Holding Court by K.C. Held [ARC]

The women in Juliet’s family all have special “gifts”. Her grandmother can read peoples’ auras while her mother has a talent for knowing when ancient artifacts are made and whether they’re real or fake. Both women have been able to start businesses that capitalize on their abilities but Juliet just wishes hers would go away. She calls it Psychic Tourette Syndrome (PTS for short). Without warning Juliet will blurt out a prediction for the future–someone just has to interpret it first since the things she blurts never make sense. Juliet just wants to¬†land a summer job that doesn’t immediately fire her for “blurting” but when she does, she doesn’t expect to stumble across a dead body.

23589243-_uy400_ss400_

For some strange reason I was under the impression that this book was going to have a time travel element? Yeah, I’m not sure why either. I was pleasantly surprised when this turned out to be a mystery because I don’t actually come across very many YA mystery books. At first this book was just pretty “meh” for me (perhaps because I was waiting for the time travel to come in and it never did), but towards the end I started to get into it.

Juliet isn’t my favorite protagonist–frankly she was kind of annoying at times. I was taken aback that she didn’t seem to be trying to hide her ability from other people. She was embarrassed by it, but people seemed to know that she was kind of psychic. In books (and movies) people usually try to hide their special abilities, but it didn’t seem like Juliet or the other women in her family were too concerned about it. The secondary characters were kind of interesting, but mostly flat. I wished that Juliet’s best friend Cami had been a more prominent character, but since she was so background-ish I felt like she was turned into a cardboard cutout best friend. Gran was a fun, quirky character (I liked her Eleanor Roosevelt quotes) but I thought Grayson was pretty vanilla as a love interest.

The plot itself was pretty good. Once I realized it was a mystery things started to make more sense. And I’ll be honest, I didn’t know who the killer was until it was revealed. It was interesting how Juliet’s blurts played a role in solving the mystery–I almost wished that they had played a bigger role. The only (admittedly minor) plot point that didn’t make sense to me was Angelique’s pregnancy. She’s supposed to be not too noticeably pregnant, but then literally two days after people figure out she is, she goes into labor…uh…what? Sorry, but I don’t think you’re going to be able to hide that you’re nine months pregnant–even under a nun’s habit.

Overall, this book was pretty good. I think it had some weak points, but there were some strong points as well. The last thing that was a little weird was the way some of the chapters were separated. Like usually a chapter starts in a different scene than the last chapter ended, right? Well a few times a chapter would end and then the next chapter would start in the same scene literally five seconds later. It was just kind of unexpected and took me out of the story at times.

Overall Rating: 3
Language: Moderate
Violence: Heavy, but most of it is “off-screen”
Smoking/Drinking: None
Sexual Content: None

Note: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

BLOG TOUR: Kingdom of Ashes by Rhiannon Thomas

Kingdom-of-Ashes-GalleyCatKingdom of Ashes (A Wicked Thing #2)
by Rhiannon Thomas
Publisher: Harper Teen
Release Date: February 23rd, 2016
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retellings, Fairy Tales, Romance, Magic, Fiction, Teen

Goodreads|Amazon|B&N|Book Depository|iTunes|Kobo

OTHER BOOKS IN THE SERIES:
A Wicked Thing (see my review for it here)

SYNOPSIS: Asleep for a hundred years, awoken by a kiss, Aurora’s life was supposed to be a fairytale. But since discovering that loyalty to the crown and loyalty to her country are two very different things, Aurora knows she can only dream of happily ever after. Once the enchanted princess, savior of her people, she is now branded a traitor.

Aurora is determined to free her home from the king‚Äôs tyrannical rule, even if it means traveling across the sea to the kingdom of the handsome and devious Prince Finnegan‚ÄĒsomeone who seems to know far more about her magic than he should. However, Finnegan‚Äôs kingdom has perils of its own, and any help he gives Aurora will come at a price.

As Aurora and Finnegan work together to harness her power‚ÄĒsomething so fiery and dangerous that is as likely to destroy those close to Aurora as it is to save them‚ÄĒshe begins to unravel the mysteries surrounding the curse that was placed on her over a century before‚Ķand uncover the truth about the destiny she was always meant to fulfill.

Brimming with captivating fantasy and life-threatening danger, the sequel to A Wicked Thing takes Sleeping Beauty on an adventure unlike any she’s ever had before.

REVIEW:¬†Let me start off by saying that this series is a commitment. There isn’t a lot of resolution in each book, but I think the overall series will be able to accomplish that. That being said, the pace of this book is slow. Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but Aurora is in her head a lot so it sometimes keeps the story and the plot from advancing as quickly as it could (so just be ready for that). At the same time, I feel like we as readers really get to know Aurora well and understand her feelings and motivations. It’s just kind of a trade-off there. Sometimes it can¬†get tiresome with all of the, “Should I kiss Finnegan? But no, I shouldn’t. But I really want to. But I can’t.” Just kiss him already!

Outside of Aurora though, I have a hard time figuring out some of the other characters and why they’re doing what they’re doing (i.e. Finnegan, Orla, Nettle, Tristan, etc). It seems like everyone is really secretive and nobody is telling Aurora the whole story. It’s almost like we’re all still playing catch-up with her from when she was asleep. This was hard for me at times because I typically like to feel like I know more than the protagonist does. In this case, we’re just as uncertain as she is who to trust.

Lastly, even though I feel like I get Aurora, I had a hard time understanding what exactly her end goal was which made it hard for me to care all the way about the plot of the story. Does she want to be queen? What does she want to do with her magic? Does she intend to stick around for a while? We don’t really know the answers to any of these questions.

Overall, I liked this book and I will continue with the series. There were some things that I disliked about it, but they were all personal preferences and I would not consider them fatal flaws in any way. My last bit of criticism is that I wish we had been given a more complete description of the dragons. They become a big part of the story, but I had a hard time picturing them.

Overall Rating: 3
Language: None
Violence: Heavy
Smoking/Drinking: None
Sexual Content: None


giveaway

Click on the above picture or this link to be taken to a Rafflecopter giveaway


RhiannonABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rhiannon Thomas is a recent graduate from Princeton University, where she studied English and Japanese, and smuggled bubble tea into the library on a regular basis. She now lives in York, England.

As well as reading and writing YA fiction, she runs the blog FeministFiction.com, where she discusses TV, books, and all kinds of fannish things from a feminist perspective.

I don’t hang out on Goodreads much, so if you want to contact me, please swing by my personal website or message me on Twitter.

Website|Goodreads|Twitter|Tumblr|Instagram


followthetour

Note: I received this book free from the author/blog tour in exchange for an honest review.

A Wicked Thing by Rhiannon Thomas

Aurora has been awoken. Now the sleeping beauty, her true love, and the rest of the kingdom will be able to live happily ever after. Except…Aurora doesn’t love Rodric, the prince who woke her. She knows that she’s nothing special so how is she supposed to live up to everyone’s expectations?

17930904I love a good fairytale retelling so this story¬†is interesting to me since it starts at the end of the fairytale. The prince has arrived and now our story begins. I thought the beginning was solid, but I didn’t know what the plot could be. There wasn’t much conflict beyond Aurora feeling like she couldn’t live up to expectations and whatnot. I was almost sitting here wondering, “Okay, when’s the story going to start?” Even at the end, it didn’t feel like much had happened. Mostly it felt like this book exists to set up the rest of the series. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s not going to capture as many readers right off the bat as it could.

The characters are fine. Again, I don’t feel like we really learn too much about them in this book. Aurora seems nice and I’m glad that there isn’t too heavy of a romance. Overall, I felt like Aurora was a realistic character. She seemed realistically conflicted at times. Other characters…not so much. But I won’t get into that because spoilers.

In the end, this was probably just a three star book, but for some reason I did find myself liking it more than that. The plot doesn’t really drive the pace of this book forward, so I wouldn’t say it’s a particularly fast read. I think the next book will definitely have more action and plot in it and hopefully some more character development as well.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: None
Violence: Heavy, but a lot of it’s “off-screen”
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: None

The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West

Gia has the perfect boyfriend–Bradley. Unfortunately, he decides that the best time to breakup with her is in the parking lot right before Prom. Gia’s friends already thought she was lying about him, so if she shows up to Prom without a date, there’s no way they’ll believe that he was ever real. That’s when she sees him in the parking lot. She makes him a deal–pretend to be her date for the night and she’ll owe him. If he needs a fake date in the future, she’s his girl. What could go wrong?

186604471

Kasie West is back in my good graces. After On the Fence, I was really on the fence about her (pun intended). I really liked this book. I thought the characters were interesting and mostly realistic. Gia’s not very likable at first, but I think that’s the point and she really grew on me as the book progressed and as she develops as a character. I liked Bec A LOT. I tend to like characters like her and I’m not really sure why…maybe because they act as a good contrast to the typical protagonist in these stories. Hayden seemed like a good guy and I was happy to finally see a “good guy” love interest as opposed to the “bad boy” one. The last character I want to talk about is Jules. What even is her problem? That’s really one of the main things that bothered me. I just didn’t understand her motivations for anything. Why is she on Gia so much? I think they tried to explain this in the book, but it was just really never made clear to me.

As far as the plot goes, we all know what’s going to happen, but that doesn’t make the story any less enjoyable in my opinion. In fact, I think it actually keeps the reader in suspense a little bit. We know what’s going to happen, but not when or how. I still liked seeing the different stages play out. I liked how West uses Gia and Hayden’s families to contrast each other and help with the character development. Overall it was a quick, clean read and I found the resolution really satisfying.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: None
Violence: None
Smoking/Drinking: None
Sexual Content: None

The Opening Bell by J.B. Garner

Leilani Ito has wrestling in her blood. As a rookie she’s not expecting to win all of her fights, but she is willing to work hard and do her time to get to the top. What Leilani doesn’t realize is that there is more than just wrestling in her family history. There is also a curse that could end her wrestling career–maybe even her life–forever.

the-opening-bell-final-cover

First of all, I just want to say that I know NOTHING about wrestling. I think if you have any sort of background or knowledge about wrestling that this book would instantly become more enjoyable. That being said, I thought this book was pretty good though it did have some flaws. I thought the overall plot was interesting. There was a lot of conflict and interesting relationships developed between characters. There are fights in the ring as well as fights out of it and that creates an unusual dynamic that I think really contributed to the overall story.

One thing that was hard for me was that sometimes the wrestling scenes got kind of technical. A wrestling move would be described and I could only guess at what was going on. That just made it a little hard to follow the story in those particular scenes. Another thing that made the story hard to follow was that there were a lot of characters and basically all of the characters went by several different names (first name, last name, wrestling name/nickname, and any combination). I had a hard time remembering who was who at times.¬†Lastly, I think that the narration (especially during fight scenes) shouldn’t have come from one perspective. There are several moments when we’re following Leilani’s perspective but she’s also on the verge of blacking out so we have no idea where her opponent is. I think the fight scenes would have benefited from the reader being able to see the whole picture as if they were watching the fight on TV.

Overall, I think if you’re a fan of wrestling, you might enjoy this book. If not, the book is still enjoyable, but you may feel lost at times.

Overall Rating: 3
Language: Heavy. A lot of moderate language.
Violence: Extreme
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: None

Note: I received this book free from the author in exchange for an honest review.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

One night, Conor hears his name being called on the wind: “…Conor…Connor…”. He’s sure that he’s dreaming when a monster appears at his window. Over time the monster will tell him three stories. After that, Conor will be required to tell his story–his truth. While he’s trying to determine whether or not this tree monster is real, Conor must deal with bullies at school, a sick mother, an absent father, and an overbearing grandmother.

a_monster_calls

I was originally going to read this as an eBook, but when I saw the physical copy, I knew that this is one of those times where the eBook isn’t going to be enough. The artwork throughout this book is AMAZING. I love the full-page illustrations as well as the textures added to pages throughout the book. Seriously. Every time I came to a new illustration, I had to show it to my husband. My husband is of the opinion that the illustrators name should appear on the front cover–which it doesn’t. I agree so I’ll let you guys know here, the illustrator is Jim Kay who also happens to be the guy doing the illustrated Harry Potter book (books? Is there going to be more than one?).

Okay, enough of that. This story is so unexpected. You think you know where the monster’s stories are going (so does Conor) and you think you know where this whole book is going but I think you may end up being surprised.

Some of you may know that this book is being turned into a film. Here’s a teaser trailer for you:

I don’t have much else to say. I loved this book. I loved the illustrations. The overall story is heartbreaking and beautiful. This is definitely a book that I would recommend and I’ll also definitely be adding it to my own personal library.

Overall Rating: 5
Language: Mild (very mild)
Violence: Moderate
Sexual Content: None
Smoking/Drinking: None

The John Cleaver series by Dan Wells

Hello everyone! Today I have a very special guest review written by my husband. Before we get into it I just want to say that while my husband likes to read, I have never seen him devour books like he did with this series. I think that really says something.

danwellsbiblio
John Wayne Cleaver is a teenage boy with homework, a learner’s permit and a crush on the girl next door. And self-imposed rules to keep himself from slaughtering everyone on his street.

The son of morticians, Dan Wells’ sociopathic protagonist is fascinated by dead bodies and serial killers. He meets with a therapist to discuss what to do when he gets an impulse to kill a classmate or neighbor. But when an apparent serial killer begins to ravage the tiny town of Clayton, only one person can out-think the killer, and give in to his impulses to end the slayings.

In I Am Not a Serial Killer, Mr. Monster, Don’t Make Me Kill You and The Devil’s Only Friend, John Cleaver plays the role of reluctant hero, and tip-toes the line between exacting justice and hunting down killers for the sport of it. In the process, he learns of a secret link between the killers, and becomes involved in a war thousands of years in the making.

23168838My Thoughts

I didn’t imagine myself loving a series with graphic descriptions of embalming, and gruesome scenes of violence, but I did. I enjoyed looking through the window of a character who’s mind works differently than mine. I rooted for John as he felt fleeting feelings of happiness and friendship, and wrestled with who he wanted to be.

I most enjoyed the first two books of the series. The supernatural elements in I Am Not a Serial Killer become gradually more of an emphasis as the series continues, and by The Devil’s Only Friend, John and the FBI are waging war against mythological creatures, and only John remains from the original cast of characters. I was most riveted when John was facing off with a single killer in his own neighborhood in Clayton, while dodging his nagging mother.

Overall, the John Cleaver series had me excited about figuring out what would happen next, and getting my hands on the next book as soon as possible.I don’t usually get as hyped about books as my wife does, but I didn’t know what to do with myself while The Devil’s Only Friend was on hold at my library. John himself is one of my favorite protagonists ever.

Overall Rating: 4.5, 4.5, 4, 4
Language: Mild (all)
Violence: Book 1 – Moderate to heavy
Book 2 –¬†Heavy, with a rather unpleasant villain’s torture lair
Book 3 –¬†Moderate to heavy, with descriptions of suicide
Book 4 –¬†Moderate to heavy
Sexual Content: None (all)
Smoking/Drinking: None (all)