Monthly Archives: September 2013

ARC Review – The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle #2) by Maggie Stiefvater

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Title: The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle #2)
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Rating: ★★★★ 1/2
Synopsis: Now that the ley lines around Cabeswater have been woken, nothing for Ronan, Gansey, Blue, and Adam will be the same. Ronan, for one, is falling more and more deeply into his dreams, and his dreams are intruding more and more into waking life. Meanwhile, some very sinister people are looking for some of the same pieces of the Cabeswater puzzle that Gansey is after…

Huge thank you to Netgalley and Scholastic for allowing me the chance to review this book.

While I wasn’t huge on her Wolves of Mercy Falls series, I found myself still attracted to Maggie Stiefvater’s work. She has this amazing way of pulling readers into her stories and even if you don’t like what is happening, it’s still pleasurable to read. I couldn’t believe how much I loved The Raven Boys, and I’m happy to report that The Dream Thieves might in fact be superior to its predecessor.

First off, I loved that the novel was mostly about Ronan, and it was great to finally have his back story. Ronan has a lot of complications, but perhaps the biggest of all, is that his dreams are haunting him both figuratively and literally. Actually, a lot of his novel feels like an untold chapter of Nightmare on Elm Street, only better. I was so pleased to have the story be focused on him because I found myself sympathizing a lot with his family situation, his lack of trust in others, and his desire to find someone who would understand him. He’s a very well-rounded character overall.

What I also appreciated was the constant growth of all the returning characters. A lot of them are finally maturing, and it was quite the wonderful to see. I loved the interactions between Gansey and Ronan, but I equally loved the creepy, almost sinister conversations between Ronan and Joseph Kavinsky — a lot of their discussions gave me the chills! Kavinsky might be one of Stievater’s best written characters as he makes you uncomfortable, hes destructive, and it’s often difficult to know what is truly going through his mind. I am even hesitant to say he might be my favourite character in this series.

Stiefvater also writes wonderful kissing scenes. She makes me happy when characters kiss because to me she makes them sound genuine, tender even. The romance, while not a focal point for me in this story was still very enjoyable. I still think the mystery elements in this series are excellent, and while mainly issues are not tied up entirely, we get a few answers, but lots ore questions.

I really cannot wait to see how this series will continue to develop. For me, I don’t even have to like Stiefvater’s work entirely to see what a talented and strong writer she is. I do think she writes excellent, fully fleshed out characters, and creates worlds with just enough of mystery that she’ll keep you guessing. Magic is a terrifying element, and in Raven Boys’ world it’s something that they will never be able to escape. I really do hate, however, how long I’m now going to have to wait for the next installment of this series.

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ARC Review – The F-it List, by Julie Halpern

ImageTitle: The F-it List
Author: Julie Halpern
Rating: ★★★★★
Synopsis: With her signature heart and humor, Julie Halpern explores a strained friendship strengthened by one girl’s battle with cancer.

Alex’s father recently died in a car accident. And on the night of his funeral, her best friend Becca slept with Alex’s boyfriend. So things aren’t great. Alex steps away from her friendship with Becca and focuses on her family.

But when Alex finally decides to forgive Becca, she finds out something that will change her world again–Becca has cancer.

So what do you do when your best friend has cancer? You help her shave her head. And then you take her bucket list and try to fulfill it on her behalf. Because if that’s all you can do to help your ailing friend–you do it.

Sam’s Review – 5 Stars

This ARC was provided by the publisher for the purposes of review. Huge thank you to Macmillian and Netgalley!

I feel like The F-it List is likely going to get some unfair comparisons to The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Yes both books deal with cancer, love, and loss, but they couldn’t be more far a part in a lot of their core values. Cancer is always a heavy handed topic and there are so many books out there that use it as a means to get a rise in emotion instead of showing HOW people actually fight it.

The F-it List is that story. Let me preface by saying this story hit a bit too close to home for me at times. I lost my dad to gastro-stomach cancer back in February, but he contracted cancer after my mother had just survived melanoma of the brain. My father knew he didn’t stand a chance, and he created a bucket list for my mother and I to complete in his absence, something we’ve been slowly managing. The F-it List deals with a similar situation, only with best friends Alex and Becca at the helm of the narrative. Becca just slept with Alex’s boyfriend during her father’s funeral, and while Alex should be furious (despite the fact that she was going to break up with him), only she finds out her best friend has cancer and chooses to put differences aside.

What I loved about Julie Halpern’s story is her characters. Alex is a complete sass mouth, Becca’s a cancer-patient/perv, Caleb is a sweetly awkward boy in love with a young woman who flashed him and Leo… Leo is a guy trying to make amends. Each character is wonderfully fleshed out, exceptionally quirky, and downright funny. There’s a lot of laugh-out-loud moments, some interjections of fandom, and cancer is seen as something that can be fought against.

My biggest issues with cancer stories is that sometimes they tend to be a bit disingenuous in how they are approaching the message. In a lot of cases, it’s done for shock value, but not in this book. You get the sense that Alex genuinely cares about Becca, and in fact she spends a lot of the novel completing Becca’s list because she know she physically can’t. However, Alex, despite her crude and often sassy disposition, is very genuine and attuned to Becca’s wants, needs and desires. Even in selfish instances, she treats herself pretty tough and even unforgiving. I saw myself in both Alex and Becca, and for me, I totally could see both their points of view about life, how shitty and rotten it can be, and how sometimes you just have to fought back because it’s not worth taking its shit lying down.

That being said, this book is wonderfully crude. If you can’t handle a crude sense of humor, don’t read this book. It’ll only anger you because the tone itself is very angry, kick-ass, and Halpern doesn’t stop throwing the punches around. The novel has a great balance of being both humorous and serious, and it knows how to keep the reader’s emotions in check without beating over the head that this is a novel about cancer. In fact, I REALLY appreciated that Halpern didn’t beat the reader over the head because there’s so much that is so genuine in this novel that I never lost enjoyment.

I couldn’t get over how engrossed I was in this novel. Alex’s narrative voice is perfect, with just the right amount of sensitivity. This is a book about trying to kick ass in situations where they may seem hopeless, and I adored how important friendship was between all the characters. This novel is fearless in its discussion, but for those who have ever been in a situation like Becca or Alex’s, it hits even more close to home. I loved this novel, but I recognize it’s not going to be an easy one to recommend considering the crude humor. Regardless, I loved it, quirks and all, and it definitely deserves more recognition for how it approaches cancer. Alex and Becca are true to each other, and they show that even in rough situations, their friendship cannot be broken.

River’s Review – 5 Stars

I was really worried that this was going to be a tear-jerker and it was… but only a tiny bit, and only in HILARIOUS ways. I laughed SO MUCH while reading this book, omg. I was actually reading it at work (kinda in secret…) and was sitting there grinning and my boss came by and I had to quickly stop smiling but it was just SO HARD.

Warning: This book has ALL KINDS of “the f-word” (shhh, it’s fuck) in both f-bombs being dropped and people having sex. There’s A LOT of pervy talk and crude humor. So if you can’t handle that, then this isn’t the book for you. But honestly, it’s IN THE TITLE, so yeah.

Fuck is actually one of my favorite words in the English language (I even once wrote a poem about it in college and read it at a poetry reading) so I felt a certain affinity with this book just from reading the title alone. After I found out what it was about I was even more drawn in. I feel like everyone has lost someone to cancer, and that it’s very easy to relate to cancer stories where the patient goes through treatment and the different stages of having cancer to only die in the end and have the main character come out of the whole ordeal having learned something. I HATE these kinds of books (and movies, don’t even try to make me watch crap like A Walk to Remember, no thank you) because I’VE ALREADY LIVED IT ONCE DON’T NEED TO LIVE IT AGAIN. So Fuck Cancer.

This book is NOT about someone going through the different stages of cancer. And yet it is. Alex, our narrator, just lost her father, had a falling out with her BFF, and broke up with her boyfriend. Her life sucks, but she’s dealing with her hobbies (watching horror movies), taking care of her family, and working. So when school starts after a summer of shit, and she finds out that her estranged BFF has cancer, things get even worse.

Alex and Becca were amazing. I’ve always wanted a BFF relationship like this but I always had problems with the girls in my high school and I stuck to being BFF with boys, but that always ended up with someone falling in love with the wrong person, or someone becoming a fuck-buddy or someone just being too jealous when the other got into a relationship. So I’ve never experienced a relationship like Alex and Becca’s, and I wish I could have. The way that Alex helps Becca out and the way Becca still continues to be there for Alex despite having her own shit to deal with… it’s great.

i also loved their voices. Alex was such a bitchy sassy ‘I’m too hardcore for you’ chick and Becca was such a perv! I mean, we start out the day before her cancer treatments with her flashing the (totally ripped) homeschool boy next door. A lot of her ‘bucket list’ (which they dub the ‘fuck-it list’) centers around sex or doing sexual things (to others or themselves). That was another thing that I envied about Becca and Alex’s relationship; they were able to talk about sex so openly with each other… something I’ve never been able to do with any of my female friends.

The boys in this book were great too. The relationships were quite gritty and real and I loved them so much. Alex got what she deserved a lot of the time, but she did learn her lessons and came out on the other end a somewhat better person.

And that’s what I loved about this book. That it was just full of real, gritty, dirty life. Shit happens and you deal with it. And sometimes a lot of shit happens at once and you feel like you can’t deal with it and you just want to hide in a book closet and you do but then you realize you can’t so you get on with it and just face life and say ‘fuck it’.

ARC Review – The Chaos of Stars, by Kiersten White

ImageTitle: The Chaos of Stars
Author: Kiersten White
Rating: ★★★★ 1/2
Synopsis: Isadora’s family is seriously screwed up.

Of course, when you’re the human daughter of Egyptian gods, that comes with the territory.

Isadora’s sick of living a life where she’s only worthy of a passing glance, and when she’s offered the chance to move thousands of miles away, she jumps on it. But as much as Isadora tries to keep her new world and old world apart, she quickly realizes there’s no such thing as a clean break when it comes to family.

 

River’s Review:

I received an ARC from the publisher and I’m writing this honest review to say THANK YOU!

I LOOOOOVE Kiersten White’s books so much and while this wasn’t my favorite, I enjoyed it a lot. I had some trouble getting into it, and found the first 15% to be painfully boring, but once Isadora moved to live with her brother, things picked up.

I loved the mythology, the modern setting, the characters, and THE ROMANCE. I love how White writes such interesting and hilarious, realistic characters. Isadora and Ry were so great! I also enjoyed how this is a standalone, it’s refreshing after all of the series that I read.

Honestly, after seeing all of the bad reviews and not really being sold on the blurb (it makes this book sound WAY different than it really is) I’m really happy that it exceeded my expectations.

 

ARC Review – Relativity, by Cristin Bishara

ImageTitle: Relativity
Author: Cristin Bishara
Rating: ★★★★
Synopsis:

If Ruby Wright could have her way, her dad would never have met and married her stepmother Willow, her best friend George would be more than a friend, and her mom would still be alive. Ruby knows wishes can’t come true; some things just can’t be undone. Then she discovers a tree in the middle of an Ohio cornfield with a wormhole to nine alternative realities.

Suddenly, Ruby can access completely different realities, each containing variations of her life—if things had gone differently at key moments. The windshield wiper missing her mother’s throat…her big brother surviving his ill-fated birth…her father never having met Willow. Her ideal world—one with everything and everyone she wants most—could be within reach. But is there such a thing as a perfect world? What is Ruby willing to give up to find out?

River’s Review:

I received an ARC from the publisher and I’m writing this honest review to say THANK YOU!

Wow, this was good! I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I requested this, but I’m so glad that I did. I could NOT put it down! Our narrator, Ruby, has a great voice, and the pacing is perfect. I read this while I was commuting, on my lunch break, and before sleeping and I had SO much trouble stopping. My husband had to turn off the light to get me to quit, lol!

Just like the blurb says, Ruby moves to a new town with her father and her new step-mother and step-sister. Ruby is a high school sophomore, and she’s super smart and into science. She finds a tree that takes her to parallel universes and she spends time going through the different universes, kinda checking them out.

The entire time Ruby is doing this, it’s really fun. She’s suffering from a leg injury through the entire thing, so there’s this constant background feeling of ‘HURRY AND GET HOME SO YOU DON’T LIKE, LOSE YOUR LEG’ but you’re also cheering for her to see what’s happening in each universe (like meeting her mother, who’s dead in her own universe).

While Ruby goes around the different worlds she meets alternate versions of the people in her life and she finds out some really cool science stuff (and how the tree came to be/ works) and I got swept up with Ruby in her fun, but towards the end Ruby comes to realize that maybe what she’s doing is actually wrong, and that she wont be able to stay in one of these parallel universes. This revelation comes with a twist and suddenly things are even more chaotic and crazy.

But with that chaos the story started to lose me a bit and the last few chapters made me bump it down from a 5-star read to a 4-star. I LOVED Ruby through the entire book; she had a great voice, I understood her choices, I sympathized with her and empathized A LOT, but at the end she seemed to have changed… not for the worse, but not really the better either. I didn’t like how angry and sassy she got. Maybe that’s the point, because she wasn’t really dealing with her feelings and issues in her OWN universe, but I just didn’t like that change.

Also there’s only a little romance in this, but it is very sweet. So if you’re looking for an engaging read with some interesting concepts, lots of focus on family, and a light romance, you’ll enjoy this a lot!

Book Review – Far From Xanadu, by Julie Anne Peters

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Title: Far From Xanadu
Author: Julie Anne Peters
Rating: ★★★ 1/2
Synopsis: From the author of “Luna” comes this heartbreaking yet hopeful novel about a small-town girl who falls in love with the cool, complicated, and sexy new girl in town, but who is just out of reach. 

Sam’s Review:

Far From Xanadu was a book I borrowed from a friend, and not one I knew much about. It features a transgender protagonist, particular a female-to-male transformation, and it’s a great story for the most part.

Mike is a great protagonist. His voice is natural, he’s methodical, and the emotions he feels are very genuine. However, he ends up falling for a straight girl whom he is convinced is perfect in every way. When the novel wasn’t about pining for Xanadu it was perfect. 

Mike lost his father, he has a broken relationship with his mother and brother, and he is attempting to accept the reality that he may be gay. These aspects of the story were so raw, so powerful, and the connection is quite deep. Mike is a jack of all trades, but with no way to progress in life due to a lack of funds and no actual support systems in his life. He gets scolded for a waste of talent, yet won’t accept people’s charity either. There was a lot I loved about Mike’s character that the narrative mostly worked for me.

Mike’s love interest Xanadu however? She’s a piece of work. I’m not sure if Peter’s intentionally wrote her to be horrific, but often she came across a user, an exhibitionist and for the life of me I couldn’t figure out what Mike saw in her. Mike’s best friend, Jamie, constantly calls her out on her crap behaviour and yet Mike can’t see past it. While the novel ended exactly as I thought it would, it really broke my heat how used Mike was throughout the story. Xanadu never felt genuine, she was suppose to be exotic, but even that didn’t quite work for me. She just seemed as though Mike had to fix every single one of her problems, and like a puppet on a string, Mike obeyed. I’m sure this seems realistic for most, but Xanadu rubbed me the wrong way throughout the entirety of the story.

The novel was at its best when it was about Mike coming to terms with his identity and his family’s problems. When he was pining for Xanadu, the story just didn’t work for me because I couldn’t connect to the actual romance Peters was trying to put forth. I think Peters is a great writer and I’m looking forward to checking out Luna, but Far From Xanadu, though it does have amazing and thoughtful moments is far from greatness.

August Look Back and August Book Haul

Howdy everyone, it’s Sam! River’s taking a bit of a hiatus and I’m stepping in for a bit to ensure the bog stays active. We’ll still have reviews from River and anything else she wants to post. Today, however, I thought I’d share with you my look back at August and what I read. Then I’ll share with you a (large) book haul. August put me on a  September book ban. I earned it.

August Look Back

Number of Books Read: 18 (Star ratings out of 5)

1) Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen (3 stars)

2) Trouble With Flirting, by Claire LaZebnik (4 stars)

3) How To Curse In Hieroglyphics, by Lesley Livingston and Jonathan Llyr (5 stars)

4) Conan the Barbarian is My Spirit Guide, By Crom!, by Rachel Kahn (4 stars)

5) Rose Under Fire, by Elizabeth Wein (5 stars)

6) Shadowlands, by Violette Malan (4 stars)

7) Alex and the Ironic Gentleman, Adrienne Kress (4 stars)

8) The Distance Between Us, by Kasie West (4.5 stars)

9) Harbinger, by Philippa Ballantine (5 stars)

10) The Raven Boys, by Maggie Stiefvater (4 stars)

11)  Just One Year, by Gayle Forman (5 stars)

12) Magic for Beginners, by Kelly Link (1 star)

13) Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn (4 stars)

14) Hate that Cat, by Sharon Creech (3.5 stars)

15) Austenland, by Shannon Hale (3.5 stars)

16) Going Vintage, by Lindsey Leavitt (3.5 stars)

17) Descendant, by Lesley Livingston (4 stars)

18) RUSH, by Eve Silver (4.5 stars)

18 books might seem like a lot for some, but for me that’s actually low considering I usually average 20+. August is always a busy month for me, but it was exceptionally harder considering my dad’s passing last February. I loved the majority of books I read, and for those curious, I’m not a picky reader. I love middle grade as much as I love YA, and I love adult novels too. I love finishing series as much as I enjoy starting them.

Also if you are a lover of middle grade fiction, it’s worth your while to check out “How To Curse In Hieroglyphics” by Lesley Livingston and Jonathan Llyr. It’s my runner up for favourite book this month. My favourite? Well let’s see, shall we?

Favourite of the Month

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I read a lot of awesome books in August, and in fact I had a number of 4.5 and 5 star reads, but “Just One Year” is the favourite because after reading the first book I struggled with the wait and River was sweet enough to share her copy with me. Willem is an amazing characters compared to Allyson, and I thought his story overall was much stronger than hers in the end. 

Onto the book haul!

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Excuse the not so great quality picture as this was sapped with my PlayStation Vita (Which I adore and am playing Sweet Fuse: At Your Side! on and I love it.)

This is why I am on a book ban. I didn’t buy all these books, as one was a gift (Manga Shakespeare, “Twelfth Night”! Thanks Becky!), two were won in giveaways (“The Beginning of Everything” and “How to Love”, both which I badly want to read!), and “How To Curse In Hieroglyphics” was sent to me by Penguin Canada/Puffin, which I have already read, reviewed and adored. READ IT! It’s adorkable.

The rest  all bought, though mostly through bargain hunting. “Blackbringer” and “Silksinger” by Lain Taylor was a must have when I found out of their existence, Deb Caletti’s book I got for a buck at my local library (looked like it had never been read), “Ballad” I paid five bucks for  (though I need to find a copy of the first book!), and “House of the Scorpio” is  book I’ve taught to my students (I’m an ESL teacher / English tutor when I am not at library school or working at RPGamer.com) but have never READ.

Then we have the Fan Expo pile which consists of “RUSH” by Eve Silver (who I interviewed over at RPGamer!  http://www.rpgamer.com/event/fanexpo13/esilver.html ) You can listen to the interview I did with her. She is AMAZING. And so kind. Seriously, read her books and love her), “Descendant” by Lesley Livingston (which my husband bought for me and I devoured) and “Indigo Springs” by A.M Dellamoncia, who is also an awesome local fantasy author (and a fellow Italio-Scotch).

September is shaping up to be a busy month reading-wise. I have a few posts in mind on top of a bunch of ARC reviews I am working on. Two books on that ARC list to read this month being “The Dream Thieves” by Maggie Stiefvater and “The Iron Traitor” by Julie Kagawa. September looks like a great month for upcoming novels. 🙂

So many new books to read! What did you all get over the month of August? Is there anything in that pile I should get on and immediately read? Tell me in the comments!