Roseblood by A.G. Howard

28818314Title: RoseBlood
Author: A.G. Howard

Publisher: Amulet Books
Published Date: January 10, 2017

Buy Link: http://a.co/40XXFxw

Blurb: In this modern day spin on Leroux’s gothic tale of unrequited love turned to madness, seventeen-year-old Rune Germain has a mysterious affliction linked to her operatic talent, and a horrifying mistake she’s trying to hide. Hoping creative direction will help her, Rune’s mother sends her to a French arts conservatory for her senior year, located in an opera house rumored to have ties to The Phantom of the Opera.

At RoseBlood, Rune secretly befriends the masked Thorn—an elusive violinist who not only guides her musical transformation through dreams that seem more real than reality itself, but somehow knows who she is behind her own masks. As the two discover an otherworldly connection and a soul-deep romance blossoms, Thorn’s dark agenda comes to light and he’s forced to make a deadly choice: lead Rune to her destruction, or face the wrath of the phantom who has haunted the opera house for a century, and is the only father he’s ever known.

My Review:  Roseblood was an unexpected surprise in January’s Owlcrate.  I mean, they give you hints about what you’ll be getting and I knew it was going to be a classic retelling, but from some of the teasers I was thinking it would be a ‘classic retelling’ in the vein of Pride and Prejudice or something of that nature.  I never in a million years would have guessed that it was going to be a Phantom of the Opera retelling!!!  I hadn’t even imagined one existed….now I’m wondering about others.

First, let me tell you, I’ve seen Phantom of the Opera…and it is by far my favorite musical ever.  I love everything about it.  And like the rest of the world, I was taken by the Phantom.  I love the music.  I own the movie version with Gerard Butler (and will be watching it again sometime soon).  And I truly loved being surprised by this book!

What I Loved:  This book wasn’t so much a re-telling as it was a world built off the original story.  I loved the pace set by this book.  I felt like the elements of the whole story were revealed perfectly, and it flowed quite nicely.  The setting, the characters, the story, all of it kept me captivated.  There were no mention of the actual musical’s songs or dances, the book still brought to memory my theater experience.  I enjoyed that.  As I said, this wasn’t a re-telling exactly, but there were scenes included that well-enough reflect the story we all know.

The romance between Rune and Thorn was so sweet and beautiful.  There are underlying layers to their relationship, things that in real life (or at least ME in real life)  would have had a hard time just simply accepting; Rune does accept easily, however the pacing of the relationship was still just right.  And without a touch of ‘unsavory events’ this couple still made my heart beat faster and me sigh with that contentment you get when reading about first love.

Not So Much:  There were a few holes in my opinion.  Or maybe not holes, but places where at first Rune was completely oblivious about things, and then suddenly she is completely in the know using terminology that she shouldn’t quite understand (as far as I could tell).  I don’t know if I missed something while reading, or if it was supposed to be in those gap-times where the characters do spend time together but it’s not written in the book in detail…however I did think, ‘wait…how did she know that, or come to that?’

The Verdict:  I loved this book!  There’s not much more to it than that.  It’s a clean read, I would let my 11 year old daughter read it if she wanted to.  (And she would LOOVE Diablo, the opera cat, if she did).

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.

 

Illuminae – Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

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:  My friend recommended this book to me, more than once actually.  And not just the book, but the audiobook.  Did I GET the audiobook?  NOPE, I had gift cards to Barnese & Noble, and while I was there shopping I saw these books – took a glimps inside and knew I just had to own them.

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What I Loved: This book was full of action, I want to say mystery, but it’s not a mystery really, it’s just an unraveling of secrets.  I love that.  While it’s going to be listed in my next category, the uniqueness of this book was part of what made it so appealing.  It’s not simply told in a collection of documents – but the format of the book makes them seem legit.  There are little post it notes, and pictures made of words; all sorts of beautiful treasures.

I loved the characters in this book.  Like – pretty much all of them.  I will say that AIDEN (the AI) might possibly have been my favorite character of them all.  Is it weird to want to comment on the character growth of a computer?  Yeah, probably.  I also loved both Katy and Ezra; Katy was defiant and daring, and Ezra was sarcastic and fun.  They made a fun pair.

Not So Much:  It took me some time to adjust to reading a book that was 100% documents.  I miss a lot of the emotion that way.  You get some, but you don’t get the picture created for you like you would in a typical book.  The little touches, or the room descriptions – things that really put you there.  At least….that’s how I felt at first.  But the more I read the book, the more I really WAS there.  I got used to the format and couldn’t put the book down.

The Verdict:  When describing this book to others, I’ve sort of mentioned Star Trek, but mostly the show Firefly – with the different plants and such.  I mean that only in a ‘setting’ sort of way.  I normally wouldn’t read a book about space travel, but I am so glad I started this series.  This book was clean, very YA appropriate.  A 5-star read for sure.

Dangerous Lies – Becca Fitzpatrick

20909906Dangerous Lies
Author: Becca Fitzpatrick
Published: November 10, 2015
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Buy Link:  http://a.co/4zbtAHA

Blurb: A teen is forced to make a fresh start after witnessing a violent crime—but love and danger find her anyway in this novel from Becca Fitzpatrick, the New York Times bestselling author of the Hush, Hush saga.

Stella Gordon is not her real name. Thunder Basin, Nebraska, is not her real home. This is not her real life.

After witnessing a lethal crime, Stella Gordon is sent to the middle of nowhere for her own safety before she testifies against the man she saw kill her mother’s drug dealer.

But Stella was about to start her senior year with the boyfriend she loves. How can she be pulled away from the only life she knows and expected to start a new one in Nebraska? Stella chafes at her protection and is rude to everyone she meets. She’s not planning on staying long, so why be friendly? Then she meets Chet Falconer and it becomes harder to keep her guard up, even as her guilt about having to lie to him grows.

As Stella starts to feel safer, the real threat to her life increases—because her enemies are actually closer than she thinks…

My Review:
I had two audible book credits when I picked up Dangerous Lies.  I’m not sure how I found it, but I have previously really liked Becca Fitzgerald’s books, her Hush,Hush series, but more so Black Ice.  The YA Thrillerish Romance is something I like a lot, actually, and hopefully I can find more of.

What I Loved:  I loved the action scenes, and the moments when you know that the suspense is building.  The knowledge that something is coming, but not exactly sure what it is just yet.

This is going to seem strange, but I was drawn to Stella a bit because I could relate to her on a small level.  Her life is, by far, more dysfunctional than mine was, but I understood her struggle with authority and trust due to her mom being an addict.  When you have a life full of empty promises, it is difficult to believe when people are being sincere.    So even though I would get frustrated at her indignant attitude at times, I also could understand where she was coming from.

The twists of the stories, and especially the scene where Stella and Chet are revealing their secrets.  I feel like this was the most exposed and sincere scene in the entire book.  Though I did feel like Chet was sincere to the degree of being overly intense all the time – this scene sort of finally won me over.

Not So Much:  First and foremost, and I think this is why I may have had a hard time getting into this book…because I did.  I actually started it in October and put it down for a long time before deciding to finish it off this week; I really didn’t feel the chemistry like I wanted between Stella and Chet.  All the right scenes were there and everything seemed like it should have been just right, but something was missing.  I don’t know if it was Stella’s hold on Reed, or what it was – but the relationship kind of fell flat for me all the way up until the end when it finally came together. (And no, it wasn’t because of the fade to black scene – that wasn’t even that great to me, either.)

While I enjoyed all the side stories happening in this book, I also kind of felt it added a lot of unnecessary length.  I really wanted more action and danger I think, when really only a small portion of the book was really thriller.

The Verdict:  I did enjoy Dangerous Lies, but I was really hoping for another Black Ice, I think.  That book was awesome in the ‘edge of your seat’ kind of way, and the blooming romance was a slow heat, while Dangerous Lies was kind of out there and open because of Chet’s nature.  In real life, I would probably fall in love with Chet, hands down.  This book was mostly clean, it had some intense kissing, and as I mentioned, a fade to black scene that was squeaky clean.  I think there was mention of the top of the bathing suit, and that was as graphic as it got.  YA-ok.

Adorkable – Cookie O’Gorman

28791088Adorkable by Cookie O’Gorman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Published March 31st 2016
Buy Link: http://a.co/iMRApZk

Blurb: Adorkable (ah-dor-kuh-bul): Descriptive term meaning to be equal parts dorky and adorable. For reference, see Sally Spitz.

Seventeen-year-old Sally Spitz is done with dating. Or at least, she’s done with the horrible blind dates/hookups/sneak attacks her matchmaking bestie, Hooker, sets her up on. There’s only so much one geek girl and Gryffindor supporter can take.

Her solution: she needs a fake boyfriend. And fast.

Enter Becks, soccer phenom, all-around-hottie, and Sally’s best friend practically since birth. When Sally asks Becks to be her F.B.F. (fake boyfriend), Becks is only too happy to be used. He’d do anything for Sal–even if that means giving her PDA lessons in his bedroom, saying she’s “more than pretty,” and expertly kissing her at parties.

The problem: Sally’s been in love with Becks all her life–and he’s completely clueless.

This book features two best friends, one special edition Yoda snuggie, countless beneath-the-ear kisses and begs the question:

Who wants a real boyfriend when faking it is so much more fun?

This is my second book of a sick-day read-a-thon. This time I went down the list of books I’ve purchased recently and picked the cover/title that appealed to me the most. Adorkable was another great choice on my part, no matter how random.

What I Loved I really enjoyed Sally’s obliviousness to Becks feelings, and likewise Beck’s obliviousness to Sals. It really did make for a fun time for the reader who was able to ‘read between the lines.’ It made Becks’ character even more adorable, because while Sally was the one who struggled the most in this book, for acceptance with herself and others, Becks was hopelessly lost in love and it was plain as day.

The opening of this book was so great, best beginning ever.

Sally as a whole was a great character. I loved the parts of her that were ‘dorky’ and absolutely adored her job reading to the kids. I almost wanted that job too!

Not So Much: I’m sorry, I don’t care how good her intentions were, I would have thrown Hooker to the curb a LONG time ago. No friends who can’t take no for an answer deserves the amount of chances she got. I was really annoyed with her, even if she did provide some entertaining moments. I kind of was aggravated at Sally’s mother for similar reasons. Yes, these things are there to make the story go – they were just so annoying and persistent, it drove me nuts!

The Verdict: While I was annoyed at parts, as a whole I loved watching this story play out. I even kind of enjoyed the torture Sally went through in the fake boyfriend process, knowing that Becks was feeling the same thing. This book is clean and great for Teens young and old.

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Dream Chaser – Angie Stanton

13037321Dream Chaser by Angie Stanton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Published November 4th 2011 by Vanguard Management

Buy Link:  http://a.co/3RraFCA

Blurb: Willow Thomas has a bad habit of running away from things that scare her. And most recently, she quit her high school cheerleading squad after a terrifying fall.

With time on her hands, she auditions for a musical production directed by a Broadway choreographer. Just as things are looking up, Willow discovers she will be performing opposite Eli McAvoy, the best friend she abandoned three years before. To make matters worse, the kids in the musical hate her, her singing sucks, and her dog is sick.

Eli has grown up during their years apart and now possesses confidence and good looks, as well as a giant chip on his shoulder. He is in no hurry to play nice with Willow, but their entwined roles in the musical lead to entwined bodies in the backseat of his car.

Just when Willow finally has her life under control, another surprise is delivered in the form of her greatest challenge yet. Will she run or finally stand and face her fears? And will Eli be there to help or turn his back on her for good?

I picked up Dream Chaser this week due to a recommendation by Lenore over at Celebrity Readers, because while Lenore and I don’t always read the same style books….we usually do. As is probably evident by the [lack of] activity on my blog, I’ve not only been having a difficult time finding moments to read/blog, but I’ve also found myself in one of those inevitable reading slumps where every book you pick up and start gives you that, ‘meh’ feeling. I’ve even been having a difficult time getting into audiobooks recently – and listening to audiobooks while I work is one of my favorite things! Regardless, I think the slump has been broken, because on Saturday November 19th I read not one, but two books in their entirety. Granted, I was also pretty sick and allowed myself to be confined to the couch for the day…but still.

What I Loved: I wouldn’t pick up a book about cheerleaders on my own, not because I have something against cheerleaders, but because most of the ones I have picked up have come off so very cliche in the ‘cheerleader’ personality of the characters. I just couldn’t get into them. Dream Chaser was not a cheerleader book, it was more of a theater book. I’m so glad I allowed myself to read past the beginning to discover this. I adore most theater type books.

Willow was also not the typical ‘over achiever’ character. She WAS an over achiever, apparently single-handedly throwing the cheerleaders into National Championship winner status, and also good enough to be thrown into the leading role of a musical that was already several weeks into practices – so yes, definitely over achiever. However, she struggled with subjects in school, and her self confidence was really pretty low. She was humble and recognized that while she may be good, in both of her activities she realized the important part of being just a part of an entity. She understood the value of practice and hard work, and just work ethic in general.

The chemistry between Willow and Eli is what really had me devouring this book. Their history as best friends and former partners really helped to play into the tension that built between them. I loved their director, Tyson’s, little comments regarding this tension, and his role at helping them overcome their past.

Another favorite part is that regardless of how awful Jilly and the rest of Willow’s friends were treating her because of her decision to move on from cheerleading, I’m glad that this wasn’t a transfer from one group of friends to another, and that there was some healing and understanding that started to happen.

Every time I think that I’m done with this section, I remember something else about the story that I love….Willow’s family is AWESOME! I loved their support and understanding. I think that my favorite scene is when they come home and catch Willow and Eli on the couch. 😉

Not So Much: I feel like the gravity of Willow’s cheerleading accident was either overplayed at the beginning, or underplayed throughout the book. She could have easily died, and yet so few of the cast of characters of this book seem to really take that into consideration when dealing with Willow about her decisions or fears. I also think that something like that would take you out of the ‘game’ longer than half a week.

The Verdict: This is everything I could have asked for in a ‘sick day’ book. It was entertaining, passionate, fun and serious at times. I even shed a couple tears… I’m so glad I picked the book up and started reading almost immediately. This book is clean and perfect for your teens!

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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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