Tuesday, June 30, 2015

*Book Review* Get Dirty by Gretchen McNeil (YA Contemporary)

Series: Don't Get Mad # 2
Publisher: Balzer & Bray
Release Date: June 16, 2015
Format: E-Book, 384 pages
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss
Genre: Young Adult, Mystery

The members of Don’t Get Mad aren’t just mad anymore . . . they’re afraid. And with Margot in a coma and Bree stuck in juvie, it’s up to Olivia and Kitty to try to catch their deadly tormentor. But just as the girls are about to go on the offensive, Ed the Head reveals a shocking secret that turns all their theories upside down. The killer could be anyone, and this time he—or she—is out for more than just revenge.

The girls desperately try to discover the killer’s identity as their personal lives are falling apart: Donté is pulling away from Kitty and seems to be hiding a secret of his own, Bree is under house arrest, and Olivia’s mother is on an emotional downward spiral. The killer is closing in, the threats are becoming more personal, and when the police refuse to listen, the girls have no choice but to confront their anonymous friend . . . or die trying.

“I, Kitty Wei, Margot Meija, Olivia Hayes, Bree Derringer, do solemnly swear, no secrets – ever – shall leave this square.”

Gretchen McNeil's Don't Get Mad duology comes to an end with the girls facing difficult personal challenges that could tear the group apart from its foundation. 3 days after the ending of Get Even, Bree is under house arrest after "admitting" to her guilt. Margot, their most analytical member, is in a coma after being attacked. Olivia is wondering how long her mother can hold on until she completely falls apart, and Kitty has some issues with her boyfriend Donte and best friend Mika to work out.

What hasn't been uncovered going into Get Dirty is the killer's identity, and why he or she has decided to attack DGM on such a personal level. Then something unusual happens. The girls open up their group to Ed the Head, and John Baggott. I was definitely blindsided by this move, but found it interesting that after so many successful revenge plots, Ed who adores Margot, and John who loves Bree, would become important partners in the unraveling of the killers motives, and stopping he or she from hurting anyone else.

I have to say that the mystery was definitely played out really well. I guessed, and found clues leading to the person, but still it was well done. Is the killer Ed the Head? Or, is it Sergeant Callahan who has become a major thorn in DGM's fanny, especially Bree who refuses to speak? Or, could it be one of DGM's victim's come back to haunt them? What is apparent the further you travel into McNeil's world, is that nobody is truly safe. Not the DGM members. Not their families. Not even those who the DGM pranked in their many endeavors.

I have to admit that I preferred Get Dirty to Get Even. Perhaps because it got a bit darker and perhaps because there's more twists than a french braid. Unfortunately, there is a but. The part of the book that bugged me and got under my skin was the way Bree's parent's treated her. I had nothing but hatred for Bree's mom who until now has been gallivanting all over Europe. Her dad, the Senator, is all but out of the picture too busy to make sure she's OK and ensuring that she suffers in misery. Then Bree's mother goes and does something that gave me pause and notice. Funny how parents can be so disloyal to their kids, and then suddenly will stop the world in order to do something shocking.

I really liked Bree and John together. Perhaps it's because they threw out Star War's metaphors which they both bot. I really missed having Margot around for most of the story. She's definitely the heart that makes DGM tick. I'd be interesting in seeing how Margot gets on, especially since there is a certain someone who has cared for her, and did things for her, that nobody else does. It was a clever drop of information regarding Olivia and who her father really is. Wouldn't mind seeing what happens in the future between them.

In the end, if you like watching, or have read the Pretty Little Liars books, you will definitely want to pick up this duology and read it. I think the most telling message of this series is that you really need to be careful to whom you try to get back at. Things don't necessarily work out exactly as you had planned. Have you NOT watched Revenge?

**I received this book for free from (Balzer & Bray/Harperteen) via (Edelweiss) in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**

Previous book in Series:

Monday, June 29, 2015

#Review - Defy by @SaraBLarson (YA Fantasy) @Scholastic

Series: Defy # 1
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Released: January 7, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 336 pages
Source: Library
Genre: Young Adult, High Fantasy

Alexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king's army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince's guard. But when a powerful sorcerer sneaks into the palace in the dead of night, even Alex, who is virtually unbeatable, can't prevent him from abducting her, her fellow guard and friend Rylan, and Prince Damian, taking them through the treacherous wilds of the jungle and deep into enemy territory.

The longer Alex is held captive with both Rylan and the prince, the more she realizes that she is not the only one who has been keeping dangerous secrets. And suddenly, after her own secret is revealed, Alex finds herself confronted with two men vying for her heart: the safe and steady Rylan, who has always cared for her, and the dark, intriguing Damian. With hidden foes lurking around every corner, is Alex strong enough to save herself and the kingdom she's sworn to protect?

Defy is the first installment in the Defy trilogy by Sara B. Larson. The series features 17-year old Alexa Hollen who, after her parents were murdered, cuts off all her hair and disguises herself as a boy named Alex. At Fourteen, she and her brother Marcel joined the king's army where Alexa avoided being sent to the breeding houses. More about the breeding houses later. For three years, Alex grows to become one of the best fighters in all the King's army. Her skills are really second to none thanks to her constant training with her brother, and best friend Rylan. 

She quickly rises to the top of the Prince's protection detail where she harbors a mayor secret that if exposed, could jeopardize everything that she's fought for. For the record, I don't have a problem with Mulan like crossing dressing characters. Then again, I do expect them to be a little less emotional at times. I am also appalled by the existence of Breeding Houses. Let's call it what it is. It's a place where soldiers rape young women over and over again until they get pregnant. Sick, disgusting, vile. No further words matter. 

Alexa isn't the only one carrying a heavy secret that could ruin them. Damian, the lazy, spoiled-rotten Prince is also hiding some deadly secrets that leads to his kidnapping along with Alex and Rylan. With kidnappers getting closer and closer to Damian, Alex is forced to room with him, and protect him at all costs. This is the point in the story where everything changes. Damian, Alexa, and Rylan are "captured" and taken to a place where even more secrets are exposed, and things change for Alexa.

So, let's get right to another one of my dislikes; love triangles. Two men secretly hold the fact that they know who Alexa really is; Rylan and Damian. For 3 years, one of them has known her secret and kept it hidden from the rest of the Prince's guards. The Prince himself, apparently, knew as well but once again, kept his mouth shut because Alex had more than proved "himself day in and day out. So, where does that leave Alex? Does she end up falling for the best friend who kept her secret? Or, does she fall for the Prince? You'll have to continue reading the series in order to find out.     

Defy is definitely one of those stories that crosses a whole lot of territory, and may make some readers uncomfortable with the addition of breeding houses. It definitely was not one of the highlights I will look back on with fondness. It is a surprising story in that Alexa is able to hide her identity so well. Or so she believes. I have to say that I really, really liked Alexa. She's more than able to excel among the men she serves with. She rises quickly to the top of the ladder, and would be the Captain of the Prince's guard were she not so young. 

She's more than capable with a sword, and is nearly unbeatable with a bow and arrow. She's often put in charge of testing new recruits where she quickly shows why she's one of the best around. My only, only regret is that Larson falls into the trap of providing readers with a twisted triangle of doom. I know where I stand on who I would choose, but that's because I am a bit behind on the series. There is a whole lot more to to say about this story, but I'll stop for fear of using spoilers. This is a story filled intrigue, mysteries, a scary sorcerer, and a King out of control. I will be continuing this series.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

#Steampunk #Review - Rebel Mechanics by @ShannaSwendson @fsgbooks

Series: Rebel Mechanics # 1
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux
Release Date: July 14, 2015
Source: Publisher
Format: Hardcover, 320 pages
Genre: Alternative History/Steampunk

A sixteen-year-old governess becomes a spy in this alternative U.S. history where the British control with magic and the colonists rebel by inventing.

It’s 1888, and sixteen-year-old Verity Newton lands a job in New York as a governess to a wealthy leading family—but she quickly learns that the family has big secrets. Magisters have always ruled the colonies, but now an underground society of mechanics and engineers are developing non-magical sources of power via steam engines that they hope will help them gain freedom from British rule. The family Verity works for is magister—but it seems like the children's young guardian uncle is sympathetic to the rebel cause. As Verity falls for a charming rebel inventor and agrees to become a spy, she also becomes more and more enmeshed in the magister family’s life. She soon realizes she’s uniquely positioned to advance the cause—but to do so, she’ll have to reveal her own dangerous secret.

Rebel Mechanics is an Alternate History/Steampunk driven novel that takes place in the 1888 American Colonies. Yes, you did read that right. In this universe, the Americans lost the Revolutionary War, the British still rule, and those with Magic, magisters, are responsible for keeping the colonies under their thumbs and magic out of the hands of normal people. Rebel Mechanics centers around Verity Newton who has the equivalent of a college education.

Verity journey's to New York City in an attempt to find suitable employment as a governess. Verity's journey begins by witnessing a robbery of a magisters courier by masked bandits, then riding on a steam driven Bus that can outrun magical transportation. After gaining employment with Lord Henry Lyndon, Verity soon learns that not everything is it seems in NYC. There is an unrest brewing and it's led by a group known as Rebel Mechanics. They are tired of the magisters control over the country, and wants machines to lead the charge in overthrowing the magisters.

Verity finds herself leaning towards the rebel cause even though she, herself, has the ability to use magic. She becomes a spy within the Lyndon household and starts writing guest columns for a sympathetic newspaper to the Rebel cause. While Verity is being lured into the rebellion by her new friends, her new employer Henry, has a few secrets of his own. Henry is the depicted as the older brother figure to his nieces and nephew. Next to Verity, Henry is my favorite character. He's got a whole lot more going on under his disguise than as the mild mannered Entomologist. While Verity is finding love with a rebel, she isn't aware that Henry and his friends have the same goals in mind as the Rebels.

Rebel Mechanics is a fun story with a blend of romance, steampunk, history, and characters that you can definitely love and hate. Thankfully, Rebel Mechanics is not a standalone even though the story wraps itself up easy enough. There will be a sequel with more Verity and Henry and their fight against the Magisters. There are enough questions about Verity and her magic alone to warrant another book. 

**I received this book for free from Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**

Friday, June 26, 2015

*Stacking the Shelves & Weekly Roundup* Week ending June 27

Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course eBooks!

Apologies, but this is going to be an awesomesauce edition of STS and the Weekly Roundup!
Over 3 days, I had USPS, and UPS knocking on my door with packages of books galore!
I do hope you find something interesting to add to your TBR piles of doom!
The Week in Reviews:

Scheduled for Next Week:

Monday - Defy by Sarah Larson (YA Fantasy)
Tuesday - Get Dirty by Gretchen McNeil (YA Contemporary)
Wednesday - Joyride by Anna Banks (YA Contemporary)
Thursday - The Impossible Knife of Memory (YA Contemporary)
Friday - Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge (YA Fantasy)

 Coming Tuesday, July 7 - Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine (YA Dystopian)

Received from Publishers:










*Book Review* Blood Will Tell by April Henry (YA Contemporary, Mystery)

Series: Point Last Seen # 2
Format: Paperback, 272 pages
Release Date: June 16, 2015
Publisher: Henry Holt and CO (BYR)
Source: Publisher
Genre: Young Adult, Mystery

When a woman’s body is found in a Portland park, suspicion falls on an awkward kid who lives only a hundred feet away, a teen who collects knives, loves first-person shooter video games, and obsessively doodles violent scenes in his school notebooks. Nick Walker goes from being a member of Portland’s Search and Rescue team to the prime suspect in a murder, his very interest in SAR seen as proof of his fascination with violence. How is this even possible? And can Alexis and Ruby find a way to help clear Nick's name before it's too late?

April Henry weaves another page-turning, high stakes mystery in Book 2 of the Point Last Seen series.

Blood Will Tell is the second novel in the Point Last Seen series. This story once again features three teenagers in Alexis Frost, Nick Walker, and Ruby McClure who couldn't be more different even if they tried. Different social backgrounds, different reasons for being a part of the Portland's Search and Rescue team, different struggles with life itself. Alexis has spent her life covering for her mom’s mental illness. 

She joined SAR because she needed something that stuck out on her college applications in order to get into a good college. Alexis is also experiencing her own ups and downs with a new boyfriend Brandon who runs hot and cold. Nick’s bravado hides his fear of not being good enough for his own friends. His father was presumably killed in Iraq, and Nick has the desire to join the Army and do something with his life. Ruby is the brains of the three, and my favorite character. She wants to pursue her eccentric interests that often times leads to interesting discoveries. She is hard working, intelligent, and not willing to toss her friends away.

Nick really is the focus of Blood Will Tell along with the not so mysterious killer who Henry all but gives away early in the story itself. Nick is a teenager who loves video games, knives, and doodling rather disturbing scenes. His desire to join the Army is not taken well by his mother, or his older brother. This then becomes a story of discovery for Nick after evidence is found at the crime scene which bears his DNA. There are facts, which I will not spoil, that come out and changes everything Nick has been told. His friendship with Alexis and Ruby is definitely tested. Thankfully, Nick has Ruby as a friend, and Ruby refuses to stop searching for something to help Nick with his troubling situation.

Not really all that mysterious when the author gives you the identity of the villain way before the end of the book. The only mystery was whether or not 3 teens, friends, and members of Search and Rescue, can work together to help one of their own before the killer strikes someone close to them. I do like the fact Henry spent time researching DNA, and SAR, and didn't just come up with fictional police procedures. I like when things make sense and that it is possible that these things can happen to anyone at any time.

I dare say that if you are interested in DNA, you should also look into the theory of Locard's Exchange Principle. In forensic science, Locard's exchange principle (sometimes simply Locard's principle) holds that the perpetrator of a crime will bring something into the crime scene and leave with something from it, and that both can be used as forensic evidence. 

**I received this book for free from Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**

Previous Novel in Series:

Thursday, June 25, 2015

*Book Review* The Leveller by Julia Durango (YA Science Fiction)

Series: The Leveller # 1
Format: E-Book, 256 pages
Release Date: June 23, 2015
Publisher: HarperCollins
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction

Nixy Bauer is a self-made Leveller. Her job? Dragging kids out of virtual reality and back to their parents in the real world. It’s normally easy cash, but Nixy’s latest mission is fraught with real danger, intrigue, and romance.

Nixy Bauer is used to her classmates being very, very unhappy to see her. After all, she’s a bounty hunter in a virtual reality gaming world. Kids in the MEEP, as they call it, play entirely with their minds, while their bodies languish in a sleeplike state on the couch. Irritated parents, looking to wrench their kids back to reality, hire Nixy to jump into the game and retrieve them.

But when the game’s billionaire developer loses track of his own son in the MEEP, Nixy is in for the biggest challenge of her bounty-hunting career. Wyn Salvador isn’t some lazy kid looking to escape his homework: Wyn does not want to be found. And he’s left behind a suicide note. Nixy takes the job but quickly discovers that Wyn’s not hiding—he’s being held inside the game against his will. But who is holding him captive, and why?

Nixy and Wyn attempt to fight their way out of a mind game unlike any they’ve encountered, and the battle brings them closer than either could have imagined. But when the whole world is virtual, how can Nixy possibly know if her feelings are real?

Gamers and action fans of all types will dive straight into the MEEP, thanks to Julia Durango’s cinematic storytelling. A touch of romance adds some heart to Nixy’s vivid, multidimensional journey through Wyn’s tricked-out virtual city, and constant twists keep readers flying through to the breathtaking end.

17-year old Phoenix "Nixy" Bauer is what's known as a Leveller. Her job? Dragging kids back from a virtual reality called MEEP who have overstayed their time limits, and bringing them back to their parents. Nixy's motto is "Nixy Bauer, home in an hour!" Nixy only works with kids 13-18. Never adults. She's really good at her job. So good in fact, that her classmates really hate her. Nixy is a character who uses everything in her arsenal to get the job done. 

She's smart, snarky, and a bad ass video game player who isn't afraid of sharks, or snakes, or man eating plants, or giant scorpions. She doesn't waste time with unnecessary enhancements that others hide behind, and has never failed a challenge of bringing anyone back from MEEP. Now comes the hardest and most challenging retrieval of her life. When game developer/billionaire Diego Salvador calls and requests Nixy's help finding his missing son Wyn who apparently left behind a suicide note, Nixy will be tested to the limits and back again, and will find her world turned upside down. 

I will fully admit that I was pleasantly surprised at how well I liked this story, the world building, the characters. The story is fast paced, and rather short story that keeps you entertained from the cover to the ending. I was once a Gamer who played everything from Doom, to Tomb Raider, to Resident Evil. The concept Durango has created, is something I could totally get into, and I believe it will appeal to other gamers as well.

I loved Nixy. I loved her flaky parents who are involved in creating the MEEP. I even liked Wyn after he and Nix find themselves fighting for their very lives in 1958 Havana, Cuba. I had no clue who the villains were until they were revealed. Needless to say, I will definitely be reading the sequel which currently has no title.  

**I received this book for free from (HarperCollins) via (Edelweiss) in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

*Book Review* The Queen of Zombie Hearts by Gena Showalter (YA Paranormal)

Series: White Rabbit Chronicles # 3
Publisher: Harlequin Teen'
Release Date: September 30, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 464 pages
Source: Library
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal

I have a plan.

We'll either destroy them for good, or they'll destroy us.

Either way, only one of us is walking away.

In the stunning conclusion to the wildly popular White Rabbit Chronicles, Alice "Ali" Bell thinks the worst is behind her. She's ready to take the next step with boyfriend Cole Holland, the leader of the zombie slayers…until Anima Industries, the agency controlling the zombies, launches a sneak attack, killing four of her friends. It's then she realizes that humans can be more dangerous than monsters…and the worst has only begun.

As the surviving slayers prepare for war, Ali discovers she, too, can control the zombies…and she isn't the girl she thought she was. She's connected to the woman responsible for killing—and turning—Cole's mother. How can their relationship endure? As secrets come to light, and more slayers are taken or killed, Ali will fight harder than ever to bring down Anima—even sacrificing her own life for those she loves.

Roses are Red. Violets are Blue. Be Very Afraid, We're Coming For You.

16-year old Alice "Ali" Bell has had a trying year. She's lost her entire family in a car crash. She's come face to face with zombies that were once humans, and defeated them with abilities no one else seems to have. She's joined with a group of slayers who she now calls friends. They are led by Ali's current heart throb, the dark and broody Cole Holland. Ali has really stepped up as one of the leaders of the Slayers with her unique abilities. She's angry, protective, and wants to put an end to Anima once and for-all. 

Cole, Ali, and her slayer friends find themselves being individually targeted from almost the very beginning of this story. Anima can no longer wait around and watch all their hard work slowly go down the drain thanks to the slayers. They want the slayers out of the way, and they don't care who they hurt, as long as Cole and the others are gone. To top things off, because of her uniqueness, Ali has become the primary target for the Anima Industries who wants to use the zombies to try and cheat death.

You must be prepared for anything to happen to anyone, and it does. Showalter doesn't waste a whole lot of time with happy romantic interludes, even though Ali and Cole seem to be in a whole lot better place than usual. Every single slayer finds themselves fighting for their lives, along with their families and friends. Anima is definitely in a pissy mood, and not one single slayer is going to escape unscathed. There will be plenty of action, betrayal, devastating losses of beloved characters, new characters who become allies, and a shocking revelation about Ali that will explain a whole lot about who she really is.

Cole's group of slayers includes Ali, Frosty, Bronx, Jaclyn, Veronica, Gavin, Lucas, Trina, Cruz, Collins, and MacKenzie. They make up the core of the group, but there is yet another group out there as well who we eventually meet as things go sideways quickly for our group. These slayers are a bit different from other novels. Each of the slayers are able to not only see the spirit zombies, but can also leave their own bodies in order to kill them.  

The Queen of the Zombie Hearts, White Rabbit Chronicles # 3, was previously advertised to be the wrap-up story for the series. Apparently, the author and Harlequin Teen have decided to release a FOURTH book in this series called A Mad Zombie Party. You can look for the book coming September 2015. Apparently the fourth novel will feature two secondary characters in Frosty and Camilla Marks who is introduced in this book.

“Ali.” His voice, so husky and deep, was temptation and silk, stroking over me. “Did I ever tell you all the reasons I love you?”
“No.” I licked my lips and shook my head, gathering the courage to face him. His eyes were heavy-lidded, smoldering.
He liked the tattoo.
“Tell me now,” I commanded softly.
“I’ll tell you the top ten. One,” he said and kissed my forehead. “You are brutally honest. It’s such a rare and precious trait.”
Major points for my man: he’d led with personality rather than appearance.
“Two.” He kissed my eye. “You have the perfect sense of humor…perfect for me. It’s a little warped, and a lot twisted, and you can make me laugh when no one else can.”
I almost melted. Almost. I had to hear the rest. “Go on or I’ll hurt you.” Had I sounded as breathless to him as I had to myself?
He chuckled. “Three.” He kissed my other eye, gentle, so gentle. “You’re smart. I want to see your brain naked.”
“Four. You are freaking hot.”
“Obviously.” And okay, yeah, he got points for that, too.
Maybe because I so very rarely felt hot. Or maybe because I so desperately wanted another kiss. A harder one. On my lips. With tongue and teeth. And roaming hands. Or maybe because I wanted him to want all of me.
“Five.” He kissed my cheek, and I moaned. More. “You are unbelievably kind.” He kissed my other cheek. “Six. You love with your whole heart, nothing held back.”
“Come on. Kiss me for real.” Did he want me to beg? Because I would…after I made him beg a little, too.
“Seven.” He pressed his lips against one side of my jaw, skipping my lips, dang him. “You are such a good fighter, I could stand back and watch you do all the hard work, and I wouldn’t feel like a wuss. I’d feel like a genius.”
“I’ll believe that when I see it.”
“Eight.” He kissed his way to the other side of my jaw. “The way you sometimes look at me… It’s as if I’m the sweetest dessert in the bakery and you are desperate for a bite.”
Yes, yes. A big, delicious bite. “At one time,” I said, the huskiness of my tone surprising me. I wrapped my arms around his neck. “That look of mine scared you.” With good reason. I’d been loaded with zombie toxin and had literally wanted to eat him. Well, not me but my zombie twin. Z.A.
“Nine,” he went on and nibbled on my ear. “You’re like the world’s most perfect drug. One hundred percent pure, guaranteed to addict after the first taste. I can’t imagine my life without you in it—don’t want to.”
My skin tingled, and my blood flashed white-hot. “Cole,” I said on another moan. I tangled my hands in his hair, angled his head, trying to take over. “Please. Stop talking, and start acting.”
“Ten,” he said and finally—blessedly—pressed his lips against mine. Only it was soft, far too soft. “You would die for me, the same way I would die for you.”