Monthly Archives: April 2014

ARC Review – The Dark World by Cara Lynn Shultz

20804408Title:  The Dark World

Author: Cara Lynn Shultz

Rating: ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Paige Kelly is used to weird–in fact, she probably corners the market on weird, considering that her best friend, Dottie, has been dead since the 1950s. But when a fire demon attacks Paige in detention, she has to admit that things have gotten out of her league. Luckily, the cute new boy in school, Logan Bradley, is a practiced demon slayer-and he isn’t fazed by Paige’s propensity to chat with the dead. Suddenly, Paige is smack in the middle of a centuries-old battle between warlocks and demons, learning to fight with a magic sword so that she can defend herself. And if she makes one wrong move, she’ll be pulled into the Dark World, an alternate version of our world that’s overrun by demons-and she might never make it home.

Huge thank you to Harlequin Teen and Netgalley for this ARC!

River’s Review:

So I liked this book a lot more than I expected to! The blurb sounds a bit meh, but I was intrigued by the ghost aspect (and the cover is gorgeous!) so I thought I’d give it a shot. I LOVED Paige. I love sassy-smart girls and she fit the bill! Paige can see ghosts so when she stars talking to squirrels (who are standing near ghosts in the park) her parents freak and she gets help (drugs, therapy, etc) and labeled the school weird-o. But this doesn’t really deter Paige, she just deals with it, puts herself above the petty girls and boys that mock her, and sticks to her guns. Sure she doesn’t let her parents know that she’s talking to ghosts, but she doesn’t let it stop her from chatting with her ghosty BFF in the girls bathroom. 

This all comes to a head when some new kids show up… and they turn out to be demons. This was a really cool part of the story that I didn’t expect and was happy to have. I thought that Paige was going to get caught up in a love triangle with the funny-cute new boy (Logan) and the dark sexy new boy (Aiden) but nope! That didn’t happen. I loved that there was no love triangle at all. Even Ajax had potential for it, but nope. Didn’t happen. And the romance between Logan and Paige was really well done. Slow, sweet, and it felt real. 

Anyway, Paige turns out to be an important key to the war between the Dark World and Our World and the demons want her. Logan, who’s a demon hunter, vows to protect Paige and even teachers her how to fight and protect herself. She gets her own magic sword! I really liked this too. Often the girl doesn’t really learn how to fight, or if she does she’s not very good at it. So I really liked that Paige not only learned how to fight but she got her own weapon. 

I liked the demons in this story. I love it when an author makes the demons creative. The demons in this world are all attached to elements or strong emotions and they look like people (or can make themselves look like people) and they bleed different colors, have different abilities depend on their element, and when they die… they “go” in different ways… 

The only problem I really had with this was that it felt too long. I found myself falling into lulls at times and I’d start to skim a bit before I found something that caught my attention and then I was sucked back in. I also didn’t really FEEL anything when the big revels happened. Like, I knew I was supposed to be feeling something but I didn’t. So that fell a bit short. 

Overall this was good though, and Paige was a great MC. If you like paranormal or demon books then this will be right up your alley!

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ARC Review – After the End, by Amy Plum

endTitle: After the End

Author: Amy Plum

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: World War III has left the world ravaged by nuclear radiation. A lucky few escaped to the Alaskan wilderness. They’ve survived for the last thirty years by living off the land, being one with nature, and hiding from whoever else might still be out there.

At least, this is what Juneau has been told her entire life.

When Juneau returns from a hunting trip to discover that everyone in her clan has vanished, she sets off to find them. Leaving the boundaries of their land for the very first time, she learns something horrifying: There never was a war. Cities were never destroyed. The world is intact. Everything was a lie.

Huge thank you to HarperTeen and Edelweiss for this ARC!

River’s Review:

WHAT HOW IS THAT THE END HOW AM I GOING TO MAKE IT UNTIL THE NEXT ONE OMG.

Wow. So this book was good. Really good. I was skeptical at the start. Around 20% I had no idea what was happening and to be perfectly honest, Juneau seemed like she was doing WAY TOO WELL for herself. 

This book is told from two POVs, which actually worked really well for me. I LOVED both Juneau and Miles’ voices. God I loved Miles. The book starts with Juneau’s, and we’re in the middle of the forest, hunting and living off the land in a post-apocalyptic era, three decades after WWIII. Juneau and her clan are able to connect to the ‘yara’ (basically the spirit of the earth) and use it to do what appears to be magic. Then we flip to Miles’ POV and he’s working in the mail room for his dad’s pharmaceutical company… in the present day.

Juneau’s POV shows her going on a hunting trip and then hearing a helicopter and returning to her clan and finding everyone gone. Miles’ shows his father hunting for a girl who matches Juneau’s description. And Miles, who’s in his father’s bad graces, decides to go find Juneau to bring her back to his dad and get back on his good side. This starts the adventure that the two take for the rest of the book as Miles tries to help Juneau find her people and she tries to figure out wtf is going on… because there clearly WAS no WWIII and she’s been lied to her entire life… 

This was nothing like I expected. At first I was annoyed because I had no idea what was happening but then as the answers began to roll in and the story began to build my opinion changed and what started as a 3 star book moved up to a full blown five stars and holy crap when I turned to the last page I couldn’t believe that it was over. I read 70% of this book in one sitting because I was that engaged in it. I only stopped because I had to go to sleep and when I woke up I went right back to reading it. 

I loved Juneau and Miles’ relationship. The only quip I have is that Juneau seemed to have way too much knowledge. I know that she grew up reading an old Encyclopedia Britannica (which she refers to A LOT in the story as a way for understanding modern things), but I still felt that she should have had a bit more trouble figuring things out. She also spoke a little too modern sometimes. But when it was from Miles’ POV she seemed way more like a girl who’s been displaced from society. And when he spoke you could see the difference (especially when he’d make cultural references) so that was a little odd for me… 

I cannot wait to see where this goes. Highly recommend this to everyone, just push through the beginning because omfg does it ever get amazing!

ARC Review – Second Star by Alyssa B. Sheinmel

18465577Title: Second Star

Author: Alyssa B. Sheinmel

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: A twisty story about love, loss, and lies, this contemporary oceanside adventure is tinged with a touch of dark magic as it follows seventeen-year-old Wendy Darling on a search for her missing surfer brothers. Wendy’s journey leads her to a mysterious hidden cove inhabited by a tribe of young renegade surfers, most of them runaways like her brothers. Wendy is instantly drawn to the cove’s charismatic leader, Pete, but her search also points her toward Pete’s nemesis, the drug-dealing Jas. Enigmatic, dangerous, and handsome, Jas pulls Wendy in even as she’s falling hard for Pete. A radical reinvention of a classic, Second Star is an irresistible summer romance about two young men who have yet to grow up–and the troubled beauty trapped between them.

Huge thank you to Netgalley and Macmillan for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Considering all the middling reviews for this book, I found myself pleasantly surprised by Second Star. It’s easily one of the weirder retellings I’ve seen. It’s a drugged-up, trauma story, wherein Wendy Darling thinks she can save her brothers, John and Michael, but in actuality, struggles to cope with their loss.

This book is heartbreaking, and the way in which Sheinmel portrays Wendy is one of erratic, panic-induced, torture. It’s also about her coping and attempt at rest from her demons as well. What I loved about this book is how Wendy goes about working through her demons — she’s definitely not as innocent as one would assume, and she spends a lot of the story reflecting her life and the disappearance of her brothers. Wendy is easy to sympathize with, especially for someone who has gone through so much and struggles to believe in what reality has dealt. It’s hard to blame her for things when her head isn’t clear.

This book is loosely based on Peter Pan, but really, it feels like it was more by names alone. There is definitely some moments that feel very Peter Pan-esque, but to say it’s a straight up retelling would be a lie. I’m actually okay with how minimal it borrows from the original story, and I like that pixie dust is drugs. It’s weirdly gripping to watch Wendy spiral and be influenced the way she is. I did have a hard time putting this book down just because I wanted to see where it would all go.

The ending of this book is really frustrating, but overall I’d say it worked. It makes you sad that Wendy eventually gives into the wishes of those around her, but it’s also completely understandable considering her level of self-harm. Second Staris not an easy book to read by any means, but it’s amazing how easy it can take hold of the reader and just guide them through this twisted, messed up experience.

Most of all, though, this book made me miss California. I loved the author’s description of the waves, the bonfires, it just felt so atmospheric and you could really picture yourself there as you read along. It made me miss the ocean, the sand, the blue skies… I want to go back so badly.

Overall, Second Star is a fantastic book. It’s not perfect, but I can say with confidence that I really enjoyed the ride. I think if you can look past some of its issues and just let the book take hold, it’ll be an easy one to whip right through.

ARC Review – Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman

18667454Title:  Prisoner of Night and Fog

Author: Anne Blankman

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: In 1930s Munich, danger lurks behind dark corners, and secrets are buried deep within the city. But Gretchen Müller, who grew up in the National Socialist Party under the wing of her “uncle” Dolf, has been shielded from that side of society ever since her father traded his life for Dolf’s, and Gretchen is his favorite, his pet. Uncle Dolf is none other than Adolf Hitler. And Gretchen follows his every command.

Until she meets a fearless and handsome young Jewish reporter named Daniel Cohen. Gretchen should despise Daniel, yet she can’t stop herself from listening to his story: that her father, the adored Nazi martyr, was actually murdered by an unknown comrade. She also can’t help the fierce attraction brewing between them, despite everything she’s been taught to believe about Jews.

As Gretchen investigates the very people she’s always considered friends, she must decide where her loyalties lie. Will she choose the safety of her former life as a Nazi darling, or will she dare to dig up the truth—even if it could get her and Daniel killed?

Huge thank you to Balzer + Bray and Edelweiss for this ARC!

River’s Review:

This was so good! I almost didn’t pick it up because I’m not the biggest fan of historical fiction, but I loved the cover (yes, I am drawn to pretty covers) and when I read the synopsis I was SO curious to find out how it would all work out so I dove in. And I’m so glad I did. This story is GRIPPING. I couldn’t put it down and was flying through it so fast that I had to force myself to take a break because I was skipping things.

Gretchen’s father, an old war buddy of Hitler’s, saved Hitler’s life and in turn Hitler favors Gretchen and her family thanks to her father’s heroic sacrifice. Gretchen enjoys a semi-well-to-do life where she helps her mother (who’s the manager of a boarding house), attends school to become a doctor, and tries to keep her psychopath brother from hurting her.

Then Gretchen meets a young, dashing (he is SO dashing) Jewish reporter who turns her world upside down by throwing around accusations that Gretchen’s father’s “sacrifice” was anything but…

First of all, the writing in this is BEAUTIFUL. It’s rich and detailed, but not too heavy-handed. Part of what I dislike about historical fiction is that I often feel like I’m reading a textbook. This did not feel like that, so I was able to get very caught up in the story without having to work too hard at it. The pacing is perfect, and the the characters and their development is so well done. Gretchen goes from Hitler’s “pet”, a scared girl who more-or-less blindly believes what she is told to a young woman who fights for herself, for what is right, for what she loves and for the truth. And I loved that she doesn’t do all of that for a boy, she does it for herself.

Yes, there is romance in this, but it is not the central story. Gretchen meets Daniel but she does not insta-love him from the very moment she meets him. The build of their relationship is gradual and sweet. There’s actually a lot of the story that takes place with them apart. They rely on each other from afar, and it goes both ways. Daniel is constantly impressed with Gretchen’s resolve and her courage. He also cares for her where other’s throw her to the curb, and helps her when she has no one else to turn to.

I loved the mix of real events vs fictional (they’re explained in an afterward by the author), and the mix of action, romance and mystery. I could totally see this being turned into a beautiful period film. And I’d BETTER to get a sequel or something!

If you’re up for a historical fiction based in fact with a sweet romance, a thrilling action-packed mystery and some beautiful writing then you wont want to miss out on this!

ARC Review – Catch a Falling Star by Kim Culbertson

18527496Title:  Catch a Falling Star

Author: Kim Culbertson

Rating: ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Nothing ever happens in Little, CA. Which is just the way Carter Moon likes it. But when Hollywood arrives to film a movie starring former child star turned PR mess Adam Jakes, everything changes. Carter’s town becomes a giant glittery set and, much to her annoyance, everyone is starry-eyed for Adam. Carter seems to be the only girl not falling all over herself to get a glimpse of him. Which apparently makes her perfect for the secret offer of a lifetime: playing the role of Adam’s girlfriend while he’s in town, to improve his public image, in exchange for a hefty paycheck. Her family really needs the money and so Carters agrees. But it turns out Adam isn’t at all who she thought he was. As they grow closer, their relationship walks a blurry line between what’s real and what’s fake, and Carter must open her eyes to the scariest of unexplored worlds – her future. Can Carter figure out what she wants out of life AND get the guy? Or are there no Hollywood endings in real life?

Huge thank you to Scholastic and Netgalley for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Catch a Falling Star is pretty adorable, if a touched too cliched for my tastes. Ultimately, a lot of the cliches are what really held me back from loving this book.

There’s a lot of genuine emotion in this novel. Carter is vivid, she’s able to express her feelings with ease, and she’s easy to identify with. However, she’s also written to be too perfect and she’s not always the best at taking blame. The romance in this book is also a case of a good girl turning a bad boy into a sweet one, and unfortunately I don’t like the types of romances where everything is perfect. Yes, Adam and Carter fight, but they also make up and it weirdly never felt like a big deal. May be I’m just not huge into that archetype, but I never found myself rooting for the two of them.

It also doesn’t help that Adam is the stereotypical rich bad boy who needs fixing. I don’t find those types attractive, and a lot of the time he was just too much of a snot for my taste. I can see his appeal for some readers, his charms just made me roll my eyes a lot. I found him frustrating, self-entitled, and I can barely handle those people in my normal life so no matter how hard I tried to find a way to like Adam, I just couldn’t a lot of the time.

However, I LOVED the style of writing in this book. There’s blog posts inserted into the text, and Culbertson really just eases the reader through the story. It’s nice that Carter’s voice is someone a lot of us can relate to, and for all her perfection, I did enjoy reading about her unexpected movie star life because she’s just so darn charming. I think this is also helped by the secondary cast of characters, especially Alien Drake and Chloe, who were always supportive. You got to love the tenacity of a heroine who is willing to give up so much for the people she loves. I did admire that quality about Carter and the novel.

I also loved the moral in this story, it’s unexpected but completely endearing. It had moments of corniness too, but I feel like that was somewhat to be expected. The premise is far from originally, but I can’t ever say I found myself bored while reading Catch a Falling Star. The writing really just has this knack of pulling you in and giving you a fun tale of young love. It’s just cute and fluffy, and I liked that the book was able to balance its humor and angst, something I feel many books struggle to do. I think there’s lots to enjoy about Catch a Falling Star — it didn’t wow me, but it certainly kept my attention from start to finish.

ARC Review – Sleep No More by Aprilynne Pike

18600124Title:  Sleep No More

Author: Aprilynne Pike

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

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

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

Huge thank you to HarperTeen and Edelweiss for this ARC!

River’s Review:

I’m not really sure how much I can say about this book without spoiling it (and I like to keep my reviews spoiler free). So I’ll just say that I read about 80% of this in ONE DAY and I couldn’t put it down! I was instantly drawn into the story, and I HAD to find out what was happening.

For me, I usually try to avoid stories that have any type of element of time travel or time manipulation. I often get too caught up in the ‘how’ of it and get too lost in what’s happening or start to think about the paradoxes and then lose interest or get frustrated. This book didn’t deal with time travel though and I was never lost in the manipulations of the future. It was all very clear-cut. Charlotte got visions of the future and then she could change them if she tried. Simple. There were a few other elements of her abilities that I wasn’t too sure about and I don’t think one of them was ever explained… so that bugged me a bit. But the rest of her abilities were well explained (even when she didn’t fully understand, it was still clear to the reader how things worked) and I really liked that.

I LOVED Charlotte and her family. I especially loved the dynamics between her, her mother and her aunt. I could so easily picture these three women living together, touched and bonded by a family tragedy (Charlotte’s father’s death). Charlotte’s mother doesn’t know that Charlotte and her aunt are oracles, and the relationship and secrets between Charlotte and her aunt added an even deeper element to the family dynamic.

This book ripped me up. I REALLY can’t say more without spoiling it, but man, I felt so betrayed when I found out what was really going on and my poor heart was stomped all over!!! And I loved it and hated it at the same time, hahaha!

This book is very emotionally charged, and if you read the author’s note at the end, you’ll see why. The writing is powerful, and it’s very, very dark. I loved this element of the book and there were times when I just felt like I had to pause and catch my breath because it was so overwhelming at times.

New or old fans of Pike will enjoy this. I actually haven’t read anything else of hers, so I’m not sure how it compares, but I’m very curious to read her other stuff now. SO glad I gave this a try!

Late to the Party ARC Review – The Cracks in the Kingdom (The Colors of Madeleine #2) by Jaclyn Moriarty

19160352Title: The Cracks in the Kingdom

Author: Jaclyn Moriarty

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Princess Ko’s been bluffing about the mysterious absence of her father, desperately trying to keep the government running on her own. But if she can’t get him back in a matter of weeks, the consequence may be a devastating war. So under the guise of a publicity stunt she gathers a group of teens — each with a special ability — from across the kingdom to crack the unsolvable case of the missing royals of Cello.

Chief among these is farm-boy heartthrob Elliot Baranski, more determined than ever to find his own father. And with the royal family trapped in the World with no memory of their former lives, Elliot’s value to the Alliance is clear: He’s the only one with a connection to the World, through his forbidden communications with Madeleine.

Through notes, letters, and late nights, Elliot and Madeleine must find a way to travel across worlds and bring missing loved ones home. The stakes are high, and the writing by turns hilarious and suspenseful, as only Jaclyn Moriarty can be.

Huge thank you to Scholastic and Netgalley for this this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I really enjoyed A Corner of White. It was quirky, fun, and a little crazy. But then again, the The Colors of Madeleine series has always been about crazy ways of communication, and the second book Cracks in the Kingdom continues the adventures in cross-communication between Elliot and Madeleine.

Overall, this took me awhile to get into. The plot started off a bit slow, a touch unfamiliar and it wasn’t until about halfway through that I found the pacing had really hit its stride and took hold. The characters are still fantastic, the new ones just as fun and well-realized, and once again there was such a fantastic sense of humor that I found myself laughing throughout.

This book’s touch of seriousness though was really its best part. Some of the communication between Elliot and Madeleine gets so heated, and yet you understand both sides of the argument without much difficultly. Totally broke my heart so many times.

I do think this book is actually on par with the first one> I don’t know if I would say it’s better, but the charm and the insanity of the first book is still very much alive in this story. The ending was solid and fit really well that I hope that there isn’t a continuation. If you like fun, quirky world-building and characters, I highly recommend this series. The writing isn’t always the easiest to get into, but once your in — your in for the long run.