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!

 

 

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ARC REVIEW: INHERIT THE STARS

SUMMARY

Three royal houses ruling three interplanetary systems are on the brink of collapse, and they must either ally together or tear each other apart in order for their people to survive.

Asa is the youngest daughter of the house of Fane, which has been fighting a devastating food and energy crisis for far too long. She thinks she can save her family’s livelihood by posing as her oldest sister in an arranged marriage with Eagle, the heir to the throne of the house of Westlet. The appearance of her mother, a traitor who defected to the house of Galton, adds fuel to the fire, while Asa also tries to save her sister Wren’s life . . . possibly from the hands of their own father.

But as Asa and Eagle forge a genuine bond, will secrets from the past and the urgent needs of their people in the present keep them divided?

Author Tessa Elwood’s debut series is an epic romance at heart, set against a mine field of political machinations, space adventure, and deep-seeded family loyalties.

THOUGHTS

I’ll be completely honest- I didn’t remember a lot about this book when I started it and since I hadn’t heard a lot, I didn’t expect much in terms of ‘Everyone says I’m going to love it!’

All of that was blown away.

The writing was amazing- not in the fantasy-elegant way that we’ve been seeing a lot of, but clean, fast, and engrossing. The characters- oh, my heart. Each one was round, dynamic, and nothing you could call stereotypical. There was good and bad in each of them, and you never could quite tell which was going to take over in any given situation.

Every time I thought the plot was going to veer in a direction that most stories of this kind do, it changed, twirling off into a completely different universe and making me excited and surprised all over again.

The romance is understated, subtle, and presses ever closer before you realize it, because you’ve been holding your breath waiting for the other shoe to drop on Eagle and Asa. Gosh, Eagle. Imperfection and wonder in a gorgeously damaged being- but not damaged like you might think. I won’t ruin the surprise, but don’t think that it’s another of those messed-up relationships where the girl still loves the guy even though he’s awful. No, the romance sets the background and keeps everything in motion even when you don’t think it will, and has that sort of quiet tension without 80 pages of teenage angst. I loved it. LOVED IT.

Inherit the Stars is a book I’m already eager to read again, and if there’s no more, I’ll be crying, for sure. I’ve fallen in love with the characters, the universe, and the potential for greatness only hinted at in the first book. Five stars, wholeheartedly.

Release Date: December 8, 2015 by Running Press Kids

I was provided a digital ARC of this book before the release date through NetGalley and Running Press Kids, but this in no way affected my review of the work.

ARC REVIEW: BLACKHEARTS

SUMMARY

Blackbeard the pirate was known for striking fear in the hearts of the bravest of sailors. But once he was just a young man who dreamed of leaving his rigid life behind to chase adventure in faraway lands. Nothing could stop him—until he met the one girl who would change everything. This is their story.

Edward “Teach” Drummond, son of one of Bristol’s richest merchants, has just returned from a year-long journey on the high seas to find his life in shambles. Betrothed to a girl he doesn’t love and sick of the high society he was born into, Teach dreams only of returning to the vast ocean he’d begun to call home. There’s just one problem: convincing his father to let him leave and never come back.

Following her parents’ deaths, Anne Barrett is left penniless and soon to be homeless. Though she’s barely worked a day in her life, Anne is forced to take a job as a maid in the home of Master Drummond. Lonely days stretch into weeks, and Anne longs for escape. How will she ever realize her dream of sailing to Curaçao—where her mother was born—when she’s stuck in England?

From the moment Teach and Anne meet, they set the world ablaze. Drawn to each other, they’re trapped by society and their own circumstances. Faced with an impossible choice, they must decide to chase their dreams and go, or follow their hearts and stay.

MY THOUGHTS

PLOT: I’m going to attempt, very carefully, not to swoon after every sentence I write about this book. *SWOON* Sorry. Be prepared- I don’t think I can make this non-gushing.

Let’s get one thing straight- I loved everything about this book. Everything. Except, perhaps, the ending, because I wasn’t ready for it. The plot was much different than I anticipated, and the twists, although they weren’t ridiculously huge (i.e. an asteroid is heading for the earth, ahhhh!) they were unexpected, intriguing, and absolutely fabulous. They always came just when you were ready for something new to happen, and I must admit, this is one of the only times that I recognized the excellence of the pacing in a novel. It was a constant upswing, and although there weren’t action scenes every 15 pages, there was always something to make you go

So, basically, it was amazing.

The plot didn’t get tiresome- sometimes with the historical novels set around this time, it can get repetitive. Dinner, dancing, suitor, dancing, gasp, dinner, gasp, dancing, etc. Those things are great when used to enhance the plot, but not when they’re the entire plot. Blackhearts stayed firmly away from that trend. There were dinners, yes. There was dancing, yes (and pretty dresses!!!). There was gasping (mostly by me), yes. But it served a purpose. It moved the plot forward, giving you important information and leading you to the climax very sneakily. It’s fantastic, until you reach the surprisingly quick conclusion. Then, if you’re like me, you just cry a little bit and search for the invisible last pages.

CHARACTERS: Where do I even begin? This book had everything by way of characters. The variety was stunning- each had a specific voice, and they absolutely each elicited emotions from me. Teach? SWOON SWOON SWOON. He’s strong, he’s fierce, he’s powerful- but what I loved most about Teach was that even though he was one of the darker heroes, this wasn’t a twisted YA relationship, and it certainly wasn’t insta-love. This wasn’t one of those books where the girl becomes a doormat because a hot guy gives her the time of the day- and that brings me to Anne.

Anne is the ultimate heroine- decisive, uncompromising, willing to do anything she has to so she can escape her life as a servant. She doesn’t resign herself to a life of misery, even though her only way out may be to do things she doesn’t want to do. I admired her unflinching spirit, even in the face of danger and ridicule, and I think we need more heroines in YA who think and act like Anne. Even falling in love can’t keep her from following her dreams.

Even the characters that were minor were very distinctive and very entertaining. Drummond, Teach’s father, was such a conflict for me- it was a total love-hate relationship. He’s a great layer of conflict for the story, and I loved the way you see him shift and change- a totally dynamic character. Patience, William, Mary, Margery, etc., all enhanced the book as well- enough subplots to keep the book moving and keep your brain occupied, but not so much that it distracted from the main plot line. Their characters, while not as dynamic, were entertaining and they served a purpose- they weren’t just random characters introduced as filler. Sometimes when that happens it can make me close a book for a while because it’s overwhelming, but Nicole found another great balance with her characters and their roles.

OVERALL: Did I mention how much love this book? Hit the pre-order sites, everyone, and keep your eye out for it. Blackhearts may not be a revolutionary story (it is set in the past!) but the writing and execution certainly is. Five stars, although I’d give it a thousand if I could. When I was (still am) swamped with books that just can’t keep my attention, Blackhearts grabbed my attention, my mind, and then my heart with its rich characters, driven plot, and elegant world.

What else can I say? This was one of the best books I’ve read in a long time, and I think everyone else should read it, too. This last image basically sums up how I feel about this book.

BOOK REVIEW: ANOTHER DAY

“Most of the time when we think we’re looking for death, we’re really looking for love.”

SUMMARY

Every day is the same for Rhiannon. She has accepted her life, convinced herself that she deserves her distant, temperamental boyfriend, Justin, even established guidelines by which to live: Don’t be too needy. Avoid upsetting him. Never get your hopes up.

Until the morning everything changes. Justin seems to see her, to want to be with her for the first time, and they share a perfect day—a perfect day Justin doesn’t remember the next morning. Confused, depressed, and desperate for another day as great as that one, Rhiannon starts questioning everything. Then, one day, a stranger tells her that the Justin she spent that day with, the one who made her feel like a real person…wasn’t Justin at all.

In this enthralling companion to his New York Times bestseller Every Day, David Levithan tells Rhiannon’s side of the story as she seeks to discover the truth about love and how it can change you.

MY THOUGHTS

I don’t know how to get into this. I really enjoyed Every Day, way back when it first came out and I didn’t know anything about the story. I remember loving A, loving Rhiannon, loving the bittersweet, unsatisfactory ending that left me wanting more, but not too much more. I wanted to know if he ever got to have his own body, and if Rhiannon found someone else to love, because loving A was impossible.

Then I found out Another Day was a thing. I was excited, yes. Nervous, yes. But this was not at all what I had expected, or wanted, from it. I didn’t think I would have such a problem with seeing the story from Rhiannon’s point of view, but her story took all the romance and mystery out of it for me. In fact, I don’t know why A liked her at all. She’s a complete stereotype, and without sounding insensitive, I can’t go into why. Suffice to say that I don’t like people who can’t stand up for themselves, who let themselves be trampled all because they don’t think they’re worth enough to be treated right, and I certainly don’t want to read about them.

The entire book, after every encounter with Justin, I felt more angry with Rhiannon, and after every encounter with A, I was more confused as to why he was so determined to be with her. It just didn’t make sense, unless A has some kind of hero complex.

In addition, I found this book to be less about the story of A, Rhiannon, and the mystery of why A changed every night and more about the ever more controversial subject of gender and the role it plays in relationships. Too many long monologues about why ‘gender doesn’t matter’ and ‘love covers all’ for me to be comfortable, because to me, gender does matter.

But I digress. Another Day fell flat for me, and I’m sorely disappointed that it ended in the same place as Every Day, with far fewer answers and far more questions.

WHAT TO WATCH

Oh, you know. Homosexuality and transgender characters abound, so if you don’t approve of that, I wouldn’t pick this one up. Heterosexuality is also casually thrown in, with sex happening frequently. There is underage drinking and partying, and drugs are mentioned a few times. I wouldn’t recommend this for those with a sensitive conscience, and definitely not for young readers.

OVERALL

I’ll give Another Day two stars for the writing style- it kept pace, for the most part, and rarely dragged, though I did skim some. But I didn’t like the content- I’m not interested in reading about people, knowingly or not, experiment with their sexuality while at the same time be driven into depression and desperation by their boyfriend, his actions, and their unwillingness to step away from the situation. To me, Rhiannon was the bad guy, and I know that wasn’t the point of the book, but that’s where it ended up for me.

I received an ARC of this book thanks to NetGalley and Random House. This has not influenced my review in any way.

BABY BOOK REVIEW: (ARC) THE SCORPION RULES

ARC AUGUST #1

Thanks to Simon & Schuster

ARC through Netgalley

The Scorpion Rules to be released September 22, 2015

I’m calling this another ‘book I can’t review,’ and this time it’s because I was so annoyed I couldn’t finish it. If I don’t finish, I can’t call this a real review. But I’m still going to tell you why, and what to watch.

THE CHARACTERS: I can’t even tell you how irritating they were .The only one I liked was the non-human overlord- at least he added some dimension. The rest were interchangeable- characters to add bulk that didn’t add anything to the story. I learned a hundred names and then got them all confused. Each character could have been so distinct and grabbing, especially the rebel Elian, but no. There was 0 dimension to their personalities. They all acted like frightened children up to the point I read. I mean, technically they’re kids, and their lives are in danger, but their lives have been in danger since they were born. Get used to it.

At any rate, I felt a major disconnect with the characters. They earned my disgust instead of my loyalty, my wrath instead of my love, and that will kill a for me book very, very quickly. If I don’t love the characters, I can’t love the story.

THE SETTING + PLOT: I did enjoy the world-building- it was a very well thought out plan and the descriptions were really interesting- it was almost a believable world that Bow created for readers. The plot, however, was sorely lacking. I read several chapters and skimmed even more, and nothing happened outside the school that they live in. The most exciting thing that happened was a goat getting loose and climbing a tree- I mean, you’ve created this whole world, and you don’t let us explore it? The plot really fell flat for me, which I find is happening a lot in these majorly hyped books. I’m obviously not in the majority, but I just couldn’t finish this book. Here’s why

WHAT TO WATCH:

/SPOILERS/

There’s a love triangle. A bad one, one that’s not well-developed and not well-executed, but the fact remains. And it’s a F/F/M triangle- by which I mean the main character, Greta, is ‘in love’ with a boy and a girl.

This, I simply do not read. Besides the fact that it was terribly written, I don’t read LGBT material- to be perfectly honest, it creeps me out a little bit. And too, in this particular instance, for the first half of the book Greta is all about that boy and his perfect hair and perfect face and she’ll do ANYTHING for him. But then, in 2.5 seconds, she’s suddenly in love with her (female) roommate, who is her everything! She can’t live without her! It’s just too hard to bear!

Please. Spare me the insta-love. Spare me the badly written characters and choppy love triangle. This book gets 0 stars from me- or 1 star if I have to rate it at all. The premise was interesting, but the execution falls totally flat.

ARC August isn’t off to a very good start for me. I’m hoping that my next book will be better.

See my ARC August list here!

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