ARC Review: Proof of Lies by Diana Rodriguez Wallach

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Some secrets are best kept hidden…

Anastasia Phoenix has always been the odd girl out, whether moving from city to international city with her scientist parents or being the black belt who speaks four languages.

And most definitely as the orphan whose sister is missing, presumed dead.

She’s the only one who believes Keira is still alive, and when new evidence surfaces, Anastasia sets out to follow the trail—and lands in the middle of a massive conspiracy. Now she isn’t sure who she can trust. At her side is Marcus, the bad boy with a sexy accent who’s as secretive as she is. He may have followed her to Rome to help, but something about him seems too good to be true.

Nothing is as it appears, and when everything she’s ever known is revealed to be a lie, Anastasia has to believe in one impossibility.

She will find her sister.

review

4/5 Stars 

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

Proof of Lies is what’s missing in YA and exactly what I’ve been searching for. An adrenaline rush of mystery and danger, an intriguing and twisty plot, and characters that keep you invested, Proof of Lies is at the top of my 2017 reads. 

PROS:

  • The mystery is epic. It sucks you in and keeps you invested. I was dying to know what happened to Keira. The clues are all there and they’re tricky. Anastasia is basically sifting through trash to find gold and ends up lucking out. She follows the barest of clues and with the help of some tech savvy friends the mystery gets progressively more engaging. 
  • Twists. This story is like a narrow, winding road up Mount Everest. Complete with all the twists, deadly turns, near misses, and heart-pounding risks that are so unexpected. Usually I can guess what’s going to happen in the first few pages, Diana Rodriguez Wallach did a fantastic job at every turn…well except for one that was fairly obvious. I was super impressed. 
  • Anastasia isn’t perfect. She’s delightfully flawed. She realizes that she’s been an ungrateful brat and pretty terrible to her sister and endeavors to change. She recognizes her flaws and actively works to be better. I loved that about her. Plus, she’s trained in self-defense and martial arts, speaks multiple languages, and dives head first into danger. She’s a risk taker and she realizes that the choices she makes are totally stupid and owns up to it. I hate when characters know that they’re making bad decisions and are just like woops, yeah, no. Anastasia has a strong voice, she’s likable and so devoted to her mission that you can’t help but respect her drive. 
  • The romance. The few scenes that took place in high school setting were cute and memorable. Some were laugh out loud, others made me angry. The sheer racist b.s. that some kids go through. Sigh. But Anastasia is a true hero in those moments and Marcus is made of swoon. He’s got a bad boy look but is fiercely loyal, lovable, and complex. He is the arms that Anastasia needs to hold her up and the shoulder she can cry on. What’s best is that he lets her make her own decisions. He doesn’t prevent her from making choices. He knows she’s going to do crazy stuff and he’s like, I’ll back you up. ❤ I mean, who doesn’t adore a guy like that? And those makeout scenes are FIRE. 

CONS:

  • My biggest issue was the mourning section. I was having flashbacks to New Moon when it’s just a page with a month on it and nothing happens. That totally destroyed the pacing, but thankfully, once Anastasia was invested in sleuthing again it picked up quickly. 
  • There were some issues with secondary characters. They played key roles and yet felt like throwaways. I needed more personality, more interaction-just more to actually care about them. The subplot with Julian and Sofia was compelling, but didn’t fit into the story as well as it could have, it felt random, but definitely key. Towards the end, parts with Julian and Charlotte were rushed and more telling than showing. There, but not really. More for function than anything else. 

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

Thrilling reading, 

Jordan

Guest Post: Proof of Lies Playlist by Diana Rodriguez Wallach

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Some secrets are best kept hidden…

Anastasia Phoenix has always been the odd girl out, whether moving from city to international city with her scientist parents or being the black belt who speaks four languages.

And most definitely as the orphan whose sister is missing, presumed dead.

She’s the only one who believes Keira is still alive, and when new evidence surfaces, Anastasia sets out to follow the trail—and lands in the middle of a massive conspiracy. Now she isn’t sure who she can trust. At her side is Marcus, the bad boy with a sexy accent who’s as secretive as she is. He may have followed her to Rome to help, but something about him seems too good to be true.

Nothing is as it appears, and when everything she’s ever known is revealed to be a lie, Anastasia has to believe in one impossibility.

She will find her sister.

a294d-playlist

PROOF OF LIES Playlist by Diana Rodriguez Wallach

It’s hard to make a playlist for a new book without giving away too many spoilers. Let’s face it, if you include a funeral song (“In the arms of the Angel,” Sarah McLachlan), wedding song (“At Last,” Etta James), or a just plain depressing song (“Hallelujah”, Jeff Buckley), it gives a rather large hint as to what’s to come. But as a reader, I also don’t like when playlists are too obscure (songs you’ve never heard of) or not in the order in which they would appear in the book. It’s nice to know exactly what scene is playing in an author’s mind when she hears a song.

So behold—my playlist for PROOF OF LIES equipped with the exact chapters that the songs fit. I can’t say too much beyond that, but after you read the book, take another look at this list and see how you think I did.

Epigraph

One by U2 & Mary J. Blige  

For a very long time, the bellow lyrics were the epigraph at the beginning of the PROOF OF LIES manuscript. I had to change it, because you know, U2 lyrics don’t come cheap. But in my head, these worse are still there (and they’re being song as a duet by Bono and Mary J).

“Have you come here for forgiveness

Have you come to raise the dead

Have you come here to play Jesus

To the lepers in your head

Did I ask too much

More than a lot

You gave me nothing

Now it’s all I got

We’re one

But we’re not the same”

Chapter 2: House Party Scene

Momma I’m Coming Home by Ozzy Osbourne

“I’ve seen your face a hundred times

Everyday we’ve been apart

I don’t care about the sunshine, yeah

‘Cause mama, mama, I’m coming home

I’m coming home”

Chapter 4: Talking to the Police

Unsteady by X Ambassadors

“Mama, come here

Approach, appear

Daddy, I’m alone

‘Cause this house don’t feel like home

If you love me, don’t let go

If you love me, don’t let go

Hold

Hold on

Hold on to me

‘Cause I’m a little unsteady

A little unsteady”

Chapter 20: Cortona, Italy with Luis

Demons by Imagine Dragons

“Don’t want to let you down

But I am hell bound

Though this is all for you

Don’t want to hide the truth

No matter what we breed

We still are made of greed

This is my kingdom come

This is my kingdom come

When you feel my heat

Look into my eyes

It’s where my demons hide

It’s where my demons hide

Don’t get too close

It’s dark inside

It’s where my demons hide

It’s where my demons hide”

 

Chapter 26: Leaving Rome, Italy

Don’t Let Me Down by The Chainsmokers

“I need you, I need you, I need you right now

Yeah, I need you right now

So don’t let me, don’t let me, don’t let me down

I think I’m losing my mind now

It’s in my head, darling I hope

That you’ll be here, when I need you the most

So don’t let me, don’t let me, don’t let me down

D-Don’t let me down

Don’t let me down”

Chapter 30: Venice, Italy with Marcus

I Will Follow You into the Dark by Death Cab for Cutie

“You and me have seen everything to see

From Bangkok to Calgary

The soles of your shoes are all worn down

The time for sleep is now

It’s nothing to cry about

Cause we’ll hold each other soon

The blackest of rooms

If Heaven and Hell decide that they both are satisfied

Illuminate the no’s on their vacancy signs

If there’s no one beside you when your soul embarks

Then I’ll follow you into the dark”

Chapter 33: Venice, Italy preparations

Hero by Family Of the Year

“So let me go

I don’t wanna be your hero

I don’t wanna be a big man

I Just wanna fight with everyone else

Your masquerade

I don’t wanna be a part of your parade

Everyone deserves a chance to

Walk with everyone else”

Chapter 34: Venice, Italy Piazza

Helena by My Chemical Romance

“Burning on just like a match you strike to incinerate

The lives of everyone you know

And what’s the worst you take (worst you take)

From every heart you break (heart you break)

And like the blade you stain (blade you stain)

Well, I’ve been holding on tonight

What’s the worst that I can say?

Things are better if I stay

So long and goodnight

So long and goodnight”

Chapter 35: Venice, Italy

Fix You by Coldplay

“When the tears come streaming down your face

When you lose something you can’t replace

When you love someone but it goes to waste

Could it be worse?

Lights will guide you home

And ignite your bones

And I will try to fix you”

Exciting 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

Cover Reveal & Giveaway: The Girl Who Could See by Kara Swanson

 
Pub. Date: June 1, 2017
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All her life Fern has been told she is blind to reality—but what if she is the only one who can truly see?
 
Fern Johnson is crazy. At least, that’s what the doctors have claimed since her childhood. Now nineteen, and one step away from a psych ward, Fern struggles to survive in bustling Los Angeles. Desperate to appear “normal,” she represses the young man flickering at the edge of her awareness—a blond warrior only she can see.
 
Tristan was Fern’s childhood imaginary hero, saving her from monsters under her bed and outside her walls. As she grew up and his secret world continued to bleed into hers, however, it only caused catastrophe. But, when the city is rocked by the unexplainable, Fern is forced to consider the possibility that this young man isn’t a hallucination after all—and that the creature who decimated his world may be coming for hers.
Excerpt
CHAPTER ONE
Present Time
On television, they never tell you how cold it is.
 
They might show you the dimly lit room or the hard, uninviting chairs—stark reminders that you have no power here. They may depict the lonesome table separating you from the elderly agent with the stone-grey eyes. But those cop shows never depict what a chilly affair an FBI interrogation truly is. If their aim is to make this process as intimidating as possible—it’s working.
 
I wrap my hands around bare shoulders, fingertips far colder than the skin exposed by my red tank top. Brilliant move, Fern. Wear a scarf, but forget your jacket. Stifling a shudder, I try to meet the sharp gaze of Agent Barstow standing rigidly across from me.
 
“I don’t know where you’re from, miss Johnson—but in LA, state-of-the-art buildings don’t just crumble.” His voice is gravelly, matching the jagged lines of his dark skin and weathered face. “Federal buildings, no less. There one minute and the next…destroyed.”
 
His tone chills me even more, and I tug nervously on my scarf. His arms slowly unwind from his chest as he takes a deliberate two steps toward me. “We’ve had everyone on the disaster—CIA, local police, firemen…heck, we even called NASA. No one can find a plausible reason why a skyscraper, in excellent repair, would collapse like that. No one, that is, except you.”
 
I fight the urge to bolt for the door as he leans down, palms flat on the table, so close I can make out the creases on his dark suit. “You warned us of an attack in that area two weeks ago. How did you know?”
 
I suck in a deep breath as his voice lowers, dark fists tightening on the edge of the table. “Are you involved with a terrorist organization?”
 
I almost laugh at his words, at how they couldn’t be farther from the truth. I’m here to save LA, not destroy it. To save everyone. And I don’t have much time—none of us do. If I can’t gain this man’s trust, a shattered building is nothing compared to what will come next.
 
“No, sir.” I shove my shaking hands beneath my legs as I glimpse a pair of lucid blue eyes over the agent’s shoulder. They shouldn’t be there—and I know not to stare. But those eyes that only I can see are the reason I warned the FBI in the first place. Their owner the reason I’m even sitting in this room.
 
Licking my lips, I keep my attention on Barstow. I’ve wanted this for years. Someone to listen. Really listen. And it’s the FBI, no less. Be careful here.
 
When I open my mouth, the words are calm and steady. I hope they’re convincing—they have to be convincing. “I knew about the incident, Agent Barstow, because my friend warned me.” Throat suddenly dry, I look away. “My imaginary friend.
 
author

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads

As the daughter of missionaries, KARA SWANSON spent sixteen years of her young life in the jungles of Papua New Guinea. Able to relate with characters dropped suddenly into a unique new world, she quickly fell in love with the speculative genre and was soon penning stories herself.
 
At seventeen, she independently published a fantasy novel, Pearl of Merlydia. She has since published many articles, including one in the Encounter magazine. Kara received the Mount Hermon Most Promising Teen Writer Award in 2015. You can find her on Facebook as Kara Swanson, Author, or attempting to be artistic over on Instagram (@karaswanson_author). When she’s not creating new stories and placing characters in peril, she’s probably binge-watching Marvel movies, playing with her huskies, reading till two in the morning or experimenting with a dairy-free mocha Frappuccino (skills, I’m telling you).

 

giveaway

(1) winner will receive a $5 Amazon Gift Card, US Only.
(1) will receive an Advanced eBook Copy of THE GIRL WHO COULD SEE, International.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Mysterious reading, 

Jordan

Review: The Cruelty by Scott Bergstrom

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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

Cover Reveal: #Meet by K.M. Pyne

 
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 When Ruby Knight’s best friend, Catriona Taylor disappears Ruby knows something isn’t right. 
Time is ticking and the race is on to find Catriona. Has she run away? Is she really on a holiday with her parents? Has something more sinister happened to her?
 
These are the questions facing Ruby. Can she find Catriona? Can she ask her detective Mam for help? Or will she leave it too late?
 
Follow Ruby on her journey to find her best friend!author
 
I like to write YA and NA with a bit of grit in them. I am new to this genre and look forward to releasing some books for you to read.

HOBCBP LINKS

Mysterious reading, 

Jordan

Cover Reveal: Project Pandora by Aden Polydoros

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Release Date: August 1, 2017

synOlympus is rising…

Tyler hasn’t been feeling like himself lately, his dreams are full of violence and death, and there are days where he can’t remember where he’s been.
Miles away, Shannon finds herself haunted by similar nightmares. She is afraid that she has done something terrible.
As the daughter of a state senator, Elizabeth has everything she could ever hope for. But when an uninvited guest interrupts a fundraising gala and stirs up painful memories, everything goes downhill fast.
Murder is what Hades is good at. So when two of his comrades go AWOL, he is rewarded with the most exhilarating hunt of his lifetime. For him, the game has just begun.
author
aden-polydoros
Aden Polydoros grew up in Long Grove, Illinois, the youngest of three children. Aden’s family moved to Arizona when he was in second grade. As a kid, he spent much of his time exploring the desert near his home. When he wasn’t searching for snakes and lizards, he was raiding the bookshelves of the local library. 
As a teenager, Aden decided that he wanted to be a writer. He spent his free time writing short stories. He was encouraged by his English teacher to try his hand at writing a novel, which inspired him to begin Project Pandora. The YA thriller is set for publication with Entangled Publishing in Summer of 2017. He is represented by Mallory Brown of Triada US. 
Thrilling reading, 
Jordan