Review: Fairest

Fairest by Marissa Meyer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

And now I’m torn over the villain…

I think that this book brilliantly shows how it is possible to both pity and loathe a person at the same time. Levana and her sister are both entirely despicable, yet at times I certainly felt bad for Levana. This is a young woman whom is a product of many things: (a) her upbringing and environment, (b) her terrible treatment at the hands of her sister, and (c) her own naivete, which leads to a dangerously obsessive emotional core.

It is the last element that makes her the most compelling, and the most terrifying. Levana as a young teen is naive — very, very naive — and while naivete is not in and of itself a wholly dangerous thing, what grows from it with Levana is terrifying. She is obsessive. She will stop at nothing to get what she wants, all the while deluding herself that she is not only doing nothing wrong, but doing nothing at all. What she wants is love — romantic love — and while that is not a terrible thing, the manner in which she sets about achieving the object of her obsession is wholly despicable.

Levana is a terrible being. But she is a complex being as well. And that is what makes her so compelling as a villain.

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Review: Better off Friends

Better off Friends
Better off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I saw that this book was pitched as “WHEN HARRY MET SALLY . . . for teens”, I was both very excited and very nervous. You see, I adore WHEN HARRY MET SALLY and I thought “There is NO way someone could take that movie and make it for teens.”

I was wrong.

There is so much of this book that mirrors WHEN HARRY MET SALLY that it can be rather uncanny — normally such things would irritate me, but Elizabeth Eulberg navigates the thin line between homage and verbatim extremely well. And, sure enough, this book works. It just works.

Because Macallan and Levi work — both apart and together — and both are phenomenally flawed. It is in characters’ flaws that I find the most interest, and I’ll be damned if these two didn’t just sound like (as I affectionately call them) idiot teenagers. I was one too, so I know the feeling. I also appreciate this book on a very personal level; a lot of the dialogue choked me up a little because, well, I’ve totally been there, done that.

I loved this book. I loved its characters; its pacing; its hurdles; and its humour. But, above all, I loved its sweetness. This one flew under the radar when it released, so I recommend giving it a shot if you see it.

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Review: K-9

K-9 by Rohan Gavin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

*Thank you to Bloomsbury USA Children’s Publishing and NetGalley for providing me with a digital ARC copy of this book for review!*

This would have been a 3/3.5 star review were it not for those last two-ish chapters. I think I enjoyed this book even more than the first one — and I had so much fun with “Knightley and Son”, which I continually pitched as basically the BBC ‘Sherlock’ but with a father-and-son dynamic. Really great stuff.

But this book had Wilbur. Wilbur and his continual helpfulness in the plot was a wonderful addition to the Darkus and Knightley team, to the point that I might have gotten far too attached to this canine companion. As for the humans, I enjoyed that there was some genuine (and understandable) father-and-son friction between those two.

And the mystery — talk about throwing me for a loop at the end! I definitely did not anticipate what happened and the last few chapters of this left me gaping…and misting up just a wee bit. Actually, no, I’m not misting up: I’m flailing internally within a glass case of emotion. I won’t say why, but I will just say that I am SO NOT HAPPY WITH YOU RIGHT NOW, MR. GAVIN. YOU’RE KILLING ME WITH THE FEELS.

Anyways, so much fun and I can’t wait for book 3!

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Review: Both of Me

Both of Me
Both of Me by Jonathan Friesen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**A big thanks to Zonderkidz-Books and NetGalley for providing me with a digital ARC copy of this novel.**

I went into this book fairly blind. I remember first hearing about it from Sasha (abookutopia) on YouTube and subsequently looked it up to find that it involved DID — Dissociative Identity Disorder — previously, and still more commonly, known as Multiple Personality Disorder. And that was it.

What I didn’t anticipate was that I’d get a story that is equal parts engrossing and equal parts frustrating, and both are tied into the same issue: the not-quite ‘magical realism’ portions of the plot, tied with the irrational and dangerous behaviour of the female protagonist. Like, should she really be going off with this Elias kid and doing all the things she does for him? No. No she should not; hell, this goes so far past the realm of Good Samaritan, that it’s ridiculous.

And the magical realism elements, while lovely, feel virtually unfocused and un-moored for effectually the entirety of the novel It is not until the last two or so chapters that ANYTHING is revealed, which is maddening of the reader whom is attempting to keep up with the protagonists. HOWEVER< the story is lovely, the characters are lovely, and the ending is still affecting.

I definitely recommend this book for people who are fans of YA contemporaries, especially ones that deal with 'tough stuff' issues and/or mental illness in teens.

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Review: The Sham

The Sham
The Sham by Ellen Allen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

*Note: I was provided a digital ARC of this novel by the author in exchange for an honest review*

This book…was not quite what I expected. While I have not read the Mara Dyer series by Michelle Hodkin, I can imagine this book would (without question) appeal to fans of that series. This is a first-class YA thriller — caveat emptor: this is a thriller for the older YA crowd. It shies away neither from gore nor language.

But with that gore comes a plot that is beautifully and intricately woven to the point of sometimes appearing impenetrable. Every little detail, no matter how seemingly insignificant becomes vital to the novel’s outcome; and every action from the characters comes with some kind of consequence. The mysteries — yes, plural — of The Sham are what draw us, as readers, in and Ellen Allen finds a way to keep us glued to the pages by the most powerful of forces: curiosity.

“What does that mean? What’s going to happen? I think I’ve finally figured it out — oh…wait…nevermind.” Every time you think you have got it, Ellen Allen turns up something that puts a wrench in your theories and knocks you back a bit.

This is a novel about characters and setting more than language, and I thought that both were done quite well. These characters are very, very (painfully) real. None of them perfect — far from it, really — but it is their flaws which make them not only unique, but interesting. From our protagonist Emily, who blossoms from terrified and weak girl to more-self-assured young lady; to mysterious and spoiler-ridden Jack; to the other girls — Becky, Rebecca, Kitty and Cath — whose own secrets creep in and out of the narrative like morning mist…these are all real people with real problems.

I said it before and I will say it again: this is a very dark, shocking, and brutal novel. I do not recommend it for younger readers, even younger teen readers, but I do recommend it for those who love thrillers, mysteries, and have slightly stronger stomachs. This is a book to read with all the lights on and do your best to crack like a higher-level math problem.

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Review: Traitor’s Blade

Traitor's Blade
Traitor’s Blade by Sebastien de Castell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a fun, fun ride of a novel.

I remember first downloading this digital ARC copy and really not being sure what to expect — in case you’re wondering: it’s tone is basically the humour of THE THREE MUSKETEERS meets the political intrigue of A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE meets battle sequences of Bernard Cornwell.

I know, right?

Sure the book isn’t perfect. I have some issues with a couple of the female characters and the pacing dragged for about the 3rd quarter of the book, but, otherwise, I enjoyed the hell out of this book. I don’t often go into a fantasy novel and come out saying that it was just “good fun” but, well, that’s exactly what this was! It had just enough action to keep the blood running; just enough humour to keep me grinning; and just enough intrigued to keep me invested.

In other words: is that sequel out yet?

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Review: Fevre Dream

Fevre Dream
Fevre Dream by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is it. This. Is. It.

I have found it.

I have found my favourite vampire novel. All these years of searching and reading through the good, the bad, and the sparkly — and I have triumphed at last! Granted, this doesn’t mean I think this book is for everyone.

First: Like with GRRM’s famed ASOIAF novels, you must be patient. This is not a quick-paced thriller. It takes a good quarter-to-third of the book to really get going. If you’re really into atmosphere and setting, that’s not bad, but for anyone more used to the fast-paced gore-fest that is many vampire novels, this may distress you.

Second: You better like steamboats. No, I mean, you really need to like steamboats, because GRRM is going to steamboat you to death. Does it add to the atmosphere? Absolutely! Do I love it? Yes! And no…I won’t lie and say I didn’t skim a wee bit when it came to some of those bits.

Three: Not all of these characters are likable. Again, for those of us who read ASOIAF, this is nothing new. But I will say that there was one character in particular whom I not only vehemently loathed, but I honestly wasn’t too interested in reading about. That’s really the only thing that disappointed me — for all of the disreputable and unlikable characters in ASOIAF, they are (usually) at the very least still interesting.

Other than that? Brilliant. Southern gothic horror and historical fiction at its best! The vampire as I like to see it: bloody brilliant and dangerous as hell.

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