Friday, July 3, 2015

*Stacking The Shelves/Weekly Wrap-Up* Week Ending July 4, 2015.

Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course eBooks!

Has anyone noticed that I've been reading a whole lot of YA lately? 
Seems to be all I've scheduled to read. Hoping that will change a bit next week
For those in the US of A, Happy 4th of JULY weekend! Be safe, and be careful of those fireworks!

The Week in Reviews:

Saturday & Sunday - No Posts Scheduled

Scheduled for Next Week:

Monday - Loop by Karen Akins (YA Science Fiction/Time Travel)
 Tuesday - Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine (YA Dystopian)
Wednesday - Renegade by Kerry Wilkinson (YA Dystopian)
Thursday - Ghost Light by E.J. Stevens (Urban Fantasy)
Friday - Chasing Daybreak by Ranae Glass (Urban Fantasy)
Saturday - Steampunk Saturday TBA

Received via NetGalley




Amazon deals:


Borrowed from Library

#Review - Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge (YA #Fantasy)

Published by: Balzer + Bray
Released: May 5, 2015
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss
Format: E-galley, 448 pages
Genre: YA, Fantasy

When Rachelle was fifteen, she was good—apprenticed to her aunt and in training to protect her village from dark magic. But she was also reckless— straying from the forest path in search of a way to free her world from the threat of eternal darkness. After an illicit meeting goes dreadfully wrong, Rachelle is forced to make a terrible choice that binds her to the very evil she had hoped to defeat.

Three years later, Rachelle has given her life to serving the realm, fighting deadly creatures in an effort to atone. When the king orders her to guard his son Armand—the man she hates most—Rachelle forces Armand to help her find the legendary sword that might save their world. As the two become unexpected allies, they uncover far-reaching conspiracies, hidden magic, and a love that may be their undoing. In a palace built on unbelievable wealth and dangerous secrets, can Rachelle discover the truth and stop the fall of endless night?

Inspired by the classic fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood, Crimson Bound is an exhilarating tale of darkness, love, and redemption.

Crimson Bound is Rosamund Hodge's retelling of Little Red Riding Hood mixed with a bit of The Girl Without Hands. At 15, Rachelle Brinon was an apprentice woodwife under her Aunt Leonie when she wandered into the woods and met a strange man. (Is it the big bad wolf, you ask?) Returning again and again, said man turns out to be a Forestborn who marks her. Once a human is marked by a forest born, he or she has 3 days to either kill someone and become a bloodborn, or die. Upon killing someone, the mark becomes Crimson, which leads the bearer down the path to becoming a forestborn, and losing all touch with humanity.

Rachelle made a heart breaking choice to who she would kill, now, 3 years later, she is a bloodborn. She works as a bloodhound at the mercy of the King Philippe killing woodborn creatures that stalk humans. She also becomes guardian to the King's bastard son Armand. But, Rachelle is still haunted by her memories of what she did 3 years ago. She's driven to find a way to defeat the evil Devourer who is fated to return, but in order to do so, she must find Tyr and Zisa's legendary swords Joyeuse (Charlemagne's personal sword) and Durendal (Sword of Charlemagne's paladin Roland).

Armand is the part of the story that I compare to The Girl Without Hands. Unlike Rachelle, Armand refused to make a choice after being marked, and lost his hands in the process. Armand now wears silver prosthetics and is considered a hero to the people. Rachelle, of course, truly believes he is a liar since NOBODY survives being marked by a Forestborn. But, Armand also has a talent for seeing the Forest everywhere which might lead Rachelle into finding the legendary swords. Unlikely enemies, become unlikely allies.

One might ask themselves where the comparisons with Little Red Riding Hood came from. One could say that the so called Devourer was the big bad wolf. Or, one could say that Rachelle's forestborn who marked her was the evil wolf. There is also the fact that Rachelle wears a red coat embroidered with the black "fleur-de-lis" indicating that she's a member of the Royal Order of Penitents, or Kings' bloodhounds. Before that, she wore a red cloak with charms to protect her from the forest.

I do believe that publishers and authors have made a pact with the devil in regards to putting twisted, unwanted, and unnecessary love triangles in books just to irritate me and a whole lot of others. I did admire the little twist that Hodge puts into the story which stopped me cold, and made me go back to the beginning for clues as to how I could have missed it. I really think that Rachelle is the anti-heroine which I don't mind at all. She's fierce, she's badass, but she's also fallible which got her into this situation in the first place.

Hodge has a world building creativity about her that is fantastic. You can't expect the same ole thing from her time and time again. You can expect originality right from the start along with some interesting characters. But, the weak link to this story is that it moves kind of slow. The point is that Rachelle can't miraculously find the swords, defeat the villains, and live happily ever after. She has to work her way through difficult challenges, and temptations. That is who Rachelle is. 

**I received this book for free from (Balzer & Bray/Harperteen) via (Edelweiss) in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**

Thursday, July 2, 2015

*Book Review* The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson (YA Contemporary)

Format: Hardcover, 391 pages
Release Date: January 7, 2014
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Source: Library
Genre: YA, Contemporary

For the past five years, Hayley Kincain and her father, Andy, have been on the road, never staying long in one place as he struggles to escape the demons that have tortured him since his return from Iraq. Now they are back in the town where he grew up so Hayley can attend school. Perhaps, for the first time, Hayley can have a normal life, put aside her own painful memories, even have a relationship with Finn, the hot guy who obviously likes her but is hiding secrets of his own.

Will being back home help Andy’s PTSD, or will his terrible memories drag him to the edge of hell, and drugs push him over? The Impossible Knife of Memory is Laurie Halse Anderson at her finest: compelling, surprising, and impossible to put down.

Laurie Halse Anderson is a writer who I can always count on to make me think, make me hurt, make me feel things I don't want to, and make smile like a goof ball with her patented sarcasm and humorous characters. The Impossible Knife of Memory hits a bit close to home for me as I am also a veteran who experiences very strange side effects from PTSD. Yes, folks, women do suffer from PTSD just like men! This is a story that will make you cry, make you laugh, and make you seriously think about the veterans of this country who are in the same boat as Hayley's father.

"There are two kinds of people in this world:
1. zombies
2. freaks.
Only two. Anyone who tells you different is lying. That person is a lying zombie. Do not listen to zombies. Run for your freaking life.
Another lesson: everyone is born a freak."  

17-year old Hayley Kincain is the stories narrator. After 5 years on the road with her PTSD suffering father and being home-schooled, Hayley returns home for her senior year of high school where things are supposed to return to normal. Hayley is the tall, quiet, strangely smart one who wears blue hair, and likes to correct her teachers when they get things wrong. Right from the start, Hayley comes across as a smart ass, but not because she intentionally wants to be a trouble maker. She just knows things that others don't and that often lands her in detention.

One could call Hayley a radicalized lefty who wants to socially adjust American History. Or, one could just say that Hayley doesn't want to watch as history is rewritten. Hayley has only one real friend in Grace Rapaport, but she doesn't remember things from when they were children together. She once had a possible step-mother candidate in Trish, but said candidate ran away with her tail between her legs. She also has a stalker all her own in Finnegan (Finn) Ramos. 

Finn is like a little puppy dog who has lost his master. He follows Hayley around until her shields of Kryptonite slowly fall away and her heart opens up to new possibilities. Finn isn't about the sex. He truly believes that Hayley has things to say, and that people should hear her. Thus, the entertaining chase to get her to write a column for the schools paper, and to open herself up to a bit of romance instead of running away at the first hint of actual emotions.

I do thank Anderson for not glamorizing Andy's PTSD. I appreciate that she understands that veterans often find themselves in darkness, with only a bottle of alcohol, or pain killers to keep them from going insane. Andy broke my heart to pieces and I'm not afraid to say so. He continues to fight his demons, until the demons nearly win. I appreciated that we do get flashbacks of Andy's experiences as a soldier. Some authors would have avoided this part. 

Hayley has her own emotional trauma and deals with it with sarcasm, and burying her own past experiences deep within an iron lock. I appreciate when authors don't use rose colored classes to fog over the truths about life. Life isn't perfect. Most of us struggle to even get out of bed in the morning. Although the ending was a bit rushed, I would definitely recommend this book to everyone. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

*Book Review* Joyride by Anna Banks (YA Contemporary)

Series:  Standalone
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Released: June 2, 2015
Format: E-Book, 288 pages
Source: Publisher
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

A popular guy and a shy girl with a secret become unlikely accomplices for midnight pranking, and are soon in over their heads—with the law and with each other—in this sparkling standalone from NYT-bestselling author Anna Banks.

It’s been years since Carly Vega’s parents were deported. She lives with her brother, studies hard, and works at a convenience store to contribute to getting her parents back from Mexico.

Arden Moss used to be the star quarterback at school. He dated popular blondes and had fun with his older sister, Amber. But now Amber’s dead, and Arden blames his father, the town sheriff who wouldn’t acknowledge Amber's mental illness. Arden refuses to fulfill whatever his conservative father expects.

All Carly wants is to stay under the radar and do what her family expects. All Arden wants is to NOT do what his family expects. When their paths cross, they each realize they’ve been living according to others. Carly and Arden’s journey toward their true hearts—and one another—is funny, romantic, and sometimes harsh.

Joyride is a standalone novel that features 16-year old Carlotta "Carly" Vega, and 17-year old Arden Moss. The story is told in alternating narratives. Carly in the first person, Arden in the third. This is a story that takes place in Florida where the author calls home. It is a story that touches on two very politically and socially important subjects: Illegal immigration, and human trafficking. I dare say the author has her own opinion on these subjects, and perhaps we can agree that there needs to be further discussions, and less boisterous bluster on what needs to be done.

I really did feel for Carly. Her parents are illegals. They came to this country and didn't bother to apply for citizenship, or getting a license, or insurance to protect their family from things that could tear a family apart. In this instance, it backfires when one of the parents gets into an accident and they are deported back to Mexico. Carly and her brother Julio are forced to work their assess off in order to pay a human trafficker enough money to return them to the US. Carly goes to school and studies hard, while also working at a convenience story to save money. She truly believes that the harder she works, the more likely it is that she will get into a good college. 

There's a whole lot to be said about that last part. It is the parents' responsibility to raise, and protect their children. Not the other way around. I can see if the parents suddenly got really sick, and then the kids stepped up and took care of them. I can't imagine anyone paying a Coyote thousands of dollars to trudge through the desert in order to cross the US border illegally. There has got to be a better and safer way for immigrants to come to this country. Here again is where the discussion veers off track during political and social conversations. 

On the other side of the coin is Arden. Arden has everything that Carly wants, except for the fact that his father, the Sheriff, is a major tool, hot head, and many, many other things you can say about him. Arden lives to do crazy pranks while breezing through high school without a care in the world. Not since his sister and fellow prankster died has he truly cared about anything important. Carly and Arden meet after he plays a prank on someone where she works, and in a surprising move, she finds out that he's not at all like his reputation. In the end, the two become friends, Robin Hood and Will Scarlet pranksters, and end up finding more in common than not.

I did have a minor problem with the use of the word slavery. Carly truly believes she is a slave to the man in order to make enough money to bring her parents back to America. Perhaps that is true, but the image of slavery is not really the idea thing to be thinking about in today's politically incorrect environment where everything you say and do is being torn apart and put under a microscope. Perhaps it was the authors intention to make you think about how hard people really work, and how little they are able to show for the work they put in. 

**I received this book for free from Feiwel & Friends in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

*Book Review* Get Dirty by Gretchen McNeil (YA Contemporary)

Series: Don't Get Mad # 2
Publisher: Balzer & Bray
Release Date: June 16, 2015
Format: E-Book, 384 pages
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss
Genre: Young Adult, Mystery

The members of Don’t Get Mad aren’t just mad anymore . . . they’re afraid. And with Margot in a coma and Bree stuck in juvie, it’s up to Olivia and Kitty to try to catch their deadly tormentor. But just as the girls are about to go on the offensive, Ed the Head reveals a shocking secret that turns all their theories upside down. The killer could be anyone, and this time he—or she—is out for more than just revenge.

The girls desperately try to discover the killer’s identity as their personal lives are falling apart: Donté is pulling away from Kitty and seems to be hiding a secret of his own, Bree is under house arrest, and Olivia’s mother is on an emotional downward spiral. The killer is closing in, the threats are becoming more personal, and when the police refuse to listen, the girls have no choice but to confront their anonymous friend . . . or die trying.

“I, Kitty Wei, Margot Meija, Olivia Hayes, Bree Derringer, do solemnly swear, no secrets – ever – shall leave this square.”

Gretchen McNeil's Don't Get Mad duology comes to an end with the girls facing difficult personal challenges that could tear the group apart from its foundation. 3 days after the ending of Get Even, Bree is under house arrest after "admitting" to her guilt. Margot, their most analytical member, is in a coma after being attacked. Olivia is wondering how long her mother can hold on until she completely falls apart, and Kitty has some issues with her boyfriend Donte and best friend Mika to work out.

What hasn't been uncovered going into Get Dirty is the killer's identity, and why he or she has decided to attack DGM on such a personal level. Then something unusual happens. The girls open up their group to Ed the Head, and John Baggott. I was definitely blindsided by this move, but found it interesting that after so many successful revenge plots, Ed who adores Margot, and John who loves Bree, would become important partners in the unraveling of the killers motives, and stopping he or she from hurting anyone else.

I have to say that the mystery was definitely played out really well. I guessed, and found clues leading to the person, but still it was well done. Is the killer Ed the Head? Or, is it Sergeant Callahan who has become a major thorn in DGM's fanny, especially Bree who refuses to speak? Or, could it be one of DGM's victim's come back to haunt them? What is apparent the further you travel into McNeil's world, is that nobody is truly safe. Not the DGM members. Not their families. Not even those who the DGM pranked in their many endeavors.

I have to admit that I preferred Get Dirty to Get Even. Perhaps because it got a bit darker and perhaps because there's more twists than a french braid. Unfortunately, there is a but. The part of the book that bugged me and got under my skin was the way Bree's parent's treated her. I had nothing but hatred for Bree's mom who until now has been gallivanting all over Europe. Her dad, the Senator, is all but out of the picture too busy to make sure she's OK and ensuring that she suffers in misery. Then Bree's mother goes and does something that gave me pause and notice. Funny how parents can be so disloyal to their kids, and then suddenly will stop the world in order to do something shocking.

I really liked Bree and John together. Perhaps it's because they threw out Star War's metaphors which they both bot. I really missed having Margot around for most of the story. She's definitely the heart that makes DGM tick. I'd be interesting in seeing how Margot gets on, especially since there is a certain someone who has cared for her, and did things for her, that nobody else does. It was a clever drop of information regarding Olivia and who her father really is. Wouldn't mind seeing what happens in the future between them.

In the end, if you like watching, or have read the Pretty Little Liars books, you will definitely want to pick up this duology and read it. I think the most telling message of this series is that you really need to be careful to whom you try to get back at. Things don't necessarily work out exactly as you had planned. Have you NOT watched Revenge?

**I received this book for free from (Balzer & Bray/Harperteen) via (Edelweiss) in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**

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Monday, June 29, 2015

#Review - Defy by @SaraBLarson (YA Fantasy) @Scholastic

Series: Defy # 1
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Released: January 7, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 336 pages
Source: Library
Genre: Young Adult, High Fantasy

Alexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king's army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince's guard. But when a powerful sorcerer sneaks into the palace in the dead of night, even Alex, who is virtually unbeatable, can't prevent him from abducting her, her fellow guard and friend Rylan, and Prince Damian, taking them through the treacherous wilds of the jungle and deep into enemy territory.

The longer Alex is held captive with both Rylan and the prince, the more she realizes that she is not the only one who has been keeping dangerous secrets. And suddenly, after her own secret is revealed, Alex finds herself confronted with two men vying for her heart: the safe and steady Rylan, who has always cared for her, and the dark, intriguing Damian. With hidden foes lurking around every corner, is Alex strong enough to save herself and the kingdom she's sworn to protect?

Defy is the first installment in the Defy trilogy by Sara B. Larson. The series features 17-year old Alexa Hollen who, after her parents were murdered, cuts off all her hair and disguises herself as a boy named Alex. At Fourteen, she and her brother Marcel joined the king's army where Alexa avoided being sent to the breeding houses. More about the breeding houses later. For three years, Alex grows to become one of the best fighters in all the King's army. Her skills are really second to none thanks to her constant training with her brother, and best friend Rylan. 

She quickly rises to the top of the Prince's protection detail where she harbors a mayor secret that if exposed, could jeopardize everything that she's fought for. For the record, I don't have a problem with Mulan like crossing dressing characters. Then again, I do expect them to be a little less emotional at times. I am also appalled by the existence of Breeding Houses. Let's call it what it is. It's a place where soldiers rape young women over and over again until they get pregnant. Sick, disgusting, vile. No further words matter. 

Alexa isn't the only one carrying a heavy secret that could ruin them. Damian, the lazy, spoiled-rotten Prince is also hiding some deadly secrets that leads to his kidnapping along with Alex and Rylan. With kidnappers getting closer and closer to Damian, Alex is forced to room with him, and protect him at all costs. This is the point in the story where everything changes. Damian, Alexa, and Rylan are "captured" and taken to a place where even more secrets are exposed, and things change for Alexa.

So, let's get right to another one of my dislikes; love triangles. Two men secretly hold the fact that they know who Alexa really is; Rylan and Damian. For 3 years, one of them has known her secret and kept it hidden from the rest of the Prince's guards. The Prince himself, apparently, knew as well but once again, kept his mouth shut because Alex had more than proved "himself day in and day out. So, where does that leave Alex? Does she end up falling for the best friend who kept her secret? Or, does she fall for the Prince? You'll have to continue reading the series in order to find out.     

Defy is definitely one of those stories that crosses a whole lot of territory, and may make some readers uncomfortable with the addition of breeding houses. It definitely was not one of the highlights I will look back on with fondness. It is a surprising story in that Alexa is able to hide her identity so well. Or so she believes. I have to say that I really, really liked Alexa. She's more than able to excel among the men she serves with. She rises quickly to the top of the ladder, and would be the Captain of the Prince's guard were she not so young. 

She's more than capable with a sword, and is nearly unbeatable with a bow and arrow. She's often put in charge of testing new recruits where she quickly shows why she's one of the best around. My only, only regret is that Larson falls into the trap of providing readers with a twisted triangle of doom. I know where I stand on who I would choose, but that's because I am a bit behind on the series. There is a whole lot more to to say about this story, but I'll stop for fear of using spoilers. This is a story filled intrigue, mysteries, a scary sorcerer, and a King out of control. I will be continuing this series.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

#Steampunk #Review - Rebel Mechanics by @ShannaSwendson @fsgbooks

Series: Rebel Mechanics # 1
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux
Release Date: July 14, 2015
Source: Publisher
Format: Hardcover, 320 pages
Genre: Alternative History/Steampunk

A sixteen-year-old governess becomes a spy in this alternative U.S. history where the British control with magic and the colonists rebel by inventing.

It’s 1888, and sixteen-year-old Verity Newton lands a job in New York as a governess to a wealthy leading family—but she quickly learns that the family has big secrets. Magisters have always ruled the colonies, but now an underground society of mechanics and engineers are developing non-magical sources of power via steam engines that they hope will help them gain freedom from British rule. The family Verity works for is magister—but it seems like the children's young guardian uncle is sympathetic to the rebel cause. As Verity falls for a charming rebel inventor and agrees to become a spy, she also becomes more and more enmeshed in the magister family’s life. She soon realizes she’s uniquely positioned to advance the cause—but to do so, she’ll have to reveal her own dangerous secret.

Rebel Mechanics is an Alternate History/Steampunk driven novel that takes place in the 1888 American Colonies. Yes, you did read that right. In this universe, the Americans lost the Revolutionary War, the British still rule, and those with Magic, magisters, are responsible for keeping the colonies under their thumbs and magic out of the hands of normal people. Rebel Mechanics centers around Verity Newton who has the equivalent of a college education.

Verity journey's to New York City in an attempt to find suitable employment as a governess. Verity's journey begins by witnessing a robbery of a magisters courier by masked bandits, then riding on a steam driven Bus that can outrun magical transportation. After gaining employment with Lord Henry Lyndon, Verity soon learns that not everything is it seems in NYC. There is an unrest brewing and it's led by a group known as Rebel Mechanics. They are tired of the magisters control over the country, and wants machines to lead the charge in overthrowing the magisters.

Verity finds herself leaning towards the rebel cause even though she, herself, has the ability to use magic. She becomes a spy within the Lyndon household and starts writing guest columns for a sympathetic newspaper to the Rebel cause. While Verity is being lured into the rebellion by her new friends, her new employer Henry, has a few secrets of his own. Henry is the depicted as the older brother figure to his nieces and nephew. Next to Verity, Henry is my favorite character. He's got a whole lot more going on under his disguise than as the mild mannered Entomologist. While Verity is finding love with a rebel, she isn't aware that Henry and his friends have the same goals in mind as the Rebels.

Rebel Mechanics is a fun story with a blend of romance, steampunk, history, and characters that you can definitely love and hate. Thankfully, Rebel Mechanics is not a standalone even though the story wraps itself up easy enough. There will be a sequel with more Verity and Henry and their fight against the Magisters. There are enough questions about Verity and her magic alone to warrant another book. 

**I received this book for free from Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**