Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Review: Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman

From Goodreads: In 1930s Munich, danger lurks behind dark corners, and secrets are buried deep within the city. But Gretchen Müller, who grew up in the National Socialist Party under the wing of her "uncle" Dolf, has been shielded from that side of society ever since her father traded his life for Dolf's, and Gretchen is his favorite, his pet. Uncle Dolf is none other than Adolf Hitler. And Gretchen follows his every command. Until she meets a fearless and handsome young Jewish reporter named Daniel Cohen. Gretchen should despise Daniel, yet she can't stop herself from listening to his story: that her father, the adored Nazi martyr, was actually murdered by an unknown comrade. She also can't help the fierce attraction brewing between them, despite everything she's been taught to believe about Jews. As Gretchen investigates the very people she's always considered friends, she must decide where her loyalties lie. Will she choose the safety of her former life as a Nazi darling, or will she dare to dig up the truth - even if it could get her and Daniel killed? 

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Anne Blankman’s Prisoner of Night and Fog was a debut that I had been looking forward to reading since last year. Sadly, while I did think it was a decent read, I struggled to connect with the story for a number of reasons.

First, I had an issue with how fast Gretchen believed everything that she was told by Daniel. I mean, it just seemed like one minute she was a staunch National Socialist and the next minute she was all confused because some stranger – who also happened to be a Jew and therefore someone she would be biased to not believe – tells her that her father was murdered! Oh, and how convenient that Gretchen held on to the shirt that her father was wearing when he was killed so that the plot could be moved along!

Another element of the story that I didn’t like was the romance. Although it was nice that Gretchen and Daniel’s relationship started off with them hesitant to trust each other, I thought it progressed rather quickly. Considering that Gretchen viewed Jews as subhuman initially, I was rather surprised, for example, that Daniel invited someone that Hitler favoured into the house he shared with his cousins after just three interactions!

Lastly, I found most of the secondary characters to be very flat. Although I thought Prisoner of Night and Fog was well-researched, the characters from the Nazi party just came off like names with little personality attached to them. Even Hitler seemed like a two-dimensional character, which I thought was very unfortunate.

Prisoner of Night and Fog was released on April 22, 2014 by Balzer + Bray. 

Comments About the Cover: I love the foggy background as it makes the model’s face in the foreground really stand out. It may be just me, but I think her eyes look a little haunted, which reflects the title nicely. 

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

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Review: Split Second by Kasie West

From Goodreads: Addie hardly recognizes her life since her parents divorced. Her boyfriend used her. Her best friend betrayed her. She can’t believe this is the future she chose. On top of that, her ability is acting up. She’s always been able to Search the future when presented with a choice. Now she can manipulate and slow down time, too ... but not without a price. When Addie’s dad invites her to spend her winter break with him, she jumps at the chance to escape into the Norm world of Dallas, Texas. There she meets the handsome and achingly familiar Trevor. He’s a virtual stranger to her, so why does her heart do a funny flip every time she sees him? But after witnessing secrets that were supposed to stay hidden, Trevor quickly seems more suspicious of Addie than interested in her. And she has an inexplicable desire to change that. Meanwhile, her best friend, Laila, has a secret of her own: she can restore Addie’s memories ... once she learns how. But there are powerful people who don’t want to see this happen. Desperate, Laila tries to manipulate Connor, a brooding bad boy from school - but he seems to be the only boy in the Compound immune to her charms. And the only one who can help her. As Addie and Laila frantically attempt to retrieve the lost memories, Addie must piece together a world she thought she knew before she loses the love she nearly forgot ... and a future that could change everything. 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: With the way Kasie West’s Pivot Point ended, the sequel, Split Second, made for an interesting read because unlike the reader, Addie doesn’t have any significant memories of Trevor. The way the story was written though was never confusing, and for that West needs to be commended.

Although I didn’t love the plot of Split Second as much as Pivot Point because it involved the Containment Committee and the Compound yet never gave us much information about them, I loved returning to Addie’s story due to her endearing personality. Of course it was also great to see her meet Trevor and fall in love with him all over again.

Besides the perspective of Addie, Split Second was narrated by Laila. While I didn’t really like Laila in Pivot Point, she grew on me over the course of this novel because she was much better developed and easier to sympathize with. I especially enjoyed her interactions with Connor, who I think complemented her well. 

Split Second was released in February 2014 by HarperTeen. 

Comments About the Cover: I’m not really a fan of it.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: Ruin and Rising

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: Ruin and Rising
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Date of Release: June 17, 2014 

Goodreads Description: 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. 

Why am I waiting? Hello, have you not read this series?! I need to be reunited with the Darkling and Sturmhond!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Review: Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens

From Goodreads: Alexi Littrell hasn't told anyone what happened to her over the summer. Ashamed and embarrassed, she hides in her closet and compulsively scratches the back of her neck, trying to make the outside hurt more than the inside does. When Bodee Lennox, the quiet and awkward boy next door, comes to live with the Littrells, Alexi discovers an unlikely friend in "the Kool-Aid Kid," who has secrets of his own. As they lean on each other for support, Alexi gives him the strength to deal with his past, and Bodee helps her find the courage to finally face the truth. 

My Rating: 4 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: The last book I read that involved the subject of rape was Kirsty Eagar’s Raw Blue, a novel that I gave five stars to three years ago. Although Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens didn’t elicit the same level of emotions in me as Raw Blue, I was still very much drawn into the story.

It took some time for me to realize what the main topic of Faking Normal would be because the synopsis doesn’t state outright what happened to Alexi. As well, Alexi has done her best to block out the incident and to pretend that everything is normal, though her trauma is manifested in other ways like compulsively scratching her neck.

Faking Normal is also about a boy having to come to terms with the fact that his father killed his mother. Known only as the Kool-Aid kid to Alexi at first, Bodee and Alexi slowly strike up a tentative friendship when Alexi realizes that Bodee has seen the scratches she so carefully hides. Over time, the two begin to rely on each other for more support because they don’t have to pretend to be normal with each other.

I loved the pacing of Faking Normal since it wasn’t rushed, and was therefore perfect for the novel. The reader slowly comes to realize what has happened to Alexi, falls in love with Bodee gradually, and learns, eventually, who raped Alexi.

A well written debut, I look forward to seeing what Stevens writes next. Faking Normal was released by HarperTeen in February 2014. 

Comments About the Cover: I think it’s plain-looking and don’t really like the transparent trees.  

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

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Review: A Death-Struck Year by Makiia Lucier

From Back Cover: The Spanish influenza is devastating the East Coast - but Cleo Berry knows that's a world away from the safety of her home of Portland, Oregon. And then the flu moves into the Pacific Northwest. Schools, churches, and theaters are shut down. The entire city is thrust into survival mode - and into a panic. Seventeen-year-old Cleo is told to stay put in her quarantined boarding school, but when the Red Cross pleads for volunteers, she can't ignore the call. In the grueling days that follow her headstrong decision, she risks everything for near strangers. Strangers like Edmund, a handsome medical student. Strangers who could be gone tomorrow. And as the bodies pile up, Cleo can't help but wonder: When will her own luck run out? 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: A Death-Struck Year by Makiia Lucier is a historical fiction novel that examines the impact of the Spanish influenza in Portland during the months of October and November 1918. Since WWI was also occurring at this time, it would have been nice if Lucier had interwoven the effects of the war on Americans a bit more strongly into the story. That being said, I thought A Death-Struck Year was very well-researched, even if it did take me some time to get into the story.

Cleo, the main character, was very realistic. While I had my future planned out as a seventeen-year-old, unlike Cleo, I realized that I didn’t want to be a doctor or a geneticist once I went to university. This insight left me confused about what career path to pursue, and so I could relate to Cleo right from the start when she was complaining to her older brother that she didn’t know what she wanted to do with her life. I also liked that her decision to volunteer for the Red Cross wasn’t impulsive and that she got scared when confronted with her own mortality.

Additionally, Lucier did a really good job of showing how people’s reactions can vary during tough situations. Although many people volunteered for the Red Cross or helped neighbours and strangers despite the risk of infection, others abandoned their sick family members or took advantage of their neighbours’ misfortunes. I would have liked though for the deaths that occurred in A Death-Struck Year to have left more of an emotional impact on me.

Finally, I liked that the romance in A Death-Struck Year didn’t overshadow the plot. The subtleness of it was appropriate and realistic because both Cleo and Edmund, a medical student, were too busy taking care of the sick and dying to spend a ton of time together.

An informative read, A Death-Struck Year was released in March 2014 by HMH Books for Young Readers. 

Comments About the Cover: The face mask makes it pretty memorable. 

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

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: Illusive

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: Illusive
Author: Emily Lloyd-Jones
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Date of Release: July 15, 2014 

Goodreads Description: When the MK virus swept across the planet, a vaccine was created to stop the epidemic, but it came with some unexpected side effects. A small percentage of the population developed superhero-like powers. Seventeen-year-old Ciere Giba has the handy ability to change her appearance at will. She's what's known as an illusionist...She's also a thief. After a robbery goes awry, Ciere must team up with a group of fellow super-powered criminals on another job that most would consider too reckless. The formula for the vaccine that gave them their abilities was supposedly destroyed years ago. But what if it wasn't? The lines between good and bad, us and them, and freedom and entrapment are blurred as Ciere and the rest of her crew become embroiled in a deadly race against he government that could cost them their lives.

Why am I waiting? I love books where characters have superpowers. This has been marketed as "X-Men meets Ocean's Eleven" so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it lives up to its potential.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Review: The Forever Song by Julie Kagawa

From Goodreads: Allison Sekemoto once struggled with the question: human or monster? With the death of her love, Zeke, she has her answer. Allie will embrace her cold vampire side to hunt down and end Sarren, the psychopathic vampire who murdered Zeke. But the trail is bloody and long, and Sarren has left many surprises for Allie and her companions - her creator, Kanin, and her blood brother, Jackal. The trail is leading straight to the one place they must protect at any cost - the last vampire-free zone on Earth, Eden. And Sarren has one final, brutal shock in store for Allie. In a ruined world where no life is sacred and former allies can turn on you in one heartbeat, Allie will face her darkest days. And if she succeeds, triumph is short-lived in the face of surviving forever alone. 

My Rating: 4 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: The Forever Song by Julie Kagawa picks up where The Eternity Cure ends, with Allie, Kanin and Jackal determined to stop Sarren before he reaches Eden. Allie in particular desperately wants to kill Sarren for torturing Zeke.

Since The Forever Song begins with Allie and her blood family tracking Sarren, I thought it started off kind of slowly. The pacing also seemed slow because rather than allowing herself to think about Zeke, Allie closed herself off to all emotions. She does eventually emerge from her emotional stupor, much to the disappointment of Jackal who thought his blood sister was going to be swayed to the dark side and become more like him.

In The Eternity Cure, Jackal quickly became one my favourite characters from The Blood of Eden series. After reading this book though, I’d say that he’s actually my favourite character of the series because while he remains amusing and cocky, he has also developed some affection for his sister and sire, and thereby has probably grown the most as a character over the course of the trilogy.

Whereas the beginning of The Forever Song was slow, I found the ending a bit rushed. It took Allie and the others too long to catch up to Sarren, and the final battle wasn’t as drawn out or as bloody as I would have liked it to be. I did think, however, that Kagawa did a nice job of providing closure with all the characters.

The Forever Song will be released tomorrow by Harlequin Teen!

Comments About the Cover: The covers for this series don't really match, but I like this one the best because purple is my favourite colour. 

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

Friday, April 04, 2014

A Week Long Hiatus

Hey, everybody. Rather than worrying about blogging and commenting, I decided that I'd take this week off to finish up my paper and portfolio. When I get back, I'll officially be done the first year of my Master's program!