ARC Book Review: The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

Book: The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

Expected Publication Is October 8, 2019 by Wednesday Books|Expected Number Of Pages: 416

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Thriller

“A visceral, darkly haunting fever dream of a novel and an absolute page-turner. Liggett’s deeply suspenseful book brilliantly explores the high cost of a misogynistic world that denies women power and does it with a heart-in-your-throat, action-driven story that’s equal parts horror-laden fairy tale, survival story, romance, and resistance manifesto. I couldn’t stop reading.” – Libba Bray, New York Times bestselling author

No one speaks of the grace year. It’s forbidden.

Girls are told they have the power to lure grown men from their beds, drive women mad with jealousy. They believe their very skin emits a powerful aphrodisiac, the potent essence of youth, of a girl on the edge of womanhood. That’s why they’re banished for their sixteenth year, to release their magic into the wild so they can return purified and ready for marriage. But not all of them will make it home alive.

Sixteen-year-old Tierney James dreams of a better life—a society that doesn’t pit friend against friend or woman against woman, but as her own grace year draws near, she quickly realizes that it’s not just the brutal elements they must fear. It’s not even the poachers in the woods, men who are waiting for their chance to grab one of the girls in order to make their fortune on the black market. Their greatest threat may very well be each other.

With sharp prose and gritty realism, The Grace Year examines the complex and sometimes twisted relationships between girls, the women they eventually become, and the difficult decisions they make in-between

The Grace Year sounded really interesting so I was glad to receive an e-ARC from netgalley.  I liked it, as much as someone can like a book like this one.  It was pretty hard to get through, though.

Part of why I had a hard time getting through it was the sections.  Each section is a different season, but there were no chapters or page breaks.  Other than fall, winter, spring, summer and return, there was nothing to indicate time passed or a scene change.  It made each section drag, and I struggled to get through it because it felt like each season lasted forever.

The one thing that really stands out is how horrible these girls are to each other.  I understand it, especially in this society, but I really wish we saw more of the day-to-day life in the camp.  I also wanted to know more about how society got to this point.  It did feel like it was set in New England in the late 1600’s/early 1700’s, but because we have no information about this world, it’s hard to say for sure what inspired this world.

It was interesting to see how this group of girls handled their grace year, and it’s actually easy to see why no one knows what happens during that year.  It’s not something I would want to talk about once it was over.  Assuming I actually made it to the end of my grace year.  It was hard to read some of the violence that happens in the book, and it was hard to see just how cruel some of the girls really were.

But overall, maybe they should be talking about it, to make things better for future generations.  It does seem like it’s not like this everywhere, and that other towns are different.  It really makes me wonder what happened in this particular town, especially because it is pretty terrifying when it comes down to it.

My Rating: 3 stars.  The world was interesting, even though I wanted more history for the town these girls are from.  It gives you a lot to think about, and it’s a book that stays with you for a while.

Book Review: Dive Smack by Demetra Brodsky

Book: Dive Smack by Demetra Brodsky

Published June 2018 by Tor Teen|336 pages

Where I Got It: I own the hardcover

Series: None

Genre: YA Mystery/Contemporary

Theo Mackey only remembers one thing for certain about the fire that destroyed his home: he lit the match.

Sure, it was an accident. But the blaze killed his mom and set his dad on a path to self-destruction. Everything else about that fateful night is full of gaping holes in Theo’s mind, for good reason. Maybe it’s better that way. As captain of the Ellis Hollow Diving Team, with straight A’s and solid friends, he’s only one semester away from securing a scholarship, and leaving his past behind.

But when a family history project gets assigned at school, new memories come rushing to the surface, memories that make him question what he really knows about his family, the night of the fire, and if he can trust anyone—including himself.

I’ve heard a lot about this book, so I decided to pick it to see what the fuss was about.  Dive Smack ended up being an okay read for me, but I get why people like it so much.

Let’s start off with what I liked about Dive Smack!  I really liked the diving terms at the start of each chapter, and how they related to what was going on in Theo’s life and with that particular chapter.  I loved that he was a diver, and I feel like diving (or swimming) isn’t something a lot of YA characters do.  That really stood out to me, and seeing how each term related to what was going on was really cool.

I also liked seeing the mystery of the night of the fire unravel.  We’re learning things as they happen, the same way Theo does.  His memories start coming back, and it was interesting to see how everything worked out.

As much as I liked seeing the mystery unravel, I thought most of the book moved too slow.  It wasn’t until we were close to the end that things started to pick up, and even though I liked the mystery, there wasn’t any excitement in the build-up.  I never really felt a sense of urgency when I was reading it.

And then there’s the fact that Theo’s grandpa didn’t share his concerns about Theo’s uncle Phil.  Especially given everything that happened with Phil.  I get he’s trying to protect Theo, but I wonder if things could have been avoided if grandpa had just been honest about what happened.  I get they were both struggling with what happened, and Theo’s school project brought that up, but I really do wonder if things would have unfolded the way they did if his grandpa had just been honest with him.

I didn’t really care for Theo.  I thought he was horrible to some of the people on his team, and he was definitely a jerk at times.  I thought it was unwarranted, and jealously is not a good look for anyone, but in particular, it’s not a good look on Theo.

I liked Chip and Iris, though.  I really liked learning about Iris, and she had a pretty interesting story.  Theo’s lucky to have Chip around, and Chip seems like a cool guy.  They’re really the only other characters worth talking about, but I don’t have much to say about them.

2 stars.  I wanted to like Dive Smack more, but the pacing was really slow and I never felt any sense of urgency.

Book Review: The Rules For Breaking by Ashley Elston

Book: The Rules For Breaking by Ashley Elston

Published May 2014 by Disney-Hyperion|320 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: The Rules For Disappearing #2

Genre: YA Contemporary/Thriller

Who do you trust when no one is what they seem? The gripping sequel to contemporary, romantic YA thriller, The Rules for Disappearing.

Anna Boyd almost lost her life to get what she wanted most in the world: freedom.

But just when it seems that her family has finally escaped Witness Protection, the illusion that Anna could resume a normal life comes crashing down.

The deadly man Anna knows as Thomas is still on the loose, and now he’s using her as a pawn in a dangerous game with the drug cartel determined to silence her forever. When Thomas and a mysterious masked man capture not only Anna but also her fragile younger sister and her boyfriend, Anna decides it’s time to break all the rules-even if it means teaming up with the lesser of two evils.

Anna will do whatever it takes to protect the people she loves and win her life back once and for all. But her true enemies are hidden in plain sight. Before long, Anna will learn that putting her trust in anyone may be the last mistake she ever makes.

After reading The Rules For Disappearing, I knew I wanted to pick up the sequel.  I was pretty curious about what happened to Anna after the events of that book unfolded.  The Rules For Breaking was okay, and I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would.

I did like seeing what was going on with Anna, and how things weren’t over for her, even though they seemed to be.  I loved her dedication to her family and friends, and how loyal she was.  She really did want to protect them and keep them safe, and I really liked that about her.

It’s definitely action-packed and though predictable at times, it was a pretty fast read.  Anna doesn’t know who to trust, and we’re definitely along for the ride.  It’s more action-packed than the previous book, that’s for sure.  The first book was more of a mystery, trying to figure out what was going on, and why they were in Witness Protection.  This one was more dealing with the aftermath of what happened in that first book.

One thought that was going through my head when I was reading this book was how well the first book worked as a stand-alone.  I was wondering where the story was going to go, since things were pretty resolved in the last book.  There is more story to tell, and Anna’s life after leaving Witness Protection, with people still out to get her, is one way to go.  I liked seeing her story, don’t get me wrong, and I’m glad I finished this series, but the first book does work pretty well on it’s own.

2 stars.  The Rules For Breaking was more action-packed than the first book, and I loved how Anna would do anything for her family.  I just wasn’t as into this book as I thought I would be.

Book Review: Scarlett Undercover by Jennifer Latham

Book: Scarlett Undercover by Jennifer Latham

Published May 2015 by Little, Brown Books For Young Readers|320 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Thriller/Mystery

Meet Scarlett, a smart, sarcastic fifteen-year-old, ready to take on crime in her hometown. When Scarlett agrees to investigate a local boy’s suicide, she figures she’s in for an easy case and a quick buck. But it doesn’t take long for suicide to start looking a lot like murder.

As Scarlett finds herself deep in a world of cults, curses, and the seemingly supernatural, she discovers that her own family secrets may have more to do with the situation than she thinks…and that cracking the case could lead to solving her father’s murder.

Jennifer Latham delivers a compelling story and a character to remember in this one-of-a-kind debut novel.

I liked Scarlett Undercover!  It’s this cool mystery with elements of the paranormal, and part of me wishes it were part of a series…just to see the more supernatural elements.  It’s not often I want more books, but I would definitely read more books if we got to read more about Scarlett solving mysteries.

I wasn’t expecting a world of cults and curses that are centuries old, and I ended up really liking that part of it.  I finished the book wishing that we got more books with Scarlett solving paranormal mysteries.  It really made me wish that the book focused more on that, but at the same time, I know things needed to be set up, and that we weren’t instantly going to be thrown into the more supernatural elements of the book.

Those elements were pretty rooted in reality, so while those elements are there, it’s not the whole book.  It really is more of a mystery/thriller than a paranormal, and I thought the supernatural would be more present.  Still, I liked the connection between that and Scarlett’s family and some of the people in her life.

I do wish it were explained a little more, though, because Latham didn’t go into a lot of depth in some areas, and other things were inconsistent.  Scarlett, for example, goes from blowing off prayer to praying 5 times a day.  Obviously, what happened changed her, but it wasn’t really explained.  Her religion/faith wasn’t a big part of the book, which is fine, but with some of what happened in the book, I thought we’d see something a little more.

Overall, the book isn’t really about her religion or spiritual journey, so don’t expect that.  It was more about her trying to solve a mystery.  Still, I think it could have been interesting, but I’m also fine with the fact that it’s not really part of the book.

Scarlett is a pretty developed character- though, as the main character, one would hope she’s a pretty developed character- but I couldn’t really say that for the other characters.  It’s part of why I thought things could have been explained a little more, because the other characters were either bland or their role in things were confusing.  Scarlett herself is pretty spunky and sure of herself, and she really does want to help people.  She’s brave and she wants justice, and she’s pretty determined.  I just wish that the other characters were as interesting as Scarlett was.

3 stars.  I liked it, but I did want something a little different.  If you like mysteries, this is a pretty good one to check out.

Book Review: Map Of Fates And The Ends Of The Earth by Maggie Hall

Book: Map Of Fates by Maggie Hall

Published March 2016 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons|311 pages

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

Series: The Conspiracy Of Us #2

Genre: YA Thriller/Mystery

Two weeks. 

That’s how long it took for Avery West’s ordinary life to change forever: In two weeks, she discovered she was heiress to a powerful secret society known as the Circle, learned her mother was taken hostage by the Circle’s enemies, and fell for a boy she’s not allowed to love, just as she found out another was her unwelcome destiny. 

Now, Avery crosses oceans in private jets to hunt for clues that will uncover the truth about the Circle, setting her mom and herself free before it’s too late. By her side are both the boys: Jack—steady, loyal, and determined to help her even at the expense of his own duty—and Stellan, whose connection to Avery grows stronger by the day despite her best intentions, making her question what she believes at every turn.

But at the end of a desperate hunt from the islands of Greece to the red carpet at Cannes comes a discovery that not only changes everything, but could bring the whole world to its knees. And now Avery is forced to face the truth: in the world of the Circle, no one is what they seem.

This series is fun!  I really liked Map Of Fates, and I thought it was a pretty good follow-up to the first book.  We really get more into this world, and what the prophecy could be.  We also get more into the Circle and the Order, and we’re definitely sent on a wild goose chase.

There’s a lot of travel and a lot of clues, and Avery is scrambling to get this thing figured out.  I don’t know that I necessarily liked it more than The Conspiracy Of Us, but I didn’t like it exactly the same either.  I think I liked it slightly more, but not enough to give it a higher rating.  Which we’ll get to eventually.

I wish I connected more with Avery.  I don’t know how I’d act if I were in her situation, and I’d probably be a hot mess if any of what happens in this series actually happened to me.  I just want more with her, and I especially want more of her mom.  The whole using her mom to get her to do things didn’t completely work for me, and I think it’s because we barely see her mom.  And that was in the first book.  She does make an appearance in this book as well, but I feel like we didn’t get enough with her mom for me to completely be on board with it.

Especially since it seemed like maybe her mom knew something but kept it from Avery.  Which I get, given what happens in this book.  But still.  I think there’s more to her childhood and her relationship with her mom, and I really think her mom knew what was going on.  Maybe her mom was trying to protect her, but who knows?  We never get a clear answer in this book, and while it’s possible we’ll get one in the next book, it’s doubtful.  Very doubtful.

It is fun, though, and it still reminds me of a YA version of The Da Vinci Code.  There’s something else I’m reminded of, but I can’t place it.  It will probably come to me after I’ve finished this review, which would be par for the course. It didn’t get good until the second half of the book, and maybe that’s why I liked it only slightly more than the previous book.  It makes me want to read the next just to see how it all ends.

Things did seem rushed and a little underdeveloped, which…I don’t know.  It didn’t really work, because I thought it could have bridged the gap between the previous book and the next book a little bit.  Maybe my opinion will change after reading the next one, but I expected a little more with this one.  As entertaining as the book is, I wanted something a little more.  Still, I’m not complaining too much because it is what I had expected.

My Rating: 3 stars.  I liked Map Of Fates, and thought it was a good sequel.  There were some things I didn’t particularly like, but it was expected, and I still want to read the next book to see what happens.

Book: The Ends of The World by Maggie Hall

Published July 2017 by G.P. Putnam’s Books For Young Readers|320 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: The Conspiracy Of Us #2

Genre: YA Thriller

The Circle is hers. But Avery West has lost everything else: her mother, the family she’d just found, and the one boy she trusted. In their place are unfathomable power, a staged relationship that makes her question every real feeling she’s ever had, and a mission to find the cure to the virus that’s made her own blood a weapon.

Then disaster strikes, turning Avery, Stellan, Jack, and Elodie into the most wanted people in the world. To clear their names and the growing rift between the families of the Circle before the world dissolves into World War Three, they’ll have to make a desperate, dangerous final race for Alexander the Great’s tomb. What they will find inside will mean the world’s salvation—or destruction.

Avery will have to decide how much she’s willing to sacrifice—for the world, for family, and for love—in this conclusion to the Conspiracy of Us series.

This is one of those series where I liked each book less and less.  The concept is really cool and all, but I just wasn’t a big fan of this book.

I’m having a lot of trouble even remembering this book a couple months after finishing it.  I know I had all kinds of thoughts about when it finished, but clearly, they haven’t stuck.  While I usually have some sort of impression about a book weeks later, I have no impression of this book at all.

Which isn’t good, because even though I obviously read this book, I don’t remember much of anything.  It’s also not a good thing, because you’d think the last book in a trilogy would be more memorable, but not in this case.  Maybe it says something about this book, if it’s not memorable enough to actually properly review it.

Pretty much all I do remember is the search for clues, and that it seemed to be a race against time to figure everything out.  That’s about it, and I feel like I was just bored with it.  And I don’t know if it’s just me, but it seemed like a lot was going in this book.  Of course there it, since it’s the last book and all, but…I don’t know, it just seemed strange in this case.

I did like it, even though I can’t remember why, and it is a quick read, so that’s good too.  I don’t think it was painfully slow, unlike some other books I’ve read.  Although it did have this conspiracy vibe going on, it also seemed different somehow, though I could be wrong about that.

My Rating: 3 stars, though I’m not sure why.  Other than remembering I liked it, which isn’t really detailed.  But since I can’t remember much about the book, it doesn’t warrant a higher rating, and for reasons I can’t remember, I did like enough that I don’t want to give it a lower rating.

What I’ve Been Reading: The Fourth And Final Part

So I was going to try to fit this series of posts into 3 posts, but that would have meant the last part would have been insanely long, and I just didn’t feel like doing that, so I thought I’d try to get one more part out of it, especially since I have quite a few things to say about the last 3 books I wanted to talk about.

  • There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins.  When I saw Stephanie Perkins had a new book out, I knew I had to read it.  I loved Anna And The French Kiss and Isla And The Happily Ever After, and I figured I’d love this book as well.  Except I didn’t.  If Scream- or any of those teen horror movies from the late 90’s/early 2000’s- were in novel form, you’d have this book.  It wasn’t bad, but it just didn’t work as a book for me.  I think it could be interesting as an audio book, particularly for the chapters narrated by the murdered students.  I just don’t know that I liked it enough to give the audio book a try.  It wasn’t as suspenseful as I thought it would be, especially when we find out who’s behind everything.  And the reason why was lame, in my book.  I can understand being jealous but it seemed like a pretty weak reason to start killing people.  I also didn’t really care, considering we knew nothing about this character who barely appeared.  And Makani’s reason why she ended up in Nebraska was…boring.  It was really built up, and then I felt let down when it was revealed what had actually happened.  I’m not sure what I expected, but it wasn’t that.  It had a lot more romance than I thought it would, and while I don’t mind romance, I think this book needed less romance and more suspense and tension.  There’s Someone Inside Your House gets 2 stars.
  • Girl In Translation by Jean Kwok, and narrated by Grayce Wey.  I did this book as an audio book, and I’m glad I did, because I really liked it as an audio book.  One thing that surprised me when I first started reading the book was the age of Kimberly.  I thought she was a lot older when the book started, and I was surprised when I found out how young she really was.  At the same time, it was nice because we see how much she changes after moving, and how hard she had to work to get what she wanted.  I really felt for Kimberly, and how she had to take on a lot because her mother spoke very limited English.  The apartment they lived in, and the fact that she had to help her mother at the factory just to finish the work on time.  And Aunt Paula was a horrible, abusive woman.  I was glad when Kimberly and her mother no longer had to rely on Aunt Paula to get by.  I can’t imagine going through what Kimberly went through, and how much I don’t see or realize because I don’t have to.  I can’t imagine living in such a horrible apartment and in terrible working conditions just to have a chance to live here and reach for something better.  I wasn’t a fan of the ending, because it was unexpected.  But I’m glad that things worked out for Kimberly, and she was still able to reach the goals that she had set for herself.  Girl In Translation gets 4 stars for a good look at what it’s like to be an immigrant in America.
  • Turtles All The Way Down by John Green.  I was both excited and nervous about this book when I heard that John Green had a new book.  Excited because it’s a new John Green book but also nervous because I loved TFIOS and Looking For Alaska, but didn’t care for his other books.  I ended up really liking it, and Aza is a great character.  She’s the most realistic of Green’s characters, and she was a lot more relatable than some of his other characters.  This book also focused on Aza’s mental health, and I really liked seeing that, because it really felt like it was something that John Green himself has lived through and dealt with.  And it was a nice change from the quirky teens falling in love that we usually see with his books.  Don’t get me wrong, that’s fine as well (and again, I did love TFIOS and Looking For Alaska) but it was still nice to see him do something different.  There’s still the philosophical conversations and trivia (both nerdy and regular trivia) that you see in a typical John Green book, and I will admit that it was nice to see that.  Aza’s struggles with OCD and anxiety were really well done.  And while everyone’s experiences are different as far as mental illness go, I still feel like it’s something that will speak to a lot of people.  I’m glad we got another John Green book, and that I really liked it, because TFIOS was such a big hit that I was nervous it wouldn’t.  I didn’t completely love it, but I did like it a lot more than I thought I would.  Turtles All The Way Down gets 4 stars.

Book Review: Perfect Lies by Kiersten White

Book: Perfect Lies by Kiersten White

Published February 2014 by HarperTeen|256 pages

Where I Got It: I own the e-book

Series: Mind Games #2

Genre: YA Thriller

This explosive sequel to Mind Games, which New York Timesbestselling author Holly Black called “a brutal, exciting gem of a book,” is a lightning-fast, wickedly smart tale of two sisters trapped in a web of deceit—perfect for fans of Sara Shepard’s Lying Game series.

For years, Annie and Fia have been in an endless battle for survival against the Keane Foundation. Now the sisters have found allies who can help them escape. But Annie’s visions of the future and Fia’s flawless instincts can’t always tell them who to trust. The sisters can only rely on each other—and even their extraordinary gifts may not be enough to save them.

I really liked Perfect Lies.  After reading Now I Rise, I really wanted to revisit this series for some reason.

One thing I was really unsure about was the time-line.  It’s very much like the first book, where you have not only Fia and Annie narrating, but it jumps around as far as time goes.  It was the main problem I had with the first book, which I also re-read recently.  I did expect it, though, so that definitely helped.  It didn’t bother me as much as it did in the first book, and I definitely found myself paying attention more, because you’re seeing all of these different moments that lead up to the end.

It’s a very intricate story, and I really liked all of the little details.  It feels like one of those books that has to be really well-plotted, because I don’t think it would work as well if it wasn’t.

I really liked Annie and Fia’s relationship, and they really are great characters.  They’ve really changed, and I really liked Annie is this book.  She did everything she could for Fia and she really did try to destroy the Keane Foundation in the best way she could.  And Fia really changed as well.  She’s a lot less stable in this one, and she felt a little more…unhinged…in this one.  I don’t know if it’s because everything was catching up with her, or what was going on, but she is definitely not the Fia we see in the first book.  Or maybe it was always there, but the events of the first book really highlighted it and brought it out?

The ending was pretty open-ended, which was interesting.  I liked it, because it does make me wonder how the school will be and if Fia and Annie are okay.  But at the same time, I don’t want to wonder what happens, because I want to KNOW what happens.  I know there will be no third book, since this is a duology, but part of me wants more, because I really wanted more from the ending.  It would have made for an interesting 2nd book in a trilogy.

4 stars.  It took a little bit of time to get used to the time line but it was a pretty interesting mystery, and I really liked Annie and Fia.

Book Review: My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier

Book: My Sister Rosa By Justine Larbalestier

Published November 2016 by Soho Teen|320 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Thriller/Contemporary

What if the most terrifying person you know is your ten-year-old sister?

Seventeen-year-old Aussie Che Taylor loves his younger sister, Rosa. But he’s also certain that she’s a psychopath—clinically, threateningly, dangerously. Recently Rosa has been making trouble, hurting things. Che is the only one who knows; he’s the only one his sister trusts. Rosa is smart, talented, pretty, and very good at hiding what she is and the manipulation she’s capable of.

Their parents, whose business takes the family from place to place, brush off the warning signs as Rosa’s “acting out.” Now that they have moved again—from Bangkok to New York City—their new hometown provides far too many opportunities for Rosa to play her increasingly complex and disturbing games. Che’s always been Rosa’s rock, protecting her from the world. Now, the world might need protection from her.

I was intrigued by My Sister Rosa when I first heard about it, and I finally got around to reading it!

Rosa’s pretty creepy and twisted, and she seemed a little bit older than her ten years.  It’s easy to see why her parents- especially her mom- wouldn’t believe what she’s really capable of.  Some people seem to know there’s something different about her, though, but they’re not sure what.

We’re told right off the bat that Rosa is a psychopath, and nothing’s really changed by the end of the book.  I wish there was more build-up with Rosa.  I also thought that maybe Che was an unreliable narrator, and that he was the psychopath, not Rosa.  I expected Rosa’s results, but not Che’s- it seemed opposite of how Che acted in the book.  I also didn’t get how the book went from “my sister is a psychopath” to “everyone is a psychopath, but you just don’t know it.”  The book makes it seem like it’s something that’s really common, but I always thought it was a lot more rare.  I also felt like I was being told Rosa was a psychopath, as opposed to actually seeing her act that way.

I also felt like we got two stories in one book- one focusing on Rosa, and one focusing on a coming-of-age.  I felt really bored reading about both Rosa and Che’s life in New York, and I kind of wish the book focused more on Rosa. It was a little too unbalanced, and I wish the book had focused on one or the other.

Considering how big of a role David and Sally have in the book, we know absolutely nothing about them.  Some of the other characters had the potential to be really interesting, but they fell a little short.  I did like how diverse the characters were, though.

2 stars.  It was okay, and I felt like there were two different stories that didn’t go very well together.  I also wish we saw how creepy Rosa was, instead of being told that she was psychopathic.