Saturday, November 4, 2017

REVIEW: The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee

A hundred years in the future, New York is a city of innovation and dreams. Everyone there wants something…and everyone has something to lose...

Leda Cole - whose flawless exterior belies a secret addiction—to a drug she never should have tried and a boy she never should have touched.

Eris Dodd-Radson - whose beautiful, carefree life falls to pieces when a heartbreaking betrayal tears her family apart.

Rylin Myers - whose job on one of the highest floors sweeps her into a world—and a romance—she never imagined…but will this new life cost Rylin her old one?

Watt Bakradi - a tech genius with a secret: he knows everything about everyone. But when he’s hired to spy for an upper-floor girl, he finds himself caught up in a complicated web of lies.

 Avery Fuller - the girl genetically designed to be perfect. The girl who seems to have it all—yet is tormented by the one thing she can never have.

Amid breathtaking advancement and high-tech luxury, five teenagers struggle to find their place at the top of the world. Unfortunately, once at the top, the only way to go is down.  The Thousandth Floor is a futuristic Gossip Girl with a hefty dose of underage drinking, drug use, profanity, some domestic abuse, sexual promiscuity and allusion to a rape.  

Beautiful, eye catching cover.  

I didn't love it. I didn't hate it. The characters were interesting with enough of a well woven narrative full of good conflict, if a tad predictable. As expected, the superficiality of a few characters makes them difficult to stomach in large doses but work with the overall story. I enjoyed the world building of this all inclusive high rise and the idea of a class system beholden to the floor you live upon. 

The structure and cliff hanger of the ending remind me a lot of Big Little Lies. I'm intrigued enough to read book two: The Dazzling Heights.

Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

REVIEW: Alex & Eliza by Melissa de la Cruz

Descended from two of the oldest and most distinguished bloodlines in New York, the Schuylers are proud to be one of their fledgling country’s founding families, and even prouder still of their three daughters—Angelica, with her razor-sharp wit; Peggy, with her dazzling looks; and Eliza, whose beauty and charm rival that of both her sisters, though she’d rather be aiding the colonists’ cause than dressing up for some silly ball.

Still, she can barely contain her excitement when she hears of the arrival of one Alexander Hamilton, a mysterious, rakish young colonel and General George Washington’s right-hand man. Though Alex has arrived as the bearer of bad news for the Schuylers, he can’t believe his luck—as an orphan, and a bastard one at that—to be in such esteemed company. And when Alex and Eliza meet that fateful night, so begins an epic love story that would forever change the course of American history.

I am OBSESSED with Hamilton: The Musical. De La Cruz' novelization of Alexander and Eliza's epic love story may appeal to teen readers wanting a dramatized, historical romance but I was rather disappointed with the book.  I think I had such high expectations stemming from the musical plus other books that I've ready that I could not connect with this characterization.  It felt forced and all too flat--as if it was trying to be the next Pride and Prejudice--but let's face it there is only one Jane Austen.

Final rating: 2 out of 5 stars

REVIEW: Ship of the Dead by Rick Riordan

Riordan is back with book 3 in the Magnus Chase series.

A once-homeless teen, Chase, is a resident of the Hotel Valhalla and one of Odin's chosen warriors. As the son of Frey, the god of summer, fertility, and health, Magnus isn't naturally inclined to fighting. But he has strong and steadfast friends, including Hearthstone the elf, Blitzen the dwarf, and Samirah the Valkyrie, and together they have achieved brave deeds, such as defeating Fenris Wolf and battling giants for Thor's hammer, Mjolnir. 

In The Ship of the Dead,  Magnus and his crew must sail to the farthest borders of Jotunheim and Niflheim in pursuit of Asgard's greatest threat. Together, they must again defeat surprising foes and collect items that will help them on their quest. Will they succeed in their perilous journey, or is Ragnarok lurking on the horizon?

The Ship of the Dead is everything Riordan readers love and come to expect--an unlikely group of demigod teenagers sent on a dangerous quest in order to save the world from utter annihilation. There is plenty of comedy and heroism as they encounter foes, defy the odds and of course save the world.

I continue to love the diversity which Riordan adds to the narrative and characters. Readers of any age can expect to find characters they will identify with including those with disabilities, LGBTQ, religion, ethnicity and social economic status. 

The audiobook was entertaining and added to the humor and fast paced reading experience.

The ending makes readers believe that this series might end up being a trilogy; however, I remain unsure. What is clear is that there is a hint for another tie-in series on the horizon with Percy and Annabeth.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Saturday, September 23, 2017

REVIEW: Intensity by Sherrilyn Kenyon

*Thank you to Netgalley and St. Martin's Griffin for an ARC in exchange for a fair review*

It’s a demon-eat-demon world for Nick Gautier. Just when he thinks he’s finally gotten a handle on how not to take over the world and destroy it, Death returns with an all-star cast that is determined to end the Malachai reign and lineage forever. Worse? Death and War have found the one, true enemy Nick can’t find, and even if he did, it’s one he could never bring himself to banish or kill.

Now framed for murders he hasn’t committed, and surrounded by new friends who might be turncoats, Nick is learning fast how his father went down in flames.

Intensity is the 8th in Kenyon's Chronicles of Nick YA series which connects in large part to her Dark Hunter universe. It remains terribly confusing to explain everything to a non-series reader; however, fans of Kenyon and her ability to map out a spectacularly detailed world and connected characters will enjoy Intensity for its place within the timeline as well as its humor and action.

This novel appears to map a shift in the series and what comes for the future of the Nick Gautier arc for both YA reads and adult fans. We'll just have to wait and see how all of it pans out. The new shift in publication seems to follow his son for now and hopefully undoing a lot of the negative impact Cyprian will have on the whole Dark Hunter universe.

Overall, good pacing but a little confusing at times. Readers will have to stay with it to truly get the point. Some good zingers, tears and a great cliffhanger.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Friday, July 14, 2017

REVIEW: Hoofprints in Snow by A. M. Burns

Life has been difficult for Maia’s family since her brother, Ramon, had an accident that left him in a wheelchair and her parents lost their jobs. Money is scarce. With no other choice, Maia must surrender her beloved horse, Selena, to a rescue center.  

There she meets Emma, who offers to let her volunteer on the ranch so she can spend time with Selena and the other horses. The girls become close and also devise a plan to help Ramon by suggesting using the horses as a means for physical therapy. Emma and Maia’s friendship turns to attraction; however, these new feelings go against Maia’s family expectations and everything she’s been raised to believe. She struggles with not only her feelings but worries how her family will react.

Emotions and other challenges threaten to derail their relationship before it starts. The narrative becomes a bit cliche with the addition of the homophobic and spiteful suitor, Billy. The character representation of the vengeful, alpha male seeking trouble for unrequited attraction was too stereotypical and had to stomach.

My main criticisms for the book have to do with pacing and plot development.  Thematically, there is great potential but there is A LOT going on:

  • Ramon's accident and disability
  • Family financial crisis
  • Animal abuse
  • Relationships
  • Family beliefs and obligations
  • Friendship
  • LGBTQ issues
  • Establishing identity

Overall, the pacing felt rushed and the writing a bit choppy with its transitions while trying to tackle all these facets. I would have preferred to see this as a potential series focusing on different characters over time and letting their stories develop. 

Final rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Highlighted Recent Reads July 2017

A Shadowhunter’s life is bound by duty. Constrained by honor. The word of a Shadowhunter is a solemn pledge, and no vow is more sacred than the vow that binds parabatai, warrior partners—sworn to fight together, die together, but never to fall in love.

Emma Carstairs has learned that the love she shares with her parabatai, Julian Blackthorn, isn’t just forbidden—it could destroy them both. She knows she should run from Julian. But how can she when the Blackthorns are threatened by enemies on all sides?

Their only hope is the Black Volume of the Dead, a spell book of terrible power. Everyone wants it. Only the Blackthorns can find it. Spurred on by a dark bargain with the Seelie Queen, Emma; her best friend, Cristina; and Mark and Julian Blackthorn journey into the Courts of Faerie, where glittering revels hide bloody danger and no promise can be trusted. Meanwhile, rising tension between Shadowhunters and Downworlders has produced the Cohort, an extremist group of Shadowhunters dedicated to registering Downworlders and “unsuitable” Nephilim. They’ll do anything in their power to expose Julian’s secrets and take the Los Angeles Institute for their own.

When Downworlders turn against the Clave, a new threat rises in the form of the Lord of Shadows—the Unseelie King, who sends his greatest warriors to slaughter those with Blackthorn blood and seize the Black Volume. As dangers close in, Julian devises a risky scheme that depends on the cooperation of an unpredictable enemy. But success may come with a price he and Emma cannot even imagine, one that will bring with it a reckoning of blood that could have repercussions for everyone and everything they hold dear.

This was a book sequel to Lady Midnight. There is a lot going on, especially with the continued development of Emma and Julian's forbidden romance, the arrival of some unexpected visitors who may or may not be allies, as well as unresolved issues with villains, the introduction of new enemies and an ending that will rock reader's world and not necessarily in a good way.

I laughed. I celebrated. I cried like a baby.  

Be prepared...

Also, the best highlight.....the audiobook is narrated by none of other than Buffy the Vampire Slayer alum James Marsters aka Spike.  He does an amazing job!

Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Melody is not like most people. She cannot walk or talk, but she has a photographic memory; she can remember every detail of everything she has ever experienced. She is smarter than most of the adults try to diagnose her and smarter than her classmates in her integrated classroom - the very same classmates who dismiss her as mentally challenged because she cannot tell them otherwise. But Melody refuses to be defined by cerebral palsy. And she's determined to let everyone know it - somehow.

Out of My Mind is a powerful story. I cannot recommend the audiobook enough because the voice narrative really drives home the point of the book and gives Melody a literal voice.  As someone with a physical disablity, I connected with the character and her struggles.  While I can communicate, just not move like everyone else, I relate to Melody's struggles to be 'normal' and treated just like other people.  

This is an important book for everyone to read, not just the target audience of juvenile and pre-teen readers. It is worthy of its praise.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Raymie Clarke has come to realize that everything, absolutely everything, depends on her. And she has a plan. If Raymie can win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, then her father, who left town two days ago with a dental hygienist, will see Raymie's picture in the paper and (maybe) come home. To win, not only does Raymie have to do good deeds and learn how to twirl a baton; she also has to contend with the wispy, frequently fainting Louisiana Elefante, who has a show-business background, and the fiery, stubborn Beverly Tapinski, who’s determined to sabotage the contest. But as the competition approaches, loneliness, loss, and unanswerable questions draw the three girls into an unlikely friendship — and challenge each of them to come to the rescue in unexpected ways.

DiCamillo continues to write thoughtful and profound narratives focusing on relationships, friendship and finding identity despite the ups and downs life often presents. What I enjoyed about this novel was the unlikely bond developed between the girls, their adventures and the coming of age story for them all.  DeCamillo makes the historical fiction setting still engaging and accessible for contemporary readers.

I'm excited that I'll get to meet the author in October 2017 since she'll be speaking in my community and my library is organizing an event!

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

An epic Rumpelstiltskin inspired YA romance where a young bastard princess must risk her life in order to save her brother's soul. This is highly recommended for fans of Graceling, The Lunar Chronicles, and other twisted fairy tale series.

The world has turned upside down for Thad and Ari Glavan, the bastard twins of SĂșndraille’s king. Their mother was murdered. The royal family died mysteriously. And now Thad sits on the throne of a kingdom whose streets are suddenly overrun with violence he can’t stop.

Growing up ignored by the nobility, Ari never wanted to be a proper princess. And when Thad suddenly starts training Ari to take his place, she realizes that her brother’s ascension to the throne wasn’t fate. It was the work of a Wish Granter named Alistair Teague who tricked Thad into wishing away both the safety of his people and his soul in exchange for the crown.

So Ari recruits the help of Thad’s enigmatic new weapons master, Sebastian Vaughn, to teach her how to fight Teague. With secret ties to Teague’s criminal empire, Sebastian might just hold the key to discovering Alistair’s weaknesses, saving Ari’s brother—and herself.

But Teague is ruthless and more than ready to destroy anyone who dares stand in his way—and now he has his sights set on the princess. And if Ari can’t outwit him, she’ll lose Sebastian, her brother…and her soul.

The Wish Granter was a fun, engaging read with appeal for both male and female readers, also the story does skew toward romance, thus more fully snaring female fans. This is loosely set in the same world as Redwine's The Shadow Queen. There is ample character and plot development with good pacing. 

I highly recommend the audiobook.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

REVIEW: Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Twenty-year-old orphaned librarian, Lazlo Strange dreams of stories of a lost city...

Two hundred years ago, six merciless, magic-wielding Mesarthim landed their seraphim-shaped citadel in the legendary city, blocking its skies and cutting it off from the outside world. 

Fifteen years ago, the Godslayer Eril-Fane ended their reign of terror with the Carnage, and now the city is known only as Weep. Seeking to restore the skies to Weep, reluctant leader Eril-Fane recruits scientists from the world beyond Weep—and bemusedly welcomes Lazlo—to move the allegedly abandoned citadel. But the long-silent structure instead holds five surviving godspawn, gifted offspring of captured humans and cruel gods, equally traumatized by the massacre. 

Red-haired, blue-skinned 17-year-old Sarai is a dreamer like Lazlo but fears nightmares even as she inflicts them on the citizens below. Besides literal ghosts, Weep is also haunted by loss—lost memories, lost history, and lost half-blood children.

Taylor once again takes readers on a prolific journey exploring trauma, slavery, memory and identity as well as individual fears, hopes and dreams.  The prose is hypnotic in its careful execution of repetition, creativity and elevated structure.  New readers and fans of Taylor will be enthralled by this first in series and captivated by the shocking cliffhanger.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

One downfall for me was the less than stellar audio by narrator Steve West. It failed to do the narrative justice.

Audio final rating: 2 out of 5 stars