Review: Red by Alyxandra Harvey

Red
Red is the color of Kia Alcott's hair.
It's her temper, which blazes hot and always gets Kia into way too much trouble.
And it's the color of fire. Fires that Kia can start…just by thinking about them.

When her latest “episode” gets her kicked out of school, Kia is shipped off to her grandmother, who works for the wealthy Blackwoods. It's an estate shrouded in secrets, surrounded by rules, and presided over by a family that is far from normal…including the gorgeous and insolent Ethan Blackwood.

Ethan knows far more about the dangers of the forest surrounding the estate than Kia can ever imagine. For this forest has teeth, and Ethan is charged with protecting the outside world from its vicious mysteries.

But inside, even the most vibrant shade of red doesn't stand a chance against the dark secrets of the Blackwood family…

I'll start off with this: Red wasn't the most original book in the world, nor was it the most thrilling or gripping or the best at anything. What it was though was good, it managed to stand on it's own despite filling pretty much every single YA book cliche possible. If a book can take a tried-and-tested formula the way Red did and still have me flicking the pages in earnest then it is a good book. It isn't innovative and new and shiny, so I can never call it an A book, but it is the better side of average and I liked that.

Kia was such a great character. She doesn't make stupid decisions and she is sassy but not in that reckless way that so many authors think makes a character strong. She was witty and had a voice that I enjoyed reading. The other characters were great as well - Ethan, despite being the typical broody YA hero, was also a very likable character and I liked that there was a development in this relationship. No instant love - well not as much as in other YA books!  

The storyline was great as well, it was eerie and developed slowly, building the tension in an atmospheric way that I sort of felt in my bones. It was great. The ending was fantastic, the twist as absolutely fantastic even though I had guessed it was coming, and how the characters dealt with the situations felt real and great.
Overall, despite the lack of originality in this book, it was fresh and fun the read. it kept me gripped and I came to really care about the characters. Harvey did good again!

Overall Rating: B

Book released 10th March 2015 by Entangled Teen
Book received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Review: Ever Darkening by Janeal Falor

Ever Darkening
Perfection. Goodness. Elimination of evil. It's what seventeen-year-old Kaylyn has trained her entire life to achieve. But no one is prepared for the consequences of her actually defeating all evil people on the planet. Finally successful in her mission, Kaylyn faces an unfamiliar world, full of good people doing good things, in which she no longer has purpose.

When the skies grow dark, and a stranger from another village pleads for her help, her instincts roar to life. It turns out their perfect world isn't exactly what it seems. Kaylyn's new quest, harder than any she's been on before, will rip apart her friendships, her life, and her soul more than any evil man ever managed to.

What a pwetty cover. This cover is sooo pwetty! The rose and the floor and the cracking, and the grey in the background as well, which is funny since grey is not something I would associate with this book - this book is about good or evil, there seems to be very little grey area between these two extremes.

I feel like this book was very basic and just didn't meet it's full potential. Kaylyn was a difficult character to like - she was a Mary Sue to the max, desired by the man her best friend want, powers to saaaave the world, defacto leader (why do the parents just let the kids do the savey world thing?). She was just very difficult to like - I feel like she never questioned things before the book when she should have, for someone who is the chosen one she was very dense and made a lot of stupid, rash decisions - most of which revolve around the boy she likes. 

I feel like the end of the book just really annoyed me. Kaylyn decides that to restore equilibrium to the world which she has destroyed she has to put evil back into the world. It sort of makes sense in the book. So she decides that she will turn her best friend evil, y making out with the boy she likes in front of her, yet she barely feels an inkling of guilt for it. It felt poorly thought out and poorly written.

I think this book let me down so much, especially since I so much enjoyed Falor's previous offering, You Are Mine. Ugh. I really was glad this book was short otherwise it would probably have been a DNF read for me.

Overall Rating: D-

Book released 28th January 2015 by Chardonian Press
Book received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Review: You Are Mine by Janeal Falor

You Are Mine (Mine, #1)
Serena knows a few simple things. She will always be owned by a warlock. She will never have freedom. She will always do what her warlock wishes, regardless of how inane, frivolous, or cruel it is. And if she doesn’t follow the rules, she will be tarnished. Spelled to be bald, inked, and barren for the rest of her life—worth less than the shadow she casts.

Then her ownership is won by a barbarian from another country. With the uncertainty that comes from belonging to a new warlock, Serena questions if being tarnished is really worse than being owned by a barbarian, and tempts fate by breaking the rules. When he looks the other way instead of punishing her, she discovers a new world. The more she ventures into the forbidden, the more she learns of love and a freedom just out of reach. Serena longs for both. But in a society where women are only ever property, hoping for more could be deadly.

This is one of those books which was so much more than I expected. It appealed to me from the blurb but I wasn't expecting it to grab me the way it did and keep me hanging on the whole book through, which it definitely did.

I feel like I've had a run of subpar books recently and I really needed something fresh like You Are Mine to bring me back to a nice place. It is a great book, with a fantastic plot and some real messages to tell. I loved all of the characters, especially our main character Serena, who was as strong as a girl can be in a society like the one in this book. I really enjoyed watching her grow as a person as she was given more freedom by Zade, and I just loved Zade as well. I do feel like this book was slightly lacking on the romance side, but it didn't matter to me. It was there, the feelings developed naturally and I would be a hypocrite to complain because Serena and Zade didn't just throw themselves at each other at every corner. There was also the inkling of something coming between them, which thankfully was resolved and we got a lovely ending. Serena has been passed around between men and thinks this is just another man who will treat her like crap, so she deserved that ending.

I can't wait to read the sequel now, which focuses on Serena's oldest younger sister  If it's anywhere near half as well written as this book, it will be great. Janeal Falor really pulled it out of the bag with You Are Mine, and the only gripe I can have with this book is that the pace just wasn't fast enough to take it that extra mile.

Overall Rating: A-

Book released 6th May 2013 by Chardonian Press
Book received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Review: Denton Little's Deathdate by Lance Rubin

Denton Little's Deathdate takes place in a world exactly like our own except that everyone knows the day they will die. For 17-year-old Denton Little, that's tomorrow, the day of his senior prom.

Despite his early deathdate, Denton has always wanted to live a normal life, but his final days are filled with dramatic firsts. First hangover. First sex. First love triangle (as the first sex seems to have happened not with his adoring girlfriend, but with his best friend's hostile sister. Though he's not totally sure. See: first hangover.) His anxiety builds when he discovers a strange purple rash making its way up his body. Is this what will kill him? And then a strange man shows up at his funeral, claiming to have known Denton's long-deceased mother, and warning him to beware of suspicious government characters…. Suddenly Denton's life is filled with mysterious questions and precious little time to find the answers.

This was one of those books that left me a little confused - not because the plot was confusing or anything like that, but because I don't know how I feel about it. On one hand, the humor and the premise in this book was so absolutely on-point that I really couldn't put it down. On the other hand, the ending really threw me and though I don't want to give spoilers, I just feel like it threw me for a loop and not in a big way. In my opinion, a good ending can make or break a book - it's what you go away thinking of, and this ending just never really impressed me.

What I loved about how this book started though, is how Rubin managed to create this world without having to explain everything to us. He builds up an interest then starts to introduce the characters until we just come to get what's going on. The book takes place mostly over one day, the day that Denton Little is going to die, it really was a great plot and it kept me guessing all the way through. I really liked the characters as well, Denton was great, but his best friend Paolo stole the show and their friendship was so perfect - definitely my favorite part of this book.

I think that's really all I can say, without dropping hints about the ending and ruining it (by ranting! ugh!). 

So I'll leave it at this. Denton Little's Deathdate was a nice little book, but the ending left me frowning and not in a good way... will I read a potential sequel? Maybe... but I'm not so sure...

Overall Rating: C

Book released 26th March 2015 by Simon and Schuster UK
Book received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Review: We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach

We All Looked Up
Four high school seniors put their hopes, hearts, and humanity on the line as an asteroid hurtles toward Earth in this contemporary novel.

They always say that high school is the best time of your life.

Peter, the star basketball player at his school, is worried “they” might actually be right. Meanwhile Eliza can’t wait to escape Seattle—and her reputation—and perfect-on-paper Anita wonders if admission to Princeton is worth the price of abandoning her real dreams. Andy, for his part, doesn’t understand all the fuss about college and career—the future can wait.

Or can it? Because it turns out the future is hurtling through space with the potential to wipe out life on Earth. As these four seniors—along with the rest of the planet—wait to see what damage an asteroid will cause, they must abandon all thoughts of the future and decide how they’re going to spend what remains of the present.

We All Looked Up used a great, well used concept, but its a concept that never gets old - I will never get tired of reading disaster books and especially those that deal with the way people come to terms with mortality. There have been some fantastic books that do this in such a thought provoking ways and have left me shaking.

This was not one of those books.

That being said, I did come away from this book and I couldn't stop thinking about it, solely because the ending kept me guessing. I just think that the build up to that ending could have been better.

I like to think that should there be a 66% chance of the world ending in two weeks, everyone would go about their lives in a much more mature way. Prioritise would change - I honestly don't think that everyone's life would be about getting high and getting laid, but that's what this book was about. The characters were just flat teenage caricatures of what could have been great, dynamic characters. The whole book just ends up being about love triangles and all this crap instead of the aspects of humanity and survival and coming to terms with our limitations the way it should have been. That was a let don to me.

In fact, the fantastic aspects of the book - Eliza's blog, the way the kids are rebelling, the oppression of adults when the news is revealed - they all seem to be completely blown over by Wallach's attempts at making this book more than it needed to be and the result was a fragmented storyline which was at times near impossible for me to follow.

I think what I took away from We All Looked Up was that Tommy Wallach is a good writer, but he tried so hard to make this book stand out and instead it ended up harming the book's message. It could have been so much more affecting with a little subtlety, but instead it ended up falling very, very flat for me.

Overall Rating: D

Book released 26th March 2015 by Simon and Schuster UK
Book received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Review: Solitaire by Alice Oseman

Solitaire

In case you're wondering, this is not a love story.

My name is Tori Spring. I like to sleep and I like to blog. Last year – before all that stuff with Charlie and before I had to face the harsh realities of A-Levels and university applications and the fact that one day I really will have to start talking to people – I had friends. Things were very different, I guess, but that's all over now.

Now there's Solitaire. And Michael Holden.

I don't know what Solitaire are trying to do, and I don't care about Michael Holden.

I really don't.
I am a firm believer that in order to write a big, meaningful, deep book they must have experienced things in life. It's not enough to be young and have your world view built by the literature you have read, no matter how 'unique' and well read you are. For this reason, I was not surprised in the least when I found out that Oseman wrote this book when she was seventeen years old. It had all of the potential to be a great, deep, thought provoking read, instead it fell flat for me. I felt like the characters were unlikeable and not real to life, I particularly disliked Tori, I get her - I was a mopey teenage girl too - but all her issues just made it seem like Oseman was trying too hard to make her different. I can't help but feel like Tori isn't a 'flawed but likeable character', she's just bitter, messed up and unredeemable in my eyes. She was just a haughty, pessimistic bitch... I just really hated her, and I don't feel that way about main characters in books.

And to be honest, there are a lot of authors out there writing problem books with mopey teenage girls that actually are likeable that I feel like Solitaire falls short. I can't help but think of My Heart and Other Black Holes - Aysel was a mopey teenage girl I can get behind. Tori is not.

I feel like this book was mostly made up of Alice Oseman trying to push her pop culture references on us, but it isn't even in a fun way. I just felt like the hipster and tumblr and Harry Potter and Catcher of the Rye and... No. I just feel as though Alice Oseman's own hipstery-ness was thrust upon us.

This book could have been fantastic, and it probably would have been if Oseman had written is five years later, but I feel like the characters and the convoluted plot is the result of Oseman's inexperience and lack of exposure to the world. I don't say that as a self righteous adult - I am only twenty one myself - but I wouldn't write a book because I feel that I wouldn't be able to do the real world justice. 

I did however really like Michael, he was a redeeming quality in this book. There was also some well written dialogue and witty, dry humor - Oseman is not in any way a bad author, but I think she bit off more than she could chew with a plot so involved and characters that are meant to be deep but don't deliver so well...

I'm not saying don't try teens, but with the exception of a few fantastic names in YA lit (Kody Keplinger, Sarah J Maas), it is really difficult to get the depth that an adult has in a book.

Overall Rating: D

Book released 30th March 2015 by HarperTeen
Book received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Review: Liars, Inc. by Paula Stokes

Liars, Inc.
Max Cantrell has never been a big fan of the truth, so when the opportunity arises to sell forged permission slips and cover stories to his classmates, it sounds like a good way to make a little money and liven up a boring senior year. With the help of his friends Preston and Parvati, Max starts Liars, Inc. Suddenly everybody needs something and the cash starts pouring in. Who knew lying could be so lucrative?

When Preston wants his own cover story to go visit a girl he met online, Max doesn’t think twice about hooking him up. Until Preston never comes home. Then the evidence starts to pile up—terrifying clues that lead the cops to Preston’s body. Terrifying clues that point to Max as the murderer.

Can Max find the real killer before he goes to prison for a crime he didn’t commit? In a story that Kirkus Reviews called "Captivating to the very end," Paula Stokes starts with one single white lie and weaves a twisted tale that will have readers guessing until the explosive final chapters.

Liars, Inc. was a fantastic book, which I definitely was not expecting. I think expectations have a lot to do with how I come away from a book, because this is one of those books which would not have wowed me so much if I had higher expectations, but because I really went into this with no idea how I would feel, I came away feeling really impressed.

The start was a bit touch and go for me, and things didn't speed up until the part where Preston goes missing, even then I wasn't absolutely thoroughly gripped until about three-quarters the way through, where we learn some secrets and things start to become much more confused and I had to second-guess my own predictions.

But what makes up for the sometimes-slow plot is the characters. Paula Stokes does have a fantastic way of creating characters that are real and flawed and as easy to dislike as they are to like. Take Parvati for an example, the girl is a fantastic girlfriend and so supportive, she's also emotionally vulnerable and has made mistakes in the past. However, do these mistakes affect the book and become a *big deal*? No. Because real life involves forgiveness and if your best friend is missing its' best to to dwell in the little things. Max isn't exactly to most selfless hero either, and can we just not get started with Preston? These little (or sometimes jot so little) character flaws are what makes this book so intricately unpredictable, and what ultimately carried me through the slower bits.

Overall, Liars, Inc. was an altogether interesting and gripping read, but this book's saving grace is the true-to-life characters and the little intricacies that keep you guessing. A great mystery book, definitely one to give a read, but also not one to go riiiiight at the top (somewhere near there though).

Overall Rating: B+

Book released 24th March 2015 by HarperTeen
Book received from the publisher in exchange for an honest reviewdoc

Review: Shadow Study by Maria V. Snyder

Shadow Study

Once, only her own life hung in the balance…

When Yelena was a poison taster, her life was simpler. She survived to become a vital part of the balance of power between rival countries Ixia and Sitia.

Now she uses her magic to keep the peace in both lands—and protect her relationship with Valek.
Suddenly, though, dissent is rising. And Valek’s job—and his life—are in danger.
As Yelena tries to uncover her enemies, she faces a new challenge: her magic is blocked.And now she must find a way to keep not only herself but all that she holds dear alive.

Let me cry. I promise they are only happy tears of complete joy.

Let me tell you something, when anyone asks me what my favorite books are, the Poison Study series by Maria V. Snyder is the first thing to jump to my mind. I have always loved Yelena's story and Valek is my number one swoonworthy man and Ari and Janco are just amazing. As a book blogger I generally don't have time to reread books, but Poison Study, Magic Study and Fire Study are the three books that will always be an exception to that rule. Add Shadow Study to that now.

I couldn't believe my eyes when I heard that Maria V. Snyder was releasing three more books in the Study series. Seriously, I was so happy with where Fire Study left it but I yearned for more about Valek and Yelena (heart mates 4 lyf!!!!!). This book did not disappoint me, at all. I fell back in with the crew like I had never left it.

I love you, Maria V. Snyder. You are my heroine.

The center of the first three books was Yelena learning about her past and her magic and so when she loses her magic in the first chapter of this book I was sceptical - could I enjoy it without that aspect? Yes. Yes I could. I loved Yelena being a little more helpless but still brave and strong. Another massive plus to this book was reading from Valek's point of view and learning about his past. I have always been curious about what makes Valek tick (aside from Yelena) and we got to learn this time! I have always hated the way that they are always apart but my heart ached less when I got to follow Valek's journey as well.

And that ending - WOW! I'm not saying I never saw it coming, but I'm so happy but worried and ugh! I NEED THE NEXT ONE.

Also, the very welcome appearance of characters like Mara and Opal and Devlin made me very happy. I was disappointed with Opal's decision in Spy Glass (Kade was my bae...) but he redeemed himself in this book. REEMA!

I feel like I am now in a book slump for life (or until the next one comes out). I blame you, Mrs Snyder. 

Overall Rating: A+(+++++++++++++)

Book released 12th March 2015 by Mira Ink
Book received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Review: Me and Mr J by Rachel McIntyre

Me and Mr J
Fifteen-year-old Lara finds her soulmate. There’s just one problem – he’s her teacher.
Lara's life has changed radically since her father lost his job. As the eldest, Lara tries to keep upbeat, and the one outlet for all her problems is her diary where she can be open about how dire everything is at home, and worse, the fact that she’s being horrifically bullied at school.
And then a shining light comes out of the darkness – the new young and MALE teacher, Mr Jagger. The one person who takes Lara seriously and notices her potential. The one person who is kind to her. The one person who she falls madly and hopelessly in love with. The one person who cannot reciprocate her feelings … can he?

This wasn't a book that I was massively excited for - the premise sounded good enough for me to request it but I wasn't expecting it to blow me away. In that respect, I was surprised - whilst I was not the biggest fan of the diary style writing, it seemed very immature and I'm not a fan of that type of writing - I did actually really enjoy the book. It was extremely well written and the story was so well presented. A lot of people have said that they weren't sure if the relationship between Mr Jagger and Lara was right or wrong and I scoffed at that before I read it, how could a student/teacher relationship ever be right? But I get that conundrum, Mr Jagger genuinely cared about Lara, it definitely showed.

I felt for Lara, she had a difficult life, being bullied for simply being ginger - the bullying was awful to read about and it genuinely maid me feel for Lara. That being said, she wasn't the most sympathetic character - she wrote some pretty awful things in her diary about an overweight classmate of hers that seemed to do very little to her. I didn't get that.

Regarding the ending, I was left a little bit disappointed, but I honestly don't actually know how it could have ended any other way.

Overall, Me and Mr J was a great book which dealt with a difficult topic in a way that made me think. That being said, the writing style disappointed me a little bit. I would still read anything else by the same author.

Overall Rating: B

Book released 5th March 2015 by Electric Monkey
Book received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review