Monday, August 26, 2013

Mini Reviews: All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill and The Distance Between Us by Kasie West

From Goodreads: "You have to kill him." Imprisoned in the heart of a secret military base, Em has nothing except the voice of the boy in the cell next door and the list of instructions she finds taped inside the drain. Only Em can complete the final instruction. She’s tried everything to prevent the creation of a time machine that will tear the world apart. She holds the proof: a list she has never seen before, written in her own hand. Each failed attempt in the past has led her to the same terrible present - imprisoned and tortured by a sadistic man called the doctor while war rages outside. 
Marina has loved her best friend James since the day he moved next door when they were children. A gorgeous, introverted science prodigy from one of America’s most famous families, James finally seems to be seeing Marina in a new way, too. But on one disastrous night, James’s life crumbles apart, and with it, Marina’s hopes for their future. Now someone is trying to kill him. Marina will protect James, no matter what. Even if it means opening her eyes to a truth so terrible that she may not survive it. At least not as the girl she once was. 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill starts off simply with a prisoner magnetized by a drain, but quickly becomes an engrossing, fast-paced read with plenty of action. That said, I probably won’t remember much about the novel in a few months because I didn’t really connect with the characters in a meaningful way. As well, because Terrill did her best to avoid time paradoxes, it was hard for me to see how the characters grew from their past selves into their present selves, making it seem as if the two storylines were a bit disconnected. 

All Our Yesterdays will be released by Disney Hyperion on September 3, 2013. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Disney Book Group) for free via NetGalley. 
From Goodreads: Seventeen-year-old Caymen Meyers studies the rich like her own personal science experiment, and after years of observation she’s pretty sure they’re only good for one thing - spending money on useless stuff, like the porcelain dolls in her mother’s shop. So when Xander Spence walks into the store to pick up a doll for his grandmother, it only takes one glance for Caymen to figure out he’s oozing rich. Despite his charming ways and that he’s one of the first people who actually gets her, she’s smart enough to know his interest won’t last. Because if there’s one thing she’s learned from her mother’s warnings, it’s that the rich have a short attention span. But Xander keeps coming around, despite her best efforts to scare him off. And much to her dismay, she's beginning to enjoy his company. She knows her mom can’t find out - she wouldn’t approve. She’d much rather Caymen hang out with the local rocker who hasn’t been raised by money. But just when Xander’s attention and loyalty are about to convince Caymen that being rich isn’t a character flaw, she finds out that money is a much bigger part of their relationship than she’d ever realized. And that Xander’s not the only one she should’ve been worried about. 

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Since I really liked Kasie West’s Pivot Point and thought that it felt very much like a contemporary novel despite not being one, I was looking forward to seeing what she’d do with an actual contemporary. Sadly, I didn’t enjoy The Distance Between Us as much as I was expecting to, mainly because I found Caymen to be very judgmental. I also didn’t like the way she treated Xander. But, I did like the unique doll shop setting and the focus on Carmen’s relationship with her mother.

The Distacnce Between Us was released in July 2013 by HarperTeen.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Review: Raven Flight by Juliet Marillier

From Goodreads: Neryn has finally found the rebel group at Shadowfell, and now her task is to seek out the elusive Guardians, vital to her training as a Caller. These four powerful beings have been increasingly at odds with human kind, and Neryn must prove her worth to them. She desperately needs their help to use her gift without compromising herself or the cause of overthrowing the evil King Keldec. Neryn must journey with the tough and steadfast Tali, who looks on Neryn's love for the double agent Flint as a needless vulnerability. And perhaps it is. What Flint learns from the king will change the battlefield entirely - but in whose favor, no one knows. 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: In Raven Flight by Juliet Marillier, Neryn has recovered her strength after the events of the previous book, Shadowfell, and plans on seeking the Guardians’ help in spring. But with the conditions of a potential ally’s aid being time bound, she’s forced to speed up her learning of what it means to be a Caller, and so decides to start her journey by going west to find the Hag of the Isles instead of north to seek the Lord of the North.

Accompanying Neryn on her journey is Talia, a girl who serves as Neryn’s foil. Whereas Neryn is physically weaker and morally struggles to use her canny skills for the greater good at the expense of individuals, Talia is a survivor who always puts the rebellion first. Talia also considers love to be a sign of weakness and can’t believe that Neryn and Flint are willing to get closer to each other, knowing that the enemy can easily use their love against them.

While Shadowfell was full of Flint’s presence, he is only given a brief amount of page time in Raven Flight. This means that the tentative romance between Neryn and Flint doesn’t get much deeper, but it does serve to highlight Flint’s perilous role as a member of the rebels.

Although I’ve liked both books in the Shadowfell trilogy so far, I still haven’t fully fallen in love with this series because it’s so slow. Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to Caller and expect there to be a lot more action in it since Regan’s Rebels will finally be going up against Keldec and his army.

Raven Flight was released by Knopf Books for Young Readers in July 2013. 

Comments About the Cover: I like the use of darker colours because it lends some bleakness to the scene chosen since it was a time of loneliness for Neryn. 

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

Monday, August 12, 2013

Review: Starglass by Phoebe North

From Goodreads: Terra has never known anything but life aboard the Asherah, a city-within-a-spaceship that left Earth five hundred years ago in search of refuge. At sixteen, working a job that doesn't interest her, and living with a grieving father who only notices her when he's yelling, Terra is sure that there has to be more to life than what she's got. But when she inadvertently witnesses the captain's guard murdering an innocent man, Terra is suddenly thrust into the dark world beneath her ship's idyllic surface. As she's drawn into a secret rebellion determined to restore power to the people, Terra discovers that her choices may determine life or death for the people she cares most about. With mere months to go before landing on the long-promised planet, Terra has to make the decision of a lifetime - one that will determine the fate of her people.

My Rating: 1 heart 

Thoughts on the Novel: Though I’m not a big fan of sci-fi novels, I was pretty interested in reading Phoebe North’s debut, Starglass, because of North’s presence on Goodreads and in the blogosphere. Unfortunately, I struggled to finish Starglass due to several reasons.

First, I found it incredibly hard to believe in the worldbuilding. Having discussed the challenges of traveling to another planet in an astronomy course I took, I just didn’t find the existence of the Asherah very realistic. I might have been able to put aside my skepticism if the Asherah were a spaceship consisting of a few people traveling to a planet nearby, but North made it almost like a miniature city. There were a few hundred people, pets, crops being grown on fields, babies being born in a hatchery … all on a spaceship engaging in interstellar travel!

Another thing I was constantly focused on was the strong incorporation of Judaism in Starglass. It was very unexpected, and left me wondering why there weren’t any people of other religions present on the Asherah. Midway through the book, I finally learned that the Asherah is owned by the Post-terrestrial Jewish Preservation Society. Had this been explained earlier, I think it wouldn’t have been nagging me so much, allowing me to concentrate more fully on the plot.

Speaking of the plot, Starglass’ is really slow and meandering. For the first third of the book or so, there isn’t much going on other than Terra going to work, wanting to be kissed, and planning her marriage. Later on, she joins a rebel group and is chosen to assassinate somebody but is too busy making out with them.

As a character, I did not like Terra! Aside from the fact that she’s a bad friend, I thought that Terra seemed very desperate for romantic love since she’s constantly thinking about kissing guys. I hate when girls appear needy in that sense. I also didn’t find her to be a strong character – she does quite a bit of crying – which was too bad because she sometimes found herself in the wrong place at the wrong time and then would get involved in things I thought she probably had no business getting involved in.

Finally, I didn’t know what to make of the absurd ending. Spoiler alert: While the Asherah has been in space, Terra – for reasons unknown – has not only been dreaming about Zehava (the planet the Asherati plan on colonizing) being inhabited but also of a particular Zehavan guy. (The Asherati don't know that Zehava is inhabited until the Asherah gets near and a team is sent to scope out the planet.) After witnessing something dangerous, Terra realizes she’ll no longer be safe on the Asherah and so decides to seek safety with the Zehevan guy she has been dreaming about, a guy who happens to be a total stranger!

Starglass was released in July 2013 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

Comments About the Cover: I really like the pretty cover, and think it relates well to the story because it has a girl looking through a window at a planet. She is surrounded by leaves, which symbolize Terra’s occupation as a botanist.  

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

Monday, August 05, 2013

Mini Reviews: 52 Reasons to Hate My Father by Jessica Brody and Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

From Goodreads: Lexington Larrabee has never to work a day in her life. After all, she’s the heiress to the multi-billion-dollar Larrabee Media empire. And heiresses are not supposed to work. But then again, they’re not supposed to crash brand new Mercedes convertibles into convenience stores on Sunset Blvd either. Which is why, on Lexi’s eighteen birthday, her ever-absent, tycoon father decides to take a more proactive approach to her wayward life. Every week for the next year, she will have to take on a different low-wage job if she ever wants to receive her beloved trust fund. But if there’s anything worse than working as a maid, a dishwasher, and a fast-food restaurant employee, it’s dealing with Luke, the arrogant, albeit moderately attractive, college intern her father has assigned to keep tabs on her. In a hilarious “comedy of heiress” about family, forgiveness, good intentions, and best of all, second chances, Lexi learns that love can be unconditional, money can be immaterial, and, regardless of age, everyone needs a little saving. And although she might have 52 reasons to hate her father, she only needs one reason to love him.

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Although the plot of 52 Reasons to Hate My Father by Jessica Brody is pretty generic in that it’s about a spoiled heiress who learns to appreciate what she has, I still found it an entertaining read. I think a huge part of that was because of Lexi. She’s this completely bratty teen in the beginning of the book, yet still somehow manages to be hilarious. It was easy to not only laugh with her, but also at her. Once Lexi started to mature, it became much easier to like her. I did think that her change in perspective was kind of quick though. Still, I’d have to say that 52 Reasons to Hate My Father is probably the best out of the three books written by Brody that I’ve read so far. 

52 Reasons to Hate My Father was released in July 2012 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

From Goodreads: Clara Gardner has recently learned that she's part angel. Having angel blood run through her veins not only makes her smarter, stronger, and faster than humans (a word, she realizes, that no longer applies to her), but it means she has a purpose, something she was put on this earth to do. Figuring out what that is, though, isn't easy. Her visions of a raging forest fire and an alluring stranger lead her to a new school in a new town. When she meets Christian, who turns out to be the boy of her dreams (literally), everything seems to fall into place and out of place at the same time. Because there's another guy, Tucker, who appeals to Clara's less angelic side. As Clara tries to find her way in a world she no longer understands, she encounters unseen dangers and choices she never thought she'd have to make between honesty and deceit, love and duty, good and evil. When the fire from her vision finally ignites, will Clara be ready to face her destiny?

My Rating: 4 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: As much as I love books about angels, most of the ones that I’ve read haven’t been particularly outstanding. But, one series about angels that has been recommended many times is the Unearthly trilogy by Cynthia Hand. I finally decided to give the first book, Unearthly, a try and wasn't disappointed.

Early on, I figured that Unearthly would be another typical paranormal YA novel because it seemed like Clara would eventually hook up with Christian, the boy of her dreams. However, Hand did a great job of deviating from that norm. And while doing so, she managed to create complex characters and realistic relationships, and explore the theme of fate vs. free will without making it appear heavy-handed. 

Unearthly was released HarperTeen in January 2011.