Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Sycamore by Bryn Chancellor

Title: Sycamore
Author: Bryn Chancellor 
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Series: N/A

Hardcover, 336 Pages
Publication: May 9, 2017 by Harper

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for a honest review.

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Out for a hike one scorching afternoon in Sycamore, Arizona, a newcomer to town stumbles across what appear to be human remains embedded in the wall of a dry desert ravine. As news of the discovery makes its way around town, Sycamore’s longtime residents fear the bones may belong to Jess Winters, the teenage girl who disappeared suddenly some eighteen years earlier, an unsolved mystery that has soaked into the porous rock of the town and haunted it ever since. In the days it takes the authorities to make an identification, the residents rekindle stories, rumors, and recollections both painful and poignant as they revisit Jess’s troubled history. In resurrecting the past, the people of Sycamore will find clarity, unexpected possibility, and a way forward for their lives.

Skillfully interweaving multiple points of view, Bryn Chancellor knowingly maps the bloodlines of a community and the indelible characters at its heart—most notably Jess Winters, a thoughtful, promising adolescent poised on the threshold of adulthood. Evocative and atmospheric, 
Sycamore is a coming-of-age story, a mystery, and a moving exploration of the elemental forces that drive human nature—desire, loneliness, grief, love, forgiveness, and hope—as witnessed through the inhabitants of one small Arizona town. 


Every year there comes one book. One book that is surprising, brilliant, captivating, unputdownable and a must read of the year. And while I’ve read plenty of great novels this year, Sycamore is without a doubt the must read book of 2017. Sycamore is a complex, multifaceted mystery centered around a small town and the disappearance of Jess Winters, a teenager that went missing eighteen years earlier, in the winter of 1991.

With the discovery of bones, Chancellor takes readers on a dark, poignant look at adulthood and the life of adolescence. The book is narrated by an amazing cast of realistic and intriguing characters alternating between the past and present. The past is narrated by none-other then our girl, Jess Winters. We learn of her life upon arriving to Sycamore and all the way up to the day she disappeared. The present is narrated by everyone that knew Jess and who were affected by her one way or another and the newcomer that discovered the mystery set of bones while on a hike; which may or may not be of Jess Winters, the girl that has haunted the town over the years.

I know this is repetitive, me saying this, but I am not a fan of multiple narration. And Sycamore is full of multiple narration. However, I thought it fit this book perfectly. It just worked, and I honestly cannot see it any other way. We got a through and in-depth look at each and everyone’s life, how everyone was before Jess disappeared and after. We got to see first hand, at what one supposedly harmless secret can do; and how it can trigger a chain reaction that those caught in the cross-hair can feel the consequences years down the road. Chancellor’s writing captivated me from the first page and I was on pins and needles as the mystery unfolded till the very end. As the saying goes ‘though all good thing comes to an end’ but I didn’t want the story to be over. I just wanted to soak myself into the story.

The mystery was never much a mystery. But that didn’t stop me from wanting to know how everything played out. The real mystery and best part of the book were the characters that Chancellor so expertly described and brought to life. All the characters had their own distinct voice. I truly felt as if I could see, experience and feel what they felt. The real mystery was the inhabitants of Sycamore. At the start of the book, we see everyone as a relationship to Jess. Dani, Jess’s best friend, Paul, Jess’s boss’s son, Maud, Jess’s mom etc. As the story developed, we saw past everyone’s appearance and labels, to see that everyone had their own secrets, fears, doubts, hopes and dreams…just like Jess had.

The mystery of Sycamore and Jess Winters will pique your interest, but the characters will make you stay. Chancellor’s debut is truly magnificent and the writing is lyrical and poetic. If you can read one book this year, let it be Sycamore. Seriously, pick this book up now, you won’t regret it. Even if you’re not really a fan of mystery or suspense, this book will certainly change that. I absolutely loved Sycamore, it is a literary masterpiece and I know for certain that this book will stay with me for a very long, long time.



Friday, May 05, 2017

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Title: Everything, Everything
Author: Nicola Yoon
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Young Adult
Series: N/A

Hardcover, 310 pages
Publication: September 1, 2015 by Delacorte BFYR

Source: Personal Library. 

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My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years.

The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.
 


I think everyone has read Everything, Everything. It’s been on everyone’s must read list, top ten list, top five and of course, the New York Time’s Bestseller List. It’s been two years since it’s release and I never got around to reading it. Until I saw the trailer for the movie. I thought the trailer looked really cute and wanted to read the book before watching the movie. And yup, the book was cute.

My favorite part of the story was the beginning of Maddy and Olly’s relationship. It was new, exciting and adorable. But it wasn’t all lovey dovey all the time. It’s safe to say, since I’m positive everyone has read the book, that Maddy gets sick after her brief runaway to Hawaii. I didn’t like how she automatically shut olly out after coming home from Hawaii. She broke so many rules and risked her life...why not go the extra mile? why retreat back behind her walls and shut him out like he never existed? I found her dismissal of him vexing. The book was also fairly short, and made shorter with the email/messaging and drawing. Most people enjoy that type of format and the cute drawings but I honestly wasn’t a fan of it. I skipped most of the drawing/explanation. Cute but not needed.

Everything, Everything
overall was very well written and as I said cute. But the themes and plot has been done before, nothing new or groundbreaking here. With the hype it got and the big movie set to premiere in two weeks…I was expecting a lot more. I was expecting to be wowed. Bottom line, Everything, Everything is a good story that follows a predicable formula and had a happy satisfied ending. While I didn’t love it as I hoped, I think others will enjoy it more than me. I’d still recommend it, but I think there are better Contemporary Young Adult novels out there.

* I had a chance to view an early screening of Everything, Everything. It was cute and I thought the actors chosen were great. But the movie itself was very choppy and rushed. And in the case of which was better? The book certainly win
s.




Monday, May 01, 2017

Midnight Taxi Tango by Daniel José Older

Title: Midnight Taxi Tango
Author:  
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Bone Street Rumba # 2

Mass Market Paperback, 319 Pages
Publication: January 5, 2016 by Roc

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for a honest review.

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The streets of New York are hungry tonight...

 Carlos Delacruz straddles the line between the living and the not-so alive. As an agent for the Council of the Dead, he eliminates New York’s ghostlier problems. This time it’s a string of gruesome paranormal accidents in Brooklyn’s Von King Park that has already taken the lives of several locals—and is bound to take more.  

The incidents in the park have put Kia on edge. When she first met Carlos, he was the weird guy who came to Baba Eddie's botánica, where she worked. But the closer they’ve gotten, the more she’s seeing the world from Carlos’s point of view. In fact, she’s starting to see ghosts. And the situation is far more sinister than that—because whatever is bringing out the dead, it’s only just getting started.


Midnight Taxi Tango, is the second installment in the Bone Street Rumba series and it was even better than the first book! Two things I’ve come to learn reading Older’s work is that it will never disappoint and always expect the unexpected. Many of the Urban Fantasy novels I’ve read are of the same variety and too similar to one another. However with the Bone Street Rumba series, It’s a breath of fresh air and I love all the unexpected twist and turns. In HRB, Carlos and his team had to deal with a powerful sorcerer and creepy, bike riding ngks that permanently destroyed spirits. And in MTT, we had blattodeon men lurking at every corner, and once again, Carlos is brought in to investigate a random string of murders that took place in Von King Park…which turned out not to be so random after all.

This series is full of eclectic and diverse characters, so I was surprisingly happy to see that this time around, Older utilized multiple POVs. I say surprising because I’m usually not a fan of them. Not only did this showcase others’ perspective/background but we also saw an in-depth look at Brooklyn from someone other than Carlos. Which I was glad for because Carlos was still devastated about Sasha leaving. And at the best of times he was still kind of melancholy and incoherent. In addition to Carlos’s POV, we had Kia, a teen that worked at Baba Eddie’s shop and a bad-ass lady name Reza.

Readers met Kia Briefly in HRB, a street savvy sixteen-year-old and manager of Baba Eddie’s Botánica. Kia is smart, headstrong and outspoken. Kia is very independent and I like that she does whatever she wants. Sometimes I forget she’s a teenager. Kia has a lot of personality, and people will either take to her or find her completely unappealing. I’m obviously in the former category. Kia is certainly not like the typical teenager most people read about. Also somewhat ironic, since she is as realistic as it gets. And Older did a great job of capturing teenage youth and angst. Reza is a new character that readers will meet in MTT. She’s like a lady version of Carlos, but probably a little more unforgiving. She’s a tough as nail, blunt, fearless and has the take-no-prisoner- attitude. Literally. Any one that messes with her and her crew is likely gonna eat a bullet. No joke. She is scary awesome. Besides loving the two new fierce ladies POVs, Kia BFF Karina was a freaking hoot. I absolutely loved all the scenes with Karina.

Midnight Taxi Tango
was a great squeal, especially with the world and characters firmly introduced and grounded in the first novel. There was a lot more action this time around and the dialogue had me laughing constantly. If you haven’t checked out the Bone Street Rumba series, then you need to run to the nearest bookstore/site and get it ASAP. This series doesn’t get as much attention as it should, it’s truly a hidden gem when it comes to the Urban Fantasy genre. Older has become an auto-buy, shelf keeper author and I can’t wait to see what you comes up with next.



Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Roar by Cora Carmack Preorder Offer +Giveaway



ATTENTION CARMACK FANS, FANTASY FANS! Roar by Cora Carmack, the first novel in the Stormheart series hits shelves and E-Readers on June 13, 2017. If you pre-order the book now you can receive a beautiful, one-of-a-kind Skyfire pendant and Stormheart Chart in a cloth bag!

Feast your eyes on the loot below! Exclusively for pre-orders only (while supplies last)!





Pre-order your copy of Roar and submit your receipt here to receive a special swag bag. 
*The link will also give you an option of various booksellers to choose from.



ABOUT THE BOOK


Stormheart # 1
Publication: June 17, 2017 by Tor Teen
Hardcover, 384 Pages

In a land ruled and shaped by violent magical storms, power lies with those who control them.

Aurora Pavan comes from one of the oldest Stormling families in existence. Long ago, the ungifted pledged fealty and service to her family in exchange for safe haven, and a kingdom was carved out from the wildlands and sustained by magic capable of repelling the world’s deadliest foes. As the sole heir of Pavan, Aurora's been groomed to be the perfect queen. But she’s yet to show any trace of the magic she’ll need to protect her people.

To keep her secret and save her crown, Aurora’s mother arranges for her to marry a dark and brooding Stormling prince from another kingdom. At first, the prince seems like the perfect solution to all her problems. He’ll guarantee her spot as the next queen and be the champion her people need to remain safe. But the more secrets Aurora uncovers about him, the more a future with him frightens her. When she dons a disguise and sneaks out of the palace one night to spy on him, she stumbles upon a black market dealing in the very thing she lacks—storm magic. And the people selling it? They’re not Stormlings. They’re storm hunters.

Legend says that her ancestors first gained their magic by facing a storm and stealing part of its essence. And when a handsome young storm hunter reveals he was born without magic, but possesses it now, Aurora realizes there’s a third option for her future besides ruin or marriage. 
She might not have magic now, but she can steal it if she’s brave enough. 

Challenge a tempest. Survive it. And you become its master.







ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Cora Carmack is a twenty-something writer who likes to write about twenty-something characters. She's done a multitude of things in her life-- boring jobs (like working retail), Fun jobs (like working in a theatre), stressful jobs (like teaching), and dream jobs (like writing). She enjoys placing her characters in the most awkward situations possible, and then trying to help them get a boyfriend out of it. Awkward people need love, too. She is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Losing It series.  (Via Goodreads)












Thanks to the awesome folks at Tor, I have one Coloring Map/Poster (double sided) to give away to one lucky reader! To enter, leave a comment on this post on why you want to read ROAR!

US ONLY.
Ends on 5/2/17.








Thursday, April 20, 2017

Royally Roma by Teri Wilson

Title: Royally Roma
Author: Teri Wilson
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Series:The Royals Vol. 1

Ebook, 251 pages
Publication: March 27, 2017 by Pocket Star

Source: I received a review  copy from the publisher in exchange for a honest review.

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In this charming, modern retelling of the classic Audrey Hepburn film Roman Holiday, a royal prince tries to escape his hectic and rigid life and ends up leading a young graduate student on a chase through the Eternal City.

Julia Costa is too busy trying to complete her PhD while also holding down a full-time job as a private tour guide in Rome to keep up with celebrity gossip. So when she crosses paths with a real, actual prince, she mistakes him for a client and takes him on a daylong tour of the

Intrigued by the idea of spending time with someone who obviously has no idea who he is, and delighted at the prospect of a day free of royal obligations, Niccolo La Torre, Crown Prince of Lazaretto, acts on impulse and assumes the role of Julia’s client. He swears to himself that he’ll return to his royal duties after only half a day…but he’s having the time of his life.

Until Julia presents him with the bill. Since he snuck out of the hotel without so much as a dime, he tries to escape, only to discover that she won’t let him out of her sight until he can pay her back. She’s determined to get her money…and perhaps more from the handsome stranger she’s fallen for.

I’m a sucker for anything related to royalty, whether it be Princes, Princesses or sprawling castles. Which was exactly why I wanted to read Royally Roma, where girl meets boy, a boy who happens to be hiding the fact that he’s the Crown Prince of Lazaretto. All Nico wants in life is to be normal and be rid of his responsibilities, or at least the responsibilities of cleaning up other people’s messes. So when Julia, a tour guide mistaken him as her client, Nico doesn’t correct her on the assumption; and instead he goes on the tour and pretends to be ordinary for a day or two.

I thought the author did an amazing job at capturing the beauty of Rome, I definitely felt like I was there, and hopefully I’d get to see the Coliseum or the Trevi Fountain one day in real life. As for the main characters, they gave me mix feelings. There were times that I found Julia and Nico endearing and other times they drove me nuts. I also didn’t like the whole insta-love lust thing that was going on. It didn’t feel real or genuine. Can anyone truly say that they love someone after 48 hours? I don’t think so. Forgoing the reality of it all, I was able to find the majority of the book enjoyable.

The concept of Royally Roma has been done before, many times over. Which is totally fine as long as you’re not expecting anything new or different. Which I wasn’t. Have you ever seen the movie The Prince and me, Ella Enchanted or The Princess Diaries? If you enjoy those movies, then you’ll certainly like Royally Roma. I happened to adore those movies.(I just realized they're all children movies lol). I found Royally Roma to be in the same vein as those films, except this would be Rated R. Royally Roma was cute, fun, romantic and a quick escape...the perfect brain candy! 




 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Bang by Barry Lyga

Title: Bang
Author: Barry Lyga
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult
Series: N/A

Hardcover, 304 pages
Publication: April 18, 2017 by Little Brown BFYR

Source: I received a review copy from Saichek Publicity/Publisher in exchange for a honest review.

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A chunk of old memory, adrift in a pool of blood.

Sebastian Cody did something horrible, something no one--not even Sebastian himself--can forgive. At the age of four, he accidentally shot and killed his infant sister with his father's gun.

Now, ten years later, Sebastian has lived with the guilt and horror for his entire life. With his best friend away for the summer, Sebastian has only a new friend--Aneesa--to distract him from his darkest thoughts. But even this relationship cannot blunt the pain of his past. Because Sebastian knows exactly how to rectify his childhood crime and sanctify his past. It took a gun to get him into this.

Now he needs a gun to get out. 
  
Contemporaries aren’t usually my thing, let along a novel about gun violence. Gun violence involving children. However, the synopsis had me intrigued and for years now, I’ve been hearing amazing things about Lyga and since I haven’t read any of his work; I thought his new novel would be the perfect introduction. And I am so glad that I read Bang, it was so much better than I expected.

Bang dealt with a lot of serious issues, from gun violence, suicide to prejudice. I was a bit surprised, it was a lot for one book. But Lyga handled it and incorporated them seamlessly into the story. All of these issues could be seen pretty much every day in the news, it’s sad how relevant Bang is. And Lyga isn’t afraid to tackle these topic, instead he masterfully shines a spotlight on them and pushes it to the forefront. We always hear about these type of stories, or at least what’s in the news. But we rarely see the aftermath. How it affects the family. What the person at the center of it all thought, is thinking and how it affected their life. The perception of it all from family members to strangers looking in. A lot of questions one may have are left unanswered. But now, Lyga give readers an in-depth, raw look at a theoretical family. And what we see is that beneath the headlines, there’s feelings of guilt, betrayal, pain, hate, grief, loss and the inability, struggle to move on. That you can never forget or erase it.

I thought Lyga did an excellent job at capturing the realness of it all. It was raw, in your face, truthful, and necessary. As I read Bang, my heart was breaking for Sebastian and the weighted guilt he’s been carrying since he was four. I wish I could reach out to him and tell him it wasn’t his fault, it was never his fault…he was only a toddler! On top of Sebastian’s heavy burden, he was unable to speak about it because it would cause mental and physical pain, and his mom kept changing the subject every time he tried. He was constantly judged and ridiculed by people and his peers…saying he was a sister/baby killer. All of this kept reinforcing Sebastian’s plan to kill himself, because he believed that he didn’t deserve any happiness, that he didn’t deserve to live. I’ve never cried so much. I felt so sad for Sebastian, no one should have to feel like this or go through it alone. Then there’s prejudice which is very much well and alive today. We see the issue of prejudice play out and directed at Sebastian new neighbor and friend Aneesa. Anessa is a smart, funny and sweet girl and she happens to be Muslim. Anessa automatically gets judged because of the color of her skin and for wearing a hijab. People made racist comments online and at school behind her back and yet she never let it bring her down. I loved Anessa and how unapologetic and true she was. She didn’t let anyone’s words make her feel less than herself and she certainly didn’t let them dictate how she lived her life. Anessa rocked!

Everyone should read Bang. The issues brought up are extremely important and perfectly portrayed. The writing was superb, bordering poetic and lyrical (there’s truly something special about Lyga’s writing, can’t put my finger on it though but regardless…I love it!). And lastly, the characters. Although this is a fairly short novel, I immediately connected with everyone; everyone was very well developed and realistic, like people I would know or would be friends with. I highly, highly recommend Bang, it’s definitely one of the must read books of 2017!



Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Third Book of Ore: Blaze of Embers by Cam Baity & Benny Zelkowicz

Title: Blaze of Embers
Author: Cam Baity & Benny Zelkowicz
Genre: Scifi Fantasy
Series: The Books of Ore #3

E-book, 313 Pages
Publication: April 11, 2017 by Disney Hyperion

Source: I received a review copy from Saichek Publicity/Publisher in exchange for a honest review.

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Phoebe Plumm and Micah Tanner are no longer the spoiled heiress and naïve servant boy who first stumbled upon the fiercely beautiful world of living metal known as Mehk. They have rallied to aid the mehkans and risked their lives fighting the relentless greed of the Foundry, a corporation that harvests the metal creatures to sell as products back home in Meridian. But the kids' mission to retrieve a mysterious relic ended in devastating tragedy and with Micah as a prisoner of the enemy. Shattered, he can only watch as an unthinkable new power rises in Mehk and international war erupts in Meridian. Trapped between the Foundry and this staggering mehkan threat, Micah has no choice but to work with dangerous humans and mehkans alike, each with their own agenda. As the path of destruction spreads and hope fades, Micah leads his unlikely allies in a desperate race back to Meridian, where the two worlds are about to clash. A terrible reckoning is underway, and this time, everything is at stake.


It’s as if I’ve never left the city of Mehk and Albright, jumping into a Blaze of Embers felt like coming home after a long vacation and everything just felt right and familiar. In the third and final installment of The Books of Ore series, we find Micah as a prisoner of the Foundry being interrogated by Goodwin and his goons until chaos erupts in Albright City during The President’s speech. A missile struck the heart of the city and everything went up in a plume of smoke and flames; igniting a war that’s been brewing since the discovery of Mehk between the humans and machines.

Before I get to the gist of the story, it’s important to remember a crucial character died at the end of book two and this is where I warn those who haven’t read it to stop reading the review! If anyone is reading beyond the explanation point, it’s all on you. So, for those that follow the series knows that Phoebe died by Goodwin’s hand after being betrayed by Mr. Pynch. However, hearing tales of The Shroud, Makina’s home, and where the Mehkans go after death Micah escapes during the explosion and makes the strenuous journey in search of the fabled place. To his amazement, not only was the place real, the inhabitants, Uaxtu were able to bring Phoebe back to life with their magical seed/essence of The Shroud. Together again, Micah and Phoebe set out to save their city and Mehk, the city they’ve come to love.

This is definitely my favorite installment of the series, there was an abundance of action and surprise at every corner. Good guys turned out to be the bad guys. And the people we thought were villains didn’t seem as malevolent when the truth came out. Although this is a Middle Grade novel, I felt that an aspect of the novel was eerily relevant to the world right now. Whether the authors intended it or not, I saw it that way. The action of the few, the Foundry leaders and Ona, as the Makina’s voice and prophet dictated the consequences of the many. The humans in Albright and Meridan, especially who were clueless to the Mehkan’s existent did not want war. The Mehkans didn’t want war, just that their world be left alone. However, The Foundry wanted only what benefited them. Which was War. War, because it was profitable. It didn’t matter who died or got caught in the crossfire. As for the Ona, she was full of hate and wanted revenge on all humans and used Makina as a Slave, a puppet, to rile up the Mehkans to do her bidding under false pretense. Thus the attack on Albright City and it’s citizens. Doesn’t this sound like something happening now? I certainly think so. Many Children novels deal with real, serious issues but I think this is the only second time I’ve read something along these lines (1% vs. 99%, War happens only for profit) in Tween/Teen novels. Which is pretty cool. Fortunately, in books there are happy ending and by finding a commonality between the humans and the Mehkans; they were able to work together to fight the real baddies and bring peace to both of their people.

I loved seeing how everyone’ bond grew over the course of the books. Between Micah and Phoebe, who used to be default employer and employee by their parents. Between the children and the Mehkan. And even between Mehkans who normally wouldn’t associate with one another. Everyone has came a long, long way. My favorite part in the book was the reunion! I’m not ashamed to say that I got teary when Dollop, Mr. Pynch, The Associates and the children reunited. It was such a sweet moment. Their new Mehkan friend and ally Fritz also turned out to be a great addition to the gang!

This final installment was bitter-sweet, while it ended on a happy note…there were a couple of casualties that shocked me. The Books of Ore series was one heck of a Journey from a small house in Meridian to the wilds of the city of Mehk. I thought Blaze of Embers was the perfect and most fitting conclusion to an amazing series. I highly recommend this Middle Grade series, pick it up you won’t be sorry that you did. If you enjoy fantasy, alternative worlds, steampunk, and strong friendship bonds then you’ll enjoy Blaze of Embers!