Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Review: Daughter of the Burning City - Amanda Foody

Daughter of the Burning City
Amanda Foody
Series: N/A
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Mystery
Publisher: Harlequin TEEN
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads

Thanks to Harlequin TEEN for the ARC I received at BookExpo!

When I read the blurb for Daughter of the Burning City, I knew that I needed to make it a priority to grab at BEA - having loved Caraval, an endorsement from Stephanie Garber really sold me on this carnival-centric book. After reading the book, I can say that it definitely did not disappoint me, and I loved every second of it.
"Wicked, wicked to the core, the city will burn forevermore."
Daughter of the Burning City follows Sorina and her Freak Show in the traveling city of Gomorrah's festival. Sorina is an illusion worker, which immediately intrigued me since I had just recently finished The Rose Society, but besides just projecting illusions into the minds of others, she can also create living illusions. These not-so-imaginary creations are Sorina's family and are a part of her show's act, but everything changes when one of her illusions ends up dead.

The city of Gomorrah is a fascinating setting for the story. I think the idea of a carnival always has two sides - the excitement of the performances paired with a sort of creepy undertone, a darkness behind the flashing lights. The city of Gomorrah is built in a similar way. The uphill area is family friendly, filled with fun performances, including Sorina's Freak Show. On the other hand, the downhill is a dark place filled with pickpockets, prettywomen, and assassins. As the proprietor's daughter, Sorina will someday inherit the job, but this story follows her as she is exploring the downhill for the first time as part of her investigation into her illusion's death.

I loved the layers that Amanda Foody built into Gomorrah as well as the surrounding cities. The cities outside of Gomorrah, in a way, mimic the city itself: there is the Upmountain, filled with religious zealots and wealth, and the Downmountain, a place seen by the Upmountainers as filth. Additionally, the Upmountain disciples of Ovren view jynx workers like Sorina as devil workers, unclean and unnatural. Now imagine the Upmountain and drop Gomorrah, a city of sin, in the middle. Besides the dynamic of the city itself, Amanda Foody was able to add in elements of the world around them while still crafting a mystery and romance and much more. IN UNDER 400 PAGES!!! Honestly, iconic. There was no point where I felt like the world building was forced or hard to follow - it was all laid out in a way that made it easy to understand and natural.

As for the characters, I was amazed by how vivid each of the characters were. Even though Sorina was the main character, her illusions and other secondary characters were still so real. Even a pickpocket who wasn't heavily involved in the story was still given layers, leaving me caring for him even though he was kind of a crook. Sorina's illusions' lives didn't revolve around her - they all had lives of their own.

Sorina was a really interesting character in that she had a lot of insecurity that she had to work past. Sorina was constantly second guessing herself, letting others who she viewed as smarter than her take the lead in situations where she was fully competent. I really enjoyed watching her grow throughout the book, finding her way and the confidence to ask the hard questions and find the hard answers.

And then there was the romance. I don't want to give too much away, but it was definitely unexpected in some ways. Regardless to the circumstances, it was super swoony and there was humor and support and basically it was an ideal, healthy relationship in the end, which is really nice to see in YA since I feel like a lot of romance focuses on the struggle rather than the support.

Overall, Daughter of the Burning City was a brilliantly crafted story filled with mystery, magic, and so much more. While I personally had a bit of a rocky start getting into it, this book quickly grabbed my attention and drove me crazy when there were pieces of the puzzle that I wasn't seeing. Filled with solid character building, flawless world building, a quick pace, and enticing mystery, this book will not disappoint.









If you had a circus act, what would it be?
Let us know in the comments!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Review: Love and Other Alien Experiences - Kerry Winfrey

Love and Other Alien Experiences
Kerry Winfrey
Series: n/a
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads
In this heartwarming debut by HelloGiggles blogger Kerry Winfrey, a young agoraphobe begins a journey of first love that leads her to the true meaning of home—just by taking one small step outside of her house.

My name is Mallory Sullivan.

My therapist says I have an anxiety disorder.

My brother says I’m an “optimistic recluse.”

Everybody else says I'm a freak.

And they kind of have a point, because I haven't left the house in 67 days and only attend class via the webcam on my laptop. The person I talk to the most other than my mom and brother is the completely obnoxious BeamMeUp, and all we do is argue on New Mexico’s premiere alien message board.

But after yesterday, I have something: a chance. If I can win the homecoming crown by convincing resident hot popular guy and Friday Night Lights spawn Brad Kirkpatrick to go as my date, then maybe #stayathome will never appear next to the name @Mallory_Sullivan ever again.

First, I have to leave my room.
This, for me, was the right book at the right time. I had just set aside a book that I was not getting into, and I found myself immediately absorbed in Love and Other Alien Experiences.

FIVE REASONS TO READ LOVE AND OTHER ALIEN EXPERIENCES

  1. The Sullivan Family: I was a huge fan of Mallory and Lincoln. They had a very special sibling bond. It was endearing they way they looked out for each other, and seriously, how could I not love a family with the motto: "Why Be Serious When You Can Be Sarcastic?" I have found my people. 
  2. AlienHuntress and BeamMeUp: I was shipping this online couple from their first interaction. The banter and nerdy talk made me all sorts of happy, and I really thought that Mallory had found a kindred spirit in BeamMeUp. I know I would love a bouquet of Twizzlers. 
  3. Mallory and Her Battles: Mallory had anxiety disorder which blossomed into agoraphobia. I thought Winfrey really did an admirable job capturing that struggle of wanting to be able to conquer something, but not quite being able to. Mallory was trying to manage her disorder by working with a therapists and making small efforts such as going out into the backyard. Sometimes it was one step forward, two steps back. I thought Winfrey handled her disorder with care, and her journey seemed realistic to me. 
  4. "It's not like I'm Anxious Beauty and the touch of his lips is going to cure me. I still have my problems, and he still has his."
  5. The Nerd Culture: Mallory was an X-Files fangirl who speculated about aliens online. She was science savvy, and was fluent in nerd. I so enjoyed all the science and pop culture references. You couldn't imagine how exciting it was to me that they kept brining up physics. But don't worry, this was balanced out with sports, makeup, and puppies. 
  6. The Boys Next-door: I will not lie, I loved both Kirkpatrick brothers. Brad was the happy-go-lucky sweetheart, and Jake was the brooding and often overlooked brother. I admit, I fell harder for Jake, because I was into his quiet but awesome ways, and I fell a little more in love with him as I learned more of his backstory. 
There are definitely more reasons to read this book. It was such a cute and touching story of friendship, love, support, and tapping one's own inner strength. I laughed tons, and had also swooned. I rooted for Mallory and celebrated each of her successes. This book made my heart full and I just wanted to jump for joy. 


**I would like to thank the publisher for the advanced copy of this book. Quotes are from an ARC and may change upon publication.








Mallory works on a physics project during this book and Jake is a physics genius. My undergrad was in Chemical Engineering and my graduate degree is in physical science education, so every time they talked about physics I was pretty excited. 

Do you like physics?
Let us know in the comments!
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Sunday, July 23, 2017

Sunday Post - The Week I Spent in an Inferno

Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer, where I can share my wrap up of the past week, as well as plans for the current week.

My Week in Review

Because a picture is worth a thousand words, here are a few that sum up the weather this week:











The highlight of my week, was getting an email from Toms telling me about their new LLAMA SHOES!!! Of course I ordered a pair for me and Kiersten, because LLAMA SHOES!



So, that is something I have to look forward to.  😊

I was also very excited to see the announcement about the film adaptation for To All The Boys I've Loved Before. I remember Han talking about this at a BookCon panel (I think 2016?), and how she originally passed, because they did not think the Song girls needed to be Korean. Way to hold out Jenny Han! This means a lot to me as the mother of mixed race child (Chinese/white).



Last week on the blog:
  • Monday: I reviewed Wesley James Ruined My Life by Jennifer Honeybourn
  • Tuesday: I shared by Mid-Year Freak Out, because I thought I should punish myself a little by forcing myself to pick some favorites. 
  • Wednesday: I gave some love to A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares by Krystal Sutherland with my Can't Wait Wednesday post.
  • Thursday: We hosted a blog tour stop for Tied Up in You by Erin Fletcher. **The giveaway for an Amazon gift card is still open. 
  • Friday: I reviewed Witchtown by Cory Putnam Oakes. 
What I Read Last Week

I was really happy with my reading week. So many unexpected surprises! The Dazzling Heights was a very satisfying sequel, and it looks like maybe a 3rd book is in the works from the way things were set up. But my most favorite book of the week was The Art of Feeling. I don't know. I think I am in love with grief books, because I have been lucky enough to read so many that were simply stellar. I thought the premise for this one was brilliant - a boy who cannot feel no physical pain being part of a the healing journey for girl, who is in constant physical pain. There were tons of funny and beautiful moments in this book, that were topped off by a fairly entertaining cast. Loved. It. I had a few reads that started out shaky, but redeemed themselves by the end, and earned a half star or so back.




































What I Am Currently Reading

I am just starting Pilgrims Don't Wear Pink, so I don't have much to say. I am keeping with my tradition of listening to my adult romances with another Rachel Gibson audiobook. This one has a little murder mystery in it, which is adding to my enjoyment.

What I Plan to Read

I am going to try and show some shelf-love again this week. I really need to do more of that. I hope to read some of my physical ARCs soon too, but since they are all currently in boxes, it makes it quite difficult.










How was your week?
Let us know in the comments!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Review: Witchtown - Cory Putman Oakes

Witchtown
Cory Putman Oakes
Series: n/a
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads
When sixteen-year-old Macie O’Sullivan and her masterfully manipulative mother Aubra arrive at the gates of Witchtown—the most famous and mysterious witch-only haven in the world—they have one goal in mind: to rob it for all it’s worth.

But that plan derails when Macie and Aubra start to dig deeper into Witchtown’s history and uncover that there is more to the quirky haven than meets the eye.

Exploring the haven by herself, Macie finds that secrets are worth more than money in Witchtown.

Secrets have their own power.
I feel like the blurb did not do a good job describing this book, so I'll do a little intro.

Following the Second Inquisition, witch havens were established as places where both natural and learned witches placed on the National Witch Registry lived openly as witches. Macie and her mother, Aubra, had spent the past decade inserting themselves into these havens only to rob them blind. In the last haven, Macie made the mistake of breaking one of the fundamental rules for being a con, she formed an attachment and fell in love.

Shortly thereafter, Macie and Aubra fled and sought refuge in the utopian haven of Witchtown. Aubra promised Macie, that this would be the last heist, and afterward, they would settle down and establish roots, the way most witches did. However, as their time in Witchtown grew shorter, Macie began to doubt her mother's promise, and also suspected that her mother was harboring a much bigger secret, which involved both her and her mother.

I enjoyed my trip to Witchtown, and found this to be an entertaining tale with filled with some really great characters and some captivating magic.

Things I liked:

  • The main character, Macie, was quite complicated. She was struggling with the life she knew and the life she wanted. In Witchtown, she found a solid group of friends, who believed she was good. They supported her and were there for her when she really needed them. This was a huge change from how she was treated by her mother, and she began to rethink a lot of her ways and beliefs as a result of coming to Witchtown. 
  • There were some great secondary characters too. I found Tayla and Kellen to be pretty awesome friends, who really showed Macie that she could trust other people. They opened her up to letting others in. Both Tayla and Kellen were keeping some major secrets, but in the end, they were there to help Macie uncover a huge secret, which was standing in the way of her happiness. 
  • I liked Witchtown. This town was billed as a utopia, and it did not disappoint. Witchtown was green and self-sufficient. The citizens lived in harmony and were always there to lend a helping hand. It's no wonder that Macie grew to love and care about this town and the people in it, because it seemed like such a charming place. 
  • This is a lighter type paranormal. There is conflict and tension and even some violence, but it's never too much or too heavy. I felt that the relationships Macie was building in Witchtown played a bigger role in this story, and therefore, were featured more prominently. 
  • I cannot forget the romance. This was sort of a twofer. We get one romance in the form of flashbacks, and a second that plays out real-time in the story. Both were important with respect to Macie's personal journey, and I always love a good romance. 
  • The ending was strong for me. Although there were still some unresolved plot points at the end of the story, this did not detract from my enjoyment of how Oakes left the story. It was in a neat enough bow and filled with sufficient hope and promise, that I was left happy. 
Overall: a lighter-side paranormal with enough magic and mystery to entertain.

**I would like to thank the publisher for the advanced copy of this book.










Do you have a favorite witch book?
Let us know in the comments!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Blog Tour: Tied Up In You - Erin Fletcher














Tied Up In You
Erin Fletcher
Series: All Laced Up, #2
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Entangled: Crush
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads
Everyone says hotshot goalie Luke Jackson is God’s gift to girls, but the only girl he wants is his best friend, Malina Hall. He’s always known how brilliant she is, but now that he’s “accidentally” kissed her, he can’t stop thinking about her…or wanting to kiss her again.

Problem is, things have been a little…awkward since the kiss. Because she likes him, too? Hopefully, but even if she did, their futures—and the ridiculous schedules that come with them—are in the way. And now one of his teammates is showing interest, and the guy has more in common with Malina than Jackson ever will.

As her best friend, Jackson should get out of the way. But if there’s one thing he’s learned from hockey, it’s that you have to go for what you want, even if it means falling flat on your face. And he’s definitely falling for Malina.

Disclaimer: This book contains a hot hockey player who goes after what he wants, a super-hot, super-distracting shirtless workout, and the kind of best friends to lovers romance every girl in the friend zone has dreamed of.
REVIEW

If I had to sum up my thoughts about Tied Up in You, it would be that it was terribly cute.


I love friends to more books, especially when the hero and heroine have shared a long friendship. Malina and Jackson had been friends since they were small children. They shared a past and knew each other so well. Therefore, there was a lot of that awkward getting-to-know-you stuff out of the way.  BUT we also had all that push and pull and resistance to the attraction, as they didn't want to complicate their friendship with romance. I expected this, and part of the fun with this type of story, is the stuff that plays out as they try to deny and fight their true feelings, which resulted a few really amusing scenes that arose as Malina and Jackson worked through their emotions. 

I really liked the way Fletcher incorporated the auxiliary characters. Malina had a fabulous best friend, Izzy, who more or less stole every scene she was in, and I adored her. I also loved Malina's family. Her relationship with her mother and Tutu (that's Hawaiian for grandmother) really tugged at my heartstrings. I will say it right now: the way to my heart is through the grandmother, because I become a total sap for every grandma I encounter in a book. I had a fabulous Oma, who doted on me and treated me like a princess. So, I guess they just remind me of her. Speaking of Tutu, I loved getting a little lesson in Hawaiian culture from her. It was a nice touch to pepper the story with some Hawaiian words, crafts, and food. Jackson also had a great relationship with his mother and sister, and there was an ease to their relationship that helped me understand Jackson a little more. 

These two did run into a few roadblocks, but the drama was low, which is the way I like my drama. And the drama arose, because they each want the best for each other. But fights are ok, as long as they make up, and I got a sort of grand gesture out of it, so a total win for me. 

I love sports romances, so a hockey playing hero is totally my style, but I could not have asked for more in a heroine. This girl was a STEM princess, and that whole girl in science thing, is a conduit to my heart. This girl with her love of astrophysics just made me giddy. I love seeing smart girls score the jock, and I like seeing that there is more to the jock than meets the eye. 

Overall: A sweet and adorable friends to lovers story, which left me with a gleeful disposition. 

**I would like to thank the publisher for the advanced copy of this book.







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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Erin is a young adult author from North Carolina. She is a morning person who does most of her writing before sunrise, while drinking excessive quantities of coffee. She believes flip-flops qualify as year-round footwear, and would spend every day at the beach if she could. She has a bachelor's degree in mathematics, which is almost never useful when writing books.

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Have you been to Hawaii or had any Hawaiian food?
Let us know in the comments!