ARC Review | Rex by Rita Stradling

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

28597378Rex by Rita Stradling
Release date: October 11th, 2016
Publisher: Rita Stradling
Genre: Young adult, fantasy
Format: eBook
Source: NetGalley

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Goodreads Amazon

In seventeen year old Dakota Kekoa’s line of work, a job can go bad in a split second.

And when a job goes bad, people die.

Suspended from working as a tax collector in her draconic family’s protection racket, Dakota is assigned a secret mission from her grandfather. A foreign queen has offered a grave insult to Dakota’s grandfather by running a vampire dinner cruise off the coast of the Mabiian Islands, and his retribution must be swift.

Yet, when Dakota infiltrates the ship ‘Crimson Sunset’, nothing is at it seems. In a split second, not only is Dakota in deathly peril, all of New Anglo is on the road to war.

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* Click the link to read my review of Henchgirlthe first novel in the Dakota Keko series.

I loved Henchgirl! I was beside myself waiting for the release of Rex. It appeared on NetGalley and I HAD TO HAVE IT! But, with any highly anticipated follow-up, I was worried that it wouldn’t be as good as or better than its predecessor. There’s nothing worse than getting super excited about a book and then being let down. I know because it’s happened a few times this year. Thankfully, Rex more than lived up to expectations. If you haven’t read the first book in the series, than seriously DO IT NOW!

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  • Dakota was one of the reasons why I enjoyed Henchgirl so much. She’s a complicated character – sensitive, caring, tough, indecisive – there’s just so much going on with her and it makes for a compelling read. So much of Dakota’s life has been dictated by her family and societal rules. She’s been trapped in a marriage contact with a powerful king, Wyvern, and used as a bartering tool for family gain. A lot of the story was her trying to figure out what she wanted. I spent the whole book either cheering her on or shaking my head. Yeah, she doesn’t always make good decisions, but I don’t love her any less.
  • Talking about characters, I’m so happy that the author introduced Dakota’s great-grandfather to the series. He had been mentioned in passing in the first book, but here he’s cheeky and supportive, something Dakota was desperately missing in her life. And he’s a super powerful dragon, which is pretty darn awesome. I really hope that he appears in the next book.
  • The world building again is done extremely well. It’s quite unique, a mixture of dragons, humans, vampires and were-creatures with magical kingdoms and a Hawaii-like setting. Which when I write it down sounds a bit crazy and at first I thought so, but it all works together and even more importantly is totally believable. In Rex, a lot of the magic and inter-kingdom politics is further explored, which was great because I was left with a lot of questions after reading Henchgirl.
  • The book operates a such a fast pace that I felt like I was flying through it. It opens with a few emails between the main characters, which was a bit slow. It had me worried for a few pages, but as soon as the actual story got going it was non-stop.

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  • I HATE LOVE TRIANGLES! They are unnecessary and completely overused. Period. If it wasn’t for the love triangle in this book I would have totally rated it five stars. I don’t understand why it was necessary. Wyvern made a lot of progress as a character in the story. A lot more about his past was revealed and he moved away from the controlling behaviour he demonstrated in Henchgirl. Wyervn was willing to listen, rely on Dakota and learn from his mistakes. The author didn’t need to insert a new male character to move the relationship along. Nor was a love triangle needed to create anymore excitement or drama to the story. There was plenty of that without it. Oh, and the ending? Without giving anything away, it infuriated me! Gah!

The third book in the series, Princep, is set to be released in 2017! The cover artwork is perfect! Dark and super moody. I just need a synopsis or even a teaser. *sighs* Let the waiting and constant Goodreads checking begin!

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Review | The Last Cherry Blossom by Kathleen Burkinshaw

I received this book for free from the publisher, Sky Pony Press, in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

25898828The Last Cherry Blossom by Kathleen Burkinshaw
Release date: August 2nd, 2016
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Genre: Middle grade, historical fiction
Format: Hardcover
Source: Sky Pony Press

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Goodreads | Amazon

Yuriko was happy growing up in Hiroshima when it was just her and Papa. But her aunt Kimiko and her cousin Genji are living with them now, and the family is only getting bigger with talk of a double marriage! And while things are changing at home, the world beyond their doors is even more unpredictable. World War II is coming to an end, and Japan’s fate is not entirely clear, with any battle losses being hidden fom its people. Yuriko is used to the sirens and the air-raid drills, but things start to feel more real when the neighbors who have left to fight stop coming home. When the bomb hits Hiroshima, it’s through Yuriko’s twelve-year-old eyes that we witness the devastation and horror.

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This book was beautiful and devastating and heartbreaking…it made me feel so many emotions all at once. Earlier this year I visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial in Japan and alongside my 9th grade students learned about the atomic bomb that destroyed the city and killed so many of its people during the Second World War. We were fortunate enough to speak with a survivor. For many of my students all of this was new information. Their knowledge of the atomic bomb was limited and their understanding of the Japanese point of view even more so. Some of them had read Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes in elementary school, but didn’t really make the connection to just how devastating or world changing the bomb had been. That is why books like The Last Cherry Blossom are extremely important.

When Sky Pony Press asked if I would like to review this book, I was automatically intrigued. It’s advertised as a piece of historical fiction, but it is inspired by the author’s mother, a survivor of the bomb. Prior to writing the novel, the author had spoken widely to students about the bombing of Hiroshima, and her ability to instruct and connect with young people is quite evident in the story.

The Last Cherry Blossom begins a year before the bombing. I appreciated this because it allows the reader to connect with the characters. So much of what has been published in the past has not been from the Japanese point of view. Here, the reader is shown just how similar they were to their American counterparts. The main character, Yuriko, attends school, struggles with her assignments, gossips about boys and listens to jazz records with her best friend. These normal day-to-day activities take place with fear and destruction in the back of their minds. War and loss is all around them. Soldiers are increasingly not returning from the war. The US had firebombed Tokyo and took the island of Okinawa. It was heartbreaking to read how much Yuriko and her family had tried to hang onto their way of life and live as normally as possible.

While reading you know that the atomic bomb is going to destroy Yuriko’s life, but it was extremely difficult to read. It’s easy to love and care deeply about Yuriko, her family and best friend. Her narration is honest and full of childhood discovery. Seeing the fallout of the atomic bomb through her eyes made my heartache. What I found important was that this book discusses life after the bomb. The lack of supplies and shelter, the illnesses and emotional impact. Books that I have previously read haven’t discussed these topics and I found it extremely important.

My sole issue with the book was how it over explained things such as Japanese words and historical events. I totally understand why the author did it. The book is aimed at a middle grade audience who have probably not been exposed to Japanese words, history or culture before. However, for me, it was repetitive and unnecessary. Some conversations read as awkward or unrealistic, especially between two friends who had known each other for years.

I have placed my copy of The Last Cherry Blossom in my classroom library. It truly is a story that all young people should read. The dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki should never be forgotten and this book helps keep the memory of the people affected alive in the hearts of those in the present.

Waiting on Wednesday

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Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event that is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine and spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

286456391This week I’m looking forward to Secrets in the Snow by Michaela MacColl. I’m a HUGE Jane Austen fan. Anything related to the author and her books and I’m totally there. Add a murder mystery and I just have to have this book! It’s set to be released on October 4th by Chronicle Books.

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Jane Austen’s family is eager to secure her future by marrying her off. But Jane is much more interested in writing her novels, and finds every suitor lacking—until the mysterious Mr. Lefroy arrives. Could he be the one? Before Jane can find out, she must solve a murder, clear her family’s name, and face a decision that might cost her true love.

Top Ten Tuesday

Untitled.001Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. The topic this week is: Top Ten Books on My Fall TBR. As you may have noticed, this month I didn’t post a TBR list. I have a bunch of books to read for review and am mixing in some books I’ve bought but haven’t read yet in when I can. It’s really right now get the review done and then read what I want depending on my mood. But with that said, here are some books that I’m looking forward to reading this fall.
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1. Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo: Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and left crippled by the kidnapping of a valuable team member, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz’s cunning and test the team’s fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city’s dark and twisting streets―a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of magic in the Grisha world.

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2. The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon: Subhi is a refugee. Born in an Australian permanent detention center after his mother and sister fled the violence of a distant homeland, Subhi has only ever known life behind the fences. But his world is far bigger than that—every night, the magical Night Sea from his mother’s stories brings him gifts, the faraway whales sing to him, and the birds tell their stories. And as he grows, his imagination threatens to burst beyond the limits of his containment.

The most vivid story of all, however, is the one that arrives one night in the form of Jimmie—a scruffy, impatient girl who appears on the other side of the wire fence and brings with her a notebook written by the mother she lost. Unable to read it herself, she relies on Subhi to unravel her family’s love songs and tragedies.

Subhi and Jimmie might both find comfort—and maybe even freedom—as their tales unfold. But not until each has been braver than ever before.

302583203. Gilded Cage by Vic James:

NOT ALL ARE FREE.
NOT ALL ARE EQUAL.
NOT ALL WILL BE SAVED.

Our world belongs to the Equals—aristocrats with magical gifts—and all commoners must serve them for ten years. But behind the gates of England’s grandest estate lies a power that could break the world.

A girl thirsts for love and knowledge.

Abi is a servant to England’s most powerful family, but her spirit is free. So when she falls for one of the noble-born sons, Abi faces a terrible choice. Uncovering the family’s secrets might win her liberty, but will her heart pay the price?

A boy dreams of revolution.

Abi’s brother, Luke, is enslaved in a brutal factory town. Far from his family and cruelly oppressed, he makes friends whose ideals could cost him everything. Now Luke has discovered there may be a power even greater than magic: revolution.

And an aristocrat will remake the world with his dark gifts.

He is a shadow in the glittering world of the Equals, with mysterious powers no one else understands. But will he liberate—or destroy?

300630294. The Sky Between You and Me by Catherine Alene: 

Lighter. Leaner. Faster.

Raesha will do whatever it takes to win Nationals. For her, competing isn’t just about the speed of her horse or the thrill of the win. It’s about honoring her mother’s memory and holding on to a dream they once shared.

Lighter. Leaner. Faster.

For an athlete. Every second counts. Raesha knows minus five on the scale will let her sit deeper in the saddle, make her horse lighter on her feet. And lighter, leaner, faster gives her the edge she needs over the new girl on the team, a girl who keeps flirting with Raesha’s boyfriend and making plans with her best friend.

So Raesha focuses on minus five. But if she isn’t careful, she will lose more than just the people she loves. She will lose herself to Lighter. Leaner. Faster.

300954645. The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco: When Tea accidentally resurrects her brother from the dead, she learns she is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy means that she’s a bone witch, a title that makes her feared and ostracized by her community. But Tea finds solace and guidance with an older, wiser bone witch, who takes Tea and her brother to another land for training.

In her new home, Tea puts all her energy into becoming an asha — one who can wield elemental magic. But dark forces are approaching quickly, and in the face of danger, Tea will have to overcome her obstacles…and make a powerful choice. Continue reading

Review | Sula’s Voyage by Catherine Torres

I received this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Scholastic Sulas Voyage Cover-FSula’s Voyage by Catherine Torres
Release date: May 2016
Publisher: Scholastic
Genre: Young adult, contemporary, fantasy
Format: Paperback
Source: The Author

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Goodreads | Official Website

Fifteen-year-old Sula has always known she is different. Even though her parents have shown her nothing but love and acceptance, she sees her dark skin as a reminder of how she doesn’t fit in with the rest of her family.

What’s worse is she also feels that her parents are hiding something from her. After getting expelled from school, Sula reluctantly goes to stay with her mother’s friends. There she unexpectedly finds herself on a journey of self-discovery — a journey that keeps drawing her to the sea. Sula must not only figure our her parents’ secret, but also just how different, and possibly magical, she really is.

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I discovered this book while clicking around on Goodreads. I was bored and trying to make the minutes fly by so I could leave work. As soon as I saw the cover I was hooked. The bright, bold colours and the whimsical drawing of a girl sinking into an ocean full of sea creatures and plants stood out. I added it to my TBR and thought nothing more of it. Then I received an email from Catherine Torres, the author, who agreed to send me a copy as it is only available in Asia. Let’s just say I was very excited and even more so when it actually arrived in the mail a few weeks later.

Sula’s Voyage is a story about family, friendships and self-discovery. The book is about Sula, a teenager who has always felt like she never belonged. Sala was born out at sea; she has dark skin while her parents are fair skinned. This results in her being bullied by other children in school until she’s expelled. Without a purpose and essentially drifting, she attends her father’s university lectures where she meets James. Finally life for Sula appears perfect until her father accepts a research position in the Caribbean and her mother forces her to visit an old family friend. Away from home and James, Sula is forced to contemplate and question her purpose in life.

From the cover and the synopsis I was totally expecting something much different than what the story was actually about, but I’m not complaining at all! I fully believed that it would feature more magic or fantasy elements. Instead, magic is a very small element of the book. That said, the novel is magical in many other ways. The author’s writing style is straight to the point and very honest, which just sucks you in. After the first few chapters I was fully engrossed in Sula’s world. After just finishing a book I loved to pieces and setting aside another I disliked, Sula’s Voyage was just what I needed to cure a major book hangover.

A major reason why I adored this book was Sula. She was a likeable main character but not perfect in any sense of the word. Years of bullying have taken their toll on her. She’s unable to fully open up to others and is very self conscious. However, she’s also very inquisitive, strong and independent. She developed so much throughout the story and I couldn’t help but cheer her on, even though on that journey she sometimes made me very angry. I’m glad that her relationship with James wasn’t the main focus on the story. Instead, it was very much about Sula realizing truths about herself and not needing her love interest to help her along.

My only issue with the book was the hint of a love triangle, which struck me as completely unnecessary. It read as out of place and not fitting with the rest of what was going on. I won’t name the character (because spoilers are no fun), but a close friendship would have been more realistic. What I do want to point out was that this was such a small element of the book. So, while I didn’t like it, it didn’t take away from my overall enjoyment of the novel, hence the five heart rating.

Prior to reading the book, I knew very little about the Philippines. Reading Sula’s Voyage set me on my own journey into Filipino culture and tradition. I loved learning about this beautiful country and the people who inhabit it. A lot of new information and vocabulary was used throughout the story, but thankfully readers are aided by a helpful glossary at the back of the book. However, I didn’t discover it until I was done reading (I never, ever flip to the back of the book because I don’t want to spoil the story). Then again, it wasn’t needed because the author explains new words without slowing down the story or making the conversations read as awkward. Also, part of being immersed in a new culture is the food and food is a much discussed topic in the story! All of the descriptions made my mouth water. It all sounded delicious! I’m so disappointed that I can’t find a Filipino restaurant where I live.

I now completely understand why this book was an Asian Book Award finalist and look forward to reading the author’s other novel, Mariposa Gang and Other Stories. I loved the blend of real world issues and magic. If you do come across Sula’s Voyage be sure to pick it up! ❤

Bookish Bingo: Fall Edition!

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Yay!! Bekka from Pretty Deadly Reviews is hosting a fall round of Bookish Bingo throughout September, October and November. I love doing this because it pushes me to read a variety of books and I really want to get more than 2 bingos this time!

So, the point of Bookish Bingo is to get as many bingos as possible. The more bingos, the more giveaway entries. All types of books (fiction, non-fiction, novellas) count, but you can only have one square per book. Also, for a book to count, it must have been read between September 1st and November 30th.

If you would also like to participate, head over to Pretty Deadly Reviews and leave a comment on the Bookish Bingo post.

My Progress:

  • Dragons: Rex by Rita Stradling was the first book I finished this month! Woohoo! I got really excited to see this category because if you want dragons, this book has tons of them!
  • Retelling: Spindle by Shonna Slayton had been on my must-read list for a while and getting approved on NetGalley made me very happy. It’s a retelling or you could even say extension of the Sleeping Beauty fairytale.
  • Weapon on Cover: I was seriously beyond excited when an ARC of Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco arrived in the mail! I’ve had my eye on the book for a while and have a strange obsession with the Whitechapel murders. The book cover features the main character, Audrey Rose, holding a knife.
  • Standalone: For this I read The Universe of Us by Lang Leav. She’s my favourite poet and this book did not disappoint.
  • Purple Cover: I branched out and tried something new with Forget Me Always by Sara Wolf. It was…well not my cup of tea. I tried though!
  • Animal on Cover: The cover of Sula’s Voyage by Catherine Torres features a young girl sinking in an ocean and surrounded by very adorable drawings of turtles, tiny fish and sharks.

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Review | Forget Tomorrow by Pintip Dunn

24804505Forget Tomorrow by Pintip Dunn
Release date: November 3rd, 2015
Publisher: Entangled: Teen
Genre: Young adult, sci-fi
Format: eBook
Source: Amazon

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Goodreads | Amazon

Imagine a world where your destiny has already been decided…by your future self.

It’s Callie’s seventeenth birthday and, like everyone else, she’s eagerly awaiting her vision―a memory sent back in time to sculpt each citizen into the person they’re meant to be. A world-class swimmer. A renowned scientist.

Or in Callie’s case, a criminal.

In her vision, she sees herself murdering her gifted younger sister. Before she can process what it means, Callie is arrested and placed in Limbo―a prison for those destined to break the law. With the help of her childhood crush, Logan, a boy she hasn’t spoken to in five years, she escapes the hellish prison.

But on the run from her future, as well as the government, Callie sets in motion a chain of events that she hopes will change her fate. If not, she must figure out how to protect her sister from the biggest threat of all.

Callie herself.

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How had I not heard of this book before?! I’m seriously disappointed in my past self because it was fantastic! I picked up Forget Tomorrow because I received a review copy of its sequel, Remember Yesterday, from the publisher. Instead of reading the second book first, struggling through it and being all kinds of confused, I decided to do it the right way and read the first book in the series.

Ok…where to start? Forget Tomorrow was a perfect mixture of relatable protagonist, mystery, action and adorable romance. It was fast paced with never a dull moment. So, by the end of the first chapter I was hooked! I read the book in a day, which is pretty crazy for me because it was over 300 pages long! I’m a slower reader but I just couldn’t put it down.

Part of the reason why I enjoyed this book so much was its interesting premise. The story is set in a futuristic dystopian society where people’s lives are dictated by their future memory. This is a scene sent to them on their seventeenth birthday that helps guide them for the rest of their lives. However, for some people, this future memory could be of them committing a crime. Instead of waiting for the crime to happen or allowing the individual to try to change their future, the government places them in detention. The story’s lead character, Callie, receives a horrifying future memory in which she murders her own sister.

Callie was a great main character. She had so much hope for the future and her future memory shattered her world. It was heartbreaking to see how one image could change someone forever. I totally understood her love and willingness to do anything to keep her sister safe. That kind of selflessness endeared her to me. Callie had to face a lot of hard decisions. I especially like how she fought a war within herself. Do we have free will or is the future already planned out for us? The budding romance between Callie and Logan was super cute! I loved these two together. And I appreciated how the author didn’t include instalove or a love triangle…two tropes way overdone in a lot of YA. The romance here has been built up over time. Their backstory and friendship make it believable and totally swoon worthy.

The ending floored me! It was completely shocking, especially since I didn’t see it coming. I though I had everything figured out and boom! I’m honestly still reeling. I have no idea where the story is going to go. Luckily for me, I don’t have to wait long before I find out what happens next.