Friday, December 27, 2019

Book Review: Sweet Reckoning by Wendy Higgins

Jacque's Review:

Sweet Reckoning is the third and final book in the Sweet series. There is a fourth book, which is a companion novel told from Kaidan's POV, but this is the conclusion to the original story. 

The Nephilim are well aware of what their fathers, the Dukes/Demons, are capable of and are ready to risk their lives to rid the earth of them once and for all. Not all of the Dukes are evil, even though they must carry out their sinful work of spreading greed, lust, envy, substance abuse, etc. One of them in particular, Anna's father, has been helping to organize an alliance between some of the Neph. The other Dukes are beginning to suspect there is a traitor amongst them and begin monitoring him and all of their children very closely.

There were several twists and loop holes that were exploited in this book that greatly added to the overall enjoyment. All of the Neph still needed to be very careful, but we were able to see more of their true feelings and personalities in this book. I loved seeing the twins - Ginger and Marna, Blake, Kapano, Kaidan, and Anna all working together for good instead of evil. 

Unfortunately, there couldn't be a happily-ever-after for everyone in the series. We did lose a couple of characters along the way, which was very sad. With the Neph's new found faith and understanding that they were no longer condemned to hell, the loss wasn't nearly as painful as it could have been. They all realized they would be reunited some day.  

In addition to Kai and Anna, a few other couples emerged out of the alliance. It was great to see the Neph free to finally make their own decisions and live their lives on their own terms. If you enjoy paranormal romance, I would definitely recommend this series. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Sick Kids in Love by Hannah Moskowitz

Book Summary
Isabel has one rule: no dating.
It's easier--
It's safer--
It's better--
--for the other person.
She's got issues. She's got secrets. She's got rheumatoid arthritis.
But then she meets another sick kid.
He's got a chronic illness Isabel's never heard of, something she can't even pronounce. He understands what it means to be sick. He understands her more than her healthy friends. He understands her more than her own father who's a doctor.
He's gorgeous, fun, and foul-mouthed. And totally into her.
Isabel has one rule: no dating.
It's complicated--
It's dangerous--
It's never felt better--
--to consider breaking that rule for him.

Flo's Summary
This was full of the adorableness I'd hoped it would be! I'm a sucker for a first love story and this one was so, so sweet. At the same time, I really appreciated the look into the lives of the sick kids. Every time I read an #ownvoices novel it really expands my worldview and understanding, and this one was no different. I am really, really glad Hannah decided to share this story in such a great way.

Sasha is the best kind of book boyfriend and I love the conversations between him and Isabel. It was interesting to see Isabel's relationships with her friends and how they evolved throughout the novel. This book had some good, thoughtful discourse which was fantastic. It didn't shy away from showing the reader the lows. But the sweet, beautiful moments were so sweet and beautiful. I closed the book with a huge smile on my face.

Thank you again to Entangled Teen for sending this along for my review.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Book review: The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

Book Summary
Jude was seven when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.

As Jude becomes more deeply embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, she discovers her own capacity for trickery and bloodshed. But as betrayal threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.

Flo's Review
This is an interesting one, for sure. I went into this with a lot of conflicting emotions. I wanted to love it, of course, because it's greatly hyped. But I also knew that I might now, due to the fact that -- and this is not a spoiler because of the title -- the guy is a jerk. I'm never good with stories where the guys are jerks.

So now I've finished it, and .... I kind of liked it and kind of didn't. As I was listening to it, the only thing motivating me to go on was that it's my book club read and that I was curious what would happen, based on all the hype. It wasn't necessarily because I was invested in the story. I's got the whole political intrigue, Game of Thrones thing going on, and I don't think that's really my style. Plus, everyone in the story is just plain mean. I always want to be rooting for at least one person in the book, and I feel like the only character I liked and would want to hang out with was Oak. 

But on the flip side, I did the thing where I was getting close to the end of the audiobook and I finished reading the rest of the story in print because I wanted to see what would happen and I didn't want to wait until I was back in the car. I knew there would be a twist, I just didn't know what! 

So now I'm looking at The Wicked King, and I'm torn. On one hand, the relationship between Jude and Carden ... doesn't do it for me. Again, the mean thing. And let's her real, right now their relationship is built on them being jerks to each other. One the other hand, it seems like nearly everyone has liked TWK better than TCP. For that, I am willing to give it a try.

I think my conclusion is that I will continue on in the series, but just not right away. I need a break from all the meanness, and I have some other books I'd like to get to first. 

This book, and this series, is one with the range of opinions from "I loved it!" to "Ehh..." to "I was not a fan." Where do you stand? Let me know in the comments or on one of our social media accounts.

Book Review: One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus

Jacque's Review:

This book has been on my TBR list since it was released back in May 2017. When I was at the library a couple of weeks ago, this was sitting prominently displayed on one of the shelves and I couldn't resist any longer. It was described as "The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars." While I haven't read Pretty Little Liars yet, I am very familiar with The Breakfast Club and loved the movie growing up.
I could definitely see the comparison with The Breakfast Club from the very beginning of the book. Five students, who seemingly couldn't be any more different from each other, end up in detention together because of something they claim is a mistake. The teacher found prohibited cell phones in their bags, which are not theirs, but he refuses to listen to them.

Simon is a smart kid who has always been sort of an outsider. When he starts an app that calls out all the indiscretions his fellow classmates have made, and identifies them by their initials, he is not only feared but hated by most of the students. 

Bronwyn is most likely going to be this year's valedictorian and has her sights set on Yale. 
Addy is the popular homecoming queen. 
Nate is on probation for dealing drugs.
Cooper is the star pitcher on the baseball team and could go pro right out of high school.

Simon ends up dying during detention and the remaining four students are now being accused of murder, but they all insist they are innocent. Unfortunately, Simon had something on all of them and planned on outing them in his next post. The police think this is motive for murder and continue questioning everyone, hoping they will crack. Their lives spiral out of control as their secrets are revealed, but they are no closer to solving the murder and are continuously under scrutiny. 

This was an excellent murder mystery. I guessed who the murderer was, but I had no idea how everything was accomplished or who else was involved. I really enjoyed the characters and seeing how these teens worked together to solve the murder when the police refused to look beyond what was obvious. They took it upon themselves to clear their names when nobody else would even give them the benefit of the doubt. 

I love murder mysteries, but there aren't too many that I have come across that are YA. I have a 14-year-old son who wouldn't like most of the YA books that I read because they appeal more to female readers. I feel like this is a great option for young boys and is something he would definitely enjoy. It is told from each of the four main characters' points of view, so the reader can see and feel how the events are impacting each of them individually. I really talked it up to my son while I was reading it, so I hope he will give it a try for his next choice book. There are so many secrets that are constantly revealed and the high school drama was never ending. I can't imagine he wouldn't get hooked.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Book Review: They All Fall Down by Roxanne St. Claire

Jacque's Review:

At the start of the book we are introduced to Kenzie Summerall, who is your typical over achiever.  She is a member of the Latin club and is hoping to win a state Latin competition that could earn her a scholarship to the college of her dreams. She is not one of the popular girls and certainly doesn't consider herself prom queen material, so she is shocked when her name appeared on the annual "hottie list" at school.

For the past thirty years at Vienna High, the junior class boys have voted on the top ten hottest girls in their class.  Appearing on the list instantly catapulted Kenzie to the top of the social circles.  She is now being invited to parties and boys she never would have even considered to be in her league were asking her out.

The girls on the list form a sorority of sorts when they start having near death experiences.  When the first member on the list dies from an accident, they think it must be an unfortunate coincidence.  When the second girl dies, they believe they are cursed. Kenzie doesn't believe there is a curse, but instead thinks there is a serial killer who is taking advantage of this annual tradition.  Being number five on the list, she realizes she must work quickly to solve this mystery or they could all fall victim.

This was an entertaining YA murder mystery.  I never would have guessed why the "hottie list" was first established and what its role was in the larger scope of the story.  This book doesn't appear to have a sequel, but I felt like the author left a great opening to potentially continue the story with a few of the more prominent characters.

Overall, I liked the story, but it wasn't a sit on the edge of your seat type of thriller. I enjoyed all of the Latin quotes and how Roxanne tied in some ancient Roman history. I also felt like Kenzie's character grew tremendously over the course of the novel. She was very weak and timid in the beginning, but she really took charge and acted with remarkable bravery to help save and protect herself and the people she loves in the end. I also admired the fact that the author brought to light the fact that Levi, a new boy at the school the previous spring, was dyslexic. Everything anyone seemed to know about him was based on speculation and gossip, but Kenzie gave him a chance. He had a rough childhood and is trying to turn things around. As easy as it was for some of the students to blame him for the accidents because of his reputation, and the fact that he always seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, Kenzie didn't buy it and even sought his help in solving the murders. These two are polar opposites, but they made a great team and a perfect couple.   

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Book Review: Get Even by Gretchen McNeil

Jacque's Review:

Everyone knows the school bullies, mean girls, and in the case of this book, a psycho teacher, who make life at school a living hell. Don't Get Mad, DGM, is tired of their antics and decides to take matters into their own hands and "Get Even." The book takes place at an elite prep school where the administration has let bullying get out of hand. The Principal even set up his own group of enforcers known as the Maine Men, who only perpetuate the problem. 

The four girls in DGM, Bree, Olivia, Kitty, and Margot all have their own secrets and decided to join the group for very different reasons. They appear to have nothing in common, but as the story unfolds, we can see how their lives are entwined and can tell they are forming genuine friendships despite their differences.

When the target of one of DGM's recent pranks is found dead, with one of DGM's calling cards in his bloody hand, the girls realize they are in trouble. Nobody is going to believe they weren't involved. The school's administration, along with the Maine Men, set out on a witch hunt to find the members of DGM and bring them to justice. The girls decide  they need to solve this murder before they take the fall.

This was a very entertaining murder mystery, but I had no idea this would have a "to be continued" type of ending.  With a few chapters remaining, I was sure we were going to get to the bottom of everything, but we were left just as clueless as ever.  I figured Get Dirty, the next book in the series, would be a companion novel, but it is actually a continuation of this same story.  

I read a lot of murder mysteries and don't think I have ever run into a book or series in which the crime wasn't solved by the end of the book. I can only imagine how stressful that would have been to readers who finished this book shortly after it was released. They would have had an agonizing wait for the next book to be released and no clue if the crime they had just invested their time in would ever be solved, until the description for the next book was released.

I have a few other books that I need to read first, but I have already requested a copy of Get Dirty  from the library. I desperately want to know who is behind the events that have taken place before I forget all of the details and clues that have been uncovered so far.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Book Review: Perfect Couple by Jennifer Echols

Jacque's Review:

Perfect Couple is the second book in the Superlatives series.  In the first installment, Biggest Flirts, we were introduced to Tia and two of her best friends, Harper and Kaye.  At the beginning of their senior year, the class voted and everyone was awarded a title...most athletic, most likely to succeed, etc. Harper and Brody were voted "Perfect Couple that Never Was."

Harper is the yearbook photographer and is a bit of a free spirit.  She likes to dress in retro clothing and is very creative and artistic. Brody is the star quarterback. Why the senior class voted them the perfect couple is beyond them, but it peeks their curiosity and they start hanging out. They soon discover they have great chemistry and quite a bit in common. Perhaps their classmates were right after all and they really are the perfect couple! Of course, it isn't that easy. There are a number of situations they must work through if they are going to achieve their happily-ever-after.

This is another really cute story with all of the wonderful characters we were introduced to in Biggest Flirts. We get to see how Tia and Will are doing now that they are officially a couple. We also have a chance to learn more about many of the secondary characters such as Sawyer, Noah, Quinn, and Kaye.  There is quite a bit of high school drama and the book brings up a number of topics that are relevant to teens today. With the constant peer pressure at school, it isn't always easy to be yourself. This book allows teens to explore and consider how they would act or react in various situations.  Some characters handle situations appropriately while others do not.

This was a light, entertaining, and fast read.  I can't wait to read the next installment, which appears to focus on Kaye and her superlative partner, who were voted Most Likely to Succeed.  They have been a couple for the past few years, but don't really seem to gel in my opinion.  I am really hoping she will see the light and start dating another character in the series.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Book Review: The Dazzling Heights by Katharine McGee

Jacque's Review:

There is so much drama going on in this book that you can't even imagine. While it has been a while since I read the first book in the series, I did not have any difficulty jumping back into this futuristic world. Everyone's secrets were pretty much revealed in the first book and now all of our main characters have something on someone and nobody is happy.  They are all scheming and plotting and trying to get the upper hand, but someone unexpected is watching and may know more than they think about their lives on the upper floors.

How high up you live in the tower is directly proportional to your financial status. Rylin and Watt are from the lower floors, but have worked their way up the ladder socially. Rylin received a scholarship to attend the prestigious upper floor private school Avery, Leda, and Cord attend while Watt's computer skills helped him integrate into this elite circle. Rylin hopes to patch up her relationship with Cord, but he may never be able to trust her again.  

Watt and his quantum computer, Nadia, are probably my favorite characters in the book. (I'm considering Nadia a character since she has quite the personality.) I feel like his intentions are good and he simply got caught in a bad situation. As events unfolded and certain characters began working together, I felt like he and Nadia may just be the answer to many of their problems. 

Calliope is a disposable character in my opinion.  I don't really care for her or what she and her mother have been doing for years. I wish she would just move onto her next target, but it doesn't appear that will be happening anytime soon. She has been living a lie for so long that I don't think anyone will ever be able to trust her.

I actually like Avery and Atlas and feel bad for them and their situation. Unless they plan on leaving their ritzy high profile lives, I don't see any way things could work out for them. Avery needs to see life for what it is and move on. Atlas seems to have seen the light, but Avery is still in denial.

Leda is the one character that really evolved in this installment. I couldn't stand her for the majority of the book, but she really turned a new leaf towards the end and was a completely different person. She was no longer the self centered ____ she has been for the majority of the series and was actually a civilized human being. I found myself rooting for her, but I'm not sure she will ever be able to overcome her past.

The ending was unbelievable and something I never would have seen coming. I have no idea who is behind the events that unfolded and I can't wait to read the last book in this series to find out.  I read the Thousandth floor as soon as it was released and got hit with the one year wait between books. I ended up waiting until the entire series had been published before picking up book two to avoid this agonizing situation once again. Now I can jump right into the final book to see how everything unfolds.  

Friday, November 8, 2019

Book Review: Death Prefers Blondes by Caleb Roehrig

Goodreads Overview:

Teenage socialite Margo Manning leads a dangerous double life. By day, she dodges the paparazzi while soaking up California sunshine. By night, however, she dodges security cameras and armed guards, pulling off high-stakes cat burglaries with a team of flamboyant young men. In and out of disguise, she’s in all the headlines.

But then Margo’s personal life takes a sudden, dark turn, and a job to end all jobs lands her crew in deadly peril. Overnight, everything she’s ever counted on is put at risk. Backs against the wall, the resourceful thieves must draw on their special skills to survive. But can one rebel heiress and four kickboxing drag queens withstand the slings and arrows of truly outrageous fortune? Or will a mounting sea of troubles end them — for good?

Jacque's Review:

Margo Manning is the only child of an extremely wealthy business man. She has been in the spotlight and tabloids her entire life (think Paris Hilton), but nothing was really challenging her until she and her drag queen friends begin carrying out various high stakes burglaries.  Margo isn't doing it for the money, but her team definitely is.  They are extremely good at what they do, but one of their jobs hit a little too close to home and the "victim" is now out for blood. 

Margo discovers there was more to her father's death than an incurable disease and is determined to bring down the people responsible. This next job could solve all of their problems, but the risks and challenges may be insurmountable.  They need to recruit an additional team member or the plan will never work, but who can they trust that possesses the skills they need? Margo thinks she may know just the right man for the job.

This was a very entertaining book with unforgettable characters. The dialogue and interactions between Margo and the boys were laugh out loud hysterical at times and I thoroughly enjoyed all of the action during the heists. I also found all of the planning and high tech gadgets to be fascinating.  There was even a little bit of flirting and romance between some of the characters, which also kept the pages turning.  

The one thing I found distracting was the use of obscure vocabulary throughout the book. I am a well educated individual with multiple college degrees and even I felt like I was taking the vocabulary section of the ACT or SAT. Having to look up the occasional word is one thing, but this novel was loaded with terms the vast majority of individuals probably aren't familiar with. I read it on my kindle and could easily click on the word to get the definition, but I'm sure most readers wouldn't take the time and would eventually get frustrated. Especially young adult readers, which is the target audience.

Overall, this was a very enjoyable book with plenty of action, adventure and a little bit of romance that should capture and hold the attention of most readers. I really enjoyed the drag queen twist to the heists. That isn't something you read about every day and would have been hysterical to watch on the surveillance video.  A bunch of above average sized women in flamboyant outfits and wigs taking down some of the most advanced security systems and guards money can buy.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Audiobook review: Slay by Brittney Morris

By day, seventeen-year-old Kiera Johnson is an honors student, a math tutor, and one of the only Black kids at Jefferson Academy. But at home, she joins hundreds of thousands of Black gamers who duel worldwide as Nubian personas in the secret multiplayer online role-playing card game, SLAY. No one knows Kiera is the game developer, not her friends, her family, not even her boyfriend, Malcolm, who believes video games are partially responsible for the "downfall of the Black man."

But when a teen in Kansas City is murdered over a dispute in the SLAY world, news of the game reaches mainstream media, and SLAY is labeled a racist, exclusionist, violent hub for thugs and criminals. Even worse, an anonymous troll infiltrates the game, threatening to sue Kiera for "anti-white discrimination."

Driven to save the only world in which she can be herself, Kiera must preserve her secret identity and harness what it means to be unapologetically Black in a world intimidated by Blackness. But can she protect her game without losing herself in the process?

Flo's Review
I enjoyed the heck out of this book! I listened to the audiobook after being in a sort of audiobook slump and it just flew by! I looked forward to listening to it, and before I knew it, I was done. I'm not a gamer, but there were still so many relatable thoughts and conversations in this story. I, of course, did not see the twist at the end and though always felt a little iffy on that character was still like, "Wha?!?" I also really enjoyed the ending; realistic and so, so satisfying. I loved the connections made throughout the story that led the characters there.

Speaking of the connections, the cool thing about the audiobook is that the little player side stories were read by different narrators, making them particularly distinct from the story. Some I thought may have been too specifically detailed, but some were great and when they came back around I was all, "Aww! Yay!" Kiera had some great support. It was, of course, interesting to see the dynamic in her friendship with Harper, but I also really liked how awesome her family was. 

Author Brittney Morris will be at the Miami Book Fair on Saturday, November 23rd on a panel appropriately titled "On the Come Up: Women Who Slay" with fellow YA author Angie Thomas. Here is more information on that: . For more information on the Miami Book Fair in general, visit

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Audiobook review: The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

Book Summary
No one speaks of the grace year. It’s forbidden.

In Garner County, girls are told they have the power to lure grown men from their beds, to drive women mad with jealousy. They believe their very skin emits a powerful aphrodisiac, the potent essence of youth, of a girl on the edge of womanhood. That’s why they’re banished for their sixteenth year, to release their magic into the wild so they can return purified and ready for marriage. But not all of them will make it home alive.

Sixteen-year-old Tierney James dreams of a better life—a society that doesn’t pit friend against friend or woman against woman, but as her own grace year draws near, she quickly realizes that it’s not just the brutal elements they must fear. It’s not even the poachers in the woods, men who are waiting for a chance to grab one of the girls in order to make a fortune on the black market. Their greatest threat may very well be each other.

With sharp prose and gritty realism, The Grace Year examines the complex and sometimes twisted relationships between girls, the women they eventually become, and the difficult decisions they make in-between.

Flo's Review
Okay. This is an interesting case. I finished it and I was just...twisted up about it? Like, I finished it a few days ago and I'm still thinking about it. But I can't necessarily say that I loved it. It was a brutal and intense story, but it does stick with you. 

There is obviously so much commentary to be had on the roles of women in society, and how all the things a women is supposed to be are often contradictory. There's the idea of quiet rebellion -- the power behind it, and the slow, but important, impact. And, of course, the discussion about how women compete with each other when we should be lifting each other up. I listened to the audiobook, and the end of the audiobook had a brief interview with the girl who read the audiobook and the author. Both of them were crying throughout, and both of them had good things to say. 

The Grace Year is going to be a movie, and I can't even imagine! I don't know if I can watch it! It was that gruesome. But am I glad I read it? Yeah, I am. I've seen a lot of reviews by people who did not like the ending, and I actually did like it. I'm all into what's implied for the characters and the future.

I know this is a weird review, folks. I can't ... I don't know that my thoughts on it? I mean, I'm still here thinking about, but I can't pin down one concrete thing to say? Have you read it? What did you think??

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Book review: Tarnished Are the Stars by Rosiee Thor

Book Summary
A secret beats inside Anna Thatcher's chest: an illegal clockwork heart. Anna works cog by cog -- donning the moniker Technician -- to supply black market medical technology to the sick and injured, against the Commissioner's tyrannical laws.

Nathaniel Fremont, the Commissioner's son, has never had to fear the law. Determined to earn his father's respect, Nathaniel sets out to capture the Technician. But the more he learns about the outlaw, the more he questions whether his father's elusive affection is worth chasing at all.

Their game of cat and mouse takes an abrupt turn when Eliza, a skilled assassin and spy, arrives. Her mission is to learn the Commissioner's secrets at any cost -- even if it means betraying her own heart.

When these uneasy allies discover the most dangerous secret of all, they must work together despite their differences and put an end to a deadly epidemic -- before the Commissioner ends them first.

Flo's Review
I thoroughly enjoyed the journey with this book. Sci-Fi is not a genre I usually read, but every once in awhile I get hooked by an interesting premise and expand my reading universe. (See what I did there?! Lol). When I read the synopsis for Tarnished, it gripped me and I wanted it. 

This book didn't disappoint and I'm so glad it didn't! The pacing was incredible. I had a deadline for getting this review done, so I'd given in to the fact that I'd need to spend the majority of the day reading to meet this goal. But it ended up being a chore by no means. Even if I didn't have to get the review done today, I would have still kept reading. I would think that I needed to put the book down and take a break, then I would just keep turning the pages. I would think that I was taking a break at the end of a chapter, but guess what? I wasn't! I kept going.

Tarnished had three narrators, and I really liked all three of their voices. Thor did a good job of making them distinct. Often with books that are written by the same person that have multiple POVs, the characters sound the same, because the writer is the same. That wasn't the case here. Nathaniel, Anna, and Eliza remained true to their own voices throughout. 

Nathaniel. Needs a hug. Come here, Nathaniel, let me give you a hug. Of the three, I think he had the hardest journey of self discovery. His growth, the decisions he makes, are honest and true to where his character is at each point in the story. He went a long way from the beginning to the end, and the reader felt allll his pain.

Eliza was just interesting to read because of her training. How she was trained affected her every move and was fascinating to read about. Then, oh, a little more than halfway through Thor dropped something on the reader, and I'm all, "Wha!?!!" While Nathaniel had the biggest journey of self growth in the story, Eliza, too, moved quite a bit. 

I felt least connected to Anna, because her tunnel-vision passion is something I could not relate to. But, of course, you can see why she was the way she was.

The slowly growing romance was great! I love me some romantic tension, and Tarnished brought it! The only thing that gives me pause is the end. The "whole story" comes out in typical fashion, but without enough context. I don't feel like I truly understand how the "villain" came to be the way they were. How did their past, motivations lead them to what they did? Perhaps a novella a la Marissa Meyer's Fairest is in order.

Tarnished Are the Stars publishes October 15th from Scholastic, and if you enjoy sci-fi, romance, queer rep, an engaging story, and intriguing characters, then definitely pick it up!

I received this ARC as part of Miss Print's ARC Adoption Program.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Audiobook review: The Girl the Sea Gave Back by Adrienne Young

Book Summary
The new gut-wrenching epic from the New York Times bestselling author of Sky in the Deep.

For as long as she can remember, Tova has lived among the Svell, the people who found her washed ashore as a child and use her for her gift as a Truthtongue. Her own home and clan are long-faded memories, but the sacred symbols and staves inked over every inch of her skin mark her as one who can cast the rune stones and see into the future. She has found a fragile place among those who fear her, but when two clans to the east bury their age-old blood feud and join together as one, her world is dangerously close to collapse.

For the first time in generations, the leaders of the Svell are divided. Should they maintain peace or go to war with the allied clans to protect their newfound power? And when their chieftain looks to Tova to cast the stones, she sets into motion a series of events that will not only change the landscape of the mainland forever but will give her something she believed she could never have again—a home.

Flo's Review
What a pleasant surprise this book was! I've been wanting to read Sky in the Deep ever since I heard about it, but it never quite made it all the way up the TBR pile. Then a good friend gifted me with the beautiful hardcover copy of this one, and I decided to give it a read before YALLFEST. I listened to the audiobook and it flew by! It was only about 8 or 9 hours, which is my sweet spot for audiobooks. (After that, I really have to like the story because they start to seem too long to me at that point.) I felt like I started and finished this within a few days. But the pacing also contributed. The story started off with a mystery, with a question, and just went full in from there on out.

I am happy to report that even though this is a companion novel to Sky in the Deep, you don't have to read that one first to fully understand this one at all. I never did get to read Sky -- though I definitely will now! -- and the only reason I figured out that the two books were related is because I went poking around for information about this book on Goodreads. I wanted to emphasize that point because I think it's fantastic. I have been caught before by "It's a companion, but you don't have to to have read the original series" and then I've tried the book and been completely lost. Not the case here. This stood alone perfectly and made me excited to go back and read the other one.

Tova was a great character. There was just something about her that drew me in as a reader. She blames herself for a lot of the deaths in the book, and even as I was thinking she was right, it didn't make me dislike her at all. And naturally Tolvard (excuse me if I'm spelling any one's names wrong) was bae. I'd even consider living on the fjord for him. But then I wouldn't because let's be real -- that just sounds cold!

Likeable characters that you're rooting for, nonstop action, fantastic pacing, the joy of being a standalone -- all of these qualities endeared me to this book. It's definitely one I would recommend.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Book Review: The Woman In Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

Goodreads Overview:

In this tightly wound, enthralling story reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s works, Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. The sky is clear, the waters calm, and the veneered, select guests jovial as the exclusive cruise ship, the Aurora, begins her voyage in the picturesque North Sea. At first, Lo’s stay is nothing but pleasant: the cabins are plush, the dinner parties are sparkling, and the guests are elegant. But as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the deck, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a dark and terrifying nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard. The problem? All passengers remain accounted for—and so, the ship sails on as if nothing has happened, despite Lo’s desperate attempts to convey that something (or someone) has gone terribly, terribly wrong…

With surprising twists, spine-tingling turns, and a setting that proves as uncomfortably claustrophobic as it is eerily beautiful, Ruth Ware offers up another taut and intense read in The Woman in Cabin 10—one that will leave even the most sure-footed reader restlessly uneasy long after the last page is turned.

Jacque's Review:

This book was recommended to me by a former co-worker when I told her I was planning on going on a cruise???  Well, the Aurora isn't a typical cruise ship with hundreds or thousands of passengers. It is a luxury yacht with only ten plush cabins. The ship is getting ready to embark on its maiden voyage with a guest list consisting of media and travel writers, a photographer, potential financial backers, and the yacht's owner and his wife.  

Lo Blacklock has worked for Velocity travel magazine for years, but her boss is the one who usually takes advantage of the more upscale trips that come their way.  When her boss is laid up due to a complicated pregnancy, Lo is offered this once in a lifetime opportunity to sail on the Aurora.  She plans on networking and showing everyone how valuable she really is to the magazine. This may be just the beginning of bigger and better things to come. Unfortunately, she experiences a  rather traumatic event prior to embarking on the trip and isn't in the best frame of mind to schmooze or write.  Sleep deprivation and anxiety get the better of her and she decides to drink a bit too much to help cope.  She witnesses what she believes is a body being thrown overboard and immediately calls the staff to report it.  When all of the passengers are eventually accounted for, her story is dismissed.  Everyone tells her she was either too intoxicated or overly tired and didn't really see what she believes she saw.

Lo is convinced she did not imagine the event and continues to investigate.  The closer she gets to the truth, the more dangerous things become for her.  She refuses to let it go and eventually finds herself in the middle of a very twisted tale.  

The pace of the story was excellent and I was constantly on the edge of my seat anticipating what would happen next.  I never would have guessed what ultimately took place and couldn't believe the lengths someone would go through to orchestrate a murder.  The plan would have worked perfectly if only Lo hadn't been awoken by a scream from the cabin next door.  It wasn't even a scream of terror, but more of a scream of shock or surprise.  It was just enough to get her attention and then she heard the splash.

I love murder mysteries and found this book to be very enjoyable.  It was a fast read and really gave you a sense of what it can feel like being trapped on a boat at sea.  We also had no wifi or contact with the outside world when we were on our cruise.  When Lo felt like she was in danger she couldn't contact anyone and had no way off the boat.  She was trapped and at the mercy of the passengers and crew.  She had no idea who she could trust and really needed to play her cards right if she wanted to walk away from the voyage alive.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Book review: The Beast by Ally Condie and Brendan Reichs

Book Summary 
Nico, Opal, Tyler, Emma, and Logan survived their worst fears come to life, and saved their tiny Pacific Northwest town of Timbers from a monstrous figment invasion. Now they just want to keep their heads down, enjoy Halloween, and explore the secrets of their mysterious houseboat clubhouse. And also figure out their new Torchbearer responsibilities as keepers of the Darkdeep, an ancient whirlpool hidden in Still Cove that can make both dreams and nightmares into reality.

But when a dangerous new breed of figments starts appearing on their own, and the very environment around them begins to spiral out of control, the friends realize they have no idea what they are doing-or how they're supposed to restrain the Darkdeep. They must uncover the pool's origins, as well as those of the freaky Thing in a Jar, a seemingly lifeless green creature Opal believes is communicating with her. To make matters worse, a trashy YouTube series has rolled into town intent on finding the Beast, the legendary local sea monster suddenly stirring up the countryside.

As threats rapidly close in around them, the friends must fight to protect their secrets, defeat new enemies, and save Timbers and all that they love.

Told from alternating points of view, this chilling sequel from bestselling duo Ally Condie and Brendan Reichs will once again have readers sleeping with the lights on.

Flo's Review
Y'all. If you thought The Darkdeep was craaazay (aka "good crazy") then get ready for The Beast! This book takes everything literally to a whole new level. Like I was fully not expecting to go all the places this story went. I was sitting there reading it and just when I thought things couldn't get any more insane -- they totally did!

There was so much going on here, what with the Beast, the figments, Freakshow, and the gang trying to solve another mystery. It all ended up connecting of course, but daaaang. I am super impressed with the creativity of Ally and Brendan and this world they've created. This group of friends is pretty great, too. They have each other's backs 100%, always remembering their oath, "We look out for the Darkdeep, and we look out for each other." I was especially touched by some of their little actions, which actually weren't so little. Like Tyler's badass moment toward the end. And Nico subtlely cutting Logan some slack at one point.

Like with the last novel, this one ended with a little hint about what's to come. I, of course, can't imagine what that is. But based on the teaser, I fully believe it's going to get even craaaazier than this one. I cannot wait!

In the meantime, The Beast publishes Tuesday, September 24th. This is a fun series so far (although I will never look at Care Bears the same way, thank you very much, Brendan and Ally!!) and I recommend you give it a try if you're in the mood for a super creative adventure.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Audiobook review: Sal and Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez

Book Summary
How did a raw chicken get inside Yasmany's locker? When Sal Vidon meets Gabi Real for the first time, it isn't under the best of circumstances. Sal is in the principal's office for the third time in three days, and it's still the first week of school. Gabi, student council president and editor of the school paper, is there to support her friend Yasmany, who just picked a fight with Sal. She is determined to prove that somehow, Sal planted a raw chicken in Yasmany's locker, even though nobody saw him do it and the bloody poultry has since mysteriously disappeared. Sal prides himself on being an excellent magician, but for this sleight of hand, he relied on a talent no one would guess . . . except maybe Gabi, whose sharp eyes never miss a trick. When Gabi learns that he's capable of conjuring things much bigger than a chicken--including his dead mother--and she takes it all in stride, Sal knows that she is someone he can work with. There's only one slight problem: their manipulation of time and space could put the entire universe at risk. A sassy entropy sweeper, a documentary about wedgies, a principal who wears a Venetian bauta mask, and heaping platefuls of Cuban food are just some of the delights that await in his mind-blowing novel gift-wrapped in love and laughter.

Flo's Review
I picked up a copy of this book during the Barnes and Noble #bookhaul sale a few weeks ago. Then, about a week ago, I was going through a sort of audiobook slump and decided to give this one a listen. I'm so glad I did! It got me out of my slump fast!

There's so much that I love about this book! I jotted down notes as I read, so this review might be out of order and a little random, but here we go--

Sal: Sal is one of the best protagonists I've read in a long time. He's just a genuinely good kid and an amazing role model for kids who will read this book. Sal is down-to-earth -- he's honest and direct about how devastated he is about the death of his mother and about his time in therapy afterward. I love that he casually talks about how he uses techniques he learned in therapy. To him, there's not stigma or awkwardness about it, and that's so great for kids -- and adults! -- to read. Sal is described in this book as a decent person, as smart, and he's both of those and more. To him, it's like, "Yeah, of course you've got to be a good human being." His reflex reaction is to "be decent," as Yasmany points out. That's fantastic! He is smart, like his parents say. I also love how down-to-earth, honest, and open he is about his diabetes. He never complains about it. He talks about it, as it's a big part of his life. We see what happens if he doesn't stay on top of it. But he doesn't whine about it or pity himself. You guys, I truly love Sal. Can't you tell?! 

Parents: All the parents in general. What I love about the parents in this book is that they are involved. It's so refreshing, especially when I'm so used to reading all these MG and YA novels where the kids are going on all these adventures and their parents have no idea. Yes, Sal and Gabi do get into some stuff that their parents don't know about, but more often than not they are involved and supportive. One of my favorite scenes was the one where Sal's parents and all Gabi's parents are helping them with their play. I also love how the parents talk to the kids in this book like they're on their level -- they don't talk down to them at all. In this book, parents and kids are equal players and that's really, really cool. Also, Sal recognizes that his parents are cool and appreciates them. But don't worry, I'm not about to revert back to talking about my love for Sal! Lol

Gabi: Who runs the world? Girls. Or, I mean, Gabi Real. Gabi is the girl I would love to raise. She is smart, she knows her own worth, she is also compassionate. The first time we see her, it's because she is helping her friend Yasmany. She is quick to accept apologies, as Sal notes. And of course her t-shirts are on point! She is the perfect partner in crime for Sal as he tries to figure out what he's doing to the multiverse and what everything means.

Gabi's dads: I also loved her dads. We are never told what happened to Gabi's biological father, or who he is, and that's completely okay. I didn't even miss it. It was like a warm hug every time we got to hang out with Gabi's dads in the novel. Hernandez does a great job describing them all and giving them all unique and interesting personalities. And names.

Serious subjects: This book was a lot of fun, and it's about moving things between different parallel universes, so it's a little crazy, too. But it also handles some serious topics. Grief, and how Sal deals with it, with his mom. I'm so proud of him for a thought he has at the end of the book! There's Iggy, Gabi's little brother, and the gravity of his situation. Gabi's mom brings in matters of faith. The whole plot with Yasmany made my heart hurt a little. I think one of the beauties of this book was the reality of it -- one minute the characters are dealing with Yasmany's horrible home life, and then next they are laughing over a fart joke.

Culeco: I love Sal and Gabi's school! How fun does it sound?! I would have freakin' loved to go to a school like that! I love how the teachers encourage creativity in their students. I love how the students all enjoy school -- they get there early and stay late because they want to. Detention is fun! Also, Principal Torres for the win. Sal even recognizes that she's boss, as in she's awesome.

Overall: I had a big, fat smile on my face the entire time I was listening to this book. The audiobook narrator was incredible as well -- he did a great job with all the voices, and there were many he had to portray. I would love Sal and/or Gabi to be my children. I cannot wait to see how they plan to "fix" the universe in book 2!

Oh, and a bonus promo: I picked this book up sooner than later because the author is going to be at this year's Miami Book Fair in November. Here are some of the details about this upcoming event:

36th Miami Book Fair
Nov. 22-24, 9am-dusk
Downtown Miami MDC Wolfson Campus, 300 NE 4th Street, Miami
FREE for children 12 & under; Teens 13-18 & Seniors: $5 and adults: $10
Parking: FREE, Building 7, block sized garage between NE 1  & 2nd Avenues & between 5 & 6th Streets (6th one way going West, and 5th Street is one way going East)
For more information, visit