Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Review: Sea of Shadows

Title: Sea of Shadows
Author: Kelley Armstrong
Series: Age of Legends #1
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: April 8, 2014
Source: I received an eARC in exchange for an honest review.


In the Forest of the Dead, where the empire’s worst criminals are exiled, twin sisters Moria and Ashyn are charged with a dangerous task. For they are the Keeper and the Seeker, and each year they must quiet the enraged souls of the damned.

Only this year, the souls will not be quieted.

Ambushed and separated by an ancient evil, the sisters’ journey to find each other sends them far from the only home they’ve ever known. Accompanied by a stubborn imperial guard and a dashing condemned thief, the girls cross a once-empty wasteland, now filled with reawakened monsters of legend, as they travel to warn the emperor. But a terrible secret awaits them at court—one that will alter the balance of their world forever.

After years of seeing (and owning) her books, I finally managed to read a Kelley Armstrong book. And it was good! I'm not head-over-heels with this book, but I did enjoy it and definitely plan to continue with this series.

Our story centers on twin sisters Moira and Ashyn. These girls are as different as night and day. I think many readers will connect with Moira, who is a fiesty, headstrong girl, like many of my favourite YA heroines. I think by comparison, Ashyn can fade into the background. She's a much quieter, gentler person and even bordered on boring for me. However, at the same time, she seems like the kind of person I'd be friends with.

I was intrigued by the world Kelley Armstrong described, but I really wanted more details. Especially about Moira and Ashyn's roles as Keeper and Seeker. I actually don't really know what a Keeper does and have only a bit of an idea about one aspect of being the Seeker. In fact, I actually forgot a few times about Moira and Ashyn's identities. I really feel like that aspect of the story should have been emphasized more.

Another aspect I'm not sure about is the romance. It was pretty light in general, which is great for me, since I'm much more of a plot girl than a romance girl. However, it just felt a little convenient that two boys their own age happened to be available to accompany the girls on their journey.

I also felt like the plot got a little lost for a while. There was a lot of travelling and plenty of travelling adventures, but a couple times I had to rack my brain for where they were going and why. However, I feel like this is going to be less of a problem in the next book, which might be a bit more political.

I feel like this review might be coming across kind of negative, but I actually did enjoy this book, despite the few flaws I've mentioned. The characters are likeable, there are animal characters (which is always a huge plus for me) and it was overall entertaining. The ending really threw me for a loop, which I like, although I'm fairly mad at a certain someone. I'm definitely looking forward to the next book in this series!

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Life of a Blogger: Travel

Life of a Blogger is a weekly feature hosted by Jessi of Novel Heartbeat. Each week, we share a little about ourselves and our real lives so we can get to know the people behind the blogs!

This week's topic is a great one for me: travel! I love travelling! One of the highlights of my life so far has been my backpacking trip through some of Europe a few years ago! It was so much fun!

But I'm also happy travelling a bit closer to home. Last summer, the bf and I drove to Seattle for a holiday, which was lots of fun. To be honest, almost all of my travel growing up was to sporting events (tournaments and horse shows), so that was mostly within my home province, although I did go to a few horse shows in Saskatchewan and Montana.

So here's some pictures from my travels so far!

Banff National Park

Buckingham Palace in London, England
Top of the Oxford Castle mott in Oxford, England
Being goofballs at Edinburgh Castle
Visiting Highland cattle in Scotland
The Coliseum in Rome, Italy
St. Peter's in the Vatican
Paris, France
Playing in the Ligurian Sea at Cinque Terre in Italy
I'm hoping to be able to go for another trip this summer/fall. I'm thinking Poland, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria and Slovania, but we'll see. I might go back to the UK instead.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Review: Sekret

Title: Sekret
Author: Lindsay Smith
Series: Sekret #1
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Publication Date: April 1, 2014
Source: I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.


An empty mind is a safe mind.
Yulia's father always taught her to hide her thoughts and control her emotions to survive the harsh realities of Soviet Russia. But when she's captured by the KGB and forced to work as a psychic spy with a mission to undermine the U.S. space program, she's thrust into a world of suspicion, deceit, and horrifying power. Yulia quickly realizes she can trust no one--not her KGB superiors or the other operatives vying for her attention--and must rely on her own wits and skills to survive in this world where no SEKRET can stay hidden for long.

 Russia, espionage and psychics? I'm in! Needless to say, I had high hopes going into this book and thankfully, it lived up to them!

Yulia is a tough girl. She has to be! Her family has fallen out of favour with the Party and now barely scrape by, living hand-to-mouth off of the black market. But Yulia has a trick that's helping her family survive: she's psychic. Unfortunately, this gift becomes her curse once she is forcibly recruited to a special KGB centre for young psychics. It's kind of like X-men. If all the X-men were various psychics in Cold War USSR and Professor X was a danger psychopath who could rip out your memories.

I had a lot of respect for Yulia. She's tough as nails and devoted to doing what she can to keep her mother and brother (who I'm pretty certain falls until the Autism spectrum) safe. Unfortunately, life in Communist Moscow doesn't make this easy for her. Yulia is not the kind of person who is content being controlled. She fights back as much as possible.

A lot of the story goes on inside Yulia's head, so we only get to view the secondary characters as they relate to her. That didn't stop me from wanting to slap some (Masha), cower in fear from some (Rostov) and give suspicious glares to others (pretty much everyone else).

I completely fell in love with the setting of this one. It's crazy how a historical location could feel so much like a dystopian read. I've always enjoyed learning about history (even though it was my worst class in school) and I love reading stories set in different places. I would love to visit Russia one day!

The only thing I didn't totally love on this one was the romance. There's absolutely nothing wrong with it, I just think I would have enjoyed the story a little bit more without it. But I'm not a romance person, so I'm sure this is entirely personal preference. I just know that I kind of rushed through the romance-y bits because I was desperate to get back to the spying bits! However, the romance was very limited, so there wasn't much rushing necessary.

I'd definitely recommend this one to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, Russia, espionage or cool psychic phenomena. Definitely worth a read!

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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Review: Catching Jordan

Title: Catching Jordan
Author: Miranda Kenneally
Series: Hundred Oaks #1
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publication Date: March 1, 2012
Source: Purchased.


What girl doesn't want to be surrounded by gorgeous jocks day in and day out? Jordan Woods isn't just surrounded by hot guys, though-she leads them as the captain and quarterback of her high school football team. They all see her as one of the guys and that's just fine. As long as she gets her athletic scholarship to a powerhouse university.

But everything she's ever worked for is threatened when Ty Green moves to her school. Not only is he an amazing QB, but he's also amazingly hot. And for the first time, Jordan's feeling vulnerable. Can she keep her head in the game while her heart's on the line?

  I wanted to love this book so bad. I'd heard such great things about this series and I was honestly pumped! Unfortunately, a combination of personal taste and over-hype made this one a disappointment. So sad!

I wanted to like our heroine, Jordan. I mean, she's a kick ass football quarterback! Unfortunately, she got on my nerves for a lot of the book. She was really judgmental and it drove me crazy. She did improve towards the end, but it was too late. Then she does some things that had me scratching my head in bewilderment.

I was hoping for a cast of secondary characters to save this one, but it just didn't happen. Ty annoyed me, Sam Henry pissed me off and Jordan's dad made me generally cranky.

My next issue is where the personal taste issues come in. I'm much more of an action girl than a romance girl. However, this book had a major focus on romance. As Jordan navigated the rough waters of romance, I was just itching for the next football game to arrive to break things up. And I don't even like football (or as my bf and I now call it: hand-egg)! This is totally not the books fault, as I'm sure fans of romance will enjoy these sections much more than me.

Overall, I was disappointed in Catching Jordan. I didn't enjoy the characters and I found the romance overpowering. That said, I do plan on continuing this  series and trying Stealing Parker because I want to make it to Racing Savannah, because, HORSES!!

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 Burning Impossibly Bright | Expresso Reads

Monday, March 10, 2014

Blog Tour: Wakefield

Young Adult Paranormal
Date Published: October 2012

Orphans Astrid Chalke and Max Fisher meet when they’re sent to live at Wakefield, a residential and educational facility for teens with psychiatric and behavioral problems. Astrid’s roommate cuts herself with anything sharp she can get her hands on and Max’s roommate threatens him upon introduction. 

Just as Astrid and Max develop a strong bond and begin to adjust to the constant chaos surrounding them, a charming and mysterious resident of Wakefield named Teddy claims he has unexplainable abilities. Sometimes he can move things without touching them. Sometimes he can see people’s voices emanating from their mouths. Teddy also thinks that some of the Wakefield staff are on to him. 

At first, Astrid and Max think Teddy is paranoid, but Max’s strange, recurring dreams and a series of unsettling events force them to reconsider Teddy’s claims. Are they a product of his supposedly disturbed mind or is the truth stranger than insanity?


I ran a hand lightly against the cold wall, imagining the force it would take to smash through 

it. The yellow lights above shone with a dull intensity that turned my stomach. The doors all 

matched, and I felt claustrophobic. The only thing that broke up the monotony was the random 

graffiti scribbled on the walls. Most of it had been scrubbed off, but I could make out faint lines 

here and there. They were like ghosts, just out of reach. Realizing I wouldn’t be able to leave 

these walls, I slunk down to the shiny, white floor and nearly cried.

“Hey,” a timid voice called out. It was the goth kid I’d noticed earlier. He was bone thin and had 

a long mop of straight hair that matched his black shirt and pants. He pushed the hair out of his 

face; the movement showed off his seven or eight bracelets.

I ignored him completely, so he approached very slowly and said, “You’ll get your regular 

clothes back tomorrow.”


“They give them back the next day.” He bobbed his head. He was younger than I was, but I 

couldn’t tell by how much. Dark hair covered half his face, which made him look younger, or he 

might have been little for his age.

“I look stupid,” I confided.

“Yeah, those suck,” he went on. “They made me feel like a tool when I got here. But you won’t 

have to wear them again. I haven’t.”

“That’s cool.”

“So, welcome to Newton,” he said with a half grin.


“Yeah, this part of the building. We have to pretty much stay in our own area. There are three 

other units—Whitehall, Lancre, and McCarthy. We’re the best.”

“Clearly. I’m Max,” I introduced myself as he sat down against the opposite wall. He acted like 

I was a dangerous animal, moving slowly, like I might pounce at any minute. The woman at the 

staff desk looked up over her laptop for about twenty seconds before going back to whatever 

she was doing. I wondered if he thought he was fast enough to outrun me. I doubted he was. “So 

what do I call you?”

“Uh, I’m Azrael,” he told me shyly. He looked away, down the hall, in case I’d laugh at him.

“Your name is Azrael?” I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t want to scare him off, but it was a weird 


“No,” he admitted and looked up at the ceiling. “It’s really Jon Applegarth, but I like Azrael 

better. It’s stupid, I guess.” He shrugged and let out a deep breath. I could tell he was not a fan of 


“Did you get your name from the cat in The Smurfs?” I asked.

“No, I just like it. It sounds vampiric,” he said, brown eyes glistening with excitement.

“All right. Azrael it is then,” I reassured this kid.

He turned his face back to me and grinned. He had a tiny row of neat, little teeth.

“So, Simon’s your roommate, huh?” he asked, though he was fully aware of the answer.

“Yeah, I guess so.”

“I’m sorry,” he squinted at me, lowering his voice.

“He’s that bad?”

“Some guys like him. Couple of the girls do, too,” Azrael told me. “I stay away if I can.”

“Maybe he’ll be cool to me.” I shrugged.

“Yeah, maybe,” Azrael lied. “I gotta go.”

I doubted Azrael had any pressing business to take care of, but I didn’t say anything as he stood 

up and skittered away. This wasn’t the sort of place you tell people how you really feel. I’d have 

to start practicing biting my tongue and letting people do what they want. At least it was nice of 

Azrael to sit with me for a few minutes, even though he only worried me about Simon. If people 

liked me before I came here, then why wouldn’t they like me here at Wakefield?

A fat guy, older than me, left a room up ahead. He looked at me for a few seconds and then 

continued on to the bathroom. I hung my head low as I stood and walked down the hall to stare 

at my darkened reflection in the small window. It was gray outside, and I couldn't see much, but 

I would have given anything to be on the other side of that glass. It showed me a face that looked 

at least two years older than the last time I’d seen myself. Maybe I could get into R rated movies 

now. If only they’d let me out to see movies. I went back to my room, where Simon sat at his 


“Hey, do they ever let us out to the movies?” I asked Simon.

He grunted, so I sat on the empty bed to wait for my stuff to come. I didn’t know how long it 

would take the state social worker to bring my things to Wakefield or the staff to pour through 

all my belongings. I’d later hear how they’d go through all the pockets and seams for anything 

cutters use. They’d also check my music and movies to make sure none of it was inappropriate.

My “new” dresser was a simple, beat up, wooden monstrosity shoved against the wall. At least 

it looked more inviting than the bed I sat on. It was a wooden box with eight holes on the sides 

for straps to pass through in case the staff needed to restrain anyone in their rooms. Small rails 

cradled the thin, uncomfortable mattress.

Then I noticed a small rectangular camera hanging from the ceiling.

“Uhm, do all the rooms have cameras? Is that thing on?” I asked Simon.

“Yeah, dumbass, it's on. And no, not every room has one. But because of your newbie ass, I have 

to live with a camera until they decide to trust you. Thanks a lot.”

At least I knew why Simon was angry with me.

Erin Callahan & Troy H. Gardner

Erin Callahan lives with her husband in the bustling metropolis of Hooksett, New Hampshire, and works for the federal government. She enjoys reading and writing young adult fiction, playing recreational volleyball, and mining the depths of pop culture for new and interesting ideas. A year after graduating from law school, she found herself unemployed and took a job as a case manager at a residential facility similar to the one featured in Wakefield. Though she worked there for just over a year, the strange and amazing kids she met will forever serve as a well of inspiration.

Troy H. Gardner grew up in New Hampshire and graduated with a B.A. in English/Communications with a dual concentration in film and writing from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. He spent ten years working in the banking industry dreaming up numerous stories to write. When not writing, which is seldom, Troy busies himself jet-setting from Sunapee, NH to Moultonborough, NH.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Stacking the Shelves (3)

Stacking the Shelves is a meme by Tynga's Reviews to share the books you've recently acquired.

Wow, I had such a good week for books. Nothing last week, then 10 books arrived this week (9 in one day)!

For Review:

The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson
A Horse Called Hero by Sam Angus
Savage Drift by Emmy Laybourne

Thanks for Macmillian Children's Books!

Providence by Lisa Colozza Cocca

Thanks to Merit Press!


The Honor Trilogy by J. O. Grider - SIGNED!!
Thanks to YA Reads and J.P. Grider

The Fever Tree by Jennifer McVeigh
Thanks to Always YA at Heart and Berkley Trade


Hallowed by Cynthia Hand
Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor
Rage by Jackie Morse Kessler
Beautiful Chaos by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Life of a Blogger: Camping

Life of a Blogger is a weekly feature hosted by Jessi of Novel Heartbeat. Each week, we share a little about ourselves and our real lives so we can get to know the people behind the blogs!

This week's topic is camping. I freaking love camping! I didn't do it as much as I would have liked last summer (I blame an extremely stressful move in June), but this summer is going to be different.

I'm really lucky that the mountains are less than a one hour drive from my house. Have I mentioned I love mountains! They are gorgeous! And I'm only minorly afraid of being eaten by a Grizzlie.

The only camping story I have (besides a drunk friend being convinced that the thunder outside was actually a giant bear) is when I was on a hike. We had stopped trailside for lunch and I forgot to zip up my backpack after removing my lunch. When I went to put my trash back in my bag, a ground squirrel jumped right out of my backpack and scared me half to death! I guess he was looking for my lunch as well!


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Review: The Riverman

Title: The Riverman
Author: Aaron Starmer
Series: The Riverman Trilogy #1
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date: March 18, 2014
Source: I received a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

"To sell a book, you need a description on the back. So here's mine: My name is Fiona Loomis. I was born on August 11, 1977. I am recording this message on the morning of October 13, 1989. Today I am thirteen years old. Not a day older. Not a day younger."

Fiona Loomis is Alice, back from Wonderland. She is Lucy, returned from Narnia. She is Coraline, home from the Other World. She is the girl we read about in storybooks, but here's the difference: She is real.

Twelve-year-old Alistair Cleary is her neighbor in a town where everyone knows each other. One afternoon, Fiona shows up at Alistair's doorstep with a strange proposition. She wants him to write her biography. What begins as an odd vanity project gradually turns into a frightening glimpse into a clearly troubled mind. For Fiona tells Alistair a secret. In her basement there's a gateway and it leads to the magical world of Aquavania, the place where stories are born. In Aquavania, there's a creature called the Riverman and he's stealing the souls of children. Fiona's soul could be next.

Alistair has a choice. He can believe her, or he can believe something else...something even more terrifying.

This book left me unsure how I should feel about it. It wasn't what I expected, then it was, then it wasn't again and now I don't even know anymore. 

Here's what I do know:

This book has a bit of a retro feel. It's set in 1989, so I don't know if that counts as historical fiction or just retro. Either way, these were the days of floppy disks and duct taping a walkman to the handlebars of your bike.

I really wanted to know what was going on! Stramer had my attention and curiousity the entire way through. What was going on with Fiona? What was Aquavania? Who was the Riverman?

That book was dark for a middle grade. Maybe I'm just wimpy. But there were some pretty major themes going on for middle grade reader. Like missing children and child abuse.

I didn't like part of the ending. It was unnecessary and sad (probably).

Here's what I don't know:

What the heck happened with the ending!?! This book had one of those vague, I'm just going to leave you with unanswered questions. Like I actually turned the page to keep reading and all of a sudden he was thanking all the people. But what happened to Fiona? And Alistair? And Kyle? And Charlie? So many questions. I feel like I used to enjoy these vague endings, but currently I just feel a bit confused and deflated.

How I feel. I just don't know. I enjoyed most of the book, but the ending threw me sideways and now I just don't know.  I'm certainly harbouring some resentment.

EDIT: While looking at this one on Amazon, I realized it's part of the Riverman Trilogy. I thought it was a stand-alone and  I'm not sure how I feel about it.

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