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.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter

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Tour-wide giveaway (INTL)

25x ebook copies of Counting Wolves

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Book Review – The Library of Fates

Title: Library of Fates
Author: Aditi Khorana
Published: July 2017
Genre: YA Fantasy
Goodreads

Rating: 4 Stars
Cover: Like It

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Synopsis:

A romantic coming-of-age fantasy tale steeped in Indian folklore, perfect for fans of The Star-Touched Queen and The Wrath and the Dawn.

No one is entirely certain what brings the Emperor Sikander to Shalingar. Until now, the idyllic kingdom has been immune to his many violent conquests. To keep the visit friendly, Princess Amrita has offered herself as his bride, sacrificing everything—family, her childhood love, and her freedom—to save her people. But her offer isn’t enough.

The unthinkable happens, and Amrita finds herself a fugitive, utterly alone but for an oracle named Thala, who was kept by Sikander as a slave and managed to escape amid the chaos of a palace under siege. With nothing and no one else to turn to, Amrita and Thala are forced to rely on each other. But while Amrita feels responsible for her kingdom and sets out to warn her people, the newly free Thala has no such ties. She encourages Amrita to go on a quest to find the fabled Library of All Things, where it is possible for each of them to reverse their fates. To go back to before Sikander took everything from them.

Stripped of all that she loves, caught between her rosy past and an unknown future, will Amrita be able to restore what was lost, or does another life—and another love—await?

“All I had now were stories, words, and hope” (p. 185)

Thank you Penguin Random House for an eARC of The Library of Fates.

This story is unlike one I’ve ever read before and I absolutely love that fact. Khorana writes an #ownvoice story about Indian folklore that completely dunks you into this awesomely beautiful culture and storytelling. The descriptions are colorful and vivid, evoking a subconscious sense of wanderlust, presenting a world that you will want to reach out to touch, taste, feel, and can’t get enough. Who wouldn’t want to explore a place like this: “Blue and silver minarets rose above the walled city of Shalingar’s capital—Ananta. A layer of marine fog settled over Chanakya Lake, revealing miniature houseboats wearing elaborate gardens on their roofs like soft, mossy hats. They sailed placidly across the flat, misty surface of the basin” (p. 7)?

Amrita is the daughter of an emperor who has kept her primarily contained within the palace walls her whole life. Honestly, the palace has so much for her, it’s not surprising that she doesn’t have huge dreams to leave. She has a great relationship with her father, a best friend from childhood who recently revealed his feelings for her, and a handmaiden-type woman who is basically a mother figure. While she can be a bit of a brat when she doesn’t get what she wants (Can you blame her, though? Everything is generally given to her usually.), she respects her dad and his leadership of their lands.

But everything gets flipped upside down when her father’s old friend comes to visit. Sikander is a sexist, entitled jerk who wants to own and rule over everything. Soon into his visit, he reveals his plan to take over the kingdom and wreak destruction to make it happen. Amrita is encouraged to flee to warn her people. She then is sent on a great journey with her new friend Thala, learning about the world outside her doorstep, about how to take risks and fight for the people she loves, about sacrifice, and that the folklore stories she grew up hearing had more truth than she ever dreamed and she played a big role in them.

While the writing was absolutely gorgeous and the adventure exciting, there were some slower parts that I just wanted to rush through. Plus, there were actually a couple love triangles and I’m not really about that life. However, even with those things, I cannot recommend this book enough!

The Library of Fates is an enchanting story that heavily focuses on love and sacrifice. The amount of sacrifices made throughout this story make you want to be a better person and love your people harder. And while there is quite a lot lost on the journey, the fight is worth it and the end is inspirational. So I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes:

“And we cried because I think we both understood that there was no life without loss.”
(p. 301)

Looking at the Artists Behind the Book Covers

Who judges books by their covers? *tentatively raises own hand* If you think about it, from a marketing standpoint, it’s totally natural to be drawn to something that is presented better than another. Books that are released with the whole package are way more exciting than ones with disappointing covers. Plus, I grew up in a very artistic-centered family, so a cover that disappoints is significantly less likely to be picked up than one that’s well done. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the correlation between what a cover looks like and the probability that you’d pick it up to read or buy. Are covers important to you?

As I spend more time in the bookstagram community, working with authors and publishers, and writing reviews, I’ve noticed a growing trend of cover revels for upcoming titles. Cover reveals help cultivate more excitement over an upcoming book and the author’s work, but most of the time I’ve noticed that there is no recognition for or mention of the artist who created the cover. To me, that’s just ridiculous. Why create hype over a piece of art without crediting the artists who made it? We credit the author and the publisher, but often times the artist gets completely overlooked for their contribution, unless they’re a big name like Jim Kay. I wanted to take some time today to show you some beautiful covers and let you know who made them. I hope you enjoy! Let me know which are your favorites in the comments.


CLASSICS

catcher-in-the-ryeThe Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Artist: E. Michael Mitchell

TheGreatGatsby_1925jacketThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Artist: Francis Cugat

61aqO0sPF+L._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
Artist: J.R.R. Tolkein

LITERARY FICTION

51Ok9FmXxbLExes by Max Winter
Designer: Strick&Williams
Illustrator: Zohar Lazar

The_goldfinch_by_donna_tart.pngThe Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Designer: Keith Hayes
Artist: Carel Fabritius

22237161The Sellout by Paul Beatty
Designer: Rodrigo Corral
Illustrator: Matt Buck

Wolf_in_White_VanWolf in White Van by John Darnielle
Designer: Abby Kagan

FANTASY

039360909xNorse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
Artist: Sam Weber

SCI-FI/FANTASTY

Annihilation_by_jeff_vandermeerAnnihilation by Jeff Vandermeer
Designer: Abby Kagan

9781101873786The Vorrh by B. Catling
Designer: Jaclyn Whalen

PaperGirls_Vol01-1.pngPaper Girls by Brian Vaughan
Artist: Cliff Chiang & Matt Wilson

9780316261241_p0_v3_s1200x630 by Ben H. Winters
Designer: Oliver Munday

vermilion-cov300.jpgVermilion: The Adventures of Lou Merriwether, Psychopomp by Molly Tanzer
Designer: Osiel Gòmez
Artist: Dalton Rose

THRILLER/HORROR

51fLeSBiAuLGet in Trouble by Kelly Link
Designer: Caroline Cunningham

1501143107.1.zoomMisery by Stephen King
Designer: Will Staehle

Rant_by_Chuck_PalahniukRant: The Oral Biography of Buster Casey by Chuck Palahniuk
Designer: Michael Collica

29939268.jpgUniversal Harvester by John Darnielle
Designer: Abby Kagan

51xmzRflX5LWe Could Be Beautiful by Swan Huntley
Designer: Maria Carella

NON-FICTION

519sg-ItOaLThe Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson
Designer: Matt Dorfman
Art Director: Helen Yentus

NEW ADULT

AnimalThe Animal Under the Fur by E.J. Mellow
Designer: E.J. Mellow
Typography: Dan Covert

YA CONTEMPORARY

28504676Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston
Designer: Kristin Logsdon

18718848Mosquitoland by David Arnold
Artist: Eileen Savage

28588459Sill Life with Tornado by A.S. King
Designer: Kristin Logsdon

25372971Tell Me Something Real by Calla Devlin
Artist: Jill De Haan

9780525425892We Are Okay by Nina LaCour
Designer: Samira Iravani
Artist: Adams Carvalho

YA HISTORICAL FICTION

23719270Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman
Artist: Teagan White

YA MYSTERY

Wink_poppy_midnight_book_coverWink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke
Designer: Nancy R. Leo-Kelly

YA FANTASY

31369411The Graces by Laura Eve
Designer: Maria T. Middleton
Artist: Spencer Charles

9780399538537Tales of Peculiar by Random Riggs
Artist: Andrew Davidson


12180226Wonder Show by Hannah Barnaby
Designer: Sheila Smallwood
Artist: Evan B. Harris


Thanks to my brother, Dylan, for helping me with this special blog post. Check out his artwork HERE

Blog Tour/Review – Girl on the Verge

Title: Girl on the Verge
Author: Pintip Dunn
Published: June 2017
Genre: Young Adult, Thriller
Goodreads 

Rating: 4 stars
Cover: It’s okay

Synopsis:

From the author of The Darkest Lie comes a compelling, provocative story for fans of I Was Here and Vanishing Girls, about a high school senior straddling two worlds, unsure how she fits in either—and the journey of self-discovery that leads her to surprising truths.

In her small Kansas town, at her predominantly white school, Kanchana doesn’t look like anyone else. But at home, her Thai grandmother chides her for being too westernized. Only through the clothing Kan designs in secret can she find a way to fuse both cultures into something distinctly her own.

When her mother agrees to provide a home for a teenage girl named Shelly, Kan sees a chance to prove herself useful. Making Shelly feel comfortable is easy at first—her new friend is eager to please, embraces the family’s Thai traditions, and clearly looks up to Kan. Perhaps too much. Shelly seems to want everything Kanchana has, even the blond, blue-eyed boy she has a crush on. As Kan’s growing discomfort compels her to investigate Shelly’s past, she’s shocked to find how much it intersects with her own—and just how far Shelly will go to belong…

“Don’t let someone else determine how you feel about yourself.” (chapter 8)

I am extremely grateful to Xpresso Book Tours, Pintip Dunn, and Kensington Publishing Corp for a free advanced reader’s copy in return for an honest review. Head over here to follow the rest of the tour. 

Girl on the Verge is an own voices young adult thriller about discovering who you are and learning to value what makes you different. Kan is a Thai-American who struggles with what that means for her culture and identity. With one foot in both cultures, she feels she can’t fit in anywhere and that her differences cause too much tension for her to be treated as an equal. To top that off, she frequently has to deal with racism and microagressions from those around her, even her friends.

Through this internal tension, Kan still chooses to see the best in people. She lets slurs roll off her back because she wants to believe that they don’t realize what they said. She welcomes the girl her mom brings home to stay with open arms and attempts to make her feel comfortable and wanted. Kan is crazy loyal and kind, while still going through angsty teenage drama within her family. She’s honestly the friend that everyone needs in high school.

Dunn’s writing is immersive and engaging. The set-up of the story felt natural and not forced at all. I honestly forgot I was reading a thriller and I should expect strange things until I was knee deep in the evidence. Though, I do distinctly remember starting to feel uneasy about Shelly’s manipulative friendship almost a fourth of the way through the book. The pace of the book started to snowball from there, getting more and more intense. I couldn’t put it down—I read the whole thing in less than 24 hours. While the beginning of the book didn’t reveal things too quickly, somewhere in the second half it felt like little facts were being revealed in much too obvious a manner, which allowed me to guess the last major plot twist a while before it arrived. I wonder if we didn’t get the chapters from Shelly’s perspective if that would’ve kept me in the dark enough that the ending would be more of a surprise with a side of “how did I not notice that?”

Of course, there’s a swoon-worthy guy in this book. It’s charming how much he wants to be able to save Kan and keep her from harm, but ultimately, she needed to be strong enough to do it on her own. He is so genuine and adorable, how could you not adore him just as much as Kan does?

Girl on the Verge is intense, relevant, and enjoyable, creating characters that are easy to connect with and a plot that keeps you glued to the page. This is my first read by Dunn, but I will definitely be coming back for more!

Purchase Links

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Kobo / iBooks

 

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Pintip Dunn is a New York Times bestselling author of YA fiction. She graduated from Harvard University, magna cum laude, with an A.B. in English Literature and Language. She received her J.D. at Yale Law School, where she was an editor of the YALE LAW JOURNAL.

Pintip is represented by literary agent Beth Miller of Writers House. Her debut novel, FORGET TOMORROW, won the RWA RITA® for Best First Book. Her other novels include THE DARKEST LIE, REMEMBER YESTERDAY, and the novella BEFORE TOMORROW.

She lives with her husband and children in Maryland. You can learn more about Pintip and her books at http://www.pintipdunn.com

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter

 

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Tour-wide giveaway (INTL)

$25 Amazon gift card

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Book Review – Vinyl

Title: Vinyl (The Vinyl Trilogy #1)
Author: Sophia Elaine Hanson
Published: November 2015
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopia, Steampunk
Goodreads

Rating: 5 Stars
Cover: Like it

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Synopsis:

Ronja staggered back and forth across the room half a dozen times, rolling the kinks from her neck and kneading her shoulders. The exercise worked the hitches from her mind. For the first time in her life, her thoughts were bitingly clear. Everything that had happened over the course of the last few days was impossible. A shiny without a Singer. A makeshift hospital underground. A symbol invisible to an entire city that she alone could see. Her Singer, ripped from her skull just before The Quiet Song could drag her under. Ronja halted, her heart writhing in her ribs. The Conductor tried to kill me, she thought dimly. Why?

All citizens within the soaring black walls of Revinia have metal Singers grafted into their skulls at birth. The parasitic machines issue a form of auditory hypnosis called The Music, which keeps their minds malleable and emotions flat. All artistic expression—especially real music—is strictly prohibited. On the edge of the city, nineteen-year-old Ronja struggles to support her cousins and disabled mother. A chance meeting leads to her kidnapping by an underground resistance striving to preserve the human spirit. Violently severed from her Singer by the brash young agent Roark, Ronja revels in her newfound freedom until the consequences of her disappearance begin to unfold.

“Uncaged ideas can be dangerous, even deadly” (p. 56).

An emotionally investing dystopian story set in a steampunk society with characters worth fighting for. Vinyl is immersive, dunking the readers right into this futuristic world.

One theme highlighted heavily in this story is one that is common with dystopian books: class structure. However, Hanson handles this with such grace that it doesn’t feel like we hear this theme over and over in this genre. The vivid writing connects the audience with the disparity those on the outer circle feel, like Ronja and her family. Ronja’s family has been genetically modified in order to serve the Conductor and suppress their emotions better. While they are the ultimate servant and citizens of this repressed society, they are the lowest of the low. No one wants to hire them, talk to them, or associate with them in any way. Ronja has to bust her butt working every job she can get her hands on in order to provide for her alcoholic mother and two young cousins. One of these jobs is how she met Roark and was thus thrust into a secret underground society with little to no choice.

The Anthem is a resistance group that is on the brink of demanding a revolution. As Ronja is introduced to this strange world without The Music controlling your thoughts and actions, and to the slew of dynamic and diverse characters, I couldn’t help feel the excitement she felt. There was this hope that she could’ve never even let herself dream of. There was joy in feeling emotions in a far more tangible way without the demands of the Conductor’s way of living blocking and dulling them. As Ronja encountered real music for the first time, as she encountered dancing and singing and rejoicing in freedom, it made me appreciate the privileges of this life I live so much more. We have freedom over our thoughts, over our emotions, over who we want to be. How amazing is that?

Ronja learns just how powerful ideas and thoughts are. They can change and shape the world. They are the very thing that scares those in power, the very thing that drives the resistance. Individual ideas and thoughts are the tools to create the reality we live in, which is why books like this are so important! I felt a pull in my gut to fight for the characters in the midst of all their dangerous situations, and I couldn’t let go! I can’t wait to see how the characters fight in book two, Radio.

Blog Tour/Review – Off the Ice

Title: Off the Ice (Juniper Falls #1)
Author: Julie Cross
Published: February 2017
Genre: YA Contemporary, Romance
Goodreads 

Rating: 4 stars
Cover: Like it

Off the Ice CoverSynopsis:

All is fair in love and hockey…

Claire O’Connor is back in Juniper Falls, but that doesn’t mean she wants to be. One semester off, that’s what she promised herself. Just long enough to take care of her father and keep the family business—a hockey bar beside the ice rink—afloat. After that, she’s getting the hell out. Again.

Enter Tate Tanley. What happened between them the night before she left town resurfaces the second they lay eyes on each other. But the guy she remembers has been replaced by a total hottie. When Tate is unexpectedly called in to take over for the hockey team’s star goalie, suddenly he’s in the spotlight and on his way to becoming just another egotistical varsity hockey player. And Claire’s sworn off Juniper Falls hockey players for good.

It’s the absolute worst time to fall in love.

For Tate and Claire, hockey isn’t just a game. And they both might not survive a body check to the heart.

“I’m breathing hard, my pulse pounding. Dad snatches the puck from my glove and stares me down. I can’t tell if he’s pissed that I blocked his shot or surprised. All I know is that I want him to go back to the center ice and do it again. And again.” (chapter 23)

I have the privilege of being on Entangled Teen’s blog tour for Julie Cross’s new book, Off the Ice. When I first heard of this book, I got excited because I love stories that involve hockey. After all, The Mighty Ducks was one of the best movies to grow up on. The boyfriend and I are even planning on going to a hockey game next week – bring it on! The hockey element definitely added some fun and tension to this story, which I loved. Before I get started with my review, I would just like to point out that there are many other stops on this tour! Check the banner below for more reviews, interviews, and guest posts to get you excited about this book.

OffTheIceTour

FOLLOW THE BLOG TOUR HERE!


I went into this book thinking it would be a fluffy romance with some conflict on the ice, something that was easy to read and made me feel good. That impression was shot down almost immediately. This snow-covered town of Juniper Falls holds so many secrets and the drama they cause can sometimes be dark. I was on the edge of my seat almost the entire day and a half it took me to finish this book. The drama! To reiterate, this isn’t a fluffy romance; the plot includes sex, alcohol abuse, underage drinking, physical abuse, and language.

Juniper Falls is a small, fictional town in Minnesota that lives and breathes hockey. The boys are raised to be hockey players and the girls to cheer them on (ayyye, sexist much? Though, there is mention of a little girl taking hockey classes, so a point for equality.) Tate grew up in the shadow of his hockey star father, whose dream in life is to relive his glory through his son. During the first game of the season, the Otters’ goalie walks out, and Tate suddenly goes from being a benchwarmer second goalie to the star goalie for the season. But can he get out of his head for long enough to catch the pucks? And what is he supposed to do with all these secrets coming out of the woodwork, including his own? The thing about Juniper Falls is that they have this perfect picture of what their town should look like. Anyone who strays from these perfectly functioning idealisms is ostracized and shut out. Tate struggles with keeping his own secrets from coming out, while also figuring out how to respond to those that have had their life and choices put on display.

Claire was chasing her dreams of being an actress at college when her world got flipped upside down and she was called home to help with her father and his bar. She develops this strong, independent will that ultimately puts other’s needs before her own. Whether this means sabotaging her own dreams or pushing people away so that they can find their own, Claire constantly has a battle in her head about what she deserves and what other people need. Like Tate, she also struggles with the secrets she knows and how different people would respond to these.

Chasing dreams, making them your own, discovering the values of friendships, and finding a love worth fighting for, Off the Ice has such beautiful themes, which are diamonds in the darkness of the heavier themes found. The writing feels very much as if in a high schooler’s head, so it wasn’t exceptionally stimulating, but the plot definitely took my by surprise and gripped me until the very end. The climax(es) had my heart pounding, but the fight for love and dreams melted me to a puddle. Tate and Claire’s adventure is a rollercoaster you will need to buckle up your heart for, wrapping up smoothly with hopes for the future.

Purchase Links:

Google Play | BAM | Chapters | Amazon | Indies | B&N| Kobo | TBD | iBooks

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Julie-Cross_Author-Photo

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, and Timestorm (St. Martin’s Press). She’s also the author of Letters to Nowhere series, Whatever Life Throws at You, Third Degree, Halfway Perfect, and many more to come!

Julie lives in Central Illinois with her husband and three children. She’s a former gymnast, longtime gymnastics fan, coach, and former Gymnastics Program Director with the YMCA. She’s a lover of books, devouring several novels a week, especially in the young adult and new adult genres. Outside of her reading and writing credibilities, Julie Cross is a committed—but not talented—long distance runner, creator of imaginary beach vacations, Midwest bipolar weather survivor, expired CPR certification card holder, as well as a ponytail and gym shoe addict.

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Book Review – Illuminae

Title: Illuminae: The Illuminae Flies _01
Author: Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Published: January 2015
Genre: Young Adult Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Rating: 5 Stars
Cover: Like it

51vpagsvayl-_sx329_bo1204203200_Synopsis:

This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do today. This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival mega-corporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, exes Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto the evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But the warship is the least of their problems. A deadly plague bas broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results. The fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what the fuck is going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

Briefing note: Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

This is my first read by either of these authors, though I have the beautiful UK edition of Nevernight by Jay Kristoff on my shelf to read and I’ve already preordered the second book in the Illuminae series. After finishing this book, I will keep an even closer eye on these authors and their work.

Illuminae is the most engaging book I’ve read in a while. I thoroughly enjoyed the formatting of the text, using files, footage, and communications between ships. It felt like I was reading a real case file on an incident. Black pages are used for Kady’s diary entries and for the Artificial Intelligence’s, AIDIN, readings. Words dance across the pages in twists to illustrate the Cyclone ships flight paths, or to create a picture of the ships at war. Some words break to pieces to show a life lost during battle. I took extra long to read each page as the digital aspects through the illustrations mesmerized me, completely engaging me in the plot line. My only frustration with the format of the book was that I was constantly leaving fingerprint smudges on the black pages. When I complained about this to my boyfriend, he told me I should just buy two copies of every book—one to read and one to stay pretty looking. A girl can dream, can’t she?

Disclaimer as I move into the plot: PEOPLE DIE. So many people die. Three ships are able to escape the Kerenza colony when it is attacked by Bio-Tech. Though the ships suffer damages from the battle, they are able to save thousands of civilians and make headway as they escape the only Bio-Tech ship left standing, Lincoln. Before long, however, they are faced with troubles among their own fleet, including a plague that causes severe paranoia and their AI—which is programmed to protect them—suddenly and inexplicably killing their own people. The violence is not for the faint of heart. The hardest death for me in the whole book was the hardest one for Kady. I could almost hear the sound of my heart breaking and sinking into my stomach.

Kady is one of my favorite characters I’ve read. She is determined, feisty, and refuses to sit down and do nothing. Even AIDIN is charmed by her: “She tosses lank hair from her eyes. Eyes narrowed to knife cuts. Refusing to kneel. To break. To fall. I can see why they loved her” (p 548). She will not let the truth be hidden, but instead fights for knowledge through hacking into documents and even escaping one ship to help another. While rule-breaking never should be encouraged, Kady’s spunk and struggle for the truth to be known universally is admirable. We need more women like her in America today.

While Kady is primarily preoccupied in her illegal hunt, a part of her is preoccupied with her relationship with her ex-boyfriend, Ezra. The morning before their home was invaded, she had broken up with him, much to his dismay. However, since he is on a separate ship than her, he has access to information she needs. She finally breaks the silence and starts to work with him. It is apparent he is still smitten by her when he continues to send her cheesy love poems in the shape of hearts and roses (insert eye roll) and tells her sweet encouragements like this (insert melting of my heart):

“Mason, E, LT 2nd: you have me
Mason, E, LT 2nd: until the last star in the galaxy dies
Mason, E, LT 2nd: you have me” (p 232).

While their relationship does not take up the whole plot line, it plays a big part. It’s encouraging to see people fight for each other in the midst of chaos, and to chose to work out their issues instead of ultimately running away.

The amount of twists revealed in Illuminae are innumerable. I constantly found myself gasping in shock at new information or even the shear brutality of everything. This book is well advertised by the line “Am I not merciful?” (p 307), but once I actually got to that part, I was completely horrified by what it meant. Once again, this book is not for the faint of heart. Every twist and turn provided more shocks, more horror, and hope was constantly handed to me and then ripped away. This book was so engaging, I’d think about it even when I wasn’t reading it. It is gripping and perfectly descriptive. I am counting down the days until book #2 hits the shelves.

Book Review – P.S. I Like You

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Title:
P.S. I Like You
Author: Kasie West
Published: July 2016
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary Romance

Rating: 3 Stars
Cover: Hate it

Synopsis:

Signed, sealed, delivered…

While spacing out in chemistry class, Lily scribbles some of her favorite song lyrics onto her desk. The next day, she finds that someone has continued the lyrics on the desk, and added a message to her. Intrigue!

Soon, Lily and her anonymous pen pal are exchanging full-on letters—sharing secrets, recommending bands, and opening up to each other. Lily realizes she’s kind of falling for this letter writer. Only, who is he? As Lily attempts to unravel the mystery and juggle school, friends, crushes, and her crazy family, she discovers that matters of the heart can’t always be spelled out…

Kasie West brings irresistible wit, warmth, and sparkle to this swoon-worthy story of love showing up when—and where—you least expect it.

**Disclaimer: My brother (who is an artist) and I decide together what to rate the covers. The star rating is completely my own. If you have any questions about why I rated the way I did, feel free to comment below or email me: rebecca.june.moore (@) gmail (.) com.**

Stories about people falling in love are not new. Just look at the movie You’ve Got Mail (1998), and the Broadway musical She Loves Me, both of which were adapted from a play called Parfumerie. As soon as Lily finds that someone has returned the lyrics on the desk, I knew what the ending would be. When Lily starts thinking through who her pen pal could be, I was able to figure it out right away. If you are looking for something unpredictable to keep you on your toes, this book is not for you.

P.S. I Like You is perfect for a light, quick read to soften your cold, dead heart. Halfway through the book, Lily finds out who her pen pal is, and she is conflicted with this discovery. He is someone she has written off as shallow and rude. There’s no way in her mind that he could be the sensitive guy from a broken home with great taste in music. The letters she receives from him show a side he hides from those around him. Lily starts to understand his past and his present, and how it shapes him. She understands why he’s responded in certain ways, realizing that his actions were less rude and more coping. He shows her his desire to teach kids and to make people feel comfortable. This is the side that causes Lily to let go of her grudges and fall in love.

I love stories that teach people that there’s more to others’ stories than what meets the eye. The most interesting thing about this story is the way Lily wrestles with what she thinks she knows about this guy and what she learns of him through their letters. Through this experience, Lily herself changes and learns to be slower to making judgments in her other relationships. Any book with character growth is a step in the right direction.

As I said, Kasie West, while sometimes a little over descriptive, retells a common story with a nice twist. Her characters are quirky, funny, and relatable. The awkwardness that Lily’s character deals with in her family and an uncomfortable blind date is almost too real. It made me remember the feelings at the beginning of my relationship and the excitement that someone could feel the same way. The writing is engaging – I couldn’t put it down, staying up until 2:30 in the morning to finish it. P.S. I Like You is great for an easy, quick, feel-good read.