Vanishing Act – Erica Kiefer

24822717Title: Vanishing Act
Author: Erica Kiefer
Series: Lingering Echos

Publisher: Clean Teen Publishing
Published Date: May 26, 2015

Blurb: A fresh start at college is exactly what Kate needs to ease the burden of her family secrets. When she meets the confident and charming Aaron Jackson, she weaves a new history for herself to fit into his seemingly perfect life. But the past refuses to stay where it belongs, causing a rift between their contrasting worlds.

When Ben reappears in Kate’s life, she is only pulled deeper into the childhood that she’s tried to forget. Driven by the abuse and pain that still lingers within him, Ben seeks Kate’s help in making a change. But in this journey for retribution, lines blur between courage, justice, and revenge.

Bound by their shared and damaged youth, Kate is forced to choose sides, and fast. The final act is almost here, and time is running out.

Vanishing Act is a Lingering Echoes novel that can be read as part of the series or as a stand alone story. Fueled by the scars from an experience in foster care that no child should have to endure, Vanishing Act touches on serious issues that can continue to impact abuse victims well into their adult lives. Vanishing Act is an emotional drama with a sweet romance mixed in.

My Review:  I dabbled in what I was wanting to be a weekly post called Judging a Book by It’s Cover, but as those things go, I find myself forgetting to grab covers – thus missing the post.  Once a couple weeks went by, I didn’t keep trying.  Though I still like the idea.  Anyhow.  I did this cover back then, and later purchased the book.  I just got around to reading it, and let me tell you…I was wayyyy off!  🙂

What I Loved:  I so loved the message behind this story, and the good and bad sides of Foster Care, and the kids who are often in and out of it.  More and more focus needs to be placed on the innocent, and the system, because I know that there are just as many good Foster Parents as there are bad ones.  And I’m guessing that is the heart from which this story was birthed. This entire story arc was stellar and what kept me reading.

This book was filled with angst and reality of life.  I did like how the truth wasn’t really avoided – but told in a real, heartfelt way.

Ben is the character I actually latched on to the most, because you could just tell he was completely lost and alone, and I so badly didn’t want that for him at all, even though I spend almost the entire book wavering between how unhinged he was and understanding and even commiserating his misguided thoughts on how to fix things.

As an offshot of the major issues of this story, I loved the dynamic between Aaron, Nick and Josh.  Their friendship is what I always imagine guys in college should be – and what I long for for my kids when they reach that age.  Maybe not the hardships some of them faced, but the family away from family kind of feel.

Not So Much:  I wasn’t really into Kate and Aaron’s relationship in this book. I loved him as a friend and a support, and the first chapters even I loved the chemistry of them, but I felt their story was kind of was there because it could be rather than it was a part of the overall.  I enjoyed the learning between the two characters, but I guess I just wasn’t feeling the relationship as much.

The Verdict:  A great read for sure!  I do recommend picking it up.  The book is clean and very age appropriate at NA, even YA would be fine.

The Elusive Miss Ellison by Carolyn Miller

30851451Title: The Elusive Miss Ellison
Author: Carolyn Miller
Series: Regency Brides: A Legacy of Grace #1

Publisher: Kregel Publications
Publication Date: February 28, 2017
Buy Link: http://a.co/eMkyeMp

Blurb: Pride, prejudice and forgiveness…
Hampton Hall’s new owner has the villagers of St. Hampton Heath all aflutter–all except Lavinia Ellison. The reverend’s daughter cares for those who are poor and sick, and the seventh Earl of Hawkesbury definitely does not meet that criteria. His refusal to take his responsibilities seriously, or even darken the door of the church, leave her convinced he is as arrogant and reckless as his brother–his brother who stole the most important person in Lavinia’s world.

Nicholas Stamford is shadowed by guilt: his own, his brother’s, the legacy of war. A perfunctory visit to this dreary part of Gloucestershire wasn’t supposed to engage his heart, or his mind. Challenged by Miss Ellison’s fascinating blend of Bluestocking opinions, hoydenish behavior, and angelic voice, he finds the impossible becoming possible–he begins to care. But Lavinia’s aloof manner, society’s opposition and his ancestral obligations prove most frustrating, until scandal forces them to get along.

Can Lavinia and Nicholas look beyond painful pasts and present prejudice to see their future? And what will happen when Lavinia

My Review: I got this book from NetGalley (typically they tell you NOT to start with this information because readers will think your review is skewed…apparently I don’t care…), and it was a bit of a surprise actually.  I think I was just browsing the shelves of NetGalley one day and I have a rule – I can request 3 books at a time.  Once those three books are cycled through, I’ll go request 3 more.  This keeps me from over-committing myself. I hate when I do that and find myself in a rebellious (to my self) cycle of hating everything I’m reading simply because I obligated myself to read it.  It’s silly..but it happens.  ANYHOW, I don’t remember requesting this book, but I’m sure I did. I do love a regency novel now and then, and the mere mention of Pride and Prejudice probably would have me hitting “request” pretty quickly. And I find the lavender in the cover rather pretty, I’m sure that helped some too.  But when I got the email, I was like, ‘what is this madness??’

What I Loved:  The setting of course is a given, I loved both Gloucestershire, and the small-town life and community.  I also loved when the book picked up again in London, and all her glory.  I so enjoyed Lavina and her strong-willed ways.  Nicholas and his teasing and sarcasm.  I truly enjoyed all of the characters in this book, even the characters who didn’t have redeeming qualities because they played their part in the story as a whole.

I do love the growth of the characters, especially Lavina, as she learned that her self-sacrificing ways were also a huge pride issue for her that had resulted in a prejudice, and judgmental spirit as well.

Another surprise for me was that this turned out to be a Christian novel.  I’m sure I knew that when I requested it, but since I just started reading without looking at what I was reading again, I was like..oh, okay.  I don’t always grab Christian novels because I find a lot of them to be a bit over ‘preachy’ – which I find unnecessary because well…Christians are the most likely to pick up a Christian novel.  However, this book had a surprisingly good sermon included.  The best I had ever read in a novel such as this.  It was so good I took a few screen shots and posted it to social media.  I was convicted as much as the characters of the story were.  Surprise-surprise.  I love when books buck my own judgmental ways!

Not So Much: I’m the first to tell you that I love a good re-tell.  I seek them out, actually.  But when I first started reading this, I kept wondering if it was supposed to be a Pride and Prejudice retell or not.  Actually, I do think it was supposed to show reflections of the classic story, but it was a story all it’s own too.  I’m still a bit confused on this issue.

Okay, so our main characters were so confused for almost this entire story.  I felt like they did a lot of not-talking about what was going on, causing all kinds of misunderstandings.  I am all for misunderstandings and reconciliations, but the number of times that Nicholas had to apologize started to get a bit ridiculous.  I was at about 85% when this ball dropped again and nearly put the book down in frustration.  There were plenty of other conflicts, in my opinion, that could have been expounded on, that this misunderstanding each other one needed to be laid to rest at some point.

The Verdict: I was pleasantly surprised by this book.  Even though I admit to having almost put it down, I am so glad I did not.  As I was wrapping it up last night before bed, the ending of the novel left me with that happy glow of an excellently executed HEA.  I’m pretty sure I don’t need to remark on how clean the novel was…but it is squeaky, and STILL a fantastic despite my small misgivings.

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.

Week In Review & Currently Reading

So this is something new I’m going to try – we’ll see how consistent I can be with it.  Just to give you a little look into my life and see what’s happening.  My hope is to do this on Sunday evenings, but since this week has been messed up due to the holidays, Monday it is.

So this week has been pretty nice.  I haven’t had many back-to-back days off of work in a while, so having 5 days over the Christmas weekend, and then 4 over the New Year’s weekend was a special treat for me. You would think that I would have read more, but geesh, times are busy.  I did get to Barnes and Noble and purchased the first two books of The Illuminae Files series.  My friend has raved about these books (mostly the audiobooks) but when I saw them in person, the cover, the inside – everything, I knew I had to own them!

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I also went shopping with my children.  They spent pretty much all their Christmas money. but that’s okay…it was the point I guess.  I know I should probably teach them to save (and my son has learned that concept since he saved a couple years ago and bought himself an ipad, which is probably the most used electronic he owns).  But we had fun.  Abigail bought herself a whole load of Five Nights at Freddy’s stuff.  She’s also gearing up for a FNAF birthday party later this month.  Azalyah paid to have her ears pierced (again) and then took advantage of the sales at Claire’s.  Elijah bought a GIGANTIC stuff tiger.  I wish he wouldn’t have…I encouraged him to look around for something else…alas, he has a thing for tigers. :/

What I’m Reading:

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I have the ARC Version of The Piper’s Price by Audrey Greathouse which she sent me for review.  I’m about 30% into it, and I’m hoping for a bit of action here soon, it’s kind of moving slowly for me right now.

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Illuminea by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff  I just couldn’t wait to open the cover of this series.  It’s written via documentation and acquired IM conversations on board a ship in space…it’s kind of the YA Star Trek without non-humans so far.  Very fun to read!

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How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.  This is for a class I’m taking at work.  Maybe I’ll figure out how to be a little less introverted! 😉

 

 

Creatura – Nely Cab

Title: Creatura
Author: Nely Cab
Genre: Young Adult – Fantasy, Romance

Buy Link:  https://amzn.com/B00WQ5YUAS

Blurb (from Goodreads):
When seventeen year-old Isis Martin is having trouble sleeping due to perturbing dreams of a horrific growling beast, she decides to confront her fear. But what Isis discovers is something other than a menacing entity.

The human-like creature offers Isis assurance that he is not a figment of her imagination. Unwilling to accept his avowal, Isis sets his words to contest by asking the entity to prove himself—a dare, he readily welcomes.

It is in her dreams that Isis innocently stumbles upon the silent existence of the divine lineage of those that man has long forgotten.

In a quaint town, deep in south Texas, this story leads Isis onto the path of impermissible love and captivating life-changing truths. Isis Martin’s journey is sure to leave any reader ravenous for more.

Blurb 2 (from Amazon):
Isis can control her dreams. Or she could—until recently. The creature in her nightmares has been haunting her for months. As if being dumped wasn’t bad enough, now she dreads going to sleep. She decides to confront the creature and win back some of her peace; only, she finds that he’s not a monster and he’s not a dream. A sacrifice for love, a shocking discovery and a jealous ex-boyfriend blur the lines between reality and dreams, making it hard to tell who the real monsters are.

Who would’ve known…that sometimes love is lethal?

My Review:
This book is not one I would have picked up on it’s own.  Judging from the blurb (I had read the Amazon version) and the cover, it sounded a bit more thriller/horror for my taste.  However, this was voted as the May book of the month in a book group that I belong to, and since it otherwise fit my ‘type’ of book, I decided to suck it up and give it a chance.

What I Loved:  So, I try and make it a rule to not reveal anything about a book that isn’t already in the blurb, in the attempt not to spoil anything, so I’m sorry if I’m vague – I’m working with what I’ve got! 🙂

I enjoyed the world building and back story of Creatura, especially when it came to the human/creature. The concept behind these creatures was unique and interesting.

Isis has great family and friend connections throughout this book, everyone in her life is very supportive, especially considering her months of insomnia, which is having its effect.  While at time I felt Isis’ mother behaved a lot more like a friend than a mother during times, and then switched back – I loved the comradery between them.


Not So Much:  I really was expecting something more with this book.  I already mentioned that I felt like it was going to be thriller/horror like, and I feel like the cover indicates this too, however the reality is that this book was closer to a typical young adult, paranormal romance novel.  There is little real action, and a lot of smoldering glances.

I really thought that Isis’ dreams would play a much bigger part in this book, but after the beginning the fact that she could control her dream and was able to dream into this place that the creature dwells sort of became a back-burner detail after the first couple chapters. Then there was her jealous ex-boyfriend, who played his part but I really thought he was something more and in the end it felt anti-climatic to me.

The Verdict:     +.5

While the writing was decent and the world building was pretty good, I felt like this story just fell short for me.  My expectation based on the blurbs was that this book was going to be a paranormal version of when the girl falls in love with the boy who isn’t what he seems – he’s much more dangerous – and it turns into an action filled drama of her attempting to escape.  This book is good for the Young Adult genre, age appropriate.

The Neverland Wars – Audrey Greathouse

Title: The Neverland Wars
Author: Audrey Greathouse
Genre: YA – Fantasy, Fairytale Retell

Buy Link: http://amzn.com/1634221710

Blurb (from Goodreads):
Magic can do a lot—give you flight, show you mermaids, help you taste the stars, and… solve the budget crisis? That’s what the grown-ups will do with it if they ever make it to Neverland to steal its magic and bring their children home.

However, Gwen doesn’t know this. She’s just a sixteen-year-old girl with a place on the debate team and a powerful crush on Jay, the soon-to-be homecoming king. She doesn’t know her little sister could actually run away with Peter Pan, or that she might have to chase after her to bring her home safe. Gwen will find out though—and when she does, she’ll discover she’s in the middle of a looming war between Neverland and reality.

She’ll be out of place as a teenager in Neverland, but she won’t be the only one. Peter Pan’s constant treks back to the mainland have slowly aged him into adolescence as well. Soon, Gwen will have to decide whether she’s going to join impish, playful Peter in his fight for eternal youth… or if she’s going to scramble back to reality in time for the homecoming dance.

My Review:
I’m in love with Peter Pan stories.  I can’t get enough of the different takes of the classic fairy tale.  I fall into these patterns a lot; Beauty and the Beast is my favorite to read, but I’ve also done Cinderella, and Red Riding Hood multiple times.
What I Loved:  A popular theme in Peter Pan retells has been that Hook is not the ‘bad guy’ and Peter Pan is.  I haven’t minded these role swaps, and find them a lot of fun, I’m thankful that someone has decided to keep the playful, adventurous Peter Pan in character!   I loved the descriptions of him behaving perfectly youthful and curious, while at the same time showing his burden for the home he loves and the desire to keep it protected from those who wish to use it for their own gain.
Gwen’s character was so perfect, even before Peter and Neverland come into play in this book, you can see the internal battle that she faces between wanting to be teenage and enjoy the things teenagers enjoy, while at the same time keeping that carefree freedom that only comes with being a child.  As she does venture into Neverland, that internal battle is even stronger.
Not So Much: Given the title, I thought that there would be more of a ‘war’ happening, as far as action.  What we have is the tip of a story, an introduction to characters and the promise of more adventure.  I know this, because I verified by checking out Audrey Greathouse’s website, but that wasn’t until I finished the story, so while now I’m pretty satisfied, while reading I was a little let down about this.
 
The Verdict:        
I liked this book, but I predict that I’m going to LOVE sequel!  This book is very YA appropriate, and honestly, I’m considering buying the book and putting it into the hands of my 11 year old daughter.
Note:  I received this book from Netgalley.com in exchange for an honest review.