lucky to meet)! - Wondrous Strange trilogy is one of the rare faerie series I've liked, it'll be interesting to see what I think of Starling because unlike faerie novels, I actually enjoy mythologies. 

Monday, July 09, 2012

Review: The Glimpse by Claire Merle

From Goodreads: In a near future, society is segregated according to whether people are genetically disposed to mental illness. 17-year-old Ana has been living the privileged life of a Pure due to an error in her DNA test. When the authorities find out, she faces banishment from her safe Community, a fate only thwarted by the fact that she has already been promised to Pure-boy Jasper Taurell. Jasper is from a rich and influential family and despite Ana’s condition, wants to be with her. The authorities grant Ana a tentative reprieve. If she is joined to Jasper before her 18th birthday, she may stay in the Community until her illness manifests. But if Jasper changes his mind, she will be cast out among the Crazies. As Ana’s joining ceremony and her birthday loom closer, she dares to hope she will be saved from the horror of the City and live a ‘normal’ life. But then Jasper disappears. Led to believe Jasper has been taken by a strange sect the authorities will not interfere with, Ana sneaks out of her well-guarded Community to find him herself. Her search takes her through the underbelly of society, and as she delves deeper into the mystery of Jasper’s abduction she uncovers some devastating truths that destroy everything she has grown up to believe.

My Rating: 4 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: In Claire Merle’s The Glimpse, the year is 2041 and the genes responsible for 304 mental illnesses (including the big three of schizophrenia, depression and anxiety) have been isolated. While violence rages on in the US, the English have divided themselves into two camps with the use of a genetic test: Pures (i.e. those who won’t develop a mental illness) who live behind guarded communities and Crazies (those who carry, have or will develop a mental illness) who live in the City.

Although I thought the premise of The Glimpse was intriguing, I simultaneously thought it was unrealistic because it’s highly unlikely that it’ll be discovered that single genes are responsible for causing mental illnesses. Luckily, Merle addressed this issue and made the truth behind her simple genetic test much more complicated. As well, I liked how Merle wove in little details and clues throughout the novel to use later on. However, it did take some time for me to get into The Glimpse because it was full of unfamiliar terminology in the first few chapters and occasionally shifted randomly to another character’s perspective.

As the protagonist, Ana annoyed me at first with the way she thought about the Crazies. But at the same time, I understood her fear of them because if she acted even remotely like them, she too would be tossed out of her Community. As The Glimpse progressed and Ana became more independent in her thinking though, I began to like her more (even if I still didn’t quite fully relate to her because for someone who was supposedly smart, she remained prone to making some foolish choices).

I found Ana’s father to be a way more fascinating character, and am still trying to figure out how I feel about him. It’s obvious that he cares about Ana, but he has a very complex way of showing it!

The other secondary characters weren’t as interesting, but they were okay. In particular, Cole and Jasper present the option of a brief love triangle that’s resolved neatly because the two guys end up coming to mean different things to Ana. It was nice that Ana figured out how she felt about Cole and Jasper quickly, and didn’t waver indecisively between the two for long. The romance, however, was slightly insta-love.

A book that brings up some interesting ethical questions and makes you realize the benefits of being in power, The Glimpse was released by Faber and Faber in June 2012.

Comments About the Cover: I like its simplicity. The blue heart wrapped in barbed wire really stands out against the white background.

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

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Mini Reviews: The Other Life by Susanne Winnacker and Dust Girl by Sarah Zettel

From Goodreads: Sherry and her family have lived sealed in a bunker in the garden since things went wrong up above. Her grandfather has been in the freezer for the last three months, her parents are at each other’s throats and two minutes ago they ran out of food. Sherry and her father leave the safety of the bunker and find a devastated and empty LA, smashed to pieces by bombs and haunted by ‘Weepers’ - rabid humans infected with a weaponized rabies virus. While searching for food in a supermarket, Sherry’s father disappears and Sherry is saved by Joshua, a boy-hunter. He takes her to Safe-haven, a tumble-down vineyard in the hills outside LA, where a handful of other survivors are picking up the pieces of their ‘other lives’. As she falls in love for the first time, Sherry must save her father, stay alive and keep Joshua safe when his desire for vengeance threatens them all.

My Rating: 3.5 hearts

Thoughts on the Novel: The Other Life by Susanne Winnacker reminded me a little bit of Courtney Summers’ This is Not a Test – only it wasn’t as good because the characters were kind of flat. I also didn’t like the flashbacks to the ‘good old days’ at the end of each chapter because they distracted me from staying in the present moment and often didn’t relate to the chapter I’d just read. Nor did I enjoy Sherry’s penchant for listing how many days it had been since she last experienced something (e.g. eating an apple, using shampoo, etc.) because it made me question how she could remember everything so accurately. Overall though, The Other Life was a short, satisfactory read that featured smart zombies, some tense action sequences and an ending that suggests the series has the potential to get better.

The Other Life was released by Marshall Cavendish in May 2012.

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

From Goodreads: Callie LeRoux lives in Slow Run, Kansas, helping her mother run their small hotel and trying not to think about the father she’s never met. Lately all of her energy is spent battling the constant storms plaguing the Dust Bowl and their effects on her health. Callie is left alone when her mother goes missing in a dust storm. Her only hope comes from a mysterious man offering a few clues about her destiny and the path she must take to find her parents in "the golden hills of the west": California. Along the way she meets Jack, a young hobo boy who is happy to keep her company — there are dangerous, desperate people at every turn. And there’s also an otherworldly threat to Callie. Warring fae factions, attached to the creative communities of American society, are very much aware of the role this half-mortal, half-fae teenage girl plays in their fate.

My Rating: 1.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Pretty much the only redeeming thing about Sarah Zettel’s Dust Girl was the way Zettel managed to make the atmosphere of the Dust Bowl era come alive because the plot was just so slow-paced and confusing with things being mentioned or events occurring in an unpredictable manner. Besides the random plot, the ending was really weird and completely out of the blue. As well, the characters weren’t that interesting, and it was hard for me to picture Callie in my mind since her age was never mentioned. This normally wouldn’t be a problem, but Callie sometimes acted like a tween and at other times acted as if she was an older teenager. 

Dust Girl was released in June 2012 by Random House Children's Books.

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

Sunday, July 01, 2012

The All Male Review Challenge Giveaway Hop

For The All Male Review Challenge Giveaway Hop being co-hosted by some of my favourite bloggers (see picture above), I'll be giving away a copy of Veronica Rossi's Under the Never Sky

To enter, fill out the Rafflecopter form below.

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