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Single Sundays: Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for Daughter of Deep Silence(from Goodreads):

I’m the daughter of murdered parents.
I’m the friend of a dead girl.
I’m the lover of my enemy.
And I will have my revenge.

In the wake of the devastating destruction of the luxury yacht Persephone, just three souls remain to tell its story—and two of them are lying. Only Frances Mace knows the terrifying truth, and she’ll stop at nothing to avenge the murders of everyone she held dear. Even if it means taking down the boy she loves and possibly losing herself in the process.

Sharp and incisive, Daughter of Deep Silence by bestselling author Carrie Ryan is a deliciously smart revenge thriller that examines perceptions of identity, love, and the lengths to which one girl is willing to go when she thinks she has nothing to lose.

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Author: Carrie Ryan
Genre: Young Adult, Mystery, Contemporary, Revenge
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: May 26, 2015
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Did you read that synopsis? I love a good revenge story. I just love the suspense and the anticipation that comes from righting the wrongs of the past. I also love a good conspiracy theory and this sounded like it had the potential to be great.

Also, it really reminded me of the TV show Revenge which I loved in the first season…and not so much later on. But, again, I loved the whole idea so I couldn’t wait to listen!

The Plot:

Have you ever read a book where you build up the big reveal to be this big epic thing only to find out that the truth is much less enthralling? That’s exactly what happened here for me. I built this book up to be something else and in the end, I was left disappointed.

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Let’s start with the revenge plot. The positive is that I like how everything gets started. I found the introduction to be thrilling and captured my attention. Learning what has happened to Frances and how she plans to learn the truth was great.

The unfortunate thing is that this book takes far to long to get things into motion. At the 50% Frances has maybe done 2 things to get her plan in motion and–while original–weren’t all that exciting. And for all her efforts, she really hasn’t learnt anything either. We don’t get an inkling of what the actual conspiracy is until the 72% mark so I couldn’t put the pieces together myself until that moment (and it gets a little spewed out all at once anyways).

Instead, the book focuses on Frances’ internal struggle to keep up her charade and enact her revenge. And I get why, she’s dealing with some heavy stuff and frankly, if she wasn’t conflicted about it I would worry for her sanity (though I do enjoy a dark heroine with no remorse on occasion). But, I find her worries become monotonous after awhile and I grew bored listening to her lament on and on about it all.

The Characters:

None of these characters are overly impressive to me.

As I said above, I can appreciate Frances’ struggle with what she is doing. Her struggle to maintain her true identity through it all is endearing. Everything is building up yet crumbling around her and it’s an interesting situation for a heroine to find herself in.

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The Romance:

I knew pretty early on that I wasn’t going to be a fan of this given the circumstances. It’s young puppy love that gets built up into something more grandiose than it is because of the situation. Thankfully, it’s not a huge focus of the book. Rather, it is used as a device to move the plot forward and it’s utilized well enough when all is said an done.

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My Audiobook Experience:

The audiobook was a great choice I think. I love how emotions are conveyed through audio and it helped me bring the story to life. I will admit that as my interested waned in the actual story I did bump the speed up to 1.25X and eventually 1.5X just to get things to go a little faster.

My Rating: 3/5

overall

This book has a lot of potential but I felt like the focus wasn’t on what I wanted it to be. Instead we get a story more about the struggle for identity and what it means to need revenge than the actual taking of revenge. It entertained me but I didn’t love it by any means.

Read if You Like: more character based stories
Avoid if You: want a more thrilling revenge seeking story

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Fresh Fridays: Cursed (The Hunter Inside #1) by Casey M Millette

Fresh Fridays: On Friday, I review a brand new series (ie. only has one book released so far) to see if the series is worth keeping up with. Here is this week’s offering:

The Hunter Inside Series

Other books planned to be in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Cursed (from Goodreads):

A war rages between kings and clans for centuries, their nations split and their kingdoms fallen. Caught in the midst of poverty and bedlam, twenty-year-old Aldor faces a choice. Should he leave home and start his life anew, or stay and protect what little he has?

Aldor has only made one friend in his life and has never seen a legendary creature before. As soon as he steps beyond his door, he finds himself an outlaw, hunted by creatures of pure fantasy.

Forced into joining a team of misfits in a race to recover a sacred, lost stone, Aldor finds unexpected friendships and adventure. But just as things start to look promising, disaster strikes, wielding the unexpected and the terrifying!

Aldor’s life will never be the same as he struggles with true feelings of fear, loss, love, and suffering for the very first time.

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Series: The Hunter Inside
Author: Casey M Millette
# of Books: 1 (Cursed, Book 2)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, Book 2 is to be published
Genre: Young Adult / Teen, Adventure, Fantasy, Magic
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Date: March 2018 – ongoing
Source & Format: Author–eARC | Thank you Casey M Millette!

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

When Casey asked me if I wanted to read her debut novel (at the age of 16–impressive!) I wanted to give it a shot. I have a hit or miss relationship with adventure stories but the premise of dragons and magic is a lure too hard to resist!

What I Liked:

–The Lord of the Rings Vibes–

I think nearly all fantasy novels get compared to LOTR–it’s the gold standard I think–but I really could see how that story influenced Casey’s work here. Cursed has it’s own unique characters and plot but it is definitely reminiscent of LOTR. While Cursed may lack the considerable depth of LOTR, has the same prototype of a group of seemingly strangers following an unlikely hero as he completes an impossible quest. And that’s a lot of fun to read about when it is all said and done.

What I Didn’t Like:

–The Lack of Character Development–

I felt like the characters weren’t as developed as I would have liked so I didn’t really form any bonds with them. I think that’s a result of only getting Aldor’s POV for the longest time and getting a singular viewpoint of the events. The crew also doesn’t interact too much inside themselves so I missed that banter and tension between them. I love watching a group of people become a team and I felt that was lacking a little.

–Linear Plotline–

One of the biggest reasons I tend to not enjoy adventure novels is the delivery of the plot. I tend to get bored as the characters just mosey along to the final destination. Aldor and crew do go through a lot of interesting obstacles so I wasn’t bored in that sense. However, I did feel like there was a suspense lacking in the plot itself. I like a lot of things happening in my stories and I felt like the plot here tackled Problem A before Problem B is ever introduced so I felt like we were just going through the motions.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I’d really like to see this group of people become more of a team. I love banter between teammates and that was only starting to come to the surface near the end. It would also be great to learn more about the various characters as well.

My Rating: 2.5/5

Cursed 2.5/5 | Book 2 TBP

overall

This is a classic case of a “just-not-for-me”. I think fans of fantasy adventure novels, particularly in the YA genre, will enjoy this debut.

Read if You Like: adventure stories, fantasy, LOTR
Avoid if You: dislike slow stories, want more romance

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Series Review: Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Dorothy Must Die (from Goodreads):

I didn’t ask for any of this. I didn’t ask to be some kind of hero.

But when your whole life gets swept up by a tornado – taking you with it – you have no choice but to go along, you know?

Sure, I’ve read the books. I’ve seen the movies. I know the song about the rainbow and the happy little bluebirds. But I never expected Oz to look like this. To be a place where Good Witches can’t be trusted, Wicked Witches may just be the good guys, and winged monkeys can be executed for acts of rebellion. There’s still a yellow brick road – but even that’s crumbling.

What happened? Dorothy.

They say she found a way to come back to Oz. They say she seized power and the power went to her head. And now no one is safe.

My name is Amy Gumm – and I’m the other girl from Kansas.

I’ve been recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked.

I’ve been trained to fight.

And I have a mission.

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Series: Dorothy Must Die
Author: Danielle Paige
# of Books: 4 (Dorothy Must Die, The Wicked Will Rise, Yellow Brick War, The End of Oz)

There are 9 prequel novellas. Full List Here.

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Retelling, Fantasy, Magic
Heat Rating: cold
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: April 2014 – March 2017
Source & Format: Public Library–Hardcover (eBooks for novellas)

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

It was the title and cover that first grabbed my attention when I was browsing the new additions at my library. I’m always up for a good retelling and this one sounded fabulous. Afterwards, it was a series I saw everywhere.

I had it on my list for my 2016 365 Days of YA Challenge but wasn’t able to get around to it. So I decided to make it my Christmas Holiday binge series, opting for it to be the first of my personal 2017 5 Year 5 Book Challenge selection.

The Concept / The World:

In Dorothy Must Die, I loved the world we were introduced to. Those first few chapters in Oz were really cool. This is such an interesting spin on a classic! Not knowing who is truly “wicked” and who is truly “good” creates a tense atmosphere that the reader can enjoy throughout the series.

What I also like is that you don’t have to be a diehard Oz fan to get what’s going on. This takes place after the original novel(s)/movie/play so as long as you know the basics, you can survive. Plus, the prequel novellas build up the world as well.

But why are the Wizard of Oz retellings so weird? Wicked is one of the oddest stories I’ve ever read; and while this series isn’t as bizarre as that one, it does have its quirky moments.

The Plot:

My struggle with this series is the adventure aspect of the plot. I am not a fan of adventure stories; they are slow to me and often lack excitement because you are just moseying along to the big climax. It’s a lot of waiting around for things to happen. And that is the case in this series at times. Even though I get why, I did find some chapters of this story to be slower as Amy waits to make her move.

That being said, there are some great twists along the way that would rejuvenate my interest. This is a really cool story with a lot of interesting characters in an always changing setting.

The Characters:

The fact that you really don’t know who to trust gives this story an exciting edge. I’m always a fan of stories with truly “evil” characters and this one has them.

I also really liked Amy. Her character development from Dorothy Must Die to The End of Oz is fantastic. She grows so much. Plus: she’s very likeable. I have such a softspot for the underdog and Amy is the very definition of one.

The Romance:

This is such a minor aspect of the story. When it’s there, it’s cute and made me really happy. But there is so much else going on that it only gets these little moments. Which, I actually appreciate because it keeps the story on the World of Oz and not on Amy pining after some love interest on every page.

When to read the Novellas?:

They are all prequel novellas, taking place before the events of Dorothy Must Die. So it’s really up to you if you read them before or after. I, personally, enjoyed the revealing of the world as I read the novels by going in “blind”. It provided me with something that would spark my interest when the story ran a little on the dryer side of things at times. You really aren’t missing out on anything in the novels by not reading the novellas; they just give you that extra bit of detail.

Maybe too much detail? Truthfully, I couldn’t get through The Return to Oz. It bored me to tears–but I get the appeal of these novellas. If you absolutely adore this series and don’t mind lengthier novellas, give them a shot.

Series Rating: 4/5

Dorothy Must Die 3.5/5 | The Wicked Will Rise 3/5 | Yellow Brick War  4/5 | The End of Oz 4/5

overall

If you love a story with strong (albeit quirky) world-building and the ultimate underdog heroine, you’ll definitely enjoy this series! But others might find it slow and not enjoy the no-holds-barred magic element. And this is (likely) not the Oz you grew up with, so know that going in!

Read if You Like: the Wizard of Oz, magic based stories
Avoid if You: want more action, want more romance
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Blog Tour: Suitors and Sabotage by Cindy Anstey

Synopsis for Suitors and Sabotage (from Goodreads):

Two young people must hide their true feelings for each other while figuring out who means them harm in this cheeky Regency romance from the author of Love, Lies and Spies and Duels & Deception.

Shy aspiring artist Imogene Chively has just had a successful Season in London, complete with a suitor of her father’s approval. Imogene is ambivalent about the young gentleman until he comes to visit her at the Chively estate with his younger brother in tow. When her interest is piqued, however, it is for the wrong brother.

Charming Ben Steeple has a secret: despite being an architectural apprentice, he has no drawing aptitude. When Imogene offers to teach him, Ben is soon smitten by the young lady he considers his brother’s intended.

But hiding their true feelings becomes the least of their problems when, after a series of “accidents,” it becomes apparent that someone means Ben harm. And as their affection for each other grows—despite their efforts to remain just friends—so does the danger. . .

In Suitors and Sabotage, author Cindy Anstey delivers another witty young adult historical fiction novel that is the perfect mix of sweetly romantic and action-packed.

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Canadian Author, Must Read Author
Author: Cindy Anstey
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Date: April 17, 2018
Source & Format: Xpresso Book Tours–eARC via Netgalley

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Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

It’s become a bit of a tradition on my blog that every April I take part in the blog tour for Cindy Anstey’s latest novel. She quickly became a must read author of mine when I read her debut novel, Love, Lies and Spies, thanks to is sweet romance and witty dialogue. It doesn’t hurt that she is a fellow Canadian either 😉

I was really excited when I read the synopsis for Suitors and Sabotage! I love historical fiction and Anstey writes fabulous YA stories as her previous novels can attest to. This book sounded like it would be filled with some great character chemistry and no doubt be utterly charming. I couldn’t wait to sit down and devour this!

The Plot:

This book was a lot of fun–and that’s not something that you would immediately think when you read the plot synopsis. I mean, someone is possibly trying to kill Ben and Ben is in love with the girl his brother is pursuing. Things could definitely take a turn for the dark but they never do and I think that’s where Anstey’s talent for writing shines the best. She has this ability to keep things light and captivating all the same.

I’ll get to the characters later but they honestly make this book. It wouldn’t be half as charming if it wasn’t for the cast of people Anstey has assembled to tell this story!

I did find that this book did suffer from a little too much filler at times. Not that I minded too much since I adored the characters and any scene they were in but I did find it dulled the suspense of the sabotage. The sabotage is more subtle than I anticipated it would be though it did bring excitement to the plot.

The Characters:

Honestly, the cast in this story is fabulous! Imogene is sweet and evolves before your eyes (I loved her character growth!). Ben will definitely steal your heart with his longing glances and kind intentions. But their friends and family are just as entertaining and genuine. Everyone contributes to this story in a way that takes it to the next level. They truly make this story!

The Romance:

Despite there being a bit of a love triangle/square situation happening, I couldn’t get enough of the romance! Again, this has to do with the great cast because I seriously loved everyone and hated to see anyone hurt. But you can’t deny the chemistry that lies between certain characters more than others. I love longing glances between characters and when the inner monologue drifts off as the character becomes absolutely smitten with the other. The romance here was simply perfect.

My Rating: 4.5/5

overall
Honestly, Cindy Anstey is the bar when it comes to writing fantastic, entertaining YA historical fiction. She always has a fabulous blend of romance, danger and wit that I’ve yet to come across in another book. This one is definitely another win!

Read if You Like: historical YA fiction, witty banter, subtle suspence
Avoid if You: want more “in your face” romance

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Cindy Anstey

Whenever she is not sitting at the computer, throwing a ball in the backyard, gardening or reading, Cindy can be found–actually, not found–adventuring around the world with her hubby.

She has lived on three continents, had a monkey in her yard and a scorpion under her sink, dwelt among castles and canals, enjoyed the jazz of Beale St and attempted to speak French.

Cindy loves history, mystery and… a chocolate Labrador called Chester. Love, Lies and Spies is her debut novel.

Author Links: Website // Goodreads // Facebook // Twitter

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Blog Tour: Rules of Rebellion by Amity Cross

Synopsis for Rules of Rebellion (from Goodreads):

1. Skinny dip (her idea)
2. Prank someone (his idea)
3. Stargaze (her idea)
4. Kiss someone (his idea)

Leo Zimmerman has had a crush on his curvy best friend Kylie Jenkins since forever, so When he discovers the girl with a flair for baking has a newfound plan to rebel against her overbearing parents, he’s determined to be the one to help her carry it out. Who better than a self-proclaimed rebel like himself to show her the ropes of letting loose?

Sure, taking her to her first high school party, helping her sneak out of the house, or watching a sunset together isn’t exactly a hardship, but much harder is masking his feelings the more time they spend together. And when he suggests adding “kiss a boy” to Kylie’s plan and she accepts…suddenly all his dreams seem to be coming true.

But Leo’s got a secret that could change everything between them, and it’s only a matter of time before it comes to the surface.

breakdown

Series?: This is a Spin-Off of The Rules of Persuasion
Author: Amity Cross
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date:  April 2, 2018
Source & Format: Netgalley–eARC  |  Thank you Entangled Publishing!

Add: Goodreads | Buy: Entangled Publishing

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

For a girl who used to be afraid of the YA contemporary genre, I’ve been hitting all the right notes lately! I couldn’t resist signing myself up for this book when I read the synopsis. I’m a sucker for “secretly in love with” scenario–especially in high school settings–and I loved the idea of Kylie and Leo completing a high school bucket list of sorts. So I couldn’t wait to read this!

The Plot:

I think the synopsis is a touch misleading because it implies that Kylie and Leo are already good friends–or at least that’s how I read it. It’s more like they are within the same friend group but don’t know that much about each other. Which honestly, just makes this story even sweeter because you get to see them form that deeper bond of friendship…and watch it bloom into something else.

The pacing for this novel was fabulous. It simply strikes the right balance between romance, character growth, the “to-do” list plot as well as the “big secret”. I’ll admit, I had totally guessed that secret wrong so I liked the twist that provided as well.

The Characters:

What I love about Kylie and Leo is that they are genuine people. They have big hearts, care about their families and are just nice people. You really want them to succeed in whatever they set out to accomplish in this story.

But they are also human and have their flaws. It was great watching them grow a little more confident in themselves as the story progressed thanks to their relationship. They both have some solid character development throughout the story and I always like to see that in my YA contemporaries.

The Romance:

Well, I found myself a new book boyfriend with Leo! Swoon! He was just adorable and immediately stole my heart by the end of his first POV chapter. He is so in love with Kylie and watching him try to win her over was as sweet as it was fun.

The romance here was positively charming and everything I wanted it to be when I picked this novel up.

My Rating: 4/5

overall
This book will definitely melt your heart and put a smile on your face!

Read if You Like: YA contemporary, swoon-worthy heroes
Avoid if You: want a darker story

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Amity Cross

Amity lives in beautiful northern Minnesota with her two sons, two cats and their Rottweiler.

She has a degree in elementary education and worked in that field for ten years before deciding to self-publish.

Her first self-published novel, Twisted, was listed by Amazon as a Top 100 Kids & Teens Kindle Book of 2012. It hit Amazon’s Teen & Young Adult Contemporary Romance Best Sellers List in several countries. Truths and Dares held the #1 position on Amazon’s Best Sellers in Teen & Young Adult Contemporary Romance eBooks in the UK.

If she’s not writing or spending time with her boys, she’s most likely reading.

Author Links: Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Goodreads

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Blog Tour: The Unbelievable, Inconceivable, Unforeseeable Truth About Ethan Wilder by Cookie O’Gorman

Synopsis for The Unbelievable, Inconceivable, Unforeseeable Truth About Ethan Wilder (from Goodreads):

In the south, everyone has a secret–and murder is served with sweet tea.

The word’s out: Ethan Wilder’s coming back to town, and the people of Bowie, Georgia are in a southern tizzy. Everyone knows the story. He shot and killed his sister four years ago, and people say his father, Jim Wilder, the biggest holy roller this side of the Mississippi, sent him packing for just that reason. Even if her death was unofficially ruled a suicide, Ethan’s return has everybody talking.

Seventeen-year-old Delilah Doherty can’t go anywhere without hearing his name. Born and raised in Bowie, Delilah knows firsthand about the gossipmongers and how they love a good scandal. The daughter of a wild child and niece of the local psychic, she’s also the only one who doubts Ethan’s guilt.

After Ethan saves her life, the two start a slow and steady burn neither can deny. But when Bowie’s spiritual leader is nearly murdered, it rocks the small southern town to its core. Delilah and Ethan are caught in the crossfire, their relationship threatened before it’s even begun. Someone has it out for Ethan’s family. With everyone convinced of Ethan’s guilt, it’s up to Delilah to unravel the mystery before someone else gets hurt or worse…dead.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Author: Cookie O Gorman
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mystery
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: April 5, 2018
Source & Format: YA Bound Book Tours–eARC

Add: Goodreads | Buy: Amazon

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thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’ve been a fan of Cookie’s since her first novel, Adorkable and her second novel Ninja Girl made me add her to my “must read” author list soon after. So I was excited to see what she would write next.

I’ll say that a mystery wasn’t what I was totally expecting her to write next (though technically, she wrote this first) but the title and synopsis definitely had me curious. So I couldn’t wait to see what this ridiculous truth about Ethan Wilder really was.

The Plot:

This book has a slower start to it as it sets up the exposition and introduces all the characters. This is a trend I often see when I read books set in the South. We get swept up into the mundane everyday lives of the small towns and the small cast of characters. Cookie has a talent for writing intriguing characters so I didn’t mind as much as I usually would.

We get a bit of a double mystery here. You have the infamous Ethan who has just returned to town and seems to keep to himself–except for a those interactions with Delilah. And then you have the incidences involving his family –which don’t really start until the 30% mark. I thought this would start a little early and become the main focus of the story but it doesn’t really. It’s more of something that runs in the background while Delilah carries on with her everyday life in this small town.

However, the introduction of the mystery does add this tone of suspense to the novel and that suspense carries you through the rest of the novel. As for the mystery itself, I definitely didn’t figure it out so that always gets bonus points in my eye!

The Characters:

As I said before, Cookie has a great talent for creating characters. She has quite the eclectic cast here and they really do work for this story.

I liked Delilah as a lead. She’s got a great heart despite all the stuff people throw her way. Sure, she’s a little oblivious to boys liking her but that’s part of her charm in a way.

What I really liked is that Ethan is kept a total mystery to us. We don’t get his POV, just whatever interactions happen with Delilah or ones she hears secondhand. He’s got that bad boy appeal but also has his swoon-worthy moments as well so I liked whenever he was in a scene.

The Romance:

Well, Ethan became a book boyfriend for me so I think it goes without saying I thought this was totally cute. Again, I just love the romances Cookie creates! This one was really sweet and very subtle. So when you got those cute moments between them, it just made you smile.

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My Rating: 3.5/5

overall
This was a slow start for me so it took me a while to get truly invested. But once the pieces of the mystery start to reveal themselves, I found myself spinning various theories and eagerly awaiting the big reveal. Another great novel by Cookie O’Gorman.

Read if You Like: YA contemporary, books set in the South, mystery
Avoid if You: dislike slow starts, need lots of action

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Cookie O’Gorman

Cookie O’Gorman writes YA romance to give readers a taste of happily-ever-after. Small towns, quirky characters, and the awkward yet beautiful moments in life make up her books. Cookie also has a soft spot for nerds and ninjas. Her novels ADORKABLE and NINJA GIRL are out now! Her third book, THE UNBELIEVABLE, INCONCEIVABLE, UNFORESEEABLE TRUTH ABOUT ETHAN WILDER, will be released April 5, 2018!

Author Links:

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Single Sundays: Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for Tell Me Three Things (from Goodreads):

Everything about Jessie is wrong. At least, that’s what it feels like during her first week of junior year at her new ultra-intimidating prep school in Los Angeles. Just when she’s thinking about hightailing it back to Chicago, she gets an email from a person calling themselves Somebody/Nobody (SN for short), offering to help her navigate the wilds of Wood Valley High School. Is it an elaborate hoax? Or can she rely on SN for some much-needed help?

It’s been barely two years since her mother’s death, and because her father eloped with a woman he met online, Jessie has been forced to move across the country to live with her stepmonster and her pretentious teenage son.

In a leap of faith—or an act of complete desperation—Jessie begins to rely on SN, and SN quickly becomes her lifeline and closest ally. Jessie can’t help wanting to meet SN in person. But are some mysteries better left unsolved?

Julie Buxbaum mixes comedy and tragedy, love and loss, pain and elation, in her debut YA novel filled with characters who will come to feel like friends.

breakdown

Author: Julie Buxbaum
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: April 5, 2016
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Like most titles, I don’t know how this one crossed my radar but I know a lot of my friends on Goodreads have read (and enjoyed) it since its release.

I was really excited to read it though because it sounded a lot like Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda–the idea of a secret pen-pal that helps the lead cope with the current situation. I had heard this book was funny and charming, so I was eager to dive into the audiobook.

The Concept:

I definitely think people can relate to this book–and Jessie–in some way or another. She’s going through a lot of changes in her life and she’s just doing the best she can to adapt. I related to her because I’ve totally been that new kid at school, trying to navigate life in a new place. But meeting her new step-family and grieving the loss of her mother are other aspects readers will gravitate towards as well.

The whole concept of Somebody Nobody (SN) reminded me a lot of Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda where the characters interact and bond with someone online. But instead of Jessie dealing with her sexuality like Simon in a place he is familiar with, she’s dealing with grief and living in a whole new city. Both are charming leads that will have you laughing out loud and feeling their pain throughout their respective novels.

The Plot:

I liked that there was a lot going on in this book. You aren’t focused solely on Jessie and her grieving–which is important, don’t get me wrong. I just mean that there are other things happening that add to the overall experience and makes everything that little bit richer. It also gives the book a lighter tone in between those moments of grief.

Also, the mystery of SN was fantastic! It truly keeps you invested and has this addicting quality to it. I couldn’t tell if it was just wishful thinking on my part or if it was obvious who SN was. Either way, it was still an enjoyable aspect of the story.

The Characters:

Like I said before, Jessie is a very relateable character and hilarious. Some of her comments had me laughing out loud for quite a while. I loved her wit and sass–usually I only find that in contemporaries with male leads.

But I also loved her character development. Watching her get that self confidence back was fabulous.

Why this book doesn’t get 5 stars though is because she is also frustrating at times. Her assumptions about who SN was were maddening to listen to. I swear, she would purposely miss things to meet an end. As I noted at the 78% mark:

“Maybe he doesn’t act like he’s SN because he ISN’T SN! I swear, Jessie is a little dense sometimes -.-“

And again at the 97% mark:

“Girl, for the love of all, stop assuming things and just ask or wait for someone to tell you!”

I just wanted to give her a smack and say THINK ABOUT IT! Her biggest fault is her inability to communicate. However, thanks to her character’s story and development, I understood why that would be the case so I cut her some slack. Still didn’t make it easier to listen too at times.

The Romance:

This was super cute and I liked that it wasn’t a huge focus of the book either. I don’t want to give too much away but I think readers will be happy with this.

My Audiobook Experience:

I really enjoyed listening to the audiobook and I think that positively impacted my rating. As a reader, I have a better time understanding wit and sarcasm when it’s spoken instead of simply words on a page. But there is also something about listening to someone pour their heart out. You feel so connected to the character as they tell you their story and I definitely felt that with Jessie.

My Rating: 4/5

overall

This is a YA contemporary that hits all the right notes. It’s charming, funny and sweet–readers will love this! Plus, it has heart waffles on the cover! Waffles!

Read if You Like: realistic YA contemporary, witty heroines
Avoid if You: dislike realistic contemporary fiction

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Single Sundays: Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for Challenger Deep (from Goodreads):

Caden Bosch is on a ship that’s headed for the deepest point on Earth: Challenger Deep, the southern part of the Marianas Trench.

Caden Bosch is a brilliant high school student whose friends are starting to notice his odd behavior.

Caden Bosch is designated the ship’s artist in residence, to document the journey with images.

Caden Bosch pretends to join the school track team but spends his days walking for miles, absorbed by the thoughts in his head.

Caden Bosch is split between his allegiance to the captain and the allure of mutiny.

Caden Bosch is torn.

A captivating and powerful novel that lingers long beyond the last page, Challenger Deep is a heartfelt tour de force by one of today’s most admired writers for teens.

breakdown

Author: Neal Shusterman
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Mental Health
Heat Rating: cold
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: April 21, 2015
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’ve never read a Neal Shusterman novel–never even heard of the guy either–but apparently he is “one of today’s most admired writers for teens”. So that both excited and scared me when it came to this novel. Excited me because he is (apparently) known for writing captivating stories; scared me because promotional hype can easily heighten expectations and leave you devastated.

I really had no idea what to expect. I don’t even know how I found out about this book. And when I started listening to the audiobook, I didn’t read the synopsis so I was going in completely blind.

The Concept:

I think if I had read the synopsis before starting the audiobook, I would haven’t felt as lost as I was at the start. See, all I remembered when I started this book was the part about the ship. I missed the rest of the synopsis so I was a little confused as to why were were jumping back and forth between Caden’s life at home and his life on the ship.

This is a book about mental illness and I think it is important to know that going in so you can get into the right mindset. Because honestly, I was confused until I figured that out. That’s when you can start putting things together and figure out what Caden is describing and how he is feeling.

The Plot:

As I said above, the plot shifts a lot at the start and it can be a little overwhelming. But once you start to delve a little deeper, you start to see how everything is working together.

I love stories that have you continuously working it out in your head. Honestly, I would love to study this book in school and dissect every moment of it because it is beautifully crafted. It’s one of those books that you really don’t appreciate until you finish it and see how everything blends together.

The Characters:

I think everyone can relate to Caden’s story in one way or another. Whether you know someone who suffers from a mental health condition or you yourself have one, you’ll connect with this story in some capacity.

This book does a fabulous job of delivering Caden’s thoughts and reasonings in a way readers can understand and experience for themselves. There’s a part where Caden switches to the 2nd person POV and you really get to put yourself in his shoes and see what it feels like to be in his current situation. I’ve never had that connection to a character that I didn’t share some trait with and it was a refreshing experience for me as a reader.

The Romance:

I’ve read a lot of really great YA contemporaries in the last year that focus on mental health but they’ve all been a little hindered by the romance. So I was really happy when this book never took that turn. This story is all about Caden’s journey and it never shies away from that.

My Audiobook Experience:

I’m very glad I read this as an audiobook: the production was fabulous! Every character had their own unique voice and that made it such a treat to listen to. It also forced me to pay attention too (not that I don’t normally pay attention to my audiobooks–I just mean I paid particular attention to remembering the story) so that I could make sure I knew what was happening and why that particular chapter was important to remember later on. It was like listening to a mystery that you only get clues to along the way but you can’t look backwards. I guess what I’m trying to say is that this book captured my full attention and the audiobook experience was very immersive.

My Rating: 5/5

overall

Easily one of the best books I’ve read about mental health in the YA genre. Ever.

Read if You Like: books about mental health, books with allusions
Avoid if You: want a romance, can’t handle shifting narration
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Blog Tour: The Amber Elixir (Two Realms Novella #1) by Ariella Moon

Synopsis for The Amber Elixir (from Goodreads):
Viviane, the new Lady of the Lake and High Priestess of Avalon, accepts a challenge from Merlin unaware her bold actions will have tragic consequences. Two of her priestesses are turned to stone. A forbidden love deserts her. Now alone, she has six young handmaidens to train and protect.

When Morgan le Fay demands assistance with a spell that could change the balance of power in the Two Realms, Viviane refuses her. But what if Morgan’s secret knowledge could restore the stone priestesses? Will an alliance prompt Viviane’s love to return? Or will the gamble cost her all she holds dear?

Other books in the series:
book3

breakdown

Series: Two Realms Trilogy / Two Realms Novellas
Author: Ariella Moon
# of Books: 2 (The Beltane Escape, The Viking Mist, Book 3)

There is a novella, The Amber Elixir. (Recommended to read after Book 1)

Book Order: Unsure
Complete?: No, The Viking Mist, is to be published
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Magic, Arthurian Legend
Heat Rating: cold
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Date: February 2016 – ongoing
Source & Format: Xpresso Book Tours–eARC

Add: Goodreads | Buy: Amazon / Kobo / Barnes and Noble

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thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I love Arthurian Legend! I even took a course about it for my English minor because I just love the whole idea of this epic story and world. When I saw that The Amber Elixir has a different take on the Arthurian world, I just had to see what was in store.

What I Liked:

–The World Building–

Ariella Moon has done a great job of weaving classic Arthurian elements and her own imaginings into this novella. It’s a really interesting blend of fantasy elements at play and I loved learning more as I read.

I think fans of classic fantasy novels will love the world we get here. It’s very complex and rich and completely captivates you.

–Weaving of Different Stories–

While the focus is mostly on Viviane and her role in the world, we get introduced to quite a few players and that just makes everything a little fuller and more complex. I like stories that have a lot going on; that have multiple storylines and characters involved and this one has it. I found this to be a very strong story and for its novella length, it reads more like a full novel.

–Viviane’s Forbidden Love–

While this isn’t a romance by any means, Vivane’s forbidden love does play a crucial role in Viviane’s development and actions. I’ll just say that I really liked why this was “forbidden” and how it upped the ante for this story.

What I Didn’t Like:

–That I Probably Should Have Read Book 1 First–

You can definitely read this novel without reading The Beltane Escape. It does a great job of tying the two together to get readers up to speed. It is noted on Ariella’s site she does recommend reading this novella after The Beltane Escape. My problem was that I didn’t know there was a Book 1 so I was a little confused during the prologue what was happening as I unaware we’ve been introduced to this world before.

But like I said, I quickly got up to speed and found myself immersed into this world as it does focus on other characters. And if anything, it made me curious to pick up The Beltane Escape 😉

 

My Rating: 3/5

The Beltane Escape N/A | [The Amber Elixir 3/5] | The Viking Mist TBP | Book 3 TBP

overall
Perfect for fans of stories involving Arthurian Legend and classic fantasy novels, this is a series you’ll want to read!

Read if You Like: Arthurian Legend, fantasy, magic
Avoid if You: dislike fantasy, want more romance

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Ariella Moon

Ariella Moon draws upon her experiences as a shaman to create magical Young Adult fiction. Her Two Realms Trilogy is a medieval fantasy adventure series. The Teen Wytche Saga is a series of sweet contemporary paranormal romances.

Ariella spent her childhood searching for a magical wardrobe that would transport her to Narnia. Extreme math anxiety and taller students that mistook her for a leaning post marred her youth. Despite these horrors, she graduated summa cum laude from the University of California at Davis. She lives a nearly normal life doting on her extraordinary daughter, two shamelessly spoiled dogs, and a media-shy dragon.

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Goodreads

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DNF Series Review: The Fallen Isles Trilogy by Jodi Meadows

Fresh Fridays: On Friday, I review a brand new series (ie. only has one book released so far) to see if the series is worth keeping up with. Here is this week’s offering:

Fallen Isles Trilogy

Other books in the series:
book3

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Synopsis for Before She Ignites (from Goodreads):

Before

Mira Minkoba is the Hopebearer. Since the day she was born, she’s been told she’s special. Important. Perfect. She’s known across the Fallen Isles not just for her beauty, but for the Mira Treaty named after her, a peace agreement which united the seven islands against their enemies on the mainland.

But Mira has never felt as perfect as everyone says. She counts compulsively. She struggles with crippling anxiety. And she’s far too interested in dragons for a girl of her station.

After

Then Mira discovers an explosive secret that challenges everything she and the Treaty stand for. Betrayed by the very people she spent her life serving, Mira is sentenced to the Pit–the deadliest prison in the Fallen Isles. There, a cruel guard would do anything to discover the secret she would die to protect.

No longer beholden to those who betrayed her, Mira must learn to survive on her own and unearth the dark truths about the Fallen Isles–and herself–before her very world begins to collapse.

breakdown

Series: Fallen Isles Trilogy
Author: Jodi Meadows
# of Books: 3 (Before She Ignites, book 2, book 3)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, Book 2, will be published in 2018
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: September 2017 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–Hardcover

thoughts

Disclaimer: I stopped reading Before She Ignites at 58% (Start of Chapter 19). Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I adored Meadow’s Orphan Queen Duology so I’ve made an effort to read her other novels. I didn’t enjoy Newsoul Trilogy as much as I wanted to, but this one sounded promising. Dragons? Yes please!

What I Liked:

–The Premise–

I love a fantasy world that is rich in political turmoil and this one had it. There are so many secrets to uncover and that conspiracy angle really intrigued me. Especially when the plot is being told in pieces, with Mira’s POV alternating between the “before” and the “after”. I enjoyed trying to get the bigger picture of what was happening.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Blah Storyline–

Don’t go into this book thinking you are going to get an action packed novel with a girl who rides a dragon. Reread the synopsis again. This is the key statement you need to focus on in order to enjoy this novel:

Mira must learn to survive on her own

Because that’s really what this book is all about. It’s an extremely character driven story about Mira’s journey to realize that she is more than just a pretty face; that she actually has the power to do something. Which is inspiring unto itself…but not the story I wanted to read.

Or I guess I wouldn’t have minded if I felt like anything else was happening plot wise. And despite the little inklings of the larger conspiracy, I just wasn’t invested.

Will I Finish It?

I don’t think so. I didn’t connect with the characters, the romance wasn’t enough to keep me and the plot was lackluster to me. I’m sure bigger and better things were brewing but I just wasn’t into it.

My Rating: DNF

overall

If you like character driven stories and a slower overall plot, pick this book up. The writing is great and the diversity of the cast is definitely appealing. The promise is there, I just don’t have the patience to get invested in this series.

Read if You Like: slower stories, character driven stories
Avoid if You: dislike slow stories, want more romance, want more action

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