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Monday, September 22, 2014

Review: Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Published: September 23, 2014
Pages: 416
Source: For Review from Hachette Book Group Canada
Rating: 2.5 Stars


Sixteen-year-old Avery Roe wants only to take her rightful place as the witch of Prince Island, making the charms that keep the island's whalers safe at sea, but her mother has forced her into a magic-free world of proper manners and respectability. When Avery dreams she's to be murdered, she knows time is running out to unlock her magic and save herself.

Avery finds an unexpected ally in a tattooed harpoon boy named Tane--a sailor with magic of his own, who moves Avery in ways she never expected. Becoming a witch might stop her murder and save her island from ruin, but Avery discovers her magic requires a sacrifice she never prepared for.

In short: Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper had a cool and unique concept, but frustrating characters and slow pacing hindered my overall enjoyment.
Salt & Storm called to me the moment I heard of it. How could I resist a book that combines historical fiction and magic? I can't. And while the end product wasn't nearly as satisfying as I had hoped - in fact it was downright frustrating at times - I was at least impressed with the concept and lore developed in Salt & Storm. It's a cool idea certainly, and I love that it was based in history, but there were a few major aspects in Salt & Storm that hindered my overall enjoyment.

Protagonist Avery was probably my main source of frustration in Salt & Storm. She's been given a bad lot in life, definitely, so I would excuse some anger on her part, but this girl frequently flies into these bizarre fits and rages at the drop of a hat. She's also extraordinarily selfish at times, concerned only with wrongs done unto her, and never thinking of the hurt she causes others in turn with her fits of melodrama.

Somehow there's this guy - Tane - who sees through her rages and likes her, and they quickly - and I mean QUICKLY - declare their love for each other. There were a few times that I found their romance sweet, but for the most part it annoyed me. Their hokey professions and their whip-lash arguments were the stuff of soap operas, not a genuine romance that I could root for. I could not take them seriously and so I did not care what became of them and their romance.

Initially the writing drew me in and immersed me in the atmosphere of this small whaling island so beautifully. But at some point I began to fall out of love with it - the prose is descriptive and the sentences are lengthy, sometimes weighing the pacing down, making the reading tedious and uninteresting. And when the pacing is slow and the characters are unlikeable, the story DRAGS and is a chore to get through.

If it weren't for the frustrating characters and slow pacing, I would have totally dug Salt & Storm though. I did really love the concept behind it and I loved the historical backdrop too. It was just such a fresh idea to me and I really appreciated that because I don't get to read books with unique ideas often. I also really admired the fact that debut author Kendall Kulper decided to GO THERE with the ending and that she's left this as a standalone. So all in all, I'm 50/50 in my rating for Salt & Storm.

Other Reviews:
Late Nights With Good Books
Maji Bookshelf
Supernatural Snark

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Waiting On Wednesday: Simon & Schuster Fall 2014 Catalog

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill of Breaking The Spine in which upcoming, eagerly anticipated releases are highlighted on the blog.

This week, I've chosen to feature a few picks from the Simon & Schuster Fall 2014 Catalog:

Winterspell by Claire Legrand
Date: September 30, 2014
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New York City, 1899. Clara Stole, the mayor's ever-proper daughter, leads a double life. Since her mother's murder, she has secretly trained in self-defense with the mysterious Drosselmeyer.
Then, on Christmas Eve, disaster strikes.
Her home is destroyed, her father abducted--by beings distinctly nothuman. To find him, Clara journeys to the war-ravaged land of Cane. Her only companion is the dethroned prince Nicholas, bound by a wicked curse. If they're to survive, Clara has no choice but to trust him, but his haunted eyes burn with secrets--and a need she can't define. With the dangerous, seductive faery queen Anise hunting them, Clara soon realizes she won't leave Cane unscathed--if she leaves at all.

The Nutcracker retelling - OMG!! I used to go see The Nutcracker ballet every Christmas growing up and I absolutely loved it. So to have a book inspired by the story of The Nutcracker?! I can't imagine the feeling of nostalgia it will inspire in me! Can't wait for Winterspell!


Black Ice by Becca Fitzpatrick
Date: October 7, 2014
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Sometimes danger is hard to see... until it’s too late.
Britt Pfeiffer has trained to backpack the Teton Range, but she isn't prepared when her ex-boyfriend, who still haunts her every thought, wants to join her. Before Britt can explore her feelings for Calvin, an unexpected blizzard forces her to seek shelter in a remote cabin, accepting the hospitality of its two very handsome occupants—but these men are fugitives, and they take her hostage.
In exchange for her life, Britt agrees to guide the men off the mountain. As they set off, Britt knows she must stay alive long enough for Calvin to find her. The task is made even more complicated when Britt finds chilling evidence of a series of murders that have taken place there... and in uncovering this, she may become the killer’s next target.
But nothing is as it seems in the mountains, and everyone is keeping secrets, including Mason, one of her kidnappers. His kindness is confusing Britt. Is he an enemy? Or an ally? 

I never really got into Becca Fitzpatrick's Hush, Hush Series, but I remember thinking the story was fun in that easy, addictive kind of way. I'm hoping the same can be said for Black Ice - it certainly sounds like an exciting thriller!


Sublime by Christina Lauren
Date: October 14, 2014
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When Lucy walks out of a frozen forest, wearing only a silk dress and sandals, she isn’t sure how she got there. But when she sees Colin, she knows for sure that she’s here for him.

Colin has never been captivated by a girl the way he is by Lucy. With each passing day their lives intertwine, and even as Lucy begins to remember more of her life—and her death—neither of them is willing to give up what they have, no matter how impossible it is. And when Colin finds a way to physically be with Lucy, taking himself to the brink of death where his reality and Lucy’s overlap, the joy of being together for those brief stolen moments drowns out everything in the outside world. But some lines weren’t meant to be crossed…

Sublime sounds pretty romance-heavy, which I'm not usually a huge fan of, but I have to say that I am super intrigued by the premise and the cover here. Seems like ghostly love stories never end well, but I'm still pretty curious to see how this couple will work things out.


The Retribution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
Date: November 4, 2014
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Mara Dyer wants to believe there's more to the lies she’s been told.
There is.

She doesn’t stop to think about where her quest for the truth might lead.
She should.

She never had to imagine how far she would go for vengeance.
She will now.

Loyalties are betrayed, guilt and innocence tangle, and fate and chance collide in this shocking conclusion to Mara Dyer’s story.
Retribution has arrived.

And Mara Dyer is finally back for the final instalment of her exceptionally trippy psychological mindf*ck of a story. It's always fun getting caught up in her strange and confusing mind, so I'm looking forward to The Retribution of Mara Dyer!


How about you? Are you waiting on any of these Simon & Schuster Fall 2014 reads? Are there any upcoming books from the Simon & Schuster Fall 2014 Catalog that I didn't include here that you feel I should add to my list?

Monday, September 15, 2014

Review: Ruin and Rising (The Grisha #3) by Leigh Bardugo

Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Published: June 17, 2014
Pages: 417
Source: Bought
Rating: 4.5 Stars


The capital has fallen.
The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.
Now the nation's fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.
Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.
Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova's amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling's secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.

This review is spoiler free

In short: Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo is a largely satisfying finale worthy of the series we all love.
And so yet another beloved series of mine comes to an end. It's always hard to say goodbye to a favourite series once you've come to respect and/or love the characters and enjoyed spending time in the beautifully developed fantasy world (although in this case, it seems as though we don't have to say goodbye to this world just yet - Leigh Bardugo is planning another series set in the same universe!). But thankfully the goodbye process is a bit easier when the finale delivers an ending worthy of the series you love - which Ruin and Rising largely did.

Siege and Storm left off in dire straits so it came as no surprise that Ruin and Rising was at times a very broody, dark read. Thankfully, Leigh Bardugo is an expert at weaving in humour even in the darkest of times, alleviating gloom and creating great character moments all at once. Speaking of characters, all of our previous favourites are back, and others that weren't previously favourites surprised me with their charming personalities in Ruin and Rising. The hero's journey is often a lonely one, so it was so nice to have a large cast of characters behind Alina, supporting her cause at every step and playing a critical part in protecting Ravka.

The story is well paced and yet still allows for some important character histories that we have been waiting on, and these backstories finally bring the story together. As for the finale - it was good though not quite as grand and breathtaking as I was hoping it would be, especially because the set-up to the final battle was lengthy. But overall I was pleased with how the story was wrapped up and where the characters ended up - those that survived anyway. I'm sad to see The Grisha Trilogy come to an end, but the ending felt right for the story and for the characters, and I'm sure before we know it we'll have the new Grisha spin-off series from Leigh Bardugo in our greedy little hands.

Previously, my reviews of Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm.

Other Reviews:
Alice Marvels
Courtney Reads A Lot
The Daily Prophecy

Author Links:
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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Waiting On Wednesday: Macmillan Fall 2014 Catalog

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill of Breaking The Spine in which upcoming, eagerly anticipated releases are highlighted on the blog.

This week, I've chosen to feature a few picks from the Macmillan Fall 2014 Catalog:

The Vault of Dreamers by Caragh M. O'Brien
Date: September 16, 2014
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The Forge School is the most prestigious arts school in the country. The secret to its success:  every moment of the students' lives is televised as part of the insanely popular Forge Show, and the students' schedule includes twelve hours of induced sleep meant to enhance creativity. But when first year student Rosie Sinclair skips her sleeping pill, she discovers there is something off about Forge. In fact, she suspects that there are sinister things going on deep below the reaches of the cameras in the school. What's worse is, she starts to notice that the edges of her consciousness do not feel quite right. And soon, she unearths the ghastly secret that the Forge School is hiding—and what it truly means to dream there.

While it is true that I am a bit over dystopians at this point, I still can't help but feel drawn to premises such as the one in The Vault of Dreamers. I feel like I just need to know this ghastly secret that the school is hiding! And I've heard great things about Caragh M. O'Brien's Birthmarked, so I'm definitely curious about this new book of hers!


Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth
Date: September 23, 2014
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French novelist Charlotte-Rose de la Force has been banished from the court of Versailles by the Sun King, Louis XIV, after a series of scandalous love affairs. At the convent, she is comforted by an old nun, Sœur Seraphina, who tells her the tale of a young girl who, a hundred years earlier, is sold by her parents for a handful of bitter greens...
After Margherita’s father steals parsley from the walled garden of the courtesan Selena Leonelli, he is threatened with having both hands cut off, unless he and his wife relinquish their precious little girl. Selena is the famous red-haired muse of the artist Tiziano, first painted by him in 1512 and still inspiring him at the time of his death. She is at the center of Renaissance life in Venice, a world of beauty and danger, seduction and betrayal, love and superstition.
Locked away in a tower, Margherita sings in the hope that someone will hear her. One day, a young man does.

Wooo Rapunzel retelling!! Of course I loved such retellings as Cress and Tangled so I feel like I have to read this! Bitter Greens sounds amazing and I love how real history is worked into the story. It's already received a lot of buzz from readers as it was originally released a couple of years ago in Australia, so that's pretty exciting!


Lailah by Nikki Kelly
Date: October 7, 2014
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The girl knows she’s different. She doesn’t age. She has no family. She has visions of a past life, but no clear clues as to what she is, or where she comes from. But there is a face in her dreams – a light that breaks through the darkness. She knows his name is Gabriel.
On her way home from work, the girl encounters an injured stranger whose name is Jonah. Soon, she will understand that Jonah belongs to a generation of Vampires that serve even darker forces. Jonah and the few like him, are fighting with help from an unlikely ally – a rogue Angel, named Gabriel.
In the crossfire between good and evil, love and hate, and life and death, the girl learns her name: Lailah. But when the lines between black and white begin to blur, where in the spectrum will she find her place? And with whom?
Gabriel and Jonah both want to protect her. But Lailah will have to fight her own battle to find out who she truly is.

Okay so, there's definitely a love triangle at play here - which could be disastrous - and it sounds pretty romance-heavy - which is not my kind of thing - and there are vampires and angels - which I'm kind of over at this point -, BUT! Well, Lailah has been getting some pretty smashing early reviews and I have been wrong about romance-heavy paranormals before (Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I'm looking at you), so I'm definitely curious about this one. I'll wait for more reviews to come out though before making the decision to read it.


The Accidental Highwayman: Being the Tale of Kit Bristol, His Horse Midnight, a Mysterious Princess, and Sundry Magical Persons Besides by Ben Tripp
Date: October 14, 2014
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In eighteenth-century England, young Christopher “Kit” Bristol is the unwitting servant of notorious highwayman Whistling Jack. One dark night, Kit finds his master bleeding from a mortal wound, dons the man’s riding cloak to seek help, and changes the course of his life forever. Mistaken for Whistling Jack and on the run from redcoats, Kit is catapulted into a world of magic and wonders he thought the stuff of fairy tales.
Bound by magical law, Kit takes up his master’s quest to rescue a rebellious fairy princess from an arranged marriage to King George III of England. But his task is not an easy one, for Kit must contend with the feisty Princess Morgana, goblin attacks, and a magical map that portends his destiny: as a hanged man upon the gallows….

OMG how can you not love that title and accompanying beautiful typography-laden cover?! The Accidental Highwayman sounds like it will follow in the vein of the classical fairy-tale fantasies that we all know and love, so of course I'm ALL over it.


How about you? Are you waiting on any of these Macmillan Fall 2014 reads? Are there any upcoming books from the Macmillan Fall 2014 Catalog that I didn't include here that you feel I should add to my list?

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Bookish Seven Deadly Sins Tag

The Homunculi from one of my favourite animes, FullMetal Alchemist
I've been tagged to do the Seven Deadly Sins Questionnaire Tag (created by BookishlyMalyza)! Three different times, actually. First by Christina and Sarah of Between Bookends, then by Preethi of Time Turning Reads, and finally by Janhvi and Sarika of The Readdicts. Woo, thanks ladies!!

1. Greed - What is your most inexpensive book? What is your most expensive book?
Second-hand bookstores are dangerous places for me. While I can usually restrain myself from buying new books that will just sit on my shelf unread for months (or years!), the same cannot be said when it comes to cheap books. It’s just so easy to justify buying a book that I have a passing interest in if it’s only a couple of bucks! So my most inexpensive book would be from one of these impulsive used book buys.
My most expensive book that I own has got to be the collector's edition of The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling. It comes with a fancy cover, a handwritten introduction by Jo, and Jo's illustrations of the tales as well. It was a Christmas gift and it's very special to me! All net proceeds go to Jo's charity Lumos.

2. Wrath - What author do you have a love/hate relationship with?
I would probably have to say Cassandra Clare. I do love her books for the most part – specifically her characters and her humour – but part of me is getting a bit tired of the Shadowhunter world. It’s getting to be a bit overdone. She’s been able to keep it fresh by introducing new characters (I LOVED The Infernal Devices and I’m pretty excited for the new Dark Artifices), but I wonder how much longer she can keep this up. Surely she is going to run out of ideas for romantic complications and other ways to torture her characters soon!

3. Gluttony - What book have you devoured over and over with no shame?
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy!! Jokes, jokes. But it seemed like a more interesting answer than the blatantly obvious one that you know I’m going to say – Harry Potter, of course! Though I’ve actually only read the Harry Potter series three times (which may surprise some people, but I have a pretty great memory so even at that low number, I have my favourite scenes memorized by heart), I feel absolutely no shame whatsoever in rereading neither the series, nor the countless of fanfics I’ve read. In fact, I feel like I’m overdue for another reread sometime soon…

4. Sloth - What book have you neglected reading due to laziness?
Most classics, sadly. I DO want to get to a lot of them someday, but they’re just not a priority of mine at the moment. Nor do they draw me in the same way the newest hyped YA reads do. I would also say A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin and Outlander by Diana Gabaldon – both chunky reads that I have been meaning to read for years and years now, but have been putting off in favour of current slimmer reads.

5. Pride - What book do you talk about most in order to sound like an intellectual reader?
Hmm, can’t think of any. Possibly because there are no books that I’ve read that might make me seem smarter, possibly because I don’t try to sound smart in front of people. Either way, I guess that’s not really a good thing…

6. Lust - What attributes do you find attractive in male or female characters?
With males, I always fall the hardest for the sweetest, most kindest, and most earnest guys. I’m thinking of Cricket from Lola and the Boy Next Door, Jem from The Infernal Devices, and Levi from Fangirl.
With females, I admire brave heroines who speak their mind and stand up for their morals. Maybe it's because I’m totally not like that myself, but I wish I was!

7. Envy - What book would you most like to receive as a gift?
Oh boy, of course I have my eye on those beautiful new – but pricey – Harry Potter editions (the pretty white ones, the gorgeous new US ones, and the cute new UK ones), but they’re certainly not a must because I love my original Canadian editions dearly and I’ve kept them in excellent shape. But I would LOVE to own my own copy of Anne of Green Gablesafter falling head-over-heels-in-love with it a few months ago – particularly a pretty bind-up version of all the Anne of Green Gables novels in one, if such a thing exists!


Now it's my turn to tag some people!
Alex of A Girl, Books, and Other Things
Ambur of Burning Impossibly Bright
Lauren of Shooting Stars Mag
Mel of The Daily Prophecy
Micheline of Lunar Rainbows
Sara of Just Another Story
Zahida of Musings of a YA Reader

Just the first seven bloggers that popped into my head, but of course I would love to read other people's answers so consider yourself tagged by me if you want to participate!