26 June 2015

Review: Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley

Reviewer: Kayla
Author: Maria Dahvana Headley
Pages: 309
Format: Hardcover
My Rating: 3/10

Summary (thanks, Goodreads):

Aza Ray is drowning in thin air. 

Since she was a baby, Aza has suffered from a mysterious lung disease that makes it ever harder for her to breathe, to speak—to live. 

So when Aza catches a glimpse of a ship in the sky, her family chalks it up to a cruel side effect of her medication. But Aza doesn't think this is a hallucination. She can hear someone on the ship calling her name.

Only her best friend, Jason, listens. Jason, who’s always been there. Jason, for whom she might have more-than-friendly feelings. But before Aza can consider that thrilling idea, something goes terribly wrong. Aza is lost to our world—and found, by another. Magonia. Above the clouds, in a land of trading ships, Aza is not the weak and dying thing she was. In Magonia, she can breathe for the first time. Better, she has immense power—and as she navigates her new life, she discovers that war is coming. Magonia and Earth are on the cusp of a reckoning. And in Aza’s hands lies the fate of the whole of humanity—including the boy who loves her. Where do her loyalties lie?

My Thoughts:

When I read the synopsis and saw the cover, I was so excited to start this adventure. But.. Oh dear. What a disaster. I really tried to like this book, I did. I am able to appreciate the story and the world that Maria Headley built as Magonia, but I had so many issues with this book, and I will also try my best not to spoil too much of it. (also it seems from Goodreads reviews that this is an unpopular opinion? oops) 

For starters, throughout the book I was completely and utterly confused. How the world, the magic, the songs and the powers worked went right over my head. I feel like the world was underdeveloped and it was just missing something. I also couldn't wrap my head around the Magonians and the Rostrae. How are they different? I just kept picturing the blue people from the Avatar movies with feathers that made them look like a cockatoo. I don't even know I was just so confused. The whole storyline blurred together and it was rather difficult for me to distinguish the ultimate goal that was trying to be accomplished. Everything sort of happened all at once and there was no transition between scenes and interactions. But at the same time, it was slow. I found the entire book to be so slow and difficult to grasp.

Now, for the real headache, the characters. I couldn't stand any of the characters (except Jason, I could stand him a little more than any of the others). Aza annoyed me from beginning to end. At first I thought her voice was unique and her narration was entertaining. But then it got repetitive and ridiculous at times.. I saw no real development from beginning to end, she was flat, weak and barely did anything for the story. I didn't understand why she was important to Magonia, why they needed her specifically and why her powers are more important than the others. (i'm so sorry i'm bashing this book so hard). It was just that all of a sudden she was fighting like it came naturally to her, like she's never been sick. We never got to see any of her training in how she learned to use song to control the weather and physical things. Also how the hell do birds live in their lungs through a trap door through their CHEST?! LIKE I WAS PICTURING A TRAP DOOR IN HER CHEST?! AND THEN SKINS? LIKE THAT WHOLE THING F*CKED WITH MY HEAD.

Also, this is a personal fetish, but I hate birds and I hate sharks, so this whole book stressed me out because I started picturing a bird flying into my lung and then I started hyperventilating.

Final Thoughts:

I was disappointed with this book. I tried to like it and I still appreciate it's premise, but I probably won't be picking up a sequel if there is one in the productions. #sorrynotsorry

19 June 2015

Review: The Wrath And The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

Reviewer: Kayla
Author: Renee Ahdieh
Pages: 388
Format: Hardcover
My Rating: 9/10

Summary (thanks, Goodreads):

A sumptuous and epically told love story inspired by A Thousand and One Nights

Every dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi's wit and will, indeed, get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch . . . she’s falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend.

She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. Shazi is determined to uncover the reason for the murders and to break the cycle once and for all.

My Thoughts:
"What the fuck just happened..." - my literal outspoken words upon the conclusion of this book.
But literally what the fuck.
Give me a few minutes to process what the fuck just happened
Nope, still don't get it. Holy shit.
Okay, let's start with what we know. I loved this book. I did have few, minor problems with it, but overall, I LOVED THIS BOOK.

The culture shock I got while reading this book blew me away. I have never experienced this culture so intricately before, and it was amazing. The writing is absolutely beautiful, and the words Ahdieh uses and the concepts she creates is something spectacular, and it really imprints in your mind because it's so distinct and effortless. Personally, I found it difficult to understand some things because of the different culture, such as titles assigned to people (ie. "malik" vs. "caliph" vs. "sultan")(I guess it means like "president" vs. "prime minister" here? i'm still not entirely sure). Although, the world-building got better and better, and you come to feel like you know the characters. I found it hard to figure out who was good and who was bad, and the ending left me blindsided but not utterly surprised. Frankly I'm kinda pissed I didn't figure it out sooner.

The storyline, as well, is also so unlike anything I've ever read. The mystery and secrecy just keeps getting weirder and weirder and I read the majority of this book (probably from page 168-388) in one day because I did not, could not stop. As everything unravels, everything else becomes so much clearer and the characters unfold because of it. I was expecting more & more explanation for the magical element of the story, but I'm hoping it will be expanded on in the next book! Where do these people get powers? How come some people have them and some don't? SO MANY NON-ANSWERS.

The romance between Shazi and Khalid was also something to be reckoned with. While Shazi's arrogance and faltering feelings did annoy me at times, I found myself desperately wanting them to be together. It did start off a bit rough for me, like when she tried to fool Khalid into telling her his secrets by using guilt against him, all the while keeping secrets from him herself. They just kept hurting each other for seemingly childish things time and time again. But then they would get really cute and then they'd kiss and MY HEART LEAPT FROM MY CHEST. I just wish she would have used compassion and selflessness to make him trust her rather than hurting him over and over. Despite this, she did come to be better and really be understanding and tolerable toward Khalid toward the end when all is revealed. I just can't get over her previous selfishness. EVEN THOUGH SHE KNEW KHALID WAS NOT ALL BAD. Okay I'm going to stop before I spoil it. I have hope for Shazi in the next book. DON'T LET ME DOWN GIRL. And I just feel so bad for Khalid. He's just the cutest and bravest and strongest and swoon-worthiest. I can't say more about this little angel face without spoiling but believe me HE'S SUCH A PUPPY LIKE I CAN'T I NEED TO PROTECT HIM.

Final Thoughts:
The world was amazing, the romance was steamy and to die for, and the storyline can do nothing but progress greatly from here. I did have some problems with the book (*cough Shazi cough*), but I am past it. I really did love it! The ending leaves many unanswered questions and things I am uncertain about, but I promise you won't be disappointed with it. The storyline is addicting and you, like myself, WILL NEED THE NEXT BOOK NOW

15 June 2015

Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses

Reviewer: Kelsey
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 416 (not enough)
Rating: 9 out of 10

Summary (Goodreads is my rose): When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she's been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

My Thoughts: This novel was great. I mean like wanted to reread it right after I finished reading it, which is weird because half the time, I don't even reread novels. 

Even though it was a retelling, and therefore is similar to the original story, it was a fantastically unique story to me. I thought that it was original. Especially the characters. Feyre (whose name is super annoying because I have to think about it to read it) is amazingly strong. I couldn't do 1/4 of what she did, nor would I even pretend to try. There are so many times when I would have given up or lost hope. Sure, she did lose hope a few times, but she always came back swinging harder than ever before. I couldn't have been her. Lucien was the perfect combination of annoying, snappy, and sarcastic. Tamlin was just fascinating. 

The world that was painted for the reader was so beautiful and also terrible that you couldn't help but find it attractive, even when it was scary and you wanted to run away from it. 

There were no instant relationships (yay) and there was a done of action (yay) that was well thought out and carefully laid (double yay). I believed where it was going and how everything happened. I didn't once catch myself wondering when the book would end or what was to come; I was living in the moment, book style. It was great. 

The end (not the actual end) was great. The whole last section had be sitting on the edge of my seat, scheming right along with the characters, trying to understand their motivations and who could be trusted. I swore at this book and argued with the characters and caught my heart beating faster as it went along. 

The vocabulary, the description, the structure were all wonderful and weren't a distraction. They only made me read more quickly since I wasn't stuck tripping over sentence structure or other problems with the writing. I forgot that I was even reading and ended up staying awake until 2am. Clear writing makes me so (so so so so) happy.

My only real (not actually an issue) issue is that this novel doesn't seem to belong in the young adult section. Violence, romance, nasty names, and some horrible thoughts definitely make this novel a new adult. Which is great for me because that section is really growing on me. So much was left for the rest of the series but it also could be read on it's own, I think. 

So: I thought that this was a fanatic retelling of Beauty and the Beast; it helps that I am a huge fan of that story as it is. I want the rest of the series right this moment and might cry because I can't. This novel might be my favourite by Maas. I think you should read it. End of story.

Best novel I've read in a while.

12 June 2015

Review: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Reviewer: Kayla
Author: Jojo Moyes
Pages: 369
Format: Papercover
My Rating: 8/10

Summary (thanks, Goodreads):

Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.

What Lou doesn't know is she's about to lose her job or that knowing what's coming is what keeps her sane.

Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he's going to put a stop to that.

What Will doesn't know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they're going to change the other for all time.

My Thoughts:
this book took me so long to finish and it was the first book that ever made me proper cry in a long time. like hardcore red faced, puffy eyes, snot infused sobbing. it was heartbreakingly beautiful, and even though there were some things i would personally change about the book, i still thought it was something so unlike anything i've ever read before. besides nicholas sparks books, this was my first adult book, which may have contributed to me not really relating to the 27-35 year old characters, in turn contributed to my knocking it down a few points. as well, there are plenty of things about the ending i would have changed. BUT STILL, i still loved the characters for their individualities and what they brought to the story, and the story itself was amazing, despite it being an adult book. i feel like i will become a Louisa Clark when i grow up, she was literally so rad, literally the best way to describe her. Will Traynor was the star of the show. i loved that man so much he made the entire book worthwhile. their interactions and chemistry together was undeniable and memorable and incredible. 

Final thoughts?
as i said, i did have some problems with the book and because it was my first adult book after becoming so accustomed to YA, it was hard to relate to the characters at some points. still, the story was unique and beautiful and everyone needs to read it!

8 June 2015

Review: On Beauty and Being Just

Reviewer: Kelsey
Author: Elaine Scarry
Format: Paperback
Pages: 134
Rating: 6 out of 10

Summary (Goodreads is beautiful): Have we become beauty-blind? For two decades or more in the humanities, various political arguments have been put forward against beauty: that it distracts us from more important issues; that it is the handmaiden of privilege; and that it masks political interests. In "On Beauty and Being Just" Elaine Scarry not only defends beauty from the political arguments against it but also argues that beauty does indeed press us toward a greater concern for justice. Taking inspiration from writers and thinkers as diverse as Homer, Plato, Marcel Proust, Simone Weil, and Iris Murdoch as well as her own experiences, Scarry offers up an elegant, passionate manifesto for the revival of beauty in our intellectual work as well as our homes, museums, and classrooms.
Scarry argues that our responses to beauty are perceptual events of profound significance for the individual and for society. Presenting us with a rare and exceptional opportunity to witness fairness, beauty assists us in our attention to justice. The beautiful object renders fairness, an abstract concept, concrete by making it directly available to our sensory perceptions. With its direct appeal to the senses, beauty stops us, transfixes us, fills us with a "surfeit of aliveness." In so doing, it takes the individual away from the center of his or her self-preoccupation and thus prompts a distribution of attention outward toward others and, ultimately, she contends, toward ethical fairness.
Scarry, author of the landmark "The Body in Pain" and one of our bravest and most creative thinkers, offers us here philosophical critique written with clarity and conviction as well as a passionate plea that we change the way we think about beauty.

Slight disclaimer: I read this book for class...

Thoughts: This novel really succeeded in making me think. It was easy to understand and interesting. This book was my favourite of the five I read for my intro to philosophy class. It examines the ways beauty creates a better world and how it can encourage us to be more moral. I had never considered that beauty was the reason we try to recreate things, including creating children. 

It was short and very educational...ish so there isn't much I can say except that if you are interested in beauty, justice, philosophy as topics to read about, you should check this book out. I am currently looking into another one of Scarry's works for pleasure instead of for school. That is a pretty strong testimony in itself, I suppose.

5 June 2015

Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Reviewer: Kayla
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Pages: 433
Format: Hardcover
My Rating: 9/10

Summary (thanks, Goodreads):
A coming-of-age tale of fanfiction, family and first love

CATH IS A SIMON SNOW FAN. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan... But for Cath, being a fan is her life--and she's really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it's what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fanfiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath's sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can't let go. She doesn't want to.

Now that they're going to college, Wren has told Cath that she doesn't want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She's got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend; a fiction-writing professor who thinks fanfiction is the end of the civilized world; a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words...and she can't stop worrying about her dad, who's loving and fragile and has never really been alone

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

My Thoughts:
Cath may be a Simon Snow fan, but this book definitely turned me into a Rainbow Rowell fan.
This book was an amazing introductory novel into the world of Rainbow Rowell, and though I have yet to get to Eleanor and Park, and I m very excited to do so. This book has everything without being overpowering, and, living as a fangirl myself, it was awesome to see that rather than people criticizing and judging this lifestyle, Rowell made it into a realistic story about a girl trying to find her independence and way into the real world, which is very difficult to do. Believe me, I know.
Cath is an amazingly relatable character who is just trying to do well in school and excel in the domain she loves, writing, both fan fiction and for school, and seeing the passion she has for it and the way it drives her is so cute and relatable. The relationship she has with her dad and her sister, despite its instability, is genuine and lovely, and she's just scared to let go. That aspect is something I think a lot of people can relate to, especially having to leave home and forced to be in unfamiliar situations with unfamiliar people.
I loved Levi. Can I have one? Or seven? He was so cute and the relationship he developed with Cath was formed very realistically. The moments they shared were completely heart-swelling and I never wanted it to end. I don't want to spoil anything, but when Levi told Cath about the thing and she helped him by doing the thing... You have to know what I mean if you've read this book. IT WAS JUST SO ADORABLE.
Wren was also a force to be reckon with. That spontaneity that drove her through the entire novel impacted Cath and seeing them eventually come together when they needed each other most was so inspiring it honestly made me want a twin. I'm jealous of all the twins in the world.

Final thoughts:
I could go on and on about this book and it's been one of my favourites. Best word I can use to describe this book is SOUTTERLYCUTEANDADORABLEANDIWANTMORE . Yes, that is one word don't fight me. I would be completely okay and transfixed if a sequel were to come out! Come on, Rainbow, make it happen!

1 June 2015

Review: Never Never

Reviewer: Kelsey
Author: Colleen Hoover and Tarryn Fisher
Format: ebook
Pages: 159
Rating: 6.5 out of 10

Summary (Never forget about Goodreads.com): Best friends since they could walk. In love since the age of fourteen. 
Complete strangers since this morning. 
He'll do anything to remember. She'll do anything to forget. 

What I think: I have a huge problem with this novel. My problem is that this novel is the opposite of huge. This novel was too short. It's not even really a novel. It's barely a novella. Still, they claim that it can stand on it's own. This is a load of bull. I was enjoying the novel well enough. It was unique, completely different than the usual boring stuff but then it just ended. I loved that it was written by two authors working together. I don't mean that I was rushing through it so fast that I missed that I was coming to the end. I mean that it ended almost mid thought when there was no real reason for the novel to end. Never Never: Part Two was just released last week or something but I almost don't want to read it because I'm worried the same thing would happen. I understand that both authors are extremely busy and that's fine. So wait. Wait until you can tell the full story or, at least, a normal portion of the story. I understand that there was a legal reason for this being a novella but I still think that they could have released the two novellas close or SOMETHING. I don't know...

This novel made me mad. Because of this, I am in no rush to read the next one. I have a funny feeling that I will either not have a single clue what is happening or it will end abruptly like this novel did. 

It could have been so great and that makes me so sad.

Other than that, like I said, this story was unique. I enjoyed the characters and their perspective. I think that both authors are extraordinary (and Kristen can comment on my slightly over the top love for CoHo...). I suppose that, given the length, this novel would be easy for you to get your hands on and would not take all that long to read. Could I just suggest waiting until you have the second before reading the first? 
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