Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Review: Hollow City by Ransom Riggs (Miss Pereg. #2)

Title: Hollow City
Author: Ransom Riggs
Publisher: Random House Canada
Publication date: January 14, 2014
Genre(s): Paranormal/Mystery
Source: Publisher
Format: Finished Copy
Pages: 400
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children was the surprise best seller of 2011—an unprecedented mix of YA fantasy and vintage photography that enthralled readers and critics alike. Publishers Weekly called it “an enjoyable, eccentric read, distinguished by well-developed characters, a believable Welsh setting, and some very creepy monsters.”

This second novel begins in 1940, immediately after the first book ended. Having escaped Miss Peregrine’s island by the skin of their teeth, Jacob and his new friends must journey to London, the peculiar capital of the world. Along the way, they encounter new allies, a menagerie of peculiar animals, and other unexpected surprises.

Complete with dozens of newly discovered (and thoroughly mesmerizing) vintage photographs, this new adventure will delight readers of all ages.
Hollow City. Hollow City. Where do I begin with you? After finishing Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, I had such high hopes for this book. The first book ended with such a dramatic cliff hanger that I immediately started Hollow City right after to find out what happens. And I did. Except it wasn't as epic as I was hoping it to be.   
On average, it takes me about a week to finish a book (I'm a slow reader), a couple of days if it's a really good book, and usually no more than two weeks if the book isn't that great. It took me a month to finish Hollow City. Every time I'd pick it up it was a dreaded session. Had I not loved the first book so much, I think I would've dropped this book from the first 100 pages.
This book was slow. Like turtle-speed slow. I found a lot of events that occurred were irrelevant and took too long to explain. In a book where romance isn't a big priority, I do appreciate there being more action or something else to grab the reader. This book had nothing. The entirety of the book was revolved around this one specific goal that at the end, was never accomplished because guess what? There's a third book. To me, I felt as if Hollow City was simply a filler novel. Out of the total 400 pages of the book, it wasn't until around halfway through that I felt somewhat interested in what was happening. Probably in the last 50 pages is when I really wanted to know what happens because it was this big build up to find out if what the characters were trying to accomplish was going to work.
By the time I finally managed to finish this book, I was extremely disappointed with the outcome. I was looking for more and I didn't get any. With all of this, I don't think I'll be picking up the third book when it comes out (some time next year?). Sorry Ransom! 

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Mystery and thriller books: Flash reviews

If you look at my post back in October, I listed several thriller and mystery novels that I would like to read in October. I was very successful and managed to read 6 out of the 8 listed there. I decided that even though they are all non review books, I still would like to put my thoughts and opinions of these books in writing and up on the blog. So here they are! Let me know which books have you read and which you want to read.

Gone Girl
4/5 stars
I wanted to read Gone Girl because I love mysteries and I wanted to watch the movie as soon as I can. Gone Girl was very slow initially, up to the first 100 pages. After a small reveal, things picked up and that's when I started getting excited to continue reading. Nick Dunne (the husband) was such a complex and creepy character and I needed to figure out what the hell was going on. I thought Gillian Flynn had one twist up her sleeve but in fact, she had two. I was so shocked. I was able to guess the small reveal as well as one of the big ones but the last reveal? and that ending? it killed me. I definitely enjoyed both Nick's and Amy's narration, right after when things started to get revealed. I really enjoyed Flynn's writing as well as her ability to keep me guessing and all the twists she came up with left and right. I will definitely be picking up more of her books in the future, Dark Places and Sharp Objects are on my to buy list.

Nearly Gone (Nearly Gone, #1)5/5 stars
Nearly Gone was such a fantastic read. I loved the mystery in the whole book and the infusion of mathematics and science. The main protagonist is a junior in high school and a contender for a scholarship through her chemistry class. She reads the connections paper and one day she stumbles upon a weird message that ends up being linked to a night where a girl was found naked under the bleachers, painted with colors and a number. After that, every time there is a new connections paper (every week), it is linked to such an incident or murder. Unfortunately all signs are pointing out to Nearly, so she is running against time trying to solve the mystery and find the person behind it and the reason of them targeting her. I loved the plot line, the main protagonist, and how thrilling this book was. The romance was also very swoony. I found out this is a duology so I can't wait to get my hands on Nearly Found and revisit Nearly's world. Definitely recommend this one for all mystery fans.

The Ruining

3/5 stars
I picked up The Ruining based on both my sister and friend's recommendations. They raved on how this psychological thriller had them creeped out throughout the whole novel. Unfortunately that wasn't my experience. Annie, the main protagonist, moved to a house as a nanny. She just started her freshman year at college and is so glad she finally escaped her home life. What Annie doesn't count for is how this is the start to very weird and creepy scenarios. I personally found no mystery in all of this. I knew immediately what was going on and whether Annie was hallucinating or if someone is behind all of that. Also, Annie annoyed me to the extreme. She never spoke up for herself and never tried to find out what the hell was going on. It was a struggle, my connection to her. I did enjoy it for the most part but I wished there was more complexity and depth into the characters as well as the big reveal and what comes after it.

I Hunt Killers (Jasper Dent, #1)4/5 stars
I was very hesitant to pick up I Hunt Killers because I hate anything gory. However, I not only picked up the book, I borrowed the audiobook from the library and pretty much listened to the whole book. Jasper Dent, the main protagonist, is the son of the most notorious serial killer in the 21st century. His dad had already been convicted and is in jail. However, several years later, their town becomes the target of another serial killer. Jasper is determined to find out who the serial killer is. Initially I wasn't a fan of Jazz because he was a bit creepy in the sense he somehow struggles with a human's worth and whether he'll be a killer like his father. I didn't understand how he could think that way but the more I knew about him and listened to more of his memories, the more I understood that boy was traumatized and grew up with a serial killer that skinned Jazz's own dog alive while he made Jazz watch. I really liked Jazz's best friend too and he was the best comic relief in the book. This is a trilogy and I now really want to continue it. I definitely recommend it to any fans, even mystery fans who don't like gore. 

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Review: Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater - Magical and fantastical

Blue Lily, Lily Blue (The Raven Cycle, #3)
Title: Blue Lily, Lily Blue (The Raven Cycle, #3)
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Publisher: Scholastic Canada
Publication date: November 1, 2014
Genre(s): Young Adult (Fantasy)
Source: Publisher
Format: Finished copy
Pages: 391
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Chapters
Blue Sargent has found things. For the first time in her life, she has friends she can trust, a group to which she can belong. The Raven Boys have taken her in as one of their own. Their problems have become hers, and her problems have become theirs.

The trick with found things though, is how easily they can be lost.

Friends can betray.
Mothers can disappear.
Visions can mislead.

Certainties can unravel.
Non spoiler section for the whole series: I absolutely loved The Raven Boys. Actually, I didn't just love it, but I was obsessed with it. After reading The Dream Thieves (the sequel), I knew this will be a memorable and fantastic series. The one year wait was absolutely worth it for Blue Lily, Lily Blue. Maggie Stiefvater's ability to create such an intricate and complicated world with such remarkable and unique characters astounds me. Blue Lily, Lily Blue did not disappoint one bit, even with my built up expectations of one year.
The Raven Cycle's fantastical element is so complicated, and I sometimes feel I am grasping it with the tips of my fingers, that explaining it would be a losing battle. However, I must ask you to trust me because it is brilliant. Even though half the time I don't understand what's going on (it is the type of series that the more you reread, the better your understanding of it becomes) I love every second of the fantasy aspect. I love how the characters are so dedicated and immersed in it all. I love that even though it is set in the contemporary world, slivers of fantasy make their way on every page. It is a very refreshing series. This book, while giving us many answers, dumped double that amount with more questions. It is very exciting when a series, already on its third book, is keeping you anticipation as well as excited on what will happen next. I am sad to know that it will only end with four books. All the characters will be sadly missed.  
Spoiler section (might contain spoilers of books #1 and #2: Delving more into the events of Blue Lily, Lily Blue, Stiefvater jumped right into the plot line and even sprinted while we had to catch up to her. Out of the four Raven Boys, my least favorite has become Adam, I mean look at how he was in the previous book! he infuriated me. However, BLLB totally redeemed his character for me. I loved loved loved his developing friendship with Ronan. The two people I least expect to stand each other are becoming friends! (even though they deny it to each other). Adam's character arc definitely developed the most in this book. It truly makes me happy. We still get glimpses of the old Adam, the one swimming in a pool of jealousy because the other boys are rich while he isn't, however those moments and short and fleeting. 
Gansey is my favorite character by far, and I loved that there were more chapters dedicated to him here than there was in The Dream Thieves. I admire Gansey and the way he thinks as well as his selflessness and his encompassing love for all his friends. He reminds me a bit of Chuck Bass (from Gossip Girl), without the cockiness and bad personality. Gansey and Blue's scenes definitely made me swoon! those two are hilarious and sweet together. Another character worth noting is Mr.Grey. It is so surprising that a character we hated in the first book is now part of the group and a beloved character. I really like Mr.Grey, especially his chats with Blue and Blue's aunts. Those are some hilarious scenes.   
The Raven Boys is still my favorite of the series but Blue Lily, Lily Blue comes close in second. The sequence of events were very thrilling and I loved meeting new characters while knowing more about ley lines and Welsh kings. This book definitely contained more humorous scenes than the previous two. 

Friday, 5 December 2014

Review: The Walled City by Ryan Graudin

The Walled City

Title: The Walled City
Author: Ryan Graudin
Publisher: HBG Canada
Publication date: November 4, 2014
Genre(s): Young Adult (Dystopian)
Source: Publisher
Format: ARC 
Pages: 432
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Chapters
730. That's how many days I've been trapped.
18. That's how many days I have left to find a way out.

DAI, trying to escape a haunting past, traffics drugs for the most ruthless kingpin in the Walled City. But in order to find the key to his freedom, he needs help from someone with the power to be invisible....

JIN hides under the radar, afraid the wild street gangs will discover her biggest secret: Jin passes as a boy to stay safe. Still, every chance she gets, she searches for her lost sister....

MEI YEE has been trapped in a brothel for the past two years, dreaming of getting out while watching the girls who try fail one by one. She's about to give up, when one day she sees an unexpected face at her window.....

In this innovative and adrenaline-fueled novel, they all come together in a desperate attempt to escape a lawless labyrinth before the clock runs out.
The Walled City had a fantastic premise. I love the tagline for it "There are three rules to the Walled City. Run fast. Trust no one. Always carry your knife. Right now, my life depends completely on the first. Run, run, run."
Told from three different perspectives it follows a a girl, Jin, disguising herself as a boy in order to find her lost sister. Mei Yee, the lost sister that was sold to a brothel by her own father, and Jin, the boy who found himself in the walled city, a filthy, dirty, and dangerous world unaccustomed to. I really liked how different each character was even though I am not the biggest fan of multiple POVs. 
I have to admit though… the book slightly bored me. There wasn't enough action and character depth for me to invest in either one. I know all three have it tough for them, but I felt that an emotional connection between the reader and the characters was lacking, at least for me. I do love how Graudin created this chinese inspired dystopian world. I'm all for diverse cultural characters and settings. I wish we got to know more people outside of these three. It seemed somewhat ridiculous how only three characters set up the whole book with little to no exposure to other characters. I personally can't put my finger on why exactly I didn't enjoy this book as much as I hoped, but it comes down to me not being invested in the story as well as reading it for long periods of time.
I love the gender bender theme in The Walled City, with Jin disguising herself as a guy, but I wish Graudin played more with the idea, used it to better the book. It just seemed as a convenient placement in the book to allow Jin to search for her sister, I wish it had more of a purpose. As for the romance.. I did not like it. It does involve Dai but which of the sisters? I can't say without spoiling. All I can say is that I disliked the direction Graudin did and hoped with all my heart, while halfway through the book, it wouldn't go that way but alas.. it did. 
The action scenes though, when they appeared, were fantastic, especially Jin and her quick thinking and smart execution. I really did like Jin and wished she led the show. I would look forward to her chapters as opposed to Mei Yee… who I somehow didn't really like or care for. One thing to note is that Graudin painted a harsh world, but it was very realistic. I dislike how sometimes YA books gloss horrific events and situations in our world and I appreciated Graudin for not shying away from giving us as realistic of a picture as possible. I did end up liking The Walled City, I just wish I liked it more. My emotional disconnection with the characters was the main reason why I didn't enjoy it. So if you think you could connect with these characters, then I suggest you pick up The Walled City. 

Monday, 1 December 2014

Chick Lit Review: Shopaholic to the Stars by Sophie Kinsella

Title: Shopaholic to the Stars (Shopaholic #7) 
Author: Sophie Kinsella 
 Random House Canada
Publication date: October 21, 2014
Genre(s): Chick Lit 
Source: Publisher
Format: Finished copy
Pages: 479
Becky Brandon (née Bloomwood) has stars in her eyes. She and her daughter, Minnie, have joined husband Luke in LA—city of herbal smoothies, multimillion-dollar yoga retreats, and the lure of celebrity. Luke is there to help manage the career of famous actress Sage Seymour—and Becky is convinced she is destined to be Sage’s personal stylist, and go from there to every A-list celebrity in Hollywood! But things become complicated when Becky joins the team of Sage’s archrival. How will charming and supportive Luke deal with this conflict? Is it possible that what Becky wants most will end up hurting those she loves most? Shopaholic fans old and new will devour Sophie Kinsella’s newest adventure! 
I still can't believe it happened but we are finally back into Becky's world! Mini shopaholic came out in 2010, four years later, we finally get a sequel that also ends in a cliff hanger so i'm crossing my fingers for an 8th book! The Shopaholic series isn't my favorite by Sophie Kinsella.. and I pretty much read all the books under this name. However, getting back into Becky's world (I reread mini shopaholic before picking this up) has reminded me of the reason why I tolerate Becky and dare I say, love her through all the craziness that she gets herself into. These first two paragraphs will be non spoiler but before I get to the spoilers, I will add a disclaimer. 
I love Kinsella's writing. I love how witty and funny and endearing all the characters are. If it was any writer with these characters, I personally would have been so frustrated and quit the series ages ago. Becky's shallowness gets to me sometimes I have to admit, but I soon forget about it and enjoy the where the storyline is going and how crazy things are. Honestly, I think Becky is a genius. No one is able to get themselves out of situations the way she does… and she uses the wackiest way but lo and behold, she doesn't just get out of the situation, she ends up getting something out of it. I feel if Becky put her mind to get and do anything, she'll get it and do it for sure. I get why Kinsella doesn't want her to grow out of it and finally realize she's not a kid anymore and she should act more like an adult. I don't think the book would be any fun without her crazy antiques! 
Slight spoilers of the previous books begin now: As for all the other side characters, it is no secret that I love Luke too much. I honestly don't know how he finds everything Becky does so endearing and lovable. He really is the perfect husband in my eyes. I love how serious he is but at the same time he is so loving to Minnie as well as Becky. His fatherly side is really something to admire. However in this book, I liked how he finally put Becky into perspective for every outrageous thing she's done. I think she went too far during some parts in this book and I like that there were people, including Suze (her best friend), who gave her a reality check. I also really like Becky's parents as well as all her circle of friends and family. They all are a laugh. 
This book is 480 pages. However I breezed through it. It really reminded me that I need to read more chick lits because they are such pleasant and happy reads (well, most of them) and sometimes you need something addicting and fun. Becky and Kinsella really deliver in that department (get it? department? Becky's addiction to shopping? haha). I can't wait for a sequel (praying there will be one) because the way it ended makes you want to pick up the next book. Also, Sophie Kinsella is publishing her first young adult novel and that has me unbelievably excited! we don't have many british chick lit writers that make the jump to YA and I am intrigued to see how her humorous writing will translate to a YA book. If you haven't started the Shopaholic series, I urge you to do just that. This is the perfect series to start if you are new to the chick lit world.