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!)

Find me on Goodreads.com >>
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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.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Find me on Goodreads.com >>
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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!)

Find me on Goodreads.com >>
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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!)

Find me on Goodreads.com >>
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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!)

Find me on Goodreads.com >>
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Review: Silverblind

Silverblind by Tina ConnollyTitle: Silverblind
Author: Tina Connolly
Series: Ironskin #3

About: The final book in this series will jump forward 18 years and feature Dorie, Jane’s young charge from Ironskin.

18 years later . . .
Dorie Rochart has been hiding her fey side for a long time. Now, finished with University, she plans to study magical creatures and plants in the wild, bringing long-forgotten cures to those in need. But when no one will hire a girl to fight basilisks, she releases her shapechanging fey powers–to disguise herself as a boy.

While hunting for wyvern eggs, she saves a young scientist who’s about to get steamed by a silvertail– and finds her childhood friend Tam Grimsby, to whom she hasn’t spoken in seven years. Not since she traded him to the fey. She can’t bear to tell him who she really is, but every day grows harder as he comes to trust her.

The wyverns are being hunted to extinction for the powerful compounds in their eggs. The fey are dying out as humans grow in power. Now Tam and Dorie will have to decide which side they will fight for. And if they end up on opposite sides, can their returning friendship survive?

My Thoughts: I absolutely have loved this series from the beginning, so when this showed up for review, I was thrilled! I couldn’t wait to get into it. And I was extra excited at the thought of reading about Dorie — pretty close to all grown up and ready to face the world on her own.

I remember not liking Dorie much in Ironskin, at least not initially. But I loved the series, and was eager to see what a mature Dorie was going to be like. And I have to say that I thought she was fantastic! She had made the choice to remove the faerie side of her years ago, and now brings it back out because she’s desperate. She wants to help people, and no one will let her because she’s a beautiful woman. She basically dresses in drag, and it’s all downhill from there.

There were elements of the story that were, well, pretty predictable. I could see when trouble would be coming, and with whom. But, there were some events that did surprise me. Some alliances and whatnot that I didn’t see coming. I loved Tam and Dorie — both as individuals and as a potential match.

As always, Connolly is an absolutely amazing writer. Her stories are so well-crafted, so fun to read, and so artful. While I know the Ironskin series is finished, I am looking forward to seeing what she’ll have for her readers next!

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

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!)

Find me on Goodreads.com >>
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Blog Tour & GIVEAWAYS: Afterparty by Ann Redisch Stampler (Deleted Scene)

I am so excited to be part of the blog tour for Ann Redisch Stampler’s Afterparty, I book I really enjoyed. I am very excited to be able to share a deleted scene with you! Make sure to scroll to the bottom — I have two giveaways. One specific to this blog, and one that’s a tour-wide grand-prize giveaway! (Click the button below to find more tour stops.)

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Blog TourBefore I get into the deleted scene, I thought I should introduce you to the book.

Afterparty by Ann Redisch StamplerAbout Afterparty: Emma is tired of being good. Always the dutiful daughter to an overprotective father, she is the antithesis of her mother–whose name her dad won’t even say out loud. That’s why meeting Siobhan is the best thing that ever happened to her… and the most dangerous. Because Siobhan is fun and alluring and experienced and lives on the edge. In other words, she’s everything Emma is not.

And it may be more than Emma can handle.

Because as intoxicating as her secret life may be, when Emma begins to make her own decisions, Siobhan starts to unravel. It’s more than just Dylan, the boy who comes between them. Their high-stakes pacts are spinning out of control. Elaborate lies become second nature. Loyalties and boundaries are blurred. And it all comes to a head at the infamous Afterparty, where debauchery rages and an intense, inescapable confrontation ends in a plummet from the rooftop…

This explosive, sexy, and harrowing follow-up to Ann Redisch Stampler’s spectacular teen debut, Where It Began, reveals how those who know us best can hurt us most.

My review | Buy it now on Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, BookDepository.com, IndieBound.org and from other fine booksellers.

Deleted Scene: No flashbacks from Emma’s early life in Canada made it into the final book.  This is a flashback that used to be there just as Emma and Siobhan were about to take a couple of horses from the Latimer School stable out for a joyride in the middle of the night.  To understand this, you have to know: i.) Perla is Emma’s grandmother, who has had nothing to do with her since she left Montreal in her early childhood, ii.) Marty is Emma’s father.

In fact, I can ride.  In fact, I can ride English with a good seat and square shoulders.  Clenched teeth and petrified.

Grandma Perla going, “Don’t coddle her.  Of course she’s going to ride.  All of us ride.”

My dad hovers by the side of the ring looking miserable, but I ride.  Also, I fall off my horse when I’m supposed to be taking a low jump with a post and a ditch. I’m on the ground and the horse, Brigitte Bardot, is bent over and sniffing at me, trying to figure out what the hell just happened.

I don’t get back on the horse.

My dad is checking every bone in my body and staring at my pupils and checking my pulse.

My riding teacher is saying, “It’s nothing.  See, she’s fine.”

Brigitte Bardot doesn’t seem to think I’m fine.  She nudges Marty and sticks her nose in my ear.  If I didn’t have to ride her, if she could be my big, sleek puppy, I’d like her fine.  But she’s a horse, so I don’t.

“Back on the horse,” my riding teacher says.  “You have to get back on the horse and we’ll walk her.”

I don’t say anything.  I lie there on the ground patting Brigitte Bardot.

My dad says, “He’s right, Ems.  Let’s get you back on the horse.”

He doesn’t sound convinced.

“I could die,” I say, seeing my opening.  “I could break my arm.”

My dad looks alarmed.  He looks up at the looming Brigitte Bardot and her huge horse feet and horse haunches, standing over me.

“I could break my wrist and never play the cello again.  Ever.”

Marty carries me out of the ring and buckles me into the car.

I do not get back on the horse ever.

Yet here I am. I am going to get on Loogs.  I am going to mount the world’s most obedient damned horse and go on an incorrectly named joy ride.  “You’re not going to throw me and kill me and walk on my bones and crush them are you?” I say, palming a sliced apple, slipping it into Loog’s mouth.  As if saying it out loud insures that it won’t really happen, because that would be too weird.  As if standing in the Latimer stable in the middle of the night were a scenario devoid of weirdness.

Loogs has horsey bug eyes and a pleasant expression.  For a horse.

Ann Redisch StamplerAbout the Author: Ann Redisch Stampler is the author of young adult novels Where It Began and Afterparty, as well as several picture books, including The Rooster Prince of Breslov. Her books have been an Aesop Accolade winner, Sydney Taylor notable books and an honor book, a National Jewish Book Awards finalist and winner, and Bank Street Best Books of the Year. Ann has two adult children and lives in Los Angeles, California with her husband. Website: annstampler.com / Twitter: @annstampler / Facebook: https://facebook.com/WhereItBegan / Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15751652-afterparty

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And now for the giveaways!

Giveaway #1: This is the big prize! It ends Thu 11/13, US addresses only. It includes:

Prize

A hardcover copy of Afterparty
Emma’s contraband Sephora make-up
Emma’s Kate Spade make-up bag
Emma’s Bob Marley t-shirt
Emma’s vintage mother-of-pearl barrette
Emma’s cat’s eyes sun glasses
Emma’s ice blue nail polish
The sparkly hair pins Dylan pulls out of Emma’s hair
Dylan’s Kurt Cobain t-shirt
Siobhan’s gold nail polish
Mara’s Bakelite-style orange bracelet (+ two more)
Mara’s (tiny) Felix-the-Cat ring
An Afterparty tote bag

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway #2: This is for readers of Proud Book Nerd. Anyone can enter, just fill in the information below. This one ends on Monday, November 11, 2014. This also is for U.S. addresses only.

Afterparty ToteThis giveaway includes a hardcover copy of Afterparty and an Afterparty tote.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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