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
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
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.

picadillyblue

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.”

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Blog Tour: Evidence of Things Not Seen by Lindsey Lane | Review + Interview

Blog Tour: Evidence of Things Not Seen by Lindsey Lane | Review + Interview

Blog Tour: Evidence of Things Not Seen by Lindsey Lane | Review + InterviewEvidence of Things Not Seen by Lindsey Lane
Published by Farrar Straus and Giroux on September 16, 2014
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 224
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
3 Stars

When high school junior Tommy Smythe goes missing, everyone has a theory about what happened to him. Tommy was adopted, so maybe he ran away to find his birth parents. He was an odd kid, often deeply involved in his own thoughts about particle physics, so maybe he just got distracted and wandered off. He was last seen at a pull-out off the highway, so maybe someone drove up and snatched him. Or maybe he slipped into a parallel universe. Tommy believes that everything is possible, and that until something can be proven false, it is possibly true. So as long as Tommy’s whereabouts are undetermined, he could literally be anywhere.

Told in a series of first-person narratives from people who knew Tommy and third-person chapters about people who find the things Tommy left behind—his red motorbike, his driving goggles, pages from his notebook—Particles explores themes of loneliness, connectedness, and the role we play in creating our own realities.

picadillyblue

Evidence of Things Not Seen might be one of the most bizarre books I’ve ever read.  It’s unlike anything else in the YA market and while it wasn’t my favorite, I truly enjoyed reading it.

The story focuses on the disappearance of Tommy Smythe.  Tommy is a strange boy with a fascination for particle physics and alternate universes.  One of the quirky things about the book is that you never actually meet Tommy.  You get to read his journal entries but that is all you have of Tommy other than what other people have to say about him.  Each chapter is told from a different point of view, some people who knew Tommy and some people who stumble upon items of his after his disappearance.  While it took some getting used to, this style was awesome and probably my favorite aspect of the book.

Each chapter is almost like a short story.  Each person has something to do with Tommy, whether they know it or not.  It’s also a way to see how everyone is connected by just one person.  All of the people were very different but they all tied together somehow.  There were times when I wondered why I was reading about a certain person but later on in the book I’d see the bigger role they played.  It was really fascinating and such a unique way to tell this story.

The mature content in Evidence of Things Not Seen really got to me.  I don’t usually have a problem with this kind of stuff but in this case, there was a lot of it and some of it seemed unnecessary.  There was rape, incest, child prostitution, abuse, and all kinds of other stuff.  I just felt like there was an over abundance of mature content and at times it made me really uncomfortable.

The ending is not perfect, it’s not tied up with a bow, but it’s perfect for the story.  It’s very open ended and it has definitely got me thinking.  Also, I won’t tell you what it is but I adore the last line.

Overall, Evidence of Things Not Seen is a promising young adult debut from Lindsey Lane.  I look forward to more unique stories from this author.

What others are saying about Evidence of Things Not Seen:

Shae Has Left The Room’s review: “I will say that it is definitely unlike most books I read.”

Bewitched Bookworms’ review: “The writing was crisp, sometimes stark, but beautiful at the same time.”

Read.Sleep.Repeat’s review: “Overall, I recommend this book to people looking to read fresh and interesting contemporaries, and books with a large feeling of community and family.”

lindseylane

 

About the author:

Award-winning author Lindsey Lane is proud to announce her debut YA novel EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN will be published by Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers on September 16, 2014. Her picture book SNUGGLE MOUNTAIN (Clarion, 2003) is now available as an iTunes app, which Digital Storytime describes as “heartwarming and adorable with rich illustrations and lyrical text.” In 2010, Lindsey received her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Lindsey is a featured presenter at many schools where she gets kids (of all ages) excited about writing. When she is not writing, reading or being a mom, Lindsey loves sweating at Bikkram yoga, seeing movies and plays, and enjoying some of the outrageously good food at Austin restaurants with friends.

 

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

 

 

Interview with Lindsey Lane!

First off, thanks for stopping by the blog.  =)

Thank you so much for hosting me. It’s an honor.

Describe Evidence of Things Not Seen in 140 characters or less!

Without hashtags? Okay, here goes:

Tommy is missing. As the community searches, their lives are affected by the loss & the only clues they find are pages from Tommy’s notebook

What made you decide to write YA?

I’m not sure I decided to write YA. I think stories come to us and we have to figure out the best way to tell them. That said, one of the things that I am most proud of about EVIDENCE is that it is tough, gritty and honest and I think that young adults sometimes want a story that doesn’t have easy answers and big bows. Sometimes they want to look behind the wizard’s curtain and see the machinations of what makes life messy and magical.

Your character, Tommy, is a genius when it comes to physics.  Do you have a physics background?  If not, how did the idea come to you?

I do not have a background in physics but I have a fascination with the ideas in physics.  So do a lot of other writers. Steven Moffatt (Dr. Who) Philip Pullman (The Golden Compass), to name two of many.

The first story I wrote about Tommy was called Particles and, in it, I hinted that Tommy might have disappeared by going into another dimension. When I expanded the story and wove it through the entire book, I had to entertain all the possibilities of how Tommy might have disappeared.  As Tommy writes in his journal:  All Possibilities exist. When I make an observation, all possibilities collapse into one. So is it our observation that limits possibility? What if there is absolutely no observer? Then anything is possible. Anything. I could be anywhere. I could be dead. I could be sleeping. I could be on Ruby going to class. I could even be in class because that’s one of the possibilities that exists as long as no one is observing me.

Do you have any must haves while writing?

A cup of strong black tea (Yorkshire Gold or Scottish Breakfast) with milk and a comfortable chair. Other than that, I love hearing my animals breathing nearby and, if the weather’s good, the windows open so I can hear the birds.

What has been your best experience being part of the YA community?

I have to say that the Kidlit/YA community has the most enthusiastic and generous people on the planet. As far as best experience, well, being on this blog tour is pretty great and when I reached out to blurbers, I was welcomed heartily into the fold. Because this is my debut, I am looking forward to many more great experiences.

What are you working on now?  Anything else YA?

I am working on the next YA novel. The working title is Inside The Notes.  The protagonist is a musician who is set on a path to meet the man who killed her mother fourteen years ago: her father.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Rites of Passage by Joy Hensley | Review

Rites of Passage by Joy Hensley | ReviewRites of Passage by Joy Hensley
Published by Harper Teen on September 9, 2014
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 416
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss, Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
4 Stars

Sam McKenna’s never turned down a dare. And she's not going to start with the last one her brother gave her before he died.

So Sam joins the first-ever class of girls at the prestigious Denmark Military Academy. She’s expecting push-ups and long runs, rope climbing and mud-crawling. As a military brat, she can handle an obstacle course just as well as the boys. She's even expecting the hostility she gets from some of the cadets who don’t think girls belong there. What she’s not expecting is her fiery attraction to her drill sergeant. But dating is strictly forbidden and Sam won't risk her future, or the dare, on something so petty...no matter how much she wants him.
As Sam struggles to prove herself, she discovers that some of the boys don’t just want her gone—they will stop at nothing to drive her out. When their petty threats turn to brutal hazing, bleeding into every corner of her life, she realizes they are not acting alone. A decades-old secret society is alive and active… and determined to force her out.
At any cost.

Now time's running short. Sam must decide who she can trust...and choosing the wrong person could have deadly consequences.

picadillyblue

Rites of Passage is a strong debut novel from Joy Hensley.  I was seriously impressed by this contemporary novel and I’m already looking forward to whatever she writes next.

Rites of Passage combines a few of my favorite things: strong females, forbidden romance, and a school setting.  And it just so happens that all three of these things are done well.  Sam is one seriously kick -ass female.  She knows it’s going to be tough being one of the first female students at Denmark Military Academy but she doesn’t let that stop her.  She’s never backed down from a dare and this is not going to be the first time she does.  She is determined to honor her brother’s memory by making it through the first year and paving the way for future generations of young women.  She is severely hazed, to the point of injury.  She’s looked down upon by almost everyone, including her older brother.  To top it all off, she has no clue who to trust seeing as there is a secret society determined to get her and all the other girls to leave.   None of that stops her though.  She is smart, funny, kind, and one tough cookie.  She’s the kind of heroine girls can definitely look up to.

The forbidden romance aspect was pretty steamy.  Sam and her cadet drill sergeant have a lot in common and he’s one of the few people at the school who treats her just like anyone else.  He doesn’t look down on her because she’s a female and he doesn’t make any special concessions because she’s a female.  To him, she’s just another person, one that he is attracted to though.  The attraction between them is definitely made clear at the beginning of the book but it takes time to build and nothing happens for quite some time.  Even after things are more out in the open, Rites of Passage really isn’t a romance centered novel.  Sure there are some steamy and some super sweet scenes between Sam and Drill but it’s not a focal point.  It was well done.

The school setting was awesome.  Rites of Passage is a lot like any other boarding school novel except that it’s set at a military academy where things are crazy strict.  To be honest, while I was reading I kept picturing the set of the Disney Channel Original Movie Cadet Kelly.  I’m sure you know the one I’m talking about, with Hilary Duff.  Scenes from that movie kept popping into my head while reading Rites of Passage and that was not a bad thing.  Denmark Military Academy was a really well-developed school setting that I could easily picture in my head.

The story is completely pulse-pounding.  I read Rites of Passage in one sitting because I was dying to know what was going to happen.  You won’t want to put this one down once you start it.  The ending was a little abrupt though and I was left with a few questions that I would love to have answered, maybe even in a second book.  While I don’t think Rites of Passage necessarily needs a sequel, I’d greatly enjoy one.

Overall, Rites of Passage is a fabulous debut and a wonderful contemporary novel.  I can’t wait to see what Joy Hensley has planned next!

What others are saying about Rites of Passage:

Jenuine Cupcakes’ review: “Sam McKenna is the perfect blend of fierce determination, vulnerability and feminine strength.”

The Bookish Owl’s review: “Rites of Passage, without a doubt, is a phenomenal debut.”

Love is not a Triangle’s review: “I stayed up until 1:30 am finishing Rites of Passage because I couldn’t go to bed until I got to the end.”

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Gates of Thread and Stone (Gates of Thread and Stone #1) by Lori M. Lee | Review

Gates of Thread and Stone (Gates of Thread and Stone #1) by Lori M. Lee | ReviewGates of Thread and Stone by Lori M. Lee
Series: Gates of Thread and Stone #1
Published by Skyscape on August 5, 2014
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 335
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley, Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
4 Stars

In the Labyrinth, we had a saying: keep silent, keep still, keep safe.

In a city of walls and secrets, where only one man is supposed to possess magic, seventeen-year-old Kai struggles to keep hidden her own secret—she can manipulate the threads of time. When Kai was eight, she was found by Reev on the riverbank, and her “brother” has taken care of her ever since. Kai doesn’t know where her ability comes from—or where she came from. All that matters is that she and Reev stay together, and maybe one day move out of the freight container they call home, away from the metal walls of the Labyrinth. Kai’s only friend is Avan, the shopkeeper’s son with the scandalous reputation that both frightens and intrigues her.

Then Reev disappears. When keeping silent and safe means losing him forever, Kai vows to do whatever it takes to find him. She will leave the only home she’s ever known and risk getting caught up in a revolution centuries in the making. But to save Reev, Kai must unravel the threads of her past and face shocking truths about her brother, her friendship with Avan, and her unique power.

picadillyblueGates of Thread and Stone is a strong debut from Lori M. Lee and a wonderful start to a new fantasy series.  It’s got a little something for all readers and I think it’s a great introduction to fantasy if that’s not a genre you’re familiar with.

The story starts off strong and continues that way throughout.  I was hooked from the very first page.  The pacing was fabulous and I never felt the urge to put the book down.  It’s a quick read that will leave readers wanting more.  There is mystery, romance, action, and deception woven through every page.  I never could guess what was going to happen next.  (Until the very end when I had a tiny inkling that something might happen!)  Like I said, this book really has a little something for everyone.  Also, the fantasy aspect of it wasn’t quite as strong as other young adult fantasy novels like Rae Carson’s or Leigh Bardugo’s.  I don’t mean that in a bad way though.  I think this would be a great introduction to the fantasy genre for people who may be a little intimidated by some of the other fantasy novels out there.

The characters were a little bit lacking for me.  I never felt truly invested in their stories.  When one of them was hurt or taken, I didn’t get all that upset.  Kai, Avan, Reev, and the others felt a little unreal to me.  I never got enough information about them to feel like I knew their stories.  I know this is only the first in a series but by the end of the book I felt like I should have cared more than I did for the characters.  They were far from terrible though.  Kai was strong and self-sufficient.  She didn’t require saving every other page.  She could take care of herself and in fact, she could help others too.  Avan and Kai shared a lot of characteristics and I think that was part of why they fought so much.  They both wanted to look out for the other when really both of them could easily look out for themselves.  Avan was a true gentleman though.  He was protective of Kai but he didn’t try to stifle her independence.  I liked that he was confident enough in himself to not need to put her down.  Reev was the most lacking for me.  I liked him but there were a lot of mysteries surrounding him and I feel like some of those mysteries still weren’t cleared up at the end of Gates of Thread and Stone.

Kai’s ability was another big issue of mine for most of the book.  It went unexplained for quite some time.  Kai would use her ability but as the reader, I didn’t have a clue what she was doing, how she was doing it, or how it could possibly help her.  Not until one of the last few chapters was her ability explained and I felt confused about it even then.  I think there will be a lot more exploring of Kai’s powers in the next book.

Overall, Gates of Thread and Stone didn’t wow me like I hoped but it did get me interested enough to check out the next book.  Fantasy fans will enjoy this one.

What others are saying about Gates of Thread and Stone:

Hell Is Cold’s review: “Yet another very, very mediocre novel that tries to be whimsical and epic in scale but ultimately falls short in all respects.”

Library of a Book Witch’s review: “I will continue on to the second one being that I’m really curious what it’s about.”

The Starry-Eyed Revue’s review: “Things definitely take an unexpected turn toward the end of this book, both in terms of plot and world-building, but I’m on board.”

Monday, August 4, 2014

My Last Kiss by Bethany Neal | Review

My Last Kiss by Bethany Neal | ReviewMy Last Kiss by Bethany Neal
Published by Farrar Straus and Giroux on June 10, 2014
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 358
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
3 Stars

What if your last kiss was with the wrong boy? 

Cassidy Haines remembers her first kiss vividly. It was on the old covered bridge the summer before her freshman year with her boyfriend of three years, Ethan Keys. But her last kiss--the one she shared with someone at her seventeenth birthday party the night she died--is a blur. Cassidy is trapped in the living world, not only mourning the loss of her human body, but left with the grim suspicion that her untimely death wasn't a suicide as everyone assumes. She can't remember anything from the weeks leading up to her birthday and she's worried that she may have betrayed her boyfriend. 

If Cassidy is to uncover the truth about that fateful night and make amends with the only boy she'll ever love, she must face her past and all the decisions she made--good and bad--that led to her last kiss.

picadillyblueBethany Neal’s debut novel, My Last Kiss, was not at all what I expected.  It had a lot of potential to be an awesome story but it fell flat in a lot of areas.  I enjoyed it enough to read it through but this one may not be for everyone.

My Last Kiss has a promising start.  Cassidy wakes up and quickly realizes that she is dead but she has no clue how that came to be.  Readers follow Cassidy through her journey of discovering what exactly happened in the weeks leading up to her death as well what she has to do to pass on.  The chapters alternate between Cassidy’s current situation and the weeks leading up to her death. Cassidy is in for a lot of surprises as she comes to realize that she did some things she wasn’t proud of before her death and she not only has to find out who caused  her death but also make up for those things she did.

Like I said, My Last Kiss, starts off great.  It’s where it goes from there that I had problems with.  Cassidy was my biggest problem.  She was selfish and really kind of a bitch.  Readers quickly come to realize that she was up to some really bad things before her death and she hurt a lot of people who didn’t deserve it.  Her boyfriend, Ethan, was hurt the worst.  Ethan was completely wonderful although I think he may have been a little too perfect.  I would have liked to see some flaws from Ethan but that still didn’t make up for what Cassidy did to him.  And her reasoning behind everything she did was so dumb and self-centered.  She was only ever looking out for herself.  Also, Caleb, her childhood friend turned maybe something more, didn’t deserve how she treated him either.  Just because he was a slacker and a stoner didn’t mean he deserved to be judged as worthless.  I truly liked him way more than Cassidy.  As for Cassidy’s friends, it was pretty easy to see why they were friends.  They shared a lot of the same characteristics and they weren’t exactly good ones.

The mystery is what kept me reading.  I actually couldn’t guess the killer or the motive in My Last Kiss.  It was a very twisted story that didn’t become clear until the very end of the book.  It was pretty much the only thing that kept me interested in the book.  Cassidy’s killer wasn’t necessarily a bad guy and they didn’t set out to kill her but how everything worked out in the end was pretty terrifying.

Overall, My Last Kiss is not for people looking for a character they will root for or a fast-paced story.  If you think you can overlook Cassidy’s flaws though and enjoy it for the mystery aspect, it might be for you.

What others are saying about My Last Kiss:

Not Yet Read’s review: “There is plenty of WHINE to go with this CHEESE.”

Books and Swoons’ review: “I really enjoyed reading My Last Kiss.”

Alexa Loves Books’ review: “While the writing wasn’t horrible, the story wasn’t particularly memorable and thus, this novel was just okay.”

Monday, June 16, 2014

Vivian Divine Is Dead by Lauren Sabel | Review

Vivian Divine Is Dead by Lauren Sabel | ReviewVivian Divine Is Dead by Lauren Sabel
Published by Harper Teen on June 3, 2014
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 288
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss, Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
4 Stars

When a death threat arrives with teen celebrity Vivian Divine's fan mail, Vivian has no choice but to go on the run to Mexico. She soon discovers, though, that her Oscar-nominated performance killing villains on-screen did nothing to prepare her for escaping a madman in real life. Some people say he's a hero, others tremble in his presence, but one thing is clear: he won't stop until Vivian is in his grasp. Why didn't she pay more attention during those judo lessons for her role in Zombie Killer?

Vivian finds an ally in the mysterious and charming Nick. He is everything Hollywood boys are not-genuine, kind, and determined to see Vivian for who she really is. But even he seems like he can't be trusted-what could he be hiding?

Beat up, hungry, and more confused than ever about who she's running from, Vivian is living in a real-life blockbuster horror flick. But there's no option to yell "cut" like there is on set....

picadillyblueVivian Divine is Dead is a unique addition to the young adult contemporary suspense genre. Lauren Sabel crafted a very twisted mystery that left me guessing until the very end. It’s not often that I’m unable to figure things out but that was definitely the case with this one.

Vivian Divine is a spoiled rotten movie star. She was really hard to like at first. Her mom was murdered and her dad pretty much gave up on life after that but that didn’t give her the right to be the bitch that she was. She expected people to wait on her and she couldn’t fend for herself to save her life. She talked down to people and she thought very highly of herself. She was like that for most of the book and I thought that might be the one thing that would make me hate Vivian Divine is Dead but that actually wasn’t the case. She did develop as a character and I was already hooked on the story so I never once thought about giving up on this one.

Nicholas, Marcos, Scars, Isabel, and pretty much all the rest of the secondary characters were a little flat. Nicholas was this handsome stranger who Vivian met on the bus to Mexico. Since he spoke English, Vivian decided to rely on him to help keep her safe. He honestly didn’t have much going on other than being handsome. There was a little back-story to him but not enough to really get me interested in knowing more about him. He wasn’t well-developed and while I liked him well enough, I wasn’t invested in his relationship with Vivian. Marcos and Scars were worse than Nicholas. I had no interest in them and found them to be more of an annoyance than anything else. Scars had no personality and was really just known for being a big bad ass with scars. He was not really all that creepy if you ask me. Marcos was a little better developed but still lacking. As for Isabel, she was the only one I really cared for. She had more back-story than any of them and was the most developed of them all.

The story was the truly interesting part of the book. Vivian Divine goes on the run after receiving a death threat. Seems like a simple plot but there was a lot more going on than I ever expected. Not once was I able to guess who was behind the death threat or why. There was also a mystery surrounding Vivian’s mom and what exactly happened to her. I had no clue how Lauren Sabel was going to tie everything together in the end but she managed it wonderfully. Admittedly, the story was a little all over the place at times but it was still entertaining.

Overall, Vivian Divine is Dead is a great debut from Lauren Sabel and I will plan to check out more from her in the future. Hopefully that includes a sequel to Vivian Divine is Dead since I could use a little more from these characters!

What others are saying about Vivian Divine is Dead:

Book.Blog.Bake’s review: “In the end, I think, what happened in Vivian Divine is Dead is a lack of development both of the plot and the characters.”

The Social Potato’s review: “Vivian Divine is Dead is so bad that it’s almost comical.”

Turning Pages’ review: “Vivian Divine is Dead is unlike any book that I’ve read this year.”

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
Goodreads
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
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
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.”

Monday, June 2, 2014

Blog Tour: The Murder Complex (The Murder Complex #1) by Lindsay Cummings | Review

Blog Tour: The Murder Complex (The Murder Complex #1) by Lindsay Cummings | Review

Blog Tour: The Murder Complex (The Murder Complex #1) by Lindsay Cummings | ReviewThe Murder Complex by Lindsay Cummings
Series: The Murder Complex #1
Published by Harper Teen on June 10, 2014
Genres: Dystopian
Pages: 400
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
4 Stars

Meadow Woodson, a fifteen-year-old girl who has been trained by her father to fight, to kill, and to survive in any situation, lives with her family on a houseboat in Florida. The state is controlled by The Murder Complex, an organization that tracks the population with precision.

The plot starts to thicken when Meadow meets Zephyr James, who is—although he doesn’t know it—one of the MC’s programmed assassins. Is their meeting a coincidence? Destiny? Or part of a terrifying strategy? And will Zephyr keep Meadow from discovering the haunting truth about her family?

picadillyblue

The Murder Complex is Lindsay Cummings’ debut novel and the start of what promises to be an awesome new dystopian series.  The characters, the story, and the pulse pounding action make for a thrilling read.

Meadow is a strong female character who knows how to take care of herself.  Her dad raised her so that she would never have to rely on other people to save her.  She can fight, she can feed herself, she can be brutal when need be, but above all else, she can still be vulnerable.  She is not some cold person who wants to be alone.  Sure she can take care of herself but that doesn’t mean she wants to always have to.  Enter Zephyr, someone she never expected and someone she definitely couldn’t plan for.  He is a surprisingly vulnerable male character.  He is not afraid to show weakness or sorrow or shame.  He balances out Meadow.  She may not be cold but she doesn’t always show emotion and Zephyr definitely does. They work well as a team because they both have strengths and weaknesses that work well together.

I’ve seen The Murder Complex compared to The Hunger Games and in this case, I have to agree.  This is a gritty story that is very rarely happy and I could definitely see comparisons between Meadow and Katniss.  However, that’s not to say that this is a rip off of The Hunger Games.  It’s a completely new story set in a completely different world but it will appeal  to The Hunger Games fans.

The romance is a little too fast paced for me but otherwise it was cute.  Meadow and Zephyr had some serious chemistry but I felt like their relationship was a little too fast.  The only concession I will make is that it’s set in a dystopian world where death is a daily occurrence so I can see why things might move a little faster than normal.

The familial bonds were some of my favorite things about The Murder Complex.  Lindsay really developed these relationships in the short amount of time they spent together.  Each member of Meadow’s family had a different kind of relationship to Meadow.  Her dad clearly loved her but he was very fierce with her.  He knew that she needed tough love sometimes and he gave it to her.  Her brother, Koi, was protective of her like any older brother would be but he was also so proud of her.  He wanted her to succeed where he had failed and he encourager her a lot.  Her little sister, Peri, was adorable.  Meadow was super protective of her and she was pretty much a stand in mom for her.  She did everything she could to make sure Peri had a good life and it was so sweet.

Overall, The Murder Complex stands out in a crowd of boring, overdone dystopian concepts.  There are so many fresh aspects to this book that will hopefully really help this series succeed.  I can’t wait for more from Lindsay Cummings!

What others have to say about The Murder Complex:

Cuddlebuggery’s review: “There is a small rebellion, some cool science stuff and plenty of tension to keep a reader turning pages.”

Crystal in Bookland’s review:  “If you love fast paced thrillers I would definitely recommend that you read this book!”

The Book Lantern’s review: “While “The Murder Complex” hints at Cummings’s potential as an action writer, there are too many questions left hanging, too many plot holes gaping wide open and a whole barrel-load of problematic content that tries to be shocking but ends up being distasteful.”

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

June 2 – Fangirlish – GUEST POST

June 3 – The Story Book Kingdom – REVIEW

June 4 – Chapter by Chapter – REVIEW and Reading Teen – INTERVIEW

June 5 – Page Turners – BOOK PLAYLIST

June 6 – The Book Smugglers – GUEST POST

 

June 9 – Shelf to Screen– INTERVIEW and  Never Ending Stories Book Blog – GUEST BLOG

June 10 – Alice Marvels – GUEST POST

June 11 – Hypable – REVIEW

June 12 – Novel Novice – INTERVIEW

June 13 – Sasha Alsberg – REVIEW   and Mundie Moms – REVIEW

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
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
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.”