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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Waiting On Wednesday: Random House Winter 2014 Catalog

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill of Breaking The Spine in which upcoming, eagerly anticipated releases are highlighted on the blog.

This week, I've chosen to feature a few picks from the Random House Winter 2014 Catalog:

Being Sloane Jacobs by Lauren Morrill
Date: January 7, 2014
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Meet Sloane Emily Jacobs: a seriously stressed-out figure-skater from Washington, D.C., who choked during junior nationals and isn’t sure she’s ready for a comeback. What she does know is that she’d give anything to escape the mass of misery that is her life.
Now meet Sloane Devon Jacobs, a spunky ice hockey player from Philly who’s been suspended from her team for too many aggressive hip checks. Her punishment? Hockey camp, now, when she’s playing the worst she’s ever played. If she messes up? Her life will be over.
When the two Sloanes meet by chance in Montreal and decide to trade places for the summer, each girl thinks she’s the lucky one: no strangers to judge or laugh at Sloane Emily, no scouts expecting Sloane Devon to be a hero. But it didn’t occur to Sloane E. that while avoiding sequins and axels she might meet a hockey hottie—and Sloane D. never expected to run into a familiar (and very good-looking) face from home. It’s not long before the Sloanes discover that convincing people you’re someone else might be more difficult than being yourself.

Okay so, I'm not normally a contemporary girl, but I admit I love these trading places stories. The premise of Being Sloane Jacobs reminds me an awful lot of the stories and movies I loved growing up and I'd love to revisit this familiar plot again.

The Tyrant's Daughter by J.C. Carleson
Date: February 11, 2014
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From a former CIA officer comes the riveting account of a royal Middle Eastern family exiled to the American suburbs.
When her father is killed in a coup, 15-year-old Laila flees from the war-torn middle east to a life of exile and anonymity in the U.S. Gradually she adjusts to a new school, new friends, and a new culture, but while Laila sees opportunity in her new life, her mother is focused on the past. She’s conspiring with CIA operatives and rebel factions to regain the throne their family lost. Laila can’t bear to stand still as an international crisis takes shape around her, but how can one girl stop a conflict that spans generations?
J.C. Carleson delivers a fascinating account of a girl—and a country—on the brink, and a rare glimpse at the personal side of international politics.

The Tyrant's Daughter is not my usual kind of read at all, but I was immediately interested when I read the blurb. It's so rare that you see these kinds of reality-driven stories in YA and I think that's sad because they're a great way to enlighten yourself to real world issues.

The Glass Casket by McCormick Templeman
Date: February 11, 2014
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Death hasn’t visited Rowan Rose since it took her mother when Rowan was only a little girl. But that changes one bleak morning, when five horses and their riders thunder into her village and through the forest, disappearing into the hills. Days later, the riders’ bodies are found, and though no one can say for certain what happened in their final hours, their remains prove that whatever it was must have been brutal.
Rowan’s village was once a tranquil place, but now things have changed. Something has followed the path those riders made and has come down from the hills, through the forest, and into the village. Beast or man, it has brought death to Rowan’s door once again.
Only this time, its appetite is insatiable.

I didn't really get this from the synopsis from Goodreads, but I read elsewhere that The Glass Casket is meant to be a twisted retelling of Snow White, which sounds super cool. I've never actually ventured into Snow White retellings before so I'm really curious to read McCormick Templeman's (great name!) take on it.

The Mirk and Midnight Hour by Jane Nickerson
Date: March 11, 2014
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A Southern girl. A wounded soldier. A chilling force deep in the forest. All collide at night's darkest hour. Seventeen-year-old Violet Dancey has been left at home in Mississippi with a laudanum-addicted stepmother and love-crazed stepsister while her father fights in the war--a war that has already claimed her twin brother. When she comes across a severely injured Union soldier lying in an abandoned lodge deep in the woods, things begin to change. Thomas is the enemy--one of the men who might have killed her own brother--and yet she's drawn to him. But Violet isn't Thomas's only visitor; someone has been tending to his wounds--keeping him alive--and it becomes chillingly clear that this care hasn't been out of compassion. Against the dangers of war and ominous powers of voodoo, Violet must fight to protect her home and the people she loves. From the author of Strands of Bronze and Gold comes a haunting love story and suspenseful thriller based on the ancient fairy tale of Tam Lin.

I was first made aware of the fairy tale of Tam Lin from Amanda's awesome feature at the beginning of this year and I've been curious about reading a retelling of it ever since. The Mirk and Midnight Hour fits the bill perfectly. And it helps that Jane Nickerson's Bluebeard retelling, Strands of Bronze and Gold, received favourable reviews.

How about you? Are you waiting on any of these Random House Winter 2014 reads? Are there any upcoming books from the Random House Winter 2014 Catalog that I didn't include here that you feel I should add to my list?

Monday, October 21, 2013

Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Published: September 10, 2013
Pages: 433
Source: Bought
Rating: 5 Stars

Cath is a Simon Snow fan.
Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan . . .
But for Cath, being a fan is her life — and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.
Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.
Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.
Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.
For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?
Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?
And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

In short: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell made a fangirl out of me.
"Loving Simon isn't something one does alone or once a year at a convention - for thousands of fans of all ages, loving Simon Snow is nothing less than a lifestyle." - pg. 141

Fangirl is the story of my life (I am only slightly exaggerating here). It is seriously so, SO similar to my life's experiences as an obsessive and active fan in the Harry Potter fandom. The above quote is so apt because for a decade, loving Harry Potter WAS a lifestyle for me. I never wrote any fanfiction as I am no writer, but there was a period in my life when all I ever read extracurricularly was Harry Potter and Harry Potter fanfiction. And in fact, I did read a number of Harry/Draco slash fanfics in my time that were EERILY reminiscent of Cath's Simon/Baz slash fanfics.

I am not a contemporary reader by any means and more often than not my reluctance for the genre stems largely from a feeling of discomfiture for the realism and relatability of a story line or character. You see, I prefer to read for escapism, plots that are far and away from my own life story. Contemporaries have the ability of cutting right to my core, drudging up uncomfortable experiences from my past, and creating feels that are not necessarily welcome. And Fangirl certainly did all these things. But for once, the scarily relatable story line didn't make me feel totally uncomfortable. It made me feel content and fulfilled.

And I cannot speak highly enough of Rainbow Rowell for this. Not only did she completely NAIL what it's like to be hopelessly obsessed and entirely involved in a fandom, only to have it end and have your raison d'ĂȘtre end with it, but also what it's like to start over in an unfamiliar setting as someone who has intense social anxiety (which is something else that I personally found hugely relatable about Cath...). Reading Fangirl was at times uncomfortable for me in the way that I have come to associate with highly relatable contemporaries, but it was also deeply rewarding. I finished the last page with happy tears and an overwhelming sense of closure. And it's been a long time since I've had that experience with a book.

Okay, so you can probably tell that my love for Fangirl was highly subjective and dependent on my own personal experiences. So now let me say a few things that might be useful for those of you who may not be able to relate as strongly as I did to Fangirl: I haven't read characters and dialogue this charming since Anna and the French Kiss. Seriously. And for those of you who, like me, have been frustrated at the limited and repetitive selection of NA books available - THIS is the New Adult book we've been asking for! A NA book set in college in which the romantic interest ISN'T a goonbag - who knew?

So yes, I guess you could say Fangirl made a fangirl out of me (sorry for the cheese). But for real - Rainbow Rowell became one of my top favourite authors with just one book. And that makes me a fangirl for LIFE.

Other Reviews:
A Girl, Books, and Other Things
Just Another Story
Late Nights with Good Books

Author Links:

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Waiting On Wednesday: HarperCollins Winter 2014 Catalog

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill of Breaking The Spine in which upcoming, eagerly anticipated releases are highlighted on the blog.

This week, I've chosen to feature a few picks from the HarperCollins Winter 2014 Catalog:

The Promise of Amazing by Robin Constantine
Date: December 31, 2013
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Wren Caswell is average. Ranked in the middle of her class at Sacred Heart, she’s not popular, but not a social misfit. Wren is the quiet, “good” girl who's always done what she's supposed to—only now in her junior year, this passive strategy is backfiring. She wants to change, but doesn’t know how.
Grayson Barrett was the king of St. Gabe’s. Star of the lacrosse team, top of his class, on a fast track to a brilliant future—until he was expelled for being a “term paper pimp.” Now Gray is in a downward spiral and needs to change, but doesn’t know how.
One fateful night their paths cross when Wren, working at her family’s Arthurian-themed catering hall, performs the Heimlich on Gray as he chokes on a cocktail weenie, saving his life literally and figuratively. What follows is the complicated, awkward, hilarious, and tender tale of two teens shedding their pasts, figuring out who they are—and falling in love.

I admit my interest in The Promise of Amazing has a lot to do with that seriously cute cover. I can't help it. Contemporary romance isn't even a genre that I am normally drawn to, but I would give this one a go because of the cuteness of the cover.

No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen Hale
Date: January 7, 2014
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Small towns are nothing if not friendly. Friendship, Wisconsin (population: 688) is no different. Around here, everyone wears a smile. And no one ever locks their doors. Until, that is, high school sweetheart Ruth Fried is found murdered. Strung up like a scarecrow in the middle of a cornfield.
Unfortunately, Friendship’s police are more adept at looking for lost pets than catching killers. So Ruth’s best friend, Kippy Bushman, armed with only her tenacious Midwestern spirit and Ruth’s secret diary (which Ruth’s mother had asked her to read in order to redact any, you know, sex parts), sets out to find the murderer. But in a quiet town like Friendship—where no one is a suspect—anyone could be the killer.

I'm such a sucker for murder mysteries. They just suck me right in. I love trying to guess the murderer, but am always disappointed when it's too easy a solution. I hope No One Else Can Have You keeps me guessing right to the end!

Uninvited by Sophie Jordan
Date: January 28, 2014
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The Scarlet Letter meets Minority Report in bestselling author Sophie Jordan's chilling new novel about a teenage girl who is ostracized when her genetic test proves she's destined to become a murderer.
When Davy Hamilton's tests come back positive for Homicidal Tendency Syndrome (HTS)-aka the kill gene-she loses everything. Her boyfriend ditches her, her parents are scared of her, and she can forget about her bright future at Juilliard. Davy doesn't feel any different, but genes don't lie. One day she will kill someone.
Only Sean, a fellow HTS carrier, can relate to her new life. Davy wants to trust him; maybe he's not as dangerous as he seems. Or maybe Davy is just as deadly.

A girl who becomes ostracized when a genetic test proves she's destined to become a murderer? Oh yes, that is one intriguing premise! I am SO curious about Uninvited and I hope the story lives up to my high expectations!

Death Sworn by Leah Cypress
Date: March 4, 2014
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When Ileni lost her magic, she lost everything: her place in society, her purpose in life, and the man she had expected to spend her life with. So when the Elders sent her to be magic tutor to a secret sect of assassins, she went willingly, even though the last two tutors had died under mysterious circumstances.
But beneath the assassins’ caves, Ileni will discover a new place and a new purpose… and a new and dangerous love. She will struggle to keep her lost magic a secret while teaching it to her deadly students, and to find out what happened to the two tutors who preceded her. But what she discovers will change not only her future, but the future of her people, the assassins… and possibly the entire world.

Umm, can I read this one now?? Seriously, Death Sworn is COMPLETELY my kind of read. Or at least, I'm hoping it will be. And with assassins and magic and mystery, I'm finding it hard to believe that it won't be.

How about you? Are you waiting on any of these HarperCollins Winter 2014 reads? Are there any upcoming books from the HarperCollins Winter 2014 Catalog that I didn't include here that you feel I should add to my list?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Canadian Thanksgiving Thank You Giveaway

On October 14, 2013, Canadians will celebrate Thanksgiving and, just like I did last year and the year before last year, I would like to take the time to express how grateful I am to anyone who has ever read one of my reviews, left a thoughtful comment, or followed my blog. I have been blogging for going on 3 years now and it's still hard to put into words how much it means to me to have people who honestly seem interested in my hearing my thoughts on books and in engaging me in a discussion of my current read. Even more significantly, this year I began sharing more of my personal life on the blog and I can't say how amazing it has been to have the support of so many people as I started the next new chapter in my life. To everyone who left me words of support in the past few months, I thank you again and again. *HUGS*

This giveaway will be for old followers only. In other words, it is for people who were following my blog (via either GFC, RSS, Bloglovin, Feedly, or email subscription) prior to the announcement of this giveaway. One old follower will win...

Any Book (Old or Preorder) worth up to $15 CAD at The Book Depository!

1. To enter, leave a comment with your email
2. You must be an old follower to enter (either GFC or RSS or Bloglovin or Feedly or email subscription)
3. Open Internationally as long as The Book Depository ships to you
4. Ends the day after Canadian Thanksgiving on October 15 at 12:00AM EST
5. Entrants must be at least 13 years old
6. The winner will be emailed and will have 48 hours to respond with their address.

Good luck and thank you!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Review: Man Made Boy by Jon Skovron

Publisher: Viking Penguin
Published: October 3, 2013
Pages: 368
Source: For Review from Penguin Canada
Rating: 3.5 Stars

Love can be a real monster.
Sixteen-year-old Boy’s never left home. When you’re the son of Frankenstein’s monster and the Bride, it’s tough to go out in public, unless you want to draw the attention of a torch-wielding mob. And since Boy and his family live in a secret enclave of monsters hidden under Times Square, it’s important they maintain a low profile.
Boy’s only interactions with the world are through the Internet, where he’s a hacker extraordinaire who can hide his hulking body and stitched-together face behind a layer of code. When conflict erupts at home, Boy runs away and embarks on a cross-country road trip with the granddaughters of Jekyll and Hyde, who introduce him to malls and diners, love and heartbreak. But no matter how far Boy runs, he can’t escape his demons—both literal and figurative—until he faces his family once more.

In short: Man Made Boy by Jon Skovron is an original and endearingly humorous story.
It is so rare these days that I get to read a book that has a completely original plot. Read enough dystopians and they all seem to blend together; ditto with fantasies and paranormal. Now how about a story of the teenage son of Frankenstein's monster who sets out on a road trip with the granddaughters of Jekyll and Hyde? Nope, definitely haven't heard that one before. So Man Made Boy deserves major props for having a unique idea in fiction.

Man Made Boy is not a book that is meant to be examined too critically because there is a lot about the world Jon Skovron has created that makes very little sense. Instead, it is a book that is meant to amuse and that it did. The idea that there might be an underground community of monsters that makes their living putting on the most popular show on Broadway is an amusingly refreshing one. And amongst the unreality of all these monsters and ghouls lied a very technological plot that grounded the unreal-ness nicely.

I think my main issue with Man Made Boy was that the plot was a bit unfocused. There were long stretches of plot in which nothing much happens, punctuated by quick, easily solved instances of conflict now and then. It felt like the story was written on the spot, without an initial plan in place, and I personally prefer plots that have more direction. The writing wasn't my favourite either: it was very dialogue-heavy with just bare bones descriptions.

I can't say Man Made Boy was laugh-out-loud funny like I was expecting. But I was plenty amused while reading it as the story was very endearing at times, and that counts for something. I also adored Man Made Boy's very sweet and charming underlying message as it related to its very sweet and charming protagonist, Boy. Even though I had some issues with the execution of the plot, I enjoyed Man Made Boy overall and would recommend it to anyone looking for a humorous and easy read that doesn't take itself too seriously.

Author Links:

Monday, October 7, 2013

Top Ten Best and Worst Series Enders

This week's topic is...

Top Ten Best and Worst Series Enders

Though I have become a bit wary and tired of the myriad of series over the years - sometimes preferring to read a satisfying standalone - I can't deny that I am still by and large a series girl. There are few things more rewarding to me about reading than a well done and fulfilling series ender. And conversely, there are few things more frustrating about reading than a completely unfulfilling, anticlimactic, or incomplete series ender. So without further ado, here is my list of best and worst series enders:

The Best:
Shades of Earth (Across the Universe #3) by Beth Revis (My Review | Goodreads)
A solid and thrilling conclusion to an exciting series that never had a dull moment.

Monsters of Men (Chaos Walking #3) by Patrick Ness (My Review | Goodreads)
I really can't say why exactly I loved this series ender without revealing some serious spoilers. So just know that I thought it was PERFECT.

Clockwork Princess (The Infernal Devices #3) by Cassandra Clare (My Review | Goodreads)
I know people either loved or hated this ending, but I fall firmly into the LOVED camp. I couldn't have devised a more perfect ending for the beloved characters in this series.

Mockingjay (The Hunger Games #3) by Suzanne Collins (Goodreads)
Another divisive ending. I can't say Mockingjay was a perfect book as I did have my problems with it, as well, but I really couldn't see this trilogy ending any other way than it did. Katniss had just gone through way too much for a rosy ending.

The Return of the King (The Lord of the Rings #3) by J.R.R. Tolkien (Goodreads)
This is another one where I couldn't see the series ending any other way for the characters. Frodo had been through too much and I liked the realism.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Harry Potter #7) by J.K. Rowling (My Review | Goodreads)
I think at first I thought the epilogue was a bit too cheesy, but I've come to truly love it over the years. I want the best for my boy and the best he got.

The Worst:
Sever (The Chemical Garden #3) by Lauren DeStefano (My Review | Goodreads)
Boring and anticlimatic.

Reached (Matched #3) by Ally Condie (My Review | Goodreads)
Ditto. A series ender should go out with a bang! Not a whimper.

Requiem (Delirium #3) by Lauren Oliver (My Review | Goodreads)
Where was my closure?! I needed more resolution, especially for the love triangle. I feel like we were owed that for sticking with the series to the end and Lauren Oliver did not deliver.

Breaking Dawn (Twilight #4) by Stephenie Meyer (Goodreads)
The most anticlimactic of endings. Finally, I thought, Stephenie Meyer will deliver with a final epic vampire battle - NOPE. A battle solved WITH WORDS?! Sorry, not nearly exciting enough. The movie did the book a favour in this respect.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Review: The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas

Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Published: September 17, 2013
Pages: 464
Source: For Review from HarperCollins
Rating: 3 Stars

It all began with a ruined elixir and an accidental bolt of lightning…
Iolanthe Seabourne is the greatest elemental mage of her generation—or so she's being told. The one prophesied for years to be the savior of The Realm. It is her duty and destiny to face and defeat the Bane, the greatest mage tyrant the world has ever known. A suicide task for anyone let alone a sixteen-year-old girl with no training, facing a prophecy that foretells a fiery clash to the death.
Prince Titus of Elberon has sworn to protect Iolanthe at all costs but he's also a powerful mage committed to obliterating the Bane to avenge the death of his family—even if he must sacrifice both Iolanthe and himself to achieve his goal.
But Titus makes the terrifying mistake of falling in love with the girl who should have been only a means to an end. Now, with the servants of the Bane closing in, he must choose between his mission and her life.

In short: Though The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas seemed to have everything I love in my fantasy books, I needed more originality to make it stand out.
There's a fine line between enjoying a fantasy book that incorporates all the elements that you love in fantasies and being disappointed in a fantasy book because most of the elements are overused and cliched. Could be just a matter of mood. On paper, I should have loved The Burning Sky to pieces and maybe if I had read it at a different time, I would have. But instead of being of being comforted by the familiar tropes I have come to love in my favourite fantasies, I found myself annoyed that The Burning Sky had little to offer that was truly original.

The Burning Sky is your typical orphan prophesied to be really powerful and take on the dark overlord of the world story. Almost every spell, potion, and magical object in The Burning Sky has a corresponding match in the Harry Potter series. It really seemed to borrow heavily from the world J.K. Rowling created and that bothered me. Especially when the world building just FAILED in comparison to that in the Harry Potter series. It wasn't hard to follow or anything, but I didn't leave the reading experience with a complete understanding of it. The plot in The Burning Sky was also significantly less engaging than Harry Potter.

There was still enough interest from The Burning Sky to maintain my attention though. I loved the inclusion of elemental magic and the idea of the magical book, The Crucible (even if it wasn't wholly original either). And I was fond enough of the characters and romance. The narration alternates nicely between Iolanthe's and Titus' point of view and we get good opportunities to get to know both of them and see how their minds work. The romance was of the slow burn, love-hate variety that I like, but at times I wished we could move away from the romance and focus more on the larger plot and enemies at hand.

Overall, The Burning Sky seemed to have everything I love in my fantasy books. But I needed more originality from it to make it stand out. Because as it is, there is no way that it was going to win in a comparison with its book twin, Harry Potter. We already have a story like Harry Potter and it's excellent so we don't need a subpar version that is not as interesting or engaging - sorry if that sounds harsh. There were definitely some redeemable factors about The Burning Sky, but I am going to hold off on reading book two until I see how it fares in reviews.

Other Reviews:
Christina Reads YA
Lunar Rainbows
Paranormal Indulgence

Author Links: