Monday, December 31, 2012

Review: Born Weird by Andrew Kaufman

Publisher: Random House Canada
Pages: 288
Received: Received from Random House of Canada in exchange for an honest review

Release Date: December 26, 2012
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Goodreads Synopsis:

The Weirds have always been a little off, but not one of them ever suspected that they'd been cursed by their grandmother.

At the moment of the births of her five grandchildren Annie Weird gave each one a special power. Richard, the oldest, always keeps safe; Abba always has hope; Lucy is never lost and Kent can beat anyone in a fight. As for Angie, she always forgives, instantly. But over the years these so-called blessings ended up ruining their lives.

Now Annie is dying and she has one last task for Angie: gather her far-flung brothers and sisters and assemble them in her grandmother's hospital room so that at the moment of her death, she can lift these blessings-turned-curses. And Angie has just two weeks to do it.

What follows is a quest like no other, tearing up highways and racing through airports, from a sketchy Winnipeg nursing home to the small island kingdom of Upliffta, from the family's crumbling ancestral Toronto mansion to a motel called Love. And there is also the search for the answer to the greatest family mystery of all: what really happened to their father, whose maroon Maserati was fished out of a lake so many years ago?

My Review:

This book was so much fun to read and absolutely adorable! I have a huge thing for books that are all about family and the troubles they have and the journey they take to get through things together. This book epitomizes all that in such a short amount of pages, I felt myself wanting more from Kaufman, yet at the same time finding that he ended everything perfectly!

I was really surprised when I got this book and saw how small it was. It was a short story that I flew through in a couple of hours, I was taken in by Kaufman's writing and the world of the Weird family. Everything about this story stuck with me after reading it, there was a great amount of humour and yet a lot of emotion as well, having these siblings come together after years of not seeing or talking to each other, there are a lot of issues they need to work through together.

I really loved the quest these siblings took together, slowly we meet each of the five Weird children as they travel to pick one another up and we see how the "blursings" (curse + blessing) have impacted each of their lives in such a significant way. In such a short time Kaufman is able to bring about the lives of each of these children while they travel on a quest to cure themselves.

Kaufman also adds in a great mystery in this book, that of what happened many years ago to the Weird father. It was really interesting to see this family come together and learn about one another again and become a family once more after everything that happened. Kaufman tells this story in an interesting manner, going back and forth from past to present to show readers how everyone got to where they are now.

Everything about this book was just so beautiful and I felt that I learned things alongside these characters because many of the "blursings" are found in normal people (just these were exaggerated quite a bit...), and Kaufman really teaches how certain things can affect our lives as well. When you read this book I do say prepare to laugh a lot but also prepare to shed a few tears (I definitely did!) But definitely check this book out, with how quick it is to read it will stay with you and this is one I plan to reread again in the future!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Review: The Paladin Prophecy by Mark Frost

Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Series: The Paladin Prophecy #1
Pages: 560
Received: Received from publisher through NetGalley

Release Date: September 25, 2012
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Goodreads Synopsis:

Will West is careful to live life under the radar. At his parents' insistence, he's made sure to get mediocre grades and to stay in the middle of the pack on his cross-country team. Then Will slips up, accidentally scoring off the charts on a nationwide exam.

Now Will is being courted by an exclusive prep school . . . and is being followed by men driving black sedans. When Will suddenly loses his parents, he must flee to the school. There he begins to explore all that he's capable of--physical and mental feats that should be impossible--and learns that his abilities are connected to a struggle between titanic forces that has lasted for millennia.

Co-creator of the groundbreaking television series Twin Peaks, Mark Frost brings his unique vision to this sophisticated adventure, which combines mystery, heart-pounding action, and the supernatural.

My Review:

Okay, wow, this book was so much more than I was expecting it to be. I came into this book a little guarded because it was so big, and the cover was kind of meh for me (something I may walk past in a bookstore to be honest...)

This book opened up with a bang and Frost really gives you a lot of action and intrigue that keeps you reading. I loved how quickly everything moved in the beginning, I found it so hard to put down I just needed more information about everything going on. I will say that I did find the book to slow down quite a bit in the middle, there was a lot of information to process but something about Frost's writing kept me going and I was not disappointed. Just like it opened this book definitely ends with action and I can say that the way Frost ended the book will definitely bring readers back for more in Book 2. The story could have possibly been parsed a little bit in the middle, so that readers don't feel overwhelmed with information. I also felt that some things that happened didn't seem that important to the overall story, which made for a bit of a longer read.

I really liked that though this book is along the similar theme as many other YA books out there today (the idea of a child with special powers and someone is after them for that), I find that Frost takes his story to a different level. His writing style is interesting and continually leaves you wondering about everything in this world. I also really enjoyed that this takes place in the real world (with a few technological liberties of course...) I thought the technology aspect was really interesting and different, it made for some fun times.

A lot of the book revolves around the friendships that Will makes at school, in the beginning we see that Will is basically a loner with no friends in his hometown, but then he comes to this special school and all of a sudden he has made all these new friends and quickly he starts questioning RULE #5: TRUST NO ONE... I really loved how quickly these characters were there for Will (and one another) in times of trouble.

There was so much to this book, that I had fun reading it and I definitely suggest checking it out! Frost is well known for bringing in weird ideas and great twists and he definitely did that in this book, and now I am off to check out Twin Peaks to see more of Frost's great writing...

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Review: Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Series: Caster Chronicles #1
Pages: 563
Received: Bought own copy

Release Date: March 31, 2011
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Goodreads Synopsis:

There were no surprises in Gatlin County.
We were pretty much the epicenter of the middle of nowhere.
At least, that's what I thought.
Turns out, I couldn't have been more wrong.
There was a curse.
There was a girl.
And in the end, there was a grave.

Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she's struggling to conceal her power and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.

Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town's oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.

In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything.

My Review:

So I decided to finally pick this book up (after letting it sit on my shelf for months!) because I figured it needs to be read before the movie comes out. There has been so much talk about this series and really most of the things I've heard have been how amazing this series is. I will admit this book definitely has me interested in the rest of the series, but I found I wasn't completely enthralled with the book.

I thought it was really interesting that the book was told from Ethan's perspective because you get to see how a normal person reacts to being thrust into a supernatural world, but not being supernatural themselves. It was different, I'm used to reading books from the perspective of the person coming into the supernatural gift.

The main thing that kept me from loving this book was that it took so long to get into anything. I found that the book focused on describing everything and everyone in the town. I like when books focus on descriptions but I don't like when it seems like there is more focus on that then the story itself, and that is what I felt this book did.

I also felt kind of meh towards the character of Lena, I wanted her to do more about her situation. She sat there and talked about doing something, but then would complain that she couldn't. It took awhile for me to actually grow to even liking her, but I will admit by the end, I was feeling a little better about her characterization.

I did love the mystery to this book though. There was a lot of information about the past of Gatlin county that really had a lot to do with the present and I really enjoyed following Ethan and Lena as they learned about the history and what it had to do with them. What I really liked was the added in surprise that I can say I didn't see coming. There was a great influence of family in this book, with Lena's family being close in some ways and trying to be there for one another.

I can definitely see myself continuing with the next book, but it may not be for awhile. While the ending did leave me wanting more, I just feel that there are books I'm more interested in at the moment. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Review: Crewel by Gennifer Albin

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Series: Crewel World #1
Pages: 368
Received: Received from publisher through NetGalley

Release Date: October 16, 2012
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Goodreads Synopsis:

Enter a tangled world of secrets and intrigue where a girl is in charge of other’s destinies, but not her own.

Sixteen-year-old Adelice Lewys has always been special. When her parents discover her gift—the ability to weave the very fabric of reality—they train her to hide it. For good reason, they don’t want her to become a Spinster — one of the elite, beautiful, and deadly women who determine what people eat, where they live, how many children they have, and even when they die.

Thrust into the opulent Western Coventry, Adelice will be tried, tested and tempted as she navigates the deadly politics at play behind its walls.  Now caught in a web of lies and forbidden romance, she must unravel the sinister truth behind her own unspeakable power.  Her world is hanging by a thread, and Adelice, alone, can decide to save it — or destroy it.

My Review:

I was definitely intrigued when I heard about this book, the idea of women being in control of everything and everyone really caught my attention. Sadly, I was left a little disappointed with this story. Adelice is a special girl and when her parents realize what she can do they try their best to keep her under the radar, teaching her how to stay in the middle where no one will notice her. But in the end, something happens that brings her into the world of the Coventry.

I was really interested in the mystery behind everything, and the politics at play in this story, but I found that too many other things took over that. The romance part was a big thing, I felt that there were too many "partners" for Adelice and none of them were all that appealing to me. I just felt that each of the men had something that I just couldn't get behind (though I can't really say for certain what that something was). And then Adelice herself was a character I really could not connect with, I felt that there was not much characterization for her during this story and it really took away from everything.

I also found that there was a lot of description throughout the story rather than something happening in the story. I got lost at what was happening a lot of the time and really couldn't keep up with the different events and ideas being introduced. I wanted more information on the politics, that really was what kept me going. I also really liked how you never really knew who to trust, there were so many secrets that slowly unravelled during the story. Albin definitely did a great job with the world building in this book and that's what kept me going. World building is always difficult but I found that Albin described how the Coventry came about in great detail and that always brings a book higher up in my opinion.

The ending really picked up though and I am interested to see what will be next after what happened. I am a little hesitant about continuing on with the series, but I think I will attempt it just because there were parts of this story that really caught my attention. Even though I felt that I was disappointed with the story there was still some great mystery and political intrigue that may actually have me coming back for more.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Review: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon

Publisher: Harper Perennial
Pages: 639
Received: Bought own copy

Release Date: January 8, 2008 (this edition)
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Goodreads Synopsis:

One night in 1939, Josef Kavalier shuffles into his cousin Sam Clay's cramped New York bedroom, his arduous, nerve-racking escape from Prague finally achieved.

So begins the friendship and partnership that will create The Escapist, a comic strip about a Nazi-busting saviour who liberates the oppressed around the world. It makes their fortune and their name but Joe can think of only one thing: how an he effect a real-life escape for his family from the tyranny of Hitler?

My Review:

This book has been on my TBR list for the longest time, but it's such a large book that it was hard to find the time to actually pick it up, so I was happy when I got some time off work that I set this book aside specifically to read then. There is definitely a lot to this book, but even with the weight and the many descriptions the story itself makes it difficult to stop reading.

The book opens up with Kavalier and Clay meeting for the first time as Josef has just arrived in New York and Sam comes home to find him in his room, from there an unlikely friendship between these two cousins soon grows into a beautiful partnership. I really enjoyed watching these two grow and work together and seeing how close they become that they would be there for each other through everything.

I found myself getting very caught up in the emotions that Chabon brings out in the book. You really get a sense of what Josef is going through and Chabon really tugs at your heart as we watch him doing everything to bring his family to New York. What was really interesting was how the emotions came out through Josef's drawings of The Escapist and all his escapades, readers really see the anger with the Nazi's and what Josef wishes he can do in real life. This is a huge book, but Chabon really brings to life everything that happens and it takes place over such a long amount of time.

What really caught my attention with this book was the way the story is told through the life of comic books as well. You really see how something so small affected a nation in such a large way. I really enjoyed getting the history of how comic books came around and how these two boys changed things with their great idea of a superhero.

I also really enjoyed the character of Rosa, she was a great secondary character that helps Josef through a lot of things, the romance between her and Joe was beautiful and really grows through the book. But she also adds to Sam's story and really it feels like a great threesome when these characters are all together. Chabon really brings about a great story of friendship helping get you through the tough times.

This is a book I definitely recommend, just because of the emotions Chabon brings about. He really does a beautiful job bringing his story to life. Readers need to set aside a good amount of time to get through this hefty book, but it is a story that will stay with you long after you have read it.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Review: All the Broken Pieces by Cindi Madsen

Publisher: Entangled Teen
Pages: 304
Received: Was given an e-galley from the publisher

Release Date: December 11, 2012
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Goodreads Synopsis:

What if your life wasn’t your own?

Liv comes out of a coma with no memory of her past and two distinct, warring voices inside her head. Nothing, not even her reflection, seems familiar. As she stumbles through her junior year, the voices get louder, insisting she please the popular group while simultaneously despising them. But when Liv starts hanging around with Spencer, whose own mysterious past also has him on the fringe, life feels complete for the first time in, well, as long as she can remember.

Liv knows the details of the car accident that put her in the coma, but as the voices invade her dreams, and her dreams start feeling like memories, she and Spencer seek out answers. Yet the deeper they dig, the less things make sense. Can Liv rebuild the pieces of her broken past, when it means questioning not just who she is, but what she is?

My Review:

This book had an interesting premise, Olivia wakes up in a hospital with no memory of her past and what happened to put her in this situation. Add to all that, Olivia now has two voices in her head that are warring with one another and makes Olivia's decisions more difficult.

This story has a great mystery aspect to it, Olivia's parents are very protective of her and have up and moved her to this new town where no one knows her so that her life before remains a mystery. It was interesting how Madsen added the voices into the story, really making readers wonder what happened to Olivia in the accident that has made her like this. The dreams that Olivia has every so often is a really great build-up to the big reveal at the end, which though I saw coming was still a bit shocking.

The best part of this was the interactions between Olivia and Spencer, this romance is slow building  they have this adorable love-hate relationship that grows over time into an adorable friendship. Spencer is known as the bad boy but you can tell right away that there is more to him (a bit of a cliche in books, but I still enjoyed it). The one thing I did find was that once they became friends there was still a little too much of the on-again, off-again happening, it seemed like the characters were a little bi-polar with their feelings.

All in all, I did enjoy the story, Madsen added in a great mystery element and a really adorable romance (that wasn't immediate love at first sight can't get enough of each other type of thing). Though a lot of pieces of the story give away the idea of what happened to Olivia, it was still an interesting read with a really great premise!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Review: Ironskin by Tina Connolly

Publisher: Tor Books
Series: Ironskin #1
Pages: 304
Received: Recieved from publisher through NetGalley

Release Date: October 2, 2012
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Goodreads Synopsis:

Jane Eliot wears an iron mask.

It’s the only way to contain the fey curse that scars her cheek. The Great War is five years gone, but its scattered victims remain—the ironskin.

When a carefully worded listing appears for a governess to assist with a "delicate situation"—a child born during the Great War—Jane is certain the child is fey-cursed, and that she can help.

Teaching the unruly Dorie to suppress her curse is hard enough; she certainly didn’t expect to fall for the girl’s father, the enigmatic artist Edward Rochart. But her blossoming crush is stifled by her own scars, and by his parade of women. Ugly women, who enter his closed studio...and come out as beautiful as the fey.

Jane knows Rochart cannot love her, just as she knows that she must wear iron for the rest of her life. But what if neither of these things is true? Step by step Jane unlocks the secrets of her new life—and discovers just how far she will go to become whole again.

My Review:

A book that is a retelling of JANE EYRE, bring it on, I absolutely adored JANE EYRE when I first read back in my first year of university and it's what spun me into wanting to read more of the classics. I really enjoyed the little twist of the fey magic added in to this story, it brought about a completely new telling of such a classic love story.

What really stood out in this story is that how it focuses around Jane learning about herself, she has her own issues to deal with and I loved watching her grow throughout the story. A lot of this story was about the growing relationship between Jane and Dorie as well, their story was the center of everything and it was adorable to watch them grow together and learn from one another. Though there is a romance to the story it doesn't take over, the story was touching, and I loved what Jane learns about herself and how she deals with her life.

The writing in IRONSKIN is very similar to that of the classics, really bringing the story to life. Connolly describes the setting in such a way that you can put everything in it's place, and follow the characters around. It's not often I can map out a story in my head and I really enjoy being able to see and do what the characters do. What really interested me is that most of the book takes place in one setting, though Jane does travel a little bit, the main events happen at the Rochart house, and it was interesting to find out why.

This book takes some time to get into some interesting ideas, but I liked that because Connolly takes her time, letting the readers get to know the characters and understand the history. But as the story went on Connolly added in some interesting twists that I didn't see coming, Mr. Rochart's secret really surprised me, and it actually disturbed me a tiny bit. Connolly did a great job bringing this story to life, and I loved how classic it felt to me.

If you are a fan of JANE EYRE, I think this is a great read, and could even be a great introduction for younger readers into the classic genre.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Review: The Friday Society by Adrienne Kress

Publisher: Dial (Penguin)
Pages: 440
Received: Borrowed from a friend

Release Date: December 4, 2012
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Goodreads Synopsis:

An action-packed tale of gowns, guys, guns –and the heroines who use them all

Set in turn of the century London, The Friday Society follows the stories of three very intelligent and talented young women, all of whom are assistants to powerful men: Cora, lab assistant; Michiko, Japanese fight assistant; and Nellie, magician's assistant. The three young women's lives become inexorably intertwined after a chance meeting at a ball that ends with the discovery of a murdered mystery man.

It's up to these three, in their own charming but bold way, to solve the murder–and the crimes they believe may be connected to it–without calling too much attention to themselves.

Set in the past but with a modern irreverent flare, this Steampunk whodunit introduces three unforgettable and very ladylike–well, relatively ladylike–heroines poised for more dangerous adventures.

My Review:

This book definitely has caught the attention of the blogging world and exploded, I love the costumes of the girls on the cover and the steampunkness of it because this book definitely delves into the steampunk world. But the one thing that really brought this book to my attention was that the story is heavily focused on the three girls.

I loved the story of this book, there is a great mystery with murders happening around the city and in some way each of these three girls becomes involved, but the story is about so much more than just the mystery. There is so much about these three girls meeting one night and a growing friendship because of the murders. Each of the girls is unique and the bring something different to the story, but they all bring a fiery attitude and a sense of justice.

This story was such a great adventure of a book but really what this book is about is female empowerment. This book really revolved around the friendship of the three girls, the little romance that was there was far in the background and it was nice to see a book where the women did things for themselves and not relying on men. I really loved the strengths of each of the girls, but my favourite had to be Michiko. She was such an amazing character, and for one who understands and speaks very little English she still had this way of communicating with the other characters. I also really liked that she had this way of trying to do things on her own and yet in the end coming to be part of this strong group.

The ending really ties up the story well, but still leaves it open for Kress to write a sequel if she wants (which I hope she does!) This book was a lot of fun to read, and I really loved how Kress brought out the female empowerment in her story! If you love mystery and action all tied up together in a nice package this is the book for you.


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