Tag Archives: random house children’s

ARC Review – Smash & Grab by Amy Christine Parker

27272262Title: Smash & Grab

Author: Amy Christine Parker

Rating:  ★★★★

Synopsis: LEXI is a rich girl who loves a good rush. Whether it’s motorcycle racing or BASE jumping off a building in downtown Los Angeles, the only times she feels alive are when she and her friends are executing one of their dares. After her father’s arrest, Lexi doesn’t think twice about going undercover at his bank to steal the evidence that might clear his name. She enlists her hacker brother and her daredevil friends to plan a clever heist.
 
CHRISTIAN is a boy from the wrong side of the tracks. The local gang has blackmailed him and his friends into robbing banks, and he is desperate for a way out. When the boss promises that one really big job will be the last he ever has to do, Christian jumps at the chance for freedom. In fact, he’s just met a girl at the bank who might even prove useful. . . .
 
Two heists. One score. The only thing standing in their way is each other.

Huge thank you to the publisher for letting me read an advanced copy of this book!

Molly’s Review: 

I REALLY enjoyed this book! After falling into a little bit of a reading slump I needed something fun that would really drag me into the story and not let go. I didn’t want anything TOO heavy and this was just the perfect balance. I LOVE heist movies and books, so I went into this with high hopes and was not disappointed.

Lexi and her crew are thrill seekers. They’re young rich LA kids who have issues with their families and they all deal with these issues by doing crazy and wild stunts. The book starts out with them jumping off a building. I really loved how Lexi and her gang had actual problems and not just rich kid problems. Lexi’s dad is in jail and her mother is falling apart. Lexi’s friends (while not the MOST fleshed out group of side characters) are all personable and facing their own issues. We see glimpses of things that all people face: abusive parents, un-accepting parents, etc. This made the book feel real.

I also liked that Lexi was and wasn’t a stereotype. She’s a typical rich, blond, beautiful LA chick but she is also pretty bad ass. She holds her own and stays true to herself. She uses her looks and charm when she needs to, but she isn’t vapid and vain, nor a mean girl. I really liked that she didn’t quit fit any mold when she really could have.

Christian is the other voice in this book. It is a dual POV book, but the author does an AMAZING job with the two voices. I was never once confused as to who was speaking and that really helped me enjoy this book even more (because I do NOT like dual POV books with alternating chapters). Christian is from the hood and he and his own crew of friends are bank robbers. They were strong-armed into doing the robberies by the local gang which has ties to a much larger Mexican gang. Each friend is working the jobs to help their families/ save people they love. It’s all very tragic and makes them not really BAD guys. Christian was an interesting character; he’s smart, of mixed race so he doesn’t always feel like he fits in with the rest of his crew, and he cares deeply about doing the right thing even when he’s forced to do the wrong thing.

Christian and Lexi cross paths multiple times and sparks fly. They end up joining forces to rob the bank that Lexi’s dad used to work for… to help prove his innocence and to set Christian free. There’s a lot of double crossing, some kissing and swooning and some high action moments with crazy stunts. I very much enjoyed this book and would LOVE to see it as a movie.

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River’s Quickie Reviews! #1

River has been super busy with her new job (MIT, baby!), so she’s allowed me to share with you guys a few quickie reviews she’s written for a few books she’s read recently. Enjoy! – Sam


20877228Title: Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White (Release Date: September 9th, Harper Teen)

Synopsis: Jessamin has been an outcast since she moved from her island home of Melei to the dreary country of Albion. Everything changes when she meets Finn, a gorgeous, enigmatic young lord who introduces her to the secret world of Albion’s nobility, a world that has everything Jessamin doesn’t—power, money, status…and magic. But Finn has secrets of his own, dangerous secrets that the vicious Lord Downpike will do anything to possess. Unless Jessamin, armed only with her wits and her determination, can stop him.

River’s Review: Over all I really enjoyed this. I love White’s writing, I loved the setting and the characters. I even loved Sir Bird! Everything was wonderful and witty and the dialogue was spot on.

But the ‘be a strong/smart/educated/curious/passionate woman’ message was a bit too strong for me. I hate it when the “message” of the book is SCREAMING at me. I also hated how EVERYONE had to point out how clever Jessa was every five seconds. We got that too. I’m all for girl power, but I don’t like it when it takes me out of the story. Also for all of her ‘DON’T JUDGE ME’-ness, Jessa sure did do a lot of judging (tho she did realize it and admit it and grow from it eventually).

I also wish that some of the conflict would have been fleshed out more. At times I was so caught up in the pretty parts that when the conflict came back around I was like ‘the bad guy is doing this why for the what now?’ – 4/5 Stars


 

20759444Title: Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld (September 25th, Simon Pulse)

Synopsis: Darcy Patel has put college and everything else on hold to publish her teen novel, Afterworlds. Arriving in New York with no apartment or friends she wonders whether she’s made the right decision until she falls in with a crowd of other seasoned and fledgling writers who take her under their wings… Told in alternating chapters is Darcy’s novel, a suspenseful thriller about Lizzie, a teen who slips into the ‘Afterworld’ to survive a terrorist attack. But the Afterworld is a place between the living and the dead and as Lizzie drifts between our world and that of the Afterworld, she discovers that many unsolved – and terrifying – stories need to be reconciled.

River’s Review: I literally do not know what to give this book star-wise. It’s freaking Westerfeld! This should have been a million star rating! But omfg what the hell WAS this?!

I also feel like I should get credit for two books after reading this monster. jfc. I just don’t even know what to think about this. Was it a joke? If it was, well played! If this is for real then why. Just why.

‘Darcey writes the words, Lizzie lives them’. This led me to believe that the two stories were going to bleed together and cross and have SOMETHING TO DO WITH EACH OTHER. But they didn’t and that drove me insane! I would have been happy with one story or the other. I don’t understand why they were mashed together. And they were both kinda lame.

It makes my head hurt. – N/A Star Rating.


 

18225019Title: Uni the Unicorn by Amy Krouse Rosenthal & Brigette Barrager (August 26th, Random House Books for Young Readers

Synopsis: In this clever twist on the age-old belief that there’s no such thing as unicorns, Uni the unicorn is told there’s no such thing as little girls! No matter what the grown-up unicorns say, Uni believes that little girls are real. Somewhere there must be a smart, strong, wonderful, magical little girl waiting to be best friends. In fact, far away (but not too far), a real little girl believes there is a unicorn waiting for her. This refreshing and sweet story of friendship reminds believers and nonbelievers alike that sometimes wishes really can come true.

River’s Review: Adorable! Thank you so much for letting me read this. I was crazy about unicorns when I was a child and when I saw this book I knew I had to read it for nostalgia’s sake alone. I love the art, it’s SO beautiful. Very cute story, will totally buy this for my niece! – 5/5 Stars

 Huge thank you to all the above publishers for allowing me to read these ARCs!

ARC Review – Divided by Elise Chapman

13649079Title:  Divided

Author: Elise Chapman

Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: The hunter becomes the hunted. . . .

West Grayer is done killing. She defeated her Alternate, a twin raised by another family, and proved she’s worthy of a future. She’s ready to move on with her life.

The Board has other plans. They want her to kill one last time, and offer her a deal worth killing for. But when West recognizes her target as a ghost from her past, she realizes she’s in over her head. The Board is lying, and West will have to uncover the truth of the past to secure her future.

How far will the Board go to keep their secrets safe? And how far will West go to save those she loves? With nonstop action and surprising twists, Elsie Chapman’s intoxicating sequel to Dualed reveals everything

Huge thank you to Random House BFYR and Netgalley for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I’ve been mulling for days over what I want to say aboutDivided. Truthfully, I was simply ‘okay’ with Dualed and I found that while this book was better, I never found myself in love or into what I was reading. The world building still feels drab and confusing (but surprisingly much clearer than the previous book), the characters still feel one-note, but at least the story still had engaging parts… I just wish it had been engaging the full amount of time.

West is still aggravating, and while I get that she is not the best decision maker, I found myself grumbling many a times. I did appreciate that West was trying to redeem herself and that she didn’t want to be associated with being a murderer any more — but she really never catches a break. However, it’s a tad ridiculous how fast things move and the explanations often feel unclear as to where the plot is going or what is happening. 

I’m not going to lie, I was so proud of myself for remembering some of the abbreviations in this book because the first book was terrible at reminding the reader of what the abbreviations meant. I think Chapman took much more time to explain aspects of the story in this book better than she did in the previous and I love it when author’s attempt to create more clarity for the reader. Considering how vague her world building was previously, this book was much better considering she did a lot of re-establishing, but this also gave us more telling and not enough showing.

At the end of the day, this series is one I can see many teens gravitating towards because it has the right amount of action and a heroine who is pretty easy to cheer for. The other characters are not bad, I just didn’t find a lot of them as memorable as our plucky heroine. Still, I wanted more of this series, I wanted to stay engaged from start to finish and unfortunately, while this book is still inherently better than the first, I need more from it to keep coming back. That being said, I think Chapman’s writing greatly improved in this instalment and I’m still curious as to see where her next novel takes her.

ARC Review – What We Hide by Marthe Jocelyn

18209349Title:  What We Hide

Author: Marthe Jocelyn

Rating: ★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Americans Jenny and her brother, Tom, are off to England: Tom to university, to dodge the Vietnam draft, Jenny to be the new girl at a boarding school, Illington Hall. This is Jenny’s chance to finally stand out, so accidentally, on purpose, she tells a lie. But in the small world of Ill Hall, everyone has something to hide. Jenny pretends she has a boyfriend. Robbie and Luke both pretend they don’t. Brenda won’t tell what happened with the school doctor. Nico wants to hide his mother’s memoir. Percy keeps his famous dad a secret. Oona lies to everyone. Penelope lies only to herself.

Deftly told from multiple points of view in various narrative styles, including letters and movie screenplays, What We Hide is provocative, honest, often funny, and always intriguing.

Huge thank you to Tundra Books and Netgalley for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I am torn when it comes to What We Hide. It has an intriguing premise with a lot of mystery surrounding the characters within the story, and each character is connected to another by a small thread. The writing is gorgeous, it keeps you guessing, and yet, I struggled to connect with it. 

There are so many perspectives in this novel, and I think that’s what’s problematic about it. I never felt like I understood a lot of the characters or their motives, so a lot of their secrets didn’t feel naturally exposed, and to be honest I ended up with more questions than answers, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but it made for a confusing story a lot of the time.

There is also so much intertextuality in this book, which you don’t see in a lot of YA, but when you do it can be a nice break in the story. In What We Hide however, it just become more questions and often it made the text very jarring to read because the transition between letters, scripts and first person perspectives feel so mashed together instead of being placed in such a way that the reader would understand WHY the change in format.

I guess for me, it boils down to taste. I think with the right reader, this story will resonate well, but for me I just felt lost and confused a lot of the time. Even when I got to the end I found myself asking more questions and not feeling satisfied with results presented to me. What We Hide is not a bad book, but it definitely requires a ton of patience on the reader’s part.

ARC Review – The Tyrant’s Daughter by J.C. Carleson

17157466Title:  The Tyrant’s Daughter

Author: J.C. Carleson

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: When her father is killed in a coup, 15-year-old Laila flees from the war-torn middle east to a life of exile and anonymity in the U.S. Gradually she adjusts to a new school, new friends, and a new culture, but while Laila sees opportunity in her new life, her mother is focused on the past. She’s conspiring with CIA operatives and rebel factions to regain the throne their family lost. Laila can’t bear to stand still as an international crisis takes shape around her, but how can one girl stop a conflict that spans generations? 

Huge thank you to Random House Books for Young Readers and Netgalley for the advance reader copy.

River’s Review (4.5 Stars)

Wow this book was good. I wasn’t totally sure what to expect when I went into it, but I’m so glad that I read it. Sadly, I’m not really that up-to-date with everything that is going on in the middle east (I blame living in Japan, but it’s mostly my own apathy towards keeping up to date with world news), but that didn’t hinder my enjoyment of this book. I especially loved reading the authors note at the end and seeing how she used parallel events in her novel.

As a non-native living in a foreign country (American living in Japan) I could totally connect with Laila and her family on their exile to the US. I know what it’s like to move to a new country and be faced with having to explain and defend your own culture while trying to navigate, understand, and even accept the new culture that you’re in. I really loved how this was done. All of Laila’s stereotypes about the USA are ones that I hear from Japanese people ALL of the time. Everything is big, loud, noisy, too fast. At first it bothered me and I felt like the author was perpetuating the American stereotype, but the more I thought about it, the more honest it was. I find that A LOT of people outside of the USA are more-or-less trained to think that the USA IS this loud, fat, superficial nation. And the same goes for people in the USA. Laila’s friends were quick to judge her and her culture, and they often didn’t accept her culture. I loved it when she told the Cinderella story and the way everyone reacted. I can honestly say that I’ve also had similar reactions to Japanese culture. I try to understand, and have come to accept A LOT of it, but there are just some things that I cannot. But UNDERSTANDING is the key. So I really clicked with this aspect of the book and enjoyed the hell out of it.

I really loved Laila’s voice. She was such a strong character and so regal all through the story. She had her moments of weakness, anger, recklessness. She was able to rebel in more ways than a typical teenager, and she went all out at times. I’m glad that she stepped out of her comfort zone and tried new things. I liked her friends and the way she handled her choices. I loved watching her navigate her new life and deal with the freedoms she was suddenly handed.

I also loved the descriptions of the middle east. One of the BIGGEST issues I have with books set in foreign countries is that a lot of the time the author has no idea about the REAL LIFE stuff that happens. Anyone can watch the news and google about foreign countries, but if you haven’t spent a GOOD amount of time in a place, you wont really understand the way things work, the customs, the people. The author was spot on with the details though and I never felt the need to question what she was showing us. Credibility is important with books set in foreign countries, and this was full of it.

I was really surprised by the ending though! I didn’t see it moving in that direction and thought it was a brave choice.

And can I say how freaking COOL it is that the author was a legit CIA operative? One of my childhood dreams!!! Ah, so cool. Def check this book out guys!

Sam’s Review (4.5 Stars)

I went into the Tyrant’s Daughter with zero expectations. Truthfully, the story didn’t entirely sound like something I’d enjoy. Colour me shocked when I devoured 50% of the book in a day. Carleson’s book has these amazing powers of just sucking reader’s into Laila’s world and making you feel like you understand her hostility and aggression.

While I’m not always paying attention to current events, I found that the story Carleson told was surprisingly accessible. There’s a lot happening and for the most part (up until the end) it was easy to follow and Laila, for all her frustration and anger was a very easy protagonist to follow. Actually, I quite loved her. Being in her head was so fascinating, from her prejudice to her understanding. I liked that she wasn’t white washed — her culture is explicitly important to her, and even when she tries to be understanding or trying to fit in, her struggles are something that one can easily understand.

I think what I loved the most was just how real the story felt. Seeing how her mother and brother attempted to adapt was both interesting and heartbreaking. You get a sense that while their could be light at the end of the tunnel for everyone… not all the characters necessary want it. I also loved all the additional material at the end of the book that showed what inspired the story or the events that were rooted into the tale. I love having that extra bit of knowledge because I always find it helps me appreciate a story just a bit more.

The Tyrant’s Daughter is a very deep and layered story. It’s a great page-turner, but it’s not necessarily the easiest book to read. Laila is just such a great story teller, and that a lone is really what sold me on the entire novel. The writing is equally tight and fast-paced, and what I loved is the amount of realism. This book is definitely worth checking out, even if it’s something you might not think is your cup of tea — you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

ARC Review – We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

16143347Title:  We Were Liars

Author: E. Lockhart

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2 / ★★★★★

Synopsis: A beautiful and distinguished family. A private island. A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy. A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive. A revolution. An accident. A secret. Lies upon lies. True love.  The truth. We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.  Read it. And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

River’s Review (4.5 Stars)

I received an advanced copy of this from the publisher and I’m writing this honest review to say thank you.

4.5 stars. Only because I didn’t cry and I was almost kinda sorta promised crying from the other reviews of this. But holy fuck. The ending. I saw it coming a page before it happened. Then I was just like ‘oh…’ and ALL. THE. FEELS. Only I didn’t cry. Maybe because when the dog trauma happened I was so numb from that that… I couldn’t? IDEK. But guys, yes. This book is beautiful and traumatic and I READ IT IN A DAY.

And the more I think about it and reflect on it, the more sad I get. Maybe I will cry after all…

Just read this.

Sam’s Review (5 Stars)

I read this in one sitting. Unless I am completely in love with what I am reading, I don’t do that very often. This review of We Were Liars isn’t going to be long because there’s so much packed into this very short book that I feel like if I gave anything away, it’d be a spoiler.

I will mention a few things about this book: the prose is stunning. It’s lyrical, clever, and it has this wonderful flow that whisks you through the narrative of this book. There are no likable people in this story, there are no deeds that do not go unpunished, and for every ounce of freedom, sometimes people have to pay a price. That’s what these characters represent and the issues each of them faces are beyond words.

This is a beautiful, messed up book. That is probably the best way to describe it. There are feelings thrown all over the place (dog feels no less!), and it’s a portrait of a very disturbing family and its situation that you can’t help but turn the pages, the book demanding more and more of your attention. The forward to this book is 100% right in a lot of what it sets the reader up for, but how heavy a lot of it is still feels so unexpected and hellish that you feel emotionally drained.

I loved this book, I cannot wait for it to release so that I can get a physical copy for my shelf, and seriously: just read it. There’s so much to this book that putting anymore of it into words means I’m ruining the experience for it. Read this book, and live a little through it.

ARC Review – And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard

18951963Title:  And We Stay

Author: Jenny Hubbard

Rating: ★★ / ★

Synopsis: Sent to an Amherst, Massachusetts, boarding school after her ex-boyfriend shoots himself, seventeen-year-old Emily expresses herself through poetry as she relives their relationship, copes with her guilt, and begins to heal.

Huge thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for this advanced reader copy. Saying thank you with an honest review

River’s Review (2 Stars)

Well… this book was not what I was expecting it to be. I can’t really say much without going into spoilers, but there was a topic that I LOVE to read about and a topic that I HATE reading about. So there was that. I was REALLY into the story until the reason for Paul’s suicide was reveled then I was just… ugh. Why did it have to go there? And the way of it all… not cool and I’m not even totally sure I understand the mechanics of it all… like, just… how?

I did enjoy the writing a lot. I loved the imagery and some of the lines were brilliant. The poems were really well done, but I got a bit sick of them towards the end and started skipping them. I felt a little bad about that, but I really just wanted to get on with the story.

For a book dealing with the aftermath of a school-gun-assault-suicide-something else I was really surprised that there wasn’t a bit more… emotion in Emily’s voice. She just seemed to detached and emotionless. Maybe it was the way she dealt with everything, but I really would have liked a lot more emotion.

Wow, this review is really hard to write. I just… wanted more and less at the same time.

Sam’s Review (1 Star)

The topic of suicide is never an easy one to approach. It’s definitely a topic that has to have a lot of care and thought put into it — to give people a reason to react. While I feel like And We Stay does the former correctly in terms of creating a thoughtful story, it’s one that couldn’t be more devoid emotional impact.

Considering the topic, I expected an emotional read out of And We Stay. What I ended up with was a dull read with awkward transitioning between instances of Emily’s brother being alive and dead. A lot of the writing just failed to get me to care about a lot of what happened to the characters in this story because they were written without personality. I found myself often forgetting names, though oddly never forgetting what each character was a victim of. Every character, particularly Emily, comes across so detached and yet I found myself unable to care about her detachments, which made me pretty damn sad considering the way the story is built, you feel like you SHOULD care and DON’T.

I’m also all for poetry, but this book got too excessive with it and to the point where I found myself skipping them. I thought they were great until they started to get gimmicky. These were the only instances of Emily’s real emotions (or emotion even in the story as a whole), but to me that’s not a way to pull at my heart-strings, but in fact, do the opposite — make me feel like I wasted my time.

There’s just nothing that makes And We Stay a book to invest in. There’s no emotion, the writing is bland and uninspired, the poetry is all right but gets to be too much as the story goes on… I just can’t recommend this book. If you want to read a better book that deals with the topic of suicide, check out Me Since You by Laura Weiss. That’s a book that does so much right on the topic and makes you feel like what you’re reading actually matters.