Saturday, October 23, 2010

Review: Winter Shadows by Margaret Buffie

From Inside Jacket: It is the winter of 1856, and Beatrice Alexander has just returned from Upper Canada to her home on the Red River, in what is now Manitoba. As her father's new wife drives a wedge between her and Papa, Beatrice can only be sure of the comfort of her beloved Cree grandmother, relegated to a room upstairs. Shadows hover around Beatrice, who feels trapped by her circumstances and the growing prejudice against those, like herself, of mixed Cree and Scottish blood. As she explores her visions and her unfulfilled life through her journal, Beatrice is suddenly confronted by a fateful choice: Should she settle for a man she doesn't love and embark on a journey of adventure or stay where she is and hope to eventually find happiness? Five generations later, in the same house, Cass feels the same long winter shadows pressing in on her. Her mother has died and her father's new wife is cold and distant. Miraculously, when Cass discovers the star brooch belonging to Beatrice, her visions lead her to Beatrice's diary. Is she really able to communicate with Beatrice across time, or is it all in her imagination?

My Rating: 4 hearts

Thoughts on the Novel: It was initially hard to get into Margaret Buffie’s Winter Shadows because each chapter alternates between Cass and Beatrice so it was a little jerky, but it became a lot easier to read once both girls’ stories started to overlap a bit. I was also expecting that Cass would time travel, but she actually is only able to get glimpses of Beatrice and read her journal in real time, which I really liked because I believe that spirits can exist but time traveling … not so much.

Although Buffie does a really good job developing both Cass and Beatrice, I found Beatrice’s character more captivating because I’ve never read a book where the protagonist was Métis (a mixture of First Nations and European descent). Having always loved studying Canadian history, it was interesting to read a bit about some of the prejudice the Métis would have experienced by the full-blooded Europeans. Beatrice even used Cree words, which made her story more authentic!

Winter Shadows was released by Tundra Books on October 12, 2010.

Comments About the Cover: The colours work really well together and give off a mysterious and desolate feel. I’m also going to assume the diary is on a window ledge otherwise it just seems out of place, especially because there’s snow and footprints in the background.

Winter Shadows was received for free through Goodreads First Reads.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Review: Heist Society by Ally Carter

From Inside Jacket: When Katarina Bishop was three, her parents took her to the Louvre ... to case it. For her seventh birthday, Katarina and her Uncle Eddie traveled to Austria ... to steal the crown jewels. When Kat turned fifteen, she planned a con of her own - scamming her way into the best boarding school in the country, determined to leave the family business behind. Unfortunately, leaving "the life" for a normal life proves harder than she'd expected. Soon, Kat's friend and former co-conspirator, Hale, appears out of nowhere to bring her back into the world she tried so hard to escape. But he has good reason: a powerful mobster's priceless art collection has been stolen and he wants it returned. Only a master thief could have pulled off this job, and Kat's father isn't just on the suspect list, he is the list. Caught between Interpol and a far more deadly enemy, Kat's dad needs her help. For Kat there is only one solution: track down the paintings and steal them back. So what if it's a spectacularly impossible job? She's got two weeks, a teenage crew, and, hopefully, just enough talent to pull off the biggest heist in her family's (very crooked) history - and with any luck, steal her life back along the way.

My Rating: 4.5 hearts
Thoughts on the Novel: I’ve never read the Gallagher Girls series and so Heist Society happens to be my first Ally Carter novel. A combination of mystery and action that had Kat traveling all over Europe, Heist Society was just so much fun to read, which is why I’m now eagerly waiting for Carter to finish writing Heist Society 2.  

Each of the characters in Heist Society had their own distinct personality, and I loved the loyalty they displaced to each other – how many people would be willing to help a friend steal paintings from a museum? I think it would be awesome if Carter decided to write some short stories about any one of the secondary characters. In fact, reading about how Hale and Kat met would be pretty interesting, and I’m sure Angus and Hamish’s story would be hilarious.

It was also pretty interesting to read about the schemes the characters came up with since they had to steal not one, but five, paintings from one of the world’s most secure – albeit fictional – museums. Stealing may be completely wrong, but Carter made it sound like such a blast and just made me wish I could join Kat’s crew! No worries though, I’m still a good girl at heart.

Heist Society was released by Hyperion Book CH in February 2010.  

Comments About the Cover: This is one of those of covers that simply snags your attention and refuses to let go. I love how the smile on the girl’s face totally conveys that she’s got a secret and is probably up to no good, and the way the cover subtly tells you what the novel is about because one side of the sunglasses has a painting being reflected back whereas in the other side, the painting is gone.

Friday, October 15, 2010

What I'll Attempt to Read for the Halloween Read-a-thon

Lesley from Young Adult Books Reviewed is hosting a read-a-thon from today to Sunday night. So, what will I be reading? I'll be starting off with The Ghost and the Goth by Stacey Kade, but considering I also have midterms to study for, I'm not sure how much of it I'll get through. On the other hand, I can't be studying 24/7 and because I'll need to relax, other books that are in my list include: Infinite Days by Rebecca Maizel and Marlene Perez's Dead is Just a Rumor.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Couple of Noteworthy Contests in the Blogosphere

Shari from My Neurotic Book Affair and Jessica from Shut Up! I'm Reading are having a massive giveaway that ends on October 17. There's a section for both US/Canada and international followers. Check it out now!

Another contest that's going on is The Undercover Book Lover's Hungry for HarperTeen Contest. One winner - it's international - will get to choose one prize pack out of the four that she's offering. Each prize pack contains three books; so, what are you waiting for? Head on over there before October 15 and enter!

October 15 is also the last date to enter the Smart Chicks Kick It Giveaway hosted by Addicted 2 Novels. Lena is offering a copy of any YA novel written by one of the Smart Chicks along with an autographed poster. Click here to join!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Review: Aces Up by Lauren Barnholdt

From Back Cover: High school senior Shannon Card needs money. And lots of it. She's been admitted to Wellesley College, but her dad just lost his job and somehow she has to come up with a year of tuition herself. But Shannon's dream of making big bucks waitressing at the local casino, the Collosio, disappears faster than a gambler's lucky streak. Her boss is a tyrant, her coworker is nuts, and her chances of balancing a tray full of drinks while wearing high-heeled shoes are slim to none. Worse, time is running out, and Shannon hasn't made even half the money she'd hoped. When Shannon receives a mysterious invitation to join Aces Up, a secret network of highly talented college poker players, at first she thinks No way. She has enough to worry about: keeping her job, winning the coveted math scholarship at school, and tutoring her secret crush, Max. But when Shannon musters up the nerve to kiss Max and he doesn't react at all, the allure of Aces Up and its sexy eighteen-year-old leader, Cole, is suddenly too powerful to ignore. Cole's assurance that Shannon has natural talent - along with his amazing kissing ability - makes Shannon believe that a life of riches, ease, and constant making out is right around the corner. But could it really be this easy? And with Wellesley in her sights, does Shannon have the guts to call Cole's bluff?

My Rating: 3 hearts

Thoughts on the Novel: If you’re looking for a book that’s a light read, Aces Up by Lauren Barnholdt would be right up your alley. The premise of Aces Up is pretty much unbelievable but the novel does a pretty good job showing how easily addictive gambling can be. However, I think to enjoy the novel even more, it would help if you actually know a little bit about poker because although Barnholdt does explain the rules, it’s still confusing.  

Shannon is a spunky protagonist determined to do whatever it takes to make money for college, and what made Aces Up enjoyable was her voice and thoughts. Though a lot of the choices Shannon made were pretty dumb, she does have a few surprises up her sleeve for readers at the end.

Aces Up was released by Delacorte Books for Young Readers in August 2010.

Comments About the Cover: The cover is just perfect for the novel and completely represents it. I love how the guy and girl are looking at each other and smiling behind their cards, which makes it look like they’re up to no good and the design has the words “Be careful what you bet on.”     

Review: Girl Overboard by Justina Chen Headley

From Inside Jacket: Everybody thinks Syrah is the golden girl. After all, her father is Ethan Cheng, billionaire, and she has everything any kid could possibly desire: a waterfront mansion, jet plane, and custom-designed snowboards. But most of what glitters in her life is fool's gold. Her half-siblings hate her, her best friend's girlfriend is ruining their friendship, and her own so-called boyfriend is only after her for her father's name. When her broken heart results in a snowboarding accident that exiles her from the mountains - the one place where she feels free and accepted for who she is, not what she has - can Syrah rehab both her busted-up knee and her bruised heart?

My Rating: 5 hearts  

Thoughts on the Novel: Out of all the novels I’ve read by Justina Chen Headley, Girl Overboard is by far my favourite. Headley always does a superb job with character development and Syrah’s evolution was no different. Initially, Syrah wants to just be seen as “Syrah” and not “Syrah Cheng” but by the end of the novel, Syrah has learned to embrace her last name and everything associated with being a Cheng while still being true to her own dreams.

Relationships were such a crucial element in Girl Overboard and this book had it all: a new friendship, an old friendship deteriorating but then being renewed, growing closer to family members, and maintaining the status quo. Each of them were portrayed so realistically and affected Syrah in their own way, which made the novel very emotional for me especially at the end. In fact, I did get teary!

The one complaint I have against Girl Overboard was that there was such a big mystery at the beginning of the book about the circumstances around Syrah’s snowboarding accident and the truth was a little anticlimactic. Still, the novel is amazing and has some wonderful messages that can be gleaned from it.

Girl Overboard was published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers in January 2008.

Comments About the Cover: The blue, pink and white really complement each other and actually make me wish it was winter just so I’d get to feel that lovely snow. I also really like how the font stands out and how the word Overboard sort of looks like a snowboard.     

Monday, October 04, 2010

Carol's Will She Ever Stop Giving Away ARCs Contest

This is totally last minute - I decided to avoid the Internet as much as possible this weekend in an attempt to get at least a few journal articles read for my classes - but Carol at Carol's Prints is having another ARCs giveaway. Nightshade by Andrea Cremer and Pegasus by Robin McKinley are just two of the books on that list, so check out her contest before midnight tonight!