Monthly Archives: November 2013

ARC Review – The Almost Girl by Amalie Howard

17397481Title:  The Almost Girl

Author: Amalie Howard

Rating: ★

Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Riven is as tough as they come. Coming from a world ravaged by a devastating android war, she has to be. There’s no room for softness, no room for emotion, no room for mistakes. A Legion General, she is the right hand of the young Prince of Neospes, a parallel universe to Earth. In Neospes, she has everything: rank, responsibility and respect. But when Prince Cale sends her away to find his long-lost brother, Caden, who has been spirited back to modern day Earth, Riven finds herself in uncharted territory.

Sam’s Review:

Huge thank you to Strange Chemistry and Netgalley for the advance copy of this book.

I should learn not to force myself to finish books if I am not enjoying them. There’s a part of me that says “Well, may be it will change its tune and get better.” I always try to give the benefit of the doubt if it’s an author I’ve never read before.

The Almost Girl‘s premise is misleading, and with good reason: the book is completely all over the place. It never finds its set tone and has such convoluted world-building. Truthfully, I never understood even as I was reading why I should care about the high school aspects in what was labelled a very futuristic story. The problem is, the futuristic side of the story is just so messy and all over the place that its hard to tell really what kind of story Howard was trying to tell.

A lot of what happens in this novel, despite being confusing sometimes, is also strangely familiar and easily predictable. Riven is special, then not special, then special, and the cycle simply repeats itself. In fact, I had a lot of problems with Riven. She comes across flat, one dimensional and just plain boring to read through the eyes of. She also suffers from insane melodrama based on everything she comes into contact with. I’m fine with melodrama, but we get so much back and forth with macguffin reasons behind her sister’s “death”, the relationship she has with her and her family, and Howard gives too much of the run around without good reason for it.

I struggled because these characters didn’t make me care about their causes. In a lot of situations I found myself shaking my head at all the insta-love and forced flaws on the characters. They never felt genuine, and if anything they were boring and uninspired. I didn’t care about Shae and Riven’s relationship, I didn’t care about the romance, I was mad that the story gave me nothing to get invested in.

And then there is the writing. It’s flat on all sides, no matter which way you slice it. I’ve heard great things about Howard’s writing, particularly her description, but this book made me feel so lost sometimes, and to the point where I was frustrated more than anything. I wanted more from this world and these characters! The pacing in this book moves at lightning speeds though I felt lost when one minute I was in high school and the next in futuristic-land. There’s no ease in the change of scenes which bothered me as well.

This cover is so beautiful, yet the contents inside are for a special kind of reader. One who’s okay with suspension of disbelief. I’m usually fine with that, but this book never felt like it had a genuine stride and I never found myself caring about the contents within it. I just can’t recommend The Almost Girl — the writing is dull, the characters are flat, and the plot is too messy to make sense of.

ARC Review – Shadowplay by Laura Lam

17694650

Title:  Shadowplay

Author: Laura Lam

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: The circus lies behind Micah Grey in dust and ashes.

He and the white clown, Drystan, take refuge with the once-great
magician, Jasper Maske. When Maske agrees to teach them his trade, his embittered rival challenges them to a duel which could decide all of their fates. People also hunt both Micah and the person he was before the circus–the runaway daughter of a noble family. And Micah discovers there is magic and power in the world, far beyond the card tricks and illusions he’s perfecting…

A tale of phantom wings, a clockwork hand, and the delicate unfurling of new love, Shadowplay continues Micah Grey’s extraordinary journey.

Sam’s Review: 

Huge thank you to Strange Chemistry and Netgalley for allowing me to review this book in advance.
I adored Pantomime and it was easily one of the best reads I encountered this year. Shadowplay it’s direct sequel, might be just as amazing as its predecessor. With Micah and Drystan having left the circus in ashes, they begin a new journey at each other’s side.

Micah has some major growth in this story. So much so that it’s easy to continue to love his thought process for how he views the world around him. While in Pantomime he seems more innocent, in Shadowplay Micah moves into the role of the experienced, showing less fear than he once felt. I also love the relationship growth between Drystan and Micah and I think Lam writes them to be such a sweet, I-would-do-anything-for-you couple without making them excessive. They are still individuals, just as much as they are a couple. Those are my favourite types of relationships.

Sadly though, Micah got dethroned as my favourite character in this book. Shocking, I know, considering how much fangirling I did in the first book. Cyan completely won me over and stole my heart. She faces so many trials and tribulations, but she’s so easy to root for. She’s not always likable in the way that Micah is, but I appreciate her tougher exterior. Cyan is so complex, yet her motivations with and against Micah are so well integrated into the novel. I love her and I hope she comes back at some point.

Once again I have to praise the atmosphere of Lam’s work. She has this way of making readers feel so deeply connected to her characters and the world they inhabit. Everything has ebb and flow, there’s no kinks along the way that transport you out of what you’re reading. She also handles gender and gender identity issues with such wonderful ease, making them comfortable like a warm blanket.

And then there are the Shadows. Stalking Micah and Drystan, yet never knowing where they actually are. The Shadows are genuinely creepy, and I know as I was reading whenever they appeared or were mentioned I felt uneasiness. We also learn about Micah’s feature as a chimera, something I hope gets explored more because there’s pockets of information, but never the full story.

Lam once again gives readers a wonderfully woven, extensively smart novel that handles topics of sexuality, discrimination and transition with such ease. It’s so easy to fall in love with her characters and follow their lives — they always give you just enough information to pull the reader along, but always with a sense of gentleness. I loved Shadowplay as much as I lovedPantomime, if not more, and I look forward to seeing where Micah’s adventure lead him.

Although with that ending? It’ll be interesting to see where things go.

PSA: What’s Been Goin’ On

tumblr_m9jxxskNTO1ru6ubwo1_500You’re all probably wondering: “Holy crap, Sam and River do nothing but post reviews, omg they need to do more.” Truthfully, I agree with this sentiment. There’s definitely some changes coming, in particular is the triumphant return of my sexy, awesome, wonderful, amazing co-blogger in December who keeps me in check when I’m going a bit batty.

We do have some goodies coming up. I’m going to try and be more consistent with a monthly TBR and Books I’ve Acquired, though lately I’ve been flying off the handle because I find my mood has been shifting in all kinds of ways.

Yes, there will be more reviews. Why? Because River and I are sitting on an insane pile of ARCs and we want to be able to share our thoughts with you guys and hear your thoughts on some of what we are reading.

Yes, there will be more giveaways. I LOVE giving books away. Nothing puts a smile on my face more than someone winning a prize and then getting feedback from them. Seriously, we LOVE YOUR FEEDBACK.  In fact, we may be plotting another giveaway or two for the month of December.

There will be more book chats! We love book chats! It’s just been a tricky process to juggle lately. River has spent the last month helping her husband with graduate school and I am currently at library school on top of taking care of my mother who is a cancer patient. Book chats are something I love to plot out, but aren’t always possible. I’m going to try to make sure there’s more of them soon.

And finally, THANK YOU GUYS for supporting us. We do our best to provide great content and contests and we appreciate the likes and support. Hopefully, within 2014 we’ll have more than just book reviews, but I can’t make any promises quite yet!

Stick with us! There will be more fun posts soon!

ARC Review – Something Real by Heather Demetrios

18005274Title:  Something Real
Author: Heather Demetrios
Rating: ★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Bonnie™ Baker has grown up on TV—she and her twelve siblings are the stars of one-time hit reality show Baker’s Dozen. Since the show’s cancellation, Bonnie™ has tried to live a normal life, under the radar and out of the spotlight. But it’s about to fall apart . . . because Baker’s Dozen is going back on the air. Bonnie™’s mom and the show’s producers won’t let her quit and soon the life that she has so carefully built for herself, with real friends (and maybe even a real boyfriend), is in danger of being destroyed by the show. Bonnie™ needs to do something drastic if her life is ever going to be her own—even if it means being more exposed than ever before.

Heather Demetrios’ Something Real is the winner of the Susan P. Bloom PEN New England Discovery Award.

Sam’s Review – 

Huge thank you to Macmillian and Netgalley for an advance copy of this book.

I feel like Something Real and I should have gotten on better than we did. I adore mindless reality television and am the person who equally entertained by the gossip news that often entails with these shows, but something about this book and I didn’t click.

First off, I want to commend the author for the unique and multiple styles she pulls off in the text. One thing that enhances Something Real is that small sections of the book are e-mail clippings, scripting sections, tabloid magazines, and even quizzes. These aspects really makes the book stand out in a lot of ways, though reading a whole book in this style might be a bit much. Thankfully, it’s not overused in any way.

Second, I wish Bonnie/Chloe was actually an interesting character. While I love her tenacity to suck it up and deal with the “Baker’s Dozen” drama, it baffled me just how much she kept putting up with it, with the last forty pages being where she decides to sod off. I feel like Demetrios wanted to incorporate every type of celebrity drama into the text, but I found it got quite overboard by the end of it. I just found Bonnie/Chloe to be a bit of a push over, lacking any sense of spunk. For me, I understand why there’s a lack of depth with her (due to reality television land), but she spends a good first chunk of the book as being whiny and frustrating, and I found myself screaming “get on with it” more than once.

I feel like this book does an amazing job at being very superficial and fake, but again, also goes a bit too overboard on that element as well. I get that the characters other than Bonnie/Chloe and Patrick are supposed to be caricatures, but it doesn’t make for any interesting narrative a lot of the time. Frankly, I forgot who a lot of the characters were because no one, not even the protagonist herself or her love interest stood out and made a statement to be interesting. That really disappointed me and I feel like a bit more depth in these caricatures could have gone a long way.

While the writing is decent, there is one issue in this book that stood out like a sore thumb: the amount of trademarking symbols present. In fact, it’s beyond excessive in this text and it drove me ballistic at times. We get that they are a TRADEMARKED FAMILY, we don’t need to be reminded of that EVERY PAGE in the whole first half of the book.

The writing is decent and the idea is solid, but I feel like this book missed the mark for me in that it just didn’t play itself up as being as entertaining as a Reality TV show. The characters were dull, the narrative was merely okay, but this book does nothing distinctive that other young adult novels haven’t already attempted. I wanted something more from Something Real, but all I felt were its “meh” ratings.

ARC Review – These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner

18296615Title:  These Broken Stars
Author: Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner
Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: It’s a night like any other on board the Icarus. Then, catastrophe strikes: the massive luxury spaceliner is yanked out of hyperspace and plummets into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive. And they seem to be alone. 

Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a young war hero who learned long ago that girls like Lilac are more trouble than they’re worth. But with only each other to rely on, Lilac and Tarver must work together, making a tortuous journey across the eerie, deserted terrain to seek help. 

Then, against all odds, Lilac and Tarver find a strange blessing in the tragedy that has thrown them into each other’s arms. Without the hope of a future together in their own world, they begin to wonder—would they be better off staying here forever?

Sam’s Review – 

Huge thank you to Disney Hyperion and Netgalley for an advance copy of this book!

I was a bit skeptical of These Broken Stars when I started it. Something about it didn’t draw me in right away, the characters felt a bit off putting at first. Considering how fast crap starts to hit the fan, I felt like I should have immediately been engaged, but this one took me a good while to sink into and appreciate.

Let’s throw it out there — this book is a space opera, borrowing from all the fun space shows and fandoms out there. The dramatics are fun, a touch on the ridiculous side, but you don’t seem to mind it because there is such a desperation and franticness within the narrative that you want to keep reading. I wasn’t 100% sold on the characters right away, and I definitely found myself gravitating towards Lilac’s narrative over Tarver’s, but I found her to be the more quirky and enjoyable character of the two. Tarver is quite darling, but I think I would have adored him more if he had been a bit more Malcom Reynolds instead of Simon Tam ala Firefly.

The alternating perspectives works very well in this novel, especially considering how closely liked the narratives between characters are. I never felt confused as to how was speaking, as each voice had the perfect amount of distinction in it. The world-building definitely drew me in as I read on. There’s a lot of beautiful description in this novel and I think that alone will appeal to a lot of readers.

The one aspect I was a bit iffy on, but grew to like was the romance. I do love that Lilac played a bit hard to get, but I almost wish the novel had gone a bit further, making it a lot less obvious that they were getting together. I wish it had been more about the adventure, but I am glad it wasn’t a love at first sight, but rather a gradual connection due to the circumstances.

These Broken Stars is easily going to be a hit with YA fans, especially those who love a good space opera and are willing to overlook a few of the basic YA tropes. I loved the writing in both perspectives, and the characters really grow with you, which is definitely something I’ve come to appreciate more. This is an easy recommendation for those looking for a good survival story, as well as romance that doesn’t feel insta-lovey. I look forward to reading the next installment!

ARC Review – The Offering by by Kimberly Derting

12631527Title:  The Offering
Author: Kimberly Derting
Rating: ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: True love—and world war—is at stake in the conclusion to The Pledge trilogy, a dark and romantic blend of dystopia and fantasy.
Charlie, otherwise known as Queen Charlaina of Ludania, has become comfortable as a leader and a ruler. She’s done admirable work to restore Ludania’s broken communications systems with other Queendoms, and she’s mastered the art of ignoring Sabara, the evil former queen whose Essence is alive within Charlie. Or so she thinks.

When the negotiation of a peace agreement with the Queendom of Astonia goes awry, Charlie receives a brutal message that threatens Ludania, and it seems her only option is to sacrifice herself in exchange for Ludanian freedom.

But things aren’t always as they seem. Charlie is walking into a trap—one set by Sabara, who is determined to reclaim the Queendoms at any cost.

River’s Review: 

Huge thank you to the publisher for providing me with an ARC of this book. I wrote this honest review to say thank you!

3.5 because I did the enjoy the ending and those few swoon-worthy scenes with MAAAAAX.

So I originally really enjoyed the first book in this series and I LOVE Derting’s writing. But the second book was a pretty big letdown and this book had it’s good and bad moments. As the last book in the series I expected WAY more to happen and I got to about 60% and felt that NOTHING was happening (minus some making out with MAAAAAAX, some political stuff and a really boring trek through the forest). Thankfully around 70% the action kicked in but man, all of that could have been SO much sooner if the stupid journey through the forest had been cut out… that was just so pointless! She ended up in the same place regardless! Ugh, so I hate it when it feels like the book is just wasting time until it gets to the good stuff.

There were a few gut-punches and I teared up over a death. I also enjoyed some of the new characters, but feel like there could have been SO much more done with them (Sage was so cool! I would have LOVED more Sage trekking through the forest than the other boring forest journey).

The jumps between POV’s was random and a bit annoying (as I’ve always disliked in the past book), and Niko still grosses me out beyond reason.

But the ending was good and I was satisfied with it.

Book Review – In Stitches by Trent Seely

18133905Title:  In Stitches
Author: Trent Seely
Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: When two broke social misfits aspire to raise the dead, their monster aspires to become a man. Tom Jefferson, a presidential sounding trauma surgeon, and Scott Bram, a cartoon obsessed neurobiologist, have big dreams. The two dorky mad scientists hop from grave to grave in small town Maine, with the ultimate goal of managing what no man before them has been able to accomplish: to create life. After numerous nights of body snatching and stitching, the pair are finally just a few steps away from bringing someone back from the edge. All that is left for their makeshift man are a few spare parts. What will happen when he rises? How will they handle it? Will they be able to make rent? See what kind of changes can occur over just a handful of days in this dorky dark comedy.

Sam’s Review:

Disclaimer: The author of this book is a dear friend of mine, but that in no way influences my opinion of the book.

In Stitches is a geek’s dream. I mean that very lovingly, but it’s a book that shares its love of what it means to be dorky, and does it without shame. We need more books that remind us that it’s okay to be insanely geeky, even if the rest of the world wants to judge us for it.

The characters in this book, particularly Tom and Scott were insanely memorable. While both social awkward, each has a very distinctive voice that makes it easy to tell who runs the damn show. Personally, I was a Scott fan, but that might be because the character reminds me of my fiancee, who also happens to be named Scott, and who is also a curmudgeon about geekness and people. He also loves Tetris. The similarities were a bit endless!

I also loved Tom too. He’s so darling, awkward, and he sucks with women, yet he’s the one you’d likely take home to mom… except for the part where he’s stitching people’s body parts for his own personal creation. Enter in Adam, the “monster” who is… well, he’s adorkable, lovable and downright silly at times. Perhaps that is Tom and Scott’s influence?

While In Stitches is a novel about playing god, it’s done in such a humorous way. I found myself laughing out loud throughout a lot of the book, and there’s tons of references and homages to video games, horror films, science fiction fandoms, Stephen King, and general geekiness. All of these aspects are wonderfully placed and add such a playfulness to the overall narrative, making the book hard to put down. It helps that all the characters are wonderfully realized, so their banter feels very natural and fun. Seely shines at characterization, because he knows how to get genuine laughs and not the forcible kind.

The only thing that bothered me, and this is a case of the physical edition I have, is that there were quite a number of typos in the text and no page numbers, making it harder for me to want to tab parts of the book and share favourite quotes. Still, I’m so much more forgiving towards these aspects because Trent is a dear friend and it is his first novel.

In Stitches is delightfully playful and would make a great edition on anyone’s e-device or book shelf. It’s cheeky, geeky, and does a great job of recognizing it’s target audience. I look forward to seeing what other silliness Trent Seely will come up with next!