Toward a Secret Sky – Heather Maclean

30649331Toward a Secret Sky by Heather Maclean
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Publisher: Blink
Publishing Date: April 4, 2017

Preorder Link: https://amzn.com/0310754747

Blurb: Toward a Secret Sky by New York Times bestselling author Heather Maclean is a new breed of YA novel: an intelligent adventure-quest crossed with a sweeping, forbidden love story. A mix of reality and possibility, this fast-paced thriller will appeal to fans of Stephenie Meyer and Dan Brown as it leads the reader on a breathless flight through the highlands of Scotland, the secret city under London, and history itself.

Shortly after 17-year-old Maren Hamilton is orphaned and sent to live with grandparents she’s never met in Scotland, she receives an encrypted journal from her dead mother that makes her and everyone around her a target. It confirms that her parents were employed by a secret, international organization that’s now intent on recruiting her. As Maren works to unravel the clues left behind by her mother, a murderous madness sweeps through the local population, terrorizing her small town. Maren must decide if she’ll continue her parents’ fight or stay behind to save her friends.

With the help of Gavin, an otherworldly mercenary she’s not supposed to fall in love with, and Graham, a charming aristocrat who is entranced with her, Maren races against the clock and around the country from palatial estates with twisted labyrinths to famous cathedrals with booby-trapped subterranean crypts to stay ahead of the enemy and find a cure. Along the way, she discovers the great truth of love: that laying down your life for another isn’t as hard as watching them sacrifice everything for you.

It was the blurb of this book that drew me to it, very well written blurb that sort of draws you in and makes you ask questions. This book falls right in line with a paranormal/fantasy mixed with reality that is pretty popular now, and I’m always intrigued by them.

What I Loved: I really enjoyed the world building in this book. The story had a good progressive movement, while there is clearly something otherworldly going on, the first few chapters only give you enough to make you want to know more. Even as things are revealed, it’s not all at once, but continues to be done at a slow place. The setting of Scotland is always enjoyable in my opinion, and I’m always down with a good accent (unfortunately this wasn’t via audiobook this time! 😉 ) I found Maren’s character enjoyable, as she was both flawed and strong. She was dealing with some pretty heavy grief, but always was not unwilling to find out more and learn about why her parents were previously estranged from her grandparents. The Illuminate aspect of the book was just sort of intriguing all on its own…apparently my husband is rubbing off on me.

Not So Much: While I loved his Scottish accent and good looks, Gavin’s character was a little too hot to cold to mega-hot jumping into this thing with both feet. It was a bit jarring I think. And then there was the mysterious Graham, who I think needed a lot more play time in the book to establish his obsession with Maren.

I also felt like there were too many individual story-lines happening in this book. We have the arc that had to do with Maren’s mother’s journal, and this huge chunk of the novel dedicated to its mysteries, and then there were some end chapters dealing with the Maren/Gavin/Graham concept, in it’s own mini-story arc. It made the book feel a little segmented I guess. This is a series, and I wonder if it would have better played out if one of these story arcs was extended beyond this book and elaborated on (I already said more time could have been given to Graham’s character, so naturally I’m thinking the latter).

The Verdict: In all this was a great start to a series, one that I think will intrigue many! It was a clean book, perfect for the YA audience!

I received a copy if Toward a Secret Sky from Blink in exchange for an honest review. I have received no other compensation, other than the joy of reading, for my opinion.

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Rainbows and Raindrops – Kelley Lynn & Jenny Morris

29444640Rainbows and Raindrops by Kelley Lynn & Jenny S. Morris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Publisher:  CookieLynn Publishing
Published Date: April 18, 2016

Buy Link:  https://amzn.com/1530954851

Blurb: Before… They are the Musketeers–one for all and all for Rain, or however that saying goes.

Now that Rain’s sixteen, freedom is at her fingertips. Cliff jumping at the lake. Rain’s first tattoo. Spence finally asking her out. With her friends by her side, there’s no reason Rain can’t be happy in a world that constantly tries to extinguish her addictive, carefree spirit.

After… It’s just Rain. No misfits and no Musketeers.

Until Rain pulls up to her new summer job and discovers the two people she’s been hiding from–Spence and Landon– are her new cabin mates. Landon’s determined to help Rain overcome her guilt and remember what once was. As they become closer, he awakens a part of her soul she never thought she’d feel again.

Making Rain wonder if, despite all the mistakes she’s made, it’s worth trying to get back to the girl she used to be.

This is book recommended by one of my favorite authors (Cassie Mae), and when she posted the pre-buy option on the book I one-clicked, because well…I trust her. And she didn’t steer me wrong.

What I Loved: From the onset, I could tell I was going to love this book. Rainbow was such a fun, bright, outgoing and charismatic character, but she had a thirst of adventure and danger, a natural thrill seeker. Perhaps it was because she trying to live up to her name, or perhaps she would have always been that way – but she was a force to be reckoned with, she’s even bright in her clothing and hair color choices. Her three best friends, all boys, are probably all just a little in love with her while at the same time have no idea what to do with her.

When tragedy strikes (come-on, not a spoiler, you can tell from the blurb!) Rain changes too. She is dark and depressed. I think the take-away from her transformation is the fact that she feels guilty and responsible, and turns in on herself, shutting her friends and the world out.

The friendship between the characters is one that I think everyone wishes they had, or reminds them of one that they did or do have. Friends how love each other, and get into trouble with each other and are just basically a single unit. Reading the first couple chapters, I smiled madly at the group and their bond. I love how this bond plays out and grows into something else as the story continues to move forward.

Not So Much: I mentioned that I loved Rainbows character, but I will say she was as little bit cliché in her outward appearance. I think if Rain was dark and depressed as she was written to be, her clothes would not have been all black and thought out, but just thrown together in a mismatch array and a hair color that had faded, washed out and with noticeable roots.  However I loved the imagery so I didn’t let it affect me too much.

I’m always wanting some kind of redeeming factor for bad parents, and I wished the same for Rainbow and her dad. But no, he was a drunk slob who barely served a purpose in the story at all.

The Verdict: This is not my favorite read of the year, but I really did enjoy it. I really would love to see more people get their hands on this book! While it’s dealt out in extremes, there is just enough happiness and excitement to balance out the sad. This is important to me, because I don’t typically seek out books that are overly sad. This is a good YA book, mostly clean.

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The Boy Most Likely To – Huntley Fitzpatrick

24611582The Boy Most Likely To by Huntley Fitzpatrick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Publisher: Dial Books
Publish Date: August 18, 2015

Buy Link:  https://amzn.com/0147513073

Blurb: Tim Mason was The Boy Most Likely To find the liquor cabinet blindfolded, need a liver transplant, and drive his car into a house

Alice Garrett was The Girl Most Likely To . . . well, not date her little brother’s baggage-burdened best friend, for starters.

For Tim, it wouldn’t be smart to fall for Alice. For Alice, nothing could be scarier than falling for Tim. But Tim has never been known for making the smart choice, and Alice is starting to wonder if the “smart” choice is always the right one. When these two crash into each other, they crash hard.

Told in Tim’s and Alice’s distinctive, disarming, entirely compelling voices, this novel is for readers of The Spectacular Now, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, and Paper Towns.

When I was in Jr High, there was this boy I went to school with. This boy was short and kind of crazy, and….well, he was a brat, to say the least. He was a trouble maker, a clown, he threw temper tantrums and always felt like things should always go his way. But there was something about this boy that made me think that his life wasn’t easy and he had a reason for the way he was acting. While I always maintained my distance from this boy, because no one wants to get caught up in that much drama, I always wanted things to sort of work out for him. Flash forward three to four years, the boy was still short, a little less wild, now a couple grade below me, and in with the wrong crowd. He was drinking, doing drugs and mis-adventures followed him around. Still, I remember wondering about his home life, and how he was treated and his attitude. There always seemed like there was more to the story than what one could see on the outside.

A really good story would end in overcoming and achievement…finding your place in the world. Unfortunately, here I am over 15 years graduated, and recently the boy’s name came up on Facebook among mutual friends. I’m not “friends” with this person, as I never was in real life either…just always an observer…but it seems that his life hasn’t gotten any better. There’s still just as much drama and temper tantruming, and probably substance abuse as well. I was a little disappointed to find out he never really found his way…however (getting to the point) that boy I knew from back when reminded me a bit of Tim, from The Boy Most Likely.

What I Loved: The difference between my story and the one told by Mrs. Fitzpatrick is that Tim did find is his way, he found a place to hang on and…hung on. I’ve been around addiction enough to feel very uplifted and empowered by Tim’s story. Any addiction is hard to shake, and you really have to want to do it before it can be successful. I love that Tim’s wasn’t this perfect linear progression, but he had his moments of weakness and failure. This is real.

Tim’s sarcastic way of dealing with life was simultaneously funny and sad. I hated how hard he was on himself. At times, I also hated how hard Alice was on him as well, however I loved who she was for him, and her way of helping him figure things out. Jace too, he was there in the moments when he was really needed. That seems to be the Garrett way overall actually.

Not So Much: And while it sounds like this is completely Tim’s story, Alice had her own troubles too. And the book dealt with them, but in some ways I felt like it didn’t deal with them enough. First Alice’s crazy ex really needed more than what he got. Then I kind of felt a little brushed off when the weight of responsibility was crushing Alice, but when her father finally addressed it, it seemed like it was done.

The Verdict: Another great read in this series. I can say that I loved My Life Next Door just a smidge better than I loved this one, but I really just love the Garret Family and these books are so hopeful. This is semi-clean; there are no details though sex is present, and there is cussing. Obviously there is drug and alcohol talk, but it’s real – there is no glamorization..it’s the down and dirty truth about what can happen, which we need more of rather than random drinking and sex at parties because that’s what high schoolers do type stuff. Anyway, I’d say reserve this for the older YA’s of the bunch.

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Book Review: God Bless America: A Patriotic Adult Coloring Book by Multnomah


Title: God Bless America: A Patriotic Adult Coloring Book
By: Multnomah

Blurb (From Goodreads):
Return to simple pleasures and simpler times.

Enter the pages of this coloring book for adults, and you will find a peaceful way to reflect on what makes America a truly amazing country: our values of equality, opportunity, faith, family, character, generosity, justice, and perseverance. Each coloring page features an original design from one of nine different artists, illustrating an inspirational quote from one of the Founding Fathers, an historic document, a patriotic hymn, or another of America s heroes.

Slow down, quiet the noise, and express creativity as you color your way through history.

So grab your colored pencils or markers, find a comfortable spot to relax, and spend some time celebrating America. To help set the perfect patriotic mood, a link to the Coloring America playlist is
included inside.

My Review:
Adult coloring books are all the rage, and this one even more appropriate given the day! I couldn’t turn down this treasure!











What I Loved: This book is filled with wonderful patriotic images from birds and flags, to military shots, all pages waiting to be filled with color and life. Each image includes a quote, popular line, or some sort of patriotic verse. On the left-hand side there is a bit of a history lesson as well.




Not So Much: Most of the images are beautiful, but there were a couple of pages that were just okay to me. I think you’d get that will every and all coloring books; children and adults alike.

The Verdict:       

In all, I enjoy this coloring book. I love the peace that comes with filling in the blanks and making the pages my own.


I received this book for an honest review from Blogging For Books. No other compensation was given for this review other than the joy of a book.



Book Review: Defending Taylor – Miranda Kenneally

Title: Defending Taylor
Author: Miranda Kenneally
Genre: YA – Coming of Age, Romance
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Published Date: July 5, 2016

Buy Link:  https://amzn.com/B01BX1PIPQ

Blurb (from Goodreads):
Captain of the soccer team, president of the Debate Club, contender for valedictorian: Taylor’s always pushed herself to be perfect. After all, that’s what is expected of a senator’s daughter. But one impulsive decision—one lie to cover for her boyfriend—and Taylor’s kicked out of private school. Everything she’s worked so hard for is gone, and now she’s starting over at Hundred Oaks High.

Soccer has always been Taylor’s escape from the pressures of school and family, but it’s hard to fit in and play on a team that used to be her rival. The only person who seems to understand all that she’s going through is her older brother’s best friend, Ezra. Taylor’s had a crush on him for as long as she can remember. But it’s hard to trust after having been betrayed. Will Taylor repeat her past mistakes or can she score a fresh start?

My Review:
Defending Taylor was one of those books that was difficult for me to put down. This was another one of those Netgalley books I picked up as a summer read, and while it wasn’t exactly about summer at all, it fit the bill rather nicely.

What I Loved: All of the characters were interesting and fun. Taylor is pretty typical as far as ‘near adults’ go, she is unsure of her place and of her future destination in life; couple that with an epic mistake on her part, and you’ve got enough drama to fill an entire lifetime. She deals with it though. I really could see her perspective on why she made some of the choices she did, even though in my head I was screaming “noooooooo…..”. I cannot, however, say I would have done anything any differently. Beyond that, Taylor’s character was honorable. I loved how she worked through problems, relied on her friends and family when she didn’t have a solution – but in the end she came up with good solid solutions, and went after what she wanted.

The relationship between her and Ezra (well, first off..who doesn’t love a MC named Ezra?! I think that if he were the antagonist, I would have fallen for him just for the name! 😉 ) was hot! I love the pre-existing condition of their feelings for each other before the book starts, it made their quick moving relationship easier to take that way.

Not So Much:
I will forever list sex in a YA novel in this spot…and I apologize, but I’m just not a fan. I also felt kind of weird about Taylor’s parent’s personalities. At times they are over-bearing, a bit uppity (which makes sense considering their position), and completely detached from all things concerning their kids; and then other times they seem like a completely normal family where talking isn’t so hard, and understanding and forgiveness isn’t such a huge deal. I don’t think that this was a growth progression throughout the book as much as it was an irregularity. Specifically in Taylor’s dad; he is so understanding and willing to let things go as soon as Taylor decides to really have a conversation regarding college, however most of the evidence leading up to that point indicated that the conversation should have gone way differently.

The Verdict:  

      

I did enjoy this book. I feel like Taylor as a person is a character that I will always admire. She really stands out to me in the YA world as someone who has her head on straight, she knows when she needs help, but she also makes good decisions (most of the time). I’ve already mentioned that this book isn’t exactly clean – it’s not overly descriptive (unless you count talk of using condoms), but there’s no denying it’s there, so my recommendation is that this book isn’t really a good one for any younger teens.

Book Review: One Paris Summer – Denise Grover Swank

Title: One Paris Summer
Author: Denise Grover Swank
Genre: Young Adult – Romance, Coming of Age
Publisher: Zonderkids Books/Blink
Date Date: June 7, 2016

Buy Link: https://amzn.com/0310755166

Blurb (from Goodreads):
Most teens dream of visiting the City of Lights, but it feels more like a nightmare for Sophie Brooks. She and her brother are sent to Paris to spend the summer with their father, who left home a year ago without any explanation. As if his sudden abandonment weren’t betrayal enough, he’s about to remarry, and they’re expected to play nice with his soon-to-be wife and stepdaughter. The stepdaughter, Camille, agrees to show them around the city, but she makes it clear that she will do everything in her power to make Sophie miserable.

Sophie could deal with all the pain and humiliation if only she could practice piano. Her dream is to become a pianist, and she was supposed to spend the summer preparing for a scholarship competition. Even though her father moved to Paris to pursue his own dream, he clearly doesn’t support hers. His promise to provide her with a piano goes unfulfilled.

Still, no one is immune to Paris’s charm. After a few encounters with a gorgeous French boy, Sophie finds herself warming to the city, particularly when she discovers that he can help her practice piano. There’s just one hitch—he’s a friend of Camille’s, and Camille hates Sophie. While the summer Sophie dreaded promises to become best summer of her life, one person could ruin it all.

My Review:
I recently went to NetGalley looking specifically for fun summer reads to take one. I came across two I felt I would like and would be fairly easy to commit to. One Paris Summer stuck out to me specifically because I’m an Anna and the French Kiss freak. I’ve read that book nearly 20 times (I really wish I were lying). It is my go-to book when I’m in a slump, or just want to reconnect with old ‘friends.’ One Paris Summer sounded perfect when I read the blurb, and I was even more excited when I was approved.

What I Loved: The setting and the language for sure top this list. It is one of the things I loved about Anna, I felt like I really could put myself there. I’ve never actually been to France, but I’m willing to bet based on Anna and now One Paris Summer, I’d be able to recognize a couple of places that aren’t actual landmarks (assuming they are real…). One Paris Summer was especially nice in the language area, I did take French in school, and since there were some French phrases, some well known while others weren’t, I was happy to know I could recognize what was being said before the book gave away the translation.

I also connected with the music side of this story. Sophie was a pianist, and she would ramble off pieces of music that most people don’t even care to recognize, but I on the other hand did know some of them – and probably all of them if I took the time to listen to the piece, since I don’t know every piece of music by name.

I did get caught up in this story line of this book (and not just the setting). The dynamic between Sophie and Camille and Camille’s friends was great. I loved the growth of Sophie and Eric’s characters throughout the book as well. In the opening chapter I thought that we were going to encounter the brother/sister cat fighting pretty much throughout the entire novel, but I loved that wasn’t the case. Some of my favorite moments were when Sophie and Eric were spending time alone. Of course, the blooming relationship between Sophie and Mathieu was front and center, and totally gush-worthy.

Not So Much: So I hope I don’t sound too hypocritical in my next statement, since I picked up this book because it reminded me of Anna and the French Kiss, but the similarities of a few of the scenes in One Paris Summer to Anna almost had me putting the book away. They happened in the very first few chapters and thankfully, once they had passed, the similarities ended rather quickly and One Paris Summer became its own. But still, if it were me I probably would have avoided that as much as possible (and if it was a coincidence…then that is super crazy, and sorry for calling it out!)

Camille played the perfect antagonist, however she might have ended up being a tad bit over the top at some points. Not the climax, mind you…but in some of her tantrums. And I kind of wish we got to “experience” more of her reformation in this book.

The Verdict:  

      

This really was exactly what I was looking for. I think it is very likely that I will add this to my “re-read” books…but first that means I have to buy my own copy rather than the NetGalley version!  The book is clean, and perfectly suitable for Young Adults.

(Note: I added the link to my review of Anna and the French Kiss, which I wrote right after reading it the first time in 2011 – first: this is one of my favorites and I rated it a 4 at the time…and over the years, my opinion of this novel is a bit different now..AND I’m a little better at writing reviews!)

Book Review: The Neverland Wars – Audrey Greathouse

Title: The Neverland Wars
Author: Audrey Greathouse
Genre: YA – Fantasy, Fairytale Retell

Buy Link: http://amzn.com/1634221710

Blurb (from Goodreads):
Magic can do a lot—give you flight, show you mermaids, help you taste the stars, and… solve the budget crisis? That’s what the grown-ups will do with it if they ever make it to Neverland to steal its magic and bring their children home.

However, Gwen doesn’t know this. She’s just a sixteen-year-old girl with a place on the debate team and a powerful crush on Jay, the soon-to-be homecoming king. She doesn’t know her little sister could actually run away with Peter Pan, or that she might have to chase after her to bring her home safe. Gwen will find out though—and when she does, she’ll discover she’s in the middle of a looming war between Neverland and reality.

She’ll be out of place as a teenager in Neverland, but she won’t be the only one. Peter Pan’s constant treks back to the mainland have slowly aged him into adolescence as well. Soon, Gwen will have to decide whether she’s going to join impish, playful Peter in his fight for eternal youth… or if she’s going to scramble back to reality in time for the homecoming dance.

My Review:
I’m in love with Peter Pan stories.  I can’t get enough of the different takes of the classic fairy tale.  I fall into these patterns a lot; Beauty and the Beast is my favorite to read, but I’ve also done Cinderella, and Red Riding Hood multiple times.
What I Loved:  A popular theme in Peter Pan retells has been that Hook is not the ‘bad guy’ and Peter Pan is.  I haven’t minded these role swaps, and find them a lot of fun, I’m thankful that someone has decided to keep the playful, adventurous Peter Pan in character!   I loved the descriptions of him behaving perfectly youthful and curious, while at the same time showing his burden for the home he loves and the desire to keep it protected from those who wish to use it for their own gain.
Gwen’s character was so perfect, even before Peter and Neverland come into play in this book, you can see the internal battle that she faces between wanting to be teenage and enjoy the things teenagers enjoy, while at the same time keeping that carefree freedom that only comes with being a child.  As she does venture into Neverland, that internal battle is even stronger.
Not So Much: Given the title, I thought that there would be more of a ‘war’ happening, as far as action.  What we have is the tip of a story, an introduction to characters and the promise of more adventure.  I know this, because I verified by checking out Audrey Greathouse’s website, but that wasn’t until I finished the story, so while now I’m pretty satisfied, while reading I was a little let down about this.

The Verdict:        
I liked this book, but I predict that I’m going to LOVE sequel!  This book is very YA appropriate, and honestly, I’m considering buying the book and putting it into the hands of my 11 year old daughter.
Note:  I received this book from Netgalley.com in exchange for an honest review.