Book Review: Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova

Book: Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova

Published September 2016 by Sourcebooks Fire|324 pages

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

Series: Brooklyn Brujas #1

Genre: YA Urban Fantasy

Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives.

Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can’t trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange marks on his skin.

The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland…

I really loved the magic, traditions and culture in Labyrinth Lost.  When I first heard about it, I knew I wanted to rea it, because it seemed really different.

Los Lagos was a really vivid setting- it had this Wonderland feel to it, and I think, if it were to be adapted into a movie or t.v. show, that Los Lagos would be really pretty to look at.  I thought things were pretty interesting leading up to Los Lagos, and as pretty and vivid at it seems, it was also the point where I started to lose a little bit of interest.

I think it’s mostly because the stakes never felt really high.  I know Alex is trying to get her family back, but there was never the sense of urgency that she would never get them back if she didn’t comply with the Devourer’s wishes.  It was pretty predictable that she’d be reunited with them, and I kind of felt like the book never really made me feel like it was a distinct possibility.

There were also a lot of the tropes you’d see in a book like this.  The girl who’s the most powerful in a while, but doesn’t want it and would do anything to get rid of it.  There’s the best friend who has no idea her best friend is a bruja but goes after her anyway, and the bad boy with a troubled past who, in the end, does the right thing by trying to help our heroine.  It wasn’t annoying enough to make me dislike it, but just annoying enough for me to bring it up. So keep that in min if you’re thinking about reading it.

The magic and folklore were really different, and I liked the idea of a Deathday celebration.  There was something very old and traditional about the magic, like it was passed down from generation to generation.  I also really liked the contrast between Brooklyn and Los Lagos and Brooklyn and the magic we see in the book.

I did think Alex was a little bit on the bratty side- her family really cared about her, as did a lot of other people, and it seemed like she threw it right in their faces at her Deathday celebration.  I am curious about why her mom didn’t really put her through their magical training a little more.  I wonder if maybe that’s part of Alex’s problem.  Maybe not, but I do wonder if it would have made a difference.

And the cover!  It’s really unique and I’d definitely pick it up based off of the cover alone.

4 stars.  I can’t wait to read the next book, because I am curious to see where things go.  Especially with how the book ended.  It is really unique, and worth checking out!

Book Review: Queen Of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas

Book: Queen Of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas

Published September 2015 by Bloomsbury Publishing|547 pages

Where I Got It: I own the e-book

Series: Throne Of Glass #4

Genre: YA Fantasy

Everyone Celaena Sardothien loves has been taken from her. But she’s at last returned to the empire—for vengeance, to rescue her once-glorious kingdom, and to confront the shadows of her past…

She will fight for her cousin, a warrior prepared to die just to see her again. She will fight for her friend, a young man trapped in an unspeakable prison. And she will fight for her people, enslaved to a brutal king and awaiting their lost queen’s triumphant return.

Celaena’s epic journey has captured the hearts and imaginations of millions across the globe. This fourth volume will hold readers rapt as Celaena’s story builds to a passionate, agonizing crescendo that might just shatter her world.

I really like this series, and this book…I don’t know what I was expecting, but I can’t wait to see what happens next. Especially with how the book ended.

In the last book, I wasn’t sure about Manon, and the whole arc with the covens- it seemed out of place before. And I wondered if maybe it was setting something up in future books.  I turned out to be right about that, but I really didn’t expect it to go the way that it did.  I want to see more of Manon and her Thirteen.

We see more development with Rowan and Aelin, and it seems like the good ship Chaol and Celaena are on their way to being completely dead.  It depends on what happens in Empire Of Storms, of course, but I don’t see Chaol and Celaena getting back together.  As much as I love both Chaol and Celaena, I don’t think I really like them together. Pretty much because I think he has a hard time accepting her for who she is.  And after the whole thing with Nehemia…there really isn’t any hope for them.  Not anymore.  But at the same time, Chaol does stand up to her, which I think she needs.

She is a very different Celaena in this book than in the previous ones.  She is more Aelin, Queen Of Terrasen than Celaena Sardothien, Adarlan’s Assassin.  It’s a big change, and I have the feeling that there are very divided feelings on both the change in Celaena and with the romance.

I did hate what Maas did to Chaol, but he was right (a lot) and I wish the changes for him and Celaena were a little bit smoother.  And Dorian!  I felt for him, I really did.  I hated every single time he was in pain.

Manon and Lysandra were amazing, and Nesryn had a lot of potential but I kind of felt like Nesryn was just there.

Queen Of Shadows is definitely a big turning point.  We’re turning away from trying to free magic and take down the king of Adarlan, and turning towards a war with Perrington.  I’m curious to see where things go.

4 stars.  I thought Nesryn had a lot of potential, and I hated what Maas did to Chaol, but I can’t wait to see where things go.

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.

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.

Book Review: A World Without You by Beth Revis

a-world-without-you-coverBook: A World Without You by Beth Revis

Published July 2016 by Razorbill|372 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Blog Graphic-What It's About

What would you do to bring back someone you love? After the unexpected loss of his girlfriend, a boy suffering from delusions believes he can travel through time to save her in this gripping new novel from New York Times bestselling author Beth Revis.

Seventeen-year-old Bo has always had delusions that he can travel through time. When he was ten, Bo claimed to have witnessed the Titanic hit an iceberg, and at fifteen, he found himself on a Civil War battlefield, horrified by the bodies surrounding him. So when his concerned parents send him to a school for troubled youth, Bo assumes he knows the truth: that he’s actually attending Berkshire Academy, a school for kids who, like Bo, have “superpowers.”

At Berkshire, Bo falls in love with Sofia, a quiet girl with a tragic past and the superpower of invisibility. Sofia helps Bo open up in a way he never has before. In turn, Bo provides comfort to Sofia, who lost her mother and two sisters at a very young age. 

But even the strength of their love isn’t enough to help Sofia escape her deep depression. After she commits suicide, Bo is convinced that she’s not actually dead. He believes that she’s stuck somewhere in time — that he somehow left her in the past, and now it’s his job to save her. 

In her first contemporary novel, Beth Revis guides readers through the mind of a young man struggling to process his grief as he fights his way through his delusions. As Bo becomes more and more determined to save Sofia, he has to decide whether to face his demons head-on, or succumb to a psychosis that will let him be with the girl he loves.

Blog Graphic- What I Thought

I have so many thoughts about A World Without You!

So, I have to admit that I knew I wanted to read this book, but that I didn’t know what it was about going in. At first, I didn’t realize it was a contemporary, because of the whole school-for-kids-with-special-powers aspect.  As the book went on, I realized that, in fact, the book was not sci-fi or paranormal or fantasy- basically, whatever genre you classify kids-with-special powers as.  That was when I realized the book was more contemporary than anything else.

I was a little disappointed that it was a contemporary novel, because I think it had a lot of promise if it had stuck to the idea that Sofia was trapped in 1692 Salem, Massachusetts, and not the aftermath of her suicide. I do think the books works better if you don’t know that going in, because the paralyzing fear that something is wrong is much more palpable.  I kind of liked that I didn’t realize something was wrong at first, because everything seemed so normal.  But it was frustrating at the same time, because it became a story I wasn’t as interested in.

I think, had I known going in that Bo had severe mental illness, I would have spent the book frustrated knowing what was going on, and waiting for him to catch up and figure everything out.  There is an undercurrent of fear and confusion and you really see Bo lose all sense of time and reality.  It’s also the most severe case I’ve seen in any YA book that deals with mental illness- I think Identical by Ellen Hopkins is the only other one I can think of that comes remotely close, and it’s pretty similar in that you don’t realize what’s going on until the end of the novel.

I did really want the story where Bo has to go back in time to save Sofia- partly because that part of the novel really interested me, but I’m also curious about how Revis would tell that story.

I feel like the blurb gave away way too much.  I know I mentioned that this a book that may be better if you don’t know what’s going on, and you’re figuring things out right alongside Bo.  But I still think it works better if you know nothing.

We also get a few chapters narrated by Phoebe, who is Bo’s sister.  I feel like her chapters were meant to show how different they are, and how everything that is going on with Bo affects her.  Her chapters were boring and flat, and I feel like all she did was complain about how no one paid attention to her because she’s the good student who’s going off to college.  It’s clear that her parents seem to be focused on Bo- which is understandable- but I do understand that her parents probably don’t give her a lot of attention because she’s the one they DON’T have to worry about. And given everything going on with Bo, she probably feels like she has to do well.

It is hard to say for sure, though, since most of the book focused on Bo, and we only get a few chapters focusing on Phoebe.

The last chapter- an epilogue- was really weird for me.  It did leave you wondering if maybe Bo did have some sort of power or ability but no one realized it because it presented as something else.  It’s ambiguous enough that you’re not sure, but…I am not a fan of the epilogue.  I know it’s trying to wrap up with what happened the previous chapter, and that if the book had ended with that chapter…it would have been a hell of a cliffhanger.  But I felt like the epilogue took away a lot of the fear and confusion that we saw in the chapter before it, and it really lost the darkness and edge that it would have had otherwise.

The moment between Bo and Phoebe was weird- if Bo does have a mental illness, then was it just a coincidence? It did feel off, like maybe he did have some sort of supernatural ability, but no one believed him.  I wonder if maybe he did, but it wasn’t said outright, because it would have contradicted everything in the book?  Maybe I’m wrong, but I felt like you could see it that way.

Blog Graphic- My Rating

3 stars.  I do think it works better if you don’t read the blurb, but it’s also a really good look at mental illness.  It’s just not for me.

Book Review: The Flame Never Dies And Behold The Dreamers

the-flame-never-dies-coverBook #1: The Flame Never Dies By Rachel Vincent

Published August 2016 by Random House Children’s Books|241 pages

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

Series: Well Of Souls #2

Genre: YA Dystopia/Paranormal/Post-Apocalyptic

What It’s About: For fans of Cassandra Clare and Richelle Mead comes the unputdownable sequel to The Stars Never Rise, a book Rachel Caine, author of the bestselling Morganville Vampires series, called “haunting, unsettling, and eerily beautiful.”

ONE SPARK WILL RISE. Nina Kane was born to be an exorcist. And since uncovering the horrifying truth—that the war against demons is far from over—seventeen-year-old Nina and her pregnant younger sister, Mellie, have been on the run, incinerating the remains of the demon horde as they go.

In the badlands, Nina, Mellie, and Finn, the fugitive and rogue exorcist who saved her life, find allies in a group of freedom fighters. They also face a new threat: Pandemonia, a city full of demons. But this fresh new hell is the least of Nina’s worries. The well of souls ran dry more than a century ago, drained by the demons secretly living among humans, and without a donor soul, Mellie’s child will die within hours of its birth.

Nina isn’t about to let that happen . . . even if it means she has to make the ultimate sacrifice.

What I Thought: I liked it, but not as much as I thought I would.  I think a lot of it is that things were resolved pretty well in the first book, and it did work well as a stand-alone.  I don’t regret reading it, because The Flame Never Dies answers some questions and resolves some loose threads that came up in The Stars Never Rise.  But at the same time, it worked so well as a stand-alone that while I liked it, I’m also sort of meh about it.  What I think surprised me with this book is that, like the first book, things are resolved, with some loose threads and unanswered questions. From what I can tell, there will be only two books, so at least the overall story is resolved.  But things are open enough that there really could be another book in the series to answer those questions.

I was kept on the edge of my seat, though, and there were several times where you’re reading it, knowing that something is about to happen, and you’re just waiting for it to actually happen.  There weren’t a lot of surprises, but there were a few, and she does have a way of making you WANT to keep going.  There is part of me that wants more, but at the same time, I feel like, with this series, Vincent knew her stopping point and where things were headed.  It is nice knowing that the idea won’t get old because it’s being spread out over all of these books, and it easily could have gone that way.  But it didn’t, and I really appreciate that.

My Rating: 3 stars.  It’s enjoyable and fun, but I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as the first book.

behold-the-dreamer-coverBook #2: Behold The Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

Published August 2016 by Random House|380 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: Adult Fiction/Adult Literary Fiction

What It’s About: Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian immigrant living in Harlem, has come to the United States to provide a better life for himself, his wife, Neni, and their six-year-old son. In the fall of 2007, Jende can hardly believe his luck when he lands a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a senior executive at Lehman Brothers. Clark demands punctuality, discretion, and loyalty—and Jende is eager to please. Clark’s wife, Cindy, even offers Neni temporary work at the Edwardses’ summer home in the Hamptons. With these opportunities, Jende and Neni can at last gain a foothold in America and imagine a brighter future.

However, the world of great power and privilege conceals troubling secrets, and soon Jende and Neni notice cracks in their employers’ façades.

When the financial world is rocked by the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the Jongas are desperate to keep Jende’s job—even as their marriage threatens to fall apart. As all four lives are dramatically upended, Jende and Neni are forced to make an impossible choice.

What I Thought: I ended up really liking it! Behold The Dreamers was a really good look at what it’s like to be in immigrant in the U.S. Things like the Great Recession and the collapse of Lehman Brothers really does have an effect on EVERYONE, and that was something I never thought about before. They came here for a better life, and they ended up not being able to stay, for a lot of different reasons- the biggest reason being their lawyer. Their lawyer didn’t seem all that great, or interested in truly helping them. I can easily picture families or people like the Jongas hiring a lawyer who seems more interested in the money they’re getting than actually helping their clients.

I felt for them, and how hard they both worked to have a better life for them and their children, only to have it change so much. They do end up going back to Cameroon, and it seems like they’re set financially over there, but they tried so hard to stay here. I felt like Behold The Dreamers showcased how desperate people are to come here and stay here, and how they will do anything to have a life here.

I definitely thought Jende and Neni were a lot more sympathetic than Jende’s employers.  I get they were affected by it to, but it was hard to sympathize with a family who seemed to be more interested in maintaining their lifestyle than actually trying to work on themselves.  They do seem to have their issues, but they were far more unlikable. The Edwards family were much meant to contrast the Jonga family, and you see how different things are for the privileged and those who come here, hopeful and wanting a better life.  Perhaps that is what Mbue was going for, and I did feel for all of the characters, even when it was hard to care about them and like them.

My Rating: 4 stars.  I really liked seeing Jende and Neni come to the U.S., full of hope and optimism, only to have their dreams dashed.  It’s such a great read, and I really recommend it!

Book Review: Heartless, Conviction, and Court Of Fives

heartless-cover-marissa-meyerBook #1: Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Published November 2016 by Feiwel & Friends|464 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Re-telling

What It’s About: Long before she was the terror of Wonderland, she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love. Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next queen.

Then Cath meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the king and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship. Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

In her first stand-alone teen novel, the New York Times-bestselling author dazzles us with a prequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

What I Thought: I really liked Heartless!  The Lunar Chronicles is one of my favorite series, and when I found out Meyer was coming out with another book, I knew I had to read it!  At first, I wasn’t sure about it, and initially, it was just okay.  But the more I read, the more I fell in love with the book, and the more I liked Catherine.

She’s an interesting character, and at first, she really is the sweetest person who loves baking.  It was hard to see her becoming the Queen Of Hearts that we all know in Alice In Wonderland, but the change she made into the character we all know was really believable.  It was a pretty fast change, but it worked for her character, and it was easy the events that led to her change were so easy to believe and made perfect sense for her.

By the time I was finished, I was ready for more set in this world, and that was when I realized that it was a stand-alone.  Which is fine, since it is Meyer’s take on Alice In Wonderland and the Queen Of Hearts.  But I am curious to see what Alice In Wonderland would be like if it were done by Meyer, because she did something pretty cool with Cinder.

My Rating: 4 stars.  It took me a little bit to get into Heartless, but by the end, I really wanted more set in this world!

conviction-coverBook #2: Conviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert

Published May 2015 by Disney Hyperion|352 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

What It’s About: Ten years ago, God gave Braden a sign, a promise that his family wouldn’t fall apart the way he feared.

But Braden got it wrong: his older brother, Trey, has been estranged from the family for almost as long, and his father, the only parent Braden has ever known, has been accused of murder. The arrest of Braden’s father, a well-known Christian radio host, has sparked national media attention. His fate lies in his son’s hands; Braden is the key witness in the upcoming trial.

Braden has always measured himself through baseball. He is the star pitcher in his small town of Ornette, and his ninety-four-mile-per-hour pitch already has minor league scouts buzzing in his junior year. Now the rules of the sport that has always been Braden’s saving grace are blurred in ways he never realized, and the prospect of playing against Alex Reyes, the nephew of the police officer his father is accused of killing, is haunting his every pitch.

Braden faces an impossible choice, one that will define him for the rest of his life, in this brutally honest debut novel about family, faith, and the ultimate test of conviction.

What I Thought: I really wanted to like Conviction, and it seemed like it would be a great book, but it ended up being really frustrating to read. There were so many different angles, and I felt like none of them really got the attention they deserved. There’s Braden, and the complicated family stuff- his mom left him, and the same happened with his half-brother’s mom. There’s a dad, who seems abusive, and pushed baseball on his kids because his dream of being a professional baseball died when he got injured. And all of the stuff with a brother, who’s gay, and was kicked out and basically almost killed by their dad. On top of that, Braden’s dad is accused of killing a cop, and people may or may not have lied about what happened that night.

I felt like a lot of things weren’t clear, like with what happened on the night that the cop died, and things were hinted at, but for the most part, nothing was clearly mentioned or explained. That was when it matched up with what was previously mentioned in the book, and there was definitely at least one time, where things didn’t match up at all.

Not only that, but you have different time lines- there’s Braden’s memories of his dad, there what happened the night the cop died, and what was going on in the present, and it made things less coherent and really jumbled. It didn’t feel very focused, and I felt like I was reading all of these different pieces that didn’t really come together. The flashbacks were also poorly done in my opinion, and randomly thrown in with no transitions before and after.

My Rating: 2 stars. I didn’t dislike it enough to give it 1 star, but it was really confusing and all over the place. I can see why people like it, but it wasn’t for me.

court-of-fives-coverBook #3: Court Of Fives by Kate Elliott

Published August 2015 by Little, Brown Books For Young Readers|448 pages

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

Series: Court Of Fives #1

Genre: YA Fantasy

What It’s About: On the Fives court, everyone is equal.

And everyone is dangerous.

Jessamy’s life is a balance between acting like an upper-class Patron and dreaming of the freedom of the Commoners. But away from her family, she can be whomever she wants when she sneaks out to train for the Fives, an intricate, multilevel athletic competition that offers a chance for glory to the kingdom’s best competitors.

Then Jes meets Kalliarkos, and an improbable friendship between the two Fives competitors—one of mixed race and the other a Patron boy—causes heads to turn. When Kal’s powerful, scheming uncle tears Jes’s family apart, she’ll have to test her new friend’s loyalty and risk the vengeance of a royal clan to save her mother and sisters from certain death.

In this imaginative escape into an enthralling new world, World Fantasy Award finalist Kate Elliott’s first young adult novel weaves an epic story of a girl struggling to do what she loves in a society suffocated by rules of class and privilege.

What I Thought: I picked up Court Of Fives based solely on the recommendation of Gail Carriger, and it was a fun, interesting read. I do feel like there are a lot of similar books out there, plot-wise but I really liked this one because it felt different enough to hold my attention. I really liked the competition, and how things aren’t what they seem.

It’s interesting that the history they know seems to be slightly different than what actually happened (which isn’t surprising at all), and I was really intrigued by the original story, and the parallels to Jessamy’s family, particularly with her parents. I did like that her dad stuck by her mom, even though it would have advanced his career a lot more. He still seemed really ambitious, and it didn’t seem to matter in the end, since they lost their main protector. But it did seem to matter to him, at least for a little while.

I kind of wish the competition was explained a little more, because even now, I’m not quite sure how to explain it, or even what it is. Something about it reminded me of the actual Hunger Games, but far less deadly. And something that relies a lot more on actual practice and logic and strategy. I’m definitely looking forward to reading the rest of the series, and how things work out for Jessamy and her family.

My Rating: 4 stars. This was intriguing and interesting and a really good read.

 

Book Review: The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon

the-sun-is-also-a-star-coverBook: The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon

Published November 2016 by Delacorte Press|384 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Blog Graphic-What It's About

Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

Blog Graphic- What I Thought

After reading Everything, Everything, I knew I couldn’t wait for Nicola Yoon’s next book. Unfortunately, this book was not for me. I wanted to love it but I couldn’t.

I did like that chapters alternated between Daniel and Natasha, and we see how both of their stories unfold. We also get chapters narrated by the people around Natasha and Daniel, and we see the history and stories of people on the periphery of their lives. I don’t know how I feel about those chapters. They made me feel even more removed from what was going on, and we see how the choices others made led to this moment in their lives.

If you don’t like insta-love, this is not the book for you. Even worse, this book tries to SCIENTIFICALLY EXPLAIN insta-love. My reaction to this: no. Please, no. Do not try to scientifically explain insta-love. That is the last thing I want to read. I thought they had no chemistry and it was creepy how obsessed Daniel was with Natasha, and how much he believed that they were meant to be together. You only caught a glimpse of her, and you decided that she was The One? Thanks, but no thanks.

I felt so bad for Natasha, who had to go back to a country that didn’t feel like home to her. I get why they had to go back, and the thing with the lawyer? She went to him for help, and he couldn’t even do that because he was too focused on his paralegal. I liked that she had hope, yet didn’t want to say something until she knew for sure what was going to happen. I did feel for Daniel, and the pressure his parents (especially his father) put on him. Something about Daniel’s family in particular seemed very stereotypical to me but at the same time, that was much more interesting to me than the romance between Natasha and Daniel. I really wish the story was more about them and their families then their romance.

Blog Graphic- My Rating

2 stars. I liked it a lot less than Everything, Everything, and the romance (and scientific explanation of it) were not for me. I did like the family dynamics and the thing both Natasha and Daniel were facing.

Top Ten Tuesday Holiday Gift Guide: Top Ten Books For The YA Lover

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the lovely folks over at The Broke And The Bookish.  Every week, bloggers share their own bookish top ten lists based on the topic of the week.  You can check out Ten Tuesdays here.

Blog Graphic- Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Books For The YA Lover

I generally don’t do gift guides, but I thought it might be fun to do a gift guide for people who love YA!  I definitely tried to do a range of genres and ages- everything from middle grade to older teens, and fantasy to historical fiction to contemporary.

  1. Where The Streets Had No Name by Randa Abdel-Fattah. In general, I would recommend her books but this one made my list because it gives an interesting voice to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. It’s more on the middle grade/younger end of YA spectrum, but still worth reading for people of all ages.
  2. All-American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. I’m pretty sure I recommend this book a lot, but it deserves the countless mentions! It’s such an important read because I feel like this is a story we see on the news a lot- and we see what it from two very different sides. Recommended for ages 14/15 and up.
  3. Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older. This book is perfect for the YA lover in your life. There’s art and Caribbean myths and yet I felt like it was all very normal to see magic and art coming to life. Recommended for ages 14 and up..
  4. George by Alex Gino. This is another book that’s middle grade than YA, but it’s still on my list because I loved Melissa’s story and how wanting to be Charlotte in her school play was the thing that she wanted the most!
  5. A Court Of Thorns And Roses by Sarah J. Maas. I really love this series, and if you’re looking for a great book for the YA Fantasy reader, this is my current choice. It’s fairies and different courts and it’s full of awesome. (I’d say 15/16 and up, age-wise).
  6. Ash by Malinda Lo. This Cinderella re-telling is so under-rated, and it’s great for people who love fairy tale re-tellings. If you’re considering getting this one for a teen in your life, I’d say 15 and up (maybe 14, depends on the teen).
  7. And I Darken by Kiersten White. I love this take on Vlad Dracula. It’s dark, and definitely recommended for 16+ (maybe 15 and up, depending on the teen), but it’s also really good.
  8. Under A Painted Sky by Stacy Lee. This historical fiction novel was one of my favorites from last year, and it’s a Western! And set on the Oregon Trail. I love the friendships that we see in the book, and I definitely recommend it for everyone 14 and up.
  9. Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor. This is another recommendation that’s middle grade or on the lower end of YA. I love the magic in the book, and it’s set in Nigeria, which works really well with the myths and magic we see in the book.
  10. An Ember In The Ashes by Sabaa Tahir. This Roman Empire inspired fantasy is really good! It’s definitely on the dark side, but so worth it. Recommended for ages 15 and up.

Book Review Round-Up: When Reason Breaks, Compulsion and Split Second

Book Review Round-Up is when I talk about several books in one post.  Today’s books are When Reason Breaks By Cindy Rodriguez, Compulsion by Martina Boone and Split Second by Kasie West.

when-reason-breaks-coverBook #1: When Reason Breaks by Cindy L. Rodriguez, narrated by Cassandra Morris

Published February 2015 by Audible for Bloomsbury|Length: 7 hours, 16 minutes

Where I Got It: I own the audio book

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

What It’s About: 13 Reasons Why meets the poetry of Emily Dickinson in this gripping debut novel perfect for fans of Sara Zarr or Jennifer Brown.

A Goth girl with an attitude problem, Elizabeth Davis must learn to control her anger before it destroys her. Emily Delgado appears to be a smart, sweet girl, with a normal life, but as depression clutches at her, she struggles to feel normal. Both girls are in Ms. Diaz’s English class, where they connect to the words of Emily Dickinson. Both are hovering on the edge of an emotional precipice. One of them will attempt suicide. And with Dickinson’s poetry as their guide, both girls must conquer their personal demons to ever be happy.

In an emotionally taut novel with a richly diverse cast of characters, readers will relish in the poetry of Emily Dickinson and be completely swept up in the turmoil of two girls grappling with demons beyond their control.

What I Thought: I’ve wanted to read When Reason Breaks ever since I heard about it. I thought the dual narration worked really well, even in the audio book. It was hard at first, telling the two girls apart, but as the book went on, it got easier because Elizabeth and Emily are very different girls. I’m also glad that Elizabeth went by Elizabeth, because two Emily’s in the audio book would have been a little bit hard to keep up with. Especially with the connection to Emily Dickinson we see throughout the book.

Emily and Elizabeth are very different girls, but both of them are struggling with depression. With Emily and Elizabeth, we see very different portrayals of it, and I liked seeing how two very different people deal with depression in very different ways. They very much represent different manifestations of depression- outwardly for Elizabeth, and inward for Emily.

I will say that I was frustrated with how Mrs. Diaz dealt with the anonymous letters she got from one of her students. I get why she would assume the letters were from Elizabeth- Elizabeth is not only Goth, but has a lot of other issues that she’s dealing with at home. I’m not at all saying that if you’re Goth, you’re depressed and suicidal, and this book clearly shows that you can be depressed and suicidal and still appear like everything is fine, even if it’s not. But it frustrated me, because she’s focusing all of her attention on the student she thinks needs helps- it’s like she doesn’t consider that it could be someone else, and that was frustrating to listen to, because depression isn’t always obvious. At least she realizes that a student needs help, and that she was able to save the student in time. We don’t really see any attempts at recovery, but this book isn’t about that. It’s about the struggle of dealing with something and not knowing what to do or how to handle it.

Cassandra Morris was an excellent narrator, and even though I’m actively seeking out other books she’s narrated, if I saw she narrated a book that I was considering listening to, I’d definitely consider it as an audio book. I do wish she had done something slightly different for the two girls, but overall, she did a pretty good job. I could have sworn I’ve listened to a book by her, because she sounded really familiar, but I haven’t. Maybe she sounds similar to another narrator Ive listened to.

My Rating: 4 stars. Mostly because the assumptions that Mrs. Diaz made in regard to who was sending her letters was really frustrating (as understandable as it was), and it was a little hard to get over. It is a very good look at depression and the different forms it can take.

compulsion-coverBook #2: Compulsion by Martina Boone

Published August 2015 by SimonPulse|433 pages

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

Series: The Heirs Of Watson Island #1

Genre: YA Paranormal/Mystery/Gothic

What It’s About: Beautiful Creatures meets The Raven Boys in Compulsion, the first novel in a spellbinding new trilogy.

All her life, Barrie Watson has been a virtual prisoner in the house where she lived with her shut-in mother. When her mother dies, Barrie promises to put some mileage on her stiletto heels. But she finds a new kind of prison at her aunt’s South Carolina plantation instead—a prison guarded by an ancient spirit who long ago cursed one of the three founding families of Watson Island and gave the others magical gifts that became compulsions.

Stuck with the ghosts of a generations-old feud and hunted by forces she cannot see, Barrie must find a way to break free of the family legacy. With the help of sun-kissed Eight Beaufort, who knows what Barrie wants before she knows herself, the last Watson heir starts to unravel her family’s twisted secrets. What she finds is dangerous: a love she never expected, a river that turns to fire at midnight, a gorgeous cousin who isn’t what she seems, and very real enemies who want both Eight and Barrie dead.

What I Thought: I don’t remember how I came across this book, but it seemed intriguing enough, especially since it’s described as Beautiful Creatures meets The Raven Boys. I know I read The Raven Boys (and I know a lot of people love that series) but I don’t remember much about it, other than they’re trying to find…something. I do love Beautiful Creatures, and I was hoping that I would like this book as much as that series.

As much as I wanted to like it, I ended up not liking it that much. As much as I like the premise, it fell short for me. I can see the comparisons to Beautiful Creatures, and there is this southern Gothic feel to the book, but it didn’t work as well as I thought it would. I did listen to Beautiful Creatures on audio, while I read Compulsion, and I wonder if that would have made a difference. I have the feeling it wouldn’t. I really wish we had more information about the curse that affected all three families and why it bound them to the island. I feel like we got something, but it’s honestly not something I can remember. There are gifts and curses and there is not enough detail for me. All of the world-building was there (and to be honest, it felt a little forced), but never really explained. I wish it were, because those details could have been interesting.

My Rating: 2 stars. Even though I wasn’t the biggest fan of this book, I have a hard time giving it one star, and I’m not sure why.

split-second-coverBook #3: Split Second by Kasie West

Published February 2014 by HarperTeen|360 Pages

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

Series: Pivot Point #2

Genre: YA Paranormal

What It’s About: Life can change in a split second.

Addie hardly recognizes her life since her parents divorced. Her boyfriend used her. Her best friend betrayed her. She can’t believe this is the future she chose. On top of that, her ability is acting up. She’s always been able to Search the future when presented with a choice. Now she can manipulate and slow down time, too . . . but not without a price.

When Addie’s dad invites her to spend her winter break with him, she jumps at the chance to escape into the Norm world of Dallas, Texas. There she meets the handsome and achingly familiar Trevor. He’s a virtual stranger to her, so why does her heart do a funny flip every time she sees him? But after witnessing secrets that were supposed to stay hidden, Trevor quickly seems more suspicious of Addie than interested in her. And she has an inexplicable desire to change that.

Meanwhile, her best friend, Laila, has a secret of her own: she can restore Addie’s memories . . . once she learns how. But there are powerful people who don’t want to see this happen. Desperate, Laila tries to manipulate Connor, a brooding bad boy from school—but he seems to be the only boy in the Compound immune to her charms. And the only one who can help her.

As Addie and Laila frantically attempt to retrieve the lost memories, Addie must piece together a world she thought she knew before she loses the love she nearly forgot . . . and a future that could change everything.

What I Thought: I didn’t like Split Second as much as I thought I would. I liked the first one, but I thought Split Second was really confusing. It was narrated by Addie and Laila, and even though there were major differences in their chapters, in terms of how their stories unfolded, it was hard to tell them apart. Just when I got used to one of them, the chapter was over, and I was thrown into someone else’s story.

I did have trouble focusing on the book, so maybe my massive confusion was partly because I wasn’t paying as much attention as I could have. I do remember having this problem with Pivot Point, and being confused by the two different time lines, but I don’t remember having this much trouble keeping up with what was going on. It’s also been a while since I’ve read Pivot Point, so part of might be because I remember nothing. I have really liked the contemporary books I’ve read by West, so maybe her more paranormal stuff isn’t my thing.

My Rating: 2 stars. I found that I was really confused, and unable to keep up. It’s an interesting idea, but not my cup of tea.