Tuesday, February 25, 2014

ARC Review: White Hot Kiss by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Goodreads summary:

One kiss could be the last. 

Seventeen-year-old Layla just wants to be normal. But with a kiss that kills anything with a soul, she's anything but normal. Half demon, half gargoyle, Layla has abilities no one else possesses. 

Raised among the Wardens—a race of gargoyles tasked with hunting demons and keeping humanity safe—Layla tries to fit in, but that means hiding her own dark side from those she loves the most. Especially Zayne, the swoon-worthy, incredibly gorgeous and completely off-limits Warden she's crushed on since forever. 

Then she meets Roth—a tattooed, sinfully hot demon who claims to know all her secrets. Layla knows she should stay away, but she's not sure she wants to—especially when that whole no-kissing thing isn't an issue, considering Roth has no soul. 

But when Layla discovers she's the reason for the violent demon uprising, trusting Roth could not only ruin her chances with Zayne…it could brand her a traitor to her family. Worse yet, it could become a one-way ticket to the end of the world.

My review:

I've been a Jennifer L. Armentrout fangirl for a couple years now, so I was beyond excited to start her new series - and a little nervous as to whether or not it would live up to my expectations.  Fortunately, I completely loved White Hot Kiss.  Like, help-I've-fangirled-and-I-can't-get-up loved it.  

I absolutely adored the premise of this book.  Demons and gargoyles?  It's such a unique idea, and the author really makes it work.  Her world-building was believable and immersed me in the story.  There was so much backstory; she clearly did her research and the world she has created is very fascinating.  The plot held my attention the whole time, too.  Not only is there a good amount of action and suspense, but there's an awesome twist at the end.  The storyline took me on a crazy emotional rollercoaster and made me feel all the feels.

As always with JLA, there was plenty of romance.  There's a bit of a love triangle, but most of the romance is focused between the demon Roth and Layla.  I just loved Roth.  I mean, he has a killer snake named Bambi.  'Nough said.  But really, he's a great - not to mention swoon-worthy - character.  He isn't just in the story for the sake of romance; his character is complex and layered.  Layla is also a strong heroine.  She is slightly more shy and sweet than JLA's other heroines, which surprised me in a good way.  This doesn't mean that she's a pushover, though.  She stands up for herself and thinks things through.  I enjoyed her character arc, and the romance between her and Roth is sizzling with chemistry.  In case you couldn't tell, I'm totally Team Roth.

There was only one thing that bothered me slightly.  It seems like I've seen this issue popping up in the blogosphere lately, and it's the fact that in many of JLA's books, her heroines are all very alike with their feisty and witty personalities, and the love interest is frequently a bad boy who's mysterious and flirty.  I do think her characters could use a little more variety, but at least Layla sticks out since she's a little more on the shy side.  

Overall, I was really impressed with this book.  It has everything: strong world-building, a well-developed plot, a sweet romance, and strong characters.  I was blown away by White Hot Kiss.  This book stands out from all the other paranormal books, and I'm impatiently awaiting the release of the second book!

* Thanks so much to Steph at Cuddlebuggery for sending me her ARC!

My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

~ Kaitlyn

Friday, February 21, 2014

ARC Review: Fire & Flood by Victoria Scott

Goodreads summary:

A modern day thrill ride, where a teen girl and her animal companion must participate in a breathtaking race to save her brother's life—and her own. 

Tella Holloway is losing it. Her brother is sick, and when a dozen doctors can't determine what's wrong, her parents decide to move to Montana for the fresh air. She's lost her friends, her parents are driving her crazy, her brother is dying—and she's helpless to change anything.

Until she receives mysterious instructions on how to become a Contender in the Brimstone Bleed. It's an epic race across jungle, desert, ocean, and mountain that could win her the prize she desperately desires: the Cure for her brother's illness. But all the Contenders are after the Cure for people they love, and there's no guarantee that Tella (or any of them) will survive the race.

The jungle is terrifying, the clock is ticking, and Tella knows she can't trust the allies she makes. And one big question emerges: Why have so many fallen sick in the first place?

My review:

Fire & Flood was such an enjoyable read.  I liked it as much, maybe even better, than Scott's Dante Walker series.  I thought the protagonist was well-developed and easy to relate to, and despite sounding a lot like The Hunger Games, the plot is actually very unique.

From all the reviews I've read, everyone's main problem seemed to be that the main character, Tella, was too girly.  This aspect of her personality, however, is what made me love her so much.  Honestly, I'm a lot like Tella - she's obsessed with makeup and fashion, and there's moments scattered throughout the story where she references fashion or wishes she had makeup with her, etc.  I just loved it, though.  It made her so real.  Take Katniss from The Hunger Games or Tris from Divergent - they're both so tough, and they never worry about their appearance or makeup, unlike Tella.  So, as much as I love Katniss and Tris, it was very refreshing to have a realistic character like Tella who can both enjoy fashion/makeup and kick butt at the same time.  I also enjoyed Tella's sense of humor.  She was hilarious, and I highlighted so many different scenes on my Kindle while I was reading.  

Besides loving Tella's character, I was impressed with the plot.  It sounds a lot like The Hunger Games, but once the story gets started, you find out how complex and layered the plot is.  There's never a lack of action, and there's some fantastic character development mixed in amid all the action and fighting scenes.  Plus, I was blown away by a phenomenal twist towards the end that I totally did not see coming.  If there was anything I disliked, it would probably be that I wanted more world-building, but I'm guessing that will be expanded upon in the second book.

I also liked the romance and the minor characters.  It took me a while to really fall for the love interest, as he was a little too mysterious and silent at first, but I ended up liking him after finding out more about his character.  And instead of coming across as cheesy or full of insta-love, the romance between him and Tella is pretty dang adorable.  I appreciated the fact that it's kind of in the background of the story and never takes over the plot.  Lastly, the minor characters were oh-so-good.  They were wonderfully fleshed out, likeable characters, and despite there being a lot of them, I never got any of them confused.  Scott excels at making them each stand out in a unique way.

To put it simply, I loved Fire & Flood.  Tella is a funny, realistic narrator, and the action-packed plot is balanced out by lighthearted moments and a sweet romance.  This is a must-read for anyone who loves The Hunger Games.  I can't wait to read the sequel!

*I received a free copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.  Thanks!

My rating:  4 out of 5 stars

~ Kaitlyn

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (39)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases we can't wait to read.

My pick is Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins!

Goodreads summary:

Harper Price, peerless Southern belle, was born ready for a Homecoming tiara. But after a strange run-in at the dance imbues her with incredible abilities, Harper's destiny takes a turn for the seriously weird. She becomes a Paladin, one of an ancient line of guardians with agility, super strength and lethal fighting instincts.

Just when life can't get any more disastrously crazy, Harper finds out who she's charged to protect: David Stark, school reporter, subject of a mysterious prophecy and possibly Harper's least favorite person. But things get complicated when Harper starts falling for him--and discovers that David's own fate could very well be to destroy Earth.

With snappy banter, cotillion dresses, non-stop action and a touch of magic, this new young adult series from bestseller Rachel Hawkins is going to make y'all beg for more.

My thoughts:

I just read my first book by this author, Hex Hall, last week and absolutely loved it.  So I was thrilled when I heard she has a new series coming out!  I love that this is set in the South.  And a lot of early reviews I've read say that Harper has a snarky personality, which is awesome.

Rebel Belle releases April 8, 2014.

What book are you waiting on this Wednesday?

~ The Bookworm

Monday, February 17, 2014

ARC Review: Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg

Goodreads summary:

For Macallan and Levi, it was friends at first sight. Everyone says guys and girls can’t be just friends, but these two are. They hang out after school, share tons of inside jokes, their families are super close, and Levi even starts dating one of Macallan’s friends. They are platonic and happy that way.

Eventually they realize they’re best friends — which wouldn’t be so bad if they didn’t keep getting in each other’s way. Guys won’t ask Macallan out because they think she’s with Levi, and Levi spends too much time joking around with Macallan, and maybe not enough time with his date. They can’t help but wonder . . . are they more than friends or are they better off without making it even more complicated?

From romantic comedy superstar Elizabeth Eulberg comes a fresh, fun examination of a question for the ages: Can guys and girls ever really be just friends? Or are they always one fight away from not speaking again — and one kiss away from true love?

My review:

Better Off Friends was such a pleasant surprise.  I've read a couple of Elizabeth Eulberg's previous novels, and while I thought they were cute and fun, they weren't as addicting as Better Off Friends.  I was going through a reading slump and started Better Off Friends in the hope that it'd be a fun, quick contemporary read, and luckily I was right.  I blew through this in a day and even put off doing schoolwork so I could keep reading.  It was such an adorable story!

As far as contemporary novels go, I think this one has such a unique premise.  I love the way Eulberg tackles the question of whether guys and girls can ever really be just friends.  And despite the fact that this sounds like a very lighthearted read, there's also some serious moments.  Levi and Macallan's friendship is tested at times, and there's also some great lessons about family throughout the story.  Eulberg does a wonderful job of balancing the light and dark moments.

Something else I liked is the way the story spans so many years.  It starts when Macallan and Levi are in middle school and ends when they're in high school.  This is definitely something you don't see often in YA books, and I was so impressed with the way Eulberg handled it.  The pacing is perfect - it never lags or gets confusing.  And the dual points of view added the perfect touch.  

Also, Macallan and Levi have such an awesome friendship.  Yes, their love story is full of swoons, but they were best friends first and I think that's so sweet.  They love the same TV show, stick up for each other no matter what, and banter back and forth.  The dialogue between them constantly made me smile.  Their character development is well-done, too.  Levi really grows up throughout the story and he's very funny and likeable.  But I liked Macallan a little better; she's so confident and unafraid to stand up for her beliefs.  She was a lot stronger than most YA heroines.  

I'm so glad I had the chance to read Better Off Friends.  Elizabeth Eulberg's writing seems to improve more and more with each book.  She's definitely an author to watch!  Better Off Friends is a must-read for anyone who's in the mood for a sweet, swoony contemporary read.

*I received a free copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.  Thanks!

My rating:  4 out of 5 stars

~ The Bookworm

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (38)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases we can't wait to read.

My pick is Deliverance by C. J. Redwine!

Goodreads summary:

Everything hangs in the balance, and nothing is certain: Rachel has been kidnapped by enemy forces and is being taken to Rowansmark while Logan, imprisoned and awaiting trial, is unable to leave Lankenshire. Separated from each other and their Baalboden comrades, each must find a way to achieve what they desperately want: to rid their world once and for all of the Commander and the tech that controls the deadly Cursed One.

Fighting through her pain and embracing the warrior she’s become, Rachel will do whatever it takes to escape her enemies’ clutches and join Logan in his fight. But when she learns a secret that changes everything, she realizes that escaping Ian and his tracker friends is no longer an option if she wants to save the people she loves. Instead, she’ll have to destroy Rowansmark from the inside out—if she can survive the journey through the Wasteland.

Logan needs allies if he wants to thwart Rowansmark’s power grab and rescue Rachel. But securing allies will mean betraying his beliefs and enlisting the help of the man he hates more than anyone: Commander Jason Chase. Driven by his fierce love for Rachel and his determination to make their world safe, Logan may be just the weapon the city-states need to defeat the Cursed One.

But as Rowansmark bears down and uneasy alliances are tested, will Rachel and Logan’s love for each other be enough to surmount the unbelievable odds against them?

My thoughts:

Oh my word, this series.  I love these books so much, and I can't wait to find out how it all ends in Deliverance.  This is probably one of my favorite YA fantasy series - it's perfect for fans of The Girl of Fire and Thorns or Grave Mercy!  

Plus, the cover designers stuck to the same theme for all three covers, which makes me all kinds of happy.  This means all my covers will match, you guys. 

Deliverance releases on August 26, 2014.

What book are you waiting on this Wednesday?

~ The Bookworm

Monday, February 10, 2014

ARC Review: Fates by Lanie Bross

Goodreads summary:

Perfect for fans of Jennifer Armentrout, Julie Kagawa, Rachel Vincent, and Sarah J. Maas, and for girls who love all things pretty, romantic and inspirational.
One moment. One foolish desire. One mistake. And Corinthe lost everything.

She fell from her tranquil life in Pyralis Terra and found herself exiled to the human world. Her punishment? To make sure people's fates unfold according to plan. Now, years later, Corinthe has one last assignment: kill Lucas Kaller. His death will be her ticket home.

But for the first time, Corinthe feels a tingle of doubt. It begins as a lump in her throat, then grows toward her heart, and suddenly she feels like she is falling all over again--this time for a boy she knows she can never have. Because it is written: one of them must live, and one of them must die. In a universe where every moment, every second, every fate has already been decided, where does love fit in?

My review:

I'm really torn over this book.  It started off pretty well with its unique premise, but it ended up going downward thanks to the slow pacing and confusing plot.  

What I liked:  Fates had a unique premise.  It just wasn't explained well enough, and the storyline was so confusing that it just didn't work.  Anyway, I liked that the point of view was third person.  It seems pretty rare to find that POV in young adult books lately, and I enjoyed it.  The author did a good job with that aspect of the book.  

And I appreciated the fact that, for once, the girl was the one with paranormal powers, not the guy.  That's something else that doesn't happen often in YA, and I liked that the author chose make the girl the one who has magic powers.  The writing is also absolutely gorgeous.  The descriptions are so vivid and lovely, and even though I really enjoyed the gorgeous prose at first, it quickly turned into a negative thing.

What I didn't like:  I mentioned that the prose was descriptive and well-done, but there was just...so much of it.  There are certain books where descriptive prose works, such as Lauren DeStefano's books, since they are balanced out by dialogue and action.  But it didn't work with Fates.  There was tons of description and narration, and not nearly enough action.  There'd be pages of Corinthe's or Lucas's thoughts without any dialogue, and it made it so hard to pay attention to what was happening.  This book was in sore need of less descriptions and more action.

The plot itself, although unique, was extremely confusing.  Despite all the description, the setting didn't make sense, and it was hard to keep track of where the plot was going.  Everything that happened seemed so random, and once I got to the end, it all felt like one big setup for the next book.  The romance was also full of insta-love.  Corinthe and Lucas were way too willing to sacrifice anything to be with each other; there wasn't enough build-up or chemistry.

A small thing that also annoyed me was a scene a third of the way through, where Corinthe is holding a knife to Lucas's throat and getting ready to kill him, and he starts thinking about how much he wants to kiss her.  Just...seriously?  What sane person thinks that?  A similar scene happened in Nobody by Jennifer Lynn Barnes.  I just don't get it.

Overall, I wasn't a fan of this.  Lovely writing and a couple unique aspects, but the prose quickly became irritating, the plot was confusing, and the romance wasn't well developed.  If you don't mind a slow-paced story with loads of description, you might find yourself enjoying this, but I couldn't get into it.

*I received a free copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.  Thanks!

My rating:  2.5 stars out of 5

~ The Bookworm

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

ARC Review: Such Sweet Sorrow by Jenny Trout

Goodreads summary:

Never was there a tale of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo…But true love never dies. Though they’re parted by the veil between the world of mortals and the land of the dead, Romeo believes he can restore Juliet to life, but he’ll have to travel to the underworld with a thoroughly infuriating guide.

Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, may not have inherited his father’s crown, but the murdered king left his son a much more important responsibility—a portal to the Afterjord, where the souls of the dead reside. When the determined Romeo asks for help traversing the treacherous Afterjord, Hamlet sees an opportunity for adventure, and the chance to avenge his father’s death.

In an underworld filled with leviathan monsters, ghoulish shades, fire giants and fierce Valkyrie warriors, Hamlet and Romeo must battle their way through jealousy, despair, and their darkest fears to rescue the fair damsel. Yet finding Juliet is only the beginning, and the Afterjord doesn’t surrender souls without a price…

My review:

I really wanted to love this book.  It has one of the best premises ever: Shakespeare + Norse mythology.  And as a huge fan of Shakespeare's work and anything related to Norse mythology, I was sure I'd love it.  But honestly, I struggled to finish this book.  It took me a long time to get through it; simply because the pacing was so slow.  

The characters were okay for me.  I liked them well enough, but I had a hard time truly rooting for them or caring about what happened to them.  The beginning of the book was mostly about Hamlet and Romeo getting started on their quests, but I did enjoy Juliet's character once she appeared.  I like the way the author expanded on her character and made her a lot stronger than the Juliet we know in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.  She had a good character arc and I did like her pretty well.  As for Hamlet, I liked his sense of humor at times, but his character didn't leave a lasting impression on me.  Romeo got on my nerves.  I can't pinpoint why; I think it's mostly that he was too stubborn.

But my biggest problem was really the pacing.  I think the perspective has a lot to do with this.  The book is written in third person, but we get the perspectives of Hamlet, Romeo, and Juliet.  It just made the writing seem choppy and a bit confusing.  The story simply didn't flow, and I had a hard time keeping my attention on it.

Still, aside from my problems with the characters and pacing, this isn't a bad read.  I did actually like the plot and how the characters have different goals they're trying to accomplish, and the world-building was pretty creative, although the descriptions of it could've been clearer at times.  If you can get past the slow pacing, it'll end up being an interesting read.  Plus, the ending was awesome.  I'm really pleased with how the author ended the story; what a great twist.

I absolutely loved the idea of this book, but it just didn't work for me.  However, other fans of Shakespeare and/or Norse mythology might want to give this a shot.  It's certainly a unique story, though I ultimately didn't enjoy it as much as I'd hoped.

*I received a free copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.  Thanks!

My rating:  2.5/3 stars out of 5

~ Kaitlyn

Monday, February 3, 2014

My Top 5 Books of January 2014

Here's all the books I read in January:

- Blackout by Robison Wells
- Secret by Brigid Kemmerer
- Tumble & Fall by Alexandra Coutts
- Taste Test by Kelly Fiore
- Vengeance Bound by Justina Ireland
- Ruined by Jus Accardo
- The Indigo Spell by Richelle Mead
- Confessions: The Private School Murders by James Patterson
- Remnants: Season of Wonder by Lisa T. Bergren
- Glamorous Illusions by Lisa T. Bergren
- Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg
- This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales
- Once We Were by Kat Zhang
- Forever by Karen Ann Hopkins
- Winter's Kiss by Catherine Hapka and Jennifer Echols
- Renegade by J. A Souders
- Such Sweet Sorrow by Jenny Trout
- The Serpent's Shadow by Rick Riordan

Not quite twenty books this time...the reason being, I started Supernatural on Netflix last month.  Of course, I immediately became hooked, so I've been watching it as much as possible lately.  Sadly, that means less reading time!  Also, I was bummed out - I went through quite a reading slump at the beginning of 2014; the first 5 or 6 books I read all got three-star ratings or less. :/ Anyway, here's my top five favorites.

1. This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales.  I bought this book based solely on all the gushing 4- or 5-star reviews from all of my Goodreads friends, and it was SO worth it.  I could relate so much to the main character and her awkward personality; I am a lot like her. :) This was a gorgeously written coming-of-age story.

2. The Indigo Spell by Richelle Mead.  The Bloodlines series just keeps getting better and better.  I still don't like Sydney as a main character as much as I liked Rose in the VA series, but the storyline and the writing were so addicting that I read this in a day.  Also, I have the biggest crush on Adrian Ivashkov.

3. Remnants: Season of Wonder by Lisa T. Bergren.  Lisa's books never disappoint!  I've been kind of sick of dystopians lately, so I was afraid I wouldn't like this, but it was wonderful.  Lisa did a great job of making this story stand out from other dystopians.  I also liked that it had a kind of fantasy-ish feel to it.  Loved the main character and the sweet romance, as well.

4. Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg.  I can't say enough good things about this book.  It was positively adorable and fluffy and really just a perfect contemporary story.  Although I had liked Eulberg's previous books, this one is definitely her best work yet.  She's improved so much as a writer and I can't wait to read more of her future work.

5. Renegade by J. A. Souders.  This was a fun, fast read that kept me turning the pages.  I got slightly annoyed with the naive main character and the cliche-filled romance, but aside from that I was really impressed with Renegade.  There's lots of action and twists, and the setting is so unique.  It's a good read if you're looking for something different.

What did you read last month?  What have been some of your favorite reads so far in 2014?

~ Kaitlyn

Saturday, February 1, 2014

ARC Review: Alienated by Melissa Landers

Goodreads summary:

Two years ago, the aliens made contact. Now Cara Sweeney is going to be sharing a bathroom with one of them. 

Handpicked to host the first-ever L’eihr exchange student, Cara thinks her future is set. Not only does she get a free ride to her dream college, she’ll have inside information about the mysterious L’eihrs that every journalist would kill for. Cara’s blog following is about to skyrocket.

Still, Cara isn’t sure what to think when she meets Aelyx. Humans and L’eihrs have nearly identical DNA, but cold, infuriatingly brilliant Aelyx couldn’t seem more alien. She’s certain about one thing, though: no human boy is this good-looking.

But when Cara's classmates get swept up by anti-L'eihr paranoia, Midtown High School suddenly isn't safe anymore. Threatening notes appear in Cara's locker, and a police officer has to escort her and Aelyx to class. 

Cara finds support in the last person she expected. She realizes that Aelyx isn’t just her only friend; she's fallen hard for him. But Aelyx has been hiding the truth about the purpose of his exchange, and its potentially deadly consequences. Soon Cara will be in for the fight of her life—not just for herself and the boy she loves, but for the future of her planet.

My review:

What a fun book!  I was super excited to read Alienated.  It seems like aliens are getting more and more popular in YA, which I'm thrilled about.  This book is perfect for fans of Jennifer L. Armentrout's Obsidian.

The two main things I loved about Alienated: the romance, and the humor.  The romance was very sweet and written beautifully.  Based on the summary, I was afraid the romance would come across as cliche, but the author does an awesome job of making the romance realistic.  There is no insta-love, and Cara and Aelyx develop a strong friendship before they realize they're in love.  Also, the humor was a great touch!  I giggled many times while reading this book.  Cara's voice is very snarky and sarcastic at times, and many of the other characters have lines that made me laugh.  And you can't help smiling at Aelyx as you see him adjust to living in a totally different world.

The characters were really easy to relate to.  I loved that Alienated has the dual POVs of Aelyx and Cara.  This was pretty important to the storyline and it was perfect, as Aelyx and Cara are both keeping secrets from each other.  The separate points of view really increase the tension.  As for Cara and Aelyx, they were both so likeable.  Cara's quick to do what she knows is right, and she stands up for Aelyx despite everyone else shunning him.  Aelyx, on the other hand, starts off as a rather distant and cool character.  However, he really changes throughout the book and it showed that the author is great at character development.  He's so awkward and yet sweet as he tries to get used to all the customs on Earth.  I thought it was adorable!

Alienated is a great light sci-fi read.  I loved the way the world-building was subtly slipped into the story.  The mood of this book alternates between lighthearted and heartrending in a way that'll have you flipping the pages.  And the plot is fast-paced, full of secrets and action, and will have you biting your nails.  There was nothing I disliked.  I can't wait to get my hands on the sequel!

*I received a free copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.  Thanks!

My rating:  4 out of 5 stars

~ Kaitlyn