Monthly Archives: April 2016

ARC Review – Queen of Hearts (Queen of Hearts Saga #1) by Colleen Oakes

26074194Title: Queen of Hearts (Queen of Hearts Saga #1)

Author: Colleen Oakes

Rating: ★★

Synopsis: As Princess of Wonderland Palace and the future Queen of Hearts, Dinah’s days are an endless monotony of tea, tarts, and a stream of vicious humiliations at the hands of her father, the King of Hearts. The only highlight of her days is visiting Wardley, her childhood best friend, the future Knave of Hearts — and the love of her life.

When an enchanting stranger arrives at the Palace, Dinah watches as everything she’s ever wanted threatens to crumble. As her coronation date approaches, a series of suspicious and bloody events suggests that something sinister stirs in the whimsical halls of Wonderland. It’s up to Dinah to unravel the mysteries that lurk both inside and under the Palace before she loses her own head to a clever and faceless foe.

Huge thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy for review!

River’s Review:

Waaaah, I wanted to like this one so much more than I did. In 2009 I watched the TV Mini-series called “Alice” which was a modern remake of Alice in Wonderland. It was weird and twisty and did such an amazing job of playing with the themes of Alice in Wonderland (a story that I never really connected with that much in the past) that when I heard about this I for some reason connected the two in my head and thought that this book was going to be as brilliant as that mini-series.

And this book could have been. I had all of the elements, things were weird and twisted and Wonderland was deliciously creepy. But there was no backstory. No real world building. I felt like the only reason I was able to “see” it the way I was was because I was projecting my own ideas onto it. But when it comes to a fantasy world, even in a re-telling, I need some backstory. Why are things the way they are now, what lead to this current situation? Why should I care? There were things peppered throughout the book that I was grasping at, but nothing that really gave me the answers that I was craving.

Also there were times in this book that it felt like there was a Wonderland checklist that the author was just ticking boxes off. All the characters were there, but some of them seemed a little forced. Part of why I loved that TV mini-series so much was because the surprise of figuring out who was who! In this it was very obvious who was who and what their rolls were and it just fell a little flat for me.

I also wanted a plot. There was kind of this idea that there was something bad going on but the clues were so few and far between that I could never even try to piece them together. There was NO conclusion and nothing was wrapped up, no questions were answered, and everything was just left hanging in such an unsatisfactory way. It wasn’t even a cliffhanger. It’s just like the book cut off and that there should be more, but haha, you have to wait until the next one.

Also I was NOT comfortable with the relationship between the King of Hearts and Princess Dinah. I never felt that his actions were just and most of the time they seemed super random. Also the time jumps were weird and the whole story around the court politics made no sense.

I did enjoy the writing in this, and the descriptions of Wonderland. Wardley was an okay character, but that’s about it. I might pick up the next book just to see how things go, but it’s not going to be a priority. Sadness!

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ARC Review – This Is My Brain on Boys by Sarah Strohmeyer

26115740Title: This Is My Brain on Boys

Author: Sarah Strohmeyer

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Addie Emerson doesn’t believe in love. Not for herself anyway. With one year left of high school, she’s more interested in snagging a full scholarship to Harvard than a full-time boyfriend. That doesn’t mean she’s oblivious to the ways of the heart. Or, rather, the head. Because after months of research, Addie has discovered how to make anyone fall in love. All you need is the secret formula. But will her discovery be enough to win the coveted Athenian Award and all its perks? (See above, full scholarship to Harvard.) Or will she be undone by Dexter, her backstabbing lab partner, who is determined to deep-six her experiments at their exclusive private school?

Those are the least of her problems now that she’s survived a death-defying flight with a mysterious, dark-haired boy, who has delicious chocolate-brown eyes and a few secrets of his own.

With an experiment to mastermind, an infatuated exchange student on her hands, and at least one great white shark (more on that later), can Addie’s prefrontal cortex outwit her heart? Or will she have to give in to her amygdala and find out, once and for all, if this thing called love is more than just her brain on drugs?

Huge thank you to Harper Collins for sending me an ARC of this for review!

River’s Review:

Now THIS is the type of Strohmeyer book I love! I was a HUGE fan of Smart Girls and was rather disappointed with a few of her other books… but this THIS book was up there with Smart Girls!

Addie Emerson is a Sheldon Cooper/ Sherlock Holmes style genius. She goes to a special school where she can excel in her own way. She’s over literal and very smart. This gets her into trouble socially. Thankfully she has a best friend who understands her and takes care of her, a lab partner who’s similar to her, and a few other people in her corner. On an airplane that almost crashes into Logan Airport she meets Kris and they have an immediate connection.

Later on Addie finds out that Kris was the cause of a lot of bullying and grief that she had to deal with the previous year. Her friends are against her being around him, but he can’t be avoided because as a part of his penance for his previous year’s sins he has to take part in Addie’s experiment about… if you can make people fall in love.

This book was SO funny. Addie is a riot and she’s not too over the top. I loved how her friends dealt with her like they KNOW that she’s weird but they love her for it. I enjoyed her relationship with Kris and while I THINK I know what happened at the end I was a little confused about it… and what Addie’s true feelings were.

Overall I’m really glad that I gave Strohmeyer another shot because damn I love books like this!

ARC Review – A Walk in the Sun by Michelle Zink

26074209Title: A Walk in the Sun

Author: Michelle Zink

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Rose Darrow never wanted to spend her life working on her family’s farm. But when her family is rocked by an unexpected tragedy she has no choice but to put her plans for the future—and dreams of escaping her small town—on hold.

Bodhi Lowell left home as a kid and hasn’t looked back. Years of working farm jobs has given him the one thing he wants most: freedom to travel without answering to anyone. He’s already looking past his job at Darrow Farm and plans on leaving in September—until he meets Rose.

Neither Rose nor Bodhi can deny the sparks flying between them, but with the end of summer looming, they must decide if it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all….

Huge thank you to Harper Collins for sending me an ARC for review!

River’s Review:

This book was so stinking cute! For me, it was an ode to what might have been. I grew up in small town rural Michigan. Not quite on a farm (a small farm with goats and chickens and a garden) but I could have easily stayed there, married a local farm boy, and enjoyed a simple (conservativerepublicansheltered) life with horses and farmers tans. Alas that was not the life for me, but this book made me hella nostalgic for when I was younger and in 4-H.

This book is pretty predictable and a very light (despite some heavy issues) read. It’s a beach read for sure. It has a very typical one parent dies the other can’t function kid takes over story line. But it does have a nice rural farm setting with characters that you can’t help but love and root for.

In this book Rose’s mother passes away at the tail end of her senior year in high school. Rose puts of college to work her family farm while her father slowly tries to pull himself out of his grief. They hire a farm hand for the summer who of course is super hot, mysterious and has a secret past. Rose is a nononsense type of girl and she tires to keep her distance from him. But they can’t help but fall for each other…

Like I said, this book resonated with me and I really enjoyed it because of that. I can see how other people looking for a deeper story might not enjoy this, but if you want a light contemporary read check this one out for sure!

ARC Review – Crossing the Line (The Raven Files #1) by Meghan Rogers

23566919Title:  Crossing the Line (The Raven Files #1)

Author: Meghan Rogers

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Jocelyn Steely was kidnapped as a child and raised in North Korea as a spy. When her agency sends her to the U.S. to infiltrate the very group her parents once worked for, Jocelyn jumps at the chance to turn double agent and finish off her kidnappers once and for all. She convinces the head of the American spy agency to trust her, but it’s not quite as simple as that: Jocelyn has to fight the withdrawal symptoms from the drug that the North Koreans used to keep her in line, and her new fellow spies refuse to trust their former adversary. Worst of all, there might be some new information to uncover about her parents – if she even wants to find out.

Huge thank you to Penguin Random House for sending me a copy of this book for review!

River’s Review:

WOW! So. When I got this book I wasn’t sure if I was going to read it. Yes, I judged it by the cover. It looks kinda cheesy and… young. A little middle-grade-ish if you will. Well. It’s not. And it was SO SO GOOD! So I really wish this would get a new cover so more people would be prone to picking it up.

This book is pitched as a Bourne Identity type book, but for me it was A LOT like La Feme Nikita. I am OBSESSED with that movie/ TV show (the TV show mostly) and this book had SUCH a Nikita feeling to it. Our MC, Jocelyn, is SO BAD ASS. And she’s smart, fierce, and willing to do what it takes to survive. She’s kidnapped by a North Korean spy agency as a child and trained to be a killer. She’s good at what she does, but she isn’t as brain washed as they’d like to believe she is… and when she has a chance to go to the USA to join a rival spy team as a double agent, she takes it. But turns the tables and instead becomes a double agent for the US team, IDA.

I loved the way that Jocelyn dealt with her past and present situations at the same time. She learns about herself and grows, makes friends, and starts to trust for the first time in her life. She’s got some Katniss in her, but she also reminded me of a mix of Nikita and Alex from the Nikita TV show. Despite being similar to some of my favorite badass females, Jocelyn is very much her own well developed character. And not only was she well developed, but all of the characters were too. I LOVED how complex everyone was!

There’s a lot of really awesome action in this that just SPOKE to my action hero loving self. I am a sucker for old (and new-old) action movies with all our favorite action heros from the 80s and 90s. Okay even some of the new ones (hello Jason Statham!). So this really kept me engaged.

I also liked that there wasn’t any romance in this. Often times a lot of YA action novels get bogged down with the heroine falling in love and making stupid mistakes and having to be rescued. That did NOT happen in this and I was SO glad. There’s a lot of focus on friendship in this and trusting your partner. I think that we WILL see some romance in future books, but I’d be okay with that because Jocelyn has earned it!

The only issues that I had with this was the plausibility of a few things. For one I never learned Jocelyn’s ethnicity. Is she Korean or at least Asian? Would North Korea have non-North Korean spies? I’m not sure about this. I told myself that yes, they would, so they could have people on the ground anywhere. Another thing that bugged me (which is the most nitpicky thing ever, I know) is when Jocelyn is in China and she “presses the Chinese symbol for 25” in the elevator. For one, Chinese for 25 is three characters. Two, I don’t believe that a high tech science institute would have non-numeric numbers on it’s elevator buttons. And finally when Jocelyn and Ethan are in North Korea and they’re in public HOW DOES NOBODY NOTICE HIM? Unless he’s also Asian? (Again, I don’t think we ever got his ethnicity, but I always pictured him as a brown haired good ole American boy). Seriously, just a few tiny things.

BUT THIS BOOK WAS SO AWESOME GO GRAB A COPY AND A BOWL OF POPCORN AND READ IT YOU WONT REGRET IT!

ARC Review – The Mirror King (The Orphan Queen #2) by Jodi Meadows

22909838Title:  The Mirror King  (The Orphan Queen #2)

Author: Jodi Meadows

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Wilhelmina has a hundred enemies.

HER FRIENDS HAVE TURNED. After her identity is revealed during the Inundation, Princess Wilhelmina is kept prisoner by the Indigo Kingdom, with the Ospreys lost somewhere in the devastated city. When the Ospreys’ leader emerges at the worst possible moment, leaving Wil’s biggest ally on his deathbed, she must become Black Knife to set things right.

HER MAGIC IS UNCONTROLLABLE. Wil’s power is to animate, not to give true life, but in the wraithland she commanded a cloud of wraith mist to save herself, and later ordered it solid. Now there is a living boy made of wraith—destructive and deadly, and willing to do anything for her.

HER HEART IS TORN. Though she’s ready for her crown, declaring herself queen means war. Caught between what she wants and what is right, Wilhelmina realizes the throne might not even matter. Everyone thought the wraith was years off, but already it’s destroying Indigo Kingdom villages. If she can’t protect both kingdoms, soon there won’t be a land to rule.

Huge thank you to HarperCollins for sending me an ARC for review!

River’s Review:

If you know me you know that I’m not the biggest fan of YA fantasy. I mildly enjoyed The Orphan Queen and expected to enjoy this but not actually find parts that I LOVED.

In the TOQ I totally guessed who Black Knife was right from the start, and found a lot of the book predictable. I DID find the Wraith (and the Wraithland) intriguing and I was really looking forward to learning more about that. So sadly in this book the exploration that I had been hoping for didn’t quite happen, but I was surprised at the ending.

I read TMK in two days because I was very invested in what was happening. Some parts were predictable (especially when it came to certain deaths) but the way that things occurred were surprising and I enjoyed that. I really wish that Wraith Boy would have had more development because he was incredibly intriguing.

Overall there was just too much fighting going on and not enough wraith exploration. I really feel like there was a missed opportunity with that. The fighting and betrayals were all very typical fantasy, but the wraith was different and I’d read another book in this world if we were able to learn more.

ARC Review – Once Was a Time by Leila Sales

25777460Title:  Once Was a Time

Author: Leila Sales

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: In the war-ravaged England of 1940, Charlotte Bromley is sure of only one thing: Kitty McLaughlin is her best friend in the whole world. But when Charlotte’s scientist father makes an astonishing discovery that the Germans will covet for themselves, Charlotte is faced with an impossible choice between danger and safety. Should she remain with her friend or journey to another time and place? Her split-second decision has huge consequences, and when she finds herself alone in the world, unsure of Kitty’s fate, she knows that somehow, some way, she must find her way back to her friend. Written in the spirit of classic time-travel tales, this book is an imaginative and heartfelt tribute to the unbreakable ties of friendship.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I adore Lelia Sales’ writing, though last year I admit my disappoint when it came to Tonight the Streets Are Ours. However, when I heard she was writing a middle grade novel, I had high hopes, and even higher expectations. I loved this book! In fact, I loved it so much I read it in a day.

This is a novel about time travel and friendship. More particularly can a friendship transcend through time and still survive. When Lottie jumps through a portal during a critical moment in time, she is transported to 2013. She spends a lot of time blaming herself into believing that the Nazi’s had murdered her best friend Kitty, and father. Interestingly, however, beyond this premise, this book has more to do with how a time traveler adapts to a new environment.

Lottie struggles a lot in this novel in regards to who she thinks she is, and who she perhaps wants to become in the “future.” I felt for her in the story, because trying to feel apart of a world that isn’t your own, it’s awkward and uncomfortable. There’s so much loneliness and isolation in this book as well, and even when Lottie makes friends, it never feels comfortable or “right.” I loved the relationship that Lottie forms with Miss Timms, the town’s librarian, and anytime she discussed funding cuts, and budget issues, my heart sank (as a library worker anytime you hear those words your heart sinks). But I loved their friendship and I loved how genuine it was, especially since Miss Timms encourages Lottie to try and find herself through the library. I also loved Lottie’s desire to read the whole Children’s Collection — a girl of my own heart.

I wanted to smack Dakota and friends throughout this book. Especially anytime they would coarse Lottie into bullying Jake. I was so sad Lottie kept caving to the peer-pressure, but I also loved how much of a wonderful friendship she strikes up with Jake! He’s such a darling character, full of energy and life, and being a kid like Jake who was bullied, I felt for her a lot during the story. The latter half of the novel where they are together in the search for Kitty was priceless, and I loved his level of encouragement. The ending made me cry like a baby, because it’s just so bittersweet and wonderful.

Once Was A Time is just such an enchanting novel that will tug at your feelings and hang on for dear life. It’s emotional, thoughtful, and very much a book-lover’s book as well. If you can suspend your disbelief and enjoy the small science fiction aspects within the story, then you’ll find a lot to enjoy here. I can’t wait to re-read this one in the future!

ARC Review – Daughters of Ruin by K.D. Castner

25785728Title:  Daughters of Ruin

Author: K.D. Castner

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Rhea, Cadis, Suki, and Iren have lived together since they were children. They are called sisters. They are not. They are called equals. They are not. They are princesses…and they are enemies. Not long ago, a brutal war ravaged their kingdoms, and Rhea’s father was the victor. As a gesture of peace, King Declan brought the daughters of his rivals to live under his protection—and his ever-watchful eye. For ten years the girls have trained together as diplomats and warriors, raised to accept their thrones and unite their kingdoms in peace.

But there is rarely peace among sisters. Sheltered Rhea was raised to rule everyone—including her “sisters”—but she’s cracking under pressure. The charismatic Cadis is desperately trying to redeem her people from their actions during the war. Suki guards deep family secrets that isolate her, and quiet Iren’s meekness is not what it seems.

Huge thank you to Simon & Schuster Canada for this ARC!


Sam’s Review:

I must confess, I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy Daughters of Ruin. It has a beautiful cover,that misrepresents the novel in a lot of ways. The blurb sounded interesting, but felt a little misleading. I was worried I was going to get a fantasy novel with a ton of romance in it just based on the cover alone, but what I got was quite the surprise.

Daughters of Ruin spans four POVs of view regarding four women who are forced to live together, though taken from rival kingdoms. There’s a lot of strong political intrigue, fantastic action sequences, and the heroines (minus one for me) were very well developed given that this novel isn’t very long. My favourite POVs to read were definitely Cadis and Iren’s, though I may or may not have been shipping them as a couple throughout the whole book. I loved their relationship and how they knew when they could sass-mouth each other and when it was time to get to down to business. I loved the politics in Rhea’s chapters and she grew on me as the novel went on.

But I hated Suki. I found her chapters very painful to read given the unique style they were in. I think there are better ways to share an internal monologue through text, but this wasn’t one of them. I found her chapters hard to read from a format perspective, and she was just a really whiny and annoying character to follow about.

The other thing about this book is that while the story does a great job of building itself, the ending is a tad weak. In fact, it feels like it should be sequel-bait because it’s simply ends. The resolve doesn’t feel as strong as it could, so I am wondering if there is going to be a series or not. And yeah, there’s romance in this book, but it’s more from a political standpoint, and this is really more about understanding the politics behind each heroines motives. That, I liked a lot.

Daughter of Ruin was an unexpected surprise for me, and I think those who love darker, more politically fueled fantasy would definitely get a kick out of this novel. I really just wish it had been a little longer, because I feel like there’s so much more that could have been explored. But each of the heroines really does have something to offer the reader, and I think given the craziness of this world and the fast-paced action, that this one will be an easier winner for fantasy fans.