12/27/13

Follow Friday

Happy Friday, everyone! This weeks question: 

What books did Santa stuff your stocking with this holiday season? 

Unfortunately, Santa decided I had too many books already and thought I needed other unnecessary things like clothes and socks. But that doesn't mean I won't be using the money I got to get my own! I'll probably be posting my haul at the end of the week, so keep an eye out.


12/21/13

Omens

Author: Kelley Armstrong 
Pages: 496 
Publisher: Random House 
Format: Hardcover 
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): Twenty-four-year-old Olivia Taylor Jones has the perfect life. The only daughter of a wealthy, prominent Chicago family, she has an Ivy League education, pursues volunteerism and philanthropy, and is engaged to a handsome young tech firm CEO with political ambitions. 

But Olivia’s world is shattered when she learns that she’s adopted. Her real parents? Todd and Pamela Larsen, notorious serial killers serving a life sentence. When the news brings a maelstrom of unwanted publicity to her adopted family and fiancĂ©, Olivia decides to find out the truth about the Larsens. 


Olivia ends up in the small town of Cainsville, Illinois, an old and cloistered community that takes a particular interest in both Olivia and her efforts to uncover her birth parents’ past. 

Aided by her mother’s former lawyer, Gabriel Walsh, Olivia focuses on the Larsens’ last crime, the one her birth mother swears will prove their innocence. But as she and Gabriel start investigating the case, Olivia finds herself drawing on abilities that have remained hidden since her childhood, gifts that make her both a valuable addition to Cainsville and deeply vulnerable to unknown enemies. Because there are darker secrets behind her new home, and powers lurking in the shadows that have their own plans for her.



My Summary: In this first installment of her new Cainsville series, Kelley Armstrong introduces us to another one of her trademark kick-ass characters: Olivia Taylor-Jones, the daughter of two rich and powerful Chicago socialites... or so she thought. It appears as if Olivia has everything she could every want - until her fairy-tale life is ripped out from underneath her, and she discovers that not only is she adopted, but her birth parents are allegedly serial killers.

Shut out by her adoptive parents, Olivia has no choice but to run - and in doing so, ends up in the mysterious small town of Cainsville, where nothing is what it seems. 

My Thoughts: I absolutely adored this novel! It was a great ride, and to be honest I'd expect nothing less from Kelley Armstrong. Olivia was an extremely well-developed character, as well as Gabriel and the other citizens of Cainsville. I loved that information is revealed in little tidbits to the reader - it kept me guessing throughout the novel, wondering what could possibly be going on behind the cheery exterior of the tiny town, and how exactly it related to Olivia's parents and their alleged crime spree. 

I liked that - like Olivia herself - you didn't know which character you could trust. It kept me on the edge on my seat while reading, and also made the ride that much more twisted. 

Final Thoughts: I definitely recommend this novel to anyone looking for a great mystery or suspense read, as well as fans of the paranormal genre - and of course, fans of Kelley Armstrong! 

12/13/13

Follow Friday!

Follow Friday makes its return! I've been MIA for a few weeks due to exams, but now that I'm back I can get back into the swing of things.

This week's question:

 Go to your biggest bookcases. Go to the second shelf from the top and pick out the sixth book from the left. Hardsell that book to us – even if you haven’t read it or if you hated it.

My book: Allegiant by Veronica Roth, book #3 of the Divergent trilogy. Do I really have to hardsell this book to anyone? If you're a fan of the Divergent trilogy, you've probably already picked up a copy (if not pulled an all-nighter to read the entire thing and find out what happens to Tris and Four - I know I did). 

Leave me links to your posts so I can follow back (and also so I can check out what I need to spend my Christmas money on in the new year). Thanks, and happy Friday! :)

11/23/13

Stained

Author: Cheryl Rainfield 
Pages: 304 
Publisher: Harcourt 
Format: Hardcover (ARC) 
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): Sixteen-year-old Sarah Meadows longs for "normal." Born with a port wine stain covering half her face, all her life she's been plagued by stares, giggles, bullying, and disgust. But when she's abducted on the way home from school, Sarah is forced to uncover the courage she never knew she had, become a hero rather than a victim, and learn to look beyond her face to find the beauty and strength she has inside. It's that-or succumb to a killer.









Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

My Summary: Sarah has grown up knowing she wasn't anyone's idea of beautiful. With a large port-wine stain covering half her face, she knows that whenever someone looks at her, it's all they see. 

One day, when Sarah is on her way home from school, she's abducted - and the key to her survival may just be her birthmark. Because it's given Sarah strength to fight her entire life, and strength is exactly what she's going to need to escape her psychotic captor.

My Thoughts: This novel pulled me in and didn't let me go until the final page. I couldn't tear myself away from Sarah's struggle - couldn't put it down until I knew how it all worked out in the end. I finished in a little under six hours and did not regret a minute spent reading.

This novel was a really big change from the usual YA I read, but still a great read. Witnessing Sarah's strength during her capture and the way she kept herself going was inspiring. I liked the way that the characters were all flawed in some way - it made them seem like real people instead of stand-ins or fakes. My heart went out to Nick, who had to struggle with a difficult home life but refused to give up hope when it came to Sarah coming home. The characters were amazingly realistic and well-written.

Final Thoughts: I recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys edgier contemporary YA, as well as survival stories. I'll definitely be checking out Cheryl Rainfield's other books in the future!

11/17/13

Hero

Author: Alethea Kontis 
Pages: 304 
Publisher: Harcourt 
Format: Hardcover (ARC) 
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): Rough and tumble Saturday Woodcutter thinks she's the only one of her sisters without any magic—until the day she accidentally conjures an ocean in the backyard. With her sword in tow, Saturday sets sail on a pirate ship, only to find herself kidnapped and whisked off to the top of the world. Is Saturday powerful enough to kill the mountain witch who holds her captive and save the world from sure destruction? And, as she wonders grumpily, "Did romance have to be part of the adventure?" As in Enchanted, readers will revel in the fragments of fairy tales that embellish this action-packed story of adventure and, yes, romance. 




Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

My Summary: Saturday comes from a family of amazing people. Her sisters all have their own unique powers, and she has... well, nothing. 

Or so she thinks. Until an unexpected burst of magic causes her to make an ocean appear in the backyard. Tempted by the promise of an adventure, she hops aboard a pirate ship - probably not her best idea - and finds herself kidnapped and enslaved to an evil witch. 

With a daunting to-do list and an impossible romantic situation, Saturday sets out to stop total destruction of the planet. But will the girl with no magic be powerful enough to save the world?
My Thoughts: I really enjoyed the first novel in the series, and this installment was a great addition. Saturday was a great main character, and very easy to connect to - everyone has those moments where they questions where they fit into their own family. I loved that she was so stubborn and insisted on being independent. 

There was a fair amount of action in the book, which I really enjoyed. Our heroine kicks some major butt, but there isn't so much action that it gets boring or monotonous. I can't wait to get my hands on the next installment so I can find out what happens next (there may or may not have been a minor cliffhanger).   

Final Thoughts: I recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys paranormal fantasy as well as romance and adventure. This series is definitely one to check out!

Celebrating Pride and Prejudice

Author: Susannah Fullerton
Pages: 240
Publisher: Voyageur Press
Format: Hardcover 
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Summary: A beautifully bound, beautifully written book exploring the life of Jane Austen and the reaches of her most famous novel, Pride & Prejudice.

I enjoyed this novel immensely. This novel tell the story behind the road to publishing one of the world's most famous classics, and details the way the book has touched the lives of millions. I went in not expecting to learn much, but finished the book with a plethora of knowledge about Jane Austen's amazing novel. I definitely recommend this novel to anyone who has read and enjoyed Pride & Prejudice, and to anyone looking to learn more about Jane Austen and her works.

11/10/13

Full Ride

Author: Margaret Peterson Haddix 
Pages: 343
Publisher: Simon & Schuster 
Format: Paperback (ARC) 
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): Becca thought her life was over when her father was sent to prison for embezzlement. It didn't help when he used her as his excuse: "How else is a guy like me supposed to send his daughter to college?" She and her mother fled their town and their notoriety, started over, and vowed never to let anyone know about their past. 

Now a senior in high school, Becca has spent the last four years hiding in anonymity. But when it's time to apply to colleges and for financial aid, her mother gives her a rude awakening: If she applies, her past may be revealed to the world.



But Becca has already applied for a full-ride scholarship. And as she begins to probe deeper into the secrets of her past, she discovers that she and her mother might be in danger of more than simple discovery - by revealing the truth about their past, she might be putting their very lives in jeopardy.



Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

My Summary: Becca thought it was the end of the line for her familly when her father was sent to prison for embezzlement and she and her mother were forced to pack up and move to Georgia. Now with college application time looming, she has a choice to make: use her past to her advantage and get into a good school, or keep quiet and stay under the radar like she's been doing for years.   

As she digs deeper into her past, Becca realizes she and her mother are in a lot more danger than she ever imagined. And by looking into her past, Becca may have brought about even more....

My Thoughts: I've been a fan of Margaret Peterson Haddix since childhood, so when I found a copy of Full Ride waiting for me in the mailbox, I was more than a little excited. Needless to say, this story-telling pro did not disappoint.

I felt that Becca's character was very well-written and dynamic. Becca's reactions to the amount of stress she was under felt very realistic to me. I was rooting for her the entire time; the poor girl just wanted to get an education!  

The plot twists and turns and keeps you hooked. I loved following Becca as she dug deeper and deeper into her past. This was definitely one of those books that you can't put down from start to finish. I really enjoyed the flashback chapters and how they let you get to know Becca, and the first-person narrative really helped you connect with her. The emotional complexity of the character felt very real to me: even though Becca knew her father had done a horrible thing, she still couldn't seem to let go of him. 

Final Thoughts: I recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys YA contemporary lit, and anyone who (like me!) is a huge fan of Margaret Peterson Haddix. 

10/20/13

When Did You See Her Last?

Author: Lemony Snicket 
Pages: 288 
Publisher: Egmont 
Format: Hardcover 
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): In the fading town of Stain’d-by-the-Sea, young apprentice Lemony Snicket has a new case to solve when he and his chaperone are hired to find a missing girl. 

Is the girl a runaway? Or was she kidnapped? Was she seen last at the grocery store? Or could she have stopped at the diner? Is it really any of your business?

These are all the wrong questions.








My Summary: In the dreary town of Stain'd-by-the-Sea, Lemony Snicket and his mentor S. Theodora Markson have been hired to investigate another case: the disappearance of Cleo Knight - the daughter of the wealthiest family in Stain'd-by-the-Sea and an aspiring chemist. With no note and no idea where she could have gone, Lemony is surprised to see that the girl's parents seem to have forgotten all about her. He knows her disappearance may very well have to do with Hangfire and his treachery, but with nothing but a few unreliable witness  statements and some honeydew melons to go  on, Lemony must call upon his friends Pip, Squeak, and Moxie to help find the missing girl.

Because "When Did You See Her Last?" is really the wrong question.

My Thoughts: Snicket never seems to disappoint. This is a MG novel, and the author manages to weave together so many intricate plot points that older readers will not be able to put it down and younger readers will not find it hard to follow. I devoured this book in just a little over four hours and immediately flipped to the first page to start again. 

I loved that the author made subtle references to his other books (A Series of Unfortunate Events), and his trademark wit and dictionary definitions were never lacking. I adored this book and I adore this series and just about everything Lemony Snicket has ever written. This was definitely not one of those sequels that doesn't measure up to its predecessor. 

Final Thoughts: I recommend this series to anyone looking for a refreshing MG read (and of course, to fans of Lemony Snicket). 

The House of Hades

Author: Rick Riordan 
Pages: 597 
Publisher: Hyperion 
Format: Hardcover 
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): At the conclusion of The Mark of Athena, Annabeth and Percy tumble into a pit leading straight to the Underworld. The other five demigods have to put aside their grief and follow Percy’s instructions to find the mortal side of the Doors of Death. If they can fight their way through the Gaea’s forces, and Percy and Annabeth can survive the House of Hades, then the Seven will be able to seal the Doors both sides and prevent the giants from raising Gaea. But, Leo wonders, if the Doors are sealed, how will Percy and Annabeth be able to escape? 


They have no choice. If the demigods don’t succeed, Gaea’s armies will never die. They have no time. In about a month, the Romans will march on Camp Half-Blood. The stakes are higher than ever in this adventure that dives into the depths of Tartarus.



I couldn't even formulate a coherent thought after finishing this book. Seriously guys, after reading and loving all of Rick Riordan's books so far, I have nothing else to say but this: go out, get yourself a copy of any one of his books, and prepare to be hooked.

I really can't talk about what happens (hence the lack of summary) but I will tell you this: the little soft spot in my heart for Nico expanded to twenty times its size and I really just wanted to reach into the pages and give him a hug. The kid had to go through so much, and I really hope he gets a happy ending.

I am counting down the seconds days until The Blood of Olympus. Until then I'll probably be re-reading the entire series for the fifth time. If anyone has read it and wants to fangirl with me (or just talk spoilers, I don't mind), let me know in the comments! 

And seriously, if you haven't already: get yourself one of Rick Riordan's books. I promise you will not regret it.

Rogue

Author: Gina Damico 
Pages: 326 
Publisher: Graphia 
Format: Paperback (ARC) 
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): Lex is a teenage Grim Reaper with the power to Damn souls, and it’s getting out of control. She’s a fugitive, on the run from the maniacal new mayor of Croak and the townspeople who want to see her pay the price for her misdeeds. Uncle Mort rounds up the Junior Grims to flee Croak once again, but this time they’re joined by Grotton, the most powerful Grim of all time. Their new mission is clear: Fix his mistakes, or the Afterlife will cease to exist, along with all the souls in it.  




The gang heads for Necropolis, the labyrinth-like capital city of the Grimsphere. There, they discover that the Grimsphere needs a reboot. To do that, the portals to the Afterlife must be destroyed…but even that may not be enough to fix the damage. Things go from bad to worse, and when at last the fate of the Afterlife and all the souls of the Damned hang in the balance, it falls to Lex and her friends to make one final, impossible choice.



Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

My Summary: Lex and her rag-tag group of friends-turned-fugitives are on the run again.

After accidentally Damning the mayor's crazy murderous wife and releasing the ghost of the most powerful Grim ever to walk the Earth, they've got more than their fair share of problems to deal with. The best idea would be to lay low, right? But apparently fate has other plans for the Juniors, and after discovering that the actions of the Grims are causing the shutdown of the Afterlife, Lex and her friends know they can't rest until they close the Portals forever.

Can they do it if it means the end of being a Grim for everyone, or will the Afterlife be lost forever?

My Thoughts: Having read and adored both of the previous installments of Gina Damico's Croak trilogy, I was prepared to be blown away by Rogue -- and I was. Everything I'd loved about Croak and Scorch was present and accounted for: the witty humour, hilarious dialogue, and of course the extremely relatable characters. Lex was just as snarky and clever as ever, and her interactions with Driggs and everyone else brightened up the darker moments of this last installment. I really liked that we got to know Driggs a little better in this one - he's been one of my favourites since the beginning.

I'm trying to refrain from spoilers, but let me just say this: I thought the ending fit perfectly with the story. It wasn't the ending I wanted, but it was - in my opinion, at least - the only ending that could happen and remain faithful to the characters and their motivations. It was perfect and I shed a few tears and just... you guys need to read these books, okay?

Final Thoughts: I recommend this series to anyone looking for a unique paranormal YA read with a ton of humour.

10/18/13

Follow Friday & The Case of the Missing Blogger


Happy Friday, everyone! This week's question:

What are some of your favourite magazines?

I can't even remember the last time I picked up a magazine! It was probably about three or four years ago. I'm really not a magazine-reading kind of person - I prefer more depth when reading. But if anyone has any recommendations I'd be sure to check them out! :)

On another note: where the heck have I been?


It feels like I've been gone for ages! Midterm season hit me hard, and I haven't even had time to read in the past few days (I know!). Thankfully, that's all over now and I will be reading everything and anything I can get my hands on this weekend. I know my copies of
The House of Hades and When Did You See Her Last? have been calling to me from my nightstand.

Anyway, thank you for sticking with me through these turbulent times. I promise I'll be back on Monday with a whole slew of reviews. I'm not accepting any new review request as of this week because I have tons to catch up on, but I'll keep you guys posted!

Have a great weekend! To any new followers: please be sure to follow me through as many platforms as you can, and I'll be sure to return the favour.

10/9/13

Interview With Author Tanya Lloyd Kyi!

Recently, I got the chance to read a copy of Tanya Lloyd Kyi's Anywhere But Here and loved it, so when I was offered the opportunity to ask Tanya a few questions, I jumped at the chance. Anywhere But Here is out in a little less than a week, so be sure to check out the summary below and click through to my review here.

SummaryEver since his mom died, Cole just feels stuck. His dad acts like a stranger, and Lauren, his picture-perfect girlfriend of two years, doesn’t understand him anymore. He can’t ditch his dad, so Cole breaks up with Lauren. She doesn’t take the news very well, and Cole’s best friend won’t get off his case about it.

Now more than ever, Cole wants to graduate and leave his small, suffocating town. And everything is going according to plan—until Cole discovers the one secret that could keep him there…forever.

Do you prefer small towns like Cole's, or would you rather live in a big city? Why?


I grew up in Creston, a small town very much like Cole’s. But soon after I moved to Vancouver, a friend took me to see a writer speak at the Orpheum Theatre. That theatre is stunning inside – like something from a movie set. And the writer was awe-inspiring. I thought, if living in Vancouver meant going to places like that and listening to people like her, I was never leaving. 

There are still many things I miss about my small town – the mountains, the lakes, the people who stop to chat in the grocery store. But I’m not ready to leave the city anytime soon! 


Was it difficult to write from a male point of view? What would you say was the biggest challenge?



Originally, I thought Anywhere But Here would be narrated by two characters, one male and one female. They’d tell the story from their own points of view. But Cole quickly took over. He was so intelligent in some ways and so clueless in others, I fell in love with him. 
 
I showed a draft of the manuscript to several male readers, including my dad. My dad pointed to one scene (in which Cole visits the bandstand with Hannah), and said something along the lines of: “He’s in the bandstand with her, and she’s offering, but they don’t have sex? That would never happen.” 

I rewrote the scene. But that was the first and hopefully the last time I’ve ever talked to my dad about sex. 


 Did you model any aspects of Cole after any characters, fictional or otherwise?


I blatantly stole the conversations Cole and Greg have about aliens coming to Earth. Those two make a deal that they’ll believe each other, no matter what. My husband has made the same agreement with his friend Glenn. If an alien punches one of them on the nose, the other is obligated to believe. 

With the exception of a few conversations, though, Cole is his own person. I’m not sure where he came from, but I do find a lot of truth in Cory Doctorow’s thoughts on how characters come to life. (http://www.locusmag.com/Perspectives/2013/01/cory-doctorow-where-characters-come-from/


 What, in your opinion, is the best way to deal with grief?


I watched a cousin lose a child a few years ago and I can’t even imagine enduring that kind of pain. I don’t know if there’s a “best” way to deal with grief. It’s easier to see, objectively, the less productive ways to cope – and Cole experiments with several. 


 Do you have any writing quirks or habits?

Writing is a quirky habit in general. I try to write each morning. Then my characters spend their afternoons kicking around my brain, seeing what they might next knock loose. There’s plenty of random junk in there from which to choose! 

Thank you for having me, and thanks for the thoughtful questions!

Thanks for taking time out to answer my questions, Tanya! I can't wait to read more from you! 

Check out more from Tanya on her blog, www.tanyalloydkyi.com, and click through the book cover to visit Anywhere But Here's Goodreads page. If you're a fan of contemporary lit, it's definitely not a book you want to miss!

10/3/13

Attachments

Author: Rainbow Rowell 
Pages: 336
Publisher: Plume 
Format: Paperback
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): Beth Fremont and Jennifer Scribner-Snyder know that somebody is monitoring their work e-mail. (Everybody in the newsroom knows. It's company policy.) But they can't quite bring themselves to take it seriously. They go on sending each other endless and endlessly hilarious e-mails, discussing every aspect of their personal lives. 

Meanwhile, Lincoln O'Neill can't believe this is his job now- reading other people's e-mail. When he applied to be "internet security officer," he pictured himself building firewalls and crushing hackers- not writing up a report every time a sports reporter forwards a dirty joke. 

When Lincoln comes across Beth's and Jennifer's messages, he knows he should turn them in. But he can't help being entertained-and captivated-by their stories. By the time Lincoln realizes he's falling for Beth, it's way too late to introduce himself. What would he say?




My Summary: Beth and Jennifer have been best friends for years, so they don't hold back anything when they communicate by email. They talk about love, marriage, pregnancy, Beth's boyfriend, and just about everything in between. It's what they've done for years, and they're not about to stop now.

Lincoln was hired by a local newspaper to be in charge of IT -- too bad that means sitting at a desk for eight hours every night and snooping through people's emails. He hates his job... until he begins reading the emails between Beth and Jennifer. Through their emails, Lincoln gets to know these two women ... and starts to fall for Beth. And judging by her emails to Jennifer, Beth's may also be nursing a crush. But how can he explain why he knows so much about someone he's never actually met?

My Thoughts: Having read Rainbow Rowell's other two novels this year, I knew I had to get my hands on a copy of Attachments. Rainbow's writing never disappoints, and her stories are always engaging and easy to lose yourself in. I had high expectations when I picked up this novel, and it did not let me down.

Lincoln was a great character. More than a little broken, he comes off as someone who you couldn't help but like. I liked that we got more information about his past as we learned more about Jennifer and Beth - little tidbits were revealed as the story progressed, and you where never overwhelmed with too much characterization. Things flowed naturally, and the characters were very well-developed. It almost felt like a coming-of-age story at times - watching Lincoln pull his life together and getting over something he hadn't been able to let go of for years.

I loved the nineties pop culture references, and especially loved all the geek-isms of Lincoln and his friends. 

Final Thoughts: I definitely recommend this novel to anyone looking for a unique, realistic contemporary read with a lot of humour and romance.

10/1/13

The Cavendish Home For Boys and Girls

Author: Claire Legrand 
Pages: 343 
Publisher: Simon & Schuster 
Format: Hardcover 
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): Victoria hates nonsense. There is no need for it when your life is perfect. The only smudge on her pristine life is her best friend Lawrence. He is a disaster—lazy and dreamy, shirt always untucked, obsessed with his silly piano. Victoria often wonders why she ever bothered being his friend. (Lawrence does too.)

But then Lawrence goes missing. And he’s not the only one. Victoria soon discovers that The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls is not what it appears to be. Kids go in but come out…different. Or they don’t come out at all. 

If anyone can sort this out, it’s Victoria—even if it means getting a little messy.  



My Summary: Victoria's life is prim and proper and everything has its place. She gets up at exactly half past six every morning, gets ready for school, and marches off to another day of perfection at a school where she's the top of the class. Her life is perfect, and that's the way Victoria likes it.

Until her best friend Lawrence - the only messy part of her life - goes missing, and strange things begin happening all around her. More and more children appear to be disappearing every day - and being forgotten by everyone who ever knew them. Victoria knows that there's something strange going  on, and she's going to get to the bottom of it. She'll bring back Lawrence and the other children... even if she has to 'disappear' as well.

My Thoughts: I absolutely adored this novel, and I can't believe I got it for only five bucks (Canadian readers: look for it in the bargain section of Chapters!). This was one of the best MG novels I've read this year, hands down. 

Legrand's writing pulled me into the story right away and kept me hooked until the last page of the epilogue. The tone of the story itself was almost gothic, and the entire thing was just so creepy... I loved it. Certain elements reminded me a lot of Neil Gaiman's Coraline, which is one of my all-time favourites. And you can call this a children's book all you want, but I was more than a little scared while reading. The writing read a lot like prose at times, and the author's descriptions of The Home and Victoria's neighbourhood made me feel like I was right there with her.

Victoria was a great character. She wasn't easy to like, but she was almost so rude and sure of herself that you couldn't help but like her. And her concern for Lawrence was endearing. You could tell she really cared about her friend and was willing to do whatever it took to find him and bring him home safe. 

By the end, I had to turn the lights on. 

Final Thoughts: I definitely recommend this novel to anyone who is a fan of creepy MG and YA - fans of Coraline and Neil Gaiman will love it!

9/30/13

How My Summer Went Up in Flames

Author: Jennifer Salvato Doktorski 
Pages: 307 
Publisher: Simon Pulse 
Format: Hardcover 
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): Rosie’s always been impulsive. She didn’t intend to set her cheating ex-boyfriend’s car on fire. And she never thought her attempts to make amends could be considered stalking. So when she’s served with a temporary restraining order on the first day of summer vacation, she’s heartbroken—and furious.

To put distance between Rosie and her ex, Rosie’s parents send her on a cross-country road trip with responsible, reliable neighbor Matty and his two friends. Forget freedom of the road, Rosie wants to hitchhike home and win back her ex. But her determination starts to dwindle with each passing mile. Because Rosie’s spark of anger? It may have just ignited a romance with someone new…



My Summary: Rosie is a bit of a princess - and that's putting it lightly. Impulsive and extremely passionate, she doesn't tend to think ahead... and it's that lack of planning that gets her in huge trouble. 

After getting busted for setting her cheating ex-boyfriend's car on fire (it was an accident, she swears) Rosie's slammed with a restraining order and told she has to appear in court in a few weeks. At their wit's end, her parents make the choice to send Rosie on a road trip with their neighbour's son and a few of his friends. Will she be able to survive ten days on the road with three of the most infuriatingly-reliable geeks in the world, or will she ditch them before the trip is over?

My Thoughts: This was a light read, perfect for the summer. Rosie was honest and funny, and even though she wasn't the typical YA heroine, I enjoyed reading about her escapades and rooted for her throughout the novel. She was realistically flawed and easy to like.

I loved the fact that Rosie and the guys went on a cross-country road trip and visited places like Graceland and Dollywood. It made it all the better to see a girl like Rosie so out of her element, and I loved that each guy's individual personality balanced out the group so well. The witty banter between the Rosie and the guys made me laugh out loud more than a few times. I liked the inclusion of Logan and Spencer's back story, even though I really wished the author would've gone into more detail and included it in the story a little more. 

The romance aspect was extremely realistic - both with Rosie's ex and with Logan. Break-ups are hard for everyone, and if the relationship with Logan had been a full-blown thing from the get-go, the story would've seemed a lot less real to me. Rosie knew she had to focus on becoming a better person before jumping into another relationship - an extremely mature outlook in a genre that doesn't tend to promote the healthiest relationships.

Final Thoughts: I recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys contemporary lit and is looking for a light, quick read. 

9/28/13

The Vow

Author: Jessica Martinez 
Pages: 432 
Publisher: Simon Pulse 
Format: Paperback (ARC) 
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): No one has ever believed that Mo and Annie are just friends. How can a guy and a girl really be best friends? 

Then the summer before senior year, Mo’s father loses his job, and by extension his work visa. Instantly, life for Annie and Mo crumbles. Although Mo has lived in America for most of his life, he’ll be forced to move to Jordan. The prospect of leaving his home is devastating, and returning to a world where he no longer belongs terrifies him. 


Desperate to save him, Annie proposes they tell a colossal lie—that they are in love. Mo agrees because marrying Annie is the only way he can stay. Annie just wants to keep her best friend, but what happens when it becomes a choice between saving Mo and her own chance at real love?




Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

My Summary: Mo and Annie have been inseparable since the day she rescued him from an embarrassing pants-peeing incident on a school fieldtrip in grade school. But the thing is, all they've ever been is friends. Best friends - nothing more and nothing less, despite what the citizens of their tiny southern town may think. The two are comfortable in their platonic relationship, and know that as long as they have each other, everything will be alright.

But when Mo's dad looses his job and his work visa, things take a turn for the worst. With their imminent separation looming, Annie suggests something crazy: she and Mo get married secretly so that he won't be deported.

They go through with the plan, but soon discover that married life is anything but bliss. Can their friendship survive the strain (and the government investigation into their marriage), or will Mo have to return to Jordan?

My Thoughts: This was definitely one of those books that makes you stop and think. The premise itself made me wonder: could I ever do what Annie did, even for my best friend? The unique take on what it means to love someone really got me thinking, and the situation the characters found themselves in was both realistic and horrible.

Mo and Annie were incredibly well-developed characters. Each had their own distinct personality, but they were similar in a way that never made you doubt they were best friends. I also really enjoyed the view on platonic friendships between two best friends of the opposite sex - it reminded me a little of When Harry Met Sally in the way that it was very realistic and didn't make you think that the sole purpose of the friendship was a stepping stone to a relationship. 
  
Martinez's writing was easy to follow and pulled me right in from the first page. Her dialogue was witty and clever, and the way she transitioned from Annie's chapters to Mo's chapters was very smooth and kept me hooked. The plot was always engaging and well paced, and I never felt like there was a lull.

Final Thoughts: I recommend this novel to anyone who is a fan of contemporary YA as well as realistic fiction & romance. I'll definitely be checking out more from the author in the future!

9/23/13

Fangirl

Author: Rainbow Rowell 
Pages: 434 
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin 
Format: Hardcover 
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): In Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl, Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan, but for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving. 

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere. 

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to. 

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?



My Summary: Ever since her mother left, Cath's entire life has revolved around Simon Snow: a character from a widely popular book series that centers on the adventures of an orphan at a magical school. Her entire life is Simon Snow - she writes a really popular fanfiction and has tens of thousands of readers hanging on her every word. Cath's always been secure in the knowledge that no matter what went wrong, she and her twin sister Wren could rely on Simon.

Until Cath goes to college, where she discovers that her sister is becoming a completely different person and couldn't care less about their mutual obsession. Cath is crushed, but she knows Wren will be okay without her and Simon. But can Cath survive college when she isn't in control of the plot line? Especially if doing so means having to give up Simon?

My Thoughts: This book was a blast. I started it a few hours before bed hoping to get through a few chapters, but I ended up finishing sometime in the early morning. I could not put it down. Rowell's writing pulled me in - it was like love at first sentence. 

Cath was a great main character, and reminded me so much of myself back in the ol' fanfic days. Rainbow Rowell has a way of writing hilariously quirky characters, and I can honestly say I can't pick a favourite. Levi, of course, was amazing - there's nothing like a guy with an adorable accent who also happens to know how to make a gingerbread latte. 

This book tackled a few tough issues, and I think the character's reactions were very realistic. Cath's reaction to her mother's attempt to get involved in her life - to me, at least - seemed warranted. It's not always possible to forgive and forget. 

Final Thoughts: I definitely recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys realistic contemporary YA and new adult fiction. Check out Rainbow Rowell's other books if you haven't already! 

9/22/13

Perfect Ruin

Author: Lauren DeStefano 
Pages: 368 
Publisher: Simon & Schuster 
Format: Paperback (ARC) 
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): On Internment, the floating island in the clouds where 16-year-old Morgan Stockhour lives, getting too close to the edge can lead to madness. Even though Morgan's older brother, Lex, was a Jumper, Morgan vows never to end up like him. She tries her best not to mind that her life is orderly and boring, and if she ever wonders about the ground, and why it is forbidden, she takes solace in best friend Pen and her betrothed, Basil.




Then a murder, the first in a generation, rocks the city. With whispers swirling and fear on the wind, Morgan can no longer stop herself from investigating, especially when she meets Judas. He is the boy being blamed for the murder — betrothed to the victim — but Morgan is convinced of his innocence. Secrets lay at the heart of Internment, but nothing can prepare Morgan for what she will find — or who she will lose.




Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. 

My Summary: Sometimes perfection is not all that it appears to be.

Morgan is a resident of Internment - a floating island in the sky, separated from Earth. At first glance, Morgan's home seems like the perfect place to live... but if that's true, why are there still people tempted to 'jump'?

Why would anyone want to leave Utopia? Morgan doesn't understand what inspired her brother to jump, but when a senseless murder shocks their perfect community, she has no choice but to wonder: what lies below? And what do you do when Utopia is revealed to be anything but perfect?

My Thoughts: First off, that cover is absolutely stunning! It fits the story so well and adds to that quality that I can't properly describe but this novel has in doves.

I've always been a huge fan of Lauren DeStefano's, and the first in this series does not disappoint. Just reading the premise on Goodreads a few months ago made me want to get my hands on the book ASAP, and you can bet I was excited when I opened my mailbox and found it waiting for me. I loved the idea that all the cracks were revealed in the Utopian society when something went wrong, and I really liked that the realistic breakdown of Morgan's 'perfect' family paralleled it so well. 

If there's one thing Lauren knows how to do, it's write amazingly complex characters. She managed to make them all so relatable, despite them growing up in a completely different societal structure. Morgan's phenomenal character just cemented that for me - she goes from almost naive and blindly believing to doubting everything she's ever been told about Internment. The supporting characters were pretty great too: I loved Pen, Lex, and of course Basil. I also really enjoyed that the romance aspect was not the main plot focus - it's refreshing to see a YA that included romance but doesn't ignore the rest of the plot elements.   

Lauren's writing style has always been one of my favourites in the YA genres. I adore the way it flows almost lyrically, and a few of the words she used made it into my notebook for future use. And of course, it wouldn't be a Lauren DeStefano novel without a cliffhanger that makes you desperate for the next installment!

Final Thoughts: I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys dystopian YA, as well as romance and sci-fi. Fans of Icarceron will definitely love it, as well of fans of Lauren's Chemical Garden trilogy

9/21/13

The Dream Thieves

Author: Maggie Stiefvater 
Pages: 450 
Publisher: Scholastic 
Format: Paperback (UK) 
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): Now that the ley lines around Cabeswater have been woken, nothing for Ronan, Gansey, Blue, and Adam will be the same. Ronan, for one, is falling more and more deeply into his dreams, and his dreams are intruding more and more into waking life. Meanwhile, some very sinister people are looking for some of the same pieces of the Cabeswater puzzle that Gansey is after… 







I don't know what to say other than GET YOUR BUTT TO A BOOKSTORE AND BUY A COPY OF THIS INSANELY AMAZING BOOK. 

Sidenote: I've had a lot of caffeine today. 

Another sidenote: I read this entire book in one sitting and my mind is reeling because it was freaking AMAZING and I have no words. None. This series is definitely one of the best in the paranormal-YA genres, and if you haven't already read the first book (The Raven Boys) than you really should. ASAP. Maggie's writing fits the story perfectly, and I could not have asked for a better plot. This woman weaves plot lines like nobody's business and makes it look easy. The characters are so likable and each is broken in their own little way and it makes you want to reach out and gather them all up into a bear hug: Noah and Blue and Adam and Gansey and especially Ronan. Oh how my heart breaks for them. 

Seriously guys, get yourselves a copy of this book. There's nothing more that I can say. 

If you've read it already, please don't hesitate to comment! I have some theories that I want to discuss without mentioning any spoilers. 


9/17/13

The Great & Calamitous Tale of Johan Thoms: Interview with Author Ian Thornton!



How my copy arrived - isn't it pretty?


Those of you who follow me know I recently got the chance to read IanThornton book, The Great & Calamitous Tale of Johan Thoms and fell in love with the characters and story. To my surprise and delight, Ian agreed to answer a few questions I had about the book and his writing process.







Did you get your inspiration for Johan from any other pieces of literature? Were there any aspects of his personality that ‘evolved’ on their own?


If a newspaper article back in the early 90s counts as literature, then yes. I wish I could find it. It always stayed with me in my mind as a kernel of a great story, and when I thought of writing it was an immediate choice for my subject matter. It concerned the tale of a young man, who left his college on a Friday, determined to spend the weekend on his own, in solitude. By the time Monday morning rolled around, he had set fire to the twentieth century. This fragility, this interdependence of events fascinated me then as it does now. Some quite special men spend their whole lives trying to change a city block or a small town, but here's a boy, trying to mind his own business, and ka-boom!, up we all go in flames. The length of Johan's life and perhaps his blue eyes may have their genesis in The Illywhacker. But he HAS to live to be an old man. He HAS to see the full impact of what he believed he had set in motion. And also to span the whole century; born in the 19th, dies in the 21st. He has to outlive it in order to truly own it, as he at one point believes. Reading David Copperfield mid-edit may also have influenced me. Evelyn Waugh, Joseph Mankiewicz, Stephen Fry and Bruce Robinson may also have something for which to answer. The second part of your question - he was all evolution. I had no idea where I was going when I started other than the pivot of June 28th, 1914. Some have told me this is suicide, others have advised that it is the only way to write. Make of that what you will. I think it means do whatever you feel works.


How does this book differ compared to the book you originally set out to write?


I think this is only partially answered in the previous question. But there are more aspects which are just as, if not more, important. The first drafts were violent, nihilistic, crude, angry, ill-disciplined and vile. This mirrored where I was psychologically, in a very dark place with issues around alcohol, an unhappy work career, a desperate lack of direction, a broken marriage, a dying mother. By the time I was completing the later edits here in Toronto a lot of these issues had unravelled; at the centre of which was the love of a good woman and a year and a half without a single drop of booze. These drafts were therefore far more positive and had started to contain large elements of redemption. Humour, friendship and family found root in the manuscript during this time. I hope. I wouldn't want to moralise on drinking though. In hindsight, it was necessary in encouraging my madness, something all writers need in bundles. It helps to be able to stop though; something I was notoriously bad in knowing when to do as a younger chap. My state of mind was a key factor, but also were important and basic elements of writing, particularly discipline, which I hope I discovered a bit of en route. I really see the whole process as a real life university course in spinning a yarn. I still feel a novice in terms of having read the classics and knowing the 'rules' of writing, but when I started I really knew less-than-bugger-all.


What, in your opinion, is the hardest part of writing a novel such as The Great & Calamitous Tale of Johan Thoms?


Good question. It depends if it is your first one. If it is a debut, I think the natural inclination is to throw the kitchen sink at it. I did this, and ended up with a rambling and ill-disciplined manuscript of 170,000 words; almost twice its current length. The subsequent editing process can be tricky, especially for a rookie, but the flip side of this naivety is that one allows the imagination to run wild, and to be perhaps ballsier than a more seasoned writer would be. Rules don't matter if you simply don't know them. I think there may well be a trade-off between imagination and the craft of professionalism. If I were to expand your question slightly and replace 'writing' with 'producing', then the answer is incredibly clear cut: the business end of the process. Finding a good agent and the right publisher ranks top. I am blessed to have ended up where I am and with whom I have, but when one's future is out of one's hands and in the in-tray of some faceless decision-makers, the weeks can turn into months and into years with no progress on the actual page. I wonder if I had known this, I would have battled on, but once you're in the scrap, you just carry on. As I say, I am very lucky to have found some diamonds who believed in me. I guess the really positive message from all this is 'Don't give up. Ever.'


Do you have any writing 'quirks'? Example: only writing at a certain location, at a certain time of day, etc.


Never within 72 hours of any sort of alcohol. As I say, this is not really an issue today. I could also never write when I was unsettled or in transit. I wrote a lot of the manuscript in Costa Rica, and although the local coffee helped to produced thousands of words, I would need to be in one spot for at least a week before work started. I also can't do a thing if there is an email in my in-tray or any mess on my desk. I think the doctors have a name for this.


What would you say is the biggest lesson you learned while writing this novel?


Where do I start? At one end of the scale, I would say a lesson as functional as the mechanics of writing; from structure on the page and transatlantic spelling conventions. Measure is a lesson I have not learned but of which I hope I am now at least more aware. On a more philosophical plane, there is very little more satisfying than achieving a goal which appears so out of reach to so many and for so long. Persistence and self-belief, even if it is grounded in delusion. As someone famous once said in a song, 'You've got to have a dream. If you don't have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true?'

Thanks Ian! I'm looking forward to reading your next novel. Happy writing!

You can check out more from Ian about Johan Thoms on his website.


For those of you who haven't already, check out the book trailer!




And while you're here, check out my review of The Great & Calamitous Tale of Johan Thoms