Friday, August 26, 2016

The Gilded Cage by Lucinda Gray

The Gilded Cage

After growing up on a farm in Virginia, Walthingham Hall in England seems like another world to sixteen-year-old Katherine Randolph. Her new life, filled with the splendor of upper-class England in the 1820s, is shattered when her brother mysteriously drowns. Katherine is expected to observe the mourning customs and get on with her life, but she can't accept that her brother's death was an accident.

A bitter poacher prowls the estate, and strange visitors threaten the occupants of the house. There's a rumor, too, that a wild animal stalks the woods of Walthingham. Can Katherine retain her sanity long enough to find out the truth? Or will her brother's killer claim her life, too?
 
Hardcover, 256 pages
Expected publication: August 2nd 2016 by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) 
 
I received an ARC for review by readingteen.net
The Randolph's lost their parents after moving to Virginia from England. Relying on the friendship of their neighbors they are able to maintain the ranch style living, the siblings are best friends. Very early in the story they find that their grandfather died after a sudden accident and had left Walthingham Hall to their father. Seeing this as the opportunity of a lifetime and pack up for the voyage oversees. The drastic change in their lives offer fancy living, parties and romance.
Soon after their arrival Katherine's brother is found dead in the lake, but all of the information does not add up. The extended family that also lives in Walthingham pushes stories of a mysterious man the roams the yards and wild exotic animals on the loose. Being alone and on another continent away from all she has known Katherine does not know what to believe but is certain that the death was not a drowning, or caused by a wild animal.
I enjoyed the atmosphere of this historical mystery, being that the main character has been placed in this somewhat remote place and then immediately stripped of everything she's known.Wanting to trust her extended family and new friends of what could be happening she finds it hard to understand  what could be happening. No matter how much she tries to understand everything, she'll witness weird behavior, whispering and missing items. Every time she feels she can trust somebody, new secrets arise, along with the death toll.
The book was a quick and mysterious read, There are several different ideas of what could be going on put into the readers mind, and it's a puzzle to try to put everything together and the possibilities are endless. I do not think at any time I really knew what was happening, even with my suspicions. I felt that one part of the story's plot was a little weak, but I loved everything else about it, great imagery and a dark, creepy story. It is a story that has stuck with me long after reading it and I am compelled to pick it up again for a second read. I recommend this one.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Ruined (Audiobook Review) by Amy Tintera

Ruined (Ruined #1)

by Amy Tintera
A revenge that will consume her. A love that will ruin her.

Emelina Flores has nothing. Her home in Ruina has been ravaged by war. She lacks the powers of her fellow Ruined. Worst of all, she witnessed her parents’ brutal murders and watched helplessly as her sister, Olivia, was kidnapped.

But because Em has nothing, she has nothing to lose. Driven by a blind desire for revenge, Em sets off on a dangerous journey to the enemy kingdom of Lera. Somewhere within Lera’s borders, Em hopes to find Olivia. But in order to find her, Em must infiltrate the royal family.

In a brilliant, elaborate plan of deception and murder, Em marries Prince Casimir, next in line to take Lera’s throne. If anyone in Lera discovers Em is not Casimir’s true betrothed, Em will be executed on the spot. But it’s the only way to salvage Em’s kingdom and what is left of her family.

Em is determined to succeed, but the closer she gets to the prince, the more she questions her mission. Em’s rage-filled heart begins to soften. But with her life—and her family—on the line, love could be Em’s deadliest mistake. 

I received the audiobook from readingteen.net for review

I recommend this series to those who liked the Defy series by Sara B Larson (which I loved). To help protect her people and stop the mass murders, Em murders and then assumes the position of the arranged marriage to Prince Casimir, in hopes of killing him and his family as well to stop the war. The Prince finds Em's behavior and opinions do not match what he has been told his fiance should be. But, he seems to enjoy the spontaneous and unexpected reactions his new wife exhibits.
One thing that Em did not expect was that her opinions might worm their way into the Prince's mind. She unintentionally gets him thinking about how is Kingdom is being ran and how peace can be obtained. It's not too long before one of Em's childhood friends is taken prisoner and being torchered by the King. This leads all of the plans to speed up a lot of action and traveling beings as Em and her companions must make a run for it.
From page one the atmosphere is immersed with this ongoing war. People are fighting, dying and risking everything they have for a chance at a better life. In Em's case it's not only to help her people, but to find her sister who was kidnapped. It is very fast paced and always something new happening to change the plot and put Em in danger of being caught. In the meantime she gets to know the King, Queen and Prince Casimir better all very strong characters and obstacles for Em to overcome.  She and the Prince have to spend a lot of time together and they soften to each other, a spark of real romance, in one of the most difficult of situations.
I really enjoy the stories of the put upon rising up and fighting against their oppressors. It gets even more exciting when both sides feel they are the ones being put upon. There is not a lot of drama that happens in this story, just straight forward people fighting for the ones they love and doing what they have to do to survive. It's very action packed and a lot of great characters. I find stories like this a lot of fun, I had a great time reading it, cannot wait for the sequel!!

I received a copy of the audiobook for review but found early on that I was not liking the voices the narrator chose to use to represent the characters. It was something that just didn't quite mesh with me and I turned to the physical book, which I highly enjoyed.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Fig by Sarah Elizabeth Schantz

Fig

Love and sacrifice intertwine in this brilliant and provocative debut of rare beauty about a girl dealing with her mother’s schizophrenia and her own mental illness.

Fig’s world lies somewhere between reality and fantasy.

But as she watches Mama slowly come undone, it becomes hard to tell what is real and what is not, what is fun and what is frightening. To save Mama, Fig begins a fierce battle to bring her back. She knows that her daily sacrifices, like not touching metal one day or avoiding water the next, are the only way to cure Mama.

The problem is that in the process of a daily sacrifice, Fig begins to lose herself as well, increasingly isolating herself from her classmates and engaging in self-destructive behavior that only further sets her apart.

Spanning the course of Fig’s childhood from age six to nineteen, this deeply provocative novel is more than a portrait of a mother, a daughter, and the struggle that comes with all-consuming love. It is an acutely honest and often painful portrayal of life with mental illness and the lengths to which a young woman must go to handle the ordeals—real or imaginary—thrown her way.
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published April 7th 2015 by Margaret K. McElderry Books    I received a review copy from readingteen.net
This story took my breath away. I am not the kind of person that cries, especially while reading a book but this one really got me. It was so touching and beautifully written I highly recommend it.
We get a peek into the life of Fig and what she considered normal life. As an only child that lives on a farm she is inseparable from her mother. But when Fig turns six her mother has a psychotic break down and the family has to close ranks to try to make a liveable home.
Fig's grandmother takes on a bigger role in caring for her, but Fig has never been close to her grandmother. Fig's father is struggling to maintain the farm and trying to support Fig and her mother who they put in a hospital for awhile. He finds comfort in the routine and hard work of working on the farm.
Fig tells us her story from six years old to nineteen, an age she is dreading because that was when her mother had her first psychotic episode. There is a very melancholy feel to the story as Fig has a very hard time not only adjusting to the new family structure but also making friends and begins to take her mental frustrations out in different ways into the physical world.
I am ready to vote this as my favorite book of the year. The prose was so beautiful and emotionally on point to bring the reader right into Fig's world. It really touches on some hard situations and insight into families dealing with mental illness and hard relationships.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Sing Down the Stars by L.J. Hatton

Sing Down the Stars (The Celestine Series #1)

When they arrived, they spread across the sky like a sea of jellyfish—silent, unknown, alien. When they left, a year later, it seemed as if nothing had changed. But soon, certain girls were born with peculiar abilities—inhuman abilities. An international commission was formed to investigate…and fear began to spread. Families were swept from their homes and, one by one, any girl that was different disappeared.

Penn Roma’s four sisters were born with these dreaded powers: they control the elements of fire, water, earth, and wind.

Penn is the unimaginable fifth child, one with the power to call down the stars.

Her father has hidden his daughters’ powers for sixteen years. Then, one explosive night, Penn loses everything: her sisters are taken, her family destroyed. Now, Penn must do the unthinkable and use the power she’s spent a lifetime suppressing. To save her family and herself, she must travel to the very heart of her world’s darkness and discover the truth about her terrifying gift. 

Paperback, 372 pages

Published October 6th 2015 by Skyscape 
 ARC sent to me from readingteen.net for review

So far this has been the most unexpected and jewel of a find for me. When asked if I was interested to review it I thought the concept sounded interesting and I can't remember the last time I read an alien story. What I found was an outstanding and most imaginative story I have read in a long time. Most surprisingly it doesn't focus on the alien beings at all, just the results of what their visiting caused on the humans. I am unsure if this is a book that will appeal to everybody, but for me it is one of my favorite YA stories ever.
Penn and her family have been on the run since before she was born. To hide his daughters from the Commission who want to capture them, he builds a magical circus around them. He puts them in plain view, under the guise of magicians and technology that cause magical illusions. They travel the country and all live in the train so they are never too long in one spot. Penn herself is disguised as a boy, but everything she has ever wanted to be is on stage along with her sisters becoming the true Penelope inside.
Very early in the story one of the Wardens has taken notice of the circus and in his quest to capture Penelope destroys everything in his path. Her whole family is now on the run trying to make it a safety point. The Warden believes that Penn is a Celestine, the strongest and rarest of magical beings to have been born. He uses everything in his power to try to capture her and other magicals from the now destroyed circus.
There is a lot of traveling in the story as everybody has gone their separate ways during the escape. Penelope discovers some of her powers during these times, she has always suppressed her magic because her family did not want to be found out. Very odd things begin to happen around her, and because of her. With the help of some very entertaining and fun technical gadgets her father has made they find their way across the countryside, finding both danger and safety in very unusual places. She finds family members she didn't even know existed and strives on the strong desire to rescue her family and friends, no matter what it takes.
For the second half of the story she finds herself battling the Warden face on when she is taken captive, she is held in a kind of ship high above the ground and with her burgeoning magic, it affects the way the ship. She is a bomb waiting to explode and with some help learns how to harness her powers a bit. She tends to anger almost everybody her path crosses, but seems to find some companionship and the information she needs to try to escape.
Instead of reading this book in one sitting I really took my time with it, digesting every page and really letting myself get lost in this world. I really enjoyed every minute and found it extremely creative and unique. I highly recommend it.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Sisters of Salt and Iron by Kady Cross

Lark Noble is finally happy. She’s trying to move on and put the events of the past behind her: the people who avoided her because she talked to the ghost of her dead twin sister, the parents who couldn’t be around her anymore and even the attempt she made on her own life. She finally has friends—people who know her secrets and still care about her—and she has Ben, the cute guy she never saw coming.

Wren Noble is lonely. Unable to interact with the living, she wants to be happy for her sister’s newfound happiness, but she feels like she’s losing her. It doesn’t help that Kevin, the very not-dead guy she was starting to fall for, seems to be moving on.

Then Wren meets Noah, the spirit of a young man who died a century ago. Noah is cute, he’s charming and he makes Wren feel something she’s never felt before. But Noah has a dark influence on Wren, and Lark’s distrust of him drives the sisters apart for the first time in their lives. As Halloween approaches and the veil between the worlds thins, bringing the dead closer to the world of the living, Lark must find a way to stop whatever deadly act Noah is planning, even if it means going through her sister to do so. 

Hardcover, 352 pages

Published March 30th 2016 by Harlequin TEEN 
ARC for review sent to me by www.readingteen.net

The second book in this series is just as good as the first, if not better. It starts out where the last left off and carries on the story of Lark and Wren, one sister dead, the other living. Together they battle the ghosts that want to hurt them or the living.
In the second book all the side characters are still involved and Wren falls in love with another ghost. It all builds up to Halloween night and the huge party that is to take place at the abandoned Asylum. Also Lark and Wren begin to discover more about their past and how their bloodline may have lead to their present situations. You will need to read the books in order as the stories continue on from the previous one.
The pacing of these books is pretty fast, there are several other side story lines that are happening along with the main one. Because of this there is always something happening and developing to the next step.
I really enjoyed so much about this story it's really hard to say my favorite. I enjoyed how involved their grandmother gets into helping them look for answers. There is also the traveling between worlds, the Void and the Shadow-lands and the interaction of others in those worlds, but perhaps I would say that my favorite part is the layering of mysteries and the connection to their bloodlines to possibly the Greek Gods? I am really excited to keep up with this series and recommend it to others that enjoy a good scare, a variety of characters and mythology. 

Monday, August 1, 2016

Sisters of Blood and Spirit by Kady Cross

I received a review copy from readingteen.net


Wren and Lark Noble are twins. Only one was never born. Lark has always been able to see Wren, she even lets her use her body to live a little. Yet, while one twin is dying to live, the other only wishes she were dead. When Lark attempts to take her own life she is saved by the new guy who can also connect with the dead. He has a group of friends that have been marked by a demon and they ask Lark to help them free themselves.

The friends were marked while at the abandoned Asylum, known to be haunted. Throughout the story Lark can see these scratches getting worse, but they can only feel the affects of the marks. The demon uses the group against each other to gain the upper hand. Luckily they have Wren on their side. Wren has the connection they need on the other side to battle the demon and free them all from his hold.

This is a book I would recommend to fans of Anna Dressed in Blood. With a similar group of characters to add drama and humor to the story. The story has elements of both horror and romance.  Lark is already considered weird as the girl who talks to her dead sister. Along with the resent suicide attempt "making friends" is not on her list of things to do. When it comes to Lark's side of the story there is always an overlying tension, unknown whether she will keep her calm or bail completely. Both Lark and Wren really show a lot of growth throughout the story and both come off a lot stronger in the end.

I found this story to be fun and tense. As a fan of horror stories I felt that Kady Cross did a good job of keeping the story dark and the romance cute and exciting. It is a story that I would recommend to those that like a quick dark paranormal read.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Summer That Melted Everything by Tiffany McDaniel

       "All love leads to cannibalism. I know that now. Sooner or later, our hearts will devour, if not the object of our affections, our very selves. Teeth are the heart's miracle. That a mouth should burst forth on that organ without throat and crave another's flesh, another's heart, is nothing short of a miracle.
         To fall in love is our species' best adventure, and when love, in its burgeoning industry, coils sweetly around our soul, we surrender to the heart's fang and we pray-yes, we pray-to the infinite span that all love has its fair chances, its own share of miracles. And yet the miracles seem pushed to the side when the lovers are young, as if in their youth, there seems to be an almost certain prophecy to be had.
         Maybe the misfortune of young love is just the Romeo and Juliet fragments Shakespeare has left us with, or maybe it really is the voyages of fate that youth and love should burn on contact...."



This story spirals so deep you have to force yourself to come up for air.  When the author contacted me to review her book I was expecting a somewhat fluffy summer time read. Instead I found a story that grabbed onto my soul, it slapped and gut punched me every chapter and I never saw it coming.

The setting is a small town named Breathed, and all of the people that live there. A lawyer by the name of Autopsy Bliss decides to invite the devil to Breathed. Next appears a young boy stating he is just that, the devil..but to call him Sal. The majority of the story is told from Fielding Bliss' perspective, now in his 70's remembering the events of that Summer that changed everything.

Over the course of one summer in 1984 after the arrival of Sal, a heat wave envelopes Breathed and everybody in town seems to be searching for something and yet dreading something. The atmosphere of the story heralds to a time that seems much older than 1984. When sinners were stoned and witches hung.

There was something so dark and yet so everyday that the story became like every headline you see in the papers today. It brings in racism, sexuality, death, murder, anxiety, paranoia, heartbreak and anger, true love and humanity. The questions of good and evil, but mostly what is justice?

The writing is visual poetry you can absolutely lose yourself in the most beautiful and yet harshest of reality. Each subject is like the flip of a coin, the beauty of how something is at it's best, and turned to reveal the darkest it can be. An author's whose words will evoke heartbreaking tears and smiles of happiness in each chapter. A story that left me breathless, speechless and awed.