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

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

Not If I See You First by Eric Lindstrom

Parker Grant is blind, but she doesn’t want your pity. She can do things for herself perfectly fine thank you very much. If you can’t handle her blunt way of talking, then too bad for you–she’s not about to hold your hand and stroke your ego. Parker wasn’t always like this, but when the person closest to her betrayed her, she turned into someone else. Now, he’s back and Parker has to decide how she feels about him and what he did to her.

22701879After reading both this book and¬†All the Light We Cannot See, I feel that I have a better understanding of people who are blind. They’re not as helpless as one would imagine–they are definitely still capable people. I appreciated being given that perspective. That being said, this book was really just okay for me. First off, Parker isn’t actually that likable as a character. I feel like there’s a difference between being blunt and being rude and Parker was often just downright rude to other people. She jumps to conclusions and makes unfair assumptions about people. Her aunt, uncle, and cousins for example. She assumes that they decided to move in with her after her father dies because the house is nicer than the one they had. It’s not an immediate thought that maybe they moved and uprooted their lives for¬†her. To help¬†her out.

The plot of the book was pretty subtle–this book is definitely more character driven. We really get to examine different types of relationships. Parker has three notable friends: one has been her friend forever, one was really good friends with her when they were little but they’ve grown apart now, and one is a new friend. It’s interesting to see the different dynamics between the girls. At the same time, they’re all able to come together and offer different types of support when Parker needs it. I liked that this book portrayed Parker’s female friends as really positive influences instead of having them be catty and stuff like that.

Overall, the book was okay. I just end up feeling kind of “meh” about it and I think a lot of that has to do with me not really caring for Parker as a character.

Overall Rating: 3
Language: Heavy
Violence: Mild. Nothing explicit.
Sexual Content: None
Smoking/Drinking: Mild

Note: I won an early copy of this book from the NOVL Newsletter and also received an ARC copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Everything But the Truth by Mandy Hubbard [ARC]

Charles Buchanan (one of the richest men in the world) has moved into Sunrise House–the ritziest and most glamorous retirement home in Seattle. His grandson Malik visits him regularly. Holly is also often at Sunrise House because she lives there with her mom, the manager. When Malik and Holly meet, they really hit it off. Everything’s going well, except for the small fact that Malik thinks Holly’s there to visit her rich grandmother. And he thinks Holly’s name is Lucy.

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This book was really surprising because I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. It’s not perfect, by any means, but I was expecting the book and overall story line to be much more shallow than it actually was.

Let’s start off with the fact that I LOVE that it’s set in Seattle–my hometown. I loved reading about Alki Beach, Lake Washington, Gas Works Park, and Pike Place Market. Since I’m so familiar with the area, it was really easy to place the characters in the setting. The author is from the Seattle area herself so everything is pretty accurate, but I did have a couple of minor issues–I know I’m splitting hairs here, but I can’t help it! First, WSU. Sorry, but my blood runs purple and gold (both my parents graduated from UW and both of my siblings were also students). So the fact that our main character was going there? Not a fan. Second, (and this is so minor, I know) at the end of the book Holly mentions how she’s been at school for a couple of weeks and her friend Alex (who’s going to UW) is going to call to update her on her classes. Sorry, but the timing doesn’t work out there. WSU has semesters and starts classes at the beginning of September or the end of August. Meanwhile, UW has quarters and doesn’t start classes until the end of September (or beginning of October even). So…Alex wouldn’t be in classes yet. This book was just so close to being accurate! I was just disappointed.

Anyway, I know no one else cares about that kind of thing except for me so let’s get onto the book. As a reader, I experienced the typical agony that comes when two characters just won’t communicate with each other. Half of the book I was screaming at Holly, “JUST TELL HIM!!!” If she did, though, there would be less drama and tension, so I get it. Malik seemed like a good guy, but he was maybe a little too reformed? He had a troubled past and I find it hard to believe that there wasn’t any of that left in him. Lastly, the secondary characters were pretty great. I liked the senior citizens that were in the book (Charles and Henrietta) because I felt like it added a depth to the cast that a lot of books don’t have.

Overall, I was definitely surprised¬†this book! It¬†reminded me of home which was nice and the characters were all pretty believable. Even though I wouldn’t say this book had that¬†much depth to it, I still had fun reading a clean and pleasantly predictable YA romance.

Overall Rating: 3
Language: None
Violence: None
Sexual Content: None
Smoking/Drinking: Mild. Mention of drunk driving.

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