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Coming Soon: Tarnished by Kate Jarvik Birch

December 1, 2015

Title: Tarnished

Author: Kate Jarvik Birch

Series: Perfected #2

Genre: Teen Dystopian [sort of]

Release Date: December 1, 2015

The Overview: Ella may have escaped to Canada, but she’s hardly free. Stuck in refugee housing for liberated pets, she’s just as trapped as she was at the congressman’s house—only now she has to live without Penn. But she’s determined to get out. And to make matters worse, there are rumors circulating that pets like Ella are turning up dead all over the U.S., not to mention that she might be to blame. When her old acquaintance, Missy, shows up in Canada, the two of them set off together, thrusting them back into the dangerous life they just left behind. Now, they must navigate the seedy world of the black markets to uncover the dark secrets that the Kennels have been hiding, and rescue the boy she loves.

Waiting on Wednesday
Hosted by Breaking the Spine

Perfected was my favorite YA read of 2014, and I loved it so much that I haven’t even been able to compose a review for it yet. Have you ever enjoyed something so much that no matter how much you gush about it in a review it won’t do it justice? That’s how I feel about Perfected – it was such an experience! The best comparison I can make is to DeStefano’s Chemical Garden Trilogy – a slightly dystopic society with a lot of messed up, somewhat dark practices; fascinating female protagonists who find themselves at the center of it all; and beautiful, poetic writing that never seems flowery or overdone. Perfected was one of the few books I will definitely be rereading, and I hope to say the same about Tarnished. December can’t come too soon!

What book are you waiting on? :-)

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: The Heir by Kiera Cass

 The Heir by Kiera Cass

Title: The Heir

Author: Kiera Cass

Series: The Selection #4

Genre: Teen Dystopian [sort of]

Rating: 5/5 stars!

The Overview: Princess Eadlyn has grown up hearing endless stories about how her mother and father met. Twenty years ago, America Singer entered the Selection and won the heart of Prince Maxon—and they lived happily ever after. Eadlyn has always found their fairy-tale story romantic, but she has no interest in trying to repeat it. If it were up to her, she’d put off marriage for as long as possible. But a princess’s life is never entirely her own, and Eadlyn can’t escape her very own Selection—no matter how fervently she protests. Eadlyn doesn’t expect her story to end in romance. But as the competition begins, one entry may just capture Eadlyn’s heart, showing her all the possibilities that lie in front of her . . . and proving that finding her own happily ever after isn’t as impossible as she’s always thought.

The Review:

The Heir is one of the few titles that was a non-negotiable “I have to read it the day it comes out” type of book, as I’d been geeking out about it since it first cross my radar in late 2014. Thank goodness for nook digital downloads at midnight, because I was able to dive right in at 12:01 am (sleep be damned, it was SO worth it – The Heir was every bit as wonderful as I’d hoped it would be). It almost seems irrational to me how excited I was, but The Selection was such an experience, and it really hurt my heart to see it come to an end. I can’t describe the joy I felt when I realized I got to visit that world again, and with Maxon and America still around to boot! That might sound soooper cheesy, but I don’t care – I freaking love this series!

Can we talk for a minute about how incredibly appealing it is to watch one girl pick from a whole bunch of eligible bachelors? And how fundamentally more exciting that is than the other way around? Well, maybe not more exciting, but different, that’s for sure. I think it was really smart on the author’s part to give us a new twist on the story we all fell in love with (even though she didn’t have to stretch too far on the creative scale, I’m still impressed). The jury is out until I read all three books, but I’m already predicting I will like Eadlyn’s journey better than America’s. Here are a few reasons why:

In America’s journey, we only got to see her side of things, and I always wondered how the process was for Maxon (in fact, one of my favorite moments was in The Prince novella where we got to experience their first meeting through Maxon’s perspective). It had to be difficult for him to juggle all of those girls while trying to make a decision that’s best for both his country and his heart. Even though we got the best bits, we missed out on a lot of the details that I’m sure I would’ve found fascinating. What this new story did was allow me to become completely immersed in the process… and I ate up every page. It was so much fun seeing all of the boys interact with Eadlyn, and I had a blast trying to psychoanalyze all of them to figure out which boy would be the best match for her (which I didn’t get to do with America’s journey because, Duh! – she was totally the best match). The fact that Eadlyn didn’t want anything to do with the selection process bugged a few of my friends, but it didn’t bother me too much – I knew the boys would eventually start to win her over.

That’s another thing I liked – that Eadlyn was definitely her own person and a very distinct character from America (although you could see many similarities in their personalities – they are both stubborn and resilient people… the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree). I also loved that America and Maxon were heavily involved in The Heir and maintained the same personalities we fell in love with in the first trilogy (it’s a pet peeve of mine when parent characters we met as children morph into a “parental” mode and lose all personality. That definitely did NOT happen here – Yay!). There was also a neat dynamics between Eadlyn and her siblings, who added a ton of depth and charm to the story – I’m definitely looking forward to reading more about them.

My biggest criticism of the first trilogy was the world building/external conflict. I thought it was nowhere near as well developed as it could have been (although the things the author did well were so awesome it almost didn’t matter), but am happy to report that I think this time around the world building was a little stronger. Similarly, I caught a few plot holes within the first few books, but all the ones I thought I caught in this one the author eventually addressed – awesome! 

Overall, if you love to the Selection Trilogy as much as I did, there’s absolutely no reason why you wouldn’t love The Heir just as much. :-)

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Miss Mayhem by Rachel Hawkins

miss mayhemTitle: Miss Mayhem

Author: Rachel Hawkins

Series: Rebel Belle #2

Genre: Teen Fantasy

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

The Overview: Life is almost back to normal for Harper Price. The Ephors have been silent after their deadly attack at Cotillion months ago, and her best friend, Bee, has returned after a mysterious disappearance. Now Harper can focus on the important things in life: school, canoodling with David (her nemesis-turned-ward-slash-boyfie), and even competing in the Miss Pine Grove pageant. Unfortunately, supernatural chores are never done. The Ephors have decided they’d rather train David than kill him. The catch: Harper has to come along for the ride, but she can’t stay David’s Paladin unless she undergoes an ancient trial that will either kill her . . . or make her more powerful than ever.

The Review:

I want to start out by saying that I love Rachel Hawkins and think her writing is some of the most charming I’ve ever come across. Everything she writes is a lot of fun, and I can’t help but get a bunch of feel goods every time I read one of her books. That said, Miss Mayhem might be my least favorite thing I’ve read from her so far. I just didn’t think there was enough substance and plot advancement to really grab me. Perhaps if the trilogy were complete and I devoured it from start to finish I wouldn’t feel this way, but after waiting a full year for its release and looking at another full year before the conclusion, I can’t help but feel a bit disappointed.

Thing I love most about the first book was the developing love story, but this one just didn’t seem to have the same sweet, romantic flair. I’ve noticed a prevailing trend in YA that goes a little something like this: Book 1 – romance sparks and the characters fall for each other. Book 2 – they fight or break up because of situation “x” keeping them from being together. Book 3 – they figure out how to make it work anyway and live happily ever after. It’s so formulaic that it sucks all of the romantic tension out of a series. Sometimes it doesn’t bother me, but in this particular case it felt like the entire plot revolved around romantic struggles… I guess what I’m trying to say is, I was hoping for more.

And even the plot elements that were there weren’t developed as well as I thought they could’ve been. For example, at some point Harper had to go through several trials to prove she was a worthy Paladin. The trouble is, the trials did not come across in any sort of official capacity, but were almost incidental. I’m not really sure why she passed/failed because the rules were never established. What a wasted opportunity! I feel like if I had read about an epic, well-conceived testing of Harper’s skills, all of my other objections would have gone by the wayside in a heartbeat. Instead I’m left wondering what could’ve been…

One last thing I didn’t enjoy was the questionable decision-making within this book. Some of Harper’s choices just did not make any sense to me. Her decisions were irrational, erratic, and didn’t follow any sort of logical pattern… Frankly, her actions felt more like they were implemented to advance plot points, rather than because that’s what the character would actually do. I’m not saying the characters always have to make smart decisions, what I’m saying is I’d better be able to at least see the logic of those decisions over other options. Harper is a smart girl, but I don’t feel like her actions were consistent with her character in this book.

Sheesh, I feel like I’m really beating up on this book, which isn’t totally fair because it was not a bad book by any means – Hawkins has just set such a high standard up to this point that I’m really judging it against what I know she’s capable of. If you want to know all the things I really love about the series, check out my review of the first book, Rebel Belle. Overall, I wouldn’t necessarily dissuade anyone from picking up the series – the first one was good enough in my opinion to allow for forgiveness of the second one… I would just recommend waiting a little bit until the release date for the third one gets closer. I will definitely be finishing out the trilogy, so that’s gotta count for something, right?

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Mini Book Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Daughter of Smoke and boneTitle: Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Author: Laini Taylor

Series: Daughter of Smoke and Bone #1

Genre: Teen Fantasy/Paranormal

Rating: 3/5 stars

The Overview: Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky. In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grown dangerously low. And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war. Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”; she speaks many languages–not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out. When one of the strangers–beautiful, haunted Akiva–fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

The Mini Book Review:

I thought the concept for this book was friggin cool: teeth-harvesting chimera, an art student in Prague, and a heavenly love interest, topped off with great writing and a quirky voice. My favorite element of the story was probably Karou herself. You see, I’ve always been in awe of people with strong artistic talents, I really feel like this book allowed me to get immersed into her world as she attended her art classes (in Prague nonetheless, which made the whole thing seem more exotic and exciting). I also liked the supporting characters, but often wondered if they were a little too one-dimensional.

I honestly think if I had read Daughter of Smoke and Bone ten years ago I would have loved it, probably because the romance would have resonated with me a lot more then than it does now. As it were, I found it a bit tiresome and predictable… but then again, I have read a ton of teen love stories over the last decade and after a while they all start to sound the same. My advice is, if you’re in the mood for a semi-typical teen romance with a whole bunch of cool crap around it, give this book a go.

Daug daughter of smoke and bone 2hter of Smoke and boneAnd I’m totally serious about the art thing – I love reading about people who are amazing at their craft (even if it’s a craft that doesn’t technically exist in our world like dragonriding or magecraft). This book inspired to the point where I even dusted off my old paints. I’ve always been pretty decent at copycatting, but have never been able to create something beautiful from scratch. Also, notice that this painting is only half finished… It has totally been that way for about six months and will probably remain that way forever.

Is painting ADD a thing? I have it.


Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Coming Soon: The Heir by Kiera Cass

the heirTitle: The Heir

Author: Kiera Cass

Series: The Selection #4

Genre: Teen Dystopian (sort of) / Romance

Release Date: May 15, 2015

The Overview: 20 years ago, America Singer entered the Selection and won Prince Maxon’s heart. Now the time has come for Princess Eadlyn to hold a Selection of her own. Eadlyn doesn’t expect her Selection to be anything like her parents’ fairy-tale love story. But as the competition begins, she may discover that finding her own happily ever after isn’t as impossible as she always thought.

Hosted by Breaking the Spine

The Selection is easily one of my all-time favorite books. I remember the experience of reading it for the first time and how completely engaged I was throughout the entire thing. It was delightful. Even though the second and third books weren’t quite on the same level for me, I am hoping The Heir will bring back some of the more lighthearted elements that made The Selection so much fun. I would like to admit that even though I am a huge fan of the Bachelor  (and competition shows in general), I actually love the Bachelorette even more. Come on – twenty-five men vying for the affections of one women – what’s not to love? Anyway, my point is, I am looking forward to this book perhaps even more so than The One. I absolutely love that Cass continued on with this angle and can’t wait to see the flip side of the selection process! Is it May yet? 

What book are you waiting on?

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Feast of Fools by Rachel Caine

feast of foolsTitle: Feast of Fools

Author: Rachel Caine

Series: Morganville Vampires #4

Genre: Teen Paranormal Romance

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: In the town of Morganville, vampires and humans live in relative peace. Student Claire Danvers has never been convinced, though, especially with the arrival of Mr. Bishop, an ancient, old-school vampire who cares nothing about harmony. What he wants from the town’s living and its dead is unthinkably sinister. It’s only at a formal ball, attended by vampires and their human dates, that Claire realizes the elaborately evil trap he’s set for Morganville.

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The Review:

Funny story: so Morganville #1 (The Glass House) was actually one of the very first paranormal YA books I’ve ever read. At the time, I really didn’t know what to expect from the genre… and wasn’t really blown away. Fast-forward about a decade and hundreds of YA books later to the moment where I finally decided to continue on in the series. I discovered it is actually way better than I initially gave it credit for. This came about while I was trying to create a top ten YA list – while I could name countless books that I enjoyed, I could not for the life of me come up with ten series that I absolutely LOVED (especially compared to my top ten fantasy list, where I had trouble narrowing it down from twenty). I surprised myself when I realized Morganville had enough merits to make that list.

For one thing, it’s written well. For another, the characters are quirky and well-rounded. Not to mention the plot offers a unique take on the vampire world (which is incredibly appealing considering how many teen vampire books are out there). Overall, it’s gritty, original, and has an abundance of personality and charm.

So with all of those good things said, it made me start to wonder why I initially didn’t enjoy the series as much then as I am now. I think I’ve finally figured it out: the love interest. Morganville (as well as Caine’s Weather Warden series) commit a good portion of their pages to romance. The trouble is, I didn’t find a single one of the male leads appealing. While I can definitely see their merits and why other readers find them attractive, they just aren’t my type. This tells me two things 1) Caine and I have very different tastes in men and 2) I haven’t been able to fully appreciate the story up to this point because I’m not emotionally invested in the love story. Believe me when I say I know how weird of an issue this is… I’ve only come across this problem once or twice before, but three instances for a single author – unheard of! 

The good news is, now that the plot outside of the romance has advanced considerably, I’m finding the series incredibly fun to read. Even though everything still takes place in Morganville, the conflicts have broadened to become more serious and include more characters. I now have a lot more substance to sink my teeth into (pun intended), so I’m definitely excited to see what happens next!

This is a great series for people who enjoy paranormal but are tired of the perfect “bubblegum” atmosphere that most teen books present. This one is fast-paced, quirky, and definitely one of the best of the genre. It doesn’t quite stack up to some of the adult urban fantasies, but holds its own nonetheless.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes