Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Review: The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli
Published: April 11th, 2017
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. No matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly's totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie's new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. If Molly can win him over, she'll get her first kiss and she'll get her twin back.

There's only one problem: Molly's coworker, Reid. He's a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there's absolutely no way Molly could fall for him.


Milka's Thoughts:

I loved Becky Albertalli's debut Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, so it came as a no surprise to me that I loved her follow-up The Upside of Unrequited too, but I must admit I would never have dared to believe I would love this novel THIS much.

After the brilliance of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, Becky Albertalli had big shoes to fill with her second novel. Simon has become quite of a phenomenon with awards and movie in the making, so obviously there are a lot of expectations towards Albertalli's second novel. The Upside of Unrequited is a very different kind of book, but there are the same warmth and humor present as in Simon. All in all, The Upside of Unrequited managed to usurp my expectations and make me fall in love with Albertalli's writing and characters once again.

Molly has had a crush of a lot of different guys, but she has never acted on those crushes. She feels like she does not fit in and that maybe not everyone is not meant to fall in love. Maybe there are people who will never find a person who happens to be crushing on them too. When Molly's twin Cassie meets Mina and falls head over heels in love with her, Molly is once again made to question the dynamics of relationships. Molly is happy for Cassie, but at the same time, she cannot help to feel like she is missing on something.

This is one of those books I really wish I would have had in my life when I was a teenager. Though Molly and I are very different, we also share a lot of things. I am also a fat girl and I was always the one watching from the sidelines while my friends had relationships. But while I never really wanted a boyfriend, Molly wants one. And that is completely okay! When Cassie and Mina get it to their minds that Molly should hook up with Will, one of Mina's friends, Molly starts to get hopeful. Could the kind of flirty, ridiculously attractive hipster guy see something in her? And more importantly, could she see something in him. While Will seems like a viable option, Molly also starts to get more and more into spending time with Reid, her co-worker, who seems like totally not her type, but who also is someone Molly cannot stop thinking about.

Reid is pretty much perfection and I loved the moments between him and Molly. But while I am a huge fan of romantic storylines, what really made me fall in love with The Upside of Unrequited are the family dynamics the novel portrays. The relationship between Molly and Cassie is loving, but also complicated and not always exactly what they want it to be. I loved the scenes with Molly, Cassie and their mothers Patty and Nadine, and I now feel like Albertalli should totally right a book about how Patty and Nadine fell in love.

I am not Jewish and know very little about the Jewish culture, but I can only imagine how important a book like this is for the young (and older) Jewish girls out there who must see themselves very rarely portrayed in books like this.

Representation of fat bodies is always problematic and way too often hurtful. Luckily, Albertalli approaches the topic with grace and is able to create a character with thoughts that I, a fat girl myself, was able to relate with. The struggle Molly goes through with her body from time to time and the thoughts she has where something teenage-me definitely also had. I was happy to see that at the end of the day, Molly's body really has nothing to do with her capability to find happiness -- she does not have to change her body to be accepted, but rather just has to find a way to see that she is gorgeous and worthy of good things just as she is.

I really loved this book and I cannot wait to see what Albertalli comes up with next!

Five snowflakes

Friday, March 17, 2017

Review: Arena by Holly Jennings

Arena (Arena, #1)Arena by Holly Jennings
Publisher: Ace
Release Date: April 5, 2016
Purchase: Amazon
Every week, Kali Ling fights to the death on national TV. She's died hundreds of times. And it never gets easier...

The RAGE tournaments the Virtual Gaming League's elite competition where the best gamers in the world compete in a fight to the digital death. Every kill is broadcast to millions. Every player leads a life of ultimate fame, responsible only for entertaining the masses.

And though their weapons and armor are digital, the pain is real.

Chosen to be the first female captain in RAGE tournament history, Kali Ling is at the top of the world until one of her teammates overdoses. Now she s stuck trying to work with a hostile new teammate who s far more distracting than he should be.

Between internal tensions and external pressures, Kali is on the brink of breaking. To change her life, she ll need to change the game. And the only way to revolutionize an industry as shadowy as the VGL is to fight from the inside
My Thoughts:
What I liked:
1. I am in total awe of the world that Jennings has created.  Not only is it completely realistic, it is something that could very well happen in our near future.  Virtual Reality gaming is huge right now and I can definitely see our world taking this kind of turn with gaming.

2. I loved how the author left no holes in her plot.  She even went as far as explaining how sports athletes failed to work in VRG and I really loved how she changed the face of a gamers.  When you think of gamers you probably think overweight, but with Jennings world gamers have to become their character or they won't survive the arena.  So cool!!  It makes you think that this might truly be a way to overcome those gaming obesity issues.

3. The characters were amazing!  I loved Kali and it was intriguing to see her heritage come into the story.  I thought that whole storyline was done quite beautifully and I found myself wanting to learn more about Chinese culture.

4. I have to give the author major props for the romance.  It was a very slow build and it really fit within the story.  I enjoyed getting to know the characters before the were an item and it was nice to see a friendship blossom before anything else.

5. I also thought the way drugs were portrayed in the story was done well.  Drugs are and will always be an issue for athletes and I thought the author did a great job showing the darker side of her story. 

6.  I was very surprised this turned out to be more of a contemporary novel. Yes there is gaming and all this fun futuristic stuff, but at it's core I felt like this was a contemporary novel.  And you know what I really enjoyed it. I think this is how I need my contemporary stories.

What I didn't like:
1. There isn't much that I didn't like about this story.  The only thing that really stands out is the ending.  I liked all but one part and since it is a spoiler I won't say much.  I will just say that I understand why the author chose to have her characters go where they went, I just wish there had been a different path.  So not so much as a dislike just a "Aw man".  I will say there is a sequel that I am definitely picking up next so hopefully that issue will be resolved.

As you can see I really enjoyed this book and I can't wait to dive into the sequel.  Holly Jennings tells a masterful story that totally captivated me and made me want to plug in for more!

4.5 snowflakes

Monday, March 13, 2017

Review: The Education of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera

The Education of Margot SanchezThe Education of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera 
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release Date: February 21st, 2017
Purchase: Amazon
Pretty in Pink comes to the South Bronx in this bold and romantic coming-of-age novel about dysfunctional families, good and bad choices, and finding the courage to question everything you ever thought you wanted—from debut author Lilliam Rivera.


Mami, for destroying my social life
Papi, for allowing Junior to become a Neanderthal
Junior, for becoming a Neanderthal
This supermarket
Everyone else

After “borrowing” her father's credit card to finance a more stylish wardrobe, Margot
Sanchez suddenly finds herself grounded. And by grounded, she means working as an indentured servant in her family’s struggling grocery store to pay off her debts.

With each order of deli meat she slices, Margot can feel her carefully cultivated prep school reputation slipping through her fingers, and she’s willing to do anything to get out of this punishment. Lie, cheat, and maybe even steal…

Margot’s invitation to the ultimate beach party is within reach and she has no intention of letting her family’s drama or Moises—the admittedly good looking but outspoken boy from the neighborhood—keep her from her goal.

My Thoughts:
If you know me or read my reviews you know I am not a contemp fan for the most part, but when The Education of Margot Sanchez came my way I thought it sounded good and I thought why not.  Well there were things I liked, but unfortunately this story just fell flat with me.

Side note:I'm going to write this review a tad different.  For awhile I am going to go with lists!  I'm changing things up since I feel the blogger blues approaching again and I am hoping this helps...

Things I liked:
-I enjoyed reading about diverse characters.  I haven't read many books that have diversity so I knew when this one came up I should definitely pick it up.  I will fully admit that I am not knowledgeable about other cultures or races except for the bare basics so I can't really say if these characters were portrayed right or not.  All I can say is that I enjoyed reading a story from a different point of view than the norm.

-I liked that this story wasn't just about Margot finding herself.  Yes, that's a big part, but the bigger part is her family and I liked the darker tones of the story.

-I didn't figure out the twist until way later in the story and I loved that. Call me stupid, but things didn't click and it was a nice change of pace.  I wasn't even looking in that direction so I have to give the author props for concealing that little story line.

Things I didn't like:
-This is pitched as Pretty in Pink, but I didn't get that comparison at all.  Yes, there's a divide between rich and poor, but that's as far as the likeness to the movie goes. 

-Margot!  I kept waiting for her to redeem herself at the end and she kind of does, but I wanted more from that ending than what was given. 

-The story was incredibly slow until the ending where everything blew up.  I would have liked to have seen more from the fall out and future of the characters.

-The sex scene wasn't done right at all in my opinion.  I didn't want more from the actual scene, but it would have been nice to see Margot feel some type of emotion towards what happened.  It was all over rather quickly and after the chapter ended nothing is brought up about the aftermath.  It just felt incomplete.

So those are my likes and dislikes.  I keep sitting her trying to think of more, but nothing is coming to mind and I think it's because this book didn't leave a lasting impression on me.  I wish it had because I think it had potential, but that's the way it is.  I am still giving this book 3 stars because the author did manage to surprise me, the writing was pretty good, and well I did kind of like it.

3 snowflakes

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Review: Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release date: April 4th, 2017
In this delightfully charming teen spin on You’ve Got Mail, the one guy Bailey Rydell can’t stand is actually the boy of her dreams—she just doesn’t know it yet.

Classic movie buff Bailey “Mink” Rydell has spent months crushing on a witty film geek she only knows online by “Alex.” Two coasts separate the teens until Bailey moves in with her dad, who lives in the same California surfing town as her online crush.

Faced with doubts (what if he’s a creep in real life—or worse?), Bailey doesn’t tell Alex she’s moved to his hometown. Or that she’s landed a job at the local tourist-trap museum. Or that she’s being heckled daily by the irritatingly hot museum security guard, Porter Roth—a.k.a. her new arch-nemesis. But life is whole lot messier than the movies, especially when Bailey discovers that tricky fine line between hate, love, and whatever-it-is she’s starting to feel for Porter.

And as the summer months go by, Bailey must choose whether to cling to a dreamy online fantasy in Alex or take a risk on an imperfect reality with Porter. The choice is both simpler and more complicated than she realizes, because Porter Roth is hiding a secret of his own: Porter is Alex…Approximately.

My thoughts:

"Teen spin on You've Got Mail" were the only words I needed to get extremely excited about Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett and the fact that I loved her previous YA novel The Anatomical Shape of a Heart added to my excitement.

Bailey, also known by her nickname Mink, has been chatting online with a fellow film geek called "Alex" for a good few months. Despite the fact that she does not really know that much about "Alex", she feels like he could be someone she could really connect with, not only online but in "real life".

Bailey knows where "Alex" lives, though, and when she moves from the East Coast to California to live with her father, she is not quite sure how to tell "Alex" that she is now a resident of the same town that he comes from. Rather than speaking up and telling the truth, Bailey decides to put all the info that she has about "Alex" together in an attempt to figure out his identity.

The move to California comes with a lot of changes, with one of them being a new summer job at a museum called The Cavern Palace. While the job comes with perks, like making a new friend called Grace, Bailey is struggling to find a way to deal with her annoying co-worker Porter. Sure, Porter is extremely attractive and charming but it also seems like he is determined to make Bailey's life difficult.

Despite her annoyance with Porter, Bailey feels a pull towards him. As the two spend more time together, Bailey realizes that Porter is much more than a handsome, slightly cocky surfer, and as she learns more about him, she starts to ignore "Alex" in order to spend more time with Porter. It also seems like "Alex" is not that interested no longer, which makes Bailey wonder what happened between the two.

If you have seen You've Got Mail, the basics of this story won't be a surprise to you, and basically, the synopsis itself tells you that Porter is actually Alex. Despite the fact that you know this major plot point from the first page onwards, this book is full of wonderful surprises. And reading through how they find out each other's identities is one the best parts of this novel.

Bailey is such a great main character. While reading this novel, I had written down to my notes that she is "realistically and wonderfully flawed." What I mean by this is that she feels extremely real. She is young and inexperienced in many ways, and while she does mistakes, those mistakes teach her something and she grows through them. I loved reading about her reactions to kind of feelings she has not felt before because I felt like the way Bennett writes about first crushes and perhaps even first love felt extremely realistic and touching.

I liked Porter as a character too, though there is a part to him that I wasn't so sure about -- since I don't want to spoil the novel for you, I will let you make your own conclusions about what I  mean (if you read this novel, you probably will figure it out since this side of him is something Bailey worries about too). While at first I was kind of scared that he would be some California surfer cliche, I was pleased to notice that he is much more than he seems.

The chemistry between Bailey and Porter is written very well, and at many points I was able to feel the kind of tension and chemistry between them that is present between the characters in You've Got Mail. If you are a fan of swoon-worthy novels, you definitely need to check this one out!

I am always a big fan of realistic, well-written daughter-father relationships and I loved the way Bennett writes about the interaction between Bailey and her father. The relationship is based on mutual trust, and while they might not see eye to eye on everything, Bennett is able to create a feeling of love between the two.

One thing I must mention before I finish this review is how awesomely sex positive this novel is. I know some readers might not be fans of this aspect of the novel, but I absolutely loved seeing positive, realistic portrayal of female masturbation and the kind of sexual awakening that Bailey goes through. There are no super explicit scenes involving sex, BUT even mentioning something like female masturbation is something you don't see very often in young adult novels.

All in all, Alex, Approximately is a brilliant, entertaining young adult novel that I found extremely hard time to put down once I started it.

5 Snowflakes

Monday, February 27, 2017

Game of Shadows by Erika Lewis

Game of ShadowsGame of Shadows by Erika Lewis
Publisher: Tor Books
Release Date: February 28th, 2017
Purchase: Amazon
Ethan Makkai thought that seeing ghosts was the worst of his problems. Between his ethereal gift and life with a single mother hell-bent on watching his every move, he feels imprisoned. When Ethan sees a chance to escape, to leave the house by himself for the first time in his life, he seizes it, unaware that this first taste of freedom will cost him everything.

Ethan is thrown into a strange and eerie world, like nothing he's ever seen. He's assaulted by dive-bombing birds and rescued by a stranger who claims to be his bodyguard. His apartment is trashed, and his mother is kidnapped to a place Ethan never knew existed—a hidden continent called Tara.

Travelling to Tara in search of his mother, Ethan discovers that everything he knows about his life is a lie. His mother is royalty. His father is not dead. His destiny is likely to get him killed.

Confronted by a vicious sorcerer determined to destroy the Makkai family, Ethan must garner strength from his gift and embrace his destiny if he’s going to save his mother and all the people of Tara, including the beautiful girl he’s fallen for.

My Thoughts:
Game of Shadows was so much fun!!  I loved the adventure and I thoroughly enjoyed the rich Celtic mythology!

Ethan has grown up sheltered.  His mom will not let him out of her site and as you can imagine this is quite embarrassing for a fourteen year old boy.  All he wants is freedom so when an opportunity pops up to walk to school alone he takes it.  He never imagined his life would turn upside down from that one walk, but it does and Ethan's life is changed from that moment on.

I really enjoyed this story.  I thought Erika Lewis did a great job at pacing the story and the build up was incredible.  Right from the start the story starts out with adventure and I got totally lost in all of it.  My favorite part about the story though was the mythology.  I have missed reading books that contain mythology and a touch of paranormal so this was right up my alley.  Lewis did a great job weaving in her magic with the Celtic magic and it all really worked.  I did get a tad lost when the backstory was being discussed and I honestly think it is just me.  I tend to gloss over details unfortunately and well you can't do that with fantasy novels.  After I went back and reread the parts that confused me I did get a better grasp and Lewis does work her way through everything by the end so I did eventually get it all. It is a complicated story, but one definitely worth figuring out.

The characters were also really fascinating.  My favorite of course was Lily, but Ethan was great too.  They were a great pair and complimented each other very nicely.  I also really liked that the author had adults thrown into the mix.  She let Ethan take the lead, but it was nice to see he had adult back up when he needed it.  His story line with his mom and Runyun was great and I honestly can't wait to see where that line goes.

I even liked the romance.  SHOCKER!  It was very well done and made me laugh quite a few times, because the author managed to capture love at fourteen brilliantly.  It isn't perfect and it shouldn't be at that age.  Lewis through in so many hilarious moments that fit the character and his age and I appreciated the effort. 

I honestly had no issues to complain about with this story.  I did figure out one twist early on, but I don't think it was that big of a deal.  And actually that twist didn't go as far as I thought it would so there was still a bit of surprise with it.  All in all this was a fun story that totally captured my attention.  I read it in two sittings because I just couldn't put it down. I am definitely eager for the sequel!  Game of Shadows ends on a cliff hanger so beware, but it's a good cliffhanger that brings Ethan's story full circle. I loved that the author went in this direction and I can't wait to see the fall out!

5 snowflakes

Monday, February 20, 2017

Review: Bad Blood by Demitria Lunetta

Bad BloodBad Blood by Demitria Lunetta
Publisher:  Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Release Date: March 14th, 2017
Purchase: Amazon
A girl discovers a family secret and a past full of magic that could both save her and put her in mortal danger in this suspenseful novel that’s perfect for fans of Katie Alender and Natasha Preston.

All sixteen-year-old Heather MacNair wants is to feel normal, to shed the intense paranoia she’s worn all year like a scratchy sweater. After her compulsion to self-harm came to light, Heather was kept under her doctor’s watchful eye. Her family thinks she’s better—and there’s nothing she wants more than for that to be true. She still can’t believe she’s allowed to spend her summer vacation as she always does: at her aunt’s home in Scotland, where she has lots of happy memories. Far away from all her problems save one: she can’t stop carving the Celtic knot that haunts her dreams into her skin.

Good friends and boys with Scottish accents can cure almost anything…except nightmares. Heather can’t stop dreaming about two sisters from centuries ago, twins Prudence and Primrose, who somehow seem tied to her own life. Their presence lurks just beneath the surface of her consciousness, sending ripples through what should be a peaceful summer. The twins might hold the key to putting Heather’s soul at rest…or they could slice her future deeper than any knife.
My thoughts:
As much as I want to love this this I just can't.  I've been sitting here for about 10 minutes trying to figure out my thoughts and they all just lead me to I didn't like it.

The story was so intriguing and there were parts I truly loved.  Heather, our main character, has been cutting herself and having just returned from a stay at a Wellness Clinic she travels across the sea to visit her Aunt Abbie in Scotland.  Her parents aren't thrilled, but she swears she's better and convinces them to let her go.  She goes every summer so she already has a group of friends waiting for her.  Sounds more like a contemporary novel right...well what we don't know from the beginning is that there is a reason for Heather cutting herself and what she cuts into her skin has a far deeper meaning than Heather thought.

Okay so my description isn't really spooky, but the author does a great job at filling in the spooky and I liked it.  The story flips back and forth from Heather's POV to two sisters Primrose and Prudence who lived in the 1600's.  Their story is filled with witchcraft and it isn't a pretty one because during that time witches were executed and the two sisters didn't exactly get along so there was tension even in their house.  I liked this part and I wanted so much more, but the author didn't really get down to the whole witch storyline until to late in the story.  There was so much build up and at 90% in the story I knew the author was going to rush and she did.  It really killed the whole story for me. I wish she would have given herself an extra 100 pages because I think the story could have been fantastic with those extra pages.  She could have spent so much more time with Heather's grandma and the whole coven plot line.  As it stands though once the meat of the story finally happens it's all over in the blink of an eye.

And the ending was very problematic for me.  I won't spoil anything, but in a certain scene I could feel the author going "hmm only have 10 pages left, better wrap this up quickly". It was such a disappointment and not believable in the slightest. I know it's witches and that's not believable ( well for some it is so please don't take offense) much either, but the ending was just ridiculous and too nice.  I expected more wickedness from all parties involved.

I also hated the romance.  I've been trying to lighten up my thinking on romances lately because I know I can be pretty harsh and they usually aren't my cup of tea, but this one was just horrible.  Heather has been in love with Allistair, Robby's brother forever and never even looked at Robby. Well the first summer that Allistair is gone she all of a sudden sees what I great guy Robby is and wants to date him.  Oh and Robby has grown up and gotten cuter, that helped her decision too. What a bunch of bull!  Robby we know has been in love with Heather forever, but knew she pined for his brother so kept his feelings to himself.  Well like I said the brother is at college with his girlfriend so Robby decides to finally speak up.  Now them getting together wouldn't have bothered me if they had a conversation about her liking his brother and what her feelings were at this moment and if she had always thought he was somewhat cute.  It really bugs me that they just left so much unsaid and that made their whole relationship feel false and strained.  I didn't like it and I didn't buy it.  I would have preferred there to be no romance or maybe she could have gravitated towards Fiona, her single friend.  That would have been so much better.

I also didn't like Aunt Abbie.  Heather had issues and nobody knew these issues tied into witchcraft so Heather should have been watched more. I get giving a teenager space, but she just got back from a hospital and you are going to let her run around unsupervised??  Oh and lie to her parents!  Talk about being a complete waste of a character.  And her whole story line bothered me.  I again would have preferred a different set of actions.  Maybe Heather could have went to Scotland for school?  That would have at least given her reasons for not being supervised.  All Aunt Abbie did was give Heather room to cut herself and get her friend almost killed.

So these were my main problems with the book.  I had a few other ones, but these were my main gripes and as you can see they were pretty big areas of the book that I had problems with.  The story could have been so good and with the market lacking in witches these this really could have been a hit. As it stands though this is a very forgettable book filled with way too many plot problems for me.

2 snowflakes

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Blog Tour: Giveaway!! To Catch a Killer by Sheryl Scarborough

Today I am participating in the blog tour for To Catch a Killer by Sheryl Scarborough!  For my stop I have a GIVEAWAY!  See below for details!

To Catch a KillerTo Catch a Killer by Sheryl Scarborough
Publisher: Tor Teen
Release Date: February 7th, 2017
Purchase: Amazon
Erin Blake has one of those names. A name that, like Natalee Holloway or Elizabeth Smart, is inextricably linked to a grisly crime. As a toddler, Erin survived for three days alongside the corpse of her murdered mother, and the case—which remains unsolved—fascinated a nation. Her father's identity unknown, Erin was taken in by her mother's best friend and has become a relatively normal teen in spite of the looming questions about her past.

Fourteen years later, Erin is once again at the center of a brutal homicide when she finds the body of her biology teacher. When questioned by the police, Erin tells almost the whole truth, but never voices her suspicions that her mother's killer has struck again in order to protect the casework she's secretly doing on her own.

Inspired by her uncle, an FBI agent, Erin has ramped up her forensic hobby into a full-blown cold-case investigation. This new murder makes her certain she's close to the truth, but when all the evidence starts to point the authorities straight to Erin, she turns to her longtime crush (and fellow suspect) Journey Michaels to help her crack the case before it's too late.

About the Author
In a career that spans more than twenty years, Sheryl Scarborough has written TV scripts, series concepts, comic books, non-fiction children’s books, business plans, magazine articles, for an online men’s style magazine (as managing editor), celebrity social media and even theater and restaurant reviews for great seats and free food. Now, she’s writing what she truly loves: books, specifically YA thrillers and mysteries. Scarborough says, "Writing keeps my life interesting in ways I couldn’t possibly make up, I can’t wait to see what tomorrow has in store." 
 Giveaway time!!  
Enter to win your very copy of To Catch a Killer!!  
US residents only.
Good Luck!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Review: The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis

The Female of the SpeciesThe Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date: September 16th, 2016
Purchase: Amazon
Alex Craft knows how to kill someone. And she doesn’t feel bad about it. When her older sister, Anna, was murdered three years ago and the killer walked free, Alex uncaged the language she knows best. The language of violence.

While her crime goes unpunished, Alex knows she can’t be trusted among other people, even in her small hometown. She relegates herself to the shadows, a girl who goes unseen in plain sight, unremarkable in the high school hallways.

But Jack Fisher sees her. He’s the guy all other guys want to be: the star athlete gunning for valedictorian with the prom queen on his arm. Guilt over the role he played the night Anna’s body was discovered hasn’t let him forget Alex over the years, and now her green eyes amid a constellation of freckles have his attention. He doesn’t want to only see Alex Craft; he wants to know her.

So does Peekay, the preacher’s kid, a girl whose identity is entangled with her dad’s job, though that does not stop her from knowing the taste of beer or missing the touch of her ex-boyfriend. When Peekay and Alex start working together at the animal shelter, a friendship forms and Alex’s protective nature extends to more than just the dogs and cats they care for.

Circumstances bring Alex, Jack, and Peekay together as their senior year unfolds. While partying one night, Alex’s darker nature breaks out, setting the teens on a collision course that will change their lives forever.

My Thoughts:
Okay WARNING!  This review will be filled with SPOILERS!  Like BIG SPOILERS!  Like revealing who LIVES or DIES SPOILERS!!  I can't talk about this book without mentioning the ending SO YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!  SPOILERS!!!!!

Yep I am going to start off with that ending.  With any other book I would've been screaming NOOOOOO, but I think the ending that McGinnis picked had to happen.  There wasn't any other way and I applaud her for making this decision.  I am not a fan of unhappy ever afters especially when I adore the main character, but like I said there was no way for Alex to have the happy ending after her actions.  She was a phenomenal character and probably one of my favorites of all time, but she had to die.  Even though she did bad things for good reasons it still didn't absolve her of her actions and I think Jack knew that.  He loved her, but even in his gut he knew what she did wasn't right.  I think that might even be why he was drawn to Branley even in the end. 

Okay that being aside I really enjoyed this story.  McGinnis has this unique way of writing stories that start out super dark and then even out in the middle, but you can still feel that darkness lurking.  It isn't sinister it's just darkness that kinda closes in by the end and well it's pretty awesome.  The Female of the Species follows this pattern and I could not get enough.  It almost felt like there was someone constantly reading over my shoulder, but when I looked it was just a sunny sky overhead until that sun was blocked.  Mindy McGinnis is definitely in my top 5 favorite authors and I will read ANYTHING she writes!

I also loved the multiple POV's.  I enjoyed being in each characters heads and I thought it was interesting to see how they each saw each other.  I do wish Branley would've had her own POV. She was the character to hate, but she was so broken and I think it would've helped me connect with her a bit more if I could have seen inside her head. 

Alex where do I even start.  She was such a great character and one that I was so intrigued by.  I thought the author did a great job at weaving in her backstory and her dad.  This gave me the understanding for why she is the way she is and even that little scene with her mom was so eye opening.  Alex was broken in so many ways, but I am curious to know if she hadn't died what her fate would have been. Would she have stopped killing?  Would she have lived happy ever after with Jack?  My initial answer is no because well Jack wasn't the greatest boyfriend and I think her instincts would have gotten the better of her.  It would be nice to think that she would've had a HEA, but I just don't think that was in the cards for her dying or not.

The whole romance situation was weird for me.  This is why I have to go with 4.5 stars instead of 5.  I liked Jack and Alex together, I liked that they were both competing to be valedictorian, and I really liked that they understood each other.  What I didn't like was his male mentality.  He kept saying he wanted to be better and a good guy and he was to a point, but he could never stop himself from looking at the nude pictures Branley would send him.  That was just not okay.  Plus in that last scene he almost gave in to Branley because Alex would never have found out.  I mean really??  I wanted him to be completely faithful to Alex because that is what she deserved and even though he never acted on his impulses he wasn't 100% in with Alex.

One last thing I liked Peekay.  She was a unique character and I enjoyed reading her parts especially with her family.  She might have been the preachers kid, but that preacher was the greatest dad ever.  He took the time to talk to her and even though I think her parents should have kept a tighter hold on her I liked the fact that the lines of communication were open. Peekay just needed to use them more.  It was warming to see parents taking an involvement in a YA book.  They weren't perfect because Peekay drank a LOT in this book, but I have to give them credit for at least being aware of their daughter.

All in all this was fantastic!  I loved the darkness of the story and I felt so much throughout.  This story surprised me in so many ways and I have to be honest I thought Jack was going to be the one to die in the end.  With so much emphasis placed on females I thought Branley was going to kill him, but I was wrong and I am sorta glad.  I think it would have been cool for her to kill him and then her and Alex have a somewhat understanding. Strange maybe, but kinda cool in my opinion.  As the ending stands though I thought it was pretty perfect and I am okay with how it all happened.  I am curious to know if Jacks future turned out the way he feared though...

4.5 snowflakes

Monday, February 6, 2017

Blog Tour Guest Post: Arwen Elys Dayton

Today I am participating in the blog tour for Disruptor by Arwen Elys Dayton!  This is the last book in the Seeker series and for my stop on the tour I have Arwen with us!  She stopped by to talk her series ending and her feelings that accompany it.
I wrote the manuscript for the first book in the series, Seeker, with no idea if anyone other than myself, my husband, and my fluffy white little dog would read it. (I secretly suspected that my dog wasn’t actually reading the manuscript, but she did lie down on top of the pages a few times in an interested sort of way, and once she licked a word that happened to be misspelled—coincidence???) My book before Seeker, Resurrection, had been a bit of a cult sci-fi hit, but with Seeker I was writing something for a younger audience—a new enterprise. I saw the world of Quin and Shinobu and John and Maud so clearly in my mind, but hey, you never know what’s going to happen once your book is done.

When Penguin Random House bought Seeker, I was elated because other people had stepped into Quin’s world and they wanted to stay there. “But how many books will you be writing?” they asked me, as though I carry around some sort of book-writing accountant in my head who knows the logical answer to questions like that.

“Um…three?” I speculated. This felt about right, though honestly, I could have said any number between two and six and it probably would have felt right, because the world of Seeker was bristling with stories. And yet it was particularly the story of Quin, Shinobu, John and Maud that I saw rolling out in front of me. “Definitely three,” I added a moment later, with less of a question mark in my voice. “Sounds good,” they said.

“Sounds good.” Two simple words. And with that I embarked on a few years of writing. It turns out that seeing the story unfolding in your mind, and actually making it unfold in real words on real paper, for several books, are two different things. But here’s what you don’t know until you’ve written a series: watching your characters change (sometimes for the better, sometimes not) and hate and love and make mistakes, which they try to put them right or insist already are right—all of this is a hazardous and intoxicating experience for an author.

If you have been following the Seeker series, you might imagine that you know where or how Quin and the others will end up. I can promise you that you are wrong (especially about John!), because I didn’t know where or how they would end up, not really, until the last book.

I’ve lost some close friends, now that I have left these characters to go on without me. And yet I’m satisfied that I told their story properly, and truly, which doesn’t mean that there is a happy ending for everyone. Someone once said that a good story strikes a balance between satisfying and defying the reader’s expectations. These stories and the characters that populate them have satisfied and defied me many times—and I hope they do the same for you.

 I love Arwen's answer because I have always been curious if an author is just as sad as I am when a series ends.  I usually try my hardest not to finish a series because I don't want to lose characters either, but I just have to read Disruptor!  I have to know where each character ends up and I have a feeling Arwen will keep me guessing til the last page!
Keep a look out for my review soon!

Disruptor (Seeker, #3)Disruptor (Seeker #3) by Arwen Elys Dayton
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release Date: February 7th, 2017
Purchase: Amazon
For readers of Sarah J. Maas and of Marie Lu’s Legend trilogy comes Disruptor, the sequel to Traveler, the thrilling conclusion to the Seeker series.

Quin has spent her life as her father’s pawn. She was trained to kill and manipulated to guarantee her family’s power. And now that she’s broken free of that life, she’s found herself trapped again, hostage to a plot that has been centuries in the making.

It’s taken generations for the pieces to come together, and finally all is in place. Her best friend Shinobu’s mind has been corrupted, the Young Dread has aligned with her enemy John, and the bloodthirsty Watchers are being awakened and gathered. Now there is nothing that can stop the force of time.

But Quin will no longer be a pawn. Quin is a Seeker. She stands for light in a shadowy world. She will face the vengeance of the past and its enemies and save herself and the ones she loves, or she will die trying.

“Readers of the first two volumes will find their long-awaited conclusion here, and Dayton will have found fans for life.” -Booklist

Other books in the series
Seeker (Seeker, #1) Traveler (Seeker, #2)
Katniss and Triss would approve.” -TeenVogue.com
“In this powerful beginning to a complex family saga…Dayton excels at creating memorable characters.” -Publishers Weekly

In the Seeker series, a teenage girl called Quin has spent most of her life training for what she believes is a noble purpose, only to discover that her family is turning her into an assassin instead.

“Fans of Veronica Roth’s Divergent, Marie Lu’s Legend, and Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games series: your next obsession has arrived.” -School Library Journal

Quin has grown up in the remote Scotland Highlands, where she and two boys her age—one her oldest friend, and one her boyfriend—have spent years preparing to inherit two ancient artifacts, which have been handed down in their families for hundreds of years.
 These artifacts allow them to do astonishing things, including appearing and disappearing from anywhere in the world. Quin expects to inherit this power for noble purposes, but her father intends to use her as an assassin, plain and simple.

“Both past and present choices shook me to the core, and the final pages left me trembling . . . and then internally cursing that I’ll have to wait until 2017 for a final resolution!” -Fanboy Comics

The story is set in the near future, in a world where the hooded cloaks of Seekers and ancient Scottish ruins live comfortably next to futuristic airships and advanced medical techniques. It’s into this world that we watch Quin try to escape when she discovers the fate that’s waiting for her. And it is in this world that Quin is followed, helped, betrayed and abandoned by those she trusted the most.

Don't forget to check out the other amazing blogs on the tour!
February 6th - Winterhaven Books
                           Adventures in YA Publishing
February 7th - The Cover Contessa
February 8th - Unbound Worlds   
February 9th - The Eater of Books!
February 10th - Once Upon a Twilight
February 13th - A Dream Within A Dream
February 14th - Two Chicks on Books
February 16th - Mundie Moms
February 21st - Bookhounds YA
February 23rd - The Fandom
February 24th - Page Turners Blog
February 27th - Fiction Fare
February 28th - YA Books Central          

Friday, February 3, 2017

Review: The You I've Never Known by Ellen Hopkins

The You I've Never Known The You I've Never Known by Ellen Hopkins
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Release Date: January 24th, 2017
Purchase: Amazon
How do you live your life if your past is based on a lie? A new novel in both verse and prose from #1 New York Times bestselling author, Ellen Hopkins.

For as long as she can remember, it’s been just Ariel and Dad. Ariel’s mom disappeared when she was a baby. Dad says home is wherever the two of them are, but Ariel is now seventeen and after years of new apartments, new schools, and new faces, all she wants is to put down some roots. Complicating things are Monica and Gabe, both of whom have stirred a different kind of desire.

Maya’s a teenager who’s run from an abusive mother right into the arms of an older man she thinks she can trust. But now she’s isolated with a baby on the way, and life’s getting more complicated than Maya ever could have imagined.

Ariel and Maya’s lives collide unexpectedly when Ariel’s mother shows up out of the blue with wild accusations: Ariel wasn’t abandoned. Her father kidnapped her fourteen years ago.

What is Ariel supposed to believe? Is it possible Dad’s woven her entire history into a tapestry of lies? How can she choose between the mother she’s been taught to mistrust and the father who has taken care of her all these years?

In bestselling author Ellen Hopkins’s deft hands, Ariel’s emotionally charged journey to find out the truth of who she really is balances beautifully with Maya’s story of loss and redemption. This is a memorable portrait of two young women trying to make sense of their lives and coming face to face with themselves—for both the last and the very first time.

My thoughts:
No one can really like or love Ellen Hopkins books. They are always so real and raw that it leaves at least me with an uneasy feeling and I sometimes even feel gross.  That being said though, they have to be read because Ms. Hopkins shines light on tough subjects that need to be talked about and she's brilliant in her delivery each and every single time.  

I've read several books by Ellen Hopkins so I knew beforehand this book would be tough to read and it was, but it didn't quite pack the punch that her previous books did.  This was a good and bad thing in my opinion.  I appreciated the dialed back story line, but I did miss the ugliness.  This book isn't pretty by any means, but it just wasn't as dark as it could have been.  I feel strange saying I wanted it darker, but I kinda did and maybe that's because I know how dark Hopkins can go. 

This story was dark though, we have a girl who is trying to find out if she is gay while living with her abusive father who can't know her struggles.  See dark subject matter and there were a lot of dark scenes and I can't lie I did fall into the overall story line.  I wanted to find out who Ariel would chose for a partner and I wanted her to kick her father to the curb.  It wasn't an easy story to read, but Hopkins did an amazing job at delivering Ariel's voice.  I couldn't put this one down.

I think my favorite thing about this book was Ariel.  She had a hard life, but she didn't let that get the better of her.  She worked hard and she knew she wanted more out of her life than what she was handed.  It's tough to think that way and rise above, but she did and it made my connection to her stronger.

I don't want to give spoilers, but I figured out the twist pretty early on and I think that was the authors intent.  It wasn't hard to figure out and I'm glad I did so that I could read between the lines going forward. 

I believe this is a great story for readers especially with diversity being a huge topic in our world.  Hopkins did a great job at incorporating diversity throughout and I think teens that read this will appreciate what Hopkins does in this story. 

All in all I found this story moving and one I won't forget.  I never forget a Hopkins story though and while I did want this to go darker, I still very much became attached to these characters so much so that I wanted more of an epilogue.  I found myself thinking about Ariel, Monica, Maya, and even Gabe long after the final pages were over and I just want more.  I hope one day we get to see these characters again because I want to see their endings.

4 snowflakes

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Blog Tour: How to Break a Boy by Laurie Devore

Today on WinterHaven Books I am kicking off the blog tour for How to Break a Boy by Laurie Devore!!  For my stop I am sharing my review with you!

How to Break a BoyHow to Break a Boy by Laurie Devore
Publisher: Imprint
Release Date: Jan 31st, 2017
Purchase: Amazon
Keep your enemies close, but your friends closer.

Olivia Clayton has mastered the art of tearing others down to stay on top. She and her best friend, Adrienne, rule their small southern town like all good mean girls do--through intimidation and manipulation.

After Olivia suffers a family tragedy and catches Adrienne sleeping with her boyfriend, Olivia is over it. She decides to make a change--but it's impossible to resist taking Adrienne down one last time. Up to her old tricks, Olivia convinces golden boy Whit DuRant to be her SAT tutor and her fake boyfriend. But when it starts to feel real, Whit gets caught up in Olivia and Adrienne's war.

Olivia may ruin everything she touches, but this time she won't go down without a fight--not if it means losing Whit.

And definitely not if it means losing what's left of herself.
“If the Heathers had had smartphones.” Kirkus Reviews

My thoughts:
How to Break a Boy was my type of contemporary novel!  It wasn't soft and dreamy, it was tough, dark and a little scary which worked for me.

In a nutshell the story is about Olivia and how she lives her life in the shadow of her partner in crime friend Adrienne.  These two together were a high school students worst nightmare.  They were ruthless, mean, and always out to get somebody even if you just make eye contact wrong you are on their list. When Olivia's brother dies, she changes and begins to think maybe this mean girl lifestlye isn't what she wants anymore.  Leaving isn't always easy though and so begins her journey to find herself without popularity, her brother, and her toxic friend.

It was painful to read quite a few places in this story.  So many times Olivia could have done the right thing, but she stays under Adriennes thumb and causes chaos for so many people.  I won't lie I wanted to slap her so many times throughout this book, but her saving grace was that she little by little saw her errors and wanted to correct them.  It took awhile, but she slowly grew a backbone and for that I am grateful.

My favorite character in this though was Claire.  She was a kind of secondary character and I thought she was amazing.  She got caught up in the mess of Olivia's fight with Adrienne and I felt sorry for her, but I liked her positive attitude which helped guide Olivia.  It wasn't always easy for her, but she didn't let things tear her down.

My other favorite character was Whit which won't surprise you if you read this book.  He was definitely a shining character throughout and my heart broke for him when things turned bad.  He was an innocent bystander, but he definitely caught the brunt of the fight and I can't lie it ticked me off.  He didn't deserve what happened to him and I was shocked at the extent Adrienne went.  He handled it better than most though and I have to give him credit for standing his ground.

My one problem with this story though was that I wanted more of a conclusion with Adrienne. I don't think she should have been able to walk away so easily and I know that her world changed somewhat, but it wasn't enough for me.  I wanted her to suffer more honestly.

I thought this story was going to be more of a revenge story, but it turned out to be more of a saving story and I liked it.  There were frustrating scenes and I wanted to punch a few people, but you know high school is tough and this shows just how tough it can be.  I know this is extreme, but peer pressure is out there and I've seen a lot of bad things so if you think about it this really isn't that extreme.  I'm glad the author chose to show the darker side of school and I can even understand why she chose to let things be at the end.  Nothing is ever tied up perfectly in a bow and this story shows that.  I'm just glad a few characters ended up where I hoped they would.

Dark story with shinning moments that held me captivated till the last page.  Can't ask for more than that!

3.5 snowflakes

About the Author
Laurie Devore was born and raised in small town South Carolina and graduated from Clemson University. She now lives and works in Chicago, where she misses the charms and contradictions of the south every day. In her spare time, she reluctantly runs marathons, watches too much TV, and works a "y’all" into every conversation. How to Break a Boy is her debut novel.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Review: Finders Keepers (Rebels of the Lamp #2) by Michael M.B. Galvin, Peter Speakman

Finders Keepers (Rebels of the Lamp, #2)Finders Keepers (Rebels of the Lamp #2) by Michael M.B. Galvin, Peter Speakman
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Release Date: February 7th, 2017
Purchase: Amazon
After Parker and his friends destroyed the evil genie, Xaru, they awoke an even greater threat: Vesiroth. An immortal sorcerer who was frozen for centuries is now free, and he’s determined to finish what he had started—taking over the world. In order to accomplish his goal he must find the Elicuum Helm, an ancient object that will grant the user extraordinary powers. But the helm was broken into three pieces many years ago, and now Parker, along with his genie, Fon-Rham, his cousin Theo, Reese and Vesiroth’s former protégé, will have to travel the globe to find the helm first before it's too late.

My Thoughts:
This second book in the Rebels of the Lamp series was just as exciting, but a bit darker in my opinion.  I liked it, but I am struggling with labeling these as middle grade.

The story opens up with Parker, Reese, and Theo enjoying the benefits of having a genie for a friend.  Everyday they get to go on adventures and live life to its fullest.  Lurking in the shadows those is Vesiroth and he is ready to take back his life and wreck havoc on all of mankind.

Rebels of the Lamp itself was dark and like I said in my previous review had quite a bit of killing within its pages.  Finders Keepers has the same, but it felt like the killing numbers were doubled and there are a few scenes I am struggling with.  I think the authors could have chosen a different way to get rid of certain characters that would have kept this book more in the middle grade lane.  That being said though I do think middle school boys will devour this one just as much as the first and will probably all love the way certain characters met their demise haha.  

My favorite part was how exciting the story line was.  I loved seeing all the magic and never knowing when the next strike from the Path or Vesiroth would be!  It was so fast paced and exciting!!

I still very much liked the characters.  Parker showed he was loyal to his friends and I appreciated his loyalty.  I think he grew up a bit between the last book and this one and it was nice to see.  I also really liked Professor Ellison.  She is tough and cold, but I am very intrigued by her and I can't wait to see where her story goes next.  Theo puzzled me a bit though and I am very curious where his story line go probably the most out of all the characters.  He has some issues going on that need working out and I hope he figures things out soon.

All in all this was another fun addition to the Rebels of the Lamp series and that ending definitely set the stage for a great third book.  I am attached to this series and I can not wait to see what happens next!!  I think the next book will be the best one yet!

4 snowflakes



Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Mega Manga Giveaway! Chobits by CLAMP, Shirley Kubo

WinterHaven Books is exciting to host this Mega Manga Giveaway in appreciation to our followers who visit our blog. This week, we are giving away the first SIX installments of Chobits by CLAMP, Shirley Kubo.
Thank you to all of our followers and bloggie friends for visiting WinterHaven Books!!!

Chobits, Vol. 1 (Chobits #1) by CLAMP, Shirley Kubo
Published: April 23, 2002
Publisher: Tokyopop
Chi isn't your average humanoid computer. She can't do word processing, she can't connect to the Internet, and she's incapable of networking with other persocoms. Even her sound card seems broken. No wonder Hideki found her tied up in a pile of trash. But when the 19-year-old technophobe takes her home, he finds that she may be more advanced than her childlike behavior lets on.

If this sounds like a manga series you would enjoy reading, be sure to fill out the rafflecopter below for a chance to win the first six installments, plus one added manga surprise. Be sure to leave a thoughtful comment below about the series or giveaway. Because of the number of books we'll be shipping, this giveaway is open to US Residents only.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Review: The Midnight Star (The Young Elites #3) by Marie Lu

The Midnight Star (The Young Elites #3) by Marie Lu
Published: October 11, 2016
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
There was once a time when darkness shrouded the world, and the darkness had a queen.

Adelina Amouteru is done suffering. She’s turned her back on those who have betrayed her and achieved the ultimate revenge: victory. Her reign as the White Wolf has been a triumphant one, but with each conquest her cruelty only grows. The darkness within her has begun to spiral out of control, threatening to destroy all she’s gained.

When a new danger appears, Adelina’s forced to revisit old wounds, putting not only herself at risk, but every Elite. In order to preserve her empire, Adelina and her Roses must join the Daggers on a perilous quest—though this uneasy alliance may prove to be the real danger. 

My Thoughts
“There was once a time when darkness shrouded the world, and the darkness had a queen.”

Fantastical conclusion to an explosive series! The Midnight Star is just another example of Marie Lu’s exceptional ability to take her readers on a quest that is nothing short of high octane adventure and mind-blowing intrigue. YA Fantasy at its BEST!

In this final installment to The Young Elites, we journey with Adelina Amouteru has she continues to spiral down a dark path with both her powers and reign as queen. She faces her enemies head on with her ability to wield dark illusions and suffering, and she’s gained the fear of her people. The only one she can trust is Magiano, and even he can’t keep her safe from the threats she faces at every turn. When the world begins to show signs of destruction, Adelina must align with her enemies and rejoin the Elites as they travel to the Realm of Gods to save her people from the darkness that lies ahead.

Marie Lu definitely made some bold decisions in this story with both her characters and plot direction. The Midnight Star takes us down a dark path that Adelina experiences, and it was definitely an emotional exercise. It did not escape my notice that despite having the story told in multiple perspectives, where we heard from Raffaele, Maeve, Magiano, Teren and Violetta, the only first person narrative was from Adelina. It was like Marie Lu was forcing her audience to experience Adelina’s darkness firsthand. Great perspective that added a dark edge to the story.

Also, I loved how Lu was daring enough to make some bold sacrifices throughout her story with both characters and plot direction. Despite not wanting to lose some of the characters I connected with, it added credibility and substance to the story. I applaud Marie Lu for making the decisions she made, and I truly sensed she did it to advance the story and not for shock value. Well done!

As far as the emotional strength in this story, I would rate it a TEN! I’m not a crier when it comes to reading, but let me tell you… there were some moments that I felt the familiar tightening of my jaw and sting in my eyes. That only goes to show how completely I connected with the story and characters. What an experience!

Overall, it’s no secret I’m a huge fan of YA Fantasy, but only when it’s exceptional to the likes of Rowling, Marchetta and Lu. I’m willing to invest my time in this genre when I trust the author has the ability to create a fantastical journey, and Marie Lu is up there with the best in this genre. Loved it much!
5 Snowflakes