Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Review: Unlovely + Giveaway

Info: 
Title: Unlovely
Author: Celeste Conway
Publisher: Merit Press
Publication Date: January 2, 2015
Source: I received a copy in exchange for an honest review

Synopsis:
If he falls for a beautiful dancer, does he risk his heart? Or his life?

• Unlovely is narrated in dark mystery wrapped around a world teens love, that of dancers and dancing.

• Bewitching writing, an eerie story, and a here-and-now thriller, combine for a captivating read of love, loyalty, and dark revenge

• Celeste Conway's book The Melting Season was featured by the New York Public Library as among 2006's best teen reads. She also has written two middle-grade novels and teaches writing at Berkley College

"A perfect combination of romance and horror with (dare I say this?) some culture thrown in." --Lois Duncan, author of Stranger with My Face and Locked in Time

Accidents happen. But they happen more often when the beautiful ballet dancers return each summer to the island. When he hears the ruthless way that the loveliest dancer talks about boys getting what they deserve when they break girls' hearts, Harley, home for the summer after his first year of college, wonders if he's losing his mind. He knows for sure that he's losing his heart to this girl...But then, strange incidents start happening all over the island and Harley is caught between desire and fear: could he also be in danger of losing his life?

Review:
Unlovely was an interesting read about a relationship between two young people for very different circumstances. Our narrator Harley is from the small town the book is set in. He is back from his first year of college and he and his father actually live on a boat instead of a proper house. Cassandra is a ballerina from New York who is going to the summer ballet school in Harley's town. There's a major rift between the town and the school, no neither Harley nor Cassandra's friends are supportive of the relationship. And I can't forget to mention Mairin, Harley's childhood friend and girl the whole town assumed he would marry, who is now engaged to a biggest loser in town and pregnant with his baby.

The most interesting part of the story for me was the relationship between the townies and the ballet school. There was a lot of prejudice on both sides, especially following the death of one of the town's high school students at the school. The death had been deemed a suicide, but many people in the town believed there was more going on. On the other hand, the people at the school were very standoff and aloof towards their neighbours, acting like they were better than them.

The other part that interested me the most was the relationship between Harley and Mairin. Harley tried to convince Mairin to go away to school together, but Mairin's mother was not supportive of the idea. So while Harley left, Mairin stayed in the town and took up with the biggest loser she could find, Smits, and got pregnant. It's very clear through the book that Mairin and Harley both have feelings towards each other and how much better off they'd be with each other. But Harley is enamored with Cassandra and Mairin is stubborn to make things work with Smits and it was tough for me, since it was so clear they should be together.

One thing I wish there had a bit stronger was the dark aspect of the story. It's there and it's great in the end, but I just felt the end was a bit rushed. I liked the dizzying quality of some of the scenes and wish they had been extended or there had been more of them.

The other thing that bothered me was how fast Harley and Cassandra's relationship went. They hardly got to see each other, since Cassandra was so busy at school, yet they said I love you within a few weeks of meeting each other.

Overall, Unlovely was an interesting read about a very messed up ballet school and the town it is near but certainly not a part of. It's the story of the dangerous path Harley takes to ultimately find his destiny again.



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Giveaway:
Merit Press was kind enough to agree to giveaway a copy of Unlovely to one lucky reader (US only - sorry). Enter below!

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Review: The Summoning

Info: 
Title: The Summoning
Author: Kelley Armstrong
Series: Darkest Powers #1
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: July 1, 2008
Source: Gifted.

Synopsis:
My name is Chloe Saunders and my life will never be the same again.

All I wanted was to make friends, meet boys, and keep on being ordinary. I don't even know what that means anymore. It all started on the day that I saw my first ghost - and the ghost saw me.

Now there are ghosts everywhere and they won't leave me alone. To top it all off, I somehow got myself locked up in Lyle House, a "special home" for troubled teens. Yet the home isn't what it seems. Don't tell anyone, but I think there might be more to my housemates than meets the eye. The question is, whose side are they on? it's up to me to figure out the dangerous secrets behind Lyle House...before its skeletons come back to haunt me.

Review:
I always hear people raving about Kelley Armstrong, but this is my second book by her and I still haven't found the magic. The Summoning felt to me a bit generic. Which is a bit weird, since there is actually some interesting ideas, including necromancy, which isn't as common in YA paranormal. 

But I think the blame for this can fall on the main character Chloe. She just wasn't able to grab my attention and make me like her. I wish she was a bit stronger of a character and was able to actually make me care about her and her friends.

Another thing that bothered me a bit was the over-used idea of all adults being either useless or evil. Although I guess I should give one of the adults in question a chance to explain herself in the next book before labeling her as evil. But you know what I mean.

I still feel fairly neutral towards the other kids at Chloe's home. Victoria is a bitch, but has her reasons, as we find out. Derek creeps me out, even though I don't think he's supposed to (anymore). Simon and Rae are pretty neutral for me all around. I feel super bad for Liz and hope we get to hear from her a bit in the next book.

Overall, The Summoning felt a bit like generic YA paranormal for me, but I still plan to finish the series and see how things end up.


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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Review: Dream a Little Dream

Info:
Title: Dream a Little Dream
Author: Kerstin Gier
Translator: Anthea Bell
Series: The Silver Trilogy #1Publisher: Henry Holt & Co. (BYR)
Publication Date: April 14, 2015
Source: I received an ARC in exchange for a honest review.

Synopsis:
Mysterious doors with lizard-head knobs. Talking stone statues. A crazy girl with a hatchet. Yep, Liv’s dreams have been pretty weird lately. Especially this one where she’s in a graveyard at night, watching four boys perform dark magic rituals. 

The really weird thing is that Liv recognizes the boys in her dream. They’re classmates from her new school in London, the school where’s she’s starting over because her mom has moved them to a new country (again). But they seem to know things about her in real life that they couldn’t possibly know, which is mystifying. Then again, Liv could never resist a good mystery. . . .

Review:
Somehow, Kerstin Gier's books always manage to feel light-hearted, even when the main character is in mortal peril. Dream a Little Dream is the story of Liv Silver, new girl at school who never could resist a puzzle.

Liv was a likable character certainly, although I have a soft spot for her little sister Mia. However, Liv's curiosity is a bit ridiculous, leading her to do things that are very obviously a very bad idea. I almost felt like I wouldn't feel bad if something happened to her, because she made such bad decisions. Despite that, which could have ruined things for me, I still liked Liv and rooted for her throughout. I found her pretty similar to Gwen from the Ruby Red Trilogy, although here we've swapped time travel for demons and crazy dreams.

As I mentioned, my favourite secondary character was Liv's little sister Mia, who had some mad detective skills. I also liked Liv's future stepbrother Grayson. However, I found Florence a bit overdone, Lottie a touch silly and Henry confusing. One of the things that bothered me was that the love story here felt rushed to me. I wish more time had been spent developing the attraction. I mean, it's a trilogy, so there's lot of time to develop the relationship and I wish it had gone a bit slower.

Another thing that didn't bother me, but I feel like I should mention, is that this book certainly reads like younger YA. I think that's why it managed to feel light-hearted, despite the danger and mystery. 

The plot of this one was interesting and the concepts behind Liv and the other's dreams were unique and pretty cool. Although I don't think I would want anyone intruding into my personal dreams!

Overall, I did enjoy this book and can't wait to continue the series and see what our villian has in store for Liv and her friends.



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Friday, April 3, 2015

March Recap

Sorry I haven't done a recap post and this one is a couple days late going up. But here we go.

Book Reviewed in March:
Stone in the Sky by Cecil Castellucci - 3.5 stars
The Whisper by Aaron Starmer - 4 stars
Flunked by Jen Calonita - 3 stars
Skandal by Lindsay Smith - 4 stars

Average Rating = 3.6 stars

Books Received in Jan/Feb/Mar:


Who is Mackie Spence? by Lin Kaymer
The Number 7 by Jessica Lidh
Thanks to Merit Press for these two review copies.

Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu
Sweet by Emmy Laybourne
Rebel Mechanics by Shanna Swendson
Thanks Macmillian Children for these ARCs.


The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt - Thanks to Latoya from Little Library Muse for hosting a giveaway and letting me choose this one.


Kiss and Tell by Jacqueline Green
Fairest by Marissa Meyer
Bother of these were purchased by me.

Giant TBR Challenge:

Previous TBR Total: 177
Incoming Books: 7
TBR Books Read: 7
Current TBR Total: 177

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Review: Skandal

Info: 
Title: Skandal
Author: Lindsay Smith
Series: Sekret #2
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Publication Date: April 7, 2015
Source: I received a complimentary ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:
The dramatic sequel to Sekret, this psychic Cold War espionage thriller follows Yulia to Washington, DC, where she fights to discover the truth about her family without losing control of her mind.

My mind is mine alone.

Life in Washington, D.C., is not the safe haven Yulia hoped for when she risked everything to flee communist Russia. Her father is reckless and aloof, and Valentin is distant and haunted by his past. Her mother is being targeted by the CIA and the US government is suspicious of Yulia's allegiance. And when super-psychics start turning up in the US capitol, it seems that even Rostov is still a threat. Ultimately, Yulia must keep control of her own mind to save the people she loves and avoid an international Skandal.
 

Review:
I have really enjoyed this duology. I like the mix of physic powers with the history of the Cold War. I enjoy historical fiction and I enjoy paranormal, so the mix here was really great for me.

Yulia is a very strong character and I enjoyed watching her deal with integrating into a new culture, dealing with a father who is nothing like what she remembers and a new job working for the CIA. The odds are stacked against this girl, but she stubbornly plods onward towards her goals.

We meet a host of new characters as well amongst Yulia's new American coworkers, as well as her re-united father. Her father is frustrating to me for most of the book, but towards the end we get some insight into why he is the way he is. My favourite of Yulia's coworkers in Cindy, who I am itching to learn more about. Lindsay Smith has said this series is over, but she may continue in this world and if she does, I hope it's with Cindy. That girl has secrets I'm dying to know about. Donna was a frustrating character as well, although she more or less redeemed herself. And Valentin is such a sad, sweet characters that I mostly just wanted to hug. Oh and Winnie! I love this woman as well. So fiesty and determined and such a great rolemodel for Yulia. The rest of the team (Marylou, Judd, Tony and Al) aren't developed quite as much and I help fairly neutral about.

One thing that sometimes got a bit confusing for me was the descriptions when Yulia was dealing with the scrubbers. It's a fairly abstract concept and I found myself having to re-read sometimes. But it didn't bother me, because it was meant to be confusing and disorienting, so it kind of worked.

I loved this glimpse into a paranormal-infused history. Yulia is such a tough girl forced to deal with culture shock, family issues, a romantic relationship AND psychic warfare all at once!
 


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Friday, March 27, 2015

Review: Flunked

Info: 
Title: Flunked
Author: Jen Calonita
Series: Fairy Tale Reform School #1
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Publication Date: March 3, 2015
Source: I received a complimentary eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:
Would you send a villain to do a hero's job? An exciting new twisted fairy tale series from award-winning author Jen Calonita.

Full of regret, Cinderella's wicked stepmother, Flora, has founded the Fairy Tale Reform School with the mission of turning the wicked and criminally mischievous into upstanding members of Enchantasia.

Impish, sassy 12-year-old Gilly has a history of petty theft and she's not too sorry about it. When she lifts a hair clip, she gets tossed in reform school-for at least three months. But when she meets fellow students Jax and Kayla, she learns there's more to this school than its sweet mission. There's a battle brewing and she starts to wonder: can a villain really change?
 

Review:
Flunked was a cute, fun read that was ultimately kind of forgettable. This book follows the adventures of Gilly, a girl who has turned to stealing in order to make a bit of extra money to feel her family. Gilly doesn't live just anywhere, she actually lives in Enchantasia, a kingdom inhabited by fairy tale creatures and ruled by a committee of fairy tale princesses. In my mind, it basically looked like the kingdom of Far Far Away from Shrek.

One day, Gilly slips up and is sent to reform school, which is run by reformed fairy tale villians. There she makes some friends, unearths some schemes and learns how to put the needs of others before herself (and her family).

Thief characters are usually my favourite, but I didn't really connect much with Gilly. She was sassy and snarky and I don't think it quite rang true for me. I think one issue is that Gilly is only 12 and her immaturity shows through in the writing somehow. I think this probably wouldn't bother younger readers, but for me it wasn't great.

Flunked felt a bit immature all around, but it was still fun and entertaining and I did find myself wanting to uncover the mystery of what was going on.


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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Info: 
Title: The Whisper
Author: Aaron Starmer
Series: The Riverman Trilogy #2
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Publication Date: March 17, 2015
Source: I received a complimentary ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:
Twelve-year-old Alistair Cleary has washed up on shore. But where? It seems to be Aquavania, the magical realm where children create entire worlds from their imagination. There’s something wrong, though. The creators have disappeared and the worlds are falling apart. 

All Alistair wants is to find his friend Fiona Loomis and go home. Easier said than done. Animals made of starlight, a megalomaniacal boy king, and astronauts who peddle riddles are hard enough to outwit, but they’re only the beginning. 

To find Fiona, Alistair must travel from world to world. He must confront the mistakes of his past. And he must face countless monsters, including the soul-stealing stalker that some people call the Riverman, the merciless but misunderstood servant of Aquavania who refers to himself as the Whisper.

Review:
I'm still trying to wrap my head around this book, making it a bit tricky to rate and review. Like the first book in the trilogy, I found it pretty dark for middle grade. But it is quite unlike other books in the genre, so it definitely stood out and overall I did enjoy it.

The Whisper picks up right after that crazy ending of The Riverman. I'm going to do my best to avoid any spoilers for book one, but it's pretty tricky, since the entire storyline of The Whisper stems from what happens in the last chapter of The Riverman.

This is not a cheerful children's book. We see communities decay. We see the length an obsession with revenge can take someone. We see grey areas and question our point-of-view. While the book lacks in the cheeriness department (which is not necessarily a bad thing), it definitely does not lack in imagination. The author takes us on a wild journey through many highly interesting places.

And the ending! Aaron Starmer knows how to do endings. Each book has ended with a huge "oh s**t" moment. I love cliff-hangers, so I am super excited for the final book after that ending!

Overall, The Riverman Trilogy is in a league of it's own when it comes to middle grade fiction. And what a very dark, wildly imaginative league it is.


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