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Late to the Party ARC Review – A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

16096824Title:  A Court of Thorns and Roses

Author: Sarah J. Maas

Rating:  ★★★

Synopsis: When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

Huge thank you to Indigo Teen for sending me this ARC as part of a giveaway!

Sam’s Review:

This is probably going to be an unpopular opinion, but I thought this book was all right. Frankly, I had been putting it off since it released because the hype levels were just absolutely insane and I had a hunch that this book might have not been for me. Let’s just say, while I found this book engrossing, it was also kind of ridiculous as well.

Truthfully, I had a hard time with the romance in this book. It just read as melodrama, which I’m fine with actually. The amount of angst, tug and pull between Feyre and Tamlin was like popping candy. However, that rape-that-wasn’t-a-rape is something that did very much upset me, and I honestly wish fantasy authors would stop including that in a book to give their female protagonists agency. It’s just not acceptable and there are so many other ways to do that than resorting to rape.

Furthermore, I don’t like the men in this novel. With the except of Rhys, I found Lucian and Tamlin read in such a one-dimensional way. I couldn’t get over how many times the author used the word “growl” or “snarl” to describe Tamlin, especially when for a Beauty & the Beast retelling he is described as a super hot fae man. THAT’S NOT A BEAST. He’s just a grumpy fae man who SNARLS A LOT. I mean I guess hot guys can be ‘beasts’ but I just had such a hard time buying it in the story because Feyre was just so in love but tormented by him.

Oddly, I found I liked the female cast a bit more. I wanted to know more about Nesta and I liked what we learned about Feyre’s story and her life before becoming captive. In a lot of ways I wish there had been more backstory because those were the parts over the romance that I enjoyed. I actually thought the ending was pretty solid too. I appreciate that Feyre was comfortable with herself — she never seemed insecure, and she has quite a bit of sexual prowess which I think helped her personality in the story. I don’t think she’s a Katniss wannabe that some people peg her for, but I think she has just enough layers to counteract how much of a caricature her love interest is.

But here’s the thing about this book I WILL agree with: it’s candy, the kind of candy that you can just keep turning the pages and be completely glued to the story. You want to know why the story is ridiculous, you want to see if the characters are going to grow and mature (short answer: they don’t), and here’s the even bigger revelation: I can totally see the appeal of why people love this book, even if I disagree. It’s easy to get swept up in the melodrama and the sexual tension because there’s so much of it. Hell, I have to admit it happened on occasion to me when reading the story.

Admittedly, I am super sure I am going to read book two. Even though I found this book to be a ball of melodrama and candy page-turning, I enjoyed my time with it and I found it to be a great escape from reality. It wasn’t even mindless, it was just so easy to be invested in the drama that these characters face, even if at times it was rather silly. While I am not sold yet on Sarah J. Maas as a writer, I am interested to see how much melodrama gets ramped up in book two.

ARC Review – Inked by Eric Smith

22511892Title: Inked

Author: Eric Smith

Rating: ★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Tattoos once were an act of rebellion. Now they decide your destiny the moment the magical Ink settles under your skin. And in a world where Ink controls your fate, Caenum can’t escape soon enough. He is ready to run from his family, and his best friend Dreya, and the home he has known, just to have a chance at a choice.

But when he upsets the very Scribe scheduled to give him his Ink on his eighteenth birthday, he unwittingly sets in motion a series of events that sends the corrupt, magic-fearing government, The Citadel, after him and those he loves.

Now Caenum, Dreya, and their reluctant companion Kenzi must find their way to the Sanctuary, a secret town where those with the gift of magic are safe. Along the way, they learn the truth behind Ink, its dark origins, and why they are the only ones who can stop the Citadel.

Huge thank you to Bloomsbury and Netgalley for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I am insanely torn on Inked by Eric Smith. I really enjoyed his non-fiction work, The Geek’s Guide to Dating, but this book took me so long to get through. When you read the blurb it has such a dynamic blurb, and yet when you read the book, it just doesn’t live up to the expectations that it boasts.

To be honest, Inked‘s premise was so promising and yet, I never felt entirely captured by it. I didn’t connect or care about the characters or Caenum’s overall cause. I feel like his rebellion came across more like a hissy fit and I suppose that is a valid response, but I just didn’t care. I didn’t care that he didn’t want to do it. I never got the sense from the book that the tattoos were evil or bad, so I didn’t feel like I cared about what Caenum’s deal was. The pacing was also weird, as I found I’d zoom through some bits, and struggle to turn pages the next. It felt all over the place.

I admit, the writing is decent (though there’s a few awkward sentences that made my eyebrow go up), but these characters just didn’t make me connect. I felt like I was trying too hard to like these characters, and the characters weren’t trying at all. There’s some moral issues that also become prevalent in the story, but it just resolves itself when it could have been a good opportunity for character growth. I think that’s ultimately what bugged me with the cast of this novel — there’s no growth. There’s no movement or change within them that gives you a sense that they are learning or understanding the world around them. I mean the world building is iffy at best, but more growth from the cast really would have benefited in the long run for this narrative.

At the end of the day, I wanted more, and I didn’t get it. The story felt flimsy a lot of the time, like it didn’t have a solid leg to stand on. That being said, when the action was on, it was actually pretty great and I found myself speeding through the novel. I think the ideas are really great, but the execution left a lot to be desired in some cases. I think there were just more misses in this book than hits, which is such a shame because I REALLY wanted to love this one.

ARC Review – Searching for Sky by Jillian Cantor

18594477Title:  Searching for Sky

Author: Jillian Cantor

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Sky and River have always lived on Island, the only world they’ve ever known. Until the day River spots a boat. Across Ocean, in a place called California, Sky is separated from River and forced to live with a grandmother she’s just met. Here the rules for survival are different. People rely on strange things like cars and cell phones. They keep secrets from one another. And without River, nothing makes sense. Sky yearns for her old life where she was strong and capable, not lost and confused. She must find River so they can return to Island, but the truth behind how they ended up there in the first place will come as the biggest shock of all.

Huge thank you to Bloomsbury USA and Netgalley for this ARC!

River’s Review:

What can I say about this book. It’s beautiful and heartbreaking. Hopeful and crushing. Bittersweet. I read this book in a day and it was so easy to get caught up in the story. I was able to put it down to do things and then picked it up again and fall right back into what was happening.

Sky and River live on Island, alone, where they hunt and fish and swim and they are happy. Their mother and father are both dead, but they are surviving. Just barely. They’re hungry. Sky, the practical one who is good at everything, is trying hard to take care of them while River, the dreamer, is looking out across Ocean, wondering what’s out there.

Then a boat arrives and Sky and River are taken back to where they came from: modern day California. Sky and River do not live on a utopian island in a world where life is simple. Sky wakes up in a hospital, is shunned by River, and swept away into a fantastical world that scares the hell out of her.

This is a story about a girl who goes from essentially past to present. From a rustic lifestyle to a modern one. And she is so scared. She understood her home, her place, and her relationships on Island. She does not understand anything in her new life. And with River gone, her heart is shattered. In his place is a woman whom Sky doesn’t know or have any connection to other than blood (her grandmother) some strangers who are trying to tell her how to ‘be normal’ and a boy who is kind to her. But none of these people know how to connect with her, and at times I became SO frustrated because they were not even thinking about how to handle Sky.

I felt so bad for Sky through all of this. As I’ve said in past reviews, I know how it is to enter a new culture and not understand it. I could totally sympathize with her, and I wanted to shout at her teacher and therapist SO MUCH. And then her poor Grandmother, who just wanted to love her so badly and regain what she had lost when Sky’s mother disappeared… I felt so bad for her too because she really has no idea how to deal with Sky. And that dynamic was also so heartbreaking.

I can’t really say more without spoiling the book, but everything with how they ended up on the island, Sky’s mother’s past, and River wow… it was all so much. So sad, and after I finished reading this book I just felt a mix of hope and sorrow and it was just incredibly bittersweet.

ARC Review – The Chapel Wars by Lindsey Leavitt

18594377Title: The Chapel Wars

Author: Lindsey Leavitt

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Holly wants to remember her Grandpa forever, but she’d rather forget what he left her in his will: his wedding chapel on the Las Vegas strip. Whatever happened to gold watches, savings bonds, or some normal inheritance?

And then there’s Grandpa’s letter. Not only is she running the business with her recently divorced parents, but she needs to make some serious money–fast. Grandpa also insists Holly reach out to Dax, the grandson of her family’s mortal enemy and owner of the cheesy chapel next door. No matter how cute Dax is, Holly needs to stay focused: on her group of guy friends, her disjointed family, work, school and… Dax. No wait, not Dax.

Holly’s chapel represents everything she’s ever loved in her past. Dax might be everything she could ever love in the future. But as for right now, there’s a wedding chapel to save.

Huge thank you to Walker Children’s and Netgalley for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I admit, I wasn’t expecting much from a book titled The Chapel Wars. It sounded goofy and awkward, and I found myself questioning how a seventeen year old girl ended up inheriting a chapel, but, I found myself won over by the very first page.

The only other book by Lindsey Leavitt I have read is Going Vintage, and while I enjoyed the book, there were certainly aspects of it that rubbed me the wrong way. I was a bit hesitant to read, but much like Mallory in Going Vintage, Holly’s voice hooks you from the very start and she eases you well into her little “horror story.”

Let’s face it, how many seventeen year olds end up inheriting a family business? It’s definitely something you have to suspend your disbelief for at first, but Leavitt develops Holly’s love for the run down chapel as something intense, and Holly is willing to go through hell and back to save it from her grandfather’s rival. The book also establishes that Holly has always wanted to go into business and it’s definiely a perk to how the story progresses.

What I adored about The Chapel War is just how humourous and honest everything felt. Holly is not without flaws, she’s a little bit of an ice queen, but she’s deeply family oriented, which I always appreciate in YA, even if her family is a mess. I love the hope that carries on her sleeve and the passion she has for success — she knows she can fail, but she does her best o keep herself a float and just work for a positive.

I also fond the supporting cast excellent as well, particularly Sam and Grant who made me chuckle as much as Holly did. A lot of the secondary characters have issues of their own, and yet Leavitt manages to resolve the majority of the problems in unexpected ways, and the ending of the novel is not what one would predict right away. Hope is such a huge part of this story, and I found myself connecting constantly with the characters in ways I didn’t expect to.

And then there is Dax. Yes Dax is a swoon worthy boy, but he’s a lovable and sincere soul.He’s not out for himself, or to push his grandfather’s rivalry with Holly’s forward — he just loves what he does and he isn’t afraid of people judging him for it. Well, everyone except Holly. It’s interesting how the two play off of each other, but you can see even when they fight that they have a deep respect for the others skills. I really enjoyed that they also got to know each other and the romance wasn’t just thrown into the story. It was very sweet overall.

The Chapel Wars made me grin, emote, and remind me that just because something may sound cheesy, it doesn’t mean it is cheesy. The ending of this book is absolutely perfect considering the event of the novel, and it definitely will leave readers satisfied. I’m really happy I gave this book a shot because it gave me so much unexpected joy upon its completion, that I was still thinking about it days later.

ARC Review – Open Road Summer by Emery Lord

16081202Title:  Open Road Summer

Author: Emery Lord

Rating: ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: After breaking up with her bad-news boyfriend, Reagan O’Neill is ready to leave her rebellious ways behind. . . and her best friend, country superstar Lilah Montgomery, is nursing a broken heart of her own. Fortunately, Lilah’s 24-city tour is about to kick off, offering a perfect opportunity for a girls-only summer of break-up ballads and healing hearts. But when Matt Finch joins the tour as its opening act, his boy-next-door charm proves difficult for Reagan to resist, despite her vow to live a drama-free existence. This summer, Reagan and Lilah will navigate the ups and downs of fame and friendship as they come to see that giving your heart to the right person is always a risk worth taking. A fresh new voice in contemporary romance, Emery Lord’s gorgeous writing hits all the right notes.

Huge thank you to Walker Children’s and Netgalley for this ARC!

River’s Review:

This book is cute, fluffy, full of feels and really really sweet. But Reagan was annoying and I didn’t like her and that really killed most of this book for me. I LOVED Dee. I really wish this book would have been WAY more about her. Any part with her was just the best. Matt was super nice too, but he didn’t swoon me as much as it seems he did everyone else.

But man. Reagan. She’s ~the bed girl~. And she WILL TELL YOU ALL ABOUT IT. And that is something that I hate. I dislike super self-aware people both IRL and in books. It just seems like you’re trying too hard to be something you aren’t. And this was my problem with Reagan. She’s labeled herself SO WELL and then goes around saying how she aims to be unpredictable and someone that can’t be categorized. But she’s ‘the bad girl with a criminal record that loves to drink, wears too few clothes, too high-heels, and too-dark make-up’. Sorry, but THIS IS A LABLE REAGAN. All of her self-aware ‘I am a bad girl with a lot of cleavage’ or ‘I need a cigarette’ or ‘my clothes are so tiny’ moments drove me crazy. I just wanted to say WE GET IT.

I also really didn’t like how she caused so much drama and was so self-centered. Dee puts up with a lot of Reagan’s stuff because Reagan is so broken and needs someone, but then Reagan gets super jealous and dramatic and Dee puts her in her place which made me so happy. I mean, I loved Dee and Reagan’s relationship (there were moments when I teared up with BFF feels), but man, Reagan needed a smack-down.

I also hated how Reagan was judging other girls who were JUST LIKE HERSELF. She was calling girls trampy and trashy and cheap and bitches but then turning around saying how it was unfair that she was labeled those things as well. Despite labeling herself AND those other girls.

So what did I like? I loved Dee and her music. The songs were SO GOOD. I could totally hear them in my head. I loved Matt and how he worked through his problems. I could relate to Corinne and her relationship with Matt. I could understand her motives and even though some of them were shitty, they were real. The whole tour around the USA was so fun to read about too.

Anyway, most everyone else loves this, so if you can get past Reagan then you might really love this too.

ARC Review – Going Rogue by Robin Benway

17934520Title:  Going Rogue

Author: Robin Benway

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Being permanently based in a local New York City high school as an undercover operative has its moments, good and bad, for 16-year-old safecracker Maggie Silver. Pros: More quality time with her former mark-turned-boyfriend Jesse Oliver and insanely cool best friend, Roux. Getting to spend quality time with her semi-retired and international spy honorary uncle, Angelo. Cons: High school and the accompanying cliques, bad lunches, and frustratingly simple locker combinations. But when Maggie’s parents are falsely accused of stealing priceless gold coins, Maggie uses her safecracking skills to try and clear their names. Too bad it only serves to put her and everyone she loves in danger. Maggie and her “new team” flee to Paris where they must come up with a plan to defeat their former allies.

Sam’s Review:

Huge thank you to Walker Children’s / Razorbill Canada for the advance reader’s copy of this book!

It’s official: I am a believer than Robin Benway’s books have the power to make you feel good about life. For all the insanity that Maggie Silver has in her life, I always appreciate the positive messages that Benway leaves for her readers to grab hold of and cherish.I admit to being hard on Also Known As. It hit a few of my YA pet peeves that really irked me causing it to be not be an instant favourite. Funny enough, the sequel Going Rogue has made me a fan. Perhaps its the fact that Maggie’s world feels a lot more settled and matured, or may be it was just the plot of Going Rogue worked better for me – its hard to really say why this book worked while the previous did not. While you have to have read Also Known As to enjoy Going Rogue, I felt like the plot and its characters were so much more solid here. The crisis Maggie and co. faced felt ten times more real than the previous book, and overall, Maggie’s parents were real parents in this book. That was my biggest beef with the original book, so I’m glad that in this book they came across a lot more realistic, if still just as quirky as ever.

Also Maggie and Jesse are still freakin’ adorable. They are such a wonderfully sane couple despite all the circumstances and insanity they face. When Jesse created the alphabet of Maggie, I nearly died of laughter. In fact, this book is really made of smiles and laughter. There were so many laugh-out-loud moments that it was hard to be frustrated with it. Maggie is still a terrible spy, but I love that she constantly tries. She felt much more mature and realistic in this book and her voice was still as infectious as ever.

And Roux and Angelo! I am so happy that they got the endings they did. No spoilers, but they were my favourite characters so of course I was rooting for them to find some sense of happy in their lives! I think everyone in this book has such a wonderfully positive attitude (yes, even Roux) and perhaps that’s what worked for me most of all.

Going Rogue is such a snappy, fast-paced read. It’s for those who want a little action, a little romance, and a whole lot of fun. It doesn’t expect a lot from its reader, it just expects that the reader has a charming ride from start to finish. Read Also Known As and then grab Going Rogue and I swear you’ll have a lot of fun with this series.

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.