Ride Hard (Raven Riders, #1) by Laura Kaye
Series: Raven Riders #1
Published by Avon on April 26th 2016
Genres: Contemporary Romance
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Brotherhood. Club. Family.
They live and ride by their own rules.
These are the Raven Riders . . .
Raven Riders Motorcycle Club President Dare Kenyon rides hard and values loyalty above all else. He’ll do anything to protect the brotherhood of bikers—the only family he’s got—as well as those who can’t defend themselves. So when mistrustful Haven Randall lands on the club’s doorstep scared that she’s being hunted, Dare takes her in, swears to keep her safe, and pushes to learn the secrets overshadowing her pretty smile.
Haven fled from years of abuse at the hands of her criminal father and is suspicious of any man’s promises, including those of the darkly sexy and overwhelmingly intense Ravens’ leader. But as the powerful attraction between them flares to life, Dare pushes her boundaries and tempts her to want things she never thought she could.
The past never dies without a fight, but Dare Kenyon’s never backed down before . . .
I’m still asking myself why I actually finished this book. I’ve gotten better at DNF’ing things and Ride Hard is definitely one I should have just given up on.
- The writing: The writing was not terrible. It wasn’t anything fabulous but it gives me enough hope that maybe some of Laura Kaye’s other books might be better for me to read. It was a simple style of writing that lent itself to the story very well. It had good pacing and helped move things along, even when the story itself seemed to be plodding along.
- The story: The story was unrealistic and dragged along so much. There was so much build up and not nearly enough action. I get that it’s a romance novel but I expected so much more. The book could have been 100 pages shorter if things just moved along a little faster.
- The dialogue: I’m not sure I’ve ever read anything cheesier than the dialogue between the two romantic interests in Ride Hard. Also, Dare was supposed to be this badass president of a motorcycle club and half the things he said to Haven made me laugh how cheesy they were. I just couldn’t take him seriously as a badass after saying those things.
- The romance: I know it’s a romance novel but there was just too much! It was pretty repetitive, actually. I also didn’t really get why they liked each other that much. They had similar pasts but it didn’t seem like they actually shared a lot of interests or had that much in common. It mainly seemed like physical attraction.
- The characters: The characters really didn’t stand out to me and I could not have cared less about what happened to them. None of them were well developed and they were just not memorable. Normally in books like this I become attracted enough to the stories of the side characters to continue the series so I can see what happens to them. That was not the case with Ride Hard and I will not be continuing this series.
I’m just gonna stop now because it’s only going to get worse from here. Needless to say, I don’t recommend Ride Hard though, like I said, I may check out another of Laura Kaye’s books to see if it’s any better. I’m normally a romance fan and I love books about motorcycle clubs so this one really let me down.
Ask Me How I Got Here by Christine Heppermann
Published by Greenwillow on May 3rd 2016
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Addie has always known what she was running toward. In cross-country, in life, in love. Until she and her boyfriend—her sensitive, good-guy boyfriend—are careless one night and she ends up pregnant. Addie makes the difficult choice to have an abortion. And after that—even though she knows it was the right decision for her—nothing is the same anymore. She doesn’t want anyone besides her parents and her boyfriend to know what happened; she doesn’t want to run cross-country; she can’t bring herself to be excited about anything. Until she reconnects with Juliana, a former teammate who’s going through her own dark places.
Ask Me How I Got Here ended up on my TBR because I needed a quick book to read. I’m not typically a fan of books written in verse and I think that’s probably why I didn’t love this one. It had potential to be more than it was though it was by no means, bad.
- Story: The story was fast and extremely interesting. Addie is a teenage girl attending an all girls Catholic school when she gets pregnant and decides to have an abortion. However, to get an abortion in her state, she has to have parental consent. So not only do she and her boyfriend know, so do her parents. The abortion causes Addie to lose a lot of motivation for things such as cross-country and she starts to become withdrawn. Her relationships suffer and it takes a lot of introspection for her to really get past what she has done.
- Verse: While I did mention that verse novels aren’t really for me, I think it fit well with this story. Writing in verse really opens up a lot of different possibilities for the author and Christine Heppermann took advantage of that. Not only was Addie’s story told in what she had to say but also in what she didn’t say or even what she crossed out.
- Characters: I never felt like I knew or could connect with any of the characters. I understood that Addie was going through a very tough time but I couldn’t feel that much for her. She shut herself off from the people that were there for her and she wasn’t willing to let any of them try to help her. As for Nick or Addie’s parents or even Claire, they all played very brief roles and so I didn’t really get a feel for any of them.
- Romance: The romance between Addie and Nick was cute but not very substantial. The romance between Addie and Julianna seemed to come out of nowhere and didn’t make a lot of sense to me. I think Addie saw some of herself in what Julianna went through and so she was drawn to her. Don’t get me wrong, I liked Julianna just fine but I didn’t really see a connection between her and Addie. Once again, probably a little due to the writing style.
Overall, Ask Me How I Got Here was not one for me but I can see why it’s been getting quite a bit of love from some other bloggers. The poetry was great and the story was definitely something that appealed to me but it just fell flat in some areas.
The Raven King (The Raven Cycle, #4) by Maggie Stiefvater
Series: The Raven Cycle #4
Published by Scholastic Press on April 26th 2016
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Nothing living is safe. Nothing dead is to be trusted.
For years, Gansey has been on a quest to find a lost king. One by one, he’s drawn others into this quest: Ronan, who steals from dreams; Adam, whose life is no longer his own; Noah, whose life is no longer a lie; and Blue, who loves Gansey…and is certain she is destined to kill him.
Now the endgame has begun. Dreams and nightmares are converging. Love and loss are inseparable. And the quest refuses to be pinned to a path.
I’m still a little in shock that this series is over so forgive me if my thoughts are all over the place. I finished this last week and this is the first time I’ve even felt like I could string together coherent sentences about it. That should tell you plenty about the finale to the Raven Cycle.
Let me start off by saying that this will be spoiler free as far as The Raven King goes but I make no promises for the other books in the series. If you haven’t read them, I urge you to stop reading my review and go read them. Or just go read my review for The Raven Boys to see if it might interest you.
- Characters: These characters hold a special place in my heart at this point. I’ve grown so attached to them over the past 4 books and I was so happy with how Maggie chose to end their stories. I’m not saying that everything that happened to them was happy. What I appreciated about how she ended everything was that it felt true to each of the characters. I also loved that she could introduce new characters in the final book and make it feel like they had been there the whole time. Henry Cheng may have been introduced in an earlier book but The Raven King is really where he made his grand entrance and he grew on me in no time. I loved the relationship he built with everyone but Blue especially.
- Romance: Y’all already know how I feel about Gansey and Blue (I adore them!) but I’ve never really been vocal about anyone else. After reading The Raven King, I may like Ronan and Adam more than I like Gansey and Blue and that is really saying something. Gansey and Blue have always had this chemistry that pulls them together and a curse that pushes them apart. I’m a sucker for forbidden romance and that was another big appeal for them. Ronan and Adam have a completely different type of relationship. I wouldn’t even say they are that close as friends. It’s more that Gansey brought them all together and they found each other through that weird friendship. The tension between them just permeates everything they do and I just wanted to reach in the book and push them together. Gah! I can’t even talk about it anymore because I’m out of words. Oh and then there was Maura and the Grey Man. They were oddly cute together.
- Writing: I bet this one is a big shocker to you guys. Well, okay, maybe not really. We all know I love Maggie Stiefvater’s writing. It’s a style that might be a little more wordy than some authors but I love that. I feel like every word she writes should be savored and she somehow manages to string them all together perfectly. She is beyond talented. It’s no surprise that the writing in The Raven King is flawless.
- Story: The story was not bad, it was just a little all over the place. I don’t know what I was expecting but it wasn’t quite what I got. I said no spoilers so this part of the review is a little difficult. Maggie Stiefvater tied up all loose ends which pleased me, definitely, but how she went about it wasn’t perfect, in my opinion. And to be quite honest, if I took my time and re-read the whole series, I may not find the story to be a problem at all anymore. I think it may have been that I took so much time between the first 3 books and this one that the confusion was only on my part. I know there were things I forgot from the first books and when I eventually go back and re-read them, maybe things will make a bit more sense.
Overall, The Raven King will surpass expectations for fans of The Raven Cycle. Maggie Stiefvater impressed me once again and I cannot wait to see what she does next. The Raven Cycle will forever be up there on my list of favorites.
Holding Smoke by Elle Cosimano
Published by Hyperion on May 3rd 2016
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John "Smoke" Conlan is serving time for two murders but he wasn't the one who murdered his English teacher, and he never intended to kill the only other witness to the crime. A dangerous juvenile rehabilitation center in Denver, Colorado, known as the Y, is Smoke's new home and the only one he believes he deserves.
But, unlike his fellow inmates, Smoke is not in constant imprisonment. After a near death experience leaves him with the ability to shed his physical body at will, Smoke is able to travel freely outside the concrete walls of the Y, gathering information for himself and his fellow inmates while they're asleep in their beds. Convinced his future is only as bright as the fluorescent lights in his cell, Smoke doesn't care that the "threads" that bind his soul to his body are wearing thin-that one day he may not make it back in time. That is, until he meets Pink, a tough, resourceful girl who is sees him for who he truly is and wants to help him clear his name.
Now Smoke is on a journey to redemption he never thought possible. With Pink's help, Smoke may be able to reveal the true killer, but the closer they get to the truth, the more deadly their search becomes. The web of lies, deceit, and corruption that put Smoke behind bars is more tangled than they could have ever imagined. With both of their lives on the line, Smoke will have to decide how much he's willing to risk, and if he can envision a future worth fighting for.
Elle Cosimano became one of my favorite authors with her Nearly duology (possibly trilogy?) When I first heard about Holding Smoke, I was extremely excited and immediately added it to my TBR. I got my hands on an ARC and I read it immediately. While it was very different from her first books, I liked the new direction her writing took.
- Characters: Smoke stole my heart from the very start! He comes across as a bit of a bad boy but he has a heart of gold. His circumstances were beyond crappy. He was not a completely innocent man but he was not as guilty as you’d first think. He had quite a few layers to him and I never knew what side he was going to show next. I liked that he was able to keep me guessing. As for Pink, she was a bit of a mystery. She came across as this badass female but she also had quite a shy, scared side. She knew when she could handle herself and she knew when she needed help. She and Smoke weren’t always good for each other but they worked past that.
- Story: The story was both a pro and a con for me. It was so unique and so twisted that I was kept guessing until the very end. Not only could I not figure out who committed the crime Smoke was in jail for, I also couldn’t figure out the exact nature of the crime Smoke actually committed. He was good at hiding things and Elle Cosimano is good at twisting things so much, you’ll never see it coming.
- Romance: Smoke and Pink didn’t have a traditional romance. For one, Smoke wasn’t actually physically there for most of their interactions. With his ability, he came across as a ghost to Pink most of the time. Because of that, their relationship developed mentally way before it did physically and I really liked that. They weren’t exactly a cute couple (they got on each others nerves quite a bit) but they had their own charm.
- Story: Like I said, the story was both a pro and a con for me and it’s actually the only con I had with Holding Smoke. I felt a little confused at times. Smoke’s ability was very unique but also very odd. I didn’t understand it all the time and some of the scenes when he was separated from his body threw me off. I think it was how they were written and how Smoke looks at things when he’s like that. It wasn’t bad, by any means, it just took some getting used to.
Overall, Holding Smoke isn’t my favorite from Elle Cosimano but it held up to my expectations pretty well. Elle Cosimano is a name to know if you are a fan of YA suspense. If you were a fan of her Nearly books, check out Holding Smoke. I think you’ll find you enjoy it.
3 winners will receive copies of Holding Smoke. US only.
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The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on April 26th 2016
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Fate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you're only seventeen?
Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of Death and Destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father's kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran's queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar's wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire...
But Akaran has its own secrets -- thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most. . .including herself.
A lush and vivid story that is steeped in Indian folklore and mythology. The Star-Touched Queen is a novel that no reader will soon forget.
The Star-Touched Queen, Roshani Chokshi’s debut novel, will have you shaking your head in disbelief that it is, in fact, a debut novel. The Star-Touched Queen reads like Roshani Chokshi has been writing her whole life and I’m sure this will not be the only wonderful, heartbreaking book we get from her.
- Romance: While it might come across a bit like insta-love at first, that really isn’t what is going on. Amar and Maya didn’t really have much of a choice when it came to starting up a really quick relationship. They got married the first time they met. That’s just how it was. However, their attraction made their marriage not quite as tough as it could have been. Amar and Maya’s personalities fit together and they each brought different things to their relationship and their roles as leaders. While Amar was quite closed off and a bit hard to read, Maya was the opposite. She had a bit of a temper and she wasn’t afraid to say what she wanted and to go after it. It also didn’t hurt that once they got to know each other, their chemistry was even better. Roshani Chokshi managed to make all of their scenes together both steamy and sweet.
- Characters: It’s not often that I like all the characters and find them to be well-developed but that was the case with The Star-Touched Queen. Maya was dealt a poor hand in life due to her horoscope and the kingdom she lived in. It was predicted that she would bring death and destruction to whoever she married. It made many people scared of her and needless to say, made marriage kind of out of the picture for her. Not that she minded that. She smart and witty and fierce. Amar, like I said, was kind of mysterious, in a tall, dark, and handsome way. His personality was hard to gauge at first but once in his kingdom, he started to come out of his shell more. He was sweet but also smart and cunning. The harem wives were all very superstitious women who were pretty terrible. Gauri, Maya’s half-sister, was adorable at first and fierce later on. She was strong and smart and willing to do whatever it took for her kingdom and the people she loved. Gupta was funny and a little odd. Kamala had to be my favorite though. I can’t even begin to describe her but she was funny in a morbid and quirky way. She was fiercely protective of Maya and yet managed to keep a sense of humor even when defending her. I wasn’t sure it was possible that even demon animals could be well-developed characters but Roshani Chokshi proved me wrong.
- Setting: The Star-Touched Queen is set in both the kingdoms of Bharata and the kingdom of Akaran. Both settings were extremely vividly detailed. Bharata was both a gorgeous kingdom and a kingdom torn apart by war. The Night Bazaar seemed like an awesomely creepy place but maybe could have used a little more development. Akaran was, by far, my favorite though. There were mirrors showing everything but your reflection, gardens made out of glass, and a tapestry full of mystery and fate.
- Plot: At first, I really wasn’t sure what I was going to get with The Star-Touched Queen. The synopsis on the back of the book doesn’t really say much and I actually really like that about it. I went in not knowing what to expect and I felt like I got more mystery out of it. There were a few things that I guessed along the way but I think if I had actually read the full synopsis, I would have guessed them a lot sooner. However, I think I only guessed those things because of my knowledge of some Indian folklore. If you don’t know any Indian folklore, you are in for a lot of twists and turns and I was still shocked by a lot of things. Things are a little slow to start but not very. Maya’s story really starts to take off early in the book and since it is a standalone, everything has to happen pretty quickly. That’s not to say that anything is rushed though because it’s not. And since it is a standalone, everything was wrapped up quite nicely and while I would never say no to more stories set in this world, I was happy with how things ended.
Overall, The Star-Touched Queen has a spot on my favorites shelf, that’s for sure. I highly recommend it, especially for fans of Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone series. While the stories are each uniquely different, I couldn’t help getting the same type of vibe from this one and that is high praise. I look forward to more from Roshani Chokshi.
Blood Kiss (Black Dagger Legacy, #1) by J.R. Ward
Series: Black Dagger Legacy #1
Published by Signet on December 1st 2015
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The legacy of the Black Dagger Brotherhood continues in a spin-off series from the #1 New York Times bestselling author…
Paradise, blooded daughter of the king’s First Advisor, is ready to break free from the restrictive life of an aristocratic female. Her strategy? Join the Black Dagger Brotherhood’s training center program and learn to fight for herself, think for herself…be herself. It’s a good plan, until everything goes wrong. The schooling is unfathomably difficult, the other recruits feel more like enemies than allies, and it’s very clear that the Brother in charge, Butch O’Neal, a.k.a. the Dhestroyer, is having serious problems in his own life.
And that’s before she falls in love with a fellow classmate. Craeg, a common civilian, is nothing her father would ever want for her, but everything she could ask for in a male. As an act of violence threatens to tear apart the entire program, and the erotic pull between them grows irresistible, Paradise is tested in ways she never anticipated—and left wondering whether she’s strong enough to claim her own power…on the field, and off.
I admit I wasn’t sure that I wanted to start this series. While I love the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, I’m already 14 books in with that one and I have a feeling the Black Dagger Legacy series will be just as long. I don’t normally get into series that go on that long but I really liked Paradise and Craeg from The Shadows so I wanted to continue their story. I’m happy I chose to start this series and I plan on keeping up with it as the rest of the books come out. I don’t know why I’m surprised that J.R. Ward has hooked me once again.
- Story: The story hooked me from page one. I loved the idea of having some new members trained to join in on the Black Dagger Brotherhood’s fight against the Lessening Society. I also loved the idea of seeing what goes into the training required to be a fighter with the Black Dagger Brotherhood. While this was a huge part of the story, it wasn’t the whole story. J.R. Ward is a master at weaving together multiple stories and she did a great job with everything that was included in Blood Kiss. Craeg and Paradise’s story takes center stage and much of their story involves the training program but they aren’t the only two who have a role in Blood Kiss. Marissa and Butch’s story is brought back to front and center when a severely wounded female is found outside Safe Place. The mystery surrounding her circumstances not only brings in the new trainees but also brings to light some issues that Marissa and Butch have been having with their relationship. There is so much going on in the story that you will not be able to stop reading.
- Characters: I loved being introduced to so many new characters while still showing us all the original characters we’ve come to love from the original series. Weaving together both Craeg and Paradise’s story with Butch and Marissa’s really worked for Blood Kiss. I didn’t feel like it was one of the original books but we still got to see glimpses of everyone else. The trainees were a varied mix of people that I grew to love over the course of the book. Paradise was raised to be part of the upper class but that’s not what she wanted out of her life and she was willing to do whatever it took to change her circumstances. Craeg was a bit broody and mysterious but his story really broke my heart. Axe, Peyton, Novo, Anslam, and the other trainee whose name I cannot remember were developed only briefly in Blood Kiss but I look forward to finding out more about all of them in the future books.
- Pacing: While I love the original series, I felt like Blood Kiss had a bit better pacing than that series. Things took off from page one and didn’t slow down even once. There is no such thing as a short J.R. Ward book (which I’m perfectly happy with) but this one read a lot faster than the Black Dagger Brotherhood books and it seemed like a much shorter book. I honestly can’t say exactly what caused that but I think readers will find that this one is actually a surprisingly quick read.
- Romance: While I loved Craeg and Paradise as separate characters, I wasn’t all that impressed with them as a couple. Things between them were very back and forth and Craeg’s reactions a lot of the time got on my nerves. Paradise was part of the trainee group because of her own merits and strengths but Craeg still looked at her like she was fragile. He couldn’t see how he would be good for her and he kept pushing her away because of that, no matter what Paradise wanted. Their relationship also seemed to be very physical and I would have liked to see more of the emotional side of things.
This doesn’t affect my review in any way but I felt like I should throw this out there. If you haven’t read the original Black Dagger Brotherhood series, you can still read Blood Kiss. You also don’t really need to read Blood Kiss to continue with the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. However, I think both series’ offer more information to readers and I’d highly recommend reading both of them and reading them as they come out. I plan on staying up to date with both series so that I don’t miss out on anything but that might just be due to my obsession with this series and all things J.R. Ward.
Overall, Blood Kiss will definitely appeal to fans of the Black Dagger Brotherhood series and if you’ve been on the fence, I suggest checking it out. Also, if you’ve been thinking about starting the Black Dagger Brotherhood series but are intimidated by how many books there are, you could always start with Blood Kiss and see how you feel about things before starting the other series. I guess, what I’m saying is, check out Blood Kiss if you’re a fan of the paranormal. I can’t get enough of these vampires.
Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum
Published by Delacorte Press on April 5th 2016
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Everything about Jessie is wrong. At least, that’s what it feels like during her first week of junior year at her new ultra-intimidating prep school in Los Angeles. Just when she’s thinking about hightailing it back to Chicago, she gets an email from a person calling themselves Somebody/Nobody (SN for short), offering to help her navigate the wilds of Wood Valley High School. Is it an elaborate hoax? Or can she rely on SN for some much-needed help?
It’s been barely two years since her mother’s death, and because her father eloped with a woman he met online, Jessie has been forced to move across the country to live with her stepmonster and her pretentious teenage son.
In a leap of faith—or an act of complete desperation—Jessie begins to rely on SN, and SN quickly becomes her lifeline and closest ally. Jessie can’t help wanting to meet SN in person. But are some mysteries better left unsolved?
Julie Buxbaum mixes comedy and tragedy, love and loss, pain and elation, in her debut YA novel filled with characters who will come to feel like friends.
I’m a huge advocate for contemporary young adult literature. I love it and I think it doesn’t get enough recognition or love from a lot of readers. Tell Me Three Things is probably going to the top of my list of recommendations, especially for those readers that don’t necessarily like contemporary.
- Characters: All of the characters in Tell Me Three Things were pretty much perfect. Don’t get me wrong, they had their flaws but that only made them better. Jessie was a little self-centered but she kind of deserved it. Her whole life had been uprooted and things were not great at her new school or home. Theo was one I wasn’t sure about at first but he grew on me quickly. SN was so funny and clever and adorable. Dri and Agnes were great friends to Jessie although I really wasn’t sure they would be at first. The same goes for Scarlett. She and Jessie may have been separated by thousands of miles but they worked past that. Ethan and Liam were so cute. Liam was a little airheaded and Ethan was a little closed off but I liked them both a lot. Probably Ethan more though because of the whole reading thing. I’m all for the nerds.
- Romance: The romance in this one was different. Jessie and SN start out flirting and then it becomes something so much more than that. Jessie doesn’t even know who SN is but she’s attracted to him on an intellectual level and their conversations were so cute and so real. Not knowing who he was allowed her to open up to him in a way she wouldn’t have in real life. It was a little stalker like at times since he knew who she was and sometimes made comments about what she was wearing that day or doing but it was a cute stalker way. And once I found out who SN really was, I could see how they were perfect in real life too.
- Family: Jessie’s family is broken and put back together in a new way and it was definitely weird for her. Her mom died (I’ll get to that next) and now she’s living in LA with her dad’s new wife and her teenage son. Pretty much none of them (except her dad and his wife) want anything do with each other and I really wasn’t sure how it was going to work out. I appreciate that Julie Buxbaum didn’t make it work out perfectly. They were a broken family when the book started and they were still broken when it ended but they were working on it and that’s what I loved.
- Grief: Julie Buxbaum did a fabulous job with her representation of grief in Tell Me Three Things. Jessie wasn’t the only one dealing with the loss of someone. Her dad lost his wife. Theo lost his dad. Theo’s mom, Rachel, lost her husband. Ethan lost a sibling. Each of them dealt with it differently. There is no right way to grieve someone and I loved that Julie Buxbaum could show all the different ways.
- Pacing: Tell Me Three Things is a fast-paced contemporary novel. At no point does it drag. I couldn’t stop turning the pages. The mix of texting, IM’ing, and email messages interspersed throughout the novel also helped to move things along making it an extremely quick read.
- Mystery: Let’s be real, here. I figured out who SN was pretty early on and I think most readers probably will. It’s not that great a mystery. It was just a little too perfect and while there were some red herrings thrown in, I never really thought they were him. I’m not really complaining though because the mystery wasn’t what kept me reading. The story was and knowing who SN was before the big reveal didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the story.
Overall, Tell Me Three Things might just make you change your mind about contemporary novels. Julie Buxbaum’s young adult debut hit it out of the park and I can’t wait to see what she does next. I hope this isn’t her only foray into the YA world.
Roses and Rot by Kat Howard
Published by Saga Press on May 17th 2016
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Imogen and her sister Marin have escaped their cruel mother to attend a prestigious artists’ retreat, but soon learn that living in a fairy tale requires sacrifices, be it art or love in this haunting debut fantasy novel from “a remarkable young writer” (Neil Gaiman).
What would you sacrifice in the name of success? How much does an artist need to give up to create great art?
Imogen has grown up reading fairy tales about mothers who die and make way for cruel stepmothers. As a child, she used to lie in bed wishing that her life would become one of these tragic fairy tales because she couldn’t imagine how a stepmother could be worse than her mother now. As adults, Imogen and her sister Marin are accepted to an elite post-grad arts program—Imogen as a writer and Marin as a dancer. Soon enough, though, they realize that there’s more to the school than meets the eye. Imogen might be living in the fairy tale she’s dreamed about as a child, but it’s one that will pit her against Marin if she decides to escape her past to find her heart’s desire.
Kat Howard’s debut novel landed on my doorstep one afternoon and, after reading the blurb from Neil Gaiman, I decided I’d give it a shot. Roses and Rot is unlike anything I’ve ever read and seriously impressed me.
- The writing: Kat Howard’s writing is by far the best thing this book has going for it. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of good things about Roses and Rot but the writing just stands out. It’s so atmospheric and haunting and will have you stopping to savor it as you read the book. I really can’t do justice to how gorgeous it is. I marked so many quotes and I don’t typically mark any.
- The sibling bond: Marin and Imogen have an odd relationship. They were close growing up but grew apart when Imogen left for boarding school. Now they are both at the same art program and it’s sister against sister for an amazing opportunity that could make all their dreams come true. While it doesn’t seem to affect their relationship at first, things quickly come to a head and secret feelings start pouring out. I loved that they had a close relationship but they could still fight. Their bond was stronger than it first appeared and I’m not sure about Marin but Imogen was willing to do anything for her sister.
- The setting: I don’t want to give a whole lot away but Melete wasn’t the only place the book was set. Melete, however, sounded spectacular. Everything was so detailed that I felt like I was there with Imogen. The houses, the moat, the rose garden, the river, nothing was left unexplained and I could picture every stunning image in my head. And like I said, Melete wasn’t the only setting for the book and the other main focal point of the book was also pretty spectacular in a very haunting way.
- The friendships: Imogen and Marin went to Melete already having each other to rely on but everyone else was an outsider. That didn’t stop them from forming some rather unlikely bonds. Helena and Ariel were their other roommates and while it seemed like they didn’t have a whole lot in common with each other, they made up a pretty great foursome. Ariel was outgoing and fun while Helena was more moody and introverted. They all brought out different sides of each other and I liked the friendships they formed.
- The romance: Imogen and Evan start a romance relatively early on in the book and it seems to come out of nowhere. They clearly are physically attracted to each other and they can appreciate each other’s talent but they didn’t seem to have much more in common. Most of their interactions were physical in nature and they really just didn’t seem to be able to sustain more than a physical relationship.
- The pacing: Roses & Rot is not an easy book to get into. It takes quite some time for things to really take off. While I was intrigued with the story, it wasn’t enough to really capture my attention and hold it. I had to push myself through the first 50 pages or so until things really started going somewhere. Even then it’s not a fast-paced book. Just know that you won’t be able to really rush through this one and I honestly don’t think you should. It’s definitely a book to take your time with and really think about.
Overall, I clearly have much more good to say about Roses and Rot than bad. While it is classified as an adult novel, I think it holds great crossover appeal for older young adult readers. I look forward to seeing what Kat Howard does next and I highly recommend checking this one out.
The Glittering Court (The Glittering Court, #1) by Richelle Mead
Series: The Glittering Court #1
Published by Razorbill on April 5th 2016
Buy on Amazon
Big and sweeping, spanning from the refined palaces of Osfrid to the gold dust and untamed forests of Adoria, The Glittering Court tells the story of Adelaide, an Osfridian countess who poses as her servant to escape an arranged marriage and start a new life in Adoria, the New World. But to do that, she must join the Glittering Court.
Both a school and a business venture, the Glittering Court is designed to transform impoverished girls into upper-class ladies who appear destined for powerful and wealthy marriages in the New World. Adelaide naturally excels in her training, and even makes a few friends: the fiery former laundress Tamsin and the beautiful Sirminican refugee Mira. She manages to keep her true identity hidden from all but one: the intriguing Cedric Thorn, son of the wealthy proprietor of the Glittering Court.
When Adelaide discovers that Cedric is hiding a dangerous secret of his own, together they hatch a scheme to make the best of Adelaide’s deception. Complications soon arise—first as they cross the treacherous seas from Osfrid to Adoria, and then when Adelaide catches the attention of a powerful governor.
But no complication will prove quite as daunting as the potent attraction simmering between Adelaide and Cedric. An attraction that, if acted on, would scandalize the Glittering Court and make them both outcasts in wild, vastly uncharted lands…
Richelle Mead made me fall in love with her writing years ago when I read Vampire Academy. I never expected to find something of hers that I loved more than that series (c’mon, Rose and Dimitri? Can it get any better than that?) but I was wrong. The Glittering Court is Richelle Mead’s best book so far, in my opinion.
- The romance: Richelle Mead’s books never lack in the romance department and that’s the same with The Glittering Court. While the attraction between Adelaide and Cedric is immediate, the romance is not. In fact, I was really hoping something would start up between them way before it actually did. They built up a wonderful relationship as friends (kind of) before they ever became romantically involved and it just made it that much sweeter when they did get together. They had some serious chemistry and some wonderful banter.
- The story: The Glittering Court is classified as fantasy but it’s almost like an alternate history. Adelaide and the other girls in The Glittering Court travel to a new land where they will no longer be bound by their original stations in life, whether it be a maid or servant like most of the girls or a noblewoman such as Adelaide. While they do have to marry once they reach the new land, they get to choose their husband and can even buy their own way out of their contracts if they can come up with the money. This new land offers religious freedom for some of them as well as a chance at wealth. The Glittering Court almost reads like historical fiction which I loved.
- The suspense: I never knew what was coming next and I’m still reeling over some of the things that happened. Let me just say, if you want a neat and tidy ending with all your questions answered, this is not the book for you. The Glittering Court is very much the first book in a series and it sets readers up with quite a few questions and only some of the answers. Richelle Mead definitely knows how to keep her readers guessing and coming back for more.
- The friendships: I think this is one of the big reasons The Glittering Court will appeal to Richelle Mead’s previous fans. If you’ve read Vampire Academy, you know that Richelle Mead writes about strong bonds between friends (Lissa and Rose) and that those bonds are always amazing. That’s the same with Adelaide, Mira, and Tamsin. They couldn’t be more different but they become fast friends during their time at the Glittering Court. They have their fights and they keep their secrets sometimes but they always come back to each other and each girl has something unique and important to offer to the friendship.
Overall, there are no cons with The Glittering Court. It’s perfection in book form. Fans of Richelle Mead will find many things to love about it that will remind them of their favorite book from her. New readers of Richelle Mead will seek out more of her work after reading this one. You can’t go wrong with The Glittering Court.
Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend by Alan Cumyn
Published by Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books on March 22nd 2016
Buy on Amazon
Prepare to be blown away—or rather, carried away on huge muscular wings—by this blissfully outlandish, bracingly-smart, tour de force about a teen who has to come to terms with relinquishing control for the first time as she falls for the hot new…pterodactyl…at school. After all, everybody wants him!
Sheils is very pleased with her perfectly controlled life (controlling others while she’s at it). She’s smart, powerful, the Student Body Chair, and she even has a loving boyfriend. What more could a girl ask for?
But everything changes when the first-ever interspecies transfer student, a pterodactyl named Pyke, enrolls at her school. There’s something about him—something primal—that causes the students to lose control whenever he’s around. Even Sheils, the seemingly perfect self-confident girl that she is, can’t keep her mind off of him, despite her doting boyfriend and despite the fact that Pyke immediately starts dating Jocelyn, the school’s fastest runner who Sheils has always discounted as a nobody.
Pyke, hugely popular in a school whose motto is to embrace differences, is asked to join a band, and when his band plays at the Autumn Whirl dance, his preternatural shrieking music sends everyone into a literal frenzy. No one can remember what happened the next day, but Shiels learns that she danced far too long with Pyke, her nose has turned purple, and she may have done something with her boyfriend that she shouldn’t have. Who’s in control now?
Hilarious and relatable (despite the dinosaur), Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend is about a teen who must come to terms with not being in control of all things at all times, break free of her mundane life, discover who her true self is, and, oh, finding out that going primal isn’t always a bad thing
Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend is probably one of the most bizarre books I’ve ever read. I mean, just look at the title and synopsis. You can’t really expect normal from a book about a hot pterodactyl boyfriend. I had a feeling that it was going to be weird and entertaining and that feeling was definitely proven right.
- The story: As bizarre as the story may seem, it’s actually quite relatable. Shiels is a control freak in every aspect of her life and she’s at the point in her life where she feels like she really needs that control. She’s applying to colleges and doing everything she can to make herself look good on those applications. It’s a really common story except for the fact that her school now has a pterodactyl as a student and his entrance in her life throws it into complete upheaval.
- Shiels: I really liked Shiels. Like I said, she wanted complete control and she was used to having it. That all changed with Pyke. She had to give up that control and she might have actually gone a little overboard (skipping school, hiding things from her parents) but she grew as a person when she did give up some of that control. She started to see that maybe things didn’t have to be so orderly and maybe she didn’t always have to be the one to do everything.
- The family aspect: I loved Shiels’ family, especially her brother. Her parents were involved in her life but sometimes a little absent and sometimes a little overbearing. I really just liked that they played a role in her life. Her brother, Jonathan, was the best part. They had the classic sibling relationship. He reminded me a lot of my own brother and their dynamics were very similar to ours. Maybe that won’t be a big deal to you guys but it was definitely a pro for me.
- Pyke: I could not relate to Pyke and honestly, he was a little weird. I mean, of course he’s going to be weird, he’s a freaking pterodactyl but I don’t know. It was more than that. He wasn’t very humanlike and so I didn’t feel like I ever got to know him. I couldn’t understand how he evoked this attraction from everyone he met. And it wasn’t always romantic attraction though that did happen. It seemed like everyone wanted to be something to him, whether it was a girlfriend or a mother figure. It was strange.
- The writing: This one isn’t a huge con for me but the writing took some getting used to. It is a little stilted and choppy but once I got used to that I could see how it actually moved the story along a little faster. Take some time to get used to the style and it will get better.
Overall, Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend is one of those books that you should go into expecting something totally out of the norm. It was hilarious at times while also being really heartfelt. I can’t say it’s on my list of favorites but it has me eager to check out more form Alan Cumyn.
3 finished copies of Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend
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