Review: Sweet

Sweet by Emmy LaybourneTitle: Sweet
Author: Emmy Laybourne
Series: n/a

About: The luxurious celebrity cruise launching the trendy new diet sweetener Solu should be the vacation of a lifetime. But Laurel is starting to regret accepting her friend Viv’s invitation. She’s already completely embarrassed herself in front of celebrity host Tom Forelli—the hottest guy ever!—and she’s too sick to even try the sweetener. And that’s before Viv and all the other passengers start acting really strange.

Tom knows that he should be grateful for this job and the chance to shed his former-child-star image. His publicists have even set up a ‘romance’ with a sexy reality star. But as things on the ship start to get wild, he finds himself drawn to a different girl. And when the hosting gig turns into an expose on the shocking side effects of Solu, it’s Laurel that he’s determined to save.

My Thoughts: Emmy Laybourne has quickly become one of my favorite authors. I absolutely loved her Monument 14 series, and was so excited when I learned of her new book. In all honesty, the description wasn’t something I was so sure I’d normally read. But it’s Emmy Laybourne, so I figured it had to be good.

I was pretty much hooked from the very beginning. It’s fast-paced and very engaging. I found I loved Laurel and Tom as main characters, and enjoyed watching them navigate things as the cruise got underway. Reading the first part of the book — before things get ugly — reminded me of watching Titanic. You know things are going to get ugly, but you are swept away by the excitement and extravagance. As you get further into the book, you know things have to change soon, but you’re kind of not wanting that to happen. And when things get ugly, they get ugly fast. You can see tiny hints at what is going to happen, but aren’t fully prepared for the magnitude of what goes down.

I was ready to gush and gush about this book, until the resolution. It was a bit too out there for me. Too far-fetched. And too, well, silly. And, really, that’s all I can say without spoiling anything.

Despite that, I did enjoy Sweet by Emmy Laybourne. Yes, there are a few surprises. Yes, the characters are fantastic. Yes, this is very well-written. While I felt the motivation behind it all and the explanation for everything was a bit out there, I still very much enjoyed reading the book.

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

Read It: Sweet is scheduled for release around June 2, 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: 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: 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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