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

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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

 

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: 27 Hours by Tristina Wright

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3.5 Stars

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

This book. There are so many amazing things happening in this book.

The diversity, acceptance, portrayals of various sexualities and lifestyles. If only our world was that inclusive.

World-building is off the charts. Space. Domes. Gargoyles. Hubs for different specialties. Focus on science. Folklore. The exploration of “Earth culture.” Military training, cool technology, the Moon as Mother. So much is there and it feels natural. A lot of the time with intense world-building in sci-fi/fantasy, it’s forced and overwhelming. You’re slammed with details and history to the point where it becomes a tedious, info dump. This is not like that. It fits. It flows. It works insanely well.

27 Hours is told from multiple POVs. Typically when this happens, there’s at least one character you loathe and try to skim through. Game of Thrones is plagued with this half-formed and irritating characterization but Tristina Wright has created bold, flawed, introspective and interesting characters that are easy to invest in.

What’s more, there are none of those fleeting, non-characters that are designed to fill space. Everyone has a personality, purpose, and place within the story. Some of the secondary characters were so intriguing that I longed for more of them. Initially, it was a little hard to keep track of everything because there are so many characters and plot lines, it takes a bit but it’s worth it.

I loved these characters. Like full on emoji with heart eyes, adored them. Which is why it kills me to say this, but despite everything this story has going for it, it took a turn for the mundane. It almost felt like a cop out. Things were headed in an action-packed and truly unforgettable direction, the characters omg. And then it became a romance. Now, I like when there are relationships, everyone deserves and should celebrate love, but it became like every other page was angst and tension and exploration. There’s a whole section where characters are just hooking up left and right. I understand, there’s war, people and chimera are dying, emotions are off the charts and there’s an overwhelming compulsion to express all the things. But the plot faded away. It got buried and tangled in this how fast can we tear off each other’s clothes that went so quickly from attraction to like to lust. It got to the point where I wanted to skim and that’s not okay because I was living this story. I was in it. 100% and then it felt rushed and confused and like the sole purpose of the book was to bring these hormonal teens together. I don’t know, I guess I’m just disappointed.

The ending. Cliffhanger from deep space. After everything the characters have went through, the revelations, all they’ve lost, this is another plot twist that definitely left me wanting more.

I’m also puzzled by this cover.

Let me know what you think!

As always, happy reading and happy new year!!! May it be full of great reads.

Jordan

ARC Review: The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed

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Release Date: October 10, 2017

syn

Three misfits come together to avenge the rape of a fellow classmate and in the process trigger a change in the misogynist culture at their high school transforming the lives of everyone around them in this searing and timely story.

Who are the Nowhere Girls?

They’re everygirl. But they start with just three:

Grace Salter is the new girl in town, whose family was run out of their former community after her southern Baptist preacher mom turned into a radical liberal after falling off a horse and bumping her head.

Rosina Suarez is the queer punk girl in a conservative Mexican immigrant family, who dreams of a life playing music instead of babysitting her gaggle of cousins and waitressing at her uncle’s restaurant.

Erin Delillo is obsessed with two things: marine biology and Star Trek: The Next Generation, but they aren’t enough to distract her from her suspicion that she may in fact be an android.

When Grace learns that Lucy Moynihan, the former occupant of her new home, was run out of town for having accused the popular guys at school of gang rape, she’s incensed that Lucy never had justice. For their own personal reasons, Rosina and Erin feel equally deeply about Lucy’s tragedy, so they form an anonymous group of girls at Prescott High to resist the sexist culture at their school, which includes boycotting sex of any kind with the male students.

Told in alternating perspectives, this groundbreaking novel is an indictment of rape culture and explores with bold honesty the deepest questions about teen girls and sexuality.

review

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

+++ Trigger warnings for sexual assault, violence, general skin-crawling misogynist ideologies and vulgarity

This book has no rating because it is without a doubt the most difficult book I’ve ever had to rate in my history of being a reviewer. Interpret and make your own judgments about what you think my rating of the book is based solely on this review and nothing as limited as a star rating. 

The Nowhere Girls is a battle cry, an ode, a bittersweet mourning, and a rage-inducing awakening. This book is more than necessary, it should be required reading for everyone, regardless of age, gender, or political leanings. Here’s the thing, The Nowhere Girls reads a little Perks of Being a Wallflower meets The Breakfast Club mixed with profound, contemporary questions about society and feminism. At times it feels like your run-of-the-mill coming of age story split in various POVs and as someone who generally loathes coming of age, it lagged for me, despite the eye-opening questions and they way it made me think (which is what marks great, life-changing books for me). I couldn’t really connect with any of the characters, which with so many POVs and an US POV that had the voices of several girls, it’s puzzling that none of them resonated with me. Not that the characters weren’t defined. They were more than multi-dimensional, they practically screamed from the pages with their unique and interesting personalities and their determination to succeed. 

I absolutely dislike the synopsis for this book. It makes the story seem like something it’s not-a revenge plot or some weird, let’s get back ALL THE MALES story. This is far from that. It’s an exploration of what it means to be female in our society and then breaks that down further into all the ways that sexuality, race, and choice intersect with that. 

Here is a list of the many important and critical pieces of what it means to be female that this book discusses in its short number of pages:

  • No means no. 
  • Why we think that if you’re dating someone and they force you that it’s not rape. 
  • How saying yes is a choice and it can be an empowering one. 
  • That girls should not be afraid of their sexuality or that they enjoy sex. 
  • The double standard of “boys will be boys” but a girl who actively explores her sexuality and enjoys being sexual is a slut. 
  • Trans girls and whether they feel they have or can find a place in feminist culture. Transitioning girls and the same sort of questions. 
  • How girls who are known “sluts” are ignored when they “cry rape,” how women are treated differently and their allegations taken less seriously if they’re a certain “type” of girl or from the wrong “side of the tracks.”
  • Differing perspectives on virginity. 
  • Why a sex strike is problematic. 
  • Why we think that if we’re drunk and we say no and are ignored, that it’s our “fault.” 
  • The many many reasons that women fail to report their assault.
  • The many levels of fear women face every single day that men do not ever consider. 
  • Why we feel the need to pass judgment on other girls. 
  • Small town mentality. 
  • Privilege and “getting away with it.” 
  • And many, many more. 

I can’t even count the number of times I found myself nodding at the scenarios discussed, all the many feelings and experiences females go through in every encounter they have with males and even other girls. So much of this book made me remember and reflect and that is the reason WHY I put a trigger warning on this apart from the constant references to rapes and assaults and the feelings associated with these events well after they occurred (because how can anyone forget? This is another thing that’s discussed). 

I was also so angry after I read this. Angry that women have to deal with any of this stuff. Angry that men think they have the right. Angry at all the misogynistic, horrible, and derogatory ways that women are looked at as possessions or to be used and discarded. It’s sickening. 

I feel like I should say that you need to be in the right frame of mind to read this without completely losing it. That if you don’t want to be ragey and heartsick and possibly triggered to put this aside until you’re ready but at the same time, this book is cathartic. It lets you voice everything you didn’t know you needed to say through the proxy of these characters. In a way that is both enlightening and lifts the weight off your shoulders. 

One of the worst and most heartbreaking moments in this book for me is when one of the girls says that she didn’t know she could or was allowed to say no. Holy crap that pretty much knocked the air out of  my lungs. It is so hard to be female. You very well might cry several times and at the end, you might not feel satisfied, but you will feel invigorated and fellowship with every female you see afterwards and that itself is a gift. 

Read, read some more, and for the love of Pumpkin Spice use that reading to inspire change in yourself and in the world. 

Jordan