Book Thoughts: One of the Guys by Lisa Aldin

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Summary:

Tomboy to the core, Toni Valentine understands guys. She’ll take horror movies, monster hunts and burping contests over manicures. So Toni is horrified when she’s sent to the Winston Academy for Girls, where she has to wear a skirt and learn to be a lady while the guys move on without her.

Then Toni meets Emma Elizabeth, a girl at school with boy troubles, and she volunteers one of her friends as a pretend date. Word spreads of Toni’s connections with boys, and she discovers that her new wealthy female classmates will pay big money for fake dates. Looking for a way to connect her old best friends with her new life at school, Toni and Emma start up Toni Valentine’s Rent-A-Gent Service.

But the business meets a scandal when Toni falls for one of her friends–the same guy who happens to be the most sought-after date. With everything she’s built on the line, Toni has to decide if she wants to save the business and her old life, or let go of being one of the guys for a chance at love.

My Thoughts:

One of the Guys is a cute, quick read for anyone in need of a happy ending.

The book revolves around Toni, a high school senior who considers herself “one of the guys” since her only friends – Loch, Ollie and Cowboy, are male.  In the beginning, the four of them are inseparable. But then a prank-gone-wrong messes things up between them and Toni is left to fend for herself while struggling at a new all-girls school.

Even though I’m nothing like Toni, she’s an easy character to relate with. What I value most about Toni’s character is her persistence in trying to communicate with her friends. No matter how many times they blow her off, she still tries to see them. I was able to recall my own personal moments in Toni’s story; because of that, Aldin does a great job at replicating realistic situations.

Another highlight of the book is the quick pace and easy flow. Even though the story spans over five or so months, the pacing is smooth and fits with the story. In addition, none of the descriptions felt unnecessary; all of the details fell into place by the end of the book.

On the other hand, while the characters are high school seniors, I found the writing to be geared towards a younger crowd. Many of the characters are immature, reminding me of freshman or sophomores. I also wish some characters were more dimensional. A few characters only talk about one topic throughout the novel and I got bored hearing about the same subject.

Still, I enjoyed the romance between Toni and Loch. It’s slow and confusing, like a lot of beginning relationships are. Yay for finding a book that actually details the awkwardness of having a crush and over-thinking things!

Overall, One of the Guys is a pleasant read. Although I did not fall in love with the book, I suggest you check it out if you’re looking for an adorable story.

My Thoughts: True Fire by Gary Meehan

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Summary:

Sixteen-year-old Megan is pregnant.

As she prepares to tell her family, the unthinkable happens. Her village is razed by soldiers: her grandfather murdered, her twin sister taken.

On a desperate mission to rescue her beloved Gwyneth, Megan discovers a terrifying truth – that the destruction of her old life is inextricably linked to her unborn child. The feared witch soldiers, vanquished a generation ago, have returned to see the fulfilment of a prophecy: one that will put Megan and her new friends – Eleanor, a fiery ex-aristocrat, and Damon, a wayward charmer – at the heart of the greatest war her world has ever known.

My Thoughts:

(**I received this title from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

With True Fire, Meehan has crafted a world divided by religion and corruption while interrupting reader’s connotations about witches.

I firmly believe I would not have enjoyed the novel as much if not for Meehan’s writing – it is definitely the strongest aspect of True Fire. For me, the book reads as high YA. The writing, along with the book’s themes, is more mature; on the other hand, the characters are highly sarcastic and fall into the mature, yet immature range. Meehan also details scenes with just enough description to keep things entertaining instead of boring readers with a descriptive over-kill.

That being said, I really enjoyed the protagonists Megan, Eleanor and Damon. Like any other novel, they meet under special circumstances; unlike other novels though, the three of them continue a very intense love-hate relationship with each other. I really couldn’t tell if they were going to stay acquaintances or kill each other off; that question itself kept me reading.

Although True Fire has a strong narrative and awesome characters, I found the plot to be average (if that’s a good description). There’s the girl who hasn’t done anything wrong, but is in this huge predicament; the beautiful friend that can kick-ass; and the charming guy who may or may not be on the protagonist’s side. I also must admit I predicted the ending, which I had hoped would be something different.

Still, the themes and conflicts that revolve around religion, belief, and corruption are written in with much thought. In True Fire, there are two groups: the witches and the Brothers. Both believe in God, but are out to destroy each other for the struggle of power. Meehan incorporates these things into the plot well; the reader is able to look into a world controlled by religion without feeling pressured to take on, or think of, notions of their own.

True Fire is a satisfying read. If you are looking for an action filled adventure mixed with sarcasm, I definitely think Meehan’s book is for you.

My Thoughts: Amazon Burning by Victoria Griffith

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Summary:

When 22-year-old aspiring journalist Emma Cohen is forced to flee the comforts of her NYU student life, she maneuvers an internship from her father at his newspaper in Rio de Janeiro. There, Emma is immediately swept into a major news story—and a life-threatening situation—when a famous jungle environmentalist, Milton Silva, is mysteriously murdered.

Emma must now enter the Amazon rainforest with her father to investigate, where she is both awed by the enormity and beauty of the Amazon and appalled by its reckless destruction. Not only will Emma have to brave the primal world of the Amazon, she must fight to survive the kidnappers, villains, corrupt activists, and indigenous tribes that lay in wait along the ever-twisting trail of the murder case. Stretched to the brink, it’s up to Emma, her father, and the dreamy news photographer, Jimmy, to unravel the mystery and live to tell the tale.

Amazon Burning by Victoria Griffith is a spectacular debut Young Adult novel. Griffith’s powerful rendering of the Amazon rainforest forms the perfect, wildly exotic backdrop for this extraordinary tale of a young urban woman coming of age in the midst of intense conflict.

My Thoughts:

(**I received this title from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

I finished Amazon Burning a little more than a week ago; today, I’m still unsure about how I feel about this book. To begin, I thought this book fell more into the new adult category instead of the young adult category (the steamy scenes get a little too graphic for me to place this in YA).

I went into this book thinking it was going to be engaging and heavy; instead, Amazon Burning is more of a light, action-filled story. The plot was filled with crazy impossible scenes and non-stop action, which allowed me to imagine the book as a thriller movie, instead of a novel, in my mind.

Emma is a likable protagonist, even though I was not able to connect with her. The story begins with her in the middle of a sexual assault case against one of her professors, which prompts her to take her dad’s offer to go to Brazil. Although I understood the importance of the situation, I did not think the writing captured the severity and effect it has on Emma’s life. I was waiting to read about Emma’s character development through her mental and physical battle with these events, but it never came. There are many sub-plots that emerge throughout the novel; I wish Griffith had focused in and built more of that one.

On the other hand, I did enjoy the relationship between Emma and Jimmy. Jimmy is caring, protective and adorable. Emma and Jimmy are a good fit and I think the romance is a great part of the plot. Still, I found the sex scenes to be awkwardly detailed.

A great aspect of this novel is the setting. A majority of the book revolves around the Amazon rainforest and the animals and people that live in it. Amazon Burning is unique from other teen books because it focuses on people outside of modern influence. I liked reading about Yanomami Indian characters, and knowing that the author spent time with Yanomami people adds to her credibility in portraying them.

Overall, I thought Amazon Burning was alright. I didn’t fall in love with the book, but at times I kept reading because I wanted to know what came next. If you’re looking for something different, Amazon Burning might be for you.

 

Blog Tour: London Falling (International School #2) by Chanel Cleeton [Book Thoughts]

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Summary:

Maggie Carpenter walked away from the hottest encounter of her life when she left the seductive glitz of England for summer break in her South Carolina hometown. Now that she’s returned to the International School in London—and sexy, privileged Samir Khouri is once again close enough to touch—she can’t help but remember the attraction, the drama … the heartbreak.

She can’t help but want him even more.

Samir can’t afford to fall for someone so far removed from his world, not when his time in London is running out. It’s his senior year—his last chance at freedom before he returns home to Lebanon. There, he’ll be expected to follow in his father’s footsteps—not follow his heart to Maggie. But when a scorching secret hookup becomes a temptation neither can resist, they’ll both have to fight to survive the consequences … and find a future together.

My Thoughts:

Although I adored I See London, London Falling somehow made me fall in love with Maggie, Samir and the International School a hundred times more.

To be honest, I didn’t really know where London Falling was going to go. Yes, the first book set up a lot of things for the sequel, but I questioned the relationship between Maggie and Samir. Everything between them was already so intense and passionate that I honestly questioned how it could become more intense and passionate. In the end, it was wrong for me to question. Chanel Cleeton crafted an addictive sequel that intensified everything between Maggie and Samir, making me feel every emotion known to mankind.

Even though the book revolves around Maggie and Samir, Cleeton doesn’t forget about the other characters and other important things. For example, Fleur’s past comes back to haunt her, and she’s stuck getting through everything too. Maggie is also challenged with facing her own family issues. What I love about London Falling is that it mirrors true reactions and outcomes. In every scene, I understood and empathized with a character’s decision.

Chanel Cleeton does a wonderful job at capturing moments and emotions and translating them into words one can put on a page. I found myself staring at the book in awe at certain sentences and passages because Maggie’s thoughts about life captured my exact feelings. Those details brought me closer to the characters because I knew how they felt.

In the end, all I can do is applaud Chanel Cleeton for writing a wonderful sequel to a wonderful book. If you haven’t read I See London, the first book in the International School series, then you need to do so right now. If you have, you need to somehow obtain the sequel because this series is my favorite.

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Author Links
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Giveaway!

Win a London Falling coffee mug, Tea, (4) signed London Falling bookmarks, (4) signed I See London bookmarks, (4) pens, a London case, and a $25 Amazon GC. Enter the rafflecopter here!

Please check out the rest of the LONDON FALLING tour here!

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Book Thoughts: Pawn by Aimee Carter

(** I received this book through Harlequin Teen Panel.)

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Summary:

For Kitty Doe, it seems like an easy choice. She can either spend her life as a III in misery, looked down upon by the higher ranks and forced to leave the people she loves, or she can become a VII and join the most powerful family in the country.

If she says yes, Kitty will be Masked—surgically transformed into Lila Hart, the Prime Minister’s niece, who died under mysterious circumstances. As a member of the Hart family, she will be famous. She will be adored. And for the first time, she will matter.

There’s only one catch. She must also stop the rebellion that Lila secretly fostered, the same one that got her killed …and one Kitty believes in. Faced with threats, conspiracies and a life that’s not her own, she must decide which path to choose—and learn how to become more than a pawn in a twisted game she’s only beginning to understand.

My Thoughts:

Although Pawn is an interesting book with a strong female protagonist, I am still not 100% sure where my thoughts about this story lie.

Let me start off with Kitty – she’s cool. She’s strong willed and holds her own in almost every situation. Right from the beginning, Kitty is planning a way out of the miserable future she has just been given. Her mind constantly wavers between the task she’s been ordered to do and her plan to get out of doing that task. Even though Kitty is the pawn of this entire story, she’s good at playing and faking her role.

In addition to Kitty’s character, all of the other characters are well-built. The history written into each character heightened my empathy for each of them, since I was able to see things through his or her point of view. At one point, I even found myself agreeing with the antagonist through her back story.

On the other hand, although most of the characters are well-developed, the relationships between them were not. Before Pawn takes place, Kitty has been dating Benjy, a boy she’s been good friends with her whole life. Actually, most of Kitty’s actions and decisions revolve around her concern and love for Benjy – which I did not understand at all. Right from the beginning, I had no feeling for their relationship. To me, it didn’t feel like they were dating. There was no passion or tension; nothing for an outsider to feel or understand their emotion. Even though there is enough supposed romance in the book between different characters, I wish it had shown through.

To continue, I didn’t love Pawn. It didn’t capture me in the beginning. Towards the middle, I became more intrigued and wanted to keep reading. The ending surprised me a little, and it was nice to have a twist.

On the other hand, Pawn is a decent read. It’s interesting and filled with enough family drama people can relate to. If you’re looking for a simple dystopian read, I suggest you check this one out.

 

Book Thoughts: Pills and Starships by Lydia Millet

(**I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

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Summary:

In this richly imagined dystopic future brought by global warming, seventeen-year-old Nat and her hacker brother Sam have come by ship to the Big Island of Hawaii for their parents’ Final Week. The few Americans who still live well also live long—so long that older adults bow out not by natural means but by buying death contracts from the corporates who now run the disintegrating society by keeping the people happy through a constant diet of “pharma.” Nat’s family is spending their pharma-guided last week at a luxury resort complex called the Twilight Island Acropolis.

Deeply conflicted about her parents’ decision, Nat spends her time keeping a record of everything her family does in the company-supplied diary that came in the hotel’s care package. While Nat attempts to come to terms with her impending parentless future, Sam begins to discover cracks in the corporates’ agenda and eventually rebels against the company his parents have hired to handle their last days. Nat has to choose a side. Does she let her parents go gently into that good night, or does she turn against the system and try to break them out?

But the deck is stacked against Nat and Sam: in this oppressive environment, water and food are scarce, mass human migrations are constant, and new babies are illegal. As the week nears its end, Nat rushes to protect herself and her younger brother from the corporates while also forging a path toward a future that offers the hope of redemption for humanity. This page-turning first YA novel by critically acclaimed author Lydia Millet is stylish and dark and yet deeply hopeful, bringing Millet’s characteristic humor and style to a new generation of young readers.

My Thoughts:

Pills and Starships is a fascinating read that constantly keeps you thinking about the world we live in and the future we are headed towards.

Right from the beginning, I was intrigued with Nat’s story. The book begins with Nat’s family starting their final vacation together – the vacation that her parents have chosen to enjoy in Hawaii for their last week of life. Nat is given a journal to use as an outlet; as a result, her whole experience is jotted down for you and I, which I found pretty cool. Throughout the book, Nat acknowledges that she has (or will have) an audience. I’ve read a handful of books that also recognize the reader; here, the author does it in a way that aids the story. Nat tells her story, without always doing the actual telling (if that makes sense).

As a person, I think Nat was alright. She’s nice and caring, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think she has much of a backbone. Even though Nat is sixteen, she is Sam’s older sister. Throughout the book, Sam is the independent character; he is the one who holds his own weight and discovers things for his own. I liked Sam, even though he comes off as obnoxious sometimes. I like Nat also, but she follows Sam too quickly instead of really thinking things out for her own sake.

To continue, the plot of Pills and Starships is very intriguing. Can you imagine a future in which people chose their death dates? It’s depressing and cool at the same time. At first, I thought all of the different pills used in the story would be over done; it’s not. It’s scary to imagine people under the influence of something all of the time instead of experiencing the world through their own senses. I think Millet does a great job at creating a futuristic dystopia that differs from other fiction books out there.

Another thing I liked about this book is that there is little romance. There’s enough that most readers can empathize with Nat, but nowhere enough to drive the plot.

In the end, I enjoyed Pills and Starships. I’m not going to lie, it’s not my favorite book; it is a decent read though, for anyone who enjoys dystopias. Not only that, but it’s a good dystopia published by a lesser known company, Akashic books. I suggest you check it out!

Blog Tour: Branded by Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki [Book Thoughts]

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Summary:

Fifty years ago the Commander came into power and murdered all who opposed him. In his warped mind, the seven deadly sins were the downfall of society. He created the Hole where sinners are branded according to their sins and might survive a few years. At best.

Now LUST wraps around my neck like blue fingers strangling me. I’ve been accused of a crime I didn’t commit and now the Hole is my new home.
Darkness. Death. Violence. Pain.

Now every day is a fight for survival. But I won’t die. I won’t let them win.

The Hole can’t keep me. The Hole can’t break me.

I am more than my brand. I’m a fighter.
My name is Lexi Hamilton, and this is my story.

My Thoughts:

It’s always hard writing a review about a book you love because all you want to do is praise it – Branded is a seductively thrilling read that takes the seven deadly sins to a whole new level.

I’m going to begin by telling you that I started and finished this book within forty-eight hours. Lexi’s story starts in media res, like many other novels do. Unlike many other novels though, I was immediately hooked. Even though I’m familiar with the seven deadly sins, I have never read a story completely based off of them. Because of that, I found the plot to be extremely exciting and very original.

Even so, the book does have its fair share of clichés. The protagonist Lexi is not the girl everyone thinks she is. Cole is your stoic warrior. Two people, who aren’t supposed to become friends, break the rules and become more than friends. To be truthful, their relationship was obvious to me the second Cole was introduced to the story. With all this said, I didn’t mind the clichés one bit. Why? Because everything came together to make Branded a wonderful read.

Although I love a lot of things about Branded, my favorite would have to be the relationship between Lexi and Cole. Ketner and Kalicicki are able to artfully construct a true developing relationship; they added enough confusion, unspoken words and sexual tension to make any reader want to punch a wall with all the emotion running through the pages. It is not only beautifully written, but also evenly developed throughout the story.

This book is filled with terror and bloodshed. Never once, did anything Lexi experienced get tiring. Even though bullets were fired or another person was after Lexi, it was written in enough detail in such a thrilling way that similar experiences kept me reading instead of sounded redundant.

Overall, Branded is fast paced read that had my heart racing from beginning to end. It is the best self-published book I’ve read and I know I’ll be looking out for the authors’ other works! Check this book out!