Thursday, January 22, 2015

Review: Alex as Well

Title: Alex as Well
Authors: Alyssa Brugman
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Publication Date: January 20, 2015 (Originally published January 1, 2013
Source: I received a complimentary ARC in exchange for an honest review


Alex is ready for things to change, in a big way. Everyone seems to think she’s a boy, but for Alex the whole boy/girl thing isn’t as simple as either/or, and when she decides girl is closer to the truth, no one knows how to react, least of all her parents. Undeterred, Alex begins to create a new identity for herself: ditching one school, enrolling in another, and throwing out most of her clothes. But the other Alex—the boy Alex—has a lot to say about that. Heartbreaking and droll in equal measures, Alex As Well is a brilliantly told story of exploring gender and sexuality, navigating friendships, and finding a place to belong.

This book was a step out of my comfort zone. Not only was it a contemporary read, but it dealt with subject matter I don't have much experience with. However, this year I want to push myself a bit with the books I read, plus increase the diversity of the main characters in the books I read.

This book deals with growing up and being different, specifically with gender identification. Alex was raised as a boy, but recently has begun to identify more strongly as a girl. The book is written as if there are really two Alexes, a boy and girl sharing the same body. It was an interesting way to read and, while I don't know if it is accurate, I did enjoy how different it was. However, I found I didn't like boy Alex, as I was happy when he faded more and more into the background. Girl Alex was a likable character and I really felt for her. She dealt with the same insecurities other teenagers do, only on a larger scale than most.

However, Alex's parents sucked, especially her mom, who was actually crazy. I liked having blog posts from her mom's point of view, which gave a tiny bit of insight into her mind. But she really was a terrible parent and clearly insane. And Alex's dad was mostly just absent. I understand how it would be difficult for Alex's parents to deal with her situation, but I really felt like they were selfish and should have had much better communication with Alex.

Alex as Well was a different sort of read for me and I really ended up enjoying it, despite the writing style of the two Alexes taking some time to get used to. It showed me how good it can feel to step outside of my fantasy/dystopian comfort zone and try something new.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Review: The Zodiac Legacy: Convergence

Title: The Zodiac Legacy: Convergence
Authors: Stan Lee, Stuart Moore and Andie Tong
Series: Zodiac #1
Publisher: Disney Press
Publication Date: January 27, 2015
Source: I received an eARC in exchange for an honest review


Stan Lee presents a brand new, magical, super-powered adventure! 

When twelve magical superpowers are unleashed on the world, a Chinese-America teenager named Steven will be thrown into the middle of an epic global chase. He'll have to master strange powers, outrun super-powered mercenaries, and unlock the mysterious powers of the Zodiac.

I chose this book for review because, well, Stan Lee. And while it was a fun read, I didn't find it all that memorable and the found the characters a bit flat.

Steven doesn't really fit in at school. He loves comic-book-movies and doesn't get along with his cold (frigid even) parents. Steven's world gets turned upside down when he stumbles across a weird ceremony in a secret room of a museum in Hong Kong and becomes infused with the power of his zodiac sign: tiger.

Steven is generally a good kid. However, he does have some hardcore whine-y fits. I found a few times the characters had weird overreactions to events (not just Steven) that left me a bit confused.

One thing I wished was that the characters had a bit more depth. I found Jasmine probably had the most depth, but characters like Liam and Duane were lacking a bit. However, since this is set up to be a series, I'm hoping they will be further developed in the next book.

There was lots of action in this one, so, while I found it not that memorable, it was a lot of fun to read. I think this one would also appeal to both boys and girls, as it has kickass characters of both genders.

Find the Book:
Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository | Chapters

Find the Author:
Stan Lee: Goodreads | Twitter | Web | Facebook
Stuart Moore: Goodreads | Twitter
Andie Tong (Illustration): Goodreads | Twitter | Web

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Review: Fight For Power

Title: Fight For Power
Author: Eric Walters
Series: The Rule of 3 #2
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Publication Date: January 20, 2015
Source: I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review

The world keeps getting darker in this second reality-based survival adventure in the Rule of Three trilogy 

After sixty-six days of a catastrophic global blackout, life in the suburbs is not what it used to be for Adam and his fortified neighborhood of Eden Mills. Although an explosive clash has minimized one threat from outside the walls, Adam’s battle-hardened mentor, Herb, continues to make decisions in the name of security that are increasingly wrenching and questionable. Like his police chief mom and others, Adam will follow Herb’s lead. But when the next threat comes from an unexpected direction, nobody is ready for it. And someone is going to pay the price—because of Adam’s mistakes and mistaken trust.

I just finished this one and I am seriously stressed out. That last chapter! Yikes!

Fight for Power continued on where The Rule of 3 ended: with Adam and his friends and neighbours battling against the group of men who were threatening their neighbourhood. Much like The Rule of 3, Fight For Power focused on the struggle to survive. However, as more and more time passes with no hope of rescue, the group begins to focus more and more on the long term, specifically surviving the winter.

Adam is kind, thoughtful and extremely moral, which makes him a direct contrast to characters like Brett and even Herb. He constantly acts as the voice of morality for the governing committee. While I think it's a bit unrealistic that the committee would put so much stock in the opinion of a 16 year old, it does help the reading to connect with Adam and his struggle to do the right thing in such crazy times.

One thing that bothered me a little bit was that occasionally the writing and Adam's voice felt a little awkward. Like there was a bit too much explaining for a first person story.

But overall I did enjoy the survival aspect of the story and I thought the suspense at the end was very well down. I did guess what was going on before it was revealed, but not too early and I enjoy being able to pick up on author's hints and create my own theories.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

I'm excited to be featuring a guest post by author Eric Walters. As I write this, I'm in the middle of his latest book The Rule of 3: Fight for Power. I love reading about the struggle for survival. Today Eric is going to share a post about travel and it's influence on his writing.

Traveling and influences on your writing

I travel to write and write to travel.  The two go hand in hand.  To write Between Heaven and Earth I travelled to Tanzania to actually climb Mount Kilimanjaro.  My experience travelling to that country and climbing the mountain became not only the basis of my research but the things that my character experienced.  For Just Deserts my character is forced to walk hundreds of miles across the Sahara Desert so I walked 120 miles across the Sahara Desert.  The scene on the cover where the character is lost in the desert was written when I was lost in the desert.  For Walking Home my character and his young sister are forced to walk across Kenya to find his extended family after the death of their parents.  I took four young Canadians and four of the residents of my orphanage ( and walked across Kenya, following the exact route taken by my characters.  All along I took pictures, videos, interviewed people and made notes.  This journey was 8 days and 200 kilometers, on foot, walking across the Mara, up to the top of the Rift Valley, through Nairobi, through Kibera (the largest urban slums in Africa) and then up into the mountains of Kikima.  The journey became not only the basis of the characters experience walking across the country but also formed the basis of the companion website   The book has symbols that connect through a website where the reader can see pictures, view videos, hear interviews, read related non-fiction articles about the journey and read a full writer’s commentary.  None of that would have been possible without the journey.

My wife and I, along with a family in Kenya, created a program to provide services for orphans in the Mbooni District. I travel there each summer and these experiences have formed the basis of many of the books I have written.  My Name is Blessing, Hope Springs and Today is The Day are all picture books that have been inspired by real children and experiences that have occurred when I’m there.

Travel doesn’t just give you experience and inspiration but it gives perspective and opportunity.  I am placed in a position where I can use my abilities as a writer to help my readers become aware of situations in the world – important situations removed from their normal lives.  This allows perspective, not only for them but also for me.  The person that I am has been greatly influenced, changed and shaped by travel.

I love this post. I have definitely been bitten by the travel bug and, while I haven't been abroad in over a year, I have the planning for 3 future trips in-progress (1 to Montana with my mom, one to England and Scotland with my mom and aunt and one to Eastern Europe with my boyfriend). Stay tuned for my review of Fight for Power tomorrow.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Review: Remember Me?

Title: Remember Me?
Author: Sophie Kinsella
Publisher: Dial Press
Publication Date: February 26, 2008
Source: Loaned from a co-worker

Lexi wakes up in a hospital bed after a car accident, thinking it's 2004 and she's a twenty-five-year old with crooked teeth and a disastrous love life. But, to her disbelief, she learns it's actually 2007 - she's twenty-eight, her teeth are straight, she's the boss of her department - and she's married! To a good-looking millionaire! How on earth did she land the dream life??! She can't believe her luck - especially when she sees her stunning new home. She's sure she'll have a fantastic marriage once she gets to know her husband again. He's drawn up a 'manual of our marriage,' which should help. But as she learns more about her new self, chinks start to appear in the perfect life. All her old colleagues hate her. A rival is after her job. Then a dishevelled, sexy guy turns up...and lands a new bombshell. What happened to her? Will she ever remember? And what will happen if she does? 

Remember Me? is a cute and fluffy read that was fun while it lasted. A little ironically, however, I highly doubt I'll remember this one six months from now.

Lexi Smart has lost her memory of the last three years. And things have changed immensely. She's married to a millionaire she's never met, has thousands of dollars of designer clothes and is on the board of directors at work. But none of her friends will talk to her, her husband won't let her eat carbs and she can't understand how she fits into this new life.

Lexi is a likable character, but, if we're being honest, she is pretty dense. It takes her ages to figure things out that any normal person could have figured out fairly quickly. Lexi's family was generally annoying. Her friends were pretty awful to her in the start and Eric was basically robo-husband. Jon was an interesting character, but I couldn't agree with some of his actions based on principle.

The story is cute and fun and was basically akin to watching a silly romantic comedy. An enjoyable way to pass the time, but not going to win any Oscars.

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Find the Author:
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Thursday, January 1, 2015

December Recap

So I got back into blogging in December, although I did take a break over the holidays. I also got a job, which means I am in a better mood all around and have money to buy books if I want! And I had the opportunity to read some favourite authors and enjoyed all the books I read expect for one.

Books Reviewed in October:

How We Fall by Kate Brauning - 2 Hearts
Stitching Snow by R. C. Lewis - 4 Hearts
Waistcoats and Weaponry by Gail Carriger - 4 Hearts
Emerald Green by Kerstin Gier - 5 Hearts
The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black - 5 Hearts

Average Rating = 4 Hearts

Incoming Books:

Lowball edited by George R. R. Martin and Melinda M. Snodgrass 
Heritage of Cyador by L. E. Modesitt Jr. - Thanks to Tor for both of these.

Rules for Riders by Natalie Scott - Thanks to Netgalley and Perfect Bound Marketing
Fairy Tale Reform School: Flunked - Thanks to Netgalley and Sourcebooks

The Blue Diamond by P.S. Bartlett - Won from CBY Book Club
Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Steivater - Bought

The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare - Bought on Kindle
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy - Bought on Kindle

So I got a lot of book lately, although this does include the ones I got in both November and December.

Giant TBR Challenge:

Previous TBR Total: 176
Incoming Books: 3
TBR Books Read: 2
Current TBR Total: 177

Oops. I read a few ebooks last month instead of working on my TBR.