Historical Fiction, Reviews, YA Historical

ARC Review: And I Darken by Kiersten White

And I Darken

GoodReads Summary:

NO ONE EXPECTS A PRINCESS TO BE BRUTAL.

And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.

Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, who’s expected to rule a nation, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.

But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.

My Review:

And I Darken was quite an interesting book for me. It is a retelling of Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia, or better know as, Vlad The Impaler. This story takes place in the mid 15th century when the Ottoman’s were trying to take Constantinople. It focuses on Lada (female version of Vlad), her brother Radu, and Mehmed- heir to the Ottoman Empire . It is a dual narrative, switching between Lada and Radu.

Lada Dragwlya is one of the strongest female characters I think I have ever read. She doesn’t take crap from anyone. She isn’t afraid to stand up for her beliefs and even tell the most power man in the world no. Her mind is a thing of it’s own. She is always calculating, planning, evaluating every situation, trying to figure the best way to get her agenda accomplished. She does everything in her power to show that she is equal to any man.

Radu Dragwlya is the opposite of his sister. Where she is night and terror, Radu is sun and calm. While he doesn’t start out as smart as Lada- by smart I mean calculating and conniving- through the teaching is Islam, his mentor, and watching the Ottoman Court, Radu learns to use his beauty and friendliness to develop relationships with the “right” people. Top use those relationships in the same way Lada uses strength and will.

I loved that And I Darken was more a setup for what is to come. In order to understand the end game the characters must be developed and complex.  White does an exemplary job with Lada, Radu, and Mehmed’s growth. They start out as children, barely understanding the world in which they live. But over the ten to fifteen year period the novel takes place, each character grows into their traits. And by the end, they each know their purpose in life and do what is necessary to fulfill it.

I also want to applaud White on her research and detail to Islamic religion. It is quite clear she went above and beyond to understand the religion and portray it in the most realistic way possible. Our society judges Islam as a terrorist religion when, in fact, that is an extreme view of it. White showed the other side, the peaceful side, the true side.

Knowing nothing about Vlad the Impaler, the Ottoman Empire, and Islam I truly enjoyed this book and what Keirsten White had to offer us. Definitely give this novel a try.

Rating: 4 out of  5

I’d like to thank Random House Children’s and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this ARC. Receiving this ARC for free does not sway my review.

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Reviews, ya contemporary, ya romance

ARC Review: One Paris Summer by Denise Grover Swank

One Paris Summer

GoodReads Summary:

Most teens dream of visiting the City of Lights, but it feels more like a nightmare for Sophie Brooks. She and her brother are sent to Paris to spend the summer with their father, who left home a year ago without any explanation. As if his sudden abandonment weren’t betrayal enough, he’s about to remarry, and they’re expected to play nice with his soon-to-be wife and stepdaughter. The stepdaughter, Camille, agrees to show them around the city, but she makes it clear that she will do everything in her power to make Sophie miserable.

Sophie could deal with all the pain and humiliation if only she could practice piano. Her dream is to become a pianist, and she was supposed to spend the summer preparing for a scholarship competition. Even though her father moved to Paris to pursue his own dream, he clearly doesn’t support hers. His promise to provide her with a piano goes unfulfilled.

Still, no one is immune to Paris’s charm. After a few encounters with a gorgeous French boy, Sophie finds herself warming to the city, particularly when she discovers that he can help her practice piano. There’s just one hitch—he’s a friend of Camille’s, and Camille hates Sophie. While the summer Sophie dreaded promises to become best summer of her life, one person could ruin it all.

 My Review:

One Paris Summer is a delightful read full of teen angst, love, heartbreak, and revelations. Denise Grover Swank does a phenomenal job of show how tragedy and heartbreak can take a toll on a person; that when a person leaves you it has lasting effects on your life; that by forgiving them can you then move forward.

Sophie Brooks is forced to spend the summer before her Junior year in Paris. She is forced to live with her father who abandoned Sophie and her brother, Eric, in pursuit of his dream to restore an old Parisian church. She is forced to get to know a new step-mother, and, share a room with an evil step-sister, Camille. But as the summer progresses Sophie is faced with obstacles and has to decide if she can forgive the people who hurt her, and if she can make her dreams come true.

From the start of the novel, the teen angst and anger is at 200%. Sophie and Eric have a difficult time handling the abandonment of their father. They also have a difficult time understanding how their father can marry someone else so quickly, someone else they have never met. It doesn’t have that their father hasn’t talked to them in 10 months. Sophie stews on things in her mind and that gave me anxiety. But I can also related to who she is feeling. To have your whole word ripped apart is devastating and learning how to handle that is overwhelming. So while it did get annoying that Sophie stewed a lot, I understand and could move past it.

Her step-sister Camille on the other hand I wanted to punch in the face. She is rude and inconsiderate from the moment she meets Sophie. She is always trying to humiliate her in an attempt to get to go home- back to South Carolina. And it doesn’t help that she ropes her friends into this plot as well. However, there is a bright spot… or two bright spots as the book moves forward. Her brother, who has shown very little interest in her life, starts to take an active role in their Paris excursions. He stands up for when it is needed and can empathize with the hurt of their father.

The other bright spot is Matthieu. He opens her eyes to dreams she didn’t think possible. He is truly a great guy for her. However, as always, there are secrets and heartbreak. But as with any good YA Contemporary novel… it only lasts for a little while.

Swank’s summer through Paris is wonderful. Not only do we see Sophie’s character arc and growth, but we see secondary character’s growth as well, showing that everyone at any age can learn new things about themselves and others. Acceptance is the big theme throughout the book.

Rating: 4 out of 5

I’d like to thank NetGalley and Zonderkidz-Books for the chance to read this ARC. Receiving this ARC for free does not influence my review in anyway.

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ARC Review: Recoil by Joanne Macgregor

Recoil

Goodreads Summary:

When a skilled gamer gets recruited as a sniper in the war against a terrorist-produced pandemic, she discovers there’s more than one enemy and more than one war. The Game is real.

Three years after a series of terrorist attacks flooded the US with a lethal plague, society has changed radically.

Sixteen year-old Jinxy James spends her days trapped at home – immersed in virtual reality, worrying about the plague and longing for freedom. Then she wins a war simulation game and is recruited into a top-secret organisation where talented teenagers are trained to become agents in the war on terror. Eager to escape her mother’s over-protectiveness and to serve her country, Jinxy enlists and becomes an expert sniper of infected mutant rats.

She’s immediately drawn to Quinn O’Riley, a charming and subversive intelligence analyst who knows more about the new order of government and society than he is telling. Then a shocking revelation forces Jinxy to make an impossible decision, and she risks losing everything.

Recoil is the first book in a Young Adult dystopian romance trilogy, and makes great reading for lovers of Rick Yancey (The Fifth Wave), Suzanne Collins (Hunger Games), and Veronica Roth (Divergent).

My Review:

Recoil is the most recent work by Joanne Macgregor. It takes place in modern day United States, three years after a terrorist attack used biological chemicals to unleash a plague. The story is very realistic dystopian fiction. It’s full of elements that terrorist attacks cause- hyper-awareness of foreign residents, larger defense industry, mass media reporting on threats, politician comments about terrorists.

Jinxy starts out naive, playing a game that eventually leads to recruitment with the military. She takes the words of the media, politicians, and her unit commander Sarge for face value- believes they have the people’s best interests at heart. At 16, it makes sense that she would trust those older than her. It isn’t until Jinxy meets Quinn that she starts to question her missions, especially when he finds out she is a sniper. Jinxy understands why she needs to shoot the infected rats, but when she is required to shoot other animals, and eventually is given more classified missions, she has a difficult time, trying to reconcile herself and her values with the values of her unit and the military. Macgregor does an excellent job of showing Jinxy’s progression from being naive to doubting herself and her missions to taking matters into her own hands, making her own educated decisions.

Quinn is a fascinating character. He is also super hot with an Irish accent (swoon). He does what is required of him, but also has his own secrets that are kept from Jinxy. He helps Jinxy open her eyes and understand that her missions are not what she is being told. There is a strong attraction between them, but her missions separate them- pit on against the other. I will say I had a difficult time with the start  of their relationship. It just sort of happens and I couldn’t figure out what drew them to each other. But by the end Macgregor had me rooting for their relationship. And the way the book ends, I just need to know what happens next.

There is a quote in the book- “We’ve repatriated hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions, of foreign residents, refugees, and workers. We’ve insulated ourselves, sealed our boarders against immigrants and imports and competition… And as a nation we’ve channeled billions into a defense industry that was sitting idle after the last wars fizzled out.” It is scary how closely it describes our current country. We have a presidential candidate who wants to build a wall on the US/Mexican boarder to keep illegal immigrants out; we have alienated anyone who looks middle eastern and have grouped all those who practice Islam into the terrorist stereo type. This novel is so realistic I can see something like this possibly happening.

If you enjoy dystopian settings, this is a great start to a fascinating realistic series.

Rating: 4 out of 5

I’d like to thank Joanne Macgregor for providing me with an ARC. Receiving this ARC for free does not influence my opinion in any way.

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Reviews, ya contemporary, ya romance

ARC Review: Will You Won’t You Want Me? by Nora Zelevansky

Will You Won't You Want Me?: A Novel

GoodReads Summary:

Marjorie Plum never meant to peak in high school. She was Queen Bee. Now, 10 years later, she’s lost her sparkle. At her bleakest moment, she’s surprised by renewed interest from a questionable childhood crush, and the bickering with her cranky boss—at a potentially game-changing new job—grows increasingly like flirtatious banter. Suddenly, she’s faced with a choice between the life she always dreamed of and one she never thought to imagine. With the help of a precocious 11-year-old tutee, who unknowingly becomes the Ghost of Marjorie Past, and a musician roommate, who looks like a pixie and talks like the Dalai Lama, Marjorie struggles with the ultimate question: Who does she want to be? Nora Zelevansky’s Will You Won’t You Want Me? is a funny, often surprising, novel about growing up when you are already supposed to be grown.

Review:

So this isn’t the usual type of novel we review on this blog- YA. And while I would classify this as New Adult, I think the themes Nora Zelevansky writes about can cross over to the YA genre. Self-growth and maturity. Communication. Coming of age. Disillusionment.

The main character, Marjorie, is basically having a midlife crisis at the age of 28. She isn’t that popular high schooler that can just get by on her looks and status in life anymore. Her best friend moves in with her boyfriend, and only gives her 2 days notice to find a new apartment (Rude! Don’t ever do this to your roommates). She also is fired from her job. So life pretty much sucks. I mean she is called “developmentally arrested” by her friends.

But with a midlife crisis comes the ability to re-evaluate your life. Where are you? Have you accomplished what you set out to do? If not, how do we fix this? Or is this something that needs to be fixed? Are the people in your life supporting you? Or are they dragging you down? All these questions are analyzed by Zelevansky through Marjorie’s story.

I will say, as a 28 year old trying to answer these questions myself, this book was exactly what I needed to read. I am at a point in my career where, depending on my next step, I will be in my field of work for the rest of my life. Is that something I want? And while my friends are moving on, marrying, having babies, I am not– and this is where Marjorie is as well.

This novel is really self-reflective and extremely relatable.  It reflects a time in our lives that not many people speak about. Not everyone has their life figured out by 28 and reading this helped me to realize that I don’t necessarily need to have it figured out.

Of the major things I took away from this book, one quote really stuck with me– “The important thing is this: to be able, at any moment, to sacrifice what we are for what we could become.”

Rating: 5 out of 5Blog Signature

 

 

This book will be available on April 19, 2016 and can be purchased at Amazon and B&N.

Disclaimer: Thank you  St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read this ARC in exchange for an honest review. Receiving this book for free does not influence my opinion.

Reviews, ya contemporary, ya romance

ARC Review: Undecided by Julianna Keyes

Undecided

GoodReads Summary:

Nora Kincaid has one goal for her second year of college: be invisible. Last year’s all-party-no-study strategy resulted in three failed classes and two criminal charges, and if she messes up again she’ll lose her scholarship. But there’s one problem with her plan for invisibility, and his name is Crosbie Lucas: infamous party king, general hellraiser…and her new roommate’s best friend.

Crosbie’s reckless reputation and well-known sexcapades aren’t part of Nora’s studious new strategy, but as she’s quickly learning, her new plan is also really boring. When Crosbie’s unexpected gestures of friendship pull her head out of her books long enough to see past his cocky veneer, she’s surprised to find a flawed and funny guy beneath it all. The muscles don’t hurt, either.

But as Nora starts to fall for Crosbie, the weight of one of last year’s bad decisions grows even heavier. Because three failing grades and two misdemeanors are nothing compared to the one big secret she’s hiding…

My Review:

Undecided was an entertaining novel about life, overcoming past transgressions, and learning who you are and what you want.

Nora Kincaid spends most of the book reflecting on her previous year of college and trying to move past her failings. To help her move forward, she moves into a new apartment, with one of the hottest guys on campus, and then proceeds to fall for his best friend, the second hottest guy on campus. The interactions between Nora and Kellan, her roommate, are cute. While they don’t start out as friends, their relationship grows. I thoroughly enjoyed their witty banter.

Nora’s relationship with Crosbie is the usual- hot guy on-campus with a bad boy reputation meets uptight, bookish nerd. There is sexual tension right from the get go. She spends a lot of time worrying people will think she is a “crosbabe” and gain a reputation that won’t sit well with the dean… thanks to the arrests of the previous year. But what she learns is “Crosbie Lucas is not quite the cocky, smug ass that he pretends to be.” Same goes for her roommate Kellan.

The plot was very predictable, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the relationships, witty banter, and overall story. There are secrets that cause relationship problems, but as usual contemporary romances go, all parties get the endings they deserve.

Rating: 5 out of 5

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Contemporary Conversations, Reviews, ya contemporary, ya romance

ARC Review: Playing Defense (Corrigan Falls Raiders #2) by Cate Cameron

Playing Defense (Corrigan Falls Raiders, #2)

GoodReads Summary:

Sixteen-year-old Claudia Waring has never kissed a boy. Never been popular. Never been to a hockey game. All that’s about to change. Assigned to tutor Chris Winslow, a prank-loving, gorgeous hockey player, Claudia’s perfectly planned life immediately veers off course. And she kind of likes it. But as fun as Chris is, she knows she’ll never fit in his world.

After his latest prank lands him in hot water, Chris has to get serious about school or lose hockey. Not an easy thing for someone as carefree as the defenseman. The biggest problem, though, is how much he wants to help his cute, buttoned-up tutor loosen up a little. But while confidence has never been a problem for him, around Claudia, Chris is all nerves. Why would a girl as smart as her ever fall for a jock like him?

My Review:

Cate Cameron’s Playing Defense is an adorable novel about life, love, and deciding to be your true self- despite other people’s opinions.

Claudia is a bookish, nose to the grind, math girl. She has worked very hard over the course of her high school career to get into the University of Waterloo. However, while she has the grades to be accepted, she doesn’t have the extra curriculars. Her guidance counselor assigns her to be a tutor for Chris Winslow, a star hockey player. As a result of tutoring, Claudia gains new friends, and new experiences through the Sisterhood, a club set up to challenge each other to be better people and breakdown their own barriers.

Claudia is quirky and weird. She faces a lot of trials in Playing Defense. She learns to over come her own shyness. She has to decide if she wants to be the quiet, bookish girl she’s always been, or, become the outgoing girl she wants to be. Part of this challenge, and the coming of age theme, is facing her parents. While she is changing from a caterpillar to the beautiful butterfly, Claudia’s parents believe it is the influence of Chris and her new friends, not of her own decisions. Her parents have a difficult time handling her interest in Chris as a possible boyfriend and believe he is no good for her. Eventually, they do get to her, but she is able to face them and be the “Dia” she wants to be.

And while yes Chris is quite lazy, and the reason he needs a tutor, Claudia and Chris help each other grow and realize they can accomplish, and be, so much more if they just try. Trying is the key to this story. Trying new experiences. Putting effort into your work, whether it’s school or sports. Being your true self.

Rating: 4 out of 5

I’d like to thank NetGalley and Entangled Teen for the opportunity to review with ARC. Receiving this ARC for free in no way influenced my review.

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Special Review, ya romance

ARC Book Review: Anyone But You by Kim Askew & Amy Helmes

Anyone-But-You-by-A-Helmes-and-K-Askew

Thank you Merit Press for providing me with a free ebook copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads Summary:

These violent delights have violent ends…

Gigi Caputo is fed up. A vicious act of vandalism has dealt another blow to her family’s proud pizza heritage, and the Montes–owners of a rival Italian restaurant–are clearly to blame. The hostility goes far beyond bragging rights for best pizza in Chicago. The Montes have been bent on destroying Cap’s for four generations. Even if it means putting herself in harm’s way, Gigi’s determined to get to the bottom of the feud. Instead, in a secret encounter with Roman Monte, the very boy whose relatives have brought her family such grief, she finds both danger and love at first sight. If the daughter and son of these two warring families fall for each other, can it be anything but a recipe for disaster? Slowly, Gigi and Roman learn that their story is fatefully linked to the summer of 1933, when two twelve-year-olds, Benny and Nick, hop the turnstile at the Chicago World’s Fair. The most stunning wonder of the fair is Stella, who innocently causes a lasting rift between the two boyhood. Wending its way through past and present day, this modern take on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is bittersweet, funny, and intensely exciting. It’s classic romance–a tale of hate and the only force that can ever defeat it: love.

Review:

Oh Anyone But You. I tried to read you when I had the free ebook copy. I didn’t read you on time and you were archived. Then I bought an actual physical copy and tried to read to that way and it took me months…6 months later after reading the book my feelings are… meh. I tried really hard to like it. It’s not badly written per say, but it didn’t interest me. I honestly can’t remember much except that I was confused through most of it. I almost DNF’d it, but I pushed through.

I feel like a lot of people like it, but this book just wasn’t for me. I tried though, did I try!

Rating: 2/5