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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

NICOLE'S REVIEW: The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West

Title: The Fill-In Boyfriend
Author: Kasie West
Publication Date: May 5 2015
Publishing House:  HarperTeen
ISBN: 9780062336385


When Gia Montgomery's boyfriend, Bradley, dumps her in the parking lot of her high school prom, she has to think fast. After all, she'd been telling her friends about him for months now. This was to be the night she proved he existed. So when she sees a cute guy waiting to pick up his sister, she enlists his help. The task is simple: be her fill-in boyfriend - two hours, zero commitment, a few white lies. After that she can win back to real Bradley.

The problem is that days after prom, it's not the real Bradley she's thinking about, but the stand-in. The one whose name she doesn't even know. But tracking him down doesn't mean they're done faking a relationship. Gia owes him a favour and his sister intends to see that he collects: his ex-girlfriend's graduation party - three hours, zero commitment, a few white lies.

Just when Gia begins to wonder if she could turn her fake boyfriend into a real one, Bradley comes waltzing back into her life, exposing her lie, and threatening to destroy her friendships and her new-found relationship.

        (Image and information courtesy of Goodreads; Summary lifted from actual book)


Out of all the contemporary books Kasie West has published, this has got to be my least favourite. Why? Maybe because the character is boy obsessed? She's more concerned with appearances which makes her come off as really shallow. And don't get me started on her obsession with social media and the validation of strangers. The number of likes your photo on Instagram or that picture you tweeted of your hipster coffee does not make you.

These are the characters I cannot relate to. I just can't wrap my mind around not ditching people who aren't good for you or for being too concerned about what other people think. I'm super chill, I don't get worked up over boys and what people think. I don't find myself losing sleep over tossing toxic people to the curb or for not being on top of the social hierarchy. I couldn't relate to the obsession with social media too. I'm known to delete photos on Instagram though, not because of the number of likes but because of the overall quality of the photo. (Sometimes I don't because I'm lazy and I have way too much nail ideas.)

So maybe this is why as I was reading the book I found that it contained way too much unnecessary drama. Also the whole fake boyfriend trope isn't really my thing. I hate it with a vengeance. And Gia's friends - all I have to say is what kind of friends are they? I'd insert a few cuss words here but I'm not allowed to swear. Pffffff.

That's not to say the book was a total disappointment. I did finish it in one go and while the romance wasn't the best, it wasn't the worst too. After reading The Distance Between Us and On the Fence though, I kind of expected more from Kasie. I did notice that there was more character development in this book seeing as how Gia goes from shallow, flighty popular girl to someone more mature. Not perfect, never perfect, but way better than how she was at the beginning. And as for the fill-in boyfriend? Cute. He's probably my favourite out of this cast of characters. Different from the type you normally find in contemporary novels.

Overall, in my opinion, this isn't one of Kasie's best works. A bit of a let-down but that doesn't mean I'm giving up on her books. If you want to try her contemporary books may I suggest The Distance Between Us? That one was so cute I find myself reaching for it from time to time when I'm in need of fluff in my life.

Thank you to Harper for an advanced copy of this book.



Monday, August 3, 2015

NICOLE'S REVIEW: Shadow of the War Machine by Kristin Bailey

Title: Shadow of the War Machine
Author: Kristin Bailey
Format Acquired: eARC
Publication Date: February 3 2015
Publishing House:  Simon Pulse
ISBN: 144246805X
Source of Copy: Edelweiss


Meg has come a long way from her days as a lowly housemaid, driven to learn the truth behind her parents' murder. She's since discovered that they were part of the Secret Order of Modern Amusementists - an underground society of inventors. Determined to reclaim her heritage, she joined the Amusementists as an apprentice, but that hasn't brought her closer to the person responsible for the loss of her family: the man in the clockwork mask.

Now he is coming for her. But Meg is tired of being hunted and intends to become the hunter. With help from Will, the boy who holds her heart, Meg embarks on an adventure that takes them far from the cold London winter and into the heart of France.

But the City of Light is filled with dark shadows. There's a plot afoot that could turn the tides of a terrible war, and cost the lives of millions - that is, if it doesn't take the lives of everyone Meg holds dear, including her own.

        (Image and information courtesy of Goodreads; Summary lifted from actual book)


Before I even begin to review this book I just want to say sorry for being MIA the past few months. I've recently moved to Vancouver and it was a bit hard for me at first, having to uproot myself from friends and family but it was something I needed to do. Thank you to everyone who's still checking out the blog and for not abandoning us. You guys rock. Anyway, now that that's over with it's on to the review! (Hopefully I get to blog more often now.)

It's time for the hunted to become the hunter. Meg is sick and tired of living in constant fear and worry, she's determined to put an end to the man in the clockwork mask's diabolical scheme and his reign of terror. 

Let's cut to the chase. The ending? Lacklustre. Anticlimactic. I seriously did not expect it to end this way. The villain turned out to be textbook, a little boring and one-dimensional. I mean having read the first two books and finding myself quite invested in the story, this is just incredibly disappointing.  

The romance? Meh. The truth is, after the first book the romance kind of just sizzled out and I couldn't bring myself to cheer for the Meg and Will any longer. It was like now that they're together the tension and sparks and heat between them just disappeared. Woohoo! Together forever, who cares about keeping the sparks/love/lust alive? Don't get me wrong, Will is Meg's rock, her pillar of strength, but he kind of had more similarities with a rock than with an actual human being. He was that boring! I can't even remember what role he played anymore.

The characters? I would have liked them to be fleshed out more. I mean it's the last book in the series! Better end it with a bang, right? But as I was reading this, I found myself slowly losing interest in everyone.

One thing I might have slightly enjoyed were the twists the author introduced in the story. And the battle scenes. Although truth be had the battle scenes were kind of wrong, like they didn't quite fit the story. It's like when you're playing tetris and you get the Z shaped block and you're going all "This should fit here but somehow it doesn't ohmygosh I don't get it!!!!" Well. That's just me probably but seriously there was just something strange about the battle scenes, like they were somehow forced so characters could be killed off and voila! They lived happily ever after.

So to sum this review up -the last book in The Secret Order series was very disappointing. I wish it would've ended with a bang, but I guess not. The characters were boring, the villain was textbook and everything was wrapped up in a cute little bow. 

Thank you to Simon Pulse for the advanced copy.




Monday, June 29, 2015

[BLOG TOUR] MICHELLE'S REVIEW: 5 to 1 by Holly Bodger

Title: 5 to 1
Author: Holly Bodger
Publication Date: May 12, 2015
Publishing House: Knopf Books for Young Readers
ISBN: 9780385391535


In the year 2054, after decades of gender selection, India now has a ratio of five boys for every girl, making women an incredibly valuable commodity. Tired of marrying off their daughters to the highest bidder and determined to finally make marriage fair, the women who form the country of Koyanagar have instituted a series of tests so that every boy has the chance to win a wife.

Sudasa doesn't want to be a wife, and Kiran, a boy forced to compete in the test to become her husband, has other plans as well. Sudasa's family wants nothing more than for their daughter to do the right thing and pick a husband who will keep her comfortable - and caged. Kiran's family wants him to escape by failing the tests. As the tests advance, Sudasa and Kirann thwart each other at every turn until they slowly realize that they just might want the same thing.

        (Image and information courtesy of Goodreads; Summary lifted from actual book)


In 2054 Koyanagar, Sudasa has five boys competing for her hand in marriage. The new norm brought about by the disparity between the ratio of the sexes in India that aims to champion fairness and equality amongst the classes, never mind the fact that they were trampling on freedom and independence. But as the tests go on, Sudasa and Kiran, one of the boys forced to compete for Sudasa's hand, slowly start seeing the cracks and fissures of the new system, and both teens suddenly find themselves in a battle that's bigger than the both of them.

Because going with what society deems as the wrong choice may be their biggest undoing yet.

As soon as I opened the page and was met with Sudasa's poetry, I must admit that I immediately closed the book. In my opinion, poetry is tricky - you either love it, or you feel indifferent about it, and that night, I was not in the mood for angsty poetry that teenage characters are notorious for. But in the end, my curiosity won out as to how the author could possibly make this work, and so I found myself turning the page.

Until I found myself at the last page and being all, "Woah."

While Sudasa might come off as just another pretty, rich airhead, she is actually subtle in her rebelliousness which makes her all kinds of awesome. She isn't in your face about it because that could spell serious repercussions for her family, but she is very self-aware of herself and the events that are happening, and I liked her immensely. Sudasa is not only at war with what society expects from her, but from what she expects from herself, and that is understandably confusing for anyone.

Kiran, on the other hand, doesn't want to be chosen as some girl's husband. He's not interested in a lifetime of play and pleasure if he won Sudasa's hand. All he wants is to keep a low profile and hopefully find his mother. But when the unfairness of the competition becomes too glaring for him to ignore, Kiran - or #5, as he is called all throughout the process - starts trying to level the playing field by pulling up a few tricks and helping out his competitors.

I loved that these two teenagers were different as night and day, but there was something about these two that just worked. Sudasa finds herself intrigued by Kiran's disinterestedness not because she's vain and thinks that she's a prize or anything, but because she finds it refreshing that he doesn't see her as his golden ticket out of a life of poverty. Kiran, on the other hand, is surprised when he finds that the seemingly vapid girl was apparently not unaffected by the unfairness of the competition as well.

Bodger's 5 to 1 is a clean read in the sense that it is practically faultless in its continuity. I was skeptical as to how poetry and narration could work, but it does, and the execution is unbelievable. 

In the end, Bodger reminds her readers that there are no such things as good choices and bad choices. In the face of despair, the true power lies in making that choice for yourself.