Review: “When We Were” by Alexandra Diaz

"When We Were” by Alexandra Diaz A review by Amanda.

When We Were is a contemporary YA novel about three high school girls, who are each coming into their own. Tara, Pinkie, and Whitney Blaire have been friends since the first grade, despite their differences. Tara is an athlete training for a marathon. Her training is also her escape from the difficulties that life brings. Her perfect boyfriend, Brent, trains with her and their relationship fills others with envy. Pinkie is an anxious, type A personality, working hard for perfect grades and the attention of an older boy. Whitney Blaire, who is only ever referred to by her first and last name, is the popular party girl, the flirt. Each girl depends on the others, until a rumor about Brent changes everything. Enter new girl Riley, who threatens the friendships in a way no one sees coming…

On the surface, each character appeared to fit a stereotype. Tara was the dedicated athlete, Whitney Blaire was the popular mean girl, and Pinkie was the sweet, awkward nerdy girl. As the story developed, you began to see that things are not as they seemed. Pinkie is naive and insecure, with some prejudices that seem surprising. Tara is dealing with commitment issues, thanks to her deadbeat father. Whitney Blaire is fiercely loyal to her friends, and her superficiality covers up loneliness and intimacy issues due to her wealthy parents’ lack of attention. Even Riley, who seems to be a bad girl bent on destruction has more depth than we see at first. Above all, this is a story about friendship, growth, and love. All of the main characters are relatable in one way or another, and as the chapters switch between Whitney Blaire, Pinkie, and Tara, the story becomes clearer and the reader can see things that the characters do not. I recommend this book to teenagers and young adults everywhere. This book deals with sex and sexual feelings in a realistic and matter-of-fact way. It’s not glorified or glamorized, which is rare in books aimed at teens. The main theme of When We Were is the ups and downs of friendship, in a way that everyone can relate to. This is the first book that I’ve read by Alexandra Diaz, and I will certainly be on the lookout for more of her work.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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Review: “Link” (Shadow of Light #1) by Summer Wier

"Link” (Shadow of Light #1) by Summer Wier A review by Amanda.

Kira is celebrating her seventeenth birthday with three of her closest friends, camping at a local lake, when an impossible accident rocks her world. Something has fallen from the sky and knocked Kira unconscious. She wakes to an unfamiliar face in a strange place, a patchwork world of gypsies, carnivals, and a farmhouse. A boy near her age introduces himself as Evan and acts as her guide, while managing to dodge her questions. The more people she meets, the more her confusion builds, until she falls asleep and wakes up in a hospital room back in her own world. Somehow, a link has been created between one world and the next, and Kira has more than one mystery on her hands.

Kira was a likeable, if fairly typical teenager. Her focus was on her friends and her plans for the future, with some romantic interests thrown in. She had a strong relationship with her mother although they clashed over some things, such as the truth Kira’s father, who left before she was born. Her friends, Faye and Fischer, were fun, and quirky in different ways, but I would have liked to see more depth from each of them. Romance played a generous part in the story, and Kira’s childhood friend Zane was sweet, supportive, and absolutely swoon-worthy. Evan was a bit more mysterious and I can understand why Kira was drawn to him, even though his motives were unclear. I loved the world-building in this book. There were several surprises mixed in with a unique sci-fi story, and I will definitely read the next book in this series.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

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Review: “Reap the Wind” (Cassie Palmer #7)” by Karen Chance

Reap the Wind by Karen Chance A review by Amanda.

I would like to thank the author and the publishing company for allowing me to read this ARC in exchange for an honest review. This review may contain spoilers for the previous books in the Cassie Palmer series.

When we last left Cassie, in Tempt the Stars (Cassie Palmer #6), she was exhausted, filthy, and determined to save our favorite war mage yet again. Having just rescued him from his father, the demon prince Rosier, Cassie is understandably devastated when the demon council curses his soul to travel backwards through his own timeline until he blinks out of existence, forever. In the midst of trying to rescue Pritkin, Cassie is also tasked with protecting her young court – child acolytes to the Pythia who are in danger from dark mages and traitorous adepts. She must find a way to accomplish all of this with no help from the Silver Circle, and no official help from the vampires. Different factions of supposed allies are manipulating Cassie for control over her power as Pythia and she has had enough. It’s time to stop being the figurehead that they want and learn to use her power on her own terms. What better place to start than saving the life of an irascible, half-demon, war mage, who matters more than she can admit to herself?

Karen Chance has given her fans another action-packed, edge-of-your-seat thriller with the latest in her popular series. Readers will be happy to see Cassie continue to grow into her own, learning more about her role as Pythia and figuring out exactly what she can do. She faces her fears, confronts both allies and enemies who seek to use her or destroy her, and stands up for herself and those she has chosen to protect. She accomplishes all of this while keeping her unique, endearing sense of humor and her positive determination to succeed. Those of us on Team Pritkin will enjoy getting to know more about his early life, and glimpses into the young man he was before his father intervened. Not to fret, Team Mircea – Cassie’s powerful vampire lover makes his presence known as well. We also get to see another side of Rosier as he and Cassie are forced to work together. Their clashing personalities had me laughing out loud on several occasions. As per usual, this book contains several of the steamiest sex scenes known to man and I had a difficult time reading it in public without blushing bright red. As this book ended on a cliffhanger, I will be eagerly awaiting the next one, due out in 2016.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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Review: “Spectacle” by S.J. Pierce

Spectacle by S.J. Pierce A review by Maria.

I would like to thank author S. J. Pierce for allowing me to read her new novel Spectacle.

Spectacle was a terrific blend of Young Adult, Dystopia and Science Fiction. But this was far from the usual angsty love-story ridden young adult novel.

Mira Foster lives as a regular 10-year-old dealing with school, bullies, and best friends in New America. She’s loved by two incredible parents who are both her heroes. Then strange markings appear on her dad’s face and she learns that she’s far from ordinary and that her father is an alien. When her father and others can no longer blend in with the humans due to their markings, they meet with the government for permission to continue to co-exist on the planet as they’ve been doing for many years while blending in. An attack on the President is carried out and the aliens are the ones blamed. Mira and the remainder of her people are sent to a deserted island to live in exile. Mira’s one chance to return to New America is to go with her friend Luxxe to compete in a televised fighting tournament.

The author made it clear that while Mira’s people lived on the island it was very difficult and they had no provisions or shelter given to them and they had to struggle to survive. However, as a reader, it would have improved my take of the hardship of their situation if someone had died or gotten hurt while the island was featured. I understood it was dire circumstances, but it would have resonated with me better to feel how life threatening normal life was for them.

Mira was a stand out main character. I enjoyed her personality immensely. She was strong, smart, compassionate, and a leader. When her friends got their markings, they got chameleon type powers. Mira still didn’t receive her markings, but discovered she had a power too. She could teleport herself across vast distances. When she discovers this in the book she is understandably a little concerned but immediately starts to try to figure the power out and how to use it to her advantage.

Mira’s entourage of friends who escort Luxxe to his fight are worth mentioning. Luxxe is the strong, brave, male leader of the camp. He and Mira have been friends all their lives and have only ever seen each other as friends. Cole is the funny, quirky male always in Luxxe’s shadow and has feelings for Mira. I really enjoyed Cole’s character. Taylor is Luxxe’s girlfriend who has only ever treated Mira like dirt. While waiting to fight in New America, both girls finally reach a pleasant and believable understanding.

Even though the characters were well done in this book and I became extremely attached to them, I found the story somewhat lacking. The story would often drag throughout the book; and at times felt disjointed or had scenes I felt were really unnecessary. That being said, it did reach a huge climax that I didn’t see coming. I also felt like in a story like this, everything shouldn’t have ended fairly neat and tidy. However, after the climax and with some death and pain, everything really did tie up nice and neatly. I would have liked some more details about Mira’s life after the bulk of the story had ended.

This novel is appropriate for teens and adults.

 

My rating: 3/5 stars.

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Book & Author details:

Spectacle by S.J. Pierce
Publication date: July 13th 2015
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult

Synopsis:

Hunger Games meets Avatar in this spellbinding new Young Adult, Science-Fiction novel by bestselling author Susan James Pierce.

Two hundred years after the Great Disaster, the day earthquakes ravaged Earth’s landscapes, humanity has finally regrouped and is working toward a better future. But in New America – one of three remaining landmasses – the threat of overpopulation makes a better future seem bleaker by the year.

Mira (Mirabella) Foster and her parents are citizens of New America, and with the threat of starvation and disease looming on the horizon, a new discovery threatens to push everyone to the brink of chaos: blue markings develop on people’s skin. Markings that allow them to camouflage their skin, but also make them feared, and eventually, targets of violence.

Mira’s dad is one of them.

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S.J. Pierce

AUTHOR BIO:
Susan James Pierce has a degree in Marketing Management, works for a Fortune 500 company in Atlanta, Georgia, and devotes her precious, spare time to writing Fantasy, Paranormal and Sci-fi novels.

Please visit http://www.sjpiercebooks.blogspot.com and sign up for her mailing list or subscribe to her blog if you’d like to hear when new books come out! Coming soon:

Iris (Novella: The Captivated Series) Available now!!!

Fight for Me (Book Two: The Captivated Series)

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Review: “Anni Moon and the Elemental Artifact” by Melanie Abed

Anni Moon and the Elemental Artifact by Melanie Abed A review by Domoni.

Anni Moon and her best friend Lexi are orphans. They have been raised in an all girls school by their guardians, whose families have always run the school and for Anni especially, it has not always been easy.  Anni’s beloved guardian Mabel disappeared and was declared dead three years ago which made things even harder. Now Lexi’s guardian has disappeared and been declared dead too.  The school, their only home, is being purchased and everything is changing. Suddenly an impossible creature, a flying rat in clothes, chases Anni down to give her a message: “You must not leave school Anni Moon.”  He will not tell her who the message is from but he does mention he had already delivered a message to Lexi.

Things only start to get stranger as the girls are expelled then Lexi is kidnapped and Anni is forced on a plane with a cat by her guardian. Anni is unhappy and takes pity on the cat and lets him out of his carrier, only for him to walk off and have to be chased down. When Anni finds him in the bathroom she tries to pick him up and is suddenly in another place altogether. This is where Anni learns about elementals and the world they live in, which her guardians seem to be a part of and have kept secret from her. As Anni learns more about a world she never could have dreamed up, and her best friend who has her own secrets, she determinedly insists on doing things her way and putting everything she has into finding Lexi.

This is the first book in a series and as such, it tries to lay down a lot of information. At times it can be overwhelming to remember all the characters or understand what is happening. But the author’s writing style kept pulling me along as I fell in love with Anni. She is a strong willed 12 (almost 13) year old girl that is a great example of perseverance.  The world created by the author is rich and varied and kept astounding me. She creates words that are silly and fun and make your mouth pucker and twist. My son and I giggled at some of the silliness. The fact that it is intended as a series is good, because this book did leave me with many questions and we cannot wait to delve into book 2.

This book is great for readers 8 and up. While it may be aimed at girls, I think young boys would love it just as much. It could appeal to children who enjoy magical and supernatural stories like Harry Potter and the Bartimaeus Trilogy.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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Review: “Paper Girls #1” by Brian K . Vaughan and Cliff Chiang

Paper Girls #1 by Brian K . Vaughan and Cliff Chiang A review by Courtney.

Paper Girls is a brand new title that I was excited to read because Brian K. Vaughan writes one of my current favorite titles, Saga. Within the first few pages of Paper Girls, I realized that I was going to have to apply the first rule of improv, which means that I just mentally say “yes” and go wherever the the writer takes me. At the moment this is less necessary in Paper Girls than it is in Saga, but as this is only the first issue, I don’t want to make any long term predictions.

From the title of this comic I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect, and midway through the book it seems to be as the title suggests; that this story is indeed about a group of girls who deliver newspapers in their seemingly normal neighborhood. The girls have grouped together to deliver papers for safety purposes, and they appear to be sort of girls who are regularly challenging gender norms, which I liked a lot. The story progresses and you learn that things are maybe not quite as normal as they seem.

I liked the language that the girls used in Paper Girls, although they do cuss a few times, so I would not recommend it to a younger audience. The art in Paper Girls has a noir feel to it; the darker colors set a muted tone which drew me in as a reader. I appreciated that the artist understood that he was drawing girls aged 12-13 years old, who were trying to keep warm while delivering newspapers. This was a strong first start for Paper Girls; I’m excited to find out where the story goes next.

My rating: 4.5/5 stars.

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Review: “Chasing Evil” by Kylie Brant

Chasing Evil by Kylie Brant A review by Amanda.

When Ed Loebig’s puppy Digger lives up to his name by digging at a freshly turned grave, Ed feels embarrassed at first. The embarrassment turns to horror once he realizes that there’s a body in the grave that doesn’t belong there. Ed calls the local sheriff, who puts the word out and brings in agents from Iowa’s Division of Criminal Investigation – and the hunt for a serial killer begins. Six more bodies are found across several counties, buried in the same fashion. All of the victims are female, and all with signs of being raped and tortured before death by strangulation. None of the women have ID or identifying marks and it’s up to Agent Cam Prescott and his team to find out who they are, what links them together, and who is committing these atrocious acts, before another victim is taken. Doctor Sophia Channing works closely with multiple law enforcement agencies to analyze and profile offenders. Her expertise makes her invaluable to the task force, led by Cam, formed to find this killer. Cam and Sophia’s romantic history makes things complicated, as does the case when the killer decides to targets Sophia…

First of all, anyone who has experienced sexual trauma may want to avoid this book. It wasn’t as graphic as some books and shows, but it gave enough detail to warrant caution. The story was paced very well. It moved quickly with lots of action and changed perspective often enough to keep the reader’s attention. While some of the plot points were predictable, there were a few twists that kept me guessing and intrigued. I did not like Cam much in the beginning. He came across as stereotypically “macho” and sexist. He has a difficult time reconciling the cool and “regal” doctor with her job of interviewing and profiling some of the worst, most gruesome criminals out there. He even compared her to a fairy princess at one point. Cam also appeared to dislike another female character, also a doctor, because her propensity for swearing was at odds with her looks and stature. I got the impression that he viewed her as unladylike and that this was a bad thing, even though she is quite competent at her job. That being said, there is potential for him to grow as the series continues.

I very much enjoyed Sophia. She was intelligent, witty, resourceful, and defiantly chose her own path. She was not a damsel-in-distress; she was a complex woman who did not sit around and depend on others for rescuing, although that didn’t stop her from doing what she could to help them help her. The format of the chapters was also appealing. Each chapter began with a flashback to Cam and Sophia’s prior relationship, which provided more insight into both characters.

Chasing Evil is the first book in the trilogy; books two and three Touching Evil and Facing Evil also feature Cam and Sophia in a continuation of the story. All three books are available now.

My rating: 3.5/5 stars.

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