Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Shorter Review Roundup

Twist by Karen Akins

Series: Loop #2
Genre: YA dystopia/time travel
Pages: 336
Publication Date: March 31st, 2015
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Goodreads Description (contains spoilers of book one): 
The unbelievably thrilling sequel to the time-travel YA novel Loop.

Bree Bennis finally has it all—a non-comatose mother, an uber-hot (albeit anachronistic) boyfriend named Finn, and a newfound mission to protect the timeline from those who would skew it for their own gain. But when she leans over one day to smooch said boyfriend, her lips meet those of her arch-nemesis Wyck instead. The timeline has been altered, and Bree is caught in the crosshairs. But when she goes back to repair the damage, she is stopped by none other than her Future Self, who delivers an urgent message: Someone is kidnapping Shifters from the distant past. It’s up to Bree to stop them. But first, she has to figure out who…and why.

To follow the trail of chronocrumbs, Bree reluctantly accepts her new undercover gig as Wyck’s girlfriend. Everything goes spiffy until Finn shows up in the 23rd century on the eager arm of a gorgeous fellow Shifter. Blark. Even as Bree struggles with jealousy, she battles the nagging dread that Finn might be better off with someone less chronologically complicated. Her worst fear is confirmed when Finn becomes the kidnapper’s next victim. As Bree zeroes in on the culprit, they unravel her life one timeline-change at a time. She realizes that she alone has the power to save herself and everyone she loves. But to do that, she may lose Finn forever. 
Source: I received an e-ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I was a little disappointed in Twist, but it wasn't a bad sequel. Twist didn't have that special, fun feel to it that Loop had. I loved that book! Finn wasn't as present in the sequel, which was probably a big reason why I didn't get as into reading this book. It felt like there was something missing to the story when Finn wasn't there. 

The parts that made me still like reading Twist were things I liked about the series as a whole: Finn and Bree's chemistry and and the twistiness of the time travel. However, I didn't like the time travel as much as in the first book. I was impressed with how complicated everything became. I was also confused. Keeping everything straight was hard! It twisted with my mind, which was sometimes not a great thing. Things were easier to keep track of in Loop. As for the the end of the book . . . I don't know. I liked what happened, but I was pretty disconnected by the time I got to the climax and conclusion. I was ready to be done reading by then. Also, there were a lot of names from Loop that I just could NOT remember, which was part of why I was so confused. That's my fault, not Twist's, though.

Overall, Twist was a bit of a letdown for me because I couldn't get into it nearly as much as I got into book one. It wasn't as fun. It didn't have as much of Finn, which just made me less interested in what was going on. This series is great, but more of the greatness was contained in its first half.

2015 challenges this book counts towards:
105 Challenge
Netgalley & Edelweiss Reading Challenge

Tangled Webs by Lee Bross

Genre: YA historical fiction
Pages: 304
Publication Date: June 23rd, 2015
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Goodreads Description: 
London, 1725. Everybody has a secret. Lady A will keep yours—for a price. This sumptuous, scandalous YA novel is wickedly addictive.

Lady A is the most notorious blackmailer in the city. With just a mask and a gown to disguise her, she sweeps into lavish balls and exclusive events collecting the most valuable currency in 1725 London—secrets.

But leading a double life isn't easy. By day Lady A is just a sixteen-year-old girl named Arista who lives in fear of her abusive master, Bones, and passes herself off as a boy to move safely through the squalor of London's slums. When Bones attempts to dispose of his pawn forever, Arista is rescued by the last person she expects: Jonathan Wild, an infamous thief who moves seamlessly between the city's criminal underworld and its most elite circles. Arista partners with Wild on her own terms in the hopes of saving enough money to buy passage out of London.

Everything changes when she meets Grae Sinclair, the son of a wealthy merchant. Grae has traveled the world, seen the exotic lands Arista has longed to escape to her whole life, and he loves Arista for who she is—not for what she can do for him. Being with Grae gives something Arista something precious that she swore off long ago: hope. He has promised to help Arista escape the life of crime that has claimed her since she was a child. But can you ever truly escape the past?
Source:  Thank you to Nori for lending an ARC of this book to me!

Ehhh. That sums up how I feel about Tangled Webs. I don't have much to say about it because not much stood out to me. My biggest issue with the book was Lady A. She didn't seem developed enough. She was supposedly the "most notorious blackmailer" (according to the description)--which sounds awesome--but she . . . didn't do much. There was not much to her. I also don't quite grasp her role in the dealings. I guess I was just expecting it to be more interesting. Arista, on the other had, felt more fleshed out as herself. I still didn't love her character, but that side of her was better than the Lady A one. The romance was a bit of an issue for me, too. It was definitely there and I liked the hints of it in the beginning. There was an insta-love-y feel to it later on, which is where I started disliking it. It did go with the book, though. The book had that sweeping romance vibe. I tend to dislike books when they feel like that, so looking back, I'm not surprised the romance turned south for me.

Overall, Tangled Webs wasn't bad. It was just not impressive to me. It was also not for me. Historical fiction can be a hit or miss for me. Since this one didn't have much that stood out to me, it was a miss.
2015 challenges this book counts towards:
2015 Debut Author Challenge

Seriously Wicked by Tina Connolly

Genre: YA paranormal
Pages: 208
Publication Date: May 5th, 2015
Publisher: Tor Teen
Goodreads description:
The only thing worse than being a witch is living with one.

Camellia’s adopted mother wants Cam to grow up to be just like her. Problem is, Mom’s a seriously wicked witch.

Cam’s used to stopping the witch’s crazy schemes for world domination. But when the witch summons a demon, he gets loose—and into Devon, the cute new boy at school.

Now Cam’s suddenly got bigger problems than passing Algebra. Her friends are getting zombiefied. Their dragon is tired of hiding in the RV garage. For being a shy boy-band boy, Devon is sure kissing a bunch of girls. And a phoenix hidden in the school is going to explode on the night of the Halloween Dance.

To stop the demon before he destroys Devon’s soul, Cam might have to try a spell of her own. But if she’s willing to work spells like the witch...will that mean she’s wicked too?
Source: I received an e-ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Seriously Wicked was a fun, odd book. The story was pretty light. The heroine tried to stop a witch from taking over the city and prevent a cute guy from becoming corrupted by the demon inside him, all the while trying to decipher a spell and figure out Algebra. While I wasn't that impressed with this story--it didn't stand out--there were some decent parts. I liked how Cam had to balance so many things. I liked her bit of character growth. The magical components were also nice. There was a female dragon that was nearly invisible. There was a cute werewolf pup. Unicorns were not what we usually think of them as. Some pixies showed up too. Besides the magic, I liked the teensy bit of romance that popped up.

There were quite a few twists, but the scenes in the climax were slightly confusing. A lot was happening, but I didn't completely follow it. (Part of this may have had to do with my e-arc, though. The formatting was wonky on my Kindle screen.) I don't have much to say on the characters. They didn't stand out much. They didn't feel special. (Sarmine did come close since she was such an oddball. She entertained me.)

Overall, Seriously Wicked turned out to be easily forgettable. It was fun at the time that I read it, but the book didn't leave the impression of being great. If you're looking for a cute, quick paranormal read, then this may be for you. If you want a little MORE out of a fun story, I'm not sure if this is for you.

2015 challenges this book counts towards:
105 Challenge
Netgalley & Edelweiss Reading Challenge

Out of the Dragon's Mouth by Joyce Burns Zeiss

Genre: YA historical fiction
Pages: 264
Publication Date: March 8th, 2015
Publisher: Flux
Goodreads Description: 
An authentic portrayal of life in a refugee camp

After the fall of South Vietnam, fourteen-year-old Mai, a young Vietnamese girl of Chinese descent, is torn from a life of privilege and protection and forced to flee in the hold of a fishing trawler across the South China Sea. Mai finds tenuous safety in a refugee camp on an island off the coast of Malaysia, where she is taken in by Small Auntie, a greedy relative who demands payment for her hospitality. With her father's words, "You must survive," echoing in her ears, Mai endures the hardships of the camp, tempered only by dreams of being sponsored by her uncle in Philadelphia for entry into America.

When an accident forces Mai to flee from the safety of her temporary family, she meets a half-American boy named Kien who might be the only person who can keep her alive until she's sent to the US. 
Source: I received an e-arc of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Quickly after starting this one, I knew it wasn't for me. My writing didn't work for me. It made the story tough for me to follow, which then made me very disconnected from what was going on. With this type of read, connection is key for me. Unfortunately, I was just not feeling it. It's going into the DNF pile.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Review ~ Lying Out Loud by Kody Keplinger

Series: standalone
Genre: YA contemporary
Pages: 304
Publication Date: April 28th, 2015
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Goodreads Description: 
Kody Keplinger returns to the world of The DUFF in this brand-new companion novel!

Sonny Ardmore is an excellent liar. She lies about her dad being in prison. She lies about her mom kicking her out. And she lies about sneaking into her best friend's house every night because she has nowhere else to go.

Amy Rush might be the only person Sonny shares everything with— secrets, clothes, even a nemesis named Ryder Cross.

Ryder's the new kid at Hamilton High and everything Sonny and Amy can't stand—a prep-school snob. But Ryder has a weakness: Amy. So when Ryder emails Amy asking her out, the friends see it as a prank opportunity not to be missed.

But without meaning to, Sonny ends up talking to Ryder all night online. And to her horror, she realizes that she might actually like him. Only there's one small catch: he thinks he's been talking to Amy. So Sonny comes up with an elaborate scheme to help Ryder realize that she's the girl he's really wanted all along. Can Sonny lie her way to the truth, or will all her lies end up costing her both Ryder and Amy? 
Source: I received an e-ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Kody Keplinger has done it yet again. Lying Out Loud was a fantastic YA contemporary that I'm already really looking forward to reading again. It wasn't quite as great as The DUFF (that's one of my absolute favorites), but it still lived up to my very high expectations.

I had a very tough time tearing myself away from this book. The whirlwind of lies swept me up and I couldn't look away. I had to know what Sonny would do next, how Amy would react to it, when Ryder would discover the truth. Plus, I was looking out for scenes with Wesley in them (there were a quite a few, which made me really happy).

Speaking of Wesley . . . the cameos!! Oh, the cameos were great. There were quite a few of them, which made me really happy. They weren't limited to characters from The DUFF. I was pleasantly surprised to see characters outside of that book.

Lying Out Loud tackled quite a few different things, which may have made me even happier than the cameos did. I love it when a book has a lot going on in terms of what it's about and what themes it has. 

Lying: Sonny lied about everything. She was a pathological liar. Even when she knew it was bad, she did it anyway. 

Insecurity and fear: Sonny's lies were rooted in some big character flaws. She hid behind her stories and lies for a reason. That's where insecurity came in. She constantly compared herself to Amy. Amy was prettier, nicer, richer--she was everything Sonny felt that she wasn't. She didn't feel like she could hold a candle against her friend, which further made her hide behind lie after lie after lie.

Friendship: Here's the message I sensed: don't let stupid things that come in between you and your best friend. Boys, lies, insecurity--anything. Things definitely came in between the best friends in this book. Sonny was a terrible friend. (I'm sure making her look like a good character, huh?) She bossed Amy around and made her do stuff she didn't want to do, like be rude to Ryder. Sonny didn't take Amy's feelings into consideration. It's not cool to do that, and Sonny definitely learned a few lessons! (Trust me. It happens.) One of my favorite parts of the situation, though, was Amy's growth. Amy grew a LOT from this experience. She grew stronger, and it was such a nice thing to see. I loved how Sonny wasn't the only one with a lot of character growth.

Forgiveness: Loved ones may make terrible mistakes--and they may hurt you--but cutting them out completely isn't healthy. Those good traits that person possesses--the ones that made you like them--are still there. This side of the book was also about seeing things in more than black and white. This was where Ryder grew a bit!

I have nothing negative to say. Really. The book was that good.

Overall, Lying Out Loud was a quick read with many great elements and fantastically flawed characters. Sonny and Amy grew so much by the end of the book, and I loved watching it happen. Keplinger does a really job of creating flawed characters and making them grow. If you haven't tried one of her books yet, I highly recommend changing that soon! Both Lying Out Loud and The DUFF are amazing contemporaries.

2015 challenges this book counts towards:
Netgalley & Edelweiss Reading Challenge

Waiting on Wednesday (55) ~ A Painful Sounding Sequel

"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?

Finding Center by Katherine Locke
August 17th, 2015 by Carina Press

Why am I waiting on it?

I knew the District Ballet Company was a series, but I thought it was going to be a series of companion novels (since there's a lot of those in NA). But no. We get more of Aly and Zed. I'm both really excited for this one and extremely nervous. There were so many feels in Second Position! There was so much PAIN. And now there's going to be MORE? I'm already feeling the feels for Finding Center.

I left the description off this one because there it's a bit spoilery and I know a lot of you probably haven't started this series yet.

Curious about this series?
Turning Point is a free novella that takes place before the first book! I haven't read it yet, but I can tell you that Aly and Zed are a really good couple.

Second Position is the first book! You can read my review here.

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

Monday, April 27, 2015

Review ~ The Secrets We Keep by Trisha Leaver

Series: standalone
Genre: YA contemporary / mystery
Pages: 304
Publication Date: April 28th, 2015
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Goodreads Description:
A girl takes over her twin sister's identity in this emotionally charged page-turner about the complicated bond between sisters.

Ella and Maddy Lawton are identical twins. Ella has spent her high school years living in popular Maddy's shadows, but she has never been envious of Maddy. In fact, she's chosen the quiet, safe confines of her sketchbook over the constant battle for attention that has defined Maddy's world.

When—after a heated argument—Maddy and Ella get into a tragic accident that leaves her sister dead, Ella wakes up in the hospital surrounded by loved ones who believe she is Maddy. Feeling responsible for Maddy's death and everyone's grief, Ella makes a split-second decision to pretend to be Maddy. Soon, Ella realizes that Maddy's life was full of secrets. Caught in a web of lies, Ella is faced with two options—confess her deception or live her sister's life. 
Source: I received an e-arc of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Secrets We Keep made me cry really hard. It started out making me choke up a little, then making my eyes water, then BAM. All the feels hit. It was just so sad and incredibly unfair. Why does life have to be so unfair? I wasn't just feeling for Ella or the rest of the characters. I was feeling for the fact that so many people have to lose loved ones in completely unfair situations. Even though the actions that Ella took--pretending to be her sister--aren't common ones, the pain she felt, the loss she had to endure are really common. This book reminded me of that and made me incredibly sad. Simply writing this is bringing back those feelings.

Moving on. . . .

This book was about many things: death, guilt, life, sister bonds. Feeling inadequate or the lesser of the two options. Living your life. You can't becomeanother person--you can't live their life for them. You need to be you.

Ella broke my heart. She so insecure and lacked of self-esteem. She didn't realize how much people loved her, partially because she kept pushing them away. Her actions were definitely not normal, but I could understand why she decided to be Maddy. The guilt and inadequacy she felt were really easy to sense, so her decision to be her sister and attempt to live her life for her was convincing to me.

Josh was my favorite character besides Ella. I felt really bad for him because he had to go through the experience of losing her (which was one of the many things that made me really sad). I liked how Ella could be herself around him--he reminded her so much of herself. He helped her open her eyes and realize that she was loved more than she thought she was. I found it sad that it took Maddy's death to trigger that.

There was a little bit of mystery, but it was late and it didn't seem to fit. It was just odd. It felt unnecessary, yet the effects of learning Maddy's secrets were important.

It took me awhile to get into the writing. I was immediately wary of it, but the story swept me up. So, I didn't notice anything bad about the writing for the majority of the book.

Overall, The Secrets We Keep is an emotionally draining read capable of leaving lingering effects on its readers. Reading Ella's story as she felt the need to live Maddy's life for her and to leave Ella behind was an experience that I was glad I got to have. I highly recommend this one if you love a great emotional contemporary.

2015 challenges this book counts towards:
105 Challenge
Netgalley & Edelweiss Reading Challenge

Friday, April 24, 2015

Stacking the Shelves (63) ~ Pretty Hardcovers

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 the week's posts.
(Click on the covers to go to Goodreads.)
From Amazon
Both of these were on sale! I'm really got Boomerang because I just read it and it's really good! It was just what I needed this week.

For Review
Thank you to Running Press Kids and Netgalley for this e-arc!

In the Mail
Thank you to Kieran Scott for Something True and to Holly and Leah Cypress for Death Marked!

My pre-order of All the Rage arrived! I read an e-arc of this one and it's amazing!! I should have my review posted very soon.
Sunday Street Team ~ Review of Second Position by Katherine Locke
"Me" Reads (One of my favorite discussions of the year!)
Release Day Blitz for Play On by Michelle Smith!
I Have Big Summer Reading Plans
Review ~ Scarlett Undercover by Jennifer Latham

I finished reading Best Kind of Broken (5 stars), The Secrets We Keep (4 stars), and Boomerang (4 stars). I also DNFed Out of the Dragon's Mouth, started Little Peach, and read more of Falling Kingdoms. I didn't get to Black Iris, but I definitely will this week. I plan to get to Velvet, too. I need a break from contemporary soon.

Giveaway Extension
I interviewed Jennifer Banash not too long ago and there's a giveaway included! One winner will get an ARC of the book and another winner will get the hardcover. This book sounds like it's REALLY good and the giveaway doesn't have many entries. If you love contemporary and you live in the US, you should definitely enter!

I've started watching Game of Thrones again! I started the third season last weekend and have four episodes from Netflix to watch this week. I also got Outlander from Netflix. The second (and last so far) dvd just arrived. I'll be watching the episodes on that very soon.

That's it for me this week! How about you? How has your week been?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Review ~ Scarlett Undercover by Jennifer Latham

Series: standalone
Genre: YA contemporary/mystery
Pages: 320
Publication Date: May 19th, 2015
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Goodreads Description: 
A voice-driven mystery perfect for fans of Veronica Mars.

Meet Scarlett, a smart, sarcastic, kick-butt, Muslim American heroine, ready to take on crime in her hometown of Las Almas. When a new case finds the private eye caught up in a centuries-old battle of evil genies and ancient curses, Scarlett discovers that her own family secrets may have more to do with the situation than she thinks -- and that cracking the case could lead to solving her father's murder.

Jennifer Latham delivers a compelling story and a character to remember in this one-of-a-kind debut novel. 
Source: I received an ARC of this book from the NOVL newsletter in exchange for an honest review.

Scarlett Undercover was a nice, fun read, but it wasn’t great. I liked the idea of the mystery and how it tied in with Scarlett’s culture. However, I started losing interest when the plot thickened and Jinn were involved more. It felt a bit meh. Also, the romance was just there, like an unnecessary add on to the story. It seemed to be an obligatory romance, like it was added because it’s in a lot of other YA books. It didn’t feel like it belonged in the story.

The one big thing that kept me liking the book (besides the fun feel) was Scarlett. She had a sparky personality that I really liked. Her POV kept me reading.

Overall, Scarlett Undercover fell short for me. I liked how fun it was, but there wasn’t much that made me really enjoy reading it. Big fans of Veronica Mars type stories may have a better luck with this one (I’ve never seen the show and I’m not very into this type of mystery). It just didn’t turn out to be a great read for me.

2015 challenges this book counts towards:
105 Challenge
2015 Debut Author Challenge
Dive into Diversity

I Have Big Summer Reading Plans

Yeah . . . I know. It's only April, but I keep thinking of what I'm going to read over the summer. The thing is, I'm not expecting to have a lot of ARCs to read after mid-June. That means I have to confront my humongous non-review TBR, so yeah, a little planning is kinda needed.

So far, it seems that this summer is going to be all about binge-reading and working my way through series. There are so many I want to read!

The Entire House of Night Series
I read book eight in the summer before high school, but I haven't touched the series since then. I used to love this series! It got tiring after awhile, though. My plan is to read the entire series (all 12 books) and then post fun reviews/reactions here.

The Addicted Series
I've been told that this series should be binge-read, so . . . I'm going to do it. It's a lot of books, but I've heard they're really quick reads.

Megan Erickson's Books
For some reason, I want to read ALL of Megan's books, even her adult ones (I usually go for NA instead). I've been looking forward to a break in all of my other reading for a readathon of her books, and summer is going to be it! I'm really excited for this.☺☺

I'm NOT planning to read the entire series this summer. There's just no way. I do want to make sure I read the first one, though. Maybe I'll read the second one too.

A Game of Thrones
This is a tentative choice, but I'm really curious about this book series. I've started watching Game of Thrones again (I'm in season three), and it's sparked my interest in seeing how the books compare to the show. Will I like it as much? Will I get bored? I'm curious. (And like with Outlander, I don't plan to even attempt reading all the books this summer.)

The True Love Series
I guess I didn't pay attention to the author name on these book covers, but I only just recently discovered that she's the same author who wrote the He's So/She's So series. That's of my favorite lighter contemporary series! It's so good! I'm supposed to be getting a copy of the third book soon, and since I haven't even read book one, I plan to read and review all three this summer.

That's all I have planned at the moment (well, that and some summer and fall ARCs)! That's . . . 33 books. It'll probably take me a month and a half to read all of these. :D But hey, my break lasts from June 12th to September 17th. Plus, I may start one or two of these books/series before the end of the term!

Are there any series you plan on binge-reading this summer (or very soon)? Do you ever start thinking of what you'll read on a big break months before it even starts?