Book Review – Valiant

Title: Valiant
Author: Merrie Destefano
Published: December 2018
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction

Rating: 1 Star
Cover: Like It

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Synopsis:

The Valiant was supposed to save us. Instead, it triggered the end of the world. Earth is in shambles. Everyone, even the poorest among us, invested in the Valiant’s space mining mission in the hope we’d be saved from ourselves. But the second the ship leaves earth’s atmosphere, our fate is sealed. The alien invasion begins. They pour into cities around the world through time portals, possessing humans, forcing us to kill one another. And for whatever reason, my brother is their number one target. Now the fate of the world lies in the hands of me, a seventeen-year-old girl, but with the help of my best friend, Justin–who’s suddenly starting to feel like more–maybe if we save my brother, we can save us all…

 

“We don’t talk about things that break our hearts.
But it doesn’t mean our hearts aren’t broken” (chapter 13)

Thank you Entangled Teen and Merry Destefano for a free eARC of this book in return for an honest review.

I had pretty high hopes for this book. I love seeing more sci-fi books in the YA genre, and the cover is exciting. However, I had issues from the first page, starting with the very short and repetitive sentences. There was nothing about the writing that was engaging.

In the beginning of Valiant, Sara watches the launch of the much anticipated Valiant ship to usher in the future everyone needs. After the celebrations of the coming future, the world is turned upside down with an alien invasion from the very planet the Valiant is headed to. Sara watches everyone in her life die, only to then be confronted by one of the aliens, who tells Sara that she needs to go back in time to save her brother, who will save the world.

I wish Sara didn’t travel through time. Maybe the alien could’ve come earlier to tell her what she needs to know about this horrible day–I’m thinking more along the lines of The Terminator. But there was a lot of inconsistencies and confusion and I’m not really sure why she has to KEEP mentioning that she has done this fifteen times and this timeline is different. It would be better and less repetitive if this wasn’t part of the plot at all–it doesn’t add anything. The Valiant’s launch is constantly regarded as the thing to end the world, but the plot isn’t very clear that it’s because of the mining trip, so I spent most of the book confused what they had to do with each other.

The concept could’ve been great, but it needs a lot of work to get there, tying up all the inconsistencies and focusing more on character development. Sara and Justin’s relationship is so flat, as well as the character development between the crew, that I didn’t feel engaged or really any emotion for them. I wanted so much more than I was given.

Review – Fighting Fate (Joining of Souls #2)

Shaila Patel’s second installation of the Joining of Souls series comes out in FIVE DAYS! Today I’ve got an early review for you to help you get excited. Thank you, Shaila Patel, for my eARC. If you missed my review for the first book, check it out here: Soulmated. I also have an interview with the author after the first book’s release HERE, as well as an excerpt of Fighting Fate HERE!

Title: Fighting Fate (Joining of Souls #2)
Author: Shaila Patel
Published: April 2018
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Fantasy
Goodreads 

Rating: 4 stars
Cover: It’s Okay

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Synopsis:

Empath Liam Whelan is determined to protect Laxshmi “Lucky” Kapadia, the girl he loves, at all costs–even if it means breaking her heart to keep her alive. Stopping the joining cold means Liam’s life is in danger from the Soul Seekers and the ruthless Minister Gagliardi who now has designs on Lucky. Liam has no choice but to find the strength to fight his desires, fight the joining, and fight fate.

After the unthinkable happened, Lucky’s “hallucinations” have been working double-time. Heartbroken and plagued by doubts, she meets a man who gives her a mind-blowing explanation for her predicament. Her apparent savior provides her with an escape from her hell: run away with him or return to her drab existence and watch Liam move on with her heart in his hands. All Lucky ever craved was to be in control of her own fate, but when her only choices fight against her heart, can she find the strength to battle for what she wants?

“Who was the real Lucky?” (chapter 17)

Shaila Patel did it again! The characters were captivating, the connections between Liam and Lucky were descriptive, and my heart was beating out of my chest with ANOTHER cliffhanger! Why do you do this to me, Shaila?

One thing I particularly loved about this second book is the more in depth looks into Liam and Lucky’s individual cultures, as well as that of the empaths. The descriptions of the landscape of Ireland and the foods of Lucky’s Indian heritage created a desire to know more, to understand more. I even went and made myself some penda after reading the mouth-watering descriptions! There is also a bunch more background on the empath history, which sometimes slowed the plot down quite a bit, but it all ties up very nicely by the end of the book.

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As Lucky learns more about what it means to be an empath, her powers and connection with Liam, and the dangers racing toward her, it honestly gave me some Twilight vibes. Let me preface this by saying I do NOT like the Twilight books, I DO like the Joining of Souls books. For starters, I think Patel writes these stories better than Meyers did. But the phenomenon of Lucky turning into this supernatural being and Liam teaching her about this world and her powers made me feel a ton of similarities between the stories. Thankfully, while Liam and Lucky can get pretty obsessive about each other, neither are whiney and selfish like Bella and Edward. In fact, one thing I admire a ton about their love for each other is how much they seek to put the other person before themselves, trying to give them what’s best for them. But, like typical teenagers, that’s not always actually the best thing for them.

There is still the tension of Lucky’s mom’s desires and Lucky being straddled between Indian culture, American culture, and empath culture, which is one of the most interesting conflicts in these books in my opinion. How does Lucky stand up to her mom without dishonoring her? How can she be one person split between so many people and worlds?

Patel does a fantastic job of jumping in right where Soulmated ended, while also slowly reminding you of things from the first book without being completely obnoxious. Yes, that’s a thing. I remember hating it way back when I was a kid reading the Nancy Drew books as a kid. YES I KNOW WHO NANCY IS BY THIS POINT, OKAY? The last fourth of the book had my heart racing. I was reading as fast as I can, devouring the drama. Unfortunately, as I mentioned earlier, Shaila LOVES her cliffhangers, so now I have to wait even MORE impatiently for the next book!

Blog Tour/Review – Breaking the Ice

Title: Breaking the Ice (Juniper Falls #2)
Author: Julie Cross
Published: December 2017
Goodreads

Rating: 4 stars
Cover: Like it

Breaking the Ice Cover

Synopsis:

The second book in the Juniper Falls series from NY Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Julie Cross, perfect for fans of Miranda Kenneally and Abbi Glines.

Haley Stevenson seems like she’s got it all together: cheer captain, “Princess” of Juniper Falls, and voted Most Likely to Get Things Done. But below the surface, she’s struggling with a less-than-stellar GPA and still reeling from the loss of her first love. Repeating her Civics class during summer school is her chance to Get Things Done, not angst over boys. In fact, she’s sworn them off completely until college.

Fletcher Scott is happy to keep a low profile around Juniper Falls. He’s always been the invisible guy, warming the bench on the hockey team and moonlighting at a job that would make his grandma blush. Suddenly, though, he’s finding he wants more: more time on the ice, and more time with his infuriatingly perfect summer-school study partner.

But leave it to a girl who requires perfection to shake up a boy who’s ready to break all the rules.

“She leans into my personal space, her eyelids fluttering, all innocent looking. “Are you scared of me, Fletch”” (chapter 13)?

Thank you Entangled Teen, Chapter by Chapter, and Julie Cross for a free ecopy in exchange for an honest review. You can check out the rest of the tour by clicking the banner below. I also reviewed the first book in the Juniper Falls world HERE.

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Follow the rest of the tour HERE.

While it was fun to come back to the secret filled, hockey obsessed small town of Juniper Falls, I almost feel like I enjoyed this installment more than the last.

Fletcher and Haley both have to take Civics in summer school for different reasons: Fletcher to get ahead and get out of this gossip-filled town, Haley to make a better grade since hers have been suffering. There personalities are even wildly different. Fletcher keeps low under the radar, he is focused and driven, aiming to stay invisible except on the ice. Haley is the queen bee of the school, head cheerleader, easily distracted, but equally driven through her obsessive lists. Who knew they would need each other to get through this class?

The stakes in Breaking the Ice feel high, and are so interesting. The struggle to understand their relationship, their feelings, and the person underneath their labels is super believable and I was completely hooked. As Fletcher and Haley get to know each other, they find so much depth beyond their labels, which was fascinating to discover along with them. The tension between the two of them as they try to work as friends, even friends with benefits, but are so obviously crazy about each other, was just delightful.

Cross sends the reader through so many twists and turns throughout this book, it is almost impossible to know what will happen next. The only thing I knew for sure was that I was rooting for the two the whole time, through each of the twists. Cross’s characters have such depth and are incredibly enjoyable, especially the banter between them. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next. Anyone else begging for a Jamie story?

About the Author

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Julie Cross is a NYT and USA Today bestselling author of New Adult and Young Adult fiction, including the Tempest series, a young adult science fiction trilogy which includes Tempest, Vortex, Timestorm (St. Martin’s Press). She’s also the author of Letters to Nowhere series, Whatever Life Throws at You, Third Degree, Halfway Perfect, Chasing Truth, Off the Ice and many more to come! Julie Cross was a longtime resident of central Illinois but has recently moved her entire family across the country to continue her academic studies at Stanford University.

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Book Review – Turtles All the Way Down

Title: Turtles All the Way Down
Author: John Green
Published: October 2017
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Goodreads

Rating: 5 stars
Cover: Like it

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Synopsis:

Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russle Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

In his long-awaited return, John Green, the acclaimed, award-winning author of Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars, shares Aza’s story with shattering, unflinching clarity in this brilliant novel of love, resilience, and the power of lifelong friendship.

“Anybody can look at you. It’s quite rare to find someone who sees the same world you see” (p. 9).

John Green has finally released another book, and one about a girl navigating life with anxiety and OCD no less. In the promotion for his new book, Green revealed that this story is a special one as he deals with these things as well. No wonder it took a while for him to finish—but the wait was well rewarded!

Green has a style of writing in the YA genre that is uniquely his own. His characters deal with tough issues in a very teenager way, but they are also very smart, which is something that isn’t done much in YA. Not that other authors are writing stupid characters, but Green allows his characters to wrestle with things by asking deep and intellectual questions—ones that I don’t see in other books. As Aza struggles with her OCD, she is struggling to understand who she is and if she can possibly be a person apart from the circumstances in her life. She’s constantly researching facts far beyond high school curriculum because she MUST know the answers. And yet, she is still a short sighted, self-centered teenager like the best of them. Somehow Green is able to create characters that are so intellectual without taking away from the fact that they are teenagers with a lot of life and learning ahead of them. Turtles All the Way Down is just another phenomenal example of this.

Aza explains her anxiety in the best way that she can, which is often jumbled and confusing, but captures the feeling so well. I found myself using some of her descriptions to explain to my boyfriend how it feels when I get anxious about something. Another theme throughout this book that I was actually pleasantly surprised to find was that of economical differences. Davis is obviously the son of a billionaire, but Aza and her best friend Daisy have several conversations about financial privilege and what “poor” looks like to them. I personally grew up in a lower economical status than many of my friends in high school, yet I never felt like we had to go without because of money. This theme throughout the book really resonated with me and I feel like Green raised a lot of interesting points by doing this.

Turtles All the Way Down is a book that our society needs. We need books that are open and honest about mental health, that helps people who don’t know understand, and that shows those who do that they are not alone. However, I love that, while Aza’s struggles were a huge part of the plot, it wasn’t the only thing going on in her life. She was also learning, as most teenagers do, about love, loss, how to be a good friend, and that the world is so much bigger than ourselves. She learns so much more in her own way, but I want you to learn along with her—pick up this book as soon as you can!

Book Review – No Vain Loss

Title: No Vain Loss (No Ordinary Star #3)
Author: M.C. Frank
Published: November 2017
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Dystopia

Rating: 2 stars
Cover: Like it

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Synopsis:

A soldier is summoned to the North Pole, days before the year changes, told to fix the great Clock for a celebration. He has no idea what to do.
A girl, hunted for the crime of being born, almost dies out on the ice. She is rescued by the last polar bear left alive.
A library waits for them both, a library built over a span of a hundred years, forgotten in the basement of an ice shack.
The world hasn’t known hunger or sickness in hundreds of years. It has also forgotten love and beauty.
This is the One World.
The year is 2524.

Inspired by the short stories of Ray Bradbury, this futuristic young adult novel in three parts is set in a world where Christmas—among other things—is obsolete and a Clock is what keeps the fragile balance of peace.

Written in three parts, this is the breathtaking story of how two unlikely people change the world, and each other, one book at a time.

In No Vain Loss, the world is on the brink of the greatest war humanity has ever known. Lives will be lost. New truths will be revealed.

*I received a free eARC of this book from the author in return for an honest review. Check out my reviews for the first two books in the series HERE and HERE.*

 The long awaited finale of the No Ordinary Star series is finally arriving November 25th. I’ve loved following along the journey of Felix and Astra in their dystopian world. This final book answers a lot of questions, while bringing me back to this creative world Frank has dreamt up and the characters I’ve grown to care about. The first two books have built up to this big struggle of powers in the final book, and Frank did a good job of keeping the foreshadowed action exciting.

However, I had quite a few problems with this installment. While the ideas are good and the twists have been built up, the writing itself seems incredibly rushed and spacey in comparison to the other books. I found myself getting frustrated because it felt like Frank was talking in circles, frequently repeating herself several times before moving on to the next thing—and I’m not even talking about the different perspectives. Often times I’d finish a page and wonder why it took so long to say one thing. Everything felt scattered and it was exceedingly hard to stick with it. I even feel like the synopsis shows signs of this, and it doesn’t actually tell you anything about the story.

In the first two books, getting Felix’s perspective AND Astra’s perspective added to the plot immensely, especially because they both came from different backgrounds of knowledge. In the third book, the different perspectives seem pointless because they don’t add anything different to the story. There were also these moments where Felix and Astra would have entire conversations with their eyes: fully fleshed out thoughts being conveyed without a sound. I definitely feel like you can tell someone something with your eyes, but these conversations felt like such a stretch, I had a hard time believing it was anywhere near possible. The suspension of disbelief was just not there.

I was so excited about this final installment and, while I felt like my questions were answered and some of the plot twists were long awaited, I just felt like it missed the mark by a mile. I wanted to love it, but I just ended up confused by the circular writing.

Book Review – The Big F

Title: The Big F
Author: Maggie Ann Martin
Published: August 2017
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult

Rating: 3 stars
Cover: It’s Okay

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Synopsis:

Danielle effed up. Big time.

Danielle’s plans for the future were pretty easy to figure out… until she failed senior English and her single college application was denied. Suddenly she’s in hot water with very few options, because honestly who applies to a safety school when their mom is a semi-famous “college psychic”?!

Determined to get her life back on track, Danielle enrolls in her hometown community college with a plan: pass her English class and get back into Ohio State and her mother’s good graces. Romance isn’t on her radar… until she reconnects with her childhood crush and golden-boy-next-door, Luke.

Between family drama, first love and finding her own way, Danielle can’t help but feel a little overwhelmed. Thankfully she has her friendship with the snarky and frustratingly attractive Porter, her coworker at the campus bookstore, to push her to experience new things and help keep her afloat.

One thing’s for sure: This time, failure’s not an option.

“Sometimes your heart makes a shit show out of what you think you want” (Chapter 19)

I am extremely grateful to Xpresso Book ToursMaggie Ann Martin, and Swoon Reads for a free advanced reader’s copy in return for an honest review. Head over here to follow the rest of the tour.

The Big F starts off with Danielle and her parent’s plan for her life being completely derailed because of an F she got in a class she “had no business taking.” Her dream college aspirations went clear out the window and she was left with the pieces of her life, trying to figure out how to put them together again. Her mom, being a “college psychic,” did not take this failure well, causing she and Danielle to spend most of the book trying to avoid the wall of tension that gets taller every day. Much of the plot takes a look at how one person’s life can be affected by a single failure–not even just a failure. The themes look at how one little change in someone’s plan can provide a whole world of opportunities unavailable before. Danielle decides to take an english class at her local community college in order to be readmitted into her dream 4-year school. Because of this simple detour in her life plan, she was able to be reconnected with her old crush, Luke, she got a job at the campus bookstore and became close friends with her coworker and Luke’s roommate, Porter, and she learned more about who she is and what she is passionate about.

Danielle and Luke’s relationship is quick and cute. She already knows everything about him and is friends with his family. It’s easy. There are things that frustrate her like the fact that his football takes up so much time–a conflict that is only briefly mentioned and never resolved. I’m not sure how I feel about that. It doesn’t feel real. But the little times they do get to spend together are sweet and easy.

I loved how much Danielle grows. She struggles a lot with learning what she actually wants and how she’s going to go after them. She struggles with her relationship with her mom and the weird thing that happened with her and Porter. She’s a college freshman–she makes mistakes and sometimes doesn’t think about consequences. But I really appreciate how much she grows. One little mistake changed her whole life for the better.

Some things that bothered me: I felt like the only characters that got flushed out well were Danielle and Porter, especially when the plot focused on their friendship. Luke is so so flat. He brings up a little internal conflict later in the story, but really, I still feel like I know nothing about him. All the characters in Danielle’s life seem to come in just to teach her something–which is wonderful–but adds no depth to the characters. I also was annoyed that the book starts off talking about how Danielle’s mom is a psychic who is able to determine what schools are a good fit for prospective college students. But after the first mention, her psychic abilities are nonexistent. It seems more like she is just a good college advisor. That’s it. Her being psychic was absolutely useless.

The Big F is a cute, fluffy contemporary about a girl discovering who she can be after one F messes up her whole future. I empathized with both Danielle and Porter quite a bit and was rooting for them through the end. I just wish I felt that way about everyone else.

Purchase Links

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Kobo

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Maggie Ann Martin hails from Des Moines, Iowa but moonlights as a New Yorker. She has a shiny new BA in English and Journalism from the University of Iowa, the most welcoming literary community in the world. When she is not writing, you can find her binge watching TV shows or passionately fangirling over fictional characters on the Internet. The Big F is her debut novel.

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Book Review – Counting Wolves

Title: Counting Wolves
Author: Michael F. Stewart
Published: August 2017
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult

Rating: 4 stars
Cover: Like it

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Synopsis:

The Breakfast Club meets Grimm’s Fairy Tales in the lair of an adolescent psych ward.

Milly’s evil stepmother commits her to a pediatric psych ward. That’s just what the wolf wants. With bunk mates like Red, who’s spiraling out of control; Pig, a fire-bug who claims Milly as her own—but just wants extra dessert—Vanet, a manic teen masquerading as a fairy godmother with wish-granting powers as likely to kill as to help; and the mysterious Wolfgang, rumored to roam for blood at night; it doesn’t take long for Milly to realize that only her dead mother’s book of tales can save her.

But Milly’s spells of protection weaken as her wolf stalks the hospital corridors. The ward’s a Dark Wood, and she’s not alone. As her power crumbles, she must let go of her magic and discover new weapons if she is to transform from hunted to hunter.

“It reminds me that these people may all be crazy, but they’re still people. With dreams and fears. (Chapter 11)

I am extremely grateful to Xpresso Book ToursMichael F. Stewart, and The Publishing House for a free advanced reader’s copy in return for an honest review. Head over here to follow the rest of the tour.

Milly doesn’t think she needs help. She’s counting to save the world from the big bad wolf by maintaining her magic spell. Honestly, her evil stepmother just doesn’t want anything to do with her, which is why she’s locked her up in this psych ward, right?

When admitted into the ward, Milly meets a strange cast of characters that resemble those from the fairytales her mother used to read her before she died. All of them are stuck in this place until the doctors figure out how to fix them. All of the patients are quirky and angsty—I would definitely say the Breakfast Club vibes are there. But as Milly spends more time with them, she begins to care for each of them and seek ways to give them confidence that she doesn’t have. Though her meddling isn’t always helpful, it’s as if these desires to help her new friends are loosening the chains to her counting spell.

All of the characters have struggles and traumatizing events that just pull at your heartstrings until you can’t bare it anymore. Each of their quirks and mental illnesses seem to stem out of these experiences and chain them to those memories. If that doesn’t make your empathy for each character go through the roof, I’m not sure what will.

The more time Milly spends at the ward, the more the wolf seems to take shape and she sees what she’s really running from, what she’s trying to save the world from. Will she be able to stand face to face and banish him, or will she have to cast her spell until it kills her?

Michael F. Stewart writes a quirky, dark, engaging story about how fear manifests itself. This book was original, heartbreaking, and funny—I can’t wait until you get into the heads of this ragtag group of teens and watch as your heart melts for them. Stewart’s characters have layers of depth and their struggles end up bringing each other closer in support. If you pick up this book, you won’t want to put it down.

Purchase Links

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Kobo

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Michael F. Stewart is winner of both the 2015 Claymore Award and the 2014 inaugural Creation of Stories Award for best YA novel at the Toronto International Book Fair.

He likes to combine storytelling with technology and pioneered interactive storytelling with Scholastic Canada, Australia, and New Zealand’s, anti-cyberbullying program Bully For You. In addition to his award winning Assured Destruction series, he has authored four graphic novels with Oxford University Press Canada’s Boldprint series. Publications of nonfiction titles on Corruption and Children’s Rights are published by Scholastic and early readers are out with Pearson Education.

For adults, Michael has written THE SAND DRAGON a horror about a revenant prehistoric vampire set in the tar sands, HURAKAN a Mayan themed thriller which pits the Maya against the MS-13 with a New York family stuck in the middle, 24 BONES an urban fantasy which draws from Egyptian myth, and THE TERMINALS–a covert government unit which solves crimes in this realm by investigating them in the next.

Herder of four daughters, Michael lives to write in Ottawa where he was the Ottawa Public Library’s first Writer in Residence. To learn more about Michael and his next projects visit his website at http://www.michaelfstewart.com or connect via Twitter @MichaelFStewart.

Michael is represented by Talcott Notch.

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