Saturday, December 31, 2016

Top Reads of 2016

I wanted to share the books I loved the most out of all the books I read this year.  Here we go:

Belong to Me: Marissa De Los Santos -  The tension and drama in this book are enough to hook anyone and keep you reading.  The story was heartbreaking and wonderful.

Slasher Girls and Monster Boys: April Genevieve Tucholke - the short stories in this book are amazing. I use that word a lot with books I love, and it's totally worth the word drop.  These stories are totally worth reading, and will scare you in ways you never thought you could be scared. 

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, The Evolution of Mara Dyer, and The Retribution of Mara Dyer, by Michelle Hodkin, were such wonderful books, that even through my reviews I felt like I couldn't sum up how much I loved the series.  They were amazing and wonderful and if you don't read them you'll be disappointed.

The Winner's Kiss: Marie Rutkoski - Watching the relationship between Arin and Kestrel change and grow has been amazing.  The tensions throughout the series, and the war, and the changes that the characters went through were all perfectly executed by the author.

All Fall Down: Jennifer Weiner - This book was at once beautiful and heartbreaking.  It describes so well the descent of the main character into drug addiction and through rehab.  It is definitely a must read.

Lumberjanes, the series about a group of girls at camp, is fantastic.  I could go on and on, but I won't - just read them all.  You'll love them! 

Nightmares: Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller - technically a children's book, but so cute and funny!  Read it - you'll love it. 

Library Of Souls: Ransom Riggs - Words cannot even begin to describe how much I loved Library of Souls.  There was the typical feeling of sadness that the series is over, but mostly their is just LOVE! 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Freeks - Amanda Hocking

Title: Freeks
Author: Amanda Hocking
Release Date: January 3, 2017
Publisher: St. Martin's Press/Griffin Teen
Version: E-Arc

DISCLAIMER: I received an e-arc of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.  Also, there may be some spoilers in this review, so proceed with caution.

Amanda Hocking is back with her novel Freeks, a look at a traveling sideshow in the 1980's.  Mara and her mother have been part of Gideon's traveling sideshow for Mara's entire life.  Mara's mother is a necromancer, something that was passed to her from Mara's grandmother and great-grandmother.  Mara thinks the world of necromancy has passed her over, and that she is "normal."  Turns out, she's wrong.

Anyway, I'm jumping ahead a little.  The book starts with the traveling sideshow rolling into Caudry, a little town with some mystery and magic that nobody can quite explain!  On the first night they arrive in town, Mara decides to go out and explore.  She happens across this mansion where a party is being thrown by Selena, her boyfriend Logan, and her brother Gabe.  Selena and Gabe live with their parents in this really rather extravagant house for such a small family - and Gabe, from what I gather, feels discontent about that fact.  The reason he and Selena continue to live at home, however, is because of a family secret passed down through their mother's family (don't worry - I won't give that secret away!  I want you to have some surprises when you read the book.)  Anyway, Mara and Gabe end up spending the night making out in Gabe's room, then continue to spend time together throughout the week, even though Mara knows she shouldn't get attached to a stranger.  Throughout the book, strange things start to happen, and people in the sideshow start getting attacked at night by something that looks like a shadow. 

To make a long story short: a bunch of characters end up in the hospital, or dead, and the creature finally gets taken down in the end.

So, let's talk about the one thing I thought was weird about the book. Gabe and Mara making out on the FIRST NIGHT THEY MET!

I mean, I do think they could have had some attraction to each other the first night they met, but to jump from attraction to a full scale make out session in one night just felt wrong.  I know Mara was only in Caudry for a week, but they could have used that time to get to know each other a little before making out.  Then, there was the fact that by the end of the week they were having sex with each other - that was wild.  I mean, they have needs, sure, but in the conversations they had with each other during their nightly dates, I felt like they didn't really get to know each other.

Now, to be completely honest, I didn't 5 star love this book.  It was probably a 3 star read for me.  BUT, there were things I liked, enough that I would recommend the book. 

1. The idea of a traveling side show - I mean who doesn't love a good sideshow?!  It felt reminiscent of AHS: Freak Show.

2. The fact that each section was prefaced with a tarot card was awesome.  I loved it.

3. I think the author does a good job of delving into what life is like when your on the road all the time.  There is a unique opportunity to meet new people, but you don't really get the chance to develop real connections with those people. Hocking does a good job of showing what it's like when your only real connections are the people you travel with.


Since the book only spans the space of a week, there wasn't much character growth or development.  I think that was okay for a book like this, because it did span such a short time period.  Each character was their own unique person, though, and that was good. 

I feel like there was just enough tension in the story to keep me reading.  Their probably could have been a bit more by way of dramatic events, considering that people were getting injured left and right, but the book wasn't completely lacking with tension.

Overall, if you like books about sideshows and carnies, with some mystery and love thrown in, Freeks is a book you'll want to check out.

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Twitter @Amanda_Hocking

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Thirteen Reasons Why - Jay Asher

Title: Thirteen Reasons Why
Author: Jay Asher
Format: Paperback

"You can't stop the future."
"You can't rewind the past."
"The only way to learn the secret . . . is to press play."

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker--his classmate and crush--who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah's voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he'll find out why.
Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah's pain, and as he follows Hannah's recorded words throughout his town, what he discovers changes his life forever.

Jay Asher's debut book, Thirteen Reasons Why, follows Clay as he listens to 7 tapes from Hannah Baker, who uses the tape to list thirteen reasons why she committed suicide.  Clay finds the tapes when he gets home from school.  He starts listening to them in his garage, but when his mom walks in and almost here's what he's listening to, he decides to spend the night walking around listening to all these tapes at different spots around town.  

I feel a little torn about how to review this book.  It was well written, technically, and deals with a very hard subject.  But there is no deeper exploration as to why Hannah committed suicide.  Hannah spends the tapes talking about the awful things people at her school do to her - and some of these things are truly awful.  But there is no discussion or search for WHY those things impacted Hannah so deeply.  Did she have depression or some other mental health issue that was compounded by the things that people did to her?  

Also, I was wondering why some of the things that happened were even on these tapes?  For example, when someone made a list that said Hannah had the best ass in the freshman class.  Sure - that's not the kindest thing to say about someone, and it's incredibly anti-feminist to judge someone just off her appearance, but it's not the worst thing that could happen.  Yet, Hannah says that list is THE reason all the other events happened in her life that caused her to commit suicide.  I mean, really?  Everything else that happened in her life that was bad was a result of some list claiming she had the best ass in the freshman class?  Come on!  

I also found myself wondering why Hannah didn't do anything when her friend Jessica was being raped.  Hannah and Clay make out, then Clay leaves.  Then Jessica and her boyfriend come into the room, Jessica passes out, and her boyfriend goes and stands outside the door.  Hannah hides in the closet, then watches as Hannah's boyfriend let's one of his friends into the room, where said friend proceeds to rape Jessica.  There must be a certain amount of fear that comes along with watching someone be raped, but you get over it and STOP THE RAPE!  For the love of god, I just can't understand why she wouldn't get over it and stop what was happening.  In my mind, that makes her just as culpable.

I think that Hannah should have avoided making the tapes and blaming everyone else, but I do think it's important that people talk about suicide.  I think the author could have approached it differently,  though.  People who are suicidal don't generally blame everyone around them.  There were definite warning signs, like Hannah giving away her bike to Tony, and THOSE WARNING SIGNS should have been the forefront of the story.

Overall, I'd rate the book 3 stars.  Read it, but with some skepticism. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Stupid Cupid Release - Annelise Reynolds

Title: Stupid Cupid
Author: Annelise Reynolds
Genre: romance/erotica romance/contemporary
Editor:  Dawn Lewis
Cover Designer: Dark Water Covers
Hosted by: Lady Amber’s PR

After finding out that Cory is her Santa, Katie is furious with herself for letting go during one night of passion. Except, one night of passion is about to turn into a whole lot more...

According to Katie, Santa sucks and Cupid is stupid, and the two of them are out to give her more than she bargained for.

Cory stumbles across Katie's secret, and he's going to seduce her into 'fessing up, but can he trust what they feel, or is it just the workings of Stupid Cupid?

Author Bio:
I spend my days working, my evenings with my two wonderful kids, and my nights are when the characters in my head are given free reign. The tagline for Phoenix Bar, "Beauty After the Burn", holds special meaning for me and really helped to give birth to the story. Like Phoenix, I've had to rebuild my life from the ashes. It's been a long journey with a roller coaster of emotions and stresses, but I can truly say where my life is now is more beautiful than where it was.

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