Saturday, June 23, 2018

BEYOND A DARKENED SHORE by Jessica Leake

Rating: A+
Synopsis:
The ancient land of Éirinn is mired in war. Ciara, Princess of Mide, has never known a time when Éirinn’s kingdoms were not battling for power, or Northmen were not plundering their shores. 

The people of Mide have thankfully always been safe because of Ciara’s unearthly ability to control her enemies’ minds and actions. But lately, a mysterious crow has been appearing to Ciara, whispering warnings of an even darker threat. Although her clansmen dismiss her visions as pagan nonsense, Ciara fears this coming evil will destroy not just Éirinn, but the entire world. 

Then the crow leads Ciara to Leif, a young Northman leader. Leif should be Ciara’s enemy, but when Ciara discovers that he, too, shares her prophetic visions, she knows he’s something more. Leif is mounting an impressive army, and with Ciara’s strength in battle the two might have a chance to save their world. 

With evil rising around them, they’ll do what it takes to defend the land they love…even if it means making the greatest sacrifice of all.


My thoughts on the book:
I absolutely loved Beyond a Darkened Shore. This novel is brilliant. The writing, the character development, the plot, everything is beautiful and wonderful. Leake did a fantastic job with the mythology, and I loved seeing ancient mythological creatures come to life in a historical narrative instead of in contemporary society. That being said, not everyone will love this novel. It's heavy on the medieval history and Leake was brave to write a story like this, especially as a YA trope. I could clearly picture medieval Ireland as if I were there. I felt like I was back in Ireland, visiting Dublina and being immersed in the long history of the land. This novel is exquisite. 

Ciara is a strong female lead, and I really enjoyed reading from her perspective. She can be stubborn at times, but can't we all? She is extremely loyal and loves deeply, even though no one gives her a chance. She's better than her entire clan combined, in my opinion. She learns a lot and grows so much throughout her journey. I really admire her resilience and adaptability. Leif is a great love interest. He is also strong, and while he is more open-minded, he still grows and changes throughout the narrative as well. 

The writing in this novel is fantastic. The world-building and setting descriptions are beautifully done. This book has so many messages in it: don't judge people who are different (they just may save your life); generalizing, prejudging, and dehumanizing groups of people is wrong; everyone has a place where they belong; you have to accept yourself before you can accept others; a relationship should be an alliance, a partnership, not some co-dependent nightmare... I could go on. I love that this book is pushing back against prejudice and judgment. Additionally, the novel is fairly fast-paced, and it will keep you on the edge of your seat. I've read and heard stories about all of the mythological creatures that are in this book, but Leake's rendition did the Irish fables honor by being truly horrifying. I really enjoyed the fact that Ireland had the Irish Celtic deities guarding it and the Nordic region had the Norse deities guarding it. The religions co-existed beautifully together, and it also gave another meaning to home: you were cut off from your own deities, more or less, when you were in another land. It also showed that truth is a matter of perspective when it comes to beliefs. The mythological creatures truly came alive under Leake's pen (or keyboard, I guess). The twist in the novel wasn't super surprising, but the outcome of the twist did shock me. The ending was beautiful and tied things up wonderfully. 

This is the first book I've ever read by Jessica Leake, but after devouring it, I will definitely be reading the other novels she's written. 

Thursday, June 21, 2018

THE LIES THEY TELL by Gillian French

Rating: F
Synopsis:With shades of E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars and Gayle Forman’s I Was Here, this dark and twisted mystery will be the page-turner of the year.

Everyone in Tenney’s Harbor, Maine, knows about the Garrison tragedy. How an unexplained fire ravaged their house, killing four of the five family members. But what people don’t know is who did it. All fingers point at Pearl Haskins’s father, the town drunk, who was the caretaker of the property, but she just can’t believe it. Leave it to a town of rich people to blame “the help.”

With her disgraced father now trying to find work in between booze benders, Pearl’s future doesn’t hold much more than waiting tables at the local country club, where the wealthy come to flaunt their money and spread their gossip. This year, Tristan, the last surviving Garrison, and his group of affluent and arrogant friends have made a point of sitting in Pearl’s section. Though she’s repulsed by most of them, Tristan’s quiet sadness and somber demeanor have her rethinking her judgments. Befriending the boys could mean getting closer to the truth, clearing her father’s name, and giving Tristan the closure he seems to be searching for. But it could also trap Pearl in a sinister web of secrets, lies, and betrayals that, once untangled, will leave no life unchanged . . . if it doesn’t take hers first.
 


My thoughts on the book:
Let me start off this review by saying that the biggest lies and betrayals that are associated with this book are in the synopsis. I was so excited to dig into this novel, expecting so many twists and turns that I could hardly keep up. What I got was a boring and clunky narrative that read more like a Laguna Beach rerun than a thriller or mystery. There are plot holes bigger than the mansion the novel talks about, and there are no twists or turns to keep the reader interested. The only reason I kept reading was because I was waiting on something huge to happen and blow my mind. Nothing happened that I couldn't see coming a mile away, and needless to say I was disappointed. I want those hours of my life back. 

Pearl is probably the most boring character I've ever read. She's super one-dimensional, and even though she claimed to have emotions, the emotions didn't actually come across. I couldn't feel anything. I didn't connect to her at all; I had no empathy or sympathy for her. I really didn't care what happened to her because she was so dull. Her best friend is a jerk, and she is a doormat for him. Yet he's somehow painted as some good guy/hero, and I don't understand that. Reese isn't someone worth wasting time on. Her Dad isn't a real character... he is more a caricature of a drunk, and again there is no emotion from him, really. Tristan acts like a narcissistic zombie, Bridges acts like a lap dog with no mind of his own, and Akil is an even bigger jerk than Reese, somehow. The other filler characters are just as dull, and I can't even remember their names. 

The plot makes little sense, and the pace is super slow. Nothing really happens, either. It just reads like some teen reality show. Characters overreact about strange things, but the emotions feel false. The writing is clunky at best. The third person limited narrative for this type of story is actually jarring at times and removes you from the dull tale. It is obvious who the guilty party is from the beginning... so obvious that I thought the guilty party couldn't be who it obviously is. The guilty part is who it obviously is, though. There is not a single twist or turn in this book. The ending also makes no sense. There should have been some fallout from Pearl's actions, but there is nothing. They throw some circumstantial evidence around, and boom everything is perfect. Nothing is actually explained. There is no surprise with anything, and the unrealistic ending was just the final straw for me. 

If you can't tell, I'm irritated that I spent hours of my life reading this book. I just kept hanging on to the false hope that something exciting would happen. I feel deceived by the synopsis, and I hate plot holes and endings that don't even make sense. If you're looking for an intriguing and thrilling summer mystery, do yourself a favor and look elsewhere. This is the worst book I've read in a long time. 

Monday, June 18, 2018

EVERYTHING UNDER THE SUN by Jessica Redmerski



Title: EVERYTHING UNDER THE SUN
Author: Jessica Redmerski
Pub. Date: August 28, 2017
Publisher: Jessica Redmerski
Formats: Paperback, eBook
Pages: 656
Find it: GoodreadsAmazonTBD

Thais Fenwick was eleven-years-old when civilization fell, devastated by a virus that killed off the majority of the world’s population. For seven years, Thais and her family lived in a community of survivors deep in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains. But when her town is attacked by raiders, she and her blind sister are taken away to the East-Central Territory where she is destined to live the cruel and unjust kind of life her late mother warned her about. 

Atticus Hunt is a troubled soldier in Lexington City who has spent the past seven years trying to conform to the vicious nature of men in a post-apocalyptic society. He knows that in order to survive, he must abandon his morals and his conscience and become like those he is surrounded by. But when he meets Thais, morals and conscience win out over conformity, and he risks his rank and his life to help her. They escape the city and set out together on a long and perilous journey to find safety in Shreveport, Louisiana. 

Struggling to survive in a world without electricity, food, shelter, and clean water, Atticus and Thais shed their fear of growing too close, and they fall hopelessly in love. But can love survive in such dark times, or is it fated to die with them?


About Jessica:
J.A. (Jessica) Redmerski is a New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author, international bestseller, and award winner, who juggles several different genres. She began self-publishing in 2012, and later with the success of THE EDGE OF NEVER, signed on with Grand Central Publishing/Forever Romance. Her works have been translated into more than twenty languages.

Jessica is a hybrid author who, in addition to working with a traditional publisher, also continues to self-publish. Her popular crime and suspense series, In the Company of Killers, has been optioned for television and film by actor and model William Levy.

Website | Twitter | Amazon Author Page | Facebook | Pinterest | Goodreads


Excerpt:


 “IT WASN’T SUPPOSED TO BE THIS WAY.”

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. I was supposed to travel with him until he got me out of Lexington City and then I was to make a run for it, kill him if I had to—but I didn’t. I was supposed to stay with these people and leave Atticus to do what he wanted, go where he wanted, without me—but I couldn’t. I was supposed to be afraid of him not only because of the terrible man he was when I first laid eyes on him, but also because he was a man—but I wasn’t. I wasn’t afraid of him.
I was afraid for him.
I was afraid of being without him…
“Thais?”
I looked up; my bottom lip quivered.
“I will wait for you,” I said, trying to be strong. I wiped my tears, swallowed hard and nodded.
Atticus dashed outside, pushing the barn door out of his way. Seconds later he came back with the horse. He tossed the quilt we’d slept on the night in the barn, over the horse’s back. Then he went over to the backpacks, stepping around Rachel’s unconscious body, and shoved everything back inside. He helped my arms into the straps of the larger backpack.
Fitting his hands on my hips, Atticus hoisted me up and set me on the horse; I grabbed a hold of the horse’s reins.
“Stay out of sight of the house,” he said as he fitted the smaller backpack and his jacket between my legs. “And cut through the woods there”—he pointed toward the back of the barn—“that’s west; just keep as straight as you can in that direction, but don’t leave the woods.”
I nodded.
He walked with me outside the barn, stopped to look out at the flat land beyond the highway where those who were coming for us would likely be, and then led me around the barn. The deep woods beckoned me out ahead; I couldn’t help but feel intimidated by them, as if they were some kind of final leg of our journey—or the beginning of my journey alone.
Steadying my breath, I looked down at Atticus once more, transfixed on his intense blue eyes, the sculpted shape and rough texture of his handsome face, and I couldn’t imagine at this point never seeing it again.
“I’ll come for you,” he promised.
Tearing my gaze from his, I faced forward and tightened my grip of the reins.

Giveaway Details:
5 winners will receive signed paperbacks of EVERYTHING UNDER THE SUN with bookmarks and post cards (United States and Canada only).

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Tour Schedule:
Week One:
6/1/2018- Here's to Happy EndingsReview

Week Two:
6/4/2018- Savings in SecondsReview
6/5/2018- Peaceful OblivionReview
6/6/2018- BookhoundsInterview
6/7/2018- Two Chicks on BooksExcerpt
6/8/2018- Vylithylia ReadsReview

Week Three:
6/11/2018- A Dream Within A DreamReview
6/12/2018- paseandoamissculturaReview
6/13/2018- Simply Daniel RadcliffeReview
6/14/2018- Rainy Day ReviewsGuest Post
6/15/2018- Perspective of a WriterReview

Week Four:
6/18/2018- Fall Into BooksExcerpt
6/19/2018- Infinite Lives, Infinite Stories - Review
6/20/2018- HauntedbybooksReview
6/21/2018- Literary ChaosSpotlight
6/22/2018- BITTERSWEET ENCHANTMENTExcerpt

Week Five:
6/25/2018- Dani Reviews ThingsReview
6/26/2018- Sincerely Karen JoReview
6/27/2018- Book-KeepingReview
6/28/2018- Ziggy's Reading Corner- Excerpt
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6/29/2018- The Desert BibliophileReview

Thursday, June 14, 2018

EVERLIFE by Gena Showalter

Grade: A-
Synopsis:
STAND TOGETHER OR FALL ALONE.

THE FATE OF THE EVERLIFE HANGS IN THE BALANCE.

At seventeen years old, Tenley “Ten” Lockwood had to make the ultimate choice—where to live after she died. Loyalty to her selected realm has not wavered…until now. She is out of time. Sacrifices must be made, and a terrible price must be paid. But is she too late? 

As the Everlife descends into darkness, a single truth becomes clear: Troika and Myriad must unite—or perish. In order to bring sworn enemies together, Ten must enter forbidden territory…and destroy the powerful Prince of Ravens. But there’s only one way inside—bonding with Killian Flynn, a deadly rival who sets her blood aflame.

When nothing goes as planned and betrayal leads to the edge of utter defeat, Ten and Killian will have to rebuild trust from the ashes of their hearts. Victory seems impossible, the odds stacked against them. In the end, how far will they be willing to go for the sake of their realms and the Everlife?


My thoughts on the book:
Everlife is a very uplifting conclusion to the series. The characters all grow in this last installment and become who they were meant to be. The novel is an action-packed rollercoaster from start to finish, and the writing is well done. There were still some things I didn't like about the book, and the series, but overall, I really enjoyed this novel. 

Ten, our leading lady, switches between mature, capable, and strong to annoying. I really didn't like her number obsession and recitations that she kept doing, but at least there were fewer of those in this novel than the previous one. For the most part, she was a strong and selfless character, and I enjoyed watching her grow. Killian disappointed me some in this book, but he disappointed himself, so I guess I can forgive him. None of the other characters really stood out to me, aside from Biscuit. I effing loved Biscuit. The guardian animals were my favorite addition to the storyline. 

The story itself had some moments where I couldn't achieve willing suspension of disbelief. They were just too far-fetched. For the most part, though, the story and the world were believable. The pacing was a little slow, and there were some over descriptions, but things moved relatively smoothly. The action was pretty much nonstop, so that kept me engaged. It was tragedy after tragedy after tragedy for poor Ten. The ending was bittersweet. 

Overall, I'd recommend this book and series to people who are looking for a squeaky clean YA read filled with mythology and fantasy and that discusses important topics such as free will and morality. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

ONYX AND IVORY by Mindee Arnett

Rating: B+
Synopsis:
They call her Traitor Kate. It’s a title Kate Brighton inherited from her father after he tried to assassinate the high king years ago. Now Kate lives as an outcast, clinging to the fringes of society as a member of the Relay, the imperial courier service. Only those most skilled in riding and bow hunting ride for the Relay; and only the fastest survive, for when dark falls, the nightdrakes—deadly flightless dragons—come out to hunt. Fortunately, Kate has a secret edge: she is a wilder, born with magic that allows her to influence the minds of animals. But it’s this magic that she needs to keep hidden, as being a wilder is forbidden, punishable by death or exile. And it’s this magic that leads her to a caravan massacred by nightdrakes in broad daylight—the only survivor her childhood friend, her first love, the boy she swore to forget, the boy who broke her heart.

The high king’s second son, Corwin Tormane, never asked to lead. Even as he waits for the uror—the once-in-a-generation ritual to decide which of the king’s children will succeed him—he knows it’s always been his brother who will assume the throne. And that’s fine by him. He’d rather spend his days away from the palace, away from the sight of his father, broken with sickness from the attempt on his life. But the peacekeeping tour Corwin is on has given him too much time to reflect upon the night he saved his father’s life—the night he condemned the would-be killer to death and lost the girl he loved. Which is why he takes it on himself to investigate rumors of unrest in one of the remote city-states, only for his caravan to be attacked—and for him to be saved by Kate.

With their paths once more entangled, Kate and Corwin have to put the past behind them. The threat of drakes who attack in the daylight is only the beginning of a darker menace stirring in the kingdom—one whose origins have dire implications for Kate’s father’s attack upon the king and will thrust them into the middle of a brewing civil war in the kingdom of Rime.


My thoughts on the book:
Onyx and Ivory was a compelling fantasy adventure. I really enjoyed the world that Arnett created and the characters who inhabited it. The writing and world-building were very well done, and the characters were interesting and realistic. This is a wonderful addition to the fantasy genre. 

I felt like the main characters were well-developed and decently easy to relate to. I've recently lost my father, so I understood the grief that Kate was going through, even though she'd had a few years to process it. I know in her position, I'd want to know why he did what he did, too. I also liked that she was a strong character and made her own way. She wasn't completely ridiculous with the decisions she made, though some of them weren't brilliant, but she was only 19, so she still had a lot to learn (her age is why I classified this as new adult instead of YA). Corwin wasn't swoon-worthy in my opinion, but he was a good match for Kate. They complemented each other well. I wasn't a fan of Dal and Signe, or their relationship (it was just too convenient), and I felt that the other secondary characters could have been better developed. 

I thought that Arnett's writing was superb. The alternating perspectives, told from a third person's POV, which allowed for free, indirect discourse, was nicely done. I could always tell whose chapter it was from their "voices," even in third person. That's hard to accomplish. Some of the descriptions were a bit overdone, and the drakes' descriptions were not clear enough, but overall, I had a good what kind of world the characters inhabited, as well as the rules of that world. The pacing was a bit slow to begin with, but for the most part, the pages flew by. The ending tied things up nicely and set the stage for a sequel. Thankfully there were no cliffhangers.

Overall, I'd recommend this novel for people who enjoy high fantasy books, such as Orphan Queen, The Red Queen, and An Ember in the Ashes. 

Saturday, May 26, 2018

BONE DRIVEN by Hailey Edwards

Rating: A+
Release Date: May 31, 2018
Synopsis:
The bayou is burning, the battle is just beginning - and Luce Boudreau is smack in the middle of no-man's land . . .
Life as a cop in Canton Town, Mississippi, is never dull - particularly when hiding deep within you is a demon bent on the apocalypse. Luce is doing her best to pretend her two worlds aren't crashing into each other, but what should be a routine arson investigation takes a shocking turn when Luce discovers a link between the suspects and her own dark secrets. There's no turning back, even though her search for the truth threatens to burn her old life down around her.
Lines are being drawn in a war Luce barely understands, and she just might be on the wrong side of them. Now she must embrace her powerful destiny, or the ones she loves most will pay the ultimate price.
My thoughts on the book:
I absolutely love Hailey Edwards. I have ever since I read Everlong back in 2010. Her novels are steamy and sexy, but they also have heart. Her characters are real, and they are funny and heartbreaking and flawed and wonderful. The plots will always keep you on the edge of your seat, and the writing is wonderful. Bone Driven is no exception to this. I stayed up half the night reading this novel because I had to see what happened to Luce next. Edwards writes novels with heart, and that is so hard to come by, especially in the paranormal romance genre. 
Edwards excels in making you care about her characters. Luce may be a demon and she may be one of the four horsewomen of the apocalypse, more or less, but she is also so human. She's someone that anyone could relate to. She's such a strong character. She doesn't need any men to save her. I love how she makes the tough decisions, but they chip away at her soul, like they would anyone else's. The author does a terrific job of showing the inner struggle that Luce is feeling every second of her existence, and that's absolutely beautiful. Luce's coterie is also amazing. My favorite member is Thom, but that's because he shifts into a black Manx or bobtail, (or nubbin cat, as I call mine) and I have a black Manx, and it just made me picture my little Finnegan every time Thom shifted. All of the coterie members are extremely complicated, and their complex and evolving relationship with Luce is interesting to watch. Luce shows how a bit of kindness can soften even the harshest of "monsters." 
The plot of this book is mysterious and thrilling, and at some points, heartbreaking. I could not put this novel down. The book is fast-paced, and Luce doesn't get a moment of peace in the entire thing. I was white knuckling my Kindle for the majority of this novel. It was one hell of a rollercoaster ride. The writing is wonderful. Edwards has a very strong voice, and I love how she explains things. There are moments of hilarity, and I found myself laughing out loud a few times while reading (which always alarms the cats). The world-building is done perfectly. I feel like I have a good grasp on the mythology of this universe that Edwards created. The mythology has some unique twists to it that I really enjoyed. It's not your typical angels/demons/good/evil/end of the world/save the world type of story. There are layers to it (and to the world itself), and it's fascinating. I absolutely can't wait until the third book. 
Overall, I'd recommend this book and series to anyone who is looking for a paranormal romance that has a lot of heart, some serious sexual tension, real and fully-developed characters, and a unique mythology. I think this is my favorite series that Edwards has written, and that says a lot. Do yourself a favor and give these books a try. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

EVERY LAST BREATH by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Rating: A-
Synopsis:
Some loves will last ’til your dying breath

Every choice has consequences—but seventeen-year-old Layla faces tougher choices than most. Light or darkness. Wickedly sexy demon prince Roth, or Zayne, the gorgeous, protective Warden she never thought could be hers. Hardest of all, Layla has to decide which side of herself to trust.

Layla has a new problem, too. A Lilin—the deadliest of demons—has been unleashed, wreaking havoc on those around her…including her best friend. To keep Sam from a fate much, much worse than death, Layla must strike a deal with the enemy while saving her city—and her race—from destruction.

Torn between two worlds and two different boys, Layla has no certainties, least of all survival, especially when an old bargain comes back to haunt them all. But sometimes, when secrets are everywhere and the truth seems unknowable, you have to listen to your heart, pick a side—and then fight like hell…


My thoughts on the book:
Clearly I'm in a JLA mood lately, since this is the second book of hers that I read in a row. Every Last Breath did not disappoint. On the surface, this novel is a YA paranormal romance, but it has so much more going on than that. There is a lot of mythology, philosophy, and ethics thrown in there. It really makes you think. Also, JLA's writing is flawless. She made me both laugh and cry with this novel, and I needed both forms of catharsis very badly. The romance in this book is more cute than steamy, since it's a YA novel, but it's by no means G rated. The characters are wonderful, as usual, and the plot is engaging. My only problem with this book is the love triangle. I hate love triangles.

Layla grew up a lot in this book, and I appreciated that. She handled most things like an adult, and she really made some tough decisions. My heart broke for her several times because of all of the stuff she was going through, but she emerged from each battle stronger. That's always inspiring to me when characters do that. It gives me hope that I, too, can overcome my obstacles and emerge stronger than before. Roth was Roth, and I loved him as always. The familiars were fantastic, and I really felt like I got to see another side of Cayman in this novel. Zayne was Zayne, and I didn't like him that much still. He was a good guy, but not for me. 

The romance was adorable and sweet and somewhat steamy... It was pretty damn steamy for a YA novel. The writing was wonderful, and there was actually one quote that made me laugh until I cried: "He’s as old as time and has the temperament of someone who shit the bed and has been rolling around in it all day.” Cayman said that, and I laughed for at least 15-20 minutes before I could collect myself. My cats thought I'd lost my mind. There were also some heartbreaking moments that had me in tears because I was so sad for the characters. I love novels that can make me feel what the characters are feeling, and this one definitely did that. 

The action was nonstop, and this was a fast-paced book. Every time I thought the characters would get a break, something else was thrown at them. I mean I thought my life was a shit show, but Layla had me beat by a long shot in this novel... and at least my problems are mine and don't affect the entire world. 


Overall, I'd recommend this book and series to anyone who loves mythology, loves books that make you think, and loves books that make you feel. Armentrout did not disappoint with this trilogy's ending.