Thursday, September 18, 2014

Review: The Balance Keepers # 1: The Fire of Calderon by Lindsay Cummings

The Fire of Calderon
(The Balance Keepers # 1)
By: Lindsay Cummings
Pub. Date: September 23, 2014
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Pages: 352
Source: Edelweiss

The first book in an epic middle grade fantasy adventure series that takes place in an underground society at the center of the earth. Packed with action, humor, magic, and mystery.

After following a mysterious map into the woods and then under the woods, eleven-year-old Albert Flynn learns he’s a Balance Keeper—someone with special magical skills for fixing problems in three underground Realms at the Core of the earth. His new job is important; if the realms fall out of balance, the world above could be in great danger.

Albert and his Balance Keeper teammates Birdie and Leroy arrive in the Core not a moment too soon. There’s an Imbalance in the Calderon Realm and it’s threatening to bury Albert’s hometown of New York City in a mountain of ash.

The three must train hard completing mental and physical challenges, but above all, they must harness the power of their Tiles—unique superpowers given to each Balance Keeper. So far, Albert’s mastered the art of not mastering his Tile....

With the situation in Calderon growing worse every day, can Albert, Leroy, and Birdie restore balance before New York is destroyed forever? Will Albert master his Tile before it’s too late?

Perfect for fans of Percy Jackson, The Unwanteds, and the classic Journey to the Center of the Earth.
I received this galley from edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

I am usually not a fan of fantasy, especially middle grade fantasy. But for one, The Balance Keepers series is being described as a Percy Jackson/Harry Potter type series, which I love, and second, Lindsay Cummings is a brand new author who published TWO books in one year. I think that definitely says something. I was excited to read The Fire of Calderon for these reasons. It was a fast paced read that I really enjoyed.

Albert Flynn is a regular, lonely kid until he discovers he has magical powers. Over night his life is completely changed. I really loved watching Albert grow. All the characters were really fleshed out. I liked that they all surprised you.

The world that Cummings created was so creative and original. I really can't wait for the next book so I can learn about the other realms. I thought the writing was very vivid as well. I really felt like I was right there in the action with the characters.

While middle grade isn't usually for me, this is just the type of books that middle graders will absolutely love. There is enough action and adventure to keep everyone happy. Its a quick read that is easy to understand and follow along with.    

Monday, September 15, 2014

Review: Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix

By: Grady Hendrix
Pub. Date: September 23, 2014
Publisher: Quirk Books
Pages: 256
Source: Edelweiss

Something strange is happening at the Orsk furniture superstore in Cleveland, Ohio. Every morning, employees arrive to find broken Kjerring wardrobes, shattered Brooka glassware, and vandalized Liripip sofa beds—clearly, someone or something is up to no good. To unravel the mystery, five young employees volunteer for a long dusk-till-dawn shift—and they encounter horrors that defy imagination. Along the way, author Grady Hendrix infuses sly social commentary on the nature of work in the new twenty-first century economy.

A traditional haunted house story in a contemporary setting (and full of current fears), Horrorstör comes conveniently packaged in the form of a retail catalog, complete with illustrations of ready-to-assemble furniture and other, more sinister accessories. We promise you’ve never seen anything quite like it!
I received this galley from edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

When I first heard about Horrorstör I became a little obsessed. I thought this was the coolest book I have ever heard about it. I was so excited when I got the opportunity to read it early and I absolutely loved it! So original, creepy, fun and fast paced!

Amy, our MC is not very driven. She works at Orsk superstore, basically a knock off Ikea (her words, not mine!). She doesn't like her job, she's in debt, she's really not heading anywhere in life. The only thing she can think about is being allowed to transfer to a different Orsk to get away from her manager, Basil, who she can't stand. It was hard to like Amy at first. Her personality did not make it easy too, but I love seeing how much she changed from the beginning to the end of the book. She ended up being a very loyal, kind, selfless person. One character that completely surprised me, and ended up being my favorite was Basil. We start off not liking him because of Amy, but by the end I was completely in love with him. Such a sweet and awkward guy who really just wanted to do the right thing.

Things have been happening at Orsk that no one can explain. Basil decides to ask some employees, including Amy to stay the night so they can catch the guy who is vandalizing the store after closing. The money is good so Amy agrees. No one expected that it could be ghosts. Ghosts who died over a hundred years ago and are still being tortured, even after death. This is when the story really started to pick up. Who doesn't love a good ghost story? Sometimes ghost stories are done really stupid. The authors try to hard to make it scary and creepy. This story was actually scary and creepy in the most subtle ways. I had goose bumps for basically the whole second half of the novel.

The ending is definitely something to think about. I have no clue if there is going to be a second book, it really can go both ways!

I don't want to give anything away, but I highly recommend that you read this book. Not only is the story well written, but the book is super cool looking. It looks just like a catalog. There are pictures of products, a how to guide on how to work the store, and even an order form. I can not wait to have a physical copy of this super original book!  

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Review: Untamed: The Complete Series by Jinsey Reese & Victoria Green

Untamed: The Complete Series (Episodes 1-5)
(The Brothers Wilde Collection # 1)
By: Jinsey Reese and Victoria Green
Pub. Date: All episodes out now!
Publisher: Turning Leaves Press
Source: Author Victoria Green

Rich, beautiful, and wild, Reagan McKinley has everything she needs...but nothing that she wants. That is, until she spends one hot night in the arms of sexy, unbridled Dare Wilde. She's a girl trapped in a rigid world she desperately wants to escape, and he's an untamed artist with an attitude, hell-bent on freeing her—body, mind, and soul. But Reagan's life is not her own, and Dare is not welcome in it. She can't include him in her carefully-controlled, extremely public lifestyle...and yet she cannot give him up. Will a shared passion for art—and, increasingly, each other—be enough to keep them together? Or will it be the thing that ultimately tears them apart?

Three years have passed since Dare Wilde walked out of Reagan McKinley's life. Three years of radio silence. Three years of regrets. But she’s not the same girl anymore. Now, at twenty-two, Reagan has big plans to change her life, and it all starts with a trip to Europe. Instead of heading into Harvard Law like her parents had planned, she’s crossed the ocean to follow her dreams in the art world. Her dreams. For once. A chance meeting in Paris brings Reagan and Dare face-to-face again, but is it serendipity...or penance? A chasm of unspoken hurt stands between them, but they can’t fight the passion they have for each other. And now that she’s found Dare again—the one person in this world who makes her feel whole—she doesn’t want to let go. Problem is, she may not have a choice. Two parts. One whole. Together...they’re out of control.

Dare Wilde is out. The McKinley family has ruined his relationship with Reagan for the last time. He’s in Amsterdam, staying with his rock star brother Dash, ready to move on with his life and get Ree out of his head. Finally, and for good. Problem is, he loves her. So when fate leads Reagan to his door again, the two must decide whether their new-found love is worth the risk. Because two fractured parts can’t make a whole, and they must face the demons of Reagan's past if they are to have a future together. A muse and her artist. A star-crossed love. Will the past catch up to them…or have they finally escaped?

With his dad hell-bent on destroying him, Dare's life hangs in the balance. Fearing the worst, Reagan rushes from Paris to New York, hoping to get to him in time, only to find their entire world collapsing around them. The threat is too real, risk too high, death too possible. Unfair doesn't even begin to cover it. Two wild hearts that belong together, trapped in a world trying to break them apart. But a love this strong has to survive...doesn't it?
With a ring in his pocket, and the future on his mind, Dare Wilde comes home to discover that his worst nightmare has come true. Ree’s been taken, his best friend shot, and his father is still on the loose. He thought he'd won. He thought everyone he cared about most in the world was finally safe. But his life has never been that easy.  Now it's a race against time—and his monstrous father—to save the ones he loves most. Can he help Rex and rescue Ree? Will he even survive another encounter with his father?  Ree and Dare's story comes to a close in this final book of their epic saga. But will the end be a happily ever after or an epic tragedy? 

 I received this galley in exchange for an honest review.

While this series is split up into five episodes, I decided to wait until I could read it all at once. I'm not a fan of "episode" stories, but I have to say, this series was very different from other episode stories out there. They ended on cliffhangers, yes, but they didn't just end to end. Each story was written like a full story. They each had character development, plot, and a clear beginning, middle and end. Since I read them all at once, I decided to also write one review for the series, instead of five separate ones.

When Dare and Reagan first meet, Reagan is just looking to have sex with the hot artist and Dare isn't looking for anything. His life is too complicated and he has spent his entire life pushing people away. Reagan on the other hand doesn't do relationships either, but she has sex and does drugs so she could forget about the life her controlling parents have pushed upon her. I really loved Reagan and Dare together. They had a wonderful chemistry, but I also felt really bad for them. Neither of them were being honest with each other about their pasts, and this caused a lot of miscommunication problems.

These miscommunication problems was the only issue I had with the story. I couldn't stand the back and forth. Dare sees something, and instead of asking Reagan about it, runs away without a second thought and leaves her. She tries calling him, he doesn't answer. He realizes he was wrong, tries to get her back, they get back together, and then it happens all over again. It wasn't until the third book that I actually started to like Dare. I just thought he was way to dramatic and it pissed me off. Once these two actually started to be honest with each other about their pasts and families, I started to enjoy the story a lot more.

Between the two of them they had enough problems to last a lifetime. Reagan dad's and Dare's dad were two of the most horrible people I have ever met in any books, and it's amazing how Dare and Reagan grew up to be as normal as they were. Most of the cliffhangers in the episodes were directly related to the two fathers.

All five episodes were not only fun to read, but really enjoyable. There was a lot more going on then what you normally see in a new adult book. I have read other stories from both Victoria Green and Jinsey Reese and I can honestly say these are two of the most talented ladies out there. I can't wait for more Brothers Wilde!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Review: Just Call My Name by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Just Call My Name
(I'll Be There # 2)
By: Holly Goldberg Sloan
Pub. Date: August 5, 2014
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 352
Source: Netgalley

The happily-ever-after of Holly Goldberg Sloan's acclaimed debut, I'll Be There, is turned on its head in this riveting, emotional sequel about friends, enemies, and how those roles can shift in a matter of moments.

Emily Bell has it all. She's in love with a boy named Sam Border, and his little brother has become part of her family. This summer is destined to be the best time of their lives--until a charismatic new girl in town sets her sights on Sam. Now Emily finds herself questioning the loyalty of the person she thought she could trust most.

But the biggest threat to her happiness is someone she never saw coming. Sam's criminally insane father, whom everyone thought they'd finally left behind, is planning a jailbreak. And he knows exactly where to find Emily and his sons when he escapes...and takes his revenge.
 I received this galley in exchange for an honest review.

I read last years, I'll Be There in a few hours on my way to Disney this summer. I have been wanting to read it since it came out, and when I got the second book, Just Call My Name for review, I knew it was finally time. I loved it so much and couldn't wait to read the second book. Unfortunately, Just Call My Name did not live up to the first one, and I found myself disappointed. I'm not sure if it was because the first one was just that good that nothing could live up to it, or it was the story itself.

I fell in love with Sam and his brother Riddle in the first book and I was so happy to see them settling in their new life filled with family, friends and love. They both deserved it so much. They are coming out of their shells, and for the first time in their lives, they are truly happy. Sam is the gorgeous new boy in town, but all he wants is Emily, Riddle and his music. When he meets Destiny, the new girl in town, things start to get a little shaky. To make matters worse, Sam and Riddle's crazy, abusive father is back and he wants nothing more than to ruin his son's happiness.

Between Destiny and Sam's dad, I couldn't help but reading as fast as I could. I needed to know how it was all going to play out, and I was nervous the whole time. While I love the way Holly Goldberg Sloan writes, almost with a lyrical quality, I did not like the way the story was going. I thought there was too many negative things going on and I found myself wanting a simpler story.

While I didn't enjoy Just Call My Name as much as the first book, it's still a book and series that I would recommend. Everyone should get a taste of how beautiful Sloan's writing is.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Review: Anatomy of a Misfit by Andrea Portes

Anatomy of a Misfit
By: Andrea Portes
Pub. Date: September 2, 2014
Publisher: Harper Children's
Pages: 336
Source: Edelweiss

Fall’s buzzed-about, in-house favorite. Outside, Anika Dragomir is all lip gloss and blond hair—the third most popular girl in school. Inside, she’s a freak: a mix of dark thoughts, diabolical plots, and, if local chatter is to be believed, vampire DNA (after all, her father is Romanian). But she keeps it under wraps to maintain her social position. One step out of line and Becky Vilhauer, first most popular girl in school, will make her life hell. So when former loner Logan McDonough shows up one September hotter, smarter, and more mysterious than ever, Anika knows she can’t get involved. It would be insane to throw away her social safety for a nerd. So what if that nerd is now a black-leather-jacket-wearing dreamboat, and his loner status is clearly the result of his troubled home life? Who cares if the right girl could help him with all that, maybe even save him from it? Who needs him when Jared Kline, the bad boy every girl dreams of, is asking her on dates? Who?

Anatomy of a Misfit is Mean Girls meets The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and Anika’s hilariously deadpan delivery will appeal to readers for its honesty and depth. The so-sad-it’s-funny high school setting will pull readers in, but when the story’s dark foreboding gradually takes over, the devastating penultimate tragedy hits like a punch to the gut. Readers will ride the highs and lows alongside funny, flawed Anika—from laughter to tears, and everything in between.
I received this galley in exchange for an honest review. 

I was so excited to read Anatomy of a Misfit, but unfortunately I was left feeling really disappointed. I couldn't get into the writing style, the characters, or the plot, and the ending pretty much killed me. Maybe it was because I was expecting a fun, light hearted book, the complete opposite of what I ended up getting that made me not enjoy it as much as I could have.

Anika is one of the most popular girls in school. She looks and acts differently than the other people at school and her family, but she is still in the in crowd, and won't do anything to compromise that standing. Anika was too annoying and dramatic for me. The book started to get a little better for me when we really start to get to know Logan. His story was very painful, and I was just hoping for a happy resolution for him and Anika. I did want them to get together. They had a sweet little relationship forming, which made the ending that much worse.

It was a really short read, but the fact that it took me almost a week to read it shows how much I couldn't get into it. While this book wasn't for me, there were some wonderful moments scattered throughout, and I do think others will like it. It's definitely a different kind of a YA than people are used too. 

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