ARC Review: Violet Grenade by Victoria Scott

violet-grenade-coverGoodreads/B&N/Amazon/iBooks

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

Guest Post: Operation Child Soldier by Jaci Wheeler

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00075]Amazon/Goodreads

syn

I was trained from birth to be the best Agent possible. Growing up in a Military Training Academy for unwanted children has its perks. I might not have ever been to a dance but I am a sharp shooter, master at hand to hand combat and best hacker the Academy has ever seen. I trained my whole life to pass the final and become an Elite agent. The only problem? My entire life has been a lie. My father is a monster and I’ve been trained to kill monsters.

teaserOCS teaser 1OSC Teaser

trailer

guest

I’ve had a few people ask how on earth I came up with the concept for Operation Child Soldier. I must admit, child assassins do sound a bit extreme but I had stumbled upon on article one day, I can’t even remember where to be honest, and it was talking about how more countries, especially Middle Eastern countries were starting to train women and children to become assassins. I had just watched a movie with my husband that focused on foster care and how horrible some of these homes are and how some kids rather live on the street than end up in foster care and somehow everything just clicked.

I love having strong female leads and Aria just started unfolding before my eyes. I didn’t even outline, I just grabbed my phone and started dictating the entire story to my notes. The idea that training women and children is actually happening and that these other countries are finding success really helped to unlock my imagination. My dream has always been to own an orphanage and to have a safe place for children to come. I guess you can say I merged the two together, and even though the Academy in this first book isn’t what my dream was…it just might end up that way, you will have to read book two to find out.

authorjaciTwitter/Instagram/Facebook/Website/Amazon

Jaci Wheeler lives in the Central Valley of California with her husband and two precious kids.

Her love of literature began in Jr. High when she was introduced to Lowis Lowry’s books. Since then she has had a passion for writing Young Adult books, and creating strong female leads. When she’s not writing, she is advocating for Autism Awareness and involved in the deaf community.

Her favorite things to do are play with her children, craft with her friends, sleep while her husband watches movies and indulge in her favorite addictions: Coffee, candy and shoes.

Epic reading,

Jordan

 

ARC Review: Missing by Kelley Armstrong

missingGoodreads/Amazon/B&N/iBooks

syn

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

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

Guest Post & Giveaway: When Planets Fall by Abby J. Reed

WHEN PLANETS FALLWHEN PLANETS FALL (2)Website | Facebook | Twitter |Pinterest | Instagram | Tumblr | Goodreads

syn

On a planet where the only difference between three tribes is their blood color, war is on the horizon. Breaker, an amputee, wants peace for his family and home. Malani, a kidnapped POW, wants to return home. Luka wants justice for his home. All three teens come together when Breaker is given seven days to fix a wrecked enemy starship or their home, and peace, is forfeit.

“In this richly imagined start to a new sci-fi series, Reed brings optimism to the goal of solving entrenched violence in a galaxy far, far away . . . A propulsive, sharply crafted tale about a planetary war.” –Kirkus Reviews

guest

Welcome to Scarlatti! Welcome to the planet of blood. Here’s a quick tour of who’s who. Remember, If you run into anyone in the neutral zone, make sure to ask bloodcon, needlick to take the blood test. Don’t want to risk killing someone from your own tribe:

The Eliks:

The Eliks have blue blood and live in the east. Their fortress is made from a rock found in their mines that gives it a glass-like look. They are the most different from the rest of the tribes as they actually have a couple other slight differences. Their skin is thicker, so a direct hit is needed to penetrate, and they have a shorter pregnancy terms that ends in an egg-like embryo. But they look the same as everyone else on the planet.

Their art is more ornate, seeing beauty in geometric designs and tiny details. Their religion plays a heavier role in their society than the others, too. Their language is heavier, which makes Malani speak with more of an accent. They have joint rulers, a king and queen, that we see from a distance. They fight the least with everyone as they don’t like to come down from their mountain often.

The Herons:
The Herons have green blood and live on the western side of the valley, in the mountains. They are considered to be the cruelest of the three tribes and have the reputation for their love of science. Their language is beautiful, almost song-like. They love smooth, sleek lines, finding beauty in simplicity. That’s why their fortress is cylinder shape, with spokes running deeper into the mountain. It’s simple, and therefore beautiful.

Their religion is similar to the Eliks, in that they share the same creation myths. But religion doesn’t play nearly as much of a role in their society. They currently have a king, King Oma, who sees Humans as a nuisance. The Herons also fight more with the Humans than the Eliks, and there’s more tension between these two tribes than anyone else.

The Humans:

Humans are, well, us, but way in the future. They have red blood and live between the other two tribes in the valley. Chief Malvyn currently leads them. They live in the compound where they’ve developed more of a monoethnic “compound look”. Brown curly hair, darker skin, brown eyes. But since many in the other tribes share these characteristics, they aren’t much help in identification.

Humans see themselves in a very different light than the other two tribes. To give more info would be spoilery 😉

authorabbyWebsite | Facebook | Twitter |Pinterest | Instagram | Tumblr | Goodreads

Abby J. Reed writes young adult science fiction and fantasy novels that ask what if. She has a degree in English Writing and is drawn to characters with physical limitations due to her own neurological disorder called Chronic Migraine. Her debut novel, WHEN PLANETS FALL, will be published in April 2017 by Soul Mate Publishing.

Abby lives in Colorado with her husband and two fluffy pups. If her hands aren’t on the keyboard, they are stained purple and blue with paint.

giveaway1 winner will receive a signed paperback of WHEN PLANETS FALL, & Swag, US Only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Awesome reading, 

Jordan

ARC Review: Proof of Lies by Diana Rodriguez Wallach

proofGoodreads/Amazon/B&N/iBooks

syn

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

ARC Review & Giveaway: Garden of Thorns by Amber Mitchell

garden of thorns banner copygarden-of-thornsGoodreads/Amazon/B&N/iBooks

syn

After seven grueling years of captivity in the Garden—a burlesque troupe of slave girls—sixteen-year-old Rose finds an opportunity to escape during a performance for the emperor. But the hostage she randomly chose from the crowd to aid her isn’t one of the emperor’s men—not anymore. He’s the former heir to the throne, who is now leading a rebellion against it.

Rayce is a wanted man and dangerously charismatic, the worst person for Rose to get involved with, no matter what his smile promises. But he assumes Rose’s attempt to take him hostage is part of a plot to crush the rebellion, so he takes her as his hostage. Now Rose must prove where her loyalties lie, and she offers Rayce a deal—if he helps her rescue the other girls, she’ll tell him all the Garden’s secrets.

Except the one secret she’s kept for seven years that she’ll to take to her grave if she must.

GardenOfThorns4

review4/5 Stars 

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via Entangled and with participation in the YAReads tour

+++Contains potential triggers for graphic violence/abuse 

From the very first page I knew I’d love this book. It’s dark and twisted and made of intrigue and the darkest forms of humanity. What happens when humans are reduced to numbers? When they become dispensable and money/greed reign supreme? You have the sparks of a rebellion and the vilest and most inhumane atrocities.

From the sinister descriptions to the unflinchingly honest voice of Rose, this story is gripping and despite the carnage, you won’t be able to look away. The Flowers, the Wilted, the whole hierarchy of these dancing, trafficked girls and the pain their Wilted faces every time one of the Flowers disobeys. It’s terrifying. From the clicking of the shears on their caravan cages to the pools of blood and threats made all too real; it’s gory, graphic, and sickening. The fear and anxiety will keep you on edge, it definitely had me flipping pages like mad hoping that Rose and the others made it out of whatever dangerous mission they happened to be on. 

If there’s one thing this story excels at, it’s pacing and keeping the tension high. Whether it’s blossoming sexual tension or fear, it’s there in abundance. 

The characters are full of life and strong voices. Every one of them is memorable and leaves you with something to thing about. They add to the story. They’re so much more than throwaway characters and after seeing so much of that lately, I am seriously impressed. I loved each and every one of them. Whether I liked them as characters was one thing, but they all had flaws and an energy that took over whenever they were present, despite the story being told from Rose’s POV. 

Rose has suffered years of psychological and verbal abuse. And I’m not sure if this term is correct, but secondary abuse-having to watch someone she loves get punished in her place. Everything she’s seen, each horrific, bloody act, all the guilt she’s felt, all the pain, and still Rose rallies on, she fights, and she sacrifices everything for her Flower sisters. Her determination, her courage, and her humility are a powerful example and completely unexpected. Some other things I loved about Rose was that she admitted her mistakes, she thought through every situation, and she weighed the risks. And her voice was consistent throughout. 

Rayce. Dear sweet gorgeous man. He’s playful and regal and brilliant and loves his people so fiercely that you can’t help but fall for him hard as the story progresses. The way her looks at Rose, how comfortable he feels with her, the honest way he confesses his fears and just listens to her, made of head over heels swoon. A noble and epic love interest that is more than worthy of Rose. 

Some of the plot was a little iffy. I would have liked a stronger history lesson on why these two groups hate each other, why the intial rebellion happened, and the aftermath. What’s happening in Varsha? More of that backstory would have painted a clearer picture of the animosity between groups and better explained why blondes are discriminated against, etc. 

authoramberGoodreads/Twitter

Amber Mitchell graduated from the University of South Florida with a BA in Creative Writing. She likes crazy hair styles, reading, D&D, k-dramas, good puns and great food.

When she isn’t putting words on paper, she is using cardstock to craft 3D artwork or exploring new places with her husband Brian. They live a small town in Florida with their four cats where she is still waiting for a madman in a blue box to show up on her doorstep.

Garden of Thorns is her debut novel from Entangled Teen.

giveaway

Enter for your chance to win a $40 Amazon giftcard 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

Read on, 

Jordan