Tuesday, May 30, 2017

You Say It's Your Birthday!: Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A very happy book birthday to these beauties!

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

Dark Breaks the Dawn by Sara B. Larson

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts

Which of these titles are you most looking forward to?

Monday, May 29, 2017

Book review: The Worst Fairy Godmother Ever! (The Wish List #1) by Sarah Aronson

Book Summary
Q: What do you need to become a great fairy godmother?

a) kindness
b) determination
c) gusto
d) all of the above

Fairy-godmother-in-training Isabelle doesn't know what gusto is, but she's pretty sure she has what it takes to pass fairy godmother training with flying colors.

But then Isabelle is assigned a practice princess who is not a princess at all. Nora is just a normal girl -- a normal girl who doesn't believe in fairy godmothers, or wishes come true, or happily ever afters.

Isabelle has to change Nora's mind about magic and grant a wish for her. If she can't, Isabelle will flunk training and never become a great fairy godmother!

Flo's Review
This was straight up adorable! All pink and sparkles! The main character, Isabelle, is not one for studying or reading the rules. But she learns really well through experience. Isabelle is a character that I think little girls will be able to relate to well. Even though her world is different from ours, she struggles with issues and temptations just like her readers. 

And would you believe that this little book ended on a cliffhanger?! It's true! I am seriously curious about what's going to happen in Book 2.

I was never reading this book without a smile on my face. I will be giving this book to my little niece in hopes that she has as much fun reading it as I did!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Book review: The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

star-touched queen, roshani chokshi
Book Summary
Fate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you’re only seventeen?

Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of death and destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire…

But Akaran has its own secrets—thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most…including herself.

Flo's Review
I had the pleasure of meeting Roshani at ALA Annual this year in Orlando, and she was just the cutest and sweetest! This made me even more excited to read her books. I had heard a lot of good things about The Star-Touched Queen, so I was very glad to discover that it lived up the hype.

A lot of times we get variations of the same story in YA, and specifically in YA fantasy. I am not dissing the trend, as I love a good Greek retelling. (Remember Greek Week on the blog?) But there are two particular things I loved about The Star-Touched Queen and the first was its uniqueness. This is a not story I was familiar with, or had heard before. I did not know what it was was, so I didn't see it as trying to be something, or a twist on something. It was just a beautiful story in itself. (I should also add that I went in blind, knowing nothing about what this book was about, so every time Maya made a new connection I was completely surprised.)

The second thing that I loved about The Star-Touched Queen is the world-building. This book is rich in it. The descriptions are lush and fill all your senses. It was the imagery and the world that transported me in this story. The plot was good, the romance was good, the supporting characters were intriguing (Kamala was hilarious!), but admittedly those did not keep me turning the pages of this book. What drew me into this one was reading about the Night Bazaar and the many rooms in Akaran.

On a final note, I listened to this book on audio, and the reader did a great job! As soon as I finished this story, I immediately started listening to A Crown of Wishes, and I am so happy to be transported back into this fascinating world.

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.