ARC Review: See All the Stars by Kit Frick

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Release Date: August 14, 2018

synvia Goodreads 

It’s hard to find the truth beneath the lies you tell yourself.

THEN They were four—Bex, Jenni, Ellory, Ret. Electric, headstrong young women; Ellory’s whole solar system.

NOW Ellory is alone, her once inseparable group of friends torn apart by secrets, deception, and a shocking incident that changed their lives forever.

THEN Lazy summer days. A party. A beautiful boy. Ellory met Matthias and fell into the beginning of a spectacular, bright love.

NOW Ellory returns to Pine Brook to navigate senior year after a two-month suspension and summer away—no boyfriend, no friends. No going back. Tormented by some and sought out by others, troubled by a mysterious note-writer who won’t let Ellory forget, and consumed by guilt over her not entirely innocent role in everything and everyone she’s lost, Ellory finds that even in the present, the past is everywhere.

The path forward isn’t a straight line. And moving on will mean sorting the truth from the lies—the lies Ellory has been telling herself.

review3 Stars 

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley &  Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing

I had a hard time rating this book because on one hand, I couldn’t put it down, and on the other hand, it dragged so badly at some points that had I not wanted to figure out what happened, I would have DNF’d and moved on. 

But I needed to know. Despite the blatant toxicity of the friendships in this book, despite so-so characters, and a shrug of a love story, that hint of a good mystery was all I needed to push forward. No spoilers and I should have seen it coming because the book comparisons alone were enough to give it away. Do yourself a favor and DON’T read the full Goodreads synopsis from the top. 

If you read this book for what it’s marketed as, you’ll be disappointed. If you read this book for what it really is, an ode to friendship and a navigating through loss (whether it’s of friendship or tragedy) you won’t be disappointed. 

At its heart, See All the Stars is a gripping mystery that explores the complexity of friendship and how toxic relationships can shape us into who we are and it might not be what you desired for yourself. When you let someone take the reins of your life and lead, you might not be happy where you end up. This book is about 4 friends who are all connected by their fiercely independent and adventurous ringleader, Ret. Ret is the center of their universe and without her leadership, the girls have nothing in common, so you can see where the drama comes into play. Lies, punishment, pitting the girls against each other is all part of Ret’s hold. The story is from Ellory’s POV. She’s really into metalworking and dealing with some stuff. Her world revolves around Ret in a very unhealthy, almost obsessive fixation. She checks her actions against Ret and looks to her to see how she responds. Why Ret has such power over these girls is a mystery. When Ellory starts to pull away things quickly go downhill and in comes the romance. 

As romance goes, this one was kind of bland. There wasn’t any real fire, not even really a connection-it just was. Don’t get me wrong, at times there was really beautiful writing and gorgeous metaphors but the words did not match up with the actual feelings between the characters-or at least, it didn’t read that way. The emotions weren’t there. 

I liked that the story was told between the past and present. Towards the end it all collides and it gets a little confusing. I had to reread one section because I wasn’t sure whether it was in the past. There are flashbacks in the now sections as well. 

There’s colossal build up. Tension is high because as the reader you know something terrible happened but not the magnitude. When you get to the end everything suddenly makes sense with startling clarity. 

Keep reading, 

Jordan

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ARC Review: Like Never and Always by Ann Aguirre

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

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

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

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

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

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

review4 Stars 

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

Read the book if:

You like complex romances of epic, triangular proportions.

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

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

The review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep reading,

Jordan

 

 

 

 

ARC Review: Blood Will Out by Jo Treggiari

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

synAri Sullivan is alive—for now.

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

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

review2.5/5 Stars

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

What I liked:

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

What I disliked:

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

Read your heart out, 

Jordan

 

 

ARC Review: The Girl Who Called the Stars by Heather Hildenbrand

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“…but you don’t deal in death and escape the feel of it afterward.”

synvia Goodreads

Be very afraid of the Shadows.

I know what I’m not. Human.

I can’t remember my life before Earth, but I’ve grown up hearing the stories of a planet ravaged by war and a people in need of a leader who will bring them out of the darkness. I’m supposed to be their light.

My future terrifies me.

But I’m done waiting to have a real life. If I ever want a chance to live free of the Shadows, I’ll need to fight for it because freedom is never free. No matter what galaxy you call home.

(This is book 1 in The Girl From The Stars Duology. Previously published as Across the Galaxy, now revised & rewritten with brand new content.)

teaser

TGWCTSteaser2TGWCTSteaser copy

review3 Stars 

PROS:

  • Heather Hildenbrand is the angst master. I swear, every single time I read her books there’s always some super swoonworthy, colossal build up of steam and languishing right off the bat. Then it grows and before you know it, you’re flipping through the pages on the prowl for a happily ever after…or at least one measly kiss. Jeez. But that tension is what makes the reader keep reading. 
  • The premise of this book is awesome. I loved the fast-paced tragedy and adventure, and also those horrifying Dementor-style demons. The mix of elemental-style powers with alien made this way different from your average space drama. Kingdoms in the space. I’m all for that. Also vicious wolf guardians? What’s not to love?
  • That explosive ending. I should have known. It was right there and somehow it went right over my head. Facepalm. 
  • Instead of being thrust into the typical long lost princess/heir trope, Alina has always known her purpose, she just doesn’t have the memories to back her up. Alina is focused, determined, and pushes through her fear for the future of her people. Plus she’s obsessed with coffee 😉 

CONS:

  • The plot didn’t feel cohesive. There was a quick jump into space that kind of slowed the pacing and then politics meets black magic. It didn’t feel like it fit together. 
  • Most of the secondary characters were so-so. Alina’s former best friend would have been stronger had there been more interactions. Also the catty, occasionally elitist arguments between some of the characters made a lot of the young people unlikable. 
  • Peter was supposed to be a sort of protector and father figure for Alina, but I feel like there wasn’t enough of that relationship built in the text-it was just there. I couldn’t establish an emotional connection that made me care either way about what happened to him. The issue with that is, the main character cares so much that it made it more difficult to connect with her. 
  • The book feels so short. A little more foundation here and there could have helped really build the emotions between all characters, not just the leads. 

Read and read some more, 

Jordan

 

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