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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
(Knopf Books for Young Readers/October 20, 2015)
This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do.  This afternoon, her planet was invaded. 

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit. 

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet's AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it's clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she'd never speak to again. 

Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

This sounds excellent--and the format sounds quite intriguing too!

Let me know in the comments what you're waiting on this Wednesday!  :) 

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine

Monday, September 28, 2015

City of Halves by Lucy Inglis

Release Date: October 27th 2015
Publisher: Chicken House
Pages: 352
Source: Copy provided by publisher for review

Ancient myth collides with modern technology in this gripping urban fantasy.

London. Present day. Girls are disappearing. And strange things are roaming the streets. When sixteen-year-old Lily is attacked by a two-headed dog, she's saved by hot, tattooed, and not-quite-human Regan. As Guardian of the Gates, it's his job to protect both halves of the City--new and old--from restless creatures that threaten its very existence. But an influx of these mythological beasts has Regan worried that something terrible--and immense--is about to happen.

The missing girls may have something to do with the monsters wandering around London, but what do they have in common? Can Lily and Regan find the girls and discover the truth in time to save London from being torn apart?

City of Halves presents an interesting premise and the wall and gates remind me a bit of Stardust.  In this novel, there is a side of London that often goes unnoticed by most folks, but what a side it is!  Creatures from myths and fantasy roam around--and more than a few cause trouble.  Being a big fan of mythology and folklore, I was intrigued by this idea, but was also admittedly a bit worried after reading the synopsis that Lily would just play a damsel in distress after discovering this secret side of London.  Thankfully it wasn't so!  Although Lily needed saving several times (and occasionally I wish she had thought things through before charging in rather blindly!), she wasn't afraid of action.  I appreciated her curiosity and willingness to get answers and to help!  

I have to remark, however, that for someone who's been guarding the city and its gates in secrecy, Regan gives his secrets up very easily!  After saving Lily, it takes only a little bit of prying on her part before Regan begins letting her in on London's mysteries.  Even more surprising is how quickly he let Lily tag along and help!  Given the importance of his work, his long tenure with the job, and the lengths he and his colleagues go to protect the city from the elements of the 'other half,' I expected Regan to act with a bit more caution.

Early on, there's a lot of lengthy explanations.  While I understand that the scene must be set, I think it would have been more exciting if the information was discovered in different ways--maybe a few more hands-on experiences, discovering things from old folklore books and the like.  The first encounter Lily and readers get with the paranormal side of London is through an action-packed scene.  It drew me in and had me curious about what other secrets London may be hiding, but a great deal of this information ended up being presented via spoken explanations by Regan, which I felt was a bit of a come down after all that action!  Thankfully there were quite a few more action scenes later on in the book, but I found a few of them a bit hard to follow; a few more details would have made it easier to picture these scenes with more clarity. 

The idea of having a secret side of London that's filled with mythological creatures is fascinating to me. However, I feel that a there are perhaps too many characters introduced in City of Halves.  There is certainly an abundance and variety of creatures and characters, but few are given enough screen time for us to get to know them.  I, for one, am disappointed in this as I'm sure many of them have fascinating back stories and could enrich the story (and world) further!  Some characters, both human and paranormal, feel like throwaways and others, despite their importance to the story, feel undeveloped.  Lily's father and her friend Sam seemed flat--the latter felt like she was just introduced as an afterthought.  Additionally, although Regan is portrayed as a very private person, I was definitely hoping to learn a more about his back story.  If there's a sequel, I hope we'll get a bigger glimpse into his and his family's past!

Overall, I enjoyed reading City of Halves.  Although the writing was uneven at times and some of the characters could have been fleshed out more, the plot and world were both very interesting.  I was turning pages late into the night to see what would happen next!  

Overall: 3.75 out of 5
Plot: 4 stars
Characters: 3.25 stars
Writing: 3.25 stars
Cover: 3.5 stars 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Jubilee Manor by Bethany Hagen

Release Date: August 11, 2015
Publisher: Dial Books
Pages: 400
Source: Copy provided by publisher for review
The thrilling conclusion to Landry Park is full of love, betrayal, and murder--perfect for fans of Divergent, The Selection, and Pride and Prejudice.  
In Landry Park, Madeline turned her back on her elite family, friends, and estate to help the Rootless. Now, in Jubilee Manor, she struggles to bring the Gentry and the Rootless together. But when Gentry heirs—Madeline’s old friends—are murdered, even she begins to think a Rootless is behind it, putting her at odds with the boy she loves and the very people she is trying to lead. If she can’t figure out who is killing her friends and bring them to justice, a violent war will erupt and even more will die—and Madeline’s name, her estate, and all the bonds she’s forged won’t make any difference.

I have rather mixed feelings on this novel--the dystopian world is built with ample detail, the prose is good, and the idea is interesting, but I found myself as not emotionally invested in the characters as I thought I would be and thought the intensity of the novel did not really build.

Bethany Hagen paints a dystopian future that is overflowing for some and bleak for the rest.  The divide between the haves and the have-nots is huge and Madeline's efforts to reconcile the two groups are exacerbated when several gentry teens are murdered.  With such an exciting premise and so much going on, I had expected the pace to be a tad faster.  I wouldn't say the novel dragged, but there were several points where not much was going on.  The attention on the two main plot points--peace between the groups and solving the murders--did not feel balanced, but leaned more towards the efforts to broker peace between the gentry and the Rootless.  

While I understand that trying to establish a treaty between two factions that have existed for so long and inspired such hostile feelings is no easy feat, I would have liked to see more attention given to solving the mystery of the murders.  It felt like solving them (or at least the effort put into it) was put on the back-burner until a sudden burst of activity and drive to solve it at the very end of the novel.  Undoubtedly the end of a novel is where the big climax and reveal is and should be, but I felt as if the suspense in Jubilee Manor did not really build very much.  It seemed to have spiked during the first third of the novel then plateaued, the murders hanging like an ominous cloud over the characters, until the big push at the end to solve them.  The urgency of the gentry and Rootless situation was built up, in my opinion, better than that of the murder mystery.

Pacing aside, I must say I thought the character development, especially in Madeline, was good!  Miss Landry may have her flaws, but I'm glad she grew as this series progressed and gained some perspective.  The latter made her a stronger character and made made her grow on me.  There was a part in the novel where she remarked that there is some beauty in certain aspects of the gentry lifestyle but also acknowledged the sheer opulence of it.  Her being able to recognize both and see things in not just a black-and-white fashion made me appreciate her more as a character.

I know quite a few readers have been swooning over Madeline and David's romance but I felt that it was not that exciting.  More than anything, the pair seemed to stare into each other's eyes, share a few kisses and tell each other how much they loved each other.  A lot of their romance in this book seemed to be just statements of the fact and multiple mentions of how good David's lean figure looked by Madeline.  Given what they've been through together I would have expected her to extol more of his other virtues, not just his trim hips!  An old phrase I heard in many English classes, "show, don't tell," came to mind when I was reading Jubilee Manor; I felt that perhaps a few more subtle and varied details about the moments between the two would have made the romance seem much more natural and swoon-worthy to me.  

Although I had a few qualms about certain aspects of the novel, I enjoyed the overall writing style of the author.  It was fluid and graceful, just as I imagine Madeline would be in one of her gowns!  I feel that the author, Bethany Hagen, painted an accurate picture of how our society would act if the world and social classes of her novels were real.  The sense of entitlement many of the wealthy and privileged feel and the parties and actions they take in the novel reflects the actions and sentiments of more than just a few of the wealthy public figures of our own world.  Overall, I think fans of Landry Park will enjoy Jubilee Manor and appreciate Madeline's growth and how neatly things are tied up in the conclusion.

Overall: 3.5 out of 5
Plot: 3.75 stars
Characters: 3 stars
Writing: 4 stars
Cover: 4 stars 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday

Soundless by Richelle Mead 
(Razorbill/November 10, 2015)
From Richelle Mead, the #1 internationally bestselling author of Vampire Academy and Bloodlines, comes a breathtaking new fantasy steeped in Chinese folklore. 
For as long as Fei can remember, there has been no sound in her village, where rocky terrain and frequent avalanches prevent residents from self-sustaining. Fei and her people are at the mercy of a zipline that carries food up the treacherous cliffs from Beiguo, a mysterious faraway kingdom. 
When villagers begin to lose their sight, deliveries from the zipline shrink and many go hungry. Fei’s home, the people she loves, and her entire existence is plunged into crisis, under threat of darkness and starvation.
But soon Fei is awoken in the night by a searing noise, and sound becomes her weapon.
Richelle Mead takes readers on a triumphant journey from the peak of Fei’s jagged mountain village to the valley of Beiugo, where a startling truth and an unlikely romance will change her life forever...

Doesn't this sound amazing??!  I'm especially excited to read something with some Chinese folklore background; I'm a huge fan of Greek and Roman mythology and have also read a few books with ties to other cultures' myths and legends but haven't read much lately with a Chinese mythology background!

Let me know in the comments what you're waiting on this Wednesday!  :) 

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine

Sunday, September 20, 2015

This is Not a Drill by Beck McDowell

Release Date: October 25th 2012
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books
Pages: 224
Source: Copy provided by publisher for review
Two teens try to save a class of first-graders from a gun-wielding soldier suffering from PTSD 
When high school seniors Emery and Jake are taken hostage in the classroom where they tutor, they must work together to calm both the terrified children and the gunman threatening them--a task made even more difficult by their recent break-up. Brian Stutts, a soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in Iraq, uses deadly force when he's denied access to his son because of a custody battle. The children's fate is in the hands of the two teens, each recovering from great loss, who now must reestablish trust in a relationship damaged by betrayal. Told through Emery and Jake's alternating viewpoints, this gripping novel features characters teens will identify with and explores the often-hidden damages of war.

Don't let the 224 page count fool you--This is Not a Drill is a roller coaster ride!  The overall pacing is brisk and the characters are well fleshed out.  As the story progresses, you get to know Emery and Jake better; their reasons for working with the first-graders, where the friction between them originated, and peeks into their own childhood and upbringing.  Additionally, I'm glad Brian Stutts' character is also developed, instead of leaving him as a flat, gun-totting villain--a.k.a. essentially just a plot device.  I think this character building really helped sell the story for me; it made the situation more realistic and helped me understand why each character acted the way he/she did and where they were coming from.  While I enjoyed learning more about the characters, I'm really glad the author kept the story's momentum going and did not sacrifice good pacing for too much backstory.  The pacing was a tad slow at points, but was quite good overall.  I'm sure we've all read books where the author does a fantastic job at world building and initially sets an excellent pace, but unfortunately the pace begins to slow when the story goes on winding tangents or is weighed down by overly-long back stories that include details that do nothing to enhance the characters. 

Overall, I think author Beck McDowell does a good job creating an tense atmosphere and making the story realistic.  If it had been too over-the-top, I don't think it would as an intense of a read for me.  There's been a lot of violence in the news lately and several school shootings have rocked the nation in recent history.  An armed individual entering a school is not doubt one of the worst fears a parent could have--I just hope that such violence and events like this become just stories in fiction in the very near future.

Overall: 4 out of 5
Plot: 4 stars
Characters: 4 stars
Writing: 4.25 stars
Cover: 3 stars 

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Back in Action!

Hello All,

I know it’s been a while and I hope everyone’s been enjoying plenty of books!

Just before the summer of 2013, I decided to travel and work abroad so I could see more of the world.  It was a rather unexpected and a bit of a last-minute decision, as I thought I would just continue with school.  I had brought books along with me to read and review, but moving, adjusting to a new place and culture, and attempting to learn at least the basics of a new language—not to mention work itself!—kept me so busy that 2 years flew by before I knew it!  It was a very eye-opening adventure that I am grateful for!   I’m back stateside now, still learning, but this time through school and work.  I’m hoping to pick up where I left off and to dive right back into keeping up with the latest literary offerings!  

Although I am just as enthusiastic about reading and posting reviews, I have to acknowledge that I don’t think I’ll be able to post quite as many reviews as I did before, given the fact that I’ve been gone for some time and need to make up some ground in my studies.  However, just as before, I welcome review requests, recommendations, and good conversations about books!  You can reach me at my new email here: or, as always, in the comments section!

x Dominique

Series I Like

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis Divergent by Veronica Roth Firelight by Sophie Jordon Halo by Alexandra Adornetto Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Thanks to i'm loving books!


I receive review copies of books from publicists, authors and publishers for an honest review. I do not receive monetary or other compensations for posting reviews.