Friday, July 25, 2014

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

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

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Brad About Books: Half Bad by Sally Green

Read from October 22 to 23, 2013
Published: March 4, 2014
Publisher: Viking Juvenile (Penguin)
Format: ARC
Page Count: 416 pages
Source: Publisher in exchange for an honest review
Series: Half Life, #1

A stunning, magical debut. An international sensation.

In modern-day England, witches live alongside humans: White witches, who are good; Black witches, who are evil; and fifteen-year-old Nathan, who is both. Nathan’s father is the world’s most powerful and cruel Black witch, and his mother is dead. He is hunted from all sides. Trapped in a cage, beaten and handcuffed, Nathan must escape before his sixteenth birthday, at which point he will receive three gifts from his father and come into his own as a witch—or else he will die. But how can Nathan find his father when his every action is tracked, when there is no one safe to trust—not even family, not even the girl he loves?

In the tradition of Patrick Ness and Markus Zusak, Half Bad is a gripping tale of alienation and the indomitable will to survive, a story that will grab hold of you and not let go until the very last page.


Half Bad is a stunning, captivating tale that caught my attention from page one and held onto me until the epic finale. It's unlike anything I've ever read, and I couldn't have asked for a more action-packed, engrossing tale from this book. Loved it!

I haven't read too many witch stories, but out of all of the ones I have read, Half Bad truly stands out. Nathan's character was fantastic. With the internal struggle of leaning towards his pure side or his dark, twisted side, the reader gets to discover all sides of Nathan in this novel, both good and bad. He transforms so much from the beginning to the end, and to see his character morph and change was awesome. He starts off weak and lonely in the beginning, but Green builds him up in Half Bad and definitely isn't afraid to tear him back down. Nathan is a hero worth rooting for. He goes through so many trials in Half Bad, and I absolutely loved how Sally Green handled his character development.

World-building is so important to me in a novel, and the world of Half Bad is marvelous. The views society has on witches - and the views witches have on society - blends into the storyline perfectly, and it alters the vision that the reader sees of our modern day world. I wasn't ever sure whether I should be rooting for the witches or hating them, and I loved how Green managed to capture that sense in this novel. Half Bad is all about finding your place in the world and figuring out yourself in the loneliness of times, and it truly is a brutal, phenomenal gem that was still on my mind long after I turned the final page. Masterfully plotted and intoxicating, Half Bad is an absolute must-read.

The paranormal genre could be a tad overdone at times, but Half Bad is something unlike anything that's ever been done before, and it will capture you until the very end. From heavy action scenes of daring escapes and finding the people who have abandoned you to scenes of discovering yourself within the darkest of places, Half Bad is everything you could want in a book. I still haven't gotten over this book.

Overall, Half Bad is one of a kind, and it will have you entangled with Nathan's world with its intrigue, mystical beauty, and world of lies and betrayal. Half Bad is astonishingly fantastic!

M Y    R A T I N G

Monday, March 3, 2014

Brad About Books: The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

Read from December 16 to 19, 2013
Expected Publication Date: March 4, 2014
Publisher: FSG (Macmillan)
Format: ARC
Page Count: 355 pages
Source: Publisher in exchange for an honest review
Series: The Winner's Trilogy, #1

Winning what you want may cost you everything you love.

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions. One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. 

Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin. But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined. 

Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

There are no words to describe how fantastic that The Winner's Curse truly is. From its incredible world-building to the heartbreaking way that Rutkoski crafts together Kestrel and Arin's story in a world full of betrayal and the true price of coming out on top, The Winner's Curse is sure to revolutionize the YA genre. I adored this book. 

If you want to know how much I love The Winner's Curse, it was in the top two of my favorite reads of last year - I loved it that much. And with all the hype surrounding it, it most definitely lives up to all of its praise. The writing style is superb. I'm a huge fan of world-building, and Rutkoski does a phenomenal job of sweeping the reader into this beautiful, dark empire where nothing is as it seems and one act of rebellion can ignite a war. Rutkoski grabbed me from page one and never let me go - this book consumed everything of me while I was reading it and long after I turned the final page. If you're a huge fan of fantasy like I am, to say that The Winner's Curse is a must-read is an absolute understatement. I can't even with this amazingness that is The Winner's Curse.

"The piano, on the other hand, was a network of parts - a ship, with its strings like rigging, its a case a hull, its lifted lid a sail." -The Winner's Curse (This writing style is fantastic. Absolutely stunning.)

I connected to the characters in more of a way than I have with characters in a very long time. Kestrel is a heroine worth rooting for. She's determined and headstrong, and I loved how independent and courageous she was. Even if it meant betraying those she loved, Kestrel would do anything for her country and her heart, and I couldn't ask for her to be anymore amazing. I'm excited to see how her character will develop in the sequel! Arin, on the other hand, was so mysterious and dark - it was interesting to get an insight into his world! (His twisted world, that is) I love it when you just know that a character is up to no good, but you have that spark within you that they could be doing something for the better; Arin was that type of character. Though he and Kestrel never seemed to agree, they balanced each other out so perfectly, and I loved seeing them together throughout the story. Their bonds were definitely tested many times throughout The Winner's Curse, and Marie Rutkoski did an incredible job with these characters. Oh my gosh, THIS BOOK. There are seriously no words. Please, do yourself a favor and pick up this gem. It's a masterpiece. 

The Winner's Curse is impossible to put down. Enthralling and captivating, this novel broke my heart and had me fully engrossed in the story at all times. And with fantastic characters and one of the best world-buildings I've ever come across, it does just the trick. I can't stress enough how powerful and emotional The Winner's Curse is. From the times of secrets and betrayals lingering all around Kestrel's world to the times of silence when its just Kestrel with the only thing she can ever truly love, The Winner's Curse is sure  to have you on the edge of your seat until the explosive, fantastic finale.

Overall, The Winner's Curse is hands down one of my favorite books of all time. Incredibly thought-out and smart in the ways that it portrays society and the true cost of winning, The Winner's Curse is spectacular.

M Y     R A T I N G

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Brad About Books: Tsarina by J. Nelle Patrick

Expected Publication Date: February 27, 2014
Publisher: Razorbill (Penguin)
Format: ARC
Page Count: 331 pages
Source: Publisher in exchange for an honest review

Natalya knows a secret.

A magical Faberge egg glows within the walls of Russia's Winter Palace.

It holds a power rooted in the land and stolen from the mystics.

A power that promises a life of love for her and Alexei Romanov.

Power, that, in the right hands, can save her way of life.

But it's not in the right hands.

Tsarina is a fast-paced, marvelously crafted story of the true competition for power and the bonds of love severing eternally. I adored this book. 

Jackson Pearce (writing as J. Nelle Patrick) is one of my all-time favorite authors, and I was very excited to see how she would take on a historical magic novel! And, just as I expected, she did not disappoint. Tsarina is unlike anything I have ever read. Combing Russian fantasy with a world of possibilities inside Natalya's hands, Tsarina is the kind of book that kept me up late into the night, turning pages as fast as I could. I was swept away by Natalya's world and her dilemmas, and believe me, these dilemmas are insane. There is never a dull moment in this novel. From betrayal and backstabbing to torn-apart hearts in a country full of war and desire, Tsarina is ultimately a shining gem that shouldn't be missed!

I've always liked the phrase "a world of possibilities in your hands", but I never thought into what it could truly mean and the price it can cost you - I just loved how Tsarina actually took this idea, spun it around, and created such a beautiful, deceptive world that Natalya must keep a firm grip on. World-building is everything to me in a novel, and Tsarina has a one of a kind, dark, and awesome world. While being heartbreaking and epic all at the same time, Tsarina is also so unique. I can't get over how awesome this book was. Power and control clash together, and Patrick does a remarkable job with combing both love and deception. 

The best part about Tsarina? It's never predictable. If I even guessed for a second the direction it would take, it would completely flip my world upside down. Fast-paced, energetic, and highly addictive, Tsarina is a masterful, remarkable story that is both equally powerful and fantastic. Tsarina is sure to be a big hit! A new favorite of mine, for sure!

Overall, Tsarina is such a fast-paced ride, it's impossible to put down! Phenomenal in every sense of the word - Tsarina is one of the best fantasies I've ever read!

M Y    R A T I N G

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Brad About Books: Cress by Marissa Meyer

Read from June 30 to July 1, 2013
Expected Publication Date: February 4, 2014
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends (Macmillan)
Format: ARC
Page Count: 560 pages
Source: ALA
Series: The Lunar Chronicles, #3

This review is entirely spoiler free, even if you haven't started this series (which, if you haven't, what are you doing? GET ON THAT.)

Read my reviews for previous novels in this series:

First off, let me say that the Lunar Chronicles is one of my favorite series ever. Guys, I'm talking near the top of the list. It's insanely fantastic. And Cress? It did not disappoint by any means. Everything I could have wanted from Cress was delivered on a shining platter - I can't rave about this book enough. Cress not only proves that Meyer's is a marvelous storyteller, it also shows how daring and far she took this story to make it her own. Cress is phenomenal in every sense of the word.

I have loved this series since day one, and I was so excited to dive into Cress. Cinder and Scarlet and the rest of the gang are back in this third installment, but of course, we are introduced to our new heroine, Cress. Cress is unlike any kind of protagonist I've ever read about. She's smart, clever, and cunning, yet she is hollow inside. It was so awesome to see the compare and contrast of those elements within Cress, and I absolutely adored her character. In fact, I think she's my favorite out of the three (soon to be four) thus far. I also loved how characters who were somewhat important in Cinder and Scarlet became VERY important in Cress. Each character has a vital role in the series, and Meyer definitely uses all of her characters and puts them to the test. All the characters evolve in one way or another in Cress, and I absolutely fell in love with this book. This is easily one of my favorite books ever

Speaking of putting characters to the test, wow. Marissa Meyer definitely wasn't afraid to have a little fun with her characters! The stakes are raised so high in Cress, and the characters are pushed past their limits - to see some characters either make it or break it was thrilling, and I couldn't put this beast of a book down. The Lunar Chronicles contains my favorite villain ever: Queen Levana. You don't even understand how much I love Queen Levana. She's so wickedly cruel, and Cress shined new light on her... I hate to love her, but I love to hate her! And thank goodness Cress wasn't a damsel in distress like how, in my opinion, the original Rapunzel is. She could do things for herself and speak her mind, and I loved that she wasn't your typical heroine. In fact, she's anything but typical. These characters are truly stunning. Honestly, I just loved everything about this third book. This series keeps getting better and better!

It is completely impossible to put this novel down. Though it looks like a monster, Meyer sweeps the reader up and entangles them in the world of Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, and to see the three heroines all join forces was exceptional. Right from page one, I was sucked into the book, and I couldn't put it down. From its fast-paced climatic moments to its revealing-secrets-cliffhangers that kill me inside, Cress has it all. Absorbing and enthralling, Cress is sure to knock you off your feet. One word: amazing. Another word: phenomenal.

Overall, Cress has still left its mark on me. A one of a kind gem full of action, mystery, and the perfect amount of romance and sci-fi mixed in with it. That ending killed me. I can't wait to see how it all concludes!

M Y    R A T I N G

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Brad About Books: Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

Read from October 19 to 21, 2013
Expected Publication Date: February 11, 2014
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile (Penguin)
Format: ARC
Page Count: 388 pages
Source: Publisher in exchange for an honest review

Sixteen-year-old Austin Szerba interweaves the story of his Polish legacy with the story of how he and his best friend , Robby, brought about the end of humanity and the rise of an army of unstoppable, six-foot tall praying mantises in small-town Iowa.

To make matters worse, Austin's hormones are totally oblivious; they don't care that the world is in utter chaos: Austin is in love with his girlfriend, Shann, but remains confused about his sexual orientation. He's stewing in a self-professed constant state of maximum horniness, directed at both Robby and Shann. Ultimately, it's up to Austin to save the world and propagate the species in this sci-fright journey of survival and the complex realities of the human condition.

Grasshopper Jungle is truly a one of a kind gem that shouldn't be missed. With marvelous characters and superb, masterful writing, Grasshopper Jungle is easily one of the most thought-provoking and incredible novels I have ever read. 

You will never find a book like Grasshopper Jungle, in both the sense of the plot and of the brilliant way it was crafted together by Smith. As Austin and Robby unleash the end of the world in their small Iowa town, they both discover themselves along the way while trying to save humanity. What I really loved about Grasshopper Jungle was how it never always focused on the danger at hand - there are many scenes where the characters are just sitting around, discussing life and the things pertaining to them at the time, and it fit the characters perfectly. They're misfits and they don't always have the right answers. How Smith weaved together Austin, Shann, and Robby's character and developed them even further blew me away. Grasshopper Jungle is an absolute must-read!

Andrew Smith has a fantastic writing style. He was able to manage to weave two stories - the story of the end of the world and the story of Austin's family legacy - and intertwine them together to make them one bigger, epic story, without shadowing or taking away from one or the other. Grasshopper Jungle will forever change the way you view the misfits that surround you; whether it's for the better or for the worse, they're always changing in ways never noticeable unless you become entwined with their world. Smith has created a genius, mind-bending story that packs an epic punch and leaves its mark. 

From Austin trying to discover his place in the world to the best friend relationship the characters share, Grasshopper Jungle shares a true perspective of what it means to be lost in a world full of possibilities. It's smart, it's dynamic, it's enthralling, it's phenomenal. Grasshopper Jungle will not only consume your mind - it will be the only thing you think about, long after the final page has been turned. Grasshopper Jungle is truly remarkable.

Overall, Grasshopper Jungle is a dazzling, heart-pounding read that has left a mark on me and captivated me from start to finish. Spectacular!

M Y    R A T I N G

Friday, January 24, 2014

Brad About Books: Landry Park by Bethany Hagen

Read from October 27 to 29, 2013
Expected Publication Date: February 4, 2014
Publisher: Dial (Penguin)
Format: ARC
Page Count: 374 pages
Source: Publisher in exchange for an honest review
Series: Landry Park, #1

Downton Abbey meets The Selection in this dystopian tale of love and betrayal.

In a fragmented future United States ruled by the lavish gentry, seventeen-year-old Madeline Landry dreams of going to the university. Unfortunately, gentry decorum and her domineering father won't allow that. Madeline must marry, like a good Landry woman, and run the family estate. But her world is turned upside down when she discovers the devastating consequences her lifestyle is having on those less fortunate. As Madeline begins to question everything she has ever learned, she finds herself increasingly drawn to handsome, beguiling David Dana. Soon, rumors of war and rebellion start to spread, and Madeline finds herself and David at the center of it all. Ultimately, she must make a choice between duty - her family and the estate she loves dearly - and desire.

Landry Park is a beautiful, enchanting read that drew me in right from the beginning, and with the way that Hagen crafted the world of Landry Park of stunning characters and exceptional writing, it was impossible to put it down. Landry Park is truly one of a kind.

Are you getting sick and tired of the dystopian genre? Landry Park is sure to change your mind about that. Instead of building a future that's unlike anything in our present day world, Hagen draws from the past and how a torn United States quickly becomes like that in the old age. It was so unique to see this play on dystopian, and it's one of the many reasons why Landry Park stands out to me. From the elegance of the land and the proper manners to the scandal and betrayal happening behind the scenes, Landry Park makes its mark ever so gracefully and standout-worthy. Even though I read this book months ago, it's still on my mind. Landry Park is wickedly marvelous!

Madeline is such a strong, fantastic protagonist. She doesn't want to follow the rules set by her land, and she won't let her freedom be taken from her. With war brewing in the land, Madeline has a whirlwind of adventure on her hands, and the way that Hagen executes this adventure was incredible. There is never a dull moment in Landry Park. It's so vivacious, dark, and contagious - it's truly impossible to stop reading Landry Park. The world-building will have you caught up in Madeline and Landry Park, the writing will carry you away with the love and war stirring in the land, and the characters will make you head over heels fall in love with everything about this gem. I cannot stress enough how much I adored this book. I need the sequel so bad!

Can we just talk about the fact that Bethany Hagen is a master of suspense? Honestly, I had no idea what to expect while reading Landry Park. There are so many masterful and unique elements thrown into the novel that I totally didn't see coming, and they weren't the kind of plot twists thrown in for the sake of shocking the reader - they moved the story along and benefited it greatly. Landry Park will shake you, captivate you, and leave you wanting more long after the final page has been turned.

Overall, I loved Landry Park so much. With phenomenal world-building and one of a kind characters (plus an ending I never saw coming, and once I read it, my jaw literally fell open), Landry Park will blow you away.

M Y   R A T I N G

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Brad About Books: Something Real by Heather Demetrios

Read on January 24, 2014
Expected Publication Date: February 4, 2014
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (Macmillan)
Format: ARC
Page Count: 403 pages
Source: Publisher in exchange for an honest review

Winner of the 2012 PEN New England Discovery Award!

There’s nothing real about reality TV.

Seventeen-year-old Bonnie™ Baker has grown up on TV—she and her twelve siblings are the stars of one-time hit reality show Baker’s Dozen. Since the show’s cancellation and the scandal surrounding it, Bonnie™ has tried to live a normal life, under the radar and out of the spotlight. But it’s about to fall apart…because Baker’s Dozen is going back on the air. Bonnie™’s mom and the show’s producers won’t let her quit and soon the life she has so carefully built for herself, with real friends (and maybe even a real boyfriend), is in danger of being destroyed by the show. Bonnie™ needs to do something drastic if her life is ever going to be her own—even if it means being more exposed than ever before.

Something Real is a captivating, tantalizing read that had me hooked from the beginning and never let me go. Everything about this book is raw, unique, and real.

I'm going to start off this review with a bang with what I loved most: the brother-sister relationship between Bonnie and Benny. They fight and argue, but they also get along and complement each other so well. Bonnie and Benny are definitely some of my favorite siblings I've ever read about. Actually, all of the characters in Something Real are incredible! There's so many brothers and sisters to keep track of, but Demetrios does an exceptional job at making their character relevant to the family and Bonnie. Characters are a very important part of a book for me, and the characters in Something Real are stunning. 

Something Real provides such a fresh, interesting story - it was so hard to put down! Reality shows are somewhat of a guilty pleasure for me, but reading it through the eyes of someone who doesn't want to be apart of exposing their life for the world to see was marvelous. How the story was set up - exposing Bonnie's secret public identity to filming the show - was truly one of a kind, and Something Real is really something special. I think that Something Real is perfect for fans who don't usually read contemporaries. Something Real has it all: wonderful characters, phenomenal writing, and a story that will enthrall you and engross you. 

Something Real will definitely pull at your heartstrings. The emotions and the struggles that Bonnie faces (both in the eye of the public and her inner self) make you root for her and cheer her one, but it connects you to her in a way that I've never seen done before. I connected to Bonnie instantly, and she has remained to be a favorite heroine of mine. Something Real is truly a must-read!

Overall, Something Real is a beautiful, radiant read that is equally both wonderful and pulsing with great characters. Loved it!

M Y    R A T I N G

Friday, January 3, 2014

Brad About Books: The Rule of Three by Eric Walters

Read from November 24 to 26, 2013
Expected Publication Date: January 21, 2014
Publisher: FSG (Macmillan)
Format: ARC
Page Count: 405 pages
Source: Publisher in exchange for an honest review

One shocking afternoon, computers around the globe shut down in a viral catastrophe. At sixteen-year-old Adam Daley’s high school, the problem first seems to be a typical electrical outage, until students discover that cell phones are down, municipal utilities are failing, and a few computer-free cars like Adam’s are the only vehicles that function. Driving home, Adam encounters a storm tide of anger and fear as the region becomes paralyzed. Soon—as resources dwindle, crises mount, and chaos descends—he will see his suburban neighborhood band together for protection. And Adam will understand that having a police captain for a mother and a retired government spy living next door are not just the facts of his life but the keys to his survival, in The Rule of Three by Eric Walters.

The Rule of Three is unlike any other disaster story you will ever read! Unlike many in its genre, The Rule of Three bends the circumstances and focuses more on the regrowth of the world (with the rebels and trouble here and there) than putting its point of view more on the downfall of the world. I loved how unique this book was.

I've read many disaster stories but none quite like this one. The Rule of Three starts off casually, but Eric Walters doesn't leave the reader in the slow build up for long. Within at least fifteen pages of The Rule of Three, action is flying off the page, and it's impossible not to be absorbed into this world. Darkness is ruling over everything, and Adam is having to fight and struggle to live in this world. Our world is now entirely built on technology (and I admit that I am very addicted and hooked on technology), but it was such a cool spin to see the downfall of technology and how our generation has to rebuild the world by using methods that our generation doesn't practice that much anymore (planting crops, creating a fort for survival, etc.), and it really makes for a great, engaging story. The Rule of Three is unlike anything you will ever read!

Catastrophe lurks everywhere in The Rule of Three, and Walters did a stunning job with it. Most disaster stories have a climatic, foreshadowing feeling to them, but I have to say, I didn't feel that with the writing of The Rule of Three - and I really appreciated that it was different! I couldn't ever predict what was going to happen next, because if I would predict, Walters would throw something huge and unexpected into the story. Traveling with Adam and his mom through this perilous strike was so interesting and enthralling, and I loved how The Rule of Three was able to create a story that is both equally epic and dark. 

Adam is such a cool protagonist. What I liked most about his character was how he didn't always have the answers. He had to rely on others to manage during this shutdown, and to rebuild something, I believe that's what you to do. The relationship between all the characters felt authentic, and they proved to be a strong team together. If I had only one complaint about The Rule of Three, it would have to be the somewhat lacking middle. I felt that not a lot pushed the story along in the middle except for the characters, but by the end, the action was intense.

Overall, The Rule of Three is a marvelous, original story that will shock you, stun you, and hold you in its clutches until the awesome, mind-blowing finale. Irresistible!

M Y    R A T I N G