Sunday, July 24, 2016

Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses

Title: A Court of Thorns and Roses
Author: Sarah J Maas
Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Publication Date: May 5 2015
Source: Won.

A thrilling, seductive new series from New York Timesbestselling author Sarah J. Maas, blending Beauty and the Beastwith faerie lore.

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she's been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow over the faerie lands is growing, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

Perfect for fans of Kristin Cashore and George R. R. Martin, this first book in a sexy and action-packed new series is impossible to put down!

I'm realizing just how much I love Sarah J. Maas. I'm a bit late to the party, but I really have loved the 3 books I've read by her. Her characters are amazing: heroines that strike the perfect balance between badass and vulnerable. I want to be best friends with them

Feyre is the only thing holding her family together. Really, her family sucks, but in a very human, true-to-life kind of way (as opposed to the flat, inexplicably evil families that drive me up the wall). But Feyre is the only thing keeping her family alive, something that is getting harder and harder to do. In the process of trying to keep her family alive, Feyre gets into unfortunate situation and ends up travelling to the Fae realm as a prisoner/guest. I loved the fae characters in this book as well, but I think my favourite was Lucien, although I can see the appeal of Tamlin.

If this all sounds a bit familiar, this book is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. But at the same time, it's also based on a somewhat lesser known story of Tam Lin, who was stolen away by the fairy queen.

The world created by Maas is rich and deep and really well done. Honestly, I can't think of anything I would have changed about this book. It's that good.

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Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Review: Glory O'Brien's History of the Future

Title: Glory O'Brien's History of the Future
Author: A. S. King
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: October 14, 2014
Source: I received a complimentary ecopy in exchange for a honest review.

In this masterpiece about freedom, feminism, and destiny, Printz Honor author A.S. King tells the epic story of a girl coping with devastating loss at long last--a girl who has no idea that the future needs her, and that the present needs her even more.
Graduating from high school is a time of limitless possibilities--but not for Glory, who has no plan for what's next. Her mother committed suicide when Glory was only four years old, and she's never stopped wondering if she will eventually go the same way...until a transformative night when she begins to experience an astonishing new power to see a person's infinite past and future. From ancient ancestors to many generations forward, Glory is bombarded with visions--and what she sees ahead of her is terrifying: A tyrannical new leader raises an army. Women's rights disappear. A violent second civil war breaks out. And young girls vanish daily, sold off or interned in camps. Glory makes it her mission to record everything she sees, hoping her notes will somehow make a difference. She may not see a future for herself, but she'll do anything to make sure this one doesn't come to pass.

While I enjoyed the creativity in this book, the writing style and characters didn't while do it for me.

Glory is not a likable character. He best friend Ellie is not a likable character. Her father would almost be likeable if he had a life. Darla might have been likable if she was alive.

What bothered me most able Glory was her apathy. I don't connect well with apathetic characters and Glory was no exception. She didn't have any goals, didn't have any relationships besides Ellie (who she doesn't even really like) and her father and didn't care about anything.

I also didn't like the writing style. I know it was supposed to be Glory's thoughts, but she would tell the reader something in her head, then repeat it by saying it out loud. I didn't save any exact quotes, but it was kind of like this: "When I came home, my dad was watching tv. He doesn't usually watch tv. 'Why are you watching tv?' I asked." It kind of threw me off.

With that said, I found this to be a really creative book. Glory's history of the past and future was really interesting and I found myself waiting for those chapters that were interspersed in the rest of the book, but I certainly preferred them. The whole thing with the bat was a bit too bizarre though in my option.

There were some really interesting elements to this book, but it wasn't an overall success for me.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Review: Stealing Parker

Title: Stealing Parker
Author: Miranda Kenneally
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publication Date: October 1, 2012
Source: Purchased

Red-hot author Miranda Kenneally hits one out of the park in this return to Catching Jordan's Hundred Oaks High.

Parker Shelton pretty much has the perfect life. She’s on her way to becoming valedictorian at Hundred Oaks High, she’s made the all-star softball team, and she has plenty of friends. Then her mother’s scandal rocks their small town and suddenly no one will talk to her.

Now Parker wants a new life.

So she quits softball. Drops twenty pounds. And she figures why kiss one guy when she can kiss three? Or four. Why limit herself to high school boys when the majorly cute new baseball coach seems especially flirty?

But how far is too far before she loses herself completely?
I'm the first to admit that contemporary romance books are not my thing. I'm much more of a fantasy/action/adventure kind of girl. But I heard so many great things about Miranda Kenneally's Hundred Oaks series that I have been giving it a try. I read Catching Jordan quite a while ago and honestly didn't enjoy it all that much, so I was pretty skeptical going into Stealing Parker.

But I ended up really enjoying it! I connected way more with Parker than I did with Jordan. I really felt Parker's struggles and I was rooting for her the whole time (even as I screamed at her when she made decisions I disagreed with). I think they reason why this book worked better for me than Catching Jordan is because Stealing Parker is less of a romance-driven plot and more of a character-driver plot. Sure there are romantic aspects, but they all contribute to Parker's journey within the book.

This book touched on a lot of issues: eating disorders, sexual identity, slut-shaming and inappropriate relationship. Despite the long list, I felt like each issue was handled well by the author.

This book has brightened up my expectations of the Hundred Oaks series and I am looking forward to reading the next book.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Review: Sweet Madness

Title: Sweet Madness
Author: Trisha Leaver & Lindsay Currie
Publisher: Merit Press
Publication Date: September 15, 2015
Source: I received a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.

Seventeen-year-old Bridget Sullivan is alone in Fall River, a city that sees Irish immigrants as nothing more than a drunken drain on society. To make matters worse, she's taken employment with the city’s most peculiar and gossip-laden family—the Bordens. But Bridget can’t afford to be picky—the pay surpasses any other job Bridget could ever secure and she desperately needs the money to buy her little sister, Cara, passage to the states. It doesn’t hurt that the job location is also close to her beau, Liam. As she enters the disturbing inner workings of the Borden household, Bridget clings to these advantages.

However, what seemed like a straightforward situation soon turns into one that is untenable. Of course Bridget has heard the gossip around town about the Bordens, but what she encounters is far more unsettling. The erratic, paranoid behavior of Mr. Borden, the fearful silence of his wife, and worse still…the nightly whisperings Bridget hears that seem to come from the walls themselves.

The unexpected bright spot of the position is that Lizzie Borden is so friendly. At first, Bridget is surprised at how Lizzie seems to look out for her, how she takes a strong interest in Bridget’s life. Over time, a friendship grows between them. But when Mr. Borden’s behavior goes from paranoid to cruel, and the eerie occurrences in the house seem to be building momentum, Bridget makes the tough decision that she must leave the house—even if it means leaving behind Lizzie, her closest friend, alone with the madness. Something she swore she would not do.

But when Bridget makes a horrifying discovery in the home, all that she thought she knew about the Bordens is called into question…including if Lizzie is dangerous. And the choice she must make about Lizzie’s character could mean Bridget’s life or death.

SWEET MADNESS is a retelling of the infamous Borden murders from the point of view of Lizzie’s Irish maid, Bridget Sullivan.
This was a book with a lot of potential. I like the premise and the story overall, but there were major pacing issues for me that dropped this one down to 3 stars.

I think the star of this book was the atmosphere that Leaver and Currie created. Everything felt creepy and there was a certain wrong-ness that came through all of Bridget's experiences in the Borden house. However, there was a case of too much of a good thing. The pacing in this book felt way too slow for me and that combined with the growing sense of dread, made the book a bit laborious in the middle. With that much stress on the reader for such an extended number of pages made the book a bit exhausting.

Bridget was a likable enough character, although I didn't always agree with her decisions. However, they weren't easy decisions to make, so I can't hold that against her. And I think Leaver and Currie did a good job of making Lizzy a sympathetic character at the same time as being a ticking time bomb.

This story and characters had a lot of potential, but the mix of a thick atmosphere with slow pacing kind of got the better of the book.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Review: The Awakening

Title: The Awakening
Author: Kelley Armstrong
Series: Darkest Powers #2
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: April 8, 2009
Source: Gift

You don't have to be alive to be awakened.

Chloe Saunders is a living science experiment—not only can she see ghosts, but she was genetically altered by a sinister organization called the Edison Group. She's a teenage necromancer whose powers are out of control, which means she can raise the dead without even trying. Now Chloe's running for her life with three of her supernatural friends—a charming sorcerer, a cynical werewolf, and a disgruntled witch—and they have to find someone who can help them before the Edison Group catches them.

Or die trying.
I'm not too sure why, but this series just isn't doing it for me. It's not bad, but there's just nothing striking me and special about it.

Chloe is likable enough, but I don't love her. It almost feels like she's so likable that something is missing and she's a little boring. The more I think about it, the more I realize I'd probably prefer a book set in Victoria's POV. It would be more interesting.

I think a love triangle is starting to brew, although it's very one-sided for me at this point. Simon and Chloe would be great together, since he's likable to the point of boring as well.

This review may come across a bit negative, but there's really nothing particularly wrong with this book/series and I know a lot of people have enjoyed it, so I think this is just a 'It's not you, it's me' kind of situation.

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Monday, May 2, 2016

Review: Jockey Girl

Title: Jockey Girl
Author: Shelley Peterson
Publisher: Dundurn Press
Publication Date: February 6, 2016
Source: Netgalley

A teen girl’s quest to find her mother leads her to the big city, and gives her the courage to fulfill her dream of becoming a jockey.

Estranged from her classmates and an outcast at home, Evangeline Gibb feels alone in the world except for the affection of a talented but misunderstood racehorse named No Justice.

All her life, Evie’s been told that her mother, Angela Parson, is dead. Then, on her sixteenth birthday, a card arrives from her great aunt Mary with the suggestion that Angela might still be alive — and Evie’s life is turned upside down.

In hopes of winning enough money to leave her hateful father and find her mother, Evie enters the Caledon Horse Race. But something she overhears her father saying changes everything, and Evie steals the racehorse in the night and runs away.

With a stray dog named Magpie at her side and help from Aunt Mary, Evie unearths long-hidden family secrets, observes the underground world of drug addiction, goes toe-to-toe with her father, finds unexpected love, and takes the racing world by storm with single-minded determination.
I'm the kind of reader who loves horses, but often dislikes horse books. I find they tend to be sentimental and unrealistic. Jockey Girl came off unrealistic to me and also aimed toward a younger audience than I was expecting. With that said, I think I would have enjoyed it a lot when I was in elementary school. However, with that said, there is one aspect of the book that would require a bit more maturity as it deals with addiction.

The first thing that annoyed me was how terrible Evie's family was (expect for her little brother). Her father was basically pure evil and her step-mother was fairly useless and generally unkind. But it's a pet peeve of mine for the parents in a book to be that cruel and evil. I understand and appreciate that parents aren't perfect, but in the vast majority of cases, they do genuinely care about their children and have their best interests at heart.

The second thing that bothered me was that things all seemed to fall into place so nicely for Evie. Sure, she had a few obstacles, but I never true felt the stakes because I felt like the author wouldn't let anything truly bad happen.

I mentioned that the book felt like something from my childhood and part of that was that it really had a timeless feel to it and almost felt like it was set in the past because the characters hardly used computers or cell phones or even watched tv. Every once in a while something modern would pop up and it almost felt out of place in the story.

Overall, Jockey Girl was a bit to unrealistic, immature and predictable for me, but I think there are definitely readers out there who would really enjoy this one.

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Monday, March 21, 2016

Review: The Orenda

Title: The Orenda
Author: Joseph Boyden
Publisher: Penguin Canada
Publication Date: September 10, 2013
Source: Borrowed

A visceral portrait of life at a crossroads, The Orenda  opens with a brutal massacre and the kidnapping of the young Iroquois Snow Falls, a spirited girl with a special gift. Her captor, Bird, is an elder and one of the Huron Nation's great warriors and statesmen. It has been years since the murder of his family and yet they are never far from his mind. In Snow Falls, Bird recognizes the ghost of his lost daughter and sees the girl possesses powerful magic that will be useful to him on the troubled road ahead. Bird’s people have battled the Iroquois for as long as he can remember, but both tribes now face a new, more dangerous threat from afar.

Christophe, a charismatic Jesuit missionary, has found his calling amongst the Huron and devotes himself to learning and understanding their customs and language in order to lead them to Christ. An emissary from distant lands, he brings much more than his faith to the new world.

As these three souls dance each other through intricately woven acts of duplicity, small battles erupt into bigger wars and a nation emerges from worlds in flux.

The Orenda pushed me out of my reading comfort zone, which I am actually very thankful for. This book is incredibly well researched and also very beautifully written. It is my first book by Joseph Boyden and I certainly plan to read more by him.

The Orenda gives a view into the history of the north-eastern part of North America (Great Lakes area). I appreciated that Boyden featured main characters from various backgrounds (European and First Nations, and to a point, different nations). I felt like the story was told fairly and without sugarcoating anything.

I enjoyed all three of the main characters: Bird, Christophe and Snow Falls, although I think Snow Falls was my favourite. They were all well-formed and flaw and intriguing.

One thing to note is that this book is on the violent side, featuring multiple scenes of war and tortured. Just be warned if you are sensitive to these things.

The only negative thing I was to say is that I was disappointed with the ending of Snow Falls' story. I felt like Boyden was building towards something, but nothing came of it, which was quite a let down for me as a reader.

Overall, this is a beautifully written book that I would suggest to anyone interesting in the history of North America or who enjoys skilled prose and intriguing characters.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Review: Entangled

Title: Entangled
Author: Nikki Jefford
Series: Spellbound #1
Publisher: Nikki Jefford
Publication Date: Feb 19, 2012
Source: I received a free ecopy in exchange for a honest review (Netgalley)

Two months after dying, seventeen-year-old witch Graylee Perez wakes up in her twin sister Charlene’s body.

Until Gray finds a way back inside her own body, she’s stuck being Charlene every twenty-hour hours. Her sister has left precise instructions on how Gray should dress and behave. Looking like a prep isn’t half as bad as hanging out with Charlene’s snotty friends and gropey boyfriend.

The “normals” of McKinley High might be quick to write her behavior off as post-traumatic stress, but warlock Raj McKenna is the only person who suspects Gray has returned from the dead.

Now Gray has to solve the mystery of her death and resurrection and disentangle herself from Charlene’s body before she disappears for good.

***Entangled is a young adult paranormal fantasy romance suitable for ages 15 and up.***
Entangled was a fun YA paranormal read. I enjoy books about witches and wasn't disappointed. 

Graylee and Charlene are twin witches. Graylee, our main character, is a nice, likable girl. Charlene, on the other hand, was a terrible person. She's a sort of 'mean girl,' but to the next level. The girls' mother seemed pretty decent, but I don't understand why she let Charlene act like that.

There was a hint of a love triangle, but thankfully, it didn't last long. The love interest was a good-at-heart bad-boy who, while I wasn't in madly in love with him, was still likble once you get to know him.

I feel like a bit more world-building could have been done so that the reader could have a better understanding of how magic works, since I felt most of that was glossed over.

Overall, Graylee was a relatable and likable main character who kept me invested in the story and enjoying the book. While this wasn't an amazing read, I still enjoyed it enough to keep my eye out for the sequel.

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Sunday, February 14, 2016

Weekly Recap #5

I'm running behind again, but better late than never!

Last Week's Posts:

Review: The A Circuit by Georgina Bloomberg and Catherine Hapka

New Arrivals:

Tides of Honour by Genevieve Graham - Thanks to Genevieve Graham and Ambur from Burning Impossibly Bright for the awesome giveaway!

Pages Read:

2/7 -
2/8 - 72
2/9 - 54
2/10 - 133
2/11 - 70
2/12 - 9
2/13 - 0

Average = 48 pages

So close! I think the font must be huge on the physical book version of ebook I was reading, but whatever, I'll take it!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Review: The A Circuit

Title: The A Circuit
Author: Georgina Bloomberg & Catherine Hapka
Series: The A Circuit #1Publisher: Bloombury USA Childrens
Publication Date: May 16, 2011
Source: Purchased.

The A Circuit is the top of the top when it comes to horse shows. It's a world with its own rules and superprivileged lifestyles. Teens travel the circuit all year, showing horses that cost as much as some homes.

Tommi, Kate, and Zara are all elite competitors on the circuit, but they come from totally different backgrounds. Tommi is a billionaire heiress trying to prove she has real talent (not just deep bank accounts). Kate puts the working in working student-every win has been paid for with hours of cleaning stalls. She's used to the grueling schedule, but Fitz, the barn's resident hot guy, is about to become a major distraction. And then there's Zara. She's the wild child of a famous rockstar, but she's ready to take riding seriously. Can a party girl really change her ways?

Readers who enjoy peeking into the elite world of Gossip Girl orThe A-List will feel right at home in this new series with its friendships, drama, and privilege set against the backdrop of competitive horseback riding.
I enjoyed this one, mostly because I'm a giant horse nerd. I think it's definitely possible that if this story had been set in any other sport or activity, I probably would not have liked it at all. But because it featured horses, it got heaps of bonus points.

I think my favourite thing about this book is that Georgina Bloomberg knows her stuff. She competes at the top of the sport, so her descriptions of anything involves horses are authentic and spot on. I don't know how self-explanatory or confusing this would be for non-riders, since she doesn't overly explain everything, which was a big plus for me, since that would have been boring for someone who already knows.

Besides the horses, which I obviously loved, the characters didn't wow me. Tommi and Kate weren't bad, but didn't jump off the page for me. Zara was super annoying. Occasionally in the second half of the book, I'd start to feel a bit bad for her, but then she'd go do something really stupid or mean and I'd go back to being annoyed at her. Fitz also pissed me off.

Really, this book reminded me of Gossip Girl (the show, since I haven't read the books. Oh and I just realized GG is mentioned in the synopsis too). A bunch of insanely rich teenagers who tend to be spoilt and full of drama. Right down to the token "poor kid" (ie: middle class).

I feel like this book is aimed at people who know a thing or two about horses, but also enjoy high school drama. And it's exactly that. So if that's you're thing, you'll enjoy it. If you're not interested in either horses or teenage drama, pass on this one.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Weekly Recap #4

Not too much to report in my life lately. Happy to see the end of January though!

Last Week's Posts:

The Yearbook by Carol Masciola

New Arrivals:

Nothing to report. Not a bad thing though, as I was trying to read the books I already have.

Pages Read:

1/31 - 59
2/1 - 11
2/2 - 7
2/3 - 6
2/4 - 75
2/5 - 115
2/6 - 0

Average = 39

I still didn't quite meet my goals, but it's better than last week, so that's good I guess. Still very inconsistent.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Review: The Yearbook

Title: The Yearbook
Author: Carol Masciola
Publisher: Merit Press
Publication Date: October 2, 2015
Source: I received a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.

Misfit teen Lola Lundy has every right to her anger and her misery. She’s failing in school, living in a group home, and social workers keep watching her like hawks, waiting for her to show signs of the horrible mental illness that cost Lola’s mother her life. Then, one night, she falls asleep in a storage room in her high school library, where she’s seen an old yearbook—from the days when the place was an upscale academy for young scholars instead of a dump. When Lola wakes, it’s to a scene that is nothing short of impossible.

Lola quickly determines that she’s gone back to the past—eighty years in the past, to be exact. The Fall Frolic dance is going full blast in the gym, and there she makes an instant connection with the brainy and provocative Peter Hemmings, class of ’24. His face is familiar, because she’s seen his senior portrait in the yearbook. By night’s end, Lola thinks she sees hope for her disastrous present: She’ll make a new future for herself in the past. But is it real? Or has the major mental illness in Lola’s family background finally claimed her? Has she slipped through a crack in time, or into a romantic hallucination she created in her own mind, wishing on the ragged pages of a yearbook from a more graceful time long ago?

I love a good time travel books and, while The Yearbook wasn't my favourite, it was an enjoyable ride.

Lola Lundy has a tough life. She's a orphan, in a group home, has a crappy job, no friends and not a great outlook for the future. Here's the thing about Lola: I only liked her half the time. When she was in the present, she frustrated me. She would keep making bad decisions that only made her situation worse. In the 1920's she became much more normal and level-headed and I enjoyed her character much more. Also, clearly the school system failed Lola (or Lola failed it) because there were a lot of things that seemed like common knowledge about the past that Lola was clueless about.

I really enjoyed the parts of the story that were set in the 1920's. I find that to be such a fascinating time and I'm a sucker for anything vintage. However, I didn't find the time travel to be well-explained. So if you don't want to be bogged down by cumbersome technical explanations, you'll be fine, but if you're one of those readers who likes things like that built up and explained, be warned.

One thing that did bother me was the romance. Unfortunately, this one fell prey to instalove. Seriously, these two had had probably 3 conversations (2 of which were pretty whack) and then all of a sudden they are in love? Nope, not buying it. Thankfully, the romance wasn't too prominent in the book, so it didn't spoil the whole thing.

One thing I did like was the uncertainty in the last third of the book. As a reader, I really found myself doubting what was true and what wasn't, which is something I like in a book.

Overall, I enjoyed The Yearbook, despite a few issues along the way. Definitely recommended for fans of the 1920's especially.

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