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Monday, December 26, 2016

REVIEW: Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Bestselling author of the Lunar Chronicles, Marissa Meyer, is back with Heartless, a standalone prequel to Alice in Wonderland, taking readers on the journey to how Catherine delved into her dark reign as the Queen of Hearts.

Despite her status as one of the most eligible young women in Wonderland, Cath's only desire is to open her own bakery, certainly not to be engaged to the unmarried King of Hearts. And yet, she is clearly his favorite. The night of a ball where she is expected to receive the king's proposal, Cath meets a mysterious and handsome Jest.

They embark on a secret courtship; however, dark times are about to fall upon Wonderland. Cath remains determined to choose her own destiny but madness, monsters and magic play a crucial part in her fate.

As an "Alice" fan, I enjoyed the story of Heartless and Meyer's ability to weave aspects of the classic into a new narrative which also incorporates other fairy tales. There are rich descriptions, humor and some very dark twists and turns.  I didn't adore this as much as the Lunar Chronicles but there are characters reminiscent of those quirky personalities and I like the darker turn because readers have to remember that as a prequel, we already know that something horrible must have happened to make the queen so vile.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: @marissa_meyer

#Heartless #MarissaMeyer #aliceinwonderland #offwiththeirheads #YAlit #teen #fantasy

REVIEW: I Was Here by Gayle Forman

BFFs Meg and Cody were inseparable until they weren't.  Cody feels understandable blindsided following the tragic suicide of her best friend.  How was there no warning?  At the behest of Meg's family, Cody travels to claim Meg's belongings, learning some surprising facts that her friend never told her.

Even more questions shroud Cody's grief, especially when she unlocks Meg's encrypted laptop. Who are these unlikely friends of Meg's? Who is this devastatingly handsome musician Ben McAllister responsible for breaking her friend's heart? And what really happened to make Meg take her own life?

I remain a big fan of Forman's writing style and plots. There is great realism which makes this narrative and others accessible not only for teen readers but for others as well. Life isn't perfect but sometimes tragedy can lead others to discover more about themselves and go on a journey to contemplate where we all fit in the world.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: @gayleforman

#gayleforman #iwashere #YALit #teen #realisticfiction #suicide #grief

Monday, October 31, 2016

REVIEW: Gemina by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Book 2 in the Illuminae Files continues with a sci-fi saga on board the Jump Station Heimdall, where readers meet two new characters who will confront the next wave of the BeiTech assault.

Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter; Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. Immersed in their lives among the space station, they are unaware that Kady Grant, Ezra Mason and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.

When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home not only from these deadly assault teams but also from vicious predators snacking on station residents.  Toss in a malfunctioning wormhole ripping the time/space continuum in two and readers are in for a treat!

“Her eyes shining with the light of it.
Beneath, between, beyond.
Along the endless circle.
Down the ceaseless spiral.
And waiting for her on the other side?
Just like he promised.
“A whole sky of different stars.” 
Gemina is another feast for the senses with the narrative told through a dossier of emails, IMs, classified files, transcripts, and schematics. The print version is a visual wonderland thanks to the care given the narrative and layout by Kaufman and Kristoff as well as the absurdly awesome additional illustrations by Marie Lu. The complexity of plot and character development is astounding as is the projected voices of key players Hannah, Nik and Ella.  I was pleased when Katy, Ezra and ADIAN joined the game and can't wait to see what transpires for the third novel in 2017.

A quick addition - while the print is AMAZING, I can't speak highly enough about the full cast audio as well.  I own both and it was truly an experience to immerse myself not only in the text but also the stellar audio production.

Final rating: ALL THE STARS! 

Follow the authors on Twitter: @misterkristoff @AmieKaufman

#Gemina #Illuminae #YA #teen #audiobook #awesomeness

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

REVIEW: The Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan

Thor's hammer is missing again and Loki is up to his scheming plots of doom in Riordan's second entry to the Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series.  

Magnus and his friends learn that the hammer is not only missing but in enemy hands. They'll have to find it quickly or the mortal worlds will be defenseless against an onslaught of giants. Ragnarok will begin. The Nine Worlds will burn. Unfortunately, the only person who can broker a deal for the hammer's return is the gods' worst enemy, Loki--and the price he wants is very high. 

Back are Riordan's humor, sense of adventure and great characterization.  He remains one of the few authors for children and teens who adequately incorporates characters of diversity as major players within his stories.  Sameera inspires as a Muslim Valkyrie, Heart, positively promotes deaf culture and new character Alex is gender fluid.

One drawback for me was the rather disappointing audiobook.  Sword of Summer had been narrated by Christopher Guetig and was phenomenal with its pacing, pronunciations and general performance. However, The Hammer of Thor switches narrators to Kieran Culkin and he just misses the mark.  As a scholar and fan of Norse mythology, Culkin's pronunciations are incorrect and became distracting.

Overall, this is a solid entry for the series and sets up the great potential for another adventure with the 2017 release of the third book The Ship of the Dead.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

#HammerOfThor #MagnusChase #NorseMythology #YAlit #teen #humor #adventure

Sunday, October 16, 2016

REVIEW: Artemis, Wild Goddess of the Hunt (Olympians #9)

*Thank you to Netgalley for an ARC in exchange for a fair review*

Expected publication: January 31, 2017

Artemis, Goddess of the Hunt, finds power through her skilled hunting ability and mighty bow despite the fact that she was shunned (it's all Hera's fault) even before she was born and was destined to live a life of solitude (her choice since her mother was treated so poorly). 

She slays those who wish to do harm to the innocent and takes care of the young and helpless. She protects women and young girls, helps in childbirth, soothes, and is unrivaled in her hunting abilities. But a word of caution, do not cross her because her wrath is not to be taken lightly.

Author George O'Connor continues to artfully share his knowledge of Greek myth in another dynamic graphic novel representation.  The included myths are the platform of our understanding of Artemis and the illustrations only seek to enhance these classic stories.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: @GeorgetheMighty

#artemis #graphicnovels #greekmythology #georgeoconnor #theolympians #yalit #teen

REVIEW: Empire of Storms by Sarah J Maas

Aelin's journey toward queendom is far from over. The dark continues to rise and if she and those she hold most dear are to have any kind of a chance, Aelin will need to not only hone her magic but build an army of allies that Erilea has never seen before, many enemies who must now become allies.  Aelin struggles to keep those she loves safe; however, with war looming, she's discovered that a daring quest and long sought answers might ask for significant sacrifices. 

I can't speak highly enough about this fifth book of the series nor all the Throne of Glass books as a whole.  These take epic fantasy writing, world building and character development to a whole new level.  While still categorically YA, these books are speeding into the new adult and beyond genres.  I adore them but caution that they should be for a mature reader. They are violent and increasingly sexually explicit--not to be found in a school library.

Overall, the narrative was brilliant. I laughed. I gasped in delight at the excellent action sequences, the surprises, the revelations, the long awaited proclamations of love and attraction AND I cried myself to sleep when I finished the book........NO LIE!

I can't fathom having to wait an entire year for the next part of this story. I guess I will have to find solace in starting the series again from the beginning and waiting impatiently for the television series to make its debut on Hulu.

Final rating: ALL THE STARS!!

Follow the author on Twitter:  @SJMaas

#EmpireOfStorms #ThroneOfGlass #fantasy #YAlit #adventure #magic 

REVIEW: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

After a few weeks, I'm still not sure I have to words for how wonderful Crooked Kingdom was to read and experience.

In Six of Crows, Kaz Brekker and his crew pulled off an epic heist that they never thought they'd survive. However, instead of celebrating their victory, they are once again fighting for the lives. Double crossed and virtually crippled by the kidnapping of a valued team member, the group is low on resources, allies and morale. As even more powerful forces arrive in Ketterdam to investigate the deadly drug jurda parem and its affect on the Grisha, new and old enemies test the team as a war brews.


Inej - is super awesome beyond measure! DO NOT MAKE HER MAD!

Kaz - oh, Kaz how I adore you!

Matthias - I need to go cry in a corner!

Nina - you're a bad ass but eek, easy with those new powers, girl!

Jesper - careful there, don't gamble your money or your heart!

Wylan - so adorable, great with the things that go boom and some added surprises!

I am delighted that this duology had such a stellar ending even if this phase of the story has to come to a close.  This rag-tag team of thieves, crooks, and misfits are fascinating as are their individuals stories past, present and future.

Bardugo doesn't disappoint for action, suspense or romance plus adding in plenty of questions for future writing explorations in this fictional world AND making me sob like a baby.

Perfect in nearly every way, I can't wait to pick up both novels and read them again and again.

Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars

#CrookedKingdom #LeighBardugo #YAlit #teen #lovelovelove

REVIEW: Extraordinary October by Diana Wagman

October is an ordinary girl; that is until three days before her eighteenth birthday.  She has an itch that won't go away and can suddenly hear dogs talk and make crows fly.  If that wasn't extraordinary enough, two new and very handsome boys at school begin vying for her affections.

Soon October learns that she's far from ordinary and is in fact the daughter of a troll princess and fairy prince, and a pawn in a deadly war between the two factions.  October will have to use her new powers to save her family and stop a mysterious evil threatening the fairy world.

This is a charming read for Wagman's debut into YA fiction. I was delighted to get a sneak peak at the finished novel months ago and I am so happy that the publication launch has gone so well for such a talented writer who imbues the page with a unique vision and stellar characterization. And look!!! I'm a blurb on the back cover!!!!

My library is lucky enough to have Wagman visiting for a special writing workshop in November.  We're lucky to have her and it is going to be a great afternoon!

Follow the author on Twitter: @dianawagman  OR visit her website.

Click here to buy the book!

Monday, October 3, 2016

REVIEW: One Was Lost by Natalie D. Richards

Damaged. Deceptive. Dangerous. Darling

What do these words mean and what impact will they have on a seemingly innocent senior field trip for Sera and her peers?

A hiking trip in the forest turns deadly when a flash flood separates the groups. Stranded, wet, and without means to communicate with the outside world, Sera and the others are determined that things will look brighter in the daylight; however, when it appears they've been drugged, their chaperone is out of commission and other ghastly occurrences begin happening, the terror rises and they just want answers and to be rescued.

Suddenly, it's clear they're being hunted but by what or who?

One Was Lost is an edge of your seat thriller for reader grades 9 and up.  There are plenty of thrills and chills plus mystery and some delicious romantic angst. Readers will be captivated from start to finish to find out the truth--with plenty of surprises along the way.

I was happy to read this as part of the Teen Scene prep for this year's Books by the Banks in Cincinnati, Ohio.  This is my first read by author, Natalie D. Richards but it won't be my last.

Final rating:  4 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: @NatDRichards

#OneWasLost #nataliedrichards #mystery #thriller #YAlit #teen #BooksByTheBanks

Monday, September 5, 2016

REVIEW: Soldier by Julie Kagawa

Book 3 in Kagawa's Talon series, Solider once again follows Ember and Riley, two rogue dragons on the run from Talon as well as their unlikely alliance with enemy-ex-soldier, Garret. This story continues their quest for truth and the plan to ultimately bring down Talon's oppression. While trying to regroup from the event of Rogue, the characters wrestle with personal feelings and some startling secrets that rock both the dragonslaying and the dragon world.

A lot of readers would sigh and say, "Another love triangle??" However, there is a complexity to the relationship dynamic between Ember, Riley and Garret. Ember is torn between these two because of her own split identity.  Spending 90% of her time in human form, Garret has challenged her beliefs about her human side.  One the contrary, her dragon calls to Riley and his own dragon-side, Cobalt - finally learning that they are destined to be life mates.  This is a lot of emotion for a young woman, especially while different factions are gunning for them.

What I enjoyed about Soldier was the suspense of the plot.  Talon is a deliciously evil villainous organization made even worse by their experiments and the fact that Ember's twin, Dante is tasked with leading the whole shebang. Toss in the bomb that St. George's patriarch is also in cahoots with Talon is highly entertaining. The final showdown was epic as was its tragic outcome.  I wasn't ready for that emotional roller-coaster nor can I wait for the fallout in the next book.  I can't wait to see how the next phase of this series develops based on the over big reveals at the end of this book.

This is very much Garret's book which makes sense to me now in light of the title and other events.  At first, I had some difficulty with some of the transitions throughout the narrative but in hindsight I now view these as artistically essential to the storytelling.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: @Jkagawa

#soldier #talon #dragons #yalit #romance

REVIEW: Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige

*Thank you to Netgalley and Bloomsbury for an ARC in exchange for a fair review*

Expected publication: September 20, 2016

Stealing Snow is a twist on the classic Snow White fairy tale. Snow has spent the majority of her adolescence as a asylum patient in New York, medicated by pills she dubs with dwarf names.  Her only solace is Bale, the troubled young boy she loves. Extreme emotions and anger tend to make very strange things happen around Snow. When Bale disappears and the mysterious Jagger provides Snow an opportunity to escape, her world turns upside down.  Discovering that she's the long lost princess prophesied to save a fantasy kingdom from the evil king, Snow has to learn not only to control her own magical powers but also who to trust as she seeks to save Bale and the land from her evil father's clutches.

What to say? What to say?

This was one of my highly anticipated titles of 2016.  However, I struggled getting through the narrative for a variety of reasons. The premise is strong and the story begins with promise but this first book fails to live up to the expectations set by Paige's Dorothy Must Die series.

One problem I had was with characterization.  Snow lacks a truly dynamic personality.  Sure she's been isolated and has a lot to acclimate to given the reveal of her heritage but she really comes across as rather bland.  There is a push for her to turn into a more of a heroine by the novel's end and perhaps she'll grow more for the next book; however, I was just disappointed and wanted a character with more snap and snark like Amy in Dorothy Must Die.   Similarly, as 'the love interest', Bale falls flat since he really isn't featured much.  I prefer Jagger and to another degree, Kai but there is also room to see if this characterization develops further into the series.

Another disappointment for me was pacing. I really felt as if the flow of the narrative was all over the place.  There are just too many scene locations without strong connections between them. Snow hops from the asylum to a fantasy land but then proceeds to jump between other locations and scenes without fully utilizing the introduction of these locales or characters.

Overall, I still liked the book but its flaws tarnished my expectations. I had to push myself to even finish it at times because I just couldn't fully engage with the characters or storytelling.

Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: @daniellempaige

#daniellepaige #stealingsnow #netgalley #YAlit #teen #review

Friday, August 19, 2016

What I'm Reading - Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige

I'm just in to the first part of this new fairy tale retelling by Danielle Paige, author of the Dorothy Must Die series.

It is interesting so far!  I like the initial asylum setting - reminds me of the Splintered series by A.G. Howard!

Can't wait to see where it is all going :)

Stay tuned....

Saturday, August 6, 2016

REVIEW: Harry Potter & the Cursed Child

Set some twenty years following Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the story explores aspects of Harry's life as a Ministry of Magic employee, husband and father of three school-age children: James, Albus and Lily.

The main narrative focuses not only on Harry and his continued struggle with a dark past, but also on Albus, the youngest son and middle child.  Albus struggles immensely with the weight of an unwanted family legacy and being rather different from his family altogether.  He is a Slytherin after all!

There is a significant fusion of the past and present as emotions run high and whispers of Voldemort, a secret child and profound regrets threaten the lives Harry, Hermione, Ron and even Draco have built over the past twenty years.

I know plenty of people have weighed in on their opinion of this release especially if it was necessary, how it fits within the other books, and its format.  Honestly, I loved it.

Here's why...

I always had lots of unanswered questions pertaining to book 7.  There were some plot and character holes that fans have waited a long time to fill. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child did more to placate my feelings than that dreadful epilogue ever will.

I liked the script format for a dramatic play.  Sure, there is less descriptive detail but real fans of the books and the films can easily fill in the blanks and focus on the story and characters rather than all the visual fluff.

Snape. Cedric. Lily.

Revisiting these characters and their deaths gets me ever time. It doesn't matter how long.

I cried. Again.

Overall, I loved reading this and others will too. I gobbled it up in one sitting starting at 4:30 in the morning; that's how much I loved it.

Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars

#HarryPotter #CursedChild #theater #drama #magic #Hogwarts

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

REVIEW: Invision by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Nick and company are back in the 7th installment to the Chronicles of Nick series.  Honestly, the premise it notably the same as the others.  Nick is the Malachi, a supremely powerful demon fated to be miserable and destroy the world.  Approached by an alternate adult self, this teenage version of Nick is trying to change his path, not turn evil and steer clear of the legions of baddies who want him dead all while still trying to navigate the perils of being a snarky, hormonal teen boy.

Like pretty much every book of the series readers will encounter:

  • Snarky, humor
  • Nick's sometimes inappropriate hormonal urges
  • Lots of mythology
  • Ancient dark forces with grudges trying to kill Nick and his friends
  • Nick not quite being in control of his powers
  • Flashback that provide insight to other characters
  • Battle wounded warriors who have had crap luck but are survivors and who just might find happiness in the end
  • Simi! - Acheron's demon daughter who loves to eat enemies with plenty of BBQ sauce
  • Cameo's by beloved character from Kenyon's Dark Hunters series
All in all, this was another fun entry in the series.  The audiobook read by Holter Graham was well performed and engaging.  My only criticism remains that for YA appeal, those who began the series have aged out. These will appeal to new readers with the proper marketing. I still wish there were more than one release per year. I'm ready to move past the teen year so the timeline is changed and Nick finally gets his Dark Hunter book.

Final rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: @kenyonsherrilyn

#Invision #CoN #ChroniclesOfNick #darkhunters #YAlit #vampires #demons #magic #humor

REVIEW: The Mystery of Hollow Places by Rebecca Podos

Imogene Scott knows little of her mother except for carefully plotted bedtime stories told to her by her bestselling medical mystery writing father. How they met: her father, a forensic pathologist, her mother, a mysterious woman coming to identify a body. She left when Imogene was merely a baby, leaving her daughter to know that her mother was a lost soul, possessed by loneliness and "troubled waters."

Now 17, Imogene has grown up with her mother's absenteeism as well as learning to navigate her father's own sometimes crippling depressions. When he disappears mysteriously, neither Imogene nor her stepmother know where to find him. Convinced he's looking for her mother, Imogene decides to use her detective skills compiled from a lifetime of reading her father's books in order to track him down, but also find the answers to many of her own questions.

There's a great maturity and layered presence to this novel with appeal to a variety of audiences.  On one hand, this is a good mystery. Someone is missing, there are a plethora of questions about said missing person and other events and the protagonist sets out to solve the puzzle and essentially save the day.  On the other hand, this is certainly a story about exploring identity and coming of age. Imogene searches not only for her parents but also for her sense of self, how her childhood has shaped who she is and what all this might mean for her future.

I enjoyed this book. It is well written with developed characters. I particularly liked the pacing. As a reader, there is a drive to continue on so that you too can find Imogene's mother and the whereabouts of her father.  I loved the ambiguity but also the sense of hope at the ending.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: @RebeccaPodos

#TheMysterOfHollowPlaces #mystery #YAlit #teen #depression #identity #family

Sunday, July 31, 2016

REVIEW: The Rose & the Dagger by Renne Ahdieh

Following the dramatic events at the end of The Wrath and the Dawn, the land is on the verge of war and Shahrzad finds herself separated from Khalid, the man she's grown to love. She's determined to save him from his curse. Now, although she's reunited with her family in a desert refuge, she discovers there is an deadly force planning and assault against Khalid--determined to set his empire ablaze and led by Shahrzad's childhood sweetheart.

Shahrzad feels trapped between her loyalties but is driven into action. Using her newfound magic, she plans to tackle her challenges together, lifting the hated curse and ceasing the brewing war. To do so, Shahrzad will have to evade enemies at every turn, learn who to trust, and make some hard choices.

The story comes to a stellar conclusion in The Rose & the Dagger. Fans of the first book won't be disappointed in this adventurous, well written sequel.  It is certainly high on magic, romance, adventure and intrigue.  Readers will laugh and cry during this action packed narrative.  There are bittersweet moments, great tragedies and a great message.

My favorite part was perhaps the realization to the Big Bad that all his callous plans were toppled by three beautiful, intelligent and strong women.  Loved that part!

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: 

#TheRoseandtheDagger #TheWrathandtheDawn #fantasy #romance #YAlit #magic

REVIEW: The Wrath & The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

Imagine a far off kingdom ruled by a murderous king. Eighteen year old Caliph of Khorasan is known as a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have her murdered, strangled by a silk cord each morning. After her best friend is killed in this horrific manner, sixteen year old Shahrzad vows vengeance at any cost. She not only volunteers to marry the Caliph but to also discover the truth and enact revenge.

The Wrath & the Dawn begins to weave the tale of One Thousand and One Nights. Shahrzad tells enchanting stories, ensuring her survival night after night. However, what she doesn't count on is growing to care for her new husband, especially after learning the truth behind his tragic curse.  In a nod to Beauty and the Beast, Shahrzad must then struggle with the fate of her best friend while also helping to break the curse and weather the storm of rebellion and unrest swirling around the kingdom.

I really enjoyed this book and its unique retelling of some classic tales.  Shahrzad is spunky and an admirable heroine. I liked the juxtoposition of Ahdieh's characterization of women in the story as opposed to how women we considered (and still are) amongst middle eastern society (both fiction and IRL).

Overall, this is well written with strong characters and good world building.  There is certainly more appeal to a female reader, especially with the emphasis on romance.  While not graphic, Shahrzad and Caliph's relationship includes sexual intimacy, so when recommending the book make note.

As I continue on to book 2, I'm interested to see how the magical element plays out, especially Shahrzad's abuse of power and a possible fallout and how that might translate to our heroine herself.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter:  @rahdieh

#TheWrathandtheDawn #reneeahdieh #shahrzad #romance YAlit #beautyandthebeast #1001nights

Monday, July 18, 2016

REVIEW: Chasing Impossible by Katie McGarry

Fans of McGarry's Pushing the Limits series have waited for Abby's own story. We've grown to love this tough, sassy and independent 17 year old.  Few crack her inner circle but those who do realize that there is much more to her than her status as a drug dealer.

Daughter of the infamous Mozart, Abby retains a certain status and must weather other expectations; however, she'd like nothing more than to have a normal life, yet circumstances and money constantly pull her back in. When a deal goes south and Abby finds herself in real danger, she must learn to rely on daredevil, Logan, whose own restless spirit just might match her own.

Readers first met Logan in Dare You To, as Ryan's best friend. Always looking for a new thrill, he has issues of his own, namely hiding his diabetic status from even his closest friends. He never expected that his mutual attraction to Abby would mean finding the one person that might help him come to terms with his own demons.

Together they have to decide if what they might have together is worth fighting for.

McGarry's true strength is writing characters with diverse backgrounds who have to go through strife as they mature and ultimately find their way.  These characters and their stories hypnotize readers from start to finish.  Abby's story is no different and I am please that she finally found the love and acceptance she deserves.  Likewise, I love that McGarry explores diabetes through the eyes of a handsome and athletic teenage boy.  It is a disease which affects so many and it is important that readers who might be dealing with a similar situation see that a normal life is possible and that having diabetes is not a dirty little secret.

If I had one suggestion, I wish there was a bit more build up to Abby and Logan's friendship and attraction. I know they'd met in another book but I'd like to see the progression a bit more.

I feel that there is a sense of closure to the series; however, I'd be happy if we got even more from Abby, Logan and the rest of the gang!

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: @KatieMcGarry

#chasingimpossible #pushingthelimits #YAlit #teen #romance #realisticfiction

Monday, July 11, 2016

REVIEW: Exposed (Retribution) by Judith Graves

Thank you to Orca Book Publishers for a review copy on behalf of my ROYAL membership!

Exposed: Retribution is the third in a high interest YA trilogy which can be read in any order. Nearly sixteen-year-old Raven is aggressive, street smart and cunning after spending years defying dangerous situations as part of a large car theft ring.  She feels that she owes Diesel her loyalty, especially since he saved her from a life of hell.  Now she wants out but the only way is to train her successor to master her uncanny urban climbing skills.  When Raven learns that her boss and mentor is responsible for the senseless death of her "apprentice", she finally sees Diesel for what he is and sets out to bring him down with the help of some unlikely allies.

Characteristic of most high/low readers, the action starts from the first page and doesn't stop.  Raven is a kick-butt female heroine who is redeemable in spite of her flaws.  The supporting cast of characters are engaging as well even if some (i.e. Diesel) are a bit one note. 

The book is perfect for what it is intended to be.  A reluctant reader will be hooked on the action and the story.  For someone like me, the writing feels all too rushed and I wish there was more development and pacing because the concept is great. I was left wanting more and may actually pursue the next installment just to find out what happens with these characters and the promised next adventure to bring about justice. 

Recommended for purchase for school and public libraries. Audience appeal ages 12 and up for both male and female readers.  Action based, mystery thriller with a splash of romance and friendship. Readers will like the urban climbing element.

Final rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: @judithgraves

#judithgraves #ocrabook #exposedretribution #YAlit #teen #highinterest #urbanclimbing #books #ROYAL

Friday, July 8, 2016

REVIEW: A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J Maas

Following on the heals of events in A Court of Thorns and Roses, Feyre, survived the horrors of Amarantha's faerie court in order to return to the Spring Court and free her love, Beast Lord and High Lord of Spring, Tamblin.  However, the cost of such freedom is much steeper than she could have ever imagined. Saved from death and now gifted with powers from all 7 High Courts, Feyre cannot escape the trappings of her still human heart and the guilt she feels following the violent deeds that will forever haunt her.

Nor can she forget the bargain with Rhys, High Lord of the Night Court too spend one week with him every month.  Despite the initial dread of acknowledging this bargain, Feyre yearns for this escape when her time at the Spring Court begins to feel like a prison as Tamblin ignores her new powers, pleas and debilitating nightmares.

As Feyre learns to navigate the Night Court's dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms—and she might be key to stopping it. only if she can harness her new gifts, heal her fractured soul, decide who to trust and how she wishes to shape her future—and the future of a world cleaved in two.

I'm reviewing A Court of Mist and Fury on the teen blog because it is still technically cataloged as YA lit; however, I have some strong reservations.  I loved everything about the book but the romance and included sex scenes are STEAMY and graphic to a point that this probably isn't for every YA reader seeking romantic fantasy.  The scenes are pretty detailed with provocative vocabulary and pretty graphic detail. So beware, this is probably more at home in the adult science fiction and fantasy sections.

That being said, I LOVED THIS BOOK! Feyre's character development is profound. Maas' use of guilt, trauma and PTSD to take the storytelling to new heights pointed the book in a direction I hadn't anticipated.  I never realized how much I didn't like Tamblin until his actions in this book made me hate him.  I adore Rhys and his ramble of friends who are loyal outcasts who accept Feyre and provide what she needs to embrace her destiny and heal her wounds.

I adore the new romantic development and it is in part what I predicted or hoped would happen. Certain parts remind me of the whole Buffy, Angel Spike dynamic of the past.  I was never a huge Buffy/Angel relationship fan. Sure it was first love, but Angel always wanted to save the day and stifle Buffy's spirit.  Lot of people hated the Buffy/Spike romance and yes it was certainly flawed but grew in spite of all that happened.  However, Spike ended up encouraging her to embrace all parts of herself and didn't try to put her in a box to keep her safe. Rhys is like that with Feyre.

The ending was stellar and I cannot WAIT for the next book in 2017!

Final rating: ALL THE STARS!

Follow the author on Twitter: @sjmaas

#ACOMAF #ACOTAR #faerie #romance #fantasy #AMAZING #books #review

REVIEW: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Carry On is an ode to Harry Potter.  The main character Simon Snow is the Chosen One much like HP but can't seem to do anything right, failing spells right and left as well as setting things on fire. During his last year a school, his girlfriend has dumped him, there's an evil doppelganger wearing Simon's face, and his nemesis Baz isn't even around to pick a fight.

What can I say? Carry On is the novelization of the Simon and Baz fanfic featured in Rowell's Fangirl. These parts were my least favorite aspect of the aforementioned novel since I preferred the narrative regarding Cather and her development despite the fact that a huge part of her identity was wrapped up as the author of this fan fiction and general fandom.

Regardless for my love of pretty much anything Rowell does, this just wasn't my cup of tea and I found it unnecessary. That being said, for readers who are huge fans of the author or who want a Harry Potter-esque type story that pushes more relationship boundaries then this is for you. There's plenty of magic and fantastic elements plus humor and romance.

Rowell continues to display stellar writing with good plot and interesting, description characters.

Personal rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Story/Character/Writing rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: @rainbowrowell

#fangirl #carryon #rainbowrowell #fanfiction #harrypotter #YAlit #teen #books

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

COVER REVEAL: Long Way Home by Katie McGarry

"An intoxicating and unforgettable story that kept me glued to the page."
Kami Garcia, #1 New York Times bestselling author, on Walk the Edge

Seventeen-year-old Violet has always been expected to sit back and let the boys do all the saving.

It’s the code her father, a member of the Reign of Terror motorcycle club, raised her to live by. Yet when her dad is killed carrying out Terror business, Violet knows it’s up to her to do the saving. To protect herself, and her vulnerable younger brother, she needs to cut all ties with the club—including Chevy, the boy she’s known and loved her whole life.

But when a rival club comes after Violet, exposing old secrets and making new threats, she’s forced to question what she thought she knew about her father, the Reign of Terror, and what she thinks she wants. Which means re-evaluating everything: love, family, friends . . . and forgiveness.
Caught in the crosshairs between loyalty and freedom, Violet must decide whether old friends can be trusted—and if she’s strong enough to be the one person to save them all.

Add it to your Goodreads Now!

LONG WAY HOME Pre-Order Links:

Barnes and Noble:

And Don’t Miss the First Two Titles in the Thunder Road Series!



Katie McGarry Bio:
Katie McGarry was a teenager during the age of grunge and boy bands and remembers those years as the best and worst of her life. She is a lover of music, happy endings, reality television, and is a secret University of Kentucky basketball fan.

Katie is the author of full length YA novels, PUSHING THE LIMITS, DARE YOU TO, CRASH INTO YOU, TAKE ME ON,  BREAKING THE RULES, and NOWHERE BUT HERE and the e-novellas, CROSSING THE LINE and RED AT NIGHT. Her debut YA novel, PUSHING THE LIMITS was a 2012 Goodreads Choice Finalist for YA Fiction, a RT Magazine's 2012 Reviewer's Choice Awards Nominee for Young Adult Contemporary Novel, a double Rita Finalist, and a 2013 YALSA Top Ten Teen Pick. DARE YOU TO was also a Goodreads Choice Finalist for YA Fiction and won RT Magazine’s Reviewer’s Choice Best Book Award for Young Adult Contemporary fiction in 2013.


Twitter: @katiemcgarry

Friday, July 1, 2016

RELEASE DAY: Chasing Impossible by Katie McGarry

Tough and independent, 17-year-old Abby lets very few people into her inner circle. It’s common knowledge in her Kentucky town that she deals drugs, but not even her closest friends know why. But when a deal goes south and Abby’s suddenly in danger, she finds herself reluctantly forced to lean on daredevil Logan—a boy whose restless spirit matches her own.

Logan has his own reasons for wanting to keep Abby at arms’ length. But he never expected to find in her the one person who might help him face the demons he’s tried so hard to run from.

Together, Abby and Logan will have to make a decision: let their current circumstances weigh them down forever…or fight for the future they both thought was impossible. 


And don’t forget to read the first books in the Pushing the Limits Series…

People near the stage scream and clap and I’m about ready to throw my cell against the wall. Stupid, stupid boy and stupid me for stupidly somewhat liking him and him thinking he can get away with not answering me.
“Give it up for our boy Logan.”
My eyes rip up, go for the stage, and my mind shifts into reverse, fast-forward, rewind, and then that smile that’s associated with the devil slides across my face.
Logan stands strong on the stage. Guitar strapped across his chest. Baseball cap backwards on his black hair. And when he strikes the strings of the guitar, those biceps flex beautifully.
That chord just struck a lot deeper than anyone could have imagined. Past my bones, past my muscles, and it’s created a nice warmth that’s curling around my belly. Liquid warmth.
The logical part of my brain demands that I walk away, but he’s the one that scared me by not answering back. He’s the one that’s causing all these alien emotions stirring in my veins.
Yeah, I shouldn’t kiss Logan. I should definitely leave a boy like that alone. But he returned and he’s the one that climbed onto the stage and is looking addictively sexy with that guitar.
Yep, shouldn’t kiss him, but I already told Rachel, I’m going to kiss the guitarist tonight. Wouldn’t want that one to be a lie, now, would I?
About Katie McGarry:

Katie McGarry was a teenager during the age of grunge and boy bands and remembers those years as the best and worst of her life. She is a lover of music, happy endings, reality television, and is a secret University of Kentucky basketball fan.

Katie is the author of full length YA novels, PUSHING THE LIMITS, DARE YOU TO, CRASH INTO YOU, TAKE ME ON,  BREAKING THE RULES, and NOWHERE BUT HERE and the e-novellas, CROSSING THE LINE and RED AT NIGHT. Her debut YA novel, PUSHING THE LIMITS was a 2012 Goodreads Choice Finalist for YA Fiction, a RT Magazine's 2012 Reviewer's Choice Awards Nominee for Young Adult Contemporary Novel, a double Rita Finalist, and a 2013 YALSA Top Ten Teen Pick. DARE YOU TO was also a Goodreads Choice Finalist for YA Fiction and won RT Magazine’s Reviewer’s Choice Best Book Award for Young Adult Contemporary fiction in 2013.


Twitter: @katiemcgarry

Thursday, June 30, 2016

REVIEW: Chemistry (Inquire & Investigate) by Carla Mooney

*Thank you to Nomad Press for a review copy on behalf of ROYAL and the SWON Libraries*

Let me tell you a story...

Once upon a time, I manager to survive two full years of AP Chemistry.  This remains one of the most challenging times in my academic career.  Somehow I passed but that was due in part to my best friend and lab partner, a patient and dedicated teacher and my own 'never give up' attitude to persevere even what I hardly knew what to do next.

That being said, I wish I'd had an available text like Chemistry: Investigate the Matter that Makes Up Your World. The text is colorful, engaging and concise while appealing to multiple types of learners through visuals, text and additional activities.  
This is basically for beginners with chapters including:
  1. Atoms, Elements, and the Periodic Table
  2. States of Matter
  3. Changing States of Matter
  4. Compounds, Mixtures and Solutions
  5. Chemical Reactions
  6. Acids and Bases
  7. The Nucleus and Radioactivity
  8. Other Branches of Chemistry
Recommended for purchase in public and school libraries for grades 6-9. This text would also be a stellar classroom resource for many teachers.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

#chemistry #science #nonfiction #middleschool #ROYAL #learning 

Monday, June 27, 2016

REVIEW: The Amazing Book Is Not On Fire by Dan Howell & Phil Lester

*Thank you to Random House for a review copy on behalf of ROYAL and the SWON Libraries.*

With more than 11 million followers, YouTube stars Dan Howell and Phil Lester present an interactive and multi-genre peak into their quirky lives and how they achieved Internet star status with their unique and weird take on life. The book portrays an interactive narrative that is funny, offers some sound advice.

Recommended for fans and other reader wanting quirky, visually interesting nonfiction. Overall appeal and popularity is modest; therefore, this should be an optional purchase for a public or school library--ages 12 and up.

As a reviewer, my age is showing. Honestly, I have no idea who these two guys are. That being said, the book will appeal to readers who recognize these two from their online adventures or if the cover catches their eye. The format and visage make even browsing an experience, especially use of multi-genre visuals (i.e. collage, drawings) and other engaging forms of expression. They certainly must be trending since I just saw a right up in Entertainment Weekly

Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Follow Dan and Phil: @danisnotonfire  @AmazingPhil

#TABINOF #nonfiction #YAlit #teen #humor #YouTube #review

Sunday, June 26, 2016

REVIEW: Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare

The first in Clare's new Dark Artifices series centering around character first introduced in The City of Heavenly Fire.  Orphaned at the age of twelve by Sebastian Morgenstern, Emma Carstairs and Julian Blackthorn are parabatai, fighting partners, confidants and best friends. Parabatai can be everything to each other--but they can never fall in love.  At 17, their feelings for each other are changing and the true question remains whether passion and love can outweigh the law of the Clave.

Both have had to grow up too fast. In the absence of his parents and older siblings, Julian has had to raise his younger siblings as well as secretly run the Institute on behalf of his mentally incapable uncle.  Haunted by her parent's gruesome murder and convinced that Sebastian Morgenstern wasn't involved, Emma is determined to discover the truth. 

When the bodies of humans and faeries turn up murdered in the same way Emma’s parents , an uneasy alliance is formed. This is Emma’s chance for revenge—and Julian’s chance to get back his brother Mark, who is being held prisoner by the faerie Courts. All Emma, Mark, and Julian have to do is solve the murders within two weeks while keeping their investigation secret and staying alive.

Each clue reveals some surprising secrets and betrayals, especially Julian's hidden feelings, more into the Clave's history of cruelty and why it is forbidden for parabatai to fall in love. These answers are just as eye-opening as they are heartbreaking.

I am hooked on these new characters and their dynamic within the Shadowhunter world. Emma is intelligent and fierce. Julian is dreamy, determined and optimistic. I love their relationship. It is heartfelt but also sexy and passionate; however, the angst and bittersweet status of their declaration will leave readers hoping for resolve but understanding that things will only get much worse before they get better.

Fans of the Shadowhunter world will be glad to see some familiar faces in cameo appearances.  Overall, it is a fun, exciting and engaging read, if a bit long. The audiobook narrated by Morena Baccarin was very well done. Great cliffhanger!!

Final rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: @cassieclare

#ladymidnight #darkartifices #Shadowhunters #YAlit #romance #angels #demons #teen #audiobook

REVIEW: Paper & Fire by Rachel Caine

*Thank you, Netgalley, for an ARC in exchange for a fair review*

Expected publication: July 5, 2016

Jess Brightwell and his allies are back in this second installment to Caine's Great Library series.  Paper and Fire jumps right back into the action. The Great Library continues its stranglehold on knowledge throughout the world as it stamps out any notion of rebellion. Serving in the army is nothing like Jess expected as he and his friends are still reeling from the violence and loss surrounding events at the end of Ink and Bone. He believes he's lost his best friend, Thomas, forever and the girl he loves, Morgan, is locked away in the Obscurist's Iron Tower.

After learning some surprising information, Jess and the others embark on a dangerous mission to save one of their own, secretly plotting to thwart the Library in an action packed narrative spanning not only Alexandria but Rome and even London. Dodging automata creatures and betrayal at every turn, Jess and his friends soon learn that even the places they've once called home aren't safe and that the Library is willing to sacrifice anything and anyone to retain its unrelenting power.

What I continue to love about this series is the extended discussion of the power of knowledge and the effect on the world concerning what happens when that power is corrupt. There is this broader exploration of Intellectual Freedom and what can happen in a world where thought and creativity is stunted.  I won't give a lot away but one moment of significance is the discovery and outcome surrounding the Black Archives and the parallel  with our world's fate of the Library of Alexandria.

Overall, great pacing and characterization with plenty of action, a dash of romantic angst, some humor and surprising twists.

Final rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: @rachelcaine

#PaperandFire #TheGreatLibrary #netgalley #InkandBone #YAlit #IntellectualFreedom #teen #adventure #alternatehistory #intrigue #adventure #review

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

REVIEW: The Last Star by Rick Yancey

The Last Star is the final book in Yancey's 5th Wave trilogy. Here's what readers know so far:

  • The end of world came in waves as Others (let's call them aliens to simplify) sought to paralyze life on Earth.
    • 1st wave - lights out (EMPs to knock out machinery and electricity)
    • 2nd wave - surf's up - huge tidal waves knockout coastal cities
    • 3rd wave - Pestilence - eliminate the bulk of the population through illness
    • 4th wave - Silencers - the Others appear on Earth and plan to wipe out the remaining human population. Important lesson: not all 'humans' are human.
    • 5th wave - The Fifth wave is where the Others plan to bomb every city on Earth via the mothership.
  • Teenage Cassie Sullivan, Other with a Conscience, Evan Walker, and Squad 53 leader, Ben 'Zombie' Parish plus others including Cassie's little brother, Sam, and snarky and now Other enhanced Ringer have gone AWOL and are the only ones to know the End Game of the 5th wave.
This crew has to work together to thwart the Others and quite literally save the world and the human race. The primary theme is that of humanity and what traits make us human. Emotions run high and there is significant drama about making sacrifices and so on. 

Honestly, this was one of my most anticipated reads of 2016. I adored The 5th Wave and its sequel, The Infinite Sea. But the magic was snuffed out and I found myself underwhelmed and more than a little confused by how all this culminated to a conclusion.  I pretty much hated all the characters with the exception of Evan who was by far the most human but wasn't entirely human at all. The ending is downright depressing and left me feeling pretty blah.

Final rating: 2 out of 5 stars

#laststar #5thwave #YAlit #teen #scifi #book #letdown