Book Review: Etherworld – Claudia Gabel & Cheryl Klam

Authors:  Claudia Gabel, Cheryl Klam

Synopsis from Goodreads:  

In this sequel to Elusion, three teens fight a virtual reality program that threatens to destroy their minds. Dangerous secrets and lies add up to a thrilling futuristic fantasy with an Inception-inspired twist. 

Elusion was hailed as an exciting leap in technology—until users began to disappear amid rumors of addiction. Regan’s search for the truth led her and her new love interest, Josh, to Etherworld. Etherworld is a dimension hidden deep beyond Elusion’s firewall, where players can hide, and ultimately fight back. Regan’s father and others are here working to destroy Etherworld, but the longer they stay the less likely they’ll be able to return to the real world alive.
Escape means attacking Elusion from within the program. 

It’s dangerous and it’s a puzzle. And even if they manage it, how will they be able to stop Orexis from distributing Elusion to the masses when the people who run it are corrupt?

My Review:
Etherworld was satisfying in that this was not book two of a three book series, and this made me so happy, mostly because as the story was unfolding I couldn’t figure out how it would possibly end in a way to need an additional novel. I love the virtual reality/Matrix like feel of the entire series. Etherworld picked up practically where Elusion left off, and moves pretty quickly through the story; at no point did I feel like it was just dragging on. This book is even less focused on the romance than Elusion was, and the main focus was mostly about getting everyone to safety and bringing the truth to light, but that doesn’t mean that Regan and Josh don’t get a few precious moments together. My only problem with Etherworld was that as facts unfolded I was a little lost as to the motives behind some of the decisions the characters were making (I’m purposefully being vague to avoid spoilers), and because of that the story did feel a little bit forced. Otherwise, this is a great scifi/dystopian-like series.

Rated: PG-13; because of eluded to Sex
Genre: Young Adult – Dystopian, Romance
Rating: 4 Stars

~* Books by Claudia Gabel *~
// // //

Book Review: The Winner’s Curse & The Winner’s Crime – Marie Rutkoski

Title: The Winner’s Curse (The Winner’s Trilogy – Book 1)
Author: Marie Rutkoski
Synopsis from Goodreads:   

Winning what you want may cost you everything you love 

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions. 

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin. 

But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined. 

Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

My Review:
Once again, what I am loving most about a book is the fact that the main character, Kestrel, is not this all perfect/powerful person;  while she’s smart and cunning, she is decisively not good at combat, despite being a famous general’s daughter.  She is drawn to things and activities that are  are not valued in her culture.  The Winner’s Curse focused a lot on strategy and games, but the beautifully woven words that developed the relationship between Kestrel and Arin created some of the best pictures of a budding  affection between our two points of view.  I loved that the book wasn’t exactly an insta-love type attraction, but something that developed over time, and still has places to go.  The world and society that Marie Rutkoski builds are made up, yet are so very believable; the hatred and prejudices on both sides of the spectrum mixed with those who realize value in all people, and respect for their culture make this story so well rounded and easy to love.

Rated:  PG
Genre: Young Adult 
Rating:  5 Stars

Title: The Winner’s Crime (The Winner’s Trilogy – Book 2)
Author: Marie Rutkoski

Synopsis from Goodreads:   

Book two of the dazzling Winner’s Trilogy is a fight to the death as Kestrel risks betrayal of country for love.

The engagement of Lady Kestrel to Valoria’s crown prince means one celebration after another. But to Kestrel it means living in a cage of her own making. As the wedding approaches, she aches to tell Arin the truth about her engagement…if she could only trust him. Yet can she even trust herself? For—unknown to Arin—Kestrel is becoming a skilled practitioner of deceit: an anonymous spy passing information to Herran, and close to uncovering a shocking secret.

As Arin enlists dangerous allies in the struggle to keep his country’s freedom, he can’t fight the suspicion that Kestrel knows more than she shows. In the end, it might not be a dagger in the dark that cuts him open, but the truth. And when that happens, Kestrel and Arin learn just how much their crimes will cost them.

My Review:
I am the worst when it comes to the 2nd book of a series; it’s the book that I love to hate because it’s not the introduction, where you get to know the characters and establish the foundation of the world/story (which is kind of my favorite part) nor do you get to find out the end result.  It’s exactly what it is; the stuff in the middle – there’s typically action, but it’s not the explosion of events you would get at a conclusion, and since you already “know” the characters – well it’s just a lot of in-between and tension that is left unresolved.  The Winner’s Crime is no exception, it is the moving board between what is going on, and what is going to happen; and while I did enjoy Kestrel’s devotion to Arin in her own way, and I absolutely love the word pictures that Marie Rutkoski draws especially in the area of Kestrel and Arin’s relationship, I was frustrated beyond belief at Kestrel’s avoidance of Arin and her inability to simply tell the truth.  In the end, this entire book was about the divide between her desire to make her father proud and the desire to help the guy she loves – and the consequences of both.  The Winner’s Crime was a good book – but it was the 2nd book of a series and I want more, bring on Book 3!

Rated:  PG
Genre: Young Adult
Rating:  4 Stars

Book Review: Sparrows for Free – Lila Felix

Author: Lila Felix
Synopsis from Goodreads:   

There are skeletons in every closet. Some stay quiet—and some rule your soul with an iron fist.

Ezra is ruled by the ghosts of his past—and needled by the guilt they create. Not only does he have to manage his own guilt—his friends are forced to bear the weight as well. He lives in limbo, never dreaming of anything that lies beyond the grave.

In his mind, he’s a murderer, pure and simple.

Hide and seek is Aysa’s game. She begs for small spaces and empty places. But, she secretly desires so much more.

When they find each other, a hope for something new is sprung.

But Ezra’s skeletons are out for blood.

“I hide shock well. I’m a pro at hiding. I have no idea that whatever he had to tell me would be so personal—so heartbreaking. But, I quickly remembered that heartbreak was all around him every time he turned around. He needs no more empathy or sympathy in his life. He craves someone to give him a different take on a tired situation.

And different is practically my middle name.”

My Review:
I had read Lila Felix’s Love and Skate book a few months ago, and while the story line was really good and I did like the characters, the whole book felt a little stiff and needed quite a bit of editing; the lesson I have learned is never judge an author by previous work, and honestly I never would have pegged myself for doing something like that, but I know that is exactly what I was doing every time I scrolled past Sparrows for Free on my kindle and bumping it down the line of my TBR pile; thankfully a friend talked some sense into me and told me I would really like this book, and she was right!  The story of two messed up people and the road to their recovery was beautifully written. The characters were people I really wanted to get to know.  Asya, was someone I could realate to in some ways; not necessairily in the hiding from life – but while growing up there were moments when I felt like I was invisible.  I loved Asya’s gradual increase of self esteem and how she  stood up for herself; she didn’t wake up one day and decide to be different – it was a work in process.  If nothing else, Sparrows for Free will trap you into a story that you absolutely have to finished, if for no other reason than to see Asya and Ezra find themselves and begin to move past who they are and into who they should be.

Rated:  PG-13 – Mild cussing, a bit of sensuality
Genre: New Adult – Romance
Rating:  4 Stars

Book Review: Jackaby – William Ritter

Title: Jackaby

Author: William Ritter
Synopsis from Goodreads:   

“Miss Rook, I am not an occultist,” Jackaby said. “I have a gift that allows me to see truth where others see the illusion–and there are many illusions. All the world’s a stage, as they say, and I seem to have the only seat in the house with a view behind the curtain.”

Newly arrived in New Fiddleham, New England, 1892, and in need of a job, Abigail Rook meets R. F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained with a keen eye for the extraordinary–including the ability to see supernatural beings. Abigail has a gift for noticing ordinary but important details, which makes her perfect for the position of Jackaby’s assistant. On her first day, Abigail finds herself in the midst of a thrilling case: A serial killer is on the loose. The police are convinced it’s an ordinary villain, but Jackaby is certain it’s a nonhuman creature, whose existence the police–with the exception of a handsome young detective named Charlie Cane–deny.

Doctor Who meets Sherlock in William Ritter’s debut novel, which features a detective of the paranormal as seen through the eyes of his adventurous and intelligent assistant in a tale brimming with cheeky humor and a dose of the macabre.

I picked up this book because I loved the idea of a paranormal Sherlock Holmes, however it took me quite a while to really get invested in this book.  I think that was because this felt more like watching a TV series than  a movie.  As a reader you get a pretty basic idea of the characters and who they were, Jackaby being the easiest since we all know Holmes pretty well, but I didn’t really feel like I got any character depth on any of them.  Jackaby’s character was my favorite because while he did echo all the parts of Sherlock everyone loves, he was very much his own character exhibiting a bit more compassion and personable attributes that Holmes lacked.  I enjoyed the diversity of characters and the legends/theories/stories presented; they made the discovery of ‘who-did-it’ part of the book more enjoyable.  I believe that people who enjoy Sherlock Holmes, and (in my opinion a better comparison than Dr. Who) the TV Series Grimm, this book (series) will have a lot of appeal.

Rated:  PG
Genre: Fiction – Mystery
Rating: 4 Stars

Book Review: Roomies – Lindy Zart


AuthorLindy Zart
Synopsis from Goodreads:  

Graham Malone is my roommate, my personal eye candy, the reason I get up in the morning smiling (that could be from the illicit dreams I have about him too, I suppose. Let’s move on.). He’s also beautiful to look at, but his heart is where his true beauty lies. Take away the exterior and the interior still shines. 

I love him. I mean, I’m pretty sure I do, having never been in love before. Anyway, it seems legit. 

And now his brother Blake is here, and, well, he’s the complete opposite of Graham. Sarcastic, brooding, and totally available. But he’s leaving soon, and Graham’s the one I want. I shouldn’t have to remind myself of this, right? I wouldn’t have to if Blake would quit looking at me like I’m something yummy and he’s starving.

Here’s a toast to roomies; the ones you should never fall in love with. Or something.

My Review:
Roomies was “laugh-out-loud” fun, romantic read; filled with plenty of sarcasm, wit, antics, broody jealous guys,  strange parents, a love triangle, and a bit of forgiveness and reconciliation.  The voice of this book, Kennedy, is self-proclaimed immature (and she is), she is very ‘blonde,’ can’t drive worth a lick and deflects meaningful conversations with banter and sarcasm; but she becomes very insightful at moments as well, which would usually seem strange but somehow worked for her character very well.  It actually redeemed her, because let’s face it; she sometimes even got on my nerves, especially when she was absolutely oblivious to Graham’s  (roommate) obvious adoration for her.  Graham was likewise just as oblivious, which resulted in a lot of heated moments, and even a macho “you’re mine” up against a door; but with every two steps forward it seemed like we took three back on the whole “I don’t want to mess this up” train.  Of all the characters, Blake was the only one who wasn’t actually blonde (ditzy, or otherwise…what’s up with that, Lindy Zart….why was nearly everyone blonde?), this dark brooding male was equally as appealing as Graham, and he basically knew what was what from the very first day.

Rated: PG-13 – sensuality, cussing (actually, if this were a movie it would be R, because the F word was used multiple times… in one paragraph), alcohol
GenreNew Adult
Rating: 4 Stars

Book Review: The Summer I Gave Up Boys – Kassandra Kush

Synopsis from Goodreads: 

A summer love novella 

Kaliyah Simon just broke up with her cheating boyfriend, and now that summer break is here, all she wants is a quiet, boy-free summer. To focus on work, reading, and her tan. But then she meets up with her old high school nemesis, Isaiah Winters, on the way home, and he seems more interested in being friends than enemies. Can Kaliyah lower her walls and get over seven years of pushing Isaiah away and find out what it would be like to actually be with him? 

With her best friend going boy-crazy, a twenty-first birthday looming on the horizon, Isaiah continually showing up on her doorstep, and an ex that seems to want her back, Kaliyah’s summer promises to be anything but quiet.

My Review:

What do I read when the snow falls outside but a book about summer love of course!  The Summer I Gave Up Boys is a fun, short novella about Kaliyah and Isaiah, apparently “mortal enemies” since High School with just enough spark to be something more.  I enjoyed the chemistry between Kaliyah and Isaiah, which is evident from the very beginning.  It was fun watching these two banter and bicker at each other, however if this were a full length novel I would have been really disappointed by how quickly Kaliyah dropped her resolve and went for Isaiah.  In a book that would be perfect for one of those Summer anthems with several other short stories, the story of Kaliyah and Isaiah made me smile, at times even laugh, and gave me the happy feeling of a decent HEA without a lot of drama.

Rated:  PG
Genre: Young Adult – Romance
Rating: 4-Stars

If I Tell – Janet Gurtler

RATING:  4 of 5 Stars
GENRE: Young Adult Fiction, Romance
FORM: eBook, Netgalley, ARC

While I was granted permission to read this book by a NetGalley affiliate publisher, Sourcebooks, I have received no compensation for this review other than the joy of reading!

SYNOPSIS: Jasmine wasn’t suppose to see her best friend making out with her mother’s boyfriend, she wasn’t suppose to see how they embraced madly, driven by lust and alcohol, nor how it looked like the whole event was just getting started, so she turned away and went back to where she came from. Now burdened with this huge secret, Jaz was set on breaking the news to her mother, knowing that it will ruin her relationship with Simon, but it was something she just had to do. Except her mother had some news of her own; she is pregnant. Now she’s holding this information inside, and is unable to make amends with Lacey, her ex-best friend, so she begins turning to the new hot guy working at the same coffee shop she does. Jackson is there for her when she feels as if no one else is.

REVIEW: If I Tell had me hooked from the beginning. Janet Gurtler lets out just enough information at a time to keep you pushing forward in the book to find out the ‘why’s’ or so you’ll find out what happens next. To me, this was more of a story of coming into one’s self than it is about keeping a deep dark secret, but this thing looming over Jaz’s head is what causes her life to go spiraling off path in the first place.

Jaz is half black, was born to a teenage mom, her dad skipped town, and she was raised by her grandparents. Already, she has a lot to deal with. Throw in the fact that all the kids in school look down on her for being so different – not black, and not white, there is not a crowd that she belongs to. Now throw in the fact that you’ve witness your mom’s boyfriend kissing your best friend, and you’ve got a mess. The thing is, Jaz, behaved as if she was younger than her seventeen years. While she was dealing with a lot of issues, instead of behaving like a mature young-adult, she would fly off the handle, yell out biting words to hurt her target and storm off. Sometimes she had the decency to cry and feel bad about what she had done, but not enough to try and make efforts not to do it again. Her biggest problem, as her friend Ashley points out, is self-esteem. She does not think very highly of herself. If you think you are the victim, often times you will find yourself the victim. Point in case, the high school snob, Tina.

Here’s the kicker, with all these things going wrong for Jaz; she’s got a huge secret, and she feels like the world is out to get her because of her skin color, what she does not see is that she’s got this huge support system all around her. She is blessed with more friends than some people have, granted it’s a group of misfits, but together they form a crowd all their own, one in which they all belong. Despite the big fat huge mistake that any normal person probably would have trouble getting over, she’s got Lacey, who has been her best friend for a while. She’s got Ashley, the lesbian who moved to her school to get away from her own bullying. She’s got Jackson, who has his own secrets, and also was in juvy for dealing drugs. She’s got Simon, who once again made a really big mistake, but who loves her and has helped her understand a part of herself no one else could. She’s got her grandma, who for all intents and purposes was her mother. Even her own mother is there, even if her role is more of an older sister than that of a mother. So reading it from my end, seeing all that she did have and was missing out on proved to be a bit of a frustrating for me. While Jaz was sinking in self-pity and throwing self-destructive tantrums, these people are sticking by her through thick and thin.

I loved her support system. I loved all of her friends. Ashley was earnest and kind. Jackson was sexy and understanding and unbelievably patient. These characters have started to help Jaz see that life isn’t as bad as she makes it out to be. I can’t say everything she felt was all in her head, it absolutely was not, but thankfully, at the end of the book I think she realized that it was time to heal and move on from past hurts and begin to look forward, making this book more than worth the read!