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Friday, August 26, 2016

GIRL IN PIECES by Kathleen Glasgow \\ A Very Intense & Powerful Read...

Review by Sara...

By Kathleen Glasgow
Series: No
Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher: Delacorte Press (August 30, 2016)
Grade Level: 10 Up
Language: English

For fans of Girl, Interrupted, Thirteen Reasons Why, and All the Bright Places comes Kathleen Glasgow’s debut novel about a girl who has lost everything—almost even herself.

    Charlotte Davis is in pieces. At seventeen she’s already lost more than most people lose in a lifetime. But she’s learned how to forget. The broken glass washes away the sorrow until there is nothing but calm. You don’t have to think about your father and the river. Your best friend, who is gone forever. Or your mother, who has nothing left to give you.
 Every new scar hardens Charlie’s heart just a little more, yet it still hurts so much. It hurts enough to not care anymore, which is sometimes what has to happen before you can find your way back from the edge. A deeply moving portrait of a teenage girl on the verge of losing herself and the journey she must take to survive in her own skin, Kathleen Glasgow’s debut is heartbreakingly real and unflinchingly honest. It’s a story you won’t be able to look away from. 

 I thought I was ready for this book but I wasn't. It was such a raw and powerful book. This is a very important book.

This is the story of 17-year old Charlie and her road to recovery from being a cutter. That sounds pretty bleak and straight forward, I know, but it is so much more complicated than you may think. She was removed from a very horrific period in her life to a rehab center. Before rehab, she was being forced to work as a prostitute and felt there was no way out. She loves being in rehab because it means that none of the bad people from her past can get to her. Rehab was not all peaches and cream so she was checked out of there and did her best to find her way on her own. She found a job, a place to stay, and even makes friends. These are all huge steps for Charlie but every day she fights her demons. She struggles to make the right choices but the old ones seem so much easier. Will Charlie be able to overcome the past that haunts her? Will she be able to put herself back together?

The first thing that caught my attention about this book was the writing. Glasgow's writing style really is full of raw, thick emotion. It is a different writing style than I am used to, but it really is an added element to this story. Simply beautiful.  The way Glasgow weaved a mesmerizing atmosphere blew me away. This story took no time sinking its claws in to me. My heart ached at Charlie's constant struggle with her sense of self, her ongoing pain, and her self doubt. As the story continues, the secrets of Charlie's past come to light. That is when the reader learns who has hurt Charlie and how. I must warn you that there is so much hurt and ache in the story that it will stay with you long after you finish the story.

This was a very difficult story to get through. There are talks of physical acts of cutting and how that affects the person afterwards, both emotionally and physically. Charlie has a lot of scars she must carry - both internal and external. She starts out being ashamed of her physical scars but over time learns that they are part of her past and make her who she is. She can still be loveable with these scars. Cutting is not the only illness/disease covered in this story. Drug addiction and other forms of self harm are discussed. Glasgow does not shy away from covering some very, very tough topics.

With all of that said, this story is not one simply of various forms if mental illnesses, it is about survival. It is about both physical and emotional survival. Charlie had to learn and come to the realization that she is a surviver. She survived being homeless with no food or shelter, no one to rely on, being addicted to drugs, being sold for sex, cutting to releave the pain she has built up inside, and abandonment and abuse on nearly every level. It is also about finding your voice in this world and embracing it. Whatever it takes to help you feel whole and like you have a place. 

This was such an intense and beautifully written book that I hope everyone reads. Yes, it is difficult and at times you will want (or need) to put the book down and walk away for a bit, but it is a necessary story. I am so very grateful I was able to read it because Charlie is the type of protagonist that everyone shoud know. This was a true 5 star read and I hope everyone will give it a chance.


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

LAST SEEN LEAVING by Caleb Roehrig \\ The YA Version of Gone Girl?

Review by Sara...

By Caleb Roehrig
Series: No
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends (October 4, 2016)
Language: English

Flynn's girlfriend has disappeared. How can he uncover her secrets without revealing his own?

Flynn's girlfriend, January, is missing. The cops are asking questions he can't answer, and her friends are telling stories that don't add up. All eyes are on Flynn—as January's boyfriend, he must know something.

But Flynn has a secret of his own. And as he struggles to uncover the truth about January's disappearance, he must also face the truth about himself.

 I don't even know when or how to begin with this book.

The blurb makes it seem like a YA version of Gone Girl and I was all about that. I'm sad to report that is not the case with this book. 

When the book starts, the MC, Flynn, comes home to find police at his house. Flynn is a 15 year old teenager who never does anything to get in trouble, so obviously he cannot figure out why the police are at his house. It turns out that Flynn's girlfriend, January, has been missing for a week. Flynn has no clue where she went or what could have happened to her. The last time the two of them talked, January had broken up with him. As sad as that is, Flynn also knew that January was not happy with her new home life and new stepdad. Flynn takes it upon himself to find out what happen to January and where she went.

This story felt like it was trying to be bigger than what it really was. It is supposed to be a 'whodunit' and 'where did she go' mystery. The blurb of the book claims that Flynn has a big secret that he doesn't want anyone to find out about because it could change everyhing. I'm here to tell you that his "big secret" is revealed on page 32 and it is NOT that shocking. Actually, it does nothing for the story. Not one thing other than complicate it. If the author had focused on one story instead of trying to make both work, it might have been a better story. I wanted to read a mystery, not about Flynn and his completely obvious secret. The mystery itself was not so mysterious. It was ho-hum and stereotypical. No big surprise and nothing earth shattering when you get to the end of the book. My actual reaction was, "Oh, I saw that coming a mile away". The whole story was wrapped up a little to neatly for me. 

I did not care for any of the characters in this novel. I liked Flynn least of all. I have to stress that Flynn was a 15 year old high school Sophomore, yet he talked like he had the vocabulary of an MIT graduate. The unnecessary use of such verbose words drove me nuts. I hate when I have to pull out a dictionary and look up what the words mean. I don't mean that all authors need to dumb down their books for their readers, but the vocabulary used by this author was so over the top it was obscene. I also did not appreciate or like how Flynn refused to clue the seasoned detectives in on what he was doing. If he found out something, he just ran with it. Flynn was skin over bones, almost afraid of his own shadow, yet he suddenly could become a brave detective? I don't buy it. You are selling it, Roehing, but I am not buying it.

This book is so uneven that I skimmed a good majority of it. I think I can see what Roehing was trying to accomplish but he missed the mark big time. What I read was not a good story. It was too much crammed into a couple of hundred pages. I just felt like it was a little formulaic, with stereotypical villains and the predictable (at least to me) red herrings to throw you off the real trail. I did not enjoy this book. I know others are gushing about how wonderful it is, but I urge you to not go by what Goodreads says. Read the reviews of those you trust and make your own decision. 


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

AND I DARKEN by Kiersten White \\ A Book That Will Blow You Away...

Review by Sara...

By Kiersten White
Series: The Conquerors Saga #1
Hardcover: pages
Publisher: Delacorte (June 28, 2016)
Language: English

No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.

Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.

But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.

I was so not prepared for this story. I knew it was a retelling of Vlad the Impaler if Vlad were a female but that was it. Historical fiction and history is not my strong suite but with that aside - this story was AMAZING.

When Lada Dragwlya was born, her father, Vlad the ruler of Wallachia, was not happy. He did not want a child that was not a male. Her own mother did not even want her. As a result, Lada was raised with her younger borther, Radu, and both were taught to fight. Lada was not raised to be a lady so when she started to fight dirty, nobody expected it. While still young, Lada and Radu were taken from Wallachia and abandoned by their father in the Ottoman courts. Here is where Lada's cunning fighting and strategy abilities started to shine. Lada and Radu know they have only themselves to rely on as they become pawns in a horrible political game. Lada bides her time dreaming of the day she can march back to her homeland and take what is hers. Radu wants only peace and finds more than that when they meet Mehmed, a son of the sultan and one day heir to the empire. These three have formed a very close bond and what they go through will push all of them past the breaking point. Will their friendship and love be enough to save them all?

This story simply blew me away. There was no fantasy, no magic, no horrid insta-love involved in this story. It is simply this: Picture Vlad as a female and how might have history changed? Could a female in a position of power be taken as seriously? The answer is YES. The way Kiersten White wrote this story is simply breathtaking. I loved every minute.

I loved Lada from the moment she came into the story as a screaming baby. I loved her development, her determination, her fierceness. She was such an amazing protagonist that I couldn't get enough of her. To read of her struggle to prove herself tough enough and nasty enough to stand with the boys was amazing. But take note, she may be a seriously badass MC, she is still a female and has feelings that cannot be ignored.

I pretty much loved all of the characters. I loved their development and how they grew into who they needed to be. I felt my heart breaking for Radu throughout the story as he was so delicate. Radu was such a gentle soul in an ugly and harsh world. He was absolutely perfect in this story.

The world building was just amazing. White took her time painting the picture that was Wallachia and the Ottoman Empire. Her ability to write you directly into the world was spectacular. None of it felt like overkill or boring. She didn't take too much time or too many chapters describing items that had no importance. I'm not sure I can say enough good things about the pacing and world building. It all worked so perfectly. The best thing of this story: no love triangle! There are no multiple love interests or insta-loves! It's such a breath of fresh air.

I strongly recommend this book to everyone. I have read mixed reviews, some people were bored to tears while others, like me, adored the story. I partially agree that the politics were strong in this story, but that is just it - they are a part of the history and story. You cannot tell this tale without bringing the politics and some religion in to it. But mind you, the religious parts were not preachy, simply stating the facts. I did give this story 5 stars and I stick by my rating. I loved this book and cannot wait to read the next in the series.


Monday, August 8, 2016

THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES by Mindy McGinnis \\ Is More Deadly Than The Male...

Review by Jackie...

By Mindy McGinnis
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (September 20, 2016)
Language: English

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.

How does one even begin a review of a book that is literally EVERYTHING that they were hoping for? There’s this poem by Rudyard Kipling that you should read, mainly because the second half of “the female of the species” phrase is super revealing in terms of the context of the book. Plus it’s also just a really fun poem. Mwahaha.

THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES is the story of Alex, Peekay, and Jack. The story begins with Alex telling the reader how she kills. Alex is damaged by the Criminal-Minds worthy murder of her older sister. Her sister’s name was Anna, and she was both Anna’s protector, and the one to calm her when she felt too much. Her story is what I wanted from the New Adult book Marrow, by Tarryn Fisher. While I liked that one, THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES is a story that will stick with me for a long time. And it’s all because of Alex. She may actually be one of my favorite characters out of any book ever.

She’s incredibly unique. I haven’t read a character like her except for in Marrow.

Alex is the discourse of right and wrong, she is the line between sanity and the insane, she is the vengeance and redemption. She knows who she is, and she’s more than aware that she is capable of murder, and is able to do so again. When Peekay and Jack invade her life, she does not suddenly become a whole new person. Peekay is the preacher’s kid, and their working together at the animal shelter brings them together. Jack is the beloved sporty hot guy of the high school, and senior year marks a fascination with Alex that he can’t shake off. They both want to know her.

THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES is about social injustice (think rape, sex offenders) just as much as it is about murder, a wolf in human skin, and the main character interacting with people her own age—really just people in general-- for the first time. The book is all about the gray areas.

The story itself is incredibly authentic. I was connected to the town, to each of the character’s families. I was made to wonder, wanted to look through my high school year book, which of my classmates was the one who quietly avenged those wronged by society. In the center of Alex’s turmoil with her own (being, should I call it being?) being there was still a high school with academics and teenage drama and Life After High School.

The fact is that this book is beyond beautiful, and brutal, and heart-wrenching. And I love it.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

THE CROWN'S GAME by Evelyn Skye \\ Worth The Hype Or No?

Review by Sara...

By Evelyn Skye
Series: The Crown's Game #1
Hardcover: 399 pages
Publisher: Balzer + Bray 
Language: English

Vika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the Tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side.

And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill—the greatest test an enchanter will ever know. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the Tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.

Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter—even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has?

For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with—beautiful, whip smart, imaginative—and he can’t stop thinking about her.

And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love... or be killed himself.

As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear... the Crown’s Game is not one to lose.

I, like nearly every other YA reader, was over the moon excited to read this story. It screamed all things Grisha and gave the hope to bring the reader the feels of The Darkling and Alina. I'm sorry to say that I may be the black sheep (again) because I did not get those feelings from this book. There is so much hype around this book that I just did not feel it was necessary.

This is the story of Vika and Nikolai, two Enchanters competing for a place beside the Tsar. Holding the title of Enchanter to the Tsar is one of the most prestigious positions in the land. The battle between Vika and Nikolai will end with one killing the other as there can be only one and there is no way to not compete. When Vika was young, she was trained by her "father" for this competition without knowing she was going to be involved in this magic battle. Nikolai was just the opposite - he knew exactly what was going to happen when he became of age. Once the battle begins, they are both given turns to try to out magic and kill the other. At the same time, they are trying to impress Pasha, the Tsar. As the story and battle continues, Vika and Nikolai become attracted to each other. Their magic turns from trying to kill the other, to impressing the other. What is to happen now that they have feelings for each other?

This story left me feeling a little confused. I knew the premise of the story was to win the title of Enchanter but the focus changed about half way through. It soon became a love story and the main focus was lost. I don't mind that at all, but it felt like it took the wind out of the sails. I wanted to read more about the magic and creativity, but instead it was how each other used magic to impress the other. Vika and Nikolai both had their talents and were only limited by their imagination. One question that stayed with me the entire book was how did their magic work? Vika was able to manipulate elemental while Nikolai could change mechanical. Why would't the Tsar want both Enchanters then? Wouldn't that be the smarter choice?

The character I found most interesting was Pasha, the one next in line to rule. He felt like such an honest character, but sadly he was the most naive character. He was best friends with Nikolai but had no idea that magic existed and was appalled to find out his best friend was an Enchanter. Seriously? How can someone within the royal family be so sheltered??

The one thing that really, really stood out to me about this story is that it just felt like a long book. I found myself not paying attention to what was going on because it just had too much fluff. I almost forgot what the overall purpose of the story was - these two Enchanters trying to kill the other to win the game. The story felt as if it really lost momentum towards the end of the story because it turned into a love story. That's not really what I wanted to read when I picked up this book.

Overall, I liked this book but there is no way that I loved this book. It simply did not live up to the hype. I'm not upset that I read this book, not one bit. I'm glad I did, but it just did not really do it for me, that's why I gave this book 3.5 stars.