Blast From Two Pasts by Kristel S. Villar | Review

<strong>Blast from Two Pasts</strong> Book Cover
Blast from Two Pasts Romance 140 pages

Fate’s been playing tricks on Cara Nicolas lately. She agrees to go on a blind date with her best friend’s fiancé’s cousin, only to discover that the guy is her first love from high school, Lucas Lobregat. Now that would have been a charming story, except that the date turns out to be one of the worst ever. And they can’t even pretend it never happened, because they’re both suddenly part of the wedding preparations.

Just as she is starting to get to know more about the boy she used to love, Oliver Sta. Maria, an old flame who owes her some closure, surprisingly shows up. With two pasts resurfacing, which will Cara choose to rekindle? Or can she have the chance to choose at all?

 


Review

This is a cute story that many will relate to. Villar does a great job of capturing the humor, joy, and frustration of relationships. This book is a quick easy read and lots of fun – very much your typical romantic comedy.

I think the writing could use some improvement, and I didn’t like it when the narrator switched from inner dialogue to talking to the reader- it threw me a little. I also did not like the best friend, I felt her character was flat and just bitter.

Overall this was a good book and I enjoyed reading the story.

Read the first six chapters here.


Disclaimer: I received a free e-copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp | Review

<strong>This is Where It Ends</strong> Book Cover
This is Where It Ends Young Adult, LGBTQ Sourcebooks Fire Hardcover 288 pages Amazon

Everyone has a reason to fear the boy with the gun…

10:00 a.m.: The principal of Opportunity, Alabama’s high school finishes her speech, welcoming the entire student body to a new semester and encouraging them to excel and achieve.

10:02 a.m.: The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class.

10:03 a.m.: The auditorium doors won’t open.

10:05 a.m.: Someone starts shooting.

Over the course of 54 minutes, four students must confront their greatest hopes, and darkest fears, as they come face-to-face with the boy with the gun. In a world where violence in schools is at an all-time high and school shootings are a horrifyingly common reality for teenagers, This Is Where It Ends is a rallying cry to end the gun violence epidemic for good.

I received a free e-copy of this novel through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review

Something terrible is happening in Opportunity, Alabama. There is a shooter attacking the town’s high school. This is Where It Ends takes place within an hour and follows four students as they deal with the events unfolding.

This book will be controversial. It covers a tough topic that no one ever wants to discuss. Regardless of the topic, Nijkamp has written a compelling story with surprises, action, and emotion.

I love that this novel is written from the perspective of the victims. It was nice to see how these different people reacted to a terrible situation. I also appreciated the fact that not all narrators knew exactly what was unfolding, they were involved but outside the situation. This really showed how these tragedies can affect many people, even those not present. It is also clever that each narrator knows the shooter, so we see a little personal emotion in the connection between them.

While reading, I wanted to see into the shooter’s mind, gain a clue as to why he was doing this terrible thing. However, now that I have had time to reflect, I’m glad Nijkamp didn’t include his perspective. It wouldn’t change what happened and I wouldn’t want to have a reason to justify his actions.

I really liked this novel. I cover a strong topic that unfortunately is relevant to today’s teens. This novel is a great way to spark a conversation about violence at school. This story kept me on my toes the entire time and was an emotional roller coaster. Read this book. Tears were streaming from my face as I read the last pages.

Since the author is on the executive committee of We Need Diverse Books, I have to talk about the diversity in this one. Also, let me preface this by saying that I am all for diversity in novels and believe we should have more.

However, I have to wonder if this novel has diverse characters just to have them, or if they came through naturally. 

I want to see more diversity in novels, but I think it should be natural and not to meet a quota or agenda. The world is diverse and that is beautiful.

 

 

The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow | Review

<strong>The Scorpion Rules</strong> Book Cover
The Scorpion Rules Prisoners of Peace (Book 1) Fiction, Young Adult, Science Fiction, LGBTQ Simon & Schuster Hardcover 384 pages Amazon

Greta is a Duchess and a Crown Princess. She is also a Child of Peace, a hostage held by the de facto ruler of the world, the great Artificial Intelligence, Talis. This is how the game is played: if you want to rule, you must give one of your children as a hostage. Start a war and your hostage dies.

The system has worked for centuries. Parents don’t want to see their children murdered.

Greta will be free if she can make it to her eighteenth birthday. Until then she is prepared to die with dignity, if necessary. But everything changes when Elian arrives at the Precepture. He’s a hostage from a new American alliance, and he defies the machines that control every part of their lives—and is severely punished for it. His rebellion opens Greta’s eyes to the brutality of the rules they live under, and to the subtle resistance of her companions. And Greta discovers her own quiet power.

Then Elian’s country declares war on Greta’s and invades the prefecture, taking the hostages hostage. Now the great Talis is furious, and coming himself to deliver punishment. Which surely means that Greta and Elian will be killed…unless Greta can think of a way to break all the rules.

I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review

I was very fortunate to meet the author of this novel at the 2015 ALA Annual Conference during the YALSA YA Coffee Klatch. Once I heard the synopsis, I knew I had to read it! My intuition was correct, this is an amazing read.

I know, I know, another YA dystopian novel. But hear me out, this book is worth picking up.

The world is at peace, but always on the brink of war. Each kingdom must sacrifice their child to live as a hostage under the guard of artificial intelligence until they reach age. If a kingdom goes to war, the child of all parties involved will be killed (regardless of who is the aggressor). We follow the heroine, Greta, who has accepted her life as it is until Elián arrives and begins to question the order of things.

Bow does a fantastic job creating a new world for readers. This science fiction novel is one that readers of many genres could become captivated by. Greta is a strong lead character, not at all a damsel in distress. Greta develops beautifully as a character as her quest for knowledge and questioning expands.

There is a love triangle, but it includes two females and one male, which made perfect sense as the relationships grew. Each character has a distinct personality and you get to see their strengths and weaknesses as the novel continues on.

The ending was not what I pictured at all. It takes the reader by surprise and leaves you wanting more.

The second book to this series will be released in 2016 and I will definitely have it preordered.

Atlanta Burns by Chuck Wendig | Review

<strong>Atlanta Burns</strong> Book Cover
Atlanta Burns Atlanta Burns (Book 1) Fiction, Young Adult Skyscape Paperback 367 pages Amazon

You don’t mess with Atlanta Burns.

Everyone knows that. And that’s kinda how she likes it—until the day Atlanta is drawn into a battle against two groups of bullies and saves a pair of new, unexpected friends. But actions have consequences, and when another teen turns up dead—by an apparent suicide—Atlanta knows foul play is involved. And worse: she knows it’s her fault. You go poking rattlesnakes, maybe you get a bit.

Afraid of stirring up the snakes further by investigating, Atlanta turns her focus to the killing of a neighborhood dog. All paths lead to a rural dogfighting ring, and once more Atlanta finds herself face-to-face with bullies of the worst sort. Atlanta cannot abide by letting bad men do awful things to those who don’t deserve it. So she sets out to unleash her own brand of teenage justice.

Will Atlanta triumph? Or is fighting back just asking for a face full of bad news?

This book is intended for mature audiences due to strong language and violence.

Revised edition: Previously published as two volumes, Shotgun Gravy and Bait Dog, this combined edition includes editorial revisions.

I received an ARC of this novel from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review

This book was different than most Young Adult novels I have read, in fact, it could be a blurry line to say this is a young adult with strong content. I don’t think I would have chosen this book off the shelf, but I’m glad I had an opportunity to read it.

Atlanta Burns is one tough chick. The characters are raw and gritty, the story is captivating, and who doesn’t love a female vigilante. This book was a lot to take in, but I found the plot to move along nicely. 

Poorly Drawn Lines by Reza Farazmand | Review

<strong>Poorly Drawn Lines: Good Ideas and Amazing Stories</strong> Book Cover
Poorly Drawn Lines: Good Ideas and Amazing Stories Graphic Novel, Humor Blue Rider Press Paperback 208 pages Amazon

Life is weird. Embrace it. A bear flies through space. A hamster suffers a breakdown. A child marvels at the wonder of nature as worms emerge from the ground to look for vodka (as they always have). Elsewhere, a garden snake is arrested by animal control and jailed for home invasion. These are common occurrences in the world of Reza Farazmand’s wildly popular webcomic, Poorly Drawn Lines. Traveling from deep space to alternate realities to the bottom of the ocean, this collection includes fan favorites alongside never-before-seen comics and original essays. For the first time, Farazmand shares his inimitable take on love, nature, social acceptance, and robots.

I received an ARC of this novel through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review

OK, this was hilarious.

Farazmand writes and draws comics with simplicity. I loved the tone of the book and  I was actually muffling giggles while reading this in a bookstore.

This short, humorous book can be read in about 30 minutes if read straight through. The comedy style may not be for everyone, but I do believe everyone can find the humor in the least one comic strip in the book.

Not much else to say. It was a funny book. I laughed. Mission accomplished.

Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar | Review

Vanessa and Her Sister Book Cover
Vanessa and Her Sister Historical Fiction Ballantine Books Hardcover 368 pages Amazon

London, 1905: The city is alight with change, and the Stephen siblings are at the forefront. Vanessa, Virginia, Thoby, and Adrian are leaving behind their childhood home and taking a house in the leafy heart of avant-garde Bloomsbury. There they bring together a glittering circle of bright, outrageous artistic friends who will grow into legend and come to be known as the Bloomsbury Group. And at the center of this charmed circle are the devoted, gifted sisters: Vanessa, the painter, and Virginia, the writer.

Each member of the group will go on to earn fame and success, but so far Vanessa Bell has never sold a painting. Virginia Woolf’s book review has just been turned down by The Times. Lytton Strachey has not published anything. E. M. Forster has finished his first novel but does not like the title. Leonard Woolf is still a civil servant in Ceylon, and John Maynard Keynes is looking for a job. Together, this sparkling coterie of artists and intellectuals throw away convention and embrace the wild freedom of being young, single bohemians in London.

But the landscape shifts when Vanessa unexpectedly falls in love and her sister feels dangerously abandoned. Eerily possessive, charismatic, manipulative, and brilliant, Virginia has always lived in the shelter of Vanessa’s constant attention and encouragement. Without it, she careens toward self-destruction and madness. As tragedy and betrayal threaten to destroy the family, Vanessa must decide if it is finally time to protect her own happiness above all else.

The work of exciting young newcomer Priya Parmar, Vanessa and Her Sister exquisitely captures the champagne-heady days of prewar London and the extraordinary lives of sisters Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf.


I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

Review

Vanessa and Her Sister is a beautiful fictional novel about Virginia Woolf and her sister Vanessa Bell. Told in the form of epistolary through Vanessa’s diary. The story also features the Stephens’ siblings and friends. Based on real-life people and events, Vanessa and Her Sister show the bond of families and society life pre-WWI.

I enjoyed this novel immensely. I have read a couple works by Virginia Woolf but was unaware of her talented family and background. This novel offered a realistic glimpse of what her life might have been like. The characters were smart and witty and I felt like I would have gotten along with them in real life.

I love when authors choose alternative literary forms to write in. Reading this novel from the perspective of Vanessa Bell’s diary entries provided an interesting read. There were many detailed accounts, but there were also time gaps which made this more realistic.

I am looking forward to what Parmar comes up with next!

Inspector of the Dead by David Morrell | Review

<strong>Inspector of the Dead</strong> Book Cover
Inspector of the Dead Thomas De Quincy (Book 2) Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery Mulholland Books Hardcover 353 pages Amazon

The year is 1855. The Crimean War is raging. The incompetence of British commanders causes the fall of the English government. The Empire teeters. Amid this crisis comes opium-eater Thomas De Quincey, one of the most notorious and brilliant personalities of Victorian England. Along with his irrepressible daughter, Emily, and their Scotland Yard companions, Ryan and Becker, De Quincey finds himself confronted by an adversary who threatens the heart of the nation.

This killer targets members of the upper echelons of British society, leaving with each corpse the name of someone who previously attempted to kill Queen Victoria. The evidence indicates that the ultimate victim will be Victoria herself.

I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review

Let me start by saying, I loved this novel!

Inspector of the Dead follows Thomas De Quincey (the “opium-eater”), along with his daughter and two detectives as they try to solve a series of murders plaguing British society. The mystery behind the murders thickens as they may be practice to get to Queen Victoria.

It has been a while since I found a mystery that I really go into, but once I started this novel, I was hooked. I did not read the first book in this series (Murder as a Fine Art) but found that Inspector of the Dead did well as a stand-alone. Morrell provided enough background information about the characters, that I didn’t feel lost.

Each character in this novel had their own voice and personality, especially the main character Thomas De Quincey. Readers got a glimpse of that fine line between genius and insanity. Morrell wrote events in the novel at a fast pace. As the stakes grew higher, the plot increased in intensity and as a reader, I was buzzing through the pages.

As I said before, I was enthralled by this book. Although I did figure out who our villain was before the reveal, the motive was grander than I imagined.

Check out this series, it will be worth it.

Mother of Eden by Chris Beckett | Review

Mother of Eden Book Cover
Mother of Eden Dark Eden (Book 2) Fiction, Young Adult Broadway Books Paperback 480 pages Amazon

Just a few generations ago, the planet’s five hundred inhabitants huddled together in the light and warmth of the Forest’s lantern trees, afraid to venture out into the cold darkness around them.

 

Now, humanity has spread across Eden, and two kingdoms have emerged. Both are sustained by violence and dominated by men – and both claim to be the favored children of Gela, the woman who came to Eden long ago on a boat that could cross the stars, and became the mother of them all.

When young Starlight Brooking meets a handsome and powerful man from across Worldpool, she believes he will offer an outlet for her ambition and energy. But she has no inkling that she will become a stand-in for Gela herself, and wear Gela’s fabled ring on her own finger—or that in this role, powerful and powerless all at once, she will try to change the course of Eden’s history.

I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher through LibraryThing in exchange for an honest review.

Review

Mother of Eden is the second book in the Dark Eden series by Chris Beckett. I have not read the first novel, Dark Eden, but felt that there was enough back story provided to understand the present situation.

Eden is a dark planet comprised of multiple civilizations whose ancestors traveled from Earth. Each of these civilizations has developed its own culture and ethics based upon the ideas of its original founder. War is brewing as citizens of Eden differ on notions of power, religion, philosophies, and natural resources.

Readers follow Starlight Brooking, a female from a small island community, as her curiosity has her traveling across the sea to communities she didn’t know existed. Starlight quickly learns about politics and realizes that the grass is not always greener on the other side.

Every chapter in Mother of Eden is told from different characters’ points of view. I always love it when an author writes this way because it offers a perspective we aren’t privy to in real life. Beckett has created dynamic characters that illustrate the true weaknesses and strengths of men.

I found it difficult to push through this novel at times; it was not a book I could binge read. The pace of action was slow-going and I had a hard time visualizing certain aspects of the story. That being said, the social dilemmas and undertones of criticism towards societal notions are captured beautifully.

I will probably go back and read Dark Eden and look forward to reading other installments of this series in the future.

Ask the Dark by Henry Turner | Review

Ask the Dark Book Cover
Ask the Dark Fiction, Young Adult, Crime Clarion Books 258 pages Amazon

Billy Zeets has a story to tell. About being a vandal and petty thief. About missing boys and an elusive killer. And about what happens if a boy who breaks all the rules is the only person who can piece together the truth. Gripping and powerful, this masterful debut novel comes to vivid life through the unique voice of a hero as unlikely as he is unforgettable.

I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

Review

Billy Zeets is an unlikely hero. He is from the wrong side of the tracks, a thief, and a troublemaker. Although he is trying to be straight, temptation takes over as Billy learns his family is losing their home, and his depressed father will do nothing about it. Through a series of events, Billy finds himself in the middle of a series of teenage boy murders.

I wanted to like this book. I read the blurb and was instantly intrigued. However, only a chapter in, I knew I would struggle to finish it.

Ask the Dark is told from the perspective of Billy Zeets as he retells his story into a tape recorder. Turner writes Billy’s voice as uneducated and vernacular. I found this so off-putting and it didn’t feel natural to me.

Advertised as a mystery and thriller YA novel, I was expecting the usual twists and turns of any good mystery. Not in this book. There is no mystery, no false perpetrator, and not much thrill. As Billy gets caught up in solving the murders, he stumbles upon one man who he thinks (and turns out to be) the murderer. I felt that this whole story gave everything to readers and forget to leave in the mystery. Most of the events were lackluster except for a little thrill towards the end of the novel. I also didn’t feel like any of the characters developed throughout the story; they were very flat.

This was a novel that had great selling points but couldn’t deliver on them.

Out of It by Michelle Kadarusman | Review

Out of It Book Cover
Out of It Fiction, Young Adult James Lorimer & Company 176 pages

Suri and Lacey have been best friends since kindergarten. Suri, the photographer, has always been the safe, responsible one, afraid to take risks. Now that the pair is in high school, she’s afraid that her more outgoing and adventurous friend will outgrow her.

Then Lacey’s wild, risk-taking personality leads her down a dangerous path―and Suri is afraid of losing her for real. But if she chases Lacey down that same path of drinking, partying, hooking up with older guys, and drugs, will Suri be able to save her friend―or herself?

I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review

Suri and Lacey have been best friends for most of their lives. Now in High School, the girls are being led into separate directions by their differing personalities. Kadarusman writes two well-rounded characters in this short novel. Suri is shy, guarded, and inexperienced while Lacey is outgoing, experimental, and strong.

Out of It is an easy read and moves along at a satisfying pace as it covers relevant issues such as drugs, sexuality, assault, and peer pressure. Kadarusman illustrates the importance of looking beyond a person’s actions and asks readers to evaluate the meaning of true friendship.