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merin

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Merin is a teacher, a book blogger, a baseball addict (Go Cardinals!), lover of music, movies and TV crime dramas, and YA/MG connoisseur. Follow me on my blog at http://ahandfulofconfetti.wordpress.com!

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Her Highness, the Traitor
Susan Higginbotham
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Ruben Toledo, Charlotte Brontë
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Rainbow Rowell
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The Forgotten Ones

The Forgotten Ones - Laura   Howard

I am always interested in books dealing with faerie lore, so was very intrigued when I first read the synopsis for The Forgotten Ones. It's not often that you find a book that uses faeries in a slightly different way - most really tend to focus on the two courts, for example - so this book was very unique because it has the faeries as descendants of the pre-Christian deities of Ireland. (This is actually a "real" mythological group of beings; Google Tuatha Dé Danann if you want more information.) And actually, I very much enjoyed this glimpse into these mythological faeries; for me, the lore behind them, their abilities, and the ways they interact with humans was the main draw of this book for me personally.

 

One thing I want to state upfront is that this was a very fast read. The e-book is listed at 197 pages, but it felt much shorter than that. Because of the length, I found that I never really connected with any of the main characters. Allison, our narrator, is sympathetic to the reader, because her mother is mentally ill and obviously Allison has had to endure a lot with that. She also has a crush on the very attractive Ethan, but for reasons she explains but I sort of eye-rolled at, she keeps pushing him away, even after he makes it clear he's interested in her as well. While I felt for her at times, I never really felt drawn into her narrative or like I cared one way or the other about her. It was sort of just a surface interest, and I found myself more intrigued by the mysteries of the story - and the revelation regarding Aoife at the end - than Allison herself. One character I am definitely interested in, though, is Aodhan. He really seems to have an interesting past, and not just because of what happened to him upon entering the Fae world. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing more of him in book two.

 

This book was also very well written in terms of grammar and construction. I was extremely impressed with some of the turns of phrase and the solid narration provided by Allison. You can tell that the author has a firm grasp of language and nuance, and definitely knows how to tell an interesting story. While I didn't love Allison, I found her well-constructed, and liked how she was headstrong and stubborn, and also willing to fight for those she cares about. I also liked the way the story was slowly revealed, and truths and facts were brought to Allison's (and the reader's) attention. While the book isn't very long, and things happened at a quick pace, I felt like the way the story was written was done in an un-rushed way that kept the reader interested and focused on what came next. While I would have loved a bit more character development and a slower introduction to the plot and characters - particularly once all the rather unpronounceable names started getting thrown about - I still found the book very readable and entertaining.

 

The Forgotten Ones is a good book for folks who like faeries but want something a little different. While there were certainly things I would have liked to see more of - like the reason Allison likes Ethan and he her, and a bit more insight into Allison's character to make her more relatable to the reader - overall I found this to be a very quick read and definitely a good way to spend an afternoon. I'm also extremely curious as to what's going to happen next, particularly since the book ends on a bit of a cliffhanger. I will certainly be tuning in to check it out!

 

A copy of this book was provided for blog tour purposes in exchange for an honest review.

 

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To see more of my reviews, please visit me @ Read and Reviewed!

Indelible - Dawn Metcalf Oh, I really liked this one. Had the romance not been so unique and written so perfectly, I doubt I would have enjoyed it nearly as much, because the plot and the world are a little confusing. I'm cautiously calling this a faerie book in my head, because of the constant mention of the "Folk," but it's not your usual faerie read. This was very different all around, and I'm really glad I gave it a read.Full review to come soon.***To see more of my reviews, please visit me @ Read and Reviewed!

Another Little Piece

Another Little Piece - Kate Karyus Quinn

How do you review a book that's told in such a fractured way that every little thing you could mention would be a major spoiler? A book with such an unreliable narrator that you aren't even sure which way is up for the majority of the story? One that was so brutal and gruesome and yet amazing that I was, at times, trying to read the words between my fingers? To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure, and that's the conundrum I face while trying to compose this review for Another Little Piece. While I had been warned that this book was a bizarre one, nothing really prepared me for just how unique this story - and its method of storytelling - really was. Just like Annaliese is a fractured mess, so is this story; and I shall work extremely hard to try to make sure this review does not fall into the same category.

First of all, let me get this one warning out of the way first. This book is not for the faint of heart. Seriously, if strong and unapologetic depictions of violence and gore aren't your thing, you probably want to steer clear of this one, or at least be well aware of what you're getting yourself into. I am not necessarily one who shies away from gruesome descriptions, but fully admit that at times - particularly at a scene that's referenced and re-shown several times throughout this book - I was cringing away from my Kindle and squinting at the words because I couldn't quite believe what I was reading. And any book that can give me such a visceral reaction is clearly doing its job; I just want everyone to know that they can expect that sort of response because it kind of hit me over the head a bit and had me pretty much staring wide-eyed at the page.

When I called this book a fractured mess, I wasn't really lying. It's not a mess in the sense that it's terribly written or even bad at all, because it's not. This book is excellently written and achieves its goal - confusing its reader (ha!) - quite well. But the story is told through our narrator, Annaliese (or Anna), and she is suffering some significant memory loss thanks to having been missing for nearly a year. Her background - which is dark and horrible and (here's that word again!) gruesome - is told via flashbacks that she has that are triggered by words or phrases or things she experiences. As Anna tries to piece together her past, so does the reader, because things don't make a whole lot of sense at the start. As Anna tries to reconcile herself to Annaliese's life, she soon realizes that she's just not right, that she doesn't belong, and that she has to figure out who and what she is if she's going to try to fix things. There is an extremely fast pace to this story, which helped with the frenetic and crazy energy Anna has through most of the story, even when she's completing mundane tasks like attending school. This pace also helped carry along the confusion which is with the reader pretty much from beginning to end, and - for me at least - really helped bring the book to life and keep me engaged. Even though parts had me cringing, I HAD to figure out what the heck was going on; calling this book compulsively readable wouldn't be much of a stretch.

Another Little Piece is not going to be a book for everyone. The style of storytelling and its unapologetic nods to the horror genre - which this fits right into - will bother a lot of people, and I don't just mean that because of the subject matter or content. I'm still not positive I've fully comprehended the ending, which I personally have no problem with because I like books that make you think and actually use an open-ending to its advantage, but realize is not something everyone likes. My one piece of advice is to go into this fully expecting the unexpected, because never has a title been more appropriate: Another Little Piece will leave you grasping at the pieces and guessing until the very end.

An e-galley was provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

 

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To see more of my reviews, please visit me @ Read and Reviewed!

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea - April Genevieve Tucholke Well, hmm. I'm going to have to think about this one. I'm so torn over how exactly I feel about it.Full review to come soon.***To see more of my reviews, please visit me @ Read and Reviewed!
Truly, Madly, Deadly - Hannah Jayne Hmm. I need to think a bit more about this, but overall I did like this book. I especially enjoyed the exceedingly creepy vibe the whole book presents. There was something very eerie about it, almost like someone was standing behind you and you kept looking over your shoulder to see if you could catch them watching you. That was probably my favorite part of this entire book. I did have some quibbles with various parts of the book - and the climax of the plot reminded me pretty significantly of another book (that shall remain nameless in order to avoid spoilers) - but overall I'm certainly putting this in the "good" pile.Full review to come soon.***To see more of my reviews, please visit me @ Read and Reviewed!
Forevermore - Cindy Miles 3.5/5 stars.After going through a contemporary spell, I've since dived into several paranormal reads, of which Forevermore is the most recent. I haven't actually read that many books involving ghosts, so this was a nice break from my usual. I liked that this wasn't overly creepy - I wasn't scared at any point - but still maintained a spooky atmosphere that gave the story an "edge of your seat" feel, particularly once the climax of the plot occurred. I also found myself enjoying our main character, Ivy, a lot, as well as the people who surrounded her, particularly our poltergeist, Logan.This book takes place in the Scottish highlands, where Ivy and her mother have relocated after her mom fell in love and married Niall, a Scottish laird. I loved the description of the setting - the small, walled-in town, the creepy castle, the crumbling rectory - everything was written in a way to really help the reader see Ivy's surroundings and better immerse themselves in the story. I also appreciated that Ivy was your typical teen - her dad died several years ago and she went through a bout of intense grief - but aside from a prodigy-like talent for playing the violin, Ivy was just a teen girl who's having to deal with settling in a new country and adapting to a new family. It was also nice that, when she started at her new school, she wasn't outcast or pushed into the weird group of friends that likes her when no one else does. She found friends pretty much on day one, including a very likable Emma, who becomes her best friend. It was just refreshing to read about a girl who didn't struggle overly with her adjustment and didn't live in the shadows of school life.The mystery of this book revolves around the strange, dark occurrences happening in the castle. Those occurrences seem to tie in with Logan's mysterious death, which he can't remember anything about. As Ivy and Logan become friends and start to try to unravel his past, they slowly fall for each other. I liked the way the romance was done, particularly the way it was weaved into the overall plot and mystery. It definitely wasn't insta-love, but took time to develop. They're drawn to each other, but it wasn't so over-the-top that I found it obnoxious or eye-roll worthy. While I had an inkling about what was going on, I didn't figure everything out until it was revealed, so give the author props for the way she wrote the mystery. I also loved the way a certain other revelation was included in the story; only in the Scottish highlands can magic and romance happen quite like that, right?I do want to mention briefly that this book features Scottish dialect, which I know can  be off-putting to some readers. Every time someone of Scottish heritage speaks, you're abruptly aware of it, because there are plenty of "dinnae"s and "gell"s and "cannae"s throughout. I personally didn't mind it so much, mostly because the story is told from Ivy's point of view, and she would definitely notice the way the characters were speaking (she's originally from South Carolina). So while it maybe wasn't necessary, I didn't find it bothersome; it helps that Scottish accents are rather swoon-worthy in their own right, I'm sure.While I wasn't blown away by Forevermore, I still found it plenty engrossing. I literally read it in one setting! I loved Ivy's character, and the way the mystery was slowly pulled out and weaved into the narrative. All in all, I very much enjoyed Ivy and Logan's story, the air of magic and mystery, and the enchanting setting of the Scottish highlands. If you're looking for a semi-spooky read with a nice romantic vibe, definitely check this one out!An e-galley was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.***To see more of my reviews, please visit me @ Read and Reviewed!
The Deepest Night - Shana Abe I really enjoyed The Sweetest Dark, so was looking forward to seeing how Lora's journey would continue in the sequel. The first book was extremely focused on the romance between Lora and Jesse, and since the dynamics of that relationship changed at the end of the first book, I was curious to see what would come next, particularly since Armand and Lora also had a connection. The war has also ratcheted up, which provided more danger and intrigue to the story. Still, The Deepest Night was, at its heart, also a romance, although I do think the mystery and adventure was weaved seamlessly into the narrative.I want to be very clear about one aspect of these books, because the way the relationships develop happens extremely fast, to the point where it's quite easy to call the romances insta-love. Those doing so wouldn't be wrong, either: the connection Lora feels with Jesse was instantaneous, and likewise what Armand feels for Lora was equally quick to blossom. However, there's a reason for that - all three of them are magical creatures of some sort - and it's because of what they are that I am much more tolerant of how quickly their feelings for each other came into being. What I did appreciate is that, while Lora is drawn to Armand, her feelings for him took longer to develop, which was nice to read about considering how infatuated he was with her. The slow-building romance also really helped to flesh out Armand's character; I came away from this book a really big fan of his, and his dual perspective also definitely helped with that. It was nice to be able to see things through his eyes.Aside from the romance - which is all-encompassing in this book, make no mistake, even while it is understated at times - there was a nice sense of adventure, and the action scenes were well-written and gripping, to the point where I was almost perched on the edge of my seat while I was reading.  I loved the way the war happenings were interweaved into Lora and Armand's story, and especially liked how Lora grew so much stronger as she went through each trial. Instead of shying away from what she is, and what she can do, she really started to embrace it and feel pride in her ability. This was such a change from the way she viewed herself in the first book, and I thoroughly enjoyed being privy to her personal musings and introspection. I also want to mention the fact that the way this book is written is truly beautiful to read. I'm not generally a person who pays a lot of attention to the prose used, but Shana Abe has a truly lush and gorgeous way of wording things. Her descriptions, the way she weaves words together, all of that is really beautifully done, and really played a factor in my enjoyment of the story.The Deepest Night was a nice continuation of Lora's story. I very much enjoyed the growth of both Lora and Armand's characters, the way their romance was written, and the way the world has changed for them due to their actions and what they are. I am especially intrigued to see how Lora and Armand's relationship will play out once they're back in the "real" world, where his being a son of a duke and her a charity student is certain to cause a lot of problems. While The Deepest Night did manage to wrap up some plot lines, there's still quite a lot to be figured out, not the least of which is the pact Lora makes that's certain to play a factor not only in her life, but those around her as well. I can't wait to read the as-yet-unnamed book three to see what happens next!An e-galley was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.***To see more of my reviews, please visit me @ Read and Reviewed!
The Beautiful and the Cursed (The Dispossessed) - Page Morgan 4.5/5 stars.I am not ashamed to admit that I have a deep-seated love for historical stories. In middle school and high school, I literally devoured everything historical romance; there's just something about the setting, the history, the way the world worked back then, that really speaks to me and catches my interest. Throw in something paranormal - in this case, gargoyles - and I'm immediately sold. As soon as The Beautiful and the Cursed was brought to my attention, it instantly went on my to-read list, and I then proceeded to wait impatiently for its release. I am so happy to report that my wait was worth it, because I really loved this book a lot.One thing I love that seems to be fairly prominent in historical tales nowadays are the headstrong ladies who tend to be our main narrators. In The Beautiful and the Cursed, we actually get two of these ladies: The Sisters' Waverly, Ingrid and Gabby. Both girls were strong, stubborn, and dealing with some personal emotions that made them feel very human and real, and really pulled me in. Ingrid is hurting because her twin brother, Grayson, is missing, and no one seems to be the slightest bit interested in finding him. She's also dealing with some interesting abilities and strange occurrences, not the least of which is finding out that Luc, one of her families' servants, is a gargoyle who's sworn to protect her and the members of her family and household. For Gabby, it's a disquieting feeling that she doesn't quite belong, and some feelings for a certain arrogant Scotsman who drives her crazy. Romance is definitely an important aspect of this book, but it's not the only thing that drives the story and keeps the plot moving, which was another thing that I really enjoyed. Also, this seems to actually be a case where the forbidden love trope is used exceedingly well, as is the love triangle. I might have a favorite boy to root for, but I can't wait to see how everything plays out and ultimately ends.This book has a fantastic gothic atmosphere underlying everything going on, from the town of Paris itself to the secret societies hiding in plain sight. Of course, nothing says gothic quite like gargoyles, right? The fantastic thing is, these aren't your usual gargoyles. Named The Dispossessed, there is a fascinating mythology that accompanies these winged  beings, and I loved getting a glimpse into why Luc (and the other gargoyles we meet) lives the way he lives and acts the way he acts. The entire dichotomy between angels, gargoyles and demons was a truly unique concept that was so refreshingly new to the YA paranormal genre that I literally ate it up. Hooray for new ideas! This is also a case where multiple point of views actually works to the story's advantage, because I don't think it would have been half the book if we hadn't been able to see things through Luc's eyes.The Beautiful and the Cursed is a book that was seemingly written just for me. Featuring amazing historical flourishes, unique paranormal creatures, and a thrilling and engrossing mystery, there's enough in this book to keep pretty much every reader engaged. Throw in several swoon-worthy boys and stubborn, strong girls, as well as an amazingly well done forbidden romance, and you've pretty much guaranteed that this is a book that I will be talking about for a while.***To see more of my reviews, please visit me @ Read and Reviewed!
The Show  (Northwest Passage #3) - John A. Heldt 3.5/5 stars.Having read both of the previous two books in Mr. Heldt's Northwest Passage series - and having a soft spot for time travel books - I was really excited when I was again contacted to read the third installment, which focused on the main female character, Grace, from The Mine. I particularly liked Joel and Grace's story, and was eager to see how things would potentially come full circle. I'm happy to report that I was not at all disappointed, and was very happy to spend a few hours traveling through time with Grace as my guide.I particularly liked how this book started off by showing us the fallout of Joel's decision at the end of The Mine. I liked being able to see Grace's reaction to Joel's leaving, and give major props to the fabulous Katie, who so easily realized what needed to be done and immediately helped her friend. Grace was one very determined lady, and I love how strong she was to leave behind all she knew for the man she loved. It's probably not the most practical way to go about life, but it sure is romantic! I also loved Joel's character development. While we didn't get to see a lot of him in this book, I very much enjoyed the glimpses of him we were allowed to see.While this book has a very nice, easy flow to it, and I did find myself charmed by the descriptions of history, I did find parts of this to be a bit repetitive, particularly when events from The Mine were recounted. I also found the middle section to drag a bit pacing-wise, and some parts were overly descriptive, particularly when recounting minor details. This was definitely not helped by my impatience to get to the end of the story to see how things would eventually get worked out, and if I'd get the ending I was hoping for, of course. I felt so terribly for Grace and everything she was having to deal with (time traveling twice!) and just wanted it all to be fixed. I did, however, like to watch Grace wrestle with herself and what she wanted, and try her best to make a new life in her new setting. She did some definite soul-searching, which is always interesting to read about, and it really helped me feel for her and her situation.All in all, though, this was a very satisfactory ending to Grace and Joel's journey. I liked once again how the idea of time travel was used in this book, and the method developed to cause Grace's impromptu trip to 1918. I also liked getting into her head a bit more, although I do think some of that could have been trimmed a bit just to help the story move along a little faster. I also wasn't completely sold on the ending, which I felt was a tad too tidy, but I'd rather have that than the other option, so I shan't complain too much! If you'd like to try a different sort of time travel story, this is a good series to check out. I'd certainly recommend it!***To see more of my reviews, please visit me @ Read and Reviewed!

OCD, The Dude, and Me

OCD, the Dude, and Me - Lauren Roedy Vaughn

Going in to OCD, the Dude, and Me, I was expecting a fun contemporary read with a smart and sarcastic main character who would go through some sort of life-altering experience that would leave me content and with a smile on my face. In some ways, I was correct, because that WAS how the book left me. But I was not expecting to feel as many emotions as I did while reading Danielle's story, and especially wasn't expecting that several of the passages in the book would bring tears to my eyes. Calling this book a fun or light contemporary read is doing it a pretty large disservice, because there is a lot going on here, even if it is delivered with a quick, sharp and self-deprecating wit that makes you laugh ... right before it makes you cry.

Danielle is a very unique narrator. She suffers from extreme OCD, which she deals with through a lot of self-made coping mechanisms (not least of which is reorganizing her snow globe collection and trying on a myriad of hats). However, she also very clearly hates herself as well, putting down her looks, her weight, and the fact that she exists at all pretty much non-stop. The degree of her self-loathing is incredibly apparent to the reader, who experiences this book - and Danielle's story - via journal entries (or me-moir entries), emails between her and her aunt (and later, Daniel), letters from a pen pal, and her writing assignments for her English class. (The letters to a made-up mental health committee about her social skills class were the ones that made me LOL the loudest, I have to admit!) Because Danielle suffers from OCD, each of these entries is meticulously titled so that the reader essentially gets the story of Danielle's senior year in chronological order. My only complaint about this method of delivery was that the font used for Justine's letters was a little hard for me to read, particularly since it's a script font in a pretty small type size. Actually, that's my ONLY complaint about this entire book, which tells you just how much of an impact this story had on my personally.

Everyone in existence has at least one thing about them that they don't like, but for Danielle, the things she hates about herself far outnumber what she likes, which made this an extremely difficult book for me to read at times. I've read books that have characters who don't like themselves, but I truly believe that Danielle took this hatred to a whole new level. Some of her entries were so incredibly poignant that I had to put the book down for a bit to sort of wrap my head around the emotions this fictional character was making me feel. I don't understand mental illness, because I don't suffer from any form of it, and while there are definitely things about myself that I'd want to change, nothing is to the extreme that Danielle feels. It doesn't help that she is pretty much the butt of her classmates' jokes, the social outcast, and the one who is easily left behind. Her entire state of mind is just so incredibly unhealthy, and every time that fact was driven home for the reader I just almost couldn't deal with it. No one should have to experience what she goes through (and if I could have strangled Jacob, I definitely would have), and yet it's precisely what teens deal with every single day in high school, which - as a teacher - made it even more difficult for me to handle. But her story was so phenomenal, so incredibly well-written, that I couldn't look away from it and could only hope that she would eventually find some joy.

And I cannot write this review without at least mentioning Daniel. I don't know what it is about these contemporary debut authors and their fabulous best friend characters, but we have another winner in Daniel. He's quick-witted, surprisingly brash, over-the-top, and shocking, and yet I adored him from the very second he appeared on the page (and him telling Lisa off in class in defense of Danielle! Amazing). So much love for this stubborn, crude boy.

Honestly, I fear I am not doing this book the amount of justice I should with this review, so let me just say that I found this book incredibly difficult to read, but utterly worthwhile. Everything about it was just amazingly well done, from Danielle's internal feelings, to the ways the people around her tried to help her cope with what she was going through. There were plenty of things to make you laugh, and plenty of others to make you cry. And any book that can put a reader through those extremes deserves the highest rating I can give it, and I do so now without any reservations whatsoever.

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To see more of my reviews, please visit me @ Read and Reviewed!

A Dawn Most Wicked - Susan Dennard 4.5/5 stars.I don't often bother to write full reviews for the novellas I read, particularly when they are in the form of those suddenly everywhere between-book novellas. In my experience - and I believe I've read enough of them in the not-so-distant past to give a qualified opinion - these novellas tend to be more miss than hit, and I've wondered why the authors felt the need to write them. However, occasionally you stumble upon one that is so well done - and provides such amazing character insight and backstory - that you find yourself making animated hand gestures at it and squeeing ridiculously. Such was the case with A Dawn Most Wicked, which - while technically a prequel to Something Strange and Deadly - also provided a prologue and epilogue to provide you with Daniel's point of view at the end of that book. And oh, man, my heart. Seriously, this is one swoon-worthy boy.What I loved most about this book - aside from the extensive Daniel point of view - was that we get to see just what exactly brought Joseph, Jie and Daniel together to form the Spirit-hunters. I loved that we got to see the emotional impact of such a situation (I'm trying to be vague here, because I really want you to read this one yourself). It's extremely clear just why these three grew to care for each other, because what they had to deal with - and the ways they found each other - were so fraught with danger and emotion and fear that it would have been impossible for them to not have that reaction. I also loved the glimpse of Jie's life prior to her career as a Spirit-hunter, and the fact that - at first - Daniel (and Joseph) really couldn't stand her. Even in her brief appearance her cheekiness and abrupt ways were very apparent, which made me smile like a loon.However, the main draw of this novella is very clearly Daniel. Talk about a guy who's had a terrible time of it! It was hard not to feel terribly for him the entire time, because he has the darkness of his past hanging over his head and also has to deal with the fact that he's in love with a girl who is well above his station in life, which is precisely what he's dealing with in the "current" time period with Eleanor. I loved the parallels drawn between his feelings for both ladies and the way his past with Cassidy has shaped him into who he is today. I also just really loved being in his head, even though his disparaging comments about himself pretty much broke my heart.If you found yourself intrigued at all by Daniel in Something Strange and Deadly - and, honestly, how could you not? - then you definitely need to read this novella. While I mostly say it's okay to avoid these between-novel novellas, this is one that you definitely don't want to miss (and the teaser first chapter from A Darkness Strange and Lovely certainly didn't hurt, either!). I can't wait to read more about the fabulously feisty Eleanor Fitt and maddeningly attractive Daniel Sheridan!***To see more of my reviews, please visit me @ Read and Reviewed!
The Theory of Everything - Kari Luna I went into The Theory of Everything hoping that I'd find a charming, contemporary read that would make me smile. Of late, I've been reading a lot of paranormal books, and was kind of tired of them so wanted something that would do a complete 360*. Thankfully, that's exactly what I got from this book: while having quite a lot of scientific talk - physics, to be exact - I was utterly charmed by the main character, Sophie, and the cast of characters that surrounded her throughout her journey.This book was very different than anything I'd ever read. Sophie, our main character, sees things that others can't see, which obviously causes problems for her and her mother. Her "mental illness" has resulted in suspensions/expulsions from school and several moves to different locations where her mom hopes they can start over with a clean slate. Having settled this time 50 miles north of Chicago, Sophie is hoping that her "episodes" will stop and she can finally have a normal life. While in her new town of Havencrest, Sophie befriends an absolutely amazing character named Finny, develops a crush on Kerouac-reading Drew, and gets a visit from her shaman panda, Walt.Part of the craziness of this book is the fact that the reader isn't really sure if Sophie is indeed hallucinating or if she's actually traveling to various parallel universes. Deciding that she cannot keep living like this, Sophie and Finny travel to New York, where Sophie hopes to speak with her father, who suffered from the same problems. What results is a cross-country journey into personal introspection, sort of a road trip without the road. Throughout it all is Finny, possibly the awesomest best friend of all time, who - instead of telling Sophie she's crazy - decides that this is one heck of a journey and that he will go with her every step of the way.While Sophie's journey is equal parts strange, amusing, emotional and downright heartbreaking in places, it was actually Finny who made this book for me personally. He had all of these really great lines, and just really seemed to get Sophie and what she needed each step of the way. He was equal parts physics-obsessed and happiness-inducing, not only for Sophie, but also for the reader. Honestly I don't think this book would have been half as good as it was without him, and I can only wish I had a Finny of my very own. Seriously, you should read this book just for him!The Theory of Everything is a fantastic contemporary read with a twist. There is a lot going on in this book, from Sophie's episodes, to trying to fit into a new place, to dealing with family secrets, drama, and first crushes. If you're charmed at all by the synopsis or the cover (seriously, this has the perfect cover!), then pick it up because I don't think you'll be disappointed. I had a ton of fun with this one, and would definitely recommend it!An e-galley was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.***To see more of my reviews, please visit me @ Read and Reviewed!

Belladonna

Belladonna - Fiona Paul

I want to state up-front that Belladonna is probably the most difficult book I've ever tried to review. The truth is that my feelings while reading this book were literally all over the place: I was frustrated, caught up, annoyed, cheering, sad, tense, and anxious pretty much constantly (and my Goodreads Status Updates prove this), which means that, in terms of storytelling, this book excels quite well. But at the same time, I had such a difficult time with aspects of this story, that I came away from it upon its completion completely uncertain what that meant in terms of my overall feelings, and eventual rating. As such, I want to apologize if this is all over the place. Considering that my reactions are all over the board, that would make perfect sense, but having a complete lack of clarity probably doesn't make for the best review. So feel free to take what I have to say with a grain of salt.

First of all, I want to talk about what I liked in Belladonna. Being a sequel, I liked that the mystery and danger were ratcheted up. I liked that we were slowly getting more and more clarity regarding what's going on, but that there are still plenty of questions left to be answered. I liked seeing a bit more of Luca, and the fact that, even without being in the actual story, he was very much present in Cass' mind, which made him very present for the reader. And I liked Cass' determination and stubbornness - at least in regards to most things - even if some of her actions and ways of thinking weren't particularly historically accurate.

But in Cass lies my biggest issue with this book as well. In Venom, she pretty much dove head-first into trouble, following Falco wherever he led her without any regard to her safety or sense of propriety (Falco's not big on propriety, after all). After the dangers she faced - and endured - I was hoping that she would be a bit more, well ... intelligent, I guess. I wanted her to think things through, to realize that she wasn't as invincible as she'd thought, and most of all, I wanted her to use her head a bit more around Falco. She had a very clear goal here - to figure out a way to save Luca from his impending death - and while she mostly kept that thought in the forefront of her mind, I was still extremely concerned with the way she allowed Falco to affect her, to the point that, once again, she ending up making some rather poor decisions. I find it interesting that I went from liking her to being irritated with her and then back to liking her almost constantly; it's enough to make a person dizzy.

I also want to be clear about this next point, because my feelings for this particular character colored a lot of my opinion of this book. I do not like Falco. I do not like him at all. I do not find him to be your typical bad boy with the fake persona who deep down has a heart of gold. Falco is not a good guy. He is sleazy, and he uses Cass' lust for him to his advantage, to the point where he's almost able to control her because of her physical reactions to him. I don't find him funny or suave or likable in the slightest, and the fact that Cass continues to swoon incessantly over him makes me want to strangle her. He said some incredibly awful things in this book, treated Cass terribly on more than one occasion, and - what was worse - she forgave him for it because, in her mind, she made excuses and "understood" why he said what he said. That is not a healthy relationship, no matter how he makes her insides flutter and her knees weak. I just cannot get behind it at all. And, okay, sure, possibly he redeems himself in the final book. I kind of hope he does, simply because I find that to be personally fascinating. But I definitely don't want them together. I actually want Cass to get as far away from him as possible, because anyone who looks down on people for doing what society dictates - in this case, marrying someone of your same class status - and actually ridicules you because of it isn't worth your time, your attention or - most of all - your love. I'm hoping that Cass' revelations about Falco at the end will stick with her and this will be the last time we see this particular aspect of the "love triangle" because, quite honestly, if she ends up with him at the end of this series I may actually dissolve into a pile of rage! (On a lighter note, you can probably tell that this is the strongest I have ever felt about a love interest in my entire life, and I'm not exactly sure how I feel about that. I don't know how all of you hardcore shippers out there deal with this!)

All in all, I want to be clear that I did enjoy Belladonna a lot, despite my numerous complaints. The ending left me literally on the edge of my seat, gripping my Kindle tightly in my hands. It also ensured - despite my reservations about Falco which I so nicely outlined above - that I will definitely be reading the final installment. I do think that, in terms of storytelling and pacing and atmosphere that Belladonna is a definite step up fromVenom, and I like where the mystery is headed. Considering the situation Cass finds herself in at the end of this book, I look for even more growth from her in Starling, and I shall be eagerly anticipating the trials and tribulations her and the others are going to have to go through to try to set everything to rights.

An e-galley was provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

 

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To see more of my reviews, please visit me @ Read and Reviewed!

Unbreakable

Unbreakable - Elizabeth Norris

NOTE: Please keep in mind that this review contains necessary spoilers for Unraveling, the first book in this series. As much as I tried to write this without spoiling the first book, it became apparent that doing so is practically impossible. Nothing I mention will be worse than what's already in the summary for this book, but I just wanted to mention it all the same!

Unbreakable picks up four months after the events ofUnraveling. Janelle's world is a mess, Ben has gone back to his own world, and Janelle is still reeling in the aftermath of everything that happened to her and those she loves. Pretty quickly into Unbreakable, though, a new problem arises in the form of Interverse Agent Taylor Barclay, who comes to Janelle with some pretty devastating news: Ben is in some serious trouble, and Barclay needs Janelle's help to try to figure out who's actually responsible for the situation. Not only that, but one of Janelle's friends has gone missing, and Barclay is pretty sure that her disappearance ties into the whole mess with Ben.

"I'm trying to compliment you," Barclay says. "Can't you just say thanks?"



What I loved the most about this book is the fact that Janelle is incredibly strong and stubborn. She's determined to help where necessary, and while she misses Ben, she doesn't allow her sadness to overwhelm her. There is just something very satisfying about reading a book from the point of view of an extremely well-written, well-crafted main character, and it's Janelle's strong narration that really helps pull the reader into the story. I also adored Barclay and Janelle's relationship. He's tough and arrogant, but he really brought out the best in her, and made her believe in herself and attempt things she otherwise would not have. I couldn't believe the situations he put her in, and the way she flourished and did what needed to be done. It was just a very satisfying partnership, for lack of a better word, and one I thoroughly enjoyed reading about.

"That's how I am where I am, baby."

Oh yeah, the smugness is back and it's bad."



I am the first to admit that I did not like Barclay at all inUnraveling. And yet, I found myself swooning rather horribly over him in this book. I don't necessarily subscribe to the tough love approach, and that's basically what he was doing with Janelle in Unbreakable. But at the same time, he was also soft with her when necessary. For a guy who's exceedingly arrogant - with good reason, mind - he seemed to know when to give a little and just provide the support she needed. I also loved that we got some background on him, because it really helped put his character in perspective. He was a fascinating character, one who was tough, stubborn and bad-ass when required, but also willing to provide a shoulder for her to lean on. The way they interacted with each other was amazingly well-written, with quick quips, fiery comebacks and sharp retorts, but also gentle admonishments and easy humor. I just came away from this book really loving him a whole lot, to the point where he actually out-shined Ben, which I wouldn't have thought was possible, considering how much I loved him in the first book. But Barclay was just really amazing. ♥

Unbreakable has the same quick pace and breakneck action ofUnraveling, but in some ways, the stakes in this book are even higher. There's a lot of danger and intrigue, and quite a lot of darkness; some of the things Janelle does had me flinching and trying to read through my fingers, but it was all extremely realistic and well-written. The book is achy in several places, and deals with some tough subjects, but Elizabeth Norris handled them all with a deft writing style that leaves the reader on the edge of their seat. I was extremely satisfied with the way Janelle and Ben's journey ended, and can easily recommend this series to pretty much everyone.

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To see more of my reviews, please visit me @ Read and Reviewed!

The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove - Lauren Kate This book leaves me in a sort of quandary, because ultimately I'm not sure how I feel about it. There were times while reading it that I was gripped with a variety of emotions; there were some funny moments, some sweet moments, and a nice sense of atmosphere and intrigue. But all of that was overwhelmed by the fact that I ... really didn't like the main character, Natalie, at all. I knew I'd have some trouble with her literally from the first time she appears on the page, and it just went downhill from there as she made consistently worse and worse mistakes, including treating those she felt "below" her like absolute garbage. To put it bluntly, Natalie is not a nice person, and while you come to understand her motivations as the book goes on, none of the revelations did anything to me personally to help bring me around to her.It's difficult to even discuss the plot of this book because I don't want to give away spoilers. While you can sort of grasp what happens from the summary, there were plenty of twists and turns that come out during the narrative to leave you sort of on the edge of your seat. While Natalie is one of those girls who picked herself up from a bad childhood and remade herself into something completely different, I don't think she really honestly learned anything. She was conniving, a definite slut-shamer, and all-around terrible person. You can only listen to her pretend to be fake to someone's face and then badmouth them behind their backs for so long; considering I don't have a tolerance for that on the best of days, I'm certainly not going to like that quality in a fictional character.The other thing that got me was this very weird high school that Natalie attended. The idea of a prom queen - or Palmetto Princess - is certainly understandable, but the weird social cliques, the group of sophomore girls who "service" the football players, the strange rumor mill via passed notes, the morning meetings via bean bag chair circles in the girls' bathroom, all of that was just odd and - for lack of a better word - unbelievable. I was IN high school once, and while cliques are a definite part of the high school experience, all of that other stuff was just too over the top for me to fully comprehend or believe. Then again, I don't live in a world of trust funds and country club memberships, so perhaps that really is how schools like that work? Regardless, I was never able to place myself in the world she was describing, which just further alienated me from Natalie and the plot of the book.Ultimately, the only thing that kept me reading was seeing how Natalie might get her comeuppance, and that definitely caught me by surprise. There are so many sleazy characters in this book that it's hard to pinpoint the worst one. When you come out far more sympathetic for the book's victim - who was no prince himself - than its exceedingly popular narrator, you know the story probably just didn't work for you at all.***To see more of my reviews, please visit me @ Read and Reviewed!

Hex Hall (Hex Hall Series #1)

Hex Hall  - Rachel Hawkins

I am probably one of the last people on the planet to read Hex Hall. It's been on my radar for ages, and one of my friends really loved the books and told me I had to read it, but I kept putting it off. However, I signed up for the Witches and Witchcraft Challenge this year, so figured it was the perfect time to cross it off my list. And while I didn't feel like this was the best book ever, I loved the snappy storytelling, extremely amusing main character, and the use of magic and mystery quite a lot.

I am a huge fan of boarding school books, so that automatically gave bonus points in Hex Hall's favor. I also love quick-witted and sarcastic main characters, which meant that Sophie and I got along splendidly. Throw in a romance with a hot bad boy like Archer, and this book had my name written all over it. It sort of reminded me a little of Hogwarts, in terms of the usage of magic and the classes on the history of the Prodigium, but was plenty unique in its own right to not bring on constant comparisons (and let's be honest: nothing will ever compare to Harry Potter). The isolated setting allowed for a very unique atmosphere; Sophie is cut off from her mom, doesn't even know her dad, and is having to adjust to a completely new lifestyle. While the story is made up of Sophie's day-to-day life, it was still plenty full of danger and intrigue, particularly when gruesome happenings begin occurring at the school. There was a nice sense of danger and mystery throughout the entire story.

And oh, Archer. I think I might have swooned over him just as hard as Sophie did! I loved their banter, and the fact that he didn't seem to care when Sophie kicked the crap out of him in their Defense class. There was just a lot to love about the two of them, from their stilted, awkward conversations, to the surprising turn of events that kind of left me speechless. I can't wait to see more of Archer himself, because I have tons of questions I want answered, but also want to see more of the two of them together. They just made me smile.

While I can't say this was my most favorite book ever, I did definitely like it well enough to read the rest of the series. This one had some nice twists and turns to it, and I look forward to seeing what's going to happen next, not only for Sophie but for those around her as well.

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To see more of my reviews, please visit me @ Read and Reviewed!