Review: The Collector

The Collector (Dante Walker #1) by Victoria Scott
Release Date ~ April 2, 2013
Entangled Teen
ISBN13: 9781620612422
e-galley received from publisher for review

Goodreads Synopsis:

He makes good girls...bad. 
Dante Walker is flippin’ awesome, and he knows it. His good looks, killer charm, and stellar confidence have made him one of hell’s best—a soul collector. His job is simple: weed through humanity and label those round rears with a big red good or bad stamp. Old Saint Nick gets the good guys, and he gets the fun ones. Bag-and-tag.
Sealing souls is nothing personal. Dante’s an equal-opportunity collector and doesn't want it any other way. But he’ll have to adjust, because Boss Man has given him a new assignment:
Collect Charlie Cooper’s soul within ten days.
Dante doesn't know why Boss Man wants Charlie, nor does he care. This assignment means only one thing to him, and that’s a permanent ticket out of hell. But after Dante meets the quirky Nerd Alert chick he’s come to collect, he realizes this assignment will test his abilities as a collector…and uncover emotions deeply buried.

The Collector's basic premise sounds familiar - a bad boy, a love story, and its paranormal. But what makes The Collector so good is how Victoria has fun with idea and puts her own spin on it.

Told from the perspective of the bad boy, The Collector is surprisingly sweet, poignant, and hilarious and should work well for readers who enjoy paranormal books but want a fresh take on this genre.

  1. Dante's voice is all his own:

    This really stands out among other books, but Dante's voice is VERY distinct. He has his own sense of humour, his own quirks, and he sounds unlike any other character I've read. It really helped me get into his head and better understand his character, but I think it's going to be hit-or-miss for most readers. Some people just won't take to it at all, and that's a matter of taste. But I thought Victoria did an incredible job letting Dante take on a life of his own with his narrative.
  2. Gradual romance:

    Have you noticed how often this is one of my "reasons to read" when I like a book? I'm never a fan of insta-love, never ever. I like it slow and I love the anticipation from the build-up. I like that Dante is slow and steady, because it makes the romance more believable to me as a reader. It's like a slow burn, and I like it.
  3. Thoughtful character development:

    Dante undergoes a fairly drastic transformation in The Collector, and Victoria must be commended for her insight on the feelings and internal struggle of a teenager. And she handles Charlie's own transformation in a very different but interesting way. It has so much to do with that desire to be accepted by someone, and they are such fascinating characters. 
I mentioned earlier that not all readers are going to connect with Dante; he has his moments of being a jerk, and some readers just don't relate to that at all. And some of the lines are so cheesy, but I have the impression that they're supposed to be somewhat cheesy. It adds to the humour.

The plot also felt a bit too convenient for me. I didn't find it to be that surprising or shocking, but that barely took away from my enjoyment of this new series. It's a lot of fun, and a great new take on YA paranormal and the male perspective makes it stand out even more.


Waiting on Wednesday {35}

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...

Find Me by Romily Bernard
Release Date ~ September 24, 2013


"Find Me." These are the words written on Tessa Waye's diary. The diary that ends up with Wick Tate. But Tessa's just been found...dead.

Wick has the right computer-hacking skills for the job, but little interest in this perverse game of hide-and-seek. Until her sister Lily is the next target. Then Griff, trailer-park boy next door and fellow hacker, shows up, intent on helping Wick.

Is a happy ending possible with the threat of Wick's deadbeat dad returning, the detective hunting him sniffing around Wick instead, and a killer taunting her at every step?

Foster child. Daughter of a felon. Loner hacker girl. Wick has a bad attitude and sarcasm to spare.

But she's going to find this killer no matter what.

Because it just got personal.

Confession: I've had a long-standing obsession with crime shows. I grew up on Law & Order (you have no idea the nightmares I had as a kid thanks to that show), I read true crime stories, I've watched way too much CSI, and I saw every episode of Without a Trace (missing persons storylines are my favourite). And I'm currently busy with Criminal Minds (I know, I'm really slow getting behind this one).

I'm really loving seeing more of these types of books come out (mystery/thrillers) and so it shouldn't be surprising that FIND ME is at the top of my wishlist for 2013!

Anyone else who appreciates these stories as much as I do? They scare me silly, because they feel so real.

Review: Sever

Sever (The Chemical Garden #3) by Lauren DeStefano
Release Date ~ February 12, 2013
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
ISBN13: 9781442409095
ARC received from Simon & Schuster Canada at the Ontario Blogger Meet-Up

Goodreads Synopsis:

Time is running out for Rhine in this conclusion to the New York Times bestselling Chemical Garden Trilogy.
With the clock ticking until the virus takes its toll, Rhine is desperate for answers. After enduring Vaughn’s worst, Rhine finds an unlikely ally in his brother, an eccentric inventor named Reed. She takes refuge in his dilapidated house, though the people she left behind refuse to stay in the past. While Gabriel haunts Rhine’s memories, Cecily is determined to be at Rhine’s side, even if Linden’s feelings are still caught between them.
Meanwhile, Rowan’s growing involvement in an underground resistance compels Rhine to reach him before he does something that cannot be undone. But what she discovers along the way has alarming implications for her future—and about the past her parents never had the chance to explain.
In this breathtaking conclusion to Lauren DeStefano’s Chemical Garden trilogy, everything Rhine knows to be true will be irrevocably shattered.

For some reason, I was never dreading the end of this trilogy but I was immensely curious to see how things turned out and how the books would be wrapped up. Fever had a number of big reveals for us, and I was anticipating learning more about those reveals.

The Chemical Garden trilogy is one that has shocked me from beginning to end, and I applaud Lauren's thoughtfulness in writing these books. Yet they failed to completely resonate with me, and left me wanting more from them in the end.

  1. Rhine finds her independence:

    YAY! Awesome. I love that Rhine really has more of an opportunity in Sever to step out on her own, without really needing to rely on someone else (more specifically, without relying on any one boy). I don't think we see enough of this in YA, and I appreciate that Rhine takes the time to step back from relationships for a little while to figure out what her plan is, and then figures out who will be a part of that along with her. (I will add, however, that it takes a while for her to really get into this role, and the lead-in was far too slow. It takes her a little while to break those chains.)
  2. The introduction of additional, fascinating characters:

    I, for one, really loved both Reed and Rowan (how many people in this book have names that begin with "R"?) - I thought they both really added to the story and gave the plot a bit more depth. They both shed a bit more light on the world, and specifically on Vaughn. Plus they change Rhine's perception of people and her situation, and frankly I wish we had seen more of them earlier on in the series because they ended up being two of my favourites. They pulled at my heartstrings, and all those warm, fuzzy feelings (in sad ways). 
I finally realized why this series hasn't resonated with me the way I expected it to though. So much of this book feels very adult-oriented to me, particularly with regards to its themes and issues. I have a much harder time relating to the characters because of this, and as interesting as it is I just feel disconnected in the end.

The very nature of the world is one that forces Rhine (and other characters) to grow up far too quickly; there essentially is no childhood experience. And for that reason, I realized in Sever that I have a harder time connecting with this book and the series overall. We still see some evidence of Rhine's young age, with her conflicting feelings towards other characters. But this has dragged on for so long (the back and forth between the boys (especially), her sister-wives, and even Vaughn) in the series and in Sever in particular that I just stopped caring altogether.

And while I found many of the reveals to be fascinating, the ending felt like it was rushed and wrapped up too quickly. It surprised me, because very few things were left as open as I expected given the circumstances. And frankly some of the plot twists didn't shock me like they should have, because it seemed to me that they didn't have very big of an impact and weren't written as poignantly as the situation deserved.

Sever is a wild ride for sure, full of shocks and twists, and leaves you with a surprising amount of hope considering the dark world the characters live in. I loved that it isn't entirely a dreary experience, and that there can be some goodness found at the end of the all for Rhine and her story. It just lacked the punch it should have had as the end of a trilogy, but the introduction of new characters and an intriguing world were enough for me to still enjoy Sever.


Review: The Archived

The Archived (The Archived #1) by Victoria Schwab
Release Date ~ January 22, 2013
Hyperion ~ Disney Book Group
ISBN13: 9781423157311
ARC received from Hachette Book Group Canada

Goodreads Synopsis:

Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books.
Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.
Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what he once was, a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often—violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive.
Being a Keeper isn’t just dangerous—it’s a constant reminder of those Mac has lost. Da’s death was hard enough, but now her little brother is gone too. Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself might crumble and fall.
In this haunting, richly imagined novel, Victoria Schwab reveals the thin lines between past and present, love and pain, trust and deceit, unbearable loss and hard-won redemption.

Victoria's debut The Near Witch was a book so enchanting that I told myself I had to read anything she wrote afterwards. And luckily for me, The Archived is a book that appeals to my literary taste.

Victoria incorporates mystery, slight morbid curiousity, determined young woman, and an appreciation for the past in her newest release.

  1. Writing style that perfectly sets the mood:

    I praised Victoria's writing in The Near Witch for its whimsical yet eerie style that accurately reflected the unearthly setting. Victoria utilizes this talent of hers and applies it to The Archived - Mac's voice is distinctively Southern and strikingly mature in some ways and young in others. Her familiarity with The Archives is notable, particularly when contrasted with her frustration at home with her family. The reader doesn't just read Mac's words, but feels them and experiences them as much as a reader can.
  2. A ghost story...without ghosts?

    The Archived makes the comment a few times that Histories are not ghosts and explains the differences between the two. So while it may not be a story about ghosts per se, it has the distinct flavour of a ghost story and all the good things that come with one. It's very creepy at some points, and fairly dark.
  3. Reflections on living & the past:

    Mac spends a significant portion of the book pondering the meaning of life and death and what it all means to the dead and those they leave behind. And this is where I can best describe this book as making me feel terribly homesick! I am personally petrified by the thought of losing those I love dearly, and this is one of the key themes of the book and one of life's most personal struggles. We will all experience it in one way or another, and as Mac tries to make sense of her grief, all it made me want to do was give my grandparents and sister and everyone the BIGGEST hug and hold them close. It's just so raw and painful - very, very real. 
It took me a little while to adapt to the world though, and the reader is very much launched into it with little warning. Mac gradually explains bits and pieces of her world and involvement as a Keeper, and while that works well for staying away from any info-dumping or lengthy explanations,  it also makes for a rather confusing beginning to a book. 

I was a bit split on my impression of the villain as well. For the most part I thought it was clever and surprising, but about half of it seemed thrown it without much background or any hints. It was ultimately less fulfilling than I had anticipated. 

A good book will resonate with its reader, and make you think and most importantly, FEEL. I can't stress how well The Archived accomplished that with my experience reading it. It delivered as a breath of fresh air in YA, and I can't wait to read the rest of the series as well as Victoria's other upcoming books. 


Blog Tour: Poison

It was a few months ago when I first came across an upcoming release POISON by Bridget Zinn, and it wasn't too long after that when I heard that Bridget had passed away in 2011.

Poison was released last Tuesday, and although Bridget isn't with us to celebrate her book's release, it was so important to a number of her friends that they put together a blog tour to commemorate this occasion.

A group of authors, bloggers, and readers are participating in a blog tour for Bridget Zinn's Poison, and I'm honoured to be a part of that group today. You can find the full list of participating blogs here.

Because this was Bridget's first published book, we're talking about memorable firsts in our lives - although it was difficult for me to just choose one.

But I ultimately decided on a memory that changed the way I looked at blogging. I started book blogging in July 2011, and that September (only 2 months later) I had the chance to go to a Sarah Dessen signing in Toronto.

I've been reading Sarah's books for years - she was one of the first authors I would read religiously as a kid. I was thrilled to be able to meet Sarah at her signing, and spend a little bit of time with her in a smaller group setting just before the signing (through Penguin Canada). Sarah was so sweet and friendly, and it was one of the few times in my life I found myself literally starstruck! (You can even ask Angel from Mermaid Visions - she's the witness to this moment.) This was also the same night that I first met Angel.

And this was memorable for me because it changed the way I thought about blogging. It was the first time meeting an author whose work I adored, and meeting a new blogging friend. I guess it was the moment when it hit me that book blogging wouldn't just impact my online presence, but it would be a part of my "real life", too! I never dreamed how involved with it I would become or how many friends I would make, authors I would meet, books I would read, etc.

I haven't read Poison yet (I'm hoping to read it very soon). But I'm so glad that Bridget got to see the beginnings of her dream come to life as Poison began its road to publishing.

Poison sounds like such an enchanting read, and I'm a sucker for anything fantasy so I can't wait to pick it up! Until then, you can find out more about Poison and Bridget below, as well as enter to win a copy for yourself!

Sixteen-year-old Kyra, a highly-skilled potions master, is the only one who knows her kingdom is on the verge of destruction—which means she's the only one who can save it. Faced with no other choice, Kyra decides to do what she does best: poison the kingdom's future ruler, who also happens to be her former best friend. But, for the first time ever, her poisoned dart…misses. Now a fugitive instead of a hero, Kyra is caught in a game of hide-and-seek with the king's army and her potioner ex-boyfriend, Hal. At least she's not alone. She's armed with her vital potions, a too-cute pig, and Fred, the charming adventurer she can't stop thinking about. Kyra is determined to get herself a second chance (at murder), but will she be able to find and defeat the princess before Hal and the army find her? Kyra is not your typical murderer, and she's certainly no damsel-in-distress—she's the lovable and quick-witted hero of this romantic novel that has all the right ingredients to make teen girls swoon.

Purchase your copy 

Barnes & Noble
iTunes Bookstore 
Powell's Books 
Add Poison to your Goodreads pile! 

About Bridget Zinn
Bridget grew up in Wisconsin. She went to the county fair where she met the love of her life, Barrett Dowell. They got married right before she went in for exploratory surgery which revealed she had colon cancer. They christened that summer the "summer of love" and the two celebrated with several more weddings. Bridget continued to read and write until the day she died. Her last tweet was "Sunshine and a brand new book. Perfect." 
Bridget wanted to make people laugh and hoped readers would enjoy spending time with the characters she created. As a librarian/writer she loved books with strong young women with aspirations. She also felt teens needed more humorous reads. She really wanted to write a book with pockets of warmth and happiness and hoped that her readers' copies would show the watermarks of many bath time reads. 

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Teen Review: Devine Intervention

Devine Intervention by Martha Brockenbrough
Release Date ~ June 5, 2012
Arthur A. Levine Books ~ Scholastic
ISBN13: 978-0545382137
Review copy received from Scholastic Canada

Goodreads Synopsis
There is a great legend of the guardian angel who traveled across time and space for the human girl he loved, slaying those who would threaten her with a gleaming sword made of heavenly light.

This is not that story.
Jerome Hancock is Heidi Devine's guardian angel. Sort of. He's more of an angel trainee, in heaven's soul-rehabilitation program for wayward teens. And he's just about to get kicked out for having too many absences and for violating too many of the Ten Commandments for the Dead.
Heidi, meanwhile, is a high school junior who dreams of being an artist, but has been drafted onto her basketball team because she's taller than many a grown man. For as long as she can remember, she's heard a voice in her head - one that sings Lynyrd Skynyrd, offers up bad advice, and yet is company during those hours she feels most alone.
When the unthinkable happens, these two lost souls must figure out where they went wrong and whether they can make things right before Heidi's time is up and her soul is lost forever.
Martha Brockenbrough's debut novel is hilarious, heartbreaking, and hopeful, with a sense of humor that's wicked as hell, and writing that's just heavenly.

I knew as soon as I saw the cover and read the synopsis for this novel, that this would not be a normal guardian angel story. And that impression was completely right!

  1. Not the usual guardian angel:

    Like I said before, this is NOT the usual guardian angel story.  Jerome is not the perfect "guardian angel".  He is not described as being "incredibly attractive", and he's a lot more than just an angel.  He doesn't always give the best advice, and Heidi even gets fed up with him sometimes.  At the same time, Heidi's also not one of those girls that always needs saving, and boys do not come first on her priorities list.  These two characters made for a very different but enjoyable guardian angel novel.
  2. Shorter Timeline:

    The timeline for this book is a bit different.  It runs over the course of one night, instead of multiple days, like most books are.  This shorter span of time meant that the whole night was written in a lot more detail that what it would have been like, had this have happened over say, a week.  I liked this aspect quite a lot for that reason.  The extra detail made it that much more enjoyable.
  3. Heidi's character growth:

    The great thing about the short timeline is that it allows for concentration on the characters and their own personal growth.  In particular, there was a lot of this in Heidi's character.  I really liked that over the course of the novel, she became a much stronger character as a whole.  Through her struggle, she was able to change her view on a variety of things and grow up.  Her journey in this story is really what makes up the best parts of this book.     
I didn't really know what I was getting into when I started this novel, but I really enjoyed the experience.  I'd really recommend it if you are looking for something a bit lighter to read.


Review: Cursed

Cursed by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Release Date ~ September 18, 2012
Spencer Hill Press
ISBN13: 9780983157274
ARC received from publisher

Goodreads Synopsis:

Dying sucks--and high school senior Ember McWilliams knows firsthand. After a fatal car accident, her gifted little sister brought her back. Now anything Ember touches dies. And that, well, really blows. 
Ember operates on a no-touch policy with all living things--including boys. When Hayden Cromwell shows up, quoting Oscar Wilde and claiming her curse is a gift, she thinks he's a crazed cutie. But when he tells her he can help control it, she's more than interested. There's just one catch: Ember has to trust Hayden's adopted father, a man she's sure has sinister reasons for collecting children whose abilities even weird her out. However, she's willing to do anything to hold her sister's hand again. And hell, she'd also like to be able to kiss Hayden. Who wouldn't?
But when Ember learns the accident that turned her into a freak may not've been an accident at all, she's not sure who to trust. Someone wanted her dead, and the closer she gets to the truth, the closer she is to losing not only her heart, but her life. For real this time.

I grew up on X-Men, so I've been sympathetic to the touch of death concept since I was a kid (hello, Rogue). The idea has always fascinated me - I'm not really a touchy-feely kind of person, but never being able to touch someone (EVER) sounds terribly lonely. Even though the concept is familiar, I'm very impressed with how unique and fresh different authors can make it and I've been a fan of Jennifer's previous books and knew this was one I had to try out.

And while I enjoyed the conspiracy theory angle of Cursed, it wasn't quite as creative as I had hoped for yet still managed to be a quick and engaging read. It's fun and fairly light, but nothing spectacular and the disappointing part for me was how forgettable the book was in comparison to others.

  1. A protagonist all on her own: 

    The hardest part for Ember is that she's become so used to relying on no one but herself; she hasn't had much help from others in her life, and she's wary of trusting anyone. This makes her extremely independent and terribly lonely. But I think that's something to help form a sense of camaradie between Ember and readers who have felt that way before in their lives.
  2. Sisterly bond:

    Hands down my favourite aspect of Cursed was the relationship between Olivia and Ember. I loved that Ember was willing to do anything for Olivia, and how endeared Olivia was to Ember. You could really tell that they cared so much for each other, and added an interesting dynamic to the story. 
Unfortunately, I was less impressed with the romantic relationship between Hayden and Ember. He seemed like he came right out of a YA character cookie cutter, and didn't stand out from any other generic love interest. He was arrogant and a little snarky, but with a heart of gold - I was really hoping Jennifer would go for a different type of character with Hayden but that was not the case here. He's still cute and the tension between them is enticing, but I desperately wanted something new and different. 

The story also felt largely unfinished to me. There were a lot of interesting ideas introduced, and very few of them seemed to be followed through to their full potential for this to be a standalone. I have really enjoyed her other books though, and I think a large part of my issue with Cursed is that it just didn't stick with me and I was anticipating something as great as her other books. 

So this is a book that is easy and quick to read, and those who are less familiar with Jennifer's books or other standard YA fare may be more interested in Cursed than I found it. 


Review: Paper Valentine

Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff
Release Date ~ January 8, 2013
Razorbill ~ Penguin
ISBN13: 9781595145994
ARC received from Penguin Canada 

Goodreads Synopsis:

The city of Ludlow is gripped by the hottest July on record. The asphalt is melting, the birds are dying, petty crime is on the rise, and someone in Hannah Wagnor’s peaceful suburban community is killing girls.
For Hannah, the summer is a complicated one. Her best friend Lillian died six months ago, and Hannah just wants her life to go back to normal. But how can things be normal when Lillian’s ghost is haunting her bedroom, pushing her to investigate the mysterious string of murders? Hannah’s just trying to understand why her friend self-destructed, and where she fits now that Lillian isn’t there to save her a place among the social elite. And she must stop thinking about Finny Boone, the big, enigmatic delinquent whose main hobbies seem to include petty larceny and surprising acts of kindness.
With the entire city in a panic, Hannah soon finds herself drawn into a world of ghost girls and horrifying secrets. She realizes that only by confronting the Valentine Killer will she be able move on with her life—and it’s up to her to put together the pieces before he strikes again.

Paper Valentine is the book that has absolutely convinced me that Brenna Yovanoff is one of my new favourite authors. She has such a way with words, and you just know she's going to be awesome with such a fabulous first name (hehe)!

She has this rare talent to capture so much ambience with her words - from creepy, to ethereal, to utterly romantic. And I appreciate that she puts so much thought into her stories, giving them plenty of layers to peel back.

  1. Creepy plot (complete with ghosts):

    I like some of my books to be creepy, and creepy is one thing that Brenna writes so well. I was impressed with how much of the story was grounded in reality; girls going missing and turning up dead? That's real life and it is horrifying. A little bit of a paranormal twist, enhances the creepiness factor rather than detracting from it.
  2. Struggling with grief:

    One of my favourite aspects of Paper Valentine was how Hannah struggles with Lillian's death. She becomes increasingly aware of how complicated and messy their friendship was, and she's honest with herself about that. She struggles to balance the good memories with the bad ones, and trying to reconcile the little girl she once knew with the hurting teen her friend was at her death. This pain is very honest and real, and I appreciate how complex Brenna made their friendship and Hannah's grief.
  3. Complicated characters:

    Each character has their own flaws, their own struggles, and yet manage to stand out on their own as independent and life-like characters. I like how well this was done with Hannah and Lillian, as well as additional secondary characters like Finny and Hannah's sister. They can remind you so much of people you know, in both good and bad ways, and its a strength for the story. 
I simply adore Brenna's writing, because there really is something hauntingly poetic about it. I loved following along with the mystery, although I was admittedly a bit disappointed with the big reveal. I like a lot of build up in my mystery plots, but they really need to deliver at the end too. It wasn't enough to ruin the story for me, but it was a bit of a let down by the end. I recognize, however, that the main purpose of the story isn't so much about who the killer is or why he's killing girls as much as it is about relationships and grief. 

I highly recommend this read for anyone looking for something a bit different from the standard YA fare. I like that we're seeing more mysteries and thrillers, especially when they're as well done as Paper Valentine. 


Review: Magisterium

Magisterium by Jeff Hirsch
Release Date ~ October 1, 2012
Scholastic Press
ISBN13: 9780545290180
Review copy received from Scholastic Canada

Goodreads Synopsis:

On one side of the Rift is a technological paradise without famine or want. On the other side is a mystery.
Sixteen-year-old Glenn Morgan has lived next to the Rift her entire life and has no idea of what might be on the other side of it. Glenn's only friend, Kevin, insists the fence holds back a world of monsters and witchcraft, but magic isn't for Glenn. She has enough problems with reality: Glenn's mother disappeared when she was six, and soon after, she lost her scientist father to his all-consuming work on the mysterious Project. Glenn buries herself in her studies and dreams about the day she can escape. But when her father's work leads to his arrest, he gives Glenn a simple metal bracelet that will send Glenn and Kevin on the run---with only one place to go.

Magisterium is a portal fantasy book, which if done well usually ends up being REALLY GOOD. I was especially interested in this one because there’s a fantasy world on one side, and more of a dystopian world on the other which I think is a fascinating and fantastic blend of genres.

Unfortunately, I found Magisterium largely lacking in regards to both characters and its world. I had hoped for more, but found myself struggling with it for the most part as it didn’t deliver in either area to my liking.

  1. Two richly complex worlds – one dystopian, one fantasy:

    I could marvel at the creativity Jeff Hirsch exemplified here for hours. I was astounded at the uniqueness of the setting his book was set in. It is totally unlike anything I have ever read, with people with special abilities, creatures that blend the lines between animal and human, and some so beautiful yet twisted into something dark. I’d love to explore the Magisterium all on its own. We don’t get much of a glance at Glenn’s home, but we experience enough of it to recognize it as a fairly dark dystopian world. 

However, the main problems for me were that I didn’t get to experience enough of the world building as I would like to better understand the story and its circumstances and that the characters were not developed or likable enough for me to be invested in their story. Glenn was too cold and distant, which I can understand given her past, but a story told from the first person narrative should give me more of a glimpse at their vulnerability and I’d like to see them break through it. Perhaps that’s a personal preference of mine, but I didn’t enjoy Glenn for that reason. Likewise I felt Kevin’s sudden change in demeanor to be completely unlike how he had come across earlier on in the book. And he only became more distant as the story moved, again leaving me with very little to root for.

I need to care about the characters to care about the setting and therefore the story. I didn’t care about anything that much, and as a result I felt completely disconnected from the book. Which is unfortunate because I was extremely curious about the world it featured.


A Letter to Lena Haloway

**Heads up - this little letter has plenty of spoilers for the Delirium trilogy. Don't read if you don't want to be spoiled!

You can also check out my spoiler-free review of Requiem (although it will spoil you for Pandemonium and Delirium).

Dear Lena,

I hope you know that I mean all of this in the best way possible, after we have gone through so much together. All the way from Delirium to Requiem, and the novellas in between.

I'm always rooting for ya. I GET WHY this was so hard for you. You try to escape with the love of your life, he gets shot and you run away. You're convinced he's dead, only for him to miraculously show up again when you're with the rebound boy with no explanation as to WHAT THE HECK HAPPENED TO HIM. Then he continues to ignore and shun you, as if this is all your fault somehow?

I don't get him either.

But that's exactly the point. We don't GET him or why he's acting that way. I do get you. I read three books from your point of view. The thing is, the two of you would benefit so much from a little heart to heart. A little bit of give and take. Although it's likely going to take a lot of GIVING from both of you.

I really don't get why you're complaining about Alex sitting with some girl, when you're the one hanging off of Julian and engaging him in PDA whenever Alex walks into a room. At that point, I can understand why he'd try to stay away from you.

Also, for future reference: the worst time to have a heart to heart is in the middle of a battlefield in your old hometown. Probably not the best idea. Just my two cents.

I can understand being drawn to Julian at first. He's definitely likable and curious enough. When everything HURTS SO MUCH and you can't have what you really want, my gut reaction is to seek out any kind of comfort at all. But let's call a spade a spade, and acknowledge that Julian is the rebound boy, yes? He may be a pretty fantastic rebound boy but there was never any chance to get away from either boy.

Maybe it really is true that Alex has changed so much and so have you, that the two of you aren't the same and won't work the way you did in Delirium. (But I don't believe that.) And you may have TRIED to ignore the Alex-thoughts in the back of your head (and your heart) but you kept coming back to him, even in Pandemonium. And it just isn't fair to Julian, in that case, like you acknowledge at one point. But I just don't see how this is second love at all- it barely looks like love at all, beyond friendship.



Review: Gilt

Gilt (The Royal Circle #1) by Katherine Longshore
Release Date ~ May 15, 2012
Viking Juvenile ~ Penguin
ISBN13: 9780670013999
ARC received from Penguin Canada

Goodreads Synopsis:

In the court of King Henry VIII, nothing is free--
and love comes at the highest price of all. 
When Kitty Tylney's best friend, Catherine Howard, worms her way into King Henry VIII's heart and brings Kitty to court, she's thrust into a world filled with fabulous gowns, sparkling jewels, and elegant parties. No longer stuck in Cat's shadow, Kitty's now caught between two men--the object of her affection and the object of her desire. But court is also full of secrets, lies, and sordid affairs, and as Kitty witnesses Cat's meteoric rise and fall as queen, she must figure out how to keep being a good friend when the price of telling the truth could literally be her head.

Historical fiction is one of my THINGS. I love it! I could just eat it up with a spoon :) I’ve been reading it for years (historical fiction was one of my original favourites of reading – it’s one of the reasons I got hooked on books!) and I get giddy with excitement when I discover new YA historical fiction books – like Gilt!

Gilt is a delightful look at a real story, with some imagination to bring it to life and fill in the blanks we don’t have factual answers for. I love historical fiction for the way it brings history to life and gives us a way to relate to it. And there are so many different perspectives to it! There never really is one “right” answer.

  1. You’ll never think Tudor history is boring again:

    Tudor history actually isn’t boring at all. Not one bit! But I know that not everyone is as infatuated with history as some others are, and so the way Katherine Longshore brings history to life and from a youthful perspective is refreshing. Sometimes we forget that historical people were real at one time – they had similar struggles as we do, and teen ladies-in-waiting and queens are no exception. Catherine Howard is one of the least discussed of Henry VIII’s wives and I thought it was so neat that Katherine picked her to feature as a central character. And telling the story from her best friend Kitty? It worked perfectly for the book!
  2. Luxurious and twisted:

    It’s never lost on Kitty how different her life has become as Cat moves up the social ladder to become Queen of England. Everything is so glamorous – like the way we picture Hollywood and the upper class echelons in modern day. But that doesn’t mean that it’s all beautiful. The positions are precarious and gossip can kill you – literally. The struggle as a woman and their historical position in society is shown in a very real, terrifying way.
  3. Showcases the depth of friendship:

    Most of us have that friend – someone closer than a sister, like a “kindred spirit”. You don’t always love them, but you understand them and they you better than anyone else. How far would you go to protect your friend? From others? What about form herself? Kitty’s struggle to care for Cat and herself is as delicate a balance as there can be. Those of us familiar with history know how it ends, and that doesn’t make Kitty’s struggle any less difficult to read about. It’s heartbreaking to see a best friend self-destruct like that. And that last chapter? With some of Cat’s last words? One of the few things I’ll never forget from a book. They’re embedded in my brain. This is probably the first time I’ve ever felt an ounce of sympathy – or given any thought at all – to Catherine Howard. 

At the same time, it’s hard not to view Cat as a silly young girl in over her head. She always seems to be asking for trouble and it can be so frustrating to watch Kitty continually enable her in some ways. It’s the kind of situation where you want to shake the characters for making such dumb decisions. But that’s just part of the story and how things were. But I wish we had focused a little bit more on Kitty and her interests and her desires, even though I admittedly know that the story has to focus on Cat because that’s where Kitty was focused.

I can tell you that I’ll be watching Katherine Longshore for a long time and I’m already looking forward to her next Royal Circle book featuring Anne Boleyn! I’m hoping she can bring new life to an old favourite of historical fiction and if anyone can do that, it’s Katherine!


Review: The Dark Unwinding

The Dark Unwinding (The Dark Unwinding #1) by Sharon Cameron
Release Date ~ September 1, 2012
Scholastic Press
ISBN13: 9780545327862
Review copy received from Scholastic Canada

Goodreads Synopsis:
When Katharine Tulman's inheritance is called into question by the rumor that her eccentric uncle is squandering away the family fortune, she is sent to his remote English estate to have him committed to an asylum. But instead of a lunatic, Katharine discovers a genius inventor with his own set of childlike rules, who employs a village of nine hundred people rescued from the workhouses of London. Katharine is now torn between protecting her own inheritance and preserving the peculiar community she has grown to care for—a conflict made even more complicated by a handsome apprentice, a mysterious student, and fears for her own sanity. As the mysteries of the estate begin to unravel, it is clear that not only is her uncle's world at stake, but also the state of England as they know it. With twists and turns and breathtaking romance at every corner, this thrilling adventure will captivate readers.

The Dark Unwinding is a book that I find difficult to classify because of how well it blends different genres – there’s some steampunk, a bit of a historical fiction, and a healthy dose of mystery. Add just a dash of romance and you have a book that surprised me with how much I loved it (to pieces)!

Like Katharine, I was unsure of what to expect when I began The Dark Unwinding. I hadn’t heard of it until it showed up in my mailbox, but I grew to love her uncle’s English estate and all the characters as much as she did too.

  1. Creepy, spine-tingling scenes from beginning to end:

    The first chapter of The Dark Unwinding was likely my favourite of the whole book. I was instantly drawn in to the story, and my interest was piqued that I couldn’t put it down after reading those first few pages. Sharon Cameron writes creepy scenes SO WELL with just enough mystery to leave both Katharine and the reader guessing along the way. But the spine-tingling factor here absolutely cannot be ignored, and I loved that it continued throughout the whole book. There were a few scenes I felt like I was physically shuddering I was so bizarrely freaked out!
  2. Katharine’s open-mind and brave heart:

    All that Katharine knows is that she needs to send her lunatic uncle off to an asylum. Her deceased father’s brother, whom she’s never met, and she assumes it should be fairly straightforward. But she’s so caught off guard and she quickly realized that her uncle isn’t crazy at all. He’s different, but she spends so much time getting to know him and eventually finds more good in him than most people will ever find in others. This is a fascinating perspective of how we perceive concepts like intelligence and the way a human mind works. It was very thoughtful, and very convincing. I really appreciated the way Sharon portrayed Katharine and her uncle in this situation.
  3. Struggling with mysteries:

    Katharine has a number of puzzles to work out, as she’s left mostly in the dark and on her own to put the pieces together and uncover the truth. There are so many levels and issues to the plot in this aspect, and it has this old-school feel of a good mystery novel too. 

The romance here was also AMAZING. If you enjoy romantic tension as much as I do, and the build up to it – OH, THE ANTICIPATION!! – then definitely give The Dark Unwinding a chance. I couldn’t get enough of the romance because of that.

I would have liked to have seen a bit more character development in the minor characters because that was the one area I felt was lacking. The villain felt very one-dimensional to me, and it felt like a bit of a letdown to have so much mystery build to very little. And the cast of secondary characters could have stood from a bit more time in the book to really flesh them out more than they actually were.


Review: Soulbound

Soulbound (Legacy of Tril #1) by Heather Brewer
Release Date ~ June 19, 2012
DIAL ~ Penguin
ISBN13: 9780803737235
ARC received from Penguin Canada for review

Goodreads Synopsis:
Tril is a world where Barrons and Healers are Bound to each other: Barrons fight and Healers cure their Barrons' wounds in the ongoing war with the evil Graplar King. Seventeen-year-old Kaya was born a Healer, but she wants to fight. In Tril, and at Shadow Academy, where she is sent to learn to heal, it is against Protocol for Healers to fight. So Kaya must learn in secret. Enter two young men: One charming, rule-following Barron who becomes Bound to Kaya and whose life she must protect at all costs. And one with a mysterious past who seems bent on making Kaya's life as difficult as possible. Kaya asks both to train her, but only one will, and the consequences will change their lives forever.

My familiarity with Heather Brewer’s work was rather limited (having only read one book of hers) before I heard about Soulbound and it caught my interest with its unique take on fantasy. I’m always looking for new fantasy series to fall in love with, and Soulbound sounded as if it would be exactly that!

It’s hard for me to pinpoint exactly why I didn’t enjoy Soulbound, because so many of the elements I look for were there – a brave heroine struggling against her circumstances, plenty of training and fighting, plenty of romance (I don’t even mind a love triangle as much as I used to) including forbidden love, and a world to save. But it just didn’t work for me like I hoped it would.

  1. Kaya’s bravery and determination:

    I’m a sucker for those books that have young women struggling to overcome the limits society has placed on her. The kind where she really feels she has to PROVE herself and does exactly that. Kaya’s story fits perfectly within this archetype, and I really liked her for that reason alone. Plus, I like how much self-respect she has and that the romance was pretty good – she isn’t weak when it comes to this love triangle and manages to stay pretty true to herself. 

But part of the problem for me is that I wasn’t really sold on any of the characters. I liked Kaya well enough, but I didn’t love her. I admired her to an extent... but then it just felt kinda “mehhh...” for me. She didn’t come alive for me. There was nothing that made her stand out in my mind that felt uniquely Kaya-like. That sounds weird, but I grew up reading Tamora Pierce and since then I’ve sought out a number of books akin to those old favourites. And Kaya felt like a character mold rather than a character to me. Likewise with the boys, both who were interesting enough but they all just felt like archetypes instead of real people. And the love triangle was a bit too draining for me to enjoy the rest of the story, because it seemed to detract from the larger picture.

I also had a hard time with the setting. It never really felt explained or developed at all. I knew it was fantasy-ish but I had no clue about the history or politics or society. This is a deal-breaker for me, and Soulbound didn’t deliver. It felt glossed over and largely ignored to the point where it was nearly non-existent and completely forgettable.

I may just be curious enough to try the next one again since I still feel like there’s a lot of potential here.


Marissa Meyer's SCARLET Signing in Toronto

Quick heads up for those of you who are local: Marissa Meyer will be doing a reading of Scarlet, Q&A and signing at Indigo Yorkdale at 12:00 p.m. on Saturday, March 9th.

Raincoast Books is also hosting a little contest for it (see below).

So if I was lucky enough to have the opportunity, one of the questions I would ask Marissa Meyer is:

Writing is a very personal experience, and I think reading is an even more personal experience. A reader's perspective of a book is entirely subjective. I know that The Lunar Chronicles has a long history behind your experiences writing it, and I wonder if there's any overall idea or feeling you hope readers gain by reading your books? 

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