ARC Book Review: Gilded Cage by Vic James

Book: Gilded Cage by Vic James

Published February 2017 by Del Ray|368 Pages

Where I Got It: I received an e-ARC from netgalley.com in exchange for a fair and honest review

Series: Dark Gifts #1

Genre: YA Alternate History/Fantasy

A darkly fantastical debut set in a modern England where magically gifted aristocrats rule, and commoners are doomed to serve—for readers of Victoria Aveyard and Susanna Clarke

NOT ALL ARE FREE.
NOT ALL ARE EQUAL.
NOT ALL WILL BE SAVED.

Our world belongs to the Equals—aristocrats with magical gifts—and all commoners must serve them for ten years.

But behind the gates of England’s grandest estate lies a power that could break the world.

A girl thirsts for love and knowledge.

Abi is a servant to England’s most powerful family, but her spirit is free. So when she falls for one of their noble-born sons, Abi faces a terrible choice. Uncovering the family’s secrets might win her liberty—but will her heart pay the price?

A boy dreams of revolution.

Abi’s brother, Luke, is enslaved in a brutal factory town. Far from his family and cruelly oppressed, he makes friends whose ideals could cost him everything. Now Luke has discovered there may be a power even greater than magic: revolution.

And an aristocrat will remake the world with his dark gifts.

He is a shadow in the glittering world of the Equals, with mysterious powers no one else understands. But will he liberate—or destroy?

I remember hearing about this book and being so excited about it.  It’s an alternate London, where commoners are basically slaves for 10 years to those in power.  It seemed up my alley, but I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would.  And for some reason, I never got around to reviewing this book, and since I was looking forward to it, I did want to talk about it.

It was really hard for me to get into, and I don’t know that I’m interested enough to keep going with the series. The origin of slave days seemed really confusing, and not explained very well.  It’s the same with the origin of those with skill, and for the life of me, I cannot remember how it started.  It just didn’t seem like the world was explained- you were immersed in the world, which was different, but I found myself wondering what the history was, and I hate that whatever was explained isn’t sticking.

I do wonder when it’s supposed to take place- there were times when it felt like the technology was modern enough, but at the same time, it felt like an alternate Victorian London.  I did like that, the alternate Victorian London feel, and now that I think about it, it is sort of a steampunk London, which worked pretty well with the concept of a slaveday.

Still, I feel like this book is another book in the wave of books where the upper class has powers that the lower class doesn’t have (or isn’t supposed to have, but does).  Maybe I’m just jaded about this type of book already, but for me, there are better books in this genre to read.  Maybe if I had read this book before some of the other similar books out there, I would have felt differently.  Or maybe it’s just not my cup of tea.  Either way, it’s not for me, but maybe you’ll like it.

2 stars.  For me, this one was okay, and I don’t know if I’ll be continuing the series.

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ARC Book Review: Black, White, Other And A Girl Named Mister

black-white-otherBook #1: Black, White, Other by Joan Steinau Lester

Published January 2017 by Blink|225 pages

Where I Got It: I received this book as an e-arc from netgalley.com in exchange for a fair and honest review

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

What It’s About: Identity Crisis.  

As a biracial teen, Nina is accustomed to a life of varied hues—mocha-colored skin, ringed brown hair streaked with red, a darker brother, a black father, a white mother. When her parents decide to divorce, the rainbow of Nina’s existence is reduced to a much starker reality. Shifting definitions and relationships are playing out all around her, and new boxes and lines seem to be getting drawn every day.

Between the fractures within her family and the racial tensions splintering her hometown, Nina feels caught in perpetual battle. Feeling stranded in the nowhere land between racial boundaries, and struggling for personal independence and identity, Nina turns to the story of her great-great-grandmother’s escape from slavery. Is there direction in the tale of her ancestor? Can Nina build her own compass when landmarks from her childhood stop guiding the way?

Rating/Review: 2 stars.  It was okay for me, and I wanted to like it, but I had a hard time with it.  I found myself skimming through the part where she’s reading about her relative.  I liked the present-day story a little bit more, and the message was really obvious- but it’s also really important.  She really does struggle to fit in, and you see how much things change her and how she feels caught in the middle on so many different levels.  I did really like seeing the relationship with one of her friends and her reaction to Nina hanging out with other people.  I think it’s something we can all relate to, feeling like we don’t fit in, but I feel like I understand Nina a little better.

a-girl-named-mister-coverBook #2: A Girl Named Mister by Nikki Grimes

Published January 2017 by Blink|233 pages

Where I Got It: I received an e-ARC from netgalley.com in exchange for a fair and honest review

What It’s About: Nikki Grimes, a bestselling author known for titles such as Dark Sons, Barak Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope, and Voices of Christmas has written a gripping book from the perspective of a girl named Mister (Mary Rudine) who finds herself momentarily distracted from her faith commitment to purity by a handsome boy named Trey. After one night of weakness, Mister finds her entire life has changed, even if she can’t yet accept all the changes occurring within her are real. When the emotional scars of losing her innocence are more lasting than she imagined, Mister turns to a book of her mother’s, which contains poems from Mary’s perspective. As both Mister and Mary’s voices play out in the story, a full and meaningful portrait of Christian faith, trust, and forgiveness emerges, along with the truth that God can use even the most unplanned events in our lives for his greater glory.

Rating & Review: 2 stars.  This one was okay for me.  It was a quick read, which I think is because the entire book is told in verse.  It was okay, but sometimes it felt like things were broken up to give the appearance of poetry, because there were times where it didn’t feel like I was reading poetry.  Then again, I don’t read a lot of novels told in verse, so maybe unfamiliarity is where my problem lies.  There is a whole diary feel to the book that didn’t quite work for me.  The comparison to Mary, Jesus’ mother, did not work for me at all, and I felt like the comparison was trying to compare apples and oranges.  I’m also not sure what the book was going for abstinence, maybe?  That’s the impression I got.  I’m also not quite clear on who the book is actually meant for- definitely not me, but maybe a teen who’s questioning her faith is the target audience for this?  The ending was also abrupt and left a lot of questions.

ARC Book Review: And I Darken by Kiersten White

And I Darken CoverBook: And I Darken by Kiersten White

Expected Publication is June 28, 2016 by Delacorte Press|Expected Number Of Pages: 496

Where I Got It: I got a digital ARC from netgalley.com in exchanged for a fair and honest review

Series: The Conqueror’s Saga #1

Genre: YA Historical Fiction/Alternate History

Blog Graphic-What It's About

No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwyla likes it that way.

Ever since she and her brother were abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman sultan’s courts, Lada has known that ruthlessness is the key to survival. For the lineage that makes her and her brother special also makes them targets.

Lada hones her skills as a warrior as she nurtures plans to wreak revenge on the empire that holds her captive. Then she and Radu meet the sultan’s son, Mehmed, and everything changes. Now Mehmed unwittingly stands between Lada and Radu as they transform from siblings to rivals, and the ties of love and loyalty that bind them together are stretched to breaking point.

The first of an epic new trilogy starring the ultimate anti-princess who does not have a gentle heart. Lada knows how to wield a sword, and she’ll stop at nothing to keep herself and her brother alive.

Blog Graphic- What I Thought

And I Darken is such a cool book!  I don’t even know where to begin…this book just pulls you in, and you can’t stop reading until you’re actually done with the book!

What I like the most about And I Darken is that it has an alternate history feel to it, which I think is why some people tagged it as fantasy.  Even though there are no fantasy elements in And I Darken, it does have a fantasy feel to it. And who knows, it might become more of a fantasy later on in the series!

It was a lot more political than I expected- not in a bad way, because you really see the politics of the time.  It’s definitely based on history- Dracula is a teenage girl in this book- but I’m not completely sure how historically accurate it is.  Either way, you really get a good feel for what it might have been like when Lada was alive.

Speaking of Lada, she is resilient, cold and calculating.  She knows what her role is in this world, and she doesn’t want to play along.  And it was really interesting to see, because Lada struggles with Lada’s dislike of women and her feelings on her own femininity.  Yet she comes to realize that power comes in a lot of different forms and women have their own power, though it might be different than the power that the men in their world have.

Her relationship with her brother is really different than what we see in a lot of YA.  Her brother, Radu, is a lot more delicate than Lada, and that both frustrates her and draws out a protectiveness she has for her brother. They are everything that the other is not, and it makes for an interesting relationship between them.

We also see both Christianity and Islam explored, but it’s done in a way that’s not preachy.  And we Islam presented in a way that’s not judgmental, which is really refreshing, because it easily could have gone in that direction. Instead, it’s seen as a religion in it’s own right, and it’s not seen as good or bad…it just is.  There’s something very neutral about how religion is presented in this book, and I really like that.

As for Mehmed: both Lada and Radu think about him a lot.  He does change their lives, and we see how much he changes their relationship.  I think I’m just going to leave it at that, because I’m not completely sure how I feel about Mehmed.

As much as I liked this book, it did feel dense, and partly why it took me a while to get through it was because I needed to take random breaks to let everything sink in.  And Lada, Radu and Mehmed seemed so young to be in the positions they were in.  I really forgot that they were around 14 or 15 at the end of the book, and even though it probably wasn’t unusual for that time period, it still seems so foreign.  Then again, I think a re-read is in order, because there’s so much in this book that I’m sure I’ll see some things I missed the first time around.

Blog Graphic- My Rating

4 stars.  I really liked it, and I love the take on Dracula!  I can’t wait to read the next book.

Book Review Round-Up: The Silkworm, Poison And Need

Book Review Round-Up is an ocassional feature where I do short reviews of some of the books I’ve read recently.

The Silkworm CoverBook #1: The Silkworm by Robert Gilbraith, narrated by Robert Glenister

Published June 2014 by Hachette Audio/Length: 17 hours, 22 minutes

Where I Got It: I checked out the audio book from the library

Series: Cormoran Strike #2

Genre: Adult Mystery

What It’s About: When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, Mrs. Quine just thinks her husband has gone off by himself for a few days—as he has done before—and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.

But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine’s disappearance than his wife realizes. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were to be published, it would ruin lives—meaning that there are a lot of people who might want him silenced.

When Quine is found brutally murdered under bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any Strike has encountered before…

What I Thought: I really liked it!  I mean, it is J.K. Rowling, and I’m not at all surprised that she writes mysteries so well.  I definitely wanted to spend more time in the car listening, because I couldn’t wait to see who was behind Quine’s disappearance and eventual death.  Thankfully, I was able to jump right in without having read The Cuckoo’s Calling, and I liked it enough that I’m definitely looking forward to reading the other books in the series.

I did like it as an audio book (except it was such a long audio book that I really needed a break from audio books), and while Glenister is a great voice for Strike, I don’t know that I’d seek him out as a narrator.  Still, if I started listening to a book he narrated, I’d still listen to the book.

My Rating: 4 stars.  I didn’t love it, but it’s a really good mystery!

Poison CoverBook #2: Poison by Lan Chan (An Advanced Reader Copy)

Published September 2015 by Smashwords/287 pages

Where I Got It: I received Poison as a digital advanced copy from netgalley.com, which hasn’t influenced my review in any way.

Series: Wind Dancer #1

Genre: YA Dystopic/Post-Apocalyptic

What It’s About: Since the night her mother was murdered, sixteen-year-old Rory Gray has known one truth: There are no good Seeders.

In post-apocalyptic Australia, the scientists known as Seeders have built a Citadel surrounded by food-producing regions and populated with refugees from the wars and famine. To maintain their control, the Seeders poisoned the land and outlawed the saving of seeds.

It’s been six years since Rory graced the Seeders’ circus stage as the Wind Dancer and still the scars on her body haven’t healed. Even worse are the scars on her heart, left by a Seeder boy who promised to protect her.

Now the Seeders are withholding supplies from Rory’s region for perceived disobedience. Utilizing the Wanderer knowledge she received from her mother, Rory must journey to the Citadel through uninhabitable terrain to plead for mercy.

However, the Citadel isn’t as Rory remembered. The chief plant geneticist is dying and rumors fly that the store of viable seed is dwindling. The Seeders are desperate to find a seed bank they believe Rory can locate, and they will stop at nothing to get it.

To defy the Seeders means death. But Rory has been close to death before–this time she’s learned the value of poison.

What I Thought: Poison is really different than a lot of the post-apocalyptic books I’ve read.  I love the idea of a seed bank being controlled, and it’s a future that I (sadly) could see happening.  It’s a world so different than the one we know, and yet it’s one I can picture so clearly.  Post-apocalyptic Australia is also the perfect setting for this book, and I’m really looking forward to reading the next book to see what happens next.  It’s also refreshing to see a post-apocalyptic book set in a different country- I can see Australia being a popular choice, for some reason, but it works so well as a setting.  It’s definitely worth checking out, even if you’re a little tired of dystopic/post-apocalyptic books.

My Rating: 4 stars.  It’s different and refreshing than some of the other books in the genre, and worth checking out!

Need CoverBook #3: Need by Joelle Charbonneau

Published November 2015 by Harcourt Brace And Company/352 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the e-book from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Thriller

What It’s About: “No one gets something for nothing. We all should know better.”

Teenagers at Wisconsin’s Nottawa High School are drawn deeper into a social networking site that promises to grant their every need…regardless of the consequences. Soon the site turns sinister, with simple pranks escalating to malicious crimes. The body count rises. In this chilling YA thriller, the author of the best-selling Testing trilogy examines not only the dark side of social media, but the dark side of human nature.

What I Thought: Need definitely wasn’t the book I thought it would be.  It seemed like it would be a lot more sinister than it really was.  Part of the problem is that there are too many different perspectives, and they take away from the main person narrating.  Also: what simple pranks is the summary referring to?  I felt like it jumped over simple pranks, right towards malicious crimes.

A social network that will give students whatever they want…as long as they do what Need tells them to do…it has the potential to be a lot more creepy and dark than what we saw in the book.  Clearly, the students didn’t care what they had to do in order to get what they want.  You’d hope that at least some of them would be smarter than to trust Need, but all of the characters were so shallow and flat that people died and I didn’t care. There were enough characters that I couldn’t tell them apart, and even though there’s a reason for a few different narrators, it also means it was harder to care about what actually happened to any of them.

The idea behind Need was interesting but again, I didn’t care when it was actually revealed.  It’s over-the-top and not in a good way.  It read more like cheesy thriller than chilling.

My Rating: 2 stars.  Interesting premise,  but it was a little over-the-top.

ARC Book Review Round-Up: The Secrets Of Yashire and A Thousand Nights

Book Review Round-Up is a very random feature where I talk about several of the books I’ve read.

Today is an advanced reader copy edition of the book review round-up!  In the interest of full disclosure, I received both books as an electronic advanced reader copy (e-ARC) from netgalley.com in exchange for a fair and honest review.

PrintBook #1: The Secrets Of Yashire by Diamante Lavendar

Published August 26 2015 by Smashwords|157 pages

Series: None as of now, but it seems like there will be a second book

Genre: YA Fantasy

What It’s About: The Secrets of Yashire: Emerging From the Shadows is a young adult fantasy adventure that occurs within the framework of a young girl’s subconscious mind. The main character, Brianna, finds herself thrown into a world called Yashire where she is forced to deal with circumstances that are threatening Yashire’s existence. Against her will, she is sent on a journey to restore unconditional love back to the land while also contending with the evil force in the land, Zolan.

Brianna is sent on her mission by Libban, Keeper of the Land. Along the way, Brianna travels with the mystical tiger, Angelos; a huge, whitish-tan tiger with thick black stripes who sings only the purest songs of love, and the wondrous little one-eyed bird named Abiba. During the journey, Brianna is also preparing to meet her soulmate—the one she longs to be with and the one who will bring complete healing back into her life.

Together they travel through fantastic lands filled with magical creatures that could only exist in the wildest of imaginations. Through her treacherous brushes with danger and heartwarming experiences of love and acceptance, Brianna discovers many things. It is here, amidst the powers and phantasms of the mind that Brianna receives life lessons and virtues to help her. Will one of her greatest triumphs be achieved as she learns to believe in herself? For only then can she truly see all of the wondrous things that life has to offer.

What I Thought: When I saw The Secrets Of Yashire on netgalley, I was really intrigued with it.  I really like the overall premise of the book, but unfortunately, I didn’t like it as much as I wanted to.

Certain things were repetitive.  There were several times where you’d read something, and a paragraph or two later, you’d see the same thing almost verbatim.

It does move at a really slow pace, and sometimes I wished that there was some action in it, because it seemed to drag on.  There was something weird about how she reacted to everything- sometimes she seemed disinterested and other times everything was awesome.  I think she was 16 or 17 and it’s labeled as YA , but she seemed a lot younger than she was supposed to do, and The Secrets Of Yashire would be better suited for a middle grade audience, I think.

I don’t know if it’s necessarily bad, but I do think it could use some work.  Something about it reminded me of one of my NaNoWrimo drafts.  I am hesitant to say it’s bad, because I do think it has a lot of potential.  A story told in the subconscious of a girl is such a cool idea, and the world seems a little bit different.  I liked that patience and perseverance are really important, but everything as a whole didn’t come together for me.

My Rating: 1 star.  I didn’t like The Secrets Of Yashire, and it’s not my thing, but if experimental fantasy is your thing, this might be the book for you.

A Thousand Nights CoverBook #2: A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston

Published October 6 2015 by Disney Hyperion|306 pages

Series: None

Genre: YA Fantasy

What It’s About: Lo-Melkhiin killed three hundred girls before he came to her village, looking for a wife. When she sees the dust cloud on the horizon, she knows he has arrived. She knows he will want the loveliest girl: her sister. She vows she will not let her be next.

And so she is taken in her sister’s place, and she believes death will soon follow. Lo-Melkhiin’s court is a dangerous palace filled with pretty things: intricate statues with wretched eyes, exquisite threads to weave the most beautiful garments. She sees everything as if for the last time.But the first sun rises and sets, and she is not dead. Night after night, Lo-Melkhiin comes to her and listens to the stories she tells, and day after day she is awoken by the sunrise. Exploring the palace, she begins to unlock years of fear that have tormented and silenced a kingdom. Lo-Melkhiin was not always a cruel ruler. Something went wrong.

Far away, in their village, her sister is mourning. Through her pain, she calls upon the desert winds, conjuring a subtle unseen magic, and something besides death stirs the air.

Back at the palace, the words she speaks to Lo-Melkhiin every night are given a strange life of their own. Little things, at first: a dress from home, a vision of her sister. With each tale she spins, her power grows. Soon she dreams of bigger, more terrible magic: power enough to save a king, if she can put an end to the rule of a monster.

What I Thought: I was really excited about A Thousand Nights, and it was one of the books I was looking forward to reading this year.  I ended up not liking it, and I feel weird about that because it seemed like a cool book.

So, I have no idea what the main character’s name is.  I don’t think we learn it at any point in the book, and if we do, it clearly didn’t make an impression.  Really, she could have been anyone, because I feel like we learned nothing about her.  The only character name I can actually remember is Lo-Melkhiin…I think he might be the only character who actually has a name because everyone is named in relation to the MC.  Her sister  is referred to as her sister, Lo-Melkhiin’s mom is named Lo-Melkhiin’s mother, and so on.  It’s hard to remember anyone when they have no names and nothing else to distinguish them from all of the other characters.

It seemed like there would be more romance, at least from the summary, so I was surprised that there wasn’t really any romance there.  I did like that the MC had growing power, leading her to be the only one who can defeat the king. I do wish the magic between them was explained more because it seemed really random.  There does seem to be a lot of folklore, and from what I’ve heard, it’s based on 1001 Arabian Nights.  Which I haven’t read, and may be why it felt like something was missing.  Or maybe it’s just me, and it doesn’t matter if you’ve read 1001 Arabian Nights.

Something about this book made me think of Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge- I think there’s something about the world and how the story is told that would make it a good read-alike for Cruel Beauty fans.

My Rating: 2 stars.  Mostly because I just didn’t care.  A Thousand Nights isn’t for me, but I can see why people would like it- the writing was beautiful but not enough to get my interest.

ARC Book Review: Avalon Rising by Kathryn Rose

Avalon Rising CoverBook: Avalon Rising by Kathryn Rose

Expected Publication is May 8, 2015 by Flux|Expected Number Of Pages: 387

Where I Got It: I received a digital review copy from netgalley.com in exchange for a fair and honest review.  Promise!

Series: Metal & Lace #2

Genre: YA Steampunk/Re-telling

What It’s About:

In the aftermath of Morgan le Fay’s war on Camelot, the once great kingdom struggles to rebuild. Vivienne, Merlin’s former apprentice, toils in secret day and night on orders from the Lady of the Lake to build an aeroship. The Lady has seen the future and promises that the ship will ensure Camelot’s knights triumph over the Black Knight in the quest for Avalon and the Holy Grail.

But when a company of knights goes missing—including Owen, Vivienne’s brother, and Marcus, her beloved—Vivienne changes the plan and commandeers the aeroship for a rescue mission, altering the fates of all involved. Now, the Lady sees danger in Vivienne’s future. And for Marcus: either betrayal or death.

What I Thought:

I was hoping I would like Avalon Rising, but I didn’t.  I thought the first book (Camelot Burning) was okay, but I was interested enough in the world that I thought I’d give Avalon Rising a try.

One of my biggest issues with Camelot was the fact that I didn’t feel like the world or the characters were described, so I had the hardest time picturing everything and getting a good feel for a steampunk Camelot.  Unfortunately, that is something that continues with Avalon.  I just don’t know if steampunk (which is normally associated with the Victorian era) works with Camelot and King Arthur.  I mean, there’s Avalon and a quest for the Holy Grail, but there are so few details about this Camelot that it could just as easily be set in a different time period.  Maybe steampunk is too associated with the Victorian era for me to really see it written in any other time period.

I also didn’t get why Jersulem and the Spanish Rogues kept coming up.  I do admit that I should have read Camelot Burning before, and maybe that’s why it was confusing.  I’m also not familiar with a lot of the stories surrounding King Arthur, so it could be that.  At any rate, it wasn’t clear why those things are so important.

There is something about Avalon Rising that feels very cold and distant to me, and it felt like the characters were there, doing things I can’t remember.  I feel so bad about saying that, because I know a lot of work goes into writing a novel, but this series just isn’t working for me, and coming to life the way I’d want it to.

My Rating:

1 star.  I couldn’t get into it, and it is a shame, because the idea of a steampunk Camelot is really promising.  I just don’t think this is the series for me.

ARC Book Review: The Secrets We Keep by Trisha Leaver

The Secrets We KeepBook: The Secrets We Keep by Trisha Leaver

Published April 28, 2015 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux|204 pages

Source/Format: I got the e-book from netgalley.com, which hasn’t influenced my review in any way.  Promise!

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

What It’s About:

Ella and Maddy Lawton are identical twins. Ella has spent her high school years living in popular Maddy’s shadows, but she has never been envious of Maddy. In fact, she’s chosen the quiet, safe confines of her sketchbook over the constant battle for attention that has defined Maddy’s world.

When—after a heated argument—Maddy and Ella get into a tragic accident that leaves her sister dead, Ella wakes up in the hospital surrounded by loved ones who believe she is Maddy. Feeling responsible for Maddy’s death and everyone’s grief, Ella makes a split-second decision to pretend to be Maddy. Soon, Ella realizes that Maddy’s life was full of secrets. Caught in a web of lies, Ella is faced with two options—confess her deception or live her sister’s life.

What I Thought:

I have such mixed feelings about this book!  So much of it made me angry, and I was expecting more mysteries and lies than what we really got, and yet it’s an interesting premise.

The characters made me so angry!  I understand why Ella did what she did, and  I totally get how she feels, and why she feels that way.  I understand that she really felt like she was living in Maddy’s shadow, and that it would be easier for her to pretend to be Maddy since everyone has so happy she survived.  But I was also angry that it went on for so long, and that no one else seemed to notice.  I know that grief makes people do very strange things, and everyone around her was too wrapped up in their grief to notice that Ella was alive, and not Maddy, but still, how do you not figure out who’s who?

And how does Alex not figure out that it’s Ella and not Maddy?  Considering he was Maddy’s boyfriend, you’d think he’d figure it out.  Plus, his whole “Maddy needs to start acting like herself right way, or else” thing was so frustrating and hard to read.  Of course, she’s acting differently, not only did her identical twin JUST DIE, but she’s also pretending to be her dead twin.

I really am trying to chalk it up to everyone’s grieving but it’s so hard!

And no one seems to care that she was pretending to be her twin.  Maybe they gave her a free pass, but I wanted more fall-out after the big reveal that it was Ella.  I also wanted to see more of what happened after, instead of the jump to Ella starting over at college.

Ella was just really frustrating as a character- unhappy because everyone is glad that Maddy’s alive and feeling like she needs to pretend to be Maddy, and yet she keeps everyone at arm’s length while judging them and acts like she doesn’t care when she really does.

I also felt like the mystery was really blah.  It’s your typical mean girl mystery, and I was expecting something…more. Something darker.  I didn’t really care about the lies and secrets Maddy had.  Granted, it was a pretty crappy thing to do, but it was still really unimpressive to me, and wasn’t what I expected at all.  I know the book deals with the fact that they grew apart, but I felt like that could have been dealt with in a much different way.

My Rating:

2 stars.  I liked the premise but wished that Maddy’s secrets were darker instead of something out of Mean Girls.  And Ella was so frustrating that I couldn’t sympathize with her, even though I do understand why she acted the way she did.  I just couldn’t suspend any disbelief for this one.

ARC Book Review: Cut Me Free by J.R. Johansson

Cut Me Free CoverBook: Cut Me Free by J.R. Johansson

Expected Publication is January 27, 2015 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux|Expected Number Of Pages: 219

Where I Got It: netgalley.com

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary/Thriller/Mystery

Check out Cut Me Free on goodreads

Goodreads Summary: 

Seventeen-year-old Charlotte barely escaped from her abusive parents. Her little brother, Sam, wasn’t as lucky. Now she’s trying to begin the new life she always dreamed of for them, but never thought she’d have to experience alone. She’s hired a techie-genius with a knack for forgery to remove the last ties to her old life. But while she can erase her former identity, she can’t rid herself of the memories. And her troubled history won’t let her ignore the little girl she sees one day in the park. The girl with the bruises and burn marks.

That’s when Charlotte begins to receive the messages. Threatening notes left in her apartment–without a trace of entry. And they’re addressed to Piper, her old name. As the messages grow in frequency, she doesn’t just need to uncover who is leaving them; she needs to stop whoever it is before anyone else she loves ends up dead.

What I Thought:

I’m not sure what to think about Cut Me Free.  Based on the summary, I was expecting something dark.  It is YA, so I figured something dark but not too dark.

And yet, the book was more about her romance with the guy helping her erase her old life than it was with Charlotte dealing with everything that happened.  It wasn’t explored as much as I thought or hoped.  And this is usually something I don’t notice.  Even when I do, I’m usually willing to overlook because it tends to not bug me.  But this time?  It didn’t sit right. What we did see of her old life…her new life didn’t make a lot of sense to me.  I get why she wanted to forget, but I think I would have preferred for it to stay with her a little more.  I know it’s something people deal with in many different, and that Charlotte’s story may represent quite a few people.  But the summary made it seem like it was more important than it really was.  I felt like the story was going to be more about her past, and it wasn’t.  The lack of details about her past made it hard to care about her future.

I wish I didn’t need her backstory, but this was a case where I really needed it.  It just made me feel distanced and removed from what was going on in her life.  She also seemed to adapt very well for someone who was basically imprisoned in her own home as a child.  Honestly, for someone who was never properly socialized, she should have been a lot more naive and not as street smart as she was in the book.  All in all, she did not act how I thought someone who was been through what she has been through should act.

As a thriller, it’s your typical YA thriller.  Parts of it sort of surprised me, but if you want a decent YA thriller/mystery, you’d probably like this book.

As for the girl that Charlotte takes in, I get why she took her in, and that she recognized that herself in this girl, but it felt like such an afterthought.  Especially the part where you learn the girl was a victim of human trafficking.  It felt very glossed over and in there just to be in there.  Yes, that girl went through some horrible things and that Charlotte sees herself in that girl, wanting to protect her the way she couldn’t protect her brother.  But something about it didn’t sit right with me at all.

Let’s Rate It: 

Cut Me Free didn’t completely work for me.  I couldn’t relate or even sympathize with Charlotte and I felt like the book described in the summary was a very different book than the one I read.  It’s not for me, but something about this book was sort of compelling.  Cut Me Free gets 2 stars.

ARC Book Review: When by Victoria Laurie

When CoverBook: When by Victoria Laurie

Expected Publication: January 13, 2015 by Disney Hyperion|Expected Number Of Pages: 338

Where I Got It: an ARC from netgalley, which hasn’t influenced my review in any way.  Promise!

Series: none

Genre: YA Contemporary with a paranormal twist

You can find When on goodreads & Victoria Laurie on twitter and her website

Goodreads Summary: 

Maddie Fynn is a shy high school junior, cursed with an eerie intuitive ability: she sees a series of unique digits hovering above the foreheads of each person she encounters. Her earliest memories are marked by these numbers, but it takes her father’s premature death for Maddie and her family to realize that these mysterious digits are actually death dates, and just like birthdays, everyone has one.

Forced by her alcoholic mother to use her ability to make extra money, Maddie identifies the quickly approaching death date of one client’s young son, but because her ability only allows her to see the when and not the how, she’s unable to offer any more insight. When the boy goes missing on that exact date, law enforcement turns to Maddie.

Soon, Maddie is entangled in a homicide investigation, and more young people disappear and are later found murdered. A suspect for the investigation, a target for the murderer, and attracting the attentions of a mysterious young admirer who may be connected to it all, Maddie’s whole existence is about to be turned upside down. Can she right things before it’s too late?

What I Thought:

I liked When!  I wasn’t quite sure what to expect or where the story was going, but I was surprised with where the book went.

I thought that Maddie’s ability to see your death date is an interesting, even though it doesn’t quite work.  I don’t know how to explain it but maybe it’s because we only see her do it for a handful of people.  And there’s the fact that people pay her so they know when they (or someone they care about) will die.  People are very cautious around her. and she does get treated differently because of it.  I don’t blame them, but at the same time, it’s something she has no control over.  Personally, I wouldn’t want to know, because I would never be able to think of anything else, you know?

But it’s people wanting to know that gets Maddie into such a big mess.  I totally get why law enforcement turns to her, and why they don’t believe her.  And yet, her uncle is pretty resistant to them giving her a test to see she’s really not making things up. This would eventually led to me wanting to slap Maddie upside the head for her stupidity (there were other times when she did some pretty stupid things, but one moment in particular…just…there are no words.

I don’t know how I feel about the murder mystery.  Maddie knowing people’s death dates made her a likely suspect (alongside her best friend) and the person behind things was unexpected.

What was most frustrating was the fact that the FBI would not her or Stubby alone- but especially Maddie. Things were really circumstantial, and while I understand their focus on her, I think they definitely took it too far.

I did like the link between the disappearing kids, which, now that I think about it, should have been able to figure it out.  And I liked that it was something people knew, which is a nice change from keeping it hidden.  I really liked that her uncle was there for her, and that she had Stubby.  And her one neighbor was such an awesome person who looked in on Maddie and made sure she was okay.

Let’s Rate It:

I liked When, because the idea is interesting, and it was hard for me to put down at times.  But I’m also torn, because the mysteries combined with her abilities didn’t completely work (but I think Laurie did make a really effort).  When gets 3 stars.