Friday, November 16, 2018

Sugar Spells

Sugar Spells
by Lola Dodge

Anise Wise barely survived her last dangerous encounter. She very nearly died and had to be brought back by a little dark magic. Now that dark magic is infecting everything that she does. Her recipes are deadly... literally. The death magic in her is so strong that she can't even walk near plants without killing them.

Anise must either wait for magic to fade, learn how to harness it so she can at least live her life, or both. 

Anise chooses both.

Now Anise must try to burn off the death magic and find a way to get her Shield, Wynn, out of the worst magical contract ever constructed.

Maybe she can do both at the same time.

Or maybe she'll end up worse than before.

Final thoughts: I still love Anise. It took me a bit to get back into the swing of things because it's been a while since I read the first book. But once in, I was hooked. The ending felt a bit rushed but that may be because I was enjoying myself so much that I didn't want it to end. Now that it's done, I'm curious to see what happens next and eagerly await the next story.

Rating: 4/5

ARC courtesy of NetGalley

Monday, November 12, 2018

Summoned to the Thirteenth Grave

Summoned to the Thirteenth Grave
by Darynda Jones

After saving a life when she was not supposed to, Charley is exiled to another dimension forever. It's pretty boring there. There is not even a place to get coffee, so it really may be hell. 

However, after "one hundred seven years, two months, fourteen days, twelve hours, and thirty-three minutes", Charley is mysteriously sent back to Earth and back in her own body... in the middle of the Sahara Desert. 

It seems that over one hundred years is really just about 10 days on Earth, so Charley actually hasn't missed too much (except for coffee... 10 days without coffee). 

Now Charley and her gang of misfits must figure out how to close the quickly spreading hole to a hell dimension that she and Reyes unleashed about two weeks before, before it takes over the Earth and destroys all of the human souls on it.

Oh. And they have to find a couple of kidnap victims.

And maybe stop a serial killer.

Possibly even take out a few demons.

Still figure out how to keep Beep safe so that she can defeat Lucifer in the future.

And find out how Charley's mom really died all of those years ago.

Just a typical three days for Charley, really.

Final thoughts: What the actual...! As with all things Darynda/Charley, this one has a LOT going on. In fact, after twelve other books, everything has gotten very layered and often confusing. Jones tries hard to keep it all coherent, but it's really difficult. Even after rereading the other books before reading this one, I still got lost at times. I still love Charley's wit but I was frustrated by the lack of action at times. With only 3 days left before the end of the world, she's still focused on Reyes? I mean, I know that he's pretty awesome, but don't set up such a tight deadline and then have everyone distracted by other things.
In the end, this is really just a set-up for Beep's stories, which I assume are coming next. And the ending... are you kidding me?!?!?

Rating: 4/5

ARC courtesy of NetGalley

Monday, September 10, 2018

My Lunatic Life

My Lunatic Life
by Sharon Sala

Tara Luna has spent her life on the move. Her parents died when she was very young and she's spent most of her life living with her somewhat erratic and definitely nomadic uncle. 

When they move, once again, she's forced to start over at a new school, once again. She knows the ropes and how to navigate most of the "new girl" issues. What she's never ready for is how her psychic abilities and her two friendly ghosts will react to the new environment.

Add in a ticked off entity in her new home and a cheerleader with a chip on her shoulder and this school may be the most difficult to Tara to fit into.

Final thoughts: Yet another one with a great concept and horrible follow-thru. While the plot didn't completely tick me off (it just felt more like the outline of a story instead of a full, well-crafted plot), the writing did. This was so all over the place. It didn't help that a 3rd person limited PoV occasionally got taken over by a line or sometimes even a whole paragraph or two told with someone else's thoughts. You don't just switch PoV in the middle of a sentence just because you can't figure out how to communicate something any other way. It's Tara's story, but 3-4 other people just have their views shoved at you from nowhere and then are basically never heard from again. It was so poorly organized and that makes me angry because this could have been something good and original. Instead, it was something to push through and get finished. 

Rating: 2/5

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Pretty in Punxsutawney

Pretty in Punxsutawney
by Laurie Boyle Crompton

Andie was raised on 80's flicks. Her mother is a huge John Hughes fan so Andie's life is all Sixteen Candles, Ferris Bueller, and Weird Science. Because of this, Andie is a film nerd and she's determined to get her perfect first kiss after meeting a boy in a classic movie-type "meet-cute".

When Andie's parents move her to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, Andie is thrust in to "big town life". Her previous school had less than 200 students total and now she's going to start her senior year of high school with hundreds of students who already know each other. Luckily, Andie's already met her true love in the form of Colton, the movie theater ticket taker with whom she's spent almost every day of the summer and on whom she's crushing... hard.

To help her prepare for her first day of senior year, Andie's mom debuts Pretty in Pink, a John Hughes classic that she's been saving for the day before Andie's last year in high school. 

What she should have shown her is Groundhog Day because it turns out that Andie's trapped in a first day nightmare. Every time she goes to sleep, she wakes to the same music from Pretty in Pink, in the same stupid pink dress, and with the same problem; she can't get free of her first day of school.

Doing a little research, Andie realizes that her only way out of the horrible loop is to get her first kiss. But is Colton really the one who can break the curse?

Final thoughts: Cotton candy book all the way. The plot is highly predictable and the characters are cookie cutter. The stereotypes are fairly strong and not very forgiving here. There are some fun moments and it has a nice idea or two, but it's not mind blowing or life changing. Fun read but forgettable.

Rating: 2.5/5

Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC!

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

To All the Boys I've Loved Before

To All the Boys I've Loved Before
by Jenny Han

Lara Jean is a nervous girl. She's always been afraid to stretch and do new things. She's always allowed her older sister, Margot, to take over and run things. But when Margot leaves to go to college in Scotland, Lara Jean can't hide anymore; she's got to be the girl in charge.

When Lara Jean was younger and would fall in love, she'd write love letters to her crushes as a way to get out her feelings, but then she'd pack those letters into a hatbox given to her by her mother and hide them away. 

Somehow, the letters get out and get mailed. 

Now Lara Jean must not only take care of her younger sister, take care of the house, and start to grow into the girl she's meant to be, but she must also contend with all the boys getting their letters.

The worst may be that one of her former crushes is her older sister's boyfriend.

This could get interesting...

Final thoughts: This was a put down/pick up book that took me too long to get through. My biggest problem was at the start of the book so it tainted everything else from that point on. Lara Jean is a super nervous driver and hates driving anywhere. She's ultra paranoid in the car, so it makes absolutely no sense that she would see a stop sign and then intentionally blow through it. It's a forced plot device to make Lara Jean need other people for a bit and it's completely out of character for what the author had set up during the previous pages. That stupidity made me kind of hate the character and it never really resolved. The ending just came out of nowhere and left everything pretty much unresolved. It's not really a cliffhanger, but it's not an HEA either. Not planning to read the sequel.

Rating: 2/5

Monday, July 9, 2018

Written in Red

Written in Red
by Anne Bishop

When Meg Corbyn arrives at the Howling Good Reads doorstep in the middle of a storm, Simon is more than wary about what else she might be bringing to him. However, hiring her as the new human liaison is better than the alternative and the job needs doing, so he agrees to allow her in as the only human in the community of Others.

What Simon could never have prepared for was Meg's past following her or Meg's own innocence in understanding the world being the thing that unites the Others around her. 

Now, the people who lost Meg want her back and the person who wanted Meg's new job wants her gone so Simon and the rest of the Others must figure out how everything ties together and how to protect their new human before the prophecies that Meg brings come true.

Final thought: A new series for me! This is my first Bishop novel and I'm wondering why I never read them before. This book has so much depth of character and story that I even got emotional a few times. No tell vs. show here! All of the characters come together so well and the world building was great. I can't wait to read the next one!

Rating: 5/5

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Ghost Hand

Ghost Hand
by Ripley Patton

Olivia was born an anomaly. She was born with Psyche Sans Soma (PSS), which for her means that her hand doesn't really behave like a hand. Her hand is a ghost that, for most of her life, has acted like a real hand, but glowy. 

When taking her calculus test in class one day, Liv's hand suddenly goes rogue. It shifts. It slides. And it reaches in and takes something from inside the girl sitting right in front of her.

This sudden change in her hand means major changes in her life.

Now Liv is on the run from radicals who want to destroy her and her hand. Luckily, Marcus just happens to show up to save her from them and from herself.

Will she learn how to control her new-found powers?

Final thoughts: Ok read. Cotton candy book. Nothing filling or amazing about it, but it's a good way to spend the time. I may read the second book, but I'm not sure yet. My main issue comes from the fact that there are problems with the action scenes. Reading them feels like reading a script version where the scriptwriter is just assuming the director will fill in the blanks.

Rating: 3/5

Monday, July 2, 2018

Bound to You

Bound to You
by Alyssa Brandon

Megan has always been a werewolf and she's dreamed for years about finding her mate. 

James has been a warrior werewolf all of his life and he has dreaded finding his mate.

When the two find each other, it's destiny, but it's nothing like either thought it would be.

Final thoughts: Short book talk because it's not really worth talking about. The characters were all boring and the events did not flow naturally; instead they came up as needed to further the very bland plot. I didn't care about anyone and definitely don't care to read the next books in the series.

Rating: 1/5

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Eliza and Her Monsters

Eliza and Her Monsters
by Francesca Zappia

In this world of cell phones and online anonymity, parents find it harder and harder to understand their children. This is especially true for Eliza Mirk and her parents. 

Eliza is one of the most introverted people out there and yet she also has one of the biggest online followings in the world. At school, Eliza just tries to get through each day, never making eye contact and ignoring the world around her. Online, Eliza is LadyConstellation, the creator and author of Monstrous Sea, one of the biggest webcomics on the Internet. 

As LadyConstellation, Eliza is generous to her fans, regularly answers questions, and even joins in on the teen soap forums. She has a huge fan forum and merchandising operation run by the only two people outside of her family who know her real identity. 

But at home, Eliza's introverted behavior worries her parents and alienates her relatives. She doesn't speak often, rarely pulls her head out of her phone or sketchbook, and definitely does not go out with friends. Her parents have no idea how big Eliza is online and there's really no way to tell them so that they'll understand.

When Eliza meets Warren, the new kid at school, there's a profound shift in her life. He's highly introverted, as well, and he has his own online secrets but they are drawn together by Monstrous Sea and their mutual difficulties in dealing with the real world; they may be the only two people in the world who truly understand the other person.

Now Eliza needs to figure out how to meld the two worlds before they crash together on their own.

Final thoughts: I really enjoyed this book. I'm in that in-between generation that loves tech but I wasn't raised on it from infancy. I definitely like my social media and all the things that my cell phone and computer can do, but I don't live online. This shared some great insights that I hope to be able to use in the future. Eliza's webcomic is a little difficult for me to grasp with the little we see, but the illustrations pull the story together and get more solid over the course of the book, just as Eliza becomes more solid a character. As an introvert myself, Eliza's struggles are real to me and Zappia brings those issues to the page very well. Good read.

Rating: 4/5

Friday, June 15, 2018


by Rachel Hawkins

Daisy is your ordinary geek who works at the local shopping mart and hangs with her BFF. Her only dream is to go to Key West and the con that's held there so that she can meet her fave author. Unfortunately, Daisy's sister makes all of that impossible by agreeing to marry a Scottish prince. Now Daisy must travel to Scotland to meet the royal family and clear up a mess that her ex-boyfriend made for that family when he lied to the press.

Once there, Daisy meets Seb, the brother of the now-engaged prince, and Seb's crew, The Royal Wreckers. Now Daisy's job (to make her sister look good and to clear the family name) is made that much more difficult, especially since the paparazzi really seems to like to follow her.

Can Daisy clear up this royal mess and find a little romance of her own?

Final thoughts: Bland. There were a couple of good moments, but it just didn't flow well. I didn't love any of the characters and I didn't feel any chemistry for anyone. Even the perfect upcoming marriage doesn't feel like one for love despite that being the party line. This book is a way to pass an afternoon but I wouldn't put more stock in it than that.

Rating: 3/5

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Zenn Diagram

Zenn Diagram
by Wendy Brant

Eva Walker has gone through life not touching people. Literally and figuratively. When Eva touches people in the literal sense, she can see "fractals" or geometric images and colors that make up their lives. This means Eva refuses to touch people figuratively so she doesn't have to take the chance of touching them literally.

Then she meets Zenn.

His jacket tells one story but his touch tells something else and that something else is what attracts Eva to him. 

They start off slowly but things speed up when they find out a secret neither even dreamed possible. Will that secret keep them apart or bring them together?

Final thoughts: There is literally no plot here. Nothing. It's a few months in the lives of a couple of teens. The whole supernatural fractals issue isn't really even effective here. There's no reason for it to exist except as an excuse for Eva (Eh-vah, not Ee-vah) to be a loner. People can be introverted and alone without some weird touch sensitivity to cause it. The story is slow and doesn't pick up at all until over halfway through. The characters don't really have any characteristics to make them matter. It's a slow plod with no point and the epilogue is just strange and completely out of place. Bland, dull, and pointless.

Rating: 2/5

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Long May She Reign

Long May She Reign
by Rhiannon Thomas

Freya isn't really in to court life. She'd rather perform experiments in her lab and develop new scientific formulas than dance at the palace. She's got plans to leave home and make her way to places where she can learn and practice, far away from the court. 

She's 23rd in line, anyway; it's not like she'll ever really be needed by the royal family.

But when tragedy strikes the entire court during the king's anniversary on the throne, Freya is suddenly queen and she is definitely not ready.

Can Freya become the queen that her kingdom needs or will she be the next to face a tragic fate?

Final thoughts: Messy. I'm just not sure what to do with this one. It's a new world with new ideas? Or is it a dystopia? Is her father a great guy or a great manipulator? Who can she really trust? Will she ever be able to trust anyone? Will she be a scientist or a queen? Can she be both? None of these questions are really answered anywhere. The whole thing just feels a little off and the ending was just kind of there. It's not necessarily a bad book, it's just kind of bleh. Read it or not. It fills a couple of hours.

Rating: 3/5

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Until Midnight

Until Midnight
by Erin R. Bedford

Clara has always been out of place. As the overseer's daughter, she worked alongside the farmers but they would never trust to her or talk much with her. As the stepdaughter to a wealthy seamstress in the Inner Circle, she's always been too dirty, too unkempt, and too close to common people around.

But now Clara has the chance to change everything. She's been selected for the Election, an annual event to choose people to work for and with The Fold to run the land of Alban. 

Maybe Clara is the breath of fresh air they need to make Alban the place it should always have been.

Final thoughts: This is billed as Hunger Games meets Cinderella. There's also some Selection in here, too. But it's just all too obvious and annoying. None of the characters are built well; they are all shallow and empty. There is no real connection for any of them and people come and go as necessary for the story instead of organically through the story. It's all over the place and things just keep being brought in and then tossed out whenever it's convenient. This is just bad overall. The ending is both obvious and annoying. The revelations made me just so angry and dropped in from nowhere. It is written more like stream-of-consciousness or like a kid telling a story out loud. Nope. Not going to read the next one.

Rating: 2/5

Monday, April 16, 2018

36 Questions That Changed My Mind About You

36 Questions That Changed My Mind About You
by Vicki Grant

Hildy and Paul (a.k.a. Betty and Bob) sign up for a study being done by a college student. She's in it to grow as a person and try something new; he's in it for the forty bucks.

The study takes two completely random people and puts them in a room to answer psychologist Arthur Aron's 36 questions and see if those two people would fall in love. It should take only an hour or two, right?

But when Hildy and Paul sit together they discover that they are complete opposites in almost everything in life and it's really difficult to answer some of these to a stranger. 

Throughout their time together, working on the questions, feelings are discussed, realities replace daydreams, and the truth is stripped bare for all to see. 

Will there be anything left of them to fall in love?

Final thoughts: These are the actual questions from the real 36 questions study and subsequent follow-up coverage in the news and online. Vicki Grant uses these 36 questions pretty effectively to grow her characters and create a bond between them. It's basically a cotton-candy read, but it's still got some funny moments and a moment or two of real emotional punch. It's a good way to pass some time, as well as figure out if you're daring enough to try the questions on your own.

Rating: 3/5

Thursday, April 5, 2018

How to Hang a Witch

How to Hang a Witch
by Adriana Mather

Samantha Mather is forced to move to Salem, Mass. after her father is suddenly in a coma and the bills start stacking up. She and her stepmother move into the home of Samantha's grandmother who also died recently. It's par for the course for Samantha, though. Everyone she knows seems to get hurt somehow. It's like she's cursed.

Upon moving into her dad's childhood home, Samantha immediately begins to discover strange things like a hidden stash of letters in her armoire's secret hiding spot and an entire stairway and room located behind a fireplace. That room is filled with her grandmother's journals, tons of books, and a few other secrets that still can't explain why people have started dying all over Salem. 

Samantha must also contend with the house ghost and his secrets as well as the mean girls of her new high school who, like her, are descendants of people involved in the Salem Witch Trials. But they won't accept her into their group because they are the descendants of accused witches and Samantha is the descendant of one of the men who started the whole thing.

It's up to Samantha to end the curse that has plagued her family since 1692, save her dad, free the ghost, and stop the cycle of vengeance. No pressure.

Final thoughts: Cotton candy read. I love reading about the Salem Witch Trials and I think the history of it is fascinating. The fact that the author really is a descendant of Cotton Mather is pretty cool. The story itself is a little messy at times and the antagonist was pretty obvious very early on, but I still enjoyed the read. What I think is more powerful is the overall message that bad things only happen when good people stand by and let them happen. That's a true today as it was in 1692 and might even be more true now than when the book was published in 2016.

Rating: 4/5

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
by Becky Albertalli

Simon is a theatre geek and pretty good guy with some great friends. He's also a guy with a secret. 

Unfortunately, when he accidentally leaves his email logged on at school, his secret gets out and into the hands of someone who decides to use it as blackmail material. Now he not only has to protect his own secret, but the secret of his email friend (who is becoming much more than just a friend).

Simon must balance his outward life with his inward hopes and dreams. He must decide if coming out is better than hiding within. And he must figure out how if keeping his secret is worth damaging his friendships. 

Final thoughts: I bought this to read after seeing the previews for Love, Simon and I'm happy with picking it up. Simon is an honest character with simple dreams and scary realities. His life it outwardly pretty perfect and inwardly a mess. I love the blossoming of his online relationship with Blue and his trying to puzzle out who Blue was in his school. His family is great and realistically built and his struggles are too real for some. This is not a traumatized boy with a difficult family life; he's a regular teen with regular issues and regular friends and family. I really enjoyed Simon. My only real struggle comes from one of his best friends and an incomplete plot line there, but it doesn't detract from the main story.

Rating: 4/5

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The Program

The Program
by Suzanne Young

In the not-too-distant future, suicide breaks out among teens around the world. Teens are literally killing themselves left and right. 

In a panic to save the next generation, the government creates The Program. Each day, students fill out a survey to determine their mental state. Each day, handlers walk the schools and streets, looking for tell-tale signs of depression. Each day, parents and friends report people to The Program. And each day, those people are forcefully taken to be "cured" before they too submit to suicidal thoughts.

Sloane has every good reason to be sad but she's not allowed to show any of it. One tear and she'll be the next to go to The Program. People enter The Program as one person, but leave as someone completely blank. All of their memories are taken. All of their personalities are wiped. They are blank slates, no longer depressed but no longer themselves, either.

After Sloane's brother kills himself and her best friend is taken to The Program, Sloane knows that they are watching her. They are looking for a sign, a moment of weakness, anything that will justify taking her away. Sloane's only comfort and the only person she can trust is her boyfriend, James.

But when James succumbs to the thoughts, Sloane is truly alone and The Program is watching.

Final thoughts: Good dystopian novel with some interesting ideas. I've been seeing this on bookstore shelves for a while and kept thinking that I must have already purchased it and had it in my TBR pile because it's definitely up my alley. When I finally read it, I was not disappointed. It's realistic and dark with some chilling content and predictions of the future. Can suicide become contagious? Some of this also reminded me of Uglies mixed with a little Hunger Games and some 1984 for good measure. It was a good read but I'm not sure how much I want to read the sequels; this may be too dark a path for me.

Rating: 4/5

Monday, March 26, 2018

My Life Uploaded

My Life Uploaded
by Rae Earl

Seventh grader Millie Porter is just trying to survive as any preteen can in this day and age. She doesn't want to be at the bottom of the popularity food chain. She doesn't want to have to deal with her mother's boyfriend's cleaning obsession. She doesn't want to miss out on the chance to date the hot Canadian immigrant. And she doesn't want to get on the queen bee's social hit list.

What the most sensible seventh grader wants is to be seen and heard (but not laughed at) so she starts Hashtag Help with her BFF, her crazy family, a guy who geeks out over elevators, and a female cat named Dave. 

Now that she's got a vlog, can she balance her sensible real life world and her online experiences while avoiding the harsh realities of having her life up for everyone to see?

Final thoughts: I think I would have liked this more if the comments that Millie read and reacted to were visible in this ARC. Unfortunately, they weren't. So I'd be reading about one of her posts and then she'd talk about a troll's comments, but I never got to see it so I never could figure out her reactions. I'm also not a big middle-grade reader so Millie's voice didn't always fit right in my head as I read her. However, there were sparks of greatness and some truly honest moments throughout, so I think I am a fan. I would definitely watch a few of her vlogs if nothing else.

Rating: 3/5

ARC from NetGalley and Macmillan Children's Publishing Group

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Deadly Sweet

Deadly Sweet
by Lola Dodge

Anise was born a witch. Her mother is a witch, too. Together, Anise and her mother have tried to keep their financial heads above water while keeping their figurative heads down. There are few places a witch can safely practice and New York isn't one of them so they need to keep their secrets close.

When Anise accidentally defends herself with fire, it's time for her to leave. Unfortunately, her mother can't follow and Anise must face life as a bakery witch on her own. Or, sort of on her own. She moves to Taos, New Mexico, where she meets her great aunt and one of the most powerful witches alive. She also meets Wynn, her bodyguard whether she wants him around or not.

And it turns out she needs him more than she would like. The last apprentice disappeared mysteriously and Anise seems to be the target of a warlock who'd like nothing more than to steal her life and her powers. 

Can Anise survive someone so powerful and evil who thwarts even the might of the thirteen strongest witches around?

Final thoughts: It's kind of like a female Harry Potter. She's a little older and already has some basic magic knowledge but the characters around her are familiar. There are a few too many similarities with the first HP book and it doesn't help that some of it is just obvious. However, all that being said, I still enjoyed it and look forward to the next book.

Rating: 4/5

ARC courtesy of NetGalley and Ink Monster LLC

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Olympian Challenger

Olympian Challenger
by Astrid Arditi

Hope Diaz has never quite fit in. It's not that she's all that awkward or different; it's just that she has more pressing issues to deal with. Her mother, the only parent she's ever known, is slowly losing her mind, just like her grandmother did years before. It won't be long before Hope's mom isn't able to recognize her own daughter and Hope doesn't want to miss one minute with her beloved mom.

When a strange invitation arrives for her, Hope doesn't know what to make of it. What's weirder is that every single senior high student in New York City seems to have gotten the invite, but no one else around Hope seems to be able to read past "You're cordially invited". Hope sees more but she's not sure if she's really seeing it or if the dementia that affects her mother is starting early in Hope's own mind.

Through a series of events, Hope finds herself transported to Mount Olympus and discovers that she's descended from the heroes and gods of Greek Mythology. These descendants have been brought to Mount Olympus to compete for a chance to be the new Hero and complete a task for the gods. 

Now Hope must compete in ten events, each inspired by a different god and hero, in order to win and get one wish. Her wish is obvious; how to win isn't. 

Final thoughts: My initial reaction was 4 stars. Then I had time to think things through. I'm dropping my rating to 3 because there are some plot holes here and there. Many of the characters are one-dimensional, which makes sense because of the sheer number of them, but some needed to be fleshed out a bit more. I don't understand Heath's character at all and the chemistry between Hope and Kieron just isn't really there. The Hunger Games aspect was a little distracting, as well. The end was just a little off-kilter and the motivation for the whole event just felt unimportant. So, here I am, wishing there was more and I'm probably going to read the second book, but it's not quite enough to make me enthusiastically endorse this one.

Rating: 3/5

ARC from NetGalley

Monday, January 29, 2018

Dear Rachel Maddow

Dear Rachel Maddow
by Adrienne Kisner

Who needs Dear Diary or Dear Abby when you have Rachel Maddow?

Brynn Harper's life is not a bowl of cherries. She's a lesbian living a closeted life with her ultra-conservative mother and abusive stepfather. She struggles with basic schoolwork because the letters and words dance before her eyes. Her older brother died two years before from an accidental overdose. And everyone, or almost everyone, believes she'll die the same way even though she's never taken a single drug.

Brynn's school life is no better as she's been relegated to the "Applied" section in the blue room of the basement, just trying to get through her days until she turns eighteen and can finally leave all the negative behind.

When Brynn is asked to write to a celebrity hero for a school assignment, she picks Rachel Maddow, mostly because Brynn's mother would go nuts if she found out. When Rachel responds, it starts a whirlwind of movement in Brynn's life starting with school politics and ending with the beautiful new girl who comes to peer-tutor in the blue room.

Life is never easy and fighting is always hard but Brynn may just have everything she needs to get through it all if she can just see it right in front of her eyes.

Final thoughts: Solid realistic YA fiction. Brynn's stepdad is pretty evil and it's difficult to see why her mom stays with him but that's true for many dysfunctional families, so that all fits. It's so difficult to read stories like these especially when you know how true they are in this world. I love Brynn's voice. She's so real and raw and sometimes so very oblivious. The ending isn't a happily ever after, but it's real and true. I wish the dyslexia had been diagnosed and discussed rather than just implied, but it was still good to see that kind of realistic depiction of a learning disability.

Rating: 4/5

ARC courtesy of NetGalley and MacMillan Children's Publishing Group

Friday, January 12, 2018

Cinders, Stars, and Glass Slippers

Cinders, Stars, and Glass Slippers
by Brittany Fichter

For over 10 years, Elaina Starke has lived about the flagship of the Ashland Navy on which her father is the Admiral. She has become an expert in all things ship related from tying knots to fighting battles. But when someone finds out her secret and reveals it to others, her father sends her into the land of the unknown.

She's sent back to her home to become the well-bred lady that she was born to be (even though she has no idea what she's doing). Because she's been raised by sailors, she can sometimes have a sailor's mouth and she says things when she probably shouldn't... especially to the prince. The two form a strange friendship and things seem to be adding up the way they should, until Elaina's secret is unearthed again and she is put in mortal danger.

Prince Nicholas is doing all he can to save Elaina, but when she's taken and forced to become a slave, he fears he may never see his one true love again.

Can they save each other from a fate that even the stars won't talk about?

Final thoughts: I love so much about this book! Elaina is a well-drawn, no-nonsense character who doesn't fall head over heels for the prince, as so many other Cinderellas do. She's her own person and wants to fight her own battles. Nicholas is a new kind of prince fighting his old-fashioned father's ideas of what running a kingdom must be like. The two are opposites until they suddenly aren't. My only real issue comes at about the halfway point when the author has to figure out how to get Elaina sold into slavery in order to continue the story. This short section took me completely out of the book and had me arguing with the rest of the story from that part on. She is accused of treason with a country never mentioned before or after. She is accused during a party, then tried, judged, sentenced, and sent away in exile all in a matter of hours. It's even mentioned that people have to go placate the party-goers once this whole farce happens. That's right. The whole thing happens DURING THE PARTY. And it's a farce from start to finish; completely unbelievable. I really enjoyed almost every other things about this book, but that section is STILL bugging me.

Rating: 4/5

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The School of Revenge

The School of Revenge
by Michael Richan

It's happened to almost everyone.

Nearly everyone in this world has been bullied at some point.

Nearly everyone in this world has dreamed of having a little revenge against that bully.

Not many get to see that revenge play out.

Aaron Rogers has a dream to see his tormentors pay.

And then the dream becomes a nightmare.

Final thoughts: Wow. This started out sooo good. It zoomed along and I read it in less than a day. However, it got so very weird about halfway through and then ended as if the rest of the book had disappeared. It literally just ended. There are too many questions and not enough answers. The whole thing becomes a confused mess once you stop to think about what you just read. Is there a sequel? Would I even want to read it if there was? Please note that this one is also extremely violent in a couple of places. Beware the shock value.

Rating: 3/5

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Burn Bright

Burn Bright
by Patricia Briggs

Bran has left Charles in charge of the pack just when the pack may need Bran the most. Now Charles and his mate, Anna, must use all the skills that they have to try and track the people who are going after the wildlings of Bran's pack. These are the wildest of the wolves who live more like hermits just so that they, and the people around them, can stay safe.

When a wildling couple dies as the result of a ruined kidnapping attempt, Charles and Anna must stop the same thing from happening to the rest of the wildlings. With Bran MIA, they must rely on his anti-social mate and some trusted pack members to get the word out to the wildlings and protect them from this new danger.

But danger may be closer than they ever believed possible.

Final thoughts: Let's just start out with the fact that I much prefer the Mercy books to these. I like her character more than I ever have liked Charles and Anna. And with that being said, this may be one of my least liked of all. The POVs are all over the place. We get Charles and Anna, but we get at least four other POVs and only for a quick scene or two, as if the author wanted to make sure the reader understood some things, but couldn't figure out any other way to do it. Mercy and Adam are the only POVs in that series and Adam showed up late in the game, but it's all consistent. This series is not and it was a mess. Additionally, we got a Mercy story mixed in early on (probably because Mercy's character would never tell it), and that made me mad, both because of the placement and because it made me really not like Bran for the first time. In fact, for a few moments, I was really angry at him and even hated him a bit. This was not a good side for him, and while it made him more three-dimensional, it was not pleasant or nice. I hate that his character has been tainted a bit now. This may be the book that turns be off Charles and Anna. Sad, because the basic story and ideas were good.

Rating: 2.5/5

ARC provided by NetGalley

Friday, November 10, 2017

Always Kiss Me Goodnight

Always Kiss Me Goodnight
by Megan Gaudino

Sophie is alone. Her parents have moved to be closer to her Olympic contender brother, leaving her at home alone most of the time. She's even more alone now that her boyfriend has cheated on her.

That's when the dreams start. That's when she starts seeing her own death.

What she never saw coming was Leo Knight.

He saves her, and by saving her, he may have damned himself.

Final thoughts: This is cotton candy and I was enjoying it to start, but then it turned into another Twilight copycat. Mysterious powers. People who never die. Semi-stalking behavior. Over-protectiveness. And the constant question of who or what our heroine may be. 

Rating: 2/5


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