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: 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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Review: My Heart and Other Black Holes

My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine WargaTitle: My Heart and Other Black Holes
Author: Jasmine Warga
Series: n/a

About: Sixteen-year-old physics nerd Aysel is obsessed with plotting her own death. With a mother who can barely look at her without wincing, classmates who whisper behind her back, and a father whose violent crime rocked her small town, Aysel is ready to turn her potential energy into nothingness.

There’s only one problem: she’s not sure she has the courage to do it alone. But once she discovers a website with a section called Suicide Partners, Aysel’s convinced she’s found her solution–Roman, a teenage boy who’s haunted by a family tragedy, is looking for a partner. Even though Aysel and Roman have nothing in common, they slowly start to fill in each other’s broken lives. But as their suicide pact becomes more concrete, Aysel begins to question whether she really wants to go through with it. Ultimately, she must choose between wanting to die or trying to convince Roman to live so they can discover the potential of their energy together.

My Thoughts: My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga is a well-written story about a subject that might be difficult for some to read: teen suicide and depression. And it’s very well-written. I liked that there was really no wallowing. It wasn’t overly dark or bleak.

I really liked the characters, especially Aysel and Roman. Aysel is actually a great narrator. She is completely honest, and doesn’t tend to get overly dramatic. She paints a picture of the world as she sees it in a very matter-of-fact matter. And her description of the depression? Absolutely perfect. Aysel refers to it as the black slug living in her gut. It eats up everything — all emotions, good or bad — and just leaves her empty. As one who’s experienced such a thing, I could completely relate. Again, it’s right-on. Roman, while he’s struggling even more than Aysel, is an absolutely amazing character — book boyfriend? Definitely a contender! ;) Despite his obvious deep depression, he’s actually pretty sweet and clearly someone with a lot of potential. The two of them together are just perfect.

Watching Aysel open up to life, with the help of Roman (as mentioned in the synopsis, so I’m not spoiling anything ;) ), is something. She slowly, and quite naturally, sees that maybe life really isn’t all that bad. Maybe there is something worth holding onto. Maybe, just maybe, there’s a purpose and pushing forward to see what’s ahead would be a good thing.

What I like is that while this book deals with a heavy subject, it’s in no way overly dark negative. It’s a book filled with hope. I really like that. After the story, there is a list of resources — crisis lines and other such things — for anyone who might be in need of such. This book is written in such a way that it definitely has the potential of helping others.

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

Read It: My Heart and Other Black Holes is scheduled for release around February 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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Review: Playlist for the Dead

Playlist for the Dead by Michelle FalkoffTitle: Playlist for the Dead
Author: Michelle Falkoff
Series: n/a

About: Here’s what Sam knows: There was a party. There was a fight. The next morning, his best friend, Hayden, was dead. And all he left Sam was a playlist of songs, and a suicide note: For Sam—listen and you’ll understand.

As he listens to song after song, Sam tries to face up to what happened the night Hayden killed himself. But it’s only by taking out his earbuds and opening his eyes to the people around him that he will finally be able to piece together his best friend’s story. And maybe have a chance to change his own.

My Thoughts: I’m not sure what to say about Playlist for the Dead by Michelle Falkoff. I finished it about a week ago. It was a fast read, but not one that I found all that remarkable. It’s not bad, but I wouldn’t call it good either. If I hadn’t agreed to read it for review, I probably wouldn’t have finished it. I just wasn’t all that compelling.

Sam has a chip on his shoulder the size of the state of Texas, and it’s painfully obvious pretty much right from the start. Because he and Hayden were social outcasts, he has a very us-versus-them outlook on life. He can’t see how anyone other than he could really be mourning his friend. He was overly confrontational at the funeral, at that from the start kinda made him a very unsympathetic character to me. He was so angry and negative, I wasn’t sure I wanted to read an entire book narrated by him. Thankfully, he does seem to become less difficult to read as the book progresses — either that or I just got used to it.

There was some element of surprise, but I felt most of the book was pretty predictable. The foreshadowing seemed a bit less foreshadowing — more hit-you-over-the-head hints. While a teenager reading this very well might not pick up on these things, more experienced readers likely will.

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

Read It: Playlist for the Dead is scheduled for release around January 27, 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: Top Ten Clues You’re Clueless

Top Ten Clues You're Clueless by Liz CzukasTitle: Top Ten Clues You’re Clueless
Author: Liz Czukas
Series: n/a

About: Top Five Things That Are Ruining Chloe’s Day

5) Working the 6:30 a.m. shift at GoodFoods Market

4) Crashing a cart into a customer’s car right in front of her snarky coworker Sammi

3) Trying to rock the “drowned rat” look after being caught in a snowstorm

2) Making zero progress with her crush, Tyson (see #3)

1) Being accused—along with her fellow teenage employees—of stealing upwards of $10,000

Chloe would rather be anywhere than locked in work jail (aka the break room) with five of her coworkers . . . even if one of them is Tyson. But if they can band together to clear their names, what looks like a total disaster might just make Chloe’s list of Top Ten Best Moments.

My Thoughts: I found Top Ten Clues You’re Clueless by Liz Czukas to be a very fast read. If I’d had the chance to sit and just read, I probably could’ve finished this in a couple of hours easily. It goes by fast, and it’s a fun read that — despite its subject — is rather light. The whole novel takes place in a matter of a couple of hours. I think that helps with the pace.

In some ways, this reminded me of The Breakfast Club. Although, I can’t say too much about that — honestly, I’ve never seen the whole movie all the way through. (I know, I know!) But, I’ve seen enough to be able to see the similarity. (Interesting, as Ask Again Later, also by Liz Czukas, totally reminded me of the movie Sliding Doors. Perhaps this author is a film buff? Which is kinda cool! ;) )

Chloe is a pretty good narrator. She came across as likable and very natural. She’s a new kid, having somewhat recently moved, and having trouble fitting in. (I can relate.) What doesn’t help is that she has Type 1 Diabetes. And is a redhead. And wears glasses. And has this weird thing where she makes lists out of everything — I’m not kidding. Everything! But, she’s pretty cool, and I found myself pulling for her. Wanting her to get the guy, not get in trouble, etc. She doesn’t know much about her coworkers, but this “work jail” situation helps with that. Everyone bonds and forms a bit of a friendship through this experience. (That can happen when you’re stuck in the same room for several hours.)

I did kinda wonder about the legality of this whole situation. Especially since these kids are minors (mostly). And it’s Christmas Eve — I find it hard to believe these kids’ parents would just blindly accept that their child has to stay well past when the store closes. Especially not Chloe’s mom.

When it comes to the whodunnit part of the story, I found myself not quite figuring it out as quickly as I normally would. I think there’s some excellent diversion — I got so caught up in the moment, that except when Chloe was thinking about the missing money, I kinda forgot about it, too. I had a few different ideas in my head by the time the case is solved. And I’m happy to say I wasn’t right all along! ;)

Still, this was a fun, easy read. If you want some light, mildly holiday-inspired reading this December, consider givingTop Ten Clues You’re Clueless by Liz Czukas a try!

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

Read It: Top Ten Clues You’re Clueless is scheduled for release around December 9, 2014. 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: Snow Like Ashes

Snow Like Ashes by Sara RaaschTitle: Snow Like Ashes
Author: Sara Raasch
Series: Snow Like Ashes #1

About: Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. Now, the Winterians’ only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been waiting for the opportunity to steal back Winter’s magic and rebuild the kingdom ever since.

Orphaned as an infant during Winter’s defeat, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee, raised by the Winterians’ general, Sir. Training to be a warrior—and desperately in love with her best friend, and future king, Mather — she would do anything to help her kingdom rise to power again.

So when scouts discover the location of the ancient locket that can restore Winter’s magic, Meira decides to go after it herself. Finally, she’s scaling towers, fighting enemy soldiers, and serving her kingdom just as she’s always dreamed she would. But the mission doesn’t go as planned, and Meira soon finds herself thrust into a world of evil magic and dangerous politics – and ultimately comes to realize that her destiny is not, never has been, her own.

My Thoughts: One word: Awesome! I absolutely loved this book! I thought this sounded interesting, so I gave it a shot. I almost didn’t read it, but I am so very glad that I did! Meira is a strong, realistic female lead — yes, this is fantasy. Obviously those parts aren’t the realistic things, but her persona. Very real. She’s telling the story in first person, and you see her self-doubt, her insecurities, her fears. She’s a fighter and a smart girl, but she’s also real. She’s like everyone else with hopes and fears and shortcomings. Very real.

I know he’s not mentioned in the synopsis, but absolute awesome book boyfriend material from this one is Theron. I liked him from the first time we meet him in the book, and just like him more and more as we get to know him. I sure hope we see lots and lots of him in the next book! ;-) Don’t get me wrong, Mather (mentioned above) is pretty cool, too. I just find Theron more to my liking. And while, yes, this sounds like the too-common love triangle, but it’s not. At least I don’t think it is.

This is awesome epic fantasy. There’s a quest, which — of course — ends up being so much more than originally thought. It takes them across the land — and back again. It leads to amazing discoveries and a chance for the heroine to shine. While I was able to see some of the “surprises” — or at least the gist of them — there were some that caught me by surprise. And they were delightful!

The ending is excellent. We have resolution. We have closure. We have a neat, tidy story. But we also have questions that beg for answers. We have unknowns that need discovering of their own. We have a thus-far-hinted overarching bigger issue coming. This story is one small bit of a much bigger picture. I look forward to seeing where this story is going next. I will be eagerly waiting on the as-of-yet-untitled sequel!

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

Read It: Snow Like Ashes is scheduled for release around October 14, 2014. 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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