Minute Review: Beware That Girl (Teresa Toten)

Beware That Girl
The Haves. The Have-Not

Kate O’Brian appears to be a Have-Not. Her whole life has been a series of setbacks she’s had to snake her way out of—some more sinister than others. But she’s determined to change that. She’s book smart. She’s street-smart. Oh, and she’s also a masterful liar.

As the scholarship student at the Waverly School in NYC, Kate has her work cut out for her: her plan is to climb the social ladder and land a spot at Yale. She’s already found her “people” among the senior class “it” girls—specifically in the cosseted, mega-wealthy yet deeply damaged Olivia Sumner. As for Olivia, she considers Kate the best friend she’s always needed, the sister she never had.

When the handsome and whip-smart Mark Redkin joins the Waverly administration, he immediately charms his way into the faculty’s and students’ lives—becoming especially close to Olivia, a fact she’s intent on keeping to herself. It becomes increasingly obvious that Redkin poses a threat to Kate, too, in a way she can’t reveal—and can’t afford to ignore. How close can Kate and Olivia get to Mark without having to share their dark pasts?



In one word, Beware That Girl can be summed up as crazy. As you read, you can't decide if you like Kate or not. She's sneaky, two-faced, a bit selfish. But then she seems to change, right? Enter Olivia. Olivia is needy, damaged, and overly eager to have a friend. She spoils Kate, which again makes you not like Kate. Then you start to feel sorry for Olivia. Enter Mark. You know something is up with him pretty early on. Now you are pulling for both girls, hoping they don't get stuck in his web. But one of them does, and it has serious consequences for both girls. 

Now you're like OMGoodness, and you want them both to have a happy ending. Probably one more than the other because she finally seems to have made an emotional breakthrough. and then.... and then... the ending leaves you with bug eyes. Now you're left thinking wtfizzle just happened, and oh this poor child. She's screwed. For life. 

There you go. That's how nuts Beware That Girl is. The plot is pretty mellow and even paced. Nothing really psychological thriller about it until you reach the end. Then it jumps up into Single White Female/ Fatal Attraction territory. I'd say the twist in the end is what makes this one worth reading. You see the hints along the way, but just like with We Were Liars, you don't really understand how everything fits together until you're slapped in the face with it.   


Review: Morning Star (Red Rising #3) by Pierce Brown

Darrow would have lived in peace, but his enemies brought him war. The Gold overlords demanded his obedience, hanged his wife, and enslaved his people. But Darrow is determined to fight back. Risking everything to transform himself and breach Gold society, Darrow has battled to survive the cutthroat rivalries that breed Society’s mightiest warriors, climbed the ranks, and waited patiently to unleash the revolution that will tear the hierarchy apart from within.

Finally, the time has come.

But devotion to honor and hunger for vengeance run deep on both sides. Darrow and his comrades-in-arms face powerful enemies without scruple or mercy. Among them are some Darrow once considered friends. To win, Darrow will need to inspire those shackled in darkness to break their chains, unmake the world their cruel masters have built, and claim a destiny too long denied—and too glorious to surrender.




The final installment in the Red Rising series delivered a satisfying finish to a beloved story line.  

A good portion of Morning Star takes place in space (hello epic battle sequences), which didn't really appeal to me much. I'm not a fan of sci-fi books, and spaceships and/or aliens is a sure fire way to lose my interest. But I stayed with it! Even though I felt this book started to drag on a bit (it's 524 pages) and got way too technical in the battle scenes for my tastes. 

One thing I do love about this series is the characters. The third book, Morning Star, introduces more new characters. Yes, more characters that you will appreciate too. Of course, there is also more loss of previous characters that you will be sad over. The idea of honor even into death is powerful. It's hard to capture how much growth these characters undergo throughout this series. It's spectacular. The Darrow and Cassius from Red Rising are not the same Darrow and Cassius you see in Morning Star.  But I think it's Sevro that steals the show in the end. He has really changed in spectacular ways. His crude nature is still there (and often brings humor to tense situations), but the little goblin develops a heart. I really enjoyed his story. 

Morning Star also takes a pretty strong political stance. There are lots of hints at themes dealing with honor and class systems. I should probably reread this one just to make note of those from beginning to end.   

Also, as to be expected, there are twists and turns galore. Sometimes it was hard to keep up! I usually can spot plot twists a good bit before they occur, but the jaw dropper of Morning Star caught be off guard. I didn't know what was happening until it was happening, and I swear it left me misty eyed. I don't think I've ever experienced a more satisfying ending for a character. Wow. Just wow.

I heard a rumor that there will be a spin off series, and I really hope that's true. As much as I liked the ending, I don't want it to be the end of these characters. 

 


Review: Golden Son (Red Rising #2) by Pierce Brown


Golden Son (Red Rising, #2)Golden Son continues the stunning saga of Darrow, a rebel forged by tragedy, battling to lead his oppressed people to freedom from the overlords of a brutal elitist future built on lies. Now fully embedded among the Gold ruling class, Darrow continues his work to bring down Society from within.

A life-or-death tale of vengeance with an unforgettable hero at its heart, Golden Son guarantees Pierce Brown’s continuing status as one of fiction’s most exciting new voices.

It's a rare find to discover a sequel as good as-- if not better than-- its predecessor, but that's exactly what you get with Golden Son. 

Have I mentioned how much this series rocks?  I just cannot say enough about the writing. It's in a world of its own... kind of like our characters. Once again, the world building creates images that had me captivated. I really am not a fan of anything that takes place in space or has a hint of stereotypical sci-fi themes, but I ignored all that for this book. I didn't mind the spacecraft or the fact that these characters live on planets other than earth. It all worked beautifully. 

With Golden Son you get new characters and new heartache. And oh that heartache... I felt the loss as if it were my own. Every emotion bubbled up right along with Darrow's. But then one heck of a twist was delivered that left me reeling. I remember just sitting there thinking "oh snap." 

There is more nonstop action in the second installment of the Red Rising series that will keep you flipping through the  400+ pages at lightning speed. But be warned... along the way there is unbelievable heartache and so many twists and turns you will struggle to keep your head straight, right before the blow of a lifetime (and a wicked cliffhanger ending).  


Review: Red Rising (Pierce Brown)


Red Rising (Red Rising, #1)Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations.

Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children.

But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity already reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks spread across the planet. Darrow—and Reds like him—are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.

Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity's overlords struggle for power. He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society's ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies... even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.


Get ready to have your world rocked.

I am afraid I probably waited too long to write this review because a lot of the finer details have started to blur together among the books. But I can still remember how AMAZING this book was. 

Seriously. 

As I read, I had to keep reminding myself that it's YA. It was so complex and the characters so intricately developed, that this series could easily slip into the adult field by simply changing the ages of the characters. In fact, I fully expect Red Rising to have serious cross over appeal.  

While I could talk a lot about the book, I think I will focus on setting and characters as this book sets the stage for the remainder of the series. I am not a fan of sci-fi novels, which really made me hesitant to try this book. I didn't care how amazing I was told it was, I just couldn't muster the will power to read a book set in space. (Probably a good time to mention that I'm not really into Star Wars either, so you see what I mean about sci-fi reluctance.) I put my stereotyped judgements to the side, and decided to get the books from the library. Then I read the whole series within a week. I could not pull myself away. So does the setting work? Yep! It works so well, actually. I was completely engrossed. It was like nothing I have read before. I admit I got a bit glassy eyed a few times with the space craft descriptions, but other than that I was mesmerized. It was like a galactic Hunger Games-- with a mythology twist. Score!

But the characters are what really stole the show (and my allegiance). Man. Eo, Darrow, Mustang, and so many others. I don't even know where to start. Every single character has so many layers. SO. Many. Layers. You're torn between loving them and hating them (mostly loyal adoration). Darrow is so many wonderful things, and yet he keeps making colossal mistakes. He's both vulnerable and super-human. I think my favorite characters in this book were Darrow (of course) and Sevro. Oh, Sevro. So odd and animal-like, yet completely devoted and loyal to a fault. 

I could write for hours about each character in great depth and what they bring to the table, but I won't. My meager words do nothing to tell what it's like to experience these characters (and it is an experience). I laughed. I cried. At times, I closed the book in complete disbelief only to find myself quickly opening it back up to keep reading. I hear people talk about feeling so connected to characters that they feel like they are real. I never really got that until now. I could visualize every moment of this book in my head as I read. I could see Sevro delivering his hysterical one liners and running around with his wolf cloak. Darrow's Adonis looks burned behind my eyes when I slept. I was completely engrossed, and when the series ended I truly hated to say goodbye. 

If you have not read Red Rising, put it next in your queue. You will not be disappointed.       

Picture Book Saturday: The Skunk by Mac Barnett


The Skunk


When a skunk first appears in the tuxedoed man's doorway, it's a strange but possibly harmless occurrence. But then the man finds the skunk following him, and the unlikely pair embark on an increasingly frantic chase through the city, from the streets to the opera house to the fairground. What does the skunk want? It's not clear—but soon the man has bought a new house in a new neighborhood to escape the little creature's attention, only to find himself missing something...




The Skunk appears on the 2016-2017 Sunshine State Reader list for young readers this year. To prepare for book clubs, I decided to give it a try. To be honest, I am not entirely sure what gave this book so much appeal when I have read some amazing (and very deep) picture books. At first glance, this is a cute story with comic-like illustrations. The story is fun to read and will make kids giggle. There wasn't much to really make you think or spark a discussion, except for maybe the ending when the man in the tuxedo realizes he misses the skunk.

Anna Dewdney passes away

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_iGTwxhtEOmc/S93qfyYufiI/AAAAAAAAGlM/eQRIPEeoMfw/s1600/llama-llama-red-pajama.jpg 

My heart aches and my eyes keep leaking... 



The Llama Llama books were a staple in my house for years as my youngest son learned to read. They made bedtime extra special as he would snuggle under the covers while I read. When a new book in the series came out, he would get so excited about going to the book store to get a copy.

And when it came time to clean the book shelf in his room to make way for larger, more grade appropriate book, the Llama Llama books never moved. They have a permanent spot on his shelf, even at 9.

So when I woke up this morning to hear that one of our favorite authors has passed away from brain cancer, I was devastated. Maybe it's because I am still grieving the loss of my beloved grandmother, but this news felt like the wound was ripping open again. I am deeply and profoundly affected by the loss of Ms. Dewdney. I am sad I never had the chance to meet her, as she was scheduled for a school visit when she was diagnosed. For obvious reasons, that visit was canceled. But I did manage to get a signed copy of one of her books from a friend, who did meet her years ago. That book is on my bookshelf, safe and protected.

Publishers Weekly has a beautiful obituary for Ms. Dewdney, but I warn you. It will make your eyes leak. Ms. Dewdney was an advocate for literacy and reading to kids, but she also fought to teach life lessons through her stories. Llama Llama learned that it's okay to miss his mama, go to school, and how to deal with bullies-- and we learned right along with him in this house. Her characters captured my son's feelings and facial expressions perfectly. Maybe that's why I loved the books so much and feel such a great loss. When I read the Llama Llama books, it was like reading my son's story.

But as the obituary states, Ms. Dewdney wants us to continue reading to children. If you have not read her books, I encourage you to. Also, check out the website, ran by the publisher, for the Llama Llama books for additional resources and activities. It is charming, and I think captures the whimsy of these books and the author's spirit perfectly.






Minute Review: Wizard at Work (Vivian Vande Velde)

Wizard at Work


The wizard has big summer plans: To garden, fish, and nap. The only thing better would be if he had someone nice to share the days with. But the only people who show up want him to rescue yet another princess, lift the usual vile curse, confront a fearsome ghost, deal with a pack of magical hooligans, harvest a crop of golden cucumbers, and on and on. . . .
With everything he has to do, it's no wonder the wizard is all by himself! Who'd want to help him do all of that?



Readers will enjoy four short stories that weave a delightful tale of a wizard that just wants a break. Throughout the tales, readers can expect to encounter familiar characters and stories, but don't be fooled. There are definitely twists along the way. Wizard at Work is a quick read and suitable for readers in grades 1-3. Simple ink drawings correspond with the stories throughout the book to help younger readers visualize what is happening. 

I think this book would make a great read aloud in class or a bed time story. Each chapter is a new story, so they could easily be read one at a time

Review: Pip Bartlett's Guide to Magical Creatures

Pip Bartlett's Guide to Magical Creatures (Pip Bartlett, #1)From bestselling authors Maggie Stiefvater and Jackson Pearce comes an exciting new series full of magical creatures, whimsical adventures, and quirky illustrations.

Pip is a girl who can talk to magical creatures. Her aunt is a vet for magical creatures. And her new friend Tomas is allergic to most magical creatures. When things go amok—and they often go amok—Pip consults Jeffrey Higgleston’s Guide to Magical Creatures, a reference work that Pip finds herself constantly amending. Because dealing with magical creatures like unicorns, griffins, and fuzzles doesn’t just require book knowledge—it requires hands-on experience and thinking on your feet. For example, when fuzzles (which have an awful habit of bursting into flame when they’re agitated) invade your town, it’s not enough to know what the fuzzles are—Pip and Tomas also must trace the fuzzles’ agitation to its source, and in doing so, save the whole town.




Get ready for a really cute novel for younger readers. While I was not a fan of Stiefvater's YA series but I do enjoy Pearce's stories, I decided to give this Sunshine State Reader a try. I figured a blending of the two writers couldn't be bad. I am new to what I consider early(ish) chapter books. This book is geared towards readers in grades 3-5, but is probably best suited for the younger range. 

As would be expected with a short novel for younger readers, there wasn't a great deal of character development and action that I enjoy in longer books. But that doesn't mean this wasn't an enjoyable read. There were several places that had me chuckling. Pip is a great character that is full of sass and wit. She meets a very unlikely friend in Tomas, who had enough issues to provide plenty of comedy relief. Together, they set the tone of the novel, which I thought sent a good message to readers. Pip and Tomas are far from perfect. You might even consider them quirky. But that does not stop them from following their hearts and doing what they know is right. 

As a first book in a series, Pip Bartlett's Guide to Magical Creatures sets up the remainder of the series nicely. You can tell the antagonist that will reappear throughout the novels, and her presence provides plenty of believable drama to come. 

I read through several of the Sunshine State Readers this summer and I highly recommend this one from the 2016-17 list.

Joshua and the Arrow Realm book trailer reveal



I’m thrilled to unveil the trailer for book two in Donna Galanti’s fantasy adventure Lightning Road series,  JOSHUA AND THE ARROW REALM, arriving August 30th. The Midwest Book Review calls book one, JOSHUA AND THE LIGHTNING ROAD, “a heart-pounding thrill ride full of unexpected twists and turns from start to finish.”  Grab book one for just $.99cents now through September 20th.

Be sure to enter the fun giveaway package at the bottom of this post that includes a paperback of book one, poster of the Lost Realm, bookmarks, and a $25 B&N gift card (U.S. only). Sign up for Donna’s Thunderclap book release campaign and help her zap the world through social media with her lightning message!

ABOUT JOSHUA AND THE ARROW REALM:

On August 30th take the lightning road back to a world of beasts, bandits, and heroes in book two of the Lightning Road series. Join Joshua in a new fight for power in the Arrow Realm. Can Joshua and his friends conquer an unstoppable evil?

Joshua never thought he’d return to the world of Nostos but is soon called to the Arrow Realm to free his imprisoned friend, King Apollo, kidnapped as a power pawn in Queen Artemis’s quest to conquer every realm. With his loyalties divided between our world and theirs, Joshua wonders whether he alone can restore magic to the twelve powerless Olympian heirs and save all those enslaved. But when he finds himself abandoned in his quest, he fears he cannot only save those imprisoned—but himself as well.

“Fast-paced and endlessly inventive, Joshua and the Arrow Realm is a high-stakes romp through a wild world where descendants of the Greek gods walk beside you, beasts abound, and not everything—or everyone—is as it seems.” ~ Michael Northrop, New York Times bestselling author of the TombQuest series

JOSHUA AND THE ARROW REALM BOOK TRAILER:






EXCERPT:

A faint rumble groaned through the whistling wind.

Boom!

Thunder ripped the sky overhead.

Charlie reached the frozen pond, spinning across it. “Woohoo! I win! You Americans can’t beat us at speed!”

Lightning flashed. It zinged across the pine trees like brilliant sunlight. A seed of terror flickered inside me.

Boom! Boom!

Another flash scorched the sky.

Charlie’s smile fell to a frown as he raced across the ice, peering up into the swirling clouds.

We both knew what lightning could do.

Suddenly, sneaking outside for a moonlit sled ride before Bo Chez got home from his monthly poker game didn’t seem so smart.

The sleet turned to snow. Icicles flew off trees like glass splinters, shattering on the hard snow. As I shot toward the pond, a tree on the edge moved. Its branches swayed in the swirling snow.

It wasn’t a tree, but a girl! She stumbled through the mad flurry, arms outstretched.

“Charlie, look!”

Gusts snatched the words away as my sled hit the ice and careened out of control on the bumpy surface. The girl staggered and fell onto the pond. I twisted my sled away to avoid hitting her and smashed right into Charlie. With a yelp, he pulled me up, and we clumped toward the girl. We lifted her up, half dragging her back up the hill to the house in the pelting snow and sleet.

“Who is she?” Charlie yelled.

“No idea,” I yelled back.

He said more, but his words were lost in the wind.

My lungs burned with the cold and effort. There was only one reason someone would appear with lightning—to steal us. This girl might appear like a waif unprepared for a storm but I couldn’t trust that’s all she was.

PRE-ORDER JOSHUA AND THE ARROW REALM:

Amazon and  Barnes & Noble

MEET DONNA GALANTI


Donna Galanti is the author of The Element Trilogy (Imajin Books) and The Lightning Road series (Month9Books). She attended an English school housed in a magical castle, where her wild imagination was held back only by her itchy uniform (bowler hat and tie included!). There she fell in love with the worlds of C.S. Lewis and Roald Dahl, and wrote her first fantasy about Dodo birds, wizards, and a flying ship. She’s lived in other exotic locations, including Hawaii where she served as a U.S. Navy photographer. She lives with her family and two crazy cats in an old farmhouse, and dreams of returning one day to a castle. Donna is a contributing editor for International Thriller Writers the Big Thrill magazine and blogs with other middle grade authors at Project Middle Grade Mayhem. You can find her at www.donnagalanti.com.

BOOK REVIEWERS:

E-book ARCs are available for this next thrilling book in The Lightning Road series! Email donna(at)donnagalanti.com for copies and specify the format you’d like.

GIVEAWAY:

 

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LEGACY launch party + giveaway



Synopsis

A troubled young journalist finds her loyalties tested when love and desire unearth dark secrets from the past.
Spring, 2010. When Luna Ward, a science journalist from New York, travels halfway across the world to work undercover at an alternative health clinic in Cadiz, her ordered life is thrown into turmoil.
The doctor she is to investigate, the controversial Rodrigo Rueda de Calderon, is not what she expected. With his wild gypsy looks and devilish sense of humour, he is intent upon drawing her to him. But how can she surrender to a passion that threatens all reason; and how could he ever learn to trust her when he discovers her true identity? Then Luna finds that Ruy is carrying a corrosive secret of his own…
Luna’s native Spanish blood begins to fire in this land of exotic legends, flamboyant gypsies and seductive flamenco guitars, as dazzling Cadiz weaves its own magic on her heart. Can Luna and Ruy’s love survive their families’ legacy of feuding and tragedy, and rise like the phoenix from the ashes of the past? 
Legacy is a story of truth, dreams and desire. But in a world of secrets you need to be careful what you wish for…

Available at Amazon   Amazon UK   I  Barnes and Noble


Author Bio: Hannah Fielding


Hannah Fielding is an incurable romantic. The seeds for her writing career were sown in early childhood, spent in Egypt, when she came to an agreement with her governess Zula: for each fairy story Zula told, Hannah would invent and relate one of her own. Years later – following a degree in French literature, several years of travelling in Europe, falling in love with an Englishman, the arrival of two beautiful children and a career in property development – Hannah decided after so many years of yearning to write that the time was now. Today, she lives the dream: writing full time at her homes in Kent, England, and the South of France, where she dreams up romances overlooking breath-taking views of the Mediterranean. 

Hannah is a multi-award-winning novelist, and to date she has published five novels: Burning Embers, ‘romance like Hollywood used to make’, set in Kenya; The Echoes of Love, ‘an epic love story that is beautifully told’ set in Italy; and the Andalusian Nights Trilogy Indiscretion, Masquerade and Legacy – her fieriest novels yet, set in sunny, sultry Spain.
 

You can find Hannah online at:

* her website
* Goodreads

 



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