BOOK REVIEW: Emma Mills “This Adventure Ends”

27779275Title: This Adventure Ends

Author: Emma Mills

Genre: Contemporary/Romance

My Rating: 4/5 stars

 

Sloane isn’t expecting to fall in with a group of friends when she moves from New York to Florida—especially not a group of friends so intense, so in love, so all-consuming. Yet that’s exactly what happens.

Sloane becomes closest to Vera, a social-media star who lights up any room, and Gabe, Vera’s twin brother and the most serious person Sloane’s ever met. When a beloved painting by the twins’ late mother goes missing, Sloane takes on the responsibility of tracking it down, a journey that takes her across state lines—and ever deeper into the twins’ lives.

My thoughts:

This is my second experience reading the work of Emma Mills, and I am forced to come to the conclusion that she is incredibly underrated. The first book I read from her was Foolish Hearts, and both were hilarious, sweet and heartfelt… so basically anything you would want from a good contemporary.

Mills has a special heart and humor to her voice that is just so readable and fun. Very few books have made me laugh out loud like a Mills book has. Her characters feel like actual human beings who I could meet up with in real life, and they’re so easy to love. You come away from a Mills book feeling more enriched and like you’ve learned something about life, family, love.

I absolutely adored every character from This Adventure Ends, and although I hate to sound corny, I did not want this adventure to end. I wanted everyone to leap off the page and be my friends so that I could hug them all.

After finishing this book, Emma Mills has become one of my auto-buy authors, no questions asked. I want to read everything she has and will ever write.

 

Emma Mills: Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

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BOOK REVIEW: Adrienne Young “Sky in the Deep”

91yWNvuYmwLTitle: Sky in the Deep

Author: Adrienne Young

Genre: Historical Fiction

My Rating: 4/5 stars

 

Raised to be a warrior, seventeen-year-old Eelyn fights alongside her Aska clansmen in an ancient rivalry against the Riki clan. Her life is brutal but simple: fight and survive. Until the day she sees the impossible on the battlefield — her brother, fighting with the enemy — the brother she watched die five years ago.

Faced with her brother’s betrayal, she must survive the winter in the mountains with the Riki, in a village where every neighbor is an enemy, every battle scar possibly one she delivered. But when the Riki village is raided by a ruthless clan thought to be a legend, Eelyn is even more desperate to get back to her beloved family.

She is given no choice but to trust Fiske, her brother’s friend, who sees her as a threat. They must do the impossible: unite the clans to fight together, or risk being slaughtered one by one. Driven by a love for her clan and her growing love for Fiske, Eelyn must confront her own definition of loyalty and family while daring to put her faith in the people she’s spent her life hating.

My thoughts:

I definitely see what the hype is about. I also see why there have been a few big name reviewers who did not like this.

Some complaints included flat, emotionless characters and a dull story/writing. I agree that there were some slow, boring parts throughout the book. However, I felt that the characters, particularly Eelyn, were strong and I absolutely felt connected to our MC. I felt her pain and was invested in her journey.

Another thing I loved was the slow-burn, hate-to-love romance. It’s one of my favorite literary tropes and I thought it was well done here in Sky in the Deep. I also loved the familial elements and love in this story: the father-daughter bond, the brother-sister bond, the father-son bond.

This is a more personal preference, but I actually have a hard time reading fight/action scenes, and there’s a lot of that here. It’s not that the action in Sky in the Deep is bad; however, it tends to make me anxious and I end up skimming so that I can just know what happens.

All in all, this was a strong debut, but I don’t think it was everything that everyone else in the world is making it out to be.

 

Adrienne Young: Website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

BOOK REVIEW: Jenny Han “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before”

15749186Title: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

Author: Jenny Han

Genre: Romance/Contemporary

My Rating: 4/5 stars

 

What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them… all at once?

Sixteen-year-old Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.

My thoughts:

So this is actually a reread for me, but I originally read this back when it was first published! I was so intrigued by the concept, especially because I had imagined scenarios similar to Lara Jean’s happening to myself.

That’s why initially, this turned out to be a little bit of a bummer for me the first time around. It wasn’t quite what I expected it to be and I ended up coming away from it with slightly negative feelings.

However, in light of the movie being released soon I decided that a reread was in order; and since I know how the trilogy ends now, I thought that maybe I would be able to read this with a fresh perspective and possibly enjoy it more. Luckily, I was right!

Since I was able to set aside my misgivings from my first read-through and just enjoy the adorableness of this story, I ended up loving it so much more!

The things that annoyed me the first time still annoyed me this time… that’s mostly just the lie that makes up the entire basis of this book. I hate when the main characters lie and the entire plot is all about keeping up that lie. It’s so frustrating to me and I have a hard time sympathizing with the characters when things fall apart and people have gotten hurt. Like, you caused this, you literally asked for it.

That being said, this is the perfect, fluffy summer read and I think there are very few who will be immune to the charms of Lara Jean and Peter K.

 

Jenny Han: Website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

BOOK REVIEW: Taylor Jenkins Reid “Forever, Interrupted”

81CQTisAmcLTitle: Forever, Interrupted

Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid

Genre: Romance/Contemporary

My Rating: 4/5 stars

 

Elsie Porter is an average twentysomething and yet what happens to her is anything but ordinary. On a rainy New Year’s Day, she heads out to pick up a pizza for one. She isn’t expecting to see anyone else in the shop, much less the adorable and charming Ben Ross. Their chemistry is instant and electric. Ben cannot even wait twenty-four hours before asking to see her again. Within weeks, the two are head over heels in love. By May, they’ve eloped.

Only nine days later, Ben is out riding his bike when he is hit by a truck and killed on impact. Elsie hears the sirens outside her apartment, but by the time she gets downstairs, he has already been whisked off to the emergency room. At the hospital, she must face Susan, the mother-in-law she has never met and who doesn’t even know Elsie exists.

Interweaving Elsie and Ben’s charmed romance with Elsie and Susan’s healing process, Forever, Interrupted will remind you that there’s more than one way to find a happy ending.

My thoughts:

I freaking told myself. I said, “Devyn, your husband is deployed for 4 months. It’s not a good idea for you to read sappy/sad romance novels.” Then I picked up Forever, Interrupted and read the synopsis, and I said, “Devyn, do you really think it’s smart for you to read a book about a woman whose husband dies?” But what did I do? I read the stupid book anyway.

Just a glutton for punishment, is what I am.

This was heartbreaking, but there was a big element of healing which is so important. It is tragic to lose a loved one, but it’s important to portray moving on in a healthy amount of time. Of course I say this, but if my husband were to die I would probably rot, so who am I to say?

That’s not to say Elsie didn’t struggle to move on. She did. It was a daily battle waged within herself (and sometimes without), but her and Susan’s story is vital that there is life after death.

To add insult to injury, the sections of the book alternated between the events that occurred after Elsie and Ben first met, and after Ben dies. It’s so difficult to read because during one chapter, I may have had a stupid grin on my face because Ben and Elsie were cute. And then of course reality would set in for the next chapter and Ben would be dead and I’d want to just tear my heart out of my own chest.

I loved the relationship that developed between Elsie and Susan, Ben’s mom. They needed each other to mourn and while theirs was a non-traditional mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship, it was special nonetheless. It was such a beautiful part of the story to see the two of them healing and loving together.

The author’s voice was very nice and easy, and her writing was beautiful. I loved her comparison between Elsie and Ben’s love and a supernova:

Have you ever heard of supernovas? They shine brighter than anything else in the sky and then fade out really quickly, a short burst of extraordinary energy. I like to think you and Ben were like that . . . in that short time, you had more passion than some people have in a lifetime.

Ugh, cue the tears again.

I really enjoyed this even though it made me ache for my husband to be home 1000 times more. I can’t wait for him to come back so that I can hold him a little bit tighter and cherish the time that we have together.

 

Taylor Jenkins Reid: Website | Twitter | Goodreads

BOOK REVIEW: Neal Shusterman “Thunderhead”

thunderhead-9781442472457_hrTitle: Thunderhead

Author: Neal Shusterman

Genre: Science Fiction

My Rating: 2/5 stars

 

Never would I have thought I would be saying anything but good things about Thunderhead. You can read my positively glowing review of Scythe here to see just how much I adored the first book in this series, and then you’ll understand why I feel so betrayed.

I was so pumped for this book! In all honesty, the only reason I had left it unread for so long was because I knew I was going to love it, so I was saving it for a time when I knew I’d need a pick-me-up title. You know, something to pull me out of a slump or something.

Oh, no no. Thunderhead put me in a deep, deep slump, and quite possibly a depressive state. Neal Shusterman, what happened? What went wrong? How is it possible that the same human who wrote the amazing Scythe also penned this, quite frankly, ridiculous book?

Let’s start with the things I liked: going into more depth with unsavories was very interesting. Since this series is set in a future, Utopian world where they’ve all but eliminated crime, it was interesting to hear about how the few troublemakers are dealt with. There’s no true punishment, as unsavories aren’t sent to prison or anything. Still, their profiles are stamped with a big ole “U” so everyone knows that they’re unsavory. They have to meet regularly with a probation officer. They have to repay any damages or hospital bills they may have caused. But really, unsavories can continue living their lives and doing whatever they want.

There are also some interesting locations where only unsavories are allowed, and they are special places where the sole purpose is for individuals to let out their pent-up aggression. You want to beat someone up? Go to this special malt shop for unsavories where the staff is there to get yelled at and beat up if they get your order wrong. You feel like breaking something? There’s an unsavory “prison” where you’re meant to be put in a cell just so you can break out.

It was all very interesting and I could definitely almost see the appeal to being an unsavory: no real consequences for your actions since no one really dies and since any trouble you do cause never warrants any sort of punishment.

I also enjoyed reading about Scythe Anastasia, or Citra, and her new ways of gleaning and what she brought to the scythedom. Rowan is also always an interesting character to read.

But that’s it. Everything else was painful and ridiculous.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the newest character that was introduced, Greyson. Not enough was offered about him to make me care about him at all. He was raised by the Thunderhead and ends up saving Citra and Scythe Curie’s lives, but gets in trouble for it. This ends up completely ruining his life. It’s a really frustrating story arc to read.

Then you have Tyger, who is so completely stupid that I can’t even feel sorry for him. He’s just utterly ridiculous. “Yeah, I got hired for this shady but high-paying gig in Texas and this shady lady is going to train me to be a scythe! Nothing shady going on here!” When Rowan shows up and is obviously not at all okay with what’s going on, Tyger doesn’t sit back and reevaluate his super shady situation. No, Rowan’s just a wet blanket. It’s not like Rowan was an Scythe’s apprentice for any length of time. It’s not like he probably knows what he’s talking about.

It was so hard to ignore this childish subplot.

Then let’s talk about Texas. Apparently it’s a region all on it’s own. The Thunderhead has no cameras there and people in Texas all wear big hats, boots and belt buckles. Of course, they’re all gun-toting hicks who have bears as pets.

I’m sorry, but am I the only person who reads that and thinks that’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever read? Yes, let’s take every modern Texan stereotype and that’s probably exactly how everyone in Texas acts in the future. Come on, that’s not even how all of Texas is today. I’m literally just mind-blown that this all made it past publishers and editors and nobody else thought it was ridiculous? Because to be frank, that’s how I have to describe this book.

Confession time, I DNF’d this at 50% because I couldn’t handle it anymore. This review is to show why I despised it so much that I couldn’t finish it, even though I know it’s frowned upon. I just can’t begin to convey my disappointment in what a terrible book I thought this was. And I seem to be in the minority, because I read reviews and they’re all 4-5 star ratings. Did we read the same book? Did you somehow receive a copy that wasn’t ridiculous? If so, I’d like to borrow yours and then burn mine.

BOOK REVIEW: Sara Holland “Everless”

32320661Title: Everless

Author: Sara Holland

Genre: Fantasy

My Rating: 4/5 stars

 

In the kingdom of Sempera, time is currency—extracted from blood, bound to iron, and consumed to add time to one’s own lifespan. The rich aristocracy, like the Gerlings, tax the poor to the hilt, extending their own lives by centuries.

No one resents the Gerlings more than Jules Ember. A decade ago, she and her father were servants at Everless, the Gerlings’ palatial estate, until a fateful accident forced them to flee in the dead of night. When Jules discovers that her father is dying, she knows that she must return to Everless to earn more time for him before she loses him forever.

But going back to Everless brings more danger—and temptation—than Jules could have ever imagined. Soon she’s caught in a tangle of violent secrets and finds her heart torn between two people she thought she’d never see again. Her decisions have the power to change her fate—and the fate of time itself.

My thoughts:

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this. While I was intrigued by the concept, I wasn’t sure how it would play out and was concerned that the execution would leave much to be desired. However, I thought that it was well done, interesting and fun.

Everything made logical sense in this. The main character did some stupid things and sometimes it was frustrating, but at least she was kind of aware that what she was doing was stupid? She’s basically like, “I know this is a bad idea, but I’m doing it anyway because I don’t have anything to lose”. So I mean, got to at least applaud her for self awareness.

Jules has a lot of growth and developing she needs to do in the next book(s), but I see a lot of potential in her. I love her origin story, including the secrets that we discover about her later on in the book. (But that’s for a spoiler review, which this is not.) I also love the potential for romance that this book left us with. Nothing actually occurs between the two characters that I ship, but the tension is real and I ship it anyway. It’s going to happen.

This was altogether a really unique and awesome new fantasy that I’m really excited to have finally read. I’ll definitely be continuing this series and I’m eager to see what happens!

 

Sara Holland: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

BOOK REVIEW: Stephanie Garber “Legendary”

9781250095312Title: Legendary

Author: Stephanie Garber

Genre: Fantasy

My Rating: 5/5 stars

 

It almost feels pointless to write a non-spoiler review for this book… I can’t give anything away and I can’t rant and rave about what went on. Why am I even here? And who’s going to read a review of Legendary anyway? Anyone who’s planning to read the book will be avoiding spoilers at all costs, and anyone who isn’t planning to read it simply hasn’t read Caraval yet. (While I’m at that, here’s some self-promotion: read my review, then read Caraval. Just do it.)

Legendary was everything I wanted it to be.

It had heartbreaking romance, magic, mystery, surprise, action. Legendary had everything needed to be the perfect story. I am beyond impressed with Stephanie Garber, and so pleased that she managed to ward off second-book syndrome. There was nothing lacking in this, it didn’t feel like it was a filler novel, and it was perfect.

Donatella was a wonderful main character. I wasn’t sure how I would feel about it just based on her character in Caraval, but she was really great. She was strong and independent and funny and so completely human. It was so easy to relate to her and feel for her and did I mention the utterly heart-shattering romance? I adored the love interest in this novel, adored the villain… I have all the love for every aspect of this book.

I think I actually enjoyed Legendary more than the first book, which is saying a lot because I loved Caraval. I can’t wait for the final book in this series, although Garber is welcome to write as many books in this world as she wants to. I will read them all.

 

Stephanie Garber: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads

BOOK REVIEW: Carolyn Gross “Domani”

9780692979419Title: Domani

Author: Carolyn Gross

Genre: Science Fiction

My Rating: 2.5/5 stars

 

Lulu knew the people of Dalia deserved to live in darkness. The knowledge existed in her bones as surely as she knew that the flames were coming to end their existence.

She stood hidden in the crowd gathered before the steps of the Sanctuary as she did every day to hear the doyen speak. The doyen spoke of hope in a world shrouded in darkness by the enormous gas planet spinning above it. That planet protected Dalia from the raging fires of a sun positioned too close to sustain life. But their protector planet was shifting away from them and the shadow that once sheltered them was disappearing.

The doyen normally told calming sermons to a beleaguered and frightened people, but this time was different. He would tell them that their destruction was assured. Before he could, he would have to survive an assassination attempt.

Lulu was the only one who could see it.

The strength and power Lulu discovers about herself will place her at the head of a massive uprising that will span across an entire galaxy. Will she become the catalyst needed to destroy the empire that created her?

My thoughts:

I struggle sometimes with reading science fiction because it can be so bizarre that it’s difficult to picture the world being described. There are a few that have managed to grab me and suck me in, but generally I find myself lost and confused.

Sadly, this was the same with Domani. Carolyn Gross had an intriguing idea, and I was definitely interested in the story she was trying to tell. Yet from the very first pages, with brows furrowed and brain jumbled, I felt like I was thrown into the story with very little explanation or background. I had so many questions and it was hard to follow, especially since there’s immediate action… and the book just moved on without me.

Gross is a promising author and I would be very interested to see her try either another genre or a more fleshed out science fiction world. However, Domani fell flat for me.

Special thanks to the author and Smith Publicity for sending me a copy for review!

 

Carolyn Gross: Goodreads

BOOK REVIEW: Thomas V Harris “Three Gorges Dam”

51wtwUNcBWL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_Title: Three Gorges Dam

Author: Thomas V Harris

Genre: Fiction

My Rating: 2/5 stars

 

CHINA’S WESTERN FRONTIER IS A POWDER KEG.

ITS BUDDHIST AND MUSLIM MINORITIES ARE ABOUT TO LIGHT THE FUSE.

Michael Brannigan and the People’s Republic of China are concluding a triumphant week. The PRC’s top energy consultant has fallen in love with Australian geophysicist Kylie Ryan while traveling in Xinjiang Province. President Lao Ming is in Beijing hosting a game-changing summit with the United States. CNN is broadcasting the new reality: the Communist juggernaut has surpassed the US.

Brannigan’s train is retracing Marco Polo’s historic journey. When the Silk Road Express reaches the Far East’s Far West, his team of engineers will assist the Chinese in developing the world’s richest oil fields. Brannigan is heading deeper into the Taklamakan Desert as President Lao’s motorcade approaches the end of its parade route. In a few hours, Lao will celebrate his victory in the Hall of Purple Light.

All that changes in two blinks of an eye. China’s Young Turks and Fighting Monks rock the country. Caught up in the violence, Brannigan’s love affair meets a tragic end. The Reds and rebels engage in an escalating cycle of provocations and reprisals. In the midst of the turmoil, Brannigan returns to China for a hush-hush assignment at Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydroelectric facility. There he overcomes his demons and finds lasting happiness. Everything is coming up aces.

UNTIL THE UNTHINKABLE HAPPENS.

My thoughts:

First of all, my deepest thanks to both the author and Smith Publicity for sending me a copy to review!

Sadly, this didn’t end up being my cup of tea. While I do enjoy political intrigue and stories with interesting settings, this book was too technical for me to enjoy fully. It didn’t feel like a story so much as a news report.

The author wrote well enough until it came to the dialogue, which is where things got dicey. That’s not to say the dialogue was bad, but the way it was formatted was incredibly confusing, making it difficult to know who exactly was speaking at any given moment. We could have an entire page full of dialogue with absolutely no indicators like, Brannigan said, etc.

That’s not to say others who enjoy politically-charged books with cultural infusion won’t find much to love about Three Gorges Dam. You can tell Harris did plenty of research for his story and it shines through. Sadly, it just wasn’t something I could get into.

 

Thomas V Harris: Website | Goodreads

BOOK REVIEW: Josh Malerman “Bird Box”

51bIN6SUb1L._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgTitle: Bird Box

Author: Josh Malerman

Genre: Thriller/Horror

My Rating: 5/5 stars

 

Something is out there, something terrifying that must not be seen. One glimpse of it, and a person is driven to deadly violence. No one knows what it is or where it came from.

Five years after it began, a handful of scattered survivors remains, including Malorie and her two young children. Living in an abandoned house near the river, she has dreamed of fleeing to a place where they might be safe. Now that the boy and girl are four, it’s time to go, but the journey ahead will be terrifying: twenty miles downriver in a rowboat–blindfolded–with nothing to rely on but her wits and the children’s trained ears. One wrong choice and they will die. Something is following them all the while, but is it man, animal, or monster?

Interweaving past and present, Bird Box is a snapshot of a world unraveled that will have you racing to the final page.

My thoughts:

This is by far one of the greatest thrillers I have ever read in my life. I have about 1,462 questions and the end did not answer a single one; yet I’m not even disappointed. I loved it so much.

Bird Box was terrifying and thought-provoking and completely fascinating. It made me actually question what I would do in the situation, it made me fear for our main character Malorie, and it had me questioning every single step of the way: what was out there?

Malorie’s parenting style was questionable to say the least, yet necessary for the situation she had found herself in: alone with two children in a world where opening your eyes could literally kill you. She had to train the children to listen better than they could see, and they were forced to grow up in a world where they weren’t able to see the sun, the sky, anything outside of the house they were born in. Malorie was incredibly resourceful and smart and her survival story was so inspiring!

This book had me on the edge of my seat throughout; never was there I time I could relax. It was thrilling and terrifying and completely genius that the creatures are never described to the reader because no one had ever seen one and lived to tell. We’re forced to imagine ourselves what these creatures may look like, which is somehow even scarier. All we see is the aftermath, which always ends in violence and death.

While I was reading this, I had to talk about it to anyone who would listen. I was visiting family at the time and would rant about it to my mom or my brother who were both basically done with me, but I couldn’t help it. Everyone should honestly be talking about Bird Box. The concept is intriguing, the execution is flawless, and the story is riveting and incredible.

I highly recommend this read to anyone who enjoys thrillers and stories of survival in post-apocalyptic times (although I think everyone should read it because it’s amazing).

 

Josh Malerman: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads