Monday, September 15, 2014

Tabula Rasa by Kristen Lippert-Martin

Tabula Rasa by Kristen Lippert-Martin
Available Sept 23rd
Egmont USA
Hardcover 352 pages
YA Sci-Fi Adventure
To Buy Links- Amazon/ Kindle/ Audible/ MP3 CD/ BN/ Book Depository/ Indiebound/ Kobo

Goodreads- The Bourne Identity meets Divergent in this heart-pounding debut.

Sixteen-year-old Sarah has a rare chance at a new life. Or so the doctors tell her. She’s been undergoing a cutting-edge procedure that will render her a tabula rasa—a blank slate. Memory by memory her troubled past is being taken away.

But when her final surgery is interrupted and a team of elite soldiers invades the isolated hospital under cover of a massive blizzard, her fresh start could be her end. 

Navigating familiar halls that have become a dangerous maze with the help of a teen computer hacker who's trying to bring the hospital down for his own reasons, Sarah starts to piece together who she is and why someone would want her erased. And she won’t be silenced again.

A high-stakes thriller featuring a non-stop race for survival and a smart heroine who will risk everything, Tabula Rasa is, in short, unforgettable.

REVIEW
This reminds me more of the Alex Rider series, a middle grade series I loved to read with my son and still love. The difference is the characters are older and there is a touch of romance. It was really well written and I was "on the edge of my seat" while reading it most of the time. I read it in one night. 

Sarah is the main character who is getting part of her memory removed for a reason she doesn't remember when something happens. Sarah is already strong when we first meet her. You know she doesn't have a mental illness just by the way she thinks and takes in her surroundings. You can tell she's almost spy like. I wasn't right in guessing what she was, but maybe you'll be better at guessing. A few pages in and all heck breaks loose. The world is not what it seems and then Sarah's world becomes a battle ground with casualties and memories. 

The situations that Sarah finds herself in are not that unbelievable. Well, I can't imagine this scenario happening, but my world is fairly small. The things that happen in the book aren't of the kind that Sarah gets last minute unbelievable saves and things just happen to fall into place. No, Sarah has to fight for every scrap of help she gets. Her hacker friend does come in handy, in many, many ways, but you'll see why he is limited in helping her.

This is a very fast paced thriller with just a little bit of sci-fi in it. So little that I don't think it was even necessary, but it did help me buy the last bit of action. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and highly recommend it to lovers of YA thrillers! There is violence and maybe some language, but I don't recall anything else that would make this objectionable. I'd recommend it for 12 and up.

Thanks to Egmont for a copy of the novel for review!! This did not affect my review in any way. All opinions expressed are my own.

Kristen Lippert-Martin

Monday, September 8, 2014

Nest by Esther Ehrlich Review

Nest by Esther Ehrlich
Available September 9th, 2014
Wendy Lamb Books
Middle Grade Fiction
Hardcover 336 pages
To Buy - Amazon/ Kindle/ BN/ Book Depository/ Indiebound/ Kobo

Goodreads-  For fans of Jennifer Holm (Penny from Heaven, Turtle in Paradise), a heartfelt and unforgettable middle-grade novel about an irresistible girl and her family, tragic change, and the healing power of love and friendship. In 1972 home is a cozy nest on Cape Cod for eleven-year-old Naomi “Chirp” Orenstein, her older sister, Rachel; her psychiatrist father; and her dancer mother. But then Chirp’s mom develops symptoms of a serious disease, and everything changes.
   Chirp finds comfort in watching her beloved wild birds. She also finds a true friend in Joey, the mysterious boy who lives across the street. Together they create their own private world and come up with the perfect plan: Escape. Adventure. Discovery.
   Nest is Esther Ehrlich’s stunning debut novel. Her lyrical writing is honest, humorous, and deeply affecting. Chirp and Joey will steal your heart. Long after you finish Nest, the spirit of Chirp and her loving family will stay with you. 

REVIEW

This novel isn't at all what I was expecting. It had a hint of sadness throughout the novel, sometimes more than sadness and more than a hint. From an 11 yr old's perspective, her mother's diagnosis of a serious illness and her worsening depression about it seems like something she can cure with a dance, making her mother laugh, reminding her of the good times they had in the past. But Chirp doesn't know what depression is and her psychiatrist father doesn't explain it to her or her older sister Rachel. So when Mom's condition worsens and Chirp's attempts haven't helped, she turns to birdwatching and her friendship with the boy next door, Joey with troubles of his own.

If you're looking for a light read, this isn't it. It's about a family falling apart and putting themselves back together. It's so interesting that the mother has both a "serious disease" and depression. The "serious disease" the mother has, Multiple Sclerosis,  is diagnosed by physical symptoms and then confirmed by a neurologist. Yet, depression is also a "serious disease" and in the story there are clues that the mom had a hard childhood (sometimes a contributing factor) and this is not her first time experiencing depression. The mother also gives clues that she is not doing well that she is "much worse, much worse, much worse," than her psychiatrist husband sees. Chirp overhears all this and doesn't want to see any of this herself. 

And then there's Joey's story. The boy next door who is a bit OCD about hygiene and placing things just so, yet he seems to be sensitive to Chirp's story. He has troubles of his own, big brothers that bully him and bruises and marks on his body that don't go unnoticed by Chirp. The beginning of the story has him throwing rocks outside his house because he is locked out of his house on purpose during dinner. Yet he shows a maturity and understanding of what Chirp needs.

My overall impression is that it was just a little off the mark for me. The writing didn't quite hit the spot, I wasn't quite in love with the characters and I didn't understand Chirp and where her story led her. I was also not a fan of the ending. The dad promises something to Joey, as if he knows something we don't, and then doesn't deliver. 

This is a middle grade book and though it wasn't for me I have read other reviews that thought the writing and story were stunning. This should be for a more mature middle grade reader as this novel has themes of child abuse, depression and suicide.  I hope as you read it, you'll remember that Depression is as serious a disease as the "serious disease" the mother is diagnosed with and just like a laugh or a beautiful child can't cure Multiple Sclerosis, neither can it cure Depression.

Thanks to Random House for the E-ARC for review through NetGalley. My review was in no way influenced by this. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.

ESTHER EHRLICH

Friday, September 5, 2014

Fragile Destiny by Suzanne Lazear

Fragile Destiny The Aether Chronicles Book 3
by Suzanne Lazear
Available Now
Flux Paperback 432 pages
To Buy- Amazon/ Kindle/ BN/ Indiebound/ BookDepository/ Kobo

GoodreadsNoli and her true love V fear the worst if the Staff of Eris—a potent Otherworld relic—falls into the wrong hands. Broken into pieces and hidden in the mortal realm long ago, the staff bestows vast powers on whoever possesses it. Ciarán, the dark king, is trying to rebuild the staff, intending to use it to install a new queen.

In a desperate effort to keep the Otherworld from falling into darkness, Noli and V plot the daring theft of a jewel Ciarán needs to complete the staff. But Ciarán is not so easily defeated. Through his devious machinations, he has set a plan in motion for a final showdown that will decide who rules the Otherworld once and for all.




REVIEW

So here we are again, back with Noli and V and James. And all the other characters that we have come to know over the last few books in the series. I will admit, I was a little lost at first, trying to remember who was who, but things fell into place pretty quickly. Tiana is still herself. Noli still has the sprite inside of her and she is still hiding from her mother that she has any connection to the Otherworld.

Fragile Destiny doesn't read like the final novel in a series. There are a lot of new characters with stories that seem to have the potential to carry the story on. Noli and V. are a little more resolved both in the human world and the Otherworld, and they are definitely PG in this novel. James is amusing and actually more useful than in the last novel. But I don't really know what to tell you. I enjoyed the story very much. The way Suzanne Lazear manipulates the Fae world into Light and Dark courts Earth, Fire, Water and Air courts is unique. I didn't see enough of any of the courts other than the Earth Court, V's and James' court, to get to know them well. I am very interested to know more about the others.

There isn't a lot of clarity in this book. What I mean is that we don't find out who the voice is that Noli heard while she was in the tree healing. We don't know what the artifact will do once it is put together and who should wield it. Who is against Tiana? Well we know the Earth Court is but who else? There are more questions raised in this book which leads me to believe I am wrong in thinking this was the last book in the series and that there will be at least one more if not several more books in the series. I'd like that. The characters are bright and funny. Noli is unpredictable, smart and very much her own person. She doesn't do the right thing or the thing you think she should. Guessing what she will do is fun. Tiana is just as unpredictable as a villain. She is the mother of Elise and yet, would she kill her to keep her place? She gave up her children to be Queen of all of the Otherworld. V. is "a stuffy old bodger" at the ripe age of 17 or so but he knows how to be a politician in the Otherworld.
And there are all sorts of other characters, airship pirates, huntsman, fae children with powers they shouldn't have and could be killed for and wood faeries and tree houses. The fantasy part is very creative and I love the characters and I will continue to look forward to this series.

It's a light series, but you do have to keep up with the characters as the further the books go the more interconnected their storylines become. This book is very PG with a little bit of violence and some hints at sex (married) but nothing explicit. (The first book in this series was much darker in tone and for a more mature audience due to the sex). I recommend the novel to lovers of all things Fae, light steampunk (Noli is a huge machine junkie), fantasy and alternate history and of course, YA.

Thanks to the Publisher Flux and NetGalley for an E-ARC to review. The opinions expressed in this review are my own and were not influenced in any way.

SUZANNE LAZEAR

Thursday, September 4, 2014

North of Beautiful by Justina Chen

North of Beautiful by Justina Chen
Available Now
Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Paperback 384 pages
To Buy- Amazon/ Kindle/ BN

Goodreads-As he continued to stare, I wanted to point to my cheek and remind him, But you were the one who wanted this, remember? You're the one who asked-and I repeat-Why not fix your face? 

It's hard not to notice Terra Cooper.

She's tall, blond, and has an enviable body. But with one turn of her cheek, all people notice is her unmistakably "flawed" face. Terra secretly plans to leave her stifling small town in the Northwest and escape to an East Coast college, but gets pushed off-course by her controlling father. When an unexpected collision puts Terra directly in Jacob's path, the handsome but quirky Goth boy immediately challenges her assumptions about herself and her life, and she is forced in yet another direction. With her carefully laid plans disrupted, will Terra be able to find her true path?

Written in lively, artful prose, award-winning author Justina Chen Headley has woven together a powerful novel about a fractured family, falling in love, travel, and the meaning of true beauty.

REVIEW

This novel has been calling to me for a while, so I finally picked it up. It is a beautiful book told through the eyes and emotions of Terra Cooper a girl emotionally abused by her father, not just because of the large port wine birthmark on her face, but also because that's him. He terrorizes the entire family, holding them hostage to his perfect ideals and demands. In turns, her older brothers and then her stand as a buffer between her father and mother, always waiting for the physical abuse. They all cower under the weight of his abuse.

But then, purely by chance, Terra meets Jacob who has an imperfection of his own and is incredibly unselfconscious about it. He slowly changes Terra's way of seeing herself over Christmas break. To see someone that doesn't balk at her birthmark, that actually prefers her without her pancake makeup on, it's so unbelievable to Terra. Meeting Jacob and his mother sets off a chain of events that changes the lives of everyone in Terra's household including her father's. Terra defines beauty in a different way now. And her opinion about herself comes less from what others think about her and more from what she thinks of herself.

It's a great lesson. Believing that you are beautiful despite the flaws you see in yourself when you look in the mirror. Seeing the good things about yourself instead of the bad things when you look. It's easier if you don't have the huge birthmark that Terra has, and yet, I think we still see our flaws first when we look in the mirror. That tape plays telling us we're ugly, remembering a boy, a girl, a parent, a relative that told you how ugly you were. Ideally, we could learn our lesson from Terra and develop a thick skin. Forget the past hurts and move on. Ideally. But take it one step at a time and keep her in your mind. There is some truth in fiction, however small. I plan to be looking for the positives rather than the negative thanks to Terra and Jacob.

This novel is beautifully written, the emotions raw and painful. You can feel the hurt with each insult and  unspoken word. I know emotional abuse and it is like walking on eggshells, trying to be on that fine line between pleasing and perfect. One wrong wobble and the insults and barrage of anger begins. All the negative seeps into your soul and getting rid of it is next to impossible.

I hope that North Of Beautiful sheds some light on this problem. It's the kind of abuse one can't see and yet it's as damaging as physically hitting someone. And Justina Chen does a beautiful job of laying the story out to u slowly until we are sure of what is going on.

I highly recommend this novel for lovers of comtemporary literature.


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Drop Dead Demons - The Divinicus Nex Chronicles Book Two by A&E Kirk

Drop Dead Demons- The Divinicus Nex Chronicles Book Two
By A&E Kirk
Available Now
Kindle/Paperback 598 pages
To Buy- Amazon/ Kindle/ Nook

Goodreads-Survival. It's an on-going battle.

GOING ON A TREASURE HUNT...
Aurora Lahey finally knows why supernatural slayers salivate to slaughter her, but how to stop them? Not so much. Sure, she's discovered her own lethal powers, and has six sexy, super-charged, demon hunting Hex Boys watching her back--the hottest one watching every part of her. But when a seductive stranger delivers a deadly ultimatum, Aurora and the Hex Boys plunge into a do-or-die hunt for a legendary Mandatum treasure, which will finally shift power in their favor. Or unleash hell on earth.

NEX MARKS THE SPOT...
Pursued by demons of mythical proportions, Aurora and the Hex Boys race deeper into the shadowy world of a centuries-old mystery and brutal conspiracy, where no one and nothing is what it seems. Where love and betrayal go hand-in-hand, and trusting the wrong person not only breaks your heart, but gets you killed.

DEMONS ON YOUR TAIL...
Uncovering shocking secrets from the Hex Boys' past, hiding her Divinicus Nex identity, lying to her pretend-wish-he-were-real boyfriend, dodging demons, breaking into ancient tombs, taking the unexpected side trip to the dark depths of the Waiting World, tracking a traitor, and passing Physics...Aurora could do that in her sleep. Or more likely, die trying.

DON'T GET CAUGHT!

REVIEW

This is the second book in the Divinicus Nex series, long awaited, but worth the wait! Don't read this review if you haven't read the first book, it will so spoil the series for you. So, with that out of the way, her we go!

I have to say that in the beginning, the one liners and humor felt a little forced to me. Aurora has a sharp wit and is hiding quite a bit, but it was a little over the top. But only for a little bit. Once the Hex boys started their parts in the story everything settled down and the give and take made the humor feel natural. So, yes, still funny and Aurora is still the same girl, hasn't learned a thing! Still hating Mathias but we do learn a little more about him. In fact, we learn a lot more background about all the guys and their parents. I never thought about where the Hex Boys got their abilities, but we find out about the parents and their abilities as well during the action. Oh, did I say there was a lot of action? There is. A lot of action!

I am not sure if I had any leanings towards one particular Hex Boy in the first book, but in this one, I have to say that Blake is the most surprising. He is quite heroic and despite being girl obsessed, he has some very interesting abilities that make him seem much smarter than he originally came across.The authors have laid out a very intricate story, so many secrets, so many layers. I didn't have a hard time following it though. This novel is full of a lot of background information and it's very well done. So many characters to give stories to and the parents play a bigger role in this second book than in the first. 

As I was reading, I was grinning. I know that Aurora and the guys are usually in a lot of danger, but they are all lying to each other either by omission or outright and then Blake with his blatant flirting, it's really hard not to giggle a little. I was paying attention though. I figured a few things out, you will find yourself using the phrase "plausible deniability" when you're finished with the book. And you'll probably chuckle when you do. 

This sequel was everything I hoped for and more. It was long, not shorting me on story or time with my favorite characters. The ending leaves the story in a good place, but definitely anticipating more.I am already eagerly awaiting the next book in the series (no pressure ladies!!). If you enjoyed the first novel in this series then you need to get this one. And keep believing in A&E Kirk! They deliver what they promise!

I purchased this book for my own reading pleasure.

Find A&E Kirk

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