Review: SKY IN THE DEEP by Adrienne Young

Review:  SKY IN THE DEEP by Adrienne YoungSky in the Deep by Adrienne Young
four-stars
Published by Wednesday Books on April 24, 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 352
Source: Netgalley
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

MY REVIEW:

As soon as I realized Sky in the Deep was about Vikings, it immediately became one of my most anticipated reads of 2018.  (Have I mentioned that I love Viking stories?)  I was hoping for an exciting, action-packed read, and I’m thrilled to say that I got that and so much more.  Sky in the Deep opens with our main character, 17 year old Eelyn, and her Aska clan engaged in battle with their lifelong enemies, the Riki clan.  The fighting is fierce and the energy is electric, but all of that fades away when Eelyn sees something on the battlefield she never expects to see – her brother, who she watched die in battle five years ago, apparently alive and well and fighting for her enemy.  It’s a total WTF moment and I was immediately hooked and, like Eelyn, I had so many questions that I wanted answers to.

How is it possible that Eelyn’s brother is there if she actually saw him die?  And why in the world would he be fighting against his own people and for his sworn enemy?

During one of the clashes between the Aska and Riki, Eelyn is captured and taken up into the mountains to the Riki village.  If she can survive winter in the mountains surrounded by all of her enemies, she has the opportunity to confront her brother face to face and demand answers.

But when the Riki village is raided by a ruthless clan who has also attacked the Aska village in the past – the same clan who killed Eelyn’s mother — Eelyn becomes desperate to get back to her family.  It becomes clear that if the Aska and the Riki are going to survive, they’re going to need to work together to defeat their common enemy.

Can Eelyn convince her father that the Riki are not their enemy and that they need each other?

Eelyn was such an epic main character. I really loved her.  She’s a fierce and proud Aska warrior and her loyalty to both her family and her clan knows no bounds.  Some of my favorite scenes from Sky in the Deep are those scenes where Eelyn is out there fighting like a total badass on the battlefield.  What I also loved about her character though is that she’s not all fierceness and badassery – she’s also a vulnerable and conflicted sister who fears that her brother is a traitor to her people and doesn’t know what to do about it or how to feel about it.  I thought the author did an incredible job of conveying every emotion Eelyn was feeling.  Her pain was palpable, as was her anger, her initial hatred of the Riki, her feelings of betrayal, etc.  Everything about Eelyn was so vividly depicted that it was just very easy to feel a connection with her.

Sky in the Deep is one of those books that I would consider to be the best of both worlds – if you enjoy action-packed battle scenes, you’ll love it, but if you enjoy character and relationship-driven stories, you’ll love it too.  The battle scenes were truly thrilling.  There were axes and swords flying everywhere and I was on the edge of my seat each time Eelyn fought, hoping that she would make it through unscathed.  The scenes were vivid and somewhat graphic but didn’t really veer over into outright gory territory, which worked well for me.

As if those action-packed scenes weren’t fabulous enough, the book is also filled with relationships that just really got to me.  I’ve already mentioned the conflicted relationship between Eelyn and her brother.  That one just broke my heart because Eelyn was so crushed to think her brother was a traitor. I really wanted to hate him for hurting Eelyn with his betrayal, but then we hear his side of the story, and everything I initially thought of him got turned on its head and I just wanted brother and sister to reconcile so badly.

The brother-sister relationship takes center stage when it comes to relationships, but it’s not the only relationship by far.  I thought the author did a beautiful job depicting the evolution of the relationship between the Aska and Riki clans once they realize they face a common threat and need to band together if they hope to survive.  I loved the range of emotions that she has the various Aska and Riki clanspeople, Eelyn and her captor Fiske in particular, move through – the long-standing hatred, the mistrust, the curiosity, tentative acceptance, friendship, etc.  These relationships were all so messy and so realistic and I just ate them up!

And yes, there is a romantic relationship as well. And guess what?  I didn’t hate it!  Why?  Without giving too much away, I’ll just say that it was a subtle relationship that gradually developed over the course of the story and I never felt like it took over the story or distracted from anything else that was going on.  There’s no insta-love at all – in fact, it’s quite the opposite.  It’s enemies to lovers all the way, which apparently I’m a huge fan of!

Even though I loved Sky in the Deep overall, I did have a bit of an issue with uneven pacing.  Those action-packed battle scenes had me absolutely flying through the pages, as did the scenes where Eelyn confronted her brother or where she clashed with her captors. But then I would hit the occasional lull when the story focused more on the day-to-day life of the Riki and Eelyn’s thoughts as she watched them and did chores for them.

These domestic-focused chapters were still beautifully written– let me be very clear on that– and they definitely served a purpose, which was to show Eelyn that her sworn enemies are normal people just like she and her fellow Aska are.  My issue was mainly that reading about sewing and gardening and other chores just felt a little mundane in comparison to the adrenaline rush that goes along with reading about someone slashing and hacking their way across a battlefield. I think this would have been a 5-star read for me if there had been fewer passages that dealt with household chores.

Sky in the Deep is a fantastic read that has something for everyone.  If you’re into character-driven books that feature fierce females and plenty of complicated relationships, then this is a book for you.  However, if you’re into action-packed stories that feature warring Viking clans, this is a book for you too.  And finally, if you’re into a slow-burn romance featuring enemies who suddenly don’t hate each other quite as much as they thought they did, then yes, Sky in the Deep is for you as well.

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

OND ELDR. BREATHE FIRE.

Raised to be a warrior, seventeen-year-old Eelyn fights alongside her Aska clansmen in an ancient rivalry against the Riki clan. Her life is brutal but simple: fight and survive. Until the day she sees the impossible on the battlefield—her brother, fighting with the enemy—the brother she watched die five years ago.

Faced with her brother’s betrayal, she must survive the winter in the mountains with the Riki, in a village where every neighbor is an enemy, every battle scar possibly one she delivered. But when the Riki village is raided by a ruthless clan thought to be a legend, Eelyn is even more desperate to get back to her beloved family.

She is given no choice but to trust Fiske, her brother’s friend, who sees her as a threat. They must do the impossible: unite the clans to fight together, or risk being slaughtered one by one. Driven by a love for her clan and her growing love for Fiske, Eelyn must confront her own definition of loyalty and family while daring to put her faith in the people she’s spent her life hating.

four-stars

About Adrienne Young

Adrienne Young is a born and bred Texan turned California girl. She is a foodie with a deep love of history and travel and a shameless addiction to coffee. When she’s not writing, you can find her on her yoga mat, scouring antique fairs for old books, sipping wine over long dinners, or disappearing into her favorite art museums. She lives with her documentary filmmaker husband and their four little wildlings beneath the West Coast sun.

Can’t Wait Wednesday – Spotlight on A CURSE SO DARK AND LONELY by Brigid Kemmerer

 

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, which encourages fellow bloggers to spotlight upcoming releases that we’re excited about.  It is a meme that I have  loved participating in for over a year now, but as Jill is no longer actively posting, from now on I’ll just be linking to Can’t Wait Wednesday, hosted by Tressa, which is a spinoff of the original WoW meme.

* * * * *

My selection for this week is A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer.   This book went on my TBR before I even read the synopsis because I loved Kemmerer’s More Than We Can Tell so much.  But then I realized it’s a Beauty and the Beast retelling and it fully cemented its status as a must-read book for me.  I have a long while to wait before this book comes out, but I think this will be one that’s worth the wait!

 

A CURSE SO DARK AND LONELY by Brigid Kemmerer

Publication Date:   January 29, 2019

 

From Goodreads:

It once seemed so easy to Prince Rhen, the heir to Emberfall. Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year over and over, he knew he could be saved if a girl fell for him. But that was before he learned that at the end of each autumn, he would turn into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. That was before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.

Nothing has ever been easy for Harper Lacy. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother barely holding their family together while constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, she learned to be tough enough to survive. But when she tries to save someone else on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s instead somehow sucked into Rhen’s cursed world.

Break the curse, save the kingdom.

A prince? A monster? A curse? Harper doesn’t know where she is or what to believe. But as she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what’s at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin.

 * * * * *

 

I’d love to hear what upcoming book releases you’re waiting on this Wednesday? Leave me your link in the comments below and I’ll stop by and check out your CWW selection for this week. 🙂

Top Ten Tuesday – Top 10 Books People Keep Telling Me to Read…But I Still Haven’t (Yet!)

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.  Top Ten Tuesday has been one of my favorite memes ever since I started blogging, so huge thanks to Jana for taking over the hosting duties!

This week’s TTT topic is a FREEBIE, so I thought it would be fun to share some books that everyone keeps telling me to read because they know I’d love them, but somehow I just haven’t quite gotten myself to read them yet.  I swear that I will get to them all eventually because these books are all recommended by trusted blogger friends, but it’s just taking me longer than I thought it would to actually get around to them. Some of them I really have no excuse though because I’ve even read other books by the authors and loved them, Laini Taylor and V.E. Schwab, for example,  so I don’t even know what I’m waiting for.

So many books, so little time!

 

Top 10 Books People Keep Telling Me to Read…But I Still Haven’t (Yet!)

 

* * * * *

 1. LETTERS TO THE LOST by Brigid Kemmerer

 

 

* * * * *

 

2. THE RAVEN BOYS by Maggie Stiefvater

 

 

* * * * *

 

3. IN A DARK, DARK WOOD by Ruth Ware

 

 

* * * * *

 

4. DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE by Laini Taylor

 

 

* * * * *

 

5. THRONE OF GLASS by Sarah J. Maas

 

 

* * * * *

 

6. ALEX, APPROXIMATELY by Jenn Bennett

 

* * * * *

 

7. VICIOUS by V. E. Schwab

 

 

* * * * *

 

8. RED WINTER by Annette Marie

 

 

* * * * *

 

9. A MAN CALLED OVE by Fredrik Backman

 

 

* * * * *

 

10. REBEL OF THE SANDS by Alwyn Hamilton

 

 

* * * * *

 

Question:  What books are people telling you that you need to read?

Review: SCHOOL FOR PSYCHICS

Review:  SCHOOL FOR PSYCHICSSchool for Psychics by K.C. Archer
three-half-stars
Series: School for Psychics #1
on April 3, 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 368
Source: Netgalley
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

MY REVIEW:

K.C. Archer’s School for Psychics is the first novel in a new urban fantasy series of the same name.  I was initially drawn to this book because I have a thing for books that are set in boarding schools for young people with special abilities or skills and when I read the synopsis for this book, I immediately got vibes of the Harry Potter series and Nevernight.  Those are two of my favorites so the idea of a similar book but that focuses on training psychics instead of wizards or assassins had me totally on board.

School for Psychics follows twenty-something Teddy Cannon, a bright and resourceful young woman who has an uncanny ability to read people.  Even though Teddy is smart, however, she has apparently made some questionable decisions in her life and is currently living in her parents’ garage in a make-shift apartment.  When the story opens, we learn that Teddy has also been banned from nearly every casino in the Las Vegas area.  She has been using her ability to read people to win money in the casinos and also gotten into some trouble with some unsavory individuals that she now owes a lot of money to.  We meet Teddy as she is dressed incognito trying to sneak into a casino with money she has “borrowed” from her parents in hopes of turning it into major winnings so that she can pay back her gambling debt. Teddy’s plan goes awry, however, and she tries unsuccessfully to make a fast getaway. A stranger intervenes and gets her out of trouble, only to then tell her that he has been watching her.  He informs her that she can read people the way she can because she is actually psychic.  He then invites her to come to the School of Psychics where she can train with others like her in areas such as telepathy, telekinesis, investigative skills, and SWAT tactics.  Upon graduation, she would go on to serve the U.S. government, using her skills to protect America, and the world.

Teddy is of course skeptical but ultimately agrees to come to the school.  In her mind, she has been a screw up for most of her life and would love to finally be able to do something to make her adoptive parents proud of her.  At first the school is pretty much what Teddy expected it to be. She slowly begins to settle in, get used to her classes, and for the first time, actually make real friends.  But then strange things start happening – there are break-ins, students go missing, and more.  It leads Teddy to become part of a dangerous mission, one that will ultimately cause her to question everything she thought she knew – her teachers, her friends, her family, and even herself.

 

Teddy was definitely a big draw for me.  I liked her character from the first moment I met her, trying to scam her way into that casino.  She was the ultimate underdog so I immediately found myself in her corner.  She’s also one of those complicated, messy characters that I so adore.  I saw that right away  when she demonstrated street smarts and tremendous confidence with just a hint of guilt about what she had done to her parents.  I liked how conflicted she was and wanted to not only learn more about her, but I also wanted her to succeed, not only in the short term when it came to getting herself out of trouble but also in her desire to finally do something to make her parents proud.

She’s also a very realistic character in the sense that she is in no way perfect and tends to make questionable choices quite often.  One that immediately comes to mind happens almost as soon as she arrives at the school. She shows up late to one portion of her entrance exam because she got drunk and hooked up with a guy.  I just sat there like “Whhhyyyyyyy? How are you supposed to turn things around and make your parents proud if you get kicked out before you even start?!”  She frustrated me to no end with decisions like that, but it made her character growth as I moved through the story that much more satisfying.  She’s still not perfect by any stretch by the end, but she has come so far.

On a slightly different note, I also found her psychic abilities quite fascinating.  All of her classmates had interesting abilities as well, but Teddy’s abilities were quite rare and apparently were inherited from her birth parents who died in a car accident when she was very young.  Her rare abilities make her of particular interest to those in change.

The setting also really appealed to me, both the Las Vegas setting where Teddy starts out and then the island off the California coast where the school is set.  I was especially intrigued by that since at one point, it’s mentioned that some students can see Alcatraz prison from their windows.  I just thought that was cool.

Finally, I liked the mystery that comes into play by about the halfway point of the book.  It moves the story to a whole new level by having it be about more than just this group of young people attending classes and honing their skills.  I don’t want to go into any details about what the mystery is about, other than to say it basically turns Teddy’s entire life and everything she has ever thought she knew about herself and her birth parents upside down and it also opens the door for this series to take an exciting and possibly darker turn as we have to consider what the government could be using people with Teddy’s abilities for.  Is it all solely for the common good?

 

While I did end up enjoying School for Psychics overall, I do have to admit that my reaction to the early chapters was mixed.  The opening scene with Teddy running her scam in the casino hooked me immediately but then surprisingly enough, once Teddy got to the school, I found myself less interested and actually more confused than anything else.  Why? Mainly because Teddy and her new classmates are supposed to be young adults, with Teddy in particular being in her twenties, but most of them seem so immature.  Teddy confused me the most in this respect because while she was running her scam at the casino, she came across as very street smart and worldly, but then as soon as she stepped onto the campus of the school for psychics, it’s like her personality changed and she became obsessed with every cute guy she came across.  It was a little off-putting how immature she suddenly seemed and I thought about giving up on the book at that point, but thankfully Teddy quickly settled in and began to focus more on her classes and less on the guys.

One other issue I had, which was also early on in the book was what I considered to be a case of flawed logic.  It made no sense to me why this school would recruit students, have them pack up all their belongings and fly to California, only to tell them once they arrive on campus that they have to pass a series of tests in order to determine whether or not they would be a good fit at the school. In Teddy’s case, she is recruited and told that if she gives them four years of her life, they’ll settle her gambling debts and make sure her parents are safe from the guys who were threatening Teddy when the novel opens.  Why make a promise like that to her but then have her take these tests to see if she can stay at the school?  Again, I was glad I persevered since I ended up enjoying the rest of the story, but for a few chapters there, it had me wondering what I was getting myself into.

 

Even though I got off to a slightly rocky start with School of Psychics, the story definitely got stronger and stronger as it went along.  I think it’s a solid first book for this new series and I look forward to seeing what’s in store for Teddy and her classmates in the next installment.  I’d recommend School of Psychics for anyone like me who enjoys books set in boarding schools, as well as for anyone who enjoys urban fantasy and/or mysteries and has any interest in psychic abilities.

 

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

An entrancing new series starring a funny, impulsive, and sometimes self-congratulatory young woman who discovers she has psychic abilities—and then must decide whether she will use her skills for good or…not.

Teddy Cannon isn’t your typical twenty-something woman. She’s resourceful. She’s bright. She’s scrappy. She can also read people with uncanny precision. What she doesn’t realize: she’s actually psychic.

When a series of bad decisions leads Teddy to a run-in with the police, a mysterious stranger intervenes. He invites her to apply to the School for Psychics, a facility hidden off the coast of San Francisco where students are trained like Delta Force operatives: it’s competitive, cutthroat, and highly secretive. They’ll learn telepathy, telekinesis, investigative skills, and SWAT tactics. And if students survive their training, they go on to serve at the highest levels of government, using their skills to protect America, and the world.

In class, Teddy befriends Lucas, a rebel without a cause who can start and manipulate fire; Jillian, a hipster who can mediate communication between animals and humans; and Molly, a hacker who can apprehend the emotional state of another individual. But just as Teddy feels like she’s found where she might belong, strange things begin to happen: break-ins, missing students, and more. It leads Teddy to accept a dangerous mission that will ultimately cause her to question everything—her teachers, her friends, her family, and even herself.

Set in a world very much like our own, School for Psychics is the first book in a stay-up-all night series.

three-half-stars

About K.C. Archer

K.C. Archer is a pseudonym. School for Psychics is the first book in a new series.

Weekly Recap #48: Week of 4/8 – 4/14

 

It’s time for another weekly recap post of all things happening on and off the blog. This week I’ll be linking to the Sunday Post, which is hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer and to Stacking the Shelves, which is hosted by Tynga’s Reviews.

It has been yet another of those oh-so-exciting weeks where I worked six days and then sat around like a lump or else fell asleep the rest of the time.  Deadline is Tuesday though so yay, I’m almost at the finish line!

Aside from work, the main focus of my week has been soccer and my son’s science fair project.  My son’s new team got off to a great start with a 7-0 victory in their first game, but then sadly lost the second game 4-0.  I’m not even sure what happened to them in the second game but they didn’t even look like the same team.  I tend to be a pretty passionate soccer mom so that was pretty frustrating, especially since they only took one shot on goal the entire game.  I kept my cool though, lol (although once I ride herd on him to wrap up his science project today, my son will be outside practicing more and inside playing video games less from this point forward.).

Soccer loss aside, it was nice to be able to get outside and enjoy the warm weather and get a little sun.  It was in the 80’s here yesterday so within the span of a week, we’ve gone from snow on the ground to flip flop weather!  I’m really hoping the warm weather is here to stay because I’m dying to spend some quality reading time out on my deck.

I think that’s about it for me.  I hope everyone has a wonderful week!

WHAT I POSTED LAST WEEK

 

 

 

WHAT I’M READING THIS WEEK

 

      

 

 UPCOMING REVIEWS

       
 
  

 

 STACKING THE SHELVES

 

 
 

TOTALLY RANDOM

 

Review: STARRY EYES by Jenn Bennett

Review:  STARRY EYES by Jenn BennettStarry Eyes by Jenn Bennett
four-half-stars
Published by Simon Pulse on April 3, 2018
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 432
Source: Netgalley
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

MY REVIEW:

Starry Eyes is a young adult contemporary novel that follows teens Zorie and Lennon.  Zorie and Lennon used to be best friends but, because of something that happened at the homecoming dance, they are now sworn enemies and do everything they can to avoid one another at all costs.  I had never read a book by Jean Bennett before and knew absolutely nothing about these characters, but as soon as I read that in the synopsis, I was dying to know what happened at that dance to drive them apart.

I then read further down the synopsis and saw that these enemies somehow not only end up on a camping trip together, but somehow they end up stranded in the wilderness together.  It sounded like a recipe for disaster, but also a recipe for a fantastic read!

As if the mystery of what happened between Zorie and Lennon and whether or not they would kill each other on this camping trip wasn’t compelling enough, the synopsis goes on to describe their parents as modern day versions of the Montagues and Capulets from Romeo and Juliet.  That right there was more than enough to have me dying to read this book.  I mean, seriously…bffs who now hate each other and who have families who are also feuding?  Does that not just scream “READ ME”?  Well, it did for me anyway…

And I loved every page of it.  Jenn Bennett delivers a moving story filled with characters that I fell in love with.  Even though on the surface, Starry Eyes is a book about a camping trip gone wrong, it’s also about family, love, friendship, loyalty, betrayal, and so much more.  It captured all of my emotions and was just everything I hoped it would be.

 

Zorie.  I just loved everything about Zorie.  I found her addiction to planning and organization, along with her sense of humor and her fondness for astronomy, so endearing. I also found her incredibly relatable at times, especially when she first encounters Lennon.  They’re enemies at this point and she would rather do just about anything than have to come face-to-face with him.  Haven’t we all been in that position before?  Equally relatable was her questionable taste in romantic interests.  Zorie has a crush on a guy named Brett, and I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I’m just going to say this guy is just the worst.  I couldn’t figure out what in the world she saw in him. But again, haven’t we all been there at some point?  I think what I liked most about Zorie, however, was how much she matured throughout the story.  Again, no spoilers, but between what happened with Lennon and what has been going on within her own family, Zorie has a lot of issues that she is dealing with and I think she shows tremendous growth as we move through the story, In many ways, it’s actually a coming of age story for her.

Lennon.  Even though I thought going in that I would side with either Zorie or Lennon, I found myself equally attached to both of them.  Lennon is just this cool guy.  He’s a little dark and emo at times, but he loves reptiles and he loves camping and nature so he’s a pretty well rounded and interesting individual.  He really won me over though in an early scene where he’s working in a pet shop and showing reptiles to a young child.  He was just so great with the child that it warmed my heart and made me all the more curious about what happened between him and Zorie.  I mean, how could you not want to be friends or even more than friends with such a great guy!

Zorie and Lennon together.  Yes, you read that correctly! Even though I almost always whine and moan  when there is a romance in a book, I adored watching Zorie and Lennon together as they attempted to rebuild their relationship.  Their chemistry felt real because they already had so much history together, and I loved how authentic the awkwardness felt when they first start trying to talk to each other again, and because I liked them both so much, I just really wanted them to have a second chance, either as friend or hopefully as more than friends since they seemed so perfect together.

Great secondary characters.  Bennett does a fantastic job with most of the parents in this story.  I loved Lennon’s moms and their Toys in the Attic sex shop.  They were hilarious and also two of the best parents I’ve come across in books in a long time. I especially love how protective they are of Zorie, even though they’re supposed to be feuding with Zorie’s dad.  Zorie’s stepmom is wonderful too.  The bond she has with Zorie was lovely, especially since they aren’t related by blood.  Zorie’s dad is a different story in that I loathed him, but I will say he was not a flat character either.

Glamping.  I confess that I completely related to Zorie’s aversion to going camping because I don’t do the outdoors either, especially the whole sleeping in a tent with nothing but some canvas between you and whatever else it out there in the wild, lol. That said, however, I could totally get down with glamping.  It sounded fabulous, especially the wonderful sleeping accommodations, the showers, the chef, and the cocktail hours.  Sign me up!

I could literally go on and on about what I loved, but you get the idea…

 

Aside from wanting Brett to get eaten by a bear, I didn’t really have any issues with this book.

 

This may have been my first Jenn Bennett read, but it will most certainly not be my last.  If you’re looking for a heartwarming read about family, friendship, and first loves, I’d highly recommend Starry Eyes. 

 

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

Ever since last year’s homecoming dance, best friends-turned-best enemies Zorie and Lennon have made an art of avoiding each other. It doesn’t hurt that their families are the modern day, Californian version of the Montagues and Capulets.

But when a group camping trip goes south, Zorie and Lennon find themselves stranded in the wilderness. Alone. Together.

What could go wrong?

With no one but each other for company, Zorie and Lennon have no choice but to hash out their issues via witty jabs and insults as they try to make their way to safety. But fighting each other while also fighting off the forces of nature makes getting out of the woods in one piece less and less likely.

And as the two travel deeper into Northern California’s rugged backcountry, secrets and hidden feelings surface. But can Zorie and Lennon’s rekindled connection survive out in the real world? Or was it just a result of the fresh forest air and the magic of the twinkling stars?

four-half-stars

About Jenn Bennett

Jenn Bennett is an award-winning author of young adult contemporary romance books, including: Alex, Approximately; The Anatomical Shape of a Heart; and Starry Eyes. She also writes romance and urban fantasy for adults (the Roaring Twenties and Arcadia Bell series). Her books have earned multiple starred reviews, won the Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA® Award, garnered two Reviewers’ Choice awards and a Seal of Excellence from RT Book Reviews, and been included on Publishers Weekly Best Books annual list. She lives near Atlanta with one husband and two dogs.

Can’t Wait Wednesday – Spotlight on AFTERMATH by Kelley Armstrong

 

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, which encourages fellow bloggers to spotlight upcoming releases that we’re excited about.  It is a meme that I have  loved participating in for over a year now, but as Jill is no longer actively posting, from now on I’ll just be linking to Can’t Wait Wednesday, hosted by Tressa, which is a spinoff of the original WoW meme.

* * * * *

My selection for this week is AFTERMATH by Kelley Armstrong.   This book grabbed my attention right away, both because I read some stellar advance reviews for it and because its topic is so relevant and timely.

 

AFTERMATH by Kelley Armstrong

Publication Date:   May 22, 2018

 

 

From Goodreads:

Three years after losing her brother Luka in a school shooting, Skye Gilchrist is moving home. But there’s no sympathy for Skye and her family because Luka wasn’t a victim; he was a shooter.

Jesse Mandal knows all too well that the scars of the past don’t heal easily. The shooting cost Jesse his brother and his best friend–Skye.

Ripped apart by tragedy, Jesse and Skye can’t resist reopening the mysteries of their past. But old wounds hide darker secrets. And the closer Skye and Jesse get to the truth of what happened that day, the closer they get to a new killer.

 

 * * * * *

 

I’d love to hear what upcoming book releases you’re waiting on this Wednesday? Leave me your link in the comments below and I’ll stop by and check out your CWW selection for this week. 🙂

Top Ten Tuesday – Top 10 Books I Loved But Will Never Re-Read

Created at canva.com

 

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.  Top Ten Tuesday has been one of my favorite memes ever since I started blogging, so huge thanks to Jana for taking over the hosting duties!

This week’s TTT topic is Top 10 Books I Loved But Will Never Re-Read.  This topic was challenging for me because, with rare exception like the Harry Potter series, To Kill a Mockingbird, and a few childhood favorites, I’ve never been that much of a re-reader anyway.  That’s not to say I would never consider re-reading. It’s just usually not something I’m in the mood for.  That said, if I was a big re-reader, the 10 books before are ones I would never consider re-visiting even though I loved them the first time around. 

Why?  Well, I probably took the easy way out with this topic because as you’ll notice, all of the books I’ve chosen are of the mystery, thriller, psychological thriller variety.  For me, these kinds of books are all about that journey of sifting through all of the clues, coming up with possible theories as to what might have happened, etc.  Once I’ve done that and made it through all of the twists and turns to what I hope is a thrilling conclusion, I just can’t imagine going back and reading them again.  It’s not a mystery or a thriller to me anymore if I already know the answers.  So yeah, I adored these books when I first read them but have no plans to revisit any of them.  

 

* * * * *

Top 10 Books I Loved But Will Never Re-Read

 

AND THEN THERE WERE NONE by Agatha Christie

DARK MATTER by Blake Crouch

UNSUB by Meg Gardiner

THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW by A.J. Finn

STRANGERS ON A TRAIN by Patricia Highsmith

ONE OF US IS LYING by Karen McManus

IN COLD BLOOD by Truman Capote

THE DA VINCI CODE by Dan Brown

THE SURGEON by Tess Gerritsen

THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO by Stieg Larsson

 

* * * * *

Question:  What are some of your favorite books that you’ll never consider re-reading?

Review: THE BELLES

Review:  THE BELLESThe Belles by Dhonielle Clayton
four-stars
Series: The Belles #1
Published by Disney-Hyperion on February 6, 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 440
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads

MY REVIEW:

Dhonielle Clayton’s gorgeous novel The Belles immersed me in one of the most unique fantasy worlds I’ve encountered in a long time.  I was captivated from the novel’s early pages as we are introduced to the legend of a curse that hangs over the heads of the people of Orleans.  The land of Orleans itself is exquisite, but its residents live under a terrible curse that causes them all to be born gray with red eyes.  Because of their cursed appearance, they think of themselves as anything but beautiful and, in fact, become downright obsessed with doing whatever they can to improve their appearance.

The curse is where the Belles come into play.  The Belles control beauty and have the ability, through magical gifts called arcana, to transform the gray-skinned, red-eyed citizens of Orleans into the most beautiful people in the world.  They can change skin tones, hair color and texture, eye color, and can even use their magic to sculpt bodies as though they were plastic surgeons.  Beauty is therefore a big deal in Orleans and the Belles are cherished by the citizens because of what they can do for them.  Whatever look they wish to have, the Belles can make it happen for them.  Well, for those who can afford it anyway.  Beauty is quite literally a big business in Orleans and appointments with the Belles do not come cheap.

This life of making others beautiful is all the Belles know. It’s what they were born to do and as we see with Camellia, the main character, and her Belle sisters, initially they’re happy to do it because they think they’re doing a public service…until they realize all that it entails. Once selected to work either at the royal palace or at one of the selective teahouses and effectively removed from the public’s eye, all of that cherished behavior goes away and the Belles are treated little better than prisoners or slaves. They work long hard hours, until they’re practically collapsing from exhaustion and overuse of their powers, and those in charge don’t care as long as the money keeps rolling in and the customers keep lining up.

Camellia is especially disappointed because she expects to follow in her mother’s footsteps and become ‘The Favorite’ and work in the royal palace, but once she finally gets there, she realizes that being ‘The Favorite’ isn’t nearly as wonderful as she thought it would be.  In fact, it’s downright awful as she encounters nothing but deceit, dark secrets, betrayals, and just so much ugliness in general. She finds herself at the mercy of Sophia, a particularly sadistic princess who constantly commands Camellia to use her arcana for revenge, to make people she doesn’t like ugly.  Camellia is horrified by just how cruel and twisted Sophia is and becomes even more horrified when she realizes Sophia is in line to become Queen unless her ailing older sister can be cured of the mystery illness that has left her in a coma for years.   The Queen, who is also ailing but is desperate to keep Sophia off the throne, begs Camellia for her help.

Even though it’s never been done before, can Camellia somehow use her arcana to heal the eldest royal daughter?  The future of Orleans rests on her shoulders and Camellia must decide if she’s willing to take a risk that could cost her her own life…

Camellia.  I found Camellia to be a compelling main character. She’s not perfect by any means, as we witness early in the book when she throws a near tantrum over the choosing of ‘The Favorite’, but she shows tremendous growth and compassion throughout the book, especially when she realizes the truth about The Belles and how they are treated, as well as once she sees firsthand just how sadistic and cruel Princess Sophia can be to those around her.  I immediately began cheering Camellia on and hoping she would find a way to rebel against the evil Sophia.

Speaking of Sophia, if you’re into characters you love to hate, Sophia is definitely your girl.  There is truly nothing redeeming about her personality that I could find.  I cringed every time I turned the page and her name was there because I just knew she was there to inflict her cruelty on yet another innocent person who had done nothing to her.  She may be exquisitely beautiful on the outside, thanks to the work of the Belles, but she is rotten to the core ugly on the inside.

The Worldbuilding and Magic System. I found everything about this world to be utterly captivating.  Orleans itself is opulent and beautiful, and I loved the author’s attention to detail as she described it.  Even more fascinating though was the actual legend that the book opens with, which explains how the curse came to be and how the Belles were then created to offset the curse.  It was all just so inventive and the magical system of arcana and how they could be used to create beauty was mesmerizing.  The author’s attention to detail as she described the process was truly exquisite and just so easy to visualize.

Beauty as a Veneer.  I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect going into The Belles, but it really struck me how much ugliness the author exposes in this beauty-obsessed world.  It was a much darker read than I was expecting and I appreciated the added depth as Clayton rips that surface layer of beauty off and exposes what lies beneath, and in the case of the palace and the teahouses, it’s lies, betrayals, greed, unspeakable cruelty, and so much more.

The only real issue I had with The Belles had to do with pacing.  Once I saw a few demonstrations of what the Belles could do with their arcana to transform and sculpt peoples’ bodies, I felt like I had a pretty good idea of what their powers entailed.  Unfortunately though, the book doesn’t stop at just one or two beauty transformations. I understood that Camellia’s position required her to have regularly scheduled appointments throughout the day to make people beautiful, and even though I initially loved reading about how the process worked, there were just so many detailed, step-by-step accounts of these appointments that I started to get a little bored and skimmed through them to get to the more exciting parts.

The obsession with beauty brings out a lot of ugliness in people and The Belles powerfully explores and exposes this ugliness.  The first book ends with a pretty big cliffhanger so I look forward to reading the second book in the series to see how that turns out.  Is rebellion on the horizon for Camellia and the Belles?

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orléans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orléans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful.

But it’s not enough for Camellia to be just a Belle. She wants to be the favorite—the Belle chosen by the Queen of Orléans to live in the royal palace, to tend to the royal family and their court, to be recognized as the most talented Belle in the land. But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favorite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that the very essence of her existence is a lie—that her powers are far greater, and could be more dangerous, than she ever imagined. And when the queen asks Camellia to risk her own life and help the ailing princess by using Belle powers in unintended ways, Camellia now faces an impossible decision.

With the future of Orléans and its people at stake, Camellia must decide—save herself and her sisters and the way of the Belles—or resuscitate the princess, risk her own life, and change the ways of her world forever.

four-stars

About Dhonielle Clayton

Dhonielle Clayton is the co-author of the Tiny Pretty Things series. She grew up in the Washington, DC suburbs on the Maryland side and spent most of her time under her grandmother’s table with a stack of books. A former teacher and middle school librarian, Dhonielle is co-founder of CAKE Literary—a creative development company whipping up decidedly diverse books for a wide array of readers—and COO of the non-profit, We Need Diverse Books. She’s got a serious travel bug and loves spending time outside of the USA, but makes her home in New York City, where she can most likely be found hunting for the best slice of pizza.

Weekly Recap #47: Week of 4/1 – 4/7

 

It’s time for another weekly recap post of all things happening on and off the blog. This week I’ll be linking to the Sunday Post, which is hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer and to Stacking the Shelves, which is hosted by Tynga’s Reviews.

Another quick write up for me today because I have reviews to write or else I won’t have any posts going up this week, lol.  Thank goodness I’m entering my last 6-day work week of the year! I’ve decided I’m just too old to work that many days in a row.

Aside from work, not too much else happened, nothing that I can remember anyway.  I did celebrate my 2-year blogoversary though and am hosting a giveaway for a free book from The Book Depository.  It ends tonight so make sure to enter if you haven’t already.  There’s a link on the front page of my site.

I forgot to mention it in last week’s wrap up, but I did complete the Take Control of Your TBR Challenge in March.  I managed to get 10 pre-March 1 books off of my TBR, which I was very happy about.  The Belles, which I’m reviewing tomorrow on the blog, is the final book that I read for that challenge, so once that review posts, I’ll be back to reviewing the ARCs that I have coming up.  I apparently went request happy again on Netgalley because I have a bunch of April/May ARCs to get through. I don’t think I’ll be touching my backlist again until June.  Oops!

I think that’s it for me for now.  I hope everyone has a wonderful week!

WHAT I POSTED LAST WEEK

 

 

 

WHAT I’M READING THIS WEEK

 

          
   

 

UPCOMING REVIEWS

       
 
 

 

 STACKING THE SHELVES

 

           
 

TOTALLY RANDOM