Monday, September 12, 2016

99 Days by Katie Cotugno | Review

99 Days by Katie Cotugno | Review99 Days by Katie Cotugno
Published by Balzer + Bray on April 21st 2015
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 384
Format: Hardcover
Source: BEA
Goodreads
2 Stars

Day 1: Julia Donnelly eggs my house my first night back in Star Lake, and that’s how I know everyone still remembers everything—how I destroyed my relationship with Patrick the night everything happened with his brother, Gabe. How I wrecked their whole family. Now I’m serving out my summer like a jail sentence: Just ninety-nine days till I can leave for college, and be done.

Day 4: A nasty note on my windshield makes it clear Julia isn’t finished. I’m expecting a fight when someone taps me on the shoulder, but it’s just Gabe, home from college and actually happy to see me. “For what it’s worth, Molly Barlow,” he says, “I’m really glad you’re back.”

Day 12: Gabe got me to come to this party, and I’m actually having fun. I think he’s about to kiss me—and that’s when I see Patrick. My Patrick, who’s supposed to be clear across the country. My Patrick, who’s never going to forgive me.

picadillyblue

I can’t even begin to tell you how much I wanted to love this book.  Katie Cotugno’s debut novel, How To Love, is on my favorites shelf.  I adored everything about it.  I put off reading 99 Days because I was saving it for a day when I needed a really good book to read.  I definitely set my expectations way too high for this one.

Pros:

  • Pacing: I read this book in just over two sittings.  While there may not have been many things I liked about it, at least I was able to power through it.  It’s an extremely quick read that is paced just right.  The book takes place over 99 days (I bet you never would have guessed that) and those 99 days seem to fly by for both the reader and Molly.  A lot happens throughout the course of the book and I never felt like the story got too slow or lagged.  I also liked that the flashbacks Molly had from her relationship with Patrick were woven into the story.  I feel like it would have bogged things down if the chapters alternated between past and present so I appreciated that.
  • Romance: The romance between Molly and Gabe was super cute and I loved Gabe.  Yes, even at the end when things came out about him, I still liked him.  I felt like he was good to Molly and good for her.  He wasn’t always an angel but he was never really a bad person.  He was sweet and super hung up on Molly.  He made her happy and he looked out for her.  The start to their relationship may not have been the best thing but I didn’t think it was all that bad.  I wanted to see him and Molly get a happy ending together.
  • Characters: 99 Days had a pretty even mix of characters that I loved and characters that I hated.  Gabe was on the list right in the middle since I liked him but had issues with him too.  My list of characters that I loved contained two awesome females, Imogen and Tess.  Imogen was Molly’s friend before everything went down and she would have been Molly’s friend after, if Molly hadn’t run away.  She wasn’t willing to just overlook things when Molly came back but she was willing to move past them and let Molly earn her forgiveness.  Then there was Tess.  Tess was Patrick’s new girlfriend.  She didn’t know Molly before everything happened but she wasn’t willing to judge her without getting to know her.  They became friends and Tess was always there for Molly.  Tess and Imogen knew what it was to be a good friend.

Cons:

  • Characters: The list of characters that I hated makes me want to rant.  Let’s start with Molly.  That girl had some serious issues.  She was so extremely selfish.  I don’t blame her for what she did with Gabe when Patrick broke up with her.  Patrick broke up with her!  They were not together when she slept with his brother.  Yeah, it wasn’t really classy but as I read more about Molly and Gabe, I could see that they really cared for each other and I could get over that.  It was everything else Molly did that bothered me.  She was jealous of Tess even though she was the one who ruined things with Patrick and was dating his brother.  She clearly wanted what she couldn’t have and she was willing to do whatever it took to get it.  She threw Tess under the bus and took what she wanted from Patrick.  She didn’t even think about Gabe while she screwed him over and yet she claimed to be falling in love with him.  Then there was Patrick.  He was a jerk and I honestly couldn’t see what Molly ever saw in him.  He treated her like crap and she kept crawling back to him.  Oh and don’t let me forget Patrick’s twin, Julia.  Julia was supposedly Molly’s best friend but she was the first to slut shame Molly for what she did with Gabe.  I understand that family comes first but that’s no reason to act like Julia did.  And then there is Molly’s mom who was the one who outed Molly’s night with Gabe, not just to Patrick but to the whole world.  Her mom wrote a bestselling novel based on Molly’s love life torn between Patrick and Gabe.  Then she went and told everyone that it was based on her daughter.  Who does that?
  • Cheating: I can sometimes look past cheating in books and still be able to enjoy the book but not this time around.  Molly had no sense of morals when it came to cheating.  She just kept doing it, over and over again.  Sure she’d feel bad about it later but that didn’t do anybody any good then.  Too little, too late.  I don’t want to get into this too much because it is very much a spoiler but just know that it was really bad.
  • Ending: The ending is very similar to Katie Cotugno’s debut, How To Love, in that it’s up in the air.  It’s pretty much up to the reader to decide what comes next for Molly and the boys in her life.  I wanted some concrete answers and I know Katie Cotugno has said there is always the possibility of a sequel but that’s not what I want.  I just want to know exactly how things ended for Molly and all of the Donnellys and it doesn’t look like I’ll get that.

Overall, 99 Days is not one I recommend reading.  Check out Katie Cotugno’s debut, How To Love, for sure, but let’s just pretend like this one didn’t happen.  I’m waiting on her third book so I can see if it will redeem her!

Overall reaction:

What others are saying about 99 Days:

The Perpetual Page-Turner’s review: “While on the surface this book might just seem like a romance with a love triangle between two brothers but it is SO much more than that.”

The Novel Hermit’s review: “99 Days seemed promising at first, but with a snap of a finger, the story turned boring and didn’t really resolve anything.”

Reading Lark’s review: “Overall, I loved watching Molly work through the ghosts of her past and start to make plans for a better future.”

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Places No One Knows by Brenna Yovanoff | Review

Places No One Knows by Brenna Yovanoff | ReviewPlaces No One Knows by Brenna Yovanoff
Published by Delacorte Press on May 17th 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 384
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
4 Stars

For fans of Lauren Oliver and E. Lockhart, here is a dreamy love story set in the dark halls of contemporary high school, from New York Times bestselling author Brenna Yovanoff.

Waverly Camdenmar spends her nights running until she can’t even think. Then the sun comes up, life goes on, and Waverly goes back to her perfectly hateful best friend, her perfectly dull classes, and the tiny, nagging suspicion that there’s more to life than student council and GPAs.

Marshall Holt is a loser. He drinks on school nights and gets stoned in the park. He is at risk of not graduating, he does not care, he is no one. He is not even close to being in Waverly’s world.

But then one night Waverly falls asleep and dreams herself into Marshall’s bedroom—and when the sun comes up, nothing in her life can ever be the same. In Waverly’s dreams, the rules have changed. But in her days, she’ll have to decide if it’s worth losing everything for a boy who barely exists.

picadillyblue

Places No One Knows is a step out for Brenna Yovanoff.  I’ve only read one of her other books (The Space Between, which I loved) but I felt like I got a sense of her writing from that one.  Places No One Knows is a completely different story from anything she has done before and anything I have read before.

Pros:

  • Writing: Brenna Yovanoff’s writing is what really grabbed me when I read The Space Between and while Places No One Knows is a completely different story, Brenna’s writing shines through.  Her writing is descriptive and can sometimes come across a little heavy but I have always loved that style and think it really worked well with the story here.  I can see why Brenna Yovanoff is Maggie Stiefvater’s critique partner because their styles of writing are similar.  Even if I had hated the story in Places No One Knows, I would have kept reading for the writing alone.
  • Story: The story had it’s strong points and it’s weak points.  When I started Places No One Knows, I was looking for a contemporary story set in high school.  Places No One Knows fits those criteria but it’s a lot more than that.  Waverly doesn’t sleep and in an attempt to get some sleep, she ends up visiting another classmate, without ever having left her room.  He’s the only one who can see her and he’s the only one she visits this way.  He doesn’t run in her circle at school but she is drawn to him for some reason.  They come from very different walks of life but they have more in common than either of them think.  Brenna Yovanoff doesn’t spend much time detailing exactly what Waverly does to be able to visit him but that’s okay because that’s not what the book is about.  It’s more about what happens when Waverly does spend time with Marshall and how that time together (away from everyone else) brings out the truth of who they are and who they want to be.
  • Characters: Pros and cons here, that’s for sure, especially with Waverly.  It’s odd because the thing I hated about Waverly also made me really like her.  She was very much a high school girl.  She let Maribeth put her down all the time, she cared so much about what everyone else thought of her, and she participated in all the cheesy school functions even if she didn’t care about them.  It may not be the case for everyone but I could relate to Waverly so much about those aspects.  It was almost exactly how I felt in high school.  As for Marshall, he was probably my favorite although Autumn gave him a run for his money.  I could understand why they were friends.  Autumn did what she wanted and didn’t care what anyone thought.  She was genuine and she cared deeply for her friends.  Marshall was the same way.  He had a seriously messed up home life and it showed through in everything he did.  He was a slacker and a bit of a nobody and he didn’t mind that until Waverly came into his life.  They both made each other stronger and brought out new sides of each other.  Waverly was finally willing to just be herself with him and he was willing to want more out of life when he was with her.  I loved that about their relationship.

Cons:

  • Waverly: While Waverly did have some pros about her, she also had some very big cons for me.  I almost gave up on this one at one point because I did not like Waverly at all.  She was so shut off from the world that she was kind of impossible to like or sympathize with.  I couldn’t understand her.  I didn’t get why she didn’t sleep and I think that impacted how she acted with people.  I would have liked a little more background about that.  I also would have liked more background about her friendship with Maribeth because it was obvious that she didn’t like Maribeth but she just put up with her, no matter what she said or did.

Overall, Places No One Knows may not be my favorite from Brenna Yovanoff but it’s still a solid addition to her books.  I think it really shows that her talent lends itself to any style story that she chooses to write and I look forward to seeing what she does next.

Overall reaction:

What others are saying about Places No One Knows:

  • Wrapped Up In Books’ review: “It’s a complicated and nuanced look at how difficult it can be to inhabit your own skin, especially in high school, and how sometimes, the right person can make it easier to breathe.”
  • BookPage’s review: “Few writers delve as intimately into raw emotion as Brenna Yovanoff as she strips her characters of their practiced self-delusions and faulty coping strategies.”
  • Read.Breathe.Relax’s review: “Places No One Knows offers an intriguing mystery, romantic tension and incredible writing, and if you don’t mind the inclusion of some tough topics then I would definitely recommend it.”
Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Beast (Black Dagger Brotherhood #14) by J.R. Ward | Review

The Beast (Black Dagger Brotherhood #14) by J.R. Ward | ReviewThe Beast (Black Dagger Brotherhood, #14) by J.R. Ward
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood #14
Published by NAL on April 5th 2016
Pages: 508
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
3 Stars

Nothing is as it used to be for the Black Dagger Brotherhood. After avoiding war with the Shadows, alliances have shifted and lines have been drawn. The slayers of the Lessening Society are stronger than ever, preying on human weakness to acquire more money, more weapons, more power. But as the Brotherhood readies for an all-out attack on them, one of their own fights a battle within himself…

For Rhage, the Brother with the biggest appetites, but also the biggest heart, life was supposed to be perfect—or at the very least, perfectly enjoyable. Mary, his beloved shellan, is by his side and his King and his brothers are thriving. But Rhage can’t understand—or control—the panic and insecurity that plague him…

And that terrifies him—as well as distances him from his mate. After suffering mortal injury in battle, Rhage must reassess his priorities—and the answer, when it comes to him, rocks his world...and Mary’s. But Mary is on a journey of her own, one that will either bring them closer together or cause a split that neither will recover from...

picadillyblue

By book 14, you’d think I’d be over a series but that is so not the case with the Black Dagger Brotherhood books.  J.R. Ward still manages to surprise me with the twists and turns she keeps throwing in her books.

Fair warning: review is spoiler free if you’ve read the first 13 books.  Otherwise, I make no promises.

Pros:

  • Story: Things seem to be moving along with the Lessening Society again.  The Beast starts off with a huge battle and things seem like they are finally back on track with the war between the Black Dagger Brotherhood and the Lessening Society.  I admit, it’s a little frustrating because this war has been going on for 14 books and it doesn’t seem like it’s gone very far so it was good to see such a huge, impactful battle in The Beast.
  • Romance: Rhage and Mary have always been one of my favorite couples (let’s be real, it’s mainly because of Rhage) so I was a little nervous about the story coming back to them and threatening their relationship.  While it definitely puts things up in the air for them, it really shows that they have a strong relationship no matter what they go through and believe me, they go through a lot.  Rhage and Mary don’t have a perfect relationship and they never have.  They went through a lot to get their happy ending and yeah, J.R. Ward kind of throws everything up in the air with The Beast, but she definitely knew what she was doing.
  • Characters: I’m still totally in love with all the original characters and I love that J.R. Ward is revisiting some of their stories but I also really like that she still manages to introduce new ones and tie all their stories together.  There is one particular character that is introduced pretty early on in The Beast who didn’t make sense to the story for quite some time.  When things started to fall into place though, I couldn’t believe where things were going.  It’s hard to believe that I can still be so surprised by J.R. Ward’s books but she manages to throw in some amazing twists that I never see coming.

Cons:

  • Rhage and Mary: I had some serious issues with Rhage and Mary at times throughout The Beast.  Take the very first scene, for instance.  I’m not going to spoil anything but Rhage does something so incredibly stupid and doesn’t even have a very good reason for it.  He acts reckless and it really made me mad.  Then there was Mary.  Mary was so obsessed with Bitty (a child that Rhage and the brothers rescued in a previous book from her abusive father) that she loses sight of so many other things, including Rhage.  Those two had some things they needed to work out and they did not make me happy while they were working them out.  And also, they were pretty cheesy at times which is not something I ever expected from them and I didn’t care much for it.

Overall, The Beast is a solid addition to the Black Dagger Brotherhood series and really sets things up for the next book and the next step in the war with the Lessening Society.  I’m looking forward to seeing what happens in book 15, especially with Xcor and Layla.

What others are saying about The Beast:

  • Smexybooks’ review: “To be honest, I wasn’t that excited for a second Rhage book, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this one.”
  • Vilma’s Book Blog’s review: “Life and death, marriage and love, sacrifices and surprises—J.R. Ward stirs things up in this intimate, evocative next chapter in the Black Dagger Brotherhood.”
  • Total Book Geek’s review: “Once again The Beast was amazingly written, and I love how well all the story-lines mix together.”
Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Raven King (The Raven Cycle #4) by Maggie Stiefvater | Review

The Raven King (The Raven Cycle #4) by Maggie Stiefvater | ReviewThe Raven King (The Raven Cycle, #4) by Maggie Stiefvater
Series: The Raven Cycle #4
Published by Scholastic Press on April 26th 2016
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 438
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
4 Stars

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.

picadillyblue

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.

Pros:

  • 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.

Cons:

  • 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.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum | Review

Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum | ReviewTell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum
Published by Delacorte Press on April 5th 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 336
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
4 Stars

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.

picadillyblue

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.

Pros:

  • 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.

Cons:

  • 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.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Blog Tour: The Steep and Thorny Way by Cat Winters | Review + Giveaway

Blog Tour: The Steep and Thorny Way by Cat Winters | Review + Giveaway

Blog Tour: The Steep and Thorny Way by Cat Winters | Review + GiveawayThe Steep and Thorny Way by Cat Winters
Published by Amulet Books on March 8th 2016
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 352
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
4 Stars

A thrilling reimagining of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, The Steep and Thorny Way tells the story of a murder most foul and the mighty power of love and acceptance in a state gone terribly rotten.

1920s Oregon is not a welcoming place for Hanalee Denney, the daughter of a white woman and an African-American man. She has almost no rights by law, and the Ku Klux Klan breeds fear and hatred in even Hanalee’s oldest friendships. Plus, her father, Hank Denney, died a year ago, hit by a drunk-driving teenager. Now her father’s killer is out of jail and back in town, and he claims that Hanalee’s father wasn’t killed by the accident at all but, instead, was poisoned by the doctor who looked after him—who happens to be Hanalee’s new stepfather.

The only way for Hanalee to get the answers she needs is to ask Hank himself, a “haint” wandering the roads at night.

picadillyblue

The Steep and Thorny Way is my first foray into Cat Winters’ work but it won’t be my last.  While the Hamlet retelling aspect of this one was what first caught my attention, it was Cat Winters’ writing that kept it.  I’ll hold out judgment until I can read at least one more of her books but I think she may earn a place on my favorites shelf.

Pros:

  • The writing: As I said, the writing definitely got me with this one.  The Steep and Thorny Way is historical fiction with a twist and Cat’s writing is perfect for this type of story.  It’s atmospheric and haunting.  The story itself was extremely interesting and I was hooked for that aspect but the writing definitely added to my enjoyment.
  • The history: I’m a huge history buff and I loved that Cat Winters didn’t choose the typical 1920s to portray.  The Steep and Thorny Way shows a darker side of the 1920s and it’s not always easy to read.  And while it is very much fiction, Cat Winters did a great job making her story as accurate as possible.  She doesn’t shy away from the reality that would have been Hanalee’s life as a mixed race teenager in that time period.
  • Hanalee: Hanalee certainly had her flaws but I really liked her overall.  She reminded me a lot of myself in some of the things that she did.  I felt that I could relate to her, even though our situations are nothing alike.  She was strong and capable but she didn’t always think things through before acting.  I couldn’t fault her for that but sometimes I could see how things would happen because of her actions.

Cons:

  • The other characters: I was not a huge fan of any of the other characters.  While I felt like I could relate to Hanalee, she was the only one I felt that way about.  Everyone else needed to be a bit more rounded out and I felt like I never really got to know or like them.
  • The retelling aspect: I love Hamlet.  I took a Shakespeare class in high school and college and I’ve loved everything I’ve read by him but especially Hamlet.  I feel like saying this is a retelling was a little bit misleading.  There were definitely things about it that tied back to Hamlet but I would say it was more inspired by Hamlet than a retelling.

Overall, The Steep and Thorny Way really did impress me.  I love that I have found a new author that I feel can do the historical fiction genre justice.  I look forward to checking out the rest of her books and if you haven’t already, this one is definitely a good place to start.

Giveaway

5 US readers have a chance to win their own copy

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the blog tour!

Week One:

2/29/2016- Adventures of a Book Junkie Interview
3/1/2016- The Forest of Words and Pages Review
3/2/2016- Two Chicks on Books– Guest Post
3/3/2016- A Dream Within A Dream Review
3/4/2016- Stories & Sweeties– Excerpt

Week Two:

3/7/2016- Jessabella Reads Review
3/8/2016- Bookish Lifestyle– Guest Post
3/9/2016- Katie’s Book Blog- Review
3/10/2016- The Fox’s Hideaway– Interview
3/11/2016- MEREADALOT– Review

Monday, March 7, 2016

Blog Tour: Save Me, Kurt Cobain by Jenny Manzer | Review + Giveaway

Blog Tour: Save Me, Kurt Cobain by Jenny Manzer | Review + Giveaway

Blog Tour: Save Me, Kurt Cobain by Jenny Manzer | Review + GiveawaySave Me, Kurt Cobain by Jenny Manzer
Published by Delacorte Press on March 8th 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 272
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
5 Stars

What if you discovered that Kurt Cobain is not only alive, but might be your real father? This nuanced and bittersweet YA debut will keep you guessing until the end.

Nico Cavan has been adrift since her mother vanished when she was four—maternal abandonment isn't exactly something you can just get over. Staying invisible at school is how she copes—that and listening to alt music and summoning spirits on the Ouija board with her best friend and co-conspirator in sarcasm, Obe. But when a chance discovery opens a window onto her mom's wild past, it sparks an idea in her brain that takes hold and won't let go.

On a ferry departing Seattle, Nico encounters a slight blond guy with piercing blue eyes wearing a hooded jacket. Something in her heart tells her that this feeling she has might actually be the truth, so she follows him to a remote cabin in the Pacific Northwest. When she is stranded there by a winter storm, fear and darkness collide, and the only one who can save Nico might just be herself.

picadillyblue

Save Me, Kurt Cobain is one of those books that popped up on my radar and I added it to my TBR without even really knowing what to expect from it.  I can’t tell you how many times I read the synopsis and I still didn’t know what I was getting into.  I don’t know if that made any difference on my feelings for the book but either way, I devoured it.

Pros:

  • The writing: Jenny Manzer’s writing style engaged me from the very first page.  While contemporary is my favorite genre, I understand that it can be slower to get into sometimes.  The story itself caught my attention, for sure, but Jenny Manzer’s way of telling the story is what really hooked me.
  • The music: If you didn’t already figure this out, Save Me, Kurt Cobain, has quite a few music references.  Each title is named after a Nirvana song and while I actually am not a huge Nirvana fan (don’t hate me!), I really enjoyed this aspect.  Jenny Manzer also managed to include a lot of actual Nirvana facts and events while keeping a lot of things fictional.  Music is a huge part of my life so the way it was woven into this story really appealed to me and helped keep me interested.
  • The mystery: There are a lot of questions brought up early on in Save Me, Kurt Cobain.  Who is Nico’s dad? Is it Kurt Cobain?  Is Kurt Cobain alive?  Nico manages to weave this crazy tale of what might have happened to her mother all based on the idea that Kurt Cobain is her father.  Jenny Manzer uses this and keeps readers guessing until the very last page.
  • Nico: Nico was my favorite part of Save Me, Kurt Cobain.  My heart went out to her.  She manages to come up with this crazy conspiracy theory to explain away the fact that she doesn’t know who her dad is and her mom abandoned her.  She’s lost and confused and alone and this is what she does to try and cope with all that.  I’ve never gone through an experience like that but I really think that everyone who reads Nico’s story will love her.
  • Everything!: I admit that I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump lately and haven’t really wanted to read anything.  Save Me, Kurt Cobain fixed that.  This was one of the rare books I’ve read where I honestly couldn’t find anything wrong with it.  I loved Jenny Manzer’s writing, Nico’s story, the Nirvana history, every last thing.

Save Me, Kurt Cobain has a little something for everyone.  It’s one of those books that once you start, you’re not going to be able to put it down.  Jenny Manzer’s debut impressed me enough that I will definitely be checking out more from this author in the future.

Giveaway

US & Canada readers have a chance to win one of three copies of Save Me, Kurt Cobain.  Believe me, this is one you want to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Blog Tour Stops

Week 1: 
Week 2:

Monday, January 11, 2016

Blog Tour: Zero Day by Jan Gangsei | Review + Giveaway

Blog Tour: Zero Day by Jan Gangsei | Review + Giveaway

Blog Tour: Zero Day by Jan Gangsei | Review + GiveawayZero Day by Jan Gangsei
on January 12th 2016
Genres: Suspense
Pages: 368
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
4 Stars

Eight years ago, Addie Webster was the victim of the most notorious kidnapping case of the decade. Addie vanished—and her high-profile parents were forced to move on.

Mark Webster is now president of the United States, fighting to keep the oval office after a tumultuous first term. Then, the unthinkable happens: the president’s daughter resurfaces. Addie is brought back into her family’s fold, but who is this sixteen-year-old girl with a quiet, burning intelligence now living in the White House? There are those in the president’s political circle who find her timely return suspicious.

When the NSA approaches Darrow Fergusson, Addie’s childhood best friend and the son of the president’s chief of staff, he doesn't know what to think. How could this slip of a girl be a threat to national security? But at the risk of having his own secrets exposed by the powerful government agency, Darrow agrees to spy on Addie.

It soon becomes apparent that Addie is much more than the traumatized victim of a sick political fringe group. Addie has come with a mission. Will she choose to complete it? And what will happen if she does?

My Thoughts:

Zero Day is one of those books that automatically got added to my TBR when I read the synopsis.  I didn’t care about other reviews, that the author was a debut, none of that.  Suspense featuring the daughter of the President of the United States who also happens to be a kidnapping victim?  I was sold.  Jan Gangsei’s debut novel surprised me in many ways and was definitely worth the read.

Pros:

  • Suspense: The suspense in Zero Day was strong.  I grew up reading James Patterson, Harlan Coben, and many other adult crime writers that were fabulous at suspense.  I’ve only found that same caliber in a few young adult authors so I was a bit skeptical going into this one.  While I did manage to guess a few things, it was usually only right before they were about to be revealed anyway so it didn’t take away from my enjoyment.
  • Romance: I was iffy about this romance for a while.  Darrow and Addie grew up together and Darrow pretty much held himself responsible for Addie’s kidnapping.  He was also 9-years-old at the time so there really wasn’t anything he could have done but try telling him that.  When Addie is returned, he pretty much automatically has feelings for her.  I couldn’t tell if it was because of what they went through or not but he grew on me and I liked seeing him with Addie.  As for Addie’s side of the relationship, it was really hard to judge.  If you read the book you’ll understand what I mean but her personality was so odd that I had a hard time telling if she meant things or if she was attempting to play someone.  I wanted her to like Darrow and at times I felt that she did but other times I was a bit hesitant.  It was odd.
  • Characters: Where do I even begin with these characters?  I have some really mixed feelings about some of them but overall I loved the development of them and the complexities to all of them.  Just look at Addie.  She was all over the place with her feelings and thoughts.  I couldn’t tell from page to page what was coming next with her.  She obviously went through a ton of crazy stuff in the eight years that she was held captive but that wasn’t really what fascinated me about her.  I wanted to know more about what motivated her when she got home.  You will understand what I mean if you read the book.  Her parents were both good parents and bad ones.  They cared so much about public opinion and they couldn’t see how that was affecting their daughters.  Then again, they would spend private time with them and be completely wonderful.  I guess that’s how politics works.  And I won’t spoil anything about Addie’s captors but I will say that they were seriously messed up.  Very twisted.
  • Setting: I don’t know if it’s so much the setting that I loved but what comes along with the setting.  A lot of the story takes place in and around the White House and also at Addie and Darrow’s very classy high school.  Taking a peek inside the world of the offspring of high up government officials was really interesting.  I can’t tell you how accurate it is but I enjoyed it.  I love reading about the lifestyles of the rich and famous so that definitely appealed to me.

Pro/Con:

  • Story: The story had good and bad things going for it.  I loved the idea of the story but the execution left some things to be desired.  I read a majority of the book before I even realized what exactly Cerberus was hoping to gain from their terrorist attacks.  Also, once I figured it out, I couldn’t really see how what they were doing was going to achieve that goal.  It confused me.  However, the idea of someone on the inside of the White House working with terrorists really appealed to me and kept me very intrigued.  Things tied up pretty nicely at the end but I could see how there might be room for a sequel and I wouldn’t say no to reading that.

Cons:

  • Writing: The writing was a bit heavy.  I honestly can’t put my finger on what exactly about it caused the book to drag more than it should have but there was just something about it.  I was hoping that as  I read more of the book, I would get used to the style and the pace would pick up but that didn’t happen.  It’s also weird because the book features short chapters which tend to speed things along for me but that didn’t happen with Zero Day.  The story was interesting enough though that I didn’t every feel like giving up on it.

Overall, Zero Day had it’s flaws but it’s good parts far outweighed those.  It’s a great read for fans of suspense with hints of hacking and politics as well as a peek at the lifestyles of the rich and famous.  I will be keeping an eye out to see what Jan Gangsei does next.

What others are saying about Zero Day:

Bookish Babes’ review: “Zero Day by Jan Gangsei is a pulse pounding YA thriller that kept me guessing until the end.”

Kovescence of the Mind’s review: ” The strong female lead provides a refreshing addition to the realm of technology and mystery in young-adult fiction.”

Looking for something similar? Check out Nearly Gone by Elle Cosimano!

Giveaway

Enter to win one of three copies of Zero Day!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, December 18, 2015

Winter (The Lunar Chronicles #4) by Marissa Meyer | Review

Winter (The Lunar Chronicles #4) by Marissa Meyer | ReviewWinter by Marissa Meyer
Series: The Lunar Chronicles #4
Published by Feiwel and Friends on November 10th 2015
Genres: Science Fiction
Pages: 827
Format: Hardcover
Source: Bought
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
5 Stars

Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mar her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana.

Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won’t approve of her feelings for her childhood friend—the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn’t as weak as Levana believes her to be and she’s been undermining her stepmother’s wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that’s been raging for far too long.

Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter defeat Levana and find their happily ever afters?

picadillyblue

How do I write a review for 823 pages of awesome?  Winter was a highly anticipated book for me and I’m so pleased to say that Marissa Meyer did not let me down.  Everything that’s been building up since Cinder has finally come to a head and Marissa Meyer left no loose threads in this final installment in the Lunar Chronicles.

I refuse to spoil this book or anything about it so I’m sorry if this review is all over the place.

First off, I have to applaud Marissa Meyer’s ability to weave together so many storylines that have been building up for four books (five if you count Fairest).  Readers finally get to see all the characters together in one place and how they interact.  The revolution that kept being hinted at in the first 3 books has finally arrived.  I was a little disappointed by the fact that there was so much build up to this revolution and it seemed a little unorganized but I guess Cinder didn’t really have time to plan much.

Of all the characters, I’m pretty sure Winter just cemented the fact that Iko is my favorite.  Her sense of humor is just amazing.  Winter was an extremely crazy book but Iko always managed to lighten the mood.  I also loved her loyalty to Cinder.  She was more like a sister to her than a friend.  That’s not to say that the other characters weren’t amazing and that Cinder didn’t have some amazing friends.  At this point, I feel like these characters are my friends too and I’ve come to care so much for each one of them, even Winter and Jacin.  They weren’t as well known to me before reading Winter but when you have 800+ pages to get to know someone, you really get to know them.

I didn’t care much for Jacin in the earlier books (he wasn’t exactly the best ally for Cinder and her friends) but I really felt like I started to understand his motives in Winter.  He was raised beside Winter and his loyalty was to her.  He cared so much for her and he knew that she was not safe under Levana’s care.  To be completely honest, Winter wasn’t even safe by herself.  She was severely affected by the fact that she refused to use her lunar gift.  Her craziness was kind of endearing but dangerous at times.  It was understandable why Jacin did so much to get back to her.

Cress, Thorne, Scarlet, Wolf, Kai, and Cinder were just as fantastic as ever.  Cress has stepped up her game and I was impressed by her bravery all throughout Winter.  I admit that I didn’t exactly love her in Cress since she seemed so naive and a little weak.  Spending time with the crew of the Rampion has definitely changed her.  She’s become a strong woman who still had moments of naiveté and nervousness but those were understandable.  Thorne is still his charming self.  Pretty much every time I was reading about him I had a smile on my face.  He and Iko definitely provided some comic relief.  Scarlet and Winter’s relationship was a new addition that I really came to like.  I wasn’t sure how Scarlet was going to feel about her since Winter did keep her as a pet for a while but they grew past that.  Wolf has been one of my favorite characters since I first met him and that did not change this time around.  My heart broke for him so many times.  Kai didn’t play a huge role in Winter which was kind of disappointing to me but I understand that he couldn’t exactly be right in the middle of the revolution with the rest of them.  And what do I even say about Cinder? She’s strong, smart, funny, kind, and willing to do whatever it takes to take down Levana.  She’s determined to save the world.  She’s pretty damn impressive.

I want to say that while this book is huge, not one page is wasted with excess information.  Everything included in Winter is necessary to the story.  So much has been leading to this finale and there were so many little things that had to be tied up.  Marissa Meyer succeeded in leaving no loose ends.  All the romances, the fights, the villains, the heroes, everything is there.  I also want to mention that I love the futuristic twist to Snow White.  There are some parts of the book that really reminded me of the original story but with a unique twist that made it all Marissa Meyer’s.

Also, I hate Levana.  Hate her so much it’s not even funny!  She is psychotic and horrendous.  I wanted to reach into the book and punch her so many times I lost count.  She took pleasure from hurting others and they were people that I had come to care about so much over the course of the series.

Overall, I feel like I should probably stop gushing and let you read the book for yourself.  Winter is the perfect conclusion to the Lunar Chronicles.

What others are saying about Winter:

Literary-ly Obsessed’s review: “Overall Winter was an absolutely fantastic ending to unique and imaginative series.”

Mostly YA Lit’s review: “The other thing I will say about the book is that in spite of a backdrop of revolution, of serious action…every one of our beloved characters develops in this book and becomes stronger.”

Monday, December 14, 2015

Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass #4) by Sarah J. Maas | Review

Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass #4) by Sarah J. Maas | ReviewQueen of Shadows (Throne of Glass, #4) by Sarah J. Maas
Series: Throne of Glass #4
on September 1st 2015
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 648
Format: Hardcover
Source: Bought
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
5 Stars

The queen has returned.
Everyone Celaena Sardothien loves has been taken from her. But she’s at last returned to the empire—for vengeance, to rescue her once-glorious kingdom, and to confront the shadows of her past…

She has embraced her identity as Aelin Galathynius, Queen of Terrasen. But before she can reclaim her throne, she must fight.

She will fight for her cousin, a warrior prepared to die for her. She will fight for her friend, a young man trapped in an unspeakable prison. And she will fight for her people, enslaved to a brutal king and awaiting their lost queen’s triumphant return.

The fourth volume in the New York Times bestselling series continues Celaena’s epic journey and builds to a passionate, agonizing crescendo that might just shatter her world.

picadillyblue

If you have not read the other books in this series, this review will contain spoilers.  There is just no avoiding that.  However, I will not be spoiling any part of Queen of Shadows.

I’m gonna start off by saying that it’s been a month or so since I actually read Queen of Shadows so bear with me if this review is all over the place.  That being said, I’m still thinking about Queen of Shadows and all the twists Sarah J. Maas threw at readers this time around.  I wasn’t sure there was a whole lot left that she could shock me with but boy was I wrong!

I read the first four books (I’m including The Assassin’s Blade in that count) about two months before Queen of Shadows and I’m glad I took so long to read them.  This series has so much going on that it’s actually pretty important to remember what happened in the previous books.  All the books include hints of what is to come and I love that Sarah J. Maas plans everything so far ahead.  I know there are definitely some things that I missed but hopefully I’ll catch some more things next year when I reread the series to prepare for the next book.  That’s not to say that you have to reread the first few books every time a new one comes out but having a summary of what happened in the previous books is good so you can stay caught up.

Can I just say that Queen of Shadows was everything I hoped for and more?  Is that good enough for you guys?  I imagine most of you have already read it (I mean, who could wait?) but if you haven’t you should just stop reading my review now and go pick it up.  Sarah J. Maas managed to answer a few questions while posing some new ones that I hope to get answers to in future books.  I’m honestly amazed at her skill with weaving all these storylines together.  I don’t know how she does it (one of many reasons she is the writer and I am not.)  Everything from the first four books has been leading up to this one and I’m sure it will be the same with the next one.  While some huge things went down, there is still so much left for Aelin and her crew to do.  This series is far from over and I feel like the wait for the fifth book is going to be torture.

I loved all the characters (even Chaol) but Dorian definitely held a special place in my heart this time around.  After what happened to him at the end of Heir of Fire, I wasn’t sure what state he would be in when Chaol and Aelin saw him next.  I don’t want to spoil anything but I will say that my heart broke every time I got to a chapter from his POV.  I died a little inside every time I thought about what might happen to him.  He is the reason I spent so much of this book crying.  Just thinking about it now makes me want to tear up.

I did mention Chaol and I want to mention him again.  I loved him early on in the series but that did not last long.  I know some people love him but I was not one of those people and I’m still not really.  I like him and Dorian and Aelin as friends and that’s all I like them as.  Chaol had some serious growing up to do.  He needed to see that Aelin couldn’t just close off parts of herself because he didn’t like them.  She was a very independent woman and he needed to learn to accept that.  I did see progress on that front in Queen of Shadows and he really started to impress me again.  I also can’t fault him for his loyalty and friendship to Dorian.  They are more like brothers than friends.

I don’t even really want to say anything about Aelin because she’s just as badass and awesome as ever.  And as for who she ends up with, I’m not even going to say anything about it except that he is perfect for her.  I think Sarah J. Maas really took time to see how each guy would match up with Aelin and she chose the one that not only was good with her but was also good for her.

One of the best things about Queen of Shadows was the development of Manon and the Thirteen.  I wasn’t sure about them when they were first introduced in the series but they have grown on me and I see how they are going to play a huge role in the battle to come.  Now don’t get me wrong, I always thought they were awesome I just didn’t want anyone that awesome on the side of the bad guys.  I’m not saying they are good but I think Manon has finally realized that she needs to look deeper into what’s going on and decide for herself who she wants to side with.

Last but not least, the plot!  Things move quickly in Queen of Shadows and they build up to a huge battle.  That battle scene was just brilliant and epic!  I might have had some issues reading it since I was crying at the same time but I still know it was awesome.  A lot of huge twists happened during that battle and my jaw dropped more than once.  Sarah J. Maas is one of those authors who isn’t afraid to kill her characters and that battle had me worried for more than one of my faves.

Overall, Queen of Shadows is just plain amazing.  If you haven’t read it yet, get on it!  I know the wait for the next book seems like forever but just join me in misery while we wait together!

What others are saying about Queen of Shadows:

Beauty and the Bookshelf’s review: “Queen of Shadows had some scenes that were just stellar: an epic girl fight, a reunion, a (bloody) witch savior, fucking badass witches, an insane finale, a tear-inducing but happy ending, death (obviously), the exploration of the “who is the monster and who is the man” concept, and discussions about nightgowns and underthings.”

Fictional Darkness’ review: “Sarah J. Maas has a special talent when it comes to sculpting characters.”