Once Upon A Gif: Liars, Inc. by Paula Stokes

Once upon a gif is a feature by Hafsah and Asma at Iceybooks, where a pre-review is written with gifs. My full review of LIARS, INC. will come out on February 20th, 2015. 

liars, inc. by paula stokes

For fans of Gone Girl, I Hunt Killers, and TV’s How to Get Away with Murder.

Max Cantrell has never been a big fan of the truth, so when the opportunity arises to sell forged permission slips and cover stories to his classmates, it sounds like a good way to make a little money and liven up a boring senior year. With the help of his friends Preston and Parvati, Max starts Liars, Inc. Suddenly everybody needs something and the cash starts pouring in. Who knew lying could be so lucrative?

When Preston wants his own cover story to go visit a girl he met online, Max doesn’t think twice about hooking him up. Until Preston never comes home. Then the evidence starts to pile up—terrifying clues that lead the cops to Preston’s body. Terrifying clues that point to Max as the murderer.

Can Max find the real killer before he goes to prison for a crime he didn’t commit? In a story that Kirkus Reviews called “Captivating to the very end,” Paula Stokes starts with one single white lie and weaves a twisted tale that will have readers guessing until the explosive final chapters.

Description taken from Goodreads.

LIARS, INC. impressed me from the very beginning. It wasn’t stand-and-shout-to-the-world-how-much-you-love-this-book good, but it was exciting, well-written and with great descriptions.

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Max is one of the more out-of-the-box characters I’ve read. There were so many times when I felt bad for him, or I cheered him on, or he completely disgusted me. For the most part, he was a hero that.. isn’t really a hero at all. Someone could/should do a complete post on the many faces of Max Cantrell. It’d be worth reading. Despite that fact, Max still very much retains who he is at the core (not in a Rob Swanson way, but in a Max way) and it was something I loved about him throughout LIARS, INC.

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I loved how flawed each of the character in this story are, and it was easy to keep track of the cast because not too many people show up in this story.

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Stokes take us into a world spun of lies and everything that leads up to Max in a cabin in the middle of the woods facing two FBI agents. The world-building is beautifully done and everything is well organized so that the mystery remains a mystery but it’s easy to understand.

And the romance. I will say, Parvati isn’t my favorite YA girl. Far far away. Like where Shrek lives far away. But at the same time, I did like her at times, and I didn’t hate her in the end. In fact, I rather liked her romance with Max, and I LOVED how this book turned out. Parvati tries to act tough and cool in the beginning, but as time went on I began to see more of a different side of her. It took way longer than Preston and Max and the other characters, but I came to like her. When she does show vulnerability eventually, it makes it more important to the story.

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Then everything blew up. Not literally, but quite figuratively. The villain was definitely not who I thought they were, and I got so confused (in a good way!) about who was what. Things get more and more messed up, and I came to finally see how perverse it all is.

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Then something happened that truly threw me over the edge, something I wrestled with for awhile and debated not reviewing this book over.

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Check back on February 20th to see my full review!

pg count for the hardback: 368


Once Upon a Gif: A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray

Once upon a gif is a feature by Hafsah and Asma at Iceybooks, where a pre-review is written with gifs. My full review of A THOUSAND PIECES OF YOU will come out on February 2nd, 2015. 

a thousand pieces of you by claudia gray

Every Day meets Cloud Atlas in this heart-racing, space- and time-bending, epic new trilogy from New York Times bestselling author Claudia Gray.

Marguerite Caine’s physicist parents are known for their radical scientific achievements. Their most astonishing invention: the Firebird, which allows users to jump into parallel universes, some vastly altered from our own. But when Marguerite’s father is murdered, the killer—her parent’s handsome and enigmatic assistant Paul—escapes into another dimension before the law can touch him.

Marguerite can’t let the man who destroyed her family go free, and she races after Paul through different universes, where their lives entangle in increasingly familiar ways. With each encounter she begins to question Paul’s guilt—and her own heart. Soon she discovers the truth behind her father’s death is more sinister than she ever could have imagined.

A Thousand Pieces of You explores a reality where we witness the countless other lives we might lead in an amazingly intricate multiverse, and ask whether, amid infinite possibilities, one love can endure.

Description taken from Goodreads.

At first, I thought this book was clever.

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But then I realized it was so much more. I got to love the protag, and the people around her, and her relationships with them.

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Then I got into the schematics of it all and the physics and worldbuilding and plot.

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I loved so much of this book, and it truly was amazing to read. I did have a few minor problems with it, but overall it could end up being one of my favorite book of the year. Check back on February 2nd to see my full review!

pg count for the hardback: 339

Series: Anna and the French Kiss

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 here! 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

ARC Review: Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay

princess of thorns by stacey jay

Game of Thrones meets the Grimm’s fairy tales in this twisted, fast-paced romantic fantasy-adventure about Sleeping Beauty’s daughter, a warrior princess who must fight to reclaim her throne.

Though she looks like a mere mortal, Princess Aurora is a fairy blessed with enhanced strength, bravery, and mercy yet cursed to destroy the free will of any male who kisses her. Disguised as a boy, she enlists the help of the handsome but also cursed Prince Niklaas to fight legions of evil and free her brother from the ogre queen who stole Aurora’s throne ten years ago.

Will Aurora triumph over evil and reach her brother before it’s too late? Can Aurora and Niklaas break the curses that will otherwise forever keep them from finding their one true love?

Description taken from Goodreads. I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. These opinions are my own. This book will be published on December 9th, 2014.

I’ve heard everything about this book from “it’s the worst thing I’ve ever read” to “it’s stunningly beautiful and amazing and surprising and flails and feels”.


Honestly, overall I did enjoy this story. There’s a lot to be loved, but there were also many things I had pretty mixed feelings about. One thing I did love was the sheer satire and sweetness behind Niklaas and Aurora’s relationship. I mean–Niklaas thinks that Aurora is her brother, Jor, for most of the book. And “Jor”, inevitably, spends most of the book hearing about Niklaas’s plan to marry Aurora so that he can save himself and his brothers from a terrible fate. Aurora, understandably, is kind of disturbed about all this and nods along while thinking to herself that she will never marry him because

  1. he has terrible logic and he’s marrying her for his own gain (assuming she will run into his arms the second he sees her) and
  2. she takes away the will of anyone she kisses.

As time goes on, Aurora in disguise and Niklaas develop a pretty great friendship and that develops into love. Of course, Niklaas is mad. A thing I really appreciated about him though is how thoughtful and calm he is. He thinks things through (except in matters of love, it seems) and he applies that to every aspect of his life. This is extremely refreshing as the amount of fictional girls and boys in YA who grossly overreact to everything only seems to be growing.

Besides the humor, there were plot points that I didn’t love. For one thing, Jay jumps between things a little bit. There’s world-building, but not nearly enough for a well-developed fantasy. Things especially start going bad for the plot when it comes down to the ending. Quite frankly, I was confused for most of it. There were a lot of things I was unsure of. Maybe I need to reread it? I don’t know. I just didn’t understand certain transitions.

Other than the plot, the ending (how I seem to understand it, anyway) is great. I think everything ties together well and this is a stand-alone. Thank you, Stacey Jay. Thank you so very much. I’ve really begun to appreciate a good stand-alone this year, and PRINCESS OF THORNS IS NO EXCEPTION.

A note on the backstory: beginning opens up really well. It’s a great hook, but uhmm–Aurora’s dad slept with Aurora’s mom when he was married.

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Moving on…

Overall, PRINCESS OF THORNS was a great read. It wasn’t my favorite high fantasy of this year, or any year really, but it was still enjoyable and I thought that it was a pretty good retelling. Hard-core fans of going straightup with the plot on retellings (not really incorporating any plot points that deviate from the framework of the retelling) probably will not like this story. Otherwise, I would recommend it for those of you who truly are hardcore fans of Sleeping Beauty. Some of my favorite retellings have come from Gail Carson Levine, Marissa Meyer and Alex Flinn. 3 stars.

Thanks to Random House Children’s for the chance to read and review this book!

pg count for the hardback: 400

Review: Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

afterworlds by scott westerfeld

Darcy Patel has put college and everything else on hold to publish her teen novel, Afterworlds. Arriving in New York with no apartment or friends she wonders whether she’s made the right decision until she falls in with a crowd of other seasoned and fledgling writers who take her under their wings…

Told in alternating chapters is Darcy’s novel, a suspenseful thriller about Lizzie, a teen who slips into the ‘Afterworld’ to survive a terrorist attack. But the Afterworld is a place between the living and the dead and as Lizzie drifts between our world and that of the Afterworld, she discovers that many unsolved – and terrifying – stories need to be reconciled. And when a new threat resurfaces, Lizzie learns her special gifts may not be enough to protect those she loves and cares about most.

Description taken from Goodreads.

Before I say anything, I need to say that even starting from the dedication, AFTERWORLDS meant something to me.

I’ve respected Scott Westerfeld as an author for a long time, starting from the very first time I read LEVIATHAN to the UGLIES series to here, AFTERWORLDS, but none of this books have truly struck a personal note with me until this book. The dedication reads:

To all you wordsmiths, you scribblers, you wrimos in your vast numbers, for making writing a part of your reading.

Yes. YES. A millions yesses and thank yous to Scott Westerfeld for this ^^.

As if that wasn’t enough, Scott Westerfeld made this book relatable to anyone, especially any kid, who has ever aspired to be something and legitimately thought through and worked for that something. Not only that, but this book is about writing. YA writing. About agents, blurbs, publication, queries, the beautiful, uncertain mess that both publishing and writing are.

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There are so many arguments against this book, but really–especially if it interests you–please do read it. If you are an aspiring writer or one of those teenagers who dare to dream about getting a book deal at age 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, this is a book for you.  It’s rare, and writing is never easy (in any form), but it does happen, and it happens to Darcy in this book. Paula Stokes and Veronica Roth are just two of the authors this has happened to, and numerous authors have been traditionally published after being found on Nanowrimo.

AFTERWORLDS is definitely long, longer than it needs to be at parts, but the way that this book is constructed and the two stories within this book mesh together is beautiful and truly shows just how much of a writer’s actual life and experiences are embedded into a story. AFTERWORLDS is constantly making fun of the publishing industry as a whole, bringing in the ups and downs and the way that young writers and old writers alike think. I loved so much of this book because of the numerous things that I could relate to. This book is one big book about writing that is so true in it’s entirety and so masterfully crafted that I can’t even begin to explain how much this story stands out from other fiction works that talk about writing.

There are things that I disliked, and certainly things that will draw the average reader away from this  book. For one thing, it is long. For another, at certain parts, it feels long. Then not everyone will agree with the LGBT aspects of this story. Then there’s the matter that not everyone will understand the sheer amount of satire in this story. Overall, I think this book and how a reader will understand it will differ each time depending on the person. If you’re interested in reading this book, I would recommend reading the first 50 pages and see how things pan out from there. If you’re someone who loves to read and/or write, I would definitely recommend this book for you.

And Scott Westerfeld…

Thank you.

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For a better understanding of all the humor and the arguments for/against this book, I would recommend taking a look at this great review. 4.3 stars.

pg count for the hardback: 600

Review: This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales

this song will save your life by leila sales

Elise Dembowski is not afraid of a little hard work. In fact, she embraces it. All her life, she’s taken on big, all-encompassing projects. When she was eight years old, she built her own dollhouse. When she was thirteen, she taught herself stop-motion animation. And when she’s fifteen, she embarks on the biggest, and most important, project of them all: becoming cool. Except she fails. Miserably. And everything falls to pieces.

Now, if possible, Elise’s social life is even worse than it was before. Until she stumbles into an underground dance club, and opens the door to a world she never knew existed. An inside-out world where, seemingly overnight, a previously uncool high school sophomore can become the hottest new DJ sensation. Elise finally has what she always wanted: acceptance, friendship, maybe even love. Until the real world threatens to steal it all away.

Description taken from Goodreads.

I was looking back recently at some of my old reviews, some of which I am extremely proud of–

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And some that should never see the light of day.

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And I remembered that I never did a proper review for the amazing book THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE. At the time, it was the right decision for me. I just couldn’t bring myself to write up a review for this book. I felt like it just so utterly could not be described in words. Instead of doing a review, I emailed the blogger who wrote my favorite (and in my opinion, the most justifying, review of this book) Emily May, and together with Leila Sales, we wrote a post called Books Against Bullying on THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE.

Read Emily May's review of THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE on Goodreads.

But I recently decided to reread this book, and in doing so I really wanted to review this book.

There is a perfectly good reason for that, and that is the fact that THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE is amazing. It is completely and utterly amazing in so many aspects.

First of all, one thing I really appreciated about this entire book was the fact that it has such a light undertone of humor to it. The humor doesn’t ruin the actually very earnest, very poignant message of this book. THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE made me want to laugh and cry at the same time at so many moments, and I was left feeling extremely bittersweet and very satisfied with those moments of the book. The end is a sad one in some ways, but it’s also about new beginnings and new people, and Elise realizing that life goes beyond suffering, and there will always be people who will accept you as you are.

Another thing–there are a TON of quotable moments to it. I had resisted the urge to buy myself a physical copy of THIS SONG the first time I read it, but I will definitely be getting one sometime soon, because I need to be able to underline and comment and annotate to my heart’s content. There are simply so many truths to THIS SONG. Truths about life, about art, about music, about people and about bullying. THIS SONG is beautiful in it’s writing, heartbreaking in Elise’s plight and ugly and horrifying in how realistic it is. Similarly though, THIS SONG has so much hope and heartwarming snippets to it.

Most of all though, I think I loved Elise’s journey the most, and the characters who illuminated every single chapter alongside her. Vicky, Alex, Harry, Mel, all of them made this book pitch-perfect. I loved the way that I was able to see Elise’s newfound relationships develop and grow over the course of this book. There are many trials, as well as ups and downs, and Elise’s gradual growth was spot on.

For those who read this book, I think that teens especially and young adults will connect to this book each in their own special way. I found a lot of myself and my place in this story, and it meant a lot to me as a whole partially because of that. 4.5 stars.

pg count for the hardback: 279

ARC Review: Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater

blue lily lily blue by maggie stiefvater

There is danger in dreaming. But there is even more danger in waking up.

Blue Sargent has found things. For the first time in her life, she has friends she can trust, a group to which she can belong. The Raven Boys have taken her in as one of their own. Their problems have become hers, and her problems have become theirs.

The trick with found things though, is how easily they can be lost.

Friends can betray.
Mothers can disappear.
Visions can mislead.
Certainties can unravel.

Description taken from Goodreads. I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. These opinions are my own.

I have a new theory.

When you finally develop all your amazing writing ability, you become capable of amazing things. Three of these abilities include the ability to create good, bad and awe. But especially bad. AS IN COMPLETELY, UTTERLY, HEARTBREAKING, 100% EVIL, PROFESSIONAL TROLLERS.

maggie stiefvater raven cycle

rick riordan trolling

john green trolling

john green veronica roth trolling

*internal screaming*

BLUE LILY, LILY BLUE was everything I expected it to be, which I was extremely surprised by because I had such high expectations for this fantastic series and, in particular, this book.

For many moments, I could forget that Gansey will eventually die.

I keep on waiting for that moment, that cheesy, there-are-always-happy-endings, welcome to the world of fairy tales, no-she-didn’t moment when Maggie Stiefvater unleashes the bomb that Gansey will, in fact, not die, and he and Blue will be a couple and get married and live happily ever after. NONE. NOTHING. THIS IS A SPOILER FREE REVIEW, BECAUSE WE ALL KNOW IT DOESN’T COME IN THIS BOOK.

How’s that for reality?

There are a lot more Gansey and Blue moments in this book, which I was really glad for. I completely ship them as a couple and appreciate the fact that this is a slow burn romance rather than some sort of half-done, half-baked, half-thought instalove (which I don’t even think Maggie Stiefvater is capable of).

There was one thing I didn’t like about this book, and that was one of the couple ships that the reader can just vaguely make out. No. No no no no no no. This already happened in the HEROES OF OLYMPUS series. No way. I refuse to ship this or accept it.

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I mean–when I saw it coming, I was just… no.

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But other than that, I loved this book so much. I can only hope to write like this some day, and I’m SO GLAD that this series has another book coming. I love trilogies, they’re actually my favorite series, but in this case I’m glad there’s four books.

One thing I started really appreciating right from the very beginning was how Adam-focused this book was. I also really liked the way that it showed off how Blue has become so close with the Raven Boys. She’s part of their group now, and even with Ronan you can tell that he cares. I’ve been waiting for this since the beginning of this series, when you can really tell that they’ve become friends. I thought this relationship was masterfully developed, along with Blue’s relationship with Gansey, and I loved seeing it grow.

There were so many new things (and old things) that I enjoyed throughout this story, and the plot excels by leaps and bounds. The ending left me wanting so much more, but in a good way, not because the material there was lacking in any way. I thought that I learned a lot more about Blue and her family life throughout the course of this story and grew closer to each of the characters and their individual struggles.

BLUE LILY, LILY BLUE (beautiful cover, by the way, definitely worth buying :3) is definitely not at all disappointing and fans of the series will LOVE all the things that happen over the course of the book. This is truly only a book that Maggie Stiefvater could write, and it is fantastic. Even if you are not usually a fan of the paranormal/fantasy genre, I would still recommend this series to you. It is at times heartbreaking, heartwarming, awe-inspiring, trolling, hilarious, intense and altogether amazing and READ IT. I cannot wait for the next book in the series, but until then reading the first three books is good enough for me. 4.5 stars.

Thanks so much to Scholastic for giving me the chance to review this amazing book!

pg count for the hardback: 391

Series: The Raven Cycle #3