Giveaway + ARC Review: All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

all the bright places by jennifer niven

The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor and Park in this compelling, exhilarating, and beautiful story about a girl who learns to live from a boy who intends to die.

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

This is an intense, gripping novel perfect for fans of Jay Asher, Rainbow Rowell, John Green, Gayle Forman, and Jenny Downham from a talented new voice in YA, Jennifer Niven.

Description taken from Goodreads. This review copy was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. These opinions are my own. Thanks to Lydia Finn and Knopf for giving me the chance to read this book! It will be coming out on January 6th, 2015.

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It’s hard to explain exactly why ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES is so beautiful, but let me start off by saying that this story is not your typical story about death or loss or bullying.

This story can’t really be compared to anything else. I wouldn’t say it’s TFIOS, and I definitely would not say it’s Eleanor & Park, but I would say that this book has an entirely different feeling to it, just like TFIOS. Finch, in particular, is someone who is entirely his own. While Violet struggles with suicide and loss in this book, Finch deals with mental illness and bullying. These two people meet on top of a bell tower, which I’m sure is a great way for them to tell their future children and grandchildren that they met.

The thing is, I’m not sure it’s so much about the bell tower and more about finding someone–not even someone who you think you’ll somehow come to love someday–but just someone, in your darkest moment. (excuse for that horrendously cheesy and deep line: I read too much YA).

The thing is, and I love that in this story: Finch and Violet are just people. Some of you reading this might hate me for this, but Finch is the same as Augustus Waters. I think that if they ever met, they would either become the worst of enemies or the best of friends. What I mean by saying that they’re the same is not that they’re similarly clever or cool or disabled or frustrated, but they’re similarly real and normal and here. Beneath the sum of their parts, they’re still just human, and Jennifer Niven portrays that brilliantly and heartbreakingly. (Okay, I’m using up all my this-is-my-YA-life chips today).

That’s the thing, really. Please, go into this story and read it and love it and be surprised by it and DON’T PUT OUT ANY SPOILERS. Or else… I’ll maybe start feeling something such as…

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And I already have feeling overload from ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES.

I’m probably reading too much into it, but what I appreciated about the way Niven set this book up was how little I knew at the beginning. I didn’t know what mental illness Finch had, for one thing, and for the sake of spoilers I’m not going to mention it here. I think that goes along with the idea that Finch and Violet are just people. Things like the things that are happening to Violet and Finch happen to everyday people, not aliens or monsters or something faraway and distant.

This book hurts. It’s sad, shocking, crazy, heartbreaking and beautiful–but ultimately hopeful. It’s well-written, well-paced, hilarious at times, and well built up. I loved the way the POV switched between Violet and Finch and how they, in the end, come to gradually fall for each other. Niven writes this story in a way that is different from any other author I’ve read before, and it’s not sad in the traditional, cry-your-eyes-out sense. It’s sad in a way that makes this feel less like a movie and more like real life. Great story. 4.5 stars.

Enter to win a copy on my blog, RealityLapse! The giveaway winner will be posted on this blog when the dream cast for ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES is posted on the 30th! (If you have any questions please read the terms and conditions. Everything is in the Rafflecopter.)

pg count for the hardback: 384

Review: The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey

the fifth wave by rick yancey

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker.

Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother—or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

Description taken from Goodreads.

Great premise.

Wow, this book is pretty long.

^ My first two reactions to this book ^

Great premise.

Wow, that book was pretty long.

^ My last two reactions to this book. ^

THE 5TH WAVE starts out well, if a little slowly. There’s so much to be said about the ideas, the characters, the way that the story is told–but I don’t believe that THE 5TH WAVE is mainstream. When this book is made into a movie, I think this could be incredibly popular. Until then, it will remain adored/completely-not-adored by book lovers and the occasional curious reader everywhere books are held.

That’s not to say that THE 5TH WAVE isn’t good. It’s actually spectacularly written, and after you get into it, it’s a rollercoaster of a ride. Yancey writes in such a way that I can’t help but care about each and every single one of the characters, even the villains. He brings up strong points and evidence to support his dystopian world and moves the plot in a way that is realistic and well thought through.

There were great twists and turns in this story, and overall I felt like it was really well done. The aliens actually act like humans, the way they’re portrayed in the blurb, and the humans actually feel danger and use their heads. The characters have priorities, and THE 5TH WAVE is extremely well-rounded. It ended in a way that left me wanting the next book RIGHT THERE, but alas–it has to get to the library.

My major complaint about this story, and another thing I think will be fixed in the making of the movie, is that the POV shifts. I believe that there are major players in this book whose perspectives needed to be told for the book to be written the way it is, but there are some perspectives where I’m not exactly sure why Yancey would switch it. I didn’t even realize what was happening until about two or three shifts into the POV.

All in all, if they do it correctly (PLEASE let them do it correctly), I think that THE 5th WAVE movie will be a lot of fun to watch–but the book definitely will not be for everyone. I would recommend it for people who are okay with slow pacing but a great story and plot.

pg count for the hardback: 480

Series: The Fifth Wave

Review: The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd

the madman's daughter by megan shepherd

Sixteen-year-old Juliet Moreau has built a life for herself in London—working as a maid, attending church on Sundays, and trying not to think about the scandal that ruined her life. After all, no one ever proved the rumors about her father’s gruesome experiments. But when she learns he is alive and continuing his work on a remote tropical island, she is determined to find out if the accusations are true.

Accompanied by her father’s handsome young assistant, Montgomery, and an enigmatic castaway, Edward—both of whom she is deeply drawn to—Juliet travels to the island, only to discover the depths of her father’s madness: He has experimented on animals so that they resemble, speak, and behave as humans. And worse, one of the creatures has turned violent and is killing the island’s inhabitants. Torn between horror and scientific curiosity, Juliet knows she must end her father’s dangerous experiments and escape her jungle prison before it’s too late. Yet as the island falls into chaos, she discovers the extent of her father’s genius—and madness—in her own blood.

Inspired by H. G. Wells’s classic The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Madman’s Daughter is a dark and breathless Gothic thriller about the secrets we’ll do anything to know and the truths we’ll go to any lengths to protect.

Description taken from Goodreads.

People told me this book was disturbing. They didn’t tell me how disturbing.

There’s a quote from Paula Stokes that goes, “When you care about someone, you can’t just turn that off because you learn that they betrayed you.” That is exactly the feeling I get when I read this book. I can’t even begin to explain the madness that is this story and the goodness in the evil of the characters, especially in the villains. Shepherd created this story with some pretty amazing and complex characters, and that is just the first of the things she should be commended for.

One of the biggest conflicts in this story is the self-conflict that Juliet feels as well as the conflict she feels with the people around her. This book has a fairly small cast (bordering on medium) that Juliet is constantly questioning at one point or another. That makes it sound like a bad thing, but I didn’t think it was. None of the characters of THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER, including Juliet, are goody-goodies who are completely for or completely against what Dr. Moreau and Juliet started.

All of the characters in THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER are strong in one way or another. (Speaking of characters, I would’ve loved to see more of Lucy and Adam). Juliet is bold and brave, a very strong heroine without having to prove anything about herself–refreshing after books that point out time and time again how the heroine doesn’t need anyone and is strong all on her own. She’s not someone who is really cute in any sense. She’s not busy focusing on herself, but more of others, in her own way. She has her own insecurities as well as strengths. And she’s got a brain, by the way, and she uses it. It’s not one she just talks about. Like I said, refreshing.

I won’t say I was entirely okay with Montgomery or Juliet’s father or even Edward. They all have their own flaws, just like Juliet does. Montgomery is trapped in this eternal cycle of worshipping Juliet’s father while still knowing at heart that what he’s doing is wrong. Juliet’s father is delusional and utterly insane, but he’s still Juliet’s father. Edward… I don’t even know where to begin with Edward. For most of the story, I was set against him, but Shepherd completely messed that up too (in the last 50 pages of the book, no less). I was just as confused as Juliet about each of these characters, which I’ll say was a pretty impressive move. I hated some of Juliet’s reactions to how the people around her acted, but I could understand her at the same time.

There are lots of questions about morality, abnormality, madness, and how far is too far to go under the pretenses of science. Shepherd addresses all of these taboo topics skillfully, in a way that the reader can see just how multi-dimensional these ideas are. It’s not hard to understand the different dissection parts and there’s not a lot of vocabulary to learn over the course of the story.

For those of you who are wondering which book the quote is from, that’s from her upcoming book (that I read and think is fantastic) Liars, Inc. Add it to your TBR! 

Let’s talk characters. Juliet. Edward. Cymbeline. I can blame school Shakespeare studies for my recognition of these names. The very first thing I think of when I hear the name Juliet is Romeo & Juliet, a story that I think is massively overrated–but that’s for another time.

Find out about the No Fear, Shakespeare SparkNotes series and The Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

As soon as I saw the groupings of names, I figured something was up. I can understand slipping in a few references, but there was way too many characters for it to be just a simple admiration of Shakespeare.

This book and the gruesome secrets behind what Dr. Moreau has done–closer to the main characters of THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER than I ever thought in the beginning–were something I never saw coming. Fans of THE MONSTUMOLOGIST by Rick Yancey or anyone who thinks Virals by Kathy Reichs meets the “pursuit of science” would be interesting to see, this book is for you. I would strongly caution animal lovers or animal (even human) rights activists against reading this book.

THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER…. I really would not agree with everything that is in this book. I don’t mean that I disliked parts of it (I actually did dislike the romance. All of it.) but what I mean to say is that there are so many controversial topics in this book that it’s hard for me to have a strong opinion. One thing I can say–I do believe this book is one of those truly fearless books. I do think it’s very well-written. There’s amazing descriptions and prose. The horror is horrifying without being too scary. The topics are covered in a way that doesn’t cover up anything, but instead shows all the complexity to these issues.

All in all, I would recommend this book. 9 out of 10 times, I most likely would not recommend this book to anyone under the age of 15/16. Of course, there are exceptions to that–but this book is graphic at times and kind of creepy at others. For the right person, this book is brilliant in many aspects. I totally did not expect the ending and I can’t wait for the next book. 4.3 stars.

pg count for the hardback: 420

Review: The Secret of Isobel Key by Jen McConnel

the secret of isobel key by jen mcconnel

Lou is in the middle of a quarter-life crisis. Fresh out of college, she’s unemployed and unsure of herself. But when she gets the chance to escape to Scotland with her best friend, it could be the answer to her quest for self-discovery. The trip is not at all what she expected, especially when her tour guide turns out to be the dreamy historian Brian, and together they embark on a hunt for information about Isobel Key, a woman accused of witchcraft in the seventeenth century.

They set out to learn the truth of the condemned witch, but Lou isn’t prepared for the knowledge that awaits her. She must face her own demons if she has any hope of righting the wrongs of the past.

Flashing between seventeenth century Scotland and a contemporary romance, THE SECRET OF ISOBEL KEY is a mystery that will please readers of all ages.

Description taken from Goodreads.

I’m not a fan of witch stories, but I had to try this book because it’s by Jen McConnel, and I love the fontwork on the front cover.

THE SECRET OF ISOBEL KEY was good and bad in many ways. It did surprise me as a witchy read, but it also didn’t. I felt like Lou was really plain next to Isobel, and she fell in love with Brian way too easily. I’m not at all a fan of instalove, so I couldn’t go for the romance. In those terms, I really didn’t love Lou. It wasn’t really anything about her, I actually did like her friendship with Tammy (even though the two didn’t seem to get along more often that they actually did) and I thought she was a good character, but I felt like I didn’t see enough of her. It was that, and she paled in comparison to the vibrancy of the characters in the historical part of McConnel’s story.

I had hoped to see more from Lou. Even though she was a letdown of a character, she still kept the plot steady and I enjoyed her role in what happened. The two stories tie together really well and I liked that a lot.

Then there was the historical aspect of THE SECRET OF ISOBEL KEY. In my mind, this was a lot more fun to read about. The book is very well-researched and I felt like the settings were real. I felt bad for Isobel, and she was a real character to me. In a way, this is the story of a villain–but it’s also really not. I loved watching her grow up and seeing her change as time went on, as well as never succumbing or giving up. She was a great character and I always wanted her to break through in the end.

All in all, great world building and historical writing. If Jen ever decides to write historical fiction, it will be one heck of a ride. I think that my disappointment in Lou was more than made up with the way that the two stories worked in tandem, and I’m really interested to see how things will change in HER SECRET INHERITANCE (the second book in this series). Overall, I would recommend it to historical/paranormal fans. For those of you wondering about the New Adult label on this book, don’t worry if you’re not usually a fan of NA. I really am not either, and this reads just like a YA book despite the fact that Lou can’t really be classified as a teen. 3 stars.

Review: Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch

snow like ashes by sara raasch

A heartbroken girl. A fierce warrior. A hero in the making.

Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. Now, the Winterians’ only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been waiting for the opportunity to steal back Winter’s magic and rebuild the kingdom ever since.

Orphaned as an infant during Winter’s defeat, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee, raised by the Winterians’ general, Sir. Training to be a warrior—and desperately in love with her best friend, and future king, Mather — she would do anything to help her kingdom rise to power again.

So when scouts discover the location of the ancient locket that can restore Winter’s magic, Meira decides to go after it herself. Finally, she’s scaling towers, fighting enemy soldiers, and serving her kingdom just as she’s always dreamed she would. But the mission doesn’t go as planned, and Meira soon finds herself thrust into a world of evil magic and dangerous politics – and ultimately comes to realize that her destiny is not, never has been, her own.

Description taken from Goodreads.


I had been waiting for this book so long and when I finally got the chance to read it, it didn’t disappoint. Right off the bat, two things I loved: characters and world-building. Descriptions of both the people as well as the scene was amazing and I felt like it gave me a perfect picture of what I was looking at. The season-settings were amazing and I loved the tensions between all the different kingdoms. Think of it as a cross between Game of Thrones and Julie Kagawa’s THE IRON FEY.

Their hair hung in tendrils as dark as the night sky, swaying in the dust kicked up from the roads that wove through Autumn’s tent cities. Their skin glistened the same coppery brown as the leaves on some of their trees, only where the leaves were crinkled and dry, the Autumnians’ faces were perfectly creamy.

I touched my own skin, as pale as the clouds drifting over us, and ran my fingers across the cap covering my blindingly white hair.

I enjoyed every word of the world-building and getting to know these kingdoms, becoming lost in the words.

It isn’t even the world-building that impressed me the most though. It was the characters. Admittedly, sometimes I was exasperated because of the LOVE TRIANGLE in this story and the way that it feels like Meira tries too hard sometimes. I almost feel like certain character points are trying to be pushed when I can already tell things through her actions. Even so, I loved the relationships between people and the multi-dimensionalism in each character.

And, I do have to say that the love triangle isn’t that bad. Both have bad sides and good sides. Both are flawed. Both are believable, so I guess it works in this story, but I didn’t love both of them. I was strongly for one side, so even though I can see why this love triangle works, I don’t agree with it.



Moving on. Overall, there were so many things I LOVED about this story, and there was nothing I especially disliked. I did think it was slow at parts and a little repetitive, but overall the story was brilliant and the world-building/characters were amazing. I love this debut, even though it was incredibly long, and I can’t wait to see what else happens in this world. I NEED THE SEQUEL. Amazing debut that I would recommend for high fantasy fans and Sarah J. Maas fans. (not kidding here). 4.5 stars.

Read my Would You Rather with Sara Raasch.

pg count for the hardback: 422

Book Blitz: Beautiful Curse by Jen McConnel


McConnel, a contemporary retelling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche!

I’ve heard so much about this book and, as it is a new release from Jen McConnel (author of DAUGHTER OF CHAOS and THE SECRET OF ISOBEL KEY) I couldn’t help but want to love it. I can’t wait to share this book with all of you, and I can’t believe it’s here! Check back soon for my review of THE SECRET OF ISOBEL KEY and BEAUTIFUL CURSE.

beautiful curse by jen mcconnel

Add BEAUTIFUL CURSE to Goodreads

Out now from Swoon Romance.

Sixteen-year-old Mya Jones is cursed.

She is, hands down, the most beautiful creature on earth. But beauty can wound, and Mya finds herself

reviled and shunned by her peers. If there is even a chance that she could start over, Mya longs to take

it, no matter the risks.

So when the strange Mr. Merk offers her a new life away from home, Mya is hesitant but hopeful. Only

she didn’t count on the mysterious Ross, or her feelings for him.

BEAUTIFUL CURSE is a contemporary retelling of the myth of Psyche and Cupid.


Goodreads | Swoon Romance |


Amazon | B&N |

beautiful curse teaser 5


About the Author Jen  McConnel-0034


Jen McConnel first began writing poetry as a child. A Michigander by birth, she now lives and writes in the beautiful state of North Carolina. A graduate of Western Michigan University, she also holds a MS in Library Science from Clarion University of Pennsylvania. When she isn’t crafting worlds of fiction, she teaches college writing composition and yoga. Once upon a time, she was a middle school teacher, a librarian, and a bookseller, but those are stories for another time. Her fiction titles include DAUGHTER OF CHAOS (YA), THE SECRET OF ISOBEL KEY (NA), and the recently released sequel, HER SECRET INHERITANCE. Visit to learn more.

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Review: The Doubt Factory by Paolo Bacigalupi

the doubt factory by paolo bacigalupi

n this page-turning contemporary thriller, National Book Award Finalist, Printz Award winner, and New York Times bestselling author Paolo Bacigalupi explores the timely issue of how public information is distorted for monetary gain, and how those who exploit it must be stopped.
Everything Alix knows about her life is a lie. At least that’s what a mysterious young man who’s stalking her keeps saying. But then she begins investigating the disturbing claims he makes against her father. Could her dad really be at the helm of a firm that distorts the truth and covers up wrongdoing by hugely profitable corporations that have allowed innocent victims to die? Is it possible that her father is the bad guy, and that the undeniably alluring criminal who calls himself Moses–and his radical band of teen activists–is right? Alix has to make a choice, and time is running out, but can she truly risk everything and blow the whistle on the man who loves her and raised her?

Description taken from Goodreads.

The road trip through a story is never quite smooth. There are ups and downs, feels and sometimes plotholes.


And many other things. You know, when I was reading this book I went into it thinking SHIP BREAKER or THE DROWNED CITIES (Bacigalupi’s other books). Both SHIP BREAKER and THE DROWNED CITIES were both awesome books with great plot, unique premise and characters, good writing and more. Bacigalupi has a very unique and entertaining voice that brings life to the settings in his stories.

I couldn’t find that voice in THE DOUBT FACTORY.

let me just find it I CAN'T FIND IT gif

This book actually starts out really well. I loved the suspense and mystery themes. It almost reads like WATCHED by C.J. Lyons, except without many inappropriate aspects. It’s later on in the book that problems start arising. There’s speculation as to why Bacigalupi wrote this book, but what I’ve heard–and how THE DOUBT FACTORY reads–all point to the idea that this is a book with an agenda.

When people say book with an agenda, they mean that the author is trying to accomplish something by writing a certain story. Similarly, there’s movies with agendas, music with agendas, and so on. THE DOUBT FACTORY’s agenda is to spread the word about false advertising. Like Louis Sachar’s THE CARDTURNER, I felt great for the author because this a story and a cause they clearly care a lot about–but I don’t think it was executed the way that the particular cause deserves. Writers need to write what they want to write, the true stories in their minds, and I feel like this book just didn’t come as easily to both Bacigalupi or the reader.

Just to clarify, books with agendas are not all bad books. In fact, many of them are. A popular example is Cory Doctorow. Most of his books are books with agendas, and they cover their topics very well. Books with agendas are not written for lack of caring–it’s actually quite the opposite, I believe, but at the same time I think that these stories are just not the kind that come easily to people. Trying to make a cause into a book can be extremely difficult. Story writing in general is extremely difficult, so I commend Bacigalupi for attempting THE DOUBT FACTORY.

The thing is though, THE DOUBT FACTORY just didn’t work for me. The plot and pace were entirely unbelievable and the writing was definitely nowhere near the best that I’ve ever read. Nowhere, if you catch my drift. The logic is based on nothing, brand names are mentioned every other sentence and the characters were one-dimensional and flawed as well as entirely unrealistic. I really wanted to like this book, and I think with a little bit of straightening-out of plot this could be an amazing movie. However, the book just didn’t do it for me and I would not recommend it. (Please do go try Bacigalupi’s other books though! Such good writing, great characters and unique premise). 1 star.

pg count for the hardback: 496