Firecracker by David Iserson

Being Astrid Krieger is absolutely all it’s cracked up to be.

She lives in a rocket ship in the backyard of her parents’ estate.

She was kicked out of the elite Bristol Academy and she’s intent on her own special kind of revenge to whomever betrayed her.

She only loves her grandfather, an incredibly rich politician who makes his money building nuclear warheads.

It’s all good until…

“We think you should go to the public school,” Dad said.
This was just a horrible, mean thing to say. Just hearing the words “public school” out loud made my mouth taste like urine (which, not coincidentally, is exactly how the public school smells).

Will Astrid finally meet her match in the form of public school? Will she find out who betrayed her and got her expelled from Bristol? Is Noah, the sweet and awkward boy she just met, hiding something?

Description taken from Goodreads.

So the first thing you can probably deter from the blurb is that Astrid is a brat. She’s a genuine witch who doesn’t change much throughout the course of the story–which I did feel badly about because I wanted to see her grow more (isn’t that the whole point of stories like these?)–but she’s hilarious, which is the upside to it all and also something I can’t overlook.

There is so much to this story that made me laugh. It’s actually quite frustrating, because I wanted to hate Astrid so much. She’s irritating, mean, selfish and lives the whole book with the mentality that she’s better than everyone else.

new girl gifs cool face sarcasm

And of course she’s rich too.

I'm so rich funny gif

See, the thing is, I figure public and private high school can go one of two ways for anyone, and this mentality applies to most things. It can either suck, or suck less. Things like the scale of how much less suck there is doesn’t really matter. It’s really a matter of perspective. I wasn’t quite sure how things would go for Astrid, because how much high school sucks for her didn’t appear to be a popularity thing or an academic thing or a musical/elective thing. If anything, the humiliation of having to go to public school was the worst. That, and being surrounded by people she can’t control. Oh, the horror.

welcome to the real world gif

If you’re easily offended, this book is not for you. Let me reiterate that, because this book is worth it if you’re going after a good laugh, a fun story and imperfect but real characters.

this book is not for you

All in all, this was an amusing, hilarious story that had decent characters and a decent storyline. I would’ve liked to see a lot more emotion and growth in the characters and an evolution throughout the story, but I did like where Astrid and friends ended up and while I felt like I should’ve hated Astrid, I didn’t. A solid 3.5 stars.

pg count for the hardback: 336

Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins

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.

Description taken from Goodreads.

So here’s a wildly unpopular opinion for you: I didn’t love Rachel Hawkin’s HEX HALL series. I got about eighty pages in to the first book and didn’t read the rest. The main character of the HEX HALL series just didn’t cut it for me, and it’s not like I’m really into paranormal in the first place.

Honestly, I can’t say whether I think people will enjoy or won’t enjoy this book. I was in the middle. I think that because I didn’t love the HEX HALL series, it was easier for me because I came in not really caring. I didn’t know what to expect. All around, I do think this book is worth a shot because if you are a Hex Hall fan, I’m sure you’ll be eager for more of Hawkins’s writing. If you aren’t a Hex Hall fan or haven’t read the books, well, REBEL BELLE is attractive, has good writing and a unique premise.

The thing is that I feel like Hawkins captured the personality exactly of what I expected Harper to be like. Haughty, arrogant, somewhat shallow, somewhat stupid in a “it’s common sense, c’mon” way, that’s what I expected her to be like and in my mind, that’s exactly what I got. Those are her defining traits and even though I didn’t like David either because of what a jerk he was especially in the beginning, I pitied David because he had to put up with her “slightly superior” self.

The action in this was okay, at the very least and the very most. The whole book has this sluggish feel to it, mostly–I feel–because of the contemporary start. The fighting scenes are good, but still felt a little dragged down and not as intense as many of the fighting scenes I’ve seen, even in contemporary-fantasy fiction. The adventure, mystery and paladin themes were quirky and hard to understand but it was still a cool concept and I liked the way David and Harper had to learn to work together and eventually became a couple. I’m still on the fence about how I feel about them in a romance, but I feel like Harper and David both grew due to it so I’m open to it.

Overall, the plot and pacing to this were thrown off–but I was entertained by the story overall. Pacing got a little faster and a lot more stable towards the end of the book and things only got better after the initially rocky beginning. I would like to see more of where the book was going when it ended in the next books, because it is going in a good direction. I’d also love to see more growth in the characters, because Harper, David and countless other supporting characters were just really shallow for me, but overall 3 stars.

pg count for the hardback: 345

Series: Rebel Belle

Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman

In 1930s Munich, danger lurks behind dark corners, and secrets are buried deep within the city. But Gretchen Müller, who grew up in the National Socialist Party under the wing of her “uncle” Dolf, has been shielded from that side of society ever since her father traded his life for Dolf’s, and Gretchen is his favorite, his pet.

Uncle Dolf is none other than Adolf Hitler. And Gretchen follows his every command.

Until she meets a fearless and handsome young Jewish reporter named Daniel Cohen. Gretchen should despise Daniel, yet she can’t stop herself from listening to his story: that her father, the adored Nazi martyr, was actually murdered by an unknown comrade. She also can’t help the fierce attraction brewing between them, despite everything she’s been taught to believe about Jews.

As Gretchen investigates the very people she’s always considered friends, she must decide where her loyalties lie. Will she choose the safety of her former life as a Nazi darling, or will she dare to dig up the truth—even if it could get her and Daniel killed?

Description taken from Goodreads. 

Another review from the YA Valentines authors! This time, it’s Anne Blankman, author of the historical fiction PRISONER OF NIGHT AND FOG. You might’ve read my interview with her during my 14 Debuts event. Let’s start out with the main fault to this book though so that the rest of this review will make sense.

This book is a huge info-dump. I think the hardest part about reading historical fiction is the balance between history and fiction, and that’s one thing that’s not done well here. If you’re a history nerd, you will love this book because of the sheer amount of information on every single page. This book revolves around the fact that’s historical, and while that’s not a bad thing, it’s also not a good thing. I will give PRISONER credit for one thing though, the world-building and research is excellently done.

Other than that, there were two main faults attributed with this one ^, and it had to do with the mystery being too drawn out and the plot starting to get repetitive right around the middle.

Now to the good stuff. Besides the whole information overload, I loved how entertaining this was. Gretchen felt real to me and the struggles she went through, the fears she faced and the triumphs she felt were all awesome experiences. I really appreciated her relationship with her father and mother, her brother and especially her “Uncle” Dolf. If you want to read about more relationships like Gretchen’s with the fictional Adolf Hitler, you should read GATED by Amy Christine Parker.

GATED is about a girl named Lyla who lives in a religious cult under a psychotic leader named Pioneer. Pioneer claims her family and the others who live in their community are the chosen, destined to be led by Pioneer who is directed by a higher power (or so he says) into a save haven that will protect them from the end of the world. In both this book and PRISONER, the authors do amazing jobs of showing just how deep these their heroines are, and how much they truly believe in the person who is guiding them the wrong way. This was fascinating for me to see again and I really loved that about the writing of this book. You can read more of my thoughts on Gated in my review.

So many of the characters in PRISONER I truly cared about, or loved to hate. The romance was good. I liked seeing Gretchen’s motivations and just how human she was. The writing was also great. There are many quotable passages and the pacing only got faster and faster, which was a good thing for me.

Overall, I did like this book. I would say 3.5 stars. The heavy scenes were not so incredibly heavy that I couldn’t plow through them, and the quality writing and world building made up for some of the overdose in knowledge. I do hope to see more historical fiction from Anne Blankman, and I would love to see how she grows as a writer from here on out. I will definitely be following up with her books.

pg count for the hardback: 401

Series: Prisoner of Night and Fog

The Paper Sword by Robert Priest: Great Fantasy, Storytelling and Plot — For Fans of the King Arthur Legends and Greek Myths

On the spell-crossed Phaer Isle, teenage Xemion dreams of being a great swordsman. When he finds a blade-shaped stick, he fashions it to look like a real sword. Knowing that the laws of their cruel Pathan conquerors would require a death sentence for possession of such an object, his friend Saheli demands he destroy it. He agrees, but insists on performing just one sword ceremony. When his mastery of the weapon, a skill long forgotten, is witnessed by a mysterious man named Vallaine, the two friends are invited to join a planned rebellion. At first they refuse, but when a sadistic official discovers their transgressions, they are forced to embark on a dangerous journey to the ruins of the ancient city of Ulde, where rebel forces are gathering.

Armed with only their wits and the painted sword, they face Thralls, Triplicants, dragons, rage-wraiths, and a host of other spell-crossed beings. As they approach the Great Kone, source of all spell-craft, Saheli’s fear of magic and Xemion’s attraction to it bind them in a crossed spell of their own â?? one that threatens to separate the two forever.

One thing about this book particularly stuck out to me from the very beginning. The fantasy.

From the world-building to the descriptions to the creatures within this magical world, I absolutely loved every second of learning about it. It definitely heads the more traditional fantasy route, so fans of Greek mythology stories will love this book and all that comes along after it. The storytelling is great as well, really adding onto and building up on the adventure parts to THE PAPER SWORD.

Which leads me to, well, the paper sword.

The paper sword confused me in the beginning. In the first few pages of THE PAPER SWORD, a lot is portrayed both in the sword and in Xemion. While taking care of the sword, Xemion shows off a lot of different sides to himself. His fearless nature, naivety, childishness, patience and care are all shown in the simple acts to finding the sword, getting the sword, making the sword and wanting to keep the sword. In all of that as well,  Priest displayed Saheli and her relationship to Xemion before and after the sword. I felt like these few beginning parts were extremely crucial to the story and in all the roles it played, it did really well. It set the tone for the rest of THE PAPER SWORD, and the rest of it continued the same way. That is, with careful and meaningful narration.

As a fantasy read, I really enjoyed this book and the events that Xemion went through. While the storytelling is that of the Greek myths, Xemion himself seems to me like a King Arthur character and I truly enjoyed his journey of growing up and learning to use the sword. The pacing in THE PAPER SWORD speeds up or slows down accordingly as well. Though some scenes were hard to follow or I felt could’ve been tightened more, overall, 3.5 stars.

pg count for the paperback: 224

Series: Spell Crossed

How to Love by Katie Cotugno

Before: Reena Montero has loved Sawyer LeGrande for as long as she can remember: as natural as breathing, as endless as time. But he’s never seemed to notice that Reena even exists until one day, impossibly, he does. Reena and Sawyer fall in messy, complicated love. But then Sawyer disappears from their humid Florida town without a word, leaving a devastated-and pregnant-Reena behind.

After: Almost three years have passed, and there’s a new love in Reena’s life: her daughter, Hannah. Reena’s gotten used to being without Sawyer, and she’s finally getting the hang of this strange, unexpected life. But just as swiftly and suddenly as he disappeared, Sawyer turns up again. Reena doesn’t want anything to do with him, though she’d be lying if she said Sawyer’s being back wasn’t stirring something in her. After everything that’s happened, can Reena really let herself love Sawyer LeGrande again?

Description taken from Goodreads. 

Of course she can really let herself love Sawyer LeGrande.

You know what I would have really respected Katie Cotugno if she had done? Not let Reena fall back in love with Sawyer. I would be shocked, but I would probably be laughing the entire way. Not because I think it’s funny, not because I don’t believe in love or anything like that, I just assumed from the beginning that there was no way Reena would ever end up not loving him, and it’s so blatantly obvious throughout the entire story that I couldn’t bring myself to ever think of it as something different.

Looking back on my first time reading it, I think what got to me the most was the sheer predictability of the plot. In fact, a lot of YA contemporary romance books are like that. It’s just the execution of it all, the way you present the predictability and the way you work with it that changes everything, and I just couldn’t find out how to love this book.

There were two main reasons why the plot didn’t work for me the way it was executed. Reason 1 was Reena, the main character and heroine of all of this.

Reena wasn’t annoying or unlikable. In fact, I quite liked Reena. I just hated the way she told this story, because throughout the entire story it feels like she’s in a perpetual state of loving Sawyer and for 3/4 of this book trying to lie to herself about it. Even during that time that she’s mad at Sawyer though, there’s something about her that doesn’t truly convince me that she doesn’t want him around. Even after all this time, she’s ready and willing to spend time with him when he invites her along somewhere.

Oh yeah, and I mention she has a boyfriend? She does.

And Reena brings me to my second reason why the plot presentation here didn’t work for me.

Instalove. So maybe it technically isn’t instalove, because Reena and Sawyer were in love before, but I’m counting it as instalove, because there are a ton of sub-issues I had with the romance here. Almost as soon as Sawyer gets back, Reena’s out kissing him.

taylor lautner gif no

And she lies to her boyfriend about it.

But then after the instalove, there’s issues such as a meaningless love. Reena claims to love Sawyer from the very beginning, but this love leads her to let Sawyer kiss her while he was the boyfriend of her ex-best friend.

ugh no gif

What is the appeal to cheating? Don’t we all agree that cheating is a no?

And then there’s the other part of their meaningless love. Reena never goes over why exactly she loves Sawyer. There’s no depth to their love. Reena claims to have always loved it, but explanation never goes more than skin deep.

Despite than the romance here and the plot, I did enjoy this story. I liked Reena and many of the supporting characters. I did have issues with decisions they made or opinions they had, but it was all trivial things. I actually didn’t find Sawyer at all a likable kind of character, he was mostly just dull for me and his contribution to the romance was minimal. Overall, I just don’t think this story was for me. I’m really picky with my contemporary, mostly because it’s not my favorite genre. I do think that contemporary lovers should definitely give this a try. In terms of prose and pace, Cotugno does a fabulous job with her writing and the general show of the ups and downs of any relationships is good. 2 stars.

I don’t think this was how the song was intended, but this would be the theme song for how I feel about this book. Take it in a literal sense, but fill in don’t want every time she says want.

pg count for the hardback: 389

Unhinged by A.G. Howard

Alyssa Gardner has been down the rabbit hole and faced the bandersnatch. She saved the life of Jeb, the guy she loves, and escaped the machinations of the disturbingly seductive Morpheus and the vindictive Queen Red. Now all she has to do is graduate high school and make it through prom so she can attend the prestigious art school in London she’s always dreamed of.

That would be easier without her mother, freshly released from an asylum, acting overly protective and suspicious. And it would be much simpler if the mysterious Morpheus didn’t show up for school one day to tempt her with another dangerous quest in the dark, challenging Wonderland—where she (partly) belongs.

As prom and graduation creep closer, Alyssa juggles Morpheus’s unsettling presence in her real world with trying to tell Jeb the truth about a past he’s forgotten. Glimpses of Wonderland start to bleed through her art and into her world in very disturbing ways, and Morpheus warns that Queen Red won’t be far behind.

If Alyssa stays in the human realm, she could endanger Jeb, her parents, and everyone she loves. But if she steps through the rabbit hole again, she’ll face a deadly battle that could cost more than just her head.

Description taken from Goodreads. 

It would be an understatement to say that A.G. Howard has a presence in my part of the book blogosphere. She’s part of countless giveaways, twitter conversations and author circles. Not to mention that most of my tweeps adore her. So during the UNHINGED release madness (:3 that was totally intended) I decided to read these books.

I hated the Alice in Wonderland movie. It’s annoying and tasteless. Don’t even get me started on Alice.

The books were better, entertaining and interesting at the very least.

Then you get to these books.

I’m not going to lie and say that SPLINTERED was perfect. I did enjoy it immensely, but it wasn’t without it’s issues. I had a constant love/hate relationship with Jeb and the plot was slow and at times boring.

Before I go on, I should probably explain the thing with Jeb so I don’t have a hoard of angry fangirls coming after me though you can’t really reason with fangirls…

Jeb.

Okay. Jeb. He’s cool, funny, smart and a great artist. He cares about Alyssa a lot. That’s all fine. In fact, I think I would’ve appreciated him a lot more if he’d just stayed a best friend character. But he’s incredibly annoying in the fact that he thinks it’s his job to tell Alyssa where to go when. Controlling people are irritating, and why Jeb thinks he has any say over what Alyssa can do just because he’s her best friend is beyond me. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. Then there’s the whole matter of Tae. I hate Tae. She’s the mixture of so many traits I don’t like about people. To keep it short, she and Alyssa don’t get along. Tae’s also Jeb’s girlfriend. Tae has a history of being a jerk to Alyssa, and still Jeb doesn’t do anything to try to break them apart or hear both sides of the story when they fight.

I did like SPLINTERED. If I were to rate it now, it would’ve gotten a solid 4 stars, but the slow pace in the beginning and Jeb himself lowered this book from a 4.5 to a 4 for me.

Now on to UNHINGED itself. I was expecting something as good or worse than SPLINTERED, but UNHINGED blew me away. It’s so much better than SPLINTERED.

I think it has to do partially with the fact that Alyssa actually knows about Wonderland now and she’s not just stuck in a perpetual state of drawing out scenes, but for the most part, I think UNHINGED was just better as a whole. The one thing that frustrated me was how Jeb didn’t get his memories back until near the end of the book. If UNHINGED had been like SPLINTERED, this would’ve brought down the whole story for me.

But it’s not like SPLINTERED.

The tension between Morpheus (a character I enjoy much more than Jeb), Alyssa and Wonderland was all done very well. The mystery themes behind the story and the plot elements here were well done and kept me occupied. I loved the overall tone to the story and I thought the characters all grew very well. As before, Howard does an amazing job of pronouncing even her supporting characters and showing the twisted natures to Wonderland itself and the characters that come from it. I appreciated the insight into Alyssa’s family life since her mother came back and her mom’s history with Morpheus.

As far as love-triangles go, this isn’t too good or too bad. I appreciate it, I like it, but I do hope to see more development in the third and final book.

Overall, I really enjoyed this story. It was a ton of fun and madness. Characters are all well done, the cover is beautiful and I truly cannot wait for the third book. 4.3 stars.

unhinged by A.G. Howard cover

pg count for the ebook: 400

Series: Splintered

Far From You by Tess Sharpe

Nine months. Two weeks. Six days.

That’s how long recovering addict Sophie’s been drug-free. Four months ago her best friend, Mina, died in what everyone believes was a drug deal gone wrong – a deal they think Sophie set up. Only Sophie knows the truth. She and Mina shared a secret, but there was no drug deal. Mina was deliberately murdered.

Forced into rehab for an addiction she’d already beaten, Sophie’s finally out and on the trail of the killer – but can she track them down before they come for her?

Description taken from Goodreads.

This was a DNF for me, somewhere around 240 pages.

First thing that’s annoying about this book. This book is narrated in Sophie’s point of view, and she basically repeats the sentence “I’m stuck here and Mina’s killer is walking free.” over and over again before Sharpe finally gets to the actual issue of Mina. The entire book is slow paced and drags a little bit, which was disappointing for a murder mystery, but that part especially was annoying. I can only hear Mina’s killer is walking free. Mina’s killer is walking free. Mina’s killer is walking free. so many times before I start to get really annoyed.

Then there was the thing I didn’t know before going into this book. Don’t worry–it’s not any kind of spoiler since it’s blatantly apparent and the entire point of this book. Mina and Sophie were in a relationship. This is an LGBT story. Sophie’s bisexual and Mina’s a lesbian. Mina wanted to hide because she was scared of what people would think, but Sophie was totally okay with coming out.

And Mina’s killer is walking free.

I don’t usually seek out LGBT stories, so this was a surprise.

The real issue I had with this book having to do with the LGBT issues in it though really wasn’t connected to the LGBT side to it at all. To read about my preferences when it comes to LGBT stories though, you should read this review from my friend Alyssa @ The Eater of Books about FAR FROM YOU. I have the same opinion as her when it comes to the romance of these stories. It was the fact that while Sophie was acting like some sort of brave, awesome, I-love-Mina-and-I-don’t-care, in reality she’s just a coward and a real jerk to Trevor, who’s Mina’s brother.

Oh, and Mina’s killer is walking free.

Trevor is the an awesome and cool guy–not to mention sweet to both his sister and Sophie–but she keeps leading him on, even going so far as to say that it *air quotes* would’ve been him, if not Mina.

No. No, no, no, no, no. That’s not how it works. You choose one or the other. You don’t just keep leading people on, toying with their emotions and who they are.

Oh yeah, and I have I mentioned that Mina’s killer is walking free?

You could say that I had a problem with the entire romance of this book. Yeah, you could say that. And you’d be right.

Since I DNFed, I have no idea who the killer is when it all boils down to it. That’s the thing though. I should know, because I should be having this burning desire to know, just for the sake of knowing. To figure it out. But I don’t want to, which speaks for how weak this murder mystery is. Sharpe makes too many mistakes drawing out scenes. The flashbacks between every single chapter were helpful, but boring. The mystery was weak here and there was too many plot opportunities wasted. I do have to say that I did like some of the characters–Macy, Trevor, a few of the supporting characters, but other than that I couldn’t stand this story. The premise was good, but the execution was terrible.

1 star.

pg count for the paperback: 352