Tuesday, April 8, 2014

{ARC Review} Don't Look Back By: Jennifer L. Armentrout

Title: Don't Look Back
Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Shelves: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mystery
Publication Date: April 15th, 2014
Source: Disney Hyperion/ TeenReads for review
Format: Physical ARC
Don't Look Back

Synopsis: For Samantha Franco, her life up until the day she is found battered and stripped of all memory, has been seemingly perfect. Although she doesn't remember a bit of it, Samantha's wealth, popularity, beauty and mean streak have always been a part of her life. Now, after an unidentifiable incident and the disappearance of her "best friend", Samantha is not the girl she used to be. Although Sam is determined to leave behind the life she once lead, the images in her head and the haunting flashes of memory are holding on to her and they're tempting her to look back.

Review: First, a HUGE thank you to Disney Hyperion and TeenReads for sending me this galley for review! This was my first Jennifer L. Armentrout book, guys! I didn't really know what to expect, but I did know that Jennifer is a great contemporary romance writer. Don't Look Back was both romance AND mystery, and that is one of the best things a book can be;)

I do have to say that the scenes in Don't Look Back were very beguiling. Jennifer L. Armentrout knows how to capture readers with the high strung tones and the electric romance. However, I did notice that there were a lot of cliches, especially in terms of the themes. The plotline, while enticing and fast-paced, was very similar to many other thrillers and mysteries. The beautiful teenager suffering from amnesia, the dead best friend, and the "surprise killer" have been seen in many other books, and it's even shown up in pop culture (Pretty Little Liars, anyone?) Although I wasn't too pleased with some of the less original areas of Don't Look Back, I was able to enjoy the book nonetheless.

One aspect of Don't Look Back I really liked was the characters. Samantha was interesting. While many things could have gone wrong, leaving Sam to be a morbid and detestable character, Jennifer L. Armentrout brought out the best qualities and shied away from Sam's flaws. I love seeing memorable characters in books, and I was not disappointed by the lot in Don't Look Back. Samantha's love interest Carson, definitely makes my list of book-boyfriends, and her brother was one of those secondary characters that just needs their own book.

Because Jennifer L. Armentrout created such amazing characters, I was able to connect with Sam easily; as many other readers will find themselves doing. Her thoughts and emotions practically became my own as I read this book, and it seemed like I was right beside her for every jump, twist and fall.

Conclusion: Despite its flaws, Don't Look Back was a well-written and brilliantly executed novel that rings with the chills of Pretty Little Liars and thrills all its own.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Stacking the Shelves #5 (For the month of March)

Hello there, darlings! As you know, I follow along with the Stacking the Shelves posts once a month. I'm so grateful for the lovely books I received this month, considered how out of the blogosphere I was!

Physical ARCs- from publishers/authors for review

1) Blonde Ops By: Charlotte Bennardo and Natalie Zaman
courtesy of St. Martin's Griffin
2) The Lovely and the Lost By: Page Morgan
courtesy of Random House Kids
3) Fool Me Twice By: Mandy Hubbard
courtesy of Bloomsbury Kids
4) Chapel Wars By: Lindsey Leavitt
courtesy of Bloomsbury Kids
5) The Truth About Alice By: Jennifer Mathieu
courtesy of Roaring Brook Press
6) Whisper By: Chris Struyk-Bonn
courtesy of Orca Publishing 
7) The Falconer By: Elizabeth May
courtesy of Chronicle Books
8) China Dolls By: Lisa See
courtesy of Random House

Giveaway Wins
Wow I didn't enter a giveaway at all this month! These are the books I received from giveaways past :

1) ARC of Whisper Falls By: Elizabeth Langston
2) Personalized copy of Better Off Friends By: Elizabeth Eulberg
3) Paperback copy of Dust Lands By: Moira Young


ARC of Fates By: Lanie Brown 

Thank you to all the people who sent me these lovely books! As you guys know, I think I will take a small break from reading and reviewing ARCs since the titles on my TBR list are just wayyy too tempting! What do you guys think? Sounds good? Hopefully I'll be able to do more TBR reading this summer as well! Leave me comments and links to your OWN Stacking the Shelves posts! 

Friday, March 28, 2014

{ARC Review} Cold Calls By: Charles Benoit

Title: Cold Calls
Author: Charles Benoit
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Shelves: Young Adult, Thriller, Mystery
Publication Date: April 1st, 2014
Source: Clarion Books
Format: Physical ARC

Cold Calls
Synopsis: An indistinguishable voice on the phone. Three young teens: each with their own dirty little secret, and each with devastating tasks they must complete in order for their secrets to remain hidden. Thrown together under dire circumstances, Eric, Fatima and Shelly unite to figure out the truth behind the voice- while trying to keep themselves safe. From acclaimed author Charles Benoit comes a chilling tale about the dangers of modern-day technology, and the bully inside us all. 

Review: First, a HUGE thank you to Clarion books for sending me this galley for review! Have any of you guys read YOU by Charles Benoit? Well if you haven't, I'll just tell you that I was immensely impressed with the way the author kept the story illusive, yet interesting. Cold Calls had a very similar feel to it. From the get-go, you will be left in speculation. It is not until much later that the secrets of these kids are slowly revealed, and even then, they are not fully unveiled. For some readers, this may work, and you might be someone who enjoys a mystery where everything is NOT solved. For the most part, this was not a problem for me, although I found myself really curious as to the full and untold depths of these secrets.

Why you should read this book: I was in the mood for a realistic and eerie mystery, and Cold Calls really delivered. It's full of twists and turns, and it also relies on the suspense generated from the plot to keep the reader interested. Cold Calls is also part psychological thriller- especially with the realistic undertone. I got the chills just imagining the prey-like situation these teens were facing. And that is also another characteristic of Cold Calls that you might like. It's really easy to put yourself in these character's shoes. I cringed, just thinking about the desperation and anxiety that must have run through the minds of these kids, whose mistakes cost them in the end. While I'm not saying that these are the most likable characters, nor are they THAT easy to connect to, it is important to understand that you will most likely be able to imagine yourself in their situation. Cold Calls is also a really quick and easy read that you will find yourself enjoying, for the most part.

Now here's where you may be disappointed: The ending. 
Judging from this gif, I think you can tell I was a TEENSY bit disappointed. Cold Calls had such great potential for a stellar ending, but that is the one thing that this book also lacked. The ending was.. eh. Not great. It was mainly just a very confusing ending; and I don't think this was intentional. It is unclear what really happened, and what I think was supposed to be a great cliffhanger ended up being really lame. There were too many loose ends that were not tied up. If there does happen to be a sequel to Cold Calls, then I really do hope Charles Benoit assures us of what we missed in this novel. 

Conclusion: Honestly, I was equal parts LOVE and equal parts EH. I definitely do think, however, that Cold Calls is a book worth reading. And who knows? Maybe the good sometimes cancels out the bad, right? :)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

ARC Giveaway & A Little Message!

Hi guys! As many of you may have noticed, my presence on my blog and social media has been somewhat limited lately. You know the reading slumps we sometimes get into? Well it feels like I've been in a blogging slump lately. I've considered taking a hiatus, but I came to the decision to keep moving forward. It's at that point of the year where I'm just buried under mounds of schoolwork, while putting in hours at my job, at the gym, at my taekwondo studio, and at my church. It's all been a little overwhelming lately, and I really really really appreciate everyone who has stuck by me or just checked on me these past couple of months. I love blogging, but I've been feeling a lot of the pressure. What I've decided to do is to keep on reviewing, and weekly posts such as Waiting on Wednesdays and (possibly) Discussion Thursdays will be up and running soon. There will be a bunch more author features, interviews, giveaways, and definitely more reviews to come as well. As you can see, my blog design has also changed, and will possibly change again in the near future. I plan on spending an entire month (probably May) where no ARCs will be read. Just books from my very long TBR list. So with all that said, once again, I really appreciate my lovely readers and commentators and general supporters of my blog and I. I will be catching up with all my author and blogger friends ASAP! I <3 you all!

That's why I'm here today to offer up a comment love giveaway!

Recently, I reviewed an ARC of THE EDGE OF FALLING by Rebecca Serle. Check it out here! I really enjoyed it, and I want to give away an ARC copy to YOU! Yes YOU! This giveaway is partially a THANK YOU for all my amazing followers and partially to get that comment love flowing! 

Rules of Entry:
2) No cheating with your entries, I always check.
3) Entries can be earned through leaving comments. Please don't leave mean comments, or short, general comments such as, "I loved this book too!"
4) The winner has 24 hours to respond to my email.
5) The ARC will be sent out at my discretion.
6) I promise to try my very very best to respond to all the amazing comments you guys leave!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

{ARC Review} The Edge of Falling By: Rebecca Serle

Title: The Edge of Falling
Author: Rebecca Serle
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Shelves: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Publication Date: March 18th, 2014
Source: SimonPulse for review
Format: Physical ARC

*Book #7 of March Madness Reads*

Synopsis: Caggie has always had everything a girl could possibly need- a best friend, a boyfriend, prestige and wealth. But everything changed that one day. With a toss of the waves, Caggie's sister's life was swept away. Several months later, Caggie reportedly saved a fellow classmate from committing suicide- or did she? There are secrets Caggie keeps as she sinks deeper and deeper, and pushes the ones she loves most away- until she meets Astor, the one person who understands her. Can he be the one to save her? Set in the infamous Manhattan, The Edge of Falling pulses with depth and desire in every turn of the page. 

Review: A HUGE thank you to the lovely people at S&S for sending me this galley for review! I've got both good and not-so-good things to say about The Edge of Falling, but one thing I'll point out first is the BEAUTIFUL cover. This book grabbed my attention right away and I knew that I NEEDED to read it. And thanks to some wonderful people, I was given the chance to! This cover. Whoever designed it is absolutely brilliant. As the story progresses, the cover will make more and more sense, but it is just lovely. The shiny red flats against the blurry city backdrop. The font of the title, and the way it blends beautifully with the rest of the cover. It absolutely drew me in.

Now we talk about the actual story, the things that matter the most. The Edge of Falling starts off very slowly, and it takes a little while to get used to some of the choppier dialogue and internal thoughts. It wasn't too terribly hard for me to get through the first quarter, and it really started to pick up and become interesting. However, at times, I felt a little uncomfortable with the narrative. Caggie seemed to leave a lot of thoughts unfinished. I would liked the author to have created Caggie in a more evolved and expanding way. Going along with the writing was my love for the way Rebecca Serle described the city. As a New Yorker, I'm telling you that it was SPOT ON. Not only does she accurately describe it, but she will also make you FEEL it. Whether you are a native New Yorker or not, the setting adds an admirable quality to the writing.

In The Edge of Falling, Caggie meets a very mysterious boy named Astor. She is immediately attracted to him, thinking that their grief binds them together. This begins the start of a very eerie romance. Astor and Caggie's relationship reminded me of a puppet and his master. Astor was the master, and it seemed like Caggie was his puppet, as he controlled her movements and character. The chemistry between them was very flat. If I say anything else beyond this, I'm scared of giving away the ending so I'll just stop talking about Astor and Caggie ;) HOWEVER... Caggie and her ex-boyfriend Trevor! They were just absolutely adorable! Trevor was everything a girl could ever hope for in a guy, and they added a much needed burst of energy and light to The Edge of Falling.

When it really comes down to it, the true core of this novel was not romance or friendship. This was a tale of one girl's grief and personal pain. It's about learning to forgive yourself, and learning to let go of the past. And what truly leaves an impression on me after reading The Edge of Falling, is the genuineness of voice and soul. Rebecca Serle absolutely holds nothing back as you read deeper into the pain and despair Caggie goes through. This is the voice of a lonely and anguish-filled teenage girl, and Rebecca doesn't try to cover this fact up with rainbows and sunshine. It is what is truly just IS.

Conclusion: Although the beginning started off slowly, I grew to really love The Edge of Falling. Caggie's true nature comes out at the end, and she is a character you won't be able to truly hate. The Edge of Falling is a poignant and refreshing novel that accentuates grief in ways that are not always truly visible.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

{ARC Review} Promise of Shadows By: Justina Ireland

Title: Promise of Shadows
Author: Justina Ireland
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Shelves: Young Adult, Mythology, Fantasy
Publication Date: March 11th, 2014
Source: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Format: Physical ARC


*Book #3 of March Madness Reads*

Summary from Goodreads: Zephyr Mourning has never been very good at being a Harpy. She’d rather watch reality TV than learn forty-seven ways to kill a man, and she pretty much sucks at wielding magic. Zephyr was ready for a future pretending to be a normal human instead of a half-god assassin. But all that changes when her sister is murdered—and she uses a forbidden dark power to save herself from the same fate.

Zephyr is on the run from a punishment worse than death when an unexpected reunion with a childhood friend (a surprisingly HOT friend) changes everything. Because it seems like Zephyr might just be the Nyx, a dark goddess made flesh that is prophesied to change the power balance. For hundreds of years the half-gods have lived in fear, and Zephyr is supposed to change that.

But how is she supposed to save everyone when she can’t even save herself?

Review: First, a HUGE thank you to the wonderful people at S&S for sending me this galley for review! Promise of Shadows was one of my most anticipated reads of March 2014. I am a HUGE fan of Greek mythology, and I was really interested in seeing how Justina Ireland was going to create this story.

Characters: In terms of characters, I admit that I've seen (read?) worse. Zephyr had spirit and spunk, but she just wasn't a very memorable character. I was glad to see a diverse character, of dark skin and blue hair (super cool) but even this just couldn't make Zephyr stand out in my memories. As I will discuss later in this review, Zephyr's role was also a bit confusing, so basically, she is half human and half vaettir. Vaettir are half god and also contain powers, but are forced to live among humans. All her life Zephyr has only known the vaettir people to be those who wield good power, as opposed to the dark and evil powers she has. Sometimes I felt like Zephyr's character wasn't fully developed in terms of her thoughts and emotions. It seemed like she was hiding her true feelings even in her deepest internal thoughts. You won't hate Zephyr, but I have a feeling you won't love her too much either. The same goes for her love interest, Tallon. While he was one hunk of a character,
he seemed a bit... wishy-washy in my mind, especially in his actions and feelings. 

Writing: Ah. What do I say about the writing? It was equal parts love and equal parts detest for me. Promise of Shadows started off painfully confusing and slow. It is hard to understand what exactly is going on with the Greek mythology and fantasy fiction until the very middle. When you are reading this book, I advise you to take notes. It's super important to keep track of what is going on because there are just so many parts to this book, from the human figures to the godly characters. There are many elements woven into one not-very-well-executed storyline. 
My notes! :)

Sure, there were some really intense and vibrant scenes, but this wasn't a consistency throughout the entire novel. The writing varied between imaginative and capturing, to dull and confusing. Another problem I had with Promise of Shadows was the repetitive use of words on the same page. Although it's really not a major issue, it does make either the dialogue or just the writing in general really awkward and stilted. However, please bear in mind that I read an uncorrected version of this book, so the finished copy will hopefully be different.

Romance/Mythology: While Tallon and Zephyr's "love conflicts" were really entertaining and added an extra edge to an otherwise mundane story, I really wish it were more developed. I saw the potential in the smexy and smoldering attempts between Tallon and Zephyr, but like much of this book, it was hard to take this anywhere. And while I knew that I wanted more romance, I'm not sure I can say the same about the mythology. If you read Promise of Shadows, try not to compare it to the Percy Jackson series (which I made the mistake of doing). For one, Promise of Shadows is more of a young adult book, so there are different sides to the gods and creatures that wouldn't be suitable for children. And secondly, it just cannot live up to it. Rick Riordan's incorporation of mythology is just a lot easier to understand, especially when it comes to those who don't really know anything about it. While Greek mythology is SUPER AWESOME, it takes a bit of effort to comprehend and untangle. I felt like Promise of Shadows was a sluggish effort compared to what it could have been.

Conclusion: Oh *sigh*. Promise of Shadows really fell short of my expectations, and I think I might take a step back from fantasy novels for a while. Or go hunting for more. Either way, I would say to borrow it from a library if you want to read it because sadly, it is not worth buying. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

{March Madness Read-A-Thon} CRASH INTO YOU Playlist!

Hello lovelies! For those of you who don't know, I'm hosting my first ever Read-A-Thon! This March, in addition to reviews and general blog stuff, there will be fun blog posts and giveaways I hope you guys will like! Yesterday, I posted my review for Katie McGarry's CRASH INTO YOU, so today I'm going to share my book playlist! I am a BIG FAN of house and club music, but I also really love country and pop (total opposites, I know) and while there might not be a huge range of genres in this playlist, I hope y'all will give it a try all the same. DISCLAIMER: This post contains minor spoilers, and have been marked. If you have not yet read Crash Into You, be careful! 

1) "Nightingale" By: Demi Lovato 
I chose "Nightingale" specifically for the scene in the novel where Rachel is up at 1 AM and she cannot stop thinking about Isaiah. Rachel is questioning whether she should let Isaiah in, and if he is truly the one for her. Demi Lovato's "Nightingale" is a perfect portrayal for Rachel's yearning and apprehension.

2) "Hey Brother" By: Avicii ft. Dan Tyminsky
I really love Avicii's "Hey Brother" and one of my favorite parts of this book was the friendship I saw with Isaiah and Noah, and Isaiah and Logan as well. Noah is basically like Isaiah's brother, and he even says in the book that "water becomes thicker than blood." Noah and Isaiah's bond is greater than any friendship. I chose these lyrics for the scene [SPOILER] where Rachel has just won the race and Isaiah and Noah are preparing to confront Eric. Here, Noah has Isaiah's back completely, and this is where you know that nothing can tear them apart.

3) "Both of Us" By: B.o.B ft. Taylor Swift
"Both of Us" is an overall song for the novel, especially for Rachel's point of view. She considers herself weak, and everyone around her often makes her feel that way as well. Yet at the same time, she wants to be strong, not only for herself, but also for Isaiah.

*These songs don't match exact scenes, but I love them for an overall theme or for the book in general.*

4) "I Do" By: Colbie Caillat
"Tell me is it only me
Do you feel the same?
You know me well enough to know that I'm not playing games
I promise I won't turn around and I won't let you down
You can trust I've never felt it like I feel it now
Baby there's nothing, there's nothing we can't get through
So can we say
I do, I do, I do, do do do do do do doo
Oh baby, I do, I do, I do, do do do do do do doo
Cause every time before it's been like
Maybe yes and maybe no
I won't live without it, I won't let it go
What more can I get myself into?
You make me wanna say"

*lyrics courtesy of AZ Lyrics*

Colbie Caillat's "I Do" is not only super catchy and super upbeat, but I think it's great for the sweeter and lighter scenes in Crash Into You. While this was an intense novel with some red-hot romance, there were definitely some adorable scenes between Isaiah and Rachel.

5) "Helluva Life" By: Frankie Ballard
"Well we all have faith, and we all have hope,
But we're all a little lost in the same damn boat. 
It's a helluva life, it's a helluva life. 
Something bout the night girl, 
when you got the right girl,
Sittin right beside you, 
Lookin at the sky, girl
Thinkin bout why we're here,
And where we're goin, 
baby, here we are, 
And all I know is...

Pennies make dimes and dimes make dollars,
Dollars buy gas and longneck bottles,
Beer gets a barefoot country girl swayin, 
To a song that's playin and the world starts fadin'.
Bad times make the good times better,
Look in her eyes and you're gone forever,
It's a helluva ride... Yeah, It's a helluva life."

*lyrics courtesy of AZ Lyrics

"Helluva Life" would definitely be Isaiah's song, in my opinion. The moments when he wasn't tense or angry, Isaiah was a laidback and incredibly caring guy. "Helluva Life" has those sexy, sweet country twangs, and I think it's the perfect song for a car ride with Rachel right beside him.

6) "Two is Better Than One" By: Boys Like Girls ft. Taylor Swift
'Cause everything you do and words you say
You know that it all takes my breath away
And now I'm left with nothing

So maybe it's true that I can't live without you
And maybe two is better than one
But there's so much time to figure out the rest of my life
And you've already got me coming undone
And I'm thinking two is better than one

I remember every look upon your face
The way you roll your eyes, the way you taste
You make it hard for breathing

'Cause when I close my eyes and drift away
I think of you and everything's okay
I'm finally now believing

Then maybe it's true that I can't live without you
And maybe two is better than one
But there's so much time to figure out the rest of my life
And you've already got me coming undone
And I'm thinking two is better than one

*lyrics courtesy of AZ Lyrics*

At this point, I'm afraid that my playlist is getting a little repetitive. But seriously, guys, this song is a major throwback for me, and I think it really encompasses Isaiah and Rachel's relationship perfectly. "The way you roll your eyes, the way you taste, you make it hard for breathing." Um.. YEAH, that is DEFINITELY how Isaiah felt about Rachel!

7) "God Bless the Broken Road" By: Rascal Flatts
Every long lost dream led me to where you are
Others who broke my heart they were like Northern stars
Pointing me on my way into your loving arms
This much I know is true
That God blessed the broken road
That led me straight to you
(Yes He did)

*lyrics courtesy of AZ Lyrics*

And finally, one of my favorite songs for Isaiah. "God Bless the Broken Road". In this song, Rascal Flatts sings about the heartbreak and hardships of life that ultimately lead to the best thing: love. Before Rachel, Isaiah was [SPOILER] heartbroken over Beth. Isaiah's entire life had been an entire series of ups-and-downs, most of them being downs. He'd suffered through terrible foster homes and desperation at such a young age. Even as a fighter, Isaiah just could not deny the weakness that life imprinted on him. When he met Rachel, it was like none of that mattered anymore. "God blessed the broken road that led me straight to you." and yes, through Isaiah's broken roads, Rachel was worth it all.

So that's it, guys! What do you think? Did you read Crash Into You and enjoy my playlist, or naw? Leave me some comments! :) <3