Monthly Archives: October 2013

ARC Review – Panic by Lauren Oliver

Panic_HC_JKT_des4.inddTitle: Panic
Author:  Lauren Oliver
Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Panic began as so many things do in Carp, a dead-end town of 12,000 people in the middle of nowhere: because it was summer, and there was nothing else to do.

Heather never thought she would compete in Panic, a legendary game played by graduating seniors, where the stakes are high and the payoff is even higher. She’d never thought of herself as fearless, the kind of person who would fight to stand out. But when she finds something, and someone, to fight for, she will discover that she is braver than she ever thought.

Dodge has never been afraid of Panic. His secret will fuel him, and get him all the way through the game, he’s sure of it. But what he doesn’t know is that he’s not the only one with a secret. Everyone has something to play for.

For Heather and Dodge, the game will bring new alliances, unexpected revelations, and the possibility of first love for each of them—and the knowledge that sometimes the very things we fear are those we need the most.

Sam’s Review: 

Huge thank you to Edelweiss and Harper Teen for this advance reader copy.

Panic easily has one of the worst blurbs I’ve ever seen, as it truly doesn’t tell you much about what to anticipate in the story other than it’s a scary game teens play…

… and what a game it is. What the blurb doesn’t tell you is how adrenaline ridden and emotionally exhausting this novel is. Once again, Lauren Oliver gives us these very well realized individuals with their own ideas of how Panic has the power to take one’s thoughts over. When you think about how much money someone can gain from participating in a teen version of Fear Factor, you can only imagine the desperation they must be feeling to activity seek self-harm. While I won’t spoil any of the games played, I will note how uncomfortable a few instances of the novel felt because you knew if someone failed, it would be pretty gruesome.

Unlike many of Oliver’s other novels, this one is written in two perspectives, but in third person. This actually took some adjusting for me because I’m so used to Oliver’s prose flowing a particular way — here the two perspectives work as both Dodge and Heather have different reasons for their active participation.

This book is dark, and much darker than some of Oliver’s other works. There’s definitely an atmosphere of doom and gloom without any hope. This book is NOT dystopian in nature (which I am thankful for), but rather it functions more like a blood sport novel akin to Battle Royale or The Long Walk, only the gore is much more minimal and murder is not entirely the objective (which, admittedly, I appreciated as a change of pace). I think those comparing this to the Hunger Games are doing themselves a huge disservice as the two texts couldn’t be anymore different.

Usually I find Oliver’s characters somewhat frustrating in her YA novels (and lovable in her Middle Grade works), but weirdly I found myself really loving both her male leads Bishop and Dodge. I found their reasons for participating to be fascinating, as some took very generic reasons and made them much more meaningful. The female characters on the other hand, I found very frustrating, though not unlikable. Some of their actions are very silly, but done with the fact that they are driven by their emotions and fears, so it worked for me.

This book is ridiculous in so many ways and to the point at times where you might ask yourself “Did Lauren Oliver really go there? She did, didn’t she?” These crazy elements will feel very familiar if you treat this book like it’s a blood sport novel or like Fear Factor. It works and justifies itself, even if it sometimes doesn’t suspend your belief enough.

I don’t think Panic is as strong as Oliver’s novels, but I feel like the emotional tension and draining were worth the effort, and the atmosphere elements truly make it stand out in a crowd as unique novel within the YA contemporary genre. I’m interested to see if Lauren Oliver will produce another novel in a similar vein, because I truly enjoyed Panic more than I thought I would.

ARC Review – Sorrow’s Knot by Erin Bow

17675463Title:  Sorrow’s Knot
Author:  Erin Bow
Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: In the world of SORROW’S KNOT, the dead do not rest easy. Every patch of shadow might be home to something hungry, something deadly. Most of the people of this world live on the sunlit, treeless prairies. But a few carve out an uneasy living in the forest towns, keeping the dead at bay with wards made from magically knotted cords. The women who tie these knots are called binders. And Otter’s mother, Willow, is one of the greatest binders her people have ever known.

But Willow does not wish for her daughter to lead the lonely, heavy life of a binder, so she chooses another as her apprentice. Otter is devastated by this choice, and what’s more, it leaves her untrained when the village falls under attack. In a moment of desperation, Otter casts her first ward, and the results are disastrous. But now Otter may be her people’s only hope against the shadows that threaten them. Will the challenge be too great for her? Or will she find a way to put the dead to rest once and for all?

Sam’s Review:

Huge thank you to Scholastic and Netgalley for providing an advance copy of this book.

Reading Plain Kate earlier this year, I knew Erin Bow was an author to watch out for. Crafting deep worlds and strong characters having very intimate connections to their environments, I hoped that her second novel, Sorrow’s Knot would deliver in the same vein.

I wasn’t  disappointed. While I felt like Sorrow’s Knot pacing was a touch all over the place, it weirdly didn’t effect my connection to the overall narrative Bow was trying to craft. A lot of this novel is very slow, deliberate, and methodical. There’s a lot of connections throughout the narrative, weaving together a lot of mystery elements. This is a book that is constantly building, never backtracking, so it’s one where you really have to pay close attention to make sure you know what is going on. Erin Bow also always has some of the most beautiful, if simplistic prose I’ve seen. It’s stunning without being convoluted, and she makes the story so engaging just by the strength in her style.

Sorrow’s Knot is very atmospheric. Bow does a great job of crafting the world and making it a vivid place to be pictured. She also gives us great characters who are easy to empathize with. I had to hold in a few tears because some of the death scenes are so bittersweet. This is a story of friendship and loss and Bow weaves these themes together with ease. It’s so easy to fall in love with the characters and understand their motivations within the context of the world.

I also loved the whole element of weaving knots and how it relates to life and death, but how it’s also a practice that the inhabitants of the world know is important but equally still fear it. The world building is just so stunning, and Bow makes it so easy for the reader to just cuddle into this dark world and view it from the inside-out.

While I do like Plain Kate a touch more, Sorrow’s Knot is a worthy second novel. Fans of strong world-building, unique magic systems, and great characters will easily love what the novel has to offer. I look forward to reading more of Bow’s work as it’s published, but the woman really has a gift for the written word.

River’s Review –

Coming soon.

ARC Review – The Promise of Amazing by Robin Constantine

18114943Title:  The Promise of Amazing
Author:  Robin Constantine
Rating: ★★

Synopsis: Wren Caswell is average. Ranked in the middle of her class at Sacred Heart, she’s not popular, but not a social misfit. Wren is the quiet, “good” girl who’s always done what she’s supposed to—only now in her junior year, this passive strategy is backfiring. She wants to change, but doesn’t know how.

Grayson Barrett was the king of St. Gabe’s. Star of the lacrosse team, top of his class, on a fast track to a brilliant future—until he was expelled for being a “term paper pimp.” Now Gray is in a downward spiral and needs to change, but doesn’t know how.

One fateful night their paths cross when Wren, working at her family’s Arthurian-themed catering hall, performs the Heimlich on Gray as he chokes on a cocktail weenie, saving his life literally and figuratively. What follows is the complicated, awkward, hilarious, and tender tale of two teens shedding their pasts, figuring out who they are—and falling in love

Huge thank you to Balzer + Bray and Edelweiss for allowing me the chance to review this book.

Robin Constantine’s debut The Promise of Amazing might have one of the most misleading titles I’ve ever come across in a book. It promises to be “amazing” but it lacks a lot of substance. The premise suggestions the potential to be a thoughtful, smart romance, only to transform into a book of irrationality and hormones.

I found the characters in this book to be very problematic. Wren starts out cute, funny, thoughtful, but as she develops she becomes this character with too many first-world problems without a real head on shoulders. I found instead of trying to be adult in a lot of her personal problems, she often chose a more immature route as a means to get the attention of the reader. She’s supposed to be average, but she’s described as anything but. Why can’t YA novels that say their heroines are average actually MEAN that instead of trying to play it up like it’s a flaw.

Admittedly, I actually enjoyed Jazz and Mad. I’m confused in some ways how they would be friends with Wren, but I adore how they support her and try to be there for her despite her tribulations. The relationship between the girls worked for me and I think Constantine hits their relationship at just the right level. The only problem? There’s not enough of this strong female interaction because Wren is too fixated on her insta-love with Grayson.

Grayson is actually the character I have a huge problem with. While Wren’s flaws are a lot smaller, I couldn’t understand the appeal of how anyone could fall for Grayson. Constantine doesn’t give the reader enough to buy into how Grayson goes from man-slut to changed man — it just happens instantly when he meets Wren, and while she attempts to make him slip back into his old form once or twice, he’s always “But Wren, but Wren, but Wren.” He just didn’t seem realistic to me, and his dude-bro behaviour just didn’t give me the attraction level I want as the reader to buy into their romance. He steals JEWELLERY and thinks its ROMANTIC. I just didn’t understand where half of his motives came from and his consistency as a character was too all over the place for me.

And then there is the insta-love. There’s no hard to get, no witty banter — it happens right at the beginning of the book and it never gives up its stranglehold. The reader is beaten over the head that Wren and Grayson are meant to be. I just didn’t see how they could work as a couple, how they were meant to be. The reader is thrown into it and expected to root for these two characters, but I never did. I never found myself wanting them to be together. The way they talked about each other was so immature, almost sucky, that I really struggled with the romance.

Finally, we come to the ending, which is easily one of the biggest cop out endings I’ve seen in awhile. Our antagonist character gets away with metaphorical murder and the reader is just forced to accept it. There’s no karmic punch, no real explanation, it just ends with Grayson and Wren being happy and everything is wrapped up with a neat bow with barely any consequences. Luke and crew don’t get a comeuppance, so you’re left to question why Constantine did that other than to have the protagonists still be together. Fine, I get it, they like each other, but seriously give us a conclusion that is much more sound.

I didn’t hate The Promise of Amazing, but I found the negatives truly outweighed the positives for me. I found half the time I couldn’t connect to the characters, and in a way, this is a YA book that made me feel too old to be enjoying YA. If you can stomach insta-love and a story that isn’t always good at explaining itself, this book may be for you, but for those who like book with a nice sense of closure and characterization — you can do better than The Promise of Amazing.

River’s Review:

I received an ARC from the publisher and I’m writing this honest review to say thank you.

Okay so… this book didn’t work for me. I’ll keep it short because I just don’t want to get into everything, and my lovely co-blogger already posted a review that I ONE-HUNDRED-PERCENT AGREE with on our blog (…).

For me the biggest problem with this book was that it was YA that reads as if it’s for teens and ONLY teens. I’m not THAT old, or out of touch with pop culture and the ‘youth of today’ but this book made me feel old and that YA was too young for me. Something I never want to feel. I love that YA spans such a wide range of topics and is accessible for both young and adult readers. But this book felt so immature and juvenile. The amount of penis references was a huge, huge, huge turn off. I actually almost DNF-ed this because of a part where Grayson makes a comment about his balls sliding down his leg and running out the door. I was almost at the end though, so I pushed on through. But SERIOUSLY.

I don’t mind pervy-ness, I don’t mind slang. Swearing, drinking, sex, drugs WHATEVER is fine when it works for the book. But I do mind immaturity. And I hated that I felt so… god, idek, gross? while reading some of this. And it’s not even dirty! There aren’t any steamy smut scenes! Just gratuitous references to Grayson’s penis. Which is not something that I want to read about in a YA contemporary unless IT’S NECESSARY. And it wasn’t. All it did was make Grayson seem like even more of a douche than he already was portrayed as.

And Wren… I never got a good grip on who or what she was. Quiet shy girl? Okay but she was sometimes too ‘cool’ for that.

And that was another problem I had with this book. It’s like it was shouting HEY I’M COOL AND YOUNG AND WITH IT. I KNOW WHAT THE COOL KIDS LIKE. I KNOW THAT HOLLISTER WAS COOL AND NOW ISN’T AND ONLY TOOLS SHOP THERE. I KNOW ALL THE CURRENT LINGO. Just so much of this ‘I’m hip and with it’ was shoved into it that I was rolling my eyes and shouting OKAY I GET IT.

Ugh, just all the first world problems and lack of anyone getting what they deserved didn’t work for me.

An Evening with Rainbow Rowell



On October 7th, 2014, I had the opportunity to attend an event at Indigo Yorkdale staring Rainbow Rowell, author of Attachments, Eleanor & Park, and her latest novel (one River and I both gave five stars to!) Fangirl. Rowell herself was quite the charmer, as she did a great job flirting with her audience. She also told stories of how growing up fanfic wasn’t as accessible as it is today, discussing how fanfic plays a role in personal life, personal canons, and how it can shape who we are as fans. She also confessed to having written what might be the only X-Men/Wham! crossover fic. If this fic existed on the interwebs somewhere, link me, because I’m dying to see how all of this would have worked in the grand scheme of things.

She also discussed what its like being someone who suffers from social anxiety despite being an author. She explained to crowd how difficult a lot of social situations are for her and how she’s constantly trying to improve who she is not only as a writer, but as a public speaker. Truthfully with the way she mingled with the crowd, you’d never guess that this is something she suffers with every day. She seemed amazed by all the Fangirl and Eleanor & Park fanart, fic, and just the crazy response readers have had to the novels since they both debuted. I found myself nodding along to a lot of daily struggles with anxiety as a suffer myself, but she even said that regardless of whether or not people like her work, she’s going to keep doing it because it will always touch someone in some significant way.

Rowell was genuine, and that is what I enjoyed about her. She took time for each person during the signing to get to know them, to understand why they loved her books and what connections they made to her characters. She seemed so happy to just converse with her fans about all their fandoms, their joys, and even their sorrows. Eleanor & Park has a special place in my heart because I had read it towards the end of my father’s life, and it was a book that deeply affected me during that time (as odd as it is to say). But I loved those characters, and Rowell makes them so easy to cheer for. You know things don’t end well for them, but it’s so easy to fall in love with them and hope for the best. Rowell prided herself in being  a bit of a dream crusher because she knew people were going to be somewhat disappointed in the results. Fangirl on the other hand, players with reader’s sense of self, as fandom is something we grow up with and shapes parts of who we are. It’s so easy to identify with Cath and her struggles, yet reader her fanfics, you could sense that Simon Snow was a part of who she is.



I enjoy Rowell’s works because they are personable, chock full of personality and spunk. She writers characters who feel real, so genuine, they are people you trust because you want to see how their lives unfold.  Rainbow’s humor is quirky, yet gentle, and you get a sense of that when you meet her in person. You come to understand a bit of how her characters are crafted and how they are able to live, learn, love and laugh. If you’ve never read one of Rainbow’s books, I urge you too. She’s one-of-a-kind, and she knows how to make readers feel and fall in love with her characters. ALL of her characters. While she personalized both my copies of Fangirl and Eleanor & Park, I know these are books I going to reread int he future, buy for friends, and essentially, do my best to let Rainbow Rowell’s books take over the world. Does she not have a cute face that screams world domination? I can totally see it.

Check out Rainbow’s books. You won’t regret it, and while your at it, follow her on twitter @rainbowrowell. She’s funny and adorable, and I wish more authors were like her! Also keep your eyes peeled for her upcoming release Landline which is scheduled to drop next year! If you ever get the chance to meet her in person, do it! You won’t regret all the fun you’ll have!

ARC Review – The Iron Traitor by Julie Kagawa

15811405Title:  The Iron Traitor (The Iron Fey: Call of the Forgotten #2)
Author:  Julie Kagawa
Rating:  ★ 1/2

Synopsis: After his unexpected journey into the lands of the fey, Ethan Chase just wants to get back to normal. Well, as “normal” as you can be when you see faeries every day of your life. Suddenly the former loner with the bad reputation has someone to try for-his girlfriend, Kenzie. Never mind that he’s forbidden to see her again.

But when your name is Ethan Chase and your sister is one of the most powerful faeries in the Nevernever, “normal” simply isn’t to be. For Ethan’s nephew, Keirran, is missing, and may be on the verge of doing something unthinkable in the name of saving his own love. Something that will fracture the human and faery worlds forever, and give rise to the dangerous fey known as the Forgotten. As Ethan’s and Keirran’s fates entwine and Keirran slips further into darkness, Ethan’s next choice may decide the fate of them all.

Sam’s Review:

Huge thank you to Harlequin Teen and Netgalley for allowing me the opportunity to review this book!

There comes a time in every reader’s life where they have to let go of a series because it’s finally out stayed its welcome. Sadly, this is where the Iron Fey series and I will be departing, because I don’t know how much more I can take of the same repeated plot lines, melodrama, and flat characters who lack dimension.

Having read every book in this series so far, it baffles me how I managed to keep going even though the quality of each book was deteriorating. I think Kagawa’s use of Fey is excellent, but something in the Call of Forgotten series is lacking and I question if it’s me or the books themselves.

Truthfully the characters are lacking. I feel like Keirran and Annwyl’s romance was a huge rehashing of Meghan and Ash, and they were driving me crazy with how perfect everything felt. A lot of the time I had no sympathy for either character’s behaviour because the majority of the time it was brought onto them either through Ethan’s specialness or themselves. Ethan’s character went from being tolerable to painful for me and I found half the time I couldn’t be bothered with the romance between he and Kenzie, something I enjoyed int he first book, but here it got a touch to smoopy for my tastes.

Which leads me to my next issue: the pacing. Pacing is something I harp on in all my reviews, but it needs to be consistent. Once again we have very up and down pacing, but this is attributed by the insane amount of melodrama in this book. Seriously, it was way too much making it super difficult for me to care about the plot events, the characters and their emotional stability; I truly had a hard time caring, which saddens me because at one point with this series, I did care and I did want to see the characters grow and mature. Here I find the level of maturity to be lacking (even in our parental figures Meghan and Ash), and a lot of the story didn’t work for me.

I still believe Kagawa is a talented writer, and I do think her strengths lie in her descriptions and use of research. I don’t know if it was just the new cast of characters rubbing me the wrong way or if it really is me out-growing this world and its players. Regardless, those who adore this series — you’ll probably love this book and this review will likely not deter you in the slightest. Those who struggled to enjoy The Lost Prince like I have, it might be worth it to check out Kagawa’s other series if you need something different.

ARC Review – Crash into You (Pushing the Limits #3) by Katie McGarry

17679547Title:  Crash Into You
Author:  Katie McGarry
Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: The girl with straight As, designer clothes and the perfect life-that’s who people expect Rachel Young to be. So the private-school junior keeps secrets from her wealthy parents and overbearing brothers…and she’s just added two more to the list. One involves racing strangers down dark country roads in her Mustang GT. The other? Seventeen-year-old Isaiah Walker-a guy she has no business even talking to. But when the foster kid with the tattoos and intense gray eyes comes to her rescue, she can’t get him out of her mind.

Isaiah has secrets, too. About where he lives, and how he really feels about Rachel. The last thing he needs is to get tangled up with a rich girl who wants to slum it on the south side for kicks-no matter how angelic she might look.

But when their shared love of street racing puts both their lives in jeopardy, they have six weeks to come up with a way out. Six weeks to discover just how far they’ll go to save each other.

River’s Review:

Thank you to Harlequin Teen and Netgalley for providing me with an advance reader copy of this book!

So…. this is my first McGarry book and I guess I’m going to read them backwards. I passed on buying the first book when it was on sale, but then grabbed the second book when that was on sale and now… idek. Whatever. I’ll just go backwards! So, since this was my first book I didn’t know anything about the other characters. I read the synopsis from the other books so I was a little familiar with them and the relationships, and now I’m super curious to read their stories when I read the other books.

The reason I jumped right into this book was simple: CARS. I love anything to do with cars, fast cars, and street racing. And Rachel drives my dream car… well, a version of it (I want a classic Mustang GT, but I’d def. get a newer one for every-day driving if I could/ when I move back to the USA). So I was hooked from the synopsis alone.

Usually I’m not a fan of alternating first person POV, but I forgave this book because it was just SO GOOD. I loved how intense everything was and that it didn’t fall prey to some of the normal YA cliches that I thought it was going to fall into. After the first 100 pages I was SO worried that it was going to be super insta-love, but it wasn’t! Even thought it totally was set up to be. I loved how Rachel and Isaiah crashed into each others lives and had a super intense beginning that lead to a relatively normal relationship and then things escalated in intensity again.

I know that the other two books deal with themes of physical abuse, so I was expecting that in this but it turns out the abuse was a bit more emotional. Rachel was born to basically replace her dead sister and NOBODY lets her forget it. She’s surrounded by a bunch of bro-ed out brothers who spend all their time trying to protect her, and Rachel spends all her time trying to hid her real self from her family (she loves cars and driving and she’s SUPPOSED to love super girly things like her dead sister did). I thought this was well done and very complex. I also liked how things were resolved.

The relationship between Isaiah and Rachel was so well done too. It was totally believable and sweet and passionate. They did have their issues, which made sense when you see what type of people they are, and I liked the way that they were handled. Yes, there were a lot of communication issues, but what relationship doesn’t have those? And with their different backgrounds… it made sense.

The side-characters were pretty interesting, but I have a feeling that’s because most of them were from the other books. My favorite was Abby, and I was SO hoping the next book would be about her (I am DYING to find out her story!) but unfortunately it’s not. I do hope that she’s in it though, because I really want to know what’s going on with her!

The only reason I didn’t give this a 5 rating is because I had some issues with the writing at times. Overall it was really good, but the repetition of nicknames (awful nicknames) was really annoying. Every time Isaiah called Rachel ‘Angel’ I wanted to punch him. And ‘fuzzy bunny’ was another one. I also felt like sometimes chapters just ended abruptly, or that some of the more fast-paced areas were too fast and lacked details that I would have liked to have seen (especially when it came to the driving scenes).

And why FOR THE LOVE OF SEXY CARS did NONE of the cars have NAMES?! This drove me INSANE! If you have a car and you love it YOU NAME THAT SHIT. I know that Rachel referred to her car as ‘my baby’ (which was just as annoying as Isaiah calling her angel), but come on! I grew up with boys who loved cars and were always going on about Hemis and V8 engines and they named those cars! I named my car! My best friend named her car! If you love your car, it gets a name. If it’s just your transportation and you don’t actually care about it, then that’s understandable, but man.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to reading the other books!

Sam’s Review:

Coming Soon.

ARC Review – Pawn, by Aimee Carter

10838787Title:  Pawn
Author:  Aimee Carter
Rating: ★★★★ / ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: For Kitty Doe, it seems like an easy choice. She can either spend her life as a III in misery, looked down upon by the higher ranks and forced to leave the people she loves, or she can become a VII and join the most powerful family in the country.

If she says yes, Kitty will be Masked—surgically transformed into Lila Hart, the Prime Minister’s niece, who died under mysterious circumstances. As a member of the Hart family, she will be famous. She will be adored. And for the first time, she will matter.

There’s only one catch. She must also stop the rebellion that Lila secretly fostered, the same one that got her killed …and one Kitty believes in. Faced with threats, conspiracies and a life that’s not her own, she must decide which path to choose—and learn how to become more than a pawn in a twisted game she’s only beginning to understand.

River’s Review:

I wasn’t sure what to expect from PAWN. I’ve never read a Carter book before, and after the first 10% of this or so I felt that it was your typical dystopian YA and that I’d probably already read it 100 times. But thankfully, after I got past the simple set up and awful names (Benjy and Kitty? srsly?!) I was pleasantly surprised!

This book is super fast paced and there’s a lot of stuff going on. A few times I was confused (especially about how un-secret this secret-not-secret rebellion was!), but basically Kitty gets offered a way to improve her life and rise her rank in society by being ‘Masked’ and standing in for the Prime Ministers niece. Who kinda-sorta is a part of the rebellion. Kitty-now-Lila doesn’t actually want to DO any of this but she agreed to it without reading the fine print and now she’s stuck being a pawn in this game of politics and rebellion.

Kitty has spunk and I liked her a lot. She’s also incredibly loyal and even though there IS potential for a love-triangle THERE ISN’T ONE. And I loved that! So fresh! Yes, the MC can stay loyal to her beau while hanging out with some other super awesome guy (and Knox IS awesome!) without being torn over which one to choose! Gah, I loved it.

And there were multiple surprised that I didn’t see coming! I loved that too! And Kitty is quite moral, which is super important in this crazy world where people are actually hunted like wild game (that part was horrifying!).

To be honest I’ve been a bit bored with dystopian YA lately and I’ve been craving a good one and this did it for me. SO looking forward to the next one!!!

Sam’s Review:

Huge thank you to Netgalley and Harlequin Teen for an advance reader copy of this book!

I have to admit: Aimee Carter’s books have become a guilty please of mine. I don’t know if it’s because the boast the same type of humor as my own or because she writes fun characters — I’m not sure what it is about her books that I like so much and I realize tying to pin point those realizes seems fruitless.

Much like The Goddess Test, Pawn is a fast and surprisingly engaging read. Carter creates a wicked fast pace that is easy to follow and comprehend — she has moments of mcguffin usage to get out of certain, sometimes confusing situations, but overall I found that Pawn was an easy read.

This book is very typical YA dystopia and it does lack a sense of uniqueness compared to other books in the genre. Strange to say, I’m actually okay with this because Carter has crafted a very simplistic dystopia, one that any reader can understand and fully grasp. We need more of those in YA, especially considering that a lot of the ones you find nowadays come across a bit too convoluted for their own good.

I love the idea of a secret-rebellion-that-fails-to-be-secret. I loved it, which I know sounds silly, but it worked considering Carter gave her characters the ability to be Masked, to be someone else in order to move up the ranks of the society. Kitty, especially, is a wonderfully well-rounded character, and I quite loved her because she has so much tenacity, yet she’s able to be real in a lot of situations and be outspoken when she has to be. She also has a great supporting cast in Benjy, Knox, and Celia, all who help move the narrative along in such a way that it’s always enjoyable. Carter writes good banter, and she makes the characters have these lively conversations that are both interesting and entertaining. I also like that Kitty stays true to Benjy, even if I think Benjy is a bit of a bore. It’s nice to have a heroine not get sucked into a love-triangle!

While I absolutely enjoyed Pawn, I wish we had more explanation and less simplicity to how the dystopia works. I feel like what this novel lacks is an identity all its own in a genre that is currently over saturated. It doesn’t do enough to stand out in a crowd and be its own entity, something I wish it would have striven for. However, there’s a great story here with a fun cast of characters, just don’t expect too much from the book because its one that seems to need more time for more growth and development.

ARC Review – After Eden, by Helen Douglas

18517826 Title:  After Eden
Author:  Helen Douglas
Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: Eden Anfield loves puzzles, so when mysterious new boy Ryan Westland shows up at her school she’s hooked. On the face of it, he’s a typical American teenager. So why doesn’t he recognise pizza? And how come he hasn’t heard of Hitler? What puzzles Eden the most, however, is the interest he’s taking in her.

As Eden starts to fall in love with Ryan, she begins to unravel his secret. Her breakthrough comes one rainy afternoon when she stumbles across a book in Ryan’s bedroom – a biography of her best friend – written over fifty years in the future. Confronting Ryan, she discovers that he is there with one unbelievably important purpose … and she might just have destroyed his only chance of success.

River’s Review:

I received a review copy from the publisher via Netgalley and I’m writing this review to say thank you.

After Eden wasn’t amazing, but it wasn’t awful either. I enjoyed it, and was even wow-ed by some parts, but over all it fell a little flat for me. Some reviews say that it’s insta-love, and while I didn’t really feel that the romance was bad enough to label so… it did fall prey to the usual new guy in town meets girl who doesn’t stand out and falls for her and only her. He breaks a bunch of rules to be with her, and she does really weird things to be with him. idk. Ryan and Eden were okay, but I wasn’t rooting for them or anything.

I actually didn’t really care about any of the characters. A typical group of friends welcomes the strange new boy, they all hang out, go to a school dance together. Very… typical.

And Eden… wow she was dumb sometimes. There was one point where she found out all the secrets and then swore to never tell all the secrets and they were like ‘but you might tell one without thinking about it’ and then she goes home and indirectly tells all the secrets. WHAT. Which of course leads to big trouble later.

The time-travel part of this actually worked for me. I usually hate time-travel and find that a lot of it just doesn’t work well at all and there are too many paradoxes and idek, I’m just no a time-travel fan. But this one worked, and I LOVED the reason why Ryan had to travel back in time. I wish the story would have been a bit more like that, then I might have had stronger feelings for the overall novel.

Anyway… I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it. I enjoyed it and if you’re looking for a light sci-fi/time-travel novel, then this should work well enough for you.

ARC Review – Never Fade, by Alexandra Bracken

17925081Title:  Never Fade
Author:  Alexandra Bracken
Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: Ruby never asked for the abilities that almost cost her her life. Now she must call upon them on a daily basis, leading dangerous missions to bring down a corrupt government and breaking into the minds of her enemies. Other kids in the Children’s League call Ruby “Leader”, but she knows what she really is: a monster.

When Ruby is entrusted with an explosive secret, she must embark on her most dangerous mission yet: leaving the Children’s League behind. Crucial information about the disease that killed most of America’s children—and turned Ruby and the others who lived into feared and hated outcasts—has survived every attempt to destroy it. But the truth is only saved in one place: a flashdrive in the hands of Liam Stewart, the boy Ruby once believed was her future—and who now wouldn’t recognize her.

As Ruby sets out across a desperate, lawless country to find Liam—and answers about the catastrophe that has ripped both her life and America apart—she is torn between old friends and the promise she made to serve the League. Ruby will do anything to protect the people she loves. But what if winning the war means losing herself?

Sam’s Review:

Huge thank you to Netgalley and Disney-Hyperion for giving me the opportunity to review this book. The expressed are purely my own.


Never Fade, the sequel to last year’s YA dystopia hit The Darkest Minds is a book that has a lot of flaws, but suffers from the dreaded middle book syndrome. I feel like I should have loved this book more than the first one, but I found myself struggling to care about the events of the narrative because it didn’t give me the push and pull I needed to feel a part of this world. I think I will be in the minority on this one, but while I think this is the more technically sound of the two books in The Darkest Minds trilogy, I  had a heck of a time trying to get through it. Part of my issue with this series is its roller coaster-style pacing — much like the first book Never Fade suffers from a huge case of up, down, lull, stall, up, down, and probably does it worse than its predecessor. Bracken does a great job picking up where we left off in the previous book and having Ruby rollin’ in the deep by surrounding her with a great cast of secondary characters. When the action is on the book is a non-stop ride, but the moment it stops, the pacing lulls into a screeching halt.

For me pacing is important and a novel needs to be consistent in its pacing for me to have a sense of enjoyment. If the book is slow, make it slow, if it’s fast, keep it fast. This issue really kills Never Fade for me because the consistency is so all over the place that sometimes its hard to keep up with the fun bits because they are overshadowed by the infodumping and frustration that is Ruby’s indecisiveness. I feel like Ruby is a much stronger character in this book, but she suffers from being a bit too hard-headed at times. I suppose this may be on purpose in terms of her character development, but I guess I wanted to like her more as a character than I did. I’m glad the book wasn’t all about the romance between her and Liam because truthfully, I didn’t buy into it in the first book. What I appreciated here was that yes, there is some pining, but its not excessive — Ruby is still her own person and she isn’t entirely defined by her feelings for Liam. If anything, I think Ruby feels more guilt having wiped his memories clean. I found myself more okay with the romance in this book, but it still felt a bit too forced for my tastes.

I think I was more happy to see Chubbs make his grand reappearance and I think he is such a well-rounded character, but seeing him in the novel made me miss Zu so much. I thought the new characters Jude and Vida were pretty solid for the most part, Jude in particular winning me over with calling Ruby “Roo” all the time. I think the political aspects of the book are intriguing, but parts of it felt too heavy-handed or vague, and again the consistency felt too all over the place for me. I loved the idea that the Children’s League attempts to use Ruby as a weapon because she’s the best of the best, but their motives feel so cartoony that I struggle to really comprehend why I should care about this dark world. I will admit though, the reappearance of a certain character from the previous book really made me smile (that sick little monkey), and his particular motives weirdly worked for me.

Overall I would say Never Fade is a solid sequel, but one I struggled with for reason mentioned above. I definitely want to see how Ruby’s adventure is going to end in the last book because as much as I very critical of The Darkest Mind series, they are such fun reads and when the books are on, they are a fun ride. I feel like Bracken’s writing has improved and is much stronger, so I do look forward to seeing where the adventure is going to take me, how Ruby and friends will survive their dark dank world, and what will happen next. There is a solid dystopia here and the super power elements are very fun and engaging, I just wish the pacing and consistency was better. Do not read this book if you haven’t read The Darkest Minds yet as Never Fade builds directly off of it. That being said, there is fun here and if you can get over the issue I mentioned or they don’t bother you at all it’s a solid read.

ARC Review – Sorry You’re Lost, by Matt Blackstone

17934373Title:  Sorry You’re Lost
Author:  Matt Blackstone
Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis:  When Denny “Donuts” Murphy’s mother dies, he becomes the world’s biggest class clown. But deep down, Donuts just wants a normal life—one where his mom is still alive and where his dad doesn’t sit in front of the TV all day. And so Donuts tries to get back into the groove by helping his best friend with their plan to get dates for the end-of-the-year school dance. When their scheme backfires, he learns that laughter is not the best medicine for all of his problems. Sometimes it’s just as important to be true to yourself.

Sam’s Review:

Huge thank you to Netgalley and Macmillian for giving me the opportunity to review this book. The opinions expressed are purely my own.

Denny’s story beings at his mother’s funeral. He is forced to accept a new change in his life — one that exists without the biggest influence in his life. I knew exactly where Denny was coming from having lost my father back in February of this year. It’s crazy to think how someone you had in your life every day can be gone in the blink of an eye.

I love that Blackstone doesn’t shy away from issues such as cancer in this novel. He doesn’t sugarcoat what cancer does, he makes the argument that regardless of age, cancer is something anyone can understand. What I love is that Denny wasn’t shy about asking questions related to his mother’s illness either. Denny has such a pure heart, he means well, but when loss happens, you soon realize how different you feel as a person.

The interaction between Denny and all the characters is really strong. Manny attempts to make Denny feel like the world hasn’t changed one bit, his teachers attempt to provide a sense of normalcy even if Denny doesn’t entirely think they understand what he is going through, and his father goes through a rough transformation as well: coping in a world without his beloved wife.

Having written pieces on loss myself, I feel like Blackstone hits the after-death-transformation dead on (pardon the pun). Sometimes we behave in ways that make us feel like we aren’t entirely ourselves, we act out because we want what we know isn’t possible, and sometimes we struggle to be ourselves because we feel like a small piece has been taken away. Yet, despite the darkness Denny feels, he gets into some crazy adventures (candy mafia!), goofs off, and still manages to keep a mostly lighthearted tone throughout. He’s a wonderful character who is supported by an equally strong ensemble cast and he makes the topic feel less painful in many ways because of it. The ending really broke my heart and then somehow I felt like it had been stitched back together.

I really commend Matt Blackstone’s efforts in making a realistic middle grade book about loss and how we cope. It’s not an easy feet to get younger readers to read about life and death in such a way where the effort can be truly personal and reflective. I feel like reader’s will have to be in the right frame of mind to enjoy this book, but ultimately there is such a beautiful story here that I can’t help but recommend. Denny is so easy to root for.