Monday, November 28, 2016

The Problem with Forever by Jennifer L. Armentrout

The Problem with Forever
by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Read: May 29 - June 1, 2016
Published: May 17, 2016 by Harlequin Teen
Source: Kindle Purchase 
Category: YA, Contemporary, trauma, reunited friends
Series:  Companion

Book Description: For some people, silence is a weapon. For Mallory “Mouse” Dodge, it’s a shield. Growing up, she learned that the best way to survive was to say nothing. And even though it’s been four years since her nightmare ended, she’s beginning to worry that the fear that holds her back will last a lifetime.

Now, after years of homeschooling with loving adoptive parents, Mallory must face a new milestone—spending her senior year at public high school. But of all the terrifying and exhilarating scenarios she’s imagined, there’s one she never dreamed of—that she’d run into Rider Stark, the friend and protector she hasn’t seen since childhood, on her very first day.

It doesn’t take long for Mallory to realize that the connection she shared with Rider never really faded. Yet the deeper their bond grows, the more it becomes apparent that she’s not the only one grappling with the lingering scars from the past. And as she watches Rider’s life spiral out of control, Mallory faces a choice between staying silent and speaking out—for the people she loves, the life she wants, and the truths that need to be heard.

The more I think about this book, the more it makes me angry. I think maybe it's because I really wanted to love it a lot. And I didn't. It also bothers me so much when I seem to be the only person to have a specific issue with a story. I just need to move on now.

The Good: I really liked Mallory. I especially loved her journey from crippling social anxiety and not liking herself to confidence and taking action in her life. And I enjoyed seeing JLA write a YA heroine who is not snarky or 'badass' in the traditional sense. I loved the connection to The Velveteen Rabbit. I also appreciated the way this book shows the value of therapy and support from others, but ultimately each person has to make their own choices and do their own work to change.

The Bad: I STRUGGLED with the romance. Rider has a girlfriend through the first half of the book (we don't find out they broke up until after 50%), and I did not like anything about how that situation was handled. That's usually dealbreaker for me anyway, but I pushed through. Sadly, it was not a good choice for me. I thought the story was getting better in the second half. But nope. While I liked Mallory a lot - minus her romantic choices - I ended up mostly disliking Rider. 

I have a LOT more thoughts on this, which you can read on my Goodreads review.

Love Triangle Factor: (Possible Spoilers) I don't know what to say here. Most people would just say none, and from Mallory's POV there isn't. Though honestly, I wish she'd gone out with someone to wake up Rider a bit out of his idiocy. But Rider has a girlfriend for half the book, and to me that becomes a triangle, I'd also say his behavior towards Mallory skated over the line of cheating. So I'd say medium for the first half. But again, for most people, this will not be an issue at all. Look at other reviews as an example. 

Cliffhanger Scale: standalone/companion series (I think). This book seems to be setting up a future couple. I liked both of them, but not sure I could invest in more if this were a series.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Quick Thoughts: The Secret of Heart Note by Stacey Lee

The Secret of Heart Note
by Stacey Lee
Read: June 17 - 19, 2016
Published: December 27, 2016 by Katherine Tegen Books
Source: EW (Thank You, Sourcebooks!)
Category: YA, Contemporary, plants, aromas

Book Description: An evocative novel about a teen aroma expert who uses her extrasensitive sense of smell to mix perfumes that help others fall in love while protecting her own heart at all costs

Sometimes love is right under your nose. As one of only two aromateurs left on the planet, sixteen-year-old Mimosa knows what her future holds: a lifetime of weeding, mixing love elixirs, and matchmaking—all while remaining incurably alone. For Mim, the rules are clear: falling in love would render her nose useless, taking away her one great talent. Still, Mimosa doesn’t want to spend her life elbow-deep in soil and begonias. She dreams of a normal high school experience with friends, sports practices, debate club, and even a boyfriend. But when she accidentally gives an elixir to the wrong woman and has to rely on the lovesick woman’s son, the school soccer star, to help fix the situation, Mim quickly begins to realize that falling in love isn’t always a choice you can make.

At once hopeful, funny, and romantic, Stacey Lee’s The Secret of a Heart Note is a richly evocative coming-of-age story that gives a fresh perspective on falling in love and finding one’s place in the world.

I quite liked this one! I loved the idea of aromateurs and found Mimosa and her mom's lives fascinating. The whole way they use their heightened sense of smell and plants from around the world to help people fall in love was enchanting. The vivid setting made me want to see their garden filled home for myself, and visit Northern California in general. 

I found Mim to be endearing and relatable, though I wanted to shake her a few times. She tries her best to do the right thing but it gets her into a bit of trouble in this book. However, I enjoyed watching her grow up throughout the process and realize she's not as alone in the world as she once thought. 

I enjoyed Mim's sweet romance with Court, though I wanted more out of it (highlight for spoiler) and I definitely needed more of an explanation for the cheeseburger scene near the end. Also, I wanted to see him actually ask her to homecoming -  i.e. I like seeing things spelled out. I could have done without the mean girl plot (I'm just over those), and I wish we'd seen more scenes between Mim and her friend Kali. There were a lot of different characters in this story, but I liked how the pieces came together in the end, even though I could already see where many of them were going to fit. 

Overall this is a great story with a unique set up, and endearing heroine and a sweet romance. Plus family and friend themes too. I was already a fan of Stacey Lee from her historical fiction Under a Painted Sky, and I can't wait to find out what she writes next. 

A note on the E-ARC I read: I was very confused as to why Mim was only 15 in this book - the description in Goodreads says she's 16, which makes much more sense as she's a junior in high school. However, it's said multiple times that Mim is 15, and the book made it sound like she wouldn't be 16 for another year. Unless she skipped some grades (which wasn't mentioned), should be 16/17 as a junior! 

Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone

Monday, October 31, 2016

Clanless by Jennifer Jenkins

by Jennifer Jenkins
Read: October 4 - 11, 2016
Published: October 4, 2016 by Month9Books
Source: Egalley from publisher (THANK YOU!)
Category: YA, fantasy,  

Book Description: Striker Gryphon has lost his position of honor among the Ram, and is now a hunted man. A traitor. 

Zo, the object of his affection, was murdered by members of his former clan. To honor her memory, he journeys to the highly secretive Raven “Nest” to warn strangers of their impending demise—though it could cost him more than just his pride.

He doesn’t know that Zo is very much alive and in another part of the region assisting Nameless refugees over a mountain swarming with wild men known as “Clanless.” 

As each struggle to make sense of what their lives have become, they fight and claw to reach the Allied Camp, their last hope in bringing peace to the region. 

But the road back to one another is treacherous and uncertain. And freedom will come with a price.

NOTE: Clanless is the second installment in Jennifer Jenkin's Nameless series. You can see my review for the first book, HERE. I've tried to make this review spoiler free for both books (definitely for the first).

Clanless begins just where Nameless ends, which is to say, we don't have to wait long to find out how the cliffhanger from the first book will play itself out. While Nameless took place almost exclusively behind the Ram's massive walls, in this installment, we get a closer look at the other clans in this world - especially the Raven and Kodiak, as well as the frightening Clanless who fall outside of those lines. This is a great sequel in terms of world building and expanding. I liked learning about the different clans, and despite the assertion that the Rams are the most brutal of all, the other three (and even those who claim no affiliation) have adapted in unique violent ways to survive. 

Where the first book felt more like it was for Zo - she taking a great risk by entering an enemy clan where she expects almost certain death - in this one we get to see Gryphon step out away from his clan and into the world. Although their narration is pretty equal in this story, I think this installment was more for Gryphon, as he gets a look at the broader world, outside of the controlled viewpoint of the Ram, and comes to terms with who he will be going forward. 

Despite the fact that this story begins on a cliffhanger, it took me some time to get back into the world - for me, this is where reading books far apart can affect my momentum. But the story did pick up for me. However, one of my major issues with this book - and middle books in general - is the amount of angst in this story. Gabe causes a lot of it, and I did not appreciate his role in this story. (spoiler)Gryphon and Zo each think the other is dead for a lot of the story. Not only are the separated, but they're both unnecessarily mourning the other. (end spoiler). This is also a traveling story, where the characters work to get from one location to another, and some of that felt a little bit like wandering around in the wilderness to me. I breathed a huge sigh when they finally got to their destination (at the very end). 

Although Gryphon and Zo come from completely different clans and spend most of this book apart, it is clear how strong their connection is to each other. It takes Zo a little bit longer than Gryphon to realize this truth, but I enjoyed seeing how much they've changed the other, and how attached they've become. Besides our two main narrators, my favorite characters are the children. Zo's sister Tess is more of a part of this story, and I love Joshua, Gryphon's young charge, who is forced to grow up even more in this book. Gryphon also befriends a young Raven in this installment. He is wise beyond his years, and I can't wait for more of him in the finale. 

Despite some issues - and worry about further angst, I'm eager for the third book. I can't wait for all the characters Gryphon and Zo have encountered to finally meet each other, and especially for everyone to meet Commander Laden. If you've started this series, don't miss the second installment! If you have yet to begin these books, the first two books would be great read back to back. 

Love Triangle Factor: None  - Though the author does try to add some Gabe related angst, Zo does asset at the end that she just sees him as a brother. 
Cliffhanger Scale: Low - definitely not the end of the series, but a much more bearable ending than the last installment)

Friday, October 21, 2016

The Diabolic by SJ Kincaid

The Diabolic 
by SJ Kincaid
Read: June 7 - 10, 2016
Published: November 1, 2016 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Source: Danielle - TY girl :)
Category: YA, science-fiction, dystopian, space, genetic engineering 

Book Description: A Diabolic is ruthless. A Diabolic is powerful. A Diabolic has a single task: Kill in order to protect the person you’ve been created for.

Nemesis is a Diabolic, a humanoid teenager created to protect a galactic senator’s daughter, Sidonia. The two have grown up side by side, but are in no way sisters. Nemesis is expected to give her life for Sidonia, and she would do so gladly. She would also take as many lives as necessary to keep Sidonia safe.

When the power-mad Emperor learns Sidonia’s father is participating in a rebellion, he summons Sidonia to the Galactic court. She is to serve as a hostage. Now, there is only one way for Nemesis to protect Sidonia. She must become her. Nemesis travels to the court disguised as Sidonia—a killing machine masquerading in a world of corrupt politicians and two-faced senators’ children. It’s a nest of vipers with threats on every side, but Nemesis must keep her true abilities a secret or risk everything.

As the Empire begins to fracture and rebellion looms closer, Nemesis learns there is something more to her than just deadly force. She finds a humanity truer than what she encounters from most humans. Amidst all the danger, action, and intrigue, her humanity just might be the thing that saves her life—and the empire.


At first The Diabolic seems like a typical dystopian - where the kick butt heroine inhabits a Roman Empire influenced space setting. And the book is those things, but it is also something different than that in a way that is intense and riveting. Maybe it was the way the author pushed the scheming and twists and everything else. Maybe it's the fact that this book is a standalone. But I was hooked from the start, and the story just got more and more exciting the crazier everything became. 

As the description says above, "Nemesis is a Diabolic, a humanoid teenager created to protect a galactic senator’s daughter, Sidonia."
 Nemesis would die for Sidonia or kill for her. It is not wrong to say that Nemesis would do literally anything to keep Sidonia safe. And in this book, that means posing as Sidonia and going to the galactic court as the Emperor's hostage. 

Honestly the number one thing I was worried about was the word 'humanoid'. I got confused and thought that meant machine like an android. And though, at first, Nemesis would probably have seen herself as like a machine - created for a purpose - she is much more than that. More like a super human with manipulated DNA. This became one of my favorite aspects of the book - seeing Nemesis grapple with her humanity and come to terms with what she is and who she wants to be.

This book has a romance. And it is another favorite part. Tyrus and Nemesis are perfect for each other. They both have sharp edges and have had to learn to adapt to survive. That is why they are a great match, but it makes some things harder for them too. Will their ambitions and loyalties be too much of an obstacle for them to overcome? I was fascinated watching that all play out. 

The Diabolic has a lot of dystopian elements I've seen before. But the way they've been put together, and the way the author pushes her characters and their choices - I mean she goes for it - made the story feel fresh and exciting. This book
 was sold as a standalone, and unless something changes the ending is strong and solid. Although it is positive it is also unsettling in a way that had a powerful impact on me. I'm still thinking about it, and I read this several months ago.

Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Getting in the Spirit: Workman Halloween Blog Tour + Giveaway!

Blog Tour organized by Workman Publishing

Halloween is coming this month, which makes it a perfect time to add some creepy and -inspired books to your collection. Of course, who really needs a reason for more books?! 

Today, I'm excited to be part of the Getting In the Spirit Halloween Tour with Workman Publishing and sharing some great books for kids (or even adults!) to love this season. 

In addition to talking about these awesome books, I'm getting in the Halloween spirit with my picture filters*. It's the perfect way to make the most benign of photo, a bit more festive.

Most book packages are for me, so my kids were excited to receive one with several books they could enjoy. 

Eek Halloween 
by Sandra Boynton
Published August 23, 2016 by Workman

Book Description: Boynton celebrates Halloween!

A new addition to the Boynton on Board series, with over 21 million copies sold, Eek! Halloween! is all treat and no tricks, a journey with Boynton and her nutty characters through the tradition of Halloween.

It starts with an uh-oh—the chickens are nervous! Strange things are happening. One chicken saw a pumpkin with flickering eyes, another spied a mouse of enormous size. They all saw a wizard and a witch, and a spooky robot. “WHAT’S GOING ON HERE? WHAT DOES IT MEAN? / Relax, silly chickens! It’s HALLOWEEN!”

What we thought: Combining Sandra Boynton's signature rhymes with her illustrations of animals, Eeek! Halloween! is the perfect first Halloween board book for any child. But it's not just for toddlers. Right away, this was my 7 year old's favorite title in this collection and she's read it over and over again. My 5 year old has also had a great time looking through this book. They love identifying the animals in costumes, and the musical cadence of Boynton's rhymes make it extremely readable and fun. We definitely recommend this one! 

Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository Indiebound


Papertoy Glowbots: 46 Glowing Robots You Can Make Yourself
by Brian Castleforte
Published August 23, 2016 by Workman

Book Description: Origami meets amazing creatures in a book of paper craft fun!

Papertoy Glowbots introduces 46 robots that have the added cool factor of lighting up, whether using glow-in-the-dark stickers that come with the book or light sources like flashlights, Christmas tree lights, and electric tea lights.

The 46 die-cut paper robots are created by Brian Castleforte, author of Papertoy Monsters, along with the hottest papertoy designers from around the world. Meet the robots and read about their entertaining backstories in the front, then turn to the card stock section in the back to build them. The templates are die-cut and ready to pop out, fold, and glue. Bold, colorful graphics ensure the robots look as amazing in the daytime as they do with the lights off.

What We Thought: My five year old was entranced with this book right away and wanted to start making the hardest robots immediately. Instead, we began with the easier ones (this book includes Easy - Intermediate - and Hard designs) and worked our way up from there. The paper folding and robot making was a little challenging for my 5 and 7 year olds to do independently. My husband and I helped out a lot. But that made this a fantastic family activity. Glue - and an attention to detail - is the only additional material needed. We have not tried making the robots glow yet. But they are all adorable as they are. 

Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository Indiebound 


Frightlopedia: An Encyclopedia of Everything Scary, Creepy, and Spinechilling, from Arachnids to Zombies 
by Julie Winterbottom, Illustrated by Stefano Tambellini
Published August 23, 2016 by Workman

Book Description: Here’s the book for kids who love scary stuff, whether it’s telling ghost stories around a campfire, discovering the origins of various vampires, monsters, and witches, or reading creepy tales under the covers with a flashlight.

Combining fact, fiction, and hands-on activities, Frightlopedia is an illustrated A-Z collection of some of the world’s most frightening places, scariest stories, and gruesomest creatures, both real and imagined.

What We Thought: This one is much more what I thought, because I didn't let my kids look at this book for too long (they get scared easily). However, this Frightlopedia would have been a huge hit with me in upper elementary and middle school (even now!), and I plan to save it for when my kids get a little bit older. What I love about this book is that it features true facts and creepy tales from around the world - islands filled with dolls and snakes, huge rats and famous mummies. All sorts of fascinating material, sure to creep out the reader. Each chapter helpfully includes a Fright Meter too. I'm pretty much a wimp when it comes to scary stuff, so this is one for me to read in the daytime. 

Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository Indiebound 

Section on rats. You can see the Fright Meter right underneath the chapter title.

Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods: Twenty Chilling Tales from the Wilderness
by Hal Johnson, Illustrated by Tom Mead
Published September 8, 2015 by Workman 

Book Description: Just for kids, twenty bone-chilling tales about the most dangerous fantastical beasts in American folklore. Meet the Snoligoster, who feeds on the shadows of its victims. The Hodag, like a spiny-backed bull-horned rhinoceros. The Hoop Snake, which can chase prey at speeds of up to 60 miles per hour and then, with one sting of its tail, cause it to turn purple, swell up, and die.

Illustrated throughout, including eight drawings printed with glow-in-the-dark ink, Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods is for every young reader who loves a good scare. The book was originally published in 1910 by William Thomas Cox and is now inspiringly retold by Hal Johnson, author of Immortal Lycanthropes.

What We Thought: Two of the coolest things about this book is that it is retold from an original 1910 publishing (that makes it seem even more shivery to me for some reason) and it features glow in the dark illustrations. This is another one that my 5 and 7 year old didn't get much past the pictures. They loved the glow in the dark images, and talking about how they imagined the different creatures. This is a gorgeous hardback - I love it's long thin shape. I'll definitely be saving it until they can read the stories themselves.  

This awesome illustration of an Acropelter was on the outside of the book package we received. I wouldn't want to meet him in a dark forest!->

Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository Indiebound 

*All photos taken with my iPhone 6 and edited with Snapseed. 


Follow the Tour

October 10: Lisa/A Rup Life
October 11: Jessika/Kidliterati
October 12: Jennifer/Reviews Coming at YA
October 13: Laura/Literacious
October 14: Sandie/Teen Lit Rocks
October 17: Christina/Confessions of a Book Addict
October 18: Kate/Ex Libris
October 19: Lori/Pure Imagination
        Lauren/Love is a not a Triangle
October 20: Andrea/The Overstuffed Bookshelf
October 21: Katie/Mundie Kids



Win all 5 books featured on the tour (the four discussed above + Oh Ick: 114 Science Experiments Guaranteed to Gross You Out) + a Workman Publishing tote + some extra surprises!

Giveaway is International!

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, October 17, 2016

BLOG TOUR: Heartless by Marissa Meyer


by Marissa Meyer
Read: September 26 - 30, 2016
Published:  November 8, 2016 by Feiwel & Friends
Source: ARC from publisher
Category: YA, Retelling, Wonderland

Book Description: Long before she was the terror of Wonderland — the infamous Queen of Hearts — she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the yet-unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend and supply the Kingdom of Hearts with delectable pastries and confections. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next Queen.

At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the king's marriage proposal, she meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship.

Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Indiebound 

Lady Catherine Pinkerton is the daughter of a Marquess. All her parents want is for her to marry well. All she wants is to open a bakery with her best friend. Although she has no money of her own and no way to get any without her parent's (unlikely) blessing, Cath is not going to give up on her dream. Then Cath meets the new court joker at a royal ball and she finds a second thing her heart desires. The only problem is the King of Hearts has planned to propose to Cath at the ball (she had no idea), and her parents would never agree to a match with Jest anyway. But, still, Cath is determined to follow her own path, even if fate seems to have other ideas. 

I'm always wary of origin stories. I'd rather go forward than back and they don't usually end happily. I mean we've all met the heartless queen from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland in either the original or an adaptation. No way could this end well. But I love Marissa Meyer's retellings and grew up reading Alice, which means I was determined to give this book a go. Well it was just as heartbreaking as I guessed it would be. But also gorgeously written and wondrously enchanting. This book makes impossible things possible, and it's pretty impossible that I - an HEA girl - read and loved this. But I did. 

For me Heartless is a nostalgia fest. It is filled with all of the absurdity you'd expect of a story set in Wonderland. I enjoyed being back down the rabbit hole, meeting Wonderland's citizens again and seeing the way this story brought in Chess from Through The Looking Glass. It also felt nostalgic that Meyer set her tale in Victorian time, as it was when Carroll penned Alice

But this story is also something entirely it's own, and I loved Cath's voice. I believed her desperation to own a bakery and how stuck she felt in her present life of privilege. I wanted her to find her own future, even while feeling dread about her fate being predetermined. I was caught up in her gloriously achy relationship with Jest. He had me at guyliner, but I loved getting to know who he was, and seeing the way they both changed from knowing each other. Although I wanted to scream noooooooo! at times (especially near the end), I understood Cath's choices, including at the end. This book made me laugh and gaze in wonder. It made my heart swell and beat faster. And then it broke me. But it was all beautifully done. 

Highly recommended. I would read anything Marissa Meyer writes. But please, a different ending next time. 

Love Triangle Scale: Feelings wise, none. Cath does get herself entangled in an engagement to the king, although she does not feel anything for him. 

Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone

Heartless next to my much loved copy of Alice. 


About the Author

 Marissa Meyer is the USA Today- and New York Times-bestselling author of the Lunar Chronicles: Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, WinterFairest: Levana's Story, and Stars Above: A Lunar Chronicles Collection. She lives in Tacoma, Washington, with her husband and twin daughters. 

Find Marissa Meyer: Website | Twitter | Goodreads

An illustration of the King and Queen of Hearts from my copy of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
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