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June 13, 2016

Burn by Paula Weston - End of an epic paranormal series

Burn (The Rephaim, #4)

Title: Burn (The Rephaim, #4)
Author: Paula Weston
Publisher: Random House Canada
Publication date: March 8th, 2016
Genre(s): YA/NA, Fantasy/Paranormal 
Source: Publisher
Pages: 448

Suddenly, Gaby remembers everything.

For a year she believed she was a backpacker chilling out in Pandanus Beach. Working at the library. Getting over the accident that killed her twin brother. Then Rafa came to find her and Gaby discovered her true identity as Gabe: one of the Rephaim. Over a hundred years old. Half angel, half human, all demon-smiting badass—and hopelessly attracted to the infuriating Rafa.

Now she knows who faked her memories, and how—and why it’s all hurtling towards a massive showdown between the forces of heaven and hell. More importantly, she remembers why she’s spent the last ten years wanting to seriously hurt Rafa.

The build up to this final book was amazing. If I could have binge read this series, I would have. This is coming from someone who rarely likes to binge read. Shimmer left off at the worst possible cliffhanger. The main protagonist, Gaby, finally remembers. All her lost memory comes back and we see how this has affected her but we don't know what are those memories. Then BAM, the book ends. So to say I was impatient to get Burn is an understatement. The beginning of Burn takes us down memory lane, we go back to when all the Rephaim were still together and Gaby was friends with Rafa and had her brother by her side. However things go very wrong (or good? depends on how you see it) and then Gaby is separated from her brother, and her relationship with Rafa got dramatically severed. Gaby finally remembers what caused this rift, the reason she went ten years without speaking to her brother. 

I loved the buildup, the reveal, the trip down memory lane.. but what I was slightly dissatisfied with is what that big reveal was... it felt a bit anti climatic in the sense that I didn't understand how it could have such a severe effect on everyone. However, bypassing my dissatisfaction, I loved the past chapters, and I grew to understand the old Gaby as well as appreciate Gaby's character. The big showdown with the angels was interesting, but it happened all the way at the end of the book that I felt I wasn't as invested anymore. Granted, the whole book and character relationship and friendship dynamic was very likeable, I just didn't enjoy the showdown as much. However, Paula Weston really knows how to hook the readers and even if I wasn't as excited, I needed to find out what happened and how everything will be resolved. I have to say, I am going to miss Gabe, the Rephaim world, and Rafa. It was a fantastic four book series that I will be recommended to any person interested in a paranormal book series. 

May 25, 2016

Review: A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

Title: A Court of Mist and Fury
Author: Sarah J Maas
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Publication Date: May 3rd, 2016
Genre(s): New Adult, High Fantasy, Retelling
Source: Borrowed
Pages: 640
Add to Goodreads | Chapters Amazon CA | B&N

Feyre survived Amarantha's clutches to return to the Spring Court—but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can't forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin's people.

Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms—and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future—and the future of a world cleaved in two.

With more than a million copies sold of her beloved Throne of Glass series, Sarah J. Maas's masterful storytelling brings this second book in her seductive and action-packed series to new heights.

Fair warning, this review has all the spoilers because I tried super hard to write one without discussing SPOILER and SPOILER and how SPOILER DID SPOILER and…you can see how that turned out.

I'm so conflicted and tumultous. It’s been three days since I finished ACOMAF but I realised today my chaotic, weird feelings about this book aren’t dying anytime soon. WHAT WAS THAT BOOK EVEN. I am feeling WAY too many things right now and I want to explore each one of them in greater detail.

I gave ACOTAR 4 stars when I first read it, 3 stars when I wrote my review, and it sagged very much in my opinion even after that. At the time I started ACOMAF, I fully expected to hate it as much as I hated ACOTAR and only read on because I thought Sarah would surprise me...which she did.

In ACOTAR, Tamlin was an asshole. The minute he denied Feyre her cake, I had my defenses up. But his spinelessness in the last third of the book was really what sealed the deal for me, and I wondered how any of what Tamlin did could even remotely be construed as romantic. Some part of me wonders if Sarah J Maas allowed this Feyre-Tamlin mess to go on for as long as it did to fully allow the readers to appreciate (in retrospect) what a tangled, tragic, abusive mess that was. Some twisted parts of me revels in the way Tamlin wasn’t painted as Bad Guy Number 1 from the beginning. Hell, he was the hero in this BatB retelling, what could he ever do wrong. But as Maas continued to distance herself from the fairy tale that loosely inspired ACOTAR in ACOMAF, it became very apparent that Tamlin was anything but Feyre’s saviour.

There are very obvious parallels to Feyre’s relationship with Rhysand, who thank god gets wayyy more face time than Tamlin. I am not going to lie, Sarah J Maas does unresolved tension and banter like no one else and I’d be flat out lying if that wasn’t a huge reason why I kept reading because I had to see that tension resolved goddammit. But now that I’ve, um calmed down, I’m just going to say it: the romance wasn’t….ideal. I appreciate Maas fleshing out Tamlin's assholery and effectively showing his possessive alpha male territorial crap for what it was exactly. It was a nuanced, subtle thing, and I love that so much of the book was devoted to exploring that. I even concede that there needed to be this level of emphasis on romance for this to be fully realized. There are so many Rhys/Tamlin parallels and many painful scenes where Feyre realizes how broken her relationship with Tamlin was, that drives this concept completely home, and I'm very glad that a book about Fae, the genre oft used to romanticize obviously pretty unbalanced and/or borderline abusive relationships depicts this.

BUT. The Rhys/Feyre romance was still not ideal. Not telling Feyre about her bond, SO NOT COOL BRO. Making her read stuff like "Rhys is the best lover you've ever had" or "Rhysand is the most delightful High Lord" was creepy and not even remotely funny let alone romantic to me. Besides this, there was some freaky S Meyer shit going down there which I was 100% not on board with? Why is “mating” a thing? Why is the idea of one perfect mate touted again and again in fae stories? Elain becoming fae and then Lucien proclaiming her to be his mate? Whyyyyyy? I am so upset that is a thing that happened and will likely be a large plot point in book 3, we need to stop romanticizing this crap like 10 years ago? Also we get it, Rhys and Feyre are madly in love but why does the stupid mating bond have to make them compulsively bang each other? Why this trope didn't just die with Breaking Dawn is beyond me. Dont? You? Realize? That 324 sex scenes? Makes it get real old? Real fast?

I know it sounds like I hated a lot of the book, but honestly I’m surprised the book didn’t explode in my hands, so chock-full of clich├ęs that it was. Pointless secrets used as plot devices, convenient “festivals” for the mushy conversations and almost-make out scenes, weird monster names, this book literally had it all.

The pacing of this book was pretty meh too. This book should have been two books. We were robbed of so much action and intrigue and mystery solving for character development (which I'm not saying isn't important), but the book was a LOT of conversations and recovery and backstory-telling and then like ONE page of action, rinse, repeat. As much as I enjoyed the character development, thr half baked action seriously affected my liking of the book. A lot of the actiony parts were either too "easy" or rushed and details were left out and that made me very grumpy. I’d have loved to see how Az dealt with the mortal queens, I’d have liked some more struggle with the mortal queens or the Bone Carver, I’d have liked to watch Amren work with the book. I’m all for books that are more about character growth than action (Heir of Fire), but if you’re going to do the action, I need it whole-assed, not half-assed.

But okay, okay, okay, I didn’t hate the book, really. I did enjoy myself for some parts of it. Sarah J Maas does world building, prose, and banter like literally no one else that I know and watching her expand her universe beyond the Spring Court into Velaris, Adriatia, and the Summer Court was so much fun. The world in ACOMAF becomes much more layered and complex and the backstory that she dedicated, especially to the secondary characters was incredibly layered and rich in detail.

That squad kept me together through this book and I will be you anything, Maas wrote those scenes to scenes of Bellamy and co. in the rover, ha. Morrigan is possibly my favorite character of the book. We get to see more of Nesta! Prickly, steely, strong, wonderful Nesta will have a decidedly larger role to play in book 3 and I’m suppper excited to watch her come into her own. Amren is like….Manon’s soul sister. There is no other way to put it. She is cold and vicious, but there’s a lot of sorrow in her actions and character that I bet Maas is keeping from us for good reason. Secondary characters, best characters, basically. I suppose I should also mention Rhys. I was very surprised with the turn his character took this book. I knew he was probably intended as Feyre’s love interest but his internal growth and change was a lot of fun to watch. I wish this book was written in third person though, because I feel like I really only know him through Feyre’s eyes. I hope we get a Rhys POV next book.

The book ended with the biggest of cliffhangers and everything was a mess including us, as Sarah dropped the mic and walked away and I’m just wondering what I will do without my Illyrian warriors and Nesta until freaking 2017. If you hated ACOTAR or dnf’d it (and then read this sort of spoilery review, ha), I definitely encourage you to power through that crap to ACOMAF.

I cannot wait to see how my squad kills it in book 3.

May 14, 2016

Review: Dear Thing by Julie Cohen

Dear Thing
Title: Dear Thing
Author: Julie Cohen
Publisher: Raincoast Canada
Publication date: March 29, 2016
Genre(s): Adult contemporary 
Source: Publisher
Pages: 432

After years of watching her best friends Ben and Claire try for a baby, Romily has offered to give them the one thing that they want most.

Romily expects it will be easy to be a surrogate. She's already a single mother, and she has no desire for any more children. But Romily isn't prepared for the overwhelming feelings that have taken hold of her and which threaten to ruin her friendship with Ben and Claire-and even destroy their marriage.

Now there are three friends, two mothers and only one baby, and an impossible decision to make...

Dear Thing was a recipe for drama and I was very excited to start reading it. My only concern was that there would be cheating involved which is something I can't stomach in my books but I needn't have worried. Romily and Ben have been best friends for years.. Ben is married to Claire while Romily has a seven year old kid, and is in love with Ben. Yikes indeed. What's even more messy is that Romily offered to be the surrogate for the couple because Claire can't get pregnant. Recipe for drama? check. 

The general story sounded very interesting however the execution was a bit lacking for me. The story dragged on and it felt that the story could be congested in 200 pages or so. I felt several times the plot was dragging and I would skim through paragraphs of descriptions on repeated thought processes. However the plot was very heartfelt, and it really showed the struggle of both Claire, who viewed herself as a failure for not being able to get pregnant, and Romily, who seems to get into this surrogacy for all the wrong reasons. I feel the slow developing friendship between both women was very important and gave us insight on how each viewed the other and also the prejudices accompanying that judgement and how they were able to finally understand each other. 

This is definitely not a romance book. It is more about relationships.. between friends, strangers, long lost fathers, misunderstood people, mothers, and daughters. I liked that all the characters were flawed and also they also tried their best to become better versions of themselves. Humans are messy, and this book shows us that in a very realistic way (even if the suggestion of surrogacy by Romily was highly unrealistic). I would recommend it to adult fiction fans who like a little drama and realistic plot lines in their stories. 

April 29, 2016

Review: Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

Title: Eligible
Author: Curtis Littenfeld 
Publisher: Random House Canada
Publication date: April 19, 2016
Genre(s): Adult contemporary 
Source: Publisher
Pages: 512
Add to Goodreads | Chapters | Amazon CA | B&N

This version of the Bennet family—and Mr. Darcy—is one that you have and haven’t met before: Liz is a magazine writer in her late thirties who, like her yoga instructor older sister, Jane, lives in New York City. When their father has a health scare, they return to their childhood home in Cincinnati to help—and discover that the sprawling Tudor they grew up in is crumbling and the family is in disarray.

Youngest sisters Kitty and Lydia are too busy with their CrossFit workouts and Paleo diets to get jobs. Mary, the middle sister, is earning her third online master’s degree and barely leaves her room, except for those mysterious Tuesday-night outings she won’t discuss. And Mrs. Bennet has one thing on her mind: how to marry off her daughters, especially as Jane’s fortieth birthday fast approaches.

Enter Chip Bingley, a handsome new-in-town doctor who recently appeared on the juggernaut reality TV dating show Eligible. At a Fourth of July barbecue, Chip takes an immediate interest in Jane, but Chip’s friend neurosurgeon Fitzwilliam Darcy reveals himself to Liz to be much less charming. . . . And yet, first impressions can be deceiving. Wonderfully tender and hilariously funny, Eligible both honors and updates Austen’s beloved tale. Tackling gender, class, courtship, and family, Sittenfeld reaffirms herself as one of the most dazzling authors writing today.
I was very excited to read Eligible because I love anything Pride & Prejudice related. Knowing that this is a retelling, one that is anticipated by many of my reader friends, had me pick it up as soon as I received it in the mail. I have to say that I was hooked immediately, however, this is a 500+ page book... and halfway through the book... the momentum seemed to have fizzled? so while I truly loved the first half of the book, the second half somewhat disappointed. 

What I liked about Eligible is that the author tried to make this story as much hers as it is Jane Austen's. I have abandoned many P&P retellings because it seemed just that... the story being retold.. with not much personal input from the author. However, Curtis was able to do that. For one, Liz and Jane are both 38 and 40 years old. Many times I would try to remember which part of this plot it is in relation to the original, which showed me how the author owned this retelling. 

Unfortunately halfway through the novel... I felt I was back to reading a parody of P&P... I felt (personally) that the author lost sight and tried to make it as unique as possible to the point that some scenes felt contrived? or made to be too different from the original to the point that the decisions and paths made didn't make much sense.. however the author has to follow the direction of the original work. A very thin space is between being too much like a P&P retelling, and being too different to not make it look like one. Some decisions some characters made were not in character but they had to be made to stick to the storyline. It was a tad disappointing. 

I liked Liz however she was very easily pushed around by her family. She paid for things, listened to her annoying mother complain even though it is her mother's fault they are in that exact situation.. let her younger sisters talk crap about her to her face..... that was very grating on my nerves. However I got she was trying to be the mature one here. Lastly, the romance... I wasn't a fan of? it wasn't developed well... seemed out of the blue how they both liked each other... I was waiting for that signature P&P tension between Liz and Darcy but I didn't see it. 

I know I had complaints about the book.. but I truly did enjoy it. If I had to rate it, I would give the first half 4 stars while the second half 2 stars. I would recommend it to fans of P&P retellings if any that i've said doesn't bother you too much.. I know it didn't bother me all that much since I was able to finish the book by the end. 

April 25, 2016

Three Scoops of Summer: The Last Boy and Girl in the World's author, Siobhan Vivian, guest post

Yes, summer is finally here! (at least in some parts of the world), and with it comes the Three Scoops of Summer blog tour hosted by Simon & Schuster Canada! In this tour, many canadian bloggers will be bringing you author written pieces, reviews, and fun posts for: The Last Boy and Girl in the World by Siobhan Vivian, The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson, and The Museum of Heartbreak by Meg Leder!

Today, the tour will kick off with a written piece by Siobhan Vivian, the author of The Last Boy and Girl in the World here at Maji Bookshelf!

The Last Boy and Girl in the World
Title: The Last Boy and Girl in the World
Author: Siobhan Vivian
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Canada
Publication date: April 26, 2016
Genre(s): YA (Contemporary)
Pages: 432

What if your town was sliding underwater and everyone was ordered to pack up and leave? How would you and your friends spend your last days together?

While the adults plan for the future, box up their possessions, and find new places to live, Keeley Hewitt and her friends decide to go out with a bang. There are parties in abandoned houses. Canoe races down Main Street. The goal is to make the most of every minute they still have together.

And for Keeley, that means taking one last shot at the boy she’s loved forever.

There’s a weird sort of bravery that comes from knowing there’s nothing left to lose. You might do things you normally wouldn’t. Or say things you shouldn’t. The reward almost always outweighs the risk. Almost.

It’s the end of Aberdeen, but the beginning of Keeley’s first love story. It just might not turn out the way she thought. Because it’s not always clear what’s worth fighting for and what you should let become a memory.

The Top 5 Things Siobhan Would Do If Her City Were Sinking

Here’s what I’d do if Pittsburgh were about to disappear under water, like the town of Aberdeen in my new book, THE LAST BOY AND GIRL IN THE WORLD.

I’d have to hit up my favorite restaurants for the last time. First stop would be iced coffee and a doughnut from the best local coffee shop, Tazza D’oro. For lunch, I’d chow down on a veggie burger (with grilled pineapple, avocado and jalapenos) from Burgatory. For dinner, I’d get thai fried chicken from Noodlehead. And dessert would have to be homemade ice cream from Millie’s.

I’d probably max out my phone memory snapping pics. When it comes to documenting a place, I don’t think you should worry about getting the perfect staged picture. It’s quantity over quality. Like, I don’t want to just remember the house I live in. I want to remember all the houses on the block, plus the way the stop sign is a little bit dented from someone shooting a BB gun.

Photos aside, I’d want some sort of tangible memorabilia to take with me. Something that, long after Pittsburgh was gone, would prove that it was once was a thriving city. Maybe a street sign? Or a beautiful map?

If Pittsburgh were flooded, I’m sure I’d want to do something super crazy. Maybe I’d explore an empty building or museum. Or take a canoe and paddle it somewhere surreal, like the middle of a football field.  

There’s nothing worse than getting robbed of the chance to tell someone how you really feel about them before they’re gone. I have a few friends in Pittsburgh mean the world to me, and I’d want to make sure they knew it before they left. It’s the perfect setting for a heart-on-your-sleeve, no-holding-back, here’s-everything-I-never-told-you conversation.

The inverse of that, of course, is coming clean about someone you don’t like. I have a neighbor who is a horrible, horrible man. I have to play polite with him, since we live next door to each other. But! If Pittsburgh were suddenly being evacuated, I would definitely go knock on his door and tell him exactly what I think about him!