Category Archives: NetGalley

ARC REVIEW: Above by Isla Morley

Above

by Isla Morley

Fiction/Dystopia

Expected Publication: March 4, 2014

Book Description

I am a secret no one is able to tell.

Blythe Hallowell is sixteen when she is abducted by a survivalist and locked away in an aban­doned missile silo in Eudora, Kansas. At first, she focuses frantically on finding a way out, until the harrowing truth of her new existence settles in—the crushing loneliness, the terrifying madness of a captor who believes he is saving her from the end of the world, and the persistent temptation to give up. But nothing prepares Blythe for the burden of raising a child in confinement. Deter­mined to give the boy everything she has lost, she pushes aside the truth about a world he may never see for a myth that just might give mean­ing to their lives below ground. Years later, their lives are ambushed by an event at once promis­ing and devastating. As Blythe’s dream of going home hangs in the balance, she faces the ultimate choice—between survival and freedom.

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MY THOUGHTS: 5 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS

*****SPOILERS IN REVIEW BELOW*****

Above by Isla Morley

I finished this book this morning, but I’ve been pontificating on it for a few hours, deciding what I was going to write in this review. This is a long book, and so much happens that I don’t want to spoil for anyone.

At 16 years old, Blythe Hallowell is kidnapped and taken to an underground bunker by a man named Dobbs. He tells her she has been chosen because a cataclysmic event is about to hit Earth, and she will be the one to repopulate the planet.

And in the blink of an eye, she has been down in Dobbs’ bunker for 17 years. She is now mother to a 15 year old boy named Adam, and suddenly they have the chance to be free. But when all you’ve dreamed about is one thing for nearly 2 decades, how can you cope when what you’ve been longing for is totally gone?

This book was a page turner, and definitely in the vein of books such as Room, and even true stories like the Ariel Castro kidnappings. The best part is that the story is told in first person, so you get to know the thoughts, fears, and dreams of Blythe for the long long years she was held captive, and after she goes back into the world.

So many elements of the story are heartbreaking. Let’s not even include the fact that the book is about a kidnapped girl. Blythe also has to deal with being raped, bearing children that she didn’t really want, and then the aftermath–seeing that the home she so badly wanted to go back to is gone and her family all dead; wanting to protect her son but knowing he needs to be let go. And then–how do you deal with loving the son you never knew you wanted. Do you hate the one who gave him to you, through force, even though the boy is the best thing in your life?

Above interestingly combines a tale of surviving being taken with one of emerging into a dystopian America. Blythe always believed Dobbs was crazy for telling her the end of the world was coming; she never could have imagined the truth he was telling her. Do you hate the one who kept you alive, even though it cost you everything?

This novel has amazing characterization. The reader even learns unexpected things about the kidnapper towards the end of the story. It’s amazing to see the new world through a man-child’s eyes as he gets his first taste of freedom. It’s heart-wrenching to see his mother come to terms with all of her conflicting emotions.

I would recommend Above to nearly everyone, because I think so many different types of people could relate to it: mothers, sons, women, and just those who want to escape into excellent fiction.

View all my reviews

About the Author

Isla Morley grew up in South Africa during apartheid, the child of a British father and fourth-generation South African mother.  During the country’s State of Emergency, she graduated from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth with a degree in English Literature.

By 1994 she was one of the youngest magazine editors in South Africa, but left career, country and kin when she married an American and moved to California.  For more than a decade she pursued a career in non-profit work, focusing on the needs of women and children.

Her debut novel, COME SUNDAY, was awarded the Janet Heidinger Kafka Award for Fiction in 2009, and was a finalist for the Commonwealth Prize.  It has been translated into seven languages.

She has lived in some of the most culturally diverse places of the world, including Johannesburg, London and Honolulu.  Now in the Los Angeles area, she shares a home with her husband, daughter, two cats, a dog and a tortoise.

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NetGalley Knockout 2013 Wrap-Up

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NetGalley Knockout 2013 has come to a close!  While I didn’t get as many books read as I wanted to, I still knocked some out and that’s what counts.

Here are my previous months’ posts.

July

August

Well, guess what.  There is no September post because I didn’t read a single digital galley in September.  I know.  My tour review schedule was so busy, those books are all I had time to read.  Also, if I’m being honest, I’m feeling a bit of blogger burnout.

I hope to do better next year!!

BOOK TOUR REVIEW: The Outside by Laura Bickle

The Outside

by Laura Bickle

The Hallowed Ones, Book Two

Book Description

One girl. One road. One chance to save what remains…
After a plague of vampires is unleashed in the world, Katie is kicked out of her Amish community for her refusal to adhere to the new rules of survival. Now in exile, she enters an outside world of unspeakable violence with only her two “English” friends and a horse by her side. Together they seek answers and other survivors—but each sunset brings the threat of vampire attack, and each sunrise the threat of starvation.
And yet through this darkness come the shining ones: luminescent men and women with the power to deflect vampires and survive the night. But can these new people be trusted, and are they even people at all?
In this edge-of-your-seat thriller, it’s up to one Amish girl to save her family, her community, and the boy she loves . . . but what will she be asked to leave behind in return?
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MY THOUGHTS: 4.5 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS

**SPOILER ALERT: This review is of the second book in a series and therefore will contain spoilers for the first book in the series.  You can read my review of the first book, The Hallowed Ones, here.**

The Outside by Laura Bickle

This sequel picks up right where The Hallowed Ones left off. The action is pretty much immediate too. Katie has been banished from her Amish community for falling in love with an Outsider. Along with the man, Alex, and her longtime friend Ginger, the 3 do the best they can to survive in a vampire-infested post-apocalyptic world.

It is amazing how much Katie grew between the first and second novels. Being out in the wide world opened her eyes to so much, and having to adapt came very naturally to her. Of course, when you’re forced to kill smart, bloodthirsty vampires, you have no choice to to adapt as quickly as possible. Still, I thought this book, and in fact the entire Hallowed Ones series so far, is as much a coming of age novel as it is a horror novel.

One of my favorite things about The Outside is that even though Katie and Alex consider themselves in some kind of relationship, nothing feels forced, nothing is difficult for them. Considering the things they have to deal with on a daily basis, being in love with each other is the easiest thing about their lives. It is there but it doesn’t overwhelm the story, and their chemistry shines when it needs to.

Though I love how much ass Katie was kicking in this book, sometimes I just kind of wanted to shake her. Maybe I’ve just read too much dystopia, but I felt she was being stubborn by holding on to so many of the old ways of a community that had shunned her. Though she has the opportunity to wear clothing that would no doubt make it easier for her to run and fight, she remains in her Amish dress. This is just one example, but she finds it so difficult to leave her past behind. In a lot of ways, I do respect her holding on to what little faith she has left though.

The book was filled with plenty of vampire action, and while Katie seemed squeamish at the gory things she had to do in the first book, in this one she is a seasoned pro and kills without too much thought. The vampires are ruthless, so Katie and Alex have to be, even more so.

I am not sure what I think about the revelations that came about with the “vaccination.” To be sure, it’s definitely original. I’m just not a very scientific person so I can’t quite wrap my mind around it. I am undecided as to whether it could happen, so I’m on the fence about how it changed the face of the book.

I thought the ending was pretty fast, but I liked where it was headed. I’m not sure if this is the last book in this series, but it kind of felt like it. I rather hope it is not–I like Katie too much to be done with her.

View all my reviews

About the Author

Laura Bickle’s professional background is in criminal justice and library science, and when she’s not patrolling the stacks at the public library she’s dreaming up stories about the monsters under the stairs (she also writes contemporary fantasy novels under the name Alayna Williams).
Laura lives in Ohio with her husband and six mostly-reformed feral cats.

Netgalley Knockout–August Check In

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If you’re unfamiliar with the Netgalley Knockout challenge, please see the initial post HERE!

This is what I’ve read toward the challenge in the month of August:
(Edelweiss)
(NetGalley)
(author requested review)
(Edelweiss)
Four books, which is exactly what I did the month before.  Meh.

REVIEW: It Was You by Anna Cruise

It Was You

by Anna Cruise

It Was You Series, Book One

Book Description

Abby Sellers knows what she wants.

Enduring eighteen years in the shadow of her identical twin sister, Annika, she wants a fresh start. A chance to create her own life, separate from her conniving, deceptive twin.

Surprising both her family and friends, Abby ditches her plans for college and enrolls at a new school instead. There, she encounters West Montgomery, a sexy fellow student who immediately disarms her with his good looks and charm. West takes a liking to Abby and she suddenly finds herself walking a thin line, fabricating a fictional life created not by lies but by omission. She soon discovers West has secrets of his own, secrets that he’s not altogether interested in sharing.

Out from under the shadow of her twin, Abby’s life—and her relationship with West—blossoms. When Abby leaves town one weekend, something unthinkable happens and her relationship with West is shattered. Reeling from the discovery, Abby fears all of her plans have backfired and she’s created a mess for both of them, a mess that no one can clean up.

But West isn’t willing to let her go that easily. When he forces her to confront secrets they’ve both been hiding, Abby must decide more than if she’s willing to forgive and forget. She must also decide just what kind of life she wants…and who she wants to live it with.

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MY THOUGHTS: 4.25 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS

It Was You by Anna Cruise

Abby Sellers has just graduated and is ready to get away from her life: her locally famous parents, the people she’s gone to school with, and most of all, her twin sister Annika. Although they’re identical twins, Abby and Annika couldn’t be more different. While Abby is more reserved and virginal, Annika sleeps with nearly every guy she comes across and that does not leave the guys Abby is interested in off limits.

Suddenly, Abby decides being at the same college at Annika will not give her the fresh start she so craves. She decides to enroll in a junior college. On her first visit there she meets West Montgomery, whose looks are only rivaled by his smart mouth and arrogant demeanor. It doesn’t take long for them to become wrapped up in one another, but Abby and West are both holding back secrets that could spell the end of their relationship.

I’ve been reading a ton of new adult books lately so it’s easy for me to spot the patterns in the genre. Like most NA, this book contains a tattooed, cocky, too hot for words bad boy with a past and an innocent girl next door who falls quickly for this guy despite her best intentions. But this book has a pretty good concept that kept me enthralled.

I really liked Abby right off the bat, and you can’t help but feel for her, having a sister, a twin no less, so horrid. I totally got her need to get away from everything she’s known. Sometimes I wish I could have done the same, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that we can’t escape our pasts.

I thought West and Abby were really great for each other, and their scenes together were pretty hot. I think that each offered the other what they needed in their lives: Abby keeps West grounded when his temper starts rising, and West gives Abby the exhilaration she never knew she was missing in her life.

The conflict towards the end, I definitely saw coming…I just thought it would have been worse. I do blame Abby for what happened though. I’m not saying that she is the one that forced her sister to do what she did, but by withholding the truth from West it just made it obvious what was going to happen.

I do like the way the characters worked out their issues, and I even got choked up at the end. I kind of wish this wasn’t a series, because I liked the ending, but I’m glad I’ll get to read more about West and Abby.

View all my reviews

 

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ARC REVIEW: Tumble & Fall by Alexandra Coutts

Tumble & Fall

by Alexandra Coutts

YA Dystopian/Contemporary

Expected publication: September 17th 2013

Book Description

The world is living in the shadow of oncoming disaster. An asteroid is set to strike the earth in just one week’s time; catastrophe is unavoidable. The question isn’t how to save the world—the question is, what to do with the time that’s left? Against this stark backdrop, three island teens wrestle with intertwining stories of love, friendship and family—all with the ultimate stakes at hand.

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MY THOUGHTS: 1 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS

Tumble & Fall by Alexandra Coutts

While this is set against the backdrop of a possible end of the world, this fact has little to do with the actual plot of the story…not that there is much of a plot. Unfortunately, the world-ending scenario was the one that drew me in to the book, so I was highly disappointed when I read half of the book and nothing of note had happened. Add this plodding storyline to a cast of characters that are vapid and hard to tell apart, and you can see why I couldn’t finish this book. I had high hopes, and sadly they did tumble and fall.

View all my reviews

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ARC REVIEW: Eats, Brains, Love by Jeff Hart

Eat, Brains, Love

by Jeff Hart

YA Horror/Zombies

Expected publication: October 1st 2013

Book Description

Two teenage zombies search for brains, love, and answers in this surprisingly romantic and laugh-out-loud funny debut novel with guts.

Jake Stephens was always an average, fly-under-the-radar guy. The kind of guy who would never catch the attention of an insanely popular girl like Amanda Blake-or a psychic teenage government agent like Cass. But one day during lunch, Jake’s whole life changed. He and Amanda suddenly locked eyes across the cafeteria, and at the exact same instant, they turned into zombies and devoured half their senior class.

Now Jake definitely has Amanda’s attention-as well as Cass’s, since she’s been sent on a top-secret mission to hunt them down. As Jake and Amanda deal with the existential guilt of eating their best friends, Cass struggles with a growing psychic dilemma of her own-one that will lead the three of them on an epic journey across the country and make them question what it means to truly be alive. Or undead.

Eat, Brains, Love is a heartwarming and bloody blend of romance, deadpan humor, and suspense that fans of Isaac Marion’s Warm Bodies will devour. With its irresistibly dry and authentic teen voice, as well as a zombie apocalypse worthy of AMC’s The Walking Dead, this irreverent paperback original will leave readers dying for the sequel that’s coming in Summer 2014.

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MY THOUGHTS: 4 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS

Eat, Brains, Love by Jeff Hart

This was definitely a fresh take on the zombie genre! No post-apocalyptic wasteland, no surviving, no hordes of undead. In fact, the zombies in the book aren’t even really dead! It’s more like…a shift, like werewolf-ish; were-zombie if you will.

The story is told from the points of view of Jake and Cass. Jake is a high school boy with not a single thing special about him, until the day he and the most popular girl in school start eating their classmates then go on the run. Cass is a sort of psychic detective, on the team tasked with bringing Jake and Amanda down. What Cass doesn’t expect is developing a crush on this guy.

It was pretty cool getting to see events from both sides of the table. It really twists what your idea of a villain might be. I liked both Jake and Cass, and kind of tolerated Amanda. I can’t really wrap my head around the way Cass’ crush developed though…they didn’t really know each other. There is kind of a love triangle feel going on that I think will definitely be further explored in the next book.

Before I started reading this book I didn’t know it was going to be the first in a series, but judging from the ending that is definitely going to need to happen. I hope we get to see more on the background of Jake and Cass; I’d like to see them interact with their families as well.

I am excited to see where this interesting new zombie series goes!

View all my reviews

 

 

Netgalley Knockout – July Check In

 

If you’re unfamiliar with the Netgalley Knockout challenge, please see the initial post HERE!
This is what I’ve read toward the challenge in the month of July:
(Wish was a paper galley I already had, Hope came from NetGalley)
(NetGalley)
(Edelweiss)
(NetGalley)
Four e-galleys, which is approximately 1 book per week…not too bad but I want August to be even better!!

 

REVIEWS: Wish and Hope by Beth Bracken & Kay Fraser

Wish

by Beth Bracken & Kay Fraser, illustrated by Odessa Sawyer

Faerieground Trilogy, Book One

Book Description

Never wish in the woods.

With one wish made in Willow Forest, Soli and Lucy are pulled into Faerieground—and into the middle of an ancient battle. In the faerie kingdom, an evil queen searches for her daughter while the palace crumbles. To save her best friend, Soli must find her hidden strength.

This is a story about friendship, growing up, and the power of wishes. This is a story about faeries and spells, queens and lost princesses, fireflies and four-leaf clovers. But mostly, this is a story about love.

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MY THOUGHTS: 3.5 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS

Wish by Beth Bracken

This is a quick but spirited middle grade read. Best friends Soli and Lucy have had a falling out, and Soli unwittingly makes her friend disappear into the realm of an evil fairy queen. To save her, Soli must find bravery within herself, and both girl learn a shocking secret.

The illustrations in this book are absolutely beautiful! I loved that they so accurately captured the characters and what was going on in the book.

Soli and Lucy are getting older, and are having a fight over a boy. They have been best friends for as long as they can remember. Events move really fast, which I’m glad of in a way, because I know this book is set for a tween/middle grade audience and you have to move fast to keep their attention.

I think girls will love this book; it’s got classic fairytale elements, cute boys, a bit of romance, and best friends. This is the first book in a series so I think there’s much ahead for Soli and Lucy!

View all my reviews

Hope

Faerieground Trilogy, Book Two

Book Description

Back in Faerieground, Soli must lead her kingdom to safety. But Lucy becomes ill, and her wellbeing is her best friend’s first priority, even if it means sacrificing the crown.

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MY THOUGHTS: 3.5 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS

Hope by Beth Bracken

This book picks up right where Wish left off. Soli has discovered she’s a real life fairy princess, and she and her best friend Lucy must travel back to the fairy kingdom to attempt to save it from those who would see it destroyed. Unfortunately for them both, Soli may be forced to make a choice that will change their friendship forever.

I liked this book just as much as the first. It’s a very fast read with gorgeous illustrations, although this sequel didn’t have as many pictures as the first book did.

The book is split between Soli and Lucy’s points of view, along with a couple of others thrown in to get the entire picture of what’s going on. I’m glad I finally got to learn the truth about the seemingly evil queen. No one was really as they seemed in this book.

Soli must decide if she’s going to leave her familiar home behind, or become the queen of the fairy people who desperately need one. The girls both have a lot of growing up to do, and I think they’re on their way.

View all my reviews

 

About the Authors

Beth Bracken is a children’s book editor. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with her husband, Steve, and their son, Sam. When she’s not reading, writing, or editing books, Beth spends most of her time knitting endlessly while watching reruns of old TV shows and drinking lots of tea. —Website

Kay Fraser is from Buenos Aires. She left home at eighteen and moved to North Dakota—basically the exact opposite of Argentina. These days, she designs books, writes, makes tea for her husband, and drives her daughters to their dance lessons. —Website

About the Illustrator

Odessa Sawyer is an illustrator from Santa Fe, New Mexico. She works mainly in digital mixed media, utilizing digital painting, photography, and traditional pen and ink. Odessa’s work has graced book covers from many top publishing houses, and she has also done work for various film and television projects, posters, and album covers. Highly influenced by fantasy, fairy tales, fashion, and classic horror, Odessa’s work celebrates a whimsical, dreamy, and vibrant quality. —Website

 

 

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REVIEW: Freakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark

Freakboy

by Kristin Elizabeth Clark

YA Contemporary/GLBTQ

Expected publication: October 22nd 2013 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) 

Book Description

From the outside, Brendan Chase seems to have it pretty easy. He’s a star wrestler, a video game aficionado, and a loving boyfriend to his seemingly perfect match, Vanessa. But on the inside, Brendan struggles to understand why his body feels so wrong—why he sometimes fantasizes having long hair, soft skin, and gentle curves. Is there even a name for guys like him? Guys who sometimes want to be girls? Or is Brendan just a freak?

In razor-sharp verse, Kristin Clark folds three narratives into one powerful story: Brendan trying to understand his sexual identity, Vanessa fighting to keep her and Brendan’s relationship alive, and Angel struggling to confront her demons.

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MY THOUGHTS: 4 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS

Freakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark

This was the first novel I’ve read in free verse, and I have to be honest, it isn’t my favorite way to read. The line breaks and shapes interrupt the flow of reading. The subtle messages aren’t so subtle. But I get it, this novel wasn’t really written for someone like me. In spite of all that, I enjoyed it.

The book is written from three different characters’ points of view. Brendan, high school jock who’s beginning to think maybe being a boy isn’t what’s right for him. His girlfriend, Vanessa, who is in love/infatuation with Brendan, to the point that she’s left all her other friends behind. And Angel, who runs a teen center in Brendan’s town, and happens to know what he’s going through, being trans herself.

The Brendan sections by far stood out the most, but I understand why we needed to hear from Vanessa too. When something as huge as your gender identity is in flux, it doesn’t only affect one person. Brendan’s whole world is changing. You can’t help but feel sorry for him, as going through something like questioning your gender is hard enough; but add in the stress of high school and it’s almost too much to handle.

This was a quick read even though it’s over 400 pages, because the pages contain so little text. I hope other kids who may be struggling with questions such as Brendan had will find solace knowing that they’re not alone. For that reason, this book needed to be written.

View all my reviews

 

About the Author

Kristin Elizabeth Clark lives and writes in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Northern California. She hikes with her dog and reads to her cats… but she’s not one of THOSE people. Really.

She has worked as a child advocate within the juvenile justice system, as a children’s theater producer, and is a proud volunteer at Project Outlet in Mountain View, California.

 

Twitter: KristinClarkYA

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