ARC Review: The Devils You Know by M.C. Atwood

devils you knowI received this book for free from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. 

Review by: Paige

Publication: October 3rd, 2017

Genre: Young Adult, Horror

Synopsis: Plenty of legends surround the infamous Boulder House in Whispering Bluffs, Wisconsin, but nobody takes them seriously. Certainly nobody believes that the original owner, Maxwell Cartwright Jr., cursed its construction—or that a murder of crows died upon its completion, their carcasses turning the land black. If anyone did believe it all, there’s no way River Red High would offer a field trip there for the senior class.

Five very different seniors on the trip—Violet, Paul, Ashley, Dylan, and Gretchen—have reasons beyond school spirit for not ditching the trip. When they’re separated from the group, they discover that what lies within Boulder House is far more horrifying than any local folklore. To survive, they’ll have to band together in ways they never could have imagined and ultimately confront the truths of their darkest selves.

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ARC Review: The Goblins of Bellwater by Molly Ringle

33973968I received this book for free from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review by: Paige

Rating: ★ ★ ★

Publication: October 1st, 2017

Genre: New Adult, Magical Realism, Urban Fantasy

Synopsis: Most people have no idea goblins live in the woods around the small town of Bellwater, Washington. But some are about to find out. 

Skye, a young barista and artist, falls victim to a goblin curse in the forest one winter night, rendering her depressed and silenced, unable to speak of what happened. Her older sister, Livy, is at wit’s end trying to understand what’s wrong with her. Local mechanic Kit would know, but he doesn’t talk of such things: he’s the human liaison for the goblin tribe, a job he keeps secret and never wanted, thrust on him by an ancient family contract.

Unaware of what’s happened to Skye, Kit starts dating Livy, trying to keep it casual to protect her from the attention of the goblins. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Kit, Skye draws his cousin Grady into the spell through an enchanted kiss in the woods, dooming Grady and Skye both to become goblins and disappear from humankind forever.

It’s a midwinter night’s enchantment as Livy, the only one untainted by a spell, sets out to save them on a dangerous magical path of her own.

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Review: The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein

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Review by: Paige

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis: When fifteen-year-old Julia Beaufort-Stuart wakes up in the hospital, she knows the lazy summer break she’d imagined won’t be exactly like she anticipated. And once she returns to her grandfather’s estate, a bit banged up but alive, she begins to realize that her injury might not have been an accident. One of her family’s employees is missing, and he disappeared on the very same day she landed in the hospital.

Desperate to figure out what happened, she befriends Euan McEwen, the Scottish Traveller boy who found her when she was injured, and his standoffish sister, Ellen. As Julie grows closer to this family, she experiences some of the prejudices they’ve grown used to firsthand, a stark contrast to her own upbringing, and finds herself exploring thrilling new experiences that have nothing to do with a missing-person investigation.

Her memory of that day returns to her in pieces, and when a body is discovered, her new friends are caught in the crosshairs of long-held biases about Travellers. Julie must get to the bottom of the mystery in order to keep them from being framed for the crime.

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Review: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

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Review by: Meg

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Winter, 1945. Four teenagers. Four secrets.

Each one born of a different homeland; each one hunted, and haunted, by tragedy, lies…and war.

As thousands of desperate refugees flock to the coast in the midst of a Soviet advance, four paths converge, vying for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises safety and freedom.

Yet not all promises can be kept.

Inspired by the single greatest tragedy in maritime history, bestselling and award-winning author Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray) lifts the veil on a shockingly little-known casualty of World War II. An illuminating and life-affirming tale of heart and hope.

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Review: Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before #3)

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Review by: Paige

Rating:  ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis: Lara Jean is having the best senior year a girl could ever hope for. She is head over heels in love with her boyfriend, Peter; her dad’s finally getting remarried to their next door neighbor, Ms. Rothschild; and Margot’s coming home for the summer just in time for the wedding.

But change is looming on the horizon. And while Lara Jean is having fun and keeping busy helping plan her father’s wedding, she can’t ignore the big life decisions she has to make. Most pressingly, where she wants to go to college and what that means for her relationship with Peter. She watched her sister Margot go through these growing pains. Now Lara Jean’s the one who’ll be graduating high school and leaving for college and leaving her family—and possibly the boy she loves—behind.

When your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to?

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Review: This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

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Review by: Meg

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis: 

10:00 a.m. The principal of Opportunity 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.

Told from four different perspectives over the span of fifty-four harrowing minutes, terror reigns as one student’s calculated revenge turns into the ultimate game of survival.

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction

Review: Reading the synopsis of this book, I was thrilled to pick it up and start reading, because the subject matter is of such importance in our world today. I was very curious and hopeful to see how the sensitive, and unfortunately, very real, problems of gun violence and school shootings would be breached in a young adult novel.

From start to finish, the writing style of this book was absolutely harrowing, and the way in which Nijkamp let the plot run through four distinct narrators, was brilliant. The mysterious and dark tone of this novel was haunting, and I think this writing style was perfectly suited for the very intense subject matter of the novel. I truly loved the way Autumn and Slyv’s characters intertwined and overlapped, both in their traits, but also throughout the plot of the novel.

Throughout This Is Where It Ends, the author also touched on other very important topics in our world today such as the LGBTQ+ community, abuse, rape, bullying, etc., however, I found the way these important issues were approached extremely shallow throughout the novel. This book had such potential to look at the important issue of the psychology of school shooters, but seemed to be a disappointment every time the question of “Why would the shooter be doing this?” or “What could’ve caused this?” was approached.

The shooter, Tyler, was my biggest letdown in this novel, although (obviously) he is the antagonist in this novel, I was so utterly disappointed that he wasn’t given any type of humanity throughout the plot. In the end, it seemed that Tyler was simply evil just to be evil, and became a school shooter just because he could. This was my biggest issue with the novel because although the book had great potential to really delve into the psychology of a person like Tyler, it was a wasted opportunity because the villain was so inhumanly evil and cruel.

However, I did enjoy the plot of This Is Where It Ends, it was, what I imagine is, an extremely accurate representation of the absolute dread and fear of being a involved in such an intense and dangerous situation. The four main characters all have different roles in the situation inside, and outside, the high school that all correlate beautifully together and create an extremely serious, and anxious, mood throughout the novel.

My favorite part of this novel though, is the development of the high school and the town around it. As a person who just graduated from high school myself, I truly felt the emotions of the anxiety about the future, the sense of unity among the students, and the fear of what is in the world outside of the town you have known your entire life. It is these emotions and situations of the excitement and fear of getting out of their small hometown that have the greatest impact on each of the characters in this novel, which makes for a brilliant way to develop each person throughout the book.

Overall, this book had some huge upsides, but also unfortunately some major pitfalls as well. It was certainly a fast, but dark and intense, read, with such an important set of topics to discuss in our world today. In the end, I think that it could have (and should have) gone deeper into the psychological aspects of school shootings, but still provides an interesting and important platform for this serious issue.

ARC REVIEW: Of Jenny and the Aliens by Ryan Gebhart

of jenny

I recieved this book for free from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Publication: August 1st, 2017

Review by: Paige

Rating: ★ ★

Synopsis: When boy meets girl meets alien, the angst of first love gets an extraterrestrial intervention in a tale both outrageously funny and full of heart.

Ten years after Earth sent messages out into deep space, there has been an answer. Music from a distant planet has reached the world’s radios. Are aliens about to invade? No one knows, and almost-eighteen-year-old Derek doesn’t really care, because at a wild end-of-the-world party, Jennifer Novak invited him to play beer pong, and things, well, progressed from there. Derek is in love. Deeply, hopelessly in love. He wants it all — marriage, kids, growing old on a beach in Costa Rica. For him, Jenny is the One. But Jenny has other plans, which may or may not include Derek. So Derek will try anything to win her — even soliciting advice from an alien who shows up in his hometown. This alien may just be the answer to Derek’s problem, but is Derek prepared to risk starting an interstellar war to get his girl? Just how far is he willing to travel to discover the mysteries of the universe — and the enigma of love?

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Contemporary

Review: If I could sum this book up in one word, it would be this: juvenile. I was really looking forward to reading it, as I’m never one to turn down a good alien book, but I was severely disappointed.

The book was heavily focused on sex in an immature way, and perpetuated “nerd culture” to such an extent it made my eyes burn. It may be endearing to others, but it simply wasn’t for me. I was more interested in the alien and war aspects of the novel, but those were so underdeveloped that it made me confused more than anything else. And when the aliens did get more fleshed out towards the end, I found that I didn’t actually enjoy it.

The worst part of this book, however, was the narrator. He was self-absorbed, possessive, and obsessed with the fantastical version he created of a girl who wasn’t even that great, and who he didn’t know at all. He entertained long, drawn out, descriptive fantasies of what their lives would be like together at 85 and it could not have been more annoying and unrealistic. The objectification of women and crass humor was not my speed at all.

I think there are readers who will enjoy this book, but it simply was not for me. I thought by the end there the narrator was reaching a point where he would grow and redeem himself, but it was once again ruined. Unfortunately, there just wasn’t much for me to enjoy about this book.

Add it on Goodreads!

ARC REVIEW: Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

girls made of snow and glass

I recieved this book for free from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Publication: September 5th, 2017

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

SynopsisAt sixteen, Mina’s mother is dead, her magician father is vicious, and her silent heart has never beat with love for anyone—has never beat at all, in fact, but she’d always thought that fact normal. She never guessed that her father cut out her heart and replaced it with one of glass. When she moves to Whitespring Castle and sees its king for the first time, Mina forms a plan: win the king’s heart with her beauty, become queen, and finally know love. The only catch is that she’ll have to become a stepmother.

Fifteen-year-old Lynet looks just like her late mother, and one day she discovers why: a magician created her out of snow in the dead queen’s image, at her father’s order. But despite being the dead queen made flesh, Lynet would rather be like her fierce and regal stepmother, Mina. She gets her wish when her father makes Lynet queen of the southern territories, displacing Mina. Now Mina is starting to look at Lynet with something like hatred, and Lynet must decide what to do—and who to be—to win back the only mother she’s ever known…or else defeat her once and for all.

Entwining the stories of both Lynet and Mina in the past and present, Girls Made of Snow and Glass traces the relationship of two young women doomed to be rivals from the start. Only one can win all, while the other must lose everything—unless both can find a way to reshape themselves and their story.

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retellings, LGBT

Review: I’ve always been a fan of retellings, but what grabbed my interest about this one in particular was the overtly feminist message it advocated from the beginning. The author is fully aware about how this book will be received by readers, and I think, surprisingly, that’s a good thing. The novel takes pains to never pit the two women against each other, instead focusing on building their relationship. As a result, the fallout that occurs is made that much sadder.

Miscommunication is the crux of this novel. What it lacks in obstacles and exposition, it makes up for in exceptional character development. Although often frustrating, there are points in this novel where you see real change occur, and they are special. Seamless transitions between narratives in the past and present allow for the story to flow naturally, to provide important background which leads to development. However, that development, that depth, falls only on Lynet and Mina. I truly wish Nadia had been developed more, as she brought a new component to an often revisited tale. I also thought that for a stand-alone, it was lacking in real progress. It seemed to set the stage for more than what actually occurred. That being said, I was pleasantly surprised by the LGBT+ representation.

This is a wonderful novel and a wonderful retelling. It sets the bar high for authors in the future who seek to write feminist endings for well-loved fairytales.

Add it on Goodreads!

REVIEW: Unrivaled (Beautiful Idols #1) by Alyson Noel

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Rating:  ★ ★ ★

Synopsis: Layla Harrison wants to leave her beach-bum days for digs behind a reporter’s desk. Aster Amirpour wants to scream at the next casting director who tells her “we need ethnic but not your kind of ethnic.” Tommy Phillips dreams of buying a twelve-string guitar and using it to shred his way back into his famous absentee dad’s life.

But Madison Brooks took destiny and made it her bitch a long time ago.

She’s Hollywood’s hottest starlet, and the things she did to become the name on everyone’s lips are merely a stain on the pavement, ground beneath her Louboutin heel.

That is, until Layla, Aster, and Tommy find themselves with a VIP invite to the glamorous and gritty world of Los Angeles’s nightlife and lured into a high-stakes competition where Madison Brooks is the target. Just as their hopes begin to gleam like stars through the California smog, Madison Brooks goes missing. . . . And all of their hopes are blacked out in the haze of their lies.

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Thriller, Mystery

Review: Novels about Los Angeles have always appealed to me, especially those which focus on the illistrious, yet seedy underbelly of the city. Add in a sketchy competition, and it’s was right up my alley. This book felt a lot like something I would’ve read and adored in middle school, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that I still enjoyed it now. It was fast paced and thrilling, and despite being long and not getting to the nitty gritty parts of the book until the very end, it never dragged. It was a solid novel and a good kickoff to what I’m sure is going to be a series growing in complexity.

However, I anticipated and wanted something far more atmospheric. This might be the one book that I actually craved exposition in, as I think it would’ve helped craft the tone and allow for less explicit description of each moment. There was depth, but it was only just enough for the three main players to not be considered surface characters. And while I normally do not comment on grammar in books, unless it is unique and purposeful or truly horrendous, I must say there was significant comma misuse that interrupted the flow of the novel and was sometimes confusing. I’ve never read an Alyson Noel novel before, so maybe that’s just her style, but either way I was turned off by it.

I look forward to continuing this series, but it has not skyrocketed to the top of my list as I wish it had. It was a solid, interesting read, and I know that the series is only going to get better, especially with that cliffhanger. It was not, however, a standout. Unrivaled certainly left me yearning for more, but I’m just not sure when I’ll want it.

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ARC Review: The Amateurs (The Amateurs #1) by Sara Shepard

the amateurs

I received this book for free from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

SummaryAs soon as Seneca Frazier sees the post on the Case Not Closed website about Helena Kelly, she’s hooked. Helena’s high-profile disappearance five years earlier is the one that originally got Seneca addicted to true crime. It’s the reason she’s a member of the site in the first place.

So when Maddy Wright, her best friend from the CNC site, invites Seneca to spend spring break in Connecticut looking into the cold case, she immediately packs her bag. But the moment she steps off the train in trendy, glamorous Dexby, things begin to go wrong. Maddy is nothing like she expected, and Helena’s sister, Aerin Kelly, seems completely hostile and totally uninterested in helping with their murder investigation.

But when Brett, another super user from the site, joins Seneca and Maddy in Dexby, Aerin starts to come around. The police must have missed something, and someone in Dexby definitely has information they’ve been keeping quiet.

As Seneca, Brett, Maddy, and Aerin begin to unravel dark secrets and shocking betrayals about the people closest to them, they seem to be on the murderer’s trail at last. But somewhere nearby the killer is watching . . . ready to do whatever it takes to make sure the truth stays buried.

Genre: Young Adult, Mystery, Crime, Thriller

Review: I was a big fan of Shepard’s Pretty Little Liars books when I was in middle school, and I always found them incredibly engaging. This was no different. It was fast faced and kept you guessing right up until the very last second. While there were a few lines here and there that I personally disagreed with, it was interesting and I absolutely couldn’t put it down. The characters were all well rounded, the plot well thought out and executed precisely, and you were kept on the edge of your seat with the constant twists and turns. I’ll definitely be continuing on with this series, especially after such a cliffhanger! This just might be Shepard’s best book yet.