Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Review: The Midnight Star (The Young Elites #3) by Marie Lu

The Midnight Star (The Young Elites #3) by Marie Lu
Published: October 11, 2016
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
There was once a time when darkness shrouded the world, and the darkness had a queen.

Adelina Amouteru is done suffering. She’s turned her back on those who have betrayed her and achieved the ultimate revenge: victory. Her reign as the White Wolf has been a triumphant one, but with each conquest her cruelty only grows. The darkness within her has begun to spiral out of control, threatening to destroy all she’s gained.

When a new danger appears, Adelina’s forced to revisit old wounds, putting not only herself at risk, but every Elite. In order to preserve her empire, Adelina and her Roses must join the Daggers on a perilous quest—though this uneasy alliance may prove to be the real danger. 

My Thoughts
“There was once a time when darkness shrouded the world, and the darkness had a queen.”

Fantastical conclusion to an explosive series! The Midnight Star is just another example of Marie Lu’s exceptional ability to take her readers on a quest that is nothing short of high octane adventure and mind-blowing intrigue. YA Fantasy at its BEST!

In this final installment to The Young Elites, we journey with Adelina Amouteru has she continues to spiral down a dark path with both her powers and reign as queen. She faces her enemies head on with her ability to wield dark illusions and suffering, and she’s gained the fear of her people. The only one she can trust is Magiano, and even he can’t keep her safe from the threats she faces at every turn. When the world begins to show signs of destruction, Adelina must align with her enemies and rejoin the Elites as they travel to the Realm of Gods to save her people from the darkness that lies ahead.

Marie Lu definitely made some bold decisions in this story with both her characters and plot direction. The Midnight Star takes us down a dark path that Adelina experiences, and it was definitely an emotional exercise. It did not escape my notice that despite having the story told in multiple perspectives, where we heard from Raffaele, Maeve, Magiano, Teren and Violetta, the only first person narrative was from Adelina. It was like Marie Lu was forcing her audience to experience Adelina’s darkness firsthand. Great perspective that added a dark edge to the story.

Also, I loved how Lu was daring enough to make some bold sacrifices throughout her story with both characters and plot direction. Despite not wanting to lose some of the characters I connected with, it added credibility and substance to the story. I applaud Marie Lu for making the decisions she made, and I truly sensed she did it to advance the story and not for shock value. Well done!

As far as the emotional strength in this story, I would rate it a TEN! I’m not a crier when it comes to reading, but let me tell you… there were some moments that I felt the familiar tightening of my jaw and sting in my eyes. That only goes to show how completely I connected with the story and characters. What an experience!

Overall, it’s no secret I’m a huge fan of YA Fantasy, but only when it’s exceptional to the likes of Rowling, Marchetta and Lu. I’m willing to invest my time in this genre when I trust the author has the ability to create a fantastical journey, and Marie Lu is up there with the best in this genre. Loved it much!
5 Snowflakes

Monday, January 16, 2017

Review: Rebels of the Lamp by Michael M.B. Galvin, Peter Speakman

Rebels of the Lamp (Rebels of the Lamp, #1)Rebels of the Lamp by Michael M.B. Galvin, Peter Speakman
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Release Date: May 12th, 2015
Purchase: Amazon
Life is a blast when you have your very own genie. But when Parker Quarry is shipped from sunny Los Angeles to live with relatives in a quiet New Hampshire college town and releases a 2,000 year-old jinn from an ancient canister "borrowed" from the university building where his uncle works, the biggest blasts comes from the millennia old power struggle he reignites.

Now it is up to Parker, his mild-mannered cousin, Theo, and their wiz-kid classmate, Reese, to stop a battalion of battle-ready jinn from re-starting an all-out war one with humanity in the crosshairs

My Thoughts:
Rebels of the Lamp was really fun and I really enjoyed every minute of it!

This story was explosive from the start and the action never stopped!  Parker is in middle school and doesn't quite fit in.  He doesn't have the latest gadget and his shoes aren't from any name brand store. And in the middle school world this spells trouble.  Well that and the fact that he can't stop himself from making snarky remarks.  His mouth and fists finally land him in deep trouble and he is forced to move in with is aunt and uncle across the country.  Thinking things couldn't get any worse, he finds himself in the possession of a strange canister.  This canister unleashes just what he think he needs, but it also throws him head first into a war with very powerful genies.

What I described doesn't even come close to the adventure that is contained within these pages!  Like I said,  it was nonstop action from the first page all the way to the last.  I have to give the authors major credit for shoving so much in and having it not feel to crowded.  I think too much downtime would have slowed the pace of the story and it would have weakened it.  I liked that after every page something else happened and it had me furiously flipping pages to find out what would happen next.

I also have to give credit for Parker.  He is definitely smart mouthed and annoying, but the authors knew when to pull back and he didn't go too over the top and become unlikable.  Yes he wasn't my favorite person, but I am glad the authors let other characters take over.  If it was just told from Parkers point of view I think I would have hated him in the end.

I loved the way the side story was told also.  We get glimpses in the beginning telling us how the genies came to be and I thought it was a great addition.  So much so that I wanted more.  I'm not sure there was more to tell, but I liked the setting and the old world feel to that part of the book.

I also really liked Tarinn.  She made some questionable decisions at the end, but for the most part she was a great character and one I really hope we see more of.  I honestly liked the rest of the cast.  Theo and Reese were fun additions that helped ground Parker and I think they will help him become a stronger character in the sequel.

Overall this was a fun book and one I can see any middle schooler devouring.  I will say there is a lot of violence and a lot of blood/killing that I personally wasn't prepared for.  I think some scenes could've been taken out and the story would have still been the same so it was a bit unnecessary for so much to be included.  I haven't read much middle grade so maybe this is the norm??  If not then just a warning to some.

4 snowflakes

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Review: Beautiful Broken Girls by Kim Savage

Beautiful Broken GirlsBeautiful Broken Girls by Kim Savage
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Release Date: Feb 21st, 2017
Purchase: Amazon
Mira and Francesca Cillo—beautiful, overprotected, odd—seemed untouchable. But Ben touched seven parts of Mira: her palm, hair, chest, cheek, lips, throat, and heart. After the sisters drown themselves in the quarry lake, a post-mortem letter from Mira sends Ben on a quest to find notes in the seven places where they touched. Note by note, Ben discovers the mystical secret at the heart of Mira and Francesca's world, and that some things are better left untouched.

My Thoughts:
This was very different than I thought it was going to be.  I expected a dark thriller, but it turned out to be more of a sad story with a dark twist and I have to say it kinda worked.

The whole story is about Ben trying to find out why his neighbors, Mira and Francesca, committed suicide together.  He finds a note shortly after their passing and feels like it's his duty to Mira to find out her story.

Like I said I thought this was going to be a thriller, but it was just really sad.  The more we learn about the two sisters, the sadder it gets and a lot of things start coming to light by the end.  These things are not said in so many words and I kind of wish they had been.  I think it would have given the story another layer that it needed.  Keeping it as it was though did give the story a bit of mystery that was intriguing and let the reader draw their own conclusions.  In my opinion both ways would have worked, but I personally would have liked a better overall explanation.

My favorite thing about this story was the setting.  It felt very Jersey Shorish and mob/old gangster.  I thought this was a fun spin and I liked the way the girls family was described.  They were blood and blood always helped blood.  This helped lighten the story a tad, and it needed that because it was so sad.

One thing that I wished would have been wrapped up was Nick.  I am still not quite sure what his role was and it bothers me a tad.  I think the author left a little too much up to the readers imagination and could have tightened her storylines.  I for one like to have things spelled out for me so I feel a bit off not knowing things for certain.  

I did like this though and enjoyed it more than the authors previous works.  I think this style is just something I will have to get used to if I continue on with Savage (her previous book had the same kind of open endedness) and I think I will because this one was intriguing and fun.

3.5 snowflakes


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Mega Manga Giveaway! Kare First Love by Kaho Miyasaka and Akira Watanabe

WinterHaven Books is excited to host this Mega Manga Giveaway in appreciation to our followers who visit our blog.  This week, we are giving away the first SEVEN installments of Kare First Love by Kaho Miyasaka and Akira Watanabe.  You can see my review for the first installment below, as well as, the links to my other reviews. 

Be sure to check back later this month for another Mega Manga Giveaway!!
Published: September 7, 2004
Publisher: VIZ Media LLC
The age-old dilemma of choosing between your friend and the one you love is the lesson for the day for these bubbly high schoolers. 16-year-old Karin Karino finds herself torn between keeping the friendship of her classmate Yuka and entertaining the advances of a boy named Kiriya. Plain-Jane Karin experiences the gut-tingling roller coaster ride for her love and first kiss as fate pairs her up with Kiriya, who also happens to be Yuka's object of affection.

Through a series of chance meetings, Kiriya discovers the exquisite beauty lurking behind Karin's thick glasses and coy demeanor, and asks her to be his girlfriend. But living happily ever after in high school isn't on the curriculum, as Karin soon finds herself the center of Kiriya's attention, as well as the bulls eye in embittered pal Yuka's dart-board of hate.
My Thoughts
Originally Reviewed: November 2010

I was looking to find a substitute for my Vampire Knight manga obsession and I seem to have landed on just the right series.

Kare First Love by Kaho Miyasaka was a great kickoff to what I feel will be an entertaining series. I like the two main characters in this book. They are little more bold than I am used to, which is actually very refreshing and enjoyable.

The plot is intriguing but not uncommon as it deals with the age old dilemma of a guy coming in between two friends. However in this case, I’m not so sure Yuka is the friend Karin thinks she is, so I hope Karin is able to see her for what she really is and follow her heart. Kiriya seems sincere and down right loveable, so I hope he gets his chance with the girl, but anything can happen and I’m going to continue with this series so I can find out.

I enjoyed it much. Now on to blow my book budget, which I’ve been very good with lately.
4 Snowflakes
Arlene's Reviews for:
If this sounds like a manga series you would enjoy reading, be sure to fill out the rafflecopter below for a chance to win the first seven installments, plus one added manga surprise. Be sure to leave a thoughtful comment below about the series or giveaway. Because of the number of books we'll be shipping, this giveaway is open to US Residents only. 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Review: The Last Harvest by Kim Liggett

The Last HarvestThe Last Harvest by Kim Liggett
Publisher: Tor Teen
Release Date: January 10th, 2017
Purchase: Amazon
“I plead the blood.”

Those were the last words seventeen-year-old golden boy quarterback Clay Tate heard rattling from his dad's throat when he discovered him dying on the barn floor of the Neely Cattle Ranch, clutching a crucifix to his chest.

Now, on the first anniversary of the Midland, Oklahoma slaughter, the whole town's looking at Clay like he might be next to go over the edge. Clay wants to forget the past, but the sons and daughters of the Preservation Society—a group of prominent farmers his dad accused of devil worship—won't leave him alone. Including Ali, his longtime crush, who suddenly wants to reignite their romance after a year of silence, and hated rival Tyler Neely, who’s behaving like they’re old friends.

Even as Clay tries to reassure himself, creepy glances turn to sinister stares and strange coincidences build to gruesome rituals—but when he can never prove that any of it happened, Clay worries he might be following his dad down the path to insanity...or that something far more terrifying lies in wait around the corner.

My Thoughts:
This book is EVERYTHING!  I have been reading creepy reads for a long time and The Last Harvest tops my favorites of ALL.TIME!!!  Yes it is that good!!

Right from the beginning Liggett throws her readers into a story filled with dark and scary elements.  From the breeding barn, wheat fields, and Preservation Society you can just feel the sinister smoke following Clay around.  It was AMAZING!!  I don't think any other story has been this way and I loved it!  

The story itself was dark and had a religious tone throughout, but it wasn't too heavy handed and I honestly liked the way it was woven throughout the story. It plays a huge part in the overall plot, but the author didn't let it get too preachy which I appreciated.  It felt right inside the story and I don't think it would have worked otherwise.  There is one part that's a bit aggressive and bothered me, but I am guessing the author chose to throw that particular scene in to show how bad the church was and it's thinking.  Not quite sure why it was necessary, but I am grateful it was only one scene and the author chose to move on.

Clay was a great character.  He was flawed, but he just wanted to help his family after his fathers gruesome death.  That's another thing I liked about this, Liggett didn't throw all the gory at you at one time she let things build.  Like with Clay's dads death, you know it was gruesome, but she only throws bits and pieces (okay that's a bit gross if you have read the story you will understand...ick) at you and you don't really see the full picture until later in the story.  I liked this because I felt like the story was building into something spectacular and I was right.  Okay back to the characters, Clay was awesome.  I think the played his part right and didn't come across as too good or too bad.  He tried to be the man of the house, but when you are seventeen and well things beyond your control start happening one can't expect to be perfect.  I appreciated that he stood his ground throughout and he did the best he could.

I also liked the town feel.  Like I said this author painted a great picture for her thriller and this small town was a great addition.  It sounds cliche, but it worked and she did a great job weaving in the history to show why this town was the way it was.  It all just really worked!

I honestly can't think of one thing I would change and for me that's rare.  The pacing, flow, writing, characters, setting, and plot were all key pieces to this masterpiece and they all pulled their own weight.  Side note I would love to see this on the big screen!!

My favorite part was the ending!!! OMG!  I don't think I have ever been as surprised at an ending before!  I won't spoil anything, but let me just say Kim Liggett has become my now go to author for creepy!!  I loved the way she chose to end The Last Harvest and I won't lie I had nightmares last night about that ending!!  SO.MUCH.FUN!!  If you love creepy thrillers this book is definitely for you!!!!!!!!
5 HUGE snowflakes