Sunday, January 29, 2017

By Your Side by Kasie West | Rating: ★★☆☆☆

A copy of this novel was provided through Edelweiss by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not effect my opinions in any way. 

One of the main reasons I requested By Your Side was because I'd heard quite a lot of praise over Kasie West's work in the past and also that it was recommended for fans of Stephanie Perkins. Good young adult novels set in the contemporary and romantic genre can be hard to come across and while By Your Side was by no means a horribly put together story, it just wasn't particularly intriguing or mind-blowing. I thought the premise had a lot of potential to set it apart from other novels but ultimately it felt a lot like... every other book in the genre?

Let me explain: I spent a great deal of the novel stopping and starting. That is a bad sign for me always. Kasie West does have a nice prose that is sweet and to the point, not unlike Stephanie Perkins, but in the case of By Your Side there was a whole lot of one dimensional malarkey. Generally, I like to be wowed by character development and one thing was glaringly obvious about this one: the main character, Autumn, was the only saving grace in it. I did really like her and enjoyed hearing her voice. I thought there was still something else that could have been done with her and that a specific trope shouldn't have been used to define her.

Fireworks by Katie Cotugno | Rating:  ★★★★☆ (4.5)

A copy of this novel was provided through Edelweiss by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not effect my opinions in any way.

I've never read anything by Katie Cotugno but I have always heard good things about her work. After almost constantly hearing nothing but sweet things about her writing, and finally picking out something of hers to try, I can see why she has such steady fans. Fireworks is a breath of fresh air and pleasantly surprised me when it comes to its genre--it could have gone horribly wrong but something about her prose just makes the experience all the more good.

What made me enjoy Fireworks so much was the nostalgia of it all--Cotugno captured an era I remember fondly and did it a solid. I'd say it falls right smack dab in the middle of clichéd and not. Somehow, it all worked and tangled together spotlessly and kept me feeling a kind of warmth to it. I'm not going to lie and tell you guys this is the most moving novel you'll ever read but it is worth a second look. It reminded me of a lot of childhood memories but it also stays connected with its target audience--while it will feel nostalgic to people my age, it will feel just as captivating and relevant to a younger audience, too. A lot has changed from the 1990s to today--that is time itself--but not enough to make teenagers feel disconnected to the general story.


Nothing Less by Anna Todd | Rating: ★★☆☆☆ (2.5)

Where Anna Todd's Nothing More soared in comparison to her After series--Nothing Less, well, didn't. Her writing has really improved in the years since she began posting to Wattpad, and it is more obvious everyday, but the entire conclusion to Landon Gibson's story fell flat for me. Nothing Less picks up right where Nothing More left off but there just wasn't as much heart in it compared to the first of the duo.

Nearly everything that made Nothing More standout just didn't feel developed in this one and that was, ultimately, disappointing for me. I am not one to take many new adult novels in the genre serious--but one of the things that strikes me about Todd's writing is that with all her books, her prose grows stronger. Anna is known for growing as a writing and exploring different tones. But with Nothing Less, I felt like she'd backtracked on her "each novel gets better" progress and it just wasn't doing it for me. I almost didn't complete it.

But here's the thing: I think fans of the series, and the series that spawned it, will appreciate it for what it is. A fluffy, smutty, humorous love story with the importance of friendship and respect of one's self sprinkled in. After has never been my cup of tea, per se, but it's always been relatively entertaining for me. I think that, another reason why this installment just wasn't my favourite, was it felt a little separated from what she'd already established in her work.


Duplicity by Sibel Hodge | Rating: ★★★★☆ (4.5)

A copy of this novel was provided through NetGalley by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not effect my opinions in any way.

Fans of thrillers will certainly fawn over Duplicity and its many twists and turns.Sibel Hodge keeps you guessing in every chapter and will compel you to read until you've flipped to the very last page. What started as a fairytale marriage between a seemingly perfect match ends in tragedy--Alissa and Max have everything a person could ever want, until Max is brutally murdered and Alissa is spared. Readers will follow as the glass shatters and the psychological thrills take place--Hodge weaves it all together like the pro that she is and you'll find yourself lost in her lush prose and the questions that follow. Fans of Gillian Flynn will love the "not everything is as it seems" flow that comes with Duplicity; indeed, it will leave your head spinning with questions as you nod "that makes sense" and wonder how you missed the signs.

Duplicity is the tense and gorgeous, frightening and mysterious, delicious and horrifying. I'm unfamiliar with Hodge's previous works but if it's anything like Duplicity--I'm totally here for it. She knows how to tug at your heart, soul and mind and then toss you flat on your butt. Which is my favourite kind of writing.


Hunted by Meagan Spooner | Rating: ★★★★☆

A copy of this novel was provided through Edelweiss by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not effect my opinions in any way. 

I'm a sucker for fairytale retellings. I'm an even bigger sucker for the types of retellings that sprinkle in fresh takes on standard tales and a whole lot of mythology. I find there just isn't enough in terms of re-imagining Beauty and The Beast. At least, not many that I like. In the case of Hunted, Meagan Spooner tells a tale that is instantly classic and new to our eyes--a lot of twists and turns, it's very high stakes and action packed, and also smart. I liked knowing what was going to happen but seeing it unfold in a way that is newer to me. 

That's what sets Hunted apart from its counterparts--you can guess a lot of the twists but they don't necessarily play out exactly as you'd think. Then there's the characters and the way Spooner works around tropes and plots that could have been utterly clichéd and dully familiar. Let's take our newly rediscovered Beauty, Yeva. She is very much like her fairytale counterpart but with a few notable differences. I liked that she was a hunter and full of strength and a bit of vulnerability. I.E: she is real and far from one dimensional. 


Sunday, January 22, 2017

Caraval by Stephanie Garber | Rating: ★★★★★ 

As a note, a printed galley of this novel was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not effect my opinions in any way. 

Where to begin, where to begin? This review is going to be hard because I don't know that I can explain my love of this novel in a short, spoiler-free review, but I'm always up for a challenge. I never knew I needed this book until it was delivered to my front door one rainy afternoon.  The thing about Caraval is that it's so incredibly vivid and unique. I was consistently blown away by the amount of soul that is in each paragraph and sentence and character. I don't think I've been this impressed by a novel, and its world building, quite so heavily in a long time.

What strikes me most is that this is Stephanie Garber's debut novel is that she is weaving a dark and delicious tale of magic and heart in a way that dances circles around people who've been working in the genre for many, many years. I can't stress this enough--Garber created a world so breathtaking (and at times terrifying) that you simply cannot put the novel down. I read it in one sitting and found myself revisiting it once already. I was thoroughly impressed with it in a way that made it an instant favourite for me.


Two Days Gone by Randall Silvis | Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3.5)

A copy of this novel was provided through NetGalley by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not effect my opinions in any way.

There was something sincerely compelling about the way Silvis carries his story once he really gets going. One thing that makes Two Days Gone so fascinating and thrilling is the idea of what makes the main mystery a real, well, mystery. I liked seeing the way we're shown the main characters thoughts and how it all plays out. You think you have a person figured out and you don't. I think there was this interesting tone of friendship in it, too.

I think it begs one horrifying question: what happens when your family is murdered and you've become a suspect in the lead of it? What happens if your friend is the accused? I don't think this is an easy topic to approach and at times, it's dull and shaky in the exploration of it. However, at the end of the day, Silvis explores this mystery quite well that leaves us on the edges of our seats until its final page.

I can't really explain it without spoilers and I know, I know, my review is a bit all over the place and will be edited once I'm not in a rush. 


Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth | Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

Ah, the first big disappointment of 2017. Well, in terms of new young adult releases, that is. I was so looking forward to this one but it's one of those instances where all the hype makes you wonder why. As someone who loved the Divergent book series (or at the very least, the first book) it was very surprising to see Carve the Mark be plagued by so many flaws--Veronica Roth isn't an awful writer in the least but the entirety of Carve the Mark feeds on an offensive undertone that makes me cranky. And due to some of the remarks she made in her NPR interview, I've lost a bit of respect for her as an author and, well, a person.

In other words, I'm not entirely sure what to make of her. I--well, if you just Google info on the interview, you'll see where the problem lays and I'll leave it at that. Thanks to everyone who brought this to my attention, as well.

I hadn't seen all of the posts about this novel's flaws until after I'd read part of my pre-order (which wasn't that long ago) and I'm quite happy that I'm not the only one who was just generally put-off by the stereotypes in the story itself and the ways in which Roth is conducting herself. Personally, reading this was like I'd put on an itchy sweater and was stuck with it until the end of the day.


Kissed by the Rain by Claudia Winters | Rating: ★★★☆☆

A copy of this novel was provided through NetGalley by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not effect my opinions in any way.

Despite the concept and general speed, I wasn't all that impressed by Kissed by the Rain. I thought it was a solid release but also very, very standard in terms of plots and characters--almost feeling familiar in the wrong sort of way. You know the type, right? It's a decent enough book (and the writing is quite velvety and smooth) and all, but I had this feeling the entire time that I'd already read it several times before. For me, that makes reading the novel itself very tedious and because of it, I almost put the story down on more than one occasion. 

This isn't to say that it didn't have its good parts--I did find myself enjoying a few scenes and characters, which is why it's right in the middle in terms of my own rating. You've got to remember while reading my thoughts on it that they are mine and mine alone; it doesn't determine your taste or the overall quality of the novel. I did like the twist of mystery in it--the whole idea that a ring was something that would determine the fate of our main character. Something about this superstition lifted the quality higher and put the plot in a direction that gave it a much-needed boost


Sunday, January 15, 2017

The May Queen by Helen Irene Young | Rating: ★★☆☆☆


A copy of this novel was provided through NetGalley by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not effect my opinions in any way.

I think the first thing I need to say is that I wanted to like this one more than I actually did and, perhaps, it is a similar matter of it just not being my cup of tea for one reason or another. You mustn't take my reviews, or anyone else's, as the gospel and instead check this book out for yourself. That being said, I didn't finish The May Queen for one reason or another but I think it was entirely due to its pace and my lack of connection towards the characters or the central plot. 

I just wasn't feeling it from the get-go and I'm not sure what I was expecting or what I was supposed to be expecting. But, it just wasn't my thing. I know, I know, I've probably already said something similar in my already short review and I'm not trying to justify my dislike (or rather, disinterest) in The May Queen. It just failed to connect with me and I put it down only to never pick it back up again. 

But, here's the thing. If you're smart, unlike me, you will go pick up a copy and hopefully listen to my disinterest and spite me. Because it does have promise in its summer and the writing isn't spectacularly horrid--on the contrary, it was quite nice but just not enough for my attention to stay zeroed in. I spent the little bit reading it spacing out and that's just all there is to it.  
The Architect of Song by A.G. Howard | Rating: ★★★★★  

If you’re new to my reviews and don't know, let me catch you up to speed: I am in love with words written by A.G. Howard. I mean. Obviously. There, I said it. I’m almost positive that I would read an instruction manual titled How to Unclog Your Toilet With Your Pinky Finger if A.G. Howard wrote it (although, Anita, please don’t take this as an invitation to write said instructions--that was a weird statement even for me and I am sure I should talk to a therapist about it or whatever and I'm probably bluffing.) and I'd give it about four-hundred stars out of five. I'm not really kidding, the woman could write "Hello, I'm A.G. Howard," and I'd probably give it the highest rating imaginable after just casually passing her my wallet. 

Needless to say, I went into The Architect of Song with high hopes that only a few modern day authors have earned from me. I was excited, firstly, because of its plot and the fact that it wasn't a young adult novel. It's exciting seeing one of your favourite authors expand through the genres and in A.G. Howard's case she does so effortlessly and proves how severely underrated she is. There was something instantly classic about The Architect of Song that felt familiar yet undeniably its own--readers who love prose that is highly detailed, indulgent and poetic, will positive swoon over the glorious way this story is told. 


Sunday, January 8, 2017

Gone by Elisabeth Naughton | Rating: ★★★☆☆

A copy of this novel was provided through NetGalley by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not effect my opinions in any way.
 
Returning to Elisabeth Naughton's Deadly Secrets series, Gone is perhaps the first of Naughton's work that I actually couldn't put down and felt intrigued by. I enjoyed it far more than anything I've read by her thus far. Unlike Repressed, there was this pull in the writing that keeps readers on the edge of their seat in the ever-present mystery. This isn't typically my cup of tea; the way the story unfolded, but I found it much easier to get into than the previous release in the series. I still had my problems with it--which is why the rating stands at only 3 stars--but I appreciate it and thought it was a very solid release.

You do not need to read Repressed to fall in with this story--it's virtually unconnected to it and can be seen as a novel outside of a series. 

First of all, oh man, there's just something about Gone that will pull on your heartstrings and will resonate with something in you.

There's this underlying sense of tragedy right from the start; sometimes these wounds never close and will open up again at even the briefest of mentions. It goes without saying that it is impossible to describe the feeling of a pain that radiates from a parent who's lost a child--sadly, cruelly, three years ago, the main characters in Gone lost their one year old daughter.


Wanted by Sara Sheppard | Rating: ★★★★★ 

Or perhaps all those things you missed upon first glance mean much more than you could ever guess.

In the eighth novel in the bestselling Pretty Little Liars series loose ends begin to tie themselves up as revelations are put front and center. Wanted is one of the best of the seemingly never ending series; as questions are answered regarding the murder and disappearance of Alison DiLaurentis, four little liars are more than ready for the chance to put their dramatic pasts behind them and start fresh. Little do they know that A is only just getting started--and they're about to be blindsided by a secret none of them saw coming.

Shepard crafts, again, a deliciously dark tale of luxury, mystery and lies. Pretty Little Liars is known--and beloved--for the way the plots are woven in quick, but still neat, tell-alls and secrets. As always, it's equal parts to the point and dancing around the inner-workings to keep readers on their toes. What I, personally, liked most about Wanted was the tone it set and how the plot unraveled a bit differently in comparison to past installments. Still soap-opera-friendly, Wanted has more of a trail to explore than its predecessors and Sara Shepard crams a world of questions, answers and intrigue in this one.


All the Breaking Waves by Kerry Lonsdale | Rating: ★★★★☆

As a note, a copy of this novel was sent to me via NetGalley by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not effect my opinions in any way.

This novel surprised me quite a lot--I hadn't expected to like it for whatever reason; it felt promising but there's this moving quality to it that blew my expectations right out of the water. I went in thinking that the story would be one thing but came out realizing it was another thing entirely. Which is a fantastic feeling and I couldn't even put this one down while I was down with a gnarly flu--it just felt so captivating and... indescribable.

From what I understand, All the Breaking Waves is a departure from Lonsdale's previous work and have no doubt it shows off her incredibly versatile writing chops. In fact, I daresay I will check out her other release in woman's fiction: it was that good. Her prose has this undeniable spark to it that left me feeling goosebumps at even the most simplest of statements and so much in this is unforgettable. You know those novels that are perfect for dreary, wintery, chilled nights--paired with hot cocoa and silence? All the Breaking Waves is one of those gems.


Captive Prince by C.S. Pacat | Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

Laurent could inspire homicidal tendencies simply by breathing.

I... couldn't believe this book was so popular. This is hardly the first, or last, time that a book with such a huge following will put me off but, still. Ah, Captive Prince let me down right from the very start--I had such high hopes for it based on the raving reviews many of my friends had given it. Sometimes, hype is attached to books that just don't do it for me and that is fine. We all have different things. Taste is, as they say, subjective.

But. But. But.

I felt very different about this one. Hm. Hm. Was the writing good? Sure. I'd say so. Yes, it was quite good in the way that makes me think the author has more stories to offer us at a higher quality. Emotion was there and the dialogue was pretty decent. It just wasn't my cup of tea and in all the promise it held, it fell flat and tripped over itself too many times to count. I remember within the first few chapters, I'd cringed so much, I had this bad feeling in my gut about this novel and frankly, it never went away or lessoned as the pages went by. I almost DNF it which I can't remember the last time I did that.


The Last of August by Brittany Cavallaro | Rating: ★★★★★ 

As a note, an e-galley of this novel was sent to me via Edelweiss by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not effect my opinions in any way.

Charlotte Holmes and Jamie Watson return in the action packed sequel to last year's fantastic starter, A Study in Charlotte. I, for one, am so beyond excited. This trilogy isn't near its end yet but I already know it is one of my all-time favourites. I'm becoming obsessed with dear Charlotte Holmes. Not to mention the tone of writing we see from Brittany Cavallaro, which is reminiscent to a classic novel.

If you've yet to read this gem of 2016 releases, allow me to catch you up to speed: in this world, Holmes and Watson aren't fictional icons. Instead, they were historical figures who--yes--solve the very crimes we know so dearly from the classic stories. This series follows the families, generations down the line, and as many so say, history repeats itself. Unlike most the usual retelling, or sequels, it's mindblowingly good; entirely due to Cavallaro's out-of-this-world's prose and knack for quick winded banter.



Did I Mention I Love You? by Estelle Maskame | Rating: ★★★★☆

Forgiveness shouldn't be expected: It should be earned. 

There was just something deeply satisfying about the entire plot of this novel--it was just a fun read. Quick and to the point. It's one of those one-sitting reads; it keeps you drawn into the emotional folds of the story and you find yourself quite attached by its final pages.

Eden and Tyler are both incredibly different in tone and personality but at the end of the day there was this undeniable chemistry between the two. You knew what was going to happen before it did but that's okay because the path there isn't always what you'd expect.

I thought that Eden was a great fit for a narrator because she is very likable and full of life. I'd have liked to have gone deeper on her emotional health and the fall-out from her former friends back home, and thought it was a bit rushed in that sense and could have done with more details, but there's still two more books in the series so I have high hopes.

Seeing her thoughts in real time is what makes her attraction Tyler that much more layered. There's a lot of depth to be explored as the timeline progresses. I found her to be very thoughtful in comparison to her love interest and the kids she meets while living with her father. I liked that the characters were each a bit of every archetype without being complete caricatures. And with Tyler, his development could have gone horrible due to all his problems; his scenes with Eden, however, are just as refreshing and hopeful as they are angst prone.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Instagram Roundup: December 2016

How the hell is it 2017 already?! I can't even begin to comprehend it. As far as final months of the year goes, December was pretty--ah--rockin'! And not just around the Christmas tree. From great books, to warm drinks, to snow, to various literature adaptations, and surrounding myself in friends and family, December was stunning. Minus the whole end-of-the-year cold, thing. Yarf. Overall, I had a great month and am--shockingly--looking forward to 2017.

If you don't follow me on Instagram, you can view my page here. I mostly post bookish related stuff because, well, nerd. But it is my personal account, too, so it's not an exclusive thing.

*In my roundups, I only post images that are squared/even because I'm picky like that.