Review: Heart of Ash by Kim Liggett

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“I carved out my heart and threw it into the deepest ocean. And I’d do it again and again. I will never be sorry for loving you.”

“We’re like the dissonant chord in the finale of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, begging for resolution. As long as we’re apart, there will never be peace in the world.”

All that remained were our bodies—vessels for each other’s hearts.”

“But if I gave in to him, gave in to the darkness, I knew it would be my ruin.”

synvia Goodreads

Ash may have escaped the immortal-worshipping cult that killed her mother, but the love of her life is still under its thrall. Dane has been possessed by his diabolical ancestor Coronado, a man who’s fabulously wealthy, dripping with fame, and the leader of Europe’s most dangerous immortal network. Dane begs Ash to join him at Coronado’s castle in Spain, and swears that his blood bond with Ash is stronger than Coronado’s hold over him. Ash is desperate to help Dane vanquish Coronado without having to sacrifice herself to the darkness. But when you’re all in, blood and salt, the only way to hold on to the light might just be by setting everything on fire.

review5 Stars 

Heart of Ash is exactly the book I needed at the right time. As many of you know, my reading record this year has been staggered and less than stellar. In the past week, I have read 3 horrible ARCs and I was questioning what happened to YA. For every 20 books there may be 1 truly great one. When did this become the norm? It could be me. It could be that over the past year, I have changed and become too busy, but I think that it’s because of that I’m okay with passing over books that are not for me and more than fine with slapping a DNF on a book that consumes my time with no heart. I don’t know if you have felt it to, but it feels like a turning point in YA. How has your reading been going?

That being said, Heart of Ash restored my faith in YA and my love of reading. The twists, the angst, the lust, the suspense, everything about this book sucks you in like a sweet and sometimes bloody addiction. When I read Blood and Salt, I was impressed with the story, but Heart of Ash blew the first book out of the water. 

The writing is beautiful, with profound and emotion-laced introspection at every turn.

The twists and turns keep you guessing to the point that nothing is what it seems.

I love this book. From the lush setting, to the deep, pulsating romance. What I appreciated was that while the book was essentially a romance, it felt like more. I was invested in every character, hoping for the HEA when everything seemed destined to end in total destruction. I hoped for more for these cursed lovers.

Great plotting. Better pacing. 

The blood and evil pours off the pages. When the truth is out…it’s astounding and powerful that Ash can withstand and overcome so much. Ash flirts with darkness and makes the choice to sacrifice herself and chance at happiness for the happiness of others.

The chemistry is straight fire. Slow burning sometimes, simmering others, and a blaze the next. There are some scenes that I would mark as mature YA, but they fade to black, not before all that angst and tension builds. Their love is explosive, volatile, and eternal. 

There are so many things I could say about this book, but the most important is: read this. 

If you like dark and twisted with a greater chance at utter devastation than happily ever after, try the Blood and Salt series.

If you like any of the following, enjoy this:

Read your heart out, 
Jordan
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ARC Review: Burning Bright by Chris Cannon

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synvia Goodreads

Bryn is back for her senior year at the Institute for Excellence, also known as shape-shifting dragon school. She isn’t sure which is scarier, the life-force sucking dragons stalking campus or the fact that she’s officially betrothed to Jaxon, a guy who will never love her. Not that she could ever love him, either… That’s just ridiculous.
 
Senior year should be fun. Her parents are alive, she’s finally fitting in, and she’s learning how to be a Medic. But what’s with Jaxon giving her strange looks? He runs hot and cold, and he doesn’t even have the excuse of being a hybrid fire-and-ice-breathing dragon like her. One minute they’re having a great time and the next, she wants to blast a fireball at his head. The marriage contract of doom looms over them–unless this match not made in heaven kindles a flame…

review3/5 Stars 

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

I think part of the reason I was underwhelmed by this book is because I loved Bryn’s story so much. I was so invested in her story, that I yearned for a happy ever after. I was not disappointed. Watching the love blossom and evolve and grow was like a sudden discovery of something that has always been there. Bryn is one of my all time favorite characters. She’s sarcastic, headstrong, brilliant, and so brave. A risk-taker, a leader-she breaks down walls and questions authority, unwilling to give into the archaic ideas of gender roles-especially for the upper class dragons. Bryn is a true warrior and she deserves someone equally as fierce. 

My biggest issue with this final installment in the Going Down in Flames series was not the plot, because that was epic, but the uneven focus. So much time was spent dwelling on the will they/won’t they of the impending relationship that it disrupted the pacing, making it much slower than the previous books. 

I adored Bryn’s internal dialogue. How she questions herself, sorts through her feelings, and pushes herself to be bold, further, to see things in a new light made me admire her even more. Everything was so genuine, from the confusion to the surprise lust. 

Jaxon. What a powerful shift. From the cold, calculated, and arrogant jerk he originated the series as to the compassionate, loving person he becomes. His walls were high and armored but he was willing to take a chance. I have crushed on Jaxon since book 1. There’s something about a bad boy, semi-villain that is so intriguing. Jaxon has much more depth and heart than he was ever given credit for and it’s finally in this book that we get to see Jaxon broken and bare, with his heart on his sleeve. ❤ ❤ ❤

All in all, this was a quick, fun read, but not all that I hoped for the conclusion of the series. 

Read on, 

Jordan

Review: Of Jenny and the Aliens by Ryan Gebhart

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synvia Goodreads

Ten years after Earth sent messages out into deep space, there has been an answer. Music from a distant planet has reached the our radios. Are aliens about to invade? No one knows, and almost-eighteen-year-old Derek doesn’t really care, because at a wild end-of-the-world party, Jennifer Novak invites him to play beer pong. And things…progress from there. Derek is in love. Deeply, hopelessly in love. He wants it all—marriage, kids, growing old on a beach in Costa Rica. Jenny is The One.

But Jenny has other plans, and they may or may not include Derek. So Derek will try anything to win her—even soliciting advice from the alien who shows up in his hometown. This alien may just be the answer to Derek’s problem. But is Derek prepared to risk starting an interstellar war to get his girl? And just how far is he willing to travel to discover the mysteries of the universe—and love?

review1/5 Stars 

***I received this eARC in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Candlewick Press

I read this book in June of 2017 and it has taken me this long to write the review because I thought I’d DNF and try again, but after a second foray into this story…I just can’t. I made it a full 25% before I had to back away or risk throwing my Kindle. 

Of Jenny and the Aliens is the worst parts of The Catcher in the Rye meets Bright Lights Big City. It’s full of crude and sometimes downright repulsive and exploitative depictions of women from the mind of a sexually frustrated teenage boy. Maybe it’s honest. Maybe it’s accurate, but as a female reader, I was more than a little creeped out by it. I understand angst. I understand finding people attractive but for the love of all that is holy, did it have to be worded in such a gross way?

But I kept going…at least for a while anyway. 

First, let me say this: I would not put this on a shelf for 13 year olds. Upper YA-if that. Between the language usage and fantasizing and the weird locker room talk objectification. 

The story itself would have been interesting if the characters weren’t so unlikable…for the most part. Jenny is unique. She has depth and a past. There’s mystery and a genuine urge to solve the puzzle of her character, but it is quashed by the love interest. He’s stereotypical. Obsessive in an unhealthy and weird way. The plot is bizarre but intriguing. Except, you don’t know if it’s real or some random, hallucinogenic episode while the character was stoned out of his mind. 

What I liked about this book was THE COVER. It’s what attracted me to the book. That, and the fact that it featured aliens. I was desperate for a new alien book, a little Jennifer Armentrout meets The X-Files, but sadly, this was more teenage male fantasy than sci-fi. 

Desperately searching for alien YA, 

Jordan

ARC Review: Furyborn by Claire Legrand

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Release Date: May 22, 2018

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire 

synvia Goodreads

Follows two fiercely independent young women, centuries apart, who hold the power to save their world…or doom it.

When assassins ambush her best friend, the crown prince, Rielle Dardenne risks everything to save him, exposing her ability to perform all seven kinds of elemental magic. The only people who should possess this extraordinary power are a pair of prophesied queens: a queen of light and salvation and a queen of blood and destruction. To prove she is the Sun Queen, Rielle must endure seven trials to test her magic. If she fails, she will be executed…unless the trials kill her first.

A thousand years later, the legend of Queen Rielle is a mere fairy tale to bounty hunter Eliana Ferracora. When the Undying Empire conquered her kingdom, she embraced violence to keep her family alive. Now, she believes herself untouchable–until her mother vanishes without a trace, along with countless other women in their city. To find her, Eliana joins a rebel captain on a dangerous mission and discovers that the evil at the heart of the empire is more terrible than she ever imagined.

As Rielle and Eliana fight in a cosmic war that spans millennia, their stories intersect, and the shocking connections between them ultimately determine the fate of their world–and of each other.

review3/5 Stars 

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

One of the things that drives me crazy about epic fantasy is when the world building feels unnatural. Furyborn has an interesting premise. From that first line, it invites you into the story but immediately starts bombarding with information. So much so that it felt like, “oh by the way” after every new detail, almost like an afterthought. We live in a kingdom, the queen is evil, she murdered her husband, angels and humans are walking a thin red line of friendship, human and angel hybrids are killed for their magic, oh, angels can talk in your head, there’s a prophecy, we must escape before the wicked queen or angels uncover our secret…all within 3 pages. Normally, all of this is good and well, but the way it was presented was overwhelming and confusing. It felt like being slammed in several directions at once. Granted, the scene itself is supposed to be suspenseful and full of anxiety, but I can’t help but wonder if some of these things could have been explained after the fact. Cue a queen giving birth, a doctor and son with a secret, and angel threatening the child, people escaping by following threads in the sky. That’s it, no explanation-it might have kept the mystery up and the reader wanting the know more. 

There’s also the fact that angels can talk in the character’s head at any given moment. Because we already hear internal dialogue, random people suddenly appearing takes some adjustment. 

The transition from that introductory chapter into 2 years earlier is rough. It takes a good few pages to realize what is going on and from that point on, it swings into two POVs and in different times. 

The characters were interesting and complex. The girl who was supposed to be a villain, (I always love a good villain), was by far my favorite. The journey from who she was and who she became was full of hard choices and self-discovery, causing the reader to question the nature of evil and whether it is learned or inherent. 

This is absolutely upper YA with lots of sexual activity and sex positivity. There is subtle bisexual relationships, really just a mention. Romance is heavy and sometimes….supernatural? 

 

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

Read some more, 

Jordan

 

 

ARC Review: The Life and Death Parade by Eliza Wass

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Release Date: June 26, 2018

synvia Goodreads

One year ago, Kitty’s boyfriend Nikki Bramley visited a psychic who told him he had no future. Now, he’s dead.

With the Bramley family grieving in separate corners of their home, Kitty sets out to find the psychic who read Nikki his fate. Instead she finds Roan, an enigmatic boy posing as a medium who belongs to the Life and Death Parade–a group of supposed charlatans that explore, and exploit, the thin veil between this world and the next. A group whose members include the psychic… and Kitty’s late mother.

Desperate to learn more about the group and their connection to Nikki, Kitty convinces Roan to return to the Bramley house with her and secures a position for him within the household. Roan quickly ingratiates himself with the Bramleys, and soon enough it seems like everyone is ready to move on. Kitty, however, increasingly suspects Roan knows more about Nikki than he’s letting on. And when they finally locate the Life and Death Parade, and the psychic who made that fateful prophecy to Nikki, Kitty uncovers a secret about Roan that changes everything.

From rising star Eliza Wass comes a sophisticated, mesmerizing meditation on the depths of grief and the magic of faith. After all, it only works if you believe it.

review3.5/5 Stars

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Disney-Hyperion 

When I first started reading this book, I was struck by the style-it’s like The Great Gatsby meets Rebecca and has dinner with The Diviners. There’s something whimsical, yet dark and Gothic about the word choice and overall atmosphere of the book-because that’s what was created here, an extensive and powerful atmosphere of mystery, magic, and yearning. 

Here’s the thing, while I have an English degree and love the classics, I’ve never been one for magical realism. Something about it feels false but to tell this story, it was the perfect choice. The Life and Death Parade is unsettling. It will make you question what is real and what is cleverly promoted through lies, smoke, and mirrors. There are many times when it seems you’re on the verge of answers but when they come, they’re to a different question or not all what you expected. And some things are started and left unfinished. Whether it was an intentional decision or not, it’s as much of a mystery as the truth itself. 

There’s a kind of lazy, upper-class entitlement that threads through the book. Like Holly Golightly in male form. The characters are…eclectic and not exactly likeable. They did have unique, if odd, personalities. I wish I would have liked them enough to become invested in their future, but really, I just cared about the story itself. 

The plot was intriguing. It sucks you in and holds you prisoner. You need to know what happened and there are so many possibilities. I loved the blend of magical, traveling performers, and praying to specific saints for favors. The Life and Death Parade is a culture in itself and so cool. There’s a New Orleans vibe set in the English countryside. The crafting of altars, psychic readings, and sensationalization drags the reader right into that world, and begs them to question whether they believe and how much it matters.

At its heart, this is a story of grief and trying to process how it happened after the fact. The characters are lost in the past and don’t know how to move forward because of their tragic loss. They all mourn in different and arguably unhealthy ways because they were waiting for closure that would not come on its own. 

I liked that there wasn’t really an in-your-face consuming romance, but one that hummed beneath the story and yet was the entire foundation for the events that occured. 

All in all, this was a strange, enjoyable read. 

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

Read on, 

Jordan

 

ARC Review: Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart

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Release Date: July 31, 2018

It struck her that she might spend the rest of her days like this: trapped in a beautiful room waiting for Serina to return, her own life a footnote. Unremarkable. Invisible. Forgotten. 

syn

In a world where women have no rights, sisters Serina and Nomi Tessaro face two very different fates: one in the palace, the other in prison.

Serina has been groomed her whole life to become a Grace–someone to stand by the heir to the throne as a shining, subjugated example of the perfect woman. But when her headstrong and rebellious younger sister, Nomi, catches the heir’s eye, it’s Serina who takes the fall for the dangerous secret that Nomi has been hiding.

Now trapped in a life she never wanted, Nomi has only one way to save Serina: surrender to her role as a Grace until she can use her position to release her sister. This is easier said than done. A traitor walks the halls of the palace, and deception lurks in every corner. But Serina is running out of time, imprisoned on an island where she must fight to the death to survive and one wrong move could cost her everything.

review

4 Stars

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

PROS:

  • Headstrong, outspoken, risk-taking women who fight for their sisters and stick up for the women around them. These girls were raised to accept gender stereotypes, to remain uneducated, demure, and submissive. Their whole purpose in life-if they weren’t training to be a Grace-is to work in a factory or be sold off into marriage. They were denied the power of knowledge, of words, of BOOKS. If they were trained to be a Grace, they had to look a specific way, eat enough to have “womanly curves”, speak only when spoken to, and were taught to deny their own opinions, their voice, and do whatever pleases the Heir. 
  • Love between sisters. I’m not sure that I have read any YA that fully captured the beautiful bond between sisters and their willingness to sacrifice themselves to protect one another. Nomi and Serina are opposites. They rarely see eye-to-eye and fight quite a bit, but they love each other with that bone deep, eternal magnitude that pushes them to survive when they are on the verge of giving up just to see each other again. Throughout the story, this feeling only grows and is reinforced through both actions and words. 
  • There is some SERIOUS heat between the couples. I had to stop and fan myself during one…kind of extensive scene. More sensual than sexual, but fire. 
  • Gladiators meet Amazonian women. Ruin Mountain has clans of women who each have their own subculture and are forced to fight to the death for food rations. They’re fierce, crafty, and willing to do whatever it takes despite their horrifying circumstances. 
  • The pacing is great. It flows, sucks you in, and it took me a little over a day to plough through.

CONS:

  • The “plot twist” was fairly predictable. It was so much like another book I read a year or two ago that I called it within the first few chapters. There are shades of The Sin Eater’s Daughter, The Red Queen, and Cruel Beauty.
  • While the world-building is fairly solid, I would have loved to hear more of the back story. The brief moments of history and the folklore were intriguing and those legends, it was like a new brand of mythology meets historical fiction.
  • Nomi’s twin Renzo. There was zero development there are hardly anything about their relationship prior to the Grace selection and yet, Nomi expects him to take life-threatening risks for her? There wasn’t a strong enough foundation or enough for the reader to care/appreciate the risk that was being taken. 

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

Keep reading, 

Jordan

 

ARC Review: 27 Hours by Tristina Wright

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3.5 Stars

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

This book. There are so many amazing things happening in this book.

The diversity, acceptance, portrayals of various sexualities and lifestyles. If only our world was that inclusive.

World-building is off the charts. Space. Domes. Gargoyles. Hubs for different specialties. Focus on science. Folklore. The exploration of “Earth culture.” Military training, cool technology, the Moon as Mother. So much is there and it feels natural. A lot of the time with intense world-building in sci-fi/fantasy, it’s forced and overwhelming. You’re slammed with details and history to the point where it becomes a tedious, info dump. This is not like that. It fits. It flows. It works insanely well.

27 Hours is told from multiple POVs. Typically when this happens, there’s at least one character you loathe and try to skim through. Game of Thrones is plagued with this half-formed and irritating characterization but Tristina Wright has created bold, flawed, introspective and interesting characters that are easy to invest in.

What’s more, there are none of those fleeting, non-characters that are designed to fill space. Everyone has a personality, purpose, and place within the story. Some of the secondary characters were so intriguing that I longed for more of them. Initially, it was a little hard to keep track of everything because there are so many characters and plot lines, it takes a bit but it’s worth it.

I loved these characters. Like full on emoji with heart eyes, adored them. Which is why it kills me to say this, but despite everything this story has going for it, it took a turn for the mundane. It almost felt like a cop out. Things were headed in an action-packed and truly unforgettable direction, the characters omg. And then it became a romance. Now, I like when there are relationships, everyone deserves and should celebrate love, but it became like every other page was angst and tension and exploration. There’s a whole section where characters are just hooking up left and right. I understand, there’s war, people and chimera are dying, emotions are off the charts and there’s an overwhelming compulsion to express all the things. But the plot faded away. It got buried and tangled in this how fast can we tear off each other’s clothes that went so quickly from attraction to like to lust. It got to the point where I wanted to skim and that’s not okay because I was living this story. I was in it. 100% and then it felt rushed and confused and like the sole purpose of the book was to bring these hormonal teens together. I don’t know, I guess I’m just disappointed.

The ending. Cliffhanger from deep space. After everything the characters have went through, the revelations, all they’ve lost, this is another plot twist that definitely left me wanting more.

I’m also puzzled by this cover.

Let me know what you think!

As always, happy reading and happy new year!!! May it be full of great reads.

Jordan