Friday, August 31, 2012

Review: Entice by Jessica Shirvington

From Goodreads: Violet Eden is Grigori - part angel, part human. Her destiny is to protect humans from the vengeance of exiled angels. Knowing who to trust is key but, when Grigori reinforcements arrive, it becomes clear everyone is hiding something. Even Lincoln. The only thing Violet does know: Phoenix's hold over her is more dangerous than ever. The race to find the one thing that could tilt the balance of power brings them all to the sacred mountains of Jordan, where Violet's power will be pushed to the extreme. And the ultimate betrayal exposed. 

My Rating: 4 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Generally, I find that sequels tend to not be as strong as their predecessors. So after finishing Jessica Shirvington’s Embrace with mixed feelings a few months ago, I was a little hesitant about continuing on with Entice. I’m happy I did decide to give it a try because Entice was much better than Embrace.

One of my main issues with Embrace was that I didn’t really like Violet. I’m still by no means in love with her as a character, but she’s a lot more tolerable – and even likeable on occasion. Violet may be prone to bouts of crying – I understand she’s under quite a bit of stress but I’d like less of this in future sequels – and sneaking around, but at least she comes clear about it later on and shares the information she learns. She’s definitely growing as a character, and I look forward to her maturing even more in Emblaze.

Another thing that Shirvington handled better in Entice was the romance. With the removal of Phoenix from Violet’s love life, – no worries Phoenix lovers, he’s still very much present otherwise – the romance became more subtle and didn’t feel like it was overwhelming the plot. As well, I liked that there was finally an explanation – and you get to see the consequences! – for why Grigori partners can’t shouldn’t get romantically involved.

For me, the best aspect about Entice, however, was the overall plot. The disappointing continuation of absent or dead parents aside, Entice delved deeper into the angel mythology (which seemed less muddled in this book) and had some very surprising twists. I also found the new cast of secondary characters a welcome addition, and liked the brief change in location to Jordan. I just wish the Jordanian culture and setting had been more fleshed out.

By raising the stakes, Entice managed to make me fully invested in The Violet Eden Chapters. Be warned though that you may need a copy of Embrace nearby for referral since Entice doesn’t recap what happened in Embrace.

Entice will be released by Sourcebooks on September 4, 2012. 

Comments About the Cover: It sure looks much darker than Embrace’s! I like that Sourcebooks is still sticking with the wispy smoke around the cover title, translucent angel wings and falling black feathers though so that Entice’s cover also bears some similarities with Embrace’s. 

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

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: What's Left of Me

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: What's Left of Me
Author: Kat Zhang
Publisher: HarperTeen
Date of Release: September 18, 2012 

Goodreads Description: Eva and Addie started out the same way as everyone else - two souls woven together in one body, taking turns controlling their movements as they learned how to walk, how to sing, how to dance. But as they grew, so did the worried whispers. Why aren’t they settling? Why isn’t one of them fading? The doctors ran tests, the neighbors shied away, and their parents begged for more time. Finally Addie was pronounced healthy and Eva was declared gone. Except, she wasn’t ... For the past three years, Eva has clung to the remnants of her life. Only Addie knows she’s still there, trapped inside their body. Then one day, they discover there may be a way for Eva to move again. The risks are unimaginable - hybrids are considered a threat to society, so if they are caught, Addie and Eva will be locked away with the others. And yet ... for a chance to smile, to twirl, to speak, Eva will do anything.

Why am I waiting? It's got an awesomely original premise! Sharing your body with someone else sounds like it would be both cool and kind of creepy. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Review: Scary School by Derek the Ghost

From Goodreads: You think your school's scary? Get a load of these teachers: "Ms. Fang," an 850-year-old vampire; "Dr. Dragonbreath," who just might eat you before recess; "Mr. Snakeskin" - science class is so much more fun when it's taught by someone who's half zombie; and "Mrs. T" - break the rules and spend your detention with a hungry "Tyrannosaurus rex." Plus gargoyles, goblins, and Frankenstein's monster on the loose, the world's most frighteningly delicious school lunch and the narrator's an eleven-year-old ghost. Join Charles "New Kid" Nukid as he makes some very Scary friends and figures out that Scary School can be just as funny as it is spooky. 

My Rating: 4 hearts

Thoughts on the Novel: Scary School by Derek the Ghost is a fun, entertaining MG novel that will appeal especially to boys. Although I didn’t learn much about the narrator, Derek the Ghost, since he doesn’t really talk about himself; I found his voice to still be very distinct. 

I also really liked the way Scary School was narrated because rather than providing a concise plot, Derek the Ghost tends to go off on tangents. As a result, each chapter of the book focuses on a different teacher or student at Scary School, with the central plot being interwoven in. My favourite character ended up being Dr. Dragonbreath, a dragon who expects his students to follow five simple rules (that most students eventually disobey). 

Some of the subtler humour in Scary School though may go over a child’s head. For example, there’s a joke about minotaurs being aMAZEd and talk about survival of the fittest.

Scary School was released by HarperCollins in June 2011. 

Comments About the Cover: I think the cover does a good job of appearing frightening (at least to a child) while simultaneously appearing not so creepy that a child would be daunted from reading the book.  

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

Friday, August 24, 2012

Author Interview: Sylvia Gunnery

Today on my blog, I'd like to welcome Sylvia Gunnery, the (Canadian) author of Emily for Real, a novel which will be hitting U.S. shelves soon.

A bit about Sylvia (as found on the publisher's website): Sylvia Gunnery is the author of many books for teens and younger readers. Throughout her teaching career, she has been inspired by her students to create authentic and engaging stories. Out of Bounds, the first in her series of sports novels, is a Best Books for Kids and Teens/Our Choice Selection and was nominated for the Hackmatack Children’s Choice Book Award. Sylvia gives writing workshops in her home province of Nova Scotia and across Canada, encouraging young writers to find their own voices and tell their own stories.

You've written books for both kids and teenagers. How do you find writing for kids similar to and different from writing YA?
Writing for teens is a lot different from writing for younger readers because, for teens, everything’s more complex: themes, story structure, characters, language, and more. Teens have had more life experiences, generally, and they’re able to take on more in the fiction they read. This is not to say that writing for children is simple, though many people mistakenly think it is. Less complex does not mean less work. 
Writing for both age groups is a bit like time travel – I have to put my head into a whole different time of life than the one I’m currently living.  It’s fun “being” in those younger worlds. I observe and eavesdrop and daydream about how things are for kids and teens these days, and I remember how it was for me when I was a kid and a teen.  

What was the inspiration behind Emily For Real?
I started thinking about family secrecy a long time ago when a friend revealed to me a secret she was keeping from her children, waiting until they were older and perhaps could more easily understand. For me, the compelling idea was how children would respond and how they’d view their own lives once they were told the secret. So I started Emily’s story, knowing from the start all the details of the secret the Sinclair family was keeping from her. At first I thought they wouldn’t make it through this secrecy, but then their love for each other showed itself to be way deeper than any secret. I was relieved.

How similar is Emily to your teenage self, and what parts of her personality do you see in yourself today?
Now you’re asking me to look in the mirror and be objective at the same time. Not easy. As a teen, I had a few guys who were my friends with no romantic strings attached, just as Emily had her friendship with Leo. Having not had a brother, I really liked those connections. They gave a kind of balance to my life.  Maybe Emily’s also like me in that she notices small details that others might not take time to think about: the little feet of the chickadee being like pencil drawings; recognizing the exact moment Leo fell in love; the significance of the small jade bird in the washroom at Leo’s; Meredith’s hands, cool and pale, with veins like tiny purple rivers. I also find it interesting to take myself apart from everyone and spend time alone, maybe driving my car or travelling by train or plane.  I often walk on the beach or in the park woods by myself, though I haven’t done those middle-of-the-night walks that Emily did.

Over the course of the novel, the reader finds out that Emily's family had some pretty big secrets. What's a secret that your family (or a family member) kept from you that you found out only later in life?
If our family had secrets, they’re still hidden J We were an extended family that sat around our dinner table, long after our meals were eaten, telling stories of what had happened that day and years ago. I don’t remember awkward silences after any questions we asked each other. But when I was in my thirties, I actually did ask Mom and Dad if we had family secrets. They dredged up a few stories that my sister and I had already figured out anyway – nothing that would stir up a scene at a family reunion, for sure. 

Leo knows how to play the guitar and Emily can sing decently. Are you musically talented? If not, what do you consider your special talent (besides writing of course)?
I’m surrounded by musicians – my partner Jim and many, many other musical friends. I do like to sing at our informal gatherings we call “music nights” (especially into a microphone as Emily did in the garage scene). It is through the kindness of my friends that the microphone isn’t yanked out of my hands. 
“Talent” seems a formal word, but I know I work well with student writers – encouraging them to write what they want to write, listening for their voices, and seeming to find the right things to say without interfering in their processes. It’s a big deal for me that every year I meet lots of young writers through writers-in-the-schools visits here in Nova Scotia and across Canada. I learn so much from our conversations.  

A big thanks to Sylvia for taking the time to answer my questions!

For more information about Sylvia or Emily for Real, you can visit the Pajama Press website. Emily for Real can be purchased at Chapters/Indigo,, and Barnes & Noble.

And keep an eye on the  following blogs participating in the Emily for Real Blog Tour running during August: Open Book Toronto, YA Booklover Blog, Pub(lishing) Crawl, Midnight Bloom Reads and Books in the Spotlight

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: The Space Between Us

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: The Space Between Us
Author: Jessica Martinez
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Date of Release: October 16, 2012 

Goodreads Description: Amelia is used to being upstaged by her charismatic younger sister, Charly. She doesn’t mind, mostly, that it always falls to her to cover for Charly’s crazy, impulsive antics. But one night, Charly’s thoughtlessness goes way too far, and she lands both sisters in serious trouble. Amelia’s not sure she can forgive Charly this time, and not sure she wants to ... but forgiveness is beside the point. Because Charly is also hiding a terrible secret, and the truth just might tear them apart forever.

Why am I waiting? Not only am I looking forward to reading The Space Between Us because I really liked Martinez' debut novel, Virtuosity, but I also love novels revolving around secrets. Bonus: Martinez is a Canadian author :)

Friday, August 17, 2012

Review: Dark Companion by Marta Acosta

From Goodreads: When foster teen Jane Williams is invited to attend elite Birch Grove Academy for Girls and escape her violent urban neighborhood, she thinks the offer is too good to be true. She's even offered her own living quarters, the groundskeeper's cottage in the center of the birch grove. Something's not quite right about the school - or is it Jane? She thinks she sees things in the birch grove at night. She's also beginning to suspect that the elegant headmistress and her sons are hiding secrets. Lucky is the gorgeous, golden son who is especially attentive to Jane, and Jack is the sardonic puzzling brother. The school with its talented teachers and bright students is a dream for a science and math geek like Jane. She also loves her new friends, including hilarious poetry-spouting rich girl, Mary Violet. But the longer Jane stays at Birch Grove, the more questions she has about the disappearance of another scholarship girl and a missing faculty member. Jane discovers one secret about Birch Grove, which only leads to more mysteries. What is she willing to sacrifice in order to stay at this school ... and be bound to Birch Grove forever?

My Rating: 1.5 hearts

Thoughts on the Novel: If you had asked me how I felt about Marta Acosta’s Dark Companion when I first started it, I would have said that it was pretty decent. Yes, it was kind of slow and didn’t have the most interesting protagonist; but, I liked the Gothic atmosphere. The story also seemed to suggest that it was only going to get better, and I couldn’t wait to figure out what mysterious and thrilling secrets Birch Grove Academy held.

Midway through the book though, the story took a turn for the worse. Since I don’t want to ruin the plot, let’s just say that the latter part of the book involves bloodplay – which I might have been okay with if Acosta had decided to take her story into the paranormal realm. Instead, the characters stressed repeatedly that rather than being paranormal creatures, they were only suffering from an ‘autosomal recessive genetic disorder.’ When combined with the super descriptive scenes, it just felt so, so weird!

Since I didn’t love any of the characters either, I seriously debated whether I wanted to finish Dark Companion or not. I did; but much to my dismay, the story didn’t get better! Not only did I slog through the awkwardness to get an extremely neat ending, but characters magically changed their minds or feelings to achieve that ending! (Oh, and it’s hinted that maybe there’s just a bit of paranormal to this story after all. I’m still not sure what to make of that part.)

Anyways, let’s move on to the characterization. In general, I thought the characters were one-dimensional and had incredibly unrealistic dialogue. Also, their tendency to have nicknames – two completely lame ones being Lucky and Ornery – and/or give it to what felt like every single person or thing just grated on my nerves! In spite of this, Mary Violet somehow managed to grow on me.

Jane, however, did the total opposite by becoming the epitome of a TSTL character! I get that she desperately wants to be loved, but it boggles my mind how amazingly dim she became after falling – instant love alert! – for Lucky, an abusive jerk who was so obviously using her (and even says so!).  

Before reading Dark Companion, I’d seen reviews for it claiming how different it was. I’d have to agree … except it wasn’t different in a good way for me!

Dark Companion was released in July 2012 by Tor.

Comments About the Cover: I’m really going to have to stop judging books by their pretty covers! 

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

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Review: Wake by Amanda Hocking

From Back Cover: Gorgeous. Fearless. Dangerous. They're the kind of girls you envy; the kind of girls you want to hate. Strangers in town for the summer, Penn, Lexi and Thea have caught everyone's attention - but it’s Gemma who’s attracted theirs. She’s the one they’ve chosen to be part of their group. Gemma seems to have it all - she’s carefree, pretty, and falling in love with Alex, the boy next door. He’s always been just a friend, but this summer they’ve taken their relationship to the next level, and now there’s no going back. Then one night, Gemma’s ordinary life changes forever. She’s taking a late night swim under the stars when she finds Penn, Lexi and Thea partying on the cove. They invite her to join them, and the next morning she wakes up on the beach feeling groggy and sick, knowing something is different. Suddenly Gemma is stronger, faster, and more beautiful than ever. But her new powers come with a terrifying price. And as she uncovers the truth, she’s is forced to choose between staying with those she loves - or entering a new world brimming with dark hungers and unimaginable secrets.

My Rating: 3.5 hearts

Thoughts on the Novel: After seeing all the positive reviews for Amanda Hocking’s Trylle trilogy, I really wanted to give her writing a try. Thankfully, Wake came out at the right time because rather than trying to catch up on another series, I could start fresh with a brand new one.

Although the synopsis of Wake makes it seem like there’s only one protagonist, it actually has two – Gemma and her older sister Harper. The sibling relationship was probably my favourite aspect of the book because even though the girls argue with each other, it’s obvious that they love one another too. In terms of them as individuals, I found Harper the easier one to relate to because she was a lot more like me in personality whereas Gemma was the more impulsive one. I also thought Gemma was stubborn and selfish for going swimming in the bay at night in spite of Harper’s and their dad’s concerns about it being dangerous.

Another thing that I liked was that both girls got their own romances that were free of instant love. However, I also thought that the love interests were sort of unremarkable – despite feeling like that there’s still more to Daniel than meets the eye – and that the romances were kind of bland.  

Overall, while I wasn’t blown by Wake, I did like it enough that I will be reading the sequel, Lullaby. I felt like the story had just started to pick up steam when it abruptly ended!

Wake was released on August 7, 2012 by St. Martin’s Press.

Comments About the Cover: Compared to all the gorgeous covers out there, I feel like Wake’s is rather ordinary. 

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

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Teaser Trailer: Entice by Jessica Shirvington

Dangerously exciting, darkly romantic – the teaser trailer for the next book in Jessica Shirvington’s Embrace series is here! In Entice, the war between Exiles and Angels is on - and Violet Eden is wanted by both sides. Living a secret life as a warrior protecting innocent human lives isn’t easy. Knowing who to trust is key, but when Grigori reinforcements arrive, it becomes clear everyone is hiding something. Even her partner, Lincoln. And with Phoenix more dangerous than ever, Violet is truly on her own.

Plus, join me for a fun meet-up with other Entice fans during the Entice Me Day 8-day celebration in September!  Meet the book characters, bring your friends and come back for the big party on Sept. 15th where you’ll see the full book trailer, get sneak peeks and win prizes!

Monday, August 06, 2012

Review: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

From Goodreads: Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty's anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high. Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered - in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen's Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life. 

My Rating: 4.5 hearts

Thoughts on the Novel: I seem to be having difficulty writing reviews lately – watching the Olympics nonstop may have something to do with it – so I’ve decided to instead state five reasons why you should read Rachel Hartman’s Seraphina. Here we go:
  1. The worldbuilding: Besides the appeal of dragons, the world that Hartman created was incredible in and of itself. It literally felt like Hartman thought of everything down to the minutest detail – characters were even discussing the works of her made-up philosophers!
  2. The coming-of-age aspect: Although Seraphina is marketed as a fantasy, I think it can be enjoyed by anybody because it’s very much also a book about a young girl growing up, trying to figure out her place in the world, and learning to accept herself.
  3. The main character: Seraphina was just so fantastically complex. At times, she comes off as fragile and you just want to give her a hug; and then at other times, you realize that she’s actually pretty brave and tough. All in all, Seraphina was a protagonist I could easily relate to and root for.
  4. The secondary characters: I felt like all the secondary characters had something important to contribute to the story. Best of all, nobody seemed like a stereotyped character since even the minor characters were really well-developed.
  5. A romance that doesn’t overpower the plot: Although Seraphina’s realization that she loves Kiggs seemingly came out of nowhere (or maybe I was just oblivious to the signs), the romance never felt like an instant love situation (possibly because the two had interacted with each other a few times before Seraphina’s sudden insight into her feelings). I also liked that the love triangle that develops in the end isn’t like your typical love triangle because a) there are two girls and one guy and b) it wasn’t created to add more drama for the sequel or because a character is irresistibly attractive, but because there ends up being a conflict between duty and love. I was so thrilled to see Hartman stay true to her characters’ natures and acknowledge (through her characters) that it’s not an easy choice.
If you can get past the slow beginning and stick with Seraphina, I assure you that you’ll find a beautifully written story with multiple fully-rounded characters!

Seraphina was released by Random House Children’s Books in July 2012.

Comments About the Cover: I love the monochromatic look because it gives the cover this olden day feel, which I think is perfect since the world of Seraphina is very much medieval.  

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

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Review: Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

From Goodreads: No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with "freaky" scars on her arms. Even Echo can't remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal. But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo's world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible.Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she'll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.
My Rating: 3.5 hearts (although it's a little tempting to add half a heart for the ending) 

Thoughts on the Novel: Since the synopsis of Katie McGarry’s Pushing the Limits made the novel sound kind of cheesy to me, I had no interest in reading the book. After seeing a lot of praise for Pushing the Limits however, I figured I’d at least give it a try. 

Although the story contained a bit too much drama for me, I liked the tremendous growth displayed by the main characters. At first, Echo initially lacks a backbone; but over time, she stops avoiding confrontations and learns to stand up for herself. As much as I enjoyed seeing Echo gain more confidence though, I liked Noah’s alternative POVexcluding his lame nicknames for Echo (e.g. siren, nymph, etc.) and the parts where he keeps talking about her incredible smell (à la Perry from Veronica Rossi’s Under the Never Sky) – better. If McGarry hadn’t written from Noah’s perspective, I don’t think I’d appreciate his complexity as a character as much or realize just how strongly he cares about his younger brothers' well-being.

Despite preferring Echo and Noah as individuals over them as a couple, I can’t deny that they had chemistry. However, for two individuals battling their own inner demons, they considered themselves to be in love a little too quickly for my liking; and the romance felt more like a case of serious lust early on.  

Pushing the Limits was released by Harlequin Teen in July 2012.

Comments About the Cover: It’s sexy; and I like that the characters resemble McGarry’s description. But, there’s no way I’d be reading a book with a cover like that in a public place. Thankfully, this is what e-readers are for :)

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