Monday, February 29, 2016

Review: Bookishly Ever After by Isabel Bandeira

From Goodreads: In a perfect world, sixteen-year-old Phoebe Martins’ life would be a book. Preferably a YA novel with magic and a hot paranormal love interest. Unfortunately, her life probably wouldn’t even qualify for a quiet contemporary. But when Phoebe finds out that Dev, the hottest guy in the clarinet section, might actually have a crush on her, she turns to her favorite books for advice. Phoebe overhauls her personality to become as awesome as her favorite heroines and win Dev’s heart. But if her plan fails, can she go back to her happy world of fictional boys after falling for the real thing?

My Rating: 2 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Bookishly Ever After by Isabel Bandeira was a novel I put on my wishlist as soon as I heard about it because it promised a bookworm as its protagonist. Sadly, this debut ended up being a disappointing read. I wasn’t a fan of its plot, and thought Bandeira tried too hard to appeal to bookish people.

As mentioned, a huge reason I was compelled to read Bookishly Ever After was because I thought I would instantly connect with the main character. Unfortunately, I ended up finding Phoebe more annoying than charming because she came across as a stereotype. Yes, we bibliophiles love to read and discuss fictional worlds and characters, but our lives don’t only revolve around them!

I also wasn’t expecting the plot to be so driven by the romance. Nothing really happens in the book other than Phoebe doing her best to impress Dev using her favourite heroines’ lines. (There are excerpts from Phoebe’s favourite novels included in Bookishly Ever After, which I felt was unnecessary because it didn’t add anything to the plot.) Moreover, the purpose of the secondary characters only seemed to be to drive the plot along (so it wasn’t surprising that they lacked depth). For example, Phoebe’s best friend is extremely pushy and convinces Phoebe that Dev is right for her, Phoebe’s sister conveniently comes back home from college once in a while to make Phoebe outfits from her favourite books, and to prove that a diverse romantic interest – Dev is Indian – can be handsome, he must be cast into a Bollywood movie.

Bookishly Ever After was released by Spencer Hill Contemporary in January 2016. 

Comments About the Cover: Huh, I just noticed the cover says, “Ever After Book One.” I didn’t realize this was going to be a series because Bookishly Ever After reads like a standalone.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Review: Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John

From Goodreads: The Challenge: Piper has one month to get the rock band Dumb a paying gig. The Deal: If she does it, Piper will become the band's manager and get her share of the profits. The Catch: How can Piper possibly manage one egomaniacal pretty boy, one talentless piece of eye candy, one crush, one silent rocker, and one angry girl? And how can she do it when she's deaf? Piper can't hear Dumb's music, but with growing self-confidence, a budding romance, and a new understanding of the decision her family made to buy a cochlear implant for her deaf baby sister, she discovers her own inner rock star and what it truly means to be a flavor of Dumb.

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Since I enjoy reading about disability issues, Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John was a book I had in my TBR pile for a long time because it features a deaf protagonist who’s the manager of a band. I was curious to see how Piper got her position and how she interacted with others given her situation.

For me, Piper’s deafness was the most interesting part of the book because it really affected her family dynamics. Although Piper can read lips and can speak normally (because she lost her hearing at the age of six), her preferred method of communicating is through American Sign Language (ASL). With her deaf baby sister just getting a cochlear implant and her mother, a hearing child born to deaf parents, having to work more, Piper can’t help but feel neglected because her father doesn’t sign and her brother only signs when he wants something from her.

After she becomes the manager of a band, her parents and others view her deafness as a limitation, which Piper refuses to believe (and takes advantage of if she can do so). At the same time, Piper herself learns to look beyond physical appearance in order to appreciate some of the people that she’s surrounded by.

I wasn’t such a fan of the music aspect on the other hand because I found it extremely hard to believe that a high school band that could play a limited range of notes and was continuously fighting amongst themselves would ascend to fame so quickly and impress other well-known musicians. It was also hard for me to care about Piper going on a tour of famous dead musicians’ houses so that she could appreciate music for itself rather than for the potential of earning money.

Five Flavors of Dumb was released in November 2010 by Dial Books. 

Comments About the Cover: The cover isn’t something that would cause me to pick up the book.  

Monday, February 15, 2016

Review: The Walled City by Ryan Graudin

From Goodreads: Dai, trying to escape a haunting past, traffics drugs for the most ruthless kingpin in the Walled City. But in order to find the key to his freedom, he needs help from someone with the power to be invisible ... Jin hides under the radar, afraid the wild street gangs will discover her biggest secret: Jin passes as a boy to stay safe. Still, every chance she gets, she searches for her lost sister ... Mei Yee has been trapped in a brothel for the past two years, dreaming of getting out while watching the girls who try fail one by one. She's about to give up, when one day she sees an unexpected face at her window ... 

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Ryan Graudin’s The Walled City was a book that I picked up because I was in the mood for something action-packed. It certainly delivered in that regard because there were plenty of action scenes and Graudin’s setting was inspired by Kowloon Walled City, a densely populated, walled city in Hong Kong that was famous for crime. I think the book would have been even more exciting, however, if the danger aspect in the climax had panned out so that the book remained realistic. Imagine my disappointment to find out that Graudin didn’t take the gutsy route and kill a character that would have most likely died in real life!

Another reason that I lowered my rating of The Walled City was that the characters could have used more depth. I also wasn’t a fan of the romance because it seemed like the romantic interest was only attracted to Dai due to his physical features. Realistically, there was no reason for her to trust Dai and risk putting her life in jeopardy. 

The Walled City was released by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers in November 2014. 

Comments About the Cover: It doesn’t really reveal much about the content of the book. I do like the tagline though.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Mini Reviews: Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace and The Shadow Queen by C.J. Redwine

From Goodreads: Breezy remembers leaving the party: the warm, wet grass under her feet, her cheek still stinging from a slap to her face. But when she wakes up, scared and pulling dirt from her mouth, a year has passed and she can’t explain how. Nor can she explain the man lying at her grave, dead from her touch, or why her heartbeat comes and goes. She doesn’t remember who killed her or why. All she knows is that she’s somehow conscious - and not only that, she’s able to sense who around her is hiding a murderous past. Haunted by happy memories from her life, Breezy sets out to find answers in the gritty, threatening world to which she now belongs - where killers hide in plain sight, and a sinister cult is hunting for strange creatures like her. What she discovers is at once empowering, redemptive, and dangerous. 

My Rating: 1.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace began promisingly with the main character talking about killing a man after rising from her grave, having died under mysterious circumstances. It lost steam after that as it turns out that Breezy isn’t one of a kind – there are, in fact, a whole host of other paranormal creatures that exist in the world, unknown to most humans; and they’re being hunted by a cult group for not being human. Combine that with the very slow pacing, characters that weren’t fleshed out, the plot sometimes becoming confusing, and Breezy knowing how she died but refusing to admit to it; and I was bored for most of Shallow Graves.

Shallow Graves was released by Katherine Tegen Books in January 2016. 

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

From Goodreads: Lorelai Diederich, crown princess and fugitive at large, has one mission: kill the wicked queen who took both the Ravenspire throne and the life of her father. To do that, Lorelai needs to use the one weapon she and Queen Irina have in common- magic. She’ll have to be stronger, faster, and more powerful than Irina, the most dangerous sorceress Ravenspire has ever seen. In the neighboring kingdom of Eldr, when Prince Kol’s father and older brother are killed by an invading army of magic-wielding ogres, the second-born prince is suddenly given the responsibility of saving his kingdom. To do that, Kol needs magic - and the only way to get it is to make a deal with the queen of Ravenspire, promise to become her personal huntsman ... and bring her Lorelai’s heart. But Lorelai is nothing like Kol expected - beautiful, fierce, and unstoppable - and despite dark magic, Lorelai is drawn in by the passionate and troubled king. Fighting to stay one step ahead of the dragon huntsman - who she likes far more than she should - Lorelai does everything in her power to ruin the wicked queen. But Irina isn’t going down without a fight, and her final move may cost the princess the one thing she still has left to lose.

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: As someone who loves fairy tale retellings, I was really excited to read C.J. Redwine’s The Shadow Queen, a retelling inspired by Snow White. Unfortunately, The Shadow Queen didn’t turn out to be a very memorable read for several reasons. First, the characters were quite bland, and the romance didn’t make me swoon. Also, despite having mardushkas (i.e. people who can wield magic), ogres, and dragons, the setting in The Shadow Queen seemed like a very generic fantasy setting. Finally, Queen Irina lacked depth as a villain, and never felt truly dangerous. 

The Shadow Queen will be released on February 16, 2016 by Balzer + Bray.

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

Monday, February 01, 2016

Review: These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas (and Giveaway)

From Goodreads: England, 1882. Evelyn is bored with society and its expectations. So when her beloved sister, Rose, mysteriously vanishes, she ignores her parents and travels to London to find her, accompanied by the dashing Mr. Kent. But they’re not the only ones looking for Rose. The reclusive, young gentleman Sebastian Braddock is also searching for her, claiming that both sisters have special healing powers. Evelyn is convinced that Sebastian must be mad, until she discovers that his strange tales of extraordinary people are true - and that her sister is in graver danger than she feared. 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: I first heard about Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas' These Vicious Masks when I attended Raincoast’s Winter + Spring 2016 TeensRead Preview. Pitched as “Jane Austen meets X-Men,” I was immediately interested in it because I love books set in Victorian England and novels where the characters have superpowers. 

The worldbuilding in These Vicious Masks was well-done, and I liked how the paranormal element was introduced and incorporated slowly. I thought the premise was quite believable because of the time period since people were starting to make scientific advances, and it was nice that attempts were made in the book to explain why some people developed superpowers. 

I also really liked Evelyn. She was so sassy, and I loved that she refused to follow the rules of society when her sister was kidnapped. Rather than staying home and pretending her sister was simply vacationing at her aunt’s house in order to preserve her family’s reputation, Evelyn decided to take matters into her own hands and investigate her sister’s disappearance. I did, however, think that Evelyn sometimes took unnecessary risks when she could have had backup in the form of either Mr. Braddock or Mr. Kent. 

Speaking of Mr. Braddock and Mr. Kent, it seems that there may be a love triangle in the future because both men appear to have feelings for Evelyn. I personally think the brooding Mr. Braddock is a better choice, but Mr. Kent did manage to surprise me a few times.

These Vicious Masks will be released by Swoon Reads on February 9, 2016. 

Comments About the Cover: Masks always promise intrigue!

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher for free via Xpresso Book Tours. 

These Vicious Masks can be bought from: [Amazon] [Barnes and Noble]

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