Monday, May 29, 2017

Review: Ruin and Rising

Ruin and Rising Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After an epic battle against the Darkling, Alina is now found in an underground community lead by the priest who is a bit obsessed with Alina being a Saint, along with her followers. Even though she is there to be protected from the Darkling, Alina is being kept there almost against her will. She wants to leave, but the priest is insistent that she has to stay with her people to give them hope for the future.

After some scheming and explosions, she is able to leave the confines of the White Cathedral and continue her mission to find the third and final amplifier so she can finally face and defeat the Darkling once and for all. But her Second Army has been reduced to a dozen people, and she is not feeling very confident that she will be able to reach her destination in time.

Thankfully, Prince Nikolai was able to help her group out when they were in a bind and they were able to create a plan in action with the man power behind their solution.

But of course, Alina's connect with the Darkling caused a lot of problems for her group, and she was forced to be separated from some of her friends to find the third amplifier. However, she treks on and hopes that she can save Ravka in the end, because the alternative ending is not something she wants to think about.

Alina is going to have to make a lot of very hard sacrifices, though, in order to figure out the true way to defeat the Darkling. Some she may not be willing to make in the end.

There are so many twists and turns in this novel!!! Seriously! Just when I think that I know what is going on, Bardugo changes it up on me and makes me doubt everything I thought I figured out. And I definitely didn't see the big surprise coming until it was written down right in front of my face, so kudos to Bardugo for keeping me on my toes!

I wasn't really rooting for any of the guys after Alina: the Darkling, Mal, or Prince Nikolai. They all had their pros and cons so I wasn't really determined for a specific one to be with Alina in the end. Actually, I though Alina was going to have a different fate than the one she got in the end, which might have been the reason I couldn't picture her with any of them.

I do have to say that I was very happy with the ending. It kept me guessing and it was fresh and unique among many of the YA dystopian/fantasy books I've read recently.

Even though I thought the second book in this series was boring, I definitely didn't think that this one was! I was entertained during the whole book and I couldn't put it down at all!

I am so glad that I got to read this series and so glad that I finally listened to my coworker about giving this series a try! It's one of my top favorite books and eventually I will own my own copies of the books :)

Now I'm excited to dive into the companion series "Six of Crows" since it's in the same world as this series!

I will definitely be recommending this book to other YA readers! :)

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Sunday, May 28, 2017

Review: Siege and Storm

Siege and Storm Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Siege and Storm starts off right after the first novel. Alina and Mal are living a simple life, hiding from the Darkling after running from his power. But Alina's life is not that simple, and she is found by the Darkling and his men. They force her back onto a ship to head back to the Little Palace where Alina will join forces with the Darkling again.

Before going to the Little Palace, though, the Darkling is making a short pit stop: to get another amplifier from a mystical creature. When they find the sea creature, things take a twist when an unexpected ally appears: the captain of the ship she was on. He went by the name Sturmhond but that was just an alias. He was just using the Darkling until he had a chance to overturn him, and then he took Alina and Mal far away from the Darlking when he was under attack.

Now, Alina has two amplifiers on herself that can never be taken off. With all of this power going on inside of her, she is not sure who she is anymore. And with the Darkling manifested now after their last battle, she knows she is not strong enough to defeat him even with these two magical powers helping her Sun Summoner ability.

And Sturmhond ended up being the second prince, so now she is stuck back in Ravka and becoming the leader to the Second Army.

Nothing about this is what Alina wants, but she cannot deny the responsibility she has now with the amplifiers. And she's also on a mission to try to find the 3rd and final amplifier to master her ability.

But the Darkling is cooking up a battle that Alina is terrified she cannot survive through. Time is running out and Alina doesn't have the slightest idea what the outcome is going to be.

This was a great addition to the series that Leigh Bardugo created. I did find myself a bit...distracted during this book because there was a ton of action at the beginning of the novel and then it got more into the politics and the details of who is buy what for the army, etc. I wanted Alina and Mal to be traveling through the countries and making their way to their next mission, but for most of the novel, Alina was being dragged down by the palace and all of their issues. There was action at the end of the book, but that seemed too rushed, especially since I was looking forward to that happening. I would have taken more pages of that fight than the preparation for it in the book.

The other thing that I got annoyed about was the relationship between Alina and Mal. Mal was becoming more and more agitated about staying at the palace and not being able to do anything with Alina because she was working with the Army and the royal family, whereas Mal had to stay out of it most of the time. He was getting jealous and I think that he ought to realize that Alina is something special and if he can't handle her having to be in a thousand different places, then he needs to just let her go.

Because as Alina says in the book, she's not the girl that he grew up with anymore. She is so much more and Mal needs to understand that in order to be with her.

I honestly think that Alina needs to be with someone other than Mal. He doesn't appreciate this new Alina, and if he can't see past all of the responsibilities she has, then he needs to walk away. Though Mal does remind Alina of who she was, and keeps her from self combustion sometimes with those thoughts, so maybe he is good for her. Gah, I have no idea about those two, to be honest!

Overall, I liked this book, but not as much as the first one. I'm excited to see how the third and final book turns out and what is to come for Alina, who has already made so many sacrifices so far in her life!

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Thursday, May 25, 2017

Review: Shadow and Bone

Shadow and Bone Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of my co-workers recommended this book to me and I wished I would have picked it up sooner! I absolutely fell in love with this new world and the amazing characters in this book!

Alina has been a plain, tall, skinny girl her whole life. She is now in the process of becoming a mapmaker and is in training, traveling with the army to a different part of the world. With her is her best friend, a fellow orphan who she grew up with, Mal, who is one of the best trackers in the kingdom. They may not be as close friends as they once were, but she still talks to him and makes sure he is okay all of the time.

When the group she is with is traveling through the Unsea, disaster strikes. The voltaire attacks their group and Alina watches as one tries to take Mal away. Unable to stop herself, she blocks him from the attack and something amazing happens - a bright, white light blasts from INSIDE Alina.

Even though she had been tested when she was 8, Alina is now a Grisha - one who has some magical powers. And Alina is a very rare Grisha at that - the first Sun Summoner. And she has the attention of a very important person in the kingdsom: the Darkling, who controls a darkness so blinding, you cannot see your hand in front of you when he releases his power.

Now, the Darkling wants Alina to control her new power so they can get rid of the Unsea and can travel safely across that area.

But the longer Alina tries to control her power, the more she learns about the world that she used to be envious about. And she's not sure how she feels about the people in that world.

However, after some unsettling news about what Alina's powers are REALLY going to be used for, she has to make the biggest decision of her life. And she needs to decide how many people are going to suffer and die from her decisions.

The world that Leigh Bardugo created is amazing. I will admit, it took me a few chapters to get used to the new words and what they meant in this world, but once I got a visual on everything, I flew through this book!

And I love Alina! She is strong and can make her own decisions, making her relatable to many female readers. And she is completely confused about being thrust into this new world, but she is keeping up as much as she can and struggling through the rest.

Mal wasn't really growing on me at the beginning of the book, but I did learn to understand him and root for him when he was tracking. And when he came looking for Alina was pretty amazing too. Also? I do have to say that I was swayed by the Darkling, even though his powers do seem to be on the "evil" side. Conjuring a darkness you cannot penetrate? Seems pretty evil to me! But there are certain scenes with him and Alina that made me a bit jealous of her, not going to lie!!

I'm so glad that I finally read this book and I am going to immediately dive into the second one! I will definitely recommend this to other YA book lovers!

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Thursday, May 18, 2017

Review: Life on the Refrigerator Door

Life on the Refrigerator Door Life on the Refrigerator Door by Alice Kuipers
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was recommended by a friend of mine, so I grabbed it off the shelf at the library and dived right in!

Claire and her mother never see each other. They are virtually strangers who live in the same house, but rarely get a chance to see each other. The only interactions that they seem to have anymore are notes they write to one another and leave on the refrigerator in the kitchen.

And boy, do they write some notes! There are times when Claire is lashing out at her mother because she's making her do something, or her mother is grounding her through notes - notes!

But when something big happens to cause a change in their lives, Claire and her mother really need to find a time to talk to one another, because there is a possibility that they may not be able to talk for much longer...

This is possibly the shortest novel that I have ever read. Oh, sure, it has 220 pages, but it seriously only took me 20-30 minutes to read! No lie! There is a page on here that has 3 words total. I just kept turning the page, needing to know more about their stories and feeling like I was flying through their lives.

I'm glad that Alice Kuipers made Claire like a realistic 15/16 year old girl. Because having sweet notes going back and forth between her and her mother is not really realistic for any teenage girl. So when she was being sassy and rude and mean, that made me realize that this could really happen in real life and made Claire a real person.

The one thing I didn't enjoy was that her mother seriously had a relationship with her daughter this way. There had to be a way that she could have switched shifts every week or something and worked it out with her boss, because she is also a single mother and needs to take care of her teenage daughter.

The event that happened? So terrible. Even though it wasn't talked about too much in their notes, the reader knows what is happening and it is very heartbreaking that they are going through this by writing notes to one another.

I'm glad I read this and I will definitely be recommending it to friends!

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Review: Thirteen Reasons Why

Thirteen Reasons Why Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read this book back when it was first released and really enjoyed the meaning and the message that the story is telling.

I have 2 book clubs that are reading this book so I re-read it and found that I forgot a lot of little details - which is not the best thing to do with a book like this! Still, I did enjoy it, but I did give it a lower rating of stars than I originally gave it back in 2007-2008. I don't know, maybe I wasn't as amazed by it now that our society has changed so much since that time? I can't quite pinpoint the reason, but don't get me wrong - I did still enjoy it and was glad to discuss it with other people to get their viewpoint of the novel.

Clay comes home and finds a shoebox on his doorstep. When he opens it, he finds cassette tapes. Clay goes to his garage and uses the boombox to listen to the tapes and see what they are. But when he hears Hannah's voice, he knows he needs a more private place to listen to the tapes. Because Hannah committed suicide just recently, so he is hearing the voice of a dead girl. A girl he used to have a crush on.

Once he "borrows" a classmates Walkman, Clay travels around town to listen to Hannah explain the 13 reasons why she got to the point in her life to commit suicide. And Clay is on that list, but he can't understand what he did to Hannah to bring her to that state.

Now Clay is listening to the stories about Justin, Alex, Jessica, Tyler, Courtney, Marcus, Zach, Ryan, Jenny, Bryce and Mr. Porter and what they did to Hannah to tear her self-confidence down.

But now that Clay knows this information, what is he going to do now?

This book touches on a few very hard topics that teens today are going through everyday. I feel like this is a great novel that talks about these issues, but doesn't lecture or talk about how to do these things.

With the Netflix TV show out, directed by Selena Gomez, this has been a big controversial issue in the schools recently. But my response to that is the book has been out for 10 years. Just because the TV show is different than the book does not mean that the book should not be read by parents, teachers, teens, etc. This book may have had some controversies, but from what I've heard, the TV show is not that similar to the book, so the issues that are coming out of the show should not influence the reading of the book.

Because I feel like Jay Asher did a wonderful job writing Hannah's story and explaining the mental illness that she had. And the best thing I loved was reading the answers Jay Asher answered at the back of the book, because it does touch on a lot of questions that have been asked recently. If only people would read the questions and answers, they wouldn't be so confused or decipher instances wrongly.

Overall, I liked this book and I liked hearing what both of my book clubs had to say about this book to get another understanding of things that I didn't come up with myself.

Out of this whole review, I think the most important thing is that I want people to read this book. The book is completely better than the TV show and I don't want people to judge this great novel by a TV adaptation. :)

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Monday, May 8, 2017

Review: Gone

Gone Gone by Michael Grant
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had read this novel a long, long time ago and enjoyed it, so I was happy that we were re-reading it for my bookclub so I could remember all of the details that happened in the novel.

Sam and his classmates were in class when something strange happened: his teacher disappeared. Just was there one moment, talking, and the next, gone. Most of the students were not paying attention, so they weren't sure what really happened, but when they walked out to the hallway to see what was going on, other students had said the same thing: their teacher just "poofed".

Quinn, Sam's best friend, was in the same class as Sam, so they were roaming the halls and found Astrid, the girl Sam has been crushing on for a long time. Astrid said that her teacher and the other 3 students in her Advanced study group all disappeared.

When the kids try calling their parents, there is no dial tone on the phone and the TV, while it turns on, does not have anything showing. There are no shows on, the news is not broadcasting, nothing. Silence.

Astrid is called "Astrid the Genius" by the kids in school because she is super smart, and she came to the conclusion, after observing everything that is going on, that anyone who is age 15 or older have disappeared. All of the adults. She is on a mission to find her 4 year old autistic brother, Pete before he gets hurt, but she doesn't know where he was during the time of the disappearance.

On the other side of town, a girl named Lana was in the truck with her grandfather when he "poofed" and she got in a horrific car accident that broke multiple bones. With her dog, Patrick, she was stranded in the middle of the forest, where vultures were just waiting for her to die. When Patrick got hurt by a wolf, Lana discovered that she has the power to heal. So she heals herself and finds herself in town with all of the other kids.

Most of the kids are pretty young and Sam, Astrid and Quinn are all 14. So all of the 14 year olds are now figuring out how to take care of the littles. And the troubled teens are starting to realize that they can be bullies without getting into trouble by the adults, since there are no more around. By the time Sam realizes that everyone is looking toward him to guide them into this new world, kids from Coates Academy - a boarding school for troubled kids - come down to their town and decide they are going to take over.

Because Sam is hiding a secret: he has a power. Has had it for some time now, but he can conjure up a green/white light that can burn things. He hurt his stepfather with this power and now it comes more often when he's scared and panics during dangerous times.

And the leader of Coates Academy? He has a power too - a very powerful ability of levitation. But Caine has been using and practicing his power so he knows how to use it within a second.

Now Sam only has a few days before he "poofs" on his 15th birthday, and he needs to make sure that the kids from his town won't be hurt from the democracy that came from Coates Academy. But a war is starting to brew, and Caine is in the front and center of it. Sam must find a way to stop him before it is too late.

This is a good book about how kids are having to grow up way too fast. There are suspenseful moments in this book that might not be suitable for young teens, but overall I think a lot of readers would enjoy this book.

I liked Lana the best. She was in a terrible place but she was able to fight through it and be stronger from her experience.

I'm glad I got to re-read this and maybe one day I will finish the series to see what is really happening with these characters!

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Review: When It's Real

When It's Real When It's Real by Erin Watt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received this free eARC novel from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Oakley Ford has been a teen-pop star singer since he was a wee thing. He wasn't shy of being in the public eye with his famous movie star parents, and going into the music business was like a second home. But it's been 2 years since he has released a new album or created new music, and his agent thinks that if he doesn't release something soon, he will lose his thousands of fans. Oak doesn't think that he needs to do anything except partner up with another popular singer, King. But King won't go near Oak because of his wild reputation. However, if Oak could change his image, King might be willing to work with Oak.

And that is where Vaughn comes in. She's a "normal" girl and Oak's PR team want all of the girls who follow Oak to think that he could fall for a girl just like them if they can get Vaughn to agree to date Oak for a year. Vaughn already has a boyfriend and thinks that this idea is ridiculous, but the amount of money they are willing to pay here would make a huge difference in her life. When her parents passed away, life has been hard for Vaughn, her older sister, Paisley, and her younger twin brothers. Vaughn had to graduate high school early and take a year off from college to work and help get money for bills and food.

So when this deal came through, she really couldn't say no. Doing this gig for a year would make a lot of differences, and also help the twins go to college in the future.

But while Vaughn used to have a crush on Oak when she was 15, at 17 she realizes how much of a spoiled child Oak has become and she's kinda over his superiority attitude.

Except that the more she hangs out with Oak, the more she realizes that he's not exactly the jerk that he pretends to be sometimes. And he seems to like her well enough, even though she is "plain" and "normal" and would rather wear jeans and Converses than dresses and heels.

Just as things are starting to become intense between the two, the media explodes with information from Vaughn's ex-boyfriend and Oak's ex-band member that might ruin what has been building between Vaughn and Oak.

I really liked Vaughn. She is down to earth, she is looking out for her family and is sacrificing a lot for her own happiness to make sure that her family survives through the next few years after her parents died. Vaughn doesn't take any crap thrown at her, and that goes for Oak's attitude as well. And I think that's why Oak starts to fall for her. He's used to others fawning over him, wanting him to autograph or take selfies with him. Vaughn couldn't give a care about any of that.

Plus, Oak loves being with her family and I think that is the sweetest thing in the world. He's always hanging out with her younger brothers, without Vaughn even knowing about it, and that shows that he really likes to just chill with them.

Oak was very immature and spoiled at the beginning, and he was the one that grew into a better person by the end of the novel.

I really enjoyed this novel and watching these characters go through different emotions throughout the book. It does have a different feel than The Royals series, but I think fans of music and teenage love will really enjoy this book!

I'm very glad that I got this as an eARC so I could devour it early!

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