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


Review: Astray by Amy Christine Parker

astray by amy christine parker

Lyla is caught between two worlds. The isolated Community that she grew up in and the outside world that she’s navigating for the very first time. The outsiders call the Community a cult, but Pioneer miraculously survived a shooting that should have killed him. Are the faithful members right to stay true to his message? Is this just a test of faith? One thing is for sure: the Community will do anything to bring Lyla back to the fold. Trapped in a spider’s web of deception, will Lyla detect the sticky threads tightening around her before it’s too late? She’ll have to unravel the mystery of what Pioneer and the Community are truly up to if she wants to survive.

Suspenseful and chilling, Astray is Amy Christine Parker’s nerve-fraying sequel to Gated. This fast-paced psychological thriller is masterfully plotted and sure to leave goose bumps. Perfect for fans of creepy YA thrillers and contemporary fiction alike.

Description taken from Goodreads.


Amy Christine Parker has done it again.

In Gated, Parker blew me away with her characters and the way that she showed me, as a reader, how brainwashing and convincing that cults can be. In GATED, I got to see Lyla’s struggle and the things she went through in order to realize what a psycho Pioneer really is, and through her format and masterful storytelling Parker was able to make me feel what Lyla felt. Now, in ASTRAY, she talks about Lyla’s self-conflict and I could not ask for a better sequel.

In terms of characters, I LOVED THEM. I really liked the way that Cody is such a sweet character in both GATED and ASTRAY without being stupid. Both he and Lyla were multi-layered characters and I felt like I saw a lot more dimensions of them in ASTRAY than I did in GATED. In addition to that, Parker takes advantage of her reader’s emotions by using Lyla’s friends (who are still under the influence of Pioneer) and Pioneer himself, against her. This book is twisted in the very best way.

Parker really got into my head with this story and showed me even more of what she could do, and what Lyla can do. I thought that Lyla truly grew over the course of this story and everything came together. Parker truly scared me to death with this story. By definition, this book is one of the best thrillers/cult stories I’ve ever read. I hope to see a lot more work from Parker in the future.

Overall, this book was just as good–and better–than GATED. Fans will definitely not be disappointed, and I was blown away by the way that Parker takes such great advantage of her plot, characters and the good and bad of the world she’s created. Fantastic book. 4.3 stars.

pg count for the hardback: 352

Series: Gated #2

Review: Blackbird by Anna Carey

blackbird by anna carey

A girl wakes up on the train tracks, a subway car barreling down on her. With only minutes to react, she hunches down and the train speeds over her. She doesn’t remember her name, where she is, or how she got there. She has a tattoo on the inside of her right wrist of a blackbird inside a box, letters and numbers printed just below: FNV02198. There is only one thing she knows for sure: people are trying to kill her.

On the run for her life, she tries to untangle who she is and what happened to the girl she used to be. Nothing and no one are what they appear to be. But the truth is more disturbing than she ever imagined.

The Maze Runner series meets Code Name Verity, Blackbird is relentless and action-packed, filled with surprising twists.

Description taken from Goodreads.

I don’t know why I was so excited for BLACKBIRD, but I was. I went into this book with the feeling that something good was going to happen, even if I didn’t know what it would be. It turned out that the feeling I got when I first opened up the story was evidently not the feeling I would be having while reading it.

I wanted to believe that this book could be really great, despite the multiple reviews stating that the second person POV just does not work. I certainly am a fan of beautifully written second-person POV stories. If you look at books like ALL THE TRUTH THAT’S IN ME and The Rules of Survival, second person really can be very meaningful–but it just didn’t work in this scenario. It takes way too long to get used to. I guess I can see some of the reasoning behind why Carey made it second-person, but in all honesty–even if the protag has no idea who she is or who anyone else is–I don’t believe BLACKBIRD needed to be in this format.

Not only that, but the characters were hard to relate to. Instead of being nuanced, they were… bland, almost. I really wished that the characters had been more fleshed out and that the romance hadn’t been so instalove-based. I understand that this is meant to be a short, quick, breezy thriller, but this book ended up being very weighed down because of the lack of pacing, narrative and character development.

All in all, I just couldn’t get this story. There were so many things I didn’t understand and way too many things that were left unsaid or undone in the end. For those of you looking for a much better version of this book, you should take a look at FIND ME by Romily Bernard. 1 star.

pg count for the kindle edition: 256

ARC Review: Tabula Rasa by Kristen Lippert-Martin

tabula rasa by kristen lippert-martin

The Bourne Identity meets Divergent in this action-packed debut thriller with a Katniss-esque heroine fighting to regain her memories and stay alive, set against a dystopian hospital background.

Sarah starts a crazy battle for her life within the walls of her hospital-turned-prison when a procedure to eliminate her memory goes awry and she starts to remember snatches of her past. Was she an urban terrorist or vigilante? Has the procedure been her salvation or her destruction?

The answers lie trapped within her mind. To access them, she’ll need the help of the teen computer hacker who’s trying to bring the hospital down for his own reasons, and a pill that’s blocked by an army of mercenary soldiers poised to eliminate her for good. If only she knew why .

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

There really was just one issue when it came to me and my experience with TABULA RASA. I’ve been really excited for this book for a long time, mainly TABULA RASA is a thriller, it’s a stand-alone, it’s a debut and because Kristen is a part of the YA Valentines–and they’re all awesome.

The thing that went wrong for me was the issue of drawn-out suspense and teasing when it came to answers to all the questions that are asked throughout this book. Too many times, the teasing just didn’t work for me. I got so frustrated trying to figure out what was going on and how the questions were being answered only to realize they weren’t being answered at all. I felt like as a reader, I had to know what was going on in certain parts of the story, but I wasn’t getting anything, and the teasing approach in TABULA RASA just didn’t work.

Not to mention that the way everything was answered at the end in one huge dump was entirely anticlimactic. I don’t think that the one thing that went wrong for me and TABULA RASA should reflect on the author, because it’s a skill that requires time and patience to master, and I believe that Kristen can fully do that in her books to come.

I did like a variety of things in TABULA RASA though. I loved the descriptions and how graphic it was without being too much. I thought the world-building was excellently done and believable, and the memory issues were realistic. I really enjoyed the way that Sarah never gave up, and her relationships grew and developed. I wasn’t a fan of the romance at first, but I grew not to mind it and enjoy parts of it. The pace is very fast and the book goes by really nicely. The action elements and themes didn’t get bogged down by the journey and search part of it, and I really liked the steady pace.

Overall, not the best debut I’ve ever read or the best thriller, but I did enjoy this book and appreciate many aspects of it. I’m really looking forward to what else Kristen comes up with, and I would recommend it. 3 stars. Be sure to check out this interview with Kristen to learn more about her and the book!

pg count: 352

Review: The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die by April Henry

“Take her out back and finish her off.”

She doesn’t know who she is. She doesn’t know where she is, or why. All she knows when she comes to in a ransacked cabin is that there are two men arguing over whether or not to kill her.

And that she must run.

In her riveting style, April Henry crafts a nail-biting thriller involving murder, identity theft, and biological warfare. Follow Cady and Ty (her accidental savior turned companion), as they race against the clock to stay alive.

Description taken from Goodreads. 

Despite a few flaws to this book, I did really enjoy THE GIRL WHO WAS SUPPOSED TO DIE. If you want to get a gist of what this book is all about, it’s basically the story of a teenage Jason Bourne with less government trouble and a less developed world/characters. But hey, the Bourne storyline is hard to beat.

For convenience, I’m just going to tell you right now that the girl’s name is Cady. As said by the blurb, she meets a boy named Tyler who helps her through all sorts of desperate situations. Since I, as a reader, wasn’t able to really see into the mind of Cady because of the way this POV is written, it was hard for me to really see what either main character was thinking.

Their relationship was made weaker by that, and also by the fact that throughout the course of the story, what they meant to each other wasn’t really clear. I wasn’t sure what Henry was going for, because Tyler isn’t a romantic interest, they’re not friends, and yet they’re traveling together and helping each other. On and off at every moment. Tyler is risking his life for this girl he’s never met before.

However, I felt that, as individuals, they were very strong characters. Cady more than Tyler, but I appreciated both of them through the course of the story. The action, observations and world-building in this book is done very well and I loved those scenes because of how clearly I could envision them. The suspense is written very well and everyone moves on a great pace.

Other than the basic settings though, I felt that the characters weren’t very complex or fully fleshed out. I would’ve liked to see a lot more in that sense.Especially the bag guys weren’t very thought-through.

Overall, when it comes to enjoyability and entertainment, this is a fun, short, quick read that has a very simple plot. If you’re looking for a decent mystery with lots of action and fast-paced adventure, then this is a read for you. 2.5 stars.

pg count for the hardback: 213

Collide by Christine Fonseca Cover Reveal

The most dangerous secrets are the ones that kill.

When a surprising mental breakdown draws too much attention from a secret government group call the Order, 17-year-old Dakota discovers that her so-called boring life isn’t so boring after all. Between the lies, secrets and assassins out to kill her family, Dakota discovers there’s more to paranormal activity than ghosts and cheap mind tricks. Now she must uncover the truth before a new breed of terrorism takes everything away – including her life.






collide by christine fonseca cover

Publication Date: April 29th, 2014

I love how much this cover seems to suit the blurb! Covers that really represent the book and stand as a visual for the story itself are really powerful, and I really like the mysteriousness and the different themes it represents. Besides, keyword: assassins. Hmmm. Really looking forward to how this turns out!

Connect with Christine: 

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Critically acclaimed nonfiction and YA author Christine Fonseca is dedicated to helping children of all ages find their voice in the world. Drawing on her expertise as an educational psychologist, her nonfiction titles address issues of emotional intensity, resiliency and giftedness. In fiction, she explores the darker aspects of humanity and delivers gothic thrillers that take you on a rollercoaster ride of emotions. In life, she teaches her own children to embrace their unique talents and find their voice by being a force of positive change in the world.
When she’s not writing or developing programs to support children with exceptional needs, she can be found spending time with her family, sipping too many skinny vanilla lattes at her favorite coffee house or playing around on Facebook and Twitter. For more information about Christine Fonseca or her books, visit her website – http://christinefonseca.com or her blog http://christinefonseca.blogspot.com.

The Last Savanna by Mike Bond: An Intense and Emotional Story About the African Wilderness

As ivory poachers are gunning down Africa’s last elephants, former SAS officer Ian MacAdam leads a commando squad against them. He pursues the poachers through jungled mountains and searing deserts, only to find they have kidnapped a young archaeologist, Rebecca Hecht, whom he once loved and bitterly lost. He embarks on a desperate trek to save not only Rebecca but his own soul in an Africa torn apart by wars, overpopulation and the slaughter of its last wildlife. Based on the author’s own experiences pursuing elephant poachers in the wilds of East Africa, The Last Savanna is an intense personal memoir of humanity’s ancient heartland, the beauty of its perilous deserts, jungles, and savannas, and the deep, abiding power of love.

Well. This book was one that’s style was completely new to me, but I still liked it a lot. I must say that I’m thoroughly impressed by Bond’s descriptive powers and the way he formulates everything in a clear way. I felt like the beginning was a little slow for me, but I also thought that because Bond laid down the basics of the surroundings first, the story was made more powerful later on.

Beyond the nature element to this, I was really impressed with the action/adventure themes that came with this book. I thought that the chase towards the poachers and the way certain moments were written in this story were nothing less than masterfully done.

There are so many characters and themes that come into this, it’s amazing. Really, there is so much more to this book than what it appears on the outside. Beyond being a romantic thriller, the elements of survival and the nature of both an animal and man itself really came together in this story.

THE LAST SAVANNA is intense, beautiful and completely captures the powerful emotion in this story. I was blown away, and it taught me a lot about the dangers and mysteries of Africa. 4 stars.

pg count for the paperback: 282