Friday, June 29, 2012

Canada Day Blog Hop

The Canada Day Blog Hop is being hosted by Aislynn from Stitch - Read - Cook, Chrystal from Snowdrop Dreams of Books and Carmel from Rabid Reads.

For the hop, I'll be giving away a copy of This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers. To enter, fill out the Rafflecopter form below.

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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Mini Reviews: Dark Kiss by Michelle Rowen and Angel Eyes by Shannon Dittemore

From Goodreads: I don't do dangerous.  Smart, über-careful, ordinary Samantha-that's me. But I just couldn't pass up a surprise kiss from my number-one unattainable crush. A kiss that did something to me ... something strange. Now I feel hungry all the time, but not for food. It's like part of me is missing - and I don't know if I can get it back. Then there's Bishop. At first I thought he was just a street kid, but the secrets he's keeping are as intense as his unearthly blue eyes. If he's what I think he is, he may be the only one who can help me. But something terrifying is closing in, and the one chance Bishop and I have to stop it means losing everything I ever wanted and embracing the darkness inside me ...

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Although Michelle Rowen’s Dark Kiss had a somewhat interesting take on angels and demons in that neither side was completely good or bad, it ended up being an average read at the end because its plot lacked cohesion at times. As well, I thought Sam came off as sort of wishy-washy and naïve, and found it ironic that she claims to mock romance of any form when her own romance with Bishop – another character who I thought lacked depth – was insta-love and not particularly great. The one character I did like though was Kraven since he was snarky and seems to have an interesting backstory. 

Dark Kiss was released in May 2012 by Harlequin Teen.

In exchange for an honest review, this ARC was received from the publisher (Harlequin Teen) for free via NetGalley.
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From Goodreads: Brielle’s a ballerina who went to the city to chase her dreams and found tragedy instead. She’s come home to shabby little Stratus, Oregon, to live with her grief and her guilt ... and the incredible, numbing cold she can’t seem to shake. Jake’s the new guy at school. The boy next door with burning hands and an unbelievable gift that targets him for corruption. Something more than fate has brought them together. An evil bigger than both of them lurks in the shadows nearby, hiding in plain sight. Two angels stand guard, unsure what’s going to happen. And a beauty brighter than Jake or Brielle has ever seen is calling them to join the battle in a realm where all human choices start. A realm that only angels and demons - and Brielle - can perceive.

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Angel Eyes by Shannon Dittemore is actually pretty different from the typical YA angel novel out there. For one thing, it has a strong religious undertone throughout the novel, which may not appeal to everybody. However, it doesn’t come off as preachy; instead, it nicely ties questions about faith in God and free will into the plot. That said, the latter half of the book did feel a little heavy with the religious aspect.

Another way that Angel Eyes differs is that it doesn’t succumb to common themes. For example, I was fully expecting Brielle to either be an angel or fall for one - and was pleasantly surprised to find that didn’t turn out to be the case.

Angel Eyes was released by Thomas Nelson Fiction in May 2012.

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

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Defiance

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: Defiance
Author: C.J. Redwine
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Date of Release: August 28, 2012 

Goodreads Description: Within the walls of Baalboden, beneath the shadow of the city’s brutal leader, Rachel Adams has a secret. While other girls sew dresses, host dinner parties, and obey their male Protectors, Rachel knows how to survive in the wilderness and deftly wield a sword. When her father, Jared, fails to return from a courier mission and is declared dead, the Commander assigns Rachel a new Protector, her father’s apprentice, Logan - the same boy Rachel declared her love for two years ago, and the same boy who handed her heart right back to her. Left with nothing but fierce belief in her father’s survival, Rachel decides to escape and find him herself. But treason against the Commander carries a heavy price, and what awaits her in the Wasteland could destroy her. At nineteen, Logan McEntire is many things. Orphan. Outcast. Inventor. As apprentice to the city’s top courier, Logan is focused on learning his trade so he can escape the tyranny of Baalboden. But his plan never included being responsible for his mentor’s impulsive daughter. Logan is determined to protect her, but when his escape plan goes wrong and Rachel pays the price, he realizes he has more at stake than disappointing Jared. As Rachel and Logan battle their way through the Wasteland, stalked by a monster that can’t be killed and an army of assassins out for blood, they discover romance, heartbreak, and a truth that will incite a war decades in the making.

Why am I waiting? I love it when books feature strong female characters that are capable of taking care of themselves; but it doesn't hurt when there's a sexy romantic lead :) Plus, assassins and monsters are capable of making any tale better.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Review: Lies Beneath by Anne Greenwood Brown

From Goodreads: Calder White lives in the cold, clear waters of Lake Superior, the only brother in a family of murderous mermaids. To survive, Calder and his sisters prey on humans, killing them to absorb their energy. But this summer the underwater clan targets Jason Hancock out of pure revenge. They blame Hancock for their mother's death and have been waiting a long time for him to return to his family's homestead on the lake. Hancock has a fear of water, so to lure him in, Calder sets out to seduce Hancock's daughter, Lily. Easy enough - especially as Calder has lots of practice using his irresistible good looks and charm on unsuspecting girls. Only this time Calder screws everything up: he falls for Lily - just as Lily starts to suspect that there's more to the monsters-in-the-lake legends than she ever imagined. And just as his sisters are losing patience with him.

My Rating: 2.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: With all the mermaid books popping up this summer, Lies Beneath by Anne Greenwood Brown is the third one I’ve managed to read … and so far, I still haven’t been captivated by any of them. While the writing of Lies Beneath wasn’t bad, I did think it took far too long for the action to pick up. I also found it hard to care about the characters or the romance.

First off, I thought I’d be reading a story about some murderous mermaids. However, Calder seems to have tremendous control over his urge to kill, and his sisters each only kill one person – strangers, at that – the entire summer. Sadly, they just didn't seem all that terrifying. More deaths – especially of some important characters – would have made me a much happier person!

Besides the lack of grisly deaths, Calder (and the rest of the characters) felt very flat to me. Calder’s sole focus on using Lily to get revenge and gain freedom from his sisters also made it hard for me to believe that he had actually fallen for Lily. Brown does try (unsuccessfully) to make the romance appear as if it’s not instant love by having Calder and Lily interact with each other on a regular basis, but it seemed more creepy than romantic because it was through a lot of spying and stalking on Calder’s part. 

Lies Beneath was released on June 12, 2012 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers.

Comments About the Cover: The main character, Calder, is a merman. So, I’m not sure why there’s a mermaid on the cover. 

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

Friday, June 15, 2012

Review: First Comes Love by Katie Kacvinsky

From Inside Jacket: Like his name, Gray is dark and stormy. Dylan, a girl always searching for what’s next, seemingly unable to settle down, is the exact opposite: full of light and life. On the outside, they seem like an unlikely couple. But looks can be deceiving and besides, opposites attract. What starts as friendship, turns into admiration, respect and caring, until finally these two lone souls find they are truly in love with each other. But staying in love is not as easy as falling in love. If Dylan and Gray want their love to last, they’re going to have to work at it. And learn that sometimes love means having to say you’re sorry.

My Rating: 3.5 hearts  

Thoughts on the Novel: When I saw the synopsis for First Comes Love by Katie Kacvinsky, I thought it would simply be a story about two very different people falling in love and then experiencing some obstacles that challenge that love. It was that; but, First Comes Love was also a book about two people learning more about themselves by having someone to talk to and confide in.

Told from the perspectives of both Dylan and Gray, First Comes Love allows you to see what the two characters like about each other while simultaneously letting you develop your own opinion about them as individuals. Gray is moody, cynical, and someone who’s very much a loner. Dylan on the other hand is extremely carefree and completely uninhibited with her emotions. She also has this quirky tendency of naming everything she owns. Although I found it easier to connect with Gray than Dylan, what’s nice is that both characters are college-aged – an age range that I find lacking in YA. As such, Dylan and Gray do engage in (frequent) sex; and so First Comes Love may not be appropriate for younger teens.

What I enjoyed the most about First Comes Love though was the setting. As Gray and Dylan develop their fledgling friendship into something more, they visit numerous places in Phoenix, which Kacvinsky describes in detail. I’m terrible at visualizing things and places in my head, but Kacvinsky’s descriptions made me feel as if I had actually visited Phoenix and tagged along with Gray and Dylan like a third wheel.

A short book with a surprising amount of depth, First Comes Love was released in May 2012 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Comments About the Cover: I like that it’s very dark because First Comes Love isn’t one of those cheerful summer romance stories that are perfect for reading at the beach. I did take off the jacket though while reading the book on the bus since it’s kind of embarrassing to be seen in public with it.

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Thomas Allen & Son) for free.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Author Interview: Courtney Summers

Today, I'd like to welcome Courtney Summers, the author of This is Not a Test to my blog. 

A bit about Courtney (as found on her website): Courtney Summers was born in Belleville, Ontario, Canada in 1986 and currently resides in a small town not far from there. When she was 14, she dropped out of high school so she could pursue her education. Now she writes gritty young adult novels. It is the best job ever. 

This Is Not A Test features a group of teens who have sought shelter from zombies at a high school. What do you miss the most about high school? What do you miss the least?
I left high school to pursue my education independently in the ninth grade and there's not a whole lot I miss about it, to be honest. I liked little things, like the funny video announcements the broadcast club put together but I don't really miss them per se.  
The things that I miss the least ... those, I can list! :) I don't miss getting up early, the bus ride, going to class, homework – the usual kind of stuff!

All of your previous books have been contemporaries. What made you decide to write a post-apocalyptic novel instead?
I've always really loved zombies, so it was only a matter of time before I wrote a novel about them. All of my contemporary novels are very character-driven, usually about people coping with extreme situations and I find the zombie stories I'm interested in most are basically like that as well, so overall it wasn't too unexpected or out of my comfort zone to write one myself.

If a zombie apocalypse had occurred while you were a teen, would your teenage self have been a leader like Cary, a follower like Harrison or somewhere in the middle? Oh, and which character from the novel would she have been hanging out with?
I think I would have been a bit like Harrison and a little bit like Grace – some kind of combination of the two. Neither assumed leadership roles and I wouldn't want to either. I assume I'd cry a lot like Harrison, but I also like to think I'd be a little more socially on the ball like Grace. Hopefully!

The zombies are coming and you have no time to grab anything. What do you have on your person and how do you deal with the undead?
Probably just the clothes on my back! And nothing useful. I would deal with the undead by giving them wide berth and running for my life. If contact was unavoidable, I would be willing to take on zombies in a car. And by that I mean I would run over them.

Let's be honest: If a zombie apocalypse ever occurred, I'd either be dead or one of the undead. What do you think would be your chances for survival?
As much as I'd like to think I would be awesome at it, it would surprise no one if I was turned into a zombie or eaten by one the very first day, and if not that, I'd probably injure myself and become a liability to the people I was with and they'd probably abandon me on the side of the road. Maybe having to confront this fact about myself in this answer will inspire me to brush up on my survival skills to better improve my odds, though? That would be nice!

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

Courtney can be found on: [her website] [Twitter] [Facebook] [Goodreads]
This is Not a Test can be bought from: [Amazon] [Barnes and Noble] [The Book Depository]

Monday, June 11, 2012

Review: This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers

From Goodreads: It’s the end of the world. Six students have taken cover in Cortege High but shelter is little comfort when the dead outside won’t stop pounding on the doors. One bite is all it takes to kill a person and bring them back as a monstrous version of their former self. To Sloane Price, that doesn’t sound so bad. Six months ago, her world collapsed and since then, she’s failed to find a reason to keep going. Now seems like the perfect time to give up. As Sloane eagerly waits for the barricades to fall, she’s forced to witness the apocalypse through the eyes of five people who actually want to live. But as the days crawl by, the motivations for survival change in startling ways and soon the group’s fate is determined less and less by what’s happening outside and more and more by the unpredictable and violent bids for life - and death - inside. When everything is gone, what do you hold on to?

My Rating: 4.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: I’ve never been a big fan of zombies – I mean, when was the last time you read about zombies being sparkly and not wanting to eat humans? – but since I’m trying to read more books written by Canadian authors this year, I decided to request Courtney Summers’ This is Not a Test. I’m so glad I did because I just fell in love with a zombie novel for the first time!

This is Not a Test begins innocently enough with Sloane and her father quietly eating breakfast. But after the house shakes, Sloane’s father is suddenly killing a woman covered in blood and people are tearing into each other. I thought the start of This is Not a Test was fantastic since you dive into the action right away.

Summers then keeps you tense throughout the novel by making the main setting a school where Sloane and a few others barricade themselves while waiting for help to arrive. With nobody having a clue about what’s happening outside, there’s a constant latent threat that zombies will somehow find a way to break into the school or that the kids will eventually run out of food and have to venture out.

Besides the tightly written plot, I also enjoyed the characterization in This is Not a Test. Although Sloane was the main character, Summers developed each of her teens to such an extent that I ended up caring for all of them. The secondary characters actually felt as if they were more than secondary characters because everyone had their own secrets, motivations and experiences.

Since This is Not a Test felt like a survival story that just happened to have zombies in it, I was happy that Summers’ characters experienced believable emotions. They cooperated with each other; but they also fought, cried, and formed subgroups. Furthermore, I really liked that Summers didn’t shy away from having her characters make tough choices and sacrifice people for the greater good of the group.

My first Courtney Summers’ novel but certainly not my last, This is Not a Test will be released by St. Martin’s Griffin on June 19, 2012.         

Comments About the Cover: I don’t know what’s going on with the girl and her hair, but I like the melancholy vibe as it goes perfectly with Sloane’s decision to kill herself. The little droplets of blood are a nice additional touch.

In exchange for an honest review, this ARC was received from the publisher (Raincoast Books) for free.
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Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Author Interview: Sarah Alderson

Today I'd like to welcome Sarah Alderson, the author of Hunting Lila to my blog. 

A bit about Sarah (as found on Goodreads): Having spent most of her life in London, Sarah quit her job in the non profit sector in 2009 and took off on a round the world trip with her husband and princess obsessed daughter on a mission to find a new place to call home. After several months in India, Singapore, Australia and the US, they settled in Bali where Sarah now spends her days writing by the pool.

How did you come up with the idea for Hunting Lila?
I was swimming. And I started off by thinking ‘what if..’: What if there’s a girl and she can move things just by looking at them. And what if her mother was murdered five years before? And what if she’s been in love with her brother’s best friend since forever?...and it kind of went from there.

If you had a psychic ability, what would you like it to be and why?
I’d like to be able to astrally project. I hate jet lag so this would be brilliant. Imagine – breakfast in Rio, lunch in New York, Dinner in Paris. Heaven. Though I guess if you’re only astrally projecting and not teleporting you probably can’t eat. That would suck.

You’ve suddenly developed that psychic ability you really wanted and somehow find yourself a member of Demos’ group. Who do you get along with the best and why?
I think I’d get along with Alicia. She’s feisty and, as a mind-reader, handy to have around. I also like Harvey. He’s laconic, laid back, but also a bank robber previous to his current employment. He’s based on my friend’s husband so I know we’d get on. Suki and Nate are hilarious together but I think I’d have to let them have their own space.

Lila, Jack and Alex realize that they’ve been led to believe things that may not be true. What’s something you thought was true for a while but actually wasn’t?
That politicians could be trusted? I think as a younger teenager I was quite an idealist. Now I live in Indonesia, which I think is one of the most corrupt nations in the world, and I’ve kind of given up believing that any politician can be trusted.  Even those that aspire to be great – like Obama, I respect him greatly, but there are too many pressures from external interests for even the most admirable people not to become corrupt or break promises.
Oh, also my crazy Irish Catholic grandmother told me when I was 5 that I would die of cancer if I didn’t turn my duvet down and air my bed every morning. I believed that for a really long time.
And that I had a fairy called Emily who would visit me in the night (my dad would write me letters pretending to be from her).
This is funny – my dad also had be convinced until I was about 9 that he’d been a cabin boy on Black Beard’s pirate ship. He used to tell me and my brother these awesome stories about it. And man, I believed every word. Maybe that’s where I got my story-telling gene from.

Losing Lila, the sequel to Hunting Lila, will be released in the UK in a few months. What’s next for Lila (i.e. will there be a third book in the series); and are you working on anything else at the moment?
I’m not sure what’s next for Lila. We’ll see. I’m working on lots of exciting things right now; an adult book, a screenplay and I’m editing several YA books that I have coming out in the next couple of years ;)

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

Sarah can be found on: [her website] [her blog] [Twitter] [Facebook] [Goodreads]
Hunting Lila can be bought from: [Amazon] [Barnes and Noble] [The Book Depository] 


Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Review: Hunting Lila by Sarah Alderson

From Back Cover: After a mugging exposes her unique ability, Lila decides to run to the only people she can trust - her brother and Alex. They live in Southern California where they work for a secret organisation called The Unit, and Lila discovers that the two of them are hunting down the men who murdered her mother five years before. And that they’ve found them. In a world where nothing and no one is quite as they seem, Lila quickly realises that she is not alone - there are others out there just like her - people with special powers - and her mother’s killer is one of them ...

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Hunting Lila by Sarah Alderson is a book that you can breeze through in one sitting because the story is fun and fast-paced. While not totally original, the plot does have some surprising twists as well as a super cute romance and plenty of action.

Lila is a character that I could easily relate to because she’s pretty smart and has a good heart. However, she also tends to be a bit stubborn (which, okay, she kind of needs to be because Jack and Alex refuse to let her in on their secrets); and reading about her crushing on Alex and jumping to conclusions about his conversations and actions not only made her seem younger, but also got annoying after a while.

Luckily, midway through the novel, Lila finds out that Alex likes her too and stops gushing about how hot he is. I really did like the romance though (even if I thought the switch in Alex’s stance from the whole ‘we can’t be together’ to ‘screw it; I’m kissing you’ was sort of sudden). Not only was Alex hot, but he was also protective of Lila. Moreover, since the two of them had known each other since childhood, Lila’s memories of a younger Alex allow the reader to gain a deeper understanding of why she likes him so much.

The secondary cast of characters were enjoyable as well; and I’m looking forward to getting to know them better in Losing Lila. In particular, I’d like to see a bit more of Jack and a whole lot more of Suki in the sequel.

An entertaining read, Hunting Lila was released in August 2011 by Simon & Schuster UK.   

Comments About the Cover: It’s kind of mysterious, but I have absolutely no idea how it reflects the story!

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Simon and Schuster Canada) for free. 


Friday, June 01, 2012

Review: Enchanted by Alethea Kontis

From Inside Jacket: It isn't easy being the rather overlooked and unhappy youngest sibling to sisters named for the other six days of the week. Sunday’s only comfort is writing stories, although what she writes has a terrible tendency to come true. When Sunday meets an enchanted frog who asks about her stories, the two become friends. Soon that friendship deepens into something magical. One night Sunday kisses her frog goodbye and leaves, not realizing that her love has transformed him back into Rumbold, the crown prince of Arilland - and a man Sunday’s family despises. The prince returns to his castle, intent on making Sunday fall in love with him as the man he is, not the frog he was. But Sunday is not so easy to woo. How can she feel such a strange, strong attraction for this prince she barely knows? And what twisted secrets lie hidden in his past - and hers?

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Alethea Kontis’ Enchanted is a nicely written book that can be read by anyone who enjoys fairy tales. As the synopsis suggests, Enchanted is a re-telling of The Frog Prince. But, Kontis weaves in elements from other fairy tales so that Enchanted ends up being a mash-up of fairy tales (e.g. The Princess and the Pea, Sleeping Beauty, Jack and the Beanstalk, etc.) squished into one book. It was well done; and I really liked spotting some the different things borrowed from other fairy tales.

The characters however could have used a little more depth. Sunday has six sisters named after the other days of the week and initially, I had trouble remembering what their personalities were like. This was made a little easier though by a rhyme at the beginning of the book that I could flip to in order to find out what each sister was supposed to be like. After a while, the sisters’ personalities become distinct enough that I didn’t need the rhyme. Still, none of the characters ever felt like they were anything more than characters, and it was kind of hard to connect with Sunday because she seemed sort of young and really sweet.

The romance was cute as well – although it was nothing worth gushing over because Sunday starts falling in love with Grumble the frog on the second day of knowing him. Normally this would bother me; but since instant love situations are a staple of fairy tales, I let that slide this time.

Aside from the romantic storyline, there were some other storylines that made up the plot (e.g. what Rumbold’s father has been up to during his rule as king), which I liked more. Unfortunately, I thought their impact was either minimized or that they were developed quite late and so their resolution felt a tad rushed.

A charming tale nonetheless, Enchanted was released by Harcourt Children’s Books in May 2012.

Comments About the Cover: Although the cover is gorgeous and I love the dress the model is wearing, it’s sort of hard to see the frog.

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Thomas Allen & Son) for free.