Ever the Hunted – Erin Summerill

28114396Title: Ever the Hunted
Author: Erin Summerill

Series: Clash of Kingdoms #1

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Published Date: 12/27/2016

Blurb: Seventeen year-old Britta Flannery is at ease only in the woods with her dagger and bow. She spends her days tracking criminals alongside her father, the legendary bounty hunter for the King of Malam—that is, until her father is murdered. Now outcast and alone and having no rights to her father’s land or inheritance, she seeks refuge where she feels most safe: the Ever Woods. When Britta is caught poaching by the royal guard, instead of facing the noose she is offered a deal: her freedom in exchange for her father’s killer.

However, it’s not so simple.

The alleged killer is none other than Cohen McKay, her father’s former apprentice. The only friend she’s ever known. The boy she once loved who broke her heart. She must go on a dangerous quest in a world of warring kingdoms, mad kings, and dark magic to find the real killer. But Britta wields more power than she knows. And soon she will learn what has always made her different will make her a daunting and dangerous force.

My Review:
I’m not even sure what the allure of a book set in a place with no technology, bows and knives are hunting tools and trade is the best source of commodity is, but I am always drawn to them.  Throw in a strong female lead, and I’m usually game! Plus I really love that cover.

What I Loved:  This story unraveled at a very nice pace, and had the flavor of a fairy-tale, which falls right into my current Beauty and the Beast mode as it is.  I enjoyed that there were bits of magic interwoven throughout this story; you know that Britta is special, but it really isn’t fully unveiled until much later just how much, and then it maintains a bit of a ‘witch hunt’ atmosphere. I felt like the pace of this book moved along smoothly, yet didn’t skimp on the background either.  I honestly thought that I was reading a stand alone because of all the detail and the way the whole thing was unraveling.

I loved the relationship between Britta and Cohen’s friendship/relationship.  Of course there is the attraction between them which is kept at a sizzle most of the time, but they also bicker and get on each other’s nerves, just the way you would expect old friends to do.  They protect each other, even in moments when they don’t seem to be on the same side of the fence.

Britta’s captors were an interesting mix of people.  I did like that not all of them were mean/evil-natured, but that despite her circumstance, she had a friend as well.

Not So Much:  So the first, and probably most common mistake of any book relationship – the relationship between Britta and Cohen could have been set to rights by conversing. Even when there was this big secret being held, there was so much talking that could have been done, instead there were long pauses and assumptions the entire time…it got old very quickly.

Second, I thought I was reading a stand alone, even though I sort of knew I wasn’t at the same time.  This kind of book ALWAYS is part of a series.  But I’m very unpleased with the way this one ended, and I’m not even sure I want to continue.  It will take some good reviews and research on my part, because I’m not sure I can handle another book of no talking and secrets that are the biggest source of drama throughout the book.

The Verdict: I’m iffy on this.  I liked it a lot, but there were issues that make me hesitant to continue.  The book was clean and appropriate for YA.

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.

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!

Paper Hearts – Ali Novak

33584564Title: Paper Hearts
Author: Ali Novak
Series: The Heart Breaker’s Chronicles

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publish Date: July 4, 2017

Blurb: Felicity has her entire future planned. Ever since her older sister ran away, she’s had the full weight of her mother’s expectations on her shoulders. So she works hard to get straight As and save for college.

Except sometimes the best things in life are unplanned-like when Felicity meets a handsome, masked stranger while she is volunteering at a charity masquerade ball. She never thought he’d flirt with her. And she certainly never thought he’d turn out to be a member of the world-famous Heartbreakers band, Alec.

Then Felicity uncovers a shocking family secret. Suddenly, she, Alec, and her two best friends are off on a road trip to find Felicity’s missing sister. And she’s about to discover that unexpected turns have a peculiar way of landing her right where she needs to be…

My Review: Paper Hearts is actually book 2 of the Heart Breaker’s Chronicles.  I didn’t realize that.  Or maybe I did and decided I didn’t care, I can’t remember, but it didn’t reflect in the story at all.  Anyhow, every now and then I can’t resist the whole regular person/celebrity fantasy (um, duh, Cinder & Ella!).  Also road-trip books are another of my favorite tropes.

What I Loved: I always love when I pick up a book and it doesn’t let me put it down.  That is what happened with this book.  I started it Saturday morning, and I stayed up late Saturday evening to finish it (I had other stuff to do in the middle, or else it wouldn’t have taken me over 12 hours to finish it!)

So Alec’s personality was soooooo much swoon-worthy to me.  He lacked all the arrogant famous person thing, but at the same time he seemed to take it in stride.  He was mostly just nonchalant about it – which was nice since it didn’t really take over the entire story. He also stood out as introverted to me (which is opposite of what you would expect from a member of a famous band) but it made him more appealing.  I also LOVE the band and their camaraderie.  It makes me want to go back and read book 1.

I also really enjoyed Felicity when she was with Alec and her friends. She was friendly and fun.  The chemistry between her and Alec is what kept me going for sure.

Not so Much:  So Felicity was a little yo-yo on the personality front.  She would be so awesome and reasonable some moments, and then disappear into herself and her worries. Many times she was doing things she knew she shouldn’t be – and naturally it blows up in her face in a world of misunderstanding.  It was a little frustrating.

The Verdict:  Paper Hearts was a great read – and will make for an awesome book to take to the beach!  It was very older-teen oriented, but not inappropriate.  I do think I’m going to be looking up book 1, and following these Chronicles out.

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

 

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.

Gemina – Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

29236299Title: Gemina 
Authors:  Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Series: The Illuminea Files

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Published Date: October 18, 2016

Blurb: Moving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed.

The sci-fi saga that began with the breakout bestseller Illuminae continues on board the Jump Station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of the BeiTech assault.

Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter; Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.

When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival; the fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands.

But relax. They’ve totally got this. They hope.

Once again told through a compelling dossier of emails, IMs, classified files, transcripts, and schematics, Gemina raises the stakes of the Illuminae Files, hurling readers into an enthralling new story that will leave them breathless.

My Review:
My husband and I both enjoyed Illuminea so much that we purchased the audiobook of Gemina almost immediately afterward.

What I Loved:  I’m still really enjoying this world that has been created, and the way that these books are laid out. This time we start out in a court room reviewing documents against BeiTech.  From there we are told a story once again through the IMs, documents and video surveillance cameras as we were previously.  Similar to Illuminea, we are dealing with not only BeiTech and another invasion, but another outside conflict – this time in the form of human-eating aliens.

The characters in this book grew on me as the story progressed, which was good because I didn’t care much for Hanna at all at the beginning.     The characters Hanna and Nik are both just as fun and witty as Kady and Ezra were, but very much their own people.  The best character by far, though, was Nik’s cousin.  I just LOVED her ‘voice’ throughout the entire book.  Hanna’s was kind of amazing when she applied all of her convenient training – and started scaling the ship like a super-spy. Nik was an awesome hero and ladies man <wink.>

Not So Much:  So there is some drug usage in this book.  It does play it’s part I suppose, but I never care for any kind of drug recreational usage in a YA novel.  It’s just a ‘thing’ for me.  I was also disappointed at first of the lack of Kady and Ezra in this book, as I had grown to love them in Illuminae.  I did really enjoy this book, but honestly, it really just followed the same exact outline of Illuminae – granted the story was different, and the aliens were some bad dudes, the general outline is there.  I really hope that the future book will not fall into the same rut.

The Verdict:  I don’t think it was possible for this to have been better than Illuminae no matter what way you shake it.  I really do love the world that has been established, and at this point I really want to see BeiTech go down – hard.  So I will be listening or reading anything else that comes up in this series.  As far as clean goes – the cussing was cut back by a LOT in this book (though as it was previously – all cussing is blanked out in the actual book the audiobook makes it clear what is being said).  I mentioned the drug usage previously – and that would really be my big hang-up with the whole YA genre.