Book Review: The Outliers by Kimberly McCreight

outliers

The Outliers

Release date: May 3rd 2016

3.5 stars

It all starts with a text: Please, Wylie, I need your help. Wylie hasn’t heard from Cassie in over a week, not since their last fight. But that doesn’t matter. Cassie’s in trouble, so Wylie decides to do what she has done so many times before: save her best friend from herself.
This time it’s different, though. Instead of telling Wylie where she is, Cassie sends cryptic clues. And instead of having Wylie come by herself, Jasper shows up saying Cassie sent him to help. Trusting the guy who sent Cassie off the rails doesn’t feel right, but Wylie has no choice but to ignore her gut instinct and go with him.
But figuring out where Cassie is goes from difficult to dangerous, fast. As Wylie and Jasper head farther and farther north into the dense woods of Maine, Wylie struggles to control her growing sense that something is really wrong. What isn’t Cassie telling them? And could finding her be only the beginning?

I was really in the mood for a mystery/thriller type of book so I decided to pick up this one. I went into it, not with low expectations, but knowing I would likely have to suspend a little disbelief. As a child who was raised on a diet of Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew and still binge watches Veronica Mars and Castle on sick days, it wasn’t too hard to get into the right frame of mind for this book.

This was one of those books that’s a little hard to review because there’s so many twists and turns that you don’t want to give anything away. I liked the feeling of never knowing who to completely trust, if I could trust anyway, questioning myself every time I started to trust someone. It did its job and kept me on edge the whole time.

Wylie and Jasper were both interesting characters. They didn’t really know each other but both had a connection to Cassie and they needed each other’s help to find her. They clashed so much but still remained focused on finding Cassie and working together. It made for an interesting relationship. They both had issues they needed to work through, for themselves and for Cassie. Wylie and Cassie had had a falling out and then Cassie disappeared before they had a chance to reconnect. It was for Cassie that Wylie pushed through her anxiety of leaving the house in order to go help her.

The plot was a little all over the place, not in a bad way, just in a way designed to keep the reader guessing as to what was really going on. I kept wondering if it would stay a contemporary mystery or turn into more of a paranormal plot. There was nothing I didn’t question. At one point I was questioning Wylie herself.

This is the first in a trilogy and it did seem like there was a lot of setting up happening for future plots but overall, it made me excited to see where the series goes from here.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: The Last Time We Were Us by Leah Konen

last time we were us

The Last Time We Were Us

Release date: May 10th 2016

3 stars

Liz and Jason used to be best friends, inseparable, until Jason decided to separate them by choosing the popular crowd over her. Liz has put it all behind her and is focused on having the best summer ever, going to the best parties with her friend MacKenzie, and maybe getting Innis Taylor to be her boyfriend by the fourth of July. Jason wasn’t supposed to come back into her life; she wasn’t supposed to want him back in her life. Not after he attacked Innis’ brother, Skip, leaving him with permanent scars on his face. Just accepting what everyone said about Jason after the incident was always hard for Liz. They might not have been friends at the time but she knew him. If word got around that she was seeing him, it could ruin everything for her, but she can’t shake the feeling that there’s more to that night than what’s been told.

This was a book I hadn’t heard much about when I picked it up but it sounded interesting and like it could be a good, summer-y read. I was hoping for a lot of complicated character dynamics, some mystery to what really happened that night of the attack, and some resolution to everything. It was a slower read than I anticipated and there were times went the plot felt like it was going in a circle, but in a way that made sense because all the characters weren’t moving on.

I liked Liz. She was caught in a bad situation and it would have been easy to just give in and listen to everyone who wanted her to stay away from Jason. She questioned things and kept asking if she didn’t get answers. It made for an interesting dynamic between her and her family. She could be naive and a little too forgiving but I liked that she refused to go along with everyone else’s beliefs of someone she used to know so well without questioning it. She called Jason out several times for turning his back on her and for not wanting to talk about the incident. I liked that she wasn’t going to immediately trust him just because they used to be close. There were times when I had a hard time connecting with her, pretty much every thought she had about Innis. I didn’t see what she saw in him at all.

As mentioned, there was a lot of going in circles plot-wise. Liz would want the truth from Jason, he wouldn’t tell her, she’d get angry, forgive, repeat. Liz would promise her sister or parents not to see Jason, see him anyway, get angry, forgive, repeat. It could be frustrating. Her family could be pretty terrible and completely refused to even consider Liz’s feelings. Her mother was so worried about their reputation and her sister was all me-me-me. They didn’t even want to consider Liz’s feelings about Jason.

The ending was the part I had the biggest problem with during the whole book. It seemed a little rushed and very convenient. It felt like drama for the sake of drama. It wasn’t completely out of nowhere, I could see it coming, but it felt like there should have been more repercussions for a lot that went on through the book.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: The Hunt by Megan Shepherd

the hunt

The Hunt

Release date: May 24th 2016

4 stars

Picking up where The Cage left out, The Hunt finds Cora, Lucky, and Mali demoted to working at a safari-themed hut where Cora is an entertainment captive, Mali is a guide, and Lucky is an animal wrangler. Nok and Rolf have been moved to an oversized dollhouse where they’re observed by scientists interested in Nok’s pregnancy. Leon, the only one to escape, finds himself working for Mosca black-traders who can’t be trusted. When Cassian offers to train Cora to develop and use her psychic abilities – and to enter a competition called The Gauntlet that would prove humans worthy and save their lives – she must decide if she can trust the Kindred who has already betrayed her once.

I was really excited for this book since I enjoyed the first one and I was eager to see how the character would react to the huge reveals that happened and how they would come back from going a little ‘Lord of the Flies’ in the first book. There were so many questions that needed to be answered and likely more questions that would come up while reading this sequel.

The book was told mainly through Cora’s POV but the other four teens all got a few chapters to themselves. I liked that we still got to check in with the others since everyone was so separated. Cora had a lot she went through in the first book and she wasn’t done being put through tests in this one. The environment they were place in during the first book where they were mostly just observed seemed like a cakewalk compared to the safari and the dollhouse. There was a sleaziness to the some Kindred who frequented the Safari and Cora was supposed to entertain them by singing or dancing or playing with them. She wanted out, she wanted to get her friends out, and the only way seemed to be trusting Cassian again. She pushed herself in her training, knowing she was their best hope. Trusting Cassian again was difficult, both for her and for me as a reader, and I liked that it wasn’t a trust that would be easily rebuilt. He would have to work for it.

There were many small moments where I felt a connection to all the characters. From Lucky being concerned about the animals the Kindred hunted with tranquilizer guns so as not to kill their entertainment, to Nok and Rolf being worried about bringing a child into this world – if they even got to keep the baby after it was born. I worried for Leon working with people who would betray him for the right price. There wasn’t a moment to relax. There wasn’t a moment to feel like they were safe. Every time I felt lulled into any kind of sense of security, it was false. These kids could not catch a break.

The whole concept of the series is strange and I really love it. Being kidnapped by an alien race to be observed the way scientists on earth observe their own experiments, and said alien race just might be on the brink of some kind of civil war that involves the worthiness of humans. Strange and creepy and definitely something I don’t regret picking up. The sequel was even more of a roller-coaster ride than the first was so I can only imagine what the third will be like. I definitely think I’ll like where the plot seems to be heading and I’m excited for it. But these cliffhangers might kill me!

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Waiting on Wednesday

New WoW

This is a feature started on Breaking the Spine that puts the spotlight on upcoming books.

This week’s pick is:

shuffle repeat

Shuffle, Repeat

Release date: May 3rd 2016

Goodreads: June wants high school to end and real life to begin. Oliver is soaking up senior year’s glory days. They could have coasted through high school, knowing about—but not really knowing—each other.
Except that their moms have arranged for Oliver to drive June to school. Every. Single. Day.
Suddenly these two opposites are fighting about music, life . . . pretty much everything. But love is unpredictable. When promises—and hearts—get broken, Oliver and June must figure out what really matters. And then fight for it.

Why I’m excited: It sounds really cute and I was in the mood for cute while looking through the list of books coming out. It’s billed as When Harry Met Sally for YA, which definitely makes me want to check it out.

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Weekly Reading Recap

14836299-stack-of-books-books-stacked

Still reading my way through all May’s ARCs. Made the mistake of looking at June’s pile. On the bright side, there’s so many books that I know I can sell at the bookstore:)

Currently reading: suffer love

Finished reading: gildedfall of butterfliesbridge to terabithialast time we were usoutliers

Reviewed: night speedqueen of heartsgirl against the universe

What I’m hoping to get to next week: wild swansunrivaled to read

the huntoutlierslast time we were us to review

What this means for my 2016 challenges:

  • 74 books read in total
  • 32 contemporary books read
  • 33 paranormal/fantasy books read
  • 23 2016 debut authors read
  • 41 reviews posted

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Top Ten Tuesday

toptentuesday

Top Ten Tuesday was started by The Broke and the Bookish. Every Tuesday there’s a different topic. This week’s topic is Top Ten Bookworm Delights.

10. Getting to the cash and finding out the book/s you wanted are on sale. Who doesn’t love saving a little money so you can buy more books?

9. Bookmail. When I go check the mailbox and there’s a package full of books…best feeling ever!

8. The book you’ve been dying for has been put on the shelf early. SCORE!

7. The movie/TV adaptation of a book you love doesn’t suck.

6. A minor character/couple you loved in one book/series is getting their own spin-off.

5. The covers of the series all match!

4. Fandom jewelry

3. All your favourite characters survived the entire series!

2. Getting to read all day/weekend with no one bothering you.

1. Getting to fangirl/obsess over a book with someone.

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Book Review: Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes

queen of hearts

Queen of Hearts

Release date: May 3rd 2016

3 stars

As Princess of Wonderland Palace and the future Queen of Hearts, Dinah’s days are an endless monotony of tea, tarts, and a stream of vicious humiliations at the hands of her father, the King of Hearts. The only highlight of her days is visiting Wardley, her childhood best friend, the future Knave of Hearts — and the love of her life.
When an enchanting stranger arrives at the Palace, Dinah watches as everything she’s ever wanted threatens to crumble. As her coronation date approaches, a series of suspicious and bloody events suggests that something sinister stirs in the whimsical halls of Wonderland. It’s up to Dinah to unravel the mysteries that lurk both inside and under the Palace before she loses her own head to a clever and faceless foe.
Part epic fantasy, part twisted fairy tale, this dazzling saga will have readers shivering as Dinahs furious nature sweeps Wonderland up in the maelstrom of her wrath.
Familiar characters such as Cheshire, the White Rabbit, and the Mad Hatter make their appearance, enchanting readers with this new, dark take on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

This book was one that I’d heard of a few months ago and marked as wanting to read it so when the opportunity came up to do that, I jumped at it. I was interested to see how the Princess of Hearts from Wonderland turned into the Queen of Hearts we’re familiar with from Alice in Wonderland. The synopsis made it seem like she was a sweet girl, a victim of powerful men, so her journey to eventual villainese had a lot of potential.

The Wonderland in this book was very different from the one I knew from the Alice stories. It was such a different take that if the characters names weren’t the same, it wouldn’t have felt like Wonderland at all. It was interesting to see how each Wonderland character was incorporated into a more realistic world. The Cheshire cat was the king’s slimy advisor, the cards were people who worked at the castle and each ‘suit’ meant a different job: Hearts were guards who guarded the royal family, Diamonds dealt with the treasury, Clubs were the justice system, and the Spades were the ones who did the underhanded work for the king. The Mad Hatter made an appearance as Dinah’s brother and the White Rabbit was her tutor.

Dinah herself was someone I had a hard time connecting with at times. I loved the patient way she interacted with her brother and that she never crumbled under her father’s abuse but then she would turn around and treat her half-sister in such a horrible way. Her descent into the angry Queen from the Alice stories started in this book but she has a long way to fall before she gets there completely. It should be interesting to see where the next books take her.

There was an underlying mystery to the plot. The closer Dinah’s coronation date got, the more she started to question her father’s way of ruling and whether the cryptic messages she was receiving were something she wanted to look into or just ignore. The last quarter of the book was pretty non-stop action after a lot of build-up in the first part of the book. It really set-up the next book well.

*I receive a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: Night Speed by Chris Howard

night speed

Night Speed

Release date: May 3rd 2016

3.5 stars

The cover and concept of this book was the first thing to catch my attention. The cover reminded me a bit of The Flash, and having the word Speed right there also helped my mind make the leap. The concept sounded really interesting: Tetra, a drug to make you super-human but only for nine minutes and a girl wanting to track down all the users because one of them hurt her brother. And an undercover mission. It definitely had a lot of potential.

The main character, Alana, was someone I found easy to relate to with her determination to rid the streets of the thing that hurt her brother and her guilt that he’d been hurt while with her. I have siblings, I understood her. I also liked her competitiveness to be the best runner on the task force. The things I liked about her the most were the little things, things like wanting to make sure no civilians were injured while she was running on Tetra or not wanting her little brother looking up news about her arrests on the internet. She worried that she would end up like some of the past runners who’d been hit hard by the side effects and what the future would hold for her when she couldn’t take Tetra anymore.

I liked that the book didn’t shy away from the drug being addictive. The rush it gave its users, the feeling of being so alive, was so addicting and Alana wasn’t an exception. It was a struggle for her and it was hard to see her justify her need for the drug. Her good intentions to find the dealers to get the drug off the streets didn’t stop her from getting just as addicted to the rush as the criminals.

There was a lot of action and it was fast-paced action. The romance was light, mostly in the background, and stayed pretty undeveloped in terms of falling in love. It was more ‘I like you, we could be something, but there’s so much other stuff going on right now so let’s see where this attraction and kissing takes us’. It focused more on the action, the character development for Alana, and undercover mission to take down the main source of Tetra. There were only a few times when I felt like things were moving too fast to keep up and it meant re-reading a few pages to make sure I fully understood what was happening.

Overall, it was an exciting book and so much action was packed into this standalone.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

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Book Review: Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes

girl against the universe

Girl Against the Universe

Release date: May 17th 2016

4 stars

Maguire is bad luck. She has good luck charms and good luck rituals but nothing seems to stop bad luck from finding the people around her. She walked away with barely a scratch from an accident that killed her father, brother, and uncle. Through her therapist, she ends up meeting Jordy, an up-and-coming tennis star who has the appointment after her, and they agree to help each other with their therapy homework. Maguire knows it’s just a matter of time before her luck catches up to them and she hurts Jordy, but staying away from him is impossible.

I was really excited for this book since I enjoyed Paula Stokes other two contemporary novels that I read and I loved that this one would include tennis. It’s a sport I don’t see a lot of in books but I like watching it and I was eager to see how much of an impact it would have on the plot.

I felt for Maguire. The poor girl had been through so much and I couldn’t blame her for feeling like she brought bad luck to anyone who got to close to her. She was struggling with survivor’s guilt, PTSD, and OCD, did five-second checks for danger when she entered a room, kept a journal of all the times someone got injured in her presence. What most of us would likely brush off as coincidence, she would fixate on. It was great to see therapy, Jordy, and tennis slowly helping her open up and make friends and trust herself more. It was a slow process but that just made it more believable. Paula Stokes did a great job explaining Maguire’s thought process through her whole journey so her fears and coping mechanisms were understandable and I could see why they made her feel safe.

The book was full of quirky characters that I just loved it. From Maguire’s mother and step-father and two adorable step-siblings, to Jordy’s family, to the other girls on the tennis team, to Maguire’s therapist. Everyone had such distinct personalities that it was easy to tell them apart and I liked that they all had a different role to play in Maguire’s life.

The romance was a nice slow developing one. The attraction was there immediately but they went from strangers to their strange partnership of helping each other to friends to lovers. Jordy and his own growth arc were just as developed as Maguire’s even though the book was told all in Maguire’s POV, so I was really happy to have gotten such a great sense of who Jordy was and what he was dealing with. There was nothing about him that felt flat or underdeveloped. Together, they worked so well and I wanted them to end up as a couple.

The plot was surprisingly light and there were many laugh out loud moments. I was expected something a little darker considering Maguire’s past but Paula Stokes wrote it in such a way that the mental health aspect was taken seriously and didn’t feel diminished by the lightness and the humour.

I would definitely put this book as my favourite Paula Stokes book so far. I’m excited to see what’s next because each new book has bumped the last one down the list.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Waiting on Wednesday

New WoW

This is a feature started on Breaking the Spine that puts the spotlight on upcoming books.

This week’s pick is:

shadow bright and burning

A Shadow Bright and Burning

Release date: September 20th 2016

Goodreads: Henrietta Howel can burst into flames.
Forced to reveal her power to save a friend, she’s shocked when instead of being executed, she’s invited to train as one of Her Majesty’s royal sorcerers.
Thrust into the glamour of Victorian London, Henrietta is declared the chosen one, the girl who will defeat the Ancients, bloodthirsty demons terrorizing humanity. She also meets her fellow sorcerer trainees, handsome young men eager to test her power and her heart. One will challenge her. One will fight for her. One will betray her.
But Henrietta Howel is not the chosen one.
As she plays a dangerous game of deception, she discovers that the sorcerers have their own secrets to protect. With battle looming, what does it mean to not be the one? And how much will she risk to save the city–and the one she loves?
Exhilarating and gripping, Jessica Cluess’s spellbinding fantasy introduces Henrietta Howel, a powerful, unforgettable heroine, and an entertaining world filled with magic, monsters, and mayhem.

Why I’m excited: This would be a total cover buy for me. I would pick it up without even looking to see what it’s about and take it home with me. The concept of this one really caught me too. The chosen one is not really the chosen one but needs to fight anyway. Magic, mystery, romance, and friendship. That’s more than enough for me to be interested.

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