Friday, May 22, 2015

Review of Material Girls by Elaine Dimopoulos


Title/Author: Material Girls by Elaine Dimopoulos
Publisher/Date published: HMH Books for Young Readers, May 5th 2015
How I got this book: received it from the publisher through NetGalley
Buy this book at: The Book Depository

Goodreads summary: In Marla Klein and Ivy Wilde’s world, teens are the gatekeepers of culture. A top fashion label employs sixteen-year-old Marla to dictate hot new clothing trends, while Ivy, a teen pop star, popularizes the garments that Marla approves. Both girls are pawns in a calculated but seductive system of corporate control, and both begin to question their world’s aggressive levels of consumption. Will their new “eco-chic” trend subversively resist and overturn the industry that controls every part of their lives?

So I'm a big fan of tv shows such as America's Next Top Model and Project Runway and all of those things. I'm fascinated by the fashion industry, even though I'm not really a fashionista myself, but I do like pretty clothes. So obviously this dystopian that deals with said fashion industry sounded endlessly entertaining to me!

And I really liked Material Girls, it was a pretty fun read, and it made me REALLY want to buy pretty dresses (which is not really the point of this novel). I liked both Marla and Ivy, though I was kinda wishing Ivy would grow a bit more of a spine, but well, she's a flawed character and I could relate to her struggle. Ivy really wants to be a better person, but at the same time, she doesn't want to lose her spotlight and wants to take care of her family and it's hard for her to see a way to combine all of these things.
And Marla goes from a blind rule follower to a bit of a rebel, but the one problem I had with her character is that it never really felt like she was making the decision to go in this new direction. It all just sort of happened to her.

The world that Elaine Dimopoulos has created was really interesting and it made me think about our society and how we're very much a consumerist society and while I happily join in on this, I can see the downside and the wastefulness of it. The whole way of controlling society by giving 8th-graders a career path they can't really change was awful, and to make children that age already work because otherwise they will be too OLD to be in style? Wow. Just. Wow. I did kinda love seeing how Elaine Dimopoulos also showed us the consequences of this sort of program for the kids who don't get picked for a creative career path and the confusion that someone who's not in this line of work can still enjoy the job they do. The whole perception of things is off and it was a bit mindblowing to read about Ivy asking a doctor is she was happy in her line of work, which to her was inconceivable.

To go along with this storyline, there was a pretty cute lovestory, I liked the tentative romance blooming between the two.
Because the book is not all that long, and we see the story unfold from both Marla and Ivy's POV, it lacked a bit of depth to their characters. I did feel like I knew both of them, but I would have liked to have a little more insight into their motives and what makes them the way they are. They have a backstory, and it's ok, but I would have just liked a bit more.
I did like that there's not big happily ever after where the whole dystopian society has been disbanded and all the problems have been solved because of a couple of teenagers rebelling. Because that's just not very realistic and such things take time, so I appreciate where Elaine Dimopoulos left us at the end of Material Girls.

My rating: 3,5 stars

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Review of A School for Unusual Girls by Kathleen Baldwin


Title/Author: A School for Unusual Girls (Stranje House #1) by Kathleen Baldwin
Publisher/Date published: Tor Teen, May 19th 2015
How I got this book: received it from the publisher through NetGalley
Buy this book at: The Book Depository

Goodreads summary: It’s 1814. Napoleon is exiled on Elba. Europe is in shambles. Britain is at war on four fronts. And Stranje House, a School for Unusual Girls, has become one of Regency England’s dark little secrets. The daughters of the beau monde who don't fit high society’s constrictive mold are banished to Stranje House to be reformed into marriageable young ladies. Or so their parents think. In truth, Headmistress Emma Stranje, the original unusual girl, has plans for the young ladies — plans that entangle the girls in the dangerous world of spies, diplomacy, and war.

After accidentally setting her father’s stables on fire while performing a scientific experiment, Miss Georgiana Fitzwilliam is sent to Stranje House. But Georgie has no intention of being turned into a simpering, pudding-headed, marriageable miss. She plans to escape as soon as possible — until she meets Lord Sebastian Wyatt. Thrust together in a desperate mission to invent a new invisible ink for the English war effort, Georgie and Sebastian must find a way to work together without losing their heads — or their hearts...

You probably all know that I have a thing for historical fiction/historical romance. And basically the title of this book sold me, I mean, what's not to like about a school for unusual girls??

I really liked Georgiana, she's a character that I could definitely relate to, not interested in conforming to society's expectations and a scientist at heart. I love that she can't help herself when she thinks 'what if', it's made her jump out of a window trying to fly and accidentally set her father's stables on fire cause she wasn't allowed to do her expiriment inside the house in a safer environment. She's smart and driven and doesn't take no for an answer, and she also has her vulnerabilities, which made me like her even more.

So Georgiana and I were doing pretty well and then we enter Stranje House and there's a whole extra set of characters for me to be intrigued by. I mean, the other girls there are REALLY interesting, all with their own set of skills, some with a hint of paranormal that I enjoyed. I loved how they're all so fierce and how even though they've been burned before, they're still more than ready to include Georgiana in their group. And also, Miss Stranje herself sounds like the most awesome of ladies and OMG there's a romance brewing there that's just YES.

And of course there's a romance for Georgiana as well. I could very much get behind the ship, because Sebastian sounds dreamy and they do the banter thing that I love and actually share an interest in science. The only thing that didn't work so well for me is the speed at which their relationship progresses to love. I mean, wow, they haven't even really known each other for a week or so? I get that they've been in some situations together that have the potential to speed up things, but they were just a bit shy of insta-love for me. They did have wonderful chemistry though and there was a moment that had me reading with tears in my eyes, so the feelings were there for me.

I wasn't really impressed with the characterization of Georgiana's parents though, they're a bit cardboard and it felt unrealistic that parents would leave their daughter at a house they think she's going to be tortured. I mean, WTF? But as they're not a big part of the novel, I could get over this.
Of course there's also a villain, Lady Daneska, who seems like a complex character, but I'm not really sure what to make of her yet. There's probably a reason why she's so vile, but for now she just seemed to be evil for the sake of being evil mostly.

I did very much like the backdrop of Napoleon's exile and am very interested in seeing where Kathleen Baldwin takes us with her somewhat alternate history. I'm a bit sorry the sequel won't be from Georgiana's POV, but as I really like the other girls as well, I think this won't be a problem, cause I'm really intrigued by Tess!

My rating: 4 stars

Monday, May 18, 2015

Review of Seriously Wicked by Tina Connolly


Title/Author: Seriously Wicked (Seriously #1) by Tina Connolly
Publisher/Date published: Tor Teen, May 5th 2015
How I got this book: received it from the publisher through NetGalley
Buy this book at: The Book Depository

Goodreads summary: The only thing worse than being a witch is living with one.

Camellia’s adopted mother wants Cam to grow up to be just like her. Problem is, Mom’s a seriously wicked witch.

Cam’s used to stopping the witch’s crazy schemes for world domination. But when the witch summons a demon, he gets loose — and into Devon, the cute new boy at school.

Now Cam’s suddenly got bigger problems than passing Algebra. Her friends are getting zombiefied. Their dragon is tired of hiding in the RV garage. For being a shy boy-band boy, Devon is sure kissing a bunch of girls. And a phoenix hidden in the school is going to explode on the night of the Halloween Dance.

To stop the demon before he destroys Devon’s soul, Cam might have to try a spell of her own. But if she’s willing to work spells like the witch... will that mean she’s wicked too?

I'm always looking for that next book about witches that will make my heart happy, but a lot of times, they seem to fall flat for me. Luckily, Seriously Wicked does not fall into this category!

There were so many characters for me to like, Cam is smart and strong and sassy and I totally loved her! She's got a sense of humor that I very much appreciate. And it was really fun to read from the daughter of the 'wicked witch''s point of view. I mean, she's SO determined not to be a witch herself and that she doesn't have magic, even though we can all guess that's not exactly true from the start. But she does it with a flair and dodges her mother's somewhat less than orthodox teaching methods the best she can. It was really entertaining!

I actually also liked her mother in all her witchy plotting and creative ways of punishing Cam. And Cam's best friend (who I can't remember the name of at the moment, sorry!) is a true best friend and accepts Cam for who she is and genuinely wants to help her even when there's a whole lot of crazy going on that I could have imagined might make her think she's in over her head. But she stick by Cam and I totally loved her for it.
Also, there's Devon, the love interest who's just really cute. And a sassy demon that I couldn't help have LOLs over, cause demons can only come out once in a while and are therefore still stuck in the Elvis Presley time period with the pelvis shaking and everything.
And a very friendly dragon that I adored!

Basically, this book was just such a breath of fresh air with its lightness and FUN, combined with a plot that was creative and whimsical and just a whole lot of awesome. I LOVED Tina Connolly's storytelling and am very determined to start reading more of her work! I think I have Ironskin sitting on my shelf somewhere, so that shouldn't be problem :)

Guys, this book was super cute and fun and full of witchy goodness! And I just found out it's actually the first book in a series. This could have easily worked as a standalone, but I'm very interested to see what will come next for Cam and everyone!

My rating: 4,5 stars

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Review of Novice by Taran Matharu


Title/Author: Novice (Summoner #1) by Taran Matharu
Publisher/Date published: Feiwel & Friends, May 5th 2015
How I got this book: received it from the publisher through NetGalley
Buy this book at: The Book Depository

Goodreads summary: When blacksmith apprentice Fletcher discovers that he has the ability to summon demons from another world, he travels to Adept Military Academy. There the gifted are trained in the art of summoning. Fletcher is put through grueling training as a battlemage to fight in the Hominum Empire’s war against orcs. He must tread carefully while training alongside children of powerful nobles. The power hungry, those seeking alliances, and the fear of betrayal surround him. Fletcher finds himself caught in the middle of powerful forces, with only his demon Ignatius for help.

As the pieces on the board maneuver for supremacy, Fletcher must decide where his loyalties lie. The fate of an empire is in his hands. The Novice is the first in a trilogy about Fletcher, his demon Ignatius, and the war against the Orcs.

So there are a lot of elements that reminded me of different book series/tv series/games in Novice, and I think it will get mixed reactions because of that. It didn't bother me in the slightest and just made me have 'awwww' moments!

Like a lot of fantasy heroes, Fletcher starts out as a normal peasant boy, who doesn't really know where exactly he came from, and then he discovers he's actually a magically gifted person. He's been taken in as an infant by a blacksmith, who has raised him as his own and is basically a truly good person. Then he gets his hands on a mage's book and actually summons a demon, which is the CUTEST EVER. I mean, SERIOUSLY. If you've met Ignatius, you will be squeeing over him along with me. He's basically a combination of Pascal (from Tangled) and Mushu (from Mulan, mostly because of firebreathing options) and I WANT ONE OK? He's awesome. You could just read this for Ignatius alone, but the rest of the book was so much fun as well!

I liked Fletcher, I liked that he's openminded about dwarves and elves and is trying to build bridges and turns out to be a true friend to those close to him. I also like that he's got courage. I mean, he dives headfirst into some potentially dangerous situations because he's trying to save someone and when you encounter stuff like this you really don't have a lot of time to consider your options. I also liked that while he's a quick learner when it comes to training as a mage, but not everything comes naturally to him.

I totally loved the worldbuilding! I mean, all the different types of demons and what they and the mages can do and the whole political system is just YES! And also, there's a magical boarding school, which is one of my favourite things to read about if done well. And in The Novice, it is done well.

So there are recognizable themes from Lord of the Rings, with the whole Elves and Dwarves and Orcs thing, but well, it doesn't bother me, cause I kinda consider LOTR a classic when it comes to the genre and we don't blame authors for having similar themes to Jane Austen's in romance novels either. Also, there's the 'gotta catch 'em all' feeling of Pokémon, with even a demon who's called Vulpid and sounds EXACTLY like Vulpix, which I had a LOL moment over with one of my friends who was also reading it. And there's how the connection to the demons reminded me a bit of His Dark Materials. And also, Harry Potter for obvious reasons.

But seriously, none of that mattered to me, or rather, it did in a GOOD way, because I LOVE all these elements and I felt that there was enough originality for me to totally love Novice. I loved Taran Matharu's writing and breezed through this book! It felt like a breath of fresh air, it was just so much fun to read! This is one series that I'm very excited to continue!
Also: can we just focus on the awesomeness that is the cover for a bit? SO PRETTY!

So basically, I'm saying that if you're like me and love yourself some fantasy novel with magical boarding school and ADORABLE creatures, you should definitely pick this up. Like, now.

My rating: 5 stars

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Review of The Girl At Midnight by Melissa Grey


Title/Author: The Girl At Midnight (The Girl At Midnight #1) by Melissa Grey
Publisher/Date published: Delacorte Press, April 28th 2015
How I got this book: received it from the publisher through NetGalley
Buy this book at: The Book Depository

Goodreads summary: Beneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins. Age-old enchantments keep them hidden from humans. All but one. Echo is a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market, and the Avicen are the only family she's ever known.

Echo is clever and daring, and at times she can be brash, but above all else she's fiercely loyal. So when a centuries-old war crests on the borders of her home, she decides it's time to act.

Legend has it that there is a way to end the conflict once and for all: find the Firebird, a mythical entity believed to possess power the likes of which the world has never seen. It will be no easy task, though if life as a thief has taught Echo anything, it's how to hunt down what she wants... and how to take it.

But some jobs aren't as straightforward as they seem. And this one might just set the world on fire.

So there have been some mixed opinions about this one in the blogosphere and I'll just tell you up front that I fall in the category of people who actually really liked it. But I also have to admit that I haven't read Daughter of Smoke and Bone yet *hides*, the book everyone is comparing it to and saying that DOSAB was better. I have no comparison, but I did very much enjoy The Girl At Midnight!

I really liked Echo, I mean, she has the snark that makes me smile, makes Lord of the Rings references and is generally a bookworm and a very talented thief. I'm pretty much in. And she has a soft spot for pretty boys, which I can understand as she's a 17-year-old girl and most 17-year-old girls like pretty boys (except for the ones who like pretty girls, but you get my point). I mean, sure, she's a bit distracted at times by said pretty boys, but I can't in all honesty say that I wouldn't be. Also: lots of awesome problemsolving and kicking ass.

You may have heard about the love triangle. That wasn't my favourite thing either. I mean, right from the start we know that Echo has a boyfriend, Rowan, and I thought they had a solid basis for a romance, having been friends since they were 7. And they genuinely seem to care about each other, so I was actually a bit surprised when Echo started having feelings for the next pretty face that came along, Caius. I mean, Caius is awesome, don't get me wrong, but I felt the whole way it was set up was pretty unfair to Rowan, who doesn't get much screen-time and also doesn't really get a "I'm sorry, it's not you, it's me" speech before Echo starts something with Caius.

I did very much enjoy everything else about The Girl at Midnight though. I loved Melissa Grey's storytelling and the Avicen and the Drakhari and the whole thing around the Firebird! And OMG, how much did I love Dorian and Jasper and YES I SHIP IT OK? Jasper has a whole lot of funny of his own and a lot of heart underneath the snark. I also really liked the friendship between Ivy and Echo, which seemed a true friendship and not just there so there'd be the obligated female friendship thing.

I constantly found myself wanting to pick up The Girl at Midnight while I was doing other things and wanting to know what would happen next and that to me is the sign of a good book :) Can't wait for the sequel!

My rating: 4,5 stars

Monday, May 4, 2015

Review of Starborn by Lucy Hounsom


Title/Author: Starborn (The Worldmaker Trilogy #1) by Lucy Hounsom
Publisher/Date published: Tor UK, April 23rd 2015
How I got this book: received it from the publisher through NetGalley
Buy this book at: The Book Depository

Goodreads summary: Death and destruction will bar her way...

Kyndra's fate holds betrayal and salvation, but the journey starts in her small village. On the day she comes of age, she accidentally disrupts an ancient ceremony, ending centuries of tradition. So when an unnatural storm targets her superstitious community, Kyndra is blamed. She fears for her life until two strangers save her, by wielding powers not seen for an age - powers fuelled by the sun and the moon.

Together, they flee to the hidden citadel of Naris. And here, Kyndra experiences disturbing visions of the past, showing war and one man's terrifying response. She'll learn more in the city's subterranean chambers, amongst fanatics and rebels. But first Kyndra will be brutally tested in a bid to unlock her own magic.

If she survives the ordeal, she'll discover a force greater than she could ever have imagined. But could it create as well as destroy? And can she control it, to right an ancient wrong?

I was so hoping I'd love this, cause it sounded awesome, I mean, I'm all for characters going on a journey and learning about school and hidden powers and just yes, ok? I have a soft spot for this type of story. But sadly, it didn't fully work for me.

Starborn is a pretty big book, it was over 400 pages on my e-reader. And they were in teeny-tiny script cause my e-reader can't handle pdf for some reason (SO ANNOYING), so I really needed this to be interesting, cause there was a big investment as to squinty eyes and time. And it was really interesting at first, I mean, Kyndra basically destroys a relic of her hometown by accident and almost gets killed by an angry mob after that. So she flees and there is all this secrecy from the two people who rescued her from said angry mob about their powers and I kinda wanted to shake them and have them tell her what the heck was going on because UGH, you're taking her to a place where she's going to get all these answers, why not fill her in on the way and not blindside her? But yeah, I was intrigued, because this Starborn is a whole different class of Wielder and I think everyone will be able to guess that's what Kyndra is, so I don't think that counts as a spoiler. I mean, it's pretty much staring you in the face.

By the time we got the Naris, the secret Wielder city, things started going South for me. I mean, up until that time I was doing ok with Kyndra, we were bonding a bit and then she goes and does something that was so incredibly WTF-ish, I can't even. I mean, she's assaulted by three students (ok, one mostly watched, but still, you're just as guilty in my opinion), even sexually assaulted and then the next minute she's best friends with them? I mean, WTF? SERIOUSLY??? How are you going to trust these people who were mean and vicious and all of a sudden I'm supposed to believe they're actually really good people? I mean, WHAT?? Are you out of your mind? Report it and move on to people who won't attack you. There was not even so much as a real apology.
And then she's crushing on this dude that makes me go ewww, why you so annoying? I mean, he's obviously sketchy, I don't care if he's pretty, there's a reason the two good people in your life, who rescued you, don't like him. Grow a brain or something.

I did think that the magic system was pretty interesting, with there being two types of Wielders who aren't all powerful, cause their powers are controlled by either the sun or the moon and so the different parts of the day are their strengths and weaknesses. That was pretty cool. And I would have loved seeing Kyndra develop her power gradually and learn through trial and error. Instead we went from zero to ALL OF THE POWER and knowing how to control it in about 2 seconds. Yeah, I'm not digging that. And I know that there's a reason for that, but it's not one that I particularly enjoy and feels like it's a bit too convenient. I mean, wow, previous Starborns couldn't do it and she can when she's just gotten into her powers? Just. No.

Something that I did like were Kyndra's two rescuers. They were SUCH interesting characters and the relationship between them was just YES! SHIPPING IT! There's all this history and longing and just I'm in. When one or both of them were present I was very much enjoying reading Starborn, preferably with an absent Kyndra, but I'll take what I can get.

So I guess what I'm saying is that I'm disappointed by this book. It could have been so much better than it was and there were just too many things that annoyed me.

My rating: 2 stars

Friday, May 1, 2015

Review of The Lie by C.L. Taylor


Title/Author: The Lie by C.L. Taylor
Publisher/Date published: HarperCollins, April 23rd 2015
How I got this book: received it from the publisher through NetGalley
Buy this book at: The Book Depository

Goodreads summary: Best friends are there for each other through thick and thin. You trust them with your life. At least that’s what Emma, Daisy, Leanne and Al think. But all that changes when they embark on a trip of a lifetime together. When they return home, only two of them are left alive and the group has been torn apart by lies and deception.

Many years later, when the dust has settled and life has moved on, one girl receives a threatening letter. Someone knows the truth about what happened on that holiday and will stop at nothing to expose it...

OMG, this book was SCARY! AND CRAZY! SO much crazy! I cannot even.

I'm fascinated by cults/sects/whatever you want to call them that basically is a group of people who do their own thing and some of them do batcrap crazy things. Not all obviously, but those are the ones you hear about on the news or that make the best stories. Obviously. I mean, there's all this taboo about them and well, I just always wonder where this view of the world that they had went wrong. I mean, they probably started out wanting to do good and live a better life, right? But hearing about how things go wrong in such a group always gives me the creeps and also makes me curious. This book was sorta like watching a trainwreck happen, you know you shouldn't be this fascinated by it, but you can't look away.

Anyway. Our main character Emma was ok, she's flawed and probably because of this, I could relate to her. I could see how she got into this mess and how when you're in the middle of something like this, you can't immediately see what you should do about it. Everything was spinning out of control for her fast and I don't know how I would have handled that. I mean, you think you're going on the holiday of a lifetime with your friends and then you end up in the middle of something that ends with the death of two of said friends? Wow. That is more than you should have to handle.

I could also relate to her friend situation: in their group of four, Emma is only really friends with Daisy and Al, and she and Leanne tolerate each other for the sake of the other two, but aren't really friends. In the end, I'm not sure any of them were really friends, except for Emma and Al. It pains me to say that Daisy isn't a very nice person. She's petty and jealous and has pulled stuff that a true friend wouldn't in my opinion. And Leanne is just a crazy bitch. I'm sorry, I can't make it any prettier than it is, I truly despised her, and it got worse the further I got into the novel.

But OMG, this situation they end up in and the people! It changes all of the four girls and they really aren't all that safe there. I was reading it and going:


But more like EVERYBODY BE CRAZY!

So The Lie switches back and forth between present time, which is 5 years after the events on holiday and the actual happenings on said holiday and I liked it, but at the same time I wished someone would just hurry up and tell me what happened because the suspense!! Which means it's actually pretty well done by the author because holy wow, it was a 400 page novel with teeny tiny script on my e-reader and I still REALLY wanted to keep reading it.

If you're looking for a read that is scary and crazy and which will keep you enticed for the whole of it, The Lie is definitely for you.

My rating: 4 stars