Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Rebel Angels by Libba Bray

Rebel Angels (Gemma Doyle, #2)

Series: Gemma Doyle
Author: Libba Bray
Page Count: 576
Published: December 26th, 2006
Publisher: Ember
  4 Stars ★★★★

Gemma is going home for the Christmas holidays, and she's happy to know that her friends will be in the same city, so they can spend time together. This time is spent exploring the realms once again, seeing their dear friend Pippa once more, and eventually, searching for the Temple. The Temple must be used to bind the magic of the realms, and while Gemma agrees with this idea, others do not.

Gemma must deal with magical conflicts, family issues, and a young man named Simon for whom she might be developing feelings. Of course, nothing can be so simple when it comes to the realms and Gemma's life itself, so she has to face the dangers of London and shocking revelations. 

This sequel to A Great and Terrible Beauty was very enjoyable, as with the first book I loved the mix of magic, bits of romance, and the historical setting. Returning to Gemma's world, and the realms, proved to be a magical experience once again. 

The introduction of a new love interest created a new situation for Gemma, and it seemed to bring a love triangle, adding to her tensions with Kartik. As a fan of love triangles, I certainly approved, and I think the ways that both Kartik and Simon were so different from each other really added to Gemma's romantic struggles.

Of course, I can't forget to mention Gemma's friendship with Ann, Felicity, and the now deceased Pippa. It continues in Rebel Angels, and the girls work through differences of opinion, uncertainty, and strain on their friendship together throughout the book. Their loyalty to each other, including going along with lies to benefit the other, added another dimension to the characters and therefore to the book itself, making this a great read. 

This lost a star because I feel like it was a bit too long. There were times when scenes seemed to really drag on and on, and I felt like I was reading the same thing over and over again. I truly believe that this book could have conveyed all the important pieces of the plot, along with information concerning the various subplots, in a hundred pages less than the actual length of this book. 

Overall, this sequel to the first book in the Gemma Doyle series brought me back to the magical, historical world of Gemma and the problems that she must overcome. While parts seemed to drag on, the book was enjoyable and I will most likely read the last book in the series. 

I recommend this book to fans of YA historical fiction. If you like historical fiction with magic and a bit of romance, this book must be added to your to-read list.

Friday, 26 May 2017

50/50 Friday - Deepest/Most Shallow Book in the Contemporary Genre

This meme is hosted at The Butterfly Reader and Blue Eye Books

This week's topic is deepest/most shallow book in your genre of choice (message/fluff). 

Most Shallow

 Getting the Girl: A Guide to Private Investigation, Surveillance, and Cookery

Getting the Girl by Susan Juby was pretty shallow. I read it a long time ago, but I remember it being more humor-based than anything else.



There are several candidates for this position, but I had to choose Dreamland by Sarah Dessen. Abuse is a really serious issue and this book portrayed an abusive relationship, and at times broke my heart. 

Monday, 22 May 2017

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, #1)

Series: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Author: Benjamin Alire Saenz
Page Count: 359
Published: February 21st, 2012
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
  3 Stars ★★★

Aristotle doesn't have many friends. A fifteen year old boy living in Texas, the summer provides a welcome break from school. He meets Dante at the pool, when he offers to teach Aristotle how to swim. They start a close friendship that both will cherish and that will withstand misfortune, distance, and growing up.

The main characters in this novel, Aristotle and Dante, were definitely enjoyable to read about. The story itself is told through Aristotle's eyes, so the reader gets to know him a bit more than Dante. Aristotle is surprisingly mature for a fifteen year old, and he's dealing with his own issues at home, including his father's memories of the war, and his brother's absence. Dante, on the other hand, seems to have a simpler life, with a professor for a father and, as with Aristotle, a Mexican identity.

However, this book didn't really have a plot. The whole thing seemed more like a journal written by Aristotle than a novel. There didn't seem to be any main story line besides growing up, making friends, and discovering oneself. I personally prefer books with more defined plots, lots of action, or at least a central conflict. But this book lacked these elements. Even as a contemporary novel, it was almost boring at times in comparison to other contemporary books.

The dialogue between Aristotle and Dante was, in my opinion, unrealistic. Sure, they can be mature for their age. But the way they were speaking didn't seem typical of fifteen year old boys, even mature ones. I felt like I was reading dialogue between two university students, at times. While I'm not a fan of stereotyping people, particularly based on one's age, there's no denying that the behaviors common in teenage boys generally do not include pseudo-philosophical ideas or flowery language, as observed in this novel.

I can't say too much about the ending of this book without spoiling it, but I will say that I think the ending was rushed and unrealistic as well. Very little, through Aristotle's eyes and thoughts, was expressed throughout the book to even hint that the book may end this way. Considering that it concerns a fairly important part of Aristotle's identity, I was really disappointed that the book ended this way, or, that the author failed to include any hints or ideas throughout the book that may have pointed to such an ending.

On the positive side, I will say that I appreciate that this book tackled some tough subjects such as hate crimes, and it did so pretty well. I found myself devastated when one of the characters found themself targeted by bigots, and Aristotle's descriptions of the situation really tugged at my heart.

Overall, a contemporary novel with some interesting characters, but it falls short. There was lots of potential for this book to be absolutely, five-star level amazing, but the lack of concrete plot and unrealistic dialogue took away from my reading experience.

I recommend this book to fans of young adult books, contemporary novels, and stories about friendship.

Find Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe on Goodreads

Monday, 15 May 2017

The Reckoning by Kelley Armstrong

The Reckoning (Darkest Powers, #3)

Series: Darkest Powers
Author: Kelley Armstrong
Page Count: 391
Published: April 6th, 2010
Publisher: Orbit
  5 Stars ★★★★★

Chloe and her friends have taken refuge with Andrew, a man from Simon and Derek's past who is part of an organization against the Edison Group. The teens fear that the Edison Group will kill them, especially Derek, because their genetically modified powers seem to be out of control. But the Edison Group aren't the only people who think that they are dangerous: individuals in Andrew's group agree that they might be better off with the Edison Group. 

Their problems aren't just a matter of life and death. Chloe is dealing with some personal issues as well, such as her attraction to the two brothers. While she doesn't want to break Simon's heart after all this time, she can't deny that her attraction is leaning towards the werewolf boy, Derek. With their lives and their hearts at stake, the group has a lot to lose. 

In the conclusion to the Darkest Powers trilogy, Chloe doesn't know who she can trust. 

This is the third book I've read by Kelley Armstrong, and it certainly won't be the last. As with the first two books in this trilogy, I was absolutely captivated by the story of Chloe, a young necromancer, struggling with her powers and her feelings. 

As usual, Chloe's narration remained sincere and genuine, her voice making her identity as a fifteen year old girl certainly very plausible. I also like that she is portrayed as quite mature for her age, and that she deals with her problems generally in a very serious, thought-out way. She is a likeable character for sure, she's the kind of paranormal, teenage girl that readers of all ages will be cheering on from start to finish, from the first page to the last. 

Her friends, Simon, Derek, and Tori, return in this book as well. Tori is still a bit annoying, of course, not exactly getting along perfectly with the others, but the way that she changes and becomes more cooperative reflects the danger that she and the others are facing. Simon and Derek, brothers, and Chloe's love interests, remain unique and likeable in their own ways, and just as important to the story as they were in the previous two books. I really love both of them, but this book made me lean more towards Derek, just as Chloe did. The author did a great job of making me understand Chloe's feelings and choices, both related to romance, and unrelated to it as well. 

This trilogy made it possible for me to understand what it is like to be pursued by a scary organization! Yes, the characters' fear was very real, very important, and incredibly well portrayed. This made the book not only a paranormal romance, but suspenseful and thrilling. Chloe's struggles were an adventure, and I have to say that I'm sad that the trilogy is over. 

I recommend this trilogy to anyone who likes paranormal romance, especially if you're into young adult. If you want to read a book featuring a necromancer, this is a great pick. 

Friday, 12 May 2017

50/50 Friday - Character You'd Want / Not Want to Meet

This is a meme hosted at The Butterfly Reader and Blue Eye Books

This week's topic is character you'd want / not want to meet

Would not want to meet

 Wither (The Chemical Garden, #1)

I do not want to meet Vaughn, or anybody like him. Rhine's father-in-law from Wither is very creepy and just all around one of the least likeable characters, especially as you read book two (at the moment I am reading book three and I still hate him).

Want to meet

 Skulduggery Pleasant (Skulduggery Pleasant, #1) Nevermore (Nevermore, #1) Shiver (The Wolves of Mercy Falls, #1)

I'd want to meet several characters. These include Skulduggery Pleasant, Varen / Pinfeathers, and Sam / Grace. Yeah I know, I was only supposed to choose one. If I had to choose only one it'd be Skulduggery but I can dream of meeting many more, can't I?

Would you want to meet any of these characters? Who would you dread meeting? Also, who else struggles with choosing just one or two books when participating in these kinds of memes? :P

Monday, 8 May 2017

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, #1)

 Series: Throne of Glass
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Page Count: 404
Published: May 7th, 2013
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
  4 Stars ★★★★

Celaena is an assassin, living in a nation where a king has taken over, banned magic, and enslaved criminals like herself. One day, she is summoned from her work in the salt mines of Endovier and brought to Dorian, Prince of Adarlan, where he asks her to be his Champion in a competition for the King. Thinking of escape and a life beyond the salt mines, and eventually the castle, she accepts. 

She is brought to the castle, where she trains and takes part in tests against other Champions, leading up to a final duel to determine the winner. Much is at stake, if she loses, she may be sent back to Endovier. But her opponents are turning up dead, horribly mutilated in the hallways of the castle. Chaol, the Captain of the Guard, trains and spends time with her, and along with Prince Dorian, he thinks he might be dealing with feelings for the assassin. But romance will only make things more complicated for Celaena, as she realizes that more is going on in this castle than it seems. 

So originally when I saw this book, I didn't have much interest. I'm more into urban fantasy, vampires, werewolves, all that good stuff. After constantly seeing praise for this series, I finally gave in and decided I'd give it a try. 

I actually really, really liked this! I'm so happy that I ended up buying a copy, because if I had borrowed this from the library, I'd just end up getting myself the book anyways because it's the kind of book that you have to own, you have to see it on your shelves, you have to buy the next in the series, not just borrow it. What I mean is, it's the kind of book that even if it's not perfect, I enjoyed it enough that I'll probably end up re-reading it at some point. 

So I absolutely loved the world of Adarlan. I hated what the king had done, but the descriptions of the setting, and the history, seemed so real and well thought out. I was captivated by the people of Adarlan, and the royals, and the castle! Everything just seemed to make perfect sense in context, I never had to re-read passages to understand why something was going on, or even what was happening in the first place, as I often do with fantasy stories. Overall the setting was just amazing. 

And then there are the characters. Celaena, the main character, Adarlan's Assassin, was interesting, and likeable, and while I didn't like everything that she did, I always liked her. She was extremely determined and strong. I also have to mention that she was fairly feminine, which I appreciated because I've noticed that a lot of the more bad-ass characters, even female ones, are portrayed as masculine, therefore frequently equating masculinity with true bad-ass-ery. Of course, there's nothing wrong with being masculine, but to have a character be a nice mix of masculine AND feminine, with the feminine side portrayed as just as important as the other sides of her.... it was a nice change. 

The love interests, Chaol and Dorian, were both likeable as well, just as they were different. I thought they both had their qualities and I could see why they liked Celaena, and why she might like them both in return. I also like that they weren't just "ornaments" on the sidelines....the narration gave the reader a look into their thoughts every now and then which helped me to understand them better! I really appreciated this as well.

The other Champions, and the mysterious deaths, brought some suspense and tension to the book. Cain, a particularly unlikeable Champion, really stood out from the others (for obvious reasons), however this wasn't always a good thing, in my opinion. I won't say much because I don't want to give it away, but the way that the author focused on Cain....I knew what was going on with him chapters before the truth was revealed. 

Nehemia, the princess of Eyllwe, happens to be visiting the castle when Celaena is taking part in the competition, and they develop a friendship. This friendship brought out the softer side of Celaena, in my opinion, because she had empathy for what Nehemia and her people were dealing with concerning the King and his army, and this connection brought them together in ways that I thought made the book even better. The mix of romance and the love triangle with this friendship made for a great balance between the two forces, so the level of romance wasn't overpowering, but it remained significant enough for me, as a romance lover. 

I had a bit of an issue with the pacing at times. Some of the scenes seemed a bit drawn out, which annoyed me, and dropped this book from a five star read to a four star rating. 

Overall, I really enjoyed this fantasy novel. I loved that the main character was bad-ass and feminine at the same time, I think that the love interests were well written, and I loved the friendship between Celaena and Nehemia. While the pacing was a bit too slow at times, the mystery behind the Champions' deaths kept me reading. I am excited to read the next book!

I recommend this to those looking for great young adult fantasy reads. Even if you're not a big fan of fantasy, you might change your mind after reading this book!

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

2017 YA Releases that I am Excited to Read!

Hey everyone! I've noticed many intriguing 2017 YA releases discussed lately, and all of the hype has made me add a bunch to my to-read list! I thought I'd share a few that I am especially excited to read (when I finally get the money and time....).

So, in no particular order....

Caraval (Caraval, #1)

Caraval. The name rolls off the tongue nicely, don't you think? There was so much hype over this book, that I had to add it to my to-read list. The cover is lovely as well! 

The Beast Is an Animal

The Beast is an Animal. This book sounds deliciously dark and unique. I also really like the title and the cover. It might seem from all my ranting and raving about beautiful covers that I judge books based on their covers...I promise I don't! I just can't resist a cover like this. Or an intriguing title. I just can't!


RoseBlood. So this is a retelling of the Phantom of the Opera so of course I am going to want to read this. I love the Phantom of the Opera! I've also read some spoiler-type comments that make this book seem like something I would really enjoy.

Royal Bastards

Royal Bastards. I've recently gotten into fantasy books with royals and drama. This one sounds interesting because it includes crime and going on the run! 

Mask of Shadows (Untitled, #1)

Mask of Shadows. A genderfluid protagonist? Check! Fantasy world? Check! Lovely cover? Double check! Yeah, I'm reading this book. Not to mention that I was just approved to read it from NetGalley so....

What 2017 releases are you excited to read? Have you read any 2017 releases so far this year? What did you think?

Monday, 1 May 2017

Still Waters by Emma Carlson Berne

Still Waters

Series: N/A
Author: Emma Carlson Berne
Page Count: 212
Published: December 20th, 2011
Publisher: Simon Pulse
  3.5 Stars ★★★

Hannah has planned a secret trip to her boyfriend's family's lake house. She's hoping that having time alone with him will give her the courage to say that she loves him, and that they can spend some romantic time together before he leaves for college. But her boyfriend, Colin's, reaction to her surprise is less than enthusiastic. He starts to act uncomfortable and unsure, and Hannah becomes more and more worried as they drive to the mysterious lake house. 

When they arrive, it doesn't take long for Colin to start acting like another person entirely. Surrounded by eerie wilderness, with the nearest town almost a ghost town, Hannah wonders if she should fear for her safety. One thing's for certain... this trip is not turning out as she had planned. 

I love creepy books! The synopsis of this story made it seem similar to some kind of horror movie, with the haunted cabin in the woods, or the crazy murderer hiding in an abandoned building, waiting for naive teens to come along and act as prey. I made little theories on what would happen before I even opened the book. My theories didn't really come close to the actual conclusion of the book, which to be perfectly honest, I found a little bit disappointing. 

So first, a few good things about this book. I liked the characters. I liked Hannah, and while she wasn't the smartest at times, I thought she made the book seem a bit more realistic. In such a scary situation, nobody is going to be absolutely at their best, their minds are going to be running wild, they're going to be panicking. So, when she screwed up or made a less-than-stellar choice, I actually liked it because it made her seem more real, more like a person I could meet walking down the street than a super-intelligent, always prepared, basically fantasy-based person, that I read about in a lot of other books. 

I also think that the author did an amazing job with the descriptions. Descriptions of the settings, in particular, were very well done. The creepy atmosphere was conveyed effectively and added to the mysterious and sinister feel of the book, including descriptions of the almost ghost town near the lake house, the forest, and the lake house itself. 

I did have some problems with the book. First of all, the whole ghost town thing? While I thought it was interesting, it didn't really serve much of a purpose in the book other than to provide a creepy atmosphere. I kept waiting to find out how the town would connect to the story overall, but there didn't seem to be a truly important connection. This was kind of disappointing. 

I also had issues with the explanation behind Colin's behavior. I can't say much without spoiling it, but I will say that the way that past events had been covered up seemed a bit convenient, almost too easy. Colin's condition was explained way too easily in the end, and the idea that things could go back to normal, or what seemed like normal, so quickly just didn't make sense to me. 

Altogether, this was a story with a creepy atmosphere and an interesting mystery. While I had some issues with the ending and the importance of some of the settings, I liked that the main character seemed realistic and I enjoyed the descriptions of the settings. 

I recommend this to those looking for young adult thrillers. If you're interested in a short book with a creepy atmosphere, this book is for you.