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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

REVIEW: Unearthed by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner

*Thanks to Netgalley & Disney-Hyperion for an ARC in exchange for a fair review*

Publisher's summary:  

When Earth intercepts a message from a long-extinct alien race, it seems like the solution the planet has been waiting for. The Undying's advanced technology has the potential to undo environmental damage and turn lives around, and Gaia, their former home planet, is a treasure trove waiting to be uncovered.

For Jules Addison and his fellow scholars, the discovery of an alien culture offers unprecedented opportunity for study... as long as scavengers like Amelia Radcliffe don't loot everything first. Mia and Jules' different reasons for smuggling themselves onto Gaia put them immediately at odds, but after escaping a dangerous confrontation with other scavvers, they form a fragile alliance.

In order to penetrate the Undying temple and reach the tech and information hidden within, the two must decode the ancient race's secrets and survive their traps. But the more they learn about the Undying, the more their presence in the temple seems to be part of a grand design that could spell the end of the human race.
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I enjoyed pretty much every moment of this book from the exciting opening--Amelia caught without her backpack by another set of scavvers and then 'rescued' by Jules, then their alliance to find a forgotten temple, some amazing puzzles and hijinx that would have made Indiana Jones proud, a developing friendship/bond, trust and something more.

These characters have superb presence and dialogue. They are as spunky as they are complex.  I found the story adventurous and exciting--a real treat that I had trouble putting down.

Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars

REVIEW: Say You'll Remember Me by Katie McGarry

*Thanks to Netgalley and Harlequin Teen for an ARC in exchange for a fair review*

Expected publication: January, 30, 2018

Publisher's Summary:  When Drix was convicted of a crime--one he didn't commit--he thought his life was over. But opportunity came with the new Second Chance Program, the governor's newest pet project to get delinquents off the streets, rehabilitated and back into society. Drix knows this is his chance to get his life back on track, even if it means being paraded in front of reporters for a while.

Elle knows she lives a life of privilege. As the governor's daughter, she can open doors with her name alone. But the expectations and pressure to be someone she isn't may be too much to handle. She wants to follow her own path, whatever that means.

When Drix and Elle meet, their connection is immediate, but so are their problems. Drix is not the type of boy Elle's parents have in mind for her, and Elle is not the kind of girl who can understand Drix's messy life.

But sometimes love can breach all barriers.

Fighting against a society that can't imagine them together, Drix and Elle must push themselves--Drix to confront the truth of the robbery, and Elle to assert her independence--and each other to finally get what they deserve.


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McGarry pens another fantastic realistic romance with plenty of depth.  She excels at character development, introducing two teens who couldn't be more different.  Drix, falsely convicted of a crime but determined to make the best of his second chance.  Elle, the govenor's daughter, tired of being paraded around like a prize poodle, wanting more from her life than being the eye-candy on her father's political campaign.  Fate brings them together and McGarry takes care of the rest.  What I always love about her stories and characters is the realistic, polarizing attraction between characters that are an unlikely fit. 

I loved the sheer experience of reading this narrative.  I gobbled up every word. Shed some tears at the end and now count the days until the next McGarry release.

Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

REVIEW: I Know What You Did Last Summer by Lois Duncan (2010 edit)

They didn't mean it. They didn't mean to hit the boy. There was a party, and it was an accident...that wasn't who they were. They were pre-law, a football player, bound for New York. No one could know, so Barry, Julie, Helen, and Ray swore one another to secrecy. But now, a year later, someone knows. Julie receives a haunting, anonymous threat: "I know what you did last summer." The dark lie is unearthed, and before the four friends know it they need to outsmart a killer...or they will be the next to die.

This blast from the past rounded out my 2017 Reading Challenge list. I'd never read the actual novel but know the last 90's film well. While some of the details are different, the premise is the same: a joy-riding teens accidentally kill a pedestrian and run from the scene. A year later, they begin getting messages that someone knows the truth, bad things happen.

I listened to the 2010 re-edit. From what I can tell some of the narrative is modernized and the characters mention cell phones. Honestly, I was not too impressed by the book but can see its appeal when it was originally published. More editing and characterization needs to happen before this would appeal to contemporary audiences.

Final rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

REVIEW: Between the Blade and the Heart by Amanda Hocking

*Thank you to Netgalley and Wednesday Books for an ARC in exchange for a review*

Expected publication: January 2, 2018

Valkyries have one great responsibility: to return immortals to the afterlife by slaying them. As a Valkyrie, Malin has always known that the balance of the world rests on her ability to carry out orders. But when Malin discovers that her mother spared the life of an immortal who was destined to die, her world is thrown into chaos. 

Malin not only wrestles with the knowledge that her mother might not be who she thought—she’s also thrust into the path of a gorgeous blue eyed guy named Asher who needs her help slaying the rogue immortal who destroyed his family. The balance of the world is at stake. And, as Asher competes with Malin’s ex for her love and loyalty, so is her heart.

This was an interesting read which delves both into significant character and world building. I enjoyed the fresh take on some of the Norse mythology.  Malin is a complicated character with potential for growth. She's likeable in her indecisiveness, especially her love life. I do want to see her open up a bit more. I liked the secondary characters as well. 

One hope for improvement is to provide a villain with some additional depth. I found myself wanting a bit more in this avenue. Otherwise, I enjoyed this book like I have Hocking's other titles. It is ideal for an older teen transitioning into New Adult who enjoys urban fantasy, mythology and a bit of romance.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

REVIEW: "Death and Night" by Roshani Chokshi

Before The Star-Touched Queen there was only Death and Night.

He was Lord of Death, cursed never to love. She was Night incarnate, destined to stay alone. After a chance meeting, they wonder if, perhaps, they could be meant for more. But danger crouches in their paths, and the choices they make will set them on a journey that will span lifetimes.

Death and Night is a lovely prequel novella to The Star-Touched Queen. Rich description, depth of characters, mystery, intrigue and romance. Chokshi's writing is so lush, I enjoy each word.

This works nicely as a standalone but also as the starting point for the other books.  Looking forward to the other novellas in 2018.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Monday, December 11, 2017

REVIEW: Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo

Princess Diana longs to prove herself to her legendary warrior sisters. But when the opportunity finally comes, she throws away her chance at glory and breaks Amazon law—risking exile—to save a mortal. Diana will soon learn that she has rescued no ordinary girl, and that with this single brave act, she may have doomed the world.

Alia Keralis just wanted to escape her overprotective brother with a semester at sea. She doesn’t know she is being hunted by people who think her very existence could spark a world war. Soon Alia learns that she is a Warbringer—a direct descendant of the infamous Helen of Troy, fated to bring about an age of bloodshed and misery.

Together, Alia and Diana must face uncertainty while trying to bring and end to the chaotic Warbringer legacy so that Alia can live in peace. Along the way they encounter some deadly human and immortal foes as well as acquire helpful allies.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Wonderful and detailed character building for an iconic heroine. Bardugo excells with the level of engaging characterization. I like this young and modern version of Diana and the echo to ideas introduced for the 2016 film are lovely. I also enjoyed Alia's journey as well as the supporting characters, Nim and Theo.

This was a fast paced, exciting read with some great twists. Excellent for superhero fans as well as those who enjoy some adventure, mythology, fantasy and strong heroines.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Friday, December 8, 2017

REVIEW: The Dazzling Heights by Katharine McGee

The Dazzling Heights is the second book in this futuristic YA series fill of romance, angst, mystery a la Gossip Girl

New York City, 2118. Manhattan is home to a thousand-story supertower, a breathtaking marvel that touches the sky. But amid high-tech luxury and futuristic glamour, five teenagers are keeping dangerous secrets…

Leda is haunted by memories of what happened on the worst night of her life. She’ll do anything to make sure the truth stays hidden—even if it means trusting her enemy. She redeems herself and became, at least for me, a tad bit more likeable but she's not perfect by a long shot.

Watt just wants to put everything behind him…until Leda forces him to start hacking again. Will he do what it takes to be free of her for good? Still one of the most interesting characters for me but I have a feeling that the whole 'Nadia' deal is going to explode soon.

When Rylin wins a scholarship to an upper-floor school, her life transforms overnight. But being there also means seeing the boy whose heart she broke, and who broke hers in return. I feel bad for Rylin because she's got great potential but still keeps getting swept up into less than desirable circumstances.

Avery
is tormented by her love for the one person in the world she can never have. She’s desperate to be with him…no matter the cost. I am SUPER over Avery and her tumultuous, forbidden relationship.  She comes across as immature and too annoying for me to connect with her.

And then there’s Calliope, the mysterious, bohemian beauty who arrives in New York determined to cause a stir. And she knows exactly where to begin. The introduction of Calliope was an interesting twist. She's bound to keep causing trouble.

Overall, I was really satisfied with this book. It is engaging and had a superb cliffhanger of an ending. I can't help thinking that this would be a fun television series!

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars