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

 

 

 

 

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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: Secrets of Skin and Stone by Wendy Laine

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Something is wrong in Hidden Creek. The sleepy Alabama town is more haunted than any place fiend hunter Grisham Caso has ever seen. Unearthed graves, curse bags, and spilled blood all point to an evil that could destroy his gargoyle birthright. The town isn’t safe for anyone, and everyone says fiery Piper Devon knows why.

Piper wants to leave Hidden Creek behind. She’s had enough of secrets—they hide in the shadows of her room and tell her terrible things are coming. Too-charming city boy Grisham might be her only chance to save herself.

To survive, Piper and Grisham have to shed their secrets and depend only on each other. But what lurks in Hidden Creek still might take everything away from them, including each other.

review3/5 Stars

***I received an eARC in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Entangled Teen

+++Triggers for self harm, violence, animal cruelty/death

PROS:

  • The gritty and graphic material. The descriptions are grotesque and disturbing. The occult stuff is awesomely weird and full on terrifying at times. 
  • This version of a gargoyle is way different from what I’ve come to expect. It’s a little Anna Dressed in Blood meets Supernatural with a fierce guy who hunts down monsters as his birthright. He rides a motorcycle. He’s got razor-sharp claws. His sole purpose is to kill these gross and horrifying fiends that are far more powerful than your average ghost. 
  • Depictions of a lesser known form of OCD were informative, researched, and necessary. Understanding the spectrum of disorders and not sticking everyone in a box is what Piper’s condition is all about. I loved that about this story. That it showed more than one form of OCD and how it can manifest in ways that are not obvious or expected. 
  • I liked that this was old school sleuthing mixed with paranormal. There are still murders, vandalism, and missing people to contend with and Piper and Gris work together to tackle those mysteries. 

CONS:

  • The pacing was abysmally slow. For subject matter that is so intriguing and mystery so bizarre, the book lacked the speed needed to keep my attention for long. Even with the driving need to uncover the mystery, the occult stuff, and the budding romance…it seemed like nothing really happened for several pages.
  • That Gris is trusted so easily is a little weird. He’s welcomed in Piper’s home after hardly any time. Their romance evolves quickly, though I did appreciate the fact that the author remarks on the timeframe and discusses how much of what they’re feeling could be lust and that they need to be levelheaded about their feelings. 
  • Piper accepting the existence of fiends and gargoyles almost immediately is not at all realistic. I expected much more of a freak out at least. 
  • The book does deal with self harm in the form of cutting, which the author addresses in the beginning for those who could potentially be triggered. The self harm, the fact that Piper can sort of turn it off by sheer willpower is strange to me. Every portrayal I’ve seen has been to the effect that it’s more than just a decision, that there’s a need or compulsion that cannot just be switched off because someone asks you to quit. 

Read on, 

Jordan

ARC Review & Giveaway: One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

ONE OF US IS LYING (1)One Of Us Is LyingAmazon/B&N/TBD/iBooks/Audible/Goodreads

syn

The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars, & One of Us Is Lying is the story of what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide.

Pay close attention and you might solve this.

On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.

Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.

Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.

Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.

Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.

And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High s notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?

Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

review

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

If you’re a sucker for true crime TV shows, this book will be your version of YA heaven.

Told from four alternating POVs (the murder suspects), One of Us Is Lying features fully fleshed out, complex, and interesting characters whose plots all stand on their own. So often when there are a number of characters, their stories tend to get a little lost, but this is certainly not the case here. Everything is suspect and because of that, every lie, every aspect of these four unlucky teens’ lives are sifted through and exploited. All of the characters are flawed and real. They’ve made mistakes and the worst (best?) part is that they might be paying for it. Seemingly small incidents become incendiary and inciting. The catty, pettiness of high school is on full display and motives are everywhere.

The premise is awesome. It’s simple, yet completely enthralling. You won’t stop until you know the truth.

There are tons of clues. And it’s the readers challenge to sort through and figure out what’s important. If you are even remotely into sleuthing, you’ll enjoy this story exponentially.

Twists, red herrings, romance, revenge. There’s a little bit of everything.

Because the characters are so real, it’s compelling to want to know about them. Everything from their heartaches, their fibs, their crimes, to what they’re hiding even from themselves. This unlikely foursome becomes something unexpected-friends-in the face of tragedy.

The mystery is a good one. Even if you make the right guess about what happened, odds are you’re missing some finer details that are totally unexpected and hit fast.

Occasionally, because the characters are so dimensional, the pacing is a little stunted and the story a tad sidetracked, but it always comes back around relatively quickly.

There were a handful of clichés that might bug the reader, like the catty cheerleader, the blatant sexism (at points this is called out though, which, thumbs up), but the other characters certainly redeemed themselves and the story.

authorKMcManus ColorWebsite | Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram

As a kid I used to write books when I was supposed to be playing outside, and not much has changed. I’m a marketing and communications professional who also writes Young Adult contemporary and fantasy fiction in Cambridge, MA.

When not writing or working I love to travel, and along with my nine-year old son I’ve ridden horses in Colombia and bicycles through Paris. A member of SCBWI, I hold a bachelor’s degree in English from the College of the Holy Cross and a master’s degree in Journalism from Northeastern University. Which I have never, ever used professionally.

giveaway

3 winners will receive a finished copy of ONE OF US IS LYING, US Only.

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OTHER  STOPS ON THE TOUR

5/29/2017- YA Books Central- Interview

5/30/2017- YA Book Madness- Review

5/31/2017- Novel Novice- Guest Post

6/1/2017- Literary Meanderings- Review

6/2/2017- BookHounds YA– Interview

Week Two:

6/5/2017- Storybook Slayers- Review

6/6/2017- Book Princess Reviews- Review

6/7/2017- The Cover Contessa- Interview

6/8/2017- Book Briefs- Review

6/9/2017- Pretty Deadly Reviews- Guest Post

Week Three:

6/12/2017- Eli to the nth- Review

6/13/2017- YA and Wine- Interview

6/14/2017- Smada’s Book Smack- Review

6/15/2017- The O.W.L.- Guest Post

6/16/2017- Zach’s YA Reviews- Review

Read on, 

Jordan

ARC Review: Violet Grenade by Victoria Scott

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syn

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.

teaserVioletGrenade4VioletGrenade1review

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

ARC Review: Missing by Kelley Armstrong

missingGoodreads/Amazon/B&N/iBooks

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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

Review: Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza

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CROWN PRINCESS RHIANNON TA’AN WANTS VENGEANCE.

The only surviving heir to an ancient Kalusian dynasty, RHEE has spent her life training to destroy the people who killed her family. Now, on the eve of her coronation, the time has finally come for Rhee to claim her throne – and her revenge.

ALYOSHA is a Wraetan who has risen above his war refugee origins to find fame as the dashing star of a DroneVision show. Despite his popularity, Aly struggles with anti-Wraetan prejudices and the pressure of being perfect in the public eye.

Their paths collide with one brutal act of violence: Rhee is attacked, barely escaping with her life. Aly is blamed for her presumed murder.

The princess and her accused killer are forced to go into hiding – even as a war between planets is waged in Rhee’s name. But soon, Rhee and Aly discover that the assassination attempt is just one part of a sinister plot. Bound together by an evil that only they can stop, the two fugitives must join forces to save the galaxy.

In this exhilarating debut for fans of Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles and Pierce Brown’s Red Rising trilogy, RHODA BELLEZA crafts a powerful saga of vengeance, warfare, and the true meaning of legacy.

review

3/5 Stars

  • Suspense. Though the pacing was sometimes iffy, the uncertainty, danger, and desperation of both Aly and Rhee’s situations keep the intensity up and I never wanted to stop reading, I needed to know what happened and whether Rhee and Aly would ever cross paths. There’s an abundance of intrigue, evil, and sabotage throughout that happens almost at random.
  • Aly’s POV. I adored Aly. He was unexpected and engaging. A reality TV star of an obliterated planet who goes around hunting down illegal ships? I mean what’s not to love? He’s a little serious, a tad brooding, but curious and courageous. He sometimes lets his prejudice get in the way and those flaws only made him more endearing. Aly spends his time on the run, getting into precarious situations just as dangerous and exciting as Rhee’s. Aly’s POV was more introspective and thoughtful, he judged himself, his actions, and embraced the wild goose chase because he had no choice. His lighter-hearted sections were a nice balance to Rhee’s. Pavel, Aly’s sidekick robot ❤ He’s witty and intelligent and compliments Aly’s BA mechanical skills. 
  • I loved the politics when they were there. The distinctions between races, the disgust, the hatred, how people from certain planets are degraded and looked down on. It’s terrible and complex and made me hurt for those poor slaughtered people and the anguish they went through as their families were killed, their planets destroyed, and everything they knew replaced by revulsion and rejection. The technology is intriguing. I loved the cubes. It’s like this piece that attached to them that tracks everything. Their movements, their memories, and syncs. But holy invasion of privacy and huge risk. It felt like paranoia on the horizon, like someone had to be listening in or something. Totally creepy. 
  • Dahlen. Oh man did I absolutely love this character. He doesn’t have a POV, but I wish he did. He’s complex, has a convoluted and slightly insane, almost cult-like back story and I wanted so much more. He’s the kind of character that you know in actions seems evil or at the very least misguided, but something makes you question his motives and whether he’s hiding his true self. Plus he’s fierce, crafty, clever, and always coming up with ways to escape seemingly impossible situations. 

CONS:

  • Foreshadowing is difficult to get right, go too far and everything becomes predictable. In the first few pages I knew pretty much every twist and every reveal. It was all there in leading sentences that made you pause for a minute and think. Everything was too obvious, too handed to the reader and it took a lot away from the suspense that should have been building as Rhee and Aly fled for their lives. 
  • Worldbuilding. Don’t get me wrong, the world was there, it was solid but it felt like it was only a layer above the foundation. There are several planets, different races(?) of people, and a storm of politics that pit planets against each other and enforce hatred and prejudice. That was epic, though lacking somewhat in description. It was hard to follow the politics and keep track of the planets as the story progressed. I would have loved a little more why. Why the animosity? Why was it so easy to turn people against each other? Why and where does the planetary hierarchy begin and end? I had several questions and too few answers. 
  • As much as it pains me to say this, I did not like Rhee. Not even remotely and despite her slight growth, she did not grow on me. Rhee is naive and will not listen to reason. She’s been holding onto a grudge for years with zero proof, only her poorly constructed conjecture. Everyone can tell who the bad guys are, there’s no speculation except from the main character. Weird. Rhee thinks the wrong things through. It’s like at every turn she’s focused on random stuff instead of the bigger picture. It drove me mad. She thinks she knows absolutely everything and doesn’t leave room for anyone else’s opinions or facts, she goes head first into whatever situation and then afterwards is like, oh wow, I was wrong how did that happen? Maybe I should have listened? And then shrug. I wrote status updates and notes throughout reading, which took far longer than it should have I might add, and I don’t think I’ve ever used the words “duh” and “obviously” so much in my life. And she’s supposed to be the savior, the key that will stop an inevitable war, and an empress? Rhee needs decades worth of growth and maturity and a whole lot of councillors before that could ever seem remotely possible.
  • Side note: I would not compare this to Red Rising. 

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

Intriguing reading, 

Jordan