Wednesday, May 30, 2018

ARC Review: City of Bastards by Andrew Shvarts

City of Bastards
Author: Andrew Shvarts
Series: Royal Bastards (Book 2)
Publication: Disney-Hyperion (June 5, 2018)

Description: Tilla, bastard of House Kent, has it made. Safe from her murderous father in the dazzling capital of Lightspire, she lives a life of luxury under the protection of the Volaris King, alongside her boyfriend, Zell, and best friend, Princess Lyriana.

So why isn't she happy? Maybe it's the whispers and stares that follow her wherever she goes, as the daughter of the traitor waging war against Lightspire. Or maybe it's the memories of her beloved brother, Jax, who lies cold in his grave even as she tries to settle into a life in the city's prestigious University.

Then Tilla stumbles upon the body of a classmate-a friend. The authorities are quick to rule it a suicide and sweep it under the rug, but when Tilla herself is attacked by a mysterious man with terrifying powers, she's convinced of a conspiracy. Her friends beg her to stay silent; what she's suggesting is impossible . . . and treasonous.

But Tilla can't-won't-let it go. And the deeper she digs, the more questions she uncovers. How is the West beating the supposedly invincible Lightspire mages in battle? Is it connected to the shadowy cult wreaking havoc in Lightspire? Nothing is as it seems in the glorious capital, and Tilla's presence might just be the spark that sets the Kingdom aflame.

My Thoughts: Tilla and her companions Zell, Lyrianna, and Ellarion have made it to the relative safety of Lightspire after fleeing Tilla's rebellious father Lord Elric Kent. However, they suffered losses along the way. Tilla lost her beloved brother Jax and childhood friend Miles decided to throw in his lot with the rebels. She is a ward of the king and should feel safe and happy. That just isn't the case, though.

Tilla is somewhat cushioned by being a favorite of the king who feels he owes her for protecting his daughter Lyriana, she nonetheless feels that most people only see her as the daughter of the traitor who is trying to overthrow the king. The king's Chief Inquisitor is especially certain that she is a spy working for her father.

Lyriana is having problems too. She is drinking too much to try to mask her grief at Jax's death because she had fallen in love with him. She is also dealing with the loss of her magic. A punishment for using it has cost her her place in an order of magic users and her trial saved her life but a consequence made her promise not to use magic again.

Tilla's relationship with Zell is also changing. While Tilla was given a place at the University, Zell was sent to the City Guard. They find it hard to see each other as often as they would like because of Zell's work. When Tilla's roommate, the daughter on one of the powerful Southern barons, is found dead in their room, the Chief Inquisitor wants to write it off as suicide but Tilla is certain that she was murdered. Despite the danger it puts her in, she is determined to find out the truth.

As Tilla investigates, she finds that the city has its own rebellion growing as the cultists are determined to overthrow Lyriana's family and go back to the original tenets of their faith. They feel that the Volaris are abusing the magic that they were supposed to guard and took for themselves. Their leader is the Grey Priestess. Tilla has some encounters with her. She also has some encounters that seem to show that the magic that should be confined to people in Lightspire is also showing up in the rebels.

The more Tilla and her friends investigate, the more they find conspiracies and secrets and enemies. This is an exciting entry into a series that sees Tilla go from a young woman who wants to find safety, comfort and happiness to a young woman who is pulled into a fight she becomes determined to win.

I enjoyed this story. The magical system was interesting. The characters were well-developed. The story was filled with action and was emotionally intense.

Favorite Quote:
"You're evil, you know that?" I said, sounding more scared than I wanted to. "A monster."

"Perhaps," he replied, almost amused. "The funny thing about power is that the more you get, the harder you have to work to keep it. Th King and the Queen give their speeches and hold their parties. The priests prattle on, the soldiers march, and the nobles play their silly games. And yer for all of that I'm still the man who holds this Kingdom together, who keeps the cultists in the shadows and the rebels outside the walls. I'm the knife in the dark, Tillandra, the last step against chaos. Monster or not, this city needs me." He strode into the building, his gray robes billowing behind him like a hungry shadow. "Show up at the memorial tomorrow. Keep your mouth shut. And you just might live to call me a piece of shit another day."
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Monday, May 28, 2018

ARC Review: Ruthless Magic by Megan Crewe

Ruthless Magic
Author: Megan Crewe
Series: Conspiracy of Magic (Book 1)
Publication: Another World Press (May 30, 2018)

Description: In the contest to keep their magic, the only options may be die... or kill.

Each year, the North American Confederation of Mages assesses every sixteen-year-old novice. Some will be chosen. The rest must undergo a procedure to destroy their magical ability unless they prove themselves in the mysterious and brutal Mages' Exam.

Disadvantaged by her parents' low standing, Rocío Lopez has dedicated herself to expanding her considerable talent to earn a place in the Confederation. Their rejection leaves her reeling—and determined to fight to keep her magic.

Long ashamed of his mediocre abilities, Finn Lockwood knows the Confederation accepted him only because of his prominent family. Declaring for the Exam instead means a chance to confirm his true worth.

Thrown into the testing with little preparation, Rocío and Finn find themselves becoming unlikely allies—and possibly more. But the Exam holds secrets more horrifying than either could have imagined. What are the examiners really testing them for? And as the trials become increasingly vicious, how much are they willing to sacrifice to win?

The first in a new series by USA Today bestselling author Megan Crewe, Ruthless Magic combines the magic of Harry Potter with the ferocity of The Hunger Games alongside a poignant romance. Fans of Cassandra Clare and Holly Black, look no further for your next urban fantasy fix.

My Thoughts: This first in a new urban fantasy series is told from two points of view. Finn Lockwood is a magician without too much ability but he knows his future is set because his family has had a prominent place in the magical elite. Rocio Lopez is a much more talented magician but her family doesn't have that history. Both of her parents have been Dampered - had their magical ability throttled down to just minor abilities.

When each reaches the age of sixteen, they are sent letters letting them know if they have been admitted to college or were scheduled to have their magic Dampered. Finn was accepted but his best friend Prisha Mathurs, from a new-magic family but a much better magician than Finn, was not. Rocio was also denied entrance into the college.

There is a third option for those not admitted to the college. Students can sign up for the Mages' Exam which is a secret and brutally hard test but survivors become Champions and keep their magic. Prisha and Rocio see the Mages' Exam as their only chance to keep their magic and declare for it. Finn wants to prove himself and support his best friend so he declares for the Exam too.

Most of this story takes place during the Mages' Exam when all of those who choose to take it are tested in a variety of cruel and dangerous ways. Finn, Prisha, Rocio and a few other students band together to help each other. The more Finn sees the more he comes to realize that the whole system has some serious flaws. He sees that Rocio, who is the best magician Finn knows, has almost no chance of success simply because she isn't from an established family.

Rocio is determined to succeed both to prove herself and to find out what happened when her brother Javi chose for the Mages' Exam and died in the process of it. She is determined not to let the examiners chance her morals and values. Rocio and Finn also fall in love during the course of their trials as each sees and appreciates the other's strengths as the tests pit student against student and friend against friend.

I thought the world building was interesting positing a magical community alongside the human community that outs itself and positions itself to help the human community. Of course, that is just one of the reasons they came out. Another one was to be able to openly battle with the other magical communities in other countries. It is easy to see that the magical elite are self-serving and borderline corrupt and want to hold on to their powers and limit the number of magic users even though Finn is slow to see it and reluctant to believe it. I liked what Finn and Rocio learn about the nature of magic itself during their Exam.

This is the first book in a new series and I am very curious about what will happen next for Finn and Rocio.

Favorite Quote:
"New-magic candidates have no established family record of behavior or loyalty. The Circle has higher requirements for skill to overcome that basic concern. If there's anything worrisome in the family history, they take that into account as well. Which isn't to say I agree with all of their reasoning--"

Normally Dad's calm, measured way of speaking comforted me. Now I only felt ill. "That isn't reasoning. That's...that's just prejudice."
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, May 25, 2018

ARC Review: How We Roll by Natasha Friend

How We Roll
Author: Natasha Friend
Publication: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (June 5, 2018)

Description: Quinn is a teen who loves her family, skateboarding, basketball, and her friends, but after she's diagnosed with a condition called alopecia which causes her to lose all of her hair, her friends abandon her. Nick was once a star football player, but because of a freak accident―caused by his brother―he loses both of his legs. Quinn and Nick meet and find the confidence to believe in themselves again, and maybe even love.

My Thoughts: HOW WE ROLL was a great story about friendship between two kids who have significant challenges. Quinn is just going into ninth grade in a new city. She thinks it will give her a chance to make a new start. After she was diagnosed with alopecia and lost all of her hair, she had a hard time at her old school. Her friends sort of dropped her and she was bullied by students who called her names and lied about her. Now she has two different human hair wigs and plans to keep her condition secret.

Nick was in snowmobile accident and lost both of his legs above the knee. He was a really good football player but now he is angry, mostly at his older brother Tommy who was drinking and driving the snowmobile. But he is also just mad at life.

Quinn also has a younger brother Julius who is on the autism spectrum. Their parents moved to the Boston area from Boulder because there is a special school there for Julius. Living with Julius with the massive amount of care he needs and the routines he follows to keep him from meltdowns makes Quinn feel like she can't share the things that are bothering her with her family because they are so focused on Julius.

Nick and Quinn gradually become friends because they are in the same study hall and they text a lot, but it isn't until she needs help rescuing her brother from the roof of their house that Nick and Tommy learn about Quinn's alopecia. Their acceptance of her gives her courage to tell her new friends who are also accepting.

I liked the way these two kids supported and encouraged each other. I also like that their friendship could grow into a romance when they get older. I also liked that Quinn's parents were able to convince her that her needs were as important as her brother's.

Favorite Quote:
Quinn scrolled back through their old texts until she found the photo Nick had sent earlier, of his Oompa-Loompa legs under the table at Chilis. She retexted the photo with a new comment. These guys r invited too.

Nick didn't respond right away, making Quinn wonder if she'd made a mistake. But finally her phone pinged. I'll think about it.

She texted back three smiley faces, which may have been overkill, but she didn't care.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Macmillan. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

ARC Review: Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe by Preston Norton

Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe
Author: Preston Norton
Publication: Disney-Hyperion (June 5, 2018)

Description: Cliff Hubbard is a huge loser. Literally. His nickname at Happy Valley High School is Neanderthal because he's so enormous-6'6" and 250 pounds to be exact. He has nobody at school, and life in his trailer-park home has gone from bad to worse ever since his older brother's suicide.

There's no one Cliff hates more than the nauseatingly cool quarterback, Aaron Zimmerman. Then Aaron returns to school after a near-death experience with a bizarre claim: while he was unconscious he saw God, who gave him a list of things to do to make Happy Valley High suck less. And God said there's only one person who can help: Neanderthal.

To his own surprise, Cliff says he's in. As he and Aaron make their way through the List, which involves a vindictive English teacher, a mysterious computer hacker, a decidedly unchristian cult of Jesus Teens, the local drug dealers, and the meanest bully at HVHS, Cliff feels like he's part of something for the first time since losing his brother. But fixing a broken school isn't as simple as it seems, and just when Cliff thinks they've completed the List, he realizes their mission hits closer to home than he ever imagined.

Razor sharp, moving, and outrageously funny, Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe is an unforgettable story of finding your place in an imperfect world.

My Thoughts: NEANDERTHAL OPENS THE DOOR TO THE UNIVERSE was an engaging story about a young man finding some purpose in his life. Cliff Hubbard - called "Neanderthal" by the other students at school because he's 6' 6" tall and weighs 250 pounds - has been lost since his older brother Shane's suicide nearly a year ago. He's angry and uninvolved beyond hating everything and everyone at his school. His home life is also falling apart as his unemployed drunk father is taking out his anger on Neanderthal and his mother is not intervening.

When one of the kids Neanderthal hates most - Aaron Zimmerman , high school quarterback and popular kid, recovers from a near death experience and says he has a to-do list from God which will make things better at their school, Neanderthal is in. Maybe this is the purpose that will help him come to terms with his brother's death.

As Neanderthal and Aaron try to right wrongs and change things for the better, Neanderthal begins to find friends and even a girlfriend. They deal with the worst bully in the school who really isn't such a bad guy, the local Jesus Teens who are led by a fanatical girl, and try to track down a computer hacker among other things. Neanderthal's faith in others is tested but he always manages to keep at least a hint of hope.

This was a great story about friendship and making small changes to make a big difference. I liked it. However, the language was often crude. It was hard to find a family-friendly quote. If you can overlook the language, Cliff was a thoughtful and articulate young man who reads and thinks deeply. The book is filled with quotes from the books and movies that he uses as life guides.

Favorite Quote:
"Wait. You didn't steal it from them, did you?"

"'Steal' is a strong word, I prefer 'permanent borrowization via stealth tactics.'"
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Book Review: Enthralled: Paranormal Diversions by Melissa Marr & Kelley Armstrong

Enthralled: Paranormal Diversions
Author: Melissa Marr & Kelley Armstrong (Editors)
Publication: HarperCollins (September 20, 2011)

Description: A journey may take hundreds of miles, or it may cover the distance between duty and desire.

Sixteen of today’s hottest writers of paranormal tales weave stories on a common theme of journeying. Authors such as Kelley Armstrong, Rachel Caine, and Melissa Marr return to the beloved worlds of their bestselling series, while others, like Claudia Gray, Kami Garcia, and Margaret Stohl, create new land-scapes and characters. But whether they’re writing about vampires, faeries, angels, or other magical beings, each author explores the strength and resilience of the human heart.

Suspenseful, funny, or romantic, the stories in Enthralled will leave you moved.

My Thoughts: This anthology has a theme of journeys, both actual and virtual. The idea of the anthology came from an author tour including quite a group of YA authors. I like anthologies because they give me a chance to sample authors I haven't yet read and also get new peeks into the world of authors I do read.

New to me authors in this anthology were Claudia Gray who wrote a story about twins who discover that they have psychic gifts, Carrie Ryan who writes a story about sisters trying to survive after an event ends life as they know it, and Jessica Verday who writes a story that includes defanged vampires on their way to a Rocky Horror Picture Show convention.

Kelley Armstrong, Rachel Vincent and Rachel Caine write episodes in their long-running series. Jeri Smith-Ready's story takes the form of a poem about a ghost who needs to make things right before he can move on.

I enjoyed all of the stories in the anthology. I liked that they each had interesting takes on the idea of journeys and that they each had their own emotional signature from funny to scary to romantic.

Favorite Quote:
I kept my grip firm. Little hiccups of sounds filled the car and I realized that the big, bad vampire was crying.

"Please," he said. "I swear, we won't hurt you. We're just going to a --"

"Oh, stop it. Like I'm going to believe a vampire."
           --At the Late Night, Double Feature, Picture Show by Jessica Verday.                                                      
I bought this one Oct. 12, 2011. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, May 18, 2018

ARC Review: Aftermath by Kelley Armstrong

Aftermath
Author: Kelley Armstrong
Publication: Crown Books for Young Readers (May 22, 2018)

Description: Secrets don't remain hidden for long in this thrilling read from a #1 New York Times bestselling author that's perfect for fans of Kara Thomas's The Darkest Corners and Lynn Weingarten's Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls.

Three years after losing her brother Luka in a school shooting, Skye Gilchrist is moving home. But there's no sympathy for Skye and her family because Luka wasn't a victim; he was a shooter.

Jesse Mandal knows all too well that the scars of the past don't heal easily. The shooting cost Jesse his brother and his best friend--Skye.

Ripped apart by tragedy, Jesse and Skye can't resist reopening the mysteries of their past. But old wounds hide darker secrets. And the closer Skye and Jesse get to the truth of what happened that day, the closer they get to a new killer.

My Thoughts: Skye Gilchrist is back home. When she was thirteen there was a school shooting at the high school. Her brother Luka was killed by the police when he came out of a bathroom with a gun. Skye can't understand why her brother would have been involved in a shooting, but the evidence is overwhelming. She was already dealing with an absentee father and a mother suffering from clinical depression. She and her mom went to live with her grandmother but she couldn't get out from the reputation as a shooter's sister. She was being harassed and persecuted for something her brother did.

After her grandmother suffers a second stroke, social services decides that she should live with her Aunt Mae who sends her back to school in the same town where the shooting happened. Her aunt feels that she needs to come to terms with her past. Only relatives of the victims are going to the same school as she is going to and they aren't going to let her put the past behind her.

Worst of all, Jesse Mandal is also going to the same school. Jesse and Skye were building a friendship into a first romance when the shooting happened and Jesse's brother Jamil was one of the victims. Jesse has been having a hard time too as he tries to fill the gap in his family left by his brother's death. Jesse was the academic brother; Jamil was an athlete. Jamil was also a bully who was constantly putting Jesse down. Now Jesse is just letting his schoolwork slide while he concentrates on track assisted by steroids given to him by his trainer.

She and Jesse start out with some misunderstandings but when Skye is being harassed again, including locking her in the school newspaper office and setting it on fire, he is there to help her figure out what is going on. It doesn't help at all that the high school vice principal is convinced that all the harassment that is happening is orchestrated by Skye in order to get attention. She did have a history of harmless pranks in her younger years. The principal has even convinced Aunt Mae that the  strange things like notes in her locker, eerie footsteps in what should be empty hallways, and other things are just cries for attention. All of this leaves Skye alone and unsupported.

The story had lots of tension, action, and danger. There were also quite a few people who could have been doing the harassment. I liked the way Skye and Jesse rebuilt their friendship. I also liked that Skye was determined to find out what happened three years earlier.

Favorite Quote:
I wanted to go to another school, no matter the travel time. Mae thought RivCol was best -- face my fears. I understand her reasoning, but there's a point when her encouragement starts to feel like a punishment.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Amazon Vine. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

ARC Review: Monday's Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson

Monday's Not Coming
Author: Tiffany D. Jackson
Publication: Katherine Tegen Books (May 22, 2018)

Description: From the critically acclaimed author of Allegedly, Tiffany D. Jackson, comes a gripping new novel perfect for fans of E. Lockhart and Gillian Flynn about the mystery of one teenage girl’s disappearance and the traumatic effects of the truth.

Monday Charles is missing, and only Claudia seems to notice. Claudia and Monday have always been inseparable—more sisters than friends. So when Monday doesn’t turn up for the first day of school, Claudia’s worried.

When she doesn’t show for the second day, or second week, Claudia knows that something is wrong. Monday wouldn’t just leave her to endure tests and bullies alone. Not after last year’s rumors and not with her grades on the line. Now Claudia needs her best—and only—friend more than ever. But Monday’s mother refuses to give Claudia a straight answer, and Monday’s sister April is even less help.

As Claudia digs deeper into her friend’s disappearance, she discovers that no one seems to remember the last time they saw Monday. How can a teenage girl just vanish without anyone noticing that she’s gone?

My Thoughts: This is a story of a girl who is looking for her missing friend. Claudia and Monday have been best friends since first grade but, when Claudia returns from a summer spent with her Grandmamma in Georgia, Monday is gone. They had big plans for this eighth grade year and Claudia can't imagine spending it without her best friend.

The main problem is that no one else thinks that Monday's disappearance is a problem. Claudia's mother says maybe she's sick. The school says she never enrolled. And even Claudia's favorite English teacher isn't able to get any answers when she questions the school or social services. Claudia keeps trying to call but the number is out of service. Despite the fact that her mother doesn't want her to go to Claudia's neighborhood which is the most dangerous in Washington, DC, Claudia doesn't find out anything when she talks to Monday's mother. Monday's older sister keeps giving her conflicting stories, i.e. that she's home sick, that she is living with her father, that she is living with an aunt.

Claudia really needs her friend at school. She is dyslexic but has been able to cover it up because Monday has been doing her writing for her and reading to her. Despite her learning disability, which she will do anything to hide, she is a talented dancer who has been moved up to a higher age level at her dancing school and talented as an artist which mainly shows up in the creative way she does nails.

The story is pretty straightforward and doesn't have a happy ending but the writing style adds depth to the story by shifting around in time with each chapter. Here are the first four chapter titles so that you can see what I mean: September, The Before, The After, One Year Before the Before. I was right there with Claudia feeling her frustration as she couldn't get anyone to care as much about Monday's disappearance as she did. The story was horrifying, heart-breaking, and the kind of story that will haunt my thoughts for a long time.

Favorite Quote:
Rumors are born with legs that can run a mile in less than a minute.
Rumors eat up dreams without condiments.
Rumors do not have expiration dates.
Rumors can be deadly.
Rumors can get you killed.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Edelweiss. You can buy your copy here.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Book Review: Swipe by Evan Angler

Swipe
Author: Evan Angler
Series: Swipe (Book 1)
Publication: Thomas Nelson (April 30, 2012)

Description: Everyone gets the Mark. It gives all the benefits of citizenship. Yet if getting the Mark is such a good thing, then why does it feel so wrong?

Set in a future North America that is struggling to recover after famine and global war, Swipe follows the lives of three kids caught in the middle of a conflict they didn’t even know existed. United under a charismatic leader, every citizen of the American Union is required to get the Mark on their 13th birthday in order to gain the benefits of citizenship.

The Mark is a tattoo that must be swiped by special scanners for everything from employment to transportation to shopping. It’s almost Logan Langly’s 13th birthday and he knows he should be excited about getting the Mark, but he hasn’t been able to shake the feeling he’s being watched. Not since his sister went to get her Mark five years ago . . . and never came back.

When Logan and his friends discover the truth behind the Mark, will they ever be able to go back to being normal teenagers? Find out in the first book of this exciting series that is Left Behind meets Matched for middle-grade readers.

My Thoughts: This book begins a middle grade dystopian series. Logan Langly is the main character. He is approaching his thirteenth birthday when he will be eligible to get the Mark which makes him a citizen. With it, he can get a job, buy things, vote. But ever since his older sister Lily went for her mark and disappeared, Logan has felt like he is being watched and followed. His parents think he is paranoid.

Erin Arbitor is a new student at Spokie Middle. She and her father have relocated to Spokie because her dad is doing "government work" for DOME which is the police arm of the new world government. Erin wants to be back home in Beacon with both of her parents. Her mother stayed behind for her job. Erin is an excellent computer hacker.

Logan and Erin meet at school where he tries to convince her that he is being followed. Erin, having read her father's secret work files, thinks it would be a great idea to catch the criminal who is following Logan because it will get her and her father back to Beacon sooner.

The two of them investigate and learn that what the government is telling its citizens is not necessarily the truth. Lots of threads are left hanging in this first episode of the Swipe trilogy making the next books necessary.

While the book is generally enjoyable, I found the slang used for the Markless didn't make much sense. Using miser, tightwad, cheapskate, and other money related terms as pejoratives was really distracting for me because I kept wondering how things related to money. I also felt that the adults in the story were more-or-less cardboard characters. I also know that, while middle grade kids think, they are adults, these characters were mature well beyond their age and pretty unrealistic.

Favorite Quote:
"Who knows? The guy's Markless. He's a criminal."

Logan shook his head. "It isn't a crime to be Markless, no matter what age you are."

"It's not, no. Not by itself. But to survive like that...no way to eat...nowhere to stay...it'd make a criminal out of you pretty quick."
I got this ARC at ALA in 2013. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, May 11, 2018

ARC Review: The Game Can't Love You Back by Karole Cozzo

The Game Can't Love You Back
Author: Karole Cozzo
Publication: Swoon Reads (May 15, 2018)

Description: Bitter sports rivalries and swoon-worthy romance intertwine, in Karole Cozzo’s classic enemies to lovers story where two former nemeses blur the lines between love and hate. 

Eve is used to being the odd woman out. As the only girl on her school's baseball team, she knows exactly how to put sweaty, macho baseball players in their place, and she's learned to focus on one thing and one thing only―being the best pitcher she can be.

But when a freak accident forces her school to be absorbed by the neighboring town, Eve has to contend with a new group of guys who aren't used to having a woman on their team. And the new team's star pitcher, Jamie, has no interest in being ousted from his throne. He can't afford to give up his starting slot to a new pitcher―especially to a girl.

As the competition between Jamie and Eve starts to heat up, so does their attraction to each other. Can they keep their heads in the game, or will they end up getting played?

Chosen by readers like you for Macmillan’s young adult imprint Swoon Reads, The Game Can’t Love You Back follows Eve as she is forced to join a new baseball team and contend with the insufferable (and cute) rival pitcher.

My Thoughts: THE GAME CAN'T LOVE YOU BACK was a great sports romance. It is told in two viewpoints. Eve is an athlete and, whatever she plays, she wins. She has awards for soccer, basketball ... and baseball. Yup, she's been playing with the boys since she and her older brothers were all in Little League.

When her high school catches on fire, ruining the gym and some other areas, the school district decides that all the students will join their classmates at the other high school in the district. Now, the Bulldogs all have to become Pirates and fit into a new school.

The school merger might be the ruin of Eve's quest for the school's Cy Young trophy because the Pirates already have a star pitcher. Jamie Abrams needs the recognition of being an award winner. He is a talented baseball player but not a very good student. He is a popular guy with more than his fair share of girlfriends and hook-ups. His home life is also messed up. His mom has finally kicked out the latest bad boyfriend but it is hard to pay the bills on a job at Target. Jamie has also been working all he can at a burger place to help with the family's finances. A baseball scholarship is his best chance at college and a possible pro career.

Eve and Jamie are immediately rivals. Both are very competitive people. Also, being the only girl on the team adds additional pressure to Eve who has to gain the respect of a whole new bunch of teammates. But the attraction between them is growing. They recognize and like each other's strengths. The only problem for Eve is that things are already changing so much in her life as she physically matures and sees the end of her baseball life coming. She is starting to feel that she doesn't know herself.

The story was well-written. The sports scenes were realistic as were the emotions of devoted athletes. I really enjoyed this book and its memorable characters.

Favorite Quote:
"Why are you doing this to me?" I mutter under my breath, kicking at his desk leg as he makes the call.

Pushing the receiver away from his mouth, he tells me, "Because sometimes you have one hell of a time getting out of your own way."
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Macmillan. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

ARC Review: Airports, Exes, and Other Things I'm Over by Shani Petroff

Airports, Exes, and Other Things I'm Over
Author: Shani Petroff
Publication: Swoon Reads (May 15, 2018)

Description: A bad storm, two cancelled flights, trapped with the guy who broke her heart…Shani Petroff delivers laugh out loud comedy and unforgettable disasters in this highly relatable comedy of errors about a teen stuck in an airport with her cheating ex. 

Flight delayed. Send help. Not him.

After Sari caught her boyfriend Zev cheating on her, their romantic Florida vacation was ruined. She can't get back to NYC soon enough. Unfortunately, Mother Nature may have different plans. A huge storm is brewing in the Northeast, and flights all over the country are getting canceled―including Sari's. She winds up stuck at the airport for hours. With Zev!

When another stranded passenger (a hot NYU guy) suggests a connecting flight to Boston, Sari jumps at the chance. But when her mom freaks out about her traveling alone, she has no choice―she has to include Zev, and somehow survive being trapped with the guy who broke her heart!

Chosen by readers like you for Macmillan’s young adult imprint Swoon Reads, author Shani Petroff looks at both heartbreak and forgiveness in her latest YA comedy of errors, Airports, Exes, and Other Things I'm Over.

My Thoughts: Sari Silver is having a bad Spring Break. First she walks into a party to find her boyfriend Zev liplocked with his ex-girlfriend. Then she realizes that they had both planned to head to Florida for Spring Break to visit their grandparents and spend some time together. Now, she doesn't want to be anywhere near him. He keeps texting and calling and saying that he can explain, but she doesn't give him a chance.

She hitches a ride to the airport with her best friend Trina and manages to get on an earlier flight. She spends the first part of her vacation holed up, broken-hearted, in her gram's house. But her gram sends her out to spend some time at the pool where she meets Fitz who is also down from New York to spend some time with his grandfather. They hang out together and Sari is glad to make a new friend but isn't interested in anything more.

She gets a call from the booking agent at a club where she hangs out listening to music offering her an opportunity to perform on Saturday night. She can't miss this opportunity which is what she has always wanted and could be the start of her musical career. She can't convince her parents to change her flight and a storm is coming.

She gets to the airport to find the Zev and Fitz are also trying to get flights home. After hours and many cancelled flights, they have a chance to fly to Boston where a friend of Fitz's has offered to drive them the rest of the way. But that means that she will have to travel with Zev! Besides, her mom is blowing up her phone, and Zev's when she can't get Sari to answer hers, because she is worried about her daughter. Her mom just doesn't understand how much she hates it that her mom is still communicating with Zev.

This was an emotionally intense story about young love, trust and betrayal. While I did think that Sari should have given Zev a chance to explain, I could understand how much what she saw as his betrayal hurt her. Fans of romances will enjoy this story.

Favorite Quote:
That stereotype about older drivers going, like, thirteen miles per hour on the highway? My gram definitely proved that one wrong. By the time we made it to the airport, my knuckles were white from clutching the door handle. I'd said I wanted to get there fast, but I seriously think my gram set some sort of record. If only gram were piloting the plane.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Macmillan. You can buy your copy here.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Book Review: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Publication: Square Fish; Reprint edition (May 10, 2011)

Description: The first ten lies they tell you in high school.

"Speak up for yourself--we want to know what you have to say." From the first moment of her freshman year at Merryweather High, Melinda knows this is a big fat lie, part of the nonsense of high school. She is friendless, outcast, because she busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops, so now nobody will talk to her, let alone listen to her. As time passes, she becomes increasingly isolated and practically stops talking altogether. Only her art class offers any solace, and it is through her work on an art project that she is finally able to face what really happened at that terrible party: she was raped by an upperclassman, a guy who still attends Merryweather and is still a threat to her. Her healing process has just begun when she has another violent encounter with him. But this time Melinda fights back, refuses to be silent, and thereby achieves a measure of vindication. In Laurie Halse Anderson's powerful novel, an utterly believable heroine with a bitterly ironic voice delivers a blow to the hypocritical world of high school. She speaks for many a disenfranchised teenager while demonstrating the importance of speaking up for oneself.

Speak was a 1999 National Book Award Finalist for Young People's Literature.

My Thoughts: This classic YA novel tells the story of a girl who was raped at a high school party and goes silent to cope with it. Melinda called 911 after being raped at a party but was unable to tell what had happened to her. She has become an outcast for calling 911 which led to arrests. Now that school is starting again, she is trying to survive with no friends in a very hostile environment.

New girl Heather becomes her only friend but Heather is only using her until she finds her "people." Her parents don't seem to notice that she is having troubles until the school sends out report cards and they see that her grades are dropping and that she is skipping classes and not doing homework. However, rather than asking what's wrong and supporting her, they react by getting angry with her and with each other.

The teachers at the school also seem to be oblivious to Melinda's needs. The English teacher and Social Studies teacher both seem to have taken Melinda in dislike. Her only place of refuge is her Art class which has its own frustrations as the topic she drew to concentrate on for the year is "trees." The art teacher does provide some support but has his own issues with his job and the school board.

I liked Melinda's voice. She has an outsider's view at the daily happenings of her high school which seemed obsessed this year with choosing a new mascot. I liked watching her grow and find her own agency as the year progressed.

Favorite Quote:
Two hundred questions later, I get my results. I should consider a career in (a) forestry (b) firefighting (c) communications (d) mortuary science. Heather's results are clearer. She should be a nurse. It makes her jump up and down. 
I bought this one Feb. 20, 2012. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, May 4, 2018

ARC Review: Onyx & Ivory by Mindee Arnett

Onyx & Ivory
Author: Mindee Arnett
Series: Onyx & Ivory
Publication: Balzer + Bray (May 15, 2018)

Description: Acclaimed author Mindee Arnett thrusts readers into a beautiful, dangerous, and magical world in this stunningly epic and romantic fantasy for fans of Leigh Bardugo and Sarah Raasch.

They call her Traitor Kate. It’s a title Kate Brighton inherited from her father after he tried to assassinate the high king of Rime.

Cast out of the nobility, Kate now works for the royal courier service. Only the most skilled ride for the Relay and only the fastest survive, for when night falls, the drakes—deadly flightless dragons—come out to hunt. Fortunately, Kate has a secret edge: She is a wilder, born with forbidden magic that allows her to influence the minds of animals.

And it’s this magic that leads her to a caravan massacred by drakes in broad daylight—the only survivor Corwin Tormaine, the son of the king. Her first love, the boy she swore to forget after he condemned her father to death.

With their paths once more entangled, Kate and Corwin must put the past behind them to face this new threat and an even darker menace stirring in the kingdom.

My Thoughts: Fans looking for another epic fantasy with magic and romance will enjoy ONYX & IVORY. It is told from two viewpoints. Kate is known as Traitor Kate since her father attempted to assassinate the high king of Rime. She has fled the capital city and is working as a relay rider in another city. Kate is a wilder - having magic that lets her communicate with animals especially horses. She doesn't understand why her father, master of the king's horses and a friend of the king, would have tried to kill him. She would like to clear her father's name but doesn't know how.

The second point of view is Corwin's. He is a son of the king who has recently spent some years away from the kingdom. He and Kate were childhood friends and beginning to fall in love when the assassination attempt occurred. He has been waiting since he was young for the uror which is a magical contest to determine which of the king's sons will be the next high king. Corwin has always felt overshadowed by his older brother Edwin who has made a career of belittling Corwin. Corwin doesn't feel worthy of being the high king and wants to let his brother rule.

Corwin and Kate meet again after three years apart when she saves him from an attack by daydrakes. Nightdrakes and daydrakes make travel in the kingdom hazardous. Nightdrakes have been a long-time threat but daydrakes are new. Kate has a weapon - a revolver - created by her wilder friend Bonner who has a gift for metal. The new weapon saves the day and gives Corwin hope for a way of defeating the daydrakes.

Corwin gathers Bonner, Kate and their friend Signe who has the formula for making the powder that allows the gun to shoot and takes them to the capital city. They need to hide their wilder magic from the magists who are determined to root out all who have it. An Inquisition was begun around the time of the high king's near assassination and after a wilder attack killed Corwin's mother which makes being a wilder very, very dangerous.

While Bonner is working on the revolvers and trying to hide his magic, Kate is looking for any information that could tell her why her father tried to kill the high king and Corwin is involved both with court politics and the uror which has finally appeared. Secrets are uncovered and hidden enemies surface.

I recommend this story to fans of epic fantasy.

Favorite Quote:
Riding at the head of the caravan, Corwin couldn't keep himself from looking back at his new comapnaios with a sense of wonderment and dismay. They made for a strange party -- the Eshian, the blacksmith, and the traitor. It sounded like the start of some mythic journey. Or a bad tavern joke. To make things even more unusual, Master Raith was riding at the back of the pack, having volunteered for travel duty.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Edelweiss. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Book Review: Bloodborn by Karen Kincy

Bloodborn
Author: Karen Kincy
Series: Others (Book 2)
Publication: North Star Editions; Original edition (September 8, 2011)

Description: Brock Koeman had always loathed werewolves and Others like them. Then, while tracking a werewolf suspected of murder, he and his brother Chris were bitten and infected with the very disease they despised. Chris is now fighting for his life in the hospital, but Brock faces another kind of battle: stifling the fierce urge to transform into a beast.

When werewolves kidnap him and the girl he loves, Brock discovers what it means to be Other the thrill of unearthly powers, overshadowed by unrelenting danger. Brock begins to see the life that awaits him, but he must accept his new identity . . . before the wolf within kills him.

My Thoughts: BLOODBORN takes a different approach to a werewolf novel. In this world Others are out and not particularly rare. They are protected by law but still face major prejudice. Brock has been raised to hate all the "gicks" and, while hunting and harassing them, he and his brother are bitten. His brother is in the hospital fighting for his life but Brock is home fighting to keep from becoming something that he hates more than anything else.

When he and his ex-girlfriend are kidnapped by the pack, Brock is still determined to get revenge on the werewolf who bit him. Randall is the werewolf who bit him and he has been assigned to bring Brock up to speed about his new reality. Meanwhile, the whole pack is on the run from the local sheriff who has decided that the only good werewolf is a dead werewolf despite what the law says.

It takes Brock quite a bit of time to get used to the idea that he is a werewolf and learn that werewolves are still people. His ex helps him come to that realization. Cyn is an interesting character who remains a bit of a mystery. She's human. She loves being right and being the smartest person in any situation. She is much more tolerant of Others than Brock. She recognizes that he hates himself and tries to help him learn to accept himself.

Fans of werewolf stories will enjoy this one.

Favorite Quote:
When I glance back, another man is holding Cyn: an old guy with a tangled gray beard and long ratty hair beneath a trucker's cap. He looks like he should be sleeping in a cardboard box. No, he looks like Gandalf after Vietnam. The sight of his disgusting hands on her makes me snarl.
I bought this one June 27, 2012. You can buy your copy here.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

State of the Stack #71 (May 1, 2018)

This is my monthly State of the Stack post. It is my way to keep track of my review books and to hopefully reduce the stack that I have waiting for me. I take a look at my review commitments on or near the first of the month. Link with Avalalinha's Books (description below) to check out other people's progress. She has just recently started a meme about review books.

Here is my Review Books Spreadsheet I list them in publication order and sort them by month. I can quickly see how many books I have for each date. Ideally, this keeps me from over-committing to review books. Check my spreadsheet to find out where I got each book.

I also do this post because sometimes (frequently) review books sit on my stack for a while before I read and review them. I try to read and review books within two weeks of publication date. Sometimes I can't, though, if too many books are releasing on the same date or if the book arrives too near its publication date and my calendar is already full.

I am very grateful to the authors and publishers who support my reading habit.

I Read This Month

These are listed in the order I read them. Links go to my reviews for all that have been posted already. Otherwise, the date the review is scheduled for is listed.
  1. The Plastic Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg (May 9)
  2. Onyx & Ivory by Mindee Arnett (May 4) 
  3. Airports, Exes, and Other Things I'm Over by Shani Petroff (May 9)
  4. The Game Can't Love You Back by Karole Cozzo (May 11)
  5. The Queen of Sorrow by Sarah Beth Durst (May 12) 
  6. Monday's Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson (May 16) 
  7. Aftermath by Kelley Armstrong (May 18) 
  8. Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe by Preston Norton (May 23) 
  9. How We Roll by Natasha Friend (May 25) 
  10. Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke (April 30)
Read Previously, Reviews Posted This Month
  1. The Stone Girl's Story by Sarah Beth Durst (April 3) 
  2. Bad Neighbors by Maia Chance (April 4) 
  3. The Shadow of Death by Jane Willan (April 5) 
  4. The Summer of Broken Things by Margaret Peterson Haddix (April 6)
  5. Lord of the Pies by Nell Hampton (April 7)
  6. The Viridian Convict by Sam York (April 10) 
  7. Whispers of the Dead by Spencer Kope (April 12)
  8. Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian (April 13)
  9. A Town Called Vengeance by Kevin Wolf (April 16)
  10. Save Me (Corrupted Hearts) by Tiffany Snow (April 17)
  11. The Explorers: The Reckless Rescue by Adrienne Kress (April 18) 
  12. Shattered Mirror by Iris Johansen (April 19)
  13. White Rabbit by Caleb Roehrig (April 20) 
  14. What You Want to See by Kristen Lepionka (April 21) 
  15. The Outcast by Taran Matharu (April 25) 
  16. Beyond the Pale by Clare O'Donohue (April 25) 
  17. Pairing a Deception by Nadine Nettmann (April 26)
  18. The Lies They Tell by Gillian French (April 27) 
  19. Better Off Read by Nora Page (April 28)
  20. The Other Lady Vanishes by Amanda Quick (April 30)
  21. Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke (April 30)
I Added These Books

These are listed in the order I received them. Links go to Amazon. Date published is listed in parentheses.
  1. The Disappearing by Lori Roy (July 17)
  2. The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager (July 3)
  3. Aftermath by Kelley Armstrong (May 22)
  4. A Merciful Silence by Kendra Elliot (June 19)
  5. A Double Life by Flynn Berry (July 31) 
  6. The Banker's Wife by Cristina Alger (July 3)
  7. Wild Hunger by Chloe Neill (August 14)
  8. Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke (April 24)
  9. The Griffin's Feather by Cornelia Funke (July 31)
My Review Pile

June
City of Bastards by Andrew Shvarts (June 5)
Sweet Black Waves by Kristina Perez (June 5)
The Bird and the Blade by Megan Bannen (June 5)
The Memory of Fire by Callie Bates (June 5)
The Body of the Ballroom by R. J. Koreto (June 12)
Last Girl Gone by J. G. Hetherton (June 12)
Death and a Pot of Chowder by Cornelia King (June 12)
Island of the Mad by Laurie R. King (June 12)
Girl With a Gun by Kari Bovee (June 19)
 A Merciful Silence by Kendra Elliot (June 19)
The Lost Books: The Scroll of Kings by Sarah Prineas (June 26)
My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows (June 26)
Now You See Her by Lisa Leighton & Laura Stropki (June 26)

July
The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James (July 3)
The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager (July 3)
The Banker's Wife by Cristina Alger (July 3)
Somebody's Daughter by David Bell (July 10)
Shelved Under Murder by Victoria Gilbert (July 10)
When Life Gives You Demons by Jennifer Honeybourn (July 17)
Nyxia Unleashed by Scott Reintgen (July 17)
Hull Metal Girls by Emily Skrutskie (July 17)
The Disappearing by Lori Roy (July 17)
Between Frost and Fury by Chani Lynn Feener (July 24)
Contagion by Erin Bowman (July 24)
The Impossibility of Us by Katy Upperman (July 31)
The Girl You Thought I Was by Rebecca Phillips (July 31)
Sea Witch by Sarah Henning (July 31)
A Double Life by Flynn Berry (July 31)
The Griffin's Feather by Cornelia Funke (July 31)

August
These Rebel Waves by Sara Raasch (August 7)
Nine by Zach Hines (August 7)
The Butterfly Conspiracy by Vivian Conroy (August 7)
To Catch a Witch by Heather Blake (August 7)
#murdertrending by Gretchen McNeil (August 7)
Wild Hunger by Chloe Neill (August 14)
The Truth Lies Here by Lindsey Klingele (August 21)

September & October
Read and Gone by Allison Brook (Sept. 11)
In Cold Chocolate by Dorothy St. James (Sept. 11)
Burning Ridge by Margaret Mizushima (Sept. 11)
Mardi Gras Murder by Ellen Byron (Oct. 9)

Next Month's Plan

I have lots of review books coming due in June and July but lesser numbers after that. That probably means that I need to visit NetGalley and Edelweiss again to stock up my shelves. On the other hand, I could let come what comes and read some of the hundreds of books on my TBR mountains.

*********

I am also linking up with the State of the ARC meme. Here is the explanation and rules.

State of the ARC is a monthly meme at Avalinah’s Books meant to motivate you to finish up all your long overdue ARCs (Advanced or Early Reader Copies). You can track your reading progress and link up with your own post. Most commonly it comes out on the 30th of every month.

Rules of State of the ARC:

  • Mention that you’re linking up with State of the ARC @ AvalinahsBooks, which is a fun way to share our ARC progress, challenges, wins, woes and mishaps.
  • Include the link to this post, or the current State of the ARC post. You can use my State of the ARC image too.
  • Don’t forget to visit all the other people in the link-up and comment.
  • And most importantly – have fun!