Review: Beast by Brie Spangler

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Title: Beast
Author: Brie Spangler
Pub. Date: October 2016
Pages: 336
Format: ARC
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Description:

Tall, meaty, muscle-bound, and hairier than most throw rugs, Dylan doesn’t look like your average fifteen-year-old, so, naturally, high school has not been kind to him. To make matters worse, on the day his school bans hats (his preferred camouflage), Dylan goes up on his roof only to fall and wake up in the hospital with a broken leg—and a mandate to attend group therapy for self-harmers.

Dylan vows to say nothing and zones out at therapy—until he meets Jamie. She’s funny, smart, and so stunning, even his womanizing best friend, JP, would be jealous. She’s also the first person to ever call Dylan out on his self-pitying and superficiality.

As Jamie’s humanity and wisdom begin to rub off on Dylan, they become more than just friends. But there is something Dylan doesn’t know about Jamie, something she shared with the group the day he wasn’t listening. Something that shouldn’t change a thing. She is who she’s always been—an amazing photographer and devoted friend, who also happens to be transgender. But will Dylan see it that way?


The Review

Despite the fact that there were barely any characters that were likeable, I enjoyed Beast so much!

I hated JP from the beginning until the end. I didn’t care for Dylan/Beast too much either. Dylan just seemed very whiny and woe is me. I know part of that woe is me is a premise behind the book, but it just bothered me every time I read him degrade himself and the whole relying on what someone – including himself – looks like for happiness.

Of course I really loved Jamie’s character . . . she was real from the beginning to the end, didn’t take anyone’s shit, and could handle her own. Not once did she want Dylan’s help at all, despite his constant offering of protection.

Sometimes I felt like Dylan was trying too hard. He was obviously trying to prove something to himself and to Jamie, and it just felt forced. However, I could really tell it was all because of his internal struggling with everything that happened with Jamie. Having never dealt with this particular situation myself, I could completely understand his mentality.

The main topic of Beast is something I really think needs to be addressed more frequently, especially in YA! It’s something that’s not widely understood and it definitely should be. If more people took the time to understand and weren’t so close minded, maybe there wouldn’t be so much ignorance and hate.

If you or someone you know needs more information on transgender equality, please visit the National Center for Transgender Equality or visit GLAAD for further resources.

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Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

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Title: Caraval
Author: Stephanie Garber
Pub. Date: January 2017
Pages: 416
Format: ARC
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Description:

Whatever you’ve heard about Caraval, it doesn’t compare to the reality. It’s more than just a game or a performance. It’s the closest you’ll ever find to magic in this world . . .

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval . . . beware of getting swept too far away.


The Review

I followed a lot of the hype for Caraval, and I went back and forth on whether I wanted to read it or not. One minute it sounded really good, the next I just wasn’t sure. It was on my wishlist and figured I’d get to it eventually, but then I won an ARC.

The rest is history. I didn’t think I’d like it . . . the first chapter or so was a little off putting, but it still kept me intrigued and kept me reading. I didn’t want to put it down, even long after my eyes wouldn’t stay open any longer! Such an amazing book, and I am so glad I read it!

I immediately loved Julian the second he called Scarlett by the name “Crimson.” I shipped them pretty hard from then on. I still worried about his intentions the further into the story we got, because we find him in so many questionable situations.

I really liked Scarlett and her determination to find Tella. I am technically an only child, so I guess I don’t understand the sister dynamic. With that said, I am torn on how to feel about Scarlett and Tella’s relationship. Scarlett is the responsible one while Tella is the more wild and carefree one. However, it just felt like Scarlett was saving or protecting someone who didn’t care. It’s almost like Tella knew that Scarlett would do whatever and would be there no matter how careless she is, so she’s taking advantage. And I get it . . . if I had a sister, I would do everything and whatever I have to for her. It just felt awkward with Scarlett’s protectiveness and Tella’s “whatever” mentality.

Everything was so detailed and descriptive, that it made it feel like I was experiencing Caraval myself! It was such a fun read to get pulled into the world. And Legend is definitely an interesting character and I couldn’t get enough of the world of Caraval. There’s a story behind Legend and Caraval, and it was very fun to learn the history.

There’s magic, intrigue, a story to tell. And one hell of a cliffhanger!

Review: And the Trees Crept In by Dawn Kurtagich

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Title: And the Trees Crept In
Author: Dawn Kurtagich
Pub. Date: September 2016
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Description:

When Silla and Nori arrive at their aunt’s home, it’s immediately clear that the “blood manor” is cursed. The creaking of the house and the stillness of the woods surrounding them would be enough of a sign, but there are secrets too–the questions that Silla can’t ignore: Who is the beautiful boy that’s appeared from the woods? Who is the man that her little sister sees, but no one else? And why does it seem that, ever since they arrived, the trees have been creeping closer?


The Review

I’m not usually big on horror/scary reads – I’m rarely ever touched by a scary book. I’ve seen so many people say that this book is very creepy with just enough scare, so I figured I could give it a try. I didn’t want something that would creep me out too much, because that’s just not my thing anymore.

To be honest, there were chapter intros – for instance the way it was broken down into “books” – that made me question exactly what their purpose was but it didn’t really alter the overall feel of the book. Despite that, And the Trees Crept In was a really well written book. The writing was so superb that it left just the right about of creepy tingles. There were some elements that made me cringe, too. Very detailed.

I love the ending to And the Trees Crept In, and I didn’t really see it coming. It made for a nice twist to an otherwise typical type of spooky story. I think this would make for an amazing movie, too. For some reason, I also got a little bit of a Flowers in the Attic vibe. For being “trapped” inside the house and nowhere to go.

Is there a true legend behind The Creeper Man or is it specific to this book? I know I’ve heard of Slender Man – it’s been in the news, and my six year old plays a game that has a Slender Man – that’s very similar to the description of The Creeper Man. It’s a nice little legend to tell over campfires and things like that.

Review: The Exo Project by Andrew DeYoung

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Title: The Exo Project
Author: Andrew DeYoung
Pub. Date: April 2017
Pages: 455
Format: ARC
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Description:

This fast-paced, sharply written multiple-perspective YA science-fiction debut opens on a future Earth ravaged by solar radiation. Desperate for money to save his sick mother, seventeen-year-old Matthew agrees to participate in the Exo Project, a government plan to save the human race by flying across the galaxy in search of a habitable planet for resettlement. He thinks he’s been given a death sentence: 100 years in cryostasis, followed by a quick death on some barren world. But then he lands on Gle’ah, discovering the strange, beautiful creatures who live there, including Kiva, the captivating teenage girl who leads her planet’s matriarchal society. Kiva views Matthew as a threat and for good reason—if he tells Earth that he’s found a suitable planet, it will mean the end of her people’s way of life. But then Kiva and Matthew discover an emotional connection they never expected—and as they begin to delve into the secrets of Matthew’s mission and the dark truth behind the seeming paradise of Gle’ah, the choices they make will have consequences for both of their worlds.


The Review

I’m not really that into sci-fi type of stories, but I’m trying to branch out of my comfort zone a little and I was given the chance to read The Exo Project early and it sounded really good. I thought it sounded more dystopian than sci-fi, which had me sold!

While The Exo Project is a sci-fi read . . . it didn’t really read like one, which was good. I mean, there were several elements and concepts throughout the book to indicate as such, but I was so engrossed in the story that it didn’t stick out and feel overwhelmingly so.

I saw a plot twist coming, but it was nothing that I predicted. I was using Kiva’s (and Kyne’s) visions from the Ancestors to guide my predictions, but I was wrong. Which made the twist and ultimate feel of the book even more exciting.

I knew Sam was trouble, even before they took off on their mission. His story was intriguing to learn more of, and he completely reminded me of a white supremacist. Not only with the way he acted and the things he said once they landed on Gle’ah, but hearing the backstory with his dad.

There were so many aspects of The Exo Project that I’ve had conversations with people about . . . before reading the book, so it was really fun reading a lot of this and feeling so familiar with my thoughts. Then talking about it after reading it! I finished reading almost a month ago and I’m still thinking and talking about it,  🙂

The Ancestors . . . I had so many thoughts about them. I was thinking there was an underlying “god” thing with the Ancestors. Reading the history and the concept behind the Ancestors, I think, was my favorite part of the book. It really tied everything together and made everything pan out to a broader picture.

I was engrossed from beginning to end, in a fast-paced world with plenty of twists. A book that is worth the read, gets you thinking about the world we currently live in and the possibility of life outside of Earth. Now with the discovery of TRAPPIST-1, anything is a possibility!  🙂

Review: The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson

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Title: The Vanishing Season
Author: Jodi Lynn Anderson
Pub. Date: July 2014
Pages: 272
Format: ARC
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Description:

Girls started vanishing in the fall.

For Maggie Larsen, the town of Gill Creek is only a stopgap before college and freedom. Until she meets Pauline and Liam. What starts as an uneventful year suddenly changes. Someone is killing teenage girls, and the town reels from the tragedy. As Maggie’s and Pauline’s worlds collide and change around them, they will both experience love and loss. And by the end of the book, only one of them will survive.


The Review

I’ve read Anderson’s Peaches series and enjoyed them. I really like her writing and the draw to friendship, so when I saw The Vanishing Season had all that . . . I had to give it a whirl.

There is the friendship element, with a little love triangle – I need more two girls, one guy love triangle in my life! – tossed in. But it also had a dark undertone, and a twist at the end . . . which I saw coming; foreshadowing was on point.

I really liked this book, don’t get me wrong. Some of it felt cut off short – the Door County killer wasn’t who they thought it was and then never mentioned it again. And I think some of the narrating from the “ghost” was unnecessary. It wasn’t until the end that I kind of saw its importance, but even so.

And let me tell you – the whole thing with Maggie, Liam, and Pauline was inevitable and something that Maggie said to Liam was the truth . . . they were bored, and Maggie should’ve known better. The drama with them felt so much like Dawson’s Creek, and Joey, Dawson, and Pacey. No shame. I love that stuff!

The love triangle is probably the main reason I kept reading after the whole letdown with the killer and not knowing who it was.

I wish the ending was different. Not only with who the “ghost” is, but with what they see in the past and how things turned out after they died. However, it’s still a great read that left me wondering and patiently waiting to find out what will happen.

 

Review: The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid

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Title: The Diabolic
Author: S.J. Kincaid
Pub. Date: November 2016
Pages: 416
Format: ARC
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Description:

A Diabolic is ruthless. A Diabolic is powerful. A Diabolic has a single task: Kill in order to protect the person you’ve been created for.

Nemesis is a Diabolic, a humanoid teenager created to protect a galactic senator’s daughter, Sidonia. The two have grown up side by side, but are in no way sisters. Nemesis is expected to give her life for Sidonia, and she would do so gladly. She would also take as many lives as necessary to keep Sidonia safe.

When the power-mad Emperor learns Sidonia’s father is participating in a rebellion, he summons Sidonia to the Galactic court. She is to serve as a hostage. Now, there is only one way for Nemesis to protect Sidonia. She must become her. Nemesis travels to the court disguised as Sidonia—a killing machine masquerading in a world of corrupt politicians and two-faced senators’ children. It’s a nest of vipers with threats on every side, but Nemesis must keep her true abilities a secret or risk everything.

As the Empire begins to fracture and rebellion looms closer, Nemesis learns there is something more to her than just deadly force. She finds a humanity truer than what she encounters from most humans. Amidst all the danger, action, and intrigue, her humanity just might be the thing that saves her life—and the empire.


The Review

When I first started reading The Diabolic, there were a few things that caught me off guard and made me a little hesitant to keep reading. It also screamed politics, although that might’ve been because I had the concept on my brain at the time. And what Nemesis was designed for and that she killed outside of protecting Sedonia was a bit concerning, too.

I let these things go because it was actually really intriguing, and I was getting into the storyline. All the politics and rankings, etc. confused me and if I’m going to be completely honest – they whoosh went over my head. I decided not to dwell too much on the technical things, and I don’t think a lot of it really mattered in the long run.

I don’t usually get into things that are space-y and so futuristic sounding, but I started liking this book much more than I thought I would! After I got over the whole Nemesis thing, she became my favorite character. There was something about her that was different than what was described as a real Diabolic and I was starting to wonder if she was flawed . . . perhaps developed or designed incorrectly.

Then things got really interesting with the seemingly unnecessary violence and all the backstabbing. I figured the backstabbing was inevitable, considering the political feel of the overall book. I had this feeling that not a single person liked anyone else except Nemesis, and she’s not even supposed to have human emotions!

A few things that bothered me was that sex was said to be used as power, there were drugs being used throughout the entire book, and rape was an open secret and laughed about like it was some type of joke. Other then that, it was a very quick read that was enjoyable.

Review: One Wish Away by Ingrid Seymour

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Title: One Wish Away
Series: Djinn Empire, #1
Author: Ingrid Seymour
Pub. Date: February 2017
Pages: 333
Format: eARC
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Description:

Faris is a Djinn with a secret and Marielle the first master to give him hope. Will she be the one to break his curse? There is no telling. All he really knows is she’s ONE WISH AWAY from breaking his heart.

When Marielle was little, she used to believe Grandpa about his wish-granting Djinn. But now that she’s older, her beliefs have changed, and things like lousy ex-boyfriends and alcoholic fathers have become her reality.

Life isn’t done shattering her truths, though, and when Grandpa dies and the Djinn he warned her never to trust shows up at her doorstep, the world becomes a dangerous, magical place she never knew existed. Reeling for her once-normal life, Marielle soon realizes there’s no going back—not when she’s become part of a mortal conflict between two spell-bound Djinn. Faris—her handsome slave. And Zet—his vengeance-hungry brother. They both want something from her. One, her love. The other one, her life.

Now she’s afraid she will die in love.


The Review

I have read all of Ingrid Seymour’s YA books, and while Ignite the Shadows series is my absolute favorite – One Wish Away did not disappoint me!  🙂

There was a storyline I’ve not read before, and it really felt like a Disney movie. As Marielle would say . . . the Djinn was nothing like Genie in Aladdin. But that is, in a sense, how One Wish Away felt. Just much darker.

I really liked Marielle. Her abuelo gave her the advice about the Djinn, and she tried listening but no matter what . . . she listens to her own heart and trusts her own instincts, doing things on her own terms. Even if it meant coming across some trouble along the way.

Faris. Oh, Faris. It took awhile for him to grow on me. Even after finishing the book and waiting awhile to write the review, I’m still torn on whether I like Faris or not. At first he felt more like a father figure for Marielle, since she just lost her abuelo and needed someone. I knew he was meant to be a love interest, but it didn’t feel that way at first. Then it just really started feeling like Edward from Twilight. In that stalking, always there kind of way.

The relationship with Faris and Marielle didn’t feel real. It was a little instalove, but it was also a little cliché. I don’t really read many books and get pulled in by any romances, so this wasn’t a big thing for me. Sometimes I look over romances if I know it’s not primary to the storyline. I admire Marielle for not giving in at the smallest of advance like a lot of girls sometimes do when a boy shows interest.

The brothers’ curse is the background story for the book, even though it takes until almost the ending for it to be revealed, so I can’t really talk about how much I love the reason behind the curse and what it means for Faris and Zet, and how it’s different for the both of them. It’d give away too much. Zet was obviously much more . . . consumed with anger and hatred. Despite this, I actually really liked Zet’s character. He had an air of cocky confidence, but you could kind of see right through it, too.

I really liked the ending, and it really setup for the next in the Djinn Empire series. I’m excited for the next in the series, not only because it’s Ingrid but because this is another series that I can really get behind for premise alone. Lots of magic with a fast paced storyline. Can’t go wrong!  🙂