Friday, January 30, 2015

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Title: The War That Saved My Life
Author: Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Release Date: January 13, 2015
Publisher: Dial
Pages: 320
Source: ARC provided by publisher

Overall: 4.5 Stars

An exceptionally moving story of triumph against all odds set during World War 2, from the acclaimed author of Jefferson’s Sons and for fans of Number the Stars.

Nine-year-old Ada has never left her one-room apartment. Her mother is too humiliated by Ada’s twisted foot to let her outside. So when her little brother Jamie is shipped out of London to escape the war, Ada doesn’t waste a minute—she sneaks out to join him.

So begins a new adventure of Ada, and for Susan Smith, the woman who is forced to take the two kids in. As Ada teaches herself to ride a pony, learns to read, and watches for German spies, she begins to trust Susan—and Susan begins to love Ada and Jamie. But in the end, will their bond be enough to hold them together through wartime? Or will Ada and her brother fall back into the cruel hands of their mother?

This masterful work of historical fiction is equal parts adventure and a moving tale of family and identity—a classic in the making.

My Thoughts:
It's been many months since I last read a middle grade novel, but when I heard about Kimberly Brubaker Bradley's The War The Saved My Life, I just had a certain feeling that it would be a very special read, one I couldn't miss. What we take for granted as something normal and everyday is actually a hard-earned struggle for Ada. She has spent her entire life confined in her family's one-room apartment, forced to crawl because of an untreated clubfoot, and entirely dependent on a mother who emotionally and physically abuses her everyday.

When Ada's younger brother Jamie is evacuated out of London to escape the onset of WWII and the threat of bombs being dropped on the city, she sneaks away with him onto the train carrying all the children away. Ada and Jamie find themselves in a rural, coastal village in Kent, living in the home of a woman named Susan Smith, who is reluctant to take in the dirty and hungry children. But for all her grumbles, Susan gives Jamie and Ada the kind of care and security they've never experienced before, certainly never by their own mother.

Ada begins to thrive in Susan's home; she is soon spending her days teaching herself how to ride Susan's pony and learning to read, settling into the kind of life she never could have imagined. Her clubfoot may limit her mobility, but Ada is highly independent and determined to discover more about the world her mother has always forbidden her to explore. Jamie, however, wants to return to the familiar sight of home, not understanding in his childish, innocent mind that it would mean sentencing Ada back to her prison.

Susan does what she can to help the children, but Ada is wary to trust other people, especially since the one person who should have given her unconditional love has only shown her pain and humiliation. Ada has been neglected all her short life, and told she'll never be wanted by anyone, so she doesn't believe she deserves kindness or anything nice. I found myself tearing up at times for all the abuse Ada had suffered because of her cruel mother, and the lasting impact it continued to have on her when happiness was right in her grasp.

I'm so very glad I read Kimberly Brubaker Bradley's The War That Saved My Life. Ada's story of perseverence is heartwarming and absolutely inspiring. I was so proud to see Ada grow and flourish under the care of Susan and the small community of friends she gains in the village. She's a survivor and doesn't give up, even when the odds seem against her. All the while, WWII rages on and the threat of Germain invasion looms over the country. The War That Saved My Life tackles difficult subject matter, from the stigma associated with a disability to the complex relationships we share with family, in a way that resonates with readers of all ages.

Thanks so much to Penguin Canada for providing this review copy!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Refuge by Karen Lynch

Title: Refuge (Relentless #2)
Author: Karen Lynch
Release Date: December 9, 2014
Publisher: Karen Lynch
Pages: 309
Source: Bought

Overall: 5 Stars

To keep the people she loved safe, Sara left everything she knew behind. She soon learns this new world is nothing like her old one, and she struggles to make a place for herself among the Mohiri. But it soon becomes apparent to Sara and to everyone one around her that she is not your typical warrior.

As the weeks pass, Sara builds new relationships, copes with her new trainers, and tries to manage her ever-changing powers, while keeping her unique heritage a secret. Looming in the background is the constant shadow of the Master who will do anything to find her.

Sara finds herself on a journey of self-discovery that uncovers her true strengths and awakens a part of her she never knew existed. She experiences the delight of new friendships, the sweetness and pain of first love, and a loss so deep it could be the thing that finally breaks her. At the end of it all, she discovers that the one place she was supposed to be safe might not be the refuge she thought it was. 

My Thoughts: 
My sister and I share very similar tastes in books, so when she raved about a self-published YA paranormal novel called Relentless, I took her advice and read it. Maybe it was because my sister gave away much of the plot in her excitement, but I didn't get it right away why she enjoyed the book so much. Sara was reckless and threw herself into danger before thinking about the consequences, a trait which generally annoys me in any novel. 

There was just something so promising and utterly addictive about Relentless though that I knew I needed to read the sequel. My feelings for Sara aside, the series showed so much potential with its thrilling premise, and I couldn't wait to see what Karen Lynch had in store for readers next in Refuge. Thankfully, the few problems I had with Relentless completely disappeared with the sequel! And yes, now I totally understand why my sister fell for this series so quickly.

Sara can't escape the danger that always seems to shadow her, but at least she's now learning the skills she needs to efficiently fight back against the vampires and demons that would love to see her dead. She refuses to be a damsel in distress ever again; she's learned from her mistakes and understands the wisdom of expressing caution, that being impulsive will get her nowhere. To protect her loved ones, she'll need all the training she can receive at Westhorne, a Mohiri military stronghold she must now reluctantly call home.

Despite feeling restless with the knowledge that the Master still hunts for her, Sara knows she can't leave Westhorne, not when she's so wholly unprepared to face the powerful vampire who has already played a role in trying to kill her months ago. Her Fae abilities may be continuing to grow stronger everyday, but without embracing her Mori, she'll always be as physically weak as a human. Frustrated and feeling out of control, Sara will need the help of her new friends and family to prepare for her battle against the relentless evil that threatens their refuge.

I absolutely loved Karen Lynch's Refuge! When I reached the end, I immediately turned back to the first page to begin reading it all over again, not ready to pull myself out of the Mohiri world just yet. With exhilarating action and suspense, and a dash of romance, Karen Lynch's Refuge is not to be missed. I'll be counting down the months and days ahead until I can read what happens next in Rogue.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday - Vision in Silver by Anne Bishop

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine spotlighting upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating.

 Release Date: March 3, 2015
Publisher: Roc
Summary (from Penguin Random House Canada): 
The New York Times bestselling author of The Black Jewels Trilogy transports readers to a world of magic and political unrest—where the only chance at peace requires a deadly price...

The Others freed the cassandra sangue to protect the blood prophets from exploitation, not realizing their actions would have dire consequences. Now the fragile seers are in greater danger than ever before—both from their own weaknesses and from those who seek to control their divinations for wicked purposes. In desperate need of answers, Simon Wolfgard, a shape-shifter leader among the Others, has no choice but to enlist blood prophet Meg Corbyn’s help, regardless of the risks she faces by aiding him.

Meg is still deep in the throes of her addiction to the euphoria she feels when she cuts and speaks prophecy. She knows each slice of her blade tempts death. But Others and humans alike need answers, and her visions may be Simon’s only hope of ending the conflict.

For the shadows of war are deepening across the Atlantik, and the prejudice of a fanatic faction is threatening to bring the battle right to Meg and Simon’s doorstep...…

I've lost count how many times I've reread Anne Bishop's Written in Red and Murder of Crows. The Others series combines everything I love about reading the paranormal and urban fantasy genres into one absolutely amazing storyline. Every character, from major to minor, has an important role in bringing the continent of Thaisia—an alternate North America—alive. I continue to ship Meg and Simon, hoping they'll further their relationship beyond friendship, but I also love that the hint of romance has never overtaken the overarching conflicts in the book. The Others series is one of my absolute favourites and I can't wait to read the latest installment, Vision in Silver, in March! 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Dead of Winter by Kresley Cole

Title: Dead of Winter (The Arcana Chronicles #3)
Author: Kresley Cole
Release Date: January 6, 2015
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Pages: 320
Source: Bought

Overall: 5 Stars

Can Evie convince her rival loves to work together? Their survival depends on it in this third book of #1 New York Times bestselling author Kresley Cole’s Arcana Chronicles, a nonstop action tale of rescue, redemption, and a revenge most wicked.

Heartbreaking decisions
Evie was almost seduced by the life of comfort that Death offered her—until Jack was threatened by two of the most horrific Arcana, The Lovers. She will do anything to save him, even escape Death’s uncanny prison, full of beautiful objects, material comforts…and stolen glances from a former love.

Uncertain victory
Despite leaving a part of her heart behind with Death, Evie sets out into a perilous post-apocalyptic wasteland to meet up with her allies and launch an attack on the Lovers. Such formidable enemies require a battle plan, and the only way to kill them may mean Evie, Jack, and Death allying. Evie doesn’t know what will prove more impossible: surviving slavers, plague, Bagmen and other Arcana—or convincing Jack and Death to work together.

Two heroes returned
There’s a thin line between love and hate, and Evie just doesn’t know where she stands with either Jack or Death. Will this unlikely trio be able to defeat The Lovers without killing one another first...?

My Thoughts: 
Evie has sure come a long way since Poison Princess. She was just so utterly weak and lacking in survival instincts in the first book, but after everything she's endured and overcome since the Flash, you wouldn't recognize this former cheerleader anymore. And I totally love it! As the tarot Empress, Evie possesses terrifying powers that include poison and regeneration, but she has still barely scratched the arsenal at her disposal and the range of her abilities continues to grow.

After struggling so hard to accept her role as one of the Major Arcana and the terrible acts she committed in her past lives, Evie is finally ready to embrace her destiny in Dead of Winter. In the months that Evie has been living in Death's isolated fortress, Jack has risen as a leader among the human survivors, founding Fort Arcana and building his own army to counter the Azey, led by the sadistic twins Violet and Vincent, known as the Lovers. Evie must convince Jack and Death to somehow work together and launch an attack against their cruel enemies before it's too late to stop them.

The unlikely trio must once again set off into the post-apocalyptic nightmare they live in, but their journey is further complicated by Evie's very torn personal feelings towards both men. Evie has fallen in love with both Jack and Death for very different reasons and can't imagine life without either of them. Death has seen the best and worst sides of Evie in the many reincarnated lives they've shared, but Jack's raw passion always makes her feel so very alive. Evie doesn't know how she could possibly make a decision.
I thought the Arcana Chronicles was a trilogy, I really did. Now imagine my surprise when Dead of Winter ended on a major cliffhanger! As I anxiously read those last 50 pages, I kept wondering how loose ends could possibly be tied up as the novel certainly didn't seem to be moving towards a finale. It didn't even occur to me that there could be another book after Dead of Winter. I can't believe Kresley Cole could stab a dagger into our hearts and then leave us hanging like that! I need the next book. Right. Now.

Kresley Cole's Dead of Winter is an explosive, heart-pounding continuation of the Arcana Chronicles. The progression of this series, from Evie's character growth to the complex world-building of an endless battle between the Major Arcana, is absolutely stunning. I loved every moment of Dead of Winter and will be waiting with breathless anticipation to learn what happens next.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Cover Reveal: All Played Out by Cora Carmack

I'm thrilled to be taking part in the cover reveal for Cora Carmack's All Played Out, the third novel in the Rusk University series! I loved reading All Lined Up and All Broke Down, and now I absolutely can't wait for Torres and Nell's story. From what we've seen in the previous novels, these two seem like complete opposites, so watching Torres and Nell fall in the love is sure going to be fun!

Release Date: May 12, 2015
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks

First person in her family to go to college? CHECK.
Straight A’s? CHECK.
On track to graduate early? CHECK.
Social life? …..yeah, about that….

With just a few weeks until she graduates, Antonella DeLuca’s beginning to worry that maybe she hasn’t had the full college experience. (Okay... Scratch that. She knows she hasn't had the full college experience).

So Nell does what a smart, dedicated girl like herself does best. She makes a "to do" list of normal college activities.

Item #1? Hook up with a jock.

Rusk University wide receiver Mateo Torres practically wrote the playbook for normal college living. When he’s not on the field, he excels at partying, girls, and more partying. As long as he keeps things light and easy, it's impossible to get hurt... again. But something about the quiet, shy, sexy-as-hell Nell gets under his skin, and when he learns about her list, he makes it his mission to help her complete it.

Torres is the definition of confident (And sexy. And wild), and he opens up a side of Nell that she's never known. But as they begin to check off each crazy, exciting, normal item, Nell finds that her frivolous list leads to something more serious than she bargained for. And while Torres is used to taking risks on the field, he has to decide if he's willing to take the chance when it's more than just a game.

Together they will have to decide if what they have is just part of the experiment or a chance at something real.

About Cora Carmack:
Cora Carmack is a twenty-something writer who likes to write about twenty-something characters. She's done a multitude of things in her life-- boring jobs (like working retail), Fun jobs (like working in a theatre), stressful jobs (like teaching), and dream jobs (like writing). She enjoys placing her characters in the most awkward situations possible, and then trying to help them get a boyfriend out of it. Awkward people need love, too. Her first book, LOSING IT, was a New York Times and USA Today bestseller.   Image Map
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