Monday, April 24, 2017

Review: Heartless by Marissa Meyer

From Goodreads: Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland and a favorite of the unmarried King, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, she wants to open a shop and create delectable pastries. But for her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for a woman who could be a queen. At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the King’s marriage proposal, she meets handsome and mysterious Jest. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into a secret courtship. Cath is determined to choose her own destiny. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

My Rating: Somewhere between 3 and 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Having loved Marissa Meyer’s The Lunar Chronicles, I finally decided to get around to reading Heartless, which gives a backstory for the Queen of Hearts. Now, I’ve never read Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, but I grew up watching Disney’s version and always found Wonderland very bizarre. Meyer stays true to that feel by incorporating talking animals and featuring prominent characters like the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire Cat, and the Caterpillar. 

Unlike her previous heroines though, Meyer’s Catherine is a dreamer rather than a doer, which is probably why I didn’t really like her. Cath wishes to have a bakery – the descriptions of the desserts in Heartless will have you salivating! – but isn’t truly willing to go against her parents’ desires, and so just ends up moaning about not wanting to be married and deluding herself into thinking that she’ll become the finest baker in Hearts someday.

Another aspect of the story that I wasn't fond of was the insta-love romance. I found it very hard to believe that Cath and Jest loved each other after only a short amount of time spent together. As a result, although it was no surprise, I found it ridiculous that the explanation given for why the Queen of Hearts is so unfeeling is because Cath couldn’t get over Jest’s death and therefore gave away her heart.

Heartless was released November 2016 by Feiwel & Friends. 

Comments About the Cover: The black and red design, centred by a crown, is perfect for a story about the Queen of Hearts.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Mini Reviews: Literally by Lucy Keating and The Freemason's Daughter by Shelley Sacker

From Goodreads: Annabelle’s life has always been Perfect with a capital P. Then bestselling young adult author Lucy Keating announces that she’s writing a new novel - and Annabelle is the heroine. It turns out, Annabelle is a character that Lucy Keating created. And Lucy has a plan for her. But Annabelle doesn’t want to live a life where everything she does is already plotted out. Will she find a way to write her own story - or will Lucy Keating have the last word? 

My Rating: 2 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Literally by Lucy Keating had the potential to be really interesting. Instead, it turned out to be a rather unoriginal contemporary with a love triangle where there was no doubt about who the protagonist would choose. The idea of Keating incorporating herself into the story was very meta, but I quickly got tired of Annabelle referencing the author Keating’s books, movies, and writing style. I think I would have liked Literally much more had Annabelle realized that she was a fictional character later in the story or Will been written to be less perfect.  

Literally was released on April 11, 2017 by HarperTeen. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (HarperCollins) for free via Edelweiss.  
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From Goodreads: Saying good-bye to Scotland is the hardest thing that Jenna MacDuff has had to do - until she meets Lord Pembroke. Jenna’s small clan has risked their lives traveling the countryside as masons, secretly drumming up support and arms for the exiled King James Stuart to retake the British throne. But their next job brings them into enemy territory: England. Jenna’s father repeatedly warns her to trust no one, but when the Duke of Keswick hires the clan to build a garrison on his estate, it seems she cannot hide her capable mind from the duke’s inquisitive son, Lord Alex Pembroke - nor mask her growing attraction to him. But there’s a covert plan behind the building of the garrison, and soon Jenna must struggle not only to keep her newfound friendship with Alex from her father, but also to keep her father’s treason from Alex. Will Jenna decide to keep her family’s mutinous secrets and assist her clan’s cause, or protect the life of the young noble she’s falling for? 

My Rating: 2.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: I love historical fiction, especially if the setting is in Europe; so Shelley Sacker’s The Freemason’s Daughter was a book that I had to request. Unfortunately, most of the characters could have been better developed, and I thought Jenna was silly for trusting Alex so easily with her and her clan’s secrets. The plot also took a very long time to get going, which meant both the romance and the ending felt quite rushed.

The Freemason’s Daughter was released by HarperTeen on April 11, 2017. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (HarperCollins) for free via Edelweiss.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Review: Gilded Cage by Vic James

From Goodreads: Our world belongs to the Equals - aristocrats with magical gifts - and all commoners must serve them for ten years. But behind the gates of England's grandest estate lies a power that could break the world. Abi is a servant to England's most powerful family, but her spirit is free. So when she falls for one of the noble-born sons, Abi faces a terrible choice. Uncovering the family's secrets might win her liberty, but will her heart pay the price? Abi's brother, Luke, is enslaved in a brutal factory town. Far from his family and cruelly oppressed, he makes friends whose ideals could cost him everything. Now Luke has discovered there may be a power even greater than magic: revolution. [There] is a shadow in the glittering world of the Equals, with mysterious powers no one else understands. But will he liberate - or destroy?

My Rating: 2.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Gilded Cage by Vic James was the 2017 debut I was probably most excited about reading. The prologue did nothing to decrease my excitement either – with a slave trying to escape with her baby off an estate and then getting shot by her master (who also happens to be the baby’s father).

The premise is supposed to be simple: In an alternate Britain, the aristocrats are now people with Skill – known as Equals – and all those that lack Skill have to serve them for ten years as slaves before they can become full citizens. When you choose to serve is up to you, but you can’t own property, travel abroad or have certain jobs until you've completed your slavedays. Despite this, Luke and Abi’s parents appear to have their own house and jobs. Considering you’re pretty much allowed to do everything you want then without fulfilling your slavedays (e.g. go to university, marry, have kids, own assets, etc.), I’m not sure why everybody wouldn’t wait until they’re about to die before doing their slavedays.

Besides the confusing worldbuilding, there were quite a few POVs as well. This is something I normally avoid because I find that characters’ voices often blend together … and this was the case in Gilded Cage. It also didn’t help that the storyline kept jumping back and forth between Millmoor, a slavetown, and Kyneston, the estate of the founding family.

Finally, I never connected with the characters. Luke was basically a pawn, and I just wanted to slap Abi because for someone who was supposedly smart, she developed an instant crush on Jenner, whose family essentially owned her and her family. Moreover, Abi continued to lust after Jenner even after finding out that he witnessed her memories being tampered with and didn't tell her what happened!

A disappointing read, Gilded Cage was released by Del Ray Books in February 2017. 

Comments About the Cover: To me, the cover makes it seem like the story is set in the Victorian era, even though it isn’t.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Mini Reviews: You Don’t Know My Name by Kristen Orlando and Poison's Kiss by Breeana Shields

From Goodreads: Fighter. Faker. Student. Spy. Seventeen-year-old Reagan Elizabeth Hillis is used to changing identities overnight, lying to every friend she’s ever had, and pushing away anyone who gets too close. Trained in mortal combat and weaponry her entire life, Reagan is expected to follow in her parents’ footsteps and join the ranks of the most powerful top-secret agency in the world, the Black Angels. Falling in love with the boy next door was never part of the plan. Now Reagan must decide: Will she use her incredible talents and lead the dangerous life she was born into, or throw it all away to follow her heart and embrace the normal life she’s always wanted? And does she even have a choice? 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: An entertaining read while it lasted, You Don’t Know My Name by Kristen Orlando begins with Reagan being tired of constantly having to be undercover and feeling indecisive about her future – should she follow her parents’ footsteps and join a covert government organization or go to college and ultimately have a normal life? One of the reasons Reagan wants to be a regular girl of course is because there’s a boy … who coincidentally wants to go into the military and therefore knows how to shoot and not be a liability on a mission. Considering that Reagan is a teenager, it’s not surprising then that there are many plot holes in You Don’t Know My Name; but I chose to overlook those in favour of the action and suspense. 

You Don’t Know My Name was released in January 2017 by Swoon Reads.  .................................................................................................. 
From Goodreads: Marinda has kissed dozens of boys. They all die afterward. It's a miserable life, but being a visha kanya, a poison maiden, is what she was created to do. Marinda serves the Raja by dispatching his enemies with only her lips as a weapon. Until now, the men she was ordered to kiss have been strangers, enemies of the kingdom. Then she receives orders to kiss Deven, a boy she knows too well to be convinced he needs to die. She begins to question who she's really working for. And that is a thread that, once pulled, will unravel more than she can afford to lose. 

My Rating: 1.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: With a synopsis promising an assassin – an instant addition to my want-to-read list – capable of killing with a kiss as well as elements of Indian folklore, I was really excited to read Poison’s Kiss by Breeana Shields. It’s too bad then that the aforementioned assassin turned out to feel guilty about killing so many boys! It’s very annoying when I think I’ll be reading about a deadly assassin and instead end up reading about a person drowning in remorse! On top of that, Marinda was so na├»ve and ignorant, believing everything told to her and never bothering to ask questions! As if that wasn’t bad enough, making everything worse was the fact that there was an insta-love romance. Seriously, like after two conversations with Deven, Marinda was willing to risk her life for Deven! 

A book that definitely didn’t live up to its potential, Poison’s Kiss was released by Random House Books for Young Readers in January 2017. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Review: Caraval by Stephanie Gerber

From Goodreads: Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over. But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner. Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever. 

My Rating: 2.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Normally, when I see a lot of buzz for a book, I try to avoid reading it until the hype dies down so that I’m not as influenced by others’ feedback. As a result, I didn’t bother reading Stephanie Garber’s Caraval until recently.

The setting in Caraval was mysterious and enchanting, making it hard to figure out what was real and what was imaginary. Furthermore, the writing in Caraval was very flowery, enhancing the magical, dreamlike vibe of the book.

Where Garber lost me as a reader though was with the lack of character development. Not only did the secondary characters feel like actors at times - I now understand why - but I struggled to like Scarlett. She constantly talked about loving Tella, but it wasn’t evident how much her sister meant to her until the end when everything was revealed at once in a poorly executed dramatic moment. Instead, for the majority of the book, Scarlett seemed more fixated on lusting after two different boys.

Caraval was released by Flatiron Books in January 2017. 

Comments About the Cover: I love the colours used and how nicely they contrast against the background.

Monday, March 06, 2017

Mini Reviews: Speed of Life by Carol Weston and Wait for Me by Caroline Leech

From Goodreads: Sofia wonders if 14 might be the worst possible age to lose your mom. Talking with her dad about puberty and s-e-x is super-awkward (even though he is a gynecologist). And when she wants to talk about her mom, her friends don't know what to say and her dad gets sad. When Sofia discovers Dear Kate, an advice columnist from Fifteen magazine, she’s grateful to have someone to confide in about everything from crushes to mourning - someone who is completely, wonderfully anonymous. It feels ideal - until Sofia’s dad introduces her to his new girlfriend, Katherine Baird, a.k.a., Dear Kate ... 

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Speed of Life by Carol Weston chronicles the life of Sofia over the course of a year, several months after her mom’s sudden death from an aneurysm. As time passes and her life changes in unexpected ways, Sofia slowly grows and learns that life can go on even after a loved one dies. Weston’s background as an advice columnist is clearly evident in the voice of Dear Kate, and I also liked how realistic the book felt. At the same time, many parts of Speed of Life felt very juvenile, making it a book I would have enjoyed a lot more had I been much, much younger. 

A novel that would be a good read for its target audience of middle graders, Speed of Life will be released on April 4, 2017 by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Sourcebooks) for free via NetGalley. 
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From Goodreads: It’s 1945, and Lorna Anderson’s life on her father’s farm in Scotland consists of endless chores and rationing, knitting Red Cross scarves, and praying for an Allied victory. So when Paul Vogel, a German prisoner of war, is assigned as the new farmhand, Lorna is appalled. How can she possibly work alongside the enemy when her own brothers are risking their lives for their country? But as Lorna reluctantly spends time with Paul, she feels herself changing. The more she learns about him - from his time in the war to his life back home in Germany - the more she sees the boy behind the soldier. Soon Lorna is battling her own warring heart. Loving Paul could mean losing her family and the life she’s always known. With tensions rising all around them, Lorna must decide how much she’s willing to sacrifice before the end of the war determines their fate. 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Caroline Leech’s Wait for Me was a book that piqued my interest because it’s set during WWII. Although I rarely read straight-up romance novels, I ended up really liking Wait for Me because the progression in Lorna’s feelings for Paul felt very natural, and I liked that she had to learn to look beyond Paul’s physical appearance to fall in love with him. The setting of the book also felt very authentic. In fact, there’s even a note at the end of the book about how German POWs did work on Scottish farms and that many ended up falling in love with local girls. The one thing that this book could have done without was an unnecessary potential rape scene. Overall, however, Wait for Me was a solid YA debut. 

Wait for Me was released by HarperTeen in January 2017. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (HarperCollins) for free via Edelweiss.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Review: Metaltown by Kristen Simmons

From Goodreads: The rules of Metaltown are simple: Work hard, keep your head down, and watch your back. You look out for number one, and no one knows that better than Ty. She’s been surviving on the factory line as long as she can remember. But now Ty has Colin. She’s no longer alone; it’s the two of them against the world. That’s something even a town this brutal can’t take away from her. Until it does. Lena’s future depends on her family’s factory, a beast that demands a ruthless master, and Lena is prepared to be as ruthless as it takes if it means finally proving herself to her father. But when a chance encounter with Colin, a dreamer despite his circumstances, exposes Lena to the consequences of her actions, she’ll risk everything to do what’s right. In Lena, Ty sees an heiress with a chip on her shoulder. Colin sees something more. In a world of disease and war, tragedy and betrayal, allies and enemies, all three of them must learn that challenging what they thought was true can change all the rules.

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Metaltown by Kristen Simmons was a book I was attracted to due to the steampunkish vibe I got from the cover. I also loved the premise, but the worldbuilding could definitely have been expanded upon. The gist is clear – a world that depends on child labour, contains a scarcity of food and clean water, and is suffering from a war – but there’s a serious lack of other details, making the setting in Metaltown hard to imagine visually.

More attention was given to the romance instead, which thankfully never turned into a love triangle since Ty’s feelings for Colin were never reciprocated. As for the characters, I wasn’t completely thrilled with either Colin or Lena because Colin seemed to ditch Ty once he met Lena and I felt like Lena only fell for Colin because he was the first guy to be nice to her. Ty was the most interesting out of the three so it was maddening to see how things ended for her after there was so much buildup with her importance.

Metaltown was released in September 2016 by Tor Teen. 

Comments About the Cover: Even though the cover seems to give off a steampunk vibe, the book itself is more of a dystopian novel.