Monthly Archives: June 2015

Rebecca Phillips’ Faking Perfect is an honest and compelling YA contemporary read

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Rebecca Phillips’ Faking Perfect is an honest and compelling YA contemporary read

The premise for this book sounded like The DUFF, which I thought was one of the most reprehensible books ever written for a YA female audience. But Huntley Fitzpatrick plugged Faking Perfect, and I adored My Life Next Door, so the worst that could happen was I would end up writing a rant about it. There were some similarities, but Faking Perfect is by far the superior book. It manages to be edgy and honest without sending the wrong message to teens about sexuality.  I thought it was really quite good, and if you enjoy contemporary YA fiction, I think you will, too.

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 Goodreads Summary

“Edgy and honest, Faking Perfect is the real thing.” –Huntley Fitzpatrick

When Lexi Shaw seduced Oakfield High’s resident bad boy Tyler Flynn at the beginning of senior year, he seemed perfectly okay with her rules:

1. Avoid her at school.

2. Keep his mouth shut about what they do together.

3. Never tease her about her friend (and unrequited crush) Ben.

Because with his integrity and values and golden boy looks, Ben can never find out about what she’s been doing behind closed doors with Tyler. Or that her mom’s too busy drinking and chasing losers to pay the bills. Or that Lexi’s dad hasn’t been a part of her life for the last thirteen years. But with Tyler suddenly breaking the rules, Ben asking her out, and her dad back in the picture, how long will she be able to go on faking perfect?
My Thoughts

I really liked how this book portrayed the internal and external conflicts that Lexi faces.  She felt like an honest-to-goodness teenager with real grey areas in her thoughts and behaviors.  Themes focused on love in all forms and had real things to say about expectations and fears that are attached to those relationships.  It had positive messages about the ability to change but also presented the truth that sometimes people don’t change, even when you really need them to.  Lexi works through a tangle of relationships, both with the boys she is attracted to and the parents who seem to fail her.  I think a lot of YA readers will find her authentic voice, the realistic outlook on life, and the imperfect romance very compelling.  As far as YA contemporary goes, this is one of the stronger offerings I’ve read in a long time.  While I don’t particularly care for the choices the characters make about sex, drugs, and alcohol, I think the book portrays them in a thoughtful, tasteful and honest light that allows readers to draw their own conclusions without feeling like they are sitting through a sermon.  Adult readers will appreciate the writing and complexity of this book more than the average YA contemporary.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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The Star Side of Bird Hill By Naomi Jackson transcends time and place to tell a story about family, love, loss, and contentment that you just might recognize from your own life

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Usually when I blog about adult fiction it is science fiction, but the teacher in me couldn’t resist giving you a chance to consider this book because it might just appeal to you. I opened this book and I was a kid again, listening as my grandmother’s lovingly judgemental church friends tisked and gossiped sotto voce about my parent’s divorce after they sweetly piled more food on my plate and reprimanded me for tearing my new church dress.  I was a teenager again, embarrassed because my Meme called my bluff and dragged my sassy tail end out of that lake in front of everyone.  Maybe you will recognize yourself, too, hopeful that the daddy who hasn’t seen you in years is really going to follow through on a promise just once, or angry that some adult left your young hands to pick up the pieces.  I understand that the cover is scaring you in ways you never imagined a book cover could.  Ignore it. Laugh at it.  Tweet it as a cover fail, but read the summary and my thoughts before you dismiss it entirely.  

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Goodreads Summary

This lyrical novel of community, betrayal, and love centers on an unforgettable matriarchal family in Barbados. Two sisters, ages ten and sixteen, are exiled from Brooklyn to Bird Hill in Barbados after their mother can no longer care for them. The young Phaedra and her older sister, Dionne, live for the summer of 1989 with their grandmother Hyacinth, a midwife and practitioner of the local spiritual practice of obeah.

Dionne spends the summer in search of love, testing her grandmother’s limits, and wanting to go home. Phaedra explores Bird Hill, where her family has lived for generations, accompanies her grandmother in her role as a midwife, and investigates their mother’s mysterious life.

This tautly paced coming-of-age story builds to a crisis when the father they barely know comes to Bird Hill to reclaim his daughters, and both Phaedra and Dionne must choose between the Brooklyn they once knew and loved or the Barbados of their family.

Jackson’s Barbados and her characters are singular, especially the wise Hyacinth and the heartbreaking young Phaedra, who is coming into her own as a young woman amid the tumult of her family.

 My Thoughts, and there are many of them

I requested this book because it sounded in part like I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, a book I have a love/hate relationship with.  I wasn’t surprised to see that this book does have a similar feel, especially in terms of narrative structure.  Rather than a tightly plotted and fast paced novel, this is more of a collection of carefully selected moments that reveal who these characters are and the events that shape who they become.  The focus is on Dionne and Phaedra, the two girls sent to live with their grandmother in Barbados, but as the summer waxes and wanes, readers discover a lot about the essence and shape of their grandmother and mother as well. For some readers, this will come across as a disjointed storyline, but for others who see what the author is doing, it is a rather natural and beautiful development.

Like IKWCBS, There is also that sense of a foreign but tightly knitted community that slowly wraps it arms around the newcomers as Dionne and Phadre at first reject it for its differences before growing into its embrace.  Readers will enjoy seeing how unique Bird Hill is in its beliefs and customs, but there is also a sense of universal humanity there as well.  I was surprised at how much the experiences I had as a child were similar to the ones experienced by children in Brooklyn and Barbados.  I saw a lot of parallels between the generation gaps and the workings of a small community that learns to condemn and ignore certain behaviors simultaneously in order to forge a fairly peaceful existence.  It really reminded me of how literature truly is the universal language, and when it is fiction that throws in a little suffering, it can transcend almost any differences.  

Unlike Maya Angelou’s work, these girls are not in a setting that has an extreme prejudice towards them, and they, luckily, escape abuse from those they trust.  There is still a threat to them because there is always a chance at exploitation when you are female.  There is still prejudice within their community, and it is explored.  There are absolutely moments of truth about sexuality and race, but the road to coming of age is a lot less fraught with dangers for these siblings.  I think that was my biggest fear about this book because it takes a lot of emotional fortitude to sit by Angelou as she traverses her world of tragedy and triumph.  If you are shying away from this book for that same reason, let me assure you that this book is full of tragedy and triumph, but not on the same taxing scale.

I really liked this book for its style and setting.  I enjoyed reading about these characters and the way one summer shaped them all in important but different ways.  I think this book offers something to women of all generations who will see themselves in the girls they were, the women they are, or the women they will be.  

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Sarah Bannan’s Weightless reads so much like real life you might just feel a little responsible for the way it all goes down

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Sarah Bannan’s Weightless reads so much like real life you might just feel a little responsible for the way it all goes down

Weightless blew my mind.  This is literary YA fiction, and that is a mythological creature as elusive as unicorns and mermaids.  Everyone won’t enjoy it, but they all will want to talk about it.  The style is experimental and controversial, but, Wow!  I highly recommend giving this book a real shot, or at least reading my entire review before you dismiss it.  This book is set to be released June 30, 2015, but because I’m blogging about it a little early, you can go to the Goodreads page until June 30th for chance to win your own copy of Weightless.

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Carolyn moves to Alabama and gains instant popularity in her new high school.  Pretty, smart, friendly, and wise to the trends of style and fashion, she becomes a lightning rod for love and jealousy.  When she gets the guy and the homecoming court nomination, it seems that her life couldn’t get much better, at least to those watching from the outside.  When the popular crowd turns against her, the observing herd justifies her treatment and silently watches things swirl out of control.

The honesty of Weightless resonated strongly for me as a reader, as a former average teen, and as a current teacher.  Any YA who picks up this book will recognize how real the observations and the situations are.  They will also recognize and understand exactly how something like this could happen – how people see things and weigh it carefully on their own petty scales of justice but don’t feel that they can or even should take action. This book also surprised me because it is the only book that I have ever read that was written entirely in first person plural.  It was unsettling, but such a smart choice.  It firmly places the reader in the crowd – as part of the “we” who observes everything but takes no responsibility for the ultimate fallout.  This is smart because most people do spend high school on the perimeter of the popular crowd, watching and commenting on an exclusive life that will never be theirs, so it is a most believable vantage point.  I found this compelling and brilliant, but do I think everyone like this book?  No.  Part of the truth in this book is that the characters are focused on things that real teens focus on:  what people wear, what products and brands people buy, what people post on social media, what people wear (again), what people weigh, ect.  It is like being trapped in an elevator with a bunch of teens — the perfume and hair products will make you queasy, the inane chatter will make you question the future of humanity, and you will feel real discomfort because you know this is exactly how you acted when you were one of them.  Other readers will find that the first person plural point of view alienates them — so many readers connect with books when they relate to a narrator, which is a lot harder to do when you never even know her name.  Nevertheless, this is one of the most truthful books I have ever read about bullying from a teen perspective, and it is makes a powerful statement about what bullying is and how it is ignored, escalated, and misunderstood in our modern society  I will add it to our classroom library and encourage  those who enjoyed Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why to give it a chance.  There are mature elements — the language, sexual situations, and events are tough, but necessary if you really want to talk about bullying in high schools.  It is appropriate for mature high school readers.

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik will lure you in with fairytale charm and insist you stay for an epic battle between good and evil

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Uprooted by Naomi Novik will lure you in with fairytale charm and insist you stay for an epic battle between good and evil

This is an old world fairytale for the grown up princess in you.  And if you’re not a princess, there is enough battle and bloodshed to get that inner beast thumping as well.  Familiar elements twist and unfurl into an unexpected and deeply satisfying coming of age journey that will leave you breathlessly uncertain of the outcome until the end.  This is a book I actually purchased instead of receiving from a publisher, and I have to say that it was definitely worth the price and the lost sleep.

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Goodreads Summary

“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.
Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

My Thoughts

There is a lot of action, adventure, friendship and romance packed into this unassuming tome.  It was actually pretty epic, something the blurb didn’t prepare me for.  Agnieszka’s journey goes beyond a simple change in life plan.  She will battle an insidious evil in farmyards, castles, tombs, and corrupt woods.  She will go from being the disasterous woodcutter’s daughter to being one of the strongest female protagonists you will encounter, not because her experiences change who she is, but because they bring out the attributes she has always carried within.

The pace is designed to enhance the lulls that Agnieszka experiences as a character, and it serves a purpose.  The down time gave me a breather between intense action sequences, but it also gave the enemy a chance to lay traps and hidden eggs that would fester and burst just when characters began to let their guards down.  I thought it was pretty brilliant, but some readers may view it as just an uneven pace. In doubt someone who crafted something this thoughtful and complex just accidentally didn’t bother with purposeful pacing, but I can understand how someone who doesn’t analyze the stuffing out of a book might think that.

I do think some readers will be turned off by the romantic interest.  He isn’t anything to brag about, and he is certainly not my idea of a reward.  I think the reason I wasn’t particularly upset by this aspect of the story is because I wasn’t reading this for the romance, and if you are, I’m just warning you that you might be disappointed.  The more important relationship for me was between Agnieszka and her best friend.  There was a real depth to their friendship that felt honest and real, and it came with a loyalty that meant they might not always like each other, but they always loved and protected each other.  It is that relationship that really allows Agnieszka to complete her journey.

The suspense in this book is well done.  I honestly couldn’t feel out what was going to happen next, and sometimes I really wondered what kind of madwoman would write a book that was so obviously going to end in despair.  I’m glad I didn’t desert Agnieszka because, in the end, I was satisfied by the resolution.  It wasn’t the ending I predicted at all, but it was the one that felt right.

While this is an adult book, it isn’t “adult.”  There are scenes of sensuality and some threatened assault, but it isn’t something you have to hide from a young adult reader.  As a matter of fact, I think this is exactly something high school readers could enjoy if they were looking for a more complex version of the fairytale offerings that are everywhere in the YA book world right now.

The YA thriller The Edge of Me by Jane Britton hijacked my life tonight, and I didn’t even see it coming

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The YA thriller The Edge of Me by Jane Britton hijacked my life tonight, and I didn’t even see it coming

I fed people and washed people, and it looked like I had twenty minutes to myself, so I thought I would get started on this book.  I wasn’t really excited because it sounded like it might be historical and about things I would probably have to Google. Haha, said the bookverse!  Twenty minutes turned into a three hour reading marathon.  My family would have had to set the house on fire to get me to put this one down before the end.  (Not outside the realm of possibility – they have done that before while building a blanket fort with a lamp as a support, but that was on my husband’s watch, so).  If you are looking for an escape read that will absolutely let you forget that your world exists, this book will do the trick.  I wasn’t thrilled with the ending, but I sure wasn’t going to stop reading until I got there!

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NetGalley Summary (because the Goodreads one is just bland)

Jane Brittan’s debut novel is a coming of age story with teeth: a gripping story of betrayal, of secrets and lies. In her search for the truth about her missing parents, heroine Sanda is taken to the very edge of herself where she’s forced to unpick and rework everything she ever thought was true. In doing so she uncovers a story of appalling cruelty, neglect and punishment that goes all the way back to her childhood.

Sanda’s parents don’t want anything to do with her and nor, it seems, does anyone else so when Joe asks her out she doesn’t take him seriously.

But she’s wrong.

When she comes home one day to find the house cleared, her parents gone and two men coming for her, it’s Joe who’s there for her. He’s with her when she’s kidnapped, driven across Europe into Serbia where she begins to unravel a complex story of obsession, cruelty and jealousy that has its roots back in the Bosnian War. It’s here she finds that everything she ever thought she knew is wrong and that things are very far from what they seem.

 My Thoughts

The action and plot in The Edge of Me was incredibly compelling.  British schoolgirl, Sanda lives with her immigrant parents and leads a fairly typical, if lonely, life.  That all changes one day when she arrives home to an empty house and then things get interesting.  I honestly couldn’t put this book down.  The threat to the characters felt incredibly real, and I really needed to know what was going to happen.  Until I found out what was going to happen.  The end of this book was rather jarring because what was an almost entirely edgy and dark thriller turned into something else that was too conventional, soft and pat.  I don’t think every reader will feel as annoyed by the ending as I was, and I certainly wouldn’t discourage someone from reading because of it,  but it just didn’t feel as hardcore as the rest of the book and it didn’t feel believable. 

I also think some readers will be bothered by Sanda’s inability to get answers. This is a plot that depends on keeping readers (and the protagonist) in the dark to build suspense and heighten the threat.  There are a lot of times where no one will tell her anything, and that can be frustrating.  There is a fairly satisfactory and rather horrifying explanation in the end. 

As a character, Sanda is pretty interesting.  Her journey brings out a strength I really didn’t think she had, and it wasn’t until I really reflected that I realized exactly how subtle and natural her growth is.  She is what I look for when I want a strong female protagonist because she didn’t bust out of the womb as a warrior woman yet she grows into that role through her own trials. 

I picked this up because another reviewer hinted that it was Judy Blume meets Jason Bourne, and while I really don’t think that exactly describes the book, it was certainly as action packed as a Bourne movie with a little bit of adolescent angst tossed into the mix.  That angst, predictably, is mostly centered around the budding romance between Sanda and Joe.  The author made attempts to avoid the impression of insta love, but in the end, I was pretty convinced that was what we ended up with.  Even if it is a pet peeve, you shouldn’t worry about it too much because these kids are definitely too busy trying to survive to get too much sap flowing.  

I’m going to give this four stars because of how consumed I was by the the action in the majority of the book, but that ending could easily make this a three star read for some. 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Sally Slater’s Paladin is YA epic fantasy with great characters and action but struggles with the quest

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Sally Slater’s Paladin is YA epic fantasy with great characters and action but struggles with the quest

This book started its life on Wattpad and earned a place on the Amazon bestseller list.  I wasn’t as impressed with it as I thought I would be, but it was an enjoyable three star read.  

Goodreads Summary

Brash, cocky, and unbeatable with a sword (well, almost), Sam of Haywood is the most promising Paladin trainee in the kingdom of Thule… and knows it. The only problem is that Sam is really Lady Samantha, daughter of the seventeenth Duke of Haywood, and if her father has his way, she’ll be marrying a Paladin, not becoming one.

But Sam has never held much interest in playing damsel-in-distress, and so she rescues herself from a lifetime of boredom and matrimonial drudgery. Disguised as a boy, Sam leaves home behind to fight demons-—the most dangerous monsters in Thule—-alongside the kingdom’s elite warriors. Pity that Tristan Lyons, the Paladin assigned to train her, is none other than the hero of her childhood. He hasn’t recognized her–yet–but if he does, he’ll take away her sword and send her packing.

Sam is not the only trainee hiding secrets: Braeden is a half-demon with a dark past that might be unforgivable. Whether he can be trusted is anyone’s guess, including his.

As demons wreak havoc across the land, rebellion stirs in the West, led by a rival faction of warriors.

A war between men is coming, and Sam must pick a side. Will saving the kingdom cost her life–or just her heart?

My Thoughts

The well developed characters who populate the YA epic fantasy of Paladin are its biggest strength.  They are dimensional, engaging, and often humorous.  Sam’s narrative voice offers a believable strong female protagonist whom most readers will connect with from the start. I like the fact that she is a good swordswoman but she isn’t touted as “the one” who will save them all – she is just a trained girl who wants to fight the bad guys.  The action is not too shabby either. The combat sequences offer a nice mix of detail and summary so that none of the fight scenes ever seem to drag on for too long.  The magical system associated with the demons is easy for readers to grasp, and the half demon character of Braedon is put to good purpose when it comes to introducing the specifics that can’t be implied.  World building is adequate and descriptions easily translate to mental landscapes for readers, but the author avoids bogging the story down with the influx of alien details that can often choke readers in this genre.  While all of these factors should have added up to a pretty engaging read, it was a slow start for me, and it wasn’t until the second half of the book that I really found it compelling.  I think the problem is that the structure of the book is similar to a quest story but the plot lacks a clear questing goal for the first half, focusing instead on character development that leads to the feeling of a somewhat pointless ramble through the countryside.  This part of the story could have been more tightly plotted.  I had a little trouble with the exuberance of the romantic relationship at the end, but I’m a sceptic of romance, so . . .  Overall, I was pleased with this book and I think if you enjoy books like the Wheel of Time series this is a nice (much less convoluted and more YA friendly) book to consider.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Prophet of the Badlands is a Coming of Age Tale set in a future that is part Mad Max, part Blade Runner

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Prophet of the Badlands is a Coming of Age Tale set in a future that is part Mad Max, part Blade Runner

There has always been something appealing about a post apocalyptic setting for me.  I remember watching and feeling very drawn to the original Mad Max movies as a kid (I swear I had parents; I cannot swear my young parents were actually parenting).  There is something so gripping about a world reduced to waste as a stage for the neverending and elemental battle for good and evil.  The premise of this novel certainly had me envisioning something along those lines, and it wasn’t too far from what I ended up with.  This is an adult book with adult situations, but I still think that lots of YA readers will find it pretty engaging, particularly as the protagonist is quite young.  My biggest complaint was that it felt too long, but I ended up deciding it was a three star read for me.  Lots of other reviewers scored it a lot higher, though, so if this is your genre, it’s definitely worth sampling, and it is currently free for kindleunlimited members.

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Goodreads Summary

For most twelve year olds, being kidnapped is terrifying. For Althea, it’s just Tuesday.

Her power to heal the wounded and cleanse the sick makes her a hunted commodity in the Badlands, a place devoid of technology where the strong write the law in blood. For as long as she can remember, they always come, they always take her, and she lets them. Passed around in an endless series of abductions, she obeys without question―mending those who killed to own her.

After three whole months in the same village, the affection of a young warrior makes her feel almost like a member of the tribe rather than a captive. Her brief joy shatters when raiders seize her yet again; for the first time in six years, being stolen hurts.

A reluctant escape sends her wandering, and she realizes her gift is a prize that causes as much death as it prevents. Her attempt to return to the tribe leaves her lost and alone, hounded at every turn. When a family who sees her not as the Prophet―but as a little girl―takes her in, she finds the courage to use her power to protect those she loves.

A strange man from a world beyond her imagining tests her newfound resolve, seeking to use her power to further his own agenda. Tired of being property, her freedom boils down to one question:

Can Althea balance the sanctity with which she holds all life against the miserable truth that some people deserve to die?

My Thoughts

This is a post apocalyptic coming of age story about a girl whose special healing abilities make her a precious commodity in a dangerous world.  This is a book you read for characters and setting.  There is plenty of action, but the point is really how Althea, the protagonist, must find her place in the world now that she is actually old enough to see it for what it is – a pretty horrible place with very few soft spots to land.  Frankly, it quickly felt like a gauntlet of misery that Althea might never finish running.  While each conflict offers something to Althea’s development and growth, her path could have been more compactly plotted.  Most readers will be glad they stuck out this seemingly neverending journey of horror because the resolution is satisfying, but it takes a long time to get to that elusive ending.  As a character, Althea’s biggest hurdle is the one she herself sees – she is too good and kind, no matter how awful her adversary or situation. There was a clear purpose in the lack of dimension, and most of the secondary characters do have shades of gray, but I think her Pollyanna nature will drive some readers crazy, especially those who equate kindness with weakness.  The setting was what I probably enjoyed the most about this book. It begins with a very Mad Max feel, peopled by primitive tribes and brimming with images of barren desolation. About halfway through, the desert gives way to a gritty and unfeeling city that evokes Blade Runner. While those worlds have been done before, I enjoyed the extensive detail that the author incorporates to make them vividly real for me as a reader.  Ultimately, I found this pretty compelling, and it was an intriguing take on the Bildungsroman.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Lee Bross’ Tangled Webs will take YA readers to the dark side of eighteenth century London with one savvy and determined protagonist

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Lee Bross’ Tangled Webs will take YA readers to the dark side of eighteenth century London with one savvy and determined protagonist

It begins with a villainess, a lady in disguise who collects on the debts you owe, debts you gained when you did something you never want your family and friends to know about.  Pair that lure with this stunning cover, and I was sold.  While this wasn’t quite as good as I really wanted it to be, I still thought it was a solid four-star read.  If you can’t resist a bad girl who wants to go straight or a lady in hoop skirts who can probably kick your butt, this is certainly worth a look.

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Arista is the notorious Lady A, the beautiful woman who hides in the shadows of the masquerade and trades in the secrets and lies of London’s elite.  No one sees the men behind her who hold her captive to a life she despises, but when circumstances offer her the opportunity of escape, Arista will have to decide who and what she is willing to risk for her own freedom.  But in a dangerous underworld where enemies masquerade as allies, finding happiness and out-running the past may be more impossible than even Arista suspects.   While the historical London setting will be new to many YA readers, the strong female protagonist will not.  Arista evokes many of the young women currently popular in YA fiction, and she doesn’t disappoint.   She is fiercely protective of the few people she has been allowed to love.  She has been trapped in a nightmarish situation where all of her choices have been dictated since early childhood.  She is forced to be the face of an enterprise where others benefit and she is a puppet.  Sound familiar?  It should.  Reading this book is like finding a new friend you feel an instant connection with, and it is precisely that connection that will keep readers taunt with tension as Arista gambles in her bid for freedom.  A romance, too, grows in the midst of this tangled web of deception, raising the stakes and readers hopes for Arista’s success.  Fans of Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass series or Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy will particularly enjoy Tangled Webs.  While there is no fantasy element, the leading lady is reminiscent of both Celaena and Alina.

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

Sarah Ganon’s Date With A Rockstar is a purely escapist YA read, and I enjoyed every far-fetched minute of it

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Sarah Ganon’s Date With A Rockstar is a purely escapist YA read, and I enjoyed every far-fetched minute of it

I thoroughly enjoyed this guilty pleasure of a book. It combines a lot of things that I enjoy – a rock star love interest, an underdog protagonist, and a reality TV competition (I can’t watch them, but I love to read about them). Think The Selection minus the annoying love triangle and the reluctant participant, and you have the main idea of this book.

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Goodreads Summary

A Dystopian future + a Bachelor-esque reality show = a sly yet heartfelt love story that will have you tearing through the pages to see how it all ends. –Heather Lyons, author of the Fate series

Monet isn t just another lust-struck teenager trying to win the heart of Rock God Jeremy Bane–she needs the prize money from his new reality show to cure her illness. Monet has Fluxem, a contagious disease that’s spread through saliva. It’s completely curable if you have enough money, which she and her single mother don’t. Now that she’s on the show, Monet has to work harder to keep her Fluxem hidden. She only has to keep the secret long enough to woo Jeremy Bane so he picks her as the winner. She doesn’t even care about the love part; the prize alone will change her life. But the real Jeremy Bane is nothing like she imagined. Monet finds herself fighting against feelings that make her want to give in to her attraction and Jeremy’s attempts for a kiss. The further she goes in the competition, the more impossible it becomes to resist him–and when the producers turn the tables and start digging up dirt on the contestants, Monet fears her secret will be revealed before she’s ready and ruin everything. The only way to win Jeremy’s heart is to tell him the truth, but confessing her disease could cost her the competition, the prize money, and him.

My Thoughts

Monet is a character I could get behind.  She doesn’t have money or material advantages that the other contestants have, but she is down to Earth and someone readers can cheer for.  Jeremy, the rockstar, is also someone readers will like.  He didn’t blow me away, and most of the things that are designed to make him attractive are examples of simple human decency, but he is a suitable, if generic, love interest.  The other contestants range from crazy to crazier, and I enjoyed the inevitable cattiness and drama.   The book takes place in a future that seems pretty bleak, which I didn’t really expect from the premise.  It added a subtle but thoughtful commentary on ecological, economic, and social issues.  The book moved quickly and had a satisfying conclusion.  It isn’t great literature, but it was fun to read.  I finished it in a few hours and it was one I read straight through.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Queen of Someday and Queen of Tomorrow bring Catherine the Great’s life alive for YA readers looking for an entertaining mix of drama, romance and horror.

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Queen of Someday and Queen of Tomorrow bring Catherine the Great’s life alive for YA readers looking for an entertaining mix of drama, romance and horror.

I have been fascinated by Catherine The Great since I saw a TV mini series about her when I was twelve (so innappropriate – I swear it is like I had no parents when it came to movies and books).  I remember being swept away by the thwarted romance of Catherine’s life, so chances are good that this series will appeal to teens because this is one queen who definitely had her share of grief (and lovers) on her way to the top.  The first two  Stolen Empire books read pretty closely to my memories of that TV series.  They focus on the dramatics – sex, love, cruelty and injustice.  They aren’t exactly historically accurate, but they do entertain.  They are not appropriate for young readers, but they won’t scar anyone who gets their hands on them either.  Well, no more than V.C. Andrews scarred little ole’ preteen me (Heaven might have scarred me, actually).

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Queen of Someday begins with Princess Sophie dispatching the assassins who attack her and her mother as they journey to the Imperial court of Russia.  Sophie needs to catch the eye of the heir, Peter, and make a marriage that will save her country and her family.  She isn’t prepared for the political intrigue or the endless games of the court, but her sensible attitude and willingness to comply with orders makes her a very impressive match, at least in the eyes of the Empress.  Alas, her heart begins to war with her dedication to her family, and as Peter becomes increasingly strange, Sophie must choose between the future she longs for and the future that fate seems determined to give her.  This is a romanticized version of what I know about Sophie/Catherine’s early life.  Clearly, we all know how this is going to turn out, but there is something so engaging about the way things happen.  The characters and the setting are vividly drawn and the romance will leave YA readers a little breathless when the other, strangely twisted love story isn’t making you cringe.  I liked Sophie because she was one tough cookie, even when other people wanted to break her, she endures.  There is some annoying poetry, so, prepare yourself, but as far as reading for pleasure, this book will certainly keep readers entertained.

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Queen of Tomorrow picks up where Queen of Someday left off, and the pressure to provide the Empress with a male heir for Russia has the newly married Catherine . . . well, you know what she has to do.  This book pretty much centers around that conflict.  Peter is still crazy, and the Empress is still manipulative and selfish.  Catherine is forced to walk a fine line and play diplomat as the intrigues and infidelities of the Russian court shift more often than the tide.  As every happiness Catherine manages to find is thwarted time and again, she loses sight of her purpose and power.  The question in this book is will it finally break her?  I enjoyed this book as much as the first, and I think other readers will as well.  Catherine’s biggest strength is her ability to gain the loyalty of people that other nobles have alienated or disregarded, but her darker thoughts definitely keep her from feeling too good to be true.  She has a depth and awareness that makes her more than just a girl in a pretty dress, but that sometimes makes her seem a little older than the age she is suppose to be portraying.  The book is well paced to take readers on a journey of highs and lows, and this one ends with a pretty intriguing resolution that will have fans ready for book three.  Because this book focuses on the making of an heir, it is probably most appropriate for high school readers, though scenes of sensuality are more hinted at than explicitly detailed.  These are books for YA readers who want drama, scandal, and romance, so if you are looking for a more historically accurate picture, this isn’t the book for you (the author, herself, is very upfront about that).

I received an ARC of Queen of Tomorrow from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.