Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: My Last Kiss

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature hosted by Breaking the Spine, where we spotlight a book we're eagerly anticipating.

My Waiting on Wednesday this week is:

My Last Kiss
By Bethany Neal
Hardcover, 368 pages
Expected release date: June 10, 2014

From Goodreads:

What if your last kiss was with the wrong boy? 

Cassidy Haines remembers her first kiss vividly. It was on the old covered bridge the summer before her freshman year with her boyfriend of three years, Ethan Keys. But her last kiss—the one she shared with someone at her seventeenth birthday party the night she died—is a blur. Cassidy is trapped in the living world, not only mourning the loss of her human body, but left with the grim suspicion that her untimely death wasn’t a suicide as everyone assumes. She can’t remember anything from the weeks leading up to her birthday and she’s worried that she may have betrayed her boyfriend. 

If Cassidy is to uncover the truth about that fateful night and make amends with the only boy she’ll ever love, she must face her past and all the decisions she made—good and bad—that led to her last kiss.

Bethany Neal’s suspenseful debut novel is about the power of first love and the haunting lies that threaten to tear it apart.

Sounds like a good mystery to me. Excited to see how the author will write this one. I haven't read too many books narrated by someone who has already died. This is the author's first novel.

Review: This Side of Salvation

This Side of Salvation
Author: Jeri Smith-Ready
Published: April 1, 2014
Hardcover, 384 pages
5 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

Everyone mourns differently. When his older brother was killed, David got angry. As in, fist-meets-someone-else’s-face furious. But his parents? They got religious. David’s still figuring out his relationship with a higher power, but there’s one thing he does know for sure: The closer he gets to new-girl Bailey, the better, brighter, happier, more he feels.

Then his parents start cutting all their worldly ties to prepare for the Rush, the divine moment when the faithful will be whisked off to Heaven…and they want David to do the same. David’s torn. There’s a big difference between living in the moment and giving up his best friend, varsity baseball, and Bailey—especially Bailey—in hope of salvation.

But when he comes home late from prom, and late for the Rush, to find that his parents have vanished, David is in more trouble than he ever could have imagined...

Smith-Ready blew me away with her Shade series. It was like nothing I've read before and even though the premise could be cliche, it wasn't. She has a way of writing characters and story lines that seem like they could actually happen even though they are very far fetched. This Side of Salvation may seem far fetched to some people, but it was the kind of plot that could actually happen to some families around the world. When David's brother dies in the army, his family takes it all very differently. David gets angry, but his parents find God and become very religious. David has gone to church most of his life, but when his parents start getting involved with a lady who tell them about the Rush, aka the Rapture, they begin severing their lives to prepare to go to Heaven. David questions all of this, still not sure what he believes in or whether the Rush is real, but when he comes home late from a party with his sister and finds his parents vanished, suddenly he doesn't know what to believe.

David is like most people in the world, he knows about this religion, goes to church, learns how to be a good Christian, but still isn't sure if he believes in the higher power. As David tries to figure out what happened to his parents, we flash back to other important parts of his life to help us understand where he's coming from. I loved this past and present tense. In the present, his parents are already gone and him and his sister Mara are on the hunt to find out what happened to their parents. In the past, we see David much happier. He is with his girlfriend Bailey, living the sort of life any teenager would love. We see how David views religion and we see how his parents are dealing with the death of their oldest son. David's father speaks only in scripture, which in on itself is crazy and illogical, but I can see someone doing this as a means of coping. 

The writing is beautiful. Smith-Ready knows exactly what words to use to convey each message and David's view of the world differed so much from his parents. The mystery behind the Rush got to me,  I can see how David could feel like it was impossible. Even though he's pretty sure he believes in God, he still questions everything after his parents disappear, wondering how they could leave him behind. This story made me cry, the grief is palpable and the love for family and friends is heartbreaking. It shows perfectly how a family copes with losing a member. It kept me guessing to the last few chapters, and even then I wasn't sure how it would all end. David's relationships are very realistic. Him and Mara get along, but still have a lot of differences. Him and Bailey are not perfect, and their relationship isn't glorified. They are real teenagers and David thinks about sex... a lot. It's always so different being inside a guy's head as opposed to a girl's. I loved the focus on baseball as well. David loved pitching as a kid, but it slowly disappeared the more religious his parents got. It was the prefect metaphor for his life, and I was very happy when he got back into it. Kane was the perfect side character. He loves David and will do anything to make sure his friend's life.

This book is great if you're not sure how you feel about God, or even if you do know. The mystery aspect was great and the characters were even better. I highly recommend this to anyone looking for a different kind of contemporary about family and struggling with a major loss.  

“Oh yeah, pain. I think it's the same when we lose someone we love. It never stops hurting. But maybe it shouldn't. That pain, after all, is a souvenir of love.” 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Series I Need to Finish

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, where we discuss topics through lists, and I love lists.

This week's topic is: Freebie Week! So I've chosen Top Ten Series I Need to Finish

Legend by Marie Lu - Champion is begging to be read.
Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead - I'm on Blood Promise, so there's still a bit of a way to go.
Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi - Into the Still Blue is waiting for me.

Blue Bloods by Melissa De La Cruz - Only two more left to go in this series, read through them so fast, I needed a break.
Breathe by Sarah Crossan - I still haven't picked up Resist, even though I loved the first book.

The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney - I already own The Rivals, not sure why I haven't read it yet.
The Heroes of Olympus by Rick Riordan - The House of Hades has waited too long.
Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood - I haven't picked up Star Cursed yet, but it's pretty up there on the list to buy.

And two series I know I will finish as soon as the third and final books come out: 

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin - The Retribution of Mara Dyer needs to be out now!

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins - Isla and the Happily Ever After is going to be so cute, can't wait to get my hands on it!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Review: Maybe Someday

Maybe Someday
Author: Colleen Hoover
Published: March 18, 2014
Paperback, 370 pages
5 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

At twenty-two years old, Sydney is enjoying a great life: She's in college, working a steady job, in love with her wonderful boyfriend, Hunter, and rooming with her best friend, Tori. But everything changes when she discovers that Hunter is cheating on her;and she's forced to decide what her next move should be.

Soon, Sydney finds herself captivated by her mysterious and attractive neighbor, Ridge. She can't take her eyes off him or stop listening to the passionate way he plays his guitar every evening out on his balcony. And there's something about Sydney that Ridge can't ignore, either. They soon find themselves needing each other in more ways than one.

Hoover has officially become my favourite New Adult writer. She takes what all of us want in NA and makes it a really story, unlike other NAs I've read. She has a way with words and characters that make me want to read the story over and over again, and Maybe Someday was no exception. Sydney's 22nd birthday starts off horribly - discovering that her boyfriend is sleeping with her roommate and best friend.  So she leaves and somehow ends up at her neighbour's apartment, the mysterious Ridge who plays his guitar on his balcony just for her. What starts out as an awkward encounter soon turns into an awkward friendship. They begin writing music together and feelings begin to emerge - feelings that shouldn't be since Ridge is in a serious relationship. 

Yes, I know, a love triangle! But for once (well there have been a few times) this love triangle wasn't cringe-worthy. Told from both Sydney and Ridge's perspectives, we get to see how each of them are trying to cope with the feelings inside them. And although I don't condemn cheating, I do understand how couples can drift apart, especially if you are in two very different places in life. and Hoover delivers us a story that will break your heart not only for Ridge and his girlfriend, but for Sydney as the other woman trying desperately not to fall in love with him. This story is truly heartbreaking and Hoover loves to add in twists and plot points that make you re-think everything you've felt until that point, making this an unforgettable journey.

Ridge is not the kind of love interest you see in books these days. It's wonderful that Hoover explores this whole other world, and the way she treats it with respect is fantastic. I don't mean to be vague, but I don't want to spoil anything. It took a character who could very well be like every other love interest and turned him into something completely different. Sydney has never met anyone like him, but the way she reacts to it is beautiful and heart-warming, the way you hope everyone would. It was amazing and I hope more authors take a risk like this to show people that there are more diverse people in the world - not everyone is just a bad boy with issues.

What I loved most about this book was the music aspect. Hoover joined up with Griffin Peterson to create the soundtrack to this book. The songs Sydney and Ridge write in the book can be listened to while reading and it turned this book into an experience. The songs are touching and tender, just enough to send you into a tailspin of tears and mixed emotions - just like Sydney and Ridge. They sum up the relationship perfectly and follow along as Sydney and Ridge try to figure out how to live this life they know they should both walk away from. This book will take you through every emotion on the spectrum, but it will leave you smiling and singing along. Hoover gives me faith in the NA genre.

“We try so hard to hide everything we're really feeling from those who probably need to know our true feelings the most.”

“Sometimes in life, we need a few bad days in order to keep the good ones in perspective.” 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Review: Rebel Belle

Rebel Belle
Author: Rachel Hawkins
Published: April 8, 2014
Hardcover, 345 pages
4 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

Harper Price, peerless Southern belle, was born ready for a Homecoming tiara. But after a strange run-in at the dance imbues her with incredible abilities, Harper's destiny takes a turn for the seriously weird. She becomes a Paladin, one of an ancient line of guardians with agility, super strength and lethal fighting instincts.

Just when life can't get any more disastrously crazy, Harper finds out who she's charged to protect: David Stark, school reporter, subject of a mysterious prophecy and possibly Harper's least favorite person. But things get complicated when Harper starts falling for him—and discovers that David's own fate could very well be to destroy Earth.

Hawkins blew me away with Hex Hall and School Spirits, bringing forth her wit and skill into paranormal contemporaries that made me laugh, swoon and a bit scared. So when I found out she had a new book coming out, about a cotillion girl who ends up in a crazy, Buffy the Vampire Slayer like situation, I thought, hell ya, bring it on! Everything about this book is gorgeous. The cover is perfect an captures the essence of the novel, and Harper is the perfect leading lady. The night of homecoming, where she knows she'll walk away with the crown, Harper ends up in weird situation and a feeling in her gut she's afraid will never disappear. Everything from that night leads her to David, her arch nemesis who seems to have everything she's striving for. When she's told she needs to protect David to death, she's not sure this is how she wants her life to be, especially with cotillion right around the corner. 

Harper is just like Hawkins's other main characters. She has the wit and sarcasm of Sophie, but the hard core skills of Izzy. But Harper still stands on her own as a leading character and I love that she has weaknesses and goes through some rough experiences. She loves her lipstick, but when it comes down to it, she knows what needs to be done in order to keep David safe. Her and David are adorable, the banter between them is so real and it made their story so much more swoon-worthy. I love stories where the two lovers start by hating each other and soon realize that there was nothing to hate about the other. David is not your typical love interest with his unique sense of style and uppity attitude. But he soon became the kind of guy everyone dreams of.

The story was unique and played out perfectly. I was hoping for a bit more when it came to the prophecies and how everything ended, but it was minor and I'm sure the sequel will answer any questions I still have. Hawkins creates fantastic characters that stick with you long after you're finished the book, and her plots flow nicely to go with them. I liked the characters more than the plot in this, but it was a lot of fun to read and I can't wait for more.

“Bruce Wayne's parents get killed and he goes to Tibet or whatever, and Superman is an alien, and Spiderman had that radioactive spider. Me? I kissed a janitor in the school bathroom.” 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Review: Dreams of Gods and Monsters

Dreams of Gods and Monsters (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #3)
Author: Laini Taylor
Published: April 8, 2014
Hardcover, 613 pages
5 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

By way of a staggering deception, Karou has taken control of the chimaera rebellion and is intent on steering its course away from dead-end vengeance. The future rests on her, if there can even be a future for the chimaera in war-ravaged Eretz.

Common enemy, common cause.

When Jael's brutal seraph army trespasses into the human world, the unthinkable becomes essential, and Karou and Akiva must ally their enemy armies against the threat. It is a twisted version of their long-ago dream, and they begin to hope that it might forge a way forward for their people.

And, perhaps, for themselves. Toward a new way of living, and maybe even love.

But there are bigger threats than Jael in the offing. A vicious queen is hunting Akiva, and, in the skies of Eretz ... something is happening. Massive stains are spreading like bruises from horizon to horizon; the great winged stormhunters are gathering as if summoned, ceaselessly circling, and a deep sense of wrong pervades the world.

What power can bruise the sky?

From the streets of Rome to the caves of the Kirin and beyond, humans, chimaera and seraphim will fight, strive, love, and die in an epic theater that transcends good and evil, right and wrong, friend and enemy. 

At the very barriers of space and time, what do gods and monsters dream of? And does anything else matter?

Everything and nothing is solved in this epic conclusion to the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series. Alliances are tested, friendships are formed and renewed, and love triumphs above all else. This book urges you to dive in, eager to find out how it will all end and who will end up winning the war - the angels or the chimaera. This book begins with a bang. The angels have descended to earth, creating a huge stir throughout the world, everyone wondering what this arrival means. Some believe it is God speaking to them, others believe it is the Apocalypse - it is certainly the latter. Karou has taken over the chimaera army, in disguise, and is trying desperately to stop the war from this side, or at least, to join forces so that they can all stop Jael's army of angels before they destroy the earth. Karou and Akiva are keeping their dream alive, if everyone works together, its possible to win. But the angels and chimaera do not want to be anywhere near each other and tensions are high as they wait for the signal to attack.

This was the perfect conclusion to the perfect series. It took me to a whole other world that I never wanted to leave. It kept me guessing until the end, unsure of how it would all go down and crossing my fingers that Karou and Akiva would finally get their happy ending. Taylor have created this completely new universe and races but compels the same feelings and worries we have on earth. War is all around us and the only way for it to end is for us to work together and plan an agreement. This was all too familiar with the real world, and all too familiar to Romeo and Juliet, but thankfully Taylor gave us the happy ending we so wanted. Everything was perfectly woven together to bring it all together in the end. Her writing is smooth and fluid, and every word is needed. She has written it in a way that makes it run together like a Tolkien novel, creating all these different perspectives that end up together before the story is over and work together to get to the conclusion. She is a genius with words and does not leave any character behind. Zuzanna and Mik are still there, trying to be normal in a not so normal world. Liraz gets a bigger part and I loved her and her masculine feminism. Ziri was wonderful and swoon worthy in his own light and his ending was perfectly played out. Issa is back and hilarious as ever, and Karou and Akiva are, as predicted, the most wonderful pairing I've read in a fantasy series. 

This book had everything I was looking for in an ending. I cried, I laughed and I hugged the book to my chest as I read the reunion I've been waiting for. A wonderful series for anyone who loves fantasy, or is just looking for an epic love story with a lot of fighting in between. Either way, go read it now!

“It was the first time either of them had ever held another's hand, and for them alone, the immensity of what unfolded that night was overshadowed by the perfect wonderment of fingers intertwined - as though this was what hands had always been for, and not for holding weapons at all.” 

Review: Days of Blood and Starlight

Days of Blood and Starlight (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #2)
Author: Laini Taylor
Published: November 6, 2012
Hardcover, 517 pages
5 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a world free of bloodshed and war.

This is not that world.

Art student and monster's apprentice Karou finally has the answers she has always sought. She knows who she is—and what she is. But with this knowledge comes another truth she would give anything to undo: She loved the enemy and he betrayed her, and a world suffered for it.

In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Karou must decide how far she'll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, secrets and impossible choices, Days of Blood & Starlight finds Karou and Akiva on opposing sides as an age-old war stirs back to life.

While Karou and her allies build a monstrous army in a land of dust and starlight, Akiva wages a different sort of battle: a battle for redemption. For hope.

But can any hope be salvaged from the ashes of their broken dream?

The ending of Daughter of Smoke and Bone was a game changer. If you haven't read it, don't read any further because there will be spoilers, there's no stopping it.

Karou finally knows who she really is. A whole other life and all the memories that go with it have been revealed to her by Akiva, that and his betrayal against her family. Karou goes to live with her kind, taking over Brimstone's job and catching Thiago's attention once again. Trying to keep Akiva from her mind, she fills her days with teeth and magic, just as Brimstone did, and tries to find a way to be okay living like that. But Zuzanna and Mik have other plans, trying desperately to find her, and Akiva is trying to find a way to end this war once and for all. 

Their journey is long. I wait and wait for Akiva and Karou to find each other again, to follow their hearts and be together, but I must continue waiting. Karou shows her true strength in this book. Now that she knows she was a warrior, she has no trouble fighting back. She knows Thiago needs her and she will play it to end and find a way to escape his hold on her. There are many new viewpoints, a deeper look into the Chimaera race and more into the danger of the angels. This book is long, but it reads quickly and it's hard to put down because there are so many unanswered questions. Zuzanna is once again the comic relief, her and Mik are wonderful together and their story, as small as it may be, flies off the pages and demands attention. Karou and Akiva's story is bigger, more epic, but it is quiet throughout the novel, their love laying dormant until the moment they can express those feelings again. 

This is still the Romeo and Juliet love story I was looking for. They are just reacting much better than those lovers did. Akiva knows he has to fix what he did to Karou's family before even going back to her. But he can't stay away and the fleeting moments between them are heated and heart-wrenching. This story swoops to every end of the earth. There is love, fear, evil, war, and in the mist of it all - hope. Taylor has done it again with a wonderful tale spun so beautifully together that it's hard to imagine that Eretz does not exist in real life (or does it?)

Once, the lovers lay entwined in the moon’s secret temple and dreamed of a world that was a like a jewel-box without a jewel—a paradise waiting for them to find it and fill it with their happiness. This was not that world.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Author: Laini Taylor
Published: September 27, 2011
Hardcover, 418 pages
5 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands", she speaks many languages - not all of them human - and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

This story swept me up and still hasn't let me go. Karou is not the kind of character you get to see very often, and her story begins as what could easily be a contemporary story about a girl trying to figure out who she is, but quickly unravels into something so much bigger, a world that will claim you and make you never want to leave. Taylor weaves a complex tale of loyalty, love, and family. Karou's life is full of mystery. She has blue hair, fills her sketchbook with pictures that seem way too crazy to be real, and can speak many languages, some of which aren't human. By day she is an art student, hoping to stop her feelings for her ex-boyfriend, and trying to spend time with her best friend, Zuzanna. But most of the time she's running errands for Brimstone, her would-be father who is anything but humanly. To her, its normal, but she has no idea where she came from or who she really is. But the more she finds out, the more she wants to just be a regular girl.

Prague is the perfect setting for this rich, beautiful story. The old buildings and dark alleys left lots of room for mystery and the angels. It's as much a character as Karou or Zuzanna or Akiva. Brimstone's apartment, the Poison Cafe and the bridge all play important parts in Karou's story. The hints at what will happen are so well written, I couldn't believe it sometimes. One sentence and suddenly I'd know something bad would happen three chapters later. Taylor has a wonderful way of subtlety slipping in dramatic irony and making each scene count. Her words describe both the real world and a world we've never seen, but after reading about, seems way too real. 

This was just the beginning to a fantastic journey through the worlds. I'm a sucker for Romeo and Juliet like stories, and this reminded me of the star crossed lovers in the best sort of way. I'm normally disappointed when it comes to direct re-tellings, so this was perfect in the way that it literally had nothing to do with the play, but made me think of all the things I loved about the Bard's tragic play. Two people from totally different worlds who know they can't be together, who know there is no way their story will have a happy ending, but decide to be together anyway. They want to stop the war, they want everyone else to know that it's possible to not have to be enemies, and Karou and Akiva are the epitome of lovers who will do anything to be together. This is the just the beginning of their love saga, and I'm already invested.

“Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well.” 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Covers I'd Frame on my Wall

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, where we discuss our top tens on different bookish topics.

This week's topic is: Book covers I'd frame as art pieces

A Great and Terrible Beauty - Libba Bray
Bunheads - Sophie Flack
The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer - Michelle Hodkin
With All My Soul - Rachel Vincent (though any Soul Screamers cover would make beautiful art)
Dreams of Gods and Monsters - Laini Taylor
Cress - Marissa Meyer
Bright Before Sunrise - Tiffany Schmidt
Before I Fall - Lauren Oliver
This is What Happy Looks Like - Jennifer E. Smith
Anna and the French Kiss - Stephanie Perkins

Book covers are my favourite! I hate to say it, but sometimes I judge a book by its cover. What are your favourite covers you'd want framed? Any of these interest you?

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