Sunday, May 20, 2018

Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett

Starry Eyes
by Jenn Bennett
Read: April 10 - 15, 2018
Published: April 3, 2018 by Simon Pulse
Source: NetGalley (TY Macmillan!)
Category: YA, Contemporary, Romance, Second-Chances, Hiking, Astronomy
Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Indiebound


Book Depository: Ever since last year’s homecoming dance, best friends-turned-best enemies Zorie and Lennon have made an art of avoiding each other. It doesn’t hurt that their families are the modern day, Californian version of the Montagues and Capulets.

But when a group camping trip goes south, Zorie and Lennon find themselves stranded in the wilderness. Alone. Together.

What could go wrong?

With no one but each other for company, Zorie and Lennon have no choice but to hash out their issues via witty jabs and insults as they try to make their way to safety. But fighting each other while also fighting off the forces of nature makes getting out of the woods in one piece less and less likely.

And as the two travel deeper into Northern California’s rugged backcountry, secrets and hidden feelings surface. But can Zorie and Lennon’s rekindled connection survive out in the real world? Or was it just a result of the fresh forest air and the magic of the twinkling stars?

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As I've come to expect from Jenn Bennett's YA romances, STARRY EYES features messy, real, relatable characters with interesting interests - and I adored it. Lennon loves reptiles and is all things goth. But also hiking and mapmaking. Zero wants to be an astrophysicist and explore the stars. This is how (after some unexpected drama) the end up together on a backpacking trip to a star party to see a once-a-year meteor shower. 

Jenn Bennett also features ultra swoon romances and I couldn't wait to get to that part of this book. And once we were there, that part did not disappoint at all. However, this story was a little tricky for me at first because it is a second chance romance, and those are always hard for me. Some of the beginning where Zorie thinks she likes Brett drove me a little bananas - right along with Lennon. Also, some of Zorie and Lennon's past was hard to read. And I took a star away mostly because I couldn't buy that exact level of miscommunication and drama. (spoiler) especially how no one figured out that Lennon's dad had died (this was the most unbelievable to me due to social media) + Lennon's complete lack of communication at that time + Zorie's moving on so quickly.(end/spoiler) It was like the perfect storm of trouble and I couldn't buy it 100%. 

Besides those hiccups, I adored watching Zorie and Lennon fall for each other again, and their history makes it completely understandable how it all happens over a few days hike. Speaking of the hike, I am dying to visit these parks out west. Bennett always describes settings in her books, in this case the wilderness, that makes me want to book a flight to a new adventure ASAP. 

Love Triangle Factor: Low (decoy boy)(spoiler) Many will  say none, because there's never a question where this is going. Still, the beginning made me a little bit nervous, since Zorie does think she likes Brett for a time. (end/spoiler)
Love Triangle Factor: None

Thursday, April 26, 2018

BLOG TOUR: Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young

Blog Tour organized by Wednesday Books

GUYS, I cannot express to you how much I loved this book. And yes, I know there's a lot of hype around it, but for me it's totally warranted. I actually waited a while to start this because I was so worried that the story wouldn't live up to my high expectations. But it just cut all of those expectations to pieces. With a sharp axe. And then it exceeded them.

Below are some brief thoughts on this book - sometimes the more I love a story, the less I say about it, which was the case here. After that, author Adrienne Young stops by to answer some questions, including her thoughts on love triangles. Don't miss that. 

Sky in the Deep
by Adrienne Young
Read: January 21 - 28, 2018
Published: April 24, 2018 by Wednesday Books
Source: NetGalley (TY Macmillan!)
Category: YA, Historical, Fantasy, Vikings, Family, Standalones, Enemies-to-Love
Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Indiebound

Book Description: OND ELDR. BREATHE FIRE.

Raised to be a warrior, seventeen-year-old Eelyn fights alongside her Aska clansmen in an ancient, rivalry against the Riki clan. Her life is brutal but simple: fight and survive. Until the day she sees the impossible on the battlefield—her brother, fighting with the enemy—the brother she watched die five years ago.

Faced with her brother's betrayal, she must survive the winter in the mountains with the Riki, in a village where every neighbor is an enemy, every battle scar possibly one she delivered. But when the Riki village is raided by a ruthless clan thought to be a legend, Eelyn is even more desperate to get back to her beloved family.

She is given no choice but to trust Fiske, her brother’s friend, who sees her as a threat. They must do the impossible: unite the clans to fight together, or risk being slaughtered one by one. Driven by a love for her clan and her growing love for Fiske, Eelyn must confront her own definition of loyalty and family while daring to put her faith in the people she’s spent her life hating.
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My Brief Book Thoughts: 

Wow. Sky and the Deep was incredible. Ferocious and thoughtful and intensely character focused. The strong theme of family and loyalty plus an achy slow building romance that was even sweeter for the wait to get there, all made this a completely addicting read. Eelyn had my heart from beginning to end, and I became totally focused on her complicated emotional and physical journey through this book. Nothing this girl faced was easy but she was fierce through it all. 

Love Triangle Factor: None 
Cliffhanger Scale: Stand-alone. More of these gorgeous fantasy standalones, please.




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Q&A With Author Adrienne Young

Q: What’s one quality that Eelyn brings out of Fiske and vice versa? If they suddenly discovered they were were-beasts along with Iri, what form would they each take?

Adrienne Young: I think they bring the same thing out of each other – vulnerability. If there were were-beasts, Eelyn would be a raven, Fiske a bear, and Iri a stag.

Q: I was excited to see you at ALA Midwinter this year, especially when we had a little discussion about love triangles that made my heart so happy. For all my Love is Not a Triangle readers, would you tell me again your thoughts on triangles?

AY: I really hate love triangles. I think the reason is that I can’t relate to them at all. They feel unrealistic to me and I’m loyal to the core, so I can’t root for more than one person and it makes me angry at the main character for being so divided. I don’t get the love triangle appeal at all.

Q: What type of research did you do for your characters and world-building? What languages did you study to implement the languages that the Aska and the Riki speak? What was the strangest thing you had to research for this book?

AY: I did a ton of research for this story. I actually really love to research things so it was a lot of fun. A lot of it was stuff like clothing, landscape, weapons, food, etc. But I did a lot of research into Norse mythology as well to build a foundation for this world. The language used is Old Norse, but it’s a dead language so studying it was really difficult. There is a lot of controversy about it among scholars and there’s no real way to fully understand it, so I just did my best based on my own investigation. I’m definitely not an expert! The weirdest thing I had to research was how to tear out someone’s eyeball. Yuck.

Q: What was your writing process like for SKY IN THE DEEP?

AY: Complete and utter obsession. When I draft, I get really buried in the world and I don’t really come up for air until I get to the end. I write as much as I can and limit my intake of other influencers that could mess with my mindset. I don’t watch TV or movies or listen to music that’s not on my playlist, and I kind of don’t have a social life until it’s done.

Q: Any details about the companion novel?

AY: I can’t say anything about the companion novel yet! But I’m hoping that we can start talking about it soon because I am really excited about it!

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About the Author


Adrienne Young is a born and bred Texan turned California girl. She is a foodie with a deep love of history and travel and a shameless addiction to coffee. When she’s not writing, you can find her on her yoga mat, scouring antique fairs for old books, sipping wine over long dinners, or disappearing into her favorite art museums. She lives with her documentary filmmaker husband and their four little wildlings beneath the West Coast sun. 

Follow the author: Twitter | Website | Instagram | Goodreads

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

BLOG TOUR: Girl Power Graphic Novels

Blog Tour Organized by First Second Books
See the full schedule HERE

Quests and adventures and monsters to defeat, here are a few of my favorite things about each of these Girl Powered graphic books:

(Click the title links for descriptions, buy links and other information about these stories courtesy of Goodreads)



The City on the Other Side by Mairghread Scott and Robin Robinson
One of my favorite things about this book was watching Isabel discover an entirely new world and in the process find her own voice and bravery. This book also has a colorful cast, and I especially enjoyed Button. Major bonus too, the artwork in this book is gorgeous. 



Cucumber Quest series by Gigi D.G.
What I loved about these books is how unexpected clever and engaging they were. The art appears to be very cutsey at first, and yes the characters are named after food, but the story kept me reading. And I ended up falling in love with the art along with this eccentric cast of characters led by Cucumber and Almond. When I got to the end of the first book, I couldn't wait to pick up the second and now I can't wait to read books three and four. 



Giants Beware! series by Jorge Aguirre and Rafael Rosado
I think these were my favorite books of the group. I just love Claudette's determination to battle giants - and dragons - and monsters no matter what she's told about them or how many obstacles are put in her path. I also love her two sidekicks: her best friend Marie who just wants to be a princess, and her brother Gaston, a chef with dreams of being a master sword maker. The three of them make a fierce and hilarious team. I couldn't wait to find out what they'd get up to next, and how they'd help each other out of each new predicament. I also like that each book in this series is its own story. 



Scarlett Hart: Monster Hunter by Marcus Sedgwick and Thomas Taylor
One thing I love about this book is Scarlett Hart's determination. She is told that she is too young to battle monsters, but she is determined to do it anyway. She's also really good at it. This story has some great monster battles, inventions and a butler sidekick that made it a whole lot of fun. 


Star Scouts series by Mike Lawrence
I'm not sure if it was intentional (or I misplaced the first) but I only seem to have received the second book in this series - major sad because what I read was great and that was definitely my other favorite of the group! I love all the female friendships in this book, and I was hooked on the adventure, which also kept me laughing. Avani's dad's determination to help find and rescue his daughter was especially amusing. Scouts in space are awesome! I need to get a copy of the first in the series now.


Thursday, April 12, 2018

Not If I Save You First by Ally Carter

Not if I Save You First
by Ally Carter
Read: February 12 - 16, 2018
Published: March 27, 2018 by Scholastic Press
Source: Galley from publisher
Category: YA, Contemporary, Thriller, Best friends to enemies to love, Alaska, Wilderness, President 

Book Description: Maddie thought she and Logan would be friends forever. But when your dad is a Secret Service agent and your best friend is the president's son, sometimes life has other plans. Before she knows it, Maddie's dad is dragging her to a cabin in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness.

No phone.
No Internet.
And not a single word from Logan.

Maddie tells herself it's okay. After all, she's the most popular girl for twenty miles in any direction. (She’s also the only girl for twenty miles in any direction.) She has wood to cut and weapons to bedazzle. Her life is full.
Until Logan shows up six years later . . .
And Maddie wants to kill him.

But before that can happen, an assailant appears out of nowhere, knocking Maddie off a cliff and dragging Logan to some unknown fate. Maddie knows she could turn back- and get help. But the weather is turning and the terrain will only get more treacherous, the animals more deadly.

Maddie still really wants to kill Logan.
But she has to save him first.
 
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Three things I loved about Not if I Save You First by Ally Carter: 

1) Yay for another Ally Carter book in third person. So many people say they prefer first person perspective, but I typically prefer third, and for this author's books, I think she works best in third person. Now my favorite series of Carter's remains Heist Society, and I was so excited to see her get back to that POV. You're probably laughing at how important this is to me, but it is! 

2) This story and it's twisty thriller plot was great fun. Maddie is the daughter to a former Secret Service agent, and former best friend to the president's son. But she has been living in the Alaskan wilderness with her father for the past 6 years after a kidnapping incident at the White House. This girl is a survivor and highly adaptable to any situation, whether it be a fancy party or a trek through the wilderness. She is sharp, quick thinking and ready to act in a crisis, and a crisis comes hard and fast in this book. Like all of Carter's heroines, Maddie is definitely the one to watch in this story, and I couldn't wait to find out what she'd come up with next. 

3) Romance! Let's face it, for Ally Carter books, I'm always here for the romance. Now I do wish that we'd gotten a little bit more explanation where the letters were concerned. I needed more talking through that situation. But I really liked this second-chance romance and the way all the danger and action brought these two together again. Maddie and Logan have lots of great tension from the start, and I was all over watching them work their way through their unresolved feelings for each other while they fight to stay alive, and escape the dangers that have found them in the Alaskan wilderness.

Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone


My bookish inspiration: 
Find this and other snaps on my Instagram

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Isle of Blood and Stone by Makiia Lucier

Isle of Blood and Stone
by  
Read: March 24 - 31, 2018
Published: April 10, 2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 
Source: Netgalley -(TY HMH!)
Category: YA, Fantasy, Adventure, Maps, Secrets, Romance 
Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Indiebound

Book Description: Ulises asked, "How can I look at these maps, see this riddle, and do nothing? They are my brothers."

Elias reached across the table and flicked aside two shells with a fingertip. The map curled into itself. "It's bound to be a goose chase. You know that?"

"Or a treasure hunt," Ulises countered, "and you've always been good at those."


Nineteen-year-old Elias is a royal explorer, a skilled mapmaker, and the new king of del Mar's oldest friend. Soon he will embark on the adventure of a lifetime, an expedition past the Strait of Cain and into uncharted waters. Nothing stands in his way...until a long-ago tragedy creeps back into the light, threatening all he holds dear.

The people of St. John del Mar have never recovered from the loss of their boy princes, kidnapped eighteen years ago, both presumed dead. But when two maps surface, each bearing the same hidden riddle, troubling questions arise. What really happened to the young heirs? And why do the maps appear to be drawn by Lord Antoni, Elias's father, who vanished on that same fateful day? With the king's beautiful cousin by his side—whether he wants her there or not—Elias will race to solve the riddle of the princes. He will have to use his wits and guard his back. Because some truths are better left buried...and an unknown enemy stalks his every turn.
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What a fun story. Mystery and danger and adventure and secret clues in a map. Plus compelling characters and a sweet romance. I enjoyed this so much! 

Isle of Blood and Stone is a great fantasy adventure with surprises up its sleeve. Especially in the way the clues of the story weaved together in the end. I figured out several details, but not the full picture, and I had the best time watching everything unfold. This story is not super fast paced, but I really enjoyed the measured unfolding of this tale and discovering clues and danger along with the characters. 


I also loved the characters: Elias, Mercedes and my unexpected favorite Ulises. This story is mostly told in Elias' perspective, and I liked him so much. Although no one compares, he reminded me a little bit of Gen, in the way he can be comfortable in many settings. We also get a lot of Mercedes too. This girl has had to deal with a lot in her life because of her mixed heritage, but still she is fierce and sure of who she is. We don't get a lot of Ulises voice, but the scene we did get intrigued me a lot, and I'm hoping the next book gives us more of his POV (Highlight spoiler: and maybe a bit of romance for him too!)

I'm forever a fan of a good romance and this one has one that is subtle but sure in its direction, without even the hint of a triangle (you know how that makes my heart happy). It's the perfect amount and made me grin for sure. 

Put this book on your list! I cannot wait for the next in this series, and the adventures these characters will discover next. 

Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Low. Hints of where the story will go but ends solidly.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Haven by Mary Lindsey

Haven
by Mary Lindsey
Read: November 8 - 13, 2017
Published: November 7, 2017 by Entangled Publishing 
Source: Finished copy from Publisher
Category: YA, PNR, Shifters, Werewolves, 
Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Indiebound

"We all hold a beast inside. The only difference is what form it takes when freed."

Rain Ryland has never belonged anywhere, He’s used to people judging him for his rough background, his intimidating size, and now, his orphan status. He’s always been on the outside, looking in, and he’s fine with that. Until he moves to New Wurzburg and meets Friederike Burkhart.

Freddie isn’t like normal teen girls, though. And someone wants her dead for it. Freddie warns he’d better stay far away if he wants to stay alive, but Rain’s never been good at running from trouble. For the first time, Rain has something worth fighting for, worth living for. Worth dying for. 
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Haven is a pretty typical shifter YA PNR, except that it is told in the boy's POV. This boy Rain, as usual, moves to a small town and discovers something weird is going on with the residents. As per usual with these books, I enjoyed discovering what was going in this town along with Rain. Also, it was interesting reading this story from a guy's perspective, especially as he is the outsider in this scenario, not sure at first what is happening. Typically it is the girl who is discovering the supernatural world, so this was a refreshing twist. 

Haven is heavily romance focused and Rain's growing relationship with Freddie is a huge part of the story. However , the romance started a little too fast for me. The story also contains a lot of revelations and world set up "rules" that seemed to be revealed quicker than the story was paced, and I ended up a little bit confused at times because of it. 

Another thing that bugged me is that Rain and Freddie's relationship gets serious very quickly, but it's also completely fade to black, which threw me off. Either show those scenes (and make it an older YA or adult book), or don't imply them at all, especially to the degree they were implied. I felt like I missed some of the romance development because of that, and something about it bothered me a lot, which in turn, threw off my feelings about the entire story.

While I enjoyed Haven, I think I'm growing out of the typical YA PNR. I've seen a lot of praise for this book, and I think I would have really liked it some years ago. But while I was entertained and wanted to keep reading until the end, I wasn't blown away by it. I really did like Rain though, and I enjoyed seeing him find a place for himself and make friends. While I admire Freddie, I didn't feel like I got quite as close to her. And I didn't feel as connected to her emotionally, and emotional connection is pretty much everything for me when I read and rate a book. 

Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone, as far as I can tell. If this series continues, I hope it follows another character.
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