Monthly Archives: April 2015

Finished Copy Review — Duplicity by N.K. Traver

IMG_0859

Title: Duplicity

Author: N.K. Traver

Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: In private, seventeen-year-old Brandon hacks bank accounts just for the thrill of it. In public, he looks like any other tattooed bad boy with a fast car and devil-may-care attitude. He should know: he’s worked hard to maintain that façade. With inattentive parents who move constantly from city to city, he’s learned not to get tangled up in things like friends and relationships. So he’ll just keep living like a machine, all gears and wires.

Then two things shatter his carefully-built image: Emma, the kind, stubborn girl who insists on looking beneath the surface – and the small matter of a mirror reflection that starts moving by itself. Not only does Brandon’s reflection have a mind of its own, but it seems to be grooming him for something—washing the dye from his hair, yanking out his piercings, swapping his black shirts for … pastels. Then it tells him: it thinks it can live his life better, and it’s preparing to trade places.

And when it pulls Brandon through the looking-glass, not only will he need all his ill-gotten hacking skills to escape, but he’s going to have to face some hard truths about who he’s become. Otherwise he’ll be stuck in a digital hell until he’s old and gray, and no one will even know he’s gone.

River’s review:

Huge thank you to Thomas Dunne Books for letting me review a finished copy of this book!

I had a love-hate relationship with this book. I HATED the first half and LOVED the middle and was okay with the end. Brandon is NOT a likable character an I’m fine with that. But he falls too neatly into the stereotypical pierced, tattooed, black-wearing “bad boy” role for me. I wanted more depth. More than just ‘my parents are always busy boo hoo I’m going to be an ass for basically no reason’. Because yes his parents ignored him, but they were also too stereotypical for me as well. So the first half of the book where we meet Brandon and his family I was just wanted more.

I was so intrigued with the hacker aspect of this book (the whole reason I requested it) and I would have liked to have seen where Brandon had learned some of his skills. A little more history. Because not just everybody can pick that up. I also would have liked to have seen MORE hacking in the beginning. The story jumps right into things and I wish there would have been more build. I also would have liked to have seen more time with Jax and his shady business.

I also really had a problem with the way Brandon treated women in this book. The only girls I really remember were Ginger (portrayed as kinda a trashy goth slut), Beretta (who actually was pretty cool), Alice (? The girl who kept trying to get his attention after he drove the BMW to school. She was portrayed as a trashy preppy slut) and Emma (a pure, delicate snowflake with a perfect body and perfect everything). Hell I didn’t like the way the girls in this book were portrayed period. And I don’t buy that it’s because it’s from a male POV. If that’s how we’re going to write males… well then. I wont get into it. But yeah.

So what I DID like was after Brandon and his duplicate “Obran” (worst. name. ever.) were traded and Brandon was taken into a super computer. That part was SO COOL. I loved the world inside the computer, how Brandon reacted to it, and his new friend Seb. I did roll my eyes a little at how obviously similar it was to Resident Evil (holographic glowing child? Zombie dogs?) but those were good additions (and would have been better if slightly more original). I liked the explanations behind the tech (even if some of it really probably wouldn’t work in real life, or now at least) and the situations that Brandon was facing. The middle portion was gripping and I flew through it.

Brandon’s “solution” to saving himself and Emma was a little confusing, but I liked that his heart was in the right place. I felt so bad for Seb and kept hoping that it was all a joke or a trick. And then the very end… left me hanging. Is there going to be another book? Should there? I’m not sure. Will I read it? Maybe!

So overall this could have been better if it had been fleshed out and a bit more genuine. If all of it had been as gripping as the middle that would have upped it a star and made for an excellent book. If you do like books with hacking and computers then this will be the right book for you!

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Physical review copies

Some of you might remember that one of the things about being in the USA that I was most looking forward to was being able to contact publishers for physical review copies of books. I sent out a few requests last summer and got no replies. So I sat on it for a little and then did some research, asked around on twitter, and composed my ‘Dear Publisher’ letter. I think I sent out about 5-6 requests and got one reply. So I tried again and got a few more. Sadly most of them were saying that they didn’t have anymore copies of the book/ I was requesting too early/ to try NetGalley. I DID get put on a blogger list for one publisher and got a response from another. I sent in a few more requests to those two publishers and… nothing. So I was ready to give up, to stick with my eARCs, and to just remain jealous of people who were getting unsolicited copies of books that I’d requested. (I know, I know, I’m not that well known, I don’t have over a thousand followers, I did have a few periods of time where I wasn’t able to review, I KNOW that some of my jealousy is unfounded. But still sometimes it really stings.)

IMG_0859Last week I received this!!!!! I was so shocked and excited! I had requested this from the publisher that has me on their blogger list and I couldn’t believe that they sent me a finished copy! I’m almost done with the book and I can’t wait to review it.

So after that happened I was like ‘yes! I finally made some progress!’ and was feeling pretty good about myself (and hoping that the other book I’d requested from them would show up soon :fingers crossed:) when this happened:

IMG_0892 IMG_0896I almost cried when I opened these two packages. Out of the eight I had requested four and was so happy that Harper sent me all the extras. A lot o them were already on my schedule and I am BEYOND excited that I have ‘A Good Girl’ because I downloaded the eARC last year and never read it and now I have a VERY good reason to!

IMG_0893Receiving Emmy & Oliver though… that made my day, week, month!!!! Robin Benway is one of my favorite authors and I have been so excited for this book. I love having it on my shelf and it’s going to be my next read once I’ve finished the two books I’m currently in the middle of.

I’m just so happy that I was able to connect with the publishers and finally receive some physical ARCs. I was really, really ready to give up. But now I have confidence and hope that I’ll be able to build a good reviewer relationship with them! Ahhhhhhh, I can’t wait to read these!!!!

In other news… I STARTED MY NEW JOB! And so far it’s been amazing. This whole week has been amazing. And it’s only Tuesday!

ARC Review – All the Rage by Courtney Summers

21853636Title: All the Rage

Author: Courtney Summers

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: The sheriff’s son, Kellan Turner, is not the golden boy everyone thinks he is, and Romy Grey knows that for a fact. Because no one wants to believe a girl from the wrong side of town, the truth about him has cost her everything—friends, family, and her community. Branded a liar and bullied relentlessly by a group of kids she used to hang out with, Romy’s only refuge is the diner where she works outside of town. No one knows her name or her past there; she can finally be anonymous. But when a girl with ties to both Romy and Kellan goes missing after a party, and news of him assaulting another girl in a town close by gets out, Romy must decide whether she wants to fight or carry the burden of knowing more girls could get hurt if she doesn’t speak up. Nobody believed her the first time—and they certainly won’t now — but the cost of her silence might be more than she can bear. 

Huge thank you to Raincoast / St. Martin’s Griffin for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Courtney Summers is known for tackling tough subjects with raw emotion. They are thought provoking, intense experiences, and I think of all her novels, All the Rage is the one that has made me the most uncomfortable and terrified.

All the Rage is largely a book about rape, rape culture and the failures that young women who have been raped are facing. There’s issues of power and influence, and essentially these are the problems Romy combats with throughout the story. There’s nothing more terrifying than telling the truth and having no one believe you. This is a conversation we should be having, we should want to give these people the support we need. Yet, like this novel questions, are we really providing support or covering up something we don’t wish to come face to face with?

Summers’ paints so many unnerving and ugly pictures in All the Rage. Romy’s self-worth is constantly questioned because she’s “the girl that lived” and yet not a single person questions if she has problems or what actually has happened to her. I found myself fuming at how many of the characters treated her, like it was a joke or that it didn’t matter. Of course it matters. I found myself in particular wanting to punch out Alek, Brock, Tina, Cat, Turner, and well really, a huge chunk of the cast. Their sense of entitlement and power, it’s just so wrong. So evil.

I will admit, I loved Romy’s mother. Her desire to help, understand, she knew something wasn’t wrong, but like any parent, there’s the desire to let their teen work through it first. I loved the messages she and Romy would leave each other, their tough conversations, she and many of the characters at the diner were really interesting, and Holly, oh my goodness, I felt for her when she said that while Romy wasn’t her daughter, it was like missing a daughter.

The book emotionally wrecked me. I was feeling all the rage while reading it, angry, frustrated, and disappointed that the world can be such a crappy place for rape victims. I realize my review is a bit all over the place, but it’s because I found myself feelings jumping all over the place, leaving me so exhausted and upset in the end. You cannot blame Romy for harbouring so much mistrust in the world, when in her world, she really has been kicked and beaten to the curb. I wanted to grab her from the book and hold her, even though I know she’d never let me.

All the Rage hurts, and it will leave you black and blue in the end. It pulls every punch and hits you harder and harder until you’re wobbly at best. It will make you angry, vengeful, and emotionally exhausted, but this story is meant to be told and will constantly be important. It certainly will leave a lasting impression.

Late to the Party ARC Review – Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman

16085457Title: Shadow Scale

Author:  Rachel Hartman

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: The kingdom of Goredd: a world where humans and dragons share life with an uneasy balance, and those few who are both human and dragon must hide the truth. Seraphina is one of these, part girl, part dragon, who is reluctantly drawn into the politics of her world. When war breaks out between the dragons and humans, she must travel the lands to find those like herself—for she has an inexplicable connection to all of them, and together they will be able to fight the dragons in powerful, magical ways.

As Seraphina gathers this motley crew, she is pursued by humans who want to stop her. But the most terrifying is another half dragon, who can creep into people’s minds and take them over. Until now, Seraphina has kept her mind safe from intruders, but that also means she’s held back her own gift. It is time to make a choice: Cling to the safety of her old life, or embrace a powerful new destiny?

Huge thank you to Random House Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Shadow Scale was one of my most anticipated reads of 2015. Colour me surprised when I had the chance to meet Rachel Hartman back at OLA and was given this ARC. There was a lot of running around the convention centre squealing like a madwoman, but let’s face it — it’s not every day you get to meet a favourite author and have them sign your book.

ANY WAYS… Shadow Scale took me over a month to read. Why? Because for a sequel, it’s a very slow and dense burn. Although a lot of the world and it’s rules have been established in Seraphina, there was still a lot of political conflict and strife that took centre stage, needing a lot of time to develop. Reading Shadow Scale you get a strong sense of how well crafted the world and the characters are, and how every instance of the novel feels so deliberate and well paced. Seraphina also faces difficult hardships in her travels, though can I just say her and Lucian are that darn cute? ’cause they are that darn cute.

Plus the politics between the humans and the half-dragons was just such a fascinating read. I thought Jannoula was such a fantastic and well-developed villain. I loved her motives, how methodical she was, she has a lot of depth within the narrative, and the more you learn about her, the more depth Hartman gives her. She surprised me, because in her introduction I didn’t think she’d be as interesting of a villain, so I was so shocked that I enjoyed her development.

Shadow Scale is a wonderful sequel to Seraphina and it was completely worth the wait. If you haven’t readSeraphina — do it. You can tell Rachel Hartman pays homage to a lot of the classic fantasy writers, but her writing has its own unique twist that really keeps it fresh. Beautiful descriptions, well developed characters, I was s sad when I hit the ending of this book because admittedly, I just didn’t want the story to end. For me, that’s the testament of an amazing story — when everything lingers even well after I’ve read the last page.

ARC Review – Lies I Told by Michelle Zink

20983351Title: Lies I Told

Author: Michelle Zink

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Grace Fontaine has everything: beauty, money, confidence, and the perfect family. But it’s all a lie.

Grace has been adopted into a family of thieves who con affluent people out of money, jewelry, art, and anything else of value. Grace has never had any difficulty pulling off a job, but when things start to go wrong on the Fontaines’ biggest heist yet, Grace finds herself breaking more and more of the rules designed to keep her from getting caught…including the most important one of all: never fall for your mark.

Huge thank you to HarperTeen and Edelweiss for this ARC!

River’s Review:

I LOVED this book and could not put it down! I was initially drawn to it because I love things with con artists (huge fan of the TV shows White Collar and Leverage). I was a little skeptical going into it because I was wondering how realistic it was going to be buuuuut it was awesome. It had a similar vibe to a book I loved last year, Kiss, Kill, Vanish so if you liked that book you’ll dig this one too.

Grace and her family are con artists. They find a target, work the mark and then take them for all their worth. I was SO worried that this was going to be crazy fake and that I’d have to suspend my belief A LOT or just roll my eyes a lot. I did neither. Grace and her brother, Parker, are adopted. When they were introduced to the grifter life they were both coming from horrible foster care situations and this just seemed SO much better. Money, glamour, power. What scared, lonely, poor, abused pre-teen wouldn’t want that? This set up just worked for me. And trust me their parents, awful people.

But to Grace, they’re her parents and this life is MUCH better than the one she left. Parker is dark and broody and has scars that he doesn’t talk about. It’s quite obvious that he’s doing it to make sure that he’ll never have to want for anything ever again. He’s saving his money so that he can get out. And Grace, she does it because she’s good at it. And it’s all she’s ever really known that makes her happy. She loves her parents (despite them being really awful people, they are good-ish parents) and doesn’t hate their life.

After having pulled off a number of jobs as a family, Grace and Parker are moved to Southern California where their mark is a wealthy man who has over 20 million in gold hidden on his estate. Grace has to get close to the son to infiltrate and find the gold, but she doesn’t count on falling for him. Making real friends, and enjoying living a “real” life. She starts to question if what she’s doing is right or wrong, and who it’s hurting. Parker is getting darker and darker, more unstable and he’s begging Grace to get out with him.

I loved Grace’s character growth. She really does evolve in this book and at the end when things fall apart she’s left questioning everything that she’s learned and ever known.

Things I loved about this: the writing and the pacing. It snaps along and I found myself instantly drawn in. I couldn’t put this book down and found myself FLYING through the last 40% because I had to know how things were going to go down. The characters: Everyone was so real. They were flawed, loveable, hateable, and at times I even felt really sad (especially for the guy they were robbing) for some of them. This so easily could have been a story about cookie-cutter California stereotypical rich kids, but it wasn’t. And they weren’t.

The ending was left pretty open and there are a lot of things that didn’t get resolved so there BETTER be another book because I NEED to know what happens!!!!

ARC Review – None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio

22896551Title: None of the Above

Author:  I.W. Gregorio

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: What if everything you knew about yourself changed in an instant? When Kristin Lattimer is voted homecoming queen, it seems like another piece of her ideal life has fallen into place. She’s a champion hurdler with a full scholarship to college and she’s madly in love with her boyfriend. In fact, she’s decided that she’s ready to take things to the next level with him.

But Kristin’s first time isn’t the perfect moment she’s planned–something is very wrong. A visit to the doctor reveals the truth: Kristin is intersex, which means that though she outwardly looks like a girl, she has male chromosomes, not to mention boy “parts.”

Dealing with her body is difficult enough, but when her diagnosis is leaked to the whole school, Kristin’s entire identity is thrown into question. As her world unravels, can she come to terms with her new self?

Huge thank you to Balzer + Bray and Edelweiss for this ARC!

River’s Review:

Wow. I FLEW through this book. I could not put it down. I actually almost didn’t read this because I wasn’t sure if I’d like it, but wow, I’m so glad that I did. This is actually not my first time reading about intersex characters, I read Middlesex years ago and I watched a Japanese drama a few years ago that dealt with the same subject.

This book is heartbreaking in the way that it shows how fucking ignorant people are and how they react when tey don’t understand something. The MC, Kristen, finds out that she’s intersex, which means that she has both male and female characteristics in her sexual organs. She’s essentially a female but her fucking classmates think that she’s really a male and rather than trying to understand her they just freak out and bully her so much that she can’t even go to school.

Some of the characters in this made my blood boil. I was especially pissed off at her ex-boyfriend Sam for a lot of the shit he said. And I hated how her best friend handled the situation. But I also really loved some of the characters, and Kristen’s family was amazing. I wasn’t 100% behind the romance and I’m glad that it didn’t take a lot of the book up, and gave a nice little happy-ish ending, but I almost wish that they’d just stayed friends and had it left a little open ended.

My only real problem with the book was how passive Kristen was. I kept screaming at her STAND UP FOR YOURSELF! She let people push her around and scare her and I so badly wanted her to take a stand. To sap Sam across the face and educate him. To turn around and look her classmates in the eye and tell them that she’s not a man. To take some control. I understand that she was dealing with a lot and coming to terms with it on her own, but even at the end when she does kind of stand up for herself, even then I didn’t really feel like she was TAKING A STAND.

Overall I think this is a very important book and one that everyone should read.

ARC Review – The Categorical Universe of Candice Phee by Barry Jonsberg

20549431Title: The Categorical Universe of Candice Phee

Author: Barry Jonsberg

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Introducing Candice Phee: twelve years old, hilariously honest and a little … odd. But she has a big heart, the very best of intentions and an unwavering determination to ensure everyone is happy. So she sets about trying to ‘fix’ all the problems of all the people [and pets] in her life

Huge thank you to Raincoast Books for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

The Categorical Universe of Candice Phee is quite the middle grade gem. Focusing on a character who has autism is never easy, nor is it’s to embed into writing and make realistic. Candice is wonderful as a heroine to follow — she’s very methodical, quirky, and in a lot of ways is okay at the prospect of being different.

A lot of middle grade novels focus on the idea of being different and treat it as something that needs to be overcome. This novel takes it a step further, suggesting that you can overcome your differences, but it doesn’t necessarily mean everything will change. Candice is actually okay with change, and it’s interesting to watch her float through life, write her feelings, and attempt to rationalize why some things, like being bullied or the loss of her sister are the way they are. Everything has a logical process, so it’s interesting to watch when logic breaks down, how Candice copes with life and change.

Candice’s alphabet is one of the main draws of this book. She wants to catagorize her world, but as she reaches certain points, or letters rather, the vocabulary level goes up, but moreover, she begins to have some strong realizations about herself. One of my favourite scenes is her taking Jen to the library and she attempts to have a “dialog” with her about why she’s a bully. When Jen says “Her family is crap, and she feels like crap,” Candice attempts to rationalize a reason for her existence. The situation doesn’t entire go very well, but you get this very unique perspective of how Jen responds and how Candice seems confused by it.

Also Jonsberg makes it so easy to get into Candice’s mind, but as a reader it’s interesting to read about her values and perspectives versus your own. When people respond harshly to Candice, I felt like I was getting both sides of the issue. In a lot of ways it’s no wonder people respond the wrong way to her observations and ideas, on the other hand it’s easy to feel a bit of sympathy for her because she doesn’t understand WHY or HOW something she has done is wrong or offensive to someone else.

I also adored her relationship with Douglas Benson from Another Dimension. It was pretty darn hilarious when Candice would call him weird or strange, meanwhile it’s what everyone else calls her. She’s so quick to judge him, but doesn’t see the parallels between them. It makes for such fun interactions, especially when Candice tells Douglas that while she’s allowed to eat in the library,. the librarians likely won’t be as kind to him. Who says that stuff! Well, Candice does.

I loved The Catagorical Universe of Candice Phee. It’s charming, quirky, and you can tell a lot of love was put forth in crafting the story and Candice herself. I fell so easily in love with this book, and it gave me as a reader a lot to reflect upon, especially how I handled problems when I was Candice’s age. Beautifully written, with tons of humour and emotion, you’ll easily fall for Candice Phee.