ARC Review: Violet Grenade by Victoria Scott

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DOMINO: A girl with blue hair and a demon in her mind.

CAIN: A stone giant on the brink of exploding.

MADAM KARINA: A woman who demands obedience.

WILSON: The one who will destroy them all.

When Madam Karina discovers Domino in an alleyway, she offers her a position inside her home for entertainers in secluded West Texas. Left with few alternatives and an agenda of her own, Domino accepts. It isn’t long before she is fighting her way up the ranks to gain the madam’s approval. But after suffering weeks of bullying and unearthing the madam’s secrets, Domino decides to leave. It’ll be harder than she thinks, though, because the madam doesn’t like to lose inventory. But then, Madam Karina doesn’t know about the person living inside Domino’s mind. Madam Karina doesn’t know about Wilson.

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3.5/5 Stars

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

+++Some scenes might be triggers for assault and/or violence

Violet Grenade is unexpected. It’s dark and twisted, sinister and honest and raw. There’s so much going on in here, so much pain and torment, so much that is unfair. 

THINGS I LIKED:

  • Domino believes she’s a monster. She has a past that will make your skin crawl and you’ll feel more than a little sick to your stomach when the truth comes out. There’s just enough to keep you on edge. Throughout the book, there are hints, little flashes of information that are gripping, blunt, and brutal. The need to know becomes a compulsion. I HAD TO KNOW. The scars on her arms, why Wilson manifested, the foreboding and constant allusions to an ugly and unforgivable past. Victoria Scott is an expert at building anticipation. It gets under your skin. 
  • A different portrayal of trafficking and extortion. Many times we think of trafficking as young girls or boys being abducted and forced into servitude/usually sexual in nature. What doesn’t get talked about enough is how people of specific walks of life are targeted and manipulated, they’re sold on an idea of a better life and before they know it, they can’t escape. Domino, like many of the other flowers, was homeless. She was vulnerable and a target. It’s not hard to persuade someone who rarely has a roof over their head or food to eat to go with someone at the prospect of safety, making money, a home, or even love. Madam Karina is the worst kind of villain because she’s real. She’s walking the streets right now. Her, and others like her, are predators. While Madam Karina has her own demons that make her the psychologically messed up person she is, she’s smart, she’s vindictive, and calculated. She makes these decisions, she knows what she’s doing, and that is inexcusable. 
  • The romance. Domino and Cain are beautifully broken but complete each other. They both had monstrous demons like guilt and fear that eat away at their souls, but inside, they’re good people who want nothing more than to be loved. Their romance is a slow-building realization. It’s imperfect and complicated. It’s right for them. 

THINGS I DISLIKED:

  • The pacing. This book felt a good hundred pages longer than it actually was because of how slow it read. It took time to really get into. The introduction to Domino and her life on the streets was intriguing, but kind of dull. The only things that save this section are the potential love interest with Dizzy and the hints at her past, that this horrible life is so much better than the one she escaped from. Then the shift happens. After Domino enters Madam Karina’s household, despite all of Domino’s plans, ambitions, and woes, it drags. Not much is going on. Each shift to the next flower level felt pretty much the same despite different dynamics and different girls. 
  • The lack of back story. Here’s the thing: the back story is there, sure. You get bare bones glimpses of what Domino’s life was like as a child and sure, it’s understandable because Wilson has blocked those memories from her so that she can live her life without constantly being haunted by the guilt and gore. That’s fine. When things are revealed about the seriously twisted and disgusting actions that Domino was coerced into doing, I mean, wow. MESSED UP. However, why her mother went off the handle, what her relationship was like with her mother that made the manipulation work so well, any moments with her father…it’s missing. There’s like this gaping black hole of stuff that the reader can fill in or guess about but it’s not enough to 100% embrace the emotions Domino felt towards her mother or even the anger. She blames herself, but what about her mother? What happened? There are so many unanswered questions. 

THINGS I’M TORN OVER:

  • How dissociative identity disorder was presented. Domino’s other identity-Wilson-is the result of PTSD and a coping mechanism for all of the horrific (truly, messed up scary stuff) she was forced to participate in as a child. Wilson is a protector, he’s loving and defensive, and flips out, goes off the handle and is way prone to violence. Domino is scared of him. She tries to keep him under lock and key because when he comes out, bad things happen and sometimes he takes total control. At the same time, Wilson is a friend. He’s been there for her, he never leaves like everyone else has in her life, and at the end, there’s a bittersweet moment that really makes you feel torn about Wilson. Ultimately for me, despite the insane and sadistic choices he makes, he’s a sort of savior for Domino that helps her realize that she is enough, that she can get through anything on her own. I wasn’t necessarily happy with this relationship between the two, but I didn’t hate it either. Wilson grows on you. And when he takes over, well, it’s definitely memorable and a little sickening. 

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

Keep reading, 

Jordan

Book Trailer Reveal: Till Death by Jennifer L. Armentrout

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Release Date: Feb 28, 2017

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In New York Times bestselling author Jennifer L. Armentrout’s gripping new novel, a young woman comes home to reclaim her life—even as a murderer plots to end it. . .

It’s been ten years since Sasha Keaton left her West Virginia hometown . . . since she escaped the twisted serial killer known as the Groom. Returning to help run her family inn means being whole again, except for one missing piece. The piece that falls into place when Sasha’s threatened—and FBI agent Cole Landis vows to protect her the way he couldn’t a decade ago.

First one woman disappears; then another, and all the while, disturbing calling cards are left for the sole survivor of the Groom’s reign of terror. Cole’s never forgiven himself for not being there when Sasha was taken, but he intends to make up for it now . . . because under the quirky sexiness Cole first fell for is a steely strength that only makes him love Sasha more.

But someone is watching. Waiting. And Sasha’s first mistake could be her last.

trailer

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Reviews: X-Files Origins-The Devil’s Advocate by Jonathan Maberry & Agent of Chaos by Kami Garcia

Let me preface these reviews by saying that there was no way, no way at all that I was skipping these books. No matter how apprehensive I was, no matter whether or not I was already a fan of the authors, or if I raised my eyebrow real high at Garcia writing Mulder and Maberry writing Scully, because THIS IS THE X-FILES. I’ll admit, these books were hard to review because the nostalgia and fandom is so strong…this is probably my strongest fandom connection because MULDER + SCULLY for LIFE. I mean, the characters…I digress. That being said, I tried to look at these more for the story and less from what I expected Scully and Mulder to be like as teens. There has been a ton of negative commentary-parts that fans say the authors are reaching and make zero sense. As an avid X-Files fan, I can see that, but these interpretations are not entirely off base…especially when it comes to Scully. It’s difficult when the character presence is so strong as adults, you come to expect very specific details about their lives as teens, what you assume they were like and why they became who they did. It’s hard to shake those preconceived ideas off, and those who are totally stuck in that place might be disappointed by what they find. If you’re a fan, you absolutely should read these and put them on your shelf next to your Mulder and Scully Funko Pops. I know I will. 

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How did Fox Mulder become a believer? How did Dana Scully become a skeptic? The X-Files Origins has the answers in this young adult origin story.

The X-Files Origins: Devil’s Advocate will explore the teen years of Dana Scully, the beloved character depicted in the cult-favorite TV show The X-Files. Her story is set in the spring of 1979, when serial murder, the occult, and government conspiracy were highlighted in the news.

The book will follow Scully as she experiences life-changing events that set her on the path to becoming an FBI agent.

review

3/5 Stars 

Scully, Scully, Scully. I was so disappointed in her character, but maybe not for the reasons you’d think. A lot of the criticism this book has faced from readers is because of Scully’s sixth sense. Which, if you’re looking at the Scully in the future, you’re probably thinking that Scully worships at the altar of science and this is ridiculous. But if you’ve experienced all of the lovely X-Files series, you’ll recall that Scully had more than one incident where she sees ghosts and has premonition-style visions, so it’s not that far off base and one of her biggest character conflicts has always been her faith and the paranormal. Mulder directly calls her out on the fact that she can so willingly believe in God, but something like aliens is too out there. It’s in her story arc.

Mini rant aside, Scully here is super young. She has no experience with boys, crushes, any responsiblity really. While she’s smart and reclusive, her forays into mysticism are more meditative than anything. Scully here looks up to her older sister. She’s a tag along that just goes wherever her sister takes her. THAT is what bothered me. That headstrong, take charge girl, the one who thinks, who studies, who calculates before coming to conclusions-that girl was absent (or barely visible). So many times Scully just hops right into danger and makes BOLD leaps, piecing things together without second guessing. That is NOT the Scully we know. It’s hard to talk about Scully in her youth without comparing her to who she is in the future. Here Scully isn’t really likable, she’s more wishy-washy and doesn’t have the strongest voice. This would have been okay, because she’s so young and naive, but she doesn’t really learn. Sure she feels remorse for her actions, but I didn’t see much growth. 

The plot is definitely an X-File, not your typical murder-mystery. There’s a sinister, supernatural element that is perplexing, confusing, and all sorts of crazy. It will keep you on your toes and uncertain of what will happen. It’s a chaotic mess, but the kind that pushes you to seek answers and wonder what the endgame is. Plus the idea itself-the whole premise for the villain is insanely clever and wickedly evil. There’s so much more than meets the eye. 

Pacing was so-so, but picks up a lot towards the end.

Scully’s love interest. I liked him. He seemed like a good fit. Smart, resourceful, protective, but also stubborn. Their interactions were awkward and bashful. So cute. There’s no intense attraction like is common in a lot of YA right now. It’s more uncertainty, confusion, and sudden feelings. Curiosity. I appreciated the change of pace. 

The killer and the government agents.YES. They are done so well. You see the corruption, the fear, the manipulation. They were some of my favorite people in the book. They were complex and vicious and the darkness!!! ❤

agent-of-chaosGoodreads/Amazon/B&N/iBooks

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The X-Files Origins: Agent of Chaos explores the teen years of Fox Mulder, the beloved character depicted in the cult-favorite TV show The X-Files. His story is set in the spring of 1979, when serial murder, the occult, and government conspiracy were highlighted in the news.

The book will follow Mulder as he experiences life-changing events that set him on the path to becoming an FBI agent.

review

4/5 Stars 

I feel bizarre saying this but Mulder is pretty freaking hot. He’s awkward and nerdy and has no idea what he’s doing with his life. He’s kind of just going with it until he’s hit with this murder that he feels is connected to his sister’s disappearance and the obsession is born. There’s this blend of angst and intelligence. Of yearning after his pretty, Star Wars obsessed best friend, trying to connect with his father, the disappointment that comes with that neglect, and learning what he’s passionate about. This is truly the birth of his interest in catching killers and paranormal. It felt right. It made sense. I LOVE him. 

Secondary characters. You guys, every character is so alive. They’re developed, intriguing, totally compelling. You want to know them. I adored Phoebe. She’s witty, intelligent, gorgeous, she doesn’t care what anyone thinks about her, calls people out on their fears, and is just an all around awesome character. And she’s totally nerdy. She reads textbooks, knows complex mathematics, physics, etc. She’s one fierce girl who somehow feels relatable. Gimble. Yes. Just yes. He’s interesting, a total dork, and a basic ode to the time period. I loved his lines and enthusiasm. He’s the perfect sidekick. Gimble’s father!!! It’s weird, but I became so invested in Gimble’s father’s conspiracy theories and the way his mind worked. Fascinating. You can see where Mulder got his methods from. I got a nostalgic, this feels so familiar vibe. The government agents. Some of their scenes were full of acerbic wit and heavy sarcasm. 

The scenes of the crimes were intricate, graphic without going too dark, and left enough mystery to keep me guessing and trying to fill in the blanks. Towards the end, the suspense was high. I was on edge and sickened. 

My biggest issue with the book was not Garcia’s portrayal of Mulder, but the way the mystery fit together. There were too many pieces that slid into place in a sort of what are the odds way. It was too simple. Too coincidental and we all know there are no  coincidences. 

While I wasn’t a fan of the romantic elements, they were more of a shrug to me, I was glad that Mulder had someone to nurture and encourage him. Phoebe being there for him is what mattered, the romance was secondary, despite Mulder’s frisky teenaged hormones. 

Enjoy your trip down memory lane, 

Jordan

ARC Review: The Masked Maiden by H.D. Gordon

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HERO OR VILLAIN? YOU DECIDE.

When she decided to become a vigilante, no one told 17-year-old Aria Fae about the possibility of public backlash, or the attention the media would garner by dubbing her The Masked Maiden of Grant City.

On top of this added heat, a rogue supernatural known as The Scarecrow has escaped his prison, and his history with Aria makes her the crazed warlock’s obvious target.

Now, she must face her past and defeat The Scarecrow once and for all, or die trying.
When things reach their worst, will The Masked Maiden be the hero Grant City needs, or the villain they’ve made her out to be?

review

4/5 Stars

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

I was hesitant to pick this book up because I wasn’t completely sold on the first book in the series. So I put it off for a while and rediscovered it in the process of catching up on back reviews. I’m absolutely floored. I really don’t know where to start because this is such a drastic change from book 1. I am now 100%, completely, and totally invested in this series. 

Aria Fae has always been a badass, but she’s grown so much as the story progressed, not only in maturity, but in heart and understanding. Aria’s past is highlighted. There are flashbacks and agony over her horrible childhood. The cruel way the Brokers rob the Halflings from their homes and the tasks they put them through are truly horrific. Aria as a child is just as feisty as she is now and outspoken. She doesn’t take anything from anyone, she’s a fighter from the get-go. There are moments of fear, and uncertainty, and heartbreak as seen through her young eyes and the emotions are on full chaotic display. 

The story arc is fantastic. A perfect blend of teen angst, superheroes, and serial killers. The suspense is heart stopping, the dangers will keep you on edge. Serious adrenaline rush. There were many moments where I held my breath, hoping that Aria would get there in time or make it out alive. 

The scenes with the Scarecrow are straight out of your deepest fears and worst nightmares. From the way he talks to Aria, the grotesque form of his body, the blunt descriptions of his psychotic murders. Chills. These flashbacks are particularly disturbing and sickening. Every ounce of terror rolls off the pages. 

Romance. Forget triangles. This is definitely a love rhombus. And (un)fortunately they’re all perfect. Dreamy sigh. Aria has the best luck romantically, everything else not so much. The struggle is real. Choosing between a blast from the past childhood love, a super sweet and gentle millionaire heir, and an older ex-military protector, no wonder she’s so spastic and jumps at every opportunity to escape the awkward. The feels are strong. There are many cute, passionate scenes that are both romantic and gasp-out-loud sexy. The way they look at her, happy sigh, the way they make her feel. Break out your Keats poems and put on a romantic comedy post book to recover. 

Secondary characters are as lively as ever. Each has a unique and developed story. It’s not ALL about Aria. She’s there for her friends, she’s kind, she’s awesome and epic and better than before. Her humanity is coming out and it’s glorious. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

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

Epic reading, 

Jordan

Review: The Hollow Sun by D.L. Wainright

the hollow sunGoodreads/Amazon/B&N

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Lucy Kincade’s biggest concerns in life are her widowed mother, her college apps, and her grades…until she stumbles upon an insidious secret not meant for mortal eyes. When nightmares stalk the waking world and a cannibalistic serial killer is carving a path across America, Lucy and her friends decide to stand against the darkness. But with all the secrets, it’s not easy to know whom to trust.

review

3.5/5 Stars

***I received this book as a gift in exchange for an honest review via the author

PROS:

  • These are not your typical paranormal creatures despite the vampires. There’s an elaborate system of subspecies and distinct regional divisions. On top of that, there are mythical creatures I’ve never heard of before. Spanning the globe with references to cultural creatures rich in myth and diversity, the folklore is wicked cool. 
  • The creepy factor is alarmingly high in some scenes and almost like you’re looking in from the outside in others. Lucy’s dreams of the shadows are terrifying in the best way. You’ll feel that spine-tingling R.L. Stein vibe. Cue the scene with her brother about the shadows-OMG horrifying. 
  • Diversity galore. I love that these characters are unique and yet charmingly familiar. They’re the characters that don’t normally have voices. I LOVED that the author featured what could have been a clichéd, beautiful, popular girl as nerdy, LARPing, and nowhere near catty. We need more of that. We need more of all of these characters. Badass female characters reign in this story. They’re not afraid to get dirty and murderous when necessary. ❤
  • I adore Ren. He’s flirty, sexy, mysterious, occasionally brooding, and knows just how to get under Lucy’s skin. 

CONS:

  • You’re kind of punched in the face with all of the politics, the creatures, the ways they’re monitored, the sheer variety. It feels like a lot at one time, almost overwhelming. Lucy and co. jumped right on into the fold of policing wily paranormal creatures with hardly any hesitation and Lucy accepted their existence so quickly it was shocking and felt off. It’s like she shrugged it off. That and her mad axing skills. It felt borderline psychotic at points in the story. It made me skeptical of Lucy. 
  • Some twists weren’t exactly clear. Especially in terms of the serial killer. It took me a little to fully grasp what it meant. I think if it were a but more blatant, it would have helped the shock factor hit harder. The serial killer aspect got lost in the other complexities of the story. There is SO MUCH going on. The story pulls you in 10 directions at once. 
  • Lucy’s obsession with Kyle. I don’t get it. It makes zero sense and makes her seem foolish that she can’t see what a tool he is and how self-absorbed. For someone who really sees people and generally reads the situation and subtle clues really well, she’s oblivious to this. As a love interest, it put me off. The same with Venny. 

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

Keep reading, 

Jordan

ARC Review: The May Queen Murders by Sarah Jude

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Stay on the roads. Don’t enter the woods. Never go out at night.

Those are the rules in Rowan’s Glen, a remote farming community in the Missouri Ozarks where Ivy Templeton’s family has lived for centuries. It’s an old-fashioned way of life, full of superstition and traditions, and sixteen-year-old Ivy loves it. The other kids at school may think the Glen kids are weird, but Ivy doesn’t care—she has her cousin Heather as her best friend. The two girls share everything with each other—or so Ivy thinks. When Heather goes missing after a May Day celebration, Ivy discovers that both her best friend and her beloved hometown are as full of secrets as the woods that surround them.

review
3/5 Stars
***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & HMH Books for Young Readers
+++Some scenes are MATURE
           I was dying to read this book. It been on my TBR forever. So when I got the ARC, well… to say I was excited would be a major understatement. Unfortunately, the more I read, the less intrigued I felt. This is one of those sad perfect premise, poor execution stories for me. 
          The May Queen Murders has several awesome things going for it. The captivating and insanely interesting subcultures and interactions between the people who live in the trailer parks and the Glen people. There is so much detail that you feel the tensions and embrace the wonder that happens in the Ozarks. There’s a deep layer of superstition and prejudice. A dark foreboding and wonderful sense of deep-seeded belief. The stories of what brings bad luck, the herbs needs to bless the house, tying strings around the wrist for protection, it’s fascinating and draws you in. You’ll want to know more and engage in this magical world. Ivy is made of the Glen and these beliefs are a part of what makes her whole. Her convictions are so strong, it kind of pushes her further away from everyone. The history is pervasive and hypnotizing. 
          Ivy’s relationship with Heather is complex, but full of unwavering devotion and love. Ivy is on the threshold of maturity and Heather has hurdled forward without her. Ivy is childish, young, inexperienced, and their relationship shows that crippling fear and loss that best friends feel when one is moving at a faster pace, separating them, and they might just leave the other behind. Sometimes there’s no hope of catching up. Ivy is heartbroken and Heather is over Ivy’s clingy behavior. She follows her around like a duck. This was real and honest and a diverse depiction of friendship.
          The romance was weird and awkward. Parts were fairly graphic and mature. There’s not much development, it suddenly is. I honestly didn’t feel an ounce of chemistry between them. I felt more of flare up towards Milo and August than Rook. 
          Secondary characters were barely a blip in the story. There were MANY I wanted to know more about. Milo, and Violet’s sister. Her horrific bullying situation. That’s a story I would have liked to hear more about to get a full picture of the animosity within the area. 
          The pacing was slow. Like turtle’s pace slow. For the majority of the book, apart from the mini stories about the former May Queen murderer, NOTHING happened but angst and drama. It was hard to push through. About 75% of the way through, things got a little more interesting. After the first murder, it escalated to the creepy and sadistic in a blink. 
          Plot twist. I did not see that coming. It was convoluted and epic. You’ll have NO CLUE. It was like being splashed in the face with cold water, jolting. Parts near the end, the climax are gory and terrifying. The blood and sadism. Well, let’s just say nightmares are in your immediate future. 
If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Creepy reading, 

Jordan

ARC Review: The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas

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Release Date: April 19, 2016

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The Darkest Corners is a psychological thriller about the lies little girls tell, and the deadly truths those lies become.

There are ghosts around every corner in Fayette, Pennsylvania. Tessa left when she was nine and has been trying ever since not to think about it after what happened there that last summer. Memories of things so dark will burn themselves into your mind if you let them.

Callie never left. She moved to another house, so she doesn’t have to walk those same halls, but then Callie always was the stronger one. She can handle staring into the faces of her demons—and if she parties hard enough, maybe one day they’ll disappear for good.

Tessa and Callie have never talked about what they saw that night. After the trial, Callie drifted and Tessa moved, and childhood friends just have a way of losing touch.

But ever since she left, Tessa has had questions. Things have never quite added up. And now she has to go back to Fayette—to Wyatt Stokes, sitting on death row; to Lori Cawley, Callie’s dead cousin; and to the one other person who may be hiding the truth.

Only the closer Tessa gets to the truth, the closer she gets to a killer—and this time, it won’t be so easy to run away.

review3/5 Stars

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Random House Children’s Delacorte Press.

I wanted to love this story, but for the majority of the book, I was bored. Nothing really happened until the end of the book. The story was about a lie that might have put an innocent man in prison and caused two best friends to be torn apart. 

The main characters, Tessa and Callie aren’t particularly likable. Tessa has absolutely zero value for herself, which, given her upbringing is easy to understand, but after a while, it really grates on you. She’s a downer, but she’s clever. She researches and takes courageous leaps towards finding answers to the questions that plague her, not only about the past-the serial killer-but her family as well. At the same time, it takes Tessa and those helping her forever to figure anything out. They’re stringing things together so slowly that it’s pretty frustrating. Callie is a spoiled, somewhat whiny, angsty teen. She’s rude, likes to party, and has a terrible attitude. Her cold shoulder to Tessa, her former best friend, is not really explained, there’s a slight suggestion that left me feeling unsatisfied. 

Secondary characters like Decker and Ryan, even Nick, were intriguing and had strong personalities that I wish were explored more. It might have added something to the story.

Tessa’s quest to discover the truth about her family, to find out if they truly loved her, and to sift through the lies made me feel for her. Even if I wasn’t her biggest fan, the hurt and heartache she suffered through was definitely moving. 

I got half of the twist right early on, but that second part is crazy. Never ever saw that coming and it is SO messed up. Elaborate, twisted, dark, and brilliantly executed by the villain. 

The pacing is mind-numbingly slow. It’s hard to stay engaged. Even with the prosepect of uncovering the mystery and whether or not the lie will change anything. 

That ending. Wide open for a second. 

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

Mysterious reading, 

Jordan