Friday, October 31, 2014

Sweet Unrest ~ Lisa Maxwell (earc) review [@lisamaxwellYA @fluxbooks]

Sweet Unrest
October 8, 2014
336 pages
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Lucy Aimes has always been practical. But try as she might, she can’t come up with a logical explanation for the recurring dreams that have always haunted her. Dark dreams. Dreams of a long-ago place filled with people she shouldn’t know…but does.

When her family moves to a New Orleans plantation, Lucy’s dreams become more intense, and her search for answers draws her reluctantly into the old city’s world of Voodoo and mysticism. There, Lucy finds Alex, a mysterious boy who behaves as if they’ve known each other forever. Lucy knows Alex is hiding something, and her rational side doesn’t want to be drawn to him. But she is.

As she tries to uncover Alex’s secrets, a killer strikes close to home, and Lucy finds herself ensnared in a century-old vendetta. With the lives of everyone she loves in danger, Lucy will have to unravel the mystery of her dreams before it all comes to a deadly finish.

Lisa Maxwell's Sweet Unrest begins with both a unique character and a unique premise. Lucy's character is very well imagined, from her love of photography to her desire to be back home in Chicago not in New Orleans where they've moved to her dreams. All of the aspects of her character, from the small things to the big, not only make her a character you like reading about from the beginning, but they play into the story as well.

She is still unsure of her family's new life, but enjoying the photographic opportunities when she meets Alex. He is not only attractive but it feels to Lucy that they already know each other. And he's so infrequently around that she spends much of her time hoping to see him again. Even if he won't tell her much about himself.

Soon, Lucy is made aware of a world she never new of before, that of Voodoo. Her new friend Chloe knows Lucy, the Yankee, has no idea about it beyond her misconceptions and finds it fun to educate her.

Until it becomes more a part of Lucy's life than either of them imagined. With the dreams Lucy has had all of her life evolving into something more, filling with people of a long-ago time that are proving more real than is logical and danger all around, the move to New Orleans quickly becomes something else entirely for Lucy.

I like the mix of Voodoo, the past, the setting, Lucy's character and the other characters. Most of it works really well together in Sweet Unrest and is different from other things I Have read.  Readers get an idea of who Alex is before Lucy seems to and while it's frustrating how much she'll deny, at times, I enjoyed her path to accepting that knowledge.

The romance aspects of the novel were not quite what I was hoping the would be. They're okay and the story doesn't suffer but I wanted more. The characters have a strong bond but mostly because they said so or were supposed to, I didn't really feel it.

I also wish that the past we glimpse in Sweet Unrest had felt more real. I enjoyed its inclusion in the story, but it always felt a bit less like reality, not as whole, as the present.

Still, Sweet Unrest is a fun, enjoyable and unique story. The characters are very well imagined, the story comes together nicely and the characters play such a great role in how everything unfolds. With its mix of Voodoo, danger, and the past it is a great read - especially for Halloween!!

(I haven't been able to check the finished copy, but in the arc, a character uses 'y'all' as a singular. It's only a handful of times, but it was . . . odd. Unless, in my life, I've missed that people do that.)

review copy received, through NetGalley, for review from publisher

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Kiss of Broken Glass ~ Madeline Kuderick review [@HarperTeen @kuderickwrites]

Kiss of Broken Glass
Harper Teen
September 9, 2014
224 pages
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Madeleine Kuderick’s gripping debut is a darkly beautiful and lyrical novel in verse, perfect for fans of Sonya Sones and Laurie Halse Anderson. Kiss of Broken Glass pulses with emotion and lingers long after the last page.

In the next seventy-two hours, Kenna may lose everything—her friends, her freedom, and maybe even herself. One kiss of the blade was all it took to get her sent to the psych ward for seventy-two hours. There she will face her addiction to cutting, though the outcome is far from certain.

When fifteen-year-old Kenna is found cutting herself in the school bathroom, she is sent to a facility for mandatory psychiatric watch. There, Kenna meets other kids like her—her roommate, Donya, who’s there for her fifth time; the birdlike Skylar; and Jag, a boy cute enough to make her forget her problems . . . for a moment.

Kuderick's debut novel is the story, told in verse, of fifteen-year-old Kenna, a cutter, who has been Baker Acted. Now under a seventy-two hour psychiatric hold after being discovered cutting in the school bathroom, this is Keena's first time under observation.

Though, Kiss of Broken Glass is short, it works because it is told in verse. Verse novels are not something I usually seek out (while I don't avoid them, I don't specifically look for them, either) but this book's premise appealed to me.

Kuderick does a really fantastic job in her debut novel. Her poetry is very lyrical and seems to choose just the right words and breaks for maximum impact. Readers will get to know Kenna and the others at the facility; they'll learn why Kenna started cutting and see how much a part of her life it has become.

You also see the makeup of Kenna's family and how it may have impacted her decisions.

Despite the short length of Kiss of Broken Glass, it is full of brilliant characters, relationships, emotion and tells Kenna's story beautifully. Things do not get all wrapped up in a tidy, little bow, but that fits with the honest, real feeling of the story. (A feeling only enhanced when one reads the Author's Note.)

This is author, Madeline Kuderick's first novel and I hope to be able to read more from her in the future.

Another book you may also enjoy: Purge by Sarah Darer Littman

Monday, October 27, 2014

Blue Lily, Lily Blue ~ Maggie Stiefvater (earc) review [@Scholastic @mstiefvater]

Blue Lily, Lily Blue (The Raven Cycle #3)
Scholastic Press
October 21, 2014
391 pages
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There is danger in dreaming. But there is even more danger in waking up.

Blue Sargent has found things. For the first time in her life, she has friends she can trust, a group to which she can belong. The Raven Boys have taken her in as one of their own. Their problems have become hers, and her problems have become theirs.

The trick with found things though, is how easily they can be lost.

Friends can betray.
Mothers can disappear.
Visions can mislead.
Certainties can unravel.

The Raven Cycle has been a very enjoyable series, so far. I loved the character insights readers received in The Dream Thieves (#2) and was excited by the possibilities its ending provided.

This book's focus seemed to be more on Adam. While we do lose some of what Ronan might have been thinking, feeling after Kavinsky's death, Adam is a really good choice as the central character. The third book picks up where the last ended: they're still searching for Glendower, the Gray Man/Mr Gray is still in town and Blue's mother, Maura is missing.

Adam's character has the most (or the most, in a tie with Blue) taking place during Blue Lily, Lily Blue. His life in Henrietta, his non-Aglionby life, is more on display here and affecting more.

Ronan is no longer the main character (like in The Dream Thieves) but we continue to get to know him better. He is still discovering what the revelations of that book mean for him, his life and what he can  - and should - do. Through both his own actions and statements as well as what others say, think, do about him he has become even more my favorite character. We see some more of what's beneath the Bad Ronan Lynch facade.

I love that we go back to 300 Fox Way again. The interactions between Blue and the women in her family area always great and fun to read. There is more that has happened there and that is happening there, its no longer just the house of psychics. It's still Blue's home, still quirky and even better to read about with the added complexities.

We see more of Blue's character in this third book. She isn't the sidekick to a group of boys, but rather has both her own story and her own skills. She's the Henrietta girl, but so much more than that. Her interactions with some of the new or newer characters were some of my favorite of the book. She also brings out some of the best parts of the boys and their personalities.

The Latin teacher at Ablionby Academy is starting to feel a bit like Harry Potter's Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. Still, I really enjoyed the character and their addition to the story. It worked so well into what's already happened and the known characters.

My favorite addition to the story, however, had to be Jesse Dittley. And Jesse Dittley's CAPSLOCKiness. (Jesse Dittley's diet, as well.)

I have purposely skipped over the plot so far because it's hard to review it and stay spoiler-free. It is a great continuation of the previous books while still throwing in some unexpected twists and turns - for both readers and the characters. There is always something happening, even if it is a tiny something. It feels, at times, like something bigger needs to happen but the way that all of the little things work together towards those bigger things is fantastic.

There were a few things in the story, one in particular, that seemed very present in their lead up, in their anticipation but then disappeared. I hope to see mention(s) in the next book. A book which I am very anxious to read after Blue Lily, Lily Blue's ending. Oh what an ending.

received for review thank to the publisher, via NetGalley

free preview & full book:

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Don't Even Think About It ~ Sarah Mlynowski (earc) review

Don't Even Think About It (Don't Even Think About It #1)
Delacorte Press
March 11, 2014
336 pages
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Contemporary teen fiction with romance, secrets, scandals, and ESP from the author of Ten Things We Did (And Probably Shouldn't Have).

We weren't always like this. We used to be average New York City high school sophomores. Until our homeroom went for flu shots. We were prepared for some side effects. Maybe a headache. Maybe a sore arm. We definitely didn't expect to get telepathic powers. But suddenly we could hear what everyone was thinking. Our friends. Our parents. Our crushes. Now we all know that Tess is in love with her best friend, Teddy. That Mackenzie cheated on Cooper. That, um, Nurse Carmichael used to be a stripper.

Since we've kept our freakish skill a secret, we can sit next to the class brainiac and ace our tests. We can dump our boyfriends right before they dump us. We know what our friends really think of our jeans, our breath, our new bangs. We always know what's coming. Some of us will thrive. Some of us will crack. None of us will ever be the same.

So stop obsessing about your ex. We're always listening. 

Sarah Mlynowski's Don't Even Think About It is a fun, quick read. When one sophomore homeroom develops an interesting reaction to the flu shot, they wonder if their lives will ever be the same again. And whether or not they want them to be.

At first, they think they're going crazy. After all, who hears what other people are thinking? Soon enough, it becomes clear that it isn't something they are imagining: they can hear other people's thoughts - and those in their homeroom can hear theirs. The time of being able to keep secrets has passed.

Whether it's the summertime affair one of them had, what their parents are really thinking about during dinner, who their crush is or anything they think about at all, homeroom 10B now knows it all.

I liked that, although the cover is only girls, it was  a co-ed homeroom class affected. Meaning an interesting, discovery filled start to the day for the teens, it takes the story in an a fun direction. We hear both the girls' and the boys' thoughts, how they deal with being able to hear each other. This diversity in the characters pulls both the characters and readers into the drama of relationships, friendships, social hierarchy . . . and involves hearing some things they might not want to, whether it's painful or just not something they want to know.

There are a lot of characters in Don't Even Think About It but they each have their own story, their own secrets they don't want discovered and their own things currently happening. It is easy to keep everyone's story straight and this is an example of numerous characters really helping the story. Everyone gets involved in each other's business in a way they wouldn't have before, with good and bad outcomes.

Don't Even Think About It was a fun read, but did sometimes feel more like it was trying to be cute than that it actually was cute. Still, I liked that it was a humorous story that still dealt with some deeper issues. When you're hearing everyone's thoughts, it's not only going to be what you want to hear.  The novel did a really nice job handling the tougher, more painful side of the telepathy without losing the lightness.

I didn't enjoy this as much as Ten Things We Did (And Probably Shouldn't Have) but it was a cute, well executed concept and I 'm curious to see what happens in the sequel.

received for review from publisher through NetGalley

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Waiting On Wednesday [@EmmyLaybourne @MacKidsBooks]

Waiting On Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine

My pick for this week:
Sweet by Emmy Laybourne
*People would kill to be thin.*

Solu’s luxurious celebrity-filled “Cruise to Lose” is billed as “the biggest cruise since the Titanic,” and if the new diet sweetener works as promised—dropping five percent of a person’s body weight in just days—it really could be the answer to the world’s obesity problem. But Laurel is starting to regret accepting her friend Viv’s invitation. She’s already completely embarrassed herself in front of celebrity host, Tom Forelli (otherwise known as the hottest guy ever!) and she’s too seasick to even try the sweetener. And that’s before Viv and all the other passengers start acting really strange.

*But will they die for it, too?*

Tom Forelli knows that he should be grateful for this job and the opportunity to shed his childhood “Baby Tom-Tom” image. His publicists have even set up a ‘romance’ with a sexy reality star. But as things on the ship start to get a bit wild, he finds himself drawn to a different girl. And when his celebrity hosting gig turns into an expose on the shocking side effects of Solu, it’s Laurel that he’s determined to save.

Emmy Laybourne, author of the Monument 14 trilogy, takes readers on a dream vacation that goes first comically, then tragically, then horrifyingly, wrong.

Sweet will be published June 2, 2015 by Feiwel & Friends.
Add it to your Goodreads shelves

I really love the Monument 14 trilogy so I am super excited to read something new from Emmy Laybourne. Add in that great cover and this is making its way up my TBR list already!

That's my pick for this week, what's yours? Link me to your own Waiting post or tell me in the comments.

-- don't forget to enter the giveaway of The Bodies We Wear posted yesterday --

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Bodies We Wear ~ Jeyn Roberts (earc) Review + Giveaway [@jeynroberts @randomhousekids

The Bodies We Wear
Knopf Books for Young Readers
September 23, 2014
368 pages
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A streetwise girl trains to take on a gang of drug dealers and avenge her best friend’s death in this thriller for fans of Scott Westerfeld and Robin Wasserman.

People say when you take Heam, your body momentarily dies and you catch a glimpse of heaven. Faye was only eleven when dealers forced Heam on her and her best friend, Christian. But Faye didn’t glimpse heaven—she saw hell. And Christian died.

Now Faye spends her days hiding her secret from the kids at school, and her nights training to take revenge on the men who destroyed her life and murdered her best friend. But life never goes the way we think it will. When a mysterious young man named Chael appears, Faye's plan suddenly gets a lot more complicated. Chael seems to know everything about her, including her past. But too many secrets start tearing her world apart: trouble at school, with the police, and with the people she thought might be her friends. Even Gazer, her guardian, fears she's become too obsessed with vengeance. Love and death. Will Faye overcome her desires, or will her quest for revenge consume her?
It is supposed to give users a glimpse of Heaven, but it is still a deadly drug. Haem kills all of its users, some just never come back. Many that do wish they hadn't.

Forcibly given the drug at eleven, Faye has spent the past six years wishing for revenge for that night. Still craving the drug that left her scarred and a social outcast, she's been plotting her revenge against the men that forever changed her life and killed her best friend.

Forced every day to keep her past a secret from her fellow students, Faye's one goal is her revenge. It is what keeps her going and what she looks forward to.

Until Chael appears. He seems to know everything about Faye - the things she keeps hidden, her past and who she is - but refuses to tell her how he knows so much. Then Faye's carefully managed school life begins to fall apart. She has managed to remain unnoticed for years and now, just months away from graduation, she's drawn attention to herself. In trouble with the police and fearing the school's actions, Faye tries to hold it all together. And figure Chael out.

The Bodies We Wear is a good paranormal read. Haem is a drug, recently invented, that claims to give users a glimpse of the afterlife. Of Heaven . . . or, in Faye's case, Hell. There is great debate, of course, over whether it really is a look at life after death or simply the brain's reaction to the drug, to momentary death.

Faye believes what she saw was much more than chemistry and neurons, though. It was her destiny.

And if you're already destined for Hell, what point is there in trying for more?

Which is where The Bodies We Wear really worked for me. Roberts takes the intriguing idea of Haem and not only shows us how it affects society, but how it has affected Faye and how that society has also impacted her. She is a girl hell-bent on vengeance, on payback. In a world where a choice that was forced on her seems to provide a setback at every turn, she sees no point in trying to achieve anything else.

It doesn't matter to her whether anyone else agrees with her goal or not. She knows it's right.

Until she isn't so certain, anymore.

The more Faye refuses to question her decision, the more those questions refuse to go away, the more connection readers will feel with Faye. She knew what her life was, where it was going and what to expect. Now, things are not quite the same. As much as she does not want to give in to hope, reader can't help but feel it for her.

As we see more and more of Faye's past and get a fuller picture of how Haem has affected society and its citizens, The Bodies We Wear becomes more and more thought-provoking. Is Faye right and it doesn't matter what she does, she's going to Hell? Or do our choices truly matter?

The relationships in The Bodies We Wear may be unique due to circumstance, but they have a familiarity to them, too. Gazer and Faye's life is far from traditional but the bond they share feels real and their relationship makes sense. Each has a past and it was what brought them together, but something more keeps them together.

I quite liked Chael. It is clearer to readers how Chael may know her so well, but the explanation also isn't obvious. When things really do come together, for Faye, little things that might have passed unnoticed in the beginning, make the explanation, the character, more whole.

A fun paranormal read, but also a character driven novel that will provide some questions to really think about, The Bodies We Wear has something for most readers.

digital review copy provided, via NetGalley, by publisher for tour participation & review - thank you

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Cure for Dreaming ~ Cat Winters (earc) review [@abramskids @catwinters]

The Cure for Dreaming
Amulet Books
October 14, 2014
368 pages
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Olivia Mead is a headstrong, independent girl—a suffragist—in an age that prefers its girls to be docile. It’s 1900 in Oregon, and Olivia’s father, concerned that she’s headed for trouble, convinces a stage mesmerist to try to hypnotize the rebellion out of her. But the hypnotist, an intriguing young man named Henri Reverie, gives her a terrible gift instead: she’s able to see people’s true natures, manifesting as visions of darkness and goodness, while also unable to speak her true thoughts out loud. These supernatural challenges only make Olivia more determined to speak her mind, and so she’s drawn into a dangerous relationship with the hypnotist and his mysterious motives, all while secretly fighting for the rights of women. Winters breathes new life into history once again with an atmospheric, vividly real story, including archival photos and art from the period throughout.

The Cure for Dreaming is an incredibly unique and enjoyable tale. Blending the coming-of-age tale of seventeen-year-old Olivia Mead, historical fiction set in 1900 and a bit of fantasy could not have worked better than it does here.

Olivia is a teenager living in Portland, Oregon with her overbearing father. The push for women's suffrage is really gaiing momentum and Olivia finds the idea appealing. Her father does not, to say the least.

Young Henri Reverie, a hypnotist, is in town for a run of shows, one attended by Olivia, with friends, on her Halloween birthday. What should have been a one time encounter becomes something more when Olivia's father employs Henri to hypnotize the 'rebellion' out of Olivia.

Instead, Olivia is left seeing the people and the world as they really are - haunting and confusing visions - and unable to put her outrage into words.

What was supposed to be the end of Olivia's defiance proves to only be the beginning when she becomes even more determined, despite the added difficulties, to speak her mind.

With the cries both for and against a woman's right to vote as the backdrop, Olivia tries to be herself. Not the submissive, quiet future housewife her father hopes her to be, but the educated, independent young woman she wishes to be. Reverie, the hypnotist, plays an increasingly interesting role in the story and in Olivia's life.

For what her father has hired him to do, Olivia knows she should despise the young mesmerist, but the more she encounters him and the more she learns of his life,t he harder that is to do.  Olivia's conflicted feelings about Mr Reverie not only make sense they add quite a bit to the story. I really liked that while she does know that she doesn't want to be what most of the time think she should be, she also is not already completely opposed to it all, either. She does not have it all figured out. She has to find where she fits and what it is she really wants for her life.

Olivia's discoveries - about her self and life for women, in general - are propelled wonderfully by both her new acquaintances and the effects of her hypnotism.

While The Cure for Dreaming does not delve as heavily into life for most women in 1900, how the suffragists (and their opposition) are part of Olivia's story and how she is a part of theirs, tells a very well imagined and well constructed story. All of the different elements come together so well and make for a great novel.

The quotes from literature or persons of the period along with photographs from the time add a little bit extra to the story and pull readers more fully into the time.

(After Kate Chopin's The Awakening was quoted and mentioned in The Cure for Dreaming and in Figment's email about underrated books, I really hope more people will read it. It is one of my favorites.)

Other books you may also enjoy: Silent Echoes by Carla Jablonski and The Awakening by Kate Chopin

received for review thanks to publisher, through NetGalley

Friday, October 17, 2014

Stitching Snow ~ RC Lewis (earc) review {@RC_Lewis @DisneyHyperion]

Stitching Snow
Disney Hyperion
October 14, 2014
338 pages
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Princess Snow is missing.

Her home planet is filled with violence and corruption at the hands of King Matthias and his wife as they attempt to punish her captors. The king will stop at nothing to get his beloved daughter back—but that’s assuming she wants to return at all.

Essie has grown used to being cold. Temperatures on the planet Thanda are always sub-zero, and she fills her days with coding and repairs for the seven loyal drones that run the local mines.

When a mysterious young man named Dane crash-lands near her home, Essie agrees to help the pilot repair his ship. But soon she realizes that Dane’s arrival was far from accidental, and she’s pulled into the heart of a war she’s risked everything to avoid. With the galaxy’s future—and her own—in jeopardy, Essie must choose who to trust in a fiery fight for survival.

I love, love good fairy tale retellings and Stitching Snow is a very, very good fairy tale retelling. Essie is living on the planet of Thanda where the idea of 'catching your death' from the cold isn't so far fetched. Living alone, she has figured out how to live with the men of the mining town she calls home and how to be valuable - by coding and maintaining her drones. It isn't an elaborate life she has carved out for herself but it suits her. And keeps her secret.

The crash-landing of a ship from another planet pulls Essie from her routine. After agreeing to help the ship's young, injured pilot with repairs, she discovers there may be more to his arrival tat he's letting on. The real reason could put both Essie and her secret in danger - even as it promises to free others.

When I started Stitching Snow, I had forgotten that first line of the official synopsis and I like where that put me for beginning the story. Essie is a great character and I love how we met her. She is a very strong character, both mentally and physically. Yet, when we hear her thoughts and what she says to herself, she has just the right amount of doubt, of vulnerability.We know, pretty quickly, that she is keeping a secret from those on Thanda, but not what that secret is.

She stands out in the mining town not only because she is a teenage girl surrounded by the miners, men, but because of the great character RC Lewis has created. Essie's stitching involves coding drones to work in the mines, repairing them when something goes wonky. She can work with and around both the software and the hardware. It is a great foundation for a character and as the story progresses and we see more of who Essie is, discover her secret, learn more of her past and see her deal with the present and future, she is an even more enjoyable character.

Essie is not the only one I love in Stitching Snow. When we're introduced to Dane, he is an okay character. As it isn't clear yet how much of a role he will play in the story, I liked that his character was not immediately super intriguing. As Essie helps to repair his ship and they have more conversations, he becomes much more appealing. It is clear he's keeping some secrets of his own.

With what he brings out in Essie and the questions he causes her to ask herself, they are two characters that are a great joy to read about. Later on, when we begin to learn some of Dane's story, I love his character even more.

This Snow White tale does not have seven dwarfs, it has seven drones. And I love them. They have the descriptive names that describe them (or as Essie sees them). Dimwit is clearly the standout drone character. Lewis has created an incredibly endearing, malfunctioning little drone.

Without being too spoilery, the latte plot of Stitching Snow is just great. From the very fully imagined world to the roles the different characters play even to the characters' pasts and their relationships with other, new (but old) characters. It is a complex tale of nicely done relationships, politics, science fiction and space. The mission the characters must undertake is one with real depth, consequences and danger. I loved Stitching Snow for its plot and its characters.

(Though, I do wish the cover had been a bit different. While it does fit with the tale, the filigree heart feels almost sweet for the story. It is a more complex and well developed story than the cover suggested to me.)

review copy received from publisher via NetGalley, thank you.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Unmarked ~ Kami Garcia (earc) review [@lbkids @kamigarcia]

Unmarked (The Legion #2)
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
September 30, 2014
384 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

** my review of The Legion #1 Unbreakable **

The heart-pounding sequel to the instant New York Times bestseller, Unbreakable, by New York Times bestselling Beautiful Creatures co-author Kami Garcia.

"A rare sequel that surpasses the original."--Ransom Riggs, New York Times bestselling author of Hollow City

He is here... and he could be anyone.

Kennedy Waters lives in a world where vengeance spirits kill, ghosts keep secrets, and a demon walks among us–a demon she accidentally set free.

Now Kennedy and the other Legion members–Alara, Priest, Lukas, and Jared–have to hunt him down. As they learn more about the history of the Legion and the Illuminati, Kennedy realizes that the greatest mystery of all does not belong to any secret order, but to her own family. With the clock ticking and the life of someone she loves hanging in the balance, Kennedy has to ask the question she fears most: what is it about her past that has left her Unmarked?

I am in definite agreement with Ransom Riggs about Unmarked being even better than the first Legion book, Unbreakable.

We have already met the characters - Kennedy, Lukas, Jared, Alara and Priest - and both readers and Kennedy now know about the Legion and the supernatural entities they deal with daily. After Unbreakable we also know that things in the prison did not go how any of the teens planned. A demon worse than they could have imagined has been set free . . . now they have to stop him.

Unbreakable had a great ending that left me anxious to know what happened next. Unmarked answers those questions in the best possible way. It manages to both throw readers right into things and then, once you can't wait to find out more,  backups and takes a slower pace.

It's both incredibly frustrating and incredibly thrilling to know where things are headed, just not how they are going to get there. Garcia shows us the danger that's approaching and then takes you along on the characters' journey to that point.

We learn more about their characters, what they will all do for each other and about the world of the Legion. Unmarked not only has demons and the Legion, it has the Illuminati, too. Receiving a fuller picture of The Legion's world, of both the groups' and the characters' histories (all while finding out when what was glimpsed in the beginning will take place) will keep you turning the pages until you do reach the end.

In the first book, I liked Alara and Priest more than Kennedy, Lukas and Jared. In this second book, we get to see more of Kennedy's feelings, her doubts and her faults. She feels more human in this second book and I like her much more. I like the brothers, as well, but still want just a bit more of them. (Alara may still be my favorite, though.)

The Supernatural air that the first book had is present here, too. A fully original world and characters, it isn't a 'copy' of the show, but has a bit of the same feeling. Fans of the show should definitely give this series a read.

If you enjoyed the ending of Unbreakable, know that it has nothing on the ending of Unmarked. This second book has a great expansion of the world introduced in the first book with new characters, answers to questions and more backstory given. The character interactions and relationships are again great and only improve given the new characters and developments. I am incredibly anxious and excited to read Book 3.

read for review thanks to LBYR and NetGalley

Friday, October 10, 2014

My True Love Gave to Me ~ Stephanie Perkins, et al (earc) review [@naturallysteph @StMartinsPress @OfficiallyAlly @MyraMcEntire]

My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories
St Martins Press
October 14, 2014
320 pages
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If you love holiday stories, holiday movies, made-for-TV-holiday specials, holiday episodes of your favorite sitcoms and, especially, if you love holiday anthologies, you’re going to fall in love with MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME: TWELVE HOLIDAY STORIES by twelve bestselling young adult writers, edited by international bestselling author Stephanie Perkins.

First, the contents of My True Love Gave to Me:

  • "Midnights" by Rainbow Rowell (starts at 1%*)
  • "The Lady and the Fox" by Kelly Link (at 8%)
  • "Angels in the Snow" by Matt De La Pena (at 16%)
  • "Polaris is Where You'll Find Me" by Jenny Han (at 26%)
  • "It's a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown" by Stephanie Perkins (at 31%)
  • "Your Temporary Santa" by David Levithan (at 42%)
  • "Krampuslauf" by Holly Black (at 47%)
  • "What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth?" by Gayle Forman (at 55%)
  • "Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus" by Myra McEntire (at 63%)
  • "Welcome to Christmas, CA" by Kiersten White (at 71%)
  • "Star of Bethlehem" by Ally Carter (at 82%)
  • "The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer" by Laini Taylor (at 91%)
Even while I'm strongly lamenting the end of summer, My True Love Gave to Me remindefd me how much I love the holidays and got me excited for their approach. It will definitely get you in the holidays spirit. 

My True Love Gave to Me is a great collection of authors who write in an assortment of YA genres. The anthology may be the most diverse I have read. From the characters' religion, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and/or gender, to the holidays the stories center on, and whether they were paranormal or contemporary, there is something for seemingly every reader. (Which will make it a great holiday gift.)

I did not dislike any of the stories, but I did like some more than others. Ally Carter's, "Star of Bethlehem," and Stephanie Perkins', "It'a a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown," were two that I wish were planned to become longer length tales. Both were self contained and worked very well as short stories, but both had concepts and characters I really want to see more of.

Rainbow Rowell, David Levithan, Kelly Link, Matt De La Pena, Gayle Forman, Kiersten White Myra McEntire and Laini Taylor's tales worked really nicely as short stories. I really enjoyed meeting the characters (from a cat sitting college student to an orphan living in a magical world),  Jenny Han's story felt more like the introduction to something than a concluded short story. I really liked the idea and the character, though.

  • "Midnights" covers several New Years' Eve's between two friends 4/5
  • "The Lady and the Fox" a paranormal love story 3.5/5
  • "Angels in the Snow" the aforementioned cat sitting college student - but so much more 5/5
  • "Polaris is Where You'll Find Me" the girl adopted by Santa is all grown up 2/5
  • "It's a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown" Christmas tree shopping, Tetris and two fantab characters 5/5
  • "Your Temporary Santa" a (Jewish) boy dresses up as Santa to help his boyfriend 4/5
  • "Krampuslauf" the more devilish side of the holidays - but with some romance 3.5/5
  • "What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth?" an out-of-place college freshman 3.5/5
  • "Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus" a church fire, the Christmas pageant and an unlikely connection 4.5/5
  • "Welcome to Christmas, CA" a diner in 'census designated' Christmas, CA and some magical cooking 4.5/5
  • "Star of Bethlehem" switched tickets at the airport and Icelandic influences 5/5
  • "The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer" an orphan girl who discovers magic and love 3.5/5
My favorites were Stephanie Perkins, Matt De La Pena, Ally Carter, Kiersten White and Myra McEntire's tales but as a whole, My True Love Gave to Me is an incredibly enjoyable, incredibly readable collection of short stories by some great authors. Whether you want to get into the holiday spirit, want to read more from your favorite author(s) or are looking for a holiday gift to get or give, My True Love Gave to Me is it! (Or is you're in the UK and want something pretty to look at.)

*Based on percentages given with advance digital copy, may change/be different in final ebook

digital copy received for review from publisher, through NetGalley

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Waiting On Wednesday

Waiting On Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine

My pick for this week:
SOULPRINT by Megan Miranda

Date: February 12, 2014
Publisher: Bloomsbury Childrens

Alina Chase has spent her entire life in confinement. With the science of soul-printing now a reality, she is 'protected' for her own safety - and the safety of others - because her soul has done terrible things ...or so she's told. When Alina finally breaks out of prison, helped by a group of people with unclear motives, she begins to uncover clues left by her past life that only she can decipher. And she may not be as innocent as she once believed. Can Alina change her future, or is she fated to repeat her past and face the consequences?

I really enjoy Megan Miranda's premises and how science plays a part in them. I loved Fracture and am really looking forward to Soulprint.

What's your pick for this week? Tell me or link me to your post in the comments!

This Is How It Ends ~ Jen Nadol (earc) review [@SimonTeen @JenNadol #ThisIsHowItEnds]

This Is How It Ends
Simon Pulse
October 7, 2014
320 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

If you could see the future, would you want to? After the disturbing visions Riley and his friends see turn out to be more than hallucinations, fate takes a dangerous twist in this dark and suspenseful page-turner.

Riley and his friends are gearing up for their senior year by spending one last night hanging out in the woods, drinking a few beers, and playing Truth or Dare. But what starts out as a good time turns sinister when they find a mysterious pair of binoculars. Those who dare to look through them see strange visions, which they brush off as hallucinations. Why else would Riley see himself in bed with his best friend’s girlfriend—a girl he’s had a secret crush on for years?

In the weeks that follow, the visions begin to come true...including a gruesome murder. One of Riley’s closest friends is now the prime suspect. But who is the murderer? Have Riley and his friends really seen the future through those mysterious binoculars? And what if they are powerless to change the course of events?

Jen Nadol's new release, This Is How It Ends, is a fun and - like the synopsis says - suspenseful read. Though it sounds like a paranormal read, with being able to look through some strange binoculars and see the future, it is less paranormal and more psychological. It felt more reminiscent of  "The Monkey's Paw" than anything else.

The difference in tone, genre were actually quite a pleasant surprise for me. I enjoyed This Is How It Ends and its unknown genre - was it paranormal, was it more contemporary and all in their heads, was it a combination of the two. Though it deals less with the characters' mental state, fans The Half Life of Molly Pierce or Six Months Later should definitely pick up This Is How It Ends.

Centered around a core group of friends, five high school seniors has a great premise. Are those binoculars really showing them the future? And if they are, can anything be done about it? Should it?

Riley, Trip, Sarah, Tannis and Natalie are a really good group to have the story revolve around. They have their secrets (Riley's crush on Trip's girlfriend Sarah), they have their stressors (fractured family relationships, post high school plans, money troubles), some of which are kept from the others and they're different and unique characters. It's nice that they are different 'types' of students and characters - nerds, jocks, etc - but their friendship still makes sense.

Friendship that may be called into question after the binoculars and what they each see .

We get a glimpse into their friendship and how they all interact with each other prior to everything starting to happen. It gives a good foundation for everyone's relationships and really allows the changes to be seen.

The characters, their past - as a whole and individually - along with a really well done small town setting, present the perfect backdrop for all of the questions This Is How It Ends poses.  I'm not sure how I felt about the characters at the end of the book. Or what I thought of what the ending presented of their future. I am sure that I love that it made - is making - me think, both about those characters and where they're headed, but also about the idea of possibly seeing your future. And what that could, would mean.

received for review from the publisher through Edelweiss

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Whisper the Dead ~ Alyxandra Harvey (earc) review [@bloomsburykids @alyxandrah]

Whisper the Dead (Lovegrove Legacy #2)
Bloomsbury USA Children's
October 7, 2014
408 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

See my review of A Breath of Frost (Lovegrove Legacy #1) here to find out how the story starts meet the cousins as they discover their magic

Cousins Gretchen, Emma, and Penelope are all dealing with what it means to be a Lovegrove. For Gretchen, it means she often feels like her head is going to explode. As a Whisperer, Gretchen constantly hears the whispers of other witches' spells. And while this does help her to know when one of her own spells is going wrong, the incessant buzzing and pain the whispers cause makes it difficult to use her gift.

But when something evil begins to menace Mayfair, Gretchen must find a way to master her power. Along with her cousins, a madcap named Moira, and the icy yet irresistible Tobias Lawless, Gretchen faces deadly threats and unimaginable loss in the hopes of preventing the terrible Greymalkin Sisters from rising again.

The second book in The Lovegrove Legacy trilogy, Whisper the Dead will leave readers spellbound.

In the same way that A Breath of Frost focused more on Emma and her life, Whisper the Dead is more Gretchen-centric. While focusing more on one particular, different character for each of a series' books isn't something new, how Alyxandra Harvey does it feels different. This was Gretchen's story, but not at the expense of the other characters. Their lives are so intertwined, their bond so strong and each of them so much a part of the others' lives, that readers won't feel their characters are neglected.

The increased attention on Gretchen, her personal life and relationships is done so subtly, so seamlessly that it's only if you're really paying attention or looking back after finishing the novel that you realize more happened with her character. It may be my favorite example of 'Book 1 is Character A's book, Book 2 is Character B's book, etc.'

With all of the main characters so involved throughout the story, you also don't forget who they are, what you love about them or how they're apart of the characters' lives and world. At the end of Whisper the Dead, you'll only love all of the characters - new ones included - more than you already did. Or, you know, despise them if that was the plan.

Set in Regency London, the characters, events and word choice of the Lovegrove Legacy books will pull readers right into the time period. Even while the cousins spend most of the book flouting nearly all of the social norms of the time. Their defiance of the customs somehow makes them feel more apart of the period rather than less.

In Whisper the Dead, with Gretchen being more at the forefront, we see more of some characters who were part of A Breath of Frost but not as centrally. We have a better understanding of who they are and the part they play. We also get to see different sides of some of the characters we met in the first book. It's particularly enjoyable how they all come together, in their own ways, to play a part in the story. No one sticks out or doesn't fit.

Especially once the action really kicks in towards the end of the novel, this is one book you will not want to put down. It is great fun seeing the girls learn more about their magic and how to use it - and, perhaps, not use it. This magical London that the author has created is very inventive, unique and fun to read about. Some of the more usual magical ideas are present but most is new and so creative and fun.

The characters and the magic combine for an ending that is oh so good, but also has me ready to count down the days until the third book's release. Though I do wish there were going to be more than the three books.

review copy received from the publisher, through NetGalley, for review

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Lailah ~ Nikki Kelly (earc) Tour Review + Guest Blog + Giveaway [@Styclar @the_ffbc @mackidsbooks @FeiwelFriends]

Lailah (The Styclar Saga #1)
by Nikki Kelly
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Release Date: October 7th 2014


The girl knows she’s different. She doesn’t age. She has no family. She has visions of a past life, but no clear clues as to what she is, or where she comes from. But there is a face in her dreams – a light that breaks through the darkness. She knows his name is Gabriel.

On her way home from work, the girl encounters an injured stranger whose name is Jonah. Soon, she will understand that Jonah belongs to a generation of Vampires that serve even darker forces. Jonah and the few like him, are fighting with help from an unlikely ally – a rogue Angel, named Gabriel

In the crossfire between good and evil, love and hate, and life and death, the girl learns her name: Lailah. But when the lines between black and white begin to blur, where in the spectrum will she find her place? And with whom?

Gabriel and Jonah both want to protect her. But Lailah will have to fight her own battle to find out who she truly is.

For someone who does not usually read 'angel books,' I seem to be reading a few lately (this one last month and Lailah). And they are changing my opinion on the genre. Not only does Lailah have vampires, too, neither paranormal being is the typical, rote imagining we already know.

Nikki Kelly did a fantastic job imagining the angelic and vampiric lore, giving each a beginning, a history and more than a little something different from other incarnations. It is very enjoyable to see how their inceptions and the characters themselves play into each other's (and Lailah's) stories.

I liked Lailah from nearly the very beginning. We meet her working in a pub and the action starts right away. We get only a glimpse into who she is and what makes her not your usual girl before the story really starts and the paranormal is introduced. That glimpse, though, is enough to know that there's something different about Lailah and that she is not entirely sure what or why.

Discovering her story as she discovers it herself was the best way. The right things are left unknown or are yet to be discovered and each revelation is as intriguing and exciting as it should be.

That's not to say there weren't times I found her frustrating and/or wanted to yell at her because there were. All of those times still made sense with who Lailah is and what needed to happen plot-wise.  It was the good kind of frustration.

There is a love triangle in Lailah and it was one of the few times I was okay with reading one . . . and even liked it. It isn't used as a gimmick or to lure more readers ('If you don't like Character A, well here's Character B!"). Here it really is used in the best way possible, to show us other sides to the character, things we - and possibly Lailah - would not get to experience with just one romantic interest. It is one of the very few times I can truly see the appeal of both characters.

Though Lailah is categorized as Young Adult, New Adult readers should also pick it up. While the content sticks with YA's PG-13 level (not NA's R), the age of the character as well as the maturity of the story will appeal.

In Lailah, Nikki Kelly has introduced readers to a richly imagined paranormal world and characters, Gabriel (The Styclar Saga #2) is one of my most anticipated 2015 releases.

Other Books You May Also Enjoy: The Beautiful Ashes by Jeaniene Frost, Altered series by Jennifer Rush and Black City by Elizabeth Richards

review copy received, through NetGalley, from publisher - separate from tour; thank you

Book Sp(l)ot Reviews: I would love to know about your decision to publish on Wattpad and any benefits (or drawbacks) to taking that route to publishing (as opposed to the more 'traditional' one.)

Nikki Kelly: For those who don’t know what Wattpad is, let me first throw out some info and stats:

Wattpad is a website (also available as an app), which is often referred to as the ‘YouTube’ of books! It’s a magical, fantastic community of readers and writers. Last time I checked, Wattpad had over 24 million users, of which around 10% are writers uploading and sharing their stories. Members of the community chat daily via inbox messaging, message board posts, commenting within stories and of course in the many forums.

A large proportion of the community is teens, and around 35% of users are aged between 18 and 30.

My story, Lailah, is YA PNR, which is a popular category on Wattpad, and for this reason I felt that Wattpad was the perfect platform on which to present my story to the world and to see what kind of response it would get.

I was super lucky, as Lailah grew in popularity very quickly – within six months it had had over a million reads, and thousands of votes and comments. The benefits of sharing my work on Wattpad were vast: I connected with lots of writers like myself, and made tons of friends on the site – most of whom I still chat to regularly; I received such wonderful messages from readers about the story, which was fantastic and always made my day; it also helped me to build an audience for the story and the characters.

I really feel I’ve had the best of both worlds. By posting my story to Wattpad, I was able to connect with an international group of readers, receive feedback as they read through the story with their ‘in-the-moment’ reactions, and of course, I was able to see from the comments the elements of the story that caused the biggest reactions.

Lailah went on to get a traditional publishing deal with an amazing house, Feiwel and Friends/ Macmillan, and my dream of seeing a book I had written in hardback on the shelf of a bookstore was realized.

Everyone is different, of course, and everyone’s dreams vary.

Some members post to Wattpad for fun, to share their stories with their friends, and are not looking for anything beyond that. Many choose to participate in the community initiatives, such as The Freshman Fifteens Program, which is spearheaded by Lori Goldstein (Becoming Jinn—Spring 15) and gives writers the opportunity to ‘pitch’ their short story. In this case, a number were selected to work with published debut authors on shaping their short stories to be collated into an Anthology. I have personally met writers on Wattpad who are not seeking a traditional deal; they want to remain Indie, preferring to retain full control over every aspect of their creative work. Some upload their stories to Wattpad to grow an audience there, and then sell their self-published works as ebooks or through print on-demand services.

Many established, best-selling authors use the site to further grow their audience and see Wattpad as a great opportunity to reach out to new readers. Some post their entire novel, upload sample chapters, and post short stories and do read-alongs. Others share the same dream as me, and hope to one day have their story supported and brought to the traditional market by a publishing house who can do what perhaps we alone cannot.

I don’t see any drawbacks to publishing on Wattpad – only benefits – and in this connected world that we now live in, Wattpad provides a platform where you can write, connect with like-minded people and have a great time!

BSR: Thank you, Nikki!

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Follow the FFBC Lailah Blog Tour and don't miss anything! Click on the banner to see the tour schedule.

I was born and raised only minutes away from the chocolately scent of Cadbury World in Birmingham, England. So it will probably come as no surprise that when I'm not dreaming in Vampires & Angels, I dream in chocolate! For the past ten years I have lived in West London with my hubby and two dogs, Alfie - the Pug & Goose - the Chihuahua.
LAILAH is my debut novel, and first launched in serial form to wattpad, a readers & writers community. Within just 6 months,  LAILAH had over a million reads and thousands of comments and votes.
Since then, The Styclar Saga has gone on to pick up a traditional deal with Feiwel & Friends, and LAILAH, the first book in the series is due for release on October 7th 2014.
These days I spend my time balancing my amazing job of writing fantasy fiction, with my other, very important role of Chocolate Connoisseur. I like to multitask and do the two together. It makes me happy.

Win (1) hardback of Lailah by Nikki Kelly (US Only)

Also? FFBC is giving away Lailah during the tour week o their Twitter

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