Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (44)

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 Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas!

Goodreads summary:

Lost and broken, Celaena Sardothien's only thought is to avenge the savage death of her dearest friend: as the King of Adarlan's Assassin, she is bound to serve this tyrant, but he will pay for what he did. Any hope Celaena has of destroying the king lies in answers to be found in Wendlyn. 

Sacrificing his future, Chaol, the Captain of the King's Guard, has sent Celaena there to protect her, but her darkest demons lay in that same place. If she can overcome them, she will be Adarlan's biggest threat - and his own toughest enemy. 

While Celaena learns of her true destiny, and the eyes of Erilea are on Wendlyn, a brutal and beastly force is preparing to take to the skies. Will Celaena find the strength not only to win her own battles, but to fight a war that could pit her loyalties to her own people against those she has grown to love? 

This third novel in the Throne of Glass sequence, from New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas, is packed with more heart-stopping action, devastating drama and swoonsome romance, and introduces some fierce new heroines to love and hate.

My thoughts:

I am totally excited for Heir of Fire - especially since the cover and summary were just recently revealed!  I can't wait to read it.  I'm hoping we'll get plenty of Chaol/Celaena moments.  I loved them in the last book, Crown of Midnight!

Heir of Fire releases on Sept. 2, 2014.

What's your WoW pick?

~ Kaitlyn

Friday, April 25, 2014

ARC Review: Broken Hearts, Fences, and Other Things to Mend by Katie Finn

Goodreads summary:

Summer, boys, and friendships gone sour. This new series has everything that perfect beach reads are made of!

Gemma just got dumped and is devastated. She finds herself back in the Hamptons for the summer—which puts her at risk of bumping into Hallie, her former best friend that she wronged five years earlier. Do people hold grudges that long? 

When a small case of mistaken identity causes everyone, including Hallie and her dreamy brother Josh, to think she’s someone else, Gemma decides to go along with it.

Gemma's plan is working (she's finding it hard to resist Josh), but she's finding herself in embarrassing situations (how could a bathing suit fall apart like that!?). Is it coincidence or is someone trying to expose her true identity? And how will Josh react if he finds out who she is? 

Katie Finn hits all the right notes in this perfect beginning to a new summer series: A Broken Hearts & Revenge novel.

My review:

Sometimes you just need a fluffy, relaxing contemporary book, and Broken Hearts, Fences, and Other Things to Mend was just that for me.  With strong characters, a sweet romance, and some surprising twists, this is a wonderful feel-good summer book that you'll want to read in one sitting.  It's pure mindless fun.  I basically felt like this while reading it:

I was so invested in this book.  I can't count the number of times I laughed or held my breath, wondering what was going to happen next.  I started it one afternoon when I was bored at a family event, and I stayed up late that night to finish it.  It's very readable, too - I was surrounded by noise and conversation most of the time I was reading, but I was never distracted and completely lost in Finn's amazing writing.  Think Sarah Dessen, but with a lighter, faster-paced feel to it.

Gemma is an awesome main character.  Yes, she makes some dumb choices at the beginning of the book, but her decisions follow her throughout the story until she eventually learns to grow up.  I've been reading some other reviews and understand where others are coming from when they say that Gemma's naive and makes bad decisions.  But I found it very easy to like her despite all that, because she's so endearingly awkward.  She gets herself into countless embarrassing situations and I found myself relating and sympathizing with her.

There's a lot of mindless drama, but I loved it.  I'm finding this to be a growing recurrence in books I read - apparently drama is becoming a guilty pleasure of mine!  But it sucked me into the story and, like Gemma, I kept wondering whether Hallie knew the truth about who Gemma really was and how it would all go down at the end of the book.  Oh, and the author included a WhoLock (short for the TV shows Doctor Who and Sherlock) reference that made me fangirl like crazy - one of the characters mentioned a show called Sergeant Who that was about a detective who solved crimes in a phone booth.

Oh, and for anyone wanting to actually see Sherlock in a phone booth:

Yeah, there's a fanmade gif for that.

Anyway, I can't gush over this book enough.  Sure, it may have a couple faults, but it was hugely entertaining and I finished it with a big grin on my face.  If I had to think of something to compare it to, I'd say it's a little like a mix of Gossip Girl and Sarah Dessen - lots of drama and fluff, but also filled with Dessen's signature "summer-y feel" and some serious moments.  And let's just say it ends with a bang.  I'll definitely be picking up book two!

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

My rating:  4 out of 5 stars

~ Kaitlyn

Monday, April 21, 2014

Book Review: My Not So Super Sweet Life by Rachel Harris

Goodreads summary:

Cat Crawford just wants to be normal—or at least as normal as a daughter of Hollywood royalty can be. And it looks like fate is granting her wish: she’s got an amazing boyfriend, Lucas; her fabulous cousin, Alessandra, living with her; and her dad planning his second marriage to a great future stepmom. That is, until her prodigal mother reveals on national television that she has something important to tell her daughter…causing a media frenzy.

Lucas Capelli knows his fate is to be with Cat, and he’s worked hard to win her over once and for all. Unfortunately, Lucas has his own issues to deal with, including a scandal that could take him away from the first place he’s truly belonged.

As secrets are revealed, rumors explode, and the world watches, Cat and Lucas discover it’s not fate they have to fight if they want to stay together…this time, it’s their own insecurities.

Well, and the stalkerazzi.

My review:

I love Rachel Harris's books!  She's insanely talented at sweeping you away into her stories and making you feel lost in the characters' lives and what's happening to them.  I didn't want to put My Not So Super Sweet Life down at all.  Short and sweet, this book had me giggling and smiling the entire time I read it.

This is the third book in the My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century series, but there's enough explanation about the storyline that it can be read by itself - although I definitely recommend reading the first two books first to really learn the characters' backstories.  It was so much fun to be back in Cat's head again.  As much as I loved Alessandra in the second book, I really missed Cat's point of view from the first book, so I was thrilled that this book was about her.  She's a strong, funny character, but in this book she has to deal with her trust issues and insecurities if she wants to move forward in her relationships with people like her parents and her boyfriend Lucas.  I loved her character development and the way she eventually learns to open up and start trusting people.

We also get Lucas's point of view in this book.  I didn't really know what to expect of this, as he's a pretty minor character in the first two books, but I LOVED him in this one.  He has to deal with his own problems concerning his family, but he always puts Cat first and makes sure that he's there for her no matter what.  He's so protective of her, and he sees her for who she really is and believes in her when no one else does.  I know it sounds like their relationship is cliched, but Harris totally pulls it off and makes the romance swoony and believable.

This book is under 200 pages, but despite the short length it still felt a complete, fleshed-out story.  Perhaps it wasn't quite as exciting as the events of the first two books, but I appreciate that it was more character-driven.  I thoroughly enjoyed My Not So Super Sweet Life, and I can't wait to delve into more of Rachel Harris's work.  If you're looking for a light, adorable read, pick up a book in this fun series!

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

My rating:  4 out of 5 stars

~ Kaitlyn

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (43)

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 The Secrets of Lily Graves by Sarah Strohmeyer!

Goodreads summary:

With the intrigue of Pretty Little Liars and plenty of romance, bestselling author Sarah Strohmeyer weaves a story of secrets and lies—set in a funeral parlor.

Growing up in a house of female morticians, Lily Graves knows all about buried secrets. She knows that perfect senior-class president Erin Donohue isn’t what she seems. She knows why Erin’s ex-boyfriend, hot football player Matt Houser, broke up with her. And she also knows that, even though she says she and Matt are just friends, there is something brewing between them—something Erin definitely did not like.

But secrets, even ones that are long buried, have a way of returning to haunt their keeper.

So when Erin is found dead the day after attacking Lily in a jealous rage, Lily's and Matt’s safe little lives, and the lives of everyone in their town of Potsdam, begin to unravel. And their relationship—which grew from innocent after-school tutoring sessions to late-night clandestine rendezvous—makes them both suspects.

As her world crumbles around her, Lily must figure out the difference between truth and deception, genuine love and a web of lies. And she must do it quickly, before the killer claims another victim.

My thoughts:

This sounds awesome!  Not only I am a big fan of Strohmeyer's previous YA books (they're cute, addicting contemporaries), but the summary also says it's perfect for Pretty Little Liars fans.  *squeals* Um, sign me up now please!  

The Secrets of Lily Graves releases May 13, 2014.

What's your WoW pick this week?

~ Kaitlyn

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (42)

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 The Last Best Kiss by Claire LaZebnik!

Goodreads summary:

Anna Eliot is tired of worrying about what other people think. After all, that was how she lost the only guy she ever really liked, Finn Westbrook.

Now, three years after she broke his heart, the one who got away is back in her life.

All Anna wants is a chance to relive their last kiss again (and again and again). But Finn obviously hasn’t forgotten how she treated him, and he’s made it clear he has no interest in having anything to do with her.

Anna keeps trying to persuade herself that she doesn’t care about Finn either, but even though they’ve both changed since they first met, deep down she knows he’s the guy for her. Now if only she can get him to believe that, too....

With her signature wit and expertly authentic teen voice, Claire LaZebnik (the author of fan favorites Epic Fail and The Trouble with Flirting) once again breathes new life into a perennially popular love story. Fans of Polly Shulman, Maureen Johnson, and, of course, Jane Austen will love this irresistibly funny and romantic tale of first loves and second chances.

My thoughts:

I am a huge fan of Claire LaZebnik's YA books!  I love how they're all retellings of Jane Austen books - she's already done Pride & Prejudice, which was called Epic Fail, and Mansfield Park, which was called The Trouble With Flirting.  And The Last Best Kiss is based on Persuasion.  I can't wait to see what she does with this story!  Fingers crossed that she'll do a retelling of Emma next...

What book are you waiting on this Wednesday?

~ Kaitlyn

Monday, April 7, 2014

ARC Review: Second Star by Alyssa B. Sheinmel

Goodreads summary:

A twisty story about love, loss, and lies, this contemporary oceanside adventure is tinged with a touch of dark magic as it follows seventeen-year-old Wendy Darling on a search for her missing surfer brothers. Wendy’s journey leads her to a mysterious hidden cove inhabited by a tribe of young renegade surfers, most of them runaways like her brothers. Wendy is instantly drawn to the cove’s charismatic leader, Pete, but her search also points her toward Pete's nemesis, the drug-dealing Jas. Enigmatic, dangerous, and handsome, Jas pulls Wendy in even as she's falling hard for Pete. A radical reinvention of a classic, Second Star is an irresistible summer romance about two young men who have yet to grow up--and the troubled beauty trapped between them.

My review:

Second Star was not at all what I expected it to be.  I feel like it had so much potential...but it just fell flat.  Really, the only redeeming factors are a couple good twists and atmospheric writing.  Otherwise, this just didn't work for me and I wasn't much of a fan.

What I liked:  Talk about atmospheric writing!  This was the big thing that won me.  The writing was full of wistful description, and it had a very dreamy and ethereal feel to it.  For example: "The ocean stretches out beyond us, endless and beautiful.  I have never, not in a plane, not in the glass house set up on top of the hill, not driving on mountains to get to beach after beach, felt this close to the sky, this far from earth."  I really felt lost in Wendy's thoughts and world.  I think the lyrical writing also contributed to a big plot twist, in a way - if that makes sense.  The writing has such a dreamlike feel to it that when the twist happens, you start to question what's true and what's not.

And, as mentioned, I liked the plot twists.  The major twist was very out of the blue and yet fit perfectly with what was happening in the book, and it drew me into the story even more.  I also liked the fact that the ending leaves things rather open, so that you're not positive what really happened.  This might bother some people, but I think it just added to the suspense.  Also, I should mention that this book is a really fast read.  Despite getting bored and not liking it at parts, I was able to get through it pretty quickly.

What I didn't like:  I am so over love triangles.  And the love triangle in Second Star was awful for me.  It starts off with insta-love, as Wendy instantly falls for Pete.  Then she seems to suddenly decide to trust Jas and forget about Pete.  Oh, and both guys are keeping secrets from her.  And Jas is a drug dealer.  So it totally makes sense to run off with him, right?

The relationships were just so unhealthy.  And I couldn't stand Wendy as a heroine.  She's too wishy-washy and she doesn't think straight at all.  Given everything that's happened to her, I suppose it's understandable that she makes some poor decisions, but I couldn't stand her stupidity.

Overall, I felt pretty let-down when I finished this book.  If you're going into this expecting it to be a lot like Peter Pan, you'll be disappointed.  It's not really even a retelling, just loosely inspired by the story of Peter Pan.  The lovely writing and some unexpected twists were enough to hold my attention, but I was too annoyed by the unhealthy, full-of-insta-love relationships and the Mary Sue-ish main character to enjoy Second Star.

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

My rating:  2.5 out of 5 stars

~ Kaitlyn

Friday, April 4, 2014

ARC Review: Camelot Burning by Kathryn Rose

Goodreads summary:

By day, Vivienne is Guinevere's lady-in-waiting. By night, she's Merlin's secret apprentice, indulging in the new mechanical arts and science of alchemy. It's a preferred distraction from Camelot’s gossipy nobility, roguish knights, and Lancelot’s athletic new squire, Marcus, who will follow in all knights’ footsteps by taking a rather inconvenient vow of chastity.

More than anything, Vivienne longs to escape Camelot for a future that wouldn't include needlework or marriage to a boorish lord or dandy. But when King Arthur's sorceress sister, Morgan le Fay, threatens Camelot, Vivienne must stay to help Merlin build a steam-powered weapon to defeat the dark magic machine Morgan will set upon the castle. Because if Camelot falls, Morgan would be that much closer to finding the elusive Holy Grail. Time is running out and Morgan draws near, and if Vivienne doesn't have Merlin's weapon ready soon, lives would pay the price, including that of Marcus, the only one fast enough to activate it on the battlefield.

My review:

I had big expectations for Camelot Burning.  I was so excited that there  was finally a book that combines Arthurian legends and steampunk.  And aside from a few minor problems, I was impressed by this solid debut.

I really only had two issues: the romance, and the pacing.  There actually wasn't anything specific I disliked about the romance - there wasn't really any insta-love or anything like that.  I just never felt the chemistry between Vivienne and Marcus and found it hard to care for Marcus's character.  He didn't have enough development for me to understand why Vivienne was falling for him.

But the romance doesn't play a huge part in the story, so it wasn't a big problem for me.  What really bothered me was the pacing.  It was so slow!  It felt loaded down with unnecessary descriptions that made it super easy to lose focus on the story.  Also, it seemed like Vivienne conveniently overheard important conversations or details when, in real life, it seems rather unlikely that she could do so while going unnoticed.

Aside from those issues, Camelot Burning was a fun read.  I loved the plot.  It stays somewhat true to the original story, but the author explores lots of new directions and subplots that surprised me.  She creatively combines the steampunk and medieval worlds into one with lots of smart details and world-building. 

The heroine, Vivienne, is awesome.  I like how she's so levelheaded and reasonable, and she calmly helps out in whatever way she can.  I also enjoyed Merlin's role as her mentor.  You never know what he's going to do next - he's full of secrets! - and I loved all his scenes.  Minor characters like Vivienne's mother, Guinevere, and Lancelot added the perfect touch to the story.

I had some problems with the pacing and romance, but otherwise I enjoyed this.  The author does a great job of putting her own twist on the story, and the heroine is strong and likeable.  If, like me, you're a fan of the TV show Merlin, then this book is just what you're looking for.  I'm definitely going to be checking out the next book in this series. 

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

My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

~ Kaitlyn

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

My Top 5 Books of March 2014

Um, how is it April already?  This means that I officially need to start preparing for the SATs in June. *shudder* I already have a stack of study books from the library and should probably crack them open soon.  Anyway, check out my list of books I read in March:

- Fins Are Forever by Tera Lynn Childs
- Demonglass by Rachel Hawkins
- The Second Star by Alyssa B. Sheinmel
- Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen
- The Sweetest Spell by Suzanne Selfors
- Like Moonlight at Low Tide by Nicole Quigley
- Spell Bound by Rachel Hawkins
- Let the Storm Break by Shannon Messenger
- Enders by Lissa Price
- Looking for Alaska by John Green
- Through the Zombie Glass by Gena Showalter
- Resist by Sarah Crossan
- Camelot Burning by Kathryn Rose
- Beautiful Days by Anna Godbersen
- UnSouled by Neal Shusterman
- The Royal Ranger by John Flanagan

My top five favorites:

1. Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen.  There's something about this author's writing that just sweeps me away.  It's so rich in details and full of historical accuracy, and you just feel completely lost in the time period.  And the fact that this book is set in the 1920s (one of my favorite historical eras) makes it even better.  Godbersen's books are kind of like a historical version of Gossip Girl.  If you like drama and plenty of historical intrigue, her books are a must-read.

2. Let the Storm Break by Shannon Messenger.  I was so impressed with this sequel!  I loved the first book, Let the Sky Fall, and so I'm happy to say that this book is just as good as the first.  The plot and backstory are so creative.  Messenger has taken a unique idea and turned it into a spellbinding and whimsical book series.  And with that cliffhanger ending, I can't wait to get my hands on the final book.

3. The Royal Ranger by John Flanagan.  I'm always going to love John Flanagan's books, no matter what.  I read the first book in the Ranger's Apprentice series when I was about eleven, and now the twelfth and final book in this series is out.  It's hard to believe, and I'm going to miss this series so much.  Reading this book was nostalgic for me.  And a certain tragic event made me so sad. *sniffles* Sad as it was, this book was perfect in every way.

4. Looking for Alaska by John Green.  None of John Green's books will ever be as good as The Fault in Our Stars, but Looking for Alaska definitely earned four stars from me.  Thankfully I didn't look up spoilers before I read it, because there was a twist halfway through that totally changes the book.  I was shocked at what happened and couldn't stop reading to find out how it would be resolved.  Although some small aspects annoyed me slightly, I still very much enjoyed this book.  It has some of John Green's greatest quotes in it and I'd definitely reread it again.

5. UnSouled by Neal Shusterman.  I read a lot of sequels this month, and I was extremely aggravated by the fact that in most of them, I was completely lost and couldn't remember anything that happened in the first book.  Luckily, I didn't have that problem with UnSouled.  Shusterman did a fantastic job with bringing up the events of the previous book, UnWholly, so that I easily remembered all the details and characters.  I love his writing style, it makes it so easy to keep all the different characters clear.  The plot progresses a lot and I'm so excited to find out how it all ends in the fourth book.

What books did you read last month that you loved?

~ Kaitlyn