Review: All the Stars Left Behind by Ashley Graham // A Girl Born to Be a Weapon

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all the stars left behindSeries: Standalone

Publication: June 6th 2017 by Entangled Teen

Genre: Sci-fi, Romance, Young Adult

Source: I received an ARC copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!

My Rating: 2/5 stars

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Leda Lindgren has never had it easy in life. Born with spina bifida, she is no stranger to struggling in life and certainly has no shortage in courage. With a mother who wants little to nothing to do with her, Leda has always been extremely close to her father. When her father dies, Leda moves in with her uncle and grandmother in Norway, wanting nothing to do with her new frozen home. But when she meets her uncle’s new gorgeous employee Roar, Leda is instantly attracted to him—in more ways than one. It’s not long before Leda learns that nothing in her life is what she thought it was. Her new crush is actually an alien; her father biologically engineered her birth; and she’s actually a weapon made to destroy the enemies of Roar’s home planet. After learning that Roar has been sent to find her to help end the long-raging war of his world, Leda soon embarks on a journey to help save Roar’s planet, and nothing is going to stop her—not even her crutches.

The premise of this book sounded so incredibly cool that I knew I had to read it. I’ve never read a book that took place in Norway and it was so cool to be able to read the names and places of the country in a YA book. I’ve also not read many alien books which made this book even more appealing to me. However, I just could not get on with this book overall.

Firstly, the characters in this book are so unique! Disregarding that they are aliens, this book holds a ton of diverse characters so if that is something you love, you will definitely find it in this book. I really liked Leda as a main character. She isn’t like many YA protagonists, not only because she has a disability, but because of her personality. She is an extremely strong yet kindhearted character and those are some of my favorite types to read about. This book also has dual point of views so I loved getting to read from Roar’s perspective as well. I loved that Roar was characterized the way most guys probably feel at 17—awkward and shy—rather than being some bigshot, overly-confident love interest as is typical in YA. It was incredibly refreshing to read. The supporting characters are all diverse and interesting as well.

The worldbuilding was fairly well done. I felt some parts were explained well while others weren’t. The aliens and their planet and technology were really neat to learn about and I really loved the way that their technology works through mind control. Shooting through space while reading this book was also a cool aspect of it and I loved getting to picture how their spaceships look.

My main issue with this book however was the plot. The plot was incredibly difficult for me to follow at times. I’ve never struggled with reading comprehension, even as a kid, yet I found myself having to reread scenes and dialogue over and over again to try to figure out what was going on. Not only did I struggle with this during the action scenes but even in the backstory of the book. I constantly felt like there was a piece of the puzzle missing that my brain just could not find while reading this. Furthermore, the plot was a bit repetitive for me—I got tired of reading about the same character undergoing surgeries throughout the course of the book and the aliens arguing about what they should do. And I also have absolutely no clue what happened in the ending of the book. I know that it was meant to have some kind of whiplash effect based on how the characters acted but it was so muddy and hard to follow that I am still completely confused about all of it. Some of the mystery air about this book should’ve been done away with in the editing process. With it being a standalone, the confusion I’m sure many readers will experience is not going to do this book any favors or earn it any high stars.

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What do YOU think? Would you run off to help save an alien planet? What if you realized that you were born to be a weapon? Let me know in the comments below! I’d love to hear from you.

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Review: A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas // 700 Pages of Build-Up

a court of wings and ruinSeries: A Court of Thorns and Roses #3

Publication: May 2nd 2017 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens

Genre: Fantasy, New Adult

Source: Purchased

My Rating: 4/5 stars

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Goodreads Summary: A nightmare, I’d told Tamlin. I was the nightmare.

Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin’s maneuverings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit—and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well. As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords—and hunt for allies in unexpected places.

My Thoughts:

All right, babes, let’s get to this. ACOWAR was…okay. Not fabulous. Not great. Not mind-blowingly-amazing like ACOMAF was. Just plain okay. I knew it might be difficult to top what happened in ACOMAF. The emotionality, the events, the twists—I knew those same things couldn’t happen in ACOWAR. But I still had high hopes for this book, especially considering that this was originally the end of the characters’ stories. But, alas, ACOMAF will still forever hold my heart (which I am totally fine with), but I still enjoyed this book and was fairly satisfied with the ending.

All right, so let’s start off with the things that I did like about ACOWAR.

1. Getting to see all of my favorite characters again. Yes, give me more of Cassian, Mor, and Azriel. Give me more of the Night Court in general. Let it become real. Let me live there. Even if the quiz says I belong in the Winter Court. We are friends and allies. I will eternally vacation in the Night Court instead. And I don’t think it’s necessary to mention that I loved getting to see my OTP again and all the magicalness that is their relationship.

2. The character development of Feyre’s sisters. After being so upset with them during ACOTAR and thinking they were basically the worst sisters to ever walk the planet, I was glad to see a different side to them after what happened in the ending of ACOMAF. Once upon a time, I was Nesta in every way; and although I am very glad that I am not like her anymore, I still loved getting to see her character develop and read as she broke out of her shell.

3. Tamlin. Yes. Who would have ever thought that I would say that I like Tamlin? Well, I mean, I still don’t but I LOVE what Sarah did with his character in this book. It’s so real and “human” and raw in so many ways that I actually felt some sympathy for him. Yes, that is right. I felt sorry for Tamlin in this book. And I really liked seeing his motivation behind his actions throughout the book. Even though ACOWAR wasn’t really meant to focus on Tamlin whatsoever, I still think he was one of the best developed characters in it.

And now on to the things that I didn’t like about ACOWAR.

1. The pacing. It was weird. I went into this book thinking I was going to get some serious kickbutt scenes while Feyre was in the Spring Court. ACOMAF basically promised me that. And then Feyre spends less than 100 pages there. I guess I just expected us to take more time there than we did. And I also just expected more of an epic climax in the Spring Court than the subtle cave-ins Feyre planted. I didn’t hate the Spring Court parts; I just expected more. Furthermore on the pacing, this book was slow for me. After the whirlwind I experienced with ACOMAF, I was ready for another whirlwind experience again. But instead I felt like I was reading a book with far too many details and far too much suspense-building for its entirety. Nothing really happens until the end honestly. The entire 700-page book is a build-up for the end. Not my favorite thing to be honest.

2. What was even the point of Lucien throughout this? I hated that he had no real resolution (especially considering that this was supposed to be the end! I mean, we know he’s pretty much guaranteed to be one of the companion novel characters but what gives for poor Lucien??). The entire time I felt like he was just this loose character that Sarah didn’t really know what to do with so he just floated around for a while before being sent on his mission. I’ve always liked Lucien and still do after this book but he deserved more.

3. The prose and characterization felt repetitive. I’ve never noticed Sarah before using the same words over and over again. But if I had to read “stared and stared and stared” one more time, I was gonna lose it. I get it. Nesta isn’t the most talkative person ever. But I didn’t need the repeated words every time her character was talked about. And not only that, the characterization carried on to Elain with her “staring and staring.” There was also at least twice that I feel that Nesta and Elain got mixed up. Something was said about Nesta only for it to be thrown with Elain even though it didn’t happen to Elain (if that makes sense). Simply put, I felt that the writing was just a bit weaker in this book than any other book I’ve ever read of Sarah’s before (except maybe ACOTAR but it’s been years since I’ve read that book and I need to reread it soon).

And then the ending. It was a bit predictable in some aspects. But I was really, really, really mad at one event that happened (I’m sure we all know what I’m talking about). The resolution of the event was predictable and I was okay with the outcome. But I’m still angry about it. My characters deserve more!

I am interested to see what the companion novels will be like for the series. I have an idea of what characters are going to get spinoffs but you really never know what Sarah is going to throw in with them. I just hope to see more of my OTP because I am not done loving these characters.

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What do YOU think? Did you like ACOWAR better than ACOMAF? What court would you like to live in? Let me know in the comments below! I’d love to hear from you.

Review: Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller // Let the Auditions Begin

mask of shadowsSeries: Untitled #1 (Just go ahead and announce it’s called Mask of Shadows #1 lol)

Publication: August 29th 2017 by Sourcebooks Fire

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, GLBT

Source: I received an ARC copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!

My Rating: 3/5 stars

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Sallot Leon knows what it’s like to fight for what you want. Growing up on the streets and being forced to rob noblemen and street fight by your gang leader will teach you that very quickly. But Sal isn’t like all of the others forced into this behavior—Sal is the last of their race. After a brutal civil war during their childhood, Sal’s entire country is wiped out by a devastating magical force that becomes banned from the continent by the end of the war. But not before Sal lost everything they ever had. When Sal robs a noble girl who has a flyer stating that the new Queen needs a new member of her inner circle that she keeps to do her bidding—and killing—Sal seizes the opportunity for freedom and the chance at revenge for those who left their country to die. But Sal is tested far beyond what they imagined as they and twenty-two other auditioners are put through a series of tests—and are allowed to discreetly kill each other to eliminate the competition. There can only be one Opal…and Sal has to be it to avenge Nacea. Welcome to the Left Hand Auditions.

First things first—am I the only one who thought “Ha, Sallot. Shallot…They’re an onion. Lol”? Just me? Okay.

As I’m sure is the case for many other readers, I saw this book being compared to Sarah J. Maas’s work and I was sold. Was that an accurate description? Not really. If we’re going to compare this book to another well-known fantasy series, I’d go with Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen series and I would anticipate a similar divide in its receipt with some readers loving it and some hating it.

So let’s just jump right in here to the main reason most readers will probably pick this book up: the main character’s genderfluidity. Firstly, if I had read the entirety of the description on Netgalley, I wouldn’t have requested this book. Simply put, I’m still learning about the different gender spectrums and don’t know enough or can identify with the main character’s identity. But from the little that I know, I don’t think this is the best representation. Sal prefers to identify with whatever gender they’re currently dressed as whether it be male or female (“they” is never used after Sal gives this explanation). I know that this is not valid for all genderfluid people and how they want to be addressed isn’t hinged upon how they chose to dress that day. But, okay, if we’re going with this “address me as I’m dressed” concept, then why doesn’t Sal ever select their clothes themselves? They consistently allow their servant to choose their clothes every day and Sal seemingly just runs with whatever Maud chooses and identifies as that gender for the day. I don’t really think that’s how it works. Maybe Sal simply doesn’t hold their gender that closely to their heart? Nope. Sal repeatedly gets angry at another auditioner for referring to them as “she” when they’re dressed as a “he.” So why doesn’t Sal choose their own clothes and gender for the day??? Furthermore, the only detail we get about Sal’s clothes is that they’re mostly all black so the identifying marker that Sal hinges their gender upon is if they’re wearing a dress, and therefore a girl for the day, or pants, and therefore a guy for the day. Great way to reinforce gender norms and basically imply that girls can’t wear pants?? Beyond all of that, the way that Sal’s gender is represented makes it seem as though genderfluidity is commonplace and widely accepted in their world. However, there are scenes where Sal’s gender is assumed (i.e. when Elise states that she isn’t only attracted to men yet doesn’t ask Sal what they identify as) and scenes as aforementioned when Sal becomes upset at another person for assuming the wrong gender, implying that it is not so commonplace or accepted, especially considering no other characters are ever asked what their gender is. It was all just confusing for me and I definitely can’t say I feel any more educated than before reading this which is truly a shame.

Because of the characters all being referred to as numbers rather than by names, I found it quite difficult to keep all of them straight. The main ones that are focused on eventually became separated in my mind but I often found myself thinking “wait, who’s that again?” when an auditioner would die. I do think the number concept was cool and original but with there being so many it was just too difficult to remember them all. Although admittedly I am not the best at keeping large castings of characters straight as I had the same problem in Throne of Glass, The Hunger Games, and every other book along the same lines as this one. And along with a large cast, usually comes little to no character development which is exactly the case here. Sal did have some development along the way but there isn’t much to say about the other characters, including the Left Hand of the Queen which were the only characters I actually cared about the entire book.

I did like the plot and the pacing of the book mostly. I do hope that when this book is printed a map is included of the world as it was difficult to picture all of the places mentioned by the characters. However the world is fairly well-explained and I enjoyed learning about the history of Igna and how it became a country. I also really enjoyed the twists that were thrown in and didn’t connect the dots myself when reading so they were a cool surprise. I do think that some parts of the plot were a bit clunky, such as Sal seemingly being able to read after two lessons and the characters only having to complete one conditioning class the entire time, but overall I did enjoy the plot and it kept me engaged.

Lastly, the romance was just a little too insta-lovey for me. Insta-love is a fine line for me between loving it and thinking it’s too farfetched. This is the latter. I just cannot picture how a character can go from being robbed by someone to falling in love with the person after one tutoring session. The interactions definitely felt genuine between the characters but a few hour tutoring sessions in a week doesn’t exactly add up to I-would-die-for-you feelings in three lessons.

Overall, this isn’t a remarkable book by any means. If you’ve read Red Queen, The Hunger Games, and by some stretch Throne of Glass, then you have read this. With the unique feature of a genderfluid character being written so muddily, I can’t really even recommend this on that level. But I did find myself entertained by the book and I am invested enough in the storyline at this point that I am going to read the next book when it is released.

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What do YOU think? If you were the last of your people, would you seek revenge on who was responsible? Would you want to do the bidding of your Queen in a fantasy world? Let me know in the comments below! I’d love to hear from you.

Review: Maid of the King’s Court by Lucy Worsley // A New Version of the Story of Katherine Howard

maid of the king's courtSeries: Standalone

Publication: March 14th 2017 by Candlewick

Source: I received an ARC copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!

My Rating: 3/5 stars

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Elizabeth Camperdowne has always known her place in the world. As the only daughter of the oldest noble family in Derbyshire, she is destined to marry a man who will bring wealth and title back to her family after her uncle’s treason to the king. After a botched engagement with a local earl’s son, Elizabeth is sent to stay with a relative who runs a school that trains up girls to serve the English court. There Elizabeth meets a cousin she never knew she had, vivacious and flirtatious Katherine Howard. When it comes time for the English court’s need of new maids of honor for the new Queen Anne of Cleves, Katherine and Elizabeth get the chance they’ve been waiting for. While Katherine soon sets her sights on winning the heart of King Henry VIII, Elizabeth endeavors to fulfill her family’s wishes, while constantly being drawn to the king’s page Ned Barsby. What seemed such a simple yet glamorous life in the English court, soon turns dangerous and chaotic as Anne of Cleves loses favor with the king and Elizabeth is drawn into court intrigue more than she ever wanted when her cousin Katherine becomes the new queen. And history knows how that turned out.

This was a confusing read to say the least. When I saw a young adult novel featuring Henry VIII’s court, I was extremely excited. I’m not sure where my fascination of the Tudor time period comes from, but I have been known to watch documentaries on Henry VIII. For fun. So of course when I saw this on the new releases list that I check and found it on NetGalley, I had to request it.

The characters were okay but I didn’t find any of them to be particularly engaging, especially the main character of Elizabeth. She was kind of bland for a main character and didn’t really do anything exciting to liven up her life in the book. Katherine was an interesting character, albeit frustrating at times, and she was certainly known for being lively in real life as well. I did really enjoy the glimpses that we got of King Henry and they definitely seemed to ring true with what is known about his personality.

I think the main issue of this book for me was the plot. Or maybe I should say the lack thereof. It never seemed like the book had any direction and I found myself struggling to figure out what the book was supposed to be about. I initially thought that Elizabeth was eventually going to end up with the earl’s son from the beginning of the book because of the wording used during her botched engagement. Then I thought we were going to follow Elizabeth to where Anne of Cleves spent her life as the king’s sister. It wasn’t until the end of the book and I read the author’s note that I realized this book was supposed to be about Katherine Howard and her possible motives of her betrayal of King Henry. I admit that when Katherine’s confession to Elizabeth was first told, I found myself completely surprised and intrigued with the possibility of what she said. But the plot lacked so much direction that I really feel the theme was done an injustice. The writing style was also nearly middle grade in its simplicity which didn’t do this book any favors either.

Overall I think because this book portrayed one of my favorite periods of history to read and learn about, I enjoyed it more than the average reader. With the writing style being simplistic and the chapters short, it’s definitely a quick read. If you are as intrigued as I am about this time period, this may be worth the read for you. However if you’re looking for something full of intrigue and excitement, this isn’t the book for you.

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What do YOU think? Would you have ever wanted to be involved in court life when it was still a possibility? Would you have set your sights on King Henry VIII? Let me know in the comments below! I’d love to hear from you.

Author Guest Post: Rebekah L. Purdy // Juggling Family Life, a Day Job, and Writing

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Having a big family is definitely awesome, but as a writer for a long time when we had all 6 of the kids at home it was super hard. Family is always priority, but when you have deadlines looming it sometimes means you can’t go do stuff with everyone else. Like road trips or swimming or to a movie… Luckily my family has been really understanding. Normally I use my lunch hours at work to do writing related stuff and then use my weekends as well, which means me getting up before everyone else to get the quiet writing time. I try not to delve into too many weeknights so I can spend time with my family, but if it’s a huge deadline, then I’ll pull the late nights etc.

My bosses at my day job are usually pretty cool too, and have let me take time off to meet deadlines. But working, juggling a family, and writing can get stressful for sure. There are some days I’m SO drained from the day job that I can’t even focus on writing. Or there are times when the kids have things going on (like sports, band, plays etc) that I don’t want to miss so I’ll set stuff aside to make it to them, which means extra late nights or longer hours on the weekend. I’m getting better at juggling and try to manage my time based on everyone’s schedules. Definitely not a perfect system. Realistically, I’d love to do this full time down the road, but for now, I just cram in the writing whenever I have some free moments.

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About Rebekah L. Purdy:

Rebekah was born and raised in Michigan where she spent many late nights armed with a good book and a flashlight. She’s lived in Michigan most of her life other than the few years she spent in the U.S. Army. At which time she got a chance to experience Missouri, Kansas, South Carolina, and California. Rebekah has a business degree from University of Phoenix and currently works full time for the court system. In her free time she writes YA stories, anything from YA Fantasy to YA Contemporary Romance. Rebekah also has a big family (6 kids), she likes to consider her family as the modern day Brady Bunch complete with crazy road trips and game nights. When not hiding at her computer, Rebekah enjoys reading, singing, soccer, swimming, football, camping, playing video games, traveling, and hanging out with her family and gazillion pets.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Amazon | Goodreads

Find her newest release Incriminating Dating here:

Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo | Entangled | Goodreads

Find my review, an excerpt, and a giveaway for a $30 Amazon gift card here!

 

Review, Excerpt & Giveaway: Incriminating Dating by Rebekah L. Purdy // What Happens When You Fall for Your Fake Boyfriend?

incriminating datingSeries: Standalone

Publication: April 10th 2017 by Entangled Crush

Source: I received an ARC copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!

My Rating: 4/5 stars

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Ayla Hawkins knows where she’s going in life. She’s editor-in-chief of her school newspaper; she’s just landed the lead role in her school play; and she’s going to Columbia University as soon as high school is over. So when her best friend Chloe insists on her running as school president, Ayla isn’t so sure she’s up for the task. But when her school’s drama club budget is cut (yet again) along with the threat of the school paper going online-only in order to funnel more funding into sports, Ayla realizes she has to stand up for herself and the other kids in her school who aren’t sports-inclined. Only how is she supposed to win when no one knows who she is and she’s running against the most popular girl in school who has won the presidency the past three years? Ayla’s chance is granted when she stumbles across Luke Pressler, the school’s star basketball player, and his two fellow teammates intoxicated and destroying public property in the local park one night. Ayla captures it all on her cell phone and hatches the perfect plan: to blackmail Luke Pressler into pretending to be her boyfriend and help her win the election. With Luke having the chance at a full-ride to a Big Ten university, he can’t chance his actions getting out and facing criminal charges and the loss of his scholarship. So Luke agrees to Ayla’s terms. But as their fake relationship goes on, Luke finds a solace and a much-needed confidante in his blackmailer and Ayla realizes that Luke is very different from what her past prejudices were. And as the election looms and they grow closer, the lines start to get blurred about what exactly is fake in their relationship…and what might be real.

I instantly fell in love with this cute little contemporary romance. While the premise may sound overdone and clichéd, this book is filled with such fun, relatable characters and just the perfect amount of quirkiness that it completely avoids falling prey to the trope. Contemporary romance is not normally my favorite to read but every so often I find one that is so well-done that I fall in love with it. This is one of them. (And I’ve already read it twice).

I really loved the characters that are featured in this book. Ayla is such a relatable and genuine character that I feel many readers will connect with her. With her nerdy interests that include Doctor Who, Zelda, and Minecraft, and her obsession with her favorite food of pizza, she’s not the typical YA main character. I also love that Ayla is plus-sized and embraces herself for who she is and never lets it hold her back. She is certainly a character that I would find myself friends with. I loved getting to know Luke as he revealed the true circumstances of his life. That he’s not just some jock with an easy life with rich parents, but instead struggles to help feed his divorced mom and brother while keeping his grades up and performing well in basketball. Instead of the typical jock, we get to see someone who is just barely holding it together and feels like they have to put up a façade to fit in, just like so many other high schoolers. While the focus of the story is on the romance, there’s certainly some real issues that are touched on in this book and I really appreciated that.

I also found the writing style and pacing to be extremely engaging and finished this book in two days. While I normally don’t care for alternating points of view in books, Purdy did such an amazing job with it that I loved the alternating chapters between Ayla and Luke. Both characters had unique voices and I loved getting to see how each of their opinions changed about the other as the book went on. The chapters also flowed together seamlessly so I never found myself irritated with being taken from an engaging event to something else in other author’s attempts in creating suspense. Overall, the writing style and plot were just done so well. There’s also a nice small-town feel to the book with the characters going on hayrides and making s’mores by the fire which was a fun aspect. There are definitely some typical YA tropes in this book but overall I loved the romance so much in this that it didn’t hinder my enjoyment of it at all.

Basically if you’re looking for the next cute contemporary romance must-read, this is it. While it does come with the disclaimer of adult language and sexual situations, I personally feel that there didn’t need to be a disclaimer for sexual situations since they are very minor. The adult language though? Yeah, that’s fitting. If you get any amount of enjoyment out of contemporary romances, pick this book up. You won’t regret it.

Continue reading “Review, Excerpt & Giveaway: Incriminating Dating by Rebekah L. Purdy // What Happens When You Fall for Your Fake Boyfriend?”