Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Review: Ink by Amanda Sun

Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Series: Paper Gods #1
Pages: 326
Received: Received an e-copy from the publisher through NetGalley/Edelweiss

Release Date: June 25, 2013
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Goodreads Synopsis:

On the heels of a family tragedy, the last thing Katie Greene wants to do is move halfway across the world. Stuck with her aunt in Shizuoka, Japan, Katie feels lost. Alone. She doesn’t know the language, she can barely hold a pair of chopsticks, and she can’t seem to get the hang of taking her shoes off whenever she enters a building.

Then there’s gorgeous but aloof Tomohiro, star of the school’s kendo team. How did he really get the scar on his arm? Katie isn’t prepared for the answer. But when she sees the things he draws start moving, there’s no denying the truth: Tomo has a connection to the ancient gods of Japan, and being near Katie is causing his abilities to spiral out of control. If the wrong people notice, they'll both be targets.

Katie never wanted to move to Japan—now she may not make it out of the country alive.

My Review:

I was really intrigued with this book, the idea of drawings coming to life definitely caught my attention, and when I saw that this was set in Japan it made me even more excited to read the book. It took me awhile to finally get around to it, but I have now finished it and I'm a little unsure about this book. There were a lot of great things about it, but I found it took awhile to really get into things with this story.

I think Amanda Sun really kept readers wondering with this book, it took awhile to learn about the characters. I will say as a beginning to a series she left a lot open to have people continue reading what comes next. I wasn't the biggest fan of Katie at times throughout the book though, she is an interesting character but I found her decisions at times stupid. She is tough and fights back but at times it felt that she was trying to act tougher than she really was and got herself in some really bad situations.

Tomohiro was a great character, he had an attitude that brought some humour and yet he also had an emotional side that took some time to come out, and only with those he really trusted. If I were someone like Katie, I would definitely be curious about Tomohiro, he has so many secrets and he has this air about him that makes you want to know more about him.

I just felt that there were things in this book that dragged along and it took too much time for things to be unveiled, and then before I knew it the book was over. This book is really more about introducing readers to the world of INK and really just seeing the characters begin to understand this danger they are in, rather than being thrown into danger right away.

I also really liked that the relationship between Katie and Tomohiro grows, not that things don't happen exceedingly fast still (they definitely do) but these two learn a lot about each other that helps the relationship along. After the ending of Book 1, I would like to see what will happen next, though at the same time I'm not yet completely invested in this series. I'm hoping that we get more information on Katie in the next book and understand more about her involvement in all of this. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Review: Allegiant by Veronica Roth

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Series: Divergent #3
Pages: 526
Received: Own copy

Release Date: October 22, 2013
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Goodreads Synopsis:

The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered—fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she’s known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories.

But Tris’s new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend the complexities of human nature—and of herself—while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice, and love.

Told from a riveting dual perspective, Allegiant, by #1 New York Times best-selling author Veronica Roth, brings the Divergent series to a powerful conclusion while revealing the secrets of the dystopian world that has captivated millions of readers in Divergent and Insurgent.

My Review:

I know there are a lot of reviews flying around about this book, but I just felt that I wanted to throw my two cents out there too ;) It has been some time since I finished reading this book, but I have been spending a lot of time thinking about how I really felt about what happened.

I loved DIVERGENT, and I enjoyed INSURGENT, but nothing prepared me for everything that happened in the final installment of this series. I had a few ideas of what would happen, but I didn't actually expect the actual ending to really come about. I found there was a lot of information that came out in this book that explained a lot about how the factions came to be. For me, I found myself getting confused with a lot of the ideas of the people on the outside, some of the explanations made me really have to re-read some things to understand exactly what was going on.

What I really loved about this series is the way the characters have grown since the beginning, especially Tris. I think in this book Tris is a completely different character and she has learned a lot about herself and others around her. The new ideas that come out change her views on the world but she is still the same person who loves those around her for what they are no matter what. Four got on my nerves a little bit with the way he acted when all this new information came out. I felt that at times he acted childish (in some ways I could understand, but it seemed that he was having a temper tantrum at one point).

And of course you can't not write a review of this book without talking about the ending. I know many people were very angry, which was a bit of a spoiler and gave me an idea of what was going to happen, but as I said... I still wasn't truly prepared for it, and yet when the incident didn't happen, I can honestly say that I wasn't angry and I actually understood why it had to happen for this story. For me, the ending really made me love the story because it gave me a different view on some of the characters and their motivations. I can see how the entire series was really leading up to that one major event with the way the characters acted.

Though there were some confusing things about this book, this may have been my favourite book of the series with the way things ended. I truly believe Veronica Roth spun everything in such a way that makes sense to me and though it was emotional it needed to happen. I'm sad to see this amazing series end. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Review: Perfect by Rachel Joyce

Publisher: Bond Street Books
Pages: 400
Received: Received a copy from Random House of Canada in exchange for an honest review

Release Date: November 5, 2013
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Goodreads Synopsis:

From the author of the international bestseller, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, comes another exquisite and emotionally resonant novel about the search for the truth and unconditional love.

On a foggy spring morning in 1972, twelve-year-old Byron Hemming and his mother are driving to school in the English countryside. On the way, in a life-changing two seconds, an accident occurs. Or does it? Byron is sure it happened, but his mother, sitting right next to him in the car, has no reaction to it. Over the course of the days and weeks that follow, Byron embarks on a journey to discover what really happened--or didn't--that fateful morning when everything changed. It is a journey that will take him--a loveable and cloistered twelve-year-old boy with a loveable and cloistered twelve-year-old boy's perspective on life--into the murkier, more difficult realities of the adult world, where people lie, fathers and mothers fight without words, and even unwilling boys must become men. Byron will have to reconcile the dueling realities of that summer, a testament to the perseverance of the human spirit and the power of compassion.

My Review:

I have heard so many amazing things about Rachel Joyce's writing, and this book seemed like a perfect story to curl up and read with a nice cup of tea. I really loved where this story went, this is a story about a boy whose life completely changes in two seconds. You never really think about how much can change in such a short amount of time, but after reading this story you really see how quickly something could happen.

There are so many different lives affected by this one incident, the novel switches perspective between Byron and a character named Jim, years after. As the story progresses these two narratives begin to come together and you see how they connect. It's interesting to see how after this event, Byron's whole life changes and revolves around finding out the truth of what happened that fateful day. In a way this one event causes Byron to grow up so much faster than he needed to, and really shows what he will do for his mother.

I really enjoyed that though Byron is an awkward kid but his friendship with James is such an intriguing part of the book. I loved the way the talked with one another and how James really helps Byron through so much. The dynamic they have is adorable, and I really loved their scenes together. James is completely opposite of Byron and yet these two fit so well together.

The parents are very damaged and Byron begins to see the reality of the lives of the adults around him, and it gives him a different perspective on life. Byron's mother was the one character who I just wanted more of, it is her relationship with Byron that really pushes this story forward and that really changes as the novel moves on.

Rachel Joyce has a way to her writing that really makes me love her characters, Byron is so special and I want to be the one who takes care of him. How these two seconds change his life is so hard to get through as you see him struggle with so much. The ending is amazing though and really brings this story together. I really wanted a little more to one scene, but I can't really talk about it without giving too much away. Altogether this is a beautiful story with characters that really stick with you in the end. I can't wait to read more from Rachel Joyce!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Review: Inheritance by Malinda Lo

Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Series: Adaptation #2
Pages: 480
Received: Received a copy from Hachette Book Group Canada in exchange for an honest review

Release Date: September 24, 2013
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Goodreads Synopsis:

The triangular spaceship hovered motionless in the sky above Reese Holloway’s house, as inscrutable as a black hole. It had seemed like a good idea when they were inside: to tell the truth about what happened to them at Area 51. It didn’t seem like such a good idea now.

Reese and David are not normal teens—not since they were adapted with alien DNA by the Imria, an extraterrestrial race that has been secretly visiting Earth for decades. Now everyone is trying to get to them: the government, the Imria, and a mysterious corporation that would do anything for the upper hand against the aliens.

Beyond the web of conspiracies, Reese can’t reconcile her love for David with her feelings for her ex-girlfriend Amber, an Imrian. But her choice between two worlds will play a critical role in determining the future of humanity, the Imria’s place in it, and the inheritance she and David will bring to the universe.

In this gripping sequel to Adaptation, Malinda Lo brings a thoughtful exploration of adolescence, sexuality, and “the other” to a science fiction thriller that is impossible to put down.

My Review:

I absolutely adored ADAPTATION when it came out last year, it was such a great concept and the ending left me wanting more, so when I had the chance to read INHERITANCE I was excited. INHERITANCE picks up exactly where book one left off, as Reese and David are preparing to give a press conference on their experience at Area 51.

I loved the detail that Malinda Lo goes into in this book and really makes you think more about what things are being hidden. Everyone in this book has secrets and I love seeing how Reese and David try to navigate through things together, only truly trusting each other with everything. Their relationship grows a lot in this book. Readers really understand a lot more about Reese and I love seeing why she has difficulties with so much.

You learn so much more about the Imrian race and what brought them to Earth. They were an interesting race and I think Malinda really made them real by giving such a detailed history. I was really intrigued with the characters and how they tried to help Reese and David learn more about their new abilities as well as teach them to master them.

There is also still the fallout between Reese and Amber happening around all this. Their relationship is very strained because of all the lies, and it makes things very difficult for Reese because as much as she doesn't want to she still cares for her. What I really loved is that Reese is dealing with issues that normal teenagers must face on top of this supposed government conspiracy and experiments.

This book was just as awesome as the first one, there are many more intense things that happen to Reese and David, and yet they stick together and help each other. I'm a little unsure with how I feel about the ending of this book, on one hand I loved the way certain aspects of the characters lives were described and we see what they decide to do with their lives, but I felt like I needed something else (though I can't put my finger on exactly what).

All in all I absolutely love this series and am sad to see it end, Malinda Lo created such an intriguing and heart pounding story, with characters that you can't help but love despite some of their downfalls. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Review: The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan

Publisher: Ecco
Pages: 608
Received: Received a copy from Harper Collins Canada in exchange for an honest review

Release Date: November 5, 2013
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Goodreads Synopsis:

Moving between the dazzling world of courtesans in turn of the century Shanghai, a remote Chinese mountain village, and the rough-hewn streets of nineteenth-century San Francisco, Amy Tan's sweeping new novel maps the lives of three generations of women connected by blood and history-and the mystery of an evocative painting known as "The Valley of Amazement."

Violet is one of the most celebrated courtesans in Shanghai, a beautiful and intelligent woman who has honed her ability to become any man's fantasy since her start as a "Virgin Courtesan" at the age of twelve. Half-Chinese and half-American, she moves effortlessly between the East and the West. But her talents belie her private struggle to understand who she really is and her search for a home in the world. Abandoned by her mother, Lucia, and uncertain of her father's identity, Violet's quest to truly love and be loved will set her on a path fraught with danger and complexity-and the loss of her own daughter.

Lucia, a willful and wild American woman who was once herself the proprietress of Shanghai's most exclusive courtesan house, nurses her own secret wounds, which she first sustained when, as a teenager, she fell in love with a Chinese painter and followed him from San Francisco to Shanghai. Her search for penance and redemption will bring her to a startling reunion with Flora, Violet's daughter, and will shatter all that Violet believed she knew about her mother.

Spanning fifty years and two continents, The Valley of Amazement is a deeply moving narrative of family secrets, the legacy of trauma, and the profound connections between mothers and daughters, that returns readers to the compelling territory Amy Tan so expertly mapped in The Joy Luck Club. With her characteristic wisdom, grace, and humor, she conjures a story of the inheritance of love, its mysteries and senses, its illusions and truths

My Review:

I love books revolving around families and what a journey does Amy Tan take readers on in this book. This is a very long book but it takes place over such a large span of years and really brings the characters to life. I really appreciated the length of this book because I really got to know Violet and see her grow and learn more about herself as she deals with a lot of bad luck.

After losing her mother, Violet has to learn to stand on her own two feet and she is thrown into a dark part of the world of Shanghai. With some help from an old friend, Violet grows and starts out on her own quest for love, and she learns that not everything is perfect. As events happen, Violet begins to understand what her own mother may have gone through and she begins to forgive this woman who she has not seen in years fro the mistakes she made.

Amy Tan brings out how difficult it was back in the early 1900's to be half Chinese and half-American, they are not received well and it greatly affects Violet's life when she learns the truth about her heritage. I loved Violet and her approach to things, she is very strong willed and always has her mind set about what she will do. She goes through life wanting approval from people, she has had difficulties truly believing in love because she is not really sure how to show it.

What I really enjoy is how we get a view of both Violet and her life in Shanghai, and also we get a view of what brought Violet's mother Lulu to Shanghai in the first place. I think learning about Violet's mother teaches us a lot behind Violet's character. Amy Tan really uses this story to show a beautiful connection between mothers and daughters, and what learning to love can show us about life. The ending was absolutely beautiful, and really brings the story together, as all these reunions begin to take place and Violet finally learns about love and letting the walls down so that people are able to really see her.

For more information on Amy Tan and The Valley of Amazement, check out the Harper Collins Canada website.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Review: The First Phone Call From Heaven by Mitch Albom

Publisher: Harper
Pages: 272
Received: Received an e-copy from the publisher through Edelweiss/NetGalley

Release Date: November 12, 2013
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Goodreads Synopsis:

The First Phone Call from Heaven tells the story of a small town on Lake Michigan that gets worldwide attention when its citizens start receiving phone calls from the afterlife. Is it the greatest miracle ever or a massive hoax? Sully Harding, a grief-stricken single father, is determined to find out. An allegory about the power of belief--and a page-turner that will touch your soul--Albom's masterful storytelling has never been so moving and unexpected.

Readers of The Five People You Meet in Heaven will recognize the warmth and emotion so redolent of Albom's writing, and those who haven't yet enjoyed the power of his storytelling, will thrill at the discovery of one of the best-loved writers of our time.

My Review:

I think I will always love a Mitch Albom book, his stories just really let me think about a lot of things in life. This book was definitely an emotional one for me, and I think it is one of my favourite stories of his. This book tells the story of a group of people from a small town that begin receiving phone calls from loved ones who have passed away in the past few years.

What would you want to hear if you could talk to someone one last time, someone that was taken too soon from you, what would you want to say? This book deals with a lot of those emotions, and really has the belief of an afterlife, that these people are in a better place. I love all the emotions that you get from these characters, the different ways each of them react, some believing and others not.

Mitch Albom describes perfectly how well the media takes a hold of something and runs with it as far and long as possible, and how people will react to the idea of heaven. Mitch shows the views of people from all over the world, and from different religions coming together, some to celebrate this miracle and others who believe it to be a hoax. Mitch shows all the different religious members coming together to try and find an answer to this supposed miracle.

I really enjoyed how the story affected Sully, a man who has recently lost his wife and is now trying to help his son through this loss as well. This miracle seems like a hoax to him and he devotes all his time to finding out the truth. I was really touched with how the story progressed and I was quite shocked at the ending, and yet it really made me feel for what these people have gone through.

I was weary after reading Mitch Albom's last book, but I think this book has taken readers back to what Mitch is best at writing about. This is a beautiful book, but I can absolutely say it is not for everyone. Mitch Albom really tends towards the more religious and this book is about believing that those that we have lost are in a better place and are happy. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Review: The Daughters of Mars by Thomas Keneally

Publisher: Atria Books
Pages: 528
Received: Received an copy from the publisher through Edelweiss/NetGalley

Release Date: August 20, 2013

Goodreads Synopsis:

From the acclaimed author of Schindler’s List, the epic, unforgettable story of two sisters from Australia, both trained nurses, whose lives are transformed by the cataclysm of the first World War.

In 1915, two spirited Australian sisters join the war effort as nurses, escaping the confines of their father’s farm and carrying a guilty secret with them. Used to tending the sick as they are, nothing could have prepared them for what they confront, first near Gallipoli, then on the Western Front.

Yet amid the carnage, Naomi and Sally Durance become the friends they never were at home and find themselves courageous in the face of extreme danger, as well as the hostility they encounter from some on their own side. There is great bravery, humor, and compassion, too, and the inspiring example of the remarkable women they serve alongside. In France, where Naomi nurses in a hospital set up by the eccentric Lady Tarlton while Sally works in a casualty clearing station, each meets an exceptional man: the kind of men for whom they might give up some of their precious independence — if only they all survive.

At once vast in scope and extraordinarily intimate, The Daughters of Mars brings World War I to vivid, concrete life from an unusual perspective. A searing and profoundly moving tale, it pays tribute to men and women of extraordinary moral resilience, even in the face of the incomprehensible horrors of modern war.

My Review:

I am sad to admit that this is actually the first Thomas Keneally book I have read.... and I did enjoy this story, though I will admit to finding it a little tedious to get through at times. I was really interested in seeing how Keneally wrote about the war in this book, and I can definitely say that he makes you feel a lot about what these two characters go through over the years.

What really caught my attention with this book is that it is the story of two sisters who have gone off to be nurses in the war, so we really see a different side of the story. It's great to see a story that is more about a family relationship, these two girls, Naomi and Sally have not been that close and we really see how their relationship changes as they learn more about one another. Both of these girls go through a lot of trials and tribulations and deal with a lot of prejudices that make their time in the war difficult. Sally and Naomi are two completely different characters that deal with their situations in their own way, and I love that they still try and help one another through things.

The one little thing that made this book difficult was how long it was and at times I felt like things were dragging on a little too much. I think it took a little too long to get through some things, and really explaining the relationships that these sisters have with others as well as one another. The story switches back and forth from both of the sisters' perspectives as they begin different journeys in the war. There were a few times where I felt that the perspectives were similar and I couldn't tell which sister I was with.

The relationships these two sisters make are different and I really loved some of those secondary characters, the guys that the sisters fall for really show their different personalities. I was confused a little about how things were progressing, but I loved how they each saw things in a different way when it came to love.

I did really like the story that Keneally brought to life here despite the little issues I had, I think that he does an amazing job showing this side of the war that people really don't hear a lot about. There are a lot of scary events that happen, and you wonder how these characters were able to really get through it. The one thing that I found interesting is how Keneally has this way of showing that Naomi and Sally have this view of how their lives could have been different if certain situations had ended differently. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Review: Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen

Publisher: Gallery Books
Pages: 336
Received: Received an copy from the publisher through Edelweiss/NetGalley

Release Date: October 1, 2013
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Goodreads Synopsis:

A vivid and compelling novel about a woman who becomes entangled in an affair with Edgar Allan Poe—at the same time she becomes the unwilling confidante of his much-younger wife.

It is 1845, and Frances Osgood is desperately trying to make a living as a writer in New York; not an easy task for a woman—especially one with two children and a philandering portrait painter as her husband. As Frances tries to sell her work, she finds that editors are only interested in writing similar to that of the new renegade literary sensation Edgar Allan Poe, whose poem, “The Raven” has struck a public nerve.

She meets the handsome and mysterious Poe at a literary party, and the two have an immediate connection. Poe wants Frances to meet with his wife since she claims to be an admirer of her poems, and Frances is curious to see the woman whom Edgar married.

As Frances spends more and more time with the intriguing couple, her intense attraction for Edgar brings her into dangerous territory. And Mrs. Poe, who acts like an innocent child, is actually more manipulative and threatening than she appears. As Frances and Edgar’s passionate affair escalates, Frances must decide whether she can walk away before it’s too late...

Set amidst the fascinating world of New York’s literati, this smart and sexy novel offers a unique view into the life of one of history’s most unforgettable literary figures.

My Review:

I'm really loving these historical fiction books that revolve around strong characters in literature, this book reminded me a little of Studio Saint-Ex by Ania Szado (which was a beautiful book). I found this story intriguing, a side of Edgar Allan Poe that is unique and definitely keeps readers wanting more from the story.

I found parts of this story creepy and Cullen keeps readers wondering about what is really happening behind the scenes. Frances is an interesting character who has a lot to deal with in this book and the way she handles her situation is amazing and makes her such a strong person. Frances wants so much to become a writer to help sustain her and her family, but what readers want is not exactly what Frances can write. Then she meets Edgar Allan Poe and her whole world is changed, he is a disturbed character that no one can truly understand.

The setting of this book is so realistic and brings readers into a group of intelligent people, and it is continually shown throughout by the stimulating conversations that are placed in the story. All of the characters, main and secondary alike add so much to the story that it wouldn't be the same without any of them. But the character of Mrs. Poe is the most intriguing and mysterious.

She is a young girl who is made out to be very naive about the world around her, when you really see that she knows a lot more than many people think. I loved the dark undertone of this book with so many unnatural circumstances happening as the relationship between Edgar and Frances continues. This is one of those stories where there are secrets hidden everywhere that threaten so many people and you never know who is hiding what.

Cullen has written a very dark and yet romantic story here that will definitely be hard to forget in years to come. She has brought Edgar Allan Poe back to life and makes me interested in studying more about his life. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

It's Time for a Celebration!!

Wow, I can't believe it has been two years that I have been at this!!! Time flies so fast, and I am loving it, I'm still learning a lot about blogging, especially time management, I've been a bit off lately with reviews, with the new magazine I'm helping start, but I'm getting myself back into things!

This has definitely been a great year for me, and a lot of things are changing now. First I'm really excited that Inaccurate Realities is now live, a YA sci-fi short story magazine I helped work on with Christa (More than Just Magic) and Sara (Geek Girl's Book Blog) and we are a week away from our launch party, it's been a hard few months but this project is so much fun and I hope to see it grow more over the years. You can check out the cover of our first issue below... and we are hard at work getting Volume 2 ready for our readers! Also if you are in the Toronto area you should definitely stop by Bakka Pheonix for our launch party! Check out the details here

Another big thing for me is that I have recently started a new job. Sadly, I had to leave the publishing industry at the moment for something a little closer to home (though I am not giving up!!) to save some money. It's been hard especially leaving an amazing co-worker at my last job... It has been a very busy year, but I am really happy to celebrate this milestone with all of you, there have been so many great things over the past two years and I am so happy to still be going strong.

I want to thank all of you, readers for supporting this blog and I hope to be here for quite a few more years to come!! So as a thank you, I have a great giveaway for all of you! One person will win a book of their choice (INT as long as Book Depository ships to you!), and one person will have the chance to win a copy of the first issue of Inaccurate Realities (the awesome magazine I helped start with a few other bloggers!) Check it out below :)

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