Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller | Review

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller | ReviewThe Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing on September 20th 2011
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 384
Format: ebook
Source: Bought
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5 Stars

Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. Despite their difference, Achilles befriends the shamed prince, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something deeper - despite the displeasure of Achilles' mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess. But when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, Achilles must go to war in distant Troy and fulfill his destiny. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus goes with him, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.

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The Song of Achilles wasn’t even on my TBR until about a month ago.  I saw Nikki from There Were Books Involved reading it and after seeing her reactions to it, I added it to the TBR.  I didn’t think I’d get around to reading it for a while but I decided to just throw it on my November TBR and see what happened.  I couldn’t resist it for too long and it was definitely a good life choice to read it.  The Song of Achilles made the history nerd in me very happy.  Madeline Miller did a wonderful job with this retelling of the story of Patroclus and Achilles.

Like I already mentioned, I’m a history nerd.  I’m minoring in history and I only just recently took a class on mythology so the story of Achilles was not new to me.  Heck, even the story of Patroclus and Achilles wasn’t new to me.  That didn’t matter though because Madeline Miller took this age old tale and made it all her own.  She has a way with words that completely blew me away.  I’m not always a fan of writers that are really wordy but in this case it just works.  The writing only made this gorgeous story better.

I truly don’t even know what to say at this point.  The Song of Achilles broke me.  I knew this story, I knew what was going to happen, I knew exactly how it would end.  That did not matter one bit!  Patroclus and Achilles came to life through Madeline Miller’s words.  They were more than just the things they became known for.  Patroclus was always in the background of the story but that’s because he chose to be there.  He didn’t need to be the center of attention, he just needed to be the center of Achilles’ attention.  As for Achilles, he was more than just the son of a goddess or the hero he came to be known as.  He never wanted any of that.  He just wanted to be loved by his people and by Patroclus.  The development of their friendship and their romance was just beautiful.

Overall, I just want you to read The Song of Achilles.  I can’t even begin to put into words the beauty of this book.  It’s something you have to experience for yourself and I suggest you do that.

What others are saying about The Song of Achilles:

There Were Books Involved’s review: “If you are at all into Greek mythology/The Iliad or historical fiction (despite its mythological elements, itdoes almost read like historical fiction), if you like a good tragic romance, and/or if you just need a good cry, pick up this book.”

Angieville’s review: “What an exquisite agony reading The Song of Achilles was.”

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Dangerous Lies by Becca Fitzpatrick | Review

Dangerous Lies by Becca Fitzpatrick | ReviewDangerous Lies by Becca Fitzpatrick
Published by Simon & Schuster on November 10th 2015
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 400
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
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4 Stars

A teen is forced to make a fresh start after witnessing a violent crime—but love and danger find her anyway in this novel from Becca Fitzpatrick, the New York Times bestselling author of the Hush, Hush saga.

Stella Gordon is not her real name. Thunder Basin, Nebraska, is not her real home. This is not her real life.

After witnessing a lethal crime, Stella Gordon is sent to the middle of nowhere for her own safety before she testifies against the man she saw kill her mother’s drug dealer.

But Stella was about to start her senior year with the boyfriend she loves. How can she be pulled away from the only life she knows and expected to start a new one in Nebraska? Stella chafes at her protection and is rude to everyone she meets. She’s not planning on staying long, so why be friendly? Then she meets Chet Falconer and it becomes harder to keep her guard up, even as her guilt about having to lie to him grows.

As Stella starts to feel safer, the real threat to her life increases—because her enemies are actually closer than she thinks…

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Becca Fitzpatrick’s Hush, Hush series put her on my radar when I first started blogging but I have to say, Dangerous Lies is the book that kept me interested in her work.  Young adult suspense novels pretty much always get added to my TBR automatically but they don’t always impress me.  I’m happy to say that I was pretty happy with Dangerous Lies, at least enough to check out her other suspense novels.

I know nothing about witness protection and I have to admit that I haven’t actually read anything or really seen anything about it.  Needless to say, I was intrigued when I read the synopsis for Dangerous Lies.  Stella’s life is turned upside down when she is forced to go into witness protection after witnessing a murder by a huge crime lord.  She has to leave everything she knows behind and take up a whole new identity in some tiny town in the middle of nowhere.  Needless to say, she’s not exactly happy about it.  She’s leaving her friends, her boyfriend (who also has to go into witness protection), and her whole existence behind.  She couldn’t care less about her mom (who got her into the whole situation) but yes, she does have to leave her behind too.

Dangerous Lies starts strong and has a pretty solid finish as well but the middle just dragged for me.  Like I said, I’m not always impressed with suspense novels and while this one is technically classified as that, it wasn’t really all that suspenseful or at least it didn’t seem that way.  I admit, towards the end there was a bit of a twist thrown in that definitely caught me by surprise.  However, that was really the only thing that caught me by surprise.  With this type of story, you know that the bad guys are going to eventually catch up to Stella.  For me, it just seemed like the middle of the book was a waiting game until they found where Stella was hiding.  That doesn’t mean it was bad, it was just a little slow at times.

The characters are what made Dangerous Lies hold up even with the slow middle.  Stella was a little bit of a bitch at first but it was kind of understandable.  Her mom was a total druggie who never paid attention to her daughter and was more upset about Stella testifying against the crime lord than about the murder that happened.  She made me so mad!  Every interaction she had with Stella just made me hate her even more.  Then there was Carmina, the total opposite of Stella’s mom.  She took Stella in (for reasons that come up later in the book and totally broke my heart) and she really came to care for her.  Carmina was harsh at first but it was what Stella needed.  She needed someone to drag her out of her funk and find a life in Thunder Basin.  That life came to include Inny, Chet, Dusty, and a few others.  I wish Inny and Dusty were more developed but I liked what I saw of them.  As for Chet, he was maybe a little too perfect but after finding out a bit about his past, I can see why he would be so perfect.

I also want to mention Reed even though readers barely find out anything about him.  He is Stella’s boyfriend who is also forced to go into witness protection and I have no clue how I feel about him.  Also, while Stella and Chet start a relationship of some kind, I don’t really consider it cheating since Reed and Stella are never expected to see each other again.  While they didn’t exactly end their relationship, there really was no future for it.  And hey, if you’ve read Dangerous Lies, did Reed’s ending bother anybody else?  I won’t say what happens but it’s pretty open ended and it’s one thing that really bothered me.

As for the setting of Thunder Basin, Nebraska; it was perfect.  Becca Fitzpatrick really captured the small town feel.  Everybody knew everybody’s business and it was impossible to keep a secret.  Maybe not the best place for someone in witness protection but I guess they figured that even if Stella’s secret got out in the town, it wouldn’t spread anywhere else.  The only problem with everybody knowing everything was that things did get around.  Especially when one person was involved: Trigger.  Trigger was a pain in the ass from the start and everything about him bothered me.  That was one person with absolutely no redeeming qualities.  He definitely caused a ton of problems for Stella and I felt terrible for her.  He seemed to be the one person who was nastier than Stella (in the beginning) and that took talent.

Overall, Dangerous Lies was an enjoyable read that will definitely have me checking out Becca Fitzpatrick’s other suspense novels.  If you want a pretty quick read that might surprise you, check this one out.

What others are saying about Dangerous Lies:

The Eater of Books’ review: “I loved this book, and I highly recommend it, especially to those who enjoy thriller/mystery/suspense types.”

My Bookish Fairy Tale’s review: “It was a thrill and I am actually upset that I finished it as quickly as I did.”

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Blog Tour: Love and Other Alien Experiences by Kerry Winfrey | Review

Blog Tour: Love and Other Alien Experiences by Kerry Winfrey | Review

Blog Tour: Love and Other Alien Experiences by Kerry Winfrey | ReviewLove and Other Alien Experiences by Kerry Winfrey
Published by The Studio on November 10th 2015
Genres: Contemporary
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
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4 Stars

In this heartwarming debut by HelloGiggles blogger Kerry Winfrey, a young agoraphobe begins a journey of first love that leads her to the true meaning of home—just by taking one small step outside of her house.

My name is Mallory Sullivan.

My therapist says I have an anxiety disorder.

My brother says I’m an “optimistic recluse.”

Everybody else says I'm a freak.

And they kind of have a point, because I haven't left the house in 67 days and only attend class via the webcam on my laptop. The person I talk to the most other than my mom and brother is the completely obnoxious BeamMeUp, and all we do is argue on New Mexico’s premiere alien message board.

But after yesterday, I have something: a chance. If I can win the homecoming crown by convincing resident hot popular guy and Friday Night Lights spawn Brad Kirkpatrick to go as my date, then maybe #stayathome will never appear next to the name @Mallory_Sullivan ever again.

First, I have to leave my room.

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Kerry Winfrey’s debut novel tackles the mental illness of agoraphobia with fun, flair, and facts.  Love and Other Alien Experiences is a strong debut that took me by surprise.  I can’t say what I expected but I think it would have exceeded those expectations that I might have had.

I don’t know what it is lately but this is the third book I’ve read recently about a girl who couldn’t or wouldn’t leave her house.  Agoraphobia is not something I’m familiar with but it is something that fascinates me and that was a big part of my draw to Love and Other Alien Experiences.  Kerry Winfrey chose a more lighthearted way to showcase this illness and I really enjoyed that take on it.  Mallory knows that there is something wrong with her and she knows she should do something about it.  She finally sees that chance to do something about it when she is nominated for homecoming court.  She could win some serious prize money if she actually won and that would be the perfect chance for her to set out to find her father.

Mallory’s life consists of classes taken via webcam and interactions on message boards about aliens.  Hence the title.  She has these crazy interactions with someone online named BeamMeUp and that’s pretty much her only socialization.  Her mom and brother play a key role in her life but they can’t possibly provide all the social interaction that a person needs.  That’s where Mallory’s love interest comes in.  It’s a bit of a reveal so I won’t say anything about who it is but I will say that they work perfectly with Mallory.  Mallory’s illness is something she’s always been made to feel bad about and that’s not what he does to her.  Mallory herself is a great character with a wonderful personality.  She’s sarcastic and open about her illness.  I kinda loved her.

Overall, Love and Other Alien Experiences has me eager to see what Kerry Winfrey writes next.  If you’re looking for a quick, fun read that doesn’t gloss over the details of having a mental illness, this one is for you.

What others are saying about Love and Other Alien Experiences:

Sleepsontables’ review: “If you were a fan of Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone or Made You Up by Francesca Zappia I recommend Love and Other Alien Experiences.”

Welcome to Ladyville’s review: “Love and Other Alien Experiences is a cheeky little tale about a teenage agoraphobe, who by a surprise to everyone gets nominated for prom queen, and decides to win.”

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Lies About Truth by Courtney C. Stevens | Review

The Lies About Truth by Courtney C. Stevens | ReviewThe Lies About Truth by Courtney C. Stevens
Published by HarperTeen on November 3rd 2015
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 336
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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4 Stars

Sadie Kingston, is a girl living in the aftermath. A year after surviving a car accident that killed her friend Trent and left her body and face scarred, she can’t move forward. The only person who seems to understand her is Trent’s brother, Max.

As Sadie begins to fall for Max, she's unsure if she is truly healed enough to be with him — even if Max is able to look at her scars and not shy away. But when the truth about the accident and subsequent events comes to light, Sadie has to decide if she can embrace the future or if she'll always be trapped in the past.

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The Lies About Truth is the first book I’ve read from Courtney C. Stevens and let me just tell you, I’m impressed.  The Lies About Truth is a gorgeous story about loss, love, and learning to move on.  It made me laugh, it made me cry, and in the end, it made me smile.

The Lies About Truth takes place almost a year after a car accident that takes the life of Sadie’s best friend, Trent, and leaves her permanently scarred.  Trent’s brother, Max, as well as Sadie’s boyfriend, Gray, and best friend, Gina, were also involved in the car accident but they walked away with less visible wounds.  Max’s vocal cords were seriously injured but it was more losing his brother that caused him to leave town with his family for most of the next year.  Through emails and letters, Max and Sadie start to become close.  Everything comes to a head when Max finally returns for the year anniversary of Trent’s death, finally forcing Sadie to face what happened and her part in it.

Sadie was extremely messed up from the accident.  She had physical scars but she also had mental scars.  She was afraid to get behind the wheel of a car, afraid to show off her scars, and afraid to tell anyone the secrets she was keeping for her best friend.  She basically shut herself away from everyone but Max and she really only kept herself open to him because he couldn’t see her.  She could be the old Sadie behind the screen of a computer and when she didn’t want to be the old Sadie, Max was willing to take anything she would give him.  They were completely honest with each other because they didn’t have to face each other every day.  When Max finally came home, that all changed.  Sadie had already showed him the dark parts of her on the inside so it was just time to show him those parts on the outside.  As for Max, he didn’t care about Sadie’s scars, he just cared about her.  He had his own scars (less visible but still obvious) and as long as she could accept his, he was willing to accept hers.

The other two people involved in the accident, Gray and Gina, weren’t left physically scarred but they were mentally messed up from that day.  Gray and Trent were best friends.  Gina and Trent had been dating for a long time.  Everyone involved in the accident was somehow closely linked to Trent and they were all grieving him but it seemed like they didn’t know how to grieve him together.  They were all keeping secrets from each other and it tore them apart.  Honestly the secrets and secret-keeping were a bit overdramatic to me.  Gray had secrets from Sadie, Sadie had secrets from everyone, Max wanted to be in on all the secrets about his brother, and Gina was tearing herself apart by keeping Gray’s secrets.  They may have been friends at first but all their secrets were keeping them apart and they couldn’t seem to move past them or to share them.  The anniversary of the accident is what finally brought everything out and started the real healing process for everyone.

One of my favorite things about The Lies About Truth was Sadie’s relationship with Trent.  Obviously you only get to see flashbacks but those flashbacks were great.  It was so obvious how much they cared for each other and it truly was a friendship thing.   Trent and Sadie loved each other like family.  They accepted each other no matter what.  I think Trent would have approved of Sadie’s relationship with Max because Max was like Trent in that he accepted Sadie just how she was.  Neither of the brothers ever wanted to change Sadie.

Overall, The Lies About Truth is one novel that everyone should have on their TBR.  It’s just the right amount of cute, funny, sad, and moving.  Courtney C. Stevens is an author I’m definitely going to be reading more from.

What others are saying about The Lies About Truth:

The Book Bratz’ review: “The Lies About Truth is a beautiful story that I recommend anyone looking for a fairly quick contemporary read.”

Reading Lark’s review: “The universality of Stevens’ novels is what keeps me coming back, and why I keep recommending them to other readers.”

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich | Review

The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich | ReviewThe Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich
on September 15th 2015
Genres: Horror
Pages: 400
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
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4 Stars

Three students: dead. Carly Johnson: vanished without a trace.

Two decades have passed since an inferno swept through Elmbridge High, claiming the lives of three teenagers and causing one student, Carly Johnson, to disappear. The main suspect: Kaitlyn, "the girl of nowhere."

Kaitlyn's diary, discovered in the ruins of Elmbridge High, reveals the thoughts of a disturbed mind. Its charred pages tell a sinister version of events that took place that tragic night, and the girl of nowhere is caught in the center of it all. But many claim Kaitlyn doesn't exist, and in a way, she doesn't - because she is the alter ego of Carly Johnson.

Carly gets the day. Kaitlyn has the night. It's during the night that a mystery surrounding the Dead House unravels and a dark, twisted magic ruins the lives of each student that dares touch it.

Debut author Dawn Kurtagich masterfully weaves together a thrilling and terrifying story using psychiatric reports, witness testimonials, video footage, and the discovered diary - and as the mystery grows, the horrifying truth about what happened that night unfolds.

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The Dead House was high on my list of books to get at BEA.  I hadn’t heard much about it but the synopsis and cover really caught my attention.  I’m not a huge horror fan (I’m such a scaredy cat) but I really wanted to give this one a try.  I’m really glad I did.  I wasn’t nearly as scared as I thought but The Dead House certainly caught my attention and kept me hooked from start to finish.

I really don’t know what I expected from The Dead House.  I couldn’t really figure out what the story was going to be just from reading the synopsis and I think that worked in it’s favor.  I went in completely openminded and didn’t really expect anything other than a story that would creep me out.  While it started off more of a psychological thriller than a horror, it definitely changed to something a bit scarier.  Kaitlyn/Carly’s story is very addictive and not at all what I was guessing.

The story is told through newspaper clippings, transcripts, journal entries, letters, etc.  Not only do readers get to see both Kaitlyn and Carly’s thoughts, they also get to see the thoughts of the people in their lives.  Friends, love interests, and even doctors weigh in on what happened with Kaitlyn and Carly and the other missing students.  And the story actually starts off years after the accident and takes readers back in time by going through the case as a police officer would.  All the evidence is presented and it’s up to readers to decide what really happened that night.

To be completely honest, I wasn’t a huge fan of any of the characters and I think that has something to do with the style of writing.  It was extremely hard for me to get in the mind of any of the characters and so I never felt like I could relate to them or really love them.  So much of their stories were unknowns and I didn’t like that.

Carly and Kaitlyn were the same person but they were two very different girls.  Carly had the daytime hours and Kaitlyn took over at night.  They didn’t have any control over each other when it was the other’s time in the body.  The journal found in the ruins after everything goes down is Kaitlyn’s and it shows everything Kaitlyn thought and felt but not so much Carly.  There were a few little things from Carly in the journal but not much.  She was very much a mystery.  She had friends and a boy who was interested in her.  She was essentially her own person.  It was the same with Kaitlyn, although not so much the friends part.  She did have a boy though.  The romance seemed a little out of nowhere but I didn’t have too many issues with it.  I could see why the two of them got along and I could see that Kaitlyn needed someone.

As for the mystery, there is a lot and it’s not anything you will see coming.  Things just kept coming out of nowhere, it seemed.  I could never guess a single thing that was going to happen.  The mystery of how the accident would go down was what kept me reading.  And it may not be for everyone but I liked that the ending left things a little open.  This isn’t a open and close case.  Nobody survived so nobody is there to tell exactly what happened that night.

Overall, The Dead House wasn’t exactly perfect but horror fans and newbie horror readers can find something to enjoy in this one.  I look forward to seeing what’s next from Dawn Kurtagich.

What others are saying about The Dead House:

Beauty and the Bookshelf’s review: “The Dead House was a very interesting and intriguing debut and novel, to say the least.”

My Friends are Fiction’s review: “I finished this book last night and my first take away was that The Dead House was brilliantly and wonderfully WEIRD.”

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Drowning Is Inevitable by Shalanda Stanley | Review

Drowning Is Inevitable by Shalanda Stanley | ReviewDrowning Is Inevitable by Shalanda Stanley
Published by Random House on September 8, 2015
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 288
Format: ARC
Source: Bought
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4 Stars

"A literary knockout with the loudest of beating hearts."
John Corey Whaley, Printz Award winner of Where Things Come Back

Olivia has spent her whole life struggling to escape her dead mother’s shadow. But when her father can’t even look at her because Olivia reminds him of her mother, and her grandmother mistakenly calls her “Lillian,”  shaking a reputation she didn’t ask for is next to impossible. Olivia is used to leaning on her best friend, Jamie; her handsome but hot-tempered boyfriend, Max; and their wild-child friend, Maggie, for the reality check that her small Louisiana town can’t provide. But when a terrible fight between Jamie and his father turns deadly, all Olivia can think to do is grab her friends and run.

In a flash, Olivia, Jamie, Max, and Maggie become fugitives on the back roads of Louisiana. They’re headed to New Orleans, where they hope to find a solution to an unfixable problem. But with their faces displayed on all the news stations, their journey becomes a harrowing game of hide-and-seek from the police—and so-called allies, who just might be the real enemy.

Shalanda Stanley’s breathtaking debut novel explores the deep ties between legacy, loyalty, and love, even as it asks the question: How far would you go to save a friend?

picadillyblueThis is one of those books that’s really hard to review.  It’s not that I didn’t like it or that I loved it, it’s just kinda right there in the middle.  Drowning is Inevitable is definitely a strong debut but it’s one of those books that will appeal to some people but not at all to others.

Shalanda Stanley’s writing is beyond stunning. She’s one of those authors that could write a phone book and make it captivating. I wish I still had my ARC of the book so I could share some quotes but just take my word for this.  Her style of writing is extremely lush and descriptive.  It’s perfect for the setting of a small-town in the south and New Orleans.

Olivia is a hard character to like.  She’s spent her whole life in the shadow of her dead mom and she’s come to accept that she is not her own person.  It takes some extremely drastic measures for her to finally realize that she is an individual who makes choices of her own and has a life ahead of her that is all her own.  Even after she starts living her own life, she doesn’t make the best decisions.  She’s completely loyal, though.  I will give her that.  She loves Jamie with all her heart and can’t, even for a second, see that there might be something bad in him.  Personally, I couldn’t see the bad in him either.  He made a bad decision that affected him, his family, and his friends, but he did it out of love and terror.  As for Max and Maggie, I didn’t have many feelings for them, one way or the other.  Max was not the smartest guy out there and he was extremely jealous of how close Olivia was with Jamie.  That doesn’t mean he wasn’t willing to do whatever it took to see Olivia and Jamie safe.

The story is a lot more slow moving than I expected from the synopsis and the start of the book.  Things take off early but from there they fizzled out a bit.  Jamie, Olivia, Max, and Maggie go on the run and things only get worse for them from there.  They don’t know who they can trust and they don’t always trust the right people.  Family means nothing to these kids’ actual families.  They are more family to each other than any of their parents.  They were pretty much on their own and they did whatever they had to do to protect one another.

As much as I could see things coming, I couldn’t stop reading.  This book is very much like a train wreck.  You know it can’t end happily but you just can’t look away.  Even though they may have been in less trouble if they’d turned themselves in early, you know they can’t completely get away with what they’ve done.  They either take their chances on the run (which they do) or they take their chances with the law.  It was a lose-lose situation from the start.

While the story really does center on these 4 teens while they are on the run, it’s also a story about Olivia and her mom.  Her mom committed suicide shortly after she gave birth to Olivia and that death defined the beginning of Olivia’s life.  Her dad couldn’t stand to look at her because of the similarities to her mom and her grandmother only saw the similarities between Olivia and her mom.  Then there was the fact that everyone in town expected her to follow in her mom’s footsteps.  Olivia’s life wasn’t her own for most of the book and it took this crazy trip for her to finally start to see that maybe she could make her own decisions and her own mistakes.

Overall, Drowning Is Inevitable is a stunning debut novel that will take readers by surprise.  It’s a story full of layers that continued to take me by surprise.

What others are saying about Drowning Is Inevitable:

Emily Reads Everything’s review: “This book was both heartwarming and heartbreaking.”

The Book Hookup’s review: “Drowning is Inevitable perfectly captured life in all its complicated glory.”

Friday, August 7, 2015

Uprooted by Naomi Novik | Review

Uprooted by Naomi Novik | ReviewUprooted by Naomi Novik
Published by Del Rey on May 19th 2015
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 432
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
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5 Stars

Naomi Novik, author of the bestselling and critically acclaimed Temeraire novels, introduces a bold new world rooted in folk stories and legends, as elemental as a Grimm fairy tale.

“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

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I’m sure you have all heard about Uprooted by now but maybe a few of you haven’t been convinced  by the rave reviews.  Let me add my voice to the mix and attempt to make you realize how much you need this book in  your life.

Uprooted is one of those books that you want to both devour and savor.  There were so many times that I wanted to keep reading but I knew I’d be devastated when I reached the end.  I definitely forced myself to slow my pace with this one and I’m glad I did.  There was always so much going on that I really feel I would have missed something crucial had I not slowed down.

Agnieszka is a very odd girl but it’s understandable since she’s lived a very odd life.  Her best friend was raised basically as a sacrifice and she’s always known she would lose her.  However that isn’t what happens.  Instead Agnieszka is chosen by the Dragon and off she goes to be captive in his tower for 10 long years.  She is scared, clumsy, naive, and quite clueless.  There were times when I wanted to laugh at her crazy assumptions and other times when I wanted to smack some sense into her.

As for the Dragon, it’s not actually a dragon. He’s just a powerful wizard who protects the towns close to the Wood and definitely scares the crap out of most people.  He was beyond rude to Agnieszka but besides that he wasn’t all that scary.  Having lived as long as he had I feel that human interaction was not a big thing for him and I actually felt bad for him at times.

The Wood is the villain in Uprooted and it’s interesting how you can grow to hate a place.  Yes there was a person behind everything but the Wood itself was kind of its own character.  As for the creatures inhabiting the Wood, they were uniquely creepy.  I was terrified of what was going to happen next, both when they were in the Wood and when they weren’t.  Also, don’t expect everyone to make it out alive.  Naomi Novik shocked me quite a bit.  Just because they were a major player didn’t mean they were safe.

There is some romance involved and I absolutely loved it.  At first I was worried that it was going to be some weird thing with Agnieszka falling in love with her captor and yes that is what happened but it wasn’t weird at all.  They grew from captor and captive to equals and I loved how they pushed each others boundaries.  They were alike in some ways but their differences were what made them so compatible.  Every scene they were in together was perfect.  The sexy scenes were even better.  Ooh boy.

Overall, just go get a copy of Uprooted.  It’s an amazing novel that I plan to re-read many times in my future.  Also, buy the UK copy if you can.  It’s so gorgeous!

What others are saying about Uprooted:

Angieville’s review: “There is almost nothing not to love about Uprooted.”

Books, Bones, and Buffy’s review: “A glorious, intricate fantasy with strong horror elements, that drew me in and held me spellbound.”

There Were Books Involved’s review: “It’s a little bit dense — Uprooted isn’t YA — but if you give it the time it deserves, it is so worth it.”

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli | Review

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli | ReviewSimon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Published by Balzer + Bray on April 7th 2015
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 303
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
5 Stars

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

picadillyblueSimon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is one of those books that has been getting a lot of buzz lately.  I truly do not think I have read a single bad review for this book and I’ll go ahead and tell you now that my review is going to be just as lovely as the rest.  Becky Albertalli’s debut novel was completely epic.  She is definitely one author I have added to my auto-buy list.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is unlike any book I’ve read.  It’s a romance and a mystery and a drama and so much more.  From the start of the book I was hooked and I probably only put the book down once and that was only because I was forced to at work.  The mystery of who Blue was kept me guessing until the end and while I did figure it out before the big reveal, it didn’t take anything away from my love of the book.  Like seriously, I’m not kidding when I say I squealed and maybe even threw in a fist pump when I discovered who Blue was.  Let’s just say I was pretty invested in the relationship by that time.   The interactions online between Blue and Simon were too cute and too perfect for words.  They built up this amazing relationship without even knowing who they were talking to.  Yes, Simon gave more clues than Blue about his identity but I think there was still a lot of mystery for Blue too.  And let me just say, things did not fizzle when they finally met in person.  No, in fact, things just got better from there.  I have a new favorite couple and it’s Simon and Blue.

The blackmail scheme bothered me so much.  I couldn’t believe anyone would threaten Simon the way Martin did.  I didn’t see Martin as this terrible person but he made some huge mistakes and he was definitely not someone I liked or could ever like.  I also hated that Simon didn’t ever do anything about it.  He went along with Martin’s scheme even though I thought he should have told someone.  I thought it was adorable how he wanted to protect Blue more than anything but Martin didn’t deserve to get away with what he did.

The friendships throughout the story were amazing.  Really all the relationships were fabulous.  Leah, Nick, and Simon had this bond from knowing each other for so long.  Sure there were times when they were at each other’s throats but it was easy to see how much they loved each other.  They had a true friendship without all that backstabbing and jealousy that seems to be present in so many friendships.  And while Abby wasn’t necessarily part of that original group, she was quickly finding her place with them and I thought she was a great addition to the group.  I loved the friendships but my favorite relationships in the book were definitely between Simon and his family.  They were so quirky and funny and they reminded me so much of my own family.  I don’t believe family plays a big enough role in most YA books and that was not the case with this one.  Sure Simon may have found his parents and siblings to be a little nosy but they cared about each other and all they wanted was to be involved.

Now let’s talk one minor thing that may not matter much to some people but that I really loved: Harry Potter.  Simon loved Harry Potter and he wasn’t afraid to show it.  The references to Harry Potter just made me smile.  I adored every little mention, no matter how small.  Simon Spier, will you be my best friend?

Oh and drunk Simon is possibly the cutest thing ever.  And Bieber!  I could go on and on about this book.

Overall, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is a new addition to my list of favorite books.  I look forward to reading anything Becky Albertalli ever writes.  This book was just pure perfection.

What others are saying about Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda:

Prettybooks’ review: “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is a majorly cute LGBT romance with awesome friends, many adorable moments, and a lot of laughs.”

Writability’s review: “5/5 stars to this one for sure, and I can’t wait to see what Albertalli comes up with next.”

The Tales Compendium’s review: “As I said before, I didn’t want Simon to end, I was just so happy being in Simon’s world.”

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway | Review

Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway | ReviewEmmy & Oliver by Robin Benway
Published by HarperTeen on June 23rd 2015
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
5 Stars

Emmy’s best friend, Oliver, reappears after being kidnapped by his father ten years ago. Emmy hopes to pick up their relationship right where it left off. Are they destined to be together? Or has fate irreparably driven them apart?Emmy just wants to be in charge of her own life.She wants to stay out late, surf her favorite beach—go anywhere without her parents’ relentless worrying. But Emmy’s parents can’t seem to let her grow up—not since the day Oliver disappeared.Oliver needs a moment to figure out his heart.He’d thought, all these years, that his dad was the good guy. He never knew that it was his father who kidnapped him and kept him on the run. Discovering it, and finding himself returned to his old hometown, all at once, has his heart racing and his thoughts swirling.Emmy and Oliver were going to be best friends forever, or maybe even more, before their futures were ripped apart. In Emmy’s soul, despite the space and time between them, their connection has never been severed. But is their story still written in the stars? Or are their hearts like the pieces of two different puzzles—impossible to fit together?Readers who love Sarah Dessen will tear through these pages with hearts in throats as Emmy and Oliver struggle to face the messy, confusing consequences of Oliver’s father’s crime. Full of romance, coming-of-age emotion, and heartache, these two equally compelling characters create an unforgettable story.

picadillyblue Ever since I read Audrey, Wait! a few years ago I’ve been wanting to read another of Robin Benway’s books. For some reason I only just now got around to doing that but I’ll go ahead and say that it was worth the wait.  Emmy & Oliver was just what I was looking for.

Emmy, Oliver, Drew, and Caro were best friends growing up and Emmy, Drew, and Caro remained best friends even after Oliver’s disappearance.  While Drew and Caro felt Oliver’s loss, it was nothing compared to how it affected Emmy.  When Oliver returns 10 years later, Drew, Caro, and Emmy don’t exactly know what to do with him.  He’s not the same boy that left them and they aren’t the same people that he used to know and none of them realize exactly how his return is going to affect their lives.

The friendship aspect of this book was by far one of my favorite things.  Emmy, Drew, and Caro were so perfect together.  They really had been best friends since they were extremely young so they knew everything about each other and they went through everything together.  They accepted each others random quirks and they were not afraid to do completely goofy stuff together.  (The Beatles thing cracked me up.)  Having Oliver come back changed everything for them.  At one point it had been the four of them but that was a completely different Oliver.  That’s not to say they didn’t welcome him back though because they did.  There were bumps along the way but even after all those years, he was still their friend and they proved that time and again.

The romance was something that you will see coming from a mile away (I mean, hello, the title says it all) but that didn’t detract from it at all.  In fact, it may have made it even better.  It was so fun to see Emmy and Oliver attempt to come back from everything and really start over.  There were things they remembered from growing up together but a lot of stuff was completely new to them.  It was kind of a conundrum since their relationship seemed to progress rather quickly but it was also something that probably would have grown from friendship to more over the years if Oliver hadn’t been taken.  I have never had a problem with instalove and I don’t think that’s really the case with Emmy and Oliver but at times it does come across that way.

The kidnapping aspect was something that has definitely been done before but I liked Robin Benway’s spin on it.  Oliver never saw his dad as the bad guy.  He was the one who wanted him and he always thought that his mom didn’t.  He comes to find out that that was not the case but it’s been 10 years and it’s hard to change the way you view people overnight.  Being back with his mom, with her new husband and twin daughters, throws him for a loop.  Add to that the fact that everyone wants him to help get his dad arrested and Oliver is a really confused guy.  I felt so bad for him.  His dad never meant to hurt him but he did.  I don’t approve or condone what he did but let’s just say that Oliver wasn’t the only one that I ended up feeling bad for.  His dad loved him and was afraid that he would lose him if he didn’t do something so he took some drastic measures.

Also, the only books I’ve ever read about this subject were told from the point of view of the kidnap victim.  This one was different because it was told from the point of view of someone that was left behind.  Emmy was Oliver’s next door neighbor and best friend before he left.  His parents were also good friends with Emmy’s parents.  That meant that everything that happened to Oliver, Emmy’s parents knew about and it changed how they parented and controlled Emmy’s life.  Emmy became extremely sheltered and anything she wanted to do, she had to take into her own hands.  She had to hide aspects of her life because her parents would be terrified if they knew about them.  I actually really liked that Robin Benway chose to show how the kidnapping would affect not just the family of the victim but also the people around the victim.  It was a fresh take on things.

Overall, Emmy and Oliver was a lot deeper than I expected but also still managed to contain tons of love, laughter, and friendship.  I’m definitely not waiting this long before I read another of Robin Benway’s books.

What others are saying about Emmy & Oliver:

Adventures in Reading’s review: “I’m so glad that I stuck with this book. I ended up really enjoying it.”

The Perpetual Page Turner’s review: “OMG DID I REALLY JUST READ THAT IN 4 HOURS? I DIDN’T MEAN TO. OOPS. OH WELL. SO GOOD.”

YA Midnight Reads’ review: “Sure, there is a hella adorable romance… but at it’s core, Benway’s story is one about friendship, growing up, making your own path in life, and more importantly, family.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Blog Tour: Survive the Night by Danielle Vega | Review + Interview

Blog Tour: Survive the Night by Danielle Vega | Review + Interview

Blog Tour: Survive the Night by Danielle Vega | Review + InterviewSurvive the Night by Danielle Vega
Published by Penguin on July 7th 2015
Genres: Horror
Pages: 272
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
4 Stars

We're all gonna die down here. . . .  Just back from rehab, Casey regrets letting her friends Shana, Julie, and Aya talk her into coming to Survive the Night, an all-night, underground rave in a New York City subway tunnel. Surrounded by frightening drugs and menacing strangers, Casey doesn’t think Survive the Night could get any worse...   ...until she comes across Julie’s mutilated body in a dank, black subway tunnel, red-eyed rats nibbling at her fingers. Casey thought she was just off with some guy—no one could hear her getting torn apart over the sound of pulsing music. And by the time they get back to the party, everyone is gone.   Desperate for help, Casey and her friends find themselves running through the putrid subway tunnels, searching for a way out. But every manhole is sealed shut, and every noise echoes eerily in the dark, reminding them they’re not alone.   They’re being hunted.   Trapped underground with someone—or something—out to get them, Casey can’t help but listen to Aya’s terrified refrain: “We’re all gonna die down here.”From the Hardcover edition.

picadillyblueDanielle Vega has done it.  She not only managed to scare the crap out of me, she also managed to tell a captivating story that kept me hooked from start to finish.  Survive The Night seriously impressed me.

The whole book takes place over one night and I can’t tell you how much I love stories like that.  Casey and her friends set out for a night of adventure and instead they get a night of terror.  The Survive the Night rave takes place once a year in the abandoned subway tunnels beneath New York City.  There have always been rumors that people are killed in the subway but nobody really takes those rumors seriously.  That all changes when Casey stumbles upon the body of her friend Julie, gruesomely murdered by someone or something hidden in the subway tunnels.  And, of course, instead of being able to leave the same way they entered the subway, their way is blocked and they must set off through the tunnels to find a way out before it’s too late.

To be completely honest, the characters weren’t the greatest but I didn’t care that much about that.  Casey was the only one that I really ended up liking.  She made some serious mistakes but she was trying to change things.  She was easily led astray by people that she thought were her friends.  Shana was bad news.  She drugged Casey, she encouraged her bad habits, and she betrayed her every chance she got.  I wanted her to get what was coming to her.  Casey did not deserve how her supposed friend treated her.  As for Aya and Julie, they cracked me up but they weren’t anything too special.  Sam and Woody were the same way.  Sam seemed like a sweetheart but he had some secrets and he hurt Casey too.  He was just so judgmental.  I didn’t like that about him.

The creep factor was definitely up there with this one, at least for me.  I admit to being easily scared but books don’t usually have that capability.  That was not the case with Survive the Night.  There was a lot of gore but that wasn’t the only scare thing.  I never knew what was going to happen from page to page.  I didn’t have a clue who or what was coming for Casey and her friends.  I was jumpy and biting my nails from start to finish.

Overall, Survive the Night was everything I hoped it would be.  Danielle Vega’s sophomore novel is one that I will surely be recommending to all horror fans and anyone looking to give the genre a try.

What others are saying about Survive the Night:

Good Books and Good Wine’s review: “This pink covered book reads like a horrific thrill ride.”

Escape Through the Pages’ review: “I will definitely be checking out Danielle Vega’s other book The Merciless and recommend Survive the Night to anyone looking for a little creepy in their life.”

Interview with Danielle Vega

Describe Survive the Night in 140 characters or less!

When an illegal rave turns deadly, 5 teens must fight their way through the abandoned NYC subways while someone hunts them from the shadows.

Have you always been a horror fan? Do you prefer horror books or movies? What’s your favorite?

I have been a horror fan since I was a very tiny child. My mom never shielded me from scary movies and books, in fact she used to read me Stephen King to help me get to sleep. I can’t choose between books and movies—they’re too different and wonderful in their own special ways. Favorite horror novel is HOUSE OF LEAVES, favorite movie is SILENCE OF THE LAMBS.

Have you always wanted to be a writer? What’s your inspiration?

Yup, I’ve pretty much always wanted to be a writer. There really isn’t one person or career that I look to for inspiration, but I love hearing about other writers’ journeys. Recently, I found Amy Poehler’s honesty about the writing process in YES PLEASE very refreshing, and Stephen King’s ON WRITING is a classic for a reason. Writing is such a hard, weird, crazy job and I love hearing about how people end up doing it for a living. The stories are always good.

Do you have any must haves while you’re writing?

Coffee! I’ve also recently become addicted to Muji pens, and had a minor panic attack this morning when I thought I forgot it.

Can you share anything about what you’re currently working on?

I have a novel called BURNING coming out in April 2016 under the name Danielle Rollins—it’s been called Orange is the New Black meets Carrie. But the book I’m writing now is a secret! Be prepared for boys and bunnies and blood.