Friday, February 28, 2014

Me on 16 Things I Thought Were True

Title: 16 Things I Thought Were True
Author: Janet Gurtler
Release Date: March 4, 2014
Publisher: Sourcebooks

When Morgan's mom gets sick, it's hard not to panic. Without her mother, she would have no one, until she finds out the dad who walked out on her as a baby isn't as far away as she thought. Now that they have a summer job together, Morgan's getting to know the real Adam and he's actually pretty sweet, in a nerdy-hot kind of way. He even offers to go with her to find her dad. With Adam in the back seat, a hyper chatterbox named Amy behind the wheel, and plenty of Cheetos to fuel their trip, Morgan feels ready for anything. She's not expecting a flat tire, a missed ferry, a fake girlfriend, and that these two people she barely knew before the summer started will become the people she can't imagine living without.

16 Things I Thought Were True is an honest look at those truths in life that we never see coming, those hard times and sudden surprises that change how we see the world. This is a wake-up call in more ways than one for Morgan, a smack in the face for a girl who has so many assumptions about the world only to have them all shatter at her feet. What Morgan realizes is that the world is far more painful than she realized, but it can also be far more exciting.

Morgan is bitter about some things, self-centered in certain ways. She has flaws, and in a way she knows she's not perfect, but her way of dealing with that seems to be avoidance. And she might as well have her phone permanently glued to her hand with how often she's checking her Twitter follower count. She supplements real life with Twitter, avoiding the skeletons in her closet, but she can't avoid any longer when her mother drops the biggest bombshell ever about her absent father.

In life, there are different kinds of friends. Real life in person friends, online friends, popularity-seeking friends, honest friends, Facebook friends, ex-friends. We all have different kinds, and most have a hand in shaping us as people, but which will be the ones that matter? Which kind of friend will mean the most to Morgan in the end? Which will she grab hold of and never let go? Which will teach her all about what she's been missing?

Reality comes crashing down on Morgan more than once in this book, and it sucks. It's never easy or gentle when it happens, and it's often accompanied by screaming or crying or raging against anything or everything that moves. There are things in life we think are true, things we think we know about people, and when we learn they aren't is when we learn the most.

(I received an advance copy of this title from Raincoast Books.)

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (167)

Waiting on Wednesday is a bunch of weekly fun hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. :)

Title: Rebel
Author: Amy Tintera
Release Date: May 13, 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen

From Goodreads:

The sequel to the action-packed Reboot is a can't-miss thrill ride, perfect for fans of James Patterson, Veronica Roth, and Marie Lu.

After coming back from death as Reboots and being trained by HARC as soldiers, Wren and Callum have finally escaped north, where they hope to find a life of freedom. But when they arrive at the Reboot Reservation, it isn't what they expected. Under the rule of a bloodthirsty leader, Micah, the Reboots are about to wage an all-out war on the humans. Although Wren's instincts are telling her to set off into the wilderness on their own and leave the battle far behind, Callum is unwilling to let his human family be murdered. When Micah commits the ultimate betrayal, the choice is made for them. But Micah has also made a fatal mistake . . . he's underestimated Wren and Callum.

The explosive finale to the Reboot duology is full of riveting action and steamy love scenes as Wren and Callum become rebels against their own kind.

I thought Reboot was interesting, it played on the idea of how we consider ourselves human, especially after we die and come back, and what it is to have emotions. And I was talking to a blogger over the weekend who said she liked this more than Reboot, so I'm really looking forward to it. :)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Me on The Winner's Curse

Title: The Winner's Curse
Author: Marie Rutkoski
Release Date: March 4, 2014
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux (Macmillan imprint)

As a general's daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions. One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin's eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him, with unexpected consequences. It's not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin. But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.

The Winner's Curse is enchanting and powerful. There are always two sides to every war and this book shows both, revealing the good and the bad as Kestrel and Arin struggle for an end that will not rip their worlds to shreds.

Kestrel is a piano-playing general's daughter, a privileged daughter of the Valorian empire, one that prides itself on its warmongering and conquering. Her options are simple, to join the military or get married, but she wishes her future could be different. She's intelligent, calculating, witty, and highly skilled in terms of strategy, but her soul thrives on music. And so she's trapped, nearly cornered by her father, when she buys a slave that may be hiding more than just his singing voice.

Arin is a blacksmith touted as a singer, a Herrani slave. Secrets abound around him, secrets on top of secrets. He years for freedom, but not just his own. He wishes his people free from slavery, free from Valorian oppression. But what is his plan? What is he looking for? Is he just a slave, luring Kestrel with only his singing voice and rough banter? Or is he using her? Is he just as intelligent strategically as she is?

Both are trapped by circumstance. The heart wants what it wants, it craves freedom and desires the one it connects with the most, but it can't have it. Not in times of war and struggle. Not over the needs of the majority. Not over what the leaders demand from their citizens and soldiers.

War means strategy, which means tactics and calculations. Kestrel and Arin constantly do battle, both with each other and with others, both physical and verbal. Both must plan so far in advance, looking towards what will save lives over what they want.

The war between the Valorian and the Herrani raise issues of colonization, of a stronger force coming in and taking control, seizing property and implanting their will over the native population. This has happened consistently through history, and it will continue to happen because history will always repeat itself. Empires will rise and fall, as will the rebellions that attempt to crush them and take back what once was theirs. But there will always be casualties.

Perhaps the most important question raised in this book: what is the cost of freedom?

The idea of the winner's curse is so intriguing, where the elation of winning a prize is weighed against the realization of the cost. It was never going to be easy for Kestrel and Arin, but that didn't stop me from wanting it to be easy for them. I fear that this series is going to push them together and rip them apart in more ways than one. I imagine the second book, and third, will be just as captivating but also just as painful.

(I received an advance copy of this title from Raincoast Books.)

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Me on This Week's Book Week (92)

This Week's Book Week is rather similar to Stacking the Shelves hosted by Tynga's Reviews only with far more rambling and a less witty title. ;)

It's Sunday! Why is it Sunday? Because I had another Saturday book signing and figured it wouldn't hurt for me to post this today instead of yesterday. :) It's also snowing. Boooooooo.

Saturday's signing with Marissa Meyer was lots of fun. Marissa's a great speaker, and there were good questions from the audience, no "which character would you make out with" or "any advice to writers" questions. There were questions like "which character is the hardest to write" (Jacin, because he's the least like Marissa, while Cress is the most like her) and "which character's development were you surprised by" (I think it was Queen Levana) and "could you sum up Winter in one word" (crazy, because she thought it would be fun to write a character that's totally insane). I have all the hugs for Raincoast and the teen publicity girls for setting up the signing and the fun group dinner afterwards. There was a fair amount of book talk about other books... and some Rainbow Rowell gushing. We all like Rainbow for different book reasons. :)

Something that came up on Twitter yesterday morning got me thinking about authors and signings and celebrity. I know some people get tongue-tied when they meet authors (I do so much), and I'm wondering if it's because we forget they're people. Authors are our rockstars, yes, but they're still people who do laundry and take kids to soccer practice and pay taxes and deal with normal daily life crap. Sometimes breaking the ice is hard, but it's worth it in the end. Also, Twitter is great with this, and I love how I can interact with authors on Twitter, but sometimes face-to-face talks are better. :)

Reviews for the coming week will feature The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski (Tuesday) and 16 Things I Thought Were True by Janet Gurtler (Friday). :)
Cress by Marissa Meyer (from Raincoast Books)
This Star Won't Go Out by Esther Earl (from Penguin Canada)

Friday, February 21, 2014

Me on The Story of Owen

Title: The Story of Owen
Author: E.K. Johnston
Release Date: March 1, 2014
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books

Listen! For I sing of Owen Thorskard: valiant of heart, hopeless at algebra, last in a long line of legendary dragon slayers. Though he had few years and was not built for football, he stood between the town of Trondheim and creatures that threatened its survival. There have always been dragons. As far back as history is told, men and women have fought them, loyally defending their villages. Dragon slaying was a proud tradition. But dragons and humans have one thing in common: an insatiable appetite for fossil fuels. From the moment Henry Ford hired his first dragon slayer, no small town was safe. Dragon slayers flocked to cities, leaving more remote areas unprotected. Such was Trondheim's fate until Owen Thorskard arrived. At sixteen, with dragons advancing and his grades plummeting, Owen faced impossible odds armed only with a sword, his legacy, and the classmate who agreed to be his bard. Listen! I am Siobhan McQuaid. I alone know the story of Owen, the story that changes everything. Listen!

The Story of Owen is entertaining, unique, and Canadian to the core. The dragons may come flying out of fantasy but this book is very present and relevant in a real world setting, a small down with real and intelligent people trying to protect it, a group of characters that can't help but make you laugh and cry and listen intently to the tales of their heroism.

Owen and Siobhan are both interesting in their own ways, Owen and his dragon slaying, his knowing that he will be a dragon slayer like his parents and his aunt before him, his acceptance and strength, and Siobhan with her understanding, her support, her attitude. It's a curious friendship they have, one that began because of proximity and continued through tutoring and her acceptance to become a bard. To tell the tales of Owen and his dragon slaying.

This story is told in such a compelling way, in a style befitting a bard. I couldn't turn away from this book, it was almost as if I could hear Siobhan recounting the tales of Owen and his father and aunt as she saw them, calling out to the good people of the town and sharing tales of bravery and fortitude. Or about how he was failing algebra and she was brought in to tutor him. Siobhan also provides historical backstories on the dragons, the men and woman that slay them, and the countries that try to protect their people and carbon emissions.

Because of the dragons, history as we know it has been altered, tweaked and played with. Dragons are seamlessly woven into our world until it becomes Siobhan and Owen's world. A world where dragons set barns and houses alight so they can feed off of the charred remains. A world where dragon slayers are recruited to do battle for their country, to face off against sharp teeth and burning flames.

While I knew this would take place in a small town, I didn't expect to get so involved in Trondheim and the politics of dragon slaying in a small town. It lead to the comparison of small towns and large cities, how both are important but the towns are often overlooked because of the needs of the cities. But it doesn't mean those small towns aren't important.

This book is so Canadian when it comes to humour and character, a little easy-going but practical and thoughtful. Almost every Canadian or Southern Ontario reference made me laugh, including the mental image of a dragon flying straight into Toronto during a hockey game. It's certainly an intriguing look at what it's like in a small Canadian town when everyone comes together to protect it, protect their homes. It's so Canadian, with the small-town hero and the people around him, and the one to tell his story (while being involved herself). I want more of this town, more of these characters, and more from this author. What an adventure.

(I received an e-galley of this title from the author through NetGalley.)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (166)

Waiting on Wednesday is a bunch of weekly fun hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. :)

Title: Divided
Author: Elsie Chapman
Release Date: May 27, 2014
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers

From Goodreads:

The hunter becomes the hunted. . . .

West Grayer is done killing. She defeated her Alternate, a twin raised by another family, and proved she’s worthy of a future. She’s ready to move on with her life.

The Board has other plans. They want her to kill one last time, and offer her a deal worth killing for. But when West recognizes her target as a ghost from her past, she realizes she’s in over her head. The Board is lying, and West will have to uncover the truth of the past to secure her future.

How far will the Board go to keep their secrets safe? And how far will West go to save those she loves? With nonstop action and surprising twists, Elsie Chapman’s intoxicating sequel to Dualed reveals everything.

I read Dualed last year, and I enjoyed it, but the idea of a sequel makes me curious. While it read well as a single book, I'm wondering what will be shown of West's world in this new book, what secrets will be revealed that will hopefully connect it to its predecessor.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Me on Tin Star

Title: Tin Star
Author: Cecil Castellucci
Release Date: February 25, 2014
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press (Macmillan imprint)

Beaten and left for dead, Tula finds herself abandoned on a remote space station with aliens she must work to understand. One of the aliens, Heckleck, saves her and teaches her the ways of life on the space station. When three humans crash land onto the station, Tula's desire for escape becomes irresistible, and her desire for companionship becomes unavoidable. But just as Tula begins to concoct a plan to get off the space station and kill Brother Blue, everything goes awry, and suddenly romance is the farthest thing from her mind.

Tin Star is a story of survival and strength. What does it mean to be human? What will it take to survive, to keep on living when you have nothing? In the depths of outer space, on a station filled with different aliens and you're the only human, who will you give your trust to?

Tula was abandoned and beaten by someone she thought she could trust. Now, alone and forgotten, she's left to somehow survive on a space station where she's the only Human, a species that most aliens couldn't care less about. Trapped in a bleak situation, Tula somehow finds the strength to come back, to keep on living when most would give up and waste away. She does what she must over the years, but as much as the aliens on Yertina Feray have helped her to survive, she has one mission she cannot ignore. She must find Brother Blue and kill him for what he did to her.

After spending years on the station without any human contact, with only different aliens and their customs, habits, and rituals, her world tilts once more when Humans appear in her life again. But the differences between them are so distinctive. What does that make Tula? Is she still Human? Or is she more alien now?

For Tula, alone and not cared about, survival is crucial. She doesn't know anyone on the station, she can't find anyone willing to take her back to Earth or to her family for no money. She has nothing. But she's not willing to give up. Perhaps an alien or two help her out in the beginning, but it's her decision to continue on trading and pushing to survive on the lower decks. It's the hidden strength inside her that keeps her alive.

This is such a curious book. The space station was a rather interesting setting, but I never felt trapped or enclosed. Perhaps it was the vast openness of space that the station sits in, slowly orbiting a dead planet. I was so enthralled with Tula's journey, with her sort of coming of age, with her growth as a character. She starts off alone, afraid, and angry. I'm so glad that there will be a second book, but I'm not looking forward to the wait.

(I received an advance copy of this title from Raincoast Books.)

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Me on This Week's Book Week (91)

This Week's Book Week is rather similar to Stacking the Shelves hosted by Tynga's Reviews only with far more rambling and a less witty title. ;)

It rained this week. How exciting.... not really. But we've still avoided the gross winter weather that's hit almost everyone else in North America.

Yay, book signing with Victoria Schwab, Lish McBride, and Kendare Blake today! :) I'm not sure if I'll be live-tweeting or anything, I'll probably switch my phone to airplane mode and keep the wi-fi on, and hopefully take pictures that don't suck. ;) Or hopefully remember to take pictures. I suck at remembering.

I've been stalking the mailbox this week. It's not something I've done that lately, but I'm really looking forward to this one book. And I'm probably worrying over nothing that it hasn't arrived yet. I still really want to read it. I'll probably drop everything to read it once it arrives.

Reviews for the coming week will feature Tin Star by Cecil Castellucci (Tuesday) and The Story of Owen by E.K. Johnston (Friday). :)
The Umbound by Victora Schwab (bought; sort of cheating because I'll be buying this later today)
Boys Like You by Juliana Stone (from Sourcebooks through NetGalley)

Friday, February 14, 2014

Me on My Date From Hell

Title: My Date From Hell
Author: Tellulah Darling
Release Date: October 31, 2013
Publisher: TeDa Media

Sophie's junior year has been a bit of a train wreck. After the world's greatest kiss re-awakened her true identity as Persephone, she fought her dragon-lady guidance counselor to the death, navigated a mean girl's bitchy trouble-making, and dealt with the betrayal of her backstabbing ex. You'd think a girl could catch a break. Yeah, right. With Zeus stepping things up, it's vital that Sophie retrieve Persephone's memories and discover the location of the ritual to stop Zeus and Hades. So when Aphrodite strikes a deal that can unlock Sophie's past, what choice does the teen goddess have but to accept? The mission: stop media mogul Hermes from turning Bethany into a global mega-celebrity. The catch? Aphrodite partners Sophie and Kai to work together and to treat the suicide mission as a date, which could work out for Sophie's plan to force Kai to admit his feelings for her. If she doesn't kill him first. Add to that the fact that her BFF's love life and other BFF's actual life are in Sophie's hands, and suddenly being a teenager, even a godlike one, seems a bit like, well, hell. Whatever happened to dinner and a movie?

My Date From Hell is a fast-paced, exciting, dangerous mission towards the truth and stopping the end of the world.

Sophie's stuck in a bad situation. She's pushed by Zeus to find the memories of Persephone hidden away in her mind, pushed to work with Kai when she'd rather avoid and/or hate him, pushed to be around Bethany when she'd rather kick her off a cliff. Her life sucks in different ways for different reasons, but that doesn't stop her from pushing back, through snark and wit and also an inner strength.

I've said before in previous reviews how retellings of the Persephone myth are multiplying and making me lose interest. This tries to set itself apart in that it's not Hades that Sophie's attracted to but his son Kai. And there's a deeper, darker situation looming overhead. One that could end in the destruction of everything. It's not necessarily new and unique (see The Goddess Test and Everneath), but the author's own interpretation of the gods and goddess, their different personalities, is what's key.

It was the banter that did it for me, that kept me entertained and reading. All of the snark and sass and jabs at everyone and everything. Sarcasm mixed with seriousness, appearing at both the best and worst times. And it wasn't just Sophie, although she is the queen of snark. There were multiple characters with the ability to toss in a quick one-liner, it was like a funny little surprise every time it happened.

But as much as the banter kept me reading, Sophie's "war" with Bethany made me bored. Bethany seems to be the quintessential popular mean girl that every fiction high school has. I understand that she's not supposed to be likable, and did she ever do her job as coming across as extremely unlikable, but I was almost at the point of skipping the parts she was in.

I was slightly lost at the beginning, I haven't read the first book and it took me a little to get into the story, but I kept going. There were moments were the action and drama were hyped up to the point where it was almost too much for me (just about every time Bethany was around). In some ways I liked this book and in some ways I didn't. Maybe there was a bit too much drama for me, but it was still a fun, exciting read. I really want to know how it ends.

(I received a copy of this book to review from the author.)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (165)

Waiting on Wednesday is a bunch of weekly fun hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. :)

Title: Salvage
Author: Alexandra Duncan
Release Date: April 1, 2014
Publisher: Greenwillow Books (HarperCollins imprint)

From Goodreads:

Ava, a teenage girl living aboard the male-dominated deep space merchant ship Parastrata, faces betrayal, banishment, and death. Taking her fate into her own hands, she flees to the Gyre, a floating continent of garbage and scrap in the Pacific Ocean, in this thrilling, surprising, and thought-provoking debut novel that will appeal to fans of Across the Universe, by Beth Revis, and The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood.

I just read Tin Star by Cecil Castellucci and this sounds sort of similar, so I'm interested. I'm also intrigued by the Across the Universe comparison, but not The Handmaid's Tale comparison. That book creeps me out so much. But I like the sound of this. And I hear it's a standalone. :)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Me on Fates

Title: Fates
Author: Lanie Bross
Release Date: February 11, 2014
Publisher: Delacorte Press (Random House imprint)

One moment. One foolish desire. One mistake. And Corinthe lost everything. She fell from her tranquil life in Pyralis Terra and found herself exiled to the human world. Her punishment? To make sure people's fates unfold according to plan. Now, years later, Corinthe has one last assignment: kill Lucas Kaller. His death will be her ticket home. But for the first time, Corinthe feels a tingle of doubt. It begins as a lump in her throat, then grows toward her heart, and suddenly she feels like she is falling all over again, this time for a boy she knows she can never have. Because it is written: one of them must live, and one of them must die. In a universe where every moment, every second, every fate has already been decided, where does love fit in?

Fates is a tale of two people searching, attempting to change fate and return to what once was. It is a journey steeped in fantasy and bound together by different threads. Can fate be altered? What will it take to change the future? Can a decision be reversed? If so, what will become of the world?

Corinthe has been cast aside from those she once knew and cared about. For good reason, mind you. There were rules in place, and she broke a very important one, but that doesn't stop her from wanting. Wanting to take it back. Wanting to return. Wanting to do whatever it takes to be brought back into the fold in Pyralis. Even if it means killing someone she's never met. But will she? Will she do what she's been told, complete this one last mission? She's caught between her mission and her growing attraction to Lucas.

Lucas's motivation for almost everything he does, almost every action he takes, is his sister. Sort of. He wants things to be the way they were before their mother left, when everything made sense and they were a normal, well-adjusted family. But things change, people change. Every step of his journey through the different worlds is taken for his sister. He has to keep her safe, keep her alive, he has to save her. But Corinthe both stands in his way and confuses him.

Both of their stories are told through the third person point of view. It was welcome, seeing both sides, their different needs and wants. There was no need to speculate or be overwhelmed by one character's angst. It provided another dimension to the story; a situation like this cannot be told from one side. As different as their purposes are, what motivates them is the same: home, a return to how things used to be. A return to safety, familiarity, and contentment. And neither is willing to give up.

Perhaps this was because I read this on an e-reader, but it felt like the beginning progressed almost too fast. It felt like I was rushing down a hill towards an early climax, but then things changed, then they both found ways to continue the journey, to prolong it (not in a bad way). I also wasn't totally sold on their romantic relationship. It felt a bit too quick to develop, a bit rushed at times.

As I read, I got the sense that Corinthe and Lucas were heading towards something, an event that would ripple through all the worlds, that would alter fate and change what was thought to be unchangeable, and that would be the end. What I discovered was a rather obvious set-up for a series. There is an ending, but it's an ending accompanied with a bomb being dropped. In a way, I understand the reasoning behind an ending like this. I just hope it wasn't done for shock value. That being said, I'm curious if the next book will start with a moment just as surprising.

(I received an e-galley of this title to review from Random House through NetGalley.)

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Me on This Week's Book Week (90)

This Week's Book Week is rather similar to Stacking the Shelves hosted by Tynga's Reviews only with far more rambling and a less witty title. ;)

It's been so cold here lately, which is just cold and not the super cold that most of the rest of the country gets. But it's still cold, and the wind doesn't help. And the metal in my foot has gone all weird and my foot aches.

I'm so happy that there are book signings in the near future. I love meeting authors and readers and listening to them talk about books. I'll be heading across the border next Saturday to see Victoria Schwab, Kendare Blake, and Lish McBride. I'm so excited for this one, I love all three of these authors. My sister's coming as well, so I'm not spending the whole trip talking to myself alone in the car. Also hopefully the border guards won't look at us weird if there's 2 of us in the car, I've gotten some weird looks before when I've said I'm heading to a book signing. We'll also be stopping at the outlet malls on the drive down. And on the 22nd is a signing with Cress author Marissa Meyer (where I don't have to cross the border). :)

Reviews for the coming week will feature Fates by Lanie Bross (Tuesday) and My Date From Hell by Tellulah Darling (Friday). :)
Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi (bought)
Ignite Me by Tahereh Mafi (bought)
The Haven by Carol Lynch Williams (from Raincoast Books)
Always Emily by Michaela MacColl (from Raincoast Books)
Stolen Songbird by Danielle L. Jensen (from Strange Chemistry through NetGalley)
My Life with the Walter Boys by Ali Novak (from Sourcebooks on NetGalley through Raincoast Books)

Friday, February 7, 2014

Me on Landry Park

Title: Landry Park
Author: Bethany Hagen
Release Date: February 4, 2014
Publisher: Dial (Penguin imprint)

In a fragmented future United States ruled by the lavish gentry, seventeen-year-old Madeline Landry dreams of going to the university. Unfortunately, gentry decorum and her domineering father won't allow that. Madeline must marry, like a good Landry woman, and run the family estate. But her world is turned upside down when she discovers the devastating consequences her lifestyle is having on those less fortunate. As Madeline begins to question everything she has ever learned, she finds herself increasingly drawn to handsome, beguiling David Dana. Soon, rumors of war and rebellion start to spread, and Madeline finds herself and David at the center of it all. Ultimately, she must make a choice between duty, her family and the estate she loves dearly, and desire.

Landry Park is a curious look into a future where the class structure is alive and well and one privileged girl could discover a truth that could bring the life she knows to an end. Old-fashioned rules and ideas thrive here, where a person is judged on his family's wealth, status, and property owned. Where duty to family rules Madeline's life and she's forced to choose between that family and what her heart craves for her future.

Madeline is trapped by birth, family, and duty. She's not perfect, not conventionally attractive, which is good, she's not a paragon of virtue stuck up on a pedestal, but for all her intelligence and determination to go to university a fair portion of her time is spent complaining about what she can't have. As an only child she is her father's heir, she will one day be mistress of Landry Park, control her family's wealth and properties. Something her father never lets her forget. While I applauded her focus on her future, her desire to continue her education, I felt it was pushed aside every time she spotted David. In those moments, her attraction towards him took control and she forgot about what was seemingly important to her. Of course, the heart can be pulled in multiple directions, so I cannot necessarily fault her for that.

The class system has taken hold, turning the US into a country where money and property increase your standing in society, where a lower class of near slaves are forced to work in horrific conditions because of their birth. It's a biased system where the rich and powerful are cheered for and the Rootless, those without property, are treated like trash. Like they're less than human. It's an intriguing comparison to modern day struggles, the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer and sicker. The ignorance of the gentry and the suffering of the Rootless are terrible.

As I read this book, questions arose in my mind surrounding certain things. A mystery only sometimes discussed. Hidden family secrets. I'm curious to see if those are explored more in the next book. There has to be more hidden in Madeline's family's past than what was revealed here.

I've seen this book described as a futuristic Downton Abbey meets The Selection. I've not seen or read either, but from what I know of both the drama and the book I'd have to agree. It also, in it's own way, reminded me of From Darkness Shows the Stars and Across a Star-Swept Sea. I do feel that Madeline was lacking in agency every so often. She's willing to argue with her father over going to university before getting married immediately, but she won't leave or take drastic measures. In her world, she would have nothing if she left. I also feel that some of the actions she took were only because of her attraction to David. I am still interested in the next book, but I'm more curious as to what else could be revealed as Madeline looks deeper into her family's past.

(I received an advance copy of this title to review from Penguin Canada.)

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (164)

Waiting on Wednesday is a bunch of weekly fun hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. :)

Title: Don't You Forget About Me
Author: Kate Karyus Quinn
Release Date: June 10, 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen

From Goodreads:

Welcome to Gardnerville.

A place where no one gets sick. And no one ever dies.

There’s a price to pay for paradise. Every fourth year, the strange power that fuels the town exacts its payment by infecting teens with deadly urges. In a normal year in Gardnerville, teens might stop talking to their best friends. In a fourth year, they’d kill them.

Four years ago, Skylar’s sister, Piper, was locked away after leading sixteen of her classmates to a watery grave. Since then, Skylar has lived in a numb haze, struggling to forget her past and dull the pain of losing her sister. But the secrets and memories Piper left behind keep taunting Skylar—whispering that the only way to get her sister back is to stop Gardnerville’s murderous cycle once and for all.

This sounds creepy, and I really hope it is. :)

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Me on Blues for Zoey

Title: Blues for Zoey
Author: Robert Paul Weston
Release Date: January 28, 2014
Publisher: Razorbill Canada (Penguin Canada imprint)

Kaz Barrett isn't saving for college. Every penny he earns working at the sketchy Sit'N'Spin Laundromat is for his mother. He plans to send her to a top-notch (and very expensive) sleep clinic in New York. His mother suffers from an extremely rare neurological disorder that causes her to fall asleep for days at a time. Both he and his kid sister, Nomi, worry that one day, maybe tomorrow, their mother will fall asleep and never wake up. At the start of summer, everything seems on track. Come September, Kaz will have earned all he needs and more. However, when anarchic, pink-haired Zoey walks past the laundromat's window, Kaz's ordered life begins spinning out of control. Smart, mysterious, and full of music, Zoey is unlike anyone Kaz has met, but there's another side to her that he can’t quite figure out. When he goes looking for answers, he finds a whirlwind of lies, half-truths, and violence. And in the eye of the storm, he'll discover that you really can't con an honest man.

Blues for Zoey is a window into what becomes a complicated summer. This book is honest and real, at times harsh and painful, but that's life, as Kaz knows and learns. Different characters, different motives, different ways of life, they all come together here in this one glimpse into one teen's life to tell an amazing story.

Kaz is quite possibly the nicest guy going through the hardest time. He's trying to keep it all together, raise the money for his mom to go to an expensive clinic. He's putting family first while still making time for his friends. He's rather average, to tell you the truth. Sure he drinks at parties, sure he let his grades slip, but it's not like he's selling drugs or stealing cars. He's working hard for the money for his mom's treatment. Doing the right, honest thing.. But then comes Zoey, then she walks past, and she's like a magnet for his eyes and good-guy sensibilities.

What highlights Kaz's honesty and personality is the author's writing. Between the covers of this book is prose that reveals a narrator without guile, without artifice. I'm not saying Kaz would give anyone the shirt off his back if they asked for it, but when he gets involved in something and starts to care, starts to want to help, he'll do anything. Which I think is why he's first attracted to Zoey. She's so bizarre, so different, and looking like she needs a hand. So he offers it. But life is like a seesaw. We go up when we try to help and we get knocked right back down when someone lies.

As much as the book is about Kaz, it also seems to be about truth and lies. What we know as true, what we think is true, and how we know someone is lying to us. It makes the world a minefield at times too dangerous to cross, especially for a guy like Kaz. He's not an idiot, and it's not that he blindly trusts everyone he meets. He just doesn't see why some people would lie about certain things. He's a good guy, working hard, trying to figure out the world, and it's unfortunate that he ends up in a sticky and slightly dangerous situation.

This book screams Canadian literature. Maybe it's not set in Canada, what with the mention of $1 bills, but it feels so Canadian. The downtown city setting, the different personalities making up a vast cast of characters, the melting pot of culture, race, and ethnicity, the journey/struggle of one man trying to understand life. As we go through life we encounter the moments that make us who we are, the moments that define us, teach us, show us the truth about the world. Here are some of Kaz's moments.

(I received an advance copy of this title to review from Penguin Canada.)

Blog Tour: Blues for Zoey by Robert Paul Weston

I'm so thrilled to be part of the blog tour for Blues for Zoey. This book was wonderful, so focused on Kaz and his troubles and the different people in his life. Right after I finished it I described it as sort of like a Canadian version of The Beginning of Everything by Robin Schneider. Of course, Kaz is not Ezra, and there are no severed heads, but it's very much a teen guy trying to figure out the world kind of book.
I posed a sort of question to Robert Paul Weston (through the awesome Vikki at Penguin Canada) regarding his guest post. This is what I said: "While reading Blues for Zoey, I was rather intrigued by the cultural melting pot that is Kaz's life and the people around him. It feels very Canadian, people from different backgrounds and countries coming together and living all in the same area. I'm curious as to where Rob got the idea for the setting of this book, the place, and the different characters."

And this is what Rob wrote. :)

Although Blues for Zoey may feel like a consummately Canadian book (and at nearly every level, it is), I made the setting deliberately ambiguous. There’s no such place as Evandale, no such corner as Steinway and Emerson, no such park as DeWinter Hills. These are just as imaginary as Shain Cope or “somnitis,” the sleep-swelling illness afflicting Kaz’s mother. I did this because I wanted the setting to reflect both the ghostliness of Cope and the otherworldliness of the disease. Once I had these aspects of the story in mind, I set out to write something I hoped would feel tangible and real in spite of them. I was attracted to the juxtaposition.

All of that said, however, I was clearly inspired by places I’ve lived in Toronto. When my wife read an early draft, she told me she recognised “Evandale” as our own neighbourhood. At the time, we were living in an apartment without a washing machine, so once a week we dragged our clothes through the snow in a rolling suitcase to do our laundry. We always entered the laundromat from the rear, ducking under a set of wooden stairs that led up to a residential balcony. I freely admit those afternoons, waiting in the cafe down the street for the dryers to stop drying, were the inspiration for the Sit’N’Spin.

As for the ethnicity of the characters, it’s what makes Blues for Zoey my most personal book. (Of course, every book is personal and although I’ve slipped distinctly personal bits and bobs into my other novels, it can be difficult to pick them out underneath the dragons and rocket ships and other fantastical things). Blues for Zoey, on the other hand, is very much a reflection of my experience as someone like Kaz, someone with a mixed ethnicity. Roughly speaking, I have a white father and a black mother, but both of them are mixed as well. My father is half-British, half-Turkish, while my mother is half-Grenadian, half-Indian. The experiences Kaz has with respect to his mixed heritage are all fictionalised accounts of things that have happened to me (yes, even the thing about dog shows).

Apart from my own background, I also wanted to write a book that showed the world as I know it, filled with Ivorian friends who love The Clash, or Japanese friends who are studying Brazilian Portuguese. They don’t do these things to make a point, or for any moral or political reason, but simply because the world is an interesting place. I suppose my life has given me the gift of a complex relationship with ethnicity, which is something I rarely see in young adult novels, apart from ones that are explicitly about ethnic issues. In this way, it’s simply a story set in the world I see around me.

Thanks so much to Rob for answering my slightly rambling question/statement, and thanks to Penguin Canada for the ARC and setting up the blog tour. :)

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Me on This Week's Book Week (89)

This Week's Book Week is rather similar to Stacking the Shelves hosted by Tynga's Reviews only with far more rambling and a less witty title. ;)

It's like a cold spring out there these days. It's sort of sunny, and sort of raining, and sort of foggy, but it's not wintery like most of the rest of North America.

I'll be heading out to the bookstore as soon as I can on Tuesday to hopefully get a copy of Ignite Me. I love this series so much, I hope this last book will be all kind of heart-breaking and awesome and it puts me in a book hangover.

Reviews for the coming week will feature Blues for Zoey by Robert Paul Weston (Tuesday, plus a blog tour post) and Landry Park by Bethany Hagen (Friday). :)
The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco (from Sourcebooks through NetGalley)
First Day on Earth by Cecil Castellucci (borrowed from the library)
The Curiosities by Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton, and Brenna Yovanoff (borrowed from the library)
Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton (borrowed from the library)
Saga #18 by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples (purchased)
The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith (from Hachette Book Group Canada)
Far From You by Tess Sharpe (from Hachette Book Group Canada)