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Vault of DreamersFrom Goodreads: From the author of the Birthmarked trilogy comes a fast-paced, psychologically thrilling novel about what happens when your dreams are not your own.
 
The Forge School is the most prestigious arts school in the country. The secret to its success:  every moment of the students’ lives is televised as part of the insanely popular Forge Show, and the students’ schedule includes twelve hours of induced sleep meant to enhance creativity. But when first year student Rosie Sinclair skips her sleeping pill, she discovers there is something off about Forge. In fact, she suspects that there are sinister things going on deep below the reaches of the cameras in the school. What’s worse is, she starts to notice that the edges of her consciousness do not feel quite right. And soon, she unearths the ghastly secret that the Forge School is hiding—and what it truly means to dream there.

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The idea of a reality show that follows students around a boarding school is completely unique and piqued my interest from the get go. The fact that the students have to take sleeping pills and sleep for 12 hours also adds an ominous tone to the novel, and as it all unfolded, it became clear that the Forge School is much more than it appears to be.

Rosie Sinclair is an interesting young woman, and I loved getting to know her, as well as watching her relationship with Linus bloom. Unfortunately for Rosie, happily-ever-after doesn’t seem to be written in the stars, and as she continually refuses her sleeping pills and roams the silent halls at night, readers learn some rather disturbing things about her new school—things that would have the best of us running for the hills. That is… if any of it is real.

Presented with a mystery that keeps readers frantically turning the pages, this novel has many ups and downs, causing readers to question everything the know and have learned within the pages of the text. What is real? What is fiction? How sound of mind and body is Rosie, really? As the novel progresses, readers are given key insights into the mind of the characters, and it’s a heart-pounding ride. But reader beware, this is definitely not a happily-ever-after scenario, and yet, while I was crushed by the end, it is indeed a perfect conclusion for this story, setting it further apart from any other boarding school novel I’ve ever read. Four stars.

4 stars

I received this novel from the publisher, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.  This title releases today.

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Who R U ReallyFrom Goodreads: Thea’s overprotective parents are driving her insane. They invade her privacy, ask too many questions, and restrict her online time so severely that Thea feels she has no life at all. When she discovers a new role-playing game online, Thea breaks the rules by staying up late to play. She’s living a double life: on one hand, the obedient daughter; on the other, a girl slipping deeper into darkness. In the world of the game, Thea falls under the spell of Kit, an older boy whose smarts and savvy can’t defeat his loneliness and near-suicidal despair. As Kit draws soft-hearted Thea into his drama, she creates a full plate of cover stories for her parents and then even her friends.

Soon, Thea is all alone in the dark world with Kit, who worries her more and more, but also seems to be the only person who really “gets” her. Is he frightening, the way he seems sometimes, or only terribly sad? Should Thea fear Kit, or pity him? And now, Kit wants to come out of the screen and bring Thea into his real-life world. As much as she suspects that this is wrong, Thea is powerless to resist Kit’s allure, and hurtles toward the same dark fate her parents feared most. Ripped from a true-life story of Internet stalking, Who R U Really? will excite you and scare you, as Thea’s life spins out of control.

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When I was a teen, I played an online role playing game much like Skadi, and I met some guys online. The good news? We didn’t really have cell phones then… it was a new concept and they were really expensive, and since everyone I wanted to talk to lived in my tiny little town and had a landline, I didn’t have any use for a cell. Neither did the guys I talked to ask me for my number, but I do wonder now if any of them were potential threats. I’d forgotten about this phase in my life until I read this novel. I constantly spoke to a man in Denmark and a man in Florida–I say man because I’m pretty sure they were past college age, but I don’t remember ever really asking them. And I used computers at the local college for this, not at my house, so tracking would have been a little more difficult, but still. Wow. Technology is fighting and I can’t believe that I ever decided it was a good idea to start chatting up random strangers I met in the online gaming community… and back then, as a teen, I never even thought of predators or internet safety, which is what makes this story all the more real for me.

And while Thea is an aggravating main character because she just doesn’t get it, she’s very much like I was at her age. She’s oblivious to the world around her, it seems, and not even when her friends and family try to spell it out for her does she relent and realize the danger she truly is in. She’s so far gone believing that Kit is her one true love that no warning signs blare for her, and so I spent a majority of this novel yelling at her through the pages. Mainly because this is very realistic, even though I hate to admit that. I hate that there are girls who fall prey to internet predators, and I hate that Thea’s parents still couldn’t protect her once they realized what was happening. It’s a sick and twisted world we live in, but thankfully we have novels like this one that paint a very real picture for our teens and tweens—showing them that sometimes we don’t know best, that our family and parents can see things we can’t, and that we need to listen to them.

The plot itself moved right along, and I really enjoyed the novel, though I did find that the predator in this story was, unfortunately, obvious. There are some telltale signs early on in the story, and everything points to this person, so I was a little disappointed with this specific aspect of the story, but otherwise it was really well done. And while Thea did drive me crazy at times, I loved the suspense that begins to build as her parents get involved and strange things begin to occur. The end had me rigid in my seat, and I really enjoyed it. This is definitely going on my students’ outside reading list as an option.  Four stars.

4 stars

I received this novel from the publisher, via Edelweiss, in exchange for a honest review.  This title releases officially on September 18, 2014.

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Can't Look AwayFrom Goodreads: Donna Cooner establishes herself as our own Jodi Picoult in this timely tale of sisters, loss, and redemption.

Torrey Grey is famous. At least, on the internet. Thousands of people watch her popular videos on fashion and beauty. But when Torrey’s sister is killed in an accident — maybe because of Torrey and her videos — Torrey’s perfect world implodes.

Now, strangers online are bashing Torrey. And at her new school, she doesn’t know who to trust. Is queen bee Blair only being sweet because of Torrey’s internet infamy? What about Raylene, who is decidedly unpopular, but seems accepts Torrey for who she is? And then there’s Luis, with his brooding dark eyes, whose family runs the local funeral home. Torrey finds herself drawn to Luis, and his fascinating stories about El dio de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead.

As the Day of the Dead draws near, Torrey will have to really look at her own feelings about death, and life, and everything in between. Can she learn to mourn her sister out of the public eye?

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This is an interesting read that depicts the life of a teen beauty vlogger, a wildly popular young woman who posts to YouTube, which I admit is a channel I personally rarely visit. My students are obsessed with youtube videos, so I definitely wanted to check out this novel and see if it brought on any insights, because truth be told, vlogs tend to drive me insane. I don’t think I’ve been able to watch very many straight through, because the spontaneity and bloopers of it all just isn’t for me. But, that’s exactly what Torrey does, or did, prior to the novel’s beginning, and as Torrey looks back on her past life, one where her little sister still existed, we begin to see just who Torrey Grey truly is, both now and then.

I definitely enjoyed this novel, and it did make me tear up a time of two, but I personally don’t follow why people are blaming Torrey for her sister’s death, or why they feel the need to write nasty comments on her vlogs. I get that trolls exist, and over the past three years as an online reviewer, I’ve seen some pretty nasty comments left on both author and blogger accounts alike, but I don’t quite understand the why behind it, and while I think this novel attempts to answer this question, it really doesn’t. Why are people so callous and rude? Torrey fought with her sister, just like all siblings do. She was mean, just like all siblings can be. But she didn’t push her sister into the street, and she certainly didn’t cause the accident, so I don’t see where anyone has the right to bully her, or why they would ever think to, in the first place. Of course, it seems that that is what humanity is good at doing; putting others down anonymously, and this happens to Torrey, though I have to say that I really felt like this was more the background story than the forefront, and I really wish this aspect of online life, with the trolls and wannabes, was dived into more deeply as it’s the main aspect I was more interested in.

Now, as I said, the story focuses on Torrey, and she’s definitely going through a hard time at the moment, and she struggles to pull herself together. Her attempt to piece her life back together, hanging with the popular crowd, is a farce, an attempt at healing—if only things could go back to the way they were, but unfortunately they never do, and Torrey has to learn this the hard way. I respected this about her, but she rubbed me the wrong way on some occasions, snubbing her true friends in order to make a name for herself… I think we’re all probably guilty of this in some way or other, but it did leave me a bit disappointed in Torrey, though she does eventually seem to get her head on straight.

I really liked Luis and enjoyed the Dia de los Muertes references and make-up tutorial (I’m so doing this), but again, never really understood why people were bashing on Torrey, or why the popular crowd at her new school disliked her so much. As I said, I liked the idea behind this novel overall, and the story is indeed well written, it’s just a little beyond me; I don’t really understand why anyone acted the way they did within the novel. Three and a half stars.

3.5 starsI received this novel from the publisher, via Netgalley, prior to its release today.

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A Secret lifeFrom Goodreads: “I think you and I were meant to meet. I think all of this was supposed to happen. You are my destiny.”

She never thought that her life would be this complicated. Or this dangerous. Running from her past, Kat and her mom end up in a small Colorado town when Kat run’s directly into her future. She changes everything about herself to try and blend into the background, to go unnoticed. She pushes everyone away and erects walls around herself and her heart. As hard as she tries, though, Kat can’t seem to escape the pull that Cam has on her.

Cam has never been so intrigued by anyone. Not only is Kat the most gorgeous girl he’s ever seen but also the most mysterious. She’s hiding something and he’s hell-bent on finding out what it is. The only problem is that she’s trying to shut him out which only furthers his determination to get close to her.

When Kat learns that her past is catching up with her again she has to run, leaving Cam, and her broken heart, behind.

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I read this novel a few weeks back, and it’s stuck with me ever since. While I did find the insta-attraction portion of the novel just a tad cheesy in the beginning, as the novel progressed and the characters grew up, going from high school to college, I found myself rooting for the lovebirds, Cam and Kat, enjoying their antics and so happy that their attraction to one another lead to a much deeper relationship. Brownell tells their story in two parts, glossing over a few years in between in order to take her YA novel into the NA world while keeping it clean, and it works very well.

This novel has many different layers; many stories to tell. It’s about a mother and daughter in witness protection. It’s about first love. About danger. Crime. Grief. Protection. The FBI. Doing what’s right. Outrunning your past, and looking to the future. And I enjoyed this aspect of the novel very much. There is so much going on and Brownell slowly peels back the layers, providing a fun, easy, engaging read, though I will admit that I have many more questions than I have answers, and I think that’s one of the reasons this novel has stuck with me long after I finished it. I find myself trying to figure it out at random times during my days, and that’s a rarity for me as I read so many books and move from one to the next quite rapidly.

I am intrigued by Cam and his love for Kat. I love Kat’s tenacity and her yearning for a simple life. Together, they are perfect, insta-love aside, and I’m glad they found one another. What I don’t necessarily get is what happened during the climax of the novel–we’re led up to it, but as we’re looking through Kat’s eyes, and she’s not watching events unfold, we seem to miss everything as it unfolds, and as no one clarifies the event for Kat, we are left in the dark. All we know is that some very bad things went down, and I’m dying to know what happened to everyone. I need to know. And I also need to know how some of the people mixed up in it all got mixed up in it all. I’m not giving names nor explanations, because that’d be a spoiler, but I keep wracking my brain trying to figure it out. I need to know, and Brownell’s next novel in the series, Secrets and Lies, releases tomorrow… so here’s hoping for more. Four stars.

4 stars

I received this novel from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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Dark MetropolisFrom Goodreads: Cabaret meets Cassandra Clare-a haunting magical thriller set in a riveting 1930s-esque world.

Sixteen-year-old Thea Holder’s mother is cursed with a spell that’s driving her mad, and whenever they touch, Thea is chilled by the magic, too. With no one else to contribute, Thea must make a living for both of them in a sinister city, where danger lurks and greed rules.
Thea spends her nights waitressing at the decadent Telephone Club attending to the glitzy clientele. But when her best friend, Nan, vanishes, Thea is compelled to find her. She meets Freddy, a young, magnetic patron at the club, and he agrees to help her uncover the city’s secrets-even while he hides secrets of his own.

Together, they find a whole new side of the city. Unrest is brewing behind closed doors as whispers of a gruesome magic spread. And if they’re not careful, the heartless masterminds behind the growing disappearances will be after them, too.

Perfect for fans of Cassandra Clare, this is a chilling thriller with a touch of magic where the dead don’t always seem to stay that way.

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If you enjoy magical-realism and/or the paranormal set within the realms of everyday life, then I highly suggest you pick up this novel. It reminded me just a touch of the movie Sin City based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller, with the spells and abilities replacing superpowers and villains, though I wouldn’t say Dark Metropolis is nearly as gruesome or action packed. Secrets abound, magic flies, and as the novel unfolds, Dolamore does a great job foreshadowing what’s to come, nudging readers in the right direction as they attempt to figure out just what is at work in the depths of the city.

I enojyed the characterization and the surprise at the end, and am interested to see what happens next in this surreal world full of danger and magic.  Told from the perspective of multiple characters, a writing style that I just adore, I think many will enjoy this series. Four stars.

4 stars

I received this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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The String DiariesFrom Goodreads: A family is hunted by a centuries-old monster: a man with a relentless obsession who can take on any identity.

The String Diaries opens with Hannah frantically driving through the night–her daughter asleep in the back, her husband bleeding out in the seat beside her. In the trunk of the car rests a cache of diaries dating back 200 years, tied and retied with strings through generations. The diaries carry the rules for survival that have been handed down from mother to daughter since the 19th century. But how can Hannah escape an enemy with the ability to look and sound like the people she loves?

Stephen Lloyd Jones’s debut novel is a sweeping thriller that extends from the present day, to Oxford in the 1970s, to Hungary at the turn of the 19th century, all tracing back to a man from an ancient royal family with a consuming passion–a boy who can change his shape, insert himself into the intimate lives of his victims, and destroy them.

If Hannah fails to end the chase now, her daughter is next in line. Only Hannah can decide how much she is willing to sacrifice to finally put a centuries-old curse to rest.

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Imagine being hunted by a shape shifter–you’d never know your enemy, they could silently become a loved one at any moment, getting close to you without sparking an inkling of suspicion until it’s too late. Imagine a life where you’re forced to constantly pay attention to every small detail and validate everyone who crosses your path, being on the run to stay ahead of a crazed killer intent on reuniting with his love from so long ago… so is the story of Jakab, a sociopathic shape shifter obsessed with the female lineage of one specific family. Of Hannah’s family.

This novel opens in a whirl as Hannah drives recklessly towards an abandoned farmhouse, her husband bleeding out in the passenger seat while her nine year old daughter sleeps in the back. Fraught with danger, this novel exemplifies the creep factor, and as I read it late at night, I was constantly on watch as Jakab sent fear coursing throughout my body as I turned the pages.

Told in alternating timelines, both present and past, the novel sucks readers in from the get go. The characters and events within the story are puzzle pieces waiting so patiently to be put together, and as the tale weaves in and out, readers learn of what hunts Hannah, how Jakab came to be, what lore resides behind shape shifters, and the faction that plans to finally finish wiping the seemingly immortal shifters from the world.

Intense and amazing, this is a must read novel that kept me on my toes as it unfolded. I loved putting the pieces together, learning about Hannah’s current story, that of her parent’s in the 1970s, and that of Jakab as he became the sinister, sociopathic enemy that he truly is. You wont be able to stop reading once you start, and I highly suggest you pick up this amazing read stat. Five stars.

5 stars

I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher via Netgalley, prior to its republication, in exchange for an honest review.

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It’s here!  The final installment of Tiffany King’s fabulous Daemon Hunter series, Jordyn: The Final Battle is now available! YES!

JOrdyn TFB

I have finally come to grips with the purpose of my existence. I am a weapon in the battle against evil. Accepting that doesn’t mean I can’t still wish to have a normal life sometimes.
Well…Normal in my world.

My friends and family members are angelic beings, my boyfriend is an ex soul trader, and most of my time is spent training and hunting daemons.

After rescuing my friends from an eternity of torture in the Caverns of Gloom, I may have accidentally opened a gateway to hell, unleashing an army of daemons to run wild throughout the city.

Once again, I will do what I was created to do.

I am the only hope. I am Jordyn.

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And make sure you pick up book one in the series, Jordyn, on sale right now for FREE!

Jordyn

And pick up book two, Jordyn and the Cavern of Gloom, for just $2.99, too!

Jordyn COG

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Tiffany King new profile pictureUSA Today Bestselling author Tiffany King is a lifelong reading fanatic who is now living her dream as a writer, weaving Young Adult and New Adult romance tales for others to enjoy. She has a loving husband and two wonderful kids. (Five, if you count her three spoiled cats). Her addictions include: Her iPhone and iPad, chocolate, Diet Coke, chocolate, Harry Potter, chocolate, zombies and her favorite TV shows. Want to know what they are? Just ask.

For information on any of Author Tiffany’s titles, visit her blog at http://www.authortiffanyjking.blogspot.com

Where to connect with Author Tiffany

Twitter@AuthorTiffany

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Email– authortiffany@yahoo.com

“Dreams do come true…Dream big.”

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Vivian Devine is DeadFrom Goodreads: When a death threat arrives with teen celebrity Vivian Divine’s fan mail, Vivian has no choice but to go on the run to Mexico. She soon discovers, though, that her Oscar-nominated performance killing villains on-screen did nothing to prepare her for escaping a madman in real life. Some people say he’s a hero, others tremble in his presence, but one thing is clear: he won’t stop until Vivian is in his grasp. Why didn’t she pay more attention during those judo lessons for her role in Zombie Killer? Vivian finds an ally in the mysterious and charming Nick. He is everything Hollywood boys are not-genuine, kind, and determined to see Vivian for who she really is. But even he seems like he can’t be trusted-what could he be hiding? Beat up, hungry, and more confused than ever about who she’s running from, Vivian is living in a real-life blockbuster horror flick. But there’s no option to yell “cut” like there is on set…. Lauren Sabel’s Vivian Divine Is Dead is a creepy, witty, fast-paced adventure about family, fame, and having the courage to save yourself.

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I have to say that I enjoyed this story overall, but some of the events were a little far-fetched for me. Vivian Divine is an extremely well known celebrity, so when she’s forced to go on the run, she has to hide in plain sight, which is much easier said than done. Still reeling from her mother’s murder, her boyfriend’s betrayal, and a scary run in with a man in a black suit, her mind isn’t in the best of places, and her only option, so she believes, is to run. But, running off into the deep of Mexico alone to meet someone she has never met doesn’t seem like the best course of action…

Between a rock and a hard place, Vivian embarks on a journey filled with peril. I almost feel as though the events themselves would be more fluid on the big screen than on paper as the action seems to just jump for sequence to sequence, but it is engaging nevertheless. While some of the events and outcomes are indeed obvious, others were much more discreet, and the revelation of Vivian’s pursuers was rather shocking. Though I have a few questions about certain cover ups that take place within the novel, overall it was a fun read. I wish that Vivian had a better relationship with others and was able to confide in them more, especially since grown-ups really can help, but I also understand the feeling of being all alone and feeling like there is no one to turn to. Three stars.

3 stars

I received this novel from the publisher, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

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The Truth About AliceFrom Goodreads: Everyone has a lot to say about Alice Franklin, and it’s stopped mattering whether it’s true. The rumors started at a party when Alice supposedly had sex with two guys in one night. When school starts everyone almost forgets about Alice until one of those guys, super-popular Brandon, dies in a car wreck that was allegedly all Alice’s fault. Now the only friend she has is a boy who may be the only other person who knows the truth, but is too afraid to admit it. Told from the perspectives of popular girl Elaine, football star Josh, former outcast Kelsie, and shy genius Kurt, we see how everyone has a motive to bring – and keep – Alice down.

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This novel follows suit of the game telephone, showing just how much gossip promotes rumors and distorts the truth.  It’s a great novel depicting a form of bullying that’s not addressed as much as the physical or taunting kind, showing how lies for selfish gain, or to protect oneself, can ruin another, whether intentional or not.

The entire novel, save the last chapter, is told from the perspective of Alice’s former friends/frenemies.  Loner Kurt, football player Josh, former best friend and outcast Kelsie, and popular diva Elaine alternate chapters, spinning their tales and giving readers their “expert” take on events that, for the most part, none of them witnessed.  And as they slowly work towards the truth of the matter, admitting to lies and other deceits for the sake of their wellbeing, it becomes clear that the events Alice is blamed for are not quite the truth at all.

Everyone in this novel has secrets.  They hold grudges, make rash decisions, lie to protect themselves, and ultimately destroy Alice one way or another, and while some of them do it intentionally, others mean no harm, but their secrecy does just as much damage as those spreading lies.  It is said that sticks and stones can break our bones, but words… can never hurt us.  And yet, I think most people would agree that words do hurt, and they leave an unseen mark that can strip away one’s soul, and that is exactly what Alice is experiencing throughout the course of the year as the school runs rampant with gossip.

As much as I hated Josh, Kelsie, and Elaine (Kurt was perhaps the nicest and most understanding of all the characters), I loved the multiple perspectives.  And the theme, the bullying, makes this an intense read. While no one technically physically bullies Alice—they don’t even really talk to her—ostracizing someone and spreading rumors about them is just as bad, if not worse, than saying it directly to their face.  It’s a powerful statement that today’s generation really needs to hear and internalize, and I highly recommend this novel to tween readers and beyond.

The final chapter is told from Alice’s perspective, and it’s just… a perfect conclusion.  I love that the novel ends on a positive note, that there is hope, yet it doesn’t undermine the effects that bullying and ostracizing had on Alice, and it doesn’t sugarcoat anything.  It’s realistic and, in my mind, the perfect conclusion to a great story.  Four stars.

4 stars

In exchange for an honest review, Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group and Roaring Brook Press have been extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this novel, via Netgalley, prior to its release on June 3, 2014.

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Of Noble BirthFrom Goodreads: He Was a Man Who Took What He Wanted. And He Wanted Her.

To escape her cruel stepfather, seamstress Alexandra Cogsworth envisioned sailing far from England…though not as a captive aboard a pirate’s ship. Pirate Captain Nathaniel Kent’s strategy for exacting revenge on his cold-hearted father involved taking a valuable hostage…not a seamstress he mistakenly thinks is his half sister. Yet fate has designs of its own, landing them both on board the Royal Vengeance.

At sea, Nathaniel intercepts and plunders his father’s ships, all the while tormented by his illicit hunger for the tempting prisoner he thinks is his blood relation. And although Alexandra wants no part in this terrifying voyage, to reveal her true identity to the handsome, blue-eyed Nathaniel would invite danger. Not only would she become worthless cargo, but the revelation would surely unleash what she and Nathaniel have been fiercely battling – a rising undercurrent of impossible desire that could sweep them away for good.

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Truth be told, I tend to flock to the YA section of the bookstore, so Novak’s novel, Of Noble Birth wasn’t even on my radar until a review request piqued my interest, and I am very glad for it. Sometimes I miss out on gems like this historical romance because of my gravitation towards YA, and it takes books like this one to remind me to expand my horizons.

Novak’s novel is awesome. It’s not too hot and heavy, which is great for a prudish reader like me, but it does have just enough romance and steamy kisses/smoldering glances to really make it a romantic adult novel, and as one of my first in this category, I have to admit that I really enjoyed it. The story itself is extremely interesting from the very beginning, as readers learn of Nathan’s birth, his missing arm, and his father’s murderous intent due to the “imperfection,” as he deems it. The novel then jumps ahead about twenty years, presenting readers with the now grown Nathan and a new character we quickly fall in love with, Alexandra.

A seamstress, Alexandra gets more than she bargained for when she dons a proper ladies dress in hopes of escaping the notice of her drunken step-father. Unfortunately, she finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time, and Nathan, now a rogue pirate intent on harming his estranged nobleman father as much as possible, mistakes Alexandra for his half-sister. As events unfold, and the mistaken identity plays itself out, both of these main characters, intent on a better life, find themselves suddenly falling for one another, a revelation that neither of them can admit, and their snarky retorts and slow dance around one another is incredibly well-written.

I loved being whisked away on the high seas, and I really enjoyed getting to know the characters as well—though a little gruff and unforgiving, they really do work their way into the readers heart. While a little repetitive at times, and a tad long, the case of mistaken identity was humorous and an enjoyable aspect of the novel—one I liked very much. If you’re like me and usually stick to YA or NA novels, I highly suggest giving this one a go; it’s unique and much fun, especially as Nathan comes to realize his mistake and everything comes crashing down upon him. Spanning multiple years, with up and downs on all fronts, Novak really engages her readers; this is not one to miss. Four stars.

4 stars

I received this novel from the author in exchange for an honest review.  This novel is being re-released on May 27, 2014.

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Next Time We Steal the CarillonFrom Goodreads: College life and crime detection are seen through the eyes of our student investigators. These contemporary temporary sleuths live through a cozy mystery set at a Midwestern college during the 1990s. Missing: a valuable antiquity. Suspicious occult occurrences, a séance, car troubles, another séance, injury in the forest, strange people not a part of the campus community are roaming the campus, pleasant fall weather, and, someone is following our Veronica. Is he some rejected suitor or someone harboring bad thoughts about our investigators? Holy smoke! What’s she going to do? What are they going to do? Will the ancient bowl return? Will our detectors find who done it? Are Veronica and Monica, who are cute as kittens, affecting the objectivity and efficiency of Ralphy and Jason? I can’t tell! Who won the game, and what happened at the dance? All these questions—and more—will be answered before you put this book down. This is a story about good kids with a devil of a job.

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This was an interesting whodunit type mystery dealing with college aged students, though it reads more as a YA or MG novel. It’s easy to understand prose and characters draw the reader in from the get go, and it’s definitely a fun ride. There are a bit more characters involved in this story than I’m used to, and so as a reader I had more people to try and keep track of, but overall Flann does a good job keeping the reader on track. I will say that I didn’t really connect with any of the characters due to the vast amount of them—they were spread a little thin in terms of characterization for me—but overall, they were likable and intriguing, spurred on by different motivations that cast them in different lighting as the novel progresses.

While I found some of the events within the novel to be a little far-fetched, the premise was on point and I thought the search for the missing artifact to be actually quite enjoyable. From crazy sleuthing in the dead of night to false antics, the characters and events kept me on my toes as it all came to a head. This is a clean novel with a somewhat humorous take on the “whodunit” mystery, and if you’re in the mood for something a bit light, then I suggest taking this novel for a spin. Three and a half stars.

3.5 stars

I was given this novel by the author in exchange for an honest review.

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V is for VillainFrom Goodreads: Brad Baron is used to looking lame compared to his older brother, Blake. Though Brad’s basically a genius, Blake is a superhero in the elite Justice Force. And Brad doesn’t measure up at his high school, either, where powers like super-strength and flying are the norm. So when Brad makes friends who are more into political action than weight lifting, he’s happy to join a new crew-especially since it means spending more time with Layla, a girl who may or may not have a totally illegal, totally secret super-power. And with her help, Brad begins to hone a dangerous new power of his own.

But when they’re pulled into a web of nefarious criminals, high-stakes battles, and startling family secrets, Brad must choose which side he’s on. And once he does, there’s no turning back.

Perfect for fans of The Avengers, Ironman, and classic comic books, V is for Villain reveals that it’s good to be bad.

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I recently read Don’t Tell My Parents I’m a Super Villain, and liked the MG read so much that I began looking for a YA novel of the same caliber, which I found in V is for Villain. This young adult novel is sure to grab the attention of boys of all ages, and I absolutely adore that it’s making its debut at a time when my high school students are enamored with all things Avenger. Trying to get my students to read is a task in and of itself, but with enticing reads like this one, where the focus is on the comic book world of super-powered entities, well, we have a winner.

While I will admit that some of the storyline itself was a little predictable, it is still an attention grabber and I foresee my students gobbling it up. Dealing with the topics of bullying, family values, and self-esteem, the novel also has great themes that deliver a punch, leaving readers with a good message overall, even if our hero, Brad, is a villain.

I thought Moore did a great job fleshing out his characters, and their plights and decisions were well thought out and written in a believable manner (super-powers aside). It is a great novelist to capture younger readers’ attention, and it takes an even greater writer to take a fictional realm and make it a reality for said readers. Moore has done just that, I am definitely hoping for a sequel. I can’t wait to hear what my students think of this one. Four stars.

4 starsI received this novel from the publisher, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Releasing today:

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After the EndFrom Goodreads: She’s searching for answers to her past. They’re hunting her to save their future.

World War III has left the world ravaged by nuclear radiation. A lucky few escaped to the Alaskan wilderness. They’ve survived for the last thirty years by living off the land, being one with nature, and hiding from whoever else might still be out there.

At least, this is what Juneau has been told her entire life.

When Juneau returns from a hunting trip to discover that everyone in her clan has vanished, she sets off to find them. Leaving the boundaries of their land for the very first time, she learns something horrifying: There never was a war. Cities were never destroyed. The world is intact. Everything was a lie.

Now Juneau is adrift in a modern-day world she never knew existed. But while she’s trying to find a way to rescue her friends and family, someone else is looking for her. Someone who knows the extraordinary truth about the secrets of her past.

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I didn’t have access to the internet when I started reading this novel on my Kindle, so I couldn’t refresh my memory about the synopsis before I plunged in. But truth be told, I actually think not knowing the synopsis made After the End even more interesting for me because early on, when the truth hit about WWIII for Juneau and Miles, I was shocked and totally riveted to the spot. It’s always fun to go into a book without knowing the premise, and generally I am always surprised by what I learn along the way, having no expectations going in, and so I feel like I should do it more often, especially after absolutely falling in love with this novel.
I will admit that the first chapter didn’t reel me in right away. I wasn’t sure what was going on, and this is why people write a synopsis for books in the first place—to give a little background. Juneau’s story was a bit interesting, but not riveting, and I was definitely thinking Hunger Games throughout that first chapter, but then Miles came on the scene and changed everything for me. I can’t express how exciting it is to figure something out before a character does; to have an “aha” moment before the entire picture becomes clear, but as Miles’ story began to evolve, I definitely had a moment where everything suddenly clicked and I was hooked, line and sinker.

If you haven’t read the synopsis above as of yet, well, I’m about to ruin it for you. The whole idea of a society gone into hiding after WWIII, only for the truth to come out that there never was a WWIII, well… genius. Just. Genius.

Can you imagine finding out that the entire world you know and understand, or thought you knew and understood, was a lie? That everyone, mentors and parents included, have lied to you since birth? It’s mind boggling, yet this is exactly what Juneau experiences as her world deteriorates around her. Thrust into the unknown, a world she was taught to fear, she must trust the most unlikely allies in order to find her family, and it’s definitely a bumpy and intense ride the entire way.

Filled with elements of the paranormal, Plum’s latest novel is epically fun. I especially love that it’s told from two different viewpoints, allowing readers inside the minds of both Juneau and Miles as they make decisions and choices that could ultimately end with their death if they aren’t careful—but to not take risks means ultimate failure and the death of others. Locked between a rock and a hard place, unsure just how much trust to put in the other, both Juneau and Miles have many choices to make, and lots of growing up to do. Five amazing stars.

5 stars

In exchange for an honest review, has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this novel, via Netgalley, prior to its release on May 6, 2014.

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Prisoner of Night and FogFrom Goodreads: In 1930s Munich, danger lurks behind dark corners, and secrets are buried deep within the city. But Gretchen Müller, who grew up in the National Socialist Party under the wing of her “uncle” Dolf, has been shielded from that side of society ever since her father traded his life for Dolf’s, and Gretchen is his favorite, his pet.

Uncle Dolf is none other than Adolf Hitler.

And Gretchen follows his every command.

Until she meets a fearless and handsome young Jewish reporter named Daniel Cohen. Gretchen should despise Daniel, yet she can’t stop herself from listening to his story: that her father, the adored Nazi martyr, was actually murdered by an unknown comrade. She also can’t help the fierce attraction brewing between them, despite everything she’s been taught to believe about Jews.

As Gretchen investigates the very people she’s always considered friends, she must decide where her loyalties lie. Will she choose the safety of her former life as a Nazi darling, or will she dare to dig up the truth—even if it could get her and Daniel killed?

From debut author Anne Blankman comes this harrowing and evocative story about an ordinary girl faced with the extraordinary decision to give up everything she’s ever believed . . . and to trust her own heart instead.

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This historical fiction novel is completely different from other’s I’ve read, mainly in that is focused on Hitler’s rise to power… but not as the Hitler we know, but rather as “Uncle Dolf.” We see his rise to power through the eyes of his “adoptive” niece, Gretchen, a young woman who hangs on the very words of Uncle Dolf, idolizing him; he can do no wrong—that is, until he does.

Gretchen has grown up without a father. Her deceased father is well respected in Hitler’s circle as the man who sacrificed himself to save Hitler, but as the story unfolds, Gretched learns that not everything she’s been told is indeed true, and the bullet hole in the back her father’s tunic, as well as some sleuthing and a friendship from an unlikely source, lead Gretchen to finally begin questioning everything she’s been led to believe.

With a sociopathic brother who’s hatred for the Jews minimally outshines his hatred for Gretchen, the world collapses on Gretchen when her brother viciously beats her and Uncle Dolf stands by and does nothing. No reprimand, instead telling Gretchen that it was her fault to evoke the anger of her older brother. Beginning to see the light behind Hitler’s ways, and befriending a Jew, the worst offence she could do during this perilous time in German history, Gretchen must decide what is truth, what is right, and ultimately, what she believes.

This was a very interesting story, though I will admit that the mystery of it all didn’t really do much for me as a reader. My extreme dislike of Hilter and his entire regime made me automatically trust those stating he was a liar, and I held no doubt in my mind that Gretchen’s father was murdered by his own people, with Hitler at the forefront. That being said, Hitler is shown in two different lights here—the doting guardian, and the awful racist coward that he truly is. Though Gretchen loving looked up to Uncle Dolf—as any child would who doesn’t know any better, I was thankful to see her begin to pull away from him, even the slightest, knowing it could result in her ostracizing and possible death.

She is a likable and strong character, but it takes her time to really come into herself and to figure everything out. I would have liked a little more fleshing out of her character, and that of Daniel, the young Jewish reporter she begins to fall for. I also would have liked a little more action—the story did seem to drag just a little bit, becoming convoluted with side plots and stifling the main ones, such as the mysterious circumstances of Gretchen’s father’s death. But overall, it is well written and worth the read. Three stars.

3 stars

In exchange for an honest review, Balzer and Bray have been extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this novel prior to its release today.

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Far From YouFrom Goodreads: Sophie Winters nearly died. Twice.

The first time, she’s fourteen, and escapes a near-fatal car accident with scars, a bum leg, and an addiction to Oxy that’ll take years to kick.

The second time, she’s seventeen, and it’s no accident. Sophie and her best friend Mina are confronted by a masked man in the woods. Sophie survives, but Mina is not so lucky. When the cops deem Mina’s murder a drug deal gone wrong, casting partial blame on Sophie, no one will believe the truth: Sophie has been clean for months, and it was Mina who led her into the woods that night for a meeting shrouded in mystery.

After a forced stint in rehab, Sophie returns home to a chilly new reality. Mina’s brother won’t speak to her, her parents fear she’ll relapse, old friends have become enemies, and Sophie has to learn how to live without her other half. To make matters worse, no one is looking in the right places and Sophie must search for Mina’s murderer on her own. But with every step, Sophie comes closer to revealing all: about herself, about Mina and about the secret they shared.

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Recovering addict Sophie witnessed the murder of her best friend, Mina, but no one believes her when she says it wasn’t a drug deal gone bad. Forced into rehab for a second time, dealing with her grief on her own, she vows to find the truth, and find the truth she does…

I felt like the narrative style of this novel really allowed me to get to know both Sophie and Mina on a much deeper level, one I wouldn’t have reached had this been delivered in a straightforward, start to finish style.  Instead, Sharpe takes the reader back and forth between the past and present, sometimes jumping back years, and other times mere months, all while showing the reader the ins and outs of the Sophie’s experiences.  We watch Sophie recover from a car accident that leaves her in constant pain, see her friendships and love life evolve, and experience her drug addiction alongside her, and know that, beyond a shadow of a doubt, there was no drug deal gone wrong, but rather a plot to murder Mina, stemming from events three years in the past. And I just fell in love with this narrative style.  I felt like I was a part of the story, not just an outsider looking in, but a real person on the inside, and that made it a wonderful read that I just couldn’t put down.

Now, I wasn’t ready for the love relationship between Sophie and Mina, but it is actually a perfect fit that shows how much the two cared for, loved, and struggled with their attraction to one another.  I also wasn’t ready for the truth of Mina’s murder; neither was Sophie, or anyone for that matter, and I really loved that I was kept guessing from the very beginning. This is a beautiful story that slowly evolves as we uncover the truth about what happened that fateful night.  Four stars.

4 stars

In exchange for an honest review, Disney-Hyperion has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this novel, via Netgalley, prior to its release on April 8, 2014.

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16088678From Goodreads: Smart girls aren’t supposed to do stupid things.

Madelyn Hawkins is super smart. At sixteen, she’s so gifted that she can attend college through a special program at her high school. On her first day, she meets Bennett. He’s cute, funny, and kind. He understands Madelyn and what she’s endured – and missed out on – in order to excel academically and please her parents. Now, for the first time in her life, she’s falling in love.

There’s only one problem. Bennett is Madelyn’s college professor, and he thinks she’s eighteen – because she hasn’t told him the truth.

The story of their forbidden romance is told in letters that Madelyn writes to Bennett – both a heart-searing ode to their ill-fated love and an apology.

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This is the story of a young girl so desperately trying to break the mold of her perfect life that her parents have designed for her that she ultimately ruins another’s life in order to feel different. Bennett makes her feel like an adult, like she has control of her life, and so she doesn’t tell him she’s 16, even though she knows she should, that their relationship is illegal, and that it could all come crashing down around her. But she’s selfish; not intentionally, but selfish she is, and in the end, the pieces shatter and she is left with nothing but a disappointed family–but she does break the mold.

Both Bennett and Madelyn were incredibly infuriating characters in this story, mainly because they didn’t think. The first thing I do when I meet someone I’m interested in is find out their age, and Bennett doesn’t do that. He never asks, even though he knows he shouldn’t be dating a student. He doesn’t verify that she’s 18, or ask around about her; instead, he throws himself into the relationship and, in this lack of thought, ends up ruining his own life. Asking someone to keep a secret this monumental means he knows what he’s doing is wrong. So he’s just as much to blame as anyone else.

Madelyn does stop to think that what she’s doing isn’t smart, but she continuously ignores the nagging feeling in the back of her mind and does whatever she wants to do. She doesn’t care who she hurts, and because of this, I have no respect for her. Yes, I understand she’s 16, irrational, and that her brain hasn’t fully formed, so she makes big mistakes, but this is calculating, and while she never means to being Bennett harm, that’s what she does because of her own selfish desires.

And her parents are just as much to blame as Bennett and Madelyn are. Their pressure and inability to really see their daughter was sickening. How does one not notice their child is suddenly dressing sexier and trying to be more mature and grown-up? She was 15 when she started community college–why force that on her? They didn’t know their own daughter, and I understand that the mother was absent a lot, and dad was all about making sure she succeeds in life, but what ever happened to allowing kids to be kids? Why force them to grow up so quickly? If you push her to be an adult all the time, when she’s not and doesn’t have all the experience and capabilities adults have, then you’re asking for trouble, in my opinion. And that’s what they got.

In the end, everyone is at fault in some way, shape, or form in this story.  Everyone.

I liked the idea that this story is told through a series of letters Madelyn wants to send Bennett after it’s all said and done, so she leads up to the fateful morning her secret was discovered, but I really would have loved to have Bennett’s point of view in there, too.  Overall, though, it’s a very well written story that will really make readers think, picking the characters apart and trying assess their cognitive abilities, or lack thereof.  The characterization is superb; I just wish I liked them more.  Three stars.

3 stars

Flux Books has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this novel, via Netgalley, prior to its official release tomorrow, September 8, 2013.



et cetera
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