ARC Review: Lion Heart by A.C. Gaughen

Lion HeartPublisher: Bloomsbury Kids

Release Date: May 19, 2015

Genre: YA, Retelling

Source: ARC sent by Bloomsbury Publishing

*******IF YOU HAVE NOT READ SCARLET AND LADY THIEF, BACK AWAY. GO READ THOSE AND COME BACK. SPOILERS FOR THOSE TO BOOKS ARE CONTAINED HEREIN******* I got this ARC in exchange for an honest review. I am aware my Lady Thief review was over 1,300 words, and I really feel no shame about that. I’ll try to make this one a little more brief, and I’ll try my hardest to refrain some spoilers! If I see one coming, I’ll warn you! Here is your synopsis from Amazon:

Scarlet has captured the hearts of readers as well as the heart of Robin Hood, and after ceaseless obstacles and countless threats, readers will finally find out the fate of the Lady Thief.
Imprisoned by Prince John for months, Scarlet finds herself a long way from Nottinghamshire. After a daring escape from the Prince’s clutches, she learns that King Richard’s life is in jeopardy, and Eleanor of Aquitaine demands a service Scarlet can’t refuse: spy for her and help bring Richard home safe. But fate-and her heart-won’t allow her to stay away from Nottinghamshire for long, and together, Scarlet and Rob must stop Prince John from going through with his dark plans for England. They can not rest until he’s stopped, but will their love be enough to save them once and for all?

1. This book contains one of my favorite friendships in the series.

We met Allan a Dale in Lady Thief and he continues his friendship and service to Scarlet through this book. He ends up being quite an asset, especially since we left Scarlet chained up in a carriage on her way to prison. He is loyal and true and also offers a bit of comedic relief. These books are so heavy and heart wrenching that you definitely need that relief occasionally. Allan proves that he is only there to help Scarlet whenever he may need, and he always shows up at the MOST opportune times. Thankfully, he’s stuck to Scarlet like glue and he saves her life more than once. Allan rules.

2. We see a villain worse than Gisbourne. I KNOW I KNOW, hear me out.

We thought Gisbourne was a horrible piece of human, but Prince John shows us that Gisbourne was nothing compared to him. John is absolutely pure evil and he is our main villain in this book. He kind of reminds me of Regina George from Mean Girls. Not only does he believe he is destined to rule, but he has a cohort of snotty noblemen who believe the same, just like Regina! He is a whiny, powerful brat and that is extremely unfortunate. I will never understand Eleanor’s trust in him. Just trust me when I say I HATE HATE HATE John so much. You will, too. I love me some villains, but I couldn’t find myself enjoying John at all. I wanted to punch him.

3. Eleanor. Lovely, lovely Eleanor.

As much as I love Eleanor, there are times that she severely underestimates Scarlet. Finally, in this final installment, Eleanor finds enough trust in Scarlet to trust her and listen to her. This was so fantastic to see. I know Eleanor is very protective of her granddaughter, but there were times where I wanted to scream at her and shake her. Luckily, though, Eleanor knows that with the dastardly plan John has cooked up, she needs Scarlet to save the country. She really comes to her senses in this book, and I loved this.

4. There is another friendship in this book which I loved: Scarlet and Margaret.

Truth time. Scarlet has zero female friends. I mean, it’s understandable since her sister is dead and every female she has met in court has been awful to her. Here, we see Scarlet meet Margaret, who is one of Eleanor’s hand maidens. Scarlet ends up saving Margaret from certain doom, but their friendship starts out extremely rocky.

5. A.C. Gaughen reminds me of a female, YA George R.R. Martin.

I say this in the highest possible complimentary way. This series has taught me that I cannot love a character. Just like Martin, Gaughen kills her characters with reckless abandon, just so she can bathe in her readers’ tears. I’m convinced. Beware this series if you’re super sensitive. Although, I really did enjoy the ending. It was a great ending to the series: it answered all my questions, everything was nicely resolved, and I didn’t really hurt too much. This was great.

OVERALL: 5 STARS!!! ROBLET 5EVER AND 5 EVER!!! I loved this series so, so much. The dialect takes a bit to get used to, but it is also a HUGE part of the series, so pay attention. This book releases on May 19, 2015 so click the link below to pre-order your copy!!

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ARC Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

EmberTitle: An Ember in the Ashes

Author: Sabaa Tahir

Series: An Ember in the Ashes series #1 (hopefully!)

Publisher: Razorbill

Release Date: April 28, 2015

Source: Gifted to me by my #OTSPSecretSister

THIS. WAS. INCREDIBLE, WOW. I can’t say much else right now other than here is your synopsis from Amazon: LAIA is a Scholar living under the iron-fisted rule of the Martial Empire. When her brother is arrested for treason, Laia goes undercover as a slave at the empire’s greatest military academy in exchange for assistance from rebel Scholars who claim that they will help to save her brother from execution. ELIAS is the academy’s finest soldier— and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias is considering deserting the military, but before he can, he’s ordered to participate in a ruthless contest to choose the next Martial emperor. When Laia and Elias’s paths cross at the academy, they find that their destinies are more intertwined than either could have imagined and that their choices will change the future of the empire itself.

1. This book is told in two first person narrations, which I usually love. This is no different.

One of the most awesome things about this book is the differing chapters. Laia is a Scholar and she is of the oppressed people in this world. Elias is a Mask – he is among the elite, the warriors, but he is very different. Laia’s chapters take a bit to get interesting, but Elias’s grab you immediately. It is so awesome to see the contrast between these two characters and their lives. I’m not going to tell you “then we find out they’re not all that different” because it’s not true. They both have a duty to perform and both (at first) lack the strength to perform those duties and stand by their convictions. They’re both flawed, just in different ways. The character development between the two main characters is insane. It was like seeing a friend grow into themselves and become who they were always supposed to be. I loved it so much.

2. Sabaa Tahir knows how to write some incredibly fierce females.

Before I explain about these females, I want you to know about the Masks. True to their names, Masks wear masks, made of kind of a liquid silver that binds to their faces. They are never supposed to take them off. The mask becomes their face. Knowing this, know that the Masks rarely have women in their ranks. I forget how long it had been previously, but then enter Helene. She is one of the best soldiers that the Masks have. She is blindly loyal to the Martials and she can fight with the best men. She is the only female in a world run by men (other than the Commandant, more on her later) and she rules. She is so awesome. Next, we have Izzi and Cook. They are slaves in the Commandant’s house. Both have grievous, hideous injuries. Cook has hideous facial deformities while Izzi had her eye snatched from her face. Does this stop them from being steadfast, strong, and loyal? No way. These women are awesome. I’ve already explained about Laia, and I think it was refreshing to see that she didn’t start out immediately brave. I loved seeing her grow into her courageousness. I didn’t think I would like her at first, but she developed into one of the most incredible women in this book. Finally, the Commandant. This woman is pure evil, for real. However, she RUNS THE SCHOOL FOR THE MASKS. She is ruthless, heartless, and an all around cruel person. She is super evil, but also so strong. I couldn’t help but feel in awe of her.

3. So. Many. Villains. We have so many villains here.

The Masks are the first enemies you meet. They are ruthless, trained killers who feel no mercy. First, you only see one, then you get to Blackcliff and see them everywhere. They are mostly all the same. Then, you have some villains who you do not expect to be villains. I won’t tell you who they are, just that they’re there. Then, you have the Commandant. She is the embodiment of evil and everything the masks believe in. You have the fey creatures, which include a few, and they may or may not be real. Again, I’m not telling. Then, you have the Augurs. But, are they villains? It’s hard to tell. I won’t tell you how to think! There is a lot in this book where you need to make up your own mind.

4. This book is heavy in the theme of fate vs. choice.

Elias knows that as a mask, he is built to be a killing machine. He shouldn’t care about anyone but the other Masks, his adopted brothers and sisters in arms. However, being raised in the desert and taken from his family’s tribe, he has a soft spot for slaves and all of the downtrodden villages of his world. Laia is a Scholar, and she is always meant to be a slave. If she’s not a slave, she is making things for the elite, but she will always be a lowly, poor Scholar. Laia turns into a brave woman when she goes after her brother. On this journey, she discovers that the Scholars (and all other enslaved tribes) deserve more than the cards they are dealt. She knows she is meant to do more with her life, and she wants to go out and take it. Refer to the point above where I refer to bad ass females. 5. Don’t read this book before bed if you’re trying to sleep. I’m not saying this because this book is scary. I am saying this because this book is SO EXCITING and it never quits. From the first chapter, I just had to keep going to figure out what was happening. The writing was fantastic, the story was exciting, and it wasn’t one to read if you had to sleep at any point in the night. I was so obsessed with this book that I even had dreams about it. Not only did I have dreams about the story, but I had dreams that I was watching myself reading it. Sleep me was extremely jealous.

OVERALL: FIVE STARS!!! This one was SO fun and full of adventure and amazing characters. I really, really loved this and I cannot wait for a hardcover of this! Just to warn you, I learned from Sabaa Tahir’s Twitter that there hasn’t been any deals for a book two, so THIS BOOK NEEDS YOUR SUPPORT!! Buy it in every way you can! This comes out on April 28th, so click the link below to preorder!

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ARC Review: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

The Wrath and the DawnTitle: The Wrath and the Dawn

Author: Renee Ahdieh

Publisher: Penguin Teen

Series: I’m not actually sure. I’m hoping this is a series! For now, though, I think it’s a stand alone.

Release Date: May 12, 2015

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Adventure, Retelling

Source: E-Galley from NetGalley

I LOVED THIS BOOK, GUYS. That’s all I’ll say for now except here’s your synopsis from Amazon:

Every dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi’s wit and will, indeed, get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch . . . she’s falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend.

She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. Shazi is determined to uncover the reason for the murders and to break the cycle once and for all.

1. I cannot sing Shazi’s praises enough! Talk about an awesomely awesome heroine!!!

Shazi is so awesome. When I first started this book, I was super confused as to what was going on (which, of course, was the point). However, I was drawn in by Shazi immediately. Let’s make a list of the incredible things she does (without spoiling anything): She volunteers herself to be the king’s wife when she knows all of his wives die at dawn; she fearlessly shows her hatred towards the king on their wedding night; she knows how to keep him enthralled by stories; finally, she convinces him to let her train with weapons even though she’s basically a prisoner. HOW. FREAKING. AWESOME. I won’t say much more about her because spoilers, but just know how amazing she is.

2. Tariq. I want to punch him in his stupid face. 

Tariq is Shazi’s first love from her childhood home. Tariq is annoying. Just when everything was going SO smoothly, he had to show up and WRECK EVERYTHING. This really didn’t have much weight in my review, but I wanted to throw it in there.

3. I loved that this was a retelling of A Thousand and One Nights!

Now, I have never read A Thousand and One Nights, so you’ll have to forgive my ignorance. However, it was SO awesome! I was always simultaneously happy and sad and scared. The king is so dreamy. I can’t even tell you how hard I swooned. Not to mention: THE CLOTHES. Ahdieh described such wonderful, lush fabrics that I felt I was wearing them as Shazi was. For a writer to get that descriptive astounds me. Not only that, but the authentic FOOD. Everything that was described sounded so incredibly wonderful that I would look at my gross American food and long for things I’d never had (e.g. the food in this book).

4. You wouldn’t expect Shazi to have any friends at the palace (I mean, she’s basically a prisoner), but she ends up having a best friend who I adore.

Despina is amazing. I love her friendship with Shazi so much. The first thing Despina says to Shazi is that she is a spy. We never truly find out if this is true, but Shazi is wary of her anyway. The friendship that blossoms between these two women isn’t explored TOO deeply, but you can tell from the first time you see them together that they feel affection for each other.

5. The themes of love vs. duty in this book are heavy and I love them.

This book is rife with the sense of duty vs. the love someone has for another. Not only is it the main story arc, but other characters suffer, too. It is completely heartbreaking only because Ahdieh’s writing is so beautiful and engrossing. I really don’t know what it’s like to have to turn a person down because of duty, but Ahdieh made it seem so vivid that I felt like I actually did. I was rooting so hard for everyone in this book. I set this book down for a time, then decided to come back to it (this was a good life choice) and even though I set it down for about a week, it was still just as engrossing as when I first started.

6. I feel like this review is all over the place, and here’s why:

It is insanely difficult to write a review for a book you loved. This was fantastically done and written so beautifully. There is so much that I want to tell you, but I have to tread carefully here. I don’t want to spoil anything for you! Just trust me when I say how incredible this book was.

OVERALL: 5 STARS!! I will actually give this all of the stars. I’m usually not super into the all engrossing love, but this was fantastic. Not only was there love, there was action, adventure, and just a touch of magic. I am desperately hoping there is a second book because I NEED to know what happens after this book ends. I had tears in my eyes upon finishing this. Were they good tears or bad tears? I won’t tell you. You’ll just have to read it to find out! Click the link below to pre-order!

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ARC Review: Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

Saint AnythingTitle: Saint Anything

Author: Sarah Dessen

Series: None. Standalone.

Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers

Release Date: May 5, 2015

Genre: YA, Contemporary

Source: E-Galley from Netgalley

This was my first Sarah Dessen novel, and I can officially say I’m IN LOVE. I’ve started collecting her other books in hopes that I will work my way through every one. Along with her fantastic writing, this story was engrossing. I finished this in 24 hours! Here is your synopsis from Amazon:

Peyton, Sydney’s charismatic older brother, has always been the star of the family, receiving the lion’s share of their parents’ attention and—lately—concern. When Peyton’s increasingly reckless behavior culminates in an accident, a drunk driving conviction, and a jail sentence, Sydney is cast adrift, searching for her place in the family and the world. When everyone else is so worried about Peyton, is she the only one concerned about the victim of the accident?

Enter the Chathams, a warm, chaotic family who run a pizza parlor, play bluegrass on weekends, and pitch in to care for their mother, who has multiple sclerosis. Here Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance. And here she meets Mac, gentle, watchful, and protective, who makes Sydney feel seen, really seen, for the first time.

The uber-popular Sarah Dessen explores her signature themes of family, self-discovery, and change in her twelfth novel, sure to delight her legions of fans.

1. Sydney is awesome! I loved her as the MC!

It’s very rare that I stumble upon an MC in YA that doesn’t, at some points, really annoy me. Sydney is so awesome. She feels like she could be my friend – like she’s a real person – while still staying true to being a teenager. Sydney is dealing with a lot of stuff: she’s switching schools (to save her parents money and for a change of pace), dealing with having to make new friends at said new school, and oh yeah, her brother is in prison. Her brother, Peyton, is the golden boy. At least, he was, until he started hanging out with the wrong crowd. (By the way, The Wrong Crowd exists in real life. They are horrible people. If you think your friends are The Wrong Crowd, then they probably are). Even with Peyton behind bars, Sydney is constantly living in his shadow. She always has a really early curfew and it seems like her parents don’t trust her, even though she always abides by their rules and does well in school. It’s supremely frustrating and I don’t know how she handles it. I would go insane! But, she handles it with a calm demeanor, humor, and a fair dose of awesome.

2. Layla is one of my most favorite book best friends.

I love Sydney and Layla’s relationship. Layla befriends Sydney pretty much her first day at school, and from that point on, they are inseparable. Layla’s family owns a pizza shop near Sydney’s new school, which is where we meet her HOT, awesome brother (more on him later). Layla is obsessed with french fries. She has a specific way of eating them – it really is scientific – and even carries around her own seasoning for ketchup. Food is a huge recurring theme in this book, so be prepared to need snacks while you’re reading it. Layla and her group of friends (including the aforementioned HOT BROTHER) take in Sydney, pretty much with no questions asked. Layla’s family even decides that they like Sydney immediately, which is exactly what she needs. Personally, I thought Sydney’s former friends were spoiled rich kids with zero depth. These kids have a lot more life, humor, and spontaneity. Layla also understands what Sydney is going through (to a point) which is awesome because Sydney is not one to complain about her problems – namely, her brother. Layla is an excellent support system for Sydney. I loved their friendship so much. They reminded me of me and my best friend (we’ve been going strong for 12 years) in the way that they are there for each other, understand each other, and want nothing but happiness for one another. I can’t sing my love for this friendship enough. FRIENDSHIP SHIP.

3. Sydney’s parents kind of piss me off.

No angsty story is complete without a set of parents who cause problems, right?! Good, because that’s totally what we have here. Before Peyton went to jail, Sydney’s mom was one of those moms. She was involved in the school, with their neighbors, and the community. Her father was really just along for the ride. He did whatever his wife asked him to do when it came to the social aspect of their lives. After Peyton goes to jail, their mom is kind of displaced. Her former friends shun her, while complete strangers stare at their family when they’re out in public. Peyton’s exploits are famous in their town (and honestly, probably beyond that). What he did was REALLY horrible. So, since she really has nothing to do, Sydney’s mom decides to plan out her whole life. When she’s not an overprotective shadow over Sydney, she’s driving hours to visit Peyton in jail. She tries to force a relationship between Sydney and her brother (even when she doesn’t want one), gives her a ridiculous curfew, and basically doesn’t trust her daughter as far as she can throw her, all because of her son’s horrible choices. As an older sibling who screwed up, I kind of feel bad for the mistakes I made. My younger sister definitely suffered for it, but nowhere NEAR what Sydney suffers because of her brother. A lot of the time that I was irritated or upset in this book was because Sydney’s parents were being so asinine about their daughter. They refuse to listen to her. Her father could have stood up for her, but it seemed as if he were too afraid of his wife. I really saw them as a Stepford family (minus the kids, because obviously).

4. There is a super creepy secondary character in this book named Ames. Creepy doesn’t even begin to describe the weirdness.

Ames met Peyton when they were in Narcotics Anonymous together. Since then, Ames had been Peyton’s best friend. He really becomes an adopted part of the family. From the first chapter, you’ll see how creepy Ames is toward Sydney. I can’t even think of a better word to describe him. Slimeball? Douchebag? Weirdo? I don’t even know. The bottom line: he makes Sydney uncomfortable and in turn, he will make your skin crawl. The worst part is that Sydney is too afraid to tell her parents that she doesn’t want Ames around because she doesn’t want to rock the boat. I mean I get it. Their son is in jail and their whole life is basically uprooted because of trials, lawyers, and legal fees. But, maybe pay attention to the kid living under your roof and NOT causing problems? I’m not a parent. Maybe I’m wrong, but that seemed off to me. A lot of stuff happens with Ames, but I don’t want to spoil it for you.

5. Mac Chatham is my new book boyfriend.

I don’t swoon a lot over book boys. I really don’t. I try not to get too obsessed because they’re only living in books. However, Mac is an entirely different story. The dude is always studying. He is always helping his sister and Sydney, no questions asked. He works at the pizza store, but has dreams of going to college instead of being forced to run the pizza shop for the rest of his life. Family business must stay in the family, after all. His mother has MS and the Chatham siblings all take turns caring for her. Their family dynamic is incredible. Even though they get annoyed with each other (which, doesn’t every family have that?) you can feel the love they have for each other ooze off the pages. Mac was raised extremely well, and it shows in the way he treats people. I adored him SO. MUCH.

6. This book was a lot about self discovery and love. All different kinds of love.

I’m reading more and more coming of age stories recently and loving them. I used to hate them, but I think you just need to find the right ones. (Another one I really liked was Winger. You should read that, if you have the chance!) Sydney has a lot to learn about herself. She struggles with her self worth because of her family. Her parents make her feel like she is some kind of delinquent because her brother made bad choices. She feels like a bad person because she believes her brother belongs in jail. Her parents love to ignore the fact that he did something absolutely horrific in order to get thrown in jail, and that makes Sydney feel like a bad person since she doesn’t lie to herself. Sydney struggles with friendships, too. Her friends from her old private school don’t understand what she’s going through, and we kind of get the sense that they don’t care, either. Once she meets Layla and her family, she sees what real friendship looks like. She sees what it’s like to be able to tell the truth about her feelings to someone who kind of understands what she’s going through. Sydney struggles with the love she has for her family. She’s always torn between loving her family because she has to and whether or not she likes them. There’s that saying, you know? How you HAVE to love your family, but you don’t have to LIKE them? But, liking them definitely helps and it’s heartbreaking to see her struggle with this. She wants to help and to prove herself, but it’s difficult when her family really only sees through her and doesn’t actually see her. Finally, she struggles with romantic love. Obviously, since we’re talking about Sarah Dessen, there is romance. She struggles with this romance because she still struggles with her own self worth. She thinks she is too messed up to deserve any happiness, and that just is not true. I loved this, and I loved seeing her grow up (not all the way, she’s still a teenager!) into this wonderful, self aware young woman.

OVERALL: FIVE STARS!!! I loved this book so, so much. It was beautifully written, engrossing, and just an all around great book. This comes out on May 5, 2015 so click the link below to pre-order yourself a copy! I know this review is long, so thanks for sticking with me!

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ARC Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Thorns and RosesPublisher: Bloomsbury Children’s USA

Release Date: May 5, 2015

Source: The goddess Alexia over at Adventures in Reading lent me her physical ARC!

Genre: YA, Fantasy

I. Loved. This. Book. I was a little nervous, and you’ll see why in the points below, but it really did ruin my life in the best possible way. I hate reading Maas’s ARCs because then I have to wait SO MUCH LONGER for another book. If she keeps them coming, I’ll keep reading them! Here’s your synopsis from Amazon:

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin-one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow over the faerie lands is growing, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin-and his world-forever.

Perfect for fans of Kristen Cashore and George R. R. Martin, this first book in a sexy and action-packed new series is impossible to put down!

1. I hated Feyre for most of the book.

If you follow me on Goodreads and you saw my many, many updates for this book, you saw that most of them involved Feyre and my hatred for her. She is whiny, she is selfish, and she is too stubborn. Maas has become known – to me, anyway – as a writer of strong female heroines. I really thought Feyre would be in the same league as Celaena Sardothien. Nope. Feyre is so immature and even though her captor is trying to keep her safe, she keeps diving headfirst into trouble. At one point, when she had gotten herself into a horrible situation, I was really hoping she would die and that no one would save her. I just really, really hated her. Then, towards the end, she actually surprised me. She does something selfless and brave and that totally went against everything I had previously thought of her. I still don’t know exactly how I feel about her, and that’s okay. I think I have 2 more books in which to make opinions.

2. Speaking of feelings about characters: there were so many characters who I did not know how to feel about!

Do I love Rhys? Do I hate him? What about Lucien?! And what about Feyre’s sisters, Elain and Nesta? HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO FEEL!!! This is a sign of great writing. These characters felt like actual people, and I usually don’t know how I feel about actual people anyway. I loved this about the book. It was great not knowing how to feel and being pulled back and forth in my opinions. Including Feyre, most of the characters have that fluid feel to them. I don’t know whether I love or hate them. I obviously have no problem about this. Bring it on.

3. This is a Beauty and the Beast retelling. At times fantastic and at times…a little disturbing.

Another downside to this book is the realities of it being a Beauty and the Beast retelling. Feyre is kidnapped – just like Belle. Obviously, there is a love story. However. There is a particular scene, in the midst of when Feyre is deciding how she feels about Tamlin, when she is actually assaulted by him. It was after a festival where magic takes him over and makes him more beast than human, but the fact remains: he sexually assaulted her. He even leaves a huge bruise on her neck which she shows off the next day as a slap in the face to Tamlin. There is violence in the book, yes. We are dealing with faeries and their strange laws, customs, and a violent blight taking over their land. But the violence wasn’t disturbing as much as that assault. Even though Feyre admitted to liking it, it was still a little hard to read because even when you’re a beast, no should mean no.

4. The end of this book was a punch in the gut, for real.

Within the last maybe 100 or so pages, I really started to like Feyre and her strength and devotion. Of course everything goes wrong, and of course – against my judgment at first – Feyre steps up. Feyre goes through SO MUCH for love, and all of it is sneaky, underhanded, and violent. It was shocking to see her come into her role as heroine so willingly when I wouldn’t have attached that role to her in the beginning – or really, at any point during the book.

OVERALL: 5 stars!!! Through most of the book, I was going to solidly give this a 4 star review, but then the end…just, wow. The end totally redeemed me hating Feyre for the whole book and I just couldn’t believe the story had saved itself like that! If you’re a fan of Maas’s Throne of Glass series, you will love this. It is entirely different, yes, but isn’t that what we want as readers? It’s wonderful to see authors grow and change and take on different things. This was fantastically written. Minus the bit of sexual assault, I really adored this. It comes out on May 5, 2015, so click the link below to pre-order!

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Book Review: Tease by Amanda Maciel

TeaseTitle: Tease

Author: Amanda Maciel

Series: None; Standalone

Genre: YA, Contemporary

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Release Date: April 29, 2014

Source: Purchased

I had so many thoughts about this book that I’m surprised Goodreads didn’t block me from posting updates (is that even a thing?). I feel like this book is so important, especially now. You’ll see why. So, in advance, this is going to be a really long review. Here’s your synopsis from Amazon:

Emma Putnam is dead, and it’s all Sara Wharton’s fault. At least, that’s what everyone seems to think. Sara, along with her best friend and three other classmates, has been criminally charged for the bullying and harassment that led to Emma’s shocking suicide. Now Sara is the one who’s ostracized, already guilty according to her peers, the community, and the media. In the summer before her senior year, in between meetings with lawyers and a court-recommended therapist, Sara is forced to reflect on the events that brought her to this moment—and ultimately consider her own role in an undeniable tragedy. And she’ll have to find a way to move forward, even when it feels like her own life is over.

1. I’m going to warn you right now, this book is extremely hard to read.

I’m not saying this as a bad thing, oh no. The only reason this is hard to read is because of the narrator, Sara. She is the absolute WORST and that’s putting it nicely. The book opens with Sara and her friends being on trial for the death of their classmate, Emma. Her charges include stalking, bullying, and assault. This is a different way to tell this story, because we hear it all from the point of view of the bully. Sara maintains she did nothing wrong. She never sees that what she did affected Emma so badly, that she felt she had to take her own life. Sara does it all: cyberbullying, starting rumors, posting things in Emma’s yard, you name it. She’s a horrible person, and the more you read, the more you hate her.

2. I never felt bad for Sara. She has no remorse. However, there is someone WORSE than her…

And that person is Brielle. She is the person who starts this whole chain of events. Brielle is rich and she probably doesn’t have a soul. From the day Emma shows up at their school, she is the reason the girls pounce on her. Their excuses for bullying her so harshly are that Emma has a lot of “hook ups” which may or may not be true. The girls seem to think she hooks up with all of these dudes, and we never find out if it’s true or not, because the bullies believe it is all true. Then, Emma starts hanging out with Sara’s boyfriend and then life just gets horrible for Emma. They dig up dirt on her (“dirt” meaning that they find out she transferred schools a lot) and use it to their advantage. It’s sickening how far these girls go. They make a horrible Facebook page specifically for bringing other kids in on bullying her. They post disgusting things on the page and their classmates just join in. Sara’s boyfriend seems to be the only voice of reason, telling the girls they’re going too far. Of course, Sara gets mad when he brings it up, because she’s the worst person on the planet. Ever.

3. Sara has to go to summer school since she misses for her CRIMINAL TRIAL.

Sara complains about summer school so much. As if I didn’t want to punch her enough already, her complaints drive me NUTS. In summer school, she befriends a boy named Carmichael. She judges him harshly, and she’s probably bullied him at some point in their school career because he’s different. Carmichael is entirely too nice to Sara. She deserves nothing nice and I really wanted Carmichael to hurt her. Not physically, of course, but I wanted him to show her how it feels to be sad, lonely, and an outcast. She deserves absolutely nothing good and I hated that he showed her any kindness whatsoever.

4. Sara is awful, as previously stated, but there was one thing she said that REALLY irked me.

At one point, Sara says that Emma made her a mean girl. She said the girl who committed suicide BECAUSE. OF. HER. made her a mean girl. This absolutely threw me for a loop. I had to read it a few times to see if I got that right. Is this really how bullies feel once the product of their bullying is suicide? I was so disgusted and physically sick.

5. This book is so extremely important, I want every teenager to read this immediately.

I am a middle school teacher. I got all of my training in high schools, and I have seen my fair share of bullying. Middle school is actually worse than high school because they’re going through this phase where they have to prove themselves. Usually, that means that they’re following what everyone else says and being completely horrible to other kids. The number one rule I have in my classroom is: be kind. My kids have gotten many lectures about how they need to be kind to one another, because I hear bullying all the time. It’s sickening what these kids say to each other. With that said, I think this book is important because it shows kids what they say can have permanent affects on people. This is a realistic and jarring look at modern day bullies and all of the damage they cause. It’s abhorrent to read this and think that kids actually plan ways to make someone else’s life a living hell. Why? To look cool? Revenge? I wish kids could see beyond where they are right now: their age, school, whatever and see that they have an affect on the world. It’s up to them what kind of memories they leave and what kind of person they want to become. I hate mean people. And that’s really all bullies are. I never really got bullied because I was always raised to be unapologetically, unabashedly myself. I was raised to be strong, and I still carry that with me. Some people aren’t so lucky. Emma is not that lucky.

6. Amanda Maciel is one of the sweetest people I have ever come into contact with and I have NO idea how she wrote such a mean, horrible girl!

This is a huge testament to Maciel’s writing abilities. This novel is her debut, and I was engrossed the whole way through. I finished this book in a day. I ordered this book used on Amazon. While the company told me I was receiving a hardcover, they sent me an ARC. I was SO MAD because, if you’ve never seen an ARC, there is a stamp right on the front that says NOT FOR SALE. So, I tweeted Maciel, telling her how mad I was that this company was selling her ARCs. She apologized to me! It was so nice of her to do so, but I just wanted her to know this company was breaking the law. I ended up getting my money back, keeping the book, and writing a really well worded email telling them how illegal that business practice is. Maciel, being the sweet angel she is, sent me an autographed hardcover for free, since I told her I wanted to put this in my classroom. WHAT A SWEETHEART!!! I asked her how she can be so wonderful, yet write someone so terrible, and she said everyone has their alter egos. (I don’t believe Sara exists inside her for a second)! Anyway, I will forever be a fan. This book was amazing.

OVERALL: FIVE STARS!!! I loved this so, so much. Even though I was mad the whole time I was reading – because Sara is just the WORST – I had to sit back and think how incredible a writer she has to be in order to make me feel so upset. This book is poignant and real and incredibly important, so click the link below to order!

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Nerd Vacation Day 2: The Last Bookstore

Today on our nerd adventure, we traveled through an hour and a half of traffic (each way) to go to The Last Bookstore in L.A. The website boasts about its many offerings of literary goodness and its back room of 100,000 books for A DOLLAR EACH! We were so in for this one. LBS1This was so promising! Even though we spent forever in traffic, I was so excited when we walked up to this store. I had heard so much hype about it and I was too excited to hopefully find some awesome first editions or rare editions of some of my favorite books! However, upon walking inside, I was overwhelmed – but not in a good way.

LBS2To the store’s credit, they have some pretty sweet art installations. This one is on the second floor as you’re coming up the stairs. In order to come up the stairs, you have to leave your books you’ve collected downstairs with an attendant to prevent theft. Honestly, it’s a great system. However, when I was trying to leave my book with the man at the desk in order to go upstairs, he glanced at me, rolled his eyes, and yelled, “CAN SOMEONE COME OVER HERE?!” I’m so sorry that I am a consumer in your store trying to follow your rules! Screw me, right?!

LBS3This is a picture of their “book labyrinth.” This was less of a labyrinth and more of an underwhelming hodge podge of bookshelves. The organization in this room was a LITTLE better than that of their one dollar book section, but it wasn’t as spectacularly engrossing as one would think when hearing the term “labyrinth.”

LBS4Within this labyrinth is this awesome room full of true crime, detective, and horror books. (Spoiler alert: this was also super underwhelming). Also, this wasn’t actually a labyrinth because I didn’t get lost, and I don’t have the greatest sense of direction. If you’re going to threaten me with a book labyrinth, you’d better deliver, because I want to be lost in some books. Did I get lost? NO. I DIDN’T. Beyond this “maze” was their one dollar book selection. If this would have been organized (other than the six shelves they had color coded – not even by genre or author or anything) I probably would have found this to be totally AWESOME. However, since there was no organization, I felt a panic attack coming on. I don’t usually get panic attacks. I probably would have found and purchased a ton of books if there were any organization. In fact, I had two books I had intended to buy, but I didn’t want to give this book store a cent of my money. From the customer service (AKA the rude hipsters who work at this stupid store), their lack of central air conditioning (IT WAS SO HOT), and their lack of organization, I am really upset that I spent my day trying to get to this store just to be let down. I’d give it one star on a five star scale. If you’d like, visit their link below if you’d like to visit, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

The Last Bookstore

453 S. Spring St.

Los Angeles, CA 90013

ARC Review: The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey

The Girl at MidnightTitle: The Girl at Midnight

Author: Melissa Grey

Release Date: April 28, 2015

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Genre: YA, Fantasy

Source: e-galley from NetGalley

This book is going to be kind of a tough one to review. I really liked it in the beginning. The premise was so fun and really reminded me of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy by Laini Taylor. Dragons vs. birds? Unrequited love? Oh, yes. Every book I read starts with a five star rating. As I read, they either keep their stars or they lose them, depending on how I feel. So, with that said, here’s your synopsis from Amazon:

Beneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins. Age-old enchantments keep them hidden from humans. All but one. Echo is a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market, and the Avicen are the only family she’s ever known.
Echo is clever and daring, and at times she can be brash, but above all else she’s fiercely loyal. So when a centuries-old war crests on the borders of her home, she decides it’s time to act.
Legend has it that there is a way to end the conflict once and for all: find the Firebird, a mythical entity believed to possess power the likes of which the world has never seen. It will be no easy task, though if life as a thief has taught Echo anything, it’s how to hunt down what she wants . . . and how to take it.
But some jobs aren’t as straightforward as they seem. And this one might just set the world on fire.

1. The world in this book is pretty awesome.

The battle in the book is between the Drakharins and the Avicens. The Drakharins are human, but have dragon traits. You can see scales on some of them, some can control fire, etc. But, they’re mostly human. The same goes for the Avicen. They’re human, with bird characteristics. They have angular faces and feathers on their bodies. Some only have the feathers on their heads, while others have feathers as body hair. I see them as really soft, downy feathers with the consistency of hair, but the coloring of feathers. These two races have hated each other for generations and they both have a legend: the firebird. The book opens with both of them looking for this seemingly imaginary item that could save them from war and destruction. The premise was SO awesome. I loved meeting different people from the different races.

2. I really enjoyed the 3rd person limited POV in this book. It worked really well.

This book is told from two points of view. One is Echo, who is a human who was adopted by the Avicens when she was a kid. The other is Caius, who is the Dragon Prince. He is royalty within the Drakharins. The chapters alternate between Echo and Caius, and I honestly can’t tell you whose narration I liked more. Both of their worlds are full of rules they refuse to follow and I really liked hearing from both of them.

3. The other characters in this book are so fun! We have Jasper and Dorian along with our MCs: Echo and Caius.

I wrote that I loved Jasper because he’s a dirty old man, even though I don’t know how old he is. Dorian is Caius’s captain of the guard and has unwavering loyalty to him. However, Dorian is in love with Caius, and I felt like that was just thrown in there. It wasn’t explored at all, and I felt like it was just something that Grey felt she needed to throw in. If it were explored a little more, I think it could have been done really well. Jasper and Dorian have a little flirtation, and I feel like that was just thrown in to foil the unrequited love between Caius and Dorian. It felt too rushed, and I feel like it could have been explained or explored more. That particular story arc was wanting, for sure. Jasper is definitely one of my favorite characters in the book. He provides comic relief when it was definitely needed.

4. Mostly, I found the world to be awesome, the story boring, and the characters really flat.

Other than Echo, I didn’t connect with these characters. Other than my love for Jasper’s sense of humor, I didn’t really care what happened to them. The villains – who I was expecting to be super evil and villainous – were more like annoying flies than actual villains. They struck no fear into my heart, and they didn’t really seem to scare the characters, either. I mean yes, they were running from the villains with choruses of “oh no! They’re coming!” but that’s really where that fear ended. The ending was pretty cool, but it just seemed too convenient. The ending felt really rushed, not to mention really convenient. I read this pretty fast, since it was pretty fast paced, but I didn’t really enjoy the story. I enjoyed the world more.

5. Let’s end this on a positive note: I LOVE ECHO SO MUCH.

Echo is obsessed with books and words and learning. Her mannerisms are totally mine. Throughout the book, she states words for different things that I definitely never knew before! She is smart, witty, and extremely loyal. She’s brave and daring, and everything I never knew I wanted in a heroine. I would definitely recommend this to my seventh graders, since they definitely need some strong female leads with some of the books they’re reading. I loved her! She was a saving grace in this book, for me!

OVERALL: 3 stars! This was really fun world building, and I really felt a connection to Echo. I feel like Grey followed me around in order to write her. However, the story was really flat, and the characters needed some work. But, don’t take my word for it! This book comes out on April 28, 2015 so click the link below to pre-order!

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ARC Review: Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke by Anne Blankman

Conspiracy of Blood and SmokePublisher: Balzer + Bray

Release Date: April 21,2015

Genre: YA, Historical fiction

Source: Digital e-ARC from Edelweiss

This is a second installment in this series. If you didn’t read Prisoner of Night and Fog, you need to turn around, read it, and come back. There will be spoilers here, but only from the first book, not from this one! I really, really loved this. Plus, it came at a perfect time since I’m about to do a unit about the Holocaust with my 7th graders. They’ll be reading The Devil’s Arithmetic as their novel and I’m super excited. Here’s your synopsis from Amazon:

The girl known as Gretchen Whitestone has a secret: She used to be part of Adolf Hitler’s inner circle. More than a year after she made an enemy of her old family friend and fled Munich, she lives in England, posing as an ordinary German immigrant, and is preparing to graduate from high school. Her love, Daniel, is a reporter in town. For the first time in her life, Gretchen is content.

But then Daniel gets a telegram that sends him back to Germany, and Gretchen’s world turns upside down. When she receives word that Daniel is wanted for murder, she has to face the danger she thought she’d escaped—and return to her homeland.

Gretchen must do everything she can to avoid capture, even though saving Daniel will mean consorting with her former friends, the Nazi elite. And as they work to clear Daniel’s name, Gretchen and Daniel discover a deadly conspiracy stretching from the slums of Berlin to the Reichstag itself. Can they dig up the explosive truth and get out in time—or will Hitler discover them first?

1. The writing was intense and beautiful and magical.

Anne Blankman’s first installment of this series was her debut novel (I’m pretty sure) and it was amazing! I have this strange fascination with the Holocaust and Adolf Hitler. These books are set in Germany during Hitler’s rise to power. Not only do you see a lot of the politics involved in this, but you see it from Gretchen’s point of view, as Hitler’s pet. Well, in the case of this book, Hitler’s former pet. Every other chapter I was all sweaty and excited. So much happened! I felt like I really had hopped into Gretchen’s time. I shared her pain and her stress. Blankman is an incredible wordsmith.

2. You see more of Daniel, which I loved!

The love between Daniel and Gretchen is an odd love. Gretchen is supposed to hate him, since he’s a Jew, and she was brought up thinking that Jews were a disease in Germany. In the first book, Daniel helped Gretchen discover that her father didn’t die a hero protecting Hitler – Hitler had killed her father for knowing he was diagnosed as a psychopath. This sends Gretchen out of the country to Oxford with Alfred, who is more of a father to her than even her own father. She and Daniel are on the run and Daniel is more prevalent in this book. He shows how brave and kind and caring he is all the while trying to wrestle with his own demons. This book centers around a (historically accurate) murder, which is then pegged on Daniel. They are set on clearing Daniel’s name, so they go back to Berlin. The idiots! I was definitely happy with more Daniel in my life.

3. The author’s note is so, so awesome! I love knowing which facts she blended with fiction!

You have to read the author’s note in the case of both of these books. It’s so cool to see what inspired the fiction that is based in fact. For example, the character Daniel supposedly murdered – Monika Junge – is fake, but the actual murder is based on a real, unsolved murder! How freaking awesome is that?! I have always been a sucker for historical fiction, especially from this era in time (hello, Code Name Verity, anyone?). I love sucking up as much information as I can. Blankman had to have done painstaking research to get all of this right. It is highly impressive to see how well she blended facts and fiction together to make this crazy awesome book.

4. Gretchen is occasionally annoying.

I always forget how YOUNG Gretchen is! When we first meet up with her again in the first chapter, she has just turned 18. I always forget how young she is only because of the way she speaks and the situations she’s been through. Her whole escape and childhood interaction with Hitler is more than any young person could bear, really. She’s fallen from grace with one of the most powerful people in Germany when before, she had absolute protection because of “Uncle Dolf.” Now, she’s in a new country, trying to build a new life, but his ghost is haunting her dreams and her every thought – try as she might to expel him from her brain. You have to commend her courage for running from him after she uncovered the truth, instead of just pretending she didn’t know anything to save her own hide. We find out a lot more about her father in this book, but I won’t tell you my opinions; I want you to have your own opinions! Gretchen goes through a huge transformation in this novel. She is more determined than ever to bring Hitler down, to save Daniel, and to make a life for herself without fear. Whenever she made horrifically stupid decisions, I would roll my eyes and think, ‘ugh! Only a child would be so stupid!’ But then I have to remember: she IS a child! She’s an amazing lead and even though she annoys me sometimes, I still adore her for the challenges she faces and subsequently overcomes. Bravo, Gretchen!

OVERALL: 5 STARS!!! I would give this book infinity stars, to be completely honest. The amount of research and perfect blending of fact and fiction continue to astound me, even after reading this. If you love historical fiction, or just fascinated by Adolf Hitler, this series is definitely for you! This releases on April 21, 2015 so go forth and preorder!

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