ARC Review: What Goes Up by Katie Kennedy

what goes upGoodreads/Amazon/B&N/iBooks

syn

Action-packed and wildly funny, this near-future sci-fi features three teens on an inter-dimensional mission to save the world.


Rosa and Eddie are among hundreds of teens applying to NASA’s mysterious Multi-World Agency. After rounds of crazy-competitive testing they are appointed to Team 3, along with an alternate, just in case Eddie screws up (as everyone expects he will). What they don’t expect is that aliens will arrive from another dimension, and look just like us. And no one could even imagine that Team 3 would be the only hope of saving our world from their Earth-destroying plans. The teens steal the spacecraft (it would be great if they knew how to fly it) and head to Earth2, where the aliens’ world and people are just like ours. With a few notable exceptions.

There, the teens will find more than their alternate selves: they’ll face existential questions and high-stakes adventure, with comedy that’s out of this world.

review4/5 Stars

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

+++Triggers: assault 

WHAT’S TO LOVE:

  • STEM GIRLS. Girls who are smart, own their intelligence like a badge of honor, and are proud of who they are. Rosie is a genius and she knows it. She has worked hard to gain her chance at NASA and despite the claims that it’s because of her famous science-y parents, that’s far from the case. Rosie is a clever problem solver who has the quick wit and innovative mind to solve even the craziest of problems. On top of that, she’s one of the bravest, most selfless characters I’ve seen in a long, long time. 
  • The adventure. From the elaborate mental and endurance tests to the actual high-speed chase and stealing alien aircrafts, it’s like those fun puzzle games that you can’t get enough of. It’s interesting, engaging, and definitely keeps you guessing. I loved all of the cool and creative trials the teens had to go through to make it to the final levels for NASA. 
  • Diversity. Yes. Yes. Yes. A lot of diversity. Financial, LGBT, ethnicity. It’s all there and it’s awesome. I loved these characters so much. Initially, it seems like there will be more people involved but it truly comes down to only a handful and they’re all memorable, unique, and bring something great to the storyline. One of my favorite, favorite characters is Eddie’s grandma. The woman is an icon. Fierce, independent, innovative, and speaks her mind. She shot a rocket launcher off her roof, I mean, come on. Everyone has a story. 
  • Romance is subtle. You kind of expect it, but it takes a while and it’s nowhere near a main arc, there are so many things that are much more important and the focus. Plot-driven. 
  • It reads fast. It’s funny and so enjoyable. 

QUESTIONABLE/SO-SO THINGS: 

  • Quick resolution at the end. With Eddie and with the near apocalyptic, almost destruction of Earth 1 thing. While there are epic and action-packed scenes leading up to the ending, it fell flat. It was so fast. Yes, there are terrible and possibly deadly decisions and all sorts of scary things, but still, oh, this super death to all mankind crisis is never going to be seen again without absolute destruction of source? I don’t think so. And while I’m glad there was a happy ending, especially for Eddie, it was too clean.
  • There is an assault scene. I mean, it serves a purpose. There’s clear motive. It adds “excitement” to the first half of the book, but I’m not sure it was the ONLY option and it’s kinda traumatic. I’m sure there are plenty of other ways to disqualify people. 

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

Keep reading, 

Jordan

Advertisements

ARC Review & Giveaway: Waste of Space by Gina Damico

WASTE OF SPACE9780544633162_hresAmazon/Audible/B&N/iBooks/TBD/Goodreads

syn

Cram ten hormonal teens into a spaceship and blast off: that’s the premise for the ill-conceived reality show Waste of Space. The kids who are cast know everything about drama—and nothing about the fact that the production is fake. Hidden in a desert warehouse, their spaceship replica is equipped with state-of-the-art special effects dreamed up by the scientists partnering with the shady cable network airing the show. And it’s a hit! Millions of viewers are transfixed. But then, suddenly, all communication is severed. Trapped and paranoid, the kids must figure out what to do when this reality show loses its grip on reality. 

review

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

This book is a train wreck. It’s a total disaster. And that’s exactly what makes it epic, because it was on purpose. Waste of Space is 100% like the blurb. It’s reality TV style trauma drama with a whole lot of offensive, bigoted, and racist casting, but the point is that by calling it out, by labeling it for what it is in the story, it becomes a sort of crazy satire and social commentary and OMG is it entertaining. 

From the initial premise to the casting to the filming, it’s absolute chaos. There’s no order, there are comical twists, literally everyone is at a loss for what it actually happening. Like I said, a mess and all for the sake of entertainment ratings. You know that feeling, when you want to sit back, lounge and put on some Real Housewives or Bachelorette? This is it, in book form. All the drama. All the catfight insanity and suspicion. All of it is crammed on this “space plane” and broadcasted to the world. 

The book is set up kind of like Illuminae with the premise that some sort of disaster has already occurred and a case, with evidence is being made. There is video footage and all sorts of documents, phone records, etc., all scattered through the book. And even some memes. 

The characters are “token” characters and the author is actively mocking the clichés. They’re even labeled by their stereotypes when they’re initially introduced. Somehow this worked and did not come off as offensive and wrong as it could have because comedy. 

The characters themselves are interesting. They have well-defined personalities and back story. The voice is ON POINT. 

And then the twist. Towards the end there’s something that will make you question everything. Circumstances change on the fly and you wonder if real danger is on the horizon. 

If you like to be kept guessing, laugh off offensive material, and/or are a sucker for trash reality tv, definitely pick this up!

authorginadamicoWebsite | Tumblr | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | YouTube | Goodreads

Gina Damico is the author of Croak, Scorch, and Rogue, the grim-reapers-gone-wild books of the Croak trilogy. She has also dabbled as a tour guide, transcriptionist, theater house manager, scenic artist, movie extra, office troll, retail monkey, yarn hawker and breadmonger. A native of Syracuse, New York, she now lives outside Boston with her husband, two cats, and one dog, and while she has never visited hell in person, she has spent countless waking hours at the Albany Regional Bus Terminal, which is pretty darn close. Visit her website at www.ginadami.co.

giveaway

3 winners will receive a hardcover of WASTE OF SPACE! US Only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Read, read, and read some more, 

Jordan

 

ARC Review: Bang by Barry Lyga

bangGoodreads/Amazon/B&N/iBooks

syn

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 & Giveaway: Blacksouls by Nicole Castroman

blackCoverBLACKSOULSAmazon/Barnes & Noble/iBooks/Goodreads

synEdward “Teach” Drummond is setting sail to the Caribbean as first mate on the most celebrated merchant ship in the British fleet—until he rebels against his captain. Mutiny is a capital offense and Teach knows it could cost him his life, but he believes it worth the risk in order to save his crew from the attacking Spanish ships.

Sailing on the same blue waters, Anne barely avoids the Spanish attack, making it safely to Nassau. But lawless criminals, corrupt politics, and dangerous intentions fill the crowded streets of this Caribbean port. Soon, Anne discovers that the man entrusted to keep the peace is quite possibly the most treacherous of them all—and he just happens to hold Teach’s fate in his terrifying hands.

Life and death hang in the balance when Teach and Anne are given a dangerous mission. It’s a mission that will test their love, loyalty and devotion, forcing them down a path neither one could have ever imagined.

review

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley, Simon Pulse, and with participation in this tour

Blacksouls is a swashbuckling adventure fit for any diehard Pirates fan. Complete with danger, intrigue, high seas battles, and one epic romance, Blacksouls will get under your skin. 

What I loved about Blacksouls was how real it felt. Dark, gritty, full of the deep underbelly of the pirate world, it is not at all glamorous. There’s scurvy, enemies ready to pillage, plunder, and murder simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Being a pirate is not fun, it’s living on the edge of your seat one moment, never knowing if you’re safe, and the next starving or suffering at the hands of a dictatorial captain. 

Transportive (in both the contemporary and 17th century sense of the word). Richly descriptive with strong voice, you’ll feel like you’re on the ship or in the tavern suffering right along with the characters. The story is set in a time when slavery was a major means of import and export, people got rich off of the misery and imprisonment of innocent people because of their skin color or because they came from an island. That atmosphere of fear, prejudice, and loathing is potent and repulsive. Even people who is a little darker skinned, even if freed, are constantly on guard and threatened by those who reign because of money, prestige or simply, their pale skin. There are beautifully poignant messages about how people treat those that are different, how racism can destroy and damage and decimate entire groups of people, but through all that how resilient and proud the persecuted can be. 

Teach and Anne fight against all odds to be with each other, when their lives are in others hands and so much is on the line. Still, they constantly have each other in their thoughts even when they’re not together and that kind of devotion in the sweetest kind of love. 

The action scenes are full of uncertainty and adrenaline that will keep you guessing. Mutiny, betrayal, and worse are always on the horizon. 

Secondary characters, for the most part, were memorable and each had their own story separate from the main characters. Cara and Coyle, Alistair and Beth, and that rowdy bunch of pirates Teach captained, they’ve got scars and things that haunt them, and yet, their loyalty and compassion are front and center.

Intitally the pacing was so-so, but it picked up as the danger grew. Once you get past the first chapter or two the tension builds, the characters are developed, and if you haven’t read the first book, there is summarization but not enough to bog down the story. 
authorNicole

Nicole was lucky enough to come with her very own best friend…she has a twin sister who can read her mind and finish her sentences for her.

At the age of 13, she went to Europe for the first time and it changed her life. She loves learning about different people, languages and cultures and speaks fluent German. She knows enough Spanish to get herself into trouble and can still read the Cyrillic alphabet from when she studied Russian.

She received her B.A. from Brigham Young University and has lived in Germany, Austria and two different places called Georgia. One is located on the Black Sea. The other is the state of Georgia where she now lives with her handsome husband and two beautiful children who continue to amaze her.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Pinterest

giveaway

1 winner will receive a signed finished copy of BLACKSOULS, US Only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

TOUR STOPS 

Week Two:
4/17/2017- YA Book Madness- Review
4/18/2017- Good Choice Reading– Guest Post
4/19/2017-Mundie Moms– Review
4/20/2017- YA Books Central– Interview
4/21/2017- Seeing Double In Neverland-Review

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

Read on, 

Jordan

Review: The Cruelty by Scott Bergstrom

the-crueltyGoodreads/Amazon/B&N/iBooks

syn

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

Release Day Blitz: Curiosity and the Sentient’s Oblation by Zachary Paul Chopchinski

curiosityGoodreads/Website/Amazon

syn

The widowed wife of a North Carolina plantation owner, Gabrielle awakens in this life with a broken heart and a sharpened spirit. Living in one of the darkest times in American history, she finds herself running a safe house for the underground railroad during the American Civil War. In order to save a life, Gabrielle must make a sacrifice that could damn her host for eternity.

Everything’s different this time. The rules have changed, Morrigan has changed, and Arawn is more dangerous than ever. He has sent a hunter after Gabrielle and she has to use every ounce of her new powers if she is going to survive.

trailer

authorzachFacebook/Website/Tumblr/Twitter/Goodreads/Bookbub

Zach is a bow tie wearing, formal vest rocking, pocket watch using, sarcastic monster of a writer. Currently residing in Orlando, Florida, he spends his days working, writing and procrastinating.

Zach is the author of the Gabrielle series, a young adult fantasy with a paranormal-historical-time traveling twist (try saying that five times fast).

Zach has multiple college degrees, in the fields of criminal justice and criminology…because he wanted to catch ALL the bad guys. Now, coupled with being an author of young adult fiction he spends his days yelling at people for breaking regulatory laws.

Interesting reading, 

Jordan

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

carefulundressingofloveGoodreads/Amazon/B&N/iBooks

syn

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