8/31/13

Anywhere But Here

Author: Tanya Lloyd Kyi 
Pages: 320 
Publisher: Simon Pulse 
Format: Paperback (ARC) 
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads)Ever 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.


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

My Summary: Cole has lived in a suffocatingly small town his entire life. The only light at the end of the tunnel is the opportunity to graduate and leave everything he knew behind - including the memories of his mother's death. He wants to escape -- to get out as soon as he can. And he has a plan. He's ready to leave behind the life he has, starting with his girlfriend of two years. 

But while filming a documentary about his town, Cole soon learns something that could shatter all his plans and keep him trapped there for the rest of his life. Could it be that he owes something to the town he's resented for years?

My Thoughts: I really enjoyed this novel. First off, I thought the cover art was brilliant -- it's so rare that the cover of a book reflects the story perfectly, but in this case it definitely does. You can almost see the discontent.

Cole's feelings of solitude and entrapment in a town he's never left are easy to relate to. This novel touched on a lot of difficult subjects, and I felt that they were handled very well by the author. The writing was very smooth and although it was a little slow to start, the novel held my interest. In my opinion, the atmosphere of the novel matched the story perfectly.

Cole's friends were great characters in and of themselves, and I often wished he would treat them a little better. They were all very complex and well-written, which is rare of secondary characters in YA. I really liked the character growth in Cole throughout the course of the novel (and his filming of the documentary), and I'm glad he learned the things that he did. 

Final Thoughts: I recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys edgier contemporary lit as well as YA novels. I'll definitely be seeking out more from this author in the future!

Faking It

Author: Cora Carmack 
Pages: 304 
Publisher: William Morrow & Company 
Format: Paperback 
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads)
: Mackenzie “Max” Miller has a problem. Her parents have arrived in town for a surprise visit, and if they see her dyed hair, tattoos, and piercings, they just might disown her. Even worse, they’re expecting to meet a nice, wholesome boyfriend, not a guy named Mace who has a neck tattoo and plays in a band. All her lies are about to come crashing down around her, but then she meets Cade.

Cade moved to Philadelphia to act and to leave his problems behind in Texas. So far though, he’s kept the problems and had very little opportunity to take the stage. When Max approaches him in a coffee shop with a crazy request to pretend to be her boyfriend, he agrees to play the part. But when Cade plays the role a little too well, they’re forced to keep the ruse going. And the more they fake the relationship, the more real it begins to feel. 



My Summary: Most guys would give up after being rejected by their best friend, but Cade isn't like most guys. Instead of getting as far away from his ex-best friend as possible, he moved to Philadelphia with her to pursue a Master's degree. Seeing his friend blissfully happy with another guy is making him miserable... until he meets Max. She's everything Bliss isn't, and Cade can't stop thinking about her. 

Too bad she has a boyfriend: a creepy guy named Mace with tattoos and a serious drug problem. And Cade's just pretending to have feelings for Max until her parents leave town, right? After all, that's what she hired him to do. But will Cade be able to forget about Max after he's played his part, or is there something more between them?

My Thoughts: I really enjoyed Losing It, so when I heard there was a companion novel about Cade, I knew I had to read it. Cade was, by far, my favourite character in the first book. My heart went out to him when things didn't work out between himself and Bliss - not only did he get his heart broken, but he lost his best friend as well. I couldn't help but hope for a happy ending for Cade, and in Faking It, he got it.

I enjoyed this novel more than the first, which really surprised me. Cade was easy to relate to, and you couldn't help but feel for him when he got some unexpected news about his friend Bliss. Max was also really easy to connect with, and had real depth as a character. The chemistry was tangible between the two, and the banter felt really natural. This novel was incredibly easy to get into, and I couldn't put it down without knowing how things worked out for Max and Cade.

Final Thoughts: I recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys a New Adult romance novels with substance. Fans of Losing It will love this companion novel!

8/23/13

House of Secrets

Author: C. Columbus & N. Vizzini
Pages: 490
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Format: Hardcover 
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): The Walker kids had it all: loving parents, a big house in San Francisco, all the latest video games . . . but everything changed when their father lost his job as a result of an inexplicable transgression. Now the family is moving into Kristoff House, a mysterious place built nearly a century earlier by Denver Kristoff, a troubled writer with a penchant for the occult.

Suddenly the siblings find themselves launched on an epic journey into a mash-up world born of Kristoff’s dangerous imagination, to retrieve a dark book of untold power, uncover the Walker family’s secret history and save their parents . . . and maybe even the world. 




My Summary: The Walkers were always a relatively happy family... until the incident. And even though they won't discuss what happened, the kids know that there is something really odd about the whole thing. What could have caused their father to doze off in the middle of a surgery and carve a mysterious symbol into the stomach of patient?

The Walkers are trying to start over, and Kristoff house seems like the perfect place to start. Purchased at a ridiculously low price, the family is hoping that pretending they're doing okay will make things so. But it soon becomes apparent that Kristoff house is not what it seems, and if they want to survive, they're going to have to rely on each other more than ever before.

My Thoughts: I really wanted to like this book more than I did. The premise was really interesting, and the elements of mystery and fantasy used seemed like a great combination. Even the characters were great - each of the Walker kids had their own distinct personality and were really likeable. But to me, this book suffers from "plot cluttering" -- there was just too much packed into one book.

Don't get me wrong, I really liked the writing. It didn't feel like a compilation written by two people, which is rare when a book has two authors. The way the authors combined the more contemporary characters with an older, almost classical writing style made for an interesting read, and the characters were well-developed. It was just -- to me, at least -- too much of a good thing.

Final Thoughts: I recommend this novel to any fans of MG, fantasy, and adventure. Let me know what you think of it! 

8/14/13

Indelible

Author: Dawn Metcalf 
Pages: 384 
Publisher: Harlequin Teen 
Format: Paperback 
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads)
: Joy Malone learns this the night she sees a stranger with all-black eyes across a crowded room—right before the mystery boy tries to cut out her eye. Instead, the wound accidentally marks her as property of Indelible Ink, and this dangerous mistake thrusts Joy into an incomprehensible world—a world of monsters at the window, glowing girls on the doorstep, and a life that will never be the same. 

Now, Joy must pretend to be Ink’s chosen one—his helper, his love, his something for the foreseeable future...and failure to be convincing means a painful death for them both. Swept into a world of monsters, illusion, immortal honor and revenge, Joy discovers that sometimes, there are no mistakes. 




My Summary: Joy's been having a tough time ever since her mom left. Alone with her heartbroken father in a place that no longer feels like home, Joy has no wish but to get through high school alive and dull the sting of her mother's abandonment. If there is one thing her life doesn't need, it's excitement.

Then, in the midst of a night out with her best friend, Joy sees two people who couldn't possibly be real. And they see her too. Before she knows what's going on, Joy is attacked by the two strangers. She sustains no serious injuries, but she could swear they've done something to her eye - something that makes her see things that aren't there. Soon Joy is receiving messages from mysterious stalkers that may or may not have claws, and things begin to spiral out of control. 

Enter Ink - one of the strangers who attacked Joy. It turns out he didn't just scratch her cornea - he marked her as his. And now the only way to keep the monsters away is to pretend to love him. 

But is she really pretending?

My Thoughts: This was one of my favourite paranormal YA novels of the year so far. I loved the dynamic between the characters, and the realistic way in which the relationship developed between Ink and Joy. Inq (not a typo!) was a great character as well, and reminded me a bit of Alice from Twilight. I also really liked that the people in the main character's life were not just place-holders and plot devices -- we need more YA books with well-developed supporting characters, and Indelible is leading the way.

The author did a great job of building the world of the Twixt and describing the different kinds of creatures that inhabited it. The Scribes are a fascinating new addition to the usual cast of paranormal players like werewolves and vampires.   

Final Thoughts: Check out Indelible if you're a fan of paranormal romance and YA, and if you're looking for a bit of an edgier story to go along with your paranormal creatures. 

The Great & Calamitous Tale of Johan Thoms

Author: Ian Thornton
Pages: 336
Publisher: Touchstone 
Format: Paperback (ARC) 
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars


Summary (from Goodreads): Johan Thoms is poised for greatness. A promising student at the University of Sarajevo, he is young, brilliant, and in love with the beautiful Lorelei Ribeiro. He can outwit chess masters, quote the Kama Sutra, and converse with dukes and drunkards alike. But he cannot drive a car in reverse. And as with so much in the life of Johan Thoms, this seemingly insignificant detail will prove to be much more than it appears. On the morning of June 28, 1914, Johan takes his place as the chauffeur to Franz Ferdinand and the Royal entourage, and with one wrong turn, he forever alters the course of history. 


Blaming himself for the deaths of the Archduke and his wife, Johan hastens from the scene, and for once his inspired mind cannot process what to do next. Guilt-ridden, he flees Sarajevo, abandoning his friends, family, and beloved in the fear that he has caused them irreparable grievance. He watches in horror as the Great War unfolds, every death settling squarely on Johan’s conscience. Turning his back on his old life, Johan does his best to fade out of memory. 

But the world has other plans for Johan Thoms. As each passing year burdens Johan with further guilt for his inaction, he seeks solace in his writing and in the makeshift family he has assembled around himself. With everyone from emperors to hooligans at his side, and pursued by the ever-determined Lorelei, Johan winds his way through Europe and the Twentieth Century, leaving his indelible mark on both.



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

My Summary: Johan Thoms is a genius. Literally. He frequently dazzles his colleagues with displays of his sparkling wit and vast knowledge.

Nobody expected 'the man who knows everything' not to know how to reverse out of a turn; nobody expected the car transporting the Archduke and his wife to be targeted by assassins. And nobody - not even Johan Thoms - could have predicted the chain of events that would be set off by the deaths of the Archduke and his wife.

As the smoke clears, Johan knows he must disappear. Bogged down by the guilt of an entire wars worth of deaths on his conscience, Johan assumes a new life away from the world he once knew, burying his past so deep that not even those who know him best have any idea of what secrets he's keeping. 

But the past is coming back to haunt him, and not even Johan Thoms can figure out what to do when the love of his life appears on his doorstep.

My Thoughts: I had a great time with this novel. The writing style was very witty, and the author's way of describing characters made me chuckle more than a few times. The characters themselves were incredibly interesting -- I loved the idea of one person having such a huge impact on the world and history as a whole.

The pacing was done quite well, and the story itself was easy to follow. The dialogue between the characters made the novel for me, as well as it being a fresh take on a subject matter that's been written about countless times.

Final Thoughts: I recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys historical fiction as much as I do, and to anyone looking for a refreshing read to start off the cold weather months with!