Review: Storm and Fury (The Harbinger #1) by Jennifer L. Armentrout

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Eighteen-year-old Trinity Marrow may be going blind, but she can see and communicate with ghosts and spirits. Her unique gift is part of a secret so dangerous that she’s been in hiding for years in an isolated compound fiercely guarded by Wardens—gargoyle shape-shifters who protect humankind from demons. If the demons discover the truth about Trinity, they’ll devour her, flesh and bone, to enhance their own powers.

When Wardens from another clan arrive with disturbing reports that something out there is killing both demons and Wardens, Trinity’s safe world implodes. Not the least because one of the outsiders is the most annoying and fascinating person she’s ever met. Zayne has secrets of his own that will upend her world yet again—but working together becomes imperative once demons breach the compound and Trinity’s secret comes to light. To save her family and maybe the world, she’ll have to put her trust in Zayne. But all bets are off as a supernatural war is unleashed…

I received copies of this title via NetGalley and via a Goodreads giveaway. It does not impact my review.

Storm and Fury will be available June 11, 2019. 

I really enjoyed this. I must confess, I was never a huge fan of the original The Dark Elements series that this series spun-off from and I thought I would feel similarly about this one. However, it definitely surpassed my expectations.

I thought Trinity was a good main character. She frustrated me a little bit with her impulsiveness and argumentativeness, but she was a pretty classic JLA heroine. One thing that really made her stand out is that she’s dealing with a vision disability – Retinitis pigmentosa. It causes tunnel vision and a host of other vision problems and will most likely end in blindness. JLA has been diagnosed with this in real life and I have to imagine including this in a character was a bit cathartic, but also difficult. There are parts here and there when Trinity says something about it that I have seen JLA say on social media, so you know this character is very personal to her and it made her that much more special to read.

I also liked seeing Zayne again. I was Team Zayne in The Dark Elements series, even though I knew it was never going to happen, so I was happy to see him really start to move on a bit. I liked his banter with Trinity and his protectiveness of her. I also thought we got just the right amount of Roth and Layla. They’re around enough to make fans of the original series happy, while also contributing to the plot in a big way, but they don’t take the focus off of Trinity and Zayne.

At over 500 pages, I did think this book was a little too long, though. There is honestly not that much going on and I think it really could’ve been cut down a bit. However, there is lots of character development and I never felt bored or anything, despite the slow moving plot. There were several reveals saved until the end that I thought were pretty obvious much earlier in the book, but there was one big one that I hadn’t seen coming and I liked that it managed to surprise me.

Other than the length, there was only really one other thing I didn’t care for. I expect a little more mature content from a JLA book, but there is one scene that I thought was a little too explicit for YA. I could see that an argument could be made for this being New Adult instead of Young Adult since Trinity is 18 and Zane is a few years older, but everything else reads very much YA, so it still felt a little inappropriate.

Overall, I really enjoyed Storm and Fury. I thought it improved upon the original series it spun off from. I liked the characters and shipped the romance. I’m definitely looking forward to the next book in the series.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

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Review: Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

After an awkward first encounter, Birdie and Daniel are forced to work together in a Seattle hotel where a famous author leads a mysterious and secluded life in this romantic contemporary novel from the author of Alex, Approximately.

Mystery-book aficionado Birdie Lindberg has an overactive imagination. Raised in isolation and homeschooled by strict grandparents, she’s cultivated a whimsical fantasy life in which she plays the heroic detective and every stranger is a suspect. But her solitary world expands when she takes a job the summer before college, working the graveyard shift at a historic Seattle hotel.

In her new job, Birdie hopes to blossom from introverted dreamer to brave pioneer, and gregarious Daniel Aoki volunteers to be her guide. The hotel’s charismatic young van driver shares the same nocturnal shift and patronizes the waterfront Moonlight Diner where she waits for the early morning ferry after work. Daniel also shares her appetite for intrigue, and he’s stumbled upon a real-life mystery: a famous reclusive writer—never before seen in public—might be secretly meeting someone at the hotel.

To uncover the writer’s puzzling identity, Birdie must come out of her shell…discovering that most confounding mystery of all may be her growing feelings for the elusive riddle that is Daniel.

I received a copy of this title via the publisher. It does not impact my review. 

Serious Moonlight will be available April 16, 2019. 

Serious Moonlight may not have ended up being exactly what I thought it was going to be, but it was still the type of enjoyable, quick read I’ve come to expect from Jenn Bennett.

I thought that the mystery and the historic hotel that Birdie and Daniel work at would play larger roles in the story. I expected a little bit of a creepy vibe, as well. However, the book stays firmly Contemporary in tone. Which isn’t a bad thing at all, I was just expecting something a little bit different. The mystery left a lot to be desired for me. I never really understood why they cared that much about it and it wasn’t until the final “twist” that it made sense why one of them was interested. However, it was a good excuse for Birdie and Daniel to spend time together and get to know each other and have fun, bantery conversations that I quite enjoyed. I definitely shipped them together.

The story wasn’t all cute and lightness, though. Deceased parents, unplanned pregnancies, deadbeat dads, Narcolepsy, depression, suicide, isolation, and abandonment issues are all explored. It was kind of a lot to juggle, but Bennett did a pretty good job of it. I especially thought the inclusion of Narcolepsy was really interesting. I’ve never read a book where a character suffered from that and it involves a lot more than just randomly falling asleep, like I thought.

One thing I didn’t like about the book, however, is the irresponsible view on sex. I think that it had the opportunity to really explore the emotional repercussions of casual sex, but it never really went there. The “advice” Birdie gets from the adult in her life is basically not to take things so seriously. In a book meant for adults I could probably ignore it, but for one marketed to teens, I wish there was a better message on the subject.

Overall, I enjoyed Serious Moonlight. While there were a lot of heavier topics to deal with, at it’s heart it was a cute contemporary romance that I shipped. I really liked Birdie and Daniel together. There were many cute moments between them, including one of the coolest first date experiences I’ve ever heard of. I think fans of more serious YA contemporaries will enjoy it.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

Review: Cold Day in the Sun by Sara Biren

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Holland Delviss wants to be known for her talent as a hockey player, not a hockey player who happens to be a girl. But when her school team is selected to be featured and televised as part of HockeyFest, her status as the only girl on the boys’ team makes her the lead story. Not everyone is thrilled with Holland’s new fame, but there’s one person who fiercely supports her, and it’s the last person she expects (and definitely the last person she should be falling for): her bossy team captain, Wes.

I received a copy of this title from the publisher. It does not impact my review.

Cold Day in the Sun will be available March 12, 2019. 

I really enjoyed this book. I’ve really been in the mood for cute contemporary stories lately and Cold Day in the Sun gave me that, plus a little more substance.

Holland is the only girl on the boys varsity hockey team. She’s a great player, but there’s obviously a lot of pressure that comes with her position on the team. A lot of people don’t think she should be allowed to play with the boys and she spends every game trying to prove them wrong. What I thought was an interesting twist on the situation is that there is a girl’s hockey team she could play on. Holland really makes a point of saying her decision isn’t about the girls team not being good enough for her, but that she has always played with her brothers and their friends growing up and she wanted to keep playing with them. While at first I didn’t think it was a good narrative decision for there to be both a boys and girls team, giving Holland a choice really is important to the plot. Other than to satisfy my preconceived ideas, why should she have to justify her decision? Why can’t her explanation be “because I want to”? I liked that this situation challenged my thinking a bit.

Feminism is obviously a strong theme of the story. While it did hit on a lot of important topics, there were a few things that didn’t work for me. Any time someone uses a common, but male-centered expression (like “that takes balls” or “man down”) Holland goes off on them about it. Yes, I understand the reasoning for wanting to correct this kind of rhetoric, but honestly it just comes across a little petty to me. And I don’t think yelling at people when they say it is really the way to get people to change the way they speak.

While there were sexist remarks made about Holland by some people in their community, I loved that her teammates didn’t act like that. None of them seemed to be angry about having a girl on the team, even when she was better than some of them. While a few players were a little over-protective at times, they mostly just treated her like any other player and I liked that. I also really liked her relationship with her brothers and that none of them were threatened by her, either.

And then there is Wes. I absolutely adored him. He is so sweet and I loved how much he supported Holland. Besides hockey, they also share a love for glam metal. I am not really familiar with the music and bands that are mentioned (a lot) so I feel like some of the impact that might have had was a little lost on me, but I did like how they texted each other about it. I absolutely shipped the two of them together and I was glad to see Holland finally wise up when it came to him.

Overall, I really enjoyed Cold Day in the Sun. I liked the characters, the hockey, and the romance – especially Wes. While I didn’t always appreciate the way in which some points were made, I did like that it challenged the way I think about some things and thought it had a good overall message. This was definitely the cute read that I wanted it to be, plus more, and I’m looking forward to reading more from Biren.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: On Thin Ice (Juniper Falls #3) by Julie Cross

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Brooke Parker never expected to find herself in the tiny town of Juniper Falls, Minnesota. Of course, she also never expected to lose her dad. Or for her mom to lose herself. Brooke feels like she’s losing it…until she finds Juniper Falls hockey. Juniper Falls girls’ hockey, that is.

Jake Hammond, current prince of Juniper Falls, captain of the hockey team, and player with the best chance of scoring it big, is on top of the world. Until one hazing ritual gone wrong lands him injured, sitting on the sidelines, and―shocking even to him―finding himself enjoying his “punishment” as assistant coach for the girls’ team.

As Jake and Brooke grow closer, he finds the quiet new girl is hiding a persona full of life, ideas, and experiences bigger and broader than anything he’s ever known. But to Jake, hockey’s never just been a game. It’s his whole life. And leveraging the game for a shot at their future might be more than he can give.

Each book in the Juniper Falls series is STANDALONE:
* Off the Ice
* Breaking the Ice
* On Thin Ice

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review. 

On Thin Ice will be available February 26, 2019. 

I have liked the other books in the Juniper Falls series, but I really loved On Thin Ice. It completely surpassed my expectations and I enjoyed it so much that I already want to re-read it.

I found both Jake and Brooke really likable characters. They both have had rough things happen in their lives and I felt like their reactions made sense for their age and situations. I also really loved them together. Their relationship didn’t have the best start, but I loved how it developed. I also really enjoyed seeing characters from the previous books like Tate, Claire, Fletcher, and Stellers.

I thought the hockey hazing storyline was well done. Over the course of the series we’ve seen how toxic the environment can be and how hockey players are given a lot of slack in the town, but it all really comes to a head here. I was glad to see the behavior was finally addressed and that it was the players themselves that brought it forward. It was a refreshing take on such a serious topic. I do wish that the issues with Brooke’s family were given a little more attention, though. Topics like self-harm and a suicide attempt are brought up and pretty quickly dismissed.

Overall, I just really loved On Thin Ice. I enjoyed the characters, the friendships, the romance, and the addictive writing. I really never wanted to put this one down. I recommend this one to fans of YA Contemporaries.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Famous in a Small Town by Emma Mills

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

For Sophie, small town life has never felt small. With her four best friends–loving, infuriating, and all she could ever ask for–she can weather any storm. But when Sophie’s beloved Acadia High School marching band is selected to march in the upcoming Rose Parade, it’s her job to get them all the way to LA. Her plan? To persuade country singer Megan Pleasant, their Midwestern town’s only claim to fame, to come back to Acadia to headline a fundraising festival.

The only problem is that Megan has very publicly sworn never to return.

What ensues is a journey filled with long-kept secrets, hidden heartbreaks, and revelations that could change everything–along with a possible fifth best friend: a new guy with a magnetic smile and secrets of his own.

Emma Mills books always make me happy and Famous in a Small Town was no exception. It’s been awhile since I smiled so much while reading a book.

As I’ve come to expect from Mills’ books, there are strong themes of friendship and family. I loved Sophie and her group of friends. There is so much effortless banter and I am completely here for it. I think that is one of the reason why I love books by this author so much. They are exactly my sense of humor.

While I loved the group of friends, a few of them – Flora, Dash, and especially Terrence – could’ve been a little more developed for me. Brit was well developed, but she was probably my least favorite person in the story. She was kind of the “wild” friend with a backstory that never really made sense to me. Which brings up another issue that made parts of the book not work for me. Several of the characters have some kind of heavy things happen to them, but none of them were really given enough attention to feel like anything more than a random side plot. A couple of them come kind of completely out of left field and then were never really explained or fully explored. I appreciated what Mills was trying to do with these storylines, but I just don’t think it worked here. I think if she would have picked one and focused on it, it would have worked a little better.

Enough with the negative, though, because I really enjoyed everything else. I loved Sophie and August together and really shipped the romance. I felt like they clicked from their very first scene together and then it just kept getting better. There’s some requisite angst here and there, but it still worked for me. I also really loved August’s brother and his family, who Sophie does a lot of babysitting for.

Overall, I really enjoyed Famous in a Small Town. I love how addictive Mills’ writing is and how even though it doesn’t feel like a lot is actually happening in the story, I never want to stop reading it. I loved the humor, the romance, the friendships, and that beautiful cover and I will be anxiously awaiting Mills’ next book.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Lovestruck by Kate Watson

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Sixteen-year-old cupid-in-training Kali is in an Olympus-sized mountain of trouble. Rule number one in arrow-toting matchmaking: don’t stick yourself. But accidents happen, and Kali instantly falls hard for her indie rock, bass-playing target, Benicio.

The God of Love is going to kill her. Even if he is her dad.

Being the daughter of Eros isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. For one thing, a girl can get jaded when her parents have the most beautiful and fatalistic love story in history. For another, immortality royally sucks when the Oracle condemns you to eternity in the wrong profession. Do the Gods care that Kali wants to ditch the love stuff and be a muse?

Nope.

To reclaim her heart and her destiny, Kali is left with no choice but to defy the Gods, tempt the Fates, date the mortal love-of-her-life, and hope she doesn’t lose her best friend, Hector, in the process.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review. 

Lovestruck will be available April 2, 2019

I have enjoyed Kate Watson’s previous books and was very excited for Lovestruck. While I enjoyed some of it, for the most part I think it’s a case of just not being the right book for me.

I thought the first half or so of the book was kind of messy. The world-building left a lot to be desired for me. It mostly consisted of throwing out random bits of information on different characters from Greek mythology – most of whom had absolutely nothing to do with the plot. I think it also relied on the assumption that the reader was already familiar with the subject, which I’m not super into. I know there are a lot of fans of Greek mythology out there, so I can see a different audience really appreciating it.

The characters were ok and sometimes humorous, which I enjoyed, but I never really fully connected to them. Another reason why this may not be the right book for me is that there was a lot of teenage, love-triangle angst. It was one of those situations where I just felt a little too old for what was going on. However, I did like how the love-triangle resolved. Just from reading the synopsis I felt like I knew exactly how it was going to play out, but once I got into the book I realized it might go down the less obvious path and I shipped it.

Overall, I thought Lovestruck was an ok read, but just not for me. I think a younger audience and fans of Greek mythology will appreciate it a lot more than I did.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

 

Review: The Similars (The Similars #1) by Rebecca Hanover

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

When six clones join Emmaline’s prestigious boarding school, she must confront the heartbreak of seeing her dead best friend’s face each day in class.

The Similars are all anyone can talk about at the elite Darkwood Academy. Who are these six clones? What are the odds that all of them would be Darkwood students? Who is the madman who broke the law to create them? Emma couldn’t care less. Her best friend, Oliver, died over the summer and all she can think about is how to get through her junior year without him. Then she comes face-to-heartbreaking-face with Levi—Oliver’s exact DNA replica and one of the Similars.

Emma wants nothing to do with the Similars, but she keeps getting pulled deeper and deeper into their clique, uncovering dark truths about the clones and her prestigious school along the way. But no one can be trusted…not even the boy she is falling for who has Oliver’s face.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

The Similars will be available January 1, 2019. 

I thought that the concept for The Similars had potential. Unfortunately, it failed to live up to it for me.

I think the idea of cloning is very interesting. It brings up so many ethical questions. Some of those issues were brought up in the course of the book, however I didn’t think it was handled well. Instead of actual discussions and honest questions, it was treated like so many hot button topics are these days: with the two sides yelling their opinions at each other and not having an open mind about it at all. I get enough of this in real life, I don’t really want it in my entertainment. The author also tried to draw parallels between cloning and illegal immigration that I felt was a bit of a stretch.

I didn’t really love any of the characters. The story is told through Emma’s first person POV, so I felt like I got to know her pretty well, but character development was really lacking for everyone else. Emma was likable most of the time, though. The Similars are easily the most interesting characters of the book, but only a little bit of time is spent getting to know any of them. I didn’t really get on board the romance. Even though it was obvious what was going to happen, I still felt like it just kind of happened out of the blue.

There are two reveals towards the end of the book that I felt were supposed to be twists, but they were both things I suspected pretty early on in the story. Even though they didn’t surprise me at all, I think they have potential to provide some interesting paths in the coming books.

Overall, The Similars was just not for me. Despite an intriguing premise, the lack of character development, somewhat messy writing, and forced political overtones made this a book I was just getting through, rather than enjoying. As of right now, I’m not interested in continuing the series. I am by no means the target audience for this book, though, so those that are may find this a much better read than I did.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars