Monthly Archives: March 2015

Book Riot’s 2015 Read Harder Challenge — Update #3

Another month has come and gone, so it’s time to take a look back at what I completed in the month of March for my Book Riot 2015 Read Harder Challenge! March was a crummy month for this challenge as I only completed one challenge. Here’s what I tackled in March,

#15: Read a Retelling of a Classic Story


Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

I have to say, I feel pretty mixed on this book. On one hand, I thought it was interesting to do a retelling of Beauty and the Beast where the heroine has been raised to murder the beast, but this book was a bit too all over the place. For starters, the love triangle was just odd in this book, and it was super insta-lovey to the point where some of it just didn’t entirely make sense. The book was also over-written in so many areas that while the writing itself was beauty, it was over-bearing at the same time. However, I loved a lot of the twists on the Beauty and the Beast story and it was a pretty engrossing read over all. I think their are better fairy-tale retellings out there, but this one wasn’t too bad.

The next Book Riot 2015 Read Harder update will be delayed next month because I will finally be taking my honeymoon with my husband! Which means I am going to read a lot on my vacation and just relax. Unfortunately, River and I are both swamped with life at the moment, so we will be scheduling reviews for things we do finish, but we won’t be going back to our main features until May-ish. Sorry for the inconvenience, but we hope you at least enjoy the reviews! There are lots of awesome books coming up and I can’t wait to share some of what I’ve read with you all soon.

Book Review – Exile (The Book of Ever #1) by James Cormier

22961594Title: Exile (The Book of Ever #1)

Author: James Cormier

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Centuries after the Fall, the United States has been wiped away. The crumbling remains of the great American empire are home now only to savage, lawless tribes and packs of ravening Damned-the twisted children of the apocalypse. Most of those few who survived humanity’s destruction spend their short lives in a violent struggle for survival. But some light still flickers in the darkness: the Blessed of Bountiful live in seclusion, relying on walls both physical and spiritual to protect them from the Desolation that their world has become. Among them are the Saints, those few men and women born with superhuman abilities that the Blessed see as gifts from God. The violent apostate tribes of the Northeast Kingdom have always been a danger, but up until recently its small size and the vigilance of its people have made Bountiful an unappealing target. As attacks on the community grow harsher and more frequent, however, even the steadfast Blessed are forced to start preparing for the worst. With her home’s very existence threatened, seventeen year old Ever Oaks, a Saint with the power to heal, is forced to make a difficult choice, one that may come to define her people’s future…

Huge thank you to the author for providing me with a copy of this book for review. In no way is my review biased due to this. My opinions are my own.

River’s Review:

I will admit that I don’t often review indie or self pubbed books but I made an exception for this one because the author is local (MA) an it just sounded interesting. I haven’t read a good dystopian in awhile and I thought why not.

I’m SO glad I read this! I loved it! I was so INVESTED in it and didn’t want to put it down. It’s very well written and really touched a lot of things that I love about dystopian, sci-fi and even fantasy. I love it when dystopians are SO dystopian that they’re thrown back into the stone ages.

Ever Oaks and her village are Blessed. They’re survivors of The Fall (the end of the world basically) and some of her people are gifted with super-human abilities and deemed Saints. Ever is a Saint with the power to heal. She lives in a very, VERY religious society where men are in control and women are basically owned by their father’s and husbands. We know this is the future but it feels so very much like the past.

Ever is a good girl, a godly girl, but she does what she wants and when her village is attacked by the outside tribes who live savagely and witout God, she joins the quest to find her people a new home. She leaves with three other men to head north to find a new home. What they find instead is a powerful enemy, the truth about The Fall and Ever’s destiny.

When I first started this the religious part threw me for a loop. I’m not a fan of traditional religion and while this is very much based on Christian belief it was never preachy and I loved how much of the society and customs were based in this old belief system. I never once felt anything negative towards the religious aspects of this book and usually when I read books with religion in them I can usually find something that makes my stomach twist the wrong way. But this was beautiful and the intent of the religion in this book was not to preach as you.

I loved the world building in this. There were times that I felt elements of The Walking Dead, other times elements of Divergent. Never did this feel like it was trying to be those. It just felt very familiar and I liked that. So often dystopian novels try to make things TOO different and crazy and I’m just left wondering how that could have happened or WHY that happened. But this book had a wonderful set up and world build and when the story took unexpected twists and threw in some sci-fi elements I was ready for it and enjoyed it greatly.

The unexpected twists were SO good. I thought that this was going to be a journey book (which is part of why I picked it up, because I’m a HUGE fan of survival and journey stories) and while it was, it wasn’t in the way I thought it was going to be. I thought I had it pegged and then there were two twists that made me SO happy that this WASN’T predictable and made me love it even more.

And let’s talk about the romance for a second. While the beginning was a little bit fast (Ever and Jared spend a day together and at the start of the day she was annoyed with him and at the end of the day she admitted to having some different feelings towards him… thought they DID go through a lot together in that one day) I liked how it smoothed out and grew. The book isn’t heavy on romance, but man, when things did come together I felt that flutter that I get when two characters I’m rooting for finally kiss.

Overall this was a GREAT book and if you’re a fan of Divergent, The Birthmarked Trilogy or dystopian survival stories then you’ll want to check this out. I can’t WAIT for the next book!

ARC Review – The Diamond Conspiracy by Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris

23292456Title: The Diamond Conspiracy

Author: Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Having narrowly escaped the electrifying machinations of Thomas Edison, Books and Braun are looking forward to a relaxing and possibly romantic voyage home. But when Braun’s emergency signal goes off, all thoughts of recreation vanish. Braun’s street-wise team of child informants, the Ministry Seven, is in grave peril, and Books and Braun must return to England immediately.

But when the intrepid agents finally arrive in London, the situation is even more dire than they imagined. The Ministry has been disavowed, and the Department of Imperial Inconveniences has been called in to decommission its agents in a most deadly fashion. The plan reeks of the Maestro’s dastardly scheming. Only, this time, he has a dangerous new ally—a duplicitous doctor whose pernicious poisons have infected the highest levels of society, reaching even the Queen herself…

Huge thank you to Ace and Netgalley for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Do you know what I love about The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series? I love that it has yet to disappoint me (and the day that happens I will feel a lot of sadness). There’s insanity! Humour! Romance! And some nutjobby characters who continue to entertain.

In this latest instalment we finally learn more about Welly’s and it’s quite the doozy. It’s great to finally see him drop down his guard and let the reader and Eliza in. I mean seriously, their romance is so adorkable, and I love when they get into heated conversations because both are so stubborn and awkward that it makes you laugh. Eliza continues to amuse me in every book, and she always gives the reader lines to chuckle over.

The characters introduced in The Diamond Conspiracy are pretty darn fun as well. There’s also mecha, face punching, and just plain awesome from this volume. Admittedly, even if the series ever goes downhill — I’ll probably still be reading it.

After a crummy week of tests and being sick, Books and Braun really know how to be the perfect pick me up.

ARC Review – The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma

18044277Title: The Walls Around Us

Author: Nova Ren Suma

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: The Walls Around Us is a ghostly story of suspense told in two voices—one still living and one long dead. On the outside, there’s Violet, an eighteen-year-old dancer days away from the life of her dreams when something threatens to expose the shocking truth of her achievement. On the inside, within the walls of a girls’ juvenile detention center, there’s Amber, locked up for so long she can’t imagine freedom. Tying these two worlds together is Orianna, who holds the key to unlocking all the girls’ darkest mysteries.

We hear Amber’s story and Violet’s, and through them Orianna’s, first from one angle, then from another, until gradually we begin to get the whole picture—which is not necessarily the one that either Amber or Violet wants us to see.

Huge thank you to Algonquin Young Readers and Netgalley for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Last year I had the pleasure of reading 17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma, and I remember being completely invested in the story. Her writing is haunting, careful, and precise, and brings a similar flare in her latest book, The Walls Around Us.

I’d even argue that I loved this book a bajillion times more than I did 17 & Gone. This book gives you two perspectives from young women who have been incarcerated, both equally trying to uncover another woman’s story, Orianna, who is somehow connected to their mystery. Both Vee and Amber’s voices are distinctive, but their overall emotions are somewhat similar. There’s a desire to uncover the mystery surrounding Orianna, as well as a sense of remorse and repentance that clouds the overall narrative.

Nova Ren Suma only gives you a small handful of pieces. This is a book where the reader has to work a bit to piece parts of the story together, and it’s insanely successful in this regard. Both girls are hiding something, and when it’s revealed, it’s this beautiful yet ugly side that is both shocking but realistic. I found myself feeling tons of emotions reading this book, but the end result of my emotions was always the same: I needed to have that entire picture.

There’s so much depth in The Walls Around Us. It’s a character study, it looks a how women treat each other (for better or worse), how sometimes the most simplest things can become the most complicated, and how not every journey has a happy ending or even a direct path to follow. If you love reading stories rich with emotion, you need to pick up The Walls Around Us when it releases. You’ll not be disappointed.

ARC Review – Rutabaga the Adventure Chef: Book 1 by Eric Colossal

23167725Title: Rutabaga the Adventure Chef: Book 1

Author: Eric Colossal

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: A fantasy graphic novel series follows an “adventure chef” named Rutabaga, who travels to a fantasy land to find bizarre ingredients to cook in his enchanted cauldron. The books will include pages straight out of Rutabaga’s cookbooks, with recipes that readers can make at home.


Huge thank you to Amulet Books and Netgalley for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Wow! This is an adorable middle grade graphic novel. It’s about an adventuring chef, named Rutabaga and his wacky cooking adventures! I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this, but my husband also read a galley of this and basically shook me on the spot to read it.

And I’m glad I did. These characters are insanely quirky, and I adore that Rutabaga has no problem speaking his mind when food is awful. In fact, the whole cook-off against the old man chef? Kinda brilliant. Especially when you learn the secret of what is really in his food. There’s so much charm and whimsy in this book, and I found myself smiling and laughing a lot. Rutabaga’s antics are plenty, but it’s all in the name of good food!

If you have a young reader or a middle grader who loves comedic fantasy, this is a great addition to their library. If you’re an adult who just loves a charming graphic novel (like myself), then this book is right up your alley. Plus, there’s recipes!

For you to notice


I am so sorry I disappeared.

Sammy, you are the best coblogger in the history of cobloggers and I am so sorry that I am the worst. sobs.

Sooooooooooo hey guys. What happened? Well, my husband and I were EXTREMELY unhappy with our housing situation and one thing lead to another and then things snowballed and People with Power were consulted with and fees were waived and documents signed and now we live in a new apartment closer to both our workplaces and the T and just… stuff. And it’s quite and the problems we were having are gone and we are HAPPY.

But it was a lot of work and I couldn’t do anything for a good long while because I was so busy. Things like reading, reviewing and blogging. I was able to tweet so some of you were privy to those crazy weeks.

Things do seem to be calming down and I’m able to read more (albeit not as much as I used to, but I don’t know if that’s ever going to happen again) and I even wrote my first review in a long time! I’m…. not even going to look at my bookish resolutions because I’m going to just cry at how optimistic and hopeful I was.

I am going to talk about how I basically threw my reading schedule out the window of a speeding bus and watched it get run over by a semi-truck. Because I am dubbin this READWHATIWANT2015 (at least that’s my goodreads shelf). Yes, I am going to give ARCs priority (esp if they’re physical) but I’m not going to forced myself to read EVERY SINGLE ARC that I can get. I did this for the past two years and I read A LOT of crap. So I’m going to read what I want! And if I don’t want to read an ARC then I’m not going to. And I’m going to tackle my physical TBR shelf because it’s full and I have SO many books that I want to read!

i have also sadly made the decision to leave my bookstore job for lots of personal reasons and I’m happy to say that I AM going to start working at MIT soon! I am BEYOND excited with my new position and so excited to join MIT as a staff member.

That said my new job is going to take some time to learn and adjust to and while I’m hoping to get back to reviewing I’m still not sure where I am with actual blogging. I’ve been doing a little more personal blogging over at Safe As Life but not a ton. I am on twitter so you can always chat with me there. But hopefully this summer (I feel like I ALWAYS say this) I can get back into things. WAIT FOR ME SAMMY!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Until then keep loving Gansey’s fancy face and be nice to Sammy! ❤

ARC Review – Kissing Ted Callahan (and Other Guys) by Amy Spalding

18333999Title: Kissing Ted Callahan (and Other Guys)

Author: Amy Spalding

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: After catching their bandmates in a compromising position, sixteen-year-old Los Angelenos Riley and Reid become painfully aware of the romance missing from their own lives. And so a pact is formed: they’ll both try to make something happen with their respective crushes and document the experiences in a shared notebook.

While Reid struggles with the moral dilemma of adopting a dog to win over someone’s heart, Riley tries to make progress with Ted Callahan, who she’s been obsessed with forever-His floppy hair! His undeniable intelligence! But suddenly cute guys are popping up everywhere. How did she never notice them before?! With their love lives going from 0 to 60 in the blink of an eye, Riley and Reid realize the results of their pact may be more than they bargained for.

Huge thank you to Poppy and Netgalley for this ARC!

River’s Review:

Omfg I LOVED THIS BOOK SO MUCH!!!! Riley is basically the person I wish I could have been in high school and she totally had the life that I wish I could have had. I loved her, her friends, her craziness, her family, her amazing taste in music and just everything! I loved the writing in this, it was quirky and fun and really fast paced. I was never bored while reading this and when I wasn’t reading it I wished I was!

So basically Riley and her band mate/ male BFF witness the other two members of their band doing it and then things get super weird between Riley and her female BFF and then Riley and her male BFF (Reid) decide that they want to get some too and even though the book isn’t really like OMG SEX!!! There are sexy times (but they’re really well done and I liked how sex was handled in this book) so Riley and Reid start a notebook where they write about their goals and who they want to date and how to date. They write a lot of personal stuff about the people that they’re interested in and it all just felt so fresh and authentic. Sometimes in YA the teens don’t always seem like TEENS, but like teens acting like adults and because of that I can see how reviews are saying that this is juvenile and immature but I actually thought it was much more authentic.

I loved how this just threw me back to my days of being super into music and going to shows and having friends who were in a band. I think my THE CRUSH was very similar to Ted and I acted like Riley did when she was around Ted and it was just so nostalgic for me.

If you like music, funny books, quirky narrators and kissing cute boys check this out!!!

ARC Review – Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein

24377482Title: Black Dove, White Raven

Author: Elizabeth Wein

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Emilia and Teo’s lives changed in a fiery, terrifying instant when a bird strike brought down the plane their stunt pilot mothers were flying. Teo’s mother died immediately, but Em’s survived, determined to raise Teo according to his late mother’s wishes—in a place where he won’t be discriminated against because of the color of his skin. But in 1930s America, a white woman raising a black adoptive son alongside a white daughter is too often seen as a threat. Seeking a home where her children won’t be held back by ethnicity or gender, Rhoda brings Em and Teo to Ethiopia, and all three fall in love with the beautiful, peaceful country. But that peace is shattered by the threat of war with Italy, and teenage Em and Teo are drawn into the conflict. Will their devotion to their country, its culture and people, and each other be their downfall…or their salvation? 

Huge thank you to Disney-Hyperion and Netgalley for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I confess, if Elizabeth Wein writes a novel, I automatically read it. Her books have the right kind of challenge level, often tell empowering and very human stories of flight, survival, and finding strength. Reading an Elizabeth Wein book means having unique and strongly thought out interactions, but she gives the reader so much to ponder in the process.

Black Dove, White Raven is probably one of her more unique books. It’s not an easy read from a written stand point, or even a topical one for that matter. She attempts to make issues of racism the forfront, while also bending history somewhat to her will to make the story accessible and engaging. I adored the cast in this book, especially Teo, Delia and Rhoda. The mom’s in particular were so enthralling and strong — such amazing role models, yet their weaknesses are so open and tough. Those two in particular just kept me wanting to know more, wanting to keep turning the pages.

This book, admittedly, took me a long time to read. Stylistically its tough because it moves back and forth between a radio drama/film, to the actual main story. However, despite my slowness, I enjoyed the style once I understood its purpose and how it would affect the narrative on a whole. There’s not too many books quite like this one, where a lot of the central themes of friendship and bravery are displayed in more than one way to the reader. Plus, Wein writes amazing friendships, whether it’s Em and Teo or Delia and Rhoda, you care about their relationships and why they matter.

Reading Black Dove, White Raven was wonderful and challenging at the same time. The characters are beautifully fleshed out and feel so real. If I have any complaint, the writing style is by far the book’s biggest barrier, because it’s not the easier to engage with. However, if you stick with it, the read itself is insanely rewarding. I cared as to what was happening in this novel, and I look forward to the next historical journey Elizabeth Wein takes me on.

ARC Review – The Water and the Wild by K.E. Ormsbee

22675931Title: The Water and the Wild

Author: K.E Ormsbee

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: For as long as Lottie Fiske can remember, the only people who seem to care about her have been her best friend, Eliot, and the mysterious letter-writer who sends her birthday gifts. But now strange things and people are arriving on the island Lottie calls home, and Eliot’s getting sicker, with a disease the doctors have given up trying to cure. Lottie is helpless, useless, powerless.

And then a door opens in the apple tree.

Follow Lottie down through the apple roots to another world—a world of magic both treacherous and beautiful—in pursuit of the impossible: a cure for the incurable, a use for the useless, and protection against the pain of loss.

Huge thank you to Raincoast Books for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Admittedly, I had never heard of The Water and the Wild, but after reading the description, I knew it was my kind of book. Full of imagination and creativity, K.E Ormsbee’s debut is really quite delightful.

I think the main draw of The Water and the Wild is its rich storytelling. Ormsbee captures the reader’s imagination, painting vivid pictures of the world in which Lottie and her companions inhabit. The book is filled with lush description, charming characters, and a wonderfully simplistic narration. Even the dialog has great punch to it, never reading dryly — everything about The Water and the Wild is just such a refreshing ride compared to a lot of the middle grade fantasy out there.

I think Adelaide was my favourite character of all of them. She was just so sassy and blunt. Unafraid to speak her mind, though very rough around the edges. She was completely my kind of a girl! I also loved Lottie, whom I thought was a strong protagonist. She’s got quite the curious side, but she values love and friendship like no other. Every character in this book is wonderfully crafted and has their own motivations in this world. Each one is wild, difficult to tame, yet not always in tune to consequence. In a lot of ways that is what made them so striking and so different — they weren’t predictable in any way.

The Water and the Wild is a fantastic debut novel, and it’s one that offers so much adventure, creativity, and will spark the imagination of readers young and old. It’s a book that wants its readers to dig a bit deeper, but it’s full of life. I loved my time with this novel, and I am eager to see what K.E Ormsbee writes next.

ARC Review – Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver

22465597Title: Vanishing Girls

Author:  Lauren Oliver

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Dara and Nick used to be inseparable, but that was before the accident that left Dara’s beautiful face scarred and the two sisters totally estranged. When Dara vanishes on her birthday, Nick thinks Dara is just playing around. But another girl, nine-year-old Madeline Snow, has vanished, too, and Nick becomes increasingly convinced that the two disappearances are linked. Now Nick has to find her sister, before it’s too late.

Huge thank you to Harper Collins Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Lauren Oliver’s works seems to be really hit and miss with reviewers as of late. For me, I’ve always been a huge fan of her writing — there’s a quality to it that just sucks me in and keeps me turning the pages, wanting to know more. Vanishing Girls is a mystery and it keeps you guessing throughout.

Part of what I love about Vanishing Girls is the relationship between the sisters Nick and Dara. It’s a very screwed up relationship, one that was once strong and loving. Then everything is shattered and Nick is, in her own way, trying to understand and pick up the pieces. The best parts of this novel was going back and forth between the sisters and piece together what had happened between them. Oliver pulls no punches, she feeds you pieces at a time. The book weirdly reads like a blur, you are given information, parts vanish, and then it reappears in another way. I really enjoyed that aspect of the writing.

A lot of what makes Vanishing Girls such a gripping read is the fact that the reader is left to their own devices. Neither Nick nor Dara is a reliable narrator and sometimes you’ll find yourself wondering why certain information is being dropped. The book completely messes with you, and it’s haunting and suspenseful. Whenever I put the book down, I wanted to keep reading, keep guessing.

Weirdly, I was less interested in now Madeline Snow fit into the whole equation. I understood the parallels being used by Oliver, but those sections never kept me as well gripped the way Dara’s diary entries and sections did. I also like that Nick as a heroine is not entirely innocent in her behaviour, and she’s actually quite unlike-able. Yet, she and Dara have such a passionate and catastrophic relationship — they love each other and it’s completely apparent when you read it. When you see the tension between them, it’s like the reader is falling into a spiral, the same feeling Nick is feeling throughout.

Vanishing Girls is a tough book to describe, but it’s a wonderful and gripping read. It’s much better than Panic, and the suspense throughout will keep you guessing and engaged. It’s not my favourite book by Lauren Oliver, but I feel like if you love a good mystery that messes with your mind, Vanishing Girls likely won’t disappoint.