Friday, July 18, 2014

The Secrets of Lily Graves by Sarah Strohmeyer | Review

The Secrets of Lily Graves by Sarah Strohmeyer | ReviewThe Secrets of Lily Graves by Sarah Strohmeyer
Published by Harper Teen on May 13, 2014
Pages: 304
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
4 Stars

Growing up in a house of female morticians, Lily Graves knows all about buried secrets. She knows that perfect senior-class president Erin Donohue isn’t what she seems. She knows why Erin’s ex-boyfriend, hot football player Matt Houser, broke up with her. And she also knows that, even though she says she and Matt are just friends, there is something brewing between them—something Erin definitely did not like.

But secrets, even ones that are long buried, have a way of returning to haunt their keeper.

So when Erin is found dead the day after attacking Lily in a jealous rage, Lily's and Matt’s safe little lives, and the lives of everyone in their town of Potsdam, begin to unravel. And their relationship—which grew from innocent after-school tutoring sessions to late-night clandestine rendezvous—makes them both suspects.

As her world crumbles around her, Lily must figure out the difference between truth and deception, genuine love and a web of lies. And she must do it quickly, before the killer claims another victim.

picadillyblueThe Secrets of Lily Graves is one of those rare YA books that actually manages to surprise me.  I expected to enjoy this one, and I did, but I didn’t expect to by stumped by the mystery and up late into the night reading to the very end.  Sarah Strohmeyer wove a fantastic mystery that kept me guessing until I turned the very last page.

The Secrets of Lily Graves is a supremely unique YA novel.  Not only is it a mystery, it’s got a totally non-typical romance, a wonderful family relationship, and a heroine who took me by surprise multiple times throughout the course of the book.  The mystery had to be my favorite part.  I very rarely find young adult suspense novels to be suspenseful but that was not the case at all with The Secrets of Lily Graves.  I was on the edge of my seat for most of the book!  Erin’s murderer is at large throughout the book and it’s dang near impossible to figure out who it is.  Even if you do figure out who it is, the motive will totally take you by surprise.  There were multiple layers to Erin’s murder and it seemed like as soon as I peeled away one layer, another one would pop up.  Sarah Strohmeyer really did a great job with the mystery aspect of The Secrets of Lily Graves.

The romance was cuter than I expected.  Matt and Lily have had some sort of relationship for a while but Erin was always in the way of them taking it any further.  Erin’s death might not have been the greatest way to bring them together but it did work.  Everyone blamed Matt for Erin’s death except Lily.  Lily took it upon herself to prove everyone wrong.  That brought her even closer to Matt and their friendship started to turn into something more.  The build up of their relationship was so realistic and they were adorable together.

The family aspect of the story was something else unique about The Secrets of Lily Graves.  You don’t see a lot of close knit families in YA books and you do in this book.  Lily is very close with every member of her family.  Sure she keeps some things from her mom but what teenager doesn’t?  Her aunt Boo is always there for her when she doesn’t want to talk to her mom but needs an adult.  Her grandmother was a bit crazy and she really cracked me up.  The Graves women were totally fun.

Overall, The Secrets of Lily Graves is a great young adult mystery that I definitely recommend checking out.  Sarah Strohmeyer definitely deserves every bit of praise she’s been getting for this one.

What others are saying about The Secrets of Lily Graves:

The Book Nookery’s review: “This wasn’t a terrible book, but it was completely generic, lackluster, and half-assed in every way.”

Words, Pages, and Books’ review: “Oh how I adored The Secrets of Lily Graves by Sarah Strohmeyer!”

Once Upon a Twilight’s review: “The Secret of Lily Graves is great read for mystery lovers.”

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

#scandal by Sarah Ockler | Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What others are saying about #scandal:

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

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

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Merciless by Danielle Vega | Review

The Merciless by Danielle Vega | ReviewThe Merciless by Danielle Vega
Published by Razorbill on June 12, 2014
Genres: Horror
Pages: 279
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
3 Stars

Forgive us, Father, for we have sinned

Brooklyn Stevens sits in a pool of her own blood, tied up and gagged. No one outside of these dank basement walls knows she’s here. No one can hear her scream.
Sofia Flores knows she shouldn’t have gotten involved. When she befriended Riley, Grace, and Alexis on her first day at school, she admired them, with their perfect hair and their good-girl ways. They said they wanted to save Brooklyn. They wanted to help her. Sofia didn’t realize they believed Brooklyn was possessed.
Now, Riley and the girls are performing an exorcism on Brooklyn—but their idea of an exorcism is closer to torture than salvation. All Sofia wants is to get out of this house. But there is no way out. Sofia can’t go against the other girls . . . unless she wants to be next. . . .

picadillyblueThe Merciless by Danielle Vega is seriously one of the creepiest books I’ve read, especially for YA.  I knew it was horror when I started reading it but I really didn’t expect much from it since horror is usually toned down for YA.  While I felt that was the case a little bit with The Merciless, I felt it definitely lived up to the genre in creepiness.

Sofia is new to town, new to school, new to everything really.  She’s  used to being the new girl.  What she’s not used to is having friends.  When Riley, Grace, and Alexis befriend her, she jumps at the chance to be part of the popular clique.  However, things start to spiral quickly.  Riley believes that a fellow student, Brooklyn, is possessed and that it’s their job to get the demon out of her.  What does that entail?  Kidnapping, torture, and a whole lot of scary stuff.  Let the fun begin.

Riley, Grace, and Alexis might be certifiably insane.  The stuff they do to Brooklyn (and force Sofia to do with them) that is just plain crazy.  These teenage girls are ruthless, let me tell you that.  Riley is definitely the ringleader and the mastermind behind everything but Grace and Alexis are more than willing to help her kidnap and torture Brooklyn.  Heck, they’re even willing to possibly kill her.  These girls will go to crazy extremes to please Riley and the only thing that will please Riley is the end of Brooklyn.  She may say at the beginning that she wants to help Brooklyn but it’s pretty clear what she really wants to get out of the exorcism.

Sofia is kind of hard to like.  Sure, she’s forced to go along with the exorcism and I don’t hold that against her but there was always something off about her.  Sofia has always been alone and so she doesn’t quite know how to act with friends or even a boyfriend.  She’s kind of awkward and tries a little too hard to please people.  Also, it turns out she’s hiding a pretty big secret that helps explain why she’s so hard to connect with.

Speaking of the boyfriend, he was pointless.  Sure Charlie seemed like a really nice guy but that was about it.  Charlie and Sofia had absolutely no chemistry and I couldn’t understand why they got together.  It was really abrupt and out of nowhere.  Charlie wasn’t developed enough as a character for me to really like him or want him to get with Sofia.  Their relationship and their interactions just seemed like a waste.

I have to give Danielle Vega props for that ending.  It’s not something you will ever see coming and it’s completely crazy.  Be prepared to have your jaw drop.

Overall, The Merciless is great for the horror aspect but not so much on the character front.  However, if you’re just looking for a creepy book to read, I would recommend this one.  Just don’t expect too much character development.

What others are saying about The Merciless:

BookYAReview’s review: “The Merciless is a mind-twisting, fully engrossing story that had me on the edge of my seat from page one and never let me go.”

The YA Kitten’s review: “ If you’re looking for some good YA horror that makes you wonder if there are really supernatural things going on, you’ll probably want this.”

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
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!”

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Being Sloane Jacobs by Lauren Morrill | Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What others are saying about Being Sloane Jacobs:

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

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

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

Friday, May 23, 2014

Royally Lost by Angie Stanton | Review

Royally Lost by Angie Stanton | ReviewRoyally Lost by Angie Stanton
Published by Harper Teen on May 6, 2014
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 336
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
2 Stars

Dragged on a family trip to Europe’s ancient cities, Becca wants nothing more than to go home. Trapped with her emotionally distant father, over-eager stepmother, and a brother who only wants to hook up with European hotties, Becca is miserable. That is until she meets Nikolai, a guy as mysterious as he is handsome. And she unknowingly finds herself with a runaway prince.

Nikolai has everything a guy could ask for-he's crown prince, heir to the throne, and girls adore him. But the one thing he doesn't freedom. Staging a coup, he flees his kingdom and goes undercover on his own European tour.

When Nikolai and Becca meet, it’s their differences that draw them together. Sparks fly as they share a whirlwind of adventures, all the while dodging his royal guard. But Becca's family vacation ends in a matter of days. Will Nikolai and Becca be forced to say goodbye forever, will his destiny catch up to him, or will they change history forever?

picadillyblueI’ll admit, the cover totally got me with this one.  It looked like the perfect summer read and I figured it’d be a cute, fun, quick read.  Sadly it was only one of those three things: quick.

Where do I even begin with this one?  I guess Becca is a good place to start since she was one of the biggest problems I had with Royally Lost.  She was a spoiled rotten whiny little brat.  And that’s putting it nicely.  Her dad and stepmom, Vicky, took her on an all expenses paid trip to Europe and all she could do was complain about how boring the trip was and how much she hated history.  She found some way to mention how boring history was at every stop on their tour.  She said something about living in the moment at one point and sure, I get that but that doesn’t mean you should completely ignore history.  It was so annoying.  Then there was how she treated her dad and stepmom.  She made a point to always make sure people knew Vicky was just her stepmom.  I completely understand that Vicky was not a replacement for her real mom but the way she treated her was just horrible.  Vicky was nothing but nice and helpful and Becca was an utter bitch to her.  She also mentioned how her dad never had time for her or her brother, Dylan, but throughout the whole book they were the two running away from family time.  Seems a little hypocritical to me.

Let’s move on to the romance between Becca and Nikolai.  This is the third book I’ve read by Angie Stanton and they all have one thing in common: horribly cheesy romances.  Becca and Nikolai couldn’t have been more different but of course they were immediately attracted to each other and very quickly realized that they were in love.  Umm, what?  You have known each other how long?  Seriously, they spent maybe a total of 3 days with each other but by the end of those 3 days, they were in love and couldn’t stand to be parted.  They were willing to do whatever it took to be together yet Nikolai didn’t even know Becca’s last name!  Seriously, they get separated and he has no idea how to get in touch with her because all he knows is that she’s from Chicago and her name is Becca.  Yet they are in love.  Sure, I’ll believe that.

There was also the fact that the ending was way too perfect.  Nikolai is the crown prince of a small country and Becca is a girl about to start her first year of college.  I couldn’t really see how things would ever work out for them but of course the story wouldn’t be a good romance if it was realistic.  Things tied up way too easily and I didn’t find it realistic at all.  It was also super cheesy.  I was not impressed, at all.

Overall, Royally Lost is one I’d recommend skipping.  There are tons of other cute summer romances that you should check out before you waste time on this one.

What others are saying about Royally Lost:

Into the Hall of Books’ review: “Royally Lost is a fun, quick read – another light romance from Angie Stanton for my shelf.”

Stay Bookish’s review: “Royally Lost, which I then decided had lots of feel-good-book potential, was sadly a huge disappointment.”

Catching Books’ review: “Definitely was a cute contemporary romance and yes-it was cheesy but sometimes we all need to read an unrealistic romance!”

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Don’t Look Back by Jennifer L. Armentrout | Review

Don’t Look Back by Jennifer L. Armentrout | ReviewDon't Look Back by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Published by Disney Hyperion on April 15, 2014
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
4 Stars

Samantha is a stranger in her own life. Until the night she disappeared with her best friend, Cassie, everyone said Sam had it all-popularity, wealth, and a dream boyfriend. 

Sam has resurfaced, but she has no recollection of who she was or what happened to her that night. As she tries to piece together her life from before, she realizes it's one she no longer wants any part of. The old Sam took "mean girl" to a whole new level, and it's clear she and Cassie were more like best enemies. Sam is pretty sure that losing her memories is like winning the lottery. She's getting a second chance at being a better daughter, sister, and friend, and she's falling hard for Carson Ortiz, a boy who has always looked out for her-even if the old Sam treated him like trash.

But Cassie is still missing, and the facts about what happened to her that night isn't just buried deep inside of Sam's memory-someone else knows, someone who wants to make sure Sam stays quiet. All Sam wants is the truth, and if she can unlock her clouded memories of that fateful night, she can finally move on. But what if not remembering is the only thing keeping Sam alive?


I continue to be impressed with Jennifer L. Armentrout’s books.  Whether she’s writing young adult or new adult, paranormal or contemporary, it’s always fabulous.  Don’t Look Back is no exception.

Contemporary suspense is one of my favorite genres.  However, it’s sometimes hard to impress me when it comes to these types of stories because I can be overly critical.  Don’t Look Back is a good addition to the genre but not one of the best out there.  Sure parts of the mystery surprised me but I’d guessed the killer by the end of the first few chapters.  The motive, on the other hand, kept me guessing for a while.  I guessed parts of the motive but not all of them and I couldn’t quite figure out how everything was going to tie together in the end.  That definitely kept me reading although I would have preferred if the mystery was a bit less obvious.

The characters are what got me truly invested in the story.  Samantha is basically a blank slate after she disappeared.  She gets a second chance at life pretty much.  She quickly finds out that she was a giant bitch before the night she disappeared but this is a chance for her to change that about herself.  She takes that to heart.  She doesn’t know much about who she used to be but she knows she doesn’t want to go back to being that girl.  It’s hard for her to change though when everyone seems to be pushing her right back in the direction she started.  Her boyfriend is a complete and utter prick.  Her brother is an awesome guy but for some reason they never got along.  Carson, her kind of neighbor, is there for her no matter what, even when it’s made clear that she might have been the biggest bitch to him.  However, it seems like every last person is keeping some kind of secret from Sam and it’s up to her and her alone to figure out what’s true and what exactly happened with Cassie the night they both disappeared.

Jennifer L. Armentrout has a way with relationships.  However, with Don’t Look Back she proved that she doesn’t just have a way with romantic relationships but also with familial relationships.  Samantha and Scott had a lot to work through after she disappeared but they had a really strong relationship.  Scott was always there for his sister and as Sam figured out who she wanted to be, she started to be there for Scott as well.  That’s not to say that there wasn’t a fabulous romantic relationship in Don’t Look Back.  Carson and Sam have this instant chemistry and I was rooting for them from the start.  They had a lot of stuff to work out and a lot of history to work through but they never gave up.  They worked through things together, no matter how tough.

Overall, Don’t Look Back is a wonderful addition to Jennifer L. Armentrout’s books.  While I’m pleased that it’s a standalone, I definitely wouldn’t mind more of these characters or more of this style from her in the future.

What others are saying about Don’t Look Back:

Just A Booklover’s review: “Overall, Jennifer L. Armentrout has written the most perfectly nerve-racking suspense that had me on the edge of my seat from beginning to end.”

Cuddlebuggery’s review: “Is there anything Jennifer L. Armentrout can’t do?”

Mel, Erin, and Regina Read-a-lot’s review: “Yeah, this book will keep you on the edge of your seat til the very end.”

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Sleep No More by Aprilynne Pike | Review

Sleep No More by Aprilynne Pike | ReviewSleep No More by Aprilynne Pike
Published by Harper Teen on April 29, 2014
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
2 Stars

Lisa McMann's Wake trilogy meets the blockbuster Inception in this dark page-turner from #1 New York Times bestselling author Aprilynne Pike.

Oracles see the future but are never supposed to interfere. Charlotte learned that the hard way. If she hadn't tried to change one of her childhood visions, her father would still be alive. Since the accident, Charlotte has suppressed her visions to avoid making the same mistake. But when she receives a premonition of a classmate's murder, she can no longer ignore her powerful gift.

Then Charlotte meets someone who not only knows her secret but who also has a way for her to stop the killer. He offers to teach her how to manipulate her visions to change the future. But doing so will put Charlotte in the path of the murderer.…

picadillyblueSleep No More is only the second book by Aprilynne Pike that I’ve read but it’s definitely the most disappointing.  There were very few things I could find to like about Sleep No More and I only finished the book because I wanted to know who was murdering people and why.  There were so many times I just wanted to DNF it and I’m kind of disappointed that I wasted so much time on this one.

The blurb is what really grabbed my attention with Sleep No More.  One part Wake trilogy and one part Inception?  You’ve definitely got my attention there.  However, while there were a few similarities to that series and that movie, I couldn’t really see Sleep No More as a blend of the two.

So I already mentioned that the mystery was really the only thing that kept me reading until the end.  I’m not saying I was completely clueless about who the killer was but I was at least a little confused as to the motive behind the killings.  That really was the only good thing about Sleep No More.  Aprilynne Pike managed to tie everything together in a way that I didn’t originally suspect at all.

The relationships in Sleep No More were some of the worst I’ve ever read.  Charlotte and her family have so many secrets they keep from each other when really if they were just honest, none of the murders and stuff would have even happened.  I guess there would be no book though if they were honest.  As for the romance, it was horrible.  Charlotte and Linden had absolutely no chemistry.  I’m a total sucker for romance and I’m one of those people that likes at least a little romance in every book but Sleep No More might have been better without any romance at all.

Overall, Sleep No More was just a giant disappointment.  I would highly recommend passing on this one.

What others are saying about Sleep No More:

Snuggly Oranges’ review: “The suspense and creepiness was good… until that last fateful quarter.”

There Were Books Involved’s review: “I wouldn’t go into this book expecting the mind-bending, multi-layered awesomeness of the dream-worlds of Inception.”

Fiction Fare’s review: “I though Pike did a great job of tying the story together and linking the stories of these characters together.”

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Ask Again Later by Liz Czukas | Review

Ask Again Later by Liz Czukas | ReviewAsk Again Later by Liz Czukas
Published by Harper Teen on March 11, 2014
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 336
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
5 Stars

Despite what her name might suggest, Heart has zero interest in complicated romance. So when her brilliant plan to go to prom with a group of friends is disrupted by two surprise invites, Heart knows there's only one drama-free solution: flip a coin.

Heads: The jock. He might spend all night staring at his ex or throw up in the limo, but how bad can her brother's best friend really be?

Tails: The theater geek...with a secret. What could be better than a guy who shares all Heart's interests--even if he wants to share all his feelings?

Heart's simple coin flip has somehow given her the chance to live out both dates. But where her prom night ends up might be the most surprising thing of all...

picadillyblue Ask Again Later by Liz Czukas is not getting enough buzz, in my opinion. It’s a completely adorable book that contemporary readers will love.  Liz Czukas’ debut novel shows a lot of promise for her future books.

Heart might be one of the most awkward heroines I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading about.  Honestly, no matter which date she chooses, she gets into some hilarious situations.  She’s a really kind-hearted person who gets stuck in a crappy situation.  Two guys ask her to prom and they both have really good reasons for asking her.  No matter what she does, someone is going to get hurt which is why Heart decides that a coin toss is the best way to decide.  Each chapter following the coin toss alternates between what might happen depending on who Heart chooses to go with.  It’s a lot like a fun, light hearted version of Pivot Point by Kasie West.

Heart’s friends are the kind of people I want to be friends with.  They are fun, carefree, truly nice people.  They don’t care about dates to prom, they don’t care about popularity, they don’t care about anything but hanging out with each other.  Their plan for prom is to go as a big group and just have fun together.  No matter what happens throughout the night they always come back to each other and they are always there for each other.  And sometimes true friendship means shoving you in a car trunk and forcing you to talk about your issues.  Read Ask Again Later and you’ll totally understand what I mean by that statement.

There is also some romance in Ask Again Later but not with who you might imagine.  Let’s just say, I saw it coming from the start but I wasn’t sure that it was ever going to actually happen.  It was completely innocent and adorable and I loved it.  Truly the perfect romance for this book.  Well for any book really.

Overall, Ask Again Later deserves much more praise than it’s been getting.  Everyone should go out and get a copy as soon as possible!

What others are saying about Ask Again Later:

Good Books and Good Wine’s review: “Y’all, if you are having a rough time in your life and need to blow off some steam, read Ask Again Later for a dose of the best medicine, laughter.”

Proud Book Nerd’s review: “Ask Again Later by Liz Czukas is a fun, quick read.”

Rex Robot Reviews’ review: “Overall, I thought this was fun, fluffy read and a cute premise for a prom story.”

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Blog Tour: Love and Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahan | Review

Blog Tour: Love and Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahan | Review

Blog Tour: Love and Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahan | ReviewLove and Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahan
Published by Penguin Teen on May 1, 2014
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 336
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley, Publisher
Buy on Amazon
4 Stars

Can anyone be truly herself--or truly in love--in a language that's not her own?

Sixteen-year-old Josie lives her life in translation. She speaks High School, College, Friends, Boyfriends, Break-ups, and even the language of Beautiful Girls. But none of these is her native tongue--the only people who speak that are her best friend Stu and her sister Kate. So when Kate gets engaged to an epically insufferable guy, how can Josie see it as anything but the mistake of a lifetime? Kate is determined to bend Josie to her will for the wedding; Josie is determined to break Kate and her fiancé up. As battles are waged over secrets and semantics, Josie is forced to examine her feelings for the boyfriend who says he loves her, the sister she loves but doesn't always like, and the best friend who hasn't said a word--at least not in a language Josie understands.

picadillyblueEver since I read Erin McCahan’s debut novel, I Now Pronounce You Someone Else, I’ve been waiting to see what she’d write next.  To say I had high hopes for Love and Other Foreign Words is an understatement.  Luckily, Love and Other Foreign Words was just as great as I hoped it would be.

Josie is one of the best characters I’ve had the pleasure of reading about.  She’s smart, she’s funny, she’s unafraid to be different.  She’s everything that I always wished I was and always looked for in friends.  She may be only be 15 but she’s so much more mature than that.  She’s completely unique and she’s one of those people that either doesn’t realize that or just doesn’t care.  She is happy with herself just the way she is and it was wonderful to read about such a confident young woman.  She also has an amazing sense of humor.  I can’t tell you how many times I cracked up while reading Love and Other Foreign Words.  I attempted to read this in a public place which might not have been the best idea since people looked at me like I was crazy since I was sitting by myself cracking up at my Kindle.  Good times!

Josie’s family is also pretty awesome.  They recognize Josie’s uniqueness and they love her for it and sometimes in spite of it.  She can sometimes set people off without meaning to.  Take Geoff, Kate’s fiance.  He and Josie clashed from the very first moment they met.  He was goofy, rather dull, and nothing like what she thought her sister deserved.  However, Josie got along with most everyone else.  Her parents clearly doted upon her and were so proud of her.  Her friends were accepting of her quirks and they were always there for her, especially Stu and Sophie.  Her sisters were pretty great too although they definitely butt heads a few times.  Kate especially had some problems with Josie.  I didn’t like how Kate and Josie handled their animosity towards each other but I know how it works with siblings and their relationship was pretty darn realistic.  I liked seeing both the good and the bad sides of such a close knit family.

The romance aspect was expected but a little rushed.  Sure there were some hints throughout most of the book but nothing happened until very close to the end.  It was cute and realistic for people in their situation and at their age but I would have liked a bit more development in that area.  That’s truly the only reason I gave this book 4 stars instead of 5.

Overall, Love and Other Foreign Words is a must read for all contemporary fans.  It’s such a fun read that you won’t be able to put down!

What others are saying about Love and Other Foreign Words:

Buried in Books’ review: “Josie is one of the most delightfully quirky, intelligent, and inquiring characters I have ever met.”

HelloGiggles’ review: “Josie Sheridan is great because she’s a true-blue lovable weirdo, the type of character I really enjoy seeing.”

Rampant Readers’ review: “In conclusion, Love and Other Foreign Words was not a bad novel by any means.