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Single Sundays: All the Rage by Courtney Summers

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for All the Rage (from Goodreads):
The sheriff’s son, Kellan Turner, is not the golden boy everyone thinks he is, and Romy Grey knows that for a fact. Because no one wants to believe a girl from the wrong side of town, the truth about him has cost her everything—friends, family, and her community. Branded a liar and bullied relentlessly by a group of kids she used to hang out with, Romy’s only refuge is the diner where she works outside of town. No one knows her name or her past there; she can finally be anonymous. But when a girl with ties to both Romy and Kellan goes missing after a party, and news of him assaulting another girl in a town close by gets out, Romy must decide whether she wants to fight or carry the burden of knowing more girls could get hurt if she doesn’t speak up. Nobody believed her the first time—and they certainly won’t now — but the cost of her silence might be more than she can bear.

With a shocking conclusion and writing that will absolutely knock you out, All the Rage examines the shame and silence inflicted upon young women after an act of sexual violence, forcing us to ask ourselves: In a culture that refuses to protect its young girls, how can they survive?

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Canadian Author
Author: Courtney Summers
Genre: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction, Mystery
Heat Rating: cold
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: April 14, 2015
Source & Format: Public Library–Hardcover

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

A few years ago I read a fantastic novel called You Against Me which focuses on the siblings of the two people wrapped up in a rape case. I loved how it showed the effects on both families involved in a rape situation. So what appealed to me about All the Rage is that it deals specifically with the victim of a rape case–the victim who no one believes.

The Concept:

There are so many rape cases that are never reported for the simple reason that they feel powerless. Shame, self-blame and the belief that reporting will have no effect are all common reasons rapes are never reported. (You can read an in-depth news article here)

I think that sometimes these statistics do more harm than good. For example, if you broadcast something as an unfavourable experience (such as reporting a sexual crime), people won’t want to go through it. However–and more importantly–they also prove that the system is broken if these are the statistics it produces. Rape culture is getting more awareness now in mainstream media but still, no real change is happening. The double-standards, prejudices and attitudes towards victims disgusts me and it made me all the more eager to pick up this book which explores all these facets in today’s modern world. 

The Plot:

As is expected, this story mostly focuses on Romy trying to live her life after reporting her rape. It’s an absolutely heart-breaking story to read because this poor girl is just continuously decimated by her peers. She is the butt of every joke and is continuously bullied by everyone in town. Yes, everyone. This book does a great job of showing that it isn’t just young people who have stigmas against anyone involved in a rape, it spans all ages and genders.

I was actually surprised with the mystery element to this book. I really just thought this book was going to be more about Romy’s life after she reports her rape and how she has to deal with all the backlash at school. So having that mystery aspect kept the book moving forward. I thought it was a great mystery plot and very unpredictable. It also adds another layer to the story that really drives the message home.

The Characters:

Romy is a hard character to get a grasp on because she is unravelling before you. Her story is so emotionally draining that it breaks your heart that there are women around the world who live in Romy’s world everyday.

My problem with Romy is that she is an unreliable narrator. Which is fine, I just found that I had a really hard time following what was happening. The critic in me can appreciate the frazzled, tormented mind of Romy but the reader in me got lost a lot trying to figure out what was happening and that really diminished my reading experience.

My Rating: 3.5/5

overall

I’m so torn over how I feel about this book. On one hand, I LOVE the message is has and how it opens the discussion about rape and how society deals with it. On the other hand, I got lost sometimes in the narration. There are still parts in this book that I have no idea what was happening and I really don’t like that.

I think this is a great read for young people to read. It’s very eyeopening and the mystery aspect makes you want to keep reading about Romy’s experience even when it gets hard to swallow it all. It’s definitely a book that will stick with me for the rest of my life because it truly nails the message that we need to fix how we perceive rape in our culture or else we will suffer terrible consequences.

Read if You Like: eye-opening realistic fiction
Avoid if You: don’t like reading via unreliable narrators

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Series Review: The Book of Ivy by Amy Engel

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

The Book of Ivy by Amy Engel | The Book of Ivy Series

booksynopsis

Synopsis for The Book of Ivy (from Goodreads):
After a brutal nuclear war, the United States was left decimated. A small group of survivors eventually banded together, but only after more conflict over which family would govern the new nation. The Westfalls lost. Fifty years later, peace and control are maintained by marrying the daughters of the losing side to the sons of the winning group in a yearly ritual.

This year, it is my turn.

My name is Ivy Westfall, and my mission is simple: to kill the president’s son—my soon-to-be husband—and restore the Westfall family to power.

But Bishop Lattimer is either a very skilled actor or he’s not the cruel, heartless boy my family warned me to expect. He might even be the one person in this world who truly understands me. But there is no escape from my fate. I am the only one who can restore the Westfall legacy.

Because Bishop must die. And I must be the one to kill him…

breakdown

Series: The Book of Ivy
Author: Amy Engel
# of Books: 2 (The Book of Ivy, The Revolution of Ivy)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, Romance
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Single
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

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**This post was originally posted as a Fresh Friday review of the first book of the series. It has now been updated to include the newest publications in the series.**

My Expectations for the Book/Why I Picked it Up:

I was very excited to read The Book of Ivy. I loved the concept of the story–it was very Cruel Beauty-esque but with a more dystopian focus than fantasy and I really, really enjoyed Cruel Beauty so I couldn’t wait! But then, I started to see mediocre reviews for The Book of Ivy on some of the blogs that I follow and got a little less excited. Yet at the same time, it just really made me want to read this more. So I lowered my expectations slightly and went into with an open mind.

I’m glad that I did commit to picking up this book because I really did enjoy it! I was reading The Book of Ivy just on the cusp of my exams so I wanted a book where I didn’t have to think so hard and could get lost in the story. And with this book I could. I was immediately drawn into the world and couldn’t wait to see what would happen next. Was I able to put it down and function with my life–absolutely. But when I was reading, it managed to capture my attention and keep it.

The Concept/The World:

Why I think a lot of people give it a low rating is because its execution isn’t completely original; or at least to me it wasn’t. I’ve read a LOT of dystopian books and The Book of Ivy is a super mashup of ones I’ve read before. If anyone has ever read Pandemonium (Lauren Oliver’s Delirium Trilogy‘s 2nd book) they have very similar story lines and concepts. I also got vibes from the Matched Trilogy, The Breathe Series and The Selection as well. The only key difference is, while I found Ivy to be a little on the boring side, I liked her character a lot more than the heroines of these other series. The same can be said about Bishop who completely won me over from the start.

The Plot:

I think the key going into this book is to not expect some high-tension scenarios. I found The Book of Ivy coasts along at a moderate rate because the romance isn’t very passionate; the action is non-existent (ie Ivy isn’t some kick-ass heroine) and it really isn’t politically focused. It’s a very subdued dystopian novel which isn’t necessarily a bad thing–it just makes it look like the younger, not as interesting sibling of bigger dystopian titles like The Hunger Games.

However, that isn’t to say the dystopian world we get isn’t interesting! I really enjoyed the look at gender roles in society, especially how a female “contributes positively” to her community; and what happens if the concept “for the common good” is taken to an extreme. While these themes aren’t highly elaborated, they are definitely present and it add to the story in a positive way.

The Characters & The Romance:

As I said before, Ivy didn’t particularly “wow” me but I did like her character. She showed a considerable amount of growth as the story progressed and I liked her rebellious nature. And while I thought Bishop’s character was a little more on the stereotypical side of things, I liked him a lot. Together I thought they made a great pair.

Which is why I wish the romance was a little more elaborated on. I didn’t mind the slow build and I actually think it was executed in the best way for this story; but the romance fan in me did wish for some more passion 😉

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I’m looking forward to The Revolution of Ivy and am very glad that this book will be the finale. Not everything needs to be a trilogy and I feel that 2 books is the perfect length for this series!

updates

–July 4, 2016– Book #2: The Revolution of Ivy

While I forgot some of the littler details of the inaugural novel, I really enjoyed this finale.

I found the start to be slow but I kind-of expected that given the ending of The Book of Ivy. However, it quickly built up speed and become very interesting.

I liked the character development of Ivy we get here. This novel is really about her coming to terms with who she is as a person and what she wants to be happy in life. She makes some tough choices and I applaud her for that.

I wanted a little more excitement at the end but given the nature of the series, I’m very satisfied with how this finale played out. And, the romance was adorable <3

My Rating: 3.5/5

The Book of Ivy 3.5/5 | The Revolution of Ivy 3.5/5

overall

Is The Book of Ivy the greatest dystopian novel ever? No. But if you go in expecting a slower, more subdued dystopian story, I think you will enjoy it! It’s execution is very similar to that of the Delirium Trilogy in the sense that it isn’t a high action, high tension story (like Divergent or The Hunger Games). However, I did feel like The Book of Ivy had a better execution than the Matched Trilogy by Ally Condie which explores similar themes.

Read if You Like: low action dystopian, mild romance
Avoid if You: like kick-ass heroines (literally), dislike slow stories, want more romance

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Single Sundays: The Wrong Side of Right by Jenn Marie Thorne

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for The Wrong Side of Right (from Goodreads):
Fans of Sarah Dessen and Huntley Fitzpatrick will enjoy this smart debut young adult novel, equal parts My Life Next Door and The Princess Diaries—plus a dash of Aaron Sorkin.

Kate Quinn’s mom died last year, leaving Kate parentless and reeling. So when the unexpected shows up in her living room, Kate must confront another reality she never thought possible—or thought of at all. Kate does have a father. He’s a powerful politician. And he’s running for U.S. President. Suddenly, Kate’s moving in with a family she never knew she had, joining a campaign in support of a man she hardly knows, and falling for a rebellious boy who may not have the purest motives. This is Kate’s new life. But who is Kate? When what she truly believes flies in the face of the campaign’s talking points, she must decide. Does she turn to the family she barely knows, the boy she knows but doesn’t necessarily trust, or face a third, even scarier option?

Set against a backdrop of politics, family, and first love, this is a story of personal responsibility, complicated romance, and trying to discover who you are even as everyone tells you who you should be.

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Author: Jenn Marie Thorne
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Coming of Age, Politics, Realistic Fiction, Romance
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: March 17, 2015
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

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Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I found this book one day when I was trolling the blogs I follow. The cover captured my attention, as did the positive reviews; but it was the synopsis that made me want to read this book right away.

Meg Cabot’s All American Girl is one of my favourite teen novels ever. Typical of all Meg Cabot’s work, it just had that great blend of teen romance and humour with a dash of realism, making it so much fun to read. So while I knew The Wrong Side of Right was going to focus more heavily on the realistic world of politics, I was hoping it would capture my heart like All American Girl would.

The Plot:

The plot mostly focuses on Kate throughout the campaign trail. I truly think this book could have been 50 pages shorter and still got its message across. Because the beginning was strong, as was the end, but somewhere in the middle it started to lose me. It’s interesting for the most part (especially if you like following campaign stories) but after a while it gets a little monotonous. Like, I got the point: she wasn’t sure she was in the right place–now what was she going to do about it?

What I did enjoy about this story was Kate’s interaction with her new family. I loved the approach this story took with that respect because it seemed so real to me. It wasn’t plagued with over dramatics and I could easily see the situation happening to any family–whether they are in politics or not–when an unexpected child enters their lives.

The Characters:

I have such mixed feelings about Kate. There is no doubt about it: she is an extremely naive girl. I can’t say that I entirely blame her either given the situation she finds herself in. Politics–especially American politics–is its own world and you truly don’t understand it, I’m sure, until you’re immersed into it. I get that. However, what frustrated me is that she was so campaign savvy–she knew she had to act a certain way while in public–yet she was surprised when she did have to act a certain way. It’s confusing I know, which is what bothered me the most while reading.

I suppose her naivety is used to show a non-cynical view of politics. She is that fresh voice on her father’s campaign trail. (Why they gave her as much power as they did within the campaign still baffles me.) But it shows her age that she just doesn’t get it-and hey, what 16 year old really does get politics? I’m 23 and I still don’t get it! I think it’s the fact that she gave me the impression she had a better understanding of how it all worked–when in fact she really didn’t–that made her seem wish-washy to me. She was so strong in her political convictions and quickly interfered on those matters, yet struggled with the simplest aspects of her daily life when it came to her family. Yes, it is a coming of age novel and I totally get the journey she has to go on–I just didn’t enjoy the journey as much as I had hoped when we were first introduced to her.

Also, I just have to get this off my chest because it frustrated me to no end: (highlight until the | to read the spoiler rant) | Ok, so the whole deportation situation with her friend frustrated me to no end! Sure, I can get the initial assumption that her father ratted her friend’s parents out. HOWEVER, it wouldn’t take a genius to figure out that the family staring in a photo with Kate that is publicly released before her father’s apparent change in immigration are somehow linked. That just seemed like a MAJOR DUH to me and I guess I was the only one who saw it that way |

The Romance:

For some reason, I really thought this was going to play a bigger role in the story than it actually did. I think it was my All American Girl bias–which is book that is primarily a romance with a side-story of Samantha’s growing up. I wanted more personally but I understand that it was never to be the primary focus of Kate’s story.

My Rating: 3/5

overall

This book started strong but lost me along the way. I think Kate’s naivety may turn people off but I think you have to cut her some slack given the situation she is in. At the same time, this book helped me reaffirm that I am not the biggest YA Contemporary fan. I personally really struggle to connect with the characters in this genre so I think my rating may reflect this.

Read if You Like: YA Contemporary, the world of politics (especially American)*
Avoid if You: don’t like naive heroines, want more romance

*Don’t be turned off of the fact that this book may present political views you might not agree with. I didn’t find it preachy, pushy or biased in any respect. It focuses more on the world of politics in the sense of how politicians present themselves to the public rather than particular agendas/policies.

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Series Review: The Grisha by Leigh Bardugo

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Shadow and Bone (from Goodreads):
Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.

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Series: The Grisha Trilogy

A new series set in the same world is to be released: Six of Crows

Author: Leigh Bardugo
# of Books: 3 (Shadow and Bone, Seige and Storm, Ruin and Rising)

There are numerous short stories. See Goodreads for full list and order.

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, High Fantasy, Magic, Adventure, Romance
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: June 2012 – June 2014
Source & Format: Public Library–hardcover

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Truth be told, The Grisha Trilogy has been on my TBR list before I ever joined Goodreads. I mean, just look at that cover! But the blogosphere has serious love for this trilogy and I just had to see what all the fuss was about.

Like all books that are endlessly pumped by my fellow bloggers, I tried to keep an open mind and keep my expectations at the level they would have been at before I started blogging/heard all these awesome things. Still, I was really excited to read this!

The Concept / The World:

The Grisha world is so cool! It’s a great blend of science and magic so it’s not very “witchy”, which (no pun intended) always worries me when I pick up a magic novel (for some reason I don’t like witch series).

What I didn’t like about the world is that I felt like it was never fully explained to me. Sure, the hierarchy breakdown on the page at the start of the novel is helpful in classifying warriors, but I felt lost throughout Shadow and Bone trying to keep all the colours, abilities and roles each Grisha group has straight. Maybe it was explained and I just missed it–it is possible, I do read fast–but I don’t think it truly was. Personally, I like books that take those few pages early on to explain how the world works and that disappointed me with this first book.

The Plot:

Shadow and Bone is your typical first book. I think I was expecting more action given the world but a lot of that first book is watching Alina discovering her powers. Which is fine and great for character development, it just wasn’t very thrilling. The last 100 pages are where things get really interesting. That’s when the plot twists, politics and action happen.

Unfortunately, Siege and Storm wasn’t able keep this momentum going for me. And that is a shame because the 2nd book started off so promising! It’s faster paced, has new exciting characters and we get these great mini twists that propel you forward. But then suddenly we get a lull again–and I get why we do, truly I do. It’s needed to build up the rest of the plot for the end of the series. I just wish it didn’t have to be so boring and dry to do that. Perhaps my low tolerance was a result of my reading slump but I think this book would have been slower to me even if I was in the right mood.

I felt like most of this series was just waiting for something big to happen in order for the characters to react; especially in Ruin and Rising (when a conclusion book should be wrapping everything up if you ask me) . Which means great character development and world-building but very little action. And to me that is a waste of potential because these Grisha ARE SO COOL and could do so many other things that would keep my interest!

**My next statement might be a little spoiler-y regarding the last book**

I also have to say this: I feel like Ruin and Rising wrapped up too neatly. It was oddly reminiscent of my reading experience with Breaking Dawn; where everything fans want to see happens and I don’t really feel resolved with these characters. But I was also at the point where I didn’t really care what happened to Alina so it didn’t break my heart.

**End spoiler-y statement**

The Characters:

This is one of those series where I love the secondary characters (and the villain) more than the heroine. Everyone seemed 20x more interesting than Alina to me. She was just dull and I suppose that is part of the point. Like most heroines in a high fantasy, she is suddenly thrust into a world she never expected and discovers she isn’t who she truly expected. But unlike those other heroines, she doesn’t have anything that makes her stand out. Same goes for Mal. I mean I liked them and wanted to root for them but I found myself drawn to these other characters who have much more interesting lives, relationships and attitudes.

The Romance:

The romance is pretty typical. There is a love triangle/square and it’s executed fairly well in terms of driving the plot forward. Around the second book it gets a little tedious to read about  because it’s just jealousy-invoking situations. I also think it doesn’t help that Alina and Mal bore me so that potential pairing doesn’t have me jumping for joy whereas the other one (possibly the other two) suitors peak my interest a lot more.

The Short Stories:

I only read the one story, The Tailor, after Shadow and Bone because of the character it focuses on. I enjoyed it as an extended scene though it isn’t necessary to read. I didn’t pick up the other short stories but I may one day.

I did pick up The Demon in the Woods and The Witch of Duva when the eBooks became available at my library. Both are ~25 pages and give you a little insight into some characters and the world. I actually didn’t finish The Witch of Duva because I couldn’t get into it but The Demon in the Woods was an interesting and informative story. Again, not necessary but for fans of the series, I’m sure they will gobble these up!

Will I pick up the spin-off series?

Actually, I’m really looking forward to the spin-off series! Like I said earlier, I really loved the Grisha world and I think with a new cast of characters, I could easily become obsessed with this universe.

series Rating: 3/5

Shadow and Bone 3.5/5  |  Siege and Storm 3/5  |  Ruin and Rising 3/5

overall

This series just didn’t work for me. The pacing was off, the lead characters were typical and the romance was lacklustre. I loved the world but it wasn’t enough to keep my interest. I also think this book suffered from over-hyped syndrome and my expectations for something mind-blowing were at a maximum for this one and I feel like it didn`t live up to that expectation.

Read if You Like: multi-layered worlds, high fantasy, magic based on science
Avoid if You: don’t like slower starts, don’t like adventure paced novels

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  • Trial by Fire by Josephine Angelini (Worldwalker Trilogy #1)
  • Poison Princess by Kresley Cole (Arcane Chronicles #1)
  • The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson (Fire and Thorn Trilogy #1)

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Single Sundays: So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed (from Goodreads):
For the past three years, Jon Ronson has traveled the world meeting recipients of high-profile public shamings. The shamed are people like us, people who, say, made a joke on social media that came out badly or made a mistake at work. Once the transgression is revealed, collective outrage circles with the force of a hurricane and the next thing they know, they’re being torn apart by an angry mob, jeered at, demonized, sometimes even fired from their job.

A great renaissance of public shaming is sweeping our land. Justice has been democratized. The silent majority are getting a voice, but what are we doing with our voice? We are mercilessly finding people’s faults. We are defining the boundaries of normality by ruining the lives of those outside it. We are using shame as a form of social control.

Simultaneously powerful and hilarious in the way only Jon Ronson can be, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed is a deeply honest book about modern life, full of eye-opening truths about the escalating war on human flaws and the very scary part we all play in it.

breakdown

Author: Jon Ronson (The number of times I typed Ron Jonson: 30)
Genre: Nonfiction, Psychology, Sociology
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: March 31, 2015
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’m a huge Daily Show (with Jon Stewart) fan. One night, he had Jon Ronson on to discuss his newest book which was this one. The premise fascinated me and he is quite a humourous guy so I knew this book wasn’t going to be particularly dry. (I couldn’t find the Daily Show interview on YouTube but check out his interview with Channel 4 if you are curious)

Social media is so ingrained into society that it’s crazy! Never before have we been so connected to the entire world–and it to us–and I think we often forget that. Who hasn’t heard a story about someone posting something on Facebook only for it to bite them in the ass with their partner or boss finding out? Sometimes the world even gets on their case! It also is the prime method for delivering cyber bullying, often resulting in deadly consequences.

And while social media does have it’s negatives, it does have it’s positives. Social media can cause real change when like minded people band together.

The question Ronson purposes is: when is this “banding-together” taken too far?

The Concept:

This book is basically a documentary but in written form. It has interviews, investigations and history all relating to the topic of public shaming. All are very well researched and thought-out.

While I mostly read this for the social media aspect, I found myself fascinated by the other types of shaming discussed: like prisoners in a jail or public shaming as a verdict for a legal case. There were also some shaming situations that I had never considered before discussed which I found to be really interesting (like “watch your speed” signs”).

Not only does Ronson talk about what public shaming is and its various forms, he also tries to find out why public shaming has the effects that it does on some people and not others. I’m a science student, so I really liked the psychology aspect to this story. It added another layer to this story I think.

The WRiting:

This book had a great flow to it and was easy to follow. I never really got bored with it and it kept my attention from start to finish. Everything was explained clearly and it was broken down nicely. It really felt like you were on this journey with him as he explored the world of public shaming.

Ronson has a witty sense of humour and I found myself chuckling on occasion. His personality showed in his writing and I think that’s what stopped this book from being dry.

Did it Impact My Life?

Yes! It’s funny (in the ironic sense), that the day I started reading this I noticed a video trending in Canada that was a “fail” video about some Jeopardy contestants getting Canadian city questions wrong. I will admit, I’m the first person to watch a fail video because I have a twisted sense of humour. BUT this book made me realize that maybe I am a part of a bigger problem. That by watching that video–even if I’m not saying hateful comments to that person–I’m contributing to the “attack” on that person. How that affects that person can vary (it could ahve positive or negative outcomes) but this book has definitely made me think twice about what I post AND click on when using the internet.

My Rating: 4/5

overall

I really enjoyed reading this book! I found it to be very interesting and easy to read. I think people of all ages can enjoy this book but I encourage those in the “Millennial” generation to give this a read. It never hurts to think twice about the consequences of your social media actions 😉

Read if You Like: documentaries, investigative journalism
Avoid if You: don’t like nonfiction books

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Series Review: Embassy Row by Ally Carter

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

All Fall Down by Ally Carter | Embassy Row Series

booksynopsis

Synopsis for All Fall Down (from Goodreads):

This exciting new series from NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author Ally Carter focuses on Grace, who can best be described as a daredevil, an Army brat, and a rebel. She is also the only granddaughter of perhaps the most powerful ambassador in the world, and Grace has spent every summer of her childhood running across the roofs of Embassy Row.

Now, at age sixteen, she’s come back to stay–in order to solve the mystery of her mother’s death. In the process, she uncovers an international conspiracy of unsettling proportions, and must choose her friends and watch her foes carefully if she and the world are to be saved.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Favourite Author
Series: Embassy Row Trilogy
Author: Ally Carter
# of Books: 3 (All Fall Down, See How They Run, Take the Key and Lock Her Up)

There is a FREE bonus prequel scene available for Kindle called Before the Fall: Arrival

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Mystery, Contemporary, Suspense, Thriller
Heat Rating: cold
Point of View: First Person, Single
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

**This post was originally posted as a Fresh Friday review of the first book of the series. It has now been updated to include the newest publications in the series.**

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I am a huge Ally Carter fan–she is probably IS the sole reason why I’ve picked up some of the YA novels that I do. I’m always a sucker for the marketing line “Fans of Ally Carter will love ___” even though time and time again I end up disappointed in these new finds.

My expectations for All Fall Down were simple: I was hoping this new series would be what I wanted Heist Society to be, which is a fast-paced adventure with a strong female lead, but with a great mystery instead of a heist. The Conspiracy of Us is probably the closest novel I have read that came close to meeting these expectations however it fell a little short when all is said and done.

The Concept/Plot:

I have a mixed reaction to All Fall Down. Do I think this is the best Ally Carter book ever written? The simple answer is no. But do I think it could be her best series yet? Absolutely! The potential is definitely there and this book proved it. It is an unfortunate but necessary fact that this book needed to be a bit on the slower side in order to set up the rest of the series. This book was all about building up the world Grace finds herself in and allowing the reader to get comfortable with it. Which I can appreciate from a critical sense but not completely enjoy as a reader.

The Characters:

I think a lot of readers will struggle to like Grace’s character–I know I did. She is very jaded and it is explained early on why she is the way she is. But even knowing that I just didn’t like her as much as a I wanted to. I think reading the short story, Before the Fall: Arrival, before I started the novel would have helped me come to grips with her character much earlier. She has a lot of potential for growth though, so I look forward to seeing her character develop in the next book.

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–February 7, 2016– Book #2: See How They Run

This one was a tough one for me to get into. I had high expectations, hoping that the somewhat dull first book did its job of setting up the world and story for some great twists and turns in its sequel. And while the last quarter of the book was definitely intriguing, the first 50% of it was very slow and uneventful.

Grace is her own worst enemy when it comes to her story. As I said before, her jaded personality is hard to get used to and it does her no favours here. Her depressing (albeit understandable) monologue makes her seem melodramatic and overly selfish and I had a hard time not rolling my eyes at her sometimes. What’s worse it that I totally understand why she is acting the way she is–it just didn’t garner any sympathy from me.

Also, this was totally me throughout the whole novel wanting to yell at Grace!

I definitely will be reading the 3rd book. This series is going in a direction I didn’t really expect (which is good, because I found this book to be a little predictable at times), so I’m curious to see how this story continues and wraps up in the last book.

–February 24, 2017– Book #3: Take the Key and Lock Her Up

Should have called this one “Woe is Me”.

This was so boring! The plot, while interesting in concept, failed to entice me at all.

It doesn’t help that Gracie is one of the most annoying heroines I’ve ever had to endure. Everything is “me, me, me” and “me against the world”. I get it; she has had a rough go of things but I thought by book 3 we would have had some progression of her character past this point. It’s hard to read from the perspective of a character that is in such a negative headspace all the time.

A big miss for me.

My Rating: 3/5

All Fall Down 3.5/5 | See How They Run 3/5 | Take The Key and Lock Her Up 2/5

overall

This series reminds me a lot of the latter half of the Gallagher Girl Series: meaning it has a more mature and serious vibe to it. It takes a little while to build up, but once it does and the pieces fall together, it really doesn’t stop! I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next!

Read if You Like: thrillers, political intrigue, mystery
Avoid if You: want more romance, can’t stand jaded heroines

similarreads

  • I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You by Ally Carter (Gallagher Girls Series #1)
  • Cold Fury by T.M. Goeglin (Cold Fury Trilogy #1)
  • Trust Me, I’m Lying by Mary Elizabeth Summer (Trust Me Series #1)

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Single Sundays: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for Fangirl (from Goodreads):
A coming-of-age tale of fan fiction, family and first love.

Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan…

But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words… And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?

Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

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Author: Rainbow Rowell
Genre: Young Adult/New Adult, Coming of Age, Contemporary, Romance, Family, Realistic
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: Third Person, Single
Publication Date: September 30, 2013
Source & Format: Public Library–Hardcover

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Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

If you don’t follow any YA blogs, I’ll let you know that there are two books that always get high praise: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins and basically anything by Rainbow Rowell–but more often than not, it’s Fangirl.

So, I was curious and just had to pick up this book. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I was up for anything and I tried to not let the numerous positive reviews cloud my judgement as I read.

The Plot:

This is probably one of the greatest examples of a coming of age story in recent times. This story is all about Cath adjusting to the many changes in her life: college, separation from her twin sister, navigating her relationships with her parents and basically anything that a young adult has to go through. Oh, and don’t forget first love!

What makes this story great is that everyone can relate to Cath in some way. I think the most obvious one is going to college but we all can relate in some indirect way. Sure, I don’t have a twin but I sympathized with the evolving sibling relationship–and that relationship could just as easily be with your BFF. I think lots of bloggers can relate to Cath’s need to write fanfiction. I know there were times in my undergraduate career where I told myself “just finish this assignment and then you can write your book reviews” just like Cath.

And the fandom part…I think we’ve all been there about something in our lives.

This is a slow journey watching Cath evolve but it touches on so many different aspects that it keeps the pace steady and true. While it was long for my personal tastes, I thought it was very thorough and well-balanced. Nothing is resolved immediately so in that respect, I found it to be very realistic in how the characters react and deal with various issues.

The Characters:

Cath can be a very hard character to like. I’m a very stubborn person so I find it hard to read about other stubborn characters. Cath is the very definition of stubborn and I think that can be off-putting to a lot of readers. She can make it hard to root for her when she says or acts a certain way when she knows it’s wrong. But I think that’s what makes this book so great; you watch Cath evolve and grow up right before your eyes. Does that make it very easy to read all the time? Of course not! But I can appreciate the journey.

I really liked all the characters in this book. They were really close to being clichés but they just had that little something that kept them grounded in reality. I think we all have these people in our lives to some degree which again, adds to the realistic element of this story because it is very character driven.

The Romance:

Yeah, that didn’t go the way I expected! I wasn’t sure what to expect when it came to the romance. I thought it was going to play a minor role in the story but it definitely had a larger role than I anticipated–not that it was a bad thing. I thought it was really well developed and I feel like it contributed in a very beneficial way to the plot.

My Rating: 4/5

overall

I didn’t fall in love with this book. One part is that I’m not the biggest coming of age YA fan (which is weird because I love New Adult and that’s pretty much coming of age all the time) and I think part of the reason is because it is so hyped up. I was expecting this book to blow me away and put other coming to age novels to shame…and I’ll admit, it was great, but I just never got sucked into it. It just didn’t WOW me.

Read if You Like: coming of age, stories about everyday relationships
Avoid if You: don’t like stubborn characters, want a more romance driven novel

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Series Review: Shades of Magic by V E Schwab

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

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Synopsis for A Darker Shade of Magic (from Goodreads):
Kell is one of the last Travelers—rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit.

Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once there was Black London – but no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see. This dangerous hobby sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to another world for her ‘proper adventure’.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive — trickier than they hoped.

breakdown

Series: Shades of Magic Trilogy; A Darker Shade of Magic Trilogy
Author: V.E. Schwab (aka Victoria Schwab)
# of Books: 3 (A Darker Shade of Magic, A Gathering of Shadows, A Conjuring of Light)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Fantasy, Magic, Adventure, Alternate Dimensions
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Date: February 2015 – February 2017
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

**This post was originally posted as a Fresh Friday review of the first book of the series. It has now been updated to include the newest publications in the series.**

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

When this book first came out, it was on a lot of the blogs that I follow. Schwab’s The Archived Series has been on my TBR for a while but this one compelled me to pick it up first. I won’t lie, it was probably the cover 😛 But actually, I’ve really been loving alternate dimension books recently and I needed one for my Ready for Spring Bingo 2015 card so this was my pick!

So I was really excited to pick up this book even though I wasn’t entirely sure what was in store for me (I avoided all reviews for it before I read it to keep my mind clear of spoilers). I hoped for a fast paced adventure with witty banter between the two leads and I couldn’t wait to get started!

The World:

I really recommend that you start this book when your mind is clear and you aren’t really tired. I made the mistake of reading the first 100 pages (approx. a third of the book) fighting off some shut-eye and I had a very hard time grasping the world. I found that it definitely got easier to understand the more I read, but I think that was because we actually get a breakdown of everything all at once as Lila learns about the dimensions.

Because really, the dimensions are easy to understand as is the role of magic in the worlds. I love all the layers–literally and metaphorically. It’s great world-building and one of the coolest alternate dimension stories I have read. I just wish I was in a better place when I first picked it up so it didn’t take so long for me to get into it.

The Plot:

I really feel like this book could have been a lot shorter than it was. I found the first 100 pages to be really slow. I’m sure my tiredness played a role but considering the plot described in the synopsis doesn’t really start until we are 100 pages in I feel like I am justified in that conclusion. I like and appreciate world/plot building but I don’t like when it is prolonged.

Especially when we actually get to the main plot of the story and it’s an AMAZING ride! Despite this book being nearly 300 eBook pages, the last 200 pages fly by! The plot moves at a great pace that keeps you on the edge of your seat. There are a lot of great twists and action and I loved every minute of it!

I feel like there is a greater emphasis on the role of magic in these worlds instead of how the alternate dimensions work. Of course the alternate dimensions play a huge role but magic is really the heart of the story. (I hope that makes sense). As a reader who doesn’t really love magic stories, I really liked this one and how it is executed. There was a great balance between the magic elements, the dimensions and action.

The Characters:

It took me a while to like Kell–again, I think it was my tired state–but I loved Lila as soon as we met her! I love the bad-ass thief that she is and her wit. Together, Kell and Lila make one fantastic duo. Their banter back and forth was so much fun to read and I loved watching them learn to work together and trust each other.

I also love that there are good guys and bad guys–and that the bad guys are really bad. It makes for some interesting events which is a lot of fun. But I also like that Kell and Lila have flaws–that they aren’t straight-laced characters that are righteous in everything they do. They can be just as ruthless but you still want to root for them because their hearts are in the good places.

The Romance:

While there is definitely chemistry between Kell and Lila, this book has practically no romance. I think it’s going to come into play in later books but this book isn’t a romance by any means.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I’m really curious to see what is in store next for these characters and their worlds. I can’t wait to see how everything develops over the next two books!

updates

–August 31, 2016– Book #2: A Gathering of Shadows

OK, this took me wayyyyy to long to get into.

I found the first 45% of the book to be terribly slow. Like, I contemplated actually finishing it or not because it wasn’t capturing my attention. But then I remembered I had the same feelings with ADSOM but in the end, I really enjoyed it. And like in ADSOM, I feel like you could have easily cut 100 (eBook) pages out and still had a kick ass story!

I mean the last 50% was AWESOME! Even if it felt a little like filler, I was thoroughly entertained. I like the hints we got of where things are going in the finale and it was nice to see the development of other characters as well as Lila and Kell.

In short: this was a slow start if you are someone who doesn’t love lots of descriptions but it becomes and enjoyable adventure past the halfway mark.

–May 7, 2018– Book #3: A Conjuring of Light

I think this one was my favourite of the series. I found the momentum was strong throughout the entire novel–no slow starts here!

But we also returned to the great character interaction as well that I loved in the first book. All the banter between all the characters; though mostly Kell and Lila. These two really made the series for me so I loved all their scenes together.

I did find the solution to be slightly anti-climatic; after reading 500+ pages only to have the main conflict wrap up within a few pages seemed odd to me. However, the rest of the book is strong so I can let that slip by.

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My Rating: 4/5

A Darker Shade of Magic 4/5 | A Gathering of Shadows 3.5/5 | A Conjuring of Light 4/5

overall

Each novel starts slowly but once it gets going, it really doesn’t stop! It’s a beautifully crafted and unique world that will suck readers in!

Read if You Like: slower stories, world-building, alternate dimensions
Avoid if You: dislike slow stories, want more romance

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Reading Challenges: Bookish BINGO – Ready for Spring 2015 Results

getreadyspring2015In April I decided to try my hand at two Bingos. I’m new to the world of reading challenges this year but Bingos seem like a fun challenge. I joined Retreat by Random House’s Canadian BINGO for the rest of the year (read more about my Canadian BINGO Card here)  and I also  joined Great Impressions Ready for Spring BINGO which ran from April to June.

In my sign-up post, I had listed all the books that I wanted to use for the full card. Now, I knew I wouldn’t be able to get a full card but I wanted to make sure I had enough variety as I am a mood reader. A lot of these books were also ones I had purchased in the past and really wanted to knock off my TBR list.

bookishbingospring15card

Of the 25 I had picked, I read 7 by July 1. So no BINGO (my goal was to get two lines) with these books.

HOWEVER, I did read 59 books in total (April – June) so I’m sure SOMETHING will work for these squares! I also did some reshuffling of my original picks (is that legal?) and this is what I got:

  • Murder Mystery: Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
  • Forgotten Fridays: All the Pretty Poses by M. Leighton
  • Aussie Author: Chancing on You by Melinda Ellen
  • Reread:
  • Dark Contemporary: Bad Reputation by K.B. Nelson
  • Classic:
  • Yellow Cover:
  • April/May/June Release: Beautiful Secret by Christina Lauren
  • Rain or Storm in Title:
  • High Fantasy: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
  • Parental Relationships: The Wrong Side of Right by Jenn Marie Thorne
  • Bullying: All the Rage by Courtney Summers
  • FREE: The Book of Ivy by Amy Engel
  • Anthology or Collection:
  • WWII: The Book Thief by Mark Zusak
  • Horror:
  • Thieves/Assassins/Pirates:  All Fall Down by Ally Carter
  • Parallel Universe: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
  • Green Cover: Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas
  • #weneeddiversebooks: Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed
  • Illustrated Cover: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
  • Part of a Trilogy: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
  • Nonfiction/Memoir: So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson
  • Historical:
  • Plants on Cover: One Tiny Lie by K.A. Tucker

No so bad! Now I only have 7 spots not filled:

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And I got my two lines of BINGO!

What I learned?

Bingo challenges that have such a limited time span are not for me! Because I rely so heavily on my library for books (a habit I am trying to modify as per my Tackling the TBR challenge) via holds, I don’t have the luxury to only read the books on the list! In the future, I think I am going to try and pick one BINGO card at the start of the year and try to fill it up by the end. Or if I do try one that spans a couple of months, try to pick only one row to complete instead of random squares on the card. I suppose I could always just wing it and not pick books at the start, but half of the fun of this challenge was finding books that worked for this card!

How are you doing on your BINGOs? Did you do this one?

Any BINGO tips to share?

Single Sundays: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for The Girl on the Train (from Goodreads):
A debut psychological thriller that will forever change the way you look at other people’s lives.

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

A compulsively readable, emotionally immersive, Hitchcockian thriller that draws comparisons to Gone Girl, The Silent Wife, or Before I Go to Sleep, this is an electrifying debut embraced by readers across markets and categories.

breakdown

Author: Paula Hawkins
Genre: Adult, Thriller, Mystery
Heat Rating
: cold
Point of View: First Person, Multiple
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

There was no escaping this book this past winter. It was everywhere I looked–the library, online, GoodReads–thanks to the “Gone Girl phenomenon”. You know, the trend in popular culture when one book seems to be the next best thing and so every other book remotely similar is compared and/or you get a surge in published books that follow a similar style. It happened with Twilight, it happened with Fifty Shades of Grey and now it’s Gone Girl‘s turn. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing–it’s nice that a well crafted book is getting the spotlight for once, though I have yet to read Gone Girl. Truth be told, I probably won’t after seeing the movie now that I know what happens–it loses its mystery.

Anyways…back to The Girl on the Train. One of my good friends read this before me and said she had a hard time putting it down. And the comparisons to Gone Girl made me excited to read this one because I do love TV/movie thrillers yet haven’t really touched any literary thrillers that are of the adult variety.

The Concept / The World:

Like Rachel, I take a commuter train home from school and I totally people watch when I do. Without sounding completely creepy, I find it fascinating to watch people as they go about their business. Especially when you are on a commuter train because most of these people know each other since they travel together everyday or every week.

So, my point is, I found this book to be rooted in some deep realism because I’ve totally taken that train and thought, “hmm, I wonder what their lives are like” 😛

The Plot:

This book was exciting to read and I did find myself immersed in the story despite the fact that I had a pretty good idea how it was going to end early in the book. What I did like was that the book did have me second guessing my hypothesis until the big reveal which kept my attention on the story. I do feel like the book was 30 pages too long; however it wasn’t like I was bored reading it.

The mystery is interesting and I loved how interconnected everything was. Getting the three perspectives added an interesting dynamic to the story and kept the plot moving at its faster pace.

The Characters:

These characters were very well developed and always consistent. And I think consistency is super important in thrillers. There is nothing worse than having a character make a radical change to their approach/presentation halfway through the story for no reason. So while I might not list these characters as all time favourites, they definitely served their purpose even if they were a little stereotypical at times.

My Rating: 3.5/5

overall

I really enjoyed The Girl on the Train. For a book that has a lot of hype I thought it lived up to it for the most part. I wish it was a little less predictable but it did keep my attention and have me second guessing my thoughts.

Read if You Like: psychological thrillers, fast paced books
Avoid if You: want more romance to your reads
similarreads

  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

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