Thursday, August 25, 2016

Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston | Review

Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston | ReviewExit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston
Published by Dutton Books for Young Readers on March 15th 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 248
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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5 Stars

Veronica Mars meets William Shakespeare in E.K. Johnston’s latest brave and unforgettable heroine.

Hermione Winters is captain of her cheerleading team, and in tiny Palermo Heights, this doesn’t mean what you think it means. At PHHS, the cheerleaders don't cheer for the sports teams; they are the sports team—the pride and joy of a tiny town. The team's summer training camp is Hermione's last and marks the beginning of the end of…she’s not sure what. She does know this season could make her a legend. But during a camp party, someone slips something in her drink. And it all goes black.

In every class, there's a star cheerleader and a pariah pregnant girl. They're never supposed to be the same person. Hermione struggles to regain the control she's always had and faces a wrenching decision about how to move on. The assault wasn't the beginning of Hermione Winter's story and she's not going to let it be the end. She won’t be anyone’s cautionary tale.

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I finished Exit, Pursued by a Bear a few days ago but I haven’t been able to properly put my thoughts into words.  I still can’t really do that but I’m going to try.

Trigger warning: As noted in the synopsis, this book deals with rape and teen pregnancy.  If those aren’t things you can handle reading about, this book is not for you.

Pros:

  • Characters:  If I had all the time in the world and I thought you guys would read a breakdown of each and every character in this book, I would give you one.  That would take so long though so I’m just going to focus on some of the key players and their strengths and weaknesses.  Hermione is obviously the most important person in Exit, Pursued by a Bear.  She is the captain of her school’s cheerleaders and she is a pretty popular girl at her school.  She’s still very down to earth though.  She knows what people think about cheerleaders and she is there to prove them all wrong. She’s smart and funny and amazingly strong.  She doesn’t just want to be another statistic but she also doesn’t want her rape and pregnancy to define who she becomes.  With the help of her family and friends, she’s willing to do what it takes to get the guy but also move on.  Her family is a huge help but it’s her best friend, Polly, who really helps her through.  Hermione and Polly are best friend goals.  They love and support each other through everything.  When Hermione can’t be strong, she has Polly.  Same goes for Polly.  The two of them love each other unconditionally.  It’s not often you see friendships like theirs portrayed in YA books but I loved seeing it.  And right now I can’t think of his name but I adored Hermione’s psychiatrist.  He was exactly what she needed.  He helped her feel like even though everything was wrong in her life, she wasn’t doing anything wrong and she was on the path to where she needed to be.  You could see that he really wanted to help her.
  • Story: I knew going in that this would be a tough story to read and I was right.  I cried so many times.  I’m glad I read it though.  Not only is Hermione raped, everyone knows about it.  It happens at cheer camp and quickly spreads around school and their small town.  She has no choice but to be faced with peoples’ pity.  She knows that she could let this be the moment that defines who she is or she can find a way to make herself known for something else, something good.  When she finds out she’s pregnant, it makes things even more difficult for her.  She never lets this stop her though.  She still cheers, gets good grades, and focuses on her future.  E.K. Johnston showed a very different side of the story than I ever expected and it showed that a terrible event doesn’t have to be the defining moment of your life.
  • Romance:  I’m just briefly going to mention this because there wasn’t much romance in Exit, Pursued by a Bear.  At the start of the book Hermione is dating fellow cheerleader, Leo, but that doesn’t last and I was happy about that.  They were not good for each other.  After the rape, Hermione is a little hesitant to have anything to do with boys her own age.  She puts up with it for cheerleading but that’s pretty much all she is doing.  However, Dion, a fellow cheerleader, is the only boy who really makes Hermione feel safe and like she might be okay with guys in the future.  Their friendship and possible romance is sweet and perfect for the story.

Overall, Exit, Pursued by a Bear is going to the top of my highly recommended list.  I know my review doesn’t even come close to doing it justice but take my word, you should read it.

Overall reaction:

 

What others are saying about Exit, Pursued by a Bear:

The Book Wars’ review: “In Exit, Pursued by a Bear, we see how the truth loses none of its potency when surrounded by people who are willing to trust in it. Highly, highly recommended!”

Pretty Deadly Reviews’ review: “This is a very different, very uplifting story about a girl coming to terms with being raped, and it is a necessary voice in a world telling girls they don’t own themselves.”

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Underwater by Marisa Reichardt | Review

Underwater by Marisa Reichardt | ReviewUnderwater by Marisa Reichardt
Published by Farrar, Straus on January 12th 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 288
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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5 Stars

Morgan didn’t mean to do anything wrong that day. Actually, she meant to do something right. But her kind act inadvertently played a role in a deadly tragedy. In order to move on, Morgan must learn to forgive—first someone who did something that might be unforgivable, and then, herself.

But Morgan can’t move on. She can’t even move beyond the front door of the apartment she shares with her mother and little brother. Morgan feels like she’s underwater, unable to surface. Unable to see her friends. Unable to go to school.

When it seems Morgan can’t hold her breath any longer, a new boy moves in next door. Evan reminds her of the salty ocean air and the rush she used to get from swimming. He might be just what she needs to help her reconnect with the world outside.

Underwater is a powerful, hopeful debut novel about redemption, recovery, and finding the strength it takes to face your past and move on.

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I’ve always been the queen of contemporary but it’s not often that I find a contemporary novel that I adore.  That was the case with Underwater.  Marisa Reichardt’s debut novel completely blew me away.

I’m always a big fan of books that are fast paced and have a lot going on.  Underwater is not one of those books but it’s got a lot of other things going for it.  Marisa Reichardt’s writing is phenomenal.  It seemed a little wordy at first but once I got reading, I saw how it made everything come together.  The writing style just worked for this story.  Marisa Reichardt’s writing managed to capture exactly how Morgan felt after the school shooting and convey them perfectly for readers.  It took very little time for me to feel like I could understand exactly what Morgan was going through and how she was feeling.  It takes real talent to make that happen in such a short period of time.

The events that led to Morgan’s agoraphobia (I think that’s pretty much what she had) were a mystery for most of the book.  Readers can tell early on in the book what happened at the school that day but it’s not so obvious why it affected Morgan the way it did.  While other survivors embraced life and decided to take chances, Morgan did the opposite.  She shut herself away from everything that could hurt her, including other people.  Evan, her new neighbor, forces Morgan to reevaluate her choices and actually consider coming out of her apartment for the first time in months.  Evan was a total sweetheart.  He didn’t know what Morgan was like before the shooting but he quickly came to care for her, even with her quirks.  And honestly, Morgan’s quirks made me like her even more.  Sure I felt for her from the start but I only grew to really like her once I started to understand exactly what she thought about herself, the shooting, the shooter, and what her future might hold.

To some, Underwater might seem a little slow and a little lacking in action.  I did mention earlier that that is normally what draws me too a book but I didn’t mind the pace or the lack of action in Underwater.  There was some mystery (not much) which did keep my interest piqued but it was the characters that really kept me reading this one.  Like I said earlier, I felt emotionally connected to Morgan from the start so I never once considered putting Underwater down because of it’s pace.  I do think it’s a good thing to know going in though that Underwater is not necessarily a book you are going to be able to power through and read in an hour or two.  Take your time with this one.  It’s worth it.

I also really loved all the family dynamics in Underwater.  Morgan lived with her mom and little brother and they were all very close.  Her mom was extremely understanding about Morgan’s condition and her little brother was adorable.  Evan was also very close to his mom and aunt.  There wasn’t a ton of interaction shown between them but it was easy to see how they cared for each other and helped each other out.

Overall, Underwater is a fantastic debut that I can’t help but recommend.  I look forward to seeing what Marisa Reichardt does next.

What others are saying about Underwater:

My Friends Are Fiction’s review: “What a beautifully developed and executed debut Underwater was.”

bookstacked’s review: “Everything about this story was amazing: the writing, the theme, the dialogue, but one of my favorite things about this story was the underlying message. The message that having hope is one of the best things in the world.”

Friday, August 12, 2016

Vial Things (Resurrectionist #1) by Leah Clifford | Review

Vial Things (Resurrectionist #1) by Leah Clifford | ReviewVial Things by Leah Clifford
Series: Resurrectionist #1
on August 9, 2016
Genres: Horror
Format: ebook
Source: Author
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5 Stars

When the resurrectionists of Fissure's Whipp begin disappearing, eighteen-year-old Allie knows someone is after their blood—or, more accurately, the genetic mutation that allows their blood to heal wounds, save lives and even bring back the recently deceased.

Raised by her aunt after her parents' deaths, Allie knows staying vigilant means staying alive. She's trained her whole life to protect herself by any means necessary, from self defense classes to extensive weapons training in knives. Now, she’s gone so far as to befriend a homeless boy named Ploy who unknowingly trades a few nights a week on her couch in exchange for being a human tripwire to those hunting her.

But as Allie and Ploy's feelings for each other grow, Allie realizes this time, she'll need more than fighting skills and a sharp blade to beat a villain literally out for blood.

Protecting a girl he shouldn’t love, from a threat he understands too well, Ploy must face his past to save his future in Allie’s world—a world where bringing back the dead can cost you your life.

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It’s been quite some time since I’ve read a book from Leah Clifford but it didn’t take long for me to remember why I loved her first series.  Vial Things is the start of her new Resurrectionist series and while it definitely gave me the same vibe as her Touch trilogy, it really captured my attention with it’s unique new story.

Vial Things is the story of Allie, a teen resurrectionist trying to escape her gift.  She doesn’t mind the whole bringing people back to life thing but she doesn’t like that her family uses it as a way to make money.  She decided that the easiest way to deal with it was to leave it all behind.  That plan is a good one until resurrectionists start turning up dead.  Allie knows that someone is hunting them and she isn’t safe just because she doesn’t use her gift.  She teams up with a homeless boy named Ploy and together they set out to make things safe for the resurrectionists again.

Pros:

  • Characters: I knew I was going to like Allie from the start.  Yes she was closed off but that wasn’t really by her choice.  The only people in her life who knew what she was capable of wouldn’t accept her once she stopped using her ability.  She found it hard to trust others and she didn’t exactly have an easy time of making friends.  I found her to be really likable, even if she didn’t show a whole lot of emotion.  She was lonely and that was something that is so easy to relate to.  That loneliness didn’t stop her from being a total bad-ass though.  She was strong and fierce and willing to do what it took to survive.  Ploy was similar to Allie in a lot of ways.  He was homeless and not exactly fit for the streets.  It was easy to see that no matter how he acted, he wasn’t always as brave as he seemed.  Allie was a friend to him; one of the only ones he had.  He had secrets from her, that’s for sure but so did she.  They were both using each other for different reasons but as they used each other they got to know each other and started to genuinely like one another.  Neither of them were completely trustworthy and there were times when I questioned what exactly one or the other was going to do but that’s one of the things that kept me hooked and on the edge of my seat.
  • Backstory: The science behind the resurrectionists did confuse me at times but it was really interesting.  The ability isn’t something that everyone gets and it’s not something that just comes out of nowhere.  It’s a genetic thing that manifests in some children but not all.  As this is the start of a series, I understand that I probably didn’t get everything there is to know about the resurrectionists but I look forward to finding out more.  There was so much about the family dynamics that I feel like I didn’t get and I hope to find out more about that as Allie learns more about being part of a group of resurrectionists.
  • Pacing: The story moves along at a rather quick pace.  There isn’t ever really a time when you’ll want to step away from the story.  Things are constantly happening and new information is being learned at all times.  I had a hard time stepping away from Vial Things once I was really able to sit down and start reading.  It’s one of those books that hooks you early on and doesn’t let you go until the last page has been read.

Overall, Vial Things needs to be on your radar, if it’s not already.  Leah Clifford has a way with the dark and morbid and scary and I love it.  I look forward to reading more in this series.

Overall reaction:

 

What others are saying about Vial Things:

Insane About Books’ review: “The words disappeared as I read this story, and I found the building of this story  with anticipation and mystery completely brilliant.”

Novelknight’s review: “This is going on my recommendations list for the September newsletter (a little late for August unfortunately).”

Monday, May 30, 2016

One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid | Review

One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid | ReviewOne True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Published by Washington Square Press on June 7th 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: PLA
Buy on Amazon
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5 Stars

From the author of Maybe in Another Life—named a People Magazine pick and a "Best Book of the Summer" by Glamour and USA TODAY—comes a breathtaking new love story about a woman unexpectedly forced to choose between the husband she has long thought dead and the fiancé who has finally brought her back to life.

In her twenties, Emma Blair marries her high school sweetheart, Jesse. They build a life for themselves, far away from the expectations of their parents and the people of their hometown in Massachusetts. They travel the world together, living life to the fullest and seizing every opportunity for adventure.

On their first wedding anniversary, Jesse is on a helicopter over the Pacific when it goes missing. Just like that, Jesse is gone forever.

Emma quits her job and moves home in an effort to put her life back together. Years later, now in her thirties, Emma runs into an old friend, Sam, and finds herself falling in love again. When Emma and Sam get engaged, it feels like Emma’s second chance at happiness.

That is, until Jesse is found. He’s alive, and he’s been trying all these years to come home to her. With a husband and a fiancé, Emma has to now figure out who she is and what she wants, while trying to protect the ones she loves.

Who is her one true love? What does it mean to love truly?

Emma knows she has to listen to her heart. She’s just not sure what it’s saying.

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One True Loves was my first Taylor Jenkins Reid book and I’m glad I started with it.  While I don’t doubt her other books are fabulous, this one was right up my alley and completely blew me away.  I had some high expectations (some blogger friends of mine rave about her books) but not only did she meet them, she surpassed them.

Pros:

  • The story: I was hooked on One True Loves from the moment I read the synopsis.  A woman’s husband goes missing for years, she falls in love and gets engaged to someone else, her husband returns from the dead throwing a wrench in her life.  I wasn’t sure where things were going to go after he returned and I worried things would become a little stagnant but that was so not the case.  While there wasn’t much action, Emma’s dilemma was so interesting and so complicated that I couldn’t stop reading.
  • The romance: It’s hard to say which romance in Emma’s life was more appealing to me.  Both men were great for Emma but in very different ways.  Emma and Jesse fell in love as teenagers and explored the world together.  They had a wonderful relationship that had it’s flaws but overall was very successful.  Emma and Sam met when they were teenagers but didn’t develop a romantic relationship until after Jesse was gone.  Sam was a total sweetheart and, I must admit, definitely my type of guy.  Emma and Sam had a much more mature relationship with a more settled down lifestyle.  Sam and Jesse were very different guys but they both worked for Emma in different ways.
  • The storytelling style: I’m not sure how I really expected Taylor Jenkins Reid to tell Emma’s story but I was surprised by how she did it.  One True Loves starts with Emma and Sam at dinner with her family and Emma gets the call about Jesse being alive.  Then it goes back to high school when Jesse and Emma first met and how they fell in love.  After that it jumps ahead to Emma losing Jesse and eventually finding love with Sam.  Finally, it goes back to the present and shows what happens when Jesse comes home and how Emma decides what she’s going to do now that she has both a husband and a fiance.   I was worried with all the jumping around but it worked and I managed to keep up with Emma’s story no matter what was happening.
  • The writing: I was extremely moved, not just by Emma’s story, but by Taylor Jenkins Reid’s writing.  I admit that I don’t typically read chick lit and when I do, I’m not really in it for wonderful writing.  However, that is what I got from One True Loves.  While her writing is not wordy or heavy, Taylor Jenkins Reid still manages to convey a powerful message throughout the book.  One True Loves is a book I could easily flip through and find tons of quotes that really make you think.  Sure it’s a book that will ultimately leave you with a smile on your face but that’s not all it has to offer.

Overall, One True Loves has been added to my favorites shelf and I’m now going to hunt down the rest of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s books.  Fans of the chick lit genre will fall in love with this one.

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi | Review

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi | ReviewThe Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on April 26th 2016
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
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5 Stars

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.

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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.

Pros:

  • 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.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead | Review

The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead | ReviewThe Glittering Court (The Glittering Court, #1) by Richelle Mead
Series: The Glittering Court #1
Published by Razorbill on April 5th 2016
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 416
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
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5 Stars

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…

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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.

Pros:

  • 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.

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.

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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.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Wolf by Wolf (Wolf by Wolf #1) by Ryan Graudin | Review

Wolf by Wolf (Wolf by Wolf #1) by Ryan Graudin | ReviewWolf By Wolf by Ryan Graudin
Series: Wolf by Wolf #1
on October 20th 2015
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 388
Format: ARC
Source: BEA
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
5 Stars

The year is 1956, and the Axis powers of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan rule the world. To commemorate their Great Victory over Britain and Russia, Hitler and Emperor Hirohito host the Axis Tour: an annual motorcycle race across their conjoined continents. The victor is awarded an audience with the highly reclusive Adolf Hitler at the Victor's ball.

Yael, who escaped from a death camp, has one goal: Win the race and kill Hitler. A survivor of painful human experimentation, Yael has the power to skinshift and must complete her mission by impersonating last year's only female victor, Adele Wolfe. This deception becomes more difficult when Felix, Adele twin's brother, and Luka, her former love interest, enter the race and watch Yael's every move. But as Yael begins to get closer to the other competitors, can she bring herself to be as ruthless as she needs to be to avoid discovery and complete her mission?

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I am pretty much the biggest history buff ever.  I have a very weird fascination with anything Nazi Germany related (probably something to do with my History minor) so Wolf by Wolf was added to my TBR as soon as I heard about it.  Ryan Graudin had been on my radar since I heard about her debut novel, The Walled City, so I had pretty high expectations for this one.  I’m happy to say that this definitely met my expectations and left me dying for more.

Pros:

  • Writing:  Ryan Graudin’s writing is seriously beautiful.  You have to know going into the story that it’s going to be depressing.  Yael is a Jew who watched everyone she loved die because of Hitler.  Some of the chapters take place in the concentration camp that she is imprisoned in and it’s extremely hard to read.  Ryan Graudin’s writing honestly adds to the depressing air but also shows the beauty in everything Yael goes through.
  • Characters: Yael is obviously the main focus of this story but there are many more characters who fill the pages with her.  The depth that went into each character was pretty fantastic.  Yael is this badass who was raised in a terrible situation.  She spent time in a concentration camp and had to see most of the people she loved die.  Even when she left the concentration camp, she couldn’t escape death.  It seemed like that was a big reason for why she chose to take on the task of killing Hitler.  Having lost so much, she didn’t want to see anyone else suffer like that.  She also wasn’t afraid to die.  She knew it was a strong possibility when she took on Adele’s life.  I had some mixed feelings towards the people who put her in that situation though.  Everyone in the resistance wanted one thing and that was to rid the world of Hitler.  They knew that they would lose people to the cause and they were willing to take that chance with Yael’s life.  I truly think they loved her but they were more concerned with the world than with just one person.  It was hard for me to think of it that way but I understood why they were willing to put her life so at risk.
  • Romance: The romance in Wolf by Wolf is really subtle and I loved that about it.  Yael is posing as someone who has a history with Luka so of course there has to be something there.  However, it’s hard to tell where things are going to go with them.  Luka and Adele have a history (that no one knows all the details about, including the reader) so Yael has to figure out that history and guess how she needs to act with Luka.  Luka doesn’t make any of these things easy for Yael.  He’s kind of an ass but I have a feeling that has something to do with Adele’s actions in the past.  Their interactions with each other were really pretty great.  They had some serious chemistry and the banter between the two of them was perfect.  I really thought it helped lighten the mood at times.
  • Family: I have to mention how much I loved Felix.  I know he was trying to stop Adele and bring her home to their family but it was because he loved her and feared for her safety.  He was a good brother and he always meant well.  That wasn’t the only family in the book though.  I have to say that while Yael lost her real family, the resistance pretty much adopted her.  She created a family within in the resistance and even though they were willing to risk her safety, they loved her.  Family doesn’t always have to be about the ones who share your blood.

Con:

  • Unanswered Questions: I really only have one complaint about Wolf by Wolf and it’s the mystery surrounding Adele and Luka’s history.  I know that it will eventually be explained (in the novella or sequel) but I really think it would have added to this story.  I just kept wondering what could have led up to their end of the first race.  I think I’m just being nitpicky now because I truly did love this book.

Overall, I can’t recommend Wolf by Wolf enough.  I know it’s been getting a lot of praise and it deserves every bit of it.  Even if historical fiction isn’t really your thing, you should give this one a chance.  I don’t think you will regret it one bit.

What others are saying about Wolf by Wolf:

Prettybooks’ review: “Wolf By Wolf is a clever and impressive combination of alternate history and fantasy.”

Please Feed the Bookworm’s review: “I was on the edge of my seat for this entire read!”

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Truthwitch (The Witchlands #1) by Susan Dennard | Review

Truthwitch (The Witchlands #1) by Susan Dennard | ReviewTruthwitch by Susan Dennard
Series: The Witchlands #1
Published by Tor Teen on January 5, 2016
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: BEA
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
5 Stars

On a continent ruled by three empires, some are born with a “witchery”, a magical skill that sets them apart from others.

In the Witchlands, there are almost as many types of magic as there are ways to get in trouble—as two desperate young women know all too well.

Safiya is a Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lie. It’s a powerful magic that many would kill to have on their side, especially amongst the nobility to which Safi was born. So Safi must keep her gift hidden, lest she be used as a pawn in the struggle between empires.

Iseult, a Threadwitch, can see the invisible ties that bind and entangle the lives around her—but she cannot see the bonds that touch her own heart. Her unlikely friendship with Safi has taken her from life as an outcast into one of reckless adventure, where she is a cool, wary balance to Safi’s hotheaded impulsiveness.

Safi and Iseult just want to be free to live their own lives, but war is coming to the Witchlands. With the help of the cunning Prince Merik (a Windwitch and ship’s captain) and the hindrance of a Bloodwitch bent on revenge, the friends must fight emperors, princes, and mercenaries alike, who will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.

picadillyblueI contemplated writing a one sentence review for Truthwitch. Basically, I was just going to say ‘go buy the book.’  At this point it seems like that is the only coherent thing I have to say about Truthwitch.  I figured you guys might not appreciate that though so here goes nothing.

Truthwitch is your typical fantasy novel, at first.  It takes some to build up the world and it took me some time to figure out what all the words meant and how to pronounce things.  However, after that, it’s completely unique.  Susan Dennard has crafted a story full of wonderful new characters, creative abilities, and there are even clever curse words.  How can I start using ‘goat tits’ on a regular basis?

Safi and Iseult have a special relationship.  They are ‘threadsisters’ meaning they might as well be actual sisters.  They have a bond that is tested constantly but never breaks.  Safi would give up her life for Iseult and Iseult would do the same for Safi.  They couldn’t be more different though.  Safi is hot-headed and a smartass.  She was born into a powerful family but she wants nothing to do with them or her legacy.  Iseult ran from her tribe and Safi, Mathew, and Habim are her family now.  She’s quiet and methodical but she has a tendency to panic when Safi isn’t by her side.  Together, they make one great team.  They are strong apart but they are unstoppable together.  They also manage to get into a ton of trouble together.

Safi and Iseult spend much of their time on the run.  From the start of the book you know that they are in serious trouble and it only gets worse.  They have a vindictive Bloodwitch out to get them and he’s not the only one trying to find them.  They are on the run from tons of people and it’s up to the people on their getaway ship to keep them safe.  That’s not the ship crew’s only priority though.  Prince Merik, the captain of the ship they are on, as well as the Prince of Nubrevna, is out to save his people.  Safi is not his first priority and Iseult is even further down his list of people to worry about.  He’s not a bad guy, by any means, but he has a lot of worries without having to deal with Safi and Iseult.  That doesn’t mean he doesn’t come to care about the two of them though.  Let me just say, Safi and Merik have two very crazy tempers between the two of them and it makes for some explosive encounters.  Their first meeting is very memorable and they only get better from there.

The abilities that some of the characters are gifted with also help make this a completely unique book to read.  Not all people have a gift and some have gifts that are more rare than others.  Safi, for example, is  a Truthwitch.  She can tell truth from lie and she is one of the only (if not the only) Truthwitch.  Merik is a Windwitch which is more common.  Not only do the abilities differ by person but so do the powers that come with their abilities.  Some are much stronger than others.  It all depends on the person.  I look forward to finding out a lot more about the abilities of each character and exactly what they can do with those abilities.

The relationships in Truthwitch are varied and complicated.  Safi and Iseult have one of the easiest relationships of the book.  They’d do anything for each other and that’s all that matters.  Then there is Iseult and Evrane.  Evrane saves her life more than once and there is some kind of tie there that I hope will be expanded upon in future books.  Then there is Evrane and Merik.  They are family but they have a very strained relationship.  There is history there that I look forward to finding out about.  Then there is Merik and Safi.  Holy sexual tension, you guys! Like I said, they are kind of explosive and I meant that in more ways than one.  There is also Merik and his first mate, Kullen.  They have a bond very similar to Safi and Iseult’s.  They love each other like brothers and I think it hurts Merik more to see Kullen hurt than it would for him to deal with his own pain.  My heart broke for their struggles.  And don’t even get me started on how the Bloodwitch Aeduan ties into everything.  I didn’t think Susan Dennard could surprise me any more by the end of this book but she totally did.

Overall, Truthwitch has everything I could have wanted and more.  It’s a story featuring strong female and male characters, romance, magic, and secrets.  I’ll stop gushing now but guys, read this book.  Seriously.  It’s an epic start to what promises to be a unique and captivating series.

What others are saying about Truthwitch:

The Soul Sisters’ review: “You will not know what to expect with Truthwitch and when you finally dive into it and devour its words, sentences, and pages, it will blow out every expectation you have with its quickly paced and smooth story-telling, amazing, amazing characters and freaking out of this world magic-filled fight scenes, you will seriously be left begging for more.”

Vilma’s Book Blog’s review: “It’s a tale rife with magic, action, conflict and political intrigue, but at it’s core,  it’s a story of unshakeable friendship.”

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?

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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.”