Monday, March 30, 2015

Review: Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler


Synopsis: Once upon a time, Hudson knew exactly what her future looked like. Then a betrayal changed her life and knocked her dreams to the ground. Now she's a girl who doesn't believe in second chances...a girl who stays under the radar by baking cupcakes at her mom's diner and obsessing over what might have been.
    So when things start looking up and she has another shot at her dreams, Hudson is equal parts hopeful and terrified. Of course, this is also the moment a cute, sweet guy walks into her life...and starts serving up some seriously mixed signals. She's got a lot on her plate, and for a girl who's been burned before, risking it all is easier said than done. It's time for Hudson to ask herself what she really wants, and how much she's willing to sacrifice to get it. Because in a place where opportunities are fleeting, she knows this chance may very well be her last...

I'm  just going to come right out and say it: I loved this book so much. It's got everything I'm looking for in a contemporary YA: awesome characters, witty writing, with an inspirational (but not cheesy) life lesson to tie things together.

I love Hudson, the main character. She's wonderfully realistic that I expected her to leap off the page and into my living room at any moment. She's at times insecure, bold, funny, serious, caring, know, like a real person is. It always bugs me when a character is so one-note, so devoid of personality. Thankfully, Sarah Ockler has mastered the art of creating fun, diverse, realistic characters that you just want to be friends with. 

And I just have to gush about Sarah Ockler's writing: I found myself laughing out loud at the genuinely funny dialogue, nodding along to a certain relateable paragraph and generally just finding myself immersed in the story. Sarah Ockler is a fantastic writer. I can't say much more except gush, gush, gush, gush, gush. 

I also love how this book teaches people that it's never too late to pursue your dreams - and also that it's okay for your dreams to change.

I cannot recommend this book enough. My one complaint: the description of the cupcakes throughout the book are so vivid and mouth-watering that all I want to do now is eat cupcakes.

Review: Where She Went by Gayle Forman

 Where She Went (If I Stay, #2) 

Synopsis: It's been three years since the devastating accident...three years since Mia walked out of Adam's life forever. Now living on opposite coasts, Mia is a rising star at Juilliard and Adam is a bona fide rock star, complete with tabloid headlines and a celebrity girlfriend. Then chance brings them together again, for one night. As they explore the city that has become Mia's home, Adam and Mia revisit the past and open their hearts to the future - and to each other. 

In this sequel to If I Stay, we get to witness the aftermath of Mia's tragic accident and how it affected her relationship with Adam.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that this book was told from Adam's perspective. I can't say for sure if this was the reason I enjoyed Where She Went just a little bit better than If I Stay. I find Adam to be a really intriguing character and it was cool to see things from his perspective. Or maybe I'm just a sucker for redemptive love stories. 

The characters showed definite growth from the last book. It was interesting to see how both Adam and Mia had changed - and not always for the better. 

I did have the same issue with this book as I did with If I Stay: I felt like I never fully connected with the characters. But ultimately, this is a sweet story about rekindled love and second chances and who can resist that? 

Review: If I Stay by Gayle Forman

If I Stay (If I Stay, #1) 

Synopsis: Mia had everything: a loving family, a gorgeous, adoring boyfriend, and a bright future full of music and full of choices. Then, in an instant, almost all of that is taken from her. Caught between life and death, between a happy past and an unknowable future, Mia spends one critical day contemplating the only decision she has left - the most important decision she'll ever make. Simultaneously tragic and hopeful, this is a romantic, riveting, and ultimately uplifting story about memory, music, living, dying, loving.

If I Stay has undeniably become one of those modern YA classics like The Fault in Our Stars and The Perks of Being a Wallflower. And why shouldn't it? It deals with incredibly difficult issues: losing loved ones, fear of the future, and impossible choices. 

I did admire the way Gayle Forman told Mia's story by alternating between Mia's present and her past. It was really interesting getting to know the characters bit by bit, each new revelation having some influence on Mia's choices.

I also liked the relationships between characters: the playful one Mia has with her family and the flawed-but-romantic one she has with Adam. I thought Mia's and Adam's relationship was so realistic. It's clear that they're not a perfect couple and they have their issues just like in real-life relationships. And I think that made the tender moments between them all the more romantic.

One thing I did have an issue with: I had trouble connecting with the characters. For some reason, they never really became fully formed in my mind. But overall, I did enjoy this book and yes, I did cry at the end.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Book Review: The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

The Shining Girls 

Synopsis: Harper Curtis is a killer who stepped out of the past. Kirby Mizrachi is the girl who was never meant to have a future. 
     Kirby is the last shining girl, one of the bright young women burning with potential whose lives Harper is destined to snuff out after he stumbles on a House in Depression-era Chicago that opens onto other times. At the urging of the House, Harper inserts himself into the lives of the shining girls, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. He's the ultimate hunter, vanishing into another time after each murder, untraceable - until one of his victims survives. 
     Determined to bring her would-be killer to justice, Kirby joins the Chicago-Sun Times to work with the ex-homicide reporter Dan Velasquez, who covered her case. Soon Kirby finds herself closing in on the impossible truth...

I loved this book so much it has now become one of my Favourite Books of All Time. It's gripping, masterful, hypnotic, can stop me before I run out off superlatives. A top-rate thriller mashed with sci-fi elements that feel so natural I found myself thinking 'Well of course, there's a house that allows Harper to travel through time. How else is he going to go on his killing spree?'

The book switches perspectives between characters and bounces back and forth in time. It has the potential to be confusing, but if you pay attention, it's actually quite easy to keep the timelines straight. And it fuels the sense of dread and despair that permeates the story. This book is dark and, at times, hard to read. The violence is graphic but not gratuitous. In an interview, Beukes talked about how we are all so desensitized to violence that we don't connect with victims so she wanted to really rub the reader's face in it so that the brutality of the murders does shock us out of complacency. This book is a big 'Fuck you' to a society that glamorizes violence and a media that sexualizes the murder of women.  

All of Harper's victims are so well-realized and diverse. They are women who challenge convention and have a spark, a fire inside of them - and that is why they shine and why Harper feels he has to kill them. No concrete explanation is given as to why Harper has to kill them - my theory is that he feels weak and impotent and is jealous of women who have a sense of their own power. And so he takes that power away from them. He doesn't just take their lives, he steals their potential. And that is what makes this book not just a thriller, but a tragedy. The victims in this book are not just pretty corpses - their stories are told from their own perspectives so the reader gets a sense of who these women are - they're struggles, their fears, their passions. And then Harper shows up and I feel so sad and also really pissed off. Just another small-minded man threatened by a woman's power that he has to take it away from them in the most permanent way possible.

Despite the heaviness throughout the book, I feel like it does have a satisfying ending that wraps everything up perfectly. I highly, highly recommend this book, especially if you are a fan of Stephen King or Gillian Flynn. And kick-ass female authors writing kick-ass female characters. 

Book Review: Foxglove Summer (Peter Grant #5) by Ben Aaronovitch

 Foxglove Summer (Peter Grant, #5) 

Synopsis: When two young girls go missing in rural Herefordshire, police constable and wizard-in-training Peter Grant is sent out of London to check that nothing supernatural is involved. It's purely routine - Nightingale, Peter's superior, thinks he'll be done in less than a day.
     But Peter's never been one to walk away from someone in trouble, so when nothing overtly magical turns up he volunteers his services to the local police, who need all the help they can get. But because the universe likes a joke as much as the next sadistic megalomaniac, Peter soon comes to realize that dark secrets underlie the picturesque fields and villages of the countryside and there might just be work for Britain's most junior wizard after all. Soon Peter's in a vicious race against time, in a world where the boundaries between reality and fairy have never been less clear...

Foxglove Summer  is, hands down, the best book in the Peter Grant series so far. I waited over a year to read this book after the shocking finale of the previous book. And it was sooooo worth the wait. Ben Aaronovitch continues to expand the world of supernatural creatures and it all just seems so real. Everything Aaronovitch has created in this book fits together so perfectly that nothing feels out of place and I think that is arguably more important in a fantasy book than a realistic novel. 

One thing I just have to mention is the unicorns. Yes, there are unicorns in this book and Ben Aaronovitch does a unique, disturbing twist on them. How could you not love a book with unicorns?

It is so fun to see Peter Grant out of his comfort zone, i.e. London. And we get to see more of Beverley Brook, one of my favourite characters introduced in the very first book. And I was so happy to see the introduction of Dominic Croft, an openly gay detective who is a fully realized character and not a stereotype. There have been several gay characters in the Peter Grant novels and I love the way Ben Aaronovitch writes them - as real people, not caricatures. If you are like me, and are craving more diverse books, the Peter Grant series has got you covered. 

I've talked about the twist ending of the previous book which was one of the reasons I was anticipating this book so much. We definitely do not get any closure but there are some serious hints dropped about what actually happened, how Peter's dealing with it, and what's going to happen next. My prediction: something big is going to happen in the next book and this series will reach truly epic proportions. Sorry if this is all a little bit vague but I don't want to spoil anything.

We do have a title and a tentative release date for the next book: It's called The Hanging Tree and is set to be released November 19, 2015 in the UK. That usually means we poor sods in North America get it about a month after.

This series needs to be a TV show. Like, now.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

This Week's Cover Reveals

 This week, we saw so many cover reveals for highly anticipated books including the final book in Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles and brand new paperback covers for The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare.

Winter (The Lunar Chronicles #4) by Marissa Meyer
Winter (The Lunar Chronicles, #4)

I freaked out when I saw this cover! It's so beautiful. 
Release Date: November 10, 2015

Firewalker (The Worldwalker Trilogy #2) by Josephine Angelini
Firewalker (Worldwalker, #2)

This cover for the second book in the series marks a change in style from the first book but not to worry: the paperback for the first book is getting a makeover to match this cover.
Release Date: September 1, 2015

Trial by Fire (The Worldwalker Trilogy #1) by Josephine Angelini
Trial by Fire

Frozen Tides (Falling Kingdoms #4) by Morgan Rhodes
Frozen Tides (Falling Kingdoms, #4)

Release Date: December 15, 2015

Legacy of Kings (Blood of Gods and Royals #1) by Eleanor Herman
Legacy of Kings (Blood of Gods and Royals, #1)

Release Date: August 25, 2015

The Rose Society (The Young Elites #2) by Marie Lu
The Rose Society (The Young Elites, #2)

Release Date: October 6, 2015

Soundless by Richelle Mead


Release Date: November 17

Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass #4) by Sarah J. Maas
Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass, #4)

Release Date: September 1, 2015

The Mortal Instruments series is getting new paperback covers from both the U.S. publisher (Simon & Schuster) and the U.K. publisher (Walker Books.) 

City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments #1) by Cassandra Clare - U.S. Edition
City of Bones

Release Date: September 1, 2015

City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments #1) by Cassandra Clare - U.K. Edition
city of bones cassandra clare

Release Date: July 2015

City of Ashes (The Mortal Instruments #2) by Cassandra Clare
city of ashes cassandra clare

Release Date: July 2015

City of Glass (The Mortal Instruments #3) by Cassandra Clare
city of glass cassandra clare

Release Date: July 2015

City of Fallen Angels (The Mortal Instruments #4) by Cassandra Clare
city of fallen angels cassandra clare

Release Date: July 2015

City of Lost Souls (The Mortal Instruments #5) by  Cassandra Clare
city of lost souls cassandra clare

Release Date: July 2015

City of Heavenly Fire (The Mortal Instruments #6) by Cassandra Clare
city of heavenly fire cassandra clare

Release Date: July 2015

Since the U.K. publisher released all of the covers at once, I'm hoping the new paperbacks will be available as a box set. The rest of the U.S. paperback covers have yet to be revealed. So which one is your favourite? I'm partial to the U.K. covers myself..

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Reading Wishlist: March 2015

 March 3

The Winner's Crime (The Winner's Trilogy #2) by Marie Rutkoski
The Winner's Crime (The Winner's Trilogy, #2)

Genre: YA Fantasy
 The sequel to The Winner's Curse.

Death Marked (Death Sworn #2) by Leah Cypress
Death Marked (Death Sworn, #2)

Genre: YA Fantasy
Sequel to Death Sworn.

Mosquitoland by David Arnold

Genre: YA Contemporary

Kin (Tales of Beauty and Madness #3) by Lili St. Crow
Kin (Tales of Beauty & Madness, #3)

Genre: YA Fantasy

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Buried Giant

Genre: Fiction

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
Bone Gap

Genre: YA Contemporary

The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson
The Bookseller

Genre: Historical Fiction

Rebel Queen by Michelle Moran
Rebel Queen

Genre: Historical Fiction

The Suicide Exhibition by Justin Richards
The Suicide Exhibition: A Novel

Genre: Science Fiction

Cat Out of Hell by Lynne Truss
Cat Out of Hell

Genre: Horror

The Sellout by Paul Beatty
The Sellout

Genre: Fiction

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald
H is for Hawk

Genre: Non Fiction

March 10

Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver
Vanishing Girls

Genre: YA Contemporary

Shadow Scale (Seraphina #2) by Rachel Hartman
Shadow Scale (Seraphina, #2)

Genre: YA Fantasy

The Orphan Queen (The Orphan Queen #1) by Jodi Meadows
The Orphan Queen (The Orphan Queen, #1)

Genre: YA Fantasy

Burning Kingdoms (The Internment Chronicles #2) by Lauren DeStefano
Burning Kingdoms (Internment Chronicles, #2)

Genre: YA Science Fiction

Confess by Colleen Hoover

Genre: New Adult

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson
Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania

Genre: Non Fiction

The Tusk that Did the Damage by Tania James
The Tusk That Did the Damage

Genre: Fiction

March 17

The Wilderness of Ruin: A Tale of Madness, Fire, and the Hunt for America's Youngest Serial Killer by Roseanne Montillo
The Wilderness of Ruin: A Tale of Madness, Fire, and the Hunt for America's Youngest Serial Killer

Genre: True Crime

Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum

Genre: Fiction

Wolves of the Northern Rift by Jon Messenger
Wolves of the Northern Rift

Genre: Fantasy

The Great Leader and the Fighter Pilot: The True Story of the Tyrant Who Created North Korea and The Young Lieutenant Who Stole His Way to Freedom by Blaine Harden
The Great Leader and the Fighter Pilot: The True Story of the Tyrant Who Created North Korea and The Young Lieutenant Wh o Stole His Way to Freedom

Genre: Non Fiction

March 24

Half Wild (The Half Bad Trilogy #2) by Sally Green
Half Wild (The Half Bad Trilogy, #2)

Genre: YA Fantasy

The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma
The Walls Around Us

Genre: YA Fantasy

We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach
We All Looked Up

Genre: YA Contemporary

Manwhore by Katy Evans
Manwhore (Manwhore, #1)

Genre: Romance

March 31

The Wicked Will Rise (Dorothy Must Die #2) by Danielle Paige
The Wicked Will Rise (Dorothy Must Die, #2)

Genre: YA Fantasy

King (The Dragon King #3) by Ellen Oh
King (The Dragon King Chronicles, #3)

Genre: YA Fantasy

The Voyage of the Basilisk (Memoir by Lady Trent #3) by Marie Brennan
The Voyage of the Basilisk (Memoir by Lady Trent, #3)

Genre: Fantasy

The Unleashing (Call of Crows #1) by Shelly Laurenston
The Unleashing (Call of Crows, #1)

Genre: Paranormal Romance

At the Water's Edge by Sara Gruen
At the Water's Edge

Genre: Historical Fiction

So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson
So You've Been Publicly Shamed

Genre: Non Fiction

Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on Their Decision Not to Have Kids by Meghan Daum (Editor)
Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on Their Decision Not To Have Kids

Genre: Non Fiction

2015 is shaping up to be a phenomenal year for books. It's only March and look how many great books are coming out in this month alone! Let me know what books you're adding to your TBR pile this month in the comments below! Happy reading, everybody!