Thursday, July 31, 2014

2014 Series Challenge: July Checkpoint

July is already over, which starts this month! O.O Not ready!! Anyway, I managed to actually read TWO series this month...I know, crazy right? Which puts me back on track for one series a month, which isn't too bad of a goal.

Emma Rae Creations Series by Sandra D. Bricker
This was a super cute, fun series. It's just a very fluffy, chick-lit romance type book, but I enjoyed it. It was just a lot of fun, and I enjoyed the characters so much. I gave each book 3/5 stars.

Anomaly series by Krista McGee
I actually really enjoyed this dystopian series. It was really unique and interesting. You can read my review of Anomaly and Luminary here and my review of Revolutionary here.

July completed count = 2
Total year completed count = 7

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Let's Get Lost {by Adi Alsaid}

Title: Let's Get Lost
Author: Adi Alsaid
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Five strangers. Countless adventures. One epic way to get lost.
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.

If you follow me on Twitter or anything, you might have seen how I was so incredibly excited for this book. I could not wait to read it. So when I won a copy, I'm pretty sure I squealed out loud. And I'm so happy to say that even with all my built up expectations for this book, it did not really disappoint.

This book is told in five parts, which makes it so unique and adds depth to the story. While the story is mainly about Leila's trip north, it is also about these four other kids she meets on the way there, and how her life intersects with theirs.

The story starts with Hudson--genius kid who loves working in his father's mechanic shop. Then, we meet Bree, a runaway with no plans for her life, other than living in the moment. Next comes Elliot, who was not having the prom night of his dreams. And lastly, Sonia, who is living in the shadow of her boyfriend's death. Each of these characters were so different and unique. They didn't blend together or sound the same. Each had their own voice. While some were easier to relate to than others, some just more likable than others, they were all still fun to read about.

And of course, Leila herself. (I think Gaby called her basically a fairy godmother, which is kind of how I imagined her while reading. Thanks, Gaby.) Leila was unique because we first got to know her through four different perspectives before getting to her own POV. It definitely added a bit of mystery and curiosity, because we know nothing about Leila, only what she tells everyone else. And I will say, I was not expecting what her actually story was.

Road trips, finding yourself, this book has everything to love. This book was also very thought-provoking, and emotional (not in a tears way, necessarily, but in a wow that was pretty deep way). But, it wasn't all serious. There were also plenty of laughs, and fun times. I would say that this book, even with its more serious issues, it still just a really great feel-good book.

Alsaid's writing style will definitely draw you in. I think everyone could find someone to relate to. And while some plot points were definitely unrealistic or a bit too much, this book was still a very fun read and I loved it.

Adi Alsaid:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Monday, July 28, 2014

ARC August: I'm In!

ARC August is hosted by Octavia of Read.Sleep.Repeat. If you're interested in joining, head on over to read all about it, and then sign up!

When Octavia first announced ARC August, it timed perfectly with the plans I already had to just read read read through (half of) August. My summer class just ended, and I had three weeks until fall semester. Because class interfered with my blogging/reading over the summer, I had plans to just read alllll the things before school started up again.  Then, last Friday, I decided to go visit my cousins, and so now I leave Thursday for 2 weeks (my family is super-last minute about things). And school starts 4 days after I get back.

BUT even if my goals are now not as lofty as they were, I still will be participating in ARC August. So I won't be able to read as much as I was planning, but I can definitely still read! I'm not holding myself to ARC's necessarily, but review books in general (mainly because the only ones I really need to get to are ones that already came out). 

Goals: I'm actually not entirely sure. At first, I wanted to get my NetGalley ratio up to 100%, which I think is 12 more books. But then I also thought about the digital review copies I had not from NG, because a lot of those are even higher priority. So I think my goal is just going to be 12 review books read and reviewed in August. (Even though that 100% NG ratio sure would have been nice…) Hopefully, I can at least read some more, but that's how many I want to have reviewed. 

I'm not going to post any weekly checkpoints or anything. I'm just going to have one post at the end of the month wrapping everything up. 

Hopefully I can at least make a little dent in my pile!

Friday, July 18, 2014

{Blog Tour} Review: Revolutionary by Krista McGee

You can read my reviews of Anomaly and Luminary here. I mean, you don't have to. But you can. If you want. Or, you know, don't.

Title: Revolutionary
Author: Krista McGee
Series: Anomaly, #3
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

All her life Thalli thought she was an anomaly. Now she must use her gifts to fulfill the role she was called to play: Revolutionary.
Back in the underground State against her will, Thalli is no longer the anomaly she was before. She has proven herself to be a powerful leader aboveground and returns with information that Dr. Loudin needs to complete his plan of uniting the world under one leader: himself. But he, too, has information. A secret he has kept from Thalli her entire life. A secret that, once revealed, changes everything about the person Thalli thought she was.
Hoping to help Thalli rise up against the Scientists, both Berk and Alex join her underground, but their presence only brings more trouble for her. Now Dr. Loudin knows just the leverage to use on his captive, and she is forced to choose between the two of them. Is her first love her true love? Or does Alex ultimately claim her heart?
Unsure of everything around her, including her own identity, Thalli doesn’t know where to turn. She knows she needs the Designer, but he seems further away than ever. What she does know, though, is that if she doesn’t do something to stop Loudin, the fragile world aboveground will be lost once and for all.

What a stunning conclusion. There have been very few series' conclusions that I thought were as perfect as this one, all this considered. It was captivating all the way through, and I think the ending was ideal for this situation.

Thalli and her friends have been taken by the evil Dr. Loudin, back to the State. And with each passing day, they realize just how twisted and evil his plans really are. And it's up to them to stop him. 

From the beginning, this book was captivating. I was so hooked by what was happening, I couldn't put the book down. I read this in the span of hours. I found myself reading faster and faster, not so that the book would end faster, but so that I could know what happened. It was so action-packed and fast-paced and enjoyable the whole way through. 

I thought the characters showed significant growth in the second book, but I feel that is nothing compared to the growth they showed in this one. While they had to work together, a few here and there, in previous book, they way they had to work together in this one showed a whole new level of their character. The Five (as I dubbed them)--Thalli, Berk, Alex, Rhen, and Dallas--had to trust and work with each other in ways that they've never had to before and that just added dimension and depth to who they were are characters and in their relationships (good or bad--I'm looking at you, Alex and Berk and your alpha-male standoffs). 

The detail and descriptiveness were very well done. It brought me into the story and captivated me. I found the descriptions of the State and their technology also to be fascinating, the way the author was able to make it seem real, and not confusing. The author also envoked some serious emotion and poignancy with her excellent writing skills. 

Again, the faith aspect was handled very interestingly. I would say this one was probably the heaviest of all three. I think McGee did such a great job of bringing up the science vs. faith question, and leaving room for thought. There was no preaching, no "I'm right and you're wrong". This series will definitely give you some food for thought. 

I've already gushed about what an amazing, different, unique take on a dystopian this was. It was new and refreshing, and so well-written. I enjoyed this one a lot, and I would definitely recommend it.

The Series:

This review can also be found on   Goodreads

Krista McGee:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Krista writes for teens, teaches teens, and more often than not, acts like a teen. She and her family have lived and ministered in Texas, Costa Rica, and Spain. Her current hometown is Tampa, FL.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Anomaly and Luminary {by Krista McGee}

Title: Anomaly
Author: Krista McGee
Series: Anomaly #1
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Received via ARCycling

Thalli has fifteen minutes and twenty-three seconds left to live. The toxic gas that will complete her annihilation is invading her bloodstream. But she is not afraid.
Thalli is different than others in The State. She feels things. She asks questions. And in the State, this is not tolerated. The Ten scientists who survived the nuclear war that destroyed the world above believe that emotion was at the core of what went wrong—and they have genetically removed it from the citizens they have since created. Thalli has kept her malformation secret from those who have monitored her for most of her life, but when she receives an ancient piece of music to record as her community’s assigned musician, she can no longer keep her emotions secreted away.
Seen as a threat to the harmony of her Pod, Thalli is taken to the Scientists for immediate annihilation. But before that can happen, Berk—her former Pod mate who is being groomed as a Scientist—steps in and persuades the Scientists to keep Thalli alive as a test subject.
The more time she spends in the Scientist’s Pod, the clearer it becomes that things are not as simple as she was programmed to believe. She hears stories of a Designer—stories that fill her mind with more questions: Who can she trust? What is this emotion called love? And what if she isn't just an anomaly, but part of a greater design?

When I saw that Krista McGee had a dystopian series, I was super intrigued. I had read her other books, which are contemporary, and was curious to see how a contemporary author translated into dystopia. But I was even more intrigued by the idea of a Christian dystopian novel. But McGee did such a great job, and I was immediately pulled into this world, and into Thalli's story.

Any dystopian story having to do with genetics is one that I will absolutely read, or so I am finding out recently. Something about it just fascinates me. The author did a very good job of building the world and fleshing it out. There was no huge info dumps, just gradually on a need-to-know basis. And for this story, that worked out very well. There weren't that many points where I was confused as to what was happening, as is sometimes the case with futuristic worlds. I wasn't sure how McGee was going to do with building her own world, but it worked out.

Thalli lives in a futuristic society. A nuclear war has destroyed the world above. A few scientists were able to escape to the underground complex they had built in case something like this happened. These Scientists now rule the State, as it is called. Babies are not made in the "primitive" form. They are genetically engineered. They are devoid of emotion, and each created to fulfill a specific task, as to keep this society going.

Thalli is her Pod's musician. Except, she is an anomaly. Because, she is not completely devoid of emotion. Thalli was a very interesting character. In some ways, she was childish and naive. But since that was a result of the way she was brought up, the way she was created, I couldn't really hold it against her. It was intriguing to see things from Thalli's perspective, as she learns about emotions and what life was like before. To see our lifestyle through the eyes of someone who has never experienced it was thought-provoking.

The pacing and plot of the novel was very fast-moving, action-packed. Although there were moments I wanted to shake Thalli for being so naive, I knew she couldn't help it, that it wasn't her fault. And for someone who was raised in such a submissive culture, Thalli knew when to be strong and stand up for herself. I also thought the falling-in-love aspect was very well handled, seeing as not only is Thalli experiencing her first teenage love, but she's doing it in a society where love doesn't exist. There's no one to tell her how she's feeling, or even what is going on.

The Christian aspect of this story was very well done, and I was super impressed with the way McGee was able to weave the Christian faith with a dystopian society. It wasn't so subtle, but it wasn't preachy, doesn't jump out at you in a negative way. This was the part that I was curious about most, but she was able to seamlessly tied into the story, in a way that will make you think about it differently.

This definitely captivated my attention the whole way through. I was so into the story, that when I finished, I immediately started the second one (even though it was already like 1 in the morning). It was a different, refreshing take on a dystopian society and I loved it.

This review can also be found on   Goodreads

Title: Luminary
Author: Krista McGee
Series: Anomaly #2
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Received via NetGalley

She was an anomaly with a death sentence. Now she's free.
Thalli was scheduled for annihilation. She was considered an anomaly--able to experience emotions that should have been eradicated by genetic modification. The Scientists running the State couldn't allow her to bring undue chaos to their peaceful, ordered world. But seconds before her death, she is rescued.
Now Thalli is above ground in a world she thought was destroyed. A world where not even the air is safe to breathe. She and her three friends must journey across this unknown land, their destination a hidden civilization. It's their only chance of survival.
Broken and exhausted after an arduous journey, they arrive in New Hope, a town that survived the nuclear holocaust. When Thalli meets the people there--people actually "born" to "families"--her small world is blown wide open.
Soon after their arrival to New Hope, the town comes under attack. She has escaped imminent death, but now Thalli is thrust into a new fight--a fight to save her new home. Does she know enough about this world of emotions, this world of chaos, to save not only herself, but the people she has come to love?

*Note: This review may contain slight spoilers for Anomaly. Read at your own risk*

No second-book syndrome with this one. I wouldn't say I liked it more than Anomaly, really, but still it did not disappoint. I was equally as intrigued and hooked by this book than I was the first (which, in my opinion, is a feat).

I started out not liking Thalli. Or, at least, the person she was becoming. Whiny and a bit annoying. However, I was proud of the person she became by the end of this novel. We definitely see a lot of character growth, more than in the first book. And not just from Thalli, but from most of the characters. I will say, Berk was the only one I didn't like as much as I did in the first one...sorry Berk.

This plot was definitely action-packed. Something was always happening, but it wasn't confusing. I was captivated by Thalli's account of her new home, seeing all the things we are used to from her eyes for the first time. And then the comparison of the neighboring enemy town, and how different they were, was also well done, to really showcase the differences.

And the love triangle. I usually can't stand them, but this is one that even I don't know which side I'm on. At first I was all like "totes Berk!" and then I was like "but...Alex" and now I have no idea what to think. I don't think I've ever had this happen before...

The ending...I was definitely on the edge of my seat (like, figuratively not literally but I guess you knew that). There have been very few times that I've been so invested in an ending of a book. And the way that ended...yeah, I would definitely have the third book immediately on hand.

This review can also be found on   Goodreads

Krista McGee:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Vanishing Season {by Jodi Lynn Anderson}

Title: The Vanishing Season
Author: Jodi Lynn Anderson
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Won from publisher

Girls started vanishing in the fall, and now winter's come to lay a white sheet over the horror. Door County, it seems, is swallowing the young, right into its very dirt. From beneath the house on Water Street, I've watched the danger swell.
The residents know me as the noises in the house at night, the creaking on the stairs. I'm the reflection behind them in the glass, the feeling of fear in the cellar. I'm tied—it seems—to this house, this street, this town.
I'm tied to Maggie and Pauline, though I don't know why. I think it's because death is coming for one of them, or both.
All I know is that the present and the past are piling up, and I am here to dig.I am looking for the things that are buried.
From bestselling author Jodi Lynn Anderson comes a friendship story bound in snow and starlight, a haunting mystery of love, betrayal, redemption, and the moments that we leave behind.

You guys know how much I looooved Tiger Lily. I was so excited to read this one, just because it was Jodi Lynn Anderson. (And this is a gorgeous cover.) But, it didn't really live up to my expectations. The summary makes it seem almost like a horror/paranormal ghost story, which isn't my thing, but I was willing to give it a shot because of the author. Then, as the reviews started trickling in, I was seeing a lot of it isn't really what it's marketed to be, not very paranormal, more contemporary. Which, okay. A contemporary romance, I could handle that. In fact, I would rather that.

Basically, the only good thing in this novel was the writing style. Of course, I love Anderson's writing. However, it was bogged down by lack of plot, lack of meaningful characters, lack of anything that really made this worth reading. Harsh, maybe, but true. I almost put this down a couple times, I was that uninterested.

First off, nothing that happens really makes sense. The synopsis is all about the missing girls, and this narration from this ghost-like character, but that is not what this book was about. Like, at all. The missing girls are mentioned, sure, but that was not really an important part of this story at all. The story is really about Maggie, who moves to Door County from Chicago. Here, she meets Pauline--beautiful, rich, whimsical Pauline. She becomes friends with Pauline, as well as Liam, who is in love with Pauline. There's a love triangle, and not-very-exciting plot points, and a messy ending.

These characters...oh boy, the characters. There was no character growth at all. I felt like none of the characters had really any personality. For some attempt at coherency, it's probably better if I split this up:

  • Maggie: At first, Maggie seems almost like your average nerd--smart, hardworking, more concerned with her future than with partying or making friends. But as you read on, there really is nothing to Maggie. She has almost zero personality. She is allows herself to be stepped on constantly by Pauline. Even after Pauline and Liam get together, she gives in to Pauline's pouty ritual and stays friends with her. Um, what? I would have liked to see so much more from our main narrator, but there really was just nothing to her.
  • Pauline: Oh, Pauline. The naive, rich, beautiful, snobby one. Except, I don't think she was as naive as Maggie thought she was. There were many a time when Maggie stated that Pauline was not snobby or selfish or uppity like other incredibly beautiful girls. Except, she was. She didn't care who she stepped on, as long as she got her way, and I couldn't really stand her.
  • Liam: I guess I'm not entirely sure what to think of Liam. He's your average, shy, yet sort of sweet guy. He was okay at first, almost like a puppy that followed after Pauline, starving for her attention. He seemed very sweet, and nice...and then just drops Maggie like a hot potato when Pauline comes back.
  • The Ghost Narrator: I just don't understand. That is basically my mantra for this book, I think. Instead of making things more interesting, or adding a sense of mystery, these parts of the story just annoyed me. Then, at the end, when all is revealed...I still didn't understand. I mean, I understood what happened, but not the why. Like, I seriously don't even know what the point of the book was, with that ending.
The plot...if there was one. I couldn't really tell. I mean, you go in thinking it's about these missing girls, but except for being mentioned, it isn't. I really don't know what the plot of this book was. And then at the end, I will admit that she throws in a twist, but even that wasn't enough to renew interest. At this point, I just wanted to be done. 

Like I said, I almost don't know what the point was, with the ending. As much as I hate to say it, this book had pretty much nothing going for it, which is super disappointing. Although I'm sure I'll pick up Jodi Lynn Anderson's next book in hopes that it is better, this book was not for me.

This review can also be found on   Goodreads

Jodi Lynn Anderson:

HarperCollins Author Page | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Healer of Carthage {by Lynne Gentry}

Title: Healer of Carthage
Author: Lynne Gentry
Series: The Carthage Chronicles, #1
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Received via NetGalley

A modern-day doctor gets trapped in third-century Carthage, Rome, where she uncovers buried secrets, confronts Christian persecution, and battles a deadly epidemic to save the man she loves. Dr. Lisbeth Hastings, a first-year resident, is summoned by her eccentric father to join him at his archaeological dig. She is hesitant to accept his invitation, but when a tragic mistake ends her medical career, Lisbeth decides the only way to redeem her failure is to care for her confused father.
While exploring the haunting cave at her father’s dig, Lisbeth falls through a hidden hole and awakens to find herself the object of a slave bidding war! She tries to escape her captor, a wealthy Roman lawyer named Cyprian Thascius, and discovers that the city she remembers as ruins has somehow become brand-new. Who restored Carthage to a thriving metropolis? And if she is in the third century, how did this happen?
Cyprian believes God called him to rescue the beautiful and strange woman being auctioned off as a slave. He doesn't understand why saving the church of his new found faith requires him to love a mysterious woman who seems determined to get him killed by her stubbornness. But who is he to question God?
Their colliding worlds spark an intense attraction as Lisbeth and Cyprian soon find themselves united in a battle against a deadly epidemic. Together they confront Christian persecution, uncover buried secrets, and witness the beginnings of a medical revolution, but they fear Roman wrath will separate them forever. Will Lisbeth save the man she loves and the family she longs for—or will their separate worlds pull them apart forever?

It's no secret that I love all things Ancient Rome. Which, of course, is why I had to read this book. And, I loved it. It was so rich with history and intrigue and was very enjoyable to read.

Oh Lisbeth. Our main character. Yeah, I couldn't really stand her. From the beginning, she was rude and selfish, and all-around disagreeable. Then, she somehow travels back to the third century, which is a miracle in itself, and doesn't take a moment to listen to anyone else or figure out what's going on. She rushes into things without thinking about it, thinking only of herself. And the way she treated her mother...yeah, Lisbeth wasn't winning herself any favors. 

But the other characters. I loved them. From Magdalena, who was strong even when having to live with a brute who abused her, to Ruth who was kind and helpful to Lisbeth no matter how rude she was. And of course, Cyprian, the kind Christian who was trying to help Lisbeth only to have her lash out at him over and over again. He was a new convert, keeping his faith under wraps to avoid persecution, even as he accepted many others into his home and helped them, even the sick. 

This book was filled with history, and was obviously well researched. Carthage came alive in this novel, from the descriptions of the buildings and places, to the people. The gladiator games, the Senate house, all were described in a way that made you feel like you were experiencing it. Everything was on point, even up to the wedding and the festivities that would occur. 

This was a very enjoyable, entertaining book. There is no preaching at you, instead the faith aspect comes at you very gently, as Cyprian and his people learn what their newfound faith means, and as Lisbeth slowly comes to terms with this "cult". Even with such a disagreeable main character, this book was very enjoyable to read.

A Perfect Fit, novella 0.5
Return to Exile coming January 2015

This review can also be found on   Goodreads

Lynne Gentry:

Friday, July 4, 2014

Atlas Girl {by Emily T. Wierenga}
Title: Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look
Author: Emily T. Wierenga
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Received via publisher

Disillusioned and yearning for freedom, Emily Wierenga left home at age eighteen with no intention of ever returning. Broken down by organized religion, a childhood battle with anorexia, and her parents' rigidity, she set out to find God somewhere else--anywhere else. Her travels took her across Canada, Central America, the United States, the Middle East, Asia, and Australia. She had no idea that her faith was waiting for her the whole time--in the place she least expected it.
Poignant and passionate, Atlas Girl is a very personal story of a universal yearning for home and the assurance that we are known, forgiven, and beloved. Readers will find in this memoir a true description of living faith as a two-way pursuit in a world fraught with distraction. Anyone who wrestles with the brokenness we find in the world will love this emotional journey into the arms of the God who heals all wounds.

I don't usually read memoirs. Nonfiction is not my thing, although lately I have been trying to read more of it. But something about this book inspired me to pick it up, and I'm so glad I did. It was so touching, real, and inspiring, and I am so glad I read it.

It did take a while for me to get into it, as I usually find nonfiction books to drag a little. But once I got into it, I could not put it down. The writing was so honest, and deep. Emily chose to share such a huge part of herself with this book, and it shows. It could not have been easy to share some of the things she did with complete strangers, but they made the story come to life.

Although this story is about her travels, it is about so, so much more: it is about life, and family, and finding God, and turning away from God, and coming back to God. It's about discovering herself, finding her husband, loving her mother. She shared about the experiences that shaped her, such as her anorexia and her mother's cancer. All of these things came together to create such a powerful, poignant story. 

I will say, the timeline had me a bit confused, as it flips back and forth. While the date is always at the beginning of each chapter, I would forget what had happened when, although nothing that really deterred my reading experience.

This book was so powerful, and one of the most inspiring books I think I have ever read. And I don't say that lightly. For anyone who struggles--with identity, with God, with family--this is the book for you. (And even if you think you don't struggle with anything...this is the book for you.)

This review can also be found on   Goodreads

Emily T. Wierenga:

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

2014 Series Challenge: June Checkpoint

Howwww is this year already half over?? I am not ready for that. With all the reading I did this month, I had plans to read at least two series, but that didn't happen. Only one again. While I do prefer to binge-read series, it must also be turning me off to read them, because I have to have time to read the whole series, and that usually doesn't happen. Oh well. I've got some series that I'm waiting on last books to be released, and then I know I'll read them.

The Outlaw Chronicles by Ted Dekker
I loved this series. Seriously, it was so mind-boggling amazing. Although I didn't review the first two, you can read my review of Hacker here.

June read count: 1
Total Year Completed Count: 5