Saving Detroit – Michelle Bolanger

34738008Title: Saving Detroit
Author: Michelle Bolanger

Publisher: Self – Indie Author
Published Date: April 29, 2017

Blurb: Luke Kelso is about to land what he thought was his dream job as crew chief for his dad’s pro-race team, but a celebratory night out with friends turns into a six-month nightmare of abuse after he is drugged and forced into service for a high-end sex trafficking ring.

His rescue and return home to a family that loves him should have given him a safe place to recover and begin rebuilding his life. But when the truth about his family’s involvement in his ordeal is revealed, Luke turns his back on God, his family, and his career, vowing to take down the one who shattered his world forever.

An emotional story of recovery and healing through faith in God, Saving Detroit is a heartbreaking look at the horrors of human trafficking seen through the eyes of a young man fighting a battle against an evil only God can defeat.

My Review:

Once again, Michelle has created a masterpiece that sucks you in right from the start and keeps you stuck until the very end. She is excellent at creating a scene, including you you in the conversation and causing you to feel. Saving Detroit is a small break from her previous, Urban Fantasy, genre. A small break that I expect to be repeated over and over, because Michelle is too busy writing whatever is in her heart at that moment to be stuck in a single category.

What I Loved: I loved that this book is a piece of Michelle’s heart, which is absolutely evident in every word, paragraph, chapter. She put her heart and soul into this book for many reasons. She clearly had a few purposes in writing this book; one of them was an introduction into the true character of God – not the version we see plastered in news stories on Facebook, or through the condemning words of the misguided, but the God of love and patience and persistence.

I loved the other purpose of this book, which is to draw attention to an overlooked issue in this country; sex trafficking, and the even more over looked victims; boys and men. When I first started reading this book I was thrown when things started to take a turn for the dark. In the back of my mind I’m thinking, ‘what?! no…’ but reality is, anyone and everyone can be a victim, and our culture such as it is, will constantly shy away from MEN being a victim of anything. Especially in this arena. Its a thought that often gets swept under the rug and ignored. Sure there are some news stories, especially when its children involved, but they tend to fade away and get forgotten. This book draws attention to this issue, not only that, but it kind of throws it in your face and makes you want to PAY attention. To do something about it.

Not So Much: This book gutted me at times, it was difficult to read, difficult to process at times. It was at those moments I really wanted to put the book down and take a break.

The Verdict: I implore you, whether you are a Christian or not, give this book a chance. Let it wiggle it’s way into your heart, and truly let yourself hear the message that it is singing through every page.

Hunted – Meagan Spooner

24485589Title: Hunted
Author: Meagan Spooner

Publisher: HarperTeen
Published Date: March 14, 2017

Blurb: Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones—and in her blood. Though she grew up with the city’s highest aristocrats, far from her father’s old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them.

So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance.

Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory—a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast?

My Review:
Beauty and the Beast has always been, and likely will always be my favorite fairytale.  I have loved it from the moment the first Disney movie came out back when I was a kid.  I remember being enchanted by the story, and then again when all the reports came out about all the details of on the graphics and all the work that went into the finite details (anyone else remember the over-description of that amazing chandelier?) I was enchanted again by the work that went into making the movie I loved.  As I grew up I came to love the story and it’s many forms.  In fact, recently my family and I were at a bookstore, and naturally they had a display dedicated to Beauty and the Beast, and I pointed out all of the books on that display I had already read.  I’m pretty sure it was 7 out of the 10 options.  At least one of the options was a book that was just a graphic replica of the movie (of which I have no desire to read).  Another of the books was Hunted, and I have now added it to my list…

What I Loved:  While this is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, this book was its own story.  So many different elements and theories were poured into this rendition, it was so lovely to see the story through a different lens.  Only the trace outline of the story that is so familiar existed in this rendition.

My absolute favorite part about this book, for the very first time this story opened my eyes to a new reality in all of the Beauty and the Beast tales, and I’m not sure why I haven’t seen it before.  Most (Disney) stories are about a Princess who needs rescued.  And yes, there are many of the newer movies where this reoccurrence has been dropped to have the strong female lead, but I think we all forget to look at Beauty in this light.  In fact, the roles are completely reversed and it has always been Beast that needs rescued. There is a scene in which one of Yeva’s (Beauty’s) sisters point out, [paraphrased quote] “you are not a knight in shining armor riding off to defeat the enemy and rescue the princess,” but is she not?  Does she not break the spell releasing the Beast from his curse…in the many retellings, this is done mostly the same way.  This book is unique in the curse and it’s ways, but the concept is still there.

The conclusion, and Yeva’s self evaluation though, beautifully done.

Not So Much: I felt like it took a little while to really get into the thick of this story.  While most of the first few chapters are story and character building, I felt it moved slow.  But once I got through the beginning the real story, the one I was anxious to get to, reeled me in really quick.

Due to Yeva’s skill sets and the title being “Hunted” and all, I did long for a bit more action as well.

The Verdict: I will be adding a hard-copy of this book to my shelf. I loved it. There are many words I really wanted to share in this review, however so many of the things I wanted to discuss could have been viewed as spoilery, simply because the best part about this book is going in knowing it’s basically a retelling, but not really knowing the story at all.  As all the parts of it start to become clear – THIS is the joy in this book! Hunted is very YA friendly, and a familiar story beautifully re-imaged.

A Million Junes – Emily Henry

30763950Title: A Million Junes
Author: Emily Henry

Publisher: Razorbill
Publication Date: May 16, 2017

Blurb: In their hometown of Five Fingers, Michigan, the O’Donnells and the Angerts have mythic legacies. But for all the tall tales they weave, both founding families are tight-lipped about what caused the century-old rift between them, except to say it began with a cherry tree.

Eighteen-year-old Jack “June” O’Donnell doesn’t need a better reason than that. She’s an O’Donnell to her core, just like her late father was, and O’Donnells stay away from Angerts. Period.

But when Saul Angert, the son of June’s father’s mortal enemy, returns to town after three mysterious years away, June can’t seem to avoid him. Soon the unthinkable happens: She finds she doesn’t exactly hate the gruff, sarcastic boy she was born to loathe.

Saul’s arrival sparks a chain reaction, and as the magic, ghosts, and coywolves of Five Fingers conspire to reveal the truth about the dark moment that started the feud, June must question everything she knows about her family and the father she adored. And she must decide whether it’s finally time for her—and all of the O’Donnells before her—to let go.

My Review:
This is the first book I’ve ever read from the First To Read program.  If you’re a blogger, you should check it out!   Anyhow, anytime I get a book that I am pretty much ‘required’ to review, I get nervous.  What if I don’t like it? What if it’s so bad I don’t want to finish it?  I pretty much enjoy being in a non-committed relationship with books; reading what I want and specifically NOT reading when I don’t want.  So I was a little apprehensive when I downloaded this book and started it.  Let me just say, my fears were 120% unfounded, from the very beginning I was absorbed into this book.

What I Loved:  A Million Junes is one of those books that in its own way, unfolds in multiple timelines while maintaining a consistent current timeline. It’s different than other books like it, because even on those multiple timelines, the time period can be pretty fluid.  You jump in and out of the story at a variety of points.  I’m hoping this isn’t considered a ‘spoiler’ because I wanted to bring it up to point out that there was not one point throughout this story where I was confused.  I find this pretty much amazing!

There is so much to really enjoy about this book, the friendship between June and her best friend Hannah for starters.  Their friendship seemed so real, and exactly how you would expect a senior in high school friendship to be.  It wasn’t too over-the-top teenagery, but they also behaved in a way that seemed appropriate for their age.  Again, I think that this is something that many authors struggle with, the characters tend to end up feeling too over the top in the rebellious teenage direction or way too mature for their age.

I enjoyed June and Saul’s relationship – the way it unfolded naturally, it wasn’t all heat and passion, but a slow moving thing that they felt around and pushed, pulled and formed it into something real.  It was perfect, specifically because of its forbidden element.  The blurb sort of compares it to Romeo and Juliet, but it’s not a retelling at all.  I loved that do not rush headlong into something, but really take time to evaluate each other and make the best decisions they can on their own.

So while all of those things are good, the best part of this book is the mystery, the curse, and the unwinding of information.  The flow of the words coming off the pages is intoxicating in itself.  This was a most excellently written piece of art!

Not So Much:  Some of the minor characters – specifically the creative writing teacher – and their motives I didn’t quite get, honestly.  I can understand, I suppose, needing another antithesis/pushing point, but at the same time I think that goal could easily have been accomplished without the additional character, or attempting to play up her importance.  She was a bit oxymoron-ish as a character as well, she seemed to serve a dual – almost conflicting – purpose in my opinion.  Anyhow, this is about the only kind of/sort of not wonderful thing I can say about this book.  I’d say that’s pretty good!

The Verdict:  I am in love with this book.  It was fantastic…if you couldn’t tell that’s what I thought already.  It’s a YA, very clean and tidy, and yet, nothing more was needed to make it…more.  If you like a lyrical style of writing, and settings that are kind of blurry in nature, very fluid and changing – this book is definitely for you, and if you don’t, I still implore you to give it a chance!

**This book was an Advanced Reader Copy from FirstToRead.com; other than the joy of reading – I was granted no compensation to review this book.**

All Laced Up – Erin Fletcher

32057113Title: All Laced Up
Author: Erin Fletcher

Series: Breakaway #1

Publisher: Entangled: Crush
Publication Date: October 10, 2016

Blurb: When the two are forced to teach a skating class to save the rink, Lia’s not sure she’ll survive the pressure of Nationals and Pierce’s ego. Not only can’t he remember her name, he signed her bottle of water like she was one of his groupies. Ugh.

But if there’s one thing Lia knows better than figure skating, it’s hockey. Hoping to take his ego down a notch—or seven—she logs into his team website under an anonymous name to give him pointers on his less-than-stellar playing.

Turns out, Pierce isn’t arrogant at all. And they have a lot in common. Too bad he’s falling for the anonymous girl online. No matter how much fun they’re starting to have in real life, she’s afraid he’s going to choose fake-Lia over the real one…

My Review: 
All Laced Up fell right in line with the YA Romance novels I have been reading lately, and it was recommended to me a long time ago –  so I decided it was next up on the list.  I fall into patterns, like most of us do of course, but also I choose these straight up YA-Fiction/Romances a lot because the escape I’m looking for is one that is simple, easy, sucks me into the story and out of reality.  Likewise, I tend to stay away from heavy books because life is so heavy on its own.  I know usually there are really great stories in them, and I would love them, HAVE loved them, if and when I read them – but I kind of have to be ready for it, you know.  Mentally I have to want to be in that place.  But, I digress…I fall into patterns, and some other patterns I fall in to tend to be sports themed romances, or fairy tales, or even dystopians or girlpower books.  Historical romances as well, maybe even a little bit of steampunk thrown in there.

What I Loved:  This is exactly what I was looking for, when I started reading.  Sweet romance, sweet characters; some but little conflict and a sappy smile at the end.  I always enjoy reading a little bit about the sports, and the passion that the characters have for their chosen sport.  A lot of times it makes me want to try it myself.  Not this time though, I don’t think I’d do very well with hockey!

I really loved how Pierce actually was pretty much as oblivious to Lia as she thought that he was, though she really went through lengths to make sure it was true for him and many others.  However, when he laughed about the whole water bottle story, that sealed it for me; I pretty much loved him from that point on.  He was this small-town superstar that had no idea he was embodying two different personalities.  Lia was as well, so the whole online persona thing was a fun way to bring this all together.

But my favorite moment between Lia and Pierce is when they skate together.  ONE TIME they skate together, that is weird to me since they are both skaters…but what a fun, YA/Teenagey scene!!!  Books need more fun and laughter and play and a little less of the wall-to-wall seriousness.

Not So Much:  This was another book where you can pretty much predict everything from the moment you pick up the book.  That is okay.  I mean I wanted a simple fun read, that’s what I got.  But I do love it when the author throws me for a loop now and then.  Also, we got ONE really good moment where Pierce blocks Lia in his arms in the ice ring, I kind of wish he had a little bit more of that in him.

The Verdict:  Another winner for me!  I’ll be searching out more of Erin’s books when I need that silly smile of a happy book for sure.  This book was perfect for YA’s – I wouldn’t mind if my 12 year old daughter read it.

Operation Prom Date – Cindi Madsen

33224662Title: Operation Prom Date
Author: Cindi Madsen

Series: Tactics in Flirting #1

Publisher: Entangled: Crush
Publication Date: March 13, 2017

Blurb: Kate ships tons of fictional couples, but IRL her OTP is her and Mick, the hot quarterback she’s crushed on since, like, forever. With only one semester left of senior year, it’s now or never if she wants to land him in time for prom. Since she’s flirtationally challenged, she enlists Cooper Callihan, the guy who turned popular seemingly overnight but who used to be a good friend.

Cooper lives and breathes rowing, but his partner just broke his wrist. When he remembers Kate’s good with a set of oars, he strikes a deal: help him train, and he’ll make sure her crush notices her. Only he didn’t know how addicting spending time with her would be. Or how the more successful the Operation is, the more jealousy he experiences.

The mission has been set. The troops have their marching orders. But what if the target is the wrong guy all along?

My Review:
Operation Prom Date popped up in one of the author Facebook groups I’m a part of, and even when the book was simply being talked about I just knew I had to have it!

What I Loved:  So there wasn’t much ‘new’ happening in this book that hasn’t happened before, guy helps girl land the guy of her dreams while girl is not realizing she’s actually falling for guy.  What makes this one a bit different is that the guy (Cooper) doesn’t already have a crush on Kate before they get started.  So watching them both get sucker punched with the reality was fun.

Cindi has written some major chemistry between Kate and Cooper, even from the beginning Cooper is pretty much swoon worthy, and you’re ready to leave whats-his-face in the dust.  As it should be.  But the first kiss…watch out for that one, its a dousy! 🙂  Cooper was so focused and determined, but I loved it when his jealous streak came out.  Kate was an intro-extrovert I guess.  She was kind of a loner, but at the same time had this great personality.  She is a fangirl, like most of us booknerds are, so there’s that too.

Not So Much:  I mentioned it above, but this book really isn’t new.  I kind of wish there were more un-redeemable qualities about Mick, besides his unfortunate name and just being a typical teenage jock.  But really that’s all I can come up with.

The Verdict:  This is a fun, sappy, super swoon-worthy read.  It took me…eh, a day to finish it (if you count 2am as the same day, that is).  It was very clean and appropriate for the YA genre, but does not skip out on the heat between Kate and Cooper.  I loved it!

Caraval – Stephanie Garber

27883214Title: Caraval
Author: Stephanie Garber
Series: Caraval

Publisher: Flatiron Books
Published Date: January 31, 2017

Blurb: 
Whatever you’ve heard about Caraval, it doesn’t compare to the reality. It’s more than just a game or a performance. It’s the closest you’ll ever find to magic in this world . . .

Welcome, welcome to Caraval―Stephanie Garber’s sweeping tale of two sisters who escape their ruthless father when they enter the dangerous intrigue of a legendary game.

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.

My Review:
I cannot even remember the first time I saw the cover/title for Caraval, but I didn’t care what it was or was about, but it caught my eye and I knew immediately I wanted to read it.  I do think it was a year ago, because I proceeded to check Amazon and at times NetGalley (which denied me btw!) for when it would be available.  THEN I get January’s Owlcrate – and the teaser for February’s Owlcrate was Carnival themed.  I just KNEW it was going to be one of two books (both I wanted) but I really, really hoped it would be Caraval.

What I Loved:  This whole book was amazing to me.  I loved the setting from even before Scarlett and Donatella reach the Caraval, and especially the setting AFTER they reach Caraval.  The world building in this book was amazing.  The whole thing is set up that you are constantly wondering what is really happening and what isn’t actually happening, since you’re told from the onset of Caraval that it’s all a game, and nothing is real.

While the beginning was a little bleak with the introduction of Scarlett and Donatella, and in particular, their father; you just know that their lives have been difficult and their existence was a sad one. So once we get to the place where the Caraval is being held, despite Scarlett’s reservations, it’s kind of a relief.  Plus that is when the magic starts happening.  It’s as of Caraval is cloaked from the outside of the real world, and inside anything is possible.

As a whole, the book has many twists and turns and lots of magic and mystery, but it’s not over-the-top, and I so loved that.   It really felt like it was possible, that the mystery of Caraval could be real.  The magic felt normal, and aside from it there were many great life lessons to be learned.  I enjoyed all aspects of it, the mystery, the magic, the bit of romance held within it.

Not So Much:  Both Scarlett and Donatella annoyed me a bit.  It was like they were opposite ends of the spectrum, yet the same.  They were both selfish and selfless at different moments, but it made it difficult to know what to expect.  Donatella was worse, in my opinion.  She really did behave very flippantly throughout the book lacking any care or concern for consequences.  It was difficult me to attempt a 180 on how I felt about her at the conclusion of the book.  I’m really hoping that I fall in love with her in book 2.

I went looking at Stephanie Garber’s website and looked at all the social media pages I could find…do you want to know what I wanted??  I wanted to see the inspiration for all the clothes the characters were wearing.  She described them in great detail, don’t get me wrong, but I really just wanted to see pictures.

The Verdict:  LOVVVED this book.  It was clean as a YA book ever is.  I’m pretty sure I remember some mild cussing, but I’ll be honest and say I was pretty well caught up in the story to pay that much attention. I would love to see this in a movie, I think it would be fantastic on the big screen.

Illuminae – Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff – Take 2

233956801Title: Illuminae
Authors: Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: October 20, 2015

Buy Link: http://a.co/2fOj0IS

Blurb: This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do.

This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

My Review:  Why yes, I have already reviewed Illuminea, but since I read the book a few weeks ago, I also decided to listen to the audio book, and I wanted to give you a brief update on my review.  A few things to keep in mind, if you will…

What I Loved:  Okay, in my humble opinion, if you want to get the full true-blue experience of Illuminea, you reallllly need to do both the hardback and the audio book.  The hardback is so visually awesome, filled with documents and such.  The audio though, it has so much personality and flair!  There is a long list of narrators, and they all do an excellent job!  My husband also listened to this book, and it was funny when he was like, “I like that British dude.” “Oh, Aiden (the computer) is freaky.”  “Wait…that wasn’t Aiden I was talking about…”  It really is done so well, it ranks right up there with the Harry Potter audio books and Beauty Queens by Libba Bray.

Not So Much:  Not sure if you’ll recall, but in my original review I indicated that because of the censorship of the ‘document’ that this book was pretty clean.  This isn’t quite as true for the Audio book.  I mean, it’s still censored, however it mutes out the words, leaving just enough to  help you know exactly what was said (which you know that reading anyway…but it’s different when you hear it I guess).  Some of our characters are real potty-mouths.  Also, the innuendos were easily read past in the book, however they are much more clear and present in the audio book because of the personalities and inflections of the voice.

The Verdict:  I still hold to my original rating, but I would like to bump this up to good for older teen’s rather than a clean book.