ARC Review: Proof of Lies by Diana Rodriguez Wallach

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Some secrets are best kept hidden…

Anastasia Phoenix has always been the odd girl out, whether moving from city to international city with her scientist parents or being the black belt who speaks four languages.

And most definitely as the orphan whose sister is missing, presumed dead.

She’s the only one who believes Keira is still alive, and when new evidence surfaces, Anastasia sets out to follow the trail—and lands in the middle of a massive conspiracy. Now she isn’t sure who she can trust. At her side is Marcus, the bad boy with a sexy accent who’s as secretive as she is. He may have followed her to Rome to help, but something about him seems too good to be true.

Nothing is as it appears, and when everything she’s ever known is revealed to be a lie, Anastasia has to believe in one impossibility.

She will find her sister.

review

4/5 Stars 

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

Proof of Lies is what’s missing in YA and exactly what I’ve been searching for. An adrenaline rush of mystery and danger, an intriguing and twisty plot, and characters that keep you invested, Proof of Lies is at the top of my 2017 reads. 

PROS:

  • The mystery is epic. It sucks you in and keeps you invested. I was dying to know what happened to Keira. The clues are all there and they’re tricky. Anastasia is basically sifting through trash to find gold and ends up lucking out. She follows the barest of clues and with the help of some tech savvy friends the mystery gets progressively more engaging. 
  • Twists. This story is like a narrow, winding road up Mount Everest. Complete with all the twists, deadly turns, near misses, and heart-pounding risks that are so unexpected. Usually I can guess what’s going to happen in the first few pages, Diana Rodriguez Wallach did a fantastic job at every turn…well except for one that was fairly obvious. I was super impressed. 
  • Anastasia isn’t perfect. She’s delightfully flawed. She realizes that she’s been an ungrateful brat and pretty terrible to her sister and endeavors to change. She recognizes her flaws and actively works to be better. I loved that about her. Plus, she’s trained in self-defense and martial arts, speaks multiple languages, and dives head first into danger. She’s a risk taker and she realizes that the choices she makes are totally stupid and owns up to it. I hate when characters know that they’re making bad decisions and are just like woops, yeah, no. Anastasia has a strong voice, she’s likable and so devoted to her mission that you can’t help but respect her drive. 
  • The romance. The few scenes that took place in high school setting were cute and memorable. Some were laugh out loud, others made me angry. The sheer racist b.s. that some kids go through. Sigh. But Anastasia is a true hero in those moments and Marcus is made of swoon. He’s got a bad boy look but is fiercely loyal, lovable, and complex. He is the arms that Anastasia needs to hold her up and the shoulder she can cry on. What’s best is that he lets her make her own decisions. He doesn’t prevent her from making choices. He knows she’s going to do crazy stuff and he’s like, I’ll back you up. ❤ I mean, who doesn’t adore a guy like that? And those makeout scenes are FIRE. 

CONS:

  • My biggest issue was the mourning section. I was having flashbacks to New Moon when it’s just a page with a month on it and nothing happens. That totally destroyed the pacing, but thankfully, once Anastasia was invested in sleuthing again it picked up quickly. 
  • There were some issues with secondary characters. They played key roles and yet felt like throwaways. I needed more personality, more interaction-just more to actually care about them. The subplot with Julian and Sofia was compelling, but didn’t fit into the story as well as it could have, it felt random, but definitely key. Towards the end, parts with Julian and Charlotte were rushed and more telling than showing. There, but not really. More for function than anything else. 

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

Thrilling reading, 

Jordan

Cover Reveal: Forever by Monica Murphy

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She’s all I could ever want…

I have a reputation around school. Cold. Untouchable. Unfeeling. Only one girl could ever make me want to change and that’s Amanda Winters. Too bad I broke her heart and drove her away.

So to get through the rest of my days in high school, I tell myself I need to focus on more important things. Like taking our football team to championships. Get accepted to the college of my choice. And finish my senior year without wanting to run away from my problems.

But your problems chase after you no matter where you go. And it’s a lot harder when you fight them alone. The longer I go without Amanda, the more I miss her. Her smile. Her laughter. The things she said. How she looked at me like I was the only person who mattered. The way she made me feel…

Why can’t I have everything, including the girl? I’m determined to make things right. And make Amanda mine…

Forever.

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Monica Murphy is the New York Times, USA Today and #1 international bestselling author of the One Week Girlfriend series, the Billionaire Bachelors and The Rules series. Her books have been translated in almost a dozen languages and has sold over one million copies worldwide. She is both self-published and published by Random House/Bantam and Harper Collins/Avon. She writes new adult, young adult and contemporary romance.

She is a wife and a mother of three who lives in central California on fourteen acres in the middle of nowhere along with their one dog and too many cats. A self-confessed workaholic, when she’s not writing, she’s reading or hanging out with her husband and kids. She’s a firm believer in happy endings, though she will admit to putting her characters through angst-filled moments before they finally get that hard won HEA.

Sexy reading, 

Jordan

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

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.
author
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?

review

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