Monday, September 30, 2013

Review: The Unlikly Hero of Room 13B

The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B
Two-time Governor General's Award nominee Teresa Toten is back with a compulsively readable new book for teens!

When Adam meets Robyn at a support group for kids coping with obsessive-compulsive disorder, he is drawn to her almost before he can take a breath. He's determined to protect and defend her--to play Batman to her Robyn--whatever the cost. But when you're fourteen and the everyday problems of dealing with divorced parents and step-siblings are supplemented by the challenges of OCD, it's hard to imagine yourself falling in love. How can you have a "normal" relationship when your life is so fraught with problems? And that's not even to mention the small matter of those threatening letters Adam's mother has started to receive . . .

Teresa Toten sets some tough and topical issues against the backdrop of a traditional whodunit in this engaging new novel that readers will find hard to put down.
Publication Date: August 27, 2013
Publisher: Doubleday Canada



Kat's Review

I loved this book. I loved the main character, in all his complicated glory. I loved the superheroes of Room 13B. I loved that the author didn't gloss over what OCD can really mean for a teen struggling to get better and fit in. This is a really great story that deals with a debilitating illness in a way that's at times sweet, heartbreaking, and laugh out loud funny.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Review: Deceived by Julie Anne Lindsey

When Elle's father, a single parent and a big shot in corporate insurance, moves her to yet another boarding school for senior year, Elle is disgusted when nothing changes. Her night terrors don't go away, and, soon, despite her father's caring calls and visits, Elle starts to believe she's losing her mind. She knows she's being followed; a ribbon is tied around her doorknob, and there are those cigarette butts that keep turning up on the doormat, in violation of a strict smoking ban on campus. Then there's Bryan, an intriguing boy Elle meets at a flea market and later finds out is a student at her school. Yet on campus, he pretends he doesn't recognize her - until the day he divulges just how much danger she's in. In her search for an answer to all the madness, Elle unravels the truth about her dad's real identity, why someone has lied to her all her life, and the terrifying truth that she may be the only one who can save her from the one who's following her now.
Publisher: Merit Press
Publication Date: September 13, 2013
Kat's Review
Deceived is a book that gets better as it goes. I found the book to be a bit hard to follow at the beginning, and it took me a while to warm to Elle, the main character. She's not particularly outgoing, nor does she have many social skills, yet she has a pretty great roommate who tries to pull Elle out of her shell on a regular basis. I wasn't sure that I was going to like it, but the premise intrigued me enough to keep going.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday (27)

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking The Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. 

Here's what I'm waiting on this week:

Dreams of Gods & Monsters
by Laini Taylor

In this thrilling conclusion to the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy, Karou is still not ready to forgive Akiva for killing the only family she's ever known.
When a brutal angel army trespasses into the human world, Karou and Akiva must ally their enemy armies against the threat--and against larger dangers that loom on the horizon. They begin to hope that it might forge a way forward for their people. And, perhaps, for themselves--maybe even toward love.
From the streets of Rome to the caves of the Kirin and beyond, humans, chimaera, and seraphim will fight, strive, love, and die in an epic theater that transcends good and evil, right and wrong, friend and enemy.

I cannot wait for the release of the conclusion to this series. Laini Taylor's writing is just so beautiful, I'm excited to read the conclusion, but at the same time, I don't want it to end! It doesn't release until 2014, but I saw the cover and it immediately made me want to read it.

What are you waiting on? Tell me in the comments!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Review: Asunder by Chloe Aridjis

by Chloe Aridjis

Marie's job as a guard at the National Gallery in London offers her the life she always wanted, one of invisibility and quiet contemplation. But amid the hushed corridors of the Gallery surge currents of history and violence, paintings whose power belies their own fragility. There also lingers the legacy of her great-grandfather Ted, the museum guard who slipped and fell moments before reaching the suffragette Mary Richardson as she took a blade to one of the gallery's masterpieces on the eve of the First World War.
After nine years there, Marie begins to feel the tug of restlessness. A decisive change comes in the form of a winter trip to Paris, where, with the arrival of an uninvited guest and an unexpected encounter, her carefully contained world is torn open.
Asunder is a rich, resonant novel of beguiling depths and beautiful strangeness, exploring the delicate balance between creation and destruction, control and surrender.

Publication Date: September 17, 2013
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Kat's Review

I love books set in museums, and that discuss art and history, and the idea of the this young woman's story being caught up in the history of the museum made me eager to read this one. Marie is actually a complicated character in the guise of a rather apathetic one. She appears to have little ambition, few close relationships with either males or females, and little personality. However I felt that she secretly harboured bigger hopes and dreams, but was too paralyzed by her own fears and self-doubts to pursue them.

She passes her time at the museum on quiet contemplation of the artwork, but is drawn to their faults; the way the paint cracks over time, the painting that was attacked by a suffragette. Marie felt drawn to the outcasts and misfits, and spent her evenings creating landscapes on eggshells, and waiting for the moment she would notice the landscapes begin to decompose. As a reader, her paralysis when it came to affecting change in any area of her life was particularly frustrating at times. When invited to Paris by her friend Daniel, she needs a day to think over the invitation. Then she spends her time there ensuring that nothing passes between them, until someone arrives and Daniel's attention is diverted elsewhere.

The novel is beautifully written, and a cursory reading won't unveil the layers of meaning underscoring each seemingly insignificant decision or action that Marie takes. Reading below the surface reveals a bit of a rebellious soul in Marie, longing for action and excitement, but only if she can't witness it from the outside. The novel is understated but rich in layers, and will be enjoyed by someone willing to take their time and tie the loose ends together. There are no big action scenes, and no grand finale here, so if you need your stories wrapped up in a neat package to be satisfied, this may not be the book for you. If you like to dig a little deeper, there is a lot here to enjoy.

Rating: A Good Read

A different style from most bestsellers, but an interesting and enjoyable read. This would make a good book club book. A quick read, and I think people will either love the understated style or hate it.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from NetGalley & the publisher in return for an honest review.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Nerd Blast: The Prodigal by Michael Hurley

prodigal blast
Welcome to the Nerd Blast for THE PRODIGAL by Michael Hurley
Pride, betrayal, forgiveness . . . and the eternal sea.  The Prodigal tells the mystical tale of four people on Ocracoke Island whose destiny is tied to an abandoned schooner, thought to have been lost at sea more than a century ago, that one day drifts ashore.  Marcus O’Reilly, a renegade Catholic priest, must confront his inner demons.  Ibrahim Joseph, a Bahamian fugitive, must face his past.  Aidan Sharpe, a fallen lawyer, struggles with self-doubt and his growing affection for Molly McGregor, a fearless towboat captain who cannot find the courage to love.  They will all be drawn into a 2,000-year-old mystery that unfolds with the reappearance of the ship.
“A masterpiece of artistic imagination.  Hurley’s eloquent, hypnotic style will have readers following, unquestioningly, to the very end.” –ForeWord Clarion Review
“Stirring, romantic, and evocative of the sea’s magic.” –Kirkus Reviews
You can purchase The Prodigal at these retailers:

About The Author:
Michael Hurley lives in Raleigh, North Carolina with his wife Susan. Together they have four children ranging in age from 19 to 23.  Born in Baltimore in 1958, Michael studied English at the University of Maryland and law at St. Louis University. He is licensed to practice law in Texas and North Carolina.  A lifelong sailor, he obtained his captain’s license from the U.S. Coast Guard in 1992 and took six months off from the practice of law to work as a sailboat charter captain in New Bern, North Carolina. Between 1995 and 2003, while practicing law full-time, he also wrote and published Paddle & Portage, a quarterly literary journal on wilderness canoeing enjoyed by more than 10,000 subscribers in 48 states.  When he is not sailing or writing or canoeing, Michael continues a hopeless quest to prove that his piano teachers at Baltimore’s Peabody Institute were wrong about him all along.
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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Review: Vigilante Nights by Erin Richards

Vigilante Nights
A "good boy" will do anything for vengeance when a gang rite kills his twin sister. Will Lucas win, or follow his sister Silver into the darkness?

After a hideous car wreck, Lucas wakes from a coma to find that his world is gutted. Not only is his beloved twin sister, Silver, gone forever, but Lucas is broken in body and spirit. He will never be a college athlete, and is robbed of what he now realizes was the most important bond of his life. Although they weren't identical twins, Lucas and Silver shared a bond so fierce it defied reason, and was nearly supernatural.

After her death, that bond seems to endure when Lucas sees Silver everywhere he turns. Either he's crazy, or Silver is trying to tell him something about the California gang initiation they stumbled into that cost Silver her life. Lucas is bent on revenge, turning on Raymond, Silver's former boyfriend; the one Lucas never wanted her to date. He forms a posse of vigilantes to take out the gangsters responsible for Silver's death, but he risks not only his own life, but the love of the new girl on his block, who knows more about Lucas and Silver than can be accounted for by mere chance.
Publisher: Merit Press
Publication Date: July 18, 2013
Kat's Review
I was intrigued by the premise of this novel- the whole teenage revenge thing, but after reading the book, I kind of wish the supernatural element was left out. After Lucas awakes from the accident and realizes that his sister is dead but he can still communicate with her, he heads down a path of revenge strongly encouraged by his sister Silver. The problem for me was that Silver was an immensely unlikable character, and I just wanted her to go away. I know that sounds awful, but it's true. I really think there could have been enough there is regards to motivation for revenge without the extra push from his sister.
Turns out Lucas uncovers some interesting information about some students at his school who had more to do with the night Silver was killed than they're letting on. Through a series of incidents, bot planned and unplanned, the truth about that night comes to light, but at a terrible cost.
The storyline is interesting and there were some characters I came to care about, but ultimately there were a few things in this book that just didn't do it for me. I already mentioned the supernatural element. I don't have issues with supernatural themes at all, it just seemed unnecessary in this book. I also have to mention that I really took issue with the way Latinos were portrayed. Not because they were the gang members. There are many Latino gangs out there. It was more to do with the stereotypical accents and some of the behaviours. I've read books that portrayed Latino kids in gangs and didn't take offense, but there was something that just bugged me about it here.
Rating: Heavy Page Turner
I hate giving books unfavourable ratings, but this one just wasn't for me. I know it will resonate with many, many readers, but it isn't a book I would pick up to read again. There was nothing awful about it, I just found it hard to connect.
I was provided a complimentary copy of this title from NetGalley & the publisher in return for an honest review.

Waiting on Wednesday (26)

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking The Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. 

Here's what I'm waiting on this week:

The Wolves of Midwinter (The Wolf Gift Chronicles #2)
The tale of THE WOLF GIFT continues . . .

In Anne Rice’s surprising and compelling best-selling novel, the first of her strange and mythic imagining of the world of wolfen powers (“I devoured these pages . . . As solid and engaging as anything she has written since her early vampire chronicle fiction” —Alan Cheuse, The Boston Globe; “A delectable cocktail of old-fashioned lost-race adventure, shape-shifting and suspense” —Elizabeth Hand, The Washington Post), readers were spellbound as Rice imagined a daring new world set against the wild and beckoning California coast.

Now in her new novel, as lush and romantic in detail and atmosphere as it is sleek and steely in storytelling, Anne Rice brings us once again to the rugged coastline of Northern California, to the grand mansion at Nideck Point—to further explore the unearthly education of her transformed Man Wolf.

The novel opens on a cold, gray landscape. It is the beginning of December. Oak fires are burning in the stately flickering hearths of Nideck Point. It is Yuletide. For Reuben Golding, now infused with the wolf gift and under the loving tutelage of the Morphenkinder, this Christmas promises to be like no other . . . as he soon becomes aware that the Morphenkinder, steeped in their own rituals, are also celebrating the Midwinter Yuletide festival deep within Nideck forest.

From out of the shadows of the exquisite mansion comes a ghost—tormented, imploring, unable to speak yet able to embrace and desire with desperate affection . . . As Reuben finds himself caught up with the passions and yearnings of this spectral presence and the preparations for the Nideck town Christmas reach a fever pitch, astonishing secrets are revealed, secrets that tell of a strange netherworld, of spirits—centuries old—who possess their own fantastical ancient histories and taunt with their dark, magical powers . . .
Publication Date: October 15, 2013
Publisher: Knopf
I'm not going to lie, Anne Rice could introduce me to pretty much any mythical creature and I'd buy into it. Looking forward to this one.
What are you waiting on? Let me know in the comments!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Review: Winds of Salem (The Beauchamp Family #3) by Melissa de la Cruz

Winds of Salem (The Beauchamp Family #3)
Modern-day witch Freya Beauchamp is cast back in time to 1692 amongst the Salem Witch Trials by an enemy spell, as her present-day family attempts to reopen the passages of time to bring her home.
Freya Beauchamp is trapped in 1692, in Salem of all places, with no recollection of her past. A powerful enemy spell has sent her spiraling away so that she is separated by centuries from her mother, Joanna, and sister, Ingrid. This is not good news for a twenty-first-century witch. Not to mention the immediate threat she faces from the wealthy and influential Putnam family. When little Annie Putnam is one of the first to make accusations of witchcraft, her landowner father jumps at the opportunity to consolidate his power and expand his holdings in Puritan Salem Town. If Freya is caught using magic, she will be forced to relive the witch trials, and this time, even her immortality is in question.

Meanwhile, twenty-first-century North Hampton has its own snares. Joanna and Norm consult the Oracle for advice, and Freddie and his pixie allies search for a missing totem that could reopen the passages of time and help bring his sister home. When Ingrid bumps into an old flame, she finds that her new love for Detective Matt Noble is in doubt.

Moving between past and present, Winds of Salem's dizzying plot twists and page-turning suspense is sure to bewitch fans old and new.
Publisher: Hyperion
Publication Date: August 13, 2013
Kat's Review
If you haven't read any of the other books in this series, it's okay. There is a lot to grasp at first, but the backstory is weaved into the book along the way. The story weaves back and forth between past and present, integrating some real historical events (the witch trials) with the trials and tribulations of a fictional family of witches. There is a lot of mythology here, as well as several mythological characters, but it's so well written and enjoyable that it seems to blend seamlessly with the plot of the story.
I loved the way the author managed to weave together so many different myths into a story that in so many ways is grounded very much in reality. I found myself trying to figure out who to trust and who not to, and I was completely invested in the outcome. There's some romance, some mythology, witches, time travel, immortality, and drama, and somehow it all works.
Kat's Rating: A Good Read
I really enjoyed this book. It's not a book you can give half your attention to though, it requires all of it to understand the back history and the various myths at work, but it's worth it. I found myself completely immersed in this world while I was reading.
I was provided a complimentary copy of this title from NetGalley & the publisher in return for an honest review.

Review: The Bell Between Worlds (The Mirror Chronicles #1) by Ian Johnstone

The Bell Between Worlds (The Mirror Chronicles #1)
A glorious epic fantasy in the grand tradition of C.S. Lewis and Philip Pullman, and a major publishing event, The Mirror Chronicles will take you into another world, and on the adventure of your lifetime…

Half of your soul is missing. The lost part is in the mirror. And unless Sylas Tate can unite the two worlds, you will never be whole again.

Sylas Tate leads a lonely existence since his mother died. But then the tolling of a giant bell draws him into another world known as the Other, where he discovers not only that he has an inborn talent for magic, but also that his mother might just have come from this strange parallel place. Meanwhile, evil forces are stirring, and an astounding revelation awaits Sylas: that the Other is a mirror of our world, and every person here has their counterpart there, known as a Glimmer. As violence looms and the stakes get higher, Sylas must seek out his Glimmer, and unite the two halves of his soul – otherwise the entire universe may fall...
Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books
Publication Date: June 6, 2013
Kat's Review
This book is pitched as an epic fantasy, and it really is. It begins with poor Sylas, living with his miserable Uncle and mourning the untimely death of his mother. When he wanders into a shop that popped up in an abandoned storefront, he's introduced to some objects that show him there's more to the world than meets the eye. When he learns that his mother isn't actually dead, Sylas begins questioning everything he thought was true.
Sylas finds himself compelled to follow the ringing of the bell that no one else can hear, and finds himself in a world that mirrors his own. He realizes that he is the key to saving the Universe, and sets off on a pretty amazing adventure to fulfill his destiny.
This is a great adventure book for kids. It's very long, so it's not the type of book a kid will burn through in a few nights, but it would be a great book to read together at night before bed, allowing for some time to digest all of the ideas presented here. It's no so complex that kids would have trouble following along, but it's dense in ideas and imagery, and best read at a pace that allows for some digestion of the trickier story elements. I'm looking forward to my son being old enough to read this with me!
Kat's Rating: A Good Read
This is truly the beginning of what promises to be a great fantasy series for kids, but also enjoyable for teens and adults.
I received a complimentary copy of this title from NetGalley & the publisher in return for an honest review.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Review: Losing Hope (Hopeless #2) by Colleen Hoover

Losing Hope (Hopeless #2)
In the follow-up to Colleen Hoover’s #1 New York Times bestseller Hopeless, the charming and irresistible Dean Holder tells the passionate story that has melted thousands of hearts.

In Hopeless, Sky left no secret unearthed, no feeling unshared, and no memory forgotten, but Holder’s past remained a mystery.

Still haunted by the little girl he let walk away, Holder has spent his entire life searching for her in an attempt to finally rid himself of the crushing guilt he has felt for years. But he could not have anticipated that the moment they reconnect, even greater remorse would overwhelm him…

Sometimes in life, if we wish to move forward, we must first dig deep into our past and make amends. In Losing Hope, bestselling author Colleen Hoover reveals what was going on inside Holder’s head during all those hopeless moments—and whether he can gain the peace he desperately needs.
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication Date: July 8, 2013
Kat's Review
I absolutely loved Hopeless, so I was interested in seeing what Colleen Hoover had up her sleeve when it came to telling the story from Holder's perspective. I thought it would be a complete retelling of the original book, only from his point of view. Turns out it was that, and so much more.
Losing Hope gives the reader insight into what happened with Holder's sister, and how he tried to cope after her death. It allows the reader to fill in some of the blanks left from the first book, without it being boring or repetitive. If you haven't read book one, you could get away with just reading this one, but I think you would be missing out.
One of the things I like the most about Colleen Hoover's writing is that she isn't afraid to go where some writers of YA fiction won't. She's not the only author to tackle hard topics, but I admire the honesty in her characters and her refusal to hold back on anything. That may be a problem for some, particularly if you're the parent of a younger child who's interested in the books, but for me, the book bravely tackles tough topics head on.
Kat's Rating: All Consuming
I didn't think the companion book would be as compelling as the first because, let's face it, I already know what happens, but it was. I like the characters, the storyline, and the writing style. Loved it.
I received a complimentary copy of this title from NetGalley and the publisher in return for an honest review.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Brazen's Surprise Book Release: Wicked Heat

Who doesn't love surprises?  The people behind Brazen Books sure do - and they just couldn't wait a whole month before putting out another book for their readers. Surprise!  

Their newest book combines steamy island romance and high personal stakes. What a combination! 

Wicked Heat
by Nicola Marsh
Competitors by day, lovers by night
Allegra Wilks has had the worst month of her personal and professional life. To save her company, she must go on her would-be honeymoon and land the luxury eco-island resort's lucrative advertising account. But when a lingerie mishap leads her into the arms of a wickedly distracting Australian, Allegra's tempted to skip the trip and explore the most sensual kiss she's ever experienced. Too bad their chance encounter at the airport is just that.

Having recently lost his company to his former best friend's shady business tactics, Jett Halcott is headed to a South Pacific resort to secure an advertising account that will resurrect his reputation and career. Realizing the tantalizing Allegra Wilks is on his flight, Jett envisions a week filled with business and pleasure. But Jett doesn't know Allegra's fighting for the same account, or that there's more at stake than his heart.
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“You should do that more often,” he said, reaching out to trace her bottom lip with his fingertip. “You’re beautiful, but when you smile? Wow.”
Uncomfortable with his overt compliments, Allegra sat there and let a guy she’d just met touch her lips with a slow, sensual caress. His fingertip traced her bottom lip in a butterfly-soft sweep that left her breathless.
Their eyes locked as he lowered his hand, and what she saw made her wish she could ditch Palm Bay and travel to Australia.
Blatant lust. Strong. Sexy. Seductive. His eyes deepened to an incredible green that matched a favorite jade pendant she wore often. He wanted her, and in this crazy moment, the feeling was entirely mutual.
He raised his beer to his lips and took a long swig, his heat-filled stare never leaving hers.
Damn, she had no idea what to do in this situation. Make a joke to diffuse the tension? Acknowledge it? Flirt?
She hated feeling out of control, had instigated steps her entire life to avoid it. Yet in a loaded thirty seconds, Jett had made her damp with just one look and made her flounder.
“Is the blatant charm an Aussie thing or is it just you?”
Thankfully, he blinked, and broke the scorching stare that made her want to grab a napkin off the bar and fan herself. “It’s me.” He leaned in close. “Time you fessed up.”
Yikes. Was her reaction to him that easy to read?
“To what?”
His lips almost brushed her ear. “You’re battling an incredible urge to drag me into the nearest janitor’s closet and ravish me.”
She laughed at his outrageousness. “Sorry. I don’t do sex in cleaning closets. Too many hazardous chemicals.”
“Yeah, those pheromones can be killer.”
She loved his quick wit and for the second time in as many minutes, wished she’d met him at a different place, different time.
            “Pity.” He reverted to a smoldering stare that had her wishing she’d ordered a vodka shot chaser. “Sex in confined spaces can be fun.”
“I’ll take your word for it.” Heat crept into her cheeks and she signaled the waiter for a glass of water. To douse herself with.
“Not the answer I was hoping for,” he said, shifting his barstool closer so their thighs brushed. “Would’ve been better if you’d said, ‘Sounds good, Jett, let’s go try.’”
She cleared her throat and gratefully accepted the water from the waiter, drinking it all and wishing she could run the cool beaded exterior across her forehead. “How did we get onto this crazy topic?”
“Started with you wanting to ravish me.” He clinked his beer bottle to her empty glass. “Seriously. There’s no need to hold back. I can take whatever you want to dish out.”