Book Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses

A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses #1) by Sarah J Maas
Release Date ~ May 5, 2015
Bloomsbury Children's
ISBN13: 9781619634442
ARC received from Penguin Canada for review

Goodreads Synopsis:
A thrilling, seductive new series from New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas, blending Beauty and the Beast with faerie lore.

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she's been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

Perfect for fans of Kristin Cashore and George R. R. Martin, this first book in a sexy and action-packed new series is impossible to put down!

Sarah J Maas stole the attention of readers everywhere when Throne of Glass came out, and I was one of the  many eagerly awaiting to see what her next series would be like. A Court of Thorns and Roses shares some similarities with Throne of Glass, but manages to stand on its own merits.

A Court of Thorns and Roses is a captivating story, with a fairy-tale feel to it with a mature perspective to it.

  1. A rich fae mythology:

    I loved that Sarah J Maas looked to traditional, older mythology for the fae in her books - these aren't the nice, little faeries that people tend to think of now. I liked that this was a darker story, with complex creatures - not all fae are the same, and there was plenty of variety and differences among them. This really added to the setting and the story, since so much of the book takes place in their lands.
  2. Engrossing characters:

    Not only is Feyre a fantastic protagonist, but the secondary characters are also remarkable in their own ways. Feyre's sisters were some of the most surprising characters to me, as they showed remarkable development despite my expectations and how little page space they were given in the story. And on top of that, many of the fae have important roles and are shown to be complex characters with their own motivations and personalities. No one is one-dimensional. Importantly, partially as a result of the depth of these characters, their relationships with one another are similarly complex.
  3. A high-stakes story:

    This is a book with a high level of maturity (for many reasons), but especially because of how intense the plot is and how much Feyre risks. Her life is very much in danger (at many points) but the stakes are even higher than that - there's a deeply emotional aspect to the story, as well. The plot moves along quickly and it will readily engage readers, but it's the type of story where you really need to prepare yourself - there are no easy solutions.
This is the type of book I would recommend to older or more mature readers, as its content is not appropriate for all readers nor will all readers appreciate it (it's fairly graphic, with respect to sexuality and violence). 

Sarah J Maas' writing is as spectacular as ever and her creativity is showcased through a rich world and developed story. It's precisely the type of book that will leave us all anxiously awaiting the next book in the series! Readers who enjoyed Sarah J Maas' other books are sure to appreciate her newest release.


Waiting on Wednesday {49}

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...

Court of Fives by Kate Elliott
Release Date ~ August 18, 2015

First of all - hello, you pretty cover, you. Nothing draws me in like a great cover and I'm a fan of the design on this one. Simple, yet intriguing! It's so different from what I'm used to seeing.

Second of all, I tend to appreciate books about class struggles and I love a good fantasy. Kate Elliott is a very experienced author, so I'm very curious to see what her newest release will bring!

Anyone else as excited for Court of Fives as I am? Can you survive the looooong wait until August? Or are you more excited about a different book this week? 


Book Review: Saint Anything

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen
Release Date ~ May 5, 2015
Viking Juvenile ~ Penguin Random House
ISBN13: 9780451474704
ARC received from Penguin Canada for review

Goodreads Synopsis:
Peyton, Sydney's charismatic older brother, has always been the star of the family, receiving the lion's share of their parents' attention and—lately—concern. When Peyton's increasingly reckless behavior culminates in an accident, a drunk driving conviction, and a jail sentence, Sydney is cast adrift, searching for her place in the family and the world. When everyone else is so worried about Peyton, is she the only one concerned about the victim of the accident?

Enter the Chathams, a warm, chaotic family who run a pizza parlor, play bluegrass on weekends, and pitch in to care for their mother, who has multiple sclerosis. Here Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance. And here she meets Mac, gentle, watchful, and protective, who makes Sydney feel seen, really seen, for the first time.

The uber-popular Sarah Dessen explores her signature themes of family, self-discovery, and change in her twelfth novel, sure to delight her legions of fans.

It is no secret that I'm a long-time fan of Sarah Dessen; I have often shared my love and great appreciation for her books (with some fangirling involved).

I love that Sarah Dessen has her own style of books - whenever I pick up one of her books to read, I feel like I'm wrapping myself in an old, comfortable blanket. And yet, her books never stop leaving an impression on me. Saint Anything was no exception to this for many reasons.

  1. An uncommon perspective:

    The main character in Saint Anything is Sydney whose older brother is currently in prison after he is convicted of drunk driving which left a teenage boy paralyzed. I have more often read books where the main character is injured in a similar type of incident, or they have a friend or family member who is the victim. So it was very interesting to read about how the offender's family was impacted by such an event, and to see how Sydney struggles to come to terms with these events and her relationship with her family.
  2. Heartwarming relationships:

    Sydney's new friendship, which begins in Saint Anything, was one of my favourite parts of the book. I love to read about strong non-romantic relationships, particularly when we can read about two female friends who truly care for each other and actively work to build one another up. That is rarer to read about in a book than I would like, so I was thrilled to see it here. I was also touched by how the Chatham family bonded together in general, and to see how well they tried to care for their family and friends.
  3. A realistic story:

    I usually enjoy fantasy books, but I always love how Sarah Dessen grounds her books in reality. Saint Anything is a story which is easy to relate to with characters that remind me of myself and of people I know. The resolution of the book isn't very surprising, but it is satisfying. It's also filled with just enough hope - the difficulties in life aren't glossed over, but it isn't unnecessarily pessimistic. 
But I really need to emphasize that despite the actions of Sydney's brother, this isn't the most thrilling book. It's engrossing and enjoyable, but readers looking for a fast-paced story likely won't be satisfied with Saint Anything. 

Saint Anything is a quiet sort of book - it isn't a busy, thrilling type which will grab everyone's attention. But it is touching and thoughtful and it offers a different perspective from the stories we may be used to reading. Moreover, it offers an important story which will hopefully leave readers with something to think about as they encounter the same types of peoples and stories in real life.


Book Review: Party Games

Party Games (Fear Street #52) by R.L. Stine
Release Date ~ September 30, 2014
St. Martin's Griffin ~ Macmillan
ISBN13:  9781250051615
ARC received from Raincoast Books

Goodreads Synopsis:
Her friends warn her not to go to Brendan Fear's birthday party at his family's estate on mysterious Fear Island. But Rachel Martin has a crush on Brendan and is excited to be invited. Brendan has a lot of party games planned. But one game no one planned intrudes on his party—the game of murder. As the guests start dying one by one, Rachel realizes to her horror that she and the other teenagers are trapped on the tiny island with someone who may want to kill them all. How to escape this deadly game? Rachel doesn't know whom she can trust. She should have realized that nothing is as it seems… on Fear Island.

R.L. Stine makes his triumphant return to Shadyside, a town of nightmares, shadows, and genuine terror, and to the bestselling series that began his career writing horror for the juvenile market, in the new Fear Street book Party Games.

I haven't read an R.L. Stine book since my Goosebumps days (I never actually read his Fear Street books!) so was a little bit anxious about how I would find Party Games. Would my sense of nostalgia take over? Or would I find myself disappointed and disillusioned?

  1. Surprising twists:

    As much as I thought I had predicted the story in Party Games, it turns out that I was wrong about a few things. This was a pleasant surprise to me, as I'm a firm believer that scary books should be surprising and they should be able to catch me off guard (or at least, they usually should). The surprise factor was good for me, and it was pleasantly surprising to find in Party Games.
However, the twists weren't enough to redeem the overall story for me. There wasn't enough to draw me in, and too much of it felt silly rather than scary. When a book doesn't take itself seriously, it's hard for me to take it seriously and with a book like this, that can really detract from the experience.

Party Games is a quick read which, partially due to its short length, lacks plot or character depth.
In one sense, though, this helps maintain a high level of suspense because it makes the characters more unpredictable. Without a good understanding of their character, it's harder to figure out how they might react or what they might do. But this certainly requires a certain level of suspended disbelief.

There's the nostalgic aspect to R.L. Stine's recent Fear Street release, and I think readers will fall into one of two groups: either they'll love it as they get to revisit old favourites, or they'll be disappointed by it since it lacks an engaging story.


Blog Tour: The Winner's Crime

The Winner's Crime (The Winner's Trilogy #2) by Marie Rutkoski
Release Date ~ March 3, 2015
Farrar Straus Giroux ~ Macmillan
ISBN13: 9780374384708
ARC received from publisher for review

Goodreads Synopsis:
Book two of the dazzling Winner's Trilogy is a fight to the death as Kestrel risks betrayal of country for love.

The engagement of Lady Kestrel to Valoria’s crown prince means one celebration after another. But to Kestrel it means living in a cage of her own making. As the wedding approaches, she aches to tell Arin the truth about her engagement…if she could only trust him. Yet can she even trust herself? For—unknown to Arin—Kestrel is becoming a skilled practitioner of deceit: an anonymous spy passing information to Herran, and close to uncovering a shocking secret.

As Arin enlists dangerous allies in the struggle to keep his country’s freedom, he can’t fight the suspicion that Kestrel knows more than she shows. In the end, it might not be a dagger in the dark that cuts him open, but the truth. And when that happens, Kestrel and Arin learn just how much their crimes will cost them.

The Winner's Curse was my favourite read in 2014, and so I had high hopes for its sequel. Never fear - The Winner's Crime was a perfect follow up, and it was just as stunning and intense as its predecessor.

  1. An emotional roller coaster:

    My heart could barely handle the events in The Winner's Curse, so you can imagine that I was already feeling a bit anxious reading The Winner's Crime. But it takes a very special story to make me feel this way, as I rarely feel as invested in the outcome of a book as I do with this one! I love these characters, and I desperately want things to turn out well for them!
  2. Extra world building:

    I'm a believer that a great fantasy book is built on a foundation of strong world building. In The Winner's Curse, this was well-done but we only saw the tip of the iceberg. The world is further developed in this story, as we see more of Valoria.
  3. Kestrel walks a fine line:

    Kestrel truly showcases her talents and intelligence as she delicately walks a fine line between two sides. She's so aware of the dilemma at hand, and how she refuses to let others control her. This puts her in a dangerous position, as she encounters other characters who may be able to outwit her careful plans. Kestrel risks so much, and for very little in return - so much of her character is revealed by her willingness to sacrifice. 

Now, every blogger on the blog tour is answering one key question - 
The ‘Winner’s Curse’ is an economics term that means you’ve gotten what you wanted – but at too high a price.  What would you pay too much for?

For me, I would pay too much for a peaceful life. Don't misunderstand me - I don't mean "boring". But I have put a lot of effort into trying to attain routine and consistency in my life. Maybe because I'm also a bit of a control freak? I'd pay way too much for the assurance of a peaceful future. 

To see what all the other bloggers had to say about this question, make sure to visit the other tour stops - view the schedule here!

You can also find out more about the series on The Winner's Trilogy website and even play the official Bite & Sting game!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Blog Tour: Shadow Scale

*I'm very excited today to be part of the Random House blog tour for Shadow Scale - keep reading for an exciting opportunity!

Shadow Scale (Seraphina #2) by Rachel Hartman
Release Date ~ March 10, 2015
Random House Children's Books
ISBN13: 9780375866579
ARC received from publisher for review

Goodreads Synopsis:
Dragons and humans battle in this breathtaking sequel to the acclaimed Seraphina by Rachel Hartman.

The kingdom of Goredd: a world where humans and dragons share life with an uneasy balance, and those few who are both human and dragon must hide the truth. Seraphina is one of these, a part-girl, part-dragon, who is reluctantly drawn into the politics of her world. When war breaks out between the dragons and humans, it is she who must travel the lands to find those like herself--for she has an inexplicable connection to all of them, and together they will be able to fight the dragons in powerful new and magical ways. 

As Seraphina gathers this motley crew, she is pursued by humans who want to stop her. But the most terrifying one chasing her, is another half dragon, who can creep into people's minds and take them over. Until now, Seraphina has kept her mind safe from intruders, but that also means she's held back her own gift. It is time to make a choice. Cling to the safety of her old life or embrace a powerful new destiny?

Seraphina is a gorgeously written and innovative fantasy book, and it's no secret that I loved it. The opportunity that we get to read more of Rachel Hartman's work, and as a follow up to Seraphina, is a privilege for all readers. Few books are as thoughtful and creative as Shadow Scale, which perfectly compliments the beauty of Seraphina.

  1. A unique fantasy world:

    Logic and reason play a central role in the world of Shadow Scale, and it's very interesting how Rachel has worked these characteristics into the world. The mythology behind Shadow Scale's dragons is innovative and thought out carefully. The world building in Shadow Scale is some of the best I have read, and it plays a fundamental role in the story as Seraphina ventures outside of Goredd. I love how important politics are to this world, and how they move the story along and left me quickly turning the pages to discover more.
  2. Complex, developed characters:

    Shadow Scale features a large cast of characters, but it's important to notice how much attention is given to such a large number of characters. Each have distinctive personalities, and I had no problem remember little details about them. Despite the fact that they can't all be as well-developed as the main character, the secondary characters are treated as complex, dynamic beings.
  3. A truly charming story:

    Considering I read Seraphina about three years ago, I was impressed by how much of the story I recalled as I was reading Shadow Scale. I became heavily invested in the lives of these characters, and I genuinely cared about what happened to each and every one of them. That made this an incredibly emotional read for me as well, as the plot is exciting and the stakes are high. 
But it's for this last reason that I also had one little struggle with Shadow Scale. There is an epilogue, which did not sit as well with me as I had hoped. I cared about these characters, so I wanted to know what happens to them. I want to know about their lives and the outcomes. But the epilogue just didn't fit the rest of the story and its characters. It felt more like simply trying to wrap up all loose ends from the story, rather than following through on the events told in the previous pages; an ending that didn't feel like it fit the rest of the story. It's a small thing to point out, and the rest of Shadow Scale is breathtaking. But for this reason, Shadow Scale had just a tad less charm for me than Seraphina. 

For those of you who are less familiar with Seraphina, it is a book with a slower pace than some readers may be used to reading. Please don't let that deter you - these are wonderful books, but they need to be accepted for what they are. They tend to be slower readers, but they're the type of books which can be savoured and thought over for a long time to come. I'm still thinking about Seraphina, because it's the type of book that sticks with you and leaves a lasting impression. 

Good luck!


Book Review: The Boy Next Door

The Boy Next Door by Katie van Ark
Release Date ~ January 6, 2015
Swoon Reads ~ Macmillan
ISBN13: 9781250061461
ARC received from publisher for review

Goodreads Synopsis:
Maddy Spier has been in love with the boy next door forever. As his figure skating partner she spends time in his arms every day. But she’s also seen his arms around other girls—lots of other girls. 

Gabe can't imagine skating with anyone but Maddy, and together they have a real chance at winning some serious gold medals. So, he’s determined to keep thinking of her like a sister. After all, he’s never had a romantic relationship that lasted for more than two weeks.

But when their coach assigns a new romantic skating program, everything changes. Will this be the big break that Maddy’s been hoping for or the big breakup that Gabe has always feared?

There are some books that I need to think about for a while after I finish reading them. The Boy Next Door was one of them, because while I mostly enjoyed my experience reading the book, there were a couple areas where I was left with mixed feelings.

  1. Good alternating perspectives:

    The use of alternating perspectives in a book can either be quite effective or it can completely distract from the story. But Katie van Ark uses the alternating chapters very well, as it reveals the private thoughts of the two main characters and their relationship with each other. The different perspectives highlights how differently two people can perceive the same events.
  2. An insider's view on figure skating:

    I'm completely useless at ice skating (as in: I can't do it at all. Worst Canadian ever!) and it was utterly fascinating to me to read about the world of competitive figure skating. I know nothing about it, and yet I was impressed with Maddy and Gabe's commitment to the sport and how The Boy Next Door introduced me to a whole new world. I obviously can't speak to the accuracy of the details in the book, but I certainly felt like this was a very involved, knowledgeable perspective. 
This is actually going to be a reason that is hit-or-miss for some people. But I certainly felt the tension between Maddy and Gabe the entire time I was reading, and I just had to know what was going to happen with them. It was certainly convincing to read about these two characters try to find themselves on the same page with each other. 

That being said, I ended the book with mixed feelings on Maddy and Gabe. They struck me as realistic characters (flaws and all) which is important, but there were some responses and comments made by each that I found hard to appreciate in the book. (I don't want to spoil anything directly, but I'll just say that Maddy's reaction to her bruises from figure skating was not one of which I was a fan.) Overall, I felt that some of this detracted from my overall experience. 

This is a book which is heavy on the romance (obviously since it's from the Swoon Reads imprint), but much of it is a true teenaged romance. The characters are fairly immature and have to mature as the book goes on. That isn't a bad thing at all - I think it's a positive for the book, because that's reality. But to an extent, it can make it harder for certain readers to completely connect with the story. At the end of the day, not enough of the book stuck with me over time although I enjoyed reading it at the time. 

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