Tuesday, June 28, 2016

And I Darken ~ Kiersten White (earc) review [@DelacortePress @kierstenwhite]

And I Darken (The Conquerers Saga #1)
Delacorte Press
June 28, 2016
496 pages
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And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.

Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, who’s expected to rule a nation, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.

But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.

Previously, the Ottoman Empire, Wallachia, Constantinople, and all of the other areas of that time were just something I learned a little bit about back in World History Class. Kiersten White's And I Darken does a fantastic job actually bringing them to life.

You understand more of the politics of the time, who was beholden to whom, which regions were under the other's control and/or protection, who might invade,w ho might be invaded. As well as the battle between Christianity and Islam in the region, at the time. It really made a time and location I was only barely aware of really real.

The idea that this book posed the question, 'What if Vlad the Impaler had been a girl?' did, I think, have me expecting something a bit different. This is very much about Lada (and Radu and Mehmed) growing up, as they move towards being adults. There was less action, maybe, than I anticipated but now, after finishing the story I see how crucial it was that this part be told. (I liken it to how I love the latter seasons of Buffy much more than the early ones, but those early ones absolutely had to happen for what came later. I do not know that this will be my favorite of the Conquerers Saga books, but it's absolutely vital to the characters, knowing how they are, how they got that way and to understanding their world.)

This book does a great job making Lada a girl at a time when women had very limited options and opportunities, making her strong and willful - not to mention, at least, a touch mean and violent - without it being truly incongruous. Through her interactions and observations of other characters, we see more of who and what women were truly like, what they did to find advantages and where they had power.

I really enjoyed the unconventional relationships and personalities in this book. The way Lada and Radu were with each other and how it might have been different than you'd expect, but they stayed true to it though the years; Mehmed's character and the role he played; who Radu was in the beginning and who he became.

This book, with where and how it ended, absolutely has me looking forward to Book 2 and seeing what happens in these characters' lives. Kiersten White has done a great job with this historical retelling with Vlad the Impaler as a girl.

received, for review, from publisher via NetGalley

Monday, June 27, 2016

All the Missing Girls ~ Megan Miranda (earc) review [@MeganLMiranda @simonschuster]

All the Missing Girls
Simon & Schuster
June 28, 2016
384 pages
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Like the spellbinding psychological suspense in The Girl on the Train and Luckiest Girl Alive, Megan Miranda’s novel is a nail-biting, breathtaking story about the disappearances of two young women—a decade apart—told in reverse.

It’s been ten years since Nicolette Farrell left her rural hometown after her best friend, Corinne, disappeared from Cooley Ridge without a trace. Back again to tie up loose ends and care for her ailing father, Nic is soon plunged into a shocking drama that reawakens Corinne’s case and breaks open old wounds long since stitched.

The decade-old investigation focused on Nic, her brother Daniel, boyfriend Tyler, and Corinne’s boyfriend Jackson. Since then, only Nic has left Cooley Ridge. Daniel and his wife, Laura, are expecting a baby; Jackson works at the town bar; and Tyler is dating Annaleise Carter, Nic’s younger neighbor and the group’s alibi the night Corinne disappeared. Then, within days of Nic’s return, Annaleise goes missing.

Told backwards—Day 15 to Day 1—from the time Annaleise goes missing, Nic works to unravel the truth about her younger neighbor’s disappearance, revealing shocking truths about her friends, her family, and what really happened to Corinne that night ten years ago.

Like nothing you’ve ever read before, All the Missing Girls delivers in all the right ways. With twists and turns that lead down dark alleys and dead ends, you may think you’re walking a familiar path, but then Megan Miranda turns it all upside down and inside out and leaves us wondering just how far we would be willing to go to protect those we love.

Now I want to read All the Missing Girls backwards . . . or would it be forwards? In standard chronological order, however that should be described.

Megan Miranda really did a superb job with the nontraditional way that this story is told, giving us the beginning, then working backwards from nearly the end back up to just after that beginning. The idea had me a bit skeptical, at first. I didn't wan tot be in on it all from the beginning, part of what I really love about mysteries and thrillers is how they all come together, how, at last, everything adds up and you figure things out. I didn't want to miss out on that.

And I didn't. Somehow - and I am still working on exactly how it worked - the time goes backwards but the mystery and the clues still unravel in a way that keeps you guessing, keeps you from knowing the end. A character would find something, hear something, say or do something, and then later in the book (but a day or two earlier in the character's life) you would discover some of the significance. It was the usual way mysteries work, but also not at all because the chronology was reversed. (It's tricky to explain but so good to read.)

I also appreciated that the story was not just told backwards with no other mention of time or order in the book. There are several mentions of time, what it is, what it means, and how we view it. There are mentions of distances seen as time, the amount of time Nic's been away, how long she's been back, how long she'll stay, etc. Along with the quotes accompanying the different Parts, it really ties in well to how the story is told.

"Tick-tock, Nic." (pg 31, etc.)
The ending had me questioning things I thought I knew about the characters, some of the events and what they really meant. I wanted to reread scenes to see how differently I viewed their reactions and statements in light of, now, having the full story. I love how this book seems to let you know what happens next before what happens first while all the while keeping you guessing and having a startling resolution.

One last note: this is an adult novel but fans of the author's YA noels should enjoy it as well. With the characters' ages (late 20s), the glimpses into their time in high school, and more, it had almost a NA feel, at times.

Other Books You May Also Enjoy: No One Knows by JT Ellison and Take the Fall by Emily Hainsworth

Monday, June 20, 2016

Field of Graves ~ J.T. Ellison (earc) review [@thrillerchick @harlequinbooks @miraeditors]

Field of Graves (Taylor Jackson #8/Prequel)
June 14, 2016
368 pages
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All of Nashville is on edge with a serial killer on the loose. A madman is trying to create his own end-of-days apocalypse and the cops trying to catch him are almost as damaged as the killer. Field of Graves reveals the origins of some of J.T. Ellison's most famous creations: the haunted Lieutenant Taylor Jackson; her blunt, exceptional best friend, medical examiner Dr. Samantha Owens; and troubled FBI profiler Dr. John Baldwin. Together, they race the clock and their own demons to find the killer before he claims yet another victim. This dark, thrilling and utterly compelling novel will have readers on the edge of their seats, and Ellison's fans will be delighted with the revelations about their favorite characters.

I think I like that Field of Graves is listed as both number eight in the Taylor Jackson series and as the prequel to the series. In a lot of ways, it really is both.

If, like me, you have already read the Taylor Jackson series, then Field of Graves gives you a look at how those characters you already know all came together. Since I finished reading the seven previous book in this series in 2012, I can't remember for sure how much of the beginnings of their stories we already knew, but this book let's you see it happen. I know we learned more about Baldwin in this book than, probably, in the other seven books combined. I liked his character before but always felt like he was on the periphery, how I feel more like I know him. (Which makes me like his character and what he's done in the other books - and in Sam's series - even more.)

If you have not already read the Taylor Jackson series books one through seven, or any at all, Filed of Graves will introduce you to the main characters, give you some of their background - like how long Sam and Taylor have been friends, what happened to Taylor's father, etc - all while having them solve a case. You can go into the other books already knowing who the characters are, their relationships with each other and some of what they've experienced.

I do not think that the case they're working to solve in this book or how they find clues, discover facts and piece it all together, was my favorite of the series (or the two if counting the Dr Samantha Owens books). That was very much balanced out, though, by the insight into the characters and getting more a look at their personal lives than it seemed like we did in other books. It is a great case for the story where Baldwin has as much involvement as he does.

I really loved learning more about the characters I already loved in the first seven books and getting a chance to revisit them with a new (of sorts) story. It was great seeing their beginnings, getting to know Baldwin better and seeing some more of that friendship between Sam and Taylor. (Plus, I realised reading it that I missed this Sam, from before. I do love her now, but I liked the reminder, too.)

I do still wish there would be more Taylor and Baldwin in Sam's series of books but this sort of flashback was great. It is a book you can read after reading the other Taylor Jackson books or one you can read to introduce yourself to the series. (And I love the series, so you really should read it.)

The only way it may not be the best book to read right now, is if you're trying to (or recently) quit smoking - there seemed to be a lot of characters who were quit, but then went back on it a bit.

. . . See my reviews of the Taylor Jackson series #1-#7 and the Dr Samantha Owens series #1-#4 . . .

received, for review, form publisher via NetGalley

Book Blitz: Ghost Hope ~ Ripley Patton [@rippatton @XpressoTours]]

Ghost Hope (The PSS Chronicles #4)

Ripley Patton
June 15th 2016
Genres: Paranormal, Thriller, Young Adult

Olivia Black does not feel safe. Nightmares plague her sleep and haunt her days. If she has to endure one more minute stuck in a safe house in rainy Portland, she’s going to lose it. When Mike Palmer sneaks off to find her sister Kaylee without her, it’s the last straw. She has to do something.
Then Palmer’s hackers find the Dome on a satellite feed: dark, abandoned and smack in the middle of the Oregon desert three hundred miles from where it started. If they can reach it before anyone else, they can crack the computer systems and access every piece of information on PSS the CAMFers and The Hold have ever collected.
But in order to do that, Olivia must return to the origin of her fears in a race against all the forces that have ever pitted themselves against her. She must unravel decades of deceit to reveal the true origins of Psyche Sans Soma to the world at last.

Previous books in the series:

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000037_00040]
**Grab Ghost Hand (book 1) for FREE! Plus, book 2 & 3 are on sale for 99cents – until the end of June only!**

“Olivia!” My mother’s voice jolted me awake.
I sat up in the rental van’s passenger seat, wiping drool from my cheek. Chase and T-dog’s Westfalia had stopped in front of us at a massive gate rising out of the darkness, topped with barbed wire and sporting severalDanger: High Voltage and No Trespassing on Federal Land signs.

We had arrived at Umatilla, and I’d fallen asleep, like I always did in a moving vehicle, before I’d explained to my mother that I’d lied about our destination. We were not on a scenic over-nighter up the Columbia River Gorge. That had just been a cover story.
“Olivia Anne Black,” she said, pointing at the gate. “What is that?”
“Um—I don’t know,” I stammered. “We must have taken a wrong turn.”
“Is this the motel?” Grant asked groggily from the back. It sounded like I wasn’t the only one who’d taken a nap.
“No, it’s not,” my mother answered testily. “What the hell is he doing?”

She was referring to T-Dog, who had gotten out of their van carrying something bulky under his arm. When he set it down and started fiddling with a controller in his hands, I realized it was one of those personal drones. Suddenly, the little thing lit up and went whirling into the air, kicking up dust and flying over the gate. On the other side, it dipped down and stopped, a green light flashing on its undercarriage as it hovered over some kind of control panel. As I watched, a green light began flashing on the panel too, like they were communicating with one another. Because they were. T-dog was hacking into Umatilla. He was breaking into a federally-owned chemical depot.
I could feel my mother turning toward me, a question in her eyes, her lips parting to ask it.
Headlights, high and wide, flashed in the rearview mirror, blinding me. They were barreling down on us, but I only heard the rev of the engine just before the crunch of impact.
The whole van jerked forward, shoving us toward the back of the Westfalia and stopping only inches from its rear bumper.
“What the—?” Grant yelled, and I heard cries of alarm from Passion and Samantha.
My seatbelt dug into my waist and my shoulder, but the airbags hadn’t deployed, so that was good.
In front of us, T-Dog scrambled back into their van and slammed his door. The gate started to open, the drone hovering on the other side, still blinking green.
There was another crunching sound and a slight tug backwards. Then, more revving.
“Hold on. They’re coming again,” my mother said, jamming the van into drive and laying on the horn like a mad woman. We couldn’t go anywhere. The Westfalia was right in front of us and some lunatic was behind us, gearing up to rear-end us a second time.
“We have to go through,” I told my mom, gesturing at the gate.
“I know,” she said, glaring out at the windshield and revving our engine now. “Get out of my way, you two. What are you waiting for?” she mumbled under her breath, laying on the horn again and not letting up.
The vehicle behind was almost upon us. I could hear it coming.
Up ahead, T-dog glanced at me in his side view mirror, but it was too dark to read his expression. Had he and Chase set us up? Was this their doing?
The gate was open wider now, maybe wide enough for the Westfalia, but would it be enough for our bigger van?
“Hold on,” my mom said, glancing in the rearview mirror and slamming her foot on the gas.
I braced myself, this time for impact from the back and front, but it didn’t come.
We surged forward, gently kissing the back bumper of the Westfalia, both of us racing through the still opening gate. I heard a horrible sound, metal screeching against metal, and sparks flew in a shower away from us as the huge closures of the gate scraped down both sides of our van.
As soon as we were free and clear, Chase veered off to the right and pulled to a stop. As we drove past, I could see T-Dog holding the drone remote out his window, working it frantically, trying to close the gate before our attackers made it in. But he wasn’t fast enough. The pick-up truck that had rear-ended us roared forward, squeezing through just like we had. For a moment, I thought it had a really weird hood ornament, but then I realized it was the drone, flying low and toward us in front of the truck.
“Get higher,” I murmured to the little thing. As if hearing me, it did, rising above the front of the truck only to plummet a second later just as the vehicle overtook it.
And then it was gone, sucked under the huge wheel of the big truck with a soft crunch and a shower of shrapnel spraying from its undercarriage.
“Stop the van,” I told my mother, but she’d already turned and was pulling up alongside the guys.
“Who is that?” I shouted out my window at Chase, pointing at the truck as it pulled up, headlights blinding us all, the gate clanging shut behind it.
“I have no idea,” he shouted back. “But I think we’re about to find out.”
A truck door slammed.
A dark form moved, crossing the dusty swathe of its high beams, and a man emerged, tall, wrinkled, and tan, a long rifle dangling from his right hand.

Author Bio:
Ripley Patton lives in Portland, Oregon with one cat, two teenagers, and a man who wants to live on a boat. She doesn't smoke, or drink, or cuss as much as her characters. Her only real vices are writing, eating M&Ms, and watching reality television.
Ripley is an award-winning short story writer and author of The PSS Chronicles, a young adult paranormal thriller series. The first book in the series, GHOST HAND, was a semi-finalist for The Kindle Book Review 2013 Best Indie Book Awards and a Cybil Award Nominee.
The second book in the series, GHOST HOLD, was released in September 2013.
The third book in the series, GHOST HEART, was released in October 2014.
And GHOST HOPE, the final book of the series will be released in the Spring 2016.
You can find out more about Ripley and her fiction on her website at ripleypatton.com.


Thursday, June 16, 2016

Book Blitz: Can't Let You Go ~ Allie Everhart + Giveaway [@AuthorAllie @xpressotours]

Can’t Let You Go (A Wheeler Brothers Novel)
Allie Everhart
June 5th 2016
Genres: New Adult, Romance


I never should’ve kissed her. It happened almost four years ago, the night of our high school graduation. I’ve always wanted to be more than friends with Jen, and after we kissed, I wanted her more than anything. But I can’t have her. I won’t let myself. She needs to get out of here. She needs to start a new life, far away from her old one. So I’ll keep pushing her away, even though it kills me to do so. When she finally leaves, it’ll destroy me, but at least she’ll be happy. And that’s all I care about.

Bryce is my best friend, and has been for as long as I can remember. If it weren’t for him, I’d probably be living on the streets, but instead I’m in college and about to graduate. I’ve been applying for jobs and might end up leaving Chicago, but I don’t want to leave Bryce. I love him, and I know he loves me too. I could tell when he kissed me four years ago. But after that night, he refused to be anything more than my friend. Now time is running out. I might be moving away, ending any chance of Bryce and me ever being together. I know he wants to be with me, so why won’t he ask me to stay?


I don’t think Chad’s the guy for you.” Bryce says ‘Chad’ like it’s the dumbest name he’s ever heard.

“Oh, really?” I say, crossing my arms. “Then who’s the right guy for me?”

There it is. Another chance for Bryce to say how he feels about me. Another chance for him to ask me out. But does he do it? Of course not.

He shakes his head. “I don’t know who the right guy is, but I know it’s not Chad.”

I sigh in frustration. “I have to go.” I get in my car. “I’ll see you later.” I pull on the door until he moves enough for me to close it.

“Hey.” He taps on the window as I start the engine.

I roll the window down. “What?”

“Are you going to dinner with him or not?”

Now I’m angry. Bryce always makes me like this. Loving him one minute, hating him the next. Well, it’s not hate, but it’s complete and utter annoyance and frustration.

“Not that it’s any of your business,” I say, “but yes, I am going to dinner with him. Goodbye, Bryce.” I roll my window up and pull out of my parking space and drive off. When I glance in the rearview mirror, I see Bryce still standing there, his head hung down, his hands wrapped around the back of his neck. He does that when he’s mad or frustrated. So he feels the same way as me. Good. We can both be miserable.
But why is that good? Why can’t we just be happy? Why can’t we be together like we want to be? And if we’re not going to be together, why aren’t we able to move on and be happy with other people?

Because we’re Jen and Bryce. That’s why. We’re best friends and we love each other and we’re meant to be together. But for some stupid reason we can’t.

And that stupid reason is Bryce.

Author Bio:

Allie Everhart is a hopeless romantic who writes books about love. Allie has authored fifteen novels, including The Jade Series, a college romance that follows the story of Jade and Garret as they deal with numerous obstacles trying to tear them apart. Her other series, The Kensingtons, is a romantic suspense series. Her standalone romance novels include Next to Me, and her latest book, Give Us a Chance.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The King Slayer ~ Virginia Boecker (earc) review [@lbkids @virgboecker]

The King Slayer (The Witch Hunter #2)
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
June 14, 2016
368 pages
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An action-packed and suspenseful sequel to The Witch Hunter, perfect for fans of Graceling and the Grisha Trilogy.

"I think, in time, you'll either be my greatest mistake or my greatest victory."

Former witch hunter Elizabeth Grey is hiding within the magically protected village of Harrow, evading the price put on her head by Lord Blackwell, the usurper king of Anglia. Their last encounter left Blackwell ruined, but his thirst for power grows stronger every day. He's readying for a war against those who would resist his rule--namely Elizabeth and the witches and wizards she now calls her allies.

Having lost her stigma, a magical source of protection and healing, Elizabeth's strength is tested both physically and emotionally. War always means sacrifice, and as the lines between good and evil blur once more, Elizabeth must decide just how far she'll go to save those she loves.

"[Filled] with everything a good fantasy book needs: swords, poison, black magic, and betrayal."--April Tucholke, author of Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, on The Witch Hunter

In the very beginning of The King Slayer I didn't remember who the characters were, aside form Elizabeth. I remembered things that had been done, but couldn't match up those characters with these names. As the story progressed, though, because it was so well done and the characters so well written, I came to remember who they were, but more than that, I cared about them for what was happening now. It really deepened my connection with all of them.

I liked that the beginning of The King Slayer is what it was. It was a nice, almost calm way of bringing readers back into the story while still keeping an edge of tension and letting you know that things are about to come, likely dangerous things.

The King Slayer is at least as exciting as the first book. We are now seeing a whole new side of Anglia and they're all facing a new set of challenges and dangers with Lord Blackwell as king, but it's still those characters we came to love (or hate) in The Witch Hunter. I liked seeing how Elizabeth had to adjust to this new role, this new life. She was a witch hunter and is now aiding the witches and wizards. (Plus, I still love Fifer and Schuyler.)

There were times in the book when I was sure the characters were up to something, that there was no way they would let what was happening actually happen and times when I didn't realize they were up to something. Even when I knew (or really, really hoped) they had a plan, I didn't have it figured out. I loved the way you could know something was about to happen, but not what. Whether it was a plan of Elizabeth's that likely wouldn't go completely as planned or something from another character, I loved how things could be unexpected yet then still make so much sense.

I love the characters of The Witch Hunter books, the world they live in, all that they do and all that happens to them. This series is thrilling, exciting, action-filled, at times humorous, at others romantic and always, always a great read.

received for review from publisher, via NetGalley

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

How to Disappear ~ Ann Redisch Stampler (earc) review [@AnnStampler @simonteen]

How to Disappear
Simon Pulse
June 14, 2016
416 pages
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Nicolette Holland is the girl everyone likes. Up for adventure. Loyal to a fault. And she's pretty sure she can get away with anything...until a young woman is brutally murdered in the woods near Nicolette's house. Which is why she has to disappear.

Jack Manx has always been the stand-up guy with the killer last name. But straight A's and athletic trophies can't make people forget that his father was a hit man and his brother is doing time for armed assault. Just when Jack is about to graduate from his Las Vegas high school and head east for college, his brother pulls him into the family business with inescapable instructions: find this ruthless Nicolette Holland and get rid of her. Or else Jack and everyone he loves will pay the price.

As Nicolette and Jack race to outsmart each other, tensions—and attractions—run high. Told in alternating voices.

How to Disappear was a tricky one for me to decide how I felt about it. The premise sounded great to me - I like novels when characters have to disappear when they go against who they're trying to be, and when there's attraction between two characters that shouldn't have it. It didn't quite work for me this time, though.

I really liked that Nicolette and Jack's character's were such great mirrors images of each other. He is the guy everyone expects to be bad, dangerous and immoral but is trying to prove to everyone (including himself) that he can be a good guy, that he can get the good grades, do the team sports, go to college. That he's not his dad. Nicolette is the girl with the dad trying to do it all right for her, but she's not the good daughter that maybe should lead to.

I had trouble reconciling Nicoleete's character with all that we learn and hear about her. She's the girl everyone likes, her dad thinks she's a good girl, but she loves to party (enough that a friend's older sister would know what she usually wears out). Once we get to the end, I did understand who she was, but during the book I didn't.

I thought things when Nicolette was on the run were too easy for her. She seemed to have an odd knowledge of what to do, how to get away (again, part of why I couldn't get a handle on her character). She was able to get work without an ID, had enough money, got burner phones, changed her look, etc. It didn't fit with who she's been in  Ohio.

The romance itself was awkward and kind of uncomfortable to read about. Some of it was how quickly the two were completely enamored with each other and how strong their bond was supposed to be. It was absolutely all built on lies. They lied about their names, their pasts, their families, why they were even in that town. Then they had some sexual encounters that were also uncomfortable (between Jack's actions and Nicolette's thoughts). Altogether, it didn't spell lasting relationship to me - though it was supposed to.

At the same time that I felt all of that, I can see that How to Disappear is a book that will work, probably very much so for other people. I do recommend that you give it a try if the book description interests you.

received, from publisher, for review via NetGalley

Book Blitz: Genesis Girl~ Jennifer Bardsley [@chapterxchapter @jennbardsley @Month9Books]


Happy Release Day to
by Jennifer Bardsley!
Join us in celebrating this new release from Month9Books!
Enter the giveaway found at the end of the post.

Happy Book Birthday, Jennifer!

Genesis Girl Cover
Eighteen-year-old Blanca has lived a sheltered life. Her entire childhood has been spent at Tabula Rasa School where she’s been protected from the Internet. Blanca has never been online and doesn’t even know how to text. Her lack of a virtual footprint has made her extremely valuable and upon graduation Blanca, and those like her, are sold to the highest bidders. Blanca is purchased by Cal McNeal, who uses her to achieve personal gain. But the McNeal’s are soon horrified by just how obedient and non-defiant Blanca is. All those mind-numbing years locked away from society have made her mind almost impenetrable. By the time Blanca is ready to think for herself, she is trapped. Her only chance of escape is to go online.
add to goodreads
Genesis Girl by Jennifer Bardsley
June 14, 2016

Seth rolls his eyes. He clearly doesn’t get it.

So I inch closer to him. “For centuries holy people … nuns … monks … hermits … they locked themselves away and took on the sins of the world.

They were living sacrifices of prayer, and it made the whole world better. They kept knowledge alive through the Dark Ages. Vestals are living sacrifices too. We are reminders that you don’t need chips and you don’t need texts, and you shouldn’t give away every last piece of yourself for one more hit.”

“Because selling yourself is so much better?”

I square my shoulders. “Yes.”

“But you’ll never have a normal life. Doesn’t that bother you?”

“Of course not. Not when ‘normal’ is so messed up. Not when ‘normal’ gave a whole generation of people brain cancer.”

Jennifer Bardsley

Jennifer Bardsley writes the parenting column “I Brake for Moms” for The Everett Daily Herald. Her debut YA novel, “Genesis Girl” will be published by Month9Books on June 14, 2016, with the sequel releasing in 2017. “Genesis Girl” is about a teenager who has never been on the Internet. Jennifer however, is on the web all the time as “The YA Gal” with over 20,000 followers on Facebook, and 15,000 followers on Instagram. On Facebook, she hosts the weekly instant book club called #TakeALookTuesday where YA Gal friends geek out, share pictures of what they are reading, and chat about books. Jennifer is a member of SCBWI, The Sweet Sixteens debut author group, and is founder of Sixteen To Read. An alumna of Stanford University, Jennifer lives near Seattle, WA where she enjoys spending time with her family and her poodle, Merlin.

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Monday, June 13, 2016

Change Places with Me ~ Lois Metzger (earc) review [@MetzgerLois @harperteen @BalzerandBray]

Change Places with Me
Balzer + Bray
June 14, 2016
224 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depository/or Amazon

Rose has changed. She still lives in the same neighborhood with her stepmother and goes to the same high school with the same group of kids, but when she woke up today, something was just a little different than it was before. The dogs who live upstairs are no longer a terror. Her hair and her clothes all feel brand-new. She wants to throw a party—this from a girl who hardly ever spoke to her classmates before. There is no more sadness in her life; she is bursting with happiness.

But something still feels wrong to Rose. Because, until very recently, Rose was an entirely different person—a person who is still there inside her, just beneath the thinnest layer of skin.

Something about Change Places with Me  had the feeling of a fairy tale or a fable. No, there weren't the usual, typical elements: no talking animals, no princesses or fairy godmothers, not even any witches. (Maybe it was closer to a parable then?) But the storytelling itself, the sort of simple, but still direct and also thoughtful way brought them to mind.

I like that the book is told in the order it is. We being with Rose, happy, kind of odd, Rose. It's clear to readers even before it is noticed by Rose that something is not quite right. From the way others react to her, even how she herself is acting, it's not quite normal.  Seemingly ignoring that fact, though, really works for the narrative. We get to now Rose, we find out ways she's different, who notices, what, if anything, it seems to mean to her.

Then we get a few answers.

How the book ended did feel predictable, but I still liked it. Something about the way the story's told, Rose and what we (and she) learn about her and  the near future setting but with some timeless emotions, questions, feelings works.

This is a short book, it is different and has a unique voice and you may not like (or dislike, either) Rose, but it is absolutely something that kept me reading. (The book description is necessarily quite vague so I want to avoid giving anything away.)

(Oh, one scene does have spoilers for Rebecca - both the book and movie versions)

received for review, via Edelweiss, from publisher

Friday, June 10, 2016

The Long Game ~ Jennifer Lynn Barnes (earc) review [@jenlynnbarnes @BloomsburyKids]

The Long Game (The Fixer #2)
Bloomsbury USA Children's
June 07, 2016
368 pages
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Tess Kendrick, teen fixer extraordinaire, returns in a pulse-pounding thriller about a deadly conspiracy at the heart of Washington.

For Tess Kendrick, a junior at the elite Hardwicke School in Washington D.C., fixing runs in the family. But Tess has another legacy, too, one that involves power and the making of political dynasties. When Tess is asked to run a classmate's campaign for student council, she agrees. But when the candidates are children of politicians, even a high school election can involve life-shattering secrets.

Meanwhile, Tess's guardian has also taken on an impossible case, as a terrorist attack calls into doubt who can--and cannot--be trusted on Capitol Hill. Tess knows better than most that power is currency in D.C., but she's about to discover first-hand that power always comes with a price.

Perfect for fans of Harlan Coben and Ally Carter, the second book in this thrilling series will leave readers breathless.
"'Their point is that you are a meddler. . . An incurable, insatiable meddler. You simply cannot help yourself, Kendrick.'

'I don't meddle,' I said.

Unfortunately, all that did was set Vivvie and Asher up to chorus, 'You fix!'"

If Veronica Mars had lived in Washington D.C. and was living with someone closer to Kerry Washington's Scandal fixer character than the town sheriff turned PI, she would be Tess Kendrick.

From helping out her classmates, preventing bullying, dealing with hazing, even problems with their parents, Tess finds ways to help out, to fix things. But she doesn't stop with those smaller, safer problems. When there are things larger than reputations and college admittance at stake, when there is very real potential for danger, Tess still can't stay out of it.

The Long Game really builds on all that was introduced in The Fixer in a great way. We now know more about Tess and Ivy's past, how and why their relationship was so complicated, even what that relationship really is. We've also been introduced to the Hardwicke School, to Henry, Vivvie, Asher, Emilia and the other students, to the headmaster.

Some of what Tess 'fixed' in the first book played into what happened in this book and how different characters felt about her. This was definitely it's own, new story, full of scandal, intrigue, suspicion, revelations, danger, humor and heart but it built on what we already know and what's already happened. I do love series books that have a story contained to each novel but have elements, story lines, relationships whose arcs span multiple books - this series looks to be doing that really well.

The more we know about all of the characters (from Tess' friends to the political players and beyond) the deeper and more intense our mysteries, conspiracies, secrets and questions can get. I love it!

I still love Tess's character, her smarts, her humor, her desire for to find the truth and help people. I love the other characters and how they interact, what they have in common and how very different they can be. They may not have known each other all that long, but you can see how they care about each other and I am looking forward to seeing that develop even more.

I also like that this isn't a series that's heavy on the romance. There are male and female characters, they interact, they care about each other, but it's not all about flirting or thinking about if they like each other or not. The absence of romance seems to make the relationships stronger and really let us see who the characters are and focus on the action.

I always love Jennifer Lynn Barnes' characters and these are becoming some of my favorites. I like that we're discovering more about them - the good and the bad - as Tess also gets to know them and really look forward to what happens to and with them in the next book!

received for review, from publisher, via NetGalley

Thursday, June 9, 2016

What Happens Now ~ Jennifer Castle (earc) review [@Jennifer_Castle @HarperTeen @epicreads]

What Happens Now
Harper Teen
June 07, 2016
384 pages
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"I know what it is to want something so badly, you feel like your cells aren’t properly bonded together without it.
I also know what it’s like to get that something.
And honestly, I’m still not sure which is worse..."

Ari Logan is battling to win her war against depression and the dark night she hurt herself on purpose. It’s not easy: her best friend is drifting away, her mom’s emotionally checked out, and she spends her days playing caregiver to her handful of a half-sister, Danielle. But it’s summer, and anything is possible...

That’s when Camden Armstrong steps onto the beach of Ari’s local swimming lake.

At first, Ari quietly longs for Camden from afar, seeing in him everything she wants to be. When the two discover a true connection the following summer, Ari lets herself fall not just for the quirky and self-assured Camden but also his friends, tumbling into their world of independence, adventure, and shared sci-fi fandom. As Ari’s romantic dreams come true, she must unlock the mysteries of the very real and troubled boy behind her infatuation, while also struggling with her own demons, obligations, and loyalties.

From the award-winning author of "The Beginning of After" and "You Look Different in Real Life," "What Happens Now" is a touching, insightful novel about learning to heal, learning to love, and what happens when fantasy becomes reality.

There is something I find really unique - and love - about the tone of Jennifer Castle's novels. I still can't figure out just how to explain it, but I'll try. They deal with some weighty, complicated issues: death, depression, growing up, troubled family situations, growing up, figuring yourself out. All of those things are tackled realistically and skillfully, yet the books themselves never feel . . . heavy?

Something about the overall tone isn't as heavy or dark as another book on similar theme would be, but there's also never any indifference or a lack of understanding the gravity of that situation, feeling, emotion, circumstance, etc.

That's all very true in What Happens Now, too. Whether or not you've experienced depression like Ari or your family or what they expect of you is anything like Ari's, whether you get fandom or think it's weird, whether a summer crush has ever become anything more (or not), Ari is a character you can identify with. Her life, her feelings, and her decisions are all so very real.

"My mom was working hard to finish nursing school. My stepdad, Richard, was gone most days, manning his art supply store. . . .I filled the gaps. Sometimes it felt like there were more gaps than whatever it was that went between the gaps." 

I really loved the different elements of Ari's character. There was the depression she was trying to overcome, yes, but also  how she was with her little sister, Dani, her love of the old sci-fi TV show Silver Arrow, her past with her mother and how it was different from the present.

I enjoyed how Camden and his friends are introduced to the story and that there's who he (and they) are to her at first and then who they become. The intricacies of their relationships added something to the usual main character a and main character b romance.

I loved the characters, who they each were individually and to each other and what they were all dealing with. This very real and authentic story of a teenage girl, her friends, her family, her dreams and desires (and some of theirs, too). All told through ennifer Castle's fantastic, lovely writing

(Also, can Jennifer Castle be in charge of a school/designing a school setup? Please?)

received for review from publisher, via Edelweiss

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Relentless ~ Tera Lynn Childs & Tracy Deebs (earc) review [@SourcebooksFire @teralynnchilds @TracyWolff]

Relentless (The Hero Agenda #2)
Sourcebooks Fire
June 07, 2016
288 pages
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Revenge is easy, but justice is worth fighting for…

Kenna is tired of being lied to—and hunted by the very allies she once trusted. Unearthing the dark secrets of the superhero world has not only endangered her life, now her boyfriend faces execution for crimes he didn’t commit and her mother is being held captive in a secret governmental prison.

Kenna is determined to stand up for what’s right and save those she loves from unspeakable fates. It’s time for the betrayal to end. It’s time for the real criminals to face justice.

But the truth is even more terrifying than Kenna could imagine. A conspiracy threatens the fate of heroes, villains, and all of humanity. If Kenna’s going to survive, she must draw on her deepest strength: her resilience. Because when Kenna’s pushed to the limit, she doesn’t break down. She fights back.

One of the first things to mention is that this book, the sequel to Powerless really does not have a lot of fill-in/catch up. If you didn't read Powerless you'll probably be able to figure out what's going on, but it's much better if you do read it because Relentless seems to assume you did (and because it's a very good read, of course).

In Powerless we met Kenna, Draven, Dante, Deacon, Nitro, Riley and Rebel. We learned about the heroes and villains, what Kenna had always thought was true about them and what she was now seeing was really the truth. It was also discovered that Kenna was not as powerless as she always believed.

Now, with her power, her knowledge of how things really are and the desire to protect those she cares about, Kenna will fight. Even if it possibly puts her life on the line, she can't let things continue on as they are.

One of my favorite things about Relentless was how well the authors used the characters' different powers, especially in action scenes. There were usually at least half a dozen characters involved but each one's power(s) were all used either in support of another's or against them seamlessly. Not only was everyone involved, but their powers helped accomplish their goal, protect their team and counter attacks from the other. It makes it a truly fun superhero (or villain, of course) read.

Kenna's character has changed a lot from that girl in the lab, just wanting a chocolate bar and stumbling into something far bigger than she could have imagined. She, literally, is no longer powerless. She's learned some hard, painful truths and had to change beliefs she's held her whole life. She's lost a lot but also gained quite a bit, as well.  I like learning about the heroes and villains through her and the other characters and how they've all grown from the beginning. This book works as the end of the series, but I would happily read more, too.

received for review from publisher, via NetGalley

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Leaving ~ Tara Altebrando (earc) review [@taraaltebrando @bloomsburykids]

The Leaving
Bloomsbury USA Childrens
June 7, 2016
432 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depository/or Amazon

Six were taken. Eleven years later, five come back--with no idea of where they've been.

Eleven years ago, six kindergarteners went missing without a trace. After all that time, the people left behind moved on, or tried to.

Until today. Today five of those kids return. They're sixteen, and they are . . . fine. Scarlett comes home and finds a mom she barely recognizes, and doesn't really recognize the person she's supposed to be, either. But she thinks she remembers Lucas. Lucas remembers Scarlett, too, except they're entirely unable to recall where they've been or what happened to them. Neither of them remember the sixth victim, Max. He doesn't come back. Everyone wants answers. Most of all Max's sister Avery, who needs to find her brother--dead or alive--and isn't buying this whole memory-loss story.
I love the premise of The Leaving and how we're introduced to the characters, including our three narrators, Avery, Scarlett and Lucas.  Five now teenagers returning home after eleven years missing is something you think would be joyous, filed with happiness, tears and relief. There is some of that here, but it's all tinged with the uncertainty of what happened, why. The five of them are back, but with no memory of what happened and now they have to figure out what that means - about their past and their present, future.

I think The Leaving was  not enough one thing or another for me. It was a mystery, thriller and really is mysterious and thought provoking, but without enough resolution. There were some nice twists and turns, in what's discovered and how the characters feel about it. One revelation about a character, in particular, I saw coming a long way off but liked seeing how/when others figured it out. Ultimately, there were too many questions left unanswered for my taste.

It was also a character-centric story, with them learning what the five (not six) of them being back meant. How to be a part of the world again, with no memory of the last eleven years, with peoples' different expectations and beliefs about who they were, where they'd been, and if they were telling the truth about forgetting. It's smart how Avery was added in, her being Max's sister and needing to know what happened to him, being a part of the group but not, at the same time,

You can understand the characters wanting to figure out their relationships - past, present, even future - but the romances were weird. I get the one(s) that involved the time the characters cannot remember. That works on their feelings of identity, emotion, what to trust. The current romance between two characters seemed to be there because one wanted it to be (though I was never really sure why?) and because they said so.

This was an enjoyable read that definitely pulls the reader in, but there was not enough resolution for me. The mystery is done well - with bits that seem too strange, but then somehow and and work - but we don't get enough answers. I think knowing more, at the end, would have impacted how I felt about the characters, too.

(between 3 and 3 1/2, really)

Another Book You May Also Enjoy: The Last Good Day of the Year by Jessica Warman

received, for review, from publisher via NetGalley

Friday, June 3, 2016

With Malice ~ Eileen Cook (earc) review [@HMHKids @eileenwriter]

With Malice
HMH Books for Young Readers
June 7, 2016
320 pages
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A read about a teenage girl who wakes up in a hospital bed and cannot remember the last six weeks of her life, including the accident that killed her best friend--only what if the accident wasn't an accident?

Eighteen-year-old Jill Charron wakes up in a hospital room, leg in a cast, stitches in her face and a big blank canvas where the last 6 weeks should be. She comes to discover she was involved in a fatal accident while on a school trip in Italy three days previous but was jetted home by her affluent father in order to receive quality care. Care that includes a lawyer. And a press team. Because maybe the accident...wasn't an accident. Wondering not just what happened but what she did, Jill tries to piece together the events of the past six weeks before she loses her thin hold on her once-perfect life.

Eileen Cook's  With Malice is a fun, surprising mystery full of twists and turns. The novel starts at just the right place for leaving readers with the most to question, the most to figure out. We start as Jill is waking up in the hospital, her memory of the last six weeks, of the trip to Italy, of the accident that killed her best friend Simone.

It works really well that we don't see any of Jill (or Simone) before the accident. Readers have to try to piece together what happened just as Jill has to. With her memory gone, she does not know what happened that day. The author does a fantastic job keeping the guessing going. There are alternating chapters of police interviews, media reports, blog posts and more from others on the trip, people that knew the girls and/or people in Italy.

Not everyone's story matches up and these pieces only add to the mystery and the uncertainty. It's never the full story, but just enough to make you wonder, then make you wonder about something else and then question it all, all over again.

Jill's memory loss impacts the story in a great way. Not only does it create the mystery, with her not remembering what happened, it gives others more reason to care about the case, to come up with their own theories which then spin things off in new directions. Possibly more than that, though, it keeps anything from being certain. With conflicting third party reports abounding and any memories Jill begins to have possibly being created by things she's heard (and thus not really memories at all), you really do not know what to believe.

I loved that this one kept you guessing and doled out revelations at, seemingly, just the right time. Only knowing Jill post-accident, you don't know her incredibly well but I liked how we did get to know her and her character and things developed. This one keeps the surprises coming, right up until the end.

Another Book You May Also Enjoy:
Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Sing ~ Vivi Greene review [@Harperteen @epicreads @AlloyEnt]

Harper Collins
May 31, 2016
288 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depository/or Amazon

America’s most famous pop star flees the spotlight to recover from her latest break-up in Maine—only to fall for a local boy and be faced with an impossible choice at the end of the summer: her new guy, or her music.

Multiplatinum pop icon Lily Ross’s biggest hits and biggest heartbreaks (because they are one and the same):

1. AGONY. (That feeling when her ex ripped her heart out of her chest and she never saw it coming.)
2. GHOSTS. (Because even famous people are ghosted by guys sometimes. And it sucks just as much.)
3. ONCE BITTEN. (As in: twice shy. Also, she’s never dating an actor or a musician ever again.)

But this summer’s going to be different. After getting her heart shattered, Lily is taking herself out of the spotlight and heading to a small island in middle-of-nowhere Maine with her closest friends. She has three months until her fall tour starts-three months to focus on herself, her music, her new album. Anything but guys.

That is . . . until Lily meets sweet, down-to-earth local Noel Bradley, who is so different from anyone she’s ever dated. Suddenly, Lily’s “summer of me” takes an unexpected turn, and she finds herself falling deeper and harder than ever before. But Noel isn’t interested in the limelight. She loves Noel-but she loves her fans, too. And come August, she may be forced to choose.

Lily Ross is a famous pop star, known not just for her songs but for falling in love. And getting her heart broken. She has been able to deal with it - throwing herself into her music, making sure to spin the story just right, putting on a smile even when she didn't mean it - until now. After her most recent breakup and with her tour just three months away, she needs to get away.

The stay at her friend's cabin on a small island in Maine is supposed to be the break, the recharge that she needs. No boys, no falling in love, no drama, just Lily and Sammy and Tess.

But Lily's never been one to stay away from romance.

Can she fall in love and still accomplish what hse meant to? And what about the end of summer and her tour?

For whatever reason, I really love reading novels about fictional celebrities, Sometimes they remind you of real singers, actors, whatever in certain, broader aspects, probably Taylor Swift, at first, with this one. But as yo read, if it's done right, they become their own characters with their own stories, personalities, troubles and loves. Though we focus mostly on the here and now with Lily, I liked that we got some peeks at her past, growing up in Madison, what her parents were like. It definitely made her more than just 'pop star Lily Ross.'

Her friends a re a nice addition to the story and to our view of Lily's life. Most of the focus is on Lily (and Lily and Noel) so we don't see a lot of Sammy and Tess except for how they interact with and assist Lily, but that works.

Sing is a young adult book but the characters' ages, what they're trying to decide about their futures, their responsibilities and love also has an NA feel to it. Strictly NA readers might think it's a little too sweet but readers of both YA and NA should give Sing a try.

This was a sweet and cute read that still had some depth, a fun summertime read. Lily's character loves her music, but can't seem to help falling in love - now she has to figure out how to manage both.

finished copy received, from publisher, for review consideration

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Inside of Out ~ Jenn Marie Thorne (earc) review [@juniperjenny @penguinteen]

The Inside of Out
Dial Books
May 31, 2016
400 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depository/or Amazon

Meg Cabot meets Glee in this breezy, hilarious, deceptively smart YA about privilege, pretense, and realizing that every story needs a hero. Sometimes it's just not you.

When her best friend Hannah comes out the day before junior year, Daisy is so ready to let her ally flag fly that even a second, way more blindsiding confession can't derail her smiling determination to fight for gay rights.

Before you can spell LGBTQIA, Daisy's leading the charge to end their school’s antiquated ban on same-sex dates at dances—starting with homecoming. And if people assume Daisy herself is gay? Meh, so what. It's all for the cause.

What Daisy doesn't expect is for "the cause” to blow up—starting with Adam, the cute college journalist whose interview with Daisy for his university paper goes viral, catching fire in the national media. #Holy #cats.

With the story spinning out of control, protesters gathering, Hannah left in the dust of Daisy’s good intentions, and Daisy's mad attraction to Adam feeling like an inconvenient truth, Daisy finds herself caught between her bold plans, her bad decisions, and her big fat mouth.

There's something I like about a book where I  really cannot decide if I like the main character or not - and whether or not I should, whether I am supposed to like them. Daisy's character did a great job skirting that line between endearing and irritating.

Daisy screws things up sometimes - a lot, lately. Sometimes it is because she didn't fully think things through, sometimes she did think them through but didn't correctly predict the outcome. What she intends and what actually transpires aren't matching up very well.

After her best friend comes out to her, Daisy wants to show Hannah just how much she cares, how much she loves and supports her so she decides they should join the school's GSA. So, maybe Hannah doesn't actually join with her, that's not going to deter her.

Neither is, oops, everyone thinking Daisy's gay.

How that conclusion is reached and what Daisy decides to do about it was more natural than I expected. It fit with not only her character and her feelings for Hannah, but also her past, the other characters involved and the different events that happened along the way.

While I did get annoyed with Daisy at different points, I really liked her character, overall, along with the family (her hippie mom and a dad playing video games for work), her friendships and her lack of friendships. I think she was the perfect character - lying, grandiose promises, good intentions, and missteps included - for this story.

The Inside of Out has some smart things to say about gender, sexuality, class, friendship and family and a humorous, often unexpected way of saying them.

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