Review: “Snakeroot (Nightshade Legacy #1/Nightshade #4)” by Andrea Cremer

17372472Title: “Snakeroot (Nightshade Legacy #1/Nightshade #4)”

Author: Andrea Cremer

Genre: Fantasy, YA, PNR

Publication Date:  December 10, 2013

Source:  Publisher-provided ARC

Synopsis: Fans asked for it, and now they’ve got it!

Andrea Cremer is continuing the story she began in in her internationally bestselling trilogy: Nightshade, Wolfsbane and Bloodrose.

Bosque Mar haunts the dreams of both Adne and Logan, trying to escape for the Nether, where Calla, Shay and the other Guardians trapped him in the final battle in the War of All Against All…

Will he turn Adne to the dark side? Will Logan reclaim his birthright? And will darkness take over our world?

☆: 4/5 stars – Will definitely satisfy hardcore fans of the series!

Review: Fair warning here, folks: this review is going to have a lot of spoilers for the “Nightshade” trilogy (and its novellas/prequels). I thought and thought on how to do a review for this book without spoilers and then realized that it just wasn’t going to happen. So, fair warning, folks. “Snakeroot” is apart of the new “Nightshade Legacy” continuation series (not sure if “Captive”, “Rise”, and “Rift” are in this continuation/expansion but I’ll throw them in there anyway), not focusing on the main characters of our trilogy, but instead on the fringe characters we met throughout the journey of the trilogy. While “Snakeroot” definitely satisfies, it leaves us on a cliffhanger with no definitive promise that this series will continue. And I sincerely hope it will.

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Review: “Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2)” by Sarah J. Maas

Crown of MidnightTitle: “Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2)”

Author: Sarah J. Maas

Genre: High Fantasy, Magical Realism, Mystery, Paranormal, AWESOME

Publication Date: August 27, 2013 (Bloomsbury – North America)

Source: NetGalley review copy

Synopsis: An assassin’s loyalties are always in doubt.

But her heart never wavers.

After a year of hard labor in the Salt Mines of Endovier, eighteen-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien has won the king’s contest to become the new royal assassin. Yet Celaena is far from loyal to the crown – a secret she hides from even her most intimate confidantes.

Keeping up the deadly charade—while pretending to do the king’s bidding—will test her in frightening new ways, especially when she’s given a task that could jeopardize everything she’s come to care for. And there are far more dangerous forces gathering on the horizon — forces that threaten to destroy her entire world, and will surely force Celaena to make a choice.

Where do the assassin’s loyalties lie, and who is she most willing to fight for?

☆: 5/5 stars – MY FEELS. THEY HURT.

Review:  After finishing this book, it feels like my heart went five rounds and lost, hard, face down on the floor. After “Throne of Glass”, it feels like Maas has made a huge leap from the writing in all technical aspects, which was originally setting us up in her world with her characters in book one, to making them feel so very, very real and full and there in book two. Definitely in my top ten for 2013 so far, “Crown of Midnight” is everything I could have possibly wanted in a sequel for “Throne of Glass” and more.

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Review: “Find Me” by Romily Bernard

Find MeTitle: “Find Me”

Author: Romily Bernard

Publication Date: September 24, 2013 (HarperTeen – North America)

Genre: YA contemporary, crime, mystery, thriller

Source: Publisher-provided ARC

Summary: “Find Me.”

These are the words written on Tessa Waye’s diary. The diary that ends up with Wick Tate. But Tessa’s just been found . . . dead.

Wick has the right computer-hacking skills for the job, but little interest in this perverse game of hide-and-seek. Until her sister Lily is the next target.

Then Griff, trailer-park boy next door and fellow hacker, shows up, intent on helping Wick. Is a happy ending possible with the threat of Wick’s deadbeat dad returning, the detective hunting him sniffing around Wick instead, and a killer taunting her at every step?

Foster child. Daughter of a felon. Loner hacker girl. Wick has a bad attitude and sarcasm to spare.

But she’s going to find this killer no matter what.

Because it just got personal.

☆: 4/5 stars – a nice cyberpunk-lite mystery for those just dipping their toes into the cyberpunk pool genre of YA.

Review: “Find Me” was a pleasant surprise. I wasn’t expecting the incredibly tight writing and quick pace, as well as the plot-driven elements to this book. While coming in at a short 288 pages (in ARC version, at least), this was a fun read to devour in more or less one sitting. However, I still had a few issues with it, but even so,  “Find Me” is a fun cyberpunk-lite mystery that will definitely leave you wanting more.

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Review: The Cutting Room Floor by Dawn Klehr

The Cutting Room FloorTitle: The Cutting Room Floor

Author: Dawn Klehr

Genre: YA Contemporary, Mystery, LGBT

Publication Date: October 1, 2013 (Flux)

Source: eARC from the publisher via NetGalley

Synopsis: Behind-the-scenes secrets could turn deadly for Desmond and Riley.

Life in the Heights has never been easy for seventeen-year-old Riley Frost, but when she’s publicly dumped and outed at the same time, she becomes an immediate social outcast at her high school. So Riley swears off romance and throws herself into solving the shocking murder of her favorite teacher, Ms. Dunn.

Riley turns to her best friend, budding filmmaker Desmond Brandt, for help. What she doesn’t know is that Dez has been secretly directing her life, blackmailing her friends, and hoping his manipulations will make her love him. When his schemes go too far, Dez’s web of lies threatens to destroy both of their lives.

2.5/5 stars – Needs more of a focus so the bad gets thrown out and the good becomes great

Oh, The Cutting Room Floor. This one came really, really close to being great, but because it didn’t fully understand who it was (much like its co-narrator Riley!), I had a hard time understanding who it was too.  With a stronger focus and a lot of story-snipping, The Cutting Room Floor could be a dark tale of the lengths people go to when they’re obsessed and think they’re in love. What do readers get? A story with that, a lukewarm exploration of a girl’s sexuality, and a badly written, unneeded murder mystery.

Dez’s obsession with Riley and the horrifying lengths he goes to in order to make her like him back are strongly written and fulfilled all my expectations. Had this been the entirety of what the novel was about, this would have been a four-star or even a five-star read. He just about takes the spotlight away from Riley because he’s that well-written and thoroughly characterized. As he reveals what all he’s done in his pursuit of Riley, you can only stare with wide eyes and a gaping jaw. Horror rooted in obsession is one of my favorite kinds of horror to read!

The storyline about Riley’s burgeoning sexuality and how she’s not sure if she’s into girls or boys is okay, but the way everyone seems to be afraid of bisexuality really puts a damper on it. It’s treated like she was straight, then a lesbian, then straight again. I could ask if anyone in this novel has heard of bisexuality, but since it’s brought up a few times, it appears they have.

However, it’s only brought up in a situation where it will go nowhere or when someone says “screw the labels” when it comes to sexuality. It’s a nice sentiment, but it’s completely avoiding the issue instead of trying to address it. It is okay to openly say someone is bisexual. They are not disqualified from this even if they prefer men more at one time in their life and prefer girls more on another. GAH.

The murder mystery plot line is strong at first, but it quickly fizzles out, taking with it two important plot points that are neither brought up again nor resolved. When the killer is revealed, our narrators suddenly start throwing out all the evidence that person was the killer and acting like it was there all along–but readers never saw any of that evidence in the story. Rather than clever, it feels like someone gave up on trying to weave those clues into the story without making the killer’s identity obvious and decided to take the easy way out: hold it all in until the end and then backtrack. Doing so makes an already badly-written mystery even more frustrating.

In the end, this book needed a little more time in the editing room and more stuff left on the cutting room floor (it’s a pun that must be made!). The murder mystery is altogether unnecessary, the question of Riley’s sexual identity needs better handling, and Dez’s obsession with Riley is great but deserves more time.

Review: The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

The Dream ThievesTitle: The Dream Thieves

Author: Maggie Stiefvater

Genre: YA Paranormal, Magical Realism, Mystery

Publication Date: September 17, 2013 (Scholastic Press)

Source: eARC from the publisher via NetGalley

Synopsis: The second installment in the all-new series from the masterful, #1 NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author Maggie Stiefvater!

Now that the ley lines around Cabeswater have been woken, nothing for Ronan, Gansey, Blue, and Adam will be the same. Ronan, for one, is falling more and more deeply into his dreams, and his dreams are intruding more and more into waking life. Meanwhile, some very sinister people are looking for some of the same pieces of the Cabeswater puzzle that Gansey is after…

3/5 stars – A generally well-written but not always entertaining sequel to The Raven Cycle

Maggie Stiefvater is one hell of a writer. Her other books either don’t appeal to me or embody all the cliches I can’t stand, but this particular series really hooks me and goads me into putting aside my personal feelings about her for a while. Fans who loved everything The Raven Boys had to offer will love The Dream Thieves just as much, especially when it comes to Ronan.

The plot–especially its focus on Ronan, his ability to produce objects from his dreams, and who he really is–picks you up and takes you on a fun ride, however slow or poorly pathed out it can be due to too many extraneous details and a very strange plot line involving hit man Mr. Gray romancing Blue’s mother Maura. Things could happen more quickly than they do, but I love that I’m expected to put the many, many pieces of the world together myself instead of just being handed the completed puzzle.

Unfortunately, the good stuff doesn’t always feel worth it because about half the book is a dull read. What it does during that half is important, true, but there has to be a way to get the important stuff in without boring readers into putting down the book for days! Sitefvater is a competent writer and her riff on secrets in the prologue is one of my favorite passages in the entire book, but sometimes, it seems she’s trying too hard. The result of that is ridiculous prose like “He was attracted to her like a heart attack (ARC p. 59)” and dialogue I can’t imagine anyone ever saying.

But really, this is Ronan’s book 100%. He’s got the spotlight, the most interesting plot line, and a lot more depth than I imagined. Adam, my darling favorite, isn’t afraid of the spotlight either! The dark places this book takes him makes me wish Blue were into him instead of Gansey. Speaking of our fated duo, it seems like no real effort is made to create a connection between them this time around. It’s almost like we’re expected to cheer them on and believe in their love (which hasn’t even developed yet!) solely because they’re each other’s true love. Fate is not an excuse for poor development.

Readers should also beware because this has another cliffhanger ending, but it’s not the sort of “Ronan admits he pulled a living, breathing bird out of his dreams” ending like in The Raven Boys. Still a painful one for invested fans, though. I might stick around for book three, but I’ll need a while to think about it. A year is good enough, don’t you think?

Review: “All Our Yesterdays” by Cristin Terrill

All Our YesterdaysTitle: “All Our Yesterdays”

Author: Cristin Terrill

Genre: Time Travel, YA, Sci-fi, Thriller

Publication Date: September 3, 2013 (Disney-Hyperion – North America)

Source: NetGalley Review Copy

Synopsis: “You have to kill him.” Imprisoned in the heart of a secret military base, Em has nothing except the voice of the boy in the cell next door and the list of instructions she finds taped inside the drain.

Only Em can complete the final instruction. She’s tried everything to prevent the creation of a time machine that will tear the world apart. She holds the proof: a list she has never seen before, written in her own hand. Each failed attempt in the past has led her to the same terrible present—imprisoned and tortured by a sadistic man called the doctor while war rages outside.

Marina has loved her best friend James since the day he moved next door when they were children. A gorgeous, introverted science prodigy from one of America’s most famous families, James finally seems to be seeing Marina in a new way, too. But on one disastrous night, James’s life crumbles apart, and with it, Marina’s hopes for their future. Now someone is trying to kill him. Marina will protect James, no matter what. Even if it means opening her eyes to a truth so terrible that she may not survive it. At least not as the girl she once was.

☆: 4/5 stars – a fast-paced thrill-ride that will kick your feels in their feels!

Review: I love the fact that the time-travel/multiverse genre finally, FINALLY has a firm foothold within YA lit as a whole. “All Our Yesterdays” is apart of that foothold, and while it had its flaws, I genuinely enjoyed it. Or, as the Doctor would say, it’s full of wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey fun. And murder. And torture. And love. Pretty much everything I want in a book. Terrill has created a fun, fast little book here, and I think a lot of those in YA craving more wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey books are going to enjoy it. If you’re looking for a quick, mindbending read, definitely check out “All Our Yesterdays”.

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Review: Find Me by Romily Bernard

Find MeTitle: Find Me

Author: Romily Bernard

Genre: YA Contemporary, Mystery, Thriller

Publication Date: September 24, 2013

Source: Publisher-provided ARC via Edelweiss

Synopsis: “Find Me.” These are the words written on Tessa Waye’s diary. The diary that ends up with Wick Tate. But Tessa’s just been found…dead.

Wick has the right computer-hacking skills for the job, but little interest in this perverse game of hide-and-seek. Until her sister Lily is the next target. Then Griff, trailer-park boy next door and fellow hacker, shows up, intent on helping Wick.

Is a happy ending possible with the threat of Wick’s deadbeat dad returning, the detective hunting him sniffing around Wick instead, and a killer taunting her at every step?

Foster child. Daughter of a felon. Loner hacker girl. Wick has a bad attitude and sarcasm to spare.

But she’s going to find this killer no matter what.

Because it just got personal.

☆: 4/5 stars – The love interest should get out and let this book be awesome

Wow. Seriously, wow. Not many books get me to stay up late at night to finish it because I enjoy my sleep far too much, but Find Me did it and it was worth every yawn, drowsy moment, and general sluggish feeling the next day. This may be one of the most entertaining YA debuts I’ve read this year!

Early on, mentions of the much-feared Blue Screen of Death, a twist on the infamous Lethal Weapon quote of getting too old for this shit, and more made me giggle, but Find Me is anything but a comedy. Moments like those are sweet little beacons of light in an otherwise dark novel. The reason Tessa didn’t go to the police about her rape (she was afraid they’d say she deserved it) is all too real. That is one of many factors that results in so few people reporting it when someone sexually assaults them.

Short chapters, tight plotting, and tense scenes that keep you on the edge of your seat make this short little novel (288 pages is very short by my standards) go by very quickly and it makes you wish this book were longer even though you know it’ll drag on if it gets any longer. The suspense kicks in from the very first chapter, which has Wick keeping an eye on the possibly-dirty cop hanging around outside her house, and it never lets up. We go all the way from the upper-class suburbs to the bad neighborhood where Wick lived before her mother committed suicide and her meth-making father went on the run, and it’s always a fun ride wherever we’re going. The twist and reveal? Genuinely caught me off guard, though my suspicions grew the closer the novel’s end came.

Wick might be one of my favorite female leads as of late too! Her hacking know-how is just enough to show us she knows what she’s doing but not enough to provide an evil villain’s blueprint or go right over our heads. Where she’s the one with the trust issues and bad attitude most of the time, her sweet little sister Lily is the opposite. Can I have a stuffed Lily, please? Fictional character or no, she’s pretty huggable.

The title is referenced multiple times throughout the book in a desperate repetition, but there’s one phrase I associate with the novel even more than the title: it’s not that easy. The “it” can be anything from living on after enduring an abusive relationship to trusting good people when you grew up learning trust is a bad thing to escaping the past you grew up with. Either way, these characters have it anything but easy.

One thing that is actually that easy in this book? Tying up plot lines. In fact, they all seem to tie up a little too neatly, some to the point of contrived. Just before Wick can question Tessa’s little sister Tally about an important passage that could have revealed the mystery man? Tessa’s parents get divorced and Tally leaves with the mother. That’s the end of that and it’s pretty clear that had Tally stayed, this book would have been over sooner. The epilogue in particular is all about tying up loose ends in such an overly neat fashion that it clashes with the rest of the novel.

Then there’s the love interest Griff. There’s a difference between being a douchebag and not being a nice guy. A guy who blackmails Wick into kissing him by withholding info on who’s threatening her and her sister? Um, NO. No swoons because that’s waaaaaaaay into douchebag territory. Their relationship didn’t feel developed enough in the first place and his blackmail soured my opinion of him for the rest of the book. He’s also got a habit of being a creep, but Wick says the creepy things he does like watching her sleep isn’t creepy just because it’s him. Um, no, still creepy. He must have acquired his creepiness in the three years he spent crushing on Wick without doing anything.

In general, Wick didn’t need that romance. She was doing just find rocking out and taking names all on her own. A strong friendship made over similar backgrounds that one escaped and one is still stuck in would have been perfect, especially for giving Griff the motivation to do what he does for Wick. Another thing the novel needed less of was the mean girl drama with Jenna. Making her someone who likes telling people to throw people in Dumpsters and fakes anguish over her best friend’s death didn’t help the novel at all. What plot-sanctioned reason was there for her to fake sadness over Tessa’s death?

There’s much more good than bad in this novel despite how much space it took me to talk out my criticisms. They need a lot more words to explain why they hurt the novel, you know? Communicating how suspenseful and fun this is makes for hard work too, so go check out the first three chapters on the author’s website and see what I mean. Desperate Google searching at one in the morning told me Bernard is working on a second book. Whether it’s related to Wick or something completely new, I don’t care because I just want more of this woman’s magic words.