Monday, September 18, 2017

Mini Reviews: How to Disappear by Sharon Huss Roat and These Things I've Done by Rebecca Phillips

From Goodreads: Vicky Decker has perfected the art of hiding in plain sight, quietly navigating the halls of her high school undetected except by her best (and only) friend, Jenna. But when Jenna moves away, Vicky’s isolation becomes unbearable. So she decides to invent a social life by Photoshopping herself into other people’s pictures, posting them on Instagram under the screen name Vicurious. Instantly, she begins to get followers, so she adds herself to more photos from all over the world with all types of people. And as Vicurious’s online followers multiply, Vicky realizes she can make a whole life for herself without ever leaving her bedroom. But the more followers she finds online, the clearer it becomes that there are a lot of people out there who feel like her - #alone and #ignored in real life. To help them, and herself, Vicky must find the courage to face her fear of being “seen,” because only then can she stop living vicariously and truly bring the magic of Vicurious to life. 

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: If you prefer plot-driven novels, Sharon Huss Roat’s How to Disappear is probably not the book for you since it involves Vicki just spending a lot of time online – either Photoshopping herself into different backgrounds, posting her pictures on Instagram and seeing what kind of feedback she gets, or checking out other people’s Instagram feeds. Yet even though nothing major happens over the course of How to Disappear, I didn’t think it was a bad read because it serves as a reminder of how powerful social media can be in connecting people. 

How to Disappear was released in August 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: Before: Dara and Aubrey have been inseparable since they became best friends in sixth grade. However, as they begin their sophomore year of high school, cracks in their friendship begin to form, testing the bond they always thought was unbreakable. After: It's been fifteen months since the accident that killed Aubrey, and not a day goes by that Dara isn't racked with guilt over her role in her best friend's death. Dara thought nothing could be worse than confronting the memories of Aubrey that relentlessly haunt her, but she soon realizes it isn't half as difficult as seeing Ethan, Aubrey's brother, every day. Not just because he's a walking reminder of what she did, but because the more her feelings for him change, the more she knows she's betraying her best friend one final time. 

My Rating: 2.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Alternating chapters between Dara’s sophomore and senior years, These Things I’ve Done by Rebecca Phillips shows the difference in Dara’s attitude and personality before and after Aubrey’s death. When reading a novel chronicling someone’s life after the death of a loved one, I need to connect with the characters; and unfortunately, Dara was someone I struggled to connect with because she keeps trying not to move on, despite knowing that Aubrey’s death was accidental. I also thought some of the secondary characters could have been better fleshed out. For example, there was no reason for Travis to think of Dara as a murderer and yet he does, even though Aubrey’s brother, Ethan, quickly befriends Dara again, making it clear he holds no ill will towards her. If you’re looking for a book where grief is a major theme, I’d recommend reading Cynthia Hand’s The Last Time We Say Goodbye or Emery Lord’s The Start of Me and You instead.

These Things I’ve Done was released by HarperTeen in August 2017.

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

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Review: Even the Darkest Stars by Heather Fawcett (and Giveaway)

From Goodreads: Kamzin has always dreamed of becoming one of the Emperor’s royal explorers, the elite climbers tasked with mapping the wintry, mountainous Empire and spying on its enemies. She knows she could be the best in the world, if only someone would give her a chance. But everything changes when the mysterious and eccentric River Shara, the greatest explorer ever known, arrives in her village and demands to hire Kamzin - not her older sister Lusha, as everyone had expected - for his next expedition. This is Kamzin’s chance to prove herself - even though River’s mission to retrieve a rare talisman for the emperor means climbing Raksha, the tallest and deadliest mountain in the Aryas. Then Lusha sets off on her own mission to Raksha with a rival explorer who is determined to best River, and Kamzin must decide what’s most important to her: protecting her sister from the countless perils of the climb or beating her to the summit. The challenges of climbing Raksha are unlike anything Kamzin expected - or prepared for - with avalanches, ice chasms, ghosts, and even worse at every turn. And as dark secrets are revealed, Kamzin must unravel the truth of their mission and of her companions - while surviving the deadliest climb she has ever faced. 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Even the Darkest Stars by Heather Fawcett was a fun read that started and ended strongly but lagged a little in the middle. By far the best aspect of this novel though was its worldbuilding since the setting seems to be inspired by the Himalayas. While reading Even the Darkest Stars, I really felt how perilous it must be to climb to the summit of a mountain like Mount Raksha, the book’s equivalent of Mount Everest. Add in fantastical elements like witches and ghosts and I fully expected at least one person to die! (Sadly, there were some animal deaths as well in Even the Darkest Stars that were completely unnecessary.)

The cast of characters was decent, if somewhat forgettable; and I liked that the romance remained in the background and that a love triangle didn’t develop, considering Kamzin became infatuated with River Shara quite early on and was joined on her journey to Mount Raksha by her best friend and ex, Tem. With all the plot twists towards the end of the book, I’m looking forward to reading a stronger sequel!

Even the Darkest Stars was released on September 5, 2017 by Balzer + Bray. 

Comments About the Cover: It’s so, so pretty!

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher for free via The Fantastic Flying Book Club. 
 Even the Darkest Stars can be bought from: [Amazon] [Barnes and Noble] [Book Depository]

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If you're interested in getting a necklace and signed book plate for Even the Darkest Stars and live in the US, you can enter to win by filling out the form below.

You can follow the rest of the tour by clicking on this link. Also, visit Heather Fawcett's website to find out more about her and follow her on Twitter at @heathermfawcett

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Mini Reviews: Protected by Claire Zorn and Karma Khullar's Mustache by Kristi Wientge

From Goodreads: Hannah's world is in pieces and she doesn't need the school counsellor to tell her she has deep-seated psychological issues. With a seriously depressed mum, an injured dad and a dead sister, who wouldn't have problems? Hannah should feel terrible but for the first time in ages, she feels a glimmer of hope and isn't afraid anymore. Is it because the elusive Josh is taking an interest in her? Or does it run deeper than that? In a family torn apart by grief and guilt, one girl's struggle to come to terms with years of torment shows just how long old wounds can take to heal.

My Rating: 2 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Claire Zorn's Protected was a book that I failed to connect with for several reasons. Firstly, there was too much going on, what with Hannah being bullied before Katie’s death and now watching her family fall apart since her dad was the one driving the car when Katie was killed. Unsure of whether her husband is to blame for her daughter’s death, Hannah’s mom has spiralled into depression while Hannah’s dad can no longer walk without crutches and may go to prison depending on Hannah’s testimony during a court hearing. Secondly, Protected randomly veers between the present and the past throughout the book, which was very confusing particularly at the beginning of the novel when I didn’t know this. I’d be reading a section thinking it was happening to Hannah in the present and then realize it was a flashback because Katie was alive in the scene. Finally and most importantly, it was hard for me to care that Katie was dead because she was an awful sister to Hannah.

Protected will be released on October 3, 2017 by Sourcebooks Fire. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Sourcebooks) for free via NetGalley. 
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From Back Cover: Karma Khullar is entering middle school and is super nervous. Not just because it seems like her best friend has found a newer, blonder best friend, or the fact that her home life is shaken up by the death of her dadima, or that her dad is the new stay-at-home parent, leading her mom to spend most of her time at work. But because she’s realized that she has seventeen hairs that have formed a mustache on her upper lip. With everyone preoccupied, Karma has no one to turn to, and must figure out what to make of her terrifyingly hairy surprise.

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: When reading MG, I prefer my novels to have crossover appeal. Sadly, I found that Karma Khullar’s Mustache by Kristi Wientge did not go into as much depth on themes like bullying, changing friendships, etc. as it could have, and that problems were resolved too easily and simply. For example, although Karma is made fun of for having a mustache, Karma Khullar’s Mustache ends with Karma just rolling her eyes at the fact that she’ll continue to be called ‘Stache until her peers get tired of teasing her. It would have been much better had Karma stood up for herself and told off her peers to convey the message that bullying should never just be accepted. That being said, Karma Khullar’s Mustache may resonate more with younger readers closer to Karma’s age, and the incorporation of Sikh culture should appeal to those seeking more diverse reads. 

Karma Khullar’s Mustache was released by Simon and Schuster on August 15, 2017.

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Simon and Schuster Canada) for free. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

Mini Reviews: Wesley James Ruined My Life by Jennifer Honeybourn and Our Broken Pieces by Sarah White

From Goodreads: Sixteen-year-old Quinn Hardwick’s having a rough summer. Her beloved grandmother has been put into a home, her dad’s gambling addiction has flared back up and now her worst enemy is back in town: Wesley James, former childhood friend - until he ruined her life, that is. So when Wesley is hired to work with her at Tudor Tymes, a medieval England themed restaurant, the last thing Quinn’s going to do is forgive and forget. She’s determined to remove him from her life and even the score all at once - by getting him fired. But getting rid of Wesley isn’t as easy as she’d hoped. When Quinn finds herself falling for him, she has to decide what she wants more: to get even, or to just get over it.

My Rating: 2.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: With a far-fetched premise – five years after her parents’ divorce, sixteen-year-old Quinn still believes Wesley James is responsible for her parents breaking up – and a rather rushed transformation of feelings from hate-to-love, it’s no surprise that Jennifer Honeybourn’s Wesley James Ruined My Life failed to captivate me overall. However, I did enjoy reading the parts involving Tudor Tymes, the restaurant Quinn works at, because the concept of the restaurant was so well-developed and unique. If something like Tudor Tymes actually existed, I know I’d be interested in popping into it to take a peek. (The food unfortunately, as described by Quinn, didn’t sound very appetizing, lol.)

Wesley James Ruined My Life was released by Swoon Reads in July 2017.
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From Goodreads: The only thing worse than having your boyfriend dump you is having him dump you for your best friend. For Everly Morgan the betrayal came out of nowhere. One moment she had what seemed like the perfect high school relationship, and the next, she wanted to avoid the two most important people in her life. Every time she sees them kiss in the hallways her heart breaks a little more. The last thing on Everly’s mind is getting into another relationship, but when she meets Gabe in her therapist’s waiting room she can’t deny their immediate connection. Somehow he seems to understand Everly in a way that no one else in her life does, and maybe it’s because Gabe also has experience grappling with issues outside of his control. Just because they share so many of the same interests and there is an undeniable spark between them doesn’t mean Everly wants anything more than friendship. After all, when you only barely survived your last breakup, is it really worth risking your heart again?  

My Rating: 1 heart 

Thoughts on the Novel: Our Broken Pieces by Sarah White was a book that annoyed me to no ends! Perhaps I’m too old for books like this now, but every time Everly considered how different her senior year was turning out to be due to Brady’s betrayal, I just wanted to be like, “Move on, already!” In my opinion, if somebody cheats on you, they don’t deserve you so why waste your time thinking about what could have been? It also drove me crazy that Everly seemed to be more upset by losing Brady than the loss of her friendship with Elle. Lastly, sometimes the interactions between Gabe (who occasionally didn’t sound like a guy but a female thinking about what the perfect guy would say) and Everly were so cheesy that they made me cringe.

Our Broken Pieces was released on August 8, 2017 by HarperTeen.

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

*Just an aside, the sex in Our Broken Pieces is surprisingly descriptive for a YA novel.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Review: I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo

From Goodreads: Desi Lee believes anything is possible if you have a plan. That’s how she became student body president. Varsity soccer star. And it’s how she’ll get into Stanford. But - she’s never had a boyfriend. In fact, she’s a disaster in romance, a clumsy, stammering humiliation magnet whose botched attempts at flirting have become legendary with her friends. So when the hottest human specimen to have ever lived walks into her life one day, Desi decides to tackle her flirting failures with the same zest she’s applied to everything else in her life. She finds guidance in the Korean dramas her father has been obsessively watching for years - where the hapless heroine always seems to end up in the arms of her true love by episode ten. It’s a simple formula, and Desi is a quick study. Armed with her “K Drama Steps to True Love,” Desi goes after the moody, elusive artist Luca Drakos - and boat rescues, love triangles, and staged car crashes ensue. But when the fun and games turn to true feels, Desi finds out that real love is about way more than just drama.

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: While I’m sure many people will be interested to read Maurene Goo’s I Believe in a Thing Called Love because the synopsis mentions K-dramas, I’ve never watched one. Instead, this book appealed to me because I liked that the cover had an Asian model and that it appeared to have the potential to make me laugh.

I Believe in a Thing Called Love does start off quite hilariously with poor, sick Desi coughing phlegm onto her crush’s shirt and then having her sweatpants fall off in front of the new student, Luca. However, I started sympathizing with Desi less and less over the course of the novel as she began to act more like a psycho, lying and injuring others in order to simply get a boyfriend. For example, Desi was willing to cause a car crash just so that Luca would realize how real their love was! I understand that in no way is I Believe in a Thing Called Love supposed to be realistic, but if a guy did what Desi did, I’d be running far, far away! So, I wasn’t completely thrilled by the ending, which basically rewards Desi for being a nut job. 

I Believe in a Thing Called Love was released in May 2017 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 

Comments About the Cover: What’s happening with the splashes of pink on the model's skirt?! They’re so oddly placed …

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

Monday, August 07, 2017

Review: Thick as Thieves by Megan Whalen Turner

From Goodreads: Deep within the palace of the Mede emperor, in an alcove off the main room of his master’s apartments, Kamet minds his master’s business and his own. Carefully keeping the accounts, and his own counsel, Kamet has accumulated a few possessions, a little money stored in the household’s cashbox, and a significant amount of personal power. As a slave, his fate is tied to his master’s. If Nahuseresh’s fortunes improve, so will Kamet’s, and Nahuseresh has been working diligently to promote his fortunes since the debacle in Attolia. A soldier in the shadows offers escape, but Kamet won’t sacrifice his ambition for a meager and unreliable freedom; not until a whispered warning of poison and murder destroys all of his carefully laid plans. When Kamet flees for his life, he leaves behind everything - his past, his identity, his meticulously crafted defenses - and finds himself woefully unprepared for the journey that lies ahead. Pursued across rivers, wastelands, salt plains, snowcapped mountains, and storm-tossed seas, Kamet is dead set on regaining control of his future and protecting himself at any cost. Friendships - new and long-forgotten - beckon, lethal enemies circle, secrets accumulate, and the fragile hopes of the little kingdoms of Attolia, Eddis, and Sounis hang in the balance. 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Thick as Thieves by Megan Whalen Turner was a book that I had been waiting for for years – the previous book in The Queen’s Thief series, A Conspiracy of Kings, was released in 2010 – so when it came out, I put aside all the books I was reading to see what Eugenides was up to now. To my disappointment, there wasn’t much of Eugenides in Thick as Thieves. Instead, Thick as Thieves’ main character is Kamet, a Mede slave whose master, Nahuseresh, is the Mede ambassador to Attolia.

Though I liked Thick as Thieves because Turner continues to build her world and expand on little details from the other books in the series, I didn’t enjoy it as much as her previous novels. Kamet doesn’t hold a candle to Eugenides as a protagonist; and with two books now where Eugenides hasn’t been the main character, I’m really missing his perspective. In addition, the political machinations that made me fall in love with The Queen’s Thief series were more subtle in Thick as Thieves because the focus was on Kamet’s flight of safety from the Mede empire to Attolia, a country that he considers “more backward than anywhere [he] has ever known” (4% on my Kindle). Finally, while I loved the little stories about the gods of Eddis in The Thief for example, I wasn’t as enamoured by the story of the friendship between Immakuk and Ennikar (which seems to be inspired by the friendship between Gilgamesh and Enkidu from the Epic of Gilgamesh) and ended up skimming those parts.

Thick as Thieves was released by Greenwillow Books in May 2017. 

Comments About the Cover: I miss the style of the old covers!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Review: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

From Back Cover: Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family - and from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers ... right? Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him - wherein he’ll have to woo her - he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself. The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not? Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways. 

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: I’m back … and one of the books I read during my blogging break was Sandhya Menon’s When Dimple Met Rishi. I originally had no intention of reading this book because I generally avoid straight-up romances; but with people seeming to love it on Twitter and the fact that the protagonist is Desi, I figured I’d give it a try. Having read When Dimple Met Rishi now, I have mixed feelings about it.

On the one hand, I loved how I could relate to Dimple so much. Guys, the pressure to find a good husband is real, and the conversations Dimple has with her mom regarding marriage are definitely similar to ones that I’ve had with older female family members. I also loved how Menon blended Indian culture into the experience of a teen growing up in America. For example, Hindi is integrated seamlessly in conversations between Dimple or Rishi and their parents.

On the other hand, I wasn’t crazy about the romance, and was kind of disappointed that the coding aspect of the plot was overshadowed by it. I also found Dimple to be very self-righteous at times and didn’t like how quickly she judged others. For example, Dimple describes Isabelle as “the blond girl who wore a perpetual sneer as if she were too good for all of this” (p. 54) even before getting to know her.

Despite its flaws however, I’d recommend giving When Dimple Met Rishi a chance if only because of how authentic Dimple and Rishi’s voices felt as South Asian-American teens. When Dimple Met Rishi was released by Simon Pulse in May 2017.

Comments About the Cover: It makes the book seem like it’s a cute, cheesy contemporary.