Thursday, July 3, 2014

{Review} Hemlock (Hemlock #1) By: Kathleen Peacock

Title: Hemlock (Hemlock #1)
Author: Kathleen Peacock
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Shelves: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal
Recommended For Fans Of: Maggie Stiefvater, Cassandra Clare, Amy Plum

Synopsis: Mackenzie "Mac" Dobson is still reeling from the murder of her best friend, Amy. Seeming to be just another tragedy in the series of werewolf attacks in Mac's town, Amy's death ignites the fear of those who have been cursed with Lupine Syndrome. An extremist group called The Trackers are determined to put an end to those with LS; even the harmless were-beings that Mac believes are out there. However, the Trackers' leader will stop at nothing to poison the already-damaged soul of Mac's best friend Jason, while she desperately holds tight to the shattered remains of Amy's friendship and her sweet best friend Kyle. In order to protect everything she's ever known, Mac uncovers secrets about the people she thought she knew best- and chilling truths about Amy's murder that she will never be able to forget.

Review: I don't usually read supernatural books that involve werewolves. But when I do, I really hope that they are as notable as Hemlock is. Hemlock weaves just the perfect amount of fantasy with reality.

Storyline/Characters: I'll admit that it took me a while to warm up to the romance, and to even form an opinion about the characters. To me, that just means that the characters aren't memorable. I guess you could say that I'm  indifferent. Especially towards Mac, who I absolutely didn't hate, but I didn't absolutely love at the same time. She had amiable qualities that I admired, but I can't truthfully say that she is on my list of favorite-female-protagonists. However, Mac is a character who contributes to the eminence of this story rather than for lack of a better word, downgrading it. The characters that I did have a fondness for were Trey and Mac's best friends, Jason and Kyle. These are the type of boys that you'll wish you were friends with as a teen; genuine, dependable, and as I'm sure, easy on the eyes as well. *exaggerated wink*

Although Hemlock's storyline doesn't have a slow start, personally I felt that it took a while for the really really really good parts to come in. I'm going to go off on a limb here and compare this to a delicious slice of chocolate cake. Yes, a chocolate cake. You've got the simple icing and the general bread-crumb taste at first bite (can you tell I'm not much of a baker?), but maybe on that third or fourth bite of cake, you'll sink your teeth into a rich and creamy hidden center filling. And that's when you know that despite the initial blandness, you still love that cake. This, my dear readers, is how I would like to officially describe Hemlock's storyline to you all. The beginning will keep you interested, and towards the middle and ending of the book, you won't be able to put it down (or in the case of that chocolate cake, you won't be able to stop eating.)

*I apologize for that analogy. I'm not entirely too practiced concerning these, but there's a first time for everything, right? :)*

Other thoughts: Hmmm.. I have to say that Hemlock is a bit predictable as well. It doesn't entirely spoil the book, but as a reader, I think you can figure out the ending pretty easily. Still, you'll enjoy being right, huh? :)

Conclusion: Hemlock is definitely worth the read! Since Hemlock is the first in a series, I'm curious as to what Kathleen Peacock will be pulling off with the sequel! Off to the library I go (as you should be, too!)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

{Review} Independent Study (The Testing #2) By: Joelle Charbonneau

Title: Independent Study (The Testing #2)
Author: Joelle Charbonneau
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Shelves: Young Adult, Dystopia, Science Fiction
Recommended For Fans Of: Suzanne Young, Suzanne Collins, Veronica Roth

Synopsis from Goodreads: In the series debut The Testing, sixteen-year-old Cia Vale was chosen by the United Commonwealth government as one of the best and brightest graduates of all the colonies . . . a promising leader in the effort to revitalize postwar civilization. In Independent Study, Cia is a freshman at the University in Tosu City with her hometown sweetheart, Tomas—and though the government has tried to erase her memory of the brutal horrors of The Testing, Cia remembers. Her attempts to expose the ugly truth behind the government’s murderous programs put her—and her loved ones—in a world of danger. But the future of the Commonwealth depends on her.

Review: This review is going to be slightly shorter than most of my regular reviews. If you'd like to read a full-length review of The Testing, here it is! http://fictionthenewreality.blogspot.com/2014/06/review-test-testing-1-by-joelle.html However, for those of you who have read The Testing and decided to read the sequel as well, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

I loved The Testing from the very start, and at this rate, it seems like I'll be loving it until the very end as well. The sequel was just as fabulous as I hoped it to be. Although there wasn't the same rush from all the action that the first book provided, I still think Independent Study was a mind-warping thrill ride. For those of you who have yet to read Independent Study, Cia is now at the university, where she has been assigned to the governmental branch, to her own surprise. Once she begins her classes, she is immediately overwhelmed- with the eyes of authority that seem to be constantly watching her, the workload that no other student seems to have, and the whispers of threats just beyond the horizon- threats that speak of a rebellion that will put a stop to the dangerous testing once and for all.

Cia was fabulous in Independent Study. She had to endure a lot of mind games and intelligence testing in Independent Study, and as a reader who loved Cia from the start, I felt a sense of pride at how amazing of a character she was. I really admire how much Joelle Charbonneau encompassed into Cia's character; making her one of the best heroines I've encountered in YA fiction. My only complaint was that at times, Cia seemed a bit TOO perceptive and I wanted her to accept her slight weaknesses in more ways throughout the book. However, Cia is still among my top favorite characters, and she will always be.

The introduction of amazing background characters was also a great move on Joelle's part. I loved seeing Ian and Michal make their way into Cia's life, and into the reader's heart. It wouldn't be a bad idea if Joelle wanted to do a spin-off series based on their own stories... *winks*

Conclusion: Independent Study was a very satisfying sequel to an amazing book, and I couldn't have asked for anything better from this fantastic author and this heart-pounding series that gives Divergent a run for its money.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

{Review} The Test (The Testing #1) By: Joelle Charbonneau

Title: The Testing (The Testing #1)
Author: Joelle Charbonneau
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Shelves: Young Adult, Dystopia, Science Fiction
Recommended For Fans Of: Suzanne Young, Veronica Roth

Synopsis (From Goodreads): Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Isn’t that what they say? But how close is too close when they may be one in the same? 

The Seven Stages War left much of the planet a charred wasteland. The future belongs to the next generation’s chosen few who must rebuild it. But to enter this elite group, candidates must first pass The Testing—their one chance at a college education and a rewarding career. 

Cia Vale is honored to be chosen as a Testing candidate; eager to prove her worthiness as a University student and future leader of the United Commonwealth. But on the eve of her departure, her father’s advice hints at a darker side to her upcoming studies--trust no one. 

But surely she can trust Tomas, her handsome childhood friend who offers an alliance? Tomas, who seems to care more about her with the passing of every grueling (and deadly) day of the Testing. To survive, Cia must choose: love without truth or life without trust.
Review: This is my second time reading The Testing, and it has only gotten better. I have so much love for this book, and I really wish more people would know about and read The Testing! At this point, I realize many people are tired of dystopians. In fact, I, myself am tired of them as well. But The Testing is an awesome, amazing exception. It exceeds my expectations in a world of worn-out dystopian themes. While the general idea behind this book is very similar to both The Hunger Games and Divergent, The Testing is written so well that it can completely stand out against two of dystopia's biggest hits.

Why did I love it? Well, for starters, The Testing has some heart-pounding action. I often find it really difficult to keep up with the jumps and twists and what-nots in dystopians and general thrillers, but I had no trouble with The Testing. It kept me engaged and utterly captured at some of the best and most heart-pounding scenes that Joelle Charbonneau wrote. One of the best things about The Testing is the way it combined romance, suspense, action, and science fiction into one explosive story.

Characters: Cia is the main character, and she is absolutely amazing. Cia is strong, but not overly strong; intelligent, but not a complete genius; and confident; but not even a bit arrogant. She is the perfect example of strong feminism and yet, she is genuine and real. Dare I go so far as to say that Cia is one of the best heroines I've encountered upon in young adult dystopia? I do dare to say this, and I hope that many of you will agree with me once you read The Testing. Cia is a character you will root for, and you will enjoy following her along her testing. Cia's love interest Thomas is another example of a wonderful character. Although he seemed like Cia's back-up, Thomas's own story is something that gives a reader pause and thought.

Romance: There is, very obviously, romance between Thomas and Cia. However, unlike Divergent and The Hunger Games, this relationship is not obstructed by too many obstacles. It is a nice change to see a relatively "smooth" relationship among many that frustrate you to the point of extreme annoyance. Thomas and Cia had a passion that while was not extremely highlighted in The Testing, became a background that was very enjoyable and made me smile.

Plot: The Testing, while not entirely a unique IDEA, is unique in its own way. The introduction of many parts of the actual tests itself had me craving more, and I guarantee the same will happen for you. The plot is quick and easy to keep up with, like I have said before.

Conclusion: I've actually been recommending The Testing to many of my own friends, which only happens with books I truly, truly love. And The Testing is one of those books. So here I am, recommending this to you, dear review reader. Read The Testing. And love it. :)

Friday, May 23, 2014

{ARC Review} Noggin By: John Corey Whaley


Title: Noggin
Author: John Corey Whaley
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Shelves: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Publication Date: April 8th, 2014
Source: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Format: Physical ARC

Synopsis: You only live once... unless you're Travis Coates, one of the miracle survivors of new cryogenic studies. Five years after his body died from the cancer that plagued him, Travis and his head are back... just on a new body. So imagine you're a teenage boy with an amazing girlfriend and an awesome best friend. Then cancer takes you away, leaving everyone behind you stricken. Five years later you're back, and back to witness your girlfriend's engagement, and everyone else moving on. But you can't. You're still stuck five years back, when you thought the end was near... but hey. You only live twice, right?

Review: A HUGE thank you to the wonderful people at Atheneum Books for sending me this galley for review! John Corey Whaley. Remember that name, memorize the face (LOL) because John Corey Whaley is greatness itself. In fact, this entire book is greatness itself.
{Literally me when I finished reading Noggin??}

And where do I even begin to describe how much I LOVED this book? Is it the brilliant voices Whaley must have floating around in his head, that he somehow managed to capture perfectly on paper? Is is the never-ending humor, even through the soul-touching, heart-string pulling moments? Something about Noggin is magical, and it just might be all of the above.

I loved the eerily realistic feel of the science fiction aspect. Travis comes back to life after dying, which is pretty sci-fi to me. The super cool, super mindblowing part is that Whaley put Travis in modern day surroundings. Everything was spot on, and Travis acted exactly as a 21st century teenager would.

The storyline was ADDICTING. When you read Noggin, I have a feeling you won't be able to put it down. It moves at the perfect pace, and everything just flows so well. I can't help but gush and rant over just how wonderful Whaley's writing is. And it is truly awesome. The dialogue was engaging and Travis's jokes and charming personality had me like:
                                       
And what makes Noggin important is that it is MEMORABLE. Something about this books makes it stay in your mind. Travis is a unique and stirring character, put in a very moving and heartfelt story.

Conclusion: Both deeply meaningful and comically hilarious, John Corey Whaley's enigmatic new novel is full of bursting with (second) life. I think Noggin is a book that everyone needs to read to truly enjoy for themselves. And what the hey. Go out and buy a copy, for goodness sake! It's really THAT good :)

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

{Review} Side Effects May Vary By: Julie Murphy

Title: Side Effects May Vary
Author: Julie Murphy
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Shelves: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Recommended For Fans Of: Wendy Wunder, A.J. Betts

Synopsis: When 16 year-old Alice was diagnosed with leukemia, not only does her physical being become sick, but also all the aspects of her life that she once thought so stable come tumbling down. A year later, when told she is now officially in remission, things have not gotten any easier for Alice. Instead, they seem to get harder as her best friend and the love of her life, Harvey, tries to fix what Alice has already broken, and the own parts of her soul that she was sure was going to die. But Alice is about to learn that even without cancer, side effects of life will always vary.

Review: About halfway through this book, I thought I knew for sure that I was going to rate it perhaps a 1 out of 5 stars. But thank god I waited because sometimes, the things that are worth reading are always in the end.

Characters: Let's talk about the characters, shall we? Alice was the main character, a young girl who had gone through hell and survived. So imagine my surprise when she turns out to be a world-class *insert another word for mean girl here*. Alice was manipulative, annoying, distant and moody. She treated Harvey, her best friend who also happened to be in love with her, as her slave. Alice not only took advantage of him, but she played with his heart. Halfway through this book, I was about done with Alice. While I appreciated Julie Murphy's efforts to create a looser character whose heart was not purely gold, Alice felt like a science fair experiment gone wrong. But, choosing to read past the first half, Alice started to change just a little bit in my eyes. For some reason, I couldn't help but defend her in my mind. Think of Alice like this: she's that friend that you never see eye-to-eye with, but she's also that girl you'd defend in a fight. And although those rare moments of warmth and gold that came through in Alice were enough to raise my review to 3 stars, it by no means meant she even made my list of lovable characters. Harvey, on the other hand, was just the boy you could not help but love. He was a handsome Prince Charming, even when Alice refused to be his princess.

Writing: Now here's where I also had some concerns. Side Effects May Vary is told from two points of view; both Harvey and Alice. However, these points of view also go back and forth between the year Alice was diagnosed with leukemia and the period after her remission. You don't find out the reasoning behind this "time switch" until the very end, but even then, it's still a bit unclear. Although it's not DIFFICULT to keep the settings straight, it takes a bit of effort to piece together the string of events that played out from Alice's sickness. And contrasting to that, one part I really liked about Julie Murphy's writing is her exploration into the theme of "cruelty inspiring cruelty." We all know that high school is a tough time, and some people can be downright vicious no matter what stage of life you are in. This is seen in Side Effects May Vary, when Alice's enemies are absolutely cruel and miserable. In retaliation, however, Alice does some things that aren't too easily forgivable, and sometimes, that is the human nature. Alice is definitely one of the more flawed characters I've read in YA contemporary.

Ending: Like I said in the beginning of my review, the ending of Side Effects May Vary is likely the best part. I enjoyed the way Julie Murphy ended this story. I truly did. A perfect way to end an imperfect book, right?

Conclusion: Although Side Effects May Vary is not a book that you will love right away, maybe you'll be able to find those hidden silver linings and just possibly give this book a chance.

Monday, May 5, 2014

{ARC Review} The Chapel Wars By: Lindsey Leavitt


Title: The Chapel Wars
Author: Lindsey Leavitt
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Shelves: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publication Date: May 6th, 2014
Source: Bloomsbury USA Childrens for review
Format: Physical ARC

Synopsis: Love is never easy, and it seems to only become harder when you're the seventeen year-old owner of a wedding chapel. After the death of her beloved grandfather, Holly inherits the family business- a quaint wedding chapel in one of the most romantic cities in the nation; Las Vegas. Soon, Holly finds herself struggling to keep her chapel in business while denying that she's falling for Dax- grandson of Holly's grandfather's worst enemy; who just so happens to be the owner of a rival chapel. Will Holly lose her chapel or her first true love? After all, all's fair in love and chapel war.

Review: First, a HUGE thank you to Bloomsbury USA Childrens for sending me this galley for review! The Chapel Wars is such an adorable contemporary novel with a really sweet premise that stems from an original idea. But I have to say that what first drew me into this book was the author: Lindsey Leavitt. I ABSOLUTELY ADORED Lindsey's other novels, including the Princess for Hire series and her standalone, Going Vintage. I've always thought of Lindsey as an excellent contemporary romance writer and she did not disappoint in The Chapel Wars.

Writing/Romance: I'd like to applause the writing and romance in this novel first, as it was one of the things that I enjoyed most. Lindsey Leavitt brings her signature charm and bubbly sass in her writing. I loved the way that Lindsey gave Holly's view of Las Vegas an almost vintage feel- making it easier for me to connect to an otherwise reputably distant place. I've never actually been to Vegas before,  but the suburban side of this flashy city was brought out in The Chapel Wars, which I really loved! Now when we speak about the romance, I have one word: ADORABLE. There couldn't be a cuter couple found in Vegas. Although this relationship's wonderful reputation is more than partly due to Dax, I still found their banter and playfulness so so sweet. 

Characters: Now here's where my review falls down to 3.5 stars. Holly was a great character, but she was hard to relate to in many ways. For one, I found it completely unbelievable that she could be given the freedom of a 25 year-old at the age of 17. Even though she seemed like a very mature and capable girl, the lack of Holly's parent's supervision and lack of opposition towards anything she did seemed kind of unbelievable to me. The only time Holly's parents were really present was during scenes that involved the chapel. It would have been nice to see the parents of a teenaged girl more involved in their daughter's life. Holly also became a bit distant for me when I realized that most of her thoughts were trained on her chapel. At 17, Holly should have been thinking of school or even of other possible hobbies. Instead, the concept of school was discussed very briefly and dismissed very quickly. What could have been a possible alteration and therefore solution to this problem would be to change Holly's age. Although it could have possibly put The Chapel Wars out of the Young Adult genre, I felt like it would have been more appropriate for Holly's character to be in her twenties.

Conclusion: The Chapel Wars is worth a read. And on the other hand, Lindsey Leavitt's other novels are worth MORE reads as well. For those of you who do pick up The Chapel Wars and reads my review, let me know what you think! :)

Sunday, May 4, 2014

{ARC Review} Fool Me Twice (If Only... #1) By: Mandy Hubbard


Title: Fool Me Twice
Author: Mandy Hubbard
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Shelves: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publication Date: May 6th, 2014
Source: Bloomsbury USA Childrens for review
Format: Physical ARC

Synopsis: If only... Landon hadn't broken Mackenzie's heart after a summer of whirlwind romance. Now, a year later, Landon and Mackenzie are back at the ranch where it all started for another summer of work.. and possibly romance? When Landon takes a fall to the head, he wakes up believing that he and Mackenzie are still together! Now it's Mackenzie's turn to give Landon a taste of his own medicine, but can she pull off the ultimate heartbreak, or will she be fooled twice?

Review: A big THANK YOU to Bloomsbury USA Childrens for providing me with this galley for review! I am just the type of girl who enjoys any contemporary, no matter how unbelievable and how unrealistic it may be. Fool Me Twice may not appeal to contemporary readers who enjoy the more realistic side of this genre, but it was a really cute story for me.  

Romance: They say "old flames never die", which was basically what the plot of Fool Me Twice was centered around. Although I wouldn't say that Mackenzie and Landon had the CUTEST relationship I've ever read in contemporary romance, they still had their affectionate moments that kept me pulling for them. There's a lot of focus on Landon's character development, which also really affects the way his and Mackenzie's romance is played out in this novel. Props to you, Mandy Hubbard for working in some pretty substantial characters as well. Landon and Mackenzie both had their flaws, but that's what makes many relationships work.

Plot/Storyline: Well, the plot was pretty predictable. There was a little curveball thrown in at the end, but nothing that jumped out at me to make it a SPECTACULAR storyline. But that's perfectly fine. I knew Fool Me Twice was a light contemporary that I could enjoy reading in the park on a sunny Saturday morning. The plot is easy to keep up with, and it would definitely appeal to horseback riding fans, which I found pretty cute.

Conclusion: It wouldn't be a waste of your time to pick up Fool Me Twice and to try it! Just know what you're in for; an endearing book about teen romance that is just as adorable as its cover;)

Friday, May 2, 2014

{Review} Audacious By: Gabrielle Prendergast

Title: Audacious
Author: Gabrielle Prendergast
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Shelves: Young Adult, Romance, Realistic Fiction, Verse Novels
Recommended For Fans Of: Ellen Hopkins, Sonya Sones

Synopsis: Raphaelle has arrived in this new town, determined to start over. To bury the secrets of her past; to forget the skeletons in the closet. So Raphaelle becomes ELLA. The girl she has always wanted to be. Ella, the girl without the paradoxes of family, the troubled thoughts of her mind. But maybe meeting that one boy whose life is as enigmatic as Ella herself will change it all. 

Review: I am a bit ashamed to say that this is only my second or third time ever reading a novel in verse! Boy have I been missing out! Audacious not only kept me completely infatuated with the storyline, but it was also a super quick and easy read.

Bless Gabrielle Prendergast for writing this book. Honestly. She has boldly gone where many authors are afraid to go. Audacious brought out elements of love, loss, pain, secrets, darkness, religion, eating disorders, drinking and just basically LIFE. Life, guys. Audacious is the shadows of life that sometimes we refuse to acknowledge, but when we are confronted by it, we realize they've been present all along. I have finally found a book where the main character does not just have that ONE problem which is resolved in the end. Instead, Ella is surrounded by conflicts and emotions and just a whirlwind of crazy. teenage girl. life. 

Gabrielle Prendergast has a way with words. While novels in verse, or just novels in general may be sometimes confusing with the lyrical language, the author was able to write Audacious in a way that was both moving and appealing to readers. I've also seen many others on Goodreads talking about how much they loved the relevant use of multiple characters in the storyline, and I have to say that I agree. People fit into your life in ways that sometimes cannot be seen by the human eye, and Audacious was such a great example of the influence of the people around us.

I have no complaints towards Audacious besides the romance, which I felt was a bit erratic at times. Any relationship contains a lot of inconsistencies, but with the addition of Ella's ever-changing feelings, her and Samir's romance was a whirlwind of emotions that sometimes I could not understand. Of course, this doesn't in any way take away from the overall brilliance of this book. :)

Conclusion: I really look forward to reading the sequel to Audacious! I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a quick and easy, but meaningful read.

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

Received

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:
1) US ONLY 
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

Goodreads

*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.

GENERAL PLAYLIST:
*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

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

{Review} Crash Into You By: Katie McGarry


Title: Crash Into You (Pushing the Limits #3)
Author: Katie McGarry
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Shelves: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Recommended for Fans Of: Jennifer L. Armentrout, Colleen Hoover

*Book #1 of #MarchMadnessReads*

Goodreads

Synopsis from Goodreads: From acclaimed author Katie McGarry comes an explosive new tale of a good girl with a reckless streak, a street-smart guy with nothing to lose, and a romance forged in the fast lane 

The girl with straight As, designer clothes and the perfect life-that's who people expect Rachel Young to be. So the private-school junior keeps secrets from her wealthy parents and overbearing brothers...and she's just added two more to the list. One involves racing strangers down dark country roads in her Mustang GT. The other? Seventeen-year-old Isaiah Walker-a guy she has no business even talking to. But when the foster kid with the tattoos and intense gray eyes comes to her rescue, she can't get him out of her mind. 

Isaiah has secrets, too. About where he lives, and how he really feels about Rachel. The last thing he needs is to get tangled up with a rich girl who wants to slum it on the south side for kicks-no matter how angelic she might look. 

But when their shared love of street racing puts both their lives in jeopardy, they have six weeks to come up with a way out. Six weeks to discover just how far they'll go to save each other.

Review: Another amazing story from Katie McGarry! While I have a few bones to pick with Crash Into You, it was a great continuation to a red-hot series.

Characters: 

One word: ISAIAH.


I really fell for Isaiah in Dare You To, when his heart was broken and he was still a minor character in Beth's life. I've secretly been hoping that Beth and Isaiah would end up together, but come on. That was just never meant to be. In Crash Into You, we learn more about Isaiah's childhood, as we dive deeper into his very complicated life. Isaiah is one of the most swoon-inducing guys in YA romance, especially in Crash Into You. I think everyone will fall for this tough guy with a rough exterior but a heart of gold. The way he treated Rachel is the way every girl wants to be treated, and how every guy should aspire to be. I gave Isaiah a lot of respect. He has a really tough life and yet he is brave and tough, while caring for those he loves the most. On the other hand, Rachel was a bit of a disappointment for me. While I did like her innocence and purity, I felt like she was a bit dramatic at times. And yes, Rachel did also have a tough life at home. However, there are many more people with harsher lives, people who don't have the luxury of money. Katie McGarry was very kind to give Rachel slightly better circumstances. However, I think everyone should consider that there are teenagers who go through much more than Rachel ever could in her circumstances. The fact that she could even manage to sneak out to see Isaiah was a blessing in itself, and one she took for granted.

Storyline/Plot: This was a hellavu story. In my opinion, it was a bit more dramatic than the previous two books in this series, and it worked out well. Rachel and Isaiah did have a dramatic relationship, especially since the two were like night and day. At times, I just could not put this book down! It was addicting and fast-paced. Katie pulled out twists and turns like she was actually drag racing! (haha bookish humor) What I really loved was that there were no plot holes. Not just for Crash Into You, but also for Pushing the Limits and Dare You To. Each book that Katie writes will thrill and entertain you completely.

Writing: No one does intoxicating teenage romance like Katie McGarry! Seriously addicting stuff, guys. If you've read Pushing the Limits or Dare You To, then you'll know that the writing is almost flawless.  Katie brings a new voice to each character, making them dynamic and memorable. Sometimes characters in books will blend together for me, either due to lack of voice and originality, or just plain old bad writing. In Katie's books, Isaiah and Rachel felt so alive. When you start to get all the feeeeels, you know that the author did some wonderful writing. 

Conclusion: This book definitely ROCKED! If you haven't read this series yet, I encourage you to start! Also, I'll be posting a Crash Into You playlist very soon, as part of my March Madness Read-A-Thon, so look out for that! :)