Friday, February 17, 2017

Book Review: If You Were Here by Jennie Yabroff

The blurb as seen on Goodreads:
Release Date: January 2, 2017
Publisher: Merit Press
272 Pages

Is there a line between gifted and insane? How do you know if you've crossed it?

Tess was semi-successfully passing for normal before her mother's erratic behavior turned her into social cyanide. Now life is only bearable thanks to weekend 16 Candles and Oreo binges with her best (and only) friend, Tabitha. Then Tabitha inexplicably drops Tess, leaving her alone with her fears about her mother and the troubling visions that leave her shaking with dread. Before Tess can come to terms with this loss, a horrific tragedy occurs at school, and everyone is blaming her. Now, Tess must find answers, fast: What really happened that night at school? Is she responsible? And do her visions mean she has a gift of prophecy, or the same mental illness
that is stealing her mom?

Jennie Yabroff's debut novel touches on the meaning of friendship, loss, and mental illness. All of her life, Tess has known she was different. She was an outcast, a freak and she had one friend, Tabitha. After visiting her Grandmother over summer, Tess comes back to find that Tabitha has changed. She's no longer the frizzy haired, sister outcast that she was before. This new version of Tabitha is skinnier, tanner, and dresses like the popular girls at school. Not only that, she's dropped Tess in favor of those horrible popular girls. Feeling abandoned and alone, Tess dives further into herself. You see, no one but Tabitha knows what Tess has to deal with at home. Her mother is suffering from mental illness and her erratic behavior had Tess & her father constantly on high alert. Being able to escape to Tabitha's was Tess's only lifeline. Now she has no one. And then Tabitha dies.

Tess was a little hard for me to like. She's very abrasive and sometimes just not very nice. While complaining that she was alone and an outcast, she also made no effort to break out of that shell, at least not until forced to. She ran very hot and cold which is why for a majority of the book, I thought that Tess also suffered from some sort of mental illness. But all of this added up to a teenage girl who was dealing with things out of her control and was handling it the only way she knew how. Internally.

Yabroff does a good job setting the high school scene. For a lot of people, memories from high school are not pleasant ones. The hierarchy's of the popular crowd down to the shunned are very distinctly defined. But Yabroff also emphasizes that what you are in high school doesn't necessarily define you. And I think that's a very important message.

I love a good mystery and so the circumstances surrounding Tabitha's death were intriguing and I found myself trying to solve the case before the secret was revealed. I thought I had it, but then was completely wrong.

However, there was one thing that just didn't sit well with me and that was the magical realism aspect. At first, I thought it was there for a different reason and I was all proud of myself for figuring out what the author was doing, but then I was wrong. And it was just an aspect that was never really explained in way that, for me, fit the story. It seemed to take it from this serious topic and move it into some parallel fantasy. I don't know. I saw some other reviews where people really liked that part, but it just didn't do it for me. Hence, the 3 Stars.

I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

ARC Review: There's Something About Nik by Sara Hantz

The blurb as seen on Goodreads:
Release Date: February 13, 2017
Publisher: Entangled Teen
167 Pages

Nik Gustafsson has a secret: He’s not really Nik Gustafsson.

He’s not a spy. He’s not crazy.

He’s just the son and heir to one of the most important families in Europe—one where duty always comes first. And his posh, too-public life is suffocating him. So when he gets the chance to attend boarding school in America, pretending to be an average exchange student is too big of a temptation to pass up.

Then he literally runs into Amber on campus. And she hates him at first sight.

It’s kind of exhilarating to be hated for who he is, not for his family name or his wealth. Maybe if he turns up the charm and turns down the aloof mask he habitually wears, he can win her over. Even though a bad past experience has made her swear off dating this year.

But the more he gets to know her, the more uncomfortable he is keeping things from her. Because Nik Gustafsson has a secret. And it’s a big one.

Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book contains a hot boy who's the strong and silent type, a studious girl who refuses to believe in fairy-tale romance, and one epic secret that could be disastrous if it comes to light. 

A book reminiscent of that movie The Prince and Me (which I loved, not gonna lie). 
Niklas III of Lutgenstadt just wants to be normal and have normal experiences while he's young. He convinces his parents to let him attend his junior year at a boarding school in America. There he will be with the son of an old family friend and an undercover bodyguard (think janitor). But despite wanting to be "normal", Nik quickly realizes it's hard to break out of old habits.

Amber wants nothing to do with boys. Having her heart broken, in a horrible way I will admit, has her focus firmly in one direction - securing a photography internship. When she meets Nik, she's thrown off by his air superiority and vows to steer clear of him. Of course that doesn't work and she soon finds herself wrapped up in everything about him.

It was a cute plot. And I normally love these, but I couldn't connect with either of them. And honestly, I couldn't see why they ended up falling for each other. Almost all of their conversations consisted of them misunderstanding each other and awkward one liners. Amber was very frustrating because she kept criticizing Nik for how he acted, never taking a moment to realize that he was a foreigner in a new country. Give him time to adapt! As for Nik, well, starting a relationship based on a lie is obviously a good idea.

Everything kind of felt thrown together and very jilted. I guess I wanted more depth to characters. A quick and very easy read. Good if you're looking for something light.  

I received an e-copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Monday, February 13, 2017

ARC Review: Weddings, Crushes, and Other Dramas (Creative Hearts #6) by Emily McKay

The blurb as seen on Goodreads:
Release Date: February 13, 2017
Publisher: Entangled Teen
185 Pages

Falling in love with the best man wasn’t on the program.

Willa is happy to be the maid of honor in her dad’s upcoming wedding to uber-celeb Mia McCain. Not as happy about the best man being her soon-to-be stepbrother, the infuriating—and infuriatingly gorgeous—Finn McCain. Every time their paths cross, the attraction simmering between them grows a little harder to ignore. Willa knows all about guys like Finn—they only want what they can’t have. What’s between them isn’t real.

Finn has never felt anything more real than what’s developing between him and Willa. Sure, her dad warned him to steer clear, but it’s not just about forbidden temptation. He’s determined to prove to Willa he’s not going anywhere—and that happily-ever-after will always be worth the risk.

Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book contains a wedding so crazy it’ll make you laugh, a stepbrother so hot he’ll make you swoon, and a heroine so real she’ll make you cry.

Of all the girls in Austin, why did he want the one he could never have?

We first met Willa and Finn in the second book of the Creative Hearts series, How Willa Got Her Groove Back. Back then, Willa had just found out that her father was marrying Mia McCain - the hottest actress in Hollywood. Aside from getting a new stepmom, she's also getting a new step-brother, Finn. While neither of them are happy about their parents upcoming nuptials, Finn has a little more push to seem happy about it - early access to his trust fund. All he has to do is get Willa on board. How Willa Got Her Groove Back didn't really end with any closure so I'm very happy these two popped up again.

The wedding is on and coming up quickly. Mia had meticulously planned out every spare second of time and Willa and Finn find themselves thrown together for many of the prewedding activities. This would be fine and all if how they felt toward each other wasn't more than friendship. So while trying to deny their feelings, Willa throws herself into her current relationship with her high school dreamboat and Finn, well, Finn broods.

However, I think I will just always continue to be super disappointed in Willa's dad. For someone who was supposed to be super close to his daughter, he does a horrible job of helping her transition into her new life. It's almost like he literally just forgets he has a daughter. I get being wrapped up in love, but your a grown ass man with a child. Act like it.

This was such a short book but it was super cute. The positions the two of them find themselves in always had me laughing  and I found myself rooting for Willa to dump her boyfriend and jump on Finn. I haven't read all of the books in the Creative Hearts series, but it was nice to see characters from the ones I had read show up here. 


I received an e-copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, February 10, 2017

ARC Review: Secrets of a Reluctant Princess by Casey Griffin

The blurb as seen on Goodreads:
Release Date: March 7, 2017
Publisher: Entangled Teen
320 Pages

At Beverly Hills High, you have to be ruthless to survive…

Adrianna Bottom always wanted to be liked. But this wasn’t exactly what she had in mind. Now, she’s in the spotlight…and out of her geeky comfort zone. She’ll do whatever it takes to turn the rumor mill in her favor—even if it means keeping secrets. So far, it’s working.

Wear the right clothes. Say the right things. Be seen with the right people.

Kevin, the adorable sketch artist who shares her love of all things nerd, isn’t exactly the right people. But that doesn’t stop Adrianna from crushing on him. The only way she can spend time with him is in disguise, as Princess Andy, the masked girl he’s been LARPing with. If he found out who she really was, though, he’d hate her.

The rules have been set. The teams have their players. Game on.

We couldn't be rich from something cool, like discovering a new fuel source or curing cancer. Nope. It's a luminescent pee target.

Meet Adrianna (Andy) Bottom. Her father's toilet products have recently taken off landing their entire family on new reality show, Bathroom Barons. With a last name like Bottom what other area would you go into? Anyway. With the launch of the new reality show, the family uproots from Seattle to Beverly Hills. Back in Seattle, Andy was teased relentlessly for her father's inventions, and for her nerdiness. She's hoping for a brand new start in Beverly Hills, despite the fact that her family will be on TV. But it's Beverly Hills. And Andy soon finds herself 'little miss popular' even while losing herself in the process.

This book had a cute premise and even had some cutesy parts. I really liked the attention to detail when it came to events like the LARPing tournaments. I adored Kevin and his sister. And I ended up really liking Harper after being extremely wary of her in the beginning.

But there were also things that I didn't like or that rubbed me the wrong way. First were Andy's parents. Andy was constantly taken advantage of by the director of Bathroom Barons, (think indecent exposure of a minor, staged dates/kisses that bordered on sexual assualt) and they were too busy worrying about their business or social status. I'm sorry, but if I was a parent and saw my child harassed this way, I would do more than make a call to the network. And it wasn't like they couldn't see her unhappiness or her side of the story. Just horrible parenting.

Then there was the whole 'being a nerd/geek is grounds for torment' trope. We live in an age where Marvel and DC rule cinema and television. Shows like Big Bang Theory are rated number one. I find it hard to believe that teens are so black and white here. It's cool to like superheroes people! Let's move on.

My main issue, however, was with Andy herself. She was not a strong character, instead she blended into the background a lot and I found myself more interested in what was going on around her than with her herself. But it was her treatment of the so-called "nerds" that rubbed me the wrong way. Here's a girl who knows what the teasing and ridicule feels like, yet she just sits there and sometimes even partakes in this attitude. But yet the author wants us to know that it's ok for her to act this way because deep down inside she feels differently. Or that because she's nice to them in secret, it's ok. NO. You're a weak minded girl who cares more about what people think of you than other people's feelings. There were so many places where she could have easily spoken up but instead she just let it go.

Despite the fact that I didn't like Andy herself, the wrap up of the story was just so 'teen movie cheese' that it was enjoyable. Maybe this book was just a little too young for me to enjoy fully.

I received an e-copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

ARC Review: The Unlikeable Demon Hunter (Nava Katz #1) by Deborah Wilde

The blurb as seen on Goodreads:
Release Date: April 18, 2017
Publisher: Te Da Media
420 Pages

Bridesmaids meets Buffy with a dash of the seven deadly sins.

The age-old story of what happens when a foul-mouthed, romance impaired heroine with no edit button and a predilection for hot sex is faced with her worst nightmare–a purpose.

Ari Katz is intelligent, driven, and will make an excellent demon hunter once initiated into the Brotherhood of David. However, this book is about his twin Nava: a smart-ass, self-cultivated hot mess, who is thrilled her brother is stuck with all the chosen one crap.

When Nava half-drunkenly interrupts Ari’s induction ceremony, she expects to be chastised. What she doesn’t expect is to take her brother’s place among the–until now–all-male demon hunters. Even worse? Her infuriating leader is former rock star Rohan Mitra.

Too bad Rohan’s exactly what Nava’s always wanted: the perfect bad boy fling with no strings attached, because he may also be the one to bring down her carefully erected emotional shields. That’s as dangerous as all the evil fiends vying for the bragging rights of killing the only female ever chosen for Demon Club.

Odds of survival: eh.

Odds of having a very good time with Rohan before she bites it: much better.

When this book crossed my path, it was in an email asking if I would like to read an ARC copy. Not only did this offer come from somebody I trust when it comes to books, she also described it as "Buffy meets blah blah blah". I literally can't remember the second half because I was sold on Buffy. Then two chapters in, I get quotes like:
"Shar Pei with a Dumbledore beard."
Let's do this!

Meet Nava, a girl who owns her screwupy ways. While her twin brother, Ari, is off being primed to join The Brotherhood (a band of demon hunters), Nava enjoys more of the party scene and embarrassing her parents. But she loves her brother something fierce. So when it's time for his initiation into the Brotherhood, she sobers herself up (literally), throws on some fancy clothes, and is right by his side. But of course, the ceremony goes wrong. Instead of Ari being the chosen one, the power goes to Nava instead.
Problem is, the Brotherhood is exactly how it sounds - a brotherhood, all men. They don't take kindly to having a female imitate. This makes for some hilarious interactions and Nava is not one to take any shit. She fires back insults as quickly as they come. There's action, there's humor, there's sexy times (duh, one girl - all guys, you do the math), and there's emotional times. 
"Where's my Giles?"
I wasn't able to give it 5 stars because sometimes Nava was just too much and her dialogue seemed a little forced instead of flowing. But I enjoyed it. The side characters, from her best friend to the other Brothers, fleshed this book out perfectly. Despite spending the whole book trying to get her brother back in, by the end, Nava finally accepts who she is. 
A great start to a series and I look forward to whatever trouble Nava can get herself into. This was like Buffy, if Buffy didn't have to be rated PG-13 for TV.

I received an e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Book Review: Wires and Nerves, Volume 1 by Marissa Meyer

The blurb as seen on Goodreads:
Release Date: January 31, 2017
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
240 Pages

In her first graphic novel, #1 New York Times and USA Today bestseller Marissa Meyer follows Iko, the beloved android from the Lunar Chronicles, on a dangerous and romantic new adventure -- with a little help from Cinder and the Lunar team.

In her first graphic novel, bestselling author Marissa Meyer extends the world of the Lunar Chronicles with a brand-new, action-packed story about Iko, the android with a heart of (mechanized) gold. When rogue packs of wolf-hybrid soldiers threaten the tenuous peace alliance between Earth and Luna, Iko takes it upon herself to hunt down the soldiers' leader. She is soon working with a handsome royal guard who forces her to question everything she knows about love, loyalty, and her own humanity. With appearances by Cinder and the rest of the Rampion crew, this is a must-have for fans of the bestselling series.

This was cute.

It's no secret that I love the Lunar Chronicles and this world the Meyer built. So of course, I hit that preorder button on Amazon faster than Usain Bolt crossing that finish line when this book popped up. I don't really know what I was expecting when I went in - most likely more adorable interactions with my faves - but what I got was Iko: Super Spy. And it was okay.
Wires and Nerves takes place after Winter with Lunar and Earth trying to come to a trustworthy alliance. Cinder is on the verge of abdicating her throne in favor of a more republic government but before she can do that, she must eradicate the rogue lunar soldiers still hiding out on Earth. With the Earthern people still wary of Lunars and unwilling to accept help, Cinder sends Iko to track down these packs and bring them back to Luna.

I really enjoyed getting to see everyone again and see how they are adapting to their new roles. And while we did get to see everyone, I was a little let down by the whole thing. First with Iko. Now I love Iko. Throughout the series she was always a constant source of humor, love, and bravery. And while I enjoyed reading a whole book from her point of view, I feel that she works better as a side character. It's not that she's not interesting, because she is. But I don't know if holding her own was the best thing.

The story itself was good but still felt a little lacking. I think this is because I'm so used to Meyer's descriptive writing and we didn't get that here since it was a graphic novel and I missed those little touches. Because of this parts of the story felt rushed and the characters played differently off of each other.

Lastly was the artwork itself. I wasn't too impressed. It felt a little childish considering the themes. With so much fan art out there, I think I got spoiled seeing other people's interpretations of the characters. And was I the only one a little creeped out by the Wolf and Scarlet drawings? I mean, I get that he's named Wolf for a reason, but I never pictured him that wolfish. It was just weird to me.

That being said, I'm sad we have to wait until next year to get the continuation. Because let's be honest, there's no way I'm not going to read anything Meyer puts out.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Book Review: The Devil's Prayer by Luke Gracias

The blurb as seen on Goodreads:
Release Date: February 18, 2016
Publisher: Australian eBook Publisher
294 Pages

A nun commits suicide in front of thousands in Spain. In Australia, Siobhan Russo recognises that nun as her mother, Denise Russo, who disappeared six years ago.

In search of answers, Siobhan travels to the isolated convent where her mother once lived. Here she discovers Denise’s final confession, a book that details a heinous betrayal that left her crippled and mute, and Denise’s subsequent deal with the Devil to take revenge. In the desperate bargain Denise made with the Prince of Darkness, she wagered Siobhan’s soul.

As Siobhan discovers the fate of her soul, she learns that hidden within the pages of her mother’s confession is part of The Devil’s Prayer, an ancient text with the power to unleash apocalyptic horrors.

And now her mother’s enemies know Siobhan has it.

Can Siobhan escape an order of extremist monks determined to get the Prayer back? Can she save the world from its own destruction?

Explicit Content Warning: "The Devil’s Prayer" is a historical horror thriller that contains brutality, rape, sex, drug abuse and murder. Readers may find its content offensive and confronting


Ummm...this one was kind of a mess all over.

When Siobhan learns that her missing mother has committed suicide, she begins this journey to find out why her mother disappeared many years ago. And how did she end up a nun in Spain under a different name? What or who was she running from?

When Netgalley sent me an e-mail about this book, I was intrigued. When other reviewers likened it to The Da Vinci Code, I was sold. The fact that it dealt with the devil was just a bonus. What I found was a book full of meaningless violence and revenge weighted down with historical facts.

And when I say meaningless violence - it just didn't make sense. It felt like it was there for shock value. Almost a 'how gruesome can I make this' crime. And they seemed to come from nowhere. For example, and this is a slight spoiler, girl wins lottery in front of group of friends. Group of friends then decides in a split second that they want to steal said ticket and suddenly have this elaborate plan that involves car crashes and kidnapping and escalates to rape and murder. This all happened in like 10 minutes. No, I just don't buy it.

It was such an interesting plot that just got lost. I didn't care about any of the characters. The only one who seemed likeable was Siobhan but unfortunately the only scenes we got of her were of her just reading her mother's diary. It also didn't help that there was so much historical info dumping that either didn't move the plot forward or we just dropped in such a random place that you ended up forgetting the main plot. The editor should have really helped smooth this over.

This is in no way comparable to The Da Vinci Code. And if you're looking for closure when reading this, you get none. The book doesn't have an ending. I feel that for a standalone there should have been some semblance of an ending. Instead, I was left just staring at the page, confused. Am I a little hard on it? Maybe. But I really wanted to like it and when I read adult horror/thriller, I'm holding it up to guys like Stephen King, Dan Brown, Dean Koontz, and Michael Crichton, and this just didn't hold up for me. 

<i>I received an e-copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.</i>

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