Monday, August 11, 2014

Isla and the Happily Ever After (Anna and the French Kiss #3) by Stephanie Perkins | Review

Isla and the Happily Ever After (Anna and the French Kiss #3) by Stephanie Perkins | ReviewIsla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
Series: Anna and the French Kiss #3
Published by Penguin Teen on August 14, 2014
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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5 Stars

From the glittering streets of Manhattan to the moonlit rooftops of Paris, falling in love is easy for hopeless dreamer Isla and introspective artist Josh. But as they begin their senior year in France, Isla and Josh are quickly forced to confront the heartbreaking reality that happily-ever-afters aren’t always forever.

Their romantic journey is skillfully intertwined with those of beloved couples Anna and Étienne and Lola and Cricket, whose paths are destined to collide in a sweeping finale certain to please fans old and new.

picadillyblueDoes it really come as a surprise to anyone that I absolutely adored the final book in the Anna and the French Kiss trilogy?  No?  Didn’t think so.  Isla and the Happily Ever After may just be the best book of the trilogy, in my opinion.

Isla and the Happily Ever After brings the trilogy full circle.  The story is once again mainly set at the School of America in Paris and the Paris scenery is just as wonderful as it was in Anna and the French Kiss.  However, the book isn’t fully set in Paris.  There is a little side trip to Barcelona as well as some time spent in New York City.  Stephanie Perkins’ books may just be contemporary romances but the setting always makes things interesting.  While I loved the Paris setting, I think Barcelona was my favorite part of Isla and the Happily Ever After.  Just like Anna and Etienne have Point Zero in Paris, Isla and Josh have La Sagrada Familia and so many other places throughout Barcelona.  They also have a few places throughout New York City and while a good portion of the book was set there, I felt more like their relationship was centered around Paris and Barcelona.

Part of the reason I loved Isla and the Happily Ever After so much was Isla.  Josh too but Isla was really a mystery before this book and she quickly showed to be a complex character with a story that I really connected with.  Isla never felt like she was good enough for anyone.  It was pretty clear that she didn’t think much of herself and so why would anyone else?  Her self esteem was beyond low but she was never a depressing character.  She had her best friend, Kurt, who suffered from Autism.  Kurt was a fantastic character.  His personality was perfect for Isla.  They grew up together and so they knew each other as if they were siblings, which they pretty much were.  I also loved how much Kurt meant to Isla.  She was willing to give up other friendships if the other person couldn’t accept Kurt.  They showed true loyalty to each other.

As for Josh, he was a much more complex character than I ever could have imagined.  Readers only get a glimpse of Josh in Anna and the French Kiss but you get his full story in Isla and the Happily Ever After.  He seems totally carefree at first but it quickly becomes clear that that is just a facade.  Josh is a deep character that balanced Isla perfectly.  Josh and Isla were pretty much opposites but they worked together.  Josh brought out a fun side of Isla and challenged her to try new things.  Isla brought out a more serious side to Josh and forced him to really look at why he did some of the things he did.  Their romance was a bit of a whirlwind but it was so much fun.  I wanted to see them both happy and it was clear that they brought out the best in each other.

The cameos from Anna, Etienne, Lola, and Cricket were minor but perfect.  I expected a bit more of them than I actually got but I was actually okay with that.  Their parts in the story were absolutely wonderful.  Isla and the Happily Ever After tied things up for all three of the couples and I couldn’t have asked for more from Stephanie Perkins.  The brief glimpses of Anna, Etienne, Lola, and Cricket definitely left me with a smile on my face.

Overall, Isla and the Happily Ever After could not have been better.  It’s the perfect ending to this trilogy and it left me eager to read whatever Stephanie Perkins writes next.  If you haven’t already started this series, you should really get on that.

What others are saying about Isla and the Happily Ever After:

Reading Teen’s review: “Isla and the Happily Ever After is a charmingly sweet addition to the trilogy.”

Lite-Rate-Ture’s review: “Stephanie Perkins knows how to end her story so well, I just felt my tiny heart clench inwards.”

Jenuine Cupcakes’ review: “Isla And The Happily Ever After is intense, heart-wrenching romantic perfection!”

Monday, July 21, 2014

Blog Tour: London Falling (International School #2) by Chanel Cleeton | Review + Giveaway!

Blog Tour: London Falling (International School #2) by Chanel Cleeton | Review + Giveaway!

Blog Tour: London Falling (International School #2) by Chanel Cleeton | Review + Giveaway!London Falling by Chanel Cleeton
Series: International School #2
Published by Harlequin on July 7, 2014
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley, Publisher
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5 Stars

We weren't a relationship, we were a ticking time bomb...

Maggie Carpenter walked away from the hottest encounter of her life when she left the seductive glitz of England for summer break in her South Carolina hometown. Now that she's returned to the International School in London--and sexy, privileged Samir Khouri is once again close enough to touch--she can't help but remember the attraction, the drama...the heartbreak.

She can't help but want him even more.

Samir can't afford to fall for someone so far removed from his world, not when his time in London is running out. It's his senior year--his last chance at freedom before he returns home to Lebanon. There, he'll be expected to follow in his father's footsteps--not follow his heart to Maggie. But when a scorching secret hookup becomes a temptation neither can resist, they'll both have to fight to survive the consequences...and find a future together.

picadillyblueChanel Cleeton seriously surprised me with the first book in the International School series, I See London, but that was nothing compared to London Falling.  London Falling was everything I could have wanted in a sequel and it left me with the biggest smile on my face.

The cast of characters from the first book is back and better than ever.  Maggie has grown more confident in herself but she still has her small town charm.  She’s still a bit clueless when it comes to some things (which I loved) but she’s changed a lot from the scared girl at the beginning of I See London.  Samir has also changed a ton.  He’s no longer the cocky manwhore from book one.  He’s still cocky as ever but he’s set his sights on one girl and one girl only.  Watching him put forth a real effort to get Maggie was great.  He’s definitely a guy who has always had things handed to him so it was good to see him work for something.  He and Maggie really were perfect for each other.  Their differences were enough to keep things interesting between the two of them but they had enough in common that they never ran out of things to banter about.  Their banter was seriously adorable.  As for the rest of the characters, I think Fleur was my favorite.  Fleur was cocky and kind of cold in the first book.  She is nothing like that in London Falling.  Readers really get a glimpse of the vulnerable side of Fleur this time around and it left me hoping that she will get her own book soon.

The story was nothing spectacular or pulse pounding but it was enough to keep my attention.  The different settings throughout the course of the book really helped move things along.  If you’re a fan of travel in your books, the International School series is definitely perfect for you.  I’d also definitely recommend this one if you are a fan of steamy romances!  Samir and Maggie have some amazing chemistry that makes from some definitely sexytimes.

Overall, I really have no complaints about London Falling.  I can’t recommend this duology enough for new adult fans.  I look forward to reading more from Chanel Cleeton especially if it centers around any of the characters from these books.

What others are saying about London Falling:

Becky on Books and Quilts’ review: “Chanel did a nice job of getting them to a satisfying conclusion, with plenty of realistic drsma along the way.”

A Bookish Affair’s review: “This was definitely a fun read!”

Rampant Readers’ review: “A well-written novel about breaking free for the ones you love, this novel will captivate you from page one.”

Also, as part of the blog tour, the lovely people at Inkslinger PR as well as Chanel Cleeton have set up an awesome giveaway.  Enter for your chance to win: London Falling coffee mug, Tea, (4) signed London Falling bookmarks, (4) signed I See London bookmarks, (4) pens, a London case, and a $25 Amazon GC.

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Thursday, July 3, 2014

Ruin and Rising (The Grisha #3) by Leigh Bardugo | Review

Ruin and Rising (The Grisha #3) by Leigh Bardugo | ReviewRuin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo
Series: The Grisha #3
Published by Henry Holt on June 17, 2014
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 417
Format: Hardcover
Source: Bought
Buy on Amazon
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5 Stars

The capital has fallen. The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.

Now the nation's fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.

Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.

Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova's amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling's secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.

picadillyblueRuin and Rising, the final book in Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy, lived up to all my expectations.  I couldn’t have asked for more from this debut series!  I wasn’t a fantasy fan when I started the first book but Leigh Bardugo has definitely turned me into one now.

Leigh Bardugo wastes no time diving right back into the story.  Ruin and Rising picks up shortly after the ending of Siege and Storm.  Readers will immediately recognize the situation that Alina is in.  I’m normally a little confused when I dive back into a series but Leigh Bardugo gives just enough information about the previous books that I knew exactly what was going on.  While the story is a bit slow to start, it’s made clear very quickly how high the stakes are in this final installment.

Alina has taken her role as the Sun Summoner very seriously.  She doesn’t consider her a saint like the Apparat does but she knows that she is the only one who can possibly defeat the Darkling.  However, the power has also gone to her head a bit.  She knows this and she worries constantly about what the third amplifier might do to her.  She’s willing to sacrifice her own life for the lives of others though.  Alina is a very selfless character and while she may not be a saint, she sure is willing to be a martyr.  There wasn’t a page in Ruin and Rising where my heart didn’t break for the position Alina was stuck in.  The day she was discovered as the Sun Summoner, her life was pretty much forfeit.  That girl from the first book, with a crush on her best friend and hope for a future together, is no longer there.

Speaking of the best friend she had a crush on: Mal is not the same either.  It’s clear he and Alina love each other but what isn’t clear is what their future holds.  Mal has become a huge part of Alina’s force against the Darkling.  He may just be human but he knows how to fight and he’s willing to give up his life for Alina.  He’s just as lovely as he was in the first book but it’s clear how much he has grown since then.

As for the Darkling, he really hasn’t changed much since the first book.  He’s still evil and unnecessarily cruel to everyone that means something to Alina.  However, he does show that he has a heart in Ruin and Rising.  He comes across as cold and heartless for most of the trilogy but there are glimpses beneath his exterior.  I still can’t see why people would want Alina to end up with him but I was pleased to see more to him and his backstory.  Also, I did get the special edition from Barnes and Noble which included a prequel story featuring him and Baghra.  If you have the option, get that version because that short story showed a very different side to him.

While the ending didn’t come as a shock to me there were plenty of times throughout the book that I had to pick my jaw up off the floor.  Leigh Bardugo managed to throw me for a loop more than once in Ruin and Rising.  Leigh Bardugo is an author who does not shy away from killing off her characters.  I won’t say any more than that but just be prepared for tears.

Overall, Ruin and Rising solidified my love of Leigh Bardugo’s writing, characters, stories, etc.  I can’t wait for more from her.  If you haven’t started this series, now is the perfect time to binge read them all.

What others are saying about Ruin and Rising:

Shae Has Left The Room’s review: “Thank you, Leigh Bardugo, for such a wonderful adventure.” 

My Friends Are Fiction’s review: “What a bitter sweet feeling to have upon finishing Ruin and Rising; on one hand I’m completely thrilled with the choices Bardugo made in her story but at the same time I’m distraught that we have to say goodbye to these characters we’ve grown to know and love.”

Carina’s Books’ review: “I just cannot describe how much I loved Ruin and Rising. “

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Sweet Reckoning (Sweet #3) by Wendy Higgins | Review

Sweet Reckoning (Sweet #3) by Wendy Higgins | ReviewSweet Reckoning by Wendy Higgins
Series: The Sweet Trilogy #3
Published by Harper Teen on April 29, 2014
Pages: 379
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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5 Stars

It’s time. 

Evil is running rampant and sweet Anna Whitt is its target. Nobody knows when or how the Dukes will strike, but Anna and her Nephilim allies will do anything necessary to rid the earth of the demons and their oppressive ways.

The stakes are higher than ever, and Anna is determined that the love she feels will be her strength, not a liability. But trying to protect the ones she loves while running for her life and battling demonic forces proves to be perilous—especially as faces are changing and trust is fleeting. When the Duke of Lust sends Anna’s great love, Kaidan Rowe, to work against her, Anna must decide how much she’s prepared to risk.

In the most sensual and fast-paced installment yet, Sweet Reckoning brings all the beloved Neph together one last time to fight for their freedom.

picadillyblueSweet Reckoning, the final book in the Sweet trilogy, lives up to all it’s potential and should greatly please readers of this trilogy.  Wendy Higgins has made me a fan for life after finishing this trilogy.  I couldn’t have asked for more!

Sweet Reckoning immediately throws readers right back into Anna and Kaidan’s story.  Things have heated up since the end of Sweet Peril and the stakes are even higher for Anna and the other Duke’s children.  She and Kaidan are back to pretending like they hate each other but it’s even worse now because the Duke’s know that the only way to defeat the prophecy is to somehow make Anna unpure.  They actually send Kaidan out to work against her and the rest of the Duke’s children all have to pretend to be okay with it too.  They all know that the time of the prophecy is near and they just have to hold off the Dukes for a little bit longer, just until they can figure out how Anna is supposed to defeat them all.  I truly wasn’t sure how everything was going to work out and I’m glad that Wendy Higgins went with at least a semi-realistic ending where even some of the good guys lost their lives.

Anna and Kaidan are cuter than ever in Sweet Reckoning.  They know they have to pretend to hate each other but it’s always obvious to the reader that they care deeply for each other.  They are total opposites and they almost seem like they shouldn’t work together but they do.  They balance each other out really well.  Anna is sweet and spunky where Kaidan is a lot darker.  He knows he’s done horrible things in his life and Anna helps him get past those things so they can think about the future and how they can make up for the bad things of the past.  It’s the same with the rest of the children of the Dukes.  They have all done horrible things in the past but with Anna’s help, they believe they can change their ways for the future.  They all have good hearts even if it’s not obvious from the start.

The story is fast-paced and full of twists and turns, a lot that I never saw coming and some that I did.  The trilogy has been building up to this huge battle between the Dukes and their children and it’s impossible to know who will end up on what side of the battle and who will come out alive.  The Dukes know what is coming and they are willing to do whatever it takes to stop Anna from fulfilling the prophecy.  They are some truly evil creatures and I was terrified through the whole book.  Nothing was too far for them and nobody was off limits to their torture.

The ending was a little too perfect in some ways but I was really okay with that.  Every question I had was answered and I got to see where everyone ended up, even if it wasn’t quite the ending I’d hoped for for some of them.  The ending really left me with a smile on my face and that’s all I could ask for from Wendy Higgins.

Overall, Sweet Reckoning is a wonderful ending to the Sweet trilogy and I can’t recommend this trilogy enough.  Paranormal fans who haven’t started this series already should really get on it.

What others are saying about Sweet Reckoning:

Once Upon A Twilight’s review: “I was very pleased with this conclusion, I love it to pieces even though I was a crying mess at certain part of the book. “

A Bookish Escape’s review: “This series has it all; great world building, a plot full of twists and turns, it’s fast-paced, and there is never a dull moment!”

Books With Bite’s review: “A satisfying ending that will forever stay in my mind, Sweet Reckoning is simply amazing.”

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

#scandal by Sarah Ockler | Review

#scandal by Sarah Ockler | Review#scandal by Sarah Ockler
Published by Simon & Schuster on June 17, 2014
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 368
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss, Publisher
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5 Stars

Lucy’s learned some important lessons from tabloid darling Jayla Heart’s all-too-public blunders: Avoid the spotlight, don’t feed the Internet trolls, and keep your secrets secret. The policy has served Lucy well all through high school, so when her best friend Ellie gets sick before prom and begs her to step in as Cole’s date, she accepts with a smile, silencing about ten different reservations. Like the one where she’d rather stay home shredding online zombies. And the one where she hates playing dress-up. And especially the one where she’s been secretly in love with Cole since the dawn of time.

When Cole surprises her at the after party with a kiss under the stars, it’s everything Lucy has ever dreamed of… and the biggest BFF deal-breaker ever. Despite Cole’s lingering sweetness, Lucy knows they’ll have to ’fess up to Ellie. But before they get the chance, Lucy’s own Facebook profile mysteriously explodes with compromising pics of her and Cole, along with tons of other students’ party indiscretions. Tagged. Liked. And furiously viral.

By Monday morning, Lucy’s been branded a slut, a backstabber, and a narc, mired in a tabloid-worthy scandal just weeks before graduation.

Lucy’s been battling undead masses online long enough to know there’s only one way to survive a disaster of this magnitude: Stand up and fight. Game plan? Uncover and expose the Facebook hacker, win back her best friend’s trust, and graduate with a clean slate.

There’s just one snag—Cole. Turns out Lucy’s not the only one who’s been harboring unrequited love...

Sarah Ockler very quickly rose to the top of my list of favorite authors. She has cemented a place on that list with #scandal. #scandal has everything readers could want in a contemporary novel; romance, secrecy, betrayal, and more.

The base of the story isn’t anything new. Lucy and Ellie are best friends. Ellie is dating Cole. Lucy is in love with Cole. Lucy and Cole hook up one night. That’s where all similarities to other stories end though. Lucy goes to prom with Cole, in Ellie’s place. Lucy and Cole hook up later that night. Someone takes pictures of Lucy and Cole and posts them on Lucy’s Facebook page. They also post a lot of other scandalous photos though. Of course, Lucy then becomes the most hated person at school, especially by Ellie. Now it’s up to Lucy to find out who really took and posted the pictures. With the help of some unlikely new friends she just might figure it all out.

Lucy is remarkably easy to relate to. She’s fun, friendly, smart, and kind. She doesn’t always do smart things but she knows when she’s made a mistake and she does everything in her power to fix those mistakes. She’s doesn’t sit around moping, she takes charge. Her old friends aren’t there to help her but she makes some new ones who prove to be not just great investigators but wonderful friends. Sure they make some mistakes along the way too but just like Lucy, they do everything the can to right their wrongs. Then there is Cole. He’s a really sweet guy who was perfect for Lucy but he wasn’t present for a lot of the book. He seemed to take a backseat for most of the drama and that part bothered me. I wanted him to take more responsibility and be there for Lucy through it all. He didn’t ditch her but I felt like he could have been present a little more. There was also a wonderful sense of family in #scandal. Sarah Ockler always manages to incorporate family and this time around it was about the relationship between the sisters. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about them at first but “Jayla” and Lucy were great together. They just needed time to work through things.

The mystery was not something I was able to solve until the very end. Part of that was because there was more than one mystery. The first mystery was about who was behind the Miss Demeanor website. I really never saw that one coming. The second mystery was regarding who took the photos and posted them on Lucy’s Facebook page. That mystery was a little more predictable but still left my guessing for a while. I was definitely captivated with both mysteries.

Overall, #scandal may be the best yet from Sarah Ockler. I was hooked from the start and I never once felt compelled to put it down. All contemporary fans should definitely pick this one up!

What others are saying about #scandal:

Nick’s Book Blog’s review: “As hard as I tried to enjoy this book, I simply couldn’t.”

Spun With Words’ review: “It has just the right amount of character development, good plot, and strong conflict.”

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Open Road Summer by Emery Lord | Review

Open Road Summer by Emery Lord | ReviewOpen Road Summer by Emery Lord
Published by Bloomsbury on April 15, 2014
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 342
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley, Publisher
Buy on Amazon
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5 Stars

After breaking up with her bad-news boyfriend, Reagan O’Neill is ready to leave her rebellious ways behind. . . and her best friend, country superstar Lilah Montgomery, is nursing a broken heart of her own. Fortunately, Lilah’s 24-city tour is about to kick off, offering a perfect opportunity for a girls-only summer of break-up ballads and healing hearts. But when Matt Finch joins the tour as its opening act, his boy-next-door charm proves difficult for Reagan to resist, despite her vow to live a drama-free existence. This summer, Reagan and Lilah will navigate the ups and downs of fame and friendship as they come to see that giving your heart to the right person is always a risk worth taking. A fresh new voice in contemporary romance, Emery Lord’s gorgeous writing hits all the right notes.

picadillyblueOpen Road Summer is a book after my own heart.  Emery Lord’s debut novel is everything a contemporary lover could want in a book.  It’s a novel of friendship, fame, family, and love and it hits the right notes on every one of those subjects.  And did I mention Matt Finch?  No?  Well don’t worry, I will.

The best aspect of Open Road Summer is, by far, the friendship between Reagan and Lilah.  They couldn’t be more different but they balance each other out.  Reagan is the girl who makes bad decisions regarding everything in her life, especially boys.  Lilah is the teen country star who couldn’t be more perfect.  It doesn’t seem like they could work together but they do.  Lilah’s family embraces Reagan almost as a second daughter.  That only serves to cement the bond that Lilah and Reagan share.  And no matter what happens in either of their lives, they always have time for each other.  Sure they fight but they always find their way back to each other.  They are true friends.

The fame aspect was so much fun.  Reagan is tagging along with Lilah on her cross country tour for the summer.  There are stops in tons of cities, there are trips out to events in disguise, there are nasty paparazzi, and so much more.  There aren’t many YA books dealing with famous people but Emery Lord did a great job making this story believable.

The family part wasn’t overdone but definitely played a role in both Lilah and Reagan’s stories.   Lilah has a close knit family and she wants to keep them out of the spotlight.  She also doesn’t want her little brothers to see her in the wrong light.  She’s a good girl but the paparazzi will do whatever it takes to make her look bad and she doesn’t want them to see her like that.  It was cute how loyal she was to her family and how obvious her love for them was.  Then there was Reagan and her family situation.  Reagan’s dad was an alcoholic for a lot of her life and when he cleaned up his act, he got remarried to someone Reagan really couldn’t care less about.  Ever since Reagan’s dad gave up alcohol, they have only drifted further apart.  Reagan’s bad life choices also don’t help that relationship but it turns out that her summer away may actually bring them closer together.

The romance was beyond cute.  I told you I would mention Matt Finch and here it is: he may be the perfect male specimen.  Holy crap is he the cutest.  He’s sweet, he’s funny, he’s cocky, he’s smart, he’s talented, and I could go on and on about his many wonderful characteristics.  He is not your typical famous male singer.  He’s got a really sweet, vulnerable side that he really doesn’t show often but Reagan brings it out of him.  They both bring out really different sides of each other.  Their banter is beyond adorable.  They have immediate chemistry and from the start I couldn’t help rooting for them.  I really wanted to see things work out between them.  Reagan and Matt Finch are two characters that you can’t help but want to see together.

There is also some romance between Lilah and her ex-boyfriend, Jimmy.  Things are really complicated with them because Lilah is famous and all Jimmy wants is to grow up and run his own farm.  He’s never wanted anything more than that and Lilah.  They love each other so much but they decided they had to let each other go so they could follow their own dreams.  Their story was sweet and heartbreaking at the same time and I truly loved the outcome at the end of their story.  It was perfect.

Overall, Emery Lord’s debut novel was, in my opinion, perfect.  Contemporary fans will adore this story and I can’t give it a higher recommendation.

What others are saying about Open Road Summer:

We Still Read’s review: “This book, feet up, windows down, country music in the back ground? Perfection.”

Book.Blog.Bake’s review: “Open Road Summer has everything going for it: a swoon-worthy romantic interest, a super strong friendship(the kind that unfortunately uncommon in YA), and a delightful road-trip vibe.”

That Artsy Reader Girl’s review: “Basically, if you’re looking for a sweet summer romance with a little meat to it then this is your book!”

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Prisoner of Night and Fog (Prisoner of Night and Fog #1) by Anne Blankman | Review

Prisoner of Night and Fog (Prisoner of Night and Fog #1) by Anne Blankman | ReviewPrisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman
Series: Prisoner of Night and Fog #1
Published by Harper Teen on April 22, 2014
Pages: 401
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
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5 Stars

In 1930s Munich, danger lurks behind dark corners, and secrets are buried deep within the city. But Gretchen Müller, who grew up in the National Socialist Party under the wing of her "uncle" Dolf, has been shielded from that side of society ever since her father traded his life for Dolf's, and Gretchen is his favorite, his pet.

Uncle Dolf is none other than Adolf Hitler. And Gretchen follows his every command.

Until she meets a fearless and handsome young Jewish reporter named Daniel Cohen. Gretchen should despise Daniel, yet she can't stop herself from listening to his story: that her father, the adored Nazi martyr, was actually murdered by an unknown comrade. She also can't help the fierce attraction brewing between them, despite everything she's been taught to believe about Jews.

As Gretchen investigates the very people she's always considered friends, she must decide where her loyalties lie. Will she choose the safety of her former life as a Nazi darling, or will she dare to dig up the truth—even if it could get her and Daniel killed?

picadillyblueI’m not sure where to even start with Prisoner of Night and Fog.  This is definitely going to be one of those reviews that can’t even come close to doing justice to how amazing the book is.  Anne Blankman’s debut novel has me eager to check out anything else she ever plans to write.

First off, this is the most unique historical fiction novel I’ve ever read.  Never once did I think about how Hitler’s followers thought of him.  Gretchen, the main character, is a family friend of Hitler and she never once thought he was planning to exterminate the Jews.  She believed him when he said he wanted them out of Germany but that he was just going to relocate them.  One of the points made throughout the book is that Hitler was a gifted public speaker and people wanted to believe in him.  They wanted a strong leader and they saw that in him through the persona he showed when public speaking.  Nobody saw the bad side of Hitler until it was too late.  Throughout Prisoner of Night and Fog, readers get to see both the bad and the good sides of Hitler and it really changes the way you think of him as well as the people that followed him so blindly.  Not all of them were evil people, they were just strung along like Gretchen.

Gretchen was a strong girl but she had poor odds of coming out alive.  Her father was supposedly a martyr who sacrificed his life for Hitlers.  Her mom was incapable of doing anything to protect one child that might hurt another.  Her brother was a psychopath who cared nothing at all for Gretchen and really wanted her out of the picture.  Like I said, not good odds.  Then she meets Daniel Cohen, a Jewish reporter who tells her that there was more to her father’s death than she’d been told.  And her odds for surviving only got worse from there.  People didn’t get to dig into Hitler’s past and get away with it.  Especially not while living under the roof of a psychopath who believed everything Hitler said.  Gretchen was beyond brave and sometimes I think her bravery actually crossed the line into stupidity but she was willing to do anything to discover the truth.  Her father was a good man who loved her dearly and he deserved to be remembered not just as the martyr who saved Hitler’s life but as the man he was.

Gretchen and Daniel’s relationship was surprisingly realistic.  You have to remember that Gretchen was raised believing Jews were not only bad but really a whole different race of people, not even quite human according to Hitler.   At first she wanted nothing to do with Daniel and it took her quite some time to even be willing to deal with him.  After that it still took a lot for her to see him as a person and not only a person, but a good guy.  From there things grew between them and it was a really sweet relationship.  It was easy to see why they would be brought together and why they would be attracted to each other.  Like I said, Gretchen was brave, smart, and ambitious.  Daniel was also supremely brave as well as smart and he and Gretchen had a lot of common goals.

The pacing is a little slow but you have to expect that with a historical fiction novel with such a heavy subject matter.  And when I say slow I do not mean boring.  The story was never boring.  There is just a lot of information to digest and so it does take some time to get through Prisoner of Night and Fog.  That’s not a bad thing at all though because this is a book that you will want to savor.  The writing, the content, the characters, every last piece comes together to make for one fascinating story that will captivate readers from beginning to end.

Overall, Prisoner of Night and Fog is one of the best historical fiction novels I’ve ever read, right up there with Code Name Verity.  I can’t recommend this book enough!  Get a copy as soon as possible!

What others are saying about Prisoner of Night and Fog:

Gypsy Reviews’ review: “I will throw this book in your face and get you to read it.”

Nick’s Book Blog’s review: “Rich in its history and complex in its story-telling, this is a book that is going to appeal to many YA historical fans.”

Writer of Wrongs’ review: “Please read this book. Please please please. It’s so compelling and intense and chock full of history.”

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Sekret (Sekret #1) by Lindsay Smith | Review

Sekret (Sekret #1) by Lindsay Smith | ReviewSekret by Lindsay Smith
Series: Sekret #1
Published by Roaring Brook Press on April 1, 2014
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 337
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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5 Stars

An empty mind is a safe mind.
 
Yulia's father always taught her to hide her thoughts and control her emotions to survive the harsh realities of Soviet Russia. But when she's captured by the KGB and forced to work as a psychic spy with a mission to undermine the U.S. space program, she's thrust into a world of suspicion, deceit, and horrifying power. Yulia quickly realizes she can trust no one--not her KGB superiors or the other operatives vying for her attention--and must rely on her own wits and skills to survive in this world where no SEKRET can stay hidden for long.

picadillyblueI picked up Sekret, Lindsay Smith’s debut novel, hoping for a good historical novel with some hints of intrigue and romance.  What I got was something so much better!  Lindsay Smith puts a whole new spin on the Cold War and spies both Russia and the United States.

The characters really make Sekret so amazing.  Each character is so complex and amazingly well-developed, especially for the first book in a new series.  Yulia is a very family focused young girl who just so happens to have psychic abilities that the KGB would like to exploit.  She’s a strong, independent girl but her family is both her biggest blessing and her biggest weakness.  She will do anything to protect them, including using her abilities for the KGB.  However, her morals never change, no matter what she is forced to do.  She learns to cope with her job with the KGB but she will not stop trying to get away.  She’s feisty and smart and such a wonderful main character.  The other psychics in the employ of the KGB are all very different people.  Some of them are forced to be there, others are there to please their family (also members of the KGB.)  Yulia connects with two very different boys, one who is forced to be there and the other who chose to be there.  Sergei and Valentin were both great characters but in very different ways.  From the start, Valentin wanted out of the KGB and he was willing to do anything to leave.  He and Yulia originally bonded over their shared hatred but that wasn’t all they had in common.  They quickly grew to become friends and watching their relationship develop was so fun.  Sergei was easygoing and funny.  He helped lighten the mood of the book, that’s for sure.  It was clear from the start that he wanted more than friendship from Yulia but friendship is what he got.  That friendship forced him to finally look at what his life was like and Sergei really grew as a person throughout the course of the book.

Villains aren’t usually as good as Rostov, the head of the psychic division of the KGB.  He was supremely creepy.  He was willing to do whatever it took to restore Stalinist Russia.  He is a cold blooded killer but the worst part is that nobody knows it and nobody can prove it.  His ability as a scrubber (as Yulia calls him) allows him to erase things from people’s minds.  Even if someone saw him murder someone, he could just erase and they would be none the wiser.  It’s a truly scary thought to wonder if you’ve seen or done something but not be able to remember it.  Yulia must go through that feeling many times throughout the course of Sekret.

The story takes time to get into but it’s worth it once you make it past the more informative first chapters.  The first few chapters are just spent building the world and explaining the abilities that people find themselves with.  I will admit that it’s a little dull and made for some slow reading but, like I said, it’s worth it once you get past those chapters.  This truly is an espionage thriller.  The US and Russia are in the space race and the KGB is determined to help Russia stay ahead of the race but they can’t do that if the US manage to steal their plans.  When the psychic division of the KGB discover that the US spies are also employing a scrubber like Rostov, the stakes become even higher.  It’s a pulse pounding race to the finish and there will be plenty of shocking revelations for readers throughout Sekret.

Overall, Sekret is one of the most thrilling, unique historical fiction novels I’ve read in recent times.  I look forward to continuing this series and I highly recommend this debut from Lindsay Smith.

What others are saying about Sekret:

Allodoxophobia’s review: “For me, rarely does every aspect of a book come together as seamlessly as it does in Sekret.”

Step Into Fiction’s review: “Sekret was an enjoyable YA sci fi spy novel that may have you checking rooms for bugs and wondering who is listening to your thoughts.”

I Swim For Oceans’ review: “Overall though, I quite enjoyed Sekret, despite a few hiccups along the way.”

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Being Sloane Jacobs by Lauren Morrill | Review

Being Sloane Jacobs by Lauren Morrill | ReviewBeing Sloane Jacobs by Lauren Morrill
Published by Random House on January 7, 2014
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
5 Stars

Meet Sloane Emily Jacobs: a seriously stressed-out figure-skater from Washington, D.C., who choked during junior nationals and isn’t sure she’s ready for a comeback. What she does know is that she’d give anything to escape the mass of misery that is her life.

Now meet Sloane Devon Jacobs, a spunky ice hockey player from Philly who’s been suspended from her team for too many aggressive hip checks. Her punishment? Hockey camp, now, when she’s playing the worst she’s ever played. If she messes up? Her life will be over.

When the two Sloanes meet by chance in Montreal and decide to trade places for the summer, each girl thinks she’s the lucky one: no strangers to judge or laugh at Sloane Emily, no scouts expecting Sloane Devon to be a hero. But it didn’t occur to Sloane E. that while avoiding sequins and axels she might meet a hockey hottie—and Sloane D. never expected to run into a familiar (and very good-looking) face from home. It’s not long before the Sloanes discover that convincing people you’re someone else might be more difficult than being yourself.

picadillyblueLauren Morrill got my attention with her debut novel, Meant To Be, but she captured my heart with her sophomore novel, Being Sloane Jacobs.  Being Sloane Jacobs is one of the best contemporary reads I’ve read in quite some time and I was seriously impressed with every aspect of it.

Being Sloane Jacobs starts off slow but that’s not a bad thing.  A story as complex as this one takes some build up and let me tell you, it’s worth it in the end.  Readers are introduced to Sloane Emily Jacobs and Sloane Devon Jacobs, two very different girls who just happen to share a name.  Sloane Emily is a figure skater who is beyond stressed out and wants nothing to do with figure skating.  She knows secrets about her family that could tear them apart and it’s killing her not to share them.  She’s alone in what she knows and she needs a break from it all.  Sloane Devon is a ice hockey player with a serious temper.  She’s got her own family issues that she’d love to escape from but not in the form of mandatory hockey camp.  When the two Sloanes happen to run into each other the night before camp, they concoct a brilliant (and also slightly crazy) plan to switch places for the summer.

It may seem like it’d be confusing reading about two different characters with the same name but that’s not the case at all.  Sloane Emily and Sloane Devon are very clearly two different people.  They have unique personalities and even if the chapter heading didn’t tell you which POV you were reading, I feel like readers could still figure it out based on just their personalities.  They are both well-developed characters that are easy to like, but for different reasons.  Sloane Emily comes across as a little spoiled at first but she’s quick to grow out of that.  Sloane Devon comes across as rather rude at first but she also learns a lot throughout the course of the book.  They both learn to rely on people, including each other.  It’s not easy for either of them but they slowly build relationships not just with each other but with the people at their respective camps.

Both boys are seriously adorable and so easy to fall for.  The romance isn’t deep in either case but it’s just right for the story.  Both Sloane Devon and Sloane Emily aren’t looking for romantic entanglements but when they meet the right guys, things just happen.  It was the perfect balance for the more serious aspects of the story.

The sports aspect was done amazingly well.  I know almost nothing about ice hockey and even less about figure skating but that didn’t feel like a problem when reading Being Sloane Jacobs.  Lauren Morrill incorporates enough about each sport so that readers can get by but she doesn’t bog things down with too much information.  Just like Miranda Kenneally does with her books, Lauren Morrill manages to perfectly balance sports and her subject matter.

Overall, Being Sloane Jacobs is a must read for contemporary fans.  I’d even recommend checking this one out before her debut, Meant To Be, although I suggest you get to that one eventually!

What others are saying about Being Sloane Jacobs:

Writer of Wrongs’ review: “If you like cute contemporary, you can’t miss Being Sloane Jacobs.”

Books and Whimsy’s review: “Truly, Being Sloane Jacobs was a really enjoyable story.”

Book Lovers For Life’s review: “Being Sloane Jacobs might not have killed me on the cuteness level as much as Meant to Be did, but this book was different and refreshing and so fun to read.”

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Biggest Flirts (Superlatives #1) by Jennifer Echols | Review

Biggest Flirts (Superlatives #1) by Jennifer Echols | ReviewBiggest Flirts by Jennifer Echols
Series: Superlatives #1
Published by Simon & Schuster on May 20, 2014
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 336
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss, Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
5 Stars

Tia just wants to have fun. She’s worked hard to earn her reputation as the life of the party, and she’s ready for a carefree senior year of hanging out with friends and hooking up with cute boys. And her first order of business? New guy Will. She can’t get enough of his Midwestern accent and laidback swagger.

As the sparks start to fly, Will wants to get serious. Tia’s seen how caring too much has left her sisters heartbroken, and she isn’t interested in commitment. But pushing Will away drives him into the arms of another girl. Tia tells herself it’s no big deal…until the yearbook elections are announced. Getting voted Biggest Flirts with Will is, well, awkward. They may just be friends, but their chemistry is beginning to jeopardize Will’s new relationship—and causing Tia to reconsider her true feelings. What started as a lighthearted fling is about to get very complicated…

picadillyblueIn case you guys didn’t know, I love Jennifer Echols.  Her contemporary books are some of my all time favorites, right up there with Sarah Dessen’s, Susane Colasanti’s, and Miranda Kenneally’s.  I’m really pleased to say that Biggest Flirts is just as amazing as the rest of her works.  So cute!

Tia and Will are adorable!  Tia is a huge flirt who doesn’t want a relationship, or so she says.  She’s seen what relationships have done to her sisters and she wants to avoid that.  Will makes that hard for her to do.  He makes it clear from the start that he wants a relationship.  Tia and Will are both stubborn and the game is on to see which one is going to get their way.

Tia is hard-headed, sarcastic, smart, and funny.  She avoids commitment of any kind, as well as responsibility.  She’s a little immature but she learns.  Will is her opposite in a lot of ways.  They share the hard-headedness and sarcasm but that’s it.  Will loves commitment and responsibilities, going out of his way to get both.  Their opposites are perfect together.  They bring out the best in each other.  Oh and don’t even get me started on the banter between the two.  It’s so perfect.

The plot is a little predictable since it is just a romantic comedy.  However, the story and the characters are adorable.  I never once lost interest in Tia and Will’s story.  In fact, I actually read Biggest Flirts in one sitting.  I was hooked from the start.

Overall, Biggest Flirts is a new favorite contemporary of mine.  This series holds a lot of promise and I can’t wait to read book two.

What others are saying about Biggest Flirts:

Mary Had A Little Book Blog’s review: “I am fascinated by this series.”

Mostly YA Book Obsessed’s review: “I loved getting to know Tia’s friends and I’m excited to read their stories.”

Coffee, Books, and Me’s review: “I thoroughly enjoyed this novel.”