Tag Archives: harlequin teen

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 – 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.

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.

Book Review – Countdown, by Michelle Rowen

17622950Title:  Countdown
Author:  Michelle Rowen
Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: 3 seconds left to live. Once the countdown starts, it cannot be stopped.

2 pawns thrown into a brutal underground reality game.

Kira Jordan survived her family’s murder and months on plague-devastated city streets with hard-won savvy and a low-level psi ability. She figures she can handle anything. Until she wakes up in a barren room, chained next to the notorious Rogan Ellis.

1 reason Kira will never, ever trust Rogan. Even though both their lives depend on it.

Their every move is controlled and televised for a vicious exclusive audience. And as Kira’s psi skill unexpectedly grows and Rogan’s secrets prove evermore deadly, Kira’s only chance of survival is to risk trusting him as much as her instincts. Even if that means running head-on into the one trap she can’t escape.

Sam’s Review:

I received a finished copy of this book from the author. Huge thank you to Michelle Rowen for giving me this opportunity. Check Countdown out when it releases October 1st.

Countdown is like candy. It’s one of those books where the plot zips by you so quickly that by the time its over, so is your bag of M&Ms. I must admit, while there are parts of Countdown that were full of flaws and generally would annoy me, the other half of me was so forgiving because the ride Kira and Rogan took me one was so fast and frantic.

The world building in Countdown is razor thin. There’s not a lot for the reader to envision and picture in terms of understanding the world that sounds our protagonists. The vivid descriptions definitely come more from the sinister game, Countdown, a televised event wherein teens must fight to their deaths in order to access freedom. In a way this book definitely has some similarities to Battle Royale (particularly later on within the last level and endgame), but what it lacks in some cases in the tension that a story like Battle Royale has, where if your back is turned, you can be killed.

For the most part I enjoyed the plot twists that Rowen lays out on the table. I found, however, there was too many of them, each getting a bit more ridiculous than the last, and yet I enjoyed it. I felt like I was on a sugar high each time I learned something new about Kira or Rogan because as crazy as the twists were, they made for addictive reading. I actually really liked Kira for the most part. I loved that she understood that what she was playing was a game and that in any instance the rules could be flipped with that of a switch. She was very thoughtful, a good soul, and surprisingly humorous. She’s had a tough life and you definitely get a sense of that, where as Rogan is a spoiled high rich kids who essentially was looking for cheap thrills but had to atone for his sins. Rogan was hit and miss with me considering the majority of the twists were about him, but at the same time, I found myself struggling to be angry with him. It was hard to accept his actions, yet at the same time Rowen makes hims someone you can have some sympathy for. Sometimes I wanted to give him a smack because his behavior was inexcusable.

The overall villains of the story were fairly flat, and had they been stronger, I think I could have accepted more of the character development present in the narrative. They felt functional and flimsy, never feeling like their presence entirely mattered. Yet, in the confines of the world Rowen created, this role oddly makes sense and you get a sense of how liaise-faire the world and its economical environment truly is. Everything revolves around money, as well as Countdown, yet no one really gives a crap.

Countdown is not a bad book, it’s surprisingly fun. The flaws are many, but I found myself turning pages as though I was popping candy. It’s a fast, engaging read, though not particularly deep. If you can accept that there isn’t deeper issues here and you want something light and action-packed, Countdown definitely fits that bill. If you’re looking for a more meaningful post-apocalyptic YA read, there’s better options out there.