Monday, April 20, 2015

ARC Review & GIVEAWAY! City Love

"Three different teenage girls learn to navigate their hearts and NYC. City Love is the start of a romantic new series for fans of Sarah Dessen, Stephanie Perkins, and the Carrie Diaries, from bestselling author Susane Colasanti.

Roommates Sadie, Darcy, and Rosanna have big plans for their summer before college. Sadie is looking for love, Darcy is living for the next adventure, and Rosanna is reinventing herself. There will be plenty of distractions - irresistible guys, wrong guys, awkward encounters, 2 a.m. breakfasts, fangirl moments, Nasty Girl, and more - but if they look up they will discover the true meaning of city love."

I was sent this book by Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review. They also sent some glitter chalk (!!!) so check out #CityLove on Instagram to see what messages people are writing in their cities. And because HarperCollins sent me two copies of City Love, I'm giving one away - make sure to enter the giveaway below!

I was really intrigued by the premise of this book - friends in the big city! Such potential for adventure, and I love a friendship story, especially when it's a strong female friendship. So I was excited to read this, even though I'm picky about contemporary. I must admit that it wasn't quite my cup of tea. The characters felt a bit unrealistic, and their friendship took a backseat to insta-love.

BUT! I'm not totally writing this one off. I don't usually abide by intended audience age ranges, but I think this is one of those cases where it should be heeded. It's entirely possible (and honestly just likely the case) that I'm too old to fully appreciate this book. I think that high school aged readers will likely enjoy City Love much more, as they face their post-high school future with similar excitement as the main characters. I'm giving my 14 year-old cousin a copy, and I'm 100% confident that she'll love it. If you want an easy read about friends in New York and that feeling of "anything is possible" we all had before college, you should pick this up. I fully expect City Love to pop up on "best beach reads" list this year!

I'm giving away one ARC copy of City Love. US residents only. Fill out the Rafflecopter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Review: Red Queen

"Graceling meets The Selection in debut novelist Victoria Aveyard's sweeping tale of seventeen-year-old Mare, a common girl whose once-latent magical power draws her into the dangerous intrigue of the king's palace. Will her power save her or condemn her?

Mare Barrow's world is divided by blood - those with common, Red blood serve the Silver-blooded elite, who are gifted with superhuman abilities. Mare is a Red, scraping by as a thief in a poor, rural village, until a twist of fate throws her in front of the Silver court. Before the king, princes, and all the nobles, she discovers she has an ability of her own.

To cover up this impossibility, the king forces her to play the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks everything and uses her new position to help the Scarlet Guard - a growing Red rebellion - even as her heart tugs her in an impossible direction. One wrong move can lead her to her death, but in the dangerous game she plays, the only certainty is betrayal."

Yes friends, we have yet another belated review from yours truly. The crazy thing is that I bought this book on its release day back in February, and have stared at this chillingly beautiful cover since. So why did you wait so damn long to read it, Jane. I'LL TELL YOU WHY. This book was so hyped - every blogger and YouTuber got a very fancy marketing box and you literally could not read a blog or watch a video without it being mentioned. And if you know me, dear friend, you know that I so enjoy being contrary and hate being swayed by impressionable others. So I waited. And stared at that cover because damn.

It's a good thing I did, because Red Queen far exceeded my expectations. The first book in a series, Red Queen felt rich and powerful, unlike some of its contemporaries (cough The Sin Eater's Daughter cough). The world building and magic system - based on different color blood - was engrossing and well developed. Forced into poverty and virtual slavery purely because of their Red blood, the lower caste society that Mare is born into is cruel with little hope. Mare is such a great female protagonist - she is strong, and more focused on getting justice for her people than giggling at princes. I loved how real Mare felt, that she was angry and passionate but not in a way that made her unapproachable to the reader. Rather, I rallied around Mare - delighted in her rebellion, her moments of exposing the system for what it was, both in political and personal ways.

The world itself was brilliant - two opposing groups, one of which oppresses the other is not a new theme, period, but I thought the different colored blood and superhuman powers were really well portrayed. The Silvers have these incredible abilities, which they use to be great warriors, as testaments to the strength of their families. This is a totally different style of court intrigue. The characters were so well crafted, and I could envision them as real people as I read. Their motivations and true feelings are always just hidden, so in the end I felt just as betrayed and stunned as Mare. This isn't a spoiler, because the BLODDY SYNOPSIS GIVES THE WHOLE THING AWAY. Sorry, that's just a major pet peeve for me. Be mysterious with your synopses, publishers. We won't want to buy the book if we get the milk for free. Wait, that's not right...

ANYWAY, I digress. Red Queen was a great, impactful-in-a-magical-way read, and I highly recommend it to any readers who enjoy fantasy. Fans of The Hunger Games/Divergent/dystopian in which a group of young adults rise up to overthrow the baddies, will also enjoy this. And because you all know how much I love a villain...well, you'll have to read the book to find out who's my second favorite character. Dun dun dunnn. When book two comes out, I'll embrace the hype because it's well deserved.

Goodreads rating: 4 / 5 stars

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Review: Neverland

"It's been four months since seventeen-year-old Livy Cloud lost her younger sister, but she isn't quite ready to move on with her life - not even close. She'd rather spend her time at the Seattle Children's hospital, reading to the patients and holding onto memories of the sister who was everything to her and more. But when she meets the mysterious and illusive Meyer she is drawn into a world of adventure, a world where questions abound. Is she ready to live life without her sister? Or more importantly, is she brave enough to love again? In this modern reimagining of Peter Pan, will Livy lose herself to Neverland or will she find what she's been searching for?"

Peter Pan is my favorite fairy tale, and when I lived in England I made the pilgrimage to his statue in Kensington Gardens often. So when I got the chance to read an eARC of Shari Arnold's Neverland, I was excited to read a retelling of my beloved Peter's story.*

Neverland is Livy's story - a girl who loses her young sister to cancer, and continues to devote herself to other sick children. One day she meets mischievous yet mysterious Meyer and the adventure begins. Obviously, Meyer is the Peter Pan character. Livy is quickly wrapped up in his crazy dares and her own feelings for him. The novel itself is more complex that just a straightforward retelling: characters struggle with grief, and death is very much a central character in this book.

For me, the book is a bit lacking until the second half, when we actually get to Neverland. In the first part, we meet Livy and her grief, and follow as she gets swept up in the whirlwind that is Meyer. I found Livy a bit frustrating, because she's constantly asking "what am I doing? why am I going with him? something doesn't seem right." And then proceeds to grab his hand and go along. The same thing happens with James Hale, who suddenly replaces Livy's tutor and has a dark curiosity about him.  For someone who's lost her sister and is afraid of so much, Livy really gives up a lot about herself to these complete strangers.

But things pick up once we get to Neverland. And how magical it is! The world is so wondrous to envision. This was by far my favorite part of the book, spending that time in Neverland and learning the truth. The ending felt a bit predictable, but admittedly it tied up all the loose ends nicely. I feel like a lot of readers will appreciate that, especially since this is a standalone, and definitely gives a spin on the more classic interpretation of Peter.

The real strength in this novel was its accurate, to the point of painful, portrayal of grief and humanity's inherent concern for the afterlife. Those aspects rang the most true for me as a reader, and kept me invested in this story. Overall, I enjoyed reading this and think that fans of Peter and Neverland will as well. If you love Peter and are looking for a novel that represents some of the best aspects of his story, then you should check this out.

Rating: 3 / 5 stars

*I received a free advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Review: The Sin Eater's Daughter

"Seventeen-year-old Twylla lives in the castle. But although she's engaged to the prince, Twylla isn't exactly a member of the court.

She's the executioner.

As the Goddess embodied, Twylla instantly kills anyone she touches. Each month, she's taken to the prison and forced to lay her hands on those accused of treason. No one will ever love a girl with murder in her veins. Even the prince, whose royal blood supposedly makes him immune to Twylla's fatal touch, avoids her company.

But then a new guard arrives, a boy whose easy smile belies his deadly swordsmanship and unlike the prince, he's able to look past Twylla's executioner robes and see the girl, not the Goddess. Yet Twylla's been promised to the prince, and knows what happens to people who cross the queen.

However, a treacherous secret is the least of Twylla's problems. The queen has a plan to destroy her enemies, a plan that requires a stomach-churning, unthinkable sacrifice. Will Twylla do what it takes to protect her kingdom? Or will she abandon her duty in favor of a doomed love?"

Ok, this is another belated review because sometimes the hype around a book gives me pause. Also, I had to wait for this to be available at my library. But still. I tried to go into this read with an open mind, yet almost immediately I knew exactly how this book would turn out.

We are presented with an increasingly popular YA trope: a girl whose touch is lethal. And as always, there's a ridiculous love triangle. Following where Kristin Cashore and Tahereh Mafi have already tread (and more successfully at that), Salisbury may craft new details, but the formula remains the same. I did enjoy those details - the concept that Twylla was the Goddess embodied and sin eating.

My favorite aspect of this book is the same thing that I've seen many reviewers take issue with: the ultimate portrayal of religion. A rival kingdom values science and democracy, and the dichotomy between science and religion was of most interest to me (although it wasn't a huge focus of the book). But I truly enjoyed how religion was treated, especially towards the end. (If you're wondering, it's negative). Characters felt flat, plot twists weren't that twisted, and the reader is left set up for a sequel I have no desire to read. This is a clear case of being a mindful consumer: the cover is beautiful and loads of hype put it on your radar, but that doesn't guarantee a quality read.

This has come across rather negative, but I take these reviews seriously, and want to provide good information to fellow readers. If you're still intrigued to read this, you absolutely should! Just maybe borrow it from your library first before making the financial commitment.

Goodreads Rating: 2.5 / 3 stars

What are your thoughts on the "girls who'll kill with a single touch" trope? Let me know down below...I might put up a Deadly Ladies recommendation list soon!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Review: Fairest

"Mirror, mirror on the wall.

Who is the fairest of them all?

Pure evil has a name, hides behind a mask of deceit, and uses her "glamour" to gain power. But who is Queen Levana? Long before she crossed paths with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress in The Lunar Chronicles, Levana lived a very different story - a story that has never been told...until now."

Fairest was published back in January, and I somehow kept overlooking it. I finally freed it from my never ending TBR pit, and was rewarded with a villain story unlike any other. It is a truth universally acknowledged that I love a good villain. "Good" serving as a measurement of quality and not of morality, of course. I often root for the bad guy, and nothing warms my cold, dead heart like a villain with a devastating backstory. So I was more than excited to read this prequel and finally learn what's going on under Queen Levana's veil. A whole lotta crazy, it turns out.

I felt frenzied the entire time I read this book, anxiously waiting for pieces to fall into place, to understand the method to Levana's madness. But as the story progressed, it became all too clear that Marissa Meyer had no intention of crafting a villain that people like me could champion. No spoilers here, but whilst the reader is made aware of the queen's painful childhood, true likeness, and foray into love, ones thing becomes abundantly clear. Levan is insane. I kept waiting for there to be a line Levana wouldn't cross. Surely there was a limit to her cruelty, her evil? No. If there is, it certainly can't be found in Fairest. And that was a huge revelation for me as a reader.

By the last page, I found myself shocked by her seemingly complete lack of humanity. Whether it was Meyer's intention or not, it shed such a light on the villain trope. Readers like myself want to find something in villains - but sometimes, the bad guys truly are deplorable. Looking back, that's why I enjoyed this book so much. Levana is evil, and ruthless, and it was brilliant to publish this character study before the final book in the Lunar Chronicles comes out in November. Readers need to understand that Levana is no easy adversary. Cinder and company won't be handed a victory, by any means.

Fairest is a great addition to the Lunar Chronicles series, and it enriched my understanding of Luna. Plus, there's an excerpt from Winter! I have a feeling she might become my favorite character, so excitement is high for the final installment.

Goodreads: 4 /5 stars