Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Book Review: The Death Cure by James Dashner

The Death Cure (Maze Runner, #3)

Jacque's Review:

The Death Cure is the third book in the Maze Runner series.  In this installment WICKED continues its research to find a cure for the Flare virus, which is threatening to eliminate the human race.  They have been studying the brain patterns of the immune population, but their tactics are becoming more and more desperate.  Thomas and his friends escape from WICKED and join the resistance, but they soon discover their end goals aren't in sync.  They ultimately decide to work with them because they feel their is safety in numbers with the hopes of converting them to their line of thinking.

Overall, I thought The Maze Runner had a great premise with the "gladers" trying to escape from the maze.  It was very original and I enjoyed the characters with their unique language and quirks.  I gave the first book 4 stars and jumped right into The Scorch trials.  I was a bit disappointed with book two and gave it 3 stars.  In keeping with this trend, The Death Cure fell even shorter from the mark and I ultimately decided to give it 2 stars.

 It felt like the author was grasping at straws to continue the series and wasn't really sure how he wanted it to conclude.  Should everything be doom and gloom to keep with the majority of the series or should there be a happily ever after?  I think he tried to give readers a combination of the two, but it came across as awkward.  I also didn't feel like there was a lot of new content to keep the story going.  We kept rehashing the same things and fighting the same people with very little progression to the story.

I realize my opinion is not part of the majority.  This was a very popular series that received a lot of hype in YA circles and was even converted into a movie series.  I wouldn't discourage someone from reading it if it is on their TBR list, but I certainly wouldn't recommend it to others.  

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Book Review: The Scorch Trials by James Dashner

The Scorch Trials (Maze Runner, #2)

Jacque's Review:

The Scorch Trials is the second installment in the Maze Runner series.  While I really enjoyed the original book, there was something missing this time around.  The characters now realize they are part of an experiment, what they need to do to survive, and how long it should take them to complete "The Scorch Trials."  The element of surprise was completely eliminated, which removed all of the suspense.  Danger still presents itself in various forms, but I felt like the characters were simply going through the motions to reach the "safe haven."

We have the same cast of characters, but trust becomes a major issue for Thomas.  WICKED is supposed to be good, but they keep putting them in dangerous situations for no obvious reason.  When things don't go as planned WICKED swoops in to help Thomas, but they place him back in the trials without any explanation.  In addition, Teresa was supposed to be his best friend.  She is taken away and replaced with a boy from "Group B" who can also speak telepathically with him.  The Gladers discover there was another group consisting of all girls and one boy that went through an identical maze experiment.  They are now competing against the other group in addition to simply trying to survive the trials.

The end of the book did not provide much of a conclusion.  The "scorch trials" are complete, but it is clear there is another book in this series.  The characters aren't provided any more information than what they started with.  They have no idea what WICKED is trying to accomplish or how much longer the trials will continue.  Based on past experience, they can only believe the safe haven is a temporary reprieve and there is more to come. 

I do not feel like I gained very much from reading this story.  We picked up some additional characters along the way, but Thomas and his friends are in basically the same situation they were in at the end of The Maze Runner.  I am hopeful The Death Cure, which is the final book in the original trilogy, will provide the EPIC conclusion I am looking for.     

Friday, May 12, 2017

Book Review: Unhinged by A.G. Howard

Unhinged (Splintered, #2)

Jacque's Review:

Unhinged is the second book in the Splintered series, which is based upon Alice in Wonderland.  Alyssa is the descendent of Alice and is half human / half netherling.  She must decide if she will embrace her magic and help save Wonderland or if she will remain in the mortal world with her human boyfriend Jeb. 

When Wonderland starts to invade the human realm it is no longer an option.   Alyssa must fight to defeat Red or she will lose everyone she loves.  She also discovers that her feelings for Morpheus aren't as black and white as she thought.  Morpheus is her childhood friend from Wonderland, who has been teaching and preparing her for this moment her entire life.  She always thought his intentions were self-centered, but the more she learns about their past the more she realizes he has always protected her and had her best interest in mind.

Personally, I am on team Morpheus.  Alyssa can't live in the human world without being perceived as crazy or "unhinged".  If she were to choose to live in Wonderland she would be Queen and all would be right in that world once again.  Besides, I love Morpheus's cocky attitude and who doesn't love a British accent?

This was an excellent sequel to Splintered and I can't wait to see how this series will conclude.  Ms. Howard left most of the characters hanging in the balance at the end of this installment, which will certainly encourage readers to jump right into the final book in this series.  I gave Unhinged 4 stars and will definitely include Ensnared on my Summer TBR list.

I had the chance to meet A.G. Howard at BEA in 2014 and picked up an autographed copy of Unhinged.  I absolutely love the cover of this book and will keep the signed copy even though I have now completed it.  I typically tear out the autographed page from free books I receive at conferences to add to my collection and place the books in my local little free library.  I feel it is better to share the books with other readers than to hoard them on my shelves collecting dust, but I don't think I am going to be able to part with this one.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Book review: The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen by Hope Nicholson

The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen, Hope Nicholson
Book Summary
Think comic books can t feature strong female protagonists? Think again! In The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen you ll meet the most fascinating exemplars of the powerful, compelling, entertaining, and heroic female characters who ve populated comic books from the very beginning. This spectacular sisterhood includes costumed crimebusters like Miss Fury, super-spies like Tiffany Sinn, sci-fi pioneers like Gale Allen, and even kid troublemakers like Little Lulu. With vintage art, publication details, a decade-by-decade survey of industry trends and women s roles in comics, and spotlights on iconic favorites like Wonder Woman and Ms. Marvel, The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen proves that not only do strong female protagonists belong in comics, they ve always been there."

Flo's Review
I admit, I'm not the hugest comic book fan. Thanks to my fiance and Geek Girl Brunch, I'm getting more into it. I've been to New York Comic Con and I'm actually heading to San Diego Comic Con for the first time ever this year. I'm SUPER stoked! I think I was planning a trip to Florida Supercon Retro when the opportunity to review this book came up. I agreed to do it, thinking this would be a good book to skim.

The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen pleasantly surprised me! I took it on my flight expecting to read only the chapter introductions and then skim the entries. But I found myself pretty much reading it cover to cover. I learned a lot about the comic book industry in the past, and lots of random fun facts. (For example, did you know that Nurse Comics were a big thing? Yep. Who knew?? I mean, maybe you did, but I didn't.) 

I also enjoyed reading the entries about the superwomen. It was nice to see some old favorites like Supergirl and Wonder Woman for a touch of familiarity, but it was almost more interesting to see the myriad of ideas for these women: who they were, what they could do, what they did. Hope Nicholson was honest and acknowledged the flaws she saw in them: which was understandable for the older titles, as the idea of being a woman, and even more so of being a superwoman, changes literally all the time.

This book will satisfy a wide range of readers: history buffs, feminists, comic lovers, and more. It definitely makes a great coffee table book: just don't be surprised if you get sucked in!

Thank you to Quirk Books for providing me with a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Book review: The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich

the love interest, cale dietrich
Book Summary
There is a secret organization that cultivates teenage spies. The agents are called Love Interests because getting close to people destined for great power means getting valuable secrets.

Caden is a Nice: The boy next door, sculpted to physical perfection. Dylan is a Bad: The brooding, dark-souled guy, and dangerously handsome. The girl they are competing for is important to the organization, and each boy will pursue her. Will she choose a Nice or the Bad?

Both Caden and Dylan are living in the outside world for the first time. They are well-trained and at the top of their games. They have to be – whoever the girl doesn’t choose will die.

What the boys don’t expect are feelings that are outside of their training. Feelings that could kill them both.

Flo's Review
The Love Interest pokes fun at YA (in a subtle, good-natured way), and it is super fun. The whole idea of a love triangle has pretty much been beaten to death. And in those you always have the safe, but beautiful, boy next door. This is the guys I usually go for, honestly. Simon in Shadowhunters. Jacob in Twilight. Et cetera, et cetera. Then the other boy is the new guy who comes out of nowhere, bringing an air of danger with him. But he's also beautifully broken. Jace and Edward, if we're continuing with my first examples. Both boys try to win the affections of the girl's heart -- and, of course, the girl is awesome and a force to be reckoned with all by herself.

So in this crazy world, there is a organization that cultivates Good Guys and Bad Guys (Nice and Bad) to battle for the affections of a girl's heart. This girl is one who will be important to society in some way, so the guy who wins will spend his life learning her secrets and sharing them with this evil organization. The evil organization then uses this information for its own gain.

And the other guy literally dies.

So there's that. 

I really like how this book very honestly explores the idea of identity and being what you are told you should be, versus who you really are. Caden doesn't think of himself as a true Nice. Dylan is not the classic Bad either. And they both struggle with that.

But then, it continues poking fun by exploring the idea of "what if the two guys fell for each other, instead of falling for the girl?" Brilliant. Brilliant premise. I was so excited to read this when I first heard about it, and I'm very happy to report that it lived up to my expectations. I spent an entire Saturday in Caden and Dylan's crazy competition and had a great time.

Cale Dietrich managed to throw in two plot twists that I wasn't expecting! I know for one, I literally put the book down and said aloud, "Plot twist!" Clever, because this just isn't a fluffy spoof story. It's a real, intense story with a well-thought out plotline and fully developed characters. There was only one aspect that seemed to be not thought out well enough to make full sense, but the rest of it did.

The Love Interest comes out May 16, 2017 and if you'd like to read a fresh spin on a familiar story, I recommend you pick it up.

Thank you to Macmillan for providing me with an advance reader's copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Book review: Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith

windfall, jennifer e. smith
Book Summary
Alice doesn’t believe in luck—at least, not the good kind. But she does believe in love, and for some time now, she’s been pining for her best friend, Teddy. On his eighteenth birthday—just when it seems they might be on the brink of something—she buys him a lottery ticket on a lark. To their astonishment, he wins $140 million, and in an instant, everything changes. 

At first, it seems like a dream come true, especially since the two of them are no strangers to misfortune. As a kid, Alice won the worst kind of lottery possible when her parents died just over a year apart from each other. And Teddy’s father abandoned his family not long after that, leaving them to grapple with his gambling debts. Through it all, Teddy and Alice have leaned on each other. But now, as they negotiate the ripple effects of Teddy’s newfound wealth, a gulf opens between them. And soon, the money starts to feel like more of a curse than a windfall. 

As they try to find their way back to each other, Alice learns more about herself than she ever could have imagined…and about the unexpected ways in which luck and love sometimes intersect.

Flo's Review
I adore Jennifer E. Smith and all her books! So I was, of course, very excited to read her latest story Windfall.  I struggled with Alice for a little bit of the book. She just seemed a little....I don't know...? Like she was judging Teddy for what he was doing with the money and blaming him because things were different. Of course they're going to be different! He is now a millionaire. Also, I thought her response to what he wanted to give her seemed unrealistic? Though I am intrigued by the thought around creating a character who responds that way. (Have you read the book and you think I'm being too vague? Check out my spoilery review on my Goodreads page here.)

What I love about Jennifer E. Smith's books is that they read to me like moments. Full moments that you can lavish in. It's a story, yes, but it's tied together like a bunch of robust, beautiful moments. Each scene is its own masterpiece. The pacing is slow because the reader is becoming fully involved in the moments. Jennifer is Queen at this: it's this way in all her stories and it's why I love them all so much.

I listened to this one on audiobook, and it was....interesting. The reader was female and it sounded a bit cartoonish when she was reading the male voices. Leo was too deep, Teddy was too cheesy. But she did a good job as Alice. It always sounded like there was a hint of laughter in her voice, like she was enjoying every moment. This fits perfect with a big made up of moments and all the emotions involved in them. 

This book wasn't just about the actions one takes after winning the lottery, but also about the effects. Most people have been asked the question, "If you won the lottery, what would you do with the money?" But I don't know that a lot of people have pondered, "If you win the lottery, how will it affect you? Your relationships with your friends, family, and acquaintances? How you seen yourself and what you want to do with your life?" I love that this book explored all of that.

Book review: It Started With Goodbye by Christina June

it started with goodbye, christina june
Book Summary
Sixteen-year-old Tatum Elsea is bracing for the worst summer of her life. After being falsely accused of a crime, she’s stuck under stepmother-imposed house arrest and her BFF’s gone ghost. Tatum fills her newfound free time with community service by day and working at her covert graphic design business at night (which includes trading emails with a cute cello-playing client). When Tatum discovers she’s not the only one in the house keeping secrets, she finds she has the chance to make amends with her family and friends. Equipped with a new perspective, and assisted by her feisty step-abuela-slash-fairy-godmother, Tatum is ready to start fresh and maybe even get her happy ending along the way.

Flo's Review
I did some traveling this weekend and was happy to bring Tatum along for the journey. Honestly, I didn't like Tatum at first. She just seemed to be snarky toward her stepmother and father, so it was hard to feel sympathetic for her. However, that changed as I continued reading. Not so much the sympathy, but more that I came to like and respect her. She had a good attitude about working hard for a goal, helping and becoming friendly with her stepsister, listening to her abuela, and considering things from her stepmother's point of view.  

The title is a play on the fact that Tatum reflects a lot on how to end her emails and on how other people have ended theirs. This was a cute addition to the Cinderella story, and on a deeper level, good commentary on how what seems like the end is often not the complete end. After the salutation is written, the story is not completed but just transferred. It is now with the receiver and it carries on with how he or she reacts and possibly responds to it. 

I enjoyed the fact that the ending of this one did not mirror the ending of the Cinderella story. There is a Happily Ever After, but the relationships are different -- and I think better -- than how the relationships end up in the classic story.

This was a quick, cute read and I enjoyed it!

It Started With Goodbye comes out on May 9, 2017. Thank you to Blink YA Books for sending me an advance reader's copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Book Review: Lust for Life by Jeri Smith-Ready

Lust for Life (WVMP Radio, #4)

Jacque's Review:

Lust for Life is the fourth book in the WVMP Radio series, which is about a group of vampires working as DJ's at a local radio station.  I gave the first three books in this series 5 stars and eagerly picked up an autographed copy of this "recently released" final book in the series.

Well...The release date was November 2012 and I purchased my copy at the 2013 RT Convention in Chicago.  I can't believe it took me 4 years to finally read this book, but I'm certainly glad that I did.  All of my favorite characters were back for another action packed adventure.

Shane and Ciara are busy planning their wedding and their best friends/co-workers are expecting their first child.  Just when you think everyone is going to receive my version of a happily ever after, one of Shane's ex-donors calls to tell him that Jim (another vampire DJ who is being held at a Control facility after attacking Ciara in the previous book) changed her into a vampire shortly before his incident with Ciara..  Shane and the other WVMP staff take her under their wings, but that is just the beginning of their problems.  Jim escapes from the Control facility and the story takes off from there.  

I have read a lot of fiction over the years and can easily comprehend the rules of vampires.  They can't go out into the sunlight, they live forever, they have compulsions, etc.  Overall, I loved all of the characters and their stories throughout this series; however, I could not grasp the unusual turn of events that took place the last several chapters of this book.  Taking liberties with "the rules" is one thing, but this was unbelievable in my opinion.  You can rationalize why things happened all you want, but the ending of this book was a bit too unrealistic for me.  It really felt like Jeri jumped through hoops to provide the characters with her version of a perfect ending.  

Perhaps my expectations were a little high, but I ended up giving this book 3.5 stars.  It is still a very entertaining read, but I just can't get past the fact that it took the word fiction to a whole new level.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

TV Review: 13 Reasons Why

13 reasons why, netflix
IMDB Summary
Follows teenager Clay Jensen, in his quest to uncover the story behind his classmate and crush, Hannah, and her decision to end her life.

Flo's Review
I read this book back in 2011. So I remember that I loved it, and I remember the general premise, but time has faded some of the book details from my mind.

(I am kind of proud my review of this book, so check it out.)

For the past few weeks, I've seen numerous posts about people watching and loving this series, and I couldn't wait for my opportunity to dig in. That came this past Saturday, when I binged all 13 episodes. And you know what? It didn't really feel that long! I literally watched this show straight from about 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. and it didn't really feel like 12 + hours had gone by. The way this narrative is set up makes it easy and seamless to move from one episode to the next. It was the same with the book -- I remember that I just wanted to keep listening to Hannah's journey, and with the show I enjoyed remembering the different characters.

The show did a great job of building up the suspense. I remembered Clay's reason for being on the tapes, but the friend who I was watching the show with had never read the book. She kept anxiously commenting about Clay getting to his tape. An advantage of the show was the ability to look beyond Hannah and Clay. I believe that you absolutely needed in the book to just be with the two leads, as the story was Clay experiencing Hannah's journey. But the TV show allowed us to see more about the culture of the school and delve into the lives of the characters. By seeing these scenes, we got to see more of them that just what Hannah saw. 

I also really enjoyed the combination of the old and new sitting side by side. I mean, a walkman and Beats headphones? Perfect. Because this story would not have the same effect if the tapes were made into a mp3: no flipping sides, no package to pass around. But at the same time, the series needed to acknowledge that we are in 2017, and the addition of the social media and advanced technology was great for that. In fact, it added to the point of the story about the interconnectedness of everything, and how small actions or inactions can have big consequences.

So, if you have the opportunity, I do suggest you watch this -- if you have or haven't read the book. It is a prevalent topic that no one likes to talk about, but is very real in our society. I do like the fact that this piece of art is bringing the discussion more to the forefront of conversation.

And if you have watched it: Season 2? Yay or nay? What are your thoughts? (No spoilers for those who haven't seen it!)

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Blog Tour: The Traitor's Kiss by Erin Beaty

Book Summary
An obstinate girl who will not be married. 
A soldier desperate to prove himself. 
A kingdom on the brink of war.

With a sharp tongue and an unruly temper, Sage Fowler is not what they’d call a lady―which is perfectly fine with her. Deemed unfit for marriage, Sage is apprenticed to a matchmaker and tasked with wrangling other young ladies to be married off for political alliances. She spies on the girls―and on the soldiers escorting them.

As the girls' military escort senses a political uprising, Sage is recruited by a handsome soldier to infiltrate the enemy ranks. The more she discovers as a spy, the less certain she becomes about whom to trust―and Sage becomes caught in a dangerous balancing act that will determine the fate of her kingdom.

Flo's Favorite (Literary) Female Spies!
I was super excited to get my hands on this book as soon as I heard about it, because I really do enjoy a good girl spy story. "Like which ones, Flo?" you ask. Well, let me tell you!

ally carter, gallagher girls

1. Cammie, Bex, Liz, and Macy from the Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter: Oh, I love these girls! This is a fabulous series that I completely binged and enjoyed every minute of it. These four girls go to the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women, which is a fancy way to say 'spy school.' I really enjoyed how real to the teenage experience this story was. The girls were taking down bad guys and running for their lives at points, but they also had crushes on boys and the usual high school drama. I highly recommend this series.

harriet the spy, louise fitzhugh

2. Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh: Throwback! My first experience with a female spy was Harriet. I may not remember all the details of the story, but I definitely remember reading it as a little girl and loving it. 

nancy drew, carolyn keene

3. Nancy Drew by Carolyn Keene. From Harriet to Nancy Drew! If Harriet was for the little girl me, Nancy was for the preteen. I had to include this stylish 80s cover, because these are what the versions I read looked like.

you don'w know my name, kristen orlando, black angel chronicles

4. You Don't Know My Name by Kristen Orlando: I simply adored this book. Reagan is kickass as a spy, but also as a friend and a daughter. I really hope to see more of The Black Angel Chronicles.

5. And two more Worth Mentioning: I have also recently read a little bit of the Gail Carringer Finishing School series, and The Cruelty by Scott Bergstrom is about a female spy-in-training, if you will.

I think that's all for me! LitReactor has a good little list of YA books with kickass female spies. But who are some of your favorite literary lady spies? Let me know in the comments! 

Oh, and about that Secret Message.... :)

"Had paper scraps with personal information about nobles"

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Movie review: Before I Fall

Flo's Review
I love Lauren Oliver. I feel like she has been most well-known for the Delirium series and things after that, but Before I Fall has always, always been my favorite book of hers. I was so so excited when I heard that it was going to be a movie. And then I was happy to see some actresses that I'm familiar with and enjoy cast, like Zoey Deutch and Halston Sage. Life being the crazy thing it is, I was able to just make it to see this one in the theater before it left.

I read the book in 2010, so as you can imagine, I don't remember a lot of exact details. This was nice because it meant I wasn't sitting there in the movie comparing it to the book. I just remembered the general premise of the book and that I absolutely loved it. I was left with a good feeling, and I took that same feeling away from the film.

The actors and the director did a good job in making each day seem very different. I can imagine it would be repetitive to watch the same day over and over, but it never felt like I was seeing the same thing. And like I said, I left with the same feeling of, "Wow..." that I had when I read the book.

If you've read Before I Fall, I'd recommend giving this a watch when it comes out on Digital HD and DVD. And even if you haven't, I still think you'll find this enjoyable.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Book review: Alex & Eliza by Melissa de la Cruz

alex & eliza by melissa de la cruz

Book Summary
Their romance shaped a nation. The rest was history.

1777. Albany, New York. 

As battle cries of the American Revolution echo in the distance, servants flutter about preparing for one of New York society’s biggest events: the Schuylers’ grand ball. Descended from two of the oldest and most distinguished bloodlines in New York, the Schuylers are proud to be one of their fledgling country’s founding families, and even prouder still of their three daughters—Angelica, with her razor-sharp wit; Peggy, with her dazzling looks; and Eliza, whose beauty and charm rival that of both her sisters, though she’d rather be aiding the colonists’ cause than dressing up for some silly ball. 

Still, she can barely contain her excitement when she hears of the arrival of one Alexander Hamilton, a mysterious, rakish young colonel and General George Washington’s right-hand man. Though Alex has arrived as the bearer of bad news for the Schuylers, he can’t believe his luck—as an orphan, and a bastard one at that—to be in such esteemed company. And when Alex and Eliza meet that fateful night, so begins an epic love story that would forever change the course of American history.

Flo's Review
You know as soon as I discovered that this book was going to exist, I added it to my TBR. I love Hamilton and was really excited about the opportunity to delve more into their love story. My fiance was a history major and always delights in reminding me that everything about the play is not 100% factual. Creative liberties were taken for the sake of the story and the presentation. So it was good for me to read another take, another version of the story. I found myself comparing the differences in this book to the differences in the play, thinking: "That's not how it happened!" But then I would have to remind myself that the play isn't exactly how it happened either. It was an interesting experience and I really enjoyed it.

I listened to the audiobook and the narrator takes on a tone of speaking to match the old world style of writing. At first I thought to myself, "I can't do this." Between the audiobook reader's obvious affected tone and the older style of speaking in the writing, I felt like I was listening to a history book. But I kept on listening. I found that I enjoyed Eliza's spirit and intelligence and Alex's endearing character. And the more I listened, the more it made sense to me that the audiobook narrator was speaking as she was. It added an extra layer of seeming authenticity to the story. It still would have worked with someone speaking regularly, but it honestly sounded more realistic in the more formal tone. I appreciate what she did; it really worked for this story.

The end of the story was interesting. I enjoyed how de la Cruz was able to incorporate another famous person into the story that most Americans remember from their history lessons (and pop culture phrasing). But some of it was random. Why all the focus on her mother's thoughts all of a sudden? I feel like this could have ended with the wedding and been wrapped up perfectly, without the extra bed chamber and honeymoon scenes.

Eliza's sister Peggy is hardly mentioned in the play, so it was nice to learn her story and see her personality. We got to really see the Schuyler sisters together; and they fit together so well. The bad guy was baaaad. Well done! I really did not like the guy.

Alex & Eliza is definitely enjoyable for fans of Hamilton, and I think it will be definitely interesting for history buffs. We got a good bit about the war and a very nice feel for what it was like to live during those times.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Book Review: The Black Circle by Patrick Carman

The Black Circle (The 39 Clues, #5)

Jacque's Review:

My son and I have been reading the 39 Clues series together.  The one thing that I have enjoyed about this series is that it that it is historical fiction, so I feel like he is learning something while enjoying the fictional elements of the story.  In the fifth installment, Amy and Dan are off to Russia in search of their next clue.  This time we learned about the Romanovs, which was the Russian royal family.  They focus mostly on the Romanov children Anastasia and and Alexei.  We also learned about Rasputin and his involvement with the Romanovs.

It was very coincidental, but my son was learning about Rasputin and the Romanovs in school while we were reading this book.  In addition, my step-dad suggested that I start listening to these "Remarkable Lives, Tragic Deaths" podcasts.  When I pulled them up, the first podcast was about Rasputin, so I feel like quite the expert after this comprehensive history lesson.

Amy and Dan were forced to work with their cousins, the Holts, in order to accomplish this mission.  The clues were spread out all over Russia and there was no way any one team could collect all of them on their own in the designated time frame.  Amy and Dan continue to receive help from the unknown "NRR" .  We finally find out who NRR really is, which was a major surprise.  I don't want to give away any spoilers, but it wasn't who I thought it was all along.

The Kabras trail the Holts and Irina Spasky mysteriously turns up in places Amy and Dan are searching.  She is definitely working against them, but at one point it seemed like she was genuinely concerned about their safety and offered them a warning.  Of course, the kids took it with a grain of salt and continued on with the quest.

Their final discovery appears to be leading them to Australia.  I can't wait to see what we will learn about Australia in book 6.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Book Review: Evertrue by Brodi Ashton

Evertrue (Everneath, #3)

***Spoiler Alert...I do not mention any spoilers from Evertrue (book 3 in the series), but if you haven't finished Everbound (book 2) there are some spoilers and you probably shouldn't proceed.*** 

Jacque's Review:

Evertrue is the third and final book in the Everneath series and picks up where book two left off.  Nikki and Jack are now on a mission to destroy the Everneath and restore Nikki's mortality. They have one major problem.  Nikki has to rely on Cole to feed her every night or she will lose her energy and die.  Even that is a short term solution to her  problems.  She has about a week to discover how to destroy the Everneath or she will be forced to choose between feeding on a forfeit for a century or allowing herself to die. They also hove no idea how to defeat the shades and the current queen.  

I was shocked by a major twist that took place in this book.  Cole and his band disappear one evening and their condo is ransacked.  When Cole reappears, he isn't the same.  He is speaking like he is from the early 1900's with an ancient vocabulary and a strange accent.  I don't want to give away any spoilers, but Nikki and Jack decide to use this to their advantage.

We see a much different side of Cole in this book.  Personally, I liked the overly confident version of him better.  This version; however, did allow the reader to connect with him on a new level.  Even Nikki couldn't help but feel sorry for him.

Jack, on the the other hand, is now a version of the Hulk... or Hercules if we are going to use the mythological equivalent.  He somehow grew in size and strength when he freed himself from the Everneath.  In addition, he now has a very short temper.  Every time Nikki and Cole were together I pictured him clenching his fists (which is constantly mentioned in the book) and turning into the Hulk before he went into one of his rages.  It came in handy at times, but for the most part he was a bit annoying.  I would have selected the old Cole over him any day.

The ending wasn't much of a surprise, but there were some repercussions I didn't see coming.  I wish there could have been a happily ever after for everyone, but I guess that was never in the cards.  I was satisfied with how Brodi tied up the series and thoroughly enjoyed my time with these characters.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

GIVEAWAY: Gift Set for The Dead Inside by Cyndy Etler

the dead inside, cyndy etler
The Dead Inside: a true story
Author: Cyndy Etler
Sourcebooks Fire
On-sale: April 4, 2017
Young Adult, Hardcover

For readers of Girl Interrupted and Tweak, Cyndy Etler’s gripping memoir gives readers a glimpse into the harrowing reality of her sixteen months in the notorious "tough love" program the ACLU called “a concentration camp for throwaway kids.”

All Cyndy wanted was to be loved and accepted. By age fourteen, she had escaped from her violent home, only to be reported as a runaway and sent to a “drug rehabilitation” facility that changed her world.

To the public, Straight Inc. was a place of recovery. But behind closed doors, the program used bizarre and intimidating methods to “treat” its patients. In her raw and fearless memoir, Cyndy Etler recounts her sixteen months in the living nightmare that Straight Inc. considered “healing.”

The Author:
Cyndy Etler was homeless at fourteen, summa cum laude at thirty. In her current work as a teacher and teen life coach, Etler happily teaches teens that books work better than drugs. She lives with her husband and dogs in North Carolina. Find her at

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Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Book review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Got it and so excited!! ALA Midwinter Conference 2016
Book Summary
Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval…beware of getting swept too far away.

Flo's Review
This book was quite the game. Seriously. My journey reading this book had just about as many twists and turns as Scarlett's adventures at Caraval. 

I struggled for the first half to 2/3rds of the book. I just could not with Scarlett. I don't know if I have ever read someone so inside his or her own head. I am sure there are people like that in the world, but it's really a little bit painful reading that character. At times it felt like I was just reading so much of Scarlett's broken record thoughts and not enough of the magic. 

Because the magic is where this book excels! Stephanie Garber's writing is absolutely beautiful. She doesn't just describe things with words -- she sings them, she creates them, she encapsulates them with all 5 senses and then some. 

Another thing I struggled with was Scarlett's and Julian's banter. I think it was supposed to be cute and coy and show the tension between them. But it just seemed to me like they were snipping at each other in many exchanges that went on for far too long. Their bickering exhausted me. 

But now let's bounce back to something else I liked about this book. The plot twists! There were several, and I didn't see any of them coming. I definitely knew that things would not be as they seemed, but it is just so incredibly creative, this story. 

Finally, a note about the audiobook. I think one reason I vacillated with my opinions about this book is because I was so ready to love it. This book was definitely one of the more popular and most anticipated 2017 titles, and that definitely raised the bar. One reason I was so excited for it was because I found out that the audiobook was narrated by Rebecca Soler. She is absolutely one of my favorite audiobook readers! She read the Cinder series, and I listened to all of those with her. So when I heard that she was doing Caraval, I was ready for another journey. Rebecca did not disappoint, and though I have finished listening to the story, the audiobook contains a bonus interview with author Stephanie Garber. I am looking forward to listening to it tomorrow as I drive around! 

So now that I am off of the ride that is Caraval, I will give it a 3 out of 5 stars and add book #2 to my TBR.

Thank you so much to Macmillan Audio for providing me with the audiobook in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Book Review AND Giveaway: Toward a Secret Sky by Heather Maclean

Book Summary 
Shortly after 17-year-old Maren Hamilton is orphaned and sent to live with grandparents she’s never met in Scotland, she receives an encrypted journal from her dead mother that makes her and everyone around her a target. It confirms that her parents were employed by a secret, international organization that’s now intent on recruiting her. As Maren works to unravel the clues left behind by her mother, a murderous madness sweeps through the local population, terrorizing her small town. Maren must decide if she’ll continue her parents’ fight or stay behind to save her friends.

With the help of Gavin, an otherworldly mercenary she’s not supposed to fall in love with, and Graham, a charming aristocrat who is entranced with her, Maren races against the clock and around the country from palatial estates with twisted labyrinths to famous cathedrals with booby-trapped subterranean crypts to stay ahead of the enemy and find a cure. Along the way, she discovers the great truth of love: that laying down your life for another isn’t as hard as watching them sacrifice everything for you.

Flo's Review
Toward a Secret Sky has many different elements -- fantasy, romance, mystery, adventure. And, of course -- COVER LOVE. Look at this beauty!

toward a secret sky, heather Maclean
So pretty!
I was talking with a friend this past weekend about books that try to be one thing when they would be better as another. This is how I feel about Toward a Secret Sky. The romance felt a little much to me. I struggle with insta-love to begin with, and I felt that so much of this novel was Maren talking about how attracted she is to Gavin. To me, there was almost more about Maren and her feelings for Gavin than about the story line. There's certainly nothing wrong with that. I just feel like it was more a romance story with a fantastical setting than a fantasy story, and I was expecting more of a fantasy story. In the end, despite the fact that Maren is also motivated by her mother and her friends, she really just does everything for Gavin. I wish I'd gotten more personal drive and character growth: I wish she'd more come into her own, so to speak, to where her big decision at the end is motivated by herself and who she has become and not by him.

The story was creative and the scenery sounded absolutely beautiful. I loved reading about Gavin's home and about Aviemore. I also do appreciate that this is a standalone novel, in the world of so many fantasy series. 

Toward a Secret Sky comes out April 4th, 2017.

Thank you to Blink YA for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Now, about that GIVEAWAY
I ended up with two ARCs of this book, so I'll give away one! To enter, leave a comment here (with your email address so I can reach you) for 1 point, follow/RT the contest tweet on Twitter (@booknerdsblog) for another point, and/or like the Instagram (@booknerdsacrossamerica) for another entry. US only and ends at midnight on publication day, April 4th. Good luck!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

COVER REVEAL: Don't Kiss the Messenger by Katie Ray

Don’t Kiss the Messenger Information Sheet:

Author: Katie Ray (pen name of Katie Kacvinsky)
Release Date: 4/10/2017
Genre: Young Adult Romance
Author Email:
Author Website:
Author Twitter: @TheWeirdists
Author Facebook: Katie Ray Kacvinsky
Author Goodreads: Katie Ray

~A modern retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac~


For most of her teenage life, CeCe Edmonds has been dealing with the stares and the not-so-polite whispers that follow her around Edgelake High. So she has a large scar on her face—Harry Potter had one on his forehead and people still liked him. CeCe never cared about her looks—until Emmett Brady, transfer student and football darling, becomes her literature critique partner. The only problem? Emmett is blindsided by Bryn DeNeuville, CeCe’s gorgeous and suddenly shy volleyball teammate. Bryn asks CeCe to help her compose messages that’ll charm Emmett. CeCe isn’t sure there’s anything in his head worth charming but agrees anyway—she’s a sucker for a good romance. Unfortunately, the more messages she sends and the more they run into each other, the more she realizes there’s plenty in his head, from food to literature. Too bad Emmett seems to be falling for the wrong girl...

Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book involves one fiercely scarred girl who wants the new guy in town, the new guy who thinks he wants the new girl, and the new girl who really isn’t sure what she wants, and the misunderstanding that brings them all together. You’ll laugh, you’ll swoon, you’ll fall in love.


Katie writes teen and new adult fiction novels. Her latest book, Don't Kiss the Messenger, is published under her new pen name, Katie Ray. She also has six books published under her legal name, Katie Kacvinsky (First Comes Love, Second Chance, Finally Forever, Awaken, Middle Ground, and Still Point).

Her books have been nominated for YALSA awards, and First Comes Love was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award. She lives in beautiful Ashland, Wisconsin, on the shores of Lake Superior, with her husband, two kids, and a very high-energy dog. To find out more about Katie and her books, check out her website: