Friday, July 25, 2014

Brad About Books: Between the Spark and the Burn by April Genevieve Tucholke

Read on March 3, 2014
Expected Publication Date: August 14, 2014
Publisher: Dial (Penguin)
Format: ARC
Page Count: 320 pages
Source: Publisher in exchange for an honest review
Series: Between, #2

This review is entirely spoiler free, even if you haven't read book one, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea.

Between the Spark and the Burn was everything I hoped it would be and more. With an eerie atmosphere and prose that grabbed me right from the beginning, Between the Spark and the Burn is an absorbing, exhilarating sequel that shouldn't be missed.

It's no surprise that I absolutely adored Tucholke's first part in this duology, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. With its fantastic atmosphere and characters worth rooting for, what's not to like? So needless to say, I was thrilled to see just how things would wrap up for these dark, brooding, mysterious characters. And I loved this sequel. Absolutely, one-hundred percent loved it. Tucholke's writing has an eerie, spine-tingling vibe that comes off the pages, and I never knew if I could fully trust the characters. It's vivid, lush, and completely addictive. So many twists and turns shocked in Between the Spark and the Burn. Due to the events at the end of book one, I had no idea how River and Violet's story would pan out, but I certainly didn't expect a lot of things that happened in this sequel. And I loved how Tucholke always kept me guessing. There's never a dull moment in this duology. 

Violet and River were two of my favorite characters from my 2013 reads and seeing their character progression and development in this finale was stunning. Violet, though she's broken on the inside, is fierce and strong, and River is completely insane, but they make for even more dark, haunting characters. Following Violet as she searches for answers and secrets was thrilling. Tucholke shows the reader more sides of this eerie landscape, and getting an insight into the world of River and his past in Between the Spark and the Burn was seriously awesome. I didn't think I could like them more than I already did, but Tucholke definitely proved me wrong.

And can we just talk about this series as a whole? It's got everything a paranormal fan could want: fantastic world-building, characters you can never fully trust, and an ending you'll never see coming. Seriously, Tucholke's books have landed a permanent spot on my Favorites shelf. If you're looking for the next series to binge-read, completely dive into, and be hooked on, look no further. The Between duology is for you. We all know the dreaded Sequel Slump, but that completely passed over Between the Spark and the Burn. I loved this one even more than the first book. So, so good.

Overall, Between the Spark and the Burn is a sequel of epic proportions and twists and turns that will have you on the edge of your seat the entire time. One of the best sequels I've read in a long time.

M Y   R A T I N G

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Brad About Books: Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Read from June 16 to 17, 2014
Published: July 8, 2014
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Format: Hardcover
Page Count: 308 pages
Source: Publisher in exchange for an honest review

Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble. That it’s been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems besides the point now.

Maybe that was always besides the point.

Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn’t expect to him to pack up the kids and go home without her.

When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.

That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts . . .

Is that what she’s supposed to do?

Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?

Landline is a thought-provoking, mesmerizing tale of the true meaning of love and finding out what's most important in this world. Just as I expected, Rowell delivered once again a masterpiece of laugh out loud moments, heartbreak, and times where I was fully captivated by the book. Landline is hands down a must-read.

I read Eleanor & Park and Fangirl by Rowell in 2013, and obviously, I fell in love with them (because seriously, who doesn't love Rainbow Rowell?). Landline was my first venture into her adult novels, and I have to say, I was definitely pleased with what I received! While it didn't have quite the exact same emotional appeal that I had with the previous two novels I had read, the emotional appeal was there for sure. Every character in Landline is a gem - seriously. Georgie is, without a doubt, one of the best protagonists I've ever read about. She has her flaws and isn't sure what to do with her life, and I loved venturing with a character who didn't have everything figured out with her life, though she's expected to by now. She's broken and bruised and trying to keep her head up, and my attachment with Georgie went beyond the pages. And I loved how this book wasn't one sided - Georgie is selfish at times, Neal (her husband) is selfish at times too, so Georgie gets her heartbroken from Neal. But, Neal also gets his heartbroken from Georgie - I believe it's rarely shown in novels both sides of the spectrum of heartbreak and selfishness, and I applaud Rowell for incorporating everything of this dilemma between these two people in Landline. Seriously, Rainbow Rowell never fails with her novels.

Rowell's writing style is always one of a kind, and Landline was no exception. With Landline, the emotional attachment you feel to Rowell's characters is different compared to her other ones. Honestly, I didn't always like Georgie at times. I found her to be self-centered at times and downright oblivious at times to everything around her; however, I loved Georgie for this. She wasn't perfect, and Rowell didn't leave out any of the gritty parts of her character and didn't sugarcoat anything. I was so attached to Georgie in this book. Then again, I'm always attached to Rowell's character, so what else was to be expected of? 

And if you're needing something to spice up your reading life with uniqueness, Landline has got you covered. With Rowell's signature style and a dash of magical realism folded throughout the pages, Landline is sure to have you tangled up in its storyline until the very end. While it was definitely different to see a magic telephone that allowed Georgie to talk to her husband before they were married, it was quirky and interesting. I had some questions though of how Neal-before-marriage and Georgie-before-marriage could have discussions if what Georgie-in-present-day said to Neal-before-marriage altered his opinion on things, but still, Rowell handled the parallel plot-lines masterfully.

Overall, Landline is a powerful, sizzling novel full of heartbreak, first love, and hardship that is executed like none other. Rowell's latest novel is sure to appeal new fans while pleasing previous ones. Absolutely loved it!

M Y    R A T I N G

Monday, July 7, 2014

Brad About Books: Earthquake by Aprilynne Pike

Read on July 6, 2014
Expected Publication Date: July 8, 2014
Publisher: Razorbill (Penguin)
Format: ARC
Page Count: 383 pages
Source: Publisher in exchange for a honest review
Series: Earthbound, #2

This review is entirely spoiler free, even if you haven't read book one, Earthbound.

Aprilynne Pike is undoubtably one of my favorite authors of all-time, and she nailed it with this sequel. Earthquake is a vibrant, pulse-pounding sequel that not only lives up to the expectations set by the first installment, but passes them greatly. One of the most unique and absorbing series I've read in a long time.

Like I said before, Aprilynne Pike is one of the authors I know I can trust to have me hooked in her story and completely engulfed by the world and characters, and believe me, she did just that it with Earthquake! Everyone (including me - most definitely me) is scared of the dreaded Sequel Slump where the sequel doesn't live up to expectations, but that slump completely missed Earthquake. There's never a dull moment on these pages, and running around with Tavia, Logan, and Benson again was fantastic. As Tavia learns more about herself and harnesses her inner self, she morphs from this na├»ve character to one of the strongest heroines I've read about, and I adored her character development in this sequel. She's fierce, determined, and loyal to all those she trusts, and getting to see Tavia in full action again was great. Needless to say, this sequel did not disappoint. 

If you're needing a refreshing, original series to completely sweep you away, the Earthbound series is the way to go. With its charming prose and intoxicating world, this series is one of the most addictive stories I've read in a long time. When I'm with Tavia, I feel completely emerged into her world of secrets and lies, and I never know what to expect on the next page - and I love that Pike can keep me guessing like that. Earthquake raises the stakes even higher for Tavia. I was flipping through these pages as fast as I could; the storyline was so enthralling, and this sequel is the kind of the sequel that hooks you in right from the beginning and never loosens its grip. 

Aprilynne Pike is a master of suspense and buildup. Whether its intense action or hair-raising secrets that change the game for Tavia forever, Earthquake is always keeping the energy alive as Tavia races to find the truth about the world surrounding her. If you loved Earthbound, prepare to be pulled further in by this second installment. A true gem amongst the sci-fi genre. 

Overall, Earthquake is an electric, absorbing sequel that is sure to draw in more fans and leave fans gasping for more. Rich, exhilarating, and absolutely incredible, Pike has once more crafted a heart-racing story with an impeccable world and a heroine worth rooting for.

M Y   R A T I N G

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Brad About Books: Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

Read from April 9 to 12, 2014
Published: April 1, 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen
Format: Hardcover
Page Count: 452 pages
Source: Purchased
Series: Dorothy Must Die, #1

I didn't ask for any of this. I didn't ask to be some kind of hero.
But when your whole life gets swept up by a tornado—taking you with it—you have no choice but to go along, you know?

Sure, I've read the books. I've seen the movies. I know the song about the rainbow and the happy little blue birds. But I never expected Oz to look like this. To be a place where Good Witches can't be trusted, Wicked Witches may just be the good guys, and winged monkeys can be executed for acts of rebellion. There's still the yellow brick road, though—but even that's crumbling.

What happened?
Dorothy. They say she found a way to come back to Oz. They say she seized power and the power went to her head. And now no one is safe.

My name is Amy Gumm—and I'm the other girl from Kansas.
I've been recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked.
I've been trained to fight.
And I have a mission:
Remove the Tin Woodman's heart.
Steal the Scarecrow's brain.
Take the Lion's courage.
Then and only then—Dorothy must die.

Brimming with phenomenal world-building and irresistible characters that you'll fall in love with instantly, Dorothy Must Die is one of the most captivating, addictive books I've read in a very long time. One of the most outstanding debuts I've read that's sure to never die down in hype. 

I had ridiculously high expectations for Dorothy Must Die, since it was amongst my top most anticipated books for 2014. You have no idea how happy I was to find that all my expectations were met and exceeded. I have to start off with my favorite part about Dorothy Must Die, and though it's usually my favorite part about any novel, there was just something different with this one: the world-building. The world in this novel was spectacular. I'm a sucker for any re-telling, and when I heard that this was a Wizard of Oz re-telling, I was ecstatic. Oz is such a dark, sinister place in Dorothy Must Die. Paige does an exceptional job at turning this once lush, ravishing, and beautiful place into a twisted, morbid, and gloomy place of disaster - and I loved every second of it. There's so much detail put into this new world, and I applaud Danielle Paige for being able to pull off this re-telling with this world. The world was frightening and filled with darkness, but it made the story even stronger and more addicting. I can't even with this book. Fantastic!

Amy Gumm is a heroine worth rooting for. I will admit, I had my ups and downs with Amy. Sure, I can totally see where she's coming from with being thrust into a new landscape (especially Oz of all places), and I can see where she could be wary of being trusting or stubborn, but she was too stubborn at times. However, that didn't stop me from loving Dorothy Must Die. Also, can I just say that Dorothy is one of my new favorite villains ever?! Imagine a reality TV star with an ego 10x the normal self-esteem and you've got yourself Dorothy. She was psychotic and monstrous, and I absolutely loved to hate her and hated to love her. The fact that the wicked witches were basically the good guys was really cool to read about. I loved how Paige still kept their roots of darkness and evil within them, but she truly does show that there can be two sides to people. All the characters in Dorothy Must Die (especially the Lion! Oh my gosh, he was insane!) were marvelous, and I can't wait to see their development in the sequel.

Speaking of the sequel, I need it now! Though this novel is pretty hefty with its 450+ pages, it moves so quickly, and there's hardly ever a dull moment with this book. If you're looking for something that will consume you whole until you've finished it and something that's never been done before, Dorothy Must Die fits the bill. With its exciting plot, fantastic villains, and one of a kind twists and turns, Dorothy Must Die is a nail-biting, pulse-pounding read that will make you question everything you know about Oz. One of my new favorites, for sure!

Overall, Dorothy Must Die was everything I wanted from a book and more. Fantastically woven together and masterfully pulled off, Dorothy Must Die is the kind of book that was still tattooed on my mind long after I turned the final page. More, please!

M Y   R A T I N G

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Brad About Books: Hungry by H.A. Swain

Read from March 5 to 7, 2014
Published: June 3, 2014
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends (Macmillan)
Format: ARC
Page Count: 384 pages
Source: Publisher in exchange for an honest review

In the future, food is no longer necessary—until Thalia begins to feel something unfamiliar and uncomfortable. She’s hungry.

In Thalia’s world, there is no need for food—everyone takes medication (or “inocs”) to ward off hunger. It should mean there is no more famine, no more obesity, no more food-related illnesses, and no more war. At least that's what her parents, who work for the company that developed the inocs, say. But when Thalia meets a boy who is part of an underground movement to bring food back, she realizes that most people live a life much different from hers. Worse, Thalia is starting to feel hunger, and so is he—the inocs aren’t working. Together they set out to find the only thing that will quell their hunger: real food.

H. A. Swain delivers an adventure that is both epic and fast-paced. Get ready to be Hungry.

Hungry is unlike anything I've ever read in a fantastic way. This refreshing dystopian is sure to have you chomping at the bits and craving for more long after the final page.

I'm sure that we're all somewhat tired of the dystopian genre: it's been blowing up over the last couple of years in YA, and eventually, it gets to be just a tad tiresome. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love the genre, but I do need a break now and then. However, Hungry is unlike any other dystopian I've ever read. Yes, Hungry revolves around the idea of food not being a necessity and a revolution to bring it back; I would've never imagined up this world. Food is most definitely a necessity in life, but what do you do when it's no longer a need? And of course, Hungry takes the route of the government (or technically, scientists in this case) controlling the people, but Hungry's premise makes it unique and stand out amongst other dystopians out there today. Packed with its remarkable world-building and outstanding characters, Hungry delivers a dystopian unlike any other that is sure to appeal to fans of Legend and The Program. Hungry had me in its clutches the entire time and never let me go!

Speaking of characters, Thalia was a great protagonist! In a world where scientists (especially scientists who are your parents) control what you consume and your nutrients and Thalia isn't sure who to trust after a foreign feeling begins to grow inside her, I could totally understand where she was coming from for the majority of the novel. I loved following her on this incredible journey. However, I will admit that this journey got confusing at times, which was my main problem with the novel. There's a lot of sci-fi crafted into Hungry, and I applaud Swain for being able to pull the science element of the novel off, but with all the somewhat info-dumps and world-building that goes above and beyond some dystopians, it was hard for me to keep track of the events and characters sometimes. It was eventually sorted out, though, but that was the hardest part for me to connect to with Hungry.

And the writing was superb. I felt completely immersed into this world and felt as if I were traveling alongside Thalia and Basil and the underground revolution. While it was hard to deal with the insta-love of Thalia and Basil, I still enjoyed their relationship nonetheless. And woah, the plot twists that Hungry throws! There were a couple times that my mouth actually fell open, and I had to set the book down just to let the events sink in - I love that when a book can do that to me. So needless to say, Hungry is an action-packed, twisted, and mind-bending story that has plenty of thrills and secrets to keep the reader fully invested in the story.

Overall, Hungry is a one of a kind dystopian that shouldn't be missed. Needing something new in you're dystopian craving needs? Hungry will most definitely fill and satisfy that need.

M Y   R A T I N G

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Brad About Books: The Merciless by Danielle Vega

Read from March 11 to 12, 2014
Expected Publication Date: June 12, 2014
Publisher: Razorbill (Penguin)
Format: ARC
Page Count: 279 pages
Source: Publisher in exchange for an honest review

Forgive us, Father, for we have sinned.

Brooklyn Stevens sits in a pool of her own blood, tied up and gagged. No one outside of these dank basement walls knows she’s here. No one can hear her scream.
Sofia Flores knows she shouldn’t have gotten involved. When she befriended Riley, Grace, and Alexis on her first day at school, she admired them, with their perfect hair and their good-girl ways. They said they wanted to save Brooklyn. They wanted to help her. Sofia didn’t realize they believed Brooklyn was possessed.
Now, Riley and the girls are performing an exorcism on Brooklyn—but their idea of an exorcism is closer to torture than salvation. All Sofia wants is to get out of this house. But there is no way out. Sofia can’t go against the other girls . . . unless she wants to be next. . . .
In this chilling debut, Danielle Vega delivers blood-curdling suspense and terror on every page. By the shockingly twisted end, readers will be faced with the most haunting question of all: Is there evil in all of us?

The Merciless is a mind-twisting, fully engrossing story that had me on the edge of my seat from page one and never let me go. I have never read anything like this, and this seriously chilled me to the bone. I adored this book. 

First things first, this book is messed up in the best way possible. I absolutely love that Vega took some risks with The Merciless. So many things in this book disturbed me and freaked me out like no other book has, and I honestly can't believe it, but I loved every single second of this book. There is never a dull moment in The Merciless - I couldn't put it down. From the darkness lurking around each corner to the sinister secrets that the girls are harboring, everything about The Merciless will have you looking over your shoulder and send chills up your spine. This is, hands down, one of my favorite books I've read this year. This was a phenomenal debut. 

There are so many twists and turns in this novel. When Brooklyn was chained up in the basement and the girls were planning their sinister plots, I was seriously scared to death (it probably didn't help that I was home alone when I read this). I've read some YA horror novels, but none of them have kept me so engrossed and so scared like The Merciless did, and I applaud Vega for doing that. Sofia was a stunning protagonist. I felt that she was very realistic with her situation of wanting to fit in, and I loved how she was honest with herself - if she ever questioned whether she was just as evil as Riley and the gang, she never wavered from it or contradicted herself. It was so refreshing to read about a protagonist who wasn't always confident in knowing what she capable of it; it made the story even more creepy, haunting, and addictive. And the girls… they're some of the best villains I've ever read about. Riley was a headstrong, fearless, and evil ringleader of the clan, and I couldn't help but love to hate her, but hate to love her. Grace and Alexis, on the other hand… I loved how I could never tell what they were going to do next. I was always questioning who's side they were truly on, and I loved how this book kept me guessing.

That's another thing - this book is so unpredictable. There was one point where I thought I had figured the mystery out, but I was completely wrong. The spin that Vega sent instead was even more mind-blowing than I could have possibly imagined, and it made me fall even more head-over-heels in love with The Merciless. If you're looking for something different in YA that will have you completely wrapped up in the story, The Merciless has got you covered. One of the best debuts I've ever read. 

Overall, The Merciless is a must-read. Haunting, chilling, and one of a kind, The Merciless had me at its mercy by keeping me up late into the night and always checking over my shoulder. Fantastic in every sense of the word.

M Y    R A T I N G

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Brad About Books: Nil by Lynne Matson

Read on September 29, 2013
Published: March 4, 2014
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (Macmillan)
Format: ARC
Page Count: 384 pages
Source: Publisher in exchange for an honest review

How do you escape from an island that doesn't exist?

On the mysterious island of Nil, the rules are set. You have exactly 365 days to escape—or you die.

Seventeen-year-old Charley doesn’t know the rules. She doesn’t even know where she is. The last thing she remembers is blacking out, and when she wakes up, she’s naked in an empty rock field.

Lost and alone, Charley finds no sign of other people until she meets Thad, the gorgeous leader of a clan of teenage refugees. Soon Charley learns that leaving the island is harder than she thought . . . and so is falling in love. With Thad’s time running out, Charley realizes that she has to find a way to beat the clock, and quickly.

Nil is a thrilling, heart-pounding read that had me tangled up in the race against the clock of surviving this deadly island - it's unlike anything I've ever read!

Nil starts off with a bang and the action never stops. Right from page one, Matson throws us into turmoil right alongside the characters, and each page has something to offer that will either having your heart racing or have you looking over your shoulder (or both!), and I really loved that she managed to capture the feeling of fear in Nil. This island is a true nightmare and with all the secrets that are revealed about the island, I would hate to be stuck on it - but it was a blast to read about. The clock is ticking for our characters, and Matson does an exceptional job at keeping the energy going throughout Nil.

Speaking of characters, I thoroughly enjoyed all of the inhabitants on Nil! Charley is such an awesome protagonist. I loved her smokey, unclear background - she wakes up not knowing anything about the island, and we get to discover the secrets with her. Not only do we discover secrets about the island, we get to know more about Charley and the other characters throughout Nil, and I thought it was fantastic how no one was truly what they seemed to be. If I had just one complaint about Nil, it would be that I would've liked to have seen a little more character development from the side characters. Other than that, all the characters (or villagers of Nil, I guess you could say) are truly fascinating, and they're definitely one of the best team-effort YA groups I've ever read about!

I'm all for anything thriller/mystery/anything that can keep my eyes glued to the page and have me turning pages as fast as I can, and Nil did just the trick. From its absorbing atmosphere of darkness and peril to the small quirks of the island the reader discovers while sinking deeper into the mystery of the island Nil, Nil is sure to have readers entwined with its stunning mystery and haunting prose. 

Overall, Nil is an epic, fast-paced thriller that is highly intriguing and addicting. Wonderful!

M Y    R A T I N G