Shimmer and Burn ★★★★☆

9781481471992_fca55Don’t you just love when you pick a book for the cover and the writing is just as beautiful?

To save her sister’s life, Faris must smuggle magic into a plague-ridden neighboring kingdom in this exciting and dangerous start to a brand-new fantasy duology.

Faris grew up fighting to survive in the slums of Brindaigel while caring for her sister, Cadence. But when Cadence is caught trying to flee the kingdom and is sold into slavery, Faris reluctantly agrees to a lucrative scheme to buy her back, inadvertently binding herself to the power-hungry Princess Bryn, who wants to steal her father’s throne.

Now Faris must smuggle stolen magic into neighboring Avinea to incite its prince to alliance—magic that addicts in the war-torn country can sense in her blood and can steal with a touch. She and Bryn turn to a handsome traveling magician, North, who offers protection from Avinea’s many dangers, but he cannot save Faris from Bryn’s cruelty as she leverages Cadence’s freedom to force Faris to do anything—or kill anyone—she asks. Yet Faris is as fierce as Bryn, and even as she finds herself falling for North, she develops schemes of her own.

With the fate of kingdoms at stake, Faris, Bryn, and North maneuver through a dangerous game of magical and political machinations, where lives can be destroyed—or saved—with only a touch.

There were so many wonderful fantasy elements in Shimmer and Burn, and Taranta’s writing is so immersive that it was easy to get lost in it.

The opening scene is so powerful and dark and amazing and I knew after I’d finished the first chapter that I was going to be recommending this book to everyone. Faris’s mother attacks her on page one. There are so many emotions, questions, and eye openers in just that one scene there is literally no way for you to put the book down.

And it only got darker. Taranta was totally unafraid to kill these characters and there is no where, on any page, where I believed anyone was safe.

Faris’s characterization is wonderfully new in the world of YA. She is in no way, shape, or form a perfect little snowflake and I loved reading her. She makes mistakes and harbors a lot of guilt for them. She is incredibly well written.

The only place that Shimmer and Burn lost points for me was the romance, and that is really only because I’m tired of seeing that in my fiction. I always feel like romances take away from a character’s autonomy.

Shimmer and Burn is alluring and terrifying and deserves a very special place on your shelf.

 

Bad Girl Gone ★☆☆☆☆

31450580.jpgBased on the premise, I thought I’d really enjoy Bad Girl Gone. Well–I knew I’d have an issue with the “she’s blatantly dead why can’t she tell” part of it, but the rest of it I fully expected to enjoy.

Sixteen year-old Echo Stone awakens in a cold sweat in a dark room, having no idea where she is or how she got there. But she soon finds out she’s in Middle House, an orphanage filled with mysteriously troubled kids.

There’s just one problem: she’s not an orphan. Her parents are very much alive.

She explains this to everyone, but no one will listen. After befriending a sympathetic (and handsome) boy, Echo is able to escape Middle House and rush home, only to discover it sealed off by crime scene tape and covered in the evidence of a terrible and violent crime. As Echo grapples with this world-shattering information, she spots her parents driving by and rushes to flag them down. Standing in the middle of street, waving her arms to get their attention, her parents’ car drives right through her.

She was right. Her parents are alive—but she’s not.

She’s a ghost, just like all the other denizens of Middle House. Desperate to somehow get her life back and reconnect with her still-alive boyfriend, Echo embarks on a quest to solve her own murder. As the list of suspects grows, the quest evolves into a journey of self-discovery in which she learns she wasn’t quite the girl she thought she was. In a twist of fate, she’s presented with one last chance to reclaim her life and must make a decision which will either haunt her or bless her forever.­­­­

Echo is obnoxious and self-centered. I’m all for something focusing on personal development but I couldn’t make it far enough to watch her learn from her mistakes.

True to books I can’t stand–a love triangle is featured prominently. Echo loved Andy when she was alive. They even had obnoxiously disgusting nicknames for each other: rabbit and wolfie. Once Echo died, she fell for Cole. Because he’s super hot. Then she gets incredibly jealous when Andy is eyeballed by a new–living–girl and rushes to kiss Cole. And I wanted to hurl. Echo is literally every stereotype about teenage girls all rolled into one and it annoyed me to no end.

Everyone lacked a genuine personality and Echo’s mind reading power made her troubles too easy to get through.

Little Monsters ★★★★☆

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I don’t know if this is obvious, I love thrillers.

Kacey is the new girl in Broken Falls. When she moved in with her father, she stepped into a brand-new life. A life with a stepbrother, a stepmother, and strangest of all, an adoring younger half sister.

Kacey’s new life is eerily charming compared with the wild highs and lows of the old one she lived with her volatile mother. And everyone is so nice in Broken Falls—she’s even been welcomed into a tight new circle of friends. Bailey and Jade invite her to do everything with them.

Which is why it’s so odd when they start acting distant. And when they don’t invite her to the biggest party of the year, it doesn’t exactly feel like an accident.

But Kacey will never be able to ask, because Bailey never makes it home from that party. Suddenly, Broken Falls doesn’t seem so welcoming after all—especially once everyone starts looking to the new girl for answers.

Kacey is about to learn some very important lessons: Sometimes appearances can be deceiving. Sometimes when you’re the new girl, you shouldn’t trust anyone.

Recently, I posted a big long list of YA tropes, which you can view here. On it, are evil (cheerleader-esque) teenage girls. And there were a lot of them in Little Monsters. BUT… I love them so much. They’re so evil I love it. I’m a terrible person.

Kacey is a new girl in a small town. She had a big fight with her highly unstable mother and moved in with her father, whom she’s never met, and his family in Broken Falls. But lucky for her she made new friends: Bailey and Jade.

Queue my other least favorite tropes: girl goes to party, girl doesn’t make it home.

Okay, the party is presented like the usual “girl goes to party and tries drugs for the first time,” it’s a legitimate social gathering here and it’s huge, because Kacey wasn’t invited. As the summary says.

In a small town where everyone already has tight and long-form relationships, it’s not long before everyone suspects Kacey and she, rightfully so, begins to retreat inward and keep her loyalties to herself.

I did, despite many red herrings, guess the culprit, but I did suspect a few others before that.

I really loved the depiction of the small town, complete with its own local legends and universal small town culture. It really added to the general mood of Little Monsters.

I also loved the friendships. It was all so accurate about how complicated teenaged friendships can be. All the obsessions and jealousy was turned up for the sake of the story but it never popped me out of the book.

One thing that did bother me is Kacey’s “Mysterious Past,” which is never fully pinned down. It added to the mystery for sure, but definitely took away from the project as a whole. I think if Bailey’s journal entries, our only alternate viewpoint, could have been expanded to help us better understand Kacey.

Definitely a solid YA thriller and it’s already out! So go pick it up and… you know… don’t read it before bed. (You’ve been warned)

The Gallery of Unfinished Girls ★★★☆☆

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A little slow and a little weird, but definitely worth the read.

Mercedes Moreno is an artist. At least, she thinks she could be, even though she hasn’t been able to paint anything worthwhile since her award-winning piece Food Poisoning #1 last year.

Her lack of inspiration might be because her abuela is lying comatose in faraway Puerto Rico after suffering a stroke. Or the fact that Mercedes is in love with her best friend, Victoria, but is too afraid to admit her true feelings.

Despite Mercedes’s creative block, art starts to show up in unexpected ways. A piano appears on her front lawn one morning, and a mysterious new neighbor invites Mercedes to paint with her at the Red Mangrove Estate.

At the Estate, Mercedes can create in ways she never has before. She can share her deepest secrets and feel safe. But Mercedes can’t take anything out of the Estate, including her new-found clarity. As her life continues to crumble around her, the Estate offers more solace than she could hope for. But Mercedes can’t live both lives forever, and ultimately she must choose between this perfect world of art and truth and a much messier reality.

Let’s start with the awesomeness that is a bisexual main character. I really loved watching her come to terms with her sexuality and how that inward struggle prevented her from addressing her passions, as many inward struggles do. Her front most struggle is to create a second painting in a series about… well… food poisoning… a little weird but you do you. But her real struggle is not only coming out to her best friend but also admitting that she has more than friendly feelings for her. All great things needed in YA.

And even with that–it’s not really a romance. Don’t go into this expecting a romance. Go into The Gallery of Unfinished Girls expecting a coming of age story. Because that’s what this is. And honestly, I think we need more “coming into feelings” stories and less “having feelings returned” stories.

Now onto other things. The writing is not bad. It’s not meh, either. It’s actually a very well written book, but I wasn’t ever really drawn into the book. I blame the flat opening. A piano suddenly shows up on the front lawn one day and then… nothing really happens for a few days… I think the opening would have benefited from more magical things occurring to keep us interested. Instead, there is a lot of introspective downtime in front of partially complete canvases.

Which is totally relate-able to as a writer who has sat in front of many a blank screen before, but I need that summed up in my fiction.

Ultimately, I enjoyed it and recommend that you pick it up, but it’s not a must have or don’t bother.

Court of Wings and Ruin ★★★☆☆

23766634I finally finished Court of Wings and Ruin. I feel like it took me forever to get through and that’s where it lost a few stars for me. Fair warning, this review will contain spoilers.

A nightmare, I’d told Tamlin. I was the nightmare.

Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin’s maneuverings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit—and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well. As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords—and hunt for allies in unexpected places.

I loved almost everything about this book, so you might be wondering why I’m giving it three stars. I’ll get to that later. Continue reading “Court of Wings and Ruin ★★★☆☆”

Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora ★★★★☆

Definitely one of my favorite pieces featuring a second language since Zoraida Cordova’s Labyrinth Lost.

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Save the restaurant. Save the town. Get the girl. Make Abuela proud. Can thirteen-year-old Arturo Zamora do it all or is he in for a BIG, EPIC FAIL?

For Arturo, summetime in Miami means playing basketball until dark, sipping mango smoothies, and keeping cool under banyan trees. And maybe a few shifts as junior lunchtime dishwasher at Abuela’s restaurant. Maybe. But this summer also includes Carmen, a cute poetry enthusiast who moves into Arturo’s apartment complex and turns his stomach into a deep fryer. He almost doesn’t notice the smarmy land developer who rolls into town and threatens to change it. Arturo refuses to let his family and community go down without a fight, and as he schemes with Carmen, Arturo discovers the power of poetry and protest through untold family stories and the work of Jose Marti.

In Cordova’s Labyrinth Lost, Alex’s family heritage is present but not in the way that Arturo’s is.

Their life revolves around the family business and the family itself. Which was amazing. That was the sort of family that I grew up in and it made me feel right at home reliving those experiences. Especially with the mention of cousins aren’t really cousins but you call them cousins anyway. I had so many of those.

One of the greatest lessons I took from this book is that your family is important, but so is the family you choose. You see that with Arturo and his friends (especially in the Twitter DMs) but also in the community when they stand up for the restaurant.

My favorite part of the book, though, was Abuela, who only speaks in Spanish.

I don’t speak Spanish. I had it once in sixth grade, and so my knowledge of the language includes numbers one through ten and a few greetings. But I knew what Abuela was saying.

Not because her speech was translated. Not because I looked up everything she said. But because the other characters just reacted to her and I took my context clues as I needed to – as I do when I’m at a friend’s house and their parents don’t speak English.

I loved the way her Spanish was included because I can see this book being used to introduce the language to not native speakers in the classroom, but also as a way for native speakers to shine in a class that isn’t taught in their first language.

Follow Me Back ★★★☆☆½

followmeback.pngTessa Hart’s world feels very small. Confined to her bedroom with agoraphobia, her one escape is the online fandom for pop sensation Eric Thorn. When he tweets to his fans, it’s like his speaking directly to her…

Eric Thorn is frightened by his obsessive fans. They take their devotion way too far. It doesn’t help that his PR team keeps posting to encourage their fantasies.

When a fellow pop star is murdered at the hands of a fan, Eric knows he has to do something to shatter his online image fast—like take down one of his top Twitter followers. But Eric’s plan to troll @TessaHeartsEric unexpectedly evolves into an online relationship deeper than either could have imagined. And when the two arrange to meet IRL, what should have made for the world’s best episode of Catfish takes a deadly turn…

I love the cover. I love the format. And I love the alternating viewpoints. But I don’t love the third viewpoint or where it gets added. Continue reading “Follow Me Back ★★★☆☆½”

Dividing Eden ★★★★☆

diving edenTwins Carys and Andreus were never destined to rule Eden. With their older brother next in line to inherit the throne, the future of the kingdom was secure.

But appearances—and rivals—can be deceiving. When Eden’s king and crown prince are killed by assassins, Eden desperately needs a monarch, but the line of succession is no longer clear. With a ruling council scheming to gain power, Carys and Andreus are faced with only one option—to take part in a Trial of Succession that will determine which one of them is worthy of ruling the kingdom.

As sister and brother, Carys and Andreus have always kept each other safe—from their secrets, from the court, and from the monsters lurking in the mountains beyond the kingdom’s wall. But the Trial of Succession will test the bonds of trust and family.

With their country and their hearts divided, Carys and Andreus will discover exactly what each will do to win the crown. How long before suspicion takes hold and the thirst for power leads to the ultimate betrayal?

BEHOLD! FOR I HAVE FINALLY FINISHED THIS BOOK! And it was amazing.

I’m working my way back into love with the fantasy genre and between Diving EdenA Court of Thorns and Roses, and Red Queen my interest has certainly been piqued.

While I loved damn near all of Dividing Eden, it lost a few points with its prophecy: one twin is cursed (pronounced “evil”) and will spread the curse across the kingdom. The “one light-one dark” trope was definitely something that pushed me away from fantasy in the first place. After the king and the eldest prince die, Carys and Andreus are forced to compete in the Trial of Succession to prove who would be a better ruler.

I know it’s prevalent in YA but I really enjoy when there are trials like these. They often show a lot of culture. Think about the hunger games for a second-someone plans it all, someone approves of it being aired, million watch it, and twenty four people are volunteered to compete in it. You can see that people are monsters. Or, consider the choosing ceremony in Divergent, the motto is faction before blood, but people are still shocked and outraged when children choose a different faction than the one they grew up in.

Just something to consider.

As characters, Carys and Andreus were fleshed out wonderfully. They were engaging and despite the constant comparison between them, they remained two separate identities. They are fiercely loyal to one another, as twins often are, so I was rattled when it seemed so easy to wedge them apart

The head hopping was also difficult to adjust to. We are swapped between both of the twins but the swap often happens in the same scene. It was a bit jarring at first but I got used to it after a few chapters.

Overall, Dividing Eden is well written and a great start to a new series. I have many questions about the world and the characters that will keep me reading into book #2 and the plot was so engaging I know of at least five other bloggers that I’m going to force this book on.

House of Furies ★★★★★

houseoffuriesAfter escaping a harsh school where punishment was the lesson of the day, seventeen-year-old Louisa Ditton is thrilled to find employment as a maid at a boarding house. But soon after her arrival at Coldthistle House, Louisa begins to realize that the house’s mysterious owner, Mr. Morningside, is providing much more than lodging for his guests. Far from a place of rest, the house is a place of judgment, and Mr. Morningside and his unusual staff are meant to execute their own justice on those who are past being saved.

Louisa begins to fear for a young man named Lee who is not like the other guests. He is charismatic and kind, and Louisa knows that it may be up to her to save him from an untimely judgment. But in this house of distortions and lies, how can Louisa be sure whom to trust?

Roux uses language like Austen and plots like Brontë. House of Furies is simply amazing and if you think it isn’t up your alley-you’re wrong. Do not smile. Do not frown. Do not, under any circumstances, put this book down. Continue reading “House of Furies ★★★★★”

Lifeblood ★★★☆☆½

With her last living breath, Tenley “Ten” Lockwood made her choice and picked her realm in the Everlife. Now, as the war between Troika and Myriad rages, she must face the consequences.

Because Ten possesses a rare supernatural ability to absorb and share light, the Powers That Be have the highest expectations for her future—and the enemy wants her neutralized. Fighting to save her Secondlife, she must learn about her realm from the ground up while launching her first mission: convincing a select group of humans to join her side before they die. No pressure, right?

But Ten’s competition is Killian, the boy she can’t forget—the one who gave up everything for her happiness. He has only one shot at redemption: beating Ten at a game she’s never even played. As their throw-downs heat up, so do their undeniable feelings, and soon, Ten will have to make another choice. Love…or victory.

I was not a fan of Firstlife. I only finished it so that I could review Lifeblood. And I have some thoughts on that too. Continue reading “Lifeblood ★★★☆☆½”