ARC Review: Bang by Barry Lyga

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One shot ruined his life. Another one could end it.

Sebastian Cody did something horrible, something no one—not even Sebastian himself—can forgive. At the age of four, he accidentally shot and killed his infant sister with his father’s gun.

Now, ten years later, Sebastian has lived with the guilt and horror for his entire life. With his best friend away for the summer, Sebastian has only a new friend—Aneesa—to distract him from his darkest thoughts. But even this relationship cannot blunt the pain of his past. Because Sebastian knows exactly how to rectify his childhood crime and sanctify his past.

It took a gun to get him into this.

Now he needs a gun to get out.

review

3.5/5 Stars

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

+++Triggers for suicidal thoughts, gun violence, infant death

THINGS I LOVED:

  • The vocabulary. The English major in me was internally happy dancing for joy. Honestly, if I could get away with it, I would totally use this to teach SAT vocabulary. It’s awesome. And oddly enough, it works for the main character. He’s quirky and collects antiquated tech like no one’s business, so embracing elevated vocabulary suits his complex personality. 
  • The conflicted, debilitating slew of guilt, depression, and uncertainty weighs on Sebastian heavy enough to rival Atlas. The emotions are poignant, gut-wrenching, and you kind of just want to hug him and tell him it’s not his fault. It’s impossible to escape your past in a small town and to be blamed and ostracized for something you did as a toddler? It’s completely unfair, dangerous, and totally happens. Even if you break this story down to bare bones foundation, living with the catastrophe results of a mistake can be too much, too haunting, and crush you from the inside  out. Bang explores these heavy ideas in a way that’s relatable and so incredibly honest.
  • The mystery. Throughout the book, there is so much leading that you’re basically being tugged along on this train of thought. You know that Sebastian plans on doing something terrible, ending it all with a gun in a perfect circle of how his life metaphorically ended as a toddler. But there’s a twist. I did not see it coming. There’s just enough to keep you hanging on, desperate to know how it ends. 

THINGS I’M TORN OVER:

  • Aneesa. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVED Aneesa and the fact that she calls people out on their stereotypes, is honest about her fears, and is 100% a proud Muslim young lady. I adored how vocal she was about misconceptions about Islam, how she called out the haters, and truly loved who she is as a person. That sort of confidence and openness is inspiring. In some ways, I did like that Aneesa, having her as a friend, was helping Sebastian deal with his suicidal thoughts; I didn’t like that she was the ONLY thing. Sebastian’s so-called male best friend was a fleeting character that had little to no presence and everything was on Aneesa-not that she knew Sebastian was suicidal. Aneesa isn’t really that interesting. Despite the fact that she’s nice and opinionated, she’s pretty bland, at least for me. There weren’t any particularly memorable lines or scenes that made me say, Aneesa is a character that will stick with me for a while.
  • The focus. This book is all over the place. While it does do a fairly good job of getting back to Sebastian’s thoughts when he’s going to bed at night and thinking about his life, the book turns into pizza after pizza for ages as he builds his YouTube channel and it felt like so much of that could be cut because it slowed the pacing and made me want to close the book.
  • Nowhere near enough confrontation with his parents. They don’t talk about it. They ignore everything and have for years. No wonder Sebastian is flooded with emotions that he doesn’t know how to express or positive ways to deal with his overwhelming sense of guilt and failure. The two big scenes that do happen were…explosive. I felt rage. So much rage.

Sorry for the hiatus everyone! I’ll be back and bringing you many more reviews in the future. My Goodreads challenge is abysmal right now 😦

Jordan

 

ARC Review: Bad Blood by Demitria Lunetta

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A girl discovers a family secret and a past full of magic that could both save her and put her in mortal danger in this suspenseful novel that’s perfect for fans of Katie Alender and Natasha Preston.

All sixteen-year-old Heather MacNair wants is to feel normal, to shed the intense paranoia she’s worn all year like a scratchy sweater. After her compulsion to self-harm came to light, Heather was kept under her doctor’s watchful eye. Her family thinks she’s better—and there’s nothing she wants more than for that to be true. She still can’t believe she’s allowed to spend her summer vacation as she always does: at her aunt’s home in Scotland, where she has lots of happy memories. Far away from all her problems save one: she can’t stop carving the Celtic knot that haunts her dreams into her skin.

Good friends and boys with Scottish accents can cure almost anything…except nightmares. Heather can’t stop dreaming about two sisters from centuries ago, twins Prudence and Primrose, who somehow seem tied to her own life. Their presence lurks just beneath the surface of her consciousness, sending ripples through what should be a peaceful summer. The twins might hold the key to putting Heather’s soul at rest…or they could slice her future deeper than any knife.

review3/5 Stars

***I recieved this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Delacorte Press

+++Contains what may be considered triggers for graphic self-mutilation/cutting 

It’s taken me a while to write this review because I still tilt my head and squint at this book. It’s not at all what I expected. It feels like a bunch of ideas mashed up together and flattened to make a solid picture, but really it’s a Monet close up. Good grief, I’m rambling. Simply, a whole slew of story arcs and ideas are strewn together and they don’t quite fit. It feels messy and random. I honestly have no idea how it went from something so serious and heartbreaking like self-mutilation/harm to compulsive blood magic but alright. I’m perplexed. Not to say that this wasn’t an enjoyable read. It absolutely was. 

The book begins with Heather, who is recovering after being committed for cutting. She is granted permission to go on her annual summer trip to Scotland and the majority of the story takes place there. What I liked about Heather’s story and this book in general, was the descriptive and emotionally compelling exploration of what Heather feels when she gets the urge to cut. Her struggle to understand why she harms herself, her fear, her shame, and her desperation to hide it from even her closest friends. Getting into her head space was enlightening and helped to understand the many motivations and reasoning behind self-harm. 

What threw me for a loop was the dreams/visions. There’s this ghostly, haunting vibe which is pretty cool and carries throughout. But if you’re like me, you’ll spend the entire book trying to figure out what this has to do with anything. And then the witchcraft happens. I just…I feel like the author couldn’t decide on what she wanted this book to be. Or maybe this was the plan all along, it’s not as seamless as it could be, it’s jumbled and flips from one thing to another. Then throw romance in there. 

To say some scenes are jarring would be an understatement. Sometimes they’re downright insane. Like out of your mind, how could you ever think that was a good idea, crazy. You might feel the urge to scream at the book or avert your eyes. Plus, vague-booking here, but NO THAT IS NO WAY EVER FORGIVABLE. Not even remotely.

The romance is dreamy. In some ways, I feel like had this book been about Heather’s self-harm and the romance, or just one or the other, it would have been more engaging. Heather and Robby are playful and flirty. They’re discovering attraction when before they only saw each other as friends. It’s sweet and Robby makes the cutest little songs on the spot. He’s seriously adorable. And the kilt. 

Primrose and Prudence’s story, when you get to it, it awesome. It’s full of revenge, jealously, heartbreak, and the worst betrayals. I wish there had been more of that. 

Overall, this was an interesting read.

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

Haunting reading, 

Jordan

ARC Review: Missing by Kelley Armstrong

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The only thing Winter Crane likes about Reeve’s End is that soon she’ll leave it. Like her best friend did. Like her sister did. Like most of the teens born in town have done. There’s nothing for them there but abandoned mines and empty futures. They’re better off taking a chance elsewhere.

The only thing Winter will miss is the woods. Her only refuge. At least it was. Until the day she found Lennon left for dead, bleeding in a tree.

But now Lennon is gone too. And he has Winter questioning what she once thought was true. What if nobody left at all? What if they’re all missing?

review4/5 Stars

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Crown Books for Young Readers

+++Potential triggers for animal abuse/mutilation, abduction, violence, suicide, and physical abuse

Creepy, chilling, and all sorts of sinister, Missing is the kind of mystery that hits hard because of just how possible the situation is. 

This mystery is a challenge. There are so many clues that lead you in several directions. The reader, just like Winter, doesn’t know who to trust and what’s more, there are hints that suggest Winter is not psychologically sound or an entirely reliable narrator. I loved that the possibilities were endless and kept me guessing throughout, up until the very end. 

There are some seriously nightmare-inducing scenes. Some material may be triggering for readers, especially when it comes to animal abuse/mutilation. The adrenaline is high. Every snap of a twig, every laugh in the dark, every moment that makes you doubt, it’s a rush that will leave you breathless with anticipation. I could not put it down. 

In Reeve’s End the poverty is so profound that people can’t afford food and hunting is a necessary means of survival for some. The story begins with the main character setting traps, hunting for her dinner, resting in her personal shack in the woods. As the world building picked up, it was a huge revelation. Reeve’s End is one sketchy and messed up place. The cops are a joke. They arrest people on whim, they dismiss actual tips, and are full of prejudice that prevents them from doing real police work. And the sexism. Wow. There are several pointed comments about a woman’s position in society, victim blaming, and intelligence as something snobby and indecent. Sometimes the rage was pretty strong and the frustration that no one would listen to Winter and Jude, it’s enough to put anyone on edge. 

Winter and Jude. Steamy. Profound. Beautiful. The way they confide in each other. They see beneath the surface and fronts they put on for outsiders and they’re so cautious. Winter recognizes Jude has deep resentment, issues, and has put up a wall because she has the same feelings within herself. Their relationship isn’t angsty or particularly sexual like a lot of YA lately, it builds and grows and is rooted in understanding and compassion. 

While there were tidbits and clues throughout, I don’t think there were enough of them. The ending is so twisted that there’s really no way to see it coming and there wasn’t enough given to the reader to make a guess until a chapter or two before the reveal. 

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

Keep reading, 

Jordan

Release Week Blitz & Excerpt: Other Breakable Things by Kelley York & Rowan Altwood

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.ca | Entangled Publishing | Goodreads

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According to Japanese legend, folding a thousand paper cranes will grant you healing.

Evelyn Abel will fold two thousand if it will bring Luc back to her.

Luc Argent has always been intimately acquainted with death. After a car crash got him a second chance at life—via someone else’s transplanted heart—he tried to embrace it. He truly did. But he always knew death could be right around the corner again.

And now it is.

Sick of hospitals and tired of transplants, Luc is ready to let his failing heart give out, ready to give up. A road trip to Oregon—where death with dignity is legal—is his answer. But along for the ride is his best friend, Evelyn.

And she’s not giving up so easily.

A thousand miles, a handful of roadside attractions, and one life-altering kiss later, Evelyn’s fallen, and Luc’s heart is full. But is it enough to save him? Evelyn’s betting her heart, her life, that it can be.

Right down to the thousandth paper crane.

Excerpt

Nembutal isn’t a name I recognize. One of Luc’s medications? Something he wanted to try that he couldn’t get here? He didn’t tell me anything about it. I Google the name and get an array of results: Nembutal (pentobarbital), sedative and anticonvulsant. Used to treat tension, anxiety, nervousness, and epilepsy. Pentobarbital may induce death in high dosages and is used for euthanasia in both humans and animals.

My legs nearly give out.

The night Luc went to the hospital, I saw webpages open on his phone on euthanasia in Oregon. It hadn’t seemed right, and I hadn’t been able to wrap my head around it at the time, and so I’d shrugged it off and never even broached the subject with Luc. He could have been looking it up for any number of reasons. Curiosity brought about by temporary desperation.

This, though? This is a step further. This makes me feel cold all over.

The bathroom door swings open and Luc steps out. I hadn’t even heard the shower turn off. He’s dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, towel around his shoulders, and he

pauses when he sees me. “Evelyn?”

I could ignore it. I’m overreacting. I have to be…right? Yet I find myself turning to stare at him, holding up the business card and trying to keep my voice level. “What’s this?”

There’s a hitch in Luc’s step as he crosses the room to take it from me, and he won’t meet my eyes. “Just something someone gave me the other day. I don’t know.”

Any hope I had that this was some dumb misunderstanding is quickly fading. “Don’t lie to me.”

“It’s nothing,” Luc insists, pushing a hand back through his wet hair and turning away. “Just…don’t. I don’t want to—it’s not…”

“It’s not what? Not what I think it is?” My voice cracks near the end, and Luc goes still, as though he knows this entire conversation is about to hit the roof. I snatch my phone back up and read to him aloud: “Pentobarbital is contained in a group of drugs called barbiturates.”

“Evelyn…”

“Used to treat insomnia and seizures—”

“Evelyn.”

“—and for human euthanasia. Death in a bottle.” I lower the screen and stare at him, fighting back the overwhelming flood of tears threatening to reduce me to a complete mess. “Is that not what I think it is?”

Slowly, Luc turns to me, his expression one of guilt and grief and frustration. “I’m dying. You know that.”

I twist my fingers around my phone so tightly it hurts.“We’re all dying, Luc.”

“Some of us faster than others.”

auth

Kelley York and Rowan Altwood are a wife and wife writing team living in central California with their daughter and way too many cats. Kelley is the author of Hushed, Made of Stars, and Modern Monsters, and Other Breakable Things is Rowan’s debut.

Website | Kelley York Twitter | Rowan Altwood Twitter | Author | Kelley York Goodreads | Rowan Altwood Goodreads

Happy reading, 

Jordan

 

ARC Review: The Careful Undressing of Love by Corey Ann Haydu

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Everyone who really knows Brooklyn knows Devonairre Street girls are different. They’re the ones you shouldn’t fall in love with. The ones with the curse. The ones who can get you killed.

Lorna Ryder is a Devonairre Street girl, and for years, paying lip service to the curse has been the small price of living in a neighborhood full of memories of her father, one of the thousands killed five years earlier in the 2001 Times Square Bombing. Then her best friend’s boyfriend is killed, and suddenly a city paralyzed by dread of another terrorist attack is obsessed with Devonairre Street and the price of falling in love.

Set in an America where recent history has followed a different path.

review3/5 Stars 

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

+++This book does contain mature situations that may not be appropriate for younger teens

PROS:

  • Some parts are gloriously awkward in the way that only first love can be. Others are a question, a struggle to define, and a learning process of how to understand and share intimacy in the many ways it presents itself. There are all aspects of love in this book and often it evolves, transforms, and rebuilds after loss, tragedy, and heartache. Sometimes the love you thought you wanted is nothing like you imagined. Sometimes love has a time and place and no matter how hard you fight for it, it’s a losing battle. Cringe-worthy, provocative, and eye-opening. 
  • Sex positivity. Girls that are comfortable with their bodies, their passion, and willingness to express themselves sexually. Sure, there’s judgment from others but this expression of love is seen as natural and necessary.
  • There are a number of beautifully lyrical and blunt truths that feel like revelation. Perceptions on love and what it means to be in love, to be loved, and to give love shift within the story and as the main character goes through each phase, we experience it right along with her. The confusion, the hurt, the yearning is all there in full force. This is also an ode to loss and the many ways we deal with the empty after. 
  • The premise itself is interesting, though I would hesitate to call it magical realism like many other readers and reviewers have. There’s enough belief in the curse to influence every aspect of the people’s lives who live on this street. That strength in belief is its own form of magic and carries incredible power. It’s quirky, it’s weird, and a little unsettling. The lemons, the windows being left open, it was all fairly ritualistic and earthy. In my Goodreads status updates I tried to encompass the feeling of this book through comparatives: 
    February 17, 2017 – page 75

     

    26.04% “Still undecided. It kind of reminds me of The Graces meets Tell Me Something Real and then there’s little Practical Magic meets The Sun Also Rises. If you think that sounds interesting, check it out. Still not sold though.”

     
    February 17, 2017 – page 25

     

    8.68% “So far I don’t know how to feel about this book. It feel like it’s set in the 70s or 80s, it’s super literary, and thoughtful. While there are things in here that suggest alternate history and local mythology, I’m not sure I want to read more.”

CONS:

  • The pacing. For a story so interesting and poignant, it’s one of the slowest I’ve ever read. And insanely short. For so much story it felt unfinished. It lacked development that could have made the ideas and atmosphere stronger.
  • I didn’t really care for any of the characters. While there were unique and I appreciated what they were going through, I struggled to leave my post of indifference. I pushed my way through the story hoping to feel for the characters, but my heart was with the words, the ideas, not the individuals living it. 
  • The ending. So much happens in those last few pages and it’s certainly jarring but left things feeling unresolved and random. It didn’t add up. It felt rushed, incomplete, and did not fit with the rest of the book. 

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

Read on, 

Jordan

 

Release Day Blitz & Giveaway: Lessons In Falling by Diana Gallagher

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When Savannah Gregory blows out her knee – and her shot at a gymnastics scholarship – she decides she’s done with the sport forever. Without gymnastics, she has more time for her best friend, Cassie. She’s content to let her fun, impulsive best friend plan a memorable senior year. 

 

That is, until Cassie tries to kill herself.

 

Savannah wants to understand what happened, but Cassie refuses to talk about it and for the first time, Savannah has to find her own way. The only person she can turn to is Marcos, the boy who saved Cassie’s life. Being with him makes her see who she could be and what she really wants: gymnastics. 

 

But Cassie doesn’t approve of Marcos or of Savannah going back to gymnastics, and the tighter she tries to hold on to Savannah, the farther it pulls them apart. Without Cassie to call the shots, Savannah discovers how capable she is on her own – and that maybe her best friend’s been holding her back all along.
trailer


author

Website | Twitter | Goodreads


Though Diana Gallagher be but little, she is fierce. She’s also a gymnastics coach and judge, former collegiate gymnast, and writing professor. Her work has appeared in The Southampton Review, International Gymnast, The Couch Gymnast, and on a candy cigarette box for SmokeLong Quarterly. She holds an MFA from Stony Brook University and is represented by Tina Wexler of ICM Partners. Her contemporary YA novel, Lessons in Falling, lands on 2/7/2017.

giveaway

(1) Winner will receive an annotated copy of Lessons in Falling by Diana Gallagher (US only) Follow these rules to enter!
 

“Want to share your own Lessons Learned?? It’s easy! Tell us about a time in your life when you persevered, despite a bad situation, and what lessons you learned from that situation. Share it however you like – on your blog, your social media, wherever! Submit your link to the Rafflecopter during the blitz and share the giveaway with your friends to win an annotated ARC!

Ends on February 28th at Midnight EST!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Insightful reading, 

Jordan

ARC Review: Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall

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Norah has agoraphobia and OCD. When groceries are left on the porch, she can’t step out to get them. Struggling to snag the bags with a stick, she meets Luke. He’s sweet and funny, and he just caught her fishing for groceries. Because of course he did.

Norah can’t leave the house, but can she let someone in? As their friendship grows deeper, Norah realizes Luke deserves a normal girl. One who can lie on the front lawn and look up at the stars. One who isn’t so screwed up.

review

3.5/5 Stars

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

This book. I’m still reeling. What a whirlwind. Norah suffers from a heavy and debilitating combination of agoraphobia and OCD, that effectively makes her housebound. Her mind runs a mile a minute with scenarios that rival 1,000 Ways to Die. Things that the average person would never think of, statistics, all merge into a fatalistic and fearful main character. 

Where do I even begin? The author and the main character share their mental illnesses so the writer is painting her experience vividly and with authority. You can feel it in every thought, every action, the way Norah’s mind expands and she closes in on herself. It’s heartbreaking, terrifying, and absolutely puts you in the character’s shoes. Every fear, every anxiety is magnified and coupled with her OCD quirks that won’t allow her to step outside of her comfort zone and there’s no telling what will set off her spiral into fear and depression. Norah tries hard to control everything to alleviate her fears and when she can’t, she turns to self harm. Those moments are especially poignant. Many times her self-loathing, frustration, and anger with her illness pours off the page. She hates that she can’t be normal. At first Norah is hard to sympathize with because her OCD and agoraphobia is so pronounced. As someone who doesn’t suffer from these illnesses, you’ll think, why can’t she just get over? What’s the big deal? You might even get a little annoyed. But as the story progresses, you get it. 100%. You understand that Norah has no choice, that she struggles and fights and her mind overwhelms her. And it’s gut-wrenching what she goes through, how every little action consumes her and forces her to act a certain way despite what her heart years for. I mean, wow. 

The story is basically Norah opening herself up to new experiences, facing her insecurities through baby steps, and learning to hope for a future where she won’t be limited, where she will have the freedom to embrace her dreams of travel and dating like a “normal” girl. Under Rose-Tainted Skies straddles a fine line and where I think it might face some critique fire is in terms of romanticizing mental illness. Many times, a guy or girl will come in and suddenly they’re the miraculous cure, and IMO if love can help, I’m all for it, but lately readers have objected to that sort of cure-all at the site of a hot guy. Luke, to me, is a spark that ignites her, he lights her up and makes her dream again-he’s a catalyst not a savior. Norah still makes choices, heck yes she has a huge crush because the guy is smoking hot, awkward, and so understanding, but he by no means swoops in and saves her, she fights and makes choices and slowly copes-she’s not cured because that’s totally unrealistic. This is a real, gritty picture of mental illness and how it wreaks havoc on every aspect of the individual’s life. 

What I felt the story was missing was more encounters with Norah’s mother, and her therapist. They both are strong women that have a huge presence in Norah’s life and while you get that impression and there are short scenes, I would have loved to see more of the cute interactions with Norah and her mom, and maybe a bit more on what Norah was like before her accident. 

The pacing was so-so, but fit for contemporary. There’s definitely a build up in feelings, curiosity, and yearning. The twist near the end was unexpected, but worked well. 

Luke and Norah together are made of awkward and silly and smiles and sometimes walking on eggshells, but it’s worth it just to see Norah overcome and work through her illness. They’re so cute together and so weird. Totally endearing and it’s really refreshing that all the instalust and love that have been permeating YA lately is not present. 

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

Insightful reading,

Jordan