A Very ARC-ish Readathon

a-very-arcish-readathonI’ve decided to participate in A Very ARC-ish Readathon hosted by Aimal @ Bookshelves and Paperbacks. This challenge is pretty low-key – the only goal is to read as many arcs as possible during the month of April. This could be one arc or ten; definitely go at your own pace! I’ll have lots of free time in April so this is the perfect time to read all the arcs. Use the hashtag #AVAReadathon to track your progress and see how everyone else is doing. You can read more about this challenge here, including how to sign up. There’s also a fun giveaway!

Here’s my TBR:

The Star Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

That Thing We Call a Heart by Sheba Karim

The Sandcastle Empire by Kayla Olson

Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy

Romancing the Throne by Nadine Jolie Courtney

Ivory and Bone by Julie Eshbaugh

The Reader by Traci Chee

I’m limiting my TBR to eight arcs right now, I don’t want to go overboard and put too much pressure on myself. I also want to read some finished copies in April. Are you participating? I’d love to know what you’re reading.

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Book Review: Frostblood by Elly Blake

27827203Frostblood (Frostblood Saga #1)

Elly Blake

4/5 stars

Release Date: January 10, 2017

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis on Goodreads:

The frost king will burn.

Seventeen-year-old Ruby is a Fireblood who has concealed her powers of heat and flame from the cruel Frostblood ruling class her entire life. But when her mother is killed trying to protect her, and rebel Frostbloods demand her help to overthrow their bloodthirsty king, she agrees to come out of hiding, desperate to have her revenge.

Despite her unpredictable abilities, Ruby trains with the rebels and the infuriating—yet irresistible—Arcus, who seems to think of her as nothing more than a weapon. But before they can take action, Ruby is captured and forced to compete in the king’s tournaments that pit Fireblood prisoners against Frostblood champions. Now she has only one chance to destroy the maniacal ruler who has taken everything from her—and from the icy young man she has come to love.

Review:

Maybe a 3.5 out of 5 stars.

FROSTBLOOD by Elly Blake is such an original take on elemental magic – in this case fire and ice. Although I can’t specifically remember books that only had the elemental powers of fire and ice (compared to books with water, earth, fire and air), I’ve read books with this theme of fire vs. ice, summer vs. winter and I think it’s really easy for it to feel overdone. Blake turns it into something fresh and exciting.

I recommend this for readers wanting a small-scale fantasy world with tons of action. The world-building gets a pass from me but I would have liked more. I personally love fantasy books with a huge world, filled with all kinds of different stories. This is great for readers who get overwhelmed by those big fantasy worlds and just want a little magic, some action and fast paced writing.

The protagonist Ruby is very likeable and I loved being in her head. Although she isn’t quite on my list of favourite YA heroines, I can see her getting there after book two. I liked the romance between Ruby and Arcus, another main character. I was pretty much neutral about them in part one and ended up really shipping them at the end of part two.

This book is divided into two parts and I loved part two so much more than part one! There was so much more action, big fight scenes, and I loved the exchange between Ruby and King Rasmus, the Frost King – it was really intriguing! I just love when authors delve into these darker moments with their characters. Part one was good and it drew me in, but some of the chapters felt like “first book syndrome”. In the beginning the protagonist would travel around in all sorts of different directions and it ended up feeling like an excuse to add world-building or to share important information with the reader. I also felt like the cast of main characters was very small – there was a greater focus on Ruby and Arcus. Secondary characters felt more like minor ones because we didn’t really get to know them, other than maybe a talent of theirs or a hobby.

I definitely recommend FROSTBLOOD and plan to read the sequel! I hope the author expands on the main cast and the world-building in book two. An original take on elemental magic with fast paced writing and a strong, likeable protagonist.

Book Review: A Tail of Camelot by Julie Leung

23384425A Tail of Camelot (Mice of the Round Table #1)

Julie Leung

4/5 stars

Release Date: October 4, 2015

Publisher: HarperCollins

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis on Goodreads:

Young mouse Calib Christopher dreams of the day when he will become a Knight of Camelot like his father and grandfather before him. For generations, Calib’s family has lived among the mice that dwell beneath the human Knights of the Round Table, defending the castle they all call home. Calib just hopes he will be able to live up to the Christopher name.

Then, on the night of the annual Harvest Tournament, tragedy strikes. The mice suspect the Darklings are behind the vicious sneak attack, but Calib has his doubts, so he sets off on a quest for the truth. Venturing deep into the woods beyond the castle walls, Calib and his friend Cecily discover that a threat far greater than the Darklings is gathering, and human and animal knights alike are in grave danger.

With help from a host of unlikely new allies, including a young human boy named Galahad, Calib must get the Mice of the Round Table and the Darklings to put aside their differences and fight together. Only then will they be strong enough to save Camelot.

Review:

Maybe a 4.5. Slight spoilers in review.

At first glance, A TAIL OF CAMELOT by Julie Leung sounds like a cute MG novel – a retelling of King Arthur and Camelot set in the POV of small, anthropomorphic animals. While this is true, it turned out to be so much more – the rich detail and world-building reminded me of REDWALL and the in-depth characters and humour made me think of THE BLACKTHORN KEY. Leung wowed me with her debut novel – add her to your auto-buy list!

Leung really brings Camelot – the court of the legendary King Arthur – to life. I didn’t just imagine a castle with mice dressed in armour, I saw a court of dedicated knights (mice, larks, squirrels), I could taste the food (elderberry wine, soup served in hollowed-out acorns), and I could feel the setting (i.e. sea breeze). This retelling is set during King Arthur’s reign, and while there are similarities between the humans and the animals sworn to protect Camelot, Leung gives the main characters their own past, present and future. Something I absolutely loved, becoming a knight (for the animals) is not gender-specific (something we usually see in historical and/or fantasy books) and there’s no mention of “why is this character becoming a page/squire/knight, she’s a girl” nonsense. The Second-in-Command (and later Commander) is Sir Kensington, a female mouse. We did see a bit of this with the humans. King Arthur is away, so Queen Guinevere proposes a plan to defeat the enemy and the Knights of the Round Table basically refuse to listen to her. One might argue it’s because she didn’t have the sword in the stone – the knights will listen to anyone who pulls it out – but the fact that they’d rather listen to a 12 year old boy (age may be wrong) who’d pulled out the sword rather than an adult was slightly annoying and maybe even unnecessary.

Calib Christopher was a very likeable character, I could immediately get into his head. He’s one of those characters who’s shy, doesn’t have a lot of confidence in himself and just needs that extra push to realize he is brave and smart. Calib being a likeable character didn’t make him stand out though, he felt a bit like an insert-yourself character, which I’m not the hugest fan of. This sort of character, while easily likeable, doesn’t completely challenge the reader.

Most of the chapters are in Calib’s POV but we also see the perspective of the humans. Told through a 12 year old boy, Galahad comes to Camelot to become a page or squire (can’t remember which). He’s the son of Sir Lancelot, who he’s never met, so there’s a lot of pressure and expectations on him. Galahad wasn’t my favourite character – he struck me as a bit of a stereotype. Luckily, chapters with Galahad were shorter than Calib’s, although it was funny to see how the humans reacted when they witnessed odd animal behaviour. I did like that Leung tries to balance out the male-dominated POV’s by introducing Cecily as a main character and someone who helps Calib save Camelot. She was a fun, bold character. Also, the names were the best thing ever and really helped with the world-building (ex. Sir Owen Onewhisker, Devrin Savortooth, General Gaius Thornfeather).

There are some underlying themes of prejudice and discrimination. In the beginning, the animals of Camelot and the Darklings (animals living in nearby woods) are enemies, despite the truce between them. Rumours surrounding the Darklings have basically taken on a life of its own. I loved that as the book progressed, Leung presents a different side to these animals. This isn’t too prominent, you really have to be looking for it, but it’s something that could be discussed more in the sequel. However, I would have liked to see the POV of the Saxons and weasels, and maybe less of the adding physical traits with negative connotations to the enemy i.e. rotten teeth.

While I found the plot a bit predictable, maybe because I’m familiar with this sort of archetype, MG readers will be delighted at the sort of plot twists Leung lays out for them. A TAIL OF CAMELOT is a must-have for MG readers and I cannot wait to read the sequel. Perfect for fans of REDWALL, this is a great book for introducing readers to historical fantasy and the myth of King Arthur and Camelot.

Top 5 March Releases

Today I’m sharing my top 5 March releases! I hope you add these to your TBR, buy/preorder them and request them at your local library. If you’ve read any of these, don’t forget to leave a review on Amazon, Goodreads and other book retailer sites – long, short, positive, negative, it all counts. You can read more about this feature here.


29346880The Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi

Salaam Reads | March 28, 2017

Buy: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis:

A trio of friends from New York City find themselves trapped inside a mechanical board game that they must dismantle in order to save themselves and generations of other children in this action-packed debut that’s a steampunk Jumanji with a Middle Eastern flair.

When twelve-year-old Farah and her two best friends get sucked into a mechanical board game called The Gauntlet of Blood and Sand—a puzzle game akin to a large Rubik’s cube—they know it’s up to them to defeat the game’s diabolical architect in order to save themselves and those who are trapped inside, including her baby brother Ahmed. But first they have to figure out how.

Under the tutelage of a lizard guide named Henrietta Peel and an aeronaut Vijay, the Farah and her friends battle camel spiders, red scorpions, grease monkeys, and sand cats as they prepare to face off with the maniacal Lord Amari, the man behind the machine. Can they defeat Amari at his own game…or will they, like the children who came before them, become cogs in the machine?


30095464The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

Sourcebooks Fire | March 7, 2017

Buy: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis:

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.

Memoirs of a Geisha meets The Name of the Wind in this brilliant new fantasy series by Rin Chupeco!


30312547Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan

Salaam Reads | March 14, 2017

Buy: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis:

A Pakistani-American Muslim girl struggles to stay true to her family’s vibrant culture while simultaneously blending in at school after tragedy strikes her community in this sweet and moving middle grade novel from the award-winning author of It’s Ramadan, Curious George and Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns.

Amina has never been comfortable in the spotlight. She is happy just hanging out with her best friend, Soojin. Except now that she’s in middle school everything feels different. Soojin is suddenly hanging out with Emily, one of the “cool” girls in the class, and even talking about changing her name to something more “American.” Does Amina need to start changing too? Or hiding who she is to fit in? While Amina grapples with these questions, she is devastated when her local mosque is vandalized.

Amina’s Voice brings to life the joys and challenges of a young Pakistani American and highlights the many ways in which one girl’s voice can help bring a diverse community together to love and support each other.


25669098Shadow Run by AdriAnne Strickland & Michael Miller

Delacorte Press | March 21, 2017

Buy: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis:

“Firefly” meets DUNE in this action-packed sci-fi adventure about a close-knit, found family of a crew navigating a galaxy of political intrigue and resource-driven power games.

Nev has just joined the crew of the starship Kaitan Heritage as the cargo loader. His captain, Qole, is the youngest-ever person to command her own ship, but she brooks no argument from her crew of orphans, fugitives, and con men. Nev can’t resist her, even if her ship is an antique.

As for Nev, he’s a prince, in hiding on the ship. He believes Qole holds the key to changing galactic civilization, and when her cooperation proves difficult to obtain, Nev resolves to get her to his home planet by any means necessary.

But before they know it, a rival royal family is after Qole too, and they’re more interested in stealing her abilities than in keeping her alive.

Nev’s mission to manipulate Qole becomes one to save her, and to survive, she’ll have to trust her would-be kidnapper. He may be royalty, but Qole is discovering a deep reservoir of power—and stars have mercy on whoever tries to hurt her ship or her crew.


29939047A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi (sequel to The Star Touched Queen)

St. Martin’s Griffin | March 28, 2017

Buy: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis:

Gauri, the princess of Bharata, has been taken as a prisoner of war by her kingdom’s enemies. Faced with a future of exile and scorn, Gauri has nothing left to lose. Hope unexpectedly comes in the form of Vikram, the cunning prince of a neighboring land and her sworn enemy kingdom. Unsatisfied with becoming a mere puppet king, Vikram offers Gauri a chance to win back her kingdom in exchange for her battle prowess. Together, they’ll have to set aside their differences and team up to win the Tournament of Wishes—a competition held in a mythical city where the Lord of Wealth promises a wish to the victor.

Reaching the tournament is just the beginning. Once they arrive, danger takes on new shapes: poisonous courtesans and mischievous story birds, a feast of fears and twisted fairy revels.

Every which way they turn new trials will test their wit and strength. But what Gauri and Vikram will soon discover is that there’s nothing more dangerous than what they most desire.

February Wrap-Up Post

IMG_2758February was a great reading month! I was able to finish one of my most highly anticipated reads of 2017 – Windwitch by Susan Dennard. This was such a great sequel ❤ I also read this super cute middle grade novel called A Tail of Camelot by Julie Leung. Definitely recommend, even if you don’t read MG that often. I’m also trying to read the 2017 Canada Reads shortlist and was able to finish my first book – Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis. I really enjoyed it, but I’m not sure if it’s the one book Canadians need to read now. I hope to read at least two more of these books in March (there’s five books on the shortlist).

Books Read:

Windwitch by Susan Dennard

Soldier Doll by Jennifer Gold

Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis

The Rose Society by Marie Lu

A Tail of Camelot by Julie Leung

ICYMI:

Top 5 February Releases

Book Review: Seriously Wicked by Tina Connolly

Book Review: Alice in Wonderland High by Rachel Shane

23111784Alice in Wonderland High

Rachel Shane

3.5/5 stars

Release Date: April 18, 2015

Publisher: Merit Press

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis on Goodreads:

Sixteen-year-old Alice just can’t find a way to be free. Her parents are environmental activists whose cringeworthy public protests might involve chaining themselves to a fence and pleading with passersby to “Save the World. Save Alice!” It’s not that Alice doesn’t believe there’s work to be done. But after a petition to start a farmers’ market meets with more snickers than signatures, she figures she should shut up instead of speak out. At least, that is, until she can find something that feels real. Then along comes Whitney Lapin, a girl who speaks in cryptic riddles and spends her free time turning abandoned warehouses into beautiful gardens. Charismatic Whitney leads Alice on a rabbit trail into the underground—a.k.a. secret society—of Wonderland High.

Curiouser and curiouser. Alice is in wonderland! Even though Whitney’s group of teenage environmental vigilantes operates on the wrong side of the law, with them, Alice is finally free to be herself. She stomps on her good-girl image by completing a series of environmental pranks to impress the new group: flooding the school and disguising a pig as a baby in order to smuggle it out of a testing facility. She wants to trust them, and she especially wants to trust (or maybe kiss) Chester Katz—a boy with a killer smile, a penchant for disappearing, and a secret that will really turn Alice’s world backwards. But then one of the young vigilantes tries to frame Alice for all the pranks, and she must figure out their secret before she ends up in front of a jury that’s screaming, “Off with her head!”

Review:

So I actually read this book back in early 2016, but I found some old journals of mine and I’ve been writing mini-reviews on books I read some time ago based on notes in those journals. This review is shorter than my usual ones but I still wanted to share it. I think it’s good to bring back backlist titles every now and then. There are so many books published each year, it’s inevitable that you’ll miss a few.


ALICE IN WONDERLAND HIGH was an enjoyable read, with writing I immediately connected with and a good retelling of Alice in Wonderland, something we haven’t quite seen before in YA. I loved the protagonist Alice, she was smart and likeable, but also flawed. I also loved the other characters, they were an entertaining bunch – funny and mysterious! I wasn’t quite into the plot, I think the book was a bit underwhelming in that sense. The plot was solid but I wasn’t 100% into it.

I think when it comes to retellings I might stick to fantasy, I just prefer that over contemporary. I recommend this for YA contemporary readers looking for a solid retelling.

I did love the slight reference to Neverland at the end, that was really intriguing. I loved thinking about how my favourite characters from Peter Pan were retold in the author’s book world!