The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey

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The Infinite Sea (The 5th Wave, #2)The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey

My rating: 4 of 5 teacups

Ever since I finished The 5th Wave, the very thought of this sequel has inspired a reaction something like:

I really LOVED the first book. I read it in the middle of my college exam period and it was the only thing that kept me sane in between studying. The atmosphere was just right, the writing was engaging to me, and I thought each of the characters brought something important to the table. Damn, I even wrote a (not very good) song about it. Such love is hard to follow.

When I opened this book I was both excited and nervous. My expectations were so high that I knew it was dangerous. And, what can I say? I really needn’t have worried. While I don’t view this book as the same alien-wrapped perfection we got in book one, there is something so entirely compelling about Yancey’s writing that makes me think we would be great friends in real life.

This book has more faults, not quite as much eerie atmosphere now the big secrets are out, and more gory action… but, overall, it is a worthy sequel that didn’t fail to punch me in the gut numerous times. If you were a little worried that Yancey wouldn’t be able to pull out another good ‘un after The 5th Wave – don’t be.


“The world will burn for a hundred years. Fire will consume the things we made from wood and plastic and rubber and cloth, then water and wind and time will chew the stone and steel into dust. How baffling it is that we imagined cities incinerated by alien bombs and death rays when all they needed was Mother Nature and time.”

I think the first book is a quieter novel, which had different effects on different readers. I, personally, thought it was one of the book’s strengths. The Infinite Sea is a different kind of book. We finished the first after a huge climax of action and drama; the secrets were out, covers had been blown, we were suddenly dropped into the middle of a war that only escalated with this second book. Here things go from bad to worse; people are lost, distrust lingers between the characters, these kids have had to grow up faster than kids ever should.

To get the negative out of the way…

The biggest – or most annoying – fault of this book is Cassie. I am relieved that Yancey chose to write in a style that moves from perspective to perspective effectively because she might have driven me crazy otherwise. Yancey’s characters are so different and have so many layers that I don’t believe for a second that the author was chanelling his own beliefs through Cassie, but that didn’t stop me from hating the slut-shaming, self-righteous little… I can’t think of anything to call her that isn’t too offensive or British slang.

Her love for Evan is a little more nauseating in this sequel than in the first, but I am glad that this whole situation introduces us to a minor but fascinating character called Grace. This is her from Cassie’s perspective:


“a tall girl with a cascade of honey-blond hair and striking Norwegian-model-type features, piercing blue eyes, full, pouty, collagen-packed lips, and the willowy figure of a runway fashion princess.
“Hello, Evan,” Cosmo Girl said. And of course her voice was deep and slightly scratchy like every seductive villainess ever conceived by Hollywood.”

*eye roll* and then later…


“Why don’t you tell me,” I shot back. “You extraterrestrial slut.”

Allow me to point out that she is a “slut” because she used to be with Evan before Cassie came along. Cassie and Evan are like the Mary Sue and Gary Stu at the centre of this book who angst over each other with emo poetry. If these things bug you too you might be wondering how this book still manages to pull out a load of awesome and get a high rating…

Because – and I should probably stress this – Cassie and Evan are only a very small part of The Infinite Sea. This book is full of different characters and interesting little back stories that it’s easy to just ignore those two. As I said, we get to meet Grace who I found fascinating. We hear the back story between her and Evan so she becomes something more interesting and well-rounded than merely Evan’s ex who is being used as a tool to make Cassie jealous. And we learn Poundcake’s disturbing history and find out just why he never speaks.

But my favourite character? Ringer. She was rapidly becoming my favourite in the first book and this one just cemented my love for her. I love everything about her. From the rage that bubbles beneath the surface:


“My anger is greater than the sum of all lost things.”

To her flirtations with Zombie, her intriguing back story and the way she tells Cassie exactly how it is:


“Beats hanging around here waiting for your alien prince to come.”

Hahaha! You bloody tell her!

In the end, this was a really good sequel with plenty of action, drama, twists and turns. I didn’t reread the first book before I started and that surprisingly didn’t affect my enjoyment, I got sucked back into the world and story instantly. I feel like I’m just completely on the same wavelength with Rick Yancey because his writing always just works for me; he can be writing about action or characters or philosophical musings… and I genuinely enjoy reading it. Can’t wait for the next book.

Posted on Monday, September 22nd, 2014 - filed under 2014, 4 Teacups, Dystopian, Emily, Review, Science Fiction, Young Adult .
The Providence of Fire by Brian Staveley

This is a really difficult book to review because it’s one of those books that is an experience rather than a story. Brian Staveley is not only an invaluable new voice to the epic fantasy genre, and the literary world at large, but he’s on his way to being one of the greats.

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Don’t wait until HBO or some film producer pick up the rights before you read this- it’s that good. Actually, if the people who produce GoT took this on I’d expect it to live up to its awesomeness. I hope this happens because I need that in my life.

I’m not going to get into the plot further than the synopsis says because this is a book that everyone should go into not knowing what to expect, and this comes from someone who usually has no qualms with spoilers, but since I have an ARC I’m not even going to reiterate just in case there’s a change before print. I will tell you that this is has multiple storylines that are all connected but told fairly separately. It works beautifully though. I have a plethora of updates that I recommend looking over- I included several non-spoilery quotes.

One of the very best things about this story are the characters, it’s a character driven story for sure, and not only the fact that they’re all complex and fleshed out, but that each voice is so discernible. There is a big cast here, and they’re not all from the same place and such, no, they’re bringing differences that are great and small and not once did I feel like I was reading the same voice. Not one single time. I can’t even find the words. Still. I’ve been trying to think of it all day what I could say that would impress upon you all that it’s a need, not a want, for yourselves.

Superbly written, sublimely enchanting, utterly engrossing, grabs-you-by-the-throat-and-refuses-to-let-go, and then you’re a shell of a person once you’re finished. Laughing, crying, incredulity, frustration, shock, and disturbed are just a few of the feelings you should prepare yourself for.

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Posted on Wednesday, August 27th, 2014 - filed under 2014, 5 Teacups, Brandi, Fantasy, Review .
My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories

My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday StoriesMy True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories by Stephanie Perkins

My rating: 3 of 5 teacups

Like almost all short story collections by various authors, this one is a mixed bag of hidden gems and ones I didn’t even finish. If you’d asked me beforehand to name a list of YA authors that I’d like to appear in a short story collection, many of the ones here would have made that list: Stephanie Perkins, Laini Taylor, Holly Black, Gayle Forman, David Levithan and maybe Rainbow Rowell (I like but don’t love her books).

Then if you’d asked me what kind of short story collection I’d like to have from these favourites of mine, you would have got all kinds of weird and wonderful suggestions from me… but a collection of holiday-themed romances would never have occurred to me as something enjoyable. I’m not much of a romantic or a Christmas person, to be honest. I’m more of a Halloween type of girl – and all the genres that could possibly go with it. But I did get some really nice surprises here. I’m not sure it’s worth buying the entire collection but it would be sad for you to miss out on the better ones. And it is a pleasingly diverse set of stories, filled with people of all races, ethnicities, religions and sexualities *thumbs up*

Personally, I think this book starts and ends with the two best stories, from Rainbow Rowell and Laini Taylor respectively. Taylor’s work came as no surprise but I didn’t see Rowell’s tale coming. She really hit me where it hurts (in a good way). The story made me sit up and take notice in a collection that I wasn’t sure would be my thing. I’m not going to review every single story properly because some didn’t pique my interest and some I skim-read, but here’s what I thought.

“Midnights” by Rainbow Rowell – 5/5
This was my favourite story and it probably wasn’t a good idea for it to appear first because so many that followed received unfair comparisons with it. It tells the story of the midnight countdown on New Year’s Eve over several years, revisiting the same characters in a non-chronological order and slowly filling in the blanks on their personalities and relationship. It amazed me how much I fell in love with the two protagonists, how well-developed their characters were in so short an amount of time and pages.

“You’re a kaleidoscope. You change every time I look away.”

It was a funny, sweet, wonderful little story. With a hint of melancholy, as all the best New Year stories should be. There’s something really sad about the possibility of the new and moving on and becoming someone else, not being who you once were. Rowell captures that hint of fear people have about growing up and everyone they once knew changing around them.

“The Lady and the Fox” by Kelly Link – 2/5
This was one I didn’t read properly. It started well and had an intriguing premise but I grew bored.

“Angels in the Snow” by Matt De La Pena – 3/5
I really liked the idea of this one and my only real problem with it was that I didn’t like the female love interest. It was refreshing to see a YA romance told from a male perspective and I liked the subtle exploration of race and racial stereotyping that existed without overtaking the main story. It’s about a guy who is house-sitting for his boss over the Christmas period and is slowly starving in a house with no food (he is broke). An encounter with his pretty neighbor sparks an interesting and unlikely relationship that is built up through the telling of stories.

Indulging more and more tidbits about each others lives, the two grow closer. But how much of what they tell each other is the truth?

“Polaris is Where You’ll Find Me” by Jenny Han – 2/5
It must just be something about Jenny Han’s writing style that doesn’t agree with me because I’ve been unable to like any of her books. I started to skim read this story and I can’t actually remember what it’s about. Hence, no real review. Oh well…

“It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown” by Stephanie Perkins – 4/5
I’m really not surprised that Perkins delivered. It was her name that I saw first on this collection and I added it immediately before checking out who else was included. Her stories are always so cute and sweet, but without too much of the cheesy. This one is no exception.

Unlike Rowell’s story – that deals with a relationship over the period of several years – Perkins tells us a love story that takes place over just a few hours. And it is surprisingly effective. She builds instantly likable characters and uses her gift for dialogue to convince you to root for the two protagonists even after such a short amount of time. It is one of the more feel-good, enjoyable stories in here, but it also deals with anxieties about the future and the expectations other people have of you.

“Your Temporary Santa” by David Levithan – no rating
I didn’t read far enough with this one because I felt no connection to the characters, which is why I’m not leaving a rating or review. I’m extremely pleased that an LGBT romance was included in the collection, I know some romance collection publishers in the past have been douches about it, but I wasn’t grabbed by the story. As much as I have enjoyed Levithan’s work in the past, most of his more recent stuff hasn’t really worked for me.

“Krampuslauf by Holly Black” – no rating
Sometimes I love Holly Black so much that I get pulled in and completely addicted to her stories. And sometimes her style does nothing for me. This time was the latter. Didn’t finish.

“What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth?” by Gayle Forman – 3/5
This story is about a Jewish girl who moves to college in a small, very Christian place where she feels like a complete outsider. There she meets a black boy who is equally treated like an outsider and these two big city small town misfits find something important in each other. I liked it okay.

The characters were interesting enough that I read to the end and enjoyed reading about their relationship. However, I think the story was built up solely around addressing racial and religious stereotypes, which I agree is important, but here it overshadowed everything else that happened. Most of the dialogue was made up of the two protagonists discussing the way other people saw them in this new town. I understand the idea about outsiders coming together, but I got the impression that these two got together simply because she was Jewish and he was black. Plus, the ending got a little too cheesy for me.

“Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus” by Myra McEntire – no rating
I didn’t read this one. Someone tell me if it’s good and I’ll go try it :)

“Welcome to Christmas, CA” by Kiersten White – 3/5
White is not one of my favourite authors. I’ve tried a bunch of her books and never been able to get into them or understand the hype. So I didn’t have much hope for this one, but I tried it and it was better than expected. Unlike most of the authors in this collection, White goes with a quirky, funny style that was easy to digest and enjoyable. The characters weren’t as memorable as some of the others, but I did get a few laughs from it.

“Star of Bethlehem” by Ally Carter – no rating
I didn’t try reading this one either because it just didn’t appeal to me. Feel free to let me know if it’s good.

“The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer” by Laini Taylor – 5/5
*sigh* And finally… Laini Taylor is so reliably, consistently good in her storytelling and her beautiful, evocative language. In a collection full of contemporaries, she manages to take us into her own fantasy world and breathe some magic and wonderful prose into the holiday season.

All evening long, real snow would fall from the ceiling to glitter on the lashes of dancing girls and ardent boys, but Neve and the Dreamer didn’t linger. They had other things to do: all of them. All the things, dreamed and undreamed, in the depth and breadth of the whole spinning world.

Posted on Thursday, August 21st, 2014 - filed under 2014, 3 Teacups, Emily, Review, Romance, Young Adult .
Unteachable by Leah Raeder

UnteachableUnteachable by Leah Raeder

My rating: 5 of 5 teacups

I’ve had several comments on my reviews of the NA experiment books asking why I insist on putting myself through all this torture. The simple answer: to find books like this one. Unteachable isn’t a perfect book. It sits comfortably within the contemporary romance genre that we’ve come to expect from New Adult and – plot-wise – it cannot be considered groundbreaking. But the writing, the mood, and the characters made this a book I couldn’t put down. You want to get some idea what this book is like? Look at that cover. Look at the explosion of bright colours winding off into a neon portrait of a young woman. That might give you some idea. A gif to represent this book? Here you go:

But really, what is Unteachable? I’ll tell you. It’s a lyrical, intoxicating novel that creates an atmosphere of such feverish intensity you feel a little high, a little out of control, just by reading it. I fell into this story and got lost amongst the lights of the carnival, the smell of beer and sweat, and the MC’s apprehension. I felt the pull of this story from the very beginning when Maise takes a ride on that fateful rollercoaster at the carnival and her life starts to change forever. Because this book is a romance and the romantic aspect is the foundation of the story, but it’s also about something else. I suppose it is really a coming-of-age tale. Of being a young woman balanced between childhood and the scary world of adults. It asks what it means to grow up. And if any of us ever really do.

Maise O’Malley is the star of this show and I loved her instantly. I didn’t expect her to be so funny. She’s wickedly sarcastic, she’s shamelessly rebellious, she’s not afraid of being more than a little crude at times. But, of course, she’s so much more than all of that too. Maise is a fascinating combination of:

And a bitter, sad fragility. She feels more real that any of the NA protagonists I’ve met with recently, there’s something genuine about the way she boxes her troubles up and locks them away behind doors with sexy, devil-may-care smiles. I feel like there’s something known about pain here. All these NA novels I’ve read about girls with issues, girls running from dark pasts, girls who were abused… and none of them seem to capture that darkness, that melancholy of being fucked up for a very long time. There’s something sadder about the way Maise brushes it off with a shrug and a joke about Freud, it affected me more than the melodrama of other novels. I don’t know the author’s story, but she certainly writes with a convincing flair that suggests some level of firsthand experience with the thoughts and emotions swirling away behind Maise’s closed doors. I love it when an author writes something, a thought or a feeling, that you never realised was exactly how you felt at a certain time or in a certain situation until it was laid out before you in a book. Inexplicable sensations are suddenly explained and it’s hard not to smile or laugh or cry along with the characters.

Raeder’s writing was, for me, perfect. Atmospheric, pretty without quite hitting the purple end of the scale, just beautiful. Like this:


I biked up to the water tower on the hill overlooking the prairie. Climbed the rust-eaten struts up to a crow’s nest some stoners had hammered together out of Mississippi driftwood. It wasn’t as hot tonight, and a restless wind raked through the grass, smelling of loam and barley. From here the carnival lights looked like fireflies swirling madly in place, trapped under an invisible jar. Just like me.

I especially love the use of past tense in this book, the way Maise tells the story from a present the reader is far away from reaching. She keeps talking about how “I didn’t know back then” and “I wonder what would have been different had I made another choice that day” and I actually loved it. The hindsight makes the whole thing seem somehow tragically inevitable. It works. You know certain things are coming and, rather than dampen the tension, it heightens it an incredible amount. I was sat there with a pounding heart, knowing what was coming, and sometimes wanting to hide behind my hands and not watch what I knew would happen. This, combined with the film metaphors woven throughout, made for a stunning, exciting novel.


Images and words flash past too fast to parse, like the cliche dying moment in film, when life flashes before someone’s eyes. Except that isn’t what happens when you die – it’s what happens when you live. It all flashes past. You barely have time to feel it before it’s gone.

Now for the relationship. Teacher and student. All kinds of wrong. All kinds of room for a really hot mess. But I think this relationship is used well here, not just to feed the reader’s forbidden fantasies. For one, it’s legal (phew) and they “hooked up” before the awkward classroom encounter and she had lied about her age. For another, he is so adorable I do not have words. I’ve got used to expecting a certain type of love interest from these NA novels. Arrogant, self-obsessed, controlling, annoying… Evan is none of those things. He is sweet, kind, considerate, he puts her first (which adds up to more than letting her come first) and he still manages to be totally sexy. His character development extends beyond his looks, he has faults and he has his own past that isn’t so peachy – I think if I could write an ideal NA male love interest, it would be exactly like him. I find it amazing that the NA relationship that is technically most inappropriate is the one that has felt most real and honest to me.

And because I liked Maise and I liked Evan… I loved them both together. And that made the sex scenes really hot. Just sayin’.

Now to get a couple of negatives out of the way. The most notable blemish to this novel’s perfection occurs around the middle where there is a slow chunk made up of nothing but sex. I know, I know, I’m such a spoilsport. But there were one or two sex scenes too many if you ask me. Your sex shouldn’t get tedious and there was a point somewhere between orgasms when I was hoping it would just move along a bit. Don’t worry, though, it picks up again. My other issue was with the handling of Hiyam’s character. I would have liked her to have been more well-rounded rather than just a mindless villain used as a tool to threaten the novel’s harmony. I also wish Maise had used a different term to describe insecure teenage girls than “bulimic”, it didn’t sit well with me and seemed to trivialize a serious illness. I understand it was Maise’s skewed view of them, but I ‘d just rather it wasn’t in there.

Now, let’s get back to the good! I haven’t mentioned the cast of secondary characters that I feel were extremely well-developed for a romance novel. Wesley, Siobhan… and I personally think Maise’s mum deserves a novel of her own because we barely scratched the surface with her. She is one of the worst mothers ever, but I’d love to get her story. The strength of all of them, I felt, was in the witty dialogue zipping back and forth. You could almost take out everything but the dialogue and it would still be a four star novel. I recall what I said in my recent review of Hopeless about how I wished the author had the guts to write a typically unlikeable “slutty” protagonist and make us love her. I got that here. I also got the closest thing to a feminist I’m probably ever going to find in these NA books. I imagined myself and Maise as partners in crime when I read this:


I looked at my desk. Someone had carved RIHANNA = SLUT. I thought about adding CHRIS BROWN = DOMESTIC ABUSER, but Mr Wilke probably would’ve caught me before I finished.

I really did like this book. A LOT. A lot more than I thought I was going to. It does the one thing I really wanted the NA genre to do from the start: capture that feeling of loneliness and desperation that occurs when you have no idea where you’re going next or who you’re going to be when it comes time to “grow up”. It’s about how teens grow up, and it’s about how sometimes adults never did. I don’t even care that the ending had more than a touch of cheese. I was ready for it. I was like an empty toasted sandwich, waiting to be cheesed <<<<<< Don't judge me, I will likely never again have chance to use that sentence.

One last quote, Emily? Well, if you insist:


That’s all life is. Breathing in, breathing out. The space between two breaths.




Posted on Wednesday, July 30th, 2014 - filed under 2014, 5 Teacups, Emily, New Adult Experiment, Review, Romance .
Fledge (I Am Just Junco, #2) by J.A. Huss

This book just made me mad. I tried really hard to get on board and like it but no. It’s not for me. It’s not you, book, it’s me. Except it’s not.

The story is so goddamn contradictory and annoying that I have thirteen pages worth of highlights. Thirteen. Not to illustrate anything other than why this books fails me.

Sigh.

Junco has to go through a “fledge” that is really just a hunger games for avians. Without the extra oomph that the capital made Katniss go through, and all for shock value. There was a little boy that Junco decided to take under wing and everything. And then she had to kill him just to show she could? It’s all for shock value and nothing more and further to the point, it failed to make me care.

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Junco even points out the absurdity in having a fledge fight to the president (who happened to have all kinds of time to just give her randomly) and he’s like, “oh well blah blah it’s necessary because genes” and I’m just sitting there like, dafuq? There are so fucking many examples like that.

How about when Junco all of a sudden decides she’s actually in love with Tier, only to turn around and have sex with her friend right after crying her eyes out and saying something about how her sadness is never ending?! And if you know me even a little bit you know I’m all for women and their libidos and it being all good, but that was total bullshit. No guilt either. Nothing. And that’s not touching the intimacy she exhibited with Ashur either: sleeping together (literally), cuddling in his wings, a make-out session, knowing he had feelings for her and doing nothing to dissuade him. So much garbage.

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It’s like how in the synopsis for the first book we’re told straight up that there are no answers, but there comes a point in time where that plot device becomes much more detrimental to my enjoyment than it being clever or effective. There’s more, but there’s not much point to keeping this going because it’s pretty obvious I hated it, lol.

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Posted on Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014 - filed under 1 Teacup, 2014, Brandi, Dystopian, Review, Science Fiction .
July 2014: Exciting New Releases

LandlineLandline by Rainbow Rowell

Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble. That it’s been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems besides the point now. Maybe that was always besides the point.

Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn’t expect to him to pack up the kids and go home without her.

When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything. That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts . . .Is that what she’s supposed to do? Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?

Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Powell’s Books


On the FenceOn the Fence by Kasie West

She’s a tomboy. He’s the boy next door…

Charlie Reynolds can outrun, outscore, and outwit every boy she knows. But when it comes to being a girl, Charlie doesn’t know the first thing about anything. So when she starts working at a chichi boutique to pay off a speeding ticket, she finds herself in a strange new world. To cope with the stress of her new reality, Charlie takes to spending nights chatting with her neighbor Braden through the fence between their yards. As she grows to depend on their nightly Fence Chats, she realizes she’s got a bigger problem than speeding tickets-she’s falling for Braden. She knows what it means to go for the win, but if spilling her secret means losing him for good, the stakes just got too high.

Fun, original, and endearing, On the Fence is a romantic comedy about finding yourself and finding love where you least expect.

Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Powell’s Books


One Plus OneOne Plus One by Jojo Moyes

Suppose your life sucks. A lot. Your husband has done a vanishing act, your teenage stepson is being bullied and your math whiz daughter has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you can’t afford to pay for. That’s Jess’s life in a nutshell—until an unexpected knight-in-shining-armor offers to rescue them. Only Jess’s knight turns out to be Geeky Ed, the obnoxious tech millionaire whose vacation home she happens to clean. But Ed has big problems of his own, and driving the dysfunctional family to the Math Olympiad feels like his first unselfish act in ages . . . maybe ever.

One Plus One is Jojo Moyes at her astounding best. You’ll laugh, you’ll weep, and when you flip the last page, you’ll want to start all over again.

Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Powell’s Books


The Kiss of Deception (The Remnant Chronicles #1)The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson

In this timeless new trilogy about love and sacrifice, a princess must find her place in a reborn world.

In a society steeped in tradition, Princess Lia’s life follows a preordained course. As First Daughter, she is expected to have the revered gift of sight—but she doesn’t—and she knows her parents are perpetrating a sham when they arrange her marriage to secure an alliance with a neighboring kingdom—to a prince she has never met.

On the morning of her wedding, Lia flees to a distant village. She settles into a new life, hopeful when two mysterious and handsome strangers arrive—and unaware that one is the jilted prince and the other an assassin sent to kill her. Deception abounds, and Lia finds herself on the brink of unlocking perilous secrets—even as she finds herself falling in love.

Buy: Amazon | http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-kiss-of-deception-mary-e-pearson/1116931467?ean=9780805099232 | Powell’s Books


Half a King (Shattered Sea, #1)Half a King by Joe Abercrombie

Prince Yarvi has vowed to regain a throne he never wanted. But first he must survive cruelty, chains, and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea. And he must do it all with only one good hand.

Born a weakling in the eyes of his father, Yarvi is alone in a world where a strong arm and a cold heart rule. He cannot grip a shield or swing an axe, so he must sharpen his mind to a deadly edge.

Gathering a strange fellowship of the outcast and the lost, he finds they can do more to help him become the man he needs to be than any court of nobles could. But even with loyal friends at his side, Yarvi finds his path may end as it began—in twists, and traps, and tragedy.

Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Powell’s Books


ConversionConversion by Katherine Howe

t’s senior year at St. Joan’s Academy, and school is a pressure cooker. College applications, the battle for valedictorian, deciphering boys’ texts: Through it all, Colleen Rowley and her friends are expected to keep it together. Until they can’t.

First it’s the school’s queen bee, Clara Rutherford, who suddenly falls into uncontrollable tics in the middle of class. Her mystery illness quickly spreads to her closest clique of friends, then more students and symptoms follow: seizures, hair loss, violent coughing fits. St. Joan’s buzzes with rumor; rumor blossoms into full-blown panic.

Soon the media descends on Danvers, Massachusetts, as everyone scrambles to find something, or someone, to blame. Pollution? Stress? Or are the girls faking? Only Colleen—who’s been reading The Crucible for extra credit—comes to realize what nobody else has: Danvers was once Salem Village, where another group of girls suffered from a similarly bizarre epidemic three centuries ago . . .

Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Powell’s Books


Let's Get LostLet’s Get Lost by Adi Alsaid

Four teens across the country have only one thing in common: a girl named LEILA. She crashes into their lives in her absurdly red car at the moment they need someone the most.

There’s HUDSON, a small-town mechanic who is willing to throw away his dreams for true love. And BREE, a runaway who seizes every Tuesday—and a few stolen goods along the way. ELLIOT believes in happy endings…until his own life goes off-script. And SONIA worries that when she lost her boyfriend, she also lost the ability to love.

Hudson, Bree, Elliot and Sonia find a friend in Leila. And when Leila leaves them, their lives are forever changed. But it is during Leila’s own 4,268-mile journey that she discovers the most important truth— sometimes, what you need most is right where you started. And maybe the only way to find what you’re looking for is to get lost along the way.

Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Powell’s Books


Posted on Wednesday, July 9th, 2014 - filed under 2014, Emily .
The Cure For Dreaming by Cat Winters

The Cure for DreamingThe Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters

My rating: 5 of 5 teacups


“Come along. Let’s get out of here and go toast to youth and vampires and rebellion.”

Cat Winters has done it again. I have been captivated by this book for every spare minute of reading I’ve managed to fit in. I’m not quite sure how Winters manages to so thoroughly take me out of this world and plant me into another time full of atmosphere, history and a little dash of the paranormal. But she does.


“I’ve said this before,” he said through his teeth, “and I’ll say it again: This is all for your own good. You do not need to be burdened with impossible dreams.”

In the opening years of the twentieth century, women’s dreams often remained just that. Expected to leave school, marry, and look after the home, the world’s wonders would glitter off in the distance and women had to accept that they would never have the opportunity to reach for them. But that didn’t mean these women didn’t dream and want and hope and – eventually – fight. Winters has a certain knack for bringing ambitious and feisty women into a setting completely at odds with their personalities. As with her first novel, In the Shadow of Blackbirds, Winters once again portrays the difficulties of being a young woman with dreams in a society that won’t let them happen.


“Your future is to become a respectable housewife and mother. Women belong in the home, and inside some man’s home you’ll stay.”

Prepare to be more than a little pissed off. And then be prepared to grin madly as Olivia repeatedly proves everyone wrong. Then there’s that whole part of this novel with the sexy almost-French hypnotist… what more do you need from a book, anyway?

There are a number of interesting and complex things happening in this novel – all of which, I found fascinating. Firstly, there is the relationship between Olivia and her father – who I wanted to die a million painful deaths – and yet… I felt a certain glimmer of sadness for him in the end because he was nothing but his own worst enemy. Then there is the historical woven with the paranormal aspect that just completely transported me into the time and place of the novel. The author captures the time perfectly and the feeling of frustration that many women must have felt.


“I love that books allow us to experience other lives without us ever having to change where we live or who we are.”

In this book, Olivia’s father hires a hypnotist to cure Olivia of her “unfeminine” dreams of college, suffrage and freedom. However, Henri Reverie instead makes her see the world “as it truly is”, giving those she cannot trust a monstrous visage. I can hardly begin to describe the array of emotions this book took me through: anger, sadness, frustration, warm fuzzies… all of them in a good way. It is, in the end, a book about equality and how silencing a group of people will only make them more determined to fight harder.

I loved it.



Posted on Tuesday, July 8th, 2014 - filed under 2014, 5 Teacups, Emily, Historical, Review, Young Adult .
Wicked Games by Sean Olin

Wicked GamesWicked Games by Sean Olin

My rating: 4 of 5 teacups


By the time they crossed the Georgia state line, they’d forgotten all about the green Mazda, but if they’d looked, they would have seen that it was still behind them…

Well… holy shit. I nearly passed this one up because of all the negative reviews – just look down the page at all those one stars – but it was Khanh’s review that piqued my curiosity. I often find myself being in the minority on books, though it’s usually a case where I wasn’t feeling the magic from a book everyone else is raving about, so I decided to take a chance on this one. My thought was “I’ll just try a few pages and see…” and the next thing I knew it was over and my heart was literally racing.

Personally, I think whoever did the design and marketing for this book got it all wrong. This is not a lusty teenage romance full of empty-headed characters; in fact, it’s far closer to being a psychological thriller of the Abigail Haas variety. I was literally hooked. It’s frightening. It’s engaging. It has well-developed characters. Being a teen makes most people experience the edge of insanity from time to time and I think Olin shows that, and then proceeds to show how someone can cross the line bit by bit every day.

The, in my opinion, AMAZING characters:

This book is about three people – Lilah, Carter and Jules – who do some pretty damn awful things. But I felt like characterization and careful understanding and sympathy are never neglected by the author. These people are appalling. Carter is dating Lilah but cheats on her with Jules, and Lilah is absolutely fucking crazy (no exaggeration). And yet… and yet I felt completely absorbed into their lives and stories. It was a rare occasion where cheating, though still not forgivable, is told in such a way that I understood and sympathised with both parties.

Lilah:

Similarly, I loved the way Lilah’s character was handled. I can’t help smiling to myself now as I recall how bitter, twisted and insane she was. She is a fantastic portrait of a teenage girl’s gradual descent into insanity. She is interesting, she is a villain, but she’s more than that too. Because, whatever she may go on to do, I felt such a sadness for Lilah – especially towards the beginning – because I remember how it feels to be an angsty teenager and worry that you’re not good enough and nothing will ever be right again.

I’m surprised more people don’t sympathise with Lilah’s self-destructive personality. Obviously it’s completely unhealthy, but I found her a highly sympathetic character in the beginning of the book – maybe this says something about me as a teenager ^_^ – and there were certain scenes that seriously wrenched at my gut. I think it would have been very easy for the author to drop these kinds of characters into boxes but he steered clear of them all. There was zero slut-shaming, the guy was sweet and gentlemanly… I liked Wicked Games a lot.

Really bloody scary:

I do not get scared. I swear. Only with real life spiders because they’re obviously up to something (why else would they need EIGHT legs, hmm?). But this book freaked me out. Like heart-pounding “the door’s locked, right? are you sure???” kind of freaked out. It’s just that I’m more likely to be affected by scary real life things than scary horror things because, duh, I’m probably not going to get eaten by a werewolf anytime soon. And, honestly, parts of this book are genuinely terrifying.

Ending:

Also, I LOVED the ending. I thought that was just sheer brilliance, to be honest. I’m not sure if the author has set it up for a sequel or if he intends to leave it hanging there (which would be deliciously evil), but I’m good with both.

So, I’m pleased to be in the positive minority for once, but I’m a little surprised. I wonder if part of it has something to do with the way this book appears to be something it isn’t… a lot of readers – sometimes myself included – don’t like to get something they hadn’t bargained for. We don’t want to pick up a “dystopia” and get a romance, even a well-written one. It’s like… I like chicken and I like ice cream but I wouldn’t want to get one when I ordered the other. Okay… what am I even talking about anymore? Just: maybe take a chance on this one, you might be surprised :)

Posted on Friday, July 4th, 2014 - filed under 2014, 4 Teacups, Contemporary, Emily, Review, Young Adult .
Leafmarks: Not Just One More Site For Book Lovers

Disclaimer: Biased, as always ;)

I’ve been meaning to follow-up on my previous post – Leafmarks and Me – that I posted back in January, talking about how I had decided to do something totally crazy and get involved with a new and upcoming social network site for readers; but, alas, the aforementioned haven for book lovers has taken up all my time. Over the past few months, I’ve watched Leafmarks grow from a tiny brand new site into the beginning of an incredible community. New features have been introduced, new directions have been explored, and Leafmarks has become so much more than another addition to the pile of book communities that exist out there.

Like I said, I’m totally biased. But myself and Jacquie were book lovers long before we became Leafmarkians. We know how it feels to want to express yourself creatively in a full-on hyper squee mode “this book is the best thing EVER” way and an angsty ranty “I let my dog eat this paperback because it was so bad” and even a cool, calm, critical analysis way. I see some of you raising a skeptical eyebrow at that last one but I swear I do sometimes! Honest! And there are other bookish things we’ve always wanted… discussions with friends, reading challenges, rewards, ease of use and – let’s face it – free books. All of which we have endeavored to bring your way with Leafmarks. It’s about you and it’s about us and it’s about what we both want. So, from one book lover to all you others, here’s a bit of an update on what’s happening on the site and what you can do.

1) Rate, Review & Organize Your Books.
The obvious one. Leafmarks has a clean interface with easy-to-use controls that allow you to rate books (including half stars), post reviews, and organize your books into shelves. Let your friends and followers know what you’re reading, what you’ve read and the ever-expanding list of books you want need to read. No more suffocating under an avalanche of “to read” books that you’ve piled on your desk in order to keep them separate from the “read” tower that has barricaded you in your bedroom. Don’t lie, we’ve all been there.

2) Find New Friends By Genre & Compare Books
If you’re anything like me, then finding an amazing book means you have to tell EVERYONE to go read it now so you can talk about that evil cliffhanger ending with someone who understands your pain. Well, the Leafmarks community grows more active every day and we’ve introduced a bunch of ways to make your life easier when it comes to finding friends. You can specify your favourite genres in MY BOOKS > GENRES and search for users who enjoy reading the same. Or you can go to a member’s profile and use the “compare books” feature to see how many books you have in common and how similar/different your ratings are. It even has a nifty pie chart. You know you love the pie chart.

Now with our new discussion groups (more about this in a second), you can talk with friends about the books you love, and rant about the books you didn’t love so much. It’s fun to meet people with similar tastes, debate with those who felt differently, and tolerate that one degenerate who says things like “meh meh, The Fault in Our Stars is SOOOO manipulative”. Oh wait, no, that was me. Oops.

3) Join Discussion Groups or Create Your Own
Groups are an extension of the friends/community aspect that we released fairly recently. You can join discussion groups and chat with other members, create your own group, maybe participate in book club reads, or check out the feedback forum and let us know what you’d like to see. We always read and consider everything posted so you can definitely make a difference. Group posts are visually organized so that you can actually see nested posts and replies, which makes it easier to follow conversations. And, for a bit of shameless self-promotion, you can join my very own book club! We will be reading a variety of books and have a monthly adult and YA pick. It’s called Book Your Brains Out.

4) Reading Challenges & “Leaves”
This one is for those of you who can’t resist a bit of a challenge. Maybe you want to read as many classics as possible, or maybe Young Adult is your brand of heroin – but whatever you choose, it’s so exciting to feel like you’ve accomplished something and met your reading goals. Not only do we have a whole bunch of challenges for you to enter, but you can create your own or even challenge a friend. We also give you colourful badges called “Leaves” for completing challenge levels and these are displayed on your profile. Only a Leafmarkian knows how it feels to get a 250 Classics challenge Leaf and be like:

5) Book Giveaways
What is a book lover if they don’t have any books? You guys know how it is. You always need books. You buy more books than you will ever have time to read. You take a trip to the library because you clearly do not have enough with the hundreds stashed around your home. You like the sound of a book in the store but it’s part of a series so obviously you need to buy all eight. I know you understand the kind of logic I’m talking about.

Which is why we’re always giving away free books! You can find them at our giveaways page and earn extra entries by liking us on Facebook and tweeting about us, etc.

6) More, More, More…
The best thing about Leafmarks is all the exciting things that lie in the very near future. We have so many planned features that I can’t wait to share with you, including things like reading and book stats, a mobile app, and more librarian controls. So yeah, I am biased – as a member of the Leafmarks team. But I am also excited – just as a book lover. The site that is growing out of all this passion and hard work is a site I love.

I think you will too :)

Posted on Saturday, June 28th, 2014 - filed under Leafmarks .
Dirty Angels by Karina Halle

Dirty Angels (Dirty Angels, #1)Dirty Angels by Karina Halle

My rating: 4 of 5 teacups


I’d never been the type of girl to fear the dark – when I was young, I loved for my father to tell me scary and thrilling stories. But now they were no longer stories, they were real.

Warning: Listen to what the author says in the blurb. I read the words “dark” and “violence” and “crazy” but I didn’t absorb the full meaning of them until I was met with some of the vivid depictions of torture and rape in this book. I like the darkness in Halle’s stories but believe me when I say this is undoubtedly the darkest one yet with many possible triggers. You should note that before picking it up.

But I am so glad I did! I can’t contain my excitement anymore so I’m just going to say:

JAVIER IS BACKKKKK!!!!

And badder than ever, I might add. This is definitely what I’ve been missing. I was a little disappointed by the ending of the Sins & Needles trilogy because of the way I thought Javier’s complex character was… dismantled, it seemed, to spin the plot in a certain direction. But let’s not worry, because all that is behind us – new and exciting things are happening now!

I honestly find Javier Bernal to be one of the most interesting characters ever to grace the pages of a romance novel. He is technically a villain, but a complex, well-developed one that has so many layers of humanity lurking beneath the surface that it’s hard not to be fascinated by him (whilst hating him a little bit too). He has such a powerful connection with the reader… we feel intense anger towards him when he’s doing something evil, and intense pity for him when he gets hurt. I love the kind of character that can inspire such emotional turmoil.

And I honestly don’t know how Halle has made me so damn interested in the politics of drug cartels in Mexico. I don’t know if this in any way resembles the reality – probably doesn’t – but I was hanging on every word, totally addicted to this shady world of power struggles and backstabbing. This sounds melodramatic, I know, but there were a couple of moments in this novel when my jaw literally dropped. She makes it so compelling, weaving intricate character development into such a dark setting. Amazing.

Like I said, this has to be Halle’s darkest novel yet, which I personally didn’t mind but feel others should be aware of. The story is about a Mexican girl called Luisa who marries Salvador – a powerful drug lord – to help provide for her ailing parents. Salvador subjects her to cruel abuse and rapes her almost every day, some of these scenes are not skimmed over either and might cause distress to certain readers. Similarly, there is a graphic description of torture that was incredibly unsettling. Despite my high rating, please don’t read if you feel you’ll be upset by this.

Anyway, Luisa is kidnapped and held ransom by Javier Bernal and his men in order to get Salvador to comply with their demands. While she is Javier’s prisoner, something neither Luisa or Javier expected begins to develop between the two of them. Javier was ripped apart inside when Ellie broke his heart at the end of Bold Tricks and he now wants to punish all women for the hurt inside him (being in his mind is not exactly a pleasant place to be). Luisa has only ever known how to be the victim of powerful men who wish to use her for their own benefit… and she’s sick of it. When this strange pair come together, however, it seems like they might have found exactly what they needed in the most unlikely of places.

Dark and disturbing as it was, I enjoyed this book a lot. I’m now even more excited for the companion novel (which is not about this pair, but about Javier’s sister). I can’t wait!




Posted on Thursday, June 26th, 2014 - filed under 2014, 4 Teacups, Emily, Review, Romance .
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Hi! I'm Emily May but feel free to call me Emily. I'm a nerdy, book-loving Politics graduate from the North of England. I am also a co-founder of Leafmarks - an online community for readers.

Hey there! I'm Brandi; I'm a Navy veteran, Army wife, mother, feminist and book lover! My favorite genre would have to be paranormal-romance, but any fiction is game really.

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