Review: The Cruelty by Scott Bergstrom

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When her diplomat father is kidnapped and the U.S. Government is unable to help, 17 year-old Gwendolyn Bloom sets off across the sordid underbelly of Europe to rescue him. Following the only lead she has—the name of a Palestinian informer living in France—she plunges into a brutal world of arms smuggling and human trafficking. As she journeys from the slums of Paris, to the nightclubs of Berlin, to the heart of the most feared crime family in Prague, Gwendolyn discovers that to survive in this new world she must become every bit as cruel as the men she’s hunting.

review4/5 Stars 

Unpopular opinion time. It turns out that there’s a ton of controversy surrounding this book because of some dismissive and rude comments made by the author about the YA genre. Here’s the thing, I did not read anything about this book or any of the Goodreads comments before my rating. This is a 100% unbiased, non-influenced rating on the story alone. While I do not agree with the author’s perception of dystopia YA or some off the offhand comments made by Gwen within the story, authors and characters do not always share beliefs. Sometimes it’s hard to separate the author’s opinions from the character’s and vice versa. I thought I would preface this review by saying that whether or not I like the author has absolutely nothing to do with this review because so many of the Goodreads reviews are attacks on the author not the book. 

Now that that’s out of the way, I loved this book. This is exactly what I’ve been searching for in YA. A thriller. Spies, lies, cover ups, danger, it’s like Bourne Identity for teens. And there are so many important and eye-opening topics discussed within the story about crime, human trafficking, and other terrifying and unsavory aspects of society. While the story wasn’t perfect, it definitely kept me engaged and enthralled with Gwen and her quest to save her father. I kept asking myself how far I’d go to save my loved ones.

Gwen is made of reckoning and a hunger for vengeance. I adore her. She’s of Jewish heritage, thick-waisted, opinionated, speaks multiple languages, and likes jazz. I mean, come on, that alone is enough to keep you interested. When Gwen embraces her new identity at Sofia, we see her transformation and wow, what a switch. The girl she started as is still there, but her alias is a fighter. Sofia is a vixen. She’s manipulative, calculating, more like an agent. She has a huge heart. She will go to the ends of the earth for her father and then some, sacrificing herself in the process. She knows she might die, she might get assaulted or scarred, but she is willing as long as she gets her father back. That’s insane and incredibly brave. Gwen has to shut off her emotions or she’ll break and sometimes it’s truly hard and devastating for her. In several scenes, I almost had to look away because I was so scared for her. But she puts on cruelty like armor and is surprisingly successful for such a small amount of training. 

There are so made shades of women within this story and they’re all powerful in their own ways. From prostitutes to the women who serve the crime bosses, from the trafficked girls to the bully at the introduction of the story, all of these women are fighters and wise to the ways of the world. They accept that sometimes life is dirty and hard and terrible, that horrific things happen but they can’t collapse, they rise and rebuild and take everything for what it is. Every character was memorable, even the fleeting ones and others that I abhorred. They were developed, multidimensional, and made me ask questions. 

Yael. OMG this woman. She’s fierce, hardened, cruel when she needs to be and lives by a do whatever it takes attitude. Suck it up and do what needs to be done. Yael is at times heartless and cold, others she’s mildly concerned. You can tell she feels a little motherly towards Gwen. Yael is the kind of woman, Mossad, who would take her child who can’t swim, throw him in a lake and tell him to find his way out; he’d learn pretty quick. I loveddddd her. She’s an epic badass of a character. 

The story itself is layered and developed. It’s cross multiple countries and gets right into the seedy underbelly of the cities. I have not been to most of the countries mentioned, so I can’t say how accurate the portrayal was, but there wasn’t much in way of description anyway. Scott Bergstrom appears to be more about the character than the setting. I loved the cyphers and the danger. Every edge of your seat moment was a new rush and there are so many. 

What I did not like was the random romance between Gwen and Terrance. He’s barely there, there’s no building, hardly any foundation, and while he is functional, the emotions are severely lacking and then suddenly it’s supposed to be like fireworks for the reader-yeah, no. I was not the biggest fan of the way Gwen was introduced at Danton Academy. While it did function to present her place in the social hierarchy, establish her race and figure, it felt clichéd and predictable. In fact, I don’t really know why it was there at all. School is nothing in this story. It’s gone in like 2 days of book time. 

Sometimes the pacing was slow. When you think of a thriller/suspense, you expect fast, but spy work and investigating is sometimes just pushing paper and waiting for leads, so in that respect, it was accurate. 

That ending. YES.

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

Suspenseful reading, 

Jordan

ARC Review: There’s Something About Nik by Sara Hantz

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Nik Gustafsson has a secret: He’s not really Nik Gustafsson.

He’s not a spy. He’s not crazy.

He’s just the son and heir to one of the most important families in Europe—one where duty always comes first. And his posh, too-public life is suffocating him. So when he gets the chance to attend boarding school in America, pretending to be an average exchange student is too big of a temptation to pass up.

Then he literally runs into Amber on campus. And she hates him at first sight.

It’s kind of exhilarating to be hated for who he is, not for his family name or his wealth. Maybe if he turns up the charm and turns down the aloof mask he habitually wears, he can win her over. Even though a bad past experience has made her swear off dating this year.

But the more he gets to know her, the more uncomfortable he is keeping things from her.

Because Nik Gustafsson has a secret. And it’s a big one.

Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book contains a hot boy who’s the strong and silent type, a studious girl who refuses to believe in fairy-tale romance, and one epic secret that could be disastrous if it comes to light.

review

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via Entangled Crush

There’s Something About Nik was missing something. It felt surface deep and I was left wanting, hoping for more. The premise is fantastic and reminiscent of one of my all time favorite romantic comedies, The Prince & Me, the only difference being that this story is set in an elite high school. What girl doesn’t dream of falling for a guy who turns out to be so much more than he seems? Better than she ever could have imagined?

My biggest issue with this story was the plot lines that fell apart and felt totally forgotten as the story progressed. One of the main characters, Amber, is in remission from cancer. This comes up I believe twice, or something equally low. It functions as a main plot point; it’s the reason that Amber is so hesitant to date, so mistrusting of others, etc. It wasn’t built on at all. It just sat there and was called up when necessary. I kind of expected more from Amber when she talked about her cancer, but the big focus was on the jerk who broke her heart. I needed more. I needed her family. Amber talks about how much she loves them or whatever, but they’re invisible. The story was short. It was cut in weird spots leaving chapters feeling unfinished and there was so much more room to add small details that would have made the characters come to life, but instead they were sort of just there. 

Secondary characters, at first, had a pretty strong presence. I looked forward to reading more about Amber’s best friend because she’s a beautiful person and a bit of a risk taker. But as the story progressed, it became so much about Amber’s feelings about Nik that her bestie was neglected. There really aren’t many characters within the story in general. Nik’s friend is also on the sidelines, even though he’s dating Amber’s friend and you’d think there’d be more. 

I was dying for description. There are whole chunks here that summarize what happened rather than showing. I would have loved to see Nik and Amber dating. Though the scene on the school bus was pretty heated and one of the better ones in terms of developing their attraction, there needed to be more as a baseline. 

Nik’s POVs. Sometimes he read as robotic and cold. Others he was flooded with confusing emotions about this strange girl, Amber. When the romance was there, it was blissfully awkward and funny. It was believable and there was quite the Pride and Prejudice vibe. 

Had the characters been more fleshed out, I would have been able to make a strong emotional connection and would have liked the story better. 

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

Romantic reading, 

Jordan

Promo & Giveaway: Remembrance by Heather Hildenbrand

This is a spin-off of the Dirty Blood series and while it’s more fun to come in already knowing a bit about these characters, you do NOT have to read Dirty Blood first. You can just jump in here!

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She’s the cure that could save him. If only she could remember how.

Two years ago, 20 year-old Samantha Knight experienced a life-altering trauma. Unfortunately, she can’t remember what it was. Previously outgoing, fun, and carefree—it’s as if someone flipped a switch on Sam’s insides. Now, she’s afraid of everything, socially awkward, and convinced she’s going crazy. As Beyoncé would say, she woke up like this. Sam tries her best to juggle college classes, work, and the nosiest roommate ever, but behind the curtain, Sam’s life is all about keeping a firm grip on her own mind. And life is kicking her ass.

Alex Channing has only one enemy in this world: werewolves. Born and raised to fight in the supernatural military, he has become an expert at hunting and killing rabid werewolves. But when Alex is bitten and infected, he finds himself racing against a ticking clock for his own survival.

Alex’s search for a cure leads him finally to an oracle in a seaside town in California. And she gives him the reading of a lifetime. The key to his cure is a girl who forgets things, cries spontaneously, and might just be insane. And the only way she can save him is to do the one thing Alex knows is impossible: she has to remember.

Book 1 in the highly anticipated Heart Lines series, a spin-off of the bestselling and award-winning Dirty Blood series. Note: you do NOT have to read Dirty Blood first. You can start here!

giveawayI’m giving away some goodies to help celebrate! (There will be more giveaways in the FB group so make sure to find us there too.)

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GRAND PRIZE: custom bracelet + signed swag + e-ARC of Inheritance (book 2 in the Heart Lines Series) by Heather Hildenbrand

2nd PRIZE: e-ARC of Inheritance (book 2 in the Heart Lines Series) by Heather Hildenbrand

Ends 3/5/17 ~ Open Internationally

 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Sexy reading, 

Jordan

Release Day Blitz: Curiosity and the Sentient’s Oblation by Zachary Paul Chopchinski

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The widowed wife of a North Carolina plantation owner, Gabrielle awakens in this life with a broken heart and a sharpened spirit. Living in one of the darkest times in American history, she finds herself running a safe house for the underground railroad during the American Civil War. In order to save a life, Gabrielle must make a sacrifice that could damn her host for eternity.

Everything’s different this time. The rules have changed, Morrigan has changed, and Arawn is more dangerous than ever. He has sent a hunter after Gabrielle and she has to use every ounce of her new powers if she is going to survive.

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authorzachFacebook/Website/Tumblr/Twitter/Goodreads/Bookbub

Zach is a bow tie wearing, formal vest rocking, pocket watch using, sarcastic monster of a writer. Currently residing in Orlando, Florida, he spends his days working, writing and procrastinating.

Zach is the author of the Gabrielle series, a young adult fantasy with a paranormal-historical-time traveling twist (try saying that five times fast).

Zach has multiple college degrees, in the fields of criminal justice and criminology…because he wanted to catch ALL the bad guys. Now, coupled with being an author of young adult fiction he spends his days yelling at people for breaking regulatory laws.

Interesting reading, 

Jordan

Release Day Blitz: Stark Springs Academy by Ali Dean

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The young adult sports romance series that has captured readers of all ages is now available as a boxed set!

 

When Roxie Slade snaps into a pair of skis, there’s no one on Sugarville Mountain in Vermont who can keep up with her. Not even the boys. Still, Roxie was shocked when she received a scholarship to Stark Springs Academy, a boarding school that churns out Olympians in each graduating class. Entering as a high school junior, Roxie can’t wait to learn from renowned coaches and train with the fastest ski racers from all over the globe. But, upon arrival, Roxie discovers that Stark Springs lives under its own set of rules, and it appears one boy plays dictator.

 

Ryker Black is not friendly and Roxie cannot fathom why everyone wants to be his friend. Sure, he’s gorgeous and rides a snowboard like it’s his fifth limb, but he’s cold, ruthless, and holds way too much power over the Stark Springs population. Roxie won’t put up with it. She’s here to train, and she doesn’t care about impressing anyone off the slopes. The only problem? Ryker Black doesn’t permit defiance. Not without consequences.
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Ali Dean lives in Colorado with her husband, twin toddlers, and golden retriever. In addition to reading and writing, she loves the outdoors- everything from marathon training and biking to snowboarding and skiing.
Exhilarating reading,
Jordan
 
 

 

Review: Love and First Sight by Josh Sundquist

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synLove is more than meets the eye.

On his first day at a new school, blind sixteen-year-old Will Porter accidentally groped a girl on the stairs, sat on another student in the cafeteria, and somehow drove a classmate to tears. High school can only go up from here, right?

As Will starts to find his footing, he develops a crush on a sweet but shy girl named Cecily. And despite his fear that having a girlfriend will make him inherently dependent on someone sighted, the two of them grow closer and closer. Then an unprecedented opportunity arises: an experimental surgery that could give Will eyesight for the first time in his life. But learning to see is more difficult than Will ever imagined, and he soon discovers that the sighted world has been keeping secrets. It turns out Cecily doesn’t meet traditional definitions of beauty—in fact, everything he’d heard about her appearance was a lie engineered by their so-called friends to get the two of them together. Does it matter what Cecily looks like? No, not really. But then why does Will feel so betrayed?

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3.5/5 Stars

Love and First Sight is an adorable and profound look at perception, the way we see the world, and what happens when someone who has never been able to see does for the first time. 

There’s a lot going on in this book but something I LOVED was the idea of beauty and how it starts beneath the surface. The main character, Will, is blind. He has never seen anything from birth, not even darkness. He has no perceptions, no stereotypes, nothing to work with because he has never seen it. Sure, he can know what something is, like a triangle or an apple, but he can’t envision it. What’s so compelling about this story is the many thought-provoking and inspired conversations on what it means to be beautiful and whether or not it matters if your physical appears fits the general construct and stereotypes of what beauty should be. Will has no basis. This is fascinating. His version of beauty is soul-deep and has to do with a number of components, the sound of someone’s voice, the feel of their skin, the way they treat others. He says that physical beauty, whether it’s there or not doesn’t matter. If only the world thought this way.

There are two sides of blindness, well three if you want to get philosophical. Blindness in terms of the everyday stereotypes and treatment towards blind people-they way people assume they need help, want it, or are helpless in general. Even the small things like they all wear sunglasses or like to be pulled along. Things that the average person probably would not think about. The small part of me that enjoys science was intrigued and downright astounded by the research poured into this book. It discusses how the brain develops, which parts are used for each sense, and how disuse of one can affect the others.  Will has the opportunity to received life-changing surgery that could give him sight. Learning, adjusting to vision is startling. Everything that goes with it, from depth perception to colors to shapes. How do you focus when there are so many elements and when you have never learned how? Each step is connected with blindness and learning through that earlier condition to finally see. We take sight for granted. It never occurs to us that it’s amazing that we can look at so many things at once and recognize them as distinct from each other. For a blind person learning to see, this seems impossible and the brain needs to be trained to cope with the explosion of sensory overload. After I read this, I really thought about placement, perspective, and the incredible power of the human eye to define. 

I’m hesitant to call this a romance because it felt underdeveloped and rushed. What I felt more than anything was a genuine and powerful friendship. There wasn’t really room for anything else on top of all the other stuff going on. The was a point in the story where feelings are confessed and I was stunned. Not that they were there at all but that it was sudden and without enough time to build on the romantic elements. The whole time nothing but friendship, respect, and adoration, with hints of romance. 

Secondary characters were, for the most part, barely there. Even when they were there, it was small snippets that suggested overall personality, but even when there was space in the story to expand and cement these characters in the story, it was a whole bunch of telling. They go on a road trip. I cannot think of a more perfect time to get to know secondary characters than on car ride, cross-country, that days a number of days. And yet, this whole section was in the span of a handful of pages.  

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

Thoughtful reading, 

Jordan

Cover Reveal: Why I Loathe Sterling Lane by Ingrid Paulson

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Release date: June 6, 2017

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Per her 537 rules, Harper Campbell keeps her life tidy—academically and socially. But the moment Sterling Lane transfers into her tiny boarding school, her twin brother gets swept up in Sterling’s pranks and schemes and nearly gets expelled. Harper knows it’s Sterling’s fault, and to protect her brother, she vows to take him down. As she exposes his endless school violations, he keeps striking back, framing her for his own infractions. Worst of all, he’s charmed the administration into thinking he’s harmless, and only Harper sees him for the troublemaker he absolutely is. 
 
As she breaks rule after precious rule in her battle of wits against Sterling and tension between them hits a boiling point, she’s horrified to discover that perhaps the two of them aren’t so different. And maybe she doesn’t entirely hate him after all. Teaming up with Sterling to save her brother might be the only way to keep from breaking the most important rule—protecting Cole.

Ingrid Paulson does not, in fact, loathe anyone. Although the snarky sense of humor and verbal barbs in Why I Loathe Sterling Lane might suggest otherwise (and shock those who think they know her best). 

Ingrid lives in San Francisco with her husband and children and enjoys long-distance running, eavesdropping, and watching science documentaries. She has always loved books and writing short stories, but was surprised one day to discover the story she was working on wasn’t so short any more. Valkyrie Rising, a paranormal girl power story was Ingrid’s first novel. Expect another humorous contemporary romance to join the list soon. 

Playful reading, 

Jordan