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: Dream a Little Dream

Dream a Little Dream by Kerstin GierTitle: Dream a Little Dream
Author: Kerstin Gier
Series: The Silver Trilogy #1

About: Mysterious doors with lizard-head knobs. Talking stone statues. A crazy girl with a hatchet. Yep, Liv’s dreams have been pretty weird lately. Especially this one where she’s in a graveyard at night, watching four boys perform dark magic rituals. The really weird thing is that Liv recognizes the boys in her dream. They’re classmates from her new school in London, the school where’s she’s starting over because her mom has moved them to a new country (again). But they seem to know things about her in real life that they couldn’t possibly know, which is mystifying. Then again, Liv could never resist a good mystery.

My Thoughts: This is one of those books I took a bit of a chance on, and I’m so glad I did! I thought the summary sounded promising, but I gotta tell you — the book’s even better! It was much better than I’d been expecting. Don’t get me wrong. I expected to enjoy it. I just had no idea how much!

This was a lot of fun to read. It’s imaginative, unique, fun, mysterious, with laugh-out-loud moments thrown in for good measure! Seriously. There were a few times my kids asked what was funny because I burst out laughing. What can I say? Liv has wit. And sometimes the descriptions created a funny mental picture.

So, the plot is kinda out there. Part of what pulled me in so well was just trying to figure out what the heck was going on. Not in a bad way. I was intrigued. I had some ideas, but didn’t feel I had figured it all out. This book kept me on my toes. There were a few twists that I didn’t see coming. And, in retrospect, they make perfect sense. Nicely done!

I loved the characters, especially Liv, Grayson, and Henry. As I mentioned above, Liv has wit. She’s the first-person narrator, and I just loved getting inside her head. She’s a good person, but she’s also got spunk. She’s stubborn, but not to the point of frustration. It’s a healthy stubbornness. Grayson is her soon-to-be step-brother, and I really like him a lot. While he appears to be aloof, you quickly learn that he’s kind, caring, and the big brother any girl’s lucky to have. And Henry. Sweet Henry. Definite book boyfriend.

I do have one complaint, though, which is why I didn’t give this five stars. My problem is that I felt that while the book takes place in London, it was too British-sounding. Don’t get me wrong. I expect all of her classmates and others local to London to be as British as they come. But, I thought Liv’s mother is American, and if that’s the case I would’ve expected more American-“sounding” narration from Liv. She says things like “shove off,” “off my rocker” (Americans generally would say “crazy”), or “toilet” instead of “bathroom” — and other such things. I found it a bit distracting. Although, she’s lived around the world, so I suppose it could be explained away. But, the part that pushed me over the edge was a part where she’s dreaming about some bullies she encountered while living in Berkeley, California. While you could maybe explain Liv’s somewhat British mannerisms and wording, the likelihood of finding such people — especially in a gang of mean girls — in Berkeley just doesn’t ring true. No one raised in the U.S. (or just about no one raised in the U.S.) would call the girls’ bathroom the “girl’s toilet” — it’s either the “bathroom” or the “restroom.” The toilet is a fixture in a bathroom, not the room itself. At least here in the U.S. Anyway, from that point on, I found the somewhat inconsistent use of American-like English and British-like English distracting. I know that this is more of a translation and/or editing problem — and I was reading an ARC, so maybe it’s fixed by the time you read this review — but it really was distracting enough to get just a little bit in the way of my enjoyment of the book.

Oh, one more small problem. Toward the end, we find Liv doing some kung fu moves — while wearing a very full ball gown. The logistics of that gave me pause. How effective would her moves be when wearing something that earlier required her to take stairs slowly and watch each step as she went?

Distractions and inconsistencies aside, I absolutely loved this book. I would very highly recommend Dream a Little Dream by Kerstin Gier to anyone who loves a bit of mystery with some fantasy mixed in — and a very unique story! I will be very much looking to continue this series!

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

Read It: Dream a Little Dream is scheduled for release around January 6, 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 with Giveaway: The Knife’s Edge

The Knife's Edge by Matthew WolfTitle: The Knife’s Edge
Author: Matthew Wolf
Series: The Ronin Saga #1

About: When legends come to life the world trembles from a single name. Ronin. Once-heroes from a different age, they wield elemental powers… wind, water, fire, stone, forest, sun, moon, flesh, and metal.

At the same time, a young man discovers his best friend with a sword in her stomach, and dark wings sprouting from her back. Guards rush onto the scene, accuse him of the act, and he is forced to flee.

In a new world without his memories, Gray must find his way amid legends and darkness, as he wrestles with an elemental power inside himself.

A power all too similar to the infamous Ronin…

My Thoughts: As a huge fan of fantasy — especially epic fantasy — this sounded like just the book for me. Elemental powers? The idea kinda reminds me of Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series — a huge favorite of mine. That was a huge pull.

The story is good. Well-imagined and compelling. I hate to say it, but I felt the book could use some good editing — there were times I found pronoun use made it vague and I often had to reread passages to know for sure who we’re talking about; in much of the book there is an overuse of commas. I hate to mention this, because the story itself is good — if you don’t get too distracted by these textual problems. At times I did find these things distracting, unfortunately. I think that made it harder for me to get into the story than I’d have liked. And once I was in, often some of these errors would jolt me back out of the story again. It was mildly frustrating.

Editing issues aside, I found the story interesting. Compelling. And even unique. Yes, the description reminded me of other stories, but this one stands on its own. Gray is an interesting character with a good heart. I found myself pulling for him. Some of his companions are really neat characters, and others I didn’t quite see their purpose. But that didn’t bother me all that much. Just made me wonder on occasion. (Perhaps in the next book, Citadel of Fire, they will have greater importance.) I definitely would like to continue the series and see what’s next for Gray and his friends. And his world.

If you’re a fan of epic fantasy, give The Knife’s Edge by Matthew Wolf a try. There’s even a chance to win a copy (see below)!

4 StarsSource: Received through Kismet Book Touring for review. (For more tour stops, click on the button below.)

blog tour

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!)

Matthew WolfAbout the Author: Matthew Wolf is the author of THE RONIN SAGA, a nine part YA Epic Fantasy series. He also loves cake. Book two is out now, for sneak peek information on Matt and all things Ronin check out: roninsaga.com. He loves connecting with fans, those whirling blades really speak to his soul.  You can reach Matt at TheRoninSaga@Gmail.com, howl “Ronin” at the moon, or throw up a Wolf Signal in the sky.  All valid forms of communication.

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Win It: Matt is generously offering up 5 eCopies of either The Knife’s Edge or Citadel of Fire (winner’s choice)! Please enter via the Rafflecopter form below.

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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: Crossing the Line

Crossing the Line by Katie McGarryTitle: Crossing the Line
Author: Katie McGarry
Series: Pushing the Limits #1.1

About: Lila McCormick, Echo’s best friend from Pushing the Limits, first met Lincoln Turner when tragedy struck both their lives. But she never expected their surprise encounter would lead to two years of exchanging letters—or that she’d fall for the boy she’s only seen once. Their relationship is a secret, but Lila feels closer to Lincoln than anyone else. Until she finds out that he lied to her about the one thing she depended on him for the most.

Hurting Lila is the last thing Lincoln wanted. For two years, her letters have been the only thing getting him through the day. Admitting his feelings would cross a line he’s never dared breach before. But Lincoln will do whatever it takes to fix his mistakes, earn Lila’s forgiveness—and finally win a chance to be with the girl he loves.

My Thoughts: A short and sweet story, Crossing the Line by Katie McGarry lives up to what readers would expect out of her writing. I will admit that it’s been awhile since I read Pushing the Limits, so I didn’t remember Lila very well, but I found that wasn’t a problem. While this is very brief, I felt there was still enough information to understand the story and the characters.

There weren’t very many surprises, but that’s not unexpected given the brevity of this story: a mere 67 pages. That’s a fraction of her full-length novels. The only thing really missing is these characters’ full back story, and we know enough that it really isn’t missed.

Lila and Lincoln are as well-written characters as any others McGarry has given us in this amazing series. I read this right after having finished Take Me On, which I absolutely loved. (It was included as a bonus with the longer novel.) Without the afterglow of that, I think this would’be been a little less loved, but I’m not sure about that. I liked how everything played out, and that even with the lack of space in which to go into much depth, there’s plenty here for McGarry fans to fall in love with!

5 StarsSource: Included in the hardcover copy of Take Me On obtained through my local library.

Read It: You can get it for your Kindle HERE, or find it inside Take Me On, purchased through 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: Take Me On

Take Me On by Katie McGarryTitle: Take Me On
Author: Katie McGarry
Series: Pushing the Limits #4

About: Champion kickboxer Haley swore she’d never set foot in the ring again after one tragic night. But then the guy she can’t stop thinking about accepts a mixed martial arts fight in her honor. Suddenly, Haley has to train West Young. All attitude, West is everything Haley promised herself she’d stay away from. Yet he won’t last five seconds in the ring without her help.

West is keeping a big secret from Haley. About who he really is. But helping her-fighting for her-is a shot at redemption. Especially since it’s his fault his family is falling apart. He can’t change the past, but maybe he can change Haley’s future.

Hayley and West have agreed to keep their relationship strictly in the ring. But as an unexpected bond forms between them and attraction mocks their best intentions, they’ll face their darkest fears and discover love is worth fighting for.

My Thoughts: Katie McGarry has done it again! In case I haven’t yet said this, she has officially made the ranks of my favorite authors! Time and time again, she crafts a compelling, engrossing story full of amazingly well-written characters! If you’ve been here awhile, you know that I loved each and every previous book in this series: Pushing the Limits, Dare You To, and Crash Into You. All three were fantastic, and Take Me On is no exception!

I have been looking forward to this book for a while, and actually had to request it from my library — which apparently doesn’t have it, but could borrow it from a neighboring city’s library, thankfully. It was totally worth the wait! If I didn’t have a horribly busy work week, I probably would have had no trouble reading this in one sitting. I just wanted to keep going and going and going.

The plot — I can’t say much beyond what’s outlined above. Not without risking spoilers. There were some surprises, and thankfully not one that I was afraid might be coming … but didn’t. I can’t get specific without possibly tipping you off to something. But, anyway, there were some surprises, along with some minorly predictable events. Nothing to take away from my enjoyment of this story.

Haley is awesome. Despite her fear, her shock, and what likely is PTSD, she’s a strong, very likable female lead. She has been through a LOT in the past several months, and her fears are very understandable. I never once found myself losing patience with her — just wanting to hug her and help her work her way through the problems.

West. Book boyfriend for sure! ;) He’s sweet, caring, kind, and totally into Haley from the get-go. While, yes, he isn’t completely forthcoming about his identity, he doesn’t actively lie about it, either. Seeing where he comes from — especially if you’ve readCrash Into You — you can totally see why he’d not be eager to share that information. Especially not with someone he’s fallen for completely. He’s no less damaged than Haley is.

Watching everything play out was just fantastic. This was such a sweet, heartwarming, awesome book! Both main characters grow, and both of them are people I’d love to have jump out of the page and become real-life friends.

Yes, we hear about the other characters from other books — especially Isaiah and Rachel, both popping up in the book a bit. There aren’t as many appearances by the others, but that’s OK. I didn’t feel I needed that at all.

Take Me On by Katie McGarry is another excellent installment in her Pushing the Limits series. Unfortunately, I fear this might be the end of this series, as I know she’s hard at work on a new one, Thunder Road, which will start with Nowhere But Here next spring. While the idea of no more PTL books is somewhat saddening, I very much look forward to seeing what new stories and characters McGarry has in store for us!

5 StarsSource: Borrowed from my local library.

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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