Thursday, June 21, 2012

Review: Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publishing Date: September 14th, 2010
Genre: Adult Contemporary
Pages: 340 pgs
ISBN: 9780446547598
Source: borrowed from the public library

Rating: 4 stars

Summary from Goodreads:
Love hurts. There is nothing as painful as heartbreak. But in order to learn to love again, you must learn to trust again.

When a mysterious young woman named Katie appears in the small North Carolina town of Southport, her sudden arrival raises questions about her past. Beautiful yet self-effacing, Katie seems determined to avoid forming personal ties until a series of events draws her into two reluctant relationships: one with Alex, a widowed store owner with a kind heart and two young children; and another with her plainspoken single neighbor, Jo. Despite her reservations, Katie slowly begins to let down her guard, putting down roots in the close-knit community and becoming increasingly attached to Alex and his family.

But even as Katie begins to fall in love, she struggles with the dark secret that still haunts and terrifies her . . . a past that set her on a fearful, shattering journey across the country, to the sheltered oasis of Southport. With Jo’s empathic and stubborn support, Katie eventually realizes that she must choose between a life of transient safety and one of riskier rewards . . . and that in the darkest hour, love is the only true safe haven.

My Review:
I think this may be my favourite Nicholas Sparks book yet. It is about a woman named Katie, who moves to a small town in North Carolina. No one really knows much about Katie and she isn't one for giving out too much information. Over time, she begins to warm up to a darling man who is the father of two young children. I don't want to give too much away but it becomes clear that Katie is running away from something back home and that is why she is always so guarded. I found this book to be one of his more suspenseful books and I enjoyed it. I have read some of his other books that are far too romance driven which is good from time to time but I can find them to be too dull. This book had the right mix of romance and suspense. It was also really nice to read the relationship between Alex and his children. He adores his children and he really wants to protect them at all costs. I can't help but melt when I read characters like this. The ending of this book also took me for a loop. I wasn't expecting ending of this book and I wasn't quite sure what to think of it. I knew something was not quite right while I was reading but I didn't think that it would end in such a way. That's not to say that I didn't enjoy it but it surprised me. Overall, I give this book 4 out of 5 stars. It was well written and the plot really kept me interested.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Blog Tour: Spartacus: The Gladiator by Ben Kane

Things have been quite hectic for me with school winding down, as a result I've found it difficult to keep up with blogging.  I did have some obligations for book reviews so I recruited my aunt Kathryn to help me out.  So this book review is done by her and if you enjoy it, I will have her review a few more.  Without further ado, here is the review:

Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publishing Date: June 5th, 2012
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 480 pgs
ISBN: 9781250001160

Source: copy given for an honest review

Summary from Goodreads:
The first of two epic novels which tell the story of one of the most charismatic heroes history has ever known -- Spartacus, the gladiator slave who took on and nearly defeated the might of Rome, during the years 73-71 BC.

In historical terms we know very little about Spartacus the man -- partly because most contemporary Roman historians were keen to obliterate his memory and prevent him from attaining mythic status. This of course is grist to the novelist's mill. Ben Kane's brilliant novel begins in the Thracian village to which Spartacus has returned, after escaping from life as an auxiliary in the Roman army. But here he quickly falls foul of his overlord, the Thracian king, who has set his heart on Dionysian priestess, Ariadne -- later to become wife of Spartacus. Betrayed again to the Romans by his jealous king, Spartacus -- and with him Ariadne -- are taken in captivity to the school of gladiators at Capua. It is here -- against the unbelievable brutality of gladiatorial life -- that Spartacus and Crixus the Gaul plan the audacious overthrow of their Roman masters, escaping to Vesuvius, where they recruit and train a huge slave army -- an army which will keep the might of Rome at bay for two years and create one of the most extraordinary legends in history. Spartacus: The Gladiator takes the story up to the moment when the slave army has inflicted its first great defeat on Rome.

It's not easy to write an exciting book about a character when most people already know how things turn out, so Ben Kane doesn't depend on cliffhangers.  His new novel, Spartacus the Gladiator, grabs you simply because Kane is so uncompromisingly real aobut what happens on the human level when brutal violence is power's casualty, daily instrument.

The plot turns on historical fact and, where facts are lacking, educated surmise. The almost academic clarity and detail of the information on the social organization of the ancient world alternates with shockingling accurate scenes that turn those distant facts into messy, viseral reality: rape, slavery, maiming, extortion, casual murder, and calculated challenges to the death with heavy, sharp weapons.

Don't expect the kind of leavening humour in Spartacus that you'll find in one of Cornwell's Richard Sharpe novels, either.  There's nothing the least humourous in these peoples' problems.  Life at the time of Spartacus was generally nasty, brutish and short.  There were no social safety nets, and few places to hide.

There were warrior codes of nobility and Kane draws on that to a very large degree.  The real Spartacus probably wasn't given much choice about what happened when he was made a slave, or what options were available to him thereafter, and I don't expect he was any less brutal or opportunistic in his thinking than the world he lived in.  He was intelligent, brave, and an exceptional fighter who used guerilla bravado and cunning.  Surely that's enough for any hero.  I'm not certain he also needs to be a tender, patient love, and loyal friend with social conscience, who dreams of peace.  I'm sure that Spartacus was a hell of a man. He certainly gave imperial Rome a run for its money, but it might have helped the novel if Kane had gone for a bit less Hollywood. 

The publishers have been kind enough to offer a giveaway for this novel.  Please enter below and don't forget to leave your e-mail address!  
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, June 18, 2012

Review: How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr

Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Publishing Date: October 8th, 2011
Genre: YA Contemporary
ISBN: 9780316036061
Pages: 341 pgs
Source: borrowed from the local library

Rating: 3.5 stars

Summary from Goodreads:
Jill MacSweeney just wishes everything could go back to normal. But ever since her dad died, she’s been isolating herself from her boyfriend, her best friends—everyone who wants to support her. And when her mom decides to adopt a baby, it feels like she’s somehow trying to replace a lost family member with a new one.

Mandy Kalinowski understands what it’s like to grow up unwanted—to be raised by a mother who never intended to have a child. So when Mandy becomes pregnant, one thing she’s sure of is that she wants a better life for her baby. It’s harder to be sure of herself. Will she ever find someone to care for her, too?

As their worlds change around them, Jill and Mandy must learn to both let go and hold on, and that nothing is as easy—or as difficult—as it seems.

My Review: 
For some reason the first time I picked this book up I just couldn't get into it. I was kind of going through a bit of YA overload at the time. I ended up putting the book down for about a week or two and I was even going to bring it back to the library without completing it. I drove to my local library and I got there only to realize that the library wasn't open that day until 1pm. Well, it worked out in my benefit because it gave me a chance to read some more of this book while I waited for the library to open. I'm really glad that I did end up picking this book up again because I ended up really enjoying it. It is a book about an unconventional family. When the book begins we find out that Jill's father has passed away and her mother has the strange notion that now is the best time to adopt a baby. Here comes in Mandy who is pregnant and the same age as Jill. Mandy travels across the country to live with Jill and her mother until the baby is born. I have to admit that while I could relate with Jill's character, I had a really difficult time relating to Mandy. She is just such a strange girl who does weird things like write to some random man she meets on the train. As the book goes on you realize that Mandy has no one to love her and it is for this reason she seems so lost.
I really liked reading about the relationship between Jill and Mandy. In the beginning they are really unsure of each other but over time, they begin to really help each other's development into young women. This is not your typical teen pregnancy story and I really enjoyed reading it. Overall I give it 3.5 stars out of 5.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Review: Timepiece by Myra McEntire

Publisher: Egmont USA
Publishing Date: June 12th, 2012
Genre: YA, Timetravel
Pages: 336 pgs
ISBN: 9781606841457
Source: Review copy from Netgalley


Summary from Goodreads:
A threat from the past could destroy the future. And the clock is ticking...
Kaleb Ballard's relentless flirting is interrupted when Jack Landers, the man who tried to murder his father, timeslips in and attacks before disappearing just as quickly. But Kaleb has never before been able to see time travelers, unlike many of his friends associated with the mysterious Hourglass organization. Are Kaleb's powers expanding, or is something very wrong?
Then the Hourglass is issued an ultimatum. Either they find Jack and the research he's stolen on the time gene, or time will be altered with devastating results. 
Now Kaleb, Emerson, Michael, and the other Hourglass recruits have no choice but to use their unusual powers to find Jack. But where do they even start? And when? And even if they succeed, it may not be enough...
The follow-up to Hourglass, Timepiece blends the paranormal, science fiction, mystery, and suspense genres into a nonstop thrill ride where every second counts.

My Review: 
I was very excited when I received this book for review from Netgalley. I read Hourglass last year and I loved it. I really liked Emerson's character and I couldn't wait to read more. That being said, I was a little disappointed to start reading this novel and have it be told from Kaleb's point of view. In Hourglass, Kaleb is first presented as a bit of a douchebag and then you start to feel a bit for him. By the end of Hourglass I still wasn't quite sold on Kaleb. Needless to say I found that I couldn't quite get into this book as much as I did Hourglass. I think that it's because I really loved Emerson's character and we don't quite get to see her as much in this novel.
What I did enjoy about this novel is that you get to see and learn more about the time-travel aspect. I don't want to give anything away but you learn more about Kaleb's ability and you also learn that some of the secondary characters in Hourglass have different abilities that previously thought. I also loved reading about the different rips. I couldn't even imagine seeing different things happen right in front of you and knowing that it is a glimpse of the past or the future.
I find the whole premise of this book original and I loved learning more about it.
Overall I give this book 3 out of 5 stars and that is mainly because I just had a hard time really getting into this book because of the shift in characters. I almost wish that McEntire had done both books with multiple points of view, shifting between Emerson and Kaleb. I wonder if the next book will be told by someone else too. Hmm.. things to ponder. I think there are many that will like the switch in narrator and find it refreshing but I just couldn't get behind it.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

In my Mailbox (34)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren and it gives bloggers a chance to show off all their goodies they got for the week. 

This is for a few weeks and is a bit ridiculous so be forewarned.  Here they are:

For Review:

Thank Thomas Allan &  Sons!

On a recent hiking trip in New Hampshire I got a few books. 

These are all books I got a recent trip to Toronto at my favorite used bookstore: BMV

I am trying to get all The Game of Thrones and my husband who never reads is actually reading them right now!

These were all bargain books from Chapters

                                                    I can't wait to get to all of these books.

Well that's it for me for now.  What did you get in your mailbox this week?

Happy Reading! 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Review: Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver

Publisher: Harper Teen
Publishing Date:February 1st, 2012
Genre: Dystopian, YA
Pages: 375 pgs
ISBN: 9780061978067
Source: Bought

My Rating: 4 stars

Summary from Goodreads:

I'm pushing aside the memory of my nightmare,
pushing aside thoughts of Alex,
pushing aside thoughts of Hana and my old school,
like Raven taught me to do.
The old life is dead.
But the old Lena is dead too.
I buried her.
I left her beyond a fence,
behind a wall of smoke and flame.

Lauren Oliver delivers an electrifying follow-up to her acclaimed New York Times bestseller, Delirium. This riveting, brilliant novel crackles with the fire of fierce defiance, forbidden romance, and the sparks of a revolution about to ignite. 

My Review:

***This review contains spoilers of Delirium, the first book in this series***

I loved the first book in this series, Delirium, so much that I couldn't wait for this book to be released. Delirium ends in a bit of a cliffhanger and I couldn't wait to see what Oliver did next and how she was going to resolve some of the issues presented in the first novel. Well, I have to say that I waiting for what seemed like forever to find out what happens to Alex and when I finally had the book in my hands reading it, it seemed like I had to wait even longer to find out what happened to him. That drove me bananas but it also kept me reading. So while I found it to be irritating at times, Oliver does know how to captivate her readers' attention.
This book goes back and forth between right after book one and a little bit in the future. Lena is struggling to fit into this new world and she is also dealing with some pretty heavy emotions about Alex and leaving everything she has ever known behind. One thing I really liked in this novel is the world-building. I feel like I have a better sense of the society that Lena lives in after reading this novel. In Delirium, Lena is pretty sheltered and, as a reader, we only get to experience this dystopian society as Lena experiences it. Needless to say, at the end of book one we know a bit about the world that the characters live in but not too much. There is a whole other part to society that isn't discussed in the first book. I love that Oliver is able to expand her world in such an interesting way.
I think second books are always difficult to read because there isn't a huge lead up like there is in book one and there isn't a conclusion like there usually is in book three. That being said, Oliver does a great job of keeping things interesting. She introduces some new characters but she also allows for some appearances of old characters.
I have to admit though that when I got the end of the book I wanted to throw it across the room. It also ends on a bit of a cliffhanger and I think this is quickly becoming one of my pet peeves in YA literature. I know that many YA novels are part of a series but I like it when things wrap up nicely and I hate having to wait to find out what happens in a story. I read quite a bit and by the time the next novel comes out oftentimes I forget some of what happened in the previous novels. Oh well, you better believe that I will be lining up to get the next installment of this series as soon as it comes out. Overall I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Review: Shut Out by Kody Keplinger

Publisher: Poppy
Publishing Date: September 5th, 2011
Genre: YA Contemporary
Pages: 273 pgs
ISBN: 9780316175562

My Rating: 3.5 stars

Summary from Goodreads:
Most high school sports teams have rivalries with other schools. At Hamilton High, it's a civil war: the football team versus the soccer team. And for her part,Lissa is sick of it. Her quarterback boyfriend, Randy, is always ditching her to go pick a fight with the soccer team or to prank their locker room. And on three separate occasions Randy's car has been egged while he and Lissa were inside, making out. She is done competing with a bunch of sweaty boys for her own boyfriend's attention

Then Lissa decides to end the rivalry once and for all: She and the other players' girlfriends go on a hookup strike. The boys won't get any action from them until the football and soccer teams make peace. What they don't count on is a new sort of rivalry: an impossible girls-against-boys showdown that hinges on who will cave to their libidos first. But what Lissa never sees coming is her own sexual tension with the leader of the boys, Cash Sterling...

My Review: 
I read Keplinger's debut novel, The DUFF not too long ago and quite enjoyed it. I ended up going on my library's website and putting this book on hold and I was happy when it came in quite quickly. This novel is about a group of girls who go on a sex strike in order to stop a feud between the football team and the soccer team. I like Keplinger's writing style and I really grew to like to characters in this book. The one thing I found interesting is that while in the beginning everyone says they are having sex or even enjoying sex and in the end the girls learn so much more about themselves and about their peers. It makes me think back to high school. I grew up in a small town where there was a huge problem with teen pregnancies. I think that seeing that many girls at my school getting pregnant made me feel like the last virgin alive in high school. This is funny because now that I'm older, I know that most of my friends and most of the girls at my school were having similar feelings but no one really wanted to discuss them.
While Keplinger's books may be seen as a bit too racy for teens, I think that teens are full of hormones and they will inevitably be asking themselves or others these kinds of questions. I also think that it important to note that we are sexual beings and to ignore this is not helpful.
I quite enjoyed this book; it is fun and it is light while at the same time discussing a pretty heavy issue. Not only does it address sexuality but it also addresses hazing and bullying. I quite enjoy Keplinger's writing style and I will definitely be reading more from her. Overall I give this book a 3.5 out of 5 stars.