Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Release Day Book Review: Rites of Passage by Joy N. Hensley

Rites of Passage
by Joy N. Hensley
September 9, 2014
HarperTeen
Format: e-ARC
Source: Edelweiss 

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book in any way.

Synopsis:

Sam McKenna’s never turned down a dare. And she's not going to start with the last one her brother gave her before he died.

So Sam joins the first-ever class of girls at the prestigious Denmark Military Academy. She’s expecting push-ups and long runs, rope climbing and mud-crawling. As a military brat, she can handle an obstacle course just as well as the boys. She's even expecting the hostility she gets from some of the cadets who don’t think girls belong there. What she’s not expecting is her fiery attraction to her drill sergeant. But dating is strictly forbidden and Sam won't risk her future, or the dare, on something so petty...no matter how much she wants him.

As Sam struggles to prove herself, she discovers that some of the boys don’t just want her gone—they will stop at nothing to drive her out. When their petty threats turn to brutal hazing, bleeding into every corner of her life, she realizes they are not acting alone. A decades-old secret society is alive and active… and determined to force her out.
At any cost.

Now time's running short. Sam must decide who she can trust...and choosing the wrong person could have deadly consequences.



My Take On It

Rites of Passage is a story of perseverance and empowerment. It is the type of story that asks you to take notice of the world. Prejudice and hate continues to exist, and often times, little is done to combat such negative and harmful behavior. Sometimes, you have to take matters into your own hands and fight intolerance with a great deal of emotional, mental, and physical resolve. This story is brutal and intense, but it’s also honest and real; it forces you to think and drives you to feel everything there is.

Sam McKenna discovers the monsters of this world are often those who value senseless and outdated principles, and they can be found just about anywhere; the monsters she encounters at her prestigious military high school are few, but they’re cadets who are ranked higher than she is, and they’ll do anything to get her to leave. She’ll later realize, it isn’t only a few cadets who want Denmark Military Academy (DMA) to remain an all-male high school. There’s a secret society following Sam’s every move, and they’ve come out of hiding to make themselves known; they’re here to intimidate, humiliate, and harass Sam and her fellow female recruits; they’re leading the charge to cast them out, and they won’t stop until the mission is complete.

Written in a clear and straightforward style, Joy N. Hensley’s debut is an effortless read, but as I mentioned before, it’s also thoughtful and emotional. Sam’s relentless personality kept me turning pages. Though the plot is full of action and moments of suspense, it was Sam who kept me reading. For every painful moment she suffers, Sam has an answer. Even when she’s fighting her abusers single-handedly, Sam finds strength to keep going. She’s not only fighting to survive and earn her keep; she’s fighting to pave the way for girls of the future. Sam is fighting for opportunity and equality within the DMA.

Along the way, Sam makes allies. The supporting cast in this novel is impressive and varied. They truly stand on their own. Although, by far, my favorite secondary character is Drill Sergeant Stamm. Drill is Sam’s true love interest, and while stolen glances and kisses make for a sweet and welcome distraction, it was Sam’s and Drill’s ability to work together that made me adore the match. They complement each other, and not to mention, they kick some serious ass! Trust me, you'll be rooting for this couple through and through.

However, the only downside of this novel is the ending. There's an open ending, but it isn’t the ambiguity that let me down, but rather, the swiftness in how a few plot threads are resolved. It’s not that questions are left unanswered, but important explanations are glossed over, and I wasn’t prepared for such an abrupt conclusion. I felt more needed to be said, but that could just be the selfish reader in me being unreasonably demanding. Rites of Passage is a fantastic debut, and it’ll leave you begging for a sequel, a companion novel or even extra content in the form of a novella. Sam’s story can certainly continue, and it’s this sense of believing that makes this debut so strong and admirable. I dare you to take a chance on it. I guarantee, you’ll be just as invested in this story as I was.


Connect with author Joy N. Hensley: website / goodreads / twitter / facebook

Read more reviews of Rites of Passage: 



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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone by Adele Griffin Blog Tour Stops HERE!

The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone
by Adele Griffin
August 12, 2014
Soho Teen
256 pages 
Source: A copy was provided for blog tour purposes. Thanks Soho Teen!

Synopsis
National Book Award-finalist Adele Griffin tells the fully illustrated story of a brilliant young artist, her mysterious death, and the fandom that won't let her go.

From the moment she stepped foot in NYC, Addison Stone’s subversive street art made her someone to watch, and her violent drowning left her fans and critics craving to know more. I conducted interviews with those who knew her best—including close friends, family, teachers, mentors, art dealers, boyfriends, and critics—and retraced the tumultuous path of Addison's life. I hope I can shed new light on what really happened the night of July 28. (Goodreads Summary.)








Opening Line

I only met Addison Stone once. 


My Take On It

Guys I was really excited to be approached to be a part of this book's blog tour. I'm doing so few tours these days--not to mention so few reviews and blogging in general!-- that a book really has to stand out from the crowd and grab my attention enough to make me commit to a tour.  The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone did just that. Once I read that synopsis I was hooked. Beautiful, misunderstood young visual artist dies tragically under mysterious circumstances? That in itself would've sold me. But add to that the unique way in which author Adele Griffin chose to write the fictional account of the life and final
days of Stone--interview format--complete with original art and photographs--that is a winning combo in my opinion.

The reader knows from the beginning the final outcome--we know that Addison dies by taking a nose dive off the Manhattan bridge one hot July night--but what intrigued me more than the mystery of how she met her end (Was it suicide? A tragic accident? Or was one for her two love interests somehow involved?) was the mystery of who Addison Stone really was. Through the various interviews in the book a picture of Addison is revealed, but which one is the "real" Addison? Who knew Addison the most--who's account is the most accurate rendition of the complicated, multi-faceted personality that comprises Addison Stone?

We hear from Addison's parents, her brother, her closest friends, her romantic interests, her art agent, her teachers and mentors and her doctors allowing the reader to form her own opinion of Addison. I found it really interesting how all of these people were convinced that only they knew the true Addison.  I think that Griffin did a bang up job telling this story--I loved reading all the different interviews--I loved how realistic it all felt, it truly does feel like you are reading an investigative article of this young woman, and all the photographs (woo hoo for visual aids in books!) gave it the feel of a documentary--Behind the Music for a visual artist instead of a musician, if you will. 

 I also ADORED Addison's artwork which was included because hey, I am the holder of one art history degree and I feel that if you want some insight into an artist's mind there's no better way to gain it than to take a look at what they are creating.  For me this book would not have worked nearly as well had all these visual additions not been included.

I wasn't expecting there to be some jaw dropping revelation at the end of this book and there isn't one--because this isn't a book that is meant to be written that way. The book wraps up with Addison's death, and there is no real resolution--but I have my own opinions about what happened to her in the end--as I think most readers will. But if you are the type reader who wants everything wrapped up nicely with all questions answered by book's end than The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone might leave you feeling a little bit unsatisfied. But for me it was an absorbing character study of a complex and tortured young woman and I really enjoyed it-- I loved how unique it is compared to so much YA out there--and of course I loved the art themes. Griffin's writing is smooth and engaging and because of the visual elements it really was a joy to leaf through and peruse. 

In closing, I really enjoyed this one. It's different and it's tragic and it's totally engaging. Art lovers should definitely check it out-- but I think it's accessible to many more readers as well. I hope you like it as much as I did. 

You can purchase The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone now. 


Find Adele Griffin here: website/ goodreads/ twitter/ Facebook




As part of the tour, bloggers were asked to create something in honor of Addison. 
I'm no artist but I loved the words in this book so I decided to use them in my "work." Hope you dig it :)










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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Top Ten Books to Read or Not to Read

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by
The Broke and the Bookish.


This Week’s Topic: Books I’m Not Sure I Want to Read


In no way, shape, or form am I saying the books below are terrible or deserve less love or attention. I'm just not sure if they're necessarily for me (at the moment). By all means, if you see a book you absolutely adore, feel free to pitch it to me. 
You may just convince me to pick it up! :)

Note: Every book featured below belongs to a series.




 Of Poseidon by Anna Banks

I've heard there's a love triangle in the last book of this series, and the main couple spends most of their time apart. For that reason alone, I'm hesitant to pick this up. It's just... a love triangle so late in the game, for the sake of tension, is not all that appealing to me right now.












 Splintered by A.G. Howard

The Spintered series also seems to suffer from a love triangle -- in a more dramatic way than Of Poseidon does. It's the type of Love T that can really break a reader's heart. The heroine wavers between two boys, and the tension carries over to the last book. This phenomenon is also known as, Lauren's Love Triangle of Doom. I bought a used copy of Splintered last year, and it's currently sitting on my shelf collecting dust. On the one hand, these covers are breathtaking, and many readers stand behind the first installment, saying it's excellent, but with all this other drama, I'm just not sure if I can go there.









 Defiance by C.J. Redwine

I really don't know much about this series -- other than it's post-apocalyptic. I won a paperback copy through Epic Reads sometime ago, and I have yet to read it. As you can tell, I'm not in a rush to get to it either. I feel sorta "meh" about it.












Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke

This is another series I'm not sure about. If I'm correct, the main couple drifts apart in the second and final installment -- which allows another love interest to swoop in and thus, a love triangle (of sorts) is born. While I haven't read many series with love triangles in them, I think I've done a solid job at avoiding them (even if it's inadvertent). Maybe I should stay on the path I'm on? Or am I missing out on too much?










 Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi 

I started the Shatter Me series last year. My feelings over the first installment were somewhere in between. I was entertained by it but also a little annoyed. Then I read Warner's novella, and I was convinced I needed to read on. Fast forward to February of this year when the conclusion released and readers either LOVED it or HATED it, and I'm back to where I once was, hesitant about the whole thing. I hear it all comes down to the love triangle; this determines your relationship with the entire series. While I don't necessarily have a "team," I'm wondering if it's worth my time to continue (when I'm not all that invested) or if dropping the series is the better option. I will say, Kenji would be the main reason I'd make a return.

(This series is another example of the Love Triangle of Doom phenomenon.)





 The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

Unreliable narrators make the best characters sometimes! Reviewers I trust had a shaky start with this series, but the second installment won them over. While I'm not sure if this series is for me, I'll be waiting for the verdict on the series finale before I make a decision. The covers are quite lovely, and I'd be lying if I said they weren't drawing me in.











 The Murder Complex by Lindsay Cummings

For the most part, reviewers around the blogosphere have been underwhelmed by this series starter. It has been said, The Murder Complex is a mash-up of a few popular dystopias; it doesn't break any new ground, but it attempts to be original. Throw in some insta-love and a complicated plot that doesn't make any sense, and now, I'm just thinking I should stay far, far away.











 Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

I'm not a big-time fan of Oz. In fact, I'm not entirely sure if I've watched The Wizard of Oz in its entirety. But something about this re-telling tells me I should reconsider my ways. I know quite a few people struggled with this one, but maybe my experience will be different? I can't say I'm completely sold on it, but the curiosity is certainly there. 












Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Some of you might be surprised to see this on my list. These last two are series I do "intend" to start, but the timing, the when, is another thing in general. If I'm being honest, I was worried about the romance, and the (sort of) love triangle (or is it rectangle?) that's within the story. But I've been assured there's more to this series. It isn't as black and white as it first appeared to me. There's action and adventure, and a heroine who breaks the mold. I might just wait until the fourth or fifth installments release before I take this on, but maybe by then, I might not even care any more. A lot can happen between now and then. 



 Talon by Julie Kagawa

Six installments for one series is a lot of story. I've heard Kagawa is another author who dabbles with love triangles, but she does it "well." I wouldn't know though. I haven't read anything by this author. I was really excited about this title a couple of months back, and I even selected it as a WoW pick. I figure waiting for a few sequels to release is probably the best way to go. I'm still curious about this series, but not curious enough to read it now -- unfortunately.  











Let's talk! Are my apprehensions about any of these titles out of place? 
Or are my reasons valid? 

What about you? What books are you unsure about?


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Sunday, August 10, 2014

Stacking the Shelves with Marlene [#8]



Stacking the Shelves is a feature hosted by Tynga's Reviews. The aim is to showcase the books we've bought, burrowed, or received throughout the week or month.


I usually do a monthly book haul, but I really couldn't wait until the end of the month this time. Partly, because I'm excited to show you what I have (of course!), but then again, I have September e-arcs I HAVE to read this month too! So, naturally, I have to show you what they are... like now, right now! First, let's take a look at what I bought this week. :)


E-book Purchases:


Boomerang by Noelle August

Boomerang Fever has been spreading throughout the blogosphere, and I've been crazy enough to keep away from it. 
Well, not anymore! I'm here to catch what you've got!


For Review:

 

Rites of Passage by Joy N. Hensley
In a Handful of Dust by Mindy McGinnis

 I requested these from Edelweiss not too long ago, and surprisingly, I was approved! 
Thank you HarperTeen and Katherine Tegen Books! I'll be reading and reviewing them later this month!


Freebies:


Obsidian by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Osidian was a Kindle freebie last week, and I totally took advantage of the offer! 
I hope to fall in love with this series like everyone else has. :)


So, that's it for this edition!
What's new on your shelves?

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Thursday, July 31, 2014

E-Novella Review: A Dawn Most Wicked by Susan Dennard

A Dawn Most Wicked (Something Strange and Deadly 0.5)
by Susan Dennard
June 4, 2013
HarperTeen
Kindle Edition, 150 pages
Source: Purchased

Synopsis:

Daniel Sheridan is an engineer’s apprentice on a haunted Mississippi steamer known as the Sadie Queen. His best friend–the apprentice pilot, Cassidy Cochran–also happens to be the girl he’s pining for … and the captain’s daughter. But when it looks like the Sadie Queen might get taken off the river, Daniel and Cassidy have to do whatever they can to stop the ghosts that plague the ship.

Fortunately, there happens to be a Creole gentleman on board by the name of Joseph Boyer–and he just might be able to help them... (Goodreads Summary.)









Important Note: This is the prequel novella in the Something Strange and Deadly series. To get a better idea of who Daniel, Joseph, and Jie are, please refer to my spoiler-free review of SS&D for more info.

My Take On It

As expected, A Dawn Most Wicked is fun, exciting, and romantic! Susan Dennard has written a novella from Daniel’s point of view, and not only does she add dimension to his character, but she also gives us a closer look at Joseph and Jie prior to the origin of the Spirit-Hunters team.

This novella is set on a steamer, three years before the events of Something Strange and Deadly proceed. During this time, Daniel's working on the Sadie Queen as an apprentice. He's struggling with his status, trying to prove his worth as a man. He's pining for Cassidy, the captain's daughter; though she's leagues above him and there are issues, she's just as interested in Daniel as he is in her. But don't be deterred if romance as a central plot device isn't your thing, because A Dawn Most Wicked is so much more! Dennard combines romance, action, and an eerie mystery – of the ghostly variety, quite effortlessly and creatively, and her sharp and straight-forward writing style works well for the story. 

In SS&D, Daniel’s fears and insecurities are mostly tucked away, but here, in this novella, he is openly vulnerable and quite the passionate suitor. By revealing a snippet of Daniel’s past, readers will understand his present tough exterior, and they'll undeniably find him more attractive here. I must confess, I liked Daniel in SS&D, but after reading this novella, I became completely smitten with the rascal! 

...but let me dial it back. As I stated above, there is more to this story. There is also Joseph and Jie; though they remain part of the supporting cast, they play important and unforgettable roles in this little narrative too, and it's all very well done. A Dawn Most Wicked is a self-contained story, but it adds depth to the series in a lot of ways.

So, if you’re itching to start the Something Strange and Deadly series or you're already a fan, my advice is not to pass up on the novella. You’ll be missing out if you do! For new readers, I recommend you read SS&D before you take this on. Not only will you get more out of the experience, but the final scene in SS&D is the opening scene in A Dawn Most Wicked  this time, told from Daniel's perspective (instead of Eleanor's). So, don't spoil the emotional ending of SS&D for yourself! You might just regret it.



Connect with author Susan Dennard: website / goodreads / twitter / facebook

Read more reviews of A Dawn Most Wicked:
A Handful of Confetti
My Guilty Obsession
The Book Addict's Guide



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Monday, July 28, 2014

Book Review: Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard

Something Strange and Deadly
by Susan Dennard
July 24, 2012
HarperTeen
388 pages
Source: I won an ARC in 2012 and have now read this edition twice. I fully intend on buying a finished copy.

Synopsis:

There's something strange and deadly loose in Philadelphia...

Eleanor Fitt has a lot to worry about. Her brother has gone missing, her family as fallen on hard times, and her mother is determined to marry her off to any rich young man who walkers by. But this is nothing compared to what she's just read in the newspaper—

The Dead are rising in Philadelphia.

And then, in a frightening attack, a zombie delivers a letter to Eleanor... from her brother.

Whoever is controlling the Dead army has taken her brother as well. If Eleanor is going to find him, she'll have to venture into the lab of the notorious Spirit-Hunters, who protect the city from supernatural forces. But as Eleanor spends more time with the Spirit-Hunters, including the maddeningly stubborn yet handsome Daniel, the situation becomes dire. An now, not only is her reputation on the line, but her very life may hang in the balance. (Goodreads Summary.)



My Take On It

An original blend of historical, paranormal, and a slight touch of steampunk, Something Strange and Deadly is an impressive package to savor. Set against Philadelphia during the Victorian period, Dennard’s debut explores what it would be like if zombies or walking corpses were frequent tormentors in the past. A sensational story, complete with a fresh and lovable cast, SS&D is entertainment with parasols and petticoats done right!

At the heart of this story is heroine, Eleanor Fitt. It’s been six years since her father’s untimely death, and the last three have been spent stressing over her family’s finances. Eleanor’s brother, Elijah, has been away during this difficult time. Despite Eleanor’s pleading letters to her brother, Elijah hasn’t returned to resume their father’s work. Eleanor carries the responsibility of managing the Fitt’s dwindling fortune, and without Elijah home to take over, Eleanor’s hand will be swiftly sold to the nearest and wealthiest of suitors. 

Circumstances only get worse on the day of Elijah’s expected return. Instead of Elijah, Eleanor is greeted by a walking corpse with a hand-delivered note – signed by Elijah himself! Elijah is in trouble, and even more peculiar is the corpse’s behavior! Desperate for answers, Eleanor turns to a band of misfits, known as, the Spirit-Hunters; they’re the ones who put the dead and other supernatural threats to rest. Hesitant to work with Miss Fitt at first, the Spirit-Hunters later accept her request once a discovery is made; spiritual energy radiates off the piece of paper – meaning, Elijah has attracted attention from the wrong sort. It is presumed a necromancer may have Elijah, but can the Spirit-Hunters save Elijah and the city when the count of animated corpses continues to rise? And can the same necromancer raising the dead be accountable for taking Elijah too?

Laced with mystery and dark magic, Something Strange and Deadly is a fast-paced page turner. There are more plot threads at work here, and by the time you reach the explosive ending, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by Dennard’s ability to keep you hooked. Sure, some puzzles are easier to solve than others, but Dennard has a few tricks up her sleeve you won’t see coming; everything comes full circle. Plus, the characters in this series make the adventure even more memorable!

Eleanor Fitt is a feisty little thing. Her intellect and quick wit make her a stand out. She’s practical and not very invested in living a lavish lifestyle. Her curiosity will often lead her down dark roads, but she’s always willing to fight. She’s snippy when she has to be, and her retorts will make you laugh! She has such fond memories of her brother, and she’ll do just about anything to save him. Eleanor does have moments of weakness; her choices aren’t always the best, but she does take the steps needed to fix what needs fixing.

Eleanor’s chemistry with Daniel, the infuriating and yet charming inventor and Spirit-Hunter is easily one of my favorite parts. Behind Eleanor and Daniel’s amusing banter is a romantic pull so undeniable, yet, Dennard would rather tease you with little moments, then set their potential love story ablaze. Just to give you a preview: Daniel’s pet name for Eleanor is “Empress,” and I swear, every time he uses it, I melt a little; while the pet name might’ve derived out of spite, “Empress” later becomes Daniel’s way of expressing affection for Eleanor. While Daniel may keep Eleanor at an emotional distance, he’d never leave the damsel in distress; still, she proves she’s just as capable as he is more times than none.

Next to the endearing Eleanor and Daniel, stand the dependable Joseph and Jie. Joseph is a sophisticated Creole, who is wise and level headed. He is well-trained in the art of white magic and uses electricity to counter darkness. Jie is a fierce Chinese girl obliterating Philadelphia’s dead, and she's doing it in boy’s clothes! Jie lives an unrestrained lifestyle. She’s in total control of her choices, and not once does she give in to social standards or expectations. Together, Joseph, Daniel, and Jie make up the Spirit-Hunters team. Eleanor proves her worth to the gang, and she tags along as an asset throughout. I just love how the foursome have vastly different personalities, and yet, they balance each other out and work well together too.

I really could go on and on about this story, especially because I have now read it twice. The characters come alive, and Dennard’s ability to transport the reader to Philadelphia in 1876 is a mesmerizing feat. The twisted addition of zombies is an exciting bonus! Not to forget, there's diversity, feminism, and humor! To say the least, I appreciated Dennard’s work a lot more the second time around. She certainly deserves more recognition, and my plea for you is to take notice.


Connect with author Susan Dennard: website / goodreads / twitter / facebook

Read more reviews of Something Strange and Deadly
Alexa Loves Books
Paper Cuts
Reader of Fictions



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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Stacking the Shelves with Marlene [#7]


Stacking the Shelves is a feature hosted by Tynga's Reviews. The aim is to showcase the books we've bought, burrowed, or received throughout the week/month.

Hello, readers!

I'm here with another book haul!
But don't get too excited. I didn't pick up a lot this month.
Still, I'm not complaining. I'm very happy with what I have. :)
Plus, I have big plans for August! ;)
I have $40 in B&N gift cards I want to use. Of course, I'm eager to spend it, but 
I'm patiently waiting for Of Metal and Wishes and Sisters' Fate to release first. 
I'm also going back and forth between other books I want to purchase with this money too. 
Luckily, I still have time to mull it over!

Anyway, here is what I snagged this month:


Purchases:


Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater 

Oh, I devoured this already! 
Although I can't say I was in love with Sinner, I really did enjoy it. 
I may have a review for you in August, but honestly, 
Heather's review says everything there is to say. 
Do check it out! It's lovely and concise!


Attachments by Rainbow Rowell (e-book)

The Kindle edition of Attachments is on sale right now. 
At $1.99 this has to be a steal!
I'm so ready to read this, guys! I can't even...


For Review:


The Graveyard Book Graphic Novel, Volume 1 adapted by P. Craig Russell 

Guys, this is the very first book sent to me by a major publisher! 
My first bookmail from HarperCollins -- as a blogger!
***SQUEALS***
I'M SO STOKED ABOUT IT, BECAUSE LOOK, IT'S A FINISHED COPY OF A GRAPHIC NOVEL!
If you follow this blog, you know I'm trying to read more of these. I can't wait to dive in, 
especially because it's Neil Gaiman material. Gaiman is new territory for me!
Thank you, HarperCollins!


That's all I have for you today!
I look forward to sharing more next month. :)
Don't forget to link me up to your hauls in the comments. 
I love checking them out!

Have a great week, y'all!

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