Book Review: Jesse's Girl

Jesse's Girl (Hundred Oaks) by Miranda Kenneally
Release Date ~ July 7, 2015
Sourcebooks Fire
ISBN13: 9781492622239
ARC received from Raincoast Books for review

Goodreads Synopsis:
Practice Makes Perfect.

Everyone at Hundred Oaks High knows that career mentoring day is a joke. So when Maya Henry said she wanted to be a rock star, she never imagined she’d get to shadow *the* Jesse Scott, Nashville’s teen idol.

But spending the day with Jesse is far from a dream come true. He’s as gorgeous as his music, but seeing all that he’s accomplished is just a reminder of everything Maya’s lost: her trust, her boyfriend, their band, and any chance to play the music she craves. Not to mention that Jesse’s pushy and opinionated. He made it on his own, and he thinks Maya’s playing back up to other people’s dreams. Does she have what it takes to follow her heart—and go solo?

Miranda Kenneally's Hundred Oaks books have a similar structure to them, yet it's remarkable how each of them continue to stand on their own as enjoyable books with interesting characters.

Whereas most of her previous books have featured characters who are more athletically inclined, Jesse's Girl stands out for its two main characters (Jesse and Maya) who are serious musicians. Perfect for readers who love Miranda Kenneally's other books or music.

  1. Watching Jesse and Maya's relationship develop:

    I love a relationship that has room to grow and change over the course of a book, and Jesse and Maya are a perfect example of how to do this exceptionally well. They take their own sweet time to grow closer, and you can see how well they get to know each other. This isn't a case of insta-love, nor is it overriden with angst. Most importantly, I was impressed by how much Maya and Jesse respected one another. This was not a shallow relationship, and it's refreshing to see one like it.
  2. Appearances from other Hundred Oaks characters:

    For readers who have already read some of the previous Hundred Oaks books, it's a special treat to get to see how some of our beloved characters have grown since we last read about them and to see what they're up to now! It also helps to ground the story since I recognize the place and the people,
  3. A great appreciation of music:

    Music is a big part of both Jesse and Maya's lives, and while their tastes in music share some similarities, they are also very different. And it's really interesting to see how far they take it. While Jesse bears more of a burden when it comes to his musical career, it's interesting to see that contrasted with Maya's drive and ambition to see her dreams succeed. And from this, they're able to learn from each other. 
I also loved Maya's family and how supportive they were of her. You could really see just how tight-knit they were, and how much that benefited Maya. And I'm always a fan of great families. 

A very minor issue for me was that Jesse's Girl seemed to have less conflict than some of the previous Hundred Oaks books, so I'm not sure there was as much development as I would have liked to have seen. I was impressed, however, by how well Jesse and Maya dealt with the conflict that they did encounter. 


Book Review: The Witch Hunter

The Witch Hunter (The Witch Hunter #1) by Virginia Boecker
Release Date ~ June 2, 2015
Little Brown Books for Young Readers ~ Hachette Book Group
ISBN13: 9780316327008
ARC received from HBG Canada

Goodreads Synopsis:
The magic and suspense of Graceling meet the political intrigue and unrest of Game of Thrones in this riveting fantasy debut.

Your greatest enemy isn't what you fight, but what you fear.

Elizabeth Grey is one of the king's best witch hunters, devoted to rooting out witchcraft and doling out justice. But when she's accused of being a witch herself, Elizabeth is arrested and sentenced to burn at the stake.

Salvation comes from a man she thought was her enemy. Nicholas Perevil, the most powerful and dangerous wizard in the kingdom, offers her a deal: he will save her from execution if she can break the deadly curse that's been laid upon him.

But Nicholas and his followers know nothing of Elizabeth's witch hunting past--if they find out, the stake will be the least of her worries. And as she's thrust into the magical world of witches, ghosts, pirates, and one all-too-handsome healer, Elizabeth is forced to redefine her ideas of right and wrong, of friends and enemies, and of love and hate.

Virginia Boecker weaves a riveting tale of magic, betrayal, and sacrifice in this unforgettable fantasy debut.

I happened to read The Witch Hunter while playing through Dragon Age 2 for the first time. So maybe it shouldn't be as much of a surprise that this book reminded me of that game? Needless to say, I loved both of them.

The Witch Hunter is fantasy YA with an emphasis on politics and political intrigue, which is one of my favourite things to read about. Although this usually ends up with a slower-paced book, it certainly doesn't take away from the excitement or how engaging a book is provided a reader can handle a slower pace.

  1. The political intrigue:

    I loved how the world in the Witch Hunter was set up with conflict between mages and non-mages. It's understandable, if you think of how much power a mage would have and the advantages of having magic. So I'm grateful to see that there's a book series which took this into consideration and included this type of conflict in the plot.

  2. Elizabeth's focus and determination:

    I also liked how Elizabeth focused on the task at hand and wasn't easily distracted. You could see how she would make a good witch-hunter, despite some poor choices at times. Most importantly, Elizabeth experiences significant character development throughout the story as everything she has known and taken for granted is tested.
  3. Interesting system of magic:

    This was one of my favourite parts of the book but I loved how magic was presented. Not only was it far from perfect, and potentially dangerous, but readers can easily see how it complicates matters as well. It isn't as simple as most of us would imagine, and it creates problems for some of the characters, most notably Elizabeth after she's accused of being a witch. 
Some parts of the story were fairly predictable and I could have used a few more twists. After a while, I found the story progressed in a way that I was expecting and yet I was so engrossed in the book that it hardly mattered. I'm hoping to see a few more surprises as the series continues, though. 

There were so many things I loved about this book - the character dynamics and the world building included! It was a complex story that really appealed to my love of good fantasy stories. 


Book Review: The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things

The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things by Ann Aguirre
Release Date ~ April 7, 2015
Feiwel & Friends ~ Macmillan
ISBN13: 9781250047502
ARC received from publisher for review

Goodreads Synopsis:
Sage Czinski is trying really hard to be perfect. If she manages it, people won’t peer beyond the surface, or ask hard questions about her past. She’s learned to substitute causes for relationships, and it’s working just fine… until Shane Cavendish strolls into her math class. He’s a little antisocial, a lot beautiful, and everything she never knew she always wanted.

Shane Cavendish just wants to be left alone to play guitar and work on his music. He’s got heartbreak and loneliness in his rearview mirror, and this new school represents his last chance. He doesn’t expect to be happy; he only wants to graduate and move on. He never counted on a girl like Sage.

But love doesn’t mend all broken things, and sometimes life has to fall apart before it can be put back together again…

The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things was an engrossing read for me, as it quickly captured my attention with Sage's personality and internal struggles. I really liked her character and wanted to find out more about her - bu unfortunately, it wasn't a book that left a lasting impression on me.

  1. Sage's intentional kindness:

    Sage makes a conscious effort to be kind and encourage those around her. And while this should not be uncommon, it is both in real life and in books. It's uplifting to read about a character who desires so strongly to see the best in those she meets in life and to encourage them when they need it most. It's more than the fact that Sage shares kind words with others - it's that she witnesses their pain and acknowledges it. And then she takes that a step further by meeting them where they hurt and trying to turn it into something good.
  2. The depth of the characters:

    Yet Sage is more than a one-dimensional kind person. She also harbours her own pain and struggles to come to terms with her past. It's interesting to see how this plays out in her life, as she chooses to be kinder to those around her. But she still has her own issues. Similarly, Shane and Ryan also have their own problems and I appreciated that their stories were also given time and thought and played a role in the story. 
The main problem for me is that the story didn't seem to have an impact on me. I came back to write this review later and found I couldn't recall much of the story or the details. I admire Sage's character, but the story lacked some of the excitement I typically look for in books. So in that sense, it wasn't the best fit for me. I think much of that comes from the fact that we really only see the other characters from Sage's perspective and Sage is so willing to simply accept people as they are. So there was less struggle and development there than I think the story could have used. 

I really liked that this book wasn't over the top, and felt very realistic. It's a story that many readers will likely be able to relate to, which I feel is particularly important for a contemporary book. 


Book Review: Joyride

Joyride by Anna Banks
Release Date ~ June 2, 2015
Feiwel & Friends ~ Macmillan
ISBN13: 9781250039613
ARC received from publisher for review

Goodreads Synopsis:
A popular guy and a shy girl with a secret become unlikely accomplices for midnight pranking, and are soon in over their heads—with the law and with each other—in this sparkling standalone from NYT-bestselling author Anna Banks.

It’s been years since Carly Vega’s parents were deported. She lives with her brother, studies hard, and works at a convenience store to contribute to getting her parents back from Mexico.

Arden Moss used to be the star quarterback at school. He dated popular blondes and had fun with his older sister, Amber. But now Amber’s dead, and Arden blames his father, the town sheriff who wouldn’t acknowledge Amber's mental illness. Arden refuses to fulfill whatever his conservative father expects.

All Carly wants is to stay under the radar and do what her family expects. All Arden wants is to NOT do what his family expects. When their paths cross, they each realize they’ve been living according to others. Carly and Arden’s journey toward their true hearts—and one another—is funny, romantic, and sometimes harsh.

For me, contemporary books are the exact type of book I need when I'm in certain moods and Joyride fulfilled my need for a compelling story with characters that I liked and cared about. It's a good book, although it didn't satisfy me completely.

Joyride is largely about overcoming adversity, and this was highlighted particularly well in the story.

  1. Two different perspectives:

    Carly and Arden have lived completely different lives, so they each bring their own unique perspective to the story. It's interesting to see how differently they perceive the same events. And the way the book is set up, we end up with two characters who come together and the contrast between them is so stark. But that's what makes it so great watching them grow closer together. It's especially neat since they truly start off as friends first, and that really develops over time into something more.
  2. Arden's Uncle Cletus:

    It might seem strange to include Uncle Cletus as a reason to read Joyride, but it's absolutely true because Cletus is such a fantastic character. He's interesting and both a litle bit sad and amusing. But I really loved seeing how much he cared about both Arden and Carly, and how far he was willing to go to care for them. It's rare to see a secondary character with so much detail like this, but it was done really well and endeared his character and this book to me!
Carly is a standout character. She's honest and down-to-earth, and she's used to getting her hands dirty. I loved all of these things about her, and she was a great protagonist. 

It's rare to have a story where the two main characters face such significant obstacles. But these are real issues that people experience in real life, so Joyride's also an important book in that sense. 

But there was just something lacking for me. For such serious issues, they weren't addressed very seriously. And the climax, while exciting, didn't strike me as a probable or likely solution given Carly's character. I tend to be pickier with contemporary books so it takes an extraordinary book to really stay with me, and while I enjoyed Joyride it isn't one that stayed with me after I finished reading it. 


Book Review: Dead to Me

Dead to Me by Mary McCoy
Release Date ~ March 3, 2015
ISBN13: 9781423187127
ARC received from HBG Canada for review

Goodreads Synopsis:
LA Confidential for the YA audience. This alluring noir YA mystery with a Golden Age Hollywood backdrop will keep you guessing until the last page.

"Don't believe anything they say."

Those were the last words that Annie spoke to Alice before turning her back on their family and vanishing without a trace. Alice spent four years waiting and wondering when the impossibly glamorous sister she idolized would return to her--and what their Hollywood-insider parents had done to drive her away.

When Annie does turn up, the blond, broken stranger lying in a coma has no answers for her. But Alice isn't a kid anymore, and this time she won't let anything stand between her and the truth, no matter how ugly. The search for those who beat Annie and left her for dead leads Alice into a treacherous world of tough-talking private eyes, psychopathic movie stars, and troubled starlets--and onto the trail of a young runaway who is the sole witness to an unspeakable crime. What this girl knows could shut down a criminal syndicate and put Annie's attacker behind bars--if Alice can find her first. And she isn't the only one looking

Evoking classic film noir, debut novelist Mary McCoy brings the dangerous glamour of Hollywood's Golden Age to life, where the most decadent parties can be the deadliest, and no drive into the sunset can erase the crimes of past.

I was pretty much sold on Dead to Me after hearing it described as a noir-inspiredy 1940s mystery. I haven't encountered many books with this type of Hollywood setting, and I was immediately intrigued to see how the story would play out.

Mary McCoy's writing is engaging which makes Dead to Me an exciting read, ideal for readers who like a mystery with a less common setting.

  1. The old Hollywood setting:

    I haven't read many books which are set in old Hollywood, but Mary McCoy did a fantastic job describing the setting in Dead to Me. It was very easy to imagine the characters and the places. But more impressively, Mary's writing really gave me a sense of old Hollywood by creating an atmosphere. While reading, I felt like I had been transferred to the story!
  2. Strong female characters:

    I noticed towards the end of the book that there are many female characters in Dead to Me, and while they are each different they are all very strong, interesting individuals. You could see how they would each approach a problem differently, which added more depth to the characters. And I also appreciated seeing some very strong and loving relationships between them.
  3. Even pacing:

    Dead to Me moved along at a steady pace while I was reading, which made it an easy read for me. Since much of the plot is shrouded in mystery, the reader is in the dark nearly as much as the protagonist, Alice, is. And it was this sense of mystery and the need to help Annie that kept the plot moving forward steadily and kept it from feeling too slow even while very little action was happening.

One of the most interesting aspects of Dead to Me was how the characters, even those who did not take an active role in the book, were not cast as stereotypes and there were a fair number of significant reveals with respect to secrets the characters were keeping. This felt realistic, but it also made the book interesting and more developed. 


Book Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses

A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses #1) by Sarah J Maas
Release Date ~ May 5, 2015
Bloomsbury Children's
ISBN13: 9781619634442
ARC received from Penguin Canada for review

Goodreads Synopsis:
A thrilling, seductive new series from New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas, blending Beauty and the Beast with faerie lore.

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she's been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

Perfect for fans of Kristin Cashore and George R. R. Martin, this first book in a sexy and action-packed new series is impossible to put down!

Sarah J Maas stole the attention of readers everywhere when Throne of Glass came out, and I was one of the  many eagerly awaiting to see what her next series would be like. A Court of Thorns and Roses shares some similarities with Throne of Glass, but manages to stand on its own merits.

A Court of Thorns and Roses is a captivating story, with a fairy-tale feel to it with a mature perspective to it.

  1. A rich fae mythology:

    I loved that Sarah J Maas looked to traditional, older mythology for the fae in her books - these aren't the nice, little faeries that people tend to think of now. I liked that this was a darker story, with complex creatures - not all fae are the same, and there was plenty of variety and differences among them. This really added to the setting and the story, since so much of the book takes place in their lands.
  2. Engrossing characters:

    Not only is Feyre a fantastic protagonist, but the secondary characters are also remarkable in their own ways. Feyre's sisters were some of the most surprising characters to me, as they showed remarkable development despite my expectations and how little page space they were given in the story. And on top of that, many of the fae have important roles and are shown to be complex characters with their own motivations and personalities. No one is one-dimensional. Importantly, partially as a result of the depth of these characters, their relationships with one another are similarly complex.
  3. A high-stakes story:

    This is a book with a high level of maturity (for many reasons), but especially because of how intense the plot is and how much Feyre risks. Her life is very much in danger (at many points) but the stakes are even higher than that - there's a deeply emotional aspect to the story, as well. The plot moves along quickly and it will readily engage readers, but it's the type of story where you really need to prepare yourself - there are no easy solutions.
This is the type of book I would recommend to older or more mature readers, as its content is not appropriate for all readers nor will all readers appreciate it (it's fairly graphic, with respect to sexuality and violence). 

Sarah J Maas' writing is as spectacular as ever and her creativity is showcased through a rich world and developed story. It's precisely the type of book that will leave us all anxiously awaiting the next book in the series! Readers who enjoyed Sarah J Maas' other books are sure to appreciate her newest release.


Waiting on Wednesday {49}

Jill @ Breaking the Spine hosts this weekly meme where we can share a book that we are so excited for and are anxiously awaiting their upcoming release!

This week my WoW pick is...

Court of Fives by Kate Elliott
Release Date ~ August 18, 2015

First of all - hello, you pretty cover, you. Nothing draws me in like a great cover and I'm a fan of the design on this one. Simple, yet intriguing! It's so different from what I'm used to seeing.

Second of all, I tend to appreciate books about class struggles and I love a good fantasy. Kate Elliott is a very experienced author, so I'm very curious to see what her newest release will bring!

Anyone else as excited for Court of Fives as I am? Can you survive the looooong wait until August? Or are you more excited about a different book this week? 

Blog Design by eedee design studios