Review: The Beautiful and the Cursed

The Beautiful and the Cursed (The Dispossessed #1) by Page Morgan
Release Date ~ May 14, 2013
Delacorte Books for Young Readers ~ Random House
ISBN13: 9780385743112
Review copy received from Random House Canada for review

Goodreads Synopsis:
After a bizarre accident, Ingrid Waverly is forced to leave London with her mother and younger sister, Gabby, trading a world full of fancy dresses and society events for the unfamiliar city of Paris.
In Paris there are no grand balls or glittering parties, and, disturbingly, the house Ingrid’s twin brother, Grayson, found for them isn’t a house at all. It’s an abandoned abbey, its roof lined with stone gargoyles that could almost be mistaken for living, breathing creatures.
And Grayson has gone missing.
No one seems to know of his whereabouts but Luc, a devastatingly handsome servant at their new home.
Ingrid is sure her twin isn’t dead—she can feel it deep in her soul—but she knows he’s in grave danger. It will be up to her and Gabby to navigate the twisted path to Grayson, a path that will lead Ingrid on a discovery of dark secrets and otherworldly truths. And she’ll learn that once they are uncovered, they can never again be buried.

The Beautiful and the Cursed is an incredible gothic story with features I enjoy having in a book, yet Page Morgan includes enough fresh content to completely captivate me while reading.

The first book in The Dispossessed series is a little bit historical fiction with some paranormal elements - but most of all, it's delightfully mysterious!

  1. A paranormal story featuring gargoyles:

    I've read all sorts of paranormal books (from vampires, to faeries, to werewolves, et al) but I've yet to read a story about gargoyles. I'm also less familiar with gargoyle mythology, so this was completely new and exciting to me as a reader. It's very cool to read about, and it really set this book apart from others for me. Gargoyles are seriously underrated!
  2. Unexpected characters:

    I honestly thought that I had Ingrid and her sister Gabby all figured out at the beginning of the story, along with the main male characters. So imagine my surprise when these characters (particularly the two sisters) ended up being completely unpredictable. There's much more to them than meets the eye, and I think they are going to continue to grow and develop in latter books and I can't wait to see what incredible fighters they become by the end.
  3. A creepy, macabre storyline:

    I like my books to be a little dark, because I find them more engaging that way. The Beautiful and the Cursed definitely did not disappoint in this way! There's so much going on with the mysterious murders, and I was racing along with Ingrid and Gabby to uncover what was happening in Paris. 
I'll admit that I'm not (yet) sold on much of the romance, because it all felt rather sudden and artificial in some ways. It just felt like there was too much, way too soon. But at the same time, I still felt drawn into it and I'm looking forward to the next book in this series to find out more of what happens and how the characters grow. 

So what I want to know from you is:
You just moved in to an old creepy house in Paris. Dead bodies of young women have been turning up in the city... do you go exploring to uncover the truth? How adventurous are you?

Keep reading for some very exciting news...

The second book in the Dispossessed series, The Lovely and the Lost, is coming out on May 13, 2014 which is exciting and SOON!

But for those of you who haven't read the first book (or you just want your own hardcover), I have a signed copy from when I met Page Morgan at a Random House Canada event last year for one of you lucky, lucky readers!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Waiting on Wednesday {37} We Were Liars

Jill @ Breaking the Spine hosts this weekly meme where we can share a book that we are so excited for and are anxiously awaiting their upcoming release!

This week my WoW pick is...

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Release Date ~ May 13, 2014


A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart. 

Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

I've heard from so many people who have already read We Were Liars, and I'm just dying to know all the secrets and twists in this book! It's so mysterious that I have to read it just to find out what everyone is talking about!

Will any of you be reading We Were Liars once it is released? Or is there just too much hype surrounding this book?


Review: The Story of Owen

The Story of Owen (Dragon Slayer of Trondheim #1) by E.K. Johnston
Release Date ~ March 1, 2014
Carolrhoda Books ~ Lerner Publishing Group
ISBN13: 9781467710664
E-galley received via NetGalley

Goodreads Synopsis:
Listen! For I sing of Owen Thorskard: valiant of heart, hopeless at algebra, last in a long line of legendary dragon slayers. Though he had few years and was not built for football, he stood between the town of Trondheim and creatures that threatened its survival. There have always been dragons. As far back as history is told, men and women have fought them, loyally defending their villages. Dragon slaying was a proud tradition. But dragons and humans have one thing in common: an insatiable appetite for fossil fuels. From the moment Henry Ford hired his first dragon slayer, no small town was safe. Dragon slayers flocked to cities, leaving more remote areas unprotected. Such was Trondheim's fate until Owen Thorskard arrived. At sixteen, with dragons advancing and his grades plummeting, Owen faced impossible odds armed only with a sword, his legacy, and the classmate who agreed to be his bard. Listen! I am Siobhan McQuaid. I alone know the story of Owen, the story that changes everything. Listen!

As much as I love YA books, it can be so difficult to find a book that I believe would appeal to a wide variety of readers. The Story of Owen is a book that I'm confident in recommending to all types of readers; it doesn't matter the reader's gender, age, or preferred genre. I firmly believe that this is a story that can work for anyone who appreciates fiction and is looking for a good book.

  1. Just a taste of fantasy:

    Dragons play a central role in The Story of Owen, yet this book isn't pure fantasy. There's just enough appeal for readers who like fantasy, yet it's grounded in reality so that those who prefer contemporary stories are sure to enjoy this book as well (regardless of how they feel about dragons). It's this really cool blend of two genres for a book with a very unique feel to it.
  2. The most incredible relationships:

    The Story of Owen is remarkable in how it portrays a number of relationships; from Siobhan's deep friendship with Owen, to her budding rapport with Sadie, to her relationship with her parents, to Owen's relationship with the (numerous) members of his family. They were all different but reflective of real life and deeply touching. I was particularly thrilled by the friendship between Owen and Siobhan, and I loved that this wasn't really a romantic love story - it's a nice change of pace!
  3. A story about sacrifice:

    I think nearly each and every character in this book had to give up something, as evidenced by the masterful storytelling in The Story of Owen. It's heartbreaking to find out what each of these characters has sacrificed, but it's beautiful at the same time. 
I did find, however, that there was a significant amount of build up to the story and that it seemed to take a while for the plot to really move forward. There's so much background put into the development and world building that it takes a while to really establish that which makes the beginning part of the book slower than the ending. 

But I have to say that as a Canadian growing up in Southern Ontario, I loved reading a book set in my neck of the woods! It was so cool to be able to picture in my head the exact places and locations where events in the story took place. Siobhan came across as a very realistic, individual type of character. She had her own interests and voice that stood out. And it is such a beautiful story, there are so many readers who will thoroughly enjoy E.K. Johnston's debut novel!


Review: The Winner's Curse

The Winner's Curse (The Winner's Trilogy #1) by Marie Rutkoski
Release Date ~ March 4, 2014
Farrar Straus Giroux ~ Macmillan
ISBN13: 9780374384685
ARC received from Macmillan for review

Goodreads Synopsis:
Winning what you want may cost you everything you love 

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions. 

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin. 

But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined. 

Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

The cover for The Winner's Curse is pretty (YES, it is) but it doesn't do the story justice at all. This story is, in a few words, devastating, gripping, and thrilling! I haven't stopped thinking about this book since I finished reading it. I've just been pining away for more!

The Winner's Curse is a low fantasy read, ideal for those who like a little bit of political intrigue and a great setting in their books.

  1. Low fantasy at its best:

    I love (all) fantasy books and while I prefer high fantasy, The Winner's Curse is a one of the best low fantasy books I've ever read. (Sidenote: I'm putting The Winner's Curse in the low fantasy category because while it's a fictional world, the way the world works is rational and real and doesn't contain magical or impossible elements). There's less suspension of belief for readers, which is fantastic for readers who are less interested by magic. While the world is fictional there are some aspects which reminded me of other historical settings.
  2. Oh my, swoons!:

    Do you like your romance to be epic?! Pick up The Winner's Curse - trust me. While the romance takes centre stage in this story, it also wasn't sappy or ridiculous. I was absolutely swept away by Arin and Kestrel and I couldn't get enough of these two. Most of all I loved how they tried to figure each other out, but still remained their rational thinking. And the tension just dragged on forever! So much tension that just wouldn't go away and it was brilliant. I liked Kestrel so much - she stood out on her own and had a vivid personality. She was such a clever girl, yet she had her own faults and she had to overcome those and work with it. But overall, Kestrel is an incredibly strong heroine.
  3. An explosive story:

    I couldn't get enough of the politics and culture incorporated in The Winner's Curse. I was enthralled by these little details, and I'm dying to know what happens to this world in the next book. The plot development was my absolute favourite part of this book! It is beautifully written and the story is so captivating. I am dreaming about this book, its characters, and its world. I cannot let it go. I'm in love with it too much.
The characters are flawed which is good, but this also means they aren't instantly likeable. My appreciation for them only grew over time as the story progressed and I was skeptical of Kestrel, in particular, at first. There were also a couple subplots that didn't seem to influence the main plot; maybe they'll come up in later books, but they didn't seem particularly relevant for this book.

The Winner's Curse was one of my favourite books released this year so far. I've rarely felt so invested in a book series before, and I have such high hopes for the next one! The situation Arin and Kestrel are put in is so difficult as they're both forced to question values and beliefs they've held for such a long time - The Winner's Curse is reading for that alone.


Waiting on Wednesday {36} The Merciless

Jill @ Breaking the Spine hosts this weekly meme where we can share a book that we are so excited for and are anxiously awaiting their upcoming release!

This week my WoW pick is...

The Merciless by Danielle Vega
Release Date ~ June 12, 2014


Forgive us, Father, for we have sinned

Brooklyn Stevens sits in a pool of her own blood, tied up and gagged. No one outside of these dank basement walls knows she’s here. No one can hear her scream.

Sofia Flores knows she shouldn’t have gotten involved. When she befriended Riley, Grace, and Alexis on her first day at school, she admired them, with their perfect hair and their good-girl ways. They said they wanted to save Brooklyn. They wanted to help her. Sofia didn’t realize they believed Brooklyn was possessed.

Now, Riley and the girls are performing an exorcism on Brooklyn—but their idea of an exorcism is closer to torture than salvation. All Sofia wants is to get out of this house. But there is no way out. Sofia can’t go against the other girls . . . unless she wants to be next. . . .

In this chilling debut, Danielle Vega delivers blood-curdling suspense and terror on every page. By the shockingly twisted end, readers will be faced with the most haunting question of all: Is there evil in all of us?

So I've been meaning to do a new WoW post for AGES and when I went to pick a book for this week, I had such a hard time choosing! There are so many great books coming out soon... but I quickly picked The Merciless!

I've been craving more scary books lately - but they can be so hard to find in YA. And I love that The Merciless considers the question of innate evil. That's a hotly debated topic, and I'm incredibly curious to see how The Merciless tackles such a tough question.

Also, I think this cover is so neat! Wouldn't it really pop on a bookshelf??

I'm curious - will any of you be picking up The Merciless? Or a story like this just too much horror for you? Anyone else interested in reading more scary books? 
And here's a really tough question - are some people just born evil? Is there a little bit of evil in all of us? I'm not too sure myself... but I think there might be. 


Review: Half Bad

Half Bad (Half Life Trilogy #1) by Sally Green
Release Date ~ March 4, 2014
Viking Juvenile ~ Penguin
ISBN13: 9780670016785)
ARC received from Penguin Canada to review

Goodreads Synopsis:
Half Bad by Sally Green is a breathtaking debut novel about one boy's struggle for survival in a hidden society of witches.
You can't read, can't write, but you heal fast, even for a witch.
You get sick if you stay indoors after dark.
You hate White Witches but love Annalise, who is one.
You've been kept in a cage since you were fourteen.
All you've got to do is escape and find Mercury, the Black Witch who eats boys. And do that before your seventeenth birthday.

The story in Half Bad is one bursting with emotion and tension. The writing is thoughtful, and Nathan's character stayed with me long after I finished reading this book.

  1. A story that simmers (slowly):

    The main character, Nathan, is absolutely filled with pent up emotions but the plot progression is fairly slow - don't expect action-packed excitement. Despite the external circumstances endangering Nathan, much of the story revolves around his internal struggles. I found that worked very well for the story in Half Bad, but you have to prepare yourself for a slow-moving plot.
  2. Harry Potter (without Hogwarts):

    Let me explain what I mean by this: Half Bad is not at all the same story as Harry Potter. However, it felt to me like it could very well be set in a similar type of world - but not Hogwarts. Think of the United Kingdom where there are social divides between witches, and the magic is subtly woven into the real world. More like the later books in Harry Potter where the Ministry of Magic takes a more prominent role in the story. The way the magic works is interesting as well, because it isn't exactly something that can be learned but more like a skill inherited or gifted to the witch. 
The story isn't quite told in chronological order though, and I found it jarring at times to jump around in the book's timeline. There were some ways in which it was effective and kept my focus narrowed on certain aspects of the plot. But overall, it felt mostly jumbled to me as a reader. 

I was most confused by the second person narration used briefly on occasion. Second person narration is so hard for me to connect with as a reader! And it didn't feel like it added anything to the story. I had no problem relating to Nathan's character or his circumstances otherwise and the second person narrative was just confusing. And the use of this technique was so minimal, it seemed out of place.

That being said, Half Bad is a remarkably emotive book. Sally Green's storytelling is beautiful, and she touches on a wide range of issues and feelings with it. I felt a complete connection to Nathan and I was fully invested in what happened to him. For that reason alone, I would recommend reading Half Bad along with the benefit of a curious magical world. This story is utterly heartbreaking and the events endured by Nathan are horrific and shocking - which is why his story has stuck with me. 


Review: The Diviners

The Diviners (The Diviners #1) by Libba Bray
Release Date ~ September 18, 2012
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers ~ Hachette Book Group
ISBN13: 9780316126113
Review copy received from HBG Canada

Goodreads Synopsis:
Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City—and she is pos-i-tute-ly ecstatic. It’s 1926, and New York is filled with speakeasies, Ziegfeld girls, and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is that she has to live with her uncle Will and his unhealthy obsession with the occult.

Evie worries he’ll discover her darkest secret: a supernatural power that has only brought her trouble so far. But when the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol and Will is called to the scene, Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer.

As Evie jumps headlong into a dance with a murderer, other stories unfold in the city that never sleeps. A young man named Memphis is caught between two worlds. A chorus girl named Theta is running from her past. A student named Jericho hides a shocking secret. And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened.

Libba Bray is a master of Young Adult paranormal (in my opinion) and The Diviners is perfect proof of that claim. The Diviners is a creepy, bold tale that will leave your heart pounding in anticipation.

  1. An eerie, macabre storyline:

    I'm the kind of person that likes to be scared... but just a little bit. And The Diviners struck a perfect balance between some of its more disturbing scenes and humour/mystery to ensure my nightmares weren't horrific.
  2. Part murder mystery, part ghost story:

    There's a difference between reading true crime and ghost stories, but somehow the lines end up blurred here. The evolution from one to the other is flawless with its gradual development and slow reveal of the mystery. And I liked the inclusion of both aspects, which are similar yet distinct, because it appealed to both my curious nature and my imagination.
  3. A real Roaring Twenties atmosphere:

    This is positively brilliant on Libba's part. I have rarely read a book with such a strong sense of atmosphere which completely consumed me, and without losing my interest. The incorporation of appropriate slang, attention to detail in the descriptions, and the setting itself all reflected the time period and it really stood out to me.
I had some mixed thoughts on the characters, however. I didn't love Evie but I didn't hate her, either. She's clearly a flawed character and far from perfect - I don't mind that at all and think that's a rather accurate reflection of a teenage girl. I don't want perfect characters. But I never felt like I truly connected with her, and I think that can partially be attributed to the sheer number of characters introduced and the switching points of view. For this reason, it also seemed to take a while for the plot to build, and overall that's where the book suffered.

Importantly, there were a few too many subplots which were briefly introduced yet without any follow up. It's clearly a set up for future books in the series, but I wasn't a big fan of the simple introduction without any development whatsoever. 

This story is so unlike other books I've read that even with its weaknesses, I adored it! It's an exceptional YA book, and Libba Bray has impressed me yet again with her talent for weaving a story and immersing me in the reading experience.


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