Review: Until the Beginning

Until the Beginning by Amy PlumTitle: Until the Beginning
Author: Amy Plum
Series: After the End #2

About: When Juneau’s clan disappeared, she lost so much more than her friends and family. She soon discovered everything she thought she knew about her life was a lie. Her people’s gifts were actually secret abilities that others wanted, desperately enough to kidnap an entire village.

Juneau and her new companion Miles’s cross-country journey to find her clan has led them to a game preserve in New Mexico. Now Juneau’s people are finally within reach, and she will stop at nothing to save them. But she has a target on her back too, because unbeknownst to her she is the key to unlocking everything. To rescue her people – and herself – Juneau must discover what she, and her abilities, are truly capable of.

My Thoughts: I was very excited to get to read this book, as I’d loved After the End. I couldn’t wait to see what happened next!

Until the Beginning by Amy Plum, well, let me say that I love the title. I love how it goes with the first book’s title! And the cover is equally beautiful. The story is fast-paced and very interesting. And it’s a fast read. I enjoyed seeing how Juneau and Miles handled obstacles they faced, and I loved seeing things from each of their perspective.

My only complaint was that it’s a bit predictable. I knew well before it was revealed just what the key to everything was, why Juneau was so important. So far as other events? Not quite as predictable. While I wouldn’t say there are all that many huge — and by huge I mean unexpected — surprises, there was plenty of new happening. As Juneau learns the truth about her clan and her family, those details were very intriguing — and not at all something I saw coming.

If you enjoyed After the End by Amy Plum, don’t miss this fantastic sequel. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be pleased with the way it played out and satisfied with the conclusion. (I’m calling it a conclusion, because I’m not aware of plans for another book in this series. The way this ends, it very well could be the end of the story.)

4 StarsSource: Received through Around the World Tours for review.

Read It: Until the Beginning is scheduled for release around May 5, 2015. You can pre-order your own copy via Amazon or Book Depository(These are affiliate links, and purchase through either link will result in my receiving a small commission at no cost to you. Your support is appreciated!)

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Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. MaasTitle: A Court of Thorns and Roses
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses #1

About: When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

My Thoughts: For whatever reason, I found myself reluctant to dive into this book. I even considered not reading it, and just sending it on to the next reviewer. I decided to go ahead and give it at least a start — 100 pages or so — before deciding for sure. Once I got started, there was no turning back! This was fantastic. Riveting — I couldn’t put it down! While some elements were a bit predictable, but not to the point of ruining the story. I loved the characters, the world, the story. Excellent.

Feyre is strong and very likable. Although there were times I wanted to shake her a little. Times she wouldn’t listen when the people who know tell her to — or not to — do something. But, as I was reading, I got it. Don’t just give her a directive — tell her why. Maybe if they had done that, she would listen. Of course, if that happened, we’d miss out on many great parts of an awesome story, so I won’t complain. ;) Tamlin is excellent, too. Definite book boyfriend possibilities. And Lucien, Tamlin’s right-hand man, is another excellent character. He appears to be a stone-cold jerk, but don’t let that fool you. In many ways, I almost preferred his personality to Tamlin’s. Other characters are just as fantastic. Feyre’s family, other faeries, etc. I found them all interesting and fun to read about.

I absolutely loved A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas. Yes, this is the beginning of a new series, but there’s closure in this book. While there’s clearly a bigger issue coming for these characters, the main issue of this book is resolved. And I was quite happy with how it played out — even if it was something I kinda saw coming. Anyway, I would very highly recommend this book, and I cannot wait for the next book in the series!

5 StarsSource: Received through Around the World Tours for review.

Read It: A Court of Thorns and Roses is scheduled for release around May 5, 2015. You can pre-order your own copy via Amazon or Book Depository(These are affiliate links, and purchase through either link will result in my receiving a small commission at no cost to you. Your support is appreciated!)

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Review: The Winner’s Crime

The Winner's Crime by Marie RutkoskiTitle: The Winner’s Crime
Author: Marie Rutkoski
Series: The Winner’s Trilogy #2

About: The engagement of Lady Kestrel to Valoria’s crown prince means one celebration after another. But to Kestrel it means living in a cage of her own making. As the wedding approaches, she aches to tell Arin the truth about her engagement…if she could only trust him. Yet can she even trust herself? For—unknown to Arin—Kestrel is becoming a skilled practitioner of deceit: an anonymous spy passing information to Herran, and close to uncovering a shocking secret.

As Arin enlists dangerous allies in the struggle to keep his country’s freedom, he can’t fight the suspicion that Kestrel knows more than she shows. In the end, it might not be a dagger in the dark that cuts him open, but the truth. And when that happens, Kestrel and Arin learn just how much their crimes will cost them.

My Thoughts: I really enjoyed The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski, and had such high hopes for this book. While it’s well-written and very engaging, I found myself more frustrated by it than anything. Don’t get me wrong. The plot is good. There are surprises and heart-breaking moments. But, well, there’s also a whole lot of frustration, and that made my enjoyment a bit less.

What’s so frustrating? Kestrel and Arin, of course. Neither will be straight with the other, although Arin really wants to. And really, he’s actually pretty straight with Kestrel. She, however, is awful. Just awful. “A skilled practitioner of deceit,” as mentioned in the description, is the perfect label for her. Even when she knows there’s no better way to be than perfectly honest, she cannot. She’s too busy trying to keep from letting her father down, I guess. Frustrating to no end was seeing how, despite knowing it was the wrong move, she repeatedly was just awful with Arin.

That said, The Winner’s Crime is no less enjoyable than the previous novel. It’s fast-paced, intriguing, and held my interest from start to finish. If you read the first, definitely give this a read. Despite my frustrations, I’m very glad I did. And I’m very much looking forward to the conclusion — hopefully not too far out!

4.5 StarsSource: Sent by publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Read It: The Winner’s Crime is scheduled for release around March 3, 2015. You can pre-order your own copy via Amazon or Book Depository(These are affiliate links, and purchase through either link will result in my receiving a small commission at no cost to you. Your support is appreciated!)

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Review: Finding Jake

Finding Jake by Bryan ReardonTitle: Finding Jake
Author: Bryan Reardon
Series: n/a

About: While his successful wife goes off to her law office each day, Simon Connolly takes care of their kids, Jake and Laney. Now that they are in high school, the angst-ridden father should feel more relaxed, but he doesn’t. He’s seen the statistics, read the headlines. And now, his darkest fear is coming true. There has been a shooting at school.

Simon races to the rendezvous point, where he’s forced to wait. Do they know who did it? How many victims were there? Why did this happen? One by one, parents are led out of the room to reunite with their children. Their numbers dwindle, until Simon is alone.

As his worst nightmare unfolds, and Jake is the only child missing, Simon begins to obsess over the past, searching for answers, for hope, for the memory of the boy he raised, for mistakes he must have made, for the reason everything came to this. Where is Jake? What happened in those final moments? Is it possible he doesn’t really know his son? Or he knows him better than he thought?

My Thoughts: Have tissue nearby as you read this. I found this hit me almost as hard as Every Last One by Anna Quindlen. Not quite as hard because I wasn’t blindsided by it the way I was by Quindlen’s book. Still, this is so well-written, and just heartbreakingly beautiful. If I wasn’t in the waiting room of my daughter’s orthodontist’s office, I would’ve been bawling as I read.

I don’t want to say too much, because I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone. There are some surprises in this book, but nothing earth-shattering. I felt one big element was pretty obvious, but as an observer it was probably easier for me to figure it out. In Simon’s shoes, I probably would have overlooked this one thing, too.

Simon is an interesting character. You can tell he really loves his family and wants the best for his kids. It’s clear he’s thrown a bit by being the one home with the kids. He seems to lose himself for awhile, but that’s understandable. Even stay-at-home moms have that happen. I did find his overly obsessive tendency to worry about every tiny little thing a bit frustrating to read at times. He can be a bit of a downer. But, you know his heart is in the right place.

I thought about lowering my star rating for this book because of my issues with Simon, but decided against it. Finding Jake by Bryan Reardon is written so well, is so raw … as I said above, this book is heartbreakingly beautiful. Just remember to have tissue with you — and beware reading it in public!

5 StarsSource: ARC sent by publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Read It: Finding Jake is scheduled for release around February 24, 2015. You can pre-order your own copy via Amazon or Book Depository(These are affiliate links, and purchase through either link will result in my receiving a small commission at no cost to you. Your support is appreciated!)

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Review: My Little Life of Jesus

My Little Life of JesusTitle: My Little Life of Jesus
Author: Karen Williamson
Illustrator: Amanda Enright
Series: n/a

About: My Little Life of Jesus introduces the story of Jesus’ life to 3-to 5-year-olds. It follows Jesus from His birth, being baptized by John, meeting the disciples and teaching them how to pray, telling His stories to people in nearby towns and villages, right through to His return to the heavenly Father. Illustrated throughout with artwork from a popular Candle Books artist, there is also a map included to show the land where Jesus lived. This padded hardcover comes complete with a presentation page for gift or award giving.

My Thoughts: The illustrations are beautiful and very colorful. The stories are short and easy for youngsters to understand. This book is a fun way to acquaint young children with the life of Jesus. My younger two (7 and 9 years old) both find this book enjoyable. It’s a great addition to any child’s library.

4 StarsSource: Received for review as part of a blog tour promotion hosted by Kregel Publications.

Read It: You can order your own copy via Amazon or Book Depository(These are affiliate links, and purchase through either link will result in my receiving a small commission at no cost to you. Your support is appreciated!)

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Review: Burning Kingdoms

Burning Kingdoms by Lauren DeStefanoTitle: Burning Kingdoms
Author: Lauren DeStefano
Series: Internment Chronicles #2

About: After escaping through the bottom of Internment, Morgan and her fellow fugitives aboard the great mechanical bird land on the ground to finally learn what has lived beneath their floating island home all these eons.

The ground is a strange place where water falls from the sky as snow, and customers watch moving pictures and visit speakeasies. A place where families can have as many children as they want, their dead are buried in vast gardens of bodies, and Internment is the feature of an amusement park.

It is also a land at war.

Everyone who fled Internment had their own reasons to escape their corrupt haven. But caught under the watchful eye of another king that wants to dominate his world, they wonder if coming to the ground will drag Internment down with them.

My Thoughts: I have been looking forward to this book since having read Perfect Ruin, the first book in the Internment Chronicles series. I was so excited when the opportunity to read this ARC presented itself.

Let me start by saying that this book was worth the wait. It’s an easy read, meaning easy to get into, easy to stay in, and easy to finish. Don’t think that means it’s not well-written. It IS well-written. Lauren DeStefano has quickly become one of my favorite authors. The worlds she creates are imaginative and unique. Her characters are compelling and realistic. Her stories are a pleasure to read.

As with the first book, there really was nothing that I didn’t like. I did get frustrated with Pen on numerous occasions, she seems set on self-destruct mode. Although, as you read and things are revealed, it becomes evident why. Still, I found her quite selfish and not a very good friend to Morgan. Sure, she’s always there for Morgan, but on her own terms. She’s quick to throw verbal barbs at the one person who’s never been anything but a true friend to her.

All of that said, I still very, very much enjoyed this book. I highly recommend Burning Kingdoms by Lauren DeStefano.

4.5 StarsSource: Received through Around the World Tours for review.

Read It: Burning Kingdoms is scheduled for release around March 10, 2015. You can pre-order your own copy via Amazon or Book Depository(These are affiliate links, and purchase through either link will result in my receiving a small commission at no cost to you. Your support is appreciated!)

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Happy New Year!

I just wanted to wish all of my wonderful readers a very happy new year! It’s hard to believe 2014 is over and 2015 is here already! It’s been a crazy year!

I’ve been pretty quiet blogwise, even more than in 2013. Not by much, but still enough to count. I apologize for being so absent. I still strive to bring you regular, pertinent book reviews. I’m just not always able to get as much done on the blog as I’d like. A household with three demanding kids, all involved in various things, plus my having to return to work part-time, makes a huge impact on my ability to write reviews — and even read as much as I’d like!

Not to worry, I’m not going anywhere. I’ve had some additional personal things come up — unexpectedly, as is often the case with such things — that have caused me to cut back significantly over the past several weeks. This has forced me to cut back on scheduled reviews for the next few months. I’m not sure when I’ll be able to get back to my fast-paced reviewing. Back then, I wasn’t working outside the home. I had more time. Now, I’m not sure. But I’ll do my best.

So, I haven’t chosen a favorite November or December book. So, let me do that now.

Take Me On by Katie McGarryNovember’s favorite read is Take Me On by Katie McGarry with a rating of 5 stars. It was absolutely fantastic — not really surprising, given Katie McGarry’s ability to write a fantastic novel!

Dream a Little Dream by Kerstin GierAnd for December, a very quite month around here, choosing will be pretty quick! LOL December’s favorite is Dream a Little Dream by Kerstin Gier with a rating of 4.5 stars.

I have read other things, just haven’t been feeling the need to review every single thing I read lately. I finally finished the Matched trilogy (Ally Condie). I thought it ended well. I am about to start Maze Runner, a book my daughter gave me for Christmas. I’m looking forward to it, as I have heard great things! :)

Again, best wishes for you all in 2015! May it be a blessed, wonderful, book-filled year for you all!
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