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

unrivaled

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.

REVIEW: Summer Days and Summer Nights edited by Stephanie Perkins

summer days and summer nights 1

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

SummaryMaybe it’s the long, lazy days, or maybe it’s the heat making everyone a little bit crazy. Whatever the reason, summer is the perfect time for love to bloom. Summer Days & Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories, written by twelve bestselling young adult writers and edited by the international bestselling author Stephanie Perkins, will have you dreaming of sunset strolls by the lake. So set out your beach chair and grab your sunglasses. You have twelve reasons this summer to soak up the sun and fall in love.

Featuring stories by Leigh Bardugo, Francesca Lia Block, Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, Brandy Colbert, Tim Federle, Lev Grossman, Nina LaCour, Stephanie Perkins, Veronica Roth, Jon Skovron, and Jennifer E. Smith.

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Short Story, Anthology

Review (by story): Head, Scales, Tongue, Tail by Leigh Bardugo3/5: I’ve never been the biggest fan of Bardugo’s writing, but I think this set the tone for how dynamic this anthology was going to be. While I enjoyed the majority of the story, I didn’t like the ending. Unfortunately, I think that ruined most of it for me. I just couldn’t get into the concept when I was expecting something entirely different.

The End of Love by Nina LaCour5/5: I really loved this story, and it was wonderful to see a wlw couple so early into the book, which I wasn’t surprised by since this came from Nina LaCour! Overall, I felt it was solid and heartfelt. I look forward to reading more of LaCour’s work in the future.

Last Stand at the Cinegore by Libba Bray4/5: I’m the absolute biggest fan of Libba Bray. I’m so totally biased towards anything she writes. That being said, while I loved this story personally, I don’t think it fit in very well with the tone of the book overall. But it was the perfect mix of scary, funny, and romantic, which is just what I love from Bray.

Sick Pleasure by Francesca Lia Block4.5/5: This story came as a big surprise to me. I liked the tone and the writing style immensely, especially how it took on a much larger issue. It was unexpected but incredibly well executed. I’d never read anything by this author before, but I would definitely consider doing so now. I loved it, but there were moments where I felt like I got lost along the way, which impacted my rating just the smallest bit.

In Ninety Minutes, Turn North by Stephanie Perkins3.5/5: I had such high expectations for Perkins’ story, so I felt let down when I saw that this story returned to Marigold and North from My True Love Gave to Me. It was a good story, but it didn’t have the romantic feel all the other stories had at their core. I really would’ve liked to see something new.

Souvenirs by Tim Federle4.5/5: This was a really wonderful story. Once again, I loved the LGBT couple, this time focusing on two men. It was a very interesting concept, and I thought it was written well. I wasn’t into it entirely for most of the story because I didn’t like the characters all that much, but it was sad in a very uplifting way, if that makes any sense. It had a really good ending and overall message to take from, which made me love this so much.

Inertia by Veronica Roth5/5: This was by far my favorite story of the bunch. It was a really great concept that turned into something so much deeper and more meaningful. It had just enough of a sci-fi feel to give the concept some roots, but it still felt contemporary. This one resonated with me in a way the others didn’t, and even had just a bit of a twist at the end. It was romantic, but it gave you a vibe the other couples didn’t, as it was rooted in friendship. I’d recommend this anthology on this story alone.

Love is the Last Resort by Jon Skovron3/5: While I liked this story, the writing style totally affected my feelings towards it. It felt so haughty and pretentious that it felt absolutely nothing like a YA contemporary short story. It was very melodramatic and felt out of place more than any other story in this book. I wanted to like it, and I liked parts of it, but it let me down.

Good Luck and Farewell by Brandy Colbert3.5/5: I really liked this story, but I wanted to feel more from it. I felt unconnected to the characters, and I understand why. They were dealing with issues I never have to deal with and would never want to. Ultimately, I felt more interested in Audrey and Gillian’s story than Rashida and Pierre’s. I think it’s hard to go from a love-hate relationship to a love relationship so quickly, and the relationship moved just too fast for me to like.

Brand New Attraction by Cassandra Clare[SKIPPED]: I was definitely not reading a story by Cassandra Clare. And after hearing what this story was about, I sure am glad I didn’t.

A Thousand Ways This Could All Go Wrong by Jennifer E. Smith5/5: Next to Inertia, this was my favorite story. I didn’t expect it to go in the direction it went, nor did I expect it to take on such a heavy issue. But it was handled with grace and written well and properly, without doing a disservice to the issue at hand. It was very sweet and romantic, and even with the complication in the story, nothing changed for the characters, which I loved.

The Map of Tiny Perfect Things by Lev Grossman5/5: This was the perfect way to end the anthology, and another of my favorite stories. It had a fantasy/sci-fi concept and vibe, but the development of the characters and the writing style was engrossing. It was sad, but it was ultimately a story about growing strength, which I loved. It was a perfect conclusion.

In my opinion, this anthology was less than stellar. I definitely liked the second half of the stories than the first half. It was very dynamic, which I thought was important, and it was good enough, but it has nothing on My True Love Gave to Me. That being said, some of these stories were so wonderful that I’d recommend the whole anthology in a heartbeat.

ARC Review: The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett by Chelsea Sedoti

lizzie lovett

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

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

SummaryHawthorn wasn’t trying to insert herself into a missing person’s investigation. Or maybe she was. But that’s only because Lizzie Lovett’s disappearance is the one fascinating mystery their sleepy town has ever had. Bad things don’t happen to popular girls like Lizzie Lovett, and Hawthorn is convinced she’ll turn up at any moment-which means the time for speculation is now.

So Hawthorn comes up with her own theory for Lizzie’s disappearance. A theory way too absurd to take seriously…at first. The more Hawthorn talks, the more she believes. And what better way to collect evidence than to immerse herself in Lizzie’s life? Like getting a job at the diner where Lizzie worked and hanging out with Lizzie’s boyfriend. After all, it’s not as if he killed her-or did he?

Told with a unique voice that is both hilarious and heart-wrenching, Hawthorn’s quest for proof may uncover the greatest truth is within herself.

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mystery

Review: Let me preface this review by saying I absolutely cannot wait for this book to be published. I requested it on a whim, and I could not be more happy that it came into my life, especially right now. It’s one of the finest examples of character development in contemporary young adult fiction by far. The entire book flows seamlessly, naturally, and without hesitation. There are moments of harsh reality and raw emotion. It is a book about self-discovery and realization, and it does not hold back.

Hawthorn Creely is one of the most relatable narrators out there. Her “cliche” moments don’t seem that at all – they’re simply who she is, and what she struggles with on a daily basis. She’s a loser, but at no point does she attempt to change herself to fit others. She is unabashedly original, but that doesn’t mean she always loves being that way. She’s hard to handle sometimes, and that’s what makes her all the better. She goes through the ups and downs that we all do, and she handles them in stride, even when it’s hard.

Every inch of this book was flawless. It made me laugh, it made me cry, and y the end of it I felt emotionally drained. I felt everything Hawthorn did, and I just wanted to give her a hug. It’s by far one of the best YA novels I’ve read, and I can’t wait for everyone to be able to experience it and find something of themselves in it the way that I did.

This book is, ultimately, about discovery. Disocvering yourself, others, and life for what it really is.

Review: Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke

wink poppy midnight

SummaryEvery story needs a hero.
Every story needs a villain.
Every story needs a secret.

Wink is the odd, mysterious neighbor girl, wild red hair and freckles. Poppy is the blond bully and the beautiful, manipulative high school queen bee. Midnight is the sweet, uncertain boy caught between them. Wink. Poppy. Midnight. Two girls. One boy. Three voices that burst onto the page in short, sharp, bewitching chapters, and spiral swiftly and inexorably toward something terrible or tricky or tremendous.

What really happened?
Someone knows.
Someone is lying.

Rating:  ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Genre: Young Adult, Mystery, Fantasy, Contemporary, Thriller

Review: April Genevieve Tucholke is on my auto-buy list. Any time she publishes something, I don’t hesitate to read it. And this book was just what I expected from her. While it differs from Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea in a lot of ways, her style is clear and present. This book is eerie, consuming, atmospheric, and gritty. Full of mystery, it made you keep guessing at every twist and turn.

After learning what this book was based on (Les Diaboliques, a French film from the 1950s), I was completely hooked. The plot was just a bit of fantasty, just a bit of mystery, and just a bit of murder that combined into something completely original. The book built and built to one moment, and then changed your whole thinking afterwards. I loved the flip-flopping that occurred at every turn, which is really what made this book stand out, and why it’s so important to repeatedly mention. There was just a bit of romance to keep you engaged on one point, but that added to the intrigue of the plot, never overpowered it.

Every character was just as engaging as the others. I loved the split POV that changed in the middle of pages, and that there were no real chapters. You were continuously urged to keep reading with the short, intermittent chapters. I loved that each character was given a seemingly obvious cliche persona, but you never knew who they were. Either to themselves, or to others. By the end of the novel, what you thought you knew about the character types they embodied was completely wrong. You never stopped guessing about who these people really were.

Overall, this was a stunning novel from a stunning author. I can’t wait to see what Tucholke puts out next, as I’m sure it’s going to be just as gritty as her previous work. If you haven’t picked up this beautiful book yet, do so immediately.

Review: Lady Renegades (Rebel Belle #3) by Rachel Hawkins

lady renegades

 

SummaryJust as Harper Price starts coming to terms with her role as David Stark’s battle-ready Paladin, protector, and girlfriend—her world goes crazy all over again.

Overwhelmed by his Oracle powers, David flees Pine Grove and starts turning teenaged girls into Paladins—and these young ladies seem to think that Harper is the enemy David needs protecting from.  Ordinarily, Harper would be able to fight off any Paladin who comes her way, but her powers have been dwindling since David left town, which means her life is on the line yet again.

Now, it’s a desperate race for Harper to find and rescue David before she backslides from superhero to your garden-variety type-A belle.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Contemporary

Review: If you don’t already know, I’m an enormous fan of Rebel Belle. I’ve spent a lot of time with this series, and with Rachel Hawkins’ writing, and I could not be happier with this conclusion. It was happy, it was sad, it was funny – it was everything this series needed. At this point, if you haven’t read Rebel Belle, you’re seriously missing out. And this book is proof of that.

After suffering the heartbreak that was the end of Miss Mayhem, I’d been anticipating this release since the minute I finished the sequel. I was initially surprised at the length, but I think if it had been any longer it would’ve begun to drag. I was so happy to see that there were snippets from David’ point of view, even if they appeared without warning or acknowledgment in the middle of a chapter. Still, seeing his situation (and Harper) from his point of view was so necessary to this book.

If there’s anything I wouldv’e liked more from this book, it would’ve been more David. There’s hardly a thing to complain about, but I would’ve loved a split POV (or just a chapter in his POV here and there) to better understand where he was coming from. That being said, I didn’t feel like romance was necessary for the entire book. You got bits and pieces of the feelings Harper and David have for each other, you just simply got them with distance. What really mattered here was the care they have for each other as people and how that manifested. It was so important to me to see.

This novel built on every piece of foreshadowing that the previous novels gave. I thought coming into this that it wasn’t necessarily going to be happy, and I was right. But that being said, it was so bittersweet and hopeful. I loved that not a single moment slipped from this book. The things you saw and the people you met in both Rebel Belle and Miss Mayhem were present in this. Between the hints at prophecies, the fading Paladin powers, and the reappearance (or remembrance) of characters, you really felt like everything came together, which I think is rare for a conclusion.

The ending completely wrecked me, but it was so fitting. At the end of the day, Harper and David are ordinary people thrust into extraordinary circumstances. Seeing them return – at least partially – to who they were before felt pivotal to closing out their story. As sad as I was, the ending wasn’t unexpected.I could see it coming from a mile away, but I was just as upset as I would’ve been if I hadn’t. The ending gave me so, so much hope, and if Harper and David ever want to return to my life, I would gladly accept them back in. All in all, a stunning, fitting conclusion to a series close to my heart.

The Cresswell Plot by Eliza Wass [ARC Review]

cresswell plot

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

SummaryCastella Cresswell and her five siblings—Hannan, Caspar, Mortimer, Delvive, and Jerusalem—know what it’s like to be different. For years, their world has been confined to their ramshackle family home deep in the woods of upstate New York. They abide by the strict rule of God, whose messages come directly from their father.

Slowly, Castley and her siblings start to test the boundaries of the laws that bind them. But, at school, they’re still the freaks they’ve always been to the outside world. Marked by their plain clothing. Unexplained bruising. Utter isolation from their classmates. That is, until Castley is forced to partner with the totally irritating, totally normal George Gray, who offers her a glimpse of a life filled with freedom and choice.

Castley’s world rapidly expands beyond the woods she knows so well and the beliefs she once thought were the only truths. There is a future waiting for her if she can escape her father’s grasp, but Castley refuses to leave her siblings behind. Just as she begins to form a plan, her father makes a chilling announcement: the Cresswells will soon return to their home in heaven. With time running out on all of their lives, Castley must expose the depth of her father’s lies. The forest has buried the truth in darkness for far too long. Castley might be their last hope for salvation.

Rating:  ★ ★ ★

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction

Review: I came into this book not knowing what to expect, just having been intrigued enough to request an advanced copy, and I was pleasantly surprised. Though short, an incredible amount of development occurred. I really enjoyed the religious aspect of the book, which I was surprised by. Even as the book made clear that the Cresswell family took part in a harmful form of religion, religion as a whole was never condemned by the author, which I thought was so important. There was very little romance that occurred, and I was so happy about that. And when it was there, it was not only focused on one couple. However, I will admit, I was put off by the idea of incest. It was certainly not approved of, and was shown to be wrong, but I was a little wary. I loved Castley’s development. It was so natural and felt so right for her situation.The development for everyone in the family was amazing. There was a fair amount of surprises, which was great! I do wish this had been just a bit longer, though. I feel like if it was, the plot development and minor character development would have reached a whole new level. I also wish there had been more about their family history. I would’ve loved to see more about their father’s and his reasons for becoming who he was, and his motives for doing the things he does at the end. Overall, this was a very good book that I enjoyed immensely. I’m so glad to have received the ARC!

Rook by Sharon Cameron [REVIEW]

rook

Summary: History has a way of repeating itself. In the Sunken City that was once Paris, all who oppose the new revolution are being put to the blade. Except for those who disappear from their prison cells, a red-tipped rook feather left in their place. Is the mysterious Red Rook a savior of the innocent or a criminal?

Meanwhile, across the sea in the Commonwealth, Sophia Bellamy’s arranged marriage to the wealthy René Hasard is the last chance to save her family from ruin. But when the search for the Red Rook comes straight to her doorstep, Sophia discovers that her fiancé is not all he seems. Which is only fair, because neither is she.

As the Red Rook grows bolder and the stakes grow higher, Sophia and René find themselves locked in a tantalizing game of cat and mouse.

Rating: ★ ★ ★

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction – Dystopian, Fantasy

Review: I was so intrigued by the synopsis of this book. Anything based on the French Revolution is exciting to me, and this seemed like the perfect retelling of the Scarlet Pimpernel while still remaining original. Unfortunately, this book is nothing like what I was expecting. While still Revolution-esque, it’s more of a dystopian than anything else, and an underdeveloped one at that. This was a decent book, but nothing particularly stood out to me that made it amazing.

The book started off strong, with an introduction that drew you in, but began to drag very quickly. I felt like the majority of this book was filler, and that if it had been shorter, I would’ve enjoyed it immensely more. You were given a world so completely different from ours, which I loved, but there was no introduction to the setting. There were characters introduced, phrases used, places mentioned, that you had no explanation of. You jumped right in, which is typically a good thing in novels, but this book seemed underdeveloped in that way.

I liked the characters, especially as you began to see more and more of their motives and feelings towards others and the situation at hand. Sophia and Rene were amazing characters, but they fell flat sometimes as well. Their romance grew on me throughout the course of the book, but I wasn’t immediately on board with it. In all honesty, these characters fell flat because of a complete lack of plot consistency. You were introduced to elements that seemed like important plot points, and they were skimmed right over when there should’ve been a reason for their appearance. I was downright confused about the plot for the majority of the book, and even with a big revelation of the truth towards the end, it felt like it didn’t line up with everything that had just happened for 400 pages.

I was more interested in how this world came to be than what was going on in the first place. I loved the idea of a world without machines, where machines were blamed for death and a shift in the way of living. I wish that had been what this book was about, but unfortunately it wasn’t. The concept was amazing, it was simply poorly executed.

This was a good book, and I’m more than glad I read it, but it was nothing special. It fell victim to a lot of “classic YA tropes” that I normally have no issue with, but they were underdeveloped here. After reading the author’s note at the end, I was provided with the context that I needed, but I wish that note had been placed at the beginning of the book so I could better understand the setting I was entering into. All in all, this was a good book, but it will most likely fall to the recesses of my mind.