Friday, July 8, 2016

[Review: This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab]

"This Savage Song"
Author: Victoria Schwab
Series: Monsters of Verity #1
Pages: 464
Genre: YA, Paranormal, Dystopian
Date Published: July 5th, 2016
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Format Read: eARC provided by publisher (via Edelweiss) for honest review

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Summary:

There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from author Victoria Schwab, a young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake. The first of two books.

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.
-Goodreads
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My Thoughts:

To begin with I wasn't all that excited about This Savage Song. I felt like the beginning of the novel was pretty slow, and I wasn't really reading anything that I hadn't read before. Monster trying to be good, girl trying to impress her evil mastermind of a father, it's all been written before. But then something shifted, and I realized that Schwab set out to turn those stereotypes on their heads, by first presenting them in a well known way. It was a brilliant move, and by the end of this book, I was singing it's praises (see what I did there?) to anyone who wanted a book recommendation.  

I have to admit that I'm a Schwab newbie, which is strange, because I own a majority of her books. I've just been too busy to get around to them. After completing This Savage Song, that needs to change, and quickly. Schwab is twisty writer who isn't afraid to take the story in the least expected direction. But she also knows when to play right into your pocket. 

The beginning of the novel focuses on the main characters individually. We see August and Kate in their own worlds, surrounded by their own problems, and dealing with their own insecurities. I see now that Schwab took her time introducing her characters because once the action hits, it never lets up. It was when the two story lines come together that I got really excited about the novel. The way August and Kate interact is brilliant, and though there are moments of spark, I liked that this book didn't become all about a love story, but rather two characters learning to love themselves side by side.

Okay, don't get me wrong, August is cool. I like him a lot, but he pales in comparison to Kate. She's become my little anti-hero queen. Seriously, she's got some mad chops, and it didn't take long for me to become of fan of her. 

All in all this book is about what makes us human, and what turns us into monsters. I liked that there isn't a clear hero or villain. The lines are muddied, and even when you close the book, you can't be sure who the good guys are, but you sure as hell can figure out who you're rooting for. 

I highly suggest that you read this book. It's a good one, and I can't wait for the next novel in the series!

Rating:

5 Unicorns = Get your hand on this NOW!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

[Review: Red Velvet Crush by Christina Meredith]

"Red Velvet Crush"
Author: Christina Meredith
Series: None
Pages: 304
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Music
Date Published: June 14th, 2016
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Format Read: eARC provided by publisher (via Edelweiss) for honest review

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Summary:

Rock music, a broken family, challenging sisters, and the crush of first love—Red Velvet Crush has everything you need in a summer read. For fans of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Eleanor & Park, and This Song Will Save Your Life.

Teddy Lee’s mother ran off when she was in second grade. And ever since, Teddy Lee, the often-overshadowed middle kid, has tried to keep her family together. But her older brother Winston usually keeps himself busy with smoking, drinking, and girls, and who knows what else. Her younger sister Billie is occupied with her shoplifting habit and boys . . . and who knows what else. So when Teddy Lee finally takes the songs she’s always written and forms a band, maybe it’ll bring everyone closer together, maybe it’ll be her time to shine. Unless Billie steals the spotlight—and the boy—just like she always does. Christina Meredith explores the complicated relationship of sisters—both the unconditional love and the unavoidable resentments—in a novel full of music, urgency, the first blushes of love, and the undeniable excitement of hitting the road.
 
-Goodreads
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My Thoughts:

Finally, a book about music that I actually enjoyed. It's true that I'm really picky when it comes to books that have to do with bands and going on the road. In fact they usually fall really flat for me, but Red Velvet Crush surprised me, and I found that I really liked it. It's much better than the band name the book is named after, but that's beside the point. 

I think that what works so well for this novel is that it's about so much more than just the music. It reminded me of Almost Famous in that way. That the story is actually more about a group of people coming together and learning some really tough lessons, while also rocking out, and having a grand adventure at the same time. It's refreshing, and it's bold.

I also have to say that I really enjoyed Meredith's writing style. It's whimsical, but it's also brash, and I think it's one of the reasons that this book works so well. Her flowery prose makes reading some of the harsher details much more interesting. And she makes sure to make you feel as unsure as the characters in her story as you read along.

The relationships in Red Velvet Crush felt really authentic. They felt real, and that is part of this books charm. Sure Teddy Lee and her family aren't perfect (at all) but there is a love there that can't be denied. Winston, though he plays a part in the novel, takes a backseat to the relationship between Teddy Lee and Billie. Theirs is a sister bond that isn't full of rainbows and butterflies, and that's one of the biggest plot pushes of the book. It's uncomfortable sometimes, but it means that we get to see Teddy Lee grow a lot in the short amount of time that we have with her.

The romance element was fun, but it wasn't the best part of the book for me. In fact my only complaint with the book has to do with the romance and how it all ended. Now, I'm sure that teen readers are going to eat the end up, but as someone who's older, I found that it didn't work for me. 

That being said, Red Velvet Crush is a delightful summer read for anyone who's a music junkie like I am. Meredith fills the pages with old school band references, beautiful words to describe the music that's happening on the page, and some good old "on the road" shenanigans.  

Rating:
4 Unicorns = Close to perfect!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

[Review: With Malice by Eileen Cook]

"With Malice"
Author: Eileen Cook
Series: None
Pages: 320
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Thriller
Date Published: June 7th, 2016
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Format Read: eARC provided by publisher (via Edelweiss) for honest review

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Summary:

A read about a teenage girl who wakes up in a hospital bed and cannot remember the last six weeks of her life, including the accident that killed her best friend--only what if the accident wasn't an accident?

Eighteen-year-old Jill Charron wakes up in a hospital room, leg in a cast, stitches in her face and a big blank canvas where the last 6 weeks should be. She comes to discover she was involved in a fatal accident while on a school trip in Italy three days previous but was jetted home by her affluent father in order to receive quality care. Care that includes a lawyer. And a press team. Because maybe the accident...wasn't an accident. Wondering not just what happened but what she did, Jill tries to piece together the events of the past six weeks before she loses her thin hold on her once-perfect life.
-Goodreads
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My Thoughts:

With Malice is the kind of YA thriller that I've been missing in my life lately. It's dark, and confusing, and it'll take you on a trip into the mind of someone who can't remember a life shattering event until people tell her what happened. I think that Cook is a genius for giving us the story from the view of someone who doesn't remember what happened. And the question of whether or not the accident was actually an accident will keep you on the edge of your seat. 

This book is one of those books that's hard to talk about. It's so convoluted that if you say too much you're going to give away a chunk of the plot. And nobody wants that. 

I will say that Jill's character was a really interesting one. Cook made sure that you felt for her, even though you knew she was an unreliable narrator. She can't remember the last six months of her life, and she's thrown into a confusing world that the people around her expect her to understand.

Most of the secondary characters are frustrating, and I disliked her father the most of all. But I am glad that Cook decided to give Jill a friend in the form of her roommate Anna. And that Cook actually uses Anna's character to move the plot along. 

If you love a good mystery, who done it, what really happened, type of book, then this is the one that you should be reading this summer. Plus some of the book takes place in Italy, and if that's not the perfect summer vacation spot I don't know what is. 

Rating:
5 Unicorns = Get your hands on this NOW!

Friday, June 3, 2016

[Review: Frannie and Tru by Karen Hattrup]

"Frannie and Tru"
Author: Karen Hattrup
Series: None
Pages: 320
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Date Published: May 31st, 2016
Publisher: HarperTeen
Format Read: eARC provided by publisher (via Edelweiss) for honest review

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Summary:

When Frannie Little eavesdrops on her parents fighting she discovers that her cousin Truman is gay, and his parents are so upset they are sending him to live with her family for the summer. At least, that’s what she thinks the story is. . . When he arrives, shy Frannie befriends this older boy, who is everything that she’s not–rich, confident, cynical, sophisticated. Together, they embark on a magical summer marked by slowly unraveling secrets.
-Goodreads
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My Thoughts:

This book is so beautifully written that I found myself highlighting sections in my Kindle. Hattrup has a way with words that turns even the most ordinary moments into something memorable. And trust me she showcases this talent a lot in Frannie and Tru. The plot is a very simple one, and even though a lot of self discovery happens in the pages, not much else does. I'm glad to say that it's not a bad thing here. Somehow Hattrup is able to take the internal workings of a young teen and make it something that you want to keep reading. 

Frannie is a familiar character. The girl who is young. The girl who doesn't know who she is yet. The girl who thinks that the world is a better place than the one she actually lives in. That being said, she feels fresh, and she feels fresh because she's so incredibly honest. I found myself rooting for her instead of shaking my head at her, because I felt like, even though she was learning some tough lessons, she was actually learning them. I'm glad that a character like her exists in teen fiction.

Tru on the other hand, was a hot mess of a character, but his personality mixed with Frannie's kept me wondering what was going to happen next. I have to admit that Tru is a male version of the Manic Pixie trope, but it really works here. I think it has a better impact because the plot doesn't make him the sexual desire of the main character. In fact, aside from one slight romance, he's simply a character, and not a romantic lead. 

Which brings me to the fact that Frannie and Tru is a coming of age story that has more to do with family dynamics than a romance, and I found that really refreshing. Frannie finds herself not because she falls in love, but because she idolizes her older cousin, who in turn drags her into the real world. 

My one complaint with the story is a small one. And that's the fact that the promised "secret" and "suspense" boiled down to really flat conclusion. I wish that the part of the story would have been as good as all the rest of it, but in the end it didn't have much sway over my general like of the novel.

If you're looking for an awesome book about finding yourself, and are also looking for a fun, yet deep, summer read, this is the book for you.

Rating:
 4 Unicorns = Close to perfect!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

[Review: Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes]

"Girl Against the Universe"
Author: Paula Stokes
Series: None
Pages: 382
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Date Published: May 17th, 2016
Publisher: HarperTeen
Format Read: eARC provided by publisher (via Edelweiss) for honest review

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Summary:

From the author of The Art of Lainey and Liars, Inc. comes a fresh, contemporary story about one girl’s tragic past and a boy who convinces her that maybe her luck is about to change. Perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen or Jenny Han.

Maguire knows she’s bad luck. No matter how many charms she buys off the internet or good luck rituals she performs each morning, horrible things happen when Maguire is around. Like that time her brother, father, and uncle were all killed in a car crash—and Maguire walked away with barely a scratch. But then on her way out of her therapist’s office, she meets Jordy, an aspiring tennis star, who wants to help Maguire break her unlucky streak. Maguire knows that the best thing she can do for Jordy is to stay away, but staying away may be harder than she thought.
-Goodreads
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My Thoughts:

This book is straight up huggable. It's cute, but it's also daring. Add in the fact that there is a dark streak that runs through it, and you have a very dynamic book. On top of all of that it's a story about mental illness, sports, and finding a way to help yourself.

I found myself instantly taken in by Maguire's struggles. She believes that she's cursed, because she's lucky. She manages to live and walk away from things that leave the people around her either hurt or dead, and she carries that around in a way that only makes sense to her. She's also a real tough cookie, and she's learned how to live her life in a way that makes sure no one has to know what she's dealing with. It's wonderful to see her walls come down, and to see her realize that her life doesn't have to be what she's been making it into. She's a likeable character, and it's easy to find yourself rooting for her as she deals with her heavy dose of survivors guilt, as well as other mental health issues. 
Stokes handles Maguire's struggles in a real, tangible way, and creates a story that everyone can connect to. And she adds so many light moments into the novel that it never feels too heavy.

I adore that Maguire and Jordy meet at their therapist's office. It makes the book so much more than just a book about tennis. It makes it about the struggles that people have as they try to uncover who they really are, and how they want to live their lives. 

Speaking of which, Jordy is an adorable love interest. He's got so much going on in his life, and yet he still takes time out of his busy, overly controlled, schedule to help Maguire learn how to help herself. He also gets a lot out of it himself. It's the cutest, and I'm so glad that this element is part of the book as well.

Add in the fact that Stokes throws in a bunch of secondary characters that are just as fleshed out as her main characters, and you've got a whole cast of awesome people, usually being awesome.

If you adore feel good books that deal with some tough issues, and hot tennis players, give this book a go!

Rating:
  4 Unicorns = Close to perfect!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

[Review: This is My Brain on Boys by Sarah Strohmeyer]

"This is My Brain on Boys"
Author: Sarah Strohmeyer
Series: None
Pages: 352
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
Date Published: May 10th, 2016
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Format Read: eARC provided by publisher (via Edelweiss) for honest review

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Summary:

Jane Austen’s Emma meets The Rosie Project in this quirky, irresistible, romantic comedy from Sarah Strohmeyer, the author of Smart Girls Get What They Want.

Addie Emerson doesn’t believe in love. Not for herself anyway. With one year left of high school, she’s more interested in snagging a full scholarship to Harvard than a full-time boyfriend.

That doesn’t mean she’s oblivious to the ways of the heart. Or, rather, the head. Because after months of research, Addie has discovered how to make anyone fall in love. All you need is the secret formula.

But will her discovery be enough to win the coveted Athenian Award and all its perks? (See above, full scholarship to Harvard.) Or will she be undone by Dexter, her backstabbing lab partner, who is determined to deep-six her experiments at their exclusive private school?

Those are the least of her problems now that she’s survived a death-defying flight with a mysterious, dark-haired boy, who has delicious chocolate-brown eyes and a few secrets of his own.

With an experiment to mastermind, an infatuated exchange student on her hands, and at least one great white shark (more on that later), can Addie’s prefrontal cortex outwit her heart? Or will she have to give in to her amygdala and find out, once and for all, if this thing called love is more than just her brain on drugs?
-Goodreads
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My Thoughts:

This book is extremely unique. It's clear going into it that this isn't your normal YA romance, and I loved that about This is My Brain on Boys. As the title suggests, this book is quirky, nerdy, and a little like an episode of "The Big Bang Theory" dropped right into it. If you like the show, you're sure to love this novel.

As a nerd myself, I was excited to dig into Strohmeyer's newest contemporary. And after finishing it, I realize that I'm not quite the same kind of nerd as Addie. Though I did find her to hilarious anyway. She's so socially awkward that it's pretty cute, and she's a total smartass to boot. She kept me laughing, that's for sure. I loved the fact that she's always in control in the book. Not many YA contemporary leads tend to have this good of a grasp on the world. Sure, she might be a tad annoying as well, but she's usually right, so I found myself forgiving her for moments I didn't think I would. Yay, for smart girls who are also smartasses!

Kris was also a great character. Though I'm not sure that I bought the whole "I love animals soooo much" thing. It felt corny to me, but I also thought it gave him dimension, so I'm just going to say that I have mixed feelings about him. He's great for Addie, but he's also a little strange for the story. But maybe that's just me.

The plot itself is a great one. Strohmeyer has this grasp on her story that makes it read really smooth. And the payoff is so good, that you'll have a smile on your face at the end. Because, once again, she makes sure that Addie gets the last word. So much girl power fills the pages of this book, even though the whole book is about love and such. 

If any, and or all of this sounds good to you. Read it!

Rating:
    3 Unicorns = I liked it a lot, but it had its issues!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

[Review: Ruined by Amy Tintera]

"Ruined"
Author: Amy Tintera
Series: Ruined #1
Pages: 368
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Date Published: May 3rd, 2016
Publisher: HarperTeen
Format Read: eARC provided by publisher (via Edelweiss) for honest review

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Summary:

Emelina Flores has nothing. Her home in Ruina has been ravaged by war. She lacks the powers of her fellow Ruined. Worst of all, she witnessed her parents’ brutal murders and watched helplessly as her sister, Olivia, was kidnapped.

But because Em has nothing, she has nothing to lose. Driven by a blind desire for revenge, Em sets off on a dangerous journey to the enemy kingdom of Lera. Somewhere within Lera’s borders, Em hopes to find Olivia. But in order to find her, Em must infiltrate the royal family.

In a brilliant, elaborate plan of deception and murder, Em marries Prince Casimir, next in line to take Lera’s throne. If anyone in Lera discovers Em is not Casimir’s true betrothed, Em will be executed on the spot. But it’s the only way to salvage Em’s kingdom and what is left of her family.

Em is determined to succeed, but the closer she gets to the prince, the more she questions her mission. Em’s rage-filled heart begins to soften. But with her life—and her family—on the line, love could be Em’s deadliest mistake.
-Goodreads
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My Thoughts:

We have new Amy Tintera guys! When I heard that Tintera was stepping into fantasy, I got really excited. I adored her zombie novels Reboot and Rebel, and I've been needing a fix of Tintera's writing. And boy did she deliver. 

Ruined is a fast paced adventure that doesn't play by all the normal fantasy tropes. I found myself being pulled into the story immediately, and it didn't take long for me to fall in love with the world and the characters that filled the pages. I'm actually really bummed that I'm going to have to wait for the rest of series. Which is really really good thing.

One thing that I've always loved about Tintera's writing is her ability to write fantastic underdog stories, and Ruined is no different. Em is a girl without magic who's had to overcome so much, though she doesn't make it seem that way. She's had to use the skills and assets that she's been given to make her as strong as the people filled with magic around her. In fact it makes her seem like she has a lot more going for her than anyone else in the story. I found myself instantly pulled into the tale because of Em's strong voice. She's someone anyone can cheer for.

Cas is also a bit of an underdog in his own rite. He may be a prince, but he's not the prince anyone wants him to be. It makes him interesting. It makes him more than eye-candy. And its makes the story between Cas and Em so much more touching, annoying, and beautiful. It will make you feel all those things, and possibly in that order. 

Tintera also doesn't shy away from making her characters fierce. Body count, blood spillage, and gore are not things that she shies away from. It gives this story so much life. Conflicted characters who make tough calls are my favorite, and this book is full of them. 

If you're looking for a fantasy novel that's full of great characters, great world building, and tons of conflict (without being too much drama), this book is perfect. 

Rating:
  5 Unicorns = Get your hands on this NOW!