Book Review: Unhooked – Lisa Maxwell

Title: Unhooked
Author: Lisa Maxwell
Genre: YA – Fairytale Retell, Paranormal

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Blurb (From Goodreads):
For as long as she can remember, Gwendolyn Allister has never had a place to call home—all because her mother believes that monsters are hunting them. Now these delusions have brought them to London, far from the life Gwen had finally started to build for herself. The only saving grace is her best friend, Olivia, who’s coming with them for the summer.
But when Gwen and Olivia are kidnapped by shadowy creatures and taken to a world of flesh-eating sea hags and dangerous Fey, Gwen realizes her mom might have been sane all along.

The world Gwen finds herself in is called Neverland, yet it’s nothing like the stories. Here, good and evil lose their meaning and memories slip like water through her fingers. As Gwen struggles to remember where she came from and find a way home, she must choose between trusting the charming fairy-tale hero who says all the right things and the roguish young pirate who promises to keep her safe.

With time running out and her enemies closing in, Gwen is forced to face the truths she’s been hiding from all along. But will she be able to save Neverland without losing herself?

My Review:
Ever the sucker for a fairy tale retelling, I grabbed up Unhook as soon as I knew about its existence. I truly did not know what I was in for when I picked up this book! I mean, from the blurb you can see this isn’t your typical Peter Pan story, but I am quite impressed with what it turned out to be. Unfortunately this review is finding itself to be vague in all ways. It’s very difficult to say much about it without spoiling the surprises in the book. Even the slightest discussion on the characters or events can reveal things that I feel are much better discovered by reading the book itself!

What I Loved: This book was quite a bit darker than any Peter Pan book I’ve read before. I think that is part of what really drew me in. This was only a skeleton of the story we know, in fact I’m pretty sure I can’t actually call this a ‘re-tell’ at all. The surprise of that kept me hooked, wanting to know what was going to happen next since I didn’t even have a baseline for the story.

Unhooked had so many twists and turns in it; I am usually pretty good with predicting what is going to happen, and I admit some predictions were easy, there were other moments, however, that surprised me! I love when a book does that. I find enjoyment at looking for foreshadowing and being right about the outcome, but I think I find even more when something (that makes sense) comes out of left field.

Not So Much: I have something I would put here…but it’s a spoiler, so I can’t. But it is not something that is a flaw in the story…just a preference of mine.

The Verdict:      

Hmm, well, I think that if you like fae (not the Tinker Bell kind) and familiar stories with a twist, you’ll like this book. It is quite clean, even from cussing – so approved for YA, and for those younger Pre-Teens who might like Goosebumps type books – they may enjoy this too!

Book Review: V is for Virgin – Kelly Oram

Title: V is for Virgin
Author: Kelly Oram
Genre: YA – Romance

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Blurb (from Goodreads): 
When Val Jensen gets dumped for her decision to stay a virgin until marriage, the nasty breakup goes viral on YouTube, making her the latest internet sensation.
After days of ridicule from her peers, Val starts a school-wide campaign to rally support for her cause. She meant to make a statement, but she never dreamed the entire nation would get caught up in the controversy.

As if becoming nationally recognized as “Virgin Val” isn’t enough, Val’s already hectic life starts to spin wildly out of control when bad boy Kyle Hamilton, lead singer for the hit rock band Tralse, decides to take her abstinence as a personal challenge.

How can a girl stay true to herself when this year’s Sexiest Man Alive is doing everything in his power to win her over?

My Review:
Kelly Oram is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. I am loving her YA stories so much. I recently re-read Cinder & Ella for the 3rd time since November, and once I was done I decided to pick up V is for Virgin.

What I Loved: Well, for starters I loved Val from the start! She was such a strong person with convictions that I could relate to. I had a somewhat similar experience to her, not in the standing on lunchroom tables sort of way, but I did have my best friend at the time basically indicate that I either hung out with her new group of friends, (and partook of the drugs and alcohol) or I didn’t. I didn’t and I wouldn’t all through Jr High and High School. I grew up with that stuff around me – I knew what the results could bring, I wanted nothing to do with it. So ….I just didn’t. I didn’t get ridiculed for it, but I did lose someone who was very important to me. Anyhow, I digress, I loved Val not only because she was strong, but because she was funny. She was quick witted, and passionate. All admirable qualities.

I loooooved the heat between Val and Kyle. I’m a little bit of a sucker for the ‘all up in your personal space’ kind of passion. I enjoy it in books almost as much as I enjoy it when my husband surprises me like that. And that is pretty much Kyle’s signature move.

I think the issue of being/feeling pressured to have sex as a teenager is tackled pretty well in this book. It is a BIG deal. And honestly, I hated how many of the characters were portrayed as whining that they weren’t ‘getting any’ because – why has this become such an everyday occurrence? What is wrong with this being special. And I mean really special? Not something that is expected of you with every passing boyfriend or girlfriend. I felt like both ends of the spectrum were laid out pretty well. I felt like my personal convictions were adequately portrayed as well as how others feel on the matter. A very fair assessment.

Not So Much: I didn’t realize when I picked this book up that it was a part of a series. (If two books can be considered a series.) The first book stands alone well enough, but no one is NOT going to want to pick up A is for Abstinence. But I really wanted it to be a stand alone. ::insert my own pouty face here::

The Verdict:        

Go buy Kelly Oram’s books! Clearly this particular book has sex talk in it…but it is a clean book. Good for teens.

Book Review: Squirrel Bait – Chip Davis

Title: Squirrel Bait
Author: Chip Davis
Genre: Adult: Horror, Paranormal, Satire

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Blurb (from Goodreads):
Tonya the librarian has an unusual passion for books, even for a librarian. When her books are harmed she takes it personally. When people turn up dead over damaged books, there are questions to answer. When the killer is a weresquirrel, the questions become more confusing.

There is a certain pretentiousness in classical literature. Elegant writing filled with meaning both astounding and sublime. This is not that. Not horrific enough to be horror, nor humorous enough to be comedy, welcome to Chip’s Dollar Dreadfuls. There may not be any fundamental truths, but there will be blood…so much blood.

My Review:
What happens when you let Chip Davis loose on a paranormal/horror/satire piece of work? Weresquirrels. Yes, you read that right, weresquirrels. And it’s just as silly as it sounds.

I read Chip’s previous book, Trail of the Raven: Haiti, and it was written not only for a younger audience, but with a much more serious and educational purpose.  This little novella proves that Chip is perfectly capable of creating a good read, no matter the subject matter.

What I Loved: The mere silliness of this book is enough to list here. I swear this book was so bad it was good. And I’m not talking about the writing, story line or characters. But really people, this book is tongue in cheek satire at it’s greatest. It is the first of what I hope are many to come Dollar Dreadfuls from Chip Davis. They are strictly for entertainment, not really meant to be taken seriously as stories, but yet they seem to be somewhat modeled after some paranormal romance novels that are popular today. It’s a book parody, though there is a good story line to follow along with as well!

I so enjoyed ‘seeing’ all my internet buddies make their appearance in the novel, some of the dying horrific bloody deaths. And I laughed. Oh I’m such a bad, bad person!

Not so Much: There was a lot of blood, and detailed descriptive murder. While it’s not meant to be a scary book by any stretch, I still had to just read words without using my imagination. I’m weak like that. Don’t judge!

The Verdict:      

This is a novella, and it’s meant for adults..not that it’s unclean, but there are a couple adult moments, add that with the blood and killing and…yup, it’s for adults. Great if you’re looking for a quick read that will remind you of an 80’s B horror flick.

Book Review: Friday Night Alibi – Cassie Mae

Title: Friday Night Alibi
Author: Cassie Mae
Genre: YA – Romance

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Blurb (From Goodreads):
In the wealthy town of Sundale, Kelli Pinkins has hatched the perfect plan to capitalize on her sweet reputation. For a generous fee, she will be every trust-fund baby’s dream: a Friday-night alibi, the “girlfriend” or “BFF” that parents dream about. With college approaching in the fall, Kelli’s services are in demand more than ever, which means that her social life is nonexistent. But Kelli is A-okay with that. She’s raking in cash for school. Besides, relationships are tricky, and sometimes very messy. She’d rather be at home on Xbox LIVE, anyway. Then the unexpected happens: She meets college stud Chase Maroney.

Chase isn’t like the preppy, privileged guys Kelli usually meets in Sundale. For starters, he’s twentysomething, always wears black., and he shoots back one-liners as fast as she can dish them out. But Kelli’s attempts to drive Chase away falter when she realizes that he treats her like he really knows her, like hecares about knowing her. When Kelli finally gives in to the delicious kiss she’s been fighting for so long, she faces a tough decision: make Chase a real-life boyfriend and risk her heart . . . or keep her clients and lose her first true love.

My Review:
I won Friday Night Alibi in a Days of Christmas giveaway, it is one of the two Cassie Mae books I didn’t already own at the time. As always, Cassie does not disappoint in giving me a great story to smile and laugh at. Her characters always feel like real people who you know or want to know in real life.

What I Loved: The ‘foreplay’ of this book was the greatest, the bickering, jabs and pranks made for amusing relationship development. Then once things got heated up between Kelli and Chase, well it never cooled off. I also enjoyed the friendship between Kelli and Sadie, and how Sadie wasn’t afraid to tell Kelli the truth. She just told her what she thought and waited for Kelli to accept it.

As far as the story-line goes, I liked the bit of resolution between Kelli and her father. The entire book made me feel like punching a lot of people in the throat, but this relationship evolution made me want to cry happy for Kel.

Not So Much: This book is becoming difficult to review, mostly because of this section right here. What I’m going to list in ‘not so much’ are the exact things we weren’t suppose to like about Kelli’s life. I hated how people treated her, and that she had to find something like becoming an alibi for the rich and spineless in order to feel needed. I hated that. I found myself scowling at this book a lot, mostly because of something Kel’s mom said, or how people treated her like a thing rather than a person. The part that’s hard is – typically this section is more about what didn’t work in a book for me…and this did work for the book, although I do wish that there was more relationship resolution between Kel and some of the other characters – i.e. her mother, who I ended up just feeling like she was a classless person who never really wanted Kelli to begin with, in the end. It’s hard for me to feel that way about a mother.

I do wish we could have heard more of Chase’s side of the story. He had a lot of grief he was working through in this book, and while we find out what and why that is, I feel like it was just kind of a story to add to the story. I know that would be difficult to do since this was first person from Kelli’s perspective, I just kind of wanted a bit more!

The Verdict:       

This is a great quick read! Perfect for a long weekend in, or a light fun read while on vacation! This was a mostly clean book, like in all of Cassie’s books, she doesn’t hold back on talk of body parts or sex – but there is nothing graphic or really inappropriate for YA readers.

Since I’m on the Cassie Mae kick, I also want to take a moment to make you aware of her new book that is dangerously close to being published…

***Cover Reveal from Cassie Mae, Author!***

Cover by: Makeready Designs
Editing and Formatting services by: CookieLynn Publishing Services
Blurb: My body suuuucks. After lounging around on my butt all summer (okay, so maybe that was my bad), this body decided to become something completely foreign. So now I’m trying to make the track team and I feel like I’m a baby learning to walk again.
A couple pounds wouldn’t have been so bad. Work those off, run like a mad woman, no problem, yeah? But no. I’ve also developed a couple of things that I definitely didn’t have before. And now my guy friends are all sitting in a pool of drool as they not-so-subtly stare at my chest.
Combine all that drama with the fact that the new track coach is getting major flack for being a little chunky, and all I’m trying to do is convince the team that I’m not running slower because of her coaching style.
Oh, and did I mention that I’m totally falling face-first in “like” with some guy I met in a cemetery? And no one understands it just because he’s also a little chunky. But he’s also adorable and wonderfully weird and I don’t care what they say, his look sure does it for me.
But… I don’t know… how can I be in “like” with someone, when I have no clue how to like myself anymore?
Preorder at a discounted price!

Book Review: Emmy & Oliver – Robin Benway

Title: Emmy & Oliver
Author: Robin Benway
Genre: Young Adult – Romance, Coming of Age

Blurb (from Goodreads):
Emmy’s best friend, Oliver, reappears after being kidnapped by his father ten years ago. Emmy hopes to pick up their relationship right where it left off. Are they destined to be together? Or has fate irreparably driven them apart?

Emmy just wants to be in charge of her own life.

She wants to stay out late, surf her favorite beach—go anywhere without her parents’ relentless worrying. But Emmy’s parents can’t seem to let her grow up—not since the day Oliver disappeared.

Oliver needs a moment to figure out his heart.

He’d thought, all these years, that his dad was the good guy. He never knew that it was his father who kidnapped him and kept him on the run. Discovering it, and finding himself returned to his old hometown, all at once, has his heart racing and his thoughts swirling.

Emmy and Oliver were going to be best friends forever, or maybe even more, before their futures were ripped apart. In Emmy’s soul, despite the space and time between them, their connection has never been severed. But is their story still written in the stars? Or are their hearts like the pieces of two different puzzles—impossible to fit together?

My Review:
This is another one of those books that sucked me in from the moment I picked it up. Had my weekend been a little less scheduled out this surely would have been a 1-dayer..but life does happen and I didn’t want it to pass me by, so I kept to my schedule (and maybe lost a little bit of sleep to finish).

What I Loved: I absolutely love the friendship between Emmy, Caro, Drew and Oliver in this book. Yes, Oliver is finding his way back into the friendship – but the camaraderie is still there. They are funny, sarcastic and just perfect together. Emmy and Oliver deals with some pretty tough issues, probably more than any one group of friends would normally have, but I really enjoyed how these four friends rely upon each other to get through, and yet they still have their problems; both personal and with each other.

I really loved Emmy and Oliver’s relationship, how it started and grew. At first I was hurt (probably as much as Emmy) when it seemed like Oliver didn’t really know her very well when Oliver came back, but it was nice to see them come together. The interludes of Emmy and Oliver’s childhood were fun as well!

Honestly, reading this book felt a bit like watching a movie – I loved the writing style!

Not So Much: There is a part of me that wishes that instead of this book being mostly about Emmy and Oliver, that it was opened up more to include the entire group. I really wanted more of Drew and Caro’s thoughts through the whole thing, and to see more behind the scenes of their homes and lives; they had just as many issues to deal with. Clearly, this would have changed the title of this book all together, but I really just loved the group as a whole so it was natural to just want to see more of all of them.

While I did say that reading this book felt like watching a movie, I did feel like the “action” was a little eh, so/so. I LOVED the friendships and growth and really found the book fun, but if this were a real movie, the story arc would be a little flat with a bit of a pitch at the climax.

The Verdict:  




This book is appropriate for mature teenagers. The setting is the last year of high school, and they are dealing with appropriate issues. There is, however, quite a bit of cussing and some alcohol in this book. Overall though, I do recommend Emmy and Oliver. It’s a great coming of age book!

Book Review: The Avery Shaw Experiment – Kelly Oram

Title: The Avery Shaw Experiment (Science Squad #1)
Author: Kelly Oram
Genre: YA – Romance, Coming of Age

Synopsis (from Goodreads): 
When Avery Shaw’s heart is shattered by her life-long best friend, she chooses to deal with it the only way she knows how—scientifically.

The state science fair is coming up and Avery decides to use her broken heart as the topic of her experiment. She’s going to find the cure. By forcing herself to experience the seven stages of grief through a series of social tests, she believes she will be able to get over Aiden Kennedy and make herself ready to love again. But she can’t do this experiment alone, and her partner (ex partner!) is the one who broke her heart.

Avery finds the solution to her troubles in the form of Aiden’s older brother Grayson. The gorgeous womanizer is about to be kicked off the school basketball team for failing physics. He’s in need of a good tutor and some serious extra credit. But when Avery recruits the lovable Grayson to be her “objective outside observer,” she gets a whole lot more than she bargained for, because Grayson has a theory of his own: Avery doesn’t need to grieve. She needs to live. And if there’s one thing Grayson Kennedy is good at, it’s living life to the fullest.

My Review:
Knock another book off the TBR list!!!
So I might be on a little bit of a Kelly Oram kick, since right around the holidays she marked several of her books down to $.99.  Over the last couple years I’ve grown kind of fond of nerdy-love books….I’m pretty sure Cassie Mae is mostly to blame for this…seriously if you haven’t checked out Cassie’s How To series – get on that…now!  (I digress) So since I’ve been into the nerdy books lately (not nerdy books…books about nerds…you know what I mean…) when I was reviewing the books on my TBR, Avery Shaw seemed pretty appealing.
What I loved:  I don’t know why I’m a sucker for “best friend romances” but I kind of am.  But I really loved that this one wasn’t your typical best-friend romance.  This book was more about unrequited love, and who else to be the perfect love interest after heartbreak than the ever-handsome older brother?!  I have to admit, even while reading the beginning of this book, the pair didn’t seem to be a great match, but of course Kelly Oram did not let me down.
I think what I’m finding I love about Kelly’s writing is how she throws in bits of humor here and there.  I really need to start using the highlighting feature in my books so I can share a few – but she has more awesome one liners than most! 

Not So Much:  I’m not sure when this happened, but I’m beginning to not be a fan of the insta-love type scenario.  That isn’t exactly what happens here, but I wasn’t a huge fan of how quickly Grayson’s head was turned by Avery.  I think, personally, I would have preferred a more gradual ‘ah-ha’ moment for both of them.  But, like I said, that’s just me.
The Verdict:    
This is a solid YA book, clean and fun.  It makes you laugh, and gives you the “sigh” worthy ending. Oh, the ending was fantastic by the way, but that’s all I’m going to say. 🙂

Book Review: Illusionarium – Heather Dixon

Title: Illusionarium

Author: Heather Dixon
Genre: YA – Fantasy, Steampunk

Synopsis (From Goodreads):
What if the world holds more dangers—and more wonders—than we have ever known? And what if there is more than one world? From Heather Dixon, author of the acclaimed Entwined, comes a brilliantly conceived adventure that sweeps us from the inner workings of our souls to the far reaches of our imaginations.

Jonathan is perfectly ordinary. But then—as every good adventure begins—the king swoops into port, and Jonathan and his father are enlisted to find the cure to a deadly plague. Jonathan discovers that he’s a prodigy at working with a new chemical called fantillium, which creates shared hallucinations—or illusions. And just like that, Jonathan is knocked off his path. Through richly developed parallel worlds, vivid action, a healthy dose of humor, and gorgeous writing, Heather Dixon spins a story that calls to mind The Night Circus and Pixar movies, but is wholly its own.

My Review:
Just before my 2016 “shut down” on buying any new books due to the 2016 TBR Reading Challenge, I received one of those Goodreads emails that includes new books which are specifically picked out for you due to what you’ve read in the past. Those emails are evil, and probably half my problem. Anyhow, Illusionarium was on that email. It was there because I have read and loved Heather Dixon’s writing in the past, so of course I NEED to know when she releases a new book, right?

I don’t always fall for those emails. But I’m a sucker for great covers, and let me tell you – I don’t know who Heather Dixon is working with on her covers, but they are both simply amazing. And truth be told – if this cover wasn’t so perfect, I wouldn’t have been buying this book on December 31, 2015, right before I was suppose to be cutting myself off from new purchases so that I could make a dent in the 450+ books already on my kindle/nook/whatever reading app.

What I Loved: This book takes imagination. I took LOADS of imagination to write (I wish I had half this imagination!) and it takes imagination to read – thankfully I’m good at that part! About halfway through reading Illusionarium, I stopped and read a few reviews on Goodreads, and I found a mixed response. But I think the biggest problem with the book is that it is weirdness on top of weirdness – and if you weren’t following from the beginning, you are probably going to have a problem continuing to follow…. I didn’t. I think that the setting (an AIR CITY!!), the illusions, the schism (ß you must read to understand) – everything was so interesting and perfect. If this book were a movie, it would no doubt be directed by Tim Burton. I imagine all kinds of bright colors, but also that gothic darkness that Burton is known for as well.

The illusions (this isn’t really a spoiler, right – given the title?!) were another element that I was so in love with. They weren’t illusions as in, you just imagine it and there you were. You had to create them, as in, understand the science behind what you were making before it became real. It was cool that Jonathan was smart, and shy and not your typical main character at all…but because of this, he was awesome at these illusions, despite his self confidence issue.

I loved the steampunk feel about the book, but also how it wasn’t driven by it’s ‘steampunkiness.’ There wasn’t the constant mention of gadget and devices, and it wasn’t overly Victorian in theme either. It was just kind of there, just another layer.

Okay – I’ve talked about the world and around the theme of the book – but I also really liked the story. It was layered with twists and turns, a few of them I was able to guess as the story progressed, a couple I didn’t guess until closer to the end, and some that took me by surprise. I like that. I like being surprised just as much as I like being able to foretell a story based on the foreshadowing. I think that is one of the things that keeps me engaged while reading, trying to figure out what’s going to happen because of the hints that authors throw out there.

Not So Much: Soo I LOVED the story, and the story line. And I even really liked the characters, so this little bit is nothing but a drop in the book. I really wish that the romantic aspect of the book would have been a little bit more there. I like a little bit of romance, you know? It wasn’t the purpose of the book, but I don’t think a little bit more would have taken away from it either. It was done well, but I just I don’t know…it left me wanting.

The Verdict:     

The only reason I’m not giving this 5-Hearts is because while I really did enjoy this book quite a bit, I’ve read it. I’m done. I don’t have a pull to re-read this one immediately. I’m trying to save 5-Hearts for those books that call to me in that way. This book was clean (even from cussing) and would be great for young teens who read more mature books for sure! And, because they are simply beautiful, I plan on adding this AND Entwined to my hardback book collection. (This is not cheating..I’m not buying any NEW books in 2016!!!)