Review | We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.
Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

3.5 cupcakes

We are liars. We are beautiful and privileged. We are cracked and broken.” 

Unreliable narrators are one of my favourite tropes in fiction, and We Were Liars didn’t disappoint in that regard. Cady’s mysterious “condition” and selective amnesia made it hard to decipher what was true and what wasn’t – especially when the writing was rife with vivid imagery and beautiful metaphors that were often indistinguishable from reality.

Unfortunately, it was rather difficult for me to connect with any of the characters. The beautiful, privileged “Liars” live in a world where wealth and power are synonymous and money can solve any problem. As a result, the first portion of the book seemed to be filled with petty #richpeopleproblems, making it difficult to sympathize with any of the characters. The relationship between the Liars wasn’t very well demonstrated – in fact, I didn’t even know why they were friends, other than the fact that they were near the same ages. I didn’t know much about Cady as a person, and even less about Gat, her love interest, so suffice it to say that that was a ship I wasn’t on board with.

Overall, We Were Liars was a beautifully written, mystery-driven story. While it wasn’t as mind-blowing as everyone says, since I managed to partially guess the twist, it was certainly an enjoyable read.

ARC Review | Ticker by Lisa Mantchev

A girl with a clockwork heart must make every second count.

When Penny Farthing nearly dies, brilliant surgeon Calvin Warwick manages to implant a brass “Ticker” in her chest, transforming her into the first of the Augmented. But soon it’s discovered that Warwick killed dozens of people as he strove to perfect another improved Ticker for Penny, and he’s put on trial for mass murder.

On the last day of Warwick’s trial, the Farthings’ factory is bombed, Penny’s parents disappear, and Penny and her brother, Nic, receive a ransom note demanding all of their Augmentation research if they want to see their parents again. Is someone trying to destroy the Farthings…or is the motive more sinister?

Desperate to reunite their family and rescue their research, Penny and her brother recruit fiery baker Violet Nesselrode, gentleman-about-town Sebastian Stirling, and Marcus Kingsley, a young army general who has his own reasons for wanting to lift the veil between this world and the next. Wagers are placed, friends are lost, romance stages an ambush, and time is running out for the girl with the clockwork heart.

3.5 cupcakes

Ticker throws you headfirst into a world filled with remarkable technology and Victorian sensibilities. It was a bit overwhelming at first, as neither the gadgets nor the world-building were explained; rather, readers were expected to piece it together bit by bit through the character’s actions and descriptions. Once I got past that, though, Ticker was a very smooth read. Its world was incredibly intricate and creative, making me wish more than once that I could see pictures of it in its mechanical glory.

Our heroine, Penny, was intelligent, competent, and somewhat snarky, making for a very entertaining narration. Her love for her family and friends shone through her every action, and I really admired her willingness to do anything for them – even if her bold plans tended to border on recklessness. Of course, even without these traits, her love for chocolate, cake and sweets would have immediately endeared her to me; after all, those are the three important food groups in my books.

The secondary characters were very diverse, from Violet, the baker with BAKE CAKE tattooed on her knuckles, to Marcus, the charming military leader. They had unique voices and captured my heart in different ways, though I can’t help but wish they were a bit more fleshed out so that they could stand on their own (instead of relative to Penny).

The romance can best be described as love at first sight. While I would have preferred a slow-burn romance that started towards the end of the book, there’s no denying that the romance was rather cute. Marcus was an absolute sweetheart and a gentleman, and I enjoyed the shy/awkward/tentative interactions that he and Penny had.

Overall, despite the few aspects of Ticker that didn’t quite work for me, I really enjoyed my foray into this steampunk-and-cake-filled world.

I received an ARC from Skyscape and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Top Ten New-To-Me Authors in 2014

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly book meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Each week, she posts an idea relating to books and encourages other book bloggers to respond with their own top ten lists.

This week’s topic is “top ten new-to-you authors you read in 2014.” Since I was participating in the First Reads Reading Challenge, I had decided to read 1-25 books by authors whose works I’ve never read before. Clearly it was a good idea – I found at least 10 that I absolutely adore.

1. Cat Winters
In the Shadow of Blackbirds was haunting, atmospheric, and evocative. I haven’t yet read The Cure for Dreaming, but you can be sure that it’s high on my list of priorities.


2. Marissa Meyer
finally got around to binge-reading The Lunar Chronicles, and now I completely understand why everyone loves them so much – they’re creative, fun, and enthralling. I can’t wait to read Fairest and Winter next year!


3. Marie Rutkoski
If it weren’t for the romance, The Winner’s Curse would have been a strong contender for my favourite read of the year. Despite that, I really enjoyed reading it – to the point where I’ve now moved The Shadow Society and The Cabinet of Wonders towards the top of my TBR pile.


4. Sarah Rees Brennan
I haven’t read Unmade yet but, if it’s anything like the first two books, it’s going to be witty, engaging, and absolutely heartbreaking.


5. Laini Taylor
I binge-read the entire Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy, and immediately suffered from the worst bookish hangover. Laini Taylor’s writing is absolutely beautiful, and I can’t wait to read more of it in the future.


6. Michelle Hodkin
I haven’t gotten around to reading The Retribution of Mara Dyer yet, but the first two books were creepy and addictive.

7. Abigail Haas
Dangerous Girls was such a twisted, psychological thriller – and I absolutely loved it. I wasn’t as big of a fan of Dangerous Boys, but there’s no denying that Abigail Haas’ stories can mess with your mind, so I can’t wait to see what she comes out with next.

8. Ruta Sepetys
Out of the Easy was a gritty, poignant read that I really enjoyed. While I may not pick up Between Shades of Gray any time soon (I’m not sure if I’m ready for that kind of heartbreak), I’ll definitely keep an eye out for any future books Ruta Sepetys writes.

9. A.S. King
Please Ignore Vera Dietz was beautifully written, unique, memorable, and heartbreaking. I don’t know why it took me so long to get around to reading it, but it’s firmly placed the rest of A.S. King’s books on my need-to-read list.

10. Liz Czukas
Ask Again Later was absolutely adorable and fluffy, so Top Ten Clues You’re Clueless (which is out today!) is definitely going to be one of my next reads.

Which authors did you discover in 2014? Leave me a list or a link to your Top Ten Tuesday post in the comments below.

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Review | Ask Again Later by Liz Czukas

Despite what her name might suggest, Heart has zero interest in complicated romance. So when her brilliant plan to go to prom with a group of friends is disrupted by two surprise invites, Heart knows there’s only one drama-free solution: flip a coin.

Heads: The jock. He might spend all night staring at his ex or throw up in the limo, but how bad can her brother’s best friend really be?

Tails: The theater geek…with a secret. What could be better than a guy who shares all Heart’s interests–even if he wants to share all his feelings?

Heart’s simple coin flip has somehow given her the chance to live out both dates. But where her prom night ends up might be the most surprising thing of all…

4 cupcakes

Ask Again Later reminded me a lot of Kasie West’s Pivot Point. While there were no superpowers, the style was similar: readers get to see two alternate realities dependent upon which boy Heart chooses to go to prom with, and it was certainly entertaining to see how one choice could drastically affect how the night played out. Unfortunately, the lack of chapter markers made it difficult to distinguish between the very similar story lines, even if it did serve as a nice comment on fate towards the end.

Our protagonist, Heart LaCoeur, is sarcastic, snarky, and oh so cute. She’s dependable and loyal, and I really appreciated the importance that she placed on all of her friendships. Her kind-hearted nature and witty banter made her such an easy character to love, and I really enjoyed being inside her head as the events of prom night unfolded.

As expected, the romance in Ask Again Later is adorable and fluffy. The love interest captured my heart from the moment he stepped onto the page (I’m a sucker for flirty banter and clever nicknames). He’s such a gentleman and, despite the many misunderstandings, I enjoyed watching this friendship-turned-something-more develop as the story lines intersected.

Overall, Ask Again Later is filled to the brim with clever banter, adorable romance, and entertaining (if not slightly unbelievable) circumstances. It’s the kind of charming, sweet story that I absolutely adore, so I can’t wait to see what Liz Czukas writes next.

Fairytale Retelling Reading Challenge (2015)

Mel at The Daily Prophecy is hosting a Fairytale Retelling Reading Challenge for the upcoming year, and even though I told myself that I wouldn’t participate in any reading challenges unless they helped me get through my ARC pile, I just couldn’t say no to this one!

The challenge runs from January 1st – December 31st 2015.

The goal is to read fairytale retellings, but if you want you can also pick other retellings. It’s up to you what you count as a fairytale. Here are a couple of books you can pick from: my bookshelf with fairytale retellings and Fairytale lists on Listopia. You can read Middle Grade, Young Adult and Adult books for this challenge.

There are 6 different levels you can aim for:

-Prince Charming: 1 – 4 books.
-Magic mirror: 5 – 9 books.
-Big bad wolf: 10 – 15 books.
-The wise princess: 16 – 20 books.
-Wicked fairy Godmother: 21 – 25 books.
-Bluebeard: you are killing it! 26+ books

Here’s a tentative list of the books that I’m interested in reading:

Ideally, I’d like to get around to reading all of these, so hopefully that can happen! And if there are any fairytale retellings that you think I absolutely must read, please let me know! :)

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Review | The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel

All aboard for an action-packed escapade from the internationally bestselling author of Airborne and the Silverwing trilogy.

The Boundless, the greatest train ever built, is on its maiden voyage across the country, and first-class passenger Will Everett is about to embark on the adventure of his life!

When Will ends up in possession of the key to a train car containing priceless treasures, he becomes the target of sinister figures from his past.

In order to survive, Will must join a traveling circus, enlisting the aid of Mr. Dorian, the ringmaster and leader of the troupe, and Maren, a girl his age who is an expert escape artist. With villains fast on their heels, can Will and Maren reach Will’s father and save The Boundless before someone winds up dead?

3.5 cupcakes

The Boundless was one of my more anticipated middle grade titles for this year. It combined Canadian history (such as the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railroad and Sam Steele) and associated lore (the legend of the last spike) with supernatural/mystical aspects (sasquatches, muskeg hags, and magic) to create a thoroughly enjoyable read.

The Boundless is written in third person present. This tense doesn’t normally work for me, since it’s harder to become emotionally invested in the characters, however it provided a sense of immediacy to this alternate Canadian history which made up for that.

Will Everett is an ordinary boy who wishes to take part in an amazing adventure story of his own. He’s a refreshing change from most heroes, as he isn’t incredibly brave or reckless in survival situations; instead, Will is loyal and determined to a fault, and has a strong sense of what is right, making him incredibly easy to like. It was a bit difficult to reconcile his voice with his supposed age, though; his internal monologues made him seem closer to a pre-teen than an adult. While this allowed The Boundless to fall into the middle grade classification, it was a bit disconcerting at first.

The secondary characters were incredibly colourful, ranging from tightrope walkers to railway workers. My absolute favourite was Mr. Dorian, the circus master, whose actions and motivations placed him firmly on the grey scale of morality. I also appreciated the parallels to another famous literary character of the same name – picking up on these subtle references wasn’t crucial to the plot (as younger readers likely haven’t read Oscar Wilde’s works), but it added a level of intrigue for those who did.

My only complaint is that the villain felt quite one-dimensional, and that the characters didn’t undergo as much growth as I had hoped they would. The villain’s anger and resentment were warranted (though his actions certainly aren’t condoned), however that wasn’t explored too much – and while that makes sense, given the target age range of the story, it would have created a more morally ambiguous character whose motivations were clearly understood.

Overall, The Boundless is a well-paced, magical adventure that is sure to appeal to middle grade audiences. It functions well as a stand alone, however I wouldn’t mind another glimpse into this alternate history that Oppel created.

I received a copy of this book from HarperCollins Canada in exchange for an honest review.

Waiting On Wednesday (December 3)

wow

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly book meme hosted by Breaking the Spine, which spotlights upcoming releases that are eagerly anticipated.

This week, I’m waiting on A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas, which has an expected publication date of May 5, 2015.

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!

As I’m sure you all know by now, the Throne of Glass series is one of my favourites, so I was ridiculously excited to see that Sarah J. Maas was releasing a new series! Not only is the cover absolutely gorgeous, but it’s a retelling of one of my favourite fairytales (Beauty and the Beast) with my favourite paranormal component (faeries) and some really neat Scottish lore (Tam Lin).

Which books are you waiting on? Leave me a link or a list to your Waiting on Wednesday post below.

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