the-glittering-courtHello everyone! Sorry for the long hiatus. I got into a reading slump once summer started and thus did not read that many books. Don’t worry though because I am back with more reviews! To kick off, let’s start with a Young Adult title by Richelle Mead, namely The Glittering Court.

The Glittering Court
Author: Richelle Mead
Publisher: Penguin Random House Canada
Release Date: April 5, 2016
No. of Pages: Hardcover, 400 pages

Synopsis and Review:

Richelle Mead, known for her Vampire Academy series, is back with the writing scene but this time the book is not that heavy on fantasy. The Glittering Court follows countess Adelaide as she escapes an arranged marriage by posing as her servant and joining the Glittering Court, which is a programme that gives impoverished girls new lives.

The first part of the book, which illustrates Adelaide’s time at the Glittering Court institute pretending to be incompetent, is really captivating. I really enjoyed reading Adelaide befriends the other girls while trying to keep her identity secret; especially when she actually excels at things that only ladies should have the knowledge of while not knowing how to do tasks that any servant should be capable of, such of sewing and cooking. This idea is really intriguing and I certainly applaud Richelle for thinking of it. Richelle Mead definitely excels at writing about the characters’ lives at schools because I also enjoyed reading about Rose’s time at the Vampire Academy.

Unfortunately the same could not be said about the second part of the story. The plot after Adelaide has completed her education at the Glittering Court pales significantly. I was definitely expecting her to become a kick-ass assassin of some sort but instead Richelle Mead writes about the domestic life of Adelaide, which is rather dull. The book has so much potential that turning this direction is quite wasted.

On another note, what’s up with the book cover?! I really wish Richelle Mead’s team can stop with this trend of having faces on her books because they now look like those bad romance novels you can found sitting on Target’s shelves. Packed with action and adventure, her books are so much more than just romance! People often say that we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but you know we all do. The book cover matters to the readers nearly as much as the plot per se.

Overall, this is a slight disappointment compared to her brilliant Vampire Academy series. There is not much action nor fantasy in this novel when we know Richelle Mead is capable of doing so. You can click here to read the first 11 chapters of The Glittering Court online.

Disclaimer: ARC provided by Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for honest review. All opinions are my own.

Rebel of the SandsRebel of the Sands
Author: Alwyn Hamilton
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Release Date: March 8th, 2016
No of Pages: Hardcover, 314 pages

Goodreads page

Synopsis and Review:

Rebel of the Sands follows rebellious Amani as her plan to leave her home behind suddenly kicks to action when she meets a mysterious foreigner Jin at a shooting game. And as she begins to learn more about the foreigner, she finds herself tangled up in a mess that is way bigger than her original plan to escape.

The plot of Rebel of the Sands is definitely the best element throughout the novel. Sometimes when the protagonist has planned everything ahead, there are still many surprises along the road. However, the protagonist Amani doesn’t even have a solid plan to begin with but instead just goes with the flow. As a result, one can only imagine how unpredictable the plot is.

Regarding the political aspect of the novel, it unfortunately doesn’t shine through. The politics aren’t actually that complicated as it is basically just three parties battling out, with the occasional allying and treachery sprinkled through. And when these things happen in the book, the author did not seize the opportunity to flesh them out fully, which is a waste. However, I can see that things are just taking shape and thus maybe Alwyn Hamilton doesn’t have enough space to explore so many things.

Overall, this is truly a wonderful start to a trilogy. While Alwyn Hamilton definitely needs to take the political aspect up a notch, the setting and the historical background are well built enough for more story development. I am excited to see what Alwyn Hamilton has up her sleeves. With the foundation well laid, I am sure that readers have a lot to look forward to in the next installment.

Disclaimer: ARC provided by Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for honest review. All opinions are my own.

 

25614492Salt to the Sea

Author: Ruta Sepetys
Publisher: Philomel Books
Release Date: February 2nd, 2016
No of Pages: Hardcover, 391 pages

Synopsis and Review:

Salt of the Sea is Ruta Sepetys’ latest young adult historical fiction. Based on the real event of the sinkage of Wilhelm Gustloff during World War II, it focuses on four characters who find themselves wrapped in this tragedy that has not been reported in the media but is no less horrifying. This novel follows four teenagers as they venture across the lands trying to land themselves into the cruise ship, thinking that they would be safe.

 

Having never really studied World History, I do not know every single detail in World War II. However, I can guarantee you that even those who have taken AP World History would not know much about the tragedy of Wilhelm Gustloff. Using this as the setting is so clever and obviously well thought out beforehand. By basing her story on this event, Ruta Sepetys successfully made sure that it is refreshing for readers while keeping readers in the loop regarding the basic background details.

 

In terms of the characters, I really enjoy that Ruta Sepetys chose four characters who cannot have a more divergent background. While they are all teenagers, their differing nationalities and ethnicities certainly make up for the lack of age-diversity. As World War II, or rather, all wars, happened because of conflicts between different groups of people. Her mix of characters is a perfect combination to evoke emotions in readers as she shows that in the times of war, there is no clear cut line between good and evil.

 

Salt to the Sea certainly won’t be this hard-hitting if not for the incredible amount of research done beforehand. Watch Ruta’s video on her heart-warming journey to writing this book here. I haven’t read Ruta Sepatis’ other bestseller, Between Shades of Gray, yet but I certainly intend to do so in the near future. Historical fictions based on lesser known real events cannot be more appealing.

Disclaimer: Review copy provided by Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for honest review. All opinions are my own.

 

Magnus ChaseMagnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Sword of Summer

Author: Rick Riordan

Publisher: Disney Hyperion

Release Date: October 6th, 2015

No. of Pages: Hardcover, 499 pages

 

Synopsis and Review:

Magnus Chase is a new series by Rick Riordan, best-selling author of the hit series Percy Jackson. While Percy Jackson revolves around ancient Greek gods and eventually ancient Roman gods, and Rick Riordan’s another trilogy Kane Chronicles focuses on ancient Egyptian gods, the newest series is based on Norse mythology. The trilogy follows a demigod named Magnus Chase as he ventures into the newly discovered world for a quest he has never asked for or even dreamed of.

I really appreciate the fact that Magnus Chase is the cousin of Annabeth Chase, the female lead in Percy Jackson, instead of just a random guy. It helps link the two series together and thus gives a smooth transition for the older audience (ie yours sincerely) to the new series. A lot of readers who love Percy Jackson are currently in college already or might have even graduated and thus would probably feel too old to read a middle grade book. As a result, this linkage is a really nice touch as it gives a reason for us to dive into the newest series.

Moreover, I also love that Magnus Chase is based on Norse mythology which is slowly gaining its popularity in Hollywood. I have never watched any Thor movies but still wish to know more about the stories. This might just be the perfect way for a bookworm to discover the Norse mythology. While this first book didn’t clarify everything for me, I still love that I learned something new.

However, these two reasons are still not enough for me to be fully onboard with Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Sword of Summer. While I loved every single joke in the Percy Jackson series as each of them comes off hilarious, the jokes in the latest book are not so much. I found them to appear too frequently and quite a number of them are cringe-worthy. The whole vibe that the book gives off is that Rick Riordan knows that his Percy Jackson series is famous for its jokes and hilarious tone and he tries to force it into the new book.

Overall, I am still excited to continue on with this series. Whether or not I am too old for middle grade fiction, I feel like I will never be too old for Rick Riordan’s works. I cannot wait to see how the following two books will teach us more about the gods and whatnot in this world.

Disclaimer: Review copy provided by Disney Hyperion in exchange for honest review. All opinions are my own.

 

26245098Every Exquisite Thing

Author: Matthew Quick

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Release Date: May 31, 2016

No. of Pages: Hardcover, 272 pages

Synopsis and Review:

Every Exquisite Thing follows all-rounded achiever Nanette O’Hare who has always been a respectful daughter and a brilliant student. When her favorite teacher gifts her an out-of-print classic called The Bubblegum Reaper, she begins to realize how truly unhappy she is about life. Unsatisfied by the company of her sex-crazed high school friends and her well-planned life, she seeks refuge with the author of her new favorite book and a troubled poet.

This is my first Matthew Quick title and reading Every Exquisite Thing leaves me wanting to read most, if not all, his other titles immediately. His writing style is exquisite and he manages to capture the emotions of troubled teens precisely. Although books about misfits are common enough, I somehow relate to Nanette O’Hare much more than to other misfits. Perhaps this is because Matthew Quick has created a character that is actually, for lack of a better word, “normal” – outgoing, hardworking and middle to high income family. It is only because she doesn’t follow the society norm that makes her considered a weirdo.

It is beyond amazing to read her whole journey in the story, from her slow realization that she doesn’t actually like doing the things that she is talented at, to her newfound hope when she becomes friends with the author and a poet. Love, hope, heartbreak, lost, and more emotions are all twisted and weaved together in this novel.

Perhaps Every Exquisite Thing is the true The Bubblegum Reaper, the one book that will resonate your pain of feeling that you don’t fit in anywhere. It is so beautifully written and heart-wrenching at the same time. How impactful this book is to you depends on how much you relate to the characters on a personal level and thus no review will do it justice.

A definite must-read.

Disclaimer: Advanced Readers’ Copy provided by Hachette Book Canada in exchange for honest review. All opinions are my own.