Tag Archives: River

ARC Review – Diplomatic Immunity by Brodi Ashton

Title:  Diplomatic Immunity
Author: Brodi Ashton
Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Aspiring reporter Piper Baird decides to write a scathing exposé on the overprivileged students at an elite Washington, DC, school, only for her life to change when she begins to fall for the story’s main subject, in this new realistic contemporary romance from Brodi Ashton, the author of the Everneath trilogy.

Raucous parties, privileged attitudes, underage drinking, and diplomatic immunity…it’s all part of student life on Embassy Row.

Piper Baird has always dreamed of becoming a journalist. So when she scores a scholarship to exclusive Chiswick Academy in Washington, DC, she knows it’s her big opportunity. Chiswick offers the country’s most competitive prize for teen journalists—the Bennington scholarship—and winning will ensure her acceptance to one of the best schools in the country.

Piper isn’t at Chiswick for two days before she witnesses the intense competition in the journalism program—and the extreme privilege of the young and wealthy elite who attend her school. And Piper knows access to these untouchable students just might give her the edge she’ll need to blow the lid off life at the school in a scathing and unforgettable exposé worthy of the Bennington.

The key to the whole story lies with Rafael Amador, the son of the Spanish ambassador—and the boy at the center of the most explosive secrets and scandals on Embassy Row. Rafael is big trouble—and when he drops into her bedroom window one night, asking for help, it’s Piper’s chance to get the full scoop. But as they spend time together, Piper discovers that despite his dark streak, Rafael is smart, kind, funny, and gorgeous—and she might have real feelings for him. How can she break the story of a lifetime if it could destroy the boy she just might love? 

Molly’s Review – 

Huge thank you to HarperTeen for an advance copy of this book!

I really loved this book! I went into it with high hopes and they were met! This is my first book by Brodi Ashton and wow, her writing is so fun! I breezed right through this book, and was totally engaged from start to finish.

Our MC, Piper, is a journalist. She’s a big neurotic and will do anything for a story… and college tuition. So she gets it into her head that if she can get into this super competitive Ivy league high school in Washington D.C. that she’ll win a prestigious scholarship that will get her into Columbia. She manages to get into the school and is shocked by the way that the privileged elite that attend the school act, and what they can get away with. Especially those with diplomatic immunity.

On Piper’s first day of school she makes a fool out of herself in front of the son of the Spanish diplomat. Raf is charming and a bit of a bad boy. Piper sees her in with the DI crowd (diplomatic immunity kids) and starts to put together an expose on the shit that they get away with. She knows that this story will get her the scholarship that will get her into Columbia. Only she doesn’t really plan on falling for Raf but… she does. And then lines start to blur…

I really loved the voice of this book. Piper was so relateable because she’s not perfect. She lies and uses and she loves and cares so deeply. Her brother is on the spectrum and the way that she interacts with him is perfect and I just loved her whole family, money troubles and all. I also loved that Raf’s brother was also on the spectrum and that they had something really intimate to bond over. That they could get each other on this different level. And that it made Piper all the more human when she starts to delve away from her path of “getting the story”.

The writing in this book was so effortless. I love it when I fall into a book and just read and don’t feel like I’m putting in any effort. Sure some books I love to really dig into and have to think about, but there are times when I just need something smooth. This was perfect. It had just enough drama, enough heart and humor that it kept me engaged and I flew through it.

Really enjoyed this one! Don’t miss out!

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ARC Review – Replica (Replica #1) by Lauren Oliver

28448287Title: Replica (Replica #1)

Author: Lauren Oliver

Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: Gemma has been in and out of hospitals since she was born. ‘A sickly child’, her lonely life to date has revolved around her home, school and one best friend, Alice. But when she discovers her father’s connection to the top secret Haven research facility, currently hitting the headlines and under siege by religious fanatics, Gemma decides to leave the sanctuary she’s always known to find the institute and determine what is going on there and why her father’s name seems inextricably linked to it.

Amidst the frenzy outside the institute’s walls, Lyra – or number 24 as she is known as at Haven – and a fellow experimental subject known only as 72, manage to escape. Encountering a world they never knew existed outside the walls of their secluded upbringing , they meet Gemma and, as they try to understand Haven’s purpose together, they uncover some earth-shattering secrets that will change the lives of both girls forever…

Molly’s Review:

Lauren Oliver is such a hit or miss author for me. I tend to LOVE her contemporary books and then just feel kinda meh about her other stuff. I wasn’t a huge fan of her Delerium books and Replica had a very similar vibe to those books which is partially why I think I didn’t LOVE this book. And I really wanted to love this book.

I also have a little bit of an issue with the ~unique structure~. Because it didn’t really feel that unique at all. When this book first appeared I was very curious to see how it could be read three different ways. I actually had pictured something WAY different in my head. But it’s basically two books that are just dual narratives that were split in half. I feel like you could do this with any dual narrative third person POV novel. But the three ways you can read this book are:

Read Gemma’s story start to finish.
Read Lyra’s story start to finish.
Read them while alternating the chapters. You can do every other chapter (that’s how I did it) or every two, three whatever.

It is literally just a dual POV narrative that was deconstructed. I honestly got annoyed because I had to have two bookmarks!

Anyway, the writing is solid Lauren Oliver. I didn’t feel much for the characters, I didn’t really care for the romance, and I was able to see every twist and turn that came our way. A lot of things happen very coincidentally and just kinda “work out”. I did find a lot of the concepts interesting, but there wasn’t as much mystery as I would have liked, and nothing really WOWed me.

I do think I’ll read the next one though just to see what’s going to happen because we WERE left with a lot of questions.

Overall though, not my favorite by her.

ARC Review – Three Dark Crowns (Three Dark Crowns #1) by Kendare Blake

23207027Title:  Three Dark Crowns (Three Dark Crowns #1)

Author: Kendare Blake

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins. The last queen standing gets the crown.

If only it was that simple. Katharine is unable to tolerate the weakest poison, and Arsinoe, no matter how hard she tries, can’t make even a weed grow. The two queens have been shamefully faking their powers, taking care to keep each other, the island, and their powerful sister Mirabella none the wiser. But with alliances being formed, betrayals taking shape, and ruthless revenge haunting the queens’ every move, one thing is certain: the last queen standing might not be the strongest…but she may be the darkest.

Huge thank you to the publisher for this ARC!

Molly’s Review:

For some reason this year has been the year that I’ve reconnected with fantasy. There’s been a lot that I haven’t liked and so much that I have loved. I went into this book with hesitation because of the mixed reviews. But I’m a fan of Blake’s previous books, so I really wanted to check this out. And dark fantasy has been my jam recently.

This book didn’t disappoint me at all. I had a few issues with the world building and history of the queens, but I kinda let it fall to the side because I was so entranced with the rest of the story. I LOVED the queens, their powers, the people surrounding them. I loved how complex they were, the ways that their lives had shaped them, and how their powers defined them.

I think that Katherine was my favorite queen, followed by Arisone. I really enjoyed all of the side characters too, and the fact that there WAS romance, but that romance didn’t dominate the book. This was the story of three powerful girls trying to find their ways and themselves.

This book is long but I was super engaged and flew right through it. I got to the end and was really upset that there wasn’t more and then kept thinking about it for a few days after BECAUSE THAT CLIFFHANGER.

Ugh, I need more. Def check this out if you’ve been enjoying the dark fantasy that YA has been offering us this past year!

ARC Review – The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis

25812109Title:  The Female of the Species

Author: Mindy McGinnis

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Alex Craft knows how to kill someone. And she doesn’t feel bad about it. When her older sister, Anna, was murdered three years ago and the killer walked free, Alex uncaged the language she knows best. The language of violence.

While her crime goes unpunished, Alex knows she can’t be trusted among other people, even in her small hometown. She relegates herself to the shadows, a girl who goes unseen in plain sight, unremarkable in the high school hallways.

But Jack Fisher sees her. He’s the guy all other guys want to be: the star athlete gunning for valedictorian with the prom queen on his arm. Guilt over the role he played the night Anna’s body was discovered hasn’t let him forget Alex over the years, and now her green eyes amid a constellation of freckles have his attention. He doesn’t want to only see Alex Craft; he wants to know her.

Huge thank you to the publisher for this ARC!

River’s Review:

I have been a fan of Mindy McGinnis since her debut, and I have enjoyed everything that she has written so far. I was SO excited when I found out that she was writing a contemporary, but sadly this wasn’t my most fav of her books (I did really enjoy it a lot tho).

I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect going into this book. We know that the MC, Alex, is dealing with the death of her sister. We know that Alex knows how to kill a man. Has she done it? Why does she know? How did she learn? And why would she want to know?

This book is told in three POVs that alternate. I am not a big fan of this, and I had a lot of trouble connecting with Alex (which was probably the point). Jack was okay and I really enjoyed Peekay’s chapters. I loved the way things ebbed and flowed through the story, and how they twisted around to get to the real heart of things.

This is a book about sexual assault. And I for some reason hadn’t seen that coming.

McGinnis’ writing is gritty and honest and sometimes made me cringe with just how fucking real it is. She made me want to cry at times with some of her vivid truths and the way that she used animals to illustrate how brutal humans can be. This book scared me with how wrong things can go in the blink of an eye. And it broke my heart at the end.

If you love honest books, pick this up. If you love gritty portritates of real life, pick this up. If you think that books about rape are important, pick this up. And if you’ve previously enjoyed a book by the author, make sure you don’t miss this one.

 

ARC Review – Bright Smoke, Cold Fire (Untitled #1) by Rosamund Hodge

28448239Title: Bright Smoke, Cold Fire (Untitled #1)

Author: Rosamund Hodge

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: When the mysterious fog of the Ruining crept over the world, the living died and the dead rose. Only the walled city of Viyara was left untouched. The heirs of the city’s most powerful—and warring—families, Mahyanai Romeo and Juliet Catresou share a love deeper than duty, honor, even life itself. But the magic laid on Juliet at birth compels her to punish the enemies of her clan—and Romeo has just killed her cousin Tybalt. Which means he must die.

Paris Catresou has always wanted to serve his family by guarding Juliet. But when his ward tries to escape her fate, magic goes terribly wrong—killing her and leaving Paris bound to Romeo. If he wants to discover the truth of what happened, Paris must delve deep into the city, ally with his worst enemy . . . and perhaps turn against his own clan. Mahyanai Runajo just wants to protect her city—but she’s the only one who believes it’s in peril. In her desperate hunt for information, she accidentally pulls Juliet from the mouth of death—and finds herself bound to the bitter, angry girl. Runajo quickly discovers Juliet might be the one person who can help her recover the secret to saving Viyara.

Both pairs will find friendship where they least expect it. Both will find that Viyara holds more secrets and dangers than anyone ever expected. And outside the walls, death is waiting. . .

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

Molly’s Review:

I loved this book SO MUCH. I originally went into it with mixed feelings because I wasn’t a fan of the author’s debut, I decided not to read her second book, and I probably wouldn’t have read this one but it just sounded so unique. And I’m so glad that I gave it a shot.

This is a twist on Romeo & Juliet. It takes place in a fictional world where revenants (zombies) have taken over the world and the only people left are three clans that live inside of a city protected by magic walls. And the walls feed off of blood sacrifices. There’s a group of Sisters who tend the walls and one of our MCs, Runajo, is a novice. She’s feisty and has strong ideals about the world that they live in. She’s a member of the same clan as Romeo, who falls in love with Juliet, a member of another clan. Only Juliet isn’t just a girl, but she’s the sword of her clan. Her own purpose is to basically be their trained killer. And Paris is supposed to be her guardian.

Only everything goes horribly wrong.

This book is dark and beautiful. It’s romantic without any actual on page romance (Romeo and Juliet are actually separate for the entire book). It’s atmospheric and full of beautiful world building. I loved the Sisters of Thorn and their twisted rituals. I loved how vicious Juliet was, and how bumbling both Paris and Romeo were. I really loved the relationships and friendships that developed between the characters. The twists and turns and secrets kept me engaged and on my toes. I read most of this book in two sittings.

My only complaint is that the ending is a bit rushed, but thank god there’s a sequel. Because I need it after THAT cliffhanger.

If you’re a fan of Hodge or just a Romeo & Juliet fan, then this book is for you!

ARC Review – The Thousandth Floor (The Thousandth Floor #1) by Katharine McGee

24921954Title:  The Thousandth Floor (The Thousandth Floor #1)

Author: Katharine McGee

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: A hundred years in the future, New York is a city of innovation and dreams. But people never change: everyone here wants something…and everyone has something to lose. 
Leda Cole’s flawless exterior belies a secret addiction—to a drug she never should have tried and a boy she never should have touched. Eris Dodd-Radson’s beautiful, carefree life falls to pieces when a heartbreaking betrayal tears her family apart.

Rylin Myers’s job on one of the highest floors sweeps her into a world—and a romance—she never imagined…but will her new life cost Rylin her old one? Watt Bakradi is a tech genius with a secret: he knows everything about everyone. But when he’s hired to spy by an upper-floor girl, he finds himself caught up in a complicated web of lies. And living above everyone else on the thousandth floor is Avery Fuller, the girl genetically designed to be perfect. The girl who seems to have it all—yet is tormented by the one thing she can never have.

Huge thank you to the publisher for this ARC!

Molly’s Review:

I REALLY enjoyed this book. Way more than I had expected to. It is very “Gossip Girl”, but I think it also has a lot of the diversity that Gossip Girl is lacking. And a lot of the diversity isn’t IN YOUR FACE THIS BOOK IS DIVERSE but it’s a lot more quiet. And that’s something that isn’t being said. So I thought I should point it out.

I wasn’t really big on the multiple POV, but the voices were all so different that I wasn’t lost or confused at any point. And I really actually enjoyed the story from each one. I loved the futuristic aspects, and the idea of the Tower was cool (idk how practice it actually would be, but whatever scifi, whatever).

This was a unique twist on a typical contemporary YA. The writing was good, the characters were all fleshed out, and the writing was really well done. I’ve heard some things about this book that people didn’t like (like insest) but most of the things that I heard people didn’t like either didn’t bother me or wasn’t really THAT WAY. So I guess if you’ve heard some of those things just go into this book with an open mind.

I’m really glad that I gave this one a shot.

Well done books set in Japan

 

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For the past month all I’ve done is cook Japanese food, read books set in Japan, and miss things like Japanese convenience stores, dependable trains, and being able to walk around a night feeling safe. Then a facebook memory popped up and reminded me that I moved back to the USA two years ago. Huh. No wonder I’ve been devouring Japanese stuff left and right.

It’s weird. After moving back both my husband and I were almost rejecting everything Japanese that we could. We didn’t eat Japanese food, listen to Japanese music, or watch anything Japan related. Then we slowly started to get home sick and binged on everything Japan. I think we’ve found a nice balance now. We love our home in Boston, we love MIT, but we also really love to shop at the Asian supermarket and order sushi to eat while watching anime.

As many of you know I love to read books set in Japan, but I have a lot of trouble with what’s out there. A lot of popular things are written by white authors that only experienced Japan for a short time in a very limited perspective. There is a huge difference between living in Japan for many years vs. visiting vs. studying abroad vs. teaching English for a year. I’m not going to belittle anyone’s experiences, but you CANNOT claim authority on something that you haven’t fully experienced. And this is where I have a lot of issue with some of the books I read. Whenever I find out a book is set in Japan (at least in the YA scope) I HAVE to find out what the author’s experience is. While I do think that it’s okay for author’s to write outside of their experiences, I also think that if they chose to do so, they need to get their work vetted by those who HAVE lived those experiences.

So I want to talk about some of the books that I’ve read recently that I’ve found to be spot on with accuracy.

25898828The Last Cherry Blossom by Kathleen Burkinshaw — Five stars

I just finished this book and I ADORED it. The Last Cherry Blossom is a middle grade book set in Japan during WWII around the time of the atomic bomb. This book is based on the author’s mother’s experiences in WWII Japan and during the dropping of the atom bomb. It’s well written and based on true events!

27414389A Darkly Beating Heart by Lindsay Smith — Four stars

I did go into this book with a little hesitance. The author visited Japan but (as far as I know) has never lived there for any period of time. I was a little worried but she did a lot of research and seems to have gotten her work vetted by those with experience in Japan. I did have a few Japanese word usage issues and a couple of authenticity qualms, but overall it was well done and didn’t get anything glaringly WRONG. This is a story that takes place in modern Japan and historical Japan. It’s also a ghost story. I really loved how the author did use her experiences from her visit to Japan to really get a lot of the details right.

25688977The Monster on the Road is Me by J.P. Romney — Five stars

I LOVED this book. The author taught English with the JET program and lived in a small village in the Japanese countryside. I love that he had such a different experience than most English teachers who work in or near larger cities. This book is 100% Japanese in the fact that there are no non-Japanese characters. It’s based on Japanese folklore and has a lot of Japanese words used in the text (a little too much at times I thought). The parts that take place in the classroom and school are something only those who have actually worked in Japanese high schools would be able to really tell us about. I had no issues with any of the accuracy in this book and LOVED that there wasn’t any “white savior” nonsense going on.

26138370Seven Days of You by Cecilia Vinesse — Five Stars

When I first heard about this book I was worried that it was going to be written by another white girl who studied abroad for a little or taught English in Tokyo for a year. But after connecting with the author we got super nostalgic about our lives in Japan and I got REALLY excited to see what this book was about. It’s a love letter to Tokyo, to Japan, and to her life there. I’ve seen a few reviews saying how they wished there was more Japanese culture in this book and that Japan was only used as a backdrop and that a lot more could have been done. I disagree. This book isn’t about a girl going and exploring and learning about Japan. This is the story of a girl who’s lived there for a long time. She’s already integrated. She also very much lives the life of an expat; she goes to an English speaking school, she has a lot of English speaking friends, and she lives in Tokyo… where you don’t have to speak Japanese to survive. She’s also a teen who has a mother that takes care of the more critical aspects of living in Japan. This is instead the story of a girl who lives in that circle (I knew A LOT of people who lived in expat circles) who has to say goodbye to a country and culture that she loves. There is a TON of Japan and Japanese culture in this book and I loved how none of it was really forced or taught or explained from a superior stance. I hate it when I read books about a character moving to Japan and then the author goes on and on about the culture in a totally unnatural way that is basically showing off how much they know. This book doesn’t do that, and I loved it.

30521682Year of the Talking Dog by Patrick Sherriff — Five Stars

This book is the second book in the Hana Walker series. I LOVED the first book and was so excited that I got to beta read the second book. I have since re-read the published version and damn, it was so good. The Hana Walker Mysteries series is about a half Japanese half British girl who gets sucked into solving mysteries that deal with the yakuza and in this one, a North Korean spy. I know the author personally and he’s lived in Japan for quite some time. He also has children who are half Japanese half British and I love that he’s representing his daughters in his work. Someday they’ll read his novels and see themselves in them and that’s just amazing to me. These books make me miss Japan SO much.

So there we go. Do you  know of any books that are set in Japan that you think I should check out? I have a list on my goodreads account and I am ALWAYS looking for books to add to it!