Sunday, July 27, 2014

Blackbird by Anna Carey

Genre:  YA/NA Thriller
Blackbird Duology, Book 1
Expected publication date:  September 16, 2014

Description (taken from Anna Carey's website):
A girl wakes up on the train tracks, a subway car barreling down on her. With only minutes to react, she hunches down and the train speeds over her. She doesn’t remember her name, where she is, or how she got there. She has a tattoo on the inside of her right wrist of a blackbird inside a box, letters and numbers printed just below: FNV02198. There is only one thing she knows for sure: people are trying to kill her. On the run for her life, she tries to untangle who she is and what happened to the girl she used to be. Nothing and no one are what they appear to be. But the truth is more disturbing than she ever imagined.

You wake up to the noise of a train.  What you're lying on resembles tracks, and you realize the train is going to run you over.  But you somehow escape unscathed and have no idea who you are.  You have a knapsack with a few essentials and note to call a certain number.  But when you go looking for answers, you find yourself being tracked by people.  But you don't know who to trust or who to run away from.  Especially when a gun gets pointed at you.

This said girl, who goes by the name of Sunny, starts to look for answers to figure out who she is.  A boy accidentally runs into her in the convenience store and is suddenly involved in her story.  But for the most part, it's by his choice.  When Sunny discovers she's playing a cat and mouse game with someone, she decides she's not going to be the mouse anymore.  But as she begins to piece things together, she realizes she's in a lot more danger than she initially thought.  She'll have to learn who to trust quickly if she plans on surviving through the next couple of nights.

So how'd you like all of the you's at the beginning?  Well, you better get used to it with this one.  Unfortunately, I kept getting hung up on all of the you's, and I had a slow start.  However, after I gave it an hour, I was engrossed in Sunny's story.  We don't actually ever figure out her name, but we get to see little bits and pieces of memory come up.  And she's a great problem-solver.  It's a thriller for sure once you get into the game.  I just don't know if I can handle second person points of view very well.

With how quick of a read this one was, I can't tell people not to read it.  Once it's gripped your mind, it won't let go until you're begging for more.  And now I'm left hanging waiting for the next one.

Thanks goes to Around the World ARC Tours for providing me a review copy.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White

Genre:  YA Fantasy
Expected publication date:  September 9, 2014

Description (taken from Goodreads):
"I did my best to keep you from crossing paths with this world. And I shall do my best to protect you now that you have.”

Jessamin has been an outcast since she moved from her island home of Melei to the dreary country of Albion. Everything changes when she meets Finn, a gorgeous, enigmatic young lord who introduces her to the secret world of Albion’s nobility, a world that has everything Jessamin doesn’t—power, money, status…and magic. But Finn has secrets of his own, dangerous secrets that the vicious Lord Downpike will do anything to possess. Unless Jessamin, armed only with her wits and her determination, can stop him.
Jessamin escaped her mother's clutches and the world of engagements/marriages to attend school in Albion.  Unfortunately, the pompous Albions do not think much of the islanders no matter how smart and gifted they are.  Jessamin's strengths lie in the mathematical field, but her female islander status keeps her at the bottom of the food chain and leaves her as a history major at school.  And even though she's at the top of her class and puts up with the Albion attitude to civilize everyone, she's still left at the bottom barely surviving.  But then fate intervenes.

When Jessamin accidentally runs into Finn, an elusive rich man, she finds herself enthralled with him.  He finds her entertaining, and she just finds him annoying for pitying her.  She will have none of that because she is fully capable of taking care of herself and doesn't need help from a pompous Albion snob.  But just as Jessamin helps rid Finn of his prejudices, Finn releases her pride.  And all in the middle of this is a bit of magic.

This book is a super quick and fun read.  I loved Jessamin's character and her stubbornness.  And the role that magic played in this book was so creative and sly.  I mean sure, I had some questions like how does this magic come about?  Why does it only affect a few?  The history's a little bogus, but my story-listening mind told this inquisitive side to shut up and keep reading.  The plot lines played so well, and Finn is just as much of that good guy every girl wants to meet.  Plus he's rich (always a plus).  This book had so many secrets that it wouldn't give up until just the right moment, and I didn't even realize I was following a twisting path until the ending came.  I was kind of like, woah!  It was amazeballs...

Sidenote about the setting:  It's set in a fantasy world that kind of mirrors our own past world.  There's a ruling country that's hell-bent on making all civilizations live a certain way.  But not everyone's stepping aside to let them do just that.  Oh, and there's magic involved.

Honestly, if you haven't picked up any Kiersten White books yet, I suggest you start with this one.  I absolutely adored it.  And my logical side certainly made way for the small romance-y side that loved this one.

Thanks goes to Around the World ARC Tours for providing me a review copy.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Vault of Dreamers by Caragh M O'Brien

Genre:  YA Science Fiction
Expected publication date:  September 16, 2014

Description (taken from Caragh M O'Brien's website:
The Forge School is the most prestigious arts school in the country. The secret to its success: every moment of the students’ lives is televised as part of the insanely popular Forge Show, and the students’ schedules include twelve hours of induced sleep meant to enhance creativity. But when first year film student Rosie Sinclair skips her sleeping pill, she discovers there is something off about Forge. In fact, she suspects that there are sinister things going on deep below the reaches of the cameras. What’s worse, she starts to notice that the edges of her consciousness do not feel quite right. And soon, she unearths the ghastly secret that the Forge School is hiding—and what it truly means to dream there.

This book takes reality tv to a whole new level with the Forge Show.  The most popular show around follows students in an arts school.  And based on how many viewers each student has determines their blip ranking.  After the first ten days, 50 of the 100 students are cut based on their rankings.  For Rosie, an education outside of the Forge school isn't possible.  So she must do everything in her power to make others watch her and raise her ranking before the cut happens.  But as she increases her popularity, she begins to notice that not everything is as it seems.

Rosie hasn't seen nighttime for the past few evenings due to a mandatory sleeping pill that forces all students to sleep for twelve hours.  So what starts as a night of skipping the pill just to see the night, Rosie sees what happens after hours.  And it's very peculiar.  Some students are reacting badly to the sleeping pill and have iv's in them.  Rosie notices the tell-tale signs of her own needle pricks.  And as she enlists one of the kitchen help to help her figure things out, she realizes her story has become even more far-fetched than before.  And as much as she wants to save people and out the Forge school for what it is, she's not sure people will believe her without proof.

I feel like this book had different parts to the story that were absolutely amazing.  But when pieced together, I see no correlation between it all and can't follow it well.  First, what does a reality school have to do with dreaming at night?  I know the book explains that the art students have the best imaginations and the cameras keep them working their hardest.  But still, I couldn't make the transition from the cameras to the sinister plot.  And then the boy, err love interest.  He sent off so many mixed messages that I questioned why he even bothered helping Rosie in the first place unless he was working for the evil ones --none of which does the book explain well.  And then when the sinister happenings began to unravel, Rosie had the "I can conquer anything and make the world believe me" attitude.  Honestly Rosie?  You're one girl against an evil madman whose been at it a lot longer than you.  (And I've had to delete this sentence multiple times due to plot spoilers, so I'll say this: my attitude of Rosie seems highly negative from this review.  That's not the case; I actually enjoyed Rosie a whole lot.  But I question a lot of her actions towards the end of the book; it seemed like her personality changed completely making her do things she wouldn't normally have done at the beginning.)

My head just didn't want to follow this story from the beginning.  But the mystery kept me going, and I was crossing my fingers that it would get better.  But I'm just left feeling confused about this book...

Thanks goes to Around the World ARC Tours for providing me a review copy.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

manda-rae's Haul

Stacking the Shelves consists of books we received in the last week, hosted by Tynga's reviews.

By the time everyone reads this, I will be in the wonderful state of Georgia.  I'm visiting my family, and we'll be driving up to the Smokey Mountains (even though they're currently south of me as I write this).  I'm kind of nervous about the heat considering it's only been in the sixties/seventies up here in Wisconsin.  I'll let you know if I'm dying oh heat...

For Review:

From the Library:

  • Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas
    • Amazon | Book Depository | Goodreads
      • The husband saw the other cover of this book in a bookstore and wanted to read it.  I thought it'd be fun to read a book together.  But when this showed up from the library, he didn't believe me that it was the same book.  Funny how much difference a cover can make.
  • Raging Star by Moira Young
    • Amazon | Book Depository | Goodreads
      • The final book in the Dust Lands series.  It's been such a fun series to read.  I love following Saba in her adventures.
  • Ruins by Dan Wells
    • Amazon | Book Depository | Goodreads
      • These books are always so huge; they seem daunting.  But the whole science and genetics just keeps me intrigued.  If you can keep me following on the science bits, then you've written something well.

manda-rae's Past Week


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Phantom's Dance by Lesa Howard

Welcome to my tour stop for the Phantom's Dance.  You will find a book bio, my review, Lesa's bio, and a giveaway.

Phantom's Dance by Lesa Howard
Genre:  YA Contemporary

Description (taken from Book Tour):
Christine Dadey’s family uprooted their lives and moved to Houston for her to attend the prestigious Rousseau Academy of Dance. Now, two years later, Christine struggles to compete among the Academy’s finest dancers, her parents are on the brink of divorce, and she’s told no one about her debilitating performance anxiety and what she’s willing to do to cope with it.

Erik was a ballet prodigy, a savant, destined to be a star on the world’s stage, but a suspicious fire left Erik’s face horribly disfigured. Now, a lonely phantom forced to keep his scars hidden, he spends his nights haunting the theater halls, mourning all he’s lost. Then, from behind the curtain he sees the lovely Christine. The moldable, malleable Christine.

Drawn in by Erik’s unwavering confidence, Christine allows herself to believe Erik’s declarations that he can transform her into the dancer she longs to be. But Christine’s hope of achieving her dreams may be her undoing when she learns Erik is not everything he claims. And before long, Erik’s shadowy past jeopardizes Christine’s unstable present as his obsession with her becomes hopelessly entangled with his plans for revenge.

This is my first Phantom of the Opera retelling.  The ballet dancer Christine is trying to live a normal high-schooler life while attending a prestigious ballet school.  However, her dancing needs to be improved.  And during the moments of first-time dating, a mysterious teacher shows up who promises to help teach Christine become a better dancer.  And that's the twist this book plays on the well-loved classic; no singing involved.

Christine just recently moved to Houston for Christine's dancing.  She wants to become a professional ballet dancer, but she has a problem.  Not all of her teachers thinks she has what it takes to dance.  Meanwhile her home life is barely staying together with her parents avoiding each other.  So when the opportunity to tutor football players comes along, best-friend Jenna encourages Christine to go on a date.  As Christine begins to experience normal real-life things, she still tries to figure out her dancing mishaps.  That is until a pompous mystery-man volunteers to help her.  Suddenly, Christine's dancing life gets better and her social life gets happier.  That is until the Phantom puts a halt to all of this.

As far as the retelling goes, this one followed the storyline really well.  And it puts a fun teenage twist to the plot.  I enjoyed the relationship dynamics between Jenna and Christine.  And Raoul is one of those good guys that every girl wants (or will want eventually).  The only thing I didn't really enjoy is it never really gave the opportunity to put the phantom in a good light.  I mean we all know he's a a bad guy, but I love reading books that can twist your thinking/opinion of a person around until you question whether or not they really are evil.  Really, that was my only complaint.

This story's definitely one for Phantom and ballet lovers.  It gives you a moment to relive high school and first loves with a lurking phantom.

Thanks goes to Lesa Howard and Xpresso Book Tours for providing me a review copy.

Author Bio
I'm not the typical author. I didn't always enjoy reading or writing. While in school, I found it to be a chore I'd just as soon skip. I would rather have been daydreaming, my favorite past time. It wasn’t until I grew up and didn’t have to, that I realized reading was fun. I soon discovered that reading fueled my daydreaming. So, remembering a short story I'd written in high school, I began imagining expanding that story into a book. Before long I found I had loads of ideas for not just the short story but other books and stories as well. Fast forward a few years, a lot of studying about writing, practicing my writing, studying some more, taking classes from people who knew what they were doing, studying and practicing yet more, and ta-dah, author! In the same way I had learned I loved reading, I learned I loved writing, too. It’s just that writing is a lot harder than reading.

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