25 January 2016

Review: Mystic City

Reviewer: Kelsey
Author: Theo Lawrence
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 397
Rating: 5 out of 10

Summary (Goodreads rules): Aria Rose, youngest scion of one of Mystic City's two ruling rival families, finds herself betrothed to Thomas Foster, the son of her parents' sworn enemies. The union of the two will end the generations-long political feud - and unite all those living in the Aeries, the privileged upper reaches of the city, against the banished mystics who dwell below in the Depths.

But Aria doesn't remember falling in love with Thomas; in fact, she wakes one day with huge gaps in her memory. And she can't conceive why her parents would have agreed to unite with the Fosters in the first place.

Only when Aria meets Hunter, a gorgeous rebel mystic from the Depths, does she start to have glimmers of recollection - and to understand that he holds the key to unlocking her past. The choices she makes can save or doom the city - including herself.

What I Think: This book was given a five out of 10 because it was pretty convenient and predictable. There weren't too many surprises in this one. I figured the plot out almost right away. It was a very basic young adult novel. Hero girl, hero guy. Falling in love. You know how it goes. I would say that it firmly belongs in the YA section due to its ease of reading and language. It was well written but didn't make me think about anything at all. I wasn't considering the schemes or the characters. I didn't have to read deeper into any of the conversations or anything like that.

That said, I thought this novel was a decent one. I enjoyed reading it and there were a lot of cute moments in it. I struggled with my anger over what was happening to this girl and the situation she was in but I didn't relate very well to her. It claims to be a Romeo and Juliette novel but that is a very superficial description since she is forced into that role and it has nothing to do with her choice. So don't pick up this novel because of that description (and don't get me started on how wrong Romeo and Juliette "romances" are, okay, because they are always a disaster...PEOPLE DIED, OKAY?! Sorry...it makes me mad). 

It was interesting enough. It was a fast enough read. It was just unique enough. It was just enough. Not outstanding, not horrible. I enjoyed it and would consider finishing the series but I'm not going to put this on the top of the reread pile. If you really enjoy YA than you will enjoy this book but I can see you it could be too young for many readers.

20 January 2016

Review: Lola and the Boy Next Door

Reviewer: Kristen
Author: Stephanie Perkins 
Pages: 338
Format: Paperback
My Rating: 7 out of 10 

Summary (you rock my world, Goodreads): Lola Nolan is a budding costume designer, and for her, the more outrageous, sparkly, and fun the outfit, the better. And everything is pretty perfect in her life (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood. When Cricket, a gifted inventor, steps out from his twin sister's shadow and back into Lola's life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door. 

My Thoughts: So, it’s been a hot minute since I’ve written a review and I’m not even sure how to start it right now. Awkward. How’ve you been? Good? Glad to hear it.

I read Anna and the French Kiss back when it still had the pastel cover with the people on it, and I absolutely looooved it. That love, my friends, stems from one Etienne St. Clair; the amazing specimen that is the American boy with the British accent and the French name all wrapped up in a very respectable 5 foot 4 frame. He was hilarious, and swoon-y and everything that a girl looks for when choosing a fictional boyfriend. I mean, he makes the list with Peeta Mellark and Prince Eric, need I say more? Now, the reason that I’m talking about this is because I think a lot of the magic of the first book was wrapped up in Etienne. And Paris. Let’s not forget Paris.

Did I like Lola and the Boy Next Door? I did. Did I love Lola and the Boy Next Door? No, I definitely didn’t love it. A lot of my not-loving feelings toward it is because I didn’t click with the characters. I didn’t really understand Lola or why she was acting the way she was half the time (especially with the weird older boyfriend who I hated so much I’ve promptly forgotten his name). But, she was eccentric and herself, and I kind of loved that about her. She was unapologetic (most the time) and wild and very much a teen. I still don’t know how I felt about Cricket. He was just kind of there? I don’t know, there was a lot of pining and a lot of miscommunication and if they would have just talked to each other and sorted things out when they first ran into each other, the novel wouldn’t be necessary. I hate it when that happens. Miscommunication is one of my biggest pet peeves.

The writing was fantastic; it was simple and elegant and easy to follow. I picked this book up and finished it in the same sitting, and immediately dived into Isla, so I clearly like the series. It’s just not my absolute favourite. That place is saved for Etienne.

 Final Thoughts: If you're in the mood for contemporary, look no further. Stephanie Perkins is the queen of contemporary. 

18 January 2016

Review: Kalahari (Corpus #3)

Reviewer: Kelsey
Author: Jessica Khoury
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 368
Rating: 6 out of 10

Summary (Thanks, Goodreads): Deep in the Kalahari Desert, a Corpus lab protects a dangerous secret…
But what happens when that secret takes on a life of its own?
When an educational safari goes wrong, five teens find themselves stranded in the Kalahari Desert without a guide. It’s up to Sarah, the daughter of zoologists, to keep them alive and lead them to safety, calling on survival know-how from years of growing up in remote and exotic locales. Battling dehydration, starvation and the pangs of first love, she does her best to hold it together, even as their circumstances grow increasingly desperate.
But soon a terrifying encounter makes Sarah question everything she’s ever known about the natural world. A silver lion, as though made of mercury, makes a vicious, unprovoked attack on the group. After a narrow escape, they uncover the chilling truth behind the lion’s silver sheen: a highly contagious and deadly virus that threatens to ravage the entire area—and eliminate life as they know it.
In this breathtaking new novel by the acclaimed author of Origin and Vitro, Sarah and the others must not only outrun the virus, but its creators, who will stop at nothing to wipe every trace of it.

My Thoughts: Side note: this is the third in a series but the other novels only provide basic background information. They aren't actually important to this novel at all. New characters, new plot, new location. I'm assuming that eventually all the novels will tie together but it wasn't an issue here.

ANYWAY, this novel was full of twists and turns. Surprises were around every corner. The beginning worried me because I wasn't sure that I could get into a novel that was full of whiney teenagers (I didn't read the summary before I began, to be honest with you; I just like the author) but it turned out to be fine. The various characters ended up rounding out the novel very well. The cast was necessary for all the twists and turns, for the excitement. I thought that they oddly worked well together and they seemed like real people in many ways. Their priorities were a little messed up, even for spoiled rich kids, but it was fine, I suppose.

I was a little disappointed in the major "plot twist" that was built up to be much larger than it actually was. Even so, I wanted the kids to survive, to make it through. I thought that Sarah was a genius and was constantly impressed with the survival skills. Obviously she had to have some but I am a city kid and know nothing of surviving in the wilderness (not that I want to after reading this novel). I lived a unique life through the reading of this novel.

The bad guys were an interesting sort. It was further away from the corporation that the rest of the series was but that was okay. The bad guys were still bad enough and you didn't know enough about them to think you had everything figured out. I believed that they were horrible people that would do whatever it took. 

Basically, the survival skills taught you something and that plot was kept busy and moving at a fast pace with enough near misses and character development to keep everyone happy. I enjoyed this novel quite a lot. I almost wish that it was a little bit longer. Check it out.

11 January 2016

Review: The Killing Woods

Reviewer: Kelsey
Author: Lucy Christopher
Format: Paperback
Pages: 384
Rating: 8 out of 10

Summary (Goodreads kills me): Ashlee Parker is dead, and Emily Shepherd's dad is accused of the crime. A former soldier suffering from PTSD, he emerges from the woods carrying the girl's broken body. "Gone," he says, then retreats into silence.

What really happened that wild night? Emily knows in her bones that her father is innocent -- isn't he? Before he's convicted, she's got to find out the truth. Does Damon Hilary, Ashlee's charismatic boyfriend, have the answers? Or is he only playing games with her -- the kinds of games that can kill?

My Thoughts: Look, it's a book with another beautiful cover. 

I read Stolen a very long time ago but I loved it. Nothing in it was quite how it seemed and it was impossible to guess what would happen next. This book was similar in that way. I found myself surprised frequently. How the characters were feeling was so believable (okay, the romance stuff was a little strange but when is it not, right?). They were having a melt down right in front of me. It was the kind of melt down that friends watch and don't know what to do to fix, that affects everyone around you. It was perfect because that's exactly what this novel needed for me to believe it. I could believe that horrible things happened in the woods and that people would avoid someone whose father probably committed a murder. It was the psychologist stuff that made this novel what it was. It was marvellous.

Of course, that said, teenagers are stupid sometimes. Yes, let's go wandering in the woods with people we barely know or worse, alone. Let's just run off on your own and do stupid things while you are clearly unstable. Let's antagonize people that clearly hate you. Sure, it all needed to happen to get to the end but a few times I felt like I was in the audience of a horror movie, yelling at the screen and blood girl #6 to stop going up the stairs while when the crazy neighbour keeps calling the house and hanging up. No, you shouldn't run into the garage with all the chainsaws. Yes, it's a fantastic idea to let your phone die on Friday the 13th, while you are home alone but supposed to be out of town in the middle of the storm of the century. What is wrong with you people? 

...On another note, although I understood why it was important to the story, alternating points of view have to be done very carefully. At times, I thought that it was too heavy on one side of the story while the other was just being used to move forward. Yes, sometimes a character needs help figuring things out but would these characters have interacted as much as they did? I doubt it. I would have stayed the hell away from them, but that's me. I did enjoy watching them both fall apart and watching both of them ask questions, however.

So, I thought that this novel was really great. It's creepy and a good mystery. I enjoyed watching the characters fall to pieces but was mad at many of their decisions. This was a very easy to read story that had you rushing to figure out what happened. I needed to know how it would end. I was more than satisfied with how it ended. This novel was very well done.

4 January 2016

Review: Once (Once Upon a Time #11, #9, #15)

Reviewer: Kelsey
Author: Cameron Dokey
Format: Paperback
Pages: 193
Rating: 7 out of 10

Summary: Etienne de Brabant is brokenhearted. His wife has died in childbirth, leaving him alone with an infant daughter he cannot bear to name. But before he abandons her for king and court, he brings a second child to be raised alongside her, a boy whose identity he does not reveal.

The girl, La Cendrillon, and the boy, Raoul, pass sixteen years in the servants' care until one day a very fine lady arrives with her two daughters. The lady has married La Cendrillon's father, and her arrival changes their lives. 

When an invitation to a great ball reaches the family, La Cendrillon's new stepmother will make a decision with far-reaching effects. Her choice will lead La Cendrillon and Raoul toward their destiny -- a choice that will challenge their understanding of family, test their loyalty and courage, and, ultimately, teach them who they are.

My Thoughts: You have to go into this series with fewer expectations than other novels, I think. When I picked up this novel, I thought it would be like other fairytale retellings that I had read before. I was very wrong because these aren't full length novels, they are fairytales told in fairytale format. They have the mythological happenings and the fast-paced feel of fairytales. They skip ahead in time without concern for the minute details of the story. These novellas don't need to go into deeper detail, they tell the story. That is all they set out to do. They stick more to the feel of original fairytales than other retellings...and I loved it.

This was the first of the bunch that I read. It did the most work to break down my expectations. It accomplished this wonderfully. I found myself interested in the story very quickly. It was different enough from the original fairytale (and the Disney versions) to keep me interested in what was happening. Plus, despite my attempts to guess what was going to come next, I only ever managed to get things half right. I absolutely love the message of this story and was happy with the fairytale ending. 

This was a very good fairytale retelling. I loved how true it was but that it still had a unique twist.

Reviewer: Kelsey
Author: Cameron Dokey
Format: Paperback
Pages: 179
Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Summary: Before Rapunzel's birth, her mother made a dangerous deal with the sorceress Melisande: If she could not love newborn Rapunzel just as she appeared, she would surrender the child to Melisande. When Rapunzel was born completely bald and without hope of ever growing hair, her horrified mother sent her away with the sorceress to an uncertain future.

After sixteen years of raising Rapunzel as her own child, Melisande reveals that she has another daughter, Rue, who was cursed by a wizard years ago and needs Rapunzel's help. Rue and Rapunzel have precisely "two nights and the day that falls between" to break the enchantment. But bitterness and envy come between the girls, and if they fail to work together, Rue will remain cursed...forever.

My Thoughts: This is the opposite of what you think of when you think of Rapunzel and I LOVE IT. The twist in this book was fantastic. Melisande made me very mad during this novel. I did not like some of the choices she made. Rue was annoying but understandably so. I was very happy with the ending. This ending was my favourite of the three in this anthology. I thought that it was unique...wow, the ending is hard to talk about without giving away spoilers. I'm sorry this is less than informative. If you only read one of these retellings, make it this one.

Reviewer: Kelsey
Author: Cameron Dokey
Format: Paperback
Pages: 224
Rating: 7 out of 10

Summary: Wielding a sword as deftly as an embroidery needle, Mulan is unlike any other girl in China. When the emperor summons a great army, each family must send a male to fight, tom-boyish Mulan is determined to spare her aging father and bring her family honour  so she disguises herself and answers the call.But Mulan never expects to find a friend, let alone a soul mate, in the commander of her division, Prince Jian. For all of Mulan's courage with a bow and arrow, is she brave enough to share her true identity and feelings with Prince Jian?

What I Think: The best thing about this novel was that it had so much more to the story than the other two retellings I read by this author. There was so much more to love. It was closer to a full length novel and that made me happy. I enjoyed hearing more about Mulan's childhood and how she became who she was. This became the majority of the story. Her growing into herself and her family was the most important part of this story. It wrote it as if her being a hero was just a side note. It was great to read a story where there was more to the hero than just the fact that they were a hero. I loved watching her grow with her friends, her caretakers, and her father. I only wish that we would have seen more of Prince Jian's reaction to...you know, her being a girl. Not that Disney is the rule for retellings but that was an important part of the movie and should have been a big deal in this story. I guess he had some time to come to grips with it but I expected more from that. The battle seemed to go very fast but I suppose it wasn't the most important aspect of the novel anyway so it didn't bother me too much. I really enjoyed this story and loved getting backstory on Mulan. 

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