Sunday, August 21, 2016

Review: "Breaking Sky" by Cori McCarthy

In this high-flying, adrenaline-fueled debut thriller, America's best hope is the elite teen fighter pilots of the United Star Academy Chase Harcourt, call sign "Nyx," is one of only two pilots chosen to fly the experimental "Streaker" jets at the junior Air Force Academy in the year 2048. She's tough and impulsive with lightning-fast reactions, but few know the pain and loneliness of her past or the dark secret about her father. All anyone cares about is that Chase aces the upcoming Streaker trials, proving the prototype jet can knock the enemy out of the sky. But as the world tilts toward war, Chase cracks open a military secret. There's a third Streaker jet, whose young hotshot pilot, Tristan, can match her on the ground and in the clouds. Chase doesn't play well with others, but to save her country she may just have to put her life in the hands of the competition.

My thanks to Sourcebooks Fire via Netgalley for the free review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

To be honest, I was not expecting much from this book. The synopsis made me think that "Breaking Sky" might come off a bit silly, so in that regard, I admit I was pleasantly surprised. I still feel that no matter how hard or demanding the training might be, there's no way teenagers would make competent fighter pilots. I mean, adult fighter pilots must put in thousands of hours to get as good as they are, so even if we're talking about the most mature, genius teenagers in the country, they're still not going to have the experience behind them to fly and fight like an adult. But, if you can suspend your disbelief long enough to get past this issue, then you might really enjoy this book. 

I was also expecting "Breaking Sky" to be all "rah rah USA", which I'm quite pleased to say that it was not! As a Canadian reader, I was surprised and excited to see that Canada (and two Canadians!) played a fairly significant role in this story, but that's all I'm going to say on that for fear of giving too much away.

I think there are definitely areas that could use improvement. Most of the characters were developed quite well - I especially enjoyed Pippin and Sylph - but I felt I didn't get to know a whole lot about Tristan. I also wanted to know more about why Chase hated her father so much. We're given a bit of backstory, but I don't think it was fleshed out enough to really make me understand the depth of Chase's feelings. 

Overall, though, I enjoyed this book and the writer's style. If you're looking for a fast-paced, young adult read with a kick ass heroine in an alternate future, "Breaking Sky" could be exactly what you're looking for.

My rating:  

Monday, August 1, 2016

Review: "The Summer After You and Me" by Jennifer Salvato Doktorski

Sunbathing, surfing, eating funnel cake on the boardwalk—Lucy loves living on the Jersey Shore. For her, it's not just the perfect summer escape, it is home. And as a local girl, she knows not to get attached to the tourists. They breeze in over Memorial Day weekend, crowding the shore and stealing moonlit kisses, only to pack up their beach umbrellas and empty promises on Labor Day. Lucy wants more from love than a fleeting romance, even if that means keeping her distance from her summertime neighbor and crush, Connor. Then Superstorm Sandy tears apart her barrier island, briefly bringing together a local girl like herself and a vacationer like Connor. Except nothing is the same in the wake of the storm. And day after day, week after week, Lucy is left to pick up the pieces of her broken heart and broken home. Now with Memorial Day approaching and Connor returning, will it be a summer of fresh starts or second chances?
Thank you to Sourcebooks Fire via Netgalley for the free review copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.
This was my first book by Jennifer Salvato Doktorski, and I really enjoyed it. The pace was perfect for a summer beach read, the writing was great, and the characters resonated with me. But, right off the bat, I think there should be a disclaimer in the synopsis stating that there is a bit of a love triangle. You know, like a "heads up" type warning label or something, because I know many readers seem to hate that whole trope. For me, the love triangle worked okay here - it was quite evident, at least to me, who Lucy would end up with, and it seemed necessary that Lucy work through her feelings for both boys in order to figure out what she really wanted for her future. So yeah, it worked, but it would have been nice to know ahead of time what I was getting into.

I quite liked Lucy. The ups and downs she went through with her friends, her brother, her parents, and even Connor, seemed realistic to me. I liked how she was working towards her career goals by getting volunteer experience in her field. Lucy also went through many plausible disappointments during this book, like having to move out of her house while it was being renovated after the storm, and figuring out a back up plan after her summer job plans fell through. I was especially interested in the dynamic between Lucy and her twin brother - I liked how she found out from her parents, and Connor, among others, how what she perceived was completely different from how other people saw the situation. Lucy always felt that she was trying to keep pace with her brother, but in reality, things were quite different.

There was one character that felt a bit extraneous, an older, male university student.  I'm not really sure why he was added in the mix, except to offer help to Lucy when she needed it. I never quite bought his motivations, and I kept waiting for him to start hitting on Lucy or take advantage of her in some way. Maybe that's the skeptic in me, but he didn't seem to serve much of a purpose here. My opinion would be to get rid of this guy altogether - he added nothing to the plot that couldn't be developed in some other way.

If I'm going to be completely critical here, I would have liked to learn more about Connor, as well. Most of what we learn about Connor is through flashbacks, and from Lucy's observations of him from afar.  There were some sweet moments between the two of them, and I did like Connor, I just wish that he hadn't been held at arm's length so much. I feel like the author only scratched the surface of him, if you know what I mean!

But, other than those minor criticisms, this book was a fun read and a great one to start my summer with!

My rating: 4 stars

Friday, July 29, 2016

Release Day Blitz: "Veiled" by Karina Halle

veiled available now

  Veiled AMAZON     From the New York Times bestselling author of The Lie and The Pact comes a new romance that will test your limits and leave you breathless. Death. It's something that Ada Palomino has always known so well, having grown up in a house of horrors, surrounded by a family plagued by ghosts and demons and things that go bump in the night. But after the sudden and tragic death of her mother two years ago, death has never felt so personal. Or so close. Now eighteen, Ada is trying to move on with her life and the last month of summer holds nothing but sunshine and promises with her first year at a Portland design school just around the bend. That is until her increasingly violent and realistic dreams, dreams of other worlds, of portals and veils where her mother is tortured and souls bleed for mercy, start to blend into reality. Ada has to lean on her older sister, Perry, to try and make sense of it all but even then, she's never felt more alone. Then there's Jay. Tall, handsome and deeply mysterious, Jay would be just another stranger, a familiar face on the bus, if it wasn't for the fact that Ada has met him before. Every night. In every single dream. And the more that Ada is drawn to him in both worlds, the more she's in danger of losing everything. Including her heart. And her very soul. 


Excerpt from "Veiled"

Then, out of nowhere: 
“You looked beautiful tonight, by the way.” 

Oh jeez. Be still my fucking heart. 

I try and swallow, his words, the sincerity in his voice rocking my world off-balance. “Which part? When the power went out or when Jacob went upstairs to fight a demon?” I joke. But I joke because I’m feeling this a little too much. 

“All of it. You know why I call you Princess?” he asks, his tone graver than before, like he’s letting me in on a very deep secret. 

“Because I’m a spoiled brat?” 

“Because you’re beautiful.” 

Well that shut me up. The sentence hangs in the air, larger than life. 

He clears his throat and goes on and I have to fight against the urge to roll over and face him. “You have this way about you. You don’t see it. But I do. Like you’re born royalty. The way you hold yourself. Your walk. The face of an angel.” 

Butterflies take flight in my gut, spreading through my veins until my whole body feels like its floating. “Why are you being so nice to me? Am I going to die?” 

He laughs softly. “I don’t know why I’m saying these things. Just seemed like the things to say. You’re destined for something great, Ada, I know this. And it’s an honor to help see you through it.” 

His words cascade down on me like ashes from a fire. Where they land, I’m ignited. 

Jay thinks I’m beautiful. 

And more than that, he believes in me. 

Silence settles over us, stealing time. I hear him breathing in the dark, steady as a heartbeat. He might even be sleeping. 

But I can’t even begin to shut down. My entire body, from the top of my scalp, down to my toes, is buzzing with heat and electricity. It’s like everything I felt for him before, everything I try to ignore, is coming out in full force, responding to his words, to his body so close to mine. I can feel the warmth at my back, sinking into my spine, just from his presence only. 

I’m starting to have feelings for him. Not just in a he’s a giant hulking beast who’s here to protect me from the underworld way. But real feelings, slowly creeping into my heart, day by day. 

The thought is terrifying in the same way that demons are terrifying. 

They both might take possession of me. They both might ruin me. 

And I’m not sure how much of me I’ll have left. 

Q: Is this YA?

A: No. The main character is 18 and there is sex, crude language and violence in the book. It is recommended for mature teens or 18 and up.

Q: Is there a cliffhanger?

A: Nope! There's also no cheating and no love triangle (think I've covered the bases there!)

Q: Do I need to read the series (Experiment in Terror) that Veiled is a spinoff of first?

A: Absolutely not. Veiled stands alone. You do not need to have read the EIT series beforehand as this follows a different character (Ada Palomino) and a different storyline. However for those who have read EIT, all your favorites are in the book!

Q: Is it horror? Your other series was and I don't handle scary very well...

A: No, it's paranormal romance (though I promise you there are no vampires or werewolves), and while there are creepy elements to the story, it wouldn't be classified as horror. If you can read KMM's Fever Series or ANY urban fantasy, you'll be fine.

      Halle HeadshotKarina Halle is a former travel writer and music journalist and The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today Bestselling author of The Pact, Racing the Sun, Sins & Needles and over 25 other wild and romantic reads. She lives on an island off the coast of British Columbia with her husband and her rescue pup, where she drinks a lot of wine, hikes a lot of trails and devours a lot of books. Halle is represented by the Waxman Leavell Agency and is both self-published and published by Simon & Schuster and Hachette in North America and in the UK. Hit her up on Instagram at @authorHalle, on Twitter at @MetalBlonde and on Facebook. You can also visit and sign up for the newsletter for news, excerpts, previews, private book signing sales and more. 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Review: "Wolf by Wolf" by Ryan Graudin

Her story begins on a train. The year is 1956, and the Axis powers of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan rule. To commemorate their Great Victory, Hitler and Emperor Hirohito host the Axis Tour: an annual motorcycle race across their conjoined continents. The victor is awarded an audience with the highly reclusive Adolf Hitler at the Victor’s Ball in Tokyo. Yael, a former death camp prisoner, has witnessed too much suffering, and the five wolves tattooed on her arm are a constant reminder of the loved ones she lost. The resistance has given Yael one goal: Win the race and kill Hitler. A survivor of painful human experimentation, Yael has the power to skinshift and must complete her mission by impersonating last year’s only female racer, Adele Wolfe. This deception becomes more difficult when Felix, Adele twin’s brother, and Luka, her former love interest, enter the race and watch Yael’s every move. But as Yael grows closer to the other competitors, can she bring herself to be as ruthless as she needs to be to avoid discovery and complete her mission? From the author of The Walled City comes a fast-paced and innovative novel that will leave you breathless.
Thank you to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers via Netgalley for the free review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.
I actually waited a while to read this book, even though I'd read and loved "The Walled City" by this author previously. I think the idea of the whole skinshifting thing weirded me out a bit.  I'm just not that into the whole paranormal genre like I used to be, and the title, "Wolf by Wolf", made me think of werewolves, and yeah, ugh. But, I can tell you that once I got started reading this book, I had a hard time putting it down, and the paranormal element did not deter me one bit! 

Um, wow? Can that one word sum up the reading experience that is "Wolf by Wolf"? Doesn't really seem to do it justice. It is unlike anything I've read before - the setting in an alternate history, the heroine who can be anyone she wants, and is trained to kick some serious butt, and an extreme motorcycle race, where anything can happen at any time, and does! I thought this book was just so cool!!! I'm hoping lots of people will feel the same way I do, and I can't wait until my eldest daughter can read it and we can compare notes.

I'm really stoked to read the next book in this series, because I just have to find out what happens next! I really have no idea what direction the author will go with this story, but I'm hoping for more crazy twists and turns. And as far as the romantic aspect? Again, it could go any way or no way, I don't even care, as long as I can find out what happens!!!

My rating: 4.5 stars

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Review: "For the Record" by Charlotte Huang

Chelsea thought she knew what being a rock star was like... until she became one. After losing a TV talent show, she slid back into small-town anonymity. But one phone call changed everything Now she’s the lead singer of the band Melbourne, performing in sold-out clubs every night and living on a bus with three gorgeous and talented guys. The bummer is that the band barely tolerates her. And when teen heartthrob Lucas Rivers take an interest in her, Chelsea is suddenly famous, bringing Melbourne to the next level—not that they’re happy about that. Her feelings for Beckett, Melbourne’s bassist, are making life even more complicated. Chelsea only has the summer tour to make the band—and their fans—love her. If she doesn’t, she’ll be back in Michigan for senior year, dying a slow death. The paparazzi, the haters, the grueling schedule... Chelsea believed she could handle it. But what if she can’t?

My thanks to Random House Children's via Netgalley for the free review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.
This book was a lot of fun, and while not perfect, I really enjoyed reading it. I was expecting "For the Record" to be heavy on the cheese, but it actually kept that factor to a minimum. The writing was solid, and I had a couple laughs sprinkled throughout. I liked the added dimension of the whole rock band trope, too.  Not only is Chelsea thrown into the public eye (again) but she is expected to fit in with a group who aren't exactly welcoming her with open arms.  The guys in Melbourne did not have much say in whether or not Chelsea would join the band, so not only has she not been with them from the beginning, she also hasn't written any of their songs and she hasn't struggled to climb the charts with them.  She hasn't earned her stripes, so to speak.  This would be a tough gig for anyone, let alone a girl with as low self esteem as Chelsea has.  

Even though the closest I've come to being a rock star is making up a name for my (fictional) band, I still found that Chelsea was a girl I could relate to, and I can fully understand why high school was so rough for her.  She was severely let down by her first and only hookup, so no wonder her confidence is shattered. The rumours from that disaster left her with only one friend in the whole world, so she's just a wee bit skeptical when movie star Lucas starts paying attention to her. This also leads to a small love triangle (or square, come to think of it!) so all those triangle haters out there, heads up!  I call it small because it's pretty evident which boy will come out the winner, but still... Anyway, the triangle here did not bother me at all because it was essential to show Chelsea's growth. Aaaaand, that's all I am going to say about that.

This book reminded me a bit of Emery Lord's "Open Road Summer", but not enough that I would say read one over the other. "For the Record" is perhaps a bit lighter and fluffier, but definitely not in a bad way.  Recommended to those wanting to live out their dreams of rock super stardom from the comfort of their own home (or those with no actual musical talent)!

My rating:

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Review: "The Truth About Us" by Janet Gurtler

A powerful and gripping contemporary YA from the author of I'm Not Her that's "Just right for fans of Sarah Dessen and Jodi Picoult."-Booklist The truth is that Jess knows she screwed up. She's made mistakes, betrayed her best friend, and now she's paying for it. Her dad is making her spend the whole summer volunteering at the local soup kitchen. The truth is she wishes she was the care-free party-girl everyone thinks she is. She pretends it's all fine. That her "perfect" family is fine. But it's not. And no one notices the lie...until she meets Flynn. He's the only one who really sees her. The only one who listens. The truth is that Jess is falling apart – and no one seems to care. But Flynn is the definition of "the wrong side of the tracks." When Jess's parents look at him they only see the differences-not how much they need each other. They don't get that the person who shouldn't fit in your world... might just be the one to make you feel like you belong.

Thanks to Sourcebooks Fire via Netgalley for the free review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.
plowed right through this book, and when I wasn't being overly skeptical, I enjoyed my time with it.  There were a few things that irked me, but overall I'd have to say this is a solid effort for Gurtler.   

The entire story is told from Jess's point of view, and I found her a refreshing change from some of the more typical heroines of YA contemporary.  She gets into some pretty big trouble at the beginning of the book, and her dad decides to teach her a lesson by making her volunteer at a homeless shelter for the summer. (Way to go, Dad! Seriously, it was a very fitting punishment.)

It was great to see Jess mature and become less judgmental and more open minded during her summer at the shelter.  I was able to warm up to her and empathize with her situation.  I especially enjoyed reading about her relationship with an older gentleman who frequents the shelter - great moments there! She learns the value of a hard day's work, and sees that not everybody has it as easy as she does, which is something I think a lot of today's generation doesn't get to see. That culture shock added many fun elements to the story as a whole.

Flynn, on the other hand? I'm not sure what to say about him. There were things I really liked about him (like his strong relationship with his little brother), but other things really turned me off (like the thing that happened at the end that I'm not going to divulge - hello, spoiler!). There's also a lot of jealousy and angst between him and Jess, which got a bit tiring at times.

So, some good things, some not so great things. As far as recommending this book, I'd say go for it! I think a lot of people will find something they like here, and the writing was solid. I'll definitely be giving Gurtler's work another try in the future. 
My rating:

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Review: "What You Left Behind" by Jessica Verdi

It’s all Ryden’s fault. If he hadn’t gotten Meg pregnant, she would have never stopped her chemo treatments and would still be alive. Instead, he’s failing fatherhood one dirty diaper at a time. And it’s not like he’s had time to grieve while struggling to care for their infant daughter, start his senior year, and earn the soccer scholarship he needs to go to college. The one person who makes Ryden feel like his old self is Joni. She’s fun and energetic—and doesn’t know he has a baby. But the more time they spend together, the harder it becomes to keep his two worlds separate. Finding one of Meg’s journals only stirs up old emotions, and Ryden’s convinced Meg left other notebooks for him to find, some message to help his new life make sense. But how is he going to have a future if he can’t let go of the past?

Thank you to Sourcebooks Fire for the free review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.
Okay I really liked this book but I am soooooo mad at Meg!!!  How can a dead character piss me off so much?!  Her actions were extremely selfish, and even though Ryland's actions (and reactions) throughout this book weren't always...appropriate, let's say, I found myself feeling so sorry for him! I would really love to say more on this, but it would give way too much away. If you end up reading this one yourself and feel the need to vent, know that you've found a sympathetic ear in me!

But, other than Meg, "What You Left Behind" was a great read for me. I think Jessica Verdi paints a pretty realistic picture of what it must be like for a teenage single father to juggle all of the responsibilities in his life: school, a job, soccer team commitments, and last but definitely not least, taking care of a newborn, including bottles, diapers, and incessant crying. Honestly, that last item there, caring for a newborn, is hard enough when there are two financially stable and mature parents to share the burden, but for a single teenage father? Damn near impossible! Ryland was soooo lucky to have his mother on board to help out, otherwise I don't think he would have been able to keep Hope in the first place. 

I loved Joni! She is one cool chicklet! The way she makes Ryland laugh and have fun was so great to see, and I feel like she was exactly what he needed in his life. I'm glad he found her, and I was cheering them on throughout the book.  Hopefully they have what it takes to make their relationship last through all the rocky stuff sure to crop up in the future.

This is my first book by Verdi, but I'm certainly keen to try other titles by her. The writing here was solid, and the pacing excellent.

My rating: