ARC Review: The Girl Who Called the Stars by Heather Hildenbrand

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“…but you don’t deal in death and escape the feel of it afterward.”

synvia Goodreads

Be very afraid of the Shadows.

I know what I’m not. Human.

I can’t remember my life before Earth, but I’ve grown up hearing the stories of a planet ravaged by war and a people in need of a leader who will bring them out of the darkness. I’m supposed to be their light.

My future terrifies me.

But I’m done waiting to have a real life. If I ever want a chance to live free of the Shadows, I’ll need to fight for it because freedom is never free. No matter what galaxy you call home.

(This is book 1 in The Girl From The Stars Duology. Previously published as Across the Galaxy, now revised & rewritten with brand new content.)

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review3 Stars 

PROS:

  • Heather Hildenbrand is the angst master. I swear, every single time I read her books there’s always some super swoonworthy, colossal build up of steam and languishing right off the bat. Then it grows and before you know it, you’re flipping through the pages on the prowl for a happily ever after…or at least one measly kiss. Jeez. But that tension is what makes the reader keep reading. 
  • The premise of this book is awesome. I loved the fast-paced tragedy and adventure, and also those horrifying Dementor-style demons. The mix of elemental-style powers with alien made this way different from your average space drama. Kingdoms in the space. I’m all for that. Also vicious wolf guardians? What’s not to love?
  • That explosive ending. I should have known. It was right there and somehow it went right over my head. Facepalm. 
  • Instead of being thrust into the typical long lost princess/heir trope, Alina has always known her purpose, she just doesn’t have the memories to back her up. Alina is focused, determined, and pushes through her fear for the future of her people. Plus she’s obsessed with coffee 😉 

CONS:

  • The plot didn’t feel cohesive. There was a quick jump into space that kind of slowed the pacing and then politics meets black magic. It didn’t feel like it fit together. 
  • Most of the secondary characters were so-so. Alina’s former best friend would have been stronger had there been more interactions. Also the catty, occasionally elitist arguments between some of the characters made a lot of the young people unlikable. 
  • Peter was supposed to be a sort of protector and father figure for Alina, but I feel like there wasn’t enough of that relationship built in the text-it was just there. I couldn’t establish an emotional connection that made me care either way about what happened to him. The issue with that is, the main character cares so much that it made it more difficult to connect with her. 
  • The book feels so short. A little more foundation here and there could have helped really build the emotions between all characters, not just the leads. 

Read and read some more, 

Jordan

 

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Review: More Than We Can Tell by Brigid Kemmerer

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“If someone harasses you online, you can have them blocked-but they can reappear in seconds, pretending to be someone else. Over and over again. Anonymously.”

“We all push sometimes, just to make sure someone is on the other side, pushing back.”

“He says the internet makes too many people loud, and too many people silent, but the loud people are all we hear. We have to ask questions to hear the silent people.”

synvia Goodreads

*While this book exists in the same universe as Letters to the Lost, it is a standalone title.*

Rev Fletcher is battling the demons of his past. But with loving adoptive parents by his side, he’s managed to keep them at bay…until he gets a letter from his abusive father and the trauma of his childhood comes hurtling back.

Emma Blue spends her time perfecting the computer game she built from scratch, rather than facing her parents’ crumbling marriage. She can solve any problem with the right code, but when an online troll’s harassment escalates, she’s truly afraid.

When Rev and Emma meet, they both long to lift the burden of their secrets and bond instantly over their shared turmoil. But when their situations turn dangerous, their trust in each other will be tested in ways they never expected. This must-read story will once again have readers falling for Brigid Kemmerer’s emotional storytelling.

review

5 Stars 

+++Trigger warning for: child abuse, assault, cyberbullying 

***Some of the content is a little mature. There is some crude language that might not be suitable for lower YA.

Those of you who follow my blog know that I am not big on contemporaries. Something about straight drama usually grates on me, but last year, when I read Letters to the Lost, I was completely smitten with the characters and sucked into the story. While the book itself had some problematic parts, it was one of my top reads of 2017. As much as I loved Letters to the Lost, More Than We Can Tell is even better. 

 

WHAT’S TO LOVE:

REV FLETCHER. 

REV FLETCHER.

REV FLETCHER. 

But seriously, Rev Fletcher. It’s always the quiet ones. Outwardly dark, broody, knicknamed the Grim Reaper because of his tendancies to wear black hoodies and avoid socializing. Beneath that hoodie is a world of hurt and memories that are so horrific that you’ll want to cry for his loss of innocence. The scars on his heart are as deep as the scars that riddle his body. All he wanted was to be loved and what he got was a crazed, religious fanatic of a father who took punishment for sins to a whole, sickening new level. Rev’s voice is strong. His internal struggle is heart-wrenching and honest. He struggles between fears of becoming his father to fear of disappointing him. The tug-o-war is real and raw. The emotions are a lot to process as a reader and his character voice is so authentic that you want to reach out an help him, as if he were a friend. Yet, despite all the pain, Rev is a genuinely kind person, a great friend, and surprisingly flirty. There are times in the book were the swoon is out of this world. 

There were moments in this book where I thought, how is it possible for my heart to be so full for characters who don’t even exist in real life?

The plot. The pacing. The romance.

Emma Blue is a BA coding girl who made her own computer RPG. She’s outspoken, yet shy, she hides behind her computer screen and idolizes her father. She thinks that sexism in gaming is just something girls have to face, but takes steps to manage the trolls. Emma is compassionate, she gets Rev to open up and trust her, and yet, she completely oblivious in all her other relationships. Despite her headstrong, stubborness, she is still likable and you want to see a happy ending for her. 

This book deals with heavy subjects like child abuse, molestation, cyberbullying and assault. These are all very real, very traumatic things that happen on a daily basis that are hard to read about. They’re presented in a way that is not too graphic, but emotionally very powerful. 

The secondary characters were the main characters in Letters to the Lost and their stories, though more subtle still evolved and were just as interesting. 

ALL THE FEELS.

QUESTIONABLE/SO-SO ELEMENTS: 

Even if you need closure, NEVER EVER agree to meet your former abuser at a random address alone. 

Although we live in a tech savvy, social media-centric world, don’t randomly give out your location to someone you met online or worse, agree to meet them and immediately get in the car with them, alone. NO NO NO NO NO. People can be whoever they want on the internet. Be smart. 

Finally, read this book. 

If you like any of the following, you’ll enoy this: 

Read on,

Jordan

Review: Heart of Ash by Kim Liggett

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“I carved out my heart and threw it into the deepest ocean. And I’d do it again and again. I will never be sorry for loving you.”

“We’re like the dissonant chord in the finale of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, begging for resolution. As long as we’re apart, there will never be peace in the world.”

All that remained were our bodies—vessels for each other’s hearts.”

“But if I gave in to him, gave in to the darkness, I knew it would be my ruin.”

synvia Goodreads

Ash may have escaped the immortal-worshipping cult that killed her mother, but the love of her life is still under its thrall. Dane has been possessed by his diabolical ancestor Coronado, a man who’s fabulously wealthy, dripping with fame, and the leader of Europe’s most dangerous immortal network. Dane begs Ash to join him at Coronado’s castle in Spain, and swears that his blood bond with Ash is stronger than Coronado’s hold over him. Ash is desperate to help Dane vanquish Coronado without having to sacrifice herself to the darkness. But when you’re all in, blood and salt, the only way to hold on to the light might just be by setting everything on fire.

review5 Stars 

Heart of Ash is exactly the book I needed at the right time. As many of you know, my reading record this year has been staggered and less than stellar. In the past week, I have read 3 horrible ARCs and I was questioning what happened to YA. For every 20 books there may be 1 truly great one. When did this become the norm? It could be me. It could be that over the past year, I have changed and become too busy, but I think that it’s because of that I’m okay with passing over books that are not for me and more than fine with slapping a DNF on a book that consumes my time with no heart. I don’t know if you have felt it to, but it feels like a turning point in YA. How has your reading been going?

That being said, Heart of Ash restored my faith in YA and my love of reading. The twists, the angst, the lust, the suspense, everything about this book sucks you in like a sweet and sometimes bloody addiction. When I read Blood and Salt, I was impressed with the story, but Heart of Ash blew the first book out of the water. 

The writing is beautiful, with profound and emotion-laced introspection at every turn.

The twists and turns keep you guessing to the point that nothing is what it seems.

I love this book. From the lush setting, to the deep, pulsating romance. What I appreciated was that while the book was essentially a romance, it felt like more. I was invested in every character, hoping for the HEA when everything seemed destined to end in total destruction. I hoped for more for these cursed lovers.

Great plotting. Better pacing. 

The blood and evil pours off the pages. When the truth is out…it’s astounding and powerful that Ash can withstand and overcome so much. Ash flirts with darkness and makes the choice to sacrifice herself and chance at happiness for the happiness of others.

The chemistry is straight fire. Slow burning sometimes, simmering others, and a blaze the next. There are some scenes that I would mark as mature YA, but they fade to black, not before all that angst and tension builds. Their love is explosive, volatile, and eternal. 

There are so many things I could say about this book, but the most important is: read this. 

If you like dark and twisted with a greater chance at utter devastation than happily ever after, try the Blood and Salt series.

If you like any of the following, enjoy this:

Read your heart out, 
Jordan

ARC Review: Burning Bright by Chris Cannon

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synvia Goodreads

Bryn is back for her senior year at the Institute for Excellence, also known as shape-shifting dragon school. She isn’t sure which is scarier, the life-force sucking dragons stalking campus or the fact that she’s officially betrothed to Jaxon, a guy who will never love her. Not that she could ever love him, either… That’s just ridiculous.
 
Senior year should be fun. Her parents are alive, she’s finally fitting in, and she’s learning how to be a Medic. But what’s with Jaxon giving her strange looks? He runs hot and cold, and he doesn’t even have the excuse of being a hybrid fire-and-ice-breathing dragon like her. One minute they’re having a great time and the next, she wants to blast a fireball at his head. The marriage contract of doom looms over them–unless this match not made in heaven kindles a flame…

review3/5 Stars 

***I received this eARC in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Entangled Teen 

I think part of the reason I was underwhelmed by this book is because I loved Bryn’s story so much. I was so invested in her story, that I yearned for a happy ever after. I was not disappointed. Watching the love blossom and evolve and grow was like a sudden discovery of something that has always been there. Bryn is one of my all time favorite characters. She’s sarcastic, headstrong, brilliant, and so brave. A risk-taker, a leader-she breaks down walls and questions authority, unwilling to give into the archaic ideas of gender roles-especially for the upper class dragons. Bryn is a true warrior and she deserves someone equally as fierce. 

My biggest issue with this final installment in the Going Down in Flames series was not the plot, because that was epic, but the uneven focus. So much time was spent dwelling on the will they/won’t they of the impending relationship that it disrupted the pacing, making it much slower than the previous books. 

I adored Bryn’s internal dialogue. How she questions herself, sorts through her feelings, and pushes herself to be bold, further, to see things in a new light made me admire her even more. Everything was so genuine, from the confusion to the surprise lust. 

Jaxon. What a powerful shift. From the cold, calculated, and arrogant jerk he originated the series as to the compassionate, loving person he becomes. His walls were high and armored but he was willing to take a chance. I have crushed on Jaxon since book 1. There’s something about a bad boy, semi-villain that is so intriguing. Jaxon has much more depth and heart than he was ever given credit for and it’s finally in this book that we get to see Jaxon broken and bare, with his heart on his sleeve. ❤ ❤ ❤

All in all, this was a quick, fun read, but not all that I hoped for the conclusion of the series. 

Read on, 

Jordan

Review: Of Jenny and the Aliens by Ryan Gebhart

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synvia Goodreads

Ten years after Earth sent messages out into deep space, there has been an answer. Music from a distant planet has reached the our radios. Are aliens about to invade? No one knows, and almost-eighteen-year-old Derek doesn’t really care, because at a wild end-of-the-world party, Jennifer Novak invites him to play beer pong. And things…progress from there. Derek is in love. Deeply, hopelessly in love. He wants it all—marriage, kids, growing old on a beach in Costa Rica. Jenny is The One.

But Jenny has other plans, and they may or may not include Derek. So Derek will try anything to win her—even soliciting advice from the alien who shows up in his hometown. This alien may just be the answer to Derek’s problem. But is Derek prepared to risk starting an interstellar war to get his girl? And just how far is he willing to travel to discover the mysteries of the universe—and love?

review1/5 Stars 

***I received this eARC in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Candlewick Press

I read this book in June of 2017 and it has taken me this long to write the review because I thought I’d DNF and try again, but after a second foray into this story…I just can’t. I made it a full 25% before I had to back away or risk throwing my Kindle. 

Of Jenny and the Aliens is the worst parts of The Catcher in the Rye meets Bright Lights Big City. It’s full of crude and sometimes downright repulsive and exploitative depictions of women from the mind of a sexually frustrated teenage boy. Maybe it’s honest. Maybe it’s accurate, but as a female reader, I was more than a little creeped out by it. I understand angst. I understand finding people attractive but for the love of all that is holy, did it have to be worded in such a gross way?

But I kept going…at least for a while anyway. 

First, let me say this: I would not put this on a shelf for 13 year olds. Upper YA-if that. Between the language usage and fantasizing and the weird locker room talk objectification. 

The story itself would have been interesting if the characters weren’t so unlikable…for the most part. Jenny is unique. She has depth and a past. There’s mystery and a genuine urge to solve the puzzle of her character, but it is quashed by the love interest. He’s stereotypical. Obsessive in an unhealthy and weird way. The plot is bizarre but intriguing. Except, you don’t know if it’s real or some random, hallucinogenic episode while the character was stoned out of his mind. 

What I liked about this book was THE COVER. It’s what attracted me to the book. That, and the fact that it featured aliens. I was desperate for a new alien book, a little Jennifer Armentrout meets The X-Files, but sadly, this was more teenage male fantasy than sci-fi. 

Desperately searching for alien YA, 

Jordan

ARC Review: Furyborn by Claire Legrand

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Release Date: May 22, 2018

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire 

synvia Goodreads

Follows two fiercely independent young women, centuries apart, who hold the power to save their world…or doom it.

When assassins ambush her best friend, the crown prince, Rielle Dardenne risks everything to save him, exposing her ability to perform all seven kinds of elemental magic. The only people who should possess this extraordinary power are a pair of prophesied queens: a queen of light and salvation and a queen of blood and destruction. To prove she is the Sun Queen, Rielle must endure seven trials to test her magic. If she fails, she will be executed…unless the trials kill her first.

A thousand years later, the legend of Queen Rielle is a mere fairy tale to bounty hunter Eliana Ferracora. When the Undying Empire conquered her kingdom, she embraced violence to keep her family alive. Now, she believes herself untouchable–until her mother vanishes without a trace, along with countless other women in their city. To find her, Eliana joins a rebel captain on a dangerous mission and discovers that the evil at the heart of the empire is more terrible than she ever imagined.

As Rielle and Eliana fight in a cosmic war that spans millennia, their stories intersect, and the shocking connections between them ultimately determine the fate of their world–and of each other.

review3/5 Stars 

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via Sourcebooks Fire & NetGalley 

One of the things that drives me crazy about epic fantasy is when the world building feels unnatural. Furyborn has an interesting premise. From that first line, it invites you into the story but immediately starts bombarding with information. So much so that it felt like, “oh by the way” after every new detail, almost like an afterthought. We live in a kingdom, the queen is evil, she murdered her husband, angels and humans are walking a thin red line of friendship, human and angel hybrids are killed for their magic, oh, angels can talk in your head, there’s a prophecy, we must escape before the wicked queen or angels uncover our secret…all within 3 pages. Normally, all of this is good and well, but the way it was presented was overwhelming and confusing. It felt like being slammed in several directions at once. Granted, the scene itself is supposed to be suspenseful and full of anxiety, but I can’t help but wonder if some of these things could have been explained after the fact. Cue a queen giving birth, a doctor and son with a secret, and angel threatening the child, people escaping by following threads in the sky. That’s it, no explanation-it might have kept the mystery up and the reader wanting the know more. 

There’s also the fact that angels can talk in the character’s head at any given moment. Because we already hear internal dialogue, random people suddenly appearing takes some adjustment. 

The transition from that introductory chapter into 2 years earlier is rough. It takes a good few pages to realize what is going on and from that point on, it swings into two POVs and in different times. 

The characters were interesting and complex. The girl who was supposed to be a villain, (I always love a good villain), was by far my favorite. The journey from who she was and who she became was full of hard choices and self-discovery, causing the reader to question the nature of evil and whether it is learned or inherent. 

This is absolutely upper YA with lots of sexual activity and sex positivity. There is subtle bisexual relationships, really just a mention. Romance is heavy and sometimes….supernatural? 

 

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Read some more, 

Jordan

 

 

ARC Review: The Life and Death Parade by Eliza Wass

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Release Date: June 26, 2018

synvia Goodreads

One year ago, Kitty’s boyfriend Nikki Bramley visited a psychic who told him he had no future. Now, he’s dead.

With the Bramley family grieving in separate corners of their home, Kitty sets out to find the psychic who read Nikki his fate. Instead she finds Roan, an enigmatic boy posing as a medium who belongs to the Life and Death Parade–a group of supposed charlatans that explore, and exploit, the thin veil between this world and the next. A group whose members include the psychic… and Kitty’s late mother.

Desperate to learn more about the group and their connection to Nikki, Kitty convinces Roan to return to the Bramley house with her and secures a position for him within the household. Roan quickly ingratiates himself with the Bramleys, and soon enough it seems like everyone is ready to move on. Kitty, however, increasingly suspects Roan knows more about Nikki than he’s letting on. And when they finally locate the Life and Death Parade, and the psychic who made that fateful prophecy to Nikki, Kitty uncovers a secret about Roan that changes everything.

From rising star Eliza Wass comes a sophisticated, mesmerizing meditation on the depths of grief and the magic of faith. After all, it only works if you believe it.

review3.5/5 Stars

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Disney-Hyperion 

When I first started reading this book, I was struck by the style-it’s like The Great Gatsby meets Rebecca and has dinner with The Diviners. There’s something whimsical, yet dark and Gothic about the word choice and overall atmosphere of the book-because that’s what was created here, an extensive and powerful atmosphere of mystery, magic, and yearning. 

Here’s the thing, while I have an English degree and love the classics, I’ve never been one for magical realism. Something about it feels false but to tell this story, it was the perfect choice. The Life and Death Parade is unsettling. It will make you question what is real and what is cleverly promoted through lies, smoke, and mirrors. There are many times when it seems you’re on the verge of answers but when they come, they’re to a different question or not all what you expected. And some things are started and left unfinished. Whether it was an intentional decision or not, it’s as much of a mystery as the truth itself. 

There’s a kind of lazy, upper-class entitlement that threads through the book. Like Holly Golightly in male form. The characters are…eclectic and not exactly likeable. They did have unique, if odd, personalities. I wish I would have liked them enough to become invested in their future, but really, I just cared about the story itself. 

The plot was intriguing. It sucks you in and holds you prisoner. You need to know what happened and there are so many possibilities. I loved the blend of magical, traveling performers, and praying to specific saints for favors. The Life and Death Parade is a culture in itself and so cool. There’s a New Orleans vibe set in the English countryside. The crafting of altars, psychic readings, and sensationalization drags the reader right into that world, and begs them to question whether they believe and how much it matters.

At its heart, this is a story of grief and trying to process how it happened after the fact. The characters are lost in the past and don’t know how to move forward because of their tragic loss. They all mourn in different and arguably unhealthy ways because they were waiting for closure that would not come on its own. 

I liked that there wasn’t really an in-your-face consuming romance, but one that hummed beneath the story and yet was the entire foundation for the events that occured. 

All in all, this was a strange, enjoyable read. 

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this: 

Read on, 

Jordan