Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – NEXIS (Tricksters #1) by A.L. Devore

NEXIS (Tricksters #1) by A.L. Davroe

NEXIS (Tricksters #1) by A.L. Davroe

4 Stars

Synopsis
In the domed city of Evanescence, appearance is everything. A Natural Born amongst genetically-altered Aristocrats, all Ella ever wanted was to be like everyone else. Augmented, sparkling, and perfect. Then…the crash. Devastated by her father’s death and struggling with her new physical limitations, Ella is terrified to learn she is not just alone, but little more than a prisoner.

Her only escape is to lose herself in Nexis, the hugely popular virtual reality game her father created. In Nexis she meets Guster, a senior player who guides Ella through the strange and compelling new world she now inhabits. He offers Ella guidance, friendship…and something more. Something that allows her to forget about the “real” world, and makes her feel whole again.

But Nexis isn’t quite the game everyone thinks it is.

And it’s been waiting for Ella.

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My Review
NEXIS is a rollercoaster ride in only the best of amusement parks. A soup pot of adventure, virtual reality, science fiction, romance, in a utopian/dystopian setting, it’s a delicious read. Ella is the daughter of the creator of Nexis, a virtual reality game that is taking her world by storm. After a tragic accident leaves Ella with a life she barely recognizes, she escapes into Nexis. Inside the game, she meets Gus and his merry band of friends and gets sucked into their quest. In Nexis, nothing is as it appears, setting up a fantastic adventure full of action, drama, and intrigue.

Plot
The plot centers around the quest, but there’s more to it, including Ella’s budding romance with Gus and a number of mysteries that I won’t spoil. Some I had figured out from the beginning, others not so much. I think that’s what makes this so much fun to read. It’s part story, part game, part story within a story.

Characters
Ella is annoying at times, but given how she was raised, I could overlook most of it. Gus is an enigma who becomes less so through the story. The rest of the characters play minor roles for the most part. This is probably one of the areas that I least liked about the story. The characters seem to only be there to support the plot, so it’s a good thing the plot is so amazing.

World Building
This is where the story shines like the midday summer sun. Author, A.L. Davroe has created a fascinating world that is layered, detailed, and full of rules that drive everything. What makes this world building so interesting is that there are multiple worlds, each just as detailed as the previous. At times it can be tough to keep it all straight, but the author does most of the hard work for you.

What I Enjoyed About NEXIS
1. World building.
 Absolutely top notch. Complex, detailed, and vibrant.

2. Plot. The plot is layered and brilliant. I love the whole concept behind this and can’t wait to dig into the second book in the series.

3. Gus. He’s the one character I felt had the most development. Guster is infinitely captivating, and while I was pretty sure I figured out who he was from the beginning, his character unfolded through the pages like a flower blooming in spring.

4. Nexis. Why is this not a real thing? If it was, I’d have a hard time not going into Nexis every day.

5. Technology. The author’s imagination comes alive, creating technology that would make Steve Jobs salivate.

Bottom Line
Nexis is a plot-driven story that delivers with plenty of action and lots of twists.

Disclaimer
I was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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About the Book
Title: NEXIS
Series: Tricksters #1
Author: A.L. Davroe
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: December 1, 2015
Pages: 304
Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction/Dystopian Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & Noble | Entangled

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Author A.L. Davroe

About the Author
I write both YA and adult speculative fiction. I prefer revisionist tales in paranormal, romance, Steampunk, and fantasy. I’m the author of Salvation Station (adult psych horror), The City Steam Collection (adult psych horror), For Your Heart (YA Paranormal Romance) and my YA Sci-Fi novel, Nexis, is coming out with Entangled Publishing in 2015!

By day, I live in Connecticut with my two feline hench-creatures.  I’m a terrible blusher, have a weak spot for cuddly animals, love Laffy Taffy and Cadbury MiniEggs, and I’m a huge advocate of alternative healing methods.  I also wear Vibram five-finger toe shoes and corsets…Though not always in the same ensemble.  I’m a Capricorn, a Hufflepuff, and a few nuggets short of a Happy Meal.  I also suffer from Resting Bitchface Syndrome (RBS), so even though I might look like I’ll tie you in a knot if you come near me, I’m more afraid of you than you are of me (see blushing problem above).

Where to Find A.L. Davroe
GoodreadsWebsite | NewsletterFacebookTwitter

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Giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Young Adult Book Review – WHEN PLANETS FALL (Stars Fall Circle) by Abby J. Reed

WHEN PLANETS FALL (Stars Fall Circle #1) by Abby J. Reed

WHEN PLANETS FALL (Stars Fall Circle #1) by Abby J. Reed

4.5 Stars

Synopsis
Breaker’s home is cleaved by blood. The three tribes on the planet Scarlatti, whose only difference is their blood color, each want to exploit Breaker’s valley for themselves. The feudal tension has already claimed red-blood Breaker’s leg and his older brother. Now all this 18-year old wants is to maintain the tenuous peace in order to keep his little ‘stroid of a brother alive. Malani, a red-blood raised blue, is a kidnapped POW and only wants to return to her adoptive home with her dangerous blue secrets. Luka, a red-blood stewing for trouble, wants to right wrongs done to his family and bathe his home in justice.

All three intersect when Breaker discovers a wrecked starship and is given seven days by the green-bloods to fix and hand it over as a weapon. Breaker must decide if aiding his enemies is worth the home he knows and his family’s life. War is coming. And war respects no boundaries. And war leaves no survivors.

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My Review
WHEN PLANETS FALL is unlike any other book I’ve read. Mixing equal parts science fiction, dystopian, and romantic elements, it weaves a tale of complex characters in an even more complex world. Told from three different first-person points-of-view, I initially thought it was one POV too many, but about halfway in, it becomes apparent that third POV is necessary for the story the author wants to tell. Breaker is a fix-it guy, able to make just about anything with the parts at hand. Malani is a red blood, raised by the blue bloods after the green bloods kidnapped and tortured her. To save her life, they infused her with living metal, which creates whatever the person needs most. In Malani’s case, it’s a set of metal wings. Luka is in the militia with dreams of advancement. When the war between the red, green, and blue bloods comes to a head, their three worlds collide in unexpected ways and no one is exactly as they seem. The author has a unique voice that I immediately fell in love with. This is her debut novel, so I’m looking forward to so much more from her. She paints a brilliant picture of her settings and characters. There were several twists I never saw coming, particularly one near the end.

Plot
Breaker stumbles upon a wrecked starship while out scouting, which triggers the green bloods to kidnap him. Their king holds the lives of his red-blooded community over his head unless he fixes starship. While in custody, he meets Malani and the two of them form an unlikely alliance in order to escape. With the safety of his home hanging in the balance, Breaker has no choice but to repair the ship for the green blood s. Between Melani, his family, and a very suspicious Luka, Breaker struggles with where his loyalties lie, but underneath it all, is a driving need to protect those he loves.

Characters
The three main characters were all extremely well developed, with sufficient growth through the first book in the series. Even secondary characters came across fairly well developed. I found Breaker’s parents to be somewhat two-dimensional as well as the red-blooded leader, but overall, I think the character development was great.

What I Loved About WHEN PLANTES FALL
1. World building.
 This is among the best I’ve read in young adult fiction. The author has created a vibrant world with stunning technology that feels both exotic and familiar.Everything from the red trees to the way blue bloods reproduce is not only unique, but contributes to the plot. Even the language was great. It took a bit to pick up the lingo, but now I use “banging” as one of my favorite swear words.

2. Breaker. This tough teen with an artificial leg named Circuit is tough, independent, cunning, and charming. He has a solid moral compass, even if his means are questionable.

3. Malani. The girl who belongs nowhere with the metallic wings is a one-of-a-kind protagonist. Because she’s human and not some paranormal being, everything she does is flawed and imperfect, but she’s so easy to root for.

4. The cover. When I first saw the cover, I was drawn to it, but once I was deep into the story, I kept going back to the cover to look at it. It truly encapsulates the story within.

5. Luka. I’m still on the fence about him, but I cannot deny he’s one of the most complex characters in the story. I can’t wait to see where the journey takes him next.

Bottom Line
I loved this story and all of the characters. Can’t wait for the next book in the series!

Disclaimer
I was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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About the Book
Title: WHEN PLANETS FALL
Series: Stars Fall Circle #1
Author: Abby J. Reed
Publisher: Soul Mate Publishing
Release Date: May 10, 2017
Pages: 420
Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction/Dystopian Romance
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU

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Author Abby J. Reed

Author Abby J. Reed

About the Author
Abby J. Reed writes young adult science fiction and fantasy novels that ask what if. She has a degree in English Writing and is drawn to characters with physical limitations due to her own neurological disorder called Chronic Migraine. Her debut novel, When Planets Fall, will be published in April 2017 by Soul Mate Publishing.

Abby lives in Colorado with her husband and two fluffy pups. If her hands aren’t on the keyboard, they are stained purple and blue with paint.

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Where to Find Abby J. Reed
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | Tumblr
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Young Adult Book Review – Liberation (Moonchild) by Kate L. Mary

Liberation (Moonchild #2) by Kate L. Mary

Liberation (Moonchild #2) by Kate L. Mary

5 Stars

Synopsis
From two-time award-winning author, Kate L. Mary, comes the sequel to MOONCHILD, “a much needed breath of fresh air in the world of YA fantasy.” After surviving the auction and a near death experience at the hands of Asher’s father, Scarlett Moon is more than ready for life to settle down, and with each passing day she starts to feel more at home in Columbus. Even with Asher ready for more than Scarlett can give, she manages to fall into a routine that almost feels like a normal life.

But one distress call is all it takes to destroy the serenity the group has managed to build.

As far as anyone knew, Paget had moved on with her life after storming out months ago, but the fear in her voice when she calls the warehouse tells a different story. Even though Scarlett never liked Asher’s ex to begin with, she can’t help feeling a little bit responsible for Paget’s situation.

Searching in the seediest part of the city, the group picks up clues as they try to piece together what might have happened. The more Scarlett learns about what the other woman has been through over the last few months, the more concerned she becomes. Even worse: there’s no sign of Paget anywhere in Columbus.

With all the clues pointing in one direction, the group leaves the city and heads for Hocking Hills. Only it seems the danger may have followed them, leaving nothing but death and destruction in its wake and putting Paget in more danger than ever before. As Scarlett learns more about the woman who used to hold Asher’s heart, she suddenly finds herself unable to deny how she really feels about him. Only, with Paget in trouble, Scarlett can’t help wondering if Asher might still have feelings for his ex.

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My Review
I freaking love this series! I was delighted to find out that Moonchild was the first book in the series and bought the sequel the day it came out. Book 2 picks up a few months after the end of Moonchild. Scarlett is still convinced she’s bad for Asher and Asher is still convinced she’s wrong. Things have settled into a new normal until Asher’s ex, Paget, sends a distress call. With no idea where she is or where the call came from, the pirates set out to find her and bring her home. While there is no love-loss between Scarlett and Paget, Scarlett knows she must be part of the rescue effort. These are the moments I absolutely adore her. Her sense of duty and right and wrong is so much a part of who she is.

Plot
The plot centers around the search and rescue of Paget, but the romance is still a very strong subplot and incredibly well done! I love the angst and drama surrounding Scarlett and Asher’s relationship. There is so much action in the plot, the story moves at a clipped pace, only pausing long enough to allow us to catch our breath. Once again the story is well-plotted and expertly executed.

Characters
All the characters I fell in love with in the first book are back and a few new ones are added. Scarlett and Asher both undergo a decent amount of development, more so than before. The good news is, there’s still plenty of room for growth, so hopefully we’ll be seeing a lot more of these two. The author creates so much depth in her characters that there are still many unexplored depths to discover in this installment. We not only learn more about Scarlett and Asher, but Paget really comes into her own.

World Building
The world building continues to be one of the most impressive I’ve read in the past few years. Kate L. Mary’s attention to detail makes her settings come alive in very vibrant and realistic fashion.

What Didn’t Work for Me
1. The editing.
 Once again, both the content and copy editing disappointed me, pulling me out of the story more than a few times.

2. The cover. The cover still doesn’t grab my attention, but I’m so invested in the series now, it could be a plain brown wrapper and I’d still pick up the next book.

What I Loved About Liberation
1. The setting.
 Again the world the author has created just shines. I love everything from the settings to the costumes to the technology.

2. Scarlett. While I was slow to warm to her in the first book, I had no such issues this time around. I was already a big fan. It was great to see some true growth in her. While she’s still a teen and has plenty of angst, she’s starting to mature.

3. The plot. Another perfectly plotted and executed story!

4. Asher. If possible, I love him even more now. We get to see a new side to him, a softer, more vulnerable side and it made him more human.

5. Paget. She’s still the same romantic foil and no fan of Scarlett’s, but she has her own growth in this installment and seeing more of her, hearing more of her story, endeared her to me in a way she hadn’t before.

Bottom Line
Liberation is my favorite book of 2016 and with tighter editing, it would have been damn near perfect!

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About the Book
Title: Liberation
Series: Moonchild #2
Author: Kate L. Mary
Release Date: November 1, 2016
Pages: 280
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian/SciFi/Steampunk Romance
Rating:
 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

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Author Kate L. Mary

Author Kate L. Mary

About the Author
Award-winning author of WHEN WE WERE HUMAN and the Amazon best-selling BROKEN WORLD series, Kate L. Mary writes everything from post-apocalyptic tales of the undead to new adult contemporary romance. A mother of four and an Air Force wife, her days are divided between keeping her household in order and creating new worlds for readers to get lost in.

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Where to find Kate L. Mary
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter
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Young Adult Book Review – Moonchild by Kate L. Mary

Moonchild by Kate L. Mary

4.5 Stars

Synopsis
In a world fueled by greed and corruption, where airships rule the skies and coal mines have been turned into prisons, Scarlett Moon has one goal: Survive. Being tough and looking out for herself is the only way to stay alive, but when her best friend, Rory, is arrested and returned to the mines, all of Scarlett’s carefully built walls threaten to crumble.

After being rescued by an airship full of pirates, led by the sexy and irresistible Asher Kimura, Scarlett finds herself surrounded by cons and fugitives, and thrust into the middle of a coal-smuggling business. When they take her to Columbus, the one place she never wanted to set foot in again, she wants nothing more than to get away. And her discomfort only grows as she becomes increasingly drawn to Asher.

But everything changes when she discovers there may be a way to rescue Rory. Enlisting the pirates’ help, Scarlett sets out on a mission to save her friend, praying that her overwhelming attraction to Asher doesn’t mean the end to her freedom—in more ways than one.

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My Review
One of my favorite books of 2016. This is one of those that will stick with me weeks or months after I’m done. It took me about a third of the book to warm up to Scarlett, but once I did, I loved her immensely. I was worried at first that in order to create a strong female character, the author felt she needed to make her heroine more like a male character. Scarlett is always wanting to hit someone or something. She’s aggressive, uses sex as a diversion, and has a hard time expressing any emotion other than anger. But as we learn more about her backstory, her personality begins to make sense. I still think strong female characters don’t need to be written as guys with skirts, but in this case it works.

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When Scarlett’s best friend, Rory, is taken to the mines, Scarlett gives up any hope of ever seeing her again. She and her friends barely escape capture themselves, only being rescued at the last moment by a group of ragtag pirates, including extremely hot Asher. When Asher explains  what happens to pretty, innocent girls in the mines — they’re auctioned off as sex slaves to the highest bidder — Scarlett enlists the help of her friends to rescue Rory. This is the main plot and it unfolds at a rapid pace as they seek information on Rory’s whereabouts and come up with a rescue plan. Underlying it all is a simmering sexual tension between Scarlett and Asher. The back and forth is worthy of an eye roll or two, but the rest of the story more than makes up for it.

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Plot
The plot is fantastic. Set on rescuing her best friend, Scarlett embarks on a dangerous mission, risking everything for the only person she considers family. The pacing is perfect, unfolding at a clipped rate,without overpowering us with action. There’s enough romance to keep the story from being just an action/adventure and more than adequate character development to make this a well-balanced novel.

Characters
Scarlett is fascinating. As I mentioned above, it took me awhile to warm up to her, but once I did, I was committed. She’s deeply wounded and yet realizes others have had it far worse than she has. That self-awareness is what keeps her from becoming too jaded or wallowing in a pit of self pity that would doom her character in my mind. Asher is the hot, witty pirate with the disarming smile and a past of his own that shapes everything he does. The rest of the characters have their own stories in this dystopian world that Kate L. Mary has created.

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World Building
This is where the story really shines in my eyes. The attention to detail in the author’s vision of a future where technology is taboo and coal-fired steam power is where it’s at. This steampunk world is dark, yet vividly rich, full of airships and pirates and victorian-era costumes that come alive as much as any of the characters that inhabit it.

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What Didn’t Work for Me
1. The editing.
The book could have benefitted from tighter editing. There were more than a few missing/extra words than were easily overlooked. There was also some repetition that was distracting that should have been picked up by a good editor.

2. The cover. There’s nothing really wrong with it except there is nothing really right about it. This is a totally kick-ass steampunk dystopian sci-fi adventure and the cover, along with the title, made me think it was going to be a paranormal romance. I wouldn’t have bothered picking up this book if I’d only seen the cover. Luckily I read the blurb first!

3. The ending. This is the only reason I’m giving the book 4.5 stars instead of 5. I can overlook a crappy cover, because that can be fixed. So can lackluster editing, but the ending is the last thing I have, the thing that sticks with me long after I turn off my Kindle. It feels unfinished, as if this is the first in a series, but there’s no indication it’s only book 1 of anything. I do hope the author decides to write more about these characters and this world. She’s done an incredible job creating everything and there is so much potential for more of Scarlett’s story.

What I Enjoyed About Moonchild
1. The setting.
The author has created this fabulous, futuristic, steampunk world that is vivid and imaginative. Her attention to detail is phenomenal, and yet the world building is subtly worked into the plot.

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2. Scarlett. She’s tough as nails with a heart of gold. Although it took a little bit for me to warm to her, she is everything I want my young adult heroine to be.

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3. The plot. It’s near perfect in it’s development and execution. Only information necessary to move the story forward is provided and is done so in the proper sequence.

4. Asher. The complex pirate with the winning smile won me over at first sight. I’m a sucker for pirates with a heart, think Hook from Once Upon a Time. Asher is all that and a bag of chips!

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5. Loyalty. This is the enduring theme of the story, whether it’s Scarlett’s loyalty to Rory, Dex’s loyalty to Scarlett and Rory, or Asher’s loyalty to everyone he cares about, this works so well in an otherwise dark tale.

Bottom Line
Moonchild is a wonderfully plotted action adventure with deeply developed characters. I will definitely be reading more by this author!

Disclaimer
I was provided with a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.

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About the Book
Title: Moonchild
Author: Kate L. Mary
Release Date: June 21, 2016
Pages: 295
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian/SciFi/Steampunk Romance
Rating:
 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

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Author Kate L. Mary

Author Kate L. Mary

About the Author
Award-winning author of WHEN WE WERE HUMAN and the Amazon best-selling BROKEN WORLD series, Kate L. Mary writes everything from post-apocalyptic tales of the undead to new adult contemporary romance. A mother of four and an Air Force wife, her days are divided between keeping her household in order and creating new worlds for readers to get lost in.

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Where to find Kate L. Mary
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter

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Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – Ignite the Shadows by Ingrid Seymour

Ignite the Shadows Blog Tour

Ignite the Shadows (Ignite the Shadows #1) by Ingrid Seymour

Ignite the Shadows (Ignite the Shadows #1) by Ingrid Seymour

4 Stars

Synopsis
Sixteen-year-old Marci Guerrero is one of the best teen hackers in Seattle. However, she’d give up all her talents to know she isn’t crazy.

Marci feels possessed by what she perceives as shadowy spectres that take control of her body and make her do crazy things. While spying on the clandestine group known as IgNiTe, she’s confronted by the leader, James McCray. His presence stirs the spectres inside her brain into a maddening frenzy. Her symptoms and ability to control them don’t go unnoticed by James, who soon recruits her and shows her the awful truth.

Half of the world’s population is infected by sentient parasites. They bind themselves to the human brain and replace the pathways for all thoughts and actions. The creatures then morph their hosts into grotesque monsters with extraordinary strengths. Winged, clawed, fanged half-humans become living nightmares. Now Marci wishes she was crazy, because the truth is worse.

She’s infected.

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My Review
Ignite the Shadows is a dark story of brain parasites, survival, friendship, and loyalty. Marci has spent her entire life chasing the shadows inside her. They only seem to be getting worse as she gets older until she’s convinced she’s crazy.. Until she meets an unlikely group of people who show her the truth, which is far more terrifying than anything she could have imagined. She and her best friend, a non-infected, Xave, join forces with IgNiTe to do something before it’s too late. Add a long-lost twin brother and this book is rife with conflict, danger, and excitement.

Plot
Author, Ingrid Seymour’s, pacing is nearly perfect. From the opening pages we’re plunged into a world of danger that seems out of place for a sixteen-year-old girl. At least until we discover the horrifying details of her life, and soon we realize we’re not in Kansas anymore. Well, at least not present day Seattle anyway. This dystopian future is scary and nearly hopeless, yet the story isn’t one of hopelessness, but rather one of promise, if only we can just hang on.

The Writing
The writing is unique, adding to the themes of darkness and fear. I love the way she shows us what’s inside Marci’s head instead of telling.

The Characters
The characters are fantastic, deep, rounded, seriously wounded. Marci is amazing as the haunted heroine with the twin brother separated at birth. With demons running around in her head, a dead father she was close to, a mother who pines for the child she lost, there’s not much right going in Marci’s life and she’s sufficiently jaded. Xave, the best friend and potential love interest is also great, although not nearly as wounded. He has unrequited feelings for Marci. Or are they?

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About Ignite the Shadows
1.The pacing. It starts off with a bang and never stops.

2. Marci. She’s tough, vulnerable, sharp-tongued, terrified, and brave all rolled into one.

3. Xave. I love him. His feelings for Marci are evident from the beginning. He’s a loyal friend, even if he’s setting himself up for heartbreak.

4. The science. The author does a great job of making her terrifying future plausible.

5. Elliott. Ingrid Seymour has created the perfect villain, the kind we love to hate.

Bottom Line
Ignite the Shadows is a terrifying thrill ride with a well-crafted plot and characters you can root for.

Disclaimer
I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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About the Book
Title: Ignite the Shadows
Author: Ingrid Seymour
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Release Date: October 22, 2015
Pages: 400
Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction/Thriller
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | GooglePlay | !ndigo | BAM! | Book Depository

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Author Ingrid Seymour

Author Ingrid Seymour

About the Author
Ingrid Seymour is the author of IGNITE THE SHADOWS (Harper Voyager). When she’s not writing books, she spends her time working as a software engineer, cooking exotic recipes, hanging out with her family and working out. She writes young adult and new adult fiction in a variety of genres, including Sci-Fi, urban fantasy, romance, paranormal and horror.

Her favorite outings involve a trip to the library or bookstore where she immediately gravitates toward the YA section. She’s an avid reader and fangirl of many amazing books. She is a dreamer and a fighter who believes perseverance and hard work can make dreams come true.

She lives in Birmingham, AL with her husband, two kids and a cat named Mimi.
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Where to Find Ingrid Seymour
Goodreads | Website  | FacebookTwitter | Instagram

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Giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – Rising Tides by Katy Haye

Rising Tides Blog Tour

Rising Tides by Katy Haye

Rising Tides by Katy Haye

4.5 Stars

Synopsis
The truth won’t stay submerged forever

City is the last civilised place left on a drowned Earth, a floating town built from metal and plastic from the Time Before. It’s the only home doctor’s daughter Libby Marchmont has ever known or wanted – until her father helps the wrong patient and she’s forced to flee.

Cosimo came to City for one reason. Then he should have vanished back to his people on the Wastes. But what about his promise to Libby’s father?

Stranded in the middle of the sea, can the two enemies learn to trust each other? And can they survive long enough to uncover the truth: City isn’t the safe haven Libby always believed it to be …

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My Review
Like Waterworld with teens, Rising Tides is a fascinating dystopian tale of life on earth after the rising seas all but obliterate life on earth. A small floating city survives along with an island that grows all of their food. Liberty, daughter of the most respected doctor on all of City, and Cosimo, a reamer and nautilus man, someone with surgically implanted gills, form an unlikely partnership when circumstances force them together.

It takes a little bit to understand the vocabulary of this future world, but once I did, I was as submerged as the houses from the Time Before. After Liberty’s father is killed, she flees with Cosimo, a person of lower class and suspect morals. The two deal with massive trust issues, secrets, and more than a few mysteries. After a storm destroys the boat they’re fleeing in, they wash ashore only to be faced with more distrust and prejudices. But if they’re ever going to find out the truth, they need to trust each other first.

Plot
The plotting is really well done, moving at a consistent pace with lots of action, suspense and drama. It primarily centers around the secrets that City and the others harbor from Liberty. She spends most of the book trying to figure out what’s true and what’s not. But it’s also about seeking a sense of belonging. She never felt as if she fit in at home and now she’s wondering if she can make a life for herself elsewhere, but the more she’s with others, the more she feels like an outcast no matter where she goes.

Characters
Liberty and Cosimo are both well-developed, deep, flawed, and in need of some personal growth, which they both get. Haye does an excellent job of differentiating her characters, and the supporting cast on City, New Eden and elsewhere are more than just background noise and round out the cast of characters nicely.

The Writing
The writing is a little stiff for a first-person teen narrative. The author is Australian, though, and I’ve noticed this is more common in Australian young adult fiction. Still, having taking in two Aussie teens through an exchange program, I know they are just as goofy and full of teen lingo as their American peers, and I would have liked to have seen more of that in the dialogue and interior monologue of the younger characters. What the dialogue lacks, though, the descriptions more than make up for. Katy Haye paints vibrant canvases full details of her bleak future world, drawing me right in.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About Rising Tides:
1. World building. Katy Haye’s world building is flawless. It’s easy to understand how her world came to be and the details she feeds us, are always the right thing at the right time.

2. Cosimo. He’s abrasive and arrogant, but loyal and nearly impossible not to love.

3. Libby. She’s abrasive in her own way, and at times grates on my nerves, but I always pulled for her, rooted for her to keep digging and get at the truth.

4. The pacing. It was nearly perfect.

5. Technology. Although technically part of world building, it deserves it’s own shout-out because it was so creative. Everything from the implanted gills of the nautilus men to the technology that allows humans to create and inhabit City were inventive and added to the readability and enjoyability of the story.

Bottom Line
Rising Tides is a fascinating young adult dystopian tale with a dousing of adventure and a splash of romance.

Disclaimer
I was provided a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.

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About the Book
Title: Rising Tides
Author: Katy Haye
Publisher: Plumshine Books
Release Date: June 24, 2016
Pages: 264
Genre: Young Adult Post-Apocalyptic/Dystopian Romance
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

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Author Katy Haye

Author Katy Haye

About the Author
Katy Haye spends as much time as possible in either her own or someone else’s imaginary worlds. She has a fearsome green tea habit, a partiality for dark chocolate brazils and a fascination with the science of storytelling.

When not lost in a good book, Katy may be found on her allotment growing veg and keeping hens in order to maximise her chances of survival in the event of a zombie apocalypse or similar catastrophe (admittedly, this would not help if the entire country flooded…).

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Where to Find Katy Haye
Goodreads | Website  | Facebook Twitter

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Giveaway
Win a book-lover’s survival kit.

Your survival kit is as follows:
1. An Amazon voucher for £10/$15US/$20CAN, AUS, NZ. Load up your Kindle with books to read, while shops remain.
2. A solar charger so when the national grid fails you can still read your books.
3. A mirror. When you are stranded in the open sea you can signal for help by reflecting the sun’s light. Alternatively, if you have no wish to be rescued because you still have reading to do, flip the mirror over to depict the slogan, “Go away I’m reading.”
4. Ribbon bookmark. If all your books have been washed away by the rising seas, this can be rolled up and packed into the neck of a cut-open bottle and will double-up as a water filter. Note: this will not desalinate salt water, sorry.
5. A bag to put the last of your belongings into. DO NOT LEAVE THIS BEHIND.

Check out the ways to win with Rafflecopter.

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Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – There Once Were Stars by Melanie McFarlane

There Once Were Stars Blog Tour

There Once Were Stars by Melanie McFarlane

There Once Were Stars by Melanie McFarlane

4.0 Stars

Synopsis
Peace. Love. Order. Dome. That’s the motto that the Order has given the residents of Dome 1618 to live by. Natalia Greyes is a resident of Dome 1618, a covered city protected from the deadly radiation that has poisoned the world outside for four generations.

Nat never questioned the Order, until one day she sees a stranger on the outside of the dome. Now Nat wants answers. Is there life outside the dome and if so, what has the Order been hiding from everyone?

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My Review
I love the concept of this book — young adult dystopian meets The Walking Dead with a twist of Stephen King’s Under the Dome and a dash of Wall-E — and it delivers. After a virus turns people into flesh-eating monsters, the earth’s population builds protective domes and nukes the outside to kill the zombies and the virus. They live inside their protective bubbles until the outside is safe enough to inhabit again. Four generations later, a new breed of pioneers search the great outdoors for evidence of sustainability outside the dome. When Natalia is just nine, her parents are killed on an expedition due to radiation exposure and the expeditions cease. Orphaned Nat is sent to live with her grandparents until she is eighteen.

After graduating from the Institute, Nat needs to figure out what to do with her life, but she’s uninspired until she sees two people outside the dome — alive and well. Suddenly Nat wants answers and her reckless pursuit of those answers lands her in trouble with her dome’s leadership, her grandparents, and even her best friend, Jak, who has also been harboring romantic feelings for Nat for a long time. When Nat is forced to work with Evan, one of the Outsiders she saw, she discovers the dome is hiding a lot from its citizens. Evan and Nat work together to expose the secrets and seek the freedom the both so desperately want.

Plot
The plot was interesting. There was definitely a lot of intrigue over what the Dome government was hiding. The pacing was perfect. Never once did I feel as if anything stalled, although there was some repetitiveness, but it was easy to overlook. I didn’t much care for the love triangle, though. Nat was too back and forth with her feelings. And I don’t mean over the span of days or weeks, I mean in the span of minutes. One minute she’s pushing a guy away, the next minute she’s mad that he’s ignoring her. Once or twice would have been just flakey teenage behavior, but it happened too many times and far too often to not roll my eyes.

Characters
Most of the characters were interesting and developed, but this is a plot-driven story so there isn’t a lot of growth in any of the characters during the story with the exception of maybe Jak. Some of the more villainous characters were cliche, but I think that works in a story like this. Sometimes you just need  your bad guys to be bad, and their sad backstory isn’t necessary.

What Didn’t Work for Me
1. Nat’s waffling on her feelings. It was too much too often.
2. Lack of character growth. Even though the story was plot-driven, I would have liked a little more growth to really suck me into the story.
3. The writing. It was a little clunky at times which pulled me out of the story. It may just have been my version, since it was an ARC and those sentences might be smoothed over and refined in the final, released version.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About There Once Were Stars
1. The world building. The author did a fantastic job of creating a believable dystopian future, with enough backstory without going overboard.
2. Evan. The moody/brooding Outsider was just the right amount of light and dark to carry one third of the romance.
3. The ending. There were a few really good twists and all loose ends were wrapped up nicely.
4. The pacing. The story pacing was superbly done.
5. The characters. Sometimes authors include too many characters or they’re not utilized enough, but McFarlane created only those necessary to tell the story, and incorporated them throughout, so we never forget who they were or why they were in the story.

Bottom Line
There Once Were Stars is a great plot-driven young adult dystopian with a nice balance of action and romance.

Disclaimer
I was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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About the Book
Title: There Once Were stars
Author: Melanie McFarlane
Publisher: Month 9 Books
Pages: 331
Category: Young Adult Dystopian/Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | GooglePlus | BAM! | Book Depository

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Author Melanie McFarlane

Author Melanie McFarlane

About the Author
Whether it’s uncovering the corruption of the future, or traveling to other worlds to save the universe, Melanie McFarlane jumps in with both hands on her keyboard. Though she can be found obsessing over zombies and orcs from time to time, Melanie has focused her powers on her upcoming YA trilogy: THERE ONCE WERE STARS and her YA urban fantasy series: SUMMONER RISING..

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Where to find Melanie McFarlane
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitte
rYouTube | Pinterest

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Giveaway
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Blog Tour – Review + Giveaway – Ascendancy (The Van Winkle Project) by Karri Thompson

Ascendency Blog Tour

Welcome to the blog tour for Ascendancy, the second book in the young adult science fiction/dystopian romance series, The Van Winkle Project, by Karri Thompson. See below for my review as well as details on her giveaway, and be sure to check out my review of Mirror X, book one in the series.

Ascendancy (The Van Winkle Project #2) by Karri Thompson

Ascendancy (The Van Winkle Project #2) by Karri Thompson

3.5 Stars

Synopsis
I’ve been lied to, deceived, and manipulated—again. You’d think I’d be treated with dignity and respect. I’m the one who’s supposed to save humanity, right? I’m the one with the power to re-populate this dying world. But the clones want to control me, force me to give birth over and over again. And my daughters will face the same fate—unless I change it.

My awakening into this future should have been a chance for a new life, but it just promises a living death. With Michael on my side, though, maybe I can save us. He’s the only person I can trust.

I hear rumors of others… A secret society is growing. Tension is building.

A rebellion is imminent.

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My Review
This review includes spoilers for Mirror X. Please don’t continue if you haven’t read the first book in the series.

Ascendancy picks up right where Mirror X leaves off. Cassie and Michael are on their way to Tasmania to hopefully be reunited with their twin daughters and run The Van Winkle Project under their own terms. Almost immediately, Cassie senses something is off, and she’s not wrong. Where the first book took some time to build, Ascendancy starts off with a bang that launches Cassie and Michael on a rollercoaster ride through hell. There is a lot more action this time around, but Michael, as the love interest, still rubs me the wrong way. He’s whiney, needy, and though he’ll do whatever it takes to save Cassie, that’s his only saving grace in my view. He gets frustrated and pouts when Cassie won’t sleep with him, which is something I’d expect from a fourteen year old, not a man in his twenties.

Plot
The plot is a lot more action-packed than in Mirror X as Cassie and Michael are almost constantly fighting to stay one step ahead of their pursuers and remain alive. While it was fun, there wasn’t nearly as much character growth as last time, and far fewer plot twists,

Characters
I dislike Michael even more than before, and even Cassie started to get on my nerves, although it may have just been the fact that she likes Michael that bugged me about her. A few new characters were introduced, but I never got a deep sense of who they were. As I mentioned above, there isn’t much character development because the action overshadows nearly everything else.

Ending
The ending was more of a cliffhanger than I was expecting, and I’m definitely anxious to find out what happens next!

What Didn’t Work for Me
1. The romance.
 Michael is still all wrong for Cassie. I’m really hoping she doesn’t end up with him.
2. Cassie’s attitude. She came across as far more angry this time around. Understandably so as everyone continues to lie to her, wants to use her, and attempts to manipulate her, but I found myself liking her less because of this.

What I Enjoyed about Ascendancy
1. The twists.
There were two pretty unexpected twists that were perfectly foreshadowed in retrospect.
2. A mother’s devotion. Where Cassie really shines is when she’s fighting for her daughters. Not just for their lives, but for their futures and their freedom. Sometimes I had to remind myself she’s only a teenager, though.
3. The action. There was a lot of action, which kept the story moving from start to finish.
4. Magnum. Still my favorite character in the series. He’s smart, funny, and loyal.

Bottom Line
Ascendancy moves fast, combing danger and intrigue, culminating in a cliffhanger leaving me wanting more.

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About the Book
Title: 
Ascendancy
Series: 
The Van Winkle Project #2
Author: 
Kerri Thompson
Publisher:
Entangled Teen
Release Date: 
November 30, 2015
Pages:
216
Genre: 
Young Adult SciFi/Dystopian Romance
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | !ndigo | Entangled Teen

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Author Karri Thompson

Author Karri Thompson

About the Author
Growing up in San Diego, California, Karri Thompson spent much of her years at the beach, reading novels, tanning, and listening to music.

At SDSU, she earned a BA in English, MA in education, and her teaching credential. As a wife, mother, and high-school English teacher, she began writing novels, giving all of the compelling plots and unique characters in her head a home.

Victorian literature rocks her socks, and when she’s not writing, jogging, going to concerts, or watching her son play football, she’s reading Dickens.

Where to find Karri Thompson
Goodreads | WebsiteFacebook Twitter | Tumblr | Pinterest

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Giveaway
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Blog Tour – Review + Giveaway – Mirror X (The Van Winkle Project) by Karri Thompson

Ascendency Blog Tour

Welcome to the blog tour for Ascendancy, the second book in the young adult science fiction/dystopian romance series, The Van Winkle Project, by Karri Thompson. See below for my review of Mirror X, the first book in the series as well as details on her giveaway, and be sure to check back later in the week for my review of Ascendancy.

Mirror X (The Van Winkle Project #1) by Karri Thompson

Mirror X (The Van Winkle Project #1) by Karri Thompson

4 Stars

Synopsis
I was born more than a thousand years ago. Put into a cryogenic tube at age seventeen, forgotten during a holocaust that decimated the world, I’ve finally been awakened to a more serene and peaceful future.

But things at the hospital are new and strange. And it’s starting to scare me.

Everyone is young. Everyone is banded and tracked. And everyone is keeping secrets.

The cute geneticist Michael Bennett might be the only good thing in this crazy new world where “life is precious” but no one seems free to live it. The problem is, I don’t think he’s being totally honest with me, either.

When I’m told only I can save the human race from extinction, it’s clear my freeze didn’t avoid a dreadful fate. It only delayed the horror…

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My Review
Fellow young adult dystopian and San Diego author, Karri Thompson’s, novel intrigued me. The concept of a young woman frozen for more than 1,000 years, waking to a new world order is such a fascinating idea, I couldn’t wait to dig into it. The story weaves, bends, and twists through more than 350 pages of surprises, danger, and righteous indignation.

I thought it took a little long to really get going, but there are a lot of changes in the world Cassie wakes up in. Cassie, along with the reader, are slowly introduced to these changes, each new piece of information building upon the previous pieces. Just when we think we finally have a grasp of the situation, the author gives us a little more information, challenging everything we thought we knew. One of my favorite parts of the writing is the way Karri Thompson continually changes the playing field, keeping her characters and readers guessing.

Plot
The plot revolves around Cassie’s unique role in the world, and whether she’ll willingly embrace it, or succumb to it kicking and screaming. She vacillates a lot on exactly how she feels about what’s going on. Sometimes, I feel as if she’s too quick to give these people a pass and reason away their behavior. Other times, she’s the scared seventeen-year-old I expect her to be. There’s also a strong romantic plot that weaves through the story and drives many of her decisions.

Characters
I straight up didn’t care at all for Michael, the young doctor Cassie is instantly attracted to. He rubbed me the wrong way from the start and never redeemed himself in my eyes. Cassie is pretty believable as the conflicted teen in a Buck Rogers situation, but there were times I thought she didn’t seem as overwhelmed by her situation as I thought she should have been. The supporting characters are really my favorites. They’re all fascinating and easy to love or hate, depending on their role in the story.

Ending
The ending was yet another twist I never saw coming, but wrapped up the main story of Mirror X well, leaving plenty open for a sequel, without being a cliffhanger. That can be tough to do, but I feel as if the author pulled it off well.

What Didn’t Work for Me
1. The romance.
It felt forced from the very beginning. When Cassie wakes up more than a thousand years in the future, her immediate attraction to her young doctor seems to overshadow what should be grief over the loss of her family, friends, and way of life. Michael’s obsession with Cassie always came across as kind of creepy to me. There wasn’t any chemistry between the two of them. And the way Michael continually lied to her makes him completely unredeemable as boyfriend material in my eyes. I kept hoping for something romantic to develop between Cassie and Magnum, though, but their relationship is more like siblings. Too bad, because they have a truckload of chemistry.
2. 31st century Earth. I never fully was able to wrap my head around what the world looked like, particularly the buildings. All I really know is there’s not much vegetation, but I had a hard time picturing what this world looked like through the descriptions provided.
3. Cassie’s introduction into the new world. As I stated above, she put her attraction to Michael front and center. I would have liked her to struggle more with the new world she’s found herself in. I never got a sense of the utter devastation and hopelessness over her situation I was expecting. She’s experienced something no one can really relate to, so I would have liked the deeper psychological aspects to have been more thoroughly explored.

What I Enjoyed about Mirror X
1. The surprises.
There were so many twists and turns, I never knew what was coming next and that was so much fun to read.
2. The emotions. Where I felt the story was lacking when it came to Cassie’s response to the new world she finds herself in, the writing shines when Cassie is dealing with the emotions surrounding her role in the 31st century. Not only is she unique in that she was born in the early 2000s, but she possess an ability no one else in the future has. This ability drives the plot and her reactions to her expected role are raw and palpable.
3. Technology. There is some fascinating technology in Mirror X and Karri Thompson does a great job of helping us understand the role of this technology in the world she’s created.
4. The secondary characters. Magnum, Travel, and a whole host of other characters are intriguing and colorful and really brought the story to life.
5. Magnum. The technology whiz kid was easily my favorite character in the book. He’s a breath of 31st century fresh air!

Bottom Line
Mirror X is an interesting scifi/dystopian adventure with some unique aspects. I’m interested to see where this series goes.

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About the Book
Title: 
Mirror X
Series: The Van Winkle Project #1
Author: 
Kerri Thompson
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: June 30, 2014
Pages: 360
Genre: 
Young Adult SciFi/Dystopian Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

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Author Karri Thompson

Author Karri Thompson

About the Author
Growing up in San Diego, California, Karri Thompson spent much of her years at the beach, reading novels, tanning, and listening to music.

At SDSU, she earned a BA in English, MA in education, and her teaching credential. As a wife, mother, and high-school English teacher, she began writing novels, giving all of the compelling plots and unique characters in her head a home.

Victorian literature rocks her socks, and when she’s not writing, jogging, going to concerts, or watching her son play football, she’s reading Dickens.

Where to find Karri Thompson
Goodreads | WebsiteFacebook Twitter | Tumblr | Pinterest

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Giveaway
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Month in Review – November 2015

Since I decided to give NaNoWriMo another go this year, I didn’t get as much reading done as I normally would. Still, sixteen hours in a car, travelling to Northern California and back, provided some much-needed reading time last week. Here are the books I reviewed in November:

Return Once More by Trisha Leigh

Return Once More (The Historians #1) by Trisha Leigh

Return Once More (The Historians #1) by Trisha Leigh

4 Stars

About the Book
Title
: Return Once More
Series: The Historians #1
Author: Trisha Leigh
Publisher: Bloomsbury Spark
Pages: 289
Category: Young Adult SciFi/Time Travel/Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes and Noble | Bloomsbury

Synopsis
If you could learn the identity of your one true love—even though you will never meet— would you?

Years have passed since refugees from a ruined earth took to space, eventually settling a new system of planets. Science has not only made the leaps necessary to allow time travel, but the process engineered a strange side effect—predicting your one true love.

If you could save your one true love from an untimely death, would you be able to resist?

Sixteen-year-old Kaia Vespasian is an apprentice to the Historians—a group charged with using time travel to document the triumphs and failures of the past—and she can’t resist a peek at her long-dead soul mate in Ancient Egypt. Before she knows it, she’s broken every rule in the book, and the consequences of getting caught could destroymore than just her new romance.

Or would you have the strength to watch him die?

But when Kaia notices a fellow classmate snooping around in a time where he doesn’t belong, she suspects he has a secret of his own—and the conspiracy she uncovers could threaten the entire universe. If her experience has taught her anything, to changing history means facing the consequences. The Historians trained her to observe and record the past, but Kaia never guessed she might have to protect it— in a race across time to save her only chance at a future.

Bottom Line
Return Once More is an engaging time travel scifi romance with an intricate plot and intriguing characters.

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Rival Love (Rival Love Series) by Natalie Decker

Rival Love (Rival Love #1) by Natalie Decker

Rival Love (Rival Love #1) by Natalie Decker

4 Stars

Title: Rival Love
Series:
Rival Love #1
Author: 
Natalie Decker
Publisher:
 Swoon Romance
Release Date: 
August 26, 2014
Pages:
286
Genre: 
Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 
4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Synopsis
Skylar Fletcher is a proud Harris Academy Bulldog! She has everything she’s ever wanted: a perfect boyfriend, great friends, and her dream college waiting for her in the fall. But nothing lasts forever. Skylar’s world shatters when her mom decides it’s time to move and drags Skylar, kicking and screaming, into Bobcat territory.

At Delmont High School, home of the Bobcats, Skylar has no friends and is often bullied. To make matters worse, her home life sucks thanks to all-star quarterback Caleb Morgan, nephew of her mom’s live-in boyfriend.

At first, Skylar and Caleb want nothing to do with one another. But they soon discover they’re not that different after all–and each is harboring a secret attraction to the other. But can a Bulldog and a Bobcat ever really be more than friends? And are Skylar and Caleb willing to risk everything to find out?

Rival Love is a debut young adult contemporary romance from Natalie Decker.

Bottom Line
Rival Love is an contemporary teen romance with themes of bullying, belonging, and finding love and acceptance for who you are.

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Never Trust a Happy Song by Natalie Bina

Never Trust a Happy Song by Natalie Bina

Never Trust a Happy Song by Natalie Bina

3.5 Stars

Title: Never Trust a Happy Song
Author: 
Natalie Bina
Release Date: March 14, 2015
Pages: 180
Genre: 
Young Adult Contemporary
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Synopsis
When Cassidy Diamond is admitted to a prestigious summer program at Stanford University, she looks forward to being surrounded by people just like herself: smart, studious, and antisocial.

But when Cassidy is assigned to stay with the Harper family and meets their vivacious and uninhibited daughter Grace, the two girls clash at first sight.

Cassidy is determined to not let Grace distract her from her studies, while Grace wants to show Cassidy that maybe her grades aren’t all she has going for her, and that life might be about more than building the perfect resume.

Bottom Line
Never Trust a Happy Song is a realistic contemporary teen story about learning to let go in order to find yourself.

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The Revolution of Ivy (Book of Ivy Series) by Amy Engel

The Revolution of Ivy (Book of Ivy #2) by Amy Engel

The Revolution of Ivy (Book of Ivy #2) by Amy Engel

5 Stars

Title: The Revolution of Ivy
Series: The Book of Ivy #2
Author: Amy Engel
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: November 3, 2015
Pages: 400
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksKoboGoogle Books

Synopsis
**WARNING: Contains spoilers if you haven’t read book one**

Ivy Westfall is beyond the fence and she is alone. Abandoned by her family and separated from Bishop Lattimer, Ivy must find a way to survive on her own in a land filled with countless dangers, both human and natural. She has traded a more civilized type of cruelty–forced marriages and murder plots–for the bare-knuckled brutality required to survive outside Westfall’s borders.

But there is hope beyond the fence, as well. And when Bishop reappears in Ivy’s life, she must decide if returning to Westfall to take a final stand for what she believes is right is worth losing everything she’s fought for.

 Bottom Line
The Revolution of Ivy moves away from familiar territory, raising the stakes, and finishing the series on a high note.

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Get Yourself Organized for Christmas by Kathi Lipp

Get Yourself Organized for Christmas by Kathi Lipp

Get Yourself Organized for Christmas by Kathi Lipp

2 Stars

Title: Get Yourself Organized for Christmas
Author: Kathi Lipp
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers
Release Date: September 1, 2015
Pages: 144
Genre: Organizing/Holidays
Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | AmazonBarnes & Noble

Synopsis
Have you lost your Christmas joy? Does the thought of jam-packed malls, maxed-out credit cards, overcrowded supermarkets, and endless to-do lists give you the feeling that maybe Scrooge was on to something?

In Get Yourself Organized for Christmas, Kathi Lipp provides easy-to-follow steps to reduce the stress of the holiday season, including tactics for how to

put together a holiday binder you’ll use year after year determine a budget that won’t break the bank gather your elf supplies get your gift list together (including ideas for various ages and relationships) collect your recipes and prep your kitchen

By putting into practice Kathi’s tricks and tips, you’ll finally be able to fully enjoy this most wonderful time of the year.

Bottom Line
A good book for someone who is really disorganized. If you’re looking for something revolutionary, it’s not here.

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Abby and the Cute One (Backstage Pass) by Erin Butler

Abby and the Cute One (Backstage Pass #5) by Erin Butler

Abby and the Cute One (Backstage Pass #5) by Erin Butler

4 Stars

Title: Abby and the Cute One
Series: Backstage Pass #5
Author: Erin Butler
Publisher: Entangled Crush
Release Date: November 16, 2015
Pages: 172
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

Synopsis
He’s cute. He’s famous. And he could ruin everything…

Every member of Seconds to Juliet has a girlfriend-except for Nathan Strong. Now the band’s manager is leaning hard on “The Cute One” to play the role of the band’s heartthrob. With the band’s sales in decline, it’s up to Nathan to keep the fans’ fantasy alive.

The plan is to stage a fake relationship and a fake breakup, and then let the fans fight to be the one to mend Nathan’s broken heart. Just one problem. There’s another girl in the picture-one Nathan can’t stay away from. In private, Nathan’s stealing kisses with the band’s new opening act, Abby Curtis.

If they’re caught, no one wins. Abby will be fired, and the band might not recover the success they need to survive. But even with the pressure mounting, Nathan and Abby can’t stop themselves from stealing one more touch, one more kiss. And it’s only a matter of time before it all falls apart.

This Entangled Teen Crush book is as forbidden as the secret romance it contains! It has hot kisses, graphic language, and extreme misbehaving. DO NOT GET CAUGHT WITH THIS BOOK…unless you want everyone to know you believe in true love.

Bottom Line
Abby and the Cute One is a lighthearted contemporary romance that’s as adorable as the characters themselves.

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Mirror X (The Van Winkle Project) by Karri Thompson

Mirror X (The Van Winkle Project #1) by Karri Thompson

Mirror X (The Van Winkle Project #1) by Karri Thompson

4 Stars

Title: Mirror X
Series: The Van Winkle Project #1
Author: 
Kerri Thompson
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: June 30, 2014
Pages: 360
Genre: 
Young Adult SciFi/Dystopian Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

Synopsis
I was born more than a thousand years ago. Put into a cryogenic tube at age seventeen, forgotten during a holocaust that decimated the world, I’ve finally been awakened to a more serene and peaceful future.

But things at the hospital are new and strange. And it’s starting to scare me.

Everyone is young. Everyone is banded and tracked. And everyone is keeping secrets.

The cute geneticist Michael Bennett might be the only good thing in this crazy new world where “life is precious” but no one seems free to live it. The problem is, I don’t think he’s being totally honest with me, either.

When I’m told only I can save the human race from extinction, it’s clear my freeze didn’t avoid a dreadful fate. It only delayed the horror…

Bottom Line
Mirror X is an interesting scifi/dystopian adventure with some unique aspects. I’m interested to see where this series goes.

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Writing Deep Scenes: Plotting Your Story Through Action, Emotion, and Theme by Martha Alderson and Jordan E. Rosenfeld

Writing Deep Scenes - Plotting Your Story Through Action, Emotion, and Theme by Martha Alderson and Jordan E. Rosenfeld

Writing Deep Scenes – Plotting Your Story Through Action, Emotion, and Theme by Martha Alderson and Jordan E. Rosenfeld

3 Stars

Title: Writing Deep Scenes: Plotting Your Story Through Action, Emotion, and Theme
Authors: Martha Alderson and Jordan E. Rosenfeld
Publisher: Writer’s Digest Books
Publication Date: October 2, 2015
Pages: 248
Category: Writing Fiction
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes & Noble

Synopsis
Take a Deep Dive into Plot and Scene and Improve Your Writing

Whether you’re planning your first novel or have already written a first draft, you need to master the concepts of plot and scene to truly realize your story’s potential. “Writing Deep Scenes” teaches you how to write strong, layered, and engaging scenes–the secret to memorable, page-turning plots. It’s filled with practical tools for building layers and nuance into your scenes, employing the right scene types at the right junctures, and developing a profound understanding of how plot and scene intertwine.

Inside you’ll learn: How scenes are comprised of three key layers: action, emotion, and theme.How to recognize each layer and weave them seamlessly into a scene.How to develop an intricate relationship between the action and emotion in every scene.How thematic imagery embedded in scenes increases a story’s tension and contributes to the story’s meaning.Using contemporary examples from a variety of genres, “Writing Deep Scenes” provides an effective method for plotting at the scene level. Use these techniques and enrich your fiction and memoirs with page-turning suspense and pathos, and explore new depths in every story you write.

Bottom Line
Writing Deep Scenes presents solid techniques for developing your plot and creating layered scenes, but the terminology takes a little getting used to.

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Young Adult Book Review – Mirror X (The Van Winkle Project) by Karri Thompson

Mirror X (The Van Winkle Project #1) by Karri Thompson

Mirror X (The Van Winkle Project #1) by Karri Thompson

4 Stars

Synopsis
I was born more than a thousand years ago. Put into a cryogenic tube at age seventeen, forgotten during a holocaust that decimated the world, I’ve finally been awakened to a more serene and peaceful future.

But things at the hospital are new and strange. And it’s starting to scare me.

Everyone is young. Everyone is banded and tracked. And everyone is keeping secrets.

The cute geneticist Michael Bennett might be the only good thing in this crazy new world where “life is precious” but no one seems free to live it. The problem is, I don’t think he’s being totally honest with me, either.

When I’m told only I can save the human race from extinction, it’s clear my freeze didn’t avoid a dreadful fate. It only delayed the horror…

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My Review
Fellow young adult dystopian and San Diego author, Karri Thompson’s, novel intrigued me. The concept of a young woman frozen for more than 1,000 years, waking to a new world order is such a fascinating idea, I couldn’t wait to dig into it. The story weaves, bends, and twists through more than 350 pages of surprises, danger, and righteous indignation.

I thought it took a little long to really get going, but there are a lot of changes in the world Cassie wakes up in. Cassie, along with the reader, are slowly introduced to these changes, each new piece of information building upon the previous pieces. Just when we think we finally have a grasp of the situation, the author gives us a little more information, challenging everything we thought we knew. One of my favorite parts of the writing is the way Karri Thompson continually changes the playing field, keeping her characters and readers guessing.

Plot
The plot revolves around Cassie’s unique role in the world, and whether she’ll willingly embrace it, or succumb to it kicking and screaming. She vacillates a lot on exactly how she feels about what’s going on. Sometimes, I feel as if she’s too quick to give these people a pass and reason away their behavior. Other times, she’s the scared seventeen-year-old I expect her to be. There’s also a strong romantic plot that weaves through the story and drives many of her decisions.

Characters
I straight up didn’t care at all for Michael, the young doctor Cassie is instantly attracted to. He rubbed me the wrong way from the start and never redeemed himself in my eyes. Cassie is pretty believable as the conflicted teen in a Buck Rogers situation, but there were times I thought she didn’t seem as overwhelmed by her situation as I thought she should have been. The supporting characters are really my favorites. They’re all fascinating and easy to love or hate, depending on their role in the story.

Ending
The ending was yet another twist I never saw coming, but wrapped up the main story of Mirror X well, leaving plenty open for a sequel, without being a cliffhanger. That can be tough to do, but I feel as if the author pulled it off well.

What Didn’t Work for Me
1. The romance.
It felt forced from the very beginning. When Cassie wakes up more than a thousand years in the future, her immediate attraction to her young doctor seems to overshadow what should be grief over the loss of her family, friends, and way of life. Michael’s obsession with Cassie always came across as kind of creepy to me. There wasn’t any chemistry between the two of them. And the way Michael continually lied to her makes him completely unredeemable as boyfriend material in my eyes. I kept hoping for something romantic to develop between Cassie and Magnum, though, but their relationship is more like siblings. Too bad, because they have a truckload of chemistry.
2. 31st century Earth. I never fully was able to wrap my head around what the world looked like, particularly the buildings. All I really know is there’s not much vegetation, but I had a hard time picturing what this world looked like through the descriptions provided.
3. Cassie’s introduction into the new world. As I stated above, she put her attraction to Michael front and center. I would have liked her to struggle more with the new world she’s found herself in. I never got a sense of the utter devastation and hopelessness over her situation I was expecting. She’s experienced something no one can really relate to, so I would have liked the deeper psychological aspects to have been more thoroughly explored.

What I Enjoyed about Mirror X
1. The surprises.
There were so many twists and turns, I never knew what was coming next and that was so much fun to read.
2. The emotions. Where I felt the story was lacking when it came to Cassie’s response to the new world she finds herself in, the writing shines when Cassie is dealing with the emotions surrounding her role in the 31st century. Not only is she unique in that she was born in the early 2000s, but she possess an ability no one else in the future has. This ability drives the plot and her reactions to her expected role are raw and palpable.
3. Technology. There is some fascinating technology in Mirror X and Karri Thompson does a great job of helping us understand the role of this technology in the world she’s created.
4. The secondary characters. Magnum, Travel, and a whole host of other characters are intriguing and colorful and really brought the story to life.
5. Magnum. The technology whiz kid was easily my favorite character in the book. He’s a breath of 31st century fresh air!

Bottom Line
Mirror X is an interesting scifi/dystopian adventure with some unique aspects. I’m interested to see where this series goes.

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About the Book
Title: 
Mirror X
Series: The Van Winkle Project #1
Author: 
Kerri Thompson
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: June 30, 2014
Pages: 360
Genre: 
Young Adult SciFi/Dystopian Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

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Author Karri Thompson

Author Karri Thompson

About the Author
Growing up in San Diego, California, Karri Thompson spent much of her years at the beach, reading novels, tanning, and listening to music.

At SDSU, she earned a BA in English, MA in education, and her teaching credential. As a wife, mother, and high-school English teacher, she began writing novels, giving all of the compelling plots and unique characters in her head a home.

Victorian literature rocks her socks, and when she’s not writing, jogging, going to concerts, or watching her son play football, she’s reading Dickens.

Where to find Karri Thompson
Goodreads | WebsiteFacebook Twitter | Tumblr | Pinterest

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Young Adult Book Review + Giveaway – Return Once More (The Historians) by Trisha Leigh

Return Once More Blog Tour

Return Once More (The Historians #1) by Trisha Leigh

Return Once More (The Historians #1) by Trisha Leigh

4 Stars

Synopsis
If you could learn the identity of your one true love—even though you will never meet— would you?

Years have passed since refugees from a ruined earth took to space, eventually settling a new system of planets. Science has not only made the leaps necessary to allow time travel, but the process engineered a strange side effect—predicting your one true love.

If you could save your one true love from an untimely death, would you be able to resist?

Sixteen-year-old Kaia Vespasian is an apprentice to the Historians—a group charged with using time travel to document the triumphs and failures of the past—and she can’t resist a peek at her long-dead soul mate in Ancient Egypt. Before she knows it, she’s broken every rule in the book, and the consequences of getting caught could destroy more than just her new romance.

Or would you have the strength to watch him die?

But when Kaia notices a fellow classmate snooping around in a time where he doesn’t belong, she suspects he has a secret of his own—and the conspiracy she uncovers could threaten the entire universe. If her experience has taught her anything, to changing history means facing the consequences. The Historians trained her to observe and record the past, but Kaia never guessed she might have to protect it— in a race across time to save her only chance at a future.

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My Review
I’m a sucker for time travel. Young adult time traveling romances? Yeah, that’s like my trifecta right there, so I eagerly snatched up this gem from talented author, Trisha Leigh. I was sucked into her Cavey Files, and had high hopes for her take on the time travel genre. This is such a unique twist that it really stands apart from any other I’ve read. The book is set in the future, after Earth’s destruction. Kaia is a Historian, someone who travels back through time to study historic events and learn so they can avoid making the mistakes that led to the demise of Earth.

One of the side benefits of their futuristic science and technology is they’ve discovered they can identify everyone’s soul mate. The one person who is your perfect romantic partner, regardless of when and where they were born, even if the soul mates were never destined to meet. It’s mostly just something done for fun, but when Kaia learns of her soul mate, she breaks all the rules to meet him. Just to find out what it would feel like to see the boy who is her perfect match. The love-at-first-sight aspect of this plot point requires a little faith on the part of the reader, but it’s not so over the top given that they’re soul mates.

I really only have two problems with the book that kept it from being a full five stars. The first is that it takes awhile to develop. I picked it up and put it down several times before I got to that point where I was thoroughly engrossed. The second is that it ends in a cliffhanger. I’m not a big fan of those, particularly when there is a long wait for the next book.

Plot
The plot is intricate and layered, with a lot going on. Since this is the first in a series, many questions are left unanswered, but everything does move forward. Some to conclusion, others not. And because of the cliffhanger ending, a huge question is raised in the very last sentence of the book. Other than a slow start, the plotting keeps up a steady pace through the middle until the end.

Characters
Kaia, her soul mate, and Oz, another historian, are well-developed and interesting. I got much less of a sense of the rest of the characters, though. But, because the plot centers on these three, it’s important that they’re fully fleshed out, and they are. I had a hard time connecting with Kaia in the beginning, but as the story unfolded, she becomes more likable and sympathetic and by the end, I was twisted up inside for her. Her choice is heartbreaking and I felt her pain and anguish as she struggled to find the right path.

The Ending
Aside from the cliffhanger aspect, the ending is gut-wrenching, emotional, and wraps up many of the plot lines, leaving more for the next book.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed about Return Once More:
1. Time travel. I never get tired of this genre.

2. Oz. He’s a tough egg to crack and I can’t wait to find out more about him.

3. Scene setting. Trisha Leigh does an incredible job of painting such a vivid picture of the scenes, it’s hard not to believe you’re actually there..

4. Forbidden love. In a unique twist on a common trope, this is one of the most well-done subplots in the book.

5. Impossible choices. Never knowing what was going to happen kept me turning the pages.

Bottom Line
Return Once More is an engaging time travel scifi romance with an intricate plot and intriguing characters.

Disclaimer
I was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher. This in no way influences my review.

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About the Book
Title
: Return Once More
Series: The Historians #1
Author: Trisha Leigh
Publisher: Bloomsbury Spark
Pages: 289
Category: Young Adult SciFi/Time Travel/Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes and Noble | Bloomsbury

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Trisha LeighAbout the Author
Trisha Leigh is a product of the Midwest, which means it’s pop, not soda, garage sales, not tag sales, and you guys as opposed to y’all. Most of the time. She’s been writing seriously for five years now, and has published 4 young adult novels and 4 new adult novels (under her pen name Lyla Payne). Her favorite things, in no particular order, include: reading, Game of Thrones, Hershey’s kisses, reading, her dogs (Yoda and Jilly), summer, movies, reading, Jude Law, coffee, and rewatching WB series from the 90’s-00’s.

Her family is made up of farmers and/or almost rock stars from Iowa, people who numerous, loud, full of love, and the kind of people that make the world better. Trisha tries her best to honor them, and the lessons they’ve taught, through characters and stories—made up, of course, but true enough in their way.

Trisha is the author of THE LAST YEAR series and the WHITMAN UNIVERSITY books. She’s represented by Kathleen Rushall at Marsal Lyon Literary Agency.

Where to find Trisha Leigh
Website | Goodreads Facebook Twitter Tumblr Pinterest

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Giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway
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YA Book Review – Defective (The Institute Series) by Kayla Howarth

Defective (The Institute #3) by Kayla Howarth

Defective (The Institute #3) by Kayla Howarth

5 Stars

Synopsis
Eighteen months has passed since the Institute was liberated.

For Allira Daniels, she’s still trying to live with the consequences of her actions. The Defective are free, but are their lives truly any better? Attacks on Defectives are on the rise, and Allira has to wonder if she’s directly responsible.

Keeping busy to escape her guilt, Allira is trying to move on, but how can she when her past is always haunting her?

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My Review
I had bittersweet feelings about starting this book, knowing it was the last in the series. It exceeded my expectations and is easily my favorite. Allira is having a tough time coming to terms with the loss of Chad, and she reluctantly agrees to pose as presidential candidate, Paxton James’s girlfriend. While she cares for Paxton, she’s not in love with him, but acting as his date for political functions helps her focus on something other than her grief and guilt for a short period of time.

When she meets Jayce, a cute boy who stirs something she hasn’t felt since Chad died, her sham relationship is just one obstacle to living her own life. And that’s only the beginning. When someone begins to stalk her, she has more than a handful of suspects, and more questions than answers.

Plot
This third installment is action-packed, between Paxton’s campaign, the maybe, sorta, could be romance with Jayce, mysterious packages that raise her suspicions, and a strained relationship with her family. Kayla Howarth throws in more than a few unexpected twists that are expertly foreshadowed and  left me screaming, “no way!” at my Kindle.  I can’t say much more without spoiling anything, so I’ll just say it was one nail-biting rollercoaster ride.

World Building
The primary world is created in the first two books, and further elaborated upon here. With the end of the the Institute’s imprisoning of defectives, the new world Allira inhabits is different than the other books, but it’s familiar enough I never felt untethered from the series.

Characters
The new characters introduced are as well developed as I’ve come to expect from Howarth. And Allira’s character arc is deep and emotional, but utterly satisfying. I love how Drew has evolved as well. Ebb, is still Ebb, but she didn’t really have as far to come as the others.

The Ending
The series wraps up with a satisfying conclusion along with another fun surprise.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About Defective
1. The twists and turns. Dang, all I can say is that it’s been awhile since I’ve had my jaw slam into my chest like that. It takes a lot to throw me, but yeah, never saw THAT coming.

2. Drew. Still love him. Yeah, I like Jayce, but Drew earned a place in my heart.

3. Nuka. Paxton’s daughter is an adorable bundle of defective fun.

4. The ending. I felt like everything was wrapped up in a satisfying series conclusion, something that seems to be harder to find these days.

5. Jayce. The boy is sweet, patient, and everything Allira needs.

Bottom Line
Defective is full of unexpected twists, fascinating characters, and nail-biting action.

Disclaimer
I was provided with a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.

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About the Book
Title: Defective
Series: The Institute #3
Author: Kayla Howarth
Release Date: September 1, 2015
Pages: 385
Genre: Young Adult/New Adult Dystopian
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon

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Author Kayla Howarth

Author Kayla Howarth

About the Author
Kayla was born and raised on the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia. She still resides there with her husband and son, working part time for a medical pathology lab while working on her writing.

Her love of reading and movies inspired her to start something she never dreamed possible: Writing her first novel.

When she’s not working, looking after her son, or writing, you’ll most likely find her hosting her own dance party in the kitchen while she does the dishes. (Where her husband will argue that more dancing is achieved than clean plates.)

Where to find Kayla Howarth
Goodreads Website | Facebook Twitter
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YA Book Review – The Resistance (The Institute Series) by Kayla Howarth

The Resistance (The Institute #2) by Kayla Howarth

The Resistance (The Institute #2) by Kayla Howarth

5 Stars

Synopsis
It’s what every Defective person wants – freedom, liberation from the Institute.

Allira had her chance. Then why is she still working for them?

It has been three months since she first started working as an agent for the Institute. She’s good at her job. She has to be. There’s too much at stake.

After an arrest goes awry, she’s faced with the possibility of escaping again, and an offer too good to refuse.

Things are meant to be different at the Resistance, everything is meant to be better. But when life is about survival, sacrifices must be made. What will Allira sacrifice for her freedom?

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My Review
The Resistance is a solid follow-up to The Institute. We pick up Allira’s story several months after the end of The Institute, where she is working with Drew to round up other “defectives” for the Institute. But as we learned at the end of The Institute, an underground Resistance is doing their own recruiting and they want Allira. The problem is, Shilah and Tate are still at the Institute and her allegiances are pulling her apart. She’d love nothing more than to bring down the Institute, but not at the cost of her brother and best friend.

Plot
The plot is intriguing, drawing me in as I learned more about the mysterious Resistance and who is calling the shots, what the Institute is really up to and who’s behind it, and what Allira’s future has in store for her. There are a lot of layers here, all seamlessly woven in, with more than a couple of twists I never saw coming.

World Building
The author deepens the world building in this second go-round, providing further clues to the underpinnings of both the Resistance and the Institute. The world is a bleak place in her dystopian vision, dark and suffocating at times, but with a peek at blue sky promises, if only they survive long enough to experience it.

Characters
There is more character development in The Resistance  as Allira comes to terms with her fate, uncovers some surprising information about her past, and embraces her feelings for the important people in her life. Drew also goes through a transformation, but I never quite knew where he stands, which makes him still one of my favorite characters in the series.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About The Resistance
1. The Ending. Once again the ending was not what I expected. It caught me off guard and slammed me into a wall, making me gasp for breath and beg for more!

2. Drew. He continues to evade stereotype. He refuses to allow me to either love or hate him. Instead, he pushes me away, only to pull me back in like a co-dependent lover. Can’t wait to see what happens with him in the next book.

3. The Twists. I love when an author can shock me, particularly when the plot twist is a natural evolution of the story.

4. Shate or Tailah. Not sure of the best “ship” name for this couple, but they are adorable.

5. Allira’s Determination. Even when she’s put in the worst situations, she manages to grit her teeth and find a way to persevere.

Bottom Line
The Resistance is a worthy sequel to The Institute, better in almost every way. And The Institute was really good!

Disclaimer
I was provided with a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.

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About the Book
Title: Resistance
Series: The Institute #2
Author: Kayla Howarth
Release Date: May 14, 2015
Pages: 352
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes & Noble

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Author Kayla Howarth

Author Kayla Howarth

About the Author
Kayla was born and raised on the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia. She still resides there with her husband and son, working part time for a medical pathology lab while working on her writing.

Her love of reading and movies inspired her to start something she never dreamed possible: Writing her first novel.

When she’s not working, looking after her son, or writing, you’ll most likely find her hosting her own dance party in the kitchen while she does the dishes. (Where her husband will argue that more dancing is achieved than clean plates.)

Where to find Kayla Howarth
Goodreads Website | Facebook Twitter
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YA Book Review – Because You Exist by Tiffany Truitt

Because You Exist (Light in the Dark #1) by Tiffany Truitt

Because You Exist (Light in the Dark #1) by Tiffany Truitt

5 Stars

Synopsis
Life is good for LOGAN MIDDLETON. He’s quarterback of the Shepherd High football team, nephew of the town’s most successful lawyer, and boyfriend of Jenna Maples, a girl who has finally agreed to take their relationship to the next level. But nothing good lasts forever.

With only a few minutes of last period English left between him and a weekend alone with Jenna, Logan blacks out. When he awakens, he finds himself in a future where Shepherd High lies in ruins, nothing is what it seems, and everyone he loves is dead. Logan is a shifter. Chosen to travel through time, it’s up to him to figure out how to stop the terrible events that claimed his once perfect life.

Of course, all of this might be easier if he wasn’t paired with the one girl who’d rather see him dead than help him, JOSEPHINE. A girl he tormented during childhood. Strong-willed with biting wit, who lives in the shadows. Tough and dark, Jo is Shepherd High’s most notorious outcast and Logan’s opposite in every way. Together the two must overcome their many differences to figure out why they’ve been selected for such an overwhelming task, and who selected them in the first place.

Before it’s too late…

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My Review
Holy freaking awesome! This book is a recipe for everything I love in a story. Time travel – check, angsty teen drama – check, a flawed protagonist that is hard to like, but you pull for anyway – check and check. Logan Middleton discovers he’s a shifter, someone who can time travel, but with no control over any of it. And to make matters worse, he’s teamed with fellow shifter, Scary Carrie, the worst girl in all of Shepherd High. She’s so awful, he’s spent a great deal of his childhood tormenting her, including her horrible nickname. Now he has to rely on her to survive.

Logan’s the big man on campus, quarterback of the football team, poised to take the team to the state championship. Except he keeps shifting into the future, where a plague has wiped out most of mankind unless he and Scary Carrie, aka Josephine, can find a way to stop it. His teammates think his newfound interest in Jo is sexual. Even his uncle has a weird obsession with his relationship with Jo. Only Logan’s perfect, cheerleader girlfriend seems to understand that Logan’s relationship with Jo goes deeper.

Plot
The plot is complex and fascinating. On the surface, it’s about Logan and Jo finding a way to save the world, but it’s more than that. There’s the mystery over what happens in the future and how they can possibly stop it. There’s the questions over why they were chosen to be shifters, and how shifting occurs. Plus there are other shifters as well as a handful of future survivors who want to kill and eat the shifters. And it’s about two damaged kids who develop a true friendship based on a common goal as well as genuine affection for each other.

There is so much going on in this story, but it’s never confusing. Tiffany Truitt weaves in the subplots so expertly, everything is seamless. Tension run high throughout the story, and I found it incredibly hard to put down. While it’s the first book in a series, the ending is well done, wrapping up enough of the story goal to satisfy me, but also leaving me dying for more. This is the first book in awhile that I’ve been this anxious to get my hands on the sequel.

World Building
The world building is intense and thorough with shifting and guides, light and dark shifters, and conductors. And all of it is really well developed. The future as well as the past are just as three-dimensional as the present world Logan and Jo inhabit most of the time, I’m impressed with the level of detail woven in. At no time does the world building feel like anything other than an extension of the plot.

Characters
I love how beautifully crafted the characters are. Jo and Logan, especially, are deep, layered, and intense. Both of them grow and develop so much over the story in natural, believable ways. In fact Because You Exist at times feels like its equal parts character-driven and plot-driven. What it is, is exceptionally well balanced.

Logan is utterly heartbreaking as the kid who leads a charmed life, popular, in love with the girl of his dreams. He tears everything apart trying to be who he thinks he should, only to to finally admit he’s a complete asshole. And he is. At times. And yet, I still want him to do the right thing. I still believe he will.

Jo is damaged beyond what anyone should be. Her story unfolds slowly throughout the novel. With every new piece of information I learn about her, the more I love her. And it only makes me want Logan to do the right thing by her even more. Oh, Logan…please, please pull your shit together in book 2!

Top Five Things I Loved About Because You Exist
1. Time Travel. It is my number one favorite genre, whether it’s books or movies.

2. The Ending. It ripped my heart out and left me craving more.

3. Logan and Jo. Because they are just so cute together, even though they aren’t “together” together.

4. Randall and Ben. Best bromance I’ve read in a long time.

5. 1996. Because it was a very good year and because did I mention I love time travel?

Bottom Line
Because you Exist is a phenomenal time-travelling young adult romance that raises the bar for the genre.

Disclaimer
I was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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About the Book
Title: Because You Exist
Series: Light in the Dark #1
Author: Tiffany Truitt
Publisher: Limitless Publishing
Release Date: November 11, 2014
Pages: 294
Genre: Young Adult SciFi/Paranormal
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | AmazonBarnes & NobleLimitless Publishing

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Author Tiffany Truitt

Author Tiffany Truitt

About the Author
Tiffany Truitt received her MA in literature from Old Dominion University.

Her debut Chosen Ones, first in the Lost Souls trilogy, is a searing look at what it means to be other and how we define humanity, as well as a celebration of the dangerously wonderful feeling of falling in love.

Where to Find Tiffany Truitt
Goodreads │ Website | Twitter │ Facebook

Book Review – Voyager (Outlander Series) by Diana Gabaldon

Voyager (Outlander #3) by Diana Gabaldon

Voyager (Outlander #3) by Diana Gabaldon

5 Stars

Synopsis
Their passionate encounter happened long ago by whatever measurement Claire Randall took. Two decades before, she had traveled back in time and into the arms of a gallant eighteenth-century Scot named Jamie Fraser.

Then she returned to her own century to bear his child, believing him dead in the tragic battle of Culloden. Yet his memory has never lessened its hold on her… and her body still cries out for him in her dreams.

Then Claire discovers that Jamie survived. Torn between returning to him and staying with their daughter in her own era, Claire must choose her destiny.

And as time and space come full circle, she must find the courage to face the passion and pain awaiting her…the deadly intrigues raging in a divided Scotland… and the daring voyage into the dark unknown that can reunite or forever doom her timeless love.

My Review
This is my second favorite book in the series, after Outlander. There is so much intense passion and drama. The book moves from Claire in the 1960s as she travels with her daughter, Bree, to Scotland, to learn more about what happened to Jamie during the battle at Culloden. When she discovers that Jamie miraculously survived, she has to decide between staying in present day with her daughter or returning to 18th century Scotland to reconnect with the man she loves.

Since this is the third book in a nine (possibly ten or more) book series, I’m not giving anything away by saying she obviously chooses to return to another time. And that’s when things really get interesting. While Claire knows Jamie survived, Jamie is not prepared for Claire’s return and all hell breaks loose.

Plot
The story starts off slower than I’d like, but when it finally picks up, it takes off and never looks back. There’s a lot of ground covered. We see flashbacks of the past twenty years through both the eyes of Claire and Jamie. We also get glimpses inside the heads of Bree and Roger, the nephew of the Reverend that Claire and Frank had met nearly 25 years earlier when Claire first went through the stones. I’ll admit that I didn’t think Roger’s point of view added much to the story, but it didn’t annoy me, either. At more than 1,000 pages, this is really an epic tale that covers several continents and two centuries.

Characters
The characters are as intense and passionate as ever. The addition of an adult Bree is a fresh breath of air as is Roger, although Roger is the character I like the least. The grown up character of Fergus is a delight as is Young Ian, Jamie’s nephew.  The return of Laoghaire ignites fireworks along the lines of the Fourth of July debacle in San Diego in 2012 when they all went off at once. Several other interesting characters include Lord John Grey, Jamie’s fellow Jacobite survivors, and Jamie’s smuggling sidekick, Mr. Whiloughby.

Bottom Line
Voyager is a delightful, intense, and action-packed addition to the Outlander series.

Title: Dragonfly in Amber
Author: Diana Gabaldon
Publisher: Random House
Pages: 1072
Category: Historical, Science Fiction, Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

YA Book Review – Matched by Ally Condie

Matched by Ally Condie

3.5 Stars

Synopsis
Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander’s face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate… until she sees Ky Markham’s face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black.

The Society tells her it’s a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she’s destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can’t stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society’s infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she’s known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.

My Review
This is a different twist on the young adult dystopian adventure. In Ally Condie’s futuristic tale, the world isn’t as dark and bleak, at least not for those born to the proper families who uphold Society’s expectations. While it starts off slow, the first third of the book easily is devoted to world building, it picks up steam in the middle and builds to a decent climax.

Cassia’s world has everything predetermined, from whom she will marry to what her career will be. She doesn’t even get to decide how to spend her time or what she’ll eat, but she doesn’t seem to mind, especially when she discovers she’s been matched to her best friend, Xander, the boy all the girls want. Her neat and orderly life is thrown into chaos when she’s temporarily shown that her match as someone else, a strange boy she barely knows, named Ky.

Plot
The plot moved a little slow for me, especially in the beginning, although it did pick up. It’s not particularly heavy on action for dystopian and even the romance was sort of understated. What worked well was the world building, and there’s a lot of it. Seeing how Ally Condie’s perceived future unfolds was both fascinating and frightening. When Cassia uncovers a horrible truth, it’s not entirely shocking because of the way Condie has laid the Society out before us.

Characters
Xander is the character I ended up liking the most. I don’t trust Ky, and Cassia is weaker than I usually prefer my female protagonists, but she does grow and I like her more by the time I got to the end. The most fascinating character isn’t really a person, it’s the Society. Ally Condie creates a world that is almost a personality all its own and it drives the story more than the characters or the plot. While the morals of the Society are in question, it’s definitely well crafted and intriguing.

Bottom Line
Matched is pretty mild by futuristic dystopian standards, but it has incredible world building and an interesting twist on the future that is worth a read.

About the Book
Title: Matched (Matched #1)
Author: Ally Condie
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Pages: 400
Genre: Young Adult
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
Release Date: September 20, 2011
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

 

YA Book Review – Lost in Starlight (Starlight Saga #1) by Sherry Soule

4.5 Stars

Synopsis
Star reporter Sloane Masterson knows she has one helluva story when she witnesses hottie Hayden Lancaster bending forks with his mind.

Like any good journalist, Sloane sets out to uncover the truth, even if it includes a little stalking. When the superhuman feats start to pile up and the undeniable heat rises between them, Hayden has no choice but to reveal his secret: he’s an alien hybrid.

They’re as different as night and day—she’s a curvy, purple-haired, horror junkie and he’s a smoking hot, antisocial, brainiac—yet the intense fascination between them refuses to go away. Even at Hayden’s insistence that dating each other is “off limits” and dangerous, their fiery attraction threatens to go supernova. 

Now Sloane’s dealing with creepy government agents, über snobby extraterrestrials, and a psycho alien ex-girlfriend out for revenge. After a crash course on the rules of interstellar dating, Sloane must decide if their star-crossed romance is worth risking her own life.

My Review
I thoroughly enjoyed Lost in Starlight by Sherry Soule. Her youthful voice, fun and quirky characters, and intriguing plot hooked me from the first chapter. There were a lot of similarities to Jennifer L. Armentrout’s Obsidian — the main character runs a review blog, but in this case horror films and not books, there’s a hot alien with unusual eye color, an equally hot alien ex-girlfriend, a secret alien society, and oppressive government involvement. But there were also enough differences that I found myself lost in the story and stopped trying to compare the two.

Plot
The plot moves along, the dialogue is witty, and I’m ready to read the rest of the series whenever it’s available. To me, that’s solid storytelling. There were a few things that kept it from being a full five-star review. For one, I felt like there were a few gratuitous kissing scenes. Now don’t get me wrong, I LOVE kissing scenes, they are among my favorite types of scenes. But they tend to lose their effect when there are so many of them, and nothing really develops. I’m not saying that things needed to escalate, but if there is no escalation, we don’t need the play-by-play for every kiss. If it’s just more of the same, it’s okay to gloss over it to keep the plot moving forward.

Another issue I had was that Sloane seemed to overthink things to the point that I didn’t feel like she was developing as much as I’d hoped. She seemed stuck, and given her situation, that’s understandable, but the reader doesn’t need to revisit the same points with her over and over again.

Characters
Sloane is fantastic. She’s strong, smart-mouthed, funny, and confident. I love that she’s not super skinny and that she’s mostly content with her size 12/14 body. That really sets her apart from so many other young adult protagonists. I love her crazy purple hair. In fact, my daughter just had her hair colored and chose purple, so when I read about Sloane, she was already somewhat endeared to me just because of that. And I can personally relate to having big boobs in high school and the utter obsession boys have at that age of talking to your chest.

I adore her two best friends. Both of them are interesting, non-stereotypical, loyal, and exactly the kind of girls I’d want to have for my besties. Hayden is pretty cool, too, although I’m still trying to piece him together. In some ways, he’s a selfish teenage boy who just happened to fall in love with the wrong girl, but manages to do the right thing at times. In other ways, he seems far older than 18 and he talks way more than any teenage boy I’ve ever met. But all things considered, he’s not your average teenage boy, which makes him interesting and unpredictable.

About the only characters I found lacking to the point of distraction were Tama and Darion. Without giving anything away, I’ll just say I had a hard time believing their actions. It’s possible we’ll get a little more insight into them in the next book in the series, but for this story, I had to suspend a lot of disbelief to get through their scenes.

Bottom Line
Lost in Starlight is a fast-paced, fun read that left me wanting to read more.

Disclaimer
I was provided a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Title: Lost in Starlight (Starlight Saga #1)
Author: Sherry Soule
Publisher: Moonlight Publishing
Pages: 293
Category: Young Adult Paranormal Romance
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
LinksGoodreads | Amazon | Kobo

About the Author
Sherry Soule lives with her family and one very spoiled black cat in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is the bestselling author of the adult novel, “Immortal Eclipse” and the popular YA series: Spellbound. Sherry writes thrilling tales of romance and suspense, often mingled with a dash of the mystical and a splash of trendy fashion. Her love of literature began when she was a young girl and it has continued throughout her life.

Her published novels do not include any graphic sex scenes or explicit violence, nor excessive profanity, so that all of her novels can be read and enjoyed by both teens and adults.

Sherry’s debut novel, “Beautifully Broken” was nominated for Best Paranormal Romance in the 2011 Wizard and Witch/Sorcery category by The Romance Reviews (TRR). Her adult novel, “Immortal Eclipse” is a *TOP PICK* by Night Owl Reviews.

Where to Find Sherry Soule
Goodreads | Blog | Twitter | Facebook

Book Review – Dragonfly in Amber (Outlander Series) by Diana Gabaldon

Dragonfly in Amber (Outlander #2) by Diana Gabaldon

Dragonfly in Amber (Outlander #2) by Diana Gabaldon

5 Stars

Synopsis
For twenty years Claire Randall has kept her secrets. But now she is returning with her grown daughter to Scotland’s majestic mist-shrouded hills. Here Claire plans to reveal a truth as stunning as the events that gave it birth: about the mystery of an ancient circle of standing stones … about a love that transcends the boundaries of time … and about James Fraser, a Scottish warrior whose gallantry once drew a young Claire from the security of her century to the dangers of his….

Now a legacy of blood and desire will test her beautiful copper-haired daughter, Brianna, as Claire’s spellbinding journey of self-discovery continues in the intrigue-ridden Paris court of Charles Stuart … in a race to thwart a doomed Highlands uprising … and in a desperate fight to save both the child and the man she loves.

My Review
Dragonfly in Amber flashes us forward 220 years, introducing us to Jamie and Claire’s adult daughter, Brianna, before sending us back to pick up where Outlander left us. This second installment in the Outlander series has the same intense passion, adventure, danger, and heartache we’ve come to expect from Diana Gabaldon.

Once again, this is amazingly well researched and transports the reader not only through time, but also across the Atlantic to 18th century Scotland and France as well as 1968 Scotland. About the only thing that annoyed me is the bouncing around from Claire’s first person point of view to third person for various characters, and back to first again for Claire. It’s an odd way to tell a story and I found it annoying, and I don’t know that it was necessary to tell the story.

Plot
The storyline is strong and the history insanely accurate. Claire and Jamie attempt to rewrite history and stop the massacre at Culloden in 1745. Even though the reader knows what happens historically, it doesn’t keep us from rooting for them to succeed anyway. The plot is intricate and layered and keeps the reader engaged, although it did sag in a few spots.

The story jumps around from 1968 to the 1940s and back to the 1740s as Claire tells her now grown daughter, Brianna, about her real father, Jamie Fraser, and how she was conceived in 1745 Scotland. It’s a tough sell, as you would expect, not something even a 1968 flower child would easily buy into. Dragonfly in Amber unfolds epically, keeping us on the edge of our seats most of the time.

Characters
The characters we already know and love are back for more and are as three-dimensional as ever. The new characters introduced, including Brianna and Roger, only add to the story. While I found Roger to be irritating, I don’t think that was a problem. Not every character can be perfect, and he does evolve over the series, so I think it’s okay that he starts off less than loveable.

Bottom Line
Dragonfly in Amber is an engaging, well told, and beautifully set story and it gets five out of five stars from me.

Title: Dragonfly in Amber
Author: Diana Gabaldon
PublisherRandom House Publishing Group
Pages: 754
Category: Historical, Science Fiction, Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links to PurchaseAmazon | Barnes and Noble

Book Review – Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Outlander (Outlander #1) by Diana Gabaldon

Outlander (Outlander #1) by Diana Gabaldon

5 Stars

Synopsis
The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon–when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient stone circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach–an “outlander”–in a Scotland torn by war and raiding Highland clans in the year of Our Lord…1743.

Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into intrigues and dangers that may threaten her life…and shatter her heart. For here she meets James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, and becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire…and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.

My Review
I had never read historical fiction that wasn’t required reading for school before Outlander. A friend of mine recommended it and even then, I was hesitant. It didn’t sound like my thing. But with all of the rave reviews, I decided to give it a try. This was no bodice ripping romance, after all.

Outlander is a stunningly beautiful novel. Diana Gabaldon paints a beautiful backdrop for her complex, fully-developed characters to perform against. And she’s done her homework. The research that went into the novel is evident. The fact that she fully admits that she didn’t tell anyone she was writing a novel for fear of the pressure and ridicule that often goes with that, makes the depth of her research that much more impressive.

Plot
The plot was solid, although I felt it started off a little slow, especially the chicken sacrifices and detailed descriptions of plants and herbs. But once Claire visited the mini Stonehenge and was transported back in time, the story took off and never really let up. I was riveted by the harshness of life in 1740s Scotland, especially the views on women. We’ve come a long way in the past 250 years, thankfully!

The book is long and there seems to be two solid arcs. In fact, at 896 pages, the book could quite easily have been two books, but the length doesn’t detract from the story at all. I would have happily paid twice as much to have read two books, so I’m not complaining.

Characters
While the plot is definitely the part that makes this book work for me, it’s just as much character-driven as plot-driven. The characters are all strong, well-developed and so completely differentiated from one another, it’s hard to remember they’re fictional creations of the author’s imagination. I can only imagine how detailed her character bios must be.

Bottom Line
Outlander is by far one of the best-researched historical novels around. The time-traveling aspect only makes me love it more, because I’m addicted to time-traveling fiction. The romance is well-done and intense. This is easily the best book in the series primarily because the plot moves without ever dragging.

Title: Outlander
Author: Diana Gabaldon
PublisherRandom House Publishing Group
Pages: 896
Category: Historical, Science Fiction, Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links to PurchaseAmazonBarnes and Noble