ARC Review: Like Never and Always by Ann Aguirre

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“It’s terrible and lovely, longing for someone you know will only break your heart.”

“They say love is blind, but I’d say that infatuation is blind, and love is tolerant. When you really love someone, it’s not that you can’t see the flaws; you’re just willing to forgive them.”

“I’m hurting, but I’m not ruined. Things get ruined, not people.”

synOn a hot summer night, a screech of brakes and shattering glass changes two lives forever.

Liv wakes in the hospital, confused when they call her Morgan. She assumes it’s a case of mistaken identity, yet when the bandages come off, it’s not her face in the mirror anymore. It’s her best friend Morgan’s.

Morgan always seemed to have the perfect life, yet Liv must navigate endlessly disturbing secrets of the criminal and murderous variety—and a romance that feels like a betrayal. Torn between the boy she loved as Liv and the boy she’s grown to love as Morgan, Liv still has to survive Morgan’s last request.

review4 Stars 

***I received this ARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Tor Teen

Read the book if:

You like complex romances of epic, triangular proportions.

You have enough time to plough through in one sitting (I started and did not want to stop, I was completely engaged).

Steam and angst are your best friends. The romance will make you want to melt. It builds and blossoms and it feels like you’re sinking into a really comfy blanket on a cold night. Clay is AMAZING. Where can I find one of those? He’s loving and supportive, and OH SO SEXY. Clay is definitely new book boyfriend material. 

The review:

I liked Liv. She freaked out for a bit, understandable, but she turned it around. Her emotions were raw and confused, and so authentic. The voice was super strong and believable despite the unbelievable situation. 

Morgan was a fierce and compelling character, for someone who wasn’t actually alive. She had a huge part because Liv took over her life and had to sink into her lifestyle, uncovering all of the lies and things she hid from her best friend. It really makes you think about how well you know your loved ones. 

The plot itself was confusing at first. It was hard to tell what the book was supposed to be-contemporary, drama, paranormal, romance, murder mystery, thriller? It had elements of all of these. Genre-bending. 

The mystery was intriguing. It was complex and full of two generations of scandal. The twist surprised me. 

If you’re looking for a love triangle with a blend of mystery, pick this up.

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

Keep reading,

Jordan

 

 

 

 

ARC Review: Blood Will Out by Jo Treggiari

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“That’s scary for a boy if he’s not willing to man up. Expectations are heavy. It’s like sticking a mirror in front of his soul.”

synAri Sullivan is alive—for now.

She wakes at the bottom of a cistern, confused, injured and alone, with only the shadowy recollection of a low-pitched voice and a gloved hand. No one can hear her screams. And the person who put her there is coming back. The killer is planning a gruesome masterpiece, a fairytale tableau of innocence and blood, meticulously designed.

Until now, Ari was happy to spend her days pining for handsome, recent-arrival Stroud Bellows, fantasizing about their two-point-four-kids-future together. Safe in her small hometown of Dempsey Hollow. But now her community has turned very dangerous—and Ari may not be the only intended victim.

review2.5/5 Stars

***Trigger warnings for graphic violence, animal abuse, gore

What I liked:

  • The story started in a really engaging and mysterious way. We know that the main character wakes up injured and terrified, with no memory of how she got there and no way of getting out. 
  • The killer’s POV has tremendous back story and is ridiculously graphic. You truly gain insight into the crazed mind of this serial killer-how the proclivities developed, the transformation from minor fixation to full-blown obsession. It’s both sickening and fascinating. 
  • A twist that was so unexpected, I’m not sure that what I thought was the twist wasn’t actually a twist within a twist. By the end, I was still uncertain. 

What I disliked:

  • Despite the rollercoaster of a start, the pacing was slow. I skimmed through page after page, where there was so much unnecessary detail that it extended scenes for pages that should have been much shorter. The sentence structure was also weird and oddly scientific. 
  • SO MUCH GRAPHIC VIOLENCE. If you are an animal lover, steer far, far away. If you are at all queasy when it comes to blood, slicing, dissection, anything of that nature, quickly step away from this book and don’t look back. 
  • The main character is dull. Predictable. Makes some choice decisions that will leave you wanting to throw things across the room. When the reveal comes where you find out how Ari ended up in the cistern, it’s really no surprise with her poor decision-making skills. Completely naive and judgmental to her detriment. Also explosive anger, crude and misogynistic insults. 

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

ARC Review: Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart

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Release Date: July 31, 2018

It struck her that she might spend the rest of her days like this: trapped in a beautiful room waiting for Serina to return, her own life a footnote. Unremarkable. Invisible. Forgotten. 

syn

In a world where women have no rights, sisters Serina and Nomi Tessaro face two very different fates: one in the palace, the other in prison.

Serina has been groomed her whole life to become a Grace–someone to stand by the heir to the throne as a shining, subjugated example of the perfect woman. But when her headstrong and rebellious younger sister, Nomi, catches the heir’s eye, it’s Serina who takes the fall for the dangerous secret that Nomi has been hiding.

Now trapped in a life she never wanted, Nomi has only one way to save Serina: surrender to her role as a Grace until she can use her position to release her sister. This is easier said than done. A traitor walks the halls of the palace, and deception lurks in every corner. But Serina is running out of time, imprisoned on an island where she must fight to the death to survive and one wrong move could cost her everything.

review

4 Stars

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

PROS:

  • Headstrong, outspoken, risk-taking women who fight for their sisters and stick up for the women around them. These girls were raised to accept gender stereotypes, to remain uneducated, demure, and submissive. Their whole purpose in life-if they weren’t training to be a Grace-is to work in a factory or be sold off into marriage. They were denied the power of knowledge, of words, of BOOKS. If they were trained to be a Grace, they had to look a specific way, eat enough to have “womanly curves”, speak only when spoken to, and were taught to deny their own opinions, their voice, and do whatever pleases the Heir. 
  • Love between sisters. I’m not sure that I have read any YA that fully captured the beautiful bond between sisters and their willingness to sacrifice themselves to protect one another. Nomi and Serina are opposites. They rarely see eye-to-eye and fight quite a bit, but they love each other with that bone deep, eternal magnitude that pushes them to survive when they are on the verge of giving up just to see each other again. Throughout the story, this feeling only grows and is reinforced through both actions and words. 
  • There is some SERIOUS heat between the couples. I had to stop and fan myself during one…kind of extensive scene. More sensual than sexual, but fire. 
  • Gladiators meet Amazonian women. Ruin Mountain has clans of women who each have their own subculture and are forced to fight to the death for food rations. They’re fierce, crafty, and willing to do whatever it takes despite their horrifying circumstances. 
  • The pacing is great. It flows, sucks you in, and it took me a little over a day to plough through.

CONS:

  • The “plot twist” was fairly predictable. It was so much like another book I read a year or two ago that I called it within the first few chapters. There are shades of The Sin Eater’s Daughter, The Red Queen, and Cruel Beauty.
  • While the world-building is fairly solid, I would have loved to hear more of the back story. The brief moments of history and the folklore were intriguing and those legends, it was like a new brand of mythology meets historical fiction.
  • Nomi’s twin Renzo. There was zero development there are hardly anything about their relationship prior to the Grace selection and yet, Nomi expects him to take life-threatening risks for her? There wasn’t a strong enough foundation or enough for the reader to care/appreciate the risk that was being taken. 

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

Keep reading, 

Jordan

 

ARC Review: Secrets of Skin and Stone by Wendy Laine

secrets ofGoodreads/Amazon/B&N/iBooks

syn

Something is wrong in Hidden Creek. The sleepy Alabama town is more haunted than any place fiend hunter Grisham Caso has ever seen. Unearthed graves, curse bags, and spilled blood all point to an evil that could destroy his gargoyle birthright. The town isn’t safe for anyone, and everyone says fiery Piper Devon knows why.

Piper wants to leave Hidden Creek behind. She’s had enough of secrets—they hide in the shadows of her room and tell her terrible things are coming. Too-charming city boy Grisham might be her only chance to save herself.

To survive, Piper and Grisham have to shed their secrets and depend only on each other. But what lurks in Hidden Creek still might take everything away from them, including each other.

review3/5 Stars

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

+++Triggers for self harm, violence, animal cruelty/death

PROS:

  • The gritty and graphic material. The descriptions are grotesque and disturbing. The occult stuff is awesomely weird and full on terrifying at times. 
  • This version of a gargoyle is way different from what I’ve come to expect. It’s a little Anna Dressed in Blood meets Supernatural with a fierce guy who hunts down monsters as his birthright. He rides a motorcycle. He’s got razor-sharp claws. His sole purpose is to kill these gross and horrifying fiends that are far more powerful than your average ghost. 
  • Depictions of a lesser known form of OCD were informative, researched, and necessary. Understanding the spectrum of disorders and not sticking everyone in a box is what Piper’s condition is all about. I loved that about this story. That it showed more than one form of OCD and how it can manifest in ways that are not obvious or expected. 
  • I liked that this was old school sleuthing mixed with paranormal. There are still murders, vandalism, and missing people to contend with and Piper and Gris work together to tackle those mysteries. 

CONS:

  • The pacing was abysmally slow. For subject matter that is so intriguing and mystery so bizarre, the book lacked the speed needed to keep my attention for long. Even with the driving need to uncover the mystery, the occult stuff, and the budding romance…it seemed like nothing really happened for several pages.
  • That Gris is trusted so easily is a little weird. He’s welcomed in Piper’s home after hardly any time. Their romance evolves quickly, though I did appreciate the fact that the author remarks on the timeframe and discusses how much of what they’re feeling could be lust and that they need to be levelheaded about their feelings. 
  • Piper accepting the existence of fiends and gargoyles almost immediately is not at all realistic. I expected much more of a freak out at least. 
  • The book does deal with self harm in the form of cutting, which the author addresses in the beginning for those who could potentially be triggered. The self harm, the fact that Piper can sort of turn it off by sheer willpower is strange to me. Every portrayal I’ve seen has been to the effect that it’s more than just a decision, that there’s a need or compulsion that cannot just be switched off because someone asks you to quit. 

Read on, 

Jordan

ARC Review: The Revenge by Hannah Jayne

9781492647362-300Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo |Chapters | Indiebound

syn

From the author of Truly, Madly, Deadly, The Escape, and Twisted, comes another edge of your seat thriller sure to keep you guessing until the last page.

After a bad breakup, Tony’s ex-girlfriend Hope embarrasses him in front of the whole school and spreads vicious rumors. Tony is devastated and in a moment of revenge, he makes the location on her phone public. But a week later, when Hope calls Tony and begs him to stop the prank, he hears a shriek and a car door slamming. Then the call is dropped.

Too late, Tony realizes that he may have put Hope’s life in danger. Can he trace Hope’s movements and save her before times runs out?

review3/5 Stars 

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

+++Triggers for stalking, abduction, violence

I hate doing this but let me pull up the podium for a moment. There has been a Twitter drama storm over this book, which honestly, I had no idea about until I saw the Goodreads backlash. All the anger. All the comments about fetishizing doxing (researching and putting personal information about people without their consent on the internet as a form of bullying, revenge, etc.) and stalking, and further, being misogynistic. Some readers have even one starred or completely blacklisted the book because of this commentary. 

Going into this book, I had no knowledge of this and read the story for what it was without specifically looking for these characteristics. Here’s what I thought:

Screen Shot 2017-07-08 at 1.51.57 PM

My thoughts as I read were (see above) all over the place. At first, I was impressed. I loved the direction the story was taking. You have two characters. Both are flawed, they’re pretty terrible people. Hope, because she completely humiliated a guy-who broke up with her amiably-in front of the entire school, and Tony, because he retaliated by putting all of her info on the internet, signing her up for embarrassing products like diapers and rash cream, etc., and went even further by putting her on adult dating sites and sharing her location. They both are the worst, but what Tony did is not only horrible, it’s extremely dangerous. Initially it seems like the author is going to take that route. That she’s going to show how deadly doxing can be, how people regard it as a joke or a prank and it can have real, horrific consequences (abduction, murder, stalking, etc.). I was internally cheering because we NEED that book. In a time where everything is so easily accessible through social media, privacy is crucial. Doxing is NOT in any way, shape or form, especially as it is portrayed in the book, acceptable. I was pounding through the pages because I had to know what happened to her. She may be a terrible person but no one deserves being abducted or whatever happened to her because her ex was a jerk. The adrenaline was high, I was flipping along and then at around 40% (see above) the author made a choice. 

Now don’t get me wrong, I am a huge advocate for author’s choice. You want to kill off your main character, go ahead, it’s your story, whatever. But in this case, it absolutely destroyed what was building and how important doxing is as a crime/issue. Totally undermined and pretty much negated. Even by the end of the story, no remorse, no lesson learned, just oh, maybe I shouldn’t have done that ha ha. Not even lemme tell the police about this. NOTHING. Completely infuriating. And I kind of see why people got mad about it. A tool that was only examined at surface value AND dismissed. I don’t get it. But author’s choice. Meh.

So at this point, there’s a POV change that turns the story on its head and IT WILL MAKE YOU RAGE. What a shameful, rude, ruthless person. The level of destruction to get revenge. I mean, too far. But you do see this kind of whacked out stuff in the news so not entirely off base. At first, I hated this POV swapping. I was already irate about the destruction of the doxing didacticism but then it changed. A plot twist. A hard, heavy, terrifying one. But still not deserved. 100% NOT. These sections were terrifying and nauseating and all sorts of wrong. I truly felt scared for Hope. The argument is that it gets a little Gone Girl, but I don’t think so. It definitely diverts from that path. It was not predictable. While some parts were, especially after all the hateful slander about Hope, you kind of expected the initial twist, but by the end, nope, nope, nope. I was absolutely floored by the despicable actions of these people, I mean, seriously. 

I didn’t really like or sympathize with Tony. Nor with Hope until the end. They weren’t likable people. They weren’t even that interesting, but the plot itself was and that’s what kept me reading. 

Overall, I was pretty satisfied with the read. As for the misogyny comments, there were derogatory and degrading comments from both men and women in the story. 

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

Read on,

Jordan

Blog Tour, Guest Post, & Giveaway: The Revenge by Hannah Jayne

9781492647362-300.jpgAmazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo | Chapters | Indiebound

syn

From the author of Truly, Madly, Deadly, The Escape, and Twisted, comes another edge of your seat thriller sure to keep you guessing until the last page.

After a bad breakup, Tony’s ex-girlfriend Hope embarrasses him in front of the whole school and spreads vicious rumors. Tony is devastated and in a moment of revenge, he makes the location on her phone public. But a week later, when Hope calls Tony and begs him to stop the prank, he hears a shriek and a car door slamming. Then the call is dropped.

Too late, Tony realizes that he may have put Hope’s life in danger. Can he trace Hope’s movements and save her before times runs out?

author

Hannah Schwartz lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and writes cozy mysteries, young adult fiction, chick lit, and grocery lists that she never seems to remember to bring to the grocery store. Hannah shares a house with two neurotic, feet-attacking cats and has Kryptonite-like weakness for donuts. Visit www.hannahjschwartz.com.

guest

Top Five Favorite Thrillers

My top five favorite thrillers are never the same, although there are a few that make the list and never go away! Here are my current faves (and a few oldie but goodies!).

THE NIGHT SHE DISAPPEARED by April Henry

Disclaimer: April Henry and I are great friends. Once you’ve been duct taped, hooded, and thrown in the back of a van with someone, you really bond (note: this was a research project). That aside, this is one of my favorite books of all time. It’s quick paced but heart pounding and April does an amazing job of delivering a great, creepily detailed story without bogging down the mystery and thrill. You really get a sense of the characters and root for them the whole time.

GAME by Barry Lyga

This was the first book I’d ever read by Barry and after I finished it, I wrote him an inappropriate tweet about wanting to have his book babies and went back and read everything he’d ever written. The idea of a teen being brought up by a serial killer—and theoretically molded to become one—was one of the creepiest things I’d ever considered.

CHAIN LETTER by Christopher Pike

This was my first foray into teen thrillers in about the 5th grade. I immediately fell in love with the genre and wrote my own version later that year. It was a terrible mash-up of two things I was obsessed with that summer: teen thrillers and teen dance movies so yes, there was a gruesome kill that ended with a romantic dance scene on the beach. So. Bad.

TEN LITTLE INDIANS by Agatha Christie

I found a copy of this wedged into a cubbyhole of a boat we rented one summer. I had already read everything I had brought so I devoured this and loved the deliciousness of picking off characters and the subtle—but scary—way that Christie turned the screws.

NEVER KNOWING by Chevy Stevens

I love almost everything about this book. I guess I’m a little obsessed with criminals in one’s family tree (a la my own last book, TWISTED) but this is such a brilliantly and beautifully written story that you forget how truly twisted it is until the reaches out and grabs you. Read with the lights on!

giveaway

If you’d like to win a paperback copy of THE REVENGE, just comment on this post to be entered.

US or CANADA ONLY. Entries open until July 11, 2017.

Keep reading and check back on July 8th for my ARC review!!!

Jordan