Sunday, August 31, 2014

Review ~ The Jewel by Amy Ewing

Series: The Lone City #1
Genre: YA fantasy/dystopia
Pages: 358
Publication date: September 2nd, 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen
Goodreads Description: 
The Jewel means wealth. The Jewel means beauty. The Jewel means royalty. But for girls like Violet, the Jewel means servitude. Not just any kind of servitude. Violet, born and raised in the Marsh, has been trained as a surrogate for the royalty—because in the Jewel the only thing more important than opulence is offspring.

Purchased at the surrogacy auction by the Duchess of the Lake and greeted with a slap to the face, Violet (now known only as #197) quickly learns of the brutal truths that lie beneath the Jewel’s glittering facade: the cruelty, backstabbing, and hidden violence that have become the royal way of life.

Violet must accept the ugly realities of her existence... and try to stay alive. But then a forbidden romance erupts between Violet and a handsome gentleman hired as a companion to the Duchess’s petulant niece. Though his presence makes life in the Jewel a bit brighter, the consequences of their illicit relationship will cost them both more than they bargained for. 
Source: I received an e-arc of this book from the publisher through Edelweiss in return for an honest review.

I was both curious and a little nervous going into The Jewel. I was hearing many bad things about the romance, but since it takes a LOT to make me not like a romance, I wasn't too worried. now that I've finished the book, I have both good and bad news. The bad news is that the romance did irritate me quite a bit. The good news? That part was the only big thing I didn't like about the book. Pretty much everything else worked for me.

I'll start off with those positive things. I really liked the world! Not much of its history was explained, but I was mostly okay with that. The structure of the city reminded me of Panem in The Hunger Games (in a good way). I found what was going on in the world to be very interesting. The surrogates, the Auction, the politics--I really liked the concepts involved. The Auguries were pretty cool. The world and ideas involved in the book were definitely my favorite part. If they weren't as good or as creative, I probably wouldn't have liked the book as much as I did.

The story was my second favorite part (mostly because it worked with those ideas I mentioned before). It was also interesting. The events kept me reading and the ones towards the end make me wish the sequel was already released. I want to know what happens next!

I liked the characters. Mostly. Garnet was the most memorable for me. I instantly liked him the moment I found out the Duchess that bought Violet had a son, which was even before he showed up in any scenes. I really liked Annabelle and Raven. Annabelle because she was a nice friend to Violet and Raven because she had a memorable presence. The Duchess that bought Violet was despicable, but I liked how she had a vulnerable side. It made her actions more believable because I understood why she did them. Lucien reminded me of Cinna from The Hunger Games, so I instantly liked him too (Cinna's a lot better). Then there was Ash, who was . . . *shrugs* He wasn't that interesting.

As for the heroine, I really liked her. Well, until the romance. I wasn't a fan of her during the scenes when she was with or was thinking of the love interest. I did love that she played the cello because I could easily see how passionate she was for it when she was playing music. She came alive during those moments. I also liked how deeply she felt for her friends and family, come to think of it.

Now, the romance. Oh dear. It wasn't very good. Since I could see why the characters formed a connection and fell for one another quickly, I didn't think it was that insta-love-y (it may seem that way for a lot of readers, though). So, my problem with it was different. the romance felt dramatic, cheesy, and repetitive. The dramatic feeling came from Violet's thoughts and emotions. The cheesiness came from the interactions between the two. And lastly, the repetitiveness came from the kissing scenes. Two of those scenes in the ARC actually ended nearly the exact same way (I'm really hoping that was changed in the final copy), which was irritating. Most of the romance was irritating, actually. I can definitely understand why a lot of readers would hate the romance. I wasn't a fan of it.

Overall, I really liked The Jewel. The romance wasn't so good, but the rest of the book was great enough for me to give a four star rating. Again, I found the world and story very interesting and liked the majority of the characters. After the ending of this book, I definitely want to know what happens in the sequel!


What book's romance has recently irritated you?

Friday, August 29, 2014

Stacking the Shelves (33) ~ A Great Week of Bookmail

This is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews where we share what books we have recently added to our physical or virtual shelves. I like to use the meme to also give a recap of my week in reading and blogging.
(Click on the covers to go to Goodreads.)

My Haul

Digital
Bought

For Review
I requested Scratch because I've been in the mood for NA. Hopefully it turns out to be a good one! I'm part of the blog tour for Divinity, so I'll be reading that one soon. Harper added new titles to Edelweiss, but I only grabbed the two I'm super excited for. I also downloaded The Orphan Queen sampler that was added (and it's really good)!

Thank you, Netgalley, Kensington, Spencer Hill Press, HarperCollins, Balzer + Bray and Edelweiss for the review copies!

Bookshelf Additions

For Review
Rumble by Ellen Hopkins
Andye at Reading Teen has a "Review my Books" thing on her site and I was able to get this one! I've already read, loved, and reviewed it. :)

#OTSPSecretSister
#OTSPSecretSister is a secret Santa type program hosted by On the Same Page (who also host the ARC tours I've been involved it). I've always wanted to do something like this, so I signed up for it when sign ups were open.☺
My secret sister sent me a college themed package because I'm starting school next month and I love everything she sent me! The notes are so sweet and many of the things are ones I had been wanting (especially the post-it notes because I had recently ran out of them). Fangirl is a beautiful hardcover and I'm so excited to read it!

Amazon Pre-order
Magnolia by Kristi Cook
Between by Megan Whitmer
Gates of Thread and Stone by Lori M. Lee
Between the Spark and the Burn by April Genevieve Tucholke

I placed an order for these books quite awhile ago, so I was so excited to get them! Between the Spark and the Burn is a sequel, but . . . I haven't actually read the first one.

Bought from Kierra
Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers
Notes from Ghost Town by Kate Ellison
Through the Zombie Glass by Gena Showalter
Sweet Shadows by Tera Lynn Childs (signed)
Sweet Legacy by Tera Lynn Childs (signed)
Gated by Amy Christine Parker (signed/annotated)

This makes a total of nine books (the other three are in this haul) I've bought from Kierra (@_kierra8). She was selling them for $5 a piece on Twitter, and since nearly all the ones she had available were either ones I had at least a little interest in or ones I had already read, I couldn't resist. The six above cost $25 total (I got one for free) and I'm very happy with my buy!

Blogging

Memes: I posted my list of Top Ten Books I Really Want To Read But Don't Own Yet and chose Open Thy Heart by Jessica L. Brooks as my WoW pick this week.

Reviews: I reviewed Harrow by Amanda Troyer and Tabula Rasa by Kristen Lippert-Martin. They were both 3.5 star reads.

Random: I answered some questions from Erin @ The Book Nut in a Q&A type post.

Guest Review on Reading Teen: My five star review of Rumble by Ellen Hopkins has been posted! You can read all about why I loved it so much right here. (I'll be cross posting it here this week, so you'll be able to see it here too.)

That's it for me! How was your week? What books did you get?

Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Q&A Type Post

Erin from The Book Nut nominated me for the Liebster Award, but I'm sorta not formally accepting it because the award is awarded to blogs with less than 300 followers (and I don't like to break rules). I really like Erin and her blog, though, so I want to answer the questions she came up with. Plus, I just felt like answering questions.☺

1. Who is your favorite book villain?

The first one that comes to mind is Voldemort. He's definitely the most developed that I've ever read.

2. Why did you start your blog?

I wanted a place to post my reviews and thoughts on books and bookish things and actually be heard (or, er, read). When I just posted them on Goodreads, I felt like I was the only one that ever read what I was writing (well, I did get a comment or a like here and there) and I just wanted more than that.

3. If you have ever met an author, who was your favorite?

I haven't met any authors. :( 

4. Have you or will you write a book of your own?

No. I have no desire to become a writer. I'll stick to reading and promoting books.

5. Which hyped books do you refuse to read?

I don't think there are any! Well, maybe the rest of the Tiger Saga by Colleen Houck, but that doesn't seem to have that much "hype." It has a high average rating on Goodreads, though. I usually at least consider reading a book if it has a lot of hype, so I don't really refuse to read any of them.

6. What are your favorite blogs (they don't have to be under 200 followers)?


7. What is your favorite genre?

YA contemporary! More specifically, YA realistic fiction. 

8. Do you like movie adaptations? If so, which is your favorite?

I'm iffy on movie adaptations. My favorite one (out of recent adaptations) for a book I've read is Catching Fire. That one was done so well! 

9. What are your book pet peeves?

I'll go with something inside books: an ungrateful, bratty, smug, and just plain irritating younger sister that seem to be out to destroy their older sister's life. I loathe those characters and I'm always annoyed with them when they show up in a book. I'm sure I have many other pet peeves, but that's the one that always comes to mind. My least favorite book (which I'll leave unnamed) is my least favorite because it had a horrible sister. 

10. Do you use blogger programs like Blogging for Books or First to Read?

I have a feeling this isn't referring to Netgalley and Edelweiss (or maybe it is--if so, I use those). I signed up for First to Read, but eh, I rarely sign in to it. I signed up for IndieARCs as well, but I haven't requested anything yet.

11. Do you have insta-buy authors? Who are they?

Sarah Dessen. Definitely. I would list a lot more, but all of the ones I'm thinking of have books out that I haven't bought. I can't really call them insta-buy authors then, can I? :D

~~~

Thank you, Erin! I had a fun time answering these.☺

Mini Review ~ Tabula Rasa by Kristen Lippert-Martin

Series: standalone
Genre: YA science fiction
Pages: 352
Publication date: September 23rd, 2014
Publisher: EgmontUSA
Goodreads Description: 
The Bourne Identity meets Divergent in this heart-pounding debut.

Sixteen-year-old Sarah has a rare chance at a new life. Or so the doctors tell her. She’s been undergoing a cutting-edge procedure that will render her a tabula rasa—a blank slate. Memory by memory her troubled past is being taken away.

But when her final surgery is interrupted and a team of elite soldiers invades the isolated hospital under cover of a massive blizzard, her fresh start could be her end. 

Navigating familiar halls that have become a dangerous maze with the help of a teen computer hacker who's trying to bring the hospital down for his own reasons, Sarah starts to piece together who she is and why someone would want her erased. And she won’t be silenced again.

A high-stakes thriller featuring a non-stop race for survival and a smart heroine who will risk everything, Tabula Rasa is, in short, unforgettable.
Source: I received an e-arc of this book from the publisher through Edelweiss in return for an honest review.

Tabula Rasa turned out to be a nice thrill of a read! It had a rocky start, but steadily improved as the story progressed. It picked up with the introduction of characters--Thomas was my favorite because he was such a cute, geeky, funny guy--then picked up even more when more action was thrown in and the pace was quickened. Until the point where all three of those things had happened. I had liked the book, but wasn't fully invested in was happening and I hadn't connected to the main character as much as I would've liked. However, the book got very exciting and interesting in the last quarter or so. It had my stomach in knots, it had me reading quick, and it even had me crying at one moment and laughing at another. The story wrapped up with a cute scene that left me smiling.

Overall, Tabula Rasa was nice. While it started off rocky, it didn't stay that way. It became a much stronger and more exciting book that I really enjoyed reading.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Review ~ Harrow by Amanda Troyer


Series: standalone (?)
Genre: YA horror
Pages: 271
Publication date: August 27th, 2014
Publisher: Ivory Deer Books

Book Blurb:
Sixteen-year-old Brenna doesn’t believe her vivid imagination can hurt her, until she wakes up in a church, covered in blood. Blood that isn’t hers.

She thinks her life can’t get much worse, but when she finally finds a way to escape her abusive home, her imagination turns to nightmarish hallucinations.

Niven likes staying inside the abandoned church, hiding from his violent father. The two bond through art and misery, but Brenna knows good things in her life don’t last long.

Her delusions take a horrific turn when she thinks she sees two men gruesomely murdered by a monster in the church basement, but in the end, she’s the one with blood on her hands.
Source: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

I enjoyed reading Harrow. It had a good feel to it and seemed to be well paced. It was what I was in the mood for: a shorter book set in the modern world that had creepy and interesting things going on. I was reading a fantasy (which I wasn't in the mood for) that I felt like I was slogging through, and this one was nice to read alongside it. 

Throughout the book, it felt...jumpy? I'm not even sure if that's the correct way to describe it. Most of the time, I wasn't able to picture the scenes in my head very well. Quite a few scenes confused me because I couldn't picture them. Some of the dialogue/conversations confused me too. I'm not exactly sure why. It may be me. It may be the book. I don't know....

The book had some pretty good horror elements to it (meaning: the creepy stuff, the blood, the hallucinations), but it didn't creep me out that much. Horror with a lot of psychological elements are the ones that scare me more, but this book didn't seem to have enough of those for me to call it a creepy one. Nevertheless, I still really liked the horror elements. They made the book seem different than what I usually read, which is one of the reasons why I like reading horror so much.

The relationships--between the sisters, the dad and the sisters, Wyatt and Brenna--weren't poorly developed, but I feel like they could have been developed a lot more. I think that would've helped me form much better connections with the characters.

Overall, I enjoyed reading Harrow despite the areas in which it lacked. It was something I was in the mood for, so it felt nice to read!

My question for you:

What makes a book creepy for you?


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (34) ~ A Sequel and a Pretty Red Flower

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

What am I waiting on?

Open Thy Heart by Jessica L. Brooks
Releasing September 15th, 2014

Goodreads description:

The secrets just keep coming.

It’s summer in Shaver and, frankly, Dahlia Kennedy is bored. Even though she and Eva are throwing a party for David and she gets to visit Rowan in Ambrosia easier on account of summer hours, it seems like senior year is never going to come. Worse yet, it’s looking like the one thing she’s planned on doing for forever isn’t going to happen.

Cue Dahlia’s Embarrassing Incident: the tipping point that seems to shift everything into a new direction. David’s acting weird. Something happens to Rowan. Dahlia’s forced to ask the least likely person ever for help. A secret is blown wide open.

Conflict between the Lennox Rochforts and the Townsends grows more and more out of control until so much is going on in Ambrosia, Dahlia can barely keep up with life at home. Frustrated with trying to keep track of who knows what, Dahlia continues fighting to help the people she loves, and slowly, the truth is exposed. 

Crazy thing is, she had no idea about any of it. And it changes everything she’s ever known. 
 Why am I waiting on it?

I really liked If I Speak True! It was a creative read and I'm excited that Jessica has a new book coming out. I also recently bought the novella, By Sun and Candlelight, and though I haven't read it yet, it's made me look forward to Open Thy Heart even more.

If you're curious about this series, take a look at the first book on Goodreads. If you want to read my review of it, you can do that here.

That's my WoW this week! What's yours?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday (10) ~ Books I Really Want To Read But Don't Own Yet

Top Ten Tuesdays is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, and a weekly meme where we simply make a top ten list for the week's topic.

Top Ten Books I Really Want To Read But Don't Own Yet

Free to Fall -  I've heard such good things about this one and it just looks like one I'd really enjoy reading.

Of Metal and Wishes - I've had my eye on this one ever since I discovered it was first inspired by The Jungle by Upton Sinclair (Sarah mentioned it in this tweet). It sounds so cool! 

Dissonance - Not only is this one Nikki recommends (as I mentioned last week), but it's also been on my to-read list since April of 2013. I waited a really long time for it to finally release, so I definitely want to read it.

Alice in Zombieland - Once upon a time (earlier this year, I think), I had actually decided to not read this series. It keeps grabbing my attention, though! I decided to give this series a try when I decided to buy a copy of the sequel from a fellow blogger.

Mistborn: The Final Empire - Getting a copy of this and shoving review copies out of the way in order to read this is a high priority. I'm out of the loop Brandon Sanderson's books and this is the one I want to start with! 

The Dream Thieves - Blue Lily, Lily Blue is coming out in October and I still don't even have a copy of the the second book in this series. I really liked the The Raven Boys!

Ugly Love - Hopeless was by far my favorite book of 2013, but I still haven't read any of Colleen Hoover's other full length novels. I'll probably buy this one for my Kindle soon (when I'm not on a book buying ban).

Maybe Someday - Again, it's a Colleen Hoover book. I really, really want to read it!

Slammed - I should have already bought this, read it, and loved it to pieces, but I haven't done any of those things yet. I've bought Point of Retreat, but not this one. This book is the next one I want to write a guilt letter to. (Maybe this week? Hopefully.)

The F-It List - This looks like my kind of read. It's been catching my eye ever since it released last November, so I really want to read it.

Have you read any of these? Are there any you also really want to read?

Friday, August 22, 2014

Stacking the Shelves (32) ~ A Variety of Books!

This is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews where we share what books we have recently added to our physical or virtual shelves. I like to use the meme to also give a recap of my week in reading and blogging.
(Click on the covers to go to Goodreads.)

This week, I got an adult urban fantasy, a YA novella, a thriller with many titles, a lighter NA, a witchy YA, book swag, older ARCs, a signed August release, and even a book that never made it to my shelf. It seems like my book haul has a lot of variety!

My Haul

Digital
Freebies
This isn't what I usually read, but I want to branch out and read more adult. I've heard of this author and book. Plus, it was free! Why not?

Bought
I'm hoping to get to this sometime soon...the second book in the series releases next month. I really liked the first one, If I Speak True, which is only $1.99 on Amazon. (I'll just drop my review here in case you're interested....☺)

For Review
After reading Kirsty-Marie's five star review of The Hit (also known as I am the Weapon and other titles), I decided to get it from Netgalley. I've been eyeing it for awhile. That's the only review copy I got this week--I was also successful in submitting two reviews--but . . . I have three new requests pending. Whoops.

Thank you, Netgalley and Hachette Children's Books!

Won
I just won Make it Count (as well as a crocheted clutch based off the book cover's color) from Vangelina @ Painful Reads and Daughter of Chaos from Isabel @ Tween 2 Teen Book Reviews. Thank you, girls!

Bookshelf Additions

Won
I got Imposter, Kissing in Italian, Light and some book swag from Dana @ Dana Square. Thank you, Dana!

Isla Pre-order
Yay! 

Bought . . . For a Friend
I was hanging out with friends earlier this week and found a copy of Born Wicked for $5. I couldn't just leave it there, so I showed it to my friend and told her it's really good. So, I bought it for her. And guess what? She finished it the other day and loved it! (She said the ending made her "explode in emotions," though. :D )

On the same day, I convinced another friend to buy a used copy of Obsidian. I used the words "romance" and "hot aliens." It was a good bookpushing week for me.☺

Blogging
Readathons: I posted my Bout of Books goals on Tuesday, but I didn't do any of the challenges.

Memes: My Top Ten Tuesday turned into a list of ten books Nikki @ There Were Books Involved has told me I must read. Apparently, they're all amazing! My Waiting on Wednesday pick was Zodiac and I used a gif to express my excitement for it (I'm very excited to read it).

Blog Tour: I posted a guest post by Amanda Troyer about the things she's afraid of (which includes the dark, Bloody Mary, and even being visited by an Incubus). She wrote a YA horror novel titled Harrow, which I'll be reading this week.

Reviews: I reviewed Tortured Souls by Kimber Leigh Wheaton (2 stars) and The Hidden Blade by Sherry Thomas (4 stars) in one post. I obviously liked the former better.

Giveaways
(both end this week)

Most people seem to want to win The Moon and More and The Murder Complex (I can't blame them--both books are great).

Giveaway Extension!
I've decided to extend my Keepin' it Real Commenting giveaway because 1) I didn't do that great of a job promoting it, 2) there are 15-16 prizes but less than that many people had entered to win, and 3) I want to bring a little more attention to the author features. Now the giveaway is running throughout the weekend! You can check out the prizes and enter the giveaway here.

That's it for me! How was your week? What books did you get?

Mini Reviews ~ Tortured Souls and The Hidden Blade

The Tortured Souls by Kimber Leigh Wheaton

Series: The Orion Circle #1
Genre: YA paranormal
Pages: 227
Publication date: June 29th, 2014
Publisher: Sea Dragon Press
Goodreads Description: 
Sometimes Rest in Peace isn't an option.

Kacie Ramsey sees ghosts—and it's ruining her life. Her mother left, her father blames her, and no matter how hard she tries, she can't keep the ghosts away. Now a new power has emerged. Nightly visions of grisly murders and a relentless predator draw her to the brink of insanity.

When the phantom appears at a party, Kacie's longtime crush, Logan, saves her. He invites her to join the Orion Circle, a group of supernatural hunters with chapters in schools all over the country. Through the Circle, Kacie learns to embrace her spiritual powers, and for the first time in her life she feels in control rather than a victim.

But the Foxblood Demon will not give up so easily. A demented serial killer in life who trapped the souls of the thirteen children he murdered, imprisoning them within the walls of his mansion. Now in death, he plots his return while drawing power from the pure souls of the children. He recognizes something in Kacie he's never seen before—a medium powerful enough to provide a vessel for his tainted soul.

Kacie can't ignore the tortured souls of the children crying out to her every night. With Logan at her side, she will fight the Foxblood Demon. But can they banish this powerful phantom, or will Kacie lose not only her body, but her eternal soul to the monster. 
Source: I received an e-arc of this book through Netgalley in return for an honest review. 

Tortured Souls was okay. Nothing super special about it stood out to me, but at the same time, the things I didn't like didn't make the book seem like a bad one. The first half was really rocky. Kacie's POV felt forced to me, and she seemed like a bland character. She didn't question the new developments in her life, even though it seemed like she should have. Everything seemed to flow too easily and I couldn't find a central conflict. The second half of the story was more interesting and had more conflict, but it didn't become a great books. It still felt forced (though less so than in the beginning) and I have a really tough time loving anything about a book or connecting to its story when it feels that way. 

Overall, I didn't love this book. Was it bad? No. I liked the romance most of the time and I found the story interesting towards the end. However, I just didn't connect to the characters and the story in a way that could have made me enjoy the book more.



The Hidden Blade by Sherry Thomas

Series: The Heart of Blade Duology #1
Genre: Coming of age historical fiction
Pages: 272
Publication date: July 20th, 2014
Goodreads Description: 
In the waning days of the last dynasty, in a quiet, beautiful corner of imperial Peking, a young girl's blissful ignorance is shattered when she learns that she is the illegitimate daughter of an English adventurer and a Chinese courtesan. What future is there for such a girl? But a mysterious figure steps forward and offers to instruct her in the highest forms of martial arts--a path to a life of strength and independence.

Half a world away in England, a young boy's idyllic summer on the Sussex downs implodes with the firing of a single bullet. Torn from his family, he becomes the hostage of a urbanely sadistic uncle. He dreams of escaping to find his beloved friend--but the friend is in China, ten thousand miles away.

The girl trains to be deadly. The boy flees across continents. They do not know it yet, but their lives are already inextricably bound together, and will collide one fateful night when they least expect it.

'Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon' meets 'Downton Abbey,' this remarkable tale of friendship, danger, and coming of age will stay with you long after you have finished the last page.

A prequel to MY BEAUTIFUL ENEMY. 
Source: I received an e-arc of this book through Netgalley in return for an honest review. 

The Hidden Blade was a great prequel that has made me interested in reading My Beautiful Enemy, a book that is in a genre I've never read before (adult historical romance). I really liked getting to know Leighton and Ying-Ying as they faced their own challenges as they grew up. There was a lot of diversity in this book that was refreshing to read. The settings were rich, especially Peking, and I really liked the different cultures that were involved. The book moved a bit slow for me at times, but that seemed necessary. Other times, I was confused on the timeline and what ages the characters were in certain moments. Those were the only two negatives that stood out to me a lot, though.

Overall, The Hidden Blade was worth reading. I decided to read it because it looked so good and it was available as "Read Now" on Netgalley. I'm glad to say I made a good decision giving this one a shot! Now I just hope that the sequel is just as good (or even better)!