Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Review: The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich

The Dead HouseThe Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich
Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: September 15th, 2015
Purchase: Amazon
Debut author Dawn Kurtagich is dead on in this terrifying psychological thriller!

Over two decades have passed since the fire at Elmbridge High, an inferno that took the lives of three teenagers. Not much was known about the events leading up to the tragedy - only that one student, Carly Johnson, vanished without a trace...

...until a diary is found hidden in the ruins.

But the diary, badly scorched, does not belong to Carly Johnson. It belongs to Kaitlyn Johnson, a girl who shouldn't exist Who was Kaitlyn? Why did she come out only at night? What is her connection to Carly?

The case has been reopened. Police records are being reexamined: psychiatric reports, video footage, text messages, e-mails. And the diary.

The diary that paints a much more sinister version of events than was ever made publicly known.
My thoughts:
I love love love this type of book. The whole journal entry, police transcripts, and camera details really put a creepy spin on an already creeptastic book. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Review: My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

My Life Next Door (My Life Next Door #1) by Huntley Fitzpatrick
Published June 14th 2012 by Dial Books For Young Readers 

"One thing my mother never knew, and would disapprove of most of all, was that I watched the Garretts. All the time."
The Garretts are everything the Reeds are not. Loud, messy, affectionate. And every day from her rooftop perch, Samantha Reed wishes she was one of them . . . until one summer evening, Jase Garrett climbs up next to her and changes everything. As the two fall fiercely for each other, stumbling through the awkwardness and awesomeness of first love, Jase's family embraces Samantha - even as she keeps him a secret from her own. Then something unthinkable happens, and the bottom drops out of Samantha's world. She's suddenly faced with an impossible decision. Which perfect family will save her? Or is it time she saved herself? A transporting debut about family, friendship, first romance, and how to be true to one person you love without betraying another.

My Thoughts

Sam Reed lives in a perfect bubble. Her mother is State Senator which has always lead a privileged life, even without knowing it. Perhaps that is why she is so fascinated with the hectic, messy, loud, crowded family of Garrett's. She has been watching them her whole life from a far. Suddenly, she is swept up into their madness in the best way possible. Jase and Sam are perfect for each other and she adores her family but while their loves grows stronger her family life becomes more volatile as a secret threatens to bring down the house...literally.

This book was adorable!! I have been hearing great things for years and I was so happy to be agreement with all the hubbub. I have a really hard time with YA contemporary since I grew up a bit different then many of the M.C.'s. Let's just say I was more of a cross between Tim & Alice instead of Jace & Sam. I have since grown up but still have a hard time relating yet this one fascinated me. Mrs. Fitzpatrick really captured the details of a first love perfectly, even the awkward slightly uncomfortable minutes. There was something so enthralling about that first love feel between those two. They were just cute as buttons without inciting any eye rolling. The dialogue was incredibly strong as well. In fact, if I was to have any complaints at all (not that I do), but I would say that things at times were a bit too wordy which slowed the pace. This was easily overlooked though.

The supporting cast was incredibly strong in their own right. Each character was incredibly detailed and yet they all somehow complemented each other perfectly. Let me just say that I squealed with delight to find the companion/sequels main focus is the ever feisty Alice and reformed screw up (who more than completely redeemed himself) Tim. I CAN'T WAIT!! 

I will absolutely be looking for any more Huntley books I can. I am about to read What I Thought Was True as well!! These are seriously some perfect summer swoons.

4 Snowflakes

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Review: Survive the Night by Danielle Vega

Survive the NightSurvive the Night by Danielle Vega
Publisher: Razorbill
Release Date: July 7th, 2015
Purchase: Amazon
We're all gonna die down here. . . .

Julie lies dead and disemboweled in a dank, black subway tunnel, red-eyed rats nibbling at her fingers. Her friends think she’s just off with some guy—no one could hear her getting torn apart over the sound of pulsing music.

In a tunnel nearby, Casey regrets coming to Survive the Night, the all-night underground rave in the New York City subway. Her best friend Shana talked her into it, even though Casey just got out of rehab. Alone and lost in the dark, creepy tunnels, Casey doesn’t think Survive the Night could get any worse . . .
. . . until she comes across Julie’s body, and the party turns deadly.

Desperate for help, Casey and her friends find themselves running through the putrid subway system, searching for a way out. But every manhole is sealed shut, and every noise echoes eerily in the dark, reminding them they’re not alone.

They’re being hunted.
Trapped underground with someone—or something—out to get them, Casey can’t help but listen to her friend’s terrified refrain: “We’re all gonna die down here. . . .” in this bone-chilling sophmore novel by the acclaimed author of The Merciless.
My thoughts:
This was so so bad.  I hate writing reviews for books that have let me down and this review isn't going to be nice I am warning you now.  And it will be full of spoilers so if you don't want to know the ending don't read this!!  I can't write this without talking about the entire book I am really sorry, but I just can't.  I am too upset to skirt around things this time so again DO NOT READ if you don't want SPOILERS!!


Let me first say that I adore Danielle Vega.  Her first novel The Merciless was amazing and I really loved every bit about.  When I saw her second novel hit Goodreads I squeed and knew I was going to love it.  And really if I had gotten what the synopsis promised I would have loved it plot hole and all. (I'll get to the huge gaping plot hole in a minute.) What I read was not what I was promised.  The synopsis made me think this would be kinda like The Purge movies.  A story about a group of kids trapped in a Survive the Night game with lunatics.  Did I read the summary wrong??  What I read was a story about a group of teens (who all have their roles...a crazy mean psycho, a drug addict just released from rehab who thinks she doesn't have a problem, the TSTL girls, the ex boyfriend who doesn't do the drug thing, and the goofy sidekick..sounds like an old school thriller right?) who do go to a Survive the Night rave, but accidentally get trapped underground after hiding from the police when the party is busted.  The rest of the story is about them trying to get out and yes there is something lurking in the dark, but it wasn't creepy.  It was incredibly boring and not scary at all in my opinion.  I wanted the lunatics!!

Yes I did see at the bottom of the summary that it says "something", but honestly I didn't see that the first time I read the summary which does make me question if it was changed.  And even if it was there I am still sticking by my rant in this.  I think the story would have been so much better if the "something" was left out. I didn't buy the "something" at all.  I would have bought deranged killers on the lose playing a game of cat and mouse underground.  Okay moving on to the plot hole...

The whole entire time I was reading this there was a HUGE plot hole staring me in the face.  CELL PHONES!  Why in the world didn't someone call for help??!  Casey and her group use their cell phones numerous times to see in the dark but they never tried to call anyone!  This bugged me!!  If there was no reception I would have liked that little tidbit thrown in, but really in this day and age cell towers are everywhere so why didn't they just CALL SOMEBODY!  SO infuriating!!  And even if they didn't have reception underground they did try and open a manhole so wouldn't the cell phones work then when they were almost above ground??  I screamed so much every time a phone was mentioned that by the end of the book I couldn't even look at my cell phone without screaming.

I also don't think I've ever been more aggravated at a group of characters before either.  Casey was just so whiny and all she did was pine over Sam and say she didn't have a drug problem.  I got so tired of hearing her inner monologues.  Whatever chance this story had was obliterated when the characters started talking.  I don't even know what to say except that they were not fun to read at all.


And this brings me to unnecessary killing off people.  I don't know if you watch Grey's Anatomy but I did up until recently because of unnecessary killing.  I watched that show for years and if I can stop watching it that fast you will know I am serious when I say I have a very low tolerance for killing off people just to kill them off.  Yes I know that this book was all about killing off people BUT I felt like killing off a certain person wasn't necessary.  They got away safe, the danger was gone why did they have to die??!  I hated the way they died too.  They died saving someone and while sometimes that is heroic in this instance it was just stupid. Yes I said it stupid.  Did I want a HEA for certain characters?  No really I could have cared less, but I just didn't want this one person to die.

Oh and this book had all kinds of gross stuff in it.  I can handle blood, guts, and gore.  What grosses me out is going barefoot in an underground train tunnel with rats and who knows what diseases, laying on the underground train tunnel floor hooking up with someone and yes almost getting naked in the hooking up process, and vomiting then two chapters later kissing a person!!  WTH?!?!?  EWWWW!!!  I almost threw up in my mouth when I read that part.

Why didn't the little beta readers tell the powers to be about this stuff??!!  I know Ms. Vega can write an amazing book.  I have no idea what happened with this one at all. I wish she would have stuck with the old school thriller instead of adding in a "something"  The "something" wasn't needed and I really wish someone would have told her about the dang cell phones!!

Okay I am going to stop.  Like I said I knew this review would be harsh and I am sorry for that.  I thought about not reviewing it but I had to say something.  I am really curious how this book will be received and I can't wait to find out if I am in the minority.  Shockingly this will not deter me from reading future novels from Ms.Vega.  I have hopes that her next one will be like the first.

1 snowflake

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Review: Endgame by C.J. Daugherty

Endgame by C.J. Daugherty
Publisher- Little Brown/Atom (UK)
Released- June 4th 2015
Purchase- Amazon/ TBD

Broken. Scattered. But not defeated.The spy is gone but the cost has been high - the rebels at Cimmeria Academy have lost their leader and Carter West is missing. Nathaniel can taste victory. But Allie and the other survivors aren't done yet. First they have to get Carter back. Then they plan to make Nathaniel pay.One way or another - the game must end.Endgame is the thrilling fifth and final book in the internationally bestselling Night School series.
My Thoughts:
It's over and I'm so sad. The Night School books have been one of my favorite escapes providing remarkable mystery, incredible writing, amazing characters and pure solid entertainment. C.J. Daugherty took over my  imagination book after book and it makes me sad to think that there wont be a new book to look forward to next year, but if this series has to end, I couldn't ask for anything better!

Endgame starts off seconds after Resistance ends. The beginning of the book is straight out of an action movie. It got my heart pumping from minute one and this was one ride I didn't want to stop. Allie is still recovering from the tailspin disaster at Hampstead Heath, mourning the lost of Lucinda and worried sick over Carter's capture, but she's more determined then ever as she and the rest of the Night school students and teachers fight to once and for all put a stop to this war Nathanial has started. This book felt very different amongst the rest. More dire, more intense and way more suspenseful. We're in total mission-mode here and I loved how realistic Daugherty made it feel. When the action hit it was in your face fast and exciting but then there were the longer slow periods of waiting and planning time that was both calculating and maddening. I also loved how involved the guards were in this book. It gave it that extra push, specially when Number Nine is introduced. But above all, I loved the energy that crackled throughout this last hurray. From the first book fans craved to see what Night School was all about but this book shows us just how it all goes down. And I loved every minute!

Allie, Carter, Sylvain, Zoe, Rachel and Nicole. I'm truly going to miss all of these remarkable characters. Allie has grown so strong  throughout the entire series and I was so proud of the way she took control of her own fate but still wise enough to let others help her. I'm also glad we had the chance to see what becomes of Christopher, Gabe and of course Nathaniel and the future of the organizations. As for Carter and Sylvain, well, I don't want to spoil anything but I believe this was the ending that was always meant to be. I do wish we had a little more romance, but I can't really complain given the very complicated and fast paced plot, any more romance then what we got, would have felt forced.

Bottom line, I absolutely loved this book and this series. It has been one of my most treasured and solid escapes that was such a complete joy to experience. I'll miss this world, but even though I know it's done, I still think there might be room for a spin-off, so,  fingers crossed. Congrats to Daugherty for such a brilliant series and I'm looking forward to your next adventure!

Find the author: 
Website / Goodreads                               4.5 snowflakes

Friday, June 26, 2015

Review. Interview, & Giveaway: They Call Me Alexandra Gastone by T. A. Maclagan

Today on WinterHaven Books we have the amazing T.A. Maclagan with us!  She is stopping by to answer a few of my questions about her latest book and there is also a really fun contest and giveaway that you won't want to miss!  

1. How much research did you do before writing your novel?
I’ve always been a huge fan of spy books, both fiction and nonfiction, so in a way, I’ve been researching for the book most of my teen and adult life!

2. I would have loved to have known more about Milena's family, will we get to see more of them in the next book?
Yes! The next book is very much a family affair! The reader will be introduced to Milena’s enigmatic father, who is definitely not going to be winning father of the year.

3. Can you tell us anything about Milena's mom? I'm extremely curious about her connection to Perun.
Wow. Such a hard question. You’re very intuitive. All I can say is that Milena’s mom’s relationship to Perun is a central aspect of the sequel. No one is who they first appear to be

4. Whose character was the hardest to write?
Lex was probably the hardest to write. As a spy for the “other side” it took some trial and error to make her both likable and believable as a character. In some of my earlier versions she came across as too distant from Grant and Albert.

5. Are you Team Grant or Team Varos? I have to say I am torn!!
I have to say that I’m a bit torn as well. They are both good for her in their own ways. I probably lean toward being team Grant, just because Grant is so my sort of guy. I love the sporty geek types. That said, I’m not sure Lex is the right girl for him. I’m still working through my feelings on Lex’s romantic life

6. What can you tell us about the sequel?
The plan is for a duology, so readers will only have to wait for one more book before all their questions about Lex and Perun are answered. The sequel, if all goes according to plan, should be out next year. Expect lots of twists and turns and some very big reveals! Lex and the reader are in for a ride.

I am so excited for the sequel! Especially after reading these answers!  I just want to know more and it looks like I will get my wish yay!
T.A. thanks so much for stopping by, it's been amazing working with you!

About the Author
T.A. Maclagan is a Kansas girl by birth but now lives in the bush-clad hills of Wellington, New Zealand with her Kiwi husband, son and four pampered cats. With a bachelor’s degree in biology and a Ph.D. in anthropology, she’s studied poison dart frogs in the rainforests of Costa Rica, howler monkeys in Panama and the very exotic and always elusive American farmer. It was as she was writing her ‘just the facts’ dissertation that T.A. felt the call to pursue something more imaginative and discovered a passion for creative writing. They Call Me Alexandra Gastone is her first novel.
You can find her online at:

They Call Me Alexandra GastoneThey Call Me Alexandra Gastone by T. A. Maclagan
Publisher: Full Fathom Five Digital
Release Date: May 20th, 2015
Purchase: Amazon / B&N / iTunes / Kobo
When your life is a lie, how do you know what’s real?

Alexandra Gastone has a simple plan: graduate high school, get into Princeton, work for the CIA, and serve her great nation.

She was told the plan back when her name was Milena Rokva, back before the real Alexandra and her family were killed in a car crash.

Milena was trained to be a sleeper agent by Perun, a clandestine organization from her true homeland of Olissa. There, Milena learned everything she needed to infiltrate the life of CIA analyst Albert Gastone, Alexandra’s grandfather, and the ranks of America’s top intelligence agency.

For seven years, “Alexandra” has been on standby and life’s been good. Grandpa Albert loves her, and her strategically chosen boyfriend, Grant, is amazing.

But things are about to change. Perun no longer needs her at the CIA in five years’ time. They need her active now.

Between her cover as a high school girl—juggling a homecoming dance, history reports, and an increasingly suspicious boyfriend—and her mission in this high-stakes spy game, the boundaries of her two lives are beginning to blur.

Will she stay true to the country she barely remembers, or has her loyalty shattered along with her identity?
My thoughts:
I have to say I am really loving the whole spy/impersonating story lines that are coming out these days.  This is my second book that has incorporated this into its plot and while I did have a few problems, I still really enjoyed it.

Milena after watching her mom die is enrolled at Perun.  Perun is a school for spies sort of speak and there Milena trains to infiltrate the CIA and report back to her home country, Olissa.  Her first mission is to impersonate Alexandra Gastone and to do this she undergoes plastic surgery and watches countless videos so that she can emulate her. Nobody can know, she must become Alexandra for her country and to avenge her mother.

I really liked the political intrigue that was woven into this story.  I sometimes get lost inside the story and get really confused, but the author did a really great job at explaining things.  She didn't dumb it down for the reader, she took the time to set up her government and I appreciated the extra time and care.  

I am not sure if I buy where the story eventually went though.  I was right with the author up until the last few pages.  I would have liked a little bit more explanation and I think what would have really helped was more back story.  I don't know the why's of Olissa's hatred for the US other than the surface problems and even those were kind of debunked along the way.  I know this is the first book in the series so I am just going to assume the next book will answer my questions.  I'm intrigued so the author did something right that's for sure and I'll definitely pick up the next installment, because I want those answers!

Milena was an interesting character.  I really rooted for her and I did like her, but I did expect more of a bad arse.  After reading all about her training I felt like she didn't quite deliver on her supposed amazing skills.  I'm wondering if the author chose to go this route because she was young and out of practice??  Whatever the reason I wish she had been a bit more aggressive and able to defend herself.  That being said though I did feel for her and I can't imagine what she went through especially at the end after a huge bomb is dropped.  I think she will come into her own in the next book and I have a feeling I will like her even more.

Okay my complaints...1. I would have liked to have known more about Milena's mom and why she was murdered.  This was never explained and I needed that explanation.  This would have solved so much for me and honestly the whole book it was in the back of my mind.  I don't think I missed the explanation because I was hunting for it.  I wanted that and I wanted to know how Milena's family was involved with Perun.  These topics were kind of skirted around and well it bugged me.  2. the romance.  If you have read my reviews lately you know I am not a fan of romance at the moment.  That being said I can always overlook one if it is done right and I just don't think this one was.  I honestly though appreciate the author giving Grant and Milena flaws early on so that the inevitable love triangle won't be so bad.  I know one is coming and I just don't know how I feel about the other guy.  There is an age thing to deal with and we don't really get to see much of him, so I just don't know.  I can see why the romance was needed, but I wish the author would have focused more on back story and let the romance fall by the waste side.

Those are my only complaints and while they sound like big ones they really aren't.  I can get past them because the author did create a fun novel that kept me interested and pining for more.  I have lots of questions and I think the author will definitely deliver with the next installment.

3.5 snowflakes

T.A. is giving away a $15 Amazon gift card to one lucky reader!  Fill out the form below to enter!
Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway 

I also have a fun contest to share!  Here's all the details!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Review: Rogue by Julie Kagawa

Rogue by Julie Kagawa
Publisher- Harlequin Teen
Released- April 28th 2015
Purchase- Amazon / B & N

Ember Hill left the dragon organization Talon to take her chances with rebel dragon Cobalt and his crew of rogues. But Ember can't forget the sacrifice made for her by the human boy who could have killed her—Garret Xavier Sebastian, a soldier of the dragonslaying Order of St. George, the boy who saved her from a Talon assassin, knowing that by doing so, he'd signed his own death warrant.
Determined to save Garret from execution, Ember must convince Cobalt to help her break into the Order's headquarters. With assassins after them and Ember's own brother helping Talon with the hunt, the rogues find an unexpected ally in Garret and a new perspective on the underground battle between Talon and St. George.
A reckoning is brewing and the secrets hidden by both sides are shocking and deadly. Soon Ember must decide: Should she retreat to fight another day…or start an all-out war?
My Thoughts
It's true, I wasn't the biggest fan of the first book, Talon. I thought it was a promising start but my overall expectations regarding world building, specially for one of Kagawa's books was a bit of a let down. However, this second instalment, Rogue, was much better. More action, more answers and a lot more romantic entanglements that I found quite entertaining. I can see the bigger picture now, see how things are playing out. How certain aspects of the characters and different organizations are being developed in an unique way and I love where Kagawa is taking this. I always knew that Talon was a promising start but Rogue proves that this just may be epic after all.

There are a lot of things going on here plot wise so I wont be going into it, but I will say that I'm impressed with how big this story really is. I enjoyed the history of St. George but I also liked seeing how Talon operates and how the Rogue made their enemies on both sides of the lines. I also enjoyed all the different point of views and I'm grateful for every one of them. I loved seeing the back-story of Riley (Cobalt), what he was like as Talon's Basilisk and what pushed him to go Rogue. From minute one Riley has been a force, something overpowering and persuasive. I'm really glad we got to know him better. Dante is also another character who was slightly overlooked in the last book. He's Ember's twin and a determined loyal Talon servant who will do what ever it takes to bring back his sister to the right side. Where she belongs. I don't think I was suppose to be surprised by his actions, but I was and yet I still have hope for him. Garret is another character I wasn't quite sure about, but I found him to be less robotic in this book. More open and natural even if he was living a very surreal life. It takes a big person to admit that their whole life is one giant lie and try to make up for it. And as for Ember? Well, I still find her to be rather reckless but at least she has good intentions and I liked her passion and fight. The love triangle is really well done, like Ember I'm not sure which guy I'm rooting for at this point and I like that we have a few more books for the boys to convince us who should own her heart.

All in all, Rogue turned out to be a really fierce read. There is a lot of betrayal against each organization. St. George against Talon and Talon against St. George and Rogue and Rogue against all of the above. It's hard to know who to trust but it's also fascinating and exciting to see how everything is battling out. Plus, I love me some dragon fightin'. Kagawa is such a skilled writer and I love the growth she's giving her characters and this vibrant universe where anything can happen. Can't wait for the next book!  

Find the author:
Website / Goodreads                              4 Snowflakes 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Review: The Fire Wish by Amber Lough

The Fire Wish (The Jinni Wars #1) by Amber Lough
Published July 22nd 2014 by Random House Children's  

A jinni. A princess. And the wish that changes everything. . . .
Najwa is a jinni, training to be a spy in the war against the humans. Zayele is a human on her way to marry a prince of Baghdad—which she’ll do anything to avoid. So she captures Najwa and makes a wish. With a rush of smoke and fire, they fall apart and re-form—as each other. A jinni and a human, trading lives. Both girls must play their parts among enemies who would kill them if the deception were ever discovered—enemies including the young men Najwa and Zayele are just discovering they might love.

My Thoughts 

I have been wanting to read this book for quite some time. Jinni has quickly become one of my new favorite Young Adult troupes and The Fire Wish didn't disappoint in the least. I listened to the audio book. While they are pretty hit or miss this one was spot on. The narrator has the perfect complementary accent to set the scene. Between the the vivid descriptions of the lush setting and mystery surrounding the wish that took place, The Fire Wish was a perfect addition to my Jinn shelf.

Typically I am a very character driven reader but I could not really connect with either of the M.C.'s in this story. Told in alternating first person perspective, the voices of Najwa & Zayele come across loud and clear. I just found Najwa to be wet blanket and Zayele to be incredibly selfish. The imagery and setting itself is what kept me glued to my ear buds (as I said ...audio book). Najwa is a Jinni with extreme power yet she has a difficult time standing up for herself. Zayele will do anything she can to escape her arranged marriage so when she encounters Najwa she wishes herself home. The only problem is that it takes her back to Najwa's home and not her own. The girls look almost identical so now they must play the parts of each other and chaos quickly ensues since they are the brink of a war with the humans and the jinni. Even though I wasn't the biggest fan of the girls, I have to admit that the character growth that was displayed was pure perfection. Many secrets come to light and the plot seems a bit murky for a minute but resolves itself into the perfect ending. I was shocked by many of the revelations that came to pass.

The magical system was also quite brilliant. There is a very set limitation on the Jinni's powers and that made things much more believable. The thought of someone being able to wish whatever they want all the time kinda cancels out all problems they could ever encounter so I was pleased to see that wasn't the case here. It was very well thought out. The story had almost A Prince and the Pauper type feel for a bit which was also entertaining as we got to glimpse inside the political workings of both worlds. I am thrilled to have the sequel The Blind wish to read immediately!

If you are a fan of vivid settings and the Jinn in general, I think this one may definitely be a go for you.

5 Snowflakes

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Review: Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider

Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider
Published: May 26, 2015
Publisher: Katherine Tegan Books
From the author of The Beginning of Everything: two teens with a deadly disease fall in love on the brink of a cure.

At seventeen, overachieving Lane finds himself at Latham House, a sanatorium for teens suffering from an incurable strain of tuberculosis. Part hospital and part boarding school, Latham is a place of endless rules and confusing rituals, where it's easier to fail breakfast than it is to flunk French.

There, Lane encounters a girl he knew years ago. Instead of the shy loner he remembers, Sadie has transformed. At Latham, she is sarcastic, fearless, and utterly compelling. Her friends, a group of eccentric troublemakers, fascinate Lane, who has never stepped out of bounds his whole life. And as he gradually becomes one of them, Sadie shows him their secrets: how to steal internet, how to sneak into town, and how to disable the med sensors they must wear at all times.

But there are consequences to having secrets, particularly at Latham House. And as Lane and Sadie begin to fall in love and their group begins to fall sicker, their insular world threatens to come crashing down.

Told in alternating points of view, Extraordinary Means is a darkly funny story about doomed friendships, first love, and the rare miracle of second chances.
My Thoughts:

Five fingers wouldn't be enough for counting how many YA contemporaries I've read this year that have centered around mental illnesses. Some have labeled such books as "sick lit" and included in this category also YA books that deal with cancer, arguably the most often used illness in YA books, a reality that probably 95% of us have some experience from via family members, friends etc. I must admit that when I first heard about Extraordinary Means and the sanatorium it uses as its setting, I expected the novel to be a historical one, since tuberculosis is an illness that I automatically connect with 19th century and the novels of Jane Austen.

Rather than using a historical setting, Schneider has inserted an incurable strain of tuberculosis to the modern American society. Inspired by the fear and spread of illnesses like Ebola, Schneider has taken an illness that most of us probably expect to be in the history and made her main characters, a group of five teenagers suffer from it. The novel starts when Lane is sent to Latham sanatorium after being given a tuberculosis diagnosis. He is forced to put his busy academic life on hold and though he tries to keep up with his AP classes from Latham, he is quickly made to realize that as a result of his sickness he cannot do things quite as he used to do them before his diagnosis.

At Latham, Lane comes face to face with Sadie, a girl he once shared a summer with at a summer camp. He becomes intrigued with Sadie and her group of friends. Sadie has spent a lot of time at Latham - her tuberculosis has stayed static; not too bad to take her to the hospital wing, not good enough for her to be able to go home. When Sadie first sees Lane, she is upset. For years after the summer camp, she has been harboring negative feelings towards the events of the summer. After some misunderstandings are solved, Lane joins Sadie's group and for the first time feels like he is living his life rather than just planning it.

The novel is narrated by both Lane and Sadie. This alternating narrative allows for a more complex look into the minds and actions of these teens and I think it makes the novel more available for readers from both sexes. I feel like there often is a preconception that YA contemporary novels are "for girls", mainly because often the protagonists are female. With Extraordinary Means, we get into the heads of both a young girl and a young boy and we get to see how they fall in love. It is incredible to read how brave and honest and funny and loving these characters are and how they keep going even despite the fact that their situation seems pretty grim.

Though the strain of tuberculosis that these characters have been diagnosed with is fictional, I found it extremely interesting to read a book about characters who suffer from an illness that seems to be without cure. What I found extremely interesting was to read about the way those who are healthy treat them - their teachers, doctors, parents and friends. Some pity them, most are afraid of them. These teens not only have to live with an illness that makes their hurt physically, they also have to deal with the consequences that the actions of those around them cause.

Schneider writes well and the pacing of the novel works very well; I was a big fan of how the chapters get shorter towards the end as the events of the novel get more and more intense. Schneider's characters are multi-dimensional, flawed and never pitied by the author - they are sick but not only defined by their illness. Though they share the illness, they are very different otherwise and I really liked the fact that I was able to connect with all of them in some way.

Extraordinary Means definitely sold me on Robyn Schneider and made me desperate to read her debut The Beginning of Everything. I highly recommend Extraordinary Means to everyone, even for those who have started to distance themselves from the so-called "sick-lit" genre. With no mental illnesses or cancer, the use of a fictional strain of tuberculosis distinguishes Extraordinary Means and makes it an interesting read about a society that is exactly like ours, expect riddled with an illness that most of us see only as part of history.

4 Snowflakes

Monday, June 22, 2015

Review: Sweet by Emmy Leybourne

Sweet by Emmy Laybourne
Publisher: Macmillan
Release Date: June 2, 2015
Pre order: Amazon
*People would kill to be thin.*

Solu’s luxurious celebrity-filled “Cruise to Lose” is billed as “the biggest cruise since the Titanic,” and if the new diet sweetener works as promised—dropping five percent of a person’s body weight in just days—it really could be the answer to the world’s obesity problem. 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 (otherwise known as the hottest guy ever!) and she’s too seasick to even try the sweetener. And that’s before Viv and all the other passengers start acting really strange.

*But will they die for it, too?*

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

Emmy Laybourne, author of the Monument 14 trilogy, takes readers on a dream vacation that goes first comically, then tragically, then horrifyingly, wrong.

My Thoughts:  

Sweet was bit of a random eARC pick for me for me since I am usually the one who requests all the contemporary books and pretty much nothing else. Sweet might be listed as 'contemporary' by some in Goodreads but let me assure you, THIS IS NOT A CONTEMPORARY READ. It is more of a mix between a contemporary read and a very weird vampire novel. Yes, you read right - VAMPIRE. Unfortunately, at this point I feel like I should have not clicked the request button for Sweet because I still, a couple of days after I finished with this, feel like I have no idea what I read.

The premise for Sweet is an interesting one - a cruise promoting a new drug/supplement that could help to beat the problems of obesity. Unfortunately, I continually felt like the book did not really treat obesity as something that might come with serious consequences (heart failures etc) and rather just placed all the attention on the visual side of obesity and how everyone must want to look skinny. Pretty much in this book skinny=beautiful, fat=ugly.

I feel like the author had attempted to make this novel a sort of a satire, an ironic look into the way society clings to certain body images over others. And hey, that would have been a very interesting book to read, but unfortunately for me this just read as the complete opposite. Though the main character Laurel seems to be okay with her body, the other characters are so toxic and conceited everything Laurel says and does is very quickly forgotten. Also, I did not really like the exchanges between Laurel and her best friend Viv, especially when they discuss their bodies - Viv wants to be skinny, Laurel is okay with herself as she is; rather than trying to understand each other and support each other in whatever they want to do, they constantly bicker about this. Why can't they just be who they are and support each other despite their differing opinions?

So Laurel has been invited to join this super exclusive cruise by her friend Viv whose parents paid for the whole shebang in their divorce guilt. The cruise is designed to promote this new miracle drug Solu that promises extremely quick weight-loss results. Laurel is described as bit of an "outsider", at least when compared to Viv. But honestly, she is not really an outsider. She just plays guitar and does not really care about clothes. That does not really make her that much different from a normal teenage girl.

There's also this guy called Tom on the boat who is this famous child-star grown old (kind of like Zac Efron). He used to play this chubby little kid in a famous family TV show (think something like Full House) and though he is far from chubby right now, he still carries the "burden" of his early fame with him. Desperate to get into the movie business and to be taken seriously, he agrees to host the coverage from the cruise (seriously though, if you want to be taken seriously, maybe you should not host a very trashy seeming coverage for a cruise.... just saying). There he of course meets Laurel who is "so different" from all the girls he has met before. Enter instalove. You know what happens next.

Though Laurel didn't annoy me that much, I would Tom to be extremely obnoxious and honestly, a bit of a douche. Yeah, he tries to hide this "sensitive" side with his douchiness, but really, for me all that sensitivity stayed a mystery. Also, yeah, he's buff, but the way the author clings to repeatedly describing Tom's gym obsession got to be a bit too much because you pretty much get it the first time. In summary, TOM IS SO BUFF HE DOES NOT HAVE TO TAKE THE WEIGHT-LOSS SUPPLEMENT. Surprise surprise, Laurel does not take it either.

So as the cruise proceeds, suddenly all these people who have taken the supplement start to show weird systems. This is when the whole vampire style thing comes into light. I don't want to spoil this for you in case you want to read it, but let's just say that the effects of the drug are very quick and very random. I feel like the author should have taken more time to introduce the symptoms more gradually. As it is now, it just felt very rushed and very over-the-top.

I haven't read Emmy Laybourne's Monument 14 series and I must, unfortunately, say that I probably won't pick them up after reading this one. Laybourne's characterization and writing just did not work for me at all. Sweet certainly is very action packed, but for me, it lacked a heart and substance. The characters are fairly one-dimensional and as the novel goes on, I started to care less and less for what happens to them. The writing feels clumsy at points (please note that this is an ARC and probably looks a bit different from the published book) and the dialogue feels a bit fake, especially between Laurel and Tom. I feel like towards the end of the novel they don't know each other any better than they did in the beginning, so believing that they are suddenly in love just did not fly with me.

The ending of the book suggests that there might be a sequel. If that happens, I will not push that request button for a review copy.

1 Snowflake

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Review: City of Fae by Pippa DaCosta

City of FaeCity of Fae by Pippa DaCosta
Publisher: Bloomsbury Spark
Release Date: May 7th, 2015
Purchase: Amazon
From the moment Alina touches London's hottest fae superstar, breaking one of the laws founded to protect all of her kind, her fate – and the fae – close in.

Below ground, the fae High Queen plots to claim the city as her own and places her pawns, ready for the battle to come. A battle she cannot lose, but for one small problem – Alina. There are four ancient keepers powerful enough to keep the queen in her prison. Three are dead. One remains … And to fight back, Alina risks sacrificing everything she has come to love. 

My Thoughts:
I love fae books with a passion, but this one just did not work for me at all.

They story is kind of a strange one and one I haven't read before which was a good thing, but it really fell flat.  We have Alina and she having just lost her job as a reporter spies the perfect story, Sovereign.  He is the resident bad boy rockstar and a fae.  The fae in this world are known and there are rules within the city.  One of those rules is not to touch them and what does Alina do almost instantly, yep you guessed it she touches him.  Now this normally wouldn't have bothered me but she goes on and on about the whys and how wrong it is and then BAM touches him.  The story from there gets a little strange and it all boils down to a few things...1. Alina thinks she is bespelled by Sovereign...2.She doesn't care at certain convenient times and just goes with her hormones...3. There are a whole lot of spiders around and nobody is telling anybody anything...and 4. So so many plots holes that center around what Alina actually is and what Sovereign is hiding.  I just can't look past all the negatives in the story.

I didn't care about the characters either.  I think the cop Andrew would have been a nice cast member, but he gets kind of pushed aside for the fae and well I don't like triangles so really it wouldn't have worked for me the other way either.  I think he was the one real part of this book and he was completely disregarded.

Sovereign and Alina were not enjoyable at all. Sovereign had too much of the bad boy always gets his own way attitude and Alina was too sarcastic with a wannabe edge.  They just didn't fit together.  The secondary characters weren't any better and like I said this story is filled with plot holes and the characters had them as well.  I don't get where Shay really fit and I don't understand any of the fae really.  I think the author tried to throw too much in and the story and cast were like a big ball of loose thread. Things really needed tightening up.

The biggest problem I had though was the whole star crossed lovers bit.  Alina and Sovereign have quite a bit of a struggle ahead of them for reasons I can't name due to spoilers and I just don't understand it at all.  Again major plot hole that was not in anyway explained.

This looks to be a series and normally I would give the second book a chance but I don't think I could live inside of Alina head again.  I didn't connect with her and I can't see spending another 300 pages hoping and trying too.

2 snowflakes...these are strictly for Andrew who got the raw end of the deal

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Stacking the Shelves #85

A weekly meme hosted by, Tynga's Reviews, that features the books we bought, borrowed, were gifted, and were given for review.
Our recap for the past two weeks!

WinterHaven Fun:


Here's what landed in our happy hands these past two weeks!

A Million Miles Away More Happy Than Not Da Vinci's Tiger Velvet Undercover These Shallow Graves Dreamstrider  Awake Maybe in Another Life Forbidden
For Review:

*Special thanks to Poppy, Soho Teen, Katherine Tegen Books, Balzar & Bray,  Random House Delacorte, Roaring Book Press, Feiwel & Friends, Sourcebooks Fire, Washington Square Press, & Clarion Books*

That's it for us this week! I hope everyone had an amazing week as well! Leave me a link so I can see all your pretties!

Review: A Tale of Two Besties: A Hello Giggles Novel by Sophia Rossi

A Tale of Two Besties: A Hello Giggles NovelA Tale of Two Besties: A Hello Giggles Novel by Sophia Rossi
Publisher: Razorbill
Release Date: May 12th, 2015
Purchase: Amazon
Best friends. BFFs. Soul twinsies. Whatever you want to call them, Harper and Lily were born to be besties. With high school just around the corner, casual-cool Cali girl Harper and awkward, always-costumed Lily make sure to text each other every day about their bond:

Harper: I love you so much that I am going to sneak out of detention to pay that guy from Craigslist $100 to cut off all your hair for my secret collection.
Lily: I love you so much I’m going destroy everyone in your life that matters and force you to depend and love only me.
Harper: That sounds beautiful. I love you.

Not even the threat of different high schools could throw this BFFship off-course, even if Lily begs her parents not to send her to the “dreaded Pathways," a special school for creative types, while effortlessly-popular Harper attends Beverly High with the rest of their class.

But in a city where fitting in means standing out and there’s nothing more uncool than being cool, it’s the naturally charismatic Harper--with her blond hair and perfect bone structure--who finds herself fighting the tide of American Apparel’d teens who rule the school. Meanwhile, it’s the perpetually “gawkward” Lily--who accessories every ensemble with a pair of tattered fairy wings--who finds herself flying alongside the queen bees of Pathways. Can BFF-ship survive the tidal wave of HS drama, or does growing up mean leaving some friends behind?
My Thoughts:
A Tale of Two Besties is just that, a story about two best friends trying to survive high school.  What makes this story stand out, at least for me, is that it isn't about romance and first love.  This book is about friendship and how hard it can be to keep those friendships in high school.

Harper and Lily have been best friends for a long time and their freshman year where it should have been all about them being together is about them trying to navigate high school without each other.  Lily transfers to a new artsy school leaving behind her bestie and shield from the world.  Harper has always been the more outgoing one and so Lily knows her life is over.  They make a pact to always stay the same and to always be there for each other.  Unfortunately things don't go as planned and life takes the girls in two separate directions.

I really enjoyed this book.  I should clarify there is a romance, but it isn't the main focus which I appreciated.  I think younger girls need to see more stories about friendship.  It's so hard to keep your friends especially through high school and I think reading a book where they can identify with the characters is huge.  I wish I had had this book when I was in high school.  It might not have saved me from the fights or heartbreak, but it would have helped me understand that I wasn't the only one even if the other people were fictional characters.

The author did a really great job with the storyline.  I honestly never saw Lily as the one that would break away first and it was intriguing to see both POVs.  Was it all believable, no but that was okay because the core storyline was believable and one I felt emotion for.  I wanted Lily to stand up for herself and I wanted Harper to understand that life does move on.  And even though I wanted separate things for each of them I still wanted them to be besties for ever!

I had two problems with this though...1.The way Lily and Harper talked got to be a bit annoying and 2. Money   I'll start with 1.  I have always had a hard time with books that make their teenagers sound older than I am and this book does that.  I can't imagine myself much less a freshman in high school talking the way they do in this book.  It felt pretentious at times and just too wordy at others. I would have personally connected to each character better if their dialogue had been a bit smoother.  2. Money...These kids were rich and I mean it felt like Kardashian rich.  I didn't care for this and it didn't fit with the story in my opinion.  I would have preferred a simpler toned down story, it would have felt more genuine to me.  As it was I felt a bit disconnected when certain scenes would take place and a little uncomfortable.  This could just be me though. Maybe kids do talk that way and they have all kinds of money I don't know, but in my household we don't have either.  So for me I would have liked that all toned down.

Those two things even though they sound major didn't take away the story for me.  I still fell into this and liked it.  I overlooked a lot because the writing was really good and the story itself reminded me of how hard it is to keep friends and how we should all fight a little harder to keep the ones we have.

3 snowflakes