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!