Tag Archives: 4 stars

Book Review: Sadie by Courtney Summers

Sadie

Sadie

Release date: September 4th 2018

4 stars

A gripping novel about the depth of a sister’s love; poised to be the next book you won’t be able to stop talking about.
A missing girl on a journey of revenge and a Serial-like podcast following the clues she’s left behind.
Sadie hasn’t had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she’s been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water.
But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie’s entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister’s killer to justice and hits the road following a few meager clues to find him.
When West McCray—a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America—overhears Sadie’s story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie’s journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it’s too late.

Sadie was one of those books that completely took me by surprise. I thought I knew what I was getting into when I began reading, but it turned into something much more than I was expecting. I loved the dual timelines, with one being Sadie’s POV and one being the podcast interview. I don’t listen to a lot of podcasts so I was unsure of how I would enjoy a book where half of it was written as a podcast but it was a great way to make the two timelines feel connected and there was still plenty of emotion through the podcast parts.

Sadie was one of those characters who made me hurt. She lived her life for her sister pretty much since the moment Mattie was born. She never truly got to be a child. Her POV was in the timeline of the past, showing her trying to find the man she thought responsible for her sister’s murder. Through her, we get to know more about Mattie as well and we see just how much Sadie loved her. It was hard to see Sadie getting more and more reckless as she was desperate to find her sister’s murderer.

The other half of the book was West McCray’s investigation as a podcast. He was interviewing people who knew Sadie and Mattie, tracking down the people who Sadie had talked to months earlier, and following all the clues she’d left behind, which wasn’t many. It was interesting to see how he went from completely uninterested in the story of Sadie to completely invested by the time he was finished. His section, with his more detached investigator voice, balanced Sadie’s passion and anger, and both sections worked together to create a dark, disturbing story that will stay with its reader long after the last page has been read.

It’s been about five days since I finished this book and it hasn’t left my thoughts yet.

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

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Book Review: Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart

Grace and Fury

Grace and Fury

Release date: July 31st 2018

4 stars

In a world where women have no rights, sisters Serina and Nomi Tessaro face two very different fates: one in the palace, the other in prison.
Serina has been groomed her whole life to become a Grace–someone to stand by the heir to the throne as a shining, subjugated example of the perfect woman. But when her headstrong and rebellious younger sister, Nomi, catches the heir’s eye, it’s Serina who takes the fall for the dangerous secret that Nomi has been hiding.
Now trapped in a life she never wanted, Nomi has only one way to save Serina: surrender to her role as a Grace until she can use her position to release her sister. This is easier said than done. A traitor walks the halls of the palace, and deception lurks in every corner. But Serina is running out of time, imprisoned on an island where she must fight to the death to survive and one wrong move could cost her everything.

This one caught my attention when it was compared to The Handmaid’s Tale and I was really intrigued by the concept. There were some tropes and similarities to other books that made certain twists feel predictably but overall, I loved the girl power vibe and I loved the relationship between the sisters even though they were in separate areas. They couldn’t have been more different from each other but they had each other’s backs no matter what.

Serina was the older sister, the one who’d been training to be a Grace her whole life, the one who was supposed to be chosen by the prince to serve him and save her family from poverty. Nomi was the younger and serving as Serina’s handmaiden, which meant leaving her twin brother behind. Nomi was rebellious and everything a Grace shouldn’t be but she ended up catching the attention of the prince. The author didn’t waste any time setting up the stakes of the book with Nomi chosen as a Grace and Serina taking the fall for a secret her sister was hiding very early on in the book.

With the sisters separated, it gave the book the chance to show other female characters and gave the sisters other people to turn to besides family. This was especially true of Serina, who was imprisoned on an island with many other women and I enjoyed seeing the survival aspect while also seeing that these women took care of each other, even though they were forced to fight each other for food. Nomi had less female influence in her corner. She had her handmaiden to help her with dressing and daily tasks but they other two girls she spent the most time with her other Graces, who would likely go running to the King or Prince if they caught wind of Nomi doing anything wrong. It was really interesting to see each sister have to transform into someone they’d spent their whole life trying not to be: polite and submissive Serina had to learn to fight while rebellious Nomi had to learn how to fit in with the demure Graces.

The story caught my attention right away and didn’t let go. It was a very addictive read with lots of twists, some predictable and others more surprising. I definitely cannot wait for the next book.

*I received a copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: These Rebel Waves by Sara Raasch

These Rebel Waves

These Rebel Waves

Release date: August 7th 2018

4 stars

Adeluna is a soldier. Five years ago, she helped the magic-rich island of Grace Loray overthrow its oppressor, Argrid, a country ruled by religion. But adjusting to postwar life has not been easy. When an Argridian delegate vanishes during peace talks with Grace Loray’s new Council, Argrid demands brutal justice—but Lu suspects something more dangerous is at work.
Devereux is a pirate. As one of the outlaws called stream raiders who run rampant on Grace Loray, he pirates the island’s magic plants and sells them on the black market. But after Argrid accuses raiders of the diplomat’s abduction, Vex becomes a target. An expert navigator, he agrees to help Lu find the Argridian—but the truth they uncover could be deadlier than any war.
Benat is a heretic. The crown prince of Argrid, he harbors a secret obsession with Grace Loray’s forbidden magic. When Ben’s father, the king, gives him the shocking task of reversing Argrid’s fear of magic, Ben has to decide if one prince can change a devout country—or if he’s building his own pyre.
As conspiracies arise, Lu, Vex, and Ben will have to decide who they really are . . . and what they are willing to become for peace.

Sara Raasch has done it again. I loved the Snow Like Ashes trilogy, completely flew through each book and didn’t want to put it down. This was more of the same. Great characters, plenty of world-building within political fighting happening, plenty of twists. It was the type of book that makes me feel like it will be a long read because there’s so much detail, the plot can move slowly at times, and there are plenty of supporting characters to keep track of, but with Sara Raasch’s books I never seem to have a problem with that. I could keep all the characters in order, I understood the political fighting that was happening, and the plot didn’t seem slow to me because I was so absorbed into the book.

There were three main POV’s. We had Lu, a child soldier trying to put that life behind her as her parents were now important leaders on the island of Grace Loray; Dex, a feared pirate(or Stream Raiders as they were called) who smuggled the magical plants of Grace Loray into Argrid; and Ben, the prince or Argrid who was fascinated by the forbidden magic of Grace Loray. All three of their lives are tangled together before they even knew it and it was interesting to see how it all came together. There were some twists I didn’t see coming, and I love looking for clues. They all had interesting relationships with the people by their sides and I enjoyed seeing how those relationships changed over the course of the book.

The plot was pretty politically heavy. There weren’t many fight scenes or chase scenes but instead it focused on scheming and outsmarting opponents. Ben’s storyline centered on how magic was forbidden in Argrid and people could be put to death for working with it, but he must work with it as his father, the king, ordered. Lu and Dex’s were more focused on Grace Loray, the island that Argrid had failed to conquer but was attempting peace talks when a representative of Argrid went missing. To prevent war, and the Stream Raiders being blamed, they had to find out who was behind the kidnapping.

The last quarter or so really picked up the pace with so much happening. It didn’t feel like too much to keep up with, just a lot of action and a lot of twists. And the ending…well I need the next book right away!

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

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Book Review: Now is Everything by Amy Giles

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Now is Everything

4 stars

The McCauleys look perfect on the outside. But nothing is ever as it seems, and this family is hiding a dark secret.
Hadley McCauley will do anything to keep her sister safe from their father. But when Hadley’s forbidden relationship with Charlie Simmons deepens, the violence at home escalates, culminating in an explosive accident that will leave everyone changed.
When Hadley attempts to take her own life at the hospital post-accident, her friends, doctors, family, and the investigator on the case want to know why. Only Hadley knows what really happened that day, and she’s not talking.

I wasn’t too sure what to expect from this book but I’m very glad that I decided to pick it up. It used non-linnear storytelling to show Hadley before a tragedy and after, along with police interviews with her friends and teachers as the detectives attempted to figure out what happened that day. I loved the way we slowly got hints in the present to what happened and in the past, we got the lead up and Hadley’s thoughts.

Hadley’s life seemed perfect on the outside and she put up a good front for most everyone. Even her grandmother and closest friends, though they had suspicions, had no idea what went on in that home. The bond between Hadley and her younger sister was strong as Hadley tried to protect her from the worst of their father’s abuse and their mother’s inaction. When Hadley started dating Charlie, a boy she’d had a crush on forever, their relationship was fast and intense, but it also made sense for those two to latch on so strongly to each other. Their relationship had to be a secret from Hadley’s parents and as they became more serious, it got harder to hide.

There were definitely parts of this that were hard to read. Hadley’s father was a bad man and it hurt seeing him manipulate her, beat her, and controlled so much of her life. It hurt to see Hadley try so fiercely to protect Lila, who was feisty and precocious and Hadley knew their father would ruin that if he started in on her. Hadley was prepared to do whatever it took to keep their father away from Lila.

I liked how everything came together at the end as the cause of the plane crash was investigated. And questions about the cause and that day were answered. The wrap up of everything was great, fitting for the tone of the book, and it added to the overall feel that this is a memorable read.

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Book Review: Sanctuary by Caryn Lix

Sanctuary

Sanctuary

Release date: July 24th 2018

4 stars

Kenzie holds one truth above all: the company is everything.
As a citizen of Omnistellar Concepts, the most powerful corporation in the solar system, Kenzie has trained her entire life for one goal: to become an elite guard on Sanctuary, Omnistellar’s space prison for superpowered teens too dangerous for Earth. As a junior guard, she’s excited to prove herself to her company—and that means sacrificing anything that won’t propel her forward.
But then a routine drill goes sideways and Kenzie is taken hostage by rioting prisoners.
At first, she’s confident her commanding officer—who also happens to be her mother—will stop at nothing to secure her freedom. Yet it soon becomes clear that her mother is more concerned with sticking to Omnistellar protocol than she is with getting Kenzie out safely.
As Kenzie forms her own plan to escape, she doesn’t realize there’s a more sinister threat looming, something ancient and evil that has clawed its way into Sanctuary from the vacuum of space. And Kenzie might have to team up with her captors to survive—all while beginning to suspect there’s a darker side to the Omnistellar she knows.

The first thing that caught my attention about this book was the concept of the world. I was on a Sci-Fi binge when I picked this up and it(plus Contagion and Netflix’s Lost in Space) was exactly what I needed to satisfy my space craving. A futuristic world where companies can buy cities, teenagers with powers are sent to a jail in space, and a survival story all wrapped into one.

The book was all in Kenzie’s POV, a teenage guard whose parents worked on Sanctuary. Her mother was in charge of the whole complex and when circumstances left them as the only two to man the jail, Kenzie stepped up beyond her junior guard duties. Kenzie was proud of her status that she’d worked so hard to achieve, though still felt like her co-workers saw her as a kid. The plot really picked up once she found herself locked in one of the floors housing some teen prisoners and learned more about them, their conditions, and the real reasons they landed behind bars.

A lot of the teens Kenzie met were only mentioned briefly but there were a small group who she banded together with when Sanctuary seemed to be under attack. I really liked the supporting characters, from Kenzie’s love interest Cage, to Cage’s sister, Cage’s best friend Matt. I wouldn’t have minded seeing an occasional POV from Cage thrown in but Kenzie was a great narrator. Through her we got to see the differences between being a corporate citizen(city owned by a company) and government citizen(city not owned by company) and that the way things were run was not fair on many people. The more she got to know the prisoners, the more she questioned her beliefs.

At first I wasn’t sure how the two separate ideas(the more dystopian corporate/government citizens with power sent to space jail and the sci-fi space station under attack) would mesh but they melded together quite well. It will definitely be interested to see where Caryn Lix takes things from here(and there better be more coming because I need more).

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

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Book Review: Contagion by Erin Bowman

Contagion

Contagion

Release date: July 24th 2018

4 stars

It got in us
After receiving an urgent SOS from a work detail on a distant planet, a skeleton crew is dispatched to perform a standard search-and-rescue mission.
Most are dead.
But when the crew arrives, they find an abandoned site, littered with rotten food, discarded weapons…and dead bodies.
Don’t set foot here again.
As they try to piece together who—or what—could have decimated an entire operation, they discover that some things are best left buried—and some monsters are only too ready to awaken.

This was very different from the other series I’ve read by Erin Bowman, one being a Western and one Dystopian. I was in a Sci-Fi mood and this has been waiting on my TBR for a while. I picked it up, started reading, and then only stopped because I had to be a responsible grown up and get some sleep. It was action-packed and also a book I could see appealing to older readers since it had multiple POVs of characters of different ages, not just teenagers.

The story was about the members of a search and rescue mission as they were sent to investigate a distress call on a dangerous planet. Two primary characters, Thea and Nova, had the most focus through the novel and were two of the youngest characters. Thea was a student assistant working to impress so she could land a permanent job instead of going back to the orphanage. Nova had dropped out of school to become a military pilot but was forced to take a trial position with a company when the military wouldn’t take her. Neither of them had the option to say no when chosen for the sudden search and rescue mission. We also got POVs of Dylan, the captain of the crew; Toby, who could be frustrating in his ‘I’m a man and I know more than you’ attitude, Sully, Nova’s cousin, and more.

With so many POVs and the short timeline, there wasn’t much time for character growth. Most of the book took place within the same day or two and that made the book very plot focused over character focused. I can definitely see where the Alien comparison come from and it had a very ‘bump in the night’ quality to it. The whole thing really sucked me right in as I tried to figure out the twists and I cannot wait for the next book.

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

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Book Review: Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli

Leah on the offbeat

Leah on the Offbeat

4 stars

Leah Burke—girl-band drummer, master of deadpan, and Simon Spier’s best friend from the award-winning Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda—takes center stage in this novel of first love and senior-year angst.
When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic. An anomaly in her friend group, she’s the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.
So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friend group starts to fracture in unexpected ways. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high. It’s hard for Leah to strike the right note while the people she loves are fighting—especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended.

It was a very special feeling to go back to Creekwood to visit Simon, Leah, and all their friends. It was so easy to fall in love with this group of friends in Simon’s book and Leah’s picked the group up a little after Simon’s book ended, now in their senior year. There were some characters that were more prominent in this one(Bram and Garrett got a lot of scenes) and others seemed to have less focus(not much of Simon’s family of course, and there seemed to be less Nick).

This was definitely Leah’s story. The book was all her POV as she struggled with feelings she was having for one of her friends, with keeping her bisexuality a secret from her group, with college decisions, with their group of friends moving on as they chose different schools. It was all relatable and brought back some memories. It was great to see Leah more in depth. She was great in Simon’s book but she really was a huge fangirl in hers and that just made me feel more connected with her. She spoke a lot of truth, especially when it came to her weight and the way the world often words things to say skinny=pretty even if they don’t mean it that way.

A huge high point in the book, besides Leah, was Garrett. Leah called him an ‘adorable doofus’ several times and she was right. I would definitely read a book starring him. There were a few references to The Upside of Unrequited but it mostly stayed with the Creekwood gang. I would recommend reading Simon before this one, mostly for the context, but this can be read on its own as well.

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Book Review: How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

How to Stop Time

How to Stop Time

4 stars

A love story across the ages – and for the ages – about a man lost in time, the woman who could save him, and the lifetimes it can take to learn how to live
Tom Hazard has a dangerous secret. He may look like an ordinary 41-year-old, but owing to a rare condition, he’s been alive for centuries. Tom has lived history–performing with Shakespeare, exploring the high seas with Captain Cook, and sharing cocktails with Fitzgerald. Now, he just wants an ordinary life.
So Tom moves back to London, his old home, to become a high school history teacher–the perfect job for someone who has witnessed the city’s history first hand. Better yet, a captivating French teacher at his school seems fascinated by him. But the Albatross Society, the secretive group which protects people like Tom, has one rule: never fall in love. As painful memories of his past and the erratic behavior of the Society’s watchful leader threaten to derail his new life and romance, the one thing he can’t have just happens to be the one thing that might save him. Tom will have to decide once and for all whether to remain stuck in the past, or finally begin living in the present.

This was my first time reading a Matt Haig book but the concept of an almost-immortal, a secret society, and forbidden love definitely had me intrigued. There were many times it reminded me a little of The Highlander, without the ‘there can only be one’ plot. The main character who had lived for centuries and lived many different lives was ready for something mundane, teaching high school history.

This was a book about time travel but we did travel through centuries with Tom’s flashbacks. We saw so much of his past, from discovering his condition, to him falling in love, to him meeting other people like him. He was a very interesting character and seeing him live through so many extreme ups and extreme downs as he tried to live his life knowing anyone he might connect with will die long before him was a reminder not to take things for granted. Tom made so many poignant observations through the book but he could also be very funny. There were many times I laughed out loud while reading this book.

The secret society aspect of the book brought in the Albatross Society. They were a group who helped keep people like Tom a secret, helped them move so no one clued in about their condition, but they were also quite controlling. They expect their rules to be followed and they, especially their leader Hendrich, will do anything necessary to make sure their members follow those rules and that they’re not exposed.

It’s not an action-packed book. The plot is very driven by Tom and the decisions he both makes in the present and made in the past. It was pretty amazing that someone who’d lived for 400 years could still have character development but Tom did. It’s hard to say much else without giving away some major spoilers so I will leave it with one of my favourite quotes from the book:

“Whenever I see someone reading a book, especially if it is someone I don’t expect, I feel civilization has become a little safer.”

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Book Review: Listen to Your Heart – Kasie West

Listen to you Heart

Listen to Your Heart

Release date: May 29th 2018

4 stars

Talking to other people isn’t Kate Bailey’s favorite activity. She’d much rather be out on the lake, soaking up the solitude and sunshine. So when her best friend, Alana, convinces Kate to join their high school’s podcast, Kate is not expecting to be chosen as the host. Now she’ll have to answer calls and give advice on the air? Impossible.
But to Kate’s surprise, she turns out to be pretty good at the hosting gig. Then the podcast gets in a call from an anonymous guy, asking for advice about his unnamed crush. Kate is pretty sure that the caller is gorgeous Diego Martinez, and even surer that the girl in question is Alana. Kate is excited for her friend … until Kate herself starts to develop feelings for Diego. Suddenly, Kate finds that while doling out wisdom to others may be easy, asking for help is tougher than it looks, and following your own advice is even harder.

I am always excited for new Kasie West books and this one was followed Kate as her best friend convinced her to take a class that ended up with the shy Kate being co-host of the school’s podcast. The topic of the show was advice, something Kate felt she wasn’t going to be any good at but she ended up surprising herself. I really enjoyed seeing the episodes being made and just how much work went into it.

Kate was someone I could find myself relating to. She just wanted to be out on the lake, enjoying herself, and since she wanted to take over the family business there was no need to push herself outside her comfort area. Even when she was doing a great job at co-hosting, she was nervous and she and her co-host Victoria played off each other so well. I loved her friendship with Alana and the interactions she had with Diego as she tried to help Alana get to know her crush.

I absolutely loved how close Kate’s large family was. Her family plus two houses of aunts, uncles, and cousins would walk into each other’s houses without a thought, they had a cousins night that sounded like a whole lot of fun, and her parents were present through the whole book. The main thing I was worried about was the romance, or mostly the potential love triangle, but I thought it was handled very well and I really liked Diego. I even liked the added tension of Frank, a resort owner’s son who wanted to buy the marina from Kate’s parents, getting pulled into their group due to being in the podcast class.

This book was quick, easy and full of quirky characters that I loved. Kate grew so much by the end of the book and I felt like I could relate to her in so many ways. She handled being shoved in front of a microphone way better than I would have.

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

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Book Review: Thief of Happy Endings by Kristen Chandler

Thief of Happy Endings

Thief of Happy Endings

Release date: June 19th 2018

4 stars

Ever since her father moved out, Cassidy feels like her life has been falling apart. So a summer of riding horses at a ranch camp in Wyoming sounds like just what she needs–never mind the fact that she has a paralyzing fear of horses. She’s determined to move past her fear, even if that means taking lessons from the insufferable (yet irresistible) junior wrangler Justin and embarrassing herself in front of the other campers. What follows is a summer of rodeos, complicated friendships, and a wild mustang thief on the loose.

This book didn’t take long to hook me. Really, the words ranch camp and cute cowboy had me before I even began reading, but Cassidy was what kept me reading. She was a great character and her voice was unique while still being a little familiar, in the way where she would say or think something that I was already thinking. It made me feel connected with her, which made me all that more invested in her journey. She was dealing with a lot at home and the ranch was supposed to be a way for her to get away from it all for a while, make some new friends, relax. I loved watching her re-discover her love for horses and overcome her fears.

The ranch setting was amazing and I loved the vivid descriptions of the area. It added to the overall atmosphere and it made easy to picture everything. The supporting characters were all very unique, some were more developed than others but I expected that with such a large group. The characters who Cass hung around with the most were the ones we learned the most about, of course, and Alice and Ethan became quick favourites. Alice probably had the second most growth over the summer and it was great to see.

Another thing I enjoyed was the dynamic between Cassidy and Justin. He could be a jerk, or at least come off as a jerk, but there were hints of someone sweet who was just awkward with people. I loved that Cassidy didn’t take his opinions of her lying down. They definitely made a great team. Between Justin and Coulter, the I-care-but-I-don’t-want-you-to-know-it owner of the ranch, it gave a natural way for information on mustangs and the relocation.

Reading this book brought back the same feelings of watching some past favourite TV shows that involved horses like Heartland, Wildfire, and even Hey Dude(going way back). I can’t wait to recommend it at the bookstore this summer.

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

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