Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Book Review: Optimists Die First

Title: Optimists Die First 

Author: Susin Nielsen

 Genre: Young Adult, Inspirational 

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars 

There's nothing really awful about this book; but there's also nothing that really stands out either, except maybe that it's set in Canada. I'm a sucker for books written and set in my own country; especially when I've been to the place as many times as I've been to Vancouver. 

So why doesn't this stand-out? 

I think it's because, while well-written and engaging, the characters are just not all that interesting or unique. They are very stereotypical. You have your typical classes of 'troubled teens'; a drug addict, a gay, a disabled person, someone anxiety plagued; and of course all of them have mental issues because of their specific situations. Now this is all very good and true; but it's nothing new or even all that inspiring. 

It also takes on way too many issues at once. Not just teens with issues that are mentioned but even just the issues our lead gal has are overwhelming. What this means is that there is never a good focus on one thing over the other. I'd prefer to see more focus on an issue and really dig into them at a true human level and not just as a superficial discussion or thought. 

While the characters may be archetypes, there are some gems in the plot. The clever videos they all make to tell their emotional story, a twist that many will see coming but those that don't will be shocked by, and the organization of events that don't go from bad to great, but instead are like life. Sometimes the going is good and sometimes it's bad. 

There will likely be a teen or two out there that will really connect with this book (probably because of the cats); but this is not as impactful as many other young adult books like it.

So I give it three stars because it's fine, I read the whole thing, and it was entertaining enough. But I can't help but feel it could have been more. 

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review. Don't believe me? Check out the other books I've had eARCs for that I gave poor reviews to. I always give my opinion whether good or bad.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Book Review: Gilded Cage

Title: Gilded Cage  
Author: Vic James
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars 

This book may not be perfect; but it's really, really, really good; especially for a debut novel. In Gilded Cage, Vic James has created a rich 'skill' (aka. magic) world with engaging and complex characters. 

Be forewarned, this story definitely doesn't stop here. If you hate waiting for the next book then don't read this until it's out as you will likely be dying to read book 2, as I am now. 

James does a solid job of tackling the difficult, and over saturated, Young Adult Fantasy genre. As someone who adores fantasy and has read a lot of it; I can honestly say that the magic and world set-up have unique aspects I enjoyed. 

What to expect: you will encounter magic, slavery, some cute romance, torture, sadism and a lot of "I'm better than you because blah, blah" attitude. There are lots of great prejudice and tolerance lessons or points made in Gilded Cage. James does a great job of showing how unfair the world is by making us appreciate characters from all sides. There is a lot more to many of these characters and clearly interesting future story to come for many of them, especially the younger ones. 

"Trust lent you someone else's eyes, someone else's strong arms or quick brain. Made you bigger than yourself."

The theme of trust is throughout the story and I love the way it is used to show characters connections; but also how tenuous a bond between people can be.  I feel one of the many things we don't talk about enough these days is trust. Who do you trust and when? There are some great scenarios in Gilded Cage that are worth anyone considering, not just teens. 

Although I wish it wasn't an alternate version of Earth with out country names. I definitely would have preferred an original map and world over recycling and kinda bastardizing our current country map. And while there was a moment about 40% in where I was bored with the droning politics chapters that were back to back; it was well worth the push to keep going. 

However, these are relatively small critiques overall in comparison to the gun I had reading Gilded Cage. I'm really hoping we get book 2 quickly (is tomorrow too soon?). 

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review. Don't believe me? Check out the other books I've had eARCs for that I gave poor reviews to. I always give my opinion whether good or bad.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Book Review: The Witches of New York

Title: The Witches of New York
Author: Ami McKay
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I want to rate this a five star book just because it's a wonderfully written Pagan book. Ami McKay obviously did her homework and in reading her acknowledgements she used reliable, well-known and respected resources that those of us in the Wiccan community respect. This means a lot to me. Not just as a reader who respects good writing and research; but as a practicing Wiccan that values all possible positive viewpoints of being a Witch. 

So why only four stars then? The answer is complicated, yet simple. It took me too long to get into it. The last 25% of the book read in no time as it was exciting and well set-up. But the set up took some time and patience, without a doubt, but there's a fine balance in keeping a readers attention and McKay just slips past my tolerance near the beginning. 

That said, this is a gorgeous book. And one I would possible revisit in the future to enjoy the beginning all over again; now knowing what to look for that sets up the end. Not unlike Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (an absolute fave of mine); Witches of New York requires attention to detail to pick up on the subtle hints and to appreciate the small moments that change our characters. 

The relationships are very realistically portrayed. I adore that there is no instant love between anyone. Even the ladies to the younger girl are wary and careful to start with. Exactly like real life and as it should be. 

It should be noted that there are some gruesome deaths. No details or anything horror-esque in the writing of them; but they do happen. If you're expecting a beautiful, no ugliness story then you will be surprised and disappointed. For as beautiful as this book is there is always ugliness in the real world. And whether you believe in ghosts or witches this world is very close to real life. Perhaps even more so than many readers would be willing to believe. 

Overall this is a book worthy of your time if the premise at all intrigues you. I would highly recommend it to the right type of reader. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Book Review: A Second Chance At Life

Title: A Second Chance At Life
Author: Kassandra Lynn
Genre: Romance, Historical, Time Travel 
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5 

This was a 3.5 star read for me. I add in the extra half star as it was so exciting I put down my other book, a New York Times bestseller, to finish this one. That's gotta says something! 
A Second Chance is a cute story about a girl whose had a string of bad luck and gets a chance to do it all again. She starts anew just before her luck turns wrong. There's nothing special here per say; but it's a solid romantic, historical read. I could pick many things apart about it (the announcement of a new heir, the amulet that is forgotten for half the book, the motives of the step sister are vague, the future man is one dimensional, calculated is repeated ad nauseam, etc) but the reality is I looked past all those little things and still enjoyed this short read. 
It's possible that it being just over 200 pages helps. I didn't have time to be annoyed too much by any characters and the action is non-stop, page turning fun. 

I sympathize and understand our lead gal personally which also helped bring me into the story. Being betrayed, wronged or persecuted 'just because' is a sore spot with me. I always seem to side with characters who are a little manipulative if it helps gets some small amount of revenge on their tormentors. So if you hate the small justifications that we all use everyday for our actions then you may not agree with all of our heroine's choice; but you'd have to be heartless not to sympathize with her on some level. 

Overall I believe this fun little romp is worth the time to read the 200 pages. 
I'm curious about it being a series... I hope it's time travel with all new characters and not these main characters again as I feel their story is mostly complete. 

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review. Don't believe me? Check out the other books I've had eARCs for that I gave great or poor reviews to. I always give my opinion whether good or bad.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

New Start - Alice HaED!!!

It's finally time!!!
My new EPIC project is started.
This one is: endorsed by my husband, going to be kept for us(!!!), and absolutely huge (it's bigger than Dragons)!

So what is it? 
Title: My Wonderland (here forth known as 'Alice')
Artist: Enys Guerrero
Designer: Heaven and Earth Designs

Being done up with: 
- 28ct Lugana in Ivory
- 1 over 1 thread
- DMC colours as per chart

- 450 wide X 651 high
- On 28ct final stitched size will be: 17" x 24"

I did get a chance to get a teeny tiny amount of stitches into her this past weekend... 

The beginning of what will likely take many years... 

In other crazy news: 
My husband won a trip to Seattle for one night and to see a rock band called the Japandroids last week!!! So on Saturday we are leaving for Seattle. Never been there so we moved flights and are paying our own hotel for two nights so that we can spend more than one day there. 
If anyone knows of stitching shops that are must see in Seattle (especially if in downtown area) please let me know and I'll see if I can manage to squeeze some visits in!  :) 

So next update might be with travel photos! I know it's been so long since we travelled I think I've forgotten how. Here's hoping we get across the border no problem (lol)! 

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Blood Key

Title : The Blood Key
Author: Vaun Murphrey
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

This could have been so much more. The Blood Key is bogged down with too much history, lore, paranormal happenings, secrets run amuck and liars who lie about lying that it's nearly impossible to follow the main story. Or even decide what is the main story. 

Each time I thought I had a handle on things some other weird, crazy, unnecessary wrench was thrown in the mix. I'm all for fast paced books but this was ridiculous. I think a whole trilogy exists in plot within this one 250pg book. 

The part that is most frustrating about the over extended plot and cast of characters is that the writing is pretty darn good. Vaun Murphrey has a clear, concise voice but just can't seem to focus enough on any one thing long enough for it to stick. 

I felt there was so much that could have been done with the story before any major paranormal happenings occurred. It would have been nice to get to know our characters a little better and feel like we have a solid foundation before everything goes crazy. 

Overall a disappointment for me. Maybe a future series when Murphrey has evolved and matured as an author I'd try her out again; but for now I won't continue this series. 

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review. Don't believe me? Check out the other books I've had eARCs for that I gave great reviews to. I always give my opinion whether good or bad. :) 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Sleeping Giants


Title: Sleeping Giants (Themis, Book 1)

Author: Sylvain Neuval

Genre: Science Fiction

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars 

I can see why this was the top science fiction book of 2016. I can see exactly why it's been described as The Martian meets World War Z (both books I thoroughly enjoyed). 

It was probably more of a 4.5/5 stars for me as at the halfway point I loved every word I read; and then I was suddenly really upset and frustrated with the story. It's obvious to me now that this is because I was still allowing the story to centre on characters instead of what I should have been focused on which is the technology that had been discovered and what that means for humanity. 

And yet I was feeling more and more disenchanted as I approached the end of Sleeping Giants... right up until a huge cliffhanger left me dying for the second book. Figures. 

The second half is still as well written and intriguing as the first half. Additionally it's likely very close to what would happen in real life given the events leading up to the major halfway turning point. Thinking back on that I realize the last half was obviously needed in order for our story to carry forward on a grander scale. 

And so this is why I still keep my rating above a four star; because obviously Nyvain is much smarter than me and knew exactly what needed to happen; as opposed to writing what many would want to happen. 

As always with books where I have to be vague to avoid spoilers I will say this; read this book. It's awesome! Even if science fiction isn't your thing there is still a lot of excitement in this book and like the Martian it's realistic enough, set on Earth in what could be current day; and so most readers will find it easy to get into. 

Now to count down the days until book 2, Waking Gods, comes out.