Sunday, May 31, 2015

Review: Tangled Webs by Lee Bross

Tangled Webs by Lee Bross
Book One of the Tangled Webs series
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Publication Date: June 23, 2015
Rating: 4 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads):

London, 1725. Everybody has a secret. Lady A will keep yours—for a price. This sumptuous, scandalous YA novel is wickedly addictive.

Lady A is the most notorious blackmailer in the city. With just a mask and a gown to disguise her, she sweeps into lavish balls and exclusive events collecting the most valuable currency in 1725 London—secrets.

But leading a double life isn't easy. By day Lady A is just a sixteen-year-old girl named Arista who lives in fear of her abusive master, Bones, and passes herself off as a boy to move safely through the squalor of London's slums. When Bones attempts to dispose of his pawn forever, Arista is rescued by the last person she expects: Jonathan Wild, the infamous Thief Taker General who moves seamlessly between the city's criminal underworld and its most elite upper circles. Arista partners with Wild on her own terms in the hopes of saving enough money to buy passage out of London.

Everything changes when she meets Graeden Sinclair, the son of a wealthy merchant. Grae has traveled the world, has seen the exotic lands Arista has longed to escape to her whole life, and he loves Arista for who she is—not for what she can do for him. Being with Grae gives something Arista something precious that she swore off long ago: hope. He has promised to help Arista escape the life of crime that has claimed her since she was a child. But can you ever truly escape the past?

What I Liked:

When I first saw the name "Arista", I was just the slightest bit turned off. I don't like the name (though it's not TOO bad), but also, I didn't like Lady Arista from Kerstin Gier's Ruby Red trilogy very much (she's a snobby grandmother, so I don't think we're supposed to like her). But Arista from Tangled Webs turned out to be quite a fun and likable character. I enjoyed reading her story, and I sympathized and felt bad for her often. This story was a breath of fresh air, after all those three-star reads I've gone through recently!

The setting is London, 1725. Arista is secretly Lady A, a young woman who everyone knows works for Bones, a dangerous man known for his blackmailing. The highest payer will have their secrets kept by Bones. But fail to pay, and your secrets are out. Lady A ensures that secrets are found out and payments are made. This is not a comfortable life, and Arista wants to leave forever and go to India. When a night on the job goes wrong, Arista finds herself in the clutches of a new thief and blackmailer, deceptively no better than Bones. Arista has things to lose - her friend Becky, her budding relationship with Graeden Sinclair and his family... Arista is caught in a web of deceit, and there is no easy way out.

I love historical fiction! This book is heavily historical, and I enjoyed it. There were some anachronisms in terms of the speech, I believe, but I tried not to let it bother me too much (they weren't common and they were *almost* passable as common across all time periods). I didn't spot too many other anachronisms, which was nice. The historical aspect of this book was lovely! Of course, Arista's existence as Lady A is odd, but this is where we use our imagination.

I like Arista very much. She is hardened and brave, sly and clever. She isn't as devious and malicious as her Lady A reputation might imply. She wants to be free of it all, to go to India and never come back. Arista never wanted to work for Bones, or Wild. She had no choice in either matter, and it was losing her freedom all over again when she "joined" Wild. It's hard not to feel sorry for Arista, given her difficult past, present, and future. But I like how strong she is, how cool and collected yet sad and emotional-filled she is. She isn't a conscience-less thief!

By chance and terrible timing, Arista and her lady's maid/friend Becky are abandoned by Bones, and are snatched up by Wild (sort of). Arista makes a deal with Wild, to keep doing what she's doing, but for him. Arista agrees so that she and Becky will have shelter and food. Arista met Grae at a ball while doing a job, and she can't get him out of her head. Fate throws them together, and now Arista sees Grae often.

I liked Grae, though you'll see a few complaints below. I found him to be a tad one-dimensional (like I said, more below). He's a strong and kind male protagonist with a very important role to play in the story. He's the son of a merchant owning a fleet of ships, and Grae is the captain of one. Grae is several years older than Arista, and he is a lovely young man. He's definitely a swoon-worthy love interest - and the one and only love interest.

The synopsis will have you thinking that there might be some sort of love triangle, possibly with Grae and Wild being the love interests. UNTRUE. Throughout the entire book, the only love interest is Grae. Wild is another employer, another man putting Arista in a gilded cage. There is no romance there whatsoever. There is no romance anywhere except between Arista and Grae.

And I really, really liked the romance in this book. Grae and Arista meet before he meets "Arista" - he met her at a masquerade ball while she was disguised, so he didn't know she was Arista or Lady A. Things heat up between them immediately upon seeing each other - lust at first sight. I LOVED this. And then he meets her as Arista, and he's shocked and angry, but the chemistry is still very much alive. And sizzling. Seriously, for a historical fiction novel, the romance was pretty alive! I liked this a lot.

The story is exciting, thrilling, sad, and engaging. I thought it got a little predictable towards the end, but that might have just been me. Nevertheless, I liked the ending. I kind of hoped this book would be a standalone, but I see on Goodreads that it is listed as a series. Companion series? I kind of hope it's not a continuation series! This book ended perfectly, and I'd almost hate to see a sequel "ruin" it!

What I Did Not Like:

I mentioned above - I found Grae to be a smidgen one-dimensional. He just didn't seem real to me. I'm not sure why, but he seemed a bit flat. Almost too perfect? I liked him a lot, don't get me wrong. But I feel like I didn't get enough time to get to know him - maybe that's it?

That's another thing - time moves quickly in this book. You know that whole "one months later" or "she did this for the next three weeks" kind of thing? The author employs this tactic, which is fine, but it messes with the progression of Grae and Arista's relationship. I feel like Grae and Arista didn't get enough up-close-and-personal time (and I'm not even talking about in a romantic way - though that would have been nice too). Their relationship is well-developed (we know this because of the time lapse), but we as readers don't SEE this development, really. So it wasn't insta-love at all! More like omission of development. If that makes sense.

I liked Grae a lot and I really liked the romance. So don't get me wrong. But both could have been stretched out for readers! This book was short, so another thirty to forty pages of exposition between Grae and Arista would have not only shown the development of their relationship, but also taught us more about Grae!

Would I Recommend It:

Despite a few misgivings, I really enjoyed this book! It's definitely worth the read, so I would recommend it. Kickbutt heroine, sweet and steamy romance, hot male protagonist, swift action - what's not to love? And it acts well as a standalone (though I see Goodreads says it's part of a series), so theoretically, you could stop after this book and love it!


4 stars. I'm glad I liked this book! It was great, I've already reread some parts. I'm torn on how I feel about it being part of a series, but I will definitely read the sequel, no matter my feelings on this book and the series. This one ended so wonderfully, there shouldn't be a sequel! But I'll read it anyway.

Was this review helpful? Please let me know in the comments section!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Stacking the Shelves (#127)

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews, in which bloggers share the books and swag they've received in the past week!

So, what did I get in the week of Sunday, May 24th to Saturday, May 30th?

(all links to Goodreads are provided!)

In the mail:

Thank you, Simon and Schuster! I LOVED Of Metal and Wishes.

I won this from Jay and Amie! Thank you, lovelies! I hear there is a hardcover ARC too... the collector in me is plotting. LOL

From Edelweiss:

Already read this one and LOVED it! It's rare that I throw my reading schedule and starting reading a book I just got, but this one was a no-brainer!

No BEA for me, but I worked and started my lab research! I also signed the lease for my new apartment. Now my usual dose of paranoia has set in. *bites nails*

How was everyone's week? Can you believe June is on MONDAY!? Where does the time go? :o

Friday, May 29, 2015

Review: Tracked by Jenny Martin

Tracked by Jenny Martin
Publisher: Dial Books
Publication Date: May 5, 2015
Rating: 3 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads):

The Fast and the Furious gets a futuristic twist in this action-packed debut!

On corporately controlled Castra, rally racing is a high-stakes game that seventeen-year-old Phoebe Van Zant knows all too well. Phee’s legendary racer father disappeared mysteriously, but that hasn't stopped her from speeding headlong into trouble. When she and her best friend, Bear, attract the attention of Charles Benroyal, they are blackmailed into racing for Benroyal Corp, a company that represents everything Phee detests. Worse, Phee risks losing Bear as she falls for Cash, her charming new teammate. But when she discovers that Benroyal is controlling more than a corporation, Phee realizes she has a much bigger role in Castra’s future than she could ever have imagined. It's up to Phee to take Benroyal down. But even with the help of her team, can a street-rat destroy an empire?

What I Liked:

This book was a bit all over the place. Overall a solid read and I'm interested in reading the sequel... but it's clear that this is a debut novel, and I'll explain why I say this in a moment. This book was rushed and way too fast-paced, but I recognize the potential and want to read more.

In this book, Phoebe Van Zant has no choice but to become Phoenix Vanguard. Caught for illegally rally racing, she strikes a deal with Benroyal and must race for him, or there will be terrible consequences. Phee's best friend Bear is pulled into the mess. Life in the Spire is a cage, and Phee hates living under the scrutiny of cameras, media, guards, heavy security, limited access, and not a chance to see her family, or understand the lies and politics behind everything. It's clear that Benroyal needs to be stopped, and not just because he owns Phee and her life - what he's planning is far worse, for everyone.

I love the science fiction of this book! Most of the reason why this book got such a high rating from me is because of the science fiction aspect of the book. I got a Star Wars feel for this book, especially with all of the racing and parts and teamwork aspect. Reminds me of the more recent Star Wars films, with little Anakin! I totally want to rewatch those trilogies again now...

Anyway. This novel takes place in a futuristic setting. Phee is an excellent driver/racer, well known on the streets. Her father was a well-known racer as well, and raced for Locus (another company) before he disappeared when she was young. Benroyal is using Phee for his own gain, in legal races.

I've never watched any of the Fast and Furious movies, but I'm sure the comparison is accurate. While I think there should have been more races in this book (there were like, three), I enjoyed the high energy and high stakes. This novel was fast-paced overall (something that I'll talk about below).

The plot is enjoyable, though too fast. It's clear that there needs to be another book, because things with Benroyal are not concluded. Phee discovers many things about herself towards the end of the book, and we need to see how those things will come in handy. Also, the ending is cruel! Very cliffhanger-y.

I didn't really like Phee, but I liked Cash a lot. Not just as a love interest (though that's really all the author made him out to be - a love interest and hawt shirtless male). Totally cliche of the author, but I liked the boy who fought for impossible things.

I think I'll move on to the dislikes! There were, unfortunately, a number of them.

What I Did Not Like:

I didn't really connect with Phee. To be honest, she acted younger than seventeen. I would have placed her around fourteen. Her voice seemed much more childish and immature. I definitely could see her character growth throughout the book, but I couldn't connect with her. She was too immature.

This book is FULL of cliches. And things just aren't well developed. I'll list some examples. As soon as Cash, the primary love interest is introduced, Bear starts to act brooding and angry, and the two of them start fighting. After Cash and Phee have met for all of five seconds. SO CLICHE. In the worst of ways, too - how often do we see this in YA? It doesn't usually happen so fast, right? Yes, the two love interests will square off. But usually... it's WAY into the book.

Things happen too fast and too underdeveloped, in my opinion. The alpha male square-off between Cash and Bear. The insinuation of Bear having feelings for Phee. Phee realizing that she's "confused" about how she feels about Bear. Literally one page to the next, within the first, let's say fifty pages, Phee's feelings change in a second. It takes them being thrust into Benroyal's hands for her feelings to change - that doesn't really make sense to me. And then she meets Cash, and it's insta-love city going on. The love interests immediately hate each other (at least, Bear hates Cash).

So much cliche. Phee throws a tantrum, threatening the love interests if they don't stop fighting, and then walk out. Do people really fight over a girl, five seconds after meeting her? Not sure if that's how real life (for future life) works. 

The romance in general is pretty screwed up at first. Like I said, things start to happen too quickly and too underdeveloped. And then it's like there is a love triangle. It becomes clear that Phee doesn't have a romantic interest in Bear, but he's totally in love with her. Phee likes Cash (and vice versa), and I like that pairing. I don't like how fast Phee and Cash "fall in love", become intimate, etc. It's insta-love, not lust. It's like the author skipped about 100 pages of character and relationship developed and went straight to some steamy stuff! Not cool, in my opinion.

I wanted more races! I felt like there was a dry spell between the very first one (which happened within pages of the book starting) and the next one (which was the first official one Phee had to race under Benroyal). Such a long time passes, and it feels like the book becomes about Phee and the media and her boy problems and a ton of cliches.

When I said that it was clear that this book is a debut - it needs work. There was a lot of baldly stated descriptions, a lot of "telling" but not "showing". A lot of underdeveloped plot arcs and characters, the plot moving entirely too fast and a feeling of things being completely left out. The ending is super cliffhanger-y, so watch out for that. This book is probably part of just a duology - I can't imagine it being part of a trilogy.

Would I Recommend It:

Ehhh. Great science fiction world-building, not so great storytelling. I'd wait on this book, wait for the next book to come out, see those reviews. I'll definitely be reading the sequel if I get a chance, especially if this is only a duology. But I wouldn't necessarily recommend this one - it needs work!


2.5 stars -> rounded up to 3 stars. It's not that I didn't like this one! There isn't any venom behind my complaints. I think this could have been a much better book with more development to the story and characters. Hence why I am more than willing to give the next book a shot, despite not really enjoying this one. I'm glad I had the chance to read this one though, no regrets!

Was this review helpful? Please let me know in the comments section!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Blog Tour Guest Post with Sarah Ockler, Author of The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler (and GIVEAWAY!)

Welcome to the blog tour for The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler! Today, I have a very visual post for you all - and an awesome giveaway! Read on, gentle readers!

The Road Trip in The Summer of Chasing Mermaids

When the idea for The Summer of Chasing Mermaids came together in the fall of 2013, I knew that I wanted to set the story somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. But I'd never visited coastal Washington or Oregon! My only visit to Washington was an all-too-brief book tour stop in Seattle the previous summer, and I'd only been to Oregon for a work event in Portland more than a fifteen years ago. Without an authentic feel for the setting of my book, I felt like I couldn't finish the story. 

Obviously, there was only one thing to do... RESEARCH ROAD TRIP!

My (thankfully) adventurous husband and I packed up our car with road trip essentials like a tent, hiking boots, plenty of white cheddar popcorn, and some bottled water, and hit the road from Colorado, driving northwest until we reached Washington. From there, we made our way south along the coasts of Washington and Oregon, visiting towns and natural sites that inspired the fictional town of Atargatis Cove, Oregon, where the novel is set. 

My Favorite Stops

The Goondocks and Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach. Fellow 80s kids will recognize this! And it totally made me want to write a story about pirates. For now, though, the only pirates in the book are the sailors who race in the Pirate Regatta. The 3rd picture features some of the houses that inspired the houses at Atargatis Cove.

Forks and LaPush, of Twilight fame. What kind of YA author would miss out on these places? LaPush is stunning, by the way.

Point Hudson Marina in Port Townsend, which helped me envision Chelsea Marina.

Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park, which inspired a hike in the story. That little orange dot at the bottom is me hugging a giant tree!

Thor’s Well at Cape Perpetua, a favorite spot for Elyse’s Aunt Lemon. I don’t know who that crazy person is down there, but that one is *not* me!

Bandon-by-the-Sea, including lunch at The Chowder House, where Christian buys Elyse her first fish-n-chips.

Crater Lake National Park, which is just a stunning place to visit. The lake is even bluer than the sky, and the water is so pure that scientists use it to measure baseline purity for drinking water.

Road Trip, Part 2

After a few weeks on the road, we finally returned home to Colorado (totally landlocked), where I got to work on writing the novel, totally inspired by everything we’d researched. But we missed the sea! So, less than two months after I finished The Summer of Chasing Mermaids, we took another road trip—this time, to move. Without much of a plan, we packed up our belongings and headed northwest, hoping for the best! We settled into a small seaport town in Washington, ready for a new adventure. Many of the people we'd met in restaurants and shops on our fall trip remembered us, so it really did feel like coming home! 

I love research road trips. I have to think about where I’d like to set my next book. Maybe Alaska—haven’t been there yet! :)

About the Author:

Sarah Ockler is the bestselling author of young adult novels, including #scandal, The Book of Broken Hearts, Bittersweet, Fixing Delilah, and the critically acclaimed Twenty Boy Summer, a YALSA Teens' Top Ten nominee and IndieNext List pick. Her latest, The Summer of Chasing Mermaids, hits the shelves in June 2015. 

Sarah is a champion cupcake eater, coffee drinker, night person, and bookworm. When she's not writing or reading at home in Washington, she enjoys taking pictures, hugging trees, and road-tripping through the country with her husband, Alex.

Visit her website at or find her on Twitter, Tumblr, or Facebook.

About the Book:

The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: June 2, 2015

Official Summary:

The youngest of six talented sisters, Elyse d’Abreau was destined for stardom—until a boating accident took everything from her. Now, the most beautiful singer in Tobago can’t sing. She can’t even speak.

Seeking quiet solitude, Elyse accepts a friend’s invitation to Atargatis Cove. Named for the mythical first mermaid, the Oregon seaside town is everything Elyse’s home in the Caribbean isn’t: An ocean too cold for swimming, parties too tame for singing, and people too polite to pry—except for one.

Christian Kane is a notorious playboy—insolent, arrogant, and completely charming. He’s also the only person in Atargatis Cove who doesn’t treat Elyse like a glass statue. He challenges her to express herself, and he admires the way she treats his younger brother Sebastian, who believes Elyse is the legendary mermaid come to life. 

When Christian needs a first mate for the Cove’s high-stakes Pirate Regatta, Elyse reluctantly stows her fear of the sea and climbs aboard. The ocean isn’t the only thing making waves, though—swept up in Christian’s seductive tide and entranced by the Cove’s charms, Elyse begins to wonder if a life of solitude isn’t what she needs. But changing course again means facing her past. It means finding her inner voice. And scariest of all, it means opening her heart to a boy who’s best known for breaking them . . .

The Giveaway:

Win (1) of (2) Sarah Ockler's prize packs that include a hardcover copy of The Summer of Chasing Mermaids and paperback copies of #Scandal, The Book of Broken Hearts and Bittersweet (US Only)

Giveaway starts on MAY 27th and finishes on JUNE 8th

Swoon Thursday (#122): Crash by Eve Silver

Swoon Thursday is a hot meme hosted by the fabulous ladies at YA Bound!

- From the book you’re currently reading, or one you just finished, tell us what made you SWOON. What got your heart pounding, your skin tingling, and your stomach fluttering

- Try to make the swoon excerpt 140 characters (or less), if you are going to tweet about it. Use the hashtag #YABOUND when tweeting

This week, my swoon is Crash by Eve Silver!

"It'll be okay," I say. If I'm honest, that's as much a reassurance for myself as it is for him. When he still makes no move, I cup his cheeks and lift my lips to his, intending only a brief touch, a reaffirmation of trust.

But Jackson has something else in mind. His arms come around me like steel bands, drawing me tight against him as he lowers his mouth to mine, his lips firm and soft. His fingers tangle in my hair. He deepens the kiss, his lips parting and slanting on mine, tongues touching, heat coiling through me. He tastes like chocolate and mint.

- eARC, 50% 

This series is so amazing! The romance is one of my favorite aspects. Slow-burn and no love triangle!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Blog Tour Interview with Megan Shepherd, Author of The Cage (and GIVEAWAY!)

Welcome to the blog tour for The Cage by Megan Shepherd! Check out the interesting interview I have with Megan, and enter to win a prize!

Meet Megan!

Alyssa: Hi, Megan! Thank you so much for joining me today on my blog! And congratulations on yet another release! How does it feel to be published four times now? :)

Megan: Hey, Alyssa! I’m thrilled to have my fourth book on shelves, especially the start of a brand-new series!

Alyssa: Describe some differences in THE CAGE, versus writing THE MADMAN'S DAUGHTER (the first novels in a series)

Megan: When I wrote THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER, I was unpublished, unagented, and didn’t know very much about the business end of writing. Now that I know more about the market, about readers’ tastes, and publishers’ expectations, I sometimes find it hard to just sit back and write. While I was writing THE CAGE, I really had to find ways to clear all those worries from my head and just focus on the story.

Alyssa: Were there any novels that inspired or influenced THE CAGE?

Megan: When I started writing THE CAGE, I kept thinking back to an old episode of ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK? that I remembered from my childhood. Did you ever watch that show? So I was in part inspired by that, and in part by the fast pace and themes of some great current YA sci-fi books like ACROSS THE UNIVERSE and SHATTER ME.

Alyssa: Did you come up with the comparison in the synopsis (“THE MAZE RUNNER meets Scott Westerfeld”)? What do you think of this comparison?

Megan: I didn’t! My publisher wrote that description. I feel really honored to be compared to those awesome books & authors.

Alyssa: Do you prefer writing historical fiction, or science fiction?

Megan: It really depends. I like writing the historical fiction voice best, and I find it a relief to write about a time period before the internet/cell phones/computers, but I also love the big philosophical questions you also often find in science fiction.

Alyssa: That’s it from me! Thank you for your time, and best of luck with the books (and movie)!

Megan: Thanks so much, Alyssa! Awesome questions, and a pleasure talking with you!

About the Author:

Megan Shepherd grew up in the mountains of Western North Carolina, where her family has owned and operated an independent bookstore for over 35 years. Shepherd attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she majored in international studies and went on to live and work in Costa Rica, Senegal, Scotland, Spain, and many other countries. Now, Shepherd has returned to Western North Carolina and is a full-time writer of young adult novels.

She is represented by Josh Adams of Adams Literary.

Author Photo by Kristi Hedberg Photography

About the Book:

The Cage by Megan Shepherd
Book One of The Cage series
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: May 26, 2015

Official Summary:

The Maze Runner meets Scott Westerfeld in this gripping new series about teens held captive in a human zoo by an otherworldly race. From Megan Shepherd, the acclaimed author of The Madman's Daughter trilogy.

When Cora Mason wakes in a desert, she doesn't know where she is or who put her there. As she explores, she finds an impossible mix of environments—tundra next to desert, farm next to jungle, and a strangely empty town cobbled together from different cultures—all watched over by eerie black windows. And she isn't alone.

Four other teenagers have also been taken: a beautiful model, a tattooed smuggler, a secretive genius, and an army brat who seems to know too much about Cora's past. None of them have a clue as to what happened, and all of them have secrets. As the unlikely group struggles for leadership, they slowly start to trust each other. But when their mysterious jailer—a handsome young guard called Cassian—appears, they realize that their captivity is more terrifying than they could ever imagine: Their captors aren't from Earth. And they have taken the five teenagers for an otherworldly zoo—where the exhibits are humans.

As a forbidden attraction develops between Cora and Cassian, she realizes that her best chance of escape might be in the arms of her own jailer—though that would mean leaving the others behind. Can Cora manage to save herself and her companions? And if so . . . what world lies beyond the walls of their cage? 

The Giveaway:

1 winner will receive a signed ARC of THE CAGE with a CAGE bookmark and sticker sheet. US Only.

Follow the Tour!

Week One:
5/18/2015- No BS Book Reviews- Interview
5/19/2015- Me, My Shelf and I- Review
5/20/2015- Bewitched Bookworms- Guest Post
5/21/2015- Seeing Double In Neverland- Review
5/22/2015- Novel Novice- Interview

Week Two:
5/25/2015- Fiktshun- Guest Post
5/26/2015- Bookish- Review
5/27/2015- The Eater of Books!- Interview
5/28/2015- Such a Novel Idea- Review
5/29/2015- Two Chicks on Books- Guest Post

Waiting on Wednesday (#126): Firewalker by Josephine Angelini

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week, I'm featuring:

Firewalker by Josephine Angelini
Book One of The Worldwalker Trilogy
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publication Date: September 1, 2015

Summary (from Goodreads):

Worlds divide, magic slays, and love lies in the second book of Josephine Angelini’s The Worldwalker Trilogy.

"You think I’m a monster, but my choices, as ruthless as they seem, are justified."

Lily is back in her own universe, and she's ready to start a new life with Rowan by her side. True, she almost died in the Pyre that fueled their escape from New Salem, and must hide her magic for the safety of everyone she cares about, but compared to fighting the Woven, the monstrous creatures inhabiting the alternate Salem, life is looking pretty good.

Unfortunately, Lillian, ruthless ruler of the 13 Cities, is not willing to let Lily go that easily. If she can’t persuade Lily to return to her world, she will force her to come back by doing away with the ones she loves.

Picking up right where Trial By Fire left off, Firewalker is another sexy, fast-paced, heartbreaking thrill ride from internationally bestselling author Josephine Angelini!

I really liked Trial by Fire! I think I liked the original style of covers better but this new design is great too :)

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Review: Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone

Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Publication Date: June 16, 2015
Rating: 4 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads):

If you could read my mind, you wouldn't be smiling.

Samantha McAllister looks just like the rest of the popular girls in her junior class. But hidden beneath the straightened hair and expertly applied makeup is a secret that her friends would never understand: Sam has Purely-Obsessional OCD and is consumed by a stream of dark thoughts and worries that she can't turn off. 

Second-guessing every move, thought, and word makes daily life a struggle, and it doesn't help that her lifelong friends will turn toxic at the first sign of a wrong outfit, wrong lunch, or wrong crush. Yet Sam knows she'd be truly crazy to leave the protection of the most popular girls in school. So when Sam meets Caroline, she has to keep her new friend with a refreshing sense of humor and no style a secret, right up there with Sam's weekly visits to her psychiatrist.

Caroline introduces Sam to Poet's Corner, a hidden room and a tight-knit group of misfits who have been ignored by the school at large. Sam is drawn to them immediately, especially a guitar-playing guy with a talent for verse, and starts to discover a whole new side of herself. Slowly, she begins to feel more "normal" than she ever has as part of the popular crowd . . . until she finds a new reason to question her sanity and all she holds dear.

What I Liked:

I'm actually surprised by how much I liked this one. I didn't really know what to expect. I've never read any of this author's books, and I actually never read the synopsis of this book before reading it. I got it from the publisher and decided to read it on a whim, because a bookseller I follow read it insanely early and could not stop raving about it! So I figured the awesome package from Disney-Hyperion and BHM was a sign - read this book!

Sam was diagnosed with OCD - specifically, Pure-Obsessive OCD. She takes medication to help her focus her thoughts and to sleep, she sees a psychiatrist once a week, she's trying to be normal, day by day. None of her friends know about her condition, and Sam has always struggled with this. One day, she meets a really nice girl named Caroline, who introduces her to the Poets Corner, a secret meeting of a group of student who write and share poetry and songs. Sam joins them and begins to channel her tornado thoughts into her poetry, swimming, and a cute boy in the Poets Corner. She's doing better than she has been in years... until a realization threatens to bring everything crashing down.

This is a tough-issue contemporary novel, one that theoretically, I should never have picked up. I really do NOT like tough-issue contemporary novels. YA contemporary in general, I'm not a fan. But tough-issue contemporary novels? I tend to run in the other direction. Sprint, really. But this book was different. It wasn't entirely woe-is-me, angst, whining and complaining. Not saying every tough-issue contemporary novel is like that, or that that is my only probably with tough-issue contemporary novels. But often, the protagonist of a tough-issue contemporary novel is very selfish and annoying in her complaining and angst, and I hate it. 

Sam is different. I couldn't entirely relate to her (we all say we have "OCD" but that is not the case at all), but I could empathize. I could clearly see what was going through Sam's head, how she was thinking, what she was thinking, how it was affecting her mentally, physically, emotionally. I really liked Sam, from start to finish. I have a poor history with protagonists with mental illnesses/conditions (probably because I avoid books with these conditions/illnesses like the plague - they make me entirely too heartbroken or sad).

I love the progression of Sam's character. This is the most important part of the book, and Stone really nails the characterization as well as the progression of Sam's condition and how she is dealing with OCD. Sam goes from being a girl who is scared of people knowing about her condition, to a girl who learns to own it and be who she is, surrounding herself with people who know about her condition and support her.

I think Stone really did her research and represented OCD extremely well. I don't have OCD nor do I know much specifically about the illness, but it's obvious that Stone has done her research. It's obvious that Stone knows what she is talking about. There is minutiae that is so incredibly important to this story, small details that make it all the more genuine and authentic.

There is romance in this book! I was a bit surprised by how important the romance ended up being. It doesn't really take root until about midway through the book, but that was perfect, in my opinion! I like how Sam and AJ already had history (not romantic history), and Sam had to remember how she knew him. I like how they had to work to become friends, and then they became more than friends. Their relationship is beautiful and simple, yet intricate and complex. I loved watching them fall for each other! AJ is a great guy, and I couldn't see anyone else for Sam.

There are other relationships in this book that are explored - friendships, I mean. Sam makes a new friend, Caroline. Caroline pushes Sam to find the Poets Corner, and pretty soon, Sam has new friends that accept her with little question. Sam's current friend group are the popular girls, the ones that everyone looks toward. They're nice, but some of them are Mean-Girls-esque. It's interesting to see Sam balance both groups of friends.

The twist coming up towards the climax is INTENSE. Seriously, I had chills. Well done, Stone. I had no idea! I had some idea that something wasn't right - but I had no idea that it would be THAT. None, whatsoever. I still have chills! It was really eye-opening. Seriously well-written climax, and ending. I love the ending of this book! It's very inspiring and uplifting. For a non-contemporary fan to say such great things about this book - it must be good!

What I Did Not Like:

I can't really think of anything at the moment - which is a surprise! There is usually something in a contemporary novel that bothers me (in EVERY novel, but especially contemporary). No book is perfect, but I liked this one a lot!

Would I Recommend It:

I would totally recommend this novel! I've been reading a lot of contemporary in the last few days, and I definitely can't say I'd recommend all of them... I'd recommend P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han because of its strong familial themes and great relationships (romance and otherwise), and I'd recommend this one for its subject matter (on mental illnesses). Definitely two very different contemporary novels, but both very worthy of your time!


4 stars. I am impressed! It takes a lot to impress me in general, but definitely in terms of contemporary! I'll definitely be reading more of Stone's books in the future - and I want to read her debut series now!

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