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I Belong

Review: Spark by Holly Schindler

June 13th, 2017 Tara Posted in Review No Comments »

Title: Spark

Author: Holly Schindler

Genre: YA Contemporary, Magical Realism

Series: N/A

Publication Date: May 17, 2016

Format: Hardcover, 304 Pages

ISBN-10: 0062220233 (HarperTeen)

ISBN-13: 978-0062220233 (HarperTeen)

Reviewed by: Tara


The local Avery Theater was just a run-down building to Quin—until her mother told her the tragic love story of Nick and Emma that played out on the theater’s stage all those years ago. Quin is convinced it’s the perfect story to rewrite for her drama class, but when she goes searching for more information, she makes a startling discovery—the Avery is rapidly regaining its former splendor and setting the stage for her classmates Dylan and Cass to relive Nick and Emma’s romance. Quin can see the spark between them, but it’s up to her to make sure her friends—and the Avery—can both be saved this time around.

Quick & Dirty: This is an adorable magical realism novel that is ultimately a love letter to the theater.

Opening Sentence: When I dream, it’s always on a screen.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

Going into this book, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. The premise sounded intriguing but contemporary novels are usually hit or miss with me. However, this one was the perfect mix of contemporary and magical realism. Plus, there wasn’t a romance for the main character, which was different and refreshing.

This story combined mystery, romance, and high school to create an engaging tale. After setting the stage through an introduction to the town, the history of the Avery, and introducing the main characters, the story begins when the drama teacher, who also happens to be Quin’s mom, announces that the senior project will be the play Anything Goes. From there, this coming of age tale shows how people can find themselves, sometimes in the unlikeliest of ways (and with the help of a little magic). The author manages to truly capture the essence of small-town life.

There were definite Romeo and Juliet influences on this story and they worked out surprisingly well. I was a little unclear on how Cass and Dylan, the main romantic couple, were star-crossed but I loved Emma and Nick’s story. Told in bits and pieces through flashbacks, the mystery of who they were and what happened the night they died kept me interested throughout the entire novel. Each new flashback peeled back an additional layer or showed another dimension of the story. I actually felt as if this story-telling style allowed me to understand this story within the story at a deeper level than if the author had just told it from beginning to end.

I enjoyed the part of the story that was set in the modern day as well. Quin, Cass, and Dylan were all likable characters and it was a joy to watch them grow throughout the novel. However, I wasn’t a huge fan of the fact that Cass and Dylan flourished mostly when their flaws were taken away. I understand what the author was aiming for but I wish that both characters exhibited the same confidence and self-assuredness while encompassed by the Avery’s magic in the outside world. I would have liked them to succeed because they fully accepted themselves and each other. Other than that, I really enjoyed the characters and the story, particularly the ending.

Ultimately, this was a love letter to the magic of the theater. This was also an adorable, quick read that would be perfect for summer (or if you need a reminder to look for the magic in everyday life).

Notable Scene:

And suddenly, I’m thinking of that bedtime story—the one that has followed me into my dreams for years. I’m remembering Mom telling me that the Avery died. On the night of Emma’s and Nick’s tragic ending. I remember her reciting what Bertie’d told her that night: When the right hearts come to the Avery . . . the Avery will come back from the dead.

It’s true. The Avery’s heart is beating. The theater is breathing.

The Avery’s alive.

I swivel the beam of my flashlight toward the stage, where I no longer see the old half-fallen set, but pristine velvet curtains. Panting in a kind of confused anticipation, I stare as the curtains slowly part. A projector pops to life behind me, washing a bright light across a movie screen. Bold, black letters hover, announcing that the scene about to play takes place on June 4, 1947. And the sound of a train whistle fills the theater.


FTC Advisory: HarperTeen provided me with a copy of Spark. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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Review: The Crown’s Fate by Evelyn Skye

June 12th, 2017 Tara Posted in Review No Comments »

Title: The Crown’s Fate

Author: Evelyn Skye

Genre: YA Historical Fantasy

Series: The Crown’s Game (Book #2)

Publication Date: May 16, 2017

Format: Hardcover, 400 Pages

ISBN-10: 0062422618 (Balzer + Bray)

ISBN-13: 978-0062422613 (Balzer + Bray)

Reviewed by: Tara


Russia is on the brink of great change. Pasha’s coronation approaches, and Vika is now the Imperial Enchanter, but the role she once coveted may be more difficult—and dangerous—than she ever expected.

Pasha is grappling with his own problems—his legitimacy is in doubt, the girl he loves loathes him, and he believes his best friend is dead. When a challenger to the throne emerges—and with the magic in Russia growing rapidly—Pasha must do whatever it takes to keep his position and protect his kingdom.

For Nikolai, the ending of the Crown’s Game stung deeply. Although he just managed to escape death, Nikolai remains alone, a shadow hidden in a not-quite-real world of his own creation. But when he’s given a second chance at life—tied to a dark price—Nikolai must decide just how far he’s willing to go to return to the world.

With revolution on the rise, dangerous new magic rearing up, and a tsardom up for the taking, Vika, Nikolai, and Pasha must fight—or face the destruction of not only their world but also themselves.

Quick & DirtyThe much darker second half of this magical and fantastic duology.

Opening Sentence: The Crown’s Game is an old one, older than the tsardom itself.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

I’ve been waiting to read The Crown’s Fate since the moment I turned the last page of The Crown’s Game. I absolutely loved the world of fantastic, beautiful magic that Evelyn Skye created. Plus, it’s set in Imperial Russia, a time period that I’ve been fascinated with ever since watching Anastasia as a young girl. The Crown’s Fate did not disappoint any of my expectations, although it was a different novel than I expected.

The Crown’s Game was all about the glamour of magic and the competition/courtship between Vika and Nikolai. It was bright and shiny and beautiful. The Crown’s Fate deals with the flip side of that world, what happens when power is corrupted and relationships are tested. It’s dark and shadowy and yet still just as beautiful.

If you’ve read the summary, you’ve already seen a major spoiler for the first book but this is your second warning that spoilers for The Crown’s Game lie ahead (it’s impossible to discuss the second book without mentioning them). The Crown’s Fate opens up with the main characters adjusting to the conclusion of the crown’s game. Vika is now the Imperial Enchanted and Nikolai, having sacrificed himself for her, is trapped as a shadow of his former self in one of the dream benches he created. Nikolai’s mother sneakily imbues him with some of her dark magic taken from the life force of others. Although Nikolai is freed, he slowly starts to lose himself to the dark magic, starting down a path to rebellion and evil.

I still adored Vika in this book and I actually grew to appreciate her more as a character as the book went on. She matured more in this book but still managed to keep her spark of light, despite the horrific events that happened in this book. I wasn’t a huge fan of Pasha in the first book and that continues into this one, although I did respect him more toward the end. As for Nikolai, Evelyn Skye truly knows how to mess with my emotions. I could see his slow and steady embrace of his dark side and, even though I still loved him, I also hated what he was doing to his brother and to their people. Nikolai was the most interesting character in this book but I wish the resolution of his story hadn’t been quite so abrupt.

The plot was wonderfully paced, although I would have liked the ending to be a bit longer. However, some of that is probably just because I was enjoying the book so much that I didn’t want it to end. I liked that magic was revealed to the people in the tsardom, but I didn’t quite understand how opinion changed so fast toward the end. There were a few other minor plot questions that I had but they didn’t overly detract from my enjoyment of the book. I have no idea how the author came up with some of the magic Vika and Nikolai do in this book but I enjoyed each new magical endeavor.

While this wasn’t the book that I was expecting, The Crown’s Fate was the ending that this duology needed. I’m a little sad that there won’t be more in this world but am already looking forward to reading the next book or series that Evelyn Skye writes. If you loved the first book, definitely read this one. Just be prepared for a much darker story.

Notable Scene:

Vika exhaled, and the tension in her body melted away. The bracelet stopped allowing and turned an innocuous, ordinary gold.

An immediate reaction to her obedience, Pasha realized. He’d ordered her to conjuring him a midnight snack. She’d refused. The bracelet had appears and punished her, but had relented as soon as she complied with his request. Well, technically complied. He hadn’t said anything about the snack being clean.

She looked at him from where she remained kneeling in the snow. “Are you happy now?”

The Crown’s Game Series:

1. The Crown’s Game

2. The Crown’s Fate


FTC Advisory: Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins provided me with a copy of The Crown’s Fate. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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Review: Unforgivable by Amy Reed

June 11th, 2017 Roxanne Posted in Review No Comments »

Title: Unforgivable

Author: Amy Reed

Genre: YA Contemporary

Series: Invincible (Book #2)

Publication Date: May 3, 2016

Format: Hardcover, 272 Pages

ISBN-10: 0062299603 (HarperCollins)

ISBN-13: 978-0062299604 (HarperCollins)

Reviewed by: Roxanne


In this raw, gut-wrenching, and beautifully written sequel to Invincible, Marcus continues Evie’s story of their intense romance, a la Gayle Forman’s Where She Went, after saving her life only to find his life—and their relationship—falling to pieces.

Marcus knows pain. The kind that swallows you like a black hole. His brother committed suicide, his mother left him, and his dad mostly ignores him. Relief only seems to come from drugs, alcohol, and secret acts of self-destruction.

Until he met Evie. Together, they lived in the moment. They fell in love—hard—creating their own beautiful world. But they each had their own secrets, their own pain, hovering like a thick fog, suffocating them in a world too small to share.

Unforgivable takes off where Invincible left us—with Evie drowning in San Francisco Bay. Marcus finds her just in time, but her survival is not the happy ending he was hoping for. Forbidden from seeing Evie by her parents and unable to reach her, Marcus learns of a pain that might break him completely.

Marcus spirals into an even deeper darkness and is forced by new events to face the demons of his past. The pain of losing Evie becomes tangled with the loss of his mother and brother, and he must finally face the ghosts he has been trying so desperately to outrun or risk losing Evie forever.

Quick & Dirty: Marcus comes to terms with all the loss in his life.

Opening Sentence: “I’m sorry.”

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

Marcus gets a text from Evie asking him to meet her on the beach. When he arrives she is nowhere to be seen, but he finds a pile of her clothes and then spots her in the water. He rushes her to the hospital and then waits for word. Only to find out she is in a coma when her mom blames him for everything. Marcus then begins to go crazy trying to find out what has happened to Evie, until he finally catches her sister outside of her school.

He realizes later that he is clean and soon begins to make other changes to his life. He takes the internship with his father, stops smoking weed and tries to talk to Evie. When he shows up at her house to apologize, her parents call the police and he is arrested. After that, he leaves her alone and becomes withdrawn. His mother nor his father can reach him. Along the way, we learn what happened to his brother David.

David was an addict slowly killing himself until one day he decided that wasn’t fast enough and killed himself. He sent Marcus a text and so Marcus was the one that found him. Marcus seems to be drowning in his loss, he doesn’t know how to deal with Evie and his mother. He can’t seem to accept the changes in his father. Will he be able to finally get through it?

I kind of have a lot to say. First off, I thought the first book was okay and that Evie was meh. I am not reviewing that book so I will stop there, but I thought it was bad enough that she texted Marcus to find her, and then when I got to the part about David it cemented the fact that I didn’t like her. I know he didn’t tell her that, but hey, just a thought. Not something that leaves a good memory behind. The way she treated him through the whole book, and the fact that he kept chasing after her burned me. I wanted to say let her go, man, you can do so much better.

So needless to say that was the worst example of a relationship in YA book I have ever read, and even when Marcus finally admitted it was toxic. He just decided to accept all the blame, ugh, she never not once apologized to him or explained to her parents that he didn’t have anything to do the pills. Yes, he partied with her, but basically, even though this was from his viewpoint he was just the welcome mat on which she walked. His story was utterly lost in that BS of a relationship. I can’t really say anything else. Kudos for a bi-racial couple, but big thumbs down for having him arrested, having her parents treat him like trash, and I am assuming all because he is black and they partied together.

Notable Scene:

“I should have tried harder. I should have done more to pull the truth out of you. I was a coward, too. But that ends now. I refuse to lose you. I will not give up that easily. I will not let you drift away and pretend you did not leave some pieces of you with me.”

Invincible Series:

1. Invincible

2. Unforgivable


FTC Advisory: Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins provided me with a copy of Unforgivable. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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Review: Winter of the Gods by Jordanna Max Brodsky

June 10th, 2017 Roxanne Posted in Review 2 Comments »

Title: Winter of the Gods

Author: Jordanna Max Brodsky

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Series: Olympus Bound (Book #2)

Publication Date: February 14, 2017

Format: Hardcover, 452 Pages

ISBN-10: 0316385913 (Orbit/Hachette)

ISBN-13: 978-0316385916 (Orbit/Hachette)

Reviewed by: Roxanne


Myth and reality collide in this sequel to The Immortals that sets Greek Gods against a modern Manhattan backdrop.

Manhattan has many secrets. Some are older than the city itself.

Winter in New York: snow falls, lights twinkle, and a very disgruntled Selene DiSilva prowls the streets looking for prey.

But when a dead body is discovered sprawled atop Wall Street’s iconic Charging Bull statue, it’s clear the NYPD can’t solve the murder without help. The murder isn’t just the work of another homicidal cult — this time, someone’s sacrificing the gods themselves.

While raising fundamental questions about the very existence of the gods, Selene must hunt down the perpetrators, tracking a conspiracy that will test the bonds of loyalty and love.

Quick & Dirty: Another body is found with a cult ritual and it’s up to Selene and Theo to figure out what is going on.

Opening Sentence: The Salvation Army Santa Claus narrowly escaped having his bell ripped from his hands and shoved down his throat.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

Selene and Theo have been dating and things are going great until Theo is called down to assist with another murder. Once there he brings Selene and she realizes during the autopsy report that it’s not a person who was murdered in a ritual, it was a god, the god of Death, Hades. This spells trouble for all the remaining gods, but it’s especially troubling as Hades hadn’t faded like the rest of them and still retained his powers.

Theo and Selene begin the hunt and warn the other gods, that someone is hunting them bearing their own weapons. Selene begins working with the other gods located in New York, and they are later joined by some from out of town. Most of the gods are still missing or no one knows where they are. Selene begins to think that Ares is behind this cult in an attempt to regain more of his former glory.

But that all changes when he is found dead. It is a race against time to figure out who is next and try to prevent the sacrifice. When Selene is taken, it is up to Theo to infiltrate the cult and attempt to save her. But they have been betrayed, and not just Selene has been taken. Will Theo be able to save her? Will other gods be sacrificed?

Whew, this book hit the action right from the start and such a jump from the first one. It was scary to see Olympians being hunted and killed, and I hung on for the whole ride. I still adore Theo and Selene, and this book only made me love them more. Although I wasn’t super happy about the ending, spoilers, so I won’t tell you why. I love the cult aspects of her books, which are obscure forgotten things that took time and research and she made them extremely creepy and super interesting.

I learn so much about greek mythology every time I read these books, and this time she included the roman aspect as well. Which I totally admit didn’t thrill me as much. I mean they are the same gods with different names, but literally the roman aspect didn’t add anything to them. It just felt stolen, but she won me over in the end. I can’t wait to see what happens in the next book. I can’t believe I have to wait a whole year.

Notable Scene:

Selene let out a long shuddering sigh. ” I think we’ve already done enough.” And then, for a long moment, the gods simply sat in silence listening to the reports of the havoc a war between immortals could wreck on a city of men.

Olympus Bound Series:

1. The Immortals

2. Winter of the Gods

3. Olympus Bound (February 3, 2018)


FTC Advisory: Orbit/Hachette provided me with a copy of Winter Of The Gods. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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Review: Blacklist by Alyson Noël

June 9th, 2017 Tara Posted in Review Comments Off on Review: Blacklist by Alyson Noël

Title: Blacklist

Author: Alyson Noël

Genre: YA Mystery

Series: Beautiful Idols (Book #2)

Publication Date: April 4, 2017

Format: Hardcover, 448 Pages

ISBN-10: 0062324551 (HarperCollins)

ISBN-13: 978-0062324559 (HarperCollins)

Reviewed by: Tara


In the second book of the suspenseful Unrivaled trilogy from #1 New York Times bestselling author Alyson Noel, Layla, Aster and Tommy have to unearth Hollywood it-girl Madison Brooks’ secrets before one of them takes the fall for her disappearance and murder.

Layla Harrison has finally found herself in the middle of a celebrity story worth reporting. Aster Amirpour’s name is in every tabloid—even if it isn’t the good kind of publicity she hoped for. Tommy Phillips is inches away from getting the girl of his dreams, which may be harder than scoring a VIP ticket to an Unrivaled nightclub.

But Layla, Aster and Tommy never imagined it would be because they’re entangled in the disappearance of Madison Brooks—a story that’s blinded the world like a starlet blinded by the flash of a paparazzi camera.

Now, Layla is receiving mysterious messages from an anonymous source, Aster’s looming murder trial is so huge even her parents’ lawyer can’t save her, Tommy is retracing his steps as the last person Madison saw alive, and Layla’s ex Mateo finds himself lured into the fold.

You can dig up dirt about celebrities that the tabloids miss if you search long enough. But when Layla, Aster, and Tommy team up with an unsuspecting insider to unearth the truth, they’ll find that some secrets are best kept in the grave.

Quick & Dirty: The second installment in this YA mystery series delves deeper into the potentially deadly secrets lying behind the glamour of Hollywood, raising the stakes for all involved.

Opening Sentence: Breaking News: Discovery of Blood-Soaked Dress Leads to Arrest of Night for Night Party Promoter!

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

This book has the glamour and glitz of Gossip Girl combined with the suspense of Pretty Little Liars. It was an addictive read, although I still don’t know what the endgame of the story is. Reading this book felt somewhat similar to watching the mid-season finale of a television show.

One of my favorite things about this book is that it alternated between the individuals trying to solve the murder and Madison’s story. (No, this is not a spoiler, you find out she’s alive in Chapter one). The switches gave the story an intensity that it otherwise would not have had. While I liked the mystery, it was starting to feel a little dragged-out toward the end. There’s also a secondary mystery that is a bit creepy.

There were a lot of narrators. It was told in third person so it wasn’t difficult to follow the story. However, the fact that Layla, Aster, Tommy, Trena, Madison, and Mateo all had POVs meant that the reader followed the story from every possible angle. Additionally, the story moved along at a very quick pace. This combination lead to an almost overwhelming amount of information sometimes with only a small amount of time to process it. The fast pace made for a very quick read.

I ended up liking most of the characters more than I expected. The author has a talent for realistic dialogue and interactions. I adored Aster’s relationship with her younger brother and her scenes with her parents were unexpectedly emotional. I didn’t understand why Mateo was included in the story since he contributed very little to the murder mystery plot. However, I generally dislike unnecessary love triangles so my dislike of him is partially due to that. Other than him, I enjoyed seeing how the characters interacted with each other and figuring out each of their important secrets. I’m very intrigued to see what happens next with Trena in particular. I honestly have no idea who masterminded the kidnapping, although I do have my guesses. (Even if my list of possible suspects is essentially as long as the character list for the novel).

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. It was exciting, engaging, and dramatic. I liked that it delved deeper into the underbelly of Hollywood, of what secrets and lies exist behind the glitz and glamour. I’m not a huge fan of how abruptly the book ended but I will definitely be reading the sequel. If you enjoyed Gossip Girl or Pretty Little Liars, you’ll probably enjoy this one as well.

Notable Scene:

Tommy bit back a grin and took a slow sip of beer. Layla had no patience for small talk. He’d learned that the first day they’d met, when he’d made the mistake of trying to engage the cute blonde who’d rolled up to the Unrivaled Nightlife interview on an electric-blue Kawasaki. That first meeting hadn’t gone well, but back then Layla had hated Aster too. And yet, here she was, determined to find some way to save her.

Tommy pressed his forearms to the table and leaned toward her. It was time he stopped fantasizing about a relationship that would never be and focused on the real point of the meeting.

“Still can’t get in to see Aster.” Layla sighed. “Who knew county jail was tougher to breach than the VIP list at Ira’s clubs?” She frowned. “Not to mention how I’m pretty sure Trena knows more than she’s letting on. But every time I bring it up, she insists on talking around it. It’s like she’s determined to block me and I can’t figure out why. After all, I’m the one who fed her the clue about Ryan Hawthorne. Maybe she needs a reminder.”

Beautiful Idols Series:

1. Unrivaled

2. Blacklist


FTC Advisory: Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins provided me with a copy of Blacklist. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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