Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Review: Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine

From Goodreads: There are whispers of a ghost in the slaughterhouse where sixteen-year-old Wen assists her father in his medical clinic - a ghost who grants wishes to those who need them most. When one of the Noor, men hired as cheap factory labor, humiliates Wen, she makes an impulsive wish of her own, and the Ghost grants it. Brutally. Guilt-ridden, Wen befriends the Noor, including their outspoken leader, a young man named Melik. At the same time, she is lured by the mystery of the Ghost and learns he has been watching her … for a very long time. As deadly accidents fuel tensions within the factory, Wen must confront her growing feelings for Melik, who is enraged at the sadistic factory bosses and the prejudice faced by his people at the hand of Wen’s, and her need to appease the Ghost, who is determined to protect her against any threat - real or imagined. She must decide whom she can trust, because as her heart is torn, the factory is exploding around her … and she might go down with it.

My Rating: 4 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Having seen the love for Sarah Fine’s Sanctum series and then the positive reviews for Of Metal and Wishes, I decided to give Fine’s writing a try with Of Metal and Wishes, a retelling of The Phantom of the Opera.

Of Metal and Wishes is very much a character driven book. While I liked Wen, a girl who learns to look beyond the Itanyai’s prejudices to see the Noor for who they are, and Melik, a Noor who refuses to be cowed by the Itanyai, my favourite character was the complex Ghost. Full of contradictions, I loved how the Ghost could be so kind one minute and then terrifying the next with the amount of power he wielded.

I also liked the romance. Although I thought there might be a love triangle in Of Metal and Wishes, there actually wasn’t one because Wen was only ever interested in Melik. Admittedly, they did develop feelings for each other quite quickly, but I was willing to excuse this because of the cramped and isolating conditions of the slaughterhouse.

Where Of Metal and Wishes could have been better developed, however, was the worldbuilding. Not only was little revealed about the world beyond the slaughterhouse, but there wasn’t a firm time period established either because while the conditions of the slaughterhouse had a historical feel, the machinery described in the outside world appeared to be more modern. Hopefully, the sequel will clear up some of my questions about the worldbuilding. 

Of Metal and Wishes was released in August 2014 by Margaret K. McElderry Books. 

Comments About the Cover: I love that there’s an Asian model on the cover.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Seven Deadly Sins Questionnaire

I was tagged to do the Seven Deadly Sins Questionnaire (created by BookishlyMalyza) by Aylee from Recovering Potter Addict about two weeks ago and finally managed to find the time to whip up some answers! 

1. Greed - What is your most inexpensive book? What is your most expensive book?
I’ve never really been tempted by collector’s editions of books. So, most of the books I own are pretty similar in terms of their price range. My inexpensive books though are ones that I’ve bought from used bookstores.

2. Wrath - What author do you have a love/hate relationship with?
I’d have to go with Jennifer L. Armentrout. Although her books are entertaining and I love that she writes so fast, I usually have issues with them, whether it’s insta-love in Cursed or romantic leads (like Daemon) that are jerks.

3. Gluttony - What book have you devoured over and over with no shame?
It’s been a long time since I’ve reread an entire book, but my younger self would probably say, “A Wrinkle in Time, Anne of Green Gables, or The Song of the Lioness quartet.” 
Some of my favourite books growing up! The covers could be improved though ...
4. Sloth - What book have you neglected reading due to laziness?
So many! Besides not reading classics because of my need to stay on top of all the new books being released each year, I’d like to give both Melina Marchetta’s and John Green’s books a try at some point. 

5. Pride - What book do you talk about most in order to sound like an intellectual reader?
I don’t generally read nonfiction or classics, but I’m sure I’d sound a lot smarter if I read more of those …

6. Lust - What attributes do you find attractive in male or female characters?
In terms of my male characters, I prefer them either to be quick-witted like Gen from The Queen's Thief series or George from the Song of the Lioness quartet, or strong and capable characters who are utterly supportive of their heroines’ decisions. In the latter category, Dimitri from the Vampire Academy series and Gilbert from the Anne of Gables series come to mind.

With female characters, I want a combination of loyalty (both to themselves and others), determination, and brains. Hermione from Harry Potter, for example, is one of my female heroines. 

7. Envy - What book would you most like to receive as a gift?
Hmm, I refuse to stick to one answer for this because depending on my mood and what’s being released, it’s bound to change. But, I would like to get a physical copy – I have a Kindle version – of The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls soon because looking at the illustrations on an ebook just isn’t the same. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Review: Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

From Goodreads: The capital has fallen. The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne. Now the nation's fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army. Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives. Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova's amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling's secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction - and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for. 

My Rating: Somewhere between 3.5 and 4 hearts 

*Despite trying my best to avoid overt spoilers in my review (which I've hidden), I'd suggest reading the following review with caution if you haven't read Ruin and Rising because it still alludes to things.*

Thoughts on the Novel: Though it took me a while to get around to reading Leigh Bardugo’s Ruin and Rising, it was one of my most anticipated reads of this year because I’d finally know the ultimate fates of the Darkling and Nikolai (and Alina and Mal, of course). It’s too bad then that Ruin and Rising wasn’t exactly the ending I wanted.

While the plot began nicely with Alina, Mal, and the other Grisha trying to escape from the Apparat's clutches so that they could engage in one last confrontation with the Darkling, I soon became a little bored because the story wasn’t as intense as I was expecting it to be. As well, there was a strong focus on a bunch of secondary characters, most of whom I didn’t really remember. Thankfully, one of those characters was Zoya, who I not only ended up liking, but also made up for the distinct lack of the Darkling with her witty lines.

Speaking of the Darkling, as much as I would have liked a different ending for him, I do think that the ending he got was probably the most appropriate for him. Over the course of Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm, all I wanted to do was give him a hug in spite of his villainy because Bardugo did such a fabulous job of making him so complex. Ruin and Rising finally revealed the Darkling and Baghra’s backstory, which just made me fall in love with him even more. I refuse to say goodbye to him!

Another character who didn’t escape unscathed was Nikolai. I wasn’t expecting what happened to him to occur, but I think it helps to make him an even better ruler for Ravka – not that I didn’t know that after the scene with his parents.

I wasn't too happy with the endings for Alina and Mal, however. As the series progressed, Bardugo had slowly transformed Alina into a stronger heroine; but I thought Ruin and Rising kind of ruined all that development. Perhaps it was the best fate for Alina, but as a reader, I felt like Ruin and Rising was saying that you shouldn't strive to be extraordinary.

Similarly, I had really liked the change in Mal’s personality since he became so much more supportive of Alina embracing her destiny. Although I knew there was more to him than met the eye, I was shocked by his connection to Morozova. So, I mentally prepared myself for what I thought would happen in regards with him, except that Bardugo then cheapened his sacrifice by bringing him back to life (through some lame reasoning). I just feel like if an author is going to commit to killing a character, they should do so 100%; I hate when characters are revived for the sole purpose of giving the hero(ine) their happy ending!

A book that might not please everybody but was still entertaining, Ruin and Rising was released in June 2014 by Henry Holt and Co.  

Comments About the Cover: It perfectly matches the covers of Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Review: Rites of Passage by Joy N. Hensley

From Goodreads: Sam McKenna’s never turned down a dare. And she's not going to start with the last one her brother gave her before he died. So Sam joins the first-ever class of girls at the prestigious Denmark Military Academy. She’s expecting push-ups and long runs, rope climbing and mud-crawling. As a military brat, she can handle an obstacle course just as well as the boys. She's even expecting the hostility she gets from some of the cadets who don’t think girls belong there. What she’s not expecting is her fiery attraction to her drill sergeant. But dating is strictly forbidden and Sam won't risk her future, or the dare, on something so petty ... no matter how much she wants him. As Sam struggles to prove herself, she discovers that some of the boys don’t just want her gone - they will stop at nothing to drive her out. When their petty threats turn to brutal hazing, bleeding into every corner of her life, she realizes they are not acting alone. A decades-old secret society is alive and active ... and determined to force her out. At any cost. Now time's running short. Sam must decide who she can trust ... and choosing the wrong person could have deadly consequences. 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Although it wasn’t a perfect read, Rites of Passage by Joy N. Hensley was a solid debut. But, since I’ve been having trouble writing a review for Rites of Passage, I’ll just list what I liked and disliked about it. 

  • I loved Sam as a protagonist. Since I know I wouldn’t last a day at a military school, I really admired Sam’s determination to last a full school year at the Denmark Military Academy despite being bullied for simply being a girl. She was such a resilient character!
  • I found the setting to be pretty original because I’ve never read a book that's set at a military school.
  • The Society created an element of mystery, and increased the stakes for Sam being seriously injured if she chose to stay at the Denmark Military Academy.
  • Though I liked the small amount of romance present between Sam and Drill, it took far too long to develop because of Sam’s simultaneous interest in Kelly until the middle portion of the book.
  • I found the ending a bit too open for my liking.
Rites of Passage was released by HarperTeen on September 9, 2014. 

Comments About the Cover: I like its simplicity and the focus on the dog tags.  

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

Monday, September 15, 2014

Review: The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

From Goodreads: Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don't like her. She jokes that she won't bite. But they don't laugh. Melanie is a very special girl. 

My Rating: 4 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Considering the synopsis of The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey barely reveals anything, I had no idea what The Girl with All the Gifts was about before reading it. I’m actually really glad that turned out to be the case because had I known Melanie’s secret, I think I would have been reluctant to read this book since I’m not too keen about zombie novels.

Assuming you’re like me and couldn’t resist highlighting my spoiler (but if you haven’t, give yourself a pat on the back), don’t expect The Girl with All the Gifts to be filled with action. Yes, there are action scenes, but for the most part, The Girl with All the Gifts is a slow read with complex characters that make you question, for example, what it means to be a human. Are the young children in this story the monsters as the adults would have you believe, or is it the sergeant who treats the children like shit, the doctor who would do anything to further her research and/or the teacher who encourages the children to dream of a better future, knowing that it can never be? Is there even a clear villain in the story?

In addition to its thoughtfulness, I enjoyed how much neuroscience was incorporated into the novel. It’s not necessary to have a science background in order to enjoy The Girl with All the Gifts, but having a neuroscience background definitely made me appreciate it more.

If it wasn’t for the abrupt ending and that at times the book felt somewhat long (which it is at 460 pages), I would have considered The Girl with All the Gifts to be a perfect read.

The Girl with All the Gifts was released in June 2014 by Orbit. 

Comments About the Cover: I feel that it’s a little too plain looking.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Review: The Girl and the Clockwork Cat by Nikki McCormack

From Goodreads: Feisty teenage thief Maeko and her maybe-more-than-friend Chaff have scraped out an existence in Victorian London’s gritty streets, but after a near-disastrous heist leads her to a mysterious clockwork cat and two dead bodies, she’s thrust into a murder mystery that may cost her everything she holds dear. Her only allies are Chaff, the cat, and Ash, the son of the only murder suspect, who offers her enough money to finally get off the streets if she’ll help him find the real killer. What starts as a simple search ultimately reveals a conspiracy stretching across the entire city. And as Maeko and Chaff discover feelings for each other neither was prepared to admit, she’s forced to choose whether she’ll stay with him or finally escape the life of a street rat. But with danger closing in around them, the only way any of them will get out of this alive is if all of them work together. 

My Rating: 1.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: When I requested The Girl and the Clockwork Cat by Nikki McCormack, I was expecting a book with great worldbuilding, a wily protagonist, and a slow burning romance. Sadly, not only were none of my expectations fulfilled, but the plot also lacked organization as it consisted of characters endlessly running around from place to place while highlighting the adults’ incompetency.

Though it didn’t have as many steampunk elements as I thought it would, the worldbuilding in The Girl and the Clockwork Cat was pretty decent. I felt like I was in Victorian London, and I liked McCormack’s use of historically accurate language. 

Maeko’s character, however, was less tolerable. Where I was expecting a hardened street rat, I instead got a girl with a soft heart. As well, I found that she thought she was much smarter than she actually was, and so constantly put herself in unfavourable situations.

Finally, the romance that the synopsis promised hardly came into fruition because Maeko ended up feeling torn between two guys. I’m not sure why the author chose to go the route of a love triangle because a straight-up romance between fellow thieves would have been a lot more believable than the possibility of a romance between a street rat and a wealthy guy.

The Girl and the Clockwork Cat was released by Entangled Teen on September 2, 2014. 

Comments About the Cover: I like that the cover reveals quite a bit about the book. For example, Big Ben in the background makes it evident that the setting is London and the gears at the bottom indicate that The Girl and the Clockwork Cat is a steampunk novel.

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

Monday, September 01, 2014

Review: Mary: The Summoning by Hillary Monahan

From Goodreads: There is a right way and a wrong way to summon her. Jess had done the research. Success requires precision: a dark room, a mirror, a candle, salt, and four teenage girls. Each of them - Jess, Shauna, Kitty, and Anna - must link hands, follow the rules ... and never let go. A thrilling fear spins around the room the first time Jess calls her name: "Bloody Mary. Bloody Mary. BLOODY MARY." A ripple of terror follows when a shadowy silhouette emerges through the fog, a specter trapped behind the mirror. Once is not enough, though - at least not for Jess. Mary is called again. And again. But when their summoning circle is broken, Bloody Mary slips through the glass with a taste for revenge on her lips. As the girls struggle to escape Mary's wrath, loyalties are questioned, friendships are torn apart, and lives are forever altered. A haunting trail of clues leads Shauna on a desperate search to uncover the legacy of Mary Worth. What she finds will change everything, but will it be enough to stop Mary - and Jess - before it's too late?

My Rating: Slightly higher than 3 hearts, but not quite 3.5 hearts

Thoughts on the Novel: Hillary Monahan's Mary: The Summoning was a book that I have mixed feelings about because although I liked some aspects of it, other parts could have been improved upon.

Here is my list of pros and cons about Mary: The Summoning: 

  • I liked that Monahan created a background for Mary. She wasn’t just some ghost, but a girl with a history, which made me want to know why she became so full of fury that she eventually became Bloody Mary.
  • Although Mary: The Summoning was full of horror scenes, they weren't too frightening. While some people might be disappointed by that, I was actually content about not having to worry about whether Mary was coming for me. If you’re a scaredy-cat but want to read a horror novel, I would suggest giving Mary: The Summoning a try.
  • I loved what happened to Jess at the end. She totally deserved it! 
  • I thought there was a lot of telling rather than showing in Mary: The Summoning. For example, before we even really get to know Shauna and her friends, we’re told about their personalities and group dynamics.
  • Shauna and her friends weren't very memorable.
  • I would have liked to know more about Mary’s background. Three letters addressed from Mary to her sister just weren’t enough since they only painted a brief picture of her life.
  • I wasn't too pleased that by the time story ended, Jess’ motives for wanting to summon Mary remained unclear. I had thought that Mary: The Summoning was a standalone, but Goodreads confirms otherwise. Honestly, I'm extremely surprised that one book wasn't sufficient for the overall story arc.
Mary: The Summoning will be released tomorrow by Disney Hyperion. 

Comments About the Cover: It’s so creepy looking! 

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