Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Review: Winter

Title: Winter
Author: Marissa Meyer
Series: The Lunar Chronicles #4
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Publication Date: November 10, 2015
Source: Purchased

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?

This was one of those bittersweet books, because a series you loved is coming to close. While this wasn't my favourite book in the series, I still enjoyed it and thought it ended the series well.

My favourite characters (Thorne and Iko) were back in action, although neither of them played as major of roles as some of the others. But they didn't do anything to diminish my love of them, so that's always good.

This book focused on Winter, Levana's stepdaughter and Meyer's version of Snow White. I really enjoyed Winter's character. It was interesting to see a glimpse of her madness and see her struggle to differentiate reality and hallucination. Despite her difficulties, Winter is a kind and likable character. We also got a see a softer side of Jacin in this book and he *almost* became likable at times.

The finale was filled with excitement and was not a disappointment, although I think it was always going to be a happy ending, even when it felt a touch unrealistic. I can't say too much without things getting a little spoiler-y.

Overall, I enjoyed the conclusion to the series and can't wait to read whatever Meyer puts out next!

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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Review: Just Like Magic

Title: Just Like Magic
Author: Elizabeth Townsend
Publisher: Self-published
Publication Date: October 21, 2012
Source: Amazon Freebie

Miss Ella Merton had her life completely planned out: attend the finest finishing school, be presented at the palace, and marry well - in fact, why not a prince? But now her beloved father has died, her family is bankrupt, and she's being forced to work in the kitchen. Still, she's not willing to give up - if only her two stepsisters weren't so selfish, and that chore boy so familiar, and her godmother so unfashionable - not to mention that ridiculous dog. With no magic wand to wave, can she still make her dreams come true? 

I'm a big fan of fairy-tale retellings, but this one left something to be desired. It ws a pretty straightforward retelling, without much to make it unique. That, and Ella was a very unlikable character for the first half of the book.

As mentioned, this retelling was pretty straightforward, other than the lack of magic. So instead of a fairy godmother, Ella's godmother is a dressmaker, which give a plausible way for the story to move forward without the use of magic wands. However, I wish there had been a bit more added in to the story to give a more unique spin to it.

My major issue with this book was that I hated Ella for most of it. She is snooty and spoiled and proud and lacked backbone. When her stepfamily started treating her poorly she should have pushed back or at least allowed her friends to assist her. But no, she just complained about it and did a poor job and was rude to poor Henry. Eventually she came around, but it was too little too late for me.

The other issues I had with the story are the issues I have with the fairy tale in general. By it's very nature, there was a unhealthy dose of instalove. Because talking to someone for a couple hours in the dark is enough to know they are marriage (and throne) material. Right?!

Also, this book is pretty short, with didn't help my reception of it. Anyway, not a winner for me. But give it a try if you are a big fan of retellings and don't mind unlikable characters.

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Thursday, November 19, 2015

Review: Lair of Dreams

Title: Lair of Dreams
Author: Libba Bray
Series: The Diviners #2Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: August 25, 2015
Source: I received a complimentary ARC in exchange for a honest review.

The longing of dreams draws the dead, and this city holds many dreams.

After a supernatural showdown with a serial killer, Evie O’Neill has outed herself as a Diviner. With her uncanny ability to read people’s secrets, she’s become a media darling, earning the title “America’s Sweetheart Seer.” Everyone’s in love with the city’s newest It Girl…everyone except the other Diviners.

Piano-playing Henry DuBois and Chinatown resident Ling Chan are two Diviners struggling to keep their powers a secret—for they can walk in dreams. And while Evie is living the high life, victims of a mysterious sleeping sickness are turning up across New York City.

As Henry searches for a lost love and Ling strives to succeed in a world that shuns her, a malevolent force infects their dreams. And at the edges of it all lurks a man in a stovepipe hat who has plans that extend farther than anyone can guess…As the sickness spreads, can the Diviners descend into the dreamworld to save the city?

In this heart-stopping sequel to The Diviners, Printz Award-winning andNew York Times bestselling author Libba Bray takes readers deeper into the mystical underbelly of New York City.

Evie and her friends are back in action in Lair of Dreams and it's just as fun and exciting as The Diviners. I love the angle the author takes towards the supernatural and the powers that our main characters have. Combine that with the background of the roaring twenties and it's a winning combination!

Since I really have enjoyed this series so far, I think it will be easier to start with the things I didn't love and that put this as a 4 star read instead of a 5. The first issue is with Evie herself. She drove me up the wall in this book. She's been a flawed character from the start, but she is so stubborn and selfish in this book that I (along with some other characters) just wanted to shake some sense into her. The second issue is that things got a bit love triangle-y. Actually, more than a love triangle, some kind undefined love shape, of which I personally am not a fan.

Ok, now that the negative bits are out of the way, I can start gushing about all the things I love. We get to see a lot more into the character of Sam Lloyd, which was interesting and really helped show him as a full character.

But the majority of this story belongs to Henry and a new character, Ling Chan: the dream walkers. I loved both of the characters, both together and apart. We find out so much more about Henry and his life in New York, as well as his past in New Orleans. And Ling is possibly my favourite character. She's direct to a fault, but also very strong and loyal and I enjoyed her juxtaposition of the mysterious power of dream walking and her interest in the scientific world. Through Ling and Henry's dream walking, we also meet Louise and Wai-Mee, who were interesting characters as well, especially Wai-Mee.

The plot of the sleeping sickness was pretty terrifying. Often young, otherwise healthy people going to sleep and never waking up. I don't even want to imagine. I found part of the plot a touch predictable, as I determined one aspect very early on and the second, more major aspect a few pages before the characters (nothing wrong with that one, still a very surprising revelation once I figured it out.

There's so much that happened in this book it would take ages to put down all my thoughts on it. So, it shorted, I really enjoyed this book, which a slight damper put on by Evie being such a brat much of the time, and I can't wait for there to be another book, especially with that little bit with Theta at the very end. And I want something good for poor Mabel and I want Ling to meet Jake Marlow and...

I told you there was a lot.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Review: Not Wanted on the Voyage

Title: Not Wanted on the Voyage
Author: Timothy Findley
Publisher: Penguin
Publication Date: Originally published 1984
Source: Borrowed

Not Wanted on the Voyage is the story of the great flood and the first time the world ended. It is a brilliant, unforgettable drama filled with an extraordinary cast of remarkable characters: the tyrannical Noah and his indomitable wife, Mrs. Noyes; the aging and irritable Yahweh; a chorus of singing sheep; and a unicorn destined for a horrible death. With pathos and pageantry, desperation and hope, magic and mythology, this acclaimed novel weaves its unforgettable spell.

I've actually waited a few weeks before reviewing this book, trying to sort through my thoughts and feelings on it. I still feel like that is as impossible a task as ever, so I'm just going to go for it.

I liked the idea of this book. The plot and themes throughout with interesting and engaging. I enjoyed the characters of Mrs. Noyes, Mottyl and Lucy and enjoyed hating Dr. Noyes. I think the themes of the novel were interesting and spoke to the struggles many encounter when facing off against powerful figures and institutions.

However, I felt that the author appealed to shock value more than I liked. The seen with the 'pirates' made me almost cry. The scene with Emma and the Unicorn made me feel physically ill. I also found some pacing issues with the first 2/3 of the book and I found the ending very unsatisfying.

Overall, I still feel fairly undeciding about this book, so I've currently settles on three stars, as I both loved this book and wanted to throw it across the room while reading it.

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Friday, October 30, 2015

Review: Love Spell

Title: Love Spell
Author: Mia Kerick
Publisher: CoolDudes Publishing
Publication Date: June 1, 2015
Source: I received a complimentary ebook in exchange for an honest review.

Strutting his stuff on the catwalk in black patent leather pumps and a snug orange tuxedo as this year’s Miss (ter) Harvest Moon feels so very right to Chance C├ęsar, and yet he knows it should feel so very wrong.

As far back as he can remember, Chance has been “caught between genders.” (It’s quite a touchy subject; so don’t ask him about it.) However, he does not question his sexual orientation. Chance has no doubt about his gayness—he is very much out of the closet at his rural New Hampshire high school, where the other students avoid the kid they refer to as “girl-boy.”

But at the local Harvest Moon Festival, when Chance, the Pumpkin Pageant Queen, meets Jasper Donahue, the Pumpkin Carving King, sparks fly. So Chance sets out, with the help of his BFF, Emily, to make “Jazz” Donahue his man.

An article in an online women’s magazine, Ten Scientifically Proven Ways to Make a Man Fall in Love with You (with a bonus love spell thrown in for good measure), becomes the basis of their strategy to capture Jazz’s heart. 
Quirky, comical, definitely flamboyant, and with an inner core of poignancy, Love Spell celebrates the diversity of a gender-fluid teen.

A cute, heartwarming tale about finding love and finding yourself. Chance doesn't quite know where he fits in life. His larger-than-life personality doesn't mesh well with the town he lives in (it seems like a small town mentality, but it's large enough to have a frozen yogurt shop, so not that small by my standards). He has an almost non-existent relationship with his parents. Not to mention the overwhelming confusion when it comes to his gender identity.

I enjoyed the mix of more modern themes like gender identity with classical themes like the importance of being yourself. It allowed the author to explore Chance's sexuality, while still embracing the other themes of the human condition (because LGBTQ+ people are people and therefore deal with issues that effect everyone, not only gender/sexuality specific issues).

Chance was a bit over-the-top for me. He was a total drama queen and annoyed me a bit at times. He can lay it on a bit thick sometimes and I felt like he was a bit oblivious about Jasper's feelings, which were pretty obvious to the reader. 

I really wish that Chance's parents had played a larger role in his life. It didn't seem realistic to me how little they were involved in his life.

Overall, I enjoyed Love Spell, although it lacked that special something to elevate it to favourite status. But it was a lot of fun and a good addition of some reading diversity.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Review: The Diviners

Title: The Diviners
Author: Libba Bray
Series: The Diviners #1
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: September 18, 2012
Source: Gifted

Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City—and she is pos-i-tute-ly ecstatic. It’s 1926, and New York is filled with speakeasies, Ziegfeld girls, and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is that she has to live with her uncle Will and his unhealthy obsession with the occult.

Evie worries he’ll discover her darkest secret: a supernatural power that has only brought her trouble so far. But when the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol and Will is called to the scene, Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer.

As Evie jumps headlong into a dance with a murderer, other stories unfold in the city that never sleeps. A young man named Memphis is caught between two worlds. A chorus girl named Theta is running from her past. A student named Jericho hides a shocking secret. And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened.

I really liked this book! The characters were great, the plot was awesome and I loved the 1920's setting. 

Our main character Evie is a bit of a trouble-maker. She's a young flapper with a peculiar ability to read the history of an object. She is interesting and flawed, but still very likable (although a couple things she did at the end pissed me off).

The other characters were interesting as well. I think my favourites were Theta and Memphis, although I am also intrigued by Sam Lloyd. And poor Mabel, always being relegated to Evie's sidekick. I really enjoyed Libba Bray's writing style, where she would switch over and follow a character other than Evie for a while so we get a larger story.

The plot was wonderfully creepy. From the very start, I could tell I was going to enjoy this ghost story. Naughty John is so evil and the cult of the Brethren was fascinating (cults in general are fascinating to me). I really enjoyed all of the supernatural aspects of this book and can't wait to see how some of them develop.

As I mentioned above, I also really enjoyed the 1920's setting. I enjoyed the inclusion of historical events like prohibition and particularly the author's use of period slang. It made me want to be a flapper!

Overall, I though this book was very well done. It's long, but never dragged. The characters were interesting and enjoyable and I loved the supernatural elements. I can't wait to read Lair of Dreams.

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Monday, October 19, 2015

Review: Spinning Starlight

Title: Spinning Starlight
Author: R. C. Lewis
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Publication Date: October 6, 2015
Source: I received a complimentary eARC in exchange for a honest review.

Sixteen-year-old heiress and paparazzi darling Liddi Jantzen hates the spotlight. But as the only daughter in the most powerful tech family in the galaxy, it's hard to escape it. So when a group of men show up at her house uninvited, she assumes it's just the usual media-grubs. That is, until shots are fired.

Liddi escapes, only to be pulled into an interplanetary conspiracy more complex than she ever could have imagined. Her older brothers have been caught as well, trapped in the conduits between the planets. And when their captor implants a device in Liddi's vocal cords to monitor her speech, their lives are in her hands: One word and her brothers are dead.

Desperate to save her family from a desolate future, Liddi travels to another world, where she meets the one person who might have the skills to help her bring her eight brothers home-a handsome dignitary named Tiav. But without her voice, Liddi must use every bit of her strength and wit to convince Tiav that her mission is true. With the tenuous balance of the planets deeply intertwined with her brothers' survival, just how much is Liddi willing to sacrifice to bring them back?

Haunting and mesmerizing, this retelling of Hans Christian Andersen's The Wild Swans strings the heart of the classic with a stunning, imaginative world as a star-crossed family fights for survival in this companion to Stitching Snow.

I enjoyed this book, although not quite as much as I enjoyed Stitching Snow. The problem for me was the pacing; this one dragged a bit for me in the middle. But I did enjoy the story in the end.

Liddi is insanely famous. As the heir to a massive corporation and youngest member of a genius family, she is under a lot of pressure. Liddi was a fairly likable character. I really felt for her lack of privacy in the beginning and appreciated her love for her brothers. I didn't fall in love with her, but I did like her.

Once the story really gets going, she meets Tiav, who is pretty much the nicest guy ever. He is so patient and understanding with Liddi. In fact, it seemed a touch unrealistic to me. But not too bad, since he did seem like a genuinely nice guy.

The big issue for me was the plot. It just dragged on in the middle, since Liddi can't explain anything, so we spend the majority of the book waiting for Tiav to figure out what is going on. I understand that Liddi's inability to communicate was a major part of the plot, but it got a bit tedious after a while. Other than that, the plot was fairly interesting.

I got a bit confused on this one, since I thought it was going to be a sort of sequel to Stitching Snow, but it wasn't. Not even set in the same world. Confusing for me, because the covers follow the same theme. So don't go in expecting a sequel!

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Thursday, October 8, 2015

CBC's 30 Works of Canadian Fiction to Read Before You're Thirty

Sunday was my birthday (woo!). I turned 27 this year. A couple weeks ago I stumbled upon this list from CBC books. Since I'll be 30 in less than 3 years (Wait, what?!?!?!). And I've only read 3 of the books on this list and 2 of those were 5 or more years ago! So 27 books to read in 3 years. Sounds like a plan! I'm going to aim to read 1 book off this list per month. I'm starting this month with Not Wanted on the Voyage by Timothy Findley.

1. Bear by Marian Engel 
2. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery  - Read as a child - might reread
3. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood  - Read as a teenager
4. Barney’s Version by Mordecai Richler 
5. The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill
6. De Niro’s Game by Rawi Hage
7. Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald
8. Fifth Business by Robertson Davies
9. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
10. Cereus Blooms at Night by Shani Mootoo
11. The Orenda by Joseph Boyden
12. Generation X by Douglas Coupland
13. Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese
14. In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje
15. When Everything Feels like the Moviesby Raziel Reid
16. Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O’Neill
17. No Great Mischief by Alistair MacLeod
18. Obasan by Joy Kogawa
19. Skim by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki
20. Two Solitudes by Hugh MacLennan
21, Green Grass, Running Water by Thomas King
22. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
23. Neuromancer by William Gibson
24. The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis - Read in approximately 2011/2012
25. Beautiful Losers by Leonard Cohen
26. The Book of Secrets by M.G. Vassanji
27. The Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro
28. My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews
29. Not Wanted on the Voyage by Timothy Findley
30. Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson

Monday, October 5, 2015

August + September Wrap-up

I missed August and am a few days late for September, but here we go!

Books Reviewed in August:

The Voyage of the Basilisk by Marie Brennan - 4 stars
The Riddles of Hillgate by Zoey Kane and Claire Kane - 3 stars

Average rating = 3.5 stars

Books Reviewed in September:

The Talisman of El by Alecia Stone - 2 stars
You Won't Remember This by Kate Blackwell - 2.5 stars
Court of Fives by Kate Elliott - 4 stars
Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry - 4 stars
Crossing into Brooklyn by Mary Ann McGuigan - 2 stars

Average rating = 2.9 stars (not a great month, but it's interesting to note that 3/5 books were written by a Kate or Katie).

Books Received in August/September:

For Review:

An Infinite Number of Parallel Universes by Randy Ribay
Sweet Madness by Trisha Leaver and Lindsay Currie
Perdita by Faith Gardner - Thanks to Merit Press for this one and the two above
Dragon Heart by Cecelia Holland - Thanks to Tor for this one


A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Mass - Forgot this one is a previous haul. Thanks to It Starts at Midnight!

Amazon Freebies:

Crystal Magic by Madeline Freeman

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Review: Crossing Into Brooklyn

Title: Crossing Into Brooklyn
Author: Mary Ann McGuigan
Publisher: Merit Press
Publication Date: June 1, 2015
Source: I received a complimentary copy in exchange for a honest review.

To Find Your Future, You Have to Face Your Past

At sixteen, Morgan Lindstrum has the life that every other girl wants--at least from the outside. A privileged only child, she has everything she could ever want, except her parents' attention. A Princeton physicist and a high-powered executive, they barely have any time for each other, much less for Morgan. Then her beloved grandfather dies, depriving Morgan of the only stable figure in her life. If that's not enough, she suddenly finds out he was never her grandfather at all. To find out the truth about her family, Morgan makes her way to Brooklyn, where she meets Terence Mulvaney, the Irish immigrant father who her mother disowned. Morgan wants answers; but instead of just satisfying her curiosity, Mulvaney shows her the people in his condemned tenement building, who are suffering and have nowhere to go. He challenges her to help them, by tearing away the veil of shame, and showing her wealthy parents and her advantaged circle of friends a world they don't want to know exists. The temptation to walk away from this ugly reality, as her mother did, is strong. But if she does, can Morgan ever really leave behind what she learned when she crossed into Brooklyn?

I was a bit apprehensive going in to this book, since it's not kind of book I would usually choose. Unfortunately, in this case, my gut feeling was right. This book just didn't work for me.

The characters, especially Morgan, didn't feel all that real and relateable. Her parents were useless and annoyed me a lot. Her grandpa was a asshole. Morgan was spoiled and naive.

Also, I felt like this book majorly overemphasized the income and class gap. It was this huge deal for her to find out her grandpa was poor and another huge deal for her to visit Brooklyn. Maybe things are different in New York/New Jersey, but where I'm from, things are not that divided.

Disliking the characters was a problem I could not overcome in this book. If you can connect with the characters better than me, you might enjoy this one.

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