Review: Blackbird

Blackbird by Anna CareyTitle: Blackbird
Author: Anna Carey
Series: Blackbird Duology #1

About: A girl wakes up on the train tracks, a subway car barreling down on her. With only minutes to react, she hunches down and the train speeds over her. She doesn’t remember her name, where she is, or how she got there. She has a tattoo on the inside of her right wrist of a blackbird inside a box, letters and numbers printed just below: FNV02198. There is only one thing she knows for sure: people are trying to kill her. 

On the run for her life, she tries to untangle who she is and what happened to the girl she used to be. Nothing and no one are what they appear to be. But the truth is more disturbing than she ever imagined. 

My Thoughts: I almost didn’t even try to get into this book. The first several chapters — probably the entire first half or so — was a struggle. You see, this book is written in second-person. I remember learning about various narrative styles in school as a kid, and there was much said about first- and third-person narratives. All I remember being told about second-person: It’s hardly ever used, so you don’t really need to know much about it. But, it’s as if someone is telling you what YOU did. Almost as if you are the main character.

Let me just say, there’s a reason why second-person is not a popular choice. It’s not for everyone. And this book showed me that I’m one of those people who just don’t find second person something I enjoy reading. So, I’m thinking it doesn’t have wide appeal. And if I’m honest with myself, well, I’m guessing it’s a difficult way to write, too. Especially an entire novel.

So, back to Blackbird by Anna Carey. Thanks to the second-person narrative, I found this very, VERY hard to get into. I almost called it quits, it was so hard. (And you know I’m not one who easily gives up on books.) But I pushed through, I’m glad I did. Mostly. Here’s why I say “mostly”:

  • There are small bits throughout the book that are told in third-person. Those were my favorite parts. Like breaths of fresh air. I liked those parts. A lot. And they are very well-written. (Really, the whole book is — if you can get past the whole second-person thing, which I obviously cannot.)
  • Once the second-person narration stopped being a distraction, I found myself drawn into the story. The action is intense, fast-paced, and full of suspense. Soon, perspective doesn’t matter too much, because you just gotta know what’s going on.
  • Lots of twists and turns. Very interesting.

So, will I read this again? Absolutely not. Second-person is enough to keep me away. (Me no likey!) Will I read the sequel? You bet! By the end, the action finally got good enough that I was almost able to forget about the whole second-person problem. Almost. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to make me love the book. But it was enough to make me like the story a lot — and want to see how this all plays out.

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

Read It: Blackbird is scheduled for release around September 16, 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: Chasing Before

Chasing Before by Lenore AppelhansTitle: Chasing Before
Author: Lenore Appelhans
Series: The Memory Chronicles #2

About: “I’m a ticking time bomb. And one day soon everything is going to explode.”

Felicia and Neil have arrived in Level 3 and are supposed to prepare for their divine vocations.

But during Felicia and Neil’s training period, a series of explosions rips through Level 3. Tension is high, and casualties are mounting. A rift forms between the pair, one that grows wider when Felicia receives memories from the Morati. The memories cast doubt on the people she loves the most, but Felicia can’t stop her curiosity. She has to know the truth about her life – even if it means putting at risk everything she’s worked for in her death.

My Thoughts: One word entered my mind upon completion: fantastic. I really liked Lenore Appelhans’ Level 2 (which has since been renamed The Memory of After), so when the opportunity to read the sequel presented itself, I was thrilled. I couldn’t wait to see what was coming next. And this book did not let me down. It’s one of the rare times the second book in the series exceeds my expectations — by far.

Felicia is great. While occasionally I got frustrated with her — her reliance on Neil could get annoying at times (can anyone say codependent?) — I found her spunk, her spirit, and her heart were admirable. While she’s overly tough on herself (who isn’t their own harshest critic?), I felt that kept her real. One thing I love is that, despite being dead, Felicia learns a lot and really grows through the course of this novel.

Neil was a complete jerk for most of the book. I found myself wanting to see her ditch him and get with Julian. Neil was a complete and utter asshole and treated Felicia quite badly. I can’t remember if he was book boyfriend material first time around. He definitely isn’t in this book. Keep him far, far away from me, please. I get that he’s not perfect and struggling with his own personal demons (figuratively, of course), but that doesn’t in any way excuse his behavior. Ugh!

The plot is full of twists and turns. A few were easy for me to figure out — I’m talking about you, Neil! — but there were some good, big, shock-my-socks-off surprises throughout. That was quite nice, I must say.

If you enjoyed Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans — or The Memory of After — then I highly recommend that you read Chasing Before. It has some interesting twists and turns. And it was a book I found myself wanting to read, read, read on through!

Favorite Quotes: There are lots of great nuggets in this book. Here are a couple of my favorites (from the ARC, so they could be different in the final published version).

I’ve learned the hard way that reality is messier than fiction, and no matter how much you want to, you can’t sneak a look at the last page to see if everything turns out okay. ~ page 347 (ARC)

I know what letting go means. It means not allowing anyone else to define you, and that includes past versions of yourself. It’s … about accepting that you’re a person who’s going to make mistakes sometimes, and that’s okay. Mistakes don’t define you. It’s what you learn from them that does. ~ page 359 (ARC) 

5 StarsSource: Sent in exchange for an honest review.

Read It: Chasing Before is scheduled for release around August 26, 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: The Queen of Zombie Hearts

The Queen of Zombie Hearts by Gena ShowalterTitle: The Queen of Zombie Hearts
Author: Gena Showalter
Series: The White Rabbit Chronicles #3

About: I have a plan. 

We’ll either destroy them for good, or they’ll destroy us. 

Either way, only one of us is walking away. 

In the conclusion to The White Rabbit Chronicles, Alice “Ali” Bell thinks the worst is behind her. She’s ready to take the next step with boyfriend Cole Holland, the leader of the zombie slayers…until Anima Industries, the agency controlling the zombies, launches a sneak attack, killing four of her friends. It’s then she realizes that humans can be more dangerous than monsters…and the worst has only begun. 

As the surviving slayers prepare for war, Ali discovers she, too, can control the zombies…and she isn’t the girl she thought she was. She’s connected to the woman responsible for killing—and turning—Cole’s mother. How can their relationship endure? As secrets come to light, and more slayers are taken or killed, Ali will fight harder than ever to bring down Anima—even sacrificing her own life for those she loves.

My Thoughts: Awesome! Perfect ending to an absolutely fabulous series! No, it wasn’t flawless, but it was so darn good I found myself able to completely overlook the not-so-perfect moments. It’s heartbreaking, amazing, and just fabulous. This is one series I plan to own — in hardcover!

The flaws:

  • Not-so-surprising twists. One very big one. I could see it coming a mile away. But it works. And figuring it out didn’t ruin the book for me — there are plenty of other twists and surprising occurrences.
  • Cole was an asshat again. Not the entire book, like in Through the Zombie Glass, but enough that I seriously considered knocking him out of contention for book boyfriend. Almost happened.
  • One or two story inconsistencies. (Example: She sits, in the floor, but a page later her knees weaken and she slides to the floor. Given the circumstances, she could’ve stood but we never see that happen.)
  • A few other, pretty minor, things.

But, no, that wasn’t enough to kill the book for me. I loved it. Read it in less than 24 hours — with life interruptions (caring for kids, sleeping, spending the morning away from the book, etc.). I could have easily read this in one sitting, lasting only a few hours — tops. Still loved Ali — most of the time. The action is non-stop. It’s riveting, exciting, heartbreaking, and the perfect way to end one of the best YA series I’ve had the pleasure of reading!

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

Read It: The Queen of Zombie Hearts is scheduled for release around September 30, 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: Help for the Haunted

Help for the Haunted by John SearlesTitle: Help for the Haunted
Author: John Searles
Series: n/a

About: Sylvie Mason’s parents have an unusual occupation—helping “haunted souls” find peace. After receiving a strange phone call one winter’s night, they leave the house and are later murdered in an old church in a horrifying act of violence.

A year later, Sylvie is living in the care of her older sister, who may be to blame for what happened to their parents. Now, the inquisitive teenager pursues the mystery, moving closer to the knowledge of what occurred that night—and to the truth about her family’s past and the secrets that have haunted them for years.

My Thoughts: If you like a thriller that might leave you a little spooked come bed time, this is the book for you. There were times it gave me chills! LOL I read this over a few days’ time, and probably could’ve read it much faster. It was very good. Compelling, engaging, and tragic.

I hated Sylvie’s sister, Rose. Absolutely hated her. She was a selfish, rude, manipulative snot. And really, I can’t believe someone like her would’ve been given charge of Sylvie. But I also know that sometimes, it’s not so hard to present a different face to the powers that be. Anyway, not even when more of her story came out did I find myself ease up on her. She was just not likable at all. Especially when Sylvie had to suffer as a result of her selfish behavior. Sylvie, however, I did like. As well as most of the rest of the characters — with the possible exception of the girls’ father.

The book is very well-written, and I found it a pleasure to read. Why not a higher rating? Because it didn’t leave a lasting mark on me. I liked it a lot, but it didn’t take long for me to forget much of what I had read. That said, there were some twists and turns, surprising events, and such. If you like supernatural thrillers, this is a good choice. It certainly isn’t the creepiest thing I’ve read, but it’s definitely got its moments.

3.5 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!)

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Review: Remember Me

Remember Me by Romily BernardTitle: Remember Me
Author: Romily Bernard
Series: Find Me #2

About: In the sequel to Find Me, Wick Tate, sarcastic teen hacker, is back and once again dealing with criminals and corrupt cops…and a brooding new love interest. Will Wick persevere when some secrets refuse to stay hidden?

Wick had thought her troubles were over.

But she should’ve known better.

Not only is she embroiled in a new murder case, which starts with a body with “Remember Me” carved into it and doesn’t stop there, but she also discovers new evidence surrounding her mother’s suicide…which leads her right back to her imprisoned deadbeat dad. And she has to deal with her flirty new hacker friend, Milo, sniffing around—which her boyfriend, Griff, isn’t too happy about.

The pressure might be too much as secrets—including Wick’s own—climb to the surface.

My Thoughts: I’m gonna start right out and say I’ve been quite sick. Usually, I wait to feel better before I really dive into a book. I didn’t have that luxury this time, so I will be the first to admit that being ill and not as fully functional while reading could have influenced my feelings about the book. I absolutely loved Find Me by Romily Bernard, so I was thrilled to see a new book featuring Wick. I didn’t think this one was quite as exciting, quite as surprising, or quite as good.

Wick is still pretty cool, but not quite so much as I thought she was first time around. Not sure if she was that different, or maybe I was that different. It’s hard to know. What I do know is that I hated seeing her so down on herself. Hated seeing her so willing to give up everything.

Milo is … interesting, but I don’t think he was developed enough. And there just wasn’t enough of Griff. And, frankly, I’m not sure I buy Griff’s actions in this book. Unfortunately, I don’t remember him well enough from the first book to say that with a lot of confidence.

There is another book in the works, and I will definitely read it. It’s called Trust Me. While I felt this one fell a little flat, I’m not ready to give up on the series. Plus, the book did hold my interest, and I was eager to see how it all played out. It just wasn’t quite so surprising this time around. If you enjoyed Find Me, definitely give this one a read. I’ve also discovered there’s a prequel called Lie for Me: Griff’s Story. I definitely want to read that!

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

Read It: Remember Me is scheduled for release around September 23, 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: Falling into Place

Falling into Place by Amy ZhangTitle: Falling into Place
Author: Amy Zhang
Series: n/a

About: On the day Liz Emerson tries to die, they had reviewed Newton’s laws of motion in physics class. Then, after school, she put them into practice by running her Mercedes off the road. 

Why? Why did Liz Emerson decide that the world would be better off without her? Why did she give up? Vividly told by an unexpected and surprising narrator, this heartbreaking and nonlinear novel pieces together the short and devastating life of Meridian High’s most popular junior girl. Mass, acceleration, momentum, force —Liz didn’t understand it in physics, and even as her Mercedes hurtles toward the tree, she doesn’t understand it now. How do we impact one another? How do our actions reverberate? What does it mean to be a friend? To love someone? To be a daughter? Or a mother? Is life truly more than cause and effect? 

My Thoughts: This was amazingly well-written, especially when you discover that it was written by a high school student. Not because a teenager can’t write, but simply because it’s so well, well done. If I had found out the author’s age after reading, I would’ve been shocked. And I don’t think I’d have believed it right off the bat! Fantastic work! Hopefully Miss Zhang has much more to share with the rest of us!

The story is very compelling, and it had no trouble pulling me in — and keeping me there! If I had the opportunity, I easily could have read this in one sitting. Unfortunately, I did not. I say unfortunately simply because I would have liked to.

The way the story is told is rather unique and quite clever. We have one first-person account, and I was very impressed by that, especially when it’s revealed for certain (there are earlier hints, but it’s later confirmed) just who that narrator is. There are some chapters told exclusively from this narrator’s perspective. Other chapters focus on various people: Liz’s friends, a classmate who’s more of an acquaintance, etc. They all have very interesting stories, some of which are just heartbreaking.

Liz is a character who, despite just how much of a mean girl she can be, I found myself liking and pulling for. If I stop and think about it, my mind says I should hate her. She’s mean, mean, mean! But, we’re given many glimpses inside this girl, and it’s obvious that the meanness is an expression of her inner turmoil. Poor girl is in a lot of pain.

Falling into Place by Amy Zhang is a compelling, interesting, masterful novel. It’s amazing that such a mature novel came out of someone so young! I look forward to seeing what else Zhang will have for us down the line.

4.5 Stars

Source: Received through Around the World Tours for review.

Read It: Falling into Place is scheduled for release around September 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: Mortal Danger

Mortal Danger by Ann AguirreTitle: Mortal Danger
Author: Ann Aguirre
Series: Immortal Game #1

About: Revenge is a dish best served cold.

Edie Kramer has a score to settle with the beautiful people at Blackbriar Academy. Their cruelty drove her to the brink of despair, and four months ago, she couldn’t imagine being strong enough to face her senior year. But thanks to a Faustian compact with the enigmatic Kian, she has the power to make the bullies pay. She’s not supposed to think about Kian once the deal is done, but devastating pain burns behind his unearthly beauty, and he’s impossible to forget. 

In one short summer, her entire life changes and she sweeps through Blackbriar, prepped to take the beautiful people down from the inside. A whisper here, a look there, and suddenly . . . bad things are happening. It’s a head rush, seeing her tormentors get what they deserve, but things that seem too good to be true usually are, and soon, the pranks and payback turns from delicious to deadly. Edie is alone in a world teeming with secrets and fiends lurking in the shadows. In this murky morass of devil’s bargains, she isn’t sure who—or what—she can trust. Not even her own mind.

My Thoughts: This sounds like a pretty good concept, until you open the cover. This “Faustian compact” — Edie has Kian make her beautiful. Somehow, that fixes all of her problems. Suddenly she’s no longer a social pariah, and apparently her new look equals a new and improved personality, too. Oh, and she shouldn’t worry about her parents — however drastic the changes to her appearance might be, they won’t be suspicious since she’s spending the summer away. As if parents/adults are completely oblivious idiots. (Sorry, but as a parent, that’s just infuriating to have my peers written off as just the biggest morons ever.) And, no, I’m not just too old to be able to remember life with my parents at that age — my parents were not idiots who were blissfully unaware of just about everything.

And I have apparently turned this review into a mini-rant about how we parents are just totally misrepresented in YA literature. Sorry. Back to the review …

As if teenage girls aren’t (generally speaking) superficial enough, let’s have a book wherein the main character’s social problems are all but completely solved simply because she’s suddenly no longer an ugly girl. Yeah, because that’s how life works … (please note the gigantic amount of sarcasm here)

So, basically, Edie comes across as the most shallow main character I’ve come across in quite awhile. Sure, she gets into big trouble and is in — hee, hee — Mortal Danger, but she’s kinda made her own bed. Shouldn’t she lie in it?

And the insta-love between her and Kian? Hasn’t this been very overdone in YA? Hell, not just YA, but especially YA.

I found this extremely disappointing, and it was slow to start, too. Took me several days of forcing myself to read just a few pages to finally get where I wanted to finish. And, honestly, several times I considering making this my first DNF in quite some time. But, a tiny part of me wanted to see where this was headed.

Will I read this again? Absolutely not. Would I recommend this? Probably not. Will I continue the series? Only if the opportunity presents itself.

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

Read It: Mortal Danger is scheduled for release around August 5, 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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