Thursday, December 31, 2015

Mini Reviews: Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed and The Book of Lost Things by Cynthia Voigt

From Goodreads: Naila’s conservative immigrant parents have always said the same thing: She may choose what to study, how to wear her hair, and what to be when she grows up - but they will choose her husband. Following their cultural tradition, they will plan an arranged marriage for her. And until then, dating - even friendship with a boy - is forbidden. When Naila breaks their rule by falling in love with Saif, her parents are livid. Convinced she has forgotten who she truly is, they travel to Pakistan to visit relatives and explore their roots. But Naila’s vacation turns into a nightmare when she learns that plans have changed - her parents have found her a husband and they want her to marry him, now! Despite her greatest efforts, Naila is aghast to find herself cut off from everything and everyone she once knew. Her only hope of escape is Saif . . . if he can find her before it’s too late. 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Since most YA books don’t have PoC main characters, I was curious to give Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed a try. While I liked the book overall, I didn’t feel very connected to the story because each chapter was so short that I ended up reading Written in the Stars quickly, without feeling much emotion. I also would have liked Naila to demonstrate better judgement – how could you not expect your parents to find out you have a boyfriend when you go with him to prom?! – and to not be so passive.

Written in the Stars was released by Nancy Paulsen Books in March 2015.

From Goodreads: Max Starling's theatrical father likes to say that at twelve a boy is independent. He also likes to boast (about his acting skills, his wife's acting skills, a fortune only his family knows is metaphorical), but more than anything he likes to have adventures. Max Starling's equally theatrical mother is not a boaster but she enjoys a good adventure as much as her husband. When these two disappear, what can sort-of-theatrical Max and his not-at-all theatrical grandmother do? They have to wait to find out something, anything, and to worry, and, in Max's case, to figure out how to earn a living at the same time as he maintains his independence. This is the first of three books, all featuring the mysterious Mister Max. 

My Rating: 1.5 hearts (the additional half heart is only because I liked the pictures) 

Thoughts on the Novel: The Book of Lost Things was a book that I requested two years ago because its author was Cynthia Voigt. Although I had never read any of Voigt’s novels, The Book of Lost Things was her latest release at the time, and so I thought it would be appropriate to start with it. For some reason though, I never got around to reading The Book of Lost Things … and honestly, I wish that still remained the case. I know I’m not the target audience for The Book of Lost Things, but I was just so bored reading this! The mysteries were way too simple for me, and I have no idea how Max – a twelve-year-old boy – managed to fool so many people into thinking that he was an adult.

The Book of Lost Things was released in September 2013 by Knopf Books for Young Readers.  

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

Monday, December 28, 2015

Mini Reviews: Pretending to be Erica by Michelle Painchaud and Ruthless by Carolyn Lee Adams

From Goodreads: Seventeen-year-old Violet’s entire life has revolved around one thing: becoming Erica Silverman, an heiress kidnapped at age five and never seen again. Violet’s father, the best con man in Las Vegas, has a plan, chilling in its very specific precision. Violet shares a blood type with Erica; soon, thanks to surgery and blackmail, she has the same face, body, and DNA. She knows every detail of the Silvermans’ lives, as well as the PTSD she will have to fake around them. And then, when the time is right, she “reappears” - Erica Silverman, brought home by some kind of miracle. But she is also Violet, and she has a job: Stay long enough to steal the Silverman Painting, an Old Master legendary in the Vegas crime world. Walking a razor’s edge, calculating every decision, not sure sometimes who she is or what she is doing it for, Violet is an unforgettable heroine, and Pretending to be Erica is a killer debut.

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Michelle Painchaud’s Pretending to be Erica captured my interest because I love stories involving cons. Sadly, while I enjoyed reading the book, I do have to say there was nothing particularly memorable about it. You don’t have to be a genius to predict that the main character, Violet, will end up feeling conflicted about her situation and who she will ultimately side with.

Pretending to be Erica was released in July 2015 by Viking Books for Young Readers.

From Back Cover: When she wakes up with a concussion in the bed of a moving pickup truck, she realizes she has been entered into a contest she can’t afford to lose. At a remote, rotting cabin deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Ruth’s blindfold comes off and she comes face-to-face with her captor. A man who believes his mission is to punish bad girls like Ruth. A man who has done this six times before. The other girls were never heard from again, but Ruth won’t go down easy. She escapes into the wilderness, but her hunter is close at her heels. That’s when the real battle begins. That’s when Ruth must decides just how far she’ll go in order to survive. Back home, they called her Ruthless. They had no idea just how right they were. 

My Rating: 2.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Ruthless by Carolyn Lee Adams started off great as the main character, Ruth, woke up concussed and bound in a truck, unsure of what had happened to her. The tension increases once she realizes that she has been abducted by a serial killer. However, the further I delved into Ruthless, the more bored I became with it due to its repetitive plot. The bad guy finds Ruth, she escapes, rinse and repeat. Neither the bad guy nor Ruth seemed very competent in their roles, although I did like Ruth’s determination to survive.

Ruthless was released by Simon Pulse in July 2015.

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

Monday, December 21, 2015

Review: Winter by Marissa Meyer

From Goodreads: Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mar her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana. Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won’t approve of her feelings for her childhood friend - the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn’t as weak as Levana believes her to be and she’s been undermining her stepmother’s wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that’s been raging for far too long. Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter defeat Levana and find their happily ever afters?

My Rating: Somewhere between 3.5 and 4 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Marissa Meyer’s Winter was a book that I had been looking forward to reading for forever! Unfortunately, it turned out to be my least favourite of all the books in The Lunar Chronicles.

Don’t get me wrong; I still liked Winter. I loved that the setting was on Luna, for example, and seeing how Meyer incorporated the dwarves and apple scene into her story. I also enjoyed having all the characters interact with each other, and finally getting to witness Winter and Jacin’s interactions. They’re officially my favourite couple in the series, with Scarlet and Wolf a close second!

However, I was disappointed because I didn’t feel as if I got to spend as much time with Winter as I did with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress in their respective stories. I also wasn’t too thrilled that Cress’ issues about Thorne as a womanizer weren’t legitimately addressed. I hate the reasoning that so-and-so changes their ways simply because a guy/girl is “different!” Finally, I was annoyed by how things with Levana were resolved. I refuse to believe that Levana would be so discombobulated by her appearance being revealed – and was that really the best way for Cinder to get her throne back? – that it becomes hard for her to manipulate others’ biolelectricity.

A book that I wish had an epilogue, Winter was released by Feiwel and Friends in November 2015. 

Comments About the Cover: This is my favourite from the covers in the series. I love how the apple is glowing and looks so tempting.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Review: The Rose Society by Marie Lu

From Goodreads: Adelina Amouteru’s heart has suffered at the hands of both family and friends, turning her down the bitter path of revenge. Now known and feared as the White Wolf, she and her sister flee Kenettra to find other Young Elites in the hopes of building her own army of allies. Her goal: to strike down the Inquisition Axis, the white-cloaked soldiers who nearly killed her. But Adelina is no heroine. Her powers, fed only by fear and hate, have started to grow beyond her control. She does not trust her newfound Elite friends. Teren Santoro, leader of the Inquisition, wants her dead. And her former friends, Raffaele and the Dagger Society, want to stop her thirst for vengeance. Adelina struggles to cling to the good within her. But how can someone be good, when her very existence depends on darkness?

My Rating: 4.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Marie Lu’s The Young Elites was good; but its sequel, The Rose Society, was amazing! In The Rose Society, new characters are introduced, new alliances are created, and Adelina becomes a formidable foe!

All her life, Adelina has simply wanted to be loved. Now that she's capable of creating fear in others, she’s bent on getting revenge against everybody who betrayed her. It was so awesome – and scary – to see Adelina become such a dark character in The Rose Society!

Since Adelina decides to create her own army at the end of The Young Elites, the Daggers aren’t featured as promininently in The Rose Society. Instead, we’re introduced to Magiano and Sergio, a former Dagger. While I thought Magiano and Sergio were interesting enough, I didn’t like them as much as the Daggers. I also found Magiano’s development of romantic feelings for Adelina to be quite sudden.

One of my complaints with The Young Elites was that the worldbuilding was lacking. That’s still true with The Rose Society, but we do learn a bit more about the Young Elites. And what we do learn is surprising, to say the least. I can’t wait to see how this plot twist will play out in the next book!

The Rose Society was released by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers in October 2015. 

Comments About the Cover: I can’t help but keep staring at the wolf in the background.

Monday, December 07, 2015

Review: The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski

From Goodreads: The engagement of Lady Kestrel to Valoria’s crown prince means one celebration after another. But to Kestrel it means living in a cage of her own making. As the wedding approaches, she aches to tell Arin the truth about her engagement ... if she could only trust him. Yet can she even trust herself? For - unknown to Arin - Kestrel is becoming a skilled practitioner of deceit: an anonymous spy passing information to Herran, and close to uncovering a shocking secret. As Arin enlists dangerous allies in the struggle to keep his country’s freedom, he can’t fight the suspicion that Kestrel knows more than she shows. In the end, it might not be a dagger in the dark that cuts him open, but the truth. And when that happens, Kestrel and Arin learn just how much their crimes will cost them.

My Rating: 4.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Although I didn’t love Marie Rutkoski’s The Winner’s Curse, its ending intrigued me enough that I decided I would give the sequel, The Winner’s Crime, a try. I’m glad I finally got around to reading The Winner’s Crime because it was so much better than The Winner’s Curse! 

A huge reason why I liked The Winner’s Crime more was because the romance was in the background and the focus was on court politics instead. I love when fantasy novels focus on court politics! As well, because the romance was in the background, the tension increased when Kestrel and Arin did interact. 

I liked Kestrel better in this novel too because she really learns to look beyond herself, and makes sacrifices for the greater good. It was a lot of fun seeing her try to outmanoeuvre the emperor, and in the process, appear to gain a friend in Prince Verex.

Arin, on the other hand, was annoying initially because he was so angsty and kept chasing Kestrel when she made it clear that she didn’t want anything to do with him. Thankfully, he redeemed himself later on by focusing on the needs of his people. With the way things ended in The Winner’s Crime, I can’t wait to read The Winner’s Kiss! 

The Winner’s Crime was released in March 2015 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 

Comments About the Cover: I still don’t like the angle of the shot that they chose for the model. I love the focus on the dagger though!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Fantastic Fives Interview

The Fantastic Fives celebration is being held by Jaime from Two Chicks on Books and Amber from Me, My Shelf, and I to celebrate their five year blogoversaries. They asked other bloggers that have been blogging for five years to join in the event, and I thought it would be a) fun to participate in and b) a good way for you to get to know me better.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.  
I’m a twenty-five year old who still doesn’t feel like an adult. But, I have an undergraduate degree in psychology and neuroscience and a Master’s degree. I’m currently a teacher, and when I’m not lesson planning, you can find me engrossed in a fantasy or a contemporary. 

How did you get started blogging? 
I decided to start blogging after reading Mary Pearson’s The Adoration of Jenna Fox. At the time, I just wanted to tell someone how great this book was, but I knew that my sister – who isn’t a big reader – wouldn’t really care. So, I turned to the Internet, and found out that there was a whole community of bibliophiles online. I figured I could do this blogging thing too; and that’s how my blog was born. 

How did you pick the name for your blog? 
When I was trying to name my blog, I knew that I wanted “YA Reader” in there somewhere to make it clear that that was what I was interested in reading and blogging about. The “Musings” part came from the idea that I was going to be reflecting on my thoughts. 

If you could go back in time and tell your newbie blogger self 1 thing what would it be? 
I would tell myself to not resist social media. Getting a Twitter account enabled me to not only promote my posts, but also learn about different bookish events, and connect with bloggers and publishers, especially Canadian ones. 

What have you learned in your 5 years of blogging? 
My life has changed over these past five years, and there are periods when I can’t blog as much, so I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned from blogging for this long has been to become comfortable with taking blogging breaks or not posting as much in some months. I used to feel like all my readers would disappear if I took a break, but I now know that’s not true. 

What was the first ARC or book you ever received from a publisher? My first book that I ever received from a publisher was an ARC of Paige Harbison’s Here Lies Bridget. I still remember being so excited that a publisher (Harlequin Teen) approved me to read a book on NetGalley. 

When you’re not reading or blogging, what can we find you doing? When I’m not reading or blogging, you’ll probably find me either napping, – I love naps! – watching T.V., – I tend to binge-watch shows and am currently hooked on The Flash, Arrow, Switched at Birth and Suits – or researching random things. I might also be going for a jog, depending on the weather and the season.

The Fives: (and yes, you can ONLY have 5! *muwhahahah*)

Five Favorite Books
1) The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner
2) Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
3) If I Stay by Gayle Forman
4) Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
5) Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Five Favorite Book Boyfriends 
1) Gilbert from L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables series (my first fictional crush!)
2) Dimitri from Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series (I’d be happy with either Adrian or Christian too, however)
3) Valek from Maria Snyder’s Study series
4) Red (aka Lord Hugh) from Juliet Marillier’s Daughter of the Forest
5) Jase from Huntley Fitzpatrick’s My Life Next Door

Five Favorite Book Quotes
I don’t normally highlight quotes, and am terrible at remembering them anyway; so I’m going to skip this question :)

Five Blogging Tips For New Bloggers
1) You don’t have to post everyday. Quality is more important than quantity!
2) Find bloggers who share the same tastes in books as you and connect with them. Some of these people might end up becoming your good friends!
3) Be selective in what you request; not only do you want to keep your TBR pile manageable, but you also don’t want to force yourself to read something you know you’re probably not going to like.
4) It’s okay to blog about old releases!
5) If you’re lucky to have bookish events in your area, try to attend them because they’re a great way to meet fellow booklovers and bloggers.

Five Blogs You Want The World To Know About
5) A Tapestry of Words

Don't forget to check out the rest of the Fantastic Fives!
November 8 Books Etc.
November 9 Fiktshun  
November 10 Two Chicks On Books  
November 11 Me, My Shelf and I
November 12 Bewitched Bookworms
November 13 Novel Novice
November 14 Book Angel Booktopia  
November 15 Maer Wilson  
November 16 Taking It One Book At A Time
November 17 YA Book Shelf
November 18 Musings of a YA Reader
November 19 Bookish Lifestyle  
November 20 Once Upon A Twilight  
November 21 Stories & Sweeties
November 22 Bookaholics Anonymous

Monday, November 16, 2015

Review: Of Dreams and Rust by Sarah Fine

From Goodreads: In the year since the collapse of the slaughterhouse where Wen worked as her father’s medical assistant, she’s held all her secrets close. She works in the clinic at the weapons factory and sneaks away to nurse Bo, once the Ghost, now a boy determined to transform himself into a living machine. Their strange, fragile friendship soothes some of the ache of missing Melik, the strong-willed Noor who walked away from Wen all those months ago - but it can’t quell her fears for him. The Noor are waging a rebellion in the west. When she overhears plans to crush Melik’s people with the powerful war machines created at the factory, Wen makes the painful decision to leave behind all she has known - including Bo - to warn them. But the farther she journeys into the warzone, the more confusing things become. A year of brutality seems to have changed Melik, and Wen has a decision to make about him and his people: How much is she willing to sacrifice to save them from complete annihilation? 

My Rating: 4.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: The second book in Sarah Fine’s Of Metal and Wishes duology, Of Dreams and Rust was even better than Of Metal and Wishes! In this novel, Wen continues to grow as a character, and truly learns to look beyond race to consider how war affects individuals. Although I liked her in Of Metal and Wishes, she really became a character I admired in this book.

The romance continued to be something I enjoyed as well. Since Of Dreams and Rust is set a year later and Melik has been gone during this time, Wen has developed feelings for Bo. However, it becomes pretty clear early on that Wen’s heart still belongs to Melik and that the love that she has for Bo is very different.

Besides the lack of a love triangle, I also liked that the romance wasn’t without its challenges. The Noor – who we learn more about in this novel – and Itanyai have different beliefs, and it was good to see Melik and Wen acknowledge those differences and try to bridge the gaps.

A book that concluded on a somewhat bittersweet note because some characters that I loved died, Of Dreams and Rust was released by Margaret K. McElderry Books in August 2015. 

Comments About the Cover: I like how the model is wearing brighter colours like the Noor and looking back as if she’s saying goodbye to her familiar life.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Mini Reviews: The Uninvited by Cat Winters and Ungodly by Kendare Blake

From Goodreads: Twenty-five year old Ivy Rowan rises from her bed after being struck by the flu, only to discover the world has been torn apart in just a few short days. But Ivy’s life-long gift - or curse - remains. For she sees the uninvited ones - ghosts of loved ones who appear to her, unasked, unwelcomed, for they always herald impending death. On that October evening in 1918 she sees the spirit of her grandmother, rocking in her mother’s chair. An hour later, she learns her younger brother and father have killed a young German out of retaliation for the death of Ivy’s older brother Billy in the Great War. Horrified, she leaves home, to discover the flu has caused utter panic and the rules governing society have broken down. Ivy is drawn into this new world of jazz, passion, and freedom, where people live for the day, because they could be stricken by nightfall. But as her ‘uninvited guests’ begin to appear to her more often, she knows her life will be torn apart once more, but Ivy has no inkling of the other-worldly revelations about to unfold. 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Having loved Cat Winters’ YA books, I was curious to see what her adult novel, The Uninvited, would be like. Since I didn’t bother reading the synopsis before beginning The Uninvited, I was surprised to find out that it was set in 1918 America, a time period Winters had already explored in her debut novel In the Shadow of Blackbirds. Like with In the Shadow of Blackbirds, ghosts and the Spanish influenza play a role in The Uninvited; but The Uninvited’s focus is more on how World War I affected everyday Americans – particularly those of German background – living in America at the time. Personally, I liked In the Shadow of Blackbirds better; but The Uninvited is still worth a read, especially if you enjoy the combination of historical and paranormal elements. 

The Uninvited was released in August 2015 by William Morrow.

From Goodreads: For the Goddess of Wisdom, what Athena didn’t know could fill a book. That’s what Ares said. So she was wrong about some things. So the assault on Olympus left them beaten and scattered and possibly dead. So they have to fight the Fates themselves, who, it turns out, are the source of the gods’ illness. And sure, Athena is stuck in the underworld, holding the body of the only hero she has ever loved. But Hermes is still topside, trying to power up Andie and Henry before he runs out of time and dies, or the Fates arrive to eat their faces. And Cassandra is up there somewhere too. On a quest for death. With the god of death. Just because things haven’t gone exactly according to plan, it doesn't mean they’ve lost. They’ve only mostly lost. And there’s a big difference. 

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Ungodly, the final book in the Goddess War series by Kendare Blake, was a book I was looking forward to reading because I wanted to see if my favourite goddess from Greek mythology (Athena) would emerge victorious. With the way things ended in Mortal Gods, Ungodly starts at three separate points – in the Underworld with Athena and Odysseus, in Kincade with Hermes, Andie and Henry, and in California with Cassandra and Calypso. I wasn’t too keen about having to read about Cassandra without the others because she was my least favourite character in the previous books. Also, I felt that Ungodly was rushed in terms of how things were wrapped up, and wasn’t completely satisfied with the explanation given for why the gods were dying. 

Ungodly was released by Tor Teen in September 2015.  

Monday, November 02, 2015

Review: Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson

From Goodreads: Lee Westfall has a strong, loving family. She has a home she loves and a loyal steed. She has a best friend - who might want to be something more. She also has a secret. Lee can sense gold in the world around her. Veins deep in the earth. Small nuggets in a stream. Even gold dust caught underneath a fingernail. She has kept her family safe and able to buy provisions, even through the harshest winters. But what would someone do to control a girl with that kind of power? A person might murder for it. When everything Lee holds dear is ripped away, she flees west to California - where gold has just been discovered. Perhaps this will be the one place a magical girl can be herself. If she survives the journey.

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: While I still haven’t read the second and third books in Rae Carson’s Fire and Thorns series, I decided to check out her newest book, Walk on Earth a Stranger, because I loved The Girl of Fire and Thorns. Knowing that Walk on Earth wouldn’t be a fantasy, however, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But, once again, Carson’s novel had great characterization and setting.

Leah (aka Lee) was a protagonist I fully supported, and I loved that her parents didn’t restrict her due to her gender, allowing her to learn to shoot, ride, and mine gold. When Leah’s parents are murdered by her uncle because of her ability to sense gold, Leah refuses to stay under her uncle’s guardianship. Instead, she dresses up as a boy and heads west, without much of a plan other than hoping to meet up with her best friend (who also left home) along the way and going to California together to get rich. Normally, I’d consider this to be foolhardy; but considering Leah’s circumstances, I thought she was pretty brave.

Where I was hoping for more though was from the plot as it was very slow-paced and didn’t really seem to involve much other than Leah traveling, with people getting hurt along the way. Leah’s ability to sense gold, for example, barely plays a role in the book! The slow pacing, however, does help with the setting since it allows the reader to really get a feel for how the land must have looked during the 1800s.

Walk on Earth a Stranger was released by Greenwillow Books in September 2015. 

Comments About the Cover: I think the background could be better, but I love the font’s style and colour.

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

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Review: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

From Goodreads: Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. He is a man who can count all his friends on the fingers of one hand, whose lifelong difficulty with social rituals has convinced him that he is simply not wired for romance. So when an acquaintance informs him that he would make a “wonderful” husband, his first reaction is shock. Yet he must concede to the statistical probability that there is someone for everyone, and he embarks upon The Wife Project. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which he approaches all things, Don sets out to find the perfect partner. She will be punctual and logical - most definitely not a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver. Yet Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is also beguiling, fiery, intelligent - and on a quest of her own. She is looking for her biological father, a search that a certain DNA expert might be able to help her with. Don's Wife Project takes a back burner to the Father Project and an unlikely relationship blooms, forcing the scientifically minded geneticist to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie - and the realization that love is not always what looks good on paper.

My Rating: 4.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Although I don’t normally read adult novels, Rummanah from Books in the Spotlight's review of Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Project convinced me to add it to my wishlist. Then I found out that the author was an Australian, and since I haven’t been disappointed by any Aussie authors so far, I knew I had to give The Rosie Project a try.

I don’t think I’ve read a book yet where the main character is on the autism spectrum, but there’s an allusion that Don is on it. Case in point: He is quite rigid in his behaviour and lacks the ability to understand social situations. In fact, Don’s inability to interpret language figuratively often leads to amusing misunderstandings.

When Rosie enters Don’s life, she challenges Don to step out of his box. At the same time, she accepts him for who he is, and asks that he do the same for her. Their relationship – and how much it throws off Don – was so fun to read about!

The Rosie Project was released on October 1, 2013 by Simon and Schuster. 

Comments About the Cover: I think it’s cute and effective because of its simplicity.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Review: This Ordinary Life by Jennifer Walkup (and Giveaway)

From Goodreads: High-school radio host Jasmine Torres's life is full of family dysfunction, but if she can score the internship of her dreams with a New York City radio station, she knows she can turn things around. That is, until her brother Danny’s latest seizure forces her to miss the interview, and she’s back to the endless loop of missing school for his doctor appointments, picking up the pieces of her mother’s booze-soaked life, and stressing about Danny’s future. Then she meets Wes. He’s the perfect combination of smart, cute, and funny. He also happens to have epilepsy like her brother. Wes is living a normal life despite his medical issues, which gives Jasmine hope for Danny. But memories of her cheating ex-boyfriend keep her from going on a real date with Wes, no matter how many times he asks her. Jasmine can’t control everything. Not who wins the internship, not her mother’s addiction, not her brother’s health - not even where her heart will lead her. She wishes she could just have an ordinary life, but maybe what she already has is pretty extraordinary after all. 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Jennifer Walkup’s This Ordinary Life was a book that I thought would be a heavier read because the main character’s brother has epilepsy and their mother is an alcoholic. Surprisingly though, This Ordinary Life is a pretty light read for the most part since its focus is more on the relationship between Jasmine and Wes than Jasmine’s life at home. 

While the characters could have been more fleshed out, I liked Jasmine due to her practical nature. For example, when she finds out that her boyfriend has been cheating on her, she dumps him right away and refuses to take him back. Then, when she finds Wes attractive, she takes the time to get to know him as a friend instead of jumping into another relationship. You know you’re not going to have unnecessary drama when you have a protagonist like Jasmine!

A book that was every easy to get through, This Ordinary Life will be released on October 1, 2015 by Luminis Books, Inc. 

Comments About the Cover: I like the design.

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Lost by Sarah Beth Durst

From Goodreads: It was only meant to be a brief detour. But then Lauren finds herself trapped in a town called Lost on the edge of a desert, filled with things abandoned, broken and thrown away. And when she tries to escape, impassable dust storms and something unexplainable lead her back to Lost again and again. The residents she meets there tell her she's going to have to figure out just what she's missing - and what she's running from - before she can leave. So now Lauren's on a new search for a purpose and a destiny. And maybe, just maybe, she'll be found ...

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: When I picked up Sarah Beth Durst’s The Lost, I thought it was a YA novel. So, I was totally unprepared for the protagonist to be in her late twenties. Once I realized this and adjusted my expectations, The Lost turned out to be a pretty solid read.

I absolutely loved the premise of The Lost! The idea of a town where people and things end up if they’re lost – literally or figuratively – was really original, and the way the town was depicted … you can just feel yourself despairing of the hope of ever leaving.

While I wasn’t as in love with the characters, I did like them; and found myself relating to Lauren quite a bit. When we’re kids, I think we think that life will work out perfectly for us, but as we get older, we realize that may not be the case. Lauren, for example, tried for years to make a living as an artist before deciding to find a job that pays the bills; I myself had to go back to graduate school to find a job in my respective field and know many people who either still can’t find jobs or have found jobs that aren’t personally fulfilling.

The romance was pretty good too. Although it got annoying how often Lauren mentioned how hot Peter was, there was no insta-love. As well, even though there was an opportunity for a possible love triangle to develop, I liked that Lauren stayed true to her feelings.

The Lost was released by Harlequin MIRA in May 2014. 

Comments About the Cover: I’m not really sure why the word “Lost” isn’t written on one line, but I don’t like it.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

From Goodreads: This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do. This afternoon, her planet was invaded. The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra - who are barely even talking to each other - are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit. But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet's AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it's clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she'd never speak to again. 

My Rating: 4 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Although I’m not a big sci-fi fan, I put Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff’s Illuminae on my wishlist after hearing about it because I love Kaufman’s Starbound series. Having now read Illuminae, I can say that Kaufman and Kristoff didn’t disappoint!

Since Illuminae doesn’t come out until October, I figured I’d provide five reasons to convince you to get a copy of your own:
  1. The writing style: Something that makes Illuminae stand out is that it’s told entirely through hacked documents such as interviews, emails, chat logs, and diary excerpts!
  2. The pacing: The way Illuminae is written makes it really easy to breeze through the book. It also helps that the novel is so action-packed and full of tension.
  3. The themes explored: I really liked some of the philosophical questions that Illuminae raises, my favourite of which is whether saving the lives of many is worth risking the lives of a few.
  4. The characters: Even though the writing style made it slightly hard to connect with the characters, I liked Kady and Ezra. My favourite character, however, would definitely have to be AIDAN.
  5. The plot twists: While I predicted some of the twists, others – like the one at the end – were a total surprise!
Illuminae will be released by Knopf Books for Young Readers on October 20, 2015.

Comments About the Cover: It's quite eye-catching. 

A big thanks to Christina at Christina Reads YA for sending me her copy of Illuminae!

Monday, September 07, 2015

Review: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

From Goodreads: My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla. But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black - black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly. Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.

My Rating: 4 hearts for the first 1/2 of the book; 2 hearts for the second 1/2

Thoughts on the Novel: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon was a book that I had very mixed feelings about. So, I decided that a pros and cons list would probably be the best way to review Everything, Everything. 

  • I loved that Madeline maintains a positive attitude about growing up with severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID).
  • I also appreciated that Madeline was an Afro-Asian protagonist. We definitely need more diverse characters in YA! 
  • The burgeoning friendship between Madeline and Olly was super cute, and put a smile on my face. 
  • I really enjoyed the additional elements in this book like the illustrations, Madeline’s Life is Short spoiler reviews, excerpts from Madeline’s diary, etc. 
  • Since Madeline has SCID, I thought we’d learn some information about this genetic disorder. Unfortunately, we don’t. 
  • I didn’t really buy the romance between Madeline and Olly because it transitioned so quickly from friendship to romance. It just made me feel like Madeline was trying to act like a normal teenager and experience as much as possible before it became impossible for her to do so. 
  • The plot twist at the end made me so mad! I would have rather had Madeline and Olly break up (because let’s be honest, that’s what would happen most likely in real life) than have the author do what she did – give them a happy ending by taking the easy way out and eliminating the problem entirely! 
Everything, Everything was released by Delacorte Books for Young Readers on September 1, 2015.

Comments About the Cover: I like the colourfulness of the cover. 

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