Witch Finder by Ruth Warburton Review

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Title: Witch Finder
Author: Ruth Warburton (Twitter)
Publisher: Hodder Children's Books
Publish Date: January 2, 2014
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Pages: 374
Source: Publisher

London. 1880. In the slums of Spitalfields apprentice blacksmith Luke is facing initiation into the Malleus Maleficorum, the fearsome brotherhood dedicated to hunting and killing witches.

Luke’s final test is to pick a name at random from the Book of Witches, a name he must track down and kill within a month, or face death himself. Luke knows that tonight will change his life forever. But when he picks out sixteen-year-old Rosa Greenwood, Luke has no idea that his task will be harder than he could ever imagine.
There's nothing quite like a forbidden romance unless, of course, you're talking about a forbidden romance in which the stakes are much higher, much more dire and play along a life-or-death balance. The beautiful and haunting thing, however, is that Witch Finder takes ups the ante even more, giving us a new take on the age-old witch hunts and sending us into what is inevitably a dark and terrifying spiral of lies and deception. Ruth Warburton brings 1880 London alive in a manner that is dark, bleak and altogether tragic in its own right, luring us into a web of lies that can only result in heartbreak and destruction. However, we're captivated, and we can't look away.

Witch Finder was a maze of complexities for me as a reader. On one hand, I can truly appreciate the author's writing style. Ms. Warburton is a master of plot-weaving, carefully balancing the faster elements with the slower ones and lingering upon those moments that draw out the tension and leave us wanting more. However, it must be said that I don't feel the historical setting was nearly as illustrated as it could, or should have been to support such a  story. In one of my favourite novels, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, the setting of the story was as significant as the characters within the story. That, in large part, is why the book felt so very real to me and worked so well in the end. With Witch Finder, however, it felt as though great, painstaking care was taking when developing the characters and personas of Luke, Rosa and the others, but setting took a noticeable back seat. 

Like I said though, the characters are the highlights of Witch Finder for me, and though Rosa's naivete was a bit trying for me at times, I can't help but feel for her character and her situation. There was a delicate air of vulnerability around her that perfectly complemented the tortured aspects of Luke's persona. While Rosa struggles to deal with painful life at home, all the while balancing immense power, Luke battles to maintain his sanity and his mission to avenge his parents. I was incredibly worried that the author would force us into an insta-love scenario in which Luke immediately stopped hunting the witch he absolutely had to save in order to survive, but I was thrilled to see that Ms. Warburton avoided that trap with ease. You could sense the connection between the two, and the connection was there, but like a cat and mouse game, we're forced to endure the back and forth until the ultimate reveal, which definitely added an element of fun and intrigue to the novel.

All in all, I can't say that Witch Finder was the best book I've ever read, and I do wish we'd had a bit more magic peppered throughout the pages, but it was a solid story with overall solid characters. I'd definitely read on and continue the series gladly, as the ending is not at all what I wanted or expected to read. I give this novel a 3.5 out of 5, and I recommend it to fans of YA, especially those who enjoy fantasy novels.

I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.

Four-Year Blogoversary Giveaway

Monday, December 30, 2013

I never thought I'd be able to say this, but today marks my fourth year of blogging about books here at i swim for oceans! It was rough going there for me for a while, and I actually went on an indefinite hiatus, but I missed this blog, and I missed all of you, so how could I really stay away? In the past four years, I've seen book blogs come and go, I've been to BEA twice, I've read countless incredible books (and quite a few duds, too) and I've really come to appreciate both what the authors do for us and what we can do for them, if we really put our minds to it.

I could get all sappy and ish about this, but let's be honest, it's really just a whole lotta love that I have for the whole dang lot of you! And, to show my appreciation for all of my lovely followers and friends, I'm offering up a little giveaway for all of you. 

There will be three lucky winners with three awesome prizes.
The first name picked will get to choose which two books they'd like most from the books below.
The second name picked will get to choose two books they'd like most from the books below.
The third name picked will win the last two books from the list below.
Some of these are ARCs. Some of them are not.
All of them, however, are pretty dang good books that I hope you'll read and love!

This giveaway is open internationally and will end promptly at midnight EST on January 30, 2014,
which means you have a month to enter!
Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Bookish Survey: Books in Terms of Harry Potter Spells Part II

Friday, December 27, 2013

This awesome survey was created by the lovely Jasmine at Flip that Page, and after reading Jasprit's over at The Reader's Den, I felt like it was the perfect way to round up my favourite (and least favourite) books. For those of you that know me, you also know that I love Harry Potter, so I figure this is a win-win.

If you want to play along, too, it's simple enough! Take the spells from Harry Potter and answer the prompts about books you've read...Today's part one of the survey involves books I, personally, would like to cast some serious spells on. So, without further ado, here we go.

Puts victims in an unconscious state

A book with a chapter you couldn't seem to get over: Allegiant by Veronica Roth. There's a part of me that loved and appreciated how it ended, but there's another part of me that's just mad.

Causes befuddlement and forgetfulness

A book that generally confused you: Conjured by Sarah Beth Durst. There was a lot going on in this book, but so very little of it actually made much sense to me.

Inflicts unbearable pain

A book that was a pain to read: Fault Line by Christa Desir. This book was so very ehhhhhh to me. So much of it just made me feel gross and awkward.

Heals relatively minor injuries

A feel-good book that you enjoyed: Racing Savannah by Miranda Kenneally. It wasn't perfect by any means, but it was certainly enjoyable.

Temporarily disarms the opponent

A book with a swoon-worthy character: Augustus Waters from The Fault in Our Stars. He was flawed and broken but oh-so beautiful.

Impedes an object's progress

A book that kept you up all night reading: Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis. THIS is how you do dystopian properly. I'm completely serious.

Immediate silencing

A book that left you speechless after reading it: Hate List by Jennifer Brown. It's rare that I read a book so very profound that I actually struggle to review it, but this was one of those.

Allows you to delve into someone's mind

A book with well-developed characters: The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd. This book was so well-developed, and the characters are phenomenal. All of them.

A spell that turns you upside down

A book that changed your mind about a character from its prequel: We'll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han. I was always torn between Jeremiah and Conrad, and Conrad took the cake for me like he's never done so before.

Used to hide memories

A book with a story that you can't remember: Vixen by Jillian Larkin. Despite the fact that I was so excited to read this book, I can't for the life of me tell you what sets it apart from the rest.

Breaks through solid objects

A book that convinced you to reconsider a genre: Pawn by Aimee Carter. I've honestly had my fill of dystopian in the past two years, but this book really stands out from the crowd this year.

The tickling spell

A book that made you laugh: The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot. I swear this series never failed to make me smile and giggle and laugh uncontrollably.

Makes you dance uncontrollably

A series finale that made you giddy: The Last Sacrifice by Richelle Mead. I never thought I'd get on this journey with everyone else, but I did, and I loved it.

Bombarda Maxima
Causes an explosion that breaks through obstacles

A book that made you explode with the feels: Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick. This is a dark, emotional, powerful and highly underrated read. It's incredible.

Finite Incantatem
Nullifies other spells

A book you thought you'd dislike but ended up loving: Find Me by Romily Bernard. Honestly, I didn't see this being anything I'd really enjoy, but it was, and I did. It's fantastic.

Mini Review: Racing Savannah by Miranda Kenneally

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Title: Racing Savannah
Author: Miranda Kenneally (Twitter)
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publish Date: December 3, 2013
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Pages: 304
Source: Publisher

They’re from two different worlds.

He lives in the estate house, and she spends most of her time in the stables helping her father train horses. In fact, Savannah has always been much more comfortable around horses than boys. Especially boys like Jack Goodwin—cocky, popular and completely out of her league. She knows the rules: no mixing between the staff and the Goodwin family. But Jack has no such boundaries.

With her dream of becoming a horse jockey, Savannah isn’t exactly one to follow the rules either. She’s not going to let someone tell her a girl isn’t tough enough to race. Sure, it’s dangerous. Then again, so is dating Jack…
It's no secret that Miranda Kenneally's stories are a bit more like guilty pleasure reads for me, if only because I know I can expect fun, sweet, light-hearted romance. The beautiful thing about Racing Savannah though, is that while, yes, it is all of the above, it is also so much more. It's funny. It's sarcastic. It's relevant. And, just when I'm certain we're going to get a story that offers more sweet than substance, the novel surprises me and offers true character growth and development. It's something I've come to expect from Ms. Kenneally's books. While on the one hand, we get plenty of sweetness and flirty romance, on the other hand, we also get a surprising amount of depth. Racing Savannah is no exception, and as we truly get to know Savannah and Jack, it's a pleasure to catch glimpses of our former favourite characters who have since grown up and moved on with their lives.

Savannah was, perhaps, the most lovable heroine I've read about in a good while. She's one of the lone women in a man's world of horse jockeying, yet she takes the sidelong glances, the whispers and the snark in stride. She had this infectious personality that brims over and reels us into her story in a way that makes it impossible not to fall in love with her and her big dreams. Jack surprised me, as well. From the premise, I worried that we would fall into the trap in which we're stuck with a "poor little rich boy," but he surprised me with his depth and the amount of complexity within him. He was the perfect counterbalance for Savannah, and watching their two characters meet, mingle and begin to grow in a similar direction was truly fun and, at times, so sweet it hurt.

I think that the true strength of Racing Savannah though, is the painstaking amount of care that the author put into crafting such a story. A lesser author might have rested on the laurels of the age-old "star-crossed lovers from different sides of the track," but Ms. Kenneally gives us far more than that. We're given Savannah, who has far less than Jack, but lives a comfortable, empowered and happy day-to-day life. Then we Jack, who has been given everything - wealth, privilege, responsibility - but he has an earnest inner yearning for more that was actually quite tangible. He'd been given everything he'd ever wanted in life, and this is the first time that he actually had to stand up and fight for something he really wanted, all the while still balancing his responsibilities and desire to please his father.

Overall, Racing Savannah pleasantly surprised me. While yes, at times, the novel is a bit more saccharine than I might hope for, there is also a beautiful, powerful amount of depth to this love story. I can't help it - I'm just in love with these books. I give it a 4.5 out of 5, and I highly recommend it to all fans of YA, especially those who enjoy contemporary fiction and sweet romance.

I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.

The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant by Joanna Wiebe Review

Monday, December 23, 2013

Title: The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant
Author: Joanna Wiebe (Twitter)
Publisher: BenBella Books
Publish Date: January 14, 2014
Genre: YA, Paranormal, Mystery
Pages: 272
Source: Publisher

So many secrets for such a small island. From the moment Anne Merchant arrives at Cania Christy, a boarding school for the world’s wealthiest teens, the hushed truths of this strange, unfamiliar land begin calling to her—sometimes as lulling drumbeats in the night, sometimes as piercing shrieks.

One by one, unanswered questions rise. No one will tell her why a line is painted across the island or why she is forbidden to cross it. Her every move—even her performance at the school dance—is graded as part of a competition to become valedictorian, a title that brings rewards no one will talk about. And Anne discovers that the parents of her peers surrender million-dollar possessions to enroll their kids in Cania Christy, leaving her to wonder what her lowly funeral director father could have paid to get her in… and why.

As a beautiful senior struggles to help Anne make sense of this cloak-and-dagger world without breaking the rules that bind him, she must summon the courage to face the impossible truth—and change it—before she and everyone she loves is destroyed by it.
There is something to be said for cross-genre books that simply refuse to be confined by one genre. Since the paranormal genre has truly seen its heyday in the past few years, I've avoided it like the plague, but The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant piqued my interest with a premise that promises readers a little bit of everything. From murder mysteries, to drama, to action, horror, paranormal and a touch of romance, this book takes no prisoners, giving readers a little bit of everything in a book that, for being rather slim in terms of similar novels, packs quite the punch. Author, Joanna Wiebe, weaves us into a world that's dark and alluring, but still accessible, reminding us that high school really can be hell.

The setup behind The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant develops rapidly, and as the action quickly picks up, we can't help but become invested in this extremely off-kilter town and school. It seems as though every character in the novel has a story of their own, each of which adds a touch more mystery and intrigue to the mix. Ms. Wiebe takes her time leading the story towards the paranormal elements, so I originally thought that we were going to fall for the "ordinary girl in extraordinary circumstances trap." I was pleasantly surprised to see, however, that the novel was simply setting a very grounded stage for the supernatural elements to unfurl and really take center stage.

Anne was a delightful heroine to follow in such a haphazard tale. While everything moved and swirled like a funhouse mirror, Anne was a constant heroine that I was glad to become invested in. She has a headstrong persona, and rather than being a wilting flower like so many paranormal heroines, Anne is straightforward, smart and determined. It was easy to access her emotions and her reasoning behind her actions because they were so very human. The secondary characters also succeed. Molly was a fantastic friend and sidekick for Anne, while Harper is the quintessential queen bee that simply must have it all. I must say that I wasn't the most fond of either of the two main guys, Pilot and Ben, both of whom play a role in the slight love triangle. I never felt as though either character was fleshed out quite enough to root for them and, instead, ended up being annoyed with Ben's actions and his inactions. 

Despite this though, The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant offers us one hell of an adventure from start to finish. Perhaps the biggest success of this novel, however, is the fact that it successfully navigates the paranormal and supernatural genre without ever needing to give us either werewolves or vampires to solidify its status as such. Rather, the mystery takes center stage and, while it's a big over-the-top and quirky at times, for the most part, it kept me guessing throughout, and I can truly say that I was pleasantly surprised by the end outcome.

Overall, despite a few minor hiccups along the way, The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant succeeds for me in the end. After a long departure from the genre, this was a welcome foray back into the fold, and I can honestly state that I can't wait to see where the series goes next. I give it a 4 out of 5, and I highly recommend it to all fans of YA, especially those who enjoy paranormal and mystery stories.

I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.

Bookish Survey: Books in Terms of Harry Potter Spells

Friday, December 20, 2013

This awesome survey was created by the lovely Jasmine at Flip that Page, and after reading Jasprit's over at The Reader's Den, I felt like it was the perfect way to round up my favourite (and least favourite) books. For those of you that know me, you also know that I love Harry Potter, so I figure this is a win-win. 

If you want to play along, too, it's simple enough! Take the spells from Harry Potter and answer the prompts about books you've read...Today's part one of the survey involves books I, personally, would like to cast some serious spells on. So, without further ado, here we go.

Fixes damaged objects

A Book that Needs Some Serious Fixing: Tumble & Fall by Alexandra Coutts. This one, sadly, fell into that "beautiful cover, terrible book" trap. It had so much potential, but it really fell flat for me.

Creates a narrow beam of light

A Book That Deserves More Attention: Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis. Just when I thought that the dystopian genre was dead, this one really revived my faith in the potential for the genre, as a whole.

Counters the effects of Lumos

An Over-hyped Book: Losing it by Cora Carmack. I finally tried it the other day, and guys, it just wasn't for me. Holy hype over a book that just didn't work for me.

Summons an object from a significant distance

A Book You're Highly Anticipating: The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkowski. I just got this one in the mail, and I cannot wait to read the entire thing! Here's hoping the story lives up to its gorgeous cover.

Expecto Patronum
Conjures an incarnation of positive feelings

A Book That Made You Cry, or Want to Cry: Hate List by Jennifer Brown. Holy feels, guys. This book isn't what I would ever consider a feel-good novel, but wow. It is remarkable.

Conjures the Dark Mark

A Book You'd Like to Mark as One of Your Favourites: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. I devoured this book in two and a half hours on an airplane. And yes, I cried like an infant.

Petrificus Totalus
Petrifies your victim

A Book You'd Like to Keep Forever: Many Waters by Madeleine L'Engle. It doesn't matter how many times I read this book. I just keep coming back for more. If you haven't read it yet, please do!

Shield Charm

An Intimidating Book You Keep Putting Off: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I know. I know I've failed in not reading this book, but there are only so many feels I can take!

Used against a Boggart

A Book with a Deceiving Synopsis: Fault Line by Christa Desir. I thought this was going to be a powerful, profound and emotional read, but it was just this cluttered, graphic and uncomfortable book for me.

Wingardium Leviosa 
Levitates objects

A Book You'd Like to Re-Read: The Summer Series by Jenny Han. I really enjoyed it, which was so very unlike me, so I'd love to try it again and see what exactly is so magical about these books.


Stay tuned for the second installment tomorrow, guys! Tomorrow is all about those books that have cast their spell on me (whether that's good, or bad!) 

Mini Review: Choker by Elizabeth Woods

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Title: Choker
Author: Elizabeth Woods
Publisher: Simon & Schuster BYR
Publish Date: January 4, 2011
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Pages: 241
Source: Personal Copy

Sixteen-year-old Cara Lange has been a loner ever since she moved away from her best and only friend, Zoe, years ago. She eats lunch with the other girls from the track team, but they're not really her friends. Mostly she spends her time watching Ethan Gray from a distance, wishing he would finally notice her, and avoiding the popular girls who call her "Choker" after a humiliating incident in the cafeteria.

Then one day Cara comes home to find Zoe waiting for her. Zoe's on the run from problems at home, and Cara agrees to help her hide. With her best friend back, Cara's life changes overnight. Zoe gives her a new look and new confidence, and next thing she knows, she's getting invited to parties and flirting with Ethan. Best of all, she has her BFF there to confide in.

But just as quickly as Cara's life came together, it starts to unravel. A girl goes missing in her town, and everyone is a suspect—including Ethan. Worse still, Zoe starts behaving strangely, and Cara begins to wonder what exactly her friend does all day when she's at school. You're supposed to trust your best friend no matter what, but what if she turns into a total stranger?
Choker is one of those novels that is going to either find ardent fans of the story, or those ardently opposed to it. As most of my readers know, I enjoy dark stories. There is something to be said about the depth of them. It's almost as though in these dark, lurking and brooding stories, we can actually find out the most about ourselves and human nature because we're forced to rely on all of our senses, rather than simply listening to intuition. This novel, however, I must say elicited some pretty strong feelings on my part, as it really is a no-holds-barred take on psychology, pain and loss. Elizabeth Woods offers up some fantastic (and disturbing) storytelling that will keep you awake and thinking for hours - days, even - to come.

I think the strongest attribute of Choker was the writing style. Ms. Woods doesn't just tell us what is happening to Cara, Ethan, Zoe and the secondary characters. Rather, she paints us a vivid, graphic picture of what's happening, all the while keeping us guessing with hairpin turns and plot twists throughout. I'll admit that I completely guessed the outcome of the story, and that lessened my shock as we neared the climax of the novel, but it didn't take away from the graphic storytelling. Choker doesn't shy away from bordering on the uncomfortable. It embraces that darkness and, despite a pretty pink cover, this novel truly reaches those depths of the human condition. I had a few issues with some of the glaring plot holes, such as the absentee parents, which I felt really detracted from the plausibility of the end revelation. I feel if these missing links had been included, the novel might have worked a bit better for me.

Overall, Choker was a well-written, expertly-crafted and extremely disturbing story. Even though I guessed it, I was still immensely uncomfortable with the outcome, and I think that's a testament to the author's ability to make us feel something in the end. I give this book a high 3.5 out of 5, and I recommend it to all fans of YA, especially those who enjoy contemporary fiction, mysteries and thrillers.

Waiting on Wednesday: The Body in the Woods

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill from Breaking the Spine, and specifically spotlights upcoming novels we can't wait to read. As always, there are some amazing upcoming books, but this week I'm particularly excited for…

Title: The Body in the Woods
Author: April Henry (Twitter)
Publisher: Henry Holt BYR
Publish Date: June 17, 2014
Genre: YA, Mystery
Pages: 272

Alexis, Nick, and Ruby have very different backgrounds: Alexis has spent her life covering for her mom’s mental illness, Nick’s bravado hides his fear of not being good enough, and Ruby just wants to pursue her eccentric interests in a world that doesn’t understand her. When the three teens join Portland County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue, they are teamed up to search for a autistic man lost in the woods. What they find instead is a dead body. In a friendship that will be forged in danger, fear, and courage, the three team up to find the girl’s killer—before he can strike one of their own.

This first book in April Henry’s Point Last Seen YA mystery series is full of riveting suspense, putting readers in the middle of harrowing rescues and crime scene investigations.
You know what I think is lacking too often in the YA genre? Real mystery. We get a lot of mystery-light novels, but I don't think we get many stories that really grapple with fear, danger and suspense - the kind we can expect from, say, a Stephen King novel. April Henry is known for her killer stories though (pun intended), and they've never disappointment me. Plus, The Body in the Woods, sounds like it might just be the perfect setup to change all that. Perhaps, just perhaps, we might just get a novel that's truly worth of the title of mystery. Also, I'm totally loving the verdant cover. Just saying. What do you think, and what are you waiting on this week?

Fates by Lanie Bross Review

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Title: Fates
Author: Lanie Bross
Publisher: Delacorte BYR
Publish Date: February 11, 2014
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Pages: 336
Source: Publisher

She fell from her tranquil life in Pyralis Terra and found herself exiled to the human world. Her punishment? To make sure people’s fates unfold according to plan. Now, years later, Corinthe has one last assignment: kill Lucas Kaller. His death will be her ticket home.

But for the first time, Corinthe feels a tingle of doubt. It begins as a lump in her throat, then grows toward her heart, and suddenly she feels like she’s falling all over again—this time for a boy she knows she can never have. Because it is written: one of them must live, and one of them must die.

In a universe where every moment, every second, every fate has already been decided, where does love fit in?
Fates is a novel that sets itself apart, in large part, because of the writing, moreso than the actual story. Lanie Bross offers up to the YA readership a tale full of sweet romance, mystery, intrigue and danger, but does so all the while in a voice that is rich, decadent and lyrical. While the plot devices slowly unfurled through the novel, the words spun the story like music, and I have to say that it's been a while since I've read a full-on novel that reads much like poetry. It has a delicate quality as though each word was chosen with great care, and as a reader, I can definitely appreciate that.

I did have a few issues with the plot of Fates, however. While the novel offers us a truly engaging premise, I feel as though the book lacked in the actual execution of the plot. The ideas of the Guardians, Fates, Radicals and more was a solid setup, but I felt as though nothing was truly elaborated upon, and I think I was left with more questions than answers by the time that I reached the end of the novel. I think that, perhaps, this was a judgment call on the part of the author though, making certain that there will be unanswered questions with which to start the next story, so I can only hope and assume that we'll learn more in the next installments.

Corinthe was a tough character for me to get to know, as well, because she seems to err on the side of cold and holding us at arm's length for much of the novel. It was like a barricade against hurt, but it kept me from truly accessing her motivations and feelings at times. However, when Luc is added to the equation, I felt her slowly emerge from her shell, and she took her place within the novel as a sympathetic heroine. Luc though, wins top prize in terms of characters. He had such a strong aura of bravery and heroism that I couldn't help but become invested in his plight - perhaps moreso than in Corinthe's. There is a sweet romance in the novel that begins but never truly develops into something real, but I've begun to accept that this is often times the norm within the genre.

Overall though, Fates was a solid beginning to what could be a really exciting new series. While I had a few qualms with it, the writing made up for many of the flaws, and I'm curious enough to read on. I give it a 3.5 out of 5, and I recommend to all fans of YA, especially those who enjoy paranormal and fantasy stories.

I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.

Catherine by April Lindner Review

Monday, December 16, 2013

Title: Catherine
Author: April Lindner (Twitter)
Publisher: Poppy
Publish Date: January 2, 2013
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Pages: 320
Source: Publisher

Catherine is tired of struggling musicians befriending her just so they can get a gig at her Dad’s famous Manhattan club, The Underground. Then she meets mysterious Hence, an unbelievably passionate and talented musician on the brink of success. As their relationship grows, both are swept away in a fiery romance. But when their love is tested by a cruel whim of fate, will pride keep them apart?

Chelsea has always believed that her mom died of a sudden illness, until she finds a letter her dad has kept from her for years—a letter from her mom, Catherine, who didn’t die: She disappeared. Driven by unanswered questions, Chelsea sets out to look for her—starting with the return address on the letter: The Underground.
It should be said, first and foremost, that despite the fact that Wuthering Heights is a classic, I think much of the storyline actually escaped me as a reader. I simply don't think I understood the complexity of the novel, which was, in large part, why I was so very excited to read Catherine by April Lindner. Ms. Lindner has this innate ability to bring the classics to life in a way that makes me appreciate the original, while I'm becoming fully invested in the contemporary retelling. Crafting a story with a careful balance of new and old, these classical retellings simply dust off the cobwebs and bring the story back to life.

I often find with reimagined stories that authors lose crucial bits of their predecessors, which irreparably damage the novel. Catherine though, manages to hold fast to the integrity of the novel, but still manages to interject its in unique flair and flavour to what could have easily become a tired story. I found that much of the first half of the novel adhered rather strictly to that of Wuthering Heights, but once the story, the background and the mystery were set up, the story took on a bit of a life of its own, and taking us on a new sort of adventure that really helps us better understand the nature of the mystery. 

Chelsea and Catherine were worthy characters in their own right in this novel, as well. Alternating between their voices by chapter, it was an interesting twist on the classic that offered me far better insight than the original, thus giving me much more of a reason to become invested in the novel. Catherine's point of view seemed to set the stage in the past for the events in the present, while Chelsea's voice moved the pace of the story and the mystery along, injecting it with life as the story progressed. 

Reimagined classics will always face a bit of a dichotomy in their readership, if only because of those who are staunch supporters of the classics. What I enjoyed about Catherine is the fact that Ms. Lindner utilized her creative license in the best possible way by borrowing the most important pieces of Wuthering Heights, then interjecting them into an otherwise modern tale. By doing so, Catherine was transformed into a masterpiece in and of itself, alive with romance, drama, mystery and intrigue. Plus, while I had issues with some very unlikable characters in the classic. Ms. Lindner's characters are much more accessible and alive.

Overall, I think that Catherine might be Ms. Lindner's best retelling yet. While there are some implausible moments, and I think that Catherine and Chelsea sounded a bit too similar at times, I really, really enjoyed the story as a whole. I give it a 4.5 out of 5, and I highly recommend it to fans of YA, and contemporary fiction - especially those who enjoy reimagined classics.

I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.

Interview: April Lindner, Author of Catherine

Friday, December 13, 2013

I have a treat for you guys today! I had the great pleasure of interview April Lindner, author of the novels Catherine and Jane, among others. As a reader with a penchant for historical fiction, I can totally appreciate her rich storytelling and bringing the classics alive in today's world. I had the chance to ask her a few questions about her newest novel, Catherine, based upon Wuthering Heights. So, without further ado, here's April!
1. There is a careful balance of new and old in Catherine. How did you choose to balance the historical nature of Wuthering Heights in this modern-day adaptation?

The challenge was to imagine a character like Catherine Earnshaw into the present, to picture what she would be like if she lived in our time. Coming of age in the late 1980s, my Catherine doesn’t have to marry a man with money and status to preserve her social status the way Bronte’s character did. Instead she’s faced with a more modern dilemma: must she give up her own dream of attending Harvard so she can stay with the guy she loves, whose own dreams and ambitions are quite different? Like Catherine Earnshaw, my Catherine tries to have it both ways, with similarly disastrous results.

2. You chose to feature dual perspectives between Chelsea and her mother, Catherine, in this novel. How did you distinguish their two viewpoints and make them original in such a classically remade story?

I’ve always felt that the multigenerational story line is really important in Wuthering Heights. Catherine’s daughter learns to love unselfishly, without pride, and the younger generation redeems the cruelties of the older one. So I felt it was really important to have two narrators and to interweave their stories, making each bear equal weight.

Though my Catherine and her daughter Chelsea look eerily like each other and share a certain spunkiness, Catherine is confident, with very specific ideas about her future and her place in the world. Chelsea is much less sure of herself. She’s also a bit angry; she’s grown up without a mother, and she’s still figuring out who she is.

3. What inspired you to remake a classic such as Wuthering Heights, which elicits extreme emotions on very opposite ends of the spectrum?

To be completely honest, I don’t think I realized exactly how polarizing Wuthering Heights is until I sent Catherine out into the world and started paying attention to the reaction. I hear from people who passionately love Emily Bronte’s novel and from others who are just as passionately repulsed by it. Of course I’m in the camp that loves the novel’s intensity and narrative complexity. As for Cathy and Heathcliff, they certainly aren’t role models, but their bad behavior grows out of the cruelty they’ve had to live with.

I like to think Catherine stands on its own, and might be enjoyed even by readers in the anti-Wuthering Heights camp. I’m a pretty mild mannered person, and though I originally set out to recreate some of the brutality in Bronte’s novel, I wound up with characters who are, I think, more on the likeable side. Hence, my Heathcliff character, has moments of being selfish and unkind, but by the book’s end we also see his bravery and loyalty.

4. When you create a modern day retelling such as Catherine, do you try to stay true to the original tale, or do you work to carve your own little niche for the story?

I try to do both. I want to get at the heart of the original story, to convey some of the emotion at the heart of the source material. But I also want to make something new that can stand on its own.

5. Do you have plans to write any more retellings any time soon? Care to share?!

Absolutely! I recently finished my third novel, Love, Lucy, a retelling of E. M. Forster’s A Room With a View. My Lucy is an American seventeen-year-old who falls for a street musician while backpacking through Florence, Italy, an encounter that changes the way she sees her life back home. The book is due out from Poppy in late 2014.


Thank you so much for dropping by to answer some questions, April! I'm definitely looking forward to your next book. To all my lovely readers: have you read either Catherine or Jane? What was your take on these books?

Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott Review

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Title: Heartbeat
Author: Elizabeth Scott (Twitter)
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publish Date: January 28, 2014
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Pages: 304
Source: Publisher

Emma would give anything to talk to her mother one last time. Tell her about her slipping grades, her anger with her stepfather, and the boy with the bad reputation who might be the only one Emma can be herself with. But Emma can't tell her mother anything. Because her mother is brain-dead and being kept alive by machines for the baby growing inside her.

Meeting bad-boy Caleb Harrison wouldn't have interested Old Emma. But New Emma-the one who exists in a fog of grief, who no longer cares about school, whose only social outlet is her best friend Olivia-New Emma is startled by the connection she and Caleb forge. Feeling her own heart beat again wakes Emma from the grief that has grayed her existence. Is there hope for life after death-and maybe, for love?
I was hooked from the first sentence of the synopsis of Heartbeat. For those who follow my blog and my reviews, you know that my forays into contemporary fiction have been rough and, at times, inconsistent. It's a genre that, when done well, has the ability to speak to your heart and soul. However, if it's done poorly, a novel can keep you at arms length and actually prevent you from truly getting to know the characters and become invested in the story. Elizabeth Scott is a veteran of this type of novel, thrusting readers into situations that are wholeheartedly transformative, as they force you to feel.

Heartbeat is a challenging novel from page one, both in context and in content, and parts of it soar, while other aspects of the novel had me grappling with reality vs. fantasy. The issues presented in the novel are powerful and poignant. The novel gives us a moral and an ethical question, but it challenges you to put yourself in Emma's place and understand what is happening as her world crumbles around her. Is it ethical to keep a person in a persistent vegetative state, if only to act as a human incubator for the child within their womb? It's not a question for which it is easy to pinpoint an answer, so it's fairly reasonably to assume that this is where a lot of Emma's unrest comes from.

However, it must be said that I struggled a lot with Emma as a character. She came across as extremely selfish, childish and self-centered at times, and I have a difficult time reconciling with such actions. Her voice kept me out, so I never felt as though I could access her hidden pain, which I'm sure she was concealing under a facade of angst. Furthermore, her interactions with Dan didn't resonate all that well with me, and I'd hoped to really get a bit more from both of their characters through their interactions with one another. 

In all honestly, the story of Heartbeat is a powerhouse, but I felt removed from the characters, which lessened its lasting impact on me. This novel definitely deepened my understanding of the complexity of such issues, but I think if more pain and true anger had been injected into these characters, it might have breathed life into an otherwise beautiful book.

Ms. Scott is an author whose books I will continue to read, regardless of any qualms I might have with her novels, if only because her writing style is impeccable. There is such a beauty and honesty in her words that keeps me captivated - even when the characters, themselves, aren't. While I had issues with Heartbeat in some ways, overall, I enjoyed the book. I give it a 4 out of 5, and I definitely recommend readers formulate their own opinions of this novel. I recommend it to all fans of YA, especially those who enjoy contemporary fiction.

I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.

Waiting on Wednesday: Promise of Shadows

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill from Breaking the Spine, and specifically spotlights upcoming novels we can't wait to read. As always, there are some amazing upcoming books, but this week I'm particularly excited for…

Publish Date: March 11, 2014
Genre: YA, Paranormal Fantasy
Pages: 371

Zephyr Mourning has never been very good at being a Harpy. She’d rather watch reality TV than learn forty-seven ways to kill a man, and she pretty much sucks at wielding magic. Zephyr was ready for a future pretending to be a normal human instead of a half-god assassin. But all that changes when her sister is murdered—and she uses a forbidden dark power to save herself from the same fate.

Zephyr is on the run from a punishment worse than death when an unexpected reunion with a childhood friend (a surprisingly HOT friend) changes everything. Because it seems like Zephyr might just be the Nyx, a dark goddess made flesh that is prophesied to change the power balance. For hundreds of years the half-gods have lived in fear, and Zephyr is supposed to change that. But how is she supposed to save everyone when she can’t even save herself?
I'm all for a good paranormal novel, but I haven't found one lately to become invested in. Promise of Shadows sounds like it might be exactly what I'm looking for. Zephyr sounds like a badass in her own right, and a half-god assassin? Colour me extremely intrigued. I have a thing for dark powers, plot twists and good vs. evil, so you'd better believe this one is high on my list for 2014. What do you think, and what are you waiting on this week?

Genre Trends: Where We're Heading Next

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

It's crazy to think about, but almost exactly four years ago, I started my little blog, i swim for oceans, and when I did, I had no idea what I was doing. I do, however, know that it was right in the middle of the Twilight book series, and it was honestly pretty much the most recent heyday of the paranormal genre. Some of my very first reviews were of the paranormal genre, the first of which were:

The genre trended for a while, too, with The Mortal Instruments series hitting the shelves and taking the YA realm by storm. Vampire Academy remained a fan favourite and books like Paranormalcy, Need and Claire de Lune hit the shelves at an all-time high. But I watched as the genre started to shift, too, as it crossed over and merged with dystopia - a genre in its own right that would really take the literary world by storm in the past couple years.

With the influx of series like The Hunger Games and Divergent, dystopian fiction really consumed much of the latter half of 2011 and 2012 for me. It was this rich, oddly voyeuristic genre that felt almost tangible, but it held me in its powerful, captivating grip, teasing me with broken worlds that I wanted desperately to understand. Novels like the following really hit hard on my radar:

But along the way, contemporary really hit its stride with novels from the likes of John Green, Deb Caletti, Kirsty Eagar and more. As someone who's avoided the genre for a long, long time, I was surprised to find that contemporary, and really powerful contemps at that, were finding their place on the young adult market. 

However, the biggest trend I've seen as of late is the influx of science fiction, which I'm totally loving, by the way. Sci-fi is my jam, so you'd better believe that I'm thrilled about it. I've seen a lot of upcoming novels that I'm thrilled about, as well, so I absolutely can't wait to see if sci-fi really is the next big thing in YA. Here are some of the books I've read, I'm reading, or I'm about to read in the wonderful world of sci-fi:

I love that the literary world is constantly evolving, and just when I'm getting tired of the same old, same old, something new comes along and spices it up, or we resurrect and old genre and breathe new life into it. What sort of trends have you seen throughout your time as a blogger (or before), and where do you see things going next?

Impostor by Susanne Winnacker Review

Monday, December 9, 2013

Title: Impostor
Author: Susanne Winnacker (Twitter)
Publisher: Hodder Children's
Publish Date: January 2, 2014 (UK)
Genre: YA, Sci-Fi
Pages: 320
Source: Publisher

Tessa is a Variant, able to absorb the DNA of anyone she touches and mimic their appearance. Shunned by her family, she's spent the last two years with the Forces with Extraordinary Abilities, a secret branch of the FBI. There she trains with other Variants, such as long-term crush Alec, who each have their own extraordinary ability.

When a serial killer rocks a small town in Oregon, Tessa is given a mission: she must impersonate Madison, a local teen, to find the killer before he strikes again. Tessa hates everything about being an impostor - the stress, the danger, the deceit - but loves playing the role of a normal girl. As Madison, she finds friends, romance, and the kind of loving family she'd do anything to keep.
Science fiction is a genre that I'm fairly certain I'll never grow tired of, especially when novels like Impostor make their way onto the market. This book moved at breakneck speed, sweeping us up into a fantastic, powerful and imaginative journey in which we are helpless but to become fully engrossed and invested in the story. Author, Susanne Winnacker, gives us a contemporary setting that is easy to understand and follow, which makes a science fiction novel work better for me. It makes the scene and the setting much more accessible, and as a reader, I can picture scenes playing out.

Impostor was unique to the science fiction genre though, in my opinion, in that there wasn't a hidden message that I could find in the story. It wasn't so much a political subplot or a masked agenda, which made the story more enjoyable for me. Rather than feeling like I was being preached to, as many dystopian and science fiction novels seem, Impostor's setup made it possible for me to enjoy the story and the characters for what they were at face-value, rather than asking me to delve into deep-rooted subplots that actually pertained to real life. Rather, it gave me action, adventure, drama and intrigue - all without asking me to sign up for a subliminal message.

Tessa was an incredible character, too, which is often a rarity in science fiction. Often we have to settle for either characters or plot, but Impostor managed to give readers both, and in Tessa, we find the girl next door kicked up a notch. I worried that her ability to become another person might leave her character feeling muddled, but Tessa was tangible from start to finish, even as she became Madison. Madison's characteristics became ingrained in her, too, but I never lost sight of Tessa or her power. And, yet, she felt entirely real to me despite it all, as well. Take away her powers and you just have a wonderful, rich teenage character.

The only slight qualm I had with Impostor was with Alex, the love interest. Tessa was a strong character, yet I felt like Alex's character almost tried to overshadow her with diminutive comments and an oft-times patronizing demeanor. He was meant to protect her, and I understood that, but when it was reiterated by him time and again, I could help but feel as though he was trying a bit too hard to be this alpha male who, in all honestly, paled in comparison to the power and persona that Tessa embodied.

Overall though, Impostor was a really, really good read, and it was such a welcome breath of fresh air after a string of so-so novels. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing where the series goes and progresses, and I'll definitely continue on. I give it a 4.5 out of 5, and I highly recommend it to all fans of YA, especially those who enjoy science fiction and X-Men-type stories.

I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.

Mini Review: Above by Leah Bobet

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Title: Above
Author: Leah Bobet (Twitter)
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine
Publish Date: April 1, 2012
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Pages: 368
Source: Personal Copy

Matthew has loved Ariel from the moment he found her in the tunnels, her bee’s wings falling away. They live in Safe, an underground refuge for those fleeing the city Above—like Whisper, who speaks to ghosts, and Jack Flash, who can shoot lightning from his fingers.

But one terrifying night, an old enemy invades Safe with an army of shadows, and only Matthew, Ariel, and a few friends escape Above. As Matthew unravels the mystery of Safe’s history and the shadows’ attack, he realizes he must find a way to remake his home—not just for himself, but for Ariel, who needs him more than ever before.
Fantasy is one of those genres that either truly works for me, or it doesn't. When I began to read Above by Leah Bobet, I was extremely intrigued by the complexity of the synopsis, the premise and the overall idea of the novel. There is an inherent beauty to a novel that can can stray so far form the norm yet somehow still ground you essentially to the characters despite all the otherwise unrealistic elements. Above takes a unique approach to fantasy though, with a whimsical tone that offers us fragmented pieces of this alternate reality, but never quite fulfills the need that we, as readers, have to discover the beauty of this written world.

I rather liked Ms. Bobet's approach to Above.  However, I did struggle at times with separating the characters, the places, the powers and the backstory, as it's written very much in a voice that's true to the fantasy that this story is. The easiest way to describe it is that Above painted a pretty picture incredible picture for me, but I really struggled to ascertain the details, so I feel as though the story, the message and the overall beauty was somewhat hazy to me in the end. In all honesty, I cannot say that I truly got a handle on any of the characters' personas.

Despite my struggles to become truly invested in the story of Above though, it must be stated that Ms, Bobet's prose, if taken entirely at face value, was beautiful. It has a lyrical quality that feels closer to free-form speech than typical grammar. At first, I found it difficult to understand the tone and get to the clarity of the novel, but as I read further, I could easily recognize the haunting power in the words, alone. While I'm not sure I gleaned the entire story through the prose, I must say the author could make one very powerful poet.

I can tell that there is a powerful hidden message in this novel, as is evidenced by the author's rich writing style, but I'll admit that it would take a re-read for me to truly comprehend the depth of Above, and this is one of those novels that, while beautiful, it requires a lighter read following. I give it a high 3 out of 5 because it is really quite well-written, but though I loved Ms. Bobet's prose, the story didn't really speak to me. I recommend Above to fans of YA, especially those who enjoy rich fantasy.

Waiting on Wednesday: Half Bad

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill from Breaking the Spine, and specifically spotlights upcoming novels we can't wait to read. As always, there are some amazing upcoming books, but this week I'm particularly excited for…

Title: Half Bad
Author: Sally Green 
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Publish Date: March 4, 2014
Genre: YA, Paranormal
Pages: 416

In modern-day England, witches live alongside humans: White witches, who are good; Black witches, who are evil; and fifteen-year-old Nathan, who is both. Nathan’s father is the world’s most powerful and cruel Black witch, and his mother is dead. He is hunted from all sides. Trapped in a cage, beaten and handcuffed, Nathan must escape before his sixteenth birthday, at which point he will receive three gifts from his father and come into his own as a witch—or else he will die. But how can Nathan find his father when his every action is tracked, when there is no one safe to trust—not even family, not even the girl he loves?

In the tradition of Patrick Ness and Markus Zusak, Half Bad is a gripping tale of alienation and the indomitable will to survive, a story that will grab hold of you and not let go until the very last page.
I think I mentioned once upon a time that I would love to read more books about witches. Half Bad is a little (okay, a lot) different than any witch book I've ever read, as well, which intrigues me immensely, and I'm a huge fan of the minimalist cover art. The starkness of it terrifies me. I also think that the story sounds realistic in a fantastical way, offering true-to-life elements that really bring a paranormal story to life. Needless to say, I'm excited. What do you think, and what are you waiting on this week?

New Adult: Why I've Avoided It & What I Hope to Discover

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

I took a pretty hefty hiatus last year from the blog, and when I returned, I was quite surprised to find this quiet, steady little genre that I'd only previously heard inklings of had exploded into the next big thing. For some reason though, despite the fact that I really wanted to lose myself in the new adult (NA) genre, as well, I felt a significant disconnect, and I haven't been able to bring myself to read past a few failed attempts at reading the NA genre.

I'd never be so bold as to say that there is anything wrong with the genre because it's clearly exploding. Authors like Cora Carmack, Jamie McGuire and Colleen Hoover are now household names because they've bridged that gap between YA and adult books, and I think that's awesome. I'll be the first person to say that something was seriously lacking there because we saw YA ending at 17, and then we kind of watched it taper off, losing a lot of potential stories in the process. 

In 2009, St. Martin's Press sought out something new that read similarly to young adult fiction, but could be marketed to a more adult crowd, hence a changing in the perception of adult novels and developing a diverse "new adult" market. Guys, I'm all for NA books! Truly, I am. I think it's fantastic when publishers and authors can recognize that something is missing on the market and offer something to entice new readers who might have otherwise felt overlooked. 

Here's my thing though...from my perspective, I found a lot of the NA books I tried to simply be hyper-sexualized purely for the sake of giving readers more than we might find in YA. Yes, I realize that my viewpoint is narrow, and I'm missing out on a lot of great stories, which is why I'm actually posting this. I think the new adult fiction has an incredible and fairly untapped potential. Some authors have truly captured the essence of this coming-of-age genre in which characters discover life in the real world, sexual experiences and true growth. Others, however, (and perhaps just the few ones I've read) took the genre at face-value, giving us alpha-males with meek women, an over-abundance of sex and little growth.

What I'm hoping to discover in starting to delve into the genre is a wide range of stories that offer all of the above and more. I'd love to read a book with a female (or male) protagonist that's discovering the trials and tribulations of life as a new adult. I want to watch these characters really delve into their true characters, learning about who they are as individuals, who they are in relationships and what they have to offer all those around them. I want to see tasteful, exciting discoveries in which these characters really come into their own as adults - and I want to hopefully not see all these things too heavily blanketed in a plethora of just sex.

So, lovely readers, lay it on me. What new adult titles have you read that really surprised you with their depth and insight? Trust me, I really do want to set aside my self-imposed aversion to the genre!


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