Tag Archives: harper teen

ARC Review – The Fall of Butterflies by Andrea Portes

26115772Title:  The Fall of Butterflies

Author: Andrea Portes

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Willa Parker, 646th and least-popular resident of What Cheer, Iowa, is headed east to start a new life. Did she choose this life? No, because that would be too easy—and nothing in Willa’s life is easy. It’s her famous genius mother’s idea to send her to ultra-expensive, ultra-exclusive Pembroke Prep, and Willa has no intention of fitting in. But when she meets peculiar, glittering Remy Taft, the richest, most mysterious girl on campus, she starts to see a foothold in this foreign world—a place where she could maybe, possibly, sort of fit in. When Willa looks at Remy, she sees a girl who has everything. But for Remy, having everything comes at a price. And as she spirals out of control, Willa can feel Remy spinning right out of her grasp.

Huge thank you to HarperCollins for sending me an ARC for review!

River’s Review:

I was NOT expecting to love this book as much as I did. I started reading it because I was in the mood for something contemporary and I remembered really enjoying Portes’ previous YA title. I got SUCKED into this book and read almost 200 pages in one sitting. I was expecting a typical small town girl goes to expensive prep school and gets sucked into a new, exciting world, story butttttt this took an unexpected dark turn. And I loved it. I loved the characters and the way that Willa deals with the new life around her. She’s curious (too curious at times) and willing to explore new things. But she’s also very secure in who she is (despite her own feelings that she isn’t) and knows when to put on the brakes.

Willa’s mother is a world famous economist who basically left her family to run off to France and peaced out of Willa’s life. Willa lives in a small town in Iowa and she’s not popular. She’s very flippant about the small group of people she spends time with but clearly doesn’t care about them at all. She’s set to kill herself just because she’s so sick of feeling her mother’s expectations on her shoulders and when she moves to New England to attend an elite boarding school that her mother got her into.

The only real problem I had with this book was that Willa talks about wanting to kill herself, but I never really felt like she had an actual reason why. She didn’t seem depressed, she didn’t seem suicidal, she just seemed done with life. Over it. And after she starts to sink into her new life that vein of story just kinda slowly falls away… it seemed a little odd to me.

Other than that thought I loved the way that Willa comes to terms with her mother, with her father, with the life she left, and the new life she’s leading. I loved watching those around her react to her and help her grow. I loved seeing her try so hard to save her new friend and coming to terms with the fact that sometimes you just can’t help people who don’t want it.

I really love Portes’ writing style too. It’s very unique and quirky and fun to read. I liked that this story was being told to you (the reader) and that Willa is aware of you (the reader). It makes for a very quick read.

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ARC Review – Queen of Hearts (Queen of Hearts Saga #1) by Colleen Oakes

26074194Title: Queen of Hearts (Queen of Hearts Saga #1)

Author: Colleen Oakes

Rating: ★★

Synopsis: As Princess of Wonderland Palace and the future Queen of Hearts, Dinah’s days are an endless monotony of tea, tarts, and a stream of vicious humiliations at the hands of her father, the King of Hearts. The only highlight of her days is visiting Wardley, her childhood best friend, the future Knave of Hearts — and the love of her life.

When an enchanting stranger arrives at the Palace, Dinah watches as everything she’s ever wanted threatens to crumble. As her coronation date approaches, a series of suspicious and bloody events suggests that something sinister stirs in the whimsical halls of Wonderland. It’s up to Dinah to unravel the mysteries that lurk both inside and under the Palace before she loses her own head to a clever and faceless foe.

Huge thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy for review!

River’s Review:

Waaaah, I wanted to like this one so much more than I did. In 2009 I watched the TV Mini-series called “Alice” which was a modern remake of Alice in Wonderland. It was weird and twisty and did such an amazing job of playing with the themes of Alice in Wonderland (a story that I never really connected with that much in the past) that when I heard about this I for some reason connected the two in my head and thought that this book was going to be as brilliant as that mini-series.

And this book could have been. I had all of the elements, things were weird and twisted and Wonderland was deliciously creepy. But there was no backstory. No real world building. I felt like the only reason I was able to “see” it the way I was was because I was projecting my own ideas onto it. But when it comes to a fantasy world, even in a re-telling, I need some backstory. Why are things the way they are now, what lead to this current situation? Why should I care? There were things peppered throughout the book that I was grasping at, but nothing that really gave me the answers that I was craving.

Also there were times in this book that it felt like there was a Wonderland checklist that the author was just ticking boxes off. All the characters were there, but some of them seemed a little forced. Part of why I loved that TV mini-series so much was because the surprise of figuring out who was who! In this it was very obvious who was who and what their rolls were and it just fell a little flat for me.

I also wanted a plot. There was kind of this idea that there was something bad going on but the clues were so few and far between that I could never even try to piece them together. There was NO conclusion and nothing was wrapped up, no questions were answered, and everything was just left hanging in such an unsatisfactory way. It wasn’t even a cliffhanger. It’s just like the book cut off and that there should be more, but haha, you have to wait until the next one.

Also I was NOT comfortable with the relationship between the King of Hearts and Princess Dinah. I never felt that his actions were just and most of the time they seemed super random. Also the time jumps were weird and the whole story around the court politics made no sense.

I did enjoy the writing in this, and the descriptions of Wonderland. Wardley was an okay character, but that’s about it. I might pick up the next book just to see how things go, but it’s not going to be a priority. Sadness!

ARC Review – Assassin’s Heart by Sarah Ahiers

21421609Title: Assassin’s Heart

Author: Sarah Ahiers

Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: In the kingdom of Lovero, nine rival Families of assassins lawfully kill people for a price. As a highly skilled member of one of these powerful clans, seventeen-year-old Lea Saldana has always trusted in the strength of her Family. Until she awakens to find them murdered and her home in flames. The Da Vias, the Saldanas’ biggest enemy, must be responsible—and Lea should have seen it coming. But her secret relationship with the Da Vias’ son, Val, has clouded her otherwise killer instinct—and given the Da Vias more reason than ever to take her Family down.

Racked with guilt and shattered over Val’s probable betrayal, Lea sets out to even the score, with her heart set on retaliation and only one thought clear in her mind: make the Da Vias pay.

With shades of The Godfather and Romeo and Juliet, this richly imagined fantasy from debut author Sarah Ahiers is a story of love, lies, and the ultimate vengeance.

Huge thank you to Harper Collins for sending me a copy of this for review!

River’s Review:

Well, I wasn’t even sure if I was going to read this, but then I got a copy from Harper and was in the mood to try some fantasy so I picked it up. And it was better than I had expected. But not great.

My biggest issue with this book was that it is poorly edited and the writing is INCREDIBLY repetitive. We could have probably lost about 50-70 pages with better edits. We are told over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again the same. damn. things. Lea’s family (and Family, can’t forget the fifty THOUSAND times we use the words family and Family in the same freaking sentence) is murdered. The Da Via’s are to blame. Lea blames herself. She will murder them in their sleep. She will get revenge. It’s all she’s ever wanted (for the past two weeks). She will kill them. She will make them pay. She will get her revenge. It’s all she’s ever wanted. It’s all her fault. WE GOT IT BY PAGE 50! I just wanted to pick this book up and shake out all the extra words!

And look, I get the family and Family part, but it was TOO. MUCH.

So this is a book about a world that worships many different gods. It was never really clear if these gods were … corporal? idk how to describe it. They’re gods that have powers only over those who worship them. And the goddess that Lea’s Family (and family!) worship (along side with the entire country?) is a death goddess who grants rebirth upon death if some rules are followed. There are other gods too that other cities and countries(?) follow and it was never really fully fleshed out enough for me. I would have liked some clearer world building. There are also ACTUAL REAL LIVE-DEAD GHOSTS. That apparently are lost souls that didn’t get rebirthed? idk, again, world building. Because there was another god that put you back into the soil if you died (but then people in that same town who worshiped that god were also turning into ghosts? AGAIN. WORLD BUILDING).

There were also some trope-y things like a ~transformative bath scene~ and a ~chopping off my hair because I’m a DIFFERENT PERSON NOW scene~ and a moment of “releasing a breath that one had been unaware of holding”. Eye. Rolls.

BUT the fighting was cool, Lea wasn’t a stupid heroine (aside from the whole choosing her 2-week old future over her family (not Family) because REASONS) and Les was a slightly dashing if not goofy at times sidekick? Love interest? Dude? To be honest thought the Priest was my favorite (and he had like 3 scenes, poor dude).

Hmmmm my review makes it sound like I hated it but I didn’t. I just had some issues… like I usually do with 3 star books. Liked, but with issues.

ARC Review – The Word for Yes by Claire Needell

25613939Title:  The Word for Yes

Author: Claire Needell

Rating: ★

Synopsis: After their parents’ divorce, Jan, Erika, and Melanie have to get used to the new world order: a father who’s moved to another continent and a mother who throws herself into moving on. Jan, off at her first semester of college, has plenty to worry about, including an outspoken roommate who’s kind of “out there” and an increasingly depressed and troubled long-distance boyfriend. Her younger sisters, left at home in New York City, and dealing with all the pressures of life in high school, aren’t exactly close. Erika is serious and feels awkward and uncomfortable in crowds, though her beauty tends to attract attention. Melanie is socially savvy and just wants to go out—to concerts, to parties, wherever—with her friends. The gap between all three girls widens as each day passes.

Then, at a party full of blurred lines and blurred memories, everything changes. Starting that night, where there should be words, there is only angry, scared silence. And in the aftermath, Jan, Erika, and Melanie will have to work hard to reconnect and help one another heal. 
At once touching and raw, Claire Needell’s first novel is an honest look at the love and conflicts among sisters and friends, and how these relationships can hold us together—and tear us apart.

Huge thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy of this for review!

River’s Review:

I really don’t like to write negative reviews, so I’ll keep this short. I didn’t like this. I didn’t connect with any of the characters. I thought Jan was blah, Erika was annoying and Melanie was blah. The mother didn’t seem to care that much AT ALL that her daughter had been raped. The actual subject for rape was like 40 pages of this entire thing. It was so glossed over that I just thought it was wrong for this book to be a book about rape and rape culture.

The dialogue in this was horrific. Nobody talks this way, not even adults. Sometimes I would re-read the dialogue and just wonder wtf.

I was so looking forward to this, books about rape and rape culture are so important. But sadly this doesn’t add anything to the current canon of books dealing with this very important topic.

ARC Review – Thicker Than Water by Kelly Fiore

18711172Title:  Thicker Than Water

Author: Kelly Fiore

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Cecelia Price killed her brother. At least, that’s what the police and the district attorney are saying. And although Cecelia is now locked up and forced into treatment, she knows the real story is much more complicated.

Cyrus wasn’t always the drug-addled monster he’d become. He was a successful athlete, but when an injury forced him off the soccer field and onto pain medication, his life became a blur of anger, addiction, and violence. All CeCe could do was stand by and watch, until she realized one effective way to take away her brother’s drugs while earning the money she needed for college: selling the pills.

Soon, CeCe becomes part drug dealer, part honor student. But even when all she wants is to make things right, she learns that sometimes the best intentions lead to the worst possible outcome.

Thicker than Water is an unforgettable dark, harrowing look into the disturbing truth of drug addiction and the desperate love of a sister watching her brother deteriorate before her eyes.

Huge thank you to the publisher for sending me an advanced copy for review!

River’s Review:

Wowwwww this book is heavy. If you have issues with drugs and addiction, please be careful when you approach this book then because it could be very triggering.

This is the story of a family who’s dealing with addiction and denial. Cece’s family started to fall apart when her mother died of cancer. Cece has a really difficult time with her, but her family moves forward and on. Her father remarries and buys a farm where he tries to start his own business. Her brother, Cyrus, is a star soccer player, but then he hurts his knee and can’t play anymore. Cyrus feels like his life is ruined and he quickly comes to abuse his pain medication and becomes an addict. His addiction spirals out of control and he’s soon stealing from his father, acting violent towards Cece, and creating a wedge between all of the family members.

Money is a big problem for Cece’s family because her father’s farm dream isn’t turning out so well. And with Cyrus stealing what little money they do have they’re facing a lot of financial problems. Cece can’t even pay her school lab fees. She wanted to get a job, but was told to focus on school so she could make something of herself in the future… but that’s hard to do when she can’t afford her lab fees, let alone collage.

Cece can see what’s happening around her, but nobody seems to really are. They live in denial, and she finally gets fed up with it and says fuck it and starts to sell her brother’s pills to make some cash to put towards college. She’s quickly manipulated by a few boys from her school who get her to start stealing more of the pills and eventually they get her to even get her own prescription.

This story is told in alternating past and present sections. In the past we see how things happened, how the present came to be. The present takes place in a behavior therapy center inside of a juvenile detention center. Cece believes that she killed her brother, that her hand played the role of his death, and she all but turns herself in to the police. She’s put on trial and in the present sections of the book we see her working through therapy and preparing for her trial with her public defender. Cece is a very unwilling participant in her recovery and doesn’t see herself as anything but guilty.

The writing in this book was really good, and I flew through it in one sitting. I loved the dialogue and often found myself skipping ahead to read what people were saying and then having to drag myself back to read what was happening. There’s A LOT of tension in this book and you can really feel it.

I guess the only thing that I couldn’t come to grips with was why Cyrus had been recommended to the doctor that was giving him the drugs in the first place. It’s so obvious that he’s not a very good doctor (he is a real doctor, but he basically worked around the law as much as possible to earn money off people’s addictions; a “legal dealer”.) I just felt like any responsible parent (especially one that was always strapped for cash) would have been a bit more upset about having to shell out $215 a doctor visit for someone who was obviously not helping make their child better. But I guess with the father dealing with his own issues he’s blind to it. I just wanted to know why the COACH thought it was the right place to send him in the first place…

Overall this is a very raw, emotional book and if you like stuff like that, you’ll want to pick it up.

ARC Review – Promises I Made (Lies I Told #2) by Michelle Zink

25056008Title:  Promises I Made (Lies I Told #2)

Author: Michelle Zink

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Grace Fontaine was trained to carry out perfect crimes. But when a mistake was made the night her family tried to execute their biggest heist yet, her world fell apart. Now her brother is in jail, her mother has disappeared with the entire stolen fortune, and her father is determined to find a new mark, no matter the cost.

Haunted by the way she betrayed her friends—and Logan, the only boy she’s ever loved—as well as the role she played in her brother’s arrest, Grace decides she must return to the place every thief knows you should avoid: the scene of the crime.

Returning to Playa Hermosa as a wanted criminal is dangerous. But Grace has only one chance to make things right. To do it, she has to use everything she’s been taught about the art of the con to hunt down the very people who trained her: the only family she’s ever known.
Perfect for fans of Ally Carter, Cecily von Ziegesar, and Gail Carriger, this thrilling, high-stakes novel deftly explores the roles of identity and loyalty while offering a window into the world of the rich and fabulous.

Huge thank you to the publisher for sending me an advanced copy of this book for review!

River’s Review:

I liked this book… butttttt I didn’t love it as much as I did the previous book. I felt like a lot of the tension that made the first book so good was missing. And while I liked how everything was wrapped up it just felt like a lot of filler… and this was a fairly short book.

This book starts off shortly after the previous book left off. Grace and Cormac are living in Seattle, trying to con some money out of a woman, and Parker is locked up in Playa Hermosa. Renee is gone and Grace knows that nobody is going to help Parker. So she takes off with the rest of Cormac’s money and heads back to the scene of the crime to try to figure out how to help Parker.

A lot of this book is Grace doing idle things. Grace staking places out. Grace traveling around. Grace being stressed about money. And that’s it. I was SO HAPPY when Marcus and Scotty showed up! This was when things started to get good. We find out who the man next door (who sang the creepy songs) was! And we get this lovely, sexy con-man-turned-domestic-partner-with-his-ex-cop-husband story and I LOVED IT SO MUCH! Grace finally got to experience what it was like to be taken care of and loved! This happy little family was the best and I just wanted them to live happily ever after.

Marcus, we learn, taught Cormac everything he knows and he wants to take Cormac down. Grace is all for this! Sadly the big take down is full of boring stake-outs and little drama. It was all very anti-climatic.

Key characters from the previous book make a few appearances, Grace gets the chance to make amends with a few people, but I really would have LOVED a show down between her and Rachel. Sadly that didn’t happen. I feel like there was a lot of potential in this that just didn’t happen.

But I did enjoy getting a happy ending and I did enjoy seeing Grace come to terms with what she’d done and I loved Marcus and Scotty so much that I’m giving this four stars.

ARC Review – Light of Day by Allison van Diepen

24980610Title:  Light of Day

Author: Allison van Diepen

Rating: ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Like any other Saturday night, Gabby Perez and her best friend, Maria, are out dancing. But this isn’t just another night. When a mysterious stranger warns Gabby their drinks have been drugged, she hurries Maria home. Sure enough, the next day, Maria can’t remember a thing. Gabby’s shaken by their close call. And she’s not going to stay quiet about it.

She opens up the airwaves on her radio show and discovers an even worse truth: the guy who drugged them was going to force them into prostitution. Then Gabby’s friend Bree never makes it home from a party, and Gabby fears the worst.

Gabby reaches out to the guy who saved her, the gorgeous stranger she knows only as X. As they dive into the seedy underworld of Miami, searching for Bree, they can’t ignore their undeniable attraction. Until Gabby discovers the truth about who X really is and the danger that surrounds him. Can their love survive the light of day?

Huge thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy of this to review!

River’s Review:

So I didn’t read On the Edge even though I have an eARC of it and now that I know that this was a companion I might go back and read it someday. If you’ve read OTE, then you’ll be happy to know that Lobo and Maddie made an appearance in this book. This book and OTE both have the Destino gang connecting them, just fyi.

Anyways, I rather enjoyed this book. I wasn’t too sure about it when I got a copy of the publisher, but I thought I should give it a shot. I do enjoy edgy YA contemporary. I was surprised that for a book about street gangs, pimps and prostitution that it was actually rather wholesome. There’s a lot of good people doing not always the legal thing, but definitely the right thing.

So Gabby and her friend are at a club, hanging out with some blinged out thug who slips date rape drugs into their drinks. Gabby is tipped off by a sexy mystery guy named X who she thinks is an undercover cop. Gabby thankfully gets them out of the situation before things get out of control only to discover later that if X hadn’t been there the two girls probably would have ended up in a prostitution ring… the guy they were talking too wasn’t just a scumbag trying to drug girls… he was a pimp out looking for new girls to traffic.

Gabby is a radio DJ (she has an hour show on Sunday nights, it’s her dream to go to school for broadcasting) and she talks about what happened on the show. She wants to warn people, but instead she gets a target on her back. X thankfully is there to step in and help out… and what he really is shocks Gabby to her core.

Then one of Gabby’s classmates goes missing and X see’s her with a well known pimp. Wanting to save her friend, Gabby starts to help X, and she starts to fall in love with him.

So why do I think that this is so wholesome? It has a lot of really positive messages. It shows that you can overcome your origins and become a good person. There’s no judgement on people who choose to step off the beaten path. And Gabby is constantly showing that if you’re a smart girl who uses her brain that you can do anything, including saving yourself.

There were a couple of sub-plots that I really liked about Gabby’s family and friends too. Her family is very traditional and pushes her towards a more “practical” career. They also don’t like how outspoken she is and wish that she’d just settle down and be a “good” girl. They HATE that she broke up with her “perfect” boyfriend and are always on her case about how she treats people poorly. I was really upset with her family in the beginning of the book but I loved how things evolved and they became closer and accepted each other more towards the end. As for her friends… Gabby was once a popular girl because she was dating the popular guy. But the popular guy was a dick, and she broke up with him. He then spread rumors about her and made everyone hate her… so she found a new group of friends; a couple of loaner girls who were into paranormal things like spirit calling and psychics. I really liked how the group that Gabby fell in with went from being her default friends to her real friends and how even though they were “weird” she really began to enjoy her time with them even though they were so different from each other.

So overall this book has a lot of good messages and I really felt like I was reading something that teens can relate to and enjoy.