A Book of Spirits and Thieves by Morgan Rhodes

A Book of Spirits and Thieves by Morgan RhodesA Book of Spirits and Thieves by Morgan Rhodes
Published by Penguin on June 23rd 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 368
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The lives of Toronto teens Crystal and Becca Hatcher revolve around helping their mother out at the family's used bookstore, The Speckled Muse. It's a relatively uneventful after-school job, until an package arrives addressed to her mother, Julia. Thinking it's nothing more than run-of-the-mill inventory, Becca opens it and removes the book inside, unwittingly triggering an ancient magic and intertwining their fates with the powers that flow from the mysterious leather-bound book. Two parallel worlds collide and Becca is left in a catatonic state after her spirit is snatched from modern-day Toronto back to the ancient world of Mytica. Crys is guilt-ridden, having witnessed the entire event, and vows to do whatever is necessary to save her… but from what? Nothing has prepared them for what’s in store.
Written in alternating perspectives that shift between modern-day Toronto and the ancient kingdoms of Mytica, Rhodes delivers a rich and suspenseful series opener that will leave readers breathless.

“My name is Becca Hatcher. I don’t know what’s happened to me, where I am, or how I got here, but I know one thing. You’re going to help me get back home.”

One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston

Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. JohnstonExit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston
Published by Penguin on March 15th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Pages: 256
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Hermione Winters is captain of her cheerleading team, and in tiny Palermo Heights, this doesn’t mean what you think it means. At PHHS, the cheerleaders don't cheer for the sports teams; they are the sports team—the pride and joy of a tiny town. The team's summer training camp is Hermione's last and marks the beginning of the end of…she’s not sure what. She does know this season could make her a legend. But during a camp party, someone slips something in her drink. And it all goes black.
In every class, there's a star cheerleader and a pariah pregnant girl. They're never supposed to be the same person. Hermione struggles to regain the control she's always had and faces a wrenching decision about how to move on. The assault wasn't the beginning of Hermione Winter's story and she's not going to let it be the end. She won’t be anyone’s cautionary tale.

“I’m not going to quit, Florry.” I look up and see that Polly has turned around again, and that Caledon is looking at me in the mirror. “I am not going to quit.”

TRIGGER WARNING – RAPE.

I think some people will have issues with this book. I get that. I really do. But I also think the ultimate strength of Exit, Pursued by a Bear is that it is not a typical story about a girl who gets raped and is consumed by it. Those stories absolutely matter and they are oh so very important, but there are many different experiences out there and I’m glad this one is being told.
In my experience, stories about rape survivors fall into one of two categories: 1) a girl (occasionally, a boy) falling apart in the aftermath of rape, or 2) a mystery about the rapist’s identity. This is neither. Hermione is sad, confused and angry, but this is predominantly a book about strength.
Rape is a crime often about power and weakness – the rapist makes the victim powerless by taking away their choice – but here Hermione does something unusual. She reclaims the power stolen from her. She has a strong support system. She doesn’t become defined by what happened.

One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury

The Forbidden Wish by Jessica KhouryThe Forbidden Wish Published by Penguin on February 23rd 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 352
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She is the most powerful Jinni of all. He is a boy from the streets. Their love will shake the world...    When Aladdin discovers Zahra's jinni lamp, Zahra is thrust back into a world she hasn't seen in hundreds of years -- a world where magic is forbidden and Zahra's very existence is illegal. She must disguise herself to stay alive, using ancient shape-shifting magic, until her new master has selected his three wishes. 

   But when the King of the Jinn offers Zahra a chance to be free of her lamp forever, she seizes the opportunity—only to discover she is falling in love with Aladdin. When saving herself means betraying him, Zahra must decide once and for all: is winning her freedom worth losing her heart?   As time unravels and her enemies close in, Zahra finds herself suspended between danger and desire in this dazzling retelling of Aladdin from acclaimed author Jessica Khoury.

“Wishes have a way of twisting themselves, and there is nothing more dangerous than getting your heart’s desire. The question is, are you willing to gamble? How much are you willing to lose? What are you willing to risk everything for?”

One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

The Love That Split the World by Emily Henry

The Love That Split the World by Emily HenryThe Love That Split the World by Emily Henry
Published by Penguin on January 26th 2016
Genres: Romance, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 400
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Natalie’s last summer in her small Kentucky hometown is off to a magical start…until she starts seeing the “wrong things.” They’re just momentary glimpses at first—her front door is red instead of its usual green, there’s a pre-school where the garden store should be. But then her whole town disappears for hours, fading away into rolling hills and grazing buffalo, and Nat knows something isn’t right.   That’s when she gets a visit from the kind but mysterious apparition she calls “Grandmother,” who tells her: “You have three months to save him.” The next night, under the stadium lights of the high school football field, she meets a beautiful boy named Beau, and it’s as if time just stops and nothing exists. Nothing, except Natalie and Beau.

This book is almost impossible to rate. Take my 3-teacup rating lightly, because it does not even begin to sum up everything I felt about this different, imaginative, weird romance.

One StarOne StarOne Star

The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

The Last Unicorn by Peter S. BeagleThe Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
Published by Penguin on July 2008 (first published 1968)
Genres: Fantasy, Classic
Pages: 294
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The unicorn wants to find other unicorns. Mage Schmendrick, whose magic seldom works, never as he intended, rescues unicorn from Mommy Fortuna’s Midnight Carnival. Only some mythical beasts displayed are illusions. Molly Grue believes in legends despite Robin Hood wannabe and his unmerry men. King Haggard and his Bull banish unicorns into sea.

“We are not always what we seem, and hardly ever what we dream.”

In my mind, the movie The Last Unicorn will forever be known as the first and so far only book, movie or TV show to ever give me nightmares. I think I saw the film for the first time when I was about 5 or 6 and I remember being completely entranced by it. It immediately became one of my favourite movies, despite the fact that I couldn’t sleep for a week after seeing it for the first time. I never realised it was originally a novel, not until now.
Having read the book and re-watched the film after finishing it, I now know why it gave me nightmares. This story is not for children. My grandmother (who gifted me the film) must have fallen into the trap that so many do these days, namely that any cartoon is for kids, just because it’s animated. Anime lovers will know the struggle.

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Salt to the Sea by Ruta SepetysSalt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
Published by Penguin on February 2nd 2016
Genres: Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 400
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For readers of Between Shades of Gray and All the Light We Cannot See, international bestselling author Ruta Sepetys returns to WWII in this epic novel that shines a light on one of the war's most devastating—yet unknown—tragedies.
World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia, and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom, almost all of them with something to hide. Among them are Joana, Emilia, and Florian, whose paths converge en route to the ship that promises salvation, the Wilhelm Gustloff. Forced by circumstance to unite, the three find their strength, courage, and trust in one another tested with each step closer toward safety.
Just when it seems freedom is within their grasp, tragedy strikes. Not country, nor culture, nor status matter as all ten thousand people aboard must fight for the same thing: survival.

I try, I really do, but Sepetys’s war stories do nothing for me. Yes, I know I’m in the minority. I was one of few who didn’t love her debut – Between Shades of Gray – and much preferred her second book – Out of the Easy. Now she returns to World War II and, once again, I don’t get it.

One StarOne Star

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

Saint Anything by Sarah DessenSaint Anything by Sarah Dessen
Published by Penguin on May 5th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 432
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New York Times bestseller
"Saint Anything is a poignant, honest story about how we might suffer the misfortune of someone else's bad choices, how people who love us can become family when we desperately need it, and how starting over might - miraculously - mean taking a solid leap forward." —Jodi Picoult, New York Times bestselling novelist of Leaving Time and My Sister’s Keeper Sydney has always felt invisible. She's grown accustomed to her brother, Peyton, being the focus of the family’s attention and, lately, concern. Peyton is handsome and charismatic, but seems bent on self-destruction. Now, after a drunk-driving accident that crippled a boy, Peyton’s serving some serious jail time, and Sydney is on her own, questioning her place in the family and the world.
Then she meets the Chatham family. Drawn into their warm, chaotic circle, Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance for the first time. There’s effervescent Layla, who constantly falls for the wrong guy, Rosie, who’s had her own fall from grace, and Mrs. Chatham, who even though ailing is the heart of the family. But it’s with older brother Mac—quiet, watchful, and protective—that Sydney finally feels seen, really seen, at last.
Saint Anything is Sarah Dessen’s deepest and most psychologically probing novel yet, telling an engrossing story of a girl discovering friendship, love, and herself.
From the Hardcover edition.

Saint Anything is my first Sarah Dessen book, which may have been a mistake, but all I know is that this book is a perfect example of how to write great, natural dialogue, fleshed-out characters and relationships, and never once make me feel a single emotion.
Despite reading praise after praise about Sarah Dessen, I admit I’ve avoided her work because her stories just do not sound very compelling. But I finally decided to cast aside my reservations and try this – a great writer can make any story interesting, right?
Um, I’m not so sure. I’m rating up on this one because it’s hard to deny that Dessen is a competent writer. The narrative flows smoothly and the everyday dialogue feels realistic – she captures the “voice” of teenage girls very well. Every character is complex and developed, complete with likes, dislikes, aspirations, hopes and quirks that make them uniquely themselves. Very few authors manage this to the extent that Dessen does.
But where is the hook? Where is the drive to keep turning pages to find out what will happen to Sydney? To Peyton? To Mac and Layla? It’s so so tame. Saint Anything needs a good shot of drama, angst, tragedy or something in order to be more than an exercise in good character writing.
Perhaps it will appeal more to readers who genuinely enjoy quiet stories about everyday people. But I just didn’t feel much concern for Sydney or Peyton. Maybe it’s because I’ve recently read books about people who are starving, discriminated against, consumed by grief, but I found it hard to be worried what would happen to a pretty, wealthy girl with loving parents and good friends.
The story begins with Sydney’s brother – Peyton – being sent to jail for crippling a boy while drunk-driving. Then the camera turns to Sydney, who has to deal with the subsequent horror of overprotective parents and concerned friends. It was honestly quite hard to pity her and I had to roll my eyes when the legal stuff put strain on funds and they had to sell the beach house they never used anyway (boo freaking hoo).
The most interesting thing about this book (in my opinion) was the way Sydney was treated by her parents after Peyton’s conviction. I thought it was realistic and unfair that her parents would suddenly put restrictions on Sydney to avoid the same thing happening again. Which, I suppose, is ultimately what this book is about – how someone can get caught up in and be affected by another person’s actions.
The romance was sweet, but forgettable. As I already mentioned, Mac was well-developed and fleshed-out, yet lacking any real spark of personality to make their romance one I would remember.
In fact, what I think I will remember most about this book is the FOOD. Pizza and french fries and yum! If it made me feel one thing, then that was HUNGER.

One StarOne StarHalf a Star

Soundless by Richelle Mead

Soundless by Richelle MeadSoundless by Richelle Mead
Published by Penguin on November 10th 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 272
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From Richelle Mead, the #1 internationally bestselling author of Vampire Academy and Bloodlines, comes a breathtaking new fantasy perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo, Laini Taylor and Sabaa Tahir.  "Fans of characters like Rose Hathaway and Sydney Sage will flock to this impressive stand-alone novel."--Booklist
For as long as Fei can remember, there has been no sound in her village, where rocky terrain and frequent avalanches prevent residents from self-sustaining. Fei and her people are at the mercy of a zipline that carries food up the treacherous cliffs from Beiguo, a mysterious faraway kingdom.   When villagers begin to lose their sight, deliveries from the zipline shrink and many go hungry. Fei’s home, the people she loves, and her entire existence is plunged into crisis, under threat of darkness and starvation.   But soon Fei is awoken in the night by a searing noise, and sound becomes her weapon.   Richelle Mead takes readers on a triumphant journey from the peak of Fei’s jagged mountain village to the valley of Beiguo, where a startling truth and an unlikely romance will change her life forever....
From the Hardcover edition.

One Star

Captive Prince by C.S. Pacat

Captive Prince by C.S. PacatCaptive Prince by C. S. Pacat
Published by Penguin on January 28th 2014
Genres: Romance, Fantasy
Pages: 209
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Damen is a warrior hero to his people, and the rightful heir to the throne of Akielos, but when his half brother seizes power, Damen is captured, stripped of his identity, and sent to serve the prince of an enemy nation as a pleasure slave.Beautiful, manipulative and deadly, his new master Prince Laurent epitomizes the worst of the court at Vere. But in the lethal political web of the Veretian court, nothing is as it seems, and when Damen finds himself caught up in a play for the throne, he must work together with Laurent to survive and save his country.For Damen, there is just one rule: never, ever reveal his true identity. Because the one man Damen needs is the one man who has more reason to hate him than anyone else . . .

Welcome to The Book Geek’s monthly feature, affectionately called The Genre Spotlight. It’s where we explore and choose one of the myriad genres. We’ll showcase it by having each Book Geek read and review at least one, but possibly a few books belonging to that month’s chosen genre.
We’re hoping to expand our reading horizons to genre’s we haven’t or have barely read, and, hopefully, usher in gems our lives have been missing out on.
For sizzling August, our spotlight is on Romance.

Mosquitoland by David Arnold

Mosquitoland by David ArnoldMosquitoland by David Arnold
Published by Penguin on March 3rd 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Social Issues, New Experience, Family, Marriage & Divorce, Depression & Mental Illness
Pages: 352
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“Top-notch” —USA Today “Illuminating” —Washington Post “A breath of fresh air” —Entertainment Weekly “Memorable” —People I am a collection of oddities, a circus of neurons and electrons: my heart is the ringmaster, my soul is the trapeze artist, and the world is my audience. It sounds strange because it is, and it is, because I am strange. After the sudden collapse of her family, Mim Malone is dragged from her home in northern Ohio to the “wastelands” of Mississippi, where she lives in a medicated milieu with her dad and new stepmom. Before the dust has a chance to settle, she learns her mother is sick back in Cleveland. So she ditches her new life and hops aboard a northbound Greyhound bus to her real home and her real mother, meeting a quirky cast of fellow travelers along the way. But when her thousand-mile journey takes a few turns she could never see coming, Mim must confront her own demons, redefining her notions of love, loyalty, and what it means to be sane. Told in an unforgettable, kaleidoscopic voice, Mosquitoland is a modern American odyssey, as hilarious as it is heartbreaking.From the Hardcover edition.

One StarOne Star