Friday, May 29, 2015

Armchair BEA - Character Chatter

Hey Armchair BEA, I'm back. We had some news Wednesday night after my post that kind of turned things upside down (in a good way). Plus I've been sick. But better late than never with this post!

Characters really make or break a book for me. And it's a really fine line that authors need to walk to make their characters relateable and likable. On one hand, they need to have attributes that the reader will connect with and appreciate. On the other hand, they can't be too perfect or they are annoying and unlikable. Plus they need to have that extra je ne sais quoi to really reach the level of favourite. It requires a special touch!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Armchair BEA: Introductions

Somehow I've been blogging for quite a while, yet I've never done Armchair BEA (or actual BEA either). So thing year I'm in!

First off is introductions. Here's my 5 answers:

1, Tell us a bit about yourself: How long have you been blogging? Where are you from? How did you get into blogging?

I've been blogging for a pretty long time actually. My first post for January 31, 2012! That's more than 3 years ago, which seems totally crazy. I'm from Canada and I got into blogging I think because I didn't have anyone in my 'real life' that I could talk about books with.

2. What does diversity mean to you?

Diversity to me means having as wide a range of books and characters as there are readers. Readers should be able to easily find stories about characters who are like them, whether that is based on race or ethnicity, sexual orientation, economic status, physical appearance, disability or whatever. Not every reader is a middle class white girl who doesn't realize how beautiful she is. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy those books. But I also want to see books about people of Asian, African, First Nations, or South American heritage (whether they still live there or have immigrated elsewhere. I want books about straight couples and gay couples and transgendered people and any other sexual identities. I want characters from the inner cities and the suburbs and the mansions on top of a hill. I want characters who is in a wheelchair or blind or with a learning disability. Basically, I want to people I meet in books to be a better mirror for the people I meet in my everyday life.

What book are you reading right now?

I just started my ARC of Sweet by Emmy Laybourne this afternoon!

What is the top book in your TBR pile?

The next book on my TBR is an ARC of Tangled Webs by Lee Bross that I got in the mail a few days ago.

Take a picture of your bookshelf and share it with us! :) (#ABEAShelfie)

I have 2 for you, since I don't really understand shelfies and if I'm supposed to be in them or not.

Anyone else doing Armchair BEA? Link in the comments so I can visit you!

Review: The Body Electric

Title: The Body Electric
Author: Beth Revis
Publisher: Scriptuient Books
Publication Date: October 6, 2014
Source: Purchased.

The future world is at peace.

Ella Shepherd has dedicated her life to using her unique gift--the ability to enter people's dreams and memories using technology developed by her mother--to help others relive their happy memories.

But not all is at it seems.

Ella starts seeing impossible things--images of her dead father, warnings of who she cannot trust. Her government recruits her to spy on a rebel group, using her ability to experience--and influence--the memories of traitors. But the leader of the rebels claims they used to be in love--even though Ella's never met him before in her life. Which can only mean one thing...

Someone's altered her memory.

Ella's gift is enough to overthrow a corrupt government or crush a growing rebel group. She is the key to stopping a war she didn't even know was happening. But if someone else has been inside Ella's head, she cannot trust her own memories, thoughts, or feelings.

So who can she trust?

It's been a few days and I'm still trying to sort out how I feel about this book. The concepts introduced are interesting, but they are pretty out there. What I mean is this is some pretty hard-core science fiction, even without spaceships. 

I found the story interesting and engaging and I did want to find out what was going on. Some things I thought were obvious to the reader long before Ella figured them out, but others took me by surprise.

I think my biggest issue was Ella herself. I just couldn't connect with her. I think it was because in the beginning, she fought so hard against what Jack was telling her, even though it was pretty obvious that something didn't add up. 

One thing I really did like were the small references to the Across the Universe series. This is by no means a sequel, but I liked seeing the little hints that let us know that this takes place in the same universe.

Overall, I enjoyed this book, but I feel pretty neutral about it. I will still read anything Beth Revis puts out though!

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Don't Just Take My Word For It:
The Eater of Books | Novel Heartbeat | The Young Folks

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Review: Devoted

Title: Devoted
Author: Jennifer Mathieu
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Publication Date: June 2, 2015
Source: I received a complimentary ARC in exchange for an honest review

Rachel Walker is devoted to God. She prays every day, attends Calvary Christian Church with her family, helps care for her five younger siblings, dresses modestly, and prepares herself to be a wife and mother who serves the Lord with joy. But Rachel is curious about the world her family has turned away from, and increasingly finds that neither the church nor her homeschool education has the answers she craves. Rachel has always found solace in her beliefs, but now she can’t shake the feeling that her devotion might destroy her soul.

I don't usually read a lot of contemporary, but when I come across a book like this, I know I need to read more. I find extreme religion, including cults and sects, super interesting. And while Rachel's family beliefs are not what I would call a cult, they certain are extreme and restrictive and, honestly, angering. Rachel is only allowed to interact with people from her church. She's home schooled, can't cut her hair and must dress modestly at all times.

I loved Rachel's character so much and I think many other readers will too, since we can see ourselves in her. Rachel is a bookworm at heart, but her family does not condone reading (other than the bible of course), especially Rachel's favourite book: A Wrinkle in Time. That's just one of the trials Rachel must face. She is also fearful of her future, which can only be one thing: being a loving and obedient wife and mother.

I really enjoyed the contrast between Rachel and Lauren, another girl who took issue with the church's restrictive beliefs. It shows the differing ways that different people react in similar situations. Both girl's stories were tough for a bookworm, equal rights kind of girl like me.

However, I do like how Jennifer Mathieu treated the topic of religion in her book. Too often books take sides, either becoming preachy or bashing religion altogether. I think the author walked a fine line and stayed fairly respectful of religion. She did not indicate that Rachel's family was wrong, just that their beliefs didn't work for Rachel. And Rachel maintains her relationship with God throughout, yet the book never felt preachy to me.

I also really enjoyed Rachel's relationship with her little sister Ruth. Ruth was the lifeline that kept Rachel sane in her life with her family. They always supported each other, even though they were very different characters. It made me want a little sister. Although I definitely could do without an older sister like Faith. And their last scene together break my heart a little bit.

There is a hint of romantic interest in this one, but it's so subtle, because, let's face it, Rachel is not ready for a relationship right now. I'm so glad the other didn't force her into a relationship, since I believe the book is so much stronger as it is now.

Devoted was one of my rare forays into contemporary fiction and I really enjoyed it a lot. I though the book was well balanced while dealing with potentially volatile content and I will definitely be reading more from Jennifer Mathieu.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Review: Kiss and Tell

Title: Kiss and Tell
Author: Jacqueline Green
Series: Truth or Dare #3
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: February 3, 2015
Source: Purchased.

Since their dangerous game of truth or dare began, Tenley Reed, Sydney Morgan, and Emerson Cunningham have lost almost everything. Closely guarded secrets, romantic relationships, and sought-after spots at the top of their school's social hierarchy-all gone in the blink of an eye.

Now the darer has upped the stakes, leaving another body behind in the girls' isolated beach town of Echo Bay. And if they can't untangle the twisted web leading to whoever is behind the mysterious deaths, one of them could be next. But what happens when the trail leads to those they trusted, those they loved?

Filled with intoxicating twists and shocking betrayals, the final installment in the Truth or Dare trilogy will keep readers guessing until the very end.

Kiss and Tell brings the Truth or Dare trilogy to an exciting conclusion. Sydney, Tenley and Emerson have been through so much together, dealing with the death of their classmates and the constant threat of the darer exposing all their secrets, or worse. 

I really felt for these girls. They have been through Hell! While I understand wanting to keep certain aspects of their life private, the stakes get so much higher than just revealing a dirty little secret. One of my favourite aspects of this book is the way the girls banded together and drew strength from each other. They were far from friends when the story began, but in the end supported each other so much.

This book was my favourite of the trilogy. I liked the girls more throughout and it was a relief to finally know what was going on in Echo Bay. I really enjoyed reading a mystery, which isn't something I do very often. I'm hopefully as figuring out who-dun-it, so I was certain surprised at the reveal. I knew something was up, but did not guess the identity of the darer.

While I didn't love the other books in this series quite as much as this one, I would definitely recommend this series to someone who wants to give mystery a try, but also wants the YA aspect to shine through.

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Monday, May 11, 2015

Review: Who is Mackie Spence?

Title: Who is Mackie Spence?
Author: Lin Kaymer
Publisher: Merit Press
Publication Date: January 2, 2015
Source: I received a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review

A love story about a girl who comes back from a near-death experience with powers no one can explain

With a strong, appealing boy narrator, Who Is Mackie Spence? is a story no boy would be ashamed to read and no girl would want to miss
This ecological and mythological story is spiced with everyday questions of young love: if someone you care about has a destiny beyond your town-even beyond your world-do you give her up?

Jeremy has known Mackie Spence all their lives, growing up together on a small island in the Atlantic. But after a near-drowning accident, Mackie is changed. She's different, and if no one else can see it, Jeremy can. But maybe he's only looking through the eyes of love, as his feelings for Mackie have gone way beyond childhood friendship. She's even more beautiful, but it's as though she has a new soul . . . or something. Jeremy can't explain it; he's a jock, a real-world kind of guy. Then things start happening that he couldn't explain even if he could find the words. One night, at the local nature rehab center where Jeremy and Mackie volunteer, Jeremy sees with his own eyes how terrified, dangerous, injured birds of prey grow calm in Mackie's presence. It's as if they know her. She doesn't understand or even seem to notice. Without being some kind of stalker creep, Jeremy makes it his job to grow more protective of Mackie, and sees her with wild otters and other creatures in situations that are beyond belief. And finally, something happens that not only changes Jeremy's future, but the way he will see life, forever.

Unfortunately, Who is Mackie Spence didn't really work for me. I had a lot of trouble connecting with the narrator Jeremy and I wish there was more mythology and fewer hormones.

I want to start with what I did like. I'm a big fan of mythology, especially Greek, and I think the mythology featured in this book definitely had potential to make an interesting story. However, the mythology ended up being a tiny portion of the book, which was disappointing for me.

I just didn't really connect with the narrator Jeremy. He was either just telling the reader about his general day-to-day life or dealing with his teenage boy hormones whenever he thought about Mackie. I also didn't find his voice very realistic for a teenage boy. First, he would often say random scientific facts, as if the author was trying to trick the reader into learning some biology. Second, I don't think any 17 year old boy would actually say "stinkeroo" if something was smelly.

Overall, the book felt pretty flat. Even in the parts I knew should have been exciting, I just didn't feel any excitement or tension. Overall, no really a fan of this one, which is disappointing, as I thought the mythology aspect had potential, but was terribly underdeveloped.

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Friday, May 1, 2015

April Recap

How is April over?!?! At least summer is coming! Also, please enter my giveaway for a copy of Unlovely (US only).

Book Reviewed in March:
Skandal by Lindsay Smith - 4 stars
Dream a Little Dream by Kerstin Gier - 4 stars
The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong - 3 stars
Unlovely by Celeste Conway - 3.5 stars
The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski - 3.5 stars

Average rating = 3.6 stars

Books Received in April:

Unlovely by Celeste Conway

Giant TBR Challenge:

Previous TBR Total: 177
Incoming Books: 1
TBR Books Read: 4
Current TBR Total: 174