Monday, August 31, 2015

The Masked Truth by Kelley Armstrong

Title: The Masked Truth
Author: Kelley Armstrong
Format I Read: ARC
Pages: 320
Genres: Thriller, Contemporary
Release Date: October 13, 2015
Stars: 5
Goodreads Link

I honestly don't know how to write this review. I'm still reeling from that wild ride. Wow. I'm quivering, shaking, absolutely dying right now. The Masked Truth deserves every single one of those five stars--it deserves more than just those five stars.

From the first page, Armstrong yanked you into the story. I was immediately immersed in the world and characters she created. The book starts with Riley's every day worries: the date she's missing to babysit a little girl, thanks to her scheming ex-best friend. It's all so trivial. Riley even opens the prologue with, "If there's anything more tragic than spending your Saturday night babysitting, it's spending your Saturday night babysitting after canceling a date with the guy you've been dreaming about all year" (ARC 1). However, Riley quickly gets doused with ice water as she witnesses the murders of her babysitting clients. The first chapter then opens with the same line, but adding, "You stupid, stupid girl. You had no idea what tragedy is" (ARC 7). And I was hooked.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, Riley is diagnosed with "situationally related anxiety and depression leading to post-traumatic stress disorder." Her life is turned upside down. She ends up at a weekend therapy camp in an abandoned warehouse with five other trouble teens and two counselors. Oh, and three masked men with guns. The group is held hostage, but things go awry, as expected. People start dying and blood starts running.

Luckily, Riley isn't alone in her desperate quest for survival. Her partner in her escape attempts is Max, a guy with whom she had previously attended group therapy sessions. She knows him as the sarcastic Brit who rarely shares anything about himself. But it seems that he's hiding the diagnosis to a mental illness that will tie him to the "crazy" stigma forever: schizophrenia. Max hides this diagnosis, but it gets more and more difficult to differentiate between what's real and what isn't...

For those who prefer the Goodreads synopsis to my scrambled introduction:

Riley Vasquez is haunted by the brutal murder of the couple she was babysitting for.

Max Cross is suffering under the shadow of a life-altering diagnosis he doesn’t dare reveal.

The last thing either of them wants is to spend a weekend away at a therapy camp alongside five other teens with “issues.” But that’s exactly where they are when three masked men burst in to take the group hostage.

The building has no windows. The exits are sealed shut. Their phones are gone. And their captors are on a killing spree.

Riley and Max know that if they can’t get out, they’ll be next—but they’re about to find out that even escape doesn’t equal freedom.

Like I said, from the start, I was attached to the characters. Riley was an incredible heroine and main character. I found no flaws in her. She was realistic, she was strong, she was kind, she was brave. She was everything I aspire to be. And her "issues" were so well-written. I really felt her guilt, her belief that she was nothing more than a coward who hid under the bed with the little girl while the Porters were murdered downstairs. It was eye-opening. As the story goes on, you're reminded how easy it is to believe other people are heroes (like Riley believes in Max's bravery), but not to believe in yourself. Riley just fit as the perfect heroine.

And then there's Max... oh, Max. Max was brutally real (in case you haven't noticed, I loved the realism of this novel). The writing style that Armstrong used in his chapters perfectly captured the chaos he fills within and the way that he fights his illness. The scattered thoughts and frazzled comments conveyed the struggle he goes through every day. It was so amazing to read something so spot-on. Armstrong dealt with the mental illnesses in the novel in the most real and open way, starting such a serious discussion about such an important topic. She reminded the world that schizophrenics aren't schizophrenics; they're people with schizophrenia.

Even the minor characters--like Brienne, another girl trapped by the monstrous men--sucked me in. I loved how everyone had a story, a background, a personality. Even stuck-up rich kids like Aaron had depth. Everyone was a person; everyone was real. That was so fantastically refreshing. I didn't feel like any character in this novel was just there to serve as a plot device. Everyone had a meaning, a purpose, a personality. That was so astoundingly impressive.

And the plot... wow. The Masked Truth was the perfect example of a hold-your-breath, grasp-your-chest, sit-on-the-edge-of-your-seat thriller. I loved the twists and turns that it took, especially at the end. It both started and ended with a bang--truly captivating, page by page.

I honestly cannot recommend any novel more than this. If there's a single book that you preorder in 2015, I ask that it be this one. It deserves each and every one of these five stars. Congratulations to Ms. Armstrong for writing such a fantastic, real, and entrancing novel!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Trial by Fire by Josephine Angelini

Title: Trial by Fire
Author: Josephine Angelini
Format I Read: ARC
Pages: 374
Genres: Fantasy, Romance
Release Date: September 2, 2014
Stars: 5
Goodreads Link

I quite literally read this book nonstop, with only a mild pause for much-needed sleep. Angelini completely sucked me in. My mind is boggled. Boggled. This book has to be one of the most interesting, most intricately created, most fascinating books I've read in a while. Angelini did a damn good job at building this mind-blowing world.

I've read many reviews of this book, and it seems that a lot are not favorable. I picked up an ARC of the sequel, Firewalker, at BEA, not even realizing that it was a sequel. Thus, in order to read Firewalker, I had to get my hands on Trial by Fire. I then stalked the #booksfortrade tag until I got a copy. Unfortunately, with all the reviews that I'd read, I was extremely nervous that I was going to hate Trial by Fire and be stuck with an ARC that I totally didn't want to read. So I went into Trial by Fire with lots of reservations. Fortunately, I ended up absolutely loving the book (and I will be starting the sequel as soon as I'm done with this review).

For those who are unfamiliar with Trial by Fire:

This world is trying to kill Lily Proctor. Her life-threatening allergies keep her from enjoying experiences that others in her hometown of Salem take for granted, which is why she is determined to enjoy her first high school party with her best friend and longtime crush, Tristan. But after a humiliating incident in front of half her graduating class, Lily wishes she could just disappear.

Suddenly, Lily is in a different Salem—one overrun with horrifying creatures and ruled by powerful women called Crucibles. Strongest and cruelest of them all is Lillian . . . Lily's other self in this alternate universe.

What makes Lily weak at home is what makes her extraordinary in New Salem. In this confusing world, Lily is torn between responsibilities she can't hope to shoulder alone and a love she never expected.

To start: the world building, guys, the world building! Angelini created such a fascinating world (or worlds, I guess). I don't want to go too far into it, but I have to gush. Basically, this different Salem is a bizarre mish-mash of modern and medieval. In Lillian's Salem, the witch trials were more than 200 years ago. When the townspeople chose to burn witches instead of hanging them, they allowed the course of history, as Lily knows it, to be drastically altered. The highest level of witch is called a firewalker, someone who can literally burn on a pyre while absorbing the energy that the fire gives them. Burning witches at the stake ironically gave them enough power to create a whole new world--one where witches are in charge. It was so insanely cool to see exactly how Lillian's Salem branched off from Lily's Salem, or our world.

I also loved the world building with the science. Lillian is crusading against science--she went worldjumping, which is how she pulled Lily into her world. In her worldjumping, she saw the danger and destruction associated with science. Science falls second to the witch's magic and is seen as a more barbaric way of getting things done in Lillian's Salem. However, many people are forced to resort to science, because the witches refuse to give them the necessities they need to survive: energy, food, medicine, etc. These people are stuck as Outlanders, living in constant fear of the Woven, hybrid monsters with a thirst for blood, an experiment gone wrong. They need science to survive, but Lillian is hunting down the scientists one by one, leaving them to hang.

I loved how all of the science had a parallel in our world. A few scientists are dealing with elemental energy--to us, nuclear energy. Other scientists are feeding mold to sick children--to us, antibiotics. It was so fascinating to connect it all!

Honestly, Angelini had an explanation for everything. Even the food that Lily had to eat! Witches are taken care of and watched out for by mechanics, who can heal and protect their witch. Rowan, who used to be Lillian's most loyal mechanic until a falling out, is one of the best and strongest mechanics. He's constantly advising Lily about the biology of her body, as he knew Lillian's body better than anyone. Lily and Lillian have the same body, after all. Angelini carefully explains how salt is important to a witch for its electrical charge, how Lily's allergies have real foundation in her identity as a witch, how everything is meaningful. I loved the careful blend of biology, science, and magic. It was riveting!

I'll be honest, there were some things that were unexplained and slightly underdeveloped. Like I said earlier, Lillian's world was a mish-mash of modern and medieval. That threw me off because there was no clear explanation of that Salem's history and development. It all had to be pieced together as you read the story. That was a little disorienting, but also a bit exciting. You had to figure it out as you went, just like Lily!

Some people didn't like Lily. They say that she's lovestruck and weak. They say that it's unbelievable how all of this power is just thrown into her lap. I completely disagree. Lily didn't abandon her world because she felt betrayed by Tristan. She abandoned her world because she felt trapped by her life, felt useless in her body, felt ostracized by anyone and everyone. I think that's perfectly acceptable. She wasn't just a scorned little girl; her reasons were valid. And then there's the reminder that she didn't consciously abandon her world. In reality, she was tricked and kidnapped. If a little voice in your head says, "You can escape," why wouldn't you agree? It's not like the voice is real... It's just your little pity party. Unless there are witches involved, of course. I loved Lily. I thought she was spunky and strong; I was so excited that she finally got the chance to be her, the her who wasn't inhibited by her weak body. I didn't think that her character switch when she got to Lillian's Salem was bizarre. I think that Lily always had that sass and strength in her. She could just never express it because she was trapped by her sickened body. Lily's powerful magic also didn't feel unnatural. It made sense. She literally has the same body as Lillian--of course she has the same amount of power. It was logical. I didn't feel like it was forced at all! I honestly loved Lily; she was a fantastic main character.

I also loved all of the other characters: the Tristan in Lillian's world, the Juliet in Lillian's world, and (of course) Rowan. God, Rowan was swoonworthy. He's totally my new book boyfriend. I loved him so hard. And I loved the looks that we got into his head, too! It was cool how Angelini let us peek into his emotions and memories. Juliet was also so fantastic. I really enjoyed seeing her struggle between Lillian and Lily, both of which feel like her sister. She has to decide between what's right and what's wrong, no matter how loyal she wants to be to Lillian. She was a really strong minor character. I really hope we get to see more of her!

Beyond the characters and the world, the writing was absolutely amazing. Angelini sucked me in with her words. The descriptions, the thoughts of the characters, the style--it was all captivating. The dialogue was so well-written and I loved the characters' interactions. I also really liked the fact that she wrote in third person; it allowed the primary focus to be on Lily, but also let the reader sneak a peek into the other character's heads, like Gideon (the villain) and Juliet.

And here's where I have to stop before I give the entire book away. Already, I think this might be one of my longest reviews in months. I could talk about this book for days! Everything was just so... entrancing. I can't wait to read the sequel.

Overall, Trial by Fire was a fantastic book with exquisite world building. I loved the characters and the concept. The story was intricately woven and endlessly fascinating. Definitely a must-read!

Where the Road Takes Me by Jay McLean

Title: Where the Road Takes Me
Author: Jay McLean
Format I Read: Kindle
Pages: 315
Genres: Romance, Contemporary
Release Date: February 10, 2015
Stars: 3
Goodreads Link

Because I was abroad when I read this book, I read it in a few disjointed sessions. This threw me off a bit because, honestly, Where the Road Takes Me could probably be three different books in and of itself. At the beginning of the novel, I was slightly turned off. The romance was too fast-paced and the characters weren’t doing much for me. However, as time went on, the book grew on me and ended up earning 4 stars.

For those who have never heard of Where the Road Takes Me:

Chloe has one plan for the future, and one plan only: the road. She’s made a promise to herself: don’t let anyone in, and don’t let anyone love her. She’s learned the hard way what happens if she breaks her rules. So she’s focused on being invisible and waiting until she can set out on the road—her dream of freedom, at least for a little while.

Blake Hunter is a basketball star who has it all—everything about him looks perfect to those on the other side of his protective walls. He can’t let anyone see the shattered pieces behind the flawless facade or else all his hopes and dreams will disappear.

One dark night throws Chloe and Blake together, changing everything for Blake. For Chloe, nothing changes: she has the road, and she’s focused on it. But when the so-called perfect boy starts to notice the invisible girl, they discover that sometimes with love, no one knows where the road may lead.

I actually ended up enjoying a lot of the characters! Mary, Chloe’s foster mom, and the rest of Chloe’s foster family were fantastic. I also loved the scenes with Blake’s mom. The cast was just so well done. I loved how each person could’ve had their own spinoff. Clayton, Chloe’s former foster brother, had so much depth and really moved me. I would love to read a novel dedicated to his story. Josh, Blake’s best friend, is a teen dad whose family and friends abandoned him. Yet he’s still a fantastic role model and person; I would really love a book just for him, too! The characters were just generally very likable.

All except for Chloe, that is. I’m not saying I hated her… I just hated a lot of her decisions. (This may be a mild spoiler, so tread carefully) I’m sorry, but does she not understand how cancer works? It’s not undefeatable. If you catch it early, you have a greater chance of treating it and conquering it. Especially breast cancer! If your mom and your aunt died from breast cancer and you know that there’s a 50% chance that you have the gene to develop it… then you’re at an advantage! You know to keep your eyes open and watch your body. Yes, you have a 50% chance of getting the cancer, but you have a much higher chance of surviving it, because you know what to look for and what to expect. Yet she just pushed people away and prepared herself for inevitable death. I felt that that was unnecessary and plain dumb, if I’m completely honest. It was selfish and idiotic. I disliked that part of the book.

Fortunately, like I said, the book had so many different elements that it could honestly be almost three different books! There was the road trip aspect toward the last third of the book, which was really cute. You didn’t get to see too much travel or development, but they did go to a few different stops along the way, which was fun. So though I wouldn’t call this a “road trip novel,” it definitely had a nice road trip element. There was the cancer element, which added another layer of seriousness and a level of passion to the book. It helped deliver the theme that life is too short to worry about pushing people away. You need to just embrace the world. There was also the foster family aspect and Chloe’s struggle with letting her mom go. That was really moving and a very subtle development and undertone. I really liked watching the relationships change!

Overall, I wouldn’t say this was a wow book, but it was thoroughly enjoyable! I liked the mish-mash and variety of the novel. It’s probably around 3.5 stars, though I think I'd have to round down to a 3. I definitely recommend this if you’re not quite sure what you want to read and want a little bit of everything! A good book to read if you’re on a long car ride or on the beach.

Monday, August 24, 2015

This Ordinary Life by Jennifer Walkup

Title: This Ordinary Life
Author: Jennifer Walkup
Format I Read: ARC
Pages: 240
Genres: Realistic Fiction, Contemporary
Release Date: October 1, 2015
Stars: 3
Goodreads Link

Though this book had an interesting concept, the characters and the plot fell a little flat for me. Honestly, if the book wasn't such a short and sweet read, I may have given up and DNF'd this. I ended up giving it 3 stars, but I was actually planning on 2 stars until the very end. However, it did have some solid points and redeeming qualities!

For those who don't know what This Ordinary Life is about:

High-school radio host Jasmine Torres's life is full of family dysfunction, but if she can score the internship of her dreams with a New York City radio station, she knows she can turn things around.

That is, until her brother Danny’s latest seizure forces her to miss the interview, and she’s back to the endless loop of missing school for his doctor appointments, picking up the pieces of her mother’s booze-soaked life, and stressing about Danny’s future.

Then she meets Wes. He’s the perfect combination of smart, cute, and funny. He also happens to have epilepsy like her brother. Wes is living a normal life despite his medical issues, which gives Jasmine hope for Danny. But memories of her cheating ex-boyfriend keep her from going on a real date with Wes, no matter how many times he asks her.

Jasmine can’t control everything. Not who wins the internship, not her mother’s addiction, not her brother’s health--not even where her heart will lead her. She wishes she could just have an ordinary life, but maybe what she already has is pretty extraordinary after all.

Right away, I loved the idea. Epilepsy is such a misunderstood and looked-over illness. Yes, mental illnesses are getting more attention in literature nowadays, but we've still got a long way to go before we diversify our literature enough to include representations of all the struggles teens may face. I had never read a book with characters who have epilepsy--I loved that Walkup was tackling this! Not to mention that I'm a sucker for older sisters who take on the mom role; the relationship between the siblings always pulls at my heartstrings. I adored Danny and Jasmine's relationship. They were completely adorable, and I loved how Jazz interacted with Danny. It was hilarious how she acted like an overprotective mom to the point that Danny kept whining, "I'm a big boy!"

Unfortunately, I didn't really see much character depth or development, which disappointed me a lot. I love a good character-driven story. This Ordinary Life just didn't have that. I felt like all of the characters were very forced. Jasmine was the radio girl. Wes was the witty boy. Frankie was the helpful best friend. It seemed that Walkup was just trying to fit the characters into the role and then failed to develop them any more than that. This meant that I just didn't find the characters or their interactions very believable. They weren't real. If I'm completely honest, Wes was the worst. Yes, of course I liked him. He was a fun, likable character. But, as a seventeen-year-old myself, I can tell you that people like him don't truly exist. The charming, witty, slightly off-center quirky, upfront guy: he isn't real. His conversations with Jasmine? They would never happen. No one would actually say that, no one would actually text like that. I just couldn't let myself go in this book because it didn't feel real to me.

I just felt like Walkup grazed the surface with everything. She just plopped stuff into the novel to check off some boxes. Cheating ex-boyfriend? Check. Quirky love interest? Check. Fun best friend? Check. Unique main character who think she's carrying the world on her shoulders? Check. This book just felt like it was trying too hard with everything. That made the novel drag on a bit. Luckily, the book wasn't long so I didn't start to resent it too much.

Again, there were some redeeming qualities. I loved the idea. I loved the topic that Walkup was tackling. I loved the relationships (especially the familial ones). I loved the end, which tied everything up nicely. So, though I was considering 2 stars, I bumped it up to 3. This book just didn't end up being my cup of tea.

I recommend this novel to someone interested in the epilepsy aspect; interested in a quirky romance as a quick, short and sweet read; interested in complex family dynamics; and interested in radio and chasing dreams. Like I said: well done and interesting, just not for me!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Stacking the Shelves #7

Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks! It is hosted every week (typically on Saturday) by Tynga's Reviews.

I'm doing a bit of a twist on this and talking about some books that I have added to my shelves in the past. I'm tentatively calling it "Signed Book" Saturday, because I'm going to focus on my collections of signed books!

Today's author that I'm featuring is Veronica Roth!

I've never actually met Veronica, though it's quite literally on my bucket list to meet her someday. Embarrassingly enough, I own 3 copies of Divergent, 2 copies of Insurgent, 2 copies of Allegiant, a copy of Four and a copy of Divergent in German. And that's not even counting my eBook copies of the series.

My favorite book in the series is definitely Divergent. I've read it just about a million times!

My dad was sweet enough to order me some signed copies of her books after I couldn't make it to see her at Yallfest (I think).

Which book is your favorite of the series?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Blood and Salt by Kim Liggett

Title: Blood and Salt
Author: Kim Liggett
Format I Read: eARC from Penguin's First to Read Program
Pages: 352
Genres: Horror, Paranormal, Romance
Release Date: September 22, 2015
Stars: 4
Goodreads Link

Wow, that was a wild ride. To be completely honest, I really wasn’t expecting to love Blood and Salt; I was expecting something more along the lines of some thorough enjoyment. Yet I found myself undeniably invested in the story, the thrill, and the twists. I ended up loving Blood and Salt. Quite a bit. I read it in one fell swoop, and it was wild.

For those who are unfamiliar with Blood and Salt:

Romeo and Juliet meets Children of the Corn in this one-of-a-kind romantic horror.

“When you fall in love, you will carve out your heart and throw it into the deepest ocean. You will be all in—blood and salt.”

These are the last words Ash Larkin hears before her mother returns to the spiritual commune she escaped long ago. But when Ash follows her to Quivira, Kansas, something sinister and ancient waits among the rustling cornstalks of this village lost to time.

Ash is plagued by memories of her ancestor, Katia, which harken back to the town’s history of unrequited love and murder, alchemy and immortality. Charming traditions soon give way to a string of gruesome deaths, and Ash feels drawn to Dane, a forbidden boy with secrets of his own.

As the community prepares for a ceremony five hundred years in the making, Ash must fight not only to save her mother, but herself—and discover the truth about Quivira before it’s too late. Before she’s all in—blood and salt.

The plot was so intensely unique. The mixture of mystery, cults, and magic: absolutely captivating. I loved the idea of vessels, conduits, and alchemy.

I especially loved the twists and turns. Blood and Salt was an alarmingly engaging novel. Though I saw a few of the “big reveals” from a mile away, I’m happy to report that I didn’t even come close to guessing 75% of the other twists. The last 50 pages of the book was honestly just a tangled web of twists and surprises. One after the other, the reveals left me a gasping mess with a permanently dropped jaw. It was truly the definition of a wild ride.

Though I didn’t really connect with too many of the characters, they were still well written. Ashlyn’s voice was fiercely strong and spectacularly developed. I really enjoyed her point of view (the only point of view). I also adored Beth, a zany and “broken” seer from Quivira. She was just the right balance of loyal yet quirky. She was perfect!

While I didn’t enjoy Ashlyn’s love-at-first-sight-swoon-I-don’t-even-know-Dane-but-I-loooove-him, it was slightly bearable. In a contemporary, I would’ve been miserable. However, with the blend of magic and the inclusion of the blood connections, I wasn’t as turned off by the insta-love! It actually added a lot to the story, especially toward the end (no spoilers).

I really enjoyed how Blood and Salt didn’t really fall in any single genre. It was horror but it was romance, it was thriller but it was humor. Liggett seamlessly combined these traits and created a masterpiece. One second I’d be biting my nails over one of Ash’s visions, the next second I’d be laughing as Beth sang the Backstreet Boys. It was perfectly constructed!

Liggett also wrote beautifully. I wanted to devour her words. Every sentence was like magic itself. I found myself completely sucked in by the writing. I really enjoyed the descriptions of scents. It added another layer to the story and was a really unique way of approaching the storytelling. It truly gave the book a little something extra. I don’t have any quotes to include about Liggett’s beautiful writing because if I quoted my favorite lines… I would have to quote the entire book. It was that good.

Overall, Blood and Salt was a fantastic surprise—an engaging horror layered with romance, humor, mystery, and suspense. Liggett’s fantastic writing talent was the cherry on top of a fantastically delicious and spine-tingling novel. I definitely recommend that you pick this book up. It’s got a little bit of everything and will surely keep you entranced until the very last page!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Abby Road by Ophelia London

Title: Abby Road
Author: Ophelia London
Format I Read: Kindle
Pages: 400
Genres: Romance, Contemporary, New Adult
Release Date: March 2013
Stars: 3
Goodreads Link

Let me start this off with a warning: Abby Road is not what you expect. It’s a whirlwind of topics, a hurricane of emotions, and a tornado of character development. It’s a wild rollercoaster, from start to finish. It offered a fantastic sense of catharsis that pulls you in.

For those who aren’t familiar with Abby Road:

Fame can't buy her love...

It’s been exactly one day since rock star Abigail Kelly fled her chaotic life in L.A. to her sister’s home in Florida. One day without her demanding manager, paparazzi, ridiculous tour schedules, and recording sessions. For the first time in five years, she has the summer off. To be anonymous. A summer to not think about losing her brother...or that her once-normal life has turned into a mess of panic and heartbreak.

But all it takes is one twist of fate—to enter a stranger's surf shop while trying to dodge some fans—for everything to change.

Because the shop owner happens to be a really cute guy with an amazing laugh. With Todd, an ex-Marine sniper turned surfer, she feels things she hasn’t felt for a long time. Possibly never. But when the real world comes crashing back in, Abby is caught between the superstar she’s become...and the painfully real human being she longs to be.

Honestly, I’m still a little confused about what I just read. Don’t get me wrong: Abby Road was a great read that sucked me in and trapped me in London’s world from start to finish. However, it was a mish-mash of just about a million different stories. When I first read the synopsis, I thought it would be a breezy summer romance. Abby would fall for Todd in this small beachside town and it’ll be a refreshing reprieve from her crazy celebrity life. Surprise! That was just the tip of the iceberg.

London weaves a tale that includes a handful of major plotlines and ideas. First, there’s the summer romance mentioned about. Second, there’s Abby’s struggle to accept her brother’s death and free herself from the haunting guilt of that night. Third, there’s the difficulty of Abby and Todd’s relationship surviving her L.A. rock star life. Fourth, there’s the battle for Abby to finally stand up to her manager and take control of her own life, to be a happy and healthy person.

Surprisingly, I didn’t hate this wild mix of plotlines. At first, if I’m completely honest, I didn’t like it. By the end of the book, it grew on me. This book was a really refreshing story of redemption and personal development. It explored a young woman’s ability to be her own savior. I found that to be an astoundingly redeeming quality.

I really enjoyed the characters. Todd was definitely swoon-worthy and I liked his backstory. His romance with Abby was lovely. It felt very real and heart-warming. They had so much chemistry. I wish we could’ve seen more of the development of their relationship! Unfortunately, London skipped the three months that they got together and skipped right to the move back to L.A. I also loved the minor characters: Hal, Molly, Lindsey, etc. They were fantastic additions and I loved the scenes with them. In particular, I ended up really loving Lindsey. She was such a fantastic sister and she really grew on me! Abby herself was a little frustrating. She wasn’t the most likable main character, though I didn’t hate her either. Fortunately, her character development made up for any complaints I had about her throughout the novel!

One complaint I did have was the chapter transitions. London would skip entire weeks and months without any real indication. Within the first few pages of the chapter, she would clarify, of course. But it was definitely disorienting and threw me off. I would’ve liked to see some smoother transitions.

The writing was also a mix of good and bad. Though I liked the tone and style that London used, the dialogue and transitions could fall a little flat. Sometimes I had to reread paragraphs to find out what just happened or if I missed something. The characters were often very obscure in how they spoke; I sometimes felt like London cut scenes out but didn’t compensate in later scenes. It was a little disorienting. Fortunately, it didn’t detract too much from the story; it was just a little off-putting.

Overall, I’d give Abby Road 3.5 stars. It was a cathartic story that really had me invested. For those who like summer beach romances (the first third), glitzy celebrity romances (the second third), and/or personal discovery and redemption stories (the last third), definitely try out Abby Road!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Stacking the Shelves #6

Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks! It is hosted every week (typically on Saturday) by Tynga's Reviews.

I'm doing a bit of a twist on this and talking about some books that I have added to my shelves in the past. I'm tentatively calling it "Signed Book" Saturday, because I'm going to focus on my collections of signed books!

Today's author that I'm featuring is Becca Fitzpatrick!

I've actually never met Becca, though I somehow have a pretty hefty collection of her books! The amazing Adele (@ Persnickety Snark) got me Black Ice from BEA 2014 last year, and my dad got me the Hush, Hush series as a gift (way back in 2010, wow). So my collection is completely because of the generosity of others--thanks, buds!

My favorite book by Becca Fitzpatrick would have to be Black Ice! I love the mystery, the romance, and the tension.

Without further ado:

Have you read Becca's books before? If so, what's your favorite book by her?

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Ten by Gretchen McNeil

Title: Ten
Author: Gretchen McNeil
Format I Read: Kindle
Pages: 296
Genres: Mystery, Thriller
Release Date: September 18, 2012
Stars: 4
Goodreads Link

For those of you who enjoy mysteries reminiscent of Agatha Christie, but like a little taste of YA, Ten is definitely a book you need to pick up. McNeil eloquently and expertly wove a tale that adapted And Then There Were None in our day and age, with a cast of teenagers who are somehow all connected.

I’m not one to normally read the mystery and thriller genre. My genre is typically romance with a side of paranormal, mystery, thriller, etc. However, above all, Ten was a mystery novel. It had a side of romance, but the main focus was the murder and the suspense. This was a really refreshing change of pace for me! I really adored this novel and couldn’t put it down.

In case you haven’t heard of Ten:

Don't spread the word!
Three-day weekend. Party at White Rock House on Henry Island.
You do NOT want to miss it.

It was supposed to be the weekend of their lives—an exclusive house party on Henry Island. Best friends Meg and Minnie each have their reasons for being there (which involve T.J., the school’s most eligible bachelor) and look forward to three glorious days of boys, booze and fun-filled luxury.

But what they expect is definitely not what they get, and what starts out as fun turns dark and twisted after the discovery of a DVD with a sinister message: Vengeance is mine.

Suddenly people are dying, and with a storm raging, the teens are cut off from the outside world. No electricity, no phones, no internet, and a ferry that isn’t scheduled to return for two days. As the deaths become more violent and the teens turn on each other, can Meg find the killer before more people die? Or is the killer closer to her than she could ever imagine?

McNeil created a fantastic puzzle that kept the reader guessing. I spent the whole novel trying to figure out who the murderer was; I even fell for McNeil’s trap and guessed the wrong person, just like some of the other characters. In the end, I wasn’t disappointed. The murderer had such an intricate plan and the puzzle fit together perfectly. Everyone’s role made sense and it all just worked.

I also really loved the homage to And Then There Were None. It was cool how McNeil even included a dead fakeout, like Christie does in the novel. In Christie’s mystery, the deaths follow a nursery rhyme about ten little Indians. In McNeil’s story, the deaths follow a different pattern, though every single murder has a meaning. I thought that was a really cool addition to the puzzle! And, of course, the base of the story was the same. A mysteriously absent host invites the characters to a party on an abandoned island with no exit routes.

McNeil also added some cool aspects to make the story realistic. The characters were invited through Facebook. The storm prevented them from getting off the island. It definitely felt more believable. It’s easy to say, “There’s no way they’d be stuck on an island in the 21st century. They have so much technology!” However, McNeil makes sure to cover all of her bases and make it completely plausible that the characters are stranded.

I also really enjoyed the characters. McNeil adds a fantastic layer of casual diversity. There’s a girl with anxiety and other disorders who needs to take medication. There’s a black football star. There’s an Asian singer. It was really refreshing to see such a diverse cast of characters! I also loved all of their backstories, especially the friendship between Meg and Minnie. They had a really complex and interesting history.

Overall, I’d probably give Ten 4.5 stars. It was an interesting, pull-me-in, edge-of-your-seat novel that I ate right up. I’m going to round down to 4 stars, just because it wasn’t a wow book. However, I had no complaints. I’d definitely recommend to anyone looking for a taste of suspense in their TBR!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman

Title: Vengeance Road
Author: Erin Bowman
Format I Read: ARC
Pages: 336
Genres: Historical Fiction, Action
Release Date: September 1, 2015
Stars: 4
Goodreads Link

You see, I’m not usually a one-genre kind of girl. I read just about anything and everything, as long as it’s YA and has at least a trace of romance. I read fantasy, sci-fi, contemporary, whatever. But there’s one genre that’s typically no-go territory for me: historical fiction. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve read and enjoyed a handful of historical fiction. But it’s not a genre that often graces my TBR. I’ve just never been a girl who likes historical fiction. Until now.

I absolutely loved Vengeance Road: the characters, the voice, the intrigue, the adventure, the action. Bowman created a story that kept me on my toes. My eyes scoured the pages and my fingers were furiously flipping through the book. I found myself completely entranced.

For those who haven’t heard of Vengeance Road:

When Kate Thompson’s father is killed by the notorious Rose Riders for a mysterious journal that reveals the secret location of a gold mine, the eighteen-year-old disguises herself as a boy and takes to the gritty plains looking for answers and justice. What she finds are devious strangers, dust storms, and a pair of brothers who refuse to quit riding in her shadow. But as Kate gets closer to the secrets about her family, she gets closer to the truth about herself and must decide if there's room for love in a heart so full of hate.

Kate was such a fantastic protagonist. From the first page, you’re rooting for her. She’s strong and independent, a true fighter, but she’s also just an eighteen-year-old girl. Yes, she’s her own hero, but she’s simultaneously an orphan whose father was brutally murdered and a teen who doesn’t know what to do with her growing attachment to a certain boy. It was so fantastic to see just how complex Kate was. All of her reactions and actions were justified and realistic; there was no point in the book where I got mad at her for being an idiot (which happens in a lot of books, to be completely honest). I also loved seeing how confused she was about her feelings for Jesse—it was so endearing. Bowman included the perfect sprinkle of romance. Enough to keep me interested, but not enough to overshadow Kate’s own story.

The other characters were just as great as Kate. From Will to Jesse, Pa to Abe, Rose to Lil, each person added so much to the book. I loved the Colton brothers. They balanced each other out so perfectly and were so real. I honestly felt like they could be real people. They didn’t seem like far-off, distant pictures of cowboys at all. They were real people. I really enjoyed Pa, though he’s already dead by the opening scene. It was so great to see Kate’s reactions as she discovers more about her father. He was one of my favorite characters, which is saying a lot, considering he’s dead the entire book! Lil was such a great addition, though she doesn’t enter the story until later. She’s an Apache who acts as Kate and the boys’ scout for part of their trek. I loved the historical insight into the Native Americans. It was so intriguing and interesting! Waylan Rose, the man who Kate is chasing throughout the book, was a great villain. I won’t say more about him, to avoid spoilers, but he was awesome. He was the epitome of the Wild West.

I just loved how accurately the book seemed to capture the setting. From the saloons to the standoffs and poker games, from the fantastic descriptions of the Arizona landscape to the crazy dust storms, I felt like I was really there. I could picture everything. Bowman perfectly captured the setting!

The voice was so well-done. Though the Western dialect is disorienting at first, it helps you enter the world—both place and time—of the novel. It really helped set the tone and made the story that much more realistic. So many props to Ms. Bowman for staying true to the dialect!

Honestly, I could go on about this book for hours. It was truly fantastic. It made my breath catch in my throat, my legs quiver with nervous energy, and my fingers itch to get to the next page. It opened my eyes to the magic of historical fiction. I couldn’t put it down. Even if you don’t like history or Westerns, it’s worth a read!

4.5 stars from me: definitely worthy of a pre-order!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Stacking the Shelves #5

Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks! It is hosted every week (typically on Saturday) by Tynga's Reviews.

I'm doing a bit of a twist on this and talking about some books that I have added to my shelves in the past. I'm tentatively calling it "Signed Book" Saturday, because I'm going to focus on my collections of signed books!

Today's author that I'm featuring is Katie McGarry!

I've met Katie at two different events: Apollycon 2015 and BEA 2015. I'm in love with her books and I've reviewed both Take Me On and Nowhere But Here on the blog! She writes fantastic characters with complex relationships. I never want to put her books down!

I think my favorite would definitely have to be either Crash Into You or Nowhere But Here. It's a close tie, but I love me some Isaiah and Rachel...

Without further ado:

From Apollycon 2015
From Apollycon 2015

From Apollycon 2015
From Apollycon 2015

From BEA 2015
Have you read any of Katie McGarry's books? Which is your favorite?

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Dream Things True by Marie Marquardt

Title: Dream Things True
Author: Marie Marquardt
Format I Read: ARC
Pages: 352
Genres: Romance, Contemporary
Release Date: September 1, 2015
Stars: 4
Goodreads Link

I can honestly say that, after reading Dream Things True, I will never be the same. The way I look at the world has been completely altered. Marquardt expertly captures the struggle of undocumented immigrants in a way that tugs at your heartstrings until they snap.

For those who aren't familiar with Dream Things True:

A modern-day Romeo and Juliet story in which a wealthy Southern boy falls in love with an undocumented Mexican girl and together they face perils in their hostile Georgia town.

Evan, a soccer star and the nephew of a conservative Southern Senator, has never wanted for much -- except a functional family. Alma has lived in Georgia since she was two-years-old, excels in school, and has a large, warm Mexican family. Never mind their differences, the two fall in love, and they fall hard. But when ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) begins raids on their town, Alma knows that she needs to tell Evan her secret. There's too much at stake. But how to tell her country-club boyfriend that she’s an undocumented immigrant? That her whole family and most of her friends live in the country without permission. What follows is a beautiful, nuanced, well-paced exploration of the complications of immigration, young love, defying one’s family, and facing a tangled bureaucracy that threatens to completely upend two young lives.

A quick note before I get more into the review: telling Evan the truth was never really the problem, though the synopsis makes it sound like as much. Alma told Evan about her legal status within the first fourth of the book. The book was about so much more than just a girl hiding the truth from a boy she has a crush on. It was about the way that she opened Evan's mind to the truth and fought the unfair hand that she was given. This book was truly on another level.

Dream Things True struck really close to home for me. The town I live in is eerily similar to Gilberton. Where Gilberton is known for its chicken industry, my town is known for mushroom farming. More than a third of our school district is Hispanic. Immigrants flock to our town for the business they can find in the mushroom houses. Reading about Gilberton felt like I was reading about the town I call home. And that was a bitter reality check for me.

With this book, Marquardt manages to clog your throat, twist your insides, and wet your eyes with the cold, hard truth of our country. Like Evan, I felt like my eyes were opened by Alma and the difficulties she had to face. Evan represented probably 90% of the American population, people living in their own little bubble, completely unaware of the struggles of those around them. Ignorance is bliss, huh?

The story that Marquardt wove struck me in so many ways. She intricately creates a tale of first love, a heart-pounding romance in which Alma finally learns the meaning of swooning. She exposes the reader to the countless obstacles that undocumented immigrants have to overcome: to become more than a teenage pregnancy statistic, to get a scholarship to college, to get a license. All without a Social Security number. To most of us, a Social Security number is nothing more than a number. It's an expectation, not a privilege. We don't see it for the value it holds. For undocumented immigrants, a Social Security number is a dream, a necessity, a blessing. Those digits mean a difference between a job in America and a windswept town in Mexico. I ached for the characters in this book who fought tooth and nail to keep their family together, just because of a silly string of numbers.

Marquardt built a world where every day can mean a loved one is carted away to a jobless town in Mexico. Every day can mean a child's parent is deported. Every day can mean a person is forced into another country, a place that the government says is their home, but that their heart says is a dead end. Except this world is reality for so many people. Dream Things True was more than just a novel--it was an education. It was an eye-opening experience that revealed the truth of the land we call home.

This novel was a perfect balance between bitter and sweet. The romance was heart-wrenching with the purity and passion of first love.  Yet the forces pulling them apart physically pained me: the dreams of a teenage couple tested by the harsh reality of the world. In addition to the romantic chemistry, the familial chemistry was absolutely moving. The large cast of Garcias had such a strong love for each other that I could feel it in my bones. Every character had depth. I particularly loved Evan's cousin (the son of a Senator), Whit. They were more than characters. They were someone that I could pass by on the street. They were real.

Honestly, I couldn't put this book down. I found myself spaztically sharing everything about it with my brothers. I told them about how I couldn't understand the Spanish used in the book, but there were enough context clues that I understood what was meant, making it a kind of adventure to read the Garcia family exchanges. I explained how astounded I was at the truths I was learning. I told them how it was all I could think about yesterday when I went out to lunch. I couldn't stop talking about this damn book. It was stuck in my head, my heart, and my body. And I'm not sure that it'll ever really leave me.

The story itself, the way it all fell together, the way the characters interacted, the way the society betrayed its people, absolutely entranced me. This book was filled with ups and downs, a roller coaster ride of emotions. The last few chapters, especially, were a total whammy. I can't wait to read more books by Marie Marquardt (and read more about immigration legislation, to be honest) because I've been thoroughly hooked.

I recommend this book to anyone and everyone. It was eye-opening and educational, while still being entertaining and captivating. This story of Evan, Alma, and their struggle will stick with me for years to come. Definitely preorder this book--you won't regret it.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Title: Everything, Everything
Author: Nicola Yoon
Format I Read: ARC
Pages: 320
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Release Date: September 1, 2015
Stars: 4
Goodreads Link

Honestly, I'm super conflicted about this book. I really don't know how I feel. My gut instinct says that I'm not quite fulfilled, but my brain tells me that this book was satisfying enough.

I'm caught between 3 and 4 stars--I'm giving it 3.5 with a roundup to 4. It was a fresh, interesting read that kept me entertained enough to read it all in one sitting.

For those who haven't heard of Everything, Everything:

This innovative, heartfelt debut novel tells the story of a girl who’s literally allergic to the outside world. When a new family moves in next door, she begins a complicated romance that challenges everything she’s ever known. The narrative unfolds via vignettes, diary entries, texts, charts, lists, illustrations, and more.

My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.

The writing was lovely. I really enjoyed the way Yoon tackled the story, including IMs, diagrams, charts, mock book reviews, etc. It made the story easy to get into and easy to read. It also made it fly by! I was sucked in from the beginning. There wasn't a single moment where I got bored or tired of the writing. Yoon really has a knack for words.

Normally, I don't include quotes in my reviews, but there were a few that really stood out to me in Everything, Everything. See the following magical lines:

"I was happy before I met him. But I'm alive now, and those are not the same thing." (ARC 181)

"promise: The lie you want to keep" (ARC 194)--written as a definition in the ARC, reformatted for this review

A lot of Yoon's writing really struck close to home. She has an amazing talent! She gets 5 stars for her writing, for sure.

Unfortunately, the characters and their choices fell a little flat for me. Though I was empathetic with Madeline's feelings, I disagreed with most of her actions. I felt that she was selfish, immature, and unnecessarily cruel at times. She acted more like a pouty fourteen-year-old than an eighteen-year-old adult. Her childishness was mildly understandable, as she's lived the last eighteen years secluded from the world. However, I don't think that's a really valid excuse for what she did. I just couldn't seem to connect with her like I wanted to. Something held me back.

The love story didn't quite resonate with me either. It seemed a little too much like insta-love. I didn't fully see the development there. I loved Olly, and the two were adorable together. I just didn't connect like I wished I had.

I also don't think I liked the ending (no spoilers, I promise). I don't think that it was true to the book. I felt like Yoon took the "easy way out" and found a loophole. It didn't feel genuine, which was very disappointing in a book that was otherwise very promising.

Like I said: lots of conflicting feelings about this book. I liked some things, didn't like other things. Overall, I've decided that it was fairly satisfying. I got through it quickly. It was engaging and interesting. There was a splendid level of diversity that was very refreshing. It was a fresh take on an uncommon topic. I enjoyed, just didn't quite love it!

I'd definitely recommend Everything, Everything as a quick, fresh, different read that will make you think! Also, you can bask in the beautiful words that Nicola Yoon weaves together.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Stacking the Shelves #4

Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks! It is hosted every week (typically on Saturday) by Tynga's Reviews.

I'm doing a bit of a twist on this and talking about some books that I have added to my shelves in the past. I'm tentatively calling it "Signed Book" Saturday, because I'm going to focus on my collections of signed books!

Today's author that I'm featuring is Jennifer Armentrout!

I've met Jennifer at many events (including Bookcon 2014, Apollycon, and BEA 2015), so I have a fairly big collection of her signed books.

She's super fun, super sweet, and super genuine. She's honestly a book machine, and I admire her so much! She's probably one of the authors that I have the most books from. I have 12 of her books and love her style, humor, and characters.

I've reviewed Fall With Me and Scorched on the blog. But my favorite would have to be Obsidian--I love me some Katy and Daemon with sexual tension!

So without further ado:

From Bookcon 2014
From BEA 2015
From Apollycon 2015
From BEA 2015

From Bookcon 2014

From BEA 2015

From Apollycon 2015
From BEA 2015