Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Top 10 Books I've Read in 2014

With the end of 2014, I'm going to take a look back at the top ten books that I've read this year. Here's my list (in no particular order):
  1. A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner [my review]
  2. Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers [my review]
  3. This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner [my review]
  4. Beware the Wild by Natalie C. Parker [my review]
  5. The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey [my review]
  6. The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls by Claire Legrand [my review]
  7. Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor [my review]
  8. Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens [my review]
  9. Cress by Marissa Meyer [my review]
  10. Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson [my review]

Monday, December 29, 2014

Review: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

From Goodreads: Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom - all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him. With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she's ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people. But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle - a shifting maze of magical rooms - enthralls her. As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex's secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love. 

My Rating: 4 hearts for the first 3/4 of the book; 3.5 hearts for the last 1/4 

Thoughts on the Novel: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge was a book I wasn’t planning on reading until I searched through my Kindle, looking for a fairy tale retelling. Remembering that Cruel Beauty was based on Beauty and the Beast, I decided that this retelling might be worth a try.

As a retelling, Cruel Beauty is a very loose one; and Nyx is definitely nothing like the sweet Belle. Instead, Nyx is full of anger and hatred, yet surprisingly easy to like and understand because she has grown up her whole life knowing that she is to be sacrificed for her father’s bargain with Ignifex. 

I also liked Ignifex because he wasn’t at all how the other characters portrayed him as. Like Nyx, I thought he would be this scary demon; but, he turned out to be a charming, witty character who embraced his role as the liaison between the Kindly Ones and the people of Arcadia (which I had no problems with because if you’re going to be evil, why not embrace it?). The other characters in Cruel Beauty, however, were quite one-dimensional, and when there was an attempt to make them more complex (e.g. as in the case of Astraia, Nyx’s twin sister), their motives remained rather unclear.

The romance, though, would have to be my least favourite aspect of Cruel Beaty. Not only did I think that Nyx fell for Ignifex kind of quickly, but there was an unexpected love triangle as well. It should be noted, however, that the love triangle does make sense later on.

On the other hand, I really enjoyed the worldbuilding, which incorporated a lot of Greek mythology and Roman culture. Unfortunately, the worldbuilding did become more confusing towards the end, and the book concluded with an ending that I just didn’t understand. 

Cruel Beauty was released in January 2014 by Balzer + Bray.  

Comments About the Cover: I’m not really a fan of the rose being interwoven with a bunch of stairs.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Review: Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

From Goodreads: It begins as an assignment for English class: Write a letter to a dead person. Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain because her sister, May, loved him. And he died young, just like May. Soon, Laurel has a notebook full of letters to the dead - to people like Janis Joplin, Heath Ledger, Amelia Earhart, and Amy Winehouse - though she never gives a single one of them to her teacher. She writes about starting high school, navigating the choppy waters of new friendships, learning to live with her splintering family, falling in love for the first time, and, most important, trying to grieve for May. But how do you mourn for someone you haven't forgiven? It's not until Laurel has written the truth about what happened to herself that she can finally accept what happened to May. And only when Laurel has begun to see her sister as the person she was - lovely and amazing and deeply flawed - can she truly start to discover her own path.

My Rating: 1.5 hearts only because the final 1/4 of the book was kind of okay; otherwise, this would have been a solid 1 heart

Thoughts on the Novel: Way back when Ava Dellaira’s Love Letters to the Dead was released, I saw a few glowing reviews for it, and got a copy, which I then promptly forgot all about. So, when I saw Wendy Darling’s review for Love Letters to the Dead a few days ago, and noticed that she compared it to Gayle Forman’s If I Stay, which I loved, I bumped Love Letters to the Dead to the top of my TBR pile. Sadly, I had a very different experience reading Love Letters to the Dead than Wendy.

There were multiple reasons why I couldn’t connect to Love Letters to the Dead, but the greatest reason why would be Laurel, the main character. For most of the novel, she was just one of those characters that follows the crowd because she’s so desperate to be liked. Within weeks of entering high school, for example, she’s skipping class, smoking and drinking because that’s what the girls she decides to be friends with are doing. I hate weak-willed characters, and Laurel is definitely one of the worst I’ve encountered! I also found it really annoying how she buried her head in the sand and refused to acknowledge that May, her sister, was less than perfect. While May was alive, Laurel never bothered telling her parents that May might have issues (e.g. creating the dead game, having a much, much older boyfriend, etc.), and then once May died, Laurel created this idealized version of her sister and tried to be more like her. Another reason why I had trouble connecting with Laurel was due to her inconsistent voice. For the most part, she came off as very young (which isn’t surprising because she’s only in Grade 9), but then she’d randomly start sounding like an adult. 

The romance in Love Letters to the Dead wasn’t great either. As an aside, I found it very creepy that all these high school girls were hooking up with college-aged or older guys. Focusing on Sky and Laurel’s romance though, their situation was total insta-love. Like literally, after a couple of extremely brief conversations, they decide to become a couple. The conversation when Sky decides he’s a boyfriend kind of guy was so clichéd and made me roll my eyes because I couldn’t fathom why this relatively popular junior would be interested in a loner freshman. Later, Sky explains to Laurel why he thought she was so interesting initially, and I was like, “Oh, that makes so much more sense.” After the explanation he gave her though, I would have dumped him, but Laurel, of course, continues to like him (probably because no other guy would be interested in her what with all the random bouts of crying she does).

Besides the issue of grief, Love Letters to the Dead also explores a variety of other issues such as divorce, trying to figure out one's identity, sexual abuse, physical abuse, etc. To me, none of them were handled with as much depth as they could have been; and I think I would have liked Love Letters to the Dead more if it had taken a less is more approach and dealt only with the related issues of grief and identity.

Love Letters to the Dead was released by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in April 2014. 

Comments About the Cover: I like the background, but not the font or the girl randomly sitting in the sky.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Review: Don't Touch by Rachel M. Wilson

From Goodreads: Step on a crack, break your mother's back, Touch another person's skin, and Dad's gone for good ... Caddie has a history of magical thinking - of playing games in her head to cope with her surroundings - but it's never been this bad before. When her parents split up, "Don't touch" becomes Caddie's mantra. Maybe if she keeps from touching another person's skin, Dad will come home. She knows it doesn't make sense, but her games have never been logical. Soon, despite Alabama's humidity, she's covering every inch of her skin and wearing evening gloves to school. And that's where things get tricky. Even though Caddie's the new girl, it's hard to pass off her compulsions as artistic quirks. Friends notice things. Her drama class is all about interacting with her scene partners, especially Peter, who's auditioning for the role of Hamlet. Caddie desperately wants to play Ophelia, but if she does, she'll have to touch Peter ... and kiss him. Part of Caddie would love nothing more than to kiss Peter - but the other part isn't sure she's brave enough to let herself fall.

My Rating: 2.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Since I enjoy reading books that deal with mental issues, Don’t Touch by Rachel M. Wilson was a book that I was looking forward to reading because its main character, Caddie, has obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Unfortunately, it took me a lot longer to finish Don’t Touch than I expected due to my difficulty in connecting with Caddie. I suspect part of the reason why is because of how much she kept talking about her similarity to Ophelia – something I honestly couldn’t care about.

I wasn’t a fan of the romance either. Considering that Caddie was always acting weirdly and/oe freaking out around Peter, I didn’t find it very believable that he would be attracted to her. I also find it very surprising that people took so long to notice Caddie’s aversion to touch, and just accepted her wearing gloves and constantly being covered at all times as a quirky habit.

What I did like, for the most part, was the depiction of OCD in Don’t Touch. For example, Caddie is quite aware that the thoughts and deals that she makes with herself are illogical, yet she still can’t help engaging in the compulsions that she has. I also liked that Wilson addresses the fact that OCD often runs in families and that its symptoms can wax and wane.

However, I wasn’t too happy with Wilson’s portrayal of the way that Caddie’s OCD is treated. The book makes it seem like OCD is easily cured by a few conversations with a therapist and making the choice to resist one's compulsions (as witnessed by Caddie’s miraculous ability to suddenly make out with Peter); whereas in real life, OCD is typically treated with a combination of medication and cognitive behavioural therapy. As well, those who suffer from this mental disorder are never completely cured as stress often re-triggers the obsessions and compulsions. 

Don’t Touch was released in September 2014 by HarperTeen. 

Comments About the Cover: I like the monochromatic look and its simplicity.  

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

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Best of 2014 Giveaway Hop

The Best of 2014 Giveaway Hop is being hosted by Mary at Bookhounds and Kathy at I Am A Reader.

For the hop, I'll be giving away a paperback copy of any one of some of my favourite books that I read in 2014. This giveaway is open internationally as long as The Book Depository ships to your country.
Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson
Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson
I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga 
In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters 

To enter, just fill out the Rafflecopter form. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Oh, and don't forget to check out the other blogs that are also participating!
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Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Review: Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers

From Inside Jacket: Annith has watched her gifted sisters at the convent come and go, carrying out their dark dealings in the name of St. Mortain, patiently awaiting her own turn to serve Death. But her worst fears are realized when she discovers she is being groomed by the abbess as a Seeress, to be forever sequestered in the rock and stone womb of the convent. Feeling sorely betrayed, Annith decides to strike out on her own. But across Brittany, the tides of war are drawing ever nearer, with France pressuring the beleaguered duchess from all sides. Annith's search for answers threatens to rip open an intricate web of lies and deceit that sits at the center of the convent she serves. Yet to expose them threatens the very fabric of her existence and an unforeseen chance at love that she can no longer deny. Annith must carefully pick a path and, gods willing, effect a miracle that will see her country - and her heart - to safety.  

My Rating: 4 hearts for the first 3/4 of the book; 3 hearts for the last 1/4 

Thoughts on the Novel: Though I loved both Grave Mercy and Dark Triumph, I was still hesitant to begin reading Robin LaFevers’ Mortal Heart because I knew that it was Annith’s story. While Sybella intrigued me in Grave Mercy, I couldn’t say the same about Annith in either Grave Mercy or Dark Triumph. So, I wasn’t sure how captivated I’d be with her story.

Surprisingly, despite growing up at the convent, Annith turned out to have a quite interesting backstory. Furthermore, LaFevers made me grow to like and admire Annith over the course of the novel because of her determination to serve Mortain and become the best novitiate possible in spite of not being blessed with any gifts. But, I have to say, I still like Ismae and Sybella much better.

I also enjoyed the girls’ romances (in their respective books) more than I liked Annith’s. Unlike Ismae/Duval and Sybella/Beast (who all make appearances), Annith’s romance was very much a case of instant love. Moreover, she was amazingly bold when declaring her attraction; I would have expected someone who grew up in a convent and wasn’t used to interacting with men to be a lot shyer and more nervous around the opposite sex.

A bigger issue that I had with Mortal Heart though was the incredibly disappointing ending. Spoiler alert: The idea of averting a potential war between Brittany and France by hitting Charles VIII with Arduinna’s arrow so that he would fall in love with Anne was just so laughable! In addition, I didn’t get the whole concept of the Nine turning into mortals; it was weird, and not very well-explained – not just philosophically, but also in terms of the plot because LaFevers didn’t address what happened to the hellequin who weren’t killed protecting Annith and Balthazar. 

Mortal Heart was released in November 2014 by HMH Books for Young Readers. 

Comments About the Cover: Since Annith’s weapon of choice is a bow, I really like that the model is holding one.  

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

Monday, December 01, 2014

Review: The Caller by Juliet Marillier

From Goodreads: Just one year ago, Neryn had nothing but a canny skill she barely understood and a faint dream that the legendary rebel base of Shadowfell might be real. Now she is the rebels’ secret weapon, and their greatest hope for survival, in the fast-approaching ambush of King Keldec at Summerfort. The fate of Alban itself is in her hands. But to be ready for the bloody battle that lies ahead, Neryn must first seek out two more fey Guardians to receive their tutelage. Meanwhile, her beloved, Flint, has been pushed to his breaking point as a spy in the king’s court - and is arousing suspicion in all the wrong quarters. At stake lies freedom for the people of Alban, a life free from hiding for the Good Folk - and a chance for Flint and Neryn to finally be together.

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Although I personally wouldn’t consider Juliet Marillier’s Shadowfell series to be very memorable, I have continued reading it because it’s a solid trilogy, especially if you enjoy slow, traditional fantasy.

The Caller begins with Flint having reached his breaking point after witnessing the events at the end of Raven Flight, and no longer willing to work as an Enforcer for Keldec. Meanwhile, in order to fulfil her quest of becoming the most capable Caller that she can be, Neryn sets off to meet the two Guardians that she hasn’t trained with, the White Lady and the Master of Shadows. On her way to seek the Master of Shadows though, Neryn finds out that Keldec has found a Caller of his own and has started using his Caller to amass an army of fey to fight for him. The task of overthrowing Keldec just became that much harder for the rebels!

In comparison to the previous two novels in the series, The Caller had a much faster pace, which I liked. I also thought Marillier did a good job of making Neryn realize that Keldec’s men and servants aren’t all evil and that many of them don’t approve of his tyrannical ruling. It would have been nice though if the conflict between Keldec and the rebels hadn’t been resolved as quickly or easily; it wasn’t very realistic, and the finale could have been so much more epic in my opinion!

The Caller was released by Knopf Books for Young Readers in September 2014. 

Comments About the Cover: I like the background as it makes it pretty clear that the novel is a fantasy. I have mixed reactions about the model’s pose though; it makes sense because Neryn is a Caller, but it drives me insane that I have no idea what she’s Calling.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Review: This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

From Goodreads: Jubilee Chase and Flynn Cormac should never have met. Lee is captain of the forces sent to Avon to crush the terraformed planet's rebellious colonists, but she has her own reasons for hating the insurgents. Rebellion is in Flynn's blood. Terraforming corporations make their fortune by recruiting colonists to make the inhospitable planets livable, with the promise of a better life for their children. But they never fulfilled their promise on Avon, and decades later, Flynn is leading the rebellion. Desperate for any advantage in a bloody and unrelentingly war, Flynn does the only thing that makes sense when he and Lee cross paths: he returns to base with her as prisoner. But as his fellow rebels prepare to execute this tough-talking girl with nerves of steel, Flynn makes another choice that will change him forever. He and Lee escape the rebel base together, caught between two sides of a senseless war.

My Rating: 4.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: After unexpectedly falling in love with Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner’s These Broken Stars last year, I had high hopes for its companion novel, This Shattered World. Fortunately, This Shattered World lived up to my expectations. In fact, I actually liked it even more than These Broken Stars!

A huge reason why would be because of the characterization of Jubilee and Flynn as individuals. While it took me some time to like Tarver in These Broken Stars, I liked both Jubilee and Flynn right from the start because Jubilee was this tough soldier with a surprising amount of vulnerability whereas Flynn was a charming rebel who wanted to create change through peaceful means (unlike his fellow rebels).

Though they’re on opposite sides of a war, Jubilee and Flynn learn to trust each other over time, and become allies. There was so much chemistry between them, and I loved the romance because it was slow and believable (although the attraction was there from the beginning). Authors, this is how you write a romance!

In terms of the plot, we get to see LaRoux Industries’ effects on another planet, which eventually causes Lilac and Tarver to be dragged into the conflict on Avon. So, we get to see what they’re up to as well :) 

A fantastic companion novel, This Shattered World will be released on December 23, 2014 by Disney-Hyperion. I can’t wait to travel to Corinth in the next book and see Roderick LaRoux get what he deserves! 

Comments About the Cover: It's similar to the cover of These Broken Stars, but I like that one better. 

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

Monday, November 17, 2014

Review: The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters

From Goodreads: Olivia Mead is a headstrong, independent girl - a suffragist - in an age that prefers its girls to be docile. It’s 1900 in Oregon, and Olivia’s father, concerned that she’s headed for trouble, convinces a stage mesmerist to try to hypnotize the rebellion out of her. But the hypnotist, an intriguing young man named Henri Reverie, gives her a terrible gift instead: she’s able to see people’s true natures, manifesting as visions of darkness and goodness, while also unable to speak her true thoughts out loud. These supernatural challenges only make Olivia more determined to speak her mind, and so she’s drawn into a dangerous relationship with the hypnotist and his mysterious motives, all while secretly fighting for the rights of women. Winters breathes new life into history once again with an atmospheric, vividly real story, including archival photos and art from the period throughout.

My Rating: 4 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Much like her debut, In the Shadow of Blackbirds, Cat Winters’ sophomore novel, The Cure for Dreaming, is a great blend of paranormal and historical fiction that’s written in such a way that you’re transported to the time period of its setting.

The year is 1900 and change is in the air in Portland, Oregon as women fight for their right to vote alongside men. One of these suffragists is our narrator, Olivia, whose father is very much against the idea of women entering the domain of politics. As a result, he hires a hypnotist to cure Olivia of her dreams of becoming an equal to a man in any way. Thankfully, Henri Reverie, does not share the same opinions as Mr. Mead, and rather than letting Olivia see the world the way it should be, he lets her see it the way it is. Although I’m sceptical about hypnotism, I did find the public and private sessions of hypnotism fascinating, and would have like more factual information about it at the end of The Cure for Dreaming.

I also liked Winters’ ability to make me care for or hate her characters. For example, I loathed Olivia’s father for his extremely controlling nature, and am very grateful that dentistry is no longer the way it used to be because having Mr. Mead as your dentist … *shudders*. On the other hand, I fully supported the romance between Henri and Olivia because Olivia finds a true partner in Henri.  

A book that reminds you not to take your rights for granted, The Cure for Dreaming was released in October 2014 by Amulet Books.  

Comments About the Cover: It’s intriguing because of how the girl is positioned. I’d definitely want to learn more about the book if I saw this cover in a bookstore. 

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

Monday, November 10, 2014

Review: Talon by Julie Kagawa

From Goodreads: Long ago, dragons were hunted to near extinction by the Order of St. George, a legendary society of dragon slayers. Hiding in human form and growing their numbers in secret, the dragons of Talon have become strong and cunning, and they're positioned to take over the world with humans none the wiser. Ember and Dante Hill are the only sister and brother known to dragonkind. Trained to infiltrate society, Ember wants to live the teen experience and enjoy a summer of freedom before taking her destined place in Talon. But destiny is a matter of perspective, and a rogue dragon will soon challenge everything Ember has been taught. As Ember struggles to accept her future, she and her brother are hunted by the Order of St. George. Soldier Garret Xavier Sebastian has a mission to seek and destroy all dragons, and Talon's newest recruits in particular. But he cannot kill unless he is certain he has found his prey: and nothing is certain about Ember Hill. Faced with Ember's bravery, confidence and all-too-human desires, Garret begins to question everything that the Order has ingrained in him: and what he might be willing to give up to find the truth about dragons.

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Not having had much time to read lately and feeling stressed from the massive pile of assignments I have due over the course of this month, I decided to read Julie Kagawa's Talon because it promised dragons and a forbidden romance. Unfortunately, Talon didn’t turn out as I expected because the dragons in the story were generally masquerading as humans. 

Although I originally had no problems with Ember and her brother, Dante, pretending to be humans in order to learn how to blend in, I eventually got bored of reading about Ember surfing, making friends, checking out guys at the beach, and drinking smoothies. You’d barely know Ember was a dragon if it wasn’t for her occasional whiny thought about not being able to fly or her freedom being restricted by Talon.

Speaking of Talon, Kagawa hardly tells you anything about it as an organization other than that it’s bad. The conflict with the Order of St. George is also overly simplified because you’re only told that Talon and the Order have been fighting each other for generations because humans hate dragons. There was just so little worldbuilding in this novel!

The romance was problematic too because there was a love triangle, with Ember being attracted to both Garret, a member of the Order of St. George, and Riley, a rogue dragon. While I don’t particularly care who Ember ends up with, I thought it should have been very obvious to her that Garret wasn’t just an average guy spending his summer on the beach. I also thought that Garret fell quite quickly for Ember, especially considering that he always suspected that she was most likely a dragon.

Talon was released by Harlequin Teen in October 2014. 

Comments About the Cover: It’s simple, but so visually appealing!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Mini Reviews: The Warrior Heir by Cinda Williams Chima and The Young Elites by Marie Lu

From Goodreads: Before he knew about the Roses, 16-year-old Jack lived an unremarkable life in the small Ohio town of Trinity. Only the medicine he has to take daily and the thick scar above his heart set him apart from the other high schoolers. Then one day Jack skips his medicine. Suddenly, he is stronger, fiercer, and more confident than ever before. And it feels great - until he loses control of his own strength and nearly kills another player during soccer team tryouts. Soon, Jack learns the startling truth about himself: he is Weirlind, part of an underground society of magical people who live among us. At their helm sits the feuding houses of the Red Rose and the White Rose, whose power is determined by playing The Game - a magical tournament in which each house sponsors a warrior to fight to the death. The winning house rules the Weir. As if his bizarre heritage isn't enough, Jack finds out that he's not just another member of Weirlind - he's one of the last of the warriors - at a time when both houses are scouting for a player.

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Although I’d never checked it out, Cinda Williams Chima’s The Heir Chronicles was a fantasy series that I’d heard a lot about in the past. With the release of the newest book in the series, The Sorcerer Heir, however, I figured I’d give the first book, The Warrior Heir, a try.

Though I found The Warrior Heir to be an okay novel and thought the worldbuilding was pretty solid, the story just didn’t grip me. Not only was The Warrior Heir quite predictable, but its pacing was slow and the characters were sort of boring. Ultimately, I think my younger self would have enjoyed this book a lot more.

The Warrior Heir was released by Disney Hyperion in April 2007. 

From Goodreads: Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever. A decade ago, the deadly illness swept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto, an abomination, ruining their family’s good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever’s survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars - they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites. Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it’s Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all. Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen. Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn’t belong in this world. A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her.

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: While I still need to read the second and third books in Marie Lu’s Legend series, I figured I’d give her newest series a try in the meantime. Although it wasn’t what I expected (because I didn’t realize that all the characters in the novel would be anti-heroes), I still enjoyed The Young Elites due to its well-written beginning and ending. Little happened in the middle, however, and the worldbuilding was very much neglected.

The Young Elites was released on October 7, 2014 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Review: #scandal by Sarah Ockler

From Goodreads: Lucy’s learned some important lessons from tabloid darling Jayla Heart’s all-too-public blunders: Avoid the spotlight, don’t feed the Internet trolls, and keep your secrets secret. The policy has served Lucy well all through high school, so when her best friend Ellie gets sick before prom and begs her to step in as Cole’s date, she accepts with a smile, silencing about ten different reservations. Like the one where she’d rather stay home shredding online zombies. And the one where she hates playing dress-up. And especially the one where she’s been secretly in love with Cole since the dawn of time. When Cole surprises her at the after party with a kiss under the stars, it’s everything Lucy has ever dreamed of … and the biggest BFF deal-breaker ever. Despite Cole’s lingering sweetness, Lucy knows they’ll have to ’fess up to Ellie. But before they get the chance, Lucy’s own Facebook profile mysteriously explodes with compromising pics of her and Cole, along with tons of other students’ party indiscretions. Tagged. Liked. And furiously viral. By Monday morning, Lucy’s been branded a slut, a backstabber, and a narc, mired in a tabloid-worthy scandal just weeks before graduation. Lucy’s been battling undead masses online long enough to know there’s only one way to survive a disaster of this magnitude: Stand up and fight. Game plan? Uncover and expose the Facebook hacker, win back her best friend’s trust, and graduate with a clean slate. There’s just one snag - Cole. Turns out Lucy’s not the only one who’s been harboring unrequited love ...

My Rating: 1.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Having enjoyed Sarah Ockler’s previous books, I was looking forward to reading #scandal. Sadly, it just didn’t live up to my expectations.

First, the romance was set up in a weird way. Not only did #scandal begin with Cole and Lucy hooking up and having feelings for each other, but the two were forced to go to prom together by Lucy’s best friend, Ellie, who didn’t tell Lucy that she and Cole had broken up. So, while I was trying to figure out how I should feel about Lucy and Cole as a couple (because I barely knew anything about Cole or Lucy as individuals or Cole and Ellie as a couple), I was also wondering why somebody would agree to pretend to still be dating their ex. On top of that, you’ve got two girls claiming to be best friends, yet keeping huge secrets from each other.

As the novel progressed, it became clear that the romance wouldn’t be a highlight of #scandal. Cole was barely around (because Lucy kept avoiding him since she felt guilty about hooking up with him); and when he was present, I just found the way that he and Lucy interacted to lack chemistry.

Another aspect of #scandal that could have been great had it been written differently was the cyberbullying element. I never really connected with Lucy, and it didn’t help that she refused to stand up for herself despite being given opportunities for doing so. I also found it very strange that the school administrators didn’t investigate the issue more but simply decided that Lucy was the bully. Even after realizing that she wasn’t the perpetrator, an apology wasn’t given; instead, the principal decided to use Lucy as an example and made her do a presentation about the effects of cyberbullying.  

A book that took me far too long to finish, #scandal was released in June 2014 by Simon Pulse.  

Comments About the Cover: I like that it focuses on one of the important events of the book.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Review: Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

From Goodreads: Before Peter Pan belonged to Wendy, he belonged to the girl with the crow feather in her hair ... Tiger Lily. When fifteen-year-old Tiger Lily meets the alluring teenage Peter Pan deep in the forbidden woods of Neverland, the two form a bond that's impossible to break, but also impossible to hold on to. As the leader of the Lost Boys, the most fearsome of Neverland's inhabitants, Peter is an unthinkable match for Tiger Lily. However, when Wendy Darling, a girl who is everything Tiger Lily is not, arrives on the island, Tiger Lily discovers how far she is willing to go to keep Peter with her, and in Neverland. Told from the perspective of tiny, fairy-sized Tinkerbell, Tiger Lily is the breathtaking story of budding romance, letting go and the pains of growing up.

My Rating: 4 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson was a book I probably wouldn’t have read if it wasn’t for the book blogging community that put it on my radar. A retelling of Peter Pan narrated from the perspective of Tinkerbell, this story focuses largely on Tiger Lily and features a less innocent Peter.

I really liked the idea of having Tinkerbell be the narrator of this book because as a fairy, she could understand the thoughtz and emotions of everybody around her. So, you got more insight into all the characters. It also led to Tinkerbell being a more rounded character herself instead of just being a fairy who’s in love with Peter Pan.

Other characters that I liked included Tiger Lily, a girl struggling to hold on to her freedom while trying to find a place for herself within her tribe, Pine Sap, the boy who accepts Tiger Lily just the way she is, and Tik Tok, Tiger Lily’s adopted father. Sadly, I didn’t find Peter’s story as captivating – he came off as clingy and manipulative instead – and didn’t really feel like I got to know Wendy very well because she entered the story so late. Poor Wendy also wasn’t portrayed in a very favourable light, which wasn’t surprising.

What I loved about Tiger Lily though was that it was grounded in reality. In Anderson’s story then, Neverland is a magical island that some Englanders like Captain Hook were able to find. As a result, you get to see how the European travellers affected the Indigenous population. For example, the native Neverlanders worry about the aging disease brought by Englanders, which is why the Sky Eaters agree, as a tribe, to let Phillip die. Meanwhile, after being nursed back to health by Tiger Lily, Phillip begins trying to get the Sky Eaters to give up their religion and traditions and start assimilating to more European ways of living.  

A very different retelling from the Disney version of Peter Pan, Tiger Lily was released by HarperTeen in July 2012. 

Comments About the Cover: I like the colours used. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Review: Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch

From Goodreads: Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. Now, the Winterians’ only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been waiting for the opportunity to steal back Winter’s magic and rebuild the kingdom ever since. Orphaned as an infant during Winter’s defeat, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee, raised by the Winterians’ general, Sir. Training to be a warrior - and desperately in love with her best friend, and future king, Mather - she would do anything to help her kingdom rise to power again. So when scouts discover the location of the ancient locket that can restore Winter’s magic, Meira decides to go after it herself. Finally, she’s scaling towers, fighting enemy soldiers, and serving her kingdom just as she’s always dreamed she would. But the mission doesn’t go as planned, and Meira soon finds herself thrust into a world of evil magic and dangerous politics - and ultimately comes to realize that her destiny is not, never has been, her own. 

My Rating: 2 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Sara Raasch's Snow Like Ashes was a debut I was really looking forward to reading because I thought it would be a good fantasy and feature a strong heroine. Unfortunately, this book just let me down.

Firstly, there was a lot of info-dumping to establish the worldbuilding (and it didn’t help that the Season kingdoms were named after the seasons or that their capital cities were named after months of the year). The world of Primoria was also confusingly set up. So, for example, each Season kingdom experiences only one season - and this is simply attributed to magic, which I hate as an explanation. This means that it only snows in Winter, yet in the neighbouring kingdom of Autumn, it’s always dry and cool (i.e. fall-like weather).

As well, Snow Like Ashes featured a very whiny protagonist. At the beginning of the novel, Meira moans about not being allowed to go on important missions to Spring, even though she knows that she needs to improve her close range fighting skills. (Personally, I think living is a better option than dying recklessly, but hey, I’m not Meira.) Of course after complaining about wanting more responsibility, Meira is given the opportunity to help out the Winterian's cause by creating an alliance with another kingdom through an arranged marriage. In response, Meira naturally grumbles about this. While I sympathized with her situation, I do think people who are responsible for hundreds of other lives sometimes need to suck it up and not be so selfish. What’s an arranged marriage to a prince, compared to knowing that you can help free others from enslavement?

Lastly, and unexpectedly, Snow Like Ashes had a love triangle. It would have been nice if the synopsis had warned me of this! Here I was all excited about a slow romance between best friends, and what I got was a story where I barely got to know either guy and didn’t really care who Meira ended up with.

Recommended for fans of Mary E. Pearson’s The Kiss of Deception, Snow Like Ashes will be released tomorrow by Balzer + Bray. If you didn’t like The Kiss of Deception, I’d suggest passing on this book.

Comments About the Cover: It’s so pretty! I like that the focus is on the snow and Meira’s weapon of choice, a chakram. 

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

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Review: A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner

From Goodreads: Sophos, under the guidance of yet another tutor, practices his swordplay and strategizes escape scenarios should his father's villa come under attack. How would he save his mother? His sisters? Himself? Could he reach the horses in time? Where would he go? But nothing prepares him for the day armed men, silent as thieves, swarm the villa courtyard ready to kill, to capture, to kidnap. Sophos, the heir to the throne of Sounis, disappears without a trace. In Attolia, Eugenides, the new and unlikely king, has never stopped wondering what happened to Sophos. Nor has the Queen of Eddis. They send spies. They pay informants. They appeal to the gods. But as time goes by, it becomes less and less certain that they will ever see their friend alive again. Across the small peninsula battles are fought, bribes are offered, and conspiracies are set in motion. Darkening the horizon, the Mede Empire threatens, always, from across the sea. And Sophos, anonymous and alone, bides his time. Sophos, drawing on his memories of Gen, Pol, the Magus and Eddis, sets out on an adventure that will change all of their lives forever. 

My Rating: 4.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Whereas the previous books in The Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner starred Eugenides, A Conspiracy of Kings is from the perspective of Sophos. This was unexpected; and meant that at least early on, I missed Eugenides.

But, I think Turner knew exactly what was necessary to broaden the scope of political intrigue in her series. Unlike Eugenides who you know would definitely have something up his sleeve, Sophos is a more vulnerable character; and so the series shifts its focus from the sly Eugenides’ ascent to power to the growing possibility of an invasion from the Mede Empire.

Since reading The Thief, I had liked the shy and scholarly Sophos. In A Conspiracy of Kings, you get to witness the suffering he endures – being kidnapped and sold into slavery – transform him from a naïve and idealistic character to one who is worthy of being a king. Although Sophos does his best to remain true to himself and to avoid bloodshed, he comes to realize that violence is sometimes unavoidable as a monarch. Some things are just worth fighting for!

And it’s not as if Eugenides isn’t around to help. While he can’t do anything outright because of his position, you know he’s machinating in the background with Attolia and Eddis.

The problem now is having an excruciatingly long wait for the next book in the series as there is still no date for when the fifth book is to be released. If only Turner would write faster!

A Conspiracy of Kings was released in March 2010 by Greenwillow Books. 

Comments About the Cover: I love the older look of all the covers in The Queen’s Thief series.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Review: Beware the Wild by Natalie C. Parker

From Goodreads: It's an oppressively hot and sticky morning in June when Sterling and her brother, Phin, have an argument that compels him to run into the town swamp - the one that strikes fear in all the residents of Sticks, Louisiana. Phin doesn't return. Instead, a girl named Lenora May climbs out, and now Sterling is the only person in Sticks who remembers her brother ever existed. Sterling needs to figure out what the swamp's done with her beloved brother and how Lenora May is connected to his disappearance - and loner boy Heath Durham might be the only one who can help her. 

My Rating: 4 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Just like the swamp of Sticks, Louisiana, Natalie C. Parker’s Beware the Wild lures you in and then refuses to let go. Within a few chapters, I was thoroughly captivated by the setting and its impact on the characters.

I loved the swamp! At first, I thought Sterling was exaggerating about its danger and wasn’t sure whether her brother, Phin, ever existed; but over time, the swamp’s presence subtly began to take over the book. As more and more people disappeared and their loved ones forgot about them, it became clear that not only were the townspeople of Sticks right to be deathly afraid of the swamp, but that their various superstitions were no longer keeping them safe.

In the midst of this is Sterling, a realistic character with flaws and weaknesses. At the beginning of the novel, Sterling is very dependent on Phin for protection and security – so dependent in fact that she develops an eating disorder from the stress of thinking about her brother moving away for college. However, once Phin disappears into the swamp and doesn’t return, Sterling has to muster up the courage to overcome her fears in order to find Phin since she's the only one who remembers his existence.

Sterling’s love for Phin also meant that I enjoyed the romance because she never got carried away by intense romantic feelings. Her top priority always remained finding her brother. As a result, the romance, despite being a little fast, never overwhelmed the plot. Sterling’s involvement with Heath made sense as well because they had both lost someone they loved to the swamp, and had been interested in each other in the past.

Finally, although the secondary characters in Beware the Wild remained firmly in the background, I found them to be very well-developed. For example, in spite of spending little time with characters like Phin, Lenora May, and Fisher, I was still able to learn their hopes and dreams and find out what motivated them.

A debut that’s particularly recommended for fans of Victoria Schwab's The Near Witch, Beware the Wild will be released by HarperTeen on October 21, 2014. 

Comments About the Cover: The dark cover and the blurb are perfect for the creepiness of Beware the Wild!

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

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!