Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday - The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler

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

Release Date: June 2, 2015
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Summary (from Simon & Schuster Canada):
From the bestselling author of Twenty Boy Summer, a talented singer loses her ability to speak after a tragic accident, leading her to a postcard-perfect seaside town to find romance.

The youngest of six talented sisters, Elyse d’Abreau was destined for stardom—until a boating accident took everything from her. Now, the most beautiful singer in Tobago can’t sing. She can’t even speak.

Seeking quiet solitude, Elyse accepts a friend’s invitation to Atargatis Cove. Named for the mythical first mermaid, the Oregon seaside town is everything Elyse’s home in the Caribbean isn’t: an ocean too cold for swimming, parties too tame for singing, and people too polite to pry—except for one.

Christian Kane is a notorious playboy—insolent, arrogant, and completely charming. He’s also the only person in Atargatis Cove who doesn’t treat Elyse like a glass statue. He challenges her to express herself, and he admires the way she treats his younger brother, Sebastian, who believes Elyse is the legendary mermaid come to life.

When Christian needs a first mate for the Cove’s high-stakes Pirate Regatta, Elyse reluctantly stows her fear of the sea and climbs aboard. The ocean isn’t the only thing making waves, though—swept up in Christian’s seductive tide and entranced by the Cove’s charms, Elyse begins to wonder if a life of solitude isn’t what she needs. But changing course again means facing her past. It means finding her inner voice. And scariest of all, it means opening her heart to a boy who’s best known for breaking them…

As we continue to have an endless, frigidly cold winter, I keep thinking about all the books to expect this summer! Sarah Ockler's The Summer of Chasing Mermaids sounds like the perfect YA contemporary romance novel to read on a beach during a bright, sunny day. Even better? I LOVE that Sarah Ockler's new book is inspired by The Little Mermaid! I can't wait to meet Elyse and Christian in The Summer of Chasing Mermaids.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Frostfire by Amanda Hocking

Title: Frostfire (Kanin Chronicles #1)
Author: Amanda Hocking
Release Date: January 6, 2015
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pages: 336
Source: ARC provided by publisher

Overall: 3.5 Stars

Hidden deep in the heart of a snow-covered wilderness lies the secret kingdom of the Kanin—a magical realm as beautiful as it is treacherous…

Bryn Aven has never fit into Kanin society. Her blond hair and blue eyes set her apart as an outsider—a half-blood unable to hold a respectable rank. But she’s determined to prove herself as a loyal protector of the kingdom she loves. Her dream is to become a member of the King’s elite guard, and she’s not going to let anything stand in her way…not even her growing feelings for her boss, Ridley Dresden. A relationship between them is strictly forbidden, but Bryn can’t fight her attraction to him. And she’s beginning to think he feels it too. 

Meanwhile, there’s an attack on the kingdom—one that will test Bryn’s strength like never before. Finally, she has the chance to confront Konstantin Black, the traitor who tried to kill her father years ago. It’s up to Bryn to put a stop to him before he strikes again. But is she willing to risk everything to protect a kingdom that doesn’t accept her for who she really is? And when her mission brings her closer to Ridley, will she be able to deny her heart? 

My Thoughts: 
Amanda Hocking returns to the world of Trylle with Frostfire, the first novel in her brand new Kanin Chronicles series. With her blonde hair and blue eyes revealing her half-blood heritage, Bryn Aven is an outcast among the Kanin, the most powerful of the troll tribes. She's trained hard for years to become a tracker, but her ultimate dream is to one day join the ranks of the Högdragen, the highly respected elite guard of the King. When Bryn's latest assignment to retrieve a changeling goes awry, she has a confrontation with Konstantin, a man she once adored as a hero until he tried to kill her father several years ago. Now Bryn feels torn; Konstantin's motives are unclear, but she has vowed to protect her kingdom... 

While I do admire Bryn's determination to become a member of the Högdragen, at the same time, I don't quite understand why she wants to put her life on the line for snobbish people who will never accept her. I wanted Bryn to secretly rebel a little, or acknowledge the bitterness she must surely have felt while growing up in such a class-obsessed society, but she didn't really explore those feelings. Bryn is so hard on herself, and very focused on her career, but I'm not really sure if her efforts in achieving her goal will finally give her that feeling of respect and worthiness she desires. It's definitely something I hope Amanda Hocking expands on in the future novels.

The only reason I didn't fall in love with Frostfire as much as I'd hoped is because I'm not convinced yet that the book offers anything new as a spin-off to the very successful Trylle Trilogy. At the heart of Frostfire is an awareness of the problems associated with class elitism and clinging onto old traditions in the face of modern times. However, this was already a central theme in the Trylle Trilogy; Wendy tried to advocate social changes with her powerful position as a member of the royal family in the Trylle tribe.

My main concern with the Kanin Chronicles is that although Bryn is positioned at the other end of the spectrum—she's an outcast and a commoner—a change in perspective will not be enough to excite me, especially if the class issues are repeated all over again. If you haven't read the Trylle Trilogy, you won't notice the repetition because everything about this world of trolls will seem fresh and intriguing, but if you have read them, then you might be left yearning for more. Concerns aside, I did feel Frostfire is a good introductory novel to the Kanin Chronicles and the fast-paced style of writing helped me read it quickly in one sitting. I'm definitely interested in learning what will happen next to Bryn in Ice Kissed, especially after the rather abrupt ending!

Thanks so much to Raincoast Books for providing this review copy!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday - We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen

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

 Release Date: May 12, 2015
Publisher: Tundra Books

Summary (from Penguin Random House Canada): 
Award-winning author Susin Nielsen has created two narrators who will steal your heart and make you laugh out loud.

Thirteen-year-old Stewart is academically brilliant but socially clueless.
Fourteen-year-old Ashley is the undisputed “It” girl in her class, but her grades stink.

Their worlds are about to collide when Stewart and his dad move in with Ashley and her mom. Stewart is trying to be 89.9 percent happy about it, but Ashley is 110 percent horrified. She already has to hide the real reason her dad moved out; “Spewart” could further threaten her position at the top of the social ladder.

They are complete opposites. And yet, they have one thing in common: they—like everyone else—are made of molecules.

I absolutely can't wait to read Susin Nielsen's latest novel We Are All Made of Molecules! Nielsen's novels are always so poignant, yet refreshingly humorous. There is a universal appeal to her books that readers of all ages can enjoy and appreciate, not just a middle grade audience that her books tend to be marketed towards. Susin Nielsen's We Are All Made of Molecules sounds like another brilliant, heartfelt novel that will give me all the feels.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Akarnae by Lynette Noni

Title: Akarnae (The Medoran Chronicles #1)
Author: Lynette Noni
Release Date: February 1, 2015
Publisher: Pantera Press
Pages: 397
Source: Copy provided by publisher

Overall: 4 Stars

With just one step, sixteen-year-old Alexandra Jennings's world changes—literally.

Dreading her first day at a new school, Alex is stunned when she walks through a doorway and finds herself stranded in Medora, a fantasy world full of impossibilities. Desperate to return home, she learns that only a man named Professor Marselle can help her... but he's missing.

While waiting for him to reappear, Alex attends Akarnae Academy, Medora's boarding school for teenagers with extraordinary gifts. She soon starts to enjoy her bizarre new world and the friends who embrace her as one of their own, but strange things are happening at Akarnae, and Alex can't ignore her fear that something unexpected... something sinister... is looming.

An unwilling pawn in a deadly game, Alex's shoulders bear the crushing weight of an entire race's survival. Only she can save the Medorans, but what if doing so prevents her from ever returning home?

Will Alex risk her entire world—and maybe even her life—to save Medora? 

My Thoughts: 
When her parents's latest archaelogical project sends them off to the Siberian wilderness, Alexandra Jennings is sent off to boarding school in Oregon instead of joining them. Dreading the upcoming months with no friends or parents to contact, Alex is shocked when she walks through the doorway of her new headmaster's office and literally finds herself in a completely different world. With no hope of returning to Earth, or Freya as the Medorans call it, until the mysterious Professor Marselle returns to Akarnae Academy, Alex has no choice but to accept the new reality of her life.

Keeping her otherworldly origins a secret, Alex soon finds herself pretending to be Akarnae Academy's latest transfer student, a transition pulled off with the help of her new friends Bear and Jordan. The easy-going, comedic pair were quick to befriend Alex at her most vulnerable momentwhen she was still in shock and denial about Medoraand tucked her under their protective wing. Their immediate bond to each other makes it feel as though they've been the best of friends for ages, and I could totally believe it. Bear and Jordan were both just so sweet and good-natured, and their tendency to pull pranks on Alex was absolutely hilarious.

At Akarnae Academy, a school for Medora's most gifted and brightest students, they teach everything from combat to equestrian skills, which definitely puts Alex at a disadvantage. Despite her frustrations and self-doubt though, Alex is more tenacious than she gives herself credit; she's determined to rise to the challenges she faces at Akarnae and enjoy her time in Medora. But when Alex can't help overhearing hushed, whispered conversations amongst her professors, she becomes convinced something dark and sinister is casting a shadow over the school...

I'll be honest, it wasn't until halfway through the book that I found myself truly invested in the storyline. While Akarnae does set a fantastic foundation for the plot and characters to grow and develop later on in the series, it can't help reading like an introduction novel. At times, I was overwhelmed by the information overload while Alex adjusted to her new circumstances, especially in the first few chapters. Once the pacing began to pick up, and I didn't have to read about Alex describing everything as "strange", the writing gets stronger and Akarnae really hits its stride.

Entertaining, magical, and positively delightful, Lynette Noni's Akarnae is a very promising introduction to the Medoran Chronicles. The possibilities are endless for Akarnae, and fantasy fans will surely not want to miss reading this YA debut. Alex's adventures in Medora are just beginning and I can't wait to follow her journey in the sequel! 

Thanks so much to Pantera Press for providing this review copy!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday - Nowhere But Here by Katie McGarry

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

 Release Date: May 26, 2015
Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Summary (from Goodreads): 
An unforgettable new series from acclaimed author Katie McGarry about taking risks, opening your heart and ending up in a place you never imagined possible.

Seventeen-year-old Emily likes her life the way it is: doting parents, good friends, good school in a safe neighborhood. Sure, she's curious about her biological father—the one who chose life in a motorcycle club, the Reign of Terror, over being a parent—but that doesn't mean she wants to be a part of his world. But when a reluctant visit turns to an extended summer vacation among relatives she never knew she had, one thing becomes clear: nothing is what it seems. Not the club, not her secret-keeping father and not Oz, a guy with suck-me-in blue eyes who can help her understand them both.

Oz wants one thing: to join the Reign of Terror. They're the good guys. They protect people. They're…family. And while Emily—the gorgeous and sheltered daughter of the club's most respected member—is in town, he's gonna prove it to her. So when her father asks him to keep her safe from a rival club with a score to settle, Oz knows it's his shot at his dream. What he doesn't count on is that Emily just might turn that dream upside down.

No one wants them to be together. But sometimes the right person is the one you least expect, and the road you fear the most is the one that leads you home.

I have an addiction to reading MC romances, but so far, it's a genre that has mostly only been explored in NA and adult novels with its often darker subject matter. Katie McGarry's Nowhere But Here is probably one of the first YA motorcycle club romances that I've come across since the genre has begun to explode in popularity, and I absolutely can't wait to read it. I want lots of the crazy relationship drama and action that I've come to expect from the adult romances, but in a more YA context this time around. Hopefully, Katie McGarry can pull it off!
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