A SERIES A MONTH REVIEW: THE DARKEST MINDS

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I finally finished my first book for the Series challenge! I’m almost positive I’m not going to finish the whole series before the month is over, but I’ve been doing pretty good reading this month, at least. I finish my TBR book for January, which is exciting, and I’m going to have the house to myself this weekend, so that could be promising for some serious reading! But anyway, I wanted to throw up a review of The Darkest Minds, the first book of Alexandra Bracken’s series of the same name.

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SUMMARY

When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed. Something frightening enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Something that got her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government “rehabilitation camp.” She might have survived the mysterious disease that had killed most of America’s children, but she and the others emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they could not control.

Now sixteen, Ruby is one of the dangerous ones. When the truth comes out, Ruby barely escapes Thurmond with her life. She is on the run, desperate to find the only safe haven left for kids like her—East River. She joins a group of kids who have escaped their own camp. Liam, their brave leader, is falling hard for Ruby. But no matter how much she aches for him, Ruby can’t risk getting close. Not after what happened to her parents. When they arrive at East River, nothing is as it seems, least of all its mysterious leader. But there are other forces at work, people who will stop at nothing to use Ruby in their fight against the government. Ruby will be faced with a terrible choice, one that may mean giving up her only chance at having a life worth living.’

THOUGHTS

Okay! I finally read The Darkest Minds, and it only took me three years to do it. Three cheers! Well, I’m happy, anyway. So, I gave it 4 stars for mainly this reason: I thought it was a great book, really chunky and interesting (I binged it in a day), but I was really confused through a lot of it. I couldn’t figure out why she was so upset about  being what she was. I thought it was really cool, and an advantage, but about halfway through the book when you find out what her powers did, I understood. But I didn’t quite get it at the beginning. Also, the action sequences came hard and fast, which I would usually love, but since my brain was still trying to figure out what Ruby’s deal was, I ended up being confused even more. Of course, I was also sick, and that could have contributed to it. 

In any case, I did really like this book, especially when I got everything straight in my head. I loved the slow-burn romance (I am NOT happy about the ending), I loved the secondary characters- Zu especially- and I didn’t predict much of what happened. There were some things that you could kind of see coming, but I’m not one for trying to figure out a book before I read it- I just let the book carry me along, for the most part, unless it’s super obvious. So I liked that part of it. I thought all the character development, especially Ruby’s, was really good, and I can’t wait to see where Alexandra takes her in Never Fade, book two. 

WHAT TO WATCH

That was another bonus for this book- it was exciting, fun, had a romance, but there was nothing to make it inappropriate for younger teens. Aside from some violence (which was never graphic) this book was clean and appropriate for everyone. I would recommend it even for younger teens who are looking for a thicker book that tackle.

So there it it! Book one is done, now on to book two!

REVIEW: THE MASKED TRUTH

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SUMMARY: 

Riley Vasquez is haunted by the brutal murder of the couple she was babysitting for.

Max Cross is suffering under the shadow of a life-altering diagnosis he doesn’t dare reveal.

The last thing either of them wants is to spend a weekend away at a therapy camp alongside five other teens with “issues.” But that’s exactly where they are when three masked men burst in to take the group hostage.

The building has no windows. The exits are sealed shut. Their phones are gone. And their captors are on a killing spree.

Riley and Max know that if they can’t get out, they’ll be next—but they’re about to discover that even escape doesn’t equal freedom.

MY THOUGHTS:

PLOT: Mrmgh. Eh. Sigh. I didn’t reread the summary when I picked this one up. My interpretation (aka what I remembered) was that it was one of the kids, picking off the others one by one, you never know who you can trust.

Nope. From the start you know who the dangerous ones are, and then it’s just a lot of running and hiding and running and people being absolute idiots. And then it’s just a lot of self-doubt and wandering around a hospital and that’s where I stopped. So I guess this is more of a baby book review, because I skimmed just about the last 50 pages. I guess the end was kind of a surprise? But not…really? Honestly, there were about a hundred pages that were really interesting, and then I just…wasn’t feeling it. It was too fast a climb in action that led to too fast a fall in action.

CHARACTERS: I hoped a lot from these characters. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t connect with them, and I wanted a lot more. From Max and his schizophrenia, I wanted more hallucination, more of that unreliable narrator, instead of thinking it MIGHT be unreliable, but probably not really. I understand that it’s much more realistic this way, but I would have loved more drama from him.

As for Riley, I just…couldn’t get behind her trauma. The survivor’s remorse and the PTSD, once again, I realize were crafted for the realism, but I wanted…more. More than just her calling herself a coward every five paragraphs.

As for secondary characters, I really liked Sloane after the entire incident. Brash and confident, she was just my kind of character. I did think Armstrong did a great job writing an interesting and varied group of characters. (even if a lot of them did bite the dust).

Maybe I just wasn’t in the mood for a thriller, or contemporary, or…I don’t know. This one just didn’t strike me, but maybe I’ll revisit it when I know that’s what mood I’m in.

WHAT TO WATCH:

Violence. This one was pretty graphic, too, lots of descriptions and shooting and fighting and just…violence. So this one is definitely not for young or sensitive readers.

What did you think of The Masked Truth? I heard a lot of great things about it, and I want some reasons to try it again someday!

ARC REVIEW: WE’LL NEVER BE APART

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SUMMARY

Murder.  Fire.  Revenge.

That’s all seventeen-year-old Alice Monroe thinks about. Committed to a mental ward at Savage Isle, Alice is haunted by memories of the fire that killed her boyfriend, Jason. A blaze her twin sister Cellie set. But when Chase, a mysterious, charismatic patient, agrees to help her seek vengeance, Alice begins to rethink everything. Writing out the story of her troubled past in a journal, she must confront hidden truths.

Is the one person she trusts only telling her half the story? Nothing is as it seems in this edge-of-your-seat psychological thriller from the debut author Emiko Jean.

MY THOUGHTS

I received a free advanced copy through NetGalley- this has in no way affected my review.

PLOT: Let me start by saying that I think a lot of how much people enjoyed this book was very much linked to whether they guessed the ending or not. I did not, so I rated it higher than some. The plot took me a long time to get into. I haven’t been in the mood for contemporary, so even though I started this a month and a half ago, I put it down and didn’t pick it back up until I needed a shorter read for day 2 of the read-a-thon I’m participating in. It started out well, but there was so much you didn’t know, and I was so into my audiobook re-read of Graceling that I just didn’t want to read more. When I did pick it up again, I felt like I was powering through a lot of places just to get through to the journal entries. I understand the need for some suspense, but I felt that a lot of the time spent on the present was a little bit repetitive. It all came down to the cafeteria, calling Chase names, and pining over Jason, the lost love.

Honestly, it was only toward the end that I started to really get into the plot. Once Alice starts unraveling the truth, and you start to understand what’s going on (at least for me- I really wanted to know what happened to Cellie) you just get this feeling of utter disbelief- like, “Wow, did that really just happen and this REALLY WHAT IT IS?!” -and then it’s super exciting. But again, you have to be someone like me who hasn’t figured out (and hasn’t tried to figure out) the plot ahead of time.

CHARACTERS: If there’s a book about complex characters, this is it. Well, one of them is complex. And unreliable- which I didn’t realize until the very end. That was a really neat twist that it added (since I didn’t know ahead of time, though I really should have suspected). The journal entries and the glimpses of Cellie were what I was really interested in- I didn’t like Alice, I was unnerved by Jason, and Chase didn’t strike me as well as a better bad boy would have. But I give them some slack- they’re all crazy. But Cellie- that was the character shrouded in mystery, so demented and twisted that you couldn’t help but want to know what she was all about, as well as what she was going to do once Alice.

What actually happened threw me for a loop. And maybe that means I’m not a very critical reader when it comes to mystery, or what, but I didn’t try to figure it out beforehand, I had no clue what was going on, and it was just…awesome. That’s what pushed this book up from ‘okay’ to ‘liked it’ for me.  But I’m not going to say more about the characters so that I don’t give anything away- but they were crazy, so they were unpredictable, and it got pretty interesting there at the end.

OVERALL: I hate rating books like this. They have their time and place, and you have to be in a specific mood to read a book like this. I don’t know if I was in the right mood, so for me, it was somewhere around 3 stars, maybe a little higher. It would have been lower, but I really enjoyed the twist and the resolution- since I didn’t expect it. Well done to Emiko Jean for a first novel that I imagine was rather difficult to write.

WHAT TO WATCH

As far as romance goes, there are some innuendos and also one implied sex scene near the end, but nothing graphic. There are also some kiss scenes, although those are not graphic either.  Violence plays a role in this book- there are two murders by arson, a suicide described secondhand, beating, and lots of crazy screaming and fighting nurses and doctors, as well as an abusive foster parent. There is also some language in varying degrees, name-calling and such. I wouldn’t recommend this for younger or sensitive readers- but that could have been anticipated based on the fact that most of the book takes place in an insane asylum with three orphaned pyromaniacs. So there you have it- read at your own risk, and beware the sudden twist!

 

 

REVIEW: ILLUMINAE

SUMMARY

This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do.

This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

THOUGHTS

This is just going to be a bunch of gifs, because what can you really say about a book this good?

So then, I’m sitting there, nearing the end of the book, and I kid you not- for the last 150 pages or so, this was my expression:

But then, just as all was winding down, the final blow was delivered, leaving me feeling like

So that’s that. Illuminae one of the (if not THE) best book I’ve read all year. Go read it now. You won’t regret it.

BOOK REVIEW: THE FIXER (ARC August)

“My sister was a mover, a shaker, a problem solver – and right now, the problem she’d set her sights on solving was me.”

SUMMARY (goodreads.com)

Sixteen-year-old Tess Kendrick has spent her entire life on her grandfather’s ranch. But when her estranged sister Ivy uproots her to D.C., Tess is thrown into a world that revolves around politics and power. She also starts at Hardwicke Academy, the D.C. school for the children of the rich and powerful, where she unwittingly becomes a fixer for the high school set, fixing teens’ problems the way her sister fixes their parents’ problems.

And when a conspiracy surfaces that involves the family member of one of Tess’s classmates, love triangles and unbelievable family secrets come to light and life gets even more interesting—and complicated—for Tess.

Perfect for fans of Pretty Little Liars and Heist Society, readers will be clamoring for this compelling teen drama with a political twist.

THOUGHTS

They say “teen drama” like it’s some tween romance love triangle. What they mean is “people get murdered and teens try to find out who did it.” So, you know. “Teen drama.” I loved this book, though. The plot was terrific, the characters were all so dynamic and unique, and you never felt like you needed to skim to get through a boring or unimportant section. Kudos to JLB for that- I’m a big skim-reader.

When I got to the last third of the book, my expression through the entire thing was simply this:

Seriously. The whole last third of the book. It was awesome. Plot twists like you wouldn’t BELIEVE.

PLOT: Strong, strong, STRONG! I loved the development. Even though it was a lot of information, it never felt like an info dump when you were getting details. I did find it to be a little bit slow toward the beginning, but never so much that I wanted to put it down or skim the information. Somehow, you know everything you’re reading is important. And it is- all the little strings tie up in a knot when you get to the end, and you’re just excited that you finally get to find out what all the dynamics are about. Except then you don’t, and you’re left dying for book two. I can’t really say any more without giving it away- yeah, it’s all spoilers- so I’ll just conclude this section by simply stating that IT WAS AMAZING AND YOU NEED TO READ IT NOW.

CHARACTERS: Okay, I pretty much loved all of them. I wish Asher had been a little bit more developed, and I wish we had more time to get to know Henry and what his whole deal was, but overall, they were all unique, relatable, and entertaining. They acted like normal humans and normal teens, and I really appreciated that- sometimes authors will try to make their characters do things that aren’t really something a normal, well-adjusted person would do and pass it off as creative license or ‘that’s just they way they are.’ But it’s hard to relate to those characters, and I usually don’t keep reading books with characters I can’t connect to.

On a side note, I almost found myself wanting to know more about the adults in this novel more than I cared about the main storyline at times. The three most mentioned- Ivy, Adam, and Bodie- have a great dynamic, even if it is a little confusing at times. I never thought that I would care about the side, adult characters so much, but they’re all so mysterious and intriguing, and I just can’t help but want to know what’s going to happen with them in the future.

WHAT TO WATCH: Nothing. This book was clean as a whistle- there wasn’t a romance at all, there was no bad language, no violence of note (people die, but it’s not like they stumble across dead bodies or see the graphic results of the deaths). It’s a thriller that does its job without any of the messy teen relationship drama to clog up the plot, and it’s a book I would recommend to anyone in the YA genre.

I don’t want to say any more about this book. Anything else I could say would be to give away an important aspect that you would enjoy much more finding out about on your own. I can’t imagine the feelings you’ll have when you read it- I only know what I felt, and it was so worth every second I spent reading instead of doing anything productive with my time. I give it 4.5 stars only because there were times when I was really confused, and maybe that was just me, but I still highly recommend this book for any reader- it’s a contemporary that will hook a fantasy lover as easily as it does a modern-day reader.

  Questions? Comments? Books you’d like me to review? Post a comment below and I’ll be sure to check it out!

REVIEW: BONE GAP

“You can slip into the gap and never find your way out.

Or maybe you don’t want to find your way out.”

SUMMARY (GOODREADS):

Everyone knows Bone Gap is full of gaps—gaps to trip you up, gaps to slide through so you can disappear forever. So when young, beautiful Roza went missing, the people of Bone Gap weren’t surprised. After all, it wasn’t the first time that someone had slipped away and left Finn and Sean O’Sullivan on their own. Just a few years before, their mother had high-tailed it to Oregon for a brand new guy, a brand new life. That’s just how things go, the people said. Who are you going to blame?

Finn knows that’s not what happened with Roza. He knows she was kidnapped, ripped from the cornfields by a dangerous man whose face he cannot remember. But the searches turned up nothing, and no one believes him anymore. Not even Sean, who has more reason to find Roza than anyone, and every reason to blame Finn for letting her go.

MY THOUGHTS

Baby Review:

So, my first thought when I reached page 6 of this book was ‘Why didn’t I pick this up sooner?’ And that feeling stayed with me through the entire novel. A melancholy mystery, both thrilling and sticky as molasses, Bone Gap is as good a novel as I have ever read. I’ll admit that it was hard at times, when I was halfway through the book and I still couldn’t describe it to anyone who asked me what it was about better than ‘A girl went missing and there’s bees.’ And yet I still give this book 5 out of 5 stars for the way it wrapped around me like a warm blanket and made me feel like I was drowning in honey. In a good way- a great way.

THE PLOT:

One of the most confusing books I’ve ever read, Bone Gap is the kind of book that doesn’t release any of the answers to your many questions until far, far into the novel. If you’re a reader who likes to have a piece every few pages, you’re out of luck. All through the novel you’re left with question after question, building and building until you can hardly stand the anticipation and the wondering. Finn is a peculiar sort, Petey is wild and open, Sean is dark and brooding (also my favorite), Roza is beautiful and earthy, and you never know more than that when you’re reading. The plot has a sort of melancholy feel about it, and the music playing in my head was the theme of shows like Eureka and Granite Flats. Slow lazy, with the feeling that you don’t really know what’s lurking beneath the surface of the sleepy little town you find yourself in. Bone Gap is like that, delightfully creepy, nerve-wracking in the best sort of way because the danger could come from any direction, from any of these happy town people working away at their respective jobs.

Anyway, if I’m being honest with you all, I’ll tell you that you probably will have no clue what’s going on for most of the book. If you’re like me, you won’t care, and you’ll adore it for the rich, vibrant writing and the promise of a thrilling conclusion. Peppered with POV changes and flashbacks, this novel made me swoon with all the detailed history, the well-placed humor just when you think you’re going to drown in the honey molasses melancholy that surrounds the characters.

When there’s finally an answer to your questions, when you finally understand what the heck is going on, you still feel a little confused. I wish it had happened slower, but then if it was slower, it wouldn’t have been as (for lack of a better word) magical. Because it was magical, the way every tiny detail you’ve been learning about the town and its residents twine together and finally, finally you can see the whole story woven out like a tapestry and you understand. That final moment of clarity (which I’m still getting more glimpses of) make you truly aware of just how amazing this book is. So go read it. Now.

THE CHARACTERS: 

I love pretty much everyone in this book, and the way their relationships grow and change. Take, for instance, Finn and Petey (Priscilla). At the start of the book, Finn and Petey are the outcasts- strange, avoided, pitied. But as they grow into themselves and start to see each other (and others) for who they really are, they change. And the town changes with them, changing opinions and acting on them almost as one entity (a hivemind, if you will). Finn learns about himself with the help of Petey, and his determination and intensity is hard to balance- but Laura Ruby destroys it. She makes Finn into someone relatable even with the corn whispering to him, she makes Petey wild and fierce and lovable even with her insecurities and inner demons (figuratively, of course). No one gets annoying  in this book (except the Rude boys) which is a miracle in itself. It seems like at some point in most books the main character becomes so frustrating and irritating that you can’t help shaking the book as if you can knock some sense into them, but not Bone Gap.  There was never a moment when I wanted to skip over dialogue or inner feelings, and I’m so, so happy about that.

Even the villain in this story is so amazingly crafted- a mystery inside an enigma, blurred to the point of terrifying normalcy, never quite in view but always there, invading homes and lives and worlds. He crosses the line between fantasy and reality, jumps between worlds to enter your waking nightmares. And that’s all I’m going to say about him, because any more would make it less fun for you.

Sean and Roza, though. The most beautifully understated love story of all time. I ached for their POVs, because when they happened, it was such a soft, easy love story to fall into. Told in bits and pieces marked by the pain of separation and loss, their story winds into something beautiful, almost as if they didn’t know they were falling in love and you get to watch this new discovery of feelings. But Sean- how can I describe him? You’ll just have to go read the book. He’s so quietly heroic, and everyone sees him as the hero, but when you catch glimpses of the sadness in him, you can’t help but feel heartbroken. And you can never hate him for not going to find Roza because you can just feel that even living is almost too much for him,, let alone facing that despair of not finding her day after day after day. Roza, for her part, is wonderfully brave and bold, fresh like the dew and beautiful as the dawn, opening the world of Sean and Finn and then ripping that away when she’s stolen. A powerful sense of loss followers her story, but never so much that she gives up. She always keeps going, always looks for a way out, never forgets her home even when it seems impossible to get back. I could write 1000 more words about how much I love them, but I think you all should just pick up Bone Gap  and find out for yourselves.

WHAT TO WATCH (SPOILERS): 

There was some material inappropriate for younger teens- Finn is very clearly a teenage boy, and he thinks like one. He also acts like one. Petey is a teenage girl, and they do end up having sex, though it is not graphically described at all, only brushed over enough that you know it happened. One of the characters also ends up being gay, but that’s only commented on near the end of the book briefly. Other than that, there’s also a touch of the unknown- could be magic, could be imagination, or it could be another world entirely. But that’s all.

OVERALL: 

I feel like I shouldn’t talk about this book any more, lest I give something away. All I can emphasize is how much I loved . It easily jumps to the top of my favorite books so far this year, and that’s saying something. I’ve read a lot of books so far. 10 of 5 stars, okay? Bone Gap  is what every person should read to understand what the YA genre is about- it’s raw, it’s real, it’s magic in a place where magic doesn’t seem to exist, with unforgettable characters that reach in and grab your heart before you can put up any walls. It’s seeing the same world from different eyes, and that’s something we should all be aware of. We all belong to this world, and we shouldn’t step on anyone else because they see it differently than we do. Maybe the way they see it is going to save someone someday.

Questions? Comments? Books you’d like me to review? Post a comment below and I’ll be sure to check it out!

THE DEVIL YOU KNOW

HERE’S THE SUMMARY

 Eighteen-year-old Arcadia wants adventure. Living in a tiny Florida town with her dad and four-year-old brother, Cadie spends most of her time working, going to school, and taking care of her family. So when she meets two handsome cousins at a campfire party, she finally has a chance for fun. They invite her and friend to join them on a road trip, and it’s just the risk she’s been craving-the opportunity to escape. But what starts out as a fun, sexy journey quickly becomes dangerous when she discovers that one of them is not at all who he claims to be. One of them has deadly intentions.

Advanced Reviewer copy provided by Netgalley and Bloomsbury USA Children’s- Thanks!

MY THOUGHTS

I’ll be honest- I expected a lot from this book. Something Like Normal, another of Trish Doller’s books, is one of the best books I have ever read- I don’t really know how to explain why that is, because I don’t know myself, but the first time I got it I read it three times in a row, I was so enthralled. While The Devil You Know is a completely different concept, the writing still hooked me, just like usual. Although I thought the premise was a little strange, and I felt that the settings were a little bit forced to get to the final result (it could just be me, but even if I was really mad at my dad, I wouldn’t take off to go camping with some strangers, no matter how hot they are), the overall writing and plot development was very enjoyable.

Truthfully, there wasn’t a lot of mystery in this book for me. Pretty soon you figure out who the psycho is, and that could be because the author was focused more on the thriller aspect as opposed to the mystery of it, and that is totally fine. Because a thriller it was. Doller keeps you waiting on the edge of your seat, tensing at every opportunity that arises where the killer could strike. That was some intense reading, I’ll admit, and there was no better setting for this slow-burning thriller than the desolate swamplands of the Florida Everglades.

When it comes to character development, I’ll say the same things as I have for everything else: I felt that they were a little bit forced so that they would all end up in the right situations, but what background you found out about the boys did make sense. I didn’t spend a lot of time with the background about Cadie, and I probably should have, but I was eager to get to the thrilling part of it, so I didn’t spend a lot of time on the minor details. The side characters I didn’t get really attached to, which I was glad about because some of them died- I really hate when my favorite characters die. So I didn’t get attached, but it would have made more of an impact if I felt any kind of connection to those secondary people.

The thrill, though, was perfect. Once they were in the Everglades, alone, and things started happening…oh, that was great. I wish there had been a little more of the foreshadowing- creepy sounds in the woods, anything, but even without, it was still an edgy read, with a lot of really interesting details that I would love to find out more about- are these real Florida landmarks? That would be super cool. And then, toward the end, when everything starts happening at once, it twists you up into knots while you try to figure out what’s going to happen- if someone else is going to die.

Overall, I really did like this book. I would certainly recommend it for someone looking for a thriller that isn’t so graphic you have to wash your eyeballs out after you read it because you can feel the crazy soaking into your brain. So here’s what you do have to watch.

WHAT TO WATCH

Violence: Dealing with a thriller can be tricky. There are scenes that can be really tough to swallow, or scenes that are surprisingly tame, comparatively. The Devil You Know met that middle ground pretty well, in my opinion. There were a few scenes that were pretty descriptive- when dealing with a sociopath, some twisted things are going to happen, and I wouldn’t recommend it for younger readers.

Romance: Romance is half the reason Cadie goes on this camping trip, and things do get sketchy. She and one of the boys get really close to having sex near the beginning of the book before she stops it, and it does end up happening later in the book. While the first time is more descriptive, the actual act is not described, more implied.

Alcohol/Drugs: The start of the book begins with a teen party, and so there are drugs and alcohol present, and some of the attendees are under the influence of whatever substance they’ve been using.

That’s pretty much it, and of course it’s always up to you to decide what to read- I’m just here to shed a little light!

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Trish Doller on Twitter

Questions? Comments? Books you’d like me to review? Post a comment below and I’ll be sure to check it out!