Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Masked Truth by Kelley Armstrong

The Masked Truth
by Kelley Armstrong
Read: October 7 - 18, 2015
October 13, 2015 by Doubleday Canada
Source: BEA
Category: YA, thriller, hostage situation, ptsd, therapy 

In this heart-stopping suspense thriller, #1 New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong proves herself to be a master of terror and suspense.

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 discover that even escape doesn’t equal freedom.

Riley Vasquez has had a difficult year and a half. Her cop father died while on a job, and then months later, the couple Riley was babysitting for was brutally murdered while she was in the house with their child. Now Riley is suffering from PTSD and survivor's guilt, despite being lauded as a hero. This weekend she's agreed to attend a therapy camp with five other teens in a newly renovated warehouse, hoping it will help her overcome some of her "issues." Max Cross is one of the teens also attending a weekend away. He has his own reasons for being at the weekend camp, but completely refuses to share what they are.

During their first meeting at the camp, three masked men take the entire group hostage. The building has no windows and all the exits are sealed shut. Because no one was allowed to bring a phone to the weekend, they have no way to contact anyone. Everything quickly spirals out of control on both sides as the captives panic and the captors go on a killing spree. Riley and Max are determined to find a way out before they're the next victims. 

The Masked Truth does a great job at intensity, and it just increases as the story continues. I did not expect where the plot was going, and I kept freaking out as I encountered another unseen twist. The whole situation was even more terrifying because of Riley and Max's personal issues. Riley's PTSD and Max's diagnosis, as well as all the things the two of them have already experienced, made me even more worried for them. But I was also proud of them for how well they handle the extreme situations they encounter. Max and Riley are forced to rely on each other under very stressful circumstances that just keep increasing, and I love how they support each other unwaveringly throughout this book. 

Amidst all the crazy happening, a romance slowly blooms between Riley and Max. I think the author did a great job balancing it within the thriller plot. It doesn't overtake what's going on, but compliments it well. And I could totally understand how these two people brought together under extreme circumstances, who already feel broken from their pasts, could come to rely on each other. I wanted so much for both of them to be okay.

Small hesitation - This is something that will likely not bother most people (possible spoiler)

This was the first book by Kelley Armstrong that I've read and it's made me an immediate fan. I'm not sure if edge-of-your-seat thrillers are her regular genre, but this was excellent! I would definitely recommend The Masked Truth! 

Love Triangle Factor: None 
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone 

Monday, October 26, 2015

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Carry On
by Rainbow Rowell
Read: October 8 - 9, 2015
October 6, 2015 by St. Martin's Griffin
Source: Purchase
Category: YA, fantasy, HP fanfic/spoof, romance

Simon Snow is the worst chosen one who’s ever been chosen.

That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right.

Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he sets something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here—it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.

Carry On is a ghost story, a love story, a mystery and a melodrama. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story—but far, far more monsters.

Goodness, gracious I loved this book so much and I didn't expect to, which is always the best surprised. I wasn't all that interested in the Simon Snow part of Fangirl because of how much Cath's story spoke to me + the romance with Levi. Also, I love reading (obviously) but I've never done the fan-fiction thing. I'm usually a cannon girl. And I don't know why but it took me seeing a copy of Carry On in the store to realize that it's a real and serious book, and a long one. Of course now that I've actually read this, I'm obsessed with Simon & Baz - and Penelope too. 

I adore the way Rainbow Rowell puts words down on paper. Her writing is always a favorite element of her stories, with vivid characters and fantastic dialog. As per usual, romance was definitely my favorite part of Carry On. Whew, I get the Simon and Baz thing now FOR SURE. The tension between them and the way their relationship built work very well for me. The magical world surrounding them was fun, though the way that all turned out didn't completely surprise me, and there were parts of the story - especially in the first 30% - that were slow. Still, I enjoyed this take on Chosen One tales. 

I know many people are confused about what exactly this story is, and I will say you don't have to have to remember the Simon Snow part of Fangirl, or even have read it to enjoy Carry On (I'll admit to skipping some of those Simon sections in Cath's story *hides*). Basically this is Rowell's own interpretation of the Simon Snow character she created, and her own personal ode to books like Harry Potter and TwilightIn some ways, this book does read like a spoof/fanfic of Harry Potter where everything is twisted around differently. But it worked well for me - maybe because it's so clear about that? - though I think what was key is that I was able to see these characters and this story as it's own thing. Once the seeds of the romance started, I was all in. Carry On amused me so much, but in a clever way - not at all cheesy or ridiculous. These characters and the whole story very much hold their own, and I couldn't stop reading, which is always a sign of how much I love something. 

Love Triangle Factor: Mild (highlight for spoiler: Despite what Penelope says about a Simon-Agatha-Baz love triangle, I didn't see one at all. Simon and Baz only have eyes for each other, though Simon can be an idiot sometimes. Simon is still dating Agatha when this begins, but it's clear he's not that into her, and thankfully they break up not too far into the story. There's only one person Simon's obsessed with and you will be as desperate as Simon was for Baz to return to school. Watching them together is a delicious experience. That said, this story did act a bit like a triangle until it was all figured out.)
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Read: July 14 - 18, 2015
October 20, 2015 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Source: BEA
Category: YA, sci-fi, spaceships, 

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

This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

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

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

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

I'm not sure how to review Illuminae. It's crazy and epic and not to be missed at all. Instead of a proper review, here are 10 thoughts I have after finishing the book:

1) A lot of people die. No one is safe. NO ONE. 

2) This book has some huge revelations. Like punch you in the stomach, then gouge you in the spleen while ripping out your heart type. They just keep coming. I'm not sure I've recovered yet. 

3) This book features the scariest plague I can imagine. I actually started wishing I could don one of those special space enviro suits while reading this, just in case! But I'm not even sure the plague's the most frightening thing in these pages. Way to go big with those imaginations, writers. 

4) I LOVE that Illuminae is told through collected documents. I wasn't sure I'd be able to follow a story that way, but it ended up being extremely engaging and very readable. It's also quite clever, and I'm fascinated by how the authors wrote and put it all together. Thinking back, I have to remind myself it wasn't written as a typical narrative, because it flowed so well. 

5) Kady is badass. That girl is incredible. She could give any of those dystopian chicks a run for their money. Goodness gracious she's amazing. I'd be curled up in a fetal position with all she faced. I basically was just while reading the book. But she doesn't stop, despite some of the worst odds you could ever imagine. But Kady's not a machine and she has some quite moments of desperate feelings too. Who wouldn't with all she's faced? I love her more for that. 

6) I was surprised how much I enjoyed the romance, though it begins with a break-up and has a lot of separation and many bad things occur along the way. Did I mention that no one is safe? But the authors made it work despite all of that. And no love triangle. YAY. 

7) I became fascinated by the height difference between Kady and Ezra, who is also awesome by the way. She's 5 feet and he's 6'5" (Think Hayden Panettiere and her husband).  I don't know why, but knowing that detail made the story and these characters even more incredibly real to me. These two are very different but their strengths and weaknesses counterbalance each other well. And both of them surprised me. 

8) Thankfully after the incredibly intense story, the ending isn't a crazy cliffhanger. Not all is solved, but it's not a moment where you feel like you're on the edge of a cliff. More like you've found a nice resting platform before you have to go off the ledge again. This time to a steeper drop!  

9) One of the only slight concessions I'd make about this book is that some things about it reminded me of These Broken Stars, Amie's other co-authored series. The way parts of the story are set up. I don't want to spoil anything by giving specifics, but I did have some moments of déjà vu. 

10) This is the type of book you want to re-read once you've finished it: a) because it's awesome and b) because you'll want to read it again knowing what you didn't know before. 

Love Triangle Factor: None 
Cliffhanger Scale: Low - but I can feel the energy building to a lot more drama to come! Book two will be a sequel/companion...if anyone from the first book survives. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Fairy Tale 2.0 Campaign: A Frozen Heart Celebration + Giveaway

Follow the entire #FairyTale2pt0 campaign 

A Frozen Heart
by Elizabeth Rudnick
In stores October 6, 2015 
Published by Disney Press 

Told in alternating chapters from both Anna's and Hans' perspectives, A Frozen Heart takes a sophisticated look at events of Frozen, exploring the couple's backstories, motivations, and doomed relationship.

Learn More
Learn more on Disney Books
Follow Disney on Twitter and Instagram



One (1) winner receives: 
Copy of A Frozen Heart 
FAIRY TALE 2.0 tank, notepad, cosmetic pouch & pillow

Giveaway open to US addresses only. Prizing provided by Disney-Hyperion.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


About the Author of A Frozen Heart

Elizabeth Rudnick has written over thirty books, including the original novel Tweet Heart and tie-ins such as Frankenweenie: A Novel; Oz: The Great and Powerful; and the best-selling junior novel based on Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. She lives on Cape Cod with her husband and two lovable mutts, Jack and Ginger.

Find Elizabeth: Website | Twitter


Follow along with hashtag #FairyTale2pt0 to discover giveaway opportunities for more twists on classic tales: 

A Whole New World & Red's Untold Tale are being featured on other sites. 
Don't miss them! 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Blog Tour: Human Body Theater by Maris Wicks
Body Part Reveal + Giveaway

Tour organized by Mac Kids Books
See the full schedule HERE and below

I've always loved anatomy & physiology, and Human Body Theater is a fantastic and fun visual resource to teach readers about the human body. I'm excited about this book for myself, and also for my children to enjoy and learn from. As the description says, this is a fantastic resource for both young and old. 

Human Body Theater
by Maris Wicks
Published: October 6, 2015 by First Second
Category: Anatomy & Physiology, graphic, non-fiction 

Welcome to the Human Body Theater, where your master of ceremonies is going to lead you through a theatrical revue of each and every biological system of the human body! Starting out as a skeleton, the MC puts on a new layer of her costume (her body) with each "act." By turns goofy and intensely informative, the Human Body Theater is always accessible and always entertaining. 

Maris Wicks is a biology nerd, and by the time you've read this book, you will be too! Harnessing her passion for science (and her background as a science educator for elementary and middle-school students), she has created a comics-format introduction to the human body that will make an expert of any reader -- young or old!

The body part I get to share with you today is the ...


Lub dub, lub dub, lub dub…that’s the sound of your heart, beating away! Just like the involuntary functions of your other internal organs, your heart does not need you to tell it to beat. Each day, your heart pumps over 2,000 gallons of blood throughout your body (it circulates throughout the body; we only have about 1.2 - 1.5 gallons of blood total). The heart is made of a special type of muscle, called cardiac muscle, and the flexing of that muscle is what pumps the blood. In collaboration with the lungs, the heart sends both oxygenated and de-oxygenated blood all over the body to be used to transport both nutrients and wastes…it is the super-highway of the human body!


About the Author

Maris Wicks lives in Somerville, Massachusetts. She has harnessed the power of her various biological systems to draw comics for Adhouse Books, Tugboat Press, and Spongebob Comics, and written stories for Image and DC Comics. Wicks is the illustrator of the New York Timesbestselling Primates, with Jim Ottaviani. When she's not making comics, Wicks works with New England Aquarium. She's especially proud of her pulmonary system. 

Find Maris: Twitter | Tumblr

Collect all the body parts on the blog tour:
Each stop on the Human Body Theater blog tour will feature an original illustration and some facts about one part of the human body.  Follow along for the next two weeks to collect them all!
Fuse #8, 10/5
Sharp Reads, 10/7 
The Roarbots10/8 
The Book Rat10/14

Giveaway is for US and Canada residents only (Sorry, other international readers!)
You must be at least 13 years old to enter
See my policies HERE 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

First & Then by Emma Mills

First & Then
by Emma Mills

Read: September 26 - 28, 2015
Published: October 13, 2015 by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Source: ARC from Macmillan
Category: YA, contemporary, Jane Austen inspired 

Devon Tennyson wouldn't change a thing. She's happy watching Friday night games from the bleachers, silently crushing on best friend Cas, and blissfully ignoring the future after high school. But the universe has other plans. It delivers Devon's cousin Foster, an unrepentant social outlier with a surprising talent for football, and the obnoxiously superior and maddeningly attractive star running back, Ezra, right where she doesn't want them first into her P.E. class and then into every other aspect of her life.

Pride and Prejudice meets Friday Night Lights in this contemporary novel about falling in love with the unexpected boy, with a new brother, and with yourself.

I have mixed feelings about First & Then. Actually, I enjoyed this book a lot until about 70% when it all started to fall apart for me. In fact, I'd already started mentally writing a review where I'd talk about how the story did a good job at taking the flavor of Jane Austen but never went straight into a retelling by trying to capture all the elements of a particular book. I find retellings that don't try to mirror everything about the original to feel the most authentic to me. Especially with a story as known as Pride & Prejudice. I do think the book did this well overall. But it still faltered in the end. I'm not sure exactly what went wrong for me here, but as usual it involved the Big Break between the characters in the last quarter when the drama, miscommunication and angst kicks up. 

The part of First & Then that stressed me out lasted from about 70% - 90%. It slowly eroded my feelings about this story and just left me annoyed. Despite the fact that I wasn't looking for a straight retelling, I think Devon ended up being too little like Elizabeth - in that I never fell in love with her as a character. Although possibly others will relate, her lack of drive was tough for me to understand. Ezra was too much like Mr. Darcy. Or rather he was a little too much of the awkward stilted part of Mr. Darcy that doesn't work unless balanced with enough of the selfless swoony parts. Usually the romances you have to work for are the kind I love, but it just started to bother me here. There are some nice moments at the very end, but I really wanted a few (at least one) more non stilted conversation between Ezra and Devon.  

Perhaps this shouldn't have ruined the experience for me, but it was a HUGE issue in my feelings about the book:

A few more notes:
1) It took me some time to get into the flow of this story. I struggled a bit with the writing at first. It felt choppy, and some of the sentences seemed awkward. But eventually I was able to get through that and mostly forgot about it. 

2) I really liked Foster, and especially Devon's relationship with him. The whole storyline was a highlight of this book for me. 

3) I thought Emir was a very random side character. There was a moving moment with him near the end, but it sort of interrupted a scene with Ezra. Emir appears so rarely, it seemed strangely included. 

4) This is one of those "it's not really a love triangle" stories. Devon is best friends with Cas and thinks she's in love with him though he doesn't think of her more than friends. But through the book she slowly notices Ezra, and realizes Cas isn't right for her. This set up is usually one I can handle - It worked for me in The Start of Me and You, but it started to bug me here. I wasn't expecting her feelings for Cas to last so long in this one. 

As I said above, I feel really mixed about First & Then. Until about 70% this was a solid four stars, but many of my good feelings eroded over that 20% of drama near the end. And I wanted more from Devon + Ezra. Although it all started off good, I ended my reading feeling a bit let down, like I could imagine it being really good, but it never got there. 

Love Triangle Factor: Mild (most will say none)
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone

Friday, October 9, 2015

Early Review: The Immortal Heights by Sherry Thomas

The Immortal Heights
by Sherry Thomas
Read: August 1 - 6, 2015
Published:  October 13, 2015 by Balzer + Bray
Source: Edelweiss (Thank you, Harper!)
Category: YA, fantasy, elementals, 
Series: End of trilogy

In a pursuit that has spanned continents, Iolanthe, Titus, and their friends have always managed to remain one step ahead of the forces of Atlantis. But now the Bane, the monstrous tyrant who bestrides the entire mage world, has issued his ultimatum: Titus must hand over Iolanthe, or watch as his entire realm is destroyed in a deadly rampage. Running out of time and options, Iolanthe and Titus must act decisively to deliver a final blow to the Bane, ending his reign of terror for good.

However, getting to the Bane means accomplishing the impossible—finding a way to infiltrate his crypt in the deepest recesses of the most ferociously guarded fortress in Atlantis. And everything is only made more difficult when new prophecies come to light, foretelling a doomed effort....

Iolanthe and Titus will put their love and their lives on the line. But will it be enough?

With The Immortal Heights, Sherry Thomas brings the acclaimed Elemental Trilogy to its breathtaking conclusion.

Find my reviews of the first two books in this series: The Burning Sky and The Perilous Sea.

I never know what to expect when I get to the conclusion of a series. They used to excitement me(!). I'd have a sense of accomplishment as I followed the characters to their end, putting the final pieces of the puzzle together and watching them defeat evil and be left in peace and love, finally. I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm all about the romance and HEAs. But I've experienced some not so pleasant endings, where my hopes and expectations went wildly off course from what the author had planned. Thankfully, this was one of the former experiences, and I was very pleased with how The Elemental Trilogy has turned out. Book two, The Perilous Sea remains my favorite of the series. But The Immortal Heights is a solid conclusion with plenty of danger, deception and intrigue. 

Three things that stood out to me about this book: 

1) I looooove Titus and Fairfax. This is exactly what I look for in a series for romance. No love triangles! Lots of swoon! And a couple who builds and works together without unnecessary drama! These two aren't perfect, and they have some major disagreements, but I love that they're always fighting for each other despite that. Any moments of tension between them worked well for me. Fairfax's anger comes out after Titus does something she doesn't agree with, a move I've seen many a hero pull, and I was cheering her on for not letting him get away with it. I adore that they're not afraid to confront each other's stupidity, and how much of a team they are. 

2) This book has a lot of information downloads. I wasn't ever bored, but heavy world building has been a characteristic of the series from its beginning. I think these books would work best read back to back with all the background details and characters one must remember, but I've read them each as they've released without rereading and have managed to keep up. Also, 
I did notice more Harry Potter similarities in this one, especially with the (spoiler>>) evil villain obsessed with immortality that the characters must take down (End spoiler).  

3) Although I'm in love with the main characters in this story, Kashkari is right up there with them. He is the other star of this series for me and goodness I ached and cheered for him. I wish so much that (spoiler>>) Kashkari had been more lucky in romance though, his storyline was painful! This story actually had a large number of experiences of unrequited love (End spoiler). 

I definitely recommend this trilogy. A solid fantasy series with beautiful covers, a historical, magical setting and not a hint of a love triangle anywhere inside of it. Get your copies asap!

Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Series conclusion 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Mini Review: Newt's Emerald by Garth Nix

Newt's Emerald 
by Garth Nix
Read: June 21 - 22, 2015
Published: October 13, 2015 by Katherine Tegen Books 
Source: BEA
Category: YA, historical fantasy, Regency England, cross dressing girls

Lady Truthful will inherit her family’s most valued heirloom on her eighteenth birthday. Until the Newington Emerald is stolen.

Lady Truthful, nicknamed “Newt” by her boy cousins, discovers that to her horror, the people closest to her have been framed for the theft. But Newt won’t let their reputations be damaged by rumors from a false accusation. Her plan is simple: go to London to recover the missing jewel. Despite her best intentions, a young lady travelling alone is frankly unacceptable behavior. So Newt and her aunt devise another plan…one that entails men’s clothing and a mustache.

While in disguise, Truthful encounters the handsome but shrewd major Harnett, who to her amazement volunteers to help find the missing emerald under the assumption that she is a man, Henri de Vienne. But once she and her unsuspecting ally are caught up in a dangerous adventure, Truthful realizes something else is afoot: the beating of her heart.

Truthful has far more than romantic complications to worry about. The stolen emerald is no ordinary heirloom-it is the source of the family’s luck and has the power to yield vast magic. It would be completely disastrous if it fell into the wrong hands. The fate of England depends on Truthful securing the emerald.

After reading two long middle-in-a-trilogy books in row I needed something lighter and quicker and that's exactly what I got with Newt's Emerald. This book is a little bit silly and a whole lot of delightful fun. Plus as a huge fan of regency romance, it was a wonderful nod to a favorite genres. Along with the mystery of a lost emerald, are hidden identities, a cross dressing girl, balls, spies and high speed boat chases. I never fully became engaged in the magic of this world. I was more interested in the historical aspects. But I loved following Lady Truthful and Charles on their adventures as they slowly come to terms with how they really feel about each other in a sweet slow romance. 

Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone

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