Tag Archives: harlequin teen

ARC Review – Heir to the Sky by Amanda Sun

25502639Title:  Heir to the Sky

Author: Amanda Sun

Rating: ★★

Synopsis: As heir to a kingdom of floating continents, Kali has spent her life bound by limits—by her duties as a member of the royal family; by a forced betrothal to the son of a nobleman; and by the edge of the only world she’s ever known—a small island hovering above a monster-ridden earth, long since uninhabited by humans. She is the Eternal Flame of Hope for what’s left of mankind, the wick and the wax burning in service for her people, and for their revered Phoenix, whose magic keeps them aloft.

When Kali falls off the edge of her kingdom and miraculously survives, she is shocked to discover there are still humans on the earth. Determined to get home, Kali entrusts a rugged monster-hunter named Griffin to guide her across a world overrun by chimera, storm dragons, basilisks, and other terrifying beasts. But the more time she spends on earth, the more dark truths she begins to uncover about her home in the sky, and the more resolute she is to start burning for herself. 

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

Sam’s Review:

I am one of those people who adored Amanda Sun’s Paper Gods series. It was basically reading manga, with fun and over the top characters. I loved those characters. So of course I was super excited for Heir to the Sky and after reading it, I kinda wish I hadn’t hyped it in my mind. This read like a Final Fantasy plotline — begins interesting and then gets bogged down by a romance subplot and a save-the-world mentality.

I really found the majority of this book dull. The beginning had all the intrigue, the world building seemed great, but once I hit the middle I found myself slogging through, hoping I would get the spark of the beginning. It never quite happened. There’s a lot of great action, a neat use of mythology, but I couldn’t connect with these characters AT ALL. Kali was missing something for me that Katie had in Paper Gods, which is growth granted Katie had growth through three novels, but Kali never truly finds her way for me, and the romance is in a lot of ways her characteristics. She lets the other characters push her around despite being the “entitled one” which I thought was a little odd. The male characters feel really one-dimensional and if anything I didn’t get their appeal at all.

And that’s just it. The world building is SO FANTASTIC until Kali falls to earth, and then everything just feels like such a mess. The drive in this story just never felt compelling to me, and as I read on, I kept hoping for a spark — something that would redeem the rest of the novel for me. But it just never came. Which is a shame given how lovely Sun’s prose is. She has such fantastic ideas, but for me this novel just felt so flat and it never got the momentum that I was use to from her Paper Gods series. Seriously, it hurts me that I didn’t love this book. I think Amanda Sun is really talented, but this book lacked the spark for me.

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Summer Contemporary Fling – Nowhere But Here by Katie McGarry

23492282Title: Nowhere But Here

Author: Katie McGarry

Rating:  ★★★

Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Emily likes her life the way it is: doting parents, good friends, good school in a safe neighborhood. Sure, she’s curious about her biological father—the one who chose life in a motorcycle club, the Reign of Terror, over being a parent—but that doesn’t mean she wants to be a part of his world. But when a reluctant visit turns to an extended summer vacation among relatives she never knew she had, one thing becomes clear: nothing is what it seems. Not the club, not her secret-keeping father and not Oz, a guy with suck-me-in blue eyes who can help her understand them both.

Oz wants one thing: to join the Reign of Terror. They’re the good guys. They protect people. They’re…family. And while Emily—the gorgeous and sheltered daughter of the club’s most respected member—is in town, he’s gonna prove it to her. So when her father asks him to keep her safe from a rival club with a score to settle, Oz knows it’s his shot at his dream. What he doesn’t count on is that Emily just might turn that dream upside down.

No one wants them to be together. But sometimes the right person is the one you least expect, and the road you fear the most is the one that leads you home.

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

 

Sam’s Review:

I am generally a big fan of Katie McGarry’s romance novels — in fact she one of the few romance authors that I enjoy. Part of what I love about McGarry’s writing is that she captures teens very well, especially those coming from rougher situations, be it broken families, abuse, and violent life styles, and does it with a lot of honesty.

While that exists in the first instalment of her new Thunder Road series, I admit, I struggled a lot with Nowhere But Here. I found the book got off to a very rocky start and it had a hard time picking up its stride, even towards the middle. Normally I am quite the fan of McGarry’s female protagonists, and generally I find I often struggle with her male ones (though they usually in the end win me over). This was not the case with Emily or Oz, sadly.

I didn’t find either protagonist easy to connect with, and I found myself annoyed by their behaviours and mannerisms. While I found Emily got better later on in the story, I never ended up liking Oz. In fact, the majority of the novel I just despised him, and for the life of me I couldn’t see what Emily saw in him. Even when both characters redeemed themselves in the story it was still too late for me. I just didn’t enjoy the romance between them at all.

And yet, what kept me going was the story itself. When the novel was looking at Emily and Oz’s family issues, it was so fascinating and interesting. While a lot of it is nothing new, once again Katie McGarry does this fantastic job of making you feel empathy for those in a rough situation, and learning about Eli, Olivia, Razor, the gang, you get a sense of family, as well as a sense of fear. They don’t know how to function without each other, and as much as I didn’t like Emily or Oz, I found that when the novel focused on family aspects, it was the parts that would win me over.

Nowhere But Here is not a bad novel at all, and I think it will find it’s audience with ease. For me, I just had a hard time with the main characters and the romance, and yet I still found enjoyment with other aspects in the overall story. The book really does get off to a rocky start, but I am interested to see where she goes in book two, since y’know, Razor, is the protagonist this time. Even though I felt disappointed by this book, I am still willing to give the sequel a shot.

ARC Review – Captive (The Blackcoat Rebellion #2) by Aimee Carter

21911561Title: Captive (The Blackcoat Rebellion #2)

Author: Aimee Carter

Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: For the past two months, Kitty Doe’s life has been a lie. Forced to impersonate the Prime Minister’s niece, her frustration grows as her trust in her fake fiancé cracks, her real boyfriend is forbidden and the Blackcoats keep her in the dark more than ever.

But in the midst of discovering that her role in the Hart family may not be as coincidental as she thought, she’s accused of treason and is forced to face her greatest fear: Elsewhere. A prison where no one can escape.

As one shocking revelation leads to the next, Kitty learns the hard way that she can trust no one, not even the people she thought were on her side. With her back against the wall, Kitty wants to believe she’ll do whatever it takes to support the rebellion she believes in—but is she prepared to pay the ultimate price?

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

River’s Review:

Man, I remember liking the first book SO MUCH and this one just… what happened?! Kitty was annoying and Knox was a dick and half of the political stuff just didn’t seem to make any sense. All Kitty and Knox did was argue and fight and threaten to kill each other (srsly Kitty, enough with the ‘if this happens I’ll kill you!’ ‘if that doesn’t happen I’ll slit your throat!’) And there were set-ups and double crosses that made me think ‘how does that even work?!’ and I just had no idea where any of this was going half the time.

I guess a lot of it just felt forced to set up the rebellion that happens at the end. And to give us a new aspect of the dystopian society to experience. Most of this book takes place in ‘Elsewhere’, which is a place that Kitty got taken to to ‘hunt’ humans in the first book. Elderly people, IIs and IIIs, Extras. But there are also other horrors in Elsewhere… such as a human butcher shop! Now, I actually like the dystopian society in this book (well, not like it, but I think it’s one of the more interesting ones and I guess less annoying ones out there), but I felt like this book was just trying to force the issues a bit sometimes.

And I guess that’s my biggest complaint about this book. Everything feels a little forced. Middle book syndrome? Possibly.

I really hope the last book makes more sense and wraps things up in a satsifactory way!

Sam’s Review:

Admittedly, I liked Pawn, but I wasn’t in love with it the way a lot of my friends were. Pawn definitely had some refreshing elements within the water-down YA dystopian genre, but it wasn’t without some glaring flaws. Captive, however, is definitely a good book, but goodness does it take it’s sweet time to get interesting.

Part of Captive‘s problem is that it suffers from the middle book syndrome that some trilogies face. This book is all build and exposition, and not enough in terms of getting to know the characters more, feeling a lot less personal in my opinion. Kitty is still a fun protagonist, but she had her moments in this book that really irked me, and her obsession with Knox, yes I get it, no I don’t think it’s worth it. In one chapter alone his name came up over fifteen times and it was a lot of Kitty being obsessive and it got a bit borderline irritating for me. I get it, he scorned you! Let’s not keep thinking about it and may be do something about it!

A lot of the political intrigue that made the first book interesting was quite lost here. In fact, there were numerous instances where I was raising my eyebrows or just shrugging off what was happening because it didn’t make sense but the book wanted you to roll with it. Some of the political stuff also felt heavy handed, which I didn’t think was necessary given that Carter really well established how the dystopia worked in the first book. Elsewhere is interesting, quite creepy, and I loved the atmospheric elements to it as a place. I loved a lot of the description and when you learn what is actually happening there, it’s quite creepy and I think the descriptions painted in this novel is quite graphic, but really interesting.

I’ll give Captive points for being a very atmospheric book, but when it was about Kitty and Knox squabbling, I found myself groaning because that’s all it felt like it was. I wanted more relationships to be built in the story (and more Benyj! He’s interesting!) and I wanted to get more personal conflict as well, which I felt like the book kept swaying back and forth on. This definitely is a middle-book and it suffers from the problem of being the ‘middle book in a series’, but hopefully Queen will make up for all of Captive‘s shortcomings.

ARC Review – Rain by Amanda Sun

18134013Title: Rain

Author: Amanda Sun

Rating: ★★★★ / ★★★

Synopsis:  American Katie Green has decided to stay in Japan. She’s started to build a life in the city of Shizuoka, and she can’t imagine leaving behind her friends, her aunt and especially Tomohiro, the guy she’s fallen in love with. But her return is not as simple as she thought. She’s flunking out of Japanese school and committing cultural faux pas wherever she goes. Tomohiro is also struggling—as a Kami, his connection to the ancient gods of Japan and his power to bring drawings to life have begun to spiral out of control.

When Tomo decides to stop drawing, the ink finds other ways to seep into his life—blackouts, threatening messages and the appearance of unexplained sketches. Unsure how to help Tomo, Katie turns to an unexpected source for help—Jun, her former friend and a Kami with an agenda of his own. But is Jun really the ally he claims to be? In order to save themselves, Katie and Tomohiro must unravel the truth about Tomo’s dark ancestry, as well as Katie’s, and confront one of the darkest gods in Japanese legend

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

Sam’s Review:

Oh Amanda Sun, why are your books so fun? I don’t know what it is, but the Paper Gods has this brand of melodrama that just sucks me in every time. I don’t know if it’s the fact that I picture reading this as an anime or manga, but I every page I read I find myself visualize everything aspect of this story that just makes a lot of the elements feel natural.

I love that in this instalment we learn more about the ink and how it inhabits life. A lot of the paranormal elements just feel so naturally woven into the story and they are the most intriguing aspects. Further more, I love love love Kami, and even though I’ve studied Japanese literature and folklore for many years, I always enjoy seeing different interpretations or revisions because it’s interesting to also see what stays in tact and what is changed in order to tell the intended story. Overall, it’s fun, and it stays fun because the characters just make it so dramatic and kinda crazy.

I’m still not huge on the romance or love triangle aspects in this series, but I will admit that parts of this novel made me sad. Katie was so much more of an observer in this book as opposed to an active participant, yet we get two very sad stories from both Tomo and Jun and I was just so heartbroken for the two of them! Truthfully though, I think Sun has a great talent for writing male characters, especially the kind that are wounded but want redemption of some kind. Hopefully in the next book, both those boys will find the solace that they are clearly seeking. Oh and Shiori? She needs a big smack.

Rain was just a fun read overall, and even with it’s melodramatic aspects, it’s so easy to be an active participant in this world, and I loved the fusion of culture and language. There is such a vividness to the flow of language and I love how easy everything is to visualize, which I think is a feat in itself considering it’s not always easy to picture what you are reading. I’m definitely looking forward to the conclusion, but oddly I think I’m patience enough that I’m in no hurry to get there.

River’s Review:

This book was MUCH better than the first one. There were still a lot of things that made me roll my eyes (see all of my status updates) but THANK YOU FOR NOT USING GAIJIN!!!! Finally. It was only used 2-3 times in this book and it was used in the proper way. Finally. The whole name thing bothered me because it’s really not a thing for foreigners. In my seven years in Japan I have never had any issues with names.

Also, Ishikawa getting shot and then it being basically no big deal outside of the small group involved in the book is just unrealistic. Guns are illegal in Japan and if a random high school kid ended up in the hospital from a gun shot that would be HUGE. The lack of media frenzy around that was just weird. The lack of ANY frenzy was weird. I mean, earlier this month here in Japan a stupid pop star got attacked with a saw and that’s ALL anyone could talk about for WEEKS. I once heard a news story about a weirdo shooting girls with mayonnaise. A gunshot wound would big A BIG DEAL.

Katie was much better in this. Still can’t believe that she lost her mom a year ago and is just so okay with it. She was less stupid and less stalker-ish, but there were a few times when I just wanted to tell her to SHUT UP OMG. Shiori was super annoying but made some good points that highlighted some issues that I think are important to talk about. Jun was too melodramatic and his drama was so annoying. I feel bad for Ikeda and loved Tomo (dream sigh) as always.

Overall I felt like this was a lot more story and a lot less of Sun trying to prove that she has some authority over teaching us Japanese culture. The first book felt like LOOK AT ALL THIS STUFF I KNOW ABOUT JAPAN and this one had a LOT less of that.

Annnnnd finally, as with the first book, I don’t believe Katie’s Japanese ability AT ALL. There is no way that she’s as fluent (speaking wise) as she is. There’s no way she’s running around able to understand everyone, saying everything correctly, no problem, and then turning around and having so much trouble with reading and writing and then turning around and whipping out text messages and reading others no problem. Also, they’re all supposed to be speaking Japanese, but again there’s a bunch of Japanese words written in romanji thrown in and it just makes no sense. A lot of the words were also defined and explained in text this time (despite having a functioning glossary in this eArc, unlike the first one). I really wish that all of those random romanji were left out. It MIGHT make it a bit more believable (or at least make me think less about what language they’re speaking) that they’re speaking Japanese all of the time.

ANYWAY. If you liked the first book, then you’ll like this. And sorry not sorry for being so nit-picky, but I feel that if we’re going to go the whole #weneeddiversebooks route then the books with all the diversity in them should at least be accurate.

ARC Review – Take Me On by Katie McGarry

18333898Title:  Take Me On

Author: Katie McGarry

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Champion kickboxer Haley swore she’d never set foot in the ring again after one tragic night. But then the guy she can’t stop thinking about accepts a mixed martial arts fight in her honor. Suddenly, Haley has to train West Young. All attitude, West is everything Haley promised herself she’d stay away from. Yet he won’t last five seconds in the ring without her help.

West is keeping a big secret from Haley. About who he really is. But helping her-fighting for her-is a shot at redemption. Especially since it’s his fault his family is falling apart. He can’t change the past, but maybe he can change Haley’s future.

Hayley and West have agreed to keep their relationship strictly in the ring. But as an unexpected bond forms between them and attraction mocks their best intentions, they’ll face their darkest fears and discover love is worth fighting for.

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

Sam’s Review:

After devouring Pushing the Limits and Dare You To, I found that Katie McGarry’s writing style just works for me. There’s something about how intense she writes her teens that I find my eyes glued to the pages. Take Me On was no exception to this.

Although I haven’t read Crash Into You yet, I must say that McGarry does a great job with still making the characters from that novel very accessible. Also, Isaiah. I love that boy and why I haven’t read his story yet is such a damn travesty because he was a favourite of mine in the first two books. I also enjoyed the subplot with West, Rachel and Isaiah, even though West didn’t always win me over with his behaviour or decisions.

It’s weird because at first I had a hard time with both protagonists. I didn’t find either of them interesting or likeable at first, but that seems to be the case with most of McGarry’s books. There’s this building process where you get pieces and pieces, and even though the full picture might be visible, there’s always this small little crack in the portrait that represent’s that character’s ugly past. Those little ugly moments were always my favourite for Haley and West. While I didn’t love these two as much as Beth and Ryan or Echo and Noah, I still liked their stand alone moments more than I did when the two were together.

There is a crazy amount of lusting in this book, which I wish wasn’t the entire focus of the book. I always have more of a preference when McGarry is breaking down relationships and showing all the pieces than I do when characters behind like they can’t keep it entirely in their pants. The action was a bit all over the place too and I wish there had been more with the MMA-style fighting since that’s a big aspect of Haley’s life. But at the same time, these two grew on me, just like the others.

While I don’t think Take Me On is the strongest of the books in the Pushing the Limits series (also the lack of sexy car made me sad), it was still a solid read with some fantastic moments that are intense, cringing and emotionally draining. McGarry writes some of the most heart felt, intense teens I’ve ever come across in YA, and I appreciate how she handles them as well.

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!

ARC Review – Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott

17258743Title:  Heartbeat

Author: Elizabeth Scott

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Emma would give anything to talk to her mother one last time. Tell her about her slipping grades, her anger with her stepfather, and the boy with the bad reputation who might be the only one Emma can be herself with.

But Emma can’t tell her mother anything. Because her mother is brain-dead and being kept alive by machines for the baby growing inside her.

Meeting bad-boy Caleb Harrison wouldn’t have interested Old Emma. But New Emma-the one who exists in a fog of grief, who no longer cares about school, whose only social outlet is her best friend Olivia-New Emma is startled by the connection she and Caleb forge.

Feeling her own heart beat again wakes Emma from the grief that has grayed her existence. Is there hope for life after death-and maybe, for love?

Sam’s Review:

Huge thank you to Harlequin Teen and Netgalley for this advance reader copy.

I didn’t expect to like Heartbeat as much as I did. There’s a part of me just based on the synopsis that figured the romance was going to be the focus of this story and it was going to be cliche. What I love about this novel is how in a lot of ways it proved me wrong.

Emma is living in denial and frustration. She doesn’t have a proper relationship with her step-father Dan, because he refuses to let Emma’s mother go for the sake of the baby growing inside her. This is a unique situation and premise in itself, and I love the angle that Scott plays with these two particular characters. Dan believes by keeping Emma’s mother, he can have the baby growing inside of her and still have a piece of her when the baby is born. Emma thinks Dan is being delusional and selfish, and she urges him to let her mother die in piece and let the baby go with her.

This was an interesting dilemma and one I found so intriguing from start to finish. It’s a story of how people fight in times of crisis and either will find their way back to each other or leave them for good. Emma is wonderful as are lead because she’s someone  who spoke her mind and wasn’t afraid to say what was on it.  I found her voice so easy to gravitate towards, and it made this book a real page-turner simply because she made the reader feel a part of her world.

The romance actually surprised me as well. In a lot of ways I feel like Scott did a great job of making the romance and the drama feel as though they were on equal playing fields. One never came across more important than another, and what I enjoyed is the relationship that Emma and Caleb forge. It didn’t feel like an immediate connection, but rather they had an understanding of each other and similarities that made them gravitate towards each other. I actually found Caleb and Emma to be cute as a couple and their romance was really sweet.

Heartbeat impressed me in a lot of ways. Sure it had its melodrama, but Scott made it such a unique situation that it was so easy to keep turning pages because you wanted to know what was actually going to happen between all the characters. I also appreciated how well rounded these characters were and how easy it was to identify with them as well. I loved the sections when Emma would recall memories of her mother, and this book is just plain sad at times. Hopeful, but sad. Heartbeat is a book for those who are okay with a little angst and are not expecting a light contemporary read. This book can be blunt, it can be harsh, but it’s insanely honest.